- Signs of the Times for Fri, 31 Mar 2006 -

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Editorial: Podcast: A conversation with Jean-Pierre Petit

Signs of the Times
March 31, 2006

Astrophysicist Jean-Pierre Petit learned to fly at 12, was scuba diving in the waters off Marseille long before it became a tourist sport, and was invited to study for a year at Princeton -- where he managed to get sent back to France after his first day for spending his lunch hour exploring the restricted and top secret areas dedicated to secret US military research. Whether it was his breach of security or his declaration to the director that the project wouldn't work that got him thrown out is left to speculation.

His subsequent career in research in the French CNRS research centres was marked by the same independence of spirit. A short biography in English can be found here.

As well as being a scientist, Jean-Pierre is also an artist. He uses his drawing skills to bring scientific ideas to the public in a series of comic books that have been translated into over 20 languages. His project Savoir-sans-frontieres (Knowledge without borders) seeks to bring this work to a widening audience.

In his comic books, Jean-Pierre includes drawing that explain the workings of the top secret technology discussed in this podcast. You can download The Silence Barrier and have your own copy of drawings that have made the jaws drop of scientists working on these secret programs. Jean-Pierre tells the story in the podcast.

Page 36 of The Silence Barrier by Jean-Pierre Petit
Top Secret Technology

Next week we look at the Ummo question and Jean-Pierre's work decoding Ummo science, a project he describes as part Speilberg, part Einstein, and part Marx Brothers.
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Editorial: Israel Plans More Palestinian Suicide Attacks

Joe Quinn
Signs of the Times

The Israeli government claims that it is "expecting more Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade suicide attacks in the coming weeks", and with the Israeli government's uncanny ability to predict 'Palestinian suicide attacks' being trumped only by Palestinian militant's ability to provide them at the most opportune time for Israel, the Israeli government can be very confident that such attacks will occur at the right time.

Consider the new and improved Katyusha rocket, allegedly of Iranian origin, that was fired into Israel from the main Gaza border crossing a couple of days ago on Israeli election day. This new rocket has twice the reach of the previous Kassam rocket (12 miles instead of six), yet like its predecessor, the Katyusha, is utterly ineffective most of the time, failing even to explode never mind hit its target on most occasions. Despite this, "Palestinian terrorists" of "Islamic Jihad" appear quite happy to continue to use such ineffective attacks on the Israeli enemy and provide the IDF with the excuse to destroy what is left of the soul of Gaza strip and West Bank citizens. Indeed, not only do such impotent attacks directly cause the deaths of innocent Palestinian civilians, but they also provide the Israeli government with all the justification and international backing it needs to refuse to give an inch on the militants demands of a separate Palestinian state. The obvious and most pressing question therefore is, who ARE these idiot "Palestinian militants" who seem so determined to make life as unbearable as possible for their own people and thwart any chance of the Palestinian dream of peace in their own land?

Let me explain how it works. For many years now Israel has been periodically recruiting equipping and handsomely paying individuals who either live in the Gaza strip or the West Bank or who can pass freely in and out of these areas. These individuals are then tasked with the mission to fire dud, or very dodgy, rockets at Israeli targets and to later phone in to a radio station a claim of responsibility in the name of one of the Palestinian militant offshoot organisations, or, if it is deemed appropriate by the Shin Bet, to make up a new "previously unknown" group and post the claim of responsibility on the internet.

But it doesn't end there.

Last night, we are told that an "Al Aqsa suicide bomber dressed as an Orthodox Jew hitched a ride in a car driving into the West Bank settlement of Kedumim. Once inside the car he blew himself up at the entrance to the settlement, killing himself and the three Israelis in the car. This is the first time militants have entered a private car to blow it up", we are told. As with most other alleged "Palestinian suicide attacks", it is the emergency services or the police that immediately provide the official story that it was indeed a suicide attack, later to be backed up by the IDF. Yet if we look at the facts of this particular case, what actually happened is far from clear.

First of all, nobody seems to know whether the bomber was driving the car or whether the Israelis were driving the car.

"IDF officers analysing the scene mentioned two possible scenarios. The first is that the three Israelis thought to be in the car picked up the hitchhiking terrorist, dressed as an Israeli Jew, and the explosives he had with him. The second is that the terrorist was driving a car with Israeli license plates, and that he picked up the hitchhiking Israelis and then detonated the bomb."

Yet even here we have a leap of assumption since it was not immediately clear how or why anyone was assuming that there even was a hitchhiker.

Furthermore, nobody seems to know whether the bomb detonated outside the car or inside the car, with the IDF authoritatively stating that the bomb was "detonated by a remote control beside the car ." If it was in fact a remote controlled bomb, then we can rule out the traditional 'suicide bombing' with 10KGs of dynamite strapped to the bomber's waist. Yet certain pundits have tried hard to combine the two by suggesting that the bomber had 'handlers' who were somehow watching him and waiting for the right moment to detonate the bomb. But why would anyone go to these lengths when it would be much more simple to follow the normal procedure of allowing the bomber to do the detonating? If this was a remote control bombing, as the Israeli army states, perhaps we should assume that the 'bomber' was unaware that he was a bomber at all! Or perhaps, and here we get a little closer to the likely truth of the matter, there was no 'bomber' at all because, after all, the IDF stated that the bomb was detonated automatically by a "remote control" beside the car.

Witnesses to the explosion stated that there was a huge blast that blew parts of the car far from the scene and that the lights in neighboring houses went out for a few minutes, all of which sounds nothing like 10KGs of conventional explosive and much more like a larger quantity of military-grade explosives which is supported by the IDF's claim of a more 'hi-tech' device. Indeed, such was the force of the blast that the entire back half of the car was totally obliterated, not just mangled, but missing!

Added to this we have the all-too-common confusion over who actually carried out the bombing with two groups claiming responsibility - the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and of course, a new Fatah offshoot, Kateb al-Shahid Chamuda from the Balata refugee camp, which was recently sieged by the IDF and is home of two alleged 'Palestinian al-Qaeda' cell members arrested by Israel.


Al Qaeda cell members arrested in West Bank

22 March 2006

JERUSALEM - Two Palestinian members of an Al Qaeda cell were arrested late last year in the Nablus region of the northern West Bank, Israeli military sources said on Wednesday.

The pair are said to have been recruited by followers of Osama bin Laden terror network in Jordan and had been planning to carry out a double attack on the French Hill neighbourhood in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem last December.

The sources said that Azzam Abu Aladas et Balal Hafnawi, who both appeared in a top security court on Tuesday, had planned to explode a massive bomb in a restaurant and then detonate a car bomb when the rescue services arrived.

The pair, who come from Nablus’s Balata refugee camp, were arrested as they crossed over the Allenby Bridge border crossing with Jordan.

They have both been charged with conspiring to intentionally cause death, active membership in a terror organisation, illegal assembly and additional charges.

It is the first time that alleged members of Al Qaeda have been arrested by the Israeli security services.

Now what have learned about 'al-Qaeda in Palestine'?

Ibrahim, the Shin Bet wants you to join Qaida

By Danny Rubinstein

PA unveils Israeli intelligence scheme, denies Gaza links to bin Laden

Early last week, Rashi Abu Sba, head of the preventive security apparatus in Gaza, the equivalent of the Shin Bet, accused the Israeli security service of tricking young Palestinians into conducting missions in the name of Al-Qaida. Last Tuesday, a young man named Ibrahim was presented to reporters in Gaza. Ibrahim hid his face behind a mask, and told what happened to him.

He said that a year ago he sent in a personal, with his photo and phone number, to East Jerusalem's Posta, a cultural-entertainment weekly with a personals section. Three months later, the Gazan received a phone call from an older man, who introduced himself as a merchant named Ahmed, who told Ibrahim that his photo reminded him of his son. They spoke on the phone a number of times, with Ahmed asking Ibrahim about the situation - and if he was a devout Muslim.

During one of the conversations, Ahmed told Ibrahim that he wanted to help Gazans in economic distress and began sending money - cash in dollars and Jordanian dinars - through the Nablus branch of the Cairo-Amman bank. Ibrahim told Ahmed that he had never been arrested nor involved in any political organization. Then, in one of the conversations, Ahmed said he was working for Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaida organization, and Ibrahim was meant to be one of its organizers in northern Gaza since the group already had an infrastructure in the south. Ahmed gave Ibrahim a list of people, mostly Hamas activists, and was told to collect information about them and follow them so they could also be drafted for the Al-Qaida cause.

The two never met, but at a certain point during their telephone contact, Ibrahim became suspicious. He contacted a preventive security officer in Gaza and told him the whole story. The officer looked into the matter and told Ibrahim that Ahmed was an Israeli Shin Bet agent, and Ibrahim should immediately cut off any contacts with him.

Palestinian sources said last week that the case was not unusual, and they reported it, as well as similar cases, during a security meeting with top-level U.S. security officials

Getting back to our "suicide bombing"; all that we really know is that:

A car containing three Israelis exploded last night outside an illegal Israeli settlement

The bomb that exploded was probably detonated by remote control and was of a 'high grade'.

A new and previously unheard of Palestinian militant group tied to 'al-Qaeda in Palestine', claimed responsibility.

I shall leave it up to you, dear reader, to come to your own conclusions about whether or not this was a 'Palestinian suicide bombing', or if it was in fact the work of the Israelis themselves. In doing so, you might want to consider my previous musings on The Truth Behind The War On Terrror
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Editorial: Could Strange Seattle Killing Spree Be Connected To "Manchurian Candidate" Psy Ops Government Program?

31 Mar 2006
By Greg Szymanski

Kyle Huff, 28, gunned down six with a Bushmaster rifle and then killed himself at a home on Capitol Hill after spray painting "NOW" on the doorstep.

As the old saying goes, death comes in "threes" but last week the number changed to nine, as a rash of strange killings with undertones of "government psy ops hits" hidden between the lines hit news stands across the country.

First, there was the flight attendant who at the last minute was bumped off Flight 11 on 9/11, who was killed in an auto accident. Initial police reports list accidental death, but suspicious minds are already speculating she was eliminated for knowing too much about 9/11 being an inside government job.

Next there was the PhD college student and member of the 9/11 truth group called Scholars for 9/11 Truth found shot in the head in uptown Minneapolis. Initial reports claim it was a random act of violence, but again suspicious minds are trying to connect the dots to 9/11.

Although these two incidents are deplorable and have peripheral connections to 9/11, without question the most bizarre and suspicious murder incident of them all took place in Seattle where Kyle Huff, 25, opened fire on an innocent crowd of people, killing six and then shooting himself as police arrived on the gruesome murder scene.

Again initial reports were unclear but indicated at first glance a random act of violence.

However, what lies behind the scenes and between the lines of this barbaric act may very well prove to be much, much more than a crazed killer wielding a shotgun..

A source, seeking complete anonymity due to the sensitivity of the case, told the Arctic Beacon that Huff may have pulled the trigger on his recently purchased Bushmaster rifle due to his involvement in a Mkultra government "psy ops campaign" or "Manchurian Candidate" type program.

Although it's too early to tell, the many unanswered questions already surfacing in the Huff murder spree, spelling possible government psy ops, can't be ignored or dismissed as merely coincidence even to the most novice of criminal investigators.

"I have come by some information about Huff that I am not in a position to disclose at this time. There is reason for me to believe Huff was the subject of a psy ops "Manchurian candidate" type of program. That is all I can say at this time, but if you look at a few of the facts of the case, I am sure you can see where I am going with this," said the anonymous source.

"I came by this information from a person who traveled with Mr Huff two years ago, and the story related to me is chilling. There is more than going on here that meets the eye. I wish I could be more forthcoming about the details related to me. I am not a nut case."

And the initial facts surrounding the Seattle shooting spree leave a host of unanswered questions, making the information of the anonymous source more curious and revealing.

Initial reports show the murders were committed on Saturday, March 25, at 2112 E. Republican St. on Capitol Hill in Seattle. Huff also had recently acquired a Bushmaster rifle, according to police, as at five brochures about the rifle were found next to his computer. Further, it was reported that immediately before Huff began shooting, he sprayed painted the word, "NOW" on the sidewalks and steps of the house on Republican St.

Huff also was armed with three guns, more than 300 rounds of ammunition, a baseball bat and a black machete, and told guests as he blazed away, "There's plenty for everyone," authorities said Monday.

"He clearly intent on doing homicidal mayhem," Deputy Police Chief Clark Kimerer said after the incident. And when police confronted Huff, he put a shotgun in his mouth and pulled the trigger.

As essential background, Huff has an identical twin named Kane, both growing up in the small town of Whitefish, Montana, population of approximately 5,000.

The Huff twins were also close high school friends with Jared Hope. In 2002, Hope shot and killed both his parents, then himself as police arrived on the scene similar to Huff. And according to reports, both Huff brothers returned to Whitefish to attend the Hope funeral in 2002, where their mother, Mary, still lives and runs a small art gallery.

Huff's mother was unavailable for comment and not answering her telephone, but after the incident she released a general statement of remorse to the press and then supposedly went into seclusion with her son, Kane.

"The mother may be able to shed some light on Huff's childhood. This could be an important," continued the anonymous source. "As for the two years since my source saw Kyle Huff last, he lived with his twin brother, Kane, in Seattle and he was by all accounts the closest to him. After the shootings, Kane was, according to media accounts, in seclusion, but he may be in Whitefish at this time.

"It is my gut feeling that these two time frames are of key importance to this mystery. Both the mother and brother have given short statements to the press, and have been cooperative with police."

Saying the "government psy ops" connection needs to be investigated the source said the following questions also need to be answered in light of the information she learned about Huff:

Did Huff and his brother see the same doctors or psychiatrists as children? Were they a part of any medical studies? Did they see the same doctors or have extended contact with other people who where also in contact with Jared Hope?

Did they take medications for extended periods? Did Jared Hope? Where they the same medications, or come from the same pharmacy?

Who did Huff have contact with the last two years? Where did the Bushmaster rifle come from? Why that rifle?

Why did he choose to carry out the shooting at a house on Republican Street, on Capital Hill, a house he had apparently never been to before.

Why did he shoot strangers? Why did he choose them? Why did Huff spray paint the word "NOW". Was it a "trigger" word (no pun intended), or a dyslexic form of "NWO"?
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Editorial: The War Drums Are Getting Louder And Sounding A Clear Message

by Stephen Lendman

The way things are today, why on earth would the "big fool lunatics in charge" in Washington ever want another war or maybe two of them. Already they're "waist deep in the Big Muddy" in two out-of-control debacles in the Middle East and Central Asia, and the country is leaching multi-billions we don't have to pay for them. Despite this hopeless chaos, it looks almost certain we're now headed for a new one against another Middle East 4-letter country beginning with the letter "I", and may try to "double our displeasure" by including a "fracas in Caracas." I just learned about an "Operation Bilbao" which appears to be blueprint to overthrow the Chavez government and likely includes in it targeted assassinations starting with the guy in charge.

Do these neocrazies in Washington really think they can pull all this off - wars on four fronts. Don't these guys have anyone around with a sense of history? Forget about morality and such. These folks have none of that. But even kids in high school learn that Hitler was doomed when he decided to wage war on two fronts. And we all know what happened to Napoleon and a few other less notables. It's what happens when your "eyes get bigger than your stomach", and the indigestion that results is called "demise by overreach." It's no different now than a couple of generations ago or a couple of centuries either.

Again, It's For The Oil Stupid, And The Third And Fourth Targets Are Iran And Venezuela

Call it the curse of having too much oil or maybe any. If only they just grew stuff we eat there instead of pumping the stuff our "gas guzzlers" do. Iran and Venezuela have so much of the "black gold" their countries are practically floating on it. But in a world where a predatory USA can't even breathe without it, that makes them public enemies one and two - unless they agree to hand it all over to us. In "Godfather" language, that's called "making an offer they can't refuse." That's the way it works in a world where "only what we say goes and we make all the rules." Any nation unwilling to follow our orders and obey them becomes a target for regime change by whatever means it takes - including by illegal aggression using industrial strength nuclear weapons the US now plans to throw around like hand grenades.

I've written some in other articles about Iran and said then and now I believe things are "hotting up" as my UK friends would say. They're No. one in the target queue, and it could be (nuclear) bombs away at any time. But here I only want to discuss Venezuela because after Iran I have almost no doubt Venezuela is next. The US may even try to make it a twosome in their infinite lunacy. These reckless, lawless fools are often wrong but never in doubt. When you rule the world or want to, you even believe you have the right to blow it up.

To understand what's in the wind, all you have to do is clean out your ears, open your eyes and pay attention. The US war drums are beating a duet, and they're getting louder. Listen up, here's the message on the Venezuelan front. On March 28, the Virginia Pilot of Norfolk, VA (that's where the biggest US naval force is based and where I once lived for a year) reported that the US Navy is sending an aircraft carrier strike group composed of four ships and 60 aircraft to Caribbean and South American waters for a "major" training exercise. All four ships are capable of launching cruise missiles that might and could be armed with nuclear warheads. By my reckoning, that's a provocative and hostile act.

Now combine that with the growing hostile rhetoric coming out of Washington directed at Hugo Chavez. I wrote in a previous article that Latin American expert James Petras wrote (now some months ago) that the US has a strategy to overthrow President Chavez by military force and at the same time destroy the Cuban revolution in a "two step" process - "first overthrow the Chavez government in Venezuela, cut off the energy supply and trade links (to Cuba) and then proceed toward economic strangulation and military attack." He also believed then the US would employ a "triangular strategy" to overthrow Chavez - "a military invasion from Colombia, US intervention (by air and sea attacks plus special forces to assassinate key officials) and an internal uprising by infiltrated terrorists and military traitors, supported by key media, financial and petrol elites."

That's an ominous scenario to consider, but now add to it the kind of Washington rhetoric that makes it all sound possible. Here's some of the language from 2005 to the present, and it's getting meaner. Various US officials including CIA Chief Porter Goss, Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and a growing number of others have called President Chavez a "threat to democracy" and an "elected dictatorship", and they said it without even a touch of irony. They accused him of doing "away with the rule of law, (packing) the courts (and) carrying out anti-democratic activities" like a dictator.

It gets worse. The just updated National Security Strategy, published so we can all read it, specifically singles out Hugo Chavez as "a demogogue awash in oil money (who is) undermining democracy and seeking to destabilize the region." The complicit US corporate media echo this venom as often as the Washington lunatics ask them to. And there's lots more of it including a recent US Army report that calls Hugo Chavez "the largest threat since the Soviet Union and Communism", and Don Rumsfeld compares him to Hitler.

And in case you missed it, I'll repeat what John Pilger (one of my great heros) wrote on March 30 on VHeadline.com titled: "British Channel 4 paints President Chavez a Dictator -- Hugo to go?" I watched that ugly and appalling piece of rot on March 27, painful as it was to do it. In his article Pilger says "This was a piece seemingly written by the US State Department....." It sure sounded like it, and I've heard enough of it through the years to agree. Here's a choice line from it Pilger quotes: "He (Chavez) is in danger of joining a rogue's gallery of dictators and despots --Washington's latest Latin nightmare." There's so much more of the worst kinds of gross lies and deception in the Channel 4 report, but you get the idea. Read the Pilger article if you haven't yet. Unlike myself, a simple amateur, he's a pro's pro, an honest one, and as good as they come.

All of what I cite above are the clearest signals yet something is up and will happen - the only question is when and precisely what. I only hope but do believe Hugo Chavez is listening and hunkering down for "the inevitable."

In An Orwellian World The Only Truths Are The Lies We Say Are Truths

It makes no difference to the Washington crowd that Hugo Chavez was democratically elected twice, is loved by the overwhelming majority of his people and has already survived three attempts by the US to oust him. Coming up for sure is number four. Chavez surely knows this and also believes (as do I) that this time the US plan is to kill him. In US perverted logic, they believe - no more Hugo Chavez, no more Bolivarian revolution. Well, President Chavez may have a thing or two to say about the first premise, and the Venezuelan people may have a thought or two about the second, at least the 80% of them who cherish it and will likely fight to keep it.

Readers should understand and never forget that Hugo Chavez gave the people of Venezuela a participatory democracy and an array of essential social programs for everyone, especially the 80% or more poor or desperately poor who never before had them. That's why the majority of Venezuelans love him, will likely fight to protect and keep him, and will never easily surrender the essential services they now have. That's also why the US hates him and will try to remove him. He represents the greatest of all threats to us - a good example, one that may spread to other nations, and we can never tolerate that. It's bad for business. By US rules it's corporations first, second, third, and to hell with the people. We're doing the same thing here in the US so why would we ever care about those dark-skinned Venezuelans - except the rich ones, of course. With them the only color that counts is green.

For the ordinary people everywhere, the virulent undercurrent of racism always surfaces as a key factor in the target countries we choose. Since the beginning of the republic, race hate has been so much a part of our white leaders' DNA that even caucasian Arab people aren't white enough. And the only post-WW II war we've fought that's an exception was the illegal aggression against and breakup of Yugoslavia. In that case, strategic factors outweighed race. The exception, as they say, proves the rule.

The Us Road To Tyranny Leads Through Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran And Venezuela

I've written several times before that the George Bush junta today is taking the US from a republic to tyranny, and we're already perilously close. This is a man who believes he's "above the law" and the "Constitution is just a goddamed piece of paper." I say this in deadly seriousness, this is not a test, it's real and it's coming unless we find a way and soon to stop it. Is anyone paying attention? All my senses detect it enough to make my skin crawl, and I'm desperately trying to sound the alarm to all I can reach including Hugo Chavez who I respect, admire and can only wish we had someone like him here. We need a lot of Hugo Chavezes and a few more Paul Reveres to echo the alarm, but this time it's not a case of "one if by land and two if by sea." It's coming at us from all directions, and it may be armed with a nuclear warhead abroad and the end of our republic and sacred constitutional rights here with martial law and tyranny replacing them. It's that serious. Is anyone listening?

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.
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Editorial: Bush's Insane and Criminal War against Iraq

by Rodrigue Tremblay
March 28, 2006

"To initiate a war of aggression…is not only an international crime, it is the supreme international crime, differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole."

Nuremberg Tribunal

George W. Bush was planning a premeditated attack on Iraq to secure 'regime change' in that country, even before he took power in January 2001. It was Bush's plan for the U.S. to take military control of the Middle East Gulf region, whether or not Saddam Hussein was in power in Iraq. In fact, presidential candidate Bush Jr. saw the political benefits of attacking Iraq as early as 1999, as has been confirmed by Bush's biographer, Mickey Herskowitz.

Just before the Nov. 2000 presidential elections, and much before the terrorist attacks of September 2001, a Bush inner cabinet composed of Dick Cheney (now Vice- President), Donald Rumsfeld (Secretary of Defense), Paul Wolfowitz (later Rumsfeld's deputy and now President of the World Bank), GWB's younger brother Jeb Bush (Governor of Florida) and Lewis Libby (Cheney's chief of staff) drafted a policy document, dated September 2000, and entitled "Rebuilding America's Defenses: Strategies, Forces And Resources For A New Century." -The neo-conservative blueprint called for establishing a "permanent (American) role in Gulf regional security". It said: "While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein." During that time, Gov. Bush was campaigning in October 2000, declaring himself to be unambiguously against "extending our troops all around the world in nation-building missions". (October 3, 2000). -It is thus amply clear that the Bush administration had a plan to invade Iraq, that this plan was hidden from the American people, and then that they seized the opportunity provided by the 9/11 events to implement it.

Since internal government polls showed that the American public would only support a war against Iraq if there was a danger that Saddam Hussein was developing nuclear weapons, the Bush-Cheney administration invented the Iraqi nuclear threat from scratch. -The American corporate media (ACM) did the rest. They acted as an echo chamber for the White House lies, repeating ad nauseam the big lie that a war was necessary to destroy Iraq's stockpile of "weapons of mass destruction."

The invasion and occupation of Iraq by U.S. forces on March 20, 2003, was in flagrant breach of international law and America's own binding treaty commitments in the UN Charter to abandon the unilateral use of force as an instrument of international policy. -Article 2(4) of the UN Charter is crystal clear: "All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations." To pretend to ignore the law is the summum of hypocrisy. The fact remains that the war against Iraq is the first illegal war of the 21st Century. Moreover, it is an immoral war according to any coherent moral code. No democracy can win an immoral war. And the Iraq war is both illegal and immoral.

Bush based his unilateral military aggression on the false and discredited theory of "preemptive war", the so-called imperial "Bush Doctrine" that allows the U.S. to attack a foreign country on the basis of suspicion alone. He forgot to say that any such 'preemptive' military attack on another country, which is unsanctioned by the United Nations, is in direct contravention of international law and the UN Charter. The U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan made that very clear in September 2004, in regard to Iraq, when he said: "The US-led invasion of Iraq was an illegal act that contravened the UN charter." The fact that Bush has reaffirmed his illegal strategy of preventive war only makes him more dangerous and less accountable, and makes the world a less secure place.

Now that Iraq is a mess, that thousands and thousands of people have been killed, that the Iraqi infrastructures have been destroyed and that the fire of civil war has been lit between the Shiites, the Sunnis and the Kurds, it will take very competent people to avoid a larger catastrophe. Bush even acknowledges now that he may not clean up the mess he made in Iraq, but will leave that to the next president, scheduled to take over on January 20, 2009. -Bush is also shedding crocodile tears over the mess in Iraq and he even goes so far as to say that he never wanted to go to war against Iraq, even though there are tons of evidence to the contrary: "I didn't want war [in Iraq] ...No President wants war. Everything you may have heard is that, but it's just simply not true." ..."When he

[Saddam Hussein] chose to deny inspectors, when he chose not to disclose, then I had the difficult decision to make to remove him. (George W. Bush, March 21, 2005.)

Somebody should remind Bush Jr. that the 145 U.N. inspectors were in Iraq in December 2002 and in January 2003, but had to leave the country precipitiously when the American president announced he was going to bomb Baghdad. Also, he should be reminded that the government of Saddam Hussein was in compliance with U.N. demands when it supplied, on December 7, 2002, a 12,200-page declaration about its weapons programs. In this report, Iraq demonstrated convincingly that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, when inspectors left at the end of 1998, and that none had been designed, procured, produced or stored in the period since then.

We now know this was the truth.

Iraq had dismantled its nuclear program and destroyed its chemical and biological weapons stockpiles by 1992. Unfortunately, the Bush administration removed more than 8,000 pages from the December 2002 Iraqi report before publishing it. These erased pages listed in detail how the United States supplied Iraq with biological and chemical weapons, during the 1980's, and the direct involvement of twenty-four U.S-based corporations and key American political figures in the Reagan and Bush Sr. administrations. And, even more damning for the Bush administration, in his final report of October 2004, Charles Duelfer, head of the post-invasion U.S. team of weapons hunters, concluded also that Iraq and the U.N. inspectors had, indeed, dismantled Iraq's weapons of mass destruction . So far, the Bush administration has offered no apology for twisting reality to fit its warmongering plans.

Nowadays, President Bush Jr. is shamelessly lying about his lies. As the saying goes, 'Lie once -Lie a thousand times'. We now know, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that he knew he was lying about the motives to launch a war and that he was looking for ways to provoke a war with Iraq. A recently divulged British confidential memorandum, which has been thoroughly analyzed by the New York Times, explains, in detail, how the Bush administration engineered this war and lied its ways into it.

This historical truth is unassailable. -The stark fact is that, for his Middle Eastern policy, Bush Jr. has enthusiastically and irresponsibly adopted the chaos theory of the neoconservatives advising him. For example, he told Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward, who wrote the book "Bush at War": "Look, our strategy is to create chaos, to create a vacuum."

In the summer and fall of 2002, Bush Jr. was watching the polls, and when he saw that the official propaganda against Iraq was working, linking Iraq with 9/11, with the active complicity of the American corporate media (ACM), and that it would be politically advantageous to him and the Republicans to have a war against the diabolized Saddam Hussein, he went to war on his own volition, even though he had failed to obtain the necessary legal cover from the United Nations and his own intelligence reports made it amptly clear there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The Bush administration was bent on going to war against Iraq no matter what, and it "fixed the intelligence and facts" around the already decided policy. See the Downing Street Memo. The extent to which the Bush administration resorted to lies and trickeries to launch a war of choice against Iraq will fascinate future historians. It will be the sad joke of the 21st Century.

For those, like the highly respected journalist Helen Thomas, who still try to get at the truth of why Bush illegally, and with no provocation, invaded Iraq, Bush Jr. has a ready answer, and it is the one he gave Bob Woodward: "I'm the commander-see, I don't need to explain-I do not need to explain why I say things. That's the interesting thing about being the president. Maybe somebody needs to explain to me why they say something, but I don't feel like I owe anybody an explanation."

He 'don't' need to explain!

If he were in a democracy following the rules of the British parliamentary system, he would have to answer such fundamental questions in the daily 'Question Period' of the House of Commons. In the U.S., he can stonewall and only a few professional journalists dare to make him accountable, ...and this happens only once in a few years.

In all my years spent at observing politicians all around the world, I have never seen such delusion and such lack of candor in a single person, as is witnessed in George W. Bush.

Maybe Congress should dust off its copies of the Nuremberg Charter and of the U. N. Charter, and begin applying the U.S. Constitution each member was sworn to uphold. A simple majority of the US House of Representatives can vote to impeach George W. Bush.

In launching a war of aggression against Iraq and in inventing lies to justify his actions, George W. Bush has committed an international war crime of the highest order.

As military historian Martin van Creveld has aply put it: "For misleading the American people, and launching the most foolish war since Emperor Augustus in 9 B.C sent his legions into Germany and lost them, Bush deserves to be impeached and, once he has been removed from office, put on trial along with the rest of the president's men. If convicted, they'll have plenty of time to mull over their sins.
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Editorial: Utterly Laughable Comment Of The Week

Joe Quinn
Signs of the Times

The chief U.S. military spokesman said on Thursday that 'Al Qaeda leader in Iraq Abu Musab al-Zarqawi' has shifted tactics, focusing his suicide bombers on Iraqi forces and civilians instead of American troops:

"What we are seeing him do now is shift his target from the coalition forces to Iraqi civilians and Iraqi security forces," Major General Rick Lynch told a news conference.

So get this, "al-Zarqawi" (who is actually dead), faced with the changing dynamics on the Iraqi battle field, has now shifted his tactics and decided that the best way to attack and defeat American forces (you know the actual enemy) and force them out of Iraq is to attack Iraqi civilians!! WOW! That guy is amazing! How DOES he come up with such fantastic strategies? Where else but in the mind of the evil genius "al-Zarqawi" (who is dead) would we come across such a devilish yet brilliant plan?

Only now do we understand why so many great military leaders throughout history failed to realise their full potential and ultimately suffered defeat. If only they had thought a little longer, obsessed a little harder, they too might have hit upon such the ingenious plan of al-Zarqawi. Let it be recorded in the annals of military history:

"The only true way to defeat your enemy is to attack your own grass-roots support base. Indeed, the time may come when in order to entirely finish off your foe, the true great military leader may be forced to attack and kill himself."

But in truth, al-Zarqawi cannot take all the credit for this new and fool-proof strategy, because in the same report we are told that.#

"U.S. military intelligence sources in Iraq said recently that it appeared that international al Qaeda leaders may have prevailed on Zarqawi to limit attacks on Shi'ite civilians on the grounds this was counter-productive."

To which we can only respond: "No S**t Sherlock"

But we jest, of course, but not with good reason. It is shocking to read such tripe, if only because it suggests that our leaders think us so stupid as to believe it. That is not to say that someone is not attacking Iraqi civilians - they are dying by the dozen by the day - but to suggest that any Islamic militant group would attack Iraqi Muslims in an attempt to defeat American troops is so patently ridiculous as to preclude any serious comment on it (hence the above).

The real perpetrators of the massacres currently taking place in Iraq are the infamous "security contractors" and other 'private armies' paid for by the states of Israel, America and Britain. It is these states that have anything to gain from the outbreak of sectarian violence in Iraq.
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Cosmic Weirdness

Solar Wind Whips Up Auroral Storms On Jupiter And Saturn

by Staff Writers, SPX
Mar 31, 2006


EMBARGOED FOR 00:01 BST, TUESDAY, 4 APRIL 2006 (19:01 EDT on Monday April 3, 2006)

SpaceDaily appologizes to all concerned with this news release. It was processed in error today and released ahead of it's official release date next Tuesday. Please do not distribute any cache copies of this article.

Comment: This is a rather strange story to embargo. Coincidentally, we received the following e-mail this morning from a QFS member who has family in Denmark:
I managed to reach for a phone and make contact with Denmark.

I hear that yesterday on the tv news it was reported that the folks of a village/area named Skive swamped the weather center with reports of lights which apparantly looked like the Northern Lights and which was accompanied by rather loud bangs and so forth.

As this report was being given on the tv a sign came up on the screen which read "everything is normal" (alting er normalt).

Which is strange in itself...

The explanation given was that it was aircraft and there was no need to panic...

As if the Danes have never seen or heard a plane before...

I cant find anything on the net concerning this incident...

A few days ago, also in Denmark a strange phenomena looking like a cloud of white light, a bit chemtraily looking and issuing lightning was filmed and made an appearance on the weather part of the news...

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Streaks in Saturn's rings point to tiny moons

Last Updated Wed, 29 Mar 2006 17:09:00 EST
CBC News

Astronomers have found oddly shaped streaks in the rings of Saturn that suggest the presence of moonlets about 100 metres across.
The four small moons are the first known objects of their size detected in Saturn's rings.

Their presence supports the theory that the planet's spectacular rings were formed after the break-up of an icy moon. The theory predicted debris of all sizes, but only the very small and very large had been observed.

The observations are published in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature.

The propeller-shaped streaks in the rings were observed in July 2004, when NASA's Cassini spacecraft entered orbit above the planet's ring system. The features weren't noticed at first because the images were so faint.

Each pair of streaks in the planet's rings represents the gravitational effect of a moonlet on the surrounding particles. The researchers believe only objects from 40 to 120 metres in diameter would be able to form these shapes.

Smaller particles wouldn't have enough mass to affect their neighbours in such a way, and larger objects would have more obvious effects. Pan, a moon of Saturn that is 30 kilometres wide, is so massive that it carves out a gap in the rings all the way around the planet.

The propellers had been predicted in computer models of the rings, but were never observed until now. The researchers, led by Matthew Tiscareno of Cornell University, believe that Saturn's rings could have about 10 million such moonlets

The most prevalent theory about the origin of Saturn's rings is that an icy moon broke apart, either in a collision with a asteroid or comet or due to the power of Saturn's gravity.

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Fireball reported in skies over Kanto

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Mar. 31, 2006

Astronomical observatories have received a number of reports of a fireball, described as flashing orange or blue, seen in the skies over the Kanto region around 8:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Reports were received from Gunma, Ibaraki, Chiba and Shizuoka prefectures as well as Tokyo, and indicate that the unidentified object moved across the night sky from the west to the east.

