Friday, September 30, 2005

An analysis of terrorist operation procedures...

Stratfor: Daily Terrorism Brief
September 30, 2005
The Terrorist Attack Cycle: Selecting the Target

Editor's Note: This is the second in a series of reports on theterrorist attack cycle. Terrorist attacks and criminal operations often require meticulous planning and preparation. As we have said, this process takes place in a six-stage attack cycle: target selection, planning, deployment, the attack, escape and exploitation.

The cycle begins with selecting a target based on several factors. Terrorist targets rarely are chosen based on military utility, such as disrupting lines of communication or supply, or otherwise limiting an enemy's capacity to operate. On the contrary, terrorists generally choose targets that have symbolic value or that will elicit the greatest media reaction.

One way to guarantee the latter is by killing and maiming a large number of people -- to generate graphic, provocative images that can be splashed across television screens and the front pages of newspapers. The reason for this need to generate media attention is that terrorists, unlike insurgent groups, are not after military targets. Their target audience is people around the world who "witness" the unfolding events via the media. The Sept. 11 al Qaeda attacks, for example, were designed to send a message to the Western world and the Muslim streets that went far beyond the immediate destruction.

Because they usually are lightly armed and equipped compared to modern military units, terrorists usually prefer to avoid attacking "hard targets" -- heavily defended or robust targets such as military units or installations. In addition, less-protected targets, such as civilians and civilian infrastructure, will generate a higher number of casualties and generate more media attention. Therefore, soft targets -- lightly or undefended civilian targets and important symbols -- more often are chosen by terrorists during this stage of the attack cycle.

Criminals use similar criteria when choosing their targets, although their operations are often not as complex. Criminals often select their targets based on vulnerability and lack of defenses or protection. Like terrorists, criminals use a rational cost/benefit analysis in selecting their targets, although for mentally imbalanced criminals, such as stalkers, the target selection process rarely follows a rational pattern. Their targets are chosen based in large part on delusion or emotion.

All of the Sept. 11 targets selected by al Qaeda were highly symbolic, including the Pentagon. Had al Qaeda really wanted to impact the U.S. ability to conduct military operations, it would have attacked a communications or command and control node. Instead, the attack against the Pentagon did very little to disrupt the U.S. military capabilities on the day of the attack or in the days that followed. In fact, U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was able to give a press conference from one part of the building while the affected part still burned.

During the target selection phase, terrorists research potential targets. The depth and detail of the research varies with the group and the target selected. In recent years, the Internet has made this stage of the attack cycle much easier. By using any number of search engines, terrorists can obtain pictures, maps, histories and even satellite images of their targets. Activists such as anti-globalization groups or environmental groups are very good at conducting research, known as "electronic scouting," over the Internet.

After the information is gathered electronically, the plotters then conduct pre-operational surveillance of targets to determine which are the most vulnerable and desirable. In recent years, embassies and diplomatic missions have been adapting to better deter and defend against terrorist attacks. In some parts ofthe world, Western embassies are practically fortresses, with thick, bullet-proof glass and concrete barriers to keep potential vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs) away. More important, new embassies are constructed farther away from streets to provide them stand-off distance to lessen the impact of VBIEDs.

Because embassies have become hard targets, terrorists have turned to attacking hotels, which also are symbols of Western influence in many parts of the world. In many ways, large Western hotel chains have become today's embassies. Lowering their highly visible profile by removing company signs and logos to discourage attacks would be contrary to most business practices, especially abroad. Because they are soft targets, attacks against hotels can be expected to generate a high number of casualties, many of them Western tourists or business people. In November 2002, 15 people were killed when al Qaeda-linked suicide bombers attacked the Israeli-owned Paradise Hotel in Kilifi, Kenya. In August 2003, the Jemaah Islamiyah militant group attacked the JW Marriot in Jakarta, Indonesia, killing more than a dozen people and injuring more than 100. In July, four al Qaeda-linked suicide car bombers attacked hotels in Egypt's Sharm el-Sheikh resort, killing 34 people.

The criteria used by terrorists to select their targets should be taken into account when developing anti-terrorism measures. Making a target less attractive -- by reducing access to it, increasing security and defense measures, reducing the potential casualty countor by using countersurveillance to interrupt the attack cycle -- could encourage terrorists to move on to another target that offers fewer challenges.

Anti-terrorism experts who say the key is not to be able to run faster than the bear, just faster than the other person, are right on target.

Send questions or comments on this article to


From one of the writers:

They pledge allegiance to Bushie the prez
of the once United States of America
and to the oligarchy for which he stands,
miscreants under God, indefensible,
with scorn and injustice for all.

Why torture photos need to be released...

There has been much debate over whether the Iraqi torture photos and perhaps videos should be released. A judge has so ruled. Here are one writer's thoughts on that and I agree with him.

"The issue is not whether sickos have the right to see such pictures and gloat over them--and no one, by the way, is being forced to go to any media and look at them. The point is that we have a society where the civilian voters and officials very properly control and regulate the actions of those whom we arm and empower to protect us (the military and the police). As such, it is essential in a free society that the people have the right to all the facts whenever improper acts and activities are alleged to have occurred in those government-controlled situations.

We need to find out what happened, who was involved and how high up the responsibility for those actions reaches--and we have to be aware that those involved will use every means they can to cover up, hide, and minimize the improper conduct involved. Many jobs, promotions and careers hang in the balance, and even criminal prosecutions can result. So we need to get everything out there on the table, nothing held back, no "secrets" withheld now and that we find about later to our detriment.

I'll tell you one thing that really troubles me here. How do uniformed American troops get involved in this kind of thing in the first place? Where are their peers, their teammates, their non-com superiors, their officers while this kind of thing is going on in a major way?

There is one thing this Iraq engagement has done, which is unforgiveable in my mind in terms of all of those who have served in the armed forces in past generations and all of those now serving who are not involved in such conduct. This war, for the first time in our history (certainly in terms of the overseas and world image of the American soldier), has placed the American soldier in our handling of captives on a level with, or very close to, that of the Nazi stormtroopers, the Gestapo, the worst of the Japanese offenders in WW II, the KGB in the USSR, and those Viet Cong bastards who tortured and abused our American prisoners of war in Nam. Until the continuing disclosures of things like this coming out of Iraq, the torture and abuse of prisoners, and the callous disregard for the enemy in general, was always something, in the minds of Americans and most of the civilized world, that other people did. Even then, it was only carried out, we believed, by the very dregs of those other fascist and communist and despotic nations.

Now we have Americans, in the performance of their military duties, directly involved in the torture and abuse of prisoners, in the deprivation of rights of captives, and in the mass demeaning of those we have captured or killed. Worse, all of this has been done in ways that by any definition would be called pornographic.

Yes, we need to know all the facts; yes, we need all the pictures; and yes, we damn well better put a stop to this kind of thing once and for all. It is doing more damage to our Flag than all the communist propaganda of the cold war ever thought of doing, and more damage to our Flag and to our nation's image than any hippie-dippie, drugged-out flag-burners in the 60s and 70s ever thought of doing.


Freedom of Press shot to hell...

Here's the we want to know what's really going on in Iraq or not? Another question...does the extremely secretive Bush administration want us to know or not? The press are are "boots on the ground" in Iraq. There's only one way to really know how things are going over there (and in other areas of the world) and that's through the press. Otherwise, we are limited to whatever BushCo wants to tell us...true or not. Via Truthout:

US Forces 'Out of Control', Says Reuters Chief
By Julia Day
The Guardian UK
Wednesday 28 September 2005

Reuters has told the US government that American forces' conduct towards journalists in Iraq is "spiralling out of control" and preventing full coverage of the war reaching the public.

The detention and accidental shootings of journalists is limiting how journalists can operate, wrote David Schlesinger, the Reuters global managing editor, in a letter to Senator John Warner, head of the armed services committee.

The Reuters news service chief referred to "a long parade of disturbing incidents whereby professional journalists have been killed, wrongfully detained, and/or illegally abused by US forces in Iraq".

Mr. Schlesinger urged the senator to raise the concerns with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who is due to testify to the committee this Thursday.

He asked Mr. Warner to demand that Mr. Rumsfeld resolve these issues "in a way that best balances the legitimate security interests of the US forces in Iraq and the equally legitimate rights of journalists in conflict zones under international law".

At least 66 journalists and media workers, most of them Iraqis, have been killed in the country since March 2003.

US forces admitted killing three Reuters journalists, most recently soundman Waleed Khaled, who was shot by American soldiers on August 28 while on assignment in Baghdad. But the military said the soldiers were justified in opening fire. Reuters believes a fourth journalist working for the agency, who died in Ramadi last year, was killed by a US sniper.

'A Serious Chilling Effect on the Media'

"The worsening situation for professional journalists in Iraq directly limits journalists' abilities to do their jobs and, more importantly, creates a serious chilling effect on the media overall," Mr. Schlesinger wrote.

"By limiting the ability of the media to fully and independently cover the events in Iraq, the US forces are unduly preventing US citizens from receiving information ... and undermining the very freedoms the US says it is seeking to foster every day that it commits US lives and US dollars."

Mr. Schlesinger said the US military had refused to conduct independent and transparent investigations into the deaths of the Reuters journalists, relying instead on inquiries by officers from the units responsible, who had exonerated their soldiers.

