Wednesday, October 31, 2007

From Uninsured Vets to Bush Birthday Card...

From American Progress:

Think Fast...

One in eight: Number of veterans under the age of 65 who are uninsured, "a finding that contradicts the assumption many have that all vets qualify for free health care through the Department of Veterans Affairs." Approximately 1.8 million veterans overall lack health coverage, a jump of 290,000 since 2000.

"Preliminary Veterans Affairs Department research obtained by The Associated Press reveals for the first time that there were at least 283 suicides among veterans who left the military between the start of the war in Afghanistan on Oct. 7, 2001 and the end of 2005."

"Twenty-one states will run out of money for children's health insurance in the coming year, and at least nine of those states will exhaust their allotments in March if Congress simply continues spending at current levels." President Bush yesterday threatened to veto Congress's SCHIP legislation.

Lawmakers have increasingly steered federal funds to "overtly religious organizations -- many of which claim proselytizing or religious conversions as their primary function" -- using earmarks. For instance, Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) tried to earmark $100,000 for a creationist organization.

"In a shift of strategy that indicates an increasingly weakened political position, President Bush has included at least $2.51 billion for projects unrelated to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in his latest 'emergency' supplemental request."

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates agreed yesterday that "all State Department security convoys in Iraq will now fall under military control." The move is the latest effort "to bring Blackwater Worldwide and other armed contractors under tighter supervision."

"Draft legislation that lifts immunity for foreign private security companies gained the consent of the Iraqi cabinet on Tuesday and was sent to Parliament for approval." Under the approved version, security companies must have "all their weapons be licensed by the Iraqi Interior Ministry."

Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair "turned down a last-minute offer from President George Bush for Britain to stay out of the Iraq war because he thought it would look 'pathetic,'" according to a new book on Blair's tenure.

And finally: "There's a new birthday card on the market showing President Bush, white earphones in his ears, showing off a new IPod," called the "I-Pres." Among the selections on the playlist: "Iraq Around the Clock," "Knockin' on Iran's Door," "Oil Fields Forever," and "Cheney's Got a Gun."


A selection of books and films on the way....

From Publishers Lunch Weekly:


London Observer's New York correspondent Paul Harris's FREETOWN, about a journalist covering the conflict in Sierre Leone, who, in search of answers to the mysterious and sudden murder of his aid-worker girlfriend, unearths a web of conspiracy and corruption -- pitched as in the spirit of John Le Carre, and inspired by the author's own first-hand experience as a war correspondent, to Trena Keating at Dutton, in a very nice deal, by Elizabeth Sheinkman at Curtis Brown UK (NA).
Dutch rights to De Bezige Bij, in a pre-empt.

Ira Berkowitz's OLD FLAME, a gritty noir set in Hell's Kitchen, in the vein of the author's debut Family Matters, to Julian Pavia for Three Rivers Press, in a two-book deal, by David Larabell at David Black Literary Agency (NA).


International bestselling author Ken Follett's THE CENTURY TRILOGY, focusing on personal dramas set against the looming background of world-changing Twentieth Century historical events up through the Cold War, now officially sold, again to Leslie Gelbman at NAL and Brian Tart at Dutton, for hardcover publication in 2010, 2012, and 2014, by Amy Berkower at Writers House (US).

Nelson Algren Literary Award winner and author of HAIRSTYLES OF THE DAMNED Joe Meno's THE GREAT PERHAPS, the story of an eccentric family in the weeks leading up to the 2004 presidential election: two bumbling professors, two strange daughters, and a grandfather limiting himself to thirteen words a day, then twelve, then eleven -- one less each day until he will speak no more, to Tom Mayer at Norton, by Maria Massie at Lippincott Massie McQuilkin (NA).


Rights to Natalie Robins and Steven Aronson's out of print SAVAGE GRACE, first published in 1985, to tie in with the release of a film version starring Julianne Moore in December 2007, the story of the epic downfall of the heirs to the Bakelite plastics fortune, a tale of money and madness, incest and matricide, to Amanda Patten at Touchstone Fireside, by the authors.


Edgar nominee Megan Abbott's DIE A LITTLE, to Jessica Biel and United Artists, by Shari Smiley at CAA, in association with Paul Cirone of Friedrich Agency.

Christopher Rush's WILL, the fictional autobiography of William Shakespeare, to SBK Pictures, Sir Ben Kingsley's production company (World).


Inara Scott's DELACROIX: The Choice, in which a high-school freshman must deal with a new school that may or may not have something fishy about it, two very different boys, and her own superpowers, to Jennifer Besser at Hyperion, in a pre-empt, in a two-book deal, by Tamar Ellman Rydzinski at Laura Dail Literary Agency (NA).


Screenwriter Andrew Klavan's HOMELANDERS, pitched as Twenty Four meets The Bourne Identity; homeless, broke, and unable to find his parents, a teenager has to outrun both terrorists and the law with only a few days to stop the murder of the Secretary of State in a race against time that brings him face-to-face with a master assassin, to Amanda Bostic at Thomas Nelson, in a four-book deal, by Alyssa Eisner Henkin and Robert Gottlieb at Trident Media Group (NA).


NYT bestselling author Douglas Brinkley's EVEL KNIEVEL: Daredevil in Winter, an unprecedented portrait of the quintessential American cult motorcylce hero and pioneer of extreme sports, to Claire Wachtel at Harper, by Lisa Bankoff at ICM (NA).


Christine Pearson and Christine Porath's IT PAYS TO BE CIVIL: How Incivility Ruins Your Business and What You Can Do About It, based on original data, a book that reveals the hidden toll of rudeness on organizations large and small and how to remedy the situation, to Adrienne Schultz and Adrian Zackheim at Portfolio, for publication in 2009, by Lorin Rees at Helen Rees Literary Agency (world).


Historical preservationist Steven Ujifusa's THE LAST CHAMPION: William Francis Gibbs and the S.S. United States, recounting the now-forgotten story of America's greatest naval architect and the ship -- the fastest in its day -- that he devoted his life to designing and building, against the backdrop of the politics, culture, values, and enterprise of mid-20th century America, to Jonathan Karp at Twelve, at auction, by David Kuhn at Kuhn Projects (World).

Paul Watson's WHERE WAR LIVES, about western involvement in the world's war hot spots for the past two decades, and what these wars have done to those caught in their path -- be they soldiers, journalists, civilians stuck in the warzone, or people at home watching events unfold on TV, to Leigh Haber and Shannon Welch at Modern Times, in a very nice deal, by Penny Nelson at Manus & Associates (US).


Survival expert and host of Survivorman on the Discovery Channel/Outdoor Life Network Les Stroud's SURVIVE!, a guide that explores proven survival tactics, while debunking many long-taught skills that simply don't work or are no longer relevant, to Brad Wilson at Harper Canada by Rick Broadhead at Rick Broadhead & Associates.

US rights to Collins, by Harper Canada, for publication in Fall 2008.


Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Private equity...How to destroy companies and get rich doing it....

From In These Times :

Features > October 29, 2007
Pirates of Private Equity
An insanely lucrative investment strategy finally faces public scrutiny
By Adam Doster

Employees knew that Hastings Manufacturing Co., a family-owned auto-parts supplier 30 miles south of Grand Rapids, Mich., was in deep water. Facing financial pressure, 375 employees—two-thirds of whom were in the United Auto Workers’ (UAW) bargaining unit—conceded $1 million in benefits to save their company, relinquishing newly negotiated pay raises and agreeing to cover part of their own health care costs.

But according to UAW Local 138 Chief Steward Kim Townsend, who testified before the House Commercial and Administrative Law subcommittee in September, when Hastings’ management declared bankruptcy and was taken over by the private equity firm Anderson Group in December 2005, the slicing didn’t stop there. Sick days were cut in half, an existing two-tier wage system with a top rate of $13.49 an hour was maintained and the allotment for bargaining time was limited to two hours a month on company time. For retirees, the consequences were more dire, with pensions and health care coverage all but severed.

To market analysts, Hastings appears more profitable today. But its value stems not from innovation but from breaking obligations to the company’s employees and retirees. “We make the same products,” Townsend said at the hearing, “in the same building, with the same equipment, for the same customers as we did before the asset sale.”

As the Hastings case exemplifies, mysterious financial entities known as private equity funds are laying waste to economies around the world. The firms that manage these funds grab up companies, strip them of their assets, gobble up the profits, and leave workers and local communities to pick over the detritus.

[Use link above to continue reading]


Go to war with Iran?....

From Stratfor:

War Plans: United States and Iran
By George Friedman

A possible U.S. attack against Iran has been a hot topic in the news for many months now. In some quarters it has become an article of faith that the Bush administration intends to order such an attack before it leaves office. It remains a mystery whether the administration plans an actual attack or whether it is using the threat of attack to try to intimidate Iran -- and thus shape its behavior in Iraq and elsewhere. Unraveling the mystery lies, at least in part, in examining what a U.S. attack would look like, given U.S. goals and resources, as well as in considering the potential Iranian response. Before turning to intentions, it is important to discuss the desired outcomes and capabilities. Unfortunately, those discussions have taken a backseat to speculations about the sheer probability of war.

Let's begin with goals. What would the United States hope to achieve by attacking Iran? On the broadest strategic level, the answer is actually quite simple. After 9/11, the United States launched counterstrikes in the Islamic world. The goal was to disrupt the al Qaeda core in order to prevent further attacks against the United States. The counterstrikes also were aimed at preventing the emergence of a follow-on threat from the Islamic world that would replace the threat that had been posed by al Qaeda. The disruption of all Islamic centers of power that have the ability and intent to launch terrorist attacks against the United States is a general goal of U.S. strategy. With the decline of Sunni radicalism, Iran has emerged as an alternative Shiite threat. Hence, under this logic, Iran must be dealt with.

