Saturday, July 02, 2005

Bush Fun

At georgewbushsingers.com, a group of crooners and musicians have decided to convert the aural blunders of the American President into a series of incredibly funny tunes. Click on The Album to hear samples.

For more music go to atmo.se, search for "Bush and Blair" and see a rather moving video of two friends serenading each other, or watch Bush singing a cover version of This Land at jibjab.com

World debt and global warming may be troubling many of us, but over at bushorchimp.com, they have a more pressing concern: is Mr Bush really a chimpanzee? The evidence appears compelling.

Finally, actofme.co.uk uses a selection of Bush speeches to create a scriptwriter allowing you cut and paste the US president's speeches to create all-new rude ones.

FBI Raids Home of Rep. Cunningham

Federal agents Friday raided the home of Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham as part of a grand jury probe of the congressman's links to a defense contractor.Agents also served search warrants on the Washington offices of the contractor, MZM Inc., and at the Duke Stir, the 42-foot yacht owned by MZM founder Mitchell Wade where Cunningham (R-San Diego) has been living for more than a year.

K. Lee Blalack, Cunningham's lawyer, called the raid "an appalling abuse of government power."

The federal investigation centers on the sale of Cunningham's house in November 2003 to Wade for $1,675,000. Investigators appear to be looking at whether the price was inflated to allow Wade to funnel money to the congressman. Cunningham's position in Congress, where he sits on a committee that controls the Pentagon budget, could have allowed him to influence the flow of contracts to MZM.

The home was never offered publicly for sale. Months after buying it, Wade sold the home for $975,000, a $700,000 loss. Cunningham and his wife bought their current house, an 8,000-square-foot home in Rancho Santa Fe, for $2.5 million soon after selling the Del Mar Heights house to Wade.

Cunningham says he offered to sell the house to Wade after the contractor said he needed a place near Miramar Marine Corps Air Station, where MZM has a project.

In a three-page statement issued last week, Cunningham said he showed poor judgment in selling the home to Wade but that he never gave preferential treatment to the defense contractor. He said he had paid $13,000 in berthing fees and maintenance costs related to his stay on Wade's yacht, which is berthed at a yacht club on the Potomac River.

from the LA TIMES

Why don't "commanders on the ground" ask for more troops?

At the beginning of the war, Gen. Eric Shinseki privately challenged Defense Department troop estimates for occupying Iraq as too low. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was enraged and leaked the name of Shinseki's successor to the media a year before the end of his term as Army chief of staff, thereby making him a lame duck. Last May, the Baltimore Sun reported that, based on a flimsy pretext, Maj. Gen. John Riggs was stripped of one of his three stars just before retirement for more publicly insisting that the military needed more troops.

Shinseki and Riggs are exceptional only in that they spoke out publicly. Their view seems to be the consensus. A recent report in the New York Times was typical: "Commanders concerned for their careers have not thought it prudent to go further, and to say publicly what many say privately: that with recent American troop levels — 139,000 now — they have been forced to play an infernal board game, constantly shuttling combat units from one war zone to another, leaving insurgent buildups unmet in some places while they deal with more urgent problems elsewhere."

from the LA TIMES

Bush's speech: fact vs. spin

In his speech, Bush told the nation that ''today Iraq has more than 160,000 security forces trained and equipped for a variety of missions."

But here's what Biden says General David Petraeus, the man in charge of training Iraqi forces, told him about the 107 Iraqi army battalions: ''He said three -- T-H-R-E-E -- are fully trained and capable of executing missions on their own without American help. You are talking 500 to 800 troops in each of the units. So if you add it all up, at most they have 2,400" troops ready to function independently.

Although Bush downplayed the problems with Iraq's fledgling forces, saying ''some are capable of taking on the terrorists and insurgents by themselves" and that ''a large number can plan and execute antiterrorist operations with coalition support," as Biden points out, it's the ability of those soldiers to operate independently that matters, because only then can US troops leave.

