Tuesday, March 27, 2007

WAKING UP AND GETTING OUT

A little late, but better just to go. It isn't the troops, its a givernment that thinks we can fight terrorists by reworking Viet Nam. No way. TIMZ video says it, now congress is starting to...late out is better than another four years. Henry_Allen

Monday, March 26, 2007

Will Bush Go Up That Lazy River?

Look, Bill Clinton just got a blow job. Bush is America's blow job. Time to change. Can we wait two years? Henry Allen

Justice official to plead the Fifth before Senate panel
Story Highlights
• NEW: White House says decision shows how investigation has become political
• Justice official to refuse to answer questions about attorneys' firings
• Democrats disappointed that Monica Goodling will not testify
• Former Gonzales chief of staff Sampson expected to defend firings

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A Justice Department official will refuse to answer questions during a Senate committee hearing on the firing of eight U.S. attorneys, citing her Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate herself, her lawyer said Monday.

In a letter sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Monica Goodling's lawyer said she would not testify because senators have already decided that wrongdoing occurred.

"The public record is clear that certain members of the Senate Judiciary Committee have already reached conclusions about the matter under investigation and the veracity of the testimony provided by the Justice Department to date," John Dowd, Goodling's lawyer, said in a letter to the committee's chairman, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont.

The letter said Goodling learned that a senior Justice Department official blamed her and other Justice Department officials for any misleading statements he had made to one of the Democratic senators who has pushed for answers about the firings, Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York.

Goodling is a senior counsel and White House liaison to Gonzales. She is taking a leave of absence from the department.

The committee has subpoenaed Goodling to testify Thursday. Democratic and Republican senators have raised questions about the firings, which e-mail released by the Justice Department suggests may have been done for political reasons.

Democrats said they continue to want Goodling to testify.

"It is disappointing that Ms. Goodling has decided to withhold her important testimony from the committee as it pursues its investigation into this matter, but everybody has the constitutional right not to incriminate themselves with regard to criminal conduct," Leahy said in a written statement. "The American people are left to wonder what conduct is at the base of Ms. Goodling's concern that she may incriminate herself in connection with criminal charges if she appears before the committee under oath."

Goodling's decision to plead the Fifth Amendment "raises even more questions concerning the potential misconduct and legal violations by the administration in this ongoing scandal," said Rep. John Conyers, the Michigan Democrat who leads the House Judiciary Committee. That committee also wanted to hear Goodling's testimony on the firing.

The White House said Goodling's decision shows how political the investigation has become.

"It is unfortunate that a public servant no longer feels comfortable that they will be treated fairly in testimony in front of Congress," White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said.

"The attorney general, with the president's support, has urged members of the Justice Department to cooperate with Congress' request for testimony," Perino said. "However, we must respect the constitutional rights of the people involved and the decision of those individuals and their counsel to protect those rights."
Gonzales under fire

Partially due to conflicting accounts of how the firings were carried out, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has come under increasing political pressure, with a growing number of lawmakers calling for his resignation. (View a timeline of the firing of the U.S. attorneys)

Gonzales has said he had a limited role in last year's firings, which have triggered a dispute between Congress and the White House over the testimony of top presidential aides. After his chief of staff's resignation in the firings uproar, the attorney general told reporters that he "was not involved in seeing any memos, was not involved in any discussions about what was going on."

But documents released Friday night show Gonzales attended a meeting in late November in which the firings were discussed. Justice Department officials said that meeting does not contradict Gonzales' previous statements that he was not involved in the details of the dismissals or in selecting specific prosecutors -- a task he said was left to his chief of staff, Kyle Sampson. (Read more about Sampson's role and his upcoming testimony)

President Bush continues to stand by his attorney general and expressed confidence in him in a White House statement Friday. (Watch how the president shows no signs of backing away from his attorney generalVideo)
Sampson expected to defend firing

Sampson will testify on the firing of the U.S. attorneys before the committee on Thursday.

Sampson was the key Justice Department official in charge of deciding who should be dismissed and the main liaison with the White House over the process. Gonzales has said that Sampson was "charged with directing the process."

Friends familiar with his expected testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee say he will testify that he did what he was told and will defend the power of the Justice Department to be able to fire the prosecutors, because they serve at the pleasure of the White House.

"Kyle is very much a supporter of the president and the attorney general," one friend told CNN. "His main interest is in telling the truth."

The friend said Sampson would "never do anything to hurt any of them" and doesn't believe his version of events will do that.

Friends say Sampson believes innocent bungling was more to blame for the firestorm over the firings than anything malicious.

Friends also say Sampson will tell the truth and is not expected to go on the attack against any former officials. They say he is very quiet, very loyal and isn't the type of person who will try to "get" anyone.

What is not known is how Sampson will answer questions from lawmakers such as how the specific U.S. attorneys were chosen, what specific role did the attorney general play in the process given some of the conflicting evidence, and how much influence the White House exerted.

Sampson has said he did not resign because he had misled anyone or withheld information, but for "failing to appreciate the need for and organize a more effective political response to the unfounded accusations of impropriety in the replacement process," according to a statement his attorney, Bradford Berenson, released on March 16.

The statement also said, "The fact that the White House and Justice Department had been discussing this subject for several years was well known to a number of other senior officials at the department."
Specter: Firings have left a 'cloud' over department

A leading GOP senator Sunday questioned whether Attorney General Alberto Gonzales "has been candid" about the firings of the attorneys, while another said the issue has left a "cloud" over the Justice Department chief.

Sen. Arlen Specter, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, told NBC's "Meet the Press" that Gonzales would have a chance to "present his case" but had some explaining to do. The attorney general is scheduled to appear before the committee April 17.

"We have to have an attorney general who is candid, truthful," Specter said. "And if we find he has not been candid and truthful, that's a very compelling reason for him not to stay on."

President Bush has said he stands solidly behind Gonzales, who was White House counsel before becoming attorney general in 2005.

Two other Republican lawmakers -- Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Chuck Hagel of Nebraska -- also expressed doubt about Gonzales' credibility Sunday.

CNN's Kevin Bohn and Dana Bash contributed to this report.



