Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Rush Limbaugh, a Plea Agreement, a Vial of Rx Viagra, on a Sex Tour of the Dominican Republic

"Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar....except when it isn't."

Even though that icon of the rightwing, Rush Limbaugh, is one of perhaps 5 of the most visible and influential conservatives in the country promoting the Republican agenda and its values, I rarely write about him. The only time that I feel compelled to do so is when he makes it into the news because of brushes with the law. Those are opportunities that I seize, to exploit and expose the hypocrisy of Republicans' stated core values. I find them, Limbaugh's brushes with the law, the best times for object lessons.

And if I have to write about him, if I have to wade hip deep into that sewer, I will never pass up an opportunity to pass along this musical ditty: "Rush, singing, 'I'm a Nazi!'" - because he is such an ass to be capturing any amount of the public's imagination and attention.

[.......Break for musical interlude......]

Ahhhhhhhhhhh. Much better. Okay, I'm in the proper frame of mind to deal with that fat, pompous, hypocritical Republican ass.

This latest story on Rush Limbaugh: "Limbaugh's deal in a prior case could be at risk after Viagra found in his possession."
Investigators were trying to determine Tuesday whether Rush Limbaugh violated a deal with prosecutors in a long-running prescription fraud case when authorities found he had a bottle of Viagra that was apparently prescribed to someone else.

Limbaugh, 55, was detained for more than three hours Monday at Palm Beach International Airport after he returned on his private plane from a vacation in the Dominican Republic. Customs officials found Viagra in his bag, but his name wasn’t on the prescription, Palm Beach County sheriff’s spokesman Paul Miller said.

Limbaugh’s lawyer, Roy Black, said the prescription was written in Limbaugh’s doctor’s name “for privacy purposes.” The conservative radio host was released without being charged and investigators confiscated the Viagra, which treats erectile dysfunction.
It's men like Roy Black who give attorneys a bad name, and make it necessary for liberals like me to have to explain, protect and defend the complex beauty of the U.S. Constitution and the rule of law.

Here's the problem, Roy: Just two months ago, your client signed a deal with prosecutors after a lengthy investigation into allegations of doctor-shopping for prescription painkillers. I presume that you were sitting right next to him, read it over before letting him sign a plea agreement admitting to doctor-shopping? Limbaugh signed a contract which required him (among other things) to get his prescription medications from one doctor and reveal which pharmacy he would use to fill the prescriptions? Were exceptions written into the deal? A little more special treatment for Mr. Limbaugh? Exceptions for hemorrhoids, perhaps, or for cough syrup? How about for crabs, or scalp treatments, or thinning hair, or for, you'll pardon the expression, limp dicks?

I used the AP news outlet's write-up of this story as an example of another of my pet peeves these days: What happens when public relations' firms operate out of defense lawyers' offices? Lousy biased journalism. A hybridization of the rule of law and justice in America where the rich don't have to live under the laws that they make for everybody else to live under:
Limbaugh joked about the search on his radio show Tuesday, saying Customs officials didn’t believe him when he said he got the pills at the Clinton Library and he was told they were blue M&Ms. He later added, chuckling: “I had a great time in the Dominican Republic. Wish I could tell you about it.”
The AP listened to his radio show, an entertainment program, to get a comment from him on the legal peril he finds himself in??? Is this the new version of the "fairness doctrine," where everytime a Republican finds himself in trouble with the law, suspected of a crime, the media will include a reference to a Democrat no matter how irrelevant?

I'll bet all the money in the bottom of my purse that this is the work of a public relations firm working out of Black's office, hired to influence the public's perception of Limbaugh, taint and corrupt the potential jury pool, and pressure the prosecution to back off, let Limbaugh live outside of the rule of law that he and the Republican party impose on everybody else.

The AP:
It is generally not illegal under Florida law for a physician to prescribe medication in a third party’s name if all parties are aware and the doctor documents it correctly, said Mike Edmondson, a spokesman for the state attorney in Palm Beach County.
That would be news to these lawyers that the Orlando Sentinel spoke to:
Limbaugh's attorney, Roy Black, has said the two doctors prescribed the Viagra for Limbaugh under their names to protect his privacy. [And] three experts on medical practice said Tuesday that doctors could face disciplinary action for writing third-party prescriptions. But the three experts said Florida civil rules governing doctors and pharmacists require that the true patient's name and address be on the label. Doing otherwise "is technically a violation of dispensing and prescribing by the doctor," said Allen R. Grossman, a Tallahassee attorney who defends physicians in disciplinary cases. Grossman formerly was general counsel to the Florida Board of Medicine, which licenses and oversees doctors.

"Whether in normal circumstance anyone would care or not, maybe not. But the spotlight is on. In theory at least, that physician would be in trouble" with the medical board, Grossman said.

A spokeswoman for the state's various medical professional boards declined to comment on whether the actions by Limbaugh's doctors or pharmacist violated Florida's separate civil rules for medical professionals. The medical boards can impose disciplinary actions ranging from warning letters to fines to revoking licenses.

"The department is aware of it and we'll have more information on that later," board spokeswoman Thometta Cozart said. However, the three experts said state civil rules forbid doctors from prescribing drugs without a name or under a third person's name, as a way to prevent people from passing medicine to others.

"That would be considered a fraudulent prescription," said Lisette Gonzalez Mariner, a spokeswoman for the Florida Medical Association, the trade group for doctors. "You cannot do that. It's not commonly done and that's illegal."

Likewise, pharmacists cannot dispense drugs to someone other than the name on the prescription label or their representative, said attorney Edwin Bayo, a former general counsel of the Florida Board of Pharmacy licensing board.

Doctors can sell medicine directly from their offices if they have a special license, but they must follow the same rule about labels, Bayo said.

Also, physicians who give patients free samples of medicine are supposed to put the patient's name on the label, Bayo said, but "99.9 percent of doctors in Florida do not do that."

The three experts said they never had heard of a doctor or pharmacist disciplined for issuing medicine under a false name, and went on to say Limbaugh's doctors could have shielded his name through legal means -- such as speaking only to the pharmacist or covering the label with a blank piece of paper.

"You don't have to bring your Viagra bottle when you leave town," Grossman said.
The issue here isn't what other people, who haven't signed agreements to get a diversion deal on a felony, can do.

I'll up the bet, include all of the change in my coat pockets, too, that Mike Edmondson gave that comment in response to the reporter asking if it was illegal for a person, not Rush Limbaugh specifically, to have medication on them that was prescribed for someone else.

And I'll also bet that the AP reporter got spun in twenty ways because Limbaugh couldn't come up with a straight story to explain why he would have taken the pills out of a prescription bottle and put them into an unmarked bottle, put the empty bottle in his luggage, carry the unmarked bottle on his person:
Rush Limbaugh was detained for more than three hours Monday at Palm Beach International Airport after authorities found a bottle of Viagra in his possession without a prescription.

Customs officials found a prescription bottle labeled as Viagra in his luggage that didn't have Limbaugh's name on it, but that of two doctors, said Paul Miller, spokesman for the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office.


Investigators confiscated the drugs, and the sheriff's office plans to file a report with the state attorney's office. Miller said it could be a second-degree misdemeanor violation.

Limbaugh reached a plea deal last month with prosecutors who had accused the talk-show host of illegally deceiving multiple doctors to receive overlapping painkiller prescriptions.

