Israeli Ground Forces Move Deeper, Take Town in Lebanon They Say is Hezbollah Run

From the wires:

Israeli tanks, bulldozers and armored personnel carriers knocked down a fence and barreled over the Lebanese border Saturday as forces seized a village from the Hezbollah guerrilla group.

The soldiers battled militants throughout the day and raided the large village of Maroun al-Ras in several waves before finally taking control, military officials said. Tens of thousands of Lebanese fleeing north packed into the port of Sidon to escape the fighting as the
United Nations warned of a growing humanitarian "disaster."

Early Sunday, warplanes for the first time hit inside the port city of Sidon, currently swollen with refugees, destroying a religious complex that the Israeli military said was used by Hezbollah. Hospital officials said four people were wounded.

A series of large explosions reverberated through Beirut in the early hours Sunday as Israeli aircraft again pounded Hezbollah's stronghold in the south. Warplanes also hit targets in eastern Bekaa Valley, firing missiles in the cities of Hermel and Baalbek, witnesses said. There was no immediate word on casualties in either strike.

The growing use of ground forces, 11 days into the fighting, signaled Israeli recognition that airstrikes alone were not enough to force Hezbollah out of southern Lebanon. But a ground offensive carries greater risks to Israel, which already has lost 18 soldiers in the recent fighting. It also threatens to exacerbate already trying conditions for Lebanese civilians in the area.

Israeli military officials have said they want to push Hezbollah beyond the Litani River, about 20 miles north of the border, with the Lebanese army deploying in the border zone. An Israeli radio station that broadcasts to southern Lebanon warned residents of 13 villages to flee north by Saturday afternoon. The villages form a corridor about 4 miles wide and 11 miles deep.

Elsewhere in George and Dick's Excellent Adventure (Iraq)

Two U.S. soldiers and dozens of Iraqi civilians have died there today in ever-increasing vionce.

Ted Koppel: The U.S. Is Already at War with Iran

Speaking of Iran... and yes, we've heard from other quarters that the U.S and other nations have been engaged in a "secret" war against Iran for sometime.

Here's what Ted Koppel has to say in a Times op/ed piece also posted at Huffington Post:

When Sheik Qaouk talked about Israel and Hezbollah, his organization's ambitions were not framed in purely defensive terms. There is only harmony between Hezbollah's endgame and the more provocative statements made over the past year by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran's president. Both foresee the elimination of the Jewish state.

Are the Israelis over-reacting in Lebanon? Perhaps they simply perceive their enemies' intentions with greater clarity than most. It is not the Lebanese who make the Israelis nervous, nor even Hezbollah. It is the puppet-masters in Tehran capitalizing on every opportunity that democratic reform presents. In the Palestinian territories, in Lebanon, in Egypt, should President Hosni Mubarak be so incautious as to hold a free election, it is the Islamists who benefit the most.

But Washington's greatest gift to the Iranians lies next door in Iraq. By removing Saddam Hussein, the United States endowed the majority Shiites with real power, while simultaneously tearing down the wall that had kept Iran in check.

According to the Jordanian intelligence officer, Iran is reminding America's traditional allies in the region that the United States has a track record of leaving its friends in the lurch -- in Vietnam in the 70's, in Lebanon in the 80's, in Somalia in the 90's.

Stop The War With Iran Before It Starts

MadKrow points us to a site (Stop War on Iran) with a petition dedicated to trying to stop a possible war with Iran before it can start.

Some, myself included, feel the conflict being waged in Lebanon by Israel against Hezbollah makes it far, far more likely that we (the U.S.) will engage Iran if not Syria as well. There are clues - some subtle, some fairly blatant, and some hardly clues because they are statements by neocons like Newt Gingrich and James Woolsey - that this will become a reality.

The Rabid Right Eats Pat Buchanan

Who would have known poor Pat would have worked up such rabid reactions from the ultra-righters for his piece I reprinted in part from AntiWar? Oh, wait... anyone should have who notices that these people, The Culture of Hate, the digital era's Klan, go after anyone who disagrees with their Mantra of Make Nasty.

These people would stone Jesus to death if He returned to tell them Bush is a dolt and the Neocons are nuts. They would probably also label Jesus an anti-semite (which is rather droll coming from them).

Basta! So To Speak

Well, I sat down to post two items and... uh... well... um.. I seem to have exceeded that just a tad.

So I'm going to go to my office and pretend I have a career or something. Pretend, yeah. That's the ticket!

"The Most Blogged War?"

Well, I think Iraq has generated more, but this is posted by Lisa Goldman at On the Face, the forum where Lebanese and Israelis are communicating with one another:

It looks as though the Israel-Lebanon are-we-calling-it-a-war-yet of 2006 is the first conflict to be blogged from day one. Bloggers from both sides of the border - some of whom were already aware of one another before this tragedy began - have been providing live updates, commenting on one another's blogs and sometimes linking to posts by bloggers on the other side of the border. Will this turn out to be the first time that residents of "enemy" countries engaged in an ongoing conversation while missiles were falling?

Haaretz published an article about the online conversation between Lebanese and Israelis here (Hebrew). It links to the blog of Ami (scroll down for English), who is hosting an ongoing thread of talkbacks by Israelis and Lebanse, and to the Lebanese bloggers forum where the same phenomenon is taking place. There are currently 383 comments in response to this post on the Lebanese bloggers forum...

...One of the prevalent themes on many of these blogs is a sense of powerlessness and great sadness. Of wondering how our countries got dragged into this conflict.

There is plenty of the blame game, too, of course. And I guess that attitudes will continue to harden as this conflict continues - which it seems set to do. As I mentioned in my last post, a lot of Lebanese bloggers have become very angry at Israel, to the point of rejecting personal contact. But this is not the case for all - not by any means.

Juan Cole on Israel in Lebanon: This is Nothing Less Than Ethnic Cleansing

I find Juan Cole to be one of the most intelligent and moderate voices on a variety of issues, but particularly in his areas of expertise: Iraq, Arab nations, and the Middle East. Others have voiced very similar opinions.

So when I read this, it riveted me:

So let's get this straight. The Israelis warn the small town Shiites of the south to flee their own homes and go hundreds of miles away (and live on what? in what?). But then they intensely bombing them, making it impossible for them to flee. The Lebanese have awoken to find themselves cockroaches.

I repeat, this is nothing less than an ethnic cleansing of the Shiites of southern Lebanon, an assault on an entire civilian population's way of life. Aside from ecology, it is no different from what Saddam Hussein did to the Marsh Arabs of southern Iraq, and the Israelis are doing it for exactly the same sorts of reasons that Saddam did.
The economy of downtown Beirut has been murdered by the Israelis.
Your reaction?

Juan also writes:
Not satisfied to have made 500,000 out of 3.8 million Lebanese homeless already, and to have chased over 100,000 out of their own country to Syria, AP says that on Thursday ' Israel warned hundreds of thousands of people to flee southern Lebanon "immediately . . ." ' The Orwellian world into which Olmert and his band of manic bombers have plunged ordinary Lebanese is illustrated by Liz Sly's report for the Trib.

Holden on The Soft Bigotry of Low Expectations

Posted last night by Holden at First Draft (apparently, the president finds the simplest questions a big challenge):

Or perhaps your president is simply an ignorant asshole.
    Q Mr. President, what do you hope Secretary Rice accomplishes on her trip to the Middle East, sir?
    THE PRESIDENT: I'm going to talk to her tomorrow when I -- Sunday, when I get back to the White House. We're going to have a good visit.
    Q What do you hope she accomplishes, sir?
    THE PRESIDENT: I said I would talk to her tomorrow.
Um --- is he going to talk to her Sunday or tomorrow?
Right. Like Bush knows what day, month, or year it is.

And the Answer Is Ha'aretz

"Yes, but what is the question?"

People keep asking me what I read for news in the Middle East. Ha'aretz is often my preferred paper which I've been reading almost since it first came online. But I also read Al Jazeera (in English; you'd be amazed how bad my Farsi and general Arabic is).

An Israeli Blogger: Support the Effort, But Will it Be Worth the Pain and Suffering

From Allison Kaplan Sommer blogging in Israel (courtesy of Huffington Post):

Like most Israelis, I'm hanging in there in supporting this effort, but you had better show me that it is going to be worth the pain and high cost in human suffering.

Iraq: The Pentagon's Personal Get Rich Quick Scheme!

Funny, the soldiers who fight Bush and Rummy's Iraq war risk their lives for something less than peanuts. But if you're a Pentagon official or a defense contractor, you're raking in the dough, often without doing the job.

So is it much of a surprise that two more former Rummy chummies/Pentagon officials are accused of dirty Iraqi contracting deals? Not if you've been paying even a molecule of attention.

Once More, Military's Role in an Iraqi Death Ruled "Appropriate"

I'm not even sure why they bother the farce of investigations and trials considering the results are always the same, as in this case of a National Guardsman.

No Good News on the Israel-Lebanon-Hezbollah Front

Elsewhere, I posted about how the US is happily rushing more precision-guided missiles to Israel to "save" more civilians. But there's more as Israeli ground forces have moved into Lebanon to join the massive air strikes which have been hitting for more than eight days. Both sides - with civilians caught in the deadly middle - continue to trade fire.

