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That said, if you must use Firefox (and I don't blame you, it's become my browser of choice, too)
...get the "IE Tab" extension. This allows you to view problem pages with the IE rendering engine. Very cool!

Saturday, December 10, 2005

R.I.P. - Robert Sheckley, Science Fiction Author

What do we do in Iraq?

We can�t stay.

We can�t leave.

We can�t arm the militias because each is loyal to its own religious
commander, i.e., Sunni, Shiite, Kurd and, fully armed, each will gladly
embark on a religious civil war.

We can�t fail to arm the militias because to do so would require our
presence in Iraq, literally, forever.

We can�t pump Iraqi oil.

We can fail to start pumping Iraqi oil soon.

We can�t retreat down to a manageable force because to do so would be
suicide.

We can�t fail, ultimately, to retreat to a manageable force size.

We can�t push the Sunnis, who for centuries ruled the Fertile Crescent,
out of power.

We can�t allow the Sunnis to retain power.

We can�t turn most of oil-rich Iraq over to Iran.

We are in the process of turning most of oil-rich Iraq over to Iran (a
rich irony for poor President Carter).

We can�t let the Kurds take the oil from the north and risk forming a
Kurdish super-state because Turkey will, inevitably, go to war with the
Kurds if we do so.

We can�t take the oil away from the Kurds.

We can�t risk alienating further the reactionary Wahabbi Sect in Saudi
Arabia, because to do so will push them into the arms of the Sunnis and,
in short order, destabilize Saudi Arabia, driving the cost of OPEC oil
well above one hundred dollars a barrel. Having issued a fatwah on Hugo
Chavez, we can�t count on Venezuela, the founder of OPEC way back when,
and the only oil source in our hemisphere.

We can�t live without the strong alliance of Venezuela.

We can�t help but alienate the Wahabbi Sect, whose loathing for all things
Shiite is unmatchable in all the world�s schemata of religious hatred,
except, perhaps, for Venezuela�s hatred of us.

We can�t end Baathism because it is the backbone of Iraqi management, and
spreads itself throughout the Middle East, most principally Jordan.

We can�t help but end Baathism if the present Constitution means anything.

We can�t convict Saddam Hussein, an accomplished trial lawyer, graduate of
the largest law school in the world (Cairo), and a man once sentenced to
death who, with the death sentence hanging over his head, sneaked back
into Iraq with a law degree, went public, surrendured himself, then argued
against his own death penalty, reversed it, then escaped from prison and
killed most of those who initially sentenced him to death. Then he took
over the country.

Shrub�s a snack to a guy like Hussein, and the Sunnis, whose entire
society grounds much of itself in revenge, will have theirs before all is
said and done.

We can�t fail to convict Saddam Hussein.

We can�t bear much more of Shrub and Cheney and Rumsfeld, the three
stooges who turn all they touch into a wasteland.

We�re stuck with the Three Stooges for three more years.

Only the GOP could produce a nightmare so dangerously destabilizing.

This nightmare scenario will, soon, break the army of the United States
and plunge us into a nightmare of debt that will send the economies of
China and the EU hurtling past us.

The answer? Elect a Clinton. Either one of them or somebody like them, an
adult, but we�ve had enough of Jump Shot Jesus and Terri Schiavo and
Creationism and fiscal stupidity and cowardly leadership and mouthy little
GOP operatives with no time in uniform to last several lifetimes, which is
about how long it�s going to take to pay the tab for Shrub�s madness.

Shrub has destroyed two centuries of American power and respect.

He should be impeached, tried for treason, and executed.

Comment by BigDaddy'sBack � 12/1/2005 @ 3:22 pm

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The Budget Deficit and Class Politics

by Robert B. Reich


Tax bills now wending their way through the House and Senate would cut about $60 billion in taxes next year. But there�s a huge difference between the two. The biggest item in House bill is a two-year extension of the President�s tax cuts on stock dividends and capital gains. The House bill doesn�t touch what�s called the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT). By contrast, the biggest item in Senate bill is temporary relief from the AMT. But the Senate bill doesn�t extend the dividend and capital gains tax cuts.

