VIDEO: Going Up Against Ann Coulter on CNBC
I had the chance to debate Ann Coulter today on CNBC's Kudlow and Company - and wow, for one of the GOP's top icons, she was truly unimpressive. You can watch the video of the ensuing debate here in .mov format, and here on YouTube. I cited a bunch of facts that Coulter never bothered to even address, much less refute.
For instance, I said that I believed the GOP has overplayed its hand on national security, and that Ann Coulter's declarations calling for the bombing of office buildings in New York, the poisoning of a Supreme Court Justice and the murder of Rep. Jack Murtha make her and the Republican Party sound like terrorists - and the American public is revulsed. Coulter, of course, had no answer - first doing her best deer-in-the-headlights routine, then reverting to tired, cliched RNC talking points, and finally denying the basic facts about public opinion research on the Iraq War. Go check out the whole thing - frankly, if this is the best the Republicans have, Democrats are going to really carry election day come November. We are watching the very public implosion of the GOP - and boy is it fun to watch.
(Thanks to Media Matters and reader Ozy for getting the video online!)
Saturday, August 12, 2006
Cheney Accused of Politicizing Terrorism
Senate Democratic Leaders Accuse Vice President Dick Cheney of Politicizing Terror Plot
By LIZ SIDOTI
The Associated Press
WASHINGTON - Senate Democratic leaders on Friday accused Vice President Dick Cheney of playing politics with terrorism and contended that voters won't buy Republican arguments that the GOP is stronger on national security.
"They've run this play one too many times," Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said in a conference call with reporters. "The American people simply do not recognize any validity in what they're saying."
Republicans, in turn, accused Democrats of political posturing.
"It sounds to me like Senator Reid is trying to accuse us of politicizing while he, himself, is politicizing the issue," said White House press secretary Tony Snow. "The comments that this administration has been making, including me, have been aimed at simply trying to get people to think seriously about, How do you achieve the goal of winning the war on terror? When you're in a war, the goal should not be how to get out. It should be how to win and then to get out."
Some Republicans suggested that Democratic rule could endanger the country.
"National Democrats are stone-cold guilty of engaging in a reckless and irresponsible pattern of neglect for the security of our citizens," said Rep. Tom Reynolds, R-N.Y., the chairman of the House Republicans' campaign committee.
Democrats sought to put Republicans on the defensive on what historically has been a GOP strength national security. The heated rhetoric came a day after the disclosure of a thwarted plot to blow up flights from Britain to the United States. Within hours of that news, each party accused the other of doing too little to deter the threat of attack.
Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., accused Cheney and Senate Republicans of politicizing the issue.
"They shouldn't. We should all be uniting and be together at this point," said Schumer, the head of the Senate Democrats' campaign committee. "But if they're going to throw the political bombs on this issue, we are going to answer them loud and clear, and we believe we have the political high ground."
In a written statement, Reynolds said Democrats were sounding a "defeatist, surrender message" and catering to the party's liberal base "that prefers a flag that is lily-white to a flag that is red, white, and blue."
The nation's safety looms large as an issue in the midterm elections less than three months before the Nov. 7 contest. Both Republicans and Democrats are maneuvering for the political advantage.
On Wednesday, Cheney gave his assessment of anti-war challenger Ned Lamont's Democratic primary win over Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, an Iraq war supporter.
The vice president suggested that Lamont's victory might encourage "the al-Qaida types" who want to "break the will of the American people in terms of our ability to stay in the fight and complete the task."
He portrayed the Democratic Party as preferring that the United States "retreat behind our oceans and not be actively engaged in this conflict and be safe here at home."
Snow said Cheney did not know when he made the call that British authorities were in the process of arresting the alleged plotters of the airplane bombing attacks. Snow said Cheney had been briefed on the plot, but the briefings did not indicate that action was imminent.
"The comments that were made after the Connecticut primary were in response to the Connecticut primary, and they were not in anticipation of a British action," said Snow, who also suggested Wednesday that the Lamont victory showed Democrats have the wrong position on the war on terror. "I can say that with absolute assurance not only with regard to me, but also the vice president."
Reid took issue with the vice president's comments, saying, "This situation isn't going well and anyone that suggests that the people of Connecticut are somehow supporting terrorists, I don't think that's credible and that's what Cheney suggested."
Democrats also criticized the RNC for e-mailing a fundraising appeal mentioning the war on terror hours after British authorities disclosed they had disrupted the plot.
The RNC blamed a low-level staffer for distributing the fundraising appeal, which the party said had been scheduled for release before news of the plot broke. The RNC said it stopped distributing the e-mail when it learned of the error.
Snow said it's unclear if Democrats and Republicans can come together and agree on the best policies to fight the war on terror.
"I don't know, in today's congressional climate whether we can do this," Snow said.
Associated Press writer Nedra Pickler contributed to this report from Crawford, Texas.
Posted by politicalstuff at 12:58 AM
Former Interior official pleads guilty in Abramoff probe
WASHINGTON (AP) — A former Department of Interior employee pleaded guilty Friday to a misdemeanor charge for failing to report gifts he received from influence-peddler Jack Abramoff.
Roger Stillwell told a federal magistrate that he had been given hundreds of dollars worth of football and concert tickets from Abramoff, who at the time was lobbying for the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.
Stillwell was with the Interior Department's insular affairs office, which handles issues involving the island government.
Documents filed as part of Stillwell's plea do not indicate whether he is providing authorities with evidence against others who might be involved in the case.
Stillwell received four tickets to a Washington Redskins game in December 2003 valued at $316 with an actual cost of $2,147, prosecutors said. He also accepted two tickets to a 2003 Simon and Garfunkel concert worth $166, prosecutors said.
Neither prosecutors nor defense attorneys would say whether Stillwell provided Abramoff anything in return for the gifts.
"He recognizes that his decision on how to treat gifts from Mr. Abramoff was inexcusable. For that he has deep remorse," defense attorney Justin P. Murphy said in a prepared statement. Murphy said Stillwell had been friends with Abramoff and his family for many years before he took the Interior job.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Alan Kay set sentencing for Oct. 26. Stillwell faces up to a year in prison.
So far, the Abramoff probe has resulted in guilty pleas by two ex-aides to former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, a former chief of staff to Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio, and Abramoff himself. A former White House official was convicted on unrelated charges.
Ney announced this week that he would abandon his re-election campaign, acting under pressure from party officials who feared he would lose to a Democratic challenger. He has not been charged and has denied any wrongdoing.
Posted by politicalstuff at 12:46 AM
After Fidel -- Snap, Crackle and Pop
By Al Kamen
The Bush administration is preparing a large humanitarian aid effort should chaos occur in the transition to a post-Fidel Cuba, including the delivery of food, medicine, clothing, tents and such.
Folks at the Agency for International Development assumed they would take the lead on this because they, working with private relief organizations, traditionally do these things. But they weren't picked.
Turns out the Commerce Department, not heretofore known to have much expertise in disaster relief, will take the lead role. Buzz is that's because Commerce is headed by Cuban-born Carlos M. Gutierrez .
Supporters say he knows the island, though he left it 46 years ago, when he was 7. And, as former chairman and CEO of Kellogg Co., he knows how to manage things and to distribute food -- or at least breakfast food. He is also co-chairman of the U.S. Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba. The well-regarded Gutierrez knows everyone in the Cuban emigre community -- though it's unclear whether that will help or hurt.
The effort, "is going to involve multiple agencies," a Commerce Department spokesman said, including the departments of State and Homeland Security, and "Gutierrez is a team player." Also, the spokesman said, "at AID's invitation" he's visiting a warehouse today in Miami "to see their preparations for regional relief." He's also taping a TV Marti interview there.
Well, coulda been a whole lot worse. They could have picked FEMA, or brought back Michael "Brownie" Brown as a special consultant.
Take the Initiative, Please
The spectacular British thwarting of a terrorist airline plot naturally dominated yesterday's news, but some administration officials hoped it wouldn't drown out all the other important news. For example, we got this notice yesterday from the State Department:
"SPECIAL BRIEFING: 2:00 p.m. Under Secretary of State for Economic, Business, and Agricultural Affairs Josette Sheeran Shiner ; Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs Elizabeth G. Verville [and others from Justice and Treasury] will brief the media on The President's International Initiative to Combat Kleptocracy. This briefing is on-the-record, on-camera in the State Department Press Briefing Room, room 2209."
This initiative is coordinated with the Group of Eight major industrialized countries. It probably could have been rolled out at the recent G-8 meeting, but the meeting's host country, Russia, is one of the great kleptocracies of the world.
A Bridge Too Near
Speaking of the State Department, there was substantial buzz there a few days ago when Israel bombed a series of bridges in Lebanon. Apparently the U.S. ambassador to Lebanon, Jeffrey D. Feltman , had traveled over one of the bridges just a few hours before it was hit.
Folks at the embassy were none too pleased.
Sturm Und Pang
A British Broadcasting Co. interviewer, chatting with major U.S. ally Jordan's King Abdullah , began: " Condoleezza Rice called it the birth pangs of a new Middle East, but it . . .''
"A new Middle East?" his highness interjected. "The way I'm looking at this new Middle East, I'm seeing what is happening in Somalia, I'm seeing what's happening in Gaza, I see what's happening in Lebanon, I'm seeing what's happening in Iraq. This is a new Middle East?"
Well, yes, it is.
A No. 3 for No. 2, but Who's No. 1?
William W. Mercer , formerly top aide to Deputy Attorney General Paul J. McNulty and more recently U.S. attorney for Montana, is said to be heading back to this area to become associate attorney general, the No. 3 job at the Justice Department.
Mercer would succeed Bush's Yale buddy and reported Skull and Bones member Robert D. McCallum Jr ., who's to arrive in Australia next week to fill the long-vacant ambassadorial post. The Australians, who with Britain are the staunchest members of the coalition of the willing, had been mighty annoyed at the 20-month vacancy, which occurred in part because the first couple of candidates couldn't clear the vetting process.
