Saturday, August 27, 2005
CRAWFORD, United States (AFP) - Tensions mounted in President George W. Bush's hometown, as a small army of his supporters poured in to challenge demonstrators opposed to the war in Iraq.
Protests and counter-protests were planned throughout the day, with both sides flying the US flag or wearing its red, white and blue colors, and everyone agreeing that it was paramount to "support the troops" fighting thousands of miles away.
Two names were on everyone's lips: Cindy Sheehan, right, the central anti-war protester whose soldier son Casey was killed in Iraq in April 2004, and Gary Qualls, left, whose son Louis was killed in Iraq and who has repeatedly objected to Sheehan supporters using a cross with his son's name in their protest. Sheehan & Qualls are shown in this Aug. 13 photo when they met and shared a hug.
Pro-Bush demonstrators, headquartered at a makeshift "Fort Qualls" in central Crawford, planned a midday rally, while Sheehan's supporters, settled at "Camp Casey" outside this town of 705 people, were expected to hold a noon peace vigil.
"Camp Casey is just that, a camp. This is a fort. This is a war, and we're going to win it," Bill Johnson, 63, told AFP, while sitting in the shade at Fort Qualls, which sits on his property.
Nearby, sweating in the searing Texas summer sun, was Brad Ward, who drove from Austin, Texas, to Crawford early Saturday and waved a sign with a peace symbol on it and the description "Footprint of the American Chicken."
"I'm here to support the president and the troops and honor the fallen hero, Specialist Casey Sheehan, since his mother is disgracing his memory," said Ward, an army veteran who never saw combat because "the Gulf War ended before I could get over there."
Ward, who packed "a big cooler full of water" for his day-long trip to Crawford, urged reporters to "tell our side, since you told hers (Sheehan's)."
A private security guard, taking a cigarette break in the shade of a giant plastic monument to the Ten Commandments, said there had been a few shouting matches but "no real trouble."
Johnson, who owns a souvenir store that does brisk business in Bush-related trinkets, said he was moved to act when Qualls came to him, angry that Sheehan supporters had planted a cross with his son's name on it at their camp.
"It's wrong what they're doing, putting up those crosses without the families' permission," he said.
Over at the "Crawford Peace House," anti-war activists were hard pressed to control the caravan of cars pulling in, packed with Sheehan supporters. One protester waved a sign that said "Impeach Bush, his lies kill."
The president stayed out of sight on Saturday, but in his weekly radio address he urged patience with Iraq's constitutional process, saying Iraqis were "making the tough choices and compromises necessary for a free and peaceful future."
"Our efforts in Iraq and the broader Middle East will require more time, more sacrifice and continued resolve. Yet people across the Middle East are choosing a future of freedom and prosperity and hope," he said.
Source: AFP-Yahoo News.
Chronicle: Ethics probe, upcoming race keep DeLay worried, close to home over break
By SAMANTHA LEVINE - Houston Chronicle Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON - Tom DeLay, left, at a senior citizens' sock hop that featured a DJ dressed as Elvis, Tommy Blaze, and Sugar Land Mayor David Wallace? You betcha.
And he wasn't roped into attending, either.
His office called the Sugar Land Parks & Recreation Department and said the House majority leader wanted to attend the event at the Sugar Land Community Center earlier this month.
"I was a little shocked," said officer Todd Zettlemoyer of the Sugar Land Police Department, which helped organize the dance as part of a neighborhood crime-awareness program.
"This was the first year that we had the congressman there," he said. "He no sooner walked in the door than he had a crowd around him."
That was the whole point.
In recent weeks, DeLay has worked his constituency harder than he has in years. He popped up at more than 20 local gigs, from speeches to the La Marque Rotary Club and the Texas Chiropractic College in Pasadena to high-profile ceremonies at NASA and Ellington Field.
On one day alone, DeLay held an ice cream social in Pearland, a barbecue luncheon in Sugar Land and an hors d'oeuvres hour in Pasadena.
All that pavement-pounding is critical for the Sugar Land Republican: His rock-solid majority has been diluted by the addition of Democratic-leaning areas in Galveston County to his district, his overseas travel may soon be the subject of a House Ethics Committee inquiry, and he faces opposition next year from a well-funded Democrat.
Full Houston Chronicle story.
WashPost: Outsider's Quick Rise To Bush Terror Adviser
By Susan B. Glasser and Peter Baker - Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, August 27, 2005; Page A01
Frances Fragos Townsend, right, wanted an answer.
The government's senior terrorism officials were poring through intelligence reports last summer suggesting that New York's financial district was being targeted by al Qaeda. The question at hand was whether to raise the nation's terrorism threat level to orange. Asa Hutchinson, then an undersecretary at the Department of Homeland Security, recalled that he deferred to his absent boss. But Townsend, the top White House adviser on counterterrorism and homeland security, had a higher authority to invoke. "You don't understand," she said. "The president will be calling momentarily. We need your position."
From the low-ceilinged, windowless confines of a basement office in the West Wing, Townsend runs President Bush's far-flung campaign against terrorism. Her two predecessors were four-star generals who brought decades of experience to the fight. Townsend, 43, a former mob prosecutor, has a different credential -- the president's ear.
Just a little over two years ago, she had never met Bush and was viewed with suspicion by the inner circle of a tribalistic White House that does not easily accept outsiders. But the hard-charging Townsend has parlayed a succession of powerful patrons into one of the government's most important jobs. Along the way, in a city where partisan lines are rarely bridged, she has transformed herself from confidante of then-Attorney General Janet Reno to a confidante of George W. Bush.
In many ways, Townsend is the perfect match for a leader who sees the battle with al Qaeda as a black-and-white struggle against radical outlaws. At a time when experts in and out of government complain that the White House is more focused on killing and capturing Osama bin Laden's inner circle than the broader task of countering a rapidly metastasizing global jihad movement, Townsend offers Bush a "tactical, one-at-a-time prosecutor, 'get the bad guys' approach," said a former senior official who worked closely with her.
