Sunday, April 22, 2007

Iraqi PM Halts Wall Construction

Sunni-Shiite Wall Construction Halted

Sunday , April 22, 2007

CAIRO, Egypt —

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said Sunday that he has ordered a halt to the construction of a barrier that would separate a Sunni enclave from surrounding Shiite areas in Baghdad, saying there are other ways to protect the neighborhood.

The U.S. military announced last week that it was building a large concrete wall in the northern Azamiyah section of Baghdad in an effort to protect the minority Sunnis from attacks by Shiites living nearby.

The decision drew sharp criticism from residents and Sunni leaders who complained it would isolate their community.

In his first public comments on the issue, al-Maliki said he had ordered the construction to stop.

"I oppose the building of the wall and its construction will stop," al-Maliki told reporters during a joint news conference with the Secretary-General of the Arab League Amr Moussa in Cairo, Egypt. "There are other methods to protect neighborhoods."

He did not elaborate but added "this wall reminds us of other walls," in an apparent reference to the wall that divided the German city of Berlin during the Cold War.

Protests in Russia: The Real Story

The heavy-handed response by Russian authorities to last weekend’s demonstrations in Moscow and St. Petersburg is just another illustration of a tightening-up of the Russian political space. A Jeffersonian democracy Putin’s Russia is not. Just the other day the leader of the newly-created Just Russia opposition—yet pro-Putin—party, Speaker of the Council of the Federation Sergei Mironov, suggested extending Putin’s term and reminded us all that according to a recent public opinion poll, 69 percent of Russians are in favor of keeping the president in power, even if it would require changes to the constitution. Putin so far has firmly rejected this possibility, but informed sources in the Kremlin suggest that discussion of how to keep Putin as a dominant figure is growing, whether it would require amending the constitution to permit him to stay president or finding some other arrangement that would allow him to stay in charge.

It is perfectly appropriate, and indeed necessary, not to whitewash Russian domestic practices, as President George W. Bush once did. What is not appropriate, however, is to accuse Putin and his government of all kinds of terrible deeds—often providing highly misleading information in the process—just because he is supposed to be undemocratic. And that is clearly what happened with coverage of last weekend’s protests in much of the mainstream media in the United States. The Wall Street Journal editorial page—which believes that Vice President Dick Cheney is a wise statesman, John Bolton an effective diplomat and Paul Wolfowitz a model anti-corruption reformer—has predictably adopted the cause of their regular contributor, former chess champion Garry Kasparov, who was one of the leaders of the opposition marches. Mr. Kasparov was a great chess player. He is also a man of courage and determination. But anyone familiar with his career in politics, and as a matter of fact, in chess long before it, would know that he has a strong propensity for theatrics and artificial confrontation. Quoting Mr. Kasparov as a dispassionate commentator on his own struggle, as The Wall Street Journal editorial page did, is unpersuasive.

But, being persuasive is in the eyes of the beholder, and editorial pages by definition are entitled to their opinions. Not so the news pages. In the case of The Washington Post, news stories regarding the April 14 and 15 events in Moscow and St. Petersburg were written as if they were coordinated with the notoriously anti-Putin attitude of The Washington Post editorial page. In their April 18 article, " Kremlin Says Riot Police Overreacted ", by Peter Finn, both the text and the photographs present a highly misleading picture. The photographs show Garry Kasparov appealing to the menacing-looking police officers. It also shows the police in anti-riot gear overwhelming a long-haired, bespectacled young man. And talking about the organizers of the marches, Mr. Finn refers to Garry Kasparov and former–Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov—and nobody else. He does not mention at all that another organizer—and a key ally of Mr. Kasparov and Mr. Kasyanov—was Eduard Limonov, leader of the nationalist and militantly anti-American outlawed National Bolshevik Party. As the photographs accompanying this article show—and these pictures come from , an online anti-government publication to which Mr. Limonov is a columnist—a significant, and the most assertive, part of the demonstrators marched under the Nazi-style banners of the National Bolshevik Party, where the hammer and sickle replace the swastika. And some of the demonstrators did not just march, according to the opposition paper Novaya Gazeta, where Anna Politkovskaya used to work before she was murdered last fall. In a number of instances they also attacked the police, who were trying to block their path when they took an unauthorized route.

When the Russian government was deciding how to respond to last weekend’s marches, they had to take into account what had happened at the March 3 demonstrations of the same coalition in St. Petersburg, where Mr. Limonov’s militants overran police lines and roughed up some of the officers. In Mr. Limonov’s own words on that occasion, "the activists of the National Bolshevik Party have fully justified our hopes. They really were on March 3 the avant-garde’s strike battalion, a hot shell, in all confrontations the first and most militant." Limonov added that in addition to their own flags in St. Petersburg, they were marching under the black, gold and white banners of the Russian empire, which Mr. Limonov’s party wants to recreate. He talked about the spirit of "revolution" and put Moscow authorities on notice that they better not interfere with the April 14 march if they wanted to avoid the same assault to which police were subjected in St. Petersburg on March 3. Mr. Kasyanov and Mr. Kasparov apparently came to the conclusion that almost nobody is bad enough not to be an acceptable ally against the Putin government. Traditional liberals with strong democratic credentials such as Yabloko and the Union of the Right Wing Forces (SPS) refused to cooperate with Mr. Limonov.

That still would not justify a crackdown against peaceful demonstrators and would justify even less the tendency of the Moscow city authorities to tightly control where the opposition can meet and march, often, as I have witnessed myself in the past, with transparently false excuses such as closing the street for repairs for several hours just to make an opposition march impossible. Police violence there certainly was, but to put things in perspective, Mr. Kasparov was detained and released several hours later with a fine of $40. Mr. Limonov was also detained for a number of hours, but has not been fined so far. Both he and Mr. Kasparov were summoned to appear before post-KGB Federal Security Service officials. Former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov was protected against the police by his own security detail. One assumes that if detaining him would be a priority, it could somehow be arranged.