New job for another Loop Favorite. Former representative James E. Rogan (R-Calif.), a manager of the Clinton impeachment, is California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger 's pick to be a judge on the Orange County Superior Court.
Rogan, targeted and defeated by Democrats in 2000, was appointed by Bush to head the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office from 2001 to 2004 and then went into private law practice here and then in California.
Writing Fashion Statements
Matthew Rees , a former speechwriter for President Bush and for former Securities and Exchange Commission chairman William H. Donaldson and a senior adviser to former U.S. trade representative Robert B. Zoellick , is settling in at the Treasury Department as chief speechwriter and senior adviser to new Secretary Henry M. "Hank" Paulson Jr . Trust he'll be dressing to Treasury's now-documented high standards.
Posted by politicalstuff at 12:44 AM
Olmert Thanks Bush for U.N. Resolution
Israeli Prime Minister Olmert Thanks President Bush for Work on U.N. Cease-Fire Resolution
By NEDRA PICKLER
The Associated Press
CRAWFORD, Texas - Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert thanked President Bush on Friday for his work on a resolution to stop violence between Israel and Hezbollah, the White House said. It was the first direct talks between the two leaders since the fighting began.
The eight-minute phone call with Bush at his ranch in Texas was initiated by Olmert, said Frederick Jones, spokesman for the National Security Council at the White House.
Olmert endorsed a Mideast cease-fire plan that the United States and France proposed Friday at the United Nations.
"Prime Minister Olmert thanked President Bush for the work he had done on the draft U.N. resolution on the Lebanon crisis," Jones said. "The president expressed his view that the crisis was provoked by Hezbollah with the support of Iran and Syria and that we need to ensure that the reach of the Lebanese government extends throughout the country."
The agreement, which was unanimously adopted by the U.N. Security Council, calls for putting 30,000 Lebanese and U.N. troops along the Israel-Lebanon border, where Hezbollah militants have been fighting against Israel. It falls short of some of Israel's demands, including a strong mandate for the U.N. forces to take on Hezbollah guerrillas.
But Israel has been unable to defeat Hezbollah and was concerned about growing Israeli casualties, as well as international condemnation, if the war continued. The fighting has killed more than 800 people, destroyed Lebanon's infrastructure and inflamed tensions across the Middle East.
Bush has staunchly backed Israel in the fighting and the U.S. has been arguing Israel's interests during the U.N. negotiations. Olmert spoke repeatedly to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during the last four weeks but never directly to Bush until Friday.
Rice predicted that both governments would accept the agreement.
"We have heard from the government of Lebanon that they also believe that this is a resolution that can serve their interests," Rice said in an interview with CNN. "In fact, the interests of both the Israelis and the Lebanese now is to end the large-scale violence and to begin to lay a foundation for peace."
The White House had predicted that a previous draft it was pushing would come to a vote earlier in the week, but negotiators were forced to make changes to address objections from Lebanon and other Arab states.
"A lot of times diplomacy is a bit like a taffy pull, in that you think you may have something that seems to be right on the verge of being completed, and it just gets extended a bit," White House spokesman Tony Snow said. "As the president has pointed out, diplomacy can be a little bit messy and unpredictable."
On the Net:
The White House: http://www.whitehouse.gov
Posted by politicalstuff at 12:42 AM
Court rules NY police can search bags at subways
By Christine Kearney
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Random bag searches by New York police at subway stations are constitutional and an effective means of combating terrorism, a federal appeals court ruled on Friday.
"In light of the thwarted plots to bomb New York City's subway system, its continued desirability as a target, and the recent bombings of transportation systems in Madrid, Moscow, and London, the risk to public safety is substantial and real," the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals said in its ruling.
The court disagreed with the New York Civil Liberties Union, which last year sued the city claiming that the random bag searches police have conducted since July 2005 bombings on the London underground rail system were unconstitutional and would not deter an attack on America's largest subway system.
The NYCLU had argued the searches were ineffective as police had too few checkpoints and invaded privacy rights. But the court said the testimony of three counterterrorism experts showed the value of the searches.
"The expert testimony established that terrorists seek predictable and vulnerable targets, and the program generates uncertainty that frustrates that goal, which in turn, deters and attack," the court said.
Among the experts who testified were Richard Clarke, a former White House counterterrorism chief, who said he believed most U.S. transit systems were "under protected."
The judges noted the importance of the experts' belief that the unpredictability of the searches "deters both a single-bomb attack and an attack consisting of multiple, synchronized bombings, such as those in London and Madrid."
While the court agreed the searches compromised riders' privacy, "the kind of search at issue here minimally intrudes upon that interest" because the random searches were limited to bags that could contain explosives and last only seconds.
The judges noted that New York's subway system had been a "prime target" in the past, including a 1997 plot to bomb Brooklyn's Atlantic Avenue subway station and 2004 plot to bomb the Herald Square subway station in Manhattan.
"Because this program authorizes police searches of all subway riders without any suspicion of wrongdoing, we continue to believe it raises fundamental constitutional questions," said New York Civil Liberties Union lawyer Chris Dunn.
New York City's law department noted the court's decision followed Thursday's news of a terrorist plot in Britain to detonate bombs on passenger planes traveling to the United States.
"The program -- whose constitutionality two federal courts have now recognized -- enhances the safety of millions of New York City subway riders," said Kate O'Brien Ahlers, spokeswoman for the city law department.
Posted by politicalstuff at 12:39 AM
Friday, August 11, 2006
Britain may have averted a plot to bomb passenger planes, but let’s not imagine that we are safer now than we were before 9/11.
Britain may have averted a plot to bomb passenger planes, but let’s not imagine that we are safer now than we were before 9/11.
By Christopher Dickey
Aug. 10, 2006 - This time, it seems, the terror was stopped. But as news broke this morning of a plot to blow up as many as 10 airliners between Britain and the United States, there were disturbing echoes of that slow-moving August before September 11, 2001. Then, American, European and friendly Arab intelligence services were getting frantic. From the chatter they picked up among known terrorists, it was clear that a group called Al Qaeda was plotting something big. But what? Where? How?
Just five years ago this week the CIA sent a memo to President George W. Bush, vacationing then as now in Crawford, Texas, with the heading “Bin Laden determined to Strike in U.S.” But there was more, as Ron Suskind wrote at the beginning of his recent book, “The One Percent Doctrine: Deep Inside America’s Pursuit of Its Enemies Since 9/11” (Simon & Schuster). Panicked CIA analysts flew to Texas to brief Bush personally in 2001, “to intrude on his vacation with face-to-face alerts.” Bush sized them up, as is his wont, looking to judge the content of what they told him by the confidence with which the message was delivered. Bush wasn’t convinced. “All right,” said the president, “You’ve covered your ass now.”
The president would never be so dismissive again about the threats to the United States. Weeks later, after the devastation of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, he would make the War on Terror the central theme of his presidency. And much good has been done. On the tarmac of an airport in Wisconsin this morning, Bush sounded the themes that have become so familiar since then. “The recent arrests that our fellow citizens are now learning about are a stark reminder that this nation is at war with Islamic fascists who will use any means to destroy those of us who love freedom, to hurt our nation.” Cooperation with Britain, and cooperation among the often-competing agencies inside the United States was “excellent,” he said. That’s a significant improvement, for sure.
“This country is safer than it was prior to 9/11,” the president told us. “We’ve taken a lot of measures to protect the American people, but obviously we’re not still completely safe, because there are people that still plot,” he said. True enough. “And people who want to harm us for what we believe in,” the president went on, drifting into those generalities he loves. “"It is a mistake to believe there is no threat to the United States of America. And that is why we have given our officials the tools they need to protect our people."
Presidents cover their backsides, too. If this attack had succeeded, or another one still does, the people to blame wouldn’t be Bush or his advisors, the culprits would be those who limit his “tools.” Massive wiretaps? Secret prisons? The list is long. And Bush appears to think they’ve been key to winning—or not quite winning, it seems—his Global War on Terror.
But the long list of horrific attacks around the world since 9/11, from Bali to Madrid, Casablanca to London, Amman to Istanbul, should make anyone think again about such claims. So should the near misses. “Shoe bomber” Richard Reid fumbled his matches when he tried to blow himself up aboard an American Airlines flight in December 2001. But he came close, and if he’d succeeded, hundreds of people would have died with all traces of evidence lost in the wintry Atlantic. The plot revealed today would have killed more than 1,000 people. By some accounts there would have been three terrible waves of carnage: first three planes, then three more, then three more. Again, over the high seas.
Most of the terrorist attacks since 9/11 were carried out by people who were or would be suicide bombers, and their numbers seem to be growing in number every day. Is this merely some contagious madness? When Al Qaeda plotters Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Ramzi Youssef plotted attacks on 11 American planes flying from Asia in 1995, their idea was to leave bombs on board hidden in life jackets after stopovers. The scanty information released thus far about the British plot suggests that teams of people, fully aware that they would die, were going to take components for the bombs on board separately, then assemble them to kill themselves and everybody traveling with them.
There is no excuse for those who would carry out such atrocities, but there are reasons that keep pushing recruits to take up the suicidal cause of attacking the United States. To blame “Islamic fascism” that “wants to destroy those of us who love freedom” dodges responsibility for making those reasons more abundant, and making them worse, over the last five years. What’s at work in the heads of those who would kill themselves to slaughter Americans is less Al Qaeda’s ideology, such as it is, than a pervasive sense that Muslims are under attack: their lands occupied; their men, women and children victimized around the world. The Iraqi slaughterhouse, besieged Gaza, wasted Lebanon are all examples in the minds of those who convince themselves that suicidal terror is the only way to fight back. While partly blaming Israel, their frantic logic finds easier targets among the people who elected the invaders of Iraq, the backers of Israel, George Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
The American failure to limit these scenes of carnage in the Muslim world, or even to understand them, has combined with shortsighted military policies to create a kind of breeder reactor for explosive terrorism. Today we are looking at a resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan, even as Osama bin Laden and his ideologue Ayman Zawahiri remain at large. Iraq is in the midst of an intensifying civil war that will only grow worse after today’s ghastly bombing in Najaf, which killed at least 34 people. Lebanon has become a cause that can cement ties among radical Sunnis and Shias against the United States, the United Kingdom and Israel. Iran is cooking up nukes and the inflammatory issue of Palestine is farther than ever from resolution.