Full Washington Post feature article.
Reuters: Judge rules against pentagon, for Pa. National Guard - Aug. 27
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, left, is shown at a press briefing at the pentagon.
A federal judge ruled yesterday that the Pentagon had broken the law in seeking to close down the 111th Fighter Wing of the Pennsylvania Air Nation Guard without first obtaining the governor's approval.
Illinois has also sued the Pentagon over the plan and Missouri has threatened similar action, saying Rumsfeld had 'run roughshod' over states' Constitutional rights to run militias.
Friday, August 26, 2005
Reuters: Library Sues Over Controversial Patriot Act
By Chris Sanders
NEW YORK - A controversial Patriot Act clause allowing the U.S. government to demand information about library patrons' borrowing habits is being challenged in federal court for the first time by a library.
The lawsuit was filed against U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and FBI Director Robert Mueller in the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut by an unnamed library and the American Civil Liberties Union.
The suit -- filed on August 9 and made public by the ACLU on Thursday -- calls the FBI's order to produce library records "unconstitutional on its face" and said a gag order preventing public discussion of the lawsuit is an unlawful restraint on speech.
Critical details of the lawsuit were blacked out on the ACLU's Web site in compliance with the gag order. The library is thought to be based in Connecticut since the lawsuit was filed there with the participation of the Connecticut branch of the ACLU.
The ACLU said in its lawsuit that legal changes made under the Patriot Act "remove any requirement of individualized suspicion, (and) the FBI may now ... demand sensitive information about innocent people."
Enacted after the September 11, 2001, attacks, the Patriot Act lets U.S. authorities seek approval from a special court to search personal records of terror suspects from bookstores, businesses, hospitals and libraries, in a provision known as the library clause.
The FBI letter requesting the information, called a National Security Letter, is effectively a gag order because it tells the recipient that the request must be kept secret.
As a result, "the Patriot Act is itself gagging public debate about the Patriot Act," said Ann Beeson, the ACLU's lead lawyer in the case.
The civil liberties group has asked the District Court to lift the gag order so its client can participate in the public debate and upcoming congressional hearings on the Patriot Act. A hearing about lifting the gag order is scheduled for Wednesday in Bridgeport, Connecticut.
An FBI spokesman referred calls to the Department of Justice. A Justice spokesman said the department had no comment and declined to say if it had required libraries to turn over records under the Patriot Act.
The U.S. House of Representatives, ignoring protests from civil liberties groups, voted this summer to reauthorize 16 provisions of the act that expire at the end of the year, including the library clause. The Senate is expected to take up the matter after lawmakers return from an August recess.
A copy of the ACLU lawsuit said the library involved "strictly guards the confidentiality and privacy of its library and Internet records, and believes it should not be forced to disclose such records without a showing of compelling need and approval by a judge."
The FBI, in a copy of the letter demanding the library records and attached to the lawsuit, said "the information sought is relevant to an authorized investigation to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities."
Source: Reuters-Common Dreams.
CNN: Sheehan now looks to take on Congress
Iraq war protester says she'll start with Texas Republican Tom DeLay
Friday, August 26, 2005; Posted: 8:11 p.m. EDT (00:11 GMT)
CRAWFORD, Texas (Reuters) -- Iraq war protester Cindy Sheehan (left, in front of a painting of her son Casey Sheehan) said Friday she plans to expand her focus to Congress, starting with House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, a Bush ally and fellow Texan.
Sheehan has been camped outside the president's Crawford, Texas, ranch this month, seeking a meeting with him to discuss the U.S. presence in Iraq, where her son was killed in 2004.
She plans to begin a bus tour on Thursday to the White House to campaign for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.
One of DeLay's Texas district offices, near Houston, would likely be the first stop, she said. That is about a five-and-a-half hour drive from Bush's ranch, near Waco, where he is on a month-long vacation.
"I think our first stop might be Tom DeLay's office," she said, surrounded by supporters. "I just wanted to let him know, so he'll be in his office when we get there."
A spokeswoman for DeLay said his schedule was already set and did not plan to change it to meet with Sheehan.
"Mr. DeLay disagrees with those who believe we should give the terrorists the timeline they want and simply cut and run from the war in Iraq," said DeLay spokeswoman Shannon Flaherty.
Full CNN-Reuters story.
AP: People support right to protest war
WASHINGTON, Aug. 26 - An overwhelming number of people say critics of the Iraq war should be free to voice their objections - a rare example of widespread agreement about a conflict that has divided the nation along partisan lines.
Nearly three weeks after a grieving California mother named Cindy Sheehan, shown at press conference at right, started her anti-war protest near President Bush's Texas ranch, nine of 10 people surveyed in an AP-Ipsos poll say it's OK for war opponents to publicly share their concerns about the conflict.
"Part of the Constitution is the First Amendment," said Mike Malone, a salesman from Odessa, Fla. "We have the right to disagree with the government."
With the U.S. death toll in Iraq climbing past 1,870 with an especially bloody August, the public's opinion of the Bush administration's handling of the war has been eroding over the past two years.
Overall attitudes about the war - while negative - haven't changed dramatically through the summer and a solid majority, 60 percent, want U.S. troops to stick it out until Iraq is stable.
The poll found that most people disapprove of the Bush administration's conduct of the war and think the war was a mistake. Half believe it has increased the threat of terrorism. Democrats overwhelmingly question the president's policies, while Republicans overwhelmingly support them.
Public doubts about the war have gotten new attention since Sheehan, who lost her son Casey in Iraq last year, took her protest to Crawford, Texas, on Aug. 6.
Hundreds of fellow protesters have been drawn to Camp Casey, named for her 24-year-old son. Sheehan's protest sparked hundreds of vigils around the country a week ago. It has also produced plans by military families who support the war to come to Crawford for a pro-Bush rally. The president says Sheehan doesn't represent the views of many military families.