No legislative choice in recent years has so clearly pitted the super rich against the suburban middle class. Most of benefits of the House�s proposed extension of the dividend and capital gains tax cuts would go to the top 1 percent of taxpayers, with average annual incomes of over $1 million. Most of the benefits of the Senate�s cut in the AMT would go to households earning between $75,000 and $100,000 a year, who would otherwise get slammed.

The AMT was enacted more than three decades ago to prevent the super-rich from using tax breaks to avoid paying income taxes. But it�s now the super-rich who are making off like bandits while the AMT is about to hit the middle class. That�s because the AMT was never indexed to inflation, which means it�s starting to reach taxpayers considerably below the super rich.

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Friday, December 09, 2005

A Death in the Family

A somber moment from JP at 'yep, another goddamned blog'
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My beloved dog Shana died today. And this is the reason why I'm shutting down this blog for at least a while.

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Friday 'Nudie' Show!

 

A common Pajama Nudebranch on a red sponge Posted by Picasa

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With new legislation, Ohio Republicans plan holiday burial for American Democracy

by Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman
December 6, 2005

A law that will make democracy all but moot in Ohio is about to pass the state legislature and to be signed by its Republican governor. Despite massive corruption scandals besieging the Ohio GOP, any hope that the Democratic party could win this most crucial swing state in future presidential elections, or carry its pivotal US Senate seat in 2006, are about to end.

House Bill 3 has already passed the Ohio House of Representatives and is about to be approved by the Republican-dominated Senate, probably before the holiday recess. Republicans dominate the Ohio legislature thanks to a heavily gerrymandered crazy quilt of rigged districts, and to a moribund Ohio Democratic party. The GOP-drafted HB3 is designed to all but obliterate any possible future Democratic revival. Opposition from the Ohio Democratic Party, where it exists at all, is diffuse and ineffectual.

HB3's most publicized provision will require positive identification before casting a vote. But it also opens voter registration activists to partisan prosecution, exempts electronic voting machines from public scrutiny, quintuples the cost of citizen-requested statewide recounts and makes it illegal to challenge a presidential vote count or, indeed, any federal election result in Ohio. When added to the recently passed HB1, which allows campaign financing to be dominated by the wealthy and by corporations, and along with a Rovian wish list of GOP attacks on the ballot box, democracy in Ohio could be all but over.


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Friday Foobar* Blogging

0001. Mahavishnu Orchestra - [The Inner Mounting Flame #01] Meeting of the Spirits [6:53]
0002. Sugarcult - [Start Static #02] Stuck in America [2:56]
0003. Django Reinhardt - [The Gold Collection - Disk 2 #12] Youre Driving Me Crazy [2:55]
0004. The Pleasure Barons - [Live in Las Vegas #09] Gangster of Love [6:14]
0005. Big Pig - [Bonk -mushroom #05] Big Hotel [3:27]
0006. The Climax Blues Band - [A Lot of Bottle #12] 12 - Cut You Loose (1970) [5:18]
0007. Jean-Luc Ponty - [The Very Best Of Jean-Luc Pont #09] I Only Feel Good With You [3:17]
0008. Roger Clyne & The Peacemakers - [Sonoran Hope And Madness #09] Buffalo [5:03]
0009. Reverend Horton Heat - [Holy Roller #03] Wiggle Stick [2:59]
0010. The Del-Lords - [Get Tough-The Best Of #11] Crawl in bed [3:57]

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    Free Windows mp3 player with 'tabbed' playlist interface


    *Foobar 2000

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So Much for the Invisible Hand

by Stephen Fleischman


Why is there so little discussion, in this country, about the pros and cons of capitalism, the economic system under which we live?

There are pros, you know, as well as cons. Capitalism has given us WalMart and cheap gas, skyscrapers and Alan Greenspan. And many other things that include the necessities of life�food, clothing, shelter. So why do we so rarely chat about capitalism?

The only two things I remember from my freshman college class in economics are Adam Smith and Laissez Faire. �The Invisible Hand� still sticks in memory�how the free market regulates itself and keeps us all on a steady course.

Many years later, I heard of another big hand out there concerned with the class struggle, the profit system and surplus value.

