<\body> Stories in America: January 2008

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Soldier suicides at record levels

When is the "liberal media" going to ask the GOP hawks (with the exception of Ron Paul) running for President about this:
Lt. Elizabeth Whiteside, a psychiatric outpatient at Walter Reed Army Medical Center who was waiting for the Army to decide whether to court-martial her for endangering another soldier and turning a gun on herself last year in Iraq, attempted to kill herself Monday evening. In so doing, the 25-year-old Army reservist joined a record number of soldiers who have committed or tried to commit suicide after serving in Iraq or Afghanistan.

"I'm very disappointed with the Army," Whiteside wrote in a note before swallowing dozens of antidepressants and other pills. "Hopefully this will help other soldiers." She was taken to the emergency room early Tuesday. Whiteside, who is now in stable physical condition, learned yesterday that the charges against her had been dismissed.

Whiteside's personal tragedy is part of an alarming phenomenon in the Army's ranks: Suicides among active-duty soldiers in 2007 reached their highest level since the Army began keeping such records in 1980, according to a draft internal study obtained by The Washington Post. Last year, 121 soldiers took their own lives, nearly 20 percent more than in 2006.

At the same time, the number of attempted suicides or self-inflicted injuries in the Army has jumped sixfold since the Iraq war began. Last year, about 2,100 soldiers injured themselves or attempted suicide, compared with about 350 in 2002, according to the U.S. Army Medical Command Suicide Prevention Action Plan.

Up to two million desperate Iraqi widows

More progress:
Every week, letters from Iraqi widows spill across Samira al-Moussawi's desk. One wrote to ask whether she should spend what scant money she gets on her infant or on school books for her older son.

The member of parliament and head of a parliamentary women's committee is at her wits' end as to how to answer the desperate pleas from what could be as many as one to two million women.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Vote or pay $20

I'm doing a radio show about Australia's new left-wing government on Tuesday night at 9:00 pm PST. It was a stunning defeat of another Bush ally. The new Prime Minister Kevin Rudd promises to ratify Kyoto and pull Australia's combat troops out of Iraq.

I'm doing research and just found this Washington Post article. What would happen if the U.S. had compulsory voting?
It certainly helped that in Australia, there's no choice when it comes to voting, either; it's compulsory. So rather than be fined $20, about 95 percent of Australians turned out on Election Day. It also helps that our elections are always on a Saturday and the sausage sandwiches served off hot plates set up in the parking lots are pretty tasty. We also have only one kind of ballot for the whole country, instead of ! leaving the design to state or local governments (Florida, you listening back there?). Because everyone has to vote, there's no need to spend a billion dollars to inflame passions and divide the electorate just so that people will pick a side and care enough to fill in a ballot come November.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

One Day in Iraq = $720 Million

Video from the American Friends Service Committee.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Iraqi refugees: "We can't return"

"The Iraqi government claims lots of people have returned home because of the improved security. That's not true. They have been forced to go back because they cannot get residency in Syria."

This is progress.

2.4m Iraqis internally displaced
2m Iraqi refugees abroad
Iraqi government offering $800 to those who return
3,650 families registered in Baghdad for grant
6,000 families waiting to register for grant
Source: International Organisation for Migration

From the BBC:
Noor, who is Sunni, and her family arrived in Syria 18 months ago and settled in Damascus.

We left Baghdad because we were threatened by the Mehdi army.

We had to go immediately, leaving everything: clothes, furniture, all the things you accumulate when you live more than 20 years in the same house.

Things had been getting worse for a while. One event especially, sticks in my mind.

Neighbours of ours had been forcibly removed from their home three houses down from us.

One morning a few days after they had disappeared, one of my daughters walked down the road and saw the heads of our neighbours lined up on the wall of the house.

She was hysterical and couldn't leave the house for weeks. If someone went out we never knew if they would return. So, we left for general security reasons as well as the specific threat.

It was a sad departure. Leaving our country and heading for the unknown, without any planning or financial resources. It's hard to describe how it felt.

Here in Syria we live in a third-floor flat. It's very cold - but the price of fuel is high. We lack many basic things: blankets, fuel for cooking and heating.

The biggest irony is that we fled an oil-rich country - for a place where we cannot afford the fuel bills.

Our situation frightens me. I cannot stress enough - there are no jobs for us here in Syria.

