<\body> Stories in America: September 2006

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Katrina: A Year Later

Watch this video from Oxfam:
"What disturbs me most about the situations described in this film is that more than a year after the double disaster struck, so many poor people are still swamped in a sea of need," said Glover. "Their houses are wrecked. Their jobs are gone. And the billions of federal dollars allocated to rebuild the Gulf Coast are not reaching them. Why?"

Filmed by award winning TIME photojournalist Steve Liss, the 17-minute video explores the consequences months of neglect have had on families as they try to piece their lives back together.

"We’re all standing around looking at each other asking well, when are they going to remove these cars? When are they going to remove these houses? When are they going to remove the stuff so we can start even rebuilding?" asked the Rev. Martin Denesse in the film, frustration fueling his resolve. "I’m gonna stay here and I’m gonna fight. We’re going to do what we got to do to make sure we reclaim our home."

Heralded Iraq Police Academy a 'Disaster'

From the Washinton Post:
A $75 million project to build the largest police academy in Iraq has been so grossly mismanaged that the campus now poses health risks to recruits and might need to be partially demolished, U.S. investigators have found.

The Baghdad Police College, hailed as crucial to U.S. efforts to prepare Iraqis to take control of the country's security, was so poorly constructed that feces and urine rained from the ceilings in student barracks. Floors heaved inches off the ground and cracked apart. Water dripped so profusely in one room that it was dubbed "the rain forest."

"This is the most essential civil security project in the country -- and it's a failure," said Stuart W. Bowen Jr., the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, an independent office created by Congress. "The Baghdad police academy is a disaster."

Federal investigators said the inspector general's findings raise serious questions about whether the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has failed to exercise effective oversight over the Baghdad Police College or reconstruction programs across Iraq, despite charging taxpayers management fees of at least 4.5 percent of total project costs. The Corps of Engineers said Wednesday that it has initiated a wide-ranging investigation of the police academy project.

The report serves as the latest indictment of Parsons Corp., the U.S. construction giant that was awarded about $1 billion for a variety of reconstruction projects across Iraq. After chronicling previous Parsons failures to properly build health clinics, prisons and hospitals, Bowen said he now plans to conduct an audit of every Parsons project.

"The truth needs to be told about what we didn't get for our dollar from Parsons," Bowen said.

Congress: No Work, All Play

What has the Republican controlled Congress done this term? This is from the Center for American Progress. Visit the site for links to following:
When Congress adjourns for the November elections later this week, "it appears that just 2 of the 11 required spending bills will pass." The budget will not have been enacted, forcing Congress to pass a stopgap measure to keep the federal government open. The legislative branch has also stumbled in its efforts to pass much-debated bills on lobbying reform, immigration, offshore oil drilling, minimum wage, and the estate tax. "A popular package of business and education tax credits is teetering." Long-time congressional analysts Thomas Mann of Brookings and Norm Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute wrote recently, "[E]ven those of us with strong stomachs are getting indigestion from the farcical end of the 109th Congress. .. With few accomplishments and an overloaded agenda, it is set to finish its tenure with the fewest number of days in session in our lifetimes, falling well below 100 days this year." Indeed, this Congress will recess having been in session fewer days than the "Do-Nothing Congress" of 1948. A CBS News/New York Times poll finds 75 percent of voters can't name one thing Congress has accomplished. Only 25 percent said they approved of Congress's job performance. Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA) -- a member of the House leadership -- acknowledged, “We have not accomplished what we need to accomplish.” At the start of this month -- dubbed "Security September" -- the congressional leadership promised to deliver accomplishments that would be focused on national security. Instead, as a new Center for American Progress analysis underscores, Congress will depart Washington, D.C. leaving many critical national security matters unresolved:

FAILURE TO ADDRESS NSA WIRETAPPING: Due to "deepening rifts" among conservatives, Congress has been unable to pass legislation authorizing the National Security Agency's (NSA) domestic spying program. The program was ruled unconstitutional by a Federal District Court judge last month. Calling it a "vital piece of legislation," President Bush has called upon Congress to pass a bill authorizing the NSA program. Yet, the latest attempt at securing a compromise has been met with opposition by former FBI and CIA director William H. Webster, former FBI director William Sessions, and 12 other former national security officials who released a statement saying a Senate measure would return surveillance law to "murky waters."

FAILURE TO PASS DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION: Congressional leaders have been unable to come together to pass the defense authorization bill, allowing superfluous provisions, such as whether federal judges should be permitted to carry concealed weapons into their chambers, to stall its passage. Without an authorization bill, a range of problems that plague America's fighting force will go unresolved. The military is undoubtedly over-stretched; the Pentagon recently ordered 3,800 troops in Iraq to stay for another 46 days while also calling another unit into Iraq 30 days ahead of schedule. Rep. Ike Skelton (D-MO), the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, reported recently that "two-thirds of the brigade combat teams in our operating force are unready." The Army Chief of Staff Peter Schoomaker withheld his 2008 budget plan from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to protest the insufficient funding the Army is receiving.

FAILURE TO PASS VETERANS FUNDING: Congress is failing to enact appropriations for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), forcing the agency to rely on a stopgap funding measure that provides funding at last year's level. The Government Accountability Office recently released a stinging assessment that the VA is $3 billion in debt since 2005 because the administration failed to properly account for the increasing costs of war. The Bush administration has underfunded the VA by $9 billion over the last six years, and the administration’s long-range budget from last year proposes a $10 billion reduction over the next five years.

FAILURE TO PROTECT CHEMICAL PLANTS: "Congress still has done nothing to protect Americans from a terrorist attack on chemical plants." Because the chemical industry -- a heavy contributor to political campaigns -- does not want to pay the cost of reasonable safety measures, the congressional leadership is behind closed doors preparing a bill that is a "near-complete cave-in to industry, and yet more proof that when it comes to a choice between homeland security and the desires of corporate America, the Republican leadership always goes with big business."

FAILURE TO ENACT INTELLIGENCE AUTHORIZATION: For the second consecutive year, Congress will fail to enact a law that is its principal tool for overseeing the intelligence community. Prior to 2005, this law had been enacted in each of the previous 25 years. In addition, several key recommendations from the bipartisan 9/11 Commission still have not been enacted by Congress. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) recently called upon Congress to act on these recommendations, stating, "If we do pass the 9/11 Commission recommendations, only then will we truly be honoring the memory of those who died. Only then will we truly be keeping our promise to their families that we will make America as safe as we can be."

FAILURE TO PASS ENERGY BILL: Nearly 10 months after the President declared that America was addicted to oil, congressional leaders are preparing to adjourn Congress without having taken concrete action to cure America of that addiction. Amid record high gas prices this summer, Congress refused to mandate increases in fuel economy or to consider new ways to create incentives for American automakers to reduce oil consumption. Provisions in the Energy and Water Appropriations law would fund research and development of new, cleaner burning, American-grown biofuels, but Congress is set to adjourn without taking action on it.

