Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Bin Laden's "wheels within wheels"...

From Strategic Forecasting Inc:

The Bin Laden Tape: Truths and Half-Truths
By Fred Burton

Osama bin Laden recently released another audiotape, a large portion of which was devoted to discussing the U.S. government's prosecution of Zacarias Moussaoui and suspected terrorists being held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and in other locations. Much has been written about the contrast between this latest statement -- in which bin Laden claims credit for personally planning the details of the 9/11 attacks -- and previous statements (such as those issued shortly after 9/11) in which he denied any involvement. On the whole, however, bin Laden's current version of events appears to be truthful: His comments on several points can be borne out by logic, history and some of his own previous recordings.

With that noted, however, the most intriguing aspects of this latest recording do not concern what bin Laden did say, but rather what he did not.In examining both points together, there is an obvious implication that 9/11 was not intended as a stand-alone plot. Moussaoui was being trained to take part in some other attack plan involving aircraft, and there are questions about what uses, if any, bin Laden may have had in mind for other suspected militants who are now in U.S. custody.

A Timeline of Recordings

Before examining the statements bin Laden made in the May 22 recording, it is useful to examine the release in the context of other al Qaeda statements -- which, on the whole, have been coming relatively thick and fast in recent weeks. It is interesting to note that bin Laden has released three recordings so far this year -- in January, April and May. That is a frequency that has been unmatched since 2004 (when he also issued recordings in January, April and May) -- preceding a long, self-imposed hiatus that caused many to speculate that the al Qaeda leader might in fact have died.

Though it would seem that there was a specific tactical motive behind the May 22 release -- which so closely followed Moussaoui's conviction in a federal trial -- there also appears to be a larger purpose emerging from bin Laden's collective statements. Where once his leadership of al Qaeda and his relevance on the world stage were questionable, he is stating now -- both implicitly and explicitly -- that he is alive and firmly in control of his organization.

Applying the Truth Detector

The latest recording begins and ends with phrases that bin Laden has used in the past: "Peace be upon he who has followed the guidance." This is a standard greeting that Muslims offer to non-Muslims, and has been used more or less consistently when bin Laden is addressing audiences in the United States or in the West.

Much of the discussion that follows is a rebuttal of theories that Moussaoui was to have been the "20th hijacker" in the 9/11 attacks, and bin Laden's claims that most of the suspected jihadists who are now in U.S. custody were not involved in that plot either -- the obvious insinuation being that they have been unjustly imprisoned. Laying that aside for the moment, however, it appears that bin Laden's statements in the recording are factual -- so far as they go.

First, bin Laden asserts that Moussaoui was not supposed to participate in the 9/11 attacks. While this contradicts the testimony Moussaoui himself provided at his trial, we would concur with this statement. The timing of Moussaoui's entry into the United States and his training schedule simply did not mesh with that of the 9/11 pilots, who had entered the country nearly a year earlier.

Bin Laden makes two interesting points here: 1. He did not assign Moussaoui to take part in the 9/11 attack, and 2. Moussaoui was being trained as a pilot -- and therefore would not have been part of the muscle team for the 9/11 mission, as the U.S. government had claimed. Next, bin Laden claims that Moussaoui had no advance knowledge of the 9/11 attacks -- and that had he possessed any tactical details, the plan would have been called off following his arrest.

There is every reason to believe this statement; operational security alone dictates that details about actual al Qaeda plans should remain strictly compartmentalized, in order to protect against leaks or infiltration of the organization. If Moussaoui was not to have taken part in the 9/11 attack, there would have been no "need to know" that such a plan was even in the works.

We do believe, however, that Moussaoui -- who was said by captured al Qaeda leaders to have been in touch with the same operational commanders as Mohammed Atta and the 9/11 operatives -- had been assigned to take part in a follow-on or second wave of attacks. This would explain why he was being trained as a pilot, and fits in well with the overlapping planning patterns al Qaeda is known to have used prior to the 9/11 attacks and subsequent disruption of the network.

Bin Laden makes another intriguing statement on this point: "And if Moussaoui was studying aviation to become a pilot of one of the planes, then let him tell us the names of those assigned to help him control the plane. But he won't be able to tell us their names, for a simple reason: that in fact they don't exist."

Part of this statement is highly questionable, in light of other assertions being made simultaneously. It is likely that other potential operatives did indeed exist who ultimately would have taken part in the attack for which Moussaoui was being trained. However, it is probably true that they had not been given their taskings at the time of his arrest, and very believable that Moussaoui would not have known their names. After all, the 9/11 pilots came to the United States in 2000 but were not linked up with the muscle hijackers until the spring or summer of 2001. Had one of the 9/11 pilots been arrested a year or more prior to 9/11, they likewise would not have been able to identify the cell members who would be assigned to help them control the aircraft.

Considering where Moussaoui was in his pilot training, and placing him on the same timeline as the pilots involved in the 9/11 operation, one must conclude that he had not yet reached the point of being linked up with the "muscle hijackers" for the follow-on attacks being planned. On another issue, bin Laden appears to be truthful when he says that the al Qaeda operatives being held by the U.S. government at Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere were not involved in the 9/11 operation, except for two. Presumably he was referring to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Ramzi bin al-Shibh, who served as the main communications and support interface between the 9/11 operatives and the al Qaeda leadership.

This statement can be supported on at least two obvious levels: 1. Those directly involved in carrying out the 9/11 attacks were suicide operatives who died in the operation; ergo, they are not in custody. 2. Several senior al Qaeda operations officers have either been killed or remain at large -- so either way, if they were involved in planning the 9/11 operation, they are not in U.S. custody. Third, the operational security requirements for tight compartmentalization of information mean that very few people would be likely to have access to the 9/11 details.

Thus, it follows that the majority of those currently in detention -- a universe of suspects that numbers at least in the hundreds, if not thousands -- are highly unlikely to have played any part in planning or executing the 9/11 attacks, and they probably did not even know about plans for the strike until after it had been carried out. Bin Laden himself has said as much before: In a videotape seized from an al Qaeda safe house in Afghanistan shortly after the U.S. invasion, bin Laden was seen telling dinner companions that many of his subordinates did not know about the plan until after the attack was launched. In addition to that, captured al Qaeda commanders Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Ramzi bin al-Shibh told an Al Jazeera reporter in 2002 that they had insulated Moussaoui from information about the 9/11 plan and the operatives themselves.

Finally, bin Laden asserts in his recent recording that the United States has militants in captivity who are not associated with al Qaeda -- some of whom even oppose al Qaeda's "methodology of calling for war with America." Again, there is no reason to doubt this statement: Al Qaeda does not have a monopoly on the jihadism business, and there are members other groups and small cells, not to mention individuals, who have been detained by the United States and other countries for militant activities.

The Art of Omission

So much, then, for the veracity of what bin Laden did say. The far more interesting aspects of this recording, of course, lie in what he did not say. And it is striking to note that, when one listens closely, the phrasing bin Laden uses in this recording is very precise and careful.

Bin Laden opened the message by saying that he wanted to provide testimony on behalf of the Muslim prisoners the United States is holding, and that he would talk about "the truth concerning them." For the most part, he does appear to have spoken the truth, but he has not spoken the whole truth. For example, bin Laden is careful to specify that Moussaoui was not assigned to be part of the 9/11 operation -- but in no way does he claim that Moussaoui was not affiliated with al Qaeda or dismiss the possibility that he was being trained to take part in another terrorist attack against the United States.

Indeed, when bin Laden states that "I did not assign Brother Zacarias to be with them on that mission" (emphasis added), the obvious question is: to precisely which mission had Moussaoui been assigned? Considering that Moussaoui underwent some of the same training as the 9/11 pilots and had contact with the same operational commanders and financial facilitators, it seems clear that -- despite not being assigned to "that mission" -- "Brother Zacarias" was indeed involved in some kind of al Qaeda plot involving aircraft. It is not known for certain if Moussaoui was to be a part of a separate plot, which we have referred to in the past as the "planes operation", whether he was being trained for a back-up plan in case the first plot was thwarted -- or both.

The conclusion, either way, is the same: He had been designated to take part in a plot involving aircraft, and he did not have a need to know the details of the 9/11 operation. The fact that bin Laden claims that he personally assigned the operatives who took action on 9/11 -- or, to put it differently, that he micromanaged a major operation -- is very interesting on its own merit. If this, like the other assertions in the recording, is believable, it says quite a bit about al Qaeda's operational model and bin Laden's leadership style.

It probably would be his preference to continue running the organization the same way today if that is possible -- though obviously communication with operatives in the field would be much more difficult and risky for him than prior to 9/11. It is possible that any future attacks carried out by core al Qaeda members would follow this model -- though it is obvious that bin Laden has far less control over activities carried out by grassroots cells and individuals, who might undertake activities that do not fit with the core group's overall strategy and objectives.

The implications of bin Laden's statements about Moussaoui's involvement in "that attack" can be extrapolated to include the al Qaeda suspects now imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere. Again, he says that most of them were not involved in the 9/11 plot -- but no mention was made of their potential involvement in other plots, in other places. That remains an open question. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other al Qaeda planners frequently had several operations in various stages of planning and execution at any one time -- what might be called "wheels spinning within wheels."