Further, the Delaware Democrat said that the United States and Iraq haven't taken France, Egypt, and Jordan up on their offers to train police or military officers -- offers Biden has heard in person from French President Jacques Chirac and Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak. A high administration official confided to him that objections from the Department of Defense have kept that from happening, Biden says.

From his own conversations with NATO officials, Biden says NATO could be persuaded to send 3,000 to 5,000 troops to help secure Iraq's porous borders. But the administration has not pushed for that, he says.

On Tuesday, Bush said that 40 countries and three international organizations have pledged $34 billion to help Iraq's reconstruction. Actually, says Biden, $21 billion of that is from US taxpayers. Only $13 billion comes from other countries or agencies -- and of that, only about $3 billion has been delivered. What's more, he says, of the $18.4 billion Congress appropriated in the fall of 2003 in additional reconstruction dollars, only $6 billion has actually been spent.


Not going to give up

The White House said on Friday it has unearthed no evidence so far to support assertions by former American captives that Iranian President-elect Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was involved in the 1979 siege of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.

"We continue to look into it to establish the facts," said White House spokesman Scott McClellan.

LA Times:
U.S. investigators have concluded that newly elected Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is not the glowering Islamic militant seen escorting an American hostage in a 1979 photograph that was widely publicized this week, U.S. officials said yesterday.

"If there is a case to be made [that Ahmadinejad was among the hostage-takers in 1979]," the official said, "it doesn't look as if it will be done on the basis of those photographs."

The official stressed that the investigation is continuing and that it is still an "open question" whether Ahmadinejad was involved in the hostage crisis. Analysis of the photos was just one of many avenues in what has become a multi-agency inquiry, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Saddam's trial could be embarrasing for U.S.

The trial -- starting as soon as next month -- may not be great news for the United States. In fact, it may allow the former Iraqi dictator to publicize some obscure but extremely sordid aspects of the US relationship with him and make a very public defense against the validity of the constantly changing reasons for the current Iraq war. The trial could easily backfire and go haywire from the US government's point of view.

Saddam could easily point out that our interests were protected when he was in power and remind the world of US and European support and arms to Iraq during the Iran-Iraq conflict. Even more embarrassing to the United States, he could bring out that the CIA used and paid him (he could even show financial records if he wanted to) ''as their instrument for more than 40 years . . . Saddam was seen by US intelligence services as a bulwark of anticommunism," UPI reported on April 10, 2003. As early as 1959, Saddam began his CIA links by serving on a ''CIA authorized six-man squad tasked with assassinating then Iraqi prime minister General Abd al-Karim Qasim," states UPI. For years afterward, Saddam provided intelligence to us in the Cold War against the Soviet Union. Of course, the CIA will not comment or says ''ridiculous," which may be true but is no denial. CIA reticence is hardly new-- secrecy is its job. Thank goodness for open media.

Ten days after the UPI story, Reuters reported similar information from Roger Morris, a former State Department foreign service officer who was on the NSC staff during the Johnson and Nixon administrations: ''There's no question" about the paid link, he said.

While Saddam was obligated to keep his apparent CIA connection secret while in progress, he is hardly obligated to do so now, at his trial or in media sidebars, given that we captured and imprisoned him.

Moreover, the bulk of the actual charges happened prior to Gulf War I, not II. President Bush I decided to leave him sanctioned but not destroyed. The charges against Saddam include killing huge numbers of Kurds, possessing and constructing weapons of mass destruction, and invading Kuwait. That only makes it clear that these actions were from 15 or more years ago, before the first Gulf War. Before the whole world, the trial will spotlight that we had nothing new for the new war in Iraq -- little to explain it other than rationalizations after initial reasons evaporated.

Embarrassing to the United States, his lawyers will point out that, as requested, Saddam submitted a report -- some 12,000 pages -- to the United Nations stating that he had destroyed all WMDs, and he even went to the field where he'd destroyed many to demonstrate the fact. We did not want to believe him at the time, but the report turned out to be true. He'll then point to Secretary of State Colin Powell's absolute statement to the UN showing WMD locations which turned out to be vacuum factory trucks.