He noted that the US military had failed to implement recommendations by its own inquiry into the death of award-winning Palestinian cameraman Mazen Dana, who was shot dead while filming outside Abu Ghraib prison in August 2003.

He said that Reuters and other reputable international news organizations were concerned by the "sizeable and rapidly increasing number of journalists detained by US forces".

He said detentions were prompted by legitimate journalistic activity such as possessing photographs and video of insurgents, which US soldiers assumed showed sympathy with the insurgency.

Earlier this week Reuters demanded the release of a freelance Iraqi cameraman after a secret tribunal ordered that he be detained indefinitely.

Samir Mohammed Noor, a freelance cameraman working for Reuters, was arrested by Iraqi troops at his home in the northern town of Tal Afar four months ago.

A US military spokesman has told the agency that a secret hearing held last week had found him to be "an imperative threat to the coalition forces and the security of Iraq".

The news agency has demanded that he be released or given a chance to defend himself in open court.

The US network CBS has raised concerns over the arrest of its cameraman, Abdul Amir Younes, who was arrested in hospital in April after he was shot by US troops.

CBS said it is concerned that he had no legal representation at the hearing and has had no chance to see the evidence against him.


Thursday, September 29, 2005

Chief Justice Roberts goes to work tomorrow....

From the SCOTUS blog...

Chief Justice at work -- tomorrow
04:18 PM
Lyle Denniston

Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., will take another oath of office on Monday, but that is a mere formality: he is now a fully functioning Chief Justice with all the authority of the office, after taking two oaths at the White House Thursday afternoon. He will go to work at the Court for the first time on Friday.

New members of the Court take what is called a Constitutional Oath and a separate Judicial Oath. Both were administered to the new Chief Justice at the White House: the first in a public ceremony, and the second in private with only the other seven Justices and Roberts' family attending. The senior Associate Justice, John Paul Stevens, swore him in. On Monday, Roberts will again take the Judicial Oath in an invitation-only "investiture" ceremony in the Courtroom, starting at 9:15 a.m.

The Court said that Roberts took both oaths Thursday so that he "could begin work immediately in preparation for the opening of the Court's Term on Monday."

Hearings on granted cases will begin at 10:30 a.m., a half-hour later than the usual starting time. The Court is also expected to issue a lengthy list of orders on new cases -- primarily, if not exclusively, denying review of new appeals. Presumably, the orders will be issued when the Justices go to the bench, and their release will be Roberts' first official public act as Chief Justice.

At the White House ceremony, Roberts said he will start work Friday. Although Senate approval of his nomination to be Chief Justice has been a virtual certainty for weeks, Roberts has not been at the Court to do any work pending final Senate approval. The Senate voted 78-22 to confirm him shortly before noon Thursday. All of the No votes were cast by Democrats.

(The transcript of remarks by Roberts and by President Bush at the White House can be found here.)


TX DA...filmed all the way on DeLay case....

September 29, 2005, 6:14 p.m.

Coming Soon: The Ronnie Earle MovieThe DeLay prosecutor has let a film crew follow him through the whole case.

For the last two years, as he pursued the investigation that led to Wednesday's indictment of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, Travis County, Texas prosecutor Ronnie Earle has given a film crew "extraordinary access" to make a motion picture about his work on the case.

The resulting film is called The Big Buy, made by Texas filmmakers Mark Birnbaum and Jim Schermbeck. "Raymond Chandler meets Willie Nelson on the corner of Wall Street and Pennsylvania Avenue in The Big Buy, a Texas noir political detective story that chronicles what some are calling a 'bloodless coup with corporate cash,'" reads a description of the picture on Birnbaum's website, The film, according to the description, "follows maverick Austin DA Ronnie Earle's investigation into what really happened when corporate money joined forces with relentless political ambitions to help swing the pivotal 2002 Texas elections, cementing Republican control from Austin to Washington DC."

"We approached him [Earle], and he offered us extraordinary access to him and, to an extent, to his staff," Birnbaum told National Review Online Thursday. "We've been shooting for about two years."

Birnbaum and Schermbeck showed a work-in-progress version of The Big Buy last month at the Dallas Video Festival. At the moment, they do not have a deal for the film to be shown anywhere else. Their last film, Larry v. Lockney, was shown on PBS, and they hope that perhaps a similar arrangement might be made for the new picture. Whoever ends up showing it, the film has so far been funded entirely by its makers. "We tried really hard to get it funded," Birnbaum says, "but we didn't get any takers."

Schermbeck told National Review Online that the film was an irresistible Texas story. "I've been pretty interested in watching Tom DeLay work," Schermbeck says. "I thought he was a fascinating guy, certainly the most powerful Texan to emerge on the national scene in some time, a kind of Republican Sam Rayburn type, with that kind of mastery of the machinery and the will to do it."

But DeLay did not cooperate with the filmmakers, and neither did a number of DeLay allies.

Earle, on the other hand, did. "I had known about Ronnie Earle for a very long time," Schermbeck says. "I thought that would be an angle to approach the whole story, telling something about Tom DeLay, even though Tom DeLay wouldn't grant us an interview."

Earle "allowed us behind the scenes when the indictments came down last year, the first wave of indictments," Schermbeck says. "We got to follow him back to his home a couple of times, which I understand he doesn't allow anybody to do." Schermbeck says the film includes interviews with some critics of Earle, as well as lawyers who are representing some of the targets of the investigation.

So far, The Big Buy has received almost no attention in the press. With DeLay's indictment, and increased attention to Earle as well, that situation seems likely to change. (The filmmakers say they will be back at work next week, filming a new ending to the picture.) "We're pretty low on everybody's radar," Schermbeck says. "We kind of took a gamble three years ago. We didn't know what was going to happen. We feel like, as documentary filmmakers, we gambled and it paid off."

— Byron York, NR's White House correspondent, is the author of the new book The Vast Left Wing Conspiracy: The Untold Story of How Democratic Operatives, Eccentric Billionaires, Liberal Activists, and Assorted Celebrities Tried to Bring Down a President — and Why They'll Try Even Harder Next Time.


Scientist-Author David Brin takes the challenge....

Thursday, September 29, 2005

American Democracy ... more complex and fragile than we think

A ten-parter by David Brin (
October 2005

While “reform commissions” fiddle around the edges, fretting and tweaking voter registration and ID cards, the most insidious damage to our electoral process has already been done by politicians themselves.Here is one topic that has been avoided at all costs. How extreme gerrymandering has effectively robbed most Americans of a vote... ....and how citizens may use some clever innovations of their own, in order to rise up and fight back.

Introduction --
American Democracy in the 21st Century:
... finger-pointing in all the wrong directions.

On September 19.2005, the Commission on Federal Election Reform, co-chaired by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and former Secretary of State James A. Baker, III and sponsored by the American University Center for Democracy and Election Management, issued a report containing 87 important recommendations for how to improve the U.S. Electoral process, ensuring better credibility, accountability and confidence in the nation’s most basic political process.

The twenty-one distinguished members of the Commission - including leaders from political parties, academia and nonpartisan groups - focused on problems such as innacurate voter registration, individual voter fraud, corruption of local and statewide procedures, improved voting machinery, absentee balloting, and so on.

(To view the report or a summary of recommendations, see:

This bipartisan endeavor, initiated in response to scandals that erupted during the 2000 and 20004 election cycles, is clearly sincere. Many commission recommendations are laudable, even obvious, although a few sparked controversy. Especially a proposal to achieve greater security by moving toward more standardized voter identification -- a trend that is already underway nationwide, as states unify procedures for issuing drivers’ licenses. As I discuss elsewhere (e.g. in The Transparent Society ), Americans tend to be prickly over the notion of a “national ID card.” This will certainly be a hot issue during the coming decade, with technology itself casting the final, deciding vote.

Unfortunately, despite all their sincerity and wisdom, the commission ultimately nibbled at the edges, avoiding the worst problems and faults of our American electoral process. While some of the most egregious and blatant abuses from 2000 and 20004 may get fixed, nowhere does the report address a far more basic problem - that some American votes are more influential than others. Sometimes a whole lot more.....

(continue reading at: )


Had wrong URL for Disability blogger....

So here's the correct one.


Vets with disabilities: Listen Up!!!

From: :

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Does your government really care?

I just got off the phone, not 3 minutes ago, with a disability claimant. He needs to have his reconsideration filed and I asked him if he had been seen by any doctors recently. He gave the all too common answer: "No, I haven't been able to go. My insurance ran out a long time ago".

This is a very common situation. And I've heard it so much that I've become somewhat desensitived to it. But...if you really think about it, these situations (which ARE extremely common) are horrendous.

Let me put on my examiner/caseworker hat for a moment. The disability system is set up so that the prospect of being approved for disability weighs entirely on a claimants medical records. And not just on medical records, but on recent records (aside from closed periods).

Well, ding ding ding (wake up bureaucrats, politicians, and red-tape functionaries), if the process for eventually---we hope---getting approved for disability benefits can take up to 3 years (I'm not pulling that number out of a rabbit hat either----just call any attorney or non attorney practicing in the raleigh north carolina area and they will sullenly confirm this information), then how the heck can a claimant be expected to have decent medical records by the time they get to a hearing (a destination most cases will arrive at)?