Bin Laden does not assert that the suspects in custody are all innocent or pose no danger to his enemies; rather, he states that they had "no connection whatsoever to the events of Sept. 11." He does not claim that they were not involved in al Qaeda's other operations and support activities. We cannot know for certain whether the suspects in U.S. custody are in any way affiliated with al Qaeda or if they are, in fact, innocent of any connections to terrorism. Both are possibilities. But it should be remembered also that there is a great expanse between these two extremes.

Applying a legalistic microscope to bin Laden's statements in this area, we would note that some important jihadist figures -- notably, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Iraq -- have not always been tied to al Qaeda either. Al-Zarqawi had been carrying out a jihadist campaign of his own prior to swearing allegiance to bin Laden's group in late 2004. Thus, it follows that any of al-Zarqawi's men captured before that date were never officially linked to al Qaeda; nor would any member of the Taliban or of the myriad Iraqi resistance groups who are now in custody be classified as al Qaeda members. Indeed, as bin Laden notes, some of those other jihadist groups disagree with al Qaeda's strategy and tactics -- but then again, we have seen evidence of such tensions within the group itself.


What, then, are we to take away from bin Laden's recordings of truths and half-truths? For one thing, they are to be expected. Many Islamic scholars long have held that it is lawful to conceal the truth -- or even to practice deliberate deception -- during times of war, as a means of gaining an advantage over the enemy. Al Qaeda's followers, believing that they are fighting a legitimate jihad, employ this tactic -- and bin Laden is a master in its use. Beyond this, however, it is apparent that bin Laden is attempting to use his "bully pulpit" to show the world that he is still alive, in control of al Qaeda, and relevant to the jihadist cause.

Through the carefully chosen half-truths, it appears that he also is attempting to influence public opinion in the Muslim world and to inflame hostility toward the United States, by framing the argument that Moussaoui and others who have been incarcerated or detained are being treated unjustly. Moussaoui's trial -- which ended shortly before bin Laden's tape was issued -- represented a U.S. government attempt to show the world that justice is being served; the audiotape was bin Laden's way of undermining that message.

And between the lines of it all, the recording serves as an unsettling reminder: that in addition to "that attack" -- the one the world knows about and will forever remember -- there have been other al Qaeda "wheels within wheels," some known and others invisible, spinning in the background.

Send questions or comments on this article to


Tuesday, May 30, 2006

States preventing voter registrations....

From NY Times Editorial:

Block the Vote
Published: May 30, 2006

In a country that spends so much time extolling the glories of democracy, it's amazing how many elected officials go out of their way to discourage voting. States are adopting rules that make it hard, and financially perilous, for nonpartisan groups to register new voters. They have adopted new rules for maintaining voter rolls that are likely to throw off many eligible voters, and they are imposing unnecessarily tough ID requirements.

Florida recently reached a new low when it actually bullied the League of Women Voters into stopping its voter registration efforts in the state. The Legislature did this by adopting a law that seems intended to scare away anyone who wants to run a voter registration drive. Since registration drives are particularly important for bringing poor people, minority groups and less educated voters into the process, the law appears to be designed to keep such people from voting.

It imposes fines of $250 for every voter registration form that a group files more than 10 days after it is collected, and $5,000 for every form that is not submitted — even if it is because of events beyond anyone's control, like a hurricane. The Florida League of Women Voters, which is suing to block the new rules, has decided it cannot afford to keep registering new voters in the state as it has done for 67 years. If a volunteer lost just 16 forms in a flood, or handed in a stack of forms a day late, the group's entire annual budget could be put at risk.

In Washington, a new law prevents people from voting if the secretary of state fails to match the information on their registration form with government databases. There are many reasons that names, Social Security numbers and other data may not match, including typing mistakes. The state is supposed to contact people whose data does not match, but the process is too tilted against voters.

Congress is considering a terrible voter ID requirement as part of the immigration reform bill. Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, introduced an amendment to require all voters to present a federally mandated photo ID. Even people who have been voting for years would need to get a new ID to vote in 2008. Millions of people without drivers' licenses, including many elderly people and city residents, might fail to do so, and be ineligible to vote. The amendment has been blocked so far, but voting-rights advocates worry that it could reappear.

These three techniques — discouraging registration drives, purging eligible voters and imposing unreasonable ID requirements — keep showing up. Colorado recently imposed criminal penalties on volunteers who slip up in registration drives. Georgia, one of several states to adopt harsh new voter ID laws, had its law struck down by a federal court.

Protecting the integrity of voting is important, but many of these rules seem motivated by a partisan desire to suppress the vote, and particular kinds of voters, rather than to make sure that those who are entitled to vote — and only those who are entitled — do so. The right to vote is fundamental, and Congress and state legislatures should not pass laws that put an unnecessary burden on it. If they do, courts should strike them down.


But does this REALLY work? :))

This works great !!! Good when you're alone or when all your family is together. Best feature is that no one has to wait for their special omelet !!!

Have guests write their name on a quart-size
Ziploc freezer bag with permanent marker.

- Crack 2 eggs (large or extra-large) into the quart size Ziploc bag
(not more than 2) shake to combine them.

- Put out a variety of ingredients such as: cheeses, ham, onion, green pepper, tomato, hash browns, salsa, etc.

- Each guest adds prepared ingredients of choice to their bag and shake.

- Make sure to get the air out of the bag and zip it up.

- Place the bags into rolling, boiling water for exactly 13 minutes.

You can usually cook 6-8 omelets in a large pot. For more, make
another pot of boiling water.

- Open the bags and the omelet will roll out easily. Be prepared for
everyone to be amazed.

- Nice to serve with fresh fruit and coffee cake; everyone gets
involved in the process and a great conversation piece.

Imagine having these ready the night before, and putting the bag in
boiling water while you get ready. And in 13 minutes, you have a
nice omlette for a quick breakfast!!!


The #1 problem: Honest elections/evoting machines.

From Vote Trust USA:

NASED Certifies Voting Systems They Know Must Be Modified And No Longer Be Certified
by John Gideon, and VoteTrustUSA.

This open letter was sent to the National Association of State Election directors and the Election Assistance Commission.It has recently been made public that NASED has been certifying, and continues to certify, electronic voting systems, with the full knowledge that when those systems are used in an election, they will inevitably be running different software than the software NASED certified. Those who certify the systems admit that the ES&S software actually used in an election is unique to that election, and therefore has not been examined by any independent tester, and cannot have been certified either by NASED or by the state.

This information was obtained via Public Records Requests from the Secretary of State of California. The emails that reveal this information can be viewed" target=_blank>here. In an email to Bruce McDannold and Paul Craft dated December 29, 2005, Steven V. Freeman paraphrases what he has heard from Paul Craft that "...every election gets a new copy [of the ES&S firmware] installed with slight differences in the actual executable code due to the active linking to the election definition tables."

In a response dated December 30, 2005, Paul Craft makes it clear that the problem exists, not just for ES&S optical scanners, but also for the DREs: "[ES&S products] are annoying because, as with the DRE's, you cannot really directly and easily validate the firmware once it is loaded on the chip with an election definition." This means that every jurisdiction using ES&S voting equipment is using unique, unexamined, uncertified software to record, count, and tabulate votes. The participants in the email thread are uncertain whether or not this is true for the other vendors' products.

The referenced email conversation was in the context of a discussion on how to word a question to the vendors to determine "if they [vendors other than Diebold] have any kind of executable code on their transport media." That is, they were planning to ask the vendors - ask the vendors - if their systems fail to meet the 2002 Voting System Standards (Section 4.2.2, which bans this type of code.) The three men decided on this wording:

"Please advise us immediately as to whether or not any of your voting systems used in California include on the transport media (floppy, zip disk, pc card, other removable memory and storage devices, etc.) any kind of program code including scripts, that can be loaded, interpreted or executed by your system's vote devices, tabulating equipment or system servers. "
Just who are Steve V. Freeman and Paul Craft? They are two of the Voting Systems Board of NASED who make the ultimate decision as to whether a voting system should be NASED certified or not. They are also two of three principles in Freeman, Craft, McGregor Group, a private consulting company hiring themselves out as voting system examiners to states and local governments such as California, Maryland, and Chicago/Cook County.

Clearly, Mr. Freeman and Mr. Craft have been federally certifying systems, and recommending state approval of those systems, without knowing whether or not the systems meet the 2002 VSSG.


Monday, May 29, 2006

Bush in the National Guard...

From American Politics :

Fast-track Flyboy
from Michael Graham
May 17, 2006 (

Editor's note: This is an e-mail message Michael Graham sent two days ago to a highly reputed investigative "blog" run by a progressive think tank. Mr. Graham was responding to blog entries concerning Bush's overuse of the National Guard.

Dear troublemakers,

I used to be a prize-winning reporter, so hear me out. Before that, I served in the real Air Force, as a commissioned officer in counterintelligence, at the same time George W. Bush was hiding out in the Texas Guard. At that time, the Guard did relatively little unless there was a hurricane or something. They certainly didn't have to worry about combat.

My theory is that Commander Codpiece -- insanely addicted to power -- is so hung up on the fact that he was a coward back then that he is compensating for it now by forcing today's Guard to be heroes. That way he can be one retroactively -- heroism by association. That may sound nutty, but the man is batshit nuts. And it is just a theory. But here is something that is provable. No one in journalism has picked up one aspect of Bush's past: He never was properly trained to be a second lieutenant in the first place! I'm talking about before flight school, entrance to which requires an officer's commission.