I am 55 now and life is a struggle. We spend long hours looking for work so we can put food on the table. It's survival, no more and no less.

Deception on the path to war

Thanks to the Center for Public Integrity for their incredible investigative journalism. If we had ten more of them, maybe we wouldn't be in this mess:
President George W. Bush and seven of his administration's top officials, including Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, made at least 935 false statements in the two years following September 11, 2001, about the national security threat posed by Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Nearly five years after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, an exhaustive examination of the record shows that the statements were part of an orchestrated campaign that effectively galvanized public opinion and, in the process, led the nation to war under decidedly false pretenses.

On at least 532 separate occasions (in speeches, briefings, interviews, testimony, and the like), Bush and these three key officials, along with Secretary of State Colin Powell, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, and White House press secretaries Ari Fleischer and Scott McClellan, stated unequivocally that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (or was trying to produce or obtain them), links to Al Qaeda, or both. This concerted effort was the underpinning of the Bush administration's case for war.

It is now beyond dispute that Iraq did not possess any weapons of mass destruction or have meaningful ties to Al Qaeda. This was the conclusion of numerous bipartisan government investigations, including those by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (2004 and 2006), the 9/11 Commission, and the multinational Iraq Survey Group, whose "Duelfer Report" established that Saddam Hussein had terminated Iraq's nuclear program in 1991 and made little effort to restart it.

In short, the Bush administration led the nation to war on the basis of erroneous information that it methodically propagated and that culminated in military action against Iraq on March 19, 2003. Not surprisingly, the officials with the most opportunities to make speeches, grant media interviews, and otherwise frame the public debate also made the most false statements, according to this first-ever analysis of the entire body of prewar rhetoric.

President Bush, for example, made 232 false statements about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and another 28 false statements about Iraq's links to Al Qaeda. Secretary of State Powell had the second-highest total in the two-year period, with 244 false statements about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and 10 about Iraq's links to Al Qaeda. Rumsfeld and Fleischer each made 109 false statements, followed by Wolfowitz (with 85), Rice (with 56), Cheney (with 48), and McClellan (with 14).

The massive database at the heart of this project juxtaposes what President Bush and these seven top officials were saying for public consumption against what was known, or should have been known, on a day-to-day basis. This fully searchable database includes the public statements, drawn from both primary sources (such as official transcripts) and secondary sources (chiefly major news organizations) over the two years beginning on September 11, 2001. It also interlaces relevant information from more than 25 government reports, books, articles, speeches, and interviews.

Consider, for example, these false public statements made in the run-up to war:

On August 26, 2002, in an address to the national convention of the Veteran of Foreign Wars, Cheney flatly declared: "Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us." In fact, former CIA Director George Tenet later recalled, Cheney's assertions went well beyond his agency's assessments at the time. Another CIA official, referring to the same speech, told journalist Ron Suskind, "Our reaction was, 'Where is he getting this stuff from?'"

In the closing days of September 2002, with a congressional vote fast approaching on authorizing the use of military force in Iraq, Bush told the nation in his weekly radio address: "The Iraqi regime possesses biological and chemical weapons, is rebuilding the facilities to make more and, according to the British government, could launch a biological or chemical attack in as little as 45 minutes after the order is given. . . . This regime is seeking a nuclear bomb, and with fissile material could build one within a year." A few days later, similar findings were also included in a much-hurried National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction — an analysis that hadn't been done in years, as the intelligence community had deemed it unnecessary and the White House hadn't requested it.

In July 2002, Rumsfeld had a one-word answer for reporters who asked whether Iraq had relationships with Al Qaeda terrorists: "Sure." In fact, an assessment issued that same month by the Defense Intelligence Agency (and confirmed weeks later by CIA Director Tenet) found an absence of "compelling evidence demonstrating direct cooperation between the government of Iraq and Al Qaeda." What's more, an earlier DIA assessment said that "the nature of the regime's relationship with Al Qaeda is unclear."
On May 29, 2003, in an interview with Polish TV, President Bush declared: "We found the weapons of mass destruction. We found biological laboratories." But as journalist Bob Woodward reported in State of Denial, days earlier a team of civilian experts dispatched to examine the two mobile labs found in Iraq had concluded in a field report that the labs were not for biological weapons. The team's final report, completed the following month, concluded that the labs had probably been used to manufacture hydrogen for weather balloons.

