February 12th, 2006
Scotty says I taste like vodka. If only he realized I need to be liquored up to get on the bottom of that ride. His fat is crushing.
But I would be lying if I said that we don't have an agenda -- we do, and this is it:
1. A good job, where workers are respected for the work they do, are treated fairly and offered equal benefits
2. A safe home. So that we and our families can live in a community without fear of hate crimes and persecution
3. Fair and quality health care so that we have the ability to take care of our loved ones
4. And the right to be in a committed and legally recognized relationship that includes the same legal protections and rights offered to every other American -- no more, and no less.
For five years, President Bush waged war as he saw fit. If intelligence officers needed to eavesdrop on overseas telephone calls without warrants, he authorized it. If the military wanted to hold terrorism suspects without trial, he let it.
Now the Supreme Court has struck at the core of his presidency and dismissed the notion that the president alone can determine how to defend the country. In rejecting Bush's military tribunals for terrorism suspects, the high court ruled that even a wartime commander in chief must govern within constitutional confines significantly tighter than this president has believed appropriate.
For many in Washington, the decision echoed not simply as a matter of law but as a rebuke of a governing philosophy of a leader who at repeated turns has operated on the principle that it is better to act than to ask permission. This ethos is why many supporters find Bush an inspiring leader, and why many critics in this country and abroad react so viscerally against him.
The Arkansas Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a lower court's ruling that a policy banning homosexuals from becoming foster parents is unconstitutional.
The high court said no connection exists between a foster child's well-being and the sexual orientation of that child's foster parents.
"There is no correlation between the health, welfare and safety of foster children and the blanket exclusion of any individual who is a homosexual or who resides in a household with a homosexual," Associate Justice Donald Corbin wrote in the opinion.
The vote was split 5-3, with moderate Justice Anthony M. Kennedy joining the court's liberal members in ruling against the Bush administration. Chief Justice John Roberts, named to the lead the court last September by Bush, was sidelined in the case because as an appeals court judge he had backed the government over Hamdan.
Thursday's ruling overturned that decision.
More importantly, the Court held that Common Article 3 of Geneva aplies as a matter of treaty obligation to the conflict against Al Qaeda. That is the HUGE part of today's ruling. The commissions are the least of it. This basically resolves the debate about interrogation techniques, because Common Article 3 provides that detained persons "shall in all circumstances be treated humanely," and that "[t]o this end," certain specified acts "are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever"—including "cruel treatment and torture," and "outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment." This standard, not limited to the restrictions of the due process clause, is much more restrictive than even the McCain Amendment. See my further discussion here.
This almost certainly means that the CIA's interrogation regime is unlawful, and indeed, that many techniques the Administation has been using, such as waterboarding and hypothermia (and others) violate the War Crimes Act (because violations of Common Article 3 are deemed war crimes).
The case raised core constitutional principles of separation of powers as well as fundamental issues of individual rights. Specifically, the questions concerned:
· The power of Congress and the executive to strip the federal courts and the Supreme Court of jurisdiction.
· The authority of the executive to lock up individuals under claims of wartime power, without benefit of traditional protections such as a jury trial, the right to cross-examine one's accusers and the right to judicial appeal.
· The applicability of international treaties -- specifically the Geneva Conventions on the treatment of prisoners of war -- to the government's treatment of those it deems "enemy combatants."
"There will be a struggle. The establishment won't simply lay down their arms and run into the waiting arms of the netroots and ask for forgiveness. It is hard to get people out of a pattern they're used to. On the other hand, there will be a lot of pressure on the bloggers hired by campaigns to serve their new employers faithfully."
R.J. Eskow isn't wild about the idea:
"While I'm happy for Peter -- she's not the anti-Christ, for God's sake! -- I would be insulted at the idea that the substantive differences that I (and many others) have with Hillary can be resolved through some sort of outreach program . This member of the 'online community' is not going to be persuaded by some 'Internet game plan' that her stand on Iraq, and defense issues in general, is anything but a) unprincipled, and b) poor political strategy.
"I sensed a split in the online progressive community some time ago. On one side of the divide are the Democratic Party activists, who tend to emphasize party unity and success above all. Many of them (though by no means all) are actively pursuing careers in the party, including campaign consultancies. On the other side are issues-driven activists who are motivated by core concerns, chief among them opposition to the war in Iraq."