CPB goes political

A Right Wing Republican has been behind a PBS/NPR witch-hunt. He wants to make NPR more right wing. He started a secret inquiry that compiled reasearch about things like who supports President Bush. He's labeled Republican Senators as "liberal" in his study, if he their position wasn't as right as his. Of course, NPR has had excellent coverage of this story. Not just because it includes them, but because they are one of the best news sources in America. And much of NPR/PBS is supported by pledge drives and much programming is based on this. That's why KBYU in Utah is very Mormon. And there is nothing liberal about that!

Here are some NPR links about this story:





The Friday News Dump

Yesterday, NPR did a segment on the "Friday News Dump." This is when un-favorable news is realeased late Friday, because "no one reads the news on Saturday." You can listen to it here.

What will be tonight's news dump? I predict it is Time's Valerie Plame info.

Zogby's latest Bush numbers

Just one week ago, President Bush’s job approval stood at a previous low of 44%—but it has now slipped another point to 43%, despite a speech to the nation intended to build support for the Administration and the ongoing Iraq War effort.

In a sign of the continuing partisan division of the nation, more than two-in-five (42%) voters say that, if it is found that President Bush did not tell the truth about his reasons for going to war with Iraq, Congress should hold him accountable through impeachment. While half (50%) of respondents do not hold this view, supporters of impeachment outweigh opponents in some parts of the country.


Claim that Iranian warned the CIA about 9/11

A new book alleges that the CIA was warned of a plot to attack New York and Washington by a walk-in Iranian defector a month and a half before September 11, 2001, but the potentially valuable informant was turned away.

Information culled from a former security specialist for Iran's supreme leader named Hamid Reza Zakeri provide the grist for the most explosive allegation in Kenneth Timmerman's newly published "Countdown to Crisis" on Crown Books. In the first chapter, the author writes that Mr. Zakeri warned a CIA interrogation team in Baku, Azerbaijan, on July 26, 2001, that an attack was being planned for September 10. As soon as he said this, the lead questioner, according to Mr. Timmerman, burst out laughing.

A senior analyst with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Patrick Clawson, said yesterday that the strongest part of Mr. Timmerman's argument, that Iran and Al Qaeda coordinated the attacks of September 11, 2001, comes from the defectors discarded by the CIA.

Another scholar and Iran expert at the American Enterprise Institute, Michael Rubin, yesterday said that he has yet to see evidence linking Iran to September 11, 2001. "I have not seen evidence that Iran played a role in 9-11," he said, "but lack of evidence does not mean there is not a linkage. The CIA has consistently refused to consider possibilities because of false conventional wisdom that Sunnis and Shiites do not work together. Oftentimes the CIA has refused to look into issues because they are afraid where it might lead. Anything that hurts the Iranian economy might hurt Brent Scowcroft's pocketbook."


Remember, the Neocons have been trying to build up Iran as an enemy and have also been trying to discredit the CIA.

"They all look the same" claims right-wingers

Maybe that will be the excuse if it turns out the new Iranian leader is not one of the 1979 captors.

On the other hand, if he turns out to be the same person, expect many conspiracy theories. Everything from "the CIA fixed the election so the U.S. will have a reason to invade Iran" to "John Kerry and PBS knew all along."

Already, the spin is on, as Jeff Gannon blogs: "Iranians are denying and the American media is downplaying any potential role Mahmoud Ahmadinejad might have had in the hostage crisis that lasted for the last 444 miserable days of the Carter presidency." I have a hard time accepting his claim that the American media is downplaying the story when it's a top story of all the news networks, television shows, newspapers, and websites (like Google News and Yahoo News).

Affirmation would certainly play right into Bush and the Neo-Con's hands. That's why they seem so eager to accept it. For example, look at Scott McClellan's remarks:
"We continue to look into it and establish all the facts. I don’t think it should be a surprise to anyone if it turns out to be true."

Bush made a comment that made it sound like fact had already been established:
"I have no information, but obviously his involvement raises many questions."

