Recent Entries in Politics

Dr. Condoleezza Rice
Department of State
Washington D.C.

Dear Dr. Rice

Please accept my greetings and best wishes for your personal and professional success.

First an admission: I am opposed to the U.S. policy in the Middle East. I am not opposed to the whole U.S. foreign policy, but rather to that part of it that concerns our region. As such I consider myself a closer ally of the U.S. than Tony Blair. Also, many members of my immediate and extended family are American citizens. My two brothers, sister, their children, my mother and son are all American citizens. And they are good citizens; they don't indulge in double loyalty.

Another admission is that I was not on your side when you burst on the scene at the start of President Bush's first term. I moved to your side gradually, seeing that you are highly intelligent and independent. I don't have many talents, but one of the few unimportant talents that I have is to see little things. I saw that you sided with your predecessor Colin Powell against the Cheney-Rumsfeld cabal when the two sides quarreled over policy. Last month I saw that you did not mention the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza Strip in your speech at the U.N. General Assembly, and I understood that you did not regard it as an achievement for which Ariel Sharon deserved to be congratulated.

One last word before moving to the subject of this letter. For over two years now, I have been completely on your side, supporting your work and finding excuses for what I don't like. I also support the work of Karen Hughes and Dina Powell (and also John Negroponte). You see, I support or oppose with open eyes.

Now to the subject of this letter. As I want you to succeed I will offer you useful information to help you in conducting your work. My material is from primary sources, or the horse's mouth, and I insist it is more accurate than traditional diplomatic and intelligence reports. So here I go.

Mahmoud Abbas is a man of peace, and you won't find a better Palestinian leader to help you in the quest for peace. The Palestinians are split among those who want to resist, those who want to negotiate and resist and those who want to negotiate. Abu Mazen is of the third group. Yasser Arafat was of the second, and known Palestinian groups are still of the first,

For years now I have been party to every Palestinian ceasefire or calming effort. I carried (oral) messages back and forth, and used whatever influence I have to push all to stop suicide bombings. All the time Abu Mazen was on the side of peace.

If you help the Palestinian leaders you will help yourselves.

Ariel Sharon is the exact opposite, an enemy of peace who changed Gaza from occupied territory to a concentration camp. But enough of my opinion and some uncontested Israeli figures:

Between Sept. 29, 2000, and Sept. 30, 2005, or five years of the second intifada, 33300 Palestinians civilians were killed against 668 Israeli civilians. Of those 660 under age Palestinians were killed against 117 Israelis. The ratio is five or six to one, so if the Palestinian groups are terrorist once, the Israeli army and settlers are terrorist five or six times.

Other figures show that Sharon withdrew from 19 square miles in Gaza, while seizing, since July, 23 square miles of the West Bank. He withdrew 8500 settlers from the Strip and added during the same period, 14000 settlers to the West Bank. Expansion of settlements in the West Bank is running at break neck pace.

Madame Secretary, the security wall runs through the playground of the boy's high school in Anata, and the village land has been annexed by a nearby settlement.

Ariel Sharon is the proverbial sack of coal. We say in Arabic that however you hold a sack of coal you end up with dirt on your hands. Every time you engage Sharon you dirty your hands and increase enmity among 1.2 billion Muslims.

On Iraq, I completely agree with you that what we see there is terrorism, not resistance. I want all Arab and Muslim nations to support the U.S. in the war against terrorism, and accuse apologists for the terrorists of being partners in crime, exactly like the criminal class of neocons in your country who try to justify Israeli terrorism.

One piece of brotherly advice: refrain from actions that remind us of Israeli practices. A few days ago air raids against Ramadi killed 90 people. You said terrorists, but the local people insisted they were town folks.

Israel has always been in the habit of killing civilians and claiming they are terrorists.

On Iran, I notice that it says its nuclear program is for civilian use. Maybe it is now, but like you I suspect that the ultimate goal is a nuclear bomb as an insurance policy in a volatile region.