First, a U.N. human rights official says the killing of civilians in Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza, as well as Israel may (may??) constitute war crimes.

Next, the Washington Post reports Lebanese Christians (and Christians constitute a good percentage of the population there) feel very torn in this fighting. WaPo also says Secretary of State Rice will meet with all leaders in the Middle East crisis but, of course, she goes to Israel first.

Finally, James Zogby offers an excellent perspective piece ("Willful Fantasies and Reality in Today's Middle East Conflict") on Huffington Post regarding Israel, Lebanon, and Hezbollah's role. Zogby is highly articulate anyway, and a widely respected Arab-American. Read it if you have time. As he writes, it's a tragic dance of death, indeed. A few snips:

While some conservatives and Democrats have learned lessons from past Israeli-Arab conflicts and from the recent US experiences in Iraq, the Administration and most members of Congress have fallen in line, uttering banalities like, "Israel has a right to defend itself" (even, if that means killing hundreds of civilians and destroying Lebanon in the process), or "let Israel finish the job it started" (as if the deaths and devastation resulting from this war will have no consequences in Lebanon and the broader Middle East).

A symptom of this warped mind-set is the now widely-shared and dangerous notion that has equated calls for ceasefire with weakness. In a rare display of agreement, both the White House and the Washington Post promoted this view last week. In response to a question from Helen Thomas as to why the President opposed calls for a ceasefire, White House spokesperson Tony Snow rudely thanked Ms. Thomas for what he characterized as her "Hezbollah view." Likewise, the Post editorialized that call for a ceasefire would only "reward the aggressors."

In this environment, it has been difficult to promote reasoned discourse and promote political solutions. Calls from the Maronite Catholic Patriarch to end the hostilities, or Lebanese Prime Minister Siniora who challenged the West to express outrage over the damage being done to Lebanon and the Lebanese, have fallen on deaf ears in Washington.

Even more tragic has been the total blackout of any news coming out of Gaza regarding the suffering of Palestinians now enduring their fifth week of Israeli assault.

As I have said before, no good will come of this. Absent international pressure to pursue a political solution within Lebanon and Palestine and between Lebanese, Palestinians, and Israelis, the devastation of the past month will, as in the aftermath of 1982, morph into a new and potentially more lethal extremism.

The prerequisite to beginning such a political process is, of course, a ceasefire. But with the US blocking such an effort, and still believing that good will come from Israel's "cleansing war," the tragic dance of death continues.

So Why oh Why Is White House Pushing Appointment of John Bolton to the U.N. When He's Been There Ruining the U.N. For More Than a Year

If you've asked this question, give yourself a pat on the back and a cigar (the banana-flavored bubblegum type, if you please). The truth is that John Bolton probably would not have been approved by the Senate as U.N. ambassador because he's incompetent, power mad, and anything but a diplomat (which makes him a perfect Bushie!). So the president pushed him in behind the scenes, where he's been an unqualified disaster whom even our pals in England have complained about endlessly.

Now the president wants to force the Senate to approve the man who's done such a bad job in the last year. They've been trotting Bolton out to the powerful Israeli lobby as the man who can make sure Israel will not be faulted for what it does in Lebanon.

And, of course, the White House always gets what it wants, like a spoiled child.

After Five Years of Imprisonment and With No Charges Ever Filed, Supposedly Last 9-11 Detainee Finally Released

I say supposedly because we really don't know if this man is the last of the people picked up with little provocation after the attacks on September 11th, 2001 and held under horrific conditions and subjected to non-stop questioning without a single charge ever being filed. We disappeared people. Many of them remain unaccounted for; many died in custody.

What we did after 9-11 - and continue to do nearly five years later - is unforgivable, unconstitutional, and makes a lie out of the ideals we hold most dear.

In a Land That Boasts Its Love Affair With Free Speech, Why Does the Simple Act of Disagreeing with Mr. Bush Get You Arrested?

Throughout the country - and on Bush's visits outside - dissent with this president's words and deeds isn't merely not appreciated; it can be grounds for arrest, for job loss, for visits by military henchmen, and worse.

If You're in India, You Probably Are NOT Reading This

Apparently the government of India has asked (ordered perhaps?) Internet service providers (ISPs) to block all blogspot addresses; these addresses serve as home to the vast majority of Blogger based blogs such as this one.

Years After We Learned the Pentagon Was Selling Used/Surplus War Hardware to Questionable Sources, The Practice Continues Full Speed Ahead

This was a terrible bit of news when we first learned about it in 2002 or so, and it's even worse to learn that our government has no freakin' idea to whom they sell this used or surplus hardware. This means the likelihood that Americans, children, and yes, even Mr. Bush's prized, precious Snowflake Babies may be killed by hardware the Pentagon sells a terrorist. But then, some of us wonder if Mr. Rumsfeld and at least the civilian top-rankers at the Pentagon should be defined as terrorists, too.

From the wires:

Undercover government investigators purchased sensitive surplus military equipment such as launcher mounts for shoulder-fired missiles and guided missile radar test sets from a Defense Department contractor.

Much of the equipment could be useful to terrorists, according to a draft report by the
Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress.

In June, two GAO investigators spent $1.1 million on such equipment at two excess property warehouses. Their purchases included several types of body armor inserts used by troops in
Iraq and Afghanistan, an all-band antenna used to track aircraft, and a digital signal converter used in naval surveillance.

"The body armor could be used by terrorists or other criminal activity," noted the report, obtained Friday by The Associated Press. "Many of the other military items have weapons applications that would also be useful to terrorists."

Thousands of items that should have been destroyed were sold to the public, the report said. Much of the equipment was sold for pennies on the dollar.

The list included circuit cards used in computerized Navy systems, a cesium technology timing unit with global positioning capabilities, and 12 digital microcircuits used in F-14 Tomcat fighter aircraft.

At least 2,669 sensitive military items were sold to 79 buyers in 216 sales transactions from November 2005 to June 2006.

"DOD has not enforced security controls for preventing sensitive excess military equipment from release to the public," the report concluded. "GAO was able to purchase these items because controls broke down at virtually every step in the excess property turn-in and disposal process."
No accountability, no responsibility, no sense whatsoever.

David Corn:"Will Plame vs. Cheney, Libby & Rove Unearth New Info?"

I suspect the answer to David Corn's article headline is yes. But how much we'll be "allowed" to learn remains to be seen and whether we'll be able to do anything about what we learn is an even bigger question and a much likelier possibility of a No.

Neocons = Neonuts

More dangerous people - or bigger cowards - we will not know. From Katrina Vanden Heuvel, editor, of The Nation:

For them, Afghanistan and Iraq will not suffice. They want to take out Syria and Iran, and speed full steam ahead towards World Wars III and IV. The Weekly Standard asks simply, "Why wait?"

According to Newt Gingrich, there is no need to wait at all. On Meet the Press this past Sunday he offered that the Israel-Hezbollah conflict "… is, in fact, World War III" and "the U.S. ought to be helping...."

And how might the US help fight Newt's World War? The Weekly Standard provides the answer: "It would be easier to act sooner rather than later. Yes, there would be repercussions – and they would be healthy ones, showing a strong America that has rejected further appeasement."

George Will – not exactly your run-of-the-mill, card-carrying liberal – describes the neocons as "so untethered from reality as to defy caricature."

But what has caused them to become so completely unhinged (even more so than before, if one can imagine that possibility)?

With the deteriorating occupation in Iraq and a resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan the neocons have been completely discredited. Meanwhile, the Bush administration is engaging in a "muddled multilateralism" – not quite pursuing diplomacy but not acting unilaterally at the whims of the Decider et al., either.

And this simply infuriates them.
Follow the link to read the rest.

Paul Krugman: "The Price of Fantasy"

As Krugman writes, "The Price of Fantasy" is very dear indeed; snippet reprinted from Rozius:

Today we call them neoconservatives, but when the first George Bush was president, those who believed that America could remake the world to its liking with a series of splendid little wars — people like Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld — were known within the administration as “the crazies.” Grown-ups in both parties rejected their vision as a dangerous fantasy.

But in 2000 the Supreme Court delivered the White House to a man who, although he may be 60, doesn’t act like a grown-up. The second President Bush obviously confuses swagger with strength, and prefers tough talkers like the crazies to people who actually think things through. He got the chance to implement the crazies’ vision after 9/11, which created a climate in which few people in Congress or the news media dared to ask hard questions. And the result is the bloody mess we’re now in.T

his isn’t a case of 20-20 hindsight. It was clear from the beginning that the United States didn’t have remotely enough troops to carry out the crazies’ agenda — and Mr. Bush never asked for a bigger army.

As I wrote back in January 2003, this meant that the “Bush doctrine” of preventive war was, in practice, a plan to “talk trash and carry a small stick.” It was obvious even then that the administration was preparing to invade Iraq not because it posed a real threat, but because it looked like a soft target.