I would be interested in the details of how the former hostages' first accusations happened. Whether true or not, this episode has a "swift boat veterans" feel to it.

And it happens...

Sandra Day O'Connor, the "swing-voter" of the Supreme Court has resigned. Stay tuned for a nominating circus like none seen before...

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Time to give up name of CIA outer

Faced with jail for one of its reporters, Time magazine agreed on Thursday to hand over his notebooks to a grand jury probing the leak of a covert CIA operative's name, in a move that raises questions about press freedom in America.
The decision came just a day after a judge gave Matthew Cooper of Time and Judith Miller of The New York Times a week before sentencing them for refusing to reveal their sources to the grand jury.

Where were the Hoo-ahs?

When President Bush visits military bases, he invariably receives a foot-stomping, loud ovation at every applause line. At bases like Fort Bragg - the backdrop for his Tuesday night speech on Iraq - the clapping is often interspersed with calls of "Hoo-ah," the military's all-purpose, spirited response to, well, almost anything.

So the silence during his speech was more than a little noticeable, both on television and in the hall. On Wednesday, as Mr. Bush's repeated use of the imagery of the Sept. 11 attacks drew bitter criticism from Congressional Democrats, there was a parallel debate under way about whether the troops sat on their hands because they were not impressed, or because they thought that was their orders.

Capt. Tom Earnhardt, a public affairs officer at Fort Bragg who participated in the planning for the president's trip, said that from the first meetings with White House officials there was agreement that a hall full of wildly cheering troops would not create the right atmosphere for a speech devoted to policy and strategy.

"The guy from White House advance, during the initial meetings, said, 'Be careful not to let this become a pep rally,' " Captain Earnhardt recalled in a telephone interview. Scott McClellan, the White House press secretary, confirmed that account.

As the message drifted down to commanders, it appears that it may have gained an interpretation beyond what the administration's image-makers had in mind. "This is a very disciplined environment," said Captain Earnhardt, "and some guys may have taken it a bit far," leaving the troops hesitant to applaud.

After two presidential campaigns, Mr. Bush has finely tuned his sense of timing for cueing applause, especially when it comes to his most oft-expressed declarations of resolve to face down terrorists. But when the crowd did not respond on Tuesday , he seemed to speed up his delivery a bit. Then, toward the end of the 28-minute speech, there was an outbreak of clapping when Mr. Bush said, "We will stay in the fight until the fight is done."

Terry Moran, an ABC News White House correspondent, said on the air on Tuesday night that the first to clap appeared to be a woman who works for the White House, arranging events. Some other reporters had the same account, but Captain Earnhardt and others in the back of the room say the applause was started by a group of officers.

from the New York Times

Stupid and/or Dishonest Rumsfeld Quote

Donald Rumsfeld, February 7, 2003:
" … it is not knowable if force will be used [against Iraq], but if it is to be used, it is not knowable how long that conflict would last. It could last, you know, six days, six weeks. I doubt six months."

see the video thanks to Comedy Central

Talking Points on Iraq

The article Time to Separate Fact from Fiction on Iraq makes these three points:

The Iraqi insurgency has strengthened not weakened.
President Bush will certainly try to convince Americans that all is well in Iraq, and perhaps reiterate Vice President Cheney’s sentiment that the insurgency is in its “last throes.” The reality is much harsher. In the past year, over 890 U.S. troops have died (more than half of the 1743 fatalities since the war began). And since the handover, the AP reports more than 7500 people have been killed or wounded by car bombs. The number of attacks per day has risen from 10 in May 2003 to 52 in June 2004 to 70 last month. Secretary Rumsfeld is already predicting that attacks will increase as the national elections approach and has stated that he believes the insurgency may last 12 years.