Why the police overreacted this time, as President Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov has acknowledged, to the relatively small demonstrations of a few thousand people at most is anybody’s guess. Perhaps it can be explained partly by a concern of how far Mr. Limonov and his militants would be prepared to go if allowed the freedom to move around Moscow. Perhaps there was a sentiment typical in Russian security agencies that not doing enough is more dangerous vis-à-vis one’s superiors than doing too much. Perhaps some in the Russian government were provoked by exiled oligarch Boris Berezovsky’s statements on the eve of the march that he was providing funds for a revolution, which was supposed to start precisely with marches like those that Mr. Kasparov, Mr. Kasyanov and Mr. Limonov were organizing in Moscow. And quite possibly some in the Russian government saw the protests as a welcome opportunity to show that might is always right in Russia and any resistance, particularly violent resistance, is hopeless and will be crushed at the outset.

This is not a pretty picture just as the violent clashes between police and protesters in Genoa over the G-8 and in Washington at the World Bank and IMF were not pretty by most accounts. Some overreaction clearly took place, but I still wonder whether a demonstration in Berlin with neo-Nazi symbols appealing to recreate the Third Reich would generate the same kind of an outcry as in the case of Moscow and St. Petersburg. Actually, there is no need to wonder; we all know the answer.

Posted by Dimitri Simes at 04/19/2007 12:24:23 PM |

Key Initiative Of 'No Child' Under Federal Investigation

Officials Profited From Reading First Program

By Amit R. Paley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, April 21, 2007; A01

The Justice Department is conducting a probe of a $6 billion reading initiative at the center of President Bush's No Child Left Behind law, another blow to a program besieged by allegations of financial conflicts of interest and cronyism, people familiar with the matter said yesterday.

The disclosure came as a congressional hearing revealed how people implementing the $1 billion-a-year Reading First program made at least $1 million off textbooks and tests toward which the federal government steered states.

"That sounds like a criminal enterprise to me," said Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), chairman of the House education committee, which held a five-hour investigative hearing. "You don't get to override the law," he angrily told a panel of Reading First officials. "But the fact of the matter is that you did."

The Education Department's inspector general, John P. Higgins Jr., said he has made several referrals to the Justice Department about the five-year-old program, which provides grants to improve reading for children in kindergarten through third grade.

Higgins declined to offer more specifics, but Christopher J. Doherty, former director of Reading First, said in an interview that he was questioned by Justice officials in November. The civil division of the U.S. attorney's office for the District, which can bring criminal charges, is reviewing the matter.

Doherty, one of the two Education Department employees who oversaw the initiative, acknowledged yesterday that his wife had worked for a decade as a paid consultant for a reading program, Direct Instruction, that investigators said he improperly tried to force schools to use. He repeatedly failed to disclose the conflict on financial disclosure forms.

"I'm very proud of this program and my role in this program," Doherty said in the interview. "I think it's been implemented in accordance with the law."

The management of Reading First has come under attacks from members of both parties. Federal investigators say program officials improperly forced states to use certain tests and textbooks created by those officials.

One official, Roland H. Good III, said his company made $1.3 million off a reading test, known as DIBELS, that was endorsed by a Reading First evaluation panel he sat on. Good, who owns half the company, Dynamic Measurement Group, told the committee that he donated royalties from the product to the University of Oregon, where he is an associate professor.

Two former University of Oregon researchers on the panel, Edward J. Kame'enui and Deborah C. Simmons, said they received about $150,000 in royalties last year for a program that is now packaged with DIBELS. They testified that they received smaller royalties in previous years for the program, Scott Foresman Early Reading Intervention, and did not know it was being sold with DIBELS.

Members of the panel said they recused themselves from voting on their own products but did assess their competitors. Of 24 tests approved by the committee, seven were tied to members of the panel.

"I regret the perception of conflicts of interest," said Kame'enui, former chairman of the committee, who now works at the department as commissioner of the National Center for Special Education Research. "But there was no real conflict of interest being engaged in."

The intricate financial connections between Reading First products and program officials extend beyond issues the committee explored yesterday.

Another researcher, Sharon Vaughn, worked with Kame'enui, Simmons and Good to design Voyager Universal Literacy, a program that Reading First officials urged states to use. Vaughn was director of a center at the University of Texas that was hired to provide states advice on selecting Reading First tests and books.

The publisher of that product, Voyager Expanded Learning, was founded and run by Randy Best, a major Bush campaign contributor, who sold the company in 2005 for more than $350 million. Now Best runs Higher Ed Holdings, a company that develops colleges of education, where former education secretary Roderick R. Paige is a senior adviser and G. Reid Lyon, Bush's former reading adviser, is an executive vice president.

"I'm very disappointed and saddened by the information that was provided at the hearing today," said Lyon, who had been a strong defender of Reading First, which he said had nothing to do with his new job. "The issues appear much more serious than I had been led to understand."

Despite the controversy surrounding Reading First's management, the percentage of students in the program who are proficient on fluency tests has risen about 15 percent, Education Department officials said. School districts across the country praise the program.

Members of both parties continue to support the goals of Reading First even as they attack its management. Miller and Senate education committee Chairman Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) joined Republicans yesterday in pledging to tighten restrictions on conflicts of interest in No Child Left Behind.

Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, who declined to comment yesterday, has said management problems with Reading First "reflect individual mistakes." But Doherty said nearly every aspect of the program was carefully monitored by the department and the White House, where Spelling was Bush's top education adviser.

"This program was always firmly under the watch and control of the highest levels of the government," Doherty said.

Staff writer Carol D. Leonnig contributed to this report.