So let’s be thankful that the plot in Britain was broken up when it was. But let’s not imagine for a moment that we are safer now than we were in August 2001. We should be. But we are not.
Posted by politicalstuff at 1:11 AM
Computer Theft Puts Floridians At Risk
Government Laptop Has Sensitive Data
By Christopher Lee and Del Quentin Wilber
Washington Post Staff Writers
A laptop computer from the inspector general's office at the Department of Transportation was stolen last month, putting the sensitive personal information of nearly 133,000 Florida residents at risk, acting Inspector General Todd J. Zinser said yesterday.
The laptop, assigned to a special agent in the Miami office, was stolen from a government vehicle on July 27 in Doral, Fla., Zinser told Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) yesterday in a letter.
The computer, which requires a password to operate, contains the unencrypted names, Social Security numbers, birth dates and addresses of 42,792 Florida residents who hold a pilot's license; 80,667 people in the Miami-Dade County area who hold a commercial driver's license; and 9,496 people who were issued a personal or commercial driver's license in the Tampa area, the letter said.
"While we do not have reason to believe that the perpetrators targeted the laptop based on any knowledge of its data contents, we are nonetheless taking all possible steps to inform Florida residents," Zinser wrote.
The theft is the latest in a string of embarrassing data breaches reported by federal agencies, including the departments of Agriculture, Energy, the Navy and Veterans Affairs, as well as the Social Security Administration and the Internal Revenue Service. The most notable breach was a May 3 burglary at the home of a VA analyst. Thieves took a laptop and an external hard drive containing the names, birth dates, and Social Security numbers of as many as 26.5 million veterans and active-duty service members. The equipment was recovered. Two men were charged with the theft last week.
Although Zinser learned of the DOT IG laptop theft on July 31, he was unaware that the computer contained sensitive personal information until Saturday, according to his letter. The IG's office has dispatched a team of 10 special agents to the Miami area to work with local police, and there is a $10,000 reward for information leading to the laptop's recovery. Employees of the IG's office have been told to remove all files containing sensitive personal information from the office's laptops.
"We regret this matter and take our responsibilities seriously," Zinser wrote. Similar letters went to Florida members of Congress.
Chris Dancy, a spokesman for the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, said the theft concerns his group of more than 400,000 pilots. "Exactly in the same way that the loss of the VA computer caused concerns for members of the military and veterans, we are very concerned anytime there is the possibility of identity theft involving our members or airmen in general," he said.
The inspector general's office had the sensitive data as part of a multi-agency effort to crack down on people, including some with criminal records, who unlawfully obtain commercial driver's licenses and pilot's licenses, sometimes by using fraudulent Social Security numbers, according to Zinser's letter.
In a conference call with reporters yesterday, Zinser said the agent had placed the laptop in the back of a sport-utility vehicle when he went to lunch with colleagues, and he discovered hours later that the computer was missing. The data had been encrypted as recently as two weeks ago, but that protection was temporarily stripped away as part of a computer upgrade, he said.
Zinser said he is considering offering free credit monitoring to affected Florida residents, "but, quite frankly, I don't have the money to do that, and I would have to go to Congress to get it."
The agency plans to send letters to those affected and has posted a toll-free number on its Web site at http://www.oig.dot.gov/datasecurity.jsp .
At the VA, officials announced yesterday that ID Analytics, a California-based data analysis company, had agreed to try to determine whether the 26.5 million veterans and active-duty personnel whose information was stolen in May are becoming victims of identity theft. The company is performing the service at no charge. The FBI has said that it does not believe that anyone accessed the stolen VA data.
Also yesterday, the VA announced that one of its contractors, Unisys Corp., would provide free credit monitoring to as many as 38,000 veterans whose personal information was stored in a desktop computer that disappeared from a Unisys office in Reston last week.
Posted by politicalstuff at 1:06 AM
The New York Times
Lieberman Seizes on Terror Arrests to Attack Rival
By PATRICK HEALY and JENNIFER MEDINA
Senator Joseph I. Lieberman seized on the terror arrests in Britain today to attack his Democratic rival, Ned Lamont, saying that Mr. Lamont’s goals for ending the war in Iraq would constitute a “victory” for extremists, including those accused of plotting to blow up airliners traveling between Britain and the United States.
“If we just pick up like Ned Lamont wants us to do, get out by a date certain, it will be taken as a tremendous victory by the same people who wanted to blow up these planes in this plot hatched in England,” Mr. Lieberman said at a campaign event at lunchtime in Waterbury, Conn. “It will strengthen them and they will strike again.”
Mr. Lamont, who rode an antiwar message to beat Mr. Lieberman in the Connecticut Democratic primary on Tuesday, has called for a firm deadline to remove front-line American troops from Iraq, and he endorsed a Democratic-sponsored amendment in the Senate to set that deadline for next July. Mr. Lieberman opposed setting a deadline.
In a telephone interview from his vacation home in Maine, Mr. Lamont said he was disappointed with the personal tone Mr. Lieberman’s remarks, and questioned the connection between the Iraq war and the new terrorist plot. He also continued his strategy of trying to link Mr. Lieberman’s views with those of the Bush administration, whose approach the senator has tended to support in the fight against terrorism.
“Wow,” Mr. Lamont said, after asking a reporter to read Mr. Lieberman’s remark about him. “That comment sounds an awful lot like Vice President Cheney’s comment on Wednesday. Both of them believe our invasion of Iraq has a lot to do with 9/11. That’s a false premise.”
Dick Cheney, in an interview with reporters on Wednesday, lamented Mr. Lieberman’s loss in the primary and said that Al Qaeda and other terrorists were counting on Americans to adopt a weaker military posture, and that the victory of Mr. Lamont over Mr. Lieberman indicated that “the dominant view of the Democratic Party” favored that weaker approach.
Mr. Lieberman also revealed today that, several hours after Mr. Cheney made those remarks about the Connecticut race, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff called the senator to tell him about the foiled terror plot. Mr. Lieberman is the ranking Democrat on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
Mr. Lieberman has made the controversial decision to continue running for a fourth term in the general election this fall, but as an independent, and he is now seeking support from moderate Democrats, Republicans, and voters who do not belong to either party.
At the Waterbury event, Mr. Lieberman sought to compare his 18-year record in the Senate on national defense and homeland security to the relative inexperience of Mr. Lamont, a former Greenwich selectman who has never run for statewide office before.
“I’m worried that too many people, both in politics and out, don’t appreciate the seriousness of the threat to American security and the evil of the enemy that faces us — more evil, or as evil, as Nazism and probably more dangerous than the Soviet Communists we fought during the long Cold War,” Mr. Lieberman said.
“We cannot deceive ourselves that we live in safety today and the war is over, and it’s why we have to stay strong and vigilant,” he added.
Mr. Lamont hesitated when he was asked if Mr. Lieberman’s criticisms were beyond the bounds of acceptable political combat.
“To try to score political points on every international issues...” Mr. Lamont said, before pausing and stopping himself. Then he added, “Why do I have to say anything?”
Mr. Lieberman said today that he was trying to stay above the fray of partisan politics, side-stepping a reporter’s question about Mr. Cheney’s remarks about Democrats by saying that he was focused on Connecticut, not the rest of the country.
“I’m not saying we shouldn’t have healthy disagreement and discussion about national security, but to make it into a partisan political football, it’s just unacceptable and in my opinion un-American,” he said.
“How the heck can we be in a battle in which we are fighting as Democrats and Republicans against each other when these terrorists certainly don’t distinguish based on our party affiliation?” Mr. Lieberman said. “They want to kill any and all of us.”
Mr. Lamont’s campaign manager, Tom Swan, said in an interview that Mr. Lieberman would pay a political price with Connecticut voters for aligning himself with the Bush administration on homeland security strategy.
“Did Karl Rove write this attack line for Joe?” Mr. Swan said, referring to the president’s senior adviser. Mr. Rove told reporters this morning that he had called Mr. Lieberman, whom he described as “a personal friend,” on the primary day on Tuesday to wish him luck against Mr. Lamont.
Posted by politicalstuff at 1:04 AM
The New York Times
Pentagon Officials Quit at Agency Linked to Bribes
By DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK
WASHINGTON, Aug. 10 — The two top officials of Counterintelligence Field Activity at the Defense Department resigned this week amid investigations into their agency’s classified contracts with a businessman who has pleaded guilty to bribing department officials and Representative Randy Cunningham.
The resignations, which were first reported Thursday in The Washington Post, are the latest sign that the scandal surrounding Mr. Cunningham, a California Republican who stepped down last fall, is still unfolding. The new departures come as the House intelligence committee is preparing its own report on corrupt favors performed by Mr. Cunningham as a member of the panel.
The two officials, David A. Burtt II, the director of Counterintelligence Field Activity, and Joseph Hefferon, the deputy director, could not be reached for comment. A Pentagon spokeswoman said Thursday that their resignations were “a personal decision that they both made together.”
Federal prosecutors have named the counterintelligence agency in court papers as a source of tens of millions of dollars in inflated contracts provided to Mitchell J. Wade, chief executive of the military contractor MZM Inc.