On January 28, 2003, in his annual State of the Union address, Bush asserted: "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa. Our intelligence sources tell us that he has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production." Two weeks earlier, an analyst with the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research sent an email to colleagues in the intelligence community laying out why he believed the uranium-purchase agreement "probably is a hoax."

On February 5, 2003, in an address to the United Nations Security Council, Powell said: "What we're giving you are facts and conclusions based on solid intelligence. I will cite some examples, and these are from human sources." As it turned out, however, two of the main human sources to which Powell referred had provided false information. One was an Iraqi con artist, code-named "Curveball," whom American intelligence officials were dubious about and in fact had never even spoken to. The other was an Al Qaeda detainee, Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi, who had reportedly been sent to Eqypt by the CIA and tortured and who later recanted the information he had provided. Libi told the CIA in January 2004 that he had "decided he would fabricate any information interrogators wanted in order to gain better treatment and avoid being handed over to [a foreign government]."
The false statements dramatically increased in August 2002, with congressional consideration of a war resolution, then escalated through the mid-term elections and spiked even higher from January 2003 to the eve of the invasion.

Monday, January 21, 2008

War is hell: "We were taking out women and children"

“I felt like I was in the middle of a duck shoot and we were the ducks,” said Mr. Smith, who was a SAW - squad automatic weapon - gunner. “I don’t know how many R.P.G.’s we took. One landed about five feet to the right of me and my buddy. I don’t know how it did not detonate, but instead it bounced. Bounced! I can’t believe we’re still alive.”

The fighting did not let up for many hours. “Whether or not I actually killed anybody with my own bullets, I don’t know,” Mr. Smith said. “I suspect so. But there were two to 12 guns going off at once, and only the snipers knew for sure.” At a certain point, the Iraqi fighters commandeered civilians’ cars, taking them hostage and ordering them to drive straight at the Marine positions. The marines were forced to shoot at everything headed their way.

“We were opening fire on civilians,” Mr. Smith said. “We were taking out women and children because it was them or us.”

Sergeant Major Lopez, his superior officer, said that his marines were “put in that position” and “trained to protect themselves first.”

“Our marines tried to limit civilian casualties,” he said. “Not a person there didn’t feel bad. But it had to be done.”

That day traumatized the reservists. Mr. Quiñones recalled a father carrying toward them the limp body of a young child. His voice cracking, he described a 5-year-old boy screaming as his car “turned into Swiss cheese.”

“I called cease-fire and I wanted to run and grab him, but there were machine gun rounds flying all around,” Mr. Quiñones said. “I watched this kid’s head get blown away, his brains splattering while his screams still echoed. Those images haunt me - haunt many of us - to this day.”

Happy MLK Jr. Day

I have to laugh when I hear conservative talking heads talking about MLK Jr. like a soft teddy bear. If he were alive today, he would be their worst nightmare.

Happy MLK Day. Here's an excerpt from a letter he wrote from a Birmingham jail on April 16, 1963:
You may well ask: "Why direct action? Why sit-ins, marches and so forth? Isn't negotiation a better path?" You are quite right in calling, for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent-resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word "tension." I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half-truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, we must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood.

The purpose of our direct-action program is to create a situation so crisis-packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation. I therefore concur with you in your call for negotiation. Too long has our beloved South land been bogged down in a tragic effort to live in monologue rather than dialogue.

One of the basic points in your statement is that the action that I and my associates have taken .in Birmingham is untimely. Some have asked: "Why didn't you give the new city administration time to act?" The only answer that I can give to this query is that the new Birmingham administration must be prodded about as much as the outgoing one, before it will act. We are sadly mistaken if we feel that the election of Albert Boutwell as mayor. will bring the millennium to Birmingham. While Mr. Boutwell is a much more gentle person than Mr. Connor, they are both segregationists, dedicated to maintenance of the status quo. I have hope that Mr. Boutwell will be reasonable enough to see the futility of massive resistance to desegregation. But he will not see this without pressure from devotees of civil rights. My friends, I must say to you that we have not made a single gain civil rights without determined legal and nonviolent pressure. Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups tend to be more immoral than individuals.

