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Daily Topics & Commentary:
Friday, September 8
The Legal Debate
Interrogation Methods Rejected by Military Win Bushs Support
Friday, Septembert 8 (New York Times)Many of the harsh interrogation techniques repudiated by the Pentagon on Wednesday would be made lawful by legislation put forward the same day by the Bush administration. And the courts would be forbidden from intervening.

News, updates and insights on the midterm elections, the race for 2008 and everything in-between.

The proposal is in the last 10 pages of an 86-page bill devoted mostly to military commissions, and it is a tangled mix of cross-references and pregnant omissions.

But legal experts say it adds up to an apparently unique interpretation of the Geneva Conventions, one that could allow C.I.A. operatives and others to use many of the very techniques disavowed by the Pentagon, including stress positions, sleep deprivation and extreme temperatures.

Its a Jekyll and Hyde routine, Martin S. Lederman, who teaches constitutional law at Georgetown University, said of the administrations dual approaches.

In effect, the administration is proposing to write into law a two-track system that has existed as a practical matter for some time.

So-called high-value detainees held by the C.I.A. have been subjected to tough interrogation in secret prisons around the world.

More run-of-the-mill prisoners held by the Defense Department have, for the most part, faced milder questioning, although human rights groups say there have been widespread abuses.

The new bill would continue to give the C.I.A. the substantial freedom it has long enjoyed, while the revisions to the Army Field Manual announced Wednesday would further restrict military interrogators. More

Values' We Have to Hide Abroad
Friday, September 68 (Washington Post)If the secret prisons where U.S. agents interrogated "high-value" terrorism suspects with "alternative" techniques are so legitimate and legal, if they're so fully consistent with American values and traditions, then why are they overseas?

That's one thing the Decider didn't tell us Wednesday in his forceful yet obfuscatory speech confirming the existence of the CIA prisons and announcing the transfer of 14 detainees to Guantanamo Bay, including boldface-name miscreants such as Khalid Sheik Mohammed, Ramzi Binalshibh and Abu Zubaida.

The president at least gave a reason why the locations of the prisons are still being kept secret, even if it wasn't the whole story. He said secrecy was needed to protect our allies from terrorist retribution, which might well be true. But governments of the host countries are probably more worried about the ire of the citizens who elected them, given the unpopularity of the Bush administration's foreign policy in much of the world, and some doubtless are concerned that the secret prisons violate host-country laws and international treaties.

In other words, the prisons (which apparently have been emptied, for the moment, but not closed down) were kept secret because they're overseas. But the Decider said not a word about why he decided the prisons had to be located in other countries in the first place.

Why not hold the suspects, say, in one of the many super-secure facilities in and around Washington? They would be much more accessible to the CIA, the FBI, the Pentagon and any other agency that wanted a crack at them. And since al-Qaeda is already determined to attack the United States, why even risk creating potential problems for loyal overseas allies? Why not interrogate America's deadliest enemies on American soil?

Since the president didn't address this question, I'll try. The only reason that makes any sense to me is that the Decider wanted to put his secret prisons beyond the reach of U.S. courts. I think the president and his lawyers knew from the beginning that detaining suspects indefinitely and wringing information out of them with methods that international agreements define as torture -- "an alternative set of procedures" was the president's delicate euphemism -- wouldn't amuse even the most law-and-order federal judge. More

3:19 pmIcing on the Lie Cake

Here, for the last few authoritarian die-hards and those who were too busy following Paris, Tom, and whatever airiness that kept you from following what truly matters to the nation you live in is:

The US Senate Select Committee Report on Postwar Findings About Iraq's WMD Programs and Links to Terrorism and How They Compare with Prewar Assessments

Ed note: no wonder Bush went on the offensive. This report makes him out to be an even bigger liar than he already is.

1:25 pmCommander Jon Burge and President George W. Bush

It's amazing how what Bush says isn't applied to broader applications. Bush is on his latest mano-a-mano tear, declaring that career Judicial Branch members and military lawyers can't come up with a legal system better than that of his administration. He's betting the farm that the only way to try real terrorist suspects is his way. And he throwing down the gauntlet by saying that information recieved by way of torture should be allowed as testimony, and evidence against a suspect shouldn't be shared with the accusseds' counsel.

35 Years ago, we called that any Soviet state.

But here's one that I'll focus on a little, and contrast it against something that's generating real outrage here in Chicago. Back in the 70's amd 80's Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge was fired for torturing confessions out of up to 108 suspects. This evidence was entered into court as testimony, and all suspects were found guilty. Burge and his cronies used cattle prods, beatings, jammed loaded guns into the mouths of suspects, and pretty much whatever else was needed to get the confession. In 1982, a suspect who was convicted of double homicide fought back. He won a new trial, and soon it was outBurge and his "detectives" were criminals. Wrongful convictions were awarded to 13 men, and many, many cases had to go back to trial.

Apply the Burge logic to George W. Bush. After all, he wants Congress to legally adopt the measures that got Burge fired.

Doesn't quite seem as patriotic now, does it?

Thursday, September 7
5:20 pmSorry Folks, Lots Going on in My Life

It's been a piece of something these past few weeks. Big Boy weeks, as someone called them. The weeks you realize that, no matter how much of an adult you are, adult decisions are hard ones. First my wife and I made the decision to have my Mom put into a nursing home. Tough day, tough call. One of those moments where you look at yourself and say, "shit." Then a few days after that, she was rushed into emergency surgery to have a small section of her colon removed. Bacteria. So as the only child, I have to authorize the surgery, and later decide whether or not to have a feeding tube inserted to ensure she gets the daily nutrition she needs. Why? You see, she already has trouble swallowing; dysphagia is what they call it. She was on a ventilator for the surgery and the day or so it took to stabilize her. She had a minor, minor stroke (I can say that, because it didn't happen to me). Combine that with an irregular heart beat, and they wanted to make sure nothing got in the way of her making it out of the operating room alive.

The vent apparently irritates your throat, and ultimately makes it even more difficult to swallow. So she's not eating as much as she should, which makes it harder to heal, and leave the hospital. She responded well to a nasal feeding tube, and once discharged (probably Sunday/Monday) the IV feeding tube should serve as a backstop if she doesn't eat enough orally.

So I've spent the past few weeks being an absolute piece of work. There's things I wanted to post about, but didn't feel the fire. Forgive me, it's been a helluva few days.

Thursday, August 24
1:14 pm"Next on CBS, Race War, the Game Show!"

Television is the lastno next to lastno, it's another home for really stupid people willing to do anything for ratings and money. Scratch that, another home for really stupid white people. Sorry if I offend, but it's no secret that my pale brethren run the entertainiment industry. As we all know, the first breakout reality show for the networks was "Survivor." Years later, the show's ratings are sagging. No suprise, as viewer's tastes change. Survivor had a good run, even if it was a really stupid show.

But, in a bid to reverse it's sagging fortunes, the white guys at CBS came up with this great idea for the show's next season. As you know, the show is based on team play to accomplish goals, as well as individual Machiavellian moves to ensure the victory by the eventual Survivor. Well the boys at CBS think it would be good to have race-based teams. One team is all Black, the other all white, the other all Asian-American, Hispanic, and so on.

Nice. I'm sure the neo-Nazis, racists, and their wannabees will be glued to the set. "Go Whitey!" "Beat the mud people!" "Wheeeee!" "RACE WAR-RACE WAR-RACE WAR!"

Based on the show's track record of attracting the best the human race has to offer, I can't wait to read about how the whites complain about the blacks and asians. If there ever was a cauldron for engineered racial strife, it's a reality show. I'm thinking it won't be long until we hear the words, "whitey," "honky," "nigger," "slope," "slant-eye,""coon, "spic," "wetback," and other denotations of human kindness. I'm sure it will be a great show to watch, if you like seeing morons be even more inane simply because the camera is always running. The only problem is that you'll probably feel the need to shower afterwards.

Imagine the social commentary that will come from the show. CBS and other media will trot out socioloical "experts" from various junior colleges and Third World universities to tell us that the 60 minute show, edited from weeks of footage, is is an accurate reflection of American society. The show's host, Jeff Probst, called the new season a "social experiment." The things people will say for a paycheck. And if he really believes it, he's as dim as we really belive him to be.

Anyway, I've got a great reality show . Take entertainment executives, make them live in the homes and neighborhoods of Black people, Asians, Hispanics, and poor whites. Put a camera on them so we can see these pampered, rich bozos learn about the real world they don't live in. For me and the rest of the mud people, it would be great fun to watch.

Tuesday, August 22
Police hit out at FBI over leaks
Tuesday, August 22 (The Observer)Anti-terror police in Britain have made an angry request to their US counterparts asking them to stop leaking details of this month's suspected bomb plot over fears that it could jeopardise the chances of a successful prosecution and hamper the gathering of evidence.