Two physicians got involved in this scam. He was caught with 29 tablets of Viagra. The reporting by several news outlets is a little confusing, but it looks like Limbaugh emptied the prescription bottle of Viagra (with two other physicians' names - one prescribing and the other as the patient?) into another unmarked bottle that he carried on him when his plane landed. He put the empty bottle into his luggage. Part of his plea agreement that he made with the state of Florida includes his submitting to drug testing on demand, which also includes body searches on demand. Limbaugh probably expected that the Feds might search the luggage of inbound planes, but not his person. I don't think that he really thought it through. It looks like Limbaugh was intentionally trying to deceive the authorities or else why would he have emptied the bottle?

Limbaugh addiction problems are only a part of this story - the early, initial part that brought him to the attention of the police. That was the medical part. I happen to agree that addiction shouldn't fall under the purview of the criminal justice system, but the Republican party disagrees. Limbaugh's got pull with the Republican party and their base. I don't. You would think he might have tried to motivate the base to pressure Congress on decriminalizing drugs all these years.

As reported by the Duluth News Tribute and by "60 Minutes":
Wheelchair user Richard Paey committed almost exactly the same violations of Florida prescription drug laws that radio personality Rush Limbaugh did, with a different result: Limbaugh's sentence, in May, was addiction treatment, and Paey's, in 2004, was 25 years in prison. Both illegally possessed large quantities of painkillers for personal use, which Paey defiantly argued was (and will be) necessary to relieve nearly constant pain from unsuccessful spinal surgeries after an auto accident, but which Limbaugh admitted was simply the result of addiction. (In fact, if Limbaugh complies with his plea bargain, his conviction will be erased.) Paey's sentence now rests with a state Court of Appeal. (Tampa Tribune, Feb. 8, 2006)
Limbaugh's current brush with the law is not about his addiction problems. It's about breaking the plea agreement, a sense of entitlement, and doctor-shopping. Again.

Usually I leave speculation about Limbaugh's sex life and the status of his relationship with "mistress" Daryn Kagan (of CNN), to those with a prurient interest in other people's sex lives.

However, Limbaugh is one of the most ardent opiners of conservative moral values, family values that require abstinence, because "no birth control is 100% effective, and doesn't prevent STDs." Marital-only sex, between "a man and a woman," and procreation only within marriage - "children need to be raised in loving homes by both a mother AND a father."

On the June 9, 2004 broadcast of The Rush Limbaugh Show, Limbaugh on AIDS:
"And one of the things that the AIDS activists said regularly back then was, oh, this is only a matter of time before it spreads to the heterosexual community. It's only a matter of time.

And they used that as one of the weapons to try to get people like Reagan to start talking about it from their standpoint. And of course it hasn't. It didn't, and it hasn't, other than in Africa, and in Africa it is being spread not just by, it's promiscuity that spreads this, if you want to know the truth. It's promiscuity.

But it hasn't made that jump to the heterosexual community."
Limbaugh has said of condoms, "Condoms only work during the school year":
The worst of all of this is the lie that condoms really protect against AIDS. The condom failure rate can be as high as 20 percent. Would you get on a plane -- or put your children on a plane -- if one of five passengers would be killed on the flight? Well, the statistic holds for condoms, folks."
Let's hope that Limbaugh spread his seed far and wide all over the Dominican Republican, one of the biggest sex tourism destinations in the world.

Without a condom.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Venice Canals Threatened by Algae

Another downside to over-population and globalization - and what environmentalists predicted and warned against decades ago.

The Guardian Reports:
First came the counterfeit designer handbags. Then, the cheap Chinese textiles that pose a threat to livelihoods throughout the region round Venice.

But what no one knew until Friday was that the Venetian lagoon itself was stealthily being invaded by another competitive far eastern import. According to an article published in the bulletin of Venice's natural history museum, algae from the waters off China, Japan and Korea has become the dominant species in the lagoon, replacing the dark green kelp that has traditionally blighted romantic views from canal bridges.

This is the second time in recent years Venice has been threatened by seaweed. In 1989, a vast yellow scum of rotting algae spread up the Adriatic, in the words of one biologist, "like a cappuccino of cosmic proportions". The slime slick, several hundred miles long, sent holidaymakers fleeing and tourist revenues plummeting.

Daniele Curiel, one of the researchers who discovered the latest invasion, by Undaria pinnatifida, told the newspaper La Repubblica that the effects this time were not as dramatic. Most Venetians had not even noticed one lot of seaweed had taken over from another.

Undaria pinnatifida, also known as Asian kelp, nevertheless figures on the Global Invasive Species Database of 100 least wanted guests, which notes that it "forms dense forests, resulting in competition for light and space, which may lead to the exclusion or displacement of native plant and animal species".

Since it can grow to up to 3 metres (about 10ft) in length, it also has a formidable potential to foul the propellers of boats operating in the lagoon. The kelp is thought to have arrived in bilge water, flushed out by vessels arriving, not from the far east, but from France, where it is grown for use in the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries.

Venice, Piazza San Marco ten seconds ago, live web-cam. Piazza San Marco, Looking Southeast, by Canaletto
1735-40; National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Arizona's GOP Candidate for Governor Calls for Forced Labor Camp for Undocumented Immigrants

EFE, a Mexican news service, described Goldwater's plan as a "concentration camp" for migrants:
Don Goldwater, nephew of the late Sen. Barry Goldwater and candidate for governor in Arizona, caused an international stir this week when EFE, a Mexican news service, quoted him as saying he wanted to hold undocumented immigrants in camps to use them "as labor in the construction of a wall and to clean the areas of the Arizona desert that they're polluting."

Goldwater claims that his comments were taken out of context.

At an April anti-immigration rally:
"Build us that wall now!" Goldwater said, referring to a proposal to add 700 miles of fences along the U.S.-Mexico border. He promised then that if elected, he would put illegal immigrants in a tent city on the border and use their labor to build the wall.

Clips from American Chain Gang, a feature length documentary, profiles the experiences of the prisoners and officers of the recently revived male chain gang and the world's first female chain gang.

This film examines the conditions of these people as they participate in these intense and highly controversial programs. American Chain Gang, investigates the impact of the controversial practice of chaining inmates during forced chained labor. Five prisoners and two officers are profiled before, during and after their release from the chain gang, thus documenting the true impact of the modern chain gang.

The documentary investigates this controversial prison policy through the words and actions of those who it most effects. By giving equal time to both prisoners and corrections officials, the film provides an objective perspective of these environments. However, by presenting the long term effects of this publicity-driven and punitive practice, it ultimately documents the consequent futility and hostility of this controversial prison policy:

Critic's Praise for American Chain Gang:
"American Chain Gang is a bracing look at the resurgence of the work-detail in prisons, stopping first with the sweat-dripping all male chain gangs out straight out of Jim Crow before moving on to innovations like an all female gang in Arizona, a dubious first in the history of corrections."
-- Gary Dauphin, The Village Voice

"Irving's documentary offers sad evidence of the increasing mean-spiritedness of American penology."
-- Steven Holden, The New York Times

"Sharply crafted," "American Chain Gang is a powerful, disturbing documentary about a practice that makes certain corners of the United States seem as enlightened as the Soviet Gulag."
-- Godfrey Cheshire, New York Press

"Irving gives to his first feature-length film a true grasp of documentary style, economical and tough. His film provide an unblinking look at a harsh world that many of us never give much thought to, let alone see."
-- Jerry Renshaw, Austin Chronicle

I don't know what it is that has caused their lack of empathy, whether they've all been beaten, buggered and raped, or were given toys like this to play with when they were children .....