The message to North Korea, which really did have an active nuclear program, was clear: “The Bush administration,” I wrote, putting myself in Kim Jong Il’s shoes, “says you’re evil. It won’t offer you aid, even if you cancel your nuclear program, because that would be rewarding evil. It won’t even promise not to attack you, because it believes it has a mission to destroy evil regimes, whether or not they actually pose any threat to the U.S. But for all its belligerence, the Bush administration seems willing to confront only regimes that are militarily weak.” So “the best self-preservation strategy ... is to be dangerous.”

With a few modifications, the same logic applies to Iran. And it’s easier than ever for Iran to be dangerous, now that U.S. forces are bogged down in Iraq.

Would the current crisis on the Israel-Lebanon border have happened even if the Bush administration had actually concentrated on fighting terrorism, rather than using 9/11 as an excuse to pursue the crazies’ agenda? Nobody knows. But it’s clear that the United States would have more options, more ability to influence the situation, if Mr. Bush hadn’t squandered both the nation’s credibility and its military might on his war of choice.

Another Bush Priority: Rush Shipment of Precision-Guided Missiles to Israel So More Lebanese Civilians Can Be Killed

Seriously. The Bush Administration has agreed to rush a shipment of these killer missiles to Israel to "help" their "compassionate" campaign in Lebanon to wipe out Hezbollah which, so far, has killed more than 400 civilians "accidentally" while not seeming to do all that damned much to Hezbollah itself.

If this many civilians are dead in Lebanon with Israel assuring us it's doing everything possible to avoid civilian casualties, can you imagine how many would be dead if they weren't so "gentle"?

Hey, you Americans who say the U.S. should not be involved in the Middle East conflict: is THIS what you meant?

The President Has His Priorities

Sure, Mr. Bush could be doing one or more of the following:

  • trying to find an exit strategy for Iraq
  • helping broker a cease-fire between Israel-Hezbollah-Lebanon
  • rethinking his disastrous, hurtful veto of expanded stem cell research funding
  • putting real money behind programs to help educate children rather than just pretending
  • fixing the problems with Social Security and Medicare rather than just trying to kill the last of the New Deal programs
  • stop promoting policies that have the entire world at war

    But NO... Mr. Bush has other priorities, according to Attaturk at Rising Hegemon:
Iraq blowing apart, Israel about to invade Lebanon...

but Top 10 'American Idol' Finalists Invited to Meet the President

In Case You Were Distracted: Ethiopia and Somalia Seem About to Go to War

Story here.

Mr. Bush has had such a positive influence on peace around the globe.

Young Republicans: Fear Not! With More Troops Going to Iraq, You Can Still Enlist!

Yes, even more troops are being deployed to Iraq despite how the president and Mr. Rumsfeld floated the idea of bringing some home.

And I expect every Young Republican who supports this war to haul ass down to the local recruitment office. Mommy can even drive you in her Lexus SUV on her way to a store that sells Izod shirts made in third world sweatshops to "save a few bucks".

Be Careful What You Awaken To

Sleep hasn't been my friend lately so, after finally falling off around 6 am, I didn't actually arise until shortly before 10, when the first words I heard from MSNBC were:

Israeli Troops Tear Down Border Wall, Forcibly Enter UN Outpost

Yeah, that's a good start to the day, a reminder that Israel, like the U.S., loves to use a U.N. resolution and bylaws when it suits their purposes while happy to treat them like a recalcitrant prom date when they want to get their rocks off. Then, also like the U.S., Israel complains that "no one takes the U.N. seriously so why bother to try diplomatic avenues through them."

Because While You and I Can Handle the Truth, Bush and Negroponte Cannot

Posted by Gottlieb at MyLeftWing:

On the day Harry Reid declared Civil War in Iraq, we learn that our Intelligence Czar, the Reagan era, Central American war criminal, John Negroponte, has blocked the Central Intelligence Agency from producing a new, long overdue, National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iraq.


Because the CIA is ready to call Iraq what it is: a gigantic Clusterfuck that has devolved into full blown Civil War, but Negroponte won’t let the CIA give their analysis because he, “doesn't want the president to have to deal with that.”

The Director of Intelligence for the United States of America does not want the president to have to deal with the God’s honest truth. It would be too much for him evidently.

No, leave the President to bike-rides and backrubs, but for God sakes, don’t let the President know things aren’t going well in Iraq.

We have gone beyond the Emperor with no Clothes, to the Emperor with no Brains.
Plainly, for the entire world to see; George Bush can’t handle the truth.
Well said, brother!


No, Fellows, It's Not Just the Estrogen Or the Ecology...

Here's an inconvenient truth about The Inconvenient Truth:

I cried, too, MissM.

Who is Nasrallah, the Man Who Leads Hezbollah in Lebanon and Why Does Israel Want Him Dead?

Excellent questions, which The Nation tries to answer here in a piece entitled "Nasrallah's Game":

To some observers, the attacks that detonated Israel's ruthless assault on Lebanon look like a death wish--but it's almost impossible to defeat someone who has no fear of death. Nation literary editor Adam Shatz explores the roots of the current crisis and the motives of Hezbollah's Sheik Sayed Hassan Nasrallah.

A Is For Anarchy As In Afghanistan

NATO's head of security forces in Afghanistan says the country is very close to a state of complete anarchy.

Now, lemme think... is that a step up or a step down from where we were? I mean, Mr. Rumsfeld was just there and said everything was just ducky! And Mr. Bush keeps saying we've brought democracy and Coke machines there, making it almost ideal. They wouldn't lie, would they?

Please, someone pass me some Xanax. Or Thorazine. Or one of those electro-shock machines.

On The Face: Where Israelis and Lebanese Talk Net-to-Net

Think Progress provides us some encouraging news, even if it's just human-to-human (digitally speaking, of course):

Sites like On the Face are bringing ordinary citizens together even as violence continues. “We have tons of things in common. We come from two of the most liberal, educated countries in the Middle East. Many of us received a western education. We have talked, wrote, and dreamed about open borders between our countries.”


Speaking of Nancy Grace...

Er... won't they get sore?

And speaking of Nancy Grace reminded me of this story at Wonkette about how the Washington Post errantly (?) printed the number for a sex hotline in lieu of the number to call for emergency evacuations in Lebanon.

Seriously, usually it takes the Bush Administration to make a supreme fuck-up like that!

A Note to Sluts: Mea Culpa, Mea Maxima Culpa

Dear Sluts:

My apologies for calling Nancy Grace a slut. Having known (and mocked!) many of you over the years, I can honestly say that you are much nicer, kinder, more compassionate, endlessly more human AND humane, and certainly more possessed of grace and charm than Nancy Grace shall ever be.

You have my profound and sincere apologies. Whatever was I thinking?

Another footnote: No, dudlee, this was NOT in reference to you. Don't be paranoid.

"Nancy Grace, You Ignorant, Vicious Slut, Shut That Nasty Piehole of Yours!"

OK, this is NOT verbatim what former Utah kidnap victim Elizabeth Smart said to the woman who enjoys sticking pins into the eyes of kittens before she microwaves them and then serves the remains to the homeless (aka CNN Headline News' Nancy Grace(less) before she mows down the homeless (especially the small, malnourished children) with her Humvee, but it's close enough.

See Crooks and Liars for the actual discourse.

My Poll Bites the Big One

And it does, as MissM points out very politely*** (see footnote).

I'll take a welding torch and tire iron to it later and if it still doesn't work, I'll consult the Bushies!

Footnote (made deliberately small to discourage all but the most interested readers): MissM is always, always, always polite. However, I have heard rumors [just rumors, mind you!] that MissM actually knows at least two four-letter words, and only ONE of them is B-u-s-h, as well as a couple of ones that start with the letter F. But, of course, not the word F-o-r-n-i-c-a-t-e. Ooops. Uh, MissM? I'll leave CK or Hally/Barb to explain that F word to you. On second thought, I would recommend that you ask Hally first and then, if she leaves out any details (which I'm sure she won't), you can consult CK. If you still need additional information, including diagrams and obscene hand gestures, you then should speak with Sharon/dudlee who does, as they say, "have a mouth on her". Unlike me; I have a very small buccal cavity aperture through which so little passes.

Another Christmas in July (Tony) Snowjob

From White House spokescretin Tony Snow:

“Nobody Has Been More Diplomatically Active Than We Have” On The Middle East Peace...

A Clinton Conspiracy Theory

Probably to distract myself from even more depressing topics, I've been sitting here trying to imagine why Bill Clinton has agreed to campaign for Joe Lieberman in Connecticut this weekend.

Lieberman, as you recall, faced with the likelihood he would not get the Dem party nomination after 24 years in office, went Independent with his own "Lieberman for Connecticut" party (catchy name, eh)? The GOP wants him re-elected so badly they're not only helping to fund him, they look ready to bump their own candidate from the ticket so they can run Lieberman on the GOP ballot line.

