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Comments by YACCS
Wednesday, December 31, 2003

These people crazy

These people crazy

Hawks tell Bush how to win war on terror
By David Rennie in Washington
(Filed: 31/12/2003)

President George W Bush was sent a public manifesto yesterday by Washington's hawks, demanding regime change in Syria and Iran and a Cuba-style military blockade of North Korea backed by planning for a pre-emptive strike on its nuclear sites.

The manifesto, presented as a "manual for victory" in the war on terror, also calls for Saudi Arabia and France to be treated not as allies but as rivals and possibly enemies.

The manifesto is contained in a new book by Richard Perle, a Pentagon adviser and "intellectual guru" of the hardline neo-conservative movement, and David Frum, a former Bush speechwriter. They give warning of a faltering of the "will to win" in Washington.


The book demands that any talks with North Korea require the complete and immediate abandonment of its nuclear programme.

As North Korea will probably refuse such terms, the book urges a Cuba-style military blockade and overt preparations for war, including the rapid pullback of US forces from the inter-Korean border so that they move out of range of North Korean artillery.

Such steps, with luck, will prompt China to oust its nominal ally, Kim Jong-il, and install a saner regime in North Korea, the authors write.

The authoritarian rule of Syria's leader, Bashar Assad, should also be ended, encouraged by shutting oil supplies from Iraq, seizing arms he buys from Iran, and raids into Syria to hunt terrorists.

The book calls for tough action against France and its dreams of offsetting US power. "We should force European governments to choose between Paris and Washington," it states. Britain's independence from Europe should be preserved, perhaps with open access for British arms to American defence markets

With what Army? Besides the fact that this book should be prima facie evidence of a need for a committment hearing for both Frum and Perle, we no longer have the forces to do that. The taint of magical thinking resounds here. When I saw this on Atrios, my mouth fell open, because this is crazy talk. It'sa not only not practical, but their last warmaking effort, in Iraq, is turing into a nightmare.

Perle needs to stop playing risk and go to a few funerals of dead Gi's.

posted by Steve @ 1:34:00 AM

1:34:00 AM

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It's not Vietnam

It's not Vietnam

The Army Times says, in running a picture of nearly every dead serviceman from Iraq and Afghanistan, that more men and women have been killed in combat in 2003 than at any time since 1972, our last year of involvement in Vietnam.

I saw two things which truly disturbed me today.

One was Weekly Standard columinst and war cultist Max Boot pontificating on how the war was going. I didn't have to look too hard to know that the war merely another political point for him and thus, I changed the channel.

Later on, I saw Joe Lieberman being pompous and stupid on CNBC, denigrating Howard Dean for claiming Americans are not safer because of the capture of Saddam Hussein. This isn't revealed wisdom, but a fact. Homeland Security is demanding foreign countries place armed marshals on their plans and that we all look out for almanac-carrying Muslims. So exactly how did the capture of Saddam Hussein make a single American safe? Because 10 families got a dead child for their Christmas gift. Others got wounded, some who may never be fully independent again.

While I was away, the local news did a piece on a reservist who was fluent in Modern Arabic. She'd joined the reserves with a friend to attend the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California, widely regarded as the best language school for adults in the world. Well, her friend chose Mandarin and thus was assigned somewhere safe. She chose Arabic, wound up with an intelligence billet, and off to Iraq.

Her future plans? Getting the hell out of the Army. Exactly the kind of soldier the Army needs to retain, hell, promote and commission and she's trying not to say on TV she made a big-assed mistake. If they can't keep her, think they're keeping the combat arms and MP's?

The security situation in Iraq isn't getting any better, either. There is this idea that we can "hand over" security to Iraqis in the next few weeks and that's delusional at best. The police, as 60 Minutes showed on Sunday, is riddled with guerrillas. There are still open ammo dumps and the police have neither weapons nor vehicles to patrol. More importantly, we still don't know who the guerrillas are and this is eight months into the war.

At some point soon, all these illusions will come crashing down. We haven't brought democracy to Iraa, but unleashed party rivalries, anarchy and blood feuds. We can't even fix the schools.

In 1946, the Irgun blew the King David Hotel to shit, killed dozens of people. At that moment, people realized what they were in for. We are fast reaching that moment in Iraq.

posted by Steve @ 1:03:00 AM

1:03:00 AM

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Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Dispute in Michael Jackson Camp Over Role of the Nation of Islam

Dispute in Michael Jackson Camp Over Role of the Nation of Islam

Published: December 30, 2003

LOS ANGELES, Dec. 29 — Officials from the Nation of Islam, a separatist African-American Muslim group, have moved in with Michael Jackson and are asserting control over the singer's business affairs, friends, employees and business associates of Mr. Jackson said.

Initially invited to the Neverland Ranch several weeks ago to provide security for Mr. Jackson, members of the Nation of Islam are now restricting access to him and have begun making decisions for him related to the news media, his business affairs and even his legal strategy, some of Mr. Jackson's friends and associates said. Mr. Jackson faces charges of child molesting in Santa Barbara and recently moved into a rented house in Los Angeles, where Nation of Islam officials have accompanied him.

Efforts to reach Mr. Jackson through his spokesman were not sucessful, but his lawyer, Mark Geragos, and The Final Call, the Nation of Islam's newspaper, denied the claim.

Leonard Muhammad, chief of staff and son-in-law of the Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, now works out of the Los Angeles office of Mr. Geragos, Mr. Jackson's lawyer, the Jackson associates said. Mr. Muhammad stood behind Mr. Geragos during a recent televised news conference and, according to two of Mr. Jackson's employees who spoke on condition of anonymity, he participates in phone calls involving media and legal strategy.

Mr. Jackson's official spokesman, Stuart Backerman, resigned on Monday to protest the Nation of Islam's presence, said a colleague of Mr. Backerman, who could not be reached for comment on Monday.

The employees said they spoke out because they are concerned about Mr. Jackson's welfare and because his multicultural message was at odds with the group's philosophy of black separatism. The Nation of Islam is a small group that advocates black self-empowerment and a separate African-American state, and some of its leaders have espoused anti-Semitic, anti-gay and racist rhetoric. Mr. Jackson is not Muslim nor a member of the Nation of Islam

OK, now, let me explain why they were called in. Jackson knows that he's in real trouble, you don't call in the NOI unless you're in real trouble. They are scary folks and they love to intimidate people when they have to.

Jackson is playing black politics to garner him the only kind of support he has left in the US. Unless he's seen as a victim of white injustice, he's going to have a very quick trial. The Michael Jackson people remember is not the one on trial. That is a 45 year old man looking to explain away sleepovers with teen boys and romancing them.

His claims of abuse also play into this. If he can convince people that the police are against him, humiliated him, then he's just another powerful black man the white media wanted to ruin. The fact that he may have been the most popular black recording artist in history is now supposed to go away. He's no naif, living in a fantasy world, but an adroit political player, using an image of weirdness to protect him. He's working all the angles of black politics like a pro.

The only problem is that he has to play down the NOI to the wider world, because of their reputation. It doesn't impress the media to have Louis Farrakhan running your business life and limiting access. Even Al Sharpton has learned to distance himself from the NOI over time. You can't have no relation with them, they have too much respect within the community to completely blow them off. They are serious people and you disrespect them at your peril. No one's ever accused them of murder in my memory, at least after the assassination of Malcolm X, but that was enough.

They're a tiny fraction of the Muslim community and most Sunni Imams in the US don't take them seriously, but because of their work in prisons, and in the community, they get listened to.

The problem for Jackson's political moves is this: if the kid is proven to be credible in any way, he's done. He can work the ropes all he wants, but facts are nasty things. If they turn against Jackson, all his manuvering will fail.

posted by Steve @ 5:27:00 PM

5:27:00 PM

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Union advises pilots not to fly

Union advises pilots not to fly

Some flights to the US could be grounded after the airline pilots' union called on its members not to fly with armed sky marshals on board.

Airline pilots should not take off with marshals on board, the British Airline Pilots' Association (Balpa) has said.

UK ministers say the move is a "responsible and prudent" response to the heightened terror alert in the US.

But the union wants assurances about the captain's powers, the training of marshals and the weapons used.

Balpa has also called for an emergency world summit of pilots to consider the plans by the US to demand marshals be used on some international flights to and from the country.

The UK's marshals were expected to begin working on some transatlantic routes on Monday or Tuesday.

Our friends are growing tired of our paranoia.

posted by Steve @ 4:52:00 PM

4:52:00 PM

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Thanks for letting me know that the commenting system is acting up. I'm going to leave it alone for a couple of hours, in the hope that it will come back up. If it doesn't, I'll replace it by the end of the day.

posted by Steve @ 11:11:00 AM

11:11:00 AM

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Our So-Called Boom

Our So-Called Boom

Published: December 30, 2003

It was a merry Christmas for Sharper Image and Neiman Marcus, which reported big sales increases over last year's holiday season. It was considerably less cheery at Wal-Mart and other low-priced chains. We don't know the final sales figures yet, but it's clear that high-end stores did very well, while stores catering to middle- and low-income families achieved only modest gains.

Based on these reports, you may be tempted to speculate that the economic recovery is an exclusive party, and most people weren't invited. You'd be right.

Commerce Department figures reveal a startling disconnect between overall economic growth, which has been impressive since last spring, and the incomes of a great majority of Americans. In the third quarter of 2003, as everyone knows, real G.D.P. rose at an annual rate of 8.2 percent. But wage and salary income, adjusted for inflation, rose at an annual rate of only 0.8 percent. More recent data don't change the picture: in the six months that ended in November, income from wages rose only 0.65 percent after inflation.

Why aren't workers sharing in the so-called boom? Start with jobs.

Payroll employment began rising in August, but the pace of job growth remains modest, averaging less than 90,000 per month. That's well short of the 225,000 jobs added per month during the Clinton years; it's even below the roughly 150,000 jobs needed to keep up with a growing working-age population.