In February, Mr. Wade pleaded guilty to bribing Mr. Cunningham and unidentified Defense Department officials in exchange for such contracts. Mr. Cunningham pleaded guilty to accepting illicit payments from Mr. Wade and another contractor, later identified as Brent R. Wilkes. Prosecutors have not charged Mr. Wilkes.
Mr. Cunningham was chairman of the intelligence panel’s subcommittee for human intelligence, giving him responsibility for oversight of the counterintelligence agency.
In February 2004, Mr. Cunningham sent a letter to Mr. Burtt, thanking his staff for its execution of a project he had inserted in a military bill, according to documents filed in United States District Court in Southern California.
And he promoted Mr. Wade’s company, MZM, to Mr. Burtt as well. “Additionally, I wish to endorse and support MZM Inc.’s work,” Mr. Cunningham wrote.
Posted by politicalstuff at 1:02 AM
Lieberman Shocker: "If Defeated in November, I Will Refuse to Vacate Seat"
WYOMING - Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman stunned Washington today by announcing that if he loses the general election in November, he will refuse to vacate his seat in the Senate.
"I owe it to the nation," the Senator told reporters while quail hunting with Dick Cheney and a heavily bandaged Karl Rove. "If a gaggle of voters in a small, mostly wooded state think they can polarize our entire political system, they don't know this Joe."
Asked how he could ignore the clear will of Nutmeg State voters if they reject him in November, Lieberman replied, "Voters aren't everybody. In general elections, only the partisan, polarizing types generally go to the polls. I want to provide a voice for the moderate majority who never vote."
The senator also pointed out that neither white-tailed deer nor Canadian geese are eligible to vote in Connecticut, though they constitute a clear majority of the population and, he contends, strongly support his position on Iraq.
Democratic Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid reacted with characteristic caution to Lieberman's latest bombshell.
"If Ned Lamont wins in November, he should get Lieberman's desk and his locker, absolutely" Reid said. "But I can't force Lieberman to clean out his desk. That has to be his choice."
Observers openly doubted that Republican leaders would enforce the Senate rules at Lieberman's expense.
"The President loves Lieby Baby," said one White House official on condition of anonymity. "There's no way he's going let a bunch of latte-sipping Connecti-commies force him out."
Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin said there was no precedent for an incumbent senator simply refusing to go when defeated. "I've never heard of it," she commented from her bunker in an undisclosed location, "but come to think of it, why not? Couldn't be worse than the Senate we historically get."
Faced with a potential standoff, insiders speculated that the issue might be ultimately decided by simple brute force in the Senate cloakroom. Lamont, 52, appears to be considerably less jowly than Lieberman, who is a decade older, rarely visits the Senate gym and has a fondness for Danish.
"In a one-on-one, Ned Lamont can take Lieberman down, no question," said one staffer. "But I'm not so sure about Hadassah."
Posted by politicalstuff at 12:59 AM
Busted Bamboozlability: Bush Has Lost the War on Terrorism
George W. Bush proclaimed himself to be a wartime president. In the aftermath of 9/11, he declared a war on terrorism. People are now furiously debating and challenging the particulars of his Iraq policy, whether to leave sooner or later. But it is time to put that conflict into a larger perspective and to realize a more encompassing truth: George W. Bush has lost the war on terrorism.
By making that stern and by no means premature pronouncement, I do not simply mean that he has left the terms of "winning" such a war ill defined, or that we are mired in an expensive and bloody quagmire (as we are). Rather, I mean exactly what I say: Bush has lost the war. Yet that begs the question: What does it mean to lose a war on terror?
It doesn't mean that terrorists have defeated our armed forces. It doesn't mean that a foreign ruler will now be occupying our territory and subjugating our people. It doesn't mean that terrorists have free reign to blow up as many of our buildings as they wish. It means something else, something perhaps far more debilitating to our country.
George Bush and his advisors--despite all of their accusations against their Iraq war critics along the same lines--never understood the unique nature of such a war. They continued to understand the post 9/11 world through the lens of a state-regime system. Pursue regime change, and blow up sponsoring states. Shock and awe with mighty artillery. In the meantime, kill as many sub-state, trans-national terrorists as possible. Then find some place to wait the rest out, in order to kill some more. Mission accomplished...er, eventually.
But terrorists well know that they are engaging in asymmetrical warfare. They know that they cannot blow up as many of our buildings as we can of theirs (if we can find them). They know that they cannot match firepower for firepower. Terrorism, at its heart, is an ongoing psychological battle.
What do terrorists want? What would constitute "winning" for them (short of the complete dismantling of our civilization)? Terrorists want to terrorize. They want us to live in fear. They want to get inside our heads, not just our subway stations. They want us to lose our innocence, our sense of casual safety. They want to disrupt our everyday routines, so that we have to entertain the possibility that they might strike at any moment. They want us to dwell upon the specter of their hatred, so that we become haters, too.
Rape is an apt analogy. Rape is a form of domestic terrorism. Rape is not about sex. It is about oppression, not just physical but psychological, emotional, and spiritual oppression. Rape survivors may experience horrendous trauma long after the rapist is caught, tried, imprisoned, or even killed. That is because the rapist has stolen something that is hard to get back: a precious sense of trust and safety that can and should attend loving intimacy with another. The lingering fear--no, call it terror--that a rape survivor encounters and tries to overcome is that she/he must now and hereafter live in the rapist's version of a dark, cynical, and ever violent world.
George W. Bush, along with Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, Condoleezza Rice, Paul Wolfowitz, and Donald Rumsfeld, played right into the terrorists' hands. Bush has acceded to the terrorists' fear mongering and in fact has become their accomplice (or dupe) in spreading and deepening their message of terror. The tragedy of 9/11 was indeed a wake-up call, a time of tremendous loss and grieving, but at the same time it should have been seen, in geo-strategic terms, as Osama bin Laden's sucker punch. Yet George Bush fell for it. Yes, take out the Taliban and their training camps. Yes, fight aggressively against the evil of terrorism. But, don't be gullible; don't overreact; don't lose your wits. Mostly, don't let the terrorists fundamentally alter our freedoms--and certainly don't dwell upon and exploit the very fears that they want to insinuate into our lives.
Let's face it: Osama bin Laden, holed up in his cave somewhere, must be laughing at us. He's calling the shots, and he really doesn't have to lift a finger. Why? George Bush is doing his bidding. His administration has suspended many civil liberties and deftly defied the U.S. Constitution. Junked the Geneva Convention. Tortured prisoners. Oversaw criminal acts at Abu Ghraib. Ignored due process at Guantanamo. Engaged in domestic spying without court supervision. Flushed billions down the toilet in Iraq. Weakened our military readiness. Set much of the world against us. The Middle East is now ablaze in terrorism. At home, we live constantly in "elevated fear" levels (whether color coded or not). Our internal politics have become poisonously divided, not united. Osama bin Laden is playing George Bush like a cheap fiddle.
We shouldn't be surprised that Bush has been so stunningly gullible. He fell for Saddam's bluster about WMDs. He allowed himself to be conned by the in-house neo-cons. He believes Karl Rove when Karl Rove assures him that it is a good thing to put on a flight suit for an aircraft photo-op.
The Republicans now want to ride the terror bandwagon back to electoral victory. If you're frightened to death about our national security, they tell us, vote Republican. And thus Osama bin Laden wins again, with the Republicans as his co-conspirators (or dupes). Don't they realize that every time a U.S. military war hero such as John Murtha gets "Swift Boated" by his fellow Americans, Osama bin Laden chuckles to himself: "Why, I didn't even have to pay those guys to be my agents of agitation!"
Dick Cheney has been making the same case about anti-war dissenters. Just yesterday, he insinuated that Ned Lamont supporters are secretly serving the cause of al Qaeda. Cheney claims that the best evidence that the administration's convoluted Iraq policy is working is that America hasn't been attacked--physically--since 9/11. How naïve can he be about the distinctive nature of a war with terrorists? Why should Osama bin Laden attack us again? There's been no need. Karl Rove and Dick Cheney will spread his fear for him. Osama bin Laden learned a lesson in 2004: Every time he releases a videotape, it serves the Bush administration's own cross-purposes. Better to lie low, and let Dick Cheney open his mouth and do the threatening.
Bush and bin Laden have become a tag team. They may be bitter rivals, but theirs has become a symbiotic, mimetic rivalry. The problem is, Osama bin Laden has gained more than the upper hand. He's won, because George Bush has been playing this dangerous game on bin Laden's terms. It's time for the rest of us to call it like it is: George Bush has lost. He screwed up. Big time. Americans hate to lose, and the nation is starting to realize that we've been following a loser, not just a losing strategy. Rebuilding American freedom, confidence, and comity after this lost war will require a great deal of fortitude, dedication, and love.
Posted by politicalstuff at 12:56 AM
Hezbollah's Goal: "Going After [the Jews] Worldwide"
The uniqueness of the Holocaust was not the Nazi's determination to kill the Jews of Germany and even of neighboring Poland. Other genocides, such as those by the Cambodians and the Turks, sought to rid particular areas of so called undesirables by killing them. The utter uniqueness of the Holocaust was the Nazi plan to "ingather" all the Jews of the world to the death camp and end the Jewish "race" forever.
It almost succeeded. The Nazis ingathered tens of thousands of Jews (including babies, women, the elderly) from far flung corners of the world--from the Island of Rhodes from Salonika and from other obscure locations--in order to gas them at Auschwitz and at other death camps.
The official leader of the Palestinian Muslims, Haj Amin al-Husseini, the grand mufti of Jerusalem, collaborated in the Nazi genocide, declaring that he sought to "solve the problems of the Jewish element in Palestine and other Arab countries" by employing "the same method" being used "in the Axis countries". Husseini, who spent the war years in Berlin and was later declared a Nazi war criminal at Nuremberg, wrote the following in his memoirs:
Our fundamental condition for cooperating with Germany was a free hand to eradicate every last Jew from Palestine and the Arab world. I asked Hitler for an explicit undertaking to allow us to solve the Jewish problem in a manner befitting our national and racial aspirations and according to the scientific methods innovated by Germany in the handling of its Jews. The answer I got was: "The Jews are yours."