Vital reconstruction efforts are lagging and billions of dollars in U.S. taxpayer money has disappeared.
The insecurity on the ground has resulted in a lack of progress on the reconstruction front. From car bombs to power outages to water shortages, Iraqis are not experiencing Bush's rosy rhetoric. One Iraqi businessman said, "It's going from bad to worse. I cannot fully explain it -- electricity, water, telephones, and these are just utilities. As for security, just look around you." Billions of dollars in American taxpayer funds for Iraqi reconstruction have simply disappeared—including a large portion of $12 billion in cash that is unaccounted for according to a recent House report—with nothing to show for these expenditures.

A clear timetable for political and military goals is needed to ensure success.
Hiding behind baseless claims that any call for a timetable for ending the war in Iraq is a concession to the enemy, President Bush is essentially arguing for protracted military occupation of Iraq with no clear end state. President Bush criticized President Clinton for not setting a timetable in Kosovo, yet refuses to apply his own standards to his war in Iraq. Without clear guidelines for success, the White House will simply fall into the very same trap that led to the deaths of tens of thousands of U.S. troops in Vietnam and a forced and humiliating rapid withdrawal.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Nixon vs. the Eastern Establishment

Interesting article from Ether Zone

Bush likes staged media events with the Military

From his May 2003 "Mission Accomplished" speech aboard an aircraft carrier, to a Thanksgiving dinner in Baghdad, to Tuesday night's speech surrounded by troops, President Bush has had no shortage of telegenic moments on Iraq — amid a nearly unrelenting string of bad news from the region.
His approval ratings at the lowest of his presidency, Bush sought to rally lagging public support for the war with a prime-time address at Fort Bragg, N.C.

The visit offered Bush one of his favorite backdrops: an audience of American troops.

The preference for friendly audiences is well established, demonstrated by Bush's repeated appearances before invitation-only "town hall" audiences to promote his Social Security plan. It's a pattern he followed in his 2004 re-election campaign.

Few audiences are as predictably friendly as military ones, duty bound to show respect for their commander in chief, often bursting into whoops.
Already this year, Bush has visited Fort Hood, Texas, twice; has spoken to U.S. troops returning from Iraq at Wiesbaden Air Base in Germany; has stood with armed forces members in a Memorial Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery; and has delivered the commencement address to the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis.
In appearing often with U.S. troops, Bush "can show genuine respect for the men and women who provide the first line of defense," said Wayne Fields, director of American culture studies at Washington University in St. Louis and a specialist on presidential rhetoric.

"It also provides something he can borrow," said Fields, enabling Bush to identify himself with the military's patriotism and sacrifice.

There are also the images of the war that the administration prefers not to emphasize: fallen Americans and Iraqis amid black smoke, fire and bombing rubble. The flag-draped coffins coming to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. Bush's private sessions on military bases with the families of the fallen, his visits to the wounded in military hospitals.

The conflict has cost the lives of more than 1,740 U.S. troops since the war began in March 2003.
North Carolina has been hard hit.

In the one year since the U.S.-led coalition returned official sovereignty to Iraq, some 100 North Carolina-based troops have died in the war, second only to 180 from California, according to an Associated Press analysis.
About 52,000 members of the military are stationed at Bragg and adjacent Pope Air Force Base, and some 14,700 are fighting in Iraq. North Carolina also has sent thousands of Marines from Camp Lejeune and air crews from two Air Force bases.

Bush sought to clarify the stakes after other U.S. officials painted mixed pictures — from Vice President Dick Cheney's claim that the insurgency was in its "last throes" to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's suggestion that the conflict could last another 12 years.
Bush also sought to shore up military morale and reassure conservatives jittery about the continued loss of life and rising price tag.

Some images of Bush with the troops have backfired.
When a flight-suit-clad Bush landed on the deck of the homeward-bound aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln and proclaimed the end to major combat on May 1, 2003 — under a giant "Mission Accomplished" banner — it seemed at first like a perfect Kodak moment, even to Bush detractors.
Never mind that the carrier had to be turned in a half-circle to keep the California shoreline out of the picture.
But when violence increased instead of ebbing, the "Mission Accomplished" episode became an object of ridicule to many.