As a citizen of the region it is my wish and desire to see it free of all weapons of mass destruction. But if Israel remains the only nuclear power in the region then I'd support Iran and every other country in seeking similar weapons. In other words, I am with you for a nuclear free Middle East, and with Iran if it is singled out. By the way, the Iran-Syria alliance remains standing and strong. Hizbullah will not disarm. You and I will live and see. Please try to engage Syria. You will not get something for nothing. Try some bait. It works better than nothing.

My very best regards,
Jihad el-Khazen

Dar Al Hayat

  What Rice Can't See

[Condoleezza] Rice's parents tried their best to shelter their only daughter from Jim Crow racism, and they succeeded. Forty years later, Rice shows no bitterness when she recalls her childhood in a town whose streets were ruled by the segregationist police chief Bull Connor. "I've always said about Birmingham that because race was everything, race was nothing," she said in an interview on the flight home.

When she reminisces, she talks of piano lessons and her brief attempt at ballet -- not of Connor setting his dogs loose on brave men, women and children marching for freedom, which is the Birmingham that other residents I met still remember. A friend of Rice's, Denise McNair, was one of the four girls killed in the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church. That would have left a deep scar on me, but Rice can speak of that atrocity without visible emotion.

She doesn't deny that race makes a difference. "We all look forward to the day when this country is race-blind, but it isn't yet," she told reporters in Birmingham. Later she added, "The fact that our society is not colorblind is a statement of fact."

What Rice Can't See

The grand jury probe into the leak of a covert CIA officer's name has opened a new window into how the Bush administration used intelligence from dubious sources to make a case for a pre-emptive war and discarded information that undercut its rationale for attacking Iraq.

CIA officer Valerie Plame was outed in an apparent attempt to discredit her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, after he challenged President Bush's allegation in his 2003 State of the Union speech that Iraq had tried to buy uranium for nuclear weapons from the African nation of Niger.

A Knight Ridder review of the administration's arguments, its own reporting at the time and the Senate Intelligence Committee's 2004 report shows that the White House followed a pattern of using questionable intelligence, even documents that turned out to be forgeries, to support its case - often leaking classified information to receptive journalists - and dismissing information that undermined the case for war.

KRT Wire | 10/25/2005 | CIA leak illustrates selective use of intelligence on Iraq

A national movement to have intelligent design taught in science classrooms is "very dangerous," Cornell University's interim president, Hunter R. Rawlings III, said after taking up the issue Friday in a speech. But Mr. Rawlings charged that colleges were not engaging enough in the debate.

Mr. Rawlings spoke to hundreds of faculty members and trustees during his state of the university address, which typically focuses on the college's accomplishments and business. His staff said he chose to take up the topic, in part, because he is serving only temporarily as president. He was president from 1995 to 2003, and returned after Jeffrey Lehman resigned in June, citing differences with the university's trustees.

Cornell President Condemns Teaching Intelligent Design as Science - New York Times

A sandstorm that had closed Baghdad's airport cleared Tuesday, allowing officials to resume flying ballot boxes to the capital Tuesday so "unusually high" vote totals in 12 Shiite and Kurdish provinces can be checked by election officials.

The investigation by Iraq's election commission has raised the possibility that the results of the referendum could be called into question. As many as 99 percent of the voters reportedly approved Iraq's draft constitution in some of the provinces being investigated. Iraq Election Commission Checking Ballots

It was billed as a conversation with U.S. troops, but the questions President Bush asked on a teleconference call Thursday were choreographed to match his goals for the war in Iraq and Saturday's vote on a new Iraqi constitution.

"This is an important time," Allison Barber, deputy assistant defense secretary, said, coaching the soldiers before Bush arrived. "The president is looking forward to having just a conversation with you."

Barber said the president was interested in three topics: the overall security situation in Iraq, security preparations for the weekend vote and efforts to train Iraqi troops.

ABC News: Bush Teleconference With Soldiers Staged

Welcome to Florida, but avoid arguments or thanks to a new law you run the risk of getting shot, according to an ad campaign launched by a gun-control group.