"When dust from the cosmos falls to Earth, it emits a bright light in the air. It's likely that the figure was one such fireball that was especially large and bright," said a spokesman at the Gunma Astronomical Observatory in Takayamamura, Gunma Prefecture.

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Russian Telecom Satellite Fails After Sudden Impact

Mar 30, 2006

Moscow, Russia - The Russian Satellite Communications Company's Express-AM11 telecommunications satellite suffered a sudden failure on Wednesday. "At present, providing services via the Express-AM11 satellite is impossible," the company said in a statement.

Telemetry showed the failure, which occurred at 6:55 a.m. Moscow Time, was caused by "a sudden external impact on the spacecraft," RSCC said in a statement.
The cause most probably was space garbage of unknown origin. The result was instantaneous depressurization of the satellite's thermal control system fluid circuit, followed by "a sudden outburst of the heat-carrying agent."

The spacecraft subsequently lost its geostationary orientation and proper rotation. Although ground engineers were able to maintain marginal control, RSCC said the AM11 "started approaching the crucial values that can result in the total loss of the satellite."

Along with the effective loss of the satellite, the company said the presence of space garbage most likely also renders its orbital slot unusable. Therefore engineers have engaged "organizational and technical measures aimed at removing the Express-AM11 from 96.5 East into space disposal orbit."

RSCC has downloaded the satellite's backup capacities on the east orbital arc and as a result all Russian commercial TV and radio broadcasting has been restored. In addition, engineers have transferred all official communications channels to the Express-A2 (103 East), Express-AM2 (80 East) and Express-AM3 (140 East) satellites.

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What Earth Changes?

At least 66 dead in Iran quake

March 31, 2006

TEHRAN - At least 66 people were killed when a powerful earthquake struck western Iran, destroying whole villages and sending frightened residents fleeing from their homes, according to the latest toll.
Another 988 people were injured in the quake which hit the province of Lorestan near the border with Iraq with a force of 6.0 on the Richter scale, state news agency IRNA quoted the head of the province's medical university Qodratollah Shams Khoramabadi as saying.

"Forty-five have been killed in Borujerd area along with 900 people injured and the rest are from the Doroud area," he said.

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Cyclone Glenda Hits Australian Oil And Mining Region

Mar 31, 2006

Sydney - A severe tropical cyclone battered a major oil and mining region of Western Australia overnight but missed the area's main population centers and was weakening as it tracked over land, officials said on Friday.

There were no immediate reports of major damage from Cyclone Glenda, which hit the northwestern Pilbara region Thursday afternoon as a category four storm packing winds of up to 250 kilometers (150 miles) per hour.
But by morning Glenda had been downgraded to a category two with gusts of 150 kilometers per hour, the country's weather bureau said.

Emergency services officials said they had not yet been able to visit Onslow, a rural town of 800 which took the full brunt of the storm, to assess destruction there, but they had received no reports of serious damage. They did warn of the danger of severe flooding from torrential rains and a huge storm sea surge caused by Glenda.

The bureau of meteorology said Glenda was moving southwest back towards the Indian Ocean coast and could still do damage to banana crops in the region if its course shifted slightly westward.

Glenda was the second severe cyclone to hit Australia in two weeks after a maximum category five storm, Larry, slammed into the country's tropical northeast, causing extensive damage but no casualties.

There had been concern that Glenda would cause severe disruption to major iron ore, oil and gas mining and shipping operations centered in the Pilbara.

But the cyclone missed the key area of Karratha, the port and business hub of the region where several hundred people evacuated prior to the storm.

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Eastern Europe On High Alert For Floods

by Chris Johnstone
Mar 31, 2006

Prague - Authorities across eastern Europe declared flood alerts on Thursday amid fears that rivers swollen by a sudden spring thaw could spill over in a repetition of the disastrous east European inundation of 2002.

Six people in the region, including two children, were reported killed by the raging waters and a teenager was reported missing in Romania. In Eastern Slovakia, a four-year old Roma boy fell into a stream and drowned and a 61-year-old man was found drowned at Modra in the southwest, the authorities said.
In the Czech Republic officials confirmed a five-year-old boy had been swept away near the town of Trebic two days earlier. Czech broadcaster CT1 added that a man had died of a heart attack as he tried to save belongings from his flooded house and that two people had drowned in their car near Terezin.

The situation was at its most serious in Moravia in the southeast of the Czech Republic, where the Vranov dam was overflown by the swollen Dyje river, a Danube tributary which was surging at 30 times its normal level.

Some 10,000 people in and around the town of Znojmo were evacuated on Wednesday evening because of the threat from the Dyje, which began to inundate buildings late on Thursday. Soldiers were drafted in to help with the flood preparations.

A emergency situation was declared late on Thursday by the governor of the South Bohemia region, where the ever-swelling Luznice river threatened the areas around two of the biggest towns, Tabor and Jindrich Hradec.

The levels of the Elbe, Danube, Morava and Vltava rivers, as well as other rivers crossing the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Austria and Hungary, have sparked flood alerts across the region.

However, fears of a flood disaster in eastern Germany faded after the environment minister of Saxony, Stanislaw Tillich, said the situation was not potentially "catastrophic."

Nevertheless, officials said the Elbe river had reached worrying levels. In the city of Dresden, which was severely damaged by the 2002 floods, the level of the Elbe was reported three times higher than normal at 6.5 metres (21 feet). But this was still well short of the level reached four years ago.

Television news channels showed people standing up to their waists in water in towns along the river.

The Czech hydrological office warned on Thursday that the danger of severe flooding in the south of Moravia and around Zlin, as well as a dozen other sites across the country, would last until Saturday. Rain, predicted on Friday, threatened to worsen the flood risk, especially in the south and centre of the country.

The highest, level-three, flood alerts were declared at 78 locations in the Czech Republic on Thursday morning. That number fell to 44 by the end of the afternoon.

Flood protection barriers in the capital, Prague, were completed on Thursday morning. The city, where the catastrophic August 2002 floods are still fresh in many memories, remained on a level-two alert Thursday.

In Germany, a state of alert was announced in the eastern region of Saxony, after the Elbe reached a critical level, local authorities announced.

At Pirna, around 20 kilometres (12 miles) from the Czech frontier, people living near the river were evacuated as a preventive measure. At Bad Schandau, around 1,000 people already left their houses on Wednesday night.

In Bavaria, the area around Passau was on flood alert due to the high level of the Danube.

Flood alerts were announced for a number of rivers in Hungary. A section of the lower embankment of the Danube in Budapest was closed to traffic due to the high water level.

Alerts were also put into in effect in the south, west and parts of central Poland on Thursday but only local cases of flooding were reported.

Polish authorities in the Silesia region, in the south of the country, already declared a flood alert on Tuesday on fears that the river Oder would overflow its banks.

In Slovakia, the highest level flood alert was declared at many sites across the country, especially in the west where the Morava and Danube rivers continued to rise.

A spokesman for the fire service said that around 123 villages, 600 houses and around 2,000 hectares of agricultural land were flooded.

Storms also hit Romania where a teenager was reported missing on Thursday and around 50 houses and dozens of hectares (acres) of agricultural land were inundated at Bistrita-Nasaud in the north of the country and Mures in the centre of the country.

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Unexpected warming in Antarctica

By Jonathan Fildes
BBC News science reporter

Data from nine research stations were used in the study
Winter air temperatures over Antarctica have risen by more than 2C in the last 30 years, a new study shows.

Research published in the US journal Science says the warming is seen across the whole of the continent and much of the Southern Ocean.

The study questions the reliability of current climate models that fail to simulate the temperature rise.

In addition, the scientists from the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) say the cause of the warming is not clear.

It could be linked to increases in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere or natural variations in Antarctica's climate system.

Scientists are keen to understand the change in temperatures over the continent as the region holds enough water in its ice to raise sea levels by 60 metres.
Temperature rise

Temperature rises on parts of the surface of Antarctica have been seen for some time. The western side of the Antarctic Peninsula is known to have the largest annual warming seen anywhere in the world with increases of over 2.5C in the last 50 years.

Until now, very little was known about air temperatures above the vast continent.

The new work uses meteorological data collected from weather balloons launched in the Antarctic winters between 1971 and 2003. The scientists collected information from nine international research stations, mostly in the east of the continent.

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Scientists theorize comet killed off the mammoths

Jacob Berkowitz.

The age of mystery material found in southern Alberta, which could belong to an extraterrestrial object, coincides with the great ice age die-off
WASHINGTON, D.C. - It's widely accepted that a cosmic collision did in the dinosaurs. Now there's scientific suspicion that an extraterrestrial object, possibly a comet, is implicated in the demise of the large ice age mammals.

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9/11 and Beyond

Venezuelan Government To Launch International 9/11 Investigation

Paul Joseph Watson & Alex Jones
Prison Planet.com
March 31 2006

Truth crusaders Walter and Rodriguez to appear on Hugo Chavez's weekly TV broadcast

Billionaire philanthropist Jimmy Walter and WTC survivor William Rodriguez this week embarked on a groundbreaking trip to Caracas Venezuela in which they met with with the President of the Assembly and will soon meet with Venezuelan President himself Hugo Chavez in anticipation of an official Venezuelan government investigation into 9/11.

Rodriguez was the last survivor pulled from the rubble of the north tower of the WTC, and was responsible for all stairwells within the tower. Rodriguez represented family members of 9/11 victims and testified to the 9/11 Commission that bombs were in the north tower but his statements were completely omitted from the official record.
Jimmy Walter has been at the forefront of a world tour to raise awareness about 9/11 and has still yet to receive any response to his million dollar challenge in which he offers a $1 million reward for proof that the trade towers' steel structure was broken apart without explosives.

Rodriguez said that he was told an FBI agent had asked the hotel him and Walter were staying in turn over a list of names of residents. Upon hearing this, the National Assembly provided armed military protection for the entirety of the trip. In addition, Walters said that CIA agents were seen surveilling the beach on which he and Rodriguez had handed out free DVD's a day earlier.

The US government attempted to sabotage the trip by putting Rodriguez, who has been decorated at the White House itself, and Walter on a no fly list.

Rodriguez (pictured above) and Walter are educating top Venezuelan officials on the evidence that 9/11 was a self-inflicted wound carried out by the military-industrial complex. They have also appeared on every Venezuelan television and radio station both private and state owned and have given huge presentations to major universities.

Upon visiting, Rodriguez said that the President of the Assembly, Nicolas Maduro's home was brimming with books, videos and documents about the 9/11 cover-up. Maduro, Venezuela's top legislator, intoned that he was ready to create an international investigative committee, looking into the "international crime scene" that is 9/11 and that this would be structured via Hugo Chavez's government.

Rodriguez and Walter are also set to appear on Hugo Chavez's weekly broadcast 'Alo Presidente' - which is often subsequently the source of major international headlines. If there is no coverage of this event then we know for sure that a blackout order is in place.

Rodriguez and Walter offered their full support for Charlie Sheen's recent public stance on 9/11 and were heartened by his efforts. The potential of a government level inquiry endorsed by Hugo Chavez dovetails with Sheen's call for an independent investigation to be carried out by political foreign nationals.

Though the establishment media will no doubt seek to demonize Chavez as a militant with an axe to grind, this is an exciting development and the next step on the road to a genuine investigation that will seek to uncover the truth rather than hide skeletons and whitewash as was witnessed with the staged Kean committee.

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Actor & Director Ed Asner Shares 9/11 Concerns

Paul Joseph Watson & Alex Jones
Prison Planet.com
March 31 2006

Highlights story of hijackers still alive and well

Award winning director, producer and actor Ed Asner is the latest high profile public figure to voice his support for Charlie Sheen's stance on 9/11 and share his own concerns about 9/11, the war in Iraq and the Neo-Cons.

Speaking to The Alex Jones Show Asner, best known for his Emmy-winning role as Lou Grant on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, echoed Charlie Sheen's sentiments in stating, "I became suspicious of 9/11 on the day it happened."

"I will always be that suspect of it and challenge it and challenge various points of it," said Asner.

Asner agreed that the official story of 9/11 and the Kean Commission investigation was a fable and a fraud.

"I do not buy it and I would challenge it, I know all of these points....the standing down," said Asner.
Asner questioned why no authority figures had been fired for their inability to prevent 9/11.

"Nobody in high office has ever paid the penalty for keeping us unprepared for 9/11, no one has paid the price and I cite the fact that Abu Ghraib was another typical example of the way this government works," said Asner.

"It's very easy to think of 9/11 to think of being yet another cause of being able to generate war in this country, " said Asner as he compared 9/11 to past examples of manufactured provocations such as the Gulf of Tonkin incident, the attack on the Maine and Pearl Harbor.

"Many of the purported hijackers are living persons elsewhere," said Asner highlighting a story reported by BBC and others that several of the so-called perpetrators of 9/11 visited their embassies in protest that they had been identified as terrorists.

Asked who gained from 9/11 Asner answered, "Certainly the military has, Halliburton, Brown and Root, Mr. Cheney's old outfit....the oil companies of course now with record highs, and the White House is of course involved with oil and the military and always has been."

Asner doubted that another terror attack needed to be staged in order to accomplish more of the same agenda.

"They don't have to have another attack, if they indeed launched the first one they have screwed up our country so badly they could just let us sink in upon ourselves."

Asner questioned why CNN chose to cancel his scheduled spot on Showbiz Tonight. After speaking to inside sources within CNN we were able to confirm that the order came down from a higher office to "kill" the story, despite the fact that the issue had generated the most interest Showbiz Tonight had ever encountered.

Asner is a true humanitarian and is an activist in the fields of missing US PoW's, depleted uranium, which Asner suggested was a deliberate population reduction method, and the fight to get the FDA to eliminate deadly thimerosal mercury additives to vaccines.

His public stance on 9/11 and his support of Charlie Sheen helps in the ongoing effort to encourage public figures with large media platforms to step forward and become prominent voices for the 9/11 truth movement.

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Long Live The 9/11 Conspiracy!

By Mark Morford, SF Gate Columnist
Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Anyone still care about the heap of disturbing, unsolved questions surrounding Our Great Tragedy?
Here is your must-read for the month. Here is your oh-my-God- I'm-sending-this-piece- to-every-smart-person-I-know hunk of outstanding, distressing, disquieting media bliss.

Here it is: an absolutely exceptional inside scoop on the white-hot world of Sept. 11 conspiracy theories, writ large and smart by Mark Jacobson over at New York magazine, and it's mandatory reading for anyone and everyone who's ever entertained the nagging thought that something -- or rather, far more than one something -- is deeply wrong with the official line on what actually happened on Sept. 11.

See, it is very likely that you already know that Sept. 11 will go down in the conspiracy history books as a far more sinister affair than, say, the murky swirl of the Kennedy assassination. You probably already know that much of what exactly happened on Sept. 11 remains deeply unsettling and largely unsolved -- or to put another way, if you don't know all of this and if you fully and blithely accept the official Sept. 11 story, well, you haven't been paying close enough attention.

But on this, the third anniversary of the launch of Bush's illegal invasion of Iraq by way of whoring the tragedy of Sept. 11 for his cronies' appalling gain, what you might not know, what gets so easily forgotten in the mists of time and via the endless repetition of the orthodox Sept. 11 tale, is the sheer volume, the staggering array of unanswered questions about just about every single aspect of Sept. 11 -- the planes, the WTC towers, the Pentagon, the fires, the passengers and the cell phone calls and the firefighters and, well, just about everything. It is, when you look closely, all merely a matter of how far down the rabbit hole you are willing to go.

Verily, Jacobson, in his New York mag piece, encounters crackpots and fringe nutballs and those who think Sept. 11 was connected to aliens and electromagnetic fields and the Illuminati. It can, unfortunately, get a little crazy. But there is also a very smart, grounded, intelligent and surprisingly large faction -- which includes eyewitnesses, Sept. 11 widows, former generals, pilots, professors, engineers, WTC maintenance workers and many, many more -- who point to a rather shocking pile of evidence that says there is simply no way 19 fanatics with box cutters sent by some bearded lunatic in a cave could have pulled off the most perfectly orchestrated air attack of the century. Not without serious help, anyway.

Whose help? This, of course, is the biggest question of all, one which many of the more well-researched theories go a surprisingly long way toward answering.

You have to sift and sort. There are disturbing questions about collapse speeds and controlled demolitions and why the towers fell when the all-steel infrastructure was designed to easily withstand the temperatures of any sort of fire, even burning jet fuel. There are questions of the mysterious, media-documented blasts deep in the WTC towers that took place after the planes hit. There are questions of why there was such a short-selling spree on shares of American Airlines and United Air Lines the day before the attack, huge doubts about the failures of NORAD and the FAA, the bizarre case of the missing plane in the Pentagon crash, and also the downing of Flight 93 where, according to the coroner, no blood or major plane wreckage was actually found. There is, ultimately, the stunning failure of the entire multi-trillion-dollar American air-defense system. Just for starters.

There is also the very big question of what happened to 7 WTC, the only building not hit by anything at all, but which collapsed anyway, in a perfect controlled-demolition sort of way, for no reason anyone can sufficiently explain. But which just so happened to contain vital offices for the IRS, the Department of Defense, the CIA, the Secret Service, the Securities and Exchange Commission and more.

But perhaps Jacobson's article is insufficient for you. Perhaps you have heard much of it before, or you're more of the visceral type and need to actually see the proofs in order to delve deeper, have them laid out like gruesome body parts in a mesmerizing autopsy. Fair enough.

For you, we have the surprisingly compelling indie documentary "9/11 Loose Change" (Google it), freely available on the Internet and produced by three very astute and very young and very strong-willed dudes who managed to cobble together a truly astounding array of proofs and interviews and evidence, a full 1 hour and 20 minutes' worth of mesmerizing footage you will not be able to easily forget.

Or maybe you should peruse one of the countless Sept. 11 conspiracy sites, many of which link to relevant video and one of which -- scholarsfor911truth.org -- claims to be "a non-partisan association of faculty, students, and scholars, in fields as diverse as history, science, military affairs, psychology, and philosophy, dedicated to exposing falsehoods and to revealing truths behind 9/11." Start there.

Now, it's very true that some of the more specious conspiracy claims have been largely discredited and proved false. Some of the more radical "evidence" gathered by theorists is quite suspect and easily placed in the category of no-way-in-hell. This is valid. This is as it should be. You have to chew through a lot of skin and gristle to get to the real meat.

But oh the meat. The overwhelming quantity, the bloody, deadly stench of it. Fact is, it is quite impossible to watch the entire "Loose Change" documentary and not come away just a little shaken, a little awed by the sheer number of perversely interrelated facts and aberrant coincidences-that-aren't-coincidences, shaking your head at how it all seems to irrefutably prove there is far, far more to the Sept. 11 tragedy than just crazy Osama and his band of zealots, as you begin to sink into a sighing morass of rage and frustration and suspicion and mistrust. You almost can't help it.

Of course, there is another option. There is another way out. You may, as is the standard cultural default, simply ignore it all, scoff and roll your eyes and shrug it all off because it's just too bleak and distasteful to entertain the idea that the dark Sept. 11 thread winds all the way through the NSA and the FBI and the White House and the Project for the New American Century and Dick Cheney's mangled soul and God only knows where else.

But then again, no. You have to look. You have to try. Knowledge is power, and while the truth may be spurious and slippery and messy and deep, the pursuit of it is just about the only thing we have left. Give that up, and all that's left is spiritual numbness, emotional stasis and death. So what are you waiting for?

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TSA Screeners Plead Guilty to Theft

Fri Mar 31, 12:47 AM ET

HONOLULU - Two security screeners at the Honolulu International Airport pleaded guilty Thursday to stealing tens of thousands of dollars worth of yen from the luggage of Japanese tourists.

Christopher J. Cadorna, 25, and Benny S. Arcano, 27, admitted being among a group of Transportation Security Administration screeners who stole at least $20,000 from international travelers, prosecutors said.
The yen was exchanged for dollars and divvied up by the screeners, prosecutors said.

Both men have agreed to cooperate with the government's investigation into thefts by other screeners. Each faces a maximum 10 years in prison when they are sentenced July 17.

"This has given us a black eye, but it is not indicative of what we have," said
TSA Honolulu director Sidney Hayakawa in defending his 600 screeners.

The TSA plans to install cameras to monitor the screeners, he said.

Separately, TSA officer Michael Gomes, 32, was charged Wednesday with stealing $16,000 from a bag he screened at Molokai Airport. He admitted the theft and surrendered $13,500 to police, officials said.

Comment: Great. So now the TSA employees - who are in effect spying on Americans in the name of the "war on terror" - will themselves be spied upon by Big Brother.

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George Galloway : Surfing in the sewer

By George Galloway

Behind the 'fake sheikh' lies a murky world of dodgy websites and untraceable companies - and, of course, Rupert Murdoch.
Our press, which you appear to regard as being free ... is the most enslaved and the vilest thing." William Cobbett, Political Register, 1830.

From Princess Pushy to Posh Spice, from Sophie Wessex to Sven-Goran Eriksson and Cherie's confidante, Carole Caplin, the News of the World's "fake sheikh", Mazher Mahmood, whose picture I shall shortly unveil, has gulled the greedy and the gaffe-prone. But he couldn't "get Galloway".

Thanks to my well-honed sense of smell for rats, and with the assistance of my clever comrade Kevin Ovenden and others too well placed to name, I attended London's salubrious Dorchester hotel with a heightened sense of suspicion. In my experience, few wealthy men come looking for a good cause to support. Yet the "wealthy men" described here were running after me faster than most millionaires make it into the House of Lords.

I knew from the minute I met them that they were impostors. I suspected I was in the midst of a shakedown, which later investigation proved to be the case.

There's more to this than glee at having become the first to outfox the "fake sheikh", or even schadenfreude at the discomfort of the News of the Screws. Those who doubted that there are powerful forces out there determined to discredit me must now surely agree that just because I'm paranoid, it doesn't mean they're not out to get me.

The guttersnipes of News International now claim the abortive attempt to sting me was part of a general investigation into the campaign funding scandal now unfolding over the mainstream political parties in Britain. But our investigations conclusively prove this to be a lie.

Crestfallen at my refusal to rise to the bait of illicit funding, Murdoch's minions fell from the gutter into the sewer of anti-semitism. Posing - at least, I hope they were posing - as Holocaust deniers, they strutted their David Irving stuff, inviting me to associate myself with their racist filth. When this tactic, too, imploded, they must have regarded the large amount of money spent on a Dorchester dinner for four as a real waste of money.

In late February, Mohamed Ali, the chief executive of the Islam Channel (for which my party colleague Yvonne Ridley works) approached me several times to say that "somebody" wanted to meet me who was "keen to help Respect" and "the community".

I was a little suspicious, and so sidestepped the "offer" for several weeks. Finally, after much prompting from Mr. Ali, I agreed to meet this "someone" last Saturday after my TalkSport radio show. When I checked my diary and found the dinner was at the Dorchester, my suspicions swiftly deepened.

I arrived and met Mr. Ali sitting with someone who did not introduce himself. He was a slim, bald, elegant, thirtysomething man who stood at around 5ft 8in ad was attired in a quality tailored suit. Later, this man presented me with a business card saying that he was Sam Fernando, marketing rirector of the Falcon Group International.

We were soon joined by a man, appearing from the rear of the restaurant, who embraced me, as is customary in south Asia. Oddly, he, like the other man, failed to say who he was.

In their appearance, these men did not remotely resemble devout Muslims or Islamists (which is what they later claimed to be). Neither wore a beard. Compared with cool and trendy Sam, the other man was markedly more reserved and sly in his demeanour. This sleazy character, who could have slid out from the pages of a Graham Greene novel, later claimed to be Pervaiz - Pervaiz Khan.

After some small talk, they began to ask some ludicrously leading questions, such as: "How can we help ... Can we sponsor members of parliament? Fund political parties?" In reply, I did not mince my words: "Absolutely not," I said. "It's completely illegal - and rightly so."

"But through English people ...?" asked Pervaiz, gesturing towards Mr Ali. I replied again in resolute terms: "No. It's completely illegal, and so it should be ... Britain is sinking in campaign funding sleaze involving foreign funding." I told them that if they wanted to help "the community" they should invest in the Islam Channel or start a radio station like the one I work for.

They then leapt to offensive remarks about Jewish people, even moving to cast doubt on the Holocaust. "You're not allowed even to quibble about the numbers," said Fernando. "Not even to say it might have been 5 million."

"People should never go down that road," I firmly weighed in. "David Irving isn't quibbling about numbers ... In his heart, he supports the Holocaust ... The Holocaust is the greatest crime in human history and it should be accepted as such." Come midnight, I said I had to go.

"My driver wants a picture with you," pleaded Pervaiz. "He's seen you on television." This "driver", who was sitting alone in the lobby of the hotel, was a vast being, built like a bodyguard, with a mouthful of gold teeth. When I asked where he was from, he answered enigmatically: "From up north."

Upon leaving the hotel, my suspicions were complete. I immediately rang Mr. Ali and warned him.

As the late Labour legend Nye Bevan counselled, why gaze into a crystal ball when you can read the book? In Andrew Marr's volume My Trade, the notorious "fake sheikh" makes a rare appearance. And so does his minder: the giant with the golden smile.

Yet Marr and I are not the only ones to whom he bared his gnashers: Carole Caplin recently mentioned in a Sunday tabloid her own meeting with "Jaws" - "a huge man, about 7ft tall, with gold teeth, thick lips and a bald head." He was, she states, "some kind of bodyguard", who could have been "straight out of a James Bond movie".

But whom did "Jaws" appear with? Another pair of suspicious men, it turns out. One of them was "Marcus de Silva ... very dapper ... very proper, and with an upright posture ... with a pleasant face, perfect skin and clear eyes". He told Caplin he "worked in a stressful PR job, and that the family that owned the firm he worked for was of Arabic origin and based in Dubai". Marcus later introduced Caplin to his boss, a man named - wait for it -"Parvais".

Parvais, Caplin revealed, "was 'fake sheikh' Mazher Mahmood".

At the start of this week, those ever-resourceful comrades I was telling you about produced a clear black-and-white photograph for my consideration. I instantly recognised the face: it was "Pervaiz" from the hotel.

Who is it? I asked. "The News of the World's Mazher Mahmood!"

Along with the photograph, I was handed a copy of what appears to be a passport from the Czech Republic that first surfaced in connection to Mazher Mahmood. The number on the passport is "0638942". It is valid from "9.7.1999" through to "9.7.2009". The bearer of the passport is apparently a male born in Pakistan. His name? Pervaiz Khan.

The loquacious man calling himself Sam Fernando has form. The same cannot be said for the company he claims to represent, The Falcon Group International.

Even its address, 64 Knightsbridge, is a "virtual office" where calls can be taken while those called are "in meetings" and from where post can be redirected.

Fernando, however, has cropped up before. A man claiming to be from a PR company (just like Marcus de Silva in the Caplin operation) and calling himself Sam Fernando initiated the pathetic and spiteful News of the World "sting" against my parliamentary colleague Diane Abbott in 2004.

He contacted her on March 31 that year to fix up a meeting with someone claiming to be a representative of a Kashmiri organisation called the Jaysh-i-Muhamad party. Fernando pestered the MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington to travel to Dubai with him and the "Kashmiri leader", which she refused to do.

Dubai seems a point of reference for the con artists at the News of the World. It came up in their scams against Sven-Goran Eriksson, Carole Caplin and Sophie Wessex. So what is it about Dubai?

There is a connection between the name "Sam Fernando" and Dubai: a Sam Fernando is listed in connection with the Dubai-based company Al Futtaim Carillion, which has recently received a construction contract in Dubai worth 1.2bn UAE dirhams

So can the man calling himself Sam Fernando, while conspiring to deceive British parliamentarians, really be employed by Al Futtaim Carillion? Or is a perhaps hapless employee of that company finding their name dragged through the dirt by someone pretending to be Sam Fernando?

The importuners went to considerable lengths to cover their tracks - but not far enough to escape my team's forensic investigation.

1.The website of their purported company, www.falcongroupinternational.com, resembles one of those Potemkin PR sites: pretty graphics, but pretty well no information. It is registered through Business Serve, now Legend Communications, and seems to have been acquired in 2003 and modified last summer.

However, if you go to www.al-jamalgroup.com, you'll see that that website is almost identical to the Falcon Group's, which shares the same IP address. One difference is the Arabic script, which uses the word "hizb" for "group". "Hizb" would be used for a party or partisan group - never for a commercial organisation.

2) You would end up looking hard for www.al-jamalgroup.com because The Falcon group website lies about email addresses. The "contact" page of Falcon Group International lists Mansour Ali Khan, the general manager, as mansour@falcongroupinternational.com; Stephanie Andrews, PA to the chairman, as stephanie@falcongroupinternational.com; and Shehan Perera, head of marketing and corporate affairs, shehan@falcongroupinternational.com

However, if you hold the mouse over the addresses, they come up as @al-jamalgroup.com rather than @falcongroupinternational.com.

3. Another anomaly is that if you attempt to "submit a business proposal" on either the Al-Jamal Group or Falcon Group sites, the email addresses all come up as @al-jamal.com

Unlike the other two, this appears to be a real property company, based in Lebanon and registered in the US. It is, then, a legitimate question why and how this company's name has been embroiled in an affair that is now the subject of a Metropolitan police investigation.

4) "Sean de Silva" is listed as the managing director of the Falcon Group International in London. This did not come up in searches of Ltd and plc companies. A "Falcon Group International" did come up as an advertising agency on one search. It was detailed on a "modelling" website. By coincidence, a "Sean de Silva" is a member of the same website.

He also shares a surname with "Marcus de Silva", of Carole Caplin fame, and "Sanjay de Silva", listed on the Al-Jamal Group website as "head of marketing and corporate affairs" in Dubai.

5. A breakthrough, a very spooky coincidence and a mystery: the Al-Jamal Group site turns out to have been registered at 233 Bethnal Green Road - which is also the address of the Malik law centre.

More curiously still, as this data appeared, a message flashed up saying the site was "using 30-day-old data" that was being "deleted at the moment". And indeed it did disappear - but not from another site, which also gave the registered address as having been 233 Bethnal Green Road. The current registration is at Union House, Portsaeed Road, Dubai.

Incidentally, the Falcon Group International site seems to have been originally registered with an aol.com email address: magcommsuk@aol.com.

6) A final piece of the e-jigsaw: the two emails I received from the man calling himself Sam Fernando were sent from a webmail account of the Hotmail variety. A quick search through the "header" at the top of the email revealed the IP addresses of the computers they were sent from.

One of those emails was sent from an IP address that is part of a group that belongs to Rupert Murdoch's News International in London. Clicking on this link gives you the list of names and phone numbers of those responsible for the addresses. They are in no way implicated in the scam itself, but are merely the technical contacts for dealing with spam and other forms of abuse. The link shows that one of the emails was written on a News International computer in London.

On Wednesday March 29, I informed both the Speaker of the House of Commons and the Metropolitan police commissioner, Sir Ian Blair, of this attempt to suborn a British parliamentarian. The Speaker responded within three hours, from his convalescence, saying he considers "that the use of such methods brings discredit to the profession of journalism, and is surprised, that they should not only be tolerated but apparently encouraged by editors who in other contexts profess to be in favour of openness and honesty in public life.

"It will be for the police and the prosecution authorities to decide whether any of the conduct you describe might constitute a criminal offence."

Sir Ian Blair's office also swiftly acknowledged receipt of my letter calling for just such an investigation. I had already forewarned my parliamentary colleague Jeremy Corbyn, whom the fake sheikh and his sidekick also sought to approach.

Questions, however, are outstanding. Who registered the Al-Jamal Group's website address at 233 Bethnal Green Road, London E2 6AB? What - if any - light can the occupiers of that address, the Malik law centre, shed on the matter?

Did the Al-Jamal company in Lebanon or any of its employees know that its web addresses are part of a conspiracy that has now been referred to the Metropolitan police? If the company is innocent and also a victim, what measures is it taking to help the investigation?

Is the man calling himself Sam Fernando really the Sam Fernando reported to have taken part in business deals in Dubai? If he is, what view does the government of the United Arab Emirates have over the activities of someone who has attempted to procure a breach in British electoral law and who is so brazenly trying to damage the Arab and Muslim cause by associating it with such criminality (not to mention smearing it with Holocaust denial, too)?

Above all, how long are people in Britain going to tolerate the activities of Rupert Murdoch, a multi-billionaire who pays precious little tax in this country, who has overweening political influence and a tightening grip on the media, and who is nothing short of a cancer on public life?

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Explosive News

Tehran Announces Successful Test of Stealth Missile

31 mars 2006, 12h56

TEHRAN (AP) - Iran successfully tested a missile devised in Iran and capable of escaping detection by radar, announced the aviation head of the Revolutionary Guard on Friday.

"Today, a remarkable objective of the defense forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran was attained with the successful firing of a new missile with a higher technological and tactical capability than those produced to date", underlined General Hossein Salami on state television.

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Putin Stresses Russias Need For Nuclear Deterrent

Mar 31, 2006

Moscow - Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday his country needed to maintain a nuclear deterrent to guarantee its security, Russian news agencies reported. "An analysis of the international situation forces Russia to view the nuclear deterrent as a fundamental necessity for security," Ria Novosti quoted Putin during a meeting about the nuclear defence industry.

"Keeping a minimum supply of nuclear warheads and maintaining our nuclear deterrent is a priority for Russia.
"Just as in the past, Russia must be sure that its nuclear arsenal is up to the demands of the modern world," Putin added.

Russia considers itself free to modernise its nuclear missile force, including multiple warhead weapons, because the START II strategic arms reduction agreement has not yet come into force.

In recent months Putin has said several times that his country will soon acquire new nuclear arms capable of penetrating all existing defence systems

START II, which was signed in 1993, is aimed at reducing the number of nuclear warheads held by the United States and Russia, to 3,500 and 3,000 respectively.

But in May 2002 Putin and his US counterpart George W Bush signed a new agreement that largely overtook START II.

The two countries pledged to cut the total number of nuclear warheads held between them from 6,000 to between 1,700 and 2,200 by 2012.

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US to test 700-tonne explosive

Mar 30 11:26 AM US/Eastern

The US military plans to detonate a 700 tonne explosive charge in a test called "Divine Strake" that will send a mushroom cloud over Las Vegas, a senior defense official said.

"I don't want to sound glib here but it is the first time in Nevada that you'll see a mushroom cloud over Las Vegas since we stopped testing nuclear weapons," said James Tegnelia, head of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency.