In college, the principles of capitalism are expounded to a fare-thee-well; elsewhere people just let it be, jump on the bus and don�t discuss much. That�s too bad because, at this point in history, capitalism may be at the root of all evil.

Karl Marx, even in America, can be regarded as a relevant economist (in most of the world he is considered one of the three giants of the 19th Century, the other two being Darwin and Freud). Some people say he�s old-hat. Marx was a century younger than Adam Smith, but Smith seems to get all the attention.

In Marx�s definitive analysis of capitalism, �Das Kapital�, he allows as how, in the sweep of history, capitalism served its purpose and brought humanity to a better place. And in the sweep of history, a time would come when it would be swept off the world stage�when it no longer served the masses.

Why aren�t we discussing these sweeps of history when the insights they can give us are so vital to our interests and our survival?

Of course, Marx was examining capitalism toward the middle and end of the 19th Century. After the Civil War, capitalism was in its vibrant period. Means of production were growing by leaps and bounds. The new nation had rid itself, finally, of the shackle of slavery. Capitalism had reached the point where wage labor was more productive and profitable.

My reading of Frederick Engels, Karl�s sidekick, tells me that all things in nature, including man and his institutions, are in a state of flux. Change takes place through the clash of opposites. The conflict of opposing forces leads to growth and development. Quantitative changes lead to qualitative changes as when water heats gradually to the boiling point then quickly changes from liquid to steam, or when nations change economic (and political) systems quickly, and oft times violently, through revolution, after years of prolonged incremental change.

By the time of the new century, the 20th, that is, the Robber Barons were stepping up to the plate and taking their place in the sweep of history. Early mergers and acquisitions were beginning the process that dominated the 20th Century and led us to where we are today�Monopoly Capitalism.

We�ve learned, repeatedly, that in the process of growth, capitalism leads to Monopoly, Imperialism and War. There�s been a lot of talk, lately, about war. I�ve heard little, or none, about capitalism, monopoly or otherwise. Discussion, anyone?

I think the American people, instinctively, know where we�re at.

Everybody knows that capital enterprise must grow or die�must cut and thrust to maximize profits. Everybody knows that capitalist profits are obtained from the surplus value that labor produces�your sweat and mine. Everybody knows that the corporate monopolies own and control the mass media, just about everything you see, read and hear. Everybody knows that the corporate monopolies will fight to the death to keep you from believing what everybody knows. That�s an oxymoron. Or you could call it one of the contradictions of capitalism.

Remember those pictures, during The Great Depression of the 1930s, of farmers spilling milk while children go hungry? Or men selling apples on the streets? If you aren�t old enough to remember it, you�re seen it in the newsreels. We had a wealth of productive capacity but the people had no purchasing power. Deflation had hit historic lows. The invisible hand was out to lunch.

When the stock market crashed on October 29, 1929, high-flying traders began flying out of their office windows. By the 13th of November (when stock prices hit their lowest point), over 30 billion (in 1929 dollars) disappeared from the US economy. The greatest financial crisis in US history.

Franklin Roosevelt, through the New Deal, saved capitalism by re-distributing some of the wealth. He fought the economic royalists to a standstill and inaugurated the NRA and the WPA. Ironically, he had to save the capitalists from themselves. Instead of the invisible hand, we needed an iron fist. Strict controls and regulation of run-away capitalism, or they�d eat you out of house and home.

Originally, limited liability companies, now called "corporations" had to obtain charters from the State to do business. They are chartered to do a specific job. If they don't do the job or break the rules, their charters can be revoked. The State giveth and the State can taketh away. That's the way the system was set up in the States' constitutions. And this charter system is still in force in most states, today, but when was the last time you heard of a corporate charter being revoked?

Alas ...early in the 19th Century, when this country was young and still wet behind the ears, Congress gave corporations the status of people, with all the rights of people�freedom of speech and of the press. They could spend all the money they wanted to on advertising and propaganda, called �public relations�. They became carnivorous. The corporations soon began to eat congressmen and senators and judges and politicians of all stripes, and even presidents and nations.

So where are we at? We may well be at the threshold of another of those sweeps of history.