FAILURE TO ENACT COMPREHENSIVE IMMIGRATION REFORM: Our immigration system is broken. Undocumented immigration is at an all time high. There are as many as 12 million people living in the shadows of our society. Yet, Congress has decided to throw taxpayer money away pursuing border enforcement-only proposals that have not and cannot work. The enforcement-alone approach has been tried and failed. Former House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-TX) is now "savaging conservatives in his own party for what he calls 'knee-jerk' opposition -- 'emphasis on jerk' -- to the Bush administration's efforts to create a temporary guest-worker program and overhaul the nation's immigration system."

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Halliburton Ambush Video Appears on National TV Tonight

From HalliburtonWatch:
Video of a Halliburton ambush video, first broadcast from the HalliburtonWatch website, will be the focus tonight on ABC's World News Tonight and later on Nightline. The video will also be part of tonight's NBC Nightly News broadcast.

CBS Evening News has also expressed interest in the story.

The video, shot on Sept. 20, 2005, by KBR truck driver Preston Wheeler, shows what initially appears to be a routine convoy of Halliburton trucks delivering supplies to U.S. troops. But the convoy is hit by enemy fire and explosions, resulting in the deaths of three Halliburton drivers. Most of the massacre was captured on video from the vantage point of a truck driver.

Read the ABC News website report at this link.

Molly Ivins: This War is Not a Goddamn Comma

"I like to tell people when the final history is written on Iraq, it will look like just a comma because there is -- my point is, there's a strong will for democracy."
-Bush speaking to CNN's Wolf Blitzer on September 24, 2006
The National Intelligence Estimate, agreed upon by 16 Bush-controlled spy services within the U.S. government, says the war in Iraq is making the war on terrorism harder and worse. It gives the phrase "leaking intelligence" a new meaning (a line not original with me).

We've been having a debate in this country about whether to continue the war--or "the comma," as the president calls it--until it has become a semicolon. Now, the debate is over, and what we need to discuss is the best way out. This war is not a goddamn comma.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

House Passes Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act Today

The Center for Reproductive Rights today condemned passage of the bill called “Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act” by the U.S. House of Representatives. The legislation makes it a federal crime for any person, other than a parent or guardian, to help a teenager cross state lines to obtain an abortion, unless she has already met the requirements of her home state’s parental involvement law. Nancy Northup, President of the Center for Reproductive Rights issued this statement in response:

“We all want our daughters to talk to us, but what is more important is that they are safe. This legislation neither protects our daughters, nor supports them, as its proponents claim. Instead, it is actually a teen endangerment bill. The reality is—in most cases a parent is involved when a teenager seeks an abortion. This law will put those teenagers at risk who live in abusive and dysfunctional homes and would not dare disclose a pregnancy to a parent for fear of further abuse. Beyond jeopardizing these young women’s health and well-being, the law would actually put grandmothers, aunts, and sisters in jail for trying to help teens in need.

“This law clearly violates constitutional standards that have protected women's reproductive health decisions for a generation. It is another incremental step towards blocking women from exercising their constitutional right to abortion. This fall, the Center will go before the Supreme Court to fight another federal law that similarly endangers women’s health.

“If Congress really cared about our daughters, they would not endanger them in any way. We would hope that lawmakers would focus on pregnancy prevention through medically accurate sex education, counseling, and birth control rather than on callous legislation that does more harm than good.”
From the Republicans for Choice, a DC-based group comprised of 500,000 pro-choice Republicans from across the country:
Today the House of Representatives will debate and vote on the Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act (CIANA). CIANA would take away a young woman's access to health services that are meant to be private and confidential. While we encourage teens to seek counsel and support from trusted adults, we also realize that the adult they may trust is not always a parent. CIANA leaves young women no alternative adult by making it a federal crime for any other adult to help the young woman. This bill places a large burden upon doctors as well as the woman, and forces doctors to learn the laws of all 50 states or face criminal penalties. This bill is a violation of our Constitution by insisting that we take our state laws with us as we travel, requiring the minor to fulfill her own state requirements and the requirements of the state she enters.
Click here for the House of Representatives phone listsings.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Republican General: Rumsfeld is Not a Competent Wartime Leader

I just finished watching a few hours of liberal media on TV and didn't see this anywhere. I'm sure they'll get to it after they're done analyzing Clinton's interview on Fox. Wouldn't it be nice if they spent the same amount of time "debating" the Bush administration's reasoning for bombing Iraq, killing tens of thousands of innocent civilians, and ruining a country's infrastructure? Read John Batiste's testimony in its entirety and send it to your lists. Here's the video from AlterNet:
John R.S. Batiste

Major General, U.S. Army (Retired)

September 25, 2006

My name is John Batiste. I left the military on principle on November 1, 2005, after more than 31 years of service. I walked away from promotion and a promising future serving our country. I hung up my uniform because I came to the gut-wrenching realization that I could do more good for my soldiers and their families out of uniform. I am a West Point graduate, the son and son-in-law of veteran career soldiers, a two-time combat veteran with extensive service in Bosnia, Kosovo, and Iraq, and a life-long Republican. Bottom line, our nation is in peril, our Department of Defense's leadership is extraordinarily bad, and our Congress is only today, more than five years into this war, beginning to exercise its oversight responsibilities. This is all about accountability and setting our nation on the path to victory. There is no substitute for victory and I believe we must complete what we started in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Donald Rumsfeld is not a competent wartime leader. He knows everything, except "how to win." He surrounds himself with like-minded and compliant subordinates who do not grasp the importance of the principles of war, the complexities of Iraq, or the human dimension of warfare. Secretary Rumsfeld ignored 12 years of U.S. Central Command deliberate planning and strategy, dismissed honest dissent, and browbeat subordinates to build "his plan," which did not address the hard work to crush the insurgency, secure a post-Saddam Iraq, build the peace, and set Iraq up for self-reliance. He refused to acknowledge and even ignored the potential for the insurgency, which was an absolute certainty. Bottom line, his plan allowed the insurgency to take root and metastasize to where it is today. Our great military lost a critical window of opportunity to secure Iraq because of inadequate troop levels and capability required to impose security, crush a budding insurgency, and set the conditions for the rule of law in Iraq. We were undermanned from the beginning, lost an early opportunity to secure the country, and have yet to regain the initiative. To compensate for the shortage of troops, commanders are routinely forced to manage shortages and shift coalition and Iraqi security forces from one contentious area to another in places like Baghdad, An Najaf, Tal Afar, Samarra, Ramadi, Fallujah, and many others. This shifting of forces is generally successful in the short term, but the minute a mission is complete and troops are redeployed back to the region where they came from, insurgents reoccupy the vacuum and the cycle repeats itself. Troops returning to familiar territory find themselves fighting to reoccupy ground which was once secure. We are all witnessing this in Baghdad and the Al Anbar Province today. I am reminded of the myth of Sisyphus. This is no way to fight a counter-insurgency. Secretary Rumsfeld's plan did not set our military up for success.