The campaign coincides with a state law that enters into effect authorizing gun owners to shoot anyone in a public area who they believe threaten their safety.

The law, supported by the National Rifle Association (NRA), was approved by the state legislature in April. Governor
Jeb Bushdescribed it as a "good, common sense, anti-crime issue" when he signed it into law.

Attention: testy visitors risk being shot in Florida - Yahoo! News

Pepper Hamilton attorney Eric Rothschild opened the proceedings, telling the judge the school board ignored scientific knowledge and the advice of its high school science department to put the policy in effect.

He said several board members wanted to teach creationism; on an overhead projector, he showed some documents and a news clip to support his claims.

Among the documents were Nilsen's notes from two board retreats that showed board member Alan Bonsell had brought up discussions about creationism.

Rothschild also presented a draft of the board's policy, on which Baksa listed creationism instead of intelligent design.

York Dispatch - York Today

'Intelligent Design' Court Battle Begins

The opening day of a landmark trial over whether a school district should require students to hear about "intelligent design" felt a lot like a science lecture.

Brown University biologist Kenneth Miller, the first witness called Monday by lawyers suing the Dover Area School District for exposing its students to the controversial theory, sprinkled his testimony with references to DNA, red blood cells and viruses, and he occasionally referred to complex charts on a projection screen.

Miller, who was the only witness Monday, sharply criticized intelligent design and questioned the work that went into it by one of its leading proponents, Lehigh University biochemist Michael Behe, who will be a key witness for the district.

The statement read to Dover students states in part, "Because Darwin's theory is a theory, it continues to be tested as new evidence is discovered." Miller said the words are "tremendously damaging," falsely undermining the scientific status of evolution.

"What that tells students is that science can't be relied upon and certainly is not the kind of profession you want to go into," he said.

A new battle over teaching about man's origins in U.S. schools goes to court for the first time next week, pitting Christian conservatives against educators and scientists in a trial viewed as the biggest test of the issue since the late 1980s.

Eleven parents of students at a Pennsylvania high school are suing over the school district's decision to include "intelligent design" -- an alternative to evolution that involves a God-like creator -- in the curriculum of ninth-grade biology classes.

The parents and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) say the policy of the Dover Area School District in south-central Pennsylvania violates the constitutional separation of church and state, which forbids teaching religion in public schools.

New evolution spat in U.S. schools goes to court

  The flagging empire


All the television pictures from New Orleans of water with people and houses under it certainly captured the world's attention. What the world attended to, however, wasn't so much the feeble efforts to relieve the city as the startling and unfamiliar sight of, as one of my Iraqi e-pen pals puts it, "so much terrible poverty in a country so much rich."

The Globe and Mail: The flagging empire

We get so fixated on which version of the Pledge of Allegiance that we want to strong-arm children into reciting that every time the argument over its wording winds up in court, we blow our chance to teach kids everything they need to know about America.

We're about to do it again. A California judge put the pledge back in the news and back on its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, ruling the words "under God" are unconstitutional. The ruling only affects a few school districts in California for now, but that's enough for politicians to condemn judges and pass resolutions (as a unanimous U.S. Senate did a few years back) demonstrating just how little they understand what the flag stands for.

We could start by pointing out to school kids how the "one nation" part of the pledge becomes meaningless every time we talk about the "under God" part, which causes all kinds of divisions. Mostly among people who have no idea where the pledge came from or who wrote it.

It wasn't Thomas Jefferson or James Madison. The Pledge of Allegiance was composed in 1892 by a Baptist minister and socialist named Francis Bellamy. The original pledge written by him read: "I pledge allegiance to my flag and to the republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

The words "my flag" were changed to "the flag of the United States of America" in the 1920s. Congress added the words "under God" in 1954, when the greatest threat to the United States was the "godless" Soviet Union.

One nation (not always), under God (since 1954)

In a ruling Wednesday that reverberated all the way to U.S. Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts' Senate confirmation hearings, U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton breathed fresh life into a Sacramento atheist's campaign to ban the pledge from schools because it contains the phrase "under God."