The British security services, MI5 and MI6, are understood to be dismayed that a number of sensitive details surrounding the alleged plot - including an FBI estimate that as many as 50 people were involved - were leaked to the media.

FBI sources confirmed to The Observer that the bureau had been ordered to stop briefing at the request of the British authorities. 'The shutters have come down,' a bureau source said. 'We have been told not to discuss the case any more.'

1:54 pmGive it Up, Iran Will Have a Bomb...

Another neocon parting gift will be a nuclear Iran. They have no incentive to stop their program. Success in Lebanon gives them the ability to tell the world to screw off. The US can't invade; and by now wouldn't even if we could. We should continue the diplomacy, but be prepared to deal with a new nuclear power.

Militarily, we should park a few subs or destroyers with antimissile capabilities in range of their launch facilities. it will remind them that we can shoot out of the sky whatever they launch. We should communicate to them that no matter how powerful they feel now (once America gets rid of Bush and the rest of the trash) our military will be strong again.

Given that, here is a question that no one seems to be pondering: what is the political will to launch a missile? Who will they launch it at? If they launch on Tel Aviv, Tehran will be cratered by waves of bombs and cruise missiles from the US and NATO. Here's another question. Is this the beginning of an Iranian military buildup? That they are a charter member of the Axis of Evil would make you think so. But think again. The more weapons they build, the less they will be seen as a protector against Israeli/American aggression, and more they will look like a regional predator run by a corrupt theocracy. Do the Sunni Arab nations really want a Shiite military power in their neghborhood? Especially one with nuclear weapons?

Another question is can Iran afford to spend itself into a leading military power? Do the people have the will? Demonizing America goes only so far, especially once our troops start coming home. The power of the mullahs is not as strong as we like to believe. Regimes become old and arrogant. That Iran mixes religion and democracy means little. Before Iran allowed the vote, the nation was hemmoraging citizens. People were leaving in droves for the very countries that the mullahs denigrated. Without the US, there's no enemy to rally the people around. Israel isn't going to bomb Tehran, and the average Iranian knows it. If the mullahs declare jihad on Israel or a Shiite nation, will Iranians vote with their feet again?

Lots to ponder over these next few years. We adults should settle in, turn diplomacy up to "11", prepare for a lot of bluster from the mullahs, and be prepared to deal with whatever comes next. And rebuild our military, just in case.

ANALYSIS: Policing in Gaza has blunted IDF fighting abilities
Tuesday, August 22 (Ha'aretz)One of the main conclusions of the war against Hezbollah will be the fact that the fighting abilities of the ground forces deployed by the Israel Defense Forces in Lebanon have been blunted by years of police action in the territories.

Most units, in their training and operations, followed fighting doctrines of police forces and not of standing armies. Hezbollah trains, fights and is equiped as an army, utilizing some of the most advanced anti-tank missiles and other weapons.
The character of the IDF - known for its blitzkrieg methods, encircling movements deep inside enemy territory, and the ability to bring about a quick and decisive conclusion to the fighting - has been spoiled by years of involvement in operations that tied it down, emotionally and politically.

This included missions to stop terrorist cells, dealing with suicide bombings, the use of light weapons for the most part, and closures and sieges imposed on large population centers. Many of the IDF's reservists operate alongside the Shin Bet security service personnel to carry out arrests of wanted Palestinians. Battalions of reservists stood guard over Palestinians in detention centers.

In many ways, the IDF became the standing army of the Shin Bet. This is not the army that Israel knew in the Yom Kippur War of 1973 or the 1982 Lebanon War, which were both followed by a public commission of inquiry. Many of the advantages and operational qualities of the IDF have been lost over the years because the army has been fighting the wrong war from a military point of view.

It would have been better, for example, had the war against the Palestinians been handled by the Border Police, allowing the regular army and its reservists to train for a different type of warfare. More

Confronting Africa's scourge: AIDS
Tuesday, August 22 (Chicago Sun Times)Sen. Barack Obama, in a dramatic gesture aimed at African men who won't confront the dangers of a deadly disease, said he will publicly take an HIV test in the village where his Kenyan father once lived.

Also on Monday, he faulted the South African government as being in "denial" for advocating nutritional treatments over modern medical alternatives.

In a light-hearted encounter in an otherwise serious day, Obama met with former Anglican Archbishop and Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu, who teased Obama about his political future.

"You are going to be a very credible presidential candidate," Tutu said.

'Changes in behavior'

Obama, speaking to a group of militant AIDS activists, all HIV-infected patients, delivered the surprise pronouncement on the second day of his African tour.

Obama hopes to use the enormous celebrity he has in Kenya -- where he will be greeted as a native son -- to demonstrate to men that there is no stigma to testing for HIV.

"One of the things I will be doing in Kenya is probably getting an AIDS test myself in front of the camera," Obama said in the headquarters of the group TAC, or Treatment Action Campaign.

"There is no stigma in using condoms in the United States," he declared in TAC's shabby offices in a shantytown outside of Cape Town in Khayelitsha Township.

"Leaders, I think, have a responsibility to speak honestly and clearly about these issues," Obama said. ". . . So, a lot of times, I think leading by example could be very helpful, and that is something I would like to do."

Obama does not expect any startling results from the tests. Later, when asked, he said he had been tested for HIV as part of getting a life insurance policy.

The senator's camp estimated thousands of Kenyan men could be expected to follow the senator's example to get tested for HIV.

Such an event could be a watershed moment in how African men deal with the contraction and treatment of AIDS.

Obama said it was time for men to take responsibility for their behavior.

"There has to be changes in behavior, particularly among men, when it comes to unsafe sex. That everybody needs to be tested, that the strategy of anti-viral drugs is important."

Swipe at S. African official

That comment is a reference to the latest uproar over a top South African official's public embrace of vegetables for treatment of AIDS instead of a group of medicines now routinely given to AIDS patients.

Health Minister Dr. Manto Tshabalala-Msimang was castigated for being on the "lunatic fringe" for embracing beetroot, lemon, garlic and African potato as a more effective cure for AIDS patients.

Alluding to that, Obama said "there should not be a contradiction or conflict between traditional values and modern science."

Obama aides got the idea for his public HIV test from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, which wanted Obama to do more than just tour a CDC project near the Kenyan town where his father grew up and is buried.

The test should take place on Saturday, the same day he will visit his grandmother and other family members. More

Friday, August 18
7:40 amStraw Men and Stupid Ideas

The Corner's David Frum, on an NYT article by Peter Galbraith:

As I said, we may need a backup plan.

This would be best accomplished by placing a small over the horizon force in Kurdistan. Iraqi Kurdistan is among the most pro-American societies in the world and its government would welcome our military presence, not the least because it would help protect Kurds from Arab Iraqis who resent their close cooperation with the United States during the 2003 war. American soldiers on the ground might also ease the escalating tension between the Iraqi Kurds and Turkey, which is threatening to send its troops across the border in search of Turkish Kurd terrorists using Iraq as a haven.

From Kurdistan, the American military could readily move back into any Sunni Arab area where Al Qaeda or its allies established a presence. The Kurdish peshmerga, Iraqs only reliable indigenous military force, would gladly assist their American allies with intelligence and in combat. And by shifting troops to what is still nominally Iraqi territory, the Bush administration would be able to claim it had not cut and run and would also avoid the political complications in United States and in Iraq that would arise if it were to withdraw totally and then have to send American troops back into Iraq.

It's a second best. First best is to win. But that will take more commitment than the administration was prepared to offer yesterday. If we forfeit the best outcome, and refuse to plan for * second best *, we stand in very grave danger of ending up with the worst.

So Bush's speechwriter, a heavyweight among authoritarian conservatives, a definintion of "big hitter" admits the GOP is now planning military fallback scenarios that follow the myth. Could there ever be a worse straw man?

On the other hand, Kurdistan is right next to Iran. And the neo's want a war with Iran. Ay carumba!

Thursday, August 17
8:21 amHas Anyone Noticed?

That Hizbollah/Iran now has firm control over Lebanon? Not that we didn't think it before. But I just heard something on NPR's Morning Edition. Listeners heard sound bytes of Lebanese Army generals swearing allegiance to the Bollah, things become clear to me. By fighting terrorism in Iraq, we never saw what was happening poltically between Iran, Hizbollah, and the young Lebanese government. Even if the Bollas took a big hit during the war, it's clear they have the hearts and minds of the Lebanese people.

7:56 amSomething Kind of Demeaning About This Statement....

From yesterday's New York Times

More generally, the participants said, the president expressed frustration that Iraqis had not come to appreciate the sacrifices the United States had made in Iraq, and was puzzled as to how a recent anti-American rally in support of Hezbollah in Baghdad could draw such a large crowd. I do think he was frustrated about why 10,000 Shiites would go into the streets and demonstrate against the United States, said another person who attended.