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado (CNN) -- On June 7, the U.S. Senate voted for a second time on an amendment to define marriage in the U.S. Constitution as being exclusively between one man and one woman.
Again this year, the amendment failed to pass by a wide margin, falling 18 votes shy of a required two-thirds majority. The final tally was 49 in favor, 48 opposed.
Rarely has there been a greater disconnect between members of the Senate and the American people who put them in power. With the help of the media, which laid down "cover" by claiming voters didn't care about marriage, 40 Democrats, one Independent and seven Republicans turned their backs on this most basic social institution.
Let's examine the claim that traditional marriage lacks support in the court of public opinion. As it always does when conservative issues are being debated, the liberal press produced a series of trumped-up polls indicating the issue was of no interest nationally. However, there was another "poll" that the media completely ignored. In fact, there were 19 of them. They represented the 19 states in which voters overwhelmingly defined marriage as being between a man and a woman.
But Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, said Wednesday that he would seek to prevent a floor vote on the telecommunications bill because it did not include extensive Net neutrality regulations. "I will object to any further action on this telecommunications bill until it includes a strong net neutrality provisions that will truly benefit consumers and small business," Wyden said, a promise that has teeth because the Senate often works through unanimous consent.
WASHINGTON - The House on Wednesday voted to continue to allow federal prosecution of those who smoke marijuana for medical purposes in states with laws that permit it.
A year ago, the Supreme Court ruled that the federal government can prosecute medical marijuana users, even when state laws allow doctor-prescribed use of the drug.
By a 259-163 vote, the House again turned down an amendment that would have blocked the Justice Department from prosecuting people in the 11 states with such medical marijuana laws.
I spent part of the day sitting on a New York tarmac yesterday -- trust me, you don't want to hear how long it took me to get there -- but I did get a chance to see the New York Post's mocking headline about the newspaper it dubbed New York Crimes .
That was one of approximately 4,007 bits of evidence that the New York Times has become the right's favorite pi?ata.
Here's my report on the controversy, and then we'll hear from other voices:
President Bush calls the conduct of the New York Times "disgraceful." Vice President Cheney objects to the paper having won a Pulitzer Prize. A Republican congressman wants the Times prosecuted. National Review says its press credentials should be yanked. Radio commentator Tammy Bruce likens the paper to Julius and Ethel Rosenberg.
Even by modern standards of media-bashing, the volume of vitriol being heaped upon the editors on Manhattan's West 43rd Street is remarkable -- especially considering that the Los Angeles Times and Wall Street Journal also published accounts Friday of a secret administration program to monitor the financial transactions of terror suspects. So, in its later editions, did The Washington Post.
Times Executive Editor Bill Keller said in an interview yesterday that critics "are still angry at us" for disclosing the government's domestic eavesdropping program in December, "and I guess in their view, this adds insult to injury. . . . The Bush administration's reaction roused their base, but also roused the anti-Bush base as well," he said, noting an approximately even split in his e-mail.
Still, Keller added, "a lot of people have legitimate and genuine feelings about this, and I don't mean to belittle that."
For Republicans, the Times, with its national prominence and liberal editorial page opposed to the war in Iraq, is proving an increasingly irresistible target. They contend that exposing the classified banking program has badly undermined the administration's efforts to investigate and capture terrorists.
House Republican leaders are expected to introduce a resolution today condemning The New York Times for publishing a story last week that exposed government monitoring of banking records.
The resolution is expected to condemn the leak and publication of classified documents, said one Republican aide with knowledge of the impending legislation.
The resolution comes as Republicans from the president on down condemn media organizations for reporting on the secret government program that tracked financial records overseas through the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications (SWIFT), an international banking cooperative.
Congress is voting tomorrow on an amendment, introduced by U.S. Reps. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), to bar the U.S. Justice Department -- which includes the DEA -- from spending taxpayer money on raiding, arresting, and prosecuting patients who are using medical marijuana in the 11 states where it's legal.
Action Alert time: Go here and let your Congressperson know how you want them to vote.
Other bills are certain to spark controversy.