Find this article at:
http://www.cnn.com/2007/POLITICS/03/26/fired.attorneys/index.html

Sunday, March 25, 2007

POSER GENERATION

The Ugly Face of "Suicidal" Goth Teens
Written by Al Barger
Published March 25, 2007


Blogcritics' groovy Retro Music Chick wrote a pointed little satire a week ago

called "Teen Suicide - What's Stopping You?" It focused specifically on the

music and personae of Gerard Way and My Chemical Romance and their grand crusade

to provide the voice and courage to the afflicted and misunderstood teenagers

who go around cutting themselves. Message boards and Gerard Way will tell you

their music has help snatch back countless teens from the edge of suicide. Retro

Music Chick ain't buying it.

It has gotten a lot of predictable indignant responses from cheesed off MCR

fans, most of them in typically illiterate teenage chat room style - like we're

even supposed to consider the opinions of folks who aren't serious enough about

their thoughts to at least attempt writing a legible sentence.

I note that she never actually used the word "Goth" in her story, but this

modern Goth youth culture goes back to the 1980s. Without over analyzing and

categorizing, a lot of this "Gloomy McMopeypants" (RMC's term) stuff comes from

the Smiths and the Cure from back in my college days, who inspired the "unearned

unhappiness" of Ben Folds' classic "Battle of Who Could Care Less."

The Smiths and the Cure, and now stuff like My Chemical Romance, don't entirely

sound that much alike stylistically, but are basically inspirations in mopiness.

Upping the ante from mopy Morrissey and Robert Smith, Gerard Way and such have

become more morbid, dealing frequently in suicidal shtick like "Bury Me in

Black."

They have a big, new morbid audience of faux-suicidal teens as a market niche.

We've got some whining, narcissistic teenagers these days who like to go around

cutting themselves for attention and such. There are teens who go to school

showing off their self-mutilation for attention and sympathy.

As some have pointed out, it's unlikely that truly deeply troubled, actually

suicidal kids would be showing that stuff off. They would more likely be hiding

it in shame and quietly planning their personal end of days. That's sad, and you

can only hope that such kids seek out help and find some relief, but that's only

a relatively few young folk.

Essentially though, a lot of this modern self-mutilation and carrying on is a

huge and incredibly abusive bluff. Most of these kids are not that truly sad,

and are never really even considering killing themselves. They talk about it for

attention, sympathy, and manipulation. If Mom and Dad don't try harder to please

them, then they might do it.

This showing off of self-mutilation and threats of suicide is a particularly

ugly form of narcissistic attention grabbing. Kids carrying on this way need

beaten. Worrying your parents this way is a horrible form of abuse, worse than

most child beating. How evil is it to make the people who gave you life and

raised you waiting for you to snuff it? Kids can be just as evil as parents. If

you carry on like this to your friends at school, milking them for sympathy,

then you're no kind of a friend.

The ugliest part of it is how these little wankers, at the likes of

ImNotOkay.net, are crassly exploiting the tragedy of the truly suffering. There

are always a few poor lost souls who, from bad situations or bad medical

depression, absolutely go out and kill themselves. Then a bunch of heartless

little bastards use the fallen to buy credibility for their attention ploy and

ward off the obvious criticism.

This jumped out at me reading the same type of comments over and over in the

thread for RMC's piece. How can you judge? You don't know what people are going

through! Quit whining about your job at Cinnabuns? Yeah, you tell that to a poor

girl being beaten and raped by her stepdad every night.

That's true enough. I don't know the personal histories, much less the internal

emotions of these anonymous posters on the RMC article or the message boards. I

strongly suspect 99% of them are morally ugly suicidal pretenders, but maybe

there are a couple of sincerely distraught folks drawn into such things. Again

though, it seems unlikely that the really distraught, a Kurt Cobain say, would

be carrying on with these kinds of displays.

Others of you are ugly little bastards merely exploiting the suffering of others

for sympathy though, and that right there is one of the ugliest and most morally

depraved things you could do. What you need is some real hardship and suffering

more substantive than having to work a double shift at Cinnabuns. Maybe some of

you whining jackasses could use a few weeks trying to live in North Korea or

Darfur. Then you'd have something to bitch about.

Since I am speaking fairly harshly, let me prune it back a bit. For starters,

this is an if-the-shoe-fits thing. It doesn't apply to just any kid who likes a

certain band or to any band that might be designated as Goth. It certainly

doesn't apply to any teenager who just takes a spell at dressing in black,

generally trying to look cool and put off the straights. Personally, I tend to

find a lot of that cute and endearing, particularly if it comes off as more

rebellious rather than mopey.

Heck, I'll even say a few words in some defense of Gerard Way and My Chemical

Romance. The shtick behind song titles like "Bury Me in Black" and "Welcome to

the Black Parade" is clearly some cheesy niche marketing, but that's pretty much

marketing to these cheesy fakers. Screw 'em. Let 'em work an extra shift at

Cinnabuns to pay for some overpriced concert tickets and posters. They need to

be exploited.

In my never-ending quest to be fair and balanced like Fox News, I've made a

point of actually listening to some My Chemical Romance, even now on the first

Sunday morning of spring as I'm writing this. (Thanks to the nice folks for

their suggestions of what to hunt down.) I'm not overly impressed with most of

this corporate music food product, but I've definitely heard worse. Just as

songs separated from all the marketing, "Famous Last Words" is pretty good,

"Welcome to the Black Parade" strikes me as definitely their best thing

musically, in significant part because of the creative nuances of the

orchestration.

If you're actually seriously torn up inside, you don't need any of this teenage

foolishness. I would suggest instead for your meditation the Roger Miller

classic "You Can't Rollerskate in a Buffalo Herd": You can't rollerskate in a

buffalo herd / But you can be happy if you've a mind to / All you got to do is

put your mind to it / Knuckle down, buckle down - do it, do it, do it."

Thing is though, that knuckling and buckling down is the hard part. It takes

real work and effort to actually do something for yourself, rather than just

whining and looking for sympathy. Just from my point of view though, the more

effort I see you putting out for yourself, the more sympathy I'm going to give

you. By doing something for yourself, I do not mean taking a trip to the mall to

buy more cheesy Goth paraphernalia.