Tegnelia said the test was part of a US effort to develop weapons capable of destroying deeply buried bunkers housing nuclear, chemical or biological weapons.
"We have several very large penetrators we're developing," he told defense reporters.

"We also have -- are you ready for this - a 700-tonne explosively formed charge that we're going to be putting in a tunnel in Nevada," he said.

"And that represents to us the largest single explosive that we could imagine doing conventionally to solve that problem," he said.

The aim is to measure the effect of the blast on hard granite structures, he said.

"If you want to model these weapons, you want to know from a modeling point of view what is the ideal best condition you could ever set up in a conventional weapon -- what's the best you can do.

"And this gets at the best point you could get on a curve. So it allows us to predict how effective these kinds of weapons ... would be," he said.

He said the Russians have been notified of the test, which is scheduled for the first week of June at the Nevada test range.

"We're also making sure that Las Vegas understands," Tegnelia said.

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Explosive Devices Found in Minn. Home

March 31, 2006

FROST, Minn. - More than 110 explosive devices and more than 20 pounds of highly explosive materials in a Frost home, in what authorities say was part of a large bomb-making operation.

The Faribault County Sheriff's Office said the home was searched as authorities investigated explosions that happened in Albert Lea and other areas in recent days.
When police found the explosives on Tuesday, they called in the Bloomington bomb squad for assistance. The materials were taken to a remote area to be detonated.

Neighbors were evacuated, but one said she thought the suspects were playing with fireworks.

"They were getting increasingly loud and smoky, but nothing that would ... tremble the earth," said neighbor Corrine Johnson.

Albert Lea police Chief Dwaine Winkels said it was the largest bomb-making operation he's seen in 20 years of law enforcement.

Four people were arrested.

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Bomber strikes Israeli settlement

Friday, 31 March 2006, 07:48 GMT 08:48 UK

A Palestinian suicide bomber has killed himself and four Israelis by the Jewish settlement of Kedumim in the West Bank.
Israeli investigators said the bomber had hitched a ride while dressed as an orthodox Jew, before detonating his explosives inside the vehicle.

The attack was the first lethal suicide bombing this year and comes two days after the Israeli general election.

Hours later Israeli aircraft carried out strikes on militant targets in the northern Gaza Strip, the military said.

No casualties were reported in the attack, which targeted sites allegedly used by Palestinian militants to fire rockets into Israel.

A militant offshoot of the Palestinian Fatah political movement has said it carried out the bomb attack near Kedumim.

The al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade named the bomber as Ahmed Masharka, from the city of Hebron in the West Bank.

'Natural response'

The explosion took place just after nightfall, near a petrol station outside the settlement.

Rescue workers said the three bodies immediately found at the scene were travelling in the car when the bomber detonated his explosives.

A fifth body was found nearby several hours later but remained unidentified.

It is unclear if the bomber was travelling alone in the car when his device exploded, or whether he had hitched a ride in the vehicle with three Israelis.

Israeli spokesman David Baker blamed the Palestinian Authority for the bombing.

"The Palestinians refused to lift a finger to prevent terror attacks against Israelis, and we saw the results tonight."

But Hamas MP Mushir al-Masri said Israel's policies invited attacks.

"It was a natural response to the Israeli crimes, to the continued Israeli killing, incursions and arrests," he said.

"Our Palestinian people have the right to defend themselves."

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Explosion in Gaza kills key militant

By Nidal al-Mughrabi
Fri Mar 31, 2006 08:01 AM ET

GAZA - A car explosion outside a Gaza mosque killed a top Palestinian militant on Friday, triggering a street gunbattle after fighters loyal to him accused Palestinian security forces of collaborating with Israel in the attack.

The Israeli army denied any involvement in the explosion, which also wounded a young boy. "It wasn't us," said an army spokeswoman. Israel has launched several recent air strikes in Gaza targeting militants.
The surge in violence in Gaza came one day after a Palestinian suicide bomber killed four Israelis in the West Bank. Top Hamas officials defended the suicide bombing as "resistance" against Israeli "crimes," putting them at odds with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who condemned the bombing.

Hamas trounced Abbas's Fatah faction in January parliamentary elections and officially took control of the Palestinian government this week.

The Popular Resistance Committees, an umbrella group of militants in Gaza often responsible for rocket attacks against Israel, accused the Jewish state of assassinating Abu Youssef al-Quqa, one of the group's two top commanders.

"We declare an open war against the Zionist enemy," said PRC spokesman Abu Abir.

But Abu Abir later accused Palestinian security officials of collaborating with Israel. He singled out several by name, calling them "traitors" and vowing "We will behead them."

A gunfight later broke out between PRC members and Palestinian security forces. At least one person was injured in the brief exchange of fire.

The Gaza blast occurred near a mosque at the start of Friday prayers and all that was left of the car was a mangled heap of charred metal.

The boy was wounded in the head by flying debris, though medics said the injury was not life threatening.

The PRC has refused to recognize a March 2005 truce with Israel, citing the Jewish state's non-compliance.

Abu Abir said Quqa and other PRC leaders had recently attended a meeting to draw up plans to attack Israeli targets. "He (Quqa) said he knew he was going to be assassinated soon," Abir said.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Mahmoud al-Zahar, a top Hamas leader, said of the Gaza explosion: "It means that the Israeli aggression will not stop. It means our resistance should continue."


The conflicting statements of Hamas and Abbas on Thursday's suicide bombing were the first since the president swore in the Palestinian Authority's first Hamas government on Wednesday.

The suicide bombing, claimed by al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, occurred days after Israeli leader Ehud Olmert's Kadima party won elections on a platform of setting Israel's borders in the occupied West Bank unilaterally in the absence of peace talks.

Palestinians say such a move would annex land and deny them the viable state they seek in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Israeli officials said the bomber, whose group is part of Abbas's Fatah faction, was disguised as a religious Jewish hitchhiker and blew himself up when Israelis in a car picked him up near a settlement late on Thursday.

"The Palestinian Authority does not accept it. We condemn it and we don't think it will help the peace process," Abbas told a news conference in Cape Town, South Africa.

But Hamas, which now controls the Palestinian Authority, described the suicide bombing as a "natural response to Israeli crimes." Information Minister Youssef Rizqa said: "Resistance is a legitimate right for people under occupation."

Abbas has said he could overrule Hamas, which is pledged to Israel's destruction, if it continues to block peacemaking.

Hamas is under pressure from Abbas, Washington and the European Union to stop violence, recognize Israel and respect interim peace deals. It carried out about 60 suicide bombings during an uprising that began in 2000, but has upheld the truce.

Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said in a column published on Friday in a British newspaper that "we have every right to respond with all available means" if Israel continues to launch attacks and to impose "sanctions" on Palestinians.

Haniyeh also ruled out any talk of his Hamas-led government recognizing Israel or ending the fight against the Jewish state until it commits itself to withdrawing from Palestinian land.

Hamas's cabinet is set to meet for the first time on Tuesday.

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MI5 taken off July bomber's trail

BBC News

MI5 officers assigned to investigate the lead bomber in the 7 July attacks were diverted to another anti-terrorist operation, the BBC has learned.

Mohammad Sidique Khan was known to the police for suspected petty fraud.

But sources have now told BBC News the security services had been so concerned about him they had planned to put him under a higher level of investigation.

A parliamentary report on the 7 July suicide bombings said the security services cannot be blamed.
The cross-party intelligence and security committee did not accuse any agency of negligence over the attacks.

But the cross-party committee is asking why the lead bomber, who was known to police, was not fully investigated, despite being known to security officials.

Four suicide bombs on three Tube trains and a bus killed 52 people and injured hundreds on 7 July 2005.

Intelligence lessons of 7/7

BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner said the committee had for six months been "interviewing and examining the work of the intelligence and security agencies to see if the July 7 bombings could have been prevented".

"Could they have been prevented with better intelligence? Yes. Could they have been prevented given the resources that the agencies had? They think probably not.

"They are not pointing the finger of blame at anybody," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"Inevitably there will be suspicions of a whitewash here, public suspicions."

But he added: "It certainly doesn't exonerate [the agencies] - the bombers got through, they failed to stop it happening.

"But was anybody actually negligent? No."


The committee did make a number of recommendations, including suggesting changes to the "secretive and complicated" system of alert and threat levels, Mr Gardner said.

The national threat level was lowered from "severe, general" to "substantial" just before 7 July 2005.

Committee members believe this made no difference to the bombers' plans, but that the public needs to be better informed.

Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies

The committee interviewed many members of the police and intelligence community.

Whitehall officials told the BBC that the risk of home-grown terrorist attacks on Britain has increased substantially since 2003.

They say that new plots are being detected, and that 50% of them involve British citizens living in the UK.


The committee said it accepted that gathering intelligence on the activities of British militants in Pakistan was extremely difficult prior to 7 July, but says it should still have been better.

Our correspondent said there had been a "sea change", with the Pakistani authorities becoming more co-operative, since the bombings.

He also said the committee was "very aware that the security and intelligence agencies - MI5 and MI6 - didn't have and still don't have enough people with languages - that's their problem".

"The whole 'oil tanker' of intelligence needed to turn round a lot faster than it did, away from the Cold War to confronting the threat of religiously-inspired terrorism."

Professor Anthony Glees, head of the Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies at Brunel University in west London, told BBC News the security service had failed.

"It is the body that is charged with having good predictive intelligence and what the London attacks show is that there was no good predictive intelligence," he said.

"They did not look carefully enough at the sort of people who might be tempted into becoming terrorists."

Comment: Well OF COURSE a parliamentary report would say that the security services cannot be blamed, they HAVE to say that, otherwise the sordid truth might drop out like a dead donkey on the floor. We, however, can exaplain why "the lead bomber, who was known to police, was not fully investigated, despite being known to security officials":

MI5 organised and carried out the London Bombings and needed to keep the patsys free and 'unknown' until after the bombings, because, if they were investigated and in jail before the bombings, then how could they use them as patsys...!

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Fiscal Flakiness

Delphi to Ask Court to Void Union Deals

AP Auto Writer
March 31, 2006

DETROIT - Auto parts supplier Delphi Corp. said it will ask a federal bankruptcy court on Friday to void its labor contracts as part of a controversial restructuring that calls for layoffs of up to 8,500 salaried workers and the sale or closure of 21 of its 29 U.S. plants.

The moves carry huge risks: It may lead to a strike by unionized workers at Delphi that could cripple the U.S. auto industry and push General Motors Corp., its former parent and largest customer, closer to Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
GM accounted for around half of Delphi's $29 billion in revenues in 2004. The world's largest automaker already is struggling with declining U.S. market share and spiraling costs and is in the midst of its own restructuring. But a strike would hurt other companies and smaller suppliers as well, since Delphi supplies every major automaker, including Ford Motor Co. and Nissan Motor Co.

"We disagree with Delphi's approach, but we anticipated that this step might be taken," Rick Wagoner, GM's chairman and chief executive officer, said in a statement. "GM expects Delphi to honor its public commitments to avoid any disruption to GM operations."

GM said it will continue negotiating with Delphi and its unions. But the United Auto Workers blasted the move and said it could stall talks.

"Indeed, today it appears there is no basis for continuing discussions," the UAW said in a statement.

GM shares fell 42 cents, or 2 percent, to $20.64 in morning trading on the New York Stock Exchange, while Ford lost 12 cents to $8.04. Nissan's U.S. shares lost 31 cents to $23.74 on the Nasdaq Stock Market.

Delphi, the largest U.S. auto supplier, said it is filing a separate motion asking the court to reject some unprofitable contracts with GM. Delphi also said it will freeze its hourly and salaried pension programs later this year and move employees into a defined-contribution plan.

"We are clearly focused on Delphi's future," Delphi Chairman and CEO Robert S. "Steve" Miller said in a statement. "Emergence from the Chapter 11 process in the U.S. requires that we make difficult, yet necessary, decisions.

Troy-based Delphi filed for bankruptcy in October and intends to emerge from court protection during the first half of 2007. Delphi said it wants to exit certain product lines and sell or close noncore plants by 2008.

Delphi's motion to void its labor contracts was widely expected; the company had delayed similar motions three times before. The company says it was saddled with uncompetitive labor agreements when it was spun off from GM in 1999 and wants to cut the wages of its 34,000 U.S. hourly workers as part of its restructuring.

Delphi, GM and its unions spent months negotiating but were unable to reach a wage agreement. Under its most recent proposal, which was rejected by the UAW and other unions, Delphi proposed dropping pay for current hourly workers to $22 per hour from $27 per hour through September 2007, then to $16.50 an hour, but that would include a one-time payment of $50,000.

"Delphi's misuse of the bankruptcy procedure to circumvent the collective bargaining process and slash jobs and wages and drastically reduce health care, retirement and other hard-won benefits or eliminate them altogether is a travesty and a concern for every American," the UAW said in a statement. It represents 24,000 Delphi workers.

The International Union of Electronics Workers - Communications Workers of America, which represents around 8,000 Delphi workers, also said it was disappointed in the filing.

"It further hinders a very difficult process in reaching an acceptable agreement," said Henry Reichard, chairman of a union board that represents plants in Ohio and other states. "We will not be threatened or intimidated into accepting an agreement that dismantles our plants and devastates our membership."

Delphi said it plans to keep negotiating with GM and its unions, and some analysts have said the added urgency could help the parties reach a deal.

Judge Robert Drain has scheduled a hearing on Delphi's request for May 9-10 and won't decide whether to void Delphi's contracts until after that hearing. If Drain allows Delphi to void its contracts and Delphi does so, the UAW and other unions have threatened to strike.

Delphi said it also plans to cut 25 percent of its salaried work force, or around 8,500 workers, including up to 40 percent of its corporate officers. Delphi said that measure should save $450 million per year.

The company has identified eight U.S. plants that are considered critical to its U.S. operations. They are located in Brookhaven, Miss; Clinton, Miss.; Grand Rapids, Mich.; Kokomo, Ind.; Lockport, N.Y.; Rochester, N.Y.; Warren, Ohio; and Vandalia, Ohio. Delphi said those plants will focus on product lines such as safety features, electronics, diesel and gas powertrains and climate control products.

Twenty-one other plants that do not make core products - including those that make brakes and chassis, instrument panels, door modules and steering components - will be sold or closed. Delphi said it will provide further details on those plants in its filing, but they include plants in Dayton, Ohio, Saginaw and Flint.

"We believe many of these product lines have the potential to compete successfully under new ownership that has the resources and capital to invest in them," Delphi President and Chief Operating Officer Rodney O'Neal said in a statement.

Delphi said it will ask the court to reject unprofitable contracts with GM accounting for around half of Delphi's annual volume with GM. Delphi said the judge is expected to consider the motion on May 12, which gives both companies time to continue negotiating prices.

"We simply cannot continue to sell products at a loss," Miller said.

In addition, Delphi sent a letter to GM Friday that will begin the process of resetting terms for more than 425 commercial agreements that have expired since Delphi filed for bankruptcy. Those terms will be negotiated outside of bankruptcy court.

Delphi also said it will freeze pension benefits for hourly workers on Oct. 1 and for salaried workers on Jan. 1 and will replace them with plans that require employee contributions with company matches. Workers will still have access to any accrued benefits.

The company may ask for relief from the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., the Internal Revenue Service and possibly Congress so that when it emerges from bankruptcy protection it won't immediately owe billions of dollars to its underfunded pension plan. The company expects it will take at least six years to fully fund its pension plan.

Despite unions' fury at Delphi's wage proposals, Delphi said it is encouraged by its progress in negotiations so far and hopes to reach an agreement outside of court. GM's cooperation in a settlement is key, since Delphi would depend on GM, its largest customer, to supplement its wage offer or provide benefits. For example, in Delphi's latest proposal, wages would fall to $12.50 an hour if they weren't supplemented by GM, the UAW said. GM has said a Delphi settlement could cost it between $5.5 billion and $12 billion.

Delphi, GM and the UAW did agree last week to a buyout offer for approximately 17,000 U.S. hourly workers. Under that agreement, workers will be eligible for a lump sum payment of $35,000 to retire. Also, up to 5,000 Delphi workers will be eligible to return to GM.

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Inflation worries trouble investors

By Paul J. Lim
US News and World Report

The government revised its estimate of U.S. economic growth in the fourth quarter of 2005. Uncle Sam now believes the economy grew at an annual rate of 1.7 percent, not 1.6 percent as was previously thought.

Despite the seemingly good news, this morning's announcement was actually viewed as worrisome-not welcome-on Wall Street.
For starters, Wall Street no longer cares much about how fast gross domestic product expanded late last year. Its attention is squarely focused on the first quarter of 2006, when many believe the economy rebounded.

A recent survey of economic forecasters by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia shows the consensus view on Wall Street is that GDP grew 4.4 percent in the first quarter (which ends this week).

But many economists believe that the economy may actually have grown much faster, perhaps increasing by more than 5 or 6 percent.

What concerns investors is that in addition to revising upward its estimate for fourth-quarter GDP growth, the government also upped its measure of inflation, a natural byproduct of economic expansion.

According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, core inflation-based on personal consumption expenditures minus volatile energy and food costs-rose 2.4 percent over the past year. That was revised higher from earlier estimates of 2.1 percent.

While this isn't a huge jump in prices, it does give the hawks some ammunition in their calls for the Federal Reserve Board to keep hiking interest rates in an effort to combat inflation.

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US debt clock running out of time, space

Mon Mar 27

NEW YORK - Tick, 20,000 dollars, tock, another 20,000 dollars.

So rapid is the rise of the US national debt, that the last four digits of a giant digital signboard counting the moving total near New York's Times Square move in seemingly random increments as they struggle to keep pace.

The national debt clock, as it is known, is a big clock. A spot-check last week showed a readout of 8.3 trillion -- or more precisely 8,310,200,545,702 -- dollars ... and counting.

But it's not big enough.

Sometime in the next two years, the total amount of US government borrowing is going to break through the 10-trillion-dollar mark and, lacking space for the extra digit such a figure would require, the clock is in danger of running itself into obsolescence.

The clock's owner, real estate developer Douglas Durst, knew such a problem could arise but hadn't counted on it so soon.

"We really expected it to be quite some time," Durst told AFP. "But now, with the pace of debt growth only increasing, we're looking at maybe two years and certainly before President (George W.) Bush leaves office in 2009."
The clock was the invention of Durst's father, Seymour Durst, who nursed a keen sense of fiscal responsibility and believed government profligacy to be a national curse.

The elder Durst, who died in 1995, originally thought of the idea in the early 1980s as the US budget deficit started to mount during the presidency of Ronald Reagan, but the technology was not immediately available to realise his vision.

The original 11 foot by 26 foot (3.3 meter by 8.9 meter) clock was eventually erected a block from Manhattan's Times Square in 1989 when the national debt stood at 2.7 trillion.

For the next decade it tracked, odometer style, the government's red ink with an extra feature which, by dividing the main figure by the number of families in the country, offered an estimate for how much each family owed as their share.

Toward the close of the millennium, with a booming economy fuelling annual budget surpluses, the clock began to slow and finally ran into its first mechanical problem.

"It wasn't designed to run backwards," Douglas Durst explained.

Believing that the signboard had served its purpose, the Dursts pulled the plug in 2000 with the debt total showing around 5.7 trillion dollars and the individual "family share" standing at close to 74,000 dollars.

The clock was covered with a red, white and blue curtain, but not dismantled.

"We'll have it ready in case things start turning around, which I'm sure they will," Durst said at the time.

He only had to wait two years as the Bush presidency coincided with an upsurge in borrowing. The curtain was raised in 2002 and the digital readout flickered back to life showing a national debt of 6.1 trillion dollars with the numerals whizzing round faster than ever.

In 2004, the old clock was torn down and replaced with a newer model which had optimistically been modified to run backwards should such a happy necessity arise.

Instead the debt continued to rise at such a rate that the once unthinkable total of 10 trillion dollars veered from alarmist fantasy into the realm of impending reality.

"When it became clear what was going to happen, our first thought was to free up the digital square occupied by the dollar sign so that we could cope with a 14th digit," Durst said.

The latest plan is for yet another replacement, involving a larger scale signboard.

"We're not happy at the impact we're making with this one," he said.

Durst insists that the clock is non-partisan in its effort to shame the federal government over what he sees as its willingness to gamble away the nation's future.

"We're a family business," Durst said. "We think generationally, and we don't want to see the next generation crippled by this burden," he said.

Last week, the "family share" readout on the clock stood some loose change short of 90,000 dollars.

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Privatizing the Apocalypse

By Frida Berrigan

Every now and then, amid all the grim stories in our world, you run across one that rings a special bell for you. Frida Berrigan's today is that for me. In fact, consider this week at Tomdispatch as a discordant hymn to the privatization disasters of the Bush administration. Michael Schwartz began it with his account of how the draconian economic privatization program Bush administration officials enacted on prostrate Iraq in 2003 led directly to the catastrophe of the moment in that country. We know as well that, under this administration, the Pentagon has been on its own privatization binge, turning what were once essential military activities over to Halliburton, its subsidiary KBR, and other private firms in a wholesale fashion.
In addition, the Pentagon and the Bush administration have been on another kind of binge, privatizing national (and international) security. From New Orleans to Iraq, rent-a-mercenary companies are having a for-profit field day based on the woes of others. According to P.W. Singer, author of Corporate Warriors, for every hundred U.S. soldiers in our first Gulf War, there was one private "security contractor." This time around, it's closer to one in ten. It has been estimated that there are up to 20,000 guns-for-hire, Iraqi and Western, working in that country, the second largest (if also motliest) force in the "coalition of the willing."

Such private companies are above the law in Iraq, and their trigger-happy hirees don't hesitate to create mayhem. In part because their own casualties can largely be kept private, such companies have done much to reduce the political costs of going to war in the United States, while raising the stakes in Baghdad. In a February 2004 New Yorker article, retired Air Force Colonel Sam Gardiner told journalist Jane Mayer, "When you can hire people to go to war there is none of the grumbling and political friction" associated with mustering a larger public fighting force.

Increasingly this sort of questionable "security" is making itself felt at home as well. The premises of the Homeland Security Department are now guarded by the private security firm, Wackenhut Services, Inc. (hired through a contract with the U.S. Navy). Among other goofs, its personnel reportedly mishandled a potential anthrax attack on Homeland Security headquarters. ("An envelope with suspicious powder was opened last fall at the headquarters. Daniels and other current and former guards said they were shocked when superiors carried it past the office of Secretary Michael Chertoff, took it outside and then shook it outside Chertoff's window without evacuating people nearby.") Meanwhile, Wackenhut guards at the Energy Department, according to its inspector general, "had thwarted simulated terrorist attacks at a nuclear lab only after they were tipped off to the test; and... had improperly handled the transport of nuclear and conventional weapons." This is what for-profit national security can mean on a small scale.

Now, transfer that thought to the ultimate weaponry -- our nuclear arsenal. Sounds like the sort of nightmare you'd only find in the Wackenhuttiest of dystopian sci-fi novels, but read on and imagine our nuclear future in those same trustworthy privatized hands. Tom

Privatizing the Apocalypse
By Frida Berrigan

Started as the super-secret "Project Y" in 1943, the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico has long been the keystone institution of the American nuclear-weapons producing complex. It was the birthplace of Fat Man and Little Boy, the two nuclear bombs the U.S. dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945. Last year, the University of California, which has managed the lab for the Department of Energy since its inception, decided to put Los Alamos on the auction block. In December 2005, construction giant Bechtel won a $553 million yearly management contract to run the sprawling complex, which employs more than 13,000 people and has an estimated $2.2 billion annual budget.

"Privatization" has been in the news ever since George W. Bush became president. His administration has radically reduced the size of government, turning over to private companies critical governmental functions involving prisons, schools, water, welfare, Medicare, and utilities as well as war-fighting, and is always pushing for more of the same. Outside of Washington, the pitfalls of privatization are on permanent display in Iraq, where companies like Halliburton have reaped billions in contracts. Performing jobs once carried out by members of the military -- from base building and mail delivery to food service -- they have bilked the government while undermining the safety of American forces by providing substandard services and products. Halliburton has been joined by a cottage industry of military-support companies responsible for everything from transportation to interrogation. On the war front, private companies are ubiquitous, increasingly indispensable, and largely unregulated -- a lethal combination.

Now, the long arm of privatization is reaching deep into an almost unimaginable place at the heart of the national security apparatus --- the laboratory where scientists learned to harness the power of the atom more than 60 years ago and created weapons of apocalyptic proportions.

Profane Problem or Prolific Profit?

Nuclear weapons are many things to many people -- the sword of Damocles or the guarantor of American global supremacy, the royal path to the apocalypse or atoms for peace. But in each notion, they are treated as idols -- jealously-guarded, shrouded in code, surrounded by sacred secrecy. That is changing.

Private companies have long played a role in the nuclear complex, but it's been a peripheral one. For example, Kaiser-Hill, a remediation company, is cleaning up radioactive waste at Rocky Flats, the Denver, Colorado complex that manufactured nuclear weapons. At Idaho Falls, another company, CH2M, is mopping up the mess left behind after the construction of 52 nuclear reactors. BWX and Honeywell formed a new company along with Bechtel to manage and operate the Pantex Plant in Texas which assembled nuclear weapons throughout the Cold War. At least ten different subcontractors are involved in managing the Hanford nuclear complex. But the famed nuclear laboratories, Los Alamos, Lawrence Livermore, and Sandia -- where the high priests of nuclear physics are free to explore the outer realms of their craft -- have long been above prosaic bottom-line or board-room considerations. Until this year, that is.

At Los Alamos, the University of California has already been replaced by a "limited liability corporation," says Tyler Przybylek of the Department of Energy's Evaluation Board; and, more generally, the writing is on the containment wall. Nuclear laboratories are no longer to be intellectual institutions devoted to science but part of a corporate-business model where research, design, and ultimately the weapons themselves will become products to be marketed. The new dress code will be suits and ties, not lab coats and safety glasses. Under Bechtel, new management will lead to a "tightly structured organization" that will "drive efficiency," predicts John Browne, who directed the lab at Los Alamos from 1997-2003. "If there is a product the government wants," he concludes, "they will necessarily be focused on that. A lot more money will be at stake."

Los Alamos was the first to go. Now, the management contract for the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, is on the auction block as well.

Bechtel's Boondoggles

Many say strong corporate oversight will correct a legacy of embarrassing missteps at Los Alamos. The keystone of the nuclear complex, it has been dogged by missing classified computer disks, cost overruns on its expensive new projects, and an outspoken cadre of scientists who found their voice on LANL: The Real Story, a blog where once deferential employees blew off steam and exposed lapses in lab management.

The idea is that, under private management, this legacy of money wasted and dreams deferred can do an abrupt u-turn. But the question is: Can Bechtel (or any other private military contractor) usher in a new era of nuclear responsibility? Pete Domenici, Republican Senator and Chairman of the powerful Energy and Water Committee, thinks so. In January, he claimed that "this great lab will thrive under the management team led by Bechtel."

But a look at Bechtel's record might not inspire others to Domenici's confidence. The California-based construction giant has a long history of big projects, big promises, bigger budgets and even bigger failures.

In Boston, Bechtel was put in charge of the "Big Dig," the reconstruction of Interstate 93 beneath the city. In 1985, the price tag for the project was estimated at about $2.5 billion. Now, it is a whopping $14.6 billion (or $1.8 billion a mile), making it the most expensive stretch of highway in the world. Near San Diego, citizens are still paying the bills for cost over-runs at a nuclear power plant where Bechtel installed one of the reactors backwards.

In 2003, Bechtel took this winning track record to Baghdad, where it blew billions in a string of unfinished projects and unfathomable errors. The company reaped tens of millions of dollars in contracts to repair Iraq's schools, for example, but an independent report found that many of the schools Bechtel claimed to have completely refitted, "haven't been touched," and a number of schools remained "in shambles." One "repaired" school was found by inspectors be overflowing with "unflushed sewage."

Bechtel also has a $1.03 billion contract to oversee important aspects of Iraq's infrastructure reconstruction, including water and sewage. Despite many promises, startling numbers of Iraqi families continue to lack access to clean water, according to information gathered by independent journalist Dahr Jamail. The company made providing potable water to southern Iraq one of its top priorities, promising delivery within the first 60 days of the program. One year later, rising epidemics of water-borne illnesses like cholera, kidney stones and diarrhea pointed to the failure of Bechtel's mission.

Outside of its ill-fated reconstruction contracts in Iraq, Bechtel is not known as a large military contractor, but the company has been quietly moving into the nuclear arena. It helped build a missile-defense site in the South Pacific, runs the Nevada Test Site where the United States once performed hundreds of above-and underground nuclear tests. Bechtel is also the "environmental manager" at the Oak Ridge National Lab, which stores highly-enriched uranium, and is carrying out design work at the Yucca Mountain repository where the plan to store 77,000 tons of nuclear waste has environmentalists and community activists up in arms.

At Washington State's Hanford Waste Treatment Plant, Bechtel is working on technology to turn nuclear waste into glass. But the estimated costs of building the facility to do that have doubled in one year to about $10 billion while the completion date slipped from 2011 to 2017. Members of Congress have proposed that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission take over management of the project from Bechtel because of its cost overruns and delays.

Proliferation's New Meaning

Given this track record, it's hard to make the case that Bechtel assumes the helm at Los Alamos out of an altruistic, even patriotic, desire to impose clean, lean corporate management on a complacent institution long overfed at the public trough. The question remains: Why this urge to privatize the apocalypse?

To answer that question, you have to begin with the post-Cold War quest of the nuclear laboratories for a new identity and raison d'être. The dismantling of the Berlin Wall, the loss of the other superpower as a nuclear twin and target, and an international shift in favor of nuclear disarmament sent Los Alamos and the whole U.S. nuclear complex into existential crisis: Who are we? What is our role? What do we do now that nuclear weapons have no obvious role in a world of, at best, medium-sized military enemies? Throughout the Clinton years, these questions multiplied while the nuclear arsenal remained relatively stable. More recently, with a lot of fancy footwork, a few friends in Congress, and the ear of a White House eager to be known for something other than the Long War on global terrorism, the labs finally came up with a winning solution that has Bechtel and other military contractors seeing dollar signs.

They found their salvation in a few lines of the Nuclear Posture Review, released in January 2002, where the Bush administration asserted: "The need is clear for a revitalized nuclear weapons complex that will be able, if directed, to design, develop, manufacture, and certify new warheads in response to new national requirements; and maintain readiness to resume underground testing if required."

There's gold in that there sentence. During the Cold War, spending on nuclear weapons averaged $4.2 billion a year (in current dollars). Almost two decades after the "nuclear animosity" between the two great superpowers ended, the United States is spending one-and-a-half times the Cold War average on nuclear weapons. In 2001, the weapons-activities budget of the Department of Energy, which oversees the nuclear weapons complex through its "semi-autonomous" National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), totaled $5.19 billion; and a "revitalized nuclear weapons complex," ready to "design, develop, manufacture, and certify new warheads," means a more than billion-dollar jump in spending to $6.4 billion by fiscal year 2006.

And that's just the beginning. The NNSA's five-year "National Security Plan" calls for annual increases to reach $7.76 billion by 2009. David Hobson, Republican congressional representative from Ohio, calls this kind of budgeting "the ultimate white-collar welfare," saying that the weapons complex can be "viewed as a jobs program for PhDs."

He's right. That's a lot of money for a few labs and a few thousand scientists. And private military contractors large and small are all over it.

Entering Acronym Land

To justify this huge jump in spending, the nuclear laboratories have cooked up plans for an alphabet soup of projects as part of the SSMP, scientists are pushing -- to mention just a few of the acronyms on the table right now -- ASCC, MESA, the RRWP, the ICFHY campaign and the RNEP.

In the interest of not putting everyone to sleep, we can take a closer look at just a few of the Bush administration's proliferating nuclear projects. Under the umbrella of Stockpile Stewardship Management (SSMP), scientists are working to safeguard the stockpile of nuclear weapons and materials so it is not ravaged by time and neglect. The Reliable Replacement Warhead Program (RRWP) will exchange existing warheads for more "reliable" (read: more powerful) ones. There are plans underway to develop the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator (RNEP) and other "useable" new nuclear weapons supposedly to meet new threats by new enemies -- "rogue states" like Iran -- in future preemptive anti-proliferation wars. Under each of these programs are many other acronym-heavy, cash-rich programs that seem to lead nowhere -- except toward further nuclear proliferation.

The Inertial Confinement Fusion and High Yield Campaign is just one of the more outlandish and expensive of these projects. It proposes using lasers to replicate what happens inside an actual nuclear explosion in weapons labs. Sounds simple enough, right? The Nuclear Ignition Facility -- where the lasers will do their work -- is the single largest project in the NNSA budget and, according to analyst Christopher Paine, "quite possibly the most expensive experimental facility ever built." The Department of Energy projects $3.5 billion in costs for this alone, but the independent environmental group, the National Resources Defense Council, puts the figure higher yet -- at $5.32 billion -- and that money will be spent before anyone can even demonstrate that the system works.

The Age of Nuclear Terror?

Do nuclear weapons have a role in the "Age of Terror" -- other than as potential weapons for terrorist groups? In a new and ever-shifting environment of emerging regional powers and wars that transcend national boundaries, the Bush administration is taking a have-it-both-ways approach: It is pushing aggressive non-proliferation policies for chosen enemy nations and embracing a policy of accelerated nuclear proliferation for itself. How much harder will it be in the future to dissuade other powers from building nuclear weapons when the American nuclear industry and its weapons labs have switched even more fully into private mode and the profit-motive is increasingly at stake in global nuclear planning? These and many other questions unfortunately remain unasked. Yet, a new era of nuclear weapons for profit threatens to turn Armageddon into a paying operation.

During the height of the Cold War, when competition between the nuclear laboratories seemed to rival the superpower stand-off, a Lawrence Livermore scientist posted a sign that read: "Remember, the Soviets are the Competition, Los Alamos is the Enemy."

In a new era of potential corporate antagonism over apocalyptic weaponry, will there be a sign at the Bechtel-run nuclear lab emblazoned with: "Remember, the Terrorists are the Competition, Lockheed Martin is the Enemy"?

Frida Berrigan (berrigaf@newschool.edu) is a Senior Research Associate at the World Policy Institute's Arms Trade Resource Center. Her primary research areas with the project include nuclear-weapons policy, war profiteering and corporate crimes, weapons sales to areas of conflict, and military-training programs. She is the author of a number of Institute reports, most recently Weapons at War 2005: Promoting Freedom or Fueling Conflict.

Copyright 2006 Frida Berrigan

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New Fuel Standards for U.S. Autos Not a Hit in the 'Green' Room

Jeffrey Allen
OneWorld US
Fri, Mar. 31, 2006

With energy independence and global warming on the minds of a lot of Americans right now, it should come as no surprise that President Bush has just ordered automakers to produce light trucks and SUVs that get better fuel mileage. After all, better mileage equals less dependence on oil and fewer carbon dioxide emissions, which are a major cause of global climate change.