Obviously, the greater the disruption of radically anti-American elements in the Islamic world, the better it is for the United States. But there are three problems here. First, the United States has a far more complex relationship with Iran than it does with al Qaeda. Iran supported the U.S. attack against the Taliban in Afghanistan as well as the U.S. invasion of Iraq -- for its own reasons, of course. Second, the grand strategy of the United States might include annihilating Islamic radicalism, but at the end of the day, maintaining the balance of power between Sunnis and Shia and between Arab and non-Arab Muslims is a far more practical approach. Finally, the question of what to do about Iran depends on the military capabilities of the United States in the immediate future. The intentions are shaped by the capabilities.

What, therefore, would the U.S. goals be in an attack against Iran? They divide into three (not mutually exclusive) strategies:

1. Eliminating Iran's nuclear program.
2. Crippling Iran by hitting its internal infrastructure -- political, industrial and military -- ideally forcing regime change that would favor U.S. interests.
3. Using an attack -- or threatening an attack -- to change Iranian behavior in Iraq, Lebanon or other areas of the world.

It is important to note the option that is not on the table: invasion by U.S. ground forces, beyond the possible use of small numbers of Special Operations forces. Regardless of the state of Iranian conventional forces after a sustained air attack, the United States simply does not have the numbers of ground troops needed to invade and occupy Iran -- particularly given the geography and topography of the country. Therefore, any U.S. attack would rely on the forces available, namely air and naval forces.

The destruction of Iran's nuclear capabilities would be the easiest to achieve, assuming that U.S. intelligence has a clear picture of the infrastructure of that program and that the infrastructure has not been hardened to the point of being invulnerable to conventional attack. Iran, however, learned a great deal from Iraq's Osirak experience and has spread out and hardened its nuclear facilities. Also, given Iran's location and the proximity of U.S. forces and allies, we can assume the United States would not be interested in a massive nuclear attack with the resulting fallout. Moreover, we would argue that, in a world of proliferation, it would not be in the interest of the United States to set a precedent by being the first use to use nuclear weapons since World War II.

Therefore, the U.S. option is to carry out precision strikes against Iran's nuclear program using air- and sea-launched munitions. As a threat, this is in an interesting option. As an actual operation, it is less interesting. First, the available evidence is that Iran is years away from achieving a deliverable nuclear weapon. Second, Iran might be more interested in trading its nuclear program for other political benefits -- specifically in Iraq. An attack against the country's nuclear facilities would make Tehran less motivated than before to change its behavior. Furthermore, even if its facilities were destroyed, Iran would retain its capabilities in Iraq, Lebanon and elsewhere in the world. Therefore, unless the United States believed there was an imminent threat of the creation of a deliverable nuclear system, the destruction of a long-term program would eliminate the long-term threat, but leave Iran's short-term capabilities intact. Barring imminent deployment, a stand-alone attack against Iran's nuclear capabilities makes little sense.

That leaves the second option -- a much broader air and sea campaign against Iran. This would have four potential components:

1. Attacks against its economic infrastructure, particularly its refineries.
2. Attacks against its military infrastructure.
3. Attacks against its political infrastructure, particularly its leadership.
4. A blockade and sanctions.

Let's begin in reverse order. The United States has the ability to blockade Iran's ports, limiting the importation of oil and refined products, as well as food. It does not have the ability to impose a general land blockade against Iran, which has long land borders, including with Iraq. Because the United States lacks the military capability to seal those borders, goods from around Iran's periphery would continue to flow, including, we emphasize, from Iraq, where U.S. control of transportation systems, particularly in the Shiite south, is limited. In addition, it is unclear whether the United States would be willing to intercept, board and seize ships from third-party countries (Russia, China and a large number of small countries) that are not prepared to participate in sanctions or might not choose to respect an embargo. The United States is stretched thin, and everyone knows it. A blockade could invite deliberate challenges, while enforcement would justify other actions against U.S. interests elsewhere. Any blockade strategy assumes that Iran is internationally isolated, which it is not, that the United States can impose a military blockade on land, which it cannot, and that it can withstand the consequences elsewhere should a third party use U.S. actions to justify counteraction, which is questionable. A blockade could hurt Iran's energy economy, but Iran has been preparing for this for years and can mitigate the effect by extensive smuggling operations. Ultimately, Iran is not likely to crumble unless the United States can maintain and strengthen the blockade process over a matter of many months at the very least.

Another option is a decapitation strike against Iran's leadership -- though it is important to recall how this strategy failed in Iraq at the beginning of the 2003 invasion. Decapitation assumes superb intelligence on the location of the leadership at a given time -- and that level of intelligence is hard to come by. Iraq had a much smaller political elite than Iran has, and the United States couldn't nail down its whereabouts. It also is important to remember that Iran has a much deeper and more diverse leadership structure than Iraq had. Iraq's highly centralized system included few significant leaders. Iran is more decentralized and thus has a much larger and deeper leadership cadre. We doubt the United States has the real-time intelligence capability to carry out such a broad decapitation strike.

The second option is an assault against the Iranian military. Obviously, the United States has the ability to carry out a very effective assault against the military's technical infrastructure -- air defense, command and control, aircraft, armor and so on. But the Iranian military is primarily an infantry force, designed for internal control and operations in mountainous terrain -- the bulk of Iran's borders. Once combat operations began, the force would disperse and tend to become indistinguishable from the general population. A counterpersonnel operation would rapidly become a counterpopulation operation. Under any circumstances, an attack against a dispersed personnel pool numbering in the high hundreds of thousands would be sortie intensive, to say the least. An air campaign designed to impose high attrition on an infantry force, leaving aside civilian casualties, would require an extremely large number of sorties, in which the use of precision-guided munitions would be of minimal value and the use of area weapons would be at a premium. Given the fog of war and intelligence issues, the ability to evaluate the status of this campaign would be questionable.

In our view, the Iranians are prepared to lose their technical infrastructure and devolve command and control to regional and local levels. The collapse of the armed forces -- most of whose senior officers and noncoms fought in the Iran-Iraq war with very flexible command and control -- is unlikely. The force would continue to be able to control the frontiers as well as maintain internal security functions. The United States would rapidly establish command of the air, and destroy noninfantry forces. But even here there is a cautionary note. In Yugoslavia, the United States learned that relatively simple camouflage and deception techniques were quite effective in protecting tactical assets. The Iranians have studied both the Kosovo war and U.S. operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, and have extensive tactical combat experience themselves. A forced collapse from the air of the Iranian infantry capability -- the backbone of Iran's military -- is unlikely.

This leaves a direct assault against the Iranian economic infrastructure. Although this is the most promising path, it must be remembered that counterinfrastructure and counterpopulation strategic air operations have been tried extensively. The assumption has been that the economic cost of resistance would drive a wedge between the population and the regime, but there is no precedent in the history of air campaigns for this assumption. Such operations have succeeded in only two instances: Japan and Kosovo. In Japan, counterpopulation operations of massive proportions involving conventional weapons were followed by two atomic strikes. Even in that case, there was no split between regime and population, but a decision by the regime to capitulate. The occupation in Kosovo was not so much because of military success as diplomatic isolation. That isolation is not likely to happen in Iran.

In all other cases -- Britain, Germany, Vietnam, Iraq -- air campaigns by themselves did not split the population from the regime or force the regime to change course. In Britain and Vietnam, the campaigns failed completely. In Germany and Iraq (and Kuwait), they succeeded because of follow-on attacks by overwhelming ground forces.

The United States could indeed inflict heavy economic hardship, but history suggests that this is more likely to tighten the people's identification with the government -- not the other way around. In most circumstances, air campaigns have solidified the regime's control over the population, allowing it to justify extreme security measures and generating a condition of intense psychological resistance. In no case has a campaign led to an uprising against the regime. Moreover, a meaningful campaign against economic infrastructure would take some 4 million barrels per day off of the global oil market at a time when oil prices already are closing in on $100 a barrel. Such a campaign is more likely to drive a wedge between the American people and the American government than between the Iranians and their government.

For an air campaign to work, the attacking power must be prepared to bring in an army on the ground to defeat the army that has been weakened by the air campaign -- a tactic Israel failed to apply last summer in Lebanon. Combined arms operations do work, repeatedly. But the condition of the U.S. Army and Marines does not permit the opening of a new theater of operations in Iran. Most important, even if conditions did permit the use of U.S. ground forces to engage and defeat the Iranian army -- a massive operation simply by the size of the country -- the United States does not have the ability to occupy Iran against a hostile population. The Japanese and German nations were crushed completely over many years before an overwhelming force occupied them. What was present there, but not in Iraq, was overwhelming force. That is not an option for Iran.

Finally, consider the Iranian response. Iran does not expect to defeat the U.S. Air Force or Navy, although the use of mine warfare and anti-ship cruise missiles against tankers in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz should not be dismissed. The Iranian solution would be classically asymmetrical. First, they would respond in Iraq, using their assets in the country to further complicate the occupation, as well as to impose as many casualties as possible on the United States. And they would use their forces to increase the difficulty of moving supplies from Kuwait to U.S. forces in central Iraq. They also would try to respond globally using their own forces (the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security and Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps), as well as Hezbollah and other trained Shiite militant assets, to carry out counterpopulation attacks against U.S. assets around the world, including in the United States.

If the goal is to eliminate Iran's nuclear program, we expect the United States would be able to carry out the mission. If, however, the goal is to compel a change in the Iranian regime or Iranian policy, we do not think the United States can succeed with air forces alone. It would need to be prepared for a follow-on invasion by U.S. forces, coming out of both Afghanistan and Iraq. Those forces are not available at this point and would require several years to develop. That the United States could defeat and occupy Iran is certain. Whether the United States has a national interest in devoting the time and the resources to Iran's occupation is unclear.

