Saturday, October 15, 2005
GI's and Syrians in Tense Clashes on Iraqi Border
By James Risen and David E. Sanger
The New York Times
Saturday 15 October 2005
Washington, Oct. 14 - A series of clashes in the last year between American and Syrian troops, including a prolonged firefight this summer that killed several Syrians, has raised the prospect that cross-border military operations may become a dangerous new front in the Iraq war, according to current and former military and government officials.
The firefight, between Army Rangers and Syrian troops along the border with Iraq, was the most serious of the conflicts with President Bashar al-Assad's forces, according to American and Syrian officials.
It illustrated the dangers facing American troops as Washington tries to apply more political and military pressure on a country that President Bush last week labeled one of the "allies of convenience" with Islamic extremists. He also named Iran.
One of Mr. Bush's most senior aides, who declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the subject, said that so far American military forces in Iraq had moved right up to the border to cut off the entry of insurgents, but he insisted that they had refrained from going over it.
But other officials, who say they got their information in the field or by talking to Special Operations commanders, say that as American efforts to cut off the flow of fighters have intensified, the operations have spilled over the border - sometimes by accident, sometimes by design.
Some current and former officials add that the United States military is considering plans to conduct special operations inside Syria, using small covert teams for cross-border intelligence gathering.
The broadening military effort along the border has intensified as the Iraqi constitutional referendum scheduled for Saturday approaches, and as frustration mounts in the Bush administration and among senior American commanders over their inability to prevent foreign radical Islamists from engaging in suicide bombings and other deadly terrorist acts inside Iraq.
Increasingly, officials say, Syria is to the Iraq war what Cambodia was in the Vietnam War: a sanctuary for fighters, money and supplies to flow over the border and, ultimately, a place for a shadow struggle.
Friday, October 14, 2005
I'm not affiliated with Tim Kaine, nor am I working for the campaign, but I am a concerned voter who will be turning out for Kaine next month. Here's the response from Kaine's site:
Watching Jerry Kilgore's latest TV ads in the Virginia governor's race, you might conclude that Tim Kaine is a Hitler lover and that Kilgore's idea of justice comes from the Taliban.
In the commonwealth where Thomas Jefferson and James Madison once debated the purpose of government, we now get to watch the tortured relatives of murder victims go on TV in new Kilgore ads that use every tacky trick in the book to knee Kaine in the groin.
The spots are devilishly well-made, from the soft lighting and weepy narrator to the tinkling piano music and Kilgore's simply beautiful eye blink of utter honesty. But their content is pernicious: "Tim Kaine voluntarily represented the person who murdered my son," the father of a murdered man says in one ad. This, we are supposed to believe, is a heinous act.
In the warped world of TV campaigning, we have one candidate for governor who doesn't believe in the American system of justice and another who coddles mass murderers.
From that same ad: "Tim Kaine says that Adolf Hitler doesn't qualify for the death penalty."
Here's what Kaine really said when the Richmond Times-Dispatch asked if people like Hitler should be executed:
"Well, you know. . . . God grants life and God should take it away. Do horrible, heinous things deserve incredible punishment? You bet."
Kaine talked about his religious opposition to taking a life, and exceptions such as self-defense and a just war. Pushed, he said terrible criminals "may deserve" death, but noted that "most nations have decided not to have a death penalty, and many are very safe."
Sorry, Jerry, but this was no Michael Dukakis moment, named for the 1988 presidential nominee who torpedoed his campaign by flatly remarking that he'd oppose the death penalty for someone who raped and murdered his wife. I'd want to tear apart such a thug, and I bet Kaine would, too.
But I'd also want the state to rise above my vengeful rage and stand for the principle that government is no murderer. I think that's what Kaine believes inside, but I can't report that as a fact because Kaine is playing games. He wants us to give him a bye because his convictions are grounded in his religion. People on both sides of this debate would grant Kaine and his Catholic faith great respect because there is a poetic consistency to the church's belief in protecting life from either the death penalty or abortion.
But Kaine doesn't stop there. No, he wants us to believe that in both cases, he can and would separate his personal beliefs from his pledge to uphold the law. He opposes abortion, but he'd enforce laws that allow it. He opposes the death penalty, but he'd sign death warrants and marshal legal resources to kill more capital convicts.
Kaine, a terrific lawyer, is well-versed in the art of arguing for that which you do not believe. But this makes no sense as a basis for election as governor. We elect people not only for their managerial skill, but for their moral and civic leadership. I want to vote for people who believe what they stand for and stand for what they believe in. Truthout...
Prosecutor Nears Decision in CIA Probe
The Associated Press
Thursday 13 October 2005
Washington - Two years after the White House assured the public it had not leaked a CIA officer's identity, a prosecutor is nearing a decision on whether to file criminal charges after assembling evidence that top presidential aides had numerous contacts with reporters in the matter.
Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald has a variety of options as he weighs whether anyone broke a law that bars the intentional unmasking of a CIA officer. Defense lawyers increasingly are concerned Fitzgerald might pursue other charges such as false statements, obstruction of justice or mishandling classified information.
Before those decisions are made, presidential confidant Karl Rove will make a fourth grand jury appearance, as early as Friday. Rove did talk about CIA officer Valerie Plame with two of the reporters who published her identity and has been summoned by the prosecutor to answer additional questions.
Plame is the wife of Bush administration critic Joseph Wilson. A former U.S. ambassador, Wilson attracted the White House's attention in 2003 for saying that the administration had manipulated prewar intelligence on Iraq.
Rove's appearance carries risks.
"Criminal defense lawyers cringe at a witness going back a fourth time," said Kirby Behre, a white-collar defense attorney. People in the spotlight "feel if they don't cooperate it could mean their job."
Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis I. "Scooter" Libby, also is gaining additional scrutiny after New York Times reporter Judith Miller belatedly turned over notes showing the two had a third, previously undisclosed, conversation about Wilson.
That conversation occurred even before Wilson's public criticism of the administration's handling of intelligence.
The White House originally made strong denials two years ago that Rove and Libby never leaked the identity of Wilson's wife, and Bush pledged to fire anyone who did. As the evidence has emerged, the strategy has changed.
Bush now says he will fire someone only if the person committed a crime. Also, lawyers no longer contest that their clients discussed the identity of Wilson's wife with reporters. Instead, the lawyers are trying to make the case that exposing her covert status was inadvertent and not part of a conspiracy.
"Did Karl purposely set out to disclose Valerie Plame's identity in order to punish Joe Wilson for his criticism? The answer is, 'No,"' said Rove's lawyer, Robert Luskin.
Whatever the outcome, Fitzgerald has burnished his reputation as a tough, hard-charging prosecutor. He got a judge to send Miller to prison for 85 days for refusing to testify and the prosecutor persuaded other reporters to cooperate.