Bob Dylan, one of our great philosophers (and song writer) at another time of crisis in our country, said this:

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don't stand in the doorway, Don't block up the hall
For he that gets hurt, Will be he who has stalled
There's a battle outside And it is ragin'
It'll soon shake your windows, And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin'.

A sleeping giant is about to wake up. Wanna talk about it?

Stephen Fleischman's career as a television writer-director-producer spans more than three decades, twenty years with ABC News, ten years with CBS News, starting in 1953. In 1959, he participated in the formation of the renowned Murrow-Friendly "CBS Reports" series. In 1983, Fleischman won the prestigious Columbia University-Dupont Television Journalism Award. In 2004, he wrote his memoir about his thirty years in Network News -" A Red in the House." For additional information, see: www.ARedintheHouse.com. Email to: stevefl@comcast.net.

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War Crimes Made Easy

How the Bush Administration Legalized Intelligence Deceptions, Assassinations, and Aggressive War
by Jeremy Brecher and Brendan Smith

How has the Bush administration gotten away with such apparently illegal acts as hiding intelligence reports from Congress, creating secret prisons, establishing death squads, kidnapping people and spiriting them across national borders, and planning unprovoked wars? Part of the answer lies in the administration's deliberate effort, initiated even before September 11, 2001, to tear down any existing legal and institutional means for preventing, exposing, or punishing violations of national and international law by American officials.

Back in 2002, Adriel Bettleheim wrote in the Congressional Quarterly that Vice President Dick Cheney "considers it the responsibility of the current administration to reclaim those lost powers for the institution of the presidency." Indeed, the Bush administration has tried to remove all conceivable restrictions on the "imperial presidency," setting its sights in particular on dismantling the Freedom of Information Act, the Intelligence Oversight Act, and the War Powers Resolution. Restoring limits on the power of the executive branch to conceal information, tell (and hide) lies, make war at its own discretion, or kidnap, torture, and kill without interference from Congress, the courts, and the public will be crucial tasks, if future Abu Ghraibs are to be prevented.

The Freedom of Information Act provides a good example of the constraints Cheney aimed to remove. Essentially a sunshine law passed by Congress in 1966, the FOIA requires that government agencies disclose their records upon written request. The Act provides nine "exemptions" to the public's right of access, but in the Clinton years Attorney General Janet Reno advised agencies that information should be released as long as it did "no foreseeable harm."

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Thursday, December 08, 2005

The Straight Truth About the Bush Economy

[Guest blogger and American Progress senior fellow Gene Sperling was President Clinton’s National Economic Adviser.]


In evaluating President Bush�s recent speeches aimed at talking up the economy to the 63% of Americans who view it as either �bad,� �very bad,� or �terrible,� I would describe the different parts of his speech as �appropriate,� �unwise,� and �downright misleading.�


I think it is appropriate for the President to want to tell the 43% of the public that thinks that we are in an actual recession that we have had solid GDP and investment growth over the last couple of years. I also think it is appropriate for the President to honor our nation�s entrepreneurs, to remind people that globalization has upsides as well as downsides, and to take an optimistic tone in discussing the future.



I think it is unwise, however, to fail to acknowledge that much of the pessimism in the economy is not, as I wrote last August, a mystery we need Sherlock Holmes to solve. As Paul Krugman put it so well in his Monday column, �Americans don’t feel good about the economy because it hasn’t been good for them.�


But it�s downright misleading to ignore the economy�s weaknesses so the White House can falsely claim their fiscally reckless tax policy is an unequivocal success. When it comes to economic policy, President Bush is like the football coach with a 4-12 record who wants to tell you how his strategy has led to the four victories while pretending he has had an immaculate season. So if the President wants to claim his tax cuts have been the primary cause of our current economic performance since the end of the recession in November 2001, here are a few more economic facts he might want to consider.


WAGES



American families have consistently seen their incomes decline during the Bush Presidency�even when calculating only from the end of the last recession.


