Sunday, December 31, 2006's business...

Well, here in San Diego, midnight is just a bit less than 3 hours away, and there's no telling what 2007 will be all about. A few things we know...the race is already on for elections in 2008. No question about that.

War in Afghanistan continues and the occupation of Iraq continues. Because of BushCo's absolute and incredible stupidity, the rest of the world dislikes us intensely. Yet the administration continues to strut across the international stage not realizing they're the streakers, not the actors. More dangerous than the actors because the streakers don't care...they just want the attention. They have it. It's not good.

"The Angels of Morgan Hill" is one beautiful little novel. More courage in that small book than Bush has every or will ever show in his entire life. Actually, I don't believe he knows the meaning of the word.

Now I've just started on "The Tenth Circle". Yeah, of Dante's hell. A novel concerning a man, wife, and their daughter. So far, I'm not much liking it. The writer is a bestselling author, she writes very well, but I feel a cold calculation in her work and it makes me very uncomfortable.
I doubt I'll continue.

Instead, I'll continue a non-fiction that's about halfway through...Kitty Kelly's "The Family". The family is the Bush dynasty, starting with Prescott, then George HW, then George W. These are most surely not likeable people. What one sees is not what one gets. Always, there are those underlying motives for each and every move they make.

Tomorrow, thanks for small favors, my world will return to normal with all the holiday chaos disappeared as if it had never been. I am so glad. I suspect I have a lot of company who feel much the same. Am very much looking forward to meeting another writer for breakfast in a hotel restaurant where we meet every weekday except Tuesday. The poor staff there has been just slammed with hotel guests seeming to appear all at once. It's been as though everyone's alarm clock has been set to go off at the same time.

The Chargers won again today. They're getting closer and closer to the Super Bowl. Gonna be battles royal in the football stadiums this year.

Also getting closer to the big writers' conference here. I'll be reading/editing advance manuscripts again. Fascinating, that first look at those novels. The thing so many writers aren't really aware of is that once they've finished their books and an agent has expressed an interest in seeing the manuscript is that from that moment on, it's straight business. My agent, while reading a manuscript, is also thinking as he reads about which Senior editor(s) like that kind of book and will possibly make an offer to publish. If, by the time he finishes, no editor has come to mind, the book is rejected. He also does no editing. The book is either polished and ready to be seen by an editor or back it goes. He writes the most encouraging rejection letters I've ever seen.

But if he does think of an editor, does send the book off, the first the writer will hear about it is when he phones to say, "We have editorial interest." Right there, the book is as good as sold for publication unless the writer gets unreasonable.

Most new writers also don't know that it may well take 18 months before the book is in print and headed for the bookstore shelves. Editors handle a batch of books and they handle them in the order the manuscripts are submitted unless the subjects of those books are really in high demand. Then books already in the works will be cut in front of and the hot book will take another book's place at the printers. It's a business. No more, no less. And a very tough one.

Most businesses are.

Put politics in that class. Can a candidate get enough money to make the race? Does a candidate for office have the staying power necessary to get through a viscious campaign? A million things can go wrong and do. You gotta want what you want badly enough to hang in there, no matter what, until you succeed. It's business.


Friday, December 29, 2006

Joe Wambaugh...the cop's cop...

Just wanted to add that I've just finished reading "Hollywood Station" by Joe Wambaugh. It's excellent. If you've ever wondered what is meant by "cop talk", you'll wonder no longer. The opening pages are filled with it. A marvelous language, cop-speak.

More, the reader walks with those cops right into one horrendous murder scene, and neither the reader nor the cops know it until they're face to face with it.

One evening, some years ago, we writers were sitting in the Palace Bar in the old Horton Grand Hotel in San Diego where, by the way, Wyatt Earp also hung out in the 1800's, when Wambaugh wandered in to join us. And to complain that he was "out of work". It seems he'd just finished a book and didn't yet have his next one in mind. Therefore, he really was out of work.

What I want to say is that he's a really nice guy, and a damned fine writer. I think of him and grin. And congratulate him for once again being "out of work" for the best of reasons.


Brown, Ford, Hussein...all dead...

The Iraqis, now that they've managed to hang Saddam Hussein, have created a problem for themselves. They've hung him until he's dead. Now what they gonna do with the body? Tikrit, his hometown wants it. They think he should be buried next to his sons. Will that town make a martyr of him? Possibly. Should they burn the body up and scatter the ashes to the winds? Best not. Well, I reckon they'll figure something out.

So James Brown passed away too. And he's gonna be buried in a 24 karet gold casket. Dumb. Just how much time will pass before some enterprising grave robbers dig him up to get to that gold casket? Perhaps it's only gold plated. Still...

And then there's former President Gerald Ford who, after lying in state and all the formal ceremonies are finished, will be buried in his home State of Michigan. I suspect he is the only one of the three who will be allowed to rest peacefully.

The rule of three certainly came true this last month of 2006.

And meanwhile, there is Bush 43 down on his show ranch in Crawford Texas, running around with his chain saw, clearing brush, and riding his bicycle. I guess he needed a break after three hours of listening to cohorts telling him how to proceed in Iraq. It's hard work.

And out on the road sat Cindy Sheehan...who, with a couple of others, got hauled off to jail for blocking said road. Doesn't sound like a lot of fun to me. But one way or the other, she's gonna continue to demand Bush explain to her why he sent her son off to die in Iraq. Of course, being the coward he is, he ain't gonna do that. He's already said that, as president, he doesn't have to explain anything he says. As far as that goes, he undoubtedly believes...and certainly displays...that he doesn't have to explain anything he does either. He just sends Tony Snow out without giving Snow any explanation. Hard to explain what you don't know.

Meanwhile, John Edwards went down to New Orleans, grabbed a shovel and went to work for a bit...then announced he's running for President. Listening to him, I'm thinking both his heart and his brain are in the right place, but 2008 is a bit of distance away. At least that fact will allow him to try to gather the massive amount of money it will take to have a real chance.

So one strong, icy wind hit the West Coast and is traveling East once again bringing with it masses of snow and/or rain and causing all kinds of problems both on the ground and in the air.

The New Year 2007 is being brought in the hard way.


Surge to Iraq...for 545 days?!!!


Third Time's the Harm

Steven Henderson served his country during two tours of duty as an Army sergeant in Afghanistan - repeatedly coming under enemy fire and seeing fellow soldiers maimed and US helicopters gunned down.

The Chicago native is back home now, after being honorably discharged 20 months ago. He's married and is working toward a college degree - but the Army has called upon him again. A letter he received two weeks before Christmas orders him to fight in Iraq for a period "not to exceed 545 days."


Thursday, December 28, 2006

Damned good question....

From Information Clearing House :

Tale of Two Sisters
By Bill Quigley.

Why Is HUD Using Tens of Millions of Katrina Money to Bulldoze 4534 Public Housing Apartments in New Orleans When It Costs Less to Repair and Open Them Up?


Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Books both serious and fun...

From Publishers Lunch Weekly:


Sadie Jones's THE OUTCAST, set in 1950s suburban England where heartache, cruelty, and unexpected violence lie beneath the surface of posh upper middle class life, following the troubled adolescent life and loves of a boy who witnesses his young mother's death by drowning, to Terry Karten at Harper, in a nice deal, by Stephanie Cabot at The Gernert Company (US).

Author of THE COLLABORATOR OF BETHLEHEM Matt Beynon Rees's A GRAVE IN GAZA, the second in a series featuring Palestinian investigator Omar Yussef, who learns firsthand that "every crime in Gaza is connected to every other crime" as he navigates amongst various corrupt political factions for the release of his kidnapped colleague, to Katie Herman at Soho Press, by Lisa Erbach Vance at the Aaron Priest Literary Agency, on behalf of Deborah Harris at the Deborah Harris Agency (NA).


Karen Maitland's A COMPANY OF LIARS, set in England in 1348, as the plague is spreading and a band of misfits are trying to outrun it, including a scar-faced trader in holy relics, a minstrel from Venice, an itinerant painter of church frescoes, a deformed storyteller wanted by the law, a strange albino child, a healer, and a bad-tempered magician traveling with an embalmed mermaid, and THE OWL KILLERS, also set in the middle ages, to Kate Miciak for Dial and Bantam, by Kathleen Anderson at Anderson Literary Management, on behalf of Victoria Hobbs at A.M. Heath (NA).

Maggie O'Farrell's THE VANISHING ACT OF ESME LENNOX, a multi-generational tale of a woman who, after sixty years in a sanitarium, is expelled into a world that forgot her and to a great-niece who never knew she existed, to Jenna Johnson at Harcourt, by Emma Parry at Fletcher & Parry (US).


Former National Security Council member and coauthor of America Unbound, Ivo Daalder's and foreign policy scholar Mac Destler's IN THE SHADOW OF THE OVAL OFFICE: The National Security Advisor and the Making of American Foreign Policy, a history of the position that describes how presidents from JFK to George W. Bush have relied on their national security assistants to manage America's engagement overseas, and what the consequences have been for our foreign policy, to Alice Mayhew at Simon & Schuster, by Andrew Stuart at The Stuart Agency (NA).

WSJ reporter Steve Levine's examination of the Alexander Litvinenko affair -- from the polonium poisoning of the former spy in London to the investigation currently underway throughout Europe, including the shadowy underworld of Putin's Russia, to Will Murphy at Random House, by Tom Wallace (world).Former prime minister of Russia and architect of the "shock therapy" economic reforms of the 1990s, Yegor Gaidar's book on the demise of the Soviet Union, from the man who fell ill presenting the Russian edition last month and attributed the illness to poisoning, translated by Antonia Bouis, to Robert Faherty at Brookings Institution Press, for publication in July 2007.