But, as with so many things, the devil is in the details. Environmentalists and consumer groups, for two, are generally not impressed with the new standards. Indeed, "weak" seems to neatly sum up their overall assessment.
The National Environmental Trust warns that, though the new rule sets slightly higher standards for light trucks (i.e. minivans and similar vehicles) to meet by 2011 (an increase from 22.2 mpg to 24.1 mpg), it also would nullify rules already in place in 11 individual states imposing even stronger standards.

The National Resources Defense Council questioned how much the new standards would really decrease America's "addiction to oil," calling the new standards "anemic" and saying they amount to no more than "baby steps at a time when the country needs bold action."

The U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) had a similar reaction, saying the new rule "installs a mere speed bump on the dead end road of oil addiction," according to an article from the Environment News Service (ENS).

The ENS article reports on Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta's announcement Wednesday, offers reaction from the Alliance of Automakers (who don't seem too put off by the changes), and mentions the environmental and consumer concerns at the end.

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Army Bans Use of Privately Bought Armor

By LOLITA C. BALDOR, Associated Press Writer
Thu Mar 30, 6:19 PM ET

Soldiers will no longer be allowed to wear body armor other than the protective gear issued by the military, Army officials said Thursday, the latest twist in a running battle over the equipment the Pentagon gives its troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Army officials told The Associated Press that the order was prompted by concerns that soldiers or their families were buying inadequate or untested commercial armor from private companies - including the popular Dragon Skin gear made by California-based Pinnacle Armor.

"We're very concerned that people are spending their hard-earned money on something that doesn't provide the level of protection that the Army requires people to wear. So they're, frankly, wasting their money on substandard stuff," said Col. Thomas Spoehr, director of materiel for the Army.

Murray Neal, chief executive officer of Pinnacle, said he hadn't seen the directive and wants to review it.

"We know of no reason the Army may have to justify this action," Neal said. "On the surface this looks to be another of many attempts by the Army to cover up the billions of dollars spent on ineffective body armor systems which they continue to try quick fixes on to no avail."

The move was a rare one by the Army. Spoehr said he doesn't recall any similar bans on personal armor or devices. The directives are most often issued when there are problems with aircraft or other large equipment.

Veterans groups immediately denounced the decision.

Nathaniel R. Helms, editor of the Soldiers for the Truth online magazine Defense Watch, said he has already received a number of e-mails from soldiers complaining about the policy.

"Outrageously we've seen that (soldiers) haven't been getting what they need in terms of equipment and body armor," said Sen. Christopher Dodd (news, bio, voting record), D-Conn., who wrote legislation to have troops reimbursed for equipment purchases. "That's totally unacceptable, and why this directive by the Pentagon needs to be scrutinized in much greater detail."

But another veterans group backed the move.

"I don't think the Army is wrong by doing this, because the Army has to ensure some level of quality," said Paul Rieckhoff, executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. "They don't want soldiers relying on equipment that is weak or substandard."

But, Rieckhoff said, the military is partially to blame for the problem because it took too long to get soldiers the armor they needed. "This is the monster they made," he said.

Early in the Iraq war, soldiers and their families were spending hundreds or even thousands of dollars on protective gear that they said the military was not providing.

Then, last October, after months of pressure from families and members of Congress, the military began a reimbursement program for soldiers who purchased their own protective equipment.

In January, an unreleased Pentagon study found that side armor could have saved dozens of U.S. lives in Iraq, prompting the Army and Marine Corps to order thousands of ceramic body armor plates to be shipped to troops there this year.

The Army ban covers all commercial armor. It refers specifically to Pinnacle's armor, saying that while the company advertising implies that Dragon Skin "is superior in performance" to the Interceptor Body Armor the military issues to soldiers, "the Army has been unable to determine the veracity of these claims."

"In its current state of development, Dragon Skin's capabilities do not meet Army requirements," the Army order says, and it "has not been certified to protect against several small arms threats that the military is encountering in Iraq and Afghanistan."

The Marine Corps has not issued a similar directive, but Marines are "encouraged to wear Marine Corps-issued body armor since this armor has been tested to meet fleet standards," spokesman Bruce Scott said.

Military officials have acknowledged that some troops - often National Guard or Reservists - went to war with lesser-quality protective gear than other soldiers were issued.

"We'll be upfront and recognize that at the start of the conflict there were some soldiers that didn't have the levels of protection that we wanted," Spoehr said. Now, he added, "we can categorically say that whatever you're going to buy isn't as good as what you're going to get" from the military.

In interviews Thursday, Army officials said aggressive marketing by body armor manufacturers was fueling public concerns that troops are not getting the protection they need.

Army Lt. Col. Scott Campbell said the Army has asked Pinnacle to provide 30 sets of the full Dragon Skin armor so it can be independently tested. He said Pinnacle has indicated it won't be able to provide that armor until May, and the company said that is still the plan.

Campbell said initial military tests on small sections of the Dragon Skin armor had disappointing results. He said Pinnacle has received $840,000 in research funding to develop improved armor.

Spoehr said he believes the directive will have little impact on soldiers in Iraq or Afghanistan because it's likely that nearly all are wearing the military-issued body armor.

There have been repeated reports of soldiers or families of soldiers buying commercial equipment or trying to raise thousands of dollars to buy it for troops who are preparing to deploy overseas.

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French Government pulls happy financial news out of hat

March 31, 2006

PARIS - French unemployment is falling, growth is rising and overspending is finally under control, the finance minister said Friday hours before President Jacques Chirac was to address the nation on a crisis over jobs for young people.

On the hot issue of unemployment, which has led to weeks of sometimes violent protests, Thierry Breton predicted that 200,000 jobs would be created and that the jobless rate would drop below 9 percent by the end of the year.
"This very favourable evolution stems of course from growth but also from the results of the measures taken by Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin in favour of employment and notably the CNE and the social cohesion plan," he told a press conference.

The CNE, or New Employment Contract, came into effect last year for small companies, and was a prototype for the CPE, or First Employment Contract, which has sparked the current social unrest.

Official data published earlier on Friday showed that the jobless rate had fallen by 0.4 percent in February, after a rise of 0.7 percent in January, but that it still stood at 9.6 percent.

The latest figures are likely to be interpreted as offering the centre-right government some encouragement in pursuing its employment policies despite widespread public hostility.

The plan by the prime minister to get more young people into jobs has turned into one of the worst crises in Chirac's 11-year presidency - sparking a protest movement that on Tuesday brought more than a million people onto the streets.

Chirac was to make a long-awaited address to the nation on the disputed youth jobs contract later on Friday, amid predictions that he would stand by his prime minister and sign the measure into law.

The CPE, an open-ended contract that can be terminated without explanation during a two-year trial period, is designed to bring down France's high youth unemployment rate by making it less risky for employers to take on young staff.

But opponents say it is a step back from France's hard-won system of social protection and a move toward what they see as the cut-throat labour policies that prevail in Britain and the United States.

Breton said Friday that the weeks of demonstrations and strikes sparked by the CPE had not had any effect on the economy so far.

He told the press conference that the French economy was on course for lasting growth of 2-2.5 percent per year from 2006.

"Our economy has solidly entered a growth regime," he said.

Earlier Friday, official data estimated that the French economy grew by 1.4 percent in 2005, confirming an earlier estimate but raising growth in the last quarter to 0.4 percent from 0.2 percent.

Breton also announced that France had finally cut overspending to within EU limits last year, after years of excessive deficits.

"After several years, France has returned within the limits of the Treaty of Maastricht as it had undertaken to do," he said.

The public deficit was at 2.87 percent of output in 2006 and was set for 2.8 percent this year, within the EU ceiling of three percent, said Breton.

The INSEE national statistics institute had reported earlier on Friday however that that the public debt had risen to 66.8 percent of output from 64.4 percent in 2004.

The European Commission reacted to the data by saying it was a "worrying" development.

A sensitive issue in public finances in France is the size of the civil service and the question of reducing it as the post-war generation retires.

On Friday Breton said the large staff at his ministry would continue to be reduced this year. About 2,600 posts are set to be cut there in 2006.

Chirac's rare address to the nation was due to be carried live on all the main French television channels at 8pm. The last time he made a similar speech was during the riots in France's high-immigration suburbs last November.

European Central Bank president Jean-Claude Trichet, in Paris to attend a seminar, said on Friday that European labour policies lacked flexibility and that structural reforms were needed to encourage growth.

"I mentioned as a key issue in Europe, the necessary elevation of the growth potential which supposes that there is very active implementation of structural reforms," he said.

The potential of an economy is a measure of its efficiency and capacity to grow without generating inflation because of bottlenecks.

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King George

Senate panel set to consider bid to censure Bush

Fri Mar 31, 2006

Former White House counsel John Dean, who helped push President Richard Nixon from office during the Watergate scandal three decades ago, heads to Capitol Hill on Friday to back an uphill attempt to censure President George W. Bush.

Dean, author of a book about Bush titled "Worse than Watergate," was to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee in support of a resolution to rebuke Bush for a domestic spying program introduced secretly after the September 11 attacks.

Sen. Russ Feingold, a Wisconsin Democrat, introduced the resolution earlier this month.

He argues that the program, which allows eavesdropping on international telephone calls and e-mails involving Americans when one party is suspected of links with terrorism, violates the law because it is conducted without court warrants.

Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican, contends there are no grounds for censure, but has agreed to hold the hearing to debate the matter.

"I think that there's absolutely no merit in it, and that the hearing will expose it because of the president's broad (constitutional) authority," Specter said.

Feingold's censure resolution has rallied the support of a number of liberal groups, but it has also galvanized conservatives in support of the embattled war-time president.

Republicans have dismissed the resolution as a political stunt, while many Democrats have distanced themselves from it as they jockey for position for the November congressional elections.

So far, just two of Feingold's 43 fellow Senate Democrats, Tom Harkin of Iowa and Barbara Boxer of California, have co-sponsored his resolution.

Comment: So there are no grounds for censure because of Bush's "broad (constitutional) authority". In that case, is there ANYTHING that Bush cannot do and get away with? It seems that "broad (constitutional) authority" is just another way of saying "absolute power", i.e. America is now a dictatorship.

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Insulating Bush

By Murray Waas, National Journal
© National Journal Group Inc.
Thursday, March 30, 2006

Karl Rove, President Bush's chief political adviser, cautioned other White House aides in the summer of 2003 that Bush's 2004 re-election prospects would be severely damaged if it was publicly disclosed that he had been personally warned that a key rationale for going to war had been challenged within the administration. Rove expressed his concerns shortly after an informal review of classified government records by then-Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen J. Hadley determined that Bush had been specifically advised that claims he later made in his 2003 State of the Union address -- that Iraq was procuring high-strength aluminum tubes to build a nuclear weapon -- might not be true, according to government records and interviews.
Hadley was particularly concerned that the public might learn of a classified one-page summary of a National Intelligence Estimate, specifically written for Bush in October 2002. The summary said that although "most agencies judge" that the aluminum tubes were "related to a uranium enrichment effort," the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research and the Energy Department's intelligence branch "believe that the tubes more likely are intended for conventional weapons."

Three months after receiving that assessment, the president stated without qualification in his January 28, 2003, State of the Union address: "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa. Our intelligence sources tell us that he has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production."

The previously undisclosed review by Hadley was part of a damage-control effort launched after former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV alleged that Bush's claims regarding the uranium were not true. The CIA had sent Wilson to the African nation of Niger in 2002 to investigate the purported procurement efforts by Iraq; he reported that they were most likely a hoax.

The White House was largely successful in defusing the Niger controversy because there was no evidence that Bush was aware that his claims about the uranium were based on faulty intelligence. Then-CIA Director George Tenet swiftly and publicly took the blame for the entire episode, saying that he and the CIA were at fault for not warning Bush and his aides that the information might be untrue.

But Hadley and other administration officials realized that it would be much more difficult to shield Bush from criticism for his statements regarding the aluminum tubes, for several reasons.

For one, Hadley's review concluded that Bush had been directly and repeatedly apprised of the deep rift within the intelligence community over whether Iraq wanted the high-strength aluminum tubes for a nuclear weapons program or for conventional weapons.

For another, the president and others in the administration had cited the aluminum tubes as the most compelling evidence that Saddam was determined to build a nuclear weapon -- even more than the allegations that he was attempting to purchase uranium.

And finally, full disclosure of the internal dissent over the importance of the tubes would have almost certainly raised broader questions about the administration's conduct in the months leading up to war.

"Presidential knowledge was the ball game," says a former senior government official outside the White House who was personally familiar with the damage-control effort. "The mission was to insulate the president. It was about making it appear that he wasn't in the know. You could do that on Niger. You couldn't do that with the tubes." A Republican political appointee involved in the process, who thought the Bush administration had a constitutional obligation to be more open with Congress, said: "This was about getting past the election."

The President's Summary

Most troublesome to those leading the damage-control effort was documentary evidence -- albeit in highly classified government records that they might be able to keep secret -- that the president had been advised that many in the intelligence community believed that the tubes were meant for conventional weapons.

The one-page documents known as the "President's Summary" are distilled from the much lengthier National Intelligence Estimates, which combine the analysis of as many as six intelligence agencies regarding major national security issues. Bush's knowledge of the State and Energy departments' dissent over the tubes was disclosed in a March 4, 2006, National Journal story -- more than three years after the intelligence assessment was provided to the president, and some 16 months after the 2004 presidential election.

The President's Summary was only one of several high-level warnings given to Bush and other senior administration officials that serious doubts existed about the intended use of the tubes, according to government records and interviews with former and current officials.

In mid-September 2002, two weeks before Bush received the October 2002 President's Summary, Tenet informed him that both State and Energy had doubts about the aluminum tubes and that even some within the CIA weren't certain that the tubes were meant for nuclear weapons, according to government records and interviews with two former senior officials.

Official records and interviews with current and former officials also reveal that the president was told that even then-Secretary of State Colin Powell had doubts that the tubes might be used for nuclear weapons.

When U.S. inspectors entered Iraq after the fall of Saddam's regime, they determined that Iraq's nuclear program had been dormant for more than a decade and that the aluminum tubes had been used only for conventional weapons.

In the end, the White House's damage control was largely successful, because the public did not learn until after the 2004 elections the full extent of the president's knowledge that the assessment linking the aluminum tubes to a nuclear weapons program might not be true. The most crucial information was kept under wraps until long after Bush's re-election.


The new disclosures regarding the tubes may also shed light on why officials so vigorously attempted to discredit Wilson's allegations regarding Niger, including by leaking information to the media that his wife, Valerie Plame, worked for the CIA. Administration officials hoped that the suggestion that Plame had played a role in the agency's choice of Wilson for the Niger trip might cast doubt on his allegations.

I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby, then chief of staff and national security adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney, was indicted on October 28 on five counts of making false statements, perjury, and obstruction of justice in attempting to conceal his role in outing Plame as an undercover CIA operative. Signaling a possible defense strategy, Libby's attorneys filed papers in federal court on March 17 asserting that he had not intentionally deceived FBI agents and a federal grand jury while answering questions about Plame because her role was only "peripheral" to potentially more serious questions regarding the Bush administration's use of intelligence in the prewar debate. "The media conflagration ignited by the failure to find [weapons of mass destruction] in Iraq and in part by Mr. Wilson's criticism of the administration, led officials within the White House, the State Department, and the CIA to blame each other, publicly and in private, for faulty prewar intelligence about Iraq's WMD capabilities," Libby's attorneys said in court papers.

Plame's identity was disclosed during "a period of increasing bureaucratic infighting, when certain officials at the CIA, the White House, and the State Department each sought to avoid or assign blame for intelligence failures relating to Iraq's weapons of mass destruction capability," the attorneys said. "The White House and the CIA were widely regarded to be at war."

Only two months before Wilson went public with his allegations, the Iraq war was being viewed as one of the greatest achievements of Bush's presidency. Rove, whom Bush would later call the "architect" of his re-election campaign, was determined to exploit the war for the president's electoral success. On May 1, 2003, Bush made a dramatic landing on the flight deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln to announce to the nation the cessation of major combat operations in Iraq. Dressed in a military flight suit, the president emerged from a four-seat Navy S-3B Viking with the words "George W. Bush Commander-in-Chief" painted just below the cockpit window.

The New York Times later reported that White House aides "had choreographed every aspect of the event, even down to the members of the Lincoln crew arrayed in coordinated shirt colors over Mr. Bush's right shoulder and the 'Mission Accomplished' banner placed to perfectly capture the president and the celebratory two words in a single shot."

On May 6, in a column in The New York Times, Nicholas Kristof quoted an unnamed former ambassador as saying that allegations that Saddam had attempted to procure uranium from Africa were "unequivocally wrong" and that "documents had been forged." But the column drew little notice.

A month later, on June 5, the president made a triumphant visit to Camp As Sayliyah, the regional headquarters of Central Command just outside Qatar's capital, where he spoke to 1,000 troops who were in camouflage fatigues. Afterward, Rove took out a camera and began snapping pictures of service personnel with various presidential advisers. "Step right up! Get your photo with Ari Fleischer -- get 'em while they're hot. Get your Condi Rice," Rove said, according to press accounts of the trip. On the trip home, as Air Force One flew at 31,000 feet over Iraqi airspace, escorted by pairs of F-18 fighters off each wing, the plane's pilots dipped the wings as a sign, an administration spokesperson explained, "that Iraq is now free."

There were few hints of what lay ahead: that sectarian violence would engulf Iraq to the point where some fear civil war and that more than 2,440 American troops and contractors would lose their lives in Iraq and an additional 17,260 servicemen and -women would be wounded.

Blame The CIA

The pre-election damage-control effort in response to Wilson's allegations and the broader issue of whether the Bush administration might have misrepresented intelligence information to make the case for war had three major components, according to government records and interviews with current and former officials: blame the CIA for the use of the Niger information in the president's State of the Union address; discredit and undermine Wilson; and make sure that the public did not learn that the president had been personally warned that the intelligence assessments he was citing about the aluminum tubes might be wrong.

On July 8, 2003, two days after Wilson challenged the Niger-uranium claim in an op-ed article in The New York Times, Libby met with Judith Miller, then a Times reporter, for breakfast at the St. Regis hotel in Washington. Libby told Miller that Wilson's wife, Plame, worked for the CIA, and he suggested that Wilson could not be trusted because his wife may have played a role in selecting him for the Niger mission. Also during that meeting, according to accounts given by both Miller and Libby, Libby provided the reporter with details of a then-classified National Intelligence Estimate. The NIE contained detailed information that Iraq had been attempting to procure uranium from Niger and perhaps two other African nations. Libby and other administration officials believed that the NIE showed that Bush's statements reflected the consensus view of the intelligence community at the time.

According to Miller's account of that meeting in The Times, Libby told her that "the assessments of the classified estimate" that Iraq had attempted to get uranium from Africa and was attempting to develop a nuclear weapons program "were even stronger" than a declassified White Paper on Iraq that the administration had made public to make the case for war.

The special prosecutor in the CIA leak case, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, has said that he considers the selective disclosure of elements of the NIE to be "inextricably intertwined" with the outing of Plame. Papers filed in federal court by Libby's attorneys on March 17 stated that Libby "believed his actions were authorized" and that he had "testified before the grand jury that this disclosure was authorized," a reference to the NIE details he gave to Miller.

In the same filings, Libby's attorneys said that Hadley played a key role in attempting to have the NIE declassified and made available to reporters: "Mr. Hadley was active in discussions about the need to declassify and disseminate the NIE and [also] had numerous conversations during [this] critical early-July period with Mr. Tenet about the 16 words [the Niger claim in the State of the Union address] and Mr. Tenet's public statements about that issue."

Three days later, on July 11, while on a visit to Africa, Bush and his top aides intensified their efforts to counter the damage done by Wilson's Niger allegations.

Aboard Air Force One, en route to Entebbe, Uganda, then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice gave a background briefing for reporters. A reporter pointed out that when Secretary Powell had addressed the United Nations on February 5, 2003, he -- unlike others in the Bush administration -- had noted that some in the U.S. government did not believe that Iraq's procurement of high-strength aluminum tubes was for nuclear weapons.

Responding, Rice said: "I'm saying that when we put [Powell's speech] together ... the secretary decided that he would caveat the aluminum tubes, which he did.... The secretary also has an intelligence arm that happened to hold that view." Rice added, "Now, if there were any doubts about the underlying intelligence to that NIE, those doubts were not communicated to the president, to the vice president, or me."

In fact, contrary to Rice's statement, the president was indeed informed of such doubts when he received the October 2002 President's Summary of the NIE. Both Cheney and Rice also got copies of the summary, as well as a number of other intelligence reports about the State and Energy departments' doubts that the tubes were meant for a nuclear weapons program.

Discrediting Wilson

After Air Force One landed in Entebbe, the president placed the blame squarely on the CIA for the Niger information in the State of the Union: "I gave a speech to the nation that was cleared by the intelligence services." Within hours, Tenet accepted full responsibility. The intelligence information on Niger, Tenet said in a prepared statement, "did not rise to the level of certainty which should be required for presidential speeches, and the CIA should have ensured that it was removed." Tenet went on to say, "I am responsible for the approval process in my agency. The president had every reason to believe that the text presented to him was sound. These 16 words should never have been included in the text written for the president."

Behind the scenes, the White House and Tenet had coordinated their statements for maximum effect. Hadley, Libby, and Rove had reviewed drafts of Tenet's statement days in advance. And Hadley and Rove even suggested changes in the draft, according to government records and interviews.

Meanwhile, as the president, Rice, and White House advisers worked to contain the damage from overseas, Rove and Libby, who had remained in Washington, moved forward with their effort to discredit Wilson. That same day, July 11, the two spoke privately at the close of a White House senior staff meeting.

According to grand jury testimony from both men, Rove told Libby that he had spoken to columnist Robert Novak on July 9 and that Novak had said he would soon be writing a column about Valerie Plame. On July 12, the day after Rice's briefing, the president's and Tenet's comments, and the conversation between Rove and Libby regarding Novak, the issue of discrediting Wilson through his wife was still high on the agenda. According to the indictment of Libby: "Libby flew with the vice president and others to and from Norfolk, Virginia on Air Force Two." On the return trip, "Libby discussed with other officials aboard the plane what Libby should say in response to certain pending media inquiries" regarding Wilson's allegations.

Later that day, Libby spoke on the phone with Time magazine's Matthew Cooper. Cooper had been told days earlier that Valerie Plame worked for the CIA. During this conversation, according to Libby's indictment, "Libby confirmed to Cooper, without elaboration or qualification, that he had heard this information, too." Also that day, Libby's indictment charged, "Libby spoke by telephone with Judith Miller ... and discussed Wilson's wife, and that she worked at the CIA."

On July 14, Novak published his now-famous column identifying Plame as a CIA "operative" and reporting that she had been responsible for sending her husband to Niger.

On July 18, the Bush administration declassified a relatively small portion of the NIE and held a press briefing to discuss it, in a further effort to show that the president had used the Niger information only because the intelligence community had vouched for it. Reporters noted that an "alternate view" box in the NIE stated that the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research (known as INR) believed that claims of Iraqi purchases of uranium from Africa were "highly dubious" and that State and DOE also believed that the aluminum tubes were "most likely for the production of artillery shells."

But White House Communications Director Dan Bartlett suggested that both the president and Rice had been unaware of this information: "They did not read footnotes in a 90-page document." Later, addressing the same issue, Bartlett said, "The president of the United States is not a fact-checker."

Because the Bush administration was able to control what information would remain classified, however, reporters did not know that Bush had received the President's Summary that informed him that both State's INR and the Energy Department doubted that the aluminum tubes were to be used for a nuclear-related purpose.

(Ironically, at one point, before he had reviewed the one-page summary, Hadley considered declassifying it because it said nothing about the Niger intelligence information being untrue. However, after reviewing the summary and realizing that it would have disclosed presidential knowledge that INR and DOE had doubts about the tubes, senior Bush administration officials became preoccupied with ensuring that the text of the document remained classified, according to an account provided by an administration official.)

On July 22, the White House arranged yet another briefing for reporters regarding the Niger controversy. Hadley, when asked whether there was any reason that the president should have hesitated in citing Iraq's procurement of aluminum tubes as evidence of Saddam's nuclear ambitions, answered, "It is an assessment in which the director and the CIA stand by to this day. And, therefore, we have every reason to be confident."

Later that summer, the Senate Intelligence Committee launched an investigation of intelligence agencies to determine why they failed to accurately assess that Saddam had no viable programs to develop chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons at the time of the U.S. invasion.

As National Journal first disclosed on its Web site on October 27, 2005, Cheney, Libby, and Cheney's current chief of staff, David Addington, rejected advice given to them by other White House officials and decided to withhold from the committee crucial documents that might have shown that administration claims about Saddam's capabilities often went beyond information provided by the CIA and other intelligence agencies. Among those documents was the President's Summary of the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate.

In July 2004, when the Intelligence Committee released a 511-page report on its investigation of prewar intelligence by the CIA and other agencies, Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., said in his own "Additional Views" to the report, "Concurrent with the production of a National Intelligence Estimate is the production of a one-page President's Summary of the NIE. A one-page President's Summary was completed and disseminated for the October 2002 NIE ... though there is no mention of this fact in [this] report. These one-page NIE summaries are ... written exclusively for the president and senior policy makers and are therefore tailored for that audience."

Durbin concluded, "In determining what the president was told about the contents of the NIE dealing with Iraq's weapons of mass destruction -- qualifiers and all -- there is nothing clearer than this single page."

Comment on this Article

George Bush -- The Contemporary Benedict Arnold of the Proto-Fascist Republican Triad

by Jard Deville
March 29, 2006

Don't look for any scholarly footnotes here. This is my personal account of what I believe to be happening to our beloved America because of the cruel scams now being perpetrated against the nation. We are in a financial and freedom death struggle with a narcissistic triad of no more political, religious and financial manipulators than could be carried aboard one Boeing 747 on a single flight. These greedy schemers include the three hundred-fifty or so ruthless financial abusers who currently control ninety percent of American wealth. They are ruthless abusers who are constantly running scams to keep the last few crumbs from falling from their sumptuous tables into middle class hands. Because they wanted power to dominate us, the aristocracy used their propaganda machine to trick us into electing president an inept Texan who would have peaked selling used cars in Midland, had he not been a highly privileged and artfully born again Bush scion. The elite also created the near psychopathic reactionary Republican coalition in order to maintain their domination of society at our expense. Of course the aristocracy now ravaging the America Republic from within the White House and the Congress neither bloody their own hands nor do the heavy lifting in their assault on America.
The ruthless financial aristocracy recruits neurotic and paranoid wannabes from within the ranks of reactionary politicians, fundamental preachers, radical print journalists and hate radio babblers, in order to propagandize the naïve voters of America. I feel very strongly that our American democracy and the late great middle class that made our land so successful, are deliberately being sold down the river into the snake, spider and scorpion infested cane fields. I very clearly perceive that we patriotic citizens who fought America's wars, worked hard all our lives, worshipped devoutly and played by the rules, are being crucified because we and our families believe we deserve to share in the American dream. Of course, we must realize that the disastrous results of globalization are not an inevitable outcome of capitalism -- but a deliberate scheme by the financial aristocracy to sweep all of the world's wealth into their own coffers. We must understand that no economist can honestly deny the reality of this scam with his drivel about the economy doing so well on Wall Street. So it does, for the benefit of the elite -- because global finance was designed to give them the wealth, even as middle class America is swiftly losing the purchasing power needed to keep our economy strong into the future.

As I see it, after I have spent lifetime of psycho-spiritual researching, teaching, preaching and counseling, the aristocratic globalization scam is being used to divide the American nation into a handful of extremely powerful families and their more numerous panderers -- while forcing worker bee Americans into poorly paid serfdom so the elite users and abusers can seize virtually all the power, possessions, pleasure and prestige. There are many reasons why men and women will sacrifice their humanity to gain great wealth but the unconscious factor that flogs them on and on is almost always a wounded ego. No emotionally or spiritually healthy parent will sacrifice two or three families to divorce, addiction and neuroticism in order to become wealthy and so powerful that one can never again be devalued or challenged. This is the stuff of mental illness and it is a form of overcompensation from infancy and childhood when one was forced to feel inept and useless, to internalize free floating anxiety that continues to drive the wounded person relentlessly. When neurotic sufferers become enormously wealthy and powerful, they virtually always start portray themselves as important personages who have attained god-like significance. People who need thousand dollar shower curtains, a hundred two thousand dollar suits or gowns and two hundred pairs of hand made shoes, in order to feel good about life and their place in it, are desperately trying to sooth a crippled ego. Alas, most of them fail, for there isn't enough power, prestige or possessions in the world to plug the bottomless hole in the egos of such men and women. As I wrote about neurotic persons in my book The Liberated Soul, most strongly acquisitive men and women who are fiercely driven to appear important and find lasting security, are consumed by terrible anxieties about their own mortality. They are trying desperately to gain such power and prestige that even death itself will yield to their determination to be spectacularly significant and God-like. Even men like Andrew Carniege and John D. Rockefeller were forced at last to make amends for their greed by giving much of their wealth away when they realized the could neither spend it all nor take it with them to the grave. And I cannot think of any current public figure who reveals his ego wounds more clearly than George W. Bush.

I believe all loyal Americans should enthusiastically welcome the current return to sanity reflected in the declining presidential and congressional polls. We have long needed to come to our senses during the vicious political, spiritual and financial war now being waged against the middle class by the ruthless cabal of proto-fascist Republicans of whom George W. Bush is merely the front man and most visible member. It is long past time we voters realized that the emperor and his yapping hate mongers are wearing no clothes. For a generation now, the greedy abusers called neo-conservatives have waged a war to dominate the world's economy. They have fostered the great financial scam called globalization in which the half century long Cold War, the Indochina and Iraqi wars and even the compromise of democracy and the looming destruction of the Republic, are but skirmishes. The ultimate scam of wicked reactionary politicians, fundamental preachers and authoritarian plutocrats is to deliver more and more wealth and power to the new breed of global robber barons for whom America means nothing more than a major market. Any country will suit them just fine if it offers more wealth. Of course, the term neo-conservative is no longer adequate to describe this narcissistic triad of manipulators currently dominating our nation for its own benefit. The truth of the matter is far more complex.

The financial aristocracy is currently being served very well through the egoistic ambitions of the Bush family, with clever handlers such as Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rove and until recently Card, who are used and well paid but never admitted into the elite inner circle. The Bush family also uses congressional bullies like Tom DeLay, Rick Santorim and many others. Some religious leaders in the cabal yearn for a theocracy which they control rather than a democracy in which the people are free to worship and vote as they please. This element of the triad includes James Dobson, Pat Robertson and most of the Southern Baptist and Roman Catholic hierarchy. I believe the very strange political bedfellows that come from fundamental backwoods churches and very expensive Dallas and Houston country clubs, must be seen as proto-fascistic neurotics.

We never have had any guarantees that the Republic would survive the greed of our ruthless home grown abusers. When a Philadelphia woman asked Ben Franklin what he and the other founders had accomplished, he quipped -- We have given you a republic, Madam -- if you can keep it. Old Ben was no fool -- he knew that there are always egoistic abusers driven by psychological and spiritual wounds to seek the illusion of personal significance by amassing great wealth and power. Some persons think about nothing but wealth and power and how to acquire them for thirty or forty years. They go through spouses and families like they were swapping used cars. Lord Charles Babbington of McCaulay, wrote perceptively in his superb history of the British Empire. (I paraphrase) Every noble family, royal kingdom, profitable company and vast civilization eventually destroys itself by creating so many vested interest groups that it cannot adapt in time to survive when it must surrender something important or perish. Franklin who lived in England about the time Lord McCaulay was writing, understood that of the twenty-two civilizations which left their footprints on Earth, all but two collapsed because of their narcissistic internal contradictions. That isn't to say there wasn't some younger, more flexible society waiting in the wings to give a final shove, but the defeat was almost always self induced. What makes you think that twenty-first century America is any different? Do the names of China, Brazil and India come to mind as our egoistic abusers are busy devouring the American middle class through which the powerful Republic was supported? Never, since the Civil War when Lee's Confederates occupied Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, on the way to Philadelphia and possibly New York, has the Republic been in such danger. Eternal vigilance is indeed the price of liberty! We still have in our hands the power of the ballot to hamstring the wicked abusers who betray America by bleeding us white by concentrating even more of the world's wealth into their grasping hands.

Because of our anxiety about terrorist attacks and ignorance about Islam, we were traumatized on 9/11 and relentlessly propagandized to believe at least three impossible things the radical Republicans were peddling to naïve Americans before breakfast every morning. We immediately gave George W. Bush et al, the power needed to put many self-destructive scams into practice. No more than two dozen reactionary proto-fascists in the Congress and the White House propagandized America into supporting the disastrous Iraqi War that has America teetering on the slippery slope of a guerrilla conflict between civilizations. A great many Americans are just not bright or psychologically astute enough to see through the clever proto-fascist propaganda. It was as if our cultural memory about the ten years of the bloody Vietnam War had been erased by the aristocracy's seduction machine. We saluted and lined up, ready to sacrifice our kids and our wealth all over again when the war drums began to beat. Even ninety percent of the American Army's worker bees at risk in Iraq, have been so brainwashed by their officers that they still believe Saddam and Osama planned the 9/11 attacks together even though the men despised and distrusted each other. The soldiers still accept the spin, even after the Bush administration admitted in public it had been mistaken to make such an assumption.

We were so seduced that the neo-Confederates of the south and west, those rural minded true believers claiming the greatest patriotism, have joined political forces with the country club set that despises them as white trash, elitists that are doing everything possible to starve the middle class. Politics do make strange bed fellows! Fundamental preachers control the generally sexist and racist NASCAR bunch that never forgave the Democratic Party for forcing civil rights legislation down their throats a generation ago. The clergy rant about the wicked forces of liberalism and the eternal security of fundamental worship. On the other side of this strange equation, the financially affluent and politically sophisticated country club set sees through the financial scams but vote for proto-fascists politicians anyway because of the vast wealth in play.