(cont. reading this post by clicking link above)


Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Texas Juanita on DeLay....

Take note...this is from You know where that's at don't you? Right. Texas. Tom DeLay's district. Juanita writes it, and if there's anything she doesn't know about DeLay, I can't imagine what it would be. She knows all the players. So here's a bit of advice from Juanita re. DeLay's indictment:

"September 28 - You can write this down somewhere: this is chicken feed. DeLay's problems with Ronnie Earle are minor in comparison to his problem with his connections to Jack Abramoff. This is only a fun little prelude. Write it down. Our Rogue Congressman is in for a much bigger ride than this."


...and...Greg Bear's latest S/F-Fantasy novel...

From Publishers Lunch Weekly:


Conor O'Clery's HOSTAGE TO A FORTUNE: Charles Feeney's Secret Struggle to Give Away His Billions, undertaken with his cooperation, about a man with an unusual problem: how to give away his billions in his lifetime anonymously, to Clive Priddle at PublicAffairs, by Esther Newberg at ICM (world)


Film rights to Tish Cohen's debut novel, TOWN HOUSE, about an agoraphobic man living in a Boston townhouse (inherited from his rock star father) with his teenage son, optioned to Fox 2000 with Scott Free Productions producing, in a pre-empt, by Kassie Evashevski at Brillstein-Grey, on behalf of Daniel Lazar at Writers House. The book is currently on submission to publishers, and expected to close shortly.


Advisor to the last six secretaries of state and a central figure in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations for the last quarter century Aaron Miller's AMERICA AND THE MUCH TOO PROMISED LAND: The Elusive Search for Arab-Israeli Peace, an analysis, including interviews with key American, Arab, and Israeli leaders, of why the world's greatest power has failed to help broker a solution, whether such a solution is still possible, what would be required to achieve it, and why Americans should care, to John Flicker at Bantam, by Deborah Grosvenor at Grosvenor Literary Agency (world).

A Death in Texas author Dina Temple-Raston's A TIME OF FIRE, uncovering the story of pre-emptive imprisonment for an act of terrorism never committed; a terrorist cell that may not have even been one, and a mysterious contact with an Al-Qaeda operative who may never have existed, to Clive Priddle at PublicAffairs, by John Thornton at The Spieler Agency (world English, audio).

First revealed in the his New Yorker feature story, Thomas Bass's THE SPY WHO LOVED US: The Double Life of Pham Xuan An, TIME Correspondent, North Vietnamese Spy, the intrigue-filled story of espionage from the Vietnam War era about the reporter and political analyst who was an even better spy, written with An's cooperation and access to the network of agents who supported him, to Clive Priddle at PublicAffairs, by Michael Carlisle at Inkwell Management (NA, audio).


Larry Devlin's CHIEF OF STATION, CONGO, the memoir of a swashbuckling Cold Warrior CIA operative in a hot zone, to Clive Priddle at PublicAffairs (world)


Hugo and Nebula award-winning science fiction master Greg Bear's CITY AT THE END OF TIME, which transports readers to Earth's final city at the terminus of time, where humanity fights a metaphysical disease that threatens to corrupt all of history, to Betsy Mitchell at Del Rey, by Richard Curtis of Richard Curtis Associates (NA). Foreign rights are handled by Danny Baror of Baror International.NA rights:


Get your passports here!!!!

Go to:

Updated: 09/27/05

Nashville, Tenn. and San Francisco,
Sept. 27 /PRNewswire/ --

Obtaining travel documents will now be easier than ever for millions of Americans planning international travel. Two of the leading expediters of travel documents have combined forces to make ordering passports, visas and birth certificates as simple as going to the Internet.

VitalChek(R), the leading birth certificate processor, and Zierer Visa Service (ZVS), the leading passport and visa expediter, today announced the launch of

A recent survey of Americans indicates that international travel, particularly for leisure, continues to rise. Plus, a record number of nearly 62 million U.S. travelers went abroad last year, up 10 percent from 2003, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. Interestingly, while the number of Americans who travel outside U.S. borders is climbing, the number of those who have passports remains at a low 20 percent.

An estimated 21 million Americans will travel to and from the Caribbean, Mexico and Bermuda this year. They are not required to have a passport - now. However, the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 requires all Americans to have a passport by 2008 to reenter the United States from any other country in the Western Hemisphere. The first two phases of the initiative include the Caribbean, Bermuda, Mexico, Canada and Central and South America. This will create an enormous increase in demand for passports. In fact, as the number of travelers continues to increase and the requirement for passports becomes a reality, the demand is expected to reach an all time high.

Together, VitalChek and ZVS support with more than 70 years of experience in the travel document industry. Until now, this industry has been fragmented with the majority of companies being "mom and pop" travel document expediters. However, offers a secure, direct-to-government service that will provide travelers with passports, visas and birth certificates in as little as 24 hours after receipt of the documents from the traveler.

"Our research proves that there is a real need for a robust travel document Web site with staying power," said Deslie Webb Quinby, VitalChek vice president. "It is crucial for travelers to feel confident and comfortable that they will receive their personal documents in a timely manner and through secure means." will be a "one-stop shop" for all travel document needs including helpful information and step-by-step instructions on how to obtain travel documents. Orders are tracked online and the site offers a team of specialists for personalized service. Unlike other sites, allows customers to place orders online using a credit card.

Also, it does not outsource to couriers, and its employees are certified, U.S.-based representatives.

VitalChek, a ChoicePoint(R) company, is the leading source for the remote ordering of birth certificates and other vital records. The benchmark of VitalChek's business operations is its ability to link Americans with the state, county or city agencies that house their personal vital records - specifically, certified copies of birth, death, marriage and divorce certificates.

With more than 250 network affiliates nationwide, VitalChek is the fastest and largest supplier of certified vital records in the country. VitalChek facilitates the expedited delivery and payment processing of more than 25,000 certified vital record documents each week. VitalChek, with headquarters in Nashville, provides service in all 50 states as well as British Columbia, Canada.

Neither VitalChek nor ChoicePoint has access to vital records; rather, VitalChek facilitates the order and fulfillment of vital records by the government agencies that maintain them.

Founded in 1954, ZVS is the most experienced and well-established passport and visa company of its kind in the world. More than one million travelers have used ZVS to secure necessary documentation to travel to destinations around the globe. With current offices located throughout the U.S. and London, ZVS is the leader in its industry and committed to providing the most professional and expeditious service for its clients' travel documentation needs. The company is based in San Francisco.

VitalChek and ChoicePoint are registered trademarks and is a service mark of ChoicePoint Asset Company.


Australians now...USA next?

War on web terror
Nick Butterly, Jason Frenkel and Ian McPhedran

COMMENTS posted on a website praising a terrorist attack anywhere in the world could land a person in jail under tough new laws to be debated by state and federal leaders today.Australians could also find themselves in breach of federal law for distributing books or other literature urging people to travel overseas to kill coalition soldiers or for praising a terror attack as a brave act that should be repeated.

New incitement and sedition laws on the table at today's Council of Australian Government terror summit could place some Australian organisations and businesses in danger of breaching the law.

Likely to come under intense pressure from the laws will be the Australian arm of organisations such as Hizb ut-Tahrir, whose website sails very close to praising the insurgency in Iraq, as well as Islamic bookshops that knowingly sell literature praising terrorism.

The public comments of some Muslim clerics could also be in breach of the rules.

Premiers, who have been outbidding each other and federal Labor with tough new counter-terrorism laws, want the Prime Minister to insert a sunset clause in the laws so they do not stay on the books forever.

John Howard has been reluctant to agree to the push, but has hinted at a review.

The Sedition Act will be revamped to focus on people who incite violence against groups within the community, rather than classes of people as was the case under the old act.

The penalty for sedition will be increased from three to seven years' jail.

One example of sedition given to the Herald Sun was where someone sympathetic to a terrorist cause puts up a notice on the internet calling on young people from a particular race to start fighting with young people of different races until they leave Australia.

A defence against the new sedition charge could be where the comment was made merely to criticise government policy.

For example, an internet posting calling for tight immigration curbs on young people from certain countries might anger people from those countries, but would not qualify for a sedition charge if genuinely about immigration policy.

Mr Howard sought to reassure Australia's Muslim community yesterday that any new laws would not be specifically aimed at them.

"Law-abiding Muslims have as much at stake in these laws being passed as law-abiding Christians or law-abiding atheists or law-abiding Jews or law-abiding Hindus. We are all in this together," he said.

But Australian Islamic Mission president Dr Zachariah Matthews said some of the reforms had the potential to cause more intolerance in the community.

Premier Steve Bracks said he was firm in wanting the proposed laws to include a minimum 10-year sunset clause with three-year reviews.

Mr Bracks also said judicial oversight was needed.

"The experience among governments around the world is that we do need special and unique powers to deal with . . . terrorism," he said.

© Herald and Weekly Times


Protecting the vets...


Murray Protects Veterans with PTSD
September 23, 2005

Washington, D.C. -- Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash) stood up for America's veterans by ensuring that those who need help with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are not scrutinized, stigmatized, or penalized by a planned VA investigation.