Those of us in the real Air Force got commissioned in one of three ways: The Air Force Academy, ROTC, or -- if already college graduates -- the Officer Training School at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. If you saw the film An Officer and a Gentleman, depicting the Navy's version, you have a rough idea of what that training was like. It was goddamned hard.

But young Georgie didn't have to go through it. If you examine his records, you will find that he was given a direct commission as a second lieutenant after completing enlisted basic training and nothing more! Bang: He went directly from Airman Third Class, which is the rank of someone just out of basic, to a second lieutenant with a few typewriter keystrokes. Then he went to flight school.

Now I don't know if this was standard procedure for everyone in the Guard -- I was too busy spying on Americans to pay attention. We always assumed that Guardsmen and Reservists who wore the same uniform and the same insignia of grade as we did had undergone same training we did. But some kind of favoritism certainly applied to the arrogant young punk who was to become Commander Codpiece -- again, a psycho of the first magnitude who really and truly believes he is a war hero.

I tried to point out this little discrepancy to certain journalists during the media flap over Bush's truncated Guard Duty. But it was of secondary importance at the time, and then it got lost in the shuffle and the Dan Rather - Swift Boat dust-up. But you guys might want to revisit it, as long as Bush keeps the National Guard on the front page. His own Guard service reeks of corruption.
If I were working the story, I would simply call the USAF Officer Training School in San Antonio and get the CO on the line. Ask him when Bush graduated from OTS. He, of course, will not be able to. Then it should be an easy task to find his records as an enlisted recruit.

Then the obvious question is: Who decided this asshole should be an officer and a gentleman? Put that to his new press secretary. I guarantee it will be a Kodak moment.

And—just as a reminder—Bush got into the Guard itself corruptly. Helen Thomas told me he got in ahead of 1500 other young Texas guys who preceded him in line.

The story about how Lt. Bush got out of the Guard has been covered to death. I think it's time to revisit the way he became Lt. Bush in the first place.

Michael A. Graham
OTS class 67-E, SN FV3205188


Sunday, May 28, 2006

Josh has questions about FBI raid on Jefferson...

From Talking Points Memo. com :

(an excerpt)

Another question: over the course of the week I was away, quite a number of people appear to have accepted it as a given that at a minimum grave constitutional issues were raised by the Justice Department executing a search warrant to search a congressional office.

But why exactly?

It's really not clear to me that there's any constitutional issue raised at all.

(cont at )


Saturday, May 27, 2006

Film: Baghdad ER.....

From Information Clearing House:

Baghdad ER
HBO Documentry Video - 60 Minutes

12-time Emmy® Award winner producer/director Jon Alpert and Matthew O'Neill capture the humanity, hardships and heroism of the US Military and medical personnel of the 86th Combat Support Hospital, the Army's premier medical facility in Iraq. Sometimes graphic in its depiction of combat-related wounds, BAGHDAD ER offers an unflinching and honest account of the realities of war.

Click here to watch. Windows media


Argue while forests burn....

From New York Times:

With Illegal Immigrants Fighting Wildfires, West Faces a Dilemma
Published: May 28, 2006

SALEM, Ore. — The debate over immigration, which has filtered into almost every corner of American life in recent months, is now sweeping through the woods, and the implications could be immense for the upcoming fire season in the West.

As many as half of the roughly 5,000 private firefighters based in the Pacific Northwest and contracted by state and federal governments to fight forest fires are immigrants, mostly from Mexico. And an untold number of them are working here illegally.

A recent report by the inspector general for the United States Forest Service said illegal immigrants had been fighting fires for several years. The Forest Service said in response that it would work with immigration and customs enforcement officers and the Social Security Administration to improve the process of identifying violators.

At the same time, the State of Oregon, which administers private fire contracts for the Forest Service, imposed tougher rules on companies that employ firefighters, including a requirement that firefighting crew leaders have a working command of English and a formal business location where crew members can assemble.

Some Hispanic contractors say the state and federal changes could cause many immigrants, even those here legally, to stay away from the jobs. Other forestry workers say that firefighting may simply be too important — and too difficult to attract other applicants — to allow for a crackdown on illegal workers.

"I don't think it's in anybody's interest, including the Forest Service, to enforce immigration — they're benefiting from it," said Blanca Escobeda, owner of 3B's Forestry in Medford, Ore., which fields two 20-person fire crews. Ms. Escobeda said all of her workers were legal.
Some fire company owners estimate that 10 percent of the firefighting crews are illegal immigrants; government officials will not even hazard a guess.

The private contract crews can be dispatched anywhere in the country through the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho — and in recent years have fought fires from Montana to Utah and Colorado, as well as Washington and Oregon — anywhere that fires get too big or too numerous for local entities to handle.

The work, which pays $10 to $15 an hour, is among the most demanding and dangerous in the West. A workweek fighting a big fire can go 100 hours.

"You've got to be physically able and mentally able," said Javier Orozco, 21, who has fought fires in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Colorado, California and Montana since 2002.

The plight of the fire companies underscores the surprising directions that the debate over immigration can lead, like government-required bilingualism to ensure everyone on a fire line can understand one another, while threatening to scare away needed workers.

Serafin Garcia, who came from Mexico as a farmworker in the mid-1980's and started a fire company in Salem, which is just south of Portland, in 2001, said the new rules could ruin him. Not only is he likely to lose workers, but some industry officials suggest that larger fire companies, which tend to be owned by non-Hispanics, could crush smaller competitors like Mr. Garcia, using immigration and safety concerns as a smokescreen.

"I'm right on the edge this year, and may be out of business," Mr. Garcia said. Oregon state fire officials say the rule changes have nothing to do with immigration at all — nor, they say, is there any effort to shift the business away from Hispanic entrepreneurs.

"It's an unfortunate coincidence," said Bill Lafferty, director of the Protection From Fire Program for Oregon's Department of Forestry. "All we want as a government is a good, productive, safe work force."

Mr. Lafferty said the industry grew too fast to be well regulated, especially during and after the bad wildfire seasons in 2000 and 2002. Between 1999 and 2003 alone, according to state figures, the number of contracted 20-person crews doubled, to about 300. State and federal officials expect to need about 237 private crews this year, based on the projections for the fire season.

Some firefighters say the growth reflected the government's willingness to look the other way on immigration issues in the interest of keeping the forests protected. The federal work force was being reduced by budget cuts, and the fires exposed the resulting vulnerability.

"It became a game of winking and nodding — we're not going to check — so more and more contractors went almost exclusively to Hispanic or Latino labor," said Scott Coleman, who ran a forestry company in the Eugene area for more than 30 years until his retirement this year.
A spokeswoman for the Forest Service, Rose Davis, said the agency followed federal law in hiring contractors, but relied on the contractors to make sure individual workers had the documents they needed.

"In the contract it specifies that if you're going to bring us a crew, they must be eligible to work in the United States," she said.

Ms. Davis conceded that oversight in checking up on those contracts had not been the agency's top priority, but that the inspector general's report would lead to more attention.

Fire company owners say they rely on workers to tell the truth and provide documentation.
"They show me documents and ID that's good enough for me," said Jose Orozco, Javier Orozco's father, who runs two fire companies of mostly Mexican workers from his base in Sheridan, just west of Salem.

State labor officials in Oregon say they do not look at immigration issues when it comes to the forestry companies. Their job, they say, is making sure people are treated fairly by employers.
But fair treatment in the forestry and firefighting business, labor experts say, is uneven at best. Sometimes, they say, fire companies drive hours to a fire only to find there is no work because the fire is out and workers do not get paid — or they fight the fire and do not get the wages they are entitled to receive after expenses and travel are deducted.

"The issue is not immigration, it's the powerlessness of the workers," said D. Michael Dale, executive director of the Northwest Workers' Justice Project, a nonprofit legal advocacy group based in Portland.

In other ways, the contract firefighter world — especially in language training — is becoming a laboratory for how the issues of a multilingual, multicultural work force are managed.

Elva Orozco sees both sides of the debate. Her son, Javier, was born in Oregon and has been a crew leader since 2002. His English is good. Her husband, Jose, who immigrated from Mexico in the 1970's, started their fire crew business in the early 1990's, and sometimes still struggles with the language. She thinks that Jose may not be able to pass the new language requirements. And maybe, she added, that could be for the best.

"They've got to be safe," she said.

Other people in the business say that whatever the motivations are for the contract changes, immigrants will be hurt the most. Dillon Sanders, for one, is fine with that.

Mr. Sanders, who said he was a disabled military veteran from the Persian Gulf war, started a fire company last year near Portland, but found himself underbid by minority contractors who he thinks were not following the rules about pay or contracts. He has hired only American-born crews, he said.

"The new system clearly discriminates against minority contractors," Mr. Sanders said, "but that gives me an edge, and I'll take it."


Friday, May 26, 2006

Laura won't speak to George?

From Media via : (an excerpt):

Media Matters does not endorse the decision by The New York Times, NBC's Tim Russert, MSNBC's Chris Matthews, The Washington Post's David Broder, and countless other elite media figures to take their cues from tabloids like the Globe, or to pry into the personal lives of political figures. But if they are going to do so, we expect them to be consistent.