Should you be tempted to discount the ability of rag-head tribal Muslims to cause even more American pain in a war between civilizations, as the Bush administration sold America a bill of goods about a splendid little war, try very hard to remember what only nineteen fundamental true believers did on that terrible day in September when we lost our innocence during the collapse of the Twin Towers. Can't you remember that not one Iraqi youngster attacked America on 9/11 and virtually no anti-American terrorists were operating out of Baghdad until we created them by occupying their homeland? Al Qaida came in later, but only after we made a multitude of enemies through our inept political and military occupation. Soon after 9/11, I wrote that a great many Arab peasants were going to die from a flood of American bombs and shells. I said at the time I hoped that a few of the slain would be guilty perpetrators, although I feared that most of them would be what is euphemistically called collateral damage by the military. Well, the count of collaterally dead Iraqis has already reached a hundred thousand men women and children. Of course, should you get your world news from hate radio ditto heads who propagandize incessantly to support reactionary politicians and fundamental preachers, you can blame the collapse of the middle class, the 9/11 attack and the ever more violent civil war on Bill and Hillary Clinton or Ted Kennedy and John Murtha and other liberals who want to get our kids out of the slaughter pens of the Middle East. You can even pretend that the Middle Eastern war isn't about dominating Middle Eastern petroleum by calling our neo-colonial war of conquest a justifiable struggle for the liberation of the Arab peoples, but that doesn't convert a lie into the truth. You can call a rabid skunk a loving Beagle, but you had better not invite it in as a house pet.

The radical Republican proto-fascists now slipping in the polls as the people finally realize who is betraying them and their military kids, did everything possible in their scam to deliver control of Middle Eastern petroleum to their oil barons. For, while the ideological users and abusers first argued that the Iraqi war was fought to protect us from weapons of mass destruction and then claimed to be converting vengeful and aggressive Afghani and Iraqi tribesmen to born again Jeffersonian democrats, few Americans and Europeans -- besides neurotic idiots and vested abusers -- still believe the radical Republican delusions. Only narcissistic true believers ignore the connection between the war and the billions and billions in windfall profits reaped by Texaco, British Petroleum, Royal Dutch Shell, Standard Oil and others after our invasion and the three years of drawn-out fighting sent energy costs through the roof. The Bush family has won millions of windfall dollars from their petroleum investments in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere while George has been in the White House. I believe this financial scheme is why Bush recently reiterated his mantra that we must win the war in Iraq at all costs -- and then keep an occupying force there indefinitely in order to defeat Al Qaeda's terrorists. Of course, I simply cannot believe that any member of the Bush family ever gave one hoot in Hades about delivering tattered and snaggle tooth Iraqi peasants from Saddam's clutches. The aristocratic first family simply doesn't think in those terms about the peasants of the world, according to the servants who have worked for the family through the years. The autocratic Republican view of personal freedom, certainly doesn't reflect the right of ordinary citizens to govern themselves and choose national policies through electing honest legislators. It is much more about relaxing regulations within authoritarian nations so their corporations can create lessez faire governments they operate on their own terms. That is proto-fascist democracy!

The Bush administration invaded Iraq to build a dozen or more permanent military bases in Iraq in order to dominate the Middle East oil fields with permanent American forces. It had absolutely nothing to do with democratic nation building until the WMD scam blew up in the president's face. These bases are why Iranian leaders are now frantic to produce a supply of their own nuclear weapons. The mullahs are not stupid, they can count to ten, and they have figured out that the United States, during the ten large and small wars we have fought since World Two, has never attacked a nation with nuclear arms. In our country where tens of millions of cargo containers are unloaded annually, with less than five percent of them visually inspected, a nation with its own nuclear bombs could smuggle a few ashore in any number of ways -- to be detonated aboard a boat near downtown Manhattan or from a truck crossing the Potomac Bridge into Washington. Obviously, they have no trouble finding suicide drivers. There was even a rumor that during the Cold War, the Soviets smuggled several nuclear weapons into New York and Washington and cached them in underground basements to use in the event of a nuclear war. The story is, they were surreptitiously removed when the Cold War ended during the Gorbachev era.

Obviously, George Bush is more than willing to continue trading American and Iraqi lives in order to increase the net worth of the already obscenely wealthy families who control the great oil companies. Why else would the Bush administration be building those military basses in Iraq while claiming to be creating a democracy? Bush and the narcissistic proto-fascist triad intended never to leave the poor desert nation, even if they must drown what is left of Iraqi society in blood. Moreover, can you really believe that while virtually every opinion page editor in America predicted the wartime surge in oil profits, the resistance of the Iraqi people to occupation and the civil war now in its opening stage, George Bush and his in-house proto-fascists couldn't foresee those consequences of their war? Obviously, a stubborn president convinced against his will, is of the same opinion still. They didn't want to see the consequences.

In his recent vow to continue the war for bringing his brand of freedom from taxes and restrictive regulations to the Middle East, Bush cleverly avoids defining either democracy or the conditions under which our weary troops shall come home. Some of the Guard and Regular units are now deploying for their third and fourth tours of duty in Iraq. And while they are magnificent young men and woman, (I served among their predecessors in the Brown Shoe Army Air Forces), too much is enough. Military marriages are breaking up and the V A hospital I use is filled with kids suffering terrible head wounds. Homes, automobiles and careers are being lost through continuous deployment. And the count now goes past twenty thousand wounded and dead American for the greater glory of Texaco, British Petroleum and several others.

The financial elite are spending so much money corrupting radical politicians and fundamental preachers that the strengths of democracy are collapsing around us. Radical legislators with well filled coffers and reactionary Supreme Court justices with overcompensated egos now serve the proto-fascist aristocracy rather the middle class in virtually every important issue. The greedy manipulators, as personified by three or four generations of the Bush family, understand that they don't need to conduct a banana republic type revolution to control virtually everything they choose. All they need do is spend one ten thousandths of one percent of their profits to bribe a few hundred greedy members of congress. That expenditure is a great deal less than paying living wages to twenty or thirty million middle-class workers. The formerly highly placed economist within the Federal Reserve, Milton Friedman, stated that the only moral responsibility of a business organization is to increase profits. At all costs? By dumping poisonous wastes into your community's drinking water to save money -- or by hastening global warning or by spreading carcinogenic chemicals far and wide by refusing to waste money on scrubbers for your smokestacks?

Bought and paid for reactionary economists, obviously reject the idea that taxes are the price we pay for civilization with sound public schools, good roads, opportunities for disenfranchised families to come into the middle class, affordable medical care and decent retirement benefits. Their narcissistic patrons want it all. The vast Bush tax reduction program made him a hero from the beginning of his first administration. It must have soothed his wounded ego for a few months for he was soon back asking for another fix. Kitty Kelly reported that the Bush family mind set includes just two kinds of men and women. Most people are among the inconsequential workers of society who salute and obey their betters. Then there are the real people, the few members of elite country clubs with whom the Bush family plays golf and tennis. All of which leaves them virtually no interest in and no concern for a working middle class except to fight their wars and do the labor needed to keep their enterprises profitable across the world. After all, the middle class bees siphon off far too much wealth that would otherwise go into their own coffers.

From the beginning of the current administration, even as Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld began the continuous drum beat to gain support for the Iraqi War with their weapons of mass destruction scam, the invasion really was about controlling Middle Eastern oil. No one could stop them; even as George was pretending to seek ways to avoid an invasion, he and Tony Blair had already resurrected the British dream of a born again Middle Eastern Empire. This pretense was only one of the many deceptions Bush used to pull the wool over American eyes. It was easy after the proto-fascists had a firm grip on the levers of American power. The White House, the House of Representatives, the Senate, and much of the Supreme Court were firmly in their hands. They still are, as Chief Justice Roberts and Associate Alioto convinced the neo-fascists of their parallel mind sets during a very careful vetting before their names ever appeared on the evening news. The Middle East campaign was really about oil and wealth while everything about weapons of mass destruction, defeating Iraqi terrorists and bringing democracy to the unwashed peasants of the region has been a stream of deceit spun to manipulate Americans by the proto-fascists of the Republican Party. Unfortunately, when it turned out so wrong, as the victory was botched, the happiest man in the world about our occupation of Iraq must have been Osama Bin Ladin. The ignorant and hubristic members of the administration delivered him a golden opportunity on a silver platter. Osama recruited fiercely anti-American suicidal youngsters against whom there is little defense except protecting everyone and everything of value in the Green Zone of Baghdad. Many anxious or naïve American gave the narcissistic proto-fascist triad of politicians, preachers and plutocrats every opportunity to succeed in their debilitating scam. The reactionary Republican Congress gave the manipulators carte blanche from the beginning. They were like two fisted drinkers, filling and refilling the whiskey glass for the President. The manipulators created a massive national debt for our descendents to suffer 0ver by spending massive amounts of treasure on a scam war while cutting taxes for the proto-fascists. The autocrats betrayed the Constitution and its Bill of Rights. The greedy turned the Clinton budget surplus into a massive debt for the next generation to struggle under, with the pretense that the vast tax cuts would create an economic boon that would more than restore the difference. It was all an ideological lie.

Fortunately, as Lincoln said; While you can fool some of the people all the time and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time. A majority of the American people now see how poorly Bush and his administration has done. About two thirds of the American people and nine tenths of the Western World's citizens no longer believe much of anything Bush says nor trusts him to make sound decisions. Like Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon during the Indochina era, he yearned desperately to heal his wounded ego with the healing balm or power and prestige, to become known as one of the greatest American presidents. He challenged history to put him on a pedestal with Franklin Roosevelt or Ronald Reagan. But he entangled himself as did Johnson and Nixon, in a disastrous scam for all the wrong reasons and now has guaranteed for himself the scorn of history. Alas, it is not in their unlucky stars that men falter and fail -- but in their very souls. The psycho-spiritual failings of George Bush, come right out of his soul's ego wounds. Bush had an opportunity to do great things for America after the 9/11 attack but although he seemed to be off to a good start, he soon faltered and chose to betray America to give greater wealth and power to his aristocratic manipulators. Most Americans now believe that he is a man in over his depth, who faltered when his high office ambitions put him to the test. Beware, your sins shall find you out. It need not have been so, he could have been one of the great presidents had he served America half as well as he took care of the proto-fascist aristocracy.

Virtually all middle class Americans, already frustrated by global capitalism's transfer of the wealth of our society to the financial elite, deeply wanted to believe that George Bush was a strong and compassionate leader who would see us safely through the terrorist threat. Unfortunately, many were seduced to see him in this light by the propaganda machine. Even those of us who early on saw his psycho-spiritual weaknesses as an alcoholic, womanizing draft dodger who suffered a leadership ineptitude that led to the bankruptcy of his three oil companies and near collapse of his family, wanted him to succeed. We hoped that the disastrous reduction of public school, infrastructure, environmental and healthcare support when he was governor of Texas, was an aberration. We prayed that his execution of one hundred fifty Texas men was somehow justified. We wanted to see the compassionate, spiritually minded Christian leader he claimed to be emerge from the macho mechanisms. We wanted him to preserve the best elements of the American way of life and to improve the plight of the needy. Unfortunately, his compassionate conservatism was all smoke and mirrors. Bush almost immediately reverted to the image of toughness that is so much a part of the neo-Confederate or NASCAR mythology that exists across much of the rural south and west, as far north as the Dakotas. It is so virulent in Kansas and Texas and rural Colorado that one native son wrote the book, "What's Wrong With Kansas"? The abusive men in the movie Thelma And Louise, whose lives peaked at this level, would still be supporting George Bush today had they been real persons. Many anxious and frustrated Americans welcomed Bush's aggressive gunfighter rhetoric from the West Texas oil patch. Many still do for they are creatures of tradition and ideology rather than adaptation and intellect. The NASCAR bunch remains willing to sacrifice its young people to the Iraqi War for Bush who claims to be a tough guy when he really is an illusion of a strong and competent leader.

Most of the neo-Confederate are too unsophisticated politically or socially to understand that while all politicians talk tough when campaigning, once they are incumbents they must compromise and form coalitions in order to be effective. A lone wolf is always an outcast in a legislative body. Even the fiercely ideological Ronald Reagan matured beyond his John Wayne style "Make my day" campaign rhetoric and graciously entertained Mr. and Mrs. Gorbachev as house guests in the White House. He made it possible for himself and the Soviet leader to forge the accommodations that ended the Cold War without fighting World War Three. There was no such maturing in George Bush's leadership style for he had internalized the Texas gunfighter mythology as a defense mechanism in order to protect his wounded ego. Because of the many free floating anxieties that long bedeviled him with alcoholism and sexual infidelity, George had overcompensated psycho-spiritually during childhood and created for himself ego defenses that allow him to justify his aggressive hair trigger approach to life. He still has the unconscious fears of an addictive personality, although he no longer drinks. I fear he is what Alcoholics Anonymous counselors call a dry drunk. His character is far more aggressive than his often charming public persona reveals and there are several reasons for his resentment and aggression.

According to the vast majority of psychotherapists, virtually all ideologically reactionary and fundamental true believers are fearful men and women who are never completely comfortable with strangers who have not proven their unconditional support in every circumstance. For example, the enraged men and women who ran amok trying to keep Terry Schaivo alive artificially when the poor shell of a woman was decaying as we watched, are deeply fearful people who were responding to their own anxiety about death. Allowing Terry's husband to disconnect the feeding tube confirmed their hidden fears that dangerous people surround them and could turn against they, themselves. Slightly different were the fears those who broke many state and federal laws to block the return of Emilio Gonzales to his father in Cuba. The anxious upper class Cuban refugees had long been mourning the loss of their personal possessions and property in the old country. Thus, returning six year old Emilio represented the loss of their former prestige and power over the working class of Cubans who remained at home so they resisted making their point. The men and women who spend years of their lives agitating for congressional amendments to block the teaching of evolution and global warming, who agonize for years about homosexuals forming marriage-like unions and joining their congregations, are terrified of changes that their fearful egos are unable to tolerate. The vast majority of true believers, whether in democracies or dictatorships, in Christianity, Islam and Judaism really do feel threatened much of the time even when there is nothing tangible to cause their anxiety attacks. Psychotherapists call this free floating anxiety, and it developed from pain and stress during childhood. Some sufferers believe that their enemies will cripple or slay them -- unless they neutralize or even slay them first. This is why the reactionary men and women feel no more compassion from the slaughter of a hundred thousand Iraqis than their fundamental predecessors did when the Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon war was destroying more than two million Vietnamese farmers and fishermen.

Bush responds automatically to challenges by taking numbers and kicking butts -- the ultimate parody of a macho man, verbally if not physically. He simply cannot resist a challenge for that would prove to himself that he is still that little kid that suffered so much pain. You can see the resentment in his face when a reporter dares to doubt him, even when he himself knows he is deceiving the people. His ego is so fragile that he cannot stand being corrected for that was part and parcel of his childhood. If he doesn't strike back, his many enemies shall see through his gunfighter façade. He is very combative -- except of course, when he had an opportunity to transfer to the U S Air Force from the Texas National Guard. When the Air Force needed fighter pilots to fly combat in the Vietnam War, he went like a rabbit, even forcing the Guard to take him from flight status. Nevertheless, he still presents himself as a macho warrior. Of course, he never sees this as a scam, for our ego defenses are almost always invisible to ourselves. He has unconsciously papered over his wounds, has hidden them deep in his ego, which then requires much of his psyche energy to keep them from boiling over for everyone to see. Even after we stuff painful and dangerous elements out of sight and out of mind within the unconscious aspects of our mind, they are never concealed forever and forgotten. Neurotics always use too much of their psychic energy to keep their secrets submerged so they don't boil out to betray us at inappropriate times. A person who stuffs too many unpleasant episodes into his or her unconscious never becomes as intelligent, as creative, and as persuasive or as loving as he or she would have been had they not been emotionally wounded along the way. Of course, ideological true believers need enemies in order to explain to themselves the anxieties that often harass them. They need them as much as emotionally maturing men and women need lovers.

From time to time Bush reveals how weak his tough guy approach really is. He is in essence telling a hundred fifty thousand young Americans -- Lets you and him fight to the death! And why not -- for he and the entire narcissistic triad of politicians, preachers and plutocrats see working class boys and girls who volunteer for military service because they cannot find decent jobs in the global economy, as resources to be consumed to protect their own ideologies. Of course they cannot express their narcissism openly to the country without alienating a great many people so they must find logical sounding reasons to behave as they do. Bush justified his war with the scam about mass weapons and when that story blew apart, seduced patriotic Americans into sacrificing their sons and daughters with their song and dance about the Iraqis lining up to greet us as liberators. Can't you close your eyes and absorb the deep compassion of kindly men like Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rove and Card, as they agonize through long nights over poor struggling boys and girls from all over America? Now that the second scam has failed, now that it seems few in Iraq are going to desert their tribal traditions, Republican narcissists blame the media for withholding the real story of how our forces are winning the Bush war. Wouldn't you just love to see Cheney or Rumsfeld or DeLay, Frist and Santorum, or even Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell take a long walk through Baghdad some evening, chatting with the Iraqi voters about the effectiveness of their power grid and water and sewage systems?

A vast number reactionary Americans wanted Bush and his band go on the offensive against Arabs, even when he had to break a hundred thousand innocent heads along the way. After all, the Iraqis were Arabs and the rag heads were some of those many enemies that surround radical men and women, evildoers who deserved what they get in any bombing strike. The fearful Congress gave Bush carte blanche to lie and cheat, even with Tony Blair of England, to defy the Constitution, to leave parents grieving the loss of their boys and girls who have been wounded and slain for the benefit of the oil company barons. Many anxious Americans failed to understand that the proto-fascists' loud and long mantra about their personal patriotism, repeated over and over by the ideologues, really is the last refuge of a great many scoundrels. We simply didn't realize that Bush, who had already failed in virtually every activity in his faux macho lifestyle, was not going to mature psycho-spiritually as president. We accepted the ancient myth that electing neurotic incompetents like Polk, Grant and Arthur to the presidency turns them into cool headed statesman. Unfortunately, aggressive quips, contempt for the third class working people of America and a rigid inability to change course when the iceberg appears dead ahead, does not a strong president make. This is why Cheney, Rove and Card, until he got sacked, continue to run the shop while Bush tours the country as a figurehead, appearing only before handpicked true believers, trying to resurrect his approval numbers. His repressed anxieties and the many neurotic defense mechanisms hidden in his soul, were papered over by his spin doctors until the wheels fell off his wagon because of his determination to win his war.

Only recently Bush insisted during a long press conference that his successor in the Oval Office shall have to keep an American occupation force in Iraq long after his own term as president is past. He must, he said, or we would have sacrificed those twenty thousand dead and wounded with so much treasure spent in vain, when trying to bring the blessings of democracy to the tribesmen of Iraq. He sounds very much like a man convicted of slaying his parents and then throwing himself on the mercy of the court because he is an orphan! Of course, any reactionary replacement president shall automatically oblige him -- a permanent occupation with garrisoned forces ready to strike across the Middle East was the proto-fascist scheme from the beginning. Only the naïve voters failed to see that. But when the worst came to pass, when political disaster loomed, George botched things so badly that a more progressive successor in the White House shall find it difficult to withdraw our troops from danger without giving a great advantage to the Iranian leadership. The proto-fascists of the Bush administration gave their scam about Iraq their best shot by telling every lie they could concoct, by wasting our youngsters and by spinning every blunder so that horse manure smells for a while to the naïve, like attar of roses.

Virtually every assumption the administration made about Iraqi society was based on ignorance and hubris. Our abusers casually unleashed a tidal wave of resentment and rage against America that shall be a generation or more subsiding, even if it doesn't boil over into a war between civilizations that disrupts the flow of oil to the industrial nations and pitches us into a world wide depression. Not since the run-up to our Civil War when egoistic enemies behaved so badly, has the law of unintended consequences been so fraught with peril for America. The neo-cons' failure is obvious as virtually everyone without vested interests in the domination of the Middle East now understands. Many Americans simply do not believe much of anything George Bush now to justify his choices. The neo-con movement has shot its wad, has run its course, has shown itself to be lacking in wisdom, virtues or emotional maturity. Two thirds of Americans and over ninety percent of Europeans now understand that Bush is a poor president who cannot be trusted to do what is best for anyone except the exclusive country club set that is more than willing to spend the lives of any number of poor American kids and Iraqi peasants for their own benefit. Bush's handlers tried to propagandize him into greatness but that illusion has collapsed as completely as when Dorothy chased Toto into the smoke and reflections of the Wizard of Oz's control room within the Emerald City. Fortunately, fewer and fewer Americans are listening to George Bush and his clever, always articulate handlers. Even his steadfast belief in the rightness of his cause, is now being seen as the neurotic stubbornness of a man who has failed at virtually everything he's ever tried to accomplish. He cannot change his course of action about anything without feeling that he has been bested by someone, that his secret weaknesses shall be revealed for all to see. You simply cannot fool all of the people all of the time -- even the dullest true believers eventually recognize who is beating them about the face and head!

Finally, after years of incessant deceptions about everything from mot having made up his mind about an invasion, to weapons of mass destruction -- to a terrorist plot between Saddam and Osama and the justification of tens of thousands of American and Iraqi casualties, on to organizing secret Star Chamber courts and hiding torture centers around the world and using illegal entrapment -- a majority of men and women across all of our civilization have become disenchanted with this American President. We once wasted vast amounts of wealth, almost a quarter million wounded and sixty thousand dead while pretending that South Vietnam was a real country that was vital to American interests. We stayed the bloody course in their civil war and fought wars against our students in our streets, because both Johnson and Nixon were too deeply wounded psycho-spiritually to admit their mistakes and get us out of Indochina. And while Iraq is another situation, this is looking more and more like another civil war between opposing tribes. Seemingly, during every generation, the American financial aristocracy boils over in greed and hubris enough to start another war for our poor and middle class sons and daughters to bleed die in, while their own children go to graduate school and reap massive financial benefits. While Bush was playing with aircraft as a weekend warrior, Cheney was getting six draft deferments that kept him far danger. We let them get away with it while buying politicians and preachers and by propagandizing naïve Americans into pulling their chestnuts from the fires of war by appealing to our patriotism.

One major ego defense mechanism appears in the way that Bush insists he doesn't care what anyone feels about the state of his presidency. If he is sincere about that, if he really doesn't care, he is the first politician in the last five hundred years who didn't agonize after losing control of his schemes. No emotionally healthy person fails to care what others think of he himself. Because we all need praise and rewards rather than criticism and punishment, only persons who have been criticized and abused repeatedly in childhood build up so much emotional scar tissue that they lose the capacity to care. As J R R Tolkien demonstrated in his massive Lord Of The Rings saga, persons who spend their entire lives grubbing for wealth and power, make so many selfish compromises that they lose the ability to distinguish between right and wrong. This ego distortion comes from suffering such emotional pain that one concludes he or she is surrounded by enemies who don't deserve a second thought, that most people are idiots who cannot understand the inner life of such a significant person as I am. It is a sad state of affairs in any neurotic person's soul when he or she needs to rationalize defeat, must pretend that everyone but I myself alone is out of step. George grew up in an elite family that expected excellence in all things -- an excellence that George simply could not deliver to his parents and teachers because of his dyslexia. Bush developed both a hair trigger response to correction because he faced so much criticism as a learning disabled child -- and an ability to hide painful events in his unconscious. Now, after a half century of practice, he must be hit in the head with an ax handle to make him respond to anyone who tries to pry him out of his ego's comfort zone. This stubborn defense mechanism, which many people initially confused with strength of character, comes from his painful childhood when he was under severe pressure because of his dyslexia.

He had to have felt incompetent and inept when he couldn't keep up in school, although he was as intelligent as most of the kids. His difficulty with spoken language and his difficulty when reading, according to Bush biographers, triggered enormous pressures from his parents who wanted a son worthy of the honored family name. I was the Director of a learning and learning disabilities clinic in conjunction with the University of Wisconsin and I never examined a dyslexic child that did not suffer a severe psychological overlay because of this failure to master written and spoken language. Symptoms vary but one of the most common ego wounds is a failure to adapt when one's life strategy fails. One definition of neuroticism includes making the same unsuccessful response to a problem, never changing anything, although expecting a more satisfying result the next time through. I can hear John Wayne's movie voice echoing in George Bush's head. "Never apologize Mister. It is a sign of weakness!" Many children adopt various kinds of self-defeating techniques when under emotional pressure. Some lock themselves in an emotional prison with defense mechanisms of their own making for the rest of their lives. They seldom realize their immature attempts to avoid ego pain always cause more problems than they solve. Most fearful neurotic sufferers need psychotherapy or a spiritual restoration in order to recover. And of course, a macho west Texas gunslinger must never become introspective and cannot apologize, for that would confirm the weaknesses he has tried all his life to conceal. And he can trust only those hirelings who have proven themselves to be supportive regardless of his blunders, which is why he has replace only Card from his exhausted and faltering staff. He feels more comfortable with trusted blunderers rather than with brilliant newcomers and everything George does is related in some way to staying sober and in his comfort zone.

It seems obvious to me that Bush is limited by a dyslexic single focus world view that protects him from confusion and self-doubt by playing all of life's tunes on the one string of his intellectual instrument. The reason why he has never read through a single book since leaving college is a common one to the learning disabled. It comes from his cognitive inability to organize the material intellectually. Because George cannot manage ambiguous issues that require sophisticated logic in order to understand them, he has selected two or three life themes and now plays them so incessantly that naive people like the NASCAR bunch and even grieving parents, who desperately seek some justification for the death or maiming of their children in a vicious war, eventually accept them as true. Advertising psychologists report that any message heard more than ten or twelve times becomes embedded in the listeners mind and is accepted as the truth regardless of how absurd. This is why George used the words terrorism and terrorists almost twenty times in a recent speech. It is the only effective tune in his repertory and he must play it or stay mute.

His macho defenses, combined with his current political, financial and military power, has led Bush to make more and more disastrous choices. Half a dozen former assistants, associates and cabinet members have complained how remarkably passive and uncurious George is during his meetings. Only recently he sat through a long briefing on the rebuilding of New Orleans without asking a single question. I suspect he knows that entering into a give and take dialogue about important issues would reveal the poverty of his intellect, his inability to wrap his mind around complex issues. Better to be silent and be thought a dunce than to speak out and remove all doubt about it! Especially if you already know all the satisfactory answers. Bush simplistically hears what he expects to hear about virtually all issues, runs it thorough his reactionary political and fundamental religious mind set and then coughs out an automatic decision that reflects his limited flexibility. I'm confident that the pandering to his one string instrument by the ambitious members of his staff and cabinet is constant. To George, pensive or deliberate men appear weak and incompetent. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a man who literally recreated his own body in order to feel significance and powerful, calls logical thinkers girly men. Virtually every macho man intuitively feels that the world is a dangerous place in which dominance, aggression and retribution is far more valuable than collegiality, peacekeeping and forgiveness. They learn this mode of life early in a painful childhood or adolescence.

Bush and other proto-fascist handlers fear and hate a world that is filled with shades of gray -- because they think in stark black and white values in a dangerous world filled with enemies. George cannot allow himself to be distracted by nuances. For example, his insistence that the fundamental Islamic clergy and laity of Iraq would welcome an invading infidel army as liberators, betrayed his profound cultural ignorance about the billion or so Muslims he challenged to -- Bring it on. That aggressive macho attitude seems to have become dominant in his life during junior high but his dissatisfaction had to have developed earlier than that. Unfortunately, President Bush has reached a level of governance where everything is incredibly complex because of all those nuances he rejects. There is virtually nothing a president can do to serve one segment of humanity that doesn't frustrate another group or two. For example, in order to serve his aristocratic few well, he is more than willing to strip almost everything good from Social Security and Medicare beneficiaries. He will rationalize destroying labor unions that created the middle class so as to please Chamber of Commerce members and end Roe vs. Wade freedom of choice to please his anti-choice neo-Confederate base. The windfall gasoline profits his war in Iraq created for the oil companies was ripped from the American people through higher fuel and heating costs. He rationalizes these choices because either unconsciously or perhaps consciously, the financial aristocracy really does consider itself more patriotic and more spiritual than the insignificant rank and file people they use and discard to create more wealth for they, themselves.

For example, at one of the Texas nominating conventions that Bush and his family attended, a large section of carefully coifed, designer clad and heavily bejeweled proto-fascist Republican women stood and chanted: We are the true Americans -- We are the real Christians. The women chanted for ten minutes or so as the Bush contingent cheered them and the frightening thing is that aristocratic women and men really believe such drivel and make wicked choices that reflect their scorn of everyone outside their elite country clubs and guarded and gated multimillion dollar mansions. George Bush apparently handles the inevitable ambiguities of life by resolving every problem with ideological solutions that benefit most his autocratic contributors and their vassals. I doubt he has ever asked Donald Rumsfeld, Karl Rove or Dick Cheney the thoughtful question posed regularly by effective leaders -- What could go wrong if I accept the course of action you are recommending? Or, more specifically, is there any way our military could still be bogged down in Iraq and I myself suffering a thirty-six percent approval rating three years after we defeated Saddam's forces? There are enough major reasons that George Bush should be sacked.


Of course, while Bush deserves to be impeached and convicted of many gross crimes and misdemeanors, he and his aristocratic supporters have outfoxed us once more. A successful impeachment would move an even more dangerous autocrat, Richard Cheney, into the White House. God alone knows what havoc he would cause our middle class democracy once he became the American president. Rather than impeach Bush, we should probably get out and use the ballot box to elect enough progressive legislators to neuter this inept president and those who are crippling the America Republic through their neurotic and near psychopathic greed. We must do everything necessary to re-establish the middle class that made America prosperous and strong for so long.


JARD DeVILLE is the author, founder and co-owner with his daughter, Dee, of THE FULFILLMENT FORUM. The FORUM is the publisher and purveyor of the list of fine e-books at http://www.fulfillmentforum.com. He has published more than a score psychology books, seminars, assessment instruments and novels and was psychology professor and chair at Olivet and Westminster Colleges. He taught leadership psychology seminars for years at the Universities of Wisconsin, Indiana, Purdue and Arizona and for executives and managers of major firms from New York, Chicago, Seattle, Miami, Los Angeles, Singapore, Brisbane, Auckland et al. He served as a pastor in a fundamental religious denomination for seven years before resigning because of the cruel racism and sexism rampant there.

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If You Don't Mind, Why Don't You Mind?

by Todd Huffman, M.D.
March 30, 2006

A favorite line of song, penned by the Canadian band The Magnetic Fields, poses the question: If you don't mind, why don't you mind? Where is your sense of indignation? To anyone who isn't yet appalled by the extent of the disaster that is the Bush presidency, I could not think of how better to ask it: Why don't you mind?

Not a day goes by without some new disclosure, some new bit of headline evidence that the Bush presidency is the most catastrophic presidency in the history of our great country. The consequences of this fact will effect not only yours and my personal future and fortunes, but those of our children and theirs. Where is your sense of indignation?
What can be safely said is this: Poverty is up by nearly 50 percent since this president took office. Somewhere between five and ten million Americans have lost their health insurance. Income inequality is the highest since the 1920s. Real median income has declined five consecutive years, the longest such streak since the Great Depression. And the Bush budget cuts have left Americans with the most threadbare social safety net since that dreadful era.

Almost 30 percent of American manufacturing jobs have been lost over these past five years. Manufacturing now accounts for less than 13 percent of our Gross Domestic Product, while the finance, insurance and real estate sector accounts for greater than 20 percent. Under Bush, moving money around has surpassed making things as the greatest share of our GDP.

Bush inherited massive budget surpluses but has turned those into massive deficits. While our net foreign indebtedness took over 200 years to reach $1 trillion, just since 2001 it has increased by another $3 trillion. While just five years ago our national debt stood at just over $5 trillion, now it stands at over $8 trillion. America has become a rentier nation, living off unearned income and racking up millions more debt every second of every day. Why don't you mind?

The trade deficit has exploded to over $800 billion per year, and the United States is having to borrow more than $2 billion per day to pay for our profligacy. And it is China – our greatest strategic adversary – that loans us much of those sums. Never could anyone have imagined that the most powerful nation the world has ever known would give its most threatening competitor such direct control over its economic destiny. Where is your sense of indignation?

It does not matter, not much anyway, to Bush Republicans that their out-of-control spending and their tax cuts for the rich have driven this nation into a downward spiral of debt. The spend-and-spend, big business, cheap labor, big government, socially regressive Republican Party has also become the political vehicle of the radically religious who, believing Jesus is coming at any minute, believe therefore that long-term fiscal responsibility is of little matter, to say nothing of social and environmental responsibility.

Under Bush, the United States has become the world's leading Bible-reading crusader state, led by a congregation of born-again politicians enriching the rich under the guise of Christian compassion, and brandishing Bibles as public policy guides. Rather than public policy based on the national interest, our government's public policy is now largely based on faith. Faith-based social policy, faith-based war, faith-based science, faith-based education, and faith-based medicine, all are leading our nation down a faith-based road to ruin. Why don't you mind?

Corruption is rampant. Money spent each year by lobbyists in Washington has doubled to $3 billion in just the past six years. Cronies with little experience are given high-ranking positions, or offered Supreme Court judgeships, or given no-bid contracts worth tens of billions of dollars.

The Republican majority leader in the House is under indictment and was forced to resign his leadership position. The Republican majority leader in the Senate is under investigation for insider trading. One Republican congressman has been convicted on bribery charges, and more indictments of GOP members are expected this year as lobbyist-in-disgrace Jack Abramoff spills his guts to the FBI in return for a reduced sentence. Where is your sense of indignation?

The Vice-President's Chief of Staff resigned under indictment for leaking the name of a covert CIA operative. Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald is continuing his investigation, which may even lead to indictments of the two White House pit bulls: Karl Rove and Vice-President Cheney. Meanwhile, the White House smite squad tears down all who dare disagree with its policies, or leave the congregation under protest. It blames the media when it all too occasionally goes off-message and reports the real news.

Bush himself was asleep at the switch on 9/11, ignoring a memo entitled "Bin Laden Determined To Strike Inside the United States". He was asleep at the switch before Katrina washed away a major American city and almost as many people as who died on 9/11. And he is asleep at the switch as the world faces a potential catastrophe in global warming. Why don't you mind?

The extent of the disaster that is the Bush presidency is almost beyond cataloguing. Space does not allow for more, except for the worst: Iraq. The war on Iraq, based at best on faulty intelligence and at worst on outright lies has proved a gigantic distortion of national priorities. It has grievously, perhaps irreparably, damaged America's moral standing in the world. It has caused nearly 2500 American deaths and tens of thousands of Iraqi. It has consumed our treasury to the tune of half a trillion dollars thus far, with no end in sight.

The war on Iraq has sapped our military, our credibility, our economy, and our morale, and has alienated much of the world. The illegal detention and abuse by American soldiers of detainees at Abu Ghraib, Bagram, and Guantanamo have led the Muslim world to believe that democracy is just another costume for tyranny. And, worst of all, the war on Iraq has diverted our attention from destroying the chief culprit of 9/11, and has allowed the greater threats to our country – North Korea and Iran – to build nuclear weapons programs out of fear of being next on Bush's "axis-of-evil" hit list.