It was Fitzgerald's letter to Libby's lawyer in September that helped resolve the impasse over Miller, resulting in her testimony.
Scott McClellan Says Helen Thomas Opposes 'War on Terrorism'
By E&P Staff
Published: October 13, 2005 3:50 PM ET
NEW YORK Questions today from longtime White House reporter Helen Thomas caused White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan to declare that she opposes the war on terrorism. His response caused one of Thomas's colleagues, Terry Moran, to leap to her defense.
Here is the exchange from the official transcript:
THOMAS What does the President mean by "total victory" -- that we will never leave Iraq until we have "total victory"? What does that mean?
McCLELLAN: Free and democratic Iraq in the heart of the Middle East, because a free and democratic Iraq in the heart of the Middle East will be a major blow to the ambitions --
THOMAS They also know we invaded Iraq.
McCLELLAN: Well, Helen, the President recognizes that we are engaged in a global war on terrorism. And when you're engaged in a war, it's not always pleasant, and it's certainly a last resort. But when you engage in a war, you take the fight to the enemy, you go on the offense. And that's exactly what we are doing. We are fighting them there so that we don't have to fight them here. September 11th taught us --
THOMAS It has nothing to do with -- Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11.
McCLELLAN: Well, you have a very different view of the war on terrorism, and I'm sure you're opposed to the broader war on terrorism. The President recognizes this requires a comprehensive strategy, and that this is a broad war, that it is not a law enforcement matter.
TERRY MORAN On what basis do you say Helen is opposed to the broader war on terrorism?
McCLELLAN: Well, she certainly expressed her concerns about Afghanistan and Iraq and going into those two countries. I think I can go back and pull up her comments over the course of the past couple of years.
MORAN And speak for her, which is odd.
McCLELLAN: No, I said she may be, because certainly if you look at her comments over the course of the past couple of years, she's expressed her concerns --
THOMAS I'm opposed to preemptive war, unprovoked preemptive war.
MR. McCLELLAN: -- she's expressed her concerns.
(CNN) -- Al Qaeda in Iraq said Thursday a letter purportedly from Osama bin Laden's top lieutenant to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is a fake, according to a statement on several Islamist Web sites.
The terrorist group denied the letter was from al Qaeda and claimed it was "another fabrication ... by the Black House," using its term for the White House.
CNN has not authenticated the statement, which was posted on several Web sites that often carry messages from al Qaeda in Iraq and was signed by Abu Maysara al-Iraqi, the man who acts as the group's spokesperson.
U.S. officials say they intercepted the 6,300-word letter from Ayman al-Zawahiri to al-Zarqawi, head of al Qaeda in Iraq, and released this week a translation of the full text of the manuscript. (Full text)
Responding to al Qaeda in Iraq's denial, a spokesman for the U.S. director of national intelligence, John Negroponte, said top officials in the U.S. government are confident the letter is real.
The spokesman said the letter was "verified by multiple sources over an extended period of time."
After the translation was released Tuesday, a senior U.S. intelligence official described the letter's language as that of "an al Qaeda elder to an occasionally hotheaded field commander."
However, one line near the end of the letter seemed to put into question who the letter was addressing. "By God, if by chance you're going to Falluja, send greetings to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi," the letter said.
Falluja is in Anbar province, west of Baghdad, and a hotbed of the Sunni-led insurgency. U.S. officials have said they believe al-Zarqawi has based his operations in the province.
The letter, dated two days after the first London terror attack of July 7, made no mention of those bombings. Officials said the translation was released after it was determined ongoing operations would not be harmed nor would sources be compromised.
The letter outlines a four-stage plan to expand the war in Iraq: Expel U.S. forces, establish an Islamic authority, take the fight to Iraq's secular neighbors and battle with Israel -- "because Israel was established only to challenge any new Islamic entity."
In the letter, the author says he is extremely cut off from information and he needs $100,000 because of the recent capture of a high-ranking operative.
In the letter, the author predicts "the Americans will exit soon."
"Things may develop faster than we imagine. The aftermath of the collapse of American power in Vietnam -- and how they ran and left their agents -- is noteworthy. Because of that, we must be ready starting now, before events overtake us," the letter says.
"The mujahedeen must not have their mission end with the expulsion of the Americans from Iraq, and then lay down their weapons and silence the fighting zeal."
Insurgents must lay the groundwork for an Islamic state "for every generation to hand over the banner to the one after it," the author writes.
He adds, "The mujahed movement must avoid any action that the masses do not understand or approve."
The author says he is worried that videotaped beheadings of hostages and the insurgent attacks against Shia Muslims have hurt public support of their cause.
Thursday, October 13, 2005Huffington Post:
Fog Facts are things that have been made public, but have somehow disappeared into the mist.
Thereby becoming invisible.
Here are some examples: seven of the nineteen 9/11 hijackers have phoned in to say they were alive.
After the US took over Iraq, including the oil for food program, $19 billion of Iraq’s money disappeared.
The Florida recount, completed in 2001, showed that Al Gore got more valid, countable votes than George Bush.
What keeps us oblivious to these things is the failure to frame them, the failure of somebody to push them, and sometimes the deliberate manufacture of fog.
In turn, ignorance of the facts, keeps us from seeing the real picture.
A lot what has happened in the last six years is baffling. Let’s focus on one area, our response to the 9/11 attacks.
The fog, in this case, is made of the things the administration has said. The facts are the things that they have actually done. If someone sells you a car and you notice that it eats grass and milk is coming out of the exhaust, it’s pretty good bet it’s a cow.
The War on Terror does not catch terrorists, especially the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11, and the people in charge don’t really seem to care. That’s with the expenditure of $200 billion in supplementary spending, over and above the normal cost of maintaining our military and intelligence operations.
Let’s look at what they actually did, instead of what they spoke of.
That would suggest what the real goals are.
The big, obvious thing that the War on Terror permitted was for America to make its imperial lunge.
There were papers that made it clear that this was an administration goal, the most notable one posted at the Project for a New American Century, and there were statements too.
Something more subtle also took place. It is quite dangerous and it is largely unremarked.
The War on Terror permitted the administration to put an end to the concept that everyone is equal before the law.
We suddenly have people who are beneath the laws. They are called terrorists and unlawful combatants.
All it takes to make someone beneath the law is to denounce them. They then have no rights, no phone call, no lawyers. They cannot argue about what they’ve been called. They can be whisked off to a prison and held incommunicado and tortured. Or at least seriously abused.
It appears unlikely that this could happen to you or I or your friends across the street. But with the end of equality before the law, there really is nothing to stop it. Except our belief that our leaders are all honorable men who would not abuse such power.