Something is very off about that statement. It shows the power of self delusion as well as groupthink. This from the same group of minds that brought you ditties like "they'll hail us as liberators, and throw flowers at our feet."

How dare Iraqis not appreciate all that we've done for them? We should find a way to give them back their infrastructure, their sense of well-being, their jobs and businesses, and all their dead children and loved ones.

Unappreciative bastards.

Wednesday, August 16
3:38 pmIt's Really Sad

I was listening to NPR this afternoon. I got a little sad while hearing this story. The poor woman isn't aware that she was being used for her misery by the Bush Administration

Williams is confident that President Bush will make sure things work out: 'You can't get me to say he won't, because he will. Watch.'

In the archives of the White House Web site is an item from April 27 headlined: "President Visits Damaged Home in New Orleans, Louisiana." The pictures show President Bush with 74-year-old Ethel Williams.

She's a resident of the Upper Ninth Ward whose home had to be totally gutted after the floodwaters of Hurricane Katrina receded. President Bush stood with Williams that day and said she'd get help rebuilding her life.
"We've got a strategy to help the good folks down here rebuild," the president said that day. "Part of it has to do with funding; part of it has to do with housing; and a lot of it has to do with encouraging volunteers from around the United States to come down and help people like Mrs. Williams. So we're proud to be here with you, Mrs. Williams, and God bless you."

That was a big day for Williams. Volunteers from Catholic Charities showed up in the morning and cleared out her house. Everything was taken, even the walls and the flooring. Then, with just a half-hour of warning, the president of the United States arrived.

But since that day, not much has happened. Williams' house has stood gutted, just as it was when the president left.

Poor woman. He's not cominghe's only coming if it comes to the attention of the Administration that this could be used to portray the President as indiffierent to the plight of Black people.

Tuesday, August 15
Iran declares US plans for a new Middle East a failure
By Roula Khalaf in London and Hugh Williamson in Berlin
Tuesday, August 15 (FT.com)A day after US president George W. Bush blamed Syria and Iran, Hizbollahs two main backers for the Lebanon war, Damascus and Tehran sought to reap political capital from Israels failure to destroy the Shia movement. Both governments on Tuesday responded to Washington by celebrating the end of the war as a defeat of US policy in the region, which has focused on isolating them and the militant groups they support.

Speaking to a journalists association conference, Mr Assad said US plans for a new Middle East had collapsed in light of Hizbollahs fight against Israel. The Middle East the US was hoping to create, he said, has be-come an illusion. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad said in a speech broadcast on state television that the US and Britain, which he described as the main associates of the Zionist regime in its offensive in Lebanon, should compensate the country for the damage and answer for their crimes. More

Tuesday, August 15 (Center on Budget & Policy Priorities)At the urging of Senate Republican leader Bill Frist, the Senate last week considered a House-passed proposal to repeal most but not all of the estate tax.  The measure contains no offsets; its large cost would be financed through higher deficits.

In June, the Senate Budget Committee approved a far-reaching bill to make major changes in federal budget rules.  Crafted by committee chairman Judd Gregg and co-sponsored by Senator Frist and 24 other Senate Republicans, the bill includes a provision that would establish binding deficit targets, which would be set at 0.5 percent of the Gross Domestic Product for 2012 and all years thereafter.  In any year in which the deficit targets would otherwise be missed, automatic across-the-board cuts would be triggered in every entitlement program except Social Security. 

Policymakers who have pushed for repeal of most or all of the estate tax (and for other tax cuts) often act as though tax cuts are a free lunch, the costs of which need never be faced.  As economists and budget analysts frequently explain, however, this is not so.  Sooner or later, someone has to pick up the bill.

The Gregg bill places a spotlight on how these tax cuts would be paid for.  Taken together, the reductions in the estate tax recently approved by the House and the Gregg budget-enforcement bill would result in multi-million dollar tax cuts for the estates of the wealthiest Americans who die, with these lavish tax cuts being financed by large reductions in health care, retirement, and other benefits on which millions of ordinary Americans rely.

How the Gregg Bill Works

In addition to setting these deficit targets, the Gregg bill would impose austere three-year caps on the overall level of appropriations for discretionary programs (i.e., programs that are not entitlements), with the caps being set at the appropriations levels proposed in the President's budget for each fiscal year through 2009.  These caps are designed to lock in discretionary cuts of the depth that the President's budget proposes.

Congressional Budget Office projections show that if the Presidents tax cuts are extended (except for repeal of the estate tax) and relief from the Alternative Minimum Tax is continued, the projected budget deficit in 2012 and every year thereafter will be close to $200 billion above the level needed to hit the Gregg bills deficit targets, even if discretionary programs are cut sharply enough to fit within these caps.  Under the Gregg bill, this entire difference would have to be made up with cuts in entitlement programs, unless Congress cut discretionary programs below the caps or raised taxes.

This means that under the Gregg bill, every dollar that a tax-cut bill loses in revenue must eventually be made up by cutting a dollar out of entitlement or other mandatory programs (unless discretionary programs are cut more deeply, other tax cuts are terminated or scaled back, or other revenue-raising measures are adopted).  The revenue losses from tax-cut bills would make the gaps between deficits and the deficit targets larger than they otherwise would be, which in turn would necessitate deeper budget cuts to hit the targets.  Tax cuts consequently would trigger larger automatic across-the-board cuts in entitlement programs, unless other deficit-reduction measures were enacted. More

Producer Price Indexes -- July 2006
Tuesday, August 15 (Bureau of Labor Statistics)The Producer Price Index for Finished Goods moved up 0.1 percent in July, seasonally adjusted, the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S.Department of Labor reported today.  This increase followed a 0.5-percent advance in June and a 0.2-percent rise in May.  Prices for finished goods other than foods and energy decreased 0.3 percent in July after moving up 0.2 percent in the previous month.  At the earlier stages of processing, prices received by manufacturers of intermediate goods advanced 0.5 percent compared with a 0.7-percent gain in June.  The index for crude materials climbed 3.1 percent after declining 1.7 percent in the prior month. More

Second Quarter 2006, Preliminary
Tuesday, August 15 (Bureau of Labor Statistics)The Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor reported preliminary productivity data--as measured by output per hour of all persons--for the second quarter of 2006. The preliminary seasonally adjusted annual rates of productivity change in the second quarter were:
               1.1 percent in the business sector and
               1.1 percent in the nonfarm business sector.

These rates of growth are lower than those in the previous quarter.  As revised, productivity increased 4.5 percent in the business sector and 4.3 percent in the nonfarm business sector in the first quarter of 2006.
In manufacturing, the preliminary productivity changes in the second quarter were:
               3.0 percent in manufacturing,
               3.8 percent in durable goods manufacturing, and
               2.6 percent in nondurable goods manufacturing.

Manufacturing productivity grew 3.0 percent in the second quarter as output increased 5.4 percent and hours increased 2.3 percent (seasonally adjusted annual rates).  Output and hours in manufacturing, which includes about 13 percent of U.S. business-sector employment, tend to vary more from quarter to quarter than data for the aggregate business and nonfarm business sectors.

Second-quarter measures are summarized in table A and appear in detail intables 1 through 5. More

Statement of Philip L. Rones Acting Commissioner, on the Employment Situation for July
Tuesday, August 15 (Bureau of Labor Statistics)Nonfarm payroll employment increased by 113,000 in July, and the unemployment rate rose to 4.8 percent. The increase in payroll employment was in line with the average monthly gain for the second quarter of this year (+112,000), but was down from the average monthly gain for the 12-month period ending in March (+169,000). Average hourly earnings increased by 7 cents, or 0.4 percent, in July.

In the service-providing sector, employment in professional and business services rose by 43,000 over the month. Job gains occurred in a number of component industries, including architectural and engineering services, computer systems design services, and management and technical consulting services. Employment was flat over the month in temporary help services. More

Friday, August 11
UK threat level remains critical
Armed police have been out in many UK airports
Friday, August 11 (BBC News)The UK security threat level is to stay at "critical" following a suspected plot to blow up airliners, Home Secretary John Reid has said.

He said he believed the main suspects were in custody but it was right to "err on the side of caution".

Everyone faced the threat and everyone "should respond with a common purpose and common solidarity", Mr Reid added.

Nineteen of 24 people arrested have had their UK assets frozen. The names have been published by the Bank of England.

Delays continuing

It is thought that the suspects were planning to blow up several planes by using liquid explosives carried in soft-drink bottles, and detonators disguised as electronic equipment.

UK police said the explosions could have caused "mass murder on an unimaginable scale".

Flights from airports in Britain are still being delayed as passengers go through strict security checks.

Services are returning to normal, but travellers are being warned to check with airlines before they set off.

Operators at Heathrow airport said they did not expect there would be any new cancellations beyond those already announced by the airlines.