Here are the theories for Clinton's campaigning I've dreamed up thus far:

  1. Lieberman for Connecticut was just such a catchy name, Bill couldn't resist? Nah.
  2. Clinton's "new" parents, Barbara and George H.W. "Poppy" Bush, threatened to withhold Bill's dessert if he refused? Possibly.
  3. Bill still can't forgive Connecticut for producing Bush Jr? Although Dubya loves to play cowboy, he was born in Yale-New Haven Hospital to a Greenwich family on Connecticut's "Gold Coast". Unlikely.
  4. Bill's lived with Hillary so long, he forgot he's with the Democratic Party? Possibly!

Soldiers: "We Were Under Orders to Kill All Military Age Young Men in Iraq"

I have not read any follow-up analysis of this to determine its veracity but if it's true - if these soldiers had reason to believe it's true.... my God.

From the Associated Press:

EL PASO, Texas (AP) - Four U.S. soldiers accused of murdering suspected insurgents during a raid in Iraq said they were under orders to "kill all military age males," according to sworn statements obtained by The Associated Press.

The soldiers first took some of the men into custody because they were using two women and a toddler as human shields. They shot three of the men after the women and child were safe and say the men attacked them.

"The ROE (rule of engagement) was to kill all military age males on Objective Murray," Staff Sgt. Raymond L. Girouard told investigators, referring to the target by its code name.
Yes men - and I use the term very loosely with him - like Rick Santorum whine how "there's a war against the war."

There fucking well should be, especially when the war is predicated entirely on lies, and fought with all the rules ignored.

Two Pictures Say It All...

Kirby Mountain - another Vermont blog - shows two pictures here that say... well, not everything there is to say about the current crisis with Israel, Lebanon, and Hezabollah... expresses some of what many of us see so obscene about this conflict.

I warn you, however, that these are not easy pictures to view - neither of them - for I find writing messages on missiles by little girls as horrific as that headless baby.

Even though the rocket power of Hezbollah has surprised both Israel and the U.S., it is nothing compared to the massive armament Israel has and was largely provided, much free of charge as "aid" by the U.S., by you, and me, and your neighbors as taxpayers.

In Defense of The Indefensible... err... CNN

Regarding my immediately previous post, I should say something in CNN's defense (though why escapes me...).

To be fair, CNN is simply too busy covering other important world stories to do the Bush-Merkel-backrub story due justice. Uh, no, those other stories are NOT Israel about to cream what's left of Lebanon in the futile efforts to quash Hezbollah. No, Iraq as a civil war isn't quite as important either. CNN has even BIGGER STORIES for you to feast upon!

For example, go to CNN right now, and you will find not one but THREE (3) - count 'em, THREE - links to both "Dakota Fanning is raped in next film" and "Vampire Web site used to lure girls" stories.

Mind you, I'll agree that Dakota Fanning's acting is almost as scary and bad as Bush's attempts to be the leader of the free world. In fact, I think Dakota Fanning could probably be just as good a president AS Mr. Bush - just as "deep" and thoughtful and just as well behaved. And, no doubt, she can be just as articulate. Hell, perhaps she can pronounce nuclear correctly!

Bush Rubs People the Wrong Way - But CNN Has It All Wrong

Read this tripe from CNN and you might believe that the Web has taken wwwwaaaaaaaayyyout of proportion the story of President Bush's highly inappropriate - and completely unwanted by its recipient - backrub he delivered to Angela Merkel, the leader of Germany. Look at video of the event and you see Merkel is quite horrified. I believe her reaction was wholly just and appropriate; it was Bush that was - as usual - out of sync with reality.

No, the bloggers and the 'net did not distort Mr. Bush's wildly uncool action: the mainstream media in the U.S. did that by presenting the event at the G8 summit as a "light-hearted" moment, as an act of kindness by the leader of one nation to another, and similarly abusing the truth.

Outside the U.S., this story did not play well at all. With many Americans of even average intelligence, it did not play well either. One doesn't have to be a "lefty" blogger to figure it out, folks.

What Mr. Bush did was not simply embarrassing for us, it was a demeaning, harassing act for a man to do to a woman in public let alone at an important meeting between world leaders with multiple wars ongoing, many of them of Mr. Bush's making. Bush didn't "get" it at the time although the look on Merkel's face as he approached her, before he ever laid a grubby paw on her, was unmistakable. I'm sure he doesn't "get" it now.

And apparently CNN STILL doesn't get it. Which is a shame. It should make a few people question what else they distort (a LOT, and on a regular basis).

Iraq Has Devolved into Civil War, Says Senate Minority Leader, Harry Reid

But it's not just Reid. The poll on CNN right now asks if the situation in Iraq is a civil war, and 77% of more than 96,000 respondents say Yes!

Urban Poor Pay a "Ghetto Tax"

A study reported by The Times documents that the urban poor - in addition to their other costs - also pay a "ghetto tax" for the privilege of living in substandard conditions.

A Whining Wolf in Sheep's Clothing? Why is Joe Lieberman Getting Most of His Money from the GOP Die-hards?

Read this in The Times and tell me that Joe Lieberman isn't being financed by Karl Rove's particular blend of the GOP. The same GOP who helped fund Al Sharpton's run for president in 2004. Some also said the GOP donated heavily to at least the 2000 if not the 2004 Ralph Nader run just to hurt the Dem candidate (there is some question as to the veracity of that, however).

Go ahead. I'm waiting.

Israel Amasses Hundreds of Troops Along Lebanon Border for "Another Shot" at Hezbollah; Rice Outlines "Strategy"

Israel is amassing hundreds of troops along Lebanon's Southern border, where dozens of tanks are already in place. As anticipated, it looks like we haven't seen anything yet in terms of death and destruction even though the infrastructure is reportedly totally gone in large parts of already war-weakened Lebanon.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State (which apparently in her case only means she takes dick-tation from Bush-Cheney) Condoleeza Rice outlines her "strategy". I can summarize it for you in less words and far less halting delivery than Condi: "Let Israel do whatever it wants to whomever it wants no matter how many lies are lost and.. oh yeah... my president is brilliant! A visionary! And a real stud, too!"

Then she had the bald-faced audacity to add, "lasting peace is the goal."

This really is a crock, because weakening Lebanon merely makes it far MORE likely that Hezbollah can operate there; Israel's battering of it in the past is exactly what left the door open for Hezbollah to make such deep in-roads there.

I do believe the Israeli people by and large DO want peace. But - as with Mr. Bush and this country - Israeli's political leaders like Netanyahu, Sharon, and now Olmert do not ACT in ways that can create peace. They act in ways that will assure nothing but war and mutual destruction. Bush is a great person to emulate there.

Froomkin Puts the Bush Stance Succinctly

His blog on the WaPo site is well worth a read, IMHO. While he's a bit too polite about the belubbed "leader" and his completely ignorant stance on Israel-Lebanon-Hezbollah, I can forgive Froomkin because I think he's one of the few decent minds at the Post these days. Which seems to be why the WaPo's editorial board seems intent on neutralizing him. Remember the right-wing plagiarist they hired for all of 5 seconds; the ass who couldn't get through his first piece without stealing and then blaming a vast left-wing conspiracy for his theft?

From Froomkin:

Presented with a crisis on the Israeli-Lebanese border in which the two pillars of his foreign policy -- fighting terror and spreading democracy -- were conspicuously at odds with each other, President Bush made it clear which pillar is dearest to his heart.

Bush is strongly supporting Israel's furious wave of attacks against Hezbollah and other targets in Lebanon, even going so far as single-handedly thwarting a humanitarian-based international consensus for a cease-fire.

But the cost to the fragile Lebanese government -- up until now, the greatest success story in Bush's push for democracy in the Middle East -- has been enormous.

"The country has been torn to shreds," Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora told diplomats in Beirut on Wednesday. "Is this the price we pay for aspiring to build our democratic institutions? . . . You want to support the government of Lebanon? Let me tell you, ladies and gentlemen, no government can survive on the ruins of a nation."

Interestingly enough, there might have been a way for Bush to be spared such a grim choice, having to pick one pillar over another. Conceivably, at least, if Bush had opened lines of communication with Hezbollah's patrons in Syria and Iran, he might have been able to, in the president's own immortal words, " stop this shit ."

The Bush White House has a long-standing aversion to engaging in dialogue with its enemies -- foreign or domestic. At least in part, that's based on an intense desire not to reward bad behavior. But the aversion to rewarding enemies by talking to them has not historically risen to the level of doctrine.

Overcoming that aversion would have been difficult for the White House, at least in the short term. But would it really have been more painful than watching one of its two central foreign policy pillars fall by the wayside?

The White House, of course, probably doesn't see the choice as starkly as that. The official line is that Israel's military action in Lebanon is actually tidying things up over there, strengthening the democratic government in the long run. Just like in Iraq.

The Surveillance Bill That Should NEVER Have Been Written Meets With Resistance

Do I sound indignant? You bet. As should ALL citizens.

And it should meet with far more than the resistance outlined by this piece in the Washington Post; this is the same disastrous NSA Surveillance bill Arlen Specter brokered to make legal all the illegal NSA wiretapping the Bush Administration has been doing against citizens of the U.S. In brokering it (and broker is a polite term for Specter's complete and utter capitulation to Bush and Cheney), the Senate essentially "punishes" the Bushies' unconstitutional conduct by giving them even vaster access to information they cannot prove they need, ending all concept of privacy in communications.