Husseini planned a death camp for Jews modeled on Auschwitz, to be located in Nablus. He broadcast on Nazi Radio, calling for genocide against all the world's Jews: "kill the Jews wherever you find them--this pleases God, history, and religion." Professor Edward Said has acknowledged that this Nazi collaborator and genocidal anti-Semite "represented the Palestinian Arab consensus" and was "the voice of the Palestinian people." Yasser Arafat referred to Husseini as "our hero."
Never before or since in world history has a tyrannical regime sought to murder all of the members of a particular racial, religious, ethnic or cultural group, regardless of where they live--not until now. Hezbollah's aim is not to "end the occupation of Palestine," or even to "liberate all of Palestine." Its goal is to kill the world's Jews. Listen to the words of its leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah: "If Jews all gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide." (NY Times, May 23, 2004, p. 15, section 2, column 1.) Nasrallah is one of the most admired men in the Muslim and Arab world today. Hitler made similar threats in Mein Kampf but they were largely ignored. Nasrallah has a reputation for keeping his promises.
His genocidal goals--to kill all Jews--were proven by two recent statements. He has warned the Arabs and Muslims to leave Haifa so that his rockets can kill only Jews. And he apologized for causing the deaths of three Israeli-Arabs in Nazareth, when a Katuysha struck that religiously mixed Israeli city. Hezbollah also worked hand-in-hand with Argentine neo-Nazis to blow up a Jewish community center, murdering dozens of Jews.
Nasrallah is a modern day Hitler, who currently lacks the capacity to carry out his genocide. But he is an ally of Iran, which will soon have the capacity to kill Israeli's five million Jews. Listen to what the former President of Iran has said about how Iran would use its nuclear weapons:
Hashemi Rafsanjani, the former president of Iran, has threatened Israel with nuclear destruction, boasting that an attack would kill as many as five million Jews. Rafsanjani estimated that even if Israel retaliated by dropping its own nuclear bombs, Iran would probably lose only fifteen million people, which he said would be a small "sacrifice" from among the billion Muslims in the world.
Now listen to the current President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who denies the Nazi Holocaust, but calls for a modern Holocaust that would "wipe Israel off the map."
Despite these anti-Semitic and genocidal threats, some of the hard left admire Nasrallah and his bigoted organization, as well as Iran and its anti-Semitic president. Others do not seem to take his threats seriously.
For example, the notorious Jewish anti-Semite Norman Finkelstein has said, "looking back my chief regret is that I wasn't even more forceful in publicly defending Hezbollah against terrorist intimidation and attack."
Finkelstein's hatred of Jews runs so deep that he has actually implied that his own mother, who survived the Nazi Holocaust, may have collaborated with the Nazis. If so, collaboration with evil seems to run in the family, because Finkelstein has clearly become a collaborator with Hezbollah anti-Semitism and Nazism. Finkelstein's website is filled with Hezbollah promotion, including breathless reprints of Nasrallah speeches. Noam Chomsky, who works closely with Finkelstein, has said of Finkelstein that he is "a person who can speak with more authority and insight on these topics [Israel and anti-Semitism] than anyone I can think of."
The Iran-Hezbollah axis is the greatest threat to world peace, to Jewish survival, to western values, and to civilization. Those like Finkelstein, who support Hezbollah, and even those who refuse to fight against this evil, are on the wrong side of history. They are collaborators with Islamo-fascists--today's version of Nazism.
Alan Dershowitz's website is www.alandershowitz.com
Posted by politicalstuff at 12:54 AM
Liquid explosives sit on bathroom shelves
By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Correspondent
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Chemicals sitting in anyone's bathroom at home could be used to make an easily smuggled bomb that would badly damage a passenger jet, and experts have been warning about this danger for years.
The difficult part, experts say, is putting together such a bomb without blowing yourself up.
British police said they foiled a plot on Thursday to blow up aircraft flying between Britain and the United States, and U.S. and British authorities banned liquids, including drinks, hair gels and lotions, from carry-on baggage.
"My hunch is that the reason they are prohibiting this stuff is that it does obviously have the potential of being assembled on board so that it doesn't look like a bomb going through the X-ray machine," said Alfred Blumstein, a criminologist at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh who helped write a government report on explosives threats to airlines.
Such mundane items as nail polish remover, disinfectants and hair coloring contain chemicals can be combined to make an explosion and are not detectable by "sniffing" machines, which detect plastic explosives but are not used with all baggage.
Explosive ingredients can be concealed in bottles or other innocent-looking containers that would pass through X-ray machines.
That does not mean they are easy to make into bombs, cautioned Neal Langerman, a San Diego consultant who is former chair of the American Chemical Society's Division of Chemical Health and Safety.
"Many of the ingredients like acetone are household chemicals," Langerman said in a telephone interview. But some kind of expertise is usually needed to buy peroxide that is concentrated enough to work in an explosive, he noted.
Bombers who attacked London Underground trains and a bus in July 2005 used homemade peroxide-based explosives carried in backpacks.
DYING IN THE EFFORT
An explosive chemical called triacetone triperoxide, or TATP, can be put together with sulfuric acid, found in some drain cleaners, hydrogen peroxide, a medical disinfectant and hair bleach, and acetone, found in nail polish remover.
"I would doubt that the average layperson would successfully make TATP without killing themselves," Langerman said.
TATP starts out as a liquid that crystallizes into a white powder. "When they mix it, it detonates," Langerman said.
"When you do that at 25,000 feet in the middle of the Atlantic, you and everybody else die."
And the voltage from any battery, combined with the right detonater, such as a powerful camera flash attachment, could act as a detonator for several chemical explosives, Langerman said in a telephone interview.
Some combinations can be set off using another chemical such as hydrochloric acid, easily carried in a small glass bottle.
Nitroglycerin, a clear yellow or colorless liquid, can produce an explosion sometimes with vigorous shaking.
People have tried several times to use such easily concealed explosives on aircraft. British-born Richard Reid was tackled by passengers in December 2001 while trying to detonate explosives stuffed in his shoes in an aircraft lavatory.
In 1994, Islamic fundamentalists set off liquid explosives on a Japan-bound Philippine Airlines plane, killing a Japanese passenger and injuring 10 others.
Mark Ensalaco, an international terrorism expert at the University of Dayton in Ohio, said Thursday's foiled operation appeared to be identical to the Japan attack.
"I stress identical with the explosives in liquids, which appear to be assembled on the plane," Ensalaco said in a statement.
Posted by politicalstuff at 12:51 AM
Democrats say plot shows Iraq war a diversion
By John Whitesides, Political Correspondent
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Prominent Democrats said on Thursday a foiled plot in Britain to blow up U.S.-bound planes showed the Bush administration's pursuit of war in Iraq had diverted resources from the bigger threat of terrorism and made the danger worse.
With national security likely to play a crucial role in November's elections, some Democrats attacked President George W. Bush's justifications for the Iraq war and said the plot showed the terrorism threat was growing under his watch.
"Five years after 9-11, it is clear that our misguided policies are making America more hated in the world and making the war on terrorism harder to win," Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts said.
Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada said Bush and Congress needed to change course in Iraq and ensure Americans are protected around the world.
"The Iraq war has diverted our focus and more than $300 billion in resources from the war on terrorism and has created a rallying cry for international terrorists," Reid said.
Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman responded that "instead of focusing on political attacks," Democrats should be reminded the country is at war and needs every tool to win.
"If Harry Reid had his way and killed the Patriot Act and ended the Terrorist Surveillance Program, authorities would be less able to uncover terror plots," he said.
The U.S. government heightened security on passenger planes and barred air travelers from carrying liquids on Thursday after Britain foiled the plot aimed at blowing up planes flying to the United States.
Bush, who launched a global war on terrorism after the September 11 attacks, said the plot was "a stark reminder that this nation is at war with Islamic fascists who will use any means to destroy those of us who love freedom, to hurt our nation."
IRAQ FOCUS QUESTIONED
But Bush's foe in the 2004 election, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, said America was "not as safe as we can and must be" and in part blamed the president's focus on Iraq.
"This event exposes the misleading myth that we are fighting them over there so we don't have to fight them here. In fact, the war in Iraq has become a dangerous distraction and a profound drain on our financial and military resources," Kerry said.
National security and the Iraq war are likely to play prominent roles in congressional elections in November, when control of Congress will be up for grabs.
Despite Bush's low poll ratings, the handling of national security and the war on terrorism has remained one area where Bush and Republicans are preferred by voters in some opinion polls and Republicans effectively used the issue in 2002 and 2004.
Republicans led by Vice President Dick Cheney attacked Democrats as soft on national security on Wednesday, the day after Connecticut Sen. Joseph Lieberman lost a Democratic primary to anti-war challenger Ned Lamont over the senator's support of the war.
Lamont issued a statement on Thursday saying national security and the ability to fight terrorism had been weakened under Bush and "both anger at America around the world and the number of terrorists seeking to do us harm have increased."
Posted by politicalstuff at 12:47 AM
Thursday, August 10, 2006
Breaking News: 'Mass Murder Terror Plot': Security raised to 'critical'in the UK, "orange" in the US
'Mass Murder Terror Plot'
Security raised to 'critical'in the UK, "orange" in the US
There is chaos at British airports after police disrupted a plot to cause "mass murder on an unimaginable scale" by blowing up transatlantic airliners.
The explosives would have been smuggled aboard at least six airliners as hand luggage - and could have been missed during x-ray screening.
Speaking at Scotland Yard, Deputy Commissioner Paul Stephenson said he was confident the police had disrupted a plot "to cause mass murder on an unimaginable scale".