Along with the creation of a class that is below the law, there is also a new class that is above the law.
The presidential legal staff, including Alberto Gonzales, Jay Bybee and John Yoo, came up with the theory that when the presidents puts on his commander-in-chief outfit, and acts in that capacity, he is not constrained by any laws. Not international law, not the laws of the United States, not by treaties and not even by the constitution.
Furthermore, anyone that he commands to do things when he is wearing that costume, is also unconstrained by those limits, statutes and laws.
They are all above the law.
In addition, we have created a three tier international system in which there are entire nations below the law: terrorist states, states the harbor terrorists and failed states.
There is, of course, one nation that is above the law. That is the United States.
I would like to take this occasion, my first appearance on the Huffington Post, to offer the first official Fog Facts Challenge!
Give us $2,000,000,000 (two hundred billion dollars) and we will deliver to you Osama bin Laden, and any ten others to be named later, or double your money back! Raw Story: Dick Cheney was opposed to the Miers nomination. Does this mean that Cheney and the neocons are losing control of the White House?
"A last minute effort was made to block the choice of Ms. Miers, including the offices of Vice President Cheney and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales," Fund claims. "It fell on deaf ears."
"Indeed, even internal advice was shunned," Fund adds. White House Chief of Staff Andrew "Card is said to have shouted down objections to Ms. Miers at staff meetings. A senator attending the White House swearing-in of John Roberts four days before the Miers selection was announced was struck by how depressed White House staffers were during discussion of the next nominee. He says their reaction to him could have been characterized as, "Oh brother, you have no idea what's coming."
And who can forget him trying to levitate the Pentagon with chanting?
The war that began so long ago is still with us today, and just as relevant - the straights of the 50s are now the religous right with their nostalgia of an America long gone, wrapped in a struggle to bring America back to where we were before the Beats. The Beats marked the beginning of the counter culture and the cultural wars. I salute them for having the courage to stand up and say "no more". Well, everyone except for Kerouac, anyway.
I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by
madness, starving hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn
looking for an angry fix,
angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly
connection to the starry dynamo in the machin-
ery of night,
who poverty and tatters and hollow-eyed and high sat
up smoking in the supernatural darkness of
cold-water flats floating across the tops of cities
who bared their brains to Heaven under the El and
saw Mohammedan angels staggering on tene-
ment roofs illuminated,
who passed through universities with radiant cool eyes
hallucinating Arkansas and Blake-light tragedy
among the scholars of war,
who were expelled from the academies for crazy &
publishing obscene odes on the windows of the
who cowered in unshaven rooms in underwear, burn-
ing their money in wastebaskets and listening
to the Terror through the wall,
who got busted in their pubic beards returning through
Laredo with a belt of marijuana for New York,
who ate fire in paint hotels or drank turpentine in
Paradise Alley, death, or purgatoried their
torsos night after night
with dreams, with drugs, with waking nightmares, al-
cohol and cock and endless balls,
incomparable blind; streets of shuddering cloud and
lightning in the mind leaping toward poles of
Canada & Paterson, illuminating all the mo-
tionless world of Time between,
Peyote solidities of halls, backyard green tree cemetery
dawns, wine drunkenness over the rooftops,
storefront boroughs of teahead joyride neon
blinking traffic light, sun and moon and tree
vibrations in the roaring winter dusks of Brook-
lyn, ashcan rantings and kind king light of mind,
who chained themselves to subways for the endless
ride from Battery to holy Bronx on benzedrine
until the noise of wheels and children brought
them down shuddering mouth-wracked and
battered bleak of brain all drained of brilliance
in the drear light of Zoo,
who sank all night in submarine light of Bickford's
floated out and sat through the stale beer after
noon in desolate Fugazzi's, listening to the crack
of doom on the hydrogen jukebox,
who talked continuously seventy hours from park to
pad to bar to Bellevue to museum to the Brook-
lost battalion of platonic conversationalists jumping
down the stoops off fire escapes off windowsills
off Empire State out of the moon,
yacketayakking screaming vomiting whispering facts
and memories and anecdotes and eyeball kicks
and shocks of hospitals and jails and wars,
whole intellects disgorged in total recall for seven days
and nights with brilliant eyes, meat for the
Synagogue cast on the pavement,
who vanished into nowhere Zen New Jersey leaving a
trail of ambiguous picture postcards of Atlantic
-- Allen Ginsberg
Think about it. There’s a legitimate chance that we could see the Senate Majority Leader, House of Reps Majority leader, presidential chief advisor, and vice-president indicted within the space of six months.
I hope this makes Americans realize that there is something wrong with the system. I hope this means a push for election and ethics reform in government; the Democrats HAVE to be smart enough to make this a central issue in 2006 (and then actually do something about it).
Until then, the hits roll on…
Records Sought On Sale of Stock
By Carrie Johnson and Jeffrey H. Birnbaum
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, October 13, 2005; Page A01
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) has been subpoenaed to turn over personal records and documents as federal authorities step up a probe of his July sales of HCA Inc. stock, according to sources familiar with the investigation.
The Securities and Exchange Commission issued the subpoena within the past two weeks, after initial reports that Frist, the Senate's top Republican official, was under scrutiny by the agency and the Justice Department for possible violations of insider trading laws.
Frist aides previously said he had been contacted by regulators but did not mention that the lawmaker had received a formal request for documents. The sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the investigation, said Frist is expected to testify under oath about what he knew about the company's health in the weeks before he sold stock. Frist has told reporters that he did nothing wrong and that he directed the sale to eliminate potential conflicts as he considered a 2008 presidential bid.
The formal request for documents usually presages an acceleration of a federal probe. In Frist's case, regulators had to proceed with caution due to his status in Congress and their mutual desire to avoid triggering constitutional objections to the release of documents. The disclosure of the subpoena comes as Democrats blasted Frist anew for his financial and personal ties to Hospital Corporation of America, a Nashville chain founded in 1968 by his father and his brother, Thomas Frist Jr. Critics yesterday seized on a report that Frist held a substantial amount of his family's hospital stock outside of blind trusts between 1998 and 2002 -- a time when he asserted he did not know how much of the stock he owned.
The Associated Press reported on Tuesday that Frist earned tens of thousands of dollars from HCA stock in a partnership controlled by his brother, outside of the blind trusts he created to avoid a conflict of interest.
"It seems that for years, Frist may have misled his constituents and the American people about his health care industry stock holdings and the conflict of interest they created as he drafted our nation's health care policy," said Democratic National Committee Communications Director Karen Finney. "This deal raises even more questions about the Republican culture of corruption in Washington, D.C."
During his decade in the Senate, Frist has been active in shaping health care policy, including creation of a Medicare prescription drug benefit.