One would to strip the Supreme Court and other federal courts of jurisdiction over cases challenging the constitutionality of the Pledge of Allegiance. The legislation is a response to a 2002 Appeals Court ruling that held the pledge is unconstitutional because of the presence of the words "under God." A federal judge made a similar ruling last fall, citing the appeals court precedent.
Another measure would block the payment of attorney fees in challenges to the display of the Ten Commandments in public areas and other, similar church-state lawsuits.
An abortion-related proposal would require that some women seeking to end their pregnancies be informed the procedure "will cause the unborn child pain" and they have the option of receiving drugs to reduce or eliminate it. A separate measure would ban human cloning, a prohibition that cleared the House in the previous Congress.
Two measures relate to the rights of gun owners. One would prohibit the confiscation of legal firearms during national emergencies, barring practices such as the one that officials said arose in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina hit.
The measure is backed by the National Rifle Association, which has hailed the recent passage of a state law in Louisiana. "The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina became the proving ground for what American gun owners have always feared: the day that government bureaucrats throw the Bill of Rights in the trash and declare freedom to be whatever they say it is," Wayne LaPierre, NRA executive vice president, said in a statement posted on the organization's Web site.
House Republicans also said they would hold a vote on legislation to apply gambling laws to the Internet.
WASHINGTON - A constitutional amendment to ban flag desecration died in a Senate cliffhanger Tuesday, a single vote short of the support needed to send it to the states for ratification a week before Independence Day.
The 66-34 tally in favor of the amendment was one less than the two-thirds required. The House surpassed that threshold last year, 286-130.
The telephone poll of 1,000 adults has an error margin of +/- 3 percentage points.
Among the findings:
• Voters are interested in the election at levels not usually seen in non-presidential years. More than a third have thought "quite a lot" about the congressional elections. Seven of 10 say they are very motivated to get out and vote this year.
• Democrats are particularly engaged: 56% of Democrats say they are "more enthusiastic about voting than usual," the highest level of enthusiasm since the question was first asked in 1994. In comparison, 43% of Republicans say they are more enthusiastic than usual.
• Americans are increasingly likely to identify themselves as Democrats. Including those who "lean" to one party or the other, 55% call themselves Democrats, 38% Republicans — the biggest edge for Democrats since 1998. By 54%-38%, those surveyed say they'd vote for the Democratic congressional candidate over the Republican one in their district if the election was held today.
WASHINGTON — A bill becomes the rule of the land when Congress passes it and the president signs it into law, right?
Not necessarily, according to the White House. A law is not binding when a president issues a separate statement saying he reserves the right to revise, interpret or disregard it on national security and constitutional grounds.
That's the argument a Bush administration official is expected to make Tuesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Arlen Specter, R-Pa., who has demanded a hearing on a practice he considers an example of the administration's abuse of power.
"It's a challenge to the plain language of the Constitution," Specter said in an interview with The Associated Press. "I'm interested to hear from the administration just what research they've done to lead them to the conclusion that they can cherry-pick."
Finally, there is the word "desecration". It raises the flag to the level of a sacred religious object. More sacred even than the Bill of Rights that the flag symbolizes. Desecration sets aside the constitution in order to give a religious reverence to a symbol.
It is the sheerest luck, I know, that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales looks (to me) a bit like Jerry Mahoney, because he fulfills the same function for the Bush administration that the dummy did for the ventriloquist Paul Winchell. At risk to his reputation and the mocking he must get when he comes home at night, Gonzales will call virtually anyone an al-Qaeda-type terrorist. He did that last week in announcing the arrest of seven inferred (it's the strongest word I can use) terrorists. I thought I saw Dick Cheney moving his lips.
The seven were indicted on charges that they wanted to blow up the Sears Tower in Chicago and the FBI bureau in Miami. The arrests came in the nick of time, since all that prevented mass murder, mayhem and an incessant crawl at the bottom of our TV screens was the lack of explosives, weapons or vehicles. The alleged conspirators did have boots, which were supplied by an FBI informant. Maybe the devil does wear Prada.
Naturally, cable news was all over the story since it provided pictures . These included shots of the Sears Tower, the FBI bureau, the seven alleged terrorists and, of course, Gonzales dutifully playing his assigned role of the dummy. He noted that the suspects wanted to wage a "full ground war" against the United States and "kill all the devils" they could -- this despite a clear lack of materiel and sidewalk-level IQs. Still, as Gonzales pointed out, if "left unchecked, these homegrown terrorists may prove to be as dangerous as groups like al-Qaeda." A presidential medal for the man, please.