That Thanksgiving, Bush made an unannounced trip to Baghdad to dine with U.S. troops.
An image of a beaming Bush, wearing an Army workout jacket and holding a platter containing a large golden-brown turkey and stuffing, was widely distributed. It turned out, however, that the turkey was a prop and not for consumption. The soldiers were fed from cafeteria steam-table trays.
As the Iraq conflict has dragged on, critics have accused the administration of not being forthcoming on the challenges that remain, and putting too much emphasis on a public-relations campaign.
"There has been a tendency to talk down to the American people in slogans and to fail to present convincing plans," said Anthony Cordesman, an Iraq specialist with the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
As to Bush surrounding himself with troops, "I think the real problem is he's trying to capitalize on our men and women in uniform," Cordesman said.

Not so, said White House spokesman Scott McClellan. "This is the commander in chief talking to the American people during a time of war," he said. "And it's important for the American people to hear from the commander in chief, particularly at important moments like this in Iraq."

from the article Newsview: Troops a Favorite Bush Audience, in the SFGate

When is it good to burn the flag...when is it bad?

From Newsday:
Summary Box: House Passes Flag-Burn Ban
FLAG AMENDMENT: The House passed a proposed constitutional amendment to ban desecration the American flag, but it may be a hard sell in the Senate.
WHAT IT SAYS: "The Congress shall have power to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States."
WHY: Supporters hope to overturn a 1989 Supreme Court decision saying flag burning was a right of free speech.

From several websites about Proper Handling:
When a flag is so worn it is no longer fit to serve as a symbol of our country, it should be destroyed by burning in a dignified manner.

Q: My flag is old and ready to be retired. What should I do?
A: Section 8k of the Flag Code (see below) states, "The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning."

Candid words from Rice

June 20, 2005 American University in Cairo:
"For 60 years, my country, the United States, pursued stability at the expense of democracy in this region here in the Middle East -- and we achieved neither. Now, we are taking a different course. We are supporting the democratic aspirations of all people."

Analysis from Asian Times:
Again, Arabs remember too clearly that it was the Americans who initially supported Saddam Hussein's rise to power in 1979, simply because he challenged Iran. It was the Americans who orchestrated the first coup d'etat in Syria in 1949, toppling the democratically elected president Shukri al-Quwatli and replacing him with General Husni al-Za'im, a stooge of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), because the latter promised to respond to US needs in the Middle East. These were mainly a crackdown on communism, a ceasefire with Israel, and privileges to Tapline, a US oil company. The fact that Quwatli had been democratically elected by his people meant nothing to the CIA, the White House or the Pentagon in 1949.

No one can bar Iran from civilian use of nuclear energy: Schroeder

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said on Sunday the European Union should put forward new proposals to resolve the dispute over Iran's nuclear program after Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was elected president of the Islamic Republic.
The EU's "big three" -- Britain, France and Germany – are negotiating with Iran in the name of the 25-nation bloc to get assurances from Tehran that its nuclear program is only meant for civilian use. Iran insists the program is to meet soaring demand for electricity.
"The Europeans are well advised to put an offer on the table to move things forward for the next round of negotiations," Schroeder told reporters traveling with him on a visit to Washington.
"We cannot bar them from civilian use of nuclear energy, but we need credible guarantees that they do not build atomic bombs," he said. His comments came after Ahmadinejad was elected Iran's new president on Friday. Ahmadinejad said he would press ahead with Iran's nuclear program but would not abandon talks with the EU, although negotiations would be based on the Islamic Republic's "national interest."

Link to article

US resumes production of Cold War plutonium

The US is poised to begin production of highly radioactive plutonium 238 - used previously to power spy satellites and space probes - for the first time since the Cold War. Officials say that the plutonium is being produced for "national security".
The isotope, many hundred times more radioactive than plutonium 239 which is used in nuclear arms, is to be produced at the Idaho National Laboratory, a sprawling site close to the Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. Local environmental and anti-nuclear groups are concerned about possible contamination from radioactive waste: plutonium 238 is so powerful that even a speck of it is enough to cause cancer.
Officials involved in the $1.5bn (£800m) programme, which is intended to produce around 300lb of the material in the next 30 years, say the bulk of the plutonium will be used in secret projects but refuse to provide further details. The material has previously been used in batteries to power deep space probes such as Cassini as well as underwater surveillance and espionage equipment.


