Friday, July 22, 2005

French pressure FARC over Ingrid Betancourt

The French government, with the blessing of the Colombian authorities, has made contact with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc) rebels.
The French government wants to secure the release of Ingrid Betancourt, a French citizen and a former presidential candidate in Colombia.
Ms Betancourt was kidnapped more than three years ago and is one of 60 political hostages held by the rebels.
But no-one believes she will be released any time soon.
A French government official met Farc spokesman Raul Reyes in the Colombian jungle, after getting the okay from Colombia's President Alvaro Uribe.
The official is appealing for the release of Ms Betancourt, an extremely popular figure in France who was kidnapped as she campaigned for the Colombian presidency in February 2002.
She is one of 60 political hostages the Farc have kidnapped over the last seven years; among them, three US intelligence operatives.
The Farc has said the hostages will not be released until hundreds of their comrades currently serving prison sentences are set free.
President Uribe has ruled out any such exchange.
But he is glad to use the French government to pressure the guerrillas into making concessions.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

W's deceptions

by Jim Mullins on ZNet

The Bush administration and much of the major media either ignored or gave little publicity to the revelations in the "Downing Street Memo" when it was leaked and published in London's Sunday Times close to two months ago. Now the leak has become a flood of memos written by British cabinet ministers that affirm and substantiate its damning statement that "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."

British officials in intelligence, legal and military leadership had expressed great misgivings about the invasion's legality, American claims of quick military success and the lack of US plans to govern Iraq and secure the peace. Its legality was particularly troubling to the legal and military oficials who saw themselves as liable for Nuremberg style war crime trials in the International Criminal Court to which they were bound by treaty. A treaty signed by President Clinton but not given senatorial ratification at President Bush's insistence.

President Bush's plans for war in Iraq began long before 9/11. His biographer, Mickey Herskowitz, quotes candidate George W. Bush: "One of the keys to being a great leader is to be seen as a Commander-in-chief. My father had all this political capital built up when he drove the Iraqis out of Kuwait and he wasted it." And: "If I have a chance to invade, if I had that much capital, I'm not going to waste it."

He campaigned however, on having a humble foreign policy and avoiding war. This was nonsense for George Bush pushed for an invasion of Iraq from day one of his presidency. It was all about him and his place in history. 9/11 presented the opportunity to achieve his overweening ambition to be a warrior crusading president.

President Bush's deceptive statements about Iraq's deadly threats to America's security culminated in Secretary of State Colin Powell's Power Point presentation at the UN. Its members silently rejected it and broke into cheering for the French foreign minister who cautioned that time should be given for the UN inspectors to finish their work.
But the tide is slowly turning. Cong. Walter B. Jones [R-NC] who was so infuriated by the French spokesperson that he had the french fries in the Congressional dining room renamed "freedom fries" has now said that he will sponsor legislation calling on the Bush administration to define how it intends to get our troops out of Iraq. House Judiciary Committee Minority leader John B. Conyers Jr. now has 120 co-sponsors of a Presidential letter requesting answers to the Downing Street Memo. His request for 80,000 citizen petition signers has now reached 560,000.

President Bush feels that his reelection was a referendum on his actions taking us to war thus avoiding facing up to the lies and deceptions that got us there. His later ploy-a drive for Middle East democracy-is exposed by a policy that applauds elections in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, condemns those in Iran, overlooks the dynastic succession in Azerbaijan and stymies investigations of human rights and the horrific massacre in Uzbekistan.

Egypt has had a dictatorial regime with referendums-not contested elections-on President Mubarak rule since 1980. He is now allowing opponents but only nonentities from his own party with opposition parties either banned or leaders jailed on trumped up charges. Saudi Arabia which has had autocratic royal family rule since its inception in 1920 will now allow election of village councils where on the other hand Iran has regular local, parliamentary and presidential elections with parties representing left, right and moderate tendencies as we witnessed last Sunday.
Azerbaijan has had a former-communist dictator, Heydar Aliyev, since the Cold War ended. The phony election that installed his son Alham Aliyev as his dynastic successor elicited no comment from the Bush administration. An investigation of the recent massacre in Uzbekistan where up to 2,000 demonstrators were slaughtered and Uzbek dictator Islam Karimov's violations of human rights has been stalled both in NATO and the OSCE by the Bush administration. The British Ambassador has stated that torture, including boiling of body parts is endemic.

Scott Ritter, former American Weapons Inspector in the Soviet Union and the UN in Iraq who disputed Bush claims of Iraqi WMD based on-the-ground experience has now reported that the United States is expanding US military bases and Special Forces in Aberbaijan as a prelude to an invasion of Iran. The same secret actions that began soon after 9/11 in terms of Iraq while the Afghan war was raging and Osama bin Laden was still on the loose.