Let us close this meditation with a bit of understated homespun wisdom from a

classic Wilburn Brothers song, "The sun is going to shine on anyone who's got

enough sense to get out in it."

You know, this is now the first Sunday afternoon of spring - and that's just

what I'm fixing to do.


Unreformed hawkish Hoosier hillbilly and sometimes candidate Al Barger runs the

still squeezin' down the psychodelic Kentucky moonshine at MoreThings.com, what

with the paranoid religious visions and the Pentacostal music and visions of God

and anarchy running amok and such. Somebody oughta call the cops. Drop Al a

note, and try to talk some sense into him, will ya? gadfly at morethings.com

Comments
#1 — March 25, 2007 @ 15:20PM — diana hartman [URL]

"As some have pointed out, it's unlikely that truly deeply troubled, actually

suicidal kids would be showing that stuff off. They would more likely be hiding

it in shame and quietly planning their personal end of days. That's sad, and you

can only hope that such kids seek out help and find some relief, but that's only

a relatively few young folk."

The young people who do seek mental healthcare know little of the ways in which

to do this. Unlike their adult counterparts, their resources are limited and are

often poorly prepared to recognize, much less deal with or refer a troubled

young person appropriately. Young people are not privy to their own medical

records, they don't pay for their own insurance, and they aren't schooled in the

etiquette of mental healthcare and the chain of command, as it were. They are

instead (uselessly and sometimes tragically) subjected to the judgment of those

who would simultaneously dismiss their cries of help and "hope that such kids

seek out help and find some relief."

Heads-up: Those who engage in attention-getting behavior are trying to get

someone's attention. (If you just said "duh," you didn't really understand that

last sentence.) Give a young person attention when they're engaged in a behavior

you don't like (negative reinforcement) and they will offer up more of the same.

Give it to 'em when they're engaged in behavior you do like (positive

reinforcement) and they will offer up more of the same. It would be appropriate

at this point to challenge the author (and those who frequent chat rooms of

teenage angst) to tell of experiences in chat rooms where teenagers post about

the ways they found through their troubles.

Because teenagers are not adults yet, they still equate any attention with the

end goal: positive attention. (This is why abused children will insist on

returning to the abusive parent regardless of more positive, alternative living

conditions made available to them.) Teens often labor under the delusion that

negative attention, being better than none, will eventually result in positive

attention. It doesn't matter that this isn't true because it's what they

believe.

Decry narcissistic behavior if you will. The bottom line is that anyone

displaying narcissistic behavior is likely doing so because they are

narcissistic. Look it up: it's a diagnosable, treatable personality disorder

with an onset in adolescence or early adulthood.

Teenagers are, for all their angst, drama and free-for-all histrionics, still on

the cusp of a child's resilience to disorder, disease and trauma such that yes,

something as simple as lyrics from a song could very well pull them back

(temporarily, or set the stage for permanent resistance) from that which they

simultaneously fear and crave (loss of dependence) and enable them to face head

-on that which they also simultaneously fear and crave (independence).

There is an irony in one spending so much time stalking the expressions of

today's youth and decrying their lack of substance when, if that same amount of

time were spent with befuddled, confused youth, it would bring about the very

thing so tirelessly thought to be youth's greatest lack.

Ironic, too, is that any adult would specifically seek out and/or explore

expressions of teenage angst when clearly one finds it so distressing. Me thinks

thou doth protest too much.

#2 March 25, 2007 @ 18:22PM Retro Music Chick

Thanks for clarifying my essay for the satire impared. :)

#3 March 25, 2007 @ 18:46PM Al Barger

You're welcome, Ma'am. You had a lot of folks very carefully not getting the

point, so I figured on trying to make it as straightforward and crystal clear as

possible.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Chaos In Iraq - The Real "Surge"

Suicide Bomb Attacks Kill Dozens In Iraq
BAGHDAD, March 24, 2007(CBS/AP) Two suicide bomb attacks claimed the lives of 30 people in Iraq today, a day after a deputy prime minister was himself injured in another bombing.

A suicide truck bomber struck a police station in a mainly Sunni area in Baghdad, killing at least 20 people. According to police, the suicide bomber hid the explosives under a load of bricks to bypass tight security around the station, where construction work was being done.

In another incident, a suicide bomber wearing an explosives belt struck a pastry shop in a predominantly Sunni Turkomen city northwest of Baghdad, killing at least 10 people including two off-duty policemen dressed in civilian clothes, and wounding three, an official said.

The shop is in a busy market area in central Tal Afar, said the city's top administrator, Najim Abdullah said. The attack came just over a year after U.S. President George W. Bush declared that Tal Afar was an example of progress made in bringing security to Iraq.

Officials said insurgents apparently have stepped up their campaign against fellow Sunnis seen to be collaborating with the U.S. and the Iraqi government.

The attacks came a day after Deputy Prime Minister Salam al-Zubaie was seriously wounded in a suicide bombing during prayers at his home in Baghdad. Nine other people were killed in the attack, including al-Zubaie's brother and an aide.

Al-Zubaie was in stable condition and moved out of the intensive care unit Saturday morning, but he remained under anaesthesia at a U.S.-run hospital in the heavily guarded Green Zone, Sunni lawmaker Dhafer al-Ani said.

Brig. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi, a military spokesman, said he had visited al-Zubaie in the hospital and found him in good condition.

"The medical situation of Dr. al-Zubaie is stable after he had a surgical operation to remove shrapnel from his lungs," al-Moussawi told state-run Iraqiya television in a telephone interview.

The attacks — along with a rocket that slammed to earth 50 meters yards from visiting U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Thursday — have shaken the image that the situation in the capital is calming during a security sweep that began Feb. 14, aimed at quelling the Sunni-Shiite violence that surged after last year's bombing of a Shiite mosque in Samarra.

They also appeared to signal a renewed focus by insurgents targeting Iraqi security forces, politicians and tribes perceived as cooperating with the U.S.-Iraqi efforts. The bomber attacked al-Zubaie a day after a statement purportedly posted on the Internet by an al Qaeda umbrella group singled him out as a stooge "to the crusader occupiers."

The Sunni Iraqi Accordance Front, the biggest Sunni parliamentary bloc to which al-Zubaie belonged, denounced the assassination attempt and said such attacks will not force Sunnis to abandon the political process.