Blair's 10-year leadership to end 'within weeks' (May 9th)

Police poised to charge Blair's top adviser
Publisher: Jon Land
Published: 22/04/2007 - 09:06:06 AM

Blair's 10-year reign to end 'within weeks' (Pic: PA)
Blair's 10-year reign to end 'within weeks' (Pic: PA)

Tony Blair's decade at 10 Downing Street marks him out as one of those rare politicians who put their stamp on an era.

But no sooner has that milestone been passed than the Blair era will come to an end, with the Prime Minister's resignation expected within weeks, or even days.

There is almost universal agreement that Mr Blair's successor will be Chancellor Gordon Brown. But the apparent inevitability of this long-awaited transition masks a considerable degree of uncertainty about the era to come.

Will a Brown premiership mark a radical break from the Blair administration? Or will the man who insists he was as much a progenitor as the PM of the New Labour project preside over a period of continuity?

Will Mr Brown embark on a purge of Mr Blair's ministers and policies?

And, perhaps most importantly, how long will the Brown era last?

Conservatives have been busy over the last few years predicting that Brown will swing Labour to the left, ushering in a period of business-unfriendly, bureaucratic centralisation.

But Mr Brown himself has been equally busy sending out signals that he will not be a creature of the left, voicing his support for nuclear power and the renewal of Britain's independent nuclear deterrent as well as loudly trumpeting his patriotism with calls for a Britishness day and pride in the flag.

No-one doubts that Mr Brown is planning to hit the ground running with 100 days of eye-catching policy announcements to match the declaration of independence for the Bank of England he made within days of becoming Chancellor.

Only a few in the Chancellor's inner circle know what those announcements will involve. Speculation revolves around the creation of a written constitution, a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq, NHS independence, scrapping ID cards or a Whitehall shake-up including the abolition of the Department of Trade and Industry.

He is expected to reward key allies with top Cabinet posts, with Alistair Darling tipped to succeed him at the Treasury, promotions for Ed Balls, Douglas Alexander and Ed Miliband and a senior position for his campaign manager Jack Straw.

But it remains to be seen whether he clears out ministers too closely linked with the Blairite past. David Miliband, who has ruled out a challenge for the top job, will almost certainly survive as a signal that Mr Brown wants to lead a "Cabinet of all the talents", but there are doubts over the future of close Blair allies like John Reid or Tessa Jowell.

Mr Brown will also have to decide whether to appoint the victor of the deputy leadership race to be his Deputy Prime Minister.

Although the deputy's contest is seen as a chance for Labour's grassroots and the unions to influence the shape of a Brown premiership, there is no requirement for the winner to become DPM, or indeed for the post to be filled at all.

Left-wing candidate Jon Cruddas has said he does not want the DPM job, and there are others who Mr Brown would probably prefer not to see standing in for him during his holidays. Mr Prescott's old job could even go to Mr Straw if he is not sent to the Treasury or Foreign Office.

Whatever the personnel of his Cabinet, Mr Brown faces an enormously more difficult economic and political climate than Mr Blair did when he arrived at Downing Street on a wave of euphoria in 1997.

He will take office against the backdrop of possible charges in the cash-for-honours inquiry, rising inflation threatening to force up interest rates and no end in sight to the violence in Iraq.

Rather than representing a clean break after years of Tory rule, as Mr Blair did, Mr Brown faces the far more daunting challenge of winning back voters disillusioned by a decade of Labour.

And in place of the deeply unpopular John Major, he will face Tory leader David Cameron buoyed by months of comfortable opinion poll leads - with surveys suggesting the gap in the Conservatives' favour may even widen when Mr Brown takes over.

After one of the longest waits for power ever seen, Mr Brown knows he has his work cut out if he is not to enjoy one of the shortest periods in power in British political history.

Despite some speculation over a snap election in 2008, he will almost certainly wait until 2009 or 2010 to give himself time to turn the polls round and maximise his chances of winning a fourth election victory for Labour.

The actual process by which Mr Brown - or, just conceivably, someone else - becomes Prime Minister has been set out by Labour's ruling National Executive Committee.

Mr Blair's announcement of his resignation - accompanied by that of his deputy John Prescott - will not mean the immediate arrival of removal vans in Downing Street.

The NEC will meet within 72 hours to finalise a timetable for seven-week contests for the leadership and deputy leadership, and would-be candidates will then have a week to file nomination papers bearing the signatures of 12.5% of Labour MPs - 45 names, including their own.

Mr Brown will have no difficulty in clearing the nomination hurdle, but his two declared rivals - left-wing MPs John McDonnell and Michael Meacher - will struggle to do so.

Even if they get onto the ballot paper, neither man will present any threat to the Chancellor's elevation. Indeed, he would probably welcome their candidacy as a chance to demonstrate his mainstream credentials.

The prospects of a challenge from the "Blairite" centre seem to have receded in recent weeks, with Mr Miliband saying he will vote for Brown and problems at the Home Office making a leadership bid by Mr Reid less credible. Long-shot Blairite candidates Charles Clarke and Alan Milburn have not ruled out running in order to ensure the Chancellor is not anointed unopposed.

If the leadership is contested, the winner will have to secure more than 50% of Labour's electoral college, which is divided three ways between 380 MPs and MEPs, 200,000 party members and 3.2 million trade union affiliates.

Even without a rival, the NEC's rules require Mr Brown to attend hustings alongside the deputy leadership candidates before finally taking the crown he has waited a decade for.

But he will not have to face an "affirmative vote" in the absence of a challenger, as some Labour figures demanded.

The new leader - and deputy leader - will be announced at a weekend meeting of representatives of each section of the electoral college, probably in late June or early July.

Candidates so far declared for the deputy leadership are Hilary Benn, Hazel Blears, Jon Cruddas, Peter Hain, Harriet Harman and Alan Johnson.

Copyright Press Association 2007.