But if the number of jobs isn't rising much, aren't workers at least earning more? You may have thought so. After all, companies have been able to increase output without hiring more workers, thanks to the rapidly rising output per worker. (Yes, that's a tautology.) Historically, higher productivity has translated into rising wages. But not this time: thanks to a weak labor market, employers have felt no pressure to share productivity gain

What the good professor is not saying, but you should be aware of is this: Wal-Mart was dumping things like indoor grills at $4.83, nearly at cost. Which means they didn't make a whole lot of money. People bought less and spent less. When the Kool Kids Klub gets on TV and talks about the economy getting better, it is for them. For most of us, the economy has stagnated. When you see strong economic messages from the Dems and their allies, they will resonate, because people still don't have work.

This is laying the ground for a strong democratic campaign, because of the time-tested theme "Are you better off now than you were four years ago." That basic message will have a resonance that the war on terror simply doesn't. So when you hear the latest idiocy from David Brooks, remember, he makes a lot more money than you.

posted by Steve @ 2:42:00 AM

2:42:00 AM

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Portugal child sex charges issued

Portugal child sex charges issued

Portuguese prosecutors have charged 10 people with the sexual abuse of disturbed children in state-run homes.

The former employment minister in the last Socialist government, Paulo Pedroso, and former ambassador to South Africa Jorge Ritto are among them.

Police have spent more than a year investigating allegations that children from the Casa Pia homes in the capital were abused by a paedophile ring.

Mr Pedroso says he is the victim of a smear campaign and denies the charges.

The case has outraged Portugal and shaken public trust in the authorities.

President Jorge Sampaio has described it as a "national disgrace".

The case is regarded as the first test of the country's legal system since it returned to democracy in 1974 following nearly five decades of dictatorship.
Mr Silvino, 46, faces 35 charges of sexually molesting four children over a three-year period. His alleged victims include a boy with mental disabilities, and another who is deaf and mute.

This is the kind of story you see and it rips your heart out. Molesting kids in the care of the state? Of course the Portuguese people are going to flip out. The most vunerable kids, pretty much sold to the rich and everyone is claiming it's a smear. I'm surprised they didn't say the kids wanted money to keep quiet. Just another reminder of how the rich are different than you and me.

posted by Steve @ 2:18:00 AM

2:18:00 AM

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Monday, December 29, 2003

Kurds throw up new hurdle to Iraq sovereignty

Kurds throw up new hurdle to Iraq sovereignty

By Peter Spiegel in Baghdad and David Pilling in Tokyo
Published: December 28 2003 21:54 | Last Updated: December 28 2003 21:54

Kurdish members of Iraq's governing council are insisting the country's transitional law include wide-ranging sovereignty rights for the northern Kurdish areas - including control of their natural resources and veto powers over Iraqi military movements in the region.

The Kurdish demands are throwing up another hurdle to completing the statute by the proposed deadline of February 28 even though they appear highly unlikely to be adopted in full.


Kurdish parties have proposed a semi-autonomous governing body, called the Council of Kurdish Ministers, which must approve all administrative actions from Baghdad, in a draft version of the transitional law submitted to the governing council earlier this month and obtained by the Financial Times.
Despite Kurdish insistence that the devolved powers be detailed in the transitional law, coalition officials said they believed the proposal was a non-starter. The Kurdish provisions are opposed by most Arab governing council members, and any decision on Iraq's federal structure is expected to be postponed until a constitutional convention in 2005.

Even so, Kurdish officials on Sunday were insisting special federal treatment for Kurdistan be included in the transitional law, warning that pressure for an independence referendum would grow if the governing council failed to grant concessions.

I would suggest the Kurds look to Cyprus as to how Turks deal with issues regarding nation sovregnity. I would expect the paratroopers to land at the main airports within hours of this announcement. They better mine the roads along the border. Juan Cole says, this isn't acceptable to the Arabs or Turkmen. Which may be true, but the Turks will roll south at the hint of an independent Kurdish state.

posted by Steve @ 11:10:00 PM

11:10:00 PM

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Alawi: Saddam will be Tried in Secret; Withdrawal Timeline for US Troops to be Negotiated

Alawi: Saddam will be Tried in Secret; Withdrawal Timeline for US Troops to be Negotiated

Saddam's trial is unlikely to be public, according to Iyad Alawi, member of the Interim Governing Council and head of the Iraqi National Accord (mainly ex-Baathist officers who cooperated in 1990s CIA plots against Saddam). Alawi made the remarks in an interview with the London-based al-Hayat newspaper. He said there would probably be no public trial because "it is possible that he will mention names of states or persons to whom he gave money . . ." Asked if Saddam had admitted to smuggling money abroad, Alawi replied, "He has begun to admit it. He has confessed to important things." [Saddam is thought to have squirreled $30 bn. or more away in secret accounts overseas.]

Alawi said of the trial of Saddam, "Naturally, it will be an Iraqi trial, before Iraqi judges. You published in al-Hayat that even 3 weeks before his capture, I had completed gathering evidence and confessions from Iraqi intelligence officers, and had forwarded that information to the judge in charge of the official inquiry in Iraq . . ." [including cases against persons who tried to kill Alawi himself] . . . "Now there is a file for his trial in Iraq for the crimes that he committed against the Iraqi people, in an Iraqi court, with Iraqi judges. If other countries have cases against him, they can lodge charges after the Iraqi trial has finished. But I expect the judgment to be clear, in the framework of the Iraqi criminal statutes, that is, he will be executed."

On the possibility of a public trial for Saddam: "I don't think so. That subject has not been discussed so far. I don't believe so. It will be like any other trial for any other criminal, except that Saddam's crimes have been bewildering, horrifying, and extensive. There is another thing, the possibility that he will mention the names of states and the names of persons to whom he has given bribes and wealth. We don't want him to mention all that on television. There are lots of existing documents, and we don't want to worsen Iraq's relations with others. And we don't want such matters to be interpreted in irrational or subjective ways." He said that since other countries, such as Kuwait or Lebanon, might file charges against Saddam, the issues were complex. But the important thing, he said, was that Saddam would be tried in Iraqi courts with full legitimacy and legality.

I woiuldn't worry about this. The security situatiuon is so bad that the rumor of a secret trail may start the civil war. Did they ask Sistani for his opinion? I think the Shia want a open trial so people know what he did to them. I don't worry much about a trial of Saddam in Iraq. Because there isn't enough security to have it.

posted by Steve @ 11:00:00 PM

11:00:00 PM

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Fair elections

Fair elections

I was watching CNN this morning when I saw Martin Sheen in a suit. Now, that's a site usually reserved for Wednesday, 9 PM, so I wondered what the deal was.

When I saw the name of the website, I had a feeling that this was a 527 dedicated to Diebold. And one hit later, I was rewarded with a subtle pitch for a fight against Diebold. I don't think they, or the GOP buddies thought someone would put money up to fuck with them. Well, 2004 isn't going to be like other elections. People have been bitching about Diebold for months. When I suggested people sue, people shook their heads. Now, there is an organization with money and muscle and support who can challenge Diebold and do nothing else. Think about how potent that is. Diebold is going to have to deal with these people, who are clearly working outside the campaign structure.

The use of 527's is going to change the way people campaign. Their ultimate effectiveness cannot be judged, yet, but the potential is very interesting.

posted by Steve @ 8:41:00 PM

8:41:00 PM

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Sunday, December 28, 2003

Time to take the gloves off

Time to take the gloves off

The media in America lives in a dual world, one where they want to hold people accountable, yet flip out when people do the same to them.

Atrios's reporting on the AP's Nedra Pickler, led to a nasty letter from the AP's legal counsel about harassment to one of the people who wrote to complain about her reporting, which promptly got a sneering reply. Journalists have amazingly thin skins when they are criticized in any way, shape or form. Anyone who writes media criticism can make a bunch of enemies really quickly by writing about their peers. There are people at Salon who still hate the fact that I looked at the 10Q's (quarterly financial reports) and showed them to be woefully managed.

I think it would be a really, really good idea to track reporters, word for word, broadcast for broadcast, and print the results online. Not just for any one campaign or cause, but to track people's reporting the way we track other services. If someone had bothered to question the reporting om Wen Ho Lee, he might not have been accused of espionage falsely by the New York Times. If someone had actually checked Jayson Blair's work, the Times might have fired his ass years earlier.

Keeping score of who's right and wrong, how many times they repeat cannards like Al Gore invented the Internet and make obvious errors. Not accusations of ideology, but actual data and facts.

Internal ombudsmen seem like a good idea until you realize that they get their money from the same company that they are criticising.

The media is the most important organziation in American life with no accountability to the public. Libel suits don't work, not only because they are expensive, but the law is designed to protect free speech. So even if you have someone dead to rights, like Sid Blumenthal did with Matt Drudge, suing and winning is incredibly difficult. And there is nothing you can do if reporters repeat a theme like Howard Dean is pessimistic or farts after burritos.

The Dean Defense Force is a great idea, but it has one limit, it is the support network for one candidate. Which means some reporters will ignore it as partisan blathering, no matter how valid their points. It would be a very sound idea for a 527 to fund such an effort, independent of campaigns. Imagine an ad in the Sunday Times saying "Sue Schimdt wrote that Al Gore "invented" the Internet. Al Gore said no such thing and this has been public knowledge for years, so why is she repeating it."

The lawyers for the WaPo will be looking to sue before the end of the day. If you ran a campaign, naming individual reporters and their mistake of facts, along with correspondence with their editors, after they stopped freaking out and realize that they couldn't sue, they would ignore it. The only problem is that no one trust the media. Right, left, most people consider them abject liars. C-span would be amusing, however, as reporters would have their own work quoted back to them verbatim.

Let's face it, Washington journalism is corrupt. They screw each other, do favors for each other and frankly, understand very little about campaigns. This isn't received wisdom, but the things I learned first hand. Most reporters never learn how manipulated they are by campaigns. I've seen more than one campaign derailed over an issue, which if placed in perspective, would not have turned that campaign. But there is a frenzy to scoop each other and relive the days of Watergate, so oppo research and spin comes to define a race as a race and not about an election of the most powerful person on the planet, one hated by many around the world.

