Saturday, November 26, 2005
By Joshua Holland (gadflyer.com) link
Nice to see Joe Biden call for a timetable for getting out of Iraq. Unfortunately, he adopts the logically inconsistent proposition that our exit should be drawn out over the next two years. But given that Biden has called for sending more troops in the past, it's definitely a sign of progress.
But at the same time, Joe shows how consistently ignorant our foreign policy elites are of the situation in which we find ourselves with this:
"First, we need to build political consensus, starting with the constitution. Sunnis must accept that they no longer rule Iraq. But unless Shiites and Kurds give them a stake in the new deal, they will continue to resist. We must help produce a constitution that will unite Iraq, not divide it. Iraq's neighbors and the international community have a huge stake in the country's future. The president should initiate a regional strategy -- as he did in Afghanistan -- to leverage the influence of neighboring countries. And he should establish a Contact Group of the world's major powers -- as we did in the Balkans -- to become the Iraqi government's primary international interlocutor."
"We, we, we." No, Joe, if we initiate a regional strategy, it will lack legitimacy. The more we are seen to have produced the Iraqi constitution, the less legitimate it will be and the less likely it will be to unite anybody.
Enough with this Manifest Destiny crap, folks. Iraq needs regional help and a constitution that might foster national reconciliation. Those are both tall orders at this point, regardless of who is taking the lead. But the best chance those difficult goals have is for the U.S.-- reviled as aggressors throughout the region -- to get out of the way.
What Happened in the Bunker
Iraqi and American investigators are due to report Monday on the recent discovery of 161 malnourished detainees at an Iraqi Interior Ministry bunker. The honesty and thoroughness of this report may have a great impact on the future of the nation as a representative democracy that protects the rights of the minority.
These weren't jaywalkers being held in the bunker. Many were linked to the bomb attacks that have terrorized the nation. Iraqi officials have described them as the worst of the worst in the insurgency. But the mistreatment of the prisoners, and allegations that some were tortured, have raised fears that the Iraqi government will repeat some of the sins of the nation's former dictator, Saddam Hussein.
The Interior Ministry is run by Shiites, while most of those detained on suspicion of ties to the insurgency are Sunnis, the once-privileged minority that thrived under Hussein. It's important to note that the bunker was discovered in a raid by U.S. forces, and the subsequent investigation is being conducted jointly by the U.S. and Iraq's government. A whitewash is not likely to be the result of this investigation.
U.S. forces found mostly Sunni men and boys detained in the bunker in a mostly Shiite neighborhood of Baghdad. Some of the prisoners bore signs of paralyzing beatings and other means of torture. Virtually all were malnourished. The discovery seemed to bolster Sunni claims of the mistreatment of Sunni terror suspects, some of whom are alleged to have been innocents picked up at random off the streets. Such accounts served as disquieting reminders of how easily Iraq's new democracy could slip back into thuggery and oppression. (Slip back?????????)
Disputes have erupted within Iraq's government over how extensive the cases of torture may be. Interior Minister Bayan Jabr has vowed to punish anyone involved in torture, but also said the worst abuses were limited to five to seven detainees.
Another potential complication: Shiite militias linked to the Interior Ministry who perform a central role in running detention centers and conducting other police work. In Iraq's deeply tribal society, it is not clear how much control Interior Minister Jabr has over the militias or, for that matter, how much accountability he and other top Shiite leaders demand from them.
All the more reason for the investigation by the FBI, U.S.-led military forces and an Iraqi-appointed citizens group. They quickly widened their purview to cover all detention sites, which number at least 1,100 throughout the country.
U.S. officials sent the right signal by issuing a rare rebuke of the new government for failure to respond quickly and decisively to long-standing Sunni complaints and by working out a plan for humane treatment of detainees.
Iraq is not simply trying to catch bad guys and quell a crime wave. It is attempting to end an insurrection that seeks to destabilize a fledgling government. Those who are detained may have information about the scope, nature and leadership of that insurrection. So no one should expect kid-glove treatment of them.
Nevertheless, this incident is not a test of how well the Iraqi government will protect itself. It is a test of how the government will protect the rights of the Sunni minority in the new Iraq. The nation has been freed of Hussein. Let it remain free of his brutal tactics.