Real hourly earnings are down in the four years since the last recession�from $16.41 in November 2001 to $16.29 in October this year. [Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Adjusted to October 2005 dollars]


Real weekly wages are down in the four years since the last recession�from $557.44 in November 2001 to $550.60 this October. This is the first time on record real weekly wage growth have been negative this long after a recession. [BLS]


Since the 2003 tax cut, real hourly wages have fallen 2.2% and real weekly wages have fallen 1.6%. [BLS]



Real median household income has fallen each year Bush has been in office and by nearly $1,700 since the recession 2001 [U.S. Census Bureau, Income Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2004, Aug. 2005, Table A-1.]


EMPLOYMENT GROWTH


The President focused on job creation in both recent speeches, but employment growth in the current recovery has been the weakest on record.


Monthly private employment growth has averaged a meager 59,700 per month even excluding the last recession and the months leading into it�the weakest monthly average for any recovery of this length. [BLS]



The 4. 5 million job growth in the last two and a half years that the President brags about is weak by historical standards. In the last three recoveries, the economy created 7.9 million jobs during the corresponding 30 month period�3.4 million jobs more than we�ve seen in the last two and a half years–even with a smaller workforce and smaller population. [BLS]


The only reason the unemployment rate has fallen to 5% is that a smaller share of the population is working or actively seeking work today compared to before the recession. If labor force participation were as high today, as it was before the recession the unemployment rate would be 6.6%–1.6 points higher than today�s official number [BLS]


Indeed, this is the first time on record that portion of the population holding a job is down 48 months after the end of a recession.



POVERTY


After seeing enormous gains in the fight against poverty under President Clinton, the poverty rate has risen each of Bush�s years in office, as an additional 5.4 million people have fallen into poverty since 2000. [Census, Aug. 2005, Table B-1]


The poverty rate has risen each year since the end of the recession�from 11.7% in 2001 to 12.7% last year as 4 million people fell into poverty. [Census, Aug. 2005, Table B-1]


African American poverty has also jumped�from 22.7% in 2001 to 24.7% in 2004 as nearly 1 million (864,000) African Americans have fallen under the poverty line. [Census, Aug. 2005, Table B-1]


Child poverty rate is on the rise�jumping from 16.3% in 2001 to 17.8% in 2004. As 1.3 million children under 18 have fallen into poverty [Census, Aug. 2005, Table B-2]



This is the only recovery on record where poverty increased from the second to third year after the recession. [Census, Aug. 2005, Table B-1]


SAVINGS


Though incomes have fallen, consumer spending growth has continued to propel the economy. Unfortunately, this combination has pushed the personal savings rate to historic lows, debt burdens to historic highs, and exacerbated our already unsustainable current account deficit.


The personal savings rate has plummeted this year, hitting -2.18% in August�a level not seen since the Great Depression. [Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA)]


Americans now pay a record 13.6% of their disposable income to service their debt. Since we�ve had to borrow at record rates to spend beyond our means, debt burdens have risen considerably. [Federal Reserve]



Thanks in part to our recent fiscal deterioration, net national savings have dropped from 4.9% when Bush took office to -1.0% last quarter– its lowest level since the Great Depression. [BEA]


The transition from budget surpluses to budget deficits was a major factor in this shift to dissavings. In January 2001, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projected a more than $5 trillion 10 year surplus. Today, Goldman Sachs predicts a $5 trillion cumulative deficit over the next 10 years. They cite the extension of the tax cut as the �single biggest factor underlying� that prediction.


The current account has deficit exploded�hitting a record $199 billion in the first quarter this year and on pace to top $800 billion this year. [BEA, Global Insight Inc. projection in Greg Hitt, �Trade Gap Eases, but Deficit Poised to Break a Record,� The Wall Street Journal, 9/17/05]


We now have to borrow about $3 billion from abroad every business day to support our habits.



While President Bush may be trying to claim that everything positive in the economy is due to his tax policies, I don�t want to commit the same error by trying to tie everything negative to the Administration�s choices. But on the other hand, four years of declining wages, rising poverty and weak job growth is hardly strong validation for a tax policy that has significantly contributed to the largest fiscal deterioration in our nation�s history.


Gene Sperling


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Tuesday, December 06, 2005

What Did the Democrats Know and When Did they Know It?