We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct-action campaign that was "well timed" in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word "Wait!" It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This "Wait" has almost always meant 'Never." We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that "justice too long delayed is justice denied."

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Huckabee's wife speaks...

Thank god for well-paid reporters who know how to ask good questions and dig for interesting facts.

Innocent 10-year-old shot in Oakland

Have you heard about the 10-year-old boy who was hit by a stray bullet at his piano lesson in Oakland a few weeks ago? It's such a sad story. I've been following it to see how he's doing and unfortunately, he's paralyzed from the waist down.

The San Jose Mercury News has a story about the community and his classmates raising $30K to pay for a wheelchair friendly home and hospital fees.

There's also a blog and an easy way to donate.

It seems like there are at least two shootings a week in San Francisco and the East Bay. They're all tragic, but this one really got me.

I wanted to pass along the information in case you feel like donating. I'm sure anything will help.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Do you know what you're eating?

Some U.S. groups have demanded that food from clones be labeled to give consumers the "right to choose."

But James Greenwood, president of the Biotechnology Industry Organization, whose members include the nation's biggest farm-animal cloning companies, rejected that idea, as has the FDA. He said cloning is simply a way to make offspring. Other methods of farm animal procreation, such as in vitro fertilization and artificial insemination, are not listed on food labels.

He and other industry representatives specifically rejected proposals to label food from conventionally conceived offspring of clones.

While the now-expired FDA moratorium sought to keep both clones and their offspring off the market, the new USDA moratorium requests only that clones themselves be withheld, so the offspring might make it to store shelves within a few years.

But imagine the labels that would appear if certain rules were in place, Greenwood said:

" 'This steak's father was a clone.' 'This steak's grandfather was a clone.' 'This steak's great-grandmother was a clone.'

"At what point does it become absurd?"

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Real question for the candidates

The moderators of last night's debate spent an entire hour trying to incite a fight between Clinton and Obama, but it didn't work. How about some real questions? From Bob Herbert of the NY Times:
The sexual mistreatment of women in the military is widespread. The Defense Department financed a study in 2003 of female veterans seeking health assistance from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Nearly a third of those surveyed said they had been the victim of a rape or attempted rape during their service.

The Associated Press reported in 2006 that more than 80 military recruiters had been disciplined over the course of a year because of sexual misconduct with young women and girls who had considered joining the military.

There continue to be widespread complaints from women about rape and other forms of sexual attacks in the military, and about a culture that tends to protect the attackers.

To what extent are the candidates of either party concerned about these matters? Do they have any sense of how extensive and debilitating the mistreatment of women and girls really is?

We’ve become so used to the disrespectful, degrading, contemptuous and even violent treatment of women that we hardly notice it. Staggering amounts of violence are unleashed against women and girls every day. Fashionable ads in mainstream publications play off of that violence, exploiting themes of death and dismemberment, female submissiveness and child pornography.

If we’ve opened the door to the issue of sexism in the presidential campaign, then let’s have at it. It’s a big and important issue that deserves much more than lip service.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

This week on Your Call Radio

Here's what's coming up on Your Call, a live call-in radio show. Listen from 11 am - noon PST on KALW 91.7 FM in San Francisco or online. You can also podcast the show.

*Monday - Clorox recently bought Burt's Bees. Colgate now owns most of Tom's of Maine. L'Oreal owns the body Shop. When environmentally-friendly companies get bought up by corporate giants, will you still buy their products?
Guests: Dara O'Rourke, associate professor of labor and environmental policy at UC Berkeley -- he's working on a database designed to inform consumers about the environmental, health, and social impacts of the everyday products they use
Gary Hirschberg, president of Stonyfield Farms - French food conglomerate Danone now owns 80% of Stonyfield Farms

*Tuesday - A conversation about the new documentary THE BUSINESS OF BEING BORN
Midwives attend over 70 percent of births in Europe and Japan. In the U.S., they attend less than eight percent. Cesarean-delivery rates are now at an all time high in the U.S, standing at 1.2 million, or 29.1 percent of live births. That's a 40 percent increase in the past 10 years. Is it time to rethink the way we give birth?
Guests: Teresa McLean, a doula who is studying to be a midwife - she's attended births in hospitals for over 25 years
Maria Iorillo, a licensed midwife for 22 years

*Wednesday - Why do so many immigrants in the Bay Area choose to live in cities within cities -- such as Chinatown, Oakland’s Fruitvale neighborhood, and Fremont’s enclaves of Southeast Asians and Afghans? And how do people in these neighborhoods interact with the broader community?