Republicans' Leggos:

.....but there is no excuse for Republicans' refusal to progress and grow.

Americans Lose Touch, Report Fewer Close Friends

People in America have fewer close friends nowadays than two decades ago, researchers announced today:
New research compared studies from 1985 and 2004. On average, each person in 2004 reported 2.08 close friends—those they can discuss important matters with. That's down from 2.94 people in 1985.

People who said they had no one with whom to discuss such matters more than doubled, to nearly 25 percent.

“The evidence shows that Americans have fewer confidants and those ties are also more family-based than they used to be,” said Lynn Smith-Lovin, professor of sociology at Duke University.

“This change indicates something that’s not good for our society," Smith-Lovin said. "Ties with a close network of people create a safety net. These ties also lead to civic engagement and local political action."

The findings are published in the June 2006 issue of the journal American Sociological Review.

The research also showed that people who talk only to family members about important matters increased from 57 percent to 80 percent over the two decades, while the number who depend totally on a spouse rose from 5 percent to 9 percent.

The results are based on responses from more than 1,400 American adults to the General Social Survey, conducted by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago since 1972.

It's all Clinton's and Gore's fault.

At the same site:

There is nothing that wouldn't get better if the Republicans were gone.

The World's Oldest Known Living Animal Has Died

Born when Queen Victoria was still a teenager, before the motorcar was invented, before commercial steam trains, and before the industrial revolution got properly underway, a giant Galapagos tortoise named Harriet and the last living creature that may have known Charles Darwin, died yesterday at least 175 years of age. She lived a long and eventful life on three continents.

Darwin's Reputed Tortoise Dies at 176:

Harriet is thought to have been one of three tortoises taken from the Galapagos Islands by Darwin on his historic 1835 voyage aboard the HMS Beagle. She is believed to have been five years old and the size of a dinner plate when English naturalist Charles Darwin visited South America's Galapagos Islands in 1835. He took her back with him to Britain aboard HMS Beagle. Darwin took three tortoise - Tom, Dick and Harry - unaware the trio were not all boys. It wasn't until the 1950s, after living for more than a century as a male, that Harriet got her new name to accord with her gender.

As a member of an endangered species she was studied by biologists from around the world.

Her capture caused controversy as some, including those at Australia Zoo, believed she was caught by Charles Darwin, the British naturalist who wrote "On the Origin of Species." Darwin took several giant Galapagos tortoises back to London after his epic voyage on board HMS Beagle, which meant Harriet could have played a key role in the theory of evolution.

Some claim that she was one of four giant tortoises known to have been collected by Darwin's expedition to the Galapagos in 1835. The four were loaded on to the Beagle, reaching Plymouth in October 1836, where they fell ill. Two were dead by the following spring. According to biographies offered by Harriet's successive Australian keepers, she was one of the other two, shipped down under in 1841 by John Wickham, a shipmate of Darwin from the Beagle.

This story is supported by the presence of another giant tortoise in the Queensland Museum in Brisbane. With the words "Tom - giant land tortoise died 1929 Brisbane Botanic Gardens" carved on its shell, Tom is thought to be one of three tortoises brought to the country for exhibition in 1841. Harriet may be the third.

Analysis of her DNA by US researchers shows she was almost certainly from Santa Cruz island in the Galapagos. The Beagle's tortoises were taken from Espanola, Santa Maria and San Salvador. But what is not in doubt is Harriet's advanced age - DNA tests made Harriet at least 175.

Civil servant John Wickham brought the Galapagos exhibits with him from London when he came out to the colony in the 1850s to take charge of municipal affairs in what was then the small township of Brisbane.

The 330-pound tortoise was eventually bought by Queensland's Australia Zoo, which is owned by "Crocodile Hunter" Steve Irwin and his wife Terri. Crediting her longevity to a "stress-free life," her caretakers at the Brisbane Zoo, where she had spent the last 17 years of her life as the main atrtraction, announced that she had recently fallen ill and died in her sleep. Senior veterinarian John Dangar told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. on Friday. "She had a fairly acute heart attack and thankfully passed away quietly."

At 176, Harriet died well short of the longevity record of 188 years set by another Galapagos-born tortoise that until his death was the pride and joy of the King of Tonga.

A world treasure in the care and feeding of Steve Irwin, idiot-extraordinaire.

It figures. Another casualty of privatization.

In her death, as in her life, Harriet is showing us that it isn't turtles all the way down.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Friday Cat Blogging

With a twist, and some stripes!

The Lying Dog Days of Summer

Over at The Washington Monthly:
WINNING THE REAL WAR....Andrew Sullivan writes:

Readers know that I don't support any timetable for withdrawal from Iraq. This puts me in the excruciating position of supporting a war conducted by an administration whose key players are manifestly incompetent and reckless.

....Unable to access intelligence, forced to rely on news reports, blogs and other sources for information, I don't have an alternative master-plan to win either. I would support an increase in troop levels, a clear-and-hold strategy, a more aggressive military commitment to protect the infrastructure, and the kind of outreach to alienated Sunnis that Maliki and Khalilzad are attempting. But as long as Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld are running the show, I cannot say I am optimistic that such a sane strategy will be employed or that it will succeed. It's like asking Ken Lay to turn Enron back into an ethical, profit-making company. But what else can I do? I agree with John McCain that peremptory withdrawal or a fixed date would amount to surrender to an enemy that seems to be gaining momentum and strength.

Scratch a Republican and I'll bet a lot of them feel the same way under the surface. They know in their hearts that this administration can't win the war in Iraq, but they can't stand the thought of withdrawing because it seems too much like surrender. So they're stuck supporting a war they know is a losing effort.

"Excruciating" is one word for this, though I might suggest a few others. Instead, I want to ask a question: Why are people like Andrew Sullivan so convinced that a carefully planned phased withdrawal would be such a disaster?

Because it would set off a civil war? Iraq is already in the middle of a civil war, and a public plan for withdrawal might actually make an expansion of the current civil war less likely. In the best case, the Sunni insurgency might become less violent once they know we're genuinely planning to leave. In the worst case, the Shiites will beat them once and for all after we're gone.

Because it would give al-Qaeda a safe haven? But why? A Shiite nation with close ties to Iran would be no friend of al-Qaeda. And freeing up troops in Iraq would allow us to beef up our presence in Afghanistan, where a resurgence of the Taliban is a genuine threat.

Because it would destroy our standing in the world? This is a fatuous argument. Staying in Iraq is doing far more damage to our standing in the world than a careful withdrawal ever would. Withdrawing from Vietnam didn't destroy America's standing in the world, withdrawing from Algeria didn't destroy France's standing in the world, and withdrawing from Lebanon didn't destroy Israel's standing in the world. It was staying too long that did the damage.

If the only way to win a war against Islamic jihadism is by invading and occuping Muslim countries, we're going to lose. Luckily, it's not the way to win. It's time to acknowledge this reality and demand that the Bush administration stop posturing and instead pursue a genuine, long-term winning strategy for the broader war we're fighting. An open-ended commitment to occupying Iraq isn't part of that.