Republican ethics lawyer Jan W. Baran also scored Frist for his handling of his trusts. "This shows Senator Frist's capacity for clumsiness and bad timing," Baran said. "He was trying to insulate himself from political charges and now finds himself trying to defend himself because of the transparency of his holdings."
The subpoena for documents related to the July stock sales was written carefully to avoid asking for documents related directly to Frist's legislative actions, according to sources. By keeping the request focused on his personal activities, experts said, the SEC avoided raising objections from Senate lawyers who might otherwise have fought the request on the grounds of constitutional separation of powers.
The wording in the subpoena also ensured that Frist did not have to tell colleagues about the document request or to otherwise involve them in the investigation, congressional aides said.
The executive branch is prohibited from seeking documents or testimony that relate to "legislative acts and the motivation for the performance of legislative acts," said Kenneth Gross of Skadden Arps, an ethics law expert. The ban is part of what is called the Constitution's "speech and debate" clause, which insulates Congress from unwarranted intrusions by the executive branch of government. Writing a subpoena that does not run afoul of the clause -- and also possibly trigger a public disclosure of the subpoena -- required careful work.
"There are some gray areas, clearly, and it could be tricky," said Baran, of Wiley Rein & Fielding. Members of the House of Representatives must disclose to the full House when they are subpoenaed. The Senate has its own rules that sometimes require the body to deal with subpoenas, experts say, but the Frist subpoena apparently has not triggered any of them.
A spokesman for Frist said yesterday: "As we have indicated, Senator Frist has been fully cooperating with the authorities conducting the inquiries and will continue to do so, including keeping our public comments to a minimum. The issuance of a subpoena would be an expected and normal part of that process."
Within days of Frist's July stock sale, HCA warned investors about weaker-than-expected financial performance, which sent the stock price spiraling downward by 9 percent in one day. Frist may have begun the process of selling the stock April 29, months before the company's troubles were clear, according to e-mail messages between the Tennessee Republican, his chief counsel and his personal accountant that were reviewed by The Washington Post.
Former SEC enforcement chief and retired federal judge Stanley Sporkin said the agency has a "rich history" of probing officials at the highest level -- from Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas to Carter administration budget chief Bert Lance.
SEC Chairman Christopher Cox, a former House GOP member from California, has removed himself from hearing evidence on or voting on the case, citing his ties to Frist.
Wednesday, October 12, 2005here (nowthatsfuckedup), here (Red Rose Stories), here (Max Hardcore), and here (the start of it all).
From Yahoo!, the social conservatives continue to wage war on freedom of speech...
WASHINGTON (Hollywood Reporter) - Tucked deep inside a massive bill designed to track sex offenders and prevent children from being victimized by sex crimes is language that could put many Hollywood movies in the same category as hard-core, X-rated films.
The provision added to the Children's Safety Act of 2005 would require any film, TV show or digital image that contains a sex scene to come under the same government filing requirements that adult films must meet.
Currently, any filmed sexual activity requires an affidavit that lists the names and ages of the actors who engage in the act. The film is required to have a video label that claims compliance with the law and lists where the custodian of the records can be found. The record-keeping requirement is known as Section 2257, for its citation in federal law. Violators could spend five years in jail.
Under the provision inserted into the Children's Safety Act, the definition of sexual activity is expanded to include simulated sex acts like those that appear in many movies and TV shows.
"It's a significant and unprecedented expansion of the scope of the law," one industry executive said. "I don't think the studios would like being grouped in with the hard-core porn industry."
The provision, written by Rep. Mike Pence (news, bio, voting record), R-Ind., could have ramifications beyond simply requiring someone to ensure that the names and ages of actors who partake in pretend lovemaking as compliance with Section 2257 in effect defines a movie or TV show as a pornographic work under federal law. Industry sources say the provision was included in the bill at the behest of the Justice Department. Calls to Pence's office and the Justice Department went unreturned Tuesday.
On Pence's Web site, the congressman contends that the provision is meant to crack down on "so-called 'home pornographers' that use downloading on the Internet and digital and Polaroid photography to essentially create an at-home cottage industry for child pornography."
Industry officials contend that the way the provision is written, a sex scene could trigger the provision even if the actors were clothed. While the language is designed to capture "lascivious exhibition of the genitals," other legal decisions have said that "lascivious exhibition" could occur when the genitals are covered.
The bill, with the Section 2257 provision included, already has been approved by the U.S. House of Representatives and is waiting consideration by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Industry executives worry that the provision, which is retroactive to 1995, will have a chilling effect on filmmakers. Faced with the choice of filing a 2257 certificate or editing out a scene, a filmmaker might decide it's not worth getting entangled with the federal government and let the scene fall to the cutting-room floor, the executives said.
"From the creative side of the street, there's concern that the government of federal law enforcement would get involved in what you were doing," one industry source said. "At some point, people would be faced with the decision: 'Do I include the scene and register a 2257 or leave it out?' Born at the Crest of the Empire passed along this old WaPo story, which relates to the WSJ piece from this morning and provides an interesting background on what Fitzgerald may be pursuing. Here are the key passages:
The escalation of nuclear rhetoric a year ago, including the introduction of the term "mushroom cloud" into the debate, coincided with the formation of a White House Iraq Group, or WHIG, a task force assigned to "educate the public" about the threat from Hussein, as a participant put it. ..... (WHIG was formed in August by Card - Mike)
The group met weekly in the Situation Room. Among the regular participants were Karl Rove, the president's senior political adviser; communications strategists Karen Hughes, Mary Matalin and James R. Wilkinson; legislative liaison Nicholas E. Calio; and policy advisers led by Rice and her deputy, Stephen J. Hadley, along with I. Lewis Libby, Cheney's chief of staff. .....
A "strategic communications" task force under the WHIG began to plan speeches and white papers. There were many themes in the coming weeks, but Iraq's nuclear menace was among the most prominent.
'A Mushroom Cloud'
The day after publication of Card's marketing remark, Bush and nearly all his top advisers began to talk about the dangers of an Iraqi nuclear bomb. ...
Two debuts took place on Sept. 8: the aluminum tubes and the image of "a mushroom cloud." A Sunday New York Times story quoted anonymous officials as saying the "diameter, thickness and other technical specifications" of the tubes -- precisely the grounds for skepticism among nuclear enrichment experts -- showed that they were "intended as components of centrifuges."
No one knows when Iraq will have its weapon, the story said, but "the first sign of a 'smoking gun,' they argue, may be a mushroom cloud." ...
A senior intelligence official said last October that the president's speechwriters took "literary license" with intelligence, a phrase applicable to language used by administration officials in some of the white paper's most emotive and misleading assertions elsewhere.