"Veterans with PTSD deserve the VA's compassion and support, not costly investigations, penalties and stigma," Murray said. "Veterans should not be punished for mistakes the VA has made, and that's what my amendment ensures."

Earlier this year, the VA announced plans to investigate the PTSD disability claims of 72,000 veterans. An earlier study of a small number of cases by the VA's Inspector General found errors in about one-third of the claims examined. Many of the problems uncovered were paperwork errors. Murray and veterans organizations like the American Legion and the Paralyzed Veterans of America feared the VA would use the review to strip benefits from veterans with mental illness.

The review would also take time and resources away from processing current disability claims.

"The VA must not delay its work on today's disability claims in order to investigate decisions it made years ago," Murray said.

Murray said the VA's review would send a message to veterans that if they seek help for PTSD, they will be subject to scrutiny.

"It's already hard enough for veterans to seek care for mental health problems. I can't stand by and let the VA throw down another barrier in front of veterans with PTSD," Murray said.

Murray blocked the review today by inserting language into the FY 2006 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Bill, which passed the full Senate this afternoon. Murray's language says the review cannot proceed until the VA justifies the program to Congress. It also ensures veterans cannot be stripped of their benefits except in cases of fraud.

Veterans leaders applauded Murray's work.

"Senator Murray has given veterans some body armor to protect them from administrative errors and penalties," said Skip Dreps, government relations director for the Northwest Chapter of the Paralyzed Veterans of America, which represents 20,000 veterans nationwide, including 500 in Washington state. "We bore the burden of battle once, and we shouldn't have to bear the battle again when our government makes mistakes in our benefits."

Now that the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs bill has passed the Senate, it must be reconciled with the House of Representative's version.


Larry Brody and the big red Chow...

Brody's blog ( ) soothes the soul. A rare and decent conversation, a break from the corruption typlified by Tom DeLay, et al, who, thankfully, has been indicted for conspiracy by another decent guy...the DA in Texas. About time. Meanwhile, kick back and enjoy Brody and the chow:

September 28th, 2005

The Big Red Chow Dude came by the other day to sit a spell, catch up on the latest news and let us know what’s up with him. In the usual course of things, the Dude is a magnificent animal. Depending on the lighting, he can look as much like a red bear or wolf as he does a dog and is a legend in these parts for his ability to shape-change as well as his command of the forest.

The Dude’s been wild as long as we’ve known him, the expert’s expert in all the in and outs of country dog life. He stays away from vehicles and livestock. Doesn’t chase chickens or ducks. Emmy, our pit bull, fell head over heels when she first saw him strutting up our back trail three years ago, and he did the same.

Nothing could get that boy off the property. Not yelling. Not squirting. Not rocks. He wanted Emmy as badly as she wanted him, and, finally, when our backs were turned, they consummated their love.

The Dude stayed with Emmy and their puppies for a year and a half. For six months, no human could get near him, but eventually we all won each other over. The Dude wouldn’t play with the pups, but he was there to protect them, to stay between his kids and the trees. It wasn’t until he’d taught them everything he knew that he went back into the woods.

During the past year, the Dude has gotten onto a schedule where he visits every couple of weeks. Our wandering son-in-law. This latest time around, the Dude’s coat was matted, and he was listless and dull. Instead of taking his usual place at the highest point in our clearing, he slunk up to the front porch and hid behind the swing. He wouldn’t eat or let anybody open his mouth, and his breath smelled worse than a compost heap.

The Dude needed serious medical attention. It was time to take him to the vet. He was fine when I put the leash on him, but instead of hopping into the truck he dug his claws into the ground.

“No!” he growled. “Not the truck! That’s how I got here. They drove me to the woods. They pushed me out onto the road and squealed away!”

I looked into his dark eyes. “You weren’t always wild?”

“I had a boy once,” the Dude said. “Tall. Kinda gangly. I loved him. I thought he loved me.”

“I won’t abandon you, Dude. Leave these woods in this truck and you’ll come back in it, too. Everything’ll be the same.”

The Dude let me pick him up and put him on the seat. We drove to the vet in Flippin, where Dr. Sara Bailey found the problem.

“See?” she said, pointing to the roof of his mouth. “He’s got a stick caught in there.”

And so he did. About an inch thick and four inches long, jammed deep into the Dude’s gums just behind his canine teeth. Blood caked around it. After a struggle that ended only after Dr. Bailey had sedated him, the stick that eventually would’ve killed the Dude was gone. That’s when the Good Doctor saw another problem.

“He’s not fixed,” she said. “We can take care of that while he’s out.”

I looked at the sleeping Dude. And I knew that this was one of those times when you just can’t do what you should. “We don’t own this dog,” I said. “He’s not just some pet. Neutering him may be the best idea in the world, but we don’t have the right to do it like this. That would be violating his trust.”

I took the Dude home, and in an hour he was eating like there was no tomorrow and acting like himself again. Prancing to his place at the high spot in the clearing. He stayed the night, and the next morning I told him what Dr. Bailey wanted to do. The Dude sniffed the air. “Only one way a man can answer that,” he said.

He nuzzled my hand, and bounded to his feet. “Tell everybody I’ll see ‘em soon,” the Dude said. “Thanks for being such a good buddy and watching my —” he paused, and I swear I heard an “Ahem” — “back.”

And, laughing, the King of the Forest strutted back into his domain.

Originally published September 28, 2005


Supreme Court of the United States will decide...

The Supreme Court will be considering some very important issues beginning in October. From comes this:

Court returns to campaign finance issues

09:50 AM
Lyle Denniston

The Supreme Court, granting review of 11 new cases for the Term that opens formally on Oct. 3, on Monday stepped back into the lingering controversy over government restrictions on election campaign financing. It will hear two new cases in that area -- including a highly significant test of government power to put limits on how much candidates may spend, not how much donors may give to them.

The other case challenges federal restrictions on corporation and labor union spending on ads close to election day. The Court has already upheld those restrictions as written, but the new case tests them when applied to specific factual situations.

The Court took no action Monday on a major new case arising out of the war on terrorism -- a test of the constitutionality of President Bush's creation of military commissions to try war crimes cases against foreign nationals. The fate of that case (Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, 05-184) may be determined next Monday, when the Court next issues orders.

In the most important of the business cases accepted for review, the Court said it would consider the constitutionality of tax breaks that states, counties and cities give to businesses to entice them to keep their plants where they are, or to expand them. That case, though, might not be decided on the merits, since the Court added a question on whether Ohio taxpayers had the legal right ("standing") to challenge the investment tax credits at issue. The Sixth Circuit ruled that the Ohio tax credits discriminated against other states' attempts to attract business. (The combined cases are DaimlerChrysler v. Cuno, 04-1704, and Wilkins v. Cuno, 04-1724).

The Court also took on a new case on securities laws, agreeing to decide whether investors may sue for fraud in a class action lawsuit based on state law, if the claim is only that they were induced to hold onto their stocks, not to buy or sell (Merrill Lynch v. Dabit, 04-1371).

One of the more unusual grants involves a question of federal court jurisdiction that Circuit Judge Richard Posner has called "one of the most mysterious and esoteric branches of the law of federal jurisdiction." The case tests whether the "probate exception" to federal court jurisdiction bars those courts entirely from deciding estate-settlement cases, usually reserved for state courts. The Court last ruled on that exception in 1946.

That new case is Marshall v. Marshall, 04-1544. While the legal issue may attract the attention of lawyers, judges and academics, the case is likely to get wider public notice, since the appeal was filed by Anna Nicole Smith, an erotic performer and model, who filed it in her name Vickie Lynn Marshall. She is the widow of a Texas billionaire, J. Howard Marshall II; she is involved in a long-running estate dispute with Marshall's son, Pierce.

The new cases to be heard include four on criminal law issues:

** The power of federal judges to dismiss a habeas petition as too late when a state has waived any objection to a tardy filing by a prison inmate (Day v. Crosby, 04-1324).

** The reach of the Fourth Amendment as applied to an "anticipatory search warrant," allowing a search by officers when a future event occurs. The issue is whether such a warrant is invalid if it does not spell out when the warrant is to be served, and the suspect is not given an affidavit showing that time when the search is carried out (U.S. v. Grubbs, 04-1414).

** In another Fourth Amendment case, the issue is whether police are barred from carrying out a warrantless search of a person on parole, when there is no suspicion of criminal wrongdoing so parole status is the sole reason for the search (Samson v. California, 04-9728).

** The validity of a South Carolina rule barring evidence that someone else committed the crime, if that does not create an indication of innocence, when compared to the prosecution's evidence (Holmes v. South Carolina, 04-1327).

The other two new cases raise these issues:

** The right of states to get reimbursed for their Medicaid benefit payments when the person receiving those benefits gets money in settling a personal injury lawsuit (Arkansas Department of Human Services v. Ahlborn, 04-1506).

** Local governments' duty to make added efforts to contact a property owner who owes taxes, when a notice of a tax sale is returned undelivered (Jones v. Flowers, 04-1477).

The Court's actions on Monday on new campaign finance cases were a mixture of a predictable grant, and a surprise grant.

Continue reading "Court returns to campaign finance issues" »


Rep. Richard Pombo's an idiot...