As it happens, the cover of the May 29 edition of the Globe contains another sensational headline about another high-profile political couple:

Nasty fights
Booze problems
Laura urges counseling

On Pages 20 and 21, the Globe announces "Bush and Laura's 29-year marriage FALLS APART," adding: "They barely talk to each other," "[t]hey argue when they do speak," and "[s]he's afraid he'll hit the bottle."

Quotes in the article attributed to "a longtime friend" include the assertion that "[w]hen the cameras aren't on, they have nothing to do with one another," and that "[f]or all practical purposes, they've broken up." The "family friend" continues: "After their last fight over booze, they just stopped talking -- period."

The Globe's report that Laura Bush is concerned that President Bush may "hit the bottle" is reminiscent of a September 21, 2005, National Enquirer article about "Bush's booze crisis," which reported: "Faced with the biggest crisis of his political life, President Bush has hit the bottle again."

Media Matters wonders when we can expect The New York Times to assign a reporter to tally the number of nights the Bushes spend together and to conduct 50 interviews with Republicans to assess their interest in the state of the Bush marriage, or in President Bush's reported relapse -- and when it will run a 2,000-word front-page article on the topic. If it does so, we wonder if Broder will refer to the article as "anything but unsympathetic" to the Bushes.


Lee Child! One terrific writer...

From NY Times Sunday Book Review: (an excerpt)

Crime 'The Hard Way'
Soldier of Misfortune
Published: May 21, 2006
READERS should know they're in for more than a brisk, over-and-out adventure when they crack the spine of Lee Child's latest thriller, THE HARD WAY (Delacorte, $25). They're signing on for the entire alternative universe he has created for his hero, Jack Reacher, an ex-Army cop who stays outside the establishment radar, materializing only to carry out some quasi-military mission as a favor to some worthy party or quixotic cause.

It took nine years and 10 novels for Child to get Reacher to a cafe in downtown Manhattan, drinking "espresso, double, no peel, no cube, foam cup, no china" — an order that already tells you something about the guy. Over those years, he has traveled the world and had a lifetime of dangerous adventures, all the while unencumbered by the usual mortal baggage of a fixed abode, credit cards or, God forbid, a suitcase. ("He owned nothing and carried nothing.") The man is such a loner it took us eight books to find out he had a mother. But she died.

Reacher is almost human in "The Hard Way," helping Edward Lane, a desperate man with an Army history much like his own, to rescue his wife and stepchild from kidnappers who keep escalating their exorbitant ransom demands. As the head of a private corporation of military-trained assassins, Lane has plenty of muscle on hand, but Reacher is the ideal operative — a killer who can think. Applying his ingenuity to this cliffhanger assignment, he analyzes every angle and brings down the bad guys in a spectacularly violent finale. And he does it all without compromising his pragmatic philosophy.

"The remorse gene was missing from his DNA," Child explains. "Where some men might have retrospectively agonized over justification, he spent his energy figuring out where best to hide the bodies." What a guy.


Public scammed by fake news....

From :

Fake TV News: Widespread and Undisclosed
A multimedia report on television newsrooms' use of material provided by PR firms on behalf of paying clients
Diane Farsetta and Daniel Price, Center for Media and DemocracyApril 6, 2006

This report includes:
Video footage of the 36 video news releases documented in this report, plus footage showing how actual TV newscasts incorporated them and/or a related satellite media tours.

A map showing the locations of the 77 television stations throughout the United States that aired this fake news.

An itemized list of the 77 television stations that aired this fake news, by state.
Note: This report is also available in PDF format, at

In Brief
Over a ten-month period, the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) documented television newsrooms' use of 36 video news releases (VNRs)—a small sample of the thousands produced each year. CMD identified 77 television stations, from those in the largest to the smallest markets, that aired these VNRs or related satellite media tours (SMTs) in 98 separate instances, without disclosure to viewers. Collectively, these 77 stations reach more than half of the U.S. population.

The VNRs and SMTs whose broadcast CMD documented were produced by three broadcast PR firms for 49 different clients, including General Motors, Intel, Pfizer and Capital One. In each case, these 77 television stations actively disguised the sponsored content to make it appear to be their own reporting. In almost all cases, stations failed to balance the clients' messages with independently-gathered footage or basic journalistic research. More than one-third of the time, stations aired the pre-packaged VNR in its entirety.

(cont by clicking top link)


Stealing billions...hand over fist...

From Center for American Progress:


White collar crime prosecutors will remain busy because "fraud in the workplace is alive and well in the post-Enron era."

The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners calculated the U.S. lost $638 billion from fraud in 2005. (Up from $600 billion in 2002.) PricewaterhouseCoopers found that since 2003, worldwide fraud losses have increased 50 percent. Its 2005 Global Economic Crime Study found that "since 2003, the number of companies reporting cases of corruption and bribery rose 71 percent; those reporting cases of money laundering were up 133 percent and reports of financial misrepresentation were up 140 percent."

The Wall Street Journal's reporting on widespread options backdating -- a ploy in which companies "repeatedly granted options to top executives on days when stocks were at or near their low points for a quarter or year" -- has sparked criminal investigations into several U.S. companies, including Affiliated Computer Services. (While none of this has been proven yet, the Journal calculated the chances that one of these companies, KLA-Tencor, could have timed their options dates so perfectly at "around one in 20 million.")

Former Refco CEO Phillip Bennett, whose company went public last year, "was indicted in November on eight felony counts, including conspiracy to commit securities fraud and false filings to the SEC" after investigators found he had hidden $430 million in debt.


Corporate fraud goes beyond accounting chicanery; the federal government's contracting of services in Iraq and the Gulf Coast have been rife with fraud and abuse. Post-Katrina contracts, many of which were "awarded with limited or no competition," have been given to companies that are inflating prices.

The inspectors general with the Departments of Homeland Security, Defense, and Army, testified last month that the four companies contracted to remove debris had "subcontracted their work to multiple tiers of subcontractors, resulting in markups between 17% to 47%.

Similar price hikes were found in other services, including the placing of blue covers on damaged houses and the installation of temporary housing trailers."

House Committee on Government Reform ranking member Henry Waxman (D-CA) found Katrina contractors "double-billed the government for debris removal, overstated mileage claims to get extra fees and inflated prices by improperly mixing debris."

In Iraq, federal investigators uncovered instances where "American contractors swindled hundreds of millions of dollars in Iraqi funds," effectively turning the country into a "free-fraud zone."

The Justice Department is also after pharmaceutical giant Abbott Laboratories, accusing the company vastly inflating prices of its drugs as part of a fraudulent billing scheme alleged to have cost government health programs more than $175 million over 10 years."


Somebody doesn't like Santorum?

From The Pittsburgh

Capitol Police Visit Santorum's Penn Hills Home
POSTED: 5:41 pm EDT May 24, 2006
UPDATED: 1:26 pm EDT May 26, 2006

PENN HILLS, Pa. -- On Wednesday, Capitol Police agent dispatched from Washington spent nearly 90 minutes doing a security check on Sen. Rick Santorum's Penn Hill's house.

"Why would he call Capitol Police when we have Penn Hills police right here? If he's a resident of Penn Hills, why didn't he call the Penn Hills police?

And for his kids to be in danger? That's a big joke because his kids are never in this house," Santorum critic Erin Vecchio said.


So? Have the FBI raid Cheney's offices...

From Secrecy News:


For the third year in a row the Office of Vice President Dick Cheney has refused to disclose data on its classification and declassification activity, in an apparent violation of an executive order issued byPresident Bush."

The Office of the Vice President (OVP), the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (PFIAB), and the Homeland Security Council(HSC) failed to report their data to ISOO this year," the InformationSecurity Oversight Office (ISOO) noted in its new 2005 Annual Report to the President (at page 9, footnote 1).

The Office of the Vice President has declined to report such data since 2002. Yet it is clear that disclosure is not optional. "Each agency that creates or handles classified information shall report annually to the Director of ISOO statistics related to its security classification program," according to ISOO Directive 1 (at section2001.80):

This and other ISOO directives "shall be binding upon the agencies,"President Bush wrote in Executive Order 13292 (section 5.1). And an"agency" is not only a statutorily defined executive branch agency, but also includes "any other entity within the executive branch that comes into the possession of classified information."

Despite this straightforward language, a spokeswoman for Vice PresidentCheney told the Chicago Tribune in April that his Office is "not under any duty" to provide the required information. On prior refusals by the Vice President to disclose classification and declassification data, see "Cheney exempts his own office from reporting on classified material" by Mark Silva, Chicago Tribune, April29, 2006:

Historically, the OVP has "not reported quantitatively significant data," according to ISOO. So the Vice President's current defiance of the executive order does not greatly distort the overall presentation of classification activity. But it signals an unhealthy contempt for presidential authority and undermines the integrity of classification oversight.


Kavanaugh..another Bush pick as Appeals Court Judge...

From KFMB-TV San Diego:

Senate Confirms Kavanaugh to Appeals Court
Last Updated:05-26-06 at 7:29AM

White House aide Brett Kavanaugh won Senate confirmation as an appeals judge Friday after a wait of nearly three years, yet another victory in President Bush's drive to place a more conservative stamp on the nation's courts.