One of Kevin Drum's readers comments:
Smitty, reports from various Iraqi cities speak of scenes reminiscent of tales of the Taliban in Afghanistan regarding treatment of women. Roving enforcers dictating how they dress, banning cell phone usage and the driving of cars. There are reports of girls being prevented from attending school.

The Bush administration is getting that same information from their own Ambassador to Iraq. Two previous reports, aardwolves, from CIA bureau chiefs stationed within Iraq since the war began were the same, and they lost their careers over it. There's no winning left to happen. 80% of the country is in chaos, and the remaining 20% is devolving quickly.

Take a good look at the photos illustrating the piece - they're from every place mentioned in the report. Iraq is a wasteland of heat, sand, radioactive waste, darkness, putrid water, raw sewage, malnutrition, hunger, starvation, unemployment, uncertainty, torture, and death. Remember Katrina and those who remained? Any Iraqis who CAN get out of Iraq, are getting out of Iraq. Those remaining will never be the same. They'll never be whole again. That includes Americans (military and media), too.

Have you taken notice of the correspondents reporting from even the "safe" zone? The green zone inside the city of Baghdad. It has long not been any guarantee of protection. PTSD. It used to be that you only got to see what a bundle of raw nerves the journalists in Iraq (green zone, too) were from the outtakes that never made it onto the air. Any loud noise and they would freeze in terrified paralysis; dry mouth, wide eyes, in a protective crouch. Now you can see all that and more in the on air broadcasts.

Contrary to the Bush administration's insistence that "Nobody could have known...", many knew that once Bush unleashed the dogs of war in Iraq, what is happening now was bound to happen. Bush was desperate to start the war, and silence the growing chorus of critics who were just beginning to break through the Bush administration’s constant, relentless drumbeat to war and focus the nation’s attention . Because once Bush could start the bombing of Iraq, there could be no turning back, no closing of barn doors once the horses are out. Bush hurriedly began bombing Iraq just so this very conversation, the American people assessing Bush's and the Neocons' plan, couldn't take place. Because "Once you're in it, you have to support the troops, and you can only do that by supporting the war....Don't ask any questions!"

All inquiries were hopscotched over. When Bush and Cheney and Rice and Rumsfeld and Powell (and the GOP's most aggressive operatives sent out to make the case for war on the cable and network programs) were asked anything remotely substantive, they soaked up the on air time with rhetoric straight off a talking points list. If an interviewer pressed them, or a policy critic contradicted them and corrected their factoids, exasperated irritation was invariably the response. We know now, after the fact, that the White House would call news bureau chiefs and raise holy hell after programs like those. That explains why fewer opponents to Bush's planned war were appearing in MSM, but were everywhere in the alternative media.

It's not the Democrats or the left that are holding the Bush administration to arbitrary dates for leaving Iraq. The Bush administration has failed to live up to the expectations that they themselves set for this war. Americans did not sign on for a long war in Iraq. They signed up for the one described by the Bush administrationbefore the war:
Back to that email, Mr. Secretary. Hundreds of people have been awakened with dreams of a war with Iraq quickly escalating into World War III. What can effectively be done to limit the conflict, and what is your opinion about the possibility of a wider war breaking out?

Rumsfeld: In the event that force has to be used with Iraq, there will be no World War III. The Gulf War in the 1990s lasted five days on the ground. I can't tell you if the use of force in Iraq today would last five days, or five weeks, or five months, but it certainly isn't going to last any longer than that. And, it won't be a World War III. And if I were to characterize the difference between 1990 and today, the United States military is vastly more powerful. And the Iraqi Army and military capability has declined substantially. The difference is, the reason for needing to disarm Iraq, and that is chemical and biological weapons today, and a very robust effort to develop nuclear weapons tomorrow. And, that is the difference between today and then.

We heard that same message from each emissary of this administration. "Short, in and out," "flowers and candy," "Iraq oil revenues will pay for the whole thing."
If I knew that this was going to be an insurgent war, and I did (as did everyone in my circle of friends far away from the corridors of power in Washington), then, of course, the Bush administration knew.

How can anybody in this administration still get away with saying it (as recently as this week when Cheney said it at a press luncheon), when it was the reason Bush 41 didn't do march on to Baghdad a decade earlier. With today's VP as his SoD, no less!

There were those who signed on, like Colin Powell, because they believed that Bush was going to wage the war in the one way that it might turn out to be a short war (certainly over by now) - an abrupt change of leadership (with smooth sailing for Corporate-World thereafter), as reported by the BBC's Greg Palast, in his new book "Armed Madhouse." There was an outside chance that if Bush went in with overwhelming troop strength, planned for and focused on quelling an insurgency at its inception (by retaining the Iraqi army, government workers, massive rebuilding efforts run by, for and employing Iraqis), it might have worked. IF, Bush's intention was to merely topple Saddam Hussein and install a democratic republic. But that wasn't the intention. Need I list the reasons we should know that it's not and never was the intention?

Bush and Cheney have been talking about this "long war" since 2001. Their emissaries (those like Newt Gingrich, Cliff May, Frank Gaffney, the hacks sent out to sell the policy on cable television) dropped "the U.S. occupied Japan, Germany, Korea, the Phillipines, has had bases in those countries for over fifty years, and Korea" references whenever "when are we bringing the troops home, leaving Iraq?" question was broached. The Bush administration always intended a permanent occupation of Iraq with a puppet front government. They set about building permanent bases in both Afghanistan and Iraq as soon as the Oil Ministries were secured, which was as soon as we stopped dropping bombs. One of the reasons Osama Bin Laden "declared war" on the U.S. was because we (infidels!) have a base in Saudi Arabia. Had. It's now in Iraq. And Kuwait. We were so worried about WMD and Iraq's nuclear capability that we didn't rush to secure any of it. Iraqis looted those facilities while our military was securing the files at Iraq's Oil Ministry.

We talk much about Bush failing in Iraq because it's such a mess according to most sane persons' sensibilities. Have you considered that this is what the Bush administration intended? Has any American President been as successful as this one has been at achieving his domestic (and foreign, too, when you really think about it) agenda? All while remaining in office, in control over all branches of government, despite the lowest approval ratings since Nixon? A unitary Presidency, when exit polling of the last 3 elections put the other party in power, and the mass psychosis has the media who hired the exit pollsters CHANGING the exit poll numbers. Not questioning the tallied ballot counts, but declaring that the exit polls were wrong. When exit polls had, up until this administration, proven to be so scientifically accurate that the U.S. still uses the same methodology to monitor the elections in developing nations.

I read and watch these discussions and wonder how long it's going to take before you realize that you're talking to Republicans, Conservatives, as if they are normal, sane rational patriotic American people. No sane person would keep Rumsfeld on as SoD if what's going on in Iraq wasn't the desired result. No sane majority in Congress would abdicate their power if this wasn't exactly serving their needs, delivering to them more and better, certain power.

Stand back for a bit, observe without responding, and you might come to the same conclusion as I: Only those who are certain of their continued control (remaining in office after the next elections) would be making the decisions that these people are making.

They have already admitted that they know NO MORE than you or I on intelligence matters, and what led up to the decision to go to war. I, and most liberals, actually knew more than our Congress claims to have known, because we listened to all of the experts, on all sides, before the war. We asked questions of those with special knowledge - weapons inspectors, government whistleblowers, who came forward to participate in the national dialogue that was taking place in the alternative media.