Hannity is a true believer, though, which is where the humor comes in. He recently said that the new "government" of Iraq should repay the United States for "liberating" them and should give dead soldier's family a million dollars.
Friday, November 25, 2005
By Richard Norton-Taylor and Michael White
Fears that fresh revelations about disputes between Tony Blair and George Bush on the Iraq conflict could damage Downing Street's intimate relationship with the White House prompted this week's unprecedented threat by the attorney general to use the Official Secrets Act against national newspapers.
Senior MPs, Whitehall officials and lawyers were agreed yesterday that Lord Goldsmith had "read the riot act" to the media because of political embarrassment caused by a sensitive leak of face-to-face exchanges between the prime minister and the US president in the White House in April 2004. He acted after the Daily Mirror said a memo recorded a threat by Mr Bush to take "military action" against the Arabic TV station al-Jazeera. Mr Blair replied that that would cause a big problem, reported the Mirror. David Keogh, a former Cabinet Office official, has been charged under the secrets act with sending the memo on the Blair-Bush conversation to Leo O 'Connor, researcher to the former Labour MP Tony Clarke. Mr Keogh and Mr O'Connor will appear before Bow Street magistrates next week.
The meeting between Mr Bush and Mr Blair took place at a time when Whitehall officials, intelligence officers, and British military commanders were expressing outrage at the scale of the US assault on the Iraqi city of Falluja, in which up to 1,000 civilians are feared to have died. Pictures of the attack shown on al-Jazeera had infuriated US generals. The government was also arguing with Washington about the number of extra British troops to be sent to Iraq at a time when it was feared they would be endangered by what a separately leaked Foreign Office memo called "heavy-handed" US military tactics.
There were UK anxieties that US bombing in civilian areas in Falluja would unite Sunnis and Shias against British forces. The criticism came not only from anti-war MPs, but from Mr Blair's most senior military, diplomatic, and intelligence advisers. When Mr Blair met Mr Bush in Washington, military advisers were urging the prime minister to send extra forces only on British terms. General Sir Mike Jackson, the head of the army, said while British troops had to fight with the Americans, "that does not mean we must be able to fight as the Americans".
Andrew Nicol QC, a media law expert, said he was unaware of any case going to trial where a newspaper or journalist had been prosecuted under the Official Secrets Act. He said Lord Goldsmith appeared to be trying to "put down a marker" to prevent further leaks or publication of further disclosures from the document already allegedly leaked.
Last night the former defence minister Peter Kilfoyle tabled a Commons motion saying Mr Blair should publish the record of his discussion with Mr Bush. Downing Street stressed that the decision to take action was "entirely up to the attorney general" and was intended to "draw a line in the sand" on further leaks.
Key Bush Intelligence Briefing Kept From Hill Panel
By Murray Waas, special to National Journal
© National Journal Group Inc.
Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2005
Ten days after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, President Bush was told in a highly classified briefing that the U.S. intelligence community had no evidence linking the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein to the attacks and that there was scant credible evidence that Iraq had any significant collaborative ties with Al Qaeda, according to government records and current and former officials with firsthand knowledge of the matter......[and near the end]
The most explosive of allegations came from Cheney, who said that September 11 hijacker Mohammed Atta, the pilot of the first plane to crash into the World Trade Center, had met in Prague, in the Czech Republic, with a senior Iraqi intelligence agent, Ahmed Khalil Ibrahim Samir al-Ani, five months before the attacks. On December 9, 2001, Cheney said on NBC's Meet the Press: "[I]t's pretty well confirmed that [Atta] did go to Prague and he did meet with a senior official of the Iraqi intelligence service in [the Czech Republic] last April, several months before the attack."
Cheney continued to make the charge, even after he was briefed, according to government records and officials, that both the CIA and the FBI discounted the possibility of such a meeting.
Wednesday, November 23, 2005
Actually, I'm a little confused about that picture, now that I look at it, since the only states at 50% or above in the data are Idaho (no, *you* da ho), Utah, Wyoming, and Mississippi, and Oklahoma and Nebraska have him under 50%, but tied (49-49 and 48-48). Alabama's listed at 46-49.
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
Although the United States has not found any stockpiles of banned weapons in Iraq, Cheney said, "I repeat that we never had the burden of proof; Saddam Hussein did."
Last time I checked, we invaded them, didn't we???