*Thursday - A conversation with Sudhir Venkatesh, author of Gang Leader for a Day
First introduced in Freakonomics, here is the full story of Sudhir Venkatesh, the sociology grad student who infiltrated one of Chicago's most notorious gangs

*Friday - How did the media cover the week's news?

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Veterans who kill at home

As the national media continues its obsession with Hillary Clinton's tears, young men so haunted by the brutality they saw in Iraq are losing their minds and taking the lives of innocent victims at home. This is a must read piece in the Sunday New York Times.
Town by town across the country, headlines have been telling similar stories. Lakewood, Wash.: “Family Blames Iraq After Son Kills Wife.” Pierre, S.D.: “Soldier Charged With Murder Testifies About Postwar Stress.” Colorado Springs: “Iraq War Vets Suspected in Two Slayings, Crime Ring.”

Individually, these are stories of local crimes, gut-wrenching postscripts to the war for the military men, their victims and their communities. Taken together, they paint the patchwork picture of a quiet phenomenon, tracing a cross-country trail of death and heartbreak.

The New York Times found 121 cases in which veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan committed a killing in this country, or were charged with one, after their return from war. In many of those cases, combat trauma and the stress of deployment — along with alcohol abuse, family discord and other attendant problems — appear to have set the stage for a tragedy that was part destruction, part self-destruction.

Three-quarters of these veterans were still in the military at the time of the killing. More than half the killings involved guns, and the rest were stabbings, beatings, strangulations and bathtub drownings. Twenty-five offenders faced murder, manslaughter or homicide charges for fatal car crashes resulting from drunken, reckless or suicidal driving.

About a third of the victims were spouses, girlfriends, children or other relatives, among them 2-year-old Krisiauna Calaira Lewis, whose 20-year-old father slammed her against a wall when he was recuperating in Texas from a bombing near Falluja that blew off his foot and shook up his brain.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Snow in Baghdad

Iraqi girls enjoy playing in snow in Sulaimaniyah, 260 kilometers (160 miles) northeast of Baghdad, Iraq on Friday, Jan. 11, 2008. Further south, Baghdad residents saw snow for the first time in memory on Friday. (AP Photo/Yahya Ahmed)

Talib Haider, a 19-year-old college student, said "a friend of mine called me at 8 a.m. to wake me up and tell me that the sky is raining snow."

"I rushed quickly to the balcony to see a very beautiful scene," he said. "I tried to film it with my cell phone camera. This scene has really brought me joy. I called my other friends and the morning turned to be a very happy one in my life."

An Iraqi who works for The Associated Press said he woke his wife and children shortly after 7 a.m. to "have a look at this strange thing." He then called his brother and sister and found them awake, also watching the "cotton-like snow drops covering the trees."

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Surge is working...

Breaking news from CNN. The surge is working.

This is from Juan Cole:
I am often struck by how clueless the American public is to the vast destruction we have wrought on Iraq and its people, directly or indirectly. It strikes me as a bitter joke that 4 million are displaced, often facing hunger and disease, and the rightwing periodicals and presidential candidates are talking about how the "surge" has "turned things around." For whom? How many orphans have we created? How many widows? How many people who weep and cry every night while trying to fall asleep on straw mats? I estimate on the basis of a UN study of refugees in Syria that as many as 600,000 or 700,000 Baghdadis were ethnically cleansed from the capital under the nose of the American troops implementing the surge. There is an old Chinese proverb, "Children throw stones at frogs in jest, but the frogs die in earnest."

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

This week on Your Call Radio

The time of my radio show Your Call has moved to 11 am PST. If you can't listen, you can podcast the show. Here's what's on this week:

*Monday - A conversation with Molly Bingham and Steve Connors, the filmmakers behind "Meeting Resistance"
Synopsis: What would you do if America was invaded? MEETING RESISTANCE raises the veil of anonymity surrounding the Iraqi insurgency by meeting face to face with individuals who are passionately engaged in the struggle, and documenting for the very first time, the sentiments experienced and actions taken by a nation's citizens when their homeland is occupied.