"Whether al Qaeda or other organizations were behind such attacks, this will not force us to abandon our principles and firm stances in moving ahead with the political process," said Sunni lawmaker Amil al-Qadhi. "Our decision was a strategic one and we do believe that our presence is very critical in this period and it is impossible to withdraw from the political process."

In Other Developments:

# The military said two U.S. soldiers were killed yesterday in Iraq. The statement said one soldier was killed by a roadside bomb while on foot patrol south of Baghdad. The other died during fighting yesterday in Anbar province, a Sunni insurgent stronghold west of Baghdad. The deaths bring the total number of Americans to die in Iraq since the war began to at least 3,234, according to an Associated Press count.

# At least 11 other people were killed or found dead on Saturday, including a civilian who died after a parked truck packed with explosives struck a Shiite mosque in Haswa, 30 miles south of Baghdad, and the bullet-riddled bodies of eight men showing signs of torture were found in Fallujah.

# Speaking in Tokyo, Iraq's vice president Tariq al-Hashimi said a quick withdrawal of American troops would not benefit Iraq or Western interests, and that U.S. forces should not be before his country's own armed forces are functioning autonomously and professionally. "If troops are pulled out on short notice, it will create a security vacuum in Iraq," al-Hashimi said. "This is not going to benefit either Iraqi or Western interests."

# The outgoing U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, said he regrets leaving the country mired in violence, but pointed to Iraq's relatively peaceful Kurdish region as an example of the way Iraq should be. Khalilzad, who has been nominated to be the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, made his remarks during an outdoor ceremony officially opening a $200 million dollar water treatment plant in the regional capital of Irbil. "There has been too much pain and violence in many parts of Iraq, but thank God not in Kurdistan," Khalilzad said.



The suicide bomber targeting police in the volatile Sunni neighborhood of Dora managed to bypass tight security to get within 25 yards of the station by hiding the explosives under a load of bricks, detonating them after being stopped by a long barricade guarded by policemen and surrounded by concrete blast walls.

The force of the blast caused part of the blue and white, two-story building to collapse, including the ceiling of a room in which some detainees were being held, police said. Those killed included five policemen and 13 civilians, including some detainees, while 15 officers and 11 civilians were wounded, according to the authorities.

A crane was brought in to help remove debris as police searched for survivors or more victims.

Police Cpl. Hussam Ali, who witnessed the blast from a nearby guard post, said the attacker took advantage of construction work being done inside the station and was able to circumvent the tight security to reach the main gate by hiding the explosives under bricks.

He said trucks had been coming in and out all day so the attack vehicle did not raise suspicions.

The blast caused part of the building to collapse and knocked down blast barriers over a car parked near the gate.

"We were very cautious, but this time we were taken by surprise," Ali said. "The insurgents are inventing new methods to hurt us."

The 10:45 a.m. explosion occurred nearly three hours after two mortar shells landed on a Shiite enclave elsewhere in Dora, killing three people and wounding seven, police said.

Gunmen also ambushed an Iraqi army checkpoint in Baghdad's western Sunni neighborhood of Jami'a, killing a soldier and wounding two others, police said, adding that a militant also was killed in subsequent clashes.

The Islamic State in Iraq claimed responsibility for the bombing against al-Zubaie in which the bomber detonated an explosives vest after weekly prayers in a small mosque attached to al-Zubaie's home near the Foreign Ministry, just north of the capital's heavily guarded Green Zone.

The Iraqi military spokesman al-Moussawi called the sucide bombing an inside job, telling state television that an al Qaeda fighter had infiltrated al-Zubaie's security detachment, but he offered no details and repeated calls to his office to verify the claim went unanswered. The Interior Ministry, which oversees Iraq's police forces, said it had no information on that claim.

Al-Maliki aide Mariam Taleb al-Rayes also told al-Sharqiyah television the attacker had "infiltrated" al-Zubaie's inner circle, but did not elaborate. She added that the bomber's car blew up outside the house seconds after he detonated his explosives vest.

Al-Zubaie's loss would be a blow to the government, but the al-Maliki administration would not be derailed. There is no legal requirement the post be filled by a Sunni Arab — only an informal agreement among the political parties that formed the current government, and leaders would likely be able to find another Sunni if necessary.

The White House condemned the attack, and U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad promised the United States would work with the Iraqi government and security forces to capture those behind it.

Hundreds of Iraqis also turned out in the southern city of Basra for the funeral of al-Zubaie's regional aide, Mufid Abdul Zahraa, who was killed in the attack.

The deputy prime minister belongs to a tribe that is centered in Abu Ghraib, west of Baghdad, and has been divided between members who support al Qaeda and others who have joined an alliance that has been created to fight the insurgents in Anbar province, which stretches to the borders with Syria, Saudi Arabia and Jordan.

If the Islamic State in Iraq, an organization linking al Qaeda in Iraq and several other Sunni extremist groups, was responsible for the attack, that might signal a growing concern within al Qaeda about recent success by U.S. troops in Anbar.

Tariq al-Dulaimi, a senior security official in Ramadi, said the attack showed increasing desperation by al Qaeda in Iraq.

"This terrorist organization is trying to compensate for its big defeats in Anbar by attacking al-Zubaie, who is an outspoken critic of the terrorists," he said.

Al-Zubaie is among a long list of politicians — Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds — who have been targeted by militants seeking to undermine a succession of U.S.-backed governments in Iraq. Close relatives of government officials have also been victims of assassinations, abductions and roadside bombs.


© MMVII, CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Homeland Secure and Not So Sure

consortiumnews.com

Republican RICO-Style Abuse of Power

By Stephen Crockett
March 21, 2007

Editor's Note: George W. Bush is rejecting Democratic calls for sworn testimony by his White House inner circle about the unusual firings of eight U.S. Attorneys who were viewed as not "loyal Bushies," according to one Justice Department e-mail. But what might the Democrats find if the officials did testify openly and under oath?