The draft white paper precedes other known instances in which the Bush administration considered the now-discredited claim that Iraq "sought uranium oxide, an essential ingredient in the enrichment process, from Africa." For a speechwriter, uranium was valuable as an image because anyone could see its connection to an atomic bomb. Despite warnings from intelligence analysts, the uranium would return again and again, including the Jan. 28 State of the Union address and three other Bush administration statements that month.
Other errors and exaggerations in public White House claims were repeated, or had their first mention, in the white paper.
WASHINGTON - Green Party leaders urged Congress and all Americans to reject the White House's intention to turn New Orleans and all disaster areas into zones of military control, weakened human rights protections and oversight of federal agencies, and corporate profiteering similar to occupied Iraq.
"The treatment of New Orleans' poorest, especially African Americans, has already been widely reported and is now a national shame, as is the ineptitude of Mayor Nagin's office, FEMA, and other government bodies whose poor preparation and delayed response helped turn the city into a ruin," said Romi Elnagar, Acting Secretary of the Green Part of Louisiana. "But we've also witnessed a new pattern, of policies and actions that have turned New Orleans into a war zone all too similar to occupied Iraq."
On September 26, The Washington Post reported President Bush's plan to place the Pentagon in charge of disaster response, making such policies permanent and eliminating Posse Comitatus restraints against using the military for domestic civilian law enforcement.
Greens noted several indications of the 'Iraqification' of New Orleans:
. Incursion by Blackwater and other private security forces, which already have contracts to provide security in Iraq; such firms are not held to the same standards of accountability as service members of the U.S. Armed Forces.
. The cruel neglect of prisoners in Louisiana, documented by Human Rights Watch and the ACLU , during the hurricane and its aftermath, with inmates locked in cells as floodwaters rose, deaths, and inmates still missing -- recalling official toleration and encouragement of prisoner abuses in Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, and Afghanistan.
. No-bid rebuilding contracts for companies like Halliburton/KBR, which have already profiteered to the tune of billions off the Iraq invasion and occupation, with similar no-bid contracts; award of federal contracts to favored white-owned firms and disregard by FEMA for requirements that contracts go to some minority businesses. According to The Wall Street Journal on September 23, Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson said that "his staff has been unable to locate any federal contracts for Mississippi that went to minority firms".... "During a recent New Orleans City Council hearing... a half-dozen minority business owners said they were being left out of the rebuilding effort, and Council President Oliver Thomas told Mayor Ray Nagin that he was living in 'Neverland' for thinking black businessmen would receive a significant number of government contracts."
. President Bush's appointment of White House advisor Karl Rove -- an administration 'crony' with no known expertise in urban policy or engineering (and who has been implicated in the Valerie Plame scandal) -- to supervise the rebuilding of New Orleans.
. Cuts proposed by Republicans, eliminating as much as $40 billion from Medicare and other social spending to pay for clean-up -- just as they diverted funding from social programs for the military venture in Iraq. "Elderly people who lost their homes and health care providers as a result of the hurricane will bear the brunt of the Medicare cuts," said Leenie Halbert, acting co-chair of the Green Party of Louisiana. "The failure to protect and care for people whose lives have been devastated by the hurricane the repeats to failure to protect and care for soldiers and their families most affected by the war "
. Proposed suspension of environmental protections, with a waiver of EPA rules, in areas hit by Katrina, comparable to the disregard of the environment in war zones.
There are signs that prosecutors now are looking into contacts between administration officials and journalists that took place much earlier than previously thought. Earlier conversations are potentially significant, because that suggests the special prosecutor leading the investigation is exploring whether there was an effort within the administration at an early stage to develop and disseminate confidential information to the press that could undercut former Ambassador Joseph Wilson and his wife, Central Intelligence Agency official Valerie Plame.
There’s more information on just what Judith Miller has been telling Fitzgerald, and it seems to suggest that the effort to discredit Wilson began earlier than is commonly believed:
Ms. Miller, the Times reporter, was interviewed again yesterday to discuss conversations she had with I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the vice president's chief of staff. She testified on Sept. 30 before a grand jury about conversations she had with Mr. Libby in July 2003.
Since then, her lawyers have told Patrick Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor investigating the leak of the CIA agent's identity, that Ms. Miller's notes show that she also spoke with Mr. Libby in late June, information that was not previously given to the grand jury.
Mr. Fitzgerald's pursuit now suggests he might be investigating not a narrow case on the leaking of the agent's name, but perhaps a broader conspiracy.
Rove also doesn’t seem to be finished with this latest round of testimony, a possible last-ditch effort to avoid indictment:
Mr. Rove, who has already testified three times before the grand jury and was identified by a Time magazine reporter as a source for his story on Mr. Wilson, is expected to go back to the grand jury, potentially as early as today, to clarify earlier answers.
And here it is, in plain English for those who have missed it: there was an “Iraq Group”, a sort of advertising subset, within the White House, whose job it was to sell the Iraq War to the American people, and they are most likely the ones responsible for what has happened here. How long can people continue to bury their heads in the sand on this one?
Lawyers familiar with the investigation believe that at least part of the outcome likely hangs on the inner workings of what has been dubbed the White House Iraq Group. Formed in August 2002, the group, which included Messrs. Rove and Libby, worked on setting strategy for selling the war in Iraq to the public in the months leading up to the March 2003 invasion. The group likely would have played a significant role in responding to Mr. Wilson's claims.
Finally, looks like we may see some movement on indictments either today or Friday, as the clock is running:
Given that the grand jury is set to expire on Oct. 28, it is possible charges in this case could come as early as next week. Former federal prosecutors say it is traditional not to wait for the last minute and run the risk of not having enough jurors to reach a quorum. There are 23 members of a grand jury, and 16 are needed for a quorum before any indictments could be voted on. This grand jury has traditionally met on Wednesdays and Fridays.
Tuesday, October 11, 2005Red State.org might shed some light on the Miers nomination. An interesting read, even if it's not the type of site I frequent:
I was going to write a juicy piece with lots of good quotes from White House sources, but in the past twenty-four hours I've gotten calls, emails, and instant messages requesting that I please not quote anyone. What's going on?
Here's the story I was going to write: I was going to write about the flurry of White House conservative staffers contacting me to vent. Slowly, but surely, momentum among the conservative staffers shifted from tight lipped Bushies to angry activists and then abruptly stopped. A couple worked under Miers and said they loved her, but could not fathom that she would be considered for the post, given that no one really knows where she stands except potentially on affirmative action and that would be bad for the conservative position.
What all the callers wanted to say, but then decided they should not say, or at least not be quoted saying, was that Andy Card really and truly was the person pushing Miers. The general theme was that Tim Flanigan had moved on in 2002, Gonzales had moved to Justice taking well trained staff with him, and Miers was left to fill a definite void with some lesser experienced staff.