'Tolerance and resilience'

Officials in Pakistan said security forces in the country had arrested two British men of Pakistani origin in connection with the alleged plot.

They were picked up from Lahore and Karachi last week. On Thursday, Pakistan announced it had made a number of arrests in connection with the investigation.

At a news conference, Mr Reid said he was "grateful" for the help of the international community, in particular Pakistan, in disrupting the suspected plot.

He said he would be chairing another meeting of Cobra - the government's emergencies committee - on Friday.

The home secretary also made a plea for all communities to work together to face the danger.

"More than ever we need to draw on the tolerance and resilience of all parts of our community in the days ahead," he said.

"This is a common threat to all of us and we should respond - all of us - with a common purpose and common solidarity.

"This is in the nature of the British people and that common solidarity and common cause is, I believe, now our most precious asset and we should foster it in all sections of our community." More

Tip Followed '05 Attacks on London Transit
Friday, August 11 (Washington Post)It all began with a tip: In the aftermath of the July 7, 2005, suicide bombings on London's transit system, British authorities received a call from a worried member of the Muslim community, reporting general suspicions about an acquaintance.

From that vague but vital piece of information, according to a senior European intelligence official, British authorities opened the investigation into what they said turned out to be a well-coordinated and long-planned plot to bomb multiple transatlantic flights heading toward the United States -- an assault designed to rival the scope and lethality of the Sept. 11, 2001, hijackings.

By late 2005, the probe had expanded to involve several hundred investigators on three continents. They kept dozens of suspects under close surveillance for months, even as some of the plotters traveled between Britain and Pakistan to raise money, find recruits and refine their scheme, according to interviews with U.S. and European counterterrorism officials.

Precise details of the plot -- how many planes, their destinations and the date -- remain unknown. The shape of the operation changed regularly as the would-be bombers considered which transatlantic flights to target and prepared for a practice run, which was expected to take place in the next few days, U.S. law enforcement officials said.

Investigators eventually pieced together enough information from a blizzard of stakeouts, tips and wiretaps to make clear that something big was in the works, and that the plotters' preparations were nearing an end.

"It's not like three weeks ago all of a sudden MI5 knew about this plot and went to work," added a U.S. law enforcement official, speaking of the British security service. "They'd had a concern about these guys for some time -- for months. Details started to emerge, and it became clear over the last couple weeks the nature of the threat and the individuals," said the official, who like others interviewed for this story spoke on condition of anonymity. More

How Democrats Can Use Polling Data to Win Elections
Friday, August 11 (Greenberger Quinlan)With less than a hundred days until the midterm congressional elections, political consultants on both sides of the aisle are hard at work putting together a strategy for the campaign season. With Democrats eager to take control of Congress, many of the partys political strategists have suggested that the secret to winning in 2006 may be to be more like the Republicansthat is, to move towards the center in key policy areas.
But Democrats can win in 2006 without compromising their principles. The page they need to steal from the Republican playbook is the one that describes how to use polling data. As the Republicans have long recognized, not all voters care about the same issues to the same degree. They have applied this very simple observation in three ways, and it has led them to win countless local, state, and national elections.

Using data from the University of Michigans American National Election Studies (ANES), fielded during the 2004 election season, we can illuminate the ways Republicans use polling data to inform campaign strategy. Here is how the Republican playbook reads:

The most important piece of information to learn from a poll is what issues are most important to voters.

When Republicans segment voters into groups, they typically use the most important issue questions to do it, whereas Democrats typically use demographics, speculating, for instance, on how married women or African Americans will vote and then tailoring their campaign strategies to the various groups. While demographics offer insights into who is thinking what, it is much more useful to be able to identify the single issue that will determine someones vote. More

American Public Deeply Troubled by Household Debt
Poll: Americans nervous about high levels of debt
Friday, August 11 (Greenberger Quinlan)Last week, the Center for American Progress, the Center for Responsible Lending, the National Military Families Association, and the American Association of Retired Persons released a bi-partisan survey on the public's attitudes toward household debt. The survey of 1,000 adults was conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner and Public Opinion Strategies and found an American public not only increasingly concerned about household debt but strongly supporting policy-based solutions to fix the problem.

The publics concern over household debt results from perceptions of an economy performing unevenly, from perceptions of rising costs of living, and for a surprising and pressing number, from first-hand experience with excess or unmanageable debt. Despite the prominence of pay-day loan artists and other debt merchants in low-income neighborhoods throughout the country, the public does not see this as a lower class problem, but a growing threat to the American middle class and the American dream.

At the same time, the public does not discount the importance of individual responsibility when it comes to solving this problem. More so than the lenders or even the economy, respondents hold individual borrowers responsible for the debt problem, and the public responds enthusiastically to solutions that attempt to educate borrowers and improve financial decision-making at the household level. More

Is the U.K. better than the U.S. at stopping terror?
Americans bust the hapless Seas of David gang. The British round up real terrorist rings. But experts say the U.K. arrests more extremists because more of them live on British soil.
Friday, August 11 (Salon.com)The bomb plot just foiled by British authorities was chilling not just because it was so audacious, but because it was so tangible. The 24 conspirators were apparently far enough along in their planning to destroy jetliners over the Atlantic, targeting American Airlines, Continental Airlines and United Airlines flights out of Heathrow with concoctions of liquid explosives, that some of them had airline schedule information in their possession when arrested.

Authorities suggested the perpetrators were just days away from making their attempt. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff called the operation "very sophisticated" and ready for execution. "They had accumulated the capability necessary and they were well on their way," he said in a Washington news conference. "This was not a circumstance where you had a handful of people sitting around coming up with dreamy ideas about terrorist plots."

Was Chertoff thinking of the Seas of David? At a late June press conference, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales made an equally solemn announcement about the terrorism arrests of seven Miami men who really did sound like a handful of dreamers. The government alleges that the members of a religious group, the Seas of David, who practiced martial arts in a one-story warehouse in the impoverished Liberty City neighborhood, wanted to blow up several buildings, including Chicago's Sears Tower. Before they could do any surveillance of their targets, however, they needed a government informant to get them a van -- and a camera, and some film. Before they could blow up the Sears Tower, they also needed the informant to buy them new shoes. Only John S. Pistole, deputy director of the FBI, allowed a sense of proportion to creep into the press conference. He called the supposed terror cult "more aspirational than operational."

While U.S. authorities have sometimes found themselves trumpeting the arrest of marginal types like the Seas of David and alleged dirty-bomber wannabe Jose Padilla, whose research into weaponry didn't get much further than Google, British authorities have furiously pursued what appear to be real, capable terrorists.

Sir Ian Blair, commissioner of the Metropolitan Police in London, reported last December that there had been a 75 percent increase in the antiterrorism operations carried out by his officers in the five months since the bombings in London on July 7, 2005. Between 2001 and those attacks, according to the New York Times, British law enforcement had already broken up seven or eight major terror plots. Since the attacks, there have been at least four more serious terror plots in that country, including the widely reported incident just weeks later when four suicide bombs failed to explode. In April 2006 alone, according to the Daily Telegraph, police were involved in 70 antiterrorism investigations, and officials said the pace was "accelerating." Of the more than 60 people facing trial on terrorism charges, two-thirds were arrested after the 2005 attacks.

Do those numbers mean the British are better at rooting out real terrorists than we are? Maybe not. Michael O'Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution think tank and a terror expert, has a simple explanation for why it seems like the Brits are arresting scarier people and more of them: "There are scarier people over there than there are here." More

The U.S. is "indefensible"
Former Bush insider Ron Suskind discusses the London bomb plot, and says the president shouldn't claim we're safer than we were before 9/11.
Friday, August 11 (Salon.com)Pulitzer Prize-winning author Ron Suskind's latest book, "The One Percent Doctrine," a history of how the Bush administration has fought the war on terror, was the product of Suskind's remarkable access to some of the highest-level decision makers in that war. After the revelation Thursday that British authorities had apparently disrupted a terror plot that may have reached or exceeded the scale of 9/11, Salon spoke with Suskind to get his perspective, and the perspectives of his sources, on the day's events.

Have you spoken with any of your sources in government, or now out of government, and if so, what are they saying?

Well, they're saying a variety of things. They're saying this sort of event would actually fit with the general thinking as to what al-Qaida has planned for a so-called second wave to 9/11: numerous airplanes blowing up over the airspace of the United States would, in the mind of the terrorism experts I'm talking to, comport with our view as to al-Qaida's playbook in terms of a second-wave attack to follow 9/11. It would be very visible, there would be lots of casualties, and planes blowing up over large urban areas would of course create havoc.

I thought one of the really fascinating points in your book was that al-Qaida may not have been thwarted from attacking us after 9/11, but they may have made a strategic decision to focus their efforts elsewhere. Are you hearing, or do you think, that this is a strategic shift back to the American mainland?