We should not accept on faith Bush administration propaganda that may lead us to a far deeper quagmire in Iran and demand answers and truth instead of bumper-sticker slogans such as "democracy" and "freedom."

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

China's Filter & Bill Gates

Without question, China's Internet filtering regime is "the most sophisticated effort of its kind in the world," in the words of a recent report by Harvard Law School's Berkman Center for Internet and Society. The system involves the censorship of Web logs, search engines, chat rooms and e-mail by "thousands of public and private personnel." It also involves Microsoft Inc., as Chinese bloggers discovered last month. Since early June, Chinese bloggers who post messages containing a forbidden word -- "Dalai Lama," for example, or "democracy" -- receive a warning: "This message contains a banned expression, please delete." It seems Microsoft has altered the Chinese version of its blog tool, MSN Spaces, at the behest of Chinese government. Bill Gates, so eloquent on the subject of African poverty, is less worried about Chinese free speech.

25,000 dead Iraqi civilians

A new study says more than 25,000 Iraqi civilians have died since the war began more than two years ago.

Hersh reports on Iraqi Election

Pulitzer prize-winning investigative journalist Seymour Hersh reports that President Bush authorized covert plans last year to support the election campaigns of Iraqi candidates and political parties with close ties to the White House. Hersh cites unidentified former military and intelligence officials who said the administration went ahead with the plan over congressional opposition.

read interview on Democracy Now

Chronological Rove

CHRISTMAS DAY, 1950: Karl Rove is born in Denver, Colorado. His father, Louis Rove, is a mineral geologist, and his mother, Reba Wood, is a gift shop manager.

1960: At age 10, he becomes a Republican, supporting Nixon in his losing race to John F. Kennedy. A meanie girl who's a Kennedy supporter beats him up.

1964: Lyndon B. Johnson buries Barry Goldwater in a landslide, and the GOP is at its lowest ebb. Humiliated young Republicans vow, "Never again!" and the New Right sets out on the long road to taking over the government. Goldwater inspires Rove to become a laissez-faire libertarian. But Rove soon leaves the Ayn Rand crowd and joins the conservative crusade.

1965: A card-carrying nerd, Rove arrives at Salt Lake City's Olympus High School in a jacket and tie, toting a briefcase. Wins notoriety as high school debater by bringing boxes of blank index cards to tournaments as a means of intimidating opponents.

FALL 1969: Rove enrolls at University of Utah, some say to avoid draft. Later attends the University of Texas and George Mason University. Never gets a degree from any of them.

CHRISTMAS 1969: Man thought to be Rove's father walks out on his mother, but, surprise, relatives tell Rove the guy's not his real father.

FALL 1970: Rove pays visit to Chicago campaign headquarters of Alan Dixon, a Democrat running for state treasurer. Disguised as a volunteer, Rove steals official campaign letterhead and sends out 1,000 invitations to people in the city's red-light district and soup kitchens, offering "free beer, free food, girls, and a good time for nothing" at Dixon headquarters. When hundreds of homeless and alcoholic Chicagoans show up at a fancy Dixon reception, Rove succeeds in embarrassing the candidate. Dixon still wins the election.

1971: Rove drops out of college to devote full time to College Republicans, where he becomes protégé of dirty trickster Lee Atwater, the group's Southern regional coordinator. Rove becomes executive director, then national chairman.

1972: Under mentorship of dirty trickster Donald Segretti (who later went to jail for Watergate), Rove paints McGovern as "left-wing peacenik," in spite of McGovern's World War II stint piloting a B-24. Rove also works as staff assistant to George Bush Sr., then chairman of Republican National Committee (RNC).

1973: Rove introduces Atwater to Bush Sr. Atwater later becomes "political attack dog" for the Reagan-Bush team, helps Bush Sr. become president, himself becomes RNC chairman, is struck by a brain tumor, and dies.

AUGUST 10, 1973: The Washington Post says it received tape of Rove telling about some of his "dirty tricks." Rove is rumored to have participated in "dumpster-diving" (looking through opponents' trash for information to be used against them), crimes such as identity theft, petty larceny, and campaign fraud, and tours to teach other College Republicans how to perform these tricks.

NOVEMBER 1973: Rove first meets George W. Bush when Bush Sr. asks Rove to deliver a set of car keys to the younger Bush. Rove later recalls his initial impression: "Huge amounts of charisma, swagger, cowboy boots, flight jacket, wonderful smile, just charisma—you know, wow."

1976: Rove marries Houston socialite Valerie Wainwright.

1977-79: Rove starts raising money for Bush Sr.'s eventual presidential campaign, begins advising George W. Bush in his unsuccessful congressional bid, and as a Texan political consultant put it, has to "babysit Bush back when [he] was drinking."