It's all inside baseball to them, who's up and who's down. The Kool Kids Klub is pissing away our democracy like drunks at strip club handing out $1's. It's all about style to them. No one is going to place Maureen Dowd on workfare if she loses her job. They all protect each other. Well, that's a luxury that we can no longer afford. If they will no longer do their job on their own, it's time to make them.

posted by Steve @ 10:56:00 AM

10:56:00 AM

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Friday, December 26, 2003

10 dead, two days

10 dead, two days

Saddam is being interrogated by the US, the right-wing media has forlorn hopes of the war ending soon, yet, according to CNN, the resistance made it a Christmas to remember with repeated shellings of the Green Zone. CENTCOM called it weak and ineffective, but if early reports are correct, someone fired an RPG into the Green Zone, and if that's true, everyone should be worried shitless.

We're talking a couple of hundred yards, and as these things go, taking RPG fire is bad. But to cap it off, there was a second shelling that night. As well as four dead GI's from the day's combat.

It's now to the place where every word the government says about Iraq is either wrong or a lie. Guerrillas never got within RPG range of MACV, or of Soviet HQ in Afghanistan. Yet, we're supposed to believe that the US has a handle on security issues in Iraq? They're flying Apache missions into central Baghdad. One day, either they're going to waste a bunch of civilians or come crashing down as a Strela hits them from close in.

This is the environment they expect to have elections and a trial of Saddam in? Who are they kidding? We know Bush wants to flee the occupation, but come on, without a better security situation, you're inviting a civil war to erupt. You can't even safeguard the police, much less leading Shia clerics, former Baathists or the Green Zone and you expect to secure elections? Fact is, US troops can't even monitor a polling place in most of Iraq without catching sniper fire. Without basic security, elections are a either a pipe dream or future fraud. If you can't do something as fundamental as protect the country's main pipeline, any talk of elections is a fantasy.

What the media misses is this: without security none of the US's plans are likely to happen. And we cannot provide security. With our plans for death squads and ignoring Ayatollah Sistani, we are laying the groundwork for a massive explosion of rage.

Iraq reminds me of Maximillian's failed conquest of Mexico. He tried to impose an imperial state and created the groundwork for his own defeat against the Germans in 1870. It was such a hairbrained plan, and so disastrous, that you have to wonder what the hell he was thinking. Hoping the US would be distracted by it's own civil war, that they could recolonize Mexico? It was falling apart as soon as it happened, but by 1865, the US Army was pressuring the French seriously and their battlehardened and trained army was able to force the French to see the light, that and covert help to the Juarez government.

A Newsweek columnist said that at every point along the way our expectations in Iraq have been dashed. They didn't leap at being liberated, they didn't rush to help us and they aren't turning on the resistance. Why? Because we invaded their country and killed their relatives. Things are so disorganized that we had to leave policy up to squad leaders. Which may speak well of them, but can only lead to further chaos. Units change, policy changes arbitrarily. Which leads to resentment and further violence.

I fear that 2003 was only prologue for the violence we'll see in 2004 in Iraq.

posted by Steve @ 3:40:00 PM

3:40:00 PM

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Thursday, December 25, 2003

A few words about gun control

A few words about gun control

Ever since 1968, the Democratic Party has pushed the idea of a national gun control policy which, more than race, sex or abortion, has closed off millions of voters to the party. It is time to realize that a uniform gun control policy is probably silly.

I was watching Ted Nugent shoot off his guns and bows today and I realized that if I lived in rural Michigan, I'd own a bunch of guns as well. I certainly wouldn't wait 45 minutes for my rural sheriff to show up to protect me. Part of the cost of living deep in the woods is not having the cops 5 minutes away.

The fact is that if someone is stupid enough to rob a rural home, you're going to probably have to blow them away because they're all wacked out on hillbilly heroin or crank to begin with. The negotiation room is going to be small.

But there is a vast difference between that and life in New York or Washington. There, guns aren't usually needed. New York has had gun control since 1910. The murder rate now is at it's lowest levels in decades, all due to energetic law enforcement of gun codes. There, most people no more need handguns than they need tigers in their apartments. One bullet, fired in an apartment, can travel a block away and in a city, that's a different world. Numerous stories about kids being shot by idiots living blocks away are common. Cities and guns really don't mix, despite what you see in the movies.

One policy, two nations

The problem is that people have been pushing for one policy, which is insane. I would say that people living in Alabama have a very different understanding of their need for guns than New Yorkers. Nugent, an NRA board member, made a cogent point: there are no gun accidents, only people who mishandle guns. All guns are always loaded, never point a gun at anything you aren't willing to destroy. Which makes sense to me, because it was what they taught me at Scout Camp.

What needs to change is the way we sell and and handle guns. It wouldn't take me three days to put together an arsenal to rival any paramilitary unit around. It's a bit hard to get a .50 cal these days, but short of that, a .308 can be bought at any decent gun store in America. Even without conversion kits, you can get enough firepower to stop police cold.

The core of this problem, as explained so clearly in Richard Slotkin's Gunfighter Nation, is that Americans believe things about guns which simply aren't true. Even most SWAT teams never fire a shot. The idea is to contain, intimidate, and shoot when there are no other options. The image of the West is one created for financial gain, not based in reality. Gun control came to the West with the law. Police forces soon followed. The idea of a landowner walking around with a gun was one that was feared, not cherished. The reason that the Army was shoved out of law enforcement was because they took the side of the rich and powerful too often.

Most cowboys, who were really ranch hands who tended cattle, rarely, if ever fired their guns, except to control herds or target shoot. Nor did they fight with their hands. Given the high proportion of veterans in their ranks, one third were black, another third, immigrants, killing to solve disputes was nothing that they usually wanted any part of. Even shaking hands was not routine, The idea of the bar brawl as sporting event is a movie fiction. Of all the places possible to have a fight, a bar ranks just below a gun shop as a danger zone. Glass, a usually armed bartender, drunk people, all lead to the kind of potential that most sane, rational people want to avoid.

Yet, these myths are so ingrained in the way that we see the west and our rolls of Americans, they have led to hundreds of thousands of deaths since the 19th century. Shootouts, showdowns, quick draw contests, all have led people to get killed against people armed and ready to fire. With a gun, it is always better to be on the offensive than the defensive.

Guns are a very, very emotional topic with a lot of people, but mostly because they embrace their inner paranoid. They think that the gun will protect them, when in reality, most people can't handle a gun under stress and may well get killed doing so.

The Democrats made a critical mistake in the late 1970's and it created a wedge which the GOP exploited. They and the NRA played on the fear of people about city liberals placing their lives in danger. It came from a basic misunderstanding of the role of police in most places outside major cities, in most cities, there is a wary relationship with the police, a combination of fear and a feeling of a lack of protection. Racial hostility places the police in a bind between mistrust and demands for better service. Yet, most urban residents want a largely gun free society patrolled by the police. Urban gun culture, for the most part has led only to death and misery. States with lax gun laws make it far more difficult for these cities to remain safe.

At the same time, urban demands for gun control offend many people who use guns responsibly. If guns were controlled as the way many liberals would like, their lives would literally be in danger. It's not widely acknowledged, but in many places, people still hunt for food. Venison may upset the PETA crowd, but that's hundreds of dollars of meat on someone's table and in a lot of places, well, that's money they may not have.

Yes, one can live in a city and be a responsible gun owner, but for many people, guns are just too dangerous in these confined spaces, one bullet can travel hundreds of feet and kill the innocent. As they say, if you around a city block, there is no place you can be safe from a .50 round. Well, in some cases, you aren't safe from a .25


There are guns, NRA members, and then there is the NRA. Hell, I've been a member of the NRA. I fish and do not own guns. Michael Moore is a member of the NRA, has been since childhood, so is Howard Dean and millions of other target shooters and hunters who do not subscribe to the organization's political goals.

The NRA's basic safety courses are sound and they do provide many benefits of membership. The problem comes in with the management of the organization that is an annex of the far right. Between taunting liberals and encouraging the shooting of federal officers, this is an organization which has betrayed the core of its membership over and over. So exactly why do I need teflon bullets to kill deer or protect my home? Unless the police are storming through with vests, there is no need for them. But the NRA spent time and capital to keep these bullets legal. The ideology of the NRA is driven by a far right agenda only a little less loopy than the John Birch society. They've moved way beyond 2nd Amendment advocates into the Republican protection association of Washington.

The breakpoint with rationality came with Ruby Ridge and Waco. By any rational standard, Randy Weaver and David Koresh were cop-killing criminals who deserved to be in jail for decades. Would anyone not cloaking themselves in the mantle of white-wing Jesus not be gunned down like wild dogs if they shot a US marshal, raped little girls and had an armory large enough to equip a Ranger battalion. Nor would anyone have ever questioned the agents about their actions if they had been Puerto Ricans holed up in the Poconos with an armory. No one would have lost a second of sleep if they were all blown to hell. But instead, we have the NRA sponsoring a dog and pony show for their supporters, which include some of the biggest freaks this country has ever produced.

Here's a hint: no one is coming to take white people's rights away, much less their guns. Unless there's a fire or fishing, most people are happy to think about Idaho only when ski season rolls around. These people face no threats to their way of life as long as they obey the law. There is no ZOG, no Turner Diaries conspiracy of the Jews, no need to live in compounds. Yet, by tone and deed, the NRA panders to these wackos. They convince the others that the liberals want to take their guns. And a lot of liberals play right into that.

The reality is that there will probably be no uniform law to cover guns across the US. More importantly, there shouldn't be. Urban residents have the right to live with far greater gun controls than rural residents. The idea of walking around Detroit with concealed weapons is insane. At the same time, telling some guy who lives 45 minutes away from a county sheriff that he doesn't need a gun is insulting. All the cops are going to do is find a crime scene by the time they get there. Yet, both sides play the game as if the other side doesn't matter.