Sarah Skinner Kilborne's THE UNEXPECTED HOUR: How William Skinner Spun America's Gravest Industrial Disaster Into the Comeback of the Century, a descendant of America's "Silk King" recounts how -- after losing everything he'd spent thirty years building in just fifteen minutes (when a reservoir north of Skinnerville, MA burst through its dam and swept the town away) -- he went on to leave a legacy far greater, to George Gibson at Walker, in a nice deal, by Rob McQuilkin at Lippincott Massie McQuilkin (NA)


Amish scholars Donald Kraybill, Steven Nolt, and David Weaver-Zercher's AMISH GRACE: How Forgiveness Redeemed a Tragedy, about the recent shooting in a one-room Amish school that killed five students, and exploring the confounding gesture of forgiveness offered to the killer and his family by the local Amish community, to Sheryl Fullerton at Jossey-Bass, by Giles Anderson (World).


Washington Post writer John Scheinman's BARBARO, the behind-the-scenes story of the undefeated 2006 Triple Crown favorite, who pulled up injured in the opening seconds of the Preakness, and of his unlikely and ongoing recovery -- drawing on access to the principals of the story, to Susan Canavan at Houghton Mifflin, in a very nice deal, by Bridget Wagner at The Sagalyn Agency (world)


Ford to Lie in State...

From Roll Call :

Ford Expected to Lie in State Beginning Saturday
By Paul Kane
Roll Call Staff
Wednesday, Dec. 27; 2:38 pm

Capitol memorial services for the late President Gerald Ford will be held over the New Year’s Day weekend and conclude by Tuesday, clearing the way for the opening of the historic 110th Congress as scheduled, Congressional sources said.


Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Hell of a storm in Reno....

Email just in from 6 miles down the mountain from Virginia City:

"We are going through the toughest storm since 1976 (or something). The winds have been clocked at over 150 mile per hour gusts and when I got home from work today the wind had blown out windows and broken some stuff and it looked like a hurricane hit the inside of the house!!!!

J and built a great home! Thank you, any other would have fallen apart, as they have all over Reno tonite.

Thank the good Lord we are fine, as are our pals (animals) and praise God for great neighbors!!!! J and wife to the rescue! The two men, J and husband, boarded up the broken windows with plywood, on a 20 foot ladder unfortunantly...they were both knocked down from the gail force winds and both had to sit down and gather their wind as well as their senses. Glad to say, they laughed about it and moved on... then the snow hit. I mean it's still coming down. Beautiful....plywood on the front doors and windows (socks stuffed in the edges) fire in the fireplace and Gods blessings on a solid built house....we love this place so much.

Just to let you know......winter may have "officially" arrived!........still no electricity, so the batteries on my laptop may die at any moment."


Tuesday eve on the patio...

So the writers gathered tonight at our usual place and usual table. Tables, really, since we have to slide a couple together to accomodate the number of us. Never know who will show up, so it's run from a low of four to a high of 20-something. Tonight I believe there were about nine. Gets a bit difficult to hear sometimes, since two or three conversations may be going on at once.

And they were tonight. The five at the end were having at it about politics and war, and the others at the other end were carrying on about dogs, dates during teenage years, Christmas presents, the horrid Paso del Posado and many other things...including politics.

And then we noticed that the reason we were having trouble hearing each other was that the patio had filled up from end to end. This is not a usual thing, since the patio is long and divided into three parts. From the front sidewalk toward the rear gate into the parking lot, there is, first, a section with round umbrella tables. That area is open to the sky and has plants and small trees on both sides, with small sculptures here and there among them. The middle section has a canvas roof and, on the open side, plants and more small trees edge the area. At present there is a clear plastic curtain rolled down because of possible rain and because the breeze is chilly at night. Square tables fill this middle section, and moving the iron-legged chairs on the floor's tiles makes a hell of a racket. Our group sits happily in the far left corner.

The third section at the rear of the patio has the same chairs and tables we have, but there is a wonderful fireplace at the very back, and a lattice screens separate the back section from ours. One large floor to ceiling screen on each side, and woven Mexican drapes are pulled back from each side to make a doorway. Very colorful. And colored light bulbs are draped throughout the patio sections. This back section also has a plastic roof.

And suddenly all three sections are crammed full of people, as is the private party room upstairs, and the interior of the restaurant. We deduced that people had guests staying at their homes and were not about to keep that holiday cooking going. Don't blame them a bit. Enough is enough. Time to dine out.

So there we were, talking, eating, drinking coffee, smoking and enjoying. Think we've been going there for close to six or seven years now. And the manager, who is by now a friend, comes over looking distressed and announces somebody called the health nazis agency and come Jan 1st, no more smoking on the patio sections with the plastic roofs and the plastic side curtains because that made them enclosed rooms. Manager tried to tell them that the side curtains roll up, but they'd made up their minds.

A couple of us are going to check out another restaurant with a patio...that is, with a roof covering for when it rains, side shields to block the wind, and see if we might transfer over there. Problem is, that possible new place has what have to be the most uncomfortable chairs possible. The seats are dead flat and square, and my feet don't touch the floor when I sit in one, and the backs of those wooden chairs go straight up. Which is one reason they no longer serve breakfast. People, me included, tried it out when they opened for business, but those chairs were so awful they quit sitting on the patio, and simply went elsewhere. But we're gonna look at it anyway. May have to put up with the chairs.

Now, an enclosed room is just where BushCo needs to be put, never to exit again. There he is, having left Camp David, down on his ranch in Crawford, Texas, "listening" and planning some kind of change in the Iraq War. Yeah, right. What he's really planning is planting nukes on Iran as soon as he thinks he can get away with it, no doubt.

What a contrast to former Repub President Gerald Ford, he is. Ford was a decent, truthful man. Ford was everything Bush is not. The new Dem Congress had best not fail to do its duty or the people in this nation will throw a fit they won't soon forget.


Sad news...

News flash:

Former President Gerald Ford has died. He was 93 years old and has not been in good health for some time.


Recruiting exchange for US citizenship...

From Christian Science Monitor:

US military may recruit foreigners to servePentagon considering several 'disputed proposals' including fast-track citizenship for volunteers.

AOL Keyword: CS Monitor


Monday, December 25, 2006

End of holiday greetings brawl...finally...

Well, Christmas Day, 2006, is slowly but surely coming to an end and none too soon. Attended a Christmas brunch today at a professional musician's home. Lots of nice people, a beautiful white tree, good food...though I didn't indulge having just come from breakfast.

And at home, lovely gifts. Was especially pleased with some peanut brittle from a small sweets shop on Vashon Island in Puguet Sound outside Seattle, WA. Thicker than factory made, and with texture. Tasted wonderful.

At this point, I can't even count the gorgeous photos of snow-laden places in print and online I've seen. Each and every one made me doubly glad that I live in San Diego. That's because I grew up in northern Illinois. If I never put a foot in snow again, it will be too soon. Pretty to look at though...and available. Just an hour and a half drive up into the mountains to the old gold-mining town of Julian, then right back down to sunshine and blue skies and the beach or the parks and warm weather.

Had breakfast on Denny's concrete shoebox patio again this morn with another writer. Biscuits, grits, two eggs over easy. The last, not good. I like solid whites with just a bit of softness in the yolks. In short, medium well. And toxic amounts of coffee. Wonderful, that suddenly dark chocolate and black coffee studies say both are good for a person. Love those studies.

Tomorrow morn, back to the Hacienda Hotel's Acapulco Restaurant patio in Old Town, where one or two other writers might well show up. No more than that because a group of us will be meeting at 5PM just to gather and carry on about every possible subject. Looking forward to that.


Sunday, December 24, 2006

Woodward to Billy, the Kid...

Bob Woodward's book, "State of Denial", is something else again. It's damned near impossible to read more than one of its short chapters before having to cease because you've gone into a state of rage. Took me...and I'm a fast reader...over a month to read that book because I'd get so damned mad that I had to put it down. Finally did finish it and loaned it to another writer. It affected that writer the same way. Bottom line is that I cannot recommend it enough.

Had recently reread "Locked In the Cabinet" by Robert Reich, Clinton's Sec of Labor. And again enjoyed that very close-up and personal view of just what it's like to run one of the Cabinet agencies. Not fun. One of the things that stuck with me is the fact that, even going full tilt, it takes a Cabinet member, when a new president is elected, from their swearing in time in January until June before the agency is truly ready to do business.

So here is our new SecDef, Gates, who has just about a month to come up with the solution to the Iraq War for our idiot administration. Good luck, buddy. I found it most interesting that Gates was prepped for his testimony before Senate confirmation by VP Cheney's office. And of course he was part of Baker's Iraq Strategy Group. So how much can the nation expect him to depart from Bush's "stay the course"?

Baker...the Saudi royal families' main lawyer. Ah, the links to this chain never end and get tighter every day.

Thank heavens for Denny's restaurant. It will be open for breakfast in the morning....Christmas morning, that is. Another writer and I meet for a patio breakfast (has to be a patio because I demand a smoke with my coffee) weekday mornings and are often joined by other writers. Kicks off the day very nicely. But our usual place is closed tomorrow. Denny's will be open. Bless 'em...they're always open.

So the writer who flew in from Colorado last week joined us for breakfast and today I read that his town there didn't get hit with that snowstorm, but did get hit with tumbleweeds...massive numbers of them flying around in strong winds.