*Tuesday - A conversation with Craig Unger, author of Fall of the House of Bush - Is George W. Bush the beginning or the end of the Republican Party as we know it? How much influence do the neocons still have? What about the Religious Right? Who will this unholy alliance back in November?

*Wednesday - The first in our yearlong series about the commons. Who controls space? Do military and commercial uses of space threaten its status as a shared resource?

*Thursday - Teen pregnancy rates are on the rise for the first time in 15 years. Is it time to rethink how we educate kids about sex?
Guests: Shelby Knox, a Baptist teenager who fought for sex-ed in Lubbock, TX
A roundtable of high school students

*Friday - How did the media cover the week's news?

Sunday, January 06, 2008

How Bush became the new Saddam

If you're sick of the rhetoric and really want to know the truth about Iraq, add this piece by freelance journalist Patrick Graham to your reading list:
Its strategies shattered, a desperate Washington is reaching out to the late dictator's henchmen.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Iraqis resort to selling their children

Even more progress:
Abu Muhammad, a Baghdad resident, found it difficult to let go of his daughter's hand but he had already convinced himself that selling her to a family outside Iraq would provide her with a better future.

"The war disgraced my family. I lost relatives including my wife among thousands of victims of sectarian violence and was forced to sell my daughter to give my other children something to eat," he told Al Jazeera.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Meet the Republican winner Mike Huckabee

Here's more on last night's winner. I'm sure the liberal media will give you the information you really need on Huckabee. How many times have you heard, "He's such a nice guy?" This was written by Max Brantley, editor of the Arkansas Times:
Huckabee insists he's not one of those harsh, punitive, "angry" conservatives, but again, there are witnesses who might say otherwise if anyone's interested.

Ask the retarded Fort Smith teenager, raped by her stepfather, who sought Medicaid funding for an abortion as federal law required. Huckabee stood in the hospital door, at least figuratively, to prevent state funding. Ask the gay people belittled by his cracks about "Adam and Steve." Ask the scientists who've seen evolution virtually disappear from the textbooks and classrooms of Arkansas with his administration's acquiescence.

Social issues alone should give moderates pause. He championed a law in Arkansas making it harder to get a divorce, the so-called covenant marriage law that has been widely ignored except when he and his wife recommitted in a Valentine's Day publicity stunt held in a 17,000-seat arena.

Huckabee's administration worked hard and unapologetically to prevent gay people from being foster parents. He avidly supported the state amendment that bans gay marriage as well as civil unions and bans any equal treatment under the law -- such as in health insurance coverage -- for same-sex partners. He professed opposition to alcohol and gambling, but he allowed passage of legislation that made it easier for restaurants to obtain private-club mixed-drink permits in dry counties. Over the angry objection of the church lobby, he sped final action on a bill to allow video poker at the state's racetracks, an act followed not long afterward by a $10,000 campaign contribution from the owner of the state's biggest race track, at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs.

All this is sometimes done with humor, but rarely the sort of gentle humor the national media has encountered. Huckabee prefers sarcastic putdowns and hyperbole. Because Arkansas Democrats tried to enfranchise more citizens with weekend voting in Arkansas, he called his home state a banana republic on the Don Imus show. He's compared weight loss with a concentration camp. Abortion, even in the earliest microscopic stages, he's called a holocaust. He referred in a Farm Bureau speech to "fruits and nuts" and "wacko environmentalists" in decrying environmentalists as a threat to agriculture. (Yes, this is the same man that gullible mainstream columnists praise for his ringing environmental proclamations.)

But the national press has more to examine than rhetoric when it comes to Huckabee. He is not the man of principle that credulous commentators describe. Though Huckabee doesn't support embryonic stem cell research, he took a hefty honorarium and bulk book sales this year from a diabetes drug maker, Novo Nordisk, which performs embryonic stem cell research. He has lied when there's been no other way around admitting embarrassing missteps, such as his advocacy of freedom for a convicted rapist.

There are also legitimate questions about his skills as a manager. He left Arkansas with a bill of more than $40 million for overcharges of the federal government's Medicaid program. A State Police director left after a tiff over Huckabee's demand that the agency improve his private lake property in the name of security. Troubles dogged both the state's computer services agency and its workforce agency. Youth services have been an unending series of tragedies. The buck never stopped at Huck's desk, you can be sure.