A US military spokesman in charge of detainee operations said that all of the 2,500 inmates released since Maliki first unveiled his initiative on June 6 are just suspected of being involved in the insurgency but have committed no violent crimes like bombing, killing, torture and kidnapping.
"Your release today is part of the prime minister's national reconciliation plan," national security advisor Muwaffaq al-Rubaie told the prisoners at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison before they were loaded on to buses.
"This is not a political game, it is a sincere attempt of reconciliation and to unite Iraq."
Almost 13,000 detainees remain in US custody.
Although there have been numerous detainee releases from Abu Ghraib and other US-run facilities since the April 2004 prisoner abuse scandal, both US and Iraqi authorities were eager to link the latest releases to the Maliki plan.
"There must have been a good security reason for them to be arrested. They all were detained for security reasons," Rubaie told AFP.
But this was disputed by many freed detainees.
"What is this reconciliation plan? I have always been an innocent man and never fought with anyone on the basis of religion, but look what happened to me," Abbas Hamid from Baghdad, who was imprisoned for five months, said angrily.
One of the main items in Maliki's 24-point reconciliation programme promised amnesty only to those detainees who have committed no crimes.
But some influential Sunni Arab leaders like Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi have said that without a clear and unconditional amnesty to all "resistance fighters" the plan would do little to stem the insurgency, which has now branched out into vicious sectarian violence.
WEST PALM BEACH, Florida (AP) -- Rush Limbaugh could see a deal with prosecutors in a long-running prescription fraud case collapse after authorities found a bottle of Viagra in his bag at Palm Beach International Airport. The prescription was not in his name.
Limbaugh was detained for more than three hours Monday at the airport after returning from a vacation in the Dominican Republic.
Customs officials found the Viagra in his luggage but his name was not on the prescription, said Paul Miller, a spokesman for the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office.
Miller said the alleged violation could be a second-degree misdemeanor. The sheriff's office was investigating and will soon turn the case over to the state attorney's office, which had no immediate comment Tuesday.
Under the deal reached last month with prosecutors, Limbaugh was not to be arrested for any infraction for 18 months in exchange for authorities deferring a charge of "doctor shopping."
WASHINGTON - The chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee urged the Bush administration on Sunday to seek criminal charges against newspapers that reported on a secret financial-monitoring program used to trace terrorists.
Rep. Peter King cited The New York Times in particular for publishing a story last week that the Treasury Department was working with the CIA to examine messages within a massive international database of money-transfer records.
King, R-N.Y., said he would write Attorney General Alberto Gonzales urging that the nation's chief law enforcer "begin an investigation and prosecution of The New York Times — the reporters, the editors and the publisher."
"We're at war, and for the Times to release information about secret operations and methods is treasonous," King told The Associated Press.
A message left Sunday with Times spokeswoman Catherine Mathis was not immediately returned.
King's action was not endorsed by the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, GOP Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania.
"On the basis of the newspaper article, I think it's premature to call for a prosecution of the New York Times, just like I think it's premature to say that the administration is entirely correct," Specter told "Fox News Sunday."
Sen. Arlen Specter, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, compared the measure to Supreme Court decisions banning so-called "fighting words," slander, libel, obscenity and pornography involving children. As such, he said, it has no "social value."
"Flag burning is a form of expression that is spiteful or vengeful," the five-term Pennsylvania Republican said. "It is designed to hurt. It is not designed to persuade."
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court agreed Monday to consider whether the Bush administration must regulate carbon dioxide to combat global warming, setting up what could be one of the court's most important decisions on the environment.
A dozen states, a number of cities and various environmental groups asked the court to take up the case after a divided lower court ruled against them.
They argue that the Environmental Protection Agency is obligated to limit carbon dioxide emissions from motor vehicles under the federal Clean Air Act because as the primary "greenhouse" gas causing a warming of the earth, carbon dioxide is a pollutant.
The administration maintains that carbon dioxide — unlike other chemicals that must be controlled to assure healthy air — is not a pollutant under the federal clean air law, and that even if it were the EPA has discretion over whether to regulate it.