"I never claimed that I spoke for all the military families, but I know I speak for a lot of military families and Gold Star families," she told NBC's "Today" show today. "And the president really doesn't ever talk to someone who disagrees with him, so of course he hears his side of the story."
The AP-Ipsos poll found that Republicans are the most likely to disapprove of people voicing opposition to the war.
Retiree Ruth Carver of Sellersburg, Ind., said she disagrees with Sheehan's protest. "I think her son would be ashamed of her," said Carver, a Republican. "If I don't like what's going on, I can go to the polls every four years."
The poll found that 37 percent approve of the way the Bush administration is conducting the war. Three-fourths of Republicans and only 15 percent of Democrats in the poll approve.
Support for Bush's handling of the war was stronger among those who know someone who has served in Iraq - almost half - compared with about a quarter of those who don't know someone who served in Iraq.
More than half of those polled, 53 percent, say the United States made a mistake in going to war in Iraq. That level of opposition is about the same as the number who said that about Vietnam in August 1968, six months after the Tet offensive - the massive North Vietnamese attack on South Vietnamese cities that helped turn U.S. opinion against that war. Various polls have shown that erosion of war support has been faster in Iraq than during the Vietnam War in the 1960s.
"Our attention span is simply shorter," said Charles Franklin, a political scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. "Our willingness to put up with a difficult military situation and losses isn't what it used to be."
With anti-war protesters getting increased attention, the president has been defending his war policies in speeches in Utah and Idaho, warning that an early withdrawal from Iraq would hurt the United States.
While disagreeing with Sheehan's call to pull troops out of Iraq, Bush said, "I strongly support her right to protest."
A solid majority of the public agrees with Bush's stance on staying in Iraq. Six in 10 in the poll support keeping troops in Iraq until it is stabilized rather than pulling them out now.
Robin Brown, a Republican from Douglasville, Ga., says the U.S. troops will eventually achieve their mission "if people will hang in there with them."
Iraqi political leaders have been struggling to reach agreement on a constitution that would be acceptable to Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds.
Vivian Snyder, a Republican from Staten Island, N.Y., said she disagreed with the decision to invade Iraq, but doesn't want troops to leave yet. "Otherwise, it's all for nothing."
The poll of 1,001 adults was conducted Aug. 22-24 by Ipsos, an international polling firm, and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
Trevor Tompson, AP's manager of news surveys, contributed to this story.
Source: AP-Worldlink story.
Van Os wisdom
Spend your energy figuring out right and wrong rather than right and left.
- David Van Os, candidate for Attorney General of Texas (in white hat in photo, left, visiting with Cindy Sheehan, center, and Dave Haigler, left, in Crawford, Tx, on Aug. 11, 2005
.An internal CIA report criticizes ex-CIA chief George Tenet, right, pictured last year, and several other former and current CIA officials for not dealing effectively with Al-Qaeda before the September 11 attacks, The New York Times said.(AFP/File/Luke Frazza)D.H.: George W. Bush let this man and the CIA take the fall for bad intelligence on Iraq, but when Tenet resigned as CIA Director, Bush gave him a medal for his wonderful performance.Which is is, Mr. President?
AFP: Bush, Kennedy spar over "staying the course"
NAMPA, United States (AFP) - US President George W. Bush (below left) contrasted a military mother whose five sons and husband have served in Iraq with anti-war protestors he said risked emboldening terrorists.
"There are few things in life more difficult than seeing a loved one go off to war. Here, in Idaho, a mom named Tammy Pruett ... knows that feeling six times over," the president said in a speech to citizen soldiers here.
His salute to Pruett was a clear response to anti-war protestor Cindy Sheehan, who has besieged the president at his Texas ranch and demanded a meeting with him to discuss the death of her soldier son in Iraq.
Bush, who was to meet with relatives of troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan after his speech, has increasingly criticized Sheehan as unrepresentative of most military families he meets.
Bush said Pruett has four sons serving in the Idaho National Guard in Iraq, and that her husband and another son came home from Iraq in 2004 after helping to train firefighters in the city of Mosul.
The president quoted her as saying "'I know that if something happens to one of the boys, they would leave this world doing what they believe, what they believe is right for our country. And I guess you couldn't ask for a better way of life than giving it for something you believe in.'"
"America lives in freedom because of families like the Pruetts," said Bush, who faced slumping approval ratings and polls showing that a majority of the US public thinks the war in Iraq was a mistake.
Democratic Senator Edward Kennedy, right, said in reaction to Bush's speech, that more than "photo-ops and spin" are needed to win the Iraq war.
"(Bush) needs to realize what most Americans now understand that staying the course is not an option."
Bush, who was to return to his ranch later in the day, also repeated his attack on anti-war protestors as dangerous isolationists, and said they advocated policies that would embolden terrorists.
Full AFP story.
KSLI: BRAC votes to strike the closing of Ellsworth
.Abilene, Aug. 26. KSLI-AM radio 1280 reported at 8:20 this morning that the BRAC Commission just voted 8/1 to strike the DoD recommendation to close Ellsworth AFB and send its B-1s to Dyess and Dyess's C-130s to Little Rock AFB.The effect of the vote is apparently to leave the status quo in place at Abilene's Dyess AFB.-Submitted by Dave Haigler, Abilene, Texasblog: http://demlog.blogspot.com
Slate-Papers: The Sunni Don't Shine - Aug. 26
By Eric UmanskyPosted Friday, Aug. 26, 2005, at 3:46 AM CT
The Wall Street Journal's world-wide newsbox and the New York Times lead with Iraqi politicians again missing their deadline for passing a draft constitution; they granted themselves another day. The NYT, which has the most pessimistic and detailed take, says early yesterday Shiites decided to "ignore the Sunnis' request for changes," bypass the national assembly, and instead present the (still vague and perhaps incomplete) draft to voters as is. Then President Bush called a top Shiite leader and got the one-day delay. The Washington Post leads with the federal base commission's decision to, as the WP describes it, "close" the storied-but-dated Walter Reed Hospital. Staff at the nearly 100-year-old facility will move three miles across town to the National Naval Medical Center, which will be renamed, of course, Walter Reed Hospital. USA Today leads with a Pentagon panel saying the military hasn't done enough to combat sexual harassment at military academies. It pointed some fingers at the military's macho culture. "When women are devalued, the likelihood of harassing and even abusive behavior increases," said the panel, which offered 14 recommendations. The Los Angeles Times leads with the big news that Angelinos in the tony 310 area code must now suffer and dial 11 numbers even when phoning inside the area code.