From The Sacramento Bee via Truthout:

Rep. Pombo's Yard Sale
The Sacramento Bee
Tuesday 27 September 2005

With TR's legacy on block, GOP is silent.

Here's a bizarre thought: If we don't drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, we have to sell off national parks to help balance the national budget.

That grotesque notion has slithered full-grown from the dim recesses of Rep. Richard Pombo's brain. The Tracy Republican is chairman of the House Resources Committee, the most important House committee on public lands issues.

The whirring sound you hear is Theodore Roosevelt, the founder of our national parks and national wildlife refuge system and a Republican of a different sort, spinning in his grave.

Pombo drafted a 285-page bill dated Sept. 9 that would open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the Outer Continental Shelf off America's 26 coastal states to drilling (something opposed by most officials in both parties in California). His bill calls for selling off national parks; selling naming rights to visitor centers, education centers, museums, trails and amphitheaters; and selling $10 million in advertising in maps and guides and on all buses, shuttles, vans, trams and ferries.

According to news accounts, Pombo's spokesman said the proposal is intended only to influence lawmakers to support the item allowing oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. That proposal by itself is bad enough. Americans use 7 billion barrels of oil per year. The US Geological Survey estimates the refuge has 4.3 to 11.8 billion barrels of technically recoverable oil (or a mean of 7.7 billion barrels). Economically recoverable oil is less.

Why drill in one of the nation's most pristine wildernesses in order to get a year's or less supply of oil, distracting us from where we need to go with energy policy? But that's not the issue of the moment.

Pombo's bill requires 15 sites to be removed from the national park system and made available "for sale or for energy or commercial development." One of them is the Eugene O'Neill National Historical Site in Danville. Across the country, there's Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument, Texas; Fort Bowie National Historical Site, Arizona; Frederick Law Olmsted National Historical Site, Massachusetts; Mary McLeod Bethune Council House, District of Columbia; Minuteman Missile National Historic Site, South Dakota; Thaddeus Kosciuszko National Memorial, Pennsylvania; Thomas Stone National Historical Site, Maryland. The list includes seven sites in Alaska: Aniakchak National Monument and Preserve; Bering Land Bridge National Preserve; Cape Krusenstern National Monument; Kobuk Valley National Park; Lake Clark National Park and Preserve; Noatak National Preserve; and Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve.

Oh, and there's this little gem: Pombo's bill would instruct the secretary of the interior to remove Theodore Roosevelt Island from the national park system and "make it available for immediate sale for purposes of commercial and residential development." Talk about adding insult to injury.

Pombo would drill and sell our assets to gain one-time money in order to fix a budget hole. And when the deficits continue next year and the year after? How many parks and how much public land does Pombo intend to despoil or sell?

The good news is that a Sept. 25 draft of the bill removed the national park sell-off. Still, the idea is out there and will probably rear its slimy head again. Pombo has shown that he's willing to sacrifice our public lands rather than be a steward of them. No Republican leader has risen to denounce the idea, so it seems safe to assume that he is not the only member of his party who finds this appalling notion acceptable.

Are there contemporary Teddy Roosevelt Republicans out there somewhere? The nation could sure use their services these days.


Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Will DeLay escape...again?

From AP via Yahoo News:

DeLay Probe Winds Down; Charges May Loom
Associated Press Writer
2 hours, 20 minutes ago

A Texas grand jury's recent interest in conspiracy charges could lead to last-minute criminal indictments — possibly against House Majority Leader Tom DeLay — as it wraps up its investigation Wednesday into DeLay's state political organization, according to lawyers with knowledge of the case.

Conspiracy counts against two DeLay associates this month raised concerns with DeLay's lawyers, who fear the chances are greater that the majority leader could be charged with being part of the conspiracy. Before these counts, the investigation was more narrowly focused on the state election code.

By expanding the charges to include conspiracy, prosecutors made it possible for the Travis County grand jury to bring charges against DeLay. Otherwise, the grand jury would have lacked jurisdiction under state laws.

The Associated Press spoke to several lawyers familiar with the case, all of whom requested anonymity because they were not authorized to comment publicly. DeLay, R-Texas, said Tuesday that prosecutors have interviewed him. He has insisted he committed no crimes and says Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle, a Democrat, is pursuing the case for political reasons.

The disclosure came as congressional officials said top House Republicans were quietly considering how to respond if an indictment were issued.

House GOP rules require any member of the elected leadership to step down temporarily if indicted, and it would be up to the rank and file to select an interim replacement. Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., could make a recommendation, whether choosing to elevate another member of the leadership or tapping an alternative to reduce the possibility of a struggle if DeLay were cleared and then sought to reclaim his post.

Asked what he had heard of any late developments, DeLay said Tuesday, "Not a word."

He also said he earlier "had an interview" with prosecutors, adding, "everybody knows that."

The 11-term congressman has served as No. 2 in the House GOP leadership for three years, credited with maintaining iron discipline within the party and keeping Republicans in control of the chamber. He has retained the loyalty of most party members despite running into ethical problems last year. In a rare rebuke of a House leader, the ethics committee admonished DeLay three times for pressuring a fellow congressman, involving the Federal Aviation Administration in a political dispute and discussing energy legislation with lobbyists at a golf outing.

The grand jury's finale coincides with a wide swath of political trouble for the GOP. Ethical questions have been raised about stock sales by the Republican leader of the Senate, Bill Frist, R-Tenn. And President Bush, an uneasy ally of DeLay, faces the lowest approval ratings of his presidency.

The Texas grand jury has charged that corporate donations given to Texans for a Republican Majority Political Action Committee — formed by DeLay — were used to support state candidates in violation of state law. Texas law prohibits corporate money to be used to advocate the election or defeat of candidates; it is allowed only for administrative expenses.

Once DeLay helped Republicans win control of the state Legislature in 2002, the majority leader engineered a Republican redistricting plan that gave the state's U.S. House delegation a 21-11 majority in the current Congress. The effort helped Republicans increase their House margin by five seats this year.

Three of DeLay's political associates, the PAC itself, several corporate donors and a Texas business organization have been indicted so far — but not DeLay himself.

On Sept. 13, the grand jury re-indicted two of the associates, Jim Ellis and John Colyandro. The new charges included the criminal conspiracy counts.

The legal sources said that if the case had remained solely under the state election code, DeLay could only be indicted in his home county, Fort Bend.

The grand jury has charged that Texans for a Republican Majority and the Texas Association of Business worked together to circumvent the election code and funnel "massive amounts of secret corporate wealth" into campaigns, said Earle, the Travis County prosecutor.

The conspiracy charges were brought against Jim Ellis, who heads DeLay's national political committee — Americans for a Republican Majority — and John Colyandro, former executive director of Texans for a Republican Majority. They had previously been indicted on charges of laundering $190,000 in corporate donations.

The conspiracy counts against Ellis and Colyandro could bring a punishment of 180 days to two years and a fine of up to $10,000.
EDITORS — Associated Press Special Correspondent David Espo contributed to this report.

Conyers wants answers re. protest arrests...

(via Raw Story)

Office of the ChiefUnited States Park Police
Dwight E. Pettiford
1100 Ohio Drive S.W.Washington, D.C. 20242

Dear Chief of Police:
I am writing to request information regarding the treatment of individuals arrested on September 26, 2005, in front of the White House and processed at the United States Park Police Anacostia Station.

Yesterday 384 protestors, including peace activist Cindy Sheehan, were arrested outside the White House and were brought to the United States Park Police Anacostia Station. I was very surprised to learn that many of those arrested were kept handcuffed in vans and buses for up to 12 hours before they were charged and released. Some of those were released at 4:30 in the morning after being arrested at 4:00 the previous afternoon. Many of those held captive the longest were grandmothers and senior citizens. Those released after midnight were unfamiliar with Washington, D.C., and had no means to travel back to their hotels once the metro had closed. Anacostia is not frequented by taxicabs after midnight.

I have the following questions regarding the treatment of those arrested yesterday:
Why was the Anacostia Station chosen as the sole location to process all 384 arrestees when there were several other Park Police stations in the greater Washington, D.C. area?

In what other circumstances have arrestees been detained by U.S. Park Police for periods exceeding twelve hours before being charged with a crime?

In what other circumstances have arrestees been detained by U.S. Park Police, and kept handcuffed on buses for periods exceeding ten hours?

What is the established U.S. Park Police procedure for processing large numbers of arrestees in the Washington, D.C., area?

Please respond to the Judiciary Committee Minority Office at 2142 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, D.C., 20515.

John Conyers, Jr.Ranking Minority Member


Pass Pelosi/Waxman bill? Snowball's chance in...

...hell. Bush said flatly, "I never second-guess myself." Nor does he ever admit he's wrong. Ain't no way he'd ever sign this bill even if it got to his desk. Which it won't. Not with this Republican Congress having to sign off on it...which they absolutely will not. Nice thought, though I suspect Pelosi and Waxman wrote it up to show Dems they don't approve of cronyism, knowing it would go nowhere.

Waxman and Pelosi Introduce Anti-Cronyism Bill
By Rep. Henry A. Waxman
t r u t h o u t Statement
Tuesday 27 September 2005

Washington, DC - Today Rep. Henry A. Waxman and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi introduced the Anti-Cronyism and Public Safety Act, which would prohibit the President from appointing unqualified individuals to critical public safety positions in the government.