In this guest essay, Democratic Talk Radio co-host Stephen Crockett suggests that underlying Bush's resistance to a full investigation is evidence of longstanding criminality that borders on racketeering:
There is nothing as corrupt as using the governmental powers of law enforcement, to selectively prosecute your political enemies and to cover-up criminal behavior by your political organization and allies, while in a position of political power. This situation is the essence of the current scandal concerning the firing of U.S. Attorneys by the Bush White House.

The Watergate scandal should have taught the Republican Party that this kind of abuse is outside the bounds of acceptable political behavior in American society. Republican activists failed to learn the lessons of Watergate and are now reliving history on issue after issue.

Republican Presidential pardon powers were used to thwart the rule of law and let the Republican political criminal Richard Nixon avoid the jail time he deserved. Republicans should have gone to jail in large numbers doing the Iran-Contra scandals.

In that case, a Republican White House ignored the rule of law. They abused the traditions of normal American political behavior and federal law to impose their minority foreign policy views on an American public opposed to the Republican ideologically based policies. Instead, Presidential pardon powers were abused to help Republican political criminals avoid the jail time they deserved.

The current Bush White House by executive order changed the process on revealing prior Presidential papers to the public early in George W. Bush’s first term in a way that prevented revelation of criminal behaviors concerning Iran-Contra figures. The role of his father, the first George Bush, in the criminal behavior concerning of Iran-Contra remains unexplored. The executive order may violate the Presidential Papers Act.

At issue is Republican Presidential politics influencing potential criminal investigations and prosecutions. The current Republican White House has definitely politicized the process of federal law enforcement in a way that corrupts American government.

Unfortunately, they are continuing a long Republican tradition. Republicans seem to view this as politics as usual. It is not! It is corruption and deeply offensive to the real traditions of American government.

Under this Bush, it appears that federal prosecutors have targeted 7 or 8 times more Democratic officeholders than Republican officeholders. The investigations of Democratic state legislators in Tennessee looks politically motivated.

Anyone familiar with Tennessee politics knows that Republican politicians in that state are just as corrupt or corruptible as Democratic ones. The federal government has not investigated the Republican officeholders in Tennessee in the way they have Democrats.

The political strength of Republicans in Tennessee looks to be closely linked to politicized federal law enforcement by the Bush Administration. The Tennessee politicized law enforcement situation appears ripe for investigation.

Criminal investigations of Republican politicians are slowed to a snail pace by politicized appointees in case after case like the New Hampshire phone jamming scandal.

The federal prosecutor who convicted California Republican Congressman Duke Cunningham for corruption was unjustly fired. The federal prosecutor who would not prosecute phony vote fraud charges against Democrats in New Mexico, in time for the 2006 elections as demanded by Republican politicians, was fired.

In 2005, a federal prosecutor investigating criminal charges surrounding the staff of then Republican Governor Bob Ehrlich was fired. The investigation was effectively derailed. This pattern of abuses repeats itself over and over again in state after state.

Unless the Republicans can purge their Party of this criminal tendency to abuse public office and government power for political ends, then Republicans at every level should be voted out of power. Public investigations and investigative journalism should be focused on abuses of office by those in power.

The Republican Party is starting to look like a potential target for a RICO indictment as a profit-making, criminal conspiracy. Their political traditions should be based on American political figures like George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson and Teddy Roosevelt instead of Richard Nixon, Dick Cheney and Tom Delay.

The current Republican Culture of Corruption is a very sad situation for the Party of Lincoln to find itself in at the beginning of the 21st century.

Stephen Crockett is co-host of Democratic Talk Radio, http://www.DemocraticTalkRadio.com , Earleville, Maryland. Email: midsouthcm@aol.com

Thursday, March 15, 2007

MARS TODAY


NASA sent the two Mars Rovers, Spirit & Opportunity, to the surface of The Red Planet years ago, with the hope they would land safely and move around for a couple of months, taking samples and photographs. Years later and gazillions of photographs and samples later, the two robots from Earth are still at it. Remarkable of itself, it points to a past of liquid water on Mars and a future filled with possibilities no longer in the realm of science fiction. Henry_Allen



March 14, 2007

NASA Mars Rover Churns Up Questions With Sulfur-Rich Soil


This panorama image shows brightly colored soil which was churned up by Spirit on its eastward drive toward the northwestern flank of 'McCool Hill'. This view is an approximately true-color rendering.
While driving eastward toward the northwestern flank of "McCool Hill," the wheels of NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Spirit churned up the largest amount of bright soil discovered so far in the mission. This image, taken on the rover's 788th Martian day, or sol, of exploration (March 22, 2006), shows the strikingly bright tone and large extent of the materials uncovered. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell

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Some bright Martian soil containing lots of sulfur and a trace of water intrigues researchers who are studying information provided by NASA's Spirit rover.

"This material could have been left behind by water that dissolved these minerals underground, then came to the surface and evaporated, or it could be a volcanic deposit formed around ancient gas vents," said Dr. Ray Arvidson of Washington University, St. Louis. He is the deputy principal investigator for NASA's twin Mars rovers, Spirit and Opportunity.

Determining which of those two hypotheses is correct would strengthen understanding of the environmental history of the Columbia Hills region that Spirit has been exploring since a few months after landing on Mars in January 2004. However, investigating the bright soil presents a challenge for the rover team, because the loose material could entrap the rover.

The bright white and yellow material was hidden under a layer of normal-looking soil until Spirit's wheels churned it up while the rover was struggling to cross a patch of unexpectedly soft soil nearly a year ago. The right front wheel had stopped working a week earlier. Controllers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., were trying to maneuver the rover backwards, dragging that wheel, to the north slope of a hill in order to spend the southern-hemisphere winter with solar panels tilted toward the sun.

Due to the difficulty crossing that patch, informally named "Tyrone," the team chose to drive Spirit to a smaller but more accessible slope for the winter. Spirit stayed put in its winter haven for nearly seven months. Tyrone was one of several targets Spirit examined from a distance during that period, using an infrared spectrometer to check their composition. The instrument detected small amounts of water bound to minerals in the soil.