Secretary Rumsfeld's dismal strategic decisions resulted in the unnecessary deaths of American servicemen and women, our allies, and the good people of Iraq. He was responsible for America and her allies going to war with the wrong plan and a strategy that did not address the realities of fighting an insurgency. He violated fundamental principles of war, dismissed deliberate military planning, ignored the hard work to build the peace after the fall of Saddam Hussein, set the conditions for Abu Ghraib and other atrocities that further ignited the insurgency, disbanded Iraqi security force institutions when we needed them most, constrained our commanders with an overly restrictive de-Ba'athification policy, and failed to seriously resource the training and equipping of the Iraqi security forces as our main effort. He does not comprehend the human dimension of warfare. The mission in Iraq is all about breaking the cycle of violence and the hard work to change attitudes and give the Iraqi people alternatives to the insurgency. You cannot do this with precision bombs from 30,000 feet. This is tough, dangerous, and very personal work. Numbers of boots on the ground and hard-won relationships matter. What should have been a deliberate victory is now an uncertain and protracted challenge.

Secretary Rumsfeld built his team by systematically removing dissension. America went to war with "his plan" and to say that he listens to his generals is disingenuous. We are fighting with his strategy. He reduced force levels to unacceptable levels, micromanaged the war, and caused delays in the approval of troop requirements and the deployment process, which tied the hands of commanders while our troops were in contact with the enemy. At critical junctures, commanders were forced to focus on managing shortages rather than leading, planning, and anticipating opportunity. Through all of this, our Congressional oversight committees were all but silent and not asking the tough questions, as was done routinely during both World Wars, Korea, and Vietnam. Our Congress shares responsibility for what is and is not happening in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Our nation's treasure in blood and dollars continues to be squandered under Secretary Rumsfeld's leadership. Losing one American life due to incompetent war planning and preparation is absolutely unacceptable. The work to remove Saddam Hussein and his regime was a challenge, but it pales in comparison to the hard work required to build the peace. The detailed deliberate planning to finish the job in Iraq was not considered as Secretary Rumsfeld forbade military planners from developing plans for securing a post-war Iraq. At one point, he threatened to fire the next person who talked about the need for a post-war plan. Our country and incredible military were not set up for success.

Our country has yet to mobilize for a protracted, long war. I believe that Secretary Rumsfeld and others in the Administration did not tell the American people the truth for fear of losing support for the war in Iraq. Secretary Rumsfeld failed to address the full range of requirements for this effort, and the result is one percent of the population shouldering the burdens, continued hemorrhaging of our national treasure in terms of blood and dollars, an Army and Marine Corps that will require tens of billions of dollars to reset after we withdraw from Iraq, the majority of our National Guard brigades no longer combat-ready, a Veterans Administration which is underfunded by over $3 billion, and America arguably less safe now than it was on September 11, 2001. If we had seriously laid out and considered the full range of requirements for the war in Iraq, we would likely have taken a different course of action that would have maintained a clear focus on our main effort in Afghanistan, not fueled Islamic fundamentalism across the globe, and not created more enemies than there were insurgents.

What do we do now? We are where we are, plagued by the mistakes of the past. Thankfully, we are Americans and with the right leadership, we can do anything. First, the American people need to take charge through their elected officials. Secretary Rumsfeld and the Administration are fighting a war in secret that threatens our democratic values. This needs to stop right now, today. Second, we must replace Secretary Rumsfeld and his entire inner circle. We deserve leaders whose judgment and instinct we can all trust. Third, we must mobilize our country for a protracted challenge, which must include conveying the "what, why, and how long" to every American, rationing to finance the totality of what we are doing, and gearing up our industrial base in a serious manner. Mortgaging our future at the rate of $1.5 billion a week and financing our great Army and Marine Corps with supplemental legislation must stop. Americans will rally behind this important cause when the rationale is properly laid out. Fourth, we must rethink our Iraq strategy. "More of the same" is not a strategy, nor is it working. This new strategy must include serious consideration of federalizing the country, other forms of Iraqi national conscription and incentives to modify behavior, and a clear focus on training and equipping the Iraqi security forces as "America's main effort." Fifth, we must fix our inter-agency process to completely engage and synchronize all elements of America's national power. Unity of effort is fundamental and we need one person in charge in Iraq who pulls the levers with all U.S. Government agencies responding with 110 percent effort. Finally, we need to get serious about mending our relationships with allies and getting closer to our friends and enemies. America can not go this alone. All of this is possible, but we need leadership and responsible Congressional oversight to pull this off.

I challenge the American people to get informed and speak out. Remember that the Congress represents and works for the people. Congressional oversight committees have been strangely silent for too long, and our elected officials must step up to their responsibilities or be replaced. This is not about partisan politics, but rather what is good for our country. Our November elections are crucial. Every American needs to understand the issues and cast his or her vote. I believe that one needs to vote for the candidate who understands the issues and who has the moral courage to do the harder right rather than the easier wrong. I for one will continue to speak out until there is accountability, until the American people establish momentum, and until our Congressional oversight committees kick into action. Victory in Iraq is fundamental and we cannot move forward until accountability is achieved. Thank you.

Winter the Dolphin

The news from Indian River Lagoon was too familiar: another dolphin gravely injured because of human action.

But marine scientist Steve McCulloch immediately saw this rescue was unique. The baby bottlenose dolphin lost her tail, but perhaps her life could be saved.

McCulloch, director of dolphin and whale research at the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution, decided to channel his anger into a solution.

The solution for the dolphin -- dubbed Winter -- may be a prosthetic tail. If the logistics can be worked out, Winter's prosthesis would be the first for a dolphin who lost its tail and the key joint that allows it to move in powerful up-and-down strokes.

"There's never been a dolphin like her," said Dana Zucker, chief operating officer of the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, which is now Winter's home.

Winter was a frail, dehydrated 3-month-old when she came to the animal rescue center in December. A fisherman found her tangled in the buoy line of a crab trap in Indian River Lagoon near Cape Canaveral. The line tightened around her tail as she tried to swim away, strangling the blood supply to her tail flukes.

"It looked like paper," Zucker said of Winter's tail. "Bit by bit over the weeks it just fell off." Winter was left with a rounded stump.

A team of more than 150 volunteers and veterinarians spent months nursing Winter back to health. Zucker and her family cuddled with Winter and fed her a special mix of infant formula and pureed fish in the aquarium's rescue pool.

Winter learned how to swim without her tail, amazing her handlers with a combination of moves that resemble an alligator's undulations and a shark's side-to-side tail swipes. She uses her flippers, normally employed for steering and braking, to get moving.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Iraq War Has Increased Terrorism Around the Globe

Activists, academics, weapons inspectors, politicians, members of the CIA, and others have been saying this for years. Come to think of it, just about everything the anti-war movement said before the United States started bombing Iraq has come true:
A stark assessment of terrorism trends by American intelligence agencies has found that the American invasion and occupation of Iraq has helped spawn a new generation of Islamic radicalism and that the overall terrorist threat has grown since the Sept. 11 attacks.