Those who mentioned Roberts praised Miers handling of Roberts and commented that Miers went to bat for Roberts right out of the gate with a game plan in place, but no one was there to do the same for Miers. An independent source tells me that Miers begged for more time, but the White House demanded that Monday be the day. Interestingly, there is a credible rumor out there that the White House insisted on Monday because the intended nominee to be announced backed out over the weekend. Yes, it is a very credible rumor.
Part of the Miers pick seems to be a confused process and a rush job, which adds credibility to the rumor of a last minute back out. But, the White House conservatives and outside parties all indicate that they were ignored. They were heard but not listened to. Several who talked to RedState insist that warning flags were given to Andrew Card and others, but that those warning were ignored and Card pushed the issue all the way to the President's desk.
One outside source who has a good ear to the ground tells me that the White House most likely has nothing else to offer in Miers' favor, but will just recycle previous sound bites. This same source bolsters what a White House staffer tells me, in that the vetting process was so poorly done that much of what is now coming out about Miers was unknown before her nomination here (Red Rose Stories), here (Max Hardcore), and here (the start of it all).
What the hell is going on in America?? Where are the Gestapo? How is this going on in our country, and why is the news media avoiding the story?
LAKELAND, Fla. — Chris Wilson, the owner and operator of amateur wife and girlfriend site NowThatsFuckedUp.com, was arrested at his Florida home Friday on charges of felony wholesale distribution of obscene material.
According to sheriff’s officials in Polk County, Wilson is being charged with 300 misdemeanor counts and one felony count of wholesale distribution of obscene material, all of which reportedly relate to the pornographic material on Wilson’s site, not the controversial war images that have garnered so much attention in recent weeks.
Wilson’s site received global attention after allegations arose that U.S. soldiers were using it to trade photographs of dead Afghan and Iraqi civilians for free memberships to the site and access to pornographic content.
“Obscenity only applies to sex, not violence,” First Amendment attorney Lawrence Walters, who is representing Wilson, told XBiz. “You can chop people up but you can’t love them.”
Just last week, the army ruled that its soldiers could not be held accountable for the images, many of which showed burned or otherwise mutilated bodies posed next to people dressed in what looked like army uniforms. Islamic groups, who said the photographs dehumanized the Islamic world, blasted the Army’s decision.
Walters said he doesn’t yet know what specific images Wilson is being charged for.
“They’ve apparently got some kind of images they pulled from the site, but they haven’t shared those with us yet. My guess is they’ve selected whatever they can find that they think violates community standards in the county,” Walters said.
Walters said the most important aspect of the case right now is that his client did not post any of the pictures on his site. The attorney compared Wilson’s arrest with the government arresting the telephone company over what people might say over the phone.
“Is Sprint held responsible for what people say over the phone lines?” he asked.
Whether or not there is any political motivation for the arrest is a central concern, according to Walters, who worries that the Army images signaled his client out for political reasons.
“We want to know where this complaint is coming from and why Wilson was chosen among the thousands of webmasters out there,” Walters said. “Given the fact that he had pictures of war dead on his site we have significant concerns that there is some political motivation here.”
Currently Wilson is being charged with the 300 separate accounts individually, which Walters said requires 300 separate bonds and makes it logistically very difficult to get him out of jail.
Information that led to heightened security for the New York City transit system was a hoax, government sources said Tuesday.
The sources said an informant in Iraq who provided the tip had told investigators there was a terrorist plot involving New York's subway system. That informant admitted he gave false information, the sources said.
On Monday, New York police said they would reduce the increased security measures put in place last week on the city's subways.
Law enforcement sources said last week the person who passed along the New York tip also gave information that prompted a military operation in Iraq, which led to the arrests of three al Qaeda suspects in Musayyib, about 45 miles south of Baghdad.
Government sources said the three men arrested in Iraq with suspected links to the possible plot had been interviewed and underwent lie detector tests showing they knew nothing about such a plan.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg warned Thursday that the city had received information from the FBI about a "specific threat," prompting the heightened subway security.
The threat mentioned Friday and Sunday as possible days that an attack might occur, according to one official with knowledge of the investigation.
Friday came three months to the day after four bombers carried out attacks on three London subways and a double-decker bus, killing 52 people and wounding 700. (Full story)
After Bloomberg's warning, some intelligence officials played down the New York information, saying it was not credible.
On Monday, Bloomberg said he stood by the decision to increase security.
"Over the immediate future, we'll slowly be winding down the enhanced security, but we, remember, stay at level orange in this city," the mayor said, referring to the color-coded advisory system denoting a "high" risk.
"We have since 9/11, and we're going to take every single threat that has any chance of being credible seriously and do exactly what we did," Bloomberg said.
The United States recently debated launching military strikes inside Syria against camps used by insurgents operating in neighboring Iraq, a US magazine reported.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice successfully opposed the idea at a meeting of senior American officials held on October 1, Newsweek reported, citing unnamed US government sources.
Rice reportedly argued that diplomatic isolation was a more effective approach, with a UN report pending that may blame Syria for the assassination of former Lebanese premier Rafiq Hariri.
The United States has accused Damascus of allowing insurgents to move arms and fighters across the Syrian border into Iraq and of destabilizing the region.
US troops in Iraq have been waging an offensive in recent weeks against insurgents in western towns near the Syrian border.
The US ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, said last month that "our patience is running out" with Syria.
The same article also reported that Syria had ended all security and intelligence cooperation with the United States several months ago after growing frustrated with persistent public criticism from Washington.
Syria's ambassador to the United States, Imad Moustapha, told Newsweek that his government continued to detain Islamic extremists and remained willing to resume cooperation if the public bashing stopped.
"We are willing to re-engage the moment you want but one condition," the magazine quotes Moustapha as saying.
"You have to acknowledge that we are helping."
Moustapha also confirmed an account from a US intelligence official that Damascus had been angered when Washington exposed one of its operatives.
While criticizing Syria in public statements, the United States had privately praised Damascus for handing over the half brother of Saddam Hussein, Sabawi Ibrahim al-Hassan, earlier in the year, the magazine reported.
Moustapha said Syria could do more to assist the United States if intelligence was shared as in the past.
The magazine reported that some US intelligence officials believed Washington now was losing out on vital information. Syrian cooperation in the last few years allegedly had helped avert two possible attacks against US targets, including a Navy base in Bahrain.
One unnamed intelligence official told the magazine that US pressure on the Syrian leadership could prove counter-productive and that Washington may be "radicalizing the country." Read on…
COLUMBUS — Tom Noe often transferred tens of thousands of dollars from the Ohio rare-coin funds he managed to his personal business before bankrolling Republican candidates and causes with contributions and loans.