For now, the ruling only applies to a handful of Sacramento area school districts, but it rekindled the kind of response that took place three years ago, when the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals surprised the country by declaring the pledge unconstitutional because it amounted to government-endorsed religion. The Supreme Court eventually scrapped that ruling on procedural grounds, but Michael Newdow, the atheist and lawyer behind the previous and current pledge challenges, is hoping Karlton's decision is the first step toward a return to the high court.

KRT Wire | 09/14/2005 | Reciting Pledge of Allegiance is unconstitutional, judge rules

A Louisiana police chief has admitted that he ordered his officers to block a bridge over the Mississippi river and force escaping evacuees back into the chaos and danger of New Orleans. Witnesses said the officers fired their guns above the heads of the terrified people to drive them back and "protect" their own suburbs.

Two paramedics who were attending a conference in the city and then stayed to help those affected by the hurricane, said the officers told them they did not want their community "becoming another New Orleans".

The desperate evacuees were forced to trudge back into the city they had just left. "It was a real eye-opener," Larry Bradshaw, 49, a paramedic from San Francisco, told The Independent on Sunday. "I believe it was racism. It was callousness, it was cruelty."

Independent Online Edition > Americas : app1

The Pentagon has drafted a revised doctrine for the use of nuclear weapons that envisions commanders requesting presidential approval to use them to preempt an attack by a nation or a terrorist group using weapons of mass destruction. The draft also includes the option of using nuclear arms to destroy known enemy stockpiles of nuclear, biological or chemical weapons.

The document, written by the Pentagon's Joint Chiefs staff but not yet finally approved by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, would update rules and procedures governing use of nuclear weapons to reflect a preemption strategy first announced by the Bush White House in December 2002. The strategy was outlined in more detail at the time in classified national security directives.

Pentagon Revises Nuclear Strike Plan

  How Bush Blew It

It's a standing joke among the president's top aides: who gets to deliver the bad news? Warm and hearty in public, Bush can be cold and snappish in private, and aides sometimes cringe before the displeasure of the president of the United States, or, as he is known in West Wing jargon, POTUS. The bad news on this early morning, Tuesday, Aug. 30, some 24 hours after Hurricane Katrina had ripped through New Orleans, was that the president would have to cut short his five-week vacation by a couple of days and return to Washington. The president's chief of staff, Andrew Card; his deputy chief of staff, Joe Hagin; his counselor, Dan Bartlett, and his spokesman, Scott McClellan, held a conference call to discuss the question of the president's early return and the delicate task of telling him. Hagin, it was decided, as senior aide on the ground, would do the deed.

How Bush Blew It - Newsweek Hurricane Katrina Coverage -

  Bush: Man of the People

This takes the cake. People unable to get chemotherapy because Bush wanted a photo-op -- and then passed on it.

Ezra Klein: Man of the People

Remember when Clinton's high-priced haircut allegedly (which is to say "didn't, but the right said it did") choked up traffic at LAX? Well Bush, fresh from beating Ronald Reagan's two-term record for most days spent on vacation, has easily assumed first place in the "Massive Inconveniences Caused By Presidential Whim" category as well:

The Naval Medical Center in San Diego's Balboa Park was shut down to accommodate a visit by President George W. Bush Aug. 30, RAW STORY has learned, forcing patients to cancel chemotherapy treatments and hundreds of scheduled patient visits.

California�s gay and lesbian community is reacting with fury to Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger�s announcement late Wednesday afternoon that he plans to veto legislation, headed for his desk, which would have legalized same-sex marriage in the nation�s largest state.

Schwarzenegger made his intentions known barely 24 hours after the state�s Assembly passed the bill, initiated by San Francisco Democratic Assemblyman Mark Leno, a gay man, which would have made California the first state in America to enact gay marriage without a court order.

The Senate had passed the bill last week, and it was just Schwarzenegger�s signature away from becoming law.

Activists are already planning protests.

Arnold Says No to Gay Marriage

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