Kavanaugh was confirmed on a vote of 57-36, warmly praised by Republicans but widely opposed by Democrats who said he is ill-suited to sit on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

In a statement, Bush said Kavanaugh will be "a brilliant, thoughtful and fair-minded judge."

The confirmation represented a victory for Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a possible 2008 presidential candidate, whose efforts to fill more federal court seats with Bush's nominees have been bedeviled by Democratic objections. Five weeks ago he informed the Senate that he expected Kavanaugh to be confirmed by Memorial Day."I am committed to confirming additional judicial nominees to the bench who will practice judicial restraint and interpret the law strictly and impartially," Frist said Friday.

The vote marked the latest in a string of confirmations for conservative appeallate court nominees in the year since a centrist group of senators agreed on terms designed to prevent a meltdown over Bush's conservative picks.

Kavanaugh was not mentioned by name in an agreement announced by the so-called Gang of 14, but his nomination was pending at the time and he figured in the discussions. More recently, the seven Democrats who were members of the group had intervened in his case, calling for a second Judiciary Committee hearing into his appointment. Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., chairman of the panel, agreed, defusing any threat of a filibuster designed to block a vote.

Still, Democrats highlighted the American Bar Association's recent downgrading of their rating of Kavanaugh from "highly qualified" to "qualified.""It's clear that he is a political pick being pushed for political reasons," said Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee. "This is not a court that needs another rubber stamp for this president's exertion of executive power."

The White House and Specter said Kavanaugh's Ivy League education, a Supreme Court clerkship and other work have prepared him well to become a federal judge. Specter's committee approved the nomination along party lines."It is hardly a surprise that Brett Kavanaugh would be close to the president because the president selects people in whom he has confidence," Specter said. "Brett M. Kavanaugh must be confirmed."

The filibuster threat softened after Specter granted Democrats' request for a new hearing at which Kavanaugh testified. The nominee told Democrats he played no role in the White House formulation of policies on detainees, domestic wiretapping or any relationship with convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Kavanaugh, the White House staff secretary, was an assistant to independent counsel Kenneth Starr during the impeachment probe of President Clinton and he worked on behalf of the Bush campaign during the election recount in 2000.

Ralph Neas, president of the liberal-oriented lobbying group People for the American Way, said that Bush and Senate Republicans "have succeeded today in putting a partisan lapdog into a powerful, lifetime position on the federal bench. Brett Kavanaugh has spent his career as a partisan operative, carrying out the will of the Bush administration and twisting legal arguments to benefit his political ideology. "


Thursday, May 25, 2006

Michael Grant: Resign, Bush!!!

From (Voice of San Diego online)

Take the President, Please
Thursday, May 25, 2006

The best thing that can happen for people like me is for President Bush to lose his political base in Congress. He seems to be doing a good job of this.

Richard Nixon, a smoking gun aimed at his heart, used the "power base" option when he resigned the presidency in 1974. "Throughout the long and difficult period of Watergate," he said in his resignation speech, "I have felt it was my duty to persevere, to make every possible effort to complete the term of office to which you elected me . . . however, it has become evident to me that I no longer have a strong enough political base in the Congress to justify continuing that effort."

Losing his political base in Congress gave Richard Nixon an out. It is the best hope that we -- people like me -- have, to be rid of President Bush before the 2008 election. It is not a happy option for us, or anybody. We wish, instead of hoping for his resignation, that we were cheering his presidency.

Instead, we believe that President Bush does not care about us, or respect us. We are the people in the first three words of the preamble to the Constitution. We are Democrats, Republicans, independents, people who write letters to the editor thinking that creation of a third party, a party dedicated to democratic process, is our best resort. We are not polarized politically, or even ideologically. After five years of Mr. Bush, we are polarized chronologically. We are polarized against the past, and in favor of the future. We don't care if our next president is Republican, Democrat, Whig, Tory, Texan -- as long as he or she is a person of laws, and a leader.

For us, "the future is now" could not be soon enough. We know Mr. Bush does not care about us. We also know that is the second-worst thing about it. The worst thing is if he did care for us. It is no solace to us if his millions of supporters are getting nervous. They are no less stuck with his incompetence and, worse, his indifference, than we are. They are no less betrayed than we, who are mobilizing in an unprecedented way to the news about the phone call database.

Yes, I know, if circumstances bring about the resignation of George W. Bush, that means you-know-who becomes president. He was in San Diego this week, speaking to the military and to a luncheon fundraiser for Brian Bilbray, who had the good sense to distance himself from this administration through the immigration issue.

It reminds me of Spiro T. Agnew. Remember him? He was Richard Nixon's vice-president and chief spokesman. That administration, like the present one, didn't much care for the media, whom Agnew called, "nattering nabobs of negativism." Or maybe that was Democrats, and the media was the "effete corps of impudent snobs." They all started to run together.

We always loved to see Spiro T. Agnew coming. But he resigned from the vice-presidency in 1973 because of trouble with the law involving tax evasion and bribery while he was governor of Maryland. Imagine the nation's relief, the following year, when Mr. Nixon resigned and Spiro T. Agnew did not become the president of the United States.

We -- people like me -- now are learning to hold our breath about Dick Cheney, whose sole contacts of any kind with our world are Fox News and Rush Limbaugh and, in emergencies, the Corpus Christi Caller-Times. If the best thing that can happen for people like me is Mr. Bush's resignation, what do we do about waking up the next morning and being addressed by President Dick Cheney in a Fox News exclusive?

Mr. Nixon presents our only workable precedent, choosing resignation as the lesser of two disgraces, and claiming loss of his political base in Congress as the reason. I remember many of us wishing he had just gone on and admitted knowing about the break-in and obstructing justice, but it was good enough for us, and bad enough, really traumatic, that he was gone and we could move on. As spanking new President Gerald R. Ford said, "My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over. Our Constitution works; our great Republic is a government of laws and not of men."

People like me have a hard time imagining President Dick Cheney saying something like that. Then again, we don't know what Cheney would say, or not say, as president. He works, after all, for the President of the United States, whose attributes do not include a frankness in speaking, or an even temper. It would be very interesting to see the extemporaneous Cheney, with the Bush bubble lifted and blown away.

Bush's baggage is his baggage. Whatever disgrace surfaced that would encourage Mr. Bush, like Mr. Nixon, to choose the lesser disgrace of resignation, would remain in place the day after Mr. Bush's departure for Crawford, sitting there for President Cheney to explain, on the stage of an appalled nation and a hostile Congress. If I were Cheney, facing that, I might go ahead and resign, too, citing the hostile Congress, and fly off to Halliburton and a book contract, and let Dennis Hastert take care of the mess.

"Take care of the mess." Those are inviting words, traumatic as it promises to be. Underneath the mess, the Constitution still works, and the Republic is only temporarily a government of men and not of laws. We just need a domino to fall.

Journalist, author and educator Michael Grant has been putting his spin on San Diego, and the city putting its spin on him, since 1972. His Web site is at


Fitz on Libby and Cheney....

Office of Special Counsel
Office of Special Counsel Home Page
Legal Proceedings
US District Court for the District of Columbia
May 24, 2006 Government's Reply to the Response of I. Lewis Libby to Government's Response to Court's Inquiry Regarding News Articles the Government Intends to Offer at Trial
May 24, 2006 Exhibits A through C

Conyers: Congressional Hero!!!

From :

Playing the Impeachment Card
By William Rivers Pitt
t r u t h o u t Perspective
Thursday 25 May 2006

All in all, the framers would probably agree that it's better to impeach too often than too seldom. If presidents can't be virtuous, they should at least be nervous.- Joseph Sobran

Representative John Conyers Jr. of Michigan is a small and soft-spoken man. One gets the definite sense upon meeting him that here is a man who could probably have made a fortune in Hollywood, had he chosen a different direction in life, playing the role of the wise and kindly grandfather. He wound up in public service, and today - if you listen to Karl Rove and the GOP - he is easily the most terrifying man in America.

Back on May 10th, Howard Fineman wrote for MSNBC: "Then there is the attention being paid - and it's just starting - to obscure Democratic characters such as Rep. John Conyers of Michigan. As of now, only political junkies know that Conyers, an African-American and old-school liberal from Detroit, would become chairman of the Judiciary Committee if the Democrats regain control of the House. Few know that Conyers has expressed interest in holding hearings on the impeachment of the president."

A direct-mail piece from Senator Elizabeth Dole (R-NC) popped up several days ago. In the mailer, Dole warned that unless the faithful donate money for the midterm elections, rampaging Democrats were going to, "increase your taxes, call for endless investigations, Congressional censure and maybe even impeachment of President Bush."

A Fox News online editorial acknowledges the very real possibility of a Democratic takeover of the House, and proposes several steps the Democrats should take in such an event, in order to do right by the country. "Step one," reads the Fox editorial, "would be for the Democratic leadership to definitively put to rest any loose talk of impeaching President Bush. They should say in one and two syllable words that impeachment will not happen once they are in the majority and thus take away a potential rallying cry for the beleaguered Republicans."

This may be, when all is said and done, one of the funniest moments in time in all of American political history.