A Blade examination of the accounting records from Mr. Noe’s $50 million rare-coin venture shows a pattern of large sums of money moving from the coin funds to his personal business, Vintage Coins and Collectibles, in the days and weeks before the coin dealer and his wife, Bernadette, made contributions to Republican candidates ranging from President Bush to U.S. Sen. George Voinovich and Gov. Bob Taft down to Lucas County Auditor Larry Kaczala.
Mr. Noe typically listed the payments from the coin funds to Vintage Coins as "profit distributions" or "coin purchases."
But both of those explanations have been assailed as fraudulent by Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro, who has branded Mr.
Noe a thief and accused the former Toledo-area coin dealer of running a Ponzi scheme and making questionable coin trades with the state fund.
Last month, Mr. Petro accused Mr. Noe of diverting coin-fund money to his personal business and then to his personal checking account to pay for his former Catawba Island home, landscape his home in the Florida Keys, and pay off a business loan. Mr. Petro said the accusations largely came from "tracking the flow of dollars" out of the coin funds to Mr. Noe’s personal accounts and measuring the "proximity of the transfers" before large purchases or payments.
According to the computerized accounting records of Capital Coin I, II, and their subsidiaries, Mr. Noe since 1998 transferred more than $19 million from the state coin venture into his business accounts at Vintage Coins, including more than $13 million for "coin purchases" and more than $1.7 million in "profit distributions." In that same time period, Vintage Coins transferred about $5 million back to the coin funds, the records show.
As Mr. Petro lodged accusations about how Mr. Noe bought houses and paid-off loans with state coin fund money, he stopped short of making claims about how the coin dealer paid for political contributions and loans he and his wife doled out, totaling more than $300,000 since 1998 — the year he received his first installment of $25 million from the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation to invest in rare coins.
Mr. Petro, who has returned $6,100 in campaign contributions from the Noes because of concerns that the money could have come from state funds, said during a news conference that coin-fund money could have been used for political purposes, but his office is focusing on "personal resources" in building its civil case against the coin dealer.
William Wilkinson, a Columbus attorney representing Mr. Noe, said no state coin funds were used to make campaign contributions.
"Look at the coin-fund check register. You don’t see any checks written to any campaign committees," he said.
Mark Anthony, a spokesman for Mr. Petro, said last week that the attorney general’s office is in the process of building its case against Mr. Noe and is sharing information with criminal investigators. He would not speak specifically about what role campaign contributions will play in Mr. Petro’s civil suit against Mr. Noe.
During his Sept. 29 news conference, Mr. Petro said his office is looking at "any instance where money is diverted" from the state "for uses other than investment," but he said his office had not considered whether Mr. Noe improperly used state funds for political contributions.
State Sen. Marc Dann, a Youngstown-area Democrat who has emerged as a vocal critic of the state’s investment in rare coins, said any link between state funds and campaign contributions should have been the first issue that Mr. Petro examined.
"Sometimes if you are doing your job as a lawyer, you have to go after things even though it might be personally embarrassing," Mr. Dann said. "Jim Petro has a duty to look at it as a civil recovery for the state. If someone used our money to make campaign contributions, we should have our money back."
Monday, October 10, 2005
On paper, the Iraqi Army barracks was a gleaming example of the future Iraq. The plans called for a two-story, air-conditioned barracks housing 850 soldiers, a movie theater, classrooms, basketball courts, a shooting range, even an officer's club.
But when the $10 million project in southern Iraq is finished this month, it will fall far short of those ambitious plans. The theater, classrooms, officer's club, basketball courts and shooting range have all been scrapped. The barracks will be one story instead of two.
The reason for scaling back the barracks? The U.S. government is running out of money. The higher than expected cost of protecting workers against insurgent attacks - about 25 cents of every reconstruction dollar now pays for security - has sent the cost of projects skyward.
The result: Some projects have been eliminated and others cut back.
"American money has dried up," says Brent Rose, chief of program/project management for the Army Corps of Engineers in southern Iraq.
And tracking the billions of dollars that flooded into a war zone in the wake of the U.S.-led invasion has proved difficult, too. Nearly $100 million in reconstruction money is unaccounted for.
Endorsement of Nominee Draws Committee's Interest
By DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK
Published: October 10, 2005
WASHINGTON, Oct. 9 - Senator Arlen Specter, the Pennsylvania Republican who is chairman of the Judiciary Committee, and several Democrats on the committee said Sunday that they were considering calling the evangelical conservative James C. Dobson to testify on what he has been told about Harriet E. Miers, the president's Supreme Court nominee.
"If Dr. Dobson knows something that he shouldn't know or something that I ought to know, I'm going to find out," Mr. Specter said Sunday in an interview with George Stephanopoulos on the ABC News program "This Week."
In response to a later question, Mr. Specter added, "If there are back-room assurances and if there are back-room deals and if there is something which bears upon a precondition as to how a nominee is going to vote, I think that's a matter that ought to be known by the Judiciary Committee and the American people."
Mr. Dobson, the influential founder of the conservative evangelical group Focus on the Family, has said he is supporting Ms. Miers's nomination in part because of something he has been told but cannot divulge. He has not disclosed the source of the information, but he has acknowledged speaking with Karl Rove, President Bush's top political adviser, about the president's pick before it was announced.
NAGOYA (Kyodo) Toyota Motor Corp. said Thursday it has developed a new species of shrub that absorbs harmful substances in the air. The Kirsch Pink, related to the Cherry Sage shrub, will be sold for 380 yen each by Toyota Roof Garden Co., a Toyota Motor subsidiary, beginning next March.
First-year sales are targeted at 10,000 plants.
The Kirsch Pink is the same as the Cherry Sage, absorbing nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide and other air pollutants, but the new shrub is 1.3 times more effective, the automaker said.
The new plant, which bears pink flowers between May and November, also diminishes the urban heat-island effect 1.3 times more than the Cherry Sage, it said.
The Japan Times: Oct. 7, 2005
Frantic search as Pakistani quake toll tops 20,000
MUZAFFARABAD, Pakistan (Reuters) - Rescuers searched frantically for survivors of Pakistan's massive earthquake on Monday as the death toll climbed over 20,000 and officials said thousands more bodies could be in the rubble.
Looting broke out in the city of Muzaffarabad, almost totally destroyed by Saturday's 7.6 magnitude earthquake and desperately short of food, medicine and water.
"They've lost everything, they have no clothes, no food, nothing," said Asim Butt, a resident of the city of about 100,000. "People have started looting things from shops."
The U.S. military in neighboring Afghanistan said it was diverting eight helicopters being used in the war against Islamic militants to assist with emergency operations as offers of aid poured in from around the world.