Anyone who says guns actually protect people need to spend a week in an ER and see all the stupid ways people handle guns. There may be no gun accidents, but there is a hell of a lot of gun negligence. More importantly, every time the NRA pumps up the fear of their members, some idiot thinks the feds are his enemy. Look, cops make mistakes, sometimes bad ones, but we don't have the RUC in this country. The police don't collaborate with terrorists to repress you.

More importantly, the way we deal with guns in this country is a national security crisis in the making. Air France had to cancel six flights to LA because they feared another showy Al Qaeda attack. One day, AQ or their follow on group is going to figure out John Muhammad had the right idea to spread terror and will send out hunter killer teams and use car bombs. They won't be breaking any laws as they collect sniper rifles, assault rifles and the technology used by special forces teams today. They're not going to play around with sniping, either. They're going to run a full assault on a US target and it will be hell to dislodge them. They're still in their statement phase, but that's going to end one day and when they figure out John Muhammad shut down DC in a way 9/11 didn't shut down New York, all hell will break lose. In private sales and with conversion kits, some poor local swat team is going to run into a commando assault team with weapons as good as theirs and better training.

The Hollywood shootout a couple of years back indicates exactly what kind of risk this could be. Two guys with AK's robbed a bank and when the cops showed up, they were little better than targets. It took hundreds of cops and begging the owner of a local gun store for enough weapons to hold these guys off. They had Kevlar and weapons and the cops were going to die in place. This wasn't a street gang, or sophisticated robbers, but two nuts with a lot of weapons, body armor and no fear of cops. There wasn't any place to hide, or any cover, and they were using regular AK rounds. No special bullets, nothing you couldn't get from a store.

Now, place that scenario in oh, the National Theater or National Gallery of Art. No subtlety, no finesse, just 30 guys showing up, loaded for bear and ready to die. Toss in a couple of car bombs around DC and you have a recipe for pure panic. The cops will be running around like headless chickens, chasing bombs and the jihad commandos show up and kill people for sport all with American made and sold weapons. We assume 9/11 was the worst thing possible, and it wasn't and you don't need nearly impossible to procure nukes or difficult to make chemical or bioweapons. Just blow up ten cars in any city at rush hour and you'll have more panic than you can imagine. Toss in shooters and you have utter chaos.

And why and how will they be able to do this? Because we have a wide open market for guns, no licensing for ownership, no uniform rules for private sales, laws which vary from state to state and lax enforcement. All dedicated terrorists have to do is use these laws to their advantaged the way right-wing kooks have done so far. The right to bear arms is not a suicide pact.

What to do?

First, pass uniform standards to ensure that every state has the same basic procedures on gun purchasing and residency. New laws are less important than enforcing the laws we have, but that's not enough. Encouraging people to take a realistic assessment of their need for gun ownership would also help. A lot of people have fantasies of gunning down home burglers when it is far more likely that they will kill their spouse. I feel for any woman who thinks a handgun in her purse will save her from a larger, more determined man. He is as likely t o take her gun as she is to fire it. The same with home protection, the number one thing burglars steal are handguns. It is amazing that people sleep with loaded guns under their pillows. Who are they going to shoot from a dead sleep? Their kids? . A robber is awake and ready to shoot and probably cranked up out of his mind.

Guns can and do save lives, in the hands of trained users who practice frequently. The FBI's hostage rescue team shoots 10,000 rounds of ammo a year. Delta Force as much or more. If you made gun ownership contingent on regular training alone, accidents would drop dramatically and people would be safer.

The fact is that the NRA, which takes extremist positions, and is now creating a blacklist, needs to be attacked for what it is, a den of reactionaries. Not the membership, who need alternatives to protect their rights, but the GOP owned leadership of the NRA. You can be pro-gun and pro-gun rights and against the NRA. They are, in many ways, emblematic of the GOP. They talk about rights, and then they promote an agenda that harms many of the people that support them. The way that they exploited Ruby Ridge and Waco and remained nearly silent about Oklahoma City shows you exactly where their hearts and heads are. They denigrated police officers killed in the line of duty, something a black activist would have been excoriated for from every newspaper in the United States. Yet, the NRA leadership allies in Congress dragged the agents up and smacked them around for sport, while Randy Weaver, wackjob who placed his family in danger and is responsible for the death of a US marshal, was treated with utmost courtesy. When blacks tried that in Philadelphia, the black mayor burnt down a third of West Philly. You could see the fires from U Penn.

Their power is acquired by their vast membership who is fed a diatribe of propaganda about their "rights" and is abetted by well-meaning, but ultimately wrong headed gun control advocates. The constitution is clear that some gun ownership is a basic right. The issue is how we negotiate that ownership between the rights of the gun owner and the safety of the general public. We aren't going to make real changes by altering cosmetics on weapons. An M-1 Carbine is still a very effective killer, so is an M-1 rifle. They may not be flashy, but they'll stop a home invasion cold. Nor are we going to make changes by encouraging more gun ownership.

Given a choice, I'd suggest more people own Airsoft guns and allowing them to use them in ranges. Most target shooting can be accomplished with non-lethal weapons. As far as home protection goes, alter the insurance codes to demand homes with guns have trained gun owners and offer discounts for those who engage in regular training. Underwrite the costs of the training as well. Institute product liability laws for guns to prevent cheap, poorly made weapons from flooding the market. Enforce the gun laws when applicable and sue store owners who permit shadow purchases as well as the people who perform them. Avoid national policies on guns when local policies may ultimately be more effective and allow localities like DC to protect themselves from Virginia's gun laws. Finally, make it far more difficult to sell guns privately. Controlling private gun sales and things like sales outside gun show sales can be controlled.

We need to make sure that there is a balance between the rights of gun owners and the right not to be shot by some idiot with a weapon.

posted by Steve @ 10:06:00 PM

10:06:00 PM

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Wednesday, December 24, 2003

When Paycheck Is Low, Discount Retailers Have Pull

December 23, 2003

It's Christmastime, and Dawn Murphy of Long Beach, N.Y., is
pushing a cart loaded with presents, coats and her two
small daughters up and down the aisles of a Wal-Mart in
nearby Valley Stream, thinking about how she will pay for
everything she wants to give.

"We literally live by a budget, so we don't have any extra
spending money," she said, selecting an angel ornament from
a shelf. "Right now I'm taking money out of my food budget
to cover Christmas." That food budget is $100 a week ''and
a lot of coupons." She gravitates to Wal-Mart because of
the store's layaway plan, which requires 10 percent down
and grants 60 days to pay the rest before the purchases can
be taken home. Her husband's year-end bonus from his job as
an office manager will help with the other 90 percent.

"That's the only way I can do it," she said. "Other stores,
like Kohl's, don't have that, and it makes shopping that
much more difficult." Living from paycheck to paycheck is
the norm in the United States, economists say, and
Wal-Mart's cash registers offer some proof of that. For
more than a year, the retailer says, it has detected spikes
in sales twice a month, around the 1st and the 15th, which
is about the time that many people are paid. Visits to
Wal-Marts around the country last week, at the height of
the holiday shopping season, found many shoppers feeling
squeezed - the Murphys on Long Island, the Dukes family in
Georgia, the Lawrences and the Olsons near Seattle, and
others as well.

''For many Americans, especially those with children who
are living paycheck to paycheck, Christmas is seen as a
time of financial crisis," said Stephen Brobeck, executive
director of the Consumer Federation of America, an advocacy
and education organization in Washington. "The group has
grown as the result of rising unemployment and increasing
consumer debt."

Though there are some signs that the economy is healing -
in the form of bigger Wall Street bonuses, for example, and
increasing corporate profits - income has remained mostly
flat for many workers, leading to a discrepancy between
gift-giving ambitions and what people can actually afford
to give.

"Even though you can point to improving economic
indicators, one conspicuous omission from that list is wage
growth," said Jared Bernstein, senior economist for the
Economic Policy Institute, a research group in Washington.
"And that's where most working families meet the economy."

Mrs. Murphy said her husband used to work in Manhattan,
where the pay is better. His job was across from the World
Trade Center. On Sept. 11, 2001, Mrs. Murphy said, he saw
the first plane hit, walked out of his building and never
went back.

Mrs. Murphy dresses in hand-me-downs and uses her birthday
money from relatives to buy Christmas gifts. The Murphys'
lone credit card always has an outstanding balance. Life
has been that way since they married, five years ago, she
said, and there are no signs that it will change anytime

Kimsey Dukes, 44, a factory worker at the Southwire
Company, a cable maker in Carrollton, Ga., is paid every
Thursday. Even so, he said he often felt that he had "to
rob Peter to pay Paul" to keep his household, which
includes five children and his disabled wife, running

"I try to put in overtime whenever they let me," Mr. Dukes
said. Still, "some things you let go," he added. "I
sometimes have to put paying bills off until the next pay
period." For four years, ever since his wife, Sharon, had
to stop working because of a degenerative bone disease and
carpal tunnel syndrome, the family has lived on a tight
budget. Christmas lists from the children, who range in age
from 10 to 21, can mean difficult decisions. This year, the
youngest yearns for a PlayStation 2, while two of the girls
have asked for drawing paper for their art projects.

Dallas Sumbles, a 22-year-old Navy aircraft mechanic who
shops at a Wal-Mart in Jacksonville, Fla., is paid every
other week, and that can be hard, even with military
subsidies. "Three days after I get paid, the money is
gone," he said. "We live on the base, buy our food at the
Navy Exchange, pay for our cars and insurance and then do
nothing until two weeks later when the next paycheck

He and his wife, Nicki, used to have a Wal-Mart credit
card, but that did not turn out well, he said, and now they
owe more than $1,000. "We cannot pay anything on the
balance," he said. Nor can they afford to give each other
Christmas presents this year, Nicki Sumbles said, but their
children will get gifts and the couple may go out to

Wal-Mart, which is based in Bentonville, Ark., began its
layaway plan in 1962 with its first store. This year it
began cashing payroll checks and government-issued checks
for a fee, in a program that has already spread to 20
states and is expected to be available nationwide by next
year. It began "as another form of convenience at the
register," said Melissa Berryhill, a Wal-Mart spokeswoman.
At the same time, she added, "we are aware that we have
some customers who don't have bank accounts."