The NYT quotes an administration official celebrating "substantial and real progress" toward a compromise draft constitution. The WP gives of glimpse how Iraqi politicians are burning the midnight oil to get a deal the national assembly can agree on: "Late Thursday, as negotiations continued, political leaders sent out word for assembly members to stay home, canceling the 400 dinners ordered for lawmakers and staff members."
Sunni groups are saying they'll organize voters against the draft, which goes to a national referendum Oct. 15. The document goes six feet under if two-thirds of voters in any three of Iraq's 18 provinces vote against it. It's unclear if Sunnis have the numbers for that.
The Post's front-page Iraq wrap-up plays down the draft issues and instead headlines the "surging" political violence: About 100 Iraqis have been killed in the past two days. The WP says 40 Iraqisa mix of civilians and policewere killed along with one American contractor Wednesday when insurgents "laid siege" to one neighborhood. Meanwhile, 36 men were found handcuffed and executed near the Iranian border. The Post notices that while police said the men were wearing Kurdish-style baggy pants, photographers "found bodies clad in normal clothing."
As the NYT details, radical cleric Moqtada Sadr told his followers to step back from confrontations with a rival government-allied Shiite militia. Still, the Times says there were reports of a few apparently Sadr-centered gun battles early this morning in Baghdad. USAT mentions that gunmen attacked the caravan used by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, below left; he wasn't in it at the time, but eight bodyguards were killed.
The WP fronts scientists announcing that they've discovered a hormone in mice that extends their lifespan. Mice whose genes were tinkered with to overproduce the hormone lived 20 percent to 30 percent longer than normal. The Post calls the hormone the "first substance identified that is produced naturally in mammals, including humans, and can extend life span."
The LAT fronts current and former Park Service bureaucrats grumbling about an administration proposal to loosen regulations at national parks. The proposed regs allow more mining, more snowmobile use, and rollback of the overall standards for protection of the parks. "They are changing the whole nature of who we are and what we have been," said the manager of Death Valley National Park.
The NYT teases a sneak peek at a long-awaited internal CIA report on 9/11 failures. The report points fingers, including at former Chief George Tenet, right.
Tenet before 9/11 apparently forgot to develop a serious plan against al-Qaida despite having penned a 1998 memo proclaiming "we are at war."
Eric Umansky (www.ericumansky.com) writes "Today's Papers" for Slate. He can be reached at email@example.com .
Source: Slate Magazine.
NYT: Charter Talks in Iraq Reach Breaking Point - Aug. 26
Mr. Bush intervened when some senior Shiite leaders said they had decided to bypass their Sunni counterparts, as well as Iraqi lawmakers, and send the document directly to Iraqi voters for their approval.
The calls by Shiite leaders to ignore the Sunnis' request for changes to the draft constitution provoked threats from the Sunnis that they would urge their people to reject the document when it goes before voters in a national referendum in October.
At day's end, American officials in Washington declared that the Iraqis had made "substantial and real progress" toward a deal on the constitution. And senior Iraqi leaders said they would make a last-ditch effort on Friday to strike a deal.
But after so many days of fruitless negotiations, some senior political leaders here suggested that time had run out.
"There are still some negotiations, but if we don't have any compromise, then that's it," said Sheik Khalid al-Atiyya, a Shiite negotiator. "We will go to the election to vote on it."
A decision by the Shiites to move ahead without the Sunnis would be a considerable blow to efforts by the Bush administration to bring the leaders of the Sunni minority into the negotiations over the constitution.
Mr. Bush and American officials here have expressed hope that bringing the Sunnis into the drafting of the constitution could help coax them into the political mainstream, and ultimately begin to undercut support for the guerrilla insurgency. The Sunnis largely boycotted the parliamentary elections in January.
In recent weeks, Sunni leaders across north and central Iraq have begun telling their communities to register for and vote in the Oct. 15 referendum on the constitution and in the parliamentary elections scheduled for December. That trend could be endangered if Sunni leaders are not part of a deal on the constitution.
Indeed, the events of Thursday raised the prospect that the Sunnis would try to reject the constitution when it goes before the voters. Under the rules agreed to last year, a two-thirds majority voting against the constitution in any three of Iraq's 18 provinces would send the document down to defeat. The Sunnis are thought to constitute a majority in three provinces.
By Thursday night, Sunni leaders were declaring that they had been victimized by the majority Shiites, and they were already making plans to sink the constitution at the polls.
"We will call on people to say no to this constitution," said Kamal Hamdoun, a Sunni leader who is head of the Iraqi Bar Association. "This constitution was written by the powerful people, not by the people."
"This constitution achieved the ambitions of the people who are in power," he added.
The Sunni leaders adamantly oppose language in the constitution that could allow the Shiites to create a vast autonomous region in the oil-rich southern part of the country. In the current draft, the constitution says each province may form its own federal region and join with others.
In the debate over autonomous regions, the Kurds, who already have one such region in the north, largely stood on the sidelines. But the Sunnis say that such an arrangement could cripple the Iraqi state, and that the Shiite autonomous region would probably fall under the sway of their Shiite-dominated neighbor, Iran.
Despites their protests, there are widespread doubts about the sincerity of the Sunni negotiators. Most of the 15 members of the Sunni negotiating committee were members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party, and there is a growing sense among Shiite leaders that their primary goal is to block any agreement at all.