Which reminded me of one of the loneliest places I've ever encountered. Billy, the Kid's graveyard in Old Fort Sumner, New Mexico. Dirt, the desert, falling down wire fence, and the constant wind, the slow-rolling tumbleweeds across the Kid's grave. Billy lays between two of his fellow gun-slingers, all three covered with a concrete blanket, out there in that little graveyard with its worn, half-fallen, wooden crosses here and there. And nothing out there for miles except the cottonwood trees on one side of the gravel road and a small concrete building next to the graveyard.

Next to Bush and his administration, Billy, the Kid was a piker. No comparison in the number of deaths each was/is responsible for. But then, Billy was a real cowboy, whereas I doubt Bush has ever sat a saddle. Pathetic.


Saturday, December 23, 2006

Saturday...with people...

Have just discovered that Ken Kuhlken, the mystery writer, has started a blog. Now if he will just keep carrying on, I won't have to beat the fire outta him. Here's where interested readers can find it:

California, he says, he considers the end of the world.

I disagree. Inside Blair House and the White House lies the end of the least as we knew it. Those inhabitants comprise the worst horror movie that could ever be filmed. And joy, the rest of the world--including us--get to live in it in reality.

Stopped at the neighborhood liquor store Thurs morn to pick up a couple of Lotto tickets (I won $2.00 after spending $4.00), with that morning's copy of the LA Times in hand. Mr Fish had drawn a mind-blowing cartoon in the Opinion section in which he'd captured Bush like nobody I'd ever one sentence.

In any case, I showed the clerk the cartoon and a guy who said he was a Vietnam Vet saw it and had a fit. Bush, he proclaimed, was the greatest president the United States had ever had. Whereupon I disagreed in no uncertain terms and he then asked, "You forget about 9-11?" To which I replied, "NO, and Iraq had not a damned thing to do with it." And we went from there, making sure to laugh so as not to go too far since we'd never met before.

Interesting, how people can be dead serious but laugh to not half kill each other on the spot.

From there to the retired guy (former Navy) who lives across the street...our neighborhood watchdog...and who is always out front of his open garage taking opportunities to strike up a conversation with every single person who walks within talking range. And he proceeds to tell me that the three worst presidents we've ever had are, in this order, Carter, FDR, and Clinton. The best: Reagan. Sheesh!

So. Onward to a very early dinner with old friend and his former wife. See them about once every year or so at various times. He, even though not Jewish, has lived and breathed the Holocaust for years and does exceptional work to make sure that horrible event is not forgotten. He has no other topic of conversation. She is now working, after many years, on getting her MA. She can really put away the food! I was impressed. And I was also bored to death.

I find I'm not excited about medical conditions, pets...and that was about all that she talked about.

Breakfast on the patio tomorrow morn will be much more interesting, since another writer will be joining me...her #1 interest is in serial killers...and possibly a former Green Beret who goes shooting out in the desert, not far from the Mexican border, on weekends. He's a sniper type of guy and has a 5000 foot range with targets. The Border Patrol guys know he's there--he tells them--and don't come within his shooting range. He says shooting relaxes him. Okay. Good.


"Ignorant" is an understatement...

From Information Clearing House:

Archbishop attacks US, Britain on Iraq:

THE spiritual head of the Anglican Church launched an outspoken attack on the British and US governments on Saturday, saying their "ignorant" policy in Iraq has put Christians in the region at risk.,23599,20970722-38200,00.html


US Customs has a target: US Citizens...

From Schneier on Security :

Automated Targeting System

If you've traveled abroad recently, you've been investigated. You've been assigned a score indicating what kind of terrorist threat you pose. That score is used by the government to determine the treatment you receive when you return to the U.S. and for other purposes as well.

Curious about your score? You can't see it. Interested in what information was used? You can't know that. Want to clear your name if you've been wrongly categorized? You can't challenge it. Want to know what kind of rules the computer is using to judge you? That's secret, too. So is when and how the score will be used.

U.S. customs agencies have been quietly operating this system for several years. Called Automated Targeting System, it assigns a "risk assessment" score to people entering or leaving the country, or engaging in import or export activity. This score, and the information used to derive it, can be shared with federal, state, local and even foreign governments. It can be used if you apply for a government job, grant, license, contract or other benefit. It can be shared with nongovernmental organizations and individuals in the course of an investigation. In some circumstances private contractors can get it, even those outside the country. And it will be saved for 40 years.

[cont reading at ]


DC Appeals Ct: FEMA can tell NOLA to shove it...

From :

FEMA Not Required to Restore Aid to Evacuees, Court Rules

The Federal Emergency Management Agency does not have to reinstate immediately rental assistance to evacuees from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, a federal appeals court in Washington ruled yesterday, reversing a decision that a lower court judge had said he hoped would "get these people a roof over their heads before Christmas."


Thursday, December 21, 2006

BushCo's blood lust will not quit....

From Information Clearing House :

Target Iran

Former UN Weapons Inspector Scott Ritter and Investigative Journalist Seymour Hersh on White House Plans for Regime Change.

This Is A Must Listen

The aircraft carrier Eisenhower and its strike group entered the Persian Gulf on Dec. 11. Another aircraft carrier, the Stennis, is expected to depart for the Gulf within the next month. The military said it is also taking steps to prevent Iran from blocking oil shipments from the Gulf.:


Food safety & Farmers...

From :

USDA Stocks Organics Board With Business Reps

Food-safety activists are protesting the government's attempt to stack an organic-food advisory board with representatives of corporate agribusiness and food commerce.

Federal Subsidies Turn Farms Into Big Business

The shift in subsidies to wealthier farmers is helping to fuel consolidation of farmland. The largest farms' share of agricultural production has climbed from 32 percent to 45 percent while the number for small and medium-size farms has tumbled from 42 percent to 27 percent.


BushCo and the Saudis...UGH...

From :

New York Times Rudderless in Iraq

The editors of the New York Times write: "Anyone looking for new thinking on Iraq, or even candor, had to be disappointed by President Bush's news conference yesterday. Mr. Bush may want to defer unveiling his new strategy, but there will be no obliging pause in Iraq's unraveling.

"Saudi Royals Snub Bush, Fund Opposition to US Troops

Early in November, National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley recommended, in a memo leaked to the press, that Saudi Arabia play a leadership role in talks about Iraq's future. But even before the memo landed on Bush's White House desk, the Saudis were positioning themselves to directly influence strategy in Iraq.


Tuesday, December 19, 2006

David Brin...

Have to pop over here frequently:

David is always worth reading.


Sen Feinstein on Network Neutrality...

From Senator Diane Feinstein:

Thank you for writing to me about the AT&T/BellSouth merger and network neutrality. I appreciate your taking the time to share your views.

Although the Senate Judiciary Committee has jurisdiction over antitrust and merger policies and oversight, the Senate does not review or approve individual mergers. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Communications Commission share jurisdiction over the proposed merger between AT&T and BellSouth. It is their duty to carefully review, among other things, the potential implications of the merger on consumers and to impose any necessary conditions or safeguards.

The Justice Department has already approved this merger and found no anticompetitive effects that would warrant any merger conditions. However, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has not yet approved the merger; it recently concluded accepting public comments.

Although the Department of Justice did not impose any merger conditions, the Democratic-appointed Commissioners of the FCC have proposed a network neutrality condition to the merger. Under the proposed condition, AT&T/BellSouth would continue to conduct its business in accordance with the principles set forth in the FCC's Policy Statement on network neutrality. AT&T/BellSouth does not object to this condition.

As a member of the Judiciary Committee, I follow merger and antitrust issues with great interest because consumer choice is important and we should foster competition. I agree with the general principles of network neutrality that owners of the networks that provide access to the Internet should not control how consumers lawfully use that network and should not be able to discriminate against content provider access to that network.

Please know that when legislation regarding network neutrality comes before the Senate I will be sure to keep your specific views in mind.Once again, thank you for writing.

If I can be of further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact my Washington, D.C. office at (202) 224-3841.

Sincerely yours,

Dianne Feinstein

United States Senator


Monday, December 18, 2006

Clamp down on this Texas nuke plant!!!

From Information Clearing House:

Nuclear Weapon Nearly Detonated in the United States :

A watchdog group charges a nuclear warhead nearly exploded in Texas when it was being dismantled at the government's Pantex facility near Amarillo.


Sunday, December 17, 2006

NASA & Google Meeting? OK...What's up....

From Huffington Post:

Michael Mewhinney
Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.
Dec. 15, 2006

M06-190 NASA Ames Schedules Briefing to Discuss Google Agreement

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif,. - NASA Ames Research Center hosts a media briefing Monday to discuss a major announcement involving Google, Inc.

WHAT: Media briefing announcing details of Space Act Agreement with Google, Inc.

WHERE: NASA Ames Research Center, Bldg. N-200, upstairs conference room

WHO: S. Pete Worden, director, NASA Ames Research Center and Chris Kemp, director of business development, NASA Ames Research Center

WHEN: 11:00 a.m. PST, Monday, Dec. 18, 2006. Media call-in: 1-866-758-1669; pass code: 2663262


These perverted males are SICK!!!

From NY Times:

The Good Daughter, in a Brothel

One of the oldest social dichotomies is the one dividing good girls from bad, the madonna from the whore. But in poor countries where sex trafficking and globalization have fostered new forms of slavery, it is the saintly ones — those who risk leaving their villages to help their families — who often end up as whores.

Yan Kosal is a 26-year-old woman here in northwestern Cambodia who was devoted to her aging parents and desperately concerned with providing for them. Her mother is blind, her father is frail, and they depend on her — the only surviving child — for food.