Court Lets Cable Firms Bar Rivals From Internet Lines

The Supreme Court ruled Monday that cable TV companies didn't have to share their high-speed Internet lines with rivals, a decision consumer groups said would stifle competition in the rapidly growing market for broadband.

ACLU claims FBI reverting to 1960s and 70s political monitoring

The FBI is carrying out ”unwarranted investigations for religious or political reasons”, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which charges that ”the agency has sunk back into the kind of political monitoring it did in the 1960s and 1970s.”

Link to Article 1

Link to Article 2

Aid to Africa Claims and Facts

Bush insisted that his administration has already tripled U.S. aid to Africa and that a promise to provide 0.7 percent of U.S. GDP -- nearly five times what Washington provides today -- ”doesn't fit our budgetary process.”

”Over the past four years, we have tripled our assistance to Sub-Sahara Africa, and now America accounts for nearly a quarter of all the aid in the region,” he told Blair at a joint White House news conference Jun. 7.

According to the Brookings study, however, aid to Africa under Bush ”has not 'tripled' or even doubled.” The report finds instead that between fiscal year 2000, the last full year for which Bill Clinton was president, and FY 2005, total U.S. aid for Africa increased only 56 percent in real terms, with the majority of the increase consisting of emergency food aid, rather than traditional ODA that is used to promote long-term development. During the same period, Washington's ODA for Africa increased only 33 percent in real terms, according to the report, which was written by Susan Rice, who served as Clinton's top Africa aide from 1993 to 2001 and is currently with the Centre for American Progress.

If funds earmarked for FY 2005 are considered, total aid to Africa will have increased by 78 percent in real terms since 2005, and ODA by 74 percent, according to the study. ”The administration has made some assertions about spending levels that are not accurate,” Rice told reporters in a teleconference Monday. ”The rhetoric has been more compelling than actual performance.”

LINK to Article

Analysis of the Road to War

The Secret Way to War
By Mark Danner

World Tribunal on Iraq

The World Tribunal on Iraq (WTI), an anti-war grouping of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), intellectuals and writers, yesterday harshly, if symbolically, condemned the United States, Britain and their allies for the occupation of Iraq.
“(We recommend) that there be an exhaustive investigation of those responsible for crimes of aggression and crimes against humanity in Iraq, beginning with American President George W. Bush, (British Prime Minister) Tony Blair and other government officials from the coalition of the willing,” a statement issued after three days of deliberations said.

Monday, June 27, 2005

CIA trail

For 19 American intelligence operatives assigned to apprehend a radical Islamic preacher in Milan two years ago, the mission was equal parts James Bond and taxpayer-financed Italian holiday, according to an Italian investigation of the man's disappearance.

The Americans stayed at some of the finest hotels in Milan, sometimes for as long as six weeks, ringing up tabs of as much as $500 a day on Diners Club accounts created to match their recently forged identities, according to Italian court documents and other records. Then, after abducting their target and flying him to Cairo under the noses of Italian police, some of them rounded out their European trip with long weekends in Venice and Florence before leaving the country, the records show.

While most of the operatives apparently used false identities, they left a long trail of paper and electronic records that enabled Italian investigators to retrace their movements in detail. Posing as tourists and business travelers, the Americans often stayed in the same five-star hotels, rarely paid in cash, gave their frequent traveler account numbers to desk clerks and made dozens of calls from unsecure phones in their rooms.

During January 2003, they were regular patrons at the Hotel Principe di Savoia in Milan, which bills itself as "one of the world's most luxuriously appointed hotels" and features a marble-lined spa and minibar Cokes that cost about $10. Seven of the Americans stayed at the 80-year-old hotel for periods ranging from three days to three weeks at nightly rates of about $450, racking up total expenses of more than $42,000 there.