The Lies of John Edwards
By JOHN WALSH


The apology of John Edwards, former Senator and 2004 Democratic vice presidential candidate, for voting for the Iraq war in 2002, has been widely praised. But his apology is based on a lie, one that other Democrats are likely to embrace and one which will serve their ambitions but hide the truth. We should have no illusions about this, for to believe otherwise is to set ourselves up for the continuation of Bush's war by a Democrat.

Edwards declared in an op-ed column in the Washington Post on November 13, 2005: "The argument for going to war with Iraq was based on intelligence that we now know was inaccurate. The information the American people were hearing from the president -- and that I was being given by our intelligence community -- wasn't the whole story. Had I known this at the time, I never would have voted for this war." Sounds simple enough. "Had I known then what I know now, etc." Poor John Edwards was deceived. But was he? How was it that 21 other Democratic Senators and 2 Republicans were not deceived and voted against the war?

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An Economy Driven By Debt

Don't Confuse the Jobs Hype with the Facts

By PAUL CRAIG ROBERTS


The November payrolls job report was announced Friday with the usual misleading hype. Spinmeisters made the most out of the 215,000 jobs. Looking beyond the glitter at the real facts, this is what we see. 21,000 of those jobs were government jobs supported by taxpayers. There were only 194,000 new jobs in the private sector.
Of those new jobs, 37,000 are in construction and only 11,000 are in manufacturing. The bulk of the new jobs--144,000--are in domestic services.

Wholesale and retail trade account for 20,000. Food services and drinking places (waitresses and bar tenders) account for 38,000.
Health care and social assistance account for 27,000. Professional and business services account for 29,000. Financial activities gained 13,000 jobs. Transportation and warehousing gained 8,000 jobs.

Very few of these jobs result in tradable services that can be exported or help to close the growing gap in the US balance of trade.

The 11,000 new factory jobs and the 15,000 of the previous month are a relief from the usual loss. However, these gains are more than offset by the job cuts recently announced by General Motors and Ford.

Despite the gain in jobs, total hours worked declined as the average workweek fell to 33.7 hours. The decline in the labor force participation rate, a consequence of the shrinkage in well-paying jobs, masks a higher rate of unemployment than the reported 5 percent. The ratio of employment to population fell again in November.

Average hourly earnings (up 3.2 percent over the last year) are not keeping up with the consumer price index (up 4.3 percent).
Consequently, real incomes are falling.

This is not the picture of a healthy economy in which growth in high productivity, high value-added jobs fuel the growth in consumer demand and provide savings to finance Washington's red ink. What we are looking at is an economy that is coming unglued from the loss of jobs that provide ladders of upward mobility and from massive trade and budget deficits that are resulting in unsustainable growth in indebtedness to foreigners.

The consumer price index measures inflation at 4.3 percent over the past year. Many people, experiencing household budgets severely impacted by fuel prices and grocery bills, find this figure unrealistically low. PNC Financial Services has a Christmas price index consisting of the gifts in the song, "The 12 Days of Christmas." The index reports that the cost of the collection of gifts has risen 6 percent since last Christmas. Some of the gifts have risen substantially in price. Gold rings are up 27.5 percent, and pear trees are up 15.4 percent. The cost of labor (drummers drumming, maids-a-milking) has remained the same.

Populations are hard pressed when the prices of goods rise relative to the price of labor, because this makes it impossible for the population to maintain its standard of living.

The US economy has been kept alive by low interest rates, which fueled a real estate boom. Consumers have kept growth alive by refinancing their home mortgages and spending the equity in their houses. Their indebtedness has risen.

Debt-fueled growth is qualitatively different from economic growth that results from an increase in high value-added jobs. Economists who look at the 3+ percent economic growth rate and conclude that things are fine are fooling themselves and the public. When the real estate boom ends, what will be the source of new spending power?


Paul Craig Roberts has held a number of academic appointments and has contributed to numerous scholarly publications. He served as Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. His graduate economics education was at the University of Virginia, the University of California at Berkeley, and Oxford University. He is coauthor of The Tyranny of Good Intentions. He can be reached at: paulcraigroberts@yahoo.com

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What Happened to Iraq's WMD - How Politics Corrupts Intelligence

by Scott Ritter

The recent exchange of vitriol between Republican and Democratic lawmakers over the issue of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and more specifically the disconnect between the intelligence data cited by the Bush administration as justification for invading Iraq and the resultant conclusion by the CIA that all Iraqi WMD had already been eliminated as early as 1991, has once again thrust the issue of the use of intelligence for political purposes front and center.