But the economy is getting better, that's what Fox says.

posted by Steve @ 11:28:00 AM

11:28:00 AM

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Tuesday, December 23, 2003



Ok, I'm going to be posting intermittenly over the next few days, since there are games to play, books to read and movies to watch with children.

But before I take leave and relax a little, I want to post on the stories which I think mattered during 2003, but not in any order

1) Send my kid some water

Because of the inefficiencies of Halliburton, parents had to ship their kids cases of bottle water to Iraq.

2) Neil Bush and the mystery whores

Neil Bush, now a paid influence peddlee for the Chinese government, had women show up to his door ahd sleep with him.

3) Whitey made me lie

Jayson Blair proved that letting facts in the way of a good story wasn't a problem if you kissed enough ass.

4) Johnny who?

When Johnny Cash and John Ritter died on the same day, guess who got the notice? The guitarist or the comic actor?

5) Bad Santa

Proving how stupid the media is, they actually debated the merits of a movie where Billy Bob Thornton pisses himself and curses at kids. Santa isn't real, you know.

6) Capturing Saddam

Too bad he isn't running anything and that he cursed the US troops captured him.

7) Oh yeah, mutual funds are a crock

A massive scandal in the mutual funds business management has been obscured by the war

8) Jobs? What jobs.

The economy may be recovering slightly but those jobs are gone.

9) You tell me what's missing.

posted by Steve @ 2:14:00 AM

2:14:00 AM

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George Clooney (and his dad) vs. George W. Bush

George Clooney (and his dad) vs. George W. Bush

You'll hear that same note of skepticism -- minus the profanity -- from Clooney's father, Nick, a congenial Ohio Valley media star who's running for Congress as a Democrat in Kentucky's conservative 4th Congressional District.

"We sent 300,000 of our best and brightest on a snipe hunt," the elder Clooney says of the current situation in Iraq. "I seem to hear the people in our administration saying one thing and meaning something entirely different. When we say 'weapons of mass destruction and imminent danger,' what we really mean is 'not a sniff of weapons of mass destruction and apparently no imminent danger.' Saying something does not necessarily make it true, and simply saying it more often does not make it truer."

Like son, like father? Life and politics are definitely imitating art in this staunchly conservative swath of northern Kentucky. A Clooney is bashing a Bush -- only this time, it's for real. And though the election is still more than 10 months away, the congressional race here is already attracting national attention as a match-up of Hollywood star power vs. tough, homegrown conservative strength.

By all accounts, the Clooneys are aristocracy in this part of Kentucky. Nathan Smith, Democratic chairman of Kenton County, the largest county in the district, calls them "the Kennedys of Kentucky" (though that certainly isn't the compliment it once was). Nick's sister, Rosemary, was one of the iconic American singers and actresses of the post-World War II era; she starred with Bing Crosby in "White Christmas," and she remains a legend to older folks here. As a newspaper columnist and veteran television personality, Nick Clooney, now 69, has been a star in his own right. And young George is one of the globe's most eligible bachelors.

He'll almost certainly be back here in the months to come to help his dad campaign and raise money. But early indications are that President George W. Bush may visit the district to campaign on behalf of the Republican nominee to replace U.S. Rep. Ken Lucas, a conservative Blue Dog Democrat who's retiring after three terms in office
That leaves the candidate and his handlers to develop a subtle campaign plan, one that exploits George's celebrity while keeping the campaign firmly on a moderate course and avoiding the risks that arise when George talks about politics. "He would be here every day if I asked him," Clooney said of his son. "He has his own life, but surely we'll try to set aside a moment when George can come back and do a [campaign] walk-through or fundraiser."

Taken together, the Clooneys are "a Republican nightmare," gushes Smith, the Kenton County Democratic chairman. "The older voters love Nick and the women love George. They don't care if he is a right-winger, a left-winger or a damn Russian. They just know he is the hottest single man in Hollywood, he's from Kentucky and his dad is running for Congress. As a party chairman, I'll take that any day."

The GOP is mighty freaking arrogant about this race, and they shouldn't be. The Clooneys have been living in that region for what, 150 years? Nick Clooney is the Regis Philbin of Cinnicinatti, he's been on TV and in the papers since before George Clooney was born. He also did a stint as AMC's host.

I think trying to tar him and his son as hollywood liberals isn't going to work. First of all, Clooney is fiercely loyal to his dad and I wouldn't want to be the GOP functionary who attacks him. This is a guy who has a reputation for picking and winning fights. Ask Bill O'Reilly. He still sputters at the mention of the name George Clooney. Second, Nick Clooney has worked with and helped lots of people over the years. His family, not just George, can attest to his character. There are a lot of people who can say Nick Clooney helped me. Third, these people are well-liked. Unlike a lot of people, Clooney has never been shy about his Kentucky roots or his family. It's not like he's dropping in and saying "hey, I used to live here." He still visits, still watches the Reds, still has friends there.

This race could easily boil down to who can help the region over who has the right politics. They won't ever be able to match Clooney's money, for one thing. I think when you make $15m a film, you can spend the GOP into the gutter. Yes. the region is conservative, but the GOP isn't going to find anyone who's better liked or better known. And I think that's important. These people know everyone, been to every dinky church. People know the uncles and the aunts and the cousins and the family. Sure, the GOP can talk politics, but come on, this is a guy who has a real connection to the people of the area.

Also, yes, they can talk about George Clooney's politics, which have been the same since he was a teenager, but considering the seat is in play, I don't think this is a straight politics race. As long as Nick Clooney makes it clear he'll represent the people of the region honestly, the GOP will have a tougher time than they think. George Clooney is not just amazingly charsimatic, and reasonably intelligent, he's got a solid reputation in Hollwyood. He's the anti-Arnie. People love the guy, actors and crew and that is rare.

The Salon article mentions Three Kings, but doesn't mention the key moment of the production. While they were filming in Utah,
the director, David O Russell was abusing the extras. Just flipping out on them. Clooney writes the guy a letter, tries to talk to him. He setltes down, for a while, but then, a few days later, flips out on a crew member. By pure coinicidence, Clooney had gone to high school with the guy and I think the school was small, like 200 people. So he knew him and was friendly with the family as well. Russell at some point either humiliates or puts his hands on the guy and Clooney flips. Not in the Hollywood, call my agent, way, but in the I will fucking kill you way. The next thing anyone knows, Clooney is choking the director with his bare hands. They pull him off Russell and calm things down, but people were stunned. Actors don't choke directors to make a point. This was an issue of basic human decency. Besides, if he didn't say anything, it's not like people wouldn't know at home.

So yeah, he's a liberal. And he also stands up for himself and others. I think trying to make Clooney an issue would be a very stupid thing. People, even in that district, pay good money to see him work. They like him and liked his dad. Attacking them on the issues might work, attacking them on their personalities is going to blow up on them.

This is going to be an issue of trust and if Nick Clooney can remind the voters that they know and trust him, he could well win, regardless of the region's politics.

posted by Steve @ 1:34:00 AM

1:34:00 AM

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Monday, December 22, 2003

The Libyan Scam

The Libyan Scam

So now that Libya has given up their moribund WMD program, against which they had no enemies to use against, and what do they get?

Oil, beautiful oil. Black and crude, bubbling up, modern bubbling oil. Oil.

See, they give up last year's status tool, the Porsche 911 Carerra of warfare, and now they get a nice new shiny Escalde of oil production help.

Make no mistake, Gaddafi isn't stupid. While the Marines weren't going to repeat the Shores of Tripoli, he looked around the world and realized that he could do more with oil money and modern production equipment than some canisters of mustard gas. He knew the American-equipped Egyptian Army would blow his collection of Soviet, Cold War relics which is now his army. And while everyone is patting themselves on the back and saying "oooh, Libya isn't a threat", they miss the great switch Gaddafi made. By playing the WMD card, Libya can expect to receive billions of investment from Big Oil.

That's right, there's no regime change, no call for democracy, just more profits for the Bushies and their friends. And you can bet that they're gonna use Libya to pacify those pissed at the deals Halliburton got in their new economic colony of Iraq. "Hey, sorry about Iraq, but we have Libya as a consolation prize. No war, no rebels, lots of that good Libyan crude."

Think about this: Libya's aggressive foreign policy failed. The Egyptians checked them in the 1970's, they were stalled in the Sudan for 20 years and the French kicked the crap out of them in Chad. Now, after years of failure, they come 'clean'.

Let's look at the human rights record of our new friend:

Head of state: Mu'ammar al-Gaddafi
Death penalty: retentionist
International Criminal Court: not signed

Approximately 65 political prisoners, including five prisoners of conscience detained since 1973, were released. Hundreds of others reportedly remained in prison. Families of dozens of prisoners were informed by the authorities that their relatives had died in prison, but were not told the date or cause of death. Several cases of "disappearance" were still not clarified. Two possible prisoners of conscience were sentenced to death. Reports of torture continued to be received; no investigations were known to have been carried out. Legislation remained in force criminalizing non-violent political activities and providing for unfair trials.

After the announced release of political prisoners and prisoners of conscience, Colonel Mu'ammar al-Gaddafi declared on 1 September in his annual speech for the anniversary of the 1969 Revolution that "the existing Libyan prisons will be empty" with the exception of "a group of heretics who are believed to have links with what is known as al-Qa'ida and the Taleban". He stated that these would be treated in the same way the USA was treating people detained in Guantánamo Bay: "America said these people do not have the right to defend themselves, we will never provide them with lawyers, nor will their human rights be respected".

A climate of fear continued to prevail where victims of human rights violations or their relatives, in or outside the country, risk measures of retaliation when they communicate information to human rights organizations.