Aid agencies said more than 120,000 people were in urgent need of shelter and up to four million could be left homeless.
Relief workers had yet to reach many remote villages, and officials said the number of dead was likely to climb far above the 19,400 already known to have died in Pakistan.
Officials in North West Frontier Province and Pakistani Kashmir say the final death toll could be close to 40,000.
Now, then. I also want to start covering more environmental stories as I try to focus on my own impact on the world around me, and this seems like an appropriate place to start. It seems that genetically modified crops, at least of rapeseed, do not seem to be the answer for fixing any sort of environmental problems. A recent study in the UK found that “GM crops contaminate the countryside for up to 15 years after they have been harvested”.
Great Britain has already been skittish on the subject of GM crops, and this promises to at least somewhat derail the push to get the crops into the UK, a good thing, in my opinion. It’s not that I’m completely ethically opposed to the idea of GM crops; I certainly understand where the idea for such an entity comes from, and I’m sympathetic to the point of view, but there are so many good reasons to oppose them that I’m loathe to even consider the idea at this point. My rationale:
- As this study shows, we don’t completely understand the effects of such crops on “pure” strains of the crop or the environment that surrounds and nurtures them
- There’s not solid evidence on what the modified crops will do to human bodies
- What sort of effect does this have on the economies of nations who can’t afford to create GM strains?
Sunday, October 09, 2005Genius of Insanity has put together a great piece covering the spider-web-like connections between Jack Abramoff, Tom DeLay, Rove, and Grover Norquist. I highly recommend reading it and the pieces he has linked, as they create a compelling whole that suggests at the very least an incredible network that is about to fall in on itself. Here's a sample:
If Rove and Libby (Chiefs of Staff for Bush and Cheney) collapse into indictments then it is not a far thing to assume that Bush and Cheney themselves would be the next in line to fall.
There is not much that goes on with a President's Chief of Staff that the President himself does not know. Therefore it seems to me that if Rove and Libby go down then Bush and Cheney too should go down.
Check out the whole piece here. L.A. Times about superfundie and founder of Focus on the Family James Dobson. The article goes to great lengths to show just how the man has built his empire and reveals the simple, dark secret of his power: simple answers.
People yearn for simple answers. Your child hates you? The simple answer is that a corrupt, moral-free society is corrupting him, turning him against you. Surely your own parenting style or lack of empathy could not be to blame. There’s even proof that this is the case; open your Bible to a verse and you can find support for your views. Why do the hard work of changing yourself when you can help his movement do the work of changing the world to make it “safer” for folks like you simply by contributing money or lending vocal support? Here, this makes it clearer:
In daily radio broadcasts, monthly newsletters, 18 websites, nine magazines and 36 top-selling books, Dobson offers advice on toilet training, temper tantrums, infidelity and other stresses of family life. At the heart of his ministry is the toll-free resource line he has run for more than a quarter-century.
The calls to 1-800-A-FAMILY are personal, not political. Yet over the decades, the hotline has bolstered Dobson's influence in the nation's capital by cultivating millions of grateful, reverentially loyal constituents. It has also emboldened him to use that clout to push a conservative social agenda.
"In those thousands of calls, we believe we're seeing the unraveling of the social fabric of this country," said Tom Minnery, vice president of public policy for Dobson's organization.
Focus on the Family gets close to 10,000 calls, e-mails and letters daily. Most are book orders or other purchases from the vast ministry warehouse. But up to 1,000 a day are more complex: requests for help researching topics such as depression and divorce, or pleas from despairing men and women seeking Dobson's advice.
And the response to an “unraveling social fabric”? It’s certainly not to encourage those folks who are experiencing problems to look within themselves and seek answers, as they are a part of that social fabric. No, they treat the problem as if the person were merely a victim of what is going on in society, and if they follow a prescribed set of rules, all will be well. And people eat it up:
"I don't know where else to go," one young mother told social worker Sarah Helus, breaking down as she described her headstrong 3-year-old.
"I've tried spanking him with a switch like Dr. Dobson says, but it hasn't been effective," the mother said. "I've tried explaining to him that Mommy and Daddy make mistakes too and we all have to ask Christ's forgiveness. Nothing works. And I just lose it."
As her son howled in the background, the woman said she had read three of Dobson's parenting books, including "The Strong-Willed Child," several times. They hadn't much helped, but she hadn't lost faith. She begged for a few minutes to ask Dobson how, precisely, she should respond if her son throws a fit in Wal-Mart.
Helus told her gently that Dobson doesn't take calls. But his wisdom on scores of topics is loaded into two computers on every assistant's desk.
And easy answers are the man’s stock-in-trade. Just look at this simplistic world view. I’m not going to debate the points because I think any rational human knows better than what he’s saying here:
Urging listeners to take control of their children, Dobson advocates spanking, though never in anger. He acknowledges that marriage is hard but opposes divorce in almost every situation. He teaches that homosexuality can be overcome with discipline and prayer. He also offers tips on plenty of other topics, such as eating well, adjusting to menopause and guiding children to God.
People listen. Where Dobson leads, on any topic, people follow:
Dobson gains still more credibility because he's seen as less partisan, and less personally ambitious, than many leaders of the religious right. He routinely takes on top Republicans, calling them traitors who should pay at the polls for compromising on issues such as abortion.
A recent poll for PBS found that 77% of white evangelicals view Dobson favorably. Other Christian leaders were far less widely trusted. Pat Robertson's approval rating stood at 55% and Jerry Falwell's at 46%.
That broad base of support helped Dobson stage huge rallies to boost Republican candidates in the 2004 election. He's credited with helping unseat former Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) and with bringing conservative Christians to the polls in force to back President Bush.
"We try to follow up on what [Dobson] says," said Marilyn Budensiek, a fan from Hobe Sound, Fla., who organized a voter registration drive in her church last year at Dobson's urging.
All in all, this guy scares the hell out of me; anyone who commands such blind loyalty does, because you ultimately have to trust the intentions of such a man, and I sure as hell don’t. How do you trust a man who says things like this?
Other political references are overt: A recent edition of the ministry's flagship Focus on the Family magazine defined conservatives as championing democracy, human rights and "the cause of freedom around the world," while "liberals defend civil rights, abortion, pornography and homosexuality."
I get a very racist vibe from that line. We know how they feel about abortion, gays, and porn – is he saying Civil Rights are in the same category?
Bottom line, however, his message is one of control, benevolent control, but control nonetheless. Don’t worry: the smiling patriarch is here to take care of you, to tell you how to do things. It reeks of authoritarianism, and the thought of such a person with close personal ties and controls on the government scares the hell out of me, because what happens when the government starts to mirror his personality?