Well, the thinking is that al-Qaida has the ability to attack us at any time or place of their choosing, that we should not view the passage of time as a kind of proxy for victory and view it in any kind of self-satisfied way, that we're doing something that's stopping them from this next destructive moment. What we know about al-Qaida is that they think very long-term. We think in news cycles; they think in decades. More

Ending the neoconservative nightmare
Friday, August 11 (Haaretz)Witnessing the near-perfect symmetry of Israeli and American policy has been one of the more noteworthy aspects of the latest Lebanon war. A true friend in the White House. No deescalate and stabilize, honest-broker, diplomatic jaw-jaw from this president. Great. Except that Israel was actually in need of an early exit strategy, had its diplomatic options narrowed by American weakness and marginalization in the region, and found itself ratcheting up aerial and ground operations in ways that largely worked to Hezbollah's advantage, the Qana tragedy included. The American ladder had gone AWOL.

More worrying, while everyone here can identify an Israeli interest in securing the northern border and the justification in responding to Hezbollah, the goal of saving Lebanon's fragile Cedar Revolution sounds less distinctly Israeli. Perhaps an agenda invented elsewhere. As hostilities intensified, the phrase "proxy war" gained resonance.

Israelis have grown used to a different kind of American embrace - less instrumental, more emotional, but also responsible. A dependable friend, ready to lend a guiding hand back to the path of stabilization when necessary.

After this crisis will Israel belatedly wake up to the implications of the tectonic shift that has taken place in U.S.-Middle East policy? More

11:06 amNewt's Feeling a Little Feisty Today...

Ever since his name has been included in converstations about '08 Presidential candidates, Newt's been in WaPo burnishing his foreign policy chops. According to Newt, we're already in World War III. I was so hoping we'd be able to declare that a war. I'm beginning to see how his campaign would proceed. Take a look at some smippets from his column in today's Washington Post, and see if you agree with me.

In fact an Iran armed with nuclear weapons is a mortal threat to American, Israeli and European cities. If a nonnuclear Iran is prepared to finance, arm and train Hezbollah, sustain a war against Israel from southern Lebanon and, in Holbrooke's own words, "support actions against U.S. forces in Iraq," then what would a nuclear Iran be likely to do? Remember, Iranian officials were present at North Korea's missile launches on our Fourth of July, and it is noteworthy that Venezuela's anti-American dictator, Hugo Chávez, has visited Iran five times.

It is because the Bush administration has failed to win this argument over the direct threat of Iranian and North Korean nuclear and biological weapons that Americans are divided and uncertain about our national security interests.

Four more years of war.

It's a debate about whether we are in danger of losing one or more U.S. cities, whether the world faces the possibility of a second Holocaust should Iran use nuclear or biological weapons against Israel, and whether a nuclear Iran would dominate the Persian Gulf and the world's energy supplies. This is the most important debate of our time. It rivals both Winston Churchill's argument in the 1930s over the nature of Hitler and the Nazis and Harry Truman's argument in the 1940s about the emerging Soviet empire.

And four more years of fear.

Defeating the terrorists and thwarting efforts by Iran and North Korea to gain nuclear and biological weapons must be the first goal of American policy. To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, if violence is necessary to defeat the terrorists, the Iranians and the North Koreans, then it is regrettably necessary. If they can be disarmed with less violence, then that is desirable. But a nonviolent solution that allows the terrorists to become better trained, better organized, more numerous and better armed is a defeat. A nonviolent solution that leads to North Korean and Iranian nuclear weapons threatening us across the planet is a defeat.

If reelected president, Gingrich would have us enjoying 8 years of fear and war. That would be a grand total of 14 years, if you include the Bush Administration.

Our enemies are quite public and repetitive in saying what they want. Not since Adolf Hitler has any group been as bloodthirsty and as open. If Holbrooke really wants a "stable and secure" Israel he will not find it by trying to appease Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas.

If you visit this blog even a few times, you understand this is no playground for peaceniks. So the following is not a reiteration of foreign policy based on "we are the world." Gingrich and the rest of the authoritarians forget that the Bushies sacalled out the Axis of Evil. Then they engaged in preemptive war against one of them. So is it a surprise they moved to develop nuclear weapons? It is only if you consiously choose to forget fact.

Newt is just like the rest of the AC's (authoritarian conservatives), pushing war over all else for the sake of keeping political power. I'm a huge fan of Machiavelli, but too many games gets in the way of actually running a country. Gingrich offers us more brinksmanship than statesmanship. At different times in history, and in other soiceites we in the US would call Newt's words demagogery, warmongery, or something else with an "ery" in it. But today, we call it the GOPs strategy for victory in 2008.

Nonsense and Sensibility
Friday, August 11 (New York Times)After Ned Lamonts victory in Connecticut, I saw a number of commentaries describing Joe Lieberman not just as a centrist a word that has come to mean someone who makes excuses for the Bush administration but as sensible. But on what planet would Mr. Lieberman be considered sensible?

Take a look at Thomas Rickss Fiasco, the best account yet of how the U.S. occupation of Iraq was mismanaged. The prime villain in that book is Donald Rumsfeld, whose delusional thinking and penchant for power games undermined whatever chances for success the United States might have had. Then read Mr. Liebermans May 2004 op-ed article in The Wall Street Journal, Let Us Have Faith, in which he urged Mr. Rumsfeld not to resign over the Abu Ghraib scandal, because his removal would delight foreign and domestic opponents of Americas presence in Iraq.

And thats just one example of Mr. Liebermans bad judgment. He has been wrong at every step of the march into the Iraq quagmire all the while accusing anyone who disagreed with him of endangering national security. Again, on what planet would Mr. Lieberman be considered sensible? But I know the answer: on Planet Beltway.

Many of those lamenting Mr. Liebermans defeat claim that they fear a takeover of our political parties by extremists. But if political polarization were really their main concern, theyd be as exercised about the primary challenge from the right facing Lincoln Chafee as they are about Mr. Liebermans woes. In fact, however, the sound of national commentary on the Rhode Island race is that of crickets chirping.

So whats really behind claims that Mr. Lieberman is sensible and that those who voted against him arent? Its the fact that many Washington insiders suffer from the same character flaw that caused Mr. Lieberman to lose Tuesdays primary: an inability to admit mistakes.

Imagine yourself as a politician or pundit who was gung-ho about invading Iraq, and who ridiculed those who warned that the case for war was weak and that the invasions aftermath could easily turn ugly. Worse yet, imagine yourself as someone who remained in denial long after it all went wrong, disparaging critics as defeatists. Now denial is no longer an option; the neocon fantasy has turned into a nightmare of fire and blood. What do you do? More

Thursday, August 10 (Congratulations to MI-5 for their hard work)
'Airlines terror plot' disrupted
All airports have been put under the restrictions
Thursday, August 10 (BBC News)A plot to blow up planes in flight from the UK to the US and commit "mass murder on an unimaginable scale" has been disrupted, Scotland Yard has said.

It is thought the plan was to detonate explosive devices smuggled in hand luggage on to as many as 10 aircraft.

Police are searching premises after 21 people were arrested. Home Secretary John Reid said they believed the "main players" were accounted for.

High security is causing delays at all UK airports.

The threat level to the UK has been raised by MI5 to critical after the arrests in London, High Wycombe and Birmingham.

Critical threat level - the highest - means "an attack is expected imminently and indicates an extremely high level of threat to the UK".

Three US airlines are believed to have been targeted.

Mr Reid said had the attack gone ahead it would have caused a loss of life of "unprecedented scale".

He said they were "confident" the main players were in custody, but neither the police nor government are "in any way complacent".

Prime Minister Tony Blair, on holiday in the Caribbean, paid tribute to the the police and the security services.

He said they had tracked the situation for a "long period of time" and had "been involved in an extraordinary amount of hard work."

"I thank them for the great job they are doing in protecting our country.

"There has been an enormous amount of co-operation with the US authorities which has been of great value and underlines the threat we face and our determination to counter it," he said in a statement.

BBC security correspondent Gordon Corera said the plot was thought to have involved a series of "waves" of simultaneous attacks, targeting three planes each time.

He also said the plan "revolved around liquids of some kind".

"Officials say the explosives would have been sophisticated and extremely effective," our correspondent said. More
Vital Signs
Thursday, August 10 (The New Republic)Last night, Ned Lamont made the first mistake of his general election campaign against independent Democrat Joe Lieberman and token Republican Alan Schlesinger. Having won a historic primary victory against a well-financed, three-term senator and former popular, vote-winning vice-presidential candidate, Lamont should have used his victory speech last night to crush Lieberman. He should have emphasized that the voters decisively rejected Lieberman. He should have called for Lieberman to exit the race immediately. He should have consolidated his victory and raised the price of Lieberman's indie bid. He should have used his televised speech to land the death blow to Lieberman that his small margin of victory failed to deliver.