Kosal earned only $30 a month as a peddler, barely enough to scrape by. So when a woman acquaintance told her that she could earn $90 a month selling snacks in Thailand, Kosal leapt at the opportunity.

“I thought I should do this to feed my parents,” Kosal said, particularly because her acquaintance offered to escort her to Bangkok. Kosal borrowed $15 to pay her travel expenses, and they set out in September. But once they were in Thailand, where Kosal couldn’t speak the language, the trafficker sold her to a brothel.

“First, I cried,” Kosal said. But the brothel manager beat Kosal until she capitulated. “If the men wanted to go to the room,” Kosal said numbly, “the girl had to go.” The women were paid nothing, except for tips — but the sad ones who wept and were uncooperative didn’t get tips.
It’s difficult to gauge how common such forced prostitution is. But it appears that in much of Asia, the entry into prostitution is overwhelmingly unwilling (and in any case, the girls are typically too young to give consent). Then, once they have been stigmatized and have lost hope of returning to their families and villages — and in some cases become addicted to drugs — they often accept their lot and continue without coercion.

As for Kosal, she did manage to escape. Last month she and another young woman fled their brothel in the middle of the night and set off to walk back to Cambodia.

Kosal had begun suffering from abdominal pains while at the brothel, and by the time she returned to Cambodia she was severely ill. Kosal was too mortified to tell me the ailment, but her cousin said that it was a gynecological problem arising from sexual abuse.

With Kosal hovering near death, an aunt mortgaged her house for $250 to pay for medical treatment. That bought medicine that has kept her alive so far, but doctors advised that she needed surgery — which she can’t afford. The aunt, Khlat Dam, says: “There just isn’t any more money to pay for an operation.”

To Americans the phrase “21st-century slavery” may sound like hyperbole — but talk to women or girls who were imprisoned in modern brothels, and you realize that the main difference between them and 19th-century slaves is that the modern ones are dead of AIDS by their 20s.

This modern slavery thrives partly because it is ignored. But where there is an outcry and diplomatic pressure, they do make a difference.

On my first visit to Cambodia, brothels openly sold 11-year-old girls. Then, because of pressure from the State Department, Cambodia began prosecuting certain pimps (like those who do not pay enough in bribes to the police). So many brothels have calculated that they are safer peddling quasi-voluntary 16-year-olds than imprisoning 13-year-olds.

Yet stories of slavery like Kosal’s are still wrenchingly common, and corrupt officials protect many traffickers. On this visit, I stayed two nights at a guest house whose ground floor was a brothel with girls who were obviously under age. The guest house is owned by a senior police official, who evidently has decided not to arrest himself.

A century and a half ago, the British determined that slavery was an intolerable evil and used their navy to confront the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Several groups are pushing for a new abolitionist movement today (I’ve posted links, and suggestions for helping Kosal, at Now President Bush needs to make abolition of 21st-century slavery an American priority.

If he needs inspiration, he can look to Kosal. This is a courageous young woman whose only goal was to help her family members. Instead, she has bankrupted them and endangered her life — and risked her parents’ future. This failure gnaws at her: “It may be my time to go now,” she said sadly, “and I’m the only one left to support my parents.”


Feds listen...illegally...

From AP via :

Showdown Looms Over Domestic Spying
By David Kravets
The Associated Press
Sunday 17 December 2006

San Francisco - Federal agents continue to eavesdrop on Americans' electronic communications without warrants a year after President Bush confirmed the practice, and experts say a new Congress' efforts to limit the program could trigger a constitutional showdown.

High-ranking Democrats set to take control of both chambers are mulling ways to curb the program Bush secretly authorized a month after the Sept. 11 attacks. The White House argues the Constitution gives the president wartime powers to eavesdrop that he wouldn't have during times of peace.

"As a practical matter, the president can do whatever he wants as long as he has the capacity and executive branch officials to do it," said Carl Tobias, a legal scholar at the University of Richmond in Virginia.

Lawmakers could impeach or withhold funding, or quash judicial nominations, among other measures.

The president, however, can veto legislation, including a law demanding the National Security Agency obtain warrants before monitoring communications. Such a veto would force Congress to muster a two-thirds vote to override.

"He could take the position he doesn't have to comply with whatever a new Congress says," said Vikram Amar, a law professor at the University of California, Hastings, and a former Supreme Court clerk.

Douglas Kmiec, a former Justice Department official under former presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush, speculated the younger Bush would assert executive authority to continue eavesdropping in the face of new legislation - perhaps leaving the Supreme Court as the final arbiter.

"He has as much a constitutional obligation to assert himself, just as much as Congress does," Kmiec said. "We do need an arbitrator, an interpreter. That's what the courts, the third branch of government, was intended to be."

On Dec. 17, 2005, Bush publicly acknowledged for the first time he had authorized the NSA to monitor, without approval from a judge, phone calls and e-mails that come into or originate in the U.S. and involve people the government suspects of having terrorist links.

Bush said he had no intention of halting what he called a "vital tool" in the war on terror.

When the Republican-controlled Congress adjourned last week, it left the spying program unchecked.

The next move falls to the Democrats who take control in January and are considering a proposal to demands Bush get warrants and others lengthening the time between surveillance and when a warrant must be obtained.

A spokesman for Sen. Harry Reid, the incoming Senate majority leader from Nevada, said the eavesdropping issue "is something he expects to tackle early next year."

"He doesn't believe in giving the president a blank check to listen to the phone conversations of millions of Americans," spokesman Jim Manley said.

Jennifer Crider, a spokeswoman for Nancy Pelosi, the San Francisco Democrat who will become House speaker, said eavesdropping legislation was under consideration and hearings on the topic were likely early next year.

Decisions are pending in dozens of lawsuits challenging the program.

The Cincinnati-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the highest court squarely confronted with the issue so far, is to hear the American Civil Liberties Union's challenge Jan. 31. One stop short of the Supreme Court, the appeals court will review a Detroit judge's ruling that the program was unconstitutional.

The case is American Civil Liberties Union v. National Security Agency, 06-2095.


Saturday, December 16, 2006

Bin Laden is WHERE?!!!

From Discover:

Blinded by Science: The Real Reason We Can't Find Bin Laden
It is difficult to map a land, and Afghanistan remains as elusive as a terrorist in hiding.
By Bruno Maddox
DISCOVER Vol. 28 No. 01 January 2007

I uncap my pen this morning in defense of a fellow American, one who finds himself rather up against it at the moment. I speak of our president, George W. Bush. The midterm elections give evidence that he has paid a dear political price for what one might term the nation's stiffening conviction that the man couldn't president his way out of the kind of frail, blood-caked paper bag that they are fond of submitting to infrared analysis on A&E's Cold Case Files. But among the various fiascos laid legitimately at the brocaded cowboy boots of our nuance-eschewing commander in chief, there is one for which he is unfairly blamed: the failure to find Osama bin Laden.

It's certainly a funny business, this failure to find him. In the early moments of the War on Terror, it seemed unlikely the man would evade detection for very long—what with his being the only one of our enemies in this newly declared war to have, you know, a name. Thirty seconds seemed a reasonable estimate of bin Laden's remaining life span, now that he personally represented fully one entire side in what was already being talked about as a proper world war. An hour? Well, perhaps, if he had plastic surgery. But a day? A week? A month? This was crazy talk. And now, of course, it's five and a half years later, and the fact that bin Laden's lungs continue to inhale oxygen and convert it to carbon dioxide certainly seems like the sort of thing for which someone should be held responsible.

This might, I suspect, be the point at which you start to wonder what any of this has to do with Science. The answer, I do humbly submit, is an emphatic something. For if President Bush had not so thoroughly alienated the scientific community in the first six years of his presidency, by now they might have spoken up to make the point that in the particular patch in which Mr. bin Laden is supposed to be hiding, no one has ever been able to find anything.

As anyone who's ever tried to arrange the furniture in their apartment by means of a drawing on a cocktail napkin can tell you, making maps of things can be really hard. The difficulty factor quickly multiplies, moreover, when you're talking about the larger square footages involved with nations, bodies of water, and continents. And yet back in the 19th century, the British undertook the challenge of mapping the entire subcontinent of India.

It took a very long time. Started in 1802 by one William Lambton, what came to be known as the Great Trigonometrical Survey sucked up the entire first half of the century, by which point Lambton and his successors had really only managed to map a corridor of terrain from the foot of India to the great wall of mountains—the Himalayas, the Karakorams, the Pamirs—running along the top. Their method, as strongly hinted in the project's title, was trigonometry—specifically triangulation, the creation and measurement of a series of adjacent triangles. Lambton's crew would establish a fixed reference point by laborious observations of star positions over several months, then measure a fixed distance away from the point with the fantastically precise use of metal chains and rods supported by trestles. The distance to a third point could be determined by erecting a pole atop this newly made line and carefully measuring the angles of the triangle thus formed. With that first triangle established, subsequent triangles could be measured by a theodolite (a triangle-measuring instrument), and ultimately the shapes could be linked together into what became the longest continuous measurement of the Earth's surface ever achieved.

In short, it was an heroic undertaking, so much so that Lambton's successor, Colonel George Everest, would later have the world's highest mountain named after him in tribute to his efforts. Or sort of named after him, since the pronunciation is always botched. For reasons lost in the mists of Everest family lore, the great man insisted on pronouncing his name in two syllables—EVE-rest—which is a word better suited to some sort of over-the-counter product for women than to the single most daunting object to grace Earth's surface.