He said 21 people arrested in London, Birmingham and the Thames Valley were still being held - the culmination of a covert counter-terrorist operation lasting several months.
The Home Secretary John Reid said the "main players" were in custody but cautioned against complacency.
"We are involved in a long, wide and deep struggle against very evil people," he said.
Sky News' Crime Correspondent Martin Brunt said those arrested were mainly young, British-born Asian men.
Another senior Met officer, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Peter Clarke, said the arrests followed "an unprecedented level of surveillance".
A number of business premises and houses have been sealed off by the police, including one in High Wycombe.
Sources in the United States have reported that three airlines targeted were United, American and Continental.
Security sources believe that liquid explosives would have been used which could have been mixed during the flight into a lethal concoction.
US Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said the conspiracy was sophisticated, well-advanced and well-planned and "suggestive of an al Qaeda plot".
He has introduced a ban on liquids being carried on to US planes, saying the plotters would have used liquid explosives disguised as drinks and electronic devices made to look like everyday items.
Whitehall sources said the Prime Minister and President Bush had been in contact over the plot for some time.
The official level of security - indicating public risk - in the UK had been raised from 'severe' to 'critical'.
Big queues built up at UK airports as passengers tried to board international flights and were not allowed to carry on normal hand luggage.
British Airways cancelled all domestic and European flights while those to Britain operated by Lufthansa, Iberia, Olympic, KLM and Air France were also stopped.
Low-cost airlines Ryanair and Easyjet cancelled their flights during the day at Luton, Stansted and Gatwick.
It was estimated that the difficulties at the airports affected 400,000 people.
Posted by politicalstuff at 9:33 AM
Detective Story: Has Rove Been Guiding the Lieberman Campaign All Along?
Everybody's talking about the report that Karl Rove's offered to help the Lieberman campaign. An offer like this, leaked by one of Joe's top aides, it raises the question: Has Rove been guiding the Lieberman campaign from the very beginning? That alleged "website hacking" could well be Rove's handiwork - and more clues abound.
(UPDATE: Joe's people, and W's, have issued their predictable, obligatory, and not-too-convincing denials. My hypothesis still stands.) Before you say the idea's too farfetched, consider this:
Lieberman's campaign has been designed from the start to inflict maximum damage on the Democratic Party.
Lieberman's statements from the beginning have made it clear that, in his mind, any dissent from Bush's war policy constitutes a) "weakness on national defense," b) is a clear sign that Democrats "lack national security" credibility, and c) means that Dems "have yielded to the extremists" (despite the fact that new polls reveal those "extremists" agree with 60% of all Americans about the war).
Democrats are "extremist "and "weak on national security?" That's straight out of the Rove playbook.
Now the Republicans and their media associates are having a field day with Joe's loss, at the expense of the Democrats. Why would a Democrat - any Democrat - be willing to cause such harm to his own party? Unless he were being guided by a Republican ...
Lieberman immediately went savagely negative, and attacked Lamont for his own greatest weakness - a classic Rove strategy.
Joe came out swinging - below the belt. That's Rove's style all the way.
Lieberman's first campaign move was to launch the infamous (and stunningly inept) "bear ad," which - astonishingly - accused Lamont of being a Republican's tool! (In this case, former Sen. Lowell Weicker was the "big bear" to Lamont's "cub.")
Then, Lieberman and his supporters accused Lamont and his backers of running a "hate" campaign - while simultaneously spewing the most vitriolic campaign rhetoric in recent memory. (Lamont supporters were described as "Stalinist," "haters," "purgers," "fascists," and - if they were Jewish - as "bad Jews.")
Take you greatest weakness and label your opponent with it. Classic Rove.
The usual stenographers are taking dictation from Karl.
You know how it works with the Human Dictaphones in the press: Karl speaks, they record. No cliche's too trite, no argument's too stale, no observation's too obviously self-serving or shallow for these guys.
It doesn't matter if other pundits have said it 1,000 times and had their arguments thoroughly shot down. They'll always take an old "insight" for one more spin around the track (and collect a paycheck for it.) It's all Karl, all the time.
They're at it again, this time hyping the same stale mantra about what a "disaster" this is for Dems. (Here's a sample.) Who else but Karl has that special magic with the boys on the bus?
The "website incident" has all the earmarks of a Rove dirty trick.
Shortly before primary day the Lieberman campaign website went down, and Joe's team immediately accused the Lamont staff of sabotage. Anybody remember how Karl Rove first made his name? From a thoroughly footnoted entry in Wikipedia:
"In the fall of 1970, Rove used a false identity to enter the campaign office of Democrat Alan J. Dixon, who was running for Illinois State Treasurer, and stole 1000 sheets of paper with campaign letterhead. Rove then printed fake campaign rally fliers promising "free beer, free food, girls and a good time for nothing," and distributed them at rock concerts and homeless shelters."
Or how about this one - a close parallel to the website incident?
"In 1986, just before a crucial debate in (the William Clements) campaign, Rove claimed that his office had been bugged by the Democrats. The police and FBI investigated and discovered that bug's battery was so small that it needed to be changed every few hours, and the investigation was dropped. Critics suspected Rove had bugged his own office to garner sympathy votes in the close governor's race."
Now consider how quickly the Lieberman people were willing to accuse the Lamont people of sabotage as soon as the incident happened - almost as if they'd been prepared.
Now, even I have doubts that Rove or someone else in the Lieberman camp deliberately crashed the site. The most likely explanation is that their (extremely cut rate) hosting service buckled under increased traffic - a volume jump that anyone with common sense would expect to see in the last couple of days before a hotly contested election.
But it's not out of the question - not by a long shot. Remember, Rove is the guy who's had "pollers" call voters to ask if "they'd be less likely to vote for Ann Richards if they knew her campaign was dominated by lesbians," or for John McCain if "they knew he was the father of an interracial child."
Even if a Lieberman operative didn't bring down that website, their accusations against the Lamont campaign - wholly without foundation - constitute a dirty trick in and of itself.
"Why," you may ask, "would people like Bill Clinton and Barbara Boxer campaign for Joe if they thought Rove was involved?" Simple. Lieberman may win in November. If he does, they want that seat to stay Democratic. They're trying to placate him.
For the party insiders, Lieberman's like Glenn Close in "Fatal Attraction." They don't want to keep humoring him, but they're being blackmailed ... so they keep having to act like they still care about him, while at the same time hoping against hope he'll go away.
Hmm .. blackmail ... dirty tricks ... that brings us back to the original question: Has Joe's latest campaign been a Rove operation from the very start?
They have a well-documented track record ... of playing dirty. Joe has a track record of willingness to serve their interests. All I'm saying is: think about it.
Posted by politicalstuff at 1:34 AM
About ‘An Inconvenient Truth' and Other Earthly Matters
I finally saw "An Inconvenient Truth" the other night, and it scared the life out of me. I was stunned at the reality of it all; now days later, still not being able to get what I saw out of my mind.
This movie is not entertainment. It's hard work for all 100 minutes.
I thought of it like going to class, a difficult and mandatory class. I urge and plead with anyone who reads this blog, no matter your tastes in music, movies or politics, to see this, even though it's like getting kicked in the stomach.
I don't know how people feel about Al Gore. I don't know how I feel about him. But he's much more likable in this movie than ever before. The cynical might assume that he's found a platform, a hot button issue to maybe make another run at the presidency; but this is not a new issue for him. He's been involved and concerned and tracked the dangers of global warming since his pre-college days. He's cared about and studied the changing environment before any of us even gave it a thought.
I'm not sure at what age is appropriate for a child to see "An Inconvenient Truth," but I'm going to take my ten year old daughter and 13 year old son to see it. They will be bored at times, but so what? I feel it is an extension of what they learn in school. It's mandatory, and they will get it. In fact, I'd like to see schools all across the country show this film to their students. It can't help but get them thinking, and then they would talk to their friends...and those people's friends and families...and help spread the word. We need the young people. The "inconvenient truths" in the film and book are about the world our children will inherit. We need a spokesperson, someone young and influential like a Hilary Duff, to try to create a grassroots movement in at least upper grades, high schools and colleges.
I sat in the theatre anxious for the end, so I could check into trading my Lexus for a hybrid. I know very little about cars, but I know my household can make a difference with an energy-saving car. Maybe the hybrid won't accelerate as fast getting on the freeway or run like a luxury car. We all love our comforts and are reluctant to make any sacrifice. Learning about hybrids is next for me, and when I get back to L.A., my movie list will be topped by 'Who Killed the Electric Car."
After seeing the movie, I also started thinking again about the 2000 election. What if Gore won (he really did win) and actually became President? I do believe the global warming would have been addressed, not dismissed. I'm sure in my heart our environment would be in much better shape now with activities and plans in place to protect it for my kids and the next generations.
I don't know how good a President that Al Gore would have been, but he would have been better than this President, who will go down in history as the worst (and probably most stupid) President of all time. Could Al Gore have done a better job? Lots of people could have.
I am sure Gore would not have followed the road of going into Iraq and open that hornet's nest. George Bush, Sr., knew better, too. Will we ever know what happened in Florida in 2000? What did Katherine Harris really do? We continue to see what some strange and hidden actions that happened in Florida in 2000 have cost us.
We may never know the truth about what the 2000 election and how George W. Bush became President, but we do know the truth about our environment. This is something that every one of us can do something about.
Posted by politicalstuff at 1:32 AM
Western Internet firms "act as censors" in China
By Lindsay Beck
BEIJING (Reuters) - A rights group accused Western Internet companies on Thursday of complicity with censorship in China and called on Microsoft Corp., Google Inc. and Yahoo Inc. to resist Beijing's demands.
New York-based Human Rights Watch called the blocking of politically sensitive Web sites and search terms "arbitrary, opaque and unaccountable" and urged the publicly traded firms to be upfront with their users about censorship.
"It was ironic that companies whose existence depends on freedom of information and expression have taken on the role of censor, even in cases where the Chinese government makes no specific demands for them to do so," the group said in a report.