The classified National Intelligence Estimate attributes a more direct role to the Iraq war in fueling radicalism than that presented either in recent White House documents or in a report released Wednesday by the House Intelligence Committee, according to several officials in Washington involved in preparing the assessment or who have read the final document.

The intelligence estimate, completed in April, is the first formal appraisal of global terrorism by United States intelligence agencies since the Iraq war began, and represents a consensus view of the 16 disparate spy services inside government. Titled "Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States," it asserts that Islamic radicalism, rather than being in retreat, has metastasized and spread across the globe.

An opening section of the report, "Indicators of the Spread of the Global Jihadist Movement," cites the Iraq war as a reason for the diffusion of jihad ideology.

The report "says that the Iraq war has made the overall terrorism problem worse," said one American intelligence official.

More than a dozen United States government officials and outside experts were interviewed for this article, and all spoke only on condition of anonymity because they were discussing a classified intelligence document. The officials included employees of several government agencies, and both supporters and critics of the Bush administration. All of those interviewed had either seen the final version of the document or participated in the creation of earlier drafts. These officials discussed some of the document's general conclusions but not details, which remain highly classified.

Fox News Interview with President Clinton

Imagine if Fox News engaged in this type of conversation with the current President rather than consistently lob him softball questions. Amazing. Watch the video. Here's the transcript from Think Progress.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

American Soldiers, Seniors Protest Bush Outside the UN

After walking the entire protest route, Lillian Pollack, 91, chats with other members of her group, Granny Peace Brigade, during an antiwar protest and rally near the United Nations as President Bush addressed the General Assembly session in New York, Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2006. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

The liberal media was apparently too busy to cover this:
Thousands of protesters including former American soldiers rallied outside U.N. headquarters on Tuesday, urging the U.S. government to end the war in Iraq and bring home the troops.

Nearby, about 200 other protesters demonstrated against the presence of the Iranian president, others called for human rights in Myanmar, and just a handful demonstrated to press claims the United States orchestrated the Sept. 11 attacks.

While world leaders gathered at the U.N. General Assembly inside, about 2,000 anti-Iraq war protesters chanted "Peace can work, no more war" half an hour before U.S. President George W. Bush spoke.

"This war has drained the economy and has cost a lot of lives," said Claire Thompson, a nurse and union leader. "We're calling on our leaders to end this unsustainable war and just bring the troops back home."

Friday, September 22, 2006

Iraqi Reporter: The Wounded Die Alone on Baghdad's Streets

This is from the LA Times: Because this account of daily life in Baghdad reveals where the writer lives, his name is not being used to protect his safety. He is a 54-year-old Iraqi reporter in The Times' Baghdad Bureau. Please read the entire article.
I've lived in my neighborhood for 25 years. My daughters went to kindergarten and elementary school here. I'm a Christian. My neighbors are mostly Sunni Arabs. We had always lived in harmony. Before the U.S.-led invasion, we would visit for tea and a chat. On summer afternoons, we would meet on the corner to joke and talk politics.

It used to be a nice upper-middle-class neighborhood, bustling with commerce and traffic. On the main street, ice cream parlors, hamburger stands and take-away restaurants competed for space. We would rent videos and buy household appliances.

Until 2005, we were mostly unaffected by violence. We would hear shootings and explosions now and again, but compared with other places in Baghdad, it was relatively peaceful.

Then, late in 2005, someone blew up three supermarkets in the area. Shops started closing. Most of the small number of Shiite Muslim families moved out. The commercial street became a ghost road.

On Christmas Day last year, we visited -- as always -- our local church, St. Thomas, in Mansour. It was half-empty. Some members of the congregation had left the country; others feared coming to church after a series of attacks against Christians.

American troops, who patrol the neighborhood in Humvees, have also become edgy. Get too close, and they'll shoot. A colleague -- an interpreter and physician -- was shot and killed by soldiers last year on his way home from a shopping trip. He hadn't noticed the Humvees parked on the street.

By early this year, living in my neighborhood had become a nightmare. In addition to anti-American graffiti, there were fliers telling women to wear conservative clothes and to cover their hair. Men were told not to wear shorts or jeans.

For me, as a Christian, it was unacceptable that someone would tell my wife and daughters what to wear. What's the use of freedom if someone is telling you what to wear, how to behave or what to do in your life?

But coming home one day, I saw my wife on the street. I didn't recognize her. She had covered up.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Support Mel White's New Book: "Religion Gone Bad"

I had Mel White, author of "Religion Gone Bad," on yesterday's radio show. An evangelical Christian, he worked for Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and a number of powerful fundamentalists working behind the scenes. He came out a number of years ago and decided to take on the Christian right. He and his partner live across the street from Falwell's mega-church and often attend Sunday services. Unfortunately, the traditional media is ignoring him. The SF Chronicle is the only major paper to interview him so far.

From his website:
For thirty-five years, The Rev. Dr. Mel White struggled to "overcome" his homosexual orientation through prayer, fasting, various aversive therapies, exorcism, and even electric shock. A victim of misinformation and biblical misuse, Mel thought his same-sex orientation was a sickness and a sin. During those "closet years" Mel served the Christian church as a prize-winning television producer and filmmaker, a best-selling author, a pastor, seminary professor, and ghost writer to religious leaders including Billy Graham, Pat Robertson, and Jerry Falwell.
He also runs Soulforce, an organization of young gay activists who are currently taking on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" by trying to enlist in the military.

The interview can be heard here.

His book is a must read!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Iraq Vets Call For the Defeat of Rick Santorum (R-PA) in New TV Ad

This is from VoteVets.org. Watch the TV ad, "Body Armor."
Iraq veterans today are launching a television ad campaign in Pennsylvania, saying in no uncertain terms that Rick Santorum (R-PA) voted against them, and now they are calling on Pennsylvanians to vote against him.

VoteVets.org is sponsor of the advertisement, which features Peter Granato, an Army Reservist who served in Iraq in 2003, without proper body armor. In the ad, Granato uses the rifle of choice for insurgents, an AK-47, to shoot the type of vest he - and thousands of others - wore in Iraq. Bullets pierce right through the flak jacket. Granato then shoots modern body armor, to show it stops the bullets.

Granato then points out that Rick Santorum voted to kill an amendment in 2003 sponsored by Senator Mary Landrieu (Vote #116, 108th Congress, First Session), which would have added $1billion to the budget of the National Guard and Reserves for procurement of equipment - including body armor.

Senator Landrieu made clear before introducing the amendment, in a press release, that the funds would go towards procurement of items on the Guard and Reserve's Underfunded Requirements list, which included body armor.

"Senator Rick Santorum voted against giving our troops this," Granato says, holding up the modern body armor. "Now, it's time for us to vote against him."