So what can you do? It is easy to feel helpless, or to lapse into indifference. But what these perilous times cannot bear is indifference. We can no longer stand on the sidelines and wait for some non-existent catalyst to suddenly appear and mobilize a movement that we can then join. It is past time to take action. The profile of courage required is in the mirror.

Write letters to the editor. Write letters to your congressional representatives. Call your congressional representatives. Join your local Democratic Party. Talk to your family, friends, co-workers, and fellow members of your congregation about writing, calling, and joining together.

No, there is no easy answer. But "no easy answer" is not a synonym for "let's give up". Rather, it just means "we have to be more imaginative and work harder and do more and work together to make things right". We must come alive with the immediacy of our challenges. The time for turning our great nation away from the road to ruin is fast passing.

Todd Huffman is a pediatrician and political columnist in Eugene, Oregon. He is a regular contributor to the Springfield (OR) News, the Portland (OR) Oregonian, the Eugene (OR) Register-Guard, the Washington Free Press, and the Columbus Free Press.

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War Pimp Cheney: 'I'm a real party animal'


U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney scored points as a stand-up comedian, telling a radio and television correspondents' gathering: "I'm a real party animal."
Filling in for President George Bush, who was en route to a summit in Mexico, Cheney poked fun at himself and others at the 62nd annual Radio & Television Correspondents' Association dinner in Washington Wednesday night.

Referring to the accidental shooting of a lawyer while quail hunting in Texas earlier this year, Cheney squinted into the bright lights.

"The lighting could be better but I can still see the whites of your eyes," he said.

He accompanied his routine with a slide show, and one picture showed him in a room crowded with revelers and Cheney in the center, sitting and poring over a stack of documents.

"I know how to have fun," he said. "I'm a real party animal."

And as he talked about a meeting he was supposed to have with the president, slide after slide showed Cheney alone, The Washington Post reported.

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Google Goes K Street

By David Donnelly, AlterNet. Posted March 31, 2006.

The web giant has gone to great lengths to keep the internet open to all, but by teaming up with Republican lobbyists, it's politics as usual.
Google is setting up a political operation in Washington and collecting big-name lobbyists with Republican connections faster than you can search the Web for Jack Abramoff.

At first, I thought it was another of those famed Google April Fools' Day jokes, just a week early. They may have pioneered a new business model, but they're apparently relying on politics-as-usual. The question is, why do they have to?

Google argues that it has to play the game to maintain the ability of all Internet users to get quality, high-speed access to the Web. If the Internet service providers -- Comcast, TimeWarner and others -- are able to charge for transmitting information over the pipes, the Internet could become segregated into haves and have-nots. This is why Network neutrality -- or Net neutrality -- is important, and it is a good thing that Google is opposing the ISPs on this.

Google wants "to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible." But what doesn't make sense is the choice to abandon unconventional ways. Google appears to have embraced the rules of the so-called K Street Project. For a decade or more, Republicans in Congress have used the K Street Project to strong-arm businesses to hire only Republican lobbyists and to make donations only to GOP candidates.

Google has hired Washington powerhouse lobbying firm Podesta Mattoon. Though known as a bipartisan firm, Podesta Mattoon will probably hand this account to Lauren Maddox, a former staffer for Newt Gingrich. And Google has retained public relations flak Stuart Roy, recently of indicted Texas Republican Rep. Tom DeLay's staff, to direct its political PR and strategy. They are also setting up a D.C. office and have hired old Republican hand Harry W. Clark, who claims the company will soon hire a political director with ties to Republicans.

And it won't end with hires: "The folks I've talked to," Clark told The New York Times, "everybody recognizes that the employee contributions were weighted heavily toward Democrats, and they're waiting to see a course correction." (Since 2001, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, Google employees have donated $361,294 to federal candidates, parties and political action committees, with all but roughly $10,000 going to Democrats or their allies.)

But is a course correction the right move? Is there a better way to conduct politics, perhaps found within Google's own business model?

What would a true Google approach to politics look like? It probably wouldn't wear a suit, charge $500 an hour or perpetuate an exclusive campaign finance system in which a few well-connected corporations, interest groups and wealthy donors win out while the rest of us get left behind. Google has retained public relations flak Stuart Roy, recently of indicted Texas Republican Rep. Tom DeLay's staff, to direct its political PR and strategy.

Take the Net neutrality debate. Instead of obeying consultants in Washington who will urge Google executives to give more to Republicans (or to Democrats if they take back Congress), what if Google worked to hand the Net neutrality issue over to the people? Instead of setting up an office in Washington, what about setting up a virtual campaign center on the Web?

Let's make this debate about what is right about democracy in America by engaging citizens and asking them to join the fray. Americans don't need a clash of the corporate titans, with both sides claiming to be pro-consumer. We don't want to be spoken for. If Net neutrality is won with an insider strategy without engaging real people, it will be fought all over again next year.

It's time for some new, citizen-focused paradigms in politics, in how campaigns are run -- like the Clean Elections bill moving through the California state legislature -- and in how people relate to elected officials on important issues. It is already happening all around us with open-source approaches to politics like CivicSpace and Colorado-based ProgressNow, the political blogosphere with sites like DailyKos, and online fundraising. Why would Google place its bets on K Street rather than nurturing, pioneering and accelerating this innovation and change?

"Google is not a conventional company. We do not intend to become one," company founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin said when they announced the innovative IPO auction almost two years ago.

So, Google, what shall it be? A complete political upgrade? Or politics as usual?

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Justice Department Subpoenas Reach Far Beyond Google

By Thomas Claburn
Mar 29, 2006 06:00 PM

In its effort to uphold the Child Online Protection Act, the U.S. Department of Justice is leaving no stone unturned. In addition to America Online, MSN, and Google, the government has demanded information from at least 34 Internet service providers, search companies, and security software firms, InformationWeek learned through a Freedom of Information Act request.
In its effort to uphold the 1998 Child Online Protection Act (COPA), the U.S. Department of Justice is leaving no stone unturned. Its widely reported issuance of subpoenas to Internet search companies AOL, MSN, Google, and Yahoo is just the tip of the iceberg: The government has demanded information from at least 34 Internet service providers, search companies, and security software firms.

Responding to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by InformationWeek, the Department of Justice disclosed that it has issued subpoenas to a broad range of companies, including AT&T, Comcast Cable, Cox Communications, EarthLink, LookSmart, SBC Communications (then separate from AT&T), Symantec, and Verizon.

Asked which companies objected to, or sought to limit, these subpoenas, Department of Justice spokesperson Charles Miller declined to comment, citing that the litigation was ongoing. He also declined to comment on the utility of the information gathered by the government.

The documents presented to InformationWeek reveal that some companies did object to the government's demands. In an E-mail sent to the Department of Justice last July, Fernando Laguarda, an attorney representing Cablevision Systems Corp., characterized some of what the government was asking for as "overly broad, vague, ambitious, and unduly burdensome."

In a letter sent to the Department of Justice in August, Joseph Serino Jr., an attorney representing Verizon, voiced similar objections. However, he clearly states that his objections are routine and intended to protect the company.

The one exceptional objection he cites has to do with the sensitivity of the information sought. Serino said Verizon Online is concerned that documents might be forwarded to people working for entities hostile to Verizon Online, or that are suing the company, including the Justice Department itself and the American Civil Liberties Union.

Verizon didn't respond to requests for comment.

The subpoenas were issued between June and September 2005. Beyond AOL, MSN, Google, and Yahoo, the only other search engine subpoenaed was LookSmart.

It's likely, however, that the government's interest in LookSmart stems not from the company's search engine, but from its ownership of Internet content filtering software company Net Nanny.

LookSmart declined to comment about the information it was asked for and the information it provided. EarthLink likewise declined to comment.

The bulk of the subpoenas were directed at Internet service providers and makers of content filtering software. The effectiveness of filtering technology is a critical issue in the COPA case. If the Department of Justice can prove that filters fail to shield minors from explicit material online, COPA may well be reinstated.

The full list of companies subpoenaed by the Department of Justice includes: 711Net (Mayberry USA), American Family Online, AOL, AT&T, Authentium, BellSouth, Cablevision, Charter Communications, Comcast Cable Company, Computer Associates, ContentWatch, Cox Communications, EarthLink, Google, Internet4Families, LookSmart, McAfee, MSN, Qwest, RuleSpace, S4F (Advance Internet Management), SafeBrowse, SBC Communications, Secure Computing Corp., Security Software Systems, SoftForYou, Solid Oak Software, SurfControl, Symantec, Time Warner, Tucows (Mayberry USA), United Online, Verizon, and Yahoo.

The subpoenas directed at security software companies asked for a substantial amount of information, including any and all documents that fall into 29 separate categories, including the kinds of content filtering products or services offered, the number of customers using those products or services, how users configure their filters, how filters get updated, R&D spending on such products, the methodology used to generate blacklisted or filtered sites, and pretty much any data gathered that relates to the use of filters.

"What they are doing, from our perspective, is engaging in a massive fishing expedition in an attempt to find some shred of evidence that they think can change a result they didn't like, which is that COPA violates the First Amendment," says Aden Fine, an attorney for the ACLU.

While the government's demands for information from Internet search engines have privacy implications for individuals, its interest in corporate information raises questions about the rights of businesses.

Stephen Ryan, a partner at Manatt, Phelps & Phillips in Washington D.C., considers the scope of the government's discovery efforts unusual. "I'm not surprised that the Google piece looks like the tip of an iceberg," he says. "But it is sort of surprising that they're using their authority this broadly."

Ryan acknowledges that government subpoenas place undue burdens on companies every day, noting that there are probably scores of attorneys at large ISPs who do nothing but process subpoenas. He suggests that as information technology produces more information, the government will want greater access to that data.

With regard to the financial impact of subpoenas, Ryan notes, "If you look at the Office of Regulatory Affairs at Office of Management and Budget, there's something called the Paperwork Reduction Act. And there's supposed to be an evaluation of the burden that a government law or regulation will make on the public. I'll bet there's never been a burden analysis of what they're doing."

Justice Department spokesman Miller said he would inquire about this, but didn't have an immediate answer.

Dan Jude, however, did. Jude, president of filtering software company Security Software Systems, confirms that the subpoena his 12-person company received was a burden. "It was a pain," he says. "I don't have exact figures, but it took 40-plus hours to put stuff together."

Jude says the Department of Justice asked for proprietary information about his company's content filtering software. Despite assurances that the information would remain confidential, he says he refused that particular demand, fearing it might be revealed by a Freedom of Information Act request.

Jude contends that the government's efforts to prop up COPA are misguided. "It's a waste of time," he says, noting that he testified before the COPA Commission about the prevalence of explicit material online in August 2000. The problem, he says, is that U.S. legislation has no teeth because half of the Web servers with explicit content are located in other countries.

If COPA were to be reinstated, Jude suggests that the Department of Justice would have to turn ISPs into content police in order to deal with offshore offenders.

As someone who sells a technical solution, it's perhaps no surprise that Jude has faith in filtering. "The great thing about the technology is that it allows parents to make the determination of what they want their kids to be able to do and not to do," he says. "And isn't that what we're supposed to be doing in this country?"

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Blair lectured by pupils at Islamic school

By Andrew Grice, Political Editor
The Independent
31 March 2006

Tony Blair was warned the presence of British troops in Iraq was fuelling terrorism when he met moderate Muslim leaders on his visit to Indonesia.

The Prime Minister's plans to build bridges as he visited the most populous Muslim nation suffered when he was confronted about Iraq.

After talks in Jakarta, Din Syamsuddin, head of the 30 million-strong Muhammadiyah, Indonesia's second-biggest Muslim group, said the Islamic representatives told Mr Blair: "The British Government must pull its troops out of Iraq because Iraq's occupation will only stimulate radicalism, extremism and terrorism."

Azyumardi Azra, an Islamic scholar, said he told the Prime Minister "his foreign policies were not making the world any safer".
When Mr Blair visited an Islamic boarding-school, Rezar Rizky, 13, was cheered when he asked him: "Will you ask your best friend George Bush to stop the war in Iraq?" The Prime Minister replied: "I think we will not agree about Iraq and the decision to remove the government there."

He added: "Whatever we thought about the original decision to remove Saddam [Hussein], today we should work with the UN and with other countries to make sure Iraqi people get the same rights as we have in the UK and you have here."

Anissa At Muzir, 17, said she agreed with some of what Mr Blair said but disagreed with his views on Iraq. "His answer is not so satisfactory," she said. "Justice should be applied in a true sense."

Another student asked Mr Blair how he would feel if he were an Iraqi civilian who had had relatives killed in the conflict.

Mr Blair replied: "You feel very strongly that what happened in Iraq and Afghanistan was wrong. I understand that. But in those countries now people can vote and their government should decide what's right and what is wrong."

Mr Blair was due back in Britain early today after a seven-day tour which also included Australia and New Zealand but was overshadowed by speculation about how long he could carry on as Prime Minister. Yesterday, allies of Gordon Brown, John Prescott and Mr Blair played down reports that the Prime Minister planned to announce his departure timetable at this autumn's Labour Party conference. They insisted no deal had been struck between Mr Blair and Mr Brown.

Downing Street has trumpeted an agreement struck with Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, the Indonesian President, for the two countries to cooperate against terrorism and improve understanding between the Islamic and non-Islamic worlds.

Comment: 13 and 17-year olds have more sense and compassion than Blair. So much for our wonderful "leaders".

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Chirac to back job law on TV

Fri Mar 31, 2006
By Kerstin Gehmlich

French President Jacques Chirac addresses the nation on Friday and is expected to back a youth job law that has driven millions to protest, rather than drop it and risk losing his prime minister.

A top court, the Constitutional Council, on Thursday dismissed legal challenges to the CPE First Job Contract, handing the baton to the president.

Parliamentary sources said they expected him to sign the law which includes the CPE before explaining his decision on television at 1:00 p.m. EST.

If he signs, Chirac is likely to face more protests. If he withdraws the law, he could lose conservative Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, a long-time ally seen as the man he would like eventually to succeed him.
Unions and students have vowed to continue their protests if the government presses on with the CPE, which aims to encourage firms to hire workers by allowing them to fire employees aged under 26 without stating a reason during a 2-year trial period.

"The president knows the trade unions' attitude. He knows the frustrations of many youths," opposition Socialist party leader Francois Hollande told RTL radio.

Making clear he thought Chirac would sign the law, he said: "Do you think the many students and workers who have been fighting against this text for months ... will understand the president's decision? Do you think that will be a factor of appeasement, a solution for the country?"


If Chirac withdraws the law, he stands a bigger chance of halting the protests that have swept France and sometimes turned violent in the past few weeks.

But such a move would undermine Villepin, who has fiercely defended the law and made it a centerpiece of his efforts to cut youth unemployment.

Business leaders fear France's image will be damaged if protests continue and that investment and tourism could suffer, particularly because the crisis has erupted so soon after rioting by angry youths in French city suburbs late last year.

New data on Thursday showed the February unemployment rate stuck at 9.6 percent, one of the highest rates in Europe. Joblessness among under 25-year-olds fell slightly from just below 23 percent to 22.2 percent.

Chirac, 73, has repeatedly backed Villepin over the CPE. But the protests have left Villepin's future in the balance and a climbdown on the law could sink his hopes of running in next year's presidential election.

The contract has caused divisions within the ruling UMP party, headed by Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, a likely rival to Villepin in the 2007 presidential race -- when Chirac is not expected to seek a third term.

The UMP parliamentary group on Tuesday backed Sarkozy's proposal that the government should not rush to enforce the law.

Student demonstrators and unions have urged Chirac to send the law back to parliament -- stripped of the CPE articles that were attached to it.

Unions have called new protests and strikes next Tuesday and have warned the government that millions more will turn out unless Chirac changes the law.

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Chirac presses on with labour reforms despite street protests

By John Lichfield in Paris
The Independent
31 March 2006

Despite signs of spreading youth unrest, President Jacques Chirac is expected to sign into law today the "easy hire, easy fire" jobs contract for the young which has plunged France into political and social crisis.

But President Chirac - in a gamble which may backfire - is expected to call an immediate "social" conference to try to negotiate a replacement for the law that he will have just signed.
Hopes that France's constitutional watchdog body, the Conseil Constitutionel, would cut through the Gordian knot of an increasingly muddled, bad-tempered and ideological dispute were dashed last night when council members declared that the new equal opportunities law, including the disputed contrat première embauche (CPE) or first-job contract, did not infringe the constitution of the Fifth Republic.

President Chirac now has nine days in which to decide whether to sign and promulgate the law. His Prime Minister, and long-time protégé, Dominique de Villepin, has made it clear that he will resign, plunging the French centre-right into crisis, if the President backs down before the mass demonstrations, strikes and forced university and school closures which have disrupted France in the past three weeks.

Sources at the Elysée Palace said M. Chirac would propose - probably in a television address tonight - a solution which might appeal to all sides. Copying the government tactics which helped to end the May 1968 student and worker revolt, he is expected to propose a round-table conference of government, trade unions, student groups and employers.

He is likely to promise that any agreement on jobs law for the young reached by such a "Grenelle" - so-called after the succesful two-day talks in the Ministry of Labour in the Rue de Grenelle in 1968 - would substitute for M. de Villepin's hated youth contracts.

One of the Gaullist ministers involved in the first "Grenelle" 38 years ago was Jacques Chirac, then the junior labour minister.

It was precisely M. de Villepin's refusal to consult the "social partners" on the CPE which has helped to stoke the intensity of the opposition among trade and students' unions. President Chirac may now, in effect, sign the youth contracts into law and then call negotiations afterwards.

His hopes of saving M. de Villepin's face - and his own - could yet dashed. Tempers are running high. The French left - from students' groups to the centre-left Socialist party - have the scent of political blood in their nostrils.

Both trades union and student leaders have refused to enter talks with the government until the CPE is withdrawn or suspended. It remains to be seen if all, or any, of the many mutually suspicious groups involved would heed M. Chirac's proposal and call off the protests, including nationwide strikes and marches on Tuesday.

In a series of hit-and-run actions yesterday, students blocked railway lines at the Gare de Lyon in Paris, and at Rennes, Limoges, Brest, Marseilles, Lille and other provincial stations. There were also blockages bystudents on the Boulevard Périphérique, Paris, and on the road approaches to Nantes, Rennes, Grenoble, Limoges, Lille and several other cities.

The "first jobs contract" was intended by M. de Villepin as a way of reducing France's 23 per cent unemployment among young people. It has been rejected by student unions of the hard and moderate left and by all five trades union federations, as an "ultra-capitalist" attempt to deny young people the kind of job security enjoyed by their parents.

The CPE would provide a two-year trial period in which workers aged 26 or younger could be fired without explanation (but with compensation ). M. de Villepin argues that this will make it easier for small and medium-sized companies to offer jobs to unqualified or underqualified young people.

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Trial opens of youth accused of burning girl alive

March 31, 2006

PARIS - A 22 year-old French man went on trial in the Paris suburb of Creteil Friday accused of burning a teenage girl to death in a crime that became an emblem of the sufferings of young women in poor French neighbourhoods.

Prosecutors say that in October 2002 Jamal Derrar doused 17 year-old Sohane Benziane with petrol at the foot of a tower-block in Vitry-sur-Seine, southeast of Paris, and set her on fire. She died two hours later in hospital.
Derrar, who says he only meant to scare the girl, acted to avenge himself after he was humiliated in a fight with her boyfriend, investigators believe.

He is accused of "acts of torture and barbarity that unintentionally led to death" and faces a possible life term in jail.

Tony Rocca, 23, is accused of abetting Derrar by guarding the door of the bin-room where the crime took place, and also risks life in jail.

Sohane's death provoked national outrage, and a campaigning group - Neither Whores nor Slaves - was set up to draw attention to the mistreatment of women in France's high-immigration city suburbs.

"There are loads of girls in the estates who get hit or humiliated, and no one gives a damn. When a girl gets smacked in the face, no one bats an eye. It's just normal," said Sohane's sister Kahina in an interview with Le Point magazine this week.

"In every estate there is some girl who has been beaten or raped but who refuses to go to the police. It was only when my sister was burned alive that people began talking," she said.

The trial is due to last a week.

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War Whore Rice faces anti-war protests in UK

Friday, March 31, 2006

LIVERPOOL, England -- U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is touring England's northwest amid high security and protests by opponents of the U.S.-led war in Iraq.

Anti-war demonstrations led to the cancellation of a planned visit Friday to a mosque in UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw's constituency of Blackburn.
About 20 percent of Blackburn's population is Muslim, and Rice had been invited to visit the mosque.

That invitation was withdrawn, however, amid reports that widespread protests about U.S. policy towards Muslims and the war in Iraq were planned. Rice is still scheduled to meet Saturday with Muslim leaders in Blackburn and the town's mayor, Ugandan immigrant Yusuf Jan-Virmani.

Later on Friday, Rice and Straw visited a high school in Blackburn where about 150 protesters chanted anti-war slogans and waved banners.

At a visit to a Blackburn school, the protesters held anti-Iraqi war signs and shouted, "Condoleezza Rice, go home," and "Hey, hey Condi Rice, how many kids did you kill today?"

Jaabbar Khan, a 16-year-old student, said about 50 of his classmates skipped classes to join the demonstration.

Protesters were also in front of Rice's hotel on her arrival Thursday night.

"The majority of the Muslim community are opposed to the war and her visit," said Salim Amed, 38, a call center worker from Blackburn, the UK's Press Association reported.

Rice then traveled to Ewood Park, home of the Blackburn Rovers soccer club, where she was presented with a Rovers shirt with the name "Rice" on the back.

Earlier in the day, Rice was accompanied by Straw to a British aerospace factory near Preston.

Asked by reporters for her reaction to the demonstrations planned for her visit, Rice said she had seen opposition to Iraq war in cities she had visited in the United States. "So, I'm not surprised. People have strong views.

"People always have a right to protest. That is what democracy is all about." She added that people with differing views "should not keep them bottled up."

Rice also expressed sympathy for the victims of the Bahrain boat tragedy and the earthquake in Iran. (Full story)

The United States has been in contact with the Bahrain government and "is lending whatever assistance we can," the Secretary of State said.

Straw said the UK had sent a rapid deployment unit to the region.

Meanwhile, Rice defended the Bush administration's policies in Iraq, arguing that despite the ongoing sectarian violence, the "early contours of a democratic culture" were taking hold.

In remarks at Chatham House, a center for independent research on global issues, Rice defended the Bush administration's policies in Iraq, arguing that despite the ongoing sectarian violence, the "early contours of a democratic culture" were taking hold.

"The old status quo was unstable. Any sense of stability was a false sense of stability," she said in a speech at Chatham House -- a center for independent research on global -- referring to what she said was the bloody rule of Saddam Hussein.

Straw also spoke, describing the need for global unity. Although foreign policy is still about national interests, "we also recognize we must advance those interests by developing a community of nations in which people can share in common values."

"An international society which works is the best guarantee of our own security and prosperity," Straw said.

Rice will see the sights of Blackburn and Liverpool during the two-day visit, hosted by the Straw to repay a visit he made to her hometown last year.

Rice arrived Thursday at Liverpool's John Lennon Airport for a two-day stay.

She came to England from Berlin, where she met with ministers representing the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council -- the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China, for talks on the next steps to tighten the diplomatic noose around Iran following Wednesday's passage by the Security Council of a presidential statement. (Full story)

She also made a brief stop in Paris to meet with French President Jacques Chirac.

Her visit to Liverpool and Blackburn has been billed as an opportunity for Rice and Straw to demonstrate how U.S. foreign policy directly affects British citizens.

It follows a visit by Straw to Rice's home state of Alabama in October, where she gave him a high-profile taste of life in the Deep South.

The trip is full of photo opportunities meant to highlight the historic links between the United States and Britain. In Liverpool, Rice will attend a concert and visit a maritime museum steeped in the history of trade and travel between the two countries.

A Beatles fan, Rice also will have an opportunity to indulge in her passion for the band in its home city. (Full story)

Straw's Blackburn and the southern United States where Rice grew up share historic ties to the cotton industry.

During the industrial revolution, American cotton grown in the Deep South was imported through Liverpool to Blackburn, where it was woven into cloth.

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Rice Gets the Cold Shoulder in Britain

Friday March 31, 2006
By Anne Gearan
AP Diplomatic Writer

BLACKBURN, England (AP) - Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Friday that ''by all means'' anyone who opposes U.S. foreign policy or her weekend visit to Britain should speak their mind. Demonstrators organized marches to call America's top diplomat a war criminal and human rights abuser as she joined British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw on a tour of his adopted northern England working-class home.

"People have the right to protest, that's what democracy is all about," Rice told reporters at a British aerospace plant. "I would say to those who wish to protest, by all means."

Rice said she was not surprised by the depth of opposition in Britain, President Bush's strongest ally in Iraq, to the war and other American policies.

"I've seen it in every city I've visited in the United States," Rice said. "People have strong views."

Rice also said the United States was ready to send humanitarian assistance to Iran following deadly earthquakes there on Friday, but she made it clear there would be no accompanying U.S. diplomatic overture to Tehran.

Straw, Rice's host for her two-day visit, said Britain would send a condolence letter to the Tehran government.

The United States has no diplomatic relations with Iran.

At a high school visited by Rice and Straw, about 200 protesters stood across the street with banners and signs, chanting "Condi Rice Go Home!" One demonstrator held a yellow hand-lettered sign that read "How Many Lives Per Gallon?"
Rice toured a high school math class and visited Ewood Park, the home stadium of Straw's favored soccer team, Blackburn Rovers.

About 50 of Pleckgate School's students ''skived off'' their classes Friday to protest Rice's visit, said student Jabbar Khan, 16, who shook Rice's hand as she entered.

The protests awaiting Rice on Friday were the reverse of the warm reception she received last fall when Straw accompanied her on a down-home tour of her native Alabama. Then, elderly white women lined up to shake the hand of a black native daughter made good, football fans cheered and the tantalizing possibility of a run for president - something she discounts - surrounded Rice.

"It's one thing to say this is a cultural visit, but others see it as a council of war,'' said Carmel Brown, an anti-war protester in Liverpool.

Rice's planned visit to a mosque in Blackburn was canceled Thursday after anti-war protesters planned to heckle her during prayer time, a mosque leader said. A prominent poet and actress pulled out of planned appearances at a Liverpool Philharmonic concert Rice was attending Friday in protest of U.S. policies.

Straw's Blackburn district has the country's third highest Muslim population. Rice also is to meet Muslim leaders and the town's mayor, Ugandan immigrant Yusuf Jan-Virmani, on Saturday.

Straw's visit to Alabama was intended to show a different side of America to a visiting foreign leader and friend. Many people he met in Alabama, and a few who introduced him at events, had never heard of the British diplomat.

Rice is far better known, as the two days of protests planned over U.S. policies in Iraq, Iran and the war on terrorism attest.

Rice and Straw planned speeches on Iran on Friday. The United States and Britain were among the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council that moved this week to demand answers from Tehran over its disputed nuclear program.

Opponents of the Iraq war set up a Web site, condiwatch.co.uk, that listed times and locations for marches and gatherings. Protesters planned to distribute T-shirts that read, ''Fab Four, Not War,'' in reference to Liverpool's most famous export, The Beatles.

Rice had planned to attend Friday prayers at Masjide Al Hidayah mosque, but anti-war protesters presented a security threat, said Ibrahim Master, a mosque official.

''It wasn't canceled because we don't like Condoleezza Rice,'' said Master.

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War Whore Rice admits "thousands" of errors in Iraq

Fri Mar 31, 2006 10:03 AM ET
By Gideon Long and Sue Pleming

BLACKBURN, England (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice accepted on Friday the United States had probably made thousands of errors in Iraq but defended the overall strategy of removing Saddam Hussein.
Local Muslims and anti-war activists told Rice to "Go Home" when British counterpart Jack Straw earlier led her on a tour of his home town of Blackburn in the industrial northwest, an area which rarely plays host to overseas politicians.

"Yes, I know we have made tactical errors, thousands of them," she said in answer to a question over whether lessons had been learned since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

"I believe strongly that it was the right strategic decision, that Saddam had been a threat to the international community long enough," she added.

Earlier, about 250 protesters gathered outside a school which Rice visited, waving placards urging her to go home and shouting as her motorcade arrived.

Many of them were locals from Straw's constituency of Blackburn, a former cotton town with a 20 percent Muslim population. Straw invited Rice to the area after he toured her home state of Alabama last year.

Protesters had already persuaded a mosque in the town to withdraw its invitation to her.

"The Muslim population is very angry. She's not welcome in Blackburn," said Suliman, one of the demonstrators outside Pleckgate school, where Rice met young pupils.

"How many lives per gallon?" asked one of the placards held aloft, in reference to the U.S. invasion of oil-rich Iraq which many Britons opposed.

During a visit to a Student Council meeting at the school, Rice was asked whether she was upset by the demonstrators.

"Oh, it's OK, people have a right to protest and a right to make their views known," Rice told the teenage student.

"Each individual all over the world has the God-given right to express themselves. I'm not just going to visit places where people agree with me. That would be really unfortunate."


Rice delivered her speech alongside Straw in the somewhat incongruous setting of Blackburn Rovers' soccer stadium, where she was given a Number 10 jersey from one of England's teams.

She arrived in Britain late on Thursday from Paris and, before that, Berlin, where she discussed the next steps in dealing with Iran's nuclear program with officials from Germany, France, Britain, Russia and China.

Rice said she supported Straw's view that sanctions should be considered against Iran if it does not comply with calls to abandon its nuclear ambitions.

"Iran is going to have to make a choice... accept a way to the development of civil nuclear power... or face deeper isolation," said Rice.

While Rice and Straw both had tough words to say about Iran, they expressed sympathy for the victims of an earthquake which killed at least 66 people in the west of the country.

"(It's) very shocking, with what seems to be a large loss of life," Straw said during a visit to a Britain Aerospace factory where the United States and Britain are involved in a joint project for fighter aircraft.

Rice's trip is expected to be heavy on photo opportunities and light on discussion, as was Straw's trip to the American south in October.

It will give Rice a chance to indulge her passion for The Beatles. She was due later to travel to Liverpool where she will attend a concert and visit a performing arts center founded by former Beatle Paul McCartney.

Comment: The earthquake in Iran killed, according to the most recent reports, 66 people. How many people will die when the Bush criminals begin their war on Iran?

Can you say H-Y-P-O-C-R-I-S-Y?

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US's Rice: US Might Back Israeli Border Plans -BBC

Dow Jone Newswires

NEW YORK -(Dow Jones)- The U.S. may be open to backing Israel's Kadima party in plans to draw the country's borders without Palestinian input, the British Broadcasting Corp. reported U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as saying on its Web site Thursday.

The BBC said Rice made the statements in speaking to reporters traveling with her to Berlin for talks about Iran's nuclear development program.

The BBC added that Rice said a negotiated deal with the Palestinians was preferable, but seemed unlikely after the militant group Hamas won Palestinian elections.
Rice "pointedly did not rule out supporting Kadima's plan for withdrawing from parts of the occupied West Bank by 2010 but consolidating other Jewish settlements there," the BBC said. "I would not on the face of it say ... that we do not think there is any value in what the Israelis are talking about," she said, according to the Web site.

"But we can't support it because we don't know. We haven't had a chance to talk to them about what they have in mind," she said.

The BBC quoted Rice as saying the Hamas-dominated Palestinian government "does not accept the concept of a negotiated solution" with Israel, having won seats in the Parliament based on a platform of resistance to Israel and opposing negotiated settlements.

Comment: Of course, the fact that Rice's support for the Israeli plan to declare it's borders with Palestine is support for the illegal annexation of Palestinian land appears to be of no consequence to war-whore Condi.

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1965 Voting Rights Law Set to Expire

Associated Press
March 31, 2006

NEW YORK - On what would become known as "Bloody Sunday," voting rights marchers in March 1965 reached the highest point on the Edmund Pettus Bridge near Selma, Ala., and saw a blue sea of uniforms awaiting them at the end of the bridge.

Television would show images of Alabama state troopers armed with guns, night sticks, bull whips and tear gas severely beating marchers. Days later, President Lyndon Johnson promised to bring Congress an effective voting rights bill, and that August he signed into law the Voting Rights Act of 1965, considered one of the most significant laws in the nation's history.

Now, more than four decades later, sections of the act are set to expire.
The looming expiration date - Aug. 6, 2007 - has ignited debate over the provisions' effectiveness and relevance, and over whether they should be extended.

It also has generated rumors, mostly on the Internet, that black Americans will lose the right to vote en masse next year. The rumors have prompted officials at the U.S. Justice Department to post a notice on their Web site.

"It's important for folks to know that the right to vote - even if those sections expire - will not expire," said Justice Department spokesman Eric W. Holland.

The provisions - last renewed by Congress in 1982 for 25 years - cover a wide range of protections. They allow the government to approve new voting procedures in areas with histories of discrimination and send election monitors to make sure voters are allowed to cast ballots and their votes are counted. The provisions also send officials to register voters in counties where blacks are refused registration.

"It's a myth that we stand to lose the right to vote, but we do stand to lose critical protections that have allowed us to participate fully in the political process," said Debo Adegbile, associate director of litigation at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. "We've seen consistently, even with the provisions in place, continuing efforts to weaken minority voices in the electoral process."

The provisions also require interpreters and translated election materials in precincts with high populations of non-white voters who have difficulty understanding English, said Margaret Fung, executive director of the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund.

The issue has slowly been making its way through Congress and the Justice Department and President Bush both support renewing the provisions. Some opponents, however, question whether the provisions remain relevant and effective.

Edward J. Blum, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, testified before a congressional committee recently that the provisions are outdated.

"Bull Connor is dead," he said, referring to the notorious segregationist police commissioner in Birmingham, Ala. "And so is every Jim Crow-era segregationist intent on keeping blacks from the polls."

In 1965, Congress found "rampant racial discrimination" in Southern elections, he said. "By today however, the data simply do not support a similar finding."

But Adegbile, the NAACP defense fund lawyer, said some provisions in the law are important, especially a section that requires federal approval for election changes.

Adegbile said that in Louisiana alone, the Justice Department has blocked nearly 100 proposed election changes since 1982. The changes, he said, would have diminished or weakened minority voter participation.

The debate continues as election troubles from 2000 and 2004 remain a sore spot for many. Long lines, flawed lists of ineligible voters, faulty ballots and machines - often in predominantly black precincts - were among the problems that plagued the elections.

Although those troubles had "racial overtones," they were considered administrative glitches, which the 2002 Help America Vote Act supposedly addresses for all voters, Adegbile said.

Most of the sections about to expire, he explained, resulted from blatantly race-based, often violent tactics, such as the 1965 Pettus bridge attack.

Before then, blacks already had voting rights, in theory at least, Adegbile pointed out. Shortly after the Civil War, the 15th Amendment gave formerly enslaved African-Americans voting rights.