The report was the latest in a wave of criticism against Western Internet companies operating in China, which are accused of compromising their principles by censoring searches and blog titles and blocking politically sensitive terms in order do to business in the world's number-two Internet market.
In the case of Yahoo, the company has also been accused of providing information to Chinese authorities that led to the imprisonment of people accused of political crimes. The most prominent among them is writer Shi Tao, who was jailed for 10 years for leaking state secrets abroad.
Human Rights Watch was also especially critical of Yahoo's search functions, saying it censored information about as much as domestic search engine Baidu.com Inc..
Yahoo said it was "deeply concerned" about the issues but that it believed its presence in China was valuable.
"We believe we can make more of a difference by having even a limited presence and growing our influence than we can by not operating in a particular country at all," said Yahoo spokeswoman Mary Osako.
Google, whose motto is "Don't Be Evil", has also come under fire for blocking politically sensitive terms on its China site www.google.cn, bowing to conditions set by Beijing, while Microsoft has shut down blogs hosted on its MSN Spaces.
Microsoft in China and Google in the United States did not immediately reply to e-mails and phone calls seeking their comments on the report.
Human Rights Watch also criticised Web telephone company Skype, saying its Chinese software was configured to censor sensitive words in text chats without informing the user.
"Yahoo's role in the Shi Tao case and Google's decision to turn censor in order to curry favor with the Chinese government show the extent of corporate capitulation to China," Human Rights Watch Asia director Brad Adams said in a statement.
The group urged the companies to use "all legal means" to resist censorship of searches, blogs and Web addresses.
It also recommended a series of policies for the companies to adhere to when operating in China, including informing users when searches have been censored, storing user data that could be used to identify subscribers outside of the country and not complying with oral or undocumented requests from Chinese authorities.
Human Rights Watch researchers found that all of the companies censored sensitive searches, including terms related to the controversial 1989 crackdown on student demonstrators in and around Tiananmen Square, and the Falun Gong spiritual movement, which China has banned as an "evil cult".
Posted by politicalstuff at 1:31 AM
Sixty percent of Americans oppose Iraq war: poll
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Sixty percent of Americans oppose the U.S. war in Iraq and a majority would support a partial withdrawal of troops by year's end, a CNN poll said on Wednesday.
It was the CNN poll's highest number opposing the war since fighting began in March 2003, a figure that has risen steadily since then, according to the Opinion Research Corp. survey conducted last week on behalf of the cable network.
The poll showed 36 percent of respondents said they were in favor of the war -- half the peak 72 percent who supported the war as it began, said the poll of 1,047 Americans.
The telephone survey, which had an error margin of 3 percentage points, showed 61 percent believed at least some U.S. troops should be withdrawn from Iraq by the end of 2006.
Voter anger over the Iraq war, plagued by insurgent and sectarian violence with a daily civilian death toll, was cited in the Connecticut Democratic primary defeat Tuesday of U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman, who strongly backed President George W. Bush's war effort.
Posted by politicalstuff at 1:30 AM
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
Blogging All the Way to Jail
Josh Wolf is the first blogger to be targeted by federal authorities for not cooperating with a grand jury. Are the courts trying to send a message to new media?
By LAURA LOCKE
Before there was YouTube's crush of do-it-yourself video online, Josh Wolf was busy taking media into his own hands. As one of the Internet's earliest videobloggers, Wolf thrust himself onto the front lines of citizen journalism, uploading his politically spiked, home-grown content onto www.joshwolf.net. While bypassing old media gatekeepers — like editors and programming schedules — Wolf, 24, gained unprecedented access to the Web's global stage, but he also fast won notoriety for his attempts to democratize the media. Last year, Wolf earned the wrath of Al Gore's youth cable channel, Current TV, when he criticized the new station's hiring practices along with its video submission policies on his blog. In protest, he started the Rise Up! Network, a non-profit alternative media site, where anyone can feature his or her own video work and retain exclusive rights.
Now the videoblogger is enmeshed in a new digital media controversy. On Tuesday, Wolf was thrown into federal prison for refusing to testify before a U.S. grand jury and for failing to hand over unpublished video footage he shot during a raucous clash on the streets between San Francisco police officers and anti-G8 protesters last year. Wolf posted some of the video on his blog, and some clips were aired on TV newscasts that later paid Wolf for the footage. But the feds are demanding to see everything that wasn't made public. They allege that the unused portion of Wolf's video may show the patrol car being set afire — part of a federal crime, the government asserts. Wolf denies there is an attempted arson on his videotape. The feds say they have jurisdiction over the case because the police car is partly U.S. government property since the S.F.P.D. receives federal anti-terrorism money.
"Not only does this logic seem silly," Wolf told TIME in June after receiving his final subpoena, "but if unchallenged it will have a deleterious effect on the state protections afforded to many journalists, both independent and those that are part of the established media." Judge William Alsup of Federal District Court rejected Wolf's arguments, and declared him in contempt of court. So he is now being held in a detention center in Dublin, Calif., where he could remain until next July when the grand jury expires, or earlier if his attorneys can convince the court his custody becomes punitive because he won't turn over the court-ordered materials. Wolf maintains that as a freelance videographer and blogger, he is an independent journalist protected under the state's generous shield law, which protects journalists' confidential, unpublished material obtained while reporting. He adamantly resists what he sees as the government's attempt to force him to identify various activists captured in his tapes. "It goes against every moral fiber in my body to sit back and out people for their political beliefs," he said, adding that if this interpretation stands, it could "kill politically contentious journalism in America." This could also be a landmark case, since Wolf is the first blogger to be targeted by federal authorities for refusing to cooperate with a grand jury. "The courts have sent a clear message to journalists, bloggers, vloggers, and all citizens that the U.S. government will and can with the help of the federal courts make every person in the U.S. an investigative arm of the government," according to Jose Luis Fuentes, Wolf's attorney. When asked if do-it-yourself media creators should be afforded the same legal protections that conventional journalists have, Fuentes replied, "All newsgatherers are theoretically protected by the federal and state First Amendment. In the context of free speech and newsgathering, all journalists are working for a democratic society whose very existence depends upon the free flow of information without government intrusion. Any attempt to draw a distinction is divisive."
The legal musing has a tinge of irony since Wolf and other do-it-yourself content creators are typically disdainful of corporate-controlled media. Yet Wolf is now voluntarily taking the legal heat for amateurs and professional scribes alike. And he might be wishing he could benefit from mainstream media's deep pockets. His legal bills exceed $75,000, according to his attorney. Fees from other lawyers are piling up, too. His mother is keeping up his blog, where donations are being solicited to offset his escalating legal costs. Mainstream civic and media interests like the Society for Professional Journalists, the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Lawyer's Guild, the San Francisco Chronicle's editorial board, and San Francisco's Board of Supervisors have all voiced support for Wolf. The blogosphere, by contrast, hasn't yet elicited a rousing cheer for Wolf, with a few exceptions like the Huffington Post and Silicon Valley Watcher. Neither the popular political blog The Daily Kos nor ourmedia.org, a site for the participatory media movement, covered Wolf's jailing.
Fuentes, Wolf's attorney, advises citizen journalists and new media creators to guard their privacy by developing protocols to protect their unedited material and sources. He suggests using paper shredders and having record-retention policies, and dissuades grassroots content creators from talking to law officials. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a non-profit that advocates for the public interest and digital rights, is more pointed by suggesting that do-it-yourself media creators should use technology to help conceal their real identities online. EFF encourages the use of anonymous blogging tools like "invisiblog.com" and "anonymize.com," which do just that. Other digital privacy tips can be found on the EFF website — under the title: "How to Blog Safely." One can only wonder what the jailed videoblogger would think of such a lack of transparency.
Posted by politicalstuff at 2:00 PM
Lamont's Victory & Lieberman's Insult to Democracy & the Democratic Party
At the end of every gut-wrenching horror movie, when the hero seems finally to have vanquished the enemy, there is always that last moment where the enemy, lying lifeless on the floor, finds a last gasp to fire off one final round, usually dealing a fatal blow to one of the good guys.
In the incredible story that concluded tonight in Connecticut, Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Ned Lamont was the successful hero, representing the hopes and dreams or ordinary citizens by mounting a truly grassroots campaign against Joe Lieberman's massive warchest of corporate cash and universal support from Washington, D.C.'s cabal of lobbyists, pundits and insiders. Yet, in his last coughing gasps, Lieberman is now saying he will, in fact, fire off that last spiteful round - right into the gut of the Democratic Party.
That's right - Lieberman is announcing he will move forward with plans to abuse loopholes in Connecticut's election laws, ignore Democratic Party voters who voted in our democratic process for change, and mount a Lieberman for Lieberman Independent bid. Yes, you read that right - the Senator who has in the final days of Democratic primary campaigning been running around claiming that he gets the message and realizes he no longer should enable George W. Bush's right-wing agenda now is acknowledging that he will try to rely on hard-core Republican voters and moneymen in a general election contest in a desperate attempt to hold onto power.
Understand how insulting this is - Connecticut taxpayers just spent a large sum of money to hold a democratic primary election in a country founded on small-d democratic principles. An 18-year incumbent who had 100 percent name ID and a $12 million warchest (thanks to, among others, Joe's good friends in the pharmaceutical and financial services industry) was unable to win that election. Now, instead of respecting small-d democracy or the party he has spent the last week pledging his devotion to, he's behaving like a Third World autocrat that ignores democracy, and running to hard-core GOP voters and fundraisers in Connecticut and begging them to help him hold onto his job in the Senate club. This undemocratic chicanery from a man who has long justified his support for the Iraq War by saying he has a supposedly heartfelt devotion to spreading democracy.