The picture that we got, even if you didn't know who or what to believe, was a fevered effort to overwhelm eminent dissenting messengers who disagreed with the Neocons' call to war and prevent them from being heard.

Congress performs no oversight whatsoever on what Bush is doing with taxpayer dollars, in the military, in Iraq, in intelligence agencies, or anywhere. The biggest deficit in the history of the world, billions are missing, squandered and wasted, and Congress has held no hearings?

Congress admits to being kept in the dark by this "Unitary Executive" on everything from surveillance programs of the American people to war appropriations. They continue to abdicate their role, demur and defer to their Constitutional co-equal partner. That's never happened. Never in the history of the U.S., never in the history of the world.

It also goes counter to every law of animal nature. Having alpha personalities drove these people to compete for leadership roles in the richest most powerful country in the world. To make the laws of the land in the Congress of the United States. That's a powerful drive for power. And it never ends. If you looked at their school records, I'd bet they were in student government, captains of the football team, debating society presidents. Whatever the area, they rose to prominence. But now, they have ceased participating? Their poll numbers are plunging. And despite being lied to by the occupants and representatives of the Executive branch, they're not changing their positions on anything. In fact, they're only making more preposterous proclaimations (Santorum and his latest on WMD in Iraq) and shamelessly pandering to the Republican Christian rightwing fundamentalist base.

What is that telling you?

Here's a hint: Even when the Republican Christian rightwing fundamentalist base shows up in force at the polls, they are outnumbered by everybody else. What does Karl Rove have to do to get the Christian rightwing base to show up at the polls (and at the very real risk of losing the moderates in the Republican party) (answer: create chaos with inflammatory insubstantial issues), and in that chaos, what is he able to pull off?

Stealing elections.

The left isn't wrong on the issues, and our positions aren't unpopular. Our positions got us more legal votes than the right in the last 3 elections. Cast, legal ballots. I'm not even referring now to their Democratic voter and ballot suppression stunts, or dirty tricks like jamming Democrats' "get out the vote" campaigns on election day. I'm talking about legally cast and filled out ballots that never got counted. I'm talking about voting machines that consistently erred in Bush's/Republicans' favor and never (rarely, but so rare as to be statistically impossible) in Kerry's/Gore's/Democrats favor. I'm talking about whole preceincts in Democratic strongholds voting Republican.

Throw off the rhetoric of "they get votes by keeping the people scared, in a state of constant wars" and "they're better at getting the base out to the polls." In an odd, twisted sense, one of the benefits and purposes of their war efforts and their "get out the fundamentalist vote" campaigns is just so they can make a claim to explain their "wins" - when they haven't actually gotten the votes to win elections that they must then steal.

I have a question for people who think that spoiled Democratic ballots are due to stupid voters (stupid black people, stupid elderly people, native-Americans, and all other special interest/minority groups within the Democratic party). Are Christian fundamentalists, that call in to political talk shows and spout gospel, quote passages in the bible, smarter, more capable of filling out ballots correctly than Christians or blacks or elderly or any other in the Democratic party? How about hispanics? Wouldn't you think that hispanics' ballots would be spoiled at a similar rate between the two parties? Cuban immigrants' vs. Mexican immigrants? El Salvadoran vs. Guatemalan? Even within Mexico itself, immigrants from different regions. English is still a second language and equally challenging to understand on a ballot. And yet it's the groups identified as Democrats that are having their votes suppressed, challenged, thrown out.

Unless and until we fix the broken election process, all the rest of this talk is useless. The American people have already voted, in overwhelming numbers, against everything this administration and Republicans stand for.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Japan: Lives Out of Balance - A Nation of workaholics sleeping on the job

'Nap salons' are popping up all over Japan:
For high school students everywhere, the classroom desk is often a place to catch a few winks of sleep. But instead of receiving a scolding, dozing teenagers at Meizen high school are more likely these days to find their teachers dimming the lights, putting on classical music and joining their students for a power nap.

In a nation known for its tireless diligence, the students have joined a repose revolution that has investment bankers and bureaucrats sharing lunchtime with the sandman. Meizen High, in this progressive southern metropolitan area of 5 million, last year became the first school in the nation to promote mental alertness by officially encouraging all students to take 15-minute naps in their classrooms after lunch. Several schools have followed suit, and others have said they might adopt the practice.

After-lunch naps have long been stigmatized as a sign of laziness in a society that experts call among the most sleep-deprived on earth. But, suddenly, they have become the latest rage, part of a mental alertness craze sweeping a nation known for its fondness for such fads.

Inventions From the Old Days: "Slave-driving Japanese bosses have now introduced the 'Nap Man' to the work place. No matter if you spend 5 hours commuting each day, if you dare to nod off at work, 'Nap Man' gives you a friendly 1 volt *ZZZTTTTT!* to urge you back to work. The traditional 'three strikes' rule, of course, applies to frequent noxious nappers. Don't ask what voltage THAT is!"

A flurry of scientific studies, books and high-profile news reports are heralding mini-siestas as an integral part of new daily regimens for enhancing mental agility.

Particularly popular in these regimens are activities such as coloring books that challenge adults to stay inside the lines of a Van Gogh painting and video games that are said to test intelligence with rapid-fire questions.

Nap salons
But the rise of the mini-siesta is perhaps the most noticeable evidence of the Japanese interest in gaining a mental edge. In the past two years, nap salons, as they're known, have popped up in Japan's major cities. One such salon in central Tokyo, Napia, boasts some 1,500 members. Fatigued office workers can take a brief lunchtime nap on a daybed there for the equivalent of about $4.50.

The Japanese have gotten the nap down to a science. Sleep studies by researchers in Japan and abroad have suggested that nappers not let their afternoon slumber last more than 30 minutes, lest they fall into a deeper sleep and awake feeling more groggy than refreshed. To that end, Napia offers its customers a cup of coffee before nap time. Caffeine takes about 20 minutes to kick in, so the java kick acts as a natural wake-up call.

"My nap is such an important part of my day," said Kunikazu Tabata, a 39-year-old asset manager who began napping regularly a year ago. Straightening his tie and rearranging his hair in the Napia lobby after a 25-minute power nap, he continued: "With the economy getting better, I've got more and more work and am only getting about five hours of sleep at night. Without this nap, I'd be tired all the time."

Department stores and catalogues now sell "desk pillows." Some Japanese companies have successfully pressed to have nap salon fees covered by health insurance providers, while others are endorsing something long unthinkable here -- in-office napping. On a recent day at Japan's Environmental Ministry, several young workers in the final stretch of their lunch breaks could be seen unabashedly dozing, their cheeks resting on plush towels spread out over their arms. Inside the Tokyo offices of Toyota Motor Corp., afternoon power naps have become commonplace -- particularly because the company switches off the office lights during lunchtime to save energy.

"When we see people napping during lunchtime, we think, 'They are getting ready to put 100 percent in during the afternoon,' " said Paul Nolasco, a Toyota spokesman in Tokyo. "Nobody frowns upon it. And no one hesitates to take one during lunchtime either."

National debate
Images of exhausted executives conked out inside coffeehouses or on buses or subways during long commutes home have long been a fixture of Japan's urban landscape.

But the office power nap was anathema to Japan, even as the concept became popular in the United States and Europe. Naohisa Uchimura, a sleep specialist at Kurume University in southern Japan, said that began to change in 2003 after a bullet-train conductor made headlines by nodding off at the controls.