The rover resumed driving in late 2006 when the Martian season brought sufficient daily sunshine to the solar panels. Some of the bright soil from Tyrone was dragged to the winter site by the right front wheel, and Spirit spent some time measuring the composition and mineralogy of these materials. The material is sulfur-rich and consists of sulfate salts associated with iron, and likely calcium. "These salts could have been concentrated by hydrothermal liquid or vapor moving through the local rocks," said rover science team member Dr. Albert Yen, a geochemist at JPL. Two other patches of bright soil uncovered by Spirit before Tyrone were also sulfur-rich, but each had similarities to local rock compositions that were different at the three sites, suggesting localized origins.

Researchers will watch for more patches of bright soil. "If we find them along fractures, that would suggest they were deposited at ancient gas vents," Arvidson said. "If they are at the saddles between hills, that would suggest the deposits formed where groundwater came to the surface."

Scientists are describing recent findings by Spirit and Opportunity at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference this week in League City, Texas.

Spirit has driven away from the Tyrone area for a clockwise circuit around a plateau called "Home Plate." Researchers want to learn more about Home Plate, which Spirit visited briefly in early 2006. They are checking a hypothesis that explosive volcanism, driven by the interaction of magma with water, formed Home Plate and similar features.

Halfway around Mars, Opportunity is exploring clockwise around "Victoria Crater," a bowl about 800 meters (half a mile) across. Cliff-like promontories alternate with more gradually sloped alcoves around the scalloped rim. The impact that dug the crater exposed layers that had been buried.

"The images are breathtaking," said Dr. Steve Squyres of Cornell University, principal investigator for the rovers. "Every promontory we've seen has the kinds of layering expected for ancient wind-blown sand deposits."

The layers consist of sulfate-rich sandstone similar to other bedrock Opportunity has been finding in Mars' Meridiani region for more than three years. The minerals come from a wet period in the region's ancient past. While exploring Victoria's rim with Opportunity, researchers have been on the lookout for rocks that might have been tossed out from layers deeper and older than the sulfates.

"We found one group of cobbles that were clearly more resistant to erosion than the sulfate blocks thrown out onto the rim," Squyres said. "We checked the composition of one that we called Santa Catarina. Our suspicion now is that Santa Catarina is a piece of a meteorite." That would be the fifth meteorite found by the rovers.

More than three years into what was planned as a three-month mission on Mars, both Spirit and Opportunity remain in good health, though with signs of aging. "The team has learned how to drive Spirit very well with just five wheels," said JPL's Dr. John Callas, rover project manager. "We could accomplish longer drives if there were more energy, but Spirit's solar panels have gotten really dusty. We would welcome another wind-related cleaning event." It's about the same time of year on Mars now as it was when winds blew dust off Spirit and its solar panels in 2005, increasing energy output.

JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, manages the Mars Exploration Rover project for NASA's Science Mission Directorate.

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Guy Webster 818-354-6278
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

NEWS RELEASE: 2007-029

Monday, March 12, 2007

DYING IN AMERIKA

Protectionism? The ruling class tries to sell "globalism" as "internationalism" instead of imperialism. Slowly, America becomes the Thrd World, while the Third World remains, essentially, a two-class society. Henry_Allen

Outcry' over Halliburton's planned move to Dubai

The news that Halliburton will move its headquarters from Houston to Dubai, "immediately sparked criticism from U.S. members of Congress," CBS News reports.

"This is an insult to the U.S. soldiers and taxpayers who paid the tab for their no-bid contracts and endured their overcharges for all these years," Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said in a statement.

At Time's Swampland, Karen Tumulty says House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., will likely hold hearings on Halliburton's plan.

"I want to understand the ramifications for U.S. taxpayers and national security," Waxman said, according to The Los Angeles Times.

The Houston Chronicle reminds us that:

"At least for the moment, Halliburton is not just an oil-field services firm. Through its KBR subsidiary, Halliburton also is the Pentagon's largest private contractor operating in Iraq. Under a logistics contract with the Army valued at more than $25 billion, KBR serves up meals, builds bases and provides other support services for U.S. troops."

The company does plan to spin off KBR "into a separate entity," however, the Chronicle writes.

Dubai, of course, was in the middle of controversy last year when a company based there struck a deal to buy operations at six U.S. ports. There was an outcry from Democrats and others concerned about national security.

At the liberal Huffington Post, Raymond J. Learsy writes that "maybe we should simply bid good riddance to Halliburton. But somebody on Capitol Hill should look into their continuing registration as a United States company."

Crush Liberalism, though, thinks the company may be most interested in getting away from the "tax-oppressive U.S."

For its part, Halliburton says "the opening of a headquarters in Dubai is the next step in a strategic plan announced in 2006 to focus on expanding its customer relations with national oil companies while concentrating more of the company’s investments and resources in growing its business in the Eastern Hemisphere."

Halliburton is, of course, the company that Vice President Cheney ran before becoming the GOP vice presidential candidate in July 2000.
Posted at 02:13 PM/ET, March 12, 2007 in Mideast, Politics, Washington

Sunday, March 11, 2007

We Can't Find Him

consortiumnews.com

Afghanistan's 'Hard Mission' Slips Away

By Richard L. Fricker
March 10, 2007

Canadian lawmakers have written an Afghanistan version of the Iraq Study Group report, reaching a conclusion that the conditions on that original battlefront in the “war on terror” are grave and deteriorating.

The 16-page Canadian Senate report, entitled “Taking a Hard Look at a Hard Mission,” foresees a conflict that could drag on for generations and might well fail unless NATO significantly increases its commitment of money and troops.

“It is in our view doubtful that this mission can be accomplished given the limited resources that NATO is currently investing in Afghanistan,” said the report by the Standing Committee on National Security and Defence. “The current NATO contingent doesn’t have enough troops to go toe-to-toe with the Taliban.”

Former Canadian Ambassador to Afghanistan Chris Alexander told the committee that it would take five generations to “make a difference in Afghanistan,” while Land Forces Commander Andrew Leslie estimated that it would take at least two decades to complete the mission.

NATO has roughly 32,000 troops in Afghanistan, including 15,000 Americans and 2,500 Canadians. Another 12,000 American troops under U.S. command conduct missions ranging from counter-terrorism to training Afghan forces.

In 2001 after the 9/11 attacks were blamed on al-Qaeda operatives based in Afghanistan, the United States led an invasion of the rugged country, toppling its Taliban government and trapping many al-Qaeda leaders, including Osama bin Laden, in the mountains of Tora Bora along the Pakistani border.