No privacy. No checks and balances. No accountability. Nothing but increasing presidential powers for a duo - Bush and Cheney - who have done nothing but abuse what powers they have while often not fulfilling the jobs they are supposed to do.

From the piece:

A Senate surveillance bill personally negotiated by President Bush and Vice President Cheney ran into immediate trouble this week, as Democrats and other critics attacked the proposal while key GOP leaders in the House endorsed a different bill on the same topic.

The Senate legislation, drafted during negotiations between the White House and Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), would allow the administration to submit the National Security Agency's warrantless surveillance program to a secret intelligence court for review of its legality.

The proposal was billed as a rare and noteworthy compromise by the administration when unveiled last week. But the legislation quickly came under attack from Democrats and many national security experts, who said it would actually give the government greater powers to spy on Americans without court oversight.

...Specter, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, canceled a markup session for his proposal that had been scheduled for yesterday. He announced instead plans instead for a full committee hearing Wednesday on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), the 1978 statute at the center of the debate.
The developments add to the uncertainty surrounding the eavesdropping program, which allows the NSA to intercept telephone calls and e-mails between the United States and locations overseas without court approval if one of the parties is suspected of links to terrorism.

The program -- secretly ordered by Bush after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks but not revealed publicly until media reports in December -- has been the focus of fierce congressional debate. The Justice Department has spent much of its time fending off a flurry of legal challenges to the program in the courts, including a class-action lawsuit that was allowed to proceed yesterday by a federal judge in California.

Specter's proposal would, among other things, allow the transfer of all pending lawsuits to a secret FISA appeals court that could throw the cases out for "any reason." The bill would also allow -- but not require -- the administration to seek legal approval for the NSA program from another secret court that administers FISA.

The legislation also would lengthen the amount of time the government could spy on alleged terrorism suspects before receiving warrants, and would explicitly affirm the president's "constitutional authority" to conduct spying programs on his own.

Specter defended the proposal during a committee hearing on Tuesday, calling the agreement with Bush "a major breakthrough" that included necessary but acceptable compromises. [Ed. note: Acceptable to WHOM? Necessary for WHAT?]

...But critics say the proposal would effectively gut the FISA law and give the government too much leeway in clandestine surveillance. Opponents also say the bill would allow the FISA court to approve surveillance programs as a whole, rather than reviewing warrants for specific cases as it does now.

Other GOP proposals -- including bills proposed by Wilson and Sen. Mike DeWine (Ohio) -- are opposed by Democrats and civil liberties groups because they formally authorize the NSA program. But the scope of the Wilson bill, for example, is more limited than Specter's, and requires the executive branch to brief all members of the House and Senate intelligence committees.

Rep. Jane Harman (Calif.), ranking Democrat on the House intelligence committee, said she opposes all the GOP's proposals dealing with the NSA issue, calling them "solutions in search of a problem."
Wilson is a complete nitwit and DeWine, beholden to the Abramoffs of the world, is too busy doctoring 9/11 footage for his campaign to pay attention to bits of fluff like the U.S. Constitution or the Bill of Rights.

WaPo: Israel Calls Up Reserves to Fight Against Hezbollah in Lebanon

This is NOT a good development. This is indicative of full scale war, one not likely to end anytime soon, despite how devastated Lebanon already is.

WaPo also reports that - as "planned" - Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice will begin a "diplomatic mission" soon (what's the hurry, after all?) but will NOT press Israel for a ceasefire (remember, Lebanon and Hezbollah have already offered a truce and Israel has rejected same).

The Phenomenon of the Female Suicide Bomber

Ole Blue at Old Blue the Heretic brings us some information about this sad development of "equality" ("The Brides of Palestine" is Salon's phrase) regarding female suicide bombers in Muslim societies (where women are traditionally often not seen as peers).

Say Hello to

The Peace Foundation, a blog originating from Israel about people working for peace in the troubled Middle East.

In The What Drugs Is He Taking Dept: Bush Says Israel-Lebanon Strife is a Step Toward Peace

You explain it. I cannot.


Remember When Pat Buchanan Was About as Crazy As the GOP Could Get?

But these days - as in the leadup to the Iraq War - he's one of the most moderate voices. Pat Buchanan at AntiWar on the Israel-Lebanon-Hezbollah mess:

Let it be said: Israel has a right to defend herself, a right to counterattack against Hezbollah and Hamas, a right to clean out bases from which Katyusha or Qassam rockets are being fired, and a right to occupy land from which attacks are mounted on her people.

"But what Israel is doing is imposing deliberate suffering on civilians, collective punishment on innocent people, to force them to do something they are powerless to do: disarm the gunmen among them. Such a policy violates international law and comports neither with our values nor our interests. It is un-American and un-Christian.

"But where are the Christians? Why is Pope Benedict virtually alone among Christian leaders to have spoken out against what is being done to Lebanese Christians and Muslims?

"When al-Qaeda captured two U.S. soldiers and barbarically butchered them, the U.S. Army did not smash power plants across the Sunni Triangle. Why then is Bush not only silent but openly supportive when Israelis do this?

"Democrats attack Bush for crimes of which he is not guilty, including Haditha and Abu Ghraib. Why are they, too, silent when Israel pursues a conscious policy of collective punishment of innocent peoples?"
And yes, I agree on the Dem slam, too. Why are they silent in the face of such egregious conduct?

Nods to James Wolcott for the AntiWar link.

One Even The Craziest Conservatives Couldn't Kill: The Voting Right Acts Wins 25 Year Extension


I Second Karlo

Karlo posts at SwerveLeft:

Lenin's Tomb has a link to a video clip of a bomb going off in Beirut. With macabre humor, the post is titled "someone just killed the neighbors". While somewhat jarring, this title is actually very insightful: war generally is not something that happens on some sterilized battlefield away from innocent children and bystanders; rather it's something that happens on the way to the market and in people's kitchens. This being the case, all the patriotic rallying by the so-called "religious" right behind Israel is wrong--perhaps true to some Old Testament sentiments--but wrong all the same. Bombing children will never be justifiable.

Israel Tells Hundreds of Thousands of Residents of Southern Lebanon to Flee Post Haste

If Israel is telling that many people in Southern Lebanon to flee their "attacks on Hezbollah", you just know that as soon as the majority of the evacuations are complete, Lebanon will be hit like we haven't seen before. And it's been pretty horrific already.

Please Take the New Poll on the Crisis Between Israel, Lebabon, and Hezbollah

It's at the top right. Your response is appreciated because I really do want to gauge how people are feeling outside these rather anonymous polls in the mainstream media.

Thank you for your participation. I'd be happy to split my root beer ice pop with you for doing so.

Pentagon Cultivates Culture of Violence Against Women (And Everyone Else, For That Matter)

From the Salt Lake Tribune:

Recent allegations of sexual abuse by U.S. military personnel should make us wary of the culture of sexist violence that the Pentagon is fostering.

More than 500 U.S. servicewomen who have been or are stationed in Iraq, Afghanistan or other countries say they have been assaulted by fellow soldiers since 2003, according to the Miles Foundation, a nonprofit organization that helps victims of violence associated with the military.

The Defense Department says that reports of sexual assaults involving members of the armed forces rose 40 percent in 2005, and 65 percent in the last two years.

Sexual harassment of female soldiers is often blatant, and harassment and assault often go hand in hand.
Going to war at minimum wage is tough enough. To be harassed and sometimes raped for doing it?

Baghdad Area: Bombings and Other Violence Up 40%+ In Just Last Week

This, according to Mr. Rumsfeld's Defense (hmmm...) Department.

If you think the Middle East crisis with Israel, Lebanon, and Hezbollah aren't going to affect Iraq and vice versa, I have a lovely, slightly used bridge in Brooklyn you just have to buy.

GAO: Rumsfeld's Defense Department - and Thus the US Itself - Has No Idea How Much War on Terror Has, Is, and Will Cost

This is almost as horrifying as all the shit they're perpetrating in the name of fighting the war (which is creating at least as much terrorism, our own as well as those abroad, as it's allegedly reducing):

The US government has lost track of the cost of the "war on terror" unleashed after the September 11 attacks and which is now taking up tens of billions of dollars a year in Iraq and Afghanistan, a Congress watchdog warned.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) said that neither the Defence Department nor Congress had any accurate idea how much the war has cost since the attacks on New York and Washington in 2001.

It said Congress has appropriated about 430 billion dollars for "war on terror" spending, which includes military operations and reconstruction costs in Iraq, but raised concerns about the way the money was being accounted for.

The GAO said it had already found "numerous problems" with Defence Department "processes for recording Global War on Terror (GWOT) costs". It said that the Pentagon had not done enough since the previous criticism in September to overcome the problems.

It said there was too much use of estimates instead of real cost data and a lack of documentation.

"As a result, neither DoD (Defence Department) nor the Congress reliably know how much the war is costing and how appropriated funds are being used or have historical data useful in considering future funding needs," said the report.