Though automatic train mechanisms prevented an accident, the driver's inability to get enough sleep at night started a heated national debate.

"People are realizing that our lack of sleep is actually slowing us down," Uchimura said, adding that Japanese workers get an average of between five and six hours of sleep a night. "To be in top shape well into the evening hours at the office, you need to take a nap."

Japan is actually re-catching nap fever, said Tadao Hori, a sleep researcher at Hiroshima University. Afternoon napping -- particularly among farmers who toiled in the early morning -- was a common practice in ancient Japan, he said. The custom expanded during the 17th century after missionaries from the Iberian Peninsula brought the concept of siestas to Japanese shores.

"I don't know if all the samurais were taking siestas, but I can say that after Japan was exposed to the 'non-siesta' countries in Europe -- England, Germany, France -- the idea of napping gradually became taboo in Japan," Hori said. "Thankfully, that is now changing."

'Changed my life'

It has been to the benefit of the 991 students at Meizen high school, where summer break does not begin until July and where surveys showed most students slept only five to six hours a night. Since the napping program was introduced in June 2005, test scores have markedly increased and reports of students drifting off during class have sharply declined, said the principal, Shinei Otaka.

"You can't compare the lifestyles of these kids to kids back in the States," said Melissa Fabrose, the English teacher at Meizen who is on an exchange program this year from her San Francisco high school. "Most of these kids are waking up around 5:30 or 6 a.m., and lots of them are commuting on public transport. Some of them are traveling more than two hours each way and then spend lots of time studying. They don't have a lot of time to sleep."

Though the afternoon naps at Meizen are optional, they are strongly encouraged. Most students have eagerly seized the opportunity. Masaki Chiba, a 15-year-old freshman who dreams of being an astronomer, said he selected Meizen from eight possible high schools in his district because of the napping program.

"There was a time when I wasn't able to nap because of my commitments with the astronomy club, and I felt like I'd lost my concentration," he said. "It's changed my life."

Japan is a nation that is seriously out of balance. They’re moving in the wrong direction - the multinational corporate model, American-style. Previously in Japan, people were falling asleep on the job and in class, and were chastised for it:

"Slave-driving Japanese bosses have now introduced the 'Nap Man' to the work place. No matter if you spend 5 hours commuting each day, if you dare to nod off at work, 'Nap Man' gives you a friendly 1 volt *ZZZTTTTT!* to urge you back to work. The traditional 'three strikes' rule, of course, applies to frequent noxious nappers. Don't ask what voltage THAT is!"

Then, Corporate media mocked it and legitimized sadistic cruelty:

In addition to sleep deprivation, these people now have PTSD.

The true motivation behind the mocking – Japanese business was losing $30 billion annually to sleep deprivation.

This current campaign to de-stigmatize napping avoids a discussion that needs to take place in Japan (and all democratic nations worldwide): Would you rather sleep or earn $30 billion for upper management, CEOs, Boards of Directors and shareholders to enjoy?

If there is so much work to do that workers aren't getting necessary sleep, much less off-work hours to support balanced lives with families, friends and other interests, businesses need to hire more people to do the work. If workers spend hours traveling to work and back home daily, if students are not sleeping enough, if they must travel more than two hours to reach school each day and then travel more than two hours to get home again that same day, the entire society is out of kilter.

People all over the world are looking to have more leisure time, not more time working. The Japanese are no different. They are losing sleep not because they want to walk around in a continual fog, not because they love their work, or love to study, but because to get their jobs and to keep their jobs, they must sustain nearly impossible work loads that leave them chronically sleep-deprived.

Instead of Corporations and the government leaders beholding to them creating cities that would support balanced democratic culture, they respond: “If you must sleep, do it on your own time…while you eat or shower.”
Corporations aren’t offering to share the wealth derived from improved productivity. Workers worldwide are told that they must continually improve work productivity and expect little, if any, added compensation for their efforts. In many corners of the world, the satisfaction of having a job should be compensation enough.

Corporate heads stress that the continually increasing, high productivity quotas for employees are necessary for the Corporation’s health and to remain competitive in a global marketplace. Toward that end, Corporations think nothing of wringing the last drop out of the work force. It’s a trend in industrialized nations everywhere: A complete dedication and commitment of the worker’s life to the corporation. But it’s not a two-way street.

'The New World Order' and the backwards motion of the human condition
The term (“the new world order”) was used in a speech given in 1990 by then President George H.W. Bush. It was never defined or explained, yet it became the basis for which Conservatives raced to accomplish their wildest dreams: A tax-free Xanadu, with unrestricted growth, no social or moral responsibility, with runaway profits for a very few so that they may escape behind gated communities the hell they've wrought on the world.

It had to done quickly, before anyone could think and realize where it would lead. By fanning anxiety, whipping up an apocalyptic sense that “we’re all on our own" and it’s “every man for himself.” It has proven a convenient distraction as Republicans raid the U.S. Treasury, raid pension funds, destroy unions, social security and Medicare, government agencies, assistance programs and the expectations of citizens (rescue operations after civil emergencies). It is exactly the wrong model for a world that is growing smaller by the second.

Are Long Working Hours, Poor Working Conditions, Long Worker Commutes Necessary to Businesses' Survival?
Of course not, and they're only possible with UNREGULATED capitalism, and its lopsided compensation structure: Benefits and bonuses for upper level management, annual multi-million dollar profit-sharing bonuses and platinum parachutes for CEOs. The workers actually toiling and creating the product can expect health benefits' cuts, pension takeaways, longer working hours for less compensation all under a constant threat of losing jobs to overseas workers willing and able to work in a country where the cost of living is a fraction of that in the U.S. If those workers actually receive any compensation at all.

It is impressive how trusting and cooperative workers are when it comes to helping Corporations resist regulation, even if it means their own inhumane treatment (and the inhumane treatment of others half a world away. That only works for so long. As the world grows smaller and the internet brings everyone everywhere nearer to one another, there are growing numbers of informed and pissed off people waking up to the inequities in their lives caused by a world run by Conservatives.

It is eminently possible for employee- and environment-friendly businesses to compete and prosper. Regulated versus unregulated capitalism, "making a living" as opposed to "making a killing." It can be done, and it will be done. It will just take a little longer.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Frontline reports: "Congress Had Access to ALL Intel That Bush Had" . . . .

. . . . The question that the media has failed to ask them is did members of Congress (access it)?

Members of the House and Senate have said that they trusted the Bush, took him (and his administration) at his word about Iraq's WMD (and nuclear weapons ambition and capability) because they did not have access to the same intelligence that Bush had: The NIE.

According to Frontline, that's not true:

Which members of Congress read it and which members didn't?

If all members of Congress had access to it, why didn't they all read it before they voted to take the nation to war in Iraq?

View the entire Frontline program - this clip came from part 4, "The NIE".

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Today's 'Coolness' Site


Going to New York? Great!


Tuesday, June 20, 2006

BAD NEIGHBORS: Japan & Whaling Lobby Win Vote Towards Commercial Whaling

Japan and the whaling lobby have finally gained a simple majority vote at the IWC. The IWC passed by one vote (1) a declaration (2) that the "IWC has failed to meet its obligations…" its commitments to "normalizing the functions of the IWC…" in support of commercial whaling.