The United States could have defeated North Vietnam with a greater mobilization of forces. However, Washington determined that the defeat of North Vietnam and the defense of Indochina were not worth the level of effort required. Instead, it tried to achieve its ends with the resources it was prepared to devote to the mission. As a result, resources were squandered and the North Vietnamese flag flies over what was Saigon.

The danger of war is that politicians and generals, desiring a particular end, fantasize that they can achieve that end with insufficient resources. This lesson is applicable to Iran.

Tell George what you think

Get your own copy

Distribution and Reprints
This report may be distributed or republished with attribution to Strategic Forecasting, Inc. at For media requests, partnership opportunities, or commercial distribution or republication, please contact

Newsletter Subscription
To unsubscribe from receiving this free intelligence report, please click here.

© Copyright 2007 Strategic Forecasting, Inc. All rights reserved.


From Intell $$$$$ to Bush, the chimp....

From American Progress:

Think Fast...

Director of National Intelligence Adm. Mike McConnell will today disclose "that national intelligence activities amounting to roughly 80 percent of all U.S. intelligence spending for the year cost more than $40 billion. ... The disclosure means that when military spending is added, aggregate U.S. intelligence spending for fiscal 2007 exceeded $50 billion."

"The editor of a Baghdad weekly newspaper was murdered" this weekend. "At least 122 journalists and 41 media support staff have been killed in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003." Nearly 85 percent of those killed were Iraqis.

The U.N.investigator on human rights in the fight against terrorism, "said in a report released Monday that he's concerned about U.S. detention practices, military courts and interrogation techniques." He urged the United States to end extraordinary rendition and close Guantanamo.

"Six years after the Bush administration embraced harsh physical tactics for interrogating terrorism suspects, and two years after it reportedly dropped the most extreme of those techniques, the taint of torture clings to American counterterrorism efforts," writes The New York Times.

"The growing numbers of foreign fighters in Afghanistan are more violent and extreme than their local allies" and are "helping to change the face of the Taliban from a movement of hard-line Afghan religious students" into a broader network of foreign militants, "disgruntled Afghans," and drug traffickers.

The largest dam in Iraq is "in serious danger of an imminent collapse" that could lead to "as many as 500,000 civilian deaths by drowning Mosul under 65 feet of water." A "U.S. reconstruction project to help shore up the dam in northern Iraq has been marred by incompetence and mismanagement."

"Despite declining violence in Iraq, the shaky state of security is still impeding the nation's $100 billion recovery and rebuilding effort," according to a report from the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction.

Warren Buffett yesterday told CNBC that he believes there is a "fairly significant" chance that the United States is headed toward a recession.

And finally: Alex Seropian, the co-creator of the video game franchise Halo, is releasing a new game -- Hail to the Chimp, a "metaphorical look at the election with 10 animals standing in for the candidates." A spokeswoman for Seropian said that the game is "nonpartisan," but has "all the elements of our current administration." The Washington Examiner notes that one chimp also "looks suspiciously like a caricature of President Bush."


Banned from Canada?!!!!

From :

Ann Wright | Banned From Canada for a Year for War Protest

Ann Wright, writing for Truthout, says, "After nearly four hours of interrogation, I was told by the senior immigration officer I was banned from Canada for one year for failure to provide appropriate documents that would overcome the exclusion order I had been given in early October because of conviction of misdemeanors (all payable by fines) in the United States."

[Use link above to continue reading]


Monday, October 29, 2007

From Bush's "inertia" to Black Puma sneakers....

From American Progress:

Think Fast...

Despite President Bush's tough rhetoric on the genocide in Darfur, "the situation on the ground in Darfur is little changed." Critics say Bush is "allowing initiatives to drop because of inertia or failure to follow up, while proving unable to mobilize either his bureaucracy or the international community."

"A suicide bomber on a bicycle killed 28 Iraqi policemen doing their morning exercises at their base north of Baghdad on Monday, police said, in one of the deadliest strikes on security forces in months."

Former Bush aide Dan Bartlett will announce today that he is "moving to Texas to join Public Strategies Inc., one of the nation's best-connected public affairs firms." At the firm, Bartlett will reunite with Mark McKinnon, "who directed the advertising efforts for Bush's 2000 and 2004 presidential campaigns."

"More than a year after Congress told the Energy Department to harden the nation's nuclear bomb factories and laboratories against terrorist raids, at least 5 of the 11 sites are certain to miss their deadlines, some by many years."

Oil prices today "broke through $93 a barrel for the first time, hitting $93.20 before easing back slightly to $93.06."

"Islamofascism" is "not an ideology; it's a figment of the neocon imagination," writes Paul Krugman in The New York Times today. "The term came into vogue only because it was a way for Iraq hawks to gloss over the awkward transition from pursuing Osama bin Laden, who attacked America, to Saddam Hussein, who didn't."

"Dozens of construction projects launched by the Army Corps of Engineers to protect the New Orleans region from the most catastrophic floods are behind schedule by an average of nearly eight months, an internal audit shows."

New claims by former Secretary of State Colin Powell further detail the close ties between President Bush and former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair: "In the end Blair would always support the president. ... Jack [Straw] and I would get him all pumped up about an issue. And he'd be ready to say, 'Look here, George'. But as soon as he saw the president he would lose all his steam."

And finally: Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) has taken a "sartorial cue" from Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI). "Whitehouse's trademark black inspired Brown" that he "asked Whitehouse where to find the sneaks, promptly bought a pair and now sports them with his work attire." Brown's spokesman said that the senator was "mindful of just how hard those unforgiving marble floors can be on one's feet, back and neck, and he was covetous of his fellow freshman's sleek-but-cushioned footwear."


BushCo will use Diego Garcia to bomb Iran....

From Information Clearing House:

Secret move to upgrade air base for Iran attack plans:

The US is secretly upgrading special stealth bomber hangars on the British island protectorate of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean in preparation for strikes on Iran's nuclear facilities, according to military sources.

[Use link above to continue reading]


BushCo makes the USA a police state...

From Information Clearing House:

The American Police State

By Chris Hedges

The government has closed seven Muslim charities in the United States and frozen their assets. Not one of them, or any person associated with them, has been found guilty of financing terrorism. They will remain shut. George W. Bush can tar any organization or individual, here or abroad, as being part of a terrorist conspiracy and by fiat render them powerless.

[Use link above to continue reading]


Katrina's disaster still bad in Mississippi....

From San Mateo Daily News via Tom Paine. com :

Revisiting Hurricane Katrina

San Carlos residents aid vicitms in Pass Christian, Miss.

By Veralyn Davids / Special to the Daily News

Tony Dedeaux, a young black man, rides a bicycle some 20 miles from the FEMA trailer where he now lives to help the restoration effort in Pass Christian, Miss. His teeth need dental attention, but that is the least of his worries these days. He survived the hurricane, but when he returned to "Pass," as the locals call it, only a fence remained on his lot.

He found his house about eight blocks away. His car was gone for good.

"My house had floated right over the railroad track," he said. Dedeaux admitted that after Katrina he abused alcohol and became so depressed that he even tried to kill himself.

"Now I'm just thinking the Lord will help me," he said, "and that this town will come back." As he climbed back on his bike, he added, "But I wish there was at least an AA group in town."

More than two years after Hurricane Katrina hit, Pass Christian, like most of the cities on the 23-mile stretch of the Gulf Coast, is still struggling. The victims are still reliving the fury of the storm and the collective loss. While progress has been made, grim reminders of the disaster are everywhere. Dirty, torn American flags, piles of debris, stairs that lead nowhere and dead trees are still common sights throughout the town. Here and there, the outside walls of abandoned homes have black painted messages such as "Save Foundation If Able" or "Don't Steal What I Have Left."

"Good Morning, America" and other news media have disappeared. But San Carlos has kept its commitment to help Pass Christian recover. Just days after Katrina hit, the San Carlos Chamber of Commerce - at the request of some local pastors - initiated an unofficial sister-city relationship with Pass Christian. More than 14 people from San Carlos, including Mayor Tom Davids, went to Pass Christian this month to help in the continuing rebuilding effort. Besides sending volunteers at least every six months, San Carlos residents and businesses have contributed more than $250,000 in dollars and supplies to Pass Christian, including surplus paint from Kelly-Moore valued at more than $100,000. They have also sent library books, jeans and gift cards.

The first group of volunteers from San Carlos went to Pass Christian in October 2005. Fred Koehler, who has visited Pass four times, said the initial effort involved clearing debris.

"That task was incredibly hard," Koehler recalled. "Trash was piling six, 10 feet high. We had to help toss out people's belongings, their history."

On the second visit to Pass, San Carlos volunteers built a playground. Last spring, a third team worked on reconstructing homes.

"Ten Houses in Ten Days" was the goal of the latest trip, where the San Carlos residents joined hundreds of other volunteers in a blitz of rebuilding labor.

Angela Mallett is a first-time volunteer. "I enjoy this kind of work," she said. "Doing hard work for someone else is good. I've done 'Christmas in April' three or four times."

Town's population cut in half

People describe the "before" Pass Christian as a lovely coastal town where well-to-do Southerners retired or built summer homes. The town stretches about 6 miles along the Gulf Coast and 1 mile inland. Its population of 6,800 dropped by 50 percent after Katrina. Twenty-eight Pass Christian residents died in the hurricane. The town also lost its downtown, its civic buildings, the post office, schools and several churches, as well as a Wal-Mart.

Even two years later, the Katrina survivors describe the storm's impact as if it had happened yesterday, recalling where they were when it hit and what they lost.