1979: Wainwright divorces Rove.

1981: Rove's mother commits suicide. Rove forms direct-mail firm, Rove & Co., to back Republican candidates.

1982: Texas Republicans suffer heavy election losses. Rove, however, uses opportunity to develop campaign strategies targeting suburbs.

1984: Rove helps ex-Democrat Phil Gramm win Senate seat as Republican.

1986: Rove marries Darby Hickson, a graphic designer for his company. Advises Bill Clement in his tight but successful Texas gubernatorial race.

1988: Rove hits on "tort reform" as winning issue for Republicans. His candidates win five out of six open seats on the Texas Supreme Court.

1994: Rove becomes political adviser to George W. Bush in his race against incumbent governor Ann Richards. Bush aided by $1 million pumped into the race. Rove dreams up idea of staging calls to voters from supposed pollsters who ask such things as whether people would be "more or less likely to vote for Governor Richards if [they] knew her staff is dominated by lesbians."

2000: Rove is at heart of Bush's vicious smear job on John McCain in South Carolina primary: Thinly disguised Bush surrogates claim McCain was a stoolie while a P.O.W. Rove also credited with spreading rumor that McCain's adopted Bangladeshi daughter is black and illegitimate and his wife a drug addict.

2000: Rove is required to sell his Enron stock before Bush takes office. Reportedly still holds between $100,000 and $250,000 worth of shares when appointed.

2001: Rove launches "72-Hour Task Force" aimed at evangelicals, Hispanics, Catholics, and other faith-based groups.

JUNE 2002: A PowerPoint presentation Rove created to explain strategies for 2002 and 2004 elections is found without explanation in Lafayette Park. The presentation portrays war on terror as an important issue throughout the upcoming campaigns.

JULY 8, 2003: Syndicated columnist Robert Novak mentions to Rove that former ambassador Joseph Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, is a CIA undercover operative. Rove's comment: "I heard that too."

JULY 14, 2003: Novak's syndicated column reveals publicly the classified information that, according to "two senior administration officials," Plame is an undercover CIA operative.

AUGUST 21, 2003: Wilson, who has already blamed Rove for the leak, says at a public forum in Seattle that he would like "to see whether or not we can get Karl Rove frog-marched out of the White House in handcuffs."

OCTOBER 2004: FBI begins investigating the Plame leak. Rove testifies, but his attorney, Robert Luskin, says Rove has been "assured" by special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald that "he is not a target of the probe."

NOVEMBER 3, 2004: In his victory speech, Bush calls Rove "the architect" of his re-election.

FEBRUARY 2005: Rove is promoted to assistant to the president, deputy chief of staff, and senior adviser.

FEBRUARY 11, 2005: The Bush administration denies having had anything to do with the Swift Boat Veterans, who smeared John Kerry during the campaign and denounced his war stories as lies. But rumors persist when Rove pays tribute to the group at the Conservative Political Action Conference during the annual Ronald Reagan banquet in D.C.

JUNE 2005: As chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Howard Dean says of Republicans: "[Many] of them have not made an honest living in their lives. The Republicans are not very friendly to different kinds of people. They're a pretty monolithic party. They all behave the same, and they all look the same."

JUNE14, 2005: Illinois Democratic senator Richard Durbin compares American mistreatment of prisoners at Gitmo and Abu Ghraib to that of "Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime—Pol Pot or others."

JUNE 22, 2005: Rove, at a New York Conservative Party fundraiser, says, "Has there ever been a more revealing moment this year? Let me just put this in fairly simple terms: Al Jazeera now broadcasts the words of Senator Durbin to the Mideast, certainly putting our troops in greater danger. No more needs to be said about the motives of liberals."
In the same speech, Rove says, "Conservatives saw the savagery of 9-11 in the attacks and prepared for war; liberals saw the savagery of the 9-11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers."

JULY 2005: Rove's attorney Luskin acknowledges that Rove spoke with Time reporter Matthew Cooper about Valerie Plame in July 2003, but he claims that Rove never mentioned her name. Fitzgerald once again reassures Rove, according to Luskin, that he is "not a target in this probe."

from the Village Voice

Bush Polls

An ABC News poll released Monday showed that just 25 percent of the public believes the White House is cooperating fully with Fitzgerald's probe, compared with 47 percent when the investigation began in September 2003. Most striking in the ABC poll was the unanimity of opinion across party lines. Asked if Karl Rove should be fired if he leaked classified information, 71 percent of Republicans said yes. That was just a few points lower than the 75 percent average for all voters.

Half of those in the poll taken by the Pew Research Center, 49%, said they believe the president is trustworthy, while almost as many, 46% said he is not. Bush was at 62% on this measure in a September 2003 Pew poll and at 56% in a Gallup poll in April.