Make no mistake about it - be prepared for Lieberman, the Enron lobbyists, corporate lawyers, Establishment pundits and other assorted characters in the Washington brothel to run out immediately and trumpet how incredible it was that Lieberman got so close. What they want to do is pretend that Lieberman hasn't spent 18 years in the Senate, wasn't have every single advantage, didn't outspend his opponent with a massive corporate-funded warchest, and was, instead, the courageous underdog who supposedly did not arrogantly ignore mainstream public opinion with his stands pushing the Iraq War, Social Security privatization and corporate-written trade deals that sold out American jobs. That storyline provides a convenient excuse to justify Lieberman ignoring Connecticut voters, Connecticut taxpayers who funded the election, and all the democratic principles this country is supposed to be based on. It provides a consultant-packaged excuse for Lieberman to ignore voters and insult the Democratic Party by running as a party of one, and potentially throwing the general election to the Republican Party.
But as Ezra Klein astutely notes, "If this gets spun in the next few days as a microscopic margin so infinitesimal as to be mere statistical error, try and keep in mind the towering mandate the media agreed Bush had after his three -- not four -- percent win over Kerry." I'll put it in exact language that Lieberman himself can understand: "It's time for Joe Lieberman and his friends in the Washington Establishment who distrust Ned Lamont to acknowledge that Ned is now the Democratic Party's nominee for U.S. Senate, and that we as Democrats undermine our nominee's credibility at our party and our democracy's peril."
Lieberman's concession speech tonight spitefully announcing that he will abandon the Democratic Party that he has spent the last week transparently pleging his fealty to is classic Lieberman. You may recall that after he was crushed in the New Hampshire primary, he proudly boasted that "we are in a three-way split decision for third place" - as if he really thought voters were stupid enough to think that was a good thing and that he was well on his way to winning the nomination. Similarly today, he is claiming that the Democratic Party primary election is just the "first half" of the election process - again, thinking voters are so stupid, they don't see that what he's really doing is giving the big middle finger to American democracy.
But voters do see what's going on - and that's why Lieberman, an 18-year incumbent who outspent his opponent, was handed a crushing defeat tonight: because ordinary people realize that Joe Lieberman and the Washington Establishment he represents has for too long been allowed to sellout their constituents and this country as a whole. Ned Lamont is the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate in Connecticut. Every single Democratic officeholder in this country (that means YOU Kerry, Feingold, Clinton, Edwards, Warner, et al.) has an obligation to respect the Democratic Party primary election that took place tonight, lest they too go on record as saying Democratic Party voters and America's democratic process as an afterthought in comparison to their own personal political ambitions. Likewise, Democratic leaders in Congress now have an obligation to remove Lieberman from his committee assignments, and cut off Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee resources, now that he has officially left the Democratic Party.
This is an incredible victory tonight. Ordinary people showed that no politician - even a snake like Lieberman with every single advantage - is above American democracy. Though Lieberman and the lobbyists who are backing him would like everyone to forget about democracy, Ned Lamont tonight showed that ordinary people in this country still have power and that no Senate seat is the exclusive property of any one individual.
Posted by politicalstuff at 12:45 AM
DeLay says he won't run for House seat
By Erwin Seba
HOUSTON (Reuters) - Indicted former U.S. House of Representatives Republican leader Tom DeLay said on Tuesday he will not run for his former seat in Congress even though federal courts have ruled his name cannot be replaced on the November ballot.
"Earlier this year I resigned from the U.S. House of Representatives and became a resident of the state of Virginia, to establish my new business, and where I now legally reside, pay taxes and vote," DeLay said in a statement.
"This decision was and is irrevocable, which I made clear from Day One," DeLay said.
DeLay said he would act to remove himself from the ballot for the 22nd Texas congressional district in suburban Houston and encouraged the Texas Republican Party to offer a challenger to Democratic nominee ex-Rep. Nick Lampson.
A spokesman for the Texas secretary of state's office said the only thing DeLay can do to take his name off the ballot is file to withdraw from the race, leaving the Republican Party with no nominee for the seat that DeLay, a leader of the GOP conservatives, held for 21 years.
University of Houston political science Professor Richard Murray said DeLay's decision virtually hands the seat to Lampson.
"I would say there is a 98.5 percent chance Democrats will pick up that seat," Murray said. "Whether they can hold it down the road is another question."
Lampson's campaign was not ready to declare victory on Tuesday.
"Tom DeLay has cut and run from this fight twice now, said Lampson campaign manager Mike Malaise. "Nick will continue running his positive, issue-based campaign we hope the multiple write-in candidates who enter this race will do the same and reject DeLay's brand of dirty politics."
Texas Republican Party strategists told the Houston Chronicle they were planning a campaign to write in a candidate.
U.S. District and Appeals courts ruled DeLay could not be replaced prior to the election without violating the U.S. Constitution.
Texas Republicans claimed DeLay was ineligible for the office under state law because he moved out of Texas. The courts said that, under the U.S. Constitution, a candidate's residency can only be determined on election day and not before.
Due to discontent over the U.S. occupation of Iraq, the 2006 election is seen as the best chance for Democrats to gain control of the House since the Republicans won the majority in 1994.
In March, DeLay said he would resign from Congress and not seek re-election just days after beating three Republican rivals in the party's primary election. Polls had shown he might lose to a Democrat.
DeLay and two former aides were indicted last year on charges of using corporate donations in 2002 state elections. DeLay maintains he did nothing wrong and the prosecution was political.
DeLay has also been tarnished by his association with former lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who is at the center of an influence-peddling scandal that led Ohio Republican Rep. Robert Ney to give up his re-election effort this week.
Posted by politicalstuff at 12:43 AM
Biting the hand that feeds IT
United States cedes control of the internet - but what now?
By Kieren McCarthy
In a meeting that will go down in internet history, the United States government last night conceded that it can no longer expect to maintain its position as the ultimate authority over the internet.
Having been the internet's instigator and, since 1998, its voluntary taskmaster, the US government finally agreed to transition its control over not-for-profit internet overseeing organisation ICANN, making the organisation a more international body.
However, assistant commerce secretary John Kneuer, the US official in charge of such matters, also made clear that the US was still determined to keep control of the net's root zone file - at least in the medium-term.
"The historic role that we announced that we were going to preserve is fairly clearly articulated: the technical verification and authorisation of changes to the authoritative root," Kneuer explained following an afternoon of explicit statements from US-friendly organisations and individuals that it was no longer viable for one government to retain such power over the future of a global resource.
Despite the sentiments, however, it was apparent from the carefully selected panel and audience members that the internet - despite its global reach - remains an English-speaking possession. Not one of the 11 panel members, nor any of the 22 people that spoke during the meeting, had anything but English as their first language.
While talk centered on the future of the internet and its tremendous global influence, the people that sat there discussing it represented only a tiny minority of those that now use the internet every day. Reflections on the difficulty of expanding the current internet governance mechanisms to encompass the global audience inadvertently highlighted the very parochialism of those that currently form the ICANN in-crowd.
When historians come to review events in Washington on 26 July 2006, they will no doubt be reminded of discussions in previous centuries over why individual citizens should be given a vote. Or, perhaps, why landowners or the educated classes shouldn't be given more votes than the masses.
There was talk of voting rights, or what the point was of including more people in ICANN processes, and even how people could be educated sufficiently before they were allowed to interact with the existing processes.
Ironically, it was ICANN CEO Paul Twomey who most accurately put his finger on what had to be done. One of the most valuable realisations that ICANN has ever come to, he noted, was that when it revamped itself last time, it recognised it hadn't got it right. Even more importantly, Twomey noted, was the fact the organisation recognised that "it would never get it right. And so ICANN put a review mechanism into its bylaws".
The reason Twomey's observations are particularly noteworthy is that it is Paul Twomey himself who has consistently - and deliberately - failed to open ICANN up, keeping meetings secret, and refusing to release information about discussions either before a meeting and, in some cases, after the meeting.
A stark warning came from the Canadian government - the only government except for the US government invited to speak. Recent arrival, but highly knowledgeable representative, Bill Graham was extraordinarily clear. "It is time for ICANN to recognise that it is in many ways a quasi-judicial body and it must begin to behave that way," he said.
"The ICANN board needs to provide adequate minutes of all its meetings. There needs to be a notice of what issues will be considered, and the timeframe when a decision is made. A written document needs to be posted setting out the background and context of the issues. There needs to be an acknowledgment and a summary of the positions put forward by various interested parties; there needs to be an analysis of the issues; there needs to be an explanation of the decisions and the reasons for it; and ultimately there needs to be a mechanism for the board to be held accountable by its community."
Everyone recognised the meeting as an historic turning point in the future of the internet, causing a strange amount of one-upmanship among those taking part, most of it covering how long they had been involved with ICANN. Paul Twomey referred to the Berlin meeting (1999); an irregular ICANN contributor (on the panel thanks to US governmental influence) spoke of "being there before ICANN was even created". The swagger got so bad that several well-informed contributors were forced to apologise because they had only been to three ICANN meetings.
Ultimately, what came out of a gathering of the (English-speaking) great and the good regarding the internet was two things:
1. That the US government recognises it has to transition its role if it wants to keep the internet in one piece (and it then has to sell that decision to a mindlessly patriotic electorate)
2. That ICANN has to open up and allow more people to decide its course if it is going to be allowed to become the internet's main overseeing organisation
If you ignore the fact that the conversation only happened within a tiny subset of the people that actually use the internet, everyone can feel quite content in walking away feeling that at least people now understand their point of view.
As a rare non-US contributor, Emily Taylor, Nominet's lawyer, UK citizen, and a member of the IGF Advisory Group told us she felt that "the fact that the meeting took place was as valuable as anything that was discussed".
That much is certainly true. The US has recognised that it can no longer hope to control the internet. The next step is for everyone invited into the party this time to recognise that they too play only a small role in the global revolution that is this jumble of interconnected computer networks.
Posted by politicalstuff at 12:12 AM