Jeannie Burnam, a Pass native who had moved away and then returned, had spent two years remodeling the 200-year-old house where she had grown up. She moved in early August 2005, so she was still unpacking boxes when Katrina ripped through. Heeding the hurricane warning, Burnam boarded up her house and evacuated to Carlton, Texas. Afterward, it took her 2 1/2 weeks to get back into Pass Christian.

"Traffic was awful. It was hot - way over 100 degrees - with flies and mosquitoes," she said. "It was a very frustrating time." But Burnam attended the weekly town meetings and eventually became a volunteer in case management. She evaluates which applicants should receive housing and also writes grants. Burnam finally received a FEMA trailer for herself in December 2005.

"It's better to volunteer than just to sit and brood," she said. But the needs have been so overwhelming that Burnam still has no home of her own. Former San Carlos Mayor Matt Grocott has drawn plans for a house, and the San Carlos volunteers have begun work on her property.

"We have to keep the momentum going," she said. "We don't lose heart when volunteers come."

Katrina affected even those who escaped with minor damage. Marie Peralta lost her roof -- a relatively minor loss compared to most. In Hurricane Camille in 1969, Peralta was a loan officer at a downtown bank, and everything except the vault was destroyed. The bank was rebuilt, but on Aug. 29, 2005, it was destroyed again -- the vault, though, is still standing.

"We had a seafood festival every year here," she recalled as she looked wistfully at an area that once was a city park. "And our Mardi Gras Parade started at this park. More than 100,000 people attended."

Still, some encouraging progress is evident. Trinity Church has a pumpkin patch for Halloween. The birds and butterflies are back, as well as some of the trees. Some new businesses have opened; the Katrina Kafe and Aftermath Automotive Detailing. The Old Cuevas Bistro that San Carlos volunteers Chris and David Thom helped rebuild is thriving.

Martin Hardware, established in 1932, lost everything except a wall. However, the hardware store was rebuilt in about six months and business is booming.

"I feel badly to say this, but we do have job security," said Kellie Zeigler, who works at the store. She says about 60 percent of their sales are to volunteers who come in for building supplies. "They are a godsend; we couldn't make it without them."

The disaster responders

Everyone knows about the chaos and confusion that typically follows a major disaster. The confusion following Katrina was no exception. When the hurricane warning came, the mayor of Pass Christian left town and later resigned. FEMA and the Red Cross, according to some, were slow to respond.

Randy May, a Texan who had a successful business training and shoeing horses, was on the golf course when he first heard about the hurricane.

Watching the early reports on the clubhouse TV, he asked himself, "Why aren't they giving those people something to drink?"

With experience coordinating operations, May was one of the first out-of-towners on the scene. He arrived with a trailer loaded with supplies, and he organized the first distribution center - the place where people came for food and supplies, exchanged information about missing loved ones and received support.

Initially, May helped start rebuilding projects. He set up and opened Randy's Ranger Camp, with huge tents to sleep and feed at least 60 people. He has had to move his camp at least three times. He lives in a trailer on the premises. These days, he spends most of his time racing around to bring materials to volunteers working on various projects and to coordinate their efforts. The American Baptist Churches of Indiana and Kentucky are May's sponsors.

Deborah Yawn waited out the storm with her brother in Jackson, Miss. After it subsided, she packed her car with everything she could imagine people might need and drove into Pass Christian. She had no way of knowing how dramatically it would change her life. Her late husband had been a physician, and she led a good life in Jackson. At the distribution center, May put her in charge of the clothing tent.

"I remember most the smothering heat and the awful silence," she said, adding that except for the generators going day and night, there were no birds.

One hot and humid day, a barefooted black woman stumbled into the center carrying a tiny child. The exhausted woman came right up to her for help. Yawn still tears up when she describes the scene.

Yawn and May ended up falling in love, and on Oct. 10, 2005, they were married. They celebrated their second anniversary this fall.

While Randy manages the construction work, Deborah manages the camp city, buying groceries to feed volunteers, maintaining the tent dorms, doing laundry and making sure the volunteers are happy.

Pass Christian relies on volunteers. The largest numbers of volunteers have come from faith-based groups and are mostly involved in rebuilding houses. Mennonites and Amish groups have built several homes, including the Katrina cottages that are more comfortable than the FEMA trailers. Churches all over the country have participated. High school and college students on vacation breaks pour in to help.

The future

Lou Rizzardi, a Pass Christian alderman (similar to a city council member), says that of the 2,600 homes that were destroyed, approximately 800 have been rebuilt. The challenge for Pass, he said, is to rebuild more houses in order to increase the tax base, which has dropped dramatically. If the town fails to secure an annual revenue stream of a $4.5 million tax base, it may be taken over by the county or possibly merged with nearby Long Beach in order to have police and fire protection.

"We don't want that to happen," Rizzardi said. "Another challenge to rebuilding our town is that insurance isn't forthcoming. Also, prices for building materials, such as lumber, have gone way up."

There are also new requirements. Homes being rebuilt must be on wooden or concrete piles, 15 feet or more above ground level. The effect is that most houses look as if they are on stilts. Blocks of stripped properties are for sale.

Town leaders will continue to encourage reconstruction, and volunteers will help those who cannot muster the resources to rebuild on their own. It remains a daunting task.

But from this situation have come some real gems, Rizzardi said. "Friendship is one. And I have new faith in our young people - kids who give up their breaks to come and work here."


For information on how to join a work party to Pass Christian, contact Sheryl Pomerenk, executive director, San Carlos Chamber of Commerce, at 650-593-1068 or e-mail


Sunday, October 28, 2007

David Brin: BushCo waging war against....

From: :

The GOP vs. the U.S. Military: Part Eight - The Generals Speak
In parts one through seven, I laid down a careful case that showed, in one categorical area after another, how the Bush Administration and the entire neoconservative movement have effectively been “waging war against the professionals and of the US government, especially the men and women of the military Officer Corps. A perspective that I have been trying to get people to see, for close to five years, now.

Now, delayed and distracted by other things, I feel I must try to finish off this topic, getting the rest of my stored-up material online, even if it comes across less-polished than some of the other sections.

* The Growing Revolt of the Senior Officer Corps.

[click link above to continue reading]


Bush cronyism at usual...


FOCUS | Firm Awarded Defense Contract After Hiring Ex-Bush Official

Walter F. Roche Jr., writing for The Los Angeles Times, reports that: "A Defense Department medical services contract worth up to $790 million was awarded last month to a Wisconsin-based company three months after it hired a former Bush administration appointee who had supervised military health programs at the Pentagon for the last six years."

[Use link above to continue reading]


Saturday, October 27, 2007

Some rain in San Diego!!!

So I'm sitting on a covered restaurant patio in San Diego having breakfast and reading the papers this morning. Totally oblivious to all else. Got up to leave and stepped out into RAIN!

Driving home, saw that showers had happened or were currently happening all over the place.

Am hoping they move right over into the fire areas and put a stop to any little hot spots still out there.

Still clouds overhead. This is good.

Had an email from a writer friend in the SDPD, who'd been working a few days in a row out amongst the fires. Said it was so hot and dry the skin on his hands cracked and some guys got spontaneous nosebleeds...but the McDonald's, after they'd not eaten for the previous 24 hours, sent out a semi-truck full of food for everyone.

More...out in Potrero, where they've been not only burned, but had been fighting off Blackwater's plan for a training facility there...where they hadn't received very much help at all...Blackwater sent supplies to help. Now there's good publicity for Blackwater. Problem is that there was just one short notice buried in the newspaper.

In any case, am hoping it really really rains in the back country and finishes the fires off.


Thursday, October 25, 2007

Miserable trio: Rice, Paulson and Craig....

From American Progress:

Think Fast....

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson will announce "new sanctions against Iran" today that "accuse" the Quds division of the Revolutionary Guard Corps of supporting terrorism and "the entire Revolutionary Guard Corps of proliferating weapons of mass destruction."

The Washington Post reports that Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) "has become the Bush administration's worst nightmare: a Democrat in the majority with subpoena power and the inclination to overturn rocks." Today, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is scheduled to testify before his committee.

"President Bush embarks this morning on a tour of the wildfires ravaging California to showcase his administration's ability to respond better to natural disasters than it did after Hurricane Katrina two years ago."

In a letter to Attorney General nominee Michael Mukasey yesterday, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA), the ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee, joined with his Democratic colleagues "in questioning the basis for" Mukasey's assertion that the president "can act outside the law" on national security issues.

After yesterday denying that it "watered down" congressional testimony by the head of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Bush administration officials are now acknowledging that "they heavily edited [her] testimony on global warming." For example, officials took out the line: "CDC considers climate change a serious public concern."

"The U.S. Embassy on Wednesday began offering tens of thousands of dollars in payments to victims and families of victims of the Sept. 16 shootings in Baghdad involving security guards from the firm Blackwater." Several family members turned down the compensation, saying they still wanted "to sue Blackwater in an American court."

Secretary Rice acknowledged that the administration may have mishandled the case of Maher Arar. "We do not think that this case was handled as it should have been. We do absolutely not wish to transfer anyone to any place in which they might be tortured," she said.

Reps. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and William Delahunt (D-MA) will soon introduce legislation -- the "American Anti-Torture Act of 2007" -- to "ban torture of detainees by any U.S. government agency, including the CIA or other intelligence units."

And finally: "Sen. Larry Craig is still traveling back to his home state of Idaho these days. ... But one thing about his travel plans is different since his widely publicized arrest. ... [H]e's now connecting through the Denver airport. He's apparently had enough embarrassment in Minneapolis to last a lifetime."


Some really good books on the way...

From Publishers Lunch Weekly:


Diana Paxson's SWORD OF AVALON, a posthumous sequel to Marion Zimmer Bradley's MISTS OF AVALON, dealing with the origins of Excalibur, to Anne Sowards at Roc, in a good deal, for publication in Fall 2009, by Russell Galen at Scovil Chichak Galen Literary Agency (NA).