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Democrats who have called for U.S. troops to start coming home from Iraq said a proposed withdrawal plan reportedly put forward by the top American general there shows their criticism has been on the mark.
President Bush's Republican allies in Congress in recent weeks have criticized Democratic proposals for getting out of Iraq, accusing the opposition party of laying plans to "cut and run" from the war.
But The New York Times, quoting unnamed U.S. officials, reported Sunday that Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, plans to send home about 7,000 of the 127,000 American troops by September without replacing them. More than 20,000 more would leave by the end of 2007, the Times reported.
"Here we have a situation where Democrats, 80 percent of us, voted to say we ought to start reducing our troop presence there -- and again, we got pummeled," Sen. Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat, told CBS. "And now, it turns out, we're in synch with General Casey."
WASHINGTON - The White House on Monday played down reports that the United States is planning sharp troop withdrawals from Iraq, beginning with the pullout of two combat brigades in September.
"I would caution very strongly against everybody thinking, `Well, they're going to pull two brigades out,'" White House press secretary Tony Snow said.
"Maybe they will, maybe they won't," he said. "It really does depend upon a whole series of things that we cannot at this juncture predict. I would characterize this more in terms of scenario building and we'll see how it proceeds."
From my own perspective as a blogger, I think that while appearances are important, Moulitsas has done nothing wrong nor has he operated in an unethical manner. The email list is titillating but hardly the stuff of conspiracy. And as far as the blogad controversy, unless your blog has a fairly large presence, your remuneration will be so small that most bloggers wouldn’t think twice about speaking their mind if they believed Kos was wrong. The threat of Moulitsas pulling their ads is therefore not credible.
What all of this does point to is the imminent demise of blogs as we have come to know and love them. Blogs are about ready to hit the big time. It is expected that most competitive campaigns will spend tens of millions of dollars on internet advertising before the November elections, a large chunk of that on political blogs. What will all of this money do to Blogland?
We will probably see a stratification process as money flows to larger blogs and smaller websites scrambling for the remainder while the owners harbor dreams of making it big. And this presents a whole series of problems with blogs themselves and what we who write them are becoming.
In order to get a nice chunk of that ad money, smaller sites must grow. And the surest way to grow one’s blog is by being a good writer and participating in controversy. I don’t deny that one of my motivations for writing this piece is that people who read this site and others are interested in the Kos case. But what this kind of thinking reveals on my part and on the part of political bloggers in general is a thirst for the controversies and scandals that rock politics on a regular basis and appeal to the lowest common denominator in readership.
In this respect, we are little better than the “old” media in that the drive for readership and notoriety is becoming paramount. Gone are the days when many of us simply blogged for the sake of writing and sharing information. And while there are still thousands of bloggers who enjoy blogging for its own sake, for many of us, it has become a competitive enterprise, a stepping stone to bigger and better things.
Will success spoil the blog and the blogger? Even if it does, there will be someone and something to take its place. The only thing we can be certain of is that the pace of change in this on-line world is than in any other mass medium in history. Where it will be five years from now is anyone’s guess.
Swift has said that its role in the program was never voluntary, but that it was obligated to comply with a valid subpoena, and had worked to narrow the range of data it provided to American officials.
But the Treasury secretary, Mr. Snow, said Friday that after the Sept. 11 attacks, Treasury Department officials initially presented the cooperative with what he described as "really narrowly crafted subpoenas all tied to terrorism." Officials at Swift responded that that they did not have the ability to "extract the particular information from their broad database."
"So they said, 'We'll give you all the data,' " Secretary Snow said.
The Republican-controlled Congress seems to be struggling lately to carry out its most basic mission: passing legislation. A proposed constitutional ban on same-sex marriage failed miserably. Long-debated immigration legislation has reached an impasse. The House passed line-item veto and estate tax measures that face significant hurdles in the Senate, while the Senate devoted a week to impassioned debates over Iraq that only resulted in two failed Democratic resolutions.
Democratic critics are reviving Harry S. Truman's taunt of a "Do-Nothing Congress." But many Republicans say they are exactly where they want to be as they head into the November elections, which will determine whether they retain their House and Senate majorities. In every instance, GOP leaders pushed legislation known to have little or no chance of eventual enactment but also known to appeal to conservative voters, whose turnout is crucial to the party's success.