My Chicago friends know this is one of my pet peeves, but as we approach the holidays, you may well hear a pitch to "name a star" for someone. Give the gift that will last forever!
Well, go ahead, but as a public service, let me tell you--you've been had.
Now in all fairness, the "International Star Registry" is probably not doing anything unlawful. Anyone can call a star anything they want, and if you want to pay $50 for a certificate, have at it.
They say they record the star name in "book form" and record it in the "Copyright Office." Whoop-de-friggin-doo. I can sit on the copy machine and "record" that lovely image in the copyright office if I want to pay the fee.
Only the International Astronomical Union can name a star officially, so remember, if you pony up for this, you're basically giving $50 to a guy in his basement with a graphics program and a printer.
(p.s., we here at The Thinker will name a star for you for only $20!!!)
1) Cut spending on social programs, which are mostly for the poor and middle class
2) Cut spending on the war
3) Raise taxes (by a small percentage amount) on the rich
Well, we know #2 can't happen, at least not quickly enough to account for all the debt - a pull out over the next year or so will still cost billions. So we're left with these options - take money from people who don't have any, or take money from people who have lots. I don't know about you, but that's not even a question - and not from a moral point of view, but a practical one - if I need something, I'm gonna go to the person who has it.
Mr. Speaker, in south Mississippi tonight, the people who are living in two- and three-man igloo tents waiting for Congress to do something, have absolutely got to think this place has lost their minds. The same Congress that voted to give the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans tax breaks every time . . . suddenly after taking care of those who had the most, we have got to hurt the least. Folks, this is insane. This is the cruelest lie of all, that the only way you can help the people who have lost everything is by hurting somebody else.
Monday, November 21, 2005
Sunday, November 20, 2005
Here it is:
Dear Representative ______ and Senator ______:
We are constituents asking for your help in enacting legislation to protect the health of women here in Illinois. Recently, stories have been appearing in the news regarding the so-called "morning after" contraceptive drug (popularly known as "Plan B") that allows women to prevent a pregnancy by taking it within a day or two after intercourse. We are sure that you are aware that this drug currently is available by prescription only. Apparently, a few big-box corporations with pharmacies in Illinois - namely Walmart and Target - have policies which CAN severely impact on a woman's ability to avail herself of this LEGAL contraceptive. Our research has found that neither policy described below conflicts with existing state law. We would like to take a few moments to describe these policies as we understand them, and to explain just how wrong these policies are in light of the legitimate medical needs of Illinois women.
Target's corporate policy allows individual pharmacists to refuse to fill a "Plan B" prescription. It defends this policy by citing Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, saying that sincerely held religious beliefs are protected in the workplace. Target further defends its policy by stating that if a pharmacist refuses to fill a prescription, it is given to another pharmacist at the same store. If there is no other pharmacist on duty at that location willing to fill the prescription, it is transferred to another Target store to be filled there. The policy goes on to state that if this is impracticable, then the pharmacist is directed to help the woman find a pharmacy that will fill it. They then go on to say that when the law directs them otherwise, they follow the law. Finally, Target stresses that no other contraceptive - whether available by prescription or not - is covered by this policy. So as we understand it, a pharmacist employed by Target with a sincerely held belief that all contraceptives are against his/her religion MUST still fill a regular birth control prescription, while being exempted from filling "Plan B" orders. Isn't this in direct contradiction to Target's own reading of Title VII?
To be fair, Target's policy is absolutely enlightened when compared to Walmart's.
Walmart simply refuses to stock Plan B at all, taking the matter completely out of the hands of doctors, patients and pharmacists. Now if we were talking about x-rated movies or liberally-slanted books, we say Walmart has the right to sell or NOT sell whatever it chooses. However, when it comes to legally prescribed medications, we don't believe that any corporation has the right to restrict access due to the religious beliefs of its customers or its major stockholders. As it stands, Walmart dominates small town Illinois, having driven scores of pharmacies (and other small stores) out of business. We shudder to think that a woman raped in Pulaski County might have to drive a hundred miles to get a "Plan B" prescription filled because her local pharmacy was driven out of business by a corporation that finds her medical needs to be against "corporate policy." And what if she has no access to another pharmacy? How can this be equal protection under the law?