Brunonia Barry's originally self-published debut supernatural thriller THE LACE READER, about a woman who can see the future by reading patterns in lace who returns home to Salem, Massachusetts after her great-aunt goes missing, to Laurie Chittenden at William Morrow, in a major deal, reportedly for $2 million (NY Mag), at auction, by Rebecca Oliver at Endeavor (world English).


German rights to journalist and arts critic Peter Murphy's JOHN THE REVELATOR, to Suhrkamp Insel Verlag, in a nice deal, by Lisa Baker of Faber & Faber.

Emily Fox Gordon's novel IT WILL COME TO ME, a comic tale set on a southern college campus, about a faculty wife trying to recapture her early literary success and reclaim her identity, for publication in spring 2009, and an essay collection, THE PRODIGAL RETURNS, including pieces that have appeared in the Best American Essays and Pushcart anthologies, with an introduction by Philip Lopate, to Julie Grau at Spiegel & Grau, by Elyse Cheney at Elyse Cheney Agency (US).

Dr. David Casarett's LAST ACTS, a look at the ways in which people spend their final days, to Bob Bender at Simon & Schuster, by Howard Yoon and Gail Ross of the Gail Ross Literary Agency (NA).
UK/translation: Anna Stein

Tamerlane author Justin Marozzi's HERODOTUS AND HIS HISTORY, with Digressions, exploring and evoking the world of Herodotus -- the places he visited and the history he wrote -- with abundant digressions on the legacy and spirit of the father of history, and the literary art he created, to Robert Pigeon at Da Capo, for publication in Fall 2008, by Georgina Capel at Capel & Land (NA).

Ellie Kay's HEROES AT HOME: Help & Hope for America's Military Families, a second revised edition of this book about military families (over 70,000 sold), to Julie Smith at Bethany House, in a nice deal, for publication in 2008, by Steve Laube at the Steve Laube Agency (world).


NYT bestselling author of CROSS MY HEART AND HOPE TO SPY and I'D TELL YOU I LOVE YOU BUT THEN I'D HAVE TO KILL YOU Ally Carter's next Gallagher Girls novel and the first book in a new YA series pitched as Ocean's 11 meets Veronica Mars, about a girl from a family of high-end conmen who must choose between leaving the family business or saving her art thief father by pulling one last heist, again to Donna Bray at Hyperion Children's, by Kristin Nelson at Nelson Literary Agency (NA).
UK & Translation:


Former WSJ Supreme Court reporter Steve Wermiel and Seth Stern's biography of Supreme Court Justice William Brennan, considered to be the driving force behind the Earl Warren court and renowned -- and vilified -- for his stands on abortion, the death penalty, the constitutional right to privacy, and gender discrimination (before his death in 1997 Brennan granted Wermiel unprecedented access to speeches, letters, and other documents that won't be available to the public until 2017), to Deanne Urmy at Houghton Mifflin, for publication in 2010, by Gail Ross at Gail Ross Literary Agency (NA).


Macroeconomic advisor to investors including George Soros and Stanley Druckenmiller and finance and foreign ministers and central bankers in David Smick's book on the global liquidity crisis, to Adrian Zackheim and Jeffrey Krames at Portfolio, for publication in 2008, by Fredrica Friedman at Fredrica S. Friedman and Company.

Matthew May's THE POWER OF THE MISSING PIECE, a follow-up to the author's The Elegant Solution, to Roger Scholl at Doubleday Currency,by John Willig at Literary Services (world).

RISE OF THE CREATIVE CLASS, FLIGHT OF THE CREATIVE CLASS author Richard Florida's WHO'S YOUR CITY?, showing why the different regions of the US and the world are growing increasingly divergent -- culturally, economically, and in their inhabitants' personalities -- and also shows readers how to choose the right place for their ambitions and life-stage, to William Frucht at Basic, for publication in Spring 2008, by Susan Schulman (NA).


Lauren Weber's CHEAP: The Biography of a Misunderstood Virtue, covering more than 200 years of American history, to present arguments and observations about our ever-evolving conception of thrift and stories of the frugal, both famous and obscure -- moving between the collective and subjective stories of how we save and spend money, to John Parsley at Little, Brown, for publication in 2010, by Rob McQuilkin at Lippincott Massie McQuilkin (NA).

Former Democratic fundraiser Kathleen Willey's TARGET: Caught in the Crosshairs of Bill and Hillary Clinton, her story of how Bill Clinton sexually assaulted her in the White House, along with what's called new evidence that Hillary Clinton orchestrated a campaign of threats and intimidation to cover it up, to Eric Jackson at World Ahead, for publication in November 2007, by Anu Hansen at Atmarr Services.

WHISKEY REBELLION author William Hogeland's DECLARATION, a narrative about the 10-week struggle in 1776 Philadelphia where street fights, crazed posses, and backroom dealings forged the uneasy partnership of prominent Founders and radicals that was ultimately responsible for the Declaration of Independence, to Bob Bender at Simon & Schuster, by Eric Lupfer at William Morris Agency.


Colin Nissan and Sean Farrell's DON'T BE THAT GUY: 51 Annoying Guys We All Know, an illustrated collection of regrettable males, to Adam Korn at Three Rivers Press, for publication in fall 2008, by Jason Anthony at Zachary Shuster Harmsworth Literary Agency (World).


Widow of Philadelphia police officer murdered 26 years ago Maureen Faulkner and lawyer Michael Smerconish's MURDERED BY MUMIA: A Life Sentence of Loss, Lies, and Injustice, about her battle against a political, cultural, and media machine "that has systematically remade Mumia Abu-Jamal from a street thug who murdered a cop into an international celebrity," (Abu-Jamal's attorneys are on their final appeal of his death sentence), to Gene Brissie at Lyons Press, for six figures, for publication in December 2007, by Larry Kirshbaum at LJK Literary Management.

Manny Howard's GREEN ACRE, his account of how he turned his Brooklyn backyard into a farm -- a story about consumption and production, family and community, and the virtues and pitfalls of a good old-fashioned can-do approach to life and work in a demanding urban environment and an ever-changing world, to Brant Rumble at Scribner, at auction, by Chris Parris-Lamb at The Gernert Company (NA).

Film submission is currently underway with Kassie Evashevski at UTA.

Miranda Weiss's POINT POSSESSION: Navigating an Alaskan Life, about her move to Homer, Alaska, where many people still live traditional, rural and subsistence lifestyles, and learning to live in a place where know-how is currency and a novice's mistakes can kill you (among the things she learned: how to read a map, how to read the tides, how to build a boat and house, how to grow and catch food, how to embrace fear, and how to be alone), to Gillian Blake at Bloomsbury, by Kris Dahl at ICM (NA).

Lynn Darling's A SENSE OF DIRECTION, a wide-ranging study of navigation and direction, revealing the importance of knowing one's way: why North is noble, why West is fateful, and how our biological instincts have been shaped over time, to Gillian Blake at Bloomsbury, by Flip Brophy at Sterling Lord Literistic (world English; German).


Fulbright scholar and journalist Michael Scott Moore's SWEETNESS AND BLOOD: The Spread of Surfing Across the Globe, numerous untold stories embedded in surfing's remarkable transformation from ancient tradition to world phenomenon, to Karen Rinaldi and Lindsay Sagnette at Bloomsbury, by Elizabeth Sheinkman at Curtis Brown UK.


The worse the work, the more Gov contracts you get...

From :

Firm Blamed for Baghdad Embassy Flaws Gains New Jobs

Warren P. Strobel, reporting for the McClatchy Newspapers, writes, "The Kuwaiti contractor that's building the new US Embassy in Baghdad - behind schedule and plagued by allegations of shoddy construction and safety flaws - is still winning lucrative new contracts to build US diplomatic installations overseas."

[Use link above to continue reading]


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Bush tries to sneak in $$$$ to attack Iran...


Maya Schenwar | War Supplemental Makes Room for Iran

Maya Schenwar, reporting for Truthout, writes: "The Bush administration's $196.4 billion war supplemental spending request, released Monday, has Democrats reeling. Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Robert Byrd called the supplemental 'short-sighted at best,' while House Appropriations Committee Chairman Dave Obey remarked in a statement, 'It's amazing to me that the president expects to be taken seriously.' Yet beyond the request's mind-boggling size, its open-ended aims point to the potentially vast scope of the 'war on terror' for years to come - including an undiminished presence in Iraq and the possibility of action against Iran."

[Use link above to continue reading]


Charges against the Priests were....?????


Priests Jailed for Protesting Fort Huachuca Torture Training

Writing for Truthout, Bill Quigley says, "Louis Vitale, 75, a Franciscan priest, and Steve Kelly, 58, a Jesuit priest, were sentenced to five months each in federal prison for attempting to deliver a letter opposing the teaching of torture at Fort Huachuca in Arizona. Both priests were taken directly into jail from the courtroom after sentencing."

[Use link above to continue reading]


Covert Actions....

From Secrecy News:


Notable new reports from the Congressional Research Service that have
not been made widely available to the public include the following.

"Covert Action: Legislative Background and Possible Policy Questions,"
updated October 11, 2007:

"U.S.-China Counterterrorism Cooperation: Issues for U.S. Policy,"
updated October 10, 2007:

"Mexico's Drug Cartels," October 16, 2007:

"Burma-U.S. Relations," updated October 4, 2007:

"The Export Administration Act: Evolution, Provisions, and Debate,"
updated September 28, 2007:

"Status of a Member of the House Who Has Been Indicted for or Convicted
of a Felony," updated October 5, 2007:

[Use links above to continue reading]


Clinton and Obama...Bush Lite?

From The Guardian:

The trap that is Iraq
Tom Oliphant
October 24, 2007 12:00 PM

Hidden in plain sight is the one issue still capable of blowing up the campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination.