Last week, a similar ad was run in Virginia against Senator George Allen. Praise for the ad was overwhelmingly positive, especially in the blogosphere. DailyKos.com said the ad was the best ad this cycle. VoteVets.org received 1.6 terabytes of traffic on its website, which translates into 10,000 page views, per minute. VoteVets.org allowed those donating towards the ad to choose where it ran next, and Senator Santorum was the runaway winner.

Co-founder of VoteVets.org and Iraq war veteran Jon Soltz explained, "It is important that our supporters have a voice in this process. We heard them and we listened to them. They are an intelligent group, because we fully intended to run this ad against Senator Santorum, anyway, because his record on troops and veterans issues is dismal."

Rise in 'Honor Killings' in Afghanistan

From a friend:

October 7th 2006 marks the 5th anniversary of the start of Operation Enduring Freedom. The plight of Afghan women for equality, justice and peace made headlines five years ago. However, violence against women is on rise in public and private spheres. During my visit to Kabul in May 2003 as part of Women's Intercultural Network's (WIN) delegation, Afghan women repeatedly expressed their concerns and asked us to bring this message to their American sisters and society at large. "Do not forget us".

All the recent reports indicates that the Taliban culture and it's presence is at rise in the life of Afghan women. It is a harsh reality of our world that women's rights, security and empowerment is a benchmark of the presence of religious extremism/fundamentalism. No matter in Iran, India or Afghanistan , the regressive forces attempt to redefine the position of women at home and in society and violate their rights as an equal human being. "Oppression can only survive through silence " and that is the reason that Afghan women will not be silent and coming to the streets of Kabul to protest the rise in honor killings.
A weak judiciary, a lack of law enforcement and widespread discriminatory practices against women are fuelling a rise in honour killings in Afghanistan, officials from the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) said on Friday.

Bebi (not her real name) fears for her life after fleeing her house in the southeastern province of Paktia in June. The 15-year-old said she was forced into a marriage that she did not want. I was engaged to an old man when I was only six months old, how can that be right?

She's now living incognito with friends in the capital Kabul. Facilities to protect women like Bebi are virtually nil in Afghanistan and many resign themselves to their fate.

My husband treated me like an animal, not as a human, with daily beatings and torture and locking me indoors, Bebi said. I know he [husband] is pursuing me to kill me because he thinks I have disgraced him but God knows it is he who was guilty.

So-called honour killings, which rights activists say have become increasingly common in Afghanistan, are murders of women or girls who are believed to have brought shame on the family name. They are usually carried out by male family members, or sometimes by contractors who are paid to carry out the killing and occasionally by children too young to face the law.

The killings are commonly carried out on women and girls refusing to enter into an arranged marriage or for having a relationship that the family considers to be inappropriate. Due to such pressures from families, many women are driven to suicide or flee their homes to escape an honour killing.

According to AIHRC, some 185 women and girls have been killed by family members so far this year, a significant increase on the previous year. But rights activists say that the real number is much higher as many such cases go unreported, particularly in rural areas.

Unfortunately, many women and girls continue to lose their lives due to this [honour killing] brutal crime. Sadly, its totally ingrained in [Afghan] culture, particularly in rural areas of the country, Soraya Sobrang, head f AIHRC, told IRIN.

Sobrang blamed weak prosecution of perpetrators and a lack of awareness among women about their rights as the key factors driving the practice.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Another Casualty in Iraq: Bookstores and Dissenting Writers

"It is the lungs that I breathe with," said Zaien Ahmad al-Nakshabandi, another bookseller. "I'm choked now."

From the Washington Post:
A silence has fallen upon Mutanabi Street.

In the buttery sunlight, faded billboards hang from old buildings. Iron gates seal entrances to bookstores and stationery shops. On this Friday, like the past 13 Fridays, the violence has taken its toll. There is not a customer around, only ghosts.

Perched on a red chair outside a closet-sized bookshop, the only one open, Naim al-Shatri is nearly in tears. Short, with thin gray hair and dark, brooding eyes, his voice is grim. This is normally his busiest day, but he hasn't had a single sale. A curfew is approaching.

Soon, his sobs break the stillness. "Is this Iraq?" he asked no one in particular, pointing at the gritty, trash-covered street as the scent of rotting paper and sewage mingled in the air.

It is a question many of the booksellers on Mutanabi Street are asking. Here, in the intellectual ground zero of Baghdad, they are the guardians of a literary tradition that has survived empire and colonialism, monarchy and dictatorship. In the heady days after the U.S.-led invasion, Mutanabi Street pulsed with the promise of freedom.

Now, in the fourth year of war, it is a shadow of its revered past. Many of the original booksellers have been forced to shut down. Others have been arrested, kidnapped or killed, or have fled Iraq. "We are walking with our coffins in our hands," said Mohammad al-Hayawi, the owner of the Renaissance book store, one of the street's oldest shops. "Nothing in Iraq is guaranteed anymore."

In a city known across the Arab world for its love affair with books, such emotions reflect the decline of a vibrant community. For the residents of Baghdad, Mutanabi Street is a link to their city's past glory, less a place than an extension of their souls.

"It is the lungs that I breathe with," said Zaien Ahmad al-Nakshabandi, another bookseller. "I'm choked now."

Three months ago, the government imposed the midday curfew on Islam's holiest day to stop attacks on mosques. That was a major setback for Mutanabi Street, named after a 10th-century poet. For most Iraqis, Friday is their only day off from work and a time to head to the book market.

In earlier days, a multiethnic stew of secondhand booksellers would lay their wares out and carefully swipe the dust off. Inside the famed Shahbandar cafe, intellectuals would gather to wax about politics and culture over cups of tar-black coffee and glasses of lemon tea, even during the most repressed of times.

Under former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, Mutanabi Street was the nexus for resistance and freewheeling debates, where underground writers published illegal books that denounced Hussein.

"I wish you could see how it used to be on Fridays," Shatri spoke before he broke down in tears. "You could not even walk. The whole street was filled with books and people. Mutanabi Street is a part of how great Baghdad is."

Then, in a reverent tone, he uttered a proverb known across the Arab world: "Cairo writes. Beirut publishes. And Baghdad reads."

Another Bloody Monday in Iraq

Bombers and gunmen killed at least 41 people and wounded dozens across Iraq on Monday, while parliament leaders again put off debate on legislation that some Iraqis fear could threaten the country's unity and bring even more violence.

The U.S. military relinquished control of a second Iraqi army division as Iraqi officials prepared to further tighten security ahead of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, when insurgent attacks tend to spike.

In a positive development for Iraq's leaders, predominantly Sunni Arab tribes in a volatile western province have joined to fight insurgents in the region and want the government and the U.S.-led coalition to supply them with weapons, a tribal leader said.

Tribal leaders and clerics in Ramadi, capital of violent Anbar province, met last week and set up a force of about 20,000 men "ready to purge the city of these infidels," Sheik Fassal al-Guood, a tribal leader from Ramadi, told The Associated Press.