"President Bush has handed out some of the country's most difficult and important jobs - leadership positions in public safety and emergency response - to politically well-connected individuals with no experience or qualifications," Rep. Waxman said. "This common sense legislation will end this practice and ensure that public safety is back in the hands of those who are trained and experienced in protecting the public."

The bill would require any presidential appointee for a public safety position to have proven, relevant credentials for that position. In addition, the legislation bars from appointment to an agency any individual who has been a lobbyist for an industry subject to the agency's authority during the preceding two years.

"As Hurricane Katrina tragically demonstrated, serious consequences result when unqualified cronies are appointed to federal public safety positions," Pelosi said. "The Bush Administration's culture of cronyism comes at the expense of public safety. It is unconscionable and must stop immediately - it is literally a matter of life and death. This legislation is critically needed, and I thank Mr. Waxman for his strong leadership in protecting the American people."

Subject to the bill are specific senior-level emergency preparedness offices at the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Environmental Protection Agency, as well as any position with the primary function of responding to a direct threat to life or property or hazard to health.


Larry Brody..TV writer/producer in Arkansas...

No, you do not want to be taken for "a walk in the woods" by one of these folks, lemme tell you!
Go read Larry's blog at and you'll find out just why. Talk about a culture shock. In any case, here's what Larry has to say in his blog profile:

"After having slaved for all too many years as a television writer and producer in L.A., I’m now esconced in North Central Arkansas. And I’m still writing.
Now, though, my main product is Live! From Paradise!, a column that appears in the local Gannett newspaper, The Baxter Bulletin. The column is, in its way, the reverse of the TV series Green Acres, in that it shows what this particular city boy is learning from the country folks.
And believe me when I say “country.” The area in which our ranch is located is about as rural as you can get. To some people it’s the Middle of Nowhere. To me, it’s Paradise.
Every week, as each new column comes out, I’ll publish it here in this blog, just in case there’s a larger audience interested in seeing my world. Since we’re now several weeks behind, I’ll do my best to spend the next few days catching up. Meanwhile, here’s how The Baxter Bulletin. introduced me in my first local appearance:

Editor’s Note: A native of Nashville, Tenn., Larry Brody is creative director of Cloud Creek Institute For The Arts, the world’s first “Media Colony,” near Freck. He comes to the Ozarks after more than 30 years in Southern California, where he produced and wrote thousands of hours of TV shows, including “The Huntress,” “Star Trek: Voyager,” “Diagnosis Murder,” “Walker Texas Ranger,” “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” “Spawn,” “The Silver Surfer,” “Mike Hammer,” “Police Story,” “Baretta,” “The Fall Guy,” “The Streets of San Francisco,” “Hawaii Five-0,” “Medical Center,” “Ironside” and many more.
Brody is author of the best-selling how-to book “Television Writing from the Inside Out” (Applause Books, New York) and the upcoming “Turning Points in Television” (Kensington Books, New York), an insider’s look at the impact of TV on American culture and, now, a new column for The Baxter Bulletin, Live! From the Ozarks!

Brody, his wife, Gwen, and their family of dogs, horses, cats and chickens live, love and do a lot of laughing in and around their log cabin atop the forested mountain that is the setting for Cloud Creek Ranch.

Since that time, Turning Points in Television has found its way into bookstores, where it’s doing pretty well. And the name of the column has changed. But all the elements that make living in the Middle of Nowhere into Paradise for me still are very much the same.


Monday, September 26, 2005

Bush proves Peter Principle...

From a writer:

"Once again, George Bush has proven the Peter Principle: in a hierarchically structured administration, people tend to be promoted up to their "level of incompetence". Or beyond, in my opinion.

First, he promoted Condy Rice to Secretary of State, after she demonstrated her incompetence as National Security Adviser.

And he famously promoted ex-FEMA Director Michael Brown and his boss, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, to positions for which they were way beyond their levels of incompetence.

And now he has appointed his dear friend Karl Rove to oversee the enormous task of reconstructing the Gulf Coast after the devastating storm… Karl Rove, a man who has zero experience in planning and managing giant, complex construction projects… Karl Rove, a man under suspicion of revealing the identity of an undercover CIA agent… Karl Rove, a man who will aid and abet undermining the livelihood and recovery of tens of thousands of residents of the Gulf Coast. After all, Bush has already issued executive orders negating the rule of paying wages at the prevailing rate for recovery operations, and following environmental regulations. Who could be better suited for the task than Karl Rove?

I am disgusted beyond words."


Sunday, September 25, 2005

Orders to bar reporter Fisk from US?!!!

September 22, 2005

The internationally renowned correspodent for The Independent -- the great British journalist Robert Fisk has been banned from entering the United States. Fisk has been covering war zones for decades, but is above all known for his incisive reporting from the Middle East for more than 20 years. His critical coverage of the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq, and the continuing occupation that has followed it, has repeatedly exposed U.S. and British government disinformation campaigns. He also has exposed how the bulk of the press reports from Iraq have been "hotel journalism" -- a phrase Fisk coined --

The daily New Mexican reports that "U.S. immigration officials refused Tuesday to allow Robert Fisk, longtime Middle East correspondent for the London newspaper, The Independent, to board a plane from Toronto to Denver. Fisk was on his way to Santa Fe for a sold-out appearance in the Lannan Foundation ’s readings-and-conversations series Wednesday night. According to Christie Mazuera Davis, a Lannan program officer, Fisk was told that his papers were not in order.

Davis made last-minute arrangements Wednesday for Amy Goodman, host of Pacifica Radio’s daily news show, Democracy Now!, to interview Fisk via satellite from a television station in Toronto..." A recording of this satellite interview will soon be available on the Lannan Foundation's website. If Fisk has been barred from entry, it's very hard not to believe it has something to do with dispaches of his like this one from September 15.

I have long admired Fisk's unbeatably first-rate journalism, his intrepid insistence on sticking his nose where the authorities -- of whatever country he's in -- don't want him to go. He constantly shows up the sluggish cowardice and indolent hand-out journalism practiced by so many U.S. foreign correspondents from the safety of their hotel bars. That the U.S. won't allow this great journalist into this country to tell what he has seen and what he knows is a scandal.

If you're not familiar with Fisk's reporting, there is an entire website devoted to it -- read Fisk's latest, and find an archive of his articles (plus audio-visual materials) by clicking here. You can also order Fisk's books, like Pity the Nation: The Abduction of Lebanon, and The Great War for Civilization: The Conquest of the Middle East.

Constitution vs the fundies...

Reckoning with the God Squad Fundamentalist bullies cannot be appeased. They must be confronted.
By Bill Moyers

"In These Times" -- -- At the Central Baptist Church in Marshall, Texas, where I was baptized in the faith, we believed in a free church in a free state. I still do.My spiritual forbears did not take kindly to living under theocrats who embraced religious liberty for themselves but denied it to others. “Forced worship stinks in God’s nostrils,” thundered the dissenter Roger Williams as he was banished from Massachusetts for denying Puritan authority over his conscience.

Baptists there were a “pitiful negligible minority” but they were agitators for freedom and therefore denounced as “incendiaries of the commonwealth” for holding to their belief in that great democracy of faith-the priesthood of all believers. Such revolutionary ideas made the new nation with its Constitution and Bill of Rights “a haven for the cause of conscience.” No longer would “the loathsome combination of church and state”-as Thomas Jefferson described it-be the settled order.

The First Amendment neither inculcates religion nor inoculates against it. Americans could be loyal to the Constitution without being hostile to God, or they could pay no heed to God without fear of being mugged by an official God Squad. It has been a remarkable arrangement that guaranteed “soul freedom.”

It is at risk now, and the fourth observance of the terrorist attacks of 9/11 is an appropriate time to think about it....
(continued at


Better call SEAL Team for this...

Armed and dangerous - Flipper the firing dolphin let loose by Katrina
by Mark Townsend
Sunday September 25, 2005
The Observer

It may be the oddest tale to emerge from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Armed dolphins, trained by the US military to shoot terrorists and pinpoint spies underwater, may be missing in the Gulf of Mexico.

Experts who have studied the US navy's cetacean training exercises claim the 36 mammals could be carrying 'toxic dart' guns. Divers and surfers risk attack, they claim, from a species considered to be among the planet's smartest. The US navy admits it has been training dolphins for military purposes, but has refused to confirm that any are missing.

Dolphins have been trained in attack-and-kill missions since the Cold War. The US Atlantic bottlenose dolphins have apparently been taught to shoot terrorists attacking military vessels. Their coastal compound was breached during the storm, sweeping them out to sea. But those who have studied the controversial use of dolphins in the US defence programme claim it is vital they are caught quickly.

Leo Sheridan, 72, a respected accident investigator who has worked for government and industry, said he had received intelligence from sources close to the US government's marine fisheries service confirming dolphins had escaped.

'My concern is that they have learnt to shoot at divers in wetsuits who have simulated terrorists in exercises. If divers or windsurfers are mistaken for a spy or suicide bomber and if equipped with special harnesses carrying toxic darts, they could fire,' he said. 'The darts are designed to put the target to sleep so they can be interrogated later, but what happens if the victim is not found for hours?'