At that crucial moment in December 2001, however, President George W. Bush failed to deploy adequate U.S. military forces to capture bin Laden, who managed to escape on horseback with some of his key lieutenants into Pakistan.

Bush then redirected the attention of the U.S. military and intelligence services toward Iraq in preparation for the invasion on March 19, 2003. Since then, the conflict in Iraq has absorbed the bulk of U.S. military resources and political attention.

Al-Qaeda Resurgence

Over those past five years, al-Qaeda has regrouped in the mountains of Pakistan and the Taliban has reemerged as a potent force inside Afghanistan, where NATO forces are anticipating a fierce spring offensive by Taliban fighters. [See Consortiumnews.com's "Bush Is Losing the War on Terror."]

The deteriorating situation in Afghanistan has ratcheted up political and military pressure on America’s NATO allies who had expected their Afghan deployments to concentrate mostly on peacekeeping and reconstruction, not fighting a major counterinsurgency war.

U.S. aerial assaults also have killed substantial numbers of civilians and thus deepened Afghani resentment of Westerners. That local anger and the broader fury in the Muslim world over the Iraq War have attracted a flow of Islamic militants to Afghanistan as well as to Iraq.

When Vice President Dick Cheney was visiting a U.S. military base in Afghanistan on Feb. 27, a Taliban fighter blew himself apart at the gate of the base, killing 23 people but not directly endangering Cheney. The attack, however, was a reminder of the Taliban’s determination to challenge the presence of Westerners on Afghan territory.

“The Afghans are holding elections in their own minds as to whether or not the Westerners can provide the wherewithal to make life better or let the Taliban come back; at least they are predictable,” Canadian Committee Chairman Colin Kenny told me. “We have a very short window of time in which to show them we can assist them.”

Dawn Black, a member of the House of Commons and the New Democratic Party’s voice on defense and security issues, also expressed doubts about assurances from Canada’s Conservative government regarding what it calls generally positive trends in the conflict.

“The government says things are improving,” Black told me. “I was there last month. The security situation is such that they didn’t feel it was safe enough for us to leave the air base” at Kandahar.

When the Canadian delegation did visit an encampment of Afghans “just beyond the wire, the people are starving,” Black said.

Black also complained that heavy-handed military tactics have alienated the Afghani population and set back the goal of winning hearts and minds.

“How are you winning the hearts and minds of these people when you drive a tank through their farms?” Black said. “The NDP would like to see Canada withdraw from the combat mission.”

Election Chances

Canada’s Senate national security committee is dominated by Liberals and Conservatives, but the NDP could play a pivotal role in future Canadian policy in Afghanistan, especially if the Conservative minority government of Stephen Harper is forced into a new election.

Harper, a staunch ally of President Bush, is struggling in opinion polls, dragged down in part by the increasingly unpopular war in Afghanistan. If neither the Conservatives nor the Liberals can win a clear electoral victory, the NDP could be the power broker deciding who will form the next Canadian government. [For more on the politics, see Consortiumnews.com's "Bush's Canadian Clone in Jeopardy."]

Harper has proposed an additional $200 million aid package that would go to the Afghan government of Hamid Karzai despite concerns over widespread corruption. Sen. Kenny, a Liberal, questioned the wisdom of pouring money into that black hole.

“Canadians will not be able to see how their tax dollars are being spent,” Kenny told me. “I think there will be a lot of money going to a number of people to enhance their Swiss bank accounts. Perhaps some of it will get through to the Afghan people.”

The committee report, released in February, recommended redirecting aid through the military to ensure that more of the money actually reaches the population.

Overall, the report saw few bright spots.

“Anyone expecting to see the emergence in Afghanistan within the next several decades of a recognizable modern democracy capable of delivering justice and amenities to its people is dreaming in Technicolor,” the report said.

“The three primary forces in Afghan politics [are] armed power, tribal loyalties and corruption,” the report said. “Eliminating corruption in a place like Afghanistan is probably a pipe dream. …

“Any attempts to centralize control are complicated by the fact that Afghanistan’s economy is almost totally dependent on the sale of opium, and the opium marketplace is controlled by the warlords and, increasingly, the Taliban.”

The Canadian senators made little effort to sugarcoat the challenges ahead.

“The Taliban have time and geography on their side,” the report said. “Afghanistan is considerably more backward than other difficult areas like Iraq, Iran and Palestine. Whatever changes are made here are going to take many generations to effect and any early reforms are unlikely to present Canadians with the kinds of successes that might easily be seen to justify our involvement in Afghanistan.”

The report summed up the local situation by saying, “People outside Kabul are generally far more dependent on their traditional Sharia courts and systems of government than they are on the central government. …While NATO is proud of the fact that national elections have taken place, these elections have proven to be all but irrelevant to Afghans in places like Kandahar.”

The committee also took the Canadian International Development Agency to task for insisting “that it has a number of development projects underway in the province, but no one was able to show us.”

Beyond the lack of proof that Canada’s commitment was improving the lives of Afghans, the report noted that “life is clearly more perilous because we are there. That doesn’t mean that Canada shouldn’t be there…but it does mean that the ordinary citizen of Kandahar is living in a war zone that he or she wouldn’t be living in if NATO troops weren’t there.

“The combination of too many innocent lives being lost and too little development assistance coming through the pipeline contributes to making life bleak and dangerous.”

More Troops

While noting that “we cannot succeed in Afghanistan at the point of a bayonet,” the report said security for the population required more troops on the ground. “Some of our allies are doing a lot of saluting, but not much marching,” the report said.

“We don’t need F-18’s; we need boots on the ground,” Sen. Kenny told me, adding that some European allies are reluctant to give more help to the United States in Afghanistan because of objections to U.S. policies in Iraq and in the “war on terror.”

“Europe is getting back at the U.S. because of the failed Iraq policy and the loss of moral high ground because of Gitmo, renditions, etc.,” Kenny said.

The Canadian report faulted Germany and France for not supplying troops and more assistance. It also noted that after the Russians left Afghanistan in 1989, the United States “largely abandoned the Afghans” leaving them to the mercy of the Taliban.