The governor's office records -- triumph and tragedy, sage advice and venom-filled screeds about members of the press and Legislature -- would tell this tale. But, as I've mentioned, the computer hard drive destruction ensured that would never happen.

If I could resurrect one batch of files, it would be those reflecting the advice of his staff that he not pursue his desire to free convicted rapist Wayne DuMond. By "advice," I mean I think some of them all but pleaded with Huckabee not to do it.

Though DuMond's prior record included a conviction for assault and his alleged involvement in a slaying and one other rape, by the start of Huckabee's governorship DuMond had become a national figure thanks to Republican efforts to depict him as a victim of the Bill Clinton machine. The rape victim was a distant relative of Clinton's.

Huckabee, perhaps persuaded by DuMond's supposed conversion to Christianity, announced his intention to commute DuMond's sentence without talking to the victim. Outraged, she stepped forward to protest publicly. The backlash was swift and powerful. Huckabee backed away from commuting DuMond's sentence, but in a private meeting lobbied the state Parole Board to release him. Huckabee said, in writing, that he supported DuMond's release. DuMond moved to Missouri in 2000, where he molested and killed one woman and was suspected of doing the same to another, but died in prison before he could be charged in the second case.

To this day, Huckabee tries to minimize his responsibility for DuMond's release. Huckabee's 2007 book "From Hope to Higher Ground" also fudges the facts, implying that DuMond died before being convicted of either Missouri murder. In one recent interview, he even suggested that he had fought DuMond's parole, a statement his own writings prove to be a lie.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

More women soldiers returning with PTSD

Even more progress:
Thousands of U.S. military women are serving in what amounts to combat in Iraq and Afghanistan and large numbers of them are coming home with stress disorders.

The Defense Department reports that 182,000 women have served in the region, USA Today said. While they are barred from certain military roles like ground infantry, they drive trucks in convoys and go on neighborhood patrols.

For Master Sgt. Cindy Rathbun, Camp Victory in Baghdad was her first experience of a combat zone after 25 years in the Air Force.

"There are no lines, so anybody that deploys is in a war zone," Rathbun says. "Females are combat veterans as well as guys."

Rathbun said her hair began falling out. When she flew back to the United States in February 2007, she asked a medic on her way out if that was normal and was told it is one way of reacting to stress.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

More than 16,000 Iraqis killed in 2007

Making progress:
Some 16,232 Iraqi civilians were killed during 2007 as a result of sectarian violence and bombing and mortar attacks, an official media source in the Iraqi health ministry said on Tuesday.

"The health ministry has accurate statistics confirming the death of 16,232 civilians during 2007. From this number 481 people were killed during December 2007 alone," the source, who refused to have his name mentioned, told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI).

"In November 2007 the number of deaths were 2,000," the source said, hoping "the Iraqi security forces would manage to reduce Iraqi civilian death tolls during 2008."

On the military front, a statement by the U.S. forces noted that U.S. fatalities in 2007 "reached 899 soldiers, of which 21 were killed in December," compared to "December 2006 during which 112 U.S. soldiers were killed."

The figure is the highest annual count of U.S. deaths since the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Arrests at Huckabee's office: Who would Jesus Bomb?

Kathy Kelly, Mona Shaw, and Robert Braam were arrested in Huckabee’s Des Moines Campaign Headquarters.

Three members of SODaPOP were arrested in Gov. Mike Huckabee’s Des Moines Campaign Headquarters on Monday, December 31, 2007, while asking the former Baptist minister, “Who would Jesus bomb?”

Mission Accomplished: Oil hits $100 barrel for the first time

Oil prices reached the symbolic level of $100 a barrel for the first time on Wednesday, a long-awaited milestone in an era of rapidly escalating energy demand.

Crude oil futures for January delivery hit the $100 threshold on theNew York Mercantile Exchange shortly after noon New York time, before falling back slightly. Oil prices, which had fallen to a low of $50 a barrel at the beginning of the year, have quadrupled since 2003.

The rise in oil prices in recent years has been driven by an unprecedented surge in demand from the United States, China and other Asian and Middle Eastern countries.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Happy New Year...

2007 was deadliest year for American troops

This is progress:
The year was the deadliest for the U.S. military since the 2003 invasion, with 899 troops killed.