In the end, however, Everest's imperial paymasters chose not to extend the survey up into the mountains of Afghanistan. Though this region is theoretically just as susceptible to trigonometry as flat terrain, true precision was elusive at such high altitudes. The gravitational pull of those vast chunks of rock wreaked quiet havoc on the plumb lines used to establish location by observation of the stars. More confoundingly, accurate measurements of height above sea level were required. Certain enterprising souls tried rising to the occasion, hauling expensive British-made barometers up mountains before discovering, time and again, that they'd broken in transit, presumably leaking their toxic mercury into the pages of whatever humongous epistolary novel they'd been reading to each other around the campfire. An alternative method was eventually developed, using the different temperatures at which water boils in a kettle at different altitudes to determine height above sea level. But despite the ancient love affair between the British and their kettles, such measurements were rightly recognized as not rising to the level of rigor deployed in the mapping of India.

As a direct result of this decision, the geography of Afghanistan's mountainous region—the region currently home to bin Laden, unless everyone's intelligence is once again wrong and he's actually shooting craps in Monte Carlo—was condemned to a murky state of folkloric imprecision. Such mapping as was attempted during the second half of the 19th century was conducted largely by British and Russian agents sneaking into the region disguised as holy men and scribbling hasty sketches on pieces of paper hidden in their shoes.

As late as 1897—on September 11, as it happened—a young Winston Churchill described a "topographical reconnaissance" trip near the Khyber Pass, deep in the heart of what is now bin Laden country. "Far below us was a valley, into which perhaps no white man had looked since Alexander [the Great] crossed the mountains," wrote Churchill. "Our guide meanwhile squatted on the ground and pronounced the names of all the villages, as each one was pointed at. To make sure there was no mistake, the series of questions was repeated. This time he gave to each an entirely different name with an appearance of great confidence and pride."

Flash forward a century and it would seem that not much has changed. Recent news stories of bin Laden's possible whereabouts mention "somewhere along the Afghan-Pakistan border," "the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of western Pakistan," and endless poetic variations on phrases like "high, high, among the snowcapped peaks, atop the roof of the world where the eagle's lonesome cry splits the clear, fresh air." The problem isn't so much that we don't know where bin Laden is as that we aren't—and never have been—entirely sure where where he is is. What's needed is for the world's cartographers, heads of state, and perhaps whoever's in charge of Google Earth to sit down around a table and finish the job that Lambton, Everest, and company left undone. Draw a nice bright line around where we know bin Laden is, give the place a nice new name, and then go make Winston Churchill proud.


Soldiers have had enough of BushCo's war....

From The Nation via :

About Face: Soldiers Call for Iraq Withdrawal
By Marc Cooper
The Nation
Saturday 16 December 2006

For the first time since Vietnam, an organized, robust movement of active-duty US military personnel has publicly surfaced to oppose a war in which they are serving. Those involved plan to petition Congress to withdraw American troops from Iraq. (Note: A complete version of this report will appear next week in the print and online editions of The Nation.)

After appearing only seven weeks ago on the Internet, the Appeal for Redress, brainchild of 29-year-old Navy seaman Jonathan Hutto, has already been signed by nearly 1,000 US soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen, including dozens of officers - most of whom are on active duty. Not since 1969, when some 1,300 active-duty military personnel signed an open letter in the New York Times opposing the war in Vietnam, has there been such a dramatic barometer of rising military dissent.

Interviews with two dozen signers of the Appeal reveal a mix of motives for opposing the war: ideological, practical, strategic and moral. But all those interviewed agree that it is time to start withdrawing the troops. Coming from an all-volunteer military, the Appeal was called "unprecedented" by Eugene Fidell, president of the National Institute of Military Justice.

The Nation spoke with rank-and-file personnel as well as high-ranking officers - some on the Iraqi front lines, others at domestic and offshore US military bases - who have signed the Appeal. All of their names will be made available to Congress when the Appeal is presented in mid-January. Signers have been assured they are sending a communication to Congress protected under the Military Whistleblower Protection Act. The Pentagon is powerless to take official reprisals and has said that as long as active-duty personnel are not in uniform or on duty, they are free to express their views to Congress.

There are of course other, subtler risks involved. The military command exercises enormous power through individual reviews, promotions and assignments. But that hasn't kept a number of signers from going public with their dissent.

Navy Lieut. Cmdr. Mark Dearden of San Diego, for example, enlisted in 1997 and is still pondering the possibility of a lifetime career. "So this was a very difficult decision for me to come to. I don't take this decision lightly," he says. But after two "tough" deployments in Iraq, Dearden says signing the Appeal was not only the right thing to do but also gave him personal "closure."

"I'm expressing a right of people in the military to contact their elected representatives, and I have done nothing illegal or disrespectful," Dearden adds.

Other interviews with active-duty soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen who have signed the Appeal for Redress reveal an array of motivations. Here are excerpts:

"Lisa" - 20 years old, E-4, USAF, Stationed at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii:

I joined up two weeks after I turned 17 because I wanted to save American lives. I wanted to be a hero like any American child.

I supported the war when I joined because I thought it was justified. Only after my own research and the truth coming out did I learn how wrong I was, how - for lack of a better word - how brainwashed I was.

Now I know the war is illegal, unjustified and that our troops have no reason for being there.

When I saw an article about the Appeal in the Air Force Times I went online right away and signed it and have encouraged others to do the same.

"Sgt. Gary" - 21 years old. US Army. Deployed with 20th Infantry Regiment, near Mosul, Iraq:

I joined up in 2001, still a junior in high school. I felt very patriotic at the end of my US History class. My idea of the Army was that you signed up, they gave you a rifle and you ran off into battle like in some 1950s war movie. The whole idea of boot camp never really entered my head.

I supported the war in the beginning. I bought everything Bush said about how Saddam had WMDs, how he was working with Al Qaeda, how he was a threat to America. Of course, this all turned out to be false.

This is my second tour, and as of a few days ago it's half-over. Before I deployed with my unit for the second time I already had feelings of not wanting to go. When in late September a buddy in my platoon died from a bullet in the head, I really took a long hard look at this war, this Administration, and the reasons why.

After months of research on the Internet, I came to the conclusion that this war was based on lies and deception. I started to break free of all the propaganda that the Bush Administration and the Army puts out on a daily basis.

So far in three years we have succeeded in toppling a dictator and replacing him with puppets. Outlawing the old government and its standing army and replacing them with an unreliable and poorly trained crew of paycheck collectors. The well is so poisoned by what we have done here that nothing can fix it.

"Lt. Smith" - 24 years old, 1st Lieutenant, US Army. Deployed near Baghdad:

I cannot, from Iraq, attend an antiwar protest. Nor could I attend one in the States and represent myself as a soldier. What I can do is send a protest communication to my Congressional delegate outlining grievances I feel I have suffered. Appeal for Redress gives me that outlet.

I am encouraged by the November elections, but still wary. We rushed into the war on false assumptions, and now we might rush out just as falsely. What troops need now is a light at the end of the tunnel, not just for this deployment but for all deployments. Bringing everyone out this summer is too fast to be supported by our Army's infrastructure. We would hemorrhage lives if we do so. But so would we if we stay the course.

I am encouraged by politicians who call for a withdrawal by the conclusion of President Bush's term in office. That seems a realistic timetable for me.

Mark Mackoviak - 24 years old. US Army. Recently returned from Iraq. Stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina:

I joined the Army on September 23, 2001. I had been out of school for a year when September 11 came around, and I was supportive of our action in Afghanistan. I wound up there a year later, and it was pretty eye-opening to see how people live.

I was also in Iraq for about a year, deployed near the International Airport, west of Baghdad. I was never that supportive of the invasion. I thought the media coverage of it was horrendous, really disgusting.

Just about everything I saw in Iraq reinforced my views that it was wrong. The point that really hit me was when the Asmara Mosque got blown up. I said, Wow, this is really a civil war.

I really enjoy being in the Army, enjoy the experience. I just happen to not support this war. I'm very open about that. My buddies either disagree with me or just pay no attention. But I get absolutely no hostility. None.

"Rebecca" - 26 years old. 101st Airborne, US Army. Just returned from Iraq. Stationed at Fort Hood, Texas:

I joined in 2004. I was trying to go into the human rights field, but it was very competitive. I was in need of health insurance, and the Army seemed feasible. Now it looks like I will be stop-lossed until 2010.

I had strong feelings about the war, against it, but I'm the type of person that wants to fully understand both sides of the argument.

My experience in Iraq confirmed my views, but it also gave me a more multifaceted view of things. I did see some of the good things being done, but it seemed like a Band-Aid on a gushing wound. Mostly I saw the frivolity of the missions, the lack of direction, the absurdity of the mission. You go out in your Humvee, you drive around, and you wait to be blown up and get killed by an IED.

About 40 percent of my unit were stop-lossed. Their first mission was to take down Saddam and his regime, and they seemed to understand that and agree with the mission to take down a ruthless dictator. Now they can't seem to understand why they are there, caught in the cross hairs of a civil war.

I think it is safe to say that the majority of soldiers are wondering what this grand scheme is that we keep hearing about from those above us but that is never translating down to the ground level.

Some politicians are starting to see that not only a majority of Americans oppose to this war. Now they see this very powerful statement of soldiers who have already been on the front line and who are still in uniform and are also opposed. None of them have been where we have been, none of them have seen what we have seen. It's time they do.


Friday, December 15, 2006

Bad editor gets fired over bad book....