On Monday, Senate Republicans plan to launch a debate on what many Democrats consider the king of cynical, election-oriented bills: a proposed constitutional amendment banning the desecration of the American flag. Senators say it is possible that they finally have the two-thirds majority needed for passage, but analysts in both parties say it hardly matters. The flag amendment is red meat for conservative audiences, and it is no surprise that Republicans are rolling it out with eight legislative weeks left in the election year.
"There's no question that they are trotting out their hardy perennials," said Matt Bennett, a former Democratic staffer who is vice president of Third Way, a centrist think tank. "They're done purely for political gamesmanship. . . . No one can go to the floor and say, 'The citizens of my district are demanding we take up the flag amendment.' "
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Anti-abortion activists who have been a big part of the Republican coalition in recent years are working to ensure that President Bush's sagging popularity won't harm re-election prospects for incumbents who've supported their cause.
The activists also are nervous about whether a far-reaching South Dakota law banning almost all abortions could withstand a legal challenge.
Against this setting, leaders of the National Right to Life Committee acknowledged Friday that several congressional races will be tough, with the possibility that discontent with Bush and the Republican-controlled Congress will result in losses in November and a setback for the movement.
"It's going to be a difficult year," said Karen Cross, political director for the group, which is holding its annual, three-day meeting in Nashville. "We're going to try to protect our pro-life incumbents and win open seats and defeat pro-abortion candidates or incumbents."
Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said she expects abortion to be a critical issue in the midterm elections and that a backlash against Republicans could endanger anti-abortion candidates.
"We are confident that America's pro-choice majority will go to the polls in November to elect candidates who share their mainstream values," she said.
BAGHDAD, Iraq, June 23 — The Iraqi government declared a state of emergency in Baghdad after American forces were involved in quelling a firefight in the city's center.
Elsewhere in Iraq, at least 12 people died and 24 were wounded after a bomb exploded just outside in a Sunni mosque in the village where Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was killed. And at least 10 people were killed by a car bomb in the southern city of Basra, news services reported.
The American military announced today that a Marine was killed on Wednesday during combat operations in al-Anbar province, and that a soldier in Baghdad had died the same day in an incident unrelated to fighting.
The gunfight today broke out in Baghdad as members of the Mahdi Army militia moved in force to escort the radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr to a Shiite mosque in a Sunni neighborhood. During last week's Friday services, a suicide bomber carrying explosives in his shoes blew himself up in a crowd of worshippers at the Baratha mosque, killing 11 and wounding 25.
The assertion by two Republican lawmakers that a new intelligence study proves that chemical weapons were found in Iraq has triggered sharp criticism from Democrats that the GOP is distorting intelligence for political purposes.
At issue is a classified overview of chemical munitions found in Iraq since 2003 that was completed in April by the Army's National Ground Intelligence Center. One of the report's key findings was that since the invasion of Iraq in 2003, coalition forces have recovered about 500 shells, canisters or other munitions that contain degraded mustard gas or sarin nerve agent.
That finding was seized on by Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.) chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), a strong supporter of the war who is trailing his Democratic opponent in his reelection bid. The two said that the study indicated that Saddam Hussein, as president of Iraq, possessed weapons of mass destruction.
"Iraq was not a WMD-free zone," Santorum told reporters earlier this week. "We have found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, chemical weapons." He added that he had been chasing the intelligence report "for 2 1/2 months."
Yesterday, however, Rep. Jane Harman (Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the intelligence panel, said the study contained "nothing new" and questioned the timing of its release, coming as it did in the midst of congressional debates on the war in Iraq.
That assertion was backed up by representatives of three intelligence agencies who told reporters that the study differed little from a 2004 report of a team of American weapons inspectors led by Charles A. Duelfer that concluded that Hussein was not in possession of significant stocks of chemical, biological or nuclear weapons at the time of the U.S.-led invasion.
The intelligence officials also said that the munitions referred to in the report were produced before the Persian Gulf War in 1991 and that they had degraded and could not be used as designed. "There is no evidence today of any post-1991 WMD munitions," said the official, who agreed to speak with reporters only if his identity and his agency were not disclosed.
In addition, Coulter defended "The Bell Curve," the 1994 book which alleged that blacks are less smart than whites because of genetic rather than socioeconomic differences.