Instead, a reluctant Lamont meandered through a clipped version of his stump speech. He seemed to downplay the incredible win he had just achieved. It was a missed opportunity. After all, just minutes before, Lieberman, instead of giving a concession speech, launched his general election campaign. Lamont had--and may still have--a small window to shut that campaign down, but he is off to a bad start. The overall effect of the dueling speeches--with Lieberman ignoring the fact he lost and Lamont ignoring the fact he won--was to greatly diminish Lamont's victory. This bit of theater worked so well for Lieberman that, on an early morning edition of "Hardball," Chris Matthews treated Sean Smith, Lieberman's campaign manager, as if he had just scored a brilliant victory. "How did you guys close the gap?" Matthews asked, clearly impressed.

Like Lamont, senior Democrats are late in trying to stop Lieberman's indie bid. According to Senate sources, a decision was made by Lieberman's Democratic colleagues not to put any pressure on him yesterday to abandon his plan for a second round with Lamont. "They didn't want to stick a knife him tonight," says a top Senate Democratic strategist. "Throughout the day, the idea had been that, depending on what you want to happen, you can't box the guy in the corner," says another senior Democratic Senate aide. "I'm not aware that anyone approached him." Now, it's probably too late. Get ready for round two of Lieberman-Lamont. More

Keeping our border safe from affordable medication
Thursday, August 10 (Seattle Times)President Bush has finally found a cross-border commerce he cannot tolerate. He will not, I repeat not, allow Americans to buy prescription drugs from Canada. That would give his subjects the option of obtaining their Zocor for less than the extortionate prices drug makers charge here. This all falls under the administration's guiding principle: No policy may ever favor ordinary citizens over corporations.

Since Nov. 17, U.S. Customs and Border Protection has been quietly seizing drugs mailed from Canadian pharmacies to people in this country. It's keeping these confiscations about 40,000 packages so far hush-hush because, as the administration knows full well, they are outrageous. The government doesn't notify the addressees that it has grabbed their blood-pressure medicine, so the customers become aware of the interception only when their drugs don't arrive. No doubt some people's health has suffered, as the drugs they need and think they've ordered do not materialize.

In case you haven't noticed, a large wall is being built around the American people to ensure that they remain prisoner to the drug industry. It's easy to understand why drug makers want to force Americans to buy their products in the United States. Ours is the only industrialized country that doesn't negotiate the prices the drug companies may charge. As a result, a 90-day supply of Fosamax sells for $105 in Canada but $210 here.

It's less easy to understand why our leaders in Washington have sided with the drug makers and against the American people less easy but not impossible. They're well paid by the drug industry, which employs more than one lobbyist for every member of Congress.
Before there was a Medicare drug benefit, Washington didn't dare mess with elderly Americans seeking affordable drugs from Canada. And since the start of the program this year, the Canadian drug mail-order business has dipped somewhat. Of course, the Medicare drug-benefit law forbids the U.S. government to bargain on behalf of the beneficiaries. (That keeps taxpayers, who subsidize the program, on the hook for the higher prices.) More

11:05 amRead "Conservatives Without Consience"

Get to know your enemy, the Authoritarian Conservative (AC). And, unlike the garden variety Republican who mistakenly ceded power to these nuts, the AC's have the unique ability to detach consience and morality when it comes to pursuing the goals of their leaders. The current GOP does not have the best interest of the republic in mind. Until embarrassednot just voted out of officethey will continue to try to force their vision of America on the rest of us.

Buy it here. Check out the Amazon podcast with author John Dean here.

12:24 pmSpeaking of Authoritarian Conservatives....

In his book, Conservatives Without Conseince, Dean talks about the personality traits of today's conservatives. The followers trust only information from their "leaders", and dismiss critical thinking. Then I saw this in today's Salon.com. Here's Dean's premise, in a very funny nutshell. By Tom Tomorrow.

10:54 amInitial Thoughts on the Terrorists

First, I am glad that MI-5 had found the way to find and track these people. Second, I really, really hope it doesn't turn out to be a plot on the same scale of idiocy that we saw last month with the group of bumbling bombers from Miami. That MI-5 doesn't seem to be run by a group of conservative authoritarians give me hope. Next, there is a value to domestic surveillance. How to balance that against the need for civil liberties is not going to be an easy task. Clearly, if the UK were run by the Bushies, all Muslims would live in camps. Make that Muslims and Labour Party members.

Monday, August 7
1:12 pmLet Me See If I Get This Straight....

Looking back, it seems as if the recent string of posts have centered around Lebanon and the "end-timers", a rotating bunch of people who prognosticate the end of the world only to see the moment pass. It would be nice to gauge the seriousness of one of these people by making a lowball offer on their house a few months before the end of the world.

Anyway, after a bit or reading, I believe I'm beginning to see the light (?). It is an intertwined story, almost unbelievable in proportion, but Rovian at the end of the day. Which is why is seems a bit plausible to me.

In reading Kevin Phillips' "American Theocracy" it became even more obvious that for the neocons, the way to justify the Iraq Oil Grab was to justify it to Christian conservatives as America triumphing over the forces of oppression. Otherwise it may have been difficult to move them off off trying to peek in everyone bedrooms. But with Iraq in the shitter, neocons need something else to take people's minds off Iraq and focus it on their next big screwup, Iran.

Now Iran isn't necessarily about oil or nuclear weapons. It's about payback, and more realigning of Middle-Eastern states. Taking out Saddam left Iran the reigning strongman in the region (unless someone assasinates Pakistan's Musharraf). Without a political or military opponent, Iran is now free to exert influence. Some say the Lebanon war isn't about Hizbollah trying to eliminate Israel, rather it's a way for Iran to remind the world that they have ways to reach out and let the world know they aren't to be taken lightly.

Here's another component based on that thinking. Back in 1996, neocons and then Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (handsome and smart for a nut) settled on a plan called "Clean Break." Here are a couple of high points:

Benjamin Netanyahus government comes in with a new set of ideas. While there are those who will counsel continuity, Israel has the opportunity to make a clean break; it can forge a peace process and strategy based on an entirely new intellectual foundation, one that restores strategic initiative and provides the nation the room to engage every possible energy on rebuilding Zionism, the starting point of which must be economic reform. To secure the nations streets and borders in the immediate future, Israel can:

* Work closely with Turkey and Jordan to contain, destabilize, and roll-back some of its most dangerous threats. This implies clean break from the slogan, "comprehensive peace" to a traditional concept of strategy based on balance of power.

* Change the nature of its relations with the Palestinians, including upholding the right of hot pursuit for self defense into all Palestinian areas and nurturing alternatives to Arafats exclusive grip on Palestinian society.

* Forge a new basis for relations with the United Statesstressing self-reliance, maturity, strategic cooperation on areas of mutual concern, and furthering values inherent to the West. This can only be done if Israel takes serious steps to terminate aid, which prevents economic reform.

So many things in those sentences are anathema. Turkey, Jordan, and Israel fiddling with Arab regimes. Letting Israel, rather Netanyahu, have free reign in the region as a result of cutting aid. Here are a couple of other nuggets of lunacy:

* striking Syrias drug-money and counterfeiting infrastructure in Lebanon, all of which focuses on Razi Qanan.
* paralleling Syrias behavior by establishing the precedent that Syrian territory is not immune to attacks emanating from Lebanon by Israeli proxy forces.
* striking Syrian military targets in Lebanon, and should that prove insufficient, striking at select targets in Syria proper.

Where am I going with this section? "Clean Break" has partially been put into motion through Hizbollah's attack on Israel. Neocons really need to allow Israel more time to pound Lebanon and hopefully destroy Hizbollah. As if. That's why no great rush to work out a cease fire, or bring in an international force. That's why SecState Rice plays piano during this time instead of putting in the air miles required with shuttle diplomacy.

So we have end-timers with a need to prove their words right, and a neocon need to attack Iran, either by proxy or directly.

Enter the "end-timers". Here's where it gets Rovian in terms of building on fear and misdirection. If you couch war against Iran in terms of the Christian apocalypse, then you've got the perfect cover. Here's an excerpt from an 700 Club interview of Joel Rosenberg, a leading end-timer on the days we live in:

ROSENBERG: But I took the Bible literally and I said what would it look like if these literal prophecies played out in our lifetime? The Last Days, The Last Jihad, The Ezekiel Option and now The Copper Scroll whats eerie is that people keep getting drawn into these stories because they keep coming true. Now I have to say, Pat, I believe that Ezekiel 38 and 39 the prophecies that were talking about I think this is about the end of radical Islam as we know it. God says Hes going to supernaturally judge Iran, Sudan, Lebanon, Syria, these other countries. Were talking about fire from heaven, a massive earthquake. Its going to be devastating and tragic. But I believe that afterwards theres going to be a great spiritual awakening. Were seeing more Muslims coming to Christ right now than at any other time in history. But I think thats just the beginning. Weve got dark days ahead of us. But I believe theres a light at the end of that tunnel.