Approval ratings for the Bush administration are at historic lows, and approval ratings for the Republican Congressional majority currently languish in a root-cellar beneath those historic lows. There are 159 days until the November 7th midterm elections, and the Republican majority has absolutely nothing to run on. The economy? They say it is strong but no one believes them, and rising gas prices don't do their arguments any favors. Immigration? This is a self-inflicted brawl that has ripped a wide rift down the middle of the Republican coalition. National security? Iraq.

On top of this big three, the White House and the Republican Congressional majority are also walking around with NSA domestic spying, the investigation into the outing of Valerie Plame, the now-axiomatic belief that Bush left New Orleans to die, and a half-dozen other millstones hanging around their necks.

The White House can't shed these millstones, because just about all of these catastrophes came out of 1600 Pennsylvania. The Republican Congressional majority can't shed them, because they stapled themselves to this White House a long time ago, and there are no pliers in the world large enough to extricate them from that association.

The abandonment of Congressional oversight is a lot of the reason we are in such a sorry state, and that abandonment was authored by Republicans who were stupid enough and opportunistic enough to trust that Bush and his people would lead them to the promised land of a permanent majority. This won't be forgotten by November.

Beyond that, few people are going to rise in response again to the waving of the bloody shirt of September 11. The Cunningham and Abramoff scandals continue to grow, chopping down Republicans left and right. The GOP's usual electoral strengths - morality and security - are gone, and the Republican base is abandoning them. The cupboard is just about empty.

What's left? Vote for us, or else we'll be held accountable! That's just funny.

Usually, the Republican National Committee has to roll out horror stories about mandatory abortions, the planned annihilation of every Bible in the land, and the prospect of Jack and Joe's civil union eviscerating the sanctity of millions of unhappy marriages everywhere. To be sure, these themes will be played throughout the upcoming election seasons, but clearly the GOP overmind is not confident that the masses will dance to the tune.

Thus, the warning: if the Republicans lose in November, Bush will be impeached, and the Earth will immediately thereafter hurtle into the sun. This isn't just a lot of smoke and scare-tactics, however. The Republicans are genuinely worried about what will happen if the Democrats re-take the House in November. They have ample cause for concern.

Beyond the specter of John Conyers doing an impersonation of Peter Rodino should Conyers become chairman of the House Judiciary Committee - in an interesting historical quirk, Conyers sat on the Judiciary Committee when Rodino shepherded it through drafting the three articles of impeachment against Nixon, and voted "Yes" on all three articles - lie a number of other House Democrats whose rise to a chairmanship would be devastating to the White House.

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) sits on the Committee on Government Reform, and will become chairman should the Democrats re-take the House in November. Waxman, in 1998, founded the Special Investigations Division within the minority offices on this committee, "to conduct investigations into issues that are important to the minority members of the Government Reform Committee and other members of Congress."

There are more than fifty investigations that have been performed and continued to be performed by Waxman's Special Investigations Division. Among these are investigations into the torture at Abu Ghraib, Cheney's notorious energy task force meetings, a variety of Halliburton payoffs, electronic voting, the administration's response to Hurricane Katrina, and the vast scandal surrounding administration abuse of Iraq intelligence and the exposure of CIA agent Valerie Plame.

There is enough meat on that bone to keep Rep. Waxman, armed with subpoena power, busy as a beaver for the foreseeable future. It is also worth noting, when considering the formidable arsenal of information Waxman can bring to bear against the Bush White House, the legacy of Dan Burton.

Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.) became notorious as chairman of Government Reform during the Clinton administration. He fired off enough subpoenas to fill an oil tanker, almost all of them inspired by baseless and scurrilous accusations. Without actually proving much of anything, beyond the fact that subpoena power is an astonishingly large stick to hand to someone, Burton managed to keep the Clinton administration tied in knots for years.

Burton was throwing mud. Waxman will be throwing fire, if handed the opportunity. Beyond Waxman and Conyers, there will be Barney Frank chairing the House Financial Services Committee. There will be Louise Slaughter chairing the House Committee on Rules. There will be Charlie Rangel chairing the Ways and Means Committee. This list goes on, and on.

As amusing as the GOP's fear of impeachment is, the truth is that this Constitutional doomsday device is the least of their worries. Conyers does not have to impeach George W. Bush to throw a few torpedoes into the side of the Republican battleship. All he has to do, along with Waxman and the other chairs, is investigate with subpoena power. Tell the truth in public hearings with the principals under oath. Let the facts come to light in a way we have not seen for many years.

The result of this would be an even greater Democratic Congressional victory in 2008, and an incredible series of obstacles for any Republican presidential nominee to overcome. A drumbeat of truth about Iraq, Katrina, Abu Ghraib, Halliburton, Plame and all the rest of it would have every Republican who has ever uttered Bush's name in public fleeing for their lives. The long-sought permanent majority lusted after by the GOP would be transformed into a cemented minority, reminiscent of the shattered state of the Republican party in the aftermath of Watergate.

All of this only comes to pass, of course, if the Democrats re-take the House. What was considered an incredible long-shot even a few months ago has become an even-money proposition. Nothing is guaranteed by any stretch, and events may well transpire that swing the electorate back in favor of Bush and his Congressional allies. The fiasco that is electronic voting and the Help America Vote Act will stand in favor of the GOP come November, as it always has. If the Democrats want to win in November, they will have to work harder than they ever have before.

For now, it is enough to be amused by the smell of fear emanating from the GOP. This newest tactic - warning people about the potential for impeachment - begs one simple question: if they have nothing to hide, what are they afraid of? The answer, clearly, is John Conyers. He is, you'll hear soon enough, a terrifying man.

William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of two books: War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know and The Greatest Sedition Is Silence.


Good literary agents sell good books....

From Publishers Lunch Weekly:


Cambridge English professor and nonfiction author Rebecca Stott's GHOSTWALK, combining a contemporary story with the scientific and alchemical world of Sir Isaac Newton, in which a historian at Cambridge is found drowned, leaving her study of Isaac Newton's alchemy incomplete and a spate of mysterious deaths surrounding Newton's rise in fame unsolved, and when a friend tries to complete her work, she becomes ensnared in a dangerous conspiracy that reawakens ghosts of the seventeenth century, to Cindy Spiegel at Spiegel & Grau, in a pre-empt, for publication in May 2007, by Emma Sweeney, on behalf of Faith Evans (US).
Weidenfeld & Nicolson will publish in March 2007 in the UK and rights have also been sold in Italy, Germany, and

Stanford medical professor David Kerns, M.D.'s STANDARD OF CARE, a tale of ethical crisis and redemption, one doctor's embattled journey as a senior medical executive in America's largest and most predatory hospital corporation, to Connie Shaw at Sentient Publications, in a nice deal, for publication in early

Lee Vance's RESTITUTION, about a high-powered investment banker who, when his wife is found murdered, becomes the prime suspect and finds himself on an increasingly dark and dangerous journey not only to prove his innocence, but to also bring his wife's killer to justice, to Peter Gethers at Knopf, with Claudia Herr to edit, by Kathy Robbins at The Robbins Office (NA).Foreign:


David Rollins's THE DEATH TRUST, following two Special Agents who uncover a conspiracy that links Latvian sex-slave dealers, Iraqi street fighters, Chechen rebels, and even the Vice President of the United States; A KNIFE EDGE, and BLOODBATH, to Kate Miciak at Bantam Dell, by Kathleen Anderson at Anderson Grinberg Literary Management (NA).

Investigative reporter, foreign correspondent, and, bestselling author most recently of FOOD INC., Peter Pringle's DAY OF THE DANDELION, a botanical thriller introducing a researcher at Kew Gardens who is also an intelligence sleuth for Britain's secret service called in to investigate murder, profit-hungry biotech companies and unscrupulous international grain dealers, to Alice Mayhew at Simon & Schuster, in an exclusive submission, by Michael Carlisle at Inkwell Management (NA).


New York Times bestselling memoirist (COLORS OF THE MOUNTAIN) and author of the forthcoming novel BROTHERS Da Chen's second novel for adults, MY LAST EMPRESS, a colorful 19th century love story between an old-money American and a Chinese princess that takes an unexpected turn, again to Shaye Areheart at Shaye Areheart Books, by Alex Glass and Robert Gottlieb at Trident Media Group (world). Film rights are with Angela Cheng Caplan at the Cheng Caplan Company.

Rosalind Miles's ALEXANDRA, a novel of the last Empress of Russia, in the model of Miles's I, ELIZABETH and GUENEVERE, moving from Crown with her long-time editor, Rachel Kahan at Putnam, by Flip Brophy at Sterling Lord Literistic (NA).


Nick Patoski's WILLIE, TEXAS, a biography of Willie Nelson and the story of modern Texas, to Michael Pietsch at Little, Brown, for publication in 2008, by Jim Fitzgerald at James Fitzgerald Agency.


Former President Bill Clinton's book on citizen activism and service, examining how we can move our nation and world away from conflict and towards accomplishment, opportunity, and responsibility, including stories of some of the many private citizens who are doing public good, again to Sonny Mehta at Knopf, with Robert Gottlieb editing, for publication in late 2007 or early 2008, by Robert Barnett at Williams & Connolly (world)

Former Marine Brian Steidle and founder of Global Grassroots Gretchen Steidle Wallace's THE DEVIL CAME ON HORSEBACK, a memoir of what he saw in Darfur, and an urgent call to action, to David Patterson at Public Affairs, for publication in spring 2007 (world).