Democrats accuse the president and his supporters of deliberately misleading them and the American people about the nature of the Iraqi threat. Republicans respond that the Democrats are rewriting history, that all parties involved had access to the same intelligence data and had drawn the same conclusions. Typical of the Republican-led rebuttal are statements made by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who noted that "every intelligence agency in the world, including the Russian, French, including the Israeli, all had reached the same conclusion, and that was that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction."

But this is disingenuous. The intelligence services of everyone else were not proclaiming Iraq to be in possession of WMD. Rather, the intelligence services of France, Russia, Germany, Great Britain and Israel were noting that Iraq had failed to properly account for the totality of its past proscribed weapons programs, and in doing so left open the possibility that Iraq might retain an undetermined amount of WMD. There is a huge difference in substance and nuance between such assessments and the hyped-up assertions by the Bush administration concerning active programs dedicated to the reconstitution of WMD, as well as the existence of massive stockpiles of forbidden weaponry.

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Scott Ritter

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Hidden in Plane Sight: U.S. Media Dodging Air War in Iraq

by Norman Solomon

The U.S. government is waging an air war in Iraq. "In recent months, the tempo of American bombing seems to have increased," Seymour Hersh reported in the Dec. 5 edition of The New Yorker. "Most of the targets appear to be in the hostile, predominantly Sunni provinces that surround Baghdad and along the Syrian border."

Hersh added: "As yet, neither Congress nor the public has engaged in a significant discussion or debate about the air war."

Here's a big reason why: Major U.S. news outlets are dodging the extent of the Pentagon's bombardment from the air, an avoidance all the more egregious because any drawdown of U.S. troop levels in Iraq is very likely to be accompanied by a step-up of the air war.

So, according to the LexisNexis media database, how often has the phrase "air war" appeared in The New York Times this year with reference to the current U.S. military effort in Iraq?

As of early December, the answer is: Zero.

And how often has the phrase "air war" appeared in The Washington Post in 2005?

The answer: Zero.

And how often has "air war" been printed in Time, the nation's largest-circulation news magazine, this year?

Zero.

This extreme media avoidance needs to change. Now. Especially because all the recent talk in Washington about withdrawing some U.S. troops from Iraq is setting the stage for the American military to do more of its killing in that country from the air.

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Professor beaten; attackers cite KU creationism class

A professor whose planned course on creationism and intelligent design was canceled after he sent e-mails deriding Christian conservatives was hospitalized Monday after what appeared to be a roadside beating.

University of Kansas religious studies professor Paul Mirecki said that the two men who beat him made references to the class that was to be offered for the first time this spring.

Originally called "Special Topics in Religion: Intelligent Design, Creationism and other Religious Mythologies," the course was canceled last week at Mirecki's request.

The class was added after the Kansas State Board of Education decided to include more criticism of evolution in science standards for elementary and secondary students.

"I didn't know them," Mirecki said of his assailants, "but I'm sure they knew me."

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Sunday, December 04, 2005

Putting God in Charge: "If they could they would."

Let's start with a question you may never have even thought to ask: Why isn't there mail delivery on Sundays? For quite a while in America, Sunday delivery was not only viewed as entirely unremarkable, but as vital and necessary:

The degree to which a secular approach to government was accepted in early 19th-century America was demonstrated by Congress' refusal to abandon Sunday mail service, which it had mandated in 1810. The 1844 invention of the telegraph would eventually put an end to the commercial need for daily mail, but in the 1820s and '30s, business still depended on the government to keep the mails moving seven days a week.

Nevertheless, powerful right-wing religious leaders waged an unceasing campaign against the sacrilege of Sunday mail, which some considered a more important moral issue than slavery. But evangelical Christians and freethinkers, who had joined together to write and ratify the godless Constitution, wanted no part of government sanction for a religious Sabbath.

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