ROBERTSON: The thought was that they [radical Islamic leaders] have got one big push ahead of them. They want to destroy Israel, and of course thats when Gods going to intervene. But in the meantime they want to destroy America as well.

ROSENBERG: Thats right. Israel is the little Satan in the radical Islamic and particularly the Shiite view. We are the great Satan. So Israel is just one step. Thats why we have to stand with Israel, pray for Israel. Obviously, we need to show compassion to the Lebanese and the Palestinians as you are [through CBNs Operation Blessing ministry, mentioned previously in the program] and as others are who are caught in the crossfire. But we are facing an apocalyptic battle in the Middle East, the likes of which the world has never seen before. Its prophesied in Scripture. We dont know exactly when its going to happen. But the trajectory of events suggests we may be closer than most people think.

ROBERTSON: Well, I think so, too. And what Ive seen and Im sure you have, too is that the fulfillment of the coming of the Lord, the last of the age, isnt going to happen unless the Jews have Jerusalem, and are there, settled in the land [of Israel]. So if the Muslims can somehow take them off the land, and take Jerusalem, they can frustrate prophesy. In Satans view, thats whats going to happen. I mean, the players dont see the spiritual activity behind the scenes, but thats whats there.

ROSENBERG: Thats right. The enemy of God is trying to destroy the people of God&.
The end-timers would love it, as lets them get ready for, and I quote:

The end-timers would start getting ready for the rapture. It would terrify the beejeezus out of the Christian conservatives. It would prompt even the holiday Christians into dusting off their bibles and getting back with the program. Basically, if done right, and there would be no critical thought given to the why of the war. With Jesus coming, why listen to an atheist, or any one who says these arent the final days? Why believe them, as Satan has ways of tricking humans.

Either way, it's an ugly scenario. The fear of the Apocalypse is very strong in a Christian nation, and the neocons are just stupid enough to try to use it.

Friday, August 4
3:56 pmIf This is True...

Check this out from Yahoo News. Based on The Bushies current Lebanon strategy, they won't lift a finger to stop it. If it is in fact true, then:

The Bush Administration, Having Failed at Everything Else, Has now Thrown Away Common Sense by Letting the Players Do "Whatever."
This too Will FailMiserably, and Could Easily Cause a War Only a Freak Religious Idealogue Would Want

If Hizbollah gets SAM's then Israel will have no choice but to invade the entire country. You can imagine the domino effect. Israel attacks Lebanon. Syria, backed by Iran attacks Israel. All hell breaks loose in Iraq. God knows what that moron will do then. To the Christian Conservative freak "end-timers" this is the way it's supposed to be. Same for the super-freak Islamic jihadists. But, they're too swept up in holy war to remember that God (and I use that term equally for both sides) moves in his own time, not at our beck and call. Even though we've known for quite awhile that American evangelical "end-timers" are largely morons, we went ahead and elected their poster child President of the United States.

Please, God help us. Help us all.

Tuesday, August 1
3:26 pmHmmm...Food for Thought

Interesting post just sent by a friend of mine. True or untrue, keep your minds open, and your eye on the other guy. You never know....

No conflict between science and religion
Tuesday, August 1 (Wichita Eagle)In the climate of turmoil that now surrounds how biology and evolution are taught in public schools, a troubling distortion has become common: The issues are wrongly cast as a conflict between science and religion, as if they were two rival football teams.

With a crucial State Board of Education election just days away, and with the long-term future of Kansas children at stake, it's important to avoid such misunderstanding.

Science has no inherent conflict with religion and no interest in trying to undermine faith.

Science seeks natural explanations of the natural world, focusing on how the Earth and life developed over millions of years. Religion deals with questions of the supernatural and the ultimate meanings of life, totally different domains. Many scientists are religious, and thousands of U.S. clerical leaders from every denomination have testified that they see no conflict between faith and evolution. More

Kansans vote today
Tuesday, August 1 (Kansas City Star)With temperatures forecast to reach triple digits, Kansas voters may be thinking more about pools than polls. But today is an important election day in the Sunflower State.

Voters statewide will cast primary ballots to whittle the list of candidates competing in the Nov. 7 general election.

The conservative/moderate split among Kansas Republicans heightens the stakes in the Republican primary, both in Johnson County and statewide. And in Wyandotte County, where Democrats are dominant, some officeholders will be chosen today. More

The Last Laffer
Bush's Treasury admits that tax cuts aren't free.
Tuesday, August 1 (Slate.com)In Washington, as in fairy tales, be careful what you wish for. In a February speech, Vice President Cheney said, "It's time to re-examine our assumptions and to consider using more dynamic analysis to measure the true impact of tax cuts on the American economy." Calling for "dynamic analysis" or "dynamic scoring" can be supply-side code language for the view that tax cuts pay for much or all of themselves through stronger economic growth. Cheney proposed creating a new unit within Treasury to conduct this dynamic analysis and confidently predicted that it would find that tax cuts increase government revenues.

Six months later, Treasury's first dynamic analysis of the president's policies is out. It belies the claim that the Bush proposal to make his tax cuts permanent will either pay for itself or galvanize the economy. More

Ed note: here's the report

Hill Democrats Unite to Urge Bush to Begin Iraq Pullout
Tuesday, August 1 (Washington Post)After months of struggling to forge a unified stance on the Iraq war, top congressional Democrats joined voices yesterday to call on President Bush to begin withdrawing U.S. troops by the end of the year and to "transition to a more limited mission" in the war-torn nation.

With the midterm elections three months away, and Democrats seeing public discontent over Iraq as their best chance for retaking the House or Senate, a dozen key lawmakers told Bush in a letter: "In the interests of American national security, our troops and our taxpayers, the open-ended commitment in Iraq that you have embraced cannot and should not be sustained. . . . We need to take a new direction."

The 12 Democrats, led by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.), include liberals and centrists who have differed over Iraq in the past. The signers included the top Democrats on the House and Senate committees dealing with armed services, foreign relations, intelligence and military spending. Their action puts party leaders on the same page, and it helps clarify the Nov. 7 election as a choice between a party seeking a timeline for withdrawing troops from an unpopular war and a party resisting any such timetable.

For all its passion, the letter has more significance as a political statement than as a policy alternative. Most Democrats previously have embraced the general idea of beginning a troop drawdown this year, and the letter adds no specifics about how many troops should be withdrawn or how rapidly. More

Stop the Band-Aid Treatment
Tuesday, August 1 (Washington Post)Israel has a right to defend itself, but it is counterproductive to punish civilians in the hope that somehow they will blame Hamas and Hezbollah for provoking the response. More

Monday, July 31
9:46 amSlow-motion Suicide, One Day at a Time

Read this from today's NYT. First, it adds meat to the argument that the jobless rate doesn't represent the true number being trumpeted in statistics. Second, it talks to me about illegal immigration and jobs. If labor costs on the lowest end were forced to increase, I think there would be an upward domino effect. Would it mean as much financial calamity as the economists say? I don't know, as more people would have more money to spend. Given our consumer economy, I believe moderately increased wages across the board keeps us buying the trinkets business and manufacturing need to sell.

Lastly, it's very depressing. People are looking at an oncoming personal financial train wreck, but indifferent to it; almost welcoming it. I've been there, and have avoided it. But I can tell you from my time in the depths, suicide comes to mind. For me, they were fleeting thoughts that I felt guilty for even having. It didn't take long for them to pass. I was young, determined, and pissed off at life as well as myself. I was convinced that all I needed was an opportunity.

But I wasn't in my middle ages, and I don't call myself a representation of everyone in that situation. Unfortunately, someone will indulge in the thoughts I resisted.

A tank of gas, a world of trouble
Monday, July 31 (Chicago Tribune)The Tribune's Paul Salopek retraces gasoline sold at a suburban station back to its origins to reveal how America's oil addiction binds it to the violent corners of the world -- and to a petroleum economy nearing crisis. More

8:09 amBush and Israel: Snatching Defeat from the Mouth of Victory

Sometimes early last week, maybe late the week before, the US and Israel had the opportunity to impose a cease-fire and start the machinery to get an international force into South Lebanaon. The Qana bombing is the final nail in the coffin for a quick end to this war. It's also another example of the miserable failure that is the Bush Administration.

On Sunday's talking head shows, the Israelis showed their usual intransigence towarda common-sense cease fire. And I heard the birth of the new talking point, "what would you do if rockets were raining down on American cities?" I heard the same thing, almost word for word on an NPR report this morning. Guys, rockets aren't raining down on Seattle, so let's stick to reality. As we all can read, the Israelis called a cease-fire for PR purposes only, as they broke it 2 hours later.