Judge: Lawsuit Against AT&T For Its Purported Role in Illegal NSA Wiretap Spying Can Go Forward

From InfoWorld:

A federal judge on Thursday denied motions by the U.S. government and AT&T Corp. to stop a lawsuit over alleged participation by the carrier in an illegal wiretapping program by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA).

Judge Vaughn R. Walker of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California denied the government's motion for dismissal of the case or summary judgement on the basis that the case involved state secrets. He also denied AT&T's motion to have the case dismissed.

The civil liberties group Electronic Frontier Foundation sued AT&T in January on behalf of the carrier's customers, alleging it diverts traffic from its fiber-optic lines to the NSA as part of an illegal antiterrorist surveillance program. The suit, one of several in the works, followed press reports last year about several major carriers providing data for broad domestic spying initiatives.

The case still could be halted. In his decision, the judge allowed the parties to make an instant appeal to a higher court, a move that could lead to all or part of the case being stayed.

Juan Cole: In Beirut, Lebanon, There Is "No More Infrastructure to Destroy"

Stop to think about what this means. The most important city in Lebanon and a key city in the Middle East has had its entire infrastructure destroyed by Israeli attacks in the name of self defense when they are supposedly NOT trying to topple Lebanon but wipe out Hezbollah which does not dominate the majority of the country of Lebanon.

I find it mind boggling.

Disapproval: In 46 Out of 50 States, Bush's Disapproval Rating Exceeds Approval

Results at Survey USA, where Utah offers him the "best" results (57% approve with 39% disapproval), many states close but tipped to disapproval, and his worst ratings in not just the Northeast (with a disapproval rate at 70% or above) but also Delaware, Illinois, California and - yes, friends - Ohio.

Personally - and with no attempt at sarcasm (no, really!) - I am surprised that he still merits a slight approval tip in as many as four states; it is wholly undeserved IMHO.

Mind you, these were tabulated before the crisis in the Middle East, his bragging about the debt, far worse news from Iraq, his abysmal behavior at the G8, and yesterday's monument (and monumentally hurtful) stupidity with vetoing the expansion of stem cell funding and research.

Are President Bush's Personal Demons Hurting Us All?

That's the viewpoint offered by this piece by Nicholas F. Benton in a Falls Church (VA) paper and I believe there's some truth to it. However, I suspect the president simply isn't that thoughtful about personal demons, regardless of how much they may indeed run his life and ruin ours:

In the on-going saga of the Worst President in the History of the United States, two catastrophes of almost equal import in recent days showcased the fanatical, apocalyptic personal world view that informs George W. Bush.

The current deepening crisis in the Middle East and Bush’s veto yesterday of a stem cell bill passed by Congress belie an integrated, if frighteningly insane, internal mental map. It’s one that as maintained by an otherwise dysfunctional street corner bum with a bullhorn and sandwich sign proclaiming the imminent end of the world is relatively harmless. But as it instructs the most powerful leader in the world, it’s truly scary. People had better start to look at this more seriously.

First of all, with regard to the Middle East, no one is more responsible for the escalating violence in Lebanon and Israel than Bush. Contrary to decades of U.S. diplomacy dating almost from the establishment of the State of Israel after World War II, this administration has practiced five years of stubborn, malicious neglect.

Now, as thousands of innocent civilians on both sides of the Israel-Lebanon border are being killed, maimed, uprooted and rendered homeless, the Bush administration continues to sit on its hands, refuses to step in and insist on a cease-fire, and while standing on the sidelines, cheers on one side against the other.

What we are witnessing is not passive disregard by the Bush administration. It is the exercise of a kind of “passive aggression” that advances a vicious and dangerous agenda. This is another step in the Bush Armageddon policy.

Howard Kurtz: Why Bloggers Aren't Blogging About the Israel-Lebanon-Hezbollah Crisis

Gee, I didn't know "lefty" bloggers all got a memo NOT to address the topic of Israel-Lebanon-Hezbollah. Apparently I'm not on the lefty blogger mailing list.

Oh, right.. it's the righty bloggers who decide en masse what to say and what not to say. Oh those talking points!

And Howie the Putz should know because he's excellent at keeping on message with exactly what the Bushies and the righties want him to say - ever so useful in a national columnist (NOT).

Newsweek: Food and Medical Supplies Hitting Serious Shortages in Lebanon

Report here; the infrastructure of Lebanon is largely gone or so seriously damaged it may as well be missing altogether.

Elsewhere, Kofi Annan, Secretary General of the U.N., has called for an immediate halt to the fighting but with firefights raging between Israel and Hezbollah forces and the death toll rising higher with each passing day, plus Israel's insistence it will not stop until Hezbollah is demolished, Annan admits he sees little hope for a ceasefire.

WaPo: Who Exactly Are Bloggers?

Portrait of a Blogger (which doesn't exactly depict me):

More than half of bloggers are younger than 30, and a majority use their blogs as a mode of creative expression, the survey found. Money-making possibilities motivate only 15 percent of bloggers, and most blog on a variety of topics, with 11 percent focusing on politics.

They are also less likely to be white than the general Internet-using population, and more than half live in suburban areas, according to Pew.

"Bloggers in general don't intend to have a lot of impact," said Amanda Lenhart, who directed the survey. "The motivation comes from within; it tends to be very personal. They're not out to change the world."

But blogs are changing the way people, particularly young adults, communicate. About 60 percent of bloggers maintain their Web sites to keep in touch with friends and family, and half of them blog to network or meet new people, the survey said.
Well, the no profit motive part fits (cough). Oh yeah, and I'm white (actually, I'm sort of pale pink).

You can find the Pew Bloggers Report, upon which this article is based, here.

Vermont Bloggers and Others: Take Back the Media

Well, looks like I'm headed to night school. Anyone care to join me?

From Democracy for America:

We know that the right-wing has dominated the media for decades. It didn't happen overnight and it didn't happen by accident. Now, if we learn the tools, our nationwide grassroots network has a chance to take back our media.

Throughout the summer, DFA Night School will offer three online sessions that will help build your media skills. The sessions combine an online presentation with a live conference call and group discussion with our trainers to show you how to get a progressive message into the media.

You can join any or all of the DFA Night School sessions from the comfort of your home or office today. Click here to sign up:

July 25: Working the Mainstream Media
August 1: Leveraging Blogs and Online Media
August 8: Sustaining your Media Presence

The events are free of charge and you don't need any prior experience working with the media. Media coverage is one of the best tools we have for spreading our progressive values -- and holding this administration and Congress accountable for their failures. Click here to find out more and reserve your spot:


U.S. National Security Assets - Not to Mention Our Roads, Water Supplies, Et Al, Are Being Bought Up By Foreign Interests

Think the road you drive on is owned by your municipality or state? Think again. The same is true with serious national security assets. We saw this with the Dubai deal to operate U.S. port security. And the Bushies are happy to sell them to the highest foreign bidders.

Who knows? Before long, Osama bin Laden could own CentCom. Maybe Iran will own I-80. The Bushies are happy to sell your assets. Oh yes, and Joe Lieberman is only too pleased to assist them; he's been very good to the Bushies, that Joe.

From David Sirota writing at Working for Change:

In an explosive report tonight, top House Democrats discovered provisions in the controversial Oman Free Trade Agreement that would permit foreign ownership of U.S. ports and other key national security assets. Three Democrats and one Republican held an emergency press conference today to expose the provisions just before the House is scheduled to vote on the Oman pact on Thursday.

As Reuters reports in the story attached, "Rep. John Murtha, a Pennsylvania Democrat who serves on the House Defense Appropriations subcommittee, said the pact would allow companies such as Dubai Ports World to acquire U.S. port operations by establishing a shell company in Oman." Those provisions might also allow foreign ownership of other key national security assets, considering just after the recent Dubai Ports controversy, that country went ahead with plans to purchase a major U.S. defense contractor.

Last month, lawmakers from both parties in the U.S. Senate joined hands to pass the Oman Free Trade Agreement - a pact being pushed aggressively by the Bush administration and its largest corporate donors. Lawmakers ignored major labor, human rights and environmental objections to the pact put forward by more than 400 union, religious and consumer groups. Among those voting for the pact in the Senate were Mike DeWine (R-OH) and Joe Lieberman (D-CT), two Senators facing tough re-election bids who could face renewed criticism in their home states that they have sold out their constituents.

Who Are the Bushies Spying On Now? Your College Kids!

The San Francisco Chronicle tells us all about how the Department of Homeland (In)Security is tracking college students.

Too bad they didn't do something useful.

Dan Froomkin on Bush's Intervention to Stop Probe into Illegal NSA Wiretapping

Dan Froomkin of the Washington Post discusses.

When the War Takes a Personal Turn

For some reason, since I returned, traffic has been much more brisk here and, as a result, I've been fielding lots for email. One that arrived early this morning made the whole Israel-Lebanon-Hezbollah disaster take a personal turn for me.

The person writing happens to be someone I studied journalism with, a really nice guy who I knew had since spent a couple of years working as a freelance journalist in the Middle East. He happened onto my blog and wondered if I was the person he'd known. Kismet!