From the NY Times:

Editor Fired After Uproar Over Simpson

Published: December 16, 2006

LOS ANGELES, Dec. 15 — Judith Regan, the firebrand editor who stirred up decade-old passions last month with her plan for a book and television interview with O. J. Simpson, was fired on Friday by HarperCollins, the publishing company that oversaw her book business.
HarperCollins announced the firing, “effective immediately,” in a two-sentence news release that was issued about 7 p.m. Eastern time. The announcement was made by Jane Friedman, president and chief executive of HarperCollins, who has long had a strained relationship with Ms. Regan.

The statement said Ms. Regan’s publishing unit and its staff would continue as part of the HarperCollins General Books Group, but it is unknown whether that group would remain in Los Angeles, where Ms. Regan moved it from New York earlier this year.

It is also unclear whether Ms. Regan has been terminated wholly from any employment with the News Corporation, Rupert Murdoch’s giant media company, which owns HarperCollins. Over the years, Ms. Regan has gained a growing amount of sway within the corporation because of her ability to generate profits from books and other ventures.

In recent years, she has helped to produce television series and specials like “Growing Up Gotti,” a series about the children of the crime family don John Gotti, which was broadcast on the A&E cable channel. Ms. Regan served as an executive producer of that program and others, including a television special with Jenna Jameson, the adult film actress whose best-selling memoir, “How to Make Love Like a Porn Star,” was published by ReganBooks.
Typical of Ms. Regan’s ability both to enrich and infuriate those who did business with her, Ms. Jameson later sued Ms. Regan over rights to a proposed reality television series featuring the actress.

The news about Ms. Regan’s firing was announced in a news release issued by HarperCollins even before it was transmitted to Regan employees in Los Angeles. Suzanne Wickham, the director of publicity for ReganBook, said employees had not been notified of the development before a reporter called to ask to speak to Ms. Regan.

Executives at HarperCollins and the News Corporation in New York and Los Angeles did not return phone calls seeking additional comment.

In late November, the News Corporation canceled its plans to publish a book and broadcast an interview with Mr. Simpson in which he was to give an account of how he might have murdered his former wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald L. Goldman.

That decision followed a week of ferocious criticism. Critics called for boycotts of advertisers who might sponsor the television broadcast on the Fox network and several Fox affiliate stations announced that they would refuse to carry the program.

In addition, television talk show hosts like Bill O’Reilly on the Fox News Channel — which, like Fox, is owned by the News Corporation — were vocal in their opposition to the telecast; and various bookstores said they might not stock the book, which was titled “If I Did It.”

The book was to be published by ReganBooks, also owned by the News Corporation.

But Ms. Regan defended her decision to publish the book, saying that she believed she had extracted a confession from Mr. Simpson to the slaying of his former wife. But Mr. Simpson denied that possibility, saying his words had been wrenched from their context.

Although copies of the book have been offered for sale on the Internet, HarperCollins has worked to keep the book from being made public, and no copies of the text have yet surfaced on the Internet or elsewhere. Nor has anyone outside of Fox been known to have seen the videotape of Ms. Regan’s interview with Mr. Simpson, except for a snippet that was posted briefly on the Fox Internet site as part of the promotion for the television show. That footage was removed after Fox decided to cancel the special.

Ms. Regan has continued to court controversy even after the O. J. Simpson incident. Publishers Weekly, a trade journal, reported this week that a planned book about Mickey Mantle, the New York Yankee baseball player, was drawing stunned reactions within the publishing world over its questionable content.

The book, titled “7: The Mickey Mantle Novel,” is by Peter Golenbock, a longtime sports author, who referred to the book as an “inventive memoir,” according to Publishers Weekly. An article about the book said that people who had read preliminary copies described it as containing long passages describing sexual activity and other inflammatory episodes told in Mr. Mantle’s voice, but which were not authenticated.


Fitzgerald's Libby leak case may go to trial in January...

From AP via :

Fitzgerald Mum on Cheney in Leak Case
By Matt Apuzzo
The Associated Press
Thursday 14 December 2006

Washington - Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald said Thursday that he does not expect any government officials to refuse to testify in the CIA leak trial, but he did not specifically say whether Vice President Dick Cheney or other top White House officials were on his witness list.

Attorneys for Cheney's former chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, meanwhile, told a judge that two unidentified reporters may resist testifying on Libby's behalf in the case. The attorneys predicted the issue would be resolved before trial, however.

Libby is accused of lying to investigators about what he told reporters regarding former CIA operative Valerie Plame. Plame's identity was leaked to reporters around the time that her husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson, publicly criticized the Bush administration's prewar intelligence on Iraq.

Cheney has said he may be called as a witness. If so, prosecutors could ask how the White House responded to those criticisms. Cheney was upset by Wilson's comments, Fitzgerald has said, and told Libby that Plame worked for the CIA.

That conversation is a key to Fitzgerald's perjury case. Libby testified that he learned about Plame's job from a reporter.

Cheney could also help prosecutors undermine Libby's defense that he was so preoccupied with national security matters, he forgot details about the less-important Plame issue. Prosecutors argue that Plame was a key concern of the vice president, and thus would have been important to Libby.

Sitting presidents, including Clinton and Ford, have testified in criminal cases but presidential historians and separation-of-powers experts said they knew of no vice president who has done so. The first President Bush was subpoenaed to testify in the Iran-Contra trial of Oliver North. At the time, Bush was Reagan's vice president, but Bush was president by the time a judge ruled he did not need to testify.

Government officials and journalists will be the key witnesses in the trial, which is scheduled to begin next month. Former New York Times reporter Judith Miller and NBC News Washington bureau chief Tim Russert are expected to be prosecution witnesses and Libby's lawyers said in court papers Thursday that several reporters will testify on Libby's behalf.

Attorneys also said they'd subpoenaed for the tape of Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward's interview with former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage. Armitage has admitted he discussed Plame's job with Woodward in 2003 but said it was a passing, inadvertent comment.

Woodward's tape has been turned over to prosecutors and Libby's attorneys said they expect no objection to their subpoena.

Cheney would be the most anticipated witness of the trial. He and Libby got to know each other when Cheney was defense secretary under the first President Bush. Libby has been extremely loyal to Cheney and, in return, had the vice president's unwavering trust.

By 2000, Libby was working as a top adviser to Cheney in the presidential campaign and then followed him to the White House. In the White House, he was known as "Cheney's Cheney" for being as trusted a problem solver for the vice president as Cheney was for Bush.

Even after Libby's indictment, Cheney called him "one of the finest men I've ever known."


John Dean: Impeach both Bush and Cheney...

From Information Clearing House:

John W. Dean: Refocusing the Impeachment Movement :

I myself have no doubt that Bush has, in fact, committed impeachable offenses, and that for each Bush "high crime and misdemeanor," Cheney's culpability is ten or twenty times greater.


Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Pentagon Christian evangelist video...

From Information Clearing House:

In this video, much of which was filmed inside the Pentagon, four generals and three colonels praise the Christian Embassy, a group that evangelizes among military leaders, politicians and diplomats in Washington. Some of the officers describe their efforts to spread their faith within the military.
Click to view.
Windows media


BushCo gags scientists...

From BBC via :

US Scientists Reject Interference
By Jonathan Amos
BBC News
Thursday 14 December 2006

Some 10,000 US researchers have signed a statement protesting about political interference in the scientific process.

The statement, which includes the backing of 52 Nobel Laureates, demands a restoration of scientific integrity in government policy.

According to the American Union of Concerned Scientists, data is being misrepresented for political reasons.

It claims scientists working for federal agencies have been asked to change data to fit policy initiatives.

The Union has released an "A to Z" guide that it says documents dozens of recent allegations involving censorship and political interference in federal science, covering issues ranging from global warming to sex education.

Campaigners say that in recent years the White House has been able to censor the work of agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration because a Republican congress has been loath to stand up for scientific integrity.

"It's very difficult to make good public policy without good science, and it's even harder to make good public policy with bad science," said Dr Peter Gleick, president of the Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment and Security.

"In the last several years, we've seen an increase in both the misuse of science and I would say an increase of bad science in a number of very important issues; for example, in global climate change, international peace and security, and water resources."

The statement was released at the American Geophysical Union's Fall Meeting. It is an annual gathering of Earth scientists.

Last year, it triggered a major row when a discussion here resulted in the renowned US space agency climate scientist Dr James Hansen later claiming he had come under pressure not to talk to the media on global warming issues.

Michael Halpern from the UCS said the statement of objection to political interference had been supported by researchers regardless of their political views.

"This science statement that has now been signed by the 10,000 scientists is signed by science advisers to both Republican and Democratic administrations dating back to President Eisenhower, stating that this is not business as usual and calling for this practice to stop," he told BBC News.

The Union said is was hopeful that the new Congress taking office in January would show a greater commitment to protecting the integrity of the scientific process.


Blind Sheik dying...FBI issues warning....

From Political Wire:

Jailed Sheik Hospitalized, New Terror Threats Feared

Here we go again.

Threats of new al-Qaeda attacks are in the air, courtesy of the FBI.

Radical Egyptian cleric Omar Abdel-Rahman, 68, spat up blood on December 6 and was rushed to a hospital, the FBI notice said. He had a small tear in his esophagus and was treated with a "needed transfusion to replace lost blood," said the FBI bulletin to staffers. Medical personnel then discovered the cleric had a tumor on his liver, the FBI said.

The FBI has put out a bulletin raising fears of terror attacks if the Sheik dies in jail.
Abdel-Rahman, who is serving life in a U.S. prison, has called for attacks if he dies in jail. Law enforcement sources said there is no intelligence to suggest there are any attacks being planned.