Usually dolphins were controlled via signals transmitted through a neck harness. 'The question is, were these dolphins made secure before Katrina struck?' said Sheridan.

The mystery surfaced when a separate group of dolphins was washed from a commercial oceanarium on the Mississippi coast during Katrina. Eight were found with the navy's help, but the dolphins were not returned until US navy scientists had examined them.

Sheridan is convinced the scientists were keen to ensure the dolphins were not the navy's, understood to be kept in training ponds in a sound in Louisiana, close to Lake Pontchartrain, whose waters devastated New Orleans.

The navy launched the classified Cetacean Intelligence Mission in San Diego in 1989, where dolphins, fitted with harnesses and small electrodes planted under their skin, were taught to patrol and protect Trident submarines in harbour and stationary warships at sea.

Criticism from animal rights groups ensured the use of dolphins became more secretive. But the project gained impetus after the Yemen terror attack on the USS Cole in 2000. Dolphins have also been used to detect mines near an Iraqi port.


Saturday, September 24, 2005

Off to Camp David, outta the way with him!!!

Web Exclusive Nation
Reporter’s Notebook: Bush Wings it Through Rita

While the President shifted his schedule to look his best during Rita, our reporter got lost in the shuffle
Posted Saturday, Sep. 24, 2005

George Bush has become a hurricane hunter. Like those pilots who fly into the storm, Bush has been criss-crossing the country looking for the best ways to show that he’s offering a competent and compassionate response to Hurricanes Rita and Katrina. Yesterday, he cancelled a trip to Texas at the last minute, flying straight to Colorado where he could visit the military’s Northern Command and follow the progress of Rita from there. Apparently the word didn’t reach the rest of the staff so a hundred reporters, including this one, went on to Texas anyway. Bush spoke to reporters a few moments ago after he came out of the Northern Command saying “the first order of business” is to dispatch search-and-rescue teams to the Rita-ravaged areas of Texas and Louisiana and urging evacuees to heed warnings about returning home to soon.

Bush aides pride themselves on their crisp scheduling but Bush is winging it—literally—day by day. As I write this in Colorado Springs, reporters and staff know that we’re bound to Austin today to visit the state’s emergency command center and that we’re scheduled to overnight in San Antonio—close enough to the storm to show Bush cares, far enough away from the action not to get too much in the way. As for when we return to Washington, the White House isn’t saying. Originally, officials said they expected to return on Sunday but there’s now talk that we could stay on the road through Monday or Tuesday to allow Bush a chance to inspect the damage from Rita. White House officials are still awaiting damage assessments from Rita and are keeping an eye on the likely flooding to come.

All of this is vastly different from how Bush handled Katrina, of course. Indeed, during Bush’s presidency his policy has not been to visit the site of a disaster until well after the storm had passed. The president doesn’t want to get in the way, aides would say. But that was before Katrina and the bipartisan attacks on the federal response to the storm. Now the president is doing everything he can to show he’s on top of the situation. But it may be the case that his actions have an undesired effect—making him look too cloying and calculating. And, of course, the angry response to Katrina wasn’t just about Bush’s seeming indifference—although that played a part in it. Most of it was surely about the poor response of, as White House officials like to say in a dig at state and local officials, “all levels of government.” If FEMA does well, if the response works, where Bush gets photographed really won’t matter.

Friday, September 23, 2005

On "The Onion"...

A caveat: I have never read or seen "The Onion". However, I have read an article, not knowing it was written by them and believed what I read. I did it today and learned nothing in it was true or accurate only when two people emailed to say so. Thank heavens they did and I was able to correct myself.

Given that experience, I conclude that the purpose for being of "The Onion" is to deceive the reader.

Yet, it seems to be widely read. Since I can find nothing honorable in deceit, I do wonder why.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Accusation of Treason...

(From Independent Clearing House online):

US Air Force Col Robert Bowman:

I want to start with a scary thought: Can you imagine what would have happened if George W. Bush had been President during the Cuban missile Crisis.

You people who are out here protesting, you are the shock troops battling to preserve our cherished freedoms. You know our freedoms are not under attack from the remnants of Saddam Hussein’s Bathist Party. They’re under attack by the likes of John Ashcroft. They’re trampled by Donald Rumsfeld, they’re disdained by Dick Cheney, and they’re not even understood by George W. Bush.

The battle to preserve our freedoms is not taking place in Baghdad and Tikrit and Falluja. It’s taking place in peace marches and demonstrations in Ghiradeli Park in San Francisco, in Memorial Park in Oklahoma City, and in Lafayette Park in Washington, DC.

The front lines are right here. You are preserving our cherished freedoms by exercising them in spite of ridicule and opposition. The battle to preserve our freedoms is you.

You are the foot soldiers protecting our civil rights.You are the Minutemen sounding the alarm against tyranny.You are upholding the spirit of the American Revolution.You are preserving the freedoms that the troops in the desert have a right to come back to.

The troops getting shot at in Iraq are not protecting us, we are protecting them and their honor and their freedom. We my sisters and brothers are protecting this nation by speaking truth to power. We’re speaking truth to a pack of liars.

We must do it loudly and fearlessly and courageously and joyfully, for we are the Patriots. And when we speak, this is the truth that we proclaim: This war in Iraq has nothing to do with National Security or freedom or democracy or human rights or protecting our allies or weapons of mass destruction or defeating terrorism or disarming Iraq. It has to do with money, it has to do with oil, and it has to do with raw imperial power. And it’s based totally on lies.

Those that forced this war on an unwilling world are guilty of violating the US Constitution, the UN Charter, the Nuremburg Principles and International Law. What they have done is illegal, immoral, unconstitutional and treason!

Before this war started, we knew it would fracture NATO, split the United Nations, seperate us from our allies destroy the great nation we inherited from our fathers who died in World War II, and it has.

We knew it would make our beloved country feared and hated and outcast among the world community, a pariah among the peoples and the number one rogue nation on Earth, and it has.

This is nothing but treason.We knew this sadistic corporate war would incense the Arab world, provide thousands of new Osama bin Ladens and enormously increase the terrorist threat, and it has.

We knew it would further endanger the American people and the British people and destroy our National Security, and it has.

This cabal of neoconservatives from PNAC who planned this war, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Libby, Perle, Jeb Bush - even before Dubya became President - they told us why they had to do it, they said we need to occupy Iraq permanently in order to dominate Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and the southern Russian Republics around the Caspian Sea. We need to control the entire Middle East and all it’s oil.

This is nothing but treason.


Bush won't listen. Never.

NY Times via International Herald Tribune online:


WASHINGTON Prince Saud al Feisal, the Saudi foreign minister, said Thursday that he has been warning the Bush administration in recent days that Iraq is hurtling toward disintegration, a development that he said could drag the region into war.

"There is no dynamic now pulling the nation together," he said in a meeting with reporters on Thursday. "All the dynamics are pulling the country apart."

Feisal said he had carried this message "to everyone who will listen" within the Bush administration.

The prince's message, one of the most pessimistic public comments by a Mideast leader, was in stark contrast to the generally upbeat assessments that the White House and the Pentagon have been offering in recent weeks.

But in an appearance at the Pentagon, President George W. Bush, while expressing long-term optimism, warned that the bloodshed in Iraq was likely to increase in the coming weeks.

"Today, our commanders made it clear," he said after a meeting on Iraq with top officers at the Pentagon, "as Iraqis prepare to vote on their constitution in October and elect a permanent government in December, we must be prepared for more violence."

American commanders have repeatedly warned that insurgents would attempt to disrupt the voting.

Bush offered a new argument for staying the course, saying he feared that if the United States left Iraq now, it would become the kind of haven for terrorists that Afghanistan was prior to the toppling of the Taliban. "To leave Iraq now would be to repeat the costly mistakes of the past that led to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001," he said.

Feisal, who was in Washington for meetings with U.S. officials, blamed several U.S. decisions for the slide toward disintegration, though he did not refer to the Bush administration directly. Primary among them was designating "every Sunni as a Baathist criminal." Saudi Arabia styles itself as the capital and protector of Sunni Islam.

And the prince's remarks, at times harsh and at other moments careful and considered, were emblematic of the conflicted Saudi-American relationship.

The prince met with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in New York last week. He said American officials responded to his warnings by telling him that the United States successfully carried off the Iraqi elections this year, and "they say the same things about the constitution" and the situation in Iraq now.

"But what I am trying to do is say that unless something is done to bring Iraqis together, elections alone won't do it," he said. "A constitution alone won't do it."

Reading is good!!!

From Publishers' Lunch Weekly:


Author of THE GODFATHER RETURNS Mark Winegardner's second authorized sequel THE GODFATHER'S REVENGE, with a storyline that explores the role organized crime may have had in the assassination of a charismatic young President, moving to Dan Conaway at Putnam (Puzo's original publisher), for publication in fall 2006, by Neil Olson at Donadio & Olson for the Puzo estate and Amy Williams at Collins McCormick for Winegardner (NA).

CBA bestseller Lauraine Snelling's BREAKING FREE, the story of a broken woman who finds new life in rescuing a condemned thoroughbred horse and the handicapped little boy who loves it, to Chip MacGregor at Center Street, for publication in September 2007, in a three-book deal, in a pre-empt, by Deidre Knight at The Knight Agency (world).