Prime Minister Harper reacted to the critical report much the way President Bush responded to the bipartisan Iraq Study Group’s recommendations for a phased withdrawal from Iraq – Harper brushed the bad news aside and made clear he would push ahead with an escalation of the old policy.

Unlike Bush, however, Harper may have to face the voters in the near future. Asked if Afghanistan could be an election issue in the months ahead, Sen. Kenny responded, “It very well could.”


Thursday, March 8, 2007

HITCHCOCK WAS RIGHT

"The Birds"
Posted by: SaRuMaN Mar 8 2007, 12:53 PM

user posted image rThe distinction between birds and the dinosaurs from which they evolved is getting even murkier. The genomes (complete DNA sequences) of both groups are short, researchers now say.Scientists used to think that relatively shorter genomes were associated with flight. Birds have short genomes compared to other vertebrates, or animals with backbones—the average bird genome length is a measly 1.45 billion base pairs. Bats also have short genomes—about 2.25 billion base pairs. Humans genomes are another billion base pairs longer. Also, flightless birds tend to have longer genomes than flying birds. But the new finding by Chris Organ of Harvard University and his colleagues complicates this thinking and shows that the shorter genomes of birds originated in saurischian dinosaurs, the group of dinosaurs from which birds evolved and that includes Tyrannosaurus rex. So rather than being a characteristic of birds or flying animals, short genomes should be thought of as a characteristic of dinosaurs, including the killer theropod dinosaurs, he said. "Birds just inherit that character like they have inherited other dinosaurian traits, like feathers," Organ told LiveScience. Scientists once thought that feathers, nesting and parental care also were features just of birds, but all three of these characteristics have now also been identified in non-avian dinosaurs.

Most genome-length studies have focused only on living animals, which make up only about 1 percent of all animal species that have ever existed on Earth. Organ and his colleagues brought in a comparison with 31 extinct dinosaur species by relying on a well-known relationship between cell size and genome size. Bigger cell sizes are correlated with longer genomes. The team was able to generate estimates of the genome lengths of the dinosaurs by measuring the corresponding bone-cell sizes from the collection of Harvard University's Alfred Crompton and the Museum of the Rockies in Montana.They compared these data with genome size estimates for 26 additional living four-limbed animals also made from cell-size observations. Then they generated a family tree that showed how genome length evolved over time. The results showed that the shorter, "bird-sized" genomes (of about 1.8 billion base pairs) evolved in saurischian dinosaurs between 230 and 250 million years ago, long before Archaeopteryx and the other early birds evolved.

linked-image View: http://www.livescience.com/animalworld/070307_dino_genome.html | Source: http://www.livescience.com

Friday, March 2, 2007

Same Pitch, Same Ditch, Same Conclusion

Democrats to demand troops leave Iraq if benchmarks not met
Posted 3/1/2007 9:27 PM ET
WASHINGTON (AP) — House Democratic leaders have coalesced around legislation that would require troops to come home from Iraq within six months if that country's leaders fail to meet promises to help reduce violence there, party officials said Thursday.

The plan would retain a Democratic proposal prohibiting the deployment to Iraq of troops with insufficient rest or training or who already have served there for more than a year. Under the plan, such troops could only be sent to Iraq if President Bush waives those standards and reports to Congress each time.

The proposal is the latest attempt by Democrats to resolve deep divisions within the party on how far to go to scale back U.S. involvement in Iraq. Rep. James Moran said the latest version has the support of party leadership and said he believes it is final and has the best chance at attracting broad support.

"We're going to report out" a war spending bill "that's responsive to the will of the voters last November and brings our troops home as soon and safely as possible," Moran, D-Va., said in an interview Thursday.

Moran, a member of the House committee that oversees military spending, said the plan was discussed in a closed-door meeting of committee Democrats on Thursday.

Brendan Daly, a spokesman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., declined to confirm the details and or say whether Pelosi backs the plan. But he said: "We have said we want to make sure our troops have all the training and equipment they need and that the Iraqi government must meet the benchmarks President Bush endorsed."

Bush said the Iraqis had promised to meet certain goals when he offered to send 21,500 more troops to Iraq. For example, the Iraqis pledged to spend more money on reconstruction and reach a political agreement to share the nation's oil resources.

If the Iraqis fail to live up to their promises, some troops could be left behind under the Democrats' plan to train Iraqi troops or conduct counterterrorism missions, Moran said.

Bush requested $93.4 billion for this year's military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Moran said that as of Thursday, the proposal was on track to add an extra $1 billion to step up efforts in Afghanistan. Money also would be added to improve health care for veterans and help wounded active-duty troops, as well as provide relief for hurricane victims.

The legislation also would require Bush to seek congressional approval for any military operations in Iran.

The Senate, meanwhile, could begin floor debate on Iraq as early as next week. Sens. Joseph Biden, D-Del., and Carl Levin, D-Mich., have proposed a resolution that would call for combat troops to come home by March 2008.

As Democrats finalized their spending plan for this year, White House chief of staff Joshua Bolten told Senate Republican leaders that the administration will need additional funding to pay for the influx of troops to Iraq.

The Pentagon initially estimated the 21,500 troops would cost $5.6 billion through Oct. 1. But 6,000 more personnel will be needed to provide support to the combat units, according to GOP aides.

The administration also might amend its funding request in order to provide more money for Afghanistan.

The White House is expected to offer to trim other parts of the 2007 war spending request such as the controversial V-22 tilt-rotor aircraft to offset the money needed. Bolten did not offer a specific figure for the support troops, the aides said.

Also on Thursday, an influential Senate Democrat floated the idea of cutting $20 billion from Bush's request for military operations next year in Iraq and Afghanistan, only to be swiftly overridden by his colleagues.

The trial balloon floated by Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad would have trimmed Bush's $142 billion war budget for 2008 by about one-seventh in keeping with cost estimates by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office.

Conrad's idea would have applied to the next budget year beginning Oct. 1 — a separate issue from the debate over Bush's $100 billion request for immediate supplemental war funding.

But it raised concerns among Democrats sensitive to any accusations of shorting funding for troops in battle.

"Our caucus feels strongly that we should go with the president's numbers" on 2008 war costs, Conrad said.
Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.