What made the most sense at the time was for the US to send troops as part of an international force. Yes, we're squeezed in by the Alamo--no, I mean Iraq. But those 5,000 troops that Bush called up for Baghdad would have made a bigger difference in the big picture were they sent to Lebanon.

Where this is going? Who knows. If Bush can't back off his idiotic concept of not talking to those he considers "terrorists," this will go on for quite awhile. It's no secret that he could push the Israelis into a position if need be. But since the concept of a "sustainable cease-fire" is basically lots of dead Hizbollah insurgents, we'll be seeing scenes of more dead children. The Republican Noise Machine will have more fodder to call people terrorists, or cowards, or whatever they need in order to force fealty to King George.

All in all, more good times from those that promised us peace through democracy in the Middle East.

CHRONOLOGY-Events in Middle East
Monday, July 31(Reuters) Here is a chronology of the violence between Israel and the Hizbollah guerrilla group since Hizbollah seized two Israeli soldiers and killed eight on July 12.

July 13 - Israeli aircraft bomb runways at Beirut airport. Israel's navy blockades Lebanese ports.

July 14 - Israeli warplanes blast the main Beirut-Damascus highway, tightening an air, sea and land blockade of Lebanon.

July 15 - Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora demands an immediate U.N.-backed ceasefire, denouncing Israel for turning his country into a "disaster zone". He appeals for foreign aid.

July 16 - Rockets fired by Hizbollah kill eight in the Israeli city of Haifa. Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert warns Lebanon of "far-reaching consequences" after the attack. -- Group of Eight leaders at their annual summit blame an upsurge in violence on "extremists" and while accepting Israel's right to self-defence say Israel must exercise restraint.

July 17 - British Prime Minister Tony Blair and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan call for the deployment of a security force in Lebanon.

July 19 - Israeli troops cross the border to raid Hizbollah posts. Annan calls for an immediate end to hostilities.

July 21 - Israel warns Lebanese civilians to leave border villages and calls up 3,000 reserves.

July 22 - Israel ousts Hizbollah guerrillas from the hilltop village of Maroun al-Ras, a stronghold just inside Lebanon.

July 23 - Jan Egeland, U.N. emergency relief coordinator, says Israeli bombing of a Beirut neighbourhood where Hizbollah had its headquarters has breached humanitarian law. He says rockets going into Israel have to stop.

July 24 -- U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice flies to Lebanon from Cyprus and meets Prime Minister Siniora.

July 25 - Olmert meets Rice to discuss war in Lebanon.

July 26 - Hizbollah kills nine Israeli soldiers advancing on the town of Bint Jbeil near the frontier.

-- An international conference in Rome papers over cracks by pledging to work for an urgent, but not immediate, ceasefire and agreeing on the need for an international peacekeeping force.

July 27 - Israel's inner cabinet chooses to pursue a strategy of air strikes and limited ground incursions, rather than a full-scale invasion to halt Hizbollah rockets.

July 28 - Longer-range rockets land in open ground in Israel near the town of Afula.

-- The U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon says it is temporarily moving unarmed military observers into its positions for safety, following an Israeli air strike that killed four on July 25.

July 29 - U.S. Secretary of State Rice holds talks in Israel to seek a deal on an international force to end fighting.

-- Israeli forces pull out of the border town of Bint Jbeil.

-- Hizbollah leader Nasrallah says Rice aims to impose conditions on Lebanon and serve Israeli interests. He vows more attacks on Israeli cities if it does not end the offensive. July 30 - An Israeli air strike kills at least 54 Lebanese civilians, including 37 children in the village of Qana. More

Thursday, July 27
4:49 pmBig Box Stores and the Free Market

Working for a medium sized catalog business, and having many bills that arrive monthly, I'm a big believer in markets and free enterprise. I believe market-driven policies aren't good for healthcare, education, or social welfare issues.

But issues on big-box stores are something that market driven policies do cover well. And I think that Chicago's Big Box/Living Wage ordinance is an excellent example of a market driven measure

Here's what I mean.

Those who perform the labor have the right and the ability to negotiate the wage they want to work for. Over the past few years labor unions have crumbled due to lack of inertia, greed, and corporate competition. So they haven't been able to help the low-wage worker. Congress hasn't passed an increase in the minimum wage in decades. Every time it comes up, Republicans and even some turncoat Dems trot out the same stupid argument about business not being able to compete. If you look at the totality of everything business wanted to stand in the way of on because of that reason, we'd still have 9 year-old kids working in factories for a dollar a day. So government hasn't come to the aid of the low-wage worker.

Now the GOP'ers are reading this and saying "well they should have negotiated a better rate." I say, if you work at a big-box, did you? I say do you really think a single mother has the ability to hold out for $12 an hour? I'm thinking she's at Target because she hasn't been able to find a job for $12 an hour. What if you're a father with 2 babies and a wife at home. Can you afford, monetarily and morally, to hold out? You drive the best bargain you can with what you can bring to the table, GOPers say. That works for white-collar workers in a few cases; but for the most part even those who make $100k+ (not me unfortunately) are all very happy to be overworked and underpaid for whatever they give us. Yas'suh we am.

This is the atmosphere that creates measures like Big Box. It's negotiation. Not the greatest form of negotiation, since it's a zero sum game. But it sends a message to mass employers like Wal-Mart that the days of paying next to nothing for labor are numbered. I don't understand why the big-boxers have their knickers in a knot. They, of all people should be accustomed to negotiation.

Does it mean Wal-Mart won't open in Chicago? Who knows. They've got to beat their quarterly numbers, which usually means opening stores to expand market share. I'm thinking that this will be a speed bump in terms of increased costs. But they're fearful of what would happen if the suburbs and small towns would start taking their cues from Chicago.

I think a bigger question is do we really need Wal-Mart, Target, Home Depot or Lowe'ss as the nation's largest employers? When GM was the largest employer, the country surged forward on the high wages paid to build cars and trucks. You could buy a house, raise a family, and send your kids to college on those wages. Wal-Mart? There's no way in hell you could accomplish that on a Wal-Mart wage. Hell, they don't even want to work people 40 hours so they can avoid paying benefits. Good for Wal-Mart, bad for the rest of us when Wal-Mart is the nation's largest employer.

The other peculiarity is that how does business expect the nation to afford all the new trinkets and whistles if they continue to be successful at paying next to nothing for a day's wage?

Someone has to speak up for low wage workers. The city councilmen, aldermen and similar representatives see the adverse affects of unnecessarily low wages. People having to work 2 or 3 jobs to struggle to get paid $20k per year. People with 40-hour a week jobs still stay on the public dole. All kinds of things that we who make a reasonably comfortable living don't worry about. Even we who make a decent living didn't help the low-wage worker.

I think we who make a good living need our own "Big Box Ordinance!"

Israel Opts Not to Expand Ground Offensive in S. Lebanon
Security Cabinet Calls Up Reserve Troops
Thursday, July 27 (Washington Post) A day after Israel suffered its worst losses of the ongoing war with Hezbollah, Israel's security cabinet opted not to expand the military operation in south Lebanon, as some army generals had recommended.

But the cabinet did decide to call up three divisions of reserve troops for a "readiness exercise" rather than for deployment to the front. The call-up, which could involve tens of thousands of reservists, underscored Israel's belief that Hezbollah's July 12 cross-border raid was designed to spark a wider war in the Middle East.

"We don't need these troops to attack, but to train," said an Israeli official familiar with the cabinet decision. "We need to be ready in case something happens in Syria or elsewhere."

The reserves are scheduled to be called up in the coming days, the official said. He estimated that the last reserve call-up of this size was during the 2002 Israeli operation in the West Bank at the height of the most recent Palestinian uprising. More

11:14 amEnd-Timer's Hullabaloo!

If one is a fervent, frothing believer in Biblical end-times theology, these are heady days. The US in Babylon, war raging in Lebanon, Iran threatening nuclear intentions. All you really need to do in order to supposedly "lock" in the second coming of Christ is to find a way to get China into the mix. Then, as they say, you've got a lead-pipe-cinch to the rapture, second coming, War in Heaven (Bush is everywhere!), Satan being thrown into a pit, etc.

Except for one thing that I, as a former devout believer now reduced to occasional church-goer, think they forget. Don't these things move at God's pace? Just because man tries to create the scenario for the return doesn't mean God says "sweet, they've set the table. I might as well make my move." That's giving man a little more credit than he's due, and totally throws off the theory of the creator as mover and shaker of his (or her) creation.

Isn't it better to devote oneself to the rest of the books of the Bible that's not Revelations? There's still nothing really wrong with peace, feeding the poor, loving one another, and the other things that the religious right seems to have forgotten about.