In any case, the Shiite leadership has been ardent in its desire to set up a Shiite-dominated autonomous region, particularly Abdul Aziz Hakim, shown in a poster at right, a cleric and the leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq. As advocated by Mr. Hakim, the Shiite region would comprise nine of Iraq's 18 provinces, nearly half the nation's population and its richest oil fields.
Mr. Hakim and many of the senior members of his group, the Supreme Council, lived for many years in Iran and even fought on the Iranian side during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980's. The Supreme Council is suspected by American officials of receiving large amounts of assistance from the Iranian government.
Full NYTimes story.
Thursday, August 25, 2005
.August 25 - Media Matters for America today reports that on yesterday's FOX News "Hannity & Colmes" show co-host Sean Hannity, left, discussed Pat Robertson's remarks on assassinating a foreign leader as something that "some say" that Robertson said.In discussing Robertson's August 22 statements and the resulting controversy, Hannity & Colmes guest and former CIA operative Wayne Simmons endorsed the assassination of not only Chavez but also Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and North Korean ruler Kim Jong Il. Simmons runs the Simmons commuter airline in Maryland now.Source: MMfA.
POAC: Source of irreverant news/views
The Project for the OLD American Century is a grass-roots organization that strives to protect and strengthen democracy primarily by disseminating unreported and underreported news stories from a perspective untainted by political or corporate sponsorship.
The Project for the Old American Century conducts its own research and compiles dossiers made available to the public both via the web or in print free of charge. Topics include conflicts of interest inside government agencies, specific profiles of top public officials, data acquired through the Freedom of Information Act, and much more.
Funding from the project comes solely from reader donations and sales of POAC merchandise.
Source: Bill Burkett sent this to me. Click here for POAC website.
Slate-Papers: Basing Instinct - Aug. 25
By Eric Umansky - Posted Thursday, at 4:30 AM CT
The New York Times, USA Today, and Washington Post all lead with the independent base commission breaking with the Pentagon's proposals and deciding to keep a submarine base in Connecticut and a big shipyard in Maine. Overall, the Pentagon has suggested closing 62 major bases, and the commission is expected to take the next few days working through the list. Except for yesterday's two surprises, the commission has basically stuck to the Pentagon's proposals. The president and Congress can both reject the commission's recommendations, but neither is expected to. The Los Angeles Times fronts the commission but leads with more worry from Iraqis that the draft constitution is too Islam-heavy. The piece also acknowledges, as Slate's Mickey Kaus has argued, that the draft is actually so vague that nobody knows how it will play out.
Considering Iraq's draft constitution, one Islamic scholar in the U.S. said, "It's not a workable document. They brushed their differences under the carpet and crafted language that they could vote for."
Particularly considering that the draft's clauses on Islam are so fuzzy, TP wonders if the papers are making a mistake by giving so much play to religion and relatively little to the more concrete and actually explosive issue with the draft: federalism. It doesn't make for the sizzling headline that "impending theocracy" does and doesn't trigger our base anxieties. But it could spark a civil war.
"Rather than an inclusive document, it is more a recipe for separation based on Shiite and Kurdish privilege," one well-regarded analyst told the Post. "It may well be more of a prelude to civil war than a step forward." One superstar law prof and former administration adviser added, "A constitution that is a deal between the Shiites and Kurds is not a deal."
So far as TP sees, the Post is the only paper that gives significant space to the federalism concerns, and even then it's stuffed inside with a vague headline.
As only the Wall Street Journal says up high, about a half-dozen people were killed in the holy city of Najaf in fighting between militiamen loyal to cleric Moqtada Sadr, shown in a poster below left, and what were apparently government troops. It's unclear how it started, but the Post says the troops Sadr tussled with are actually loyal to a rival Shiite faction. (As the Post recently noted, government forces and Shiite militia are often one and the same.)
Two Iraqi ministers and 21 lawmakers connected to Sadr said they're, basically, calling in sick in protest. Meanwhile, the papers also have scattered reports of Sadr vs. Shiite militia fighting in Basra and even Baghdad. Knight Ridderwhose Baghdad bureau chief speaks Arabichas fine reporting on the fighting. One of its reporters overheard Sadr commanders ordering supporters to torch rival Shiite offices "without killing anyone." (None of the papers venture to guess why Sadr is making so much trouble now. The most compelling analysis TP has seen is by a time-tested blogger named Swopa.)
In Baghdad, about a dozen Iraqis were killed and 60 woundedpolice and civilianswhen insurgents launched a multipronged attack on some police units.
The Post, for some reason, fronts a sleepy dispatch on President Bush offering yet another speech emphasizing that the U.S. isn't going anywhere in Iraq. "We will stay, we will fight, and we will win the war on terror," the president said.
Meanwhile, the Financial Times quotes yet another top commander, Major General Douglas Lute, below right, stressing that the U.S. is planning to draw down its forces. "We believe at some point, in order to break this dependence on the coalition, you simply have to back off and let the Iraqis step forward," said the general, who's director of operations for CENTCOM. "You have to undercut the perception of occupation in Iraq. It's very difficult to do that when you have 150,000-plus, largely western, foreign troops occupying the country." (TP wondered the other week about tension between the White House and military.)
The Post fronts and the NYT teases news that with less than a month to go before a big U.N. conference on reform, the U.S., in the Post's words, "threw it into turmoil" with more than 750 proposed amendments to the conference's draft agreement. Among other things, it called for striking sections supportive of greater foreign aid and one on global warming. The Post's take is clearer and has starker language than the NYT, but TP isn't sure which is more accurate.
The NYT mentions that Israeli officials confirmed plans to expropriate more West Bank land near Jerusalem in order to put one Jewish West Bank neighborhood behind the security barrier. Secretary of State Rice has previously warned Israel not to make the move, which could cut off thousands of Palestinians from Jerusalem. Meanwhile, an Israeli raid in the West Bank killed four militants. And a Palestinian fatally stabbed one Israeli man and wounded another in Jerusalem.