It seems obvious to us that the state has a primary responsibility to insure its citizens access to legally prescribed medications. It also seems obvious that the corporate policies described above can and WILL lead to women in the state from gaining timely access to a drug vital to her health and well-being. Moreover, should these policies be allowed to continue, where will the line be drawn going forward? What other prescriptive treatments might be deemed unacceptable to the religious right or to a corporate entity, thus impeding or preventing the residents of Illinois from gaining access to them?
As we understand it, all pharmacies and pharmacists operating in Illinois are licensed and regulated by the state. We believe that it is time for the state legislature to take action to guarantee that its citizens and residents have timely access to any drug approved for use by the FDA and duly prescribed by a licensed physician. Walmart brags about its incredible distribution system. So it is certainly well within reason to believe that it can ensure the availability of a drug within 24 hours of a request. If Walmart doesn't like the law and wishes to close its pharmacies, then I'm certain that another entity will be happy to fill the void and provide small town Illinois with timely and unencumbered access to all prescription drugs. Similarly, we trust that Target will be happy to follow its own stated policy and require its pharmacists to follow state law and dispense all prescriptions.
We look to you, our elected representatives in the state legislature to provide leadership on this issue, and we will be only too happy to discuss this matter further with you at your convenience.
The "Plan B" Debacle:
Until the NeoCon-cum-Nazi regime in Washington is overthrown by coalition forces, it seems that "Plan B" will remain a prescription-only drug. Well then, until such a time as that occurs, there needs to be a blanket state law enacted here in Illinois requiring pharmacies to dispense ANY duly prescribed medication upon demand. Walmart simply refuses to stock "Plan B." That's abhorrent. Even if the overwhelming majority of its self-loathing, American Idiot Nation customers wouldn't dream of using the drug, Walmart has used its "economies of scale" to put pretty much every small-town America pharmacy out of business. So even if a poor unfortunate should be raped and in need of the drug in Pulaski County, she may have to drive all the way to Bloomington to find a pharmacy willing to fill her emergency prescription.
If that's not bad enough, now Target is using a twisted reading of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights law to allow individual pharmacists in its employ to refuse to fill "Plan B."
I am already in email contact with my state representative and senator to nip this idiotic, wrong-headed, and professionally irresponsible corporate policy in the bud. I am reminding my elected officials that pharmacists and pharmacies are LICENSED by the state, and the state has the primary responsibility to PROTECT the health and welfare of its citizens.
You might want to remind your representative/senator of their responsibilities as well. Here is a link to a search engine that will lead you to names and addresses of members of the Illinois legislature.
Locked doors thwart Bush's bid to duck question
BEIJING (Reuters) - Irked by a reporter who told him he seemed to be "off his game" at a Beijing public appearance, President George W. Bush sought to make a hasty exit from a news conference but was thwarted by locked doors.
At the end of a day of meetings with Chinese President
Hu Jintao and other Chinese officials, Bush held a session with a small group of U.S. reporters and spoke at length about issues like religious freedom,
Iraq and the Chinese currency.
The final reporter he called on critiqued Bush's performance earlier in the day when he stood next to Hu in the Great Hall of the People on Tiananmen Square to deliver a statement.
"Respectfully, sir -- you know we're always respectful -- in your statement this morning with President Hu, you seemed a little off your game, you seemed to hurry through your statement. There was a lack of enthusiasm. Was something bothering you?" he asked.
"Have you ever heard of jet lag?" Bush responded. "Well, good. That answers your question."
The president then recited a list of things of that he viewed as positive developments from his Beijing meetings, including cooperation on North Korean nuclear disarmament and the ability to have "frank discussions" with his Chinese counterpart.
When the reporter asked for "a very quick follow-up," Bush cut him off by thanking the press corps and telling the reporter "No you may not," as he strode toward a set of double doors leading out of the room.
The only problem was that they were locked.
"I was trying to escape. Obviously, it didn't work," Bush quipped, facing reporters again until an aide rescued him by pointing to him toward the correct door.
Holy crap, is that man the biggest, most arrogant prick ever to set foot on the planet? "Jet lag"? Walking out of the room because he doesn't like the question? Yegads, he's the President of the United States, not a damned football coach or agent. It's his freakin' job to answer questions - it's not the Chinese that he's beholden to - it's you and I. That was shameful.