The Sheik was returned to jail three days ago.

Of course he's going to die in prison. That's what happens to inmates with life sentences. It's just a question of when. Why is there a terror bulletin going out if there is no intelligence to support it.

According to the bulletin:

The FBI bulletin includes what it said was Abdel-Rahman's last will and testament distributed at an al Qaeda news conference in 1998: "My brothers, if they kill me -- which they will certainly do -- hold my funeral and send my corpse to my family but do not let my blood be shed in vain. Rather extract the most violent revenge."

It also notes during the recent Muslim holiday of Ramadan, al Qaeda in Iraq released a videotape encouraging all Muslims there to capture Westerners so they could be exchanged for the release of Abdel-Rahman.

FBI analysts said the tape is evidence that Abdel-Rahman remains a "significant source of inspiration" for al Qaeda and its sympathizers.

The bulletin is intended to alert all those in law enforcement of the possibility of a threat.


Wednesday, December 13, 2006

McCain playing politics with blogs...

From American Progress:


New legislation by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) would require commercial websites and personal blogs to "report illegal images or videos posted by their users or pay fines of up to $300,000."

While Internet service providers already have to follow these requirements, McCain's proposal would impose the "same regulatory scheme -- and even stiffer penalties -- on even individual bloggers who offer discussion areas on their Web sites."

Kevin Bankston, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation is "concerned that there is a slippery slope here," noting, "Once you start creating categories of industries that must report suspicious or criminal behavior, when does that stop?"

Additionally, social networking sites will be forced to take "effective measures" to remove any website that is "associated" with a sex offender. Such sites will include not only Facebook and MySpace, but also, which permits author profiles and personal lists, and blogs like DailyKos, which allows users to sign up for personal diaries.

"This constitutionally dubious proposal is being made apparently mostly based on fear or political considerations rather than on the facts," said Bankston.

"Studies by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children show the online sexual solicitation of minors has dropped in the past five years, despite the growth of social-networking services, he said."


BushCo has and is commiting War Crimes...

From Village Voice:

Nat Hentoff
Bush's War Crimes Cover-up
The Supreme Court ordered him to treat detainees as "civilized peoples" do. He refuses.
by Nat Hentoff
December 8th, 2006 5:04 PM

The U.S. military called no witnesses, withheld evidence from detainees . . . as it determined that hundreds of men detained at Guantánamo were "enemy combatants." —Seton Hall Law
School report on Guantánamo, November 12, 2006

The Pentagon will submit for congressional approval a $125 million plan to build a compound at Guantánamo to house, among others, terrorism suspects to be tried there, in the first American war-crimes trials since World War II. Many of the prisoners already at Guantánamo have been locked up there since 2002.

In view of the greatly expanded definition of "enemy combatants" in the Military Commissions Act of 2006, which George W. Bush signed in October, the Pentagon would be well advised to greatly increase the number of cells in the new compound. Under the new law, the president can designate as "an enemy combatant" any noncitizen picked up anywhere in the world, even permanent legal alien residents here.

These newly imprisoned "enemy combatants" will include not only those engaged in direct hostilities against the United States, but also loosely defined "supporters" of the enemy.

Passionately arguing against this legislation on the Senate floor, Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont claimed, "This provision would perpetuate the indefinite detention of hundreds of individuals . . . without any recourse to justice whatever. . . . This is un-American!"

In June 2006, the Supreme Court (Hamdan v. Rumsfeld) clearly told the president that American treatment of prisoners, and not only at Guantánamo, had violated Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, to which this country is a signatory. But the conditions of their confinement, as well, contradict our own War Crimes Act of 1996 because of "grave breaches" of the Geneva Conventions in our prisons at Guantánamo and elsewhere. Senator Leahy got it right. Our interrogation of detainees has been un-American since 2002, and the harm is now going to be compounded under the new Military Commissions Act.

In the Hamdan case, the Supreme Court told President Bush and his fellow un-Americans in the administration that the sentences of all our prisoners, including "unlawful enemy combatants," must be handed down "by a regularly constituted court" that "provides all the judicial guarantees recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples."

Moreover, ruled the Supreme Court, Common Article 3 prohibits "at any time and in any place whatsoever . . . violence to life and person . . . murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture, and outrages upon personal dignity—in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment."

This clause in the Geneva Conventions actually describes much of what has been going on in Guantánamo and at our prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan—and, according to survivors, within the CIA's secret prisons around the world.

The Military Commissions Act of 2006 further defies the Supreme Court's June decision by stripping all "enemy combatants" held in our prisons of habeas corpus rights to protest their conditions of confinement. And those conditions—as documented by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Human Rights First, and often this column—are allowed to continue under the Military Commissions Act, swallowing up the increased numbers of enemy combatants it can haul into Guantánamo, and other warehouses, for indefinite detentions.

This brazenly un-American law will get to the Supreme Court, where I expect the justices will be shown a devastating new report, based on Defense Department data, that reveals the persistent, systemic lawlessness of the Bush administration's treatment of prisoners at Guantánamo all these years. Compiled and written by professor Mark Denbeaux of the Seton Hall University School of Law; his son Joshua Denbeaux, counsel to two Guantánamo detainees; and law students at Seton Hall, this detailed account of the cover-up of war crimes at Guantánamo by this administration is titled "No-Hearing Hearings." It provides a thorough analysis of the so-called "combatant status review tribunals" at Guantánamo, the means by which the government determines whether detainees can be prosecuted for war crimes.

Next week, I'll take you deeper inside the Seton Hall report and elaborate on what the new Democratic leadership should—and must—do about its revelations to begin to get our international reputation back. But first, a partial summary of how American justice is administered by the White House, the Defense and Justice departments, and a raft of highest-level administration lawyers who justify our war crimes against prisoners so that we can charge our captives with war crimes.

Among the findings in the Seton Hall report:

"The government's classified evidence [which the prisoner was not allowed to see] was always presumed to be reliable and valid. . . . When considering all the hearings, 89% of the time no evidence was presented on behalf of the detainees. . . . Instead of a lawyer, the detainee was assigned a 'personal representative'. . . who was not his advocate and whose role, both in theory and practice, was minimal. . . . At the end of the hearing the personal representative failed to exercise his right to comment in 98% of the cases." (Emphasis added.)

As Andrew Cohen, the Washington Post's regular columnist on legal matters, concludes: "If a regular trial court proceeding were this shoddy, this unwilling to perform a truth-seeking function, this unable to achieve a fair process, the judge presiding over it would be impeached."

But no member of the Bush administration has been charged with war crimes under our law or the Geneva Conventions as a result of these hearings—or anything else since 2002, including the CIA's "renditions" of suspects to be tortured in other countries. Under the Military Commissions Act, the "renditions" can continue.


These books coming....

From Publishers Lunch Weekly:


Lynn Bonasia's debut novel, WASHASHORES, about a technical writer in her 30s who decides it's time to stop writing about safety precautions and to start living a life of her own in a small town on Cape Cod, to Trish Grader at Touchstone Fireside, by Molly Lyons at Joelle Delbourgo Associates.


Michael Genelin's LADY OF THE WATERS and BLACK DREAMS, featuring a female commander of the Slovak police force who has lived through great conflict -- including a regime change, and an ill-fated marriage to a revolutionary -- in order to become a legendeary homicide investigator, to Laura Hruska at Soho Press, by Rolph Blythe at The Blythe Agency (world).Luis Miguel Rocha's THE LAST POPE, about the suspicious death of Pope John Paul I and the many secrets of the Vatican, to Rachel Kahan at Putnam, in a pre-empt, by Laura Dail at Laura Dail Literary Agency (world English).


NYT bestselling author JoAnn Ross's SHATTERED, the first in a trilogy featuring military heroes in southern romantic suspense novels about reunion, redemption, and danger, to Kara Welsh and Laura Cifelli at NAL, in a three-book deal, by Robin Rue at Writers House (world).


S. Thomas Russell's THE BLIND IN HEAVEN, a naval adventure novel set during the Napoleonic Wars, to Alex Clarke at Penguin UK, at auction, in a two-book deal, by Caspian Dennis at Abner Stein, on behalf of Howard Morhaim.


Harvard neurologist and Director of The Women's Headache Center at Harvard's Cambridge Health Alliance Dr. Carolyn Bernstein and Boston Globe reporter Elaine McArdle's THE MIGRAINE BRAIN, helping migraine sufferers to develop a personalized wellness plan, to Leslie Meredith at Free Press, in a pre-empt, by Lane Zachary and Joanne Wyckoff of Zachary Shuster Harmsworth Literary Agency.


Popular and scholarly historian Mark Gardner's TO HELL ON A FAST HORSE: The True Story of Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett, a fast-paced chase narrative of Garrett's determination to capture the notorious bandit, making them both icons of the American West, and exploring the rest of Garrett's career, to Henry Ferris at William Morrow, by Jim Donovan at Jim Donovan Literary (world).


Creator, producer, and host of "The Rejection Show" Jon Friedman's REJECTED: Tales of the Failed, Dumped and Cancelled, a collection of humorous stories of rejection and rejected material, including pieces by writers and performers from Saturday Night Live, The New Yorker, The Late Show with David Letterman, The Onion, The Daily Show, and others, to Julia Cheiffetz for Villard, in a pre-empt, by Kate Lee at ICM (world).Rights:


Tori Spelling's "humorous, self-deprecating" memoir, ranging from childhood privileges to tabloid misperceptions, success and regrets, and her quest to define herself on her own terms, to Jennifer Bergstrom and Patrick Price at Simon Spotlight Entertainment, in a pre-empt, for publication in spring 2008, by Dan Strone at Trident Media Group (world).