The justification for the declaration - that whales consume so much fish that they are a threat to food security for coastal nations – was patently absurd, said Greenpeace.

"Greenpeace is disgusted that any member of the IWC would seek to promote whaling through this Japanese-promoted declaration", said Jo McVeagh, whales campaigner for Greenpeace NZ.

"For millions of years fish and whales have coexisted quite happily. In recent years vast armadas of factory fishing fleets have collapsed global fish populations. Drift nets, bottom trawling and long lines have taken a huge toll in wiping out ocean life over our lifetimes".

"Blaming whales for collapsing fisheries is like blaming woodpeckers for deforestation."

The legitimacy of the vote remains in serious question. A number of countries, including New Zealand, have tabled serious reservations and disassociated themselves from the resolution.

This is the first significant vote that Japan has won at the IWC in the past 20 years. In reality, this declaration will change little or nothing. Previous votes over recent days have already rejected attempts by the whalers to agree resolutions to: * end any consideration by the IWC of protection for small cetaceans, * bring in secret ballots, * allow Japan an exception to the commercial moratorium to hunt Minke and Brydes whales in its territorial waters and , * end the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.

"After the last whaling season which ended in March, the five Japanese companies which own the whaling fleet announced they would divest their share to the Government's Institute for Cetacean Research. There is no commercial market for whale meat in Japan. The notion that whaling is vital to cultural heritage, food security and poverty is absurd," said Jo McVeagh.

Bandar Bush and All of Bush's Allies in His War on Terror are Greater Security Threats to American Citizens Than These People

U.S. Intelligence Agencies, Desperate for Arabic Speakers, Reject the Best & Brightest

George W. Bush and Saudi Ambassador Prince Bandar bin Sultan, aka "Bandar Bush" because of his close personal relationship with the Bush family, in the family residence at the White House on 9/12/01.

With the vast amount of information that has been uncovered since 9/11/01, to say that the Bush administration is championing the cause against al Qaeda and terrorism is to be ignorant of the facts. The 9/11 Commission's report has 28 pages that Bush has classified on the Saudi links to al Qaeda.

Some of the most telling information to date comes from James Risen, NYT reporter who reports in his book "State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration," that after Abu Zubaydah was captured in March 2002, he was discovered to have had two bank cards on his person one from a Kuwaiti bank, and another from a Saudi bank, which Risen writes "had the potential to be keys that could unlock some of al Qaeda's darkest secrets. The cards "could give us entrée right into who was funding al Qaeda, no link analysis needed," said one American source. "You could track money right from the financiers to a top al Qaeda figure." But something very odd happened when the FBI and CIA team [that collected Zubaydah's personal and business effects]. There is little evidence that an aggressive investigation of the cards was ever conducted.

"Two American sources familiar with the matter say that they don't believe the government's experts on terrorism financing have ever thoroughly probed the transactions in Abu Zubaydah's accounts…" Risen writes that a "Muslim financier with a questionable past, and with connections to the Afghan Taliban, al Qaeda, and Saudi intelligence agreed to work with [American investigators]" on this story. Risen says that the financier reported that in 2004, "18 months earlier, he said he had been told, Saudi intelligence officials seized all of the records related to [Zubaydah's Saudi bank card]; the records then disappeared… The timing of the reported seizure of the records by Saudi intelligence closely coincided with the timing of Abu Zubaydah's capture in Pakistan in March 2002."

Five years after 9/11/01, and the only meaningful reform in Saudi Arabia is harsher torture of detainees who the U.S. abducts through general sweeps, NSA wide-net electronic surveillance programs, or just because. A hunch. School textbooks in Saudi Arabia still promote extremism, anti-Western rhetoric:
The passages below -- drawn from the same set of Saudi texts proudly cited in the new 74-page review of curriculum reform being distributed by the Saudi Embassy -- are shaping the views of the next generation of Saudis and Muslims worldwide. Unchanged, they will only harden and deepen hatred, intolerance and violence toward other faiths and cultures, according to the author of the above article.

``Every religion other than Islam is false.''

``Fill in the blanks with the appropriate words (Islam, hellfire): Every religion other than -------- is false. Whoever dies outside of Islam enters -------- .''

``True belief means . . . that you hate the polytheists and infidels but do not treat them unjustly.''

``Whoever obeys the Prophet and accepts the oneness of God cannot maintain a loyal friendship with those who oppose God and His Prophet, even if they are his closest relatives.''

``It is forbidden for a Muslim to be a loyal friend to someone who does not believe in God and His Prophet, or someone who fights the religion of Islam.''

``A Muslim, even if he lives far away, is your brother in religion. Someone who opposes God, even if he is your brother by family tie, is your enemy in religion.''

``Just as Muslims were successful in the past when they came together in a sincere endeavor to evict the Christian Crusaders from Palestine, so will the Arabs and Muslims emerge victorious, God willing, against the Jews and their allies if they stand together and fight a true jihad for God, for this is within God's power.''

``As cited in Ibn Abbas: The apes are Jews, the people of the Sabbath; while the swine are the Christians, the infidels of the communion of Jesus.''

``God told His Prophet, Muhammad, about the Jews, who learned from parts of God's book (the Torah and the Gospels) that God alone is worthy of worship. Despite this, they espouse falsehood through idol-worship, soothsaying and sorcery. In doing so, they obey the devil. They prefer the people of falsehood to the people of the truth out of envy and hostility. This earns them condemnation and is a warning to us not to do as they did.''

``They are the Jews, whom God has cursed and with whom He is so angry that He will never again be satisfied'' with them.

``Some of the people of the Sabbath were punished by being turned into apes and swine. Some of them were made to worship the devil, and not God, through consecration, sacrifice, prayer, appeals for help and other types of worship. Some of the Jews worship the devil. Likewise, some members of this nation worship the devil, and not God.''

``The clash between this community and the Jews and Christians has endured, and it will continue as long as God wills.''

``It is part of God's wisdom that the struggle between the Muslim and the Jews should continue until the hour'' of judgment.

``Muslims will triumph because they are right. He who is right is always victorious, even if most people are against him.''

The 10th-grade text on jurisprudence teaches that life for non-Muslims (as well as women and, by implication, slaves) is worth a fraction of that of a ``free Muslim male.'' Blood money is retribution paid to the victim or the victim's heirs for murder or injury:

``Blood money for a free infidel is half of the blood money for a male Muslim, whether or not he is `of the book,' '' such as a pagan, Zoroastrian, etc.

``Blood money for a woman: half of the blood money for a man, in accordance with his religion. The blood money for a Muslim woman is half of the blood money for a male Muslim, and the blood money for an infidel woman is half of the blood money for a male infidel.''

``The greeting `Peace be upon you' is specifically for believers. It cannot be said to others.''

``If one comes to a place where there is a mixture of Muslims and infidels, one should offer a greeting intended for the Muslims.''

``Jihad in the path of God -- which consists of battling against unbelief, oppression, injustice and those who perpetrate it -- is the summit of Islam. This religion arose through jihad, and through jihad was its banner raised high. It is one of the noblest acts, which brings one closer to God, and one of the most magnificent acts of obedience to God.''
Add to that:
State Department complacency toward Saudi monetary assistance to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers left the victims' families little choice but to file a civil lawsuit against a Jordan-based bank distributing the money.