A front-page USAT story notices that whatever the perception offered by cable news, sexual assaults against children have fallen by about 40 percent in the last decade.
Everybody notes that televangelist Pat Robertson (looking old already in this 2001 file photo, left) apologized for suggesting that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez be assassinated. "I said our Special Forces should 'take him out,' " explained Robertson. " 'Take him out' could be a number of things, including kidnapping." D.H.: Oh, pull-eaze -- this is the third different & conflicting attempt by Robertson to explain his assassination statement away. This man says God speaks to him, but is he listening? Meanwhile, Chavez was quoted leaving Cuba Tuesday saying he didn't even know who Robertson was.
Eric Umansky (www.ericumansky.com) writes "Today's Papers" for Slate. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Source: Slate Magazine.
Barhorst: Texas Governor sends e-mail about Gay marriage
Our Texas Governor is pushing a "Marriage Amendment" to our Texas Constitution really hard. Governor Sends E-mail Opposing Same Sex Marriage Amendment.
What I've gleaned from readings through the years is that marriage isn't a Bible thing. It really isn't even a Christian God thing. By using some inductive logic and reading a lot of history, I have come to believe that a formal Marriage was about primogeniture, as was the importance of virginity before the ceremony.
Also, "What God has put together let no man put asunder." went out the window by majority (Christian)laws, long ago. It also has fairly obvious connotations of the defence of primogeniture.
So why the to-do about gay marriage? It's all about money. It's all about bigotry. It's all about control. It's all hypocracy.
Love does not limit itself to being between a man and a woman. . . Nor did God limit love to being between a man and a woman. There is absolutely no legitimate reason Gays and Lesbians shouln't be able to have a civil wedding or a church wedding if that particular faith is not bigotted.
Terry D. Barhorst Sr.
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Aug 25, 2005 : 9:21 am ET
BAGHDAD, Iraq -- A parliamentary spokesman said the Iraqi National Assembly (shown below right voting to extend an earlier deadline on Aug. 15) will not meet Thursday to decide on the draft constitution and no date for a new session has been set. Source: AP-Yahoo Breaking News-Herald Sun.
D.H.: The White House has been prating all week on the progress on this constitution, and the news alerts all night last night predicting the Assembly would meet and pass this constitution today. Now, it's not happening. CNN News at 9 a.m. this morning said the sticking points were federalism and the Sunnis lack of inclusion.
Wednesday, August 24, 2005
.Associated Press Writer
CRAWFORD, Texas - Cindy Sheehan, left, cries after seeing a portrait of her son, Army Spc. Casey Sheehan who was killed in Iraq, at Camp Casey next to President Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas, Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2005. Sheehan returned to Texas and her anti-war vigil after a weeklong absence for a family emergency. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
About a dozen protesters who have continued the peace vigil picked up Cindy Sheehan at the Waco airport Wednesday afternoon, six days after she flew to Los Angeles when her 74-year-old mother suffered a stroke.
"This is where I belong, until Aug. 31, like I told the president," Sheehan said at the airport before driving about 20 miles to the Crawford site.
More than two weeks after Sheehan started camping off the main road leading to Bush's ranch, vowing to stay through his monthlong vacation unless he met with her, she continues drawing harsh criticism as well as support.
Conservative activists and military families were en route to Crawford from California on a tour called "You don't speak for me, Cindy!" The caravan coordinated by Move America Forward plans to hold a pro-Bush rally in town Saturday.
Among those defending Sheehan are former U.S. ambassador Joseph Wilson, below right, who believes that his wife's identity as an undercover CIA operative was leaked in retaliation for his criticism of the Bush administration in a 2002 New York Times op-ed piece.
"The Bush White House and its right-wing allies are responding to Cindy Sheehan and the military families vigil in Central Texas in the same way that they always respond to bad news - by unleashing personal attacks and smears against her," Wilson said in a statement released Wednesday.
Later Wednesday, Bush was to return to Texas after a three-day trip to Idaho where he met with some military families and gave speeches to rally support for the war. He said Tuesday that he appreciates Sheehan's right to protest and understands her anguish, although she does not represent the views of a lot of families with whom he has met.
Sheehan and other grieving families met with Bush about two months after her son died last year, before reports of faulty prewar intelligence surfaced and caused her to become a vocal opponent of the war.
August 24, 2005 - 5:03 p.m. CDT - Source: AP-Austin American Statesman.
Limbaugh: Sheehan is not real - Aug. 24
Nationally syndicated entertainer Rush Limbaugh said on his radio show today, 11:44 a.m., CDT, "there is nothing real about Cindy Sheehan." He then muttered, "Here I go again," referring to the tempest over saying the same thing in the past few days and being taken to task for it. He proceeded to say Mrs. Sheehan is a total fabrication by the "liberal media," that is, no one would be paying her any attention if it were not for the media circus he claims is happening.
I have just a few questions: Is it a media frenzy that caused thousands of small donations to come into the Crawford Peace House since Aug. 6, when Mrs. Sheehan's protest started? The Peace House, which had its phone cut off and had $3 in the bank, with a mortgage to pay. The Peace House that has had around $200,000 in small donations come in since Aug. 6 -- is that all because of a "liberal media" fabrication?
And if Cindy Sheehan is a total fabrication, why is the president spending every news conference now trying to say how he sympathizes with Mrs. Sheehan, and she has a right to protest, but he sincerely disagrees with her?
-Submitted by Dave Haigler, Abilene, Texas
Reuters: Chavez promotes Cuban medical training
Cuban President Fidel Castro (R) and his Venezuelan counterpart Hugo Chavez (L) talk to media before Chavez's departure at Havana's Jose Marti airport August 23, 2005.
Chavez was ending a three-day trip to Cuba where he attended the graduation of 1,610 Cuban-trained doctors from 28 countries.