Former HarperCollins editor Bridie Clark's BECAUSE SHE CAN, a roman a clef about a young woman in publishing who juggles 18 hour days, outrageous manuscripts, and a rapidly approaching wedding date, all while slaving under a famously tyrannical female boss, to Jamie Raab at Warner, in a pre-empt, with Karen Kosztolnyik editing, by Daniel Greenberg at Levine Greenberg Literary Agency.


Johanna Edwards's CONFESSIONS OF A TEENAGE SPY, about a high school girl whose world is turned upside down when her FBI Agent dad brings his work -- protecting a very cute 17-year-old boy -- home with him, to Michelle Nagler of Simon Pulse, at auction, in a two-book deal, in a nice deal, by Jenny Bent at Trident Media Group (world)


Rights to Steffan Postaer's THE LAST GENERATION, asking if people could not have babies anymore, just what would the last generation do?, to NBC with Mike Medavoy, Phoenix Films, and Touchstone Television as executive producers of the series, by Janet Carol Norton of Broder-Webb-Chervin-Silbermann Agency, in advance of Mary Hall Mayer at The Hall Agency selling literary


German and Spanish rights to Gloria Goldreich's DINNER WITH ANNA KARENINA, to Paul List Verlag and Ediciones Maeva, respectively, by Daniel Schnurrenberger at the Liepman Agency and Isabel Monteagudo at Internatio

Competent? BushCo ain't...

(via Truthout):

Voters' Remorse on Bush
By Bob Herbert
The New York Times
Thursday 22 September 2005

Maybe, just maybe, the public is beginning to see through the toxic fog of fantasy, propaganda and deliberate misrepresentation that has been such a hallmark of the George W. Bush administration, which is in danger of being judged by history as one of the worst of all time.

Mr. Bush's approval ratings have tanked as increasing numbers of Americans worry that their president, who seems to like nothing better than running off to his ranch to clear brush and ride his bike, may not be up to the job.

The most recent New York Times/CBS News Poll strongly indicated that the public - tired of the war-without-end in Iraq and dismayed by the federal response to the catastrophe in New Orleans - "has growing doubts about [the president's] capacity to deal with pressing problems."

A USA Today/CNN/Gallup Poll found for the first time that a majority of Americans do not see Mr. Bush as a strong and decisive leader. In an article in USA Today, Carroll Doherty of the nonpartisan Pew Research Center said of Mr. Bush: "He's lost ground among independents. He seems to be starting to lose ground among his own party. And he lost the Democrats a long time ago."

Reality is caving in on a president who was held aloft for so long by a combination of ideological mumbo-jumbo, the public relations legerdemain of Karl Rove and the buoyant patriotism that followed the Sept. 11 attacks. The Bush people were never big on reality, so sooner or later they were bound to be blindsided by it.

Remember, there was already a war going on when Katrina came to call. I've always believed that war is a serious matter. But the president was on vacation. Dick Cheney was on vacation. And Condi Rice was here in New York taking in the sights and shopping for shoes. That Americans were fighting and dying on foreign soil was not enough to demand their full attention. They were busy having fun. So it's no wonder it took a good long while before they noticed that a whole section of America had been wiped out in a calamity of biblical proportions.

What Americans are finally catching onto is the utter incompetence of this crowd. And if we didn't know before, we're learning now, in the harshest possible ways, that incompetence has bitter consequences. The body count of Americans killed in Iraq has now passed 1,900, with many more deaths to come. But there's still no strategy, no plan. The White House hasn't the slightest clue about what to do. So the dying will continue.

Mr. Bush's "Top Gun" moment aboard the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln was two and a half years ago. It was another example of the president in fantasyland. The war was a botch from the beginning. Mr. Bush never sent enough troops to get the job done, and he never provided enough armor to protect the troops that he did send. Thin-skinned, the president got rid of anyone who had the temerity to suggest he might be wrong about some of the decisions he was making.

Here at home, even loyal Republicans are beginning to bail out on Mr. Bush's fiendish willingness to shove the monumental costs of the federal government's operations - including his war, his tax cuts and his promised reconstruction of the Gulf Coast - onto the unsuspecting backs of generations still to come.

There is a general sense now that things are falling apart. The economy was already faltering before Katrina hit. Gasoline prices are starting to undermine the standard of living of some Americans, and a full-blown home-heating-oil crisis could erupt this winter. The administration's awful response to the agony of the Gulf Coast has left most Americans believing that we are not prepared to cope with a large terrorist attack. And Osama bin Laden is still at large.

This is what happens when voters choose a president because he seems like a nice guy, like someone who'd be fun at a barbecue or a ballgame. You'd never use that criterion when choosing a surgeon, or a pilot to fly your family across the country.

Mr. Bush will be at the helm of the ship of state for three more years, so we have no choice but to hang on. But the next time around, voters need to keep in mind that beyond the incessant yammering about left and right, big government and small, Democrats and Republicans, is a more immediate issue, and that's competence.


Learning secrets from government...

(From Secrecy News):


The House Committee on Government Reform has published a new editionof its popular "Citizen's Guide on Using the Freedom of InformationAct and the Privacy Act of 1974 to Request Government Records."

The Guide, first published in 1977, "is one of the most widely read congressional committee reports in history," the new edition says. A copy of the updated Guide, House Report 109-226, September 20, 2005, is available here:


On Bush fallin' off the wagon...

One of my writer friends just emailed:

Today I hear an interview with Barry Levine, asst. editor of the National Enquirer who is printing the story and from whence it came. He says they have 'a family member' and at least one corroborating witness re the incidents. He said they got the story and decided to go with it because 'a major newspaper' is working on the story also. Hmm. The Wash. Post maybe? I guess we'll see in days to come. Levine also said if it came down to it they could produce their sources in a court of law.

And being as I get the Enquirer, we'll see what they print when they print it.


Ruth Bader Ginsburg says:

(via Sacramento Bee)

Ginsburg: 'Any woman will not do' for job

By NAHAL TOOSI, Associated Press Writer
Last Updated 8:43 pm PDT Wednesday, September 21, 2005

NEW YORK (AP) - Ruth Bader Ginsburg told an audience Wednesday that she doesn't like the idea of being the only female justice on the Supreme Court. But in choosing to fill one of the two open positions on the court, "any woman will not do," she said.

There are "some women who might be appointed who would not advance human rights or women's rights," Ginsburg told those gathered at the New York City Bar Association.

The retirement of Ginsburg's colleague Sandra Day O'Connor has fueled speculation about whether President Bush will nominate a woman to her position.

Federal Judge John G. Roberts originally was Bush's nominee for O'Connor's seat but now is facing a Senate vote on the job of chief justice, a position left vacant after the death of William H. Rehnquist.

Ginsburg stressed that the president should appoint a "fine jurist," adding that there are many women who fit that description.

"I have a list of highly qualified women, but the president has not consulted me," she added during a brief interview Wednesday night.

Ginsburg arrived in New York to attend an annual lecture named in her honor. The lecture's focus is on women and the law.

This year, Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland, delivered it, while Ginsburg participated in a question-and-answer session afterward.

During the session, which was attended by hundreds, Ginsburg defended some of the justices' references to laws in other countries when making decisions, a practice strongly opposed by some U.S. legislators. The justice said using foreign sources does not mean giving them superior status in deciding cases.

"I will take enlightenment wherever I can get it," she said. "I don't want to stop at a national boundary."

When reminded that Roberts has indicated he disagrees with the practice of referring to foreign laws, Ginsburg said it appeared he "is a man who does listen and is willing to learn."

Ginsburg, an associate justice since 1993, is the second woman named to the high court; the first was O'Connor. Ginsburg was a noted advocate of women's rights during her work as an attorney and is considered one of the more liberal Supreme Court justices.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Barnes & Nobel look out! One spitting mad writer...

More, he doesn't mince his words. Read on:

Goddamm Barnes & Nobel!!! I decided to do my online book shopping at B & N rather than Amazon because Amazon was one of the heavy donors to GWB’s campaign while Barnes and Noble had sent more of its money to Kerry. This despite the fact that Amazon makes buying cheaper and gives more discounts. But I followed my heart. It was my little sacrifice.

I staked it out mostly on gift shopping. There is no easier way to answer the question, “What do you want for your birthday Dad?” I’d just say I want a gift card from Barnes and Nobel. Hey, I never even paid attention to how big a card each kid bought.

I bought some stuff. Then today I found I had three cards. One was for 30 bucks, one for 25, and a third had $1.98 left over. That more than covered the two books I want. When I finally hacked and clacked my way through the purchasing process, including resetting my password because I couldn’t remember that I wasn’t “case sensitive” (oh mea culpa! I’m going to fall on my sword!) I learned that I couldn’t combine cards for one purchase.

Naturally I couldn’t argue with the person who took my call. She had been trained by a robot and was just waiting for me to say “fuck” so she could become indignant and hang up. My Mormon daughter-in-law showed me how she won each inane argument that way so I was prepared. I did sputter a bit at that but she pretended to give a damn. Then she transferred me to the complaint department, whimsically called “customer service.”

Guess what? They were closed but, “Your call is very important to us. please leave a brief message and we’ll get right back to you.”






MY NUMBER . . . . . . .