"People are fed up with the acts of those criminals who take Islam as a cover for their crimes," he said. "The situation in the province is unbearable, the city is abandoned, most of the families have fled the city and all services are poor."

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Biggest Spending Rise Since 1990 - Where Are the Fiscal Conservatives?

From Bloomberg:
Republican voters are angry, not for the first time, at big-spending politicians in Washington. This year, their wrath is aimed at their own party.

The Republican-controlled Congress heads into the Nov. 7 elections having increased federal spending this year by 9 percent -- the most since 1990 -- to about $2.7 trillion, according to projections from the White House Office of Management and Budget. The agency estimates government spending will grow to 20.6 percent of gross domestic product in 2006 from 18.5 percent when President George W. Bush took office in 2001.

"We've strayed a long way from the principles the party was founded upon," said Representative Jeff Flake, an Arizona Republican.

Republicans need a big turnout by their core supporters if they are to avoid losing their majorities in the House of Representatives and, possibly, the Senate. Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster, said those core supporters are the very voters who are most likely to be angered by the increased spending, and who may stay home in protest.

"It's one of a handful of reasons why Republicans are discouraged," Ayres said. "I don't know what you can say that will mollify the Republican base on this subject. You're better off talking to them about other subjects."
Like gay marriage? What else does this administration have to brag about? Passing tax cuts during a time of war (remember, we're spending $100K/per minute in Iraq).

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Another Angry Member of the GOP

Guess the Kool-Aid is finally running out:

"There is already clarity in the law, the Geneva Convention, and the McCain Amendment. What the Bush administration wants is to introduce vagueness to get away with exactly the same barabarism they have deploying illegally for the past five years. They must be stopped. And eventually, they must be prosecuted for war crimes."
-Andrew Sullivan

Conservatives Finally Criticize Bush's Spending Orgy

From Joe Scarborough, another pissed off conservative:
But compare Clinton's 3.4 percent growth rate to the spending orgy that has dominated Washington since Bush moved into town. With Republicans in charge of both sides of Pennsylvania Avenue, spending growth has averaged 10.4 percent per year. And the GOP's reckless record goes well beyond runaway defense costs. The federal education bureaucracy has exploded by 101 percent since Republicans started running Congress. Spending in the Justice Department over the same period has shot up 131 percent, the Commerce Department 82 percent, the Department of Health and Human Services 81 percent, the State Department 80 percent, the Department of Transportation 65 percent, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development 59 percent. Incredibly, the four bureaucracies once targeted for elimination by the GOP Congress--Commerce, Energy, Education, and Housing and Urban Development--have enjoyed spending increases of an average of 85 percent.

It's enough to make economic conservatives long for the day when Marxists were running the White House.

This must all be shocking to my Republican friends who still believe our country would be a better place if our party controlled every branch of government as well as every news network, movie studio, and mid-American pulpit. But evidence suggests that divided government may be what Washington needs the most.

Homeland Security Lobbyists Score $130B in Contracts

And guess who's the lead lobbyist? Former Attorney General John Ashcroft. Gotta love fiscal Republicans:
Seven years ago there were nine companies with federal homeland security contracts. By 2003 it was 3,512. Now there are 33,890. The money is huge. Since 2000, $130bn of contracts have been dished out. By 2015 annual federal spending on the industry could be $170bn.

But state officials want in on the government handouts too. That is why Indiana ended up identifying 8,591 potential terrorism targets (including Lehman's farm) inside its Midwestern borders. But they went too far.

Indiana's total was the most of any state - twice as many as California and 30 per cent more than New York.

The reason is simple. With so much money on offer and such riches being made, there is a powerful economic incentive to exploit the threat to America. The homeland security industry has an army of lobbyists working for its interests in Washington. It grows bigger each year and they want to keep the money flowing. America is in the grip of a business based on fear.

Inside a fancy office block in downtown Washington DC lie the offices of the Ashcroft Group. It is six blocks from the imposing buildings of the Department of Justice where the head of the firm, John Ashcroft, used to be President George W. Bush's Attorney General. As Attorney General, Ashcroft controversially extended the surveillance powers of the state in order to fight terrorism. Now he lobbies and consults on behalf of technology companies seeking to capitalise on the new powers. His clients include firms such as ChoicePoint, which gathers data on individuals and sells it, and Innova, which makes software for surveillance drones and robots.

In turning from powerful official to powerful lobbyist, Ashcroft is a brazen example of what critics call Washington's 'revolving door' - a process whereby officials leave public service for the private sector, exploiting their old contacts for commerce. 'It's become the norm that senior officials open up their own shops in their old sectors. It can be incredibly lucrative for them,' said Alex Knott, project manager for Lobby Watch, part of the Centre for Public Integrity.

Friday, September 15, 2006

100 Dead Bodies in Iraq

"One of the hardest parts of my job is to connect Iraq to the war on terror."
-George W. Bush talking to Katie Couric, CBS NEWS/Sept 7, 2006
On a day in which nearly 100 bodies attested to Iraq's unbridled violence, Democrats stepped up their response to President Bush's policies, with former national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski calling the war "unwinnable."

Iraqi officials announced they had found the bodies of 60 men, some of whom had been shot in the head after being tortured, over the previous 24 hours. They said there was no single massacre or mass execution. Rather, the slaughter in two Baghdad neighborhoods was probably the result of multiple roving assassination teams, they said.

In addition to the apparent executions, a pair of car bombs and other violence took at least 35 lives and left scores injured Wednesday, officials said. U.S. authorities reported the deaths of two more American soldiers, one killed by a roadside bomb south of Baghdad and the other killed in action in Al Anbar province, the hotbed of the Sunni Arab insurgency in western Iraq.

In his televised speech to the nation Monday, Bush said that U.S. security "depends on the outcome of the battle in the streets of Baghdad," setting a theme that Republicans hope will sustain support for the war and their candidates between now and November's elections.

Bush's Latest Press Conference: He's Losing It (Again)

He's losing it big time. How does the press sit through this nonsense?

Watch it if you can handle it.

FCC Buries Report Proving Media Consolidation Decreases Local News, Diversity

Former FCC Chair Michael Powell, Colin Powell's son, commissioned a report two years ago to find out whether media consolidation limits local coverage. The answer has been obvious since Clinton passed the Telecom Act. The study showed that local ownership of TV stations adds over five minutes of news to broadcasts, but that's not what the FCC wanted to hear, so it supressed the report:
The Federal Communications Commission ordered its staff to destroy all copies of a draft study that suggested greater concentration of media ownership would hurt local TV news coverage, a former lawyer at the agency says.

The report, written in 2004, came to light during the Senate confirmation hearing for FCC Chairman Kevin Martin.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. received a copy of the report “indirectly from someone within the FCC who believed the information should be made public," according to Boxer spokeswoman Natalie Ravitz.