Iraq War: It can't be 'won'


For a week or so, the Bush administration had the spin cycle whirring at top speed. Oh, the troop surge is already working. Baghdad is much safer. Americans can walk around freely. Sectarian violence is way down. Iraqis are coming home. Their bloggers are thrilled. Rejoice.

Only ... not so much.

The body count keeps rising. In one day last week, some 200 people were killed in a series of car bomb attacks, after which American and Iraqi forces at the scene of one of the explosions were faced with crowds shouting, "Where is the security plan?" Even their bosses can't answer that question.

The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that even the State Department and the Pentagon can't seem to agree on how to "rebuild" Iraq.

The State Department wants Iraqis to have a more active role in reconstructing the country ("Here -- we broke it, now you fix it,") whereas the Pentagon wants the effort to be controlled by Americans. And we know that that means: Billions of dollars disappearing into the pockets of favored contractors, as reports produced by the Government Accountability Office prove.

So we're losing a war we should have never fought and we can't even figure out how to fix what we ought never to have broken.

Iraqis continue to stream out of the country in record numbers. According to United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, about 50,000 Iraqis leave their country each month and 1.8 million are currently displaced within Iraq. Two million have already sought refuge in nearby countries.

Does that sound like a success to anyone? Not to Iraqis it doesn't, and it seems most Americans are catching on. A recent poll by ABC News and The Washington Post indicated that more than half of us no longer believe that the U.S. can "win" this war, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is among them. The House finally voted 215-199 to uphold legislation ordering troops out of Iraq next year, and out of a war two-thirds of Americans say wasn't worth fighting.

President Bush, who in the same poll has an approval rating of 35 percent, has promised to veto the legislation. And why not? It's not like he worries about public opinion. Last week, he told an Ohio audience that he's "been in politics long enough to know that polls just go 'poof' at times." Where does he think Iraq and its thousands of dead and millions of refugee will go?

"Poof"? Unlikely.

The Heart of Whiteness

Racism, Wealth and IQ


Three items, then a response:

(1) A photo-journalist friend returns from trips to Jordan, Israel and the West Bank, and describes his experiences being graciously received in Arab homes, and his shock at seeing the "separation wall" -- really a separation corral with machine-gun towers surrounding Bethlehem and other towns -- and choke-point checkpoints for Palestinians only (Israeli "settlers" getting four-lane highways), which keep Palestinian family members only 2 miles apart, near Jerusalem, from being able to visit each other for YEARS.

(2) I just finished re-reading "The Heart of Darkness," by Joseph Conrad. This is a story of European colonialism and the ivory trade in Africa, published in 1903. It describes the personal corruption of a careerist tradesman-class European whose ambition reaches its apogee in the "Belgian" Congo (presumably), where he elevates himself to a local god who can exact human sacrifices, in addition to receiving a tribute of ivory; all by the magic of pure violence. The horror Kurtz, our ephemeral white god, recognizes is that to achieve his ambition he has utterly destroyed his own humanity by the very process used for his elevation: the degradation of the Africans he exploits. The "heart of darkness" is the illusion that an emptiness of soul can be released in the bush without hazard to its owner.

(3) "Jewish Genius," an article by Charles Murray, is published by the magazine Commentary. In this essay, Murray, the author of the book "The Bell Curve," on the racial basis of intelligence, "mulls the roots of Jewish brainpower" (1)

* * *

I.Q. is a measure of wealth. The children of gangsters and war criminals (i.e., national politicians, corporate executives, race-favored Americans, Europeans, and others from outposts of Pan-Whiteness, e.g., Israel, Australia, New Zealand) will have higher I.Q. because they have been brought up in material comfort, physical security, and they have experienced the best educational systems in existence. There is no genetic basis for this, but there is certainly a racist one.

Since the days of Columbus, Pan-Whiteness has used technology (primarily explosives) and piracy (now called finance) to steal world resources, and enslave and exterminate "colored" people. "High" I.Q. is merely a developmental indicator of race-based physical plundering by their elders and ancestors in the children of the Race Warriors of the White Supremacy Crusade.

The religious core of capitalism is white supremacy, which is why the nations mentioned are bonded so tightly, and why the U.S. Government will often pursue policies vis-a-vis Israel that logically seem to be at odds with "U.S. interests" (e.g., the pursuit, with U.S. casualties, of war with Iraq and Iran, not just for oil but in Israel's interest). It may be objectively true that a particular policy (e.g., bankrolling Israel's theft of Palestine -- "settlements" -- backing Israel's stonewalling and aggression (e.g., Lebanon) and blocking U.N. and international efforts to settle the Palestinian issue) seems more to Israel's benefit than to "us." But, when viewed through the emotive religious-mythical lens of white supremacy, the apparent inconsistency dissolves.

"We" are defending our brother and sister "white" settlers in "Injun country." Israel, like our military bases and corporate installations around the world, is one of our many Fort Apaches in wild territory, filled with "colored" natives hostile to our manifest destiny to clear them off and "develop" the land. At best, they could work as sub-human machines in our agricultural and mechanized plantations, while being slowly ground down to dust and thence to disappearance behind "Separation Walls" (which actually encircle isolated populations, and so are corrals with machine gun towers -- slow motion Buchenwalds), and Border Fences and Free Trade Agreements.

The core basis of U.S. Government and capitalist policy is the protection of White Supremacy Nationalism and White Supremacy Super-Nationalism, or Empire. This is what we are fighting for. "We", the United States, are the 7th Cavalry, the Crusaders riding to the rescue of Pan-Whiteness around the world. The nature of your life and the degree of your prosperity is determined by the degree of your complicity in this cult. People like Bush and Rove and Cheney, Olmert, Sharon, the Israeli Zionist militarists, and, yes, Hitler was and are not simply motivated by elementary greed, because theft is an act of convenience, a short-cut, a matter of avoiding work. These zealots are tireless, working furiously even to the point of death, because they are motivated by a greed of religiously-inspired magnitude, and this is the compelling vision -- the cult -- of white supremacy.