Unfair trials

Unfair trials, particularly before People's Courts established in 1988, continued to be reported. In a statement commenting on Amnesty International Report 2002, the authorities reiterated that the People's Court is an "independent body" which "maintains all legal safeguards with regard to levels of litigation and the rights of the defence". Despite apparent positive developments in the case of the "HIV trial", concerns regarding the unfair administration of justice remained unchanged.

In February a People's Court in Tripoli dropped charges of conspiracy against the state in the case of one Palestinian and six Bulgarian health professionals who had been on trial since February 2000, accused of deliberately infecting nearly 400 children in hospital with the HIV virus. It referred the case back to state prosecutors. In June the prosecution pressed similar charges to those which had formed the basis of the original trial, but dropped the charge of conspiracy against the state. In August the Arraignment Chamber ordered a referral of the accused before a criminal court. According to reports, security officers who interrogated and allegedly tortured the accused following their arrest in 1999 were also referred to the criminal court.


Death penalty

Legislation remained in force that provides for the death penalty for activities which solely amount to the exercise of the right to freedom of expression and association. Death sentences continued to be imposed. No executions were reported. Since 1988, the authorities have continued to state their intention to work towards the abolition of the death penalty but there was no concrete move on this issue.

On 16 February, two possible prisoners of conscience, Abdullah Ahmed Izzedin and Salem Abu Hanak, were sentenced to death after an unfair trial before a People's Court in Tripoli. Scores of others in the same trial received sentences ranging from 10 years' to life imprisonment. They were among 152 professionals and students arrested in 1998 on suspicion of supporting or sympathizing with the banned Libyan Islamic Group, al-Jama'a al-Islamiya al-Libiya, which was not known to have used or advocated violence. No investigation into allegations of torture during detention raised by some of the defendants was known to have been carried out. Both the defendants and the prosecution lodged appeals against the verdict.
Torture and ill-treatment

Torture remained common in detention centres. According to AI's information, officials failed to take action to investigate allegations of torture or provide redress for the victims. Corporal punishments provided by law remained in force and were reportedly applied.

On 5 September Muhammad Mas'ud Zubaida went to the office of the Revolutionary Committee in Beni Walid to inquire if his son 'Abdullah Muhammad Mas'ud, detained since 1994, was to be included in the latest round of releases. Muhammad Mas'ud Zubaida was reportedly detained and died shortly after his release the following day. He had allegedly been tortured and ill-treated in detention.

According to Libyan media reports, four men convicted of robbery had their right hand and left leg amputated on 3 July, after the punishment was endorsed by the Supreme Court.

Deaths in custody

Allegations of numerous deaths in custody were not investigated. The authorities notified dozens of families that their relatives had died in custody, but apparently refused to provide any details of the date or cause of death. Some families were told that the body of their relative could not be returned because the prisoner had died years earlier. This led to speculation that the prisoners may have been among scores of prisoners allegedly killed unlawfully by the security forces in July 1996 in Abu Salim Prison in Tripoli.


The authorities came under increased pressure to clarify several cases of "disappearance", but had failed to open thorough, independent and impartial investigations into the cases by the end of the year.

In his annual speech on 1 September Colonel Mu'ammar al-Gaddafi gave an official acknowledgement that Imam Musa al-Sadr, a prominent Iranian-born Shi'a cleric living in Lebanon, "disappeared in Libya" during a visit in 1978.
The authorities failed to disclose information about Mansur Kikhiya, former Foreign Affairs Minister and prominent human rights defender, who was last seen in Cairo, Egypt, in December 1993, or about Jaballah Matar and Izzat Youssef al-Maqrif, both prominent Libyan opposition activists who "disappeared" in Cairo in March 1990.

posted by Steve @ 7:58:00 PM

7:58:00 PM

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Limbaugh lawyer: Radio host was being blackmailed by ex-housekeeper

Radio spokeswoman: Plea negotiations under way
From Susan Candiotti
Monday, December 22, 2003 Posted: 5:45 PM EST (2245 GMT)

WEST PALM BEACH, Florida (CNN) -- An attorney for Rush Limbaugh charged Monday that the conservative talk show host was being blackmailed by the Florida couple whose allegations triggered an ongoing investigation into his purchases of painkillers.

During a hearing over whether prosecutors should have access to Limbaugh's medical records, attorney Roy Black said Limbaugh paid "extreme amounts of money" to Wilma Cline, his former housekeeper, and her husband, first for pills and then for extortion. Black alleged that the Clines had threatened to go public with information about Limbaugh's drug use unless they received $4 million.

Black said Limbaugh wanted to contact the FBI, but was told by an unidentified friend that if he went to the authorities, they would target him, and his political enemies would use the information against him.

"That's exactly what happened," said Black, who also alleged that Cline's husband was a convicted drug trafficker.

The accusation by Limbaugh's attorney came on the day that a judge began hearing arguments over whether Limbaugh's medical records should be unsealed. Prosecutors are investigating whether Limbaugh obtained and used prescription painkillers illegally and want the records opened.

And she cooperated with the cops for a year?

Riddle me this: how did he maintain his addiction legally? He couldn't and we all know that. No doctor is going to give him the amount of OXyContin he needed to keep his dope habit going.

Blackmail? Yeah, right. Like he couldn't have given her $4m with his checkbook. Like he needed the cash withdrawals from his bank account? What about all those $9,900 withdrawals, the smurfing. Yeah, right. Blackmail.

posted by Steve @ 7:10:00 PM

7:10:00 PM

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I'm surprised that so many people have such a poor relationship between numbers and their meaning. Bush gets 59 percent popularlity in the latest polls and people say that's good. It isn't. If you compared it to oh, Clinton's numbers, they suck. Pollsters know that numbers have a floor and ceiling.

One widely acknowledged number is 50 percent. When you cannot crack 50 percent in a poll, you're losing. Why? Because with the advantage of incumbency, you should be between 52-55 percent and your opponent under 40. Now, take the bounce that Bush got with Saddam's capture. It still hovered around 59 percent, which is not good. It should be well into the 60's. Bush's numbers should be pushing well into the 50's normally, and get a bounce into the mid-60's. He's not getting that and that has to worry the White House.

Polling numbers are often tossed out without meaning or logic or comparisons.

posted by Steve @ 7:05:00 PM

7:05:00 PM

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Real-Life saucers


Citizens of Patuxent River, Maryland, do not be alarmed. When you see a flying saucer overhead sometime in 2007, it will not be a sign of alien attack.

Instead, the strange craft in the skies will mean that the Russians are finally here -- with a little help from the U.S. Navy.

For more than two decades, engineers at a former Soviet aerospace plant have been toiling on a drone aircraft that looks a whole lot like a prop from Plan 9 From Outer Space. But financial woes have frozen progress on the pita-bread-shaped, stubby-winged, wheel-less, unmanned ship, dubbed the Ekip (short for ecology and progress).

Momentum on the project may pick up again soon, however. After an introduction from an American congressman, the Ekip's designers at the Saratov Aviation Plant have a new partner: the U.S. Naval Air Systems Command, or NAVAIR, which has agreed to join in the
development of the unorthodox drone over the next several years. Test flights are tentatively scheduled for 2007 at Webster Field,
near Patuxent River.

They've tried to have flying disks for years. This would be interesting if it came off. Imagine the poor crabbers and fishermen seeing some Close Encounter's space ship. Well, it wouldn't be the first strange thing to fly from Pax River.

posted by Steve @ 6:12:00 PM

6:12:00 PM

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Why trying Saddam in Iraq is a bad idea

Why trying Saddam in Iraq is a bad idea

Juan Cole discusses the potential trial with his local newspaper

Q: What concerns do you have about the suggestions of putting Saddam Hussein on trial?

A: There are several. The Bush administration and Iraqi interim Governing Council both seem to think it's a good idea to try him in Iraq, and I understand why. But one wonders at what cost this will come. A lot of Sunni Muslims in Iraq fear the fall of the government because it will place them in the vast minority to Shiites who were persecuted by Saddam.

Any trial is going to cover his acts of genocide against the Kurds in the late 1980s and Shiites following the first Gulf War of the early '90s. Spending months on these kind of investigations has the potential for provoking ethnic violence

Q: What are other potential consequences of putting Saddam on trial?

A: I believe giving Saddam Hussein a stage or platform in Iraq through a trial is a bad idea because he's going to be defiant and still has Fedayeen and a loyal base active in the country. There also is the potential that Saddam may find ways to underline U.S. complicity in the atrocities, which could make it difficult to maintain support for the occupation forces

I would only add that there is the problem of the Inigo Montoya factor. What is to stop Sadr and his buddies from overruning the Green Zone and saying, "I want Saddam, he killed my daddy". When you have 30,000 guys with AK's come to pay you a visit, well, that's when you have problems.

Also, the problem is that the people conducting the trial have no moral standing to do so. They're just exiles tainted as collaborators. A lot of Iraqis, many of whom would rip Saddam into bite-sized bits, might not like a US kangaroo court passing sentence. There needs to be a real, elected government able to conduct trials impartially.

posted by Steve @ 3:29:00 PM

3:29:00 PM

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Why money matters

Why money matters

"It's like Pavarotti with laryngitis. You can't reach your audience. You become invisible," said Bob Kerrey, a former Nebraska senator whose 1992 Democratic presidential bid was cut short after he ran out of money. "It's brutal if you don't have money, because your opposition has so much more capacity than you do."

Last week, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts lent $850,000 of his personal wealth to his campaign and prepared to take out a far larger loan against the value of his Boston home. Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut urged his staff to voluntarily delay one of their January paychecks for a month. And Rep. Richard Gephardt of Missouri asked his top aides to cut their salaries so he could keep running television ads.

`Close to lapping the field'

"Dean is outraising the Democratic field combined," a senior aide to one of Dean's leading rivals said with a sigh. "If this were a track race, you would have a pack running in a dead heat with Dean coming close to lapping the field."