Conservative U.S. evangelist Pat Robertson called for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, but top U.S. officials denied on August 23, 2005 that any such act was being contemplated -- and noted it would be illegal.
After reading several articles on the present “Constitution discussions” in Iraq and viewing the Tom Hanks movie “Terminal,” my head took one of its usual segues. Many of the Sunnis and those of other religions fear a Shi’ite religious takeover.
One key word is “fear.”
The other is “Asylum.”
In their hurry up push-push to make political points via the Iraqi constitution, the Bush administration may be setting up Iraq for a Taliban type political takeover of a least part of the country, because they are not insisting on a separation of church and state. Iraq is not all Islamic. Even in those areas that are Islamic, many are secular rather than religionist or fundamentalist. It is these people who will fear for their lives, safety and freedom in a political environment of fundamental religion. After the history of the Taliban the fear factor stands already proved.
Any person who fears for their life, safety and freedom in the political environment of their native country may seek asylum in the United States.
Some of these people with a legitimate fear of the political religious regime are those that are building IEDs and hate the United States. The fundamentalist clerics will attack politically and probably physically all those who do not follow their perception of the Koran and the “laws” it sets forth—Afghanistan can surely be held as an example.
By our own laws, if they reach the United States, we would have to give them “Asylum.”
Would that really be enhancing the security and safety of our country and citizens?
By their own struggle to close the gap between government and religion hasn’t the Bush administration placed themselves and the rest of us in an untenable and dangerous position in our dealings in Iraq?
How do you say no to the fanatic clerics of another great religion when you do not say no to the fanatic clerics of your own religion?
Terry D. Barhorst
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.By Eric Umansky - Posted Wednesday, at 3:05 AM CT
Citing a "confidential draft proposal," the New York Times' lead says New York and eight other Northeastern states are near agreement to unilaterally freeze power-plant emissions and then reduce greenhouse gas levels by 10 percent by 2020. The plan comes after the Bush administration decided not to regulate greenhouse gases from power plants. The Times says a few Western states, including California, are considering following their eastern brethren. The Los Angeles Times' lead reports that a few non-profit organizations, headed by lobbyists and funded by industry, have been quietly donating money to Gov. Schwarzenegger (right) -- in one instance being so kind as to cover the governor's rent in Sacramento. The groups aren't required to disclose their contributors or contributions. But as the LAT notes, the group's industry backers have had plenty of business before the governor's office. (The paper briefly mentions that other elected politicians have had similar deals.) USA Today leads with the Army speeding up plans to replace the Humvee. The new vehicle, which could be ready by 2008, will be designed from the ground-up to operate in IED-heavy areas (read: Iraq. Humvees weren't designed to face bombs and other frontline threats). The Washington Post leads with Virginia Sen. John Warner making noise that the Pentagon "rigged" the national base-closing plan to move jobs away from the D.C. area. A DoD official said the Pentagon simply decided that breaking up the concentration of personnel in D.C. made sense in terms of money and security.
The LAT, WP, and USAT all front the White House unveiling its proposal to increase -- ever so slightly -- fuel economy standards for light trucks and SUVs. The plan is complex, replacing a uniform standard with a series of six grades depending on the size of the truck or SUV. As NYT previewed last week, large SUVs would have to meet a lower MPG standard than the current overall truck average. The biggest SUVs would be exempt from standards altogether. The best summary comes from Knight Ridder, which points out that the plan was based on a recent study by the National Academy of Science. The chairman of that panel said the standards "should have been pushed farther." (The other papers operate on auto-pilot, featuring oh-so-revealing competing quotes from enviro-types and industry officials.)
The LAT's headline doesn't exactly catch the subtlety of the fuel story: "U.S. PROPOSES HIGHER FUEL STANDARDS FOR LIGHT TRUCKS." Most of the papers aren't much better -- except for the Wall Street Journal: "NEW FUEL-ECONOMY RULES HELP THE BIGGEST TRUCK MAKERS."
The NYT says below the fold that a top Justice Department official has been demoted after he objected to political appointees reportedly burying data on racial profiling at traffic stops. The official had been head of Justice's statistics division. One statistician in the department said the numbers office has always been a source of tension for all administrations, which all want to play up good numbers and play down bad ones. But, the stats person added, "in this administration, those tensions have been even greater, and the struggles have been harder."
The NYT off-lead notices that it's not just the frozen-out Sunnis who are angry about the draft Iraqi constitution. Secular Iraqis are complaining that it's just too darn Islam-centric. "This is the future of the new Iraqi government -- it will be in the hands of the clerics," said one secular Shiite politician. "I am not going to stay here."
The LAT looks at the scenarios in which the draft constitution could be defeated in a referendum. (TP asked about that yesterday.) The Times also notices yet another group that's making noise about opposing the draft: Moqtada Sadr's outfit. (Yes, he's still around.) Assuming a joint effort with Sunnis, said one Sadr aide, "we are confident we can deliver three provinces" needed to defeat the draft.
A spokesman for Iraq's prime minister suggested the naysayers should, basically, stuff it: "The draft that was submitted is approximately the draft that will be implemented."
President Bush dubbed Monday's faux-delivery of the draft an "amazing event." Then he put the squeeze on Sunnis. "The Sunnis have got to make a choice," he said. "Do they want to live in a society that's free, or do they want to live in violence?"
The Post fronts a fascinating report from Iraq's Camp Bucca, left, where hundreds of Iraqi detainees built a 360 ft. tunnel and almost made it out. "We started doing some math calculations," said one American officer. "They moved 100 tons of soil in about eight weeks." The story includes plenty of interviews with former detainees who explained how the prisoners organized themselves along military and religious lines.
Everybody notes that Israeli forces cleared out the last two remaining settlements to be evacuated, both in the West Bank. Officials had expected violent resistance, but the protesters backed down in the face of thousands of soldiers. "Game over," said one border policeman.