"But for nearly 100 years it was ignored and we lived through a long and infamous period during which America espoused high constitutional principles but lived low anti-democratic practices," Adegbile said, referring to poll taxes and other practices used to keep black citizens from voting.

Without the Voting Rights Act and the provisions set to expire, "the 15th Amendment would've continued to be a dead letter," he said.

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Report: McKinney Punches Cop

Michael King

According to sources on Capitol Hill, U.S. Representative Cynthia McKinney (D-GA) punched a Capitol police officer on Wednesday afternoon after he mistakenly pursued her for failing to pass through a metal detector.

Members of Congress are not required to pass through metal detectors.

Sources say that the officer was at a position in the Longworth House Office Building, and neither recognized McKinney, nor saw her credentials as she went around the metal detector.

The officer called out, "Ma'am, Ma'am," and walked after her in an attempt to stop her. When he caught McKinney, he grabbed her by the arm.

Witnesses say McKinney pulled her arm away, and with her cell phone in hand, punched the officer in the chest.

According to the Drudge Report, the entire incident is on tape. Drudge continues, "The cop is pressing charges, and the USCP (United States Capitol Police) are waiting until Congress adjourns to arrest her, a source claims."

No charges have been filed. Capitol Police spokeswoman Sgt. Kimberly Schneider says that senior officials have been made aware of the incident and are investigating.

An unconfirmed statement attributed to McKinney has been released on the Internet, where she allegedly claims to have been harassed by Capitol Hill Police.

The statement's writer says that she has been harassed by white police officers she says do not recognize her due to her recently changed hairstyle.

"Do I have to contact the police every time I change my hairstyle? How do we account for the fact that when I wore my braids every day for 11 years, I still faced this problem, primarily from certain white police officers," the statement says.

The writer details the incident, saying, "I was rushing to my meeting when a white police officer yelled to me. He approached me, bodyblocked me, physically touching me. I used my arm to get him off of me. I told him not to touch me several times. He asked for my ID and I showed it to him. He then let me go and I proceeded to my meeting and I assume that the Police Officer resumed his duties. I have counseled with the Sergeant-at-Arms and Acting Assistant Chief Thompson several times before and counseled with them again on today's incident. I offered also to counsel with the offending police officer."

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That racism thang

Friday, March 31, 2006
David Neiwert

Max Blumenthal has an excellent piece up at The Nation regarding how conservatives have co-opted so much of the longtime white supremacist agenda that now the extremist right is looking for new ways to attract followers:
Back in those good old times, in 1982, explaining the Klan's anti-immigrant advocacy, Duke said, "Every new immigrant adds to our crime problems, our welfare rolls and unemployment of American citizens.... We are being invaded in the southwest as if a foreign army were coming over the border.... They're going to take more and more hard-earned money from the productive middle class in the form of taxes and social programs." And Duke called for the deportation of all undocumented immigrants and harsh penalties for businesses that employ them. "I'd make the Mexican-American border almost like a Maginot line," he said, referring to the militarized barrier France constructed between itself, Italy and Germany after World War I.

At the time, Duke was widely dismissed as little more than a turbo-charged version of the paranoid style--"the Klan's answer to Robert Redford," as reporter Patty Sims described him in 1978. But today his anti-immigration rhetoric sounds not so remote from one of top-rated CNN host Lou Dobbs's fulminations during his daily "Broken Borders" segment. Duke's Klan Border Watch, meanwhile, served as the forerunner and inspiration of the Dobbs-touted Minutemen groups that have proliferated from the Mexico border to Herndon, Virginia, the city that hosted the American Renaissance conference, where disgruntled locals hold regular protests outside a day-labor center. Under pressure from Colorado Representative Tom Tancredo, chair of the House Immigration Reform Caucus, and with sponsorship from House Judiciary Committee chair James Sensenbrenner (tough-talking heir to the Kotex fortune), the Republican-dominated House has approved a bill that makes it a felony to be in the United States illegally, mandates punishment for providing aid or shelter to undocumented immigrants and allocates millions for the construction of an iron wall between the United States and Mexico. Duke may have fallen short on the national stage, but his old notions have gained a new life through new political figures.

"Tancredo, he's pretty good. I would probably vote for him for President," Duke told me.

For self-proclaimed white nationalists, however, the mainstreaming of some of their ideas has created new challenges. "Immigration was the white nationalist movement's hot issue, but it's really left beyond them," said Devin Burghart, director of the Building Democracy Initiative at the Center for New Community, a Chicago-based civil rights group. "They've gone through this before, where they've had to reinvent themselves. Now, they're searching for a new issue to take them forward."

The clearest example of the way these far-right memes have invaded the conservative mainstream is provided by Michelle Malkin, particularly in her latest column:
Two weeks ago, I wrote about Autum Ashante, the precocious 7-year-old black nationalist poet, who said white people are "devils and they should be gone." If this daughter of a Nation of Islam activist father had instead been an Aryan supremacist child of a Klan activist, she'd still be all over the network news and pages of pop culture magazines (as a pair of white nationalist teen pop singers, Lamb and Lynx Gaede, have been since last fall). But with rare exceptions, nobody wanted to touch Autum's spoon-fed hatred with a 10-foot-pole. That would be, you know, "intolerant." We have to "respect diversity."

Of course, it always helps to understand that the Nation of Islam is also widely considered to be a racist hate group, and in fact is designated that by the Southern Poverty Law Center. So perhaps it shouldn't surprise us that the daughter of one of the group's leaders is penning racist poetry. And saying so is the opposite of "intolerant."

It should also be noted that her characterization of the treatment of the Gaede twins neglects to mention that their story was originally presented in Teen People without any mention of the fact that they are neo-Nazis.

But the really egregious stuff is what follows:
Aztlan is a long-held notion among Mexico's intellectual elite and political class, which asserts that the American southwest rightly belongs to Mexico. Advocates believe the reclamation (or reconquista) of Aztlan will occur through sheer demographic force. If the rallies across the country are any indication, reconquista is already complete.

The problem is, as I've >pointed out previously, the whole notion of "reconquista" as a plot to invade America is just another far-right conspiracy theory that has floated about among extremists for years and is now surfacing, like the fetid turd of an idea it is, in the mainstream punch bowl.

Alex Koppelman at Dragonfire explores this point in some depth:
You might expect Malkin to give her readers some evidence that Aztlan really is "a long-held notion among Mexico's intellectual elite and political class," but she never does.

Why? Because Aztlan and reconquista these days aren't, for the most part, ideas held by Mexicans: they're ideas held by white supremacists and neo-Nazis. The myth of reconquista stems from a misreading of one of the founding documents of the Chicano movement, "El Plan Espiritual de Aztlan."

In much the same way that the Black Power movement meant the words "Black Power" in a metaphorical sense, that is, as a call to African-Americans to recognize after years of being stigmatized that they too were people with something to contribute to society, "El Plan Espiritual de Aztlan" was an appeal to nationalism as a means to achieve a greater self-awareness and self-esteem.

But that's not the way some white supremacists, fearful of a brown mass ready to take over the United States, has interpreted it.

A simple Google search shows that the people talking about Aztlan and reconquista are predominantly not Mexican (though there are some radical fringe groups) but white supremacists.

Moreover, as I explained in some depth, it's really a fairly simple thing to distinguish racist hate groups from ethnic-heritage groups: the latter are almost exclusively obsessed with degrading and demonizing "out" groups, while the latter are largely about lifting up and promoting the group they represent (this is, in fact, the chief factor in the SPLC's "hate group" designations). Just as the Klan reveals itself more through its actions than its words, so do groups like MEChA:
For those who would argue that a group like MEChA is only nascent in its racism, and could eventually wreak such horrors if its agenda flamed out of control, it is worth remembering that racist organizations nearly always display their true colors almost immediately. The Klan, as just seen, was violent and terroristic from the start; so, too, were the European fascists, particularly during the fascista and SA years.

And what has MEChA done? Advocate for increasing the numbers of Latinos in higher education. Organize student rallies. Emphasize self-determination.

Here is how one commenter named "cat" on Atrios' boards put it:

MeCHA has been an integral part of student life for decades; many, if not most, of my Chicano friends and acquaintances were involved with it; it was then and probably is now an advocacy organization which worked to bring Chicanos (now Latinos) into the educational institutions, to feed and clothe underprivileged children in the community, including those of the migrant farmworkers, was involved with Caesar Chavez in advocating for better working conditions for the migrant workers, and provided tutoring, mentoring, and fellowship for students, as do many other student organizations.

This view is one expressed consistently by people who have experience with MEChA. Among these is O. Ricardo Pimentel, a columnist for the Arizona Republic, who recently penned a column addressing the current campaign from the right, "California coup plays a race card on Bustamante":

But let us acknowledge that MEChA was born in the racial turmoil and rhetoric leading up to 1969. Its founding historical documents, El Plan de Aztlan and El Plan de Santa Barbara, contain incendiary language.

But the truth is, few joining even back then were thinking of overthrowing government. They were talking about changing society, for the better.

"We all understood the history of MEChA," says Loredo, a MEChA president at Phoenix College in 1987. "We took it in the context of the times, 1969 (the founding year)."

To liberate Aztlan, Loredo and other MEChistas pushed to get more Latinos into college and performed community service. Many, like Bustamante, entered public service.

MEChA elsewhere also led walkouts and protests to form Chicano studies programs and to push for more Chicano faculty hires.

Indeed, Republicans who wish to push the argument that MEChA is racist might want to talk to Mike Madrid, an advisor to the GOP on Latino affairs (and someone for whom this meme is probably the biggest nightmare since Proposition 187), who had this to say in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle:

"It's bizarre to assume this is some kind of radical group, seeking to overthrow part of the United States," said Mike Madrid, who has worked on Latino affairs for the state Republican Party. "It was part of the Brown Beret and Chicano studies movement, but it's mainly a social group and has been for years. To suggest it's involved in paramilitary training or some underhanded conspiracy is ludicrous."

In spite of this, Malkin goes on to argue:
Apologists are quick to argue that Latino supremacists are just a small fringe faction of the pro-illegal immigration movement (never mind that their ranks include former and current Hispanic politicians from L.A. mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to former California Democratic gubernatorial candidate Cruz Bustamante).

But you'll never hear or read such forgiving caveats in the mainstream press's hostile coverage of the pro-immigration enforcement members of the Minutemen Project-who are universally smeared as racists. For what? For peacefully demanding that our government enforce its laws and secure its borders.

Actually, the Minutemen are not "smeared" as racists for peacefully demanding that our government enforce its laws and secure it borders.

They're accurately described as racists and extremists because their ranks are riddled throughout with racists and extremists, something similarly reflected in their leadership. Because their agenda and their rhetoric is predicated on demonizing Hispanics. Because of their origins in the militia movement. Because their vigilantism is the mark not of civic activists, but of violent extremists.

But then, it's not surprising that Malkin continues to defend the Minutemen while continuing to spread far-right conspiracy theories. After all, this is part of a well-established pattern:
Malkin, in fact, has numerous dalliances with right-wing extremists -- the real ones that she claims conservatives are busy policing.

The most vivid instance of this is her long association with VDare, which has been designated a hate group by the SPLC, and for good cause:

Fast forward to 2003. Once a relatively mainstream anti-immigration page, VDARE has now become a meeting place for many on the radical right.

One essay complains about how the government encourages "the garbage of Africa" to come to the United States. The same writer says once the "Mexican invasion" engulfs the country, "high teenage birthrates, poverty, ignorance and disease will be what remains."

Another says that Hispanics have a "significantly higher level of social pathology than American whites. ... In other words, some immigrants are better than others." Yet another complains that a Jewish immigrant rights group is helping "African Muslim refugees" come to America.

Brimelow's site carries archives of columns from men like Sam Francis, who is the editor of the newspaper of the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens, a group whose Web page recently described blacks as "a retrograde species of humanity."

It has run articles by Jared Taylor, the editor of the white supremacist American Renaissance magazine, which specializes in dubious race and IQ studies and eugenics, the "science" of "race betterment" through selective breeding.

As I've said before, Malkin's In Defense of Internment is likewise of a piece of this same willingness to indulge views that are by any measure bigoted, and in some cases, extremist, by ignoring the latent bigotry and its broader ramifications.

These are hardly the only instances. Let's not forget her link in a blog post to an anti-immigrant site operated by an extremist Holocaust-denial organization. (The link is still up.)

Then there are the Minutemen, hailed by Malkin as "the mother of all neighborhood watch programs", and defended with regularity on her blog. As I've observed numerous times, the Minutemen are a magnet for the most extreme racists and xenophobes in America, and their claims to be "weeding out" such extremists are so much hooey.

After all, not only is the Minuteman Project directly descended from the militia movement, the Minuteman leader have a history of extremism. And they haven't changed their stripes, their media makeover notwithstanding. Jim Gilchrist, one of the Minuteman Project cofounders, is currently running for Congress under the banner of the far-right Constitution Party -- which itself is closely bound up with promoting the militia movement. And then there are the charming folks who show up for Minuteman parties.

Given Malkin's extraordinarily high tolerance for right-wing extremism -- indeed, her open participation in advancing their agenda -- it's probably not any wonder that the presence of right-wing extremism, and its positive embrace by the mainstream conservative movement, is simply left out of her narrative.

After all, if you think racial hygienists like Jared Taylor and Steve Sailer and the rest of the VDare gang are "normal," well, then what "real extremists on the right" remain for people like Michelle Malkin to denounce?

Malkin has never explained her continued association with VDare, and it's plain why. Much of her career of the past five years has been built on these associations. Playing a bogus race card is a handy way of disguising that.

Perhaps Malkin can spare us the lectures on racism -- at least until she explains her own behavior. Maybe then we'll have some sense whether she actually understands what racism is about.

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Iran n Iraq

Iran rejects call to halt enrichment

Compiled by Daily Star staff
Friday, March 31, 2006

Iran refused Thursday to comply with a UN Security Council demand to freeze uranium enrichment, defying a call by major world powers to curb its nuclear program or face isolation. Iran struck the defiant stance as foreign ministers of the Security Council's permanent members plus Germany met in Berlin to chart their next moves in the standoff.
The meeting came a day after the Security Council adopted a statement calling for an enrichment freeze and a report from the IAEA on Iranian compliance in 30 days.

But Iran swiftly hit back. "Iran's decision on enrichment, particularly research and development is irreversible," Iranian ambassador to the IAEA Aliasghar Soltanieh in Vienna said.

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, speaking at the Geneva-based Conference on Disarmament, slammed the UN declaration as an "angry precedent" and a "bad move."

He said the International Atomic Energy Agency should be left to handle the case and described the council request for an IAEA report as "nothing short of injustice, double standards and power politics."

But he added that "we are willing to continue with negotiations [with the IAEA] and also continue with our sincere and constructive cooperation with the agency," Mottaki said.

In Berlin, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said the top world body might pass a legally binding resolution if Iran did not comply with the non-binding presidential statement, opening the way to future measures against the Islamic Republic.

Asked if such action could include sanctions, Straw told reporters: "It could do."

But IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei said Iran posed no imminent threat and imposing sanctions on Tehran would be a "bad idea."

"We need to lower the pitch," ElBaradei told a forum in the Qatari capital, Doha.

"Nobody has the right to punish Iran for enrichment," he said. "We have not seen nuclear material diverted to a nuclear weapon but we are not saying that the program is used exclusively for peaceful purposes because we still have work to do."

"My message to Iran: the international community is getting impatient and you need to respond by arming me with information," he said.

After the Berlin talks, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the UN declaration was "a strong sign to Iran that negotiation not confrontation should be their course."

"It is now up to Iran to make a choice ... between isolation brought about by its own actions or a return to the negotiating table," added German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the meeting's host.

"If they bring themselves into compliance then all sorts of good things, not bad things, will follow," he added.

Both Steinmeier and Rice dodged questions about the possible use of sanctions.

"Now a 30-day period is running and it is Iran's move. Everything else does not belong in the public domain at the present time," he said.

The UN statement does not say what consequences might follow if Tehran does not halt uranium enrichment, and Russia and China insisted economic sanctions or military action did not belong on the table.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said neither Moscow nor Beijing would tolerate the use of force against Iran. "Any ideas of resolving the matter by compulsion and force are extremely counter-productive," he said.

China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said Beijing believed a diplomatic solution remained possible.

Referring to a previous Iranian suggestion on the "involvement of foreign companies in the Iranian fuel cycle program" inside Iran, Mottaki said: "One possibility to resolve the issue could be the establishment of a regional consortium on fuel cycle development."

Mottaki's statement implied that the consortium would be based in Iran.

He told the permanent conference the center could involve "regional countries which have already developed fuel cycle programs at the national level and intend to develop further their program for civilian purposes."

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Russian warning over Iran crisis

BBC News

Russia has warned it will not support any attempts to use force to resolve the stand-off over Iran's controversial nuclear programme.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that "exclusively political methods should be used".

His remarks come as the UN Security Council's five permanent members prepare to discuss the issue Thursday.

All 15 members of the council are studying a new, third version of a draft statement on Iran.

The statement - drawn up by France and the UK - urges Tehran to suspend uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities.

It puts more emphasis on the UN's nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), giving it a longer timeframe to report back on Iran's compliance with demands.

The US and many other Western nations on the IAEA board suspect that Iran is secretly trying to develop nuclear weapons.

Tehran says its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes only.

Berlin meeting

"The non-proliferation regime must remain the only issue, and no use of force can be supported," Mr Lavrov said in Moscow.

He stressed that a strategy for the settlement of Iran's nuclear crisis should be "based on IAEA recommendations".

Mr Lavrov was speaking ahead of a meeting of top diplomats from the five UN veto-wielding nations - Russia, the US, UK, France and China - in the German capital, Berlin, to discuss the issue. Germany will also be taking part in the talks.

The UK, France and the US would like agreement on the latest draft statement before the Berlin talks start, reports the BBC's Susannah Price in New York.

Ambassadors from the five permanent members of the UN have already discussed the draft.

The US ambassador to the UN, John Bolton, has said they reached agreement on the bulk of the text but still had some way to go.

Repeated calls

The UK and France hope their latest version of the statement will win approval from China and Russia.

Moscow is concerned that Security Council involvement could lead to sanctions against Iran and it wants the IAEA to take the lead, our correspondent says.

The latest draft repeats the call for Iran to suspend its uranium enrichment activities, but omits some of the detailed demands - referring instead to an IAEA resolution on the issue.

It again calls for the IAEA's director general to report back on Iran's compliance, but extends the deadline from 14 to 30 days.

And while it no longer says the proliferation of nuclear weapons is a threat to international peace and security, the draft statement does refer to the Security Council's responsibility to maintain peace.

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Fool Me Twice

By Joseph Cirincione
Posted March 27, 2006

I used to think that the Bush administration wasn't seriously considering a military strike on Iran, because it would only accelerate Iran's nuclear program. But what we're seeing and hearing on Iran today seems awfully familiar. That may be because some U.S. officials have already decided they want to hit Iran hard.
Does this story line sound familiar? The vice president of the United States gives a major speech focused on the threat from an oil-rich nation in the Middle East. The U.S. secretary of state tells congress that the same nation is our most serious global challenge. The secretary of defense calls that nation the leading supporter of global terrorism. The president blames it for attacks on U.S. troops. The intelligence agencies say the nuclear threat from this nation is 10 years away, but the director of intelligence paints a more ominous picture. A new U.S. national security strategy trumpets preemptive attacks and highlights the country as a major threat. And neoconservatives beat the war drums, as the cable media banner their stories with words like "countdown" and "showdown."

The nation making headlines today, of course, is Iran, not Iraq. But the parallels are striking. Three years after senior administration officials systematically misled the nation into a disastrous war, they could well be trying to do it again.

Nothing is clear, yet. For months, I have told interviewers that no senior political or military official was seriously considering a military attack on Iran. In the last few weeks, I have changed my view. In part, this shift was triggered by colleagues with close ties to the Pentagon and the executive branch who have convinced me that some senior officials have already made up their minds: They want to hit Iran.

I argued with my friends. I pointed out that a military strike would be disastrous for the United States. It would rally the Iranian public around an otherwise unpopular regime, inflame anti-American anger around the Muslim world, and jeopardize the already fragile U.S. position in Iraq. And it would accelerate, not delay, the Iranian nuclear program. Hard-liners in Tehran would be proven right in their claim that the only thing that can deter the United States is a nuclear bomb. Iranian leaders could respond with a crash nuclear program that could produce a bomb in a few years.

My friends reminded me that I had said the same about Iraq-that I was the last remaining person in Washington who believed President George W. Bush when he said that he was committed to a diplomatic solution. But this time, it is the administration's own statements that have convinced me. What I previously dismissed as posturing, I now believe may be a coordinated campaign to prepare for a military strike on Iran.

The unfolding administration strategy appears to be an effort to repeat its successful campaign for the Iraq war. It is now trying to link Iran to the 9/11 attacks by repeatedly claiming that Iran is the main state sponsor of terrorism in the world (though this suggestion is highly questionable). It is also attempting to make the threat urgent by arguing that Iran might soon pass a "point of no return" if it can perfect the technology of enriching uranium, even though many other nations have gone far beyond Iran's capabilities and stopped their programs short of weapons. And, of course, it is now publicly linking Iran to the Iraqi insurgency and the improvised explosive devices used to kill and maim U.S. troops in Iraq, though Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Peter Pace admitted there is no evidence to support this claim.

If diplomacy fails, the administration might be able to convince leading Democrats to back a resolution for the use of force against Iran. Many Democrats have been trying to burnish a hawkish image and place themselves to the right of the president on this issue. They may find themselves trapped by their own rhetoric, particularly those with presidential ambitions.

The factual debate during the next six months will revolve around the threat assessment. How close is Iran to developing the ability to enrich uranium for fuel or bombs? Is there a secret weapons program? Are there secret underground facilities? What would it mean if small-scale enrichment experiments succeed?

Fortunately, we know more about Iran's nuclear program now than we ever knew about Iraq's (or, for that matter, those of India, Israel, and Pakistan). International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors have been in Iran for more than 3 years investigating all claims of weapons-related work. The United States has satellite reconnaissance, covert programs, and Iranian dissidents providing further information. The key now is to get all this information on the table for an open debate.

The administration should now declassify the information it used to estimate how long it will be until Iran has the capability to make a bomb. The Washington Post reported last August that this national intelligence estimate says Iran is a decade away. We need to see the basis for this judgment and all, if any, dissenting opinions. The congressional intelligence committees should be conducting their own reviews of the assessments, including open hearings with independent experts and IAEA officials. Influential groups, such as the Council on Foreign Relations, should conduct their own sessions and studies.

An accurate and fully understood assessment of the status and potential of Iran's nuclear program is the essential basis for any policy. We cannot let the political or ideological agenda of a small group determine a national security decision that could create havoc in a critical area of the globe. Not again.

Joseph Cirincione is director for non-proliferation at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Comment: This guy is living in a dream-world if he thinks any of his proposals for openness and putting the information on the table will ever happen under this administration. It is the most secretive in history, keeping everything under lock and key.

Cirincione just doesn't get the depth of the problem. Does it occur to him that fomenting strife between Sunni and Shi'ite in Iraq and promoting the idea that Iran is behind the Shi'ites could have been the strategy to justify war on Iran? How much of what has passed for "civil war" in Iraq has been the work of false flag operations meant to create that impression?

Iraq has been a set-up from the beginning. Yes, part of the story is that the oil dons in the Bush administration wanted to get their hands on Iraq's oil fields. But the other part of the story is that Irasel has had as its strategic obective for over twenty years the dismemberment of the Arab world. Chaos in the Middle East is their goal.

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Iraq leader warns U.S. to stop interfering

By Edward Wong The New York Times
MARCH 30, 2006

In the face of growing pressure from the Bush administration for him to step down, Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari of Iraq on Wednesday vigorously asserted his right to stay in office and warned the Americans against undue interference in Iraq's political process.

Jaafari also defended his recent political alliance with the radical anti-American Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr, now the prime minister's most powerful backer, saying in an interview that Sadr and his thousands-strong militia were a fact of life in Iraq and needed to be accepted into mainstream politics.
Jaafari said he would work to fold the country's myriad militias into the official security forces and ensure that recruits and top security ministers abandon their ethnic or sectarian loyalties.

The existence of militias has emerged as the greatest source of contention between American officials and Shiite leaders like Jaafari, with the American ambassador arguing in the past week that militias are killing more people than the Sunni Arab-led insurgency. Dozens of bodies, garroted or killed with gunshots to the head, turn up almost daily in Baghdad, fueling sectarian tensions that are pushing Iraq closer to full-scale civil war.

The embattled Jaafari made his remarks in an hourlong interview with The New York Times at his home, a Saddam Hussein-era palace with an artificial lake at the heart of the fortified Green Zone. He spoke in a calm manner, relaxing in a black pinstripe suit in a ground floor office lined with books like the multivolume "The World of Civilizations."

"There was a stand from both the American government and President Bush to promote a democratic policy and protect its interests," he said. "But now there's concern among the Iraqi people that the democratic process is being threatened."

"The source of this is that some American figures have made statements that interfere with the results of the democratic process," he said. "These reservations began when the biggest bloc in Parliament chose its candidate for prime minister."

The bookish, soft-spoken Jaafari is at the center of the deadlock in talks over forming a new government, with the main Kurdish, Sunni Arab and secular blocs in the 275-member Parliament staunchly opposing the Shiite bloc's nomination of Jaafari for prime minister.

Senior Shiite politicians said Tuesday that the American ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad, had weighed in over the weekend, telling the leader of the Shiite bloc that President George W. Bush did not want Jaafari as prime minister. That was the first time the Americans had openly expressed a preference for the occupant of post, the politicians said, and it showed the Bush administration's acute impatience over the stagnant political process. Relations between Shiite leaders and the Americans have been fraying for months, and reached a crisis point after a bloody assault on a Shiite mosque compound Sunday night by American and Iraqi forces.

Jaafari said in the interview that Khalilzad had visited him Wednesday morning, but had not indicated that Jaafari should abandon his job. The two spoke about forming the government, he said.

American reactions to the political process can be seen as either supporting or interfering in Iraqi decisions, said Jaafari, head of the Islamic Dawa Party and a former exile in Iran and London. "When it takes the form of interference, it makes the Iraqi people worried," he added. "For that reason, the Iraqi people want to ensure that these reactions stay in a positive frame and do not cross over into interference that damages the results of the democratic process."

According to the Constitution, the largest bloc in Parliament, in this case the religious Shiites, has the right to nominate a prime minister. Jaafari won that nomination in a secret ballot last month among the 130 Shiite members of Parliament. But his victory was a narrow one: He came out on top by only one vote after getting the support of Sadr, who controls 32 seats.

That alliance has ignited concern among the Americans that Jaafari will do little to rein in Sadr, who led two fierce rebellions against the U.S. military in 2004. Sadr's militia, the Mahdi Army, went rampaging in Baghdad after the Feb. 22 bombing of a revered Shiite shrine in Samarra and after a series of car bomb explosions on March 12 in Baghdad's Sadr City neighborhood. The violence left hundreds dead and Sunni mosques burned to the ground.

After the secret ballot last month, Sadr politicians said Jaafari had agreed to meet all their political demands in exchange for their votes. Sadr has been pushing for control of service ministries like health, transportation and electricity.

Jaafari did not say in the interview what deals he had cut with Sadr, but asserted that engagement with the cleric's movement was needed for the stability of Iraq. He said he had disagreed with L. Paul Bremer 3rd, the former U.S. proconsul, when Bremer barred Sadr and some Sunni Arab groups from the Iraqi Governing Council in 2003.

"The delay in getting them to join led to the situation of them becoming violent elements," he said. "I look at them as part of Iraq's de facto reality, whether some of the individual people are negative or positive. Anyone who's part of the Iraqi reality should be part of the Iraqi house."

Jaafari used similar language when laying out his policy toward militias - that inclusion rather than isolation was the proper strategy. The Iraqi government, he said, will try "to meld them, take them, take their names and make them join the army and police forces. And they will respect the army or police rather than the militias."

Recruiting militia members into the Iraqi security forces has not been a problem under the Jaafari government. The issue has been getting those fighters to act as impartial defenders of the state rather than as political partisans.

The police forces are stocked with members of the Mahdi Army and the Badr Organization, an Iranian-trained militia, who still exhibit obvious loyalties to their political party leaders. The police forces have performed poorly when ordered to contain militia violence, as in the aftermath of the Samarra shrine bombing. They even cruise around in some cities with images of Sadr or other religious politicians on their squad cars.

There is growing evidence of uniformed death squads operating out of the Shiite-run Interior Ministry, and Khalilzad has been lobbying the Iraqis to place nonsectarian people in charge of the Interior and Defense ministries in the next government. That has caused friction with Shiite leaders. Some have even accused the ambassador of implicitly backing the Sunni-led insurgency. But Jaafari said he supported the goal of the Americans.

"We insist that the ministers in the next cabinet, especially the ministers of defense and the interior, shouldn't be connected to any militias, and they should be non-sectarian," he said. "They should be experienced in security work. They should keep the institutions as security institutions, not as political institutions. They should work for the central government."

So far, the entire Shiite bloc has publicly backed Jaafari despite the growing opposition to his candidacy. But the alliance could split over this issue. Adel Abdul Mahdi, the American-favored politician who lost to Jaafari in the secret vote, has hinted he would step forward as a candidate again if he had enough support.

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Iraq Shi'ite ayatollah wants US envoy sacked

Fri Mar 31, 2006 08:36 AM ET
By Mariam Karouny

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - A leading Iraqi Shi'ite cleric on Friday demanded the United States sack its envoy, heading a push for a unity government, accusing him of siding with fellow Sunni Muslims in the sectarian conflict gripping the country.Ayatollah Mohammed al-Yacoubi's call at Friday prayers came as political leaders held their latest round of negotiations to form a new government, months after parliamentary elections in December, as sectarian bloodshed rises.

In a sermon read out at mosques for Friday prayers, Yacoubi said Washington had underestimated the conflict between Shi'ites and the once dominant Sunni Arab minority, which many fear threatens to trigger a civil war.

"By this, they are either misled by reports, which lack objectivity and credibility, submitted to the United States by their sectarian ambassador to Iraq ... or they are denying this fact," Yacoubi said in the message, later issued as a statement.

"It (the United States) should not yield to terrorist blackmail and should not be deluded or misled by spiteful sectarians. It should replace its ambassador to Iraq if it wants to protect itself from further failures."


After the imam of Baghdad's Rahman mosque read that line, worshippers chanted "Allahu Akbar" -- God is Greatest.

Iraq's political leaders held their latest round of talks on forming a new government on Friday, under mounting pressure at home and from the United States to form a government of national unity to end the sectarian violence and avert civil war.

Afghan-born ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, the highest ranking Muslim in the U.S. administration has spearheaded urgent U.S. efforts to press politicians to agree on a government embracing Shi'ites, Sunnis and Kurds to avert a sectarian civil war.

The Shi'ite-Sunni bloodshed has worsened dramatically since a major Shi'ite shrine in the city of Samarra was bombed on February 22, sparking a wave of violence and poisoning the political atmosphere during the crucial negotiations.

Hundreds have died since and more than 30,000 people have fled their homes as Shi'ite and Sunni militias seek to cleanse their neighbourhoods.

Yacoubi is the spiritual guide for the Fadhila party, one of the smaller but still influential components of the dominant Islamist Alliance bloc. He is not part of the senior clerical council around Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in Najaf.

Nonetheless, Shi'ite politicians said his comments reflected widespread disenchantment among them with the ambassador.

"It's a very good statement," one senior official in the Alliance, not from Fadhila, said of Yacoubi's sermon.

Khalilzad, who has been in Iraq 10 months, has been criticised by Shi'ite leaders, who openly resent his championing of efforts to tempt Sunnis away from armed revolt into a coalition government.

Yacoubi said: "The American ambassador and the tyrants of the Arab states are giving political support to those parties who provide political cover for the terrorists."


Alliance leader Abdul Aziz al-Hakim accused Khalilzad last month of provoking the Samarra bombing by making remarks critical of "sectarian" tendencies among the Shi'ite leadership.

Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari has also criticised U.S. "interference" this week in Iraq's political process. Jaafari's nomination to a second term by the Alliance is a major sticking point in talks with Sunnis and ethnic Kurds on a government.

Shi'ite politicians say Khalilzad has delivered messages from U.S. President George W. Bush to both Hakim and Sistani in the past week urging them to drop Jaafari, whose nomination was secured with the support of Iranian-backed cleric and militia leader Moqtada al-Sadr.

U.S. diplomats deny taking sides in the issue.

Khalilzad is now planning talks with Iran, Washington's old enemy in the region, to try to ease the crisis in Iraq. The United States accuses Shi'ite Iran of fomenting violence.

Politicians have been debating how to form a new government since parliamentary elections in December, but appear to have made little real progress.

There is also haggling over a Sunni demand for a security veto and the issue of who gets what job remains wide open.

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Britain's casualties of Iraq war total 6,700, MoD says

By Andy McSmith
The Indepedent
31 March 2006

Almost 6,700 Britons have needed hospital treatment in Iraq since the invasion three years ago - almost as many as the total number of British troops still stationed there. About 4,000 were sufficiently injured or ill to be sent home to Britain.

The figures include soldiers and civilians injured in accidents or taken ill, or who have suffered psychological problems, as well as those injured in fighting. They were posted on the Ministry of Defence website yesterday, on the day that MPs dispersed for their Easter break, after months of criticism directed at the Government for refusing to give details about the "forgotten" British casualties.
Even now the MoD admits that some British casualties may have been overlooked, particularly during the invasion itself, "when the tempo of operations meant that some minor injuries may not have been reported in the heat of the action". They also said that they cannot keep a central record of all casualties because it might breach "patient confidentiality".

The MoD stressed that many of the injuries or illnesses treated will have been relatively minor and that the majority who were flown home were ill, rather than injured.

"All casualties suffered by UK forces are a source of profound regret," the Defence Secretary, John Reid, said. "UK personnel have put their lives on the line to help the Iraqis build a strong, stable Iraq and we cannot pay high enough tribute to the job they are doing, or the sacrifice some of them have made."

Labour MPs were staggered by a total for all casualties equivalent to almost the entire British presence in Iraq today. Mr Reid said this month that the number of British troops stationed there is to be cut by 800, to just over 7,000.

Ian Gibson, one of the Labour MPs who has been demanding to know the full casualty figures, said he would write to Mr Reid to ask how many of the 4,000 medical evacuees needed hospital treatment after their return to the UK, and where they were treated.

"MPs will want to know whether any of their constituents are among those 4,000 and whether they are in hospital locally, because if they are they will want to visit them," he said. "Ministers might even like to visit them," he added.