It isn't Iran, outsider-insider, lobbyist relations or healthcare.

It's the war in Iraq.

The mass media illusion - and also delusion - is that the Democrats, generally, are "anti-war", especially in contrast to the Bush/Cheney-tethered Republicans. Vaguely, anti-war is meant to suggest favourable disposition to ending the madness.

But the suggestion is false. The truth that could yet destabilise the race and consign consultant Mark Penn's inevitability lectures about client Hillary Clinton to the trash can is that the major candidates are not as anti-war as they seem.

And in the two most important cases, they are arguably not anti-war at all, merely anti-Bush. With varying emphases Clinton and Barack Obama have yet to take a deep breath and propose a plausible end to either an American combat role in the conflict, the ongoing, de facto US occupation of the broken country or a quasi-colonial role in its alleged governance. They remain Bush-lite.

Two of the candidates - above all Bill Richardson but also John Edwards - have a quite different vision of their first year as potential presidents. What isn't clear is whether either is willing to make this crucial difference of opinion the issue down the stretch before the Iowa caucuses and the first primaries are held. If either or both do, the political equation could still change.

The solid clue to these differences popped up in the last of the Democrats' joint appearances, when moderator Tim Russert asked the top tier individually if any of them were prepared to pledge that all combat troops would be gone from Iraq by the end of a first presidential term in 2013. Clinton and Obama said they were not - truthfully.

Edwards, for some reason sucked along in the undertow, chimed in a third refusal. That was a mistake, as he has subsequently realised if not exactly acknowledged. The truth is that Edwards is an American version of the British prime minister, Gordon Brown, who has skillfully reduced the British armed presence to no more than 2,500 people, all stationed outside the often murderous city of Basra on the sensible premise that his nation's security is not threatened if Shia militia X chooses to stage a fire fight with Shia militia Y on any given day.

Edwards envisages an American presence that is gradually, over the course of a year, reduced to a single brigade (perhaps double the size of the current British force), whose sole mission would be the protection of the American diplomatic and aid missions in the country. Any peacenik can live with that.

Richardson would go further: everyone with a gun all the way out of the country within six to eight months. It's a pace that borders on the precipitous but that was chosen by the New Mexico governor after consultation with people who know the region well.

One of them is Bruce Riedel - both a CIA and a National Security Council staff veteran - who is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution's Saban Centre for Middle East Policy. In a Foreign Affairs article last spring, Riedel, as a true believer in a worldwide campaign against violent extremism and the endangered mission in Afghanistan, made a sound case for military disengagement from Iraq, calling it "more of a trap than an opportunity". The case can also be made soundly by those who know that whatever chance the fractured country has will come from international reconstruction and diplomatic toil, not no-end-in-sight combat.

Clinton has argued that a commitment to end the US role as combat-occupier is impossible until she takes office and discovers the true state of things. Her position is fatuous. She is already in possession of all the information needed to take a position one way or the other. The stance she takes, vaguely promising to end the war if President Bush hasn't, is not even close to the clarity Americans should insist upon.

If anything, Obama is worse. He still talks of a reduced US military presence, prowling the hinterland in search of al-Qaida in Iraq remnants and policing the country's borders. What neither candidate has been willing to say is how small a force and how much less than the ridiculous, nearly $10bn monthly pace of war spending he and she is prepared to support.

This is why Obama has spent so much time this fall celebrating his opposition to the US invasion five years ago and attempting to make an issue of Clinton's recent vote for a Senate resolution branding Iran's Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organisation. He talks about his past and Iran's future so much because he cannot talk effectively about the war in Iraq's future.

Following the most recent Democratic debate, nothing happened in the press, which should teach Edwards and Richardson that the press in not capable of leading a debate about anything important this cycle. If there is to be a stretch drive dominated by important differences over the most important issue they will have to lead it themselves.

The opportunity, worth seizing, comes next week in Philadelphia at the next joint appearance of the candidates.


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Blackwater hit GO! on 9/11....

From In These Times:

Views > October 11, 2007
Blackwater Nation
Contracting soldiers of fortune is only one example of our recent philosophy of government
By Brian Cook

Those seeking to pinpoint the date that propelled the private military firm Blackwater into its prominent (and disastrous) position in the U.S. military apparatus might look toward Sept. 11, 2001. Al Clark, one of the company’s co-founders, once remarked, “Osama bin Laden turned Blackwater into what it is today.” And two weeks after 9/11, Erik Prince, the company’s other co-founder and current CEO, told Bill O’Reilly that, after four years in the business, “I was starting to get a little cynical on how seriously people took security. The phone is ringing off the hook now.”

However, in her new book, The Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein suggests that we should turn the calendar back one day and read the speech that then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld gave to Pentagon staffers on Sept. 10, 2001. The day before 19 hijackers flew passenger flights into the Pentagon and World Trade Center, Rumsfeld darkly warned of “a threat, a serious threat, to the security of the United States of America. … With brutal consistency, it stifles free thought and crushes new ideas. It disrupts the defense of the United States and places the lives of men and women in uniform at risk.” Who was this dastardly adversary? “[T]he Pentagon bureaucracy.”

Declaring “an all-out campaign to shift the Pentagon’s resources from bureaucracy to battlefield, from tail to the tooth,” Rumsfeld told his staff to “scour the department for functions that could be performed better and more cheaply through commercial outsourcing.” He mentioned healthcare, housing and custodial work, and said that, outside of “warfighting,” “we should seek suppliers who can provide these non-core activities efficiently and effectively.”

As Jeremy Scahill has reported, the implementation of that plan has been wildly successful, with at least 180,000 private contractors currently employed in Iraq, outnumbering U.S. troops by 20,000, even after the “surge.” (In the first Gulf war, the soldier-to-contractor ratio was 60:1.) But the results have been disastrous, from the deplorable conditions at the recently privatized Walter Reed military hospital, to the contaminated food and fecal-soiled bathing water that Halliburton provided to U.S. troops, to the gung-ho Blackwater contractors who prefer to shoot Iraqi hearts rather than win them.

This outsourcing of the military’s core services is in keeping with the Bush administration’s philosophy of government. New York Times columnist Paul Krugman noted that we’ve seen the same dynamic at work in the IRS, with the agency outsourcing debt collection of back taxes to private companies, which then receive a share of the return for their work.

But to lay the blame solely at the feet of the Bush administration is to overlook the complicity of Democrats in accepting a neoliberal agenda that has gutted government services and redistributed its wealth into the hands of private interests. After all, the Clinton administration first expanded the use of military contractors, deploying them in the Balkans, Somalia, Haiti and Colombia.

In fact, in late September, as the most recent Blackwater massacres started to gain mainstream press attention, hundreds of corporate luminaries joined Bill Clinton in New York City to extol the charitable efforts of the Clinton Global Initiative. The former president said his humanitarian endeavor is needed to tackle education, poverty and global warming because these are issues the “government won’t solve, or that government alone can’t solve.”

That might be true, but only because we’ve undergone 30 years of a political ideology that has robbed government of needed revenues, derided regulation that might impinge on corporate profits and sneered at the idea that a public spirit could be preferable to private motives. Rather than rely on the charity of those who have so handsomely profited, it’s time we alter the perverse arrangement.

Brian Cook is an associate editor at In These Times.


Ecuador to Bush...Good for the goose,,,good for the gander...

From Information Clearing House:

Ecuador Wants Military Base in Miami

By Phil Stewart

Ecuador's leftist President Rafael Correa said Washington must let him open a military base in Miami if the United States wants to keep using an air base on Ecuador's Pacific coast.

[Use link above to continue reading]


From State Dept screw-ups to DC Madam Palfrey...

From American Progress:

Think Fast...

In two new reports, the State Department is "sharply" criticized "for poor coordination, communication, oversight and accountability involving armed security companies like Blackwater USA," including an audit that shows "the department cannot say 'specifically what it received' for most of the $1.2 billion it" paid to one company.

"Tuition and fees at public and private universities have risen this year at more than double the rate of inflation, with prices increasing faster at public institutions, the College Board said in reports released yesterday." As a result, students and families are being forced to borrow more, driving up the use of private loans.

"With hundreds of thousands of families facing foreclosure in recent months, lawmakers have introduced legislation aimed at protecting consumers against predatory mortgages." The bill, co-sponsored by Reps. Barney Frank (D-MA), Mel Watt (D-NC), and Brad Miller (D-NC) is "an update from similar legislation filed in 2005."

After being attacked by the right wing, the Frost family refuses to back down from the fight for children's health insurance. Yesterday, Graeme Frost's mother, Bonnie Frost, "stood before a microphone at a Baltimore church, in a peasant shirt and clogs, to make a quiet appeal for broader health coverage in Maryland."

Senate Judiciary Committee members accused the White House of allowing the Intelligence Committee to review warrantless surveillance documents "in return for agreeing that telecommunications companies should get immunity from lawsuits." "There is no excuse for the administration to grant access only to those inclined to agree with it," the Washington Post writes.

President Bush's "weakened approval ratings" have forced him to take a "much more personal role in opposing Congress." Bush "has made 46 veto threats during the first nine and a half months of 2007, compared to 28 such threats" during his first six years. The Progress Report's Amanda Terkel also notes, "In his first six years, Bush vetoed just one bill. In less than one year under this new Congress, Bush has been forced to issue three."

New poll finds that in "a 12-month period during which the Taliban insurgency spread in Afghanistan and violence rose in the country's major cities, Afghans grew increasingly concerned about security and more people came to regard it as the most serious issue facing the nation."

Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and Washington plan to join California's lawsuit "suing the EPA for stalling on a decision about whether to let California and 11 other states force car makers to produce cleaner vehicles."