We've done some catching up today and I learned that he's currently in Lebanon in a suburb of Beirut where power in his home has been off for more than a week but he gets to the office where juice still flows.

It turns out Tim happened to fall in love and marry a lovely young woman - he sent her picture today and she has one of those transcendent smiles that encompass her entire being - who hails from Gaza; his wife is a product of a love affair still going strong between Israeli Jewish father and an Israeli Arab mother. Their extended family includes dozens of those from all sides of this current war who happen to all agree on one point right now: Middle East Jews, Muslims and Christians - and agnostics too! - deserve far better than the terrible violence and fear which grips the region now.

Tim tells me his wife was trying to stop a loud argument yesterday between several Lebanese very angry that Israeli Jews are supposedly so ardently in favor of the current action by Israel against Hezbollah in Lebanon. He shared this with me from his wife that I think is worth noting:

"Do not hate the Jews of Israel for believing what their government tells them. In a time of great fear, we look to our authorities and place our faith in them that their expertise and knowledge will help find solutions we cannot fathom. The conflict is too fresh for them perhaps to realize that bloodshed will only get more bloodshed.

It is like the Americans after their country was attacked in 2001. All the people rallied behind those who wished to attack lands where they felt the terrorists were concealed. Slowly, many Americans have come to accept that many of those actions were wrong and only created more terrorists. This realization will come to Israelis as well."
Well said!

I pray for Tim and his wife and extended family, as well as all those in Lebanon and Israel. I pray and will work not only for their safety, but also for their ability to see beyond the spin and the lies of their leaders.

Speaking of War Time Censorship and Slant: Hello Newsweek!

I was just over at Newsweek and noticed something peculiar.

We've got a story about the family of one of the missing Israeli soldiers and a story from a rabbi about what God and the Bible says about terrorism and one about how all of Israel is united behind the operations against Hezbollah in Lebanon and a quote from Condi-kins about why it's important we sit on our thumbs.

Notice a theme here? Notice an absence of balance? Or is it just me?

Why Bush's Stem Cell Bill Veto Doesn't Matter

Patti Davis - daughter of Ronald Reagan and Nancy Reagan - discusses the above.

From Financial Times and MSNBC: Experts Challenge White House Claims That Iran is Behind Hezbollah

Finally! I've been waiting on this for several days based on previous reading I've done.

From the moment last Wednesday when Hizbollah fighters seized two Israeli soldiers, the Bush administration immediately held Iran and Syria responsible.

The White House mounted a systematic campaign on the US airwaves to get that message across while seeking to put pressure on the G8 summit to unite in confronting those two governments.

That it has become the received wisdom in the US that Iran was directing Hizbollah to deflect international pressure on Tehran's nuclear programme, is testimony to the Bush administration's ability to dominate the discourse in the mainstream media. The crisis has also demonstrated how it can rely on the support of the US foreign policy establishment – Democrat and Republican – when it comes to matters of vital national interest to the US and Israel.

Challenging these assertions, Iranian analysts and activists in the US – both those for and against the Iranian theocracy – are warning that such simplified arguments may not only be completely erroneous, but will also complicate the process of calming down the crisis while raising the chances of a direct conflict between Iran and the US.

Akbar Ganji, Iran's most prominent dissident who recently emerged from six years in prison, began a symbolic hunger strike outside the UN headquarters in New York at the weekend to press for the release of all political prisoners in Iran. But he also said his mission to the US was to prevent the spread of war.
Uh... more than just Iranians question this data.

Ed&Pub: Israel Demands War-Time Censorship

So, despite claims Israel is only conducting a battle for self-defense, it has employed censorship as one of its weapons? Always good in a free and progressive society (cough).

From Editor and Publisher:

Here's some news you may never hear about Israel's war against Hezbollah: a missile falls into the sea, a strategic military installation is hit, a Cabinet minister plans to visit the front lines.

All these topics are subject to review by Israel's chief military censor, who has -- in her own words -- "extraordinary power." She can silence a broadcaster, block information and put journalists in jail.

"I can, for example, publish an order that no material can be published. I can close a newspaper or shut down a station. I can do almost anything," Col. Sima Vaknin said Wednesday. Israel believes that as a small country in a near constant state of conflict, having a say over what information gets out to the world is vital to its security. Critics say the policy is a slippery slope not fit for a democracy.

The range of issues subject to censorship in the latest conflict with Lebanese guerrillas are all related to the goal of preventing Hezbollah from using the media to help it better aim rockets at Israel. The Associated Press has agreed, like other organizations, to abide by the rules of the censor, which is a condition for receiving permission to operate as a media organization in Israel.

Maureen Dowd: "The Animal House Summit" AKA Buffoons Have More Class Than Bush

MoDo on the G8 Summit and our president's just sterling showing there (something to be real, real proud about, especially his molestation of the leader of a free Germany):

Reporters who covered W.'s 2000 campaign often wondered whether the Bush scion would give up acting the fool if he got to be the king.

Would he stop playing peekaboo with his pre-meal moist towels during airplane interviews? Would he quit scrunching up his face and wiggling his eyebrows at memorial services? Would he replace levity and inanity with gravity?

"In many regards, the Bush I knew did not seem to be built for what lay ahead," wrote Frank Bruni, the Times writer who covered W.'s ascent, in his book "Ambling Into History." "The Bush I knew was part scamp and part bumbler, a timeless fraternity boy and heedless cutup, a weekday gym rat and weekend napster, an adult with an inner child that often brimmed to the surface or burst through."

The open-microphone incident at the G-8 lunch in St. Petersburg on Monday illustrated once more that W. never made any effort to adapt. The president has enshrined his immaturity and insularity, turning every environment he inhabits — no matter how decorous or serious — into a comfortable frat house.

No matter what the trappings or the ceremonies require of the leader of the free world, he brings the same DKE bearing and cadences, the same insouciance and smart-alecky attitude, the same simplistic approach — swearing, swaggering, talking to Tony Blair with his mouth full of buttered roll, and giving a startled Angela Merkel an impromptu shoulder rub. He can make even a global summit meeting seem like a kegger.

Catching W. off-guard, the really weird thing is his sense of victimization. He's strangely resentful about the actual core of his job. Even after the debacles of Iraq and Katrina, he continues to treat the presidency as a colossal interference with his desire to mountain bike and clear brush.

In snippets of overheard conversation, Mr. Bush says he has not bothered to prepare any closing remarks and grouses about having to listen to other world leaders talk too long. What did he think being president was about?

The world may be blowing up, and the president may have a rare opportunity to jaw-jaw about bang-bang with his peers, but that pales in comparison with his burning desire to return to his feather pillow and gym back at the White House.

"Gotta go home," he tells the guy next to him. "Got something to do tonight. Go to the airport, get on the airplane and go home." A White House spokesman said Mr. Bush had nothing on his schedule after he returned to Washington on Monday about 4 p.m.

When he began meandering about how big Russia was, you expected him to yell, "Yo, Condi!" and ask his secretary of state: "Hey, what's the name of that other big country that has more people than any other country in the world? It begins with a 'C.' Dad spent some time there."

YouTube, U.S. Soldiers, and Your Iraq War

Time tells the story of how U.S. soldiers are telling their story on the war Mr. Bush forced onto ALL of us.

One More Question: Are a Bunch of US Warships Off the Coast of Lebanon "Involvement"?

Because Mr. Bush has ordered nine of them there.

Just trying to sort this one out.

Point of Clarification

OK, I recognize that polls say a majority of Americans do NOT want the U.S. to get involved in the mess occurring between Israel and Hezbollah, with the people of Lebanon stuck in the path of direct hits.

But if that is true, why the hell did the House of Reprehensibles yesterday vote overwhelmingly to congratulate Israel and pat 'em on the back for a job well done? THAT is involvement. Before the House did that, Mr. Bush had sent an extremely LOUD signal that Israel could nuke the entire Middle East and we didn't give a fuck which the Arab and Muslim world, as well as the Christian Lebanese certainly would view as involvement (a defacto complicity with Israel).

So if Americans don't want the U.S. involved, does that mean everyone is calling their local Reprehensible and telling them to go pound sand?

Robert Scheer: As Beirut Burns

From The Nation:

Robert Scheer writes that President Bush's apparent lack of engagement in the Mideast peace process--especially as an "honest broker" between Israel and the Palestinians--has paved the way for the Israeli invasion of Lebanon.

Turkey: The U.S. Has Had All the Fun, Now It's OUR Turn!

Yes. Turkey may invade Iraq, too.

The Northern Kurd areas, specifically.

Our "friends".


Beirut Burning

This is what Mr. Bush - and the House of Reprehensibles who gave a pat on the back to Israel today - wants to continue for a few more weeks? Ah, but American life is precious, isn't it?

Lebanese hospitals are way past overwhelmed. People are scared shitless.

Here's some grim news published in today's International Herald Tribune (and remember, these casualty figures are before the 23-ton "gift" basket delivered by Israel late Wednesday US time):

The Israeli air force and navy shelled targets in and around Beirut, including a residential neighborhood in the Lebanese capital, and bombed civilian infrastructure through the country. In southern Lebanon, 21 people from a single village were killed during an airstrike.
Since the Israeli assault began last week, according to the Lebanese government, more than 310 Lebanese, mostly civilians, died in Israel's attempt to crush Hezbollah's military capacity in Lebanon and gain the release of two kidnapped soldiers.