This is racism at the level of the central nervous system, subconscious and unconscious, a bond that expresses itself in a tribal level of identification, similar to but of deeper power than the Mafia's Sicilian identification and code of 'omerta.' This is what I imagine C. G. Jung would have called the archetype of empire, which "we" -- the high I.Q. children nourished on the legacy of race plunder -- inherited, and which enables us to "feel" the cause and put our adult efforts to its benefit (a transition that can be seamless in its unconsciousness), or to "recognize" (to awaken, to become aware, to experience 'satori') and to choose to fight against. "Whiteness" is not a skin color, it is a frame of mind and a moral choice.

With this understanding, it is easy to see the basis of much Black commentary since Frederick Douglass, and most pointedly from Malcolm X. The argument presented here is no news to readers of Black Agenda Report and similar outlets. It is easy to see Texas and Southern California as Israel USA and Apartheid South Africa; and a city like San Diego as a sizzling Xanadu of triumphalist colonial pleasure, continuing the Whiteness fantasy of Apartheid Johannesburg or Tel Aviv.

There is good money to be made by apologists for White Supremacy Nationalism, by authoring "scholarly" books on the supposed genetic superiority, and hence "god-given" nature of the status quo; and by "colored" commentators singing the praises of their "white" overlords, the overlord ideology and the naturally ordained baseness of their own genetic pools. I, personally, know the costs in career and "earnings potential" that can result from a rejection of work "assignments" ("opportunities") in furtherance of the fundamental cause (the "Prime Directive," if you will). Fortunately for me, self respect is only expensive financially, in every other way it is most bountiful.

It is possible that an expanding awareness of self respect -- even a popular trans-national solidarity based on compassion (Fidel?, Chavez?, Mandela?) -- may ultimately topple the mighty military and financial powers of the White Supremacy Tribe. Until then, we will have to consider civilization an idea as yet unrealized.



Manuel Garcia, Jr. is a physicist, a native of New York, and perhaps a Tralfamadorian. E-mail received at

Specter: Gonzales undermines AG's office

By JOHN HEILPRIN, Associated Press Writer 12 minutes ago

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has hurt the Bush administration and the Justice Department with his poor handling of the firing of eight federal prosecutors, a leading Republican said Sunday.

Sen. Arlen Specter (news, bio, voting record) of Pennsylvania, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Gonzales was certainly undermining himself and his agency's law enforcement efforts.

"The attorney general's testimony was very, very damaging to his own credibility. It has been damaging to the administration," Specter said of Gonzales' appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee this past week. "No doubt, it is bad for the Department of Justice. It is harmful. There has been a very substantial decrease in morale."

But Specter stopped short of adding his name to the growing ranks of lawmakers, both Democrat and Republican, calling on Gonzales to resign.

"I don't challenge anybody else who wants to do it," Specter said. "My own mindset is to leave it up to the attorney general and the president."

Despite the criticism, Gonzales gave no indication Sunday he might soon resign. Gonzales remains focused on guarding against terrorism and keeping kids and communities safe, said Brian Roehrkasse, a spokesman for the department.

"He has acknowledged and apologized for the mistakes that were made during the handling of the recent resignations of the eight U.S. attorneys," Roehrkasse said in a statement Sunday e-mailed to The Associated Press, "and he intends to continue to work closely with the Congress to reassure them that he is taking all appropriate steps to rectify this unfortunate situation."

Gonzales emerged from a bruising committee hearing Thursday in which he was scolded by senators in both parties and had memory problems. He claimed dozens of times he couldn't recall key details about the prosecutors' firings or about a key November meeting that documents show he attended.

"All of America saw why so many of us had felt for so long that he shouldn't be attorney general," said Sen. Charles Schumer (news, bio, voting record), D-N.Y., a Judiciary committee member and one of Gonzales' most vocal critics. "He was not in command of the facts. He contradicted himself. And he doesn't really appreciate the role of attorney general."

Schumer maintained Sunday that Gonzales ought to step down as soon as possible.

Asked whether Gonzales should resign, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (news, bio, voting record), D-Vt., said: "I don't think he can be effective" if he remains in office.

"A lot of those calls are coming from Republicans," Leahy said. "He's lost the confidence of many Democrats and Republicans in the Congress, and many people throughout America."

But some give Gonzales a chance of getting past the flap.

"I think he can survive," said Sen. Sam Brownback (news, bio, voting record), R-Kan., a member of the Judiciary committee and GOP presidential hopeful. Gonzales has "got difficulties, he's got problems," Brownback said. But as long as the attorney general has got President Bush's backing then "it's time to move on" and drop the calls for him to resign, he said.

Republican Sens. John Sununu (news, bio, voting record) of New Hampshire and Tom Coburn (news, bio, voting record) of Oklahoma have called for Gonzales' resignation. Coburn, a Judiciary committee member, told Gonzales on Thursday the firings were "handled incompetently" and he "ought to suffer the consequences."

Sen. Lindsey Graham (news, bio, voting record), R-S.C., also questioned whether Gonzales should stay. "You said something that struck me — that sometimes it just came down to these were not the right people at the right time," Graham told Gonzales at the hearing. "If I applied that standard to you, what would you say?"

Gonzales replied he could still be an effective attorney general.

Another GOP committee member, Sen. Jeff Sessions (news, bio, voting record), R-Ala., said in an interview "it's going to be difficult for him to be an effective leader." Sessions is a former federal prosecutor.

At the White House on Friday, spokeswoman Dana Perino heaped praise on Gonzales. "He has done a fantastic job at the Department of Justice," she said. "He is our No. 1 crime fighter. He has done so much to help keep this country safe from terrorists."