Peter Kilfolye, a former defence minister, whose home city of Liverpool is being visited today by the US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, said: "The first thing that strikes me is when Jack Straw and Condoleezza Rice are strutting around here, perhaps they should be looking at these figures.

"The MoD is finding it extremely difficult to get their figures right. I welcome the fact that they have now made these figures public, but they show that we are paying a far higher price than we realised for what is not a very productive role in Iraq. This is an argument for getting our troops out."

Until this year, the MoD refused to give any casualty figures other than the number of Britons killed in action, which has reached 103. In January, Mr Reid gave out a figure for the number of wounded, but the figure he gave - 230 - raised immediate suspicion that it was too low.

During January this year, 65 Britons required hospital treatment in Iraq, and 56 were sent home on medical grounds. This suggests that the casualty rate has fallen since the worst periods of the conflict, when the figure was in the hundreds.

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Zionism in Action

Paper on Israel Lobby Raises Hackles, but Fails to Gain Traction in Congress

By Ron Kampeas
Combined Jewish Philanthropies

WASHINGTON, March 29 (JTA) – Two weeks after two prominent political science professors published a paper that they promised would expose the pro-Israel lobby in the United States, the collective reaction so far suggests they get a D for impact.
"The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy," by John Mearsheimer, a professor of political science at the University of Chicago, and Stephen Walt, a professor of international affairs at Harvard's John. F. Kennedy School of Government, has been the subject of numerous Op-Eds -- which generally have discredited it -- but has been all but ignored in the halls of Congress, its purported target.

Among other assertions, the paper suggests that the pro-Israel lobby -- and particularly the American Israel Public Affairs Committee -- have helped make the United States more vulnerable to terrorist attacks, steered the country into the Iraq war, silenced debate on campuses and in the media, cost the United States friends throughout the world and corrupted U.S. moral standing.

The paper's "disagreement is not with America's pro-Israel lobby, but with the American people, who overwhelmingly support our relationship with Israel," said an official with a pro-Israel lobbying organization in Washington.

The Anti-Defamation League called the paper "an amateurish and biased critique of Israel, American Jews, and American policy."

Especially outrageous, some said, are the paper's insinuations that Jewish officials in government are somehow suspect.

"Not only are these charges wildly at variance with what I have personally witnessed in the Oval Office, but they also impugn the unstinting service to America's national security by public figures like Dennis Ross, Martin Indyk and many others," David Gergen, Walt's fellow academic at the Kennedy School and a veteran of four administrations, wrote in an opinion piece in the New York Daily News.

One of the few positive reviews came from white supremacist David Duke, who said the authors reiterate points he has been making for years.

The controversy passed almost unnoticed on Capitol Hill. A statement from Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) was typical of the few who bothered to pay attention to the paper, which Nadler called "little more than a repackaging of old conspiracy theories, historical revisionism, and a distorted understanding of U.S. strategic interest."

U.S. support of Israel was no mystery, Nadler said: "Israel is our only democratic and reliable ally in an extremely volatile and strategically important region. It is in our nation's best interests to maintain that alliance."

The authors anticipated silence, arguing that the Israel lobby is "manipulating the media" because "an open debate might cause Americans to question the level of support that they currently provide."

The problem with that theory is that some of the harshest criticism of the paper has come from individuals and groups who have long called for changes in how the United States deals with Israel. "It was a lot of warmed-over arguments that have been tossed about for years, brought together in a rather unscholarly fashion and presented as a Harvard document, clearly not deserving of the title," said Lewis Roth, assistant executive director of Americans for Peace Now, a group that has argued for increased U.S. pressure on Israel to achieve a peace agreement.

In fact, Mearsheimer and Walt have quietly removed the imprimatur of the Harvard and Kennedy schools that originally appeared on the paper. Walt holds the Robert and Renee Belfer professorship at the Kennedy School, and the paper appalled Robert Belfer, a major donor to Jewish causes, according to a report in the New York Sun. The chair is the equivalent of an academic dean at the Kennedy School, one of the most influential foreign policy centers in the United States.

"It read more like an opinion piece than serious research, and even as opinion it was so overreaching in some of its claims," Roth said. "It didn't have a lot of utility."

One of the harshest critics of the paper was Noam Chomsky, the political theorist who routinely excoriates the U.S.-Israel relationship. He ridiculed the paper's central "wag the dog" thesis, that the United States has "been willing to set aside its own security in order to advance the interests of another state."

Walt and Mearsheimer "have a highly selective use of evidence (and much of the evidence is assertion)," Chomsky wrote in an e-mail to followers. One example, he says, is how the paper cites Israel's arms sales to China as evidence that the Jewish state detracts from U.S. security interests.

"But they fail to mention that when the U.S. objected, Israel was compelled to back down: under Clinton in 2000, and again in 2005, in this case with the Washington neo-con regime going out of its way to humiliate Israel," Chomsky notes.

Walt and Mearsheimer see as interchangeable the pro-Israel lobby and the neo-conservatives who have developed Bush's foreign policy.

One of the paper's more curious conclusions is that "what sets the Israel Lobby apart is its extraordinary effectiveness. But there is nothing improper about American Jews and their Christian allies attempting to sway U.S. policy towards Israel."

If so, it begs the question of why Walt and Mearsheimer set out to write the paper. Mearsheimer did not return a call for comment.

In other areas, the paper gets facts wrong, for example when it says Israel wanted to sell its Lavie fighter aircraft to the United States, when it was strictly a domestic project.

According to the writers, "pressure from Israel and the Lobby was not the only factor behind the U.S. decision to attack Iraq in March 2003, but it was a critical element."

Off the record, Jewish officials here reverse that equation, saying their support for the Iraq war was necessary in order to curry favor with a White House that was hell-bent on war. In fact, the adventure unsettled many Israeli and Jewish officials because of concerns that the principal beneficiary would be Iran.

"That really jumped out at me," Roth said. "Among nasty neighbors, Iran was clearly the greater threat."

Jewish groups and individuals at first were reluctant to react to a paper they saw as impugning their patriotism, but in time they could not resist. Detailed debunkings of Walt and Mearsheimer have proliferated.

Some of these, notably by fellow Harvard professors Ruth Wisse and Alan Dershowitz, have likened the writers to Duke -- a former leader of the Ku Klux Klan -- and other anti-Semites.

For some Jews, however, the criticism proved that despite the paper's flaws, it correctly identified a symptom afflicting discussion of Israel: a tendency to dismiss all criticism as anti-Semitism.

"Even if the paper is as bad as its critics say, that does not obviate the need to respond to the points it makes," said Eric Alterman, a media critic for The Nation. "So far, most of what I am seeing is mere character assassination of exactly the kind I, also, experience whenever I take up the issue. This leads me to conclude the point of most -- but not all -- of the criticism is to shut down debate because AIPAC partisans are wary of seeing their arguments and tactics subjected to scrutiny of any kind."

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US professors accused of being liars and bigots over essay on pro-Israeli lobby (Surprise Surprise)

Julian Borger in Washington
Friday March 31, 2006
The Guardian

An article by two prominent American professors arguing that the pro-Israel lobby exerts a dominant and damaging influence on US foreign policy has triggered a furious row, pitting allegations of anti-semitism against claims of intellectual intimidation.

Stephen Walt, the academic dean of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, and John Mearsheimer, a political science professor at the University of Chicago, published two versions of the essay, the Israel Lobby, in the London Review of Books and on a Harvard website.

The pro-Israel lobby and its sway over American policy has always been a controversial issue, but the professors' bluntly worded polemic created a firestorm, drawing condemnation from left and right of the political spectrum.

Professor Walt's fellow Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz - criticised in the article as an "apologist" for Israel - denounced the authors as "liars" and "bigots" in the university newspaper, The Harvard Crimson, and compared their arguments to neo-Nazi literature.

"Accusations of powerful Jews behind the scenes are part of the most dangerous traditions of modern anti-semitism," wrote two fellow academics, Jeffrey Herf and Andrei Markovits, in a letter to the London Review of Books. Critics also pointed out that the article had been praised by David Duke, a notorious American white supremacist.

Prof Mearsheimer said the storm of protest proved one of its arguments - that the strength of the pro-Israel lobby stifled debate on US foreign policy.

"We argued in the piece that the lobby goes to great lengths to silence criticism of Israeli policy as well as the US-Israeli relationship, and that its most effective weapon is the charge of anti-semitism," Prof Mearsheimer told The Guardian. "Thus, we expected to be called anti-semites, even though both of us are philo-semites and strongly support the existence of Israel."

He added: "Huge numbers of people know this story to be true but are afraid to say it because they would punished by pro-Israeli forces."
Soon after the publication of the article it was announced that Prof Walt would step down from his job as academic dean at the end of June. However, the Kennedy School and Prof Walt's colleagues said that the move had long been planned.

The Kennedy school removed its cover page from the online version of the article but said in a statement: "The only purpose of that removal was to end public confusion; it was not intended, contrary to some interpretations, to send any signal that the school was also 'distancing' itself from one of its senior professors."

"The University of Chicago and Harvard University have behaved admirably in difficult circumstances. We have had the full support of our respective institutions," Prof Mearsheimer said.

The article argues that the US has "been willing to set aside its own security and that of many of its allies" to advance Israeli interests, largely as a result of pressure from Jewish American groups such as the American Israeli Political Action Committee (AIPAC) allied to pro-Zionist Christian evangelists and influential Jewish neo-conservatives such as former Pentagon officials Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith and Richard Perle. It argues their combined influence was critical in the decision to go to war in Iraq.

Writing in the online magazine, Slate, the British-born journalist Christopher Hitchens criticised the authors' "over-fondness for Jewish name-dropping" and argued that the first occasion the neo-conservatives had a significant influence on foreign policy was to press the Clinton administration to intervene on behalf of Muslims in Bosnia and Kosovo.

No AIPAC officials would comment about the controversy on the record.

Yesterday Prof Mearsheimer said: "We went out of our way to say that the lobby is simply engaging in interest group politics, which is as American as apple pie."

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Two Urban Jewish Democrats Eyeing 'Black Seats' in Congress

March 31, 2006

Hoping to buck daunting political and racial trends, two urban Jewish Democrats are looking to succeed black lawmakers in New York and Tennessee - and they're sparking some resentment from African Americans in the process.
A councilman in New York City, David Yassky, is eyeing the Brooklyn seat being vacated by retiring Rep. Major Owens. A state senator in Memphis, Steve Cohen, is seeking support for a bid to replace Rep. Harold Ford, who is running for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Majority Leader Bill Frist. Both Yassky and Cohen face crowded primary fights, with multiple black candidates potentially splitting the African American vote.

Josh Kraushaar, editor of noted political tip sheet House Race Hotline, called the New York and Tennessee races "unique" because "there are so many candidates" and neither state has rules mandating a runoff if no candidate earns a majority, so whoever gains the most votes wins. "With these districts' demographics, you could easily get the white vote and you've won the election," Kraushaar said. "In the past four or five election cycles, there hasn't been anything quite like this."

If successful, Yassky and Cohen would be resurrecting an older pattern. Until the mid-1990s, Jewish Democrats, including Stephen Solarz of New York, Herb Klein of New Jersey and William Lehman of Florida, represented significant numbers of minority voters. But starting in the early 1990s, many minority voters were packed into new districts where they constituted a majority. The strategy resulted in the election of more black and Latino representatives, sometimes at the expense of white Democratic office holders.

Martin Frost, a former Texas lawmaker who in the late 1990s served as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee for two election cycles, did not hold out much hope for the Jewish candidates. "It's difficult for an Anglo member to be elected in a district that has previously been represented by an African American - difficult, but not impossible," said Frost, who is Jewish, but represented a district in which about 26% of voters were black and 21% were Hispanic before Republicans redistricted him out of a seat.

"If he's running against an African American, the trend has been set," Frost added. "The African American community feels ownership of the district."

Yassky and Cohen - both liberals who have championed issues of special interest to minority voters, such as bolstering public education, increasing access to health care and housing, and restoring felons' voting rights - contend their records demonstrate that they'd be forceful and faithful advocates of the district's interests.

"The majority of voters [in the district] are African American. It's their seat and it will remain in their hands," Yassky, a one-time aide to Senator Charles Schumer, told the Forward. "Whoever gets the seat will work their heart out for these voters."

Cohen, a colorful 20-plus-year veteran of the Tennessee State Senate who 10 years ago ran for and lost the seat he is now seeking, said that he voted in favor of bills championed by African Americans "on which African Americans in the Senate sold out." "I've got a history," Cohen said. "There's not a Caucasian politician with as much strength in the African American community as I have." He recently told House Race Hotline that he wants to be "the first white member" of the Congressional Black Caucus.

Despite such outreach efforts, the two Jewish candidates are drawing criticism from those who view the districts as vehicles to send blacks to Washington.

Owens, the Brooklyn district's longtime congressman, recently called Yassky a "colonizer" for seeking to represent the district, which was carved out in 1967 to increase black representation, the New York Daily News reported.

The idea that the district belongs to the black community appears to be shared by some residents, if not with the vehemence that Owens exhibited.

Waldaba Stewart, a Caribbean American activist and former New York state senator, told the Forward that he has "no problem" with Yassky running because "any citizen of any group has a right to run." Even so, he said, "the district was created with the hope that it would reflect the majority of the population in that district, within the context of the attempt to increase minority representation. That was the district the Caribbean community fought for. We have no representative in Congress, even though we are 3 million in the New York area and 1 million in Brooklyn."

Owens's son Chris is among the five candidates seeking the seat, although local political observers consider a black state senator, Carl Andrews - a protégé of disgraced Brooklyn Democratic boss Clarence Norman - the frontrunner of the field. Two of the candidates are Caribbean American; Yassky is the only white. The district encompasses the mostly black neighborhood of Brownsville, immigrant-heavy East Flatbush, mostly white Park Slope, heavily Jewish Midwood and the mixed Caribbean-Hasidic neighborhood of Crown Heights. According to Owens's congressional Web site, 24% of his constituents are white, 57% are African American and 12% are Hispanic.

Crown Heights in particular has been the scene of black-Jewish tensions. In 1991, after a car in the motorcade of the Lubavitcher Rebbe killed a child, three days of rioting broke out in which one Hasidic man was killed by attackers. Yassky's campaign, however, has not stirred any animus on the street, locals said. "It's too early in the campaign," said Rabbi Jacob Goldstein, chairman of Crown Heights's Community Board 9. The primary takes place in September.

Yassky has one obvious advantage over his rivals: According to federal campaign records, he has $500,000 cash on hand for his bid - $140,000 more than his rivals combined. He has courted Jewish voters and donors, visiting, for example, the recent national conferences of the ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

The Tennessee district that Cohen is eying, the ninth, is made up of Memphis and its Shelby County suburbs, and is almost three-fifths black, according to Congressional Quarterly. As many as 15 people have declared candidacies or expressed interest in running for the seat, with the frontrunners being two black candidates: airline executive Nikki Tinker and Shelby County Commissioner Julian Bolton. Before Ford was elected, the seat was held by his father, Harold Ford Sr.

David Cocke, a longtime Memphis Democratic activist and former head of the Shelby County Democratic Party, said that Cohen is probably the best known of the Democrats running and could win if the field doesn't winnow itself. He said there could be some resentment among blacks if Cohen won, "whether it's justified under the circumstances or not."

"Harold Ford Sr.'s victory in 1974 was a landmark in the political life of African Americans in Shelby County," Cocke said. "That seat has been in the hands of Fords for 30 years. Lots of people take it for granted that the seat is an African American seat, not just a seat. It's the only African American seat in the state. With black population in the state equal to or greater than the 11% [represented by the seat], you could see how black people could think they could be disenfranchised."

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Following Israel's lead, Canada cuts aid to Hamas

From Thursday's Globe and Mail

OTTAWA - Canada has become the first country after Israel to cut off aid and diplomatic ties with the Palestinian Authority since Hamas, a group that Ottawa considers a terrorist organization, won the legislative election in January.

The decision garnered praise from pro-Israeli organizations, but condemnation from an Arab group spokesman who said it will hurt Canada's ability to press a resolution to the long-standing and bloody dispute in the Middle East.

It comes after weeks of suggestions by the new Conservative government that Hamas would have to change its direction for further assistance to continue.
"This is very much in keeping with what we've consistently said: that we would require an incoming government to, basically, respect existing agreements to follow the road map to recognize Israel as a state and to renounce all violence," Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay said yesterday.

"To date, that has not happened. So, as a result, there will be no direct or indirect funding to the Palestinian Authority."

The announcement will mean the suspension of $7.3-million in aid.

That aid would have helped the Palestinian government replace housing, refurbish and manage an industrial park in Ramallah, and convene an international meeting of justice ministers. In addition, several other projects have come to an end and are not being extended or renewed.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahar told Associated Press television he wasn't surprised by the decision. "The question is if the Canadian state is willing to starve the Palestinian people while the Israelis are committing big crimes against the Palestinian industry, the Palestinian society," Mr. Zahar said.

The newly installed Palestinian Information Minister, Youssef Rizka, called the Canadian action "hasty" and said it "shows obvious bias."

Mr. MacKay said the move to end financial assistance to the Hamas-led government does not mean that the Palestinian people would be neglected.

Canada spends roughly $25-million a year on development initiatives in the West Bank and Gaza and Mr. MacKay said some of those funds will continue to support humanitarian needs in the territory.

"We do intend to continue, to the best degree possible, to directly fund the Palestinian people through humanitarian aid and that is more so under the auspices of CIDA [Canadian International Development Agency]," he told reporters.

Canada's official dealings with the Palestinian Authority have been through the office of president Mahmoud Abbas, whose own political organization, Fatah, lost control of the legislative branch in the January election. Mr. MacKay said that line of communication will continue.

"We consider him to be a positive influence in the Palestinian government," he said.

The United States has unofficially cut funding to the Palestinian Authority since Hamas took office.

Frank Dimant, the Canadian vice-president of B'nai Brith, said the decision means that Canada has stood to its principles by refusing to do business with a terrorist entity whose avowed aim continues to be the destruction of the Jewish State.

But Hussein Amery, the president of the National Council on Canada-Arab Relations, said it would have been much more productive to promote the peace process rather than cutting what is a small amount of money in the Canadian context.

"It's disappointing that Canada has chosen to be the first of the international actors to suspend aid to the Palestinian Authority," Mr. Amery said. "It's also a bit perplexing and concerning that the government can so easily distinguish between humanitarian assistance and development assistances which may or may not benefit the Palestinian Authority."

The housing-project money would have repaired homes damaged by the Israeli army in the Gaza Strip, and the industrial park funds would have helped offset unemployment and promote the establishment of businesses, he said.

"Obviously, these are the kinds of projects that were targeted at benefiting the people as a whole," Mr. Amery said.

"It has jeopardized our position as an honest broker. And we were seen by both Palestinians and Israelis as the last honest broker. So now we're left to wonder who is going to play that role since Canada has clearly marked out its position here, ahead of even the United States."

While communication with Palestinian officials has been suspended, Prime Minster Stephen Harper took time yesterday to call newly elected Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who has promised to set Israel's borders with Palestine by 2010 -- with or without Palestinian agreement.

"I spoke earlier today with Ehud Olmert to offer my congratulations on the victory of his Kadima party in yesterday's elections in Israel," Mr. Harper said in a statement.

"Canada and Israel enjoy solid bilateral relations and Mr. Olmert and I agreed to work together at expanding them even more. Canada remains a staunch supporter of peace in the Middle East and we will continue to work with Mr. Olmert and President Mahmoud Abbas to reach that goal."

Both the New Democrats and the Liberals said yesterday that, rather than simply cutting $7.3-million in assistance to the Palestinian Authority, those funds should be redirected to humanitarian assistance in Palestinian territories.

"The government should, right away, commit itself to maintaining the $52-million in help," Stéphane Dion, the Liberal foreign affairs critic, said.

"The social problems [in the territories] are awful and, in fact, Canada should do more not less. So to cut $7-million would be a mistake."

Comment: Obsequious, spineless, pathetic.

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Palestinian minister off to bad start: Bolton

Thu Mar 30, 2006
By Irwin Arieff

UNITED NATIONS - The new Palestinian foreign minister, Hamas member Mahmoud al-Zahar, got off to a bad start by slandering the United States, U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said on Thursday.

Zahar said a day after being sworn in as a member of the new Palestinian cabinet that America was committing "big crimes" against Arab and Islamic countries.

He was responding to President George W. Bush's statement on Wednesday that the United States would not give aid to the Hamas-led government because it has expressed its desire to destroy Israel.

"We obviously unequivocally reject that proposition and I would note also to Foreign Minister Zahar that casual slander is an inauspicious way to begin," Bolton said during a U.N. Security Council meeting on the Middle East.
Washington had seen nothing to change its mind about Hamas, Bolton said, describing it as a terrorist organization responsible for the murder of hundreds of innocent civilians and which has harmed Palestinians' aspirations for statehood.

The United States ordered its diplomats and contractors on Wednesday to cut off contacts with Palestinian ministries after the Hamas-led government was sworn in, two months after the militant Islamic group's landslide election victory.

In a further sign of how the United States aims to isolate Hamas, Bolton said Washington had decided to redefine the duties of U.S. Major-General Keith Dayton, whoe was appointed last November to oversee Israeli-Palestinian security coordination efforts.

Dayton had previously worked on such issues as Gaza border crossings and Palestinian security reforms but was now being asked to end all contact with Palestinian security forces reporting to any member of the Hamas cabinet, Bolton said.

The Security Council meeting came hours after the quartet of Middle East mediators -- the United States, European Union, Russia and the United Nations -- noted with "grave concern" that Hamas had failed to respond to its January plea to recognize Israel, renounce violence and accept past Palestinian international commitments.

Senior U.N. political aide Tuliameni Kalomoh told the council the new Palestinian government had shown "signs of evolution" in its hard-line stance but said it had to do more to ensure international support for the Palestinian peoples' aspirations for peace and statehood.

He also warned Israel that unilateral action in place of negotiated steps toward peace could make it even more difficult to convince the Palestinians to compromise.

The centrist Kadima party led by interim Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, which won Tuesday's election in Israel, has pledged to set Israel's final borders by 2010 with or without the agreement of its Palestinian neighbor.

Both Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas have expressed a willingness to resume final status peace talks, however, and Kalomoh appealed to both sides to seriously explore a resumption of negotiations.

Comment: What the hell is the mustachioed shit-head Bolton talking about? There is nothing "slanderous" about saying that America was committing "big crimes" against Arab and Islamic countries...it a simple FACT!

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The myth of the 'honest broker': Britain and Israel

by Mark Curtis
March 30, 2006

Britain's apparent complicity in Israel's military assault on Jericho prison should finally demolish an enduring myth about Britain's foreign policy. Iraq's supposed possession of weapons of mass destruction was not the only line peddled by the government to justify the invasion. Another was that Britain was an 'honest broker' in the Middle East and would influence Washington to press Israel for peace with the Palestinians. Now that peace prospects look gloomier than ever following Israeli, US and EU reactions to Hamas' success in Palestinian elections, the reality of Britain's role needs to be exposed.

Since the government of Ariel Sharon came to power in 2001, Britain has exported around £70 million worth of military equipment to Israel. Last year's supplies of combat aircraft technology and components for surface-to-surface missiles follow previous exports of armoured cars, machine guns, components for tanks and helicopters, leg irons, tear gas and categories covering mortars, rocket launchers and explosives.
Growing links between the British and Israeli militaries have just resulted in one Israeli company, Elbit systems, receiving a £317 million contract from the Ministry of Defence. The MoD has trialled an Israeli-built anti-tank missile despite its use against civilians in the occupied territories. It also purchased 26,000 cluster shells from Israel in 2003 and 2004, some of which were used in the invasion of Iraq.

The British government has no mechanisms to monitor whether British firms violate human rights in the occupied territories. The construction company, Caterpillar, a US firm with a large British subsidiary, sells military bulldozers to Israel used to demolish 4,000 houses and which killed the peace activist, Rachel Corrie. At the same time, there is evidence that British companies have exported equipment used in the construction of Israel's 'security wall' inside Palestinian territory.

Britain's diplomatic stance towards Israel has also been striking. A major gain for the Sharon government has been Tony Blair's persistent line, shared with the US, that 'there is not going to be any successful negotiation or peace without an end to terrorism' first. Palestinian suicide bombings are unjustifiable acts of mass murder but, as Uri Avnery of the Israeli peace movement, Gush Shalom, has noted, this Blair line means that 'until the armed opposition to occupation stops, there can be no talk about ending the occupation'.

Blair's personal statements rarely condemn Israel outright but assert that 'both sides' are responsible for the violence. This ignores the fact that one of the actors is illegally occupying the territory of the other. British government statements, however, rarely even call for the occupation to end. At the same time, the British embassy in Tel Aviv describes Britain 'as a good friend of Israel' and its 'natural partner', while 'our two prime ministers are in regular contact and have a good working and personal relationship'.

London has also helped to maintain the fiction that Sharon's government supports the 'shared goal' of a viable Palestinian state, as Jack Straw recently told a Labour Friends of Israel event. Yet in a confidential document leaked to the Guardian last November, the British consulate in East Jerusalem wrote that Sharon's illegal building of settlements in East Jerusalem was designed to prevent it becoming the capital of any Palestinian state. Privately, then, even some British officials refute the government's public line.

Jack Straw's intense diplomacy to prevent Iran pursuing uranium enrichment compares to virtual silence on Israel's possession of over 100 nuclear warheads. Whitehall exerted huge pressure on EU members to impose sanctions against Zimbabwe; yet in response to a recent parliamentary question, the government again rejected applying EU sanctions against Israel. Instead, London acts as Israel's chief defender in Brussels by resisting calls to suspend the EU's trade and aid agreement, even though it requires 'respect for human rights'. Whitehall even backs a proposed EU action plan that would deepen political cooperation and economic relations with Israel. By contrast, Britain was key in securing EU agreement to ban the political wing of Hamas and place its leaders on a terrorist blacklist.

Foreign Office minister Lord Triesman told Parliament in December that 'we do not believe that Israel complies rigorously with international law' in continuing to build settlements and conducting targeting killings and house demolitions. The government has also provided (low-key) criticism of Israel's construction of the 'security fence' in Palestinian territory. Yet such occasional demarches are meaningless in light of other policies which help to protect Israel from greater international pressure to end the occupation.

Two formerly secret documents help explain British policy. A 1970 Foreign Office report called 'Future British policy toward the Arab/Israel Dispute' rejected both an openly pro-Israel and pro-Arab policy, the latter 'because of the pressure which the United States government undoubtedly exert… to keep us in line in any public pronouncements or negotiations on the dispute'. It also rejected 'active neutrality' since this would damage 'our world-wide relationship with the US'. Therefore, the Foreign Office argued for a 'low risk policy', involving 'private pressure upon the US to do all in their power to bring about a settlement'.

The second document, a Joint Intelligence Committee report from 1969, notes that 'rapid industrialisation' was occurring in Israel which was 'already a valuable trading partner with a considerable future potential in the industrial areas where we want to develop Britain as a major world-wide manufacturer and supplier'. This contrasted to the Arab world where, despite oil, 'recent developments appear to confirm that the prospects for profitable economic dealings with the Arab countries are at best static and could, over the long term, decline'.

Three decades later, Israel is Britain's third largest trading partner in the Middle East while the government describes Israel as 'a remarkable success story for British exporters', especially in high-tech industry. Appeasing Washington and prioritising profits are Whitehall's entrenched interests that need challenging if Britain is ever to support human rights in the region.

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Odds n Ends

House Candidate Draws Fire for Web Photo

Thu Mar 30, 8:34 PM ET

SAN DIEGO - A congressional candidate is under fire for a Web site photo that purported to show a peaceful Baghdad neighborhood but was actually taken in a suburb of Istanbul, Turkey.

"We took this photo of Baghdad while we were in Iraq," the accompanying caption on Howard Kaloogian's Web site read. "Iraq (including Baghdad) is much more calm and stable than what many people believe it to be."

Internet bloggers began questioning the photo earlier this week because none of the signs was in Arabic and billboards were advertising Western products.
Kaloogian, a former state assemblyman who founded Move America Forward to support the war and is now running for Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham's House seat, took the photo down on Wednesday.

He said it was innocent mix-up that arose from a trip to Baghdad that he took last summer with Move America Forward. Some of the travelers went home through Istanbul, he said. The group pooled its photos, and his Web master mistakenly selected one of Istanbul, Kaloogian said.

"They used a picture that was wrong. There's nothing sinister about it," he said.

Kaloogian, a Republican, is one of 18 candidates seeking to replace Cunningham, who was convicted of bribery and conspiracy and sentenced to more than eight years in federal prison.

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US deserter 'shocked by abuses'

Friday, 31 March 2006, 09:23 GMT 10:23 UK

A US soldier who fled to Canada to avoid serving in Iraq says he was shocked by alleged atrocities committed by the American military.
Josh Key was speaking before Canada's refugee board hearing his asylum plea.

Among the incidents, he described soldiers kicking the severed head of an Iraqi like a football in Ramadi.

Mr Key served as an explosives expert in Iraq for eight months, and deserted to Canada with his family in 2004. He faces a court martial back in the US.

The soldier, 27, also told Canada's refugee board he saw a US army squad leader shooting the foot off an unarmed Iraqi man.

The army's attitude in Iraq was "just shoot and ask questions later", Mr Key said.


Mr Key says he refuses to fight in a war he regards as immoral and illegal.

About 20 US soldiers have applied for asylum in Canada. Two have already had their applications rejected.

The Immigration and Refugee Board said it was not convinced the men would face persecution if they were sent back to the US. They have said they will appeal against the decision.

Speaking to the BBC, Mr Key said he was in Iraq when he realised the war was unjustified.

"The only people that were getting hurt was the innocent; that was innocent Iraqi people, as well as innocent soldiers."

On his return to the US, he told the army that he did not want to return, but was advised that he would face prison if he refused. It was then that he decided to desert.

"Before I went to Iraq, I was trained on how to escape terrorists. You learn to only go where crime is already at. You only go somewhere where who cares about a deserter if somebody is getting murdered every night. I went to Philadelphia," he said.

He spent 14 months in the city, before deciding to flee to Canada.

During the Vietnam war, more than 100,000 Americans went to the neighbour country to avoid the draft.

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Investigators Search NASA HQ in Child Porn Probe

March 31, 2006

Federal investigators searched the office and home of a Washington, D.C.-based NASA program executive suspected trading child pornography, the Smoking Gun website reported Friday.

According to the Smoking Gun report, investigators seized a portable laptop computer, hard drive and compact discs from the office of James Robinson, a program executive with NASA's In-Space Propulsion wing of the Mission and Systems Management division who authored a 2004 report on propulsion methods such as solar sails, ion engines and aerocapture for space exploration missions.

The Smoking Gun also posted an affidavit for the search, which reportedly found illegal images and videos on Robinson's office and home computers. Robinson, 42, has not been arrested, the report stated.

NASA's inspector general opened its own investigation of Robinson after being contacted by postal investigators. The space agency used a "skin-tone filtering system" to determine whether Robinson was viewing child pornography, the affidavit stated.

Click here for the Smoking Gun report.

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Bird flu expected to hit West Coast by summer

Thu Mar 30, 2006
By Jill Serjeant

California officials expect bird flu to arrive on the U.S. West Coast this summer in what could be the first sign in the United States of the deadly virus, which has already swept from Asia across Europe and down to Africa.

"The H5N1 virus in birds is expected in the next couple of months in the United States," California Health and Human Services Secretary Kim Belshe told reporters on Thursday at a state bird flu pandemic preparedness meeting.

Officials said the virus was likely to be carried into either the east or west coast of the United States by migrating birds starting their journeys south, either from Alaska on the Pacific Flyway, or the Atlantic Flyway on the other side of North American continent.

They said some 60,000 birds, mostly waterfowl, would begin their migration south from Alaska in mid-August, working their way down through Oregon, Washington and into California.
Although both coasts have set up monitoring systems for any signs of the avian virus "we expect there will be access (to the United States) through Alaska rather than upstate New York," said Ryan Broddrick, director of the California Department of Fish and Game. He did not elaborate.

The H5N1 virus overwhelmingly infects birds but has sickened 186 people in eight countries and killed 105 of them. Experts believe it poses the greatest threat in recent years of a global flu pandemic that could kill millions, if it acquires the ability to pass easily from human to human.

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt warned against panic when avian flu hits U.S. shores for the first time, saying it would not inevitably mean the start of a human pandemic.

"It is almost certain that a wild bird will find its way into the United States with H5N1 on board. That will not be a crisis," Leavitt told reporters in Los Angeles.

But he warned states to lay the groundwork for possible human to human transmission. "There is clearly a lot of buzz (but) I worry there is not enough busy-ness," he said.

Leavitt said research published on Wednesday finding that an experimental vaccine against bird flu in humans works only at very high doses was "not unexpected."

"We are working to develop adjuvant technology that will allow us to boost the effects of vaccine and we are optimistic that that can be part of the solution," he said.

GlaxoSmithKline on Thursday announced the start of human trials of two new bird flu vaccines using adjuvants -- additives that are put into vaccines that boost the immune system and make it respond more efficiently.

If the vaccines work they would be ready to manufacture by the end of the year, the company said.

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New Study Says Heartfelt Prayers Do NOT Help

By Sora Song
Thursday, Mar. 30, 2006

Perhaps no amount of science can disprove the existence of a God, but at least one study, just published in the American Heart Journal, suggests that praying to Him-or Her-doesn't help.
In six U.S. hospitals, researchers involved in the Study of Therapeutic Effects of Intercessory Prayer (STEP) analyzed the healing effects of third-party prayer-in which individuals pray for a stranger whom they have never met. The study volunteers-about 1,800 heart patients undergoing bypass surgery-were randomly divided into three groups: members of the first two groups were not told definitively that they would receive prayer-one of these groups received prayer, and the other did not-while members of the third group were told they would certainly be prayed for.

Daily prayers by three Christian groups began on the eve of the patients' surgeries and lasted for two weeks. The results? A tad, er, disheartening.

In the 30 days following bypass surgery, doctors found that prayer had no positive effect on rates of postoperative complications. In fact, complication rates in the first two groups-the ones that didn't know whether they were receiving prayer-were were nearly identical. About 52% of the patients who were included in the Christian groups' prayers suffered complications, compared with 51% of the group that received no prayer at all. Meanwhile, the last group, which expected prayer and received it, had the highest rate of post-surgery problems, at 59%.

What It Means: Some previous studies have shown that prayer can have some impact on health, but this new one suggests that it offers no benefit. Whether it may help save your soul, however, is up to you.

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Ark's Quantum Quirks

Signs of the Times
March 31, 2006


Freedom the Russian Way

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