"Liberals were afraid of a book that told the truth about IQ ... because they are godless secularists who do not believe humans are in God's image...," Coulter wrote yesterday. "(L)iberals are terrified of making any comment that seems to acknowledge that there are any differences among groups of people -- especially racial groups. It's difficult to have a simple conversation -- much less engage in free-ranging, open scientific inquiry -- when liberals are constantly rushing in with their rule book about what can and cannot be said."
WASHINGTON — It has been 2,000 years and possibly much longer since the Earth has run such a fever.
The National Academy of Sciences, reaching that conclusion in a broad review of scientific work requested by Congress, reported Thursday that the "recent warmth is unprecedented for at least the last 400 years and potentially the last several millennia."
A panel of top climate scientists told lawmakers that the Earth is heating up and that "human activities are responsible for much of the recent warming."
Their 155-page report said average global surface temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere rose about 1 degree during the 20th century.
This is shown in boreholes, retreating glaciers and other evidence found in nature, said Gerald North, a geosciences professor at Texas A&M University who chaired the academy's panel.
The report was requested in November by the chairman of the House Science Committee, Rep. Sherwood Boehlert, R-N.Y., to address naysayers who question whether global warming is a major threat.
The GOP-controlled Senate was poised to vote Thursday on two Democratic proposals to start redeploying U.S. troops from Iraq this year, a week after both houses of Congress soundly rejected withdrawal timetables.
Both proposals — offered as amendments to an annual military bill — were expected to be defeated, mostly along partisan lines.
"One hundred percent of the Democratic caucus believes it's time for change. One hundred percent of the Republican caucus believes it's time to stay the course," Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said during debate, voicing the Democratic view of the likely vote outcome as well as the choice facing voters this fall.
June 21, 2006 | In a pivotal network operations center in metropolitan St. Louis, AT&T has maintained a secret, highly secured room since 2002 where government work is being conducted, according to two former AT&T workers once employed at the center.
In interviews with Salon, the former AT&T workers said that only government officials or AT&T employees with top-secret security clearance are admitted to the room, located inside AT&T's facility in Bridgeton. The room's tight security includes a biometric "mantrap" or highly sophisticated double door, secured with retinal and fingerprint scanners. The former workers say company supervisors told them that employees working inside the room were "monitoring network traffic" and that the room was being used by "a government agency."
The details provided by the two former workers about the Bridgeton room bear the distinctive earmarks of an operation run by the National Security Agency, according to two intelligence experts with extensive knowledge of the NSA and its operations. In addition to the room's high-tech security, those intelligence experts told Salon, the exhaustive vetting process AT&T workers were put through before being granted top-secret security clearance points to the NSA, an agency known as much for its intense secrecy as its technological sophistication.
"It was very hush-hush," said one of the former AT&T workers. "We were told there was going to be some government personnel working in that room. We were told, 'Do not try to speak to them. Do not hamper their work. Do not impede anything that they're doing.'"
The importance of the Bridgeton facility is its role in managing the "common backbone" for all of AT&T's Internet operations. According to one of the former workers, Bridgeton serves as the technical command center from which the company manages all the routers and circuits carrying the company's domestic and international Internet traffic. Therefore, Bridgeton could be instrumental for conducting surveillance or collecting data.
If the NSA is using the secret room, it would appear to bolster recent allegations that the agency has been conducting broad and possibly illegal domestic surveillance and data collection operations authorized by the Bush administration after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. AT&T's Bridgeton location would give the NSA potential access to an enormous amount of Internet data -- currently, the telecom giant controls approximately one-third of all bandwidth carrying Internet traffic to homes and businesses across the United States.
The nature of the government operation using the Bridgeton room remains unknown, and could be legal. Aside from surveillance or data collection, the room could conceivably house a federal law enforcement operation, a classified research project, or some other unknown government operation.
The former workers, both of whom were approached by and spoke separately to Salon, asked to remain anonymous because they still work in the telecommunications industry. They both left the company in good standing. Neither worked inside the secured room or has access to classified information. One worked in AT&T's broadband division until 2003. The other asked to be identified only as a network technician, and worked at Bridgeton for about three years.
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama (Reuters) - The largest U.S. Presbyterian Church body approved a measure on Tuesday that would open the way for the ordination of gays and lesbians under certain circumstances.