Specter and Schumer spoke on "Fox News Sunday," Leahy was on CBS' "Face the Nation" and Brownback appeared on CNN's "Late Edition.


On the Net:

Senate Judiciary Committee:

Multiple scandals put cloud over Bush administration

Bush administration awash in scandals

By TOM RAUM, Associated Press Writern 1 hour, 8 minutes ago

Campaigning in 2000, Texas Gov. George W. Bush would repeatedly raise his right hand as if taking an oath and vow to "restore honor and integrity" to the White House. He pledged to usher in a new era of bipartisanship.

The dual themes of honesty and bipartisanship struck a chord with many voters and helped propel Bush to the White House in one of the nation's closest-ever elections. Americans re-elected him in 2004 after he characterized himself as best suited to protect a nation at war.

Now, with fewer than two years left of his second term, the Bush administration is embroiled in multiple scandals and ethics investigations. The war in Iraq still rages. Bush's approval ratings are hovering in the mid-30s. And Democratic-Republican relations have seldom been more rancorous.

In the highest-profile current case, even some key Republicans are questioning the truthfulness and judgment of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales in the firing of eight U.S. attorneys. The panel is investigating whether the prosecutors were dumped to make way for more politically obedient successors.

Gonzales is fighting to hold onto his job. So far, two top aides have resigned, one indicating she would invoke her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination if questioned by Congress. E-mails and other evidence released by the Justice Department suggest Bush political adviser Karl Rove played a part in the firings.

Congress is also investigating whether Rove and other Bush political advisers improperly used Republican e-mail accounts to discuss the firings and other official business. The White House concedes the possibility but says much of the e-mail was lost or deleted.

"I don't believe that," asserted Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (news, bio, voting record), D-Vt.. , chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. White House spokeswoman Dana Perino acknowledged that "we screwed up."

The furor over Gonzales and Rove's e-mail practices follow disclosures of shoddy medical treatment of war-injured veterans, FBI abuses of civil liberties, and the conviction of a top White House aide of lying to a grand jury.

What ever happened to restoring honor and dignity?

"From the very beginning, this administration emphasized loyalty over competence. And at some point, that catches up with you," said Paul Light, a professor of public policy at New York University. He said the increase in scandals and investigations also reflects the "natural decay" that happens late in a second presidential term as many experienced people have already left and those remaining start focusing on their financial futures.

Some recent incidents:

• World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz, one of the architects of the Iraq war as deputy defense secretary, acknowledged he erred in helping a female friend he is dating to get transferred to a high-paying job at the State Department while remaining on the World Bank payroll. The revelations fueled calls from the bank's staff association for him to resign.

• Matteo Fontana, a Department of Education official who oversaw the student loan industry, was put on leave after disclosure that he owned at least $100,000 worth of stock in a student loan company.

• Lurita Doan, head of the General Services Administration, attended a luncheon at the agency earlier this year with other top GSA political appointees at which Scott Jennings, a top Rove aide, gave a PowerPoint demonstration on how to help Republican candidates in 2008. A congressional committee is investigating whether the remarks violated a federal law that restricts executive-branch employees from using their positions for political purposes.

• Julie MacDonald, who oversees the Fish and Wildlife Service but has no academic background in biology, overrode recommendations of agency scientists about how to protect endangered species and improperly leaked internal information to private groups, the Interior Department's inspector general said.

Increasing coziness between federal officials and the industries they oversee "is not endemic to any particular administration in Washington," said Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21, which seeks to reduce the role of money in politics. "This has been an ongoing problem for some time now."

Potential conflicts "come into heavier play in the second term of two-term administrations because people who have been there for some time start leaving," said Wertheimer.

Both the House and the Senate, responding to voter frustration with corruption and special interest influence in Washington, have approved ethics and lobbying measures. But they apply only to members of Congress, restricting their gifts and free travel, and not to the executive branch.

Republicans like to emphasize that scandals, some large, most small, happen under Democratic presidents too. But Bush's critics say the number of current ethics allegations is unusually high. And they say evidence is strong of close links between the Bush administration and certain industries such as energy and defense.

For instance, Philip Cooney, a former oil-industry lobbyist who became chief of staff for the White House Council on Environmental Quality, acknowledged to a House committee last month that he edited three government reports to eliminate or downplay links between greenhouse gases and global warming — and defended the changes. He left the government in 2005 to work for Exxon Mobil Corp.

Former Air Force procurement officer Darleen Druyun served nine months in prison in 2005 for violating conflict-of-interest rules after agreeing to lease Boeing refueling tankers for $23 billion, despite Pentagon studies showing the tankers were unnecessary. After making the deal, she quit the government to join Boeing.

Scooter Libby, former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, became the first high-level White House official to be indicted while in office in more than 100 years.

He was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice in a grand jury's investigation of the outing of CIA operative Valierie Plame. The trial also implicated Rove and Cheney in a campaign to discredit her husband, retired diplomat and Iraq war critic Joe Wilson (news, bio, voting record).

Ties between Bush administration officials and convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff also taken its toll in the executive branch, as it has in Congress.

J. Steven Griles, a former oil and gas lobbyist who became deputy interior secretary, last month became the highest-ranking administration official convicted in the Abramoff influence-peddling scandal, pleading guilty to obstructing justice by lying to a Senate committee about his relationship with Abramoff. Abramoff repeatedly sought Griles' intervention at Interior on behalf of Indian tribal clients.

Former White House aide, David H. Safavian, was convicted last year of lying to government investigators about his ties to Abramoff and faces an 180-month prison sentence. Roger Stillwell, a former Interior Department official, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge for not reporting tickets he received from Abramoff.

Not all the administration officials who have left under a cloud have been accused of white-collar misconduct.