Juliet Nicolson's THE PERFECT SUMMER: Dancing into Shadow in 1911, about the summer in which George V took the crown, to Joan Bingham at Grove/Atlantic, at auction, for publication in summer 2007, by William Clark at William Clark Associates, on behalf of Ed Victor at Ed Victor, Ltd (US). UK rights went to John Murray.


Harvard Ph.D, journalist, and daughter of the deputy Prime Minister of Iraq Ahmed Chalabi, Tamara Chalabi's LATE FOR TEA AT THE DEER PALACE, part cultural history and part memoir, providing a portrait of a lost Iraq over several generations of family, documented through the prism of three women: Gertrude Bell, the British-born, Victorian-era cultural ambassador to Iraq when it was an epicenter of power in the region; the author's grandmother, a grande dame who presided over Iraq's social and political life during its 1920s and 1930s heyday as "the Paris of the Middle East," and herself -- a young ex-pat daughter attempting to navigate her roots within an old and prominent family, establish her identity, and understand her discoveries within the context of today's war-torn nation, jointly to Tim Duggan at Harper and Arabella Pike at Harper UK, by Elizabeth Sheinkman at Curtis Brown UK (world).Rights:

Aaron Cohen's BROTHERHOOD OF WARRIORS, written with Douglas Century, a memoir of his time spent in Israel as an anti-terrorist fighter and the only American in one of the Army's most elite counter-terror units, to Lee Boudreaux at Ecco, at auction, for publication in winter 2008, by Richard Abate at ICM (world)


Christopher McDougall's BORN TO RUN: A Hidden Tribe of Super-Athletes, The Rise of Ultrarunning, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen, the story of a lost tribe of super-athletes deep in the Copper Canyons of Mexico and the American runners whose quest to challenge them to a ultramarathon provides the backdrop for an exploration into the science and psychology of extreme endurance, concluding that nearly everything we thought about it -- and our physical limits -- is wrong, to Edward Kastenmeier at Knopf, by Larry Weissman at Larry Weissman Literary (world). Film rights are with Sarah Self at The Gersh


Author of When the Game Stands Tall Neil Hayes and radio show host and columnist Brian Murphy's untitled college golf narrative, about the 1995 NCAA college golf championship, showing golf played as a team sport versus an individual pursuit, and centering on the epic rivalry between Tiger's up-and-coming Stanford University and the Oklahoma State Cowboys, the old man of college golf, to Susan Canavan at Houghton Mifflin, by Greg Dinkin of Venturey Literary (NA)


People magazine writer Frank Swertlow's WE, THE JURY: Deciding Scott Peterson's Fate, written with seven members of the Peterson trial jury, to Michael Viner at Phoenix Books, for publication in fall 2006.


Canadian rights to Simon Houpt's MUSEUM OF THE MISSING: A HISTORY OF ART THEFT, the story of art theft in modern times, with over 200 full-color illustrations, a special "gallery section" of stolen artworks, and an introduction by Julian Radcliffe of the Art Loss Register, to Jordan Fenn at Key Porter Books, in a nice deal, by Martha Bucci at Madison Press

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Literary Agent causes ISP to eliminate blog!!!

Note: This just in from another writer: "A great deal of kerfluffle about this Barbara Bauer agent (sic) person. Thought you'd like to read. And if you click on her name in the text, it links to the list of 20 worst agents. Writers all over the net are picking up on this and in a huff.

Additionally, full explanation here:

So, here's Writer Beware list of 20 worst agents:

Below is a list of the 20 literary agencies about which Writer Beware has received the greatest number of advisories/complaints over the past several years.None of these agencies has a significant track record of sales to commercial (advance-paying) publishers, and most have virtually no documented and verified sales at all (book placements claimed by some of these agencies turn out to be "sales" to vanity publishers). All charge clients before a sale is made--whether directly, by levying fees such as reading or administrative fees, or indirectly, for editing or other adjunct services.

Writer Beware recommends that writers avoid questionable literary agencies, and instead query agencies that have verifiable track records of sales to commercial publishing houses. Note that while the 20 agencies listed here account for the bulk of the complaints we receive, they're just the tip of the iceberg. Writer Beware has files on nearly 400 questionable agencies, and we learn about a new one every few weeks.

The Abacus Group Literary Agency
Allred and Allred Literary Agents (refers clients to "book doctor" Victor West of Pacific Literary Services)
Barbara Bauer Literary Agency
Benedict Associates (also d/b/a B.A. Literary Agency)
Sherwood Broome, Inc.
Capital Literary Agency (formerly American Literary Agents of Washington, Inc.)
Desert Rose Literary Agency
Arthur Fleming Associates
Finesse Literary Agency (Karen Carr)
Brock Gannon Literary Agency
Harris Literary Agency
The Literary Agency Group, which includes the following:-Children's Literary Agency-Christian Literary Agency-New York Literary Agency-Poets Literary Agency-The Screenplay Agency-Stylus Literary Agency (formerly ST Literary Agency, formerly Sydra-Techniques)-Writers Literary & Publishing Services Company (the editing arm of the above-mentioned agencies)
Martin-McLean Literary Associates
Mocknick Productions Literary Agency, Inc.
B.K. Nelson, Inc.
The Robins Agency (Cris Robins)
Michele Rooney Literary Agency (also d/b/a Creative Literary Agency, Simply Nonfiction, and Michele Glance Rooney Literary Agency)
Southeast Literary Agency
Mark Sullivan Associates
West Coast Literary Associates (also d/b/a California Literary Services)


Bush: Nuclear power over-regulated!!!!

From AP via :

May 25, 2006 - 2:59PM

US President George W Bush says nuclear power is an over-regulated industry that needs a jump start from Washington.

He wants to expand nuclear power generation with promise to deal with radioactive waste, lessen regulations and revive nuclear fuel processing.

Visiting a nuclear plant at Limmerick near Philadelphia today, Bush donned a white hard hat and spoke to employees in the shadow of two enormous cooling towers.
Bush argued that nuclear power was abundant, affordable, safe and clean.

"For the sake of economic security and national security, the United States of America must aggressively move forward with the construction of nuclear power plants," Bush said. "Other countries are."

Some environmentalists have abandoned their opposition to nuclear power, arguing it is needed to address climate change because reactors do not produce "greenhouse" gases as do fossil fuels.
Other environmentalists are not convinced, citing worries about reactor waste and safety.

"The debate needs to fully address such vital issues as the exorbitant cost of building new nuclear facilities, the potential proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and the disposal of radioactive wastes," said Thomas Cochran, director of the Natural Resources Defence Council's nuclear program.

Limerick is the second nuclear power plant Bush has seen in less than a year.
He is the first US president to visit a nuclear power plant since then President Billy Carter went to Pennsylvania's Three Mile Island nuclear plant after it partially melted down in 1979, according to the Nuclear Energy Institute.

Bush touted a range of ways he wants to make the US less dependent on hydrocarbons, including promoting ethanol-, hydrogen- and battery-powered cars, clean-coal technology, wind and solar power and liquefied natural gas.

"If we haven't done something about our energy situation, we're not going to be able to compete in the world," the president said.

There are 100 nuclear power plants scattered across 31 US states, but an order has not been placed for a new reactor since 1973.

A broad energy bill Bush signed last northern summer provides incentives for building again, and Bush said interest is up eight-fold.

The American public is evenly divided on the question of building more nuclear plants, recent polling has found.

The Bush administration also wants Congress to approve $US250 million ($A330 million) - a small downpayment - to accelerate a decade-long research program into reprocessing nuclear fuel, which advocates say would pose much less risk and reduce the amount of reactor waste that eventually would have to be buried.

The House voted last night to scale back the amount of money appropriated for the research program to $US130 million ($A173 million).

The United States abandoned nuclear fuel reprocessing in the 1970s because of proliferation concerns.

"Nuclear power helps us protect the environment and nuclear power is safe," Bush said.



Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Border fence builders: Seabees & National Guard....

From Strategic Forecasting Inc:

Tactical Implications of a Border Fence
By Fred Burton

The House of Representatives has passed a measure, H.R. 4437, that calls for 698 miles of border fencing to be built in five strategic locations. Meanwhile, the Senate is considering a measure, S. 2611, that has been amended to authorize 370 miles of new fencing, which would be built over the next two years. In all likelihood, the Senate will pass a measure and the numerical differences will be worked out in a joint conference committee. Splitting the difference would mean that about 500 miles of new fencing ultimately would be built. Currently, there are only about 75 miles of existing fence along the U.S.-Mexico border -- a distance spanning some 2,000 miles.

In the U.S. Border Patrol's San Diego Sector, modern fences have been built, in several different phases, since the 1990s. Judging from Border Patrol statistics, these measures have had significant impacts; the numbers of illegal aliens apprehended and amounts of narcotics seized in the San Diego sector have plummeted dramatically since fencing was built. However, fences are effective only in the areas where they exist. The San Diego fence has not impacted the total number of people who enter the United States illegally, but only the number entering illegally in a certain area.