Washington Post Article

L.A. Times Article

Iraq Statistics

22,563 to 25,560 civilians killed so far,
$ 179,187,231,569 borrowed and spent on the war in Iraq so far,
1,725 U.S. soldiers killed, 12,762 wounded, 15,777 evacuated for non-battle injury or disease

Cheney and his Dictionary

Last month, Cheney made news by asserting that the Iraqi insurgency is in its "final throes."

On Thursday, he said:
"If you look at what the dictionary says about throes, it can still be a, you know, a violent period, the throes of a revolution. The point would be that the conflict will be intense, but it's intense because the terrorists understand if we're successful at accomplishing our objective, standing up a democracy in Iraq, that that's a huge defeat for them.
"They'll do everything they can to stop it."

Apparantly, Cheney thought the controversy was about the word "throes," hence the dictionary reference. But what was disputed was the word "final." I don't think anyone needs to look up the word "final" in the Dictionary.

New Tune from Rumsfeld

6/26/05 Donald Rumsfeld interview: "That insurgency could go on for any number of years. Insurgencies tend to go on five, six, eight, 10, 12 years."

12/3/04 Donald Rumsfeld interview:
BILL O'REILLY: Within two years, can the United States beat these insurgents?
DONALD RUMSFELD: It is, the, the task is, using the word beat sounds like you're in a war.
BILL O'REILLY: Well, stabilize the country.
DONALD RUMSFELD: I think so. I think so. Well, I shouldn't say that. The United States won't do it, the Iraqi people will.

Some don't want to find Mad Cow

A third and more sophisticated test on the beef cow suspected of having mad cow disease would have helped resolve conflicting results from two initial screenings, but the U.S. refused to perform it in November.
That additional test, ordered up by the Agriculture Department's internal watchdog, ended up detecting mad cow — a finding that was confirmed on Friday by the world's pre-eminent lab, in England.

U.S. officials in November had declared the cow free of the disease even though one of two tests — an initial screening known as a rapid test — indicated the presence of the disease. A more sophisticated follow-up — immunohistochemistry, or IHC — came back negative.
"They had two diametrically opposed results which begged to be resolved," said Paul W. Brown, a former scientist at the National Institutes of Health who spent his career working on mad cow-related issues.
"If you had what they had, you would immediately go to a Western blot and get a third test method and see which one of the previous two was more accurate," Brown said.

In a letter to Consumers Union last March, the department said there was no need for the British lab to confirm the results and that the Western blot test would not have given a more accurate reading.
"We are confident in the expertise of USDA's laboratory technicians in conducting BSE testing," wrote Jere Dick, an associate deputy administrator. Mad cow disease is medically known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE.

The department had used Western blot tests since the 1990s to resolve conflicting results, including on the first case. But since then, the department has used the Western blot only if samples from an animal were too degraded to work for the IHC.
The current testing program "might not be the best option today," Johanns said. "Likewise, the protocol we develop as a result of this testing might not be the best option in 2007," Johanns said. "Science is ever evolving. It is not static."

"They were afraid the truth would come out," said Carol Tucker Foreman of the Consumer Federation of America. Added Michael Hanson of the Consumers Union: "This is just foot-dragging, and these delayed reactions need to really stop."

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Democracy in the Middle East

Iran President-elect Mahmoud Ahmadinejad vowed Sunday to pursue a peaceful nuclear program — an effort the United States maintains is really a cover for trying to build atomic bombs— and said his government will not be an extremist one.

Reminder: United States President George Bush has vowed to pursue a non-peaceful neclear program - and said his government will not be an extremist one.

Plame & Miller Update

The Supreme Court rejected appeals Monday from two journalists who have refused to testify before a grand jury about the leak of an undercover CIA officer's identity.

Time magazine's Matthew Cooper and The New York Times' Judith Miller, who filed the appeals, face up to 18 months in jail for refusing to reveal sources as part of an investigation into who divulged the name of CIA officer Valerie Plame.