Claude Allen, who was Bush's domestic policy adviser, pleaded guilty to theft in making phony returns at discount department stores. He was sentenced last summer to two years of supervised probation and fined $500.


EDITOR'S NOTE — Tom Raum has covered national and international affairs for The Associated Press since 1973.

Pulp Drama and Punditry: Virginia Tech, the Media and Violence

(Ismail X)
Posted April 20th, 2007 by Lila Rajiva

Yesterday, the mainstream media took up the question that we unwashed Vinnies (I hereby proudly adopt Brian Williams’ contemptuous term for unpaid, solo bloggers) have been asking since Day One: What is the responsibility of the authorities (Virginia Tech and the State of Virginia) in this tragic business?

According to some people that question’s off-limits. How can you be so lacking in compassion, someone asked me.

I guess because I am too busy feeling compassion for the poor kids who got blown to bits — and for their families — to waste too much sympathy on guilt-or-angst-or-litigation-induced pangs among bureaucrats. Had Virginia Tech’s bosses been CEO’s, I doubt whether progressives would be so sympathetic. Bottom line is people at the top of organizations are paid a lot of money to take responsibility to see that things like this don’t take place. And so far, I haven’t see anyone stepping down from their posts - which in the old days would have been de rigeur. One would assume that that would be the first act of individuals prone to taking responsibility for their actions.

So, if Williams & Co. are asking a few pointed questions now, more power to them. We hope we are in for some incisive reporting on how psychiatric illness is treated in this country and what went wrong with security at V. Tech.

We wish, meanwhile, that the media had shown such keen interrogative skills when they were swallowing every lie and distortion handed down to them from the government on other matters……like the run-up to the Iraq war or the prolonged cover-up of the government’s torture policies.

Now it remains to be seen whether the rest of the coverage for the V. Tech shooting will be in the time-honored tradition of a respectable fourth estate, which is to confront and question - as vigorously as possible - the pronunciamentos of those in power. Being “nice” is not part of that job description.

Instead, it looks like we are getting more helpings of the usual pulp drama that reigns supreme on the air.

First, we had a focus on the most sensational aspects of the case - not hard to do in an obviously sensational case, filled with ambulances screeching around a lush campus and sex-and-guts-laden manuscripts. Thus, we had NBC’s re-re-replaying of the Cho video that immediately set off - what a surprise - copy-cat threats all over the country. Scores of serial killings and school shootings haven’t taught the networks that that’s what happens when you give too much prime-time air to pathological killers - it brings out all the wannabe’s in the woodwork. I guess they thought airing Cho’s berserker promo was as harmless as parading Sanjaya on American Idol.

Why not just present us with a detailed factual report/analysis of the material instead of flashing the imagery at us? Would that be too..well.. boringly factual?

Then, we had the human drama of it all, wherein seasoned reporters caught hold of traumatized twenty-year olds and ask them such gravitas-laden questions as, How did you feel when you saw your best friend blown to bits? Ah, thank god for the enhanced sensitivity which lets us be outraged, outraged by what some walking-dead tired-old has-been shock-jock says in his morning mumblings, but allows us to close our eyes to public dissections of other people’s pain. Fortunately, there are reports that that line of questioning is going to be turned off for a while.

Next, the whirring sound of axes (pun intended) of all kinds, from Jihad-opia (the manic condition of seeing jihadis everywhere) to Video-phobia and Gun-control-freakery being sharpened up on the news shows, thus Charles Krauthammer on FOX, letting us know that if Cho wasn’t actually a henchman of Osama-bin-what’s-his-name, he’d missed a hell of a chance.

Sound-bytes and sensations.

We can see monstrosity and evil when a psychotic twenty-three year old lashes out in madness and kills thirty-two of us.

Too bad we can’t recognize it when perfectly sane adults calculatedly kill over half-a-million of them.

Cho Seung-hui and the Not So Secret School

(Isamil X, Virginia Tech)
April 19th, 2007 at 5:14 pm

Chold Boy

Cho Seung-hui lost his mind. I think the public deserves to know who stole it from him.

Cho gave us lots of hints, and probably a lot MORE hints remain among the pages not yet published by NBC. And he also left us those photos that have run incessantly behind the talking heads of the news networks. I was watching CNN last night and most of the interviews were done split screen with the images of Cho dwarfing the images of whoever was being interviewed. That gun kept pointing right in my face over and over again. I simply had to stop watching.

And I hate to reprint one of those images here except that someone at Something Awful, a discussion board I know nothing about, noticed the similarity between one of Cho’s images and the poster for OldBoy. Here’s the original:


Alone that doesn’t tell us too much. It’s not that strange that a violence-haunted young South Korean would be attracted to a violent South Korean film. However, I think it’s worth noting that the film is not just about violence and revenge, it is also about mind control and manipulation. The hero of the film is kidnapped by an enemy (not the government) and held in a prison for fifteen years while repeatedly drugged and hypnotized to forget aspects of his life and to be “programmed” to carry out a variety of tasks under the illusion that they are of his own free will.

One can be “programmed” in this way by life itself. Given enough trauma in childhood, whole separate selves can split off and carry out lives that the primary personality isn’t even aware of. I don’t know that Cho had multiple personalities. He could simply have been suffering from schizophrenia. However, I do think it is quite reasonable to assume that Cho had experienced some fairly serious abuse. His writings and statements, disjointed as they are, focus very much on this abuse. For some reason, no one is asking many questions about that. Nor does anyone seem to be asking questions about why Cho’s high school has produced TWO psychotic young adults who went on gun rampages within one year of each other. Last May, Michael Kennedy, a student at Westfield High School in Chantilly, Virginia, went on a shooting rampage at a police station, killing two police officers before being fatally shot himself. Authorities consider this just a “horrible coincidence”. Adding to the coincidence is that Michael’s father, Brian Kennedy, was just recently released from jail in charges related to that killing. In fact, he was due in court the day after the Cho killings.