As statistics for other border sectors indicate, the net result over time has been to redirect the flow of illegal traffic. This is a logical outcome; illegal immigration is a complex, nuanced issue that stems from economic and social conditions on both sides of the border, and partial measures can be expected to yield limited results. When it comes to fencing, however, the only measures that can be seriously debated or attempted are, by definition, partial. There have been no calls in Washington for the border to be completely walled off, nor -- given political and economic considerations and international perceptions of such a move -- would that be particularly productive.

It certainly would not be effective: Illegal aliens also have been apprehended coming in by sea and by air, not to mention at well-manned border checkpoints where they were found with legitimate immigration documents (fraudulently obtained) and sophisticated counterfeits. Thus, whatever compromises the House and Senate might be able to forge on a border fencing initiative, one can expect certain outcomes. Fencing will not stop the flow of illegal immigration, but will redirect it. And in both the areas where fencing exists and where it does not, there will be security implications that are worth examining.

Walls, Fences and Statistics

Border walls and fences have been used for thousands of years. The Athenians built "long walls," such as that running to Piraeus, as military fortifications. Chinese emperors built the Great Wall to help protect against Mongol invasion; the Romans erected Hadrian's Wall to guard settlements in what became England from marauding Picts and other tribes to the north. And the Berlin Wall was erected almost overnight -- though not so much to keep people out of the newly Soviet territory east of the wall as to keep people in.

Clearly, the United States is not concerned about Spartans, Mongol hordes or fearsome Celts, but heavy tides of illegal immigrants, criminal aliens and narcotics.The heaviest concentrations of illegal entrants and drugs traditionally have come through the Border Patrol's San Diego Sector, given the close proximity of Tijuana and San Diego; it obviously is much easier for border-crossers to hide or blend into a large city than to escape notice or find shelter in the open desert or mountain terrains farther to the east.

It was in response to these crossings that the U.S. federal government began building fences, in several phases, in the early 1990s; today, 44 of the San Diego sector's 66 miles are fenced.

Over time, fencing techniques have changed, in keeping with shifting political goals. The fencing at one time was merely a simple cable, intended to mark the location of the border and restrict vehicle traffic. Now, there are chain-link fences and even areas dominated by heavy steel structures, made from recycled metal landing mats that were used in the Vietnam War. The most modern construction techniques in border fencing began to appear in 1995, with a three-tiered design created at Sandia National Laboratory. In this design, the steel landing mat structure is the southernmost layer; a well-lit, open area separates that from a 15-foot metal mesh fence (designed to keep out pedestrians) about 50 yards to the north. A road through the open space allows for Border Patrol access, and an array of technologies -- heavy video coverage, thermal imaging and embedded sensors that detect metals, heat and movement -- blanket the area. In regions prone to heavy crossing traffic, there is a third, low fence north of the mesh structure.

Measuring the effectiveness of border controls is a complex matter. The numbers of people apprehended do not necessarily paint an accurate picture, since the problem the United States is attempting to solve, obviously, involves those who are not caught. However, Border Patrol statistics are among the few empirical measurements available, and these numbers do support the theory that fencing stops pedestrians from illegally crossing the border -- at least, in the areas where it exists.

According to the U.S. Border Patrol, there were more than 100,000 apprehensions every year along the border in the San Diego sector before the triple fence was built, but that number now has dropped to about 5,000 per year. However, these numbers pertain only to apprehensions along the southern border. The San Diego sector is a large space -- encompassing 7,000 square miles of southern California territory -- and stretches far to the north of the Mexican border. Many more people are apprehended within the entire sector -- 138,608 in fiscal 2004 -- than they are within the border zone. Nevertheless, the overall trend line shows a decline in apprehensions (which can be extrapolated as an indication of fewer illegal crossings) since the wall was built.

It is equally important to note, however, that after the completion of the fence in the mid-1990s, statistical trends moved in precisely the opposite direction at checkpoints east of the San Diego sector, where there is less fencing -- and where staffing increases for the Border Patrol have not been able to fix the problem either. The increases have been most visible in the Tucson sector.

Border Patrol agents, politicians and San Diego residents all agree that the fences have reduced the flow of illegal aliens crossing the border in those areas where they have been completed. And this has helped to fuel the current calls for more sections of fencing in high-traffic areas. It is no accident, then, that most of the Tucson sector -- another high-traffic border zone containing several significant border towns and a major metropolitan area further north -- would be fenced under the congressional measures now being considered.


Though it is not yet clear how much new fencing Congress might authorize, it is apparent from the existing proposals that much of the construction would occur in high-traffic areas along the border -- which also means near urban areas. Ultimately, we would expect the plan to force illegal crossings toward more sparsely populated areas of the border. There are several implications here.

irst, such a plan could help to take some of the heat out of the current debate on immigration, which has become a tremendous headache for the Bush administration and both parties in Congress. If illegal crossings are diverted away from urban areas and are witnessed by fewer people, it might create perceptions -- as in the San Diego area -- that flows are being reduced. Whether that is true in whole or in part, the perceptions themselves are an important consideration in an election year; constructing fences in the highest-volume areas would be a visible sign that action is being taken. And, indeed, fencing would in all likelihood reduce illegal crossings in those areas, even if the overall impact on the illegal immigration issue is minimal.

Second, building fences would increase the physical risks faced by those attempting to cross the border illegally, in at least two meaningful ways. For one thing, much of the border terrain is rugged and arid, with few natural landmarks in areas outside the cities. People easily can get lost, become dehydrated and grow disoriented. These are not new risks, but if access to major urban areas like Tucson or Laredo is blocked, the consideration becomes much more relevant from a migrant's perspective. If traveling on foot, one might be days, rather than steps, away from assistance. There is a very real chance that immigrants could die of exposure -- and indeed, human rights groups have reported that the number of illegal aliens who die while attempting the crossing has risen since the San Diego fence was built.

The increased difficulties might prompt would-be immigrants to seek the assistance of coyotes -- or alien smugglers -- instead, which entails security risks of another sort. Not only can the fees demanded by coyotes be exorbitant, but stories of abuse at the hands of smugglers are well documented. The numbers of illegal aliens who are robbed, raped or murdered during their journey might grow as traffic flows are redirected.

Either way, the calculus for those considering a border crossing will -- if not exactly shift -- take on significant new dimensions as sections of fence are built and aliens are funneled toward ever more remote and rugged terrain.

There also are implications for U.S. residents and property owners in the regions that will remain unfenced -- which include large swathes of the El Paso, Marfa and Del Rio sectors in Texas. When the fence was built in the San Diego sector, residents in the Tucson sector reported increases in trespassing and petty theft, as more illegal aliens -- some desperate for food, water and other staples -- trekked through. This pattern could be expected in other parts of the border as traffic flows shift.

Evolving Tactics

In some respects, the border fence discussion is a great example of the larger challenge posed by illegal immigration. The U.S. government builds one section of fence, and the flow diverts to other areas. The pressures that drive emigration northward from poorer countries are so strong that even if the United States was capable of sealing the land border with Mexico, other areas and means of entering would be found.

In recent decades, for example, an arms race of sorts has been raging between governments and people who counterfeit or alter legal documents used by immigrants, and it likely will accelerate if border fencing adds significantly to the challenges of entering the United States illegally by land. Counterfeiters have been aided greatly by advancements in digital technology: High-quality scanners and laser printers have become more widely available and increasingly affordable. In response, governments have adopted even more technologically advanced identity documents with enhanced security features. These measures sometimes can backfire.

For example, there was a short-lived episode involving green U.S. passports that were designed to be "technologically advanced and difficult to alter." Enterprising criminals discovered within days that they could pop the high-tech laminates off the passports, using a decidedly low-tech method, and quickly swap the photos on the document before sealing it back down. In cases where technical alteration becomes too difficult, other types of crime tick upward: Criminals steal blank birth certificates or pay others to swipe legal records for them. A few years ago in a southern state, for example, crooks paid a cleaning crew to steal all the license-making equipment and materials from a department of motor vehicles office.

In the realm of alien smuggling, as with terrorism or other crime communities, there is an evolutionary process at work. Each physical security innovation on the part of the government sparks a tactical change on the opposing side, in a self-perpetuating cycle. This has been evident also in the reaction of marijuana smugglers to the San Diego sector fence. Not only have smugglers, like illegal immigrants, headed east to get around the fence, but there also have been many attempts to burrow underneath it as well. In fact, during the past month, the San Diego Tunnel Task Force -- and it is significant that an entity with such a name should even exist -- discovered two tunnels, both rather crude, running beneath the border fence.

These tunnels, however, were dwarfed by the discovery in January of what is believed to be the longest cross-border tunnel -- also in San Diego. This Hogan's Heroes-like structure, which descended to a depth of 81 feet, featured lighting, a ventilation system and concrete floors. It stretched nearly half a mile from a building on the Mexican side to the floor of a warehouse on the U.S. side of the border. Complex tunnel systems have also been found in places like Nogales, Ariz. It is believed that tunnels like these are used mainly to smuggle drugs, but as the price for passage to the United States increases, they doubtless will be used more frequently to smuggle people across the border as well.

Successful criminals are invariably resourceful, and the issues that fuel illegal immigration to the United States are multifaceted. So long as immigration crimes remain profitable, there will be attempts to circumvent -- and reinvent -- the system.

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