Which leads back to the subject of this Newsweek report:
Daniel Kopp, a fluent Arabic speaker who had moved to Washington, D.C. in hopes of working for one of the government's security services, had already passed the first interview at the Department of Homeland Security. The son of American Christian missionaries, Kopp grew up in Jerusalem, went to high school with Palestinians and mastered the kind of nuanced, throaty Arabic that most graduates of language institutes back home could only envy. Now Kopp was sitting across the table from Wayne Parent, director of current operations at DHS, who seemed to recognize the worth of this fellow American with an insider's understanding of Arab society. "We very much need people like you," Kopp quotes Parent as saying at the interview. The operations chief told Kopp that in a meeting he'd just had with the Department's batch of 84 new recruits, he had asked how many Arabic speakers were in the room. Not one hand had gone up.

Kopp, who is 28 and has a degree in Middle Eastern and Islamic studies, left expecting a quick job offer. When a month passed, he phoned Parent and heard a different refrain: problems with the security-clearance system prevented Kopp from being hired. (Parent did not respond to an interview request.)

So began an exasperating odyssey for Kopp, one that highlights a flaw in the way linguists are recruited by agencies that lead the war on terror. Over the next 14 months, he was courted by government bureaus desperate for his skills—including the CIA, NSA and State Department—only to be turned down over what clearance investigators apparently deemed a security red flag: the fact that he spent long years overseas and has family abroad (Kopp's parents still live in Jerusalem, as do his in-laws). Kopp's plight is not unique. Lawyers and lawmakers who deal in the matter say that long after 9/11, the security-clearance system is still stacked against some of the best linguists—those who learn their language natively. "The system inhibits individuals who, on their own initiative, traveled to the region, learned the language and want to contribute to the U.S. security effort," says Rebecca Givner-Forbes, an analyst at the Terrorism Research Center, a for-profit, nonpartisan think tank in Arlington, Va.

Some extra caution is understandable. Agencies that trade in America's most guarded secrets worry that applicants who have lived overseas might have come under the sway of foreign groups. Relatives abroad, the fear is, could become targets of blackmail schemes by hostile countries trying to squeeze information from Americans. "We want to make sure we're bringing in people with the right skills while also managing the risk," said a CIA official, who could not be named discussing recruitment policy.

The problem might just be in the way the guidelines are applied. "Much of the time, it seems completely arbitrary," says Sheldon Cohen, a Virginia lawyer who petitions against clearance-board decisions. Sometimes foreign ties spawn legitimate probing, he says. Other times, it leads to automatic disqualification. One of Cohen's clients is an Iraqi Christian who fled Saddam Hussein's regime 25 years ago and became a U.S. citizen. In 2003, he took a private contracting job as an interpreter in Iraq and later Guantánamo, getting a clearance to view secret documents and participate in classified interrogations. But his clearance wasn't renewed last year. The reason: he has a sister and a sister-in-law in Iraq—information investigators had known before.

Government officials involved in vetting applicants wouldn't comment on specific cases but said all the security agencies had made headway in enlisting Arabic speakers since September 11, and in recruiting Arab-Americans. Only the State Department provided hard numbers. Its spokeswoman said the full-time Arabic-speaking staff had grown since 2001 from 198 to 231. Officials from both Homeland Security and the CIA said their agencies have new recruiting programs that target university language students.

But Arabic linguists say that's where the recruiters fall down. While most U.S. universities teach modern standard Arabic, the colloquial Arabic actually spoken across the Middle East is a different vernacular—and it varies from country to country. The result: schoolbook linguists are ushered in while the really proficient speakers are kept out.

Kopp's experience underscores the point. He was eventually offered a State Department job, investigated for more than a year, then told "foreign influence" thwarted his clearance. While he waited, Kopp corresponded with a few top security officials he'd met at public conferences. One was William Nolte, who worked on shaping the CIA's foreign-language policies after 9/11. In an e-mail exchange last year, Nolte (who did not respond to NEWSWEEK queries) said he was discouraged that Kopp was still jobless. "I'm retiring in August," Nolte wrote. "I can be more effective arguing for reform from the outside." That was last August. Reform, it seems, still needs to be translated into reality.

This is why Bush's world view, "us against them," is never going to win any war on terror. People around the world, the real, average, ordinary, work-a-day people in the Middle East and everywhere else, aren't any threat to Americans. And that is where terrorists come from, how they get transformed. From the ranks of ordinary people who have been maltreated, terrorized, by those with power greater than their own. Then they project the violation and violence that they have been subjected to under the tyrannies imposed upon them, which invariably has been due to American foreign policy. By the policies of the Bushes and the Sauds, policies that helped to get them vast riches.

That's where the war on terror must start. Changing our foreign policies, and getting rid of all those politicians that support them as our status quo. Until we do, we will never know peace, equality, justice or prosperity, for all people, and not just for a privileged few.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Another "Quit Complaining About Your Job" Monday

Manic Monday

'Here Kitty Kitty' Thought He Was Being Invited to Join the Family at the Table

"What Else Could 'We're having the cat for dinner' Mean?"

Cat activists storm Chinese restaurant
The incipient animal rights movement in China scored an unlikely victory at the weekend when it invaded a restaurant advertising cat meatballs.

About 40 activists stormed into the Fangji cat meatball restaurant, in Shenzhen, just over the border from Hong Kong, and forced it to close.

Outside, they hung banners that said: "Cats and dogs are friends of humans. Stop eating them, please."

Attitudes to domestic animals have until recently been seen as one of the great East-West cultural divides. Dogs are a delicacy in Korea and China.

Cats are eaten less but are a speciality in parts of the south, as are rat, civet cat, spiny anteaters and others.

But animal rights organisations are growing more active as the number of people keeping pets rises.

The owner of the Fangji restaurant said he would stop serving cat. Apparently he had warning of the attack, as no live animals were found on the premises. But a skinned cat was found in the fridge, causing some protesters to burst into tears.

Demonstrators said the restaurant, in south China's Guangdong Province, was singled out because it openly slaughtered cats on the sidewalk and said the bloody sight was unnerving for students. The protest drew a large crowd including children:
Isobel, founder of a cat-protection website based in Shenzhen and organizer of the protest, and other activists started the protest at 4 p.m. with a white rose on the chest in memory of the slaughtered cats, holding banners and handing out handbills to denounce eating cats and dogs.

Isobel, in her 30s, told Xinhua over telephone on Sunday that they chose the restaurant Fangji Cat Meatball because it slaughtered cats in the street and "it is very bad for the students from nearby schools."

In many parts of China especially the southern regions, people take cat meat as their favorite diet. Previous reports said that in Guangzhou alone the citizens ate 10,000 cats every day in the winter season.

There were no live cats in the restaurant as the owner, according to an eyewitness, relocated them to other places on Friday night.

"I cannot go on with my business, and I will not sell cat meat any more," the restaurant owner said after removing his shop sign from the wall. However, he persisted in Guangdong there is a tradition in eating cats.

"We will continue to protest if this restaurant still sells cat meat," Isobel said.

To her satisfaction, many students on the spot told Isobel that they would keep a close watch on the restaurant and report to her if anything happens to cats.

Eating cats and dogs is often seen in Guangdong, but "you cannot keep eating only because it is a tradition," Isobel argued.

Also spotted on a shelf in the restaurant's kitchen was a cookbook entitled "101 Ways to Wok Your Dog."