Adam Candeub, now a law professor at Michigan State University, said senior managers at the agency ordered that "every last piece" of the report be destroyed. "The whole project was just stopped - end of discussion," he said. Candeub was a lawyer in the FCC's Media Bureau at the time the report was written and communicated frequently with its authors, he said.

In a letter sent to Martin Wednesday, Boxer said she was "dismayed that this report, which was done at taxpayer expense more than two years ago, and which concluded that localism is beneficial to the public, was shoved in a drawer."

Lewis Lapham: Impeach Him

"George Bush is a criminal known to be armed and shown to be dangerous. The impeachment is to simply prevent him from doing further harm to the United States."
-Lewis Lapham

Lewis Lapham, editor emeritus of Harper's Magazine, was on Your Call this morning talking about the Bush administration, empire, impeachment, and his new book, Pretensions to Empire: Notes on the Criminal Folly of the Bush Administration. Listen here.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Real Republican: Let's Quit While We're Behind

The following was written by Christopher Buckley, former speechwriter for George H.W. Bush:
"The trouble with our times," Paul Valery said, "is that the future is not what it used to be."

This glum apercu has been much with me as we move into the home stretch of the 2006 mid-term elections and shimmy into the starting gates of the 2008 presidential campaign. With heavy heart, as a once-proud--indeed, staunch--Republican, I here admit, behind enemy lines, to the guilty hope that my party loses; on both occasions.

I voted for George W. Bush in 2000. In 2004, I could not bring myself to pull the same lever again. Neither could I bring myself to vote for John Kerry, who, for all his strengths, credentials, and talent, seems very much less than the sum of his parts. So, I wrote in a vote for George Herbert Walker Bush, for whom I worked as a speechwriter from 1981 to '83. I wish he'd won.

Bob Woodward asked Bush 43 if he had consulted his father before invading Iraq. The son replied that he had consulted "a higher father." That frisson you feel going up your spine is the realization that he meant it. And apparently the higher father said, "Go for it!" There are those of us who wish he had consulted his terrestrial one; or, if he couldn't get him on the line, Brent Scowcroft. Or Jim Baker. Or Henry Kissinger. Or, for that matter, anyone who has read a book about the British experience in Iraq. (18,000 dead.)

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

IDF Commander: We Fired More Than a Million Cluster Bombs in Lebanon

Remember Lebanon?
"What we did was insane and monstrous, we covered entire towns in cluster bombs," the head of an IDF rocket unit in Lebanon said regarding the use of cluster bombs and phosphorous shells during the war.

Quoting his battalion commander, the rocket unit head stated that the IDF fired around 1,800 cluster bombs, containing over 1.2 million cluster bomblets.

In addition, soldiers in IDF artillery units testified that the army used phosphorous shells during the war, widely forbidden by international law. According to their claims, the vast majority of said explosive ordinance was fired in the final 10 days of the war.

The rocket unit commander stated that Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) platforms were heavily used in spite of the fact that they were known to be highly inaccurate.

MLRS is a track or tire carried mobile rocket launching platform, capable of firing a very high volume of mostly unguided munitions. The basic rocket fired by the platform is unguided and imprecise, with a range of about 32 kilometers. The rockets are designed to burst into sub-munitions at a planned altitude in order to blanket enemy army and personnel on the ground with smaller explosive rounds.

The use of such weaponry is controversial mainly due to its inaccuracy and ability to wreak great havoc against indeterminate targets over large areas of territory, with a margin of error of as much as 1,200 meters from the intended target to the area hit.

The cluster rounds which don't detonate on impact, believed by the United Nations to be around 40% of those fired by the IDF in Lebanon, remain on the ground as unexploded munitions, effectively littering the landscape with thousands of land mines which will continue to claim victims long after the war has ended.

Because of their high level of failure to detonate, it is believed that there are around 500,000 unexploded munitions on the ground in Lebanon. To date 12 Lebanese civilians have been killed by these mines since the end of the war.

Princeton Professor Hacks E-Voting Machine

So much for secure voting. Not that we ever believed it was secure:
A Princeton University computer science professor added new fuel Wednesday to claims that electronic voting machines used across much of the country are vulnerable to hacking that could alter vote totals or disable machines.

In a paper posted on the university's Web site, Edward Felten and two graduate students described how they had tested a Diebold AccuVote-TS machine they obtained, found ways to quickly upload malicious programs and even developed a computer virus able to spread such programs between machines.

The marketing director for the machine's maker -- Diebold Inc.'s Diebold Election Systems of Allen, Texas -- blasted the report, saying Felten ignored newer software and security measures that prevent such hacking.

"I'm concerned by the fact we weren't contacted to educate these people on where our current technology stands," Mark Radke said.

Radke also question why Felten hadn't submitted his paper for peer review, as is commonly done before publishing scientific research.

Felten said he and his colleagues felt it necessary to publish the paper as quickly as possible because of the possible implications for the November midterm elections.

About 80 percent of American voters are expected to use some form of electronic voting in the upcoming election, in which the makeup of the U.S. House will be decided, as well as 33 Senate seats and 36 governorships.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Suzanne Swift Update

Iraq Vets Force Congressional Investigation of Suzanne Swift Case
Members of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW), Veterans for Peace, and Oregon constituents achieved a victory on the road to ending military sexual violence today with a pledge from Congressman Peter DeFazio's (D-Ore.) office that he will be initiating a congressional investigation into the case of Army Specialist Suzanne Swift.

The group from Camp Democracy delivered a letter containing the phone numbers of Swift's chain of command and refused to leave the office until the Congressman acted appropriately on behalf of his constituent and all women in uniform. In unison with the direct action in Washington, constituents in Oregon and Rep. DeFazio's district flooded his offices with phone calls, emails and faxes in support of SPC Swift. Rep. DeFazio also scheduled a personal meeting with Sara Rich, Suzanne's mother, and members of IVAW for September 21, 2006.

Suzanne Swift is a veteran of the Iraq war who is now held in custody at Fort Lewis, Washington. Swift had completed a tour of duty in Iraq, where she was sexually harassed and assaulted at the hands of three of her commanding officers - continuing over the course of her entire deployment. Her efforts to report her treatment were met with disrespect and dismissed. Finally, Swift suffered a breakdown due to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and went absent without leave. She was apprehended in Eugene, Oregon, in June 2006, and instead of seeing her rapists investigated, Swift herself is facing court martial and prison time.

Organizers of the action released the following statement: "Congressman DeFazio has taken an important step toward ending military sexual violence despite the military's unwillingness to follow its own procedures and regulations. This a good first step toward making sure there is never again another Suzanne Swift."

Monday, September 11, 2006

Remembering Afghanistan on 9/11

Five years ago today, the world stood transfixed. Standing on the rubble of the World Trade Center, President Bush promised to retaliate against those responsible for the 9/11 attacks. It didn't take long. The United States began bombing Afghanistan on October 7. Within six months, they disabled the Taliban regime and weakened Al-Qaeda's power.