Kennedy was another troubled loner. He suffered, say news accounts, from delusions and grandiose paranoia. Said one friend:

“He thought he was Jesus. He talked about aliens,” said Brandon Baker, a friend of Kennedy’s since sixth grade. Baker said Kennedy told him he sometimes took medication. “He was talking about how he was superhuman.”

Kennedy had also recently changed his MySpace profile name from Kennedy to “Herr Azriel,” in reference to an angel of destruction.

Just before his killing spree, Kennedy text messaged a friend to say that therapy and medication had not worked for him. The only thing he could think of was an “exorcism.”

What didn’t help things much is that Kennedy’s parents, who knew Michael was mentally ill, kept weapons around the house. A LOT of weapons:

The indictment states that Brian Kennedy illegally possessed 20 firearms, including an AK-47 and several bolt-action and semi-automatic rifles and shotguns. He also owned a large variety of handguns — among them a .38 Special Taurus and a 9 mm Luger Commander semi-automatic pistol.
Weapons were everywhere in the Kennedy home; the inventory list of items seized is 10 pages long. Under the mattress in the master bedroom were a Colt 9 mm handgun with one round in the chamber and a leather sheath containing a 9-inch knife. On the nightstand were a bayonet plus high-velocity ammunition for a Remington, semi-automatic shotgun.
A Smith & Wesson knife was under the left, loveseat cushion in the living room, and both a 12-gauge shotgun and a 22-caliber long rifle stood in the corner of the hallway to the basement. An M80 explosive was tucked inside a kitchen cabinet to the right of the stove, and an Atlanta Sharptec knife was stored in the ceiling above the utility-room door.

And his mom did what any concerned mother might do…she took him to a firing range to practice with his new AK.

Strangely, news accounts calling the two shooter’s connection via Westfield High a “coincidence” suggest that they were not at the school at the same time:

Cho and Kennedy lived in Centreville and graduated from Westfield High School, said Officer Courtney Thibault of the Fairfax County Police Department. She said Cho graduated four years ahead of Kennedy.

I’ve only had one cup of coffee this morning, but help me with this math. Michael Kennedy graduated in 2005 and Cho Seung-hui graduated in 2003. Probably just an oversight.

I’ve seen no evidence that these two knew each other. But I also haven’t seen much evidence that anyone has bothered to check it out.

It gets worse, of course, as these things always do. First, have a look at Cho’s literary efforts. Two very short plays that were so horribly written it does make one wonder how he made it to his senior year at Va Tech. One is called “Mr. Brownstone“. In that play, three young people at a casino complain that they can’t find anywhere safe from “Mr. Brownstone.” That name is used by band Guns-n-Roses to mean heroin, but in this case it is a math teacher who has “ass-raped probably half the kids in the school.” That, after all, says one character, is “what high school teachers do.”

When Brownstone does show up, one character asks: “I feel a satanic presence around me. Do you guys feel it?” They then sing much of the Guns -’n-Roses song. Then the main character John wins at the slot machine only to have his winnings taken by Brownstone.

In Richard McBeef, the abuser is this time “John’s” stepfather. In this play, John is only 13. While having a talk with John, Richard puts his hand on the boy’s lap and John explodes, calling him a pedophile and a “Catholic priest.” He then claims that this step-father had murdered his real father and covered it up like “the government has done to John Lennon and Marilyn Monroe.”

Really all I have done here is show that two troubled young adults came out of the same school. But what a school. Westfield High School happens to be in the second richest county in the country. In fact, the median income is over $94,000 per year. And a lot of that cash is coming from defense contractors…with a large subset of THAT being from companies who outsource for the CIA and other intelligence agencies. You may be familiar with “Booz Allen Hamilton” who is called in this article a “huge supplier of intelligence contracting.” They were a primary contractor for the officially defunct “Total Information Awareness Program” as well. Another contractor of interest to readers of this blog who is a big employer in Fairfax is Science Applications International Corporation. These are the folks who took over the remote viewing program, with help from our old friend Jolly West (from Jim Schnabel’s Remote Viewers: The Secret History of America’s Psychic Spies. For more on West, you can check out this previous post.

Now, West died in 1999 and I have no idea if he ever even visited the Virginia branch of SAIC. I am merely giving you a sense of the flavor of the dark world of intel and defense contractors in which both Cho and Kennedy, were raised.

A final intelligence contractor of interest here is Northrup Grumman’s Intelligence Group. Not only does Northrup Grumman have a presence in Fairfax, they in fact have a “business partnership” with Cho’s alma mater, Westfield High. As you can see from that last wiki link, the school has a very high level of academic achievement, including even an Aerospace Science program. So it makes sense that a military and intelligence contractor would “partner” with them in order to help steer students into helpful directions and perhaps engage in outright recruitment. Perhaps this is how Cho’s sister ended up working for McNeil Technologies, another contractor who also has an intelligence division which provides services for clients including Northrup Grumman. She now is working on the “reconstruction” of Iraq in some unnamed capacity.

This is the world Cho grew up in. None of this proves anything about why, ultimately, Cho did what he did. He and Kennedy were both outsiders, as far as I can tell, even though Cho’s sister made it to Princeton and into a defense contractor herself. But here, with overt ties to an intelligence contractor and in the very heart of the military industrial complex, we have a not-so-secret school which has now produced two young men haunted by demons that only mass murder will quiet. With rumors of Satanism (Kennedy) and sexual abuse of children (Cho) and the uncomfortable recognition of both of these themes within that same military/intel complex, it’s time to have a longer look at these latest lone gunmen.

(Note, this is a draft. I do not have time to revise or edit until later but I wanted to put this up now. Comments on typos or inaccuracies are welcome.)

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