And finally: Montgomery Blair Sibley, the lawyer for DC Madam Deborah Jeane Palfrey, yesterday told a DC court that his client is a victim of the U.S. attorney scandal. Sibley's exhibits included a blog post from War and Piece and an article from Legal Times, none of which even mentioned Palfrey. Sibley also quoted Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), who once said that the Justice Department was "corrupted by political influence." Leahy's office later called Sibley "awfully wacky."


Monday, October 22, 2007

Blackwater in Potrero..guarding the border?....

From :

Blackwater's run for the border
The notorious security contractor has plans for a military-style complex near the U.S.-Mexico border. Critics worry the firm's "mercenary soldiers" could join the U.S. border patrol.

By Eilene Zimmerman

Oct. 23, 2007 | There are signs that Blackwater USA, the private security firm that came under intense scrutiny after its employees killed 17 civilians in Iraq in September, is positioning itself for direct involvement in U.S. border security. The company is poised to construct a major new training facility in California, just eight miles from the U.S.-Mexico border. While contracts for U.S. war efforts overseas may no longer be a growth industry for the company, Blackwater executives have lobbied the U.S. government since at least 2005 to help train and even deploy manpower for patrolling America's borders.

Blackwater is planning to build an 824-acre military-style training complex in Potrero, Calif., a rural hamlet 45 miles east of San Diego. The company's proposal, which was approved last December by the Potrero Community Planning Group and has drawn protest from within the Potrero community, will turn a former chicken ranch into "Blackwater West," the company's second-largest facility in the country. It will include a multitude of weapons firing ranges, a tactical driving track, a helipad, a 33,000-square-foot urban simulation training area, an armory for storing guns and ammunition, and dorms and classrooms. And it will be located in the heart one of the most active regions in the United States for illegal border crossings.

While some residents of Potrero have welcomed the plan, others have raised fears about encroachment on protected lands and what they see as an intimidating force of mercenaries coming into their backyard. The specter of Blackwater West and the rising interest in privatizing border security have also alarmed Democratic Rep. Bob Filner, whose congressional district includes Potrero. Filner says he believes it's a good possibility that Blackwater is positioning itself for border security contracts and is opposed to the new complex. "You have to be very wary of mercenary soldiers in a democracy, which is more fragile than people think," Rep. Filner told Salon. "You don't want armies around who will sell out to the highest bidder. We already have vigilantes on the border, the Minutemen, and this would just add to [the problem]," Filner said, referring to the Minuteman Project, a conservative group that has organized civilian posses to assist the U.S. Border Patrol in the past. Filner is backing legislation to block establishment of what he calls "mercenary training centers" anywhere in the U.S. outside of military bases. "The border is a sensitive area," he said, "and if Blackwater operates the way they do in Iraq -- shoot first and ask questions later -- my constituents are at risk."

[Use link above to continue reading]


US soldier on Blackwater...

From Information Clearing House:

Blackwater and me: A love story it ain't:

During my own yearlong tour in Iraq, the bad boys of Blackwater twice came closer to killing me than did any of the insurgents or Al Qaeda types. That sort of thing sticks with you. One story will suffice to make my point.

[Use link above to continue reading]


Your life for US Citizenship....

From Information Clearing House:

US Army Lures Foreigners with Promise of Citizenship

By Cordula Meyer in Washington

More than 30,000 foreign troops are enlisted in the US Army, many of them serving in Iraq. Their reward for risking their lives for their adopted country is US citizenship.

[Use link above to continue reading]


Sunday, October 21, 2007

Go here for CHP minute by minute details on fires in San Diego County...

Go here for CHP minute by minute details on fires in San Diego County...

Chavez to the rescue again? and Nat'l Guard call up...

From :

FOCUS | Government Short Money to Help Poor Pay Heating Bills

Tom Dogget, reporting for Reuters, says "about 30 million low-income American households who will need help paying heating bills this winter from a US government program will be left in the cold because of a lack of funding for the program."


FOCUS | National Guard Faces Call-Ups for 2008, '09

Ann Scott Tyson of the Washington Post reports that the "Pentagon this week plans to alert at least seven National Guard units to be ready for deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan in 2008 and 2009 as the military's reserve forces are increasingly called upon to relieve the strain on active-duty troops."

[Use links above to continue reading]


Blackwater may want to choose a site that doesn't burn....

Thousands Told To Prepare To Evacuate

More 10,000 people have been told to be ready to run from two wind-whipped
wildfires spreading out of control in eastern and southern San Diego County.


So that's the state of affairs outside San Diego city. 80 degrees today, and those blasted Santa Ana winds blowing steadily, especially in the back country. As in Potrero, for instance, where Blackwater wants to establish a training facility. I wonder if they might not rethink that now, given that the area is already afire.

They'd best put it out in the desert on sand and rock if they want to avoid the facility being burned up. On the other hand, the closer to the desert, the closer to earthquake faults. Great choice, huh?

[Use link above to continue reading]


Saturday, October 20, 2007

Fire Pelosi & Reid..replace with Stark & Dodd...

From NY Times via :

The New York Times | With Democrats Like These ...

The New York Times editorial board writes: "Every now and then, we are tempted to double-check that the Democrats actually won control of Congress last year. It was particularly hard to tell this week. Democratic leaders were cowed, once again, by propaganda from the White House and failed, once again, to modernize the law on electronic spying in a way that permits robust intelligence gathering on terrorists without undermining the Constitution."

[Use link above to continue reading]


Pelosi should STFU...Stark was dead right....

From AP via Mercury News :

Speaker Pelosi rebukes fellow Bay area liberal over war comments
By ERICA WERNER Associated Press Writer
Article Launched: 10/19/2007 03:05:35 PM PDT

WASHINGTON—House Speaker Nancy Pelosi rebuked a fellow San Francisco Bay-area liberal Friday for what she said were "inappropriate" comments about Iraq during a congressional debate.

During a debate on children's health care Thursday, Rep. Pete Stark accused Republicans of sending troops to Iraq to "get their heads blown off for the president's amusement."

Condemnations rolled in from Republican politicians, right-leaning bloggers had a field day, and a White House spokesman declined to "dignify those remarks" with a response.

Pelosi issued a statement late Friday rapping Stark, who is in his 18th term representing the liberal East Bay. He's California's longest-serving House member.

"While members of Congress are passionate about their views, what U.S. Rep. Stark said during the debate was inappropriate and distracted from the seriousness of the subject at hand—providing health care for America's children," Pelosi said.

Stark's comment came as the House failed Thursday to override President Bush's veto of legislation to expand the popular State Children's Health Insurance Program.

"You don't have money to fund the war or children," Stark accused Republicans. "But you're going to spend it to blow up innocent people if we can get enough kids to grow old enough for you to send to Iraq to get their heads blown off for the president's amusement."

After numerous Republicans called on him to apologize, Stark said it was they
who should be apologizing, for failing to provide the votes to override Bush's veto.
Asked for a White House response Friday, spokesman Tony Fratto said: "I see absolutely no reason to dignify those remarks with a comment."


Friday, October 19, 2007

Wall St, Arms Industry...go for Clinton...

From :

Clinton Bucks Trend, Rakes in Cash From Weapons Industry

Leonard Doyle reports for The Independent UK: "The US arms industry is backing Hillary Clinton for President and has all but abandoned its traditional allies in the Republican party. Mrs Clinton has also emerged as Wall Street's favourite."

[Use link above to continue reading]


Thursday, October 18, 2007

From weasel Sen McConnell to Lost Sen race...

From American Progress:

Think Fast...

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is still under the microscope from the Kentucky press over his office's involvement in smearing Graeme Frost. In an editorial entitled "McConnell versus truth," The Courier-Journal writes, "It's clear what Mitch McConnell knew and when he knew it. It's clear he deceived the public."

"Under pressure to help override President Bush's veto, at least five of the eight House Democrats who voted initially against expanding a popular children's health insurance program now say they'll switch sides."

"The Pentagon is preparing to alert eight National Guard units that they should be ready to go to Iraq or Afghanistan beginning late next summer." A National Guard official explained, "You create holes when you surge units forward, and someone has to fill them."

Russian President Vladimir Putin slammed the Iraq war yesterday, stating, "it's absolutely pointless to fight with a people." "It is absolutely unacceptable to keep the occupation force in place in Iraq for eternity," he added, emphasizing his support for a "date for withdrawal."

The head of the Federal Communications Commission is pushing a plan to repeal a rule "that forbids a company to own both a newspaper and a television or radio station in the same city." The plan would "be a big victory for some executives of media conglomerates," including Rupert Murdoch.

"It is likely that Blackwater will not compete to keep the job" of escorting U.S. diplomats outside the protected Green Zone after May, according a U.S. official. "[T]here is a mutual feeling that the Sept. 16 shooting deaths mean the company cannot continue in its current role."

"Alberto Gonzales was briefed extensively about a criminal leak investigation despite the fact that he had reason to believe that several individuals under investigation in the matter were potential witnesses against him in separate Justice Department inquiries."

And finally: On election night 2006, eight-year old Sarah Maria Santorum wept on national television when her dad lost his Senate race. Country singer Martina McBride on Monday released a song, For These Times, inspired in part by the girl's tears. "I always tell my children that good things come from bad things," Rick Santorum said in an interview this week.


Dems cave again...Don't tell me you didn't expect it..

From :

Senate Deal on Immunity for Phone Companies

Eric Lichtblau, reporting for The New York Times, writes, "Leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee reached a tentative agreement on Wednesday with the Bush administration that would give telephone carriers legal immunity for any role they played in the National Security Agency's domestic eavesdropping program approved by President Bush after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, a Congressional official said Wednesday."

[Use link above to continue reading]


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Arab world is on to BushCo's lies....