Five years later, Afghanistan is often referred to as the "forgotten war," even though the country is facing its strongest upsurge in violence since the ouster of the Taliban. A suicide bomber killed a provincial governor, his bodyguard and his nephew yesterday in eastern Afghanistan.

Three days ago, a car bomber slammed into a U.S. army convoy near the U.S. Embassy, killing 16 people, including three American soldiers. It was the worst such attack in the capital.

Why is the violence increasing? What went wrong? Was it incompetence in the Bush administration? Was it the fiasco in Iraq? Or was it shadowy influences from Afghan neighbors like Pakistan?

Perhaps the most pressing question is: What's in store for the future of Afghanistan?

Former NPR reporter Sarah Chayes explores these questions in her new book, The Punishment of Virtue: Inside Afghanistan After the Taliban.

Chayes was NPR's Paris reporter for years. After 9/11, she filed reports from Pakistan and Afghanistan. In early 2002, she finished her NPR rotation, visited the U.S., and moved back to Kandahar to help rebuild the country and run Afghans for Civil Society, a humanitarian organization that rebuilds homes. With a few exceptions, she has lived in Kandahar ever since.

I interviewed Chayes on today's Your Call. She's such an engaging, passionate speaker and shares many stories about Afghan warlords, politicians, the Taliban, day to day obstacles, the relationships she created with the locals, and hopes for the future. Listen here.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Democratic & Republican Foreign Policy Experts: U.S. is Not Winning the 'War on Terror'

From Foreign Policy Magazine:
Is the United States winning the war on terror? Not according to more than 100 of America's top foreign-policy hands. They see a national security apparatus in disrepair and a government that is failing to protect the public from the next attack.

Following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Americans understandably rallied around the flag. Having just suffered the deadliest attack ever on U.S. soil, huge percentages believed another attack was imminent. But Americans also had enormous faith that the Global War on Terror would help keep them safe. Just one month after 9/11, for instance, 94 percent of Americans told an ABC News/Washington Post poll that they approved of how the fight against terrorism was being handled. The United States then quickly went to war in Afghanistan, closing down a terrorist sanctuary and capturing or killing a number of high-level al Qaeda operatives in the process.

Since 2001, terrorists have found their targets on almost every continent, with bombings in Bali, London, Madrid, and elsewhere. Five years on, however, America has yet to experience another attack. But Americans appear less convinced that their country is winning the war on terror. In the face of persisting threats, including a growing number of terrorist attacks around the world, numerous reports show that Americans are losing faith in their government's ability to wage the war successfully and to protect them from the terrorists' next volley. Barely half of Americans today approve of the way in which the war on terror is being handled, and more than one third believe the United States is less safe today than it was before 9/11.

These pessimistic public perceptions could easily be attributed to the high cost, in both treasure and lives, of counterterrorism efforts. After all, Americans are constantly being told by their elected leaders that their pessimism is wrong, that the war is being won. But they're also told that another attack is inevitable. Which is it? To find out, FOREIGN POLICY and the Center for American Progress teamed up to survey more than 100 of America's top foreign-policy experts--Republicans and Democrats alike. The FOREIGN POLICY/Center for American Progress Terrorism Index is the first comprehensive effort to mine the highest echelons of America's foreign-policy establishment for their assessment of how the United States is fighting the Global War on Terror. Our aim was to draw some definitive conclusions about the war's priorities, policies, and progress from the very people who have run America's national security apparatus over the past half century. Participants include people who have served as secretary of state, national security advisor, retired top commanders from the U.S. military, seasoned members of the intelligence community, and distinguished academics and journalists. Nearly 80 percent of the index participants have worked in the U.S. government--of these more than half were in the executive branch, one third in the military, and 17 percent in the intelligence community.

Despite today's highly politicized national security environment, the index results show striking consensus across political party lines. A bipartisan majority (84 percent) of the index's experts say the United States is not winning the war on terror. Eighty-six percent of the index's experts see a world today that is growing more dangerous for Americans. Overall, they agree that the U.S. government is falling short in its homeland security efforts. More than 8 in 10 expect an attack on the scale of 9/11 within a decade. These dark conclusions appear to stem from the experts' belief that the U.S. national security apparatus is in serious disrepair. "Foreign-policy experts have never been in so much agreement about an administration's performance abroad," says Leslie Gelb, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations and an index participant. "The reason is that it's clear to nearly all that Bush and his team have had a totally unrealistic view of what they can accomplish with military force and threats of force."

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Bush on Osama bin Laden - Then & Now

"So I don't know where he is. You know, I just don't spend that much time on him. We haven't heard much from him. And I wouldn't necessarily say he's at the center of any command structure. And, again, I don't know where he is. I- I'll repeat what I said. I truly am not that concerned about him."
-Bush, answering a question about Osama bin Laden at a March 13, 2002 news conference.

Three years later, as the majority of Americans oppose the occupation of Iraq and question the administration's reasons for bombing in the first place, Bush invoked the name of bin Laden 29 times during three separate speeches during the week of September 4, 2006.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers

On today's radio show, we were joined by Sarah Feeley, producer of Robert Greenwald's new film, Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers. It's a must see.

American taxpayers are spending $100,000 PER MINUTE on the Iraq war. How is that money being spent? And why is there no accountability? The film takes a critical look at the companies that are providing the kinds of services in Iraq that the military once handled itself, such as supplying food, water, and laundry for incredibly high prices.

The film focuses on Blackwater Security Consulting, which has a small army of bodyguards in Iraq; on Halliburton's KBR, which supplies American troops with everything from fuel to food to latrines; and on CACI International, which hired employees to translate at Abu Ghraib prison.

So who's benefiting? Halliburton's CEO is making $12,000 PER HOUR. Vice President Dick Cheney's stock options in Halliburton rose from $241,498 in 2004 to over $8 million in 2005, an increase of more than 3,000 percent.

The film does an excellent job of explaining the connections between war profiteers and the Republican Party, and gives a voice to people who've been directly impacted by the contractors, including former Halliburton truck drivers, Abu Ghraib interrogators, Army specialists, and CACI translators.

Be sure to see it and share it with friends and family.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Balancing Blogging with Life

I haven't been blogging as much as I used to because I've been swamped with work. I often wonder how bloggers do it. The top blogs make great money in ad revenue, but what about the others? Do they work? Do they have social lives? Blogging takes time and when you work, it's not easy to update throughout the day, let alone write lengthy, thoughtful posts about the latest happenings in our crazy world.

I've been meaning to post about this for a while, but I haven't had time. I'm now hosting a daily public affairs radio show called Your Call on KALW 91.7 FM in San Francisco. The show airs from 10:00-11:00 am PST. You can listen online here and the shows are archived. As you can imagine, this has been taking up a big chunk of my time. I'm greatly enjoying this job as the topics change daily.

In other news, Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi is being made into a movie. It should be good.