A front-page Post piece says many biologists believe the "seas have reached a tipping point" with "scores" of species on the brink of extinction. The WP says in the past 300 years scientists have seen just 21 marine species go extinct, but 16 of them have been since 1972. "The question is, are humans a major new force causing marine extinctions?" asked one researcher. "The evidence, and projections scientists are making, suggest that the answer is yes."
Everybody mentions Pat Robertson's suggestion for a new approach to relations with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, right. "If he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it," said Robertson on his TV show. "It's a whole lot cheaper than starting a war." The White House and some evangelical leaders criticized Robertson. But not everybody was so quick to judge. The NYT notes, "Leaders at the Traditional Values Coalition, the Family Research Council and the Christian Coalition saying they were too busy to comment."
Eric Umansky (www.ericumansky.com) writes "Today's Papers" for Slate. He can be reached at mailto:email@example.com. Source: Slate Magazine.
Tuesday, August 23, 2005
CommonDreams: Pat Robertson is Not a Christian
by Reverend Graylan Scott Hagler, left
Pat Robertson suggested this past Monday that the President of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, be assassinated by operatives of the United States government! Though his comments are newsworthy because of his following in the 700 Club and his political stature and role in the political religious right, his comments however are out of synch with everything that has been handed down to us from the teachings of Jesus Christ. What I am suggesting here is that Pat Robertson and individuals of his ilk are not practicing or preaching Christ but have become adherents of a political movement in this nation that attempts to use Christianity towards their own narrow political ends. I believe that there is a role for Christianity in the events of the world, but the teachings of Christ leads us to love one another, strain and stretch to understand each other, and dare to know each other enough that we come to an understanding of one another and from that create a world that is not built on might and winning but on understanding and unity. Clearly the comments of Robertson defy the framework we find in the gospels of Jesus Christ.
Some may argue that Christ existed in another time and did not have an understanding of the kind of world we exist in today. But any follower of Jesus knows that as he was human and he was also fully God, and therefore his understanding of the world, humankind and our needs were not captive to a time but applies to all time! Knowing this I do not see anywhere in the gospels of Christ that he condones, suggests or advocates murder or political assassination! Instead Jesus reminds us to beware of Pharisees, and Robertson, Dobson and others have become the Pharisees of our contemporary world!
What do we find in the Good News of Christ? We find love is expressed continually and unceasingly. The gospels admonish us to do unto others, as you would have them do unto you. We finds words in the gospels that define the mission of Christians as the elevation of the poor, freedom for those who are oppressed, salvation for the lost, and hope for the hopeless. Jesus says come unto me all of you who are weak and heavy laden and I will give you rest. He does not say come to me those who are looking for political expediency and I will show you who to and how to assassinate!
Sure there has been trouble in Venezuela, and some will suggest that it is communism struggling to raise it head. Others will suggest that the poor of Venezuela have been poor too long in a nation that is the 5th largest oil producer in the world. Some will suggest that too much of the resources have been in the hands of too few, and that the poor of the land have found hope in a political leader, Hugo Chavez. I would not suggest that Chavez is a saint, for no person is perfect, but I do know that Chavez was elected even while the greatest power in the world, the United States government, did everything possible to thwart his election. This is hardly the neighborliness that Jesus Christ calls us to emulate.
I am continually amazed at how so many preachers have ceased to preach Christ, or to proclaim him out of the rich simplicity of his teachings and have resorted to a kind of theology that is not gospel based but is based on a narrow point of view that keeps the powerful powerful and the poor poor!
Therefore, it is impossible to justify the comments of Pat Robertson. His comments are not of the gospel he claims to preach, nor of the teachings of Christ that any Christian claims to love. Instead what Robertson has to say is based on a paradigm from the most conservative voices in this country, and those voices have no God except themselves and no soul except their selfish point of view!
Reverend Graylan Scott Hagler is National President, Ministers for Racial, Social and Economic Justice and Senior Minister, Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ Washington, D.C. Source: Common Dreams.
.I would think that Pat Robertson's comments would be on the same level as Osama Bin Ladin's threats toward the officials and other people of the United States. Therefore, Robertson should be treated as any other suspected or proven terrorist under the Patriot Act.
In the fact of the Bush Administration's distancing themselves rather than taking action, there is a terrible precedent. They are ignoring words which could send a psychotic religionist into an attempt to kill the leader of another country. Therefore they have placed themselves on the same ethical level as the worst of terrorist organizations extant today.
Terry D. Barhorst Sr.
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Collins: Robertson's assassination comment - Aug. 23
By Dave Collins, left
Johnson City, Texas
In a play on an oft seen anti-war sign:
"Who would Jesus assassinate?"
I am not a Christian or member of any established faith. But even I can recognize that these guys (Robertson & Co.) have ripped out all the pages after Malachi.
Note by D.H.: Malachi ("mah-lot-chee") was the first Italian prophet.
AFP: State Dept rebukes Robertson
WASHINGTON (AFP) - The United States distanced itself from a call by prominent religious broadcaster Pat Robertson, right, for Washington to assassinate Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
"I would say that Pat Robertson is a private citizen and that his views do not represent the policy of the United States," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters.
He described the televangelist's comments as "inappropriate."
"As we have said before, any allegations that we are planning to take hostile action against the Venezuelan government are completely baseless and without fact," McCormack added.
Robertson is a former presidential candidate who strongly supports US President George W. Bush and rallied his followers to vote for Bush in the November election.
US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld denied that the Pentagon has considered assassinating Chavez. "Our department doesn't do that type of thing," Rumsfeld said.
Chavez, who survived a short-lived coup in April 2002, has accused the United States of plotting to kill him.
David Brock, president and CEO of Media Matters for America, a self-described watchdog of conservative media, dubbed Robertson's statement "an irresponsible use of the public airwaves, as well as a call for the Bush administration to violate the executive order banning assassination.
"Responsible news outlets should think twice before providing him a platform from which to peddle his inappropriate and inaccurate claims," Brock said.
Full AFP-Yahoo News story.
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