Only Wesley Clark, the retired Army general who joined the race in September, is coming close to reaching Dean's fundraising prowess among Democrats. Aides said that in the three-month period ending Dec. 31, Clark is likely to raise at least $12 million.

It is Dean, though, who has caused the most frustration for rivals struggling to raise even a third as much money. He changed the race's dynamic last month when he became the first Democratic candidate to abandon the public financing system so he could outspend his Democratic challengers and prepare to take on President Bush, who is on his way to building a war chest of nearly $200 million.

These days, most everywhere he travels, Dean has a professional blue backdrop and stage lighting that transform such places as a school cafeteria into a picture-perfect political setting. By contrast, Gephardt has a fading, hand-painted sign hanging from the roof of his Iowa campaign headquarters.

Money matters in campaigns. Dean has so much of it, even Karl Rove will notice. And money means you can define your message. Unless there's some collapse, or horrific mistake on Dean's part, he's going to win and win early. And he's already setting the ground to run against Bush. No reliance on party organizations to cover your gaps or unions. Then comes the test after the primaries. It's going to be a long summer and a short campaign season.

posted by Steve @ 2:33:00 PM

2:33:00 PM

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Inquiry Suggests Pakistanis Sold Nuclear Secrets

Published: December 22, 2003

his article is by William J. Broad, David Rohde and David E. Sanger.

WASHINGTON, Dec. 21 — A lengthy investigation of the father of Pakistan's atomic bomb, Abdul Qadeer Khan, by American and European intelligence agencies and international nuclear inspectors has forced Pakistani officials to question his aides and openly confront evidence that the country was the source of crucial technology to enrich uranium for Iran, North Korea and possibly other nations.

Until the past few weeks, Pakistani officials had denied evidence that the A. Q. Khan Research Laboratories, named for the man considered a national hero, had ever been a source of weapons technology to countries aspiring to acquire fissile material. Now they are backing away from those denials, while insisting that there has been no transfer of nuclear technology since President Pervez Musharraf took power four years ago.

Dr. Khan, a metallurgist who was charged with stealing European designs for enriching uranium a quarter century ago, has not yet been questioned. American and European officials say he is the centerpiece of their investigation, but that General Musharraf's government has been reluctant to take him on because of his status and deep ties to the country's military and intelligence services. A senior Pakistani official said in an interview that "any individual who is found associated with anything suspicious would be under investigation," and promised a sweeping inquiry.

Pakistan's role in providing centrifuge designs to Iran, and the possible involvement of Dr. Khan in such a transfer, was reported Sunday by The Washington Post. Other suspected nuclear links between Pakistan and Iran have been reported in previous weeks by other news organizations

Yep, our allies in the war on terror.

posted by Steve @ 2:46:00 AM

2:46:00 AM

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Off to the civil war

Off to the civil war

These last few days have been truly frightening. The air in Baghdad feels charged in a way that scares me. Everyone can feel the tension and it has been a strain on the nerves. It's not so much what's been going on in the streets- riots, shootings, bombings and raids- but it's the possibility of what may lie ahead. We've been keeping the kids home from school, and my cousin's wife learned that many parents were doing the same- especially the parents who need to drive their kids to school.

We've been avoiding discussing the possibilities of this last week's developments… the rioting and violence. We don't often talk about the possibility of civil war because conferring about it somehow makes it more of a reality. When we do talk about it, it's usually done in hushed tones with an overhanging air of consternation. Is it possible? Will it happen?

Sunnis and Shi'a have always lived in harmony in Iraq and we still do, so far. I'm from a family that is about half Shi'a and half Sunni. We have never had problems as the majority of civilized people don't discriminate between the two. The thing that seems to be triggering a lot of antagonism on all sides is the counterinsurgency militia being cultivated by the CPA and GC which will include Chalabi's thugs, SCIRI extremists and some Kurdish Bayshmarga.

The popular and incorrect belief seems to be that if you are a Kurd or Shi'a, this step is a positive one. Actually, the majority of moderate Kurds and Shi'a are just as exasperated as Sunnis about this new group of soldiers/spies that is going to be let loose on the population. It's just going to mean more hostility and suspicion in all directions, and if the new Iraqi force intends to be as indiscriminate with the detentions and raids as the troops, there's going to be a lot of bloodshed too.

I once said that I hoped, and believed, Iraqis were above the horrors of civil war and the slaughter of innocents, and I'm clinging to that belief with the sheer strength of desperation these days. I remember hearing the stories about Lebanon from people who were actually living there during the fighting and a constant question arose when they talked about the grief and horrors- what led up to it? What were the signs? How did it happen? And most importantly… did anyone see it coming

God, this sucks. It just sucks. Incompetence and indifference leading to civil war.

posted by Steve @ 2:34:00 AM

2:34:00 AM

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The fear

There's a diary post on Kos about the fear many have about Howard Dean. That he's McGovern reborn and will lead the party to doom.
Hell, all he can do is lose a bunch of states, he can't do much more than that. He can't make things worse.

But he isn't going to.

Nor is Wes Clark.

I had my doubts about his record and to be honest, I think there are a lot of questions about the way he conducted himself while in command. But I also think he's one of those people who polarize people without even trying. He's not a good ol boy, he's an outsider in the culture of the infantry and that will always color the way some people, like Hugh Shelton, see him.

But I saw him on the Daily Show a while back and he impressed me. Not because of his resume, but because he's growing. He's seeing an America most people never get to see. A child who's father was injured in Iraq was being held at Ft. Drum and he asked Clark for help. That story stunned me, because it showed how Clark was learning about the country and how much compassion he had.

This was his response to people questioning his record

Better not mess with Clark
Associated Press

DERRY, N.H. -- Moments after praising his opponents in the Democratic presidential race as worthy running mates, Wesley Clark said, in no uncertain terms, how he would respond if they or anyone else criticized his patriotism or military record.

"I'll beat the s--- out of them," Clark told a questioner as he walked through the crowd after a town hall meeting Saturday. "I hope that's not on television," he added.

It was, live, on C-SPAN

It's time we realized something. We've come to a fork in the road. Unless you fight for the presidency on your ground, you won't win it. I heard Tom Delay sneer at Clark today, and he isn't fit to wipe the man's ass.

I also saw John Edwards today, and afterwards, all I could see is a man who just doesn't get it. He wants the brass ring without the work. He wants to be president without a serious record. It was creepy, as if he thinks will can get him what he wants.

But my point is this: if the Dems want to win, they have to present a vision of their America. It's not just about beating Bush, although I'm all for that. It's about what kind of country this will be and who will run it. The DLC and their friends are where the left was in 1992. They are the past and they don't see it. Clinton did what he could for the times, but he made too many deals with people who were his enemies. In the end, they still came after him anyway.

We have to decide what kind of America we want. There is no way out of that. No compromise possible. There has to be a clear, distinct choice to be made. Anything less is doomed to fail.

posted by Steve @ 2:28:00 AM

2:28:00 AM

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Sunday, December 21, 2003

Saddam was held by Kurdish forces, drugged and left for US troops

Saddam Hussein was captured by US troops only after he had been taken prisoner by Kurdish forces, drugged and abandoned ready for American soldiers to recover him, a British Sunday newspaper said.

Saddam came into the hands of the Kurdish Patriotic Front after being betrayed to the group by a member of the al-Jabour tribe, whose daughter had been raped by Saddam's son Uday, leading to a blood feud, reported the Sunday Express, which quoted an unnamed senior British military intelligence officer.

So does he get the $25m? After all, he did catch the guy.

posted by Steve @ 2:52:00 PM

2:52:00 PM

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Afghan deadlock weakens Karzai

As warlords squabble, violence is on the rise

James Astill in Islamabad
Sunday December 21, 2003
The Observer

It was supposed to be a triumph, a Grand Council to usher in Afghanistan's first ever elections next year. But when Malalai Joya, a delegate from western Farah province, stepped up to speak last week, she was not celebrating.

With a steady hand, Joya pointed to the council leaders, or 'Loya Jirga', Afghanistan's new rulers since the Taliban's demise. 'These were the ones who destroyed our country,' she said. 'They should be tried in international and national courts. If our poor people forgive these criminals, history will never forgive them, their criminal activities have all been recorded.'

At Joya's outburst, there was uproar. Many of the council's 500 delegates screamed abuse at her, her microphone was switched off. A security guard bundled her away. None denied the truth of her words, not even the war crimes she spoke of, including the murder of six of her relatives in a rocket attack on Kabul.

'In order to make her secure, I told her to get out of the tent,' explained the council's chairman Sibghatullah Mojaddidi. 'As you know, our Mujahideen are a different kind of people. Once they get upset, it's difficult to control them.'

President Hamid Karzai knows that. The government he was bequeathed nearly two years ago is barely functioning, its members constantly squabbling for control. The 500 delegates of the Loya Jirga - politicians, businessmen and mullahs - are deadlocked over the new constitution. Nearly half the delegates are threatening sabotage if it is not rewritten. Most contentious is a last-minute revision scrapping a proposed Prime Ministership, to give Karzai almost unrivalled powers. The warlords, led by Burhanuddin Rabbani, want to install one of their own as Prime Minister

Someone has to protect their herion business.

posted by Steve @ 1:01:00 PM

1:01:00 PM

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The great flaw

The great flaw

In another world, Tom DeLay would be committed to an insane asylum. They would hook him up, shock his brain, and pump him full of thorazine and lithium. He's depicting Dean as an extremist and that's going to come back to haunt them like Marley's ghost. Doctors, by their nature, are not extremists. And when people realize that Dean is talking about social justice and fiscal conservatism, this "Dean is Crazy" theme will hammer them.

If the great flaw of the Democratic Party is an unending appetite for infighting, the GOP's is blind followers. A rational party would take one look at Bush and worry. He's a weak canddiate who's reelection hangs on a successful conclusion to a war where the enemy teaches their children that zionists and Americans are still their enemies. His manner, which some people call folksy, turns smug and brittle when challenged. They rally around the president reflexsively and then demonize the opposition. But that isn't going to work.