The new policy was approved on a vote of 57-43 percent among 500 church representatives at the biennial meeting of the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. It gives local church organizations more leeway in deciding if gays can be ordained as lay deacons and elders as well as clergy, provided they are faithful to the church's core values.
"It permits local governing bodies to examine candidates on a wider criterion than sexual orientation ... it allows these bodies to look at the whole person and not categorize them," said John Walton, pastor of First Presbyterian Church in New York's Greenwich Village and a member of the "Covenant Network of Presbyterians" which backed the change.
Kim Clayton Richter of the Columbia Theological Seminary in Atlanta, a member of the same group, said it's wrong to interpret the Bible literally on homosexuality.
"You cannot pick out two or three passages to prove your point. You have to look at the whole witness of Jesus Christ. We've changed our mentality on slavery and the role of women. We have to change with reality," Richter said.
By a vote of 79 to 19, the Senate voted to declare that it objects to any such amnesty. By 64 to 34, the lawmakers voted to commend the new Iraqi government for not granting amnesty.
Though they are deeply divided over what America should do in Iraq and how to get out, senators from both parties expressed anger and revulsion over reports that the two American soldiers who were abducted last week had been found tortured and killed.
Senator Bill Nelson, Democrat of Florida, voiced outrage over reports of "the tragedy that has been revealed," pointing to note initial reports that the two bodies had apparently been "mutilated and boobytrapped." Mr. Nelson was the author of the measure declaring the Senate's opposition to amnesty, while Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the second-ranking Republican in the chamber, sponsored the measure commending the Iraqi government.
Senator John W. Warner, the Virginia Republican who heads the Armed Services Committee, said the "mutilation of these two brave American soldiers" was yet another example of the "ferocity" of the conflict. But he said the lawmakers needed to be careful not to appear to "dictate" to the new Baghdad leadership.
Before the voting on the Nelson and McConnell measures, which took the form of amendments to a military spending bill, some senators expressed doubts over just what the Iraqi government had said about amnesty; those doubts may have been a factor in the 34 "no" votes that were cast. And political maneuvering may have been a factor as well: the 34 "no" votes on the McConnell measure were all cast by Democrats, while the 19 "no" votes on Mr. Nelson's proposal were from Republicans.
WASHINGTON - Numerous federal and local law enforcement agencies have bypassed subpoenas and warrants designed to protect civil liberties and gathered Americans' personal telephone records from private-sector data brokers.
These brokers, many of whom advertise aggressively on the Internet, have gotten into customer accounts online, tricked phone companies into revealing information and even acknowledged that their practices violate laws, according to documents gathered by congressional investigators and provided to The Associated Press.
We'd better not turn away just yet from the suicides of those three detainees at Guantanamo Bay. The rest of the world clearly isn't ready to move on. And with good reason.
In many newspapers around the globe "Guantanamo" is much more than the name of a beautiful harbor on Cuba's southern coast. It has become shorthand for a whole litany of American excesses in George W. Bush's "global war on terror," the most visible example of how the United States blithely ignores the values of due process and rule of law that it so aggressively preaches, if necessary at the point of a gun.
U.S. officials have portrayed the three men -- Ali Abdullah Ahmed of Yemen, and Mani Shaman Turki al-Habardi al-Utaybi and Yasser Talal al-Zahrani of Saudi Arabia -- as irredeemable jihadists whose deaths were an act of war. Ahmed was allegedly a "mid- to high-level al-Qaeda operative," Utaybi a "militant" recruiter for jihad, Zahrani a "front-line" warrior for the Taliban. One State Department official called their deaths by hanging "a good P.R. move," and while those words were quickly disavowed by higher-ups, the general reaction from the U.S. government has been something pretty close to "good riddance."
For all we know, these men might have been the evil miscreants our government says they were. Since our government wouldn't describe whatever evidence it claimed to have against them, it's impossible to tell. I think any reasonable observer would conclude it's also quite possible that these men were clinically depressed after being held for years in steel-mesh cells without legal recourse, without even formal charges, and that they simply sought the only kind of release they could possibly achieve. At least one of them, Ahmed, had been on a hunger strike for most of this year, which would have meant that guards regularly force-fed him through tubes stuck down his nose. What would that do to your state of mind?