Richard Ellis's TUNA: A LOVE STORY, the history of a remarkable fish from antiquity to its endangered present, to Ashbel Green at Knopf, by Steve Wasserman at Kneerim & Williams (NA).


The next two books by John Llewellyn Rhys Memorial Prize winner for BEASTS OF NO NATION, Uzodinma Iweala, LOVE IN THE TIME OF AIDS, for publication in spring 2008, and a new novel for publication in spring 2009, to Eleanor Birne at John Murray, by The Wylie Agency (UK/Commonwealth, excl. Canada and Nigeria).


Saddam: "We want to kill him"...

From Agence France Presse:

Saddam to be buried secretly, no monument
by Jay Deshmukh
Tue Dec 12, 6:41 AM ET

Saddam Hussein and two top aides convicted with him will be executed immediately after an appeals court confirms their sentences and could be buried in secret, an Iraqi official has said.
A senior Iraqi government official said Tuesday he expected the judicial panel studying the ousted dictator's appeal to confirm death sentences on Saddam, his half brother Barzan al-Tikriti and a former judge, Awad Ahmed al-Bandar.

"We are considering the possibility of executing the three, Saddam, Barzan and Bandar at one time on the same day," the official told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity because the court is supposed to be independent.

"We may bury Saddam at a secret location," he said.

"His body may later be handed over to his relatives, as under Muslim rituals we can exhume the body after it is buried. But one thing the government will ensure is that there is no memorial built for Saddam anywhere in Iraq."

Saddam was sentenced to death by hanging on November 5 for ordering the execution of 148 Shiites from the village of Dujail after he escaped an assassination bid there in 1982.

His half-brother and former intelligence chief Barzan was also sentenced to death, along with Bandar, chairman of the so-called Revolutionary Court which oversaw the Shiites' executions.
Saddam's former vice president Taha Yassin Ramadan received a life sentence, while three Baath party officials from Dujail received 15 years each and a fourth, more minor figure, was cleared.

The Iraqi official said the execution will be carried out soon after the nine-member appeals panel confirms their verdicts delivered by the Iraqi High Tribunal -- the court trying the former regime officials.

"We will not waste time. We will look at the security situation and they will be executed immediately at the very first opportunity we get after the appeals chamber finalises the verdicts," he said.

Last month Iraqi premier Nuri al-Maliki told BBC that Saddam could be executed by the end of this year but the official said "that is unlikely."

"People may not believe but we are handling this case in a very democratic way and there is no interference from the government's side in the working of the appeals chamber. It will take time," affirmed the official.

Chief prosecutor Jaafar al-Mussawi said that the prosecution has also forwarded a demand to convert the life imprisonment of Ramadan into a death sentence.

"We have asked for Ramadan to be executed too," Mussawi told AFP.

Mussawi said the appeal chamber was "deliberating the tribunal's verdict."

"The panel is studying the case in detail every day and if it upholds the verdicts it will be implemented by the justice ministry."

Lawyers acting for Saddam and the other six convicted defendants have already submitted appeals against the sentences.

Those condemned to death or life in jail have an automatic right of appeal according to Iraq law.
Another top Iraqi government official Basam Ridha revealed that more than a hundred people have expressed their desire to be the hangman for executing Saddam.

"I am getting letters, emails, telephone calls and even mobile text messages from people within Iraq and outside who want to hang him," Ridha said.

"They say 'we want to kill him. He killed my family, so we have the right to do it'," he added.
Mussawi added that there was also a demand to hang Saddam publicly but "of course it will not be done as it violates human rights."

Saddam and six other former regime officials are currently also on trial in a separate genocide case involving the massacre of 182,000 Kurds in northern Iraq in 1988.

Copyright © 2006 Agence France Presse.


So who's bullshitting who here?

From NBC San Diego:

Saudis Deny Threat To Back Iraq's Sunnis

An official in Saudi Arabia has flatly denied a report that the country might provide financial aid to Iraqi Sunnis.



BBC on Barack Obama...

From BBC:

Washington diary: The next president?
By Matt Frei BBC News, Washington

One could be excused for thinking that a 45-year-old African-American with barely two years' experience in the US Senate and a name that evokes America's two most hated enemies wouldn't have an ice cream's chance in hell of winning the presidency.

But Barack Hussein Obama has proven once again that in American politics, truth is a lot stranger than fiction.

I went to the see the senator's maiden voyage to New Hampshire over the weekend, my overnight bag packed with caveats and my pen dipped in Beltway cynicism.

I came away thinking that Hillary Clinton has a huge problem on her hands.

Since New Hampshire is one of the first high-profile pit stops on the rocky road to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the voters of the Granite State regard politics with the same degree of zeal, snobbery and discernment as wine buffs at a Pinot Noir tasting or poodle owners at the Crufts dog show.

They are quick to rumple their nose and curl their lip when dished up something that doesn't meet their expectations.

Money well spent

So it was nothing short of astonishing that 1,600 of them had paid $25 each on a beautiful Sunday morning to see Barack Obama at the Radisson Hotel in Manchester.

Isn't $25 how much you normally pay people to listen to a senator speak in public?

As far as I could gather from the rapturous applause and the post-mortem interviews, the harsh cognoscenti of the Granite State left the event feeling it was money well spent.

As John Distaso, the political editor of the New Hampshire Union Leader and the druid of primary politics, told me: "I have never seen anything like this... at such an early stage in the campaign."

Early is an understatement. It's more than a year before the primaries and almost two years until the presidential election.

As the governor of the state put it in his opening address: "We had booked the Rolling Stones until we realised that Barack Obama would sell more tickets!"

The junior senator from Illinois, as the cable news networks like to refer to him, lopes on stage with an elasticity that almost verges on a dance.

He deals with the hype graciously. "I am genuinely baffled," he told the adoring crowd, sounding genuine, "and so is my wife!"

There are lots of deferential references to his wife Michelle, who he met at Harvard Law School. It reminds me of the endearing way in which George used to talk about Laura.

Barack Obama also has a good line to fend off any questions about his weird name.

"When I first started to work in public life... people would ask: 'Hey brother, what's with your name? You called Alabama or Yo' Mama?'"

As for the unfortunate middle name, Hussein means "blessed" in Arabic and as the senator puts it: "The American people don't care about middle names."

Appealing picture

Assuming that the senator will become a candidate and stick around for a year or more, I am sure that his name will become campaign ad fodder.

But as we discovered in the mid-term elections, too much mud-slinging backfires and America is not cruising for a bruising but yearning for a healer.

And this is where the meat and potatoes of Senator Obama's speech comes in.

Ever since he wowed the 2004 Democratic Convention in Boston, he has been speaking about the need to overcome the bickering between Blue and Red, Democrat and Republican.

He paints a picture of America that is more complex, nuanced and appealing than the caricature that most partisan politicians and journalists like to present.

He knows all about complex. He is after all the son of a Kenyan economist who was "as black as pitch" and a woman from Kansas who is as "white as snow".

He was brought up in Hawaii and Indonesia and he became the editor of the prestigious Harvard Law Review.

He is religious without being born again. As he likes to point out the title of his best-selling book The Audacity of Hope - number two on Amazon - is plagiarised from a sermon given by his favourite Chicago preacher.

He looks slim and healthy and yet he enjoys the occasional cigarette.

Beyond race?

In short he defies the pigeonhole.

It also struck me that on Sunday his was virtually the only black face.

The fact that someone like me can attract a crowd like this shows that this country yearns for something new and different Barack Obama

I know that New Hampshire is a predominantly white state, but Mr Obama's campaign has moved on from the raw passion of the civil rights movement.

He mentions Martin Luther King without reminding you of Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton.

Like Colin Powell, the senator from Illinois makes you forget he is any colour.

He is also clever enough not to sound condescending or to tie himself into the kind of mental pretzels that strangled John Kerry.

His inexperience in the Senate may turn out to be an asset and he has the same talent that JFK apparently had of appearing glamorous and humble at the same time.

As for the hype: "It flatters me," he told the crowd, "but it also alarms me... because it says more about America than it does about me.

"The fact that someone like me can attract a crowd like this shows that this country yearns for something new and different!"

His voice is neither shrill nor pompous.

Problem for Hillary

Yes, Hillary has the machine, the money, the pollsters and the brand recognition - but she also has the baggage.

She is the undeclared front-runner and according to history that is a dangerous position in the Democratic Party.

After all, her own husband finished third in the New Hampshire primaries before going all the way to the Oval Office.

The Senate has turned Hillary into a skilful deal-maker who rarely slips up.

But is that enough to fire up the imagination of an electorate yearning for a compelling story?
When pressed about an apparent admission in print that he had smoked marijuana, Barack Obama replied: "Yes, and I inhaled. That was the point."

Watch out, Hillary! And, I might add, watch out John McCain, Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani!

Hillary's supporters are constantly coming up with reasons she can overcome her limitations.
Barack's supporters wonder whether he has any.

Key questions

So, can he win? Can he raise the cash?

Can he survive the rough and tumble of the campaign and the tough questions?

Will the colour of his skin not count against him? Can he be convincing about security in the middle of an ongoing war?

Can he survive the fickle adulation of the media?

If the answer to all the above is yes, Barack Hussein Obama will be the 44th president of the United States... as strange as that may sound.

Send us your comments in reaction to Matt Frei's Washington diary using the link below:
Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/12/13 11:49:30