The Lebanese government once again called for an immediate cease-fire and said it was facing a humanitarian crisis. A government representative said that Lebanese had two months' worth of essential supplies, but that some regions were essentially cut off from the rest of the country.

In Geneva, the International Committee of the Red Cross said it had "serious questions" about Israel's assault, citing the large numbers of Lebanese civilians killed and the extensive damage to the country's infrastructure.
Think humanitarian crisis.

We Always Said New Hampshire Had Inferior Maple Syrup

OK, well, maybe not we, but >I< did.

Odum from Green Mountain Daily tells you why New Hampshire, unlike Vermont, is willing to put more in your syrup than you might want! Heresy!

House of Reprehensibles "Protects" Pledge of Allegiance From Courts

Yes, but who - WHO - will protect us from the House?

From The Times:

The House, citing the nation's religious origins, voted Wednesday to protect the Pledge of Allegiance from federal judges who might try to stop schoolchildren and others from reciting it because of the phrase ''under God.''

The legislation, a priority of social conservatives, passed 260-167. It now goes to the Senate where its future is uncertain.

''We should not and cannot rewrite history to ignore our spiritual heritage,'' said Rep. Zach Wamp, R-Tenn. ''It surrounds us. It cries out for our country to honor God.''

Opponents said the legislation, which would bar federal courts from ruling on the constitutional validity of the pledge, would undercut judicial independence and would deny access to federal courts to religious minorities seeking to defend their rights.

''We are making an all-out assault on the Constitution of the United States which, thank God, will fail,'' said Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

Leader of Iraq Breaks With Bush, Condemns Destruction of Lebanon

From The Times:

Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki of Iraq on Wednesday forcefully denounced the Israeli attacks on Lebanon, marking a sharp break with President Bush's position and highlighting the growing power of a Shiite Muslim identity across the Middle East.

"The Israeli attacks and airstrikes are completely destroying Lebanon's infrastructure," Mr. Maliki said at an afternoon news conference inside the fortified Green Zone, which houses the American embassy and the seat of the Iraqi government. "I condemn these aggressions and call on the Arab League foreign ministers' meeting in Cairo to take quick action to stop these aggressions. We call on the world to take quick stands to stop the Israeli aggression."

Sen. Mike DeWine's Burning Twin Towers 9-11 Campaign Ad "Doctored" Says US News & World Report

Story here (but why, oh why, do Republicans feel this great need to campaign on the graves of thousands of people? But they cry like little girls when Dems do it - and no, I don't like it when Dems campaign on death either):

The controversial video of the burning World Trade Center towers in a television campaign ad for Ohio Sen. Mike DeWine is doctored, U.S. News has learned. The television spot, which has been lambasted by critics as a political exploitation of the Sept. 11, attacks Democrat challenger Rep. Sherrod Brown for being weak on national security.

On the air in major Ohio markets since last Friday, the ad shows the towers, with the south building billowing smoke, which gradually drifts upward. In the video, the north tower, which was struck first on September 11, is undamaged.

"This particular image is impossible," says W. Gene Corley, a stuctural engineer who led FEMA's building performance study on the World Trade Center after the 9/11 attacks. Corley reviewed the ad atwww.brownvotes.com for U.S. News. "The north tower was hit first [so] the south tower could not be burning without the North Tower burning." Corley also says, "the smoke is all wrong." The day of the attacks, the plumes of ash were drifting to the southeast. "The smoke on 9/11 was never in a halo like that," Corley says.

DeWine's office acknowledged the error. "The Senator was unaware that the image of the towers was a graphic representation and has instructed the campaign to replace the footage with a picture of the Twin Towers," his office said in a statement on Wednesday evening.

Christians and Creation

Understanding_Islam, whose blog is here, posted a long and rather thoughtful essay in Comments you can find here.

As Promised, Bush Flips the Bird to Science and Stem Cells in Another Snowflake Baby Snow Job

Once again, Mr. Bush has proven that he's afraid of science, that he'll cost untold human lives and suffering in order to pander to his myopic and hateful base, that even the earliest single celled embryo matters MORE to him than fully cooked humans, and that he doesn't give one rat's ass about the will of the majority of the American people. He wrapped this all up today in his first ever veto, that of the Senate's bill to expand funding for stem cell research the president aborted (ah, there's a word) in September 2001, along with a massive photo op of his precious Snowflake Babies (the ones you literally must be a conservative white Christian American - and probably a registered Republican who donates money to Bushies) to adopt.

Here are some related links to peruse:

Karl Rove lies (oh my! he never does that!) about stem cell research.

Most scientists refute the Bush lies about stem cell research.

From the Houston Chronicle: "Please keep your religion away from my stem cells!"

Duly Noted Disparities

[Ed. note: These death toll figures were before more than 70 civilians were killed in Lebanon today and before tonight's 23-ton "compassionate to civilian" bombs were dropped by Israel tonight. At last report, 29 are dead in Israel, at least two of them were young Arab brothers.]

From As'ad at The Angry Arab:

Even the New York Times, on the 8th day of Israeli aggression, has noticed the obvious: "The asymmetry in the reported death tolls is marked and growing: some 230 Lebanese dead, most of them civilians, to 25 Israeli dead, 13 of them civilians. In Gaza, one Israel soldier has died from his own army’s fire, and 103 Palestinians have been killed, 70 percent of them militants."

Say Hello to Another Point of View

... As'Ad posting at The Angry Arab.

TerrorStorm: A Documentary

Reader Dudlee points us to TerrorStorm, a documentary by Alex Jones which traces incidents of "false flag" -- events that are actually state-sponsored terrorism to achieve any number of political gains.

Says she, "The one on the 7/7 London bombings is an eye-opener. I'd already seen a number of such documentaries on 9/11. This shit is bone chilling."

The video is large - have a high speed connection, dearies.

"War of Ideas: The More You Hear, The Less You Like?"

So we're paying big money to seed the Arab world with propaganda and.. perhaps not so surprisingly, it's just not working! From US News and World Report:

Key to Washington's efforts to get its message across to the Arab world are two Arab-language networks – Radio Sawa, begun in 2002, and Television Alhurra, launched in 2004. Backed by $78 million in federal funding this year, the efforts are meant to duplicate the success of Voice of America and Radio Free Europe during the Cold War. The networks have garnered their share of both accolades and criticism, but now comes controversial research alleging that they could actually be making matters worse.

A new study by Mohammed el-Nawawy, a communications professor at Queens University in Charlotte, N.C., surveyed 394 Arab college students in five Arab countries on the credibility of the two networks. Nawawy found that once students began watching and listening to the networks, their attitudes toward U.S. foreign policy, in fact, worsened slightly.

The study, "U.S. Public Diplomacy in the Arab World: The News Credibility of Radio Sawa and Television Alhurra in Five Countries," is in the August issue of Global Media and Communication, an academic journal. Nawawy surveyed students in Morocco, Kuwait, Jordan, United Arab Emirates, and the Palestinian territories, and he concluded that U.S. officials face a tough time changing Arab hearts and minds. The bottom line, he writes: "No matter how savvy its public diplomacy efforts ... they will be ineffective in changing Arab public opinion if that public is dissatisfied with U.S. policies on the ground."

Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which oversees the two networks, issued a blistering response to U.S. News about the study. "It is astonishing that a flawed study such as this would appear in a peer-reviewed journal and looks more like a conclusion in search of a reinforcing study instead of the other way around," he wrote. "It does not meet the universally accepted standards of international media research. Its sample is too small, it is skewed by population with nearly half the respondents identified as Palestinian, and some of the respondents were not even listeners or viewers."

"I did not have a predetermined agenda," fired back Nawawy, who insists he followed well-established guidelines in preparing the study. "But I expected the BBG to be unhappy with the study outcome. ... I just thought that it would have been beneficial to work together to try to strengthen the U.S public diplomacy efforts in the Middle East instead of criticizing a study which simply conveyed the opinions of a sample of Arab students who were available to take the survey at the time."
Gee, that isn't the same Tomlinson - the Bushie right winger - who turned PBS into a smart-free zone, is it?

And isn't it just as likely that these Arabs have brains, see past the rhetoric, and feel that the U.S.'s actions speak louder and more accurately than the propaganda?

Israel Drops 23 TONS of Explosives on Beirut Bunker

Just as I was listening to a pre-recorded interview with Shimon Peres, the Israel Vice Prime Minister and a man I have always respected, tell listeners that despite claims Israel's actions were "out of proportion" with the situation, Israel did not want to do anything it could help to cause undue casualties, came the breaking news that Israel had just dropped 23 TONS of explosives on a supposed bunker in Beirut.

Twenty-three TONS. TONS. Forty-six THOUSAND pounds. Into a crowded area.

What's next? Will they nuke some mosques tomorrow? Wait. I don't want to give Olmert (and Bush) any ideas.

But no, this isn't over the top.