From Agence Global via Internation Herald Tribune:

The U.S. has run out of tricks
By Rami G. Khouri Published: October 17, 2007


What does it mean when U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says it is time to establish a Palestinian state within a year, for the sake of Palestinian, Israeli and U.S. national interests, and that, "We are not going to tire until I have given my last ounce of energy and my last moment in office [to working for a two-state solution]"?

There is an unreal yet intriguing quality to America's newfound enthusiasm for an instant Palestinian state. It is a welcomed goal - if it were sincere.

Rice's first big problem is that few people in the Middle East believe the United States is sincere because every aspect of Washington's policy during the past seven years flatly contradicts everything President George W. Bush and Rice have stated in recent months about their commitment to creating a Palestinian state.

They seem not to realize that they are now finally paying the price for years of policies of disdain and neglect of Palestinian and Arab rights in favor of broadly supporting Israeli positions.

The United States haughtily gambled on getting away with pursuing a policy of nice words that gravely contradicts its actual destructive policies on the ground. Consequently, most people in the Middle East no longer believe the United States, respect its policies, or fear its power. Anyone who cares to live in the real world can observe this in the defiant behavior of Iran, Syria, Turkey, Hezbollah, Hamas and many other states and popular mass movements that probably comprise 75 percent of the people of this region.

This is not the first time that American presidents and Israeli prime ministers have tried to salvage their damaged reputations by pulling an Arab-Israeli peace rabbit out of the hat at the last minute. It will not work, just as it did not work in the past.

Negotiated, durable peace accords and Palestinian states cannot be ordered like a late night pizza to meet an urgent physical or emotional craving by disoriented fraternity boys.

If the United States suddenly decides it needs Arab partners to help it get out of its messes throughout the Middle East, it will not get them by a change of rhetoric without a change in policy that sheds its years of contempt and disregard for Palestinian and Arab rights.

Washington would be more convincing if it were to commit to the known elements of a negotiated peace that are firmly grounded in UN resolutions and international law. A consistent American affirmation of the illegal and destructive nature of Israeli colonies, settlements and land expropriations, for example, would be a much more effective way to secure Arab respect and diplomatic cooperation than the Bush-Rice policy of supporting in writing Ariel Sharon's colonial policies on settlements and refugees, and then standing by Ehud Olmert's perpetuation of those positions.

The Arab people, and perhaps even a few of their leaders, are totally fed up with being asked to play the role of the rabbit that is pulled out of the hat by American illusionists.

Remarkably, Washington and others still have not grasped perhaps the single most important strategic change that has occurred in the Arab world in the past generation: Many - perhaps most - ordinary Arabs and their political movements have crossed the threshold of fear and passive acquiescence to the power of the United States, Israel and entrenched Arab regimes.

The United States is happy to recognize, laud and ride this phenomenon when, say, Lebanese citizens rally against Syria; but it refuses to see the same defiant, fearless spirit among many more Arabs who rally against the U.S. itself.

Through a combination of strains of resistance - Islamist, nationalist, tribal, sectarian, ethnic, revivalist, democratic and other indigenous movements - most ordinary Arab men and women now behave in a totally different manner than the previous three generations, since the birth of the modern Arab world around 1920: They refuse to bow to foreign ultimatums and threats; refuse to cringe in fear of American, Israeli or British military attacks; refuse to waste time sending petitions to Western leaders asking them to adhere to global rights norms; and they refuse to play smoke-and-mirror deception games designed in Washington and Tel Aviv - or in Tony Blair's wandering mind.

The Arabs will no longer be treated like rabbits to be pulled out of American hats on demand. Grasping this fact, and designing a peace process that is equitable and anchored in law, rather than illusionary and driven by colonial mind-sets and power imbalances, is the right way to get to both a Palestinian state and Israel's secure acceptance in the Middle East.

Rami G. Khouri is director of the Issam Fares Institute at the American University of Beirut and editor-at-large of the Beirut-based Daily Star. This article was distributed by Agence Global.


From Sen Specter's bullshit to more from Colbert...

From American Progress:

Think Fast...

Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) said he was not prepared to grant retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies for their participation in the warrantless wiretapping program. "I certainly would not give them immunity retroactively on programs that we don't know what they are," he said.

The White House agreed yesterday to give Senate intelligence committee members and staff access to internal documents related to its domestic surveillance program. But Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) said that when one of her staff members reviewed the documents, "he wasn't impressed."

In another rebuke of the Bush administration's stem cell policy, National Institutes of Health Director Elias Zerhouni said, "All avenues of research need to be pursued." White House spokesman Tony Fratto responded that President Bush has a "broader view" than scientists, which takes into account "moral and religious views."

Brookings analyst Michael O'Hanlon commended Democratic presidential candidates for refusing to commit to withdrawing U.S. forces from Iraq by 2013. "The only thing that would have concerned me would have been a repeat of 2003, where the populist's message of 'get out now' would overtake the Democratic Party," he said.

24 percent: President Bush's approval rating in a new Reuters/Zogby poll, which sets yet another record low for the President.

Prior to his confirmation hearing today, Attorney General nominee Mike Mukasey will be introduced "before the cameras" by a "tripartisan" group of senators: Sens. Arlen Specter (R-PA), Charles Schumer (D-NY), and Joe Lieberman (I-CT).

In a special election yesterday, Niki Tsongas (D), the wife of the late Sen. Paul Tsongas (D), beat out Republican Jim Ogonowski to fill former Rep. Martin Meehan's (D-MA) vacant 5th district House seat, "becoming the first woman to represent Massachusetts in Congress in nearly 25 years."

And finally: Colbert throws his hat in the ring. On the Daily Show last night, comedian Stephen Colbert "made a surprise appearance" to officially announce he was considering a run for president. About 20 minutes later on his own show, Colbert announced "Yes, I'm doing it!" He then welcomed CBS political analyst Jeff Greenfield to analyze his impact on the race "in the past three minutes."


Guy hates the Agencies work...Bush appoints him to run it...


Birth-Control Foe to Run Office on Family Planning

The Washington Post's Christopher Lee reports, "The Bush administration again has appointed a chief of family planning programs at the Department of Health and Human Services who has been critical of contraception."

[Use link above to continue reading]


Why does Pentagon want our bank records?!!!!

From Information Clearing House:

The Window Is Closing

Pentagon Sought Citizens' Bank Records

By The Associated Press

The American Civil Liberties Union said Sunday that newly uncovered documents show that the Pentagon secretly sent hundreds of letters seeking the financial records of private citizens without court approval.

[Use link above to continue reading]


Blackwater's Prince a hardcore Bush supporter....

From Information Clearing House:

Blackwater: Mercenaries by Definition

By A. Alexander

Erik Prince, founder of the Blackwater mercenaries, has been a huge financial supporter of George W. Bush and the Republican Party. That might explain why Mister Bush's State Department worked with Prince's people to try and cover up the latest Blackwater slaughter of civilians in Iraq, and could be a big part of the reason why so many Republicans came to the chief mercenary's defense during Congressional hearings. His fondness for and belief in all things Republican probably answers too, Erik Prince's problem with honesty.

[Use link above to continue reading]


Nobody will filibuster in the Senate...

From David Sirota:

Dems Fume About the Tyranny of the Tiny Minority

By David Sirota
Working Assets, 10/17/07

The Hill Newspaper has an interesting story today about how House
Democrats, led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, are fuming over the U.S.
Senate's tyranny of the tiny minority - the situation which I
mathematically detailed a few weeks ago whereby a tiny segment of the
population has the Senate representation to stop anything. The Hill
says there is "a deepening frustration among House Democrats, who are
irritated with lack of progress in the Senate and are starting to
publicly press their Senate counterparts to stop letting Republicans
use procedural tactics and instead force Republicans to carry out a
filibuster, if that's what it takes."

I (obviously) agree with that. Except what the House Democrats have
not said is that Senate Democrats could use the filibuster for the
progressive agenda. For instance, Senate Democrats could filibuster
any Iraq war spending bill that is a blank check with no provisions
to end the war. Remember the whole "nuclear option" terminology in
the Senate? That derived from the fact that the filibuster is a sort
of mutually destruction - that is, both sides can use it if they
want. One of the big problems is that only one side seems genuinely
interested in using it.

Another huge problem is that Senate Democrats have empowered people
like Montana Sen. Max Baucus (D) to chair panels like the Finance
Committee - the most powerful panel in the Congress, which oversees
tax, trade and health care policies. The story explains why that is a

"Looking ahead, Democrats in the lower chamber see more unpalatable
compromises on issues like tax policy, where they are disappointed to
see their goals in the hands of cautious centrist Sen. Max Baucus
(D-Mont.). House Democrats say on tax issues, they are constantly
told that nothing can get off the ground unless nine or 10 Republican
senators will agree to it. 'Everybody says, 'What can we get in the
Senate?'' explains Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.). 'So we have to go
over to Max Baucus with hat in hand.'"
Again, Senate Democrats have made a deliberate decision to put Baucus
in that position. Sure, he has seniority, but it is the collective
decision of the Senate Democratic Caucus to put him in that position.
You may recall a few years back that House Republicans installed Rep.
Bill Thomas (R-CA) as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee
over the more senior Rep. Phil Crane (R-IL). Democrats could do the
same - but they don't want to.

So I give Pelosi and House Democrats credit for raising the issues
surrounding the tyranny of the tiny minority. I hope it puts pressure
on Senate Democrats to get serious, especially considering a new poll
out today showing that the Democratic Congress's approval ratings
continue to plummet. But just remember, there are powerful forces in
Permanent Washington that want to preserve the gridlock and that love
the tyranny of the tiny minority. Some of these forces are right
within the Democratic Party itself, as I will show in my next
nationally syndicated newspaper column, out this Friday. Stay tuned.