When I say that I think Bush will lose by a landslide, I'm not talking about hope. Nor am I listening to the pundits. I'm looking at three things which haven't broken his way in over a year:

1) Unemployment

We're not just losing jobs, we're losing high wage, high value jobs, which are never coming back. What is being created is low wage work. Wal-Mart is the largest and one of the worst employers in America. I don't care how much propeganda they air. It's not that there are low wage jobs, but low wage jobs minus benefits. People are working and remaining poor. Increasingly, education is not the way up, but a way to a highly educated freelance life, where every job requires bidding and negotiation, with little security.

Bush has lost 3m jobs. That is a staggering number of jobs to lose in the economy. And they aren't coming back. Zippy the Pinhead could run on "are you better off than you were four years ago". Who could say yes? As Paul Krugman so adroitly points out, people are moving backwards and social mobility is stagnating. Underemployment is nearly as bad. Yet, the Bush solution is to rob Social Security and toss it into the marketplace. Until there is an incentive to make sure American employers keep jobs in the US when possible, and allow labor to actually protect workers, this won't change. The market is inefficient at best. Asking millions of Americans to invest their life savings in the market, money which they cannot lose, is desperately stupid at best and will provoke a bitter reaction from millions of people.

2) Iraq and Afghanistan

The war is not going well. US troops have no feeling or respect for Iraq or it's people. The CPA is simply unable to manage the country in any rational way and there is a head of steam building towards a nationalist rebellion. The lines are being dug deeper every day. You can see the harshness of the US reaction. The GOP tries to spin this as success, but we've already had 11,000 casualities from Iraq. That's not a number you see too often, but when you add up the illnesses on top of the combat injuries, we've lost 10 percent of the invasion force. That's a staggering number. Most military forces start to collapse when you reach those numbers. Another thing that is going to be clear over the next year is the inability to control Iraqi cities.

It is amazing that no one associates the daily shootings in Iraq with the utter and complete inability of the US Army to control Iraqi cities. In most places, you have standoffs. The ONLY thing saving the US Army is the wariness most Iraqis had approached the resistance. Although, privately, it has always had widespread support. The fact that the US is still chasing ghosts eight months later indicates Operational Security is a joke. We don't know who we're fighting and even our snitches can't tell us. I wonder why? Someone suggested that the list of agents Saddam was caught with was a plant and given the fact that he had no need to know who the spies were, nor any reason to carry the list of them, you have to wonder why he had it. The US will probably tear up CPA headquarters, interrogate a few unlucky souls and then purge the wrong people. I would estimate that most of the Iraqi CPA staff is loyal to some outside force, be it one of the parties, the resistance, or both. It's the perfect place to plant spies.

Afghanistan is back in the heroin business in a major way and it looks like Al Qaeda is using it to finance their war. The refusal of the US to allow garrisons outside Kabul to provide internal security, and not putting in enough force to deal with the Taliban is coming back to haunt the US. US troops are engaged in daily combat, the Taliban is resurgent in their old stomping grounds, and the dope trade has exploded. Of course, women have no rights and the country remains at war.

In short, most Americans have been told that they have been victorious in these wars and they are anything but. That cannot last. The resistance will score a major hit at some point and then we're going to have our very own Tet moment. And it seems the resitance has just begun their Operation Pointblank, the war on Iraqi oil pipelines and gasoline.

3) The rules have changed

2004 will be a drastically different campaign than has taken place in the past. Not only has the internet changed the rules, the introduction of 527 groups has as well. They will have millions to spend to go after Bush. I don't think Rove and his minions get that they won't be able to unload on Howard Dean as they have done so in the past. That they go into a real fight in terms of the available cash. David Brooks, on the News Hour, said that only 22 percent of voters hated Bush. He thought that was low. I thought that was high myself. A quarter of all voters hate the President? That's a lot of people. I mean most people wouldn't admit that to a pollster. I wouldn't answer yes to that question. So this "hate Bush" stuff won't work is the line.

I think that's dead wrong and here's why: at the height of the Clinton scandal, people who hated Clinton were widely regarded as crackpots with an agenda. The people alleged to hate Bush are across a far wider spectrum of people. Look at the support for Dean and Clark, millions of dollars coming from people who don't give to campaigns. That's a warning sign. Bush has not significantly broadened his base of support from 2001. The war boost ended a year ago. He's become far more polarizing over time. Yet, the pool of non-voters and new voters are gravitating towards the Dems. Also, Bush is frighteningly our of touch with the lives of average Americans. No scanners or questions about the price of milk for him. He usually appears before canned audiences as well.

No President since Harry Truman has faced going into an election with a bad economy and unpopular war and had a chance to win. Republicans are willfully ignorant of the chances of Bush because they still think Iraq will work. As it starts to fall apart and Iraqis reject US sponsored elections, the GOP will be left holding a bag o' crap. Bush's popularity isn't really climbing, the war bounce was a few points, and his opponents will have tons of money to play with.

I think, by the time of the debates, GOP congressional candidates will be looking for a way to save themselves.

posted by Steve @ 12:25:00 PM

12:25:00 PM

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I've just been going over my Amazon and Cafe Press orders and I have to say that I'm impressed by the orders generated so far. Just as a reminder, you can use the links to redeem gift certificates as well as place post-Christmas orders. Also, if anyone wants, please send me shots of you wearing my t-shirts, I'll hide your face, of course, if I post them.

For the curious, I'll probably set up a tip jar or begging cup when I migrate to the new site at the begining of the year, and yes, there will be a new site with a new domain, which, through a bizarre series of circumstance, has cost very little, so I don't need money for that. Instead of asking for bulk contributions, I'll probably ask for voluntary subscriptions, kind of like the museum. In exchange for money, I'll probably do something like send out a daily newsletter with all the day's columns or allow access to a private chat or forum. It won't affect the main blog, which will be ad supported, but it's a way of not just begging for money, which I dislike.

This way, you'll be able to send either an electronic payment or a check, whichever makes you more comfortable.

No, I won't be going to New Hampshire in winter, but be assured, your money will be used well. Super Bowl parties cost money:) Seriously, the more income the site generates, the more time I can devote to blogging and maybe one day, doing honest to god research. Unlike Andy Sullivan, I won't be buying sports cars with the money from this site. I'll spend some on ads and upkeep, some to pay for a professional redesign in the works, and some on the hardware which keeps the site up. And the occasional dinner date.:)

One proviso, at some point in the next year, I'll probably ask for contributions to a charity. Other than that, I will not ask for contibutions to any political campaign. If you're here, you can give the money to who you see fit without my prompting.

posted by Steve @ 10:26:00 AM

10:26:00 AM

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My vote

My vote

So I joined this Liberal Coalition and now I have to vote on the blog entry of the week.

What's so funny about peace, love, and higher taxes

"What is so wrong with a small sales tax increase? There seems to be a disconnect with people that are unable to see that taxes keep enable our lives to be safer and more peaceful. When our government has the money to educate our children, to help with drug treatment, to pave roads, to hire police, to help young children get medical help ALL of our lives become better. "

posted by Steve @ 10:04:00 AM

10:04:00 AM

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Yeah, elections will go off without a hitch here

Samarra lies in the heart of the Sunni triangle, the area of land west and north-west of Baghdad where resistance is fiercest. Cities such as Samarra, along with Tikrit, Bayji, Falluja and Ramadi, have become battle zones where US soldiers have died and hundreds more have been wounded. The Sunni tribes who live in the region benefited most from Saddam's reign. Now, stripped of the privileges and power that the Baathist regime brought them, they are fighting hard.

The reason, Al-Alawi said, was simple. 'If there is one thing worse than Saddam, it is being invaded by the foreigners. Especially American foreigners.'

Columns of tanks now prowl the 'liberated' city 24 hours a day, kicking up the dust, scattering children. Roads are randomly closed and rolls of barbed wire laid by the Fourth Infantry Division, the unit that captured Saddam. Local Iraqi police paramilitaries screen all cars, wearing balaclavas to hide their features. One local doctor, Aisar Al-Samarrai, complained that his clinic was regularly hit by gunfire.

According to Sheikh Adnan Thabit, who sits on the town's religious council, 'there is a now a full stand-off between the resistance and the Americans'.

Humvee-mounted patrols comb the sand-coloured residential areas street by street, house by house. Every dawn there are raids. Some 120 suspects were arrested last week. The resistance mounts daily attacks, gaining in sophistication. Once it was small-arms fire, now it is mines and bombs. Earlier this month a convoy delivering new 'Saddam-free' currency to a bank was ambushed. The Americans claim they killed between 40 and 58 resistance fighters. Locals say the dead were mostly innocent civilians and some Iranian pilgrims.

Graffiti all over the city make the sentiments clear. 'Spies: hide your faces now ... Tomorrow we will show who you are,' says one. Some slogans, 'American soldiers: Our armed struggle continues without end endlessly' are in English. Another, similar, message scrawled across a school wall, was promptly demolished by a tank.

The resistance in Samarra is not hard to find. In a side street is 'Hasni', with regulation leather jacket and machine gun. He told The Observer why he had taken up arms. 'This is not Tikrit. This is not a Baath Party city. We in Samarra are the oldest tribe of Iraq, and Saddam was afraid to come here. We are fighting a foreigner, not for Saddam, not for Islam, but for Samarra and Iraq.'

'Hasni' stressed it would be unfair to 'criticise the Americans for everything they do'. 'When they do good, we must say so. But they are making a big mistake to put back into power all the corrupt people and treat us as slaves and try to steal our economy. While they try this, we have lost our wealth and have many young men without work.'

Hasni's comrade, Mahmoud, adds: 'Each time they kill a civilian, they make a fighter in that person's family. Day after day, they are creating more resistance.'

Perfect conditions for free and fair elections. Hell, the US doesn't and can't control this town, after running a brigade through it.

posted by Steve @ 12:54:00 AM

12:54:00 AM

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