Saturday, September 04, 2004

EU sues Britain over failure to clean up nuclear waste

By Stephen Castle in Brussels
04 September 2004
The Independent

The Government is facing unprecedented legal action over the Sellafield nuclear plant in Cumbria after a decision by the European Commission to take Britain to court over its failure to clean up more than a ton of dangerous radioactive waste.

There has been international friction for years over the handling of a tank containing plutonium and uranium, some of which dates from the 1950s. Under the Euratom Treaty, signed by the UK, the commission has the power to order governments to document and dispose of radioactive waste. But yesterday's decision to take Britain to the European Court of Justice is the first of its kind, and the Government disputes the legal basis for the decision.

The row centres on the storage of waste plutonium and uranium, kept underwater in reinforced concrete ponds known as B30. These were built in 1959 to store uranium fuel rods used in military and civil reactors. The material accumulated over decades and was never properly documented.

The fuel is under water to keep it cool and to shield workers from radiation, and the ponds are thought to contain 1.3 tons of plutonium. So dangerous is the site that staff are said to be restricted to an hour's work a day near it, and inspectors have been unable to examine the material because of the conditions.

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nuclear fool


Johann Hari meets both Americas

Republican party animals

The fanatical followers of George Bush marched into Manhattan, the liberal heart of America, last week. Johann Hari went along to watch a surreal political show

04 September 2004

The 2004 US presidential election has already been won. And the winner? It is a cliché. No article about this election will be written without a mention of the victorious phrase "Two Americas". You know the script by now: the US has settled into two polarised cultural blocks - one conservative, the other liberal - and they can only gape at each other in mutual incomprehension. Long after we have forgotten Bush and Kerry, we will remember the Two Americas; this week, on the tiny island of Manhattan, the cliché grew legs and walked.

The most fanatical battalions of Republican America marched noisily into the heartland of the enemy, New York City, the most liberal place on earth. This is the story of what happened next; of the week Manhattan, never the most normal of places, turned into a surreal political dreamscape, populated almost exclusively by howling police cars, howling Republicans, howling protesters, and people who seemed to be howling just for the hell of it.

For me, it all begins with a sign last Saturday afternoon. I am wandering around mid-town trying to find the start of the first big anti-Bush march when I spot a skinny, snarling woman who is carrying a large painted banner. It says, "If Bush wins the election this time, does Al Gore get to be President?" I ask her where we are supposed to head for the protests. "What protests?" she snaps back. I nod towards her placard and ask where she's going with it. "Oh, this? I carry it everywhere," she says. I laugh. She does not.

Within minutes, I am wading into the sea of signs that fill the Manhattan streets in an explosion of democracy. Many of them focus, predictably, on Iraq: "Smart bombs ain't smarter than me. Bush lied!", and, "Iraq is Arabic for Vietnam". But there are as many protesting about climate change: "Burn the Bush, Not the Trees", and, "End Environmental Terrorism".

I am wandering past Macey's when It Begins. The Two Americas begin to collide. Small and bloated and red, Rubin Israel, a 43-year old businessman from the South, is surrounded by a sweaty posse of NYPD officers. His banner says, "Trust in Jesus Christ and President Bush - 2 Chron 7.14". I asked him what that passage of the Bible actually says, "Thou Shalt Not Vote Kerry"? "Yeah, somethin' like that," he says with a shrug.

As Israel explains the contorted and not entirely comprehensible story of how he was "born again", a crowd of protesters surrounds us. They begin to chant: "Who would Jesus bomb? Who would Jesus bomb?" He yells back: "You've hated the Bible all your lives, sodomites!" Still, they chant: "Who would Jesus bomb?" (Try it, it's catchy). Israel thinks for a second, lifts his microphone and says: "Iran. Jesus would probably bomb Iran."

A few blocks away, I notice a quiet woman holding a banner. It shows a picture of a good-looking, smiling young man - my first smile of the day - in army uniform. Below, in small letters, it says, "President Bush Killed My Son. Lt. Seth Dvorin, February 3rd, 2004". Journalists are swarming around her, and she is doing the best she can to offer up her son's life in neat soundbites for the evening news. I don't have the heart to wring it out of her for the 10th time today; later, I spot her leaning empty-eyed against a wall, cradling her banner like a baby.

At the end of the march, the protesters stream - in true American style - into McDonald's and Starbuck's on Union Square. I look at the leaflets I've been handed, and there isn't a political ideology on earth unrepresented here: there are socialists, anarchists, libertarians, anti-Bush conservatives, Maoists, Islamic fundamentalists and, oddly, foot fetishists. I can find these guys in London every day of the week; I realise it's the Republicans I need to hunt down and understand.

You might think that getting to know Republicans would be easy at a Republican convention: there are 50,000 of them in town. But, since an embarrassing incident at the 1996 convention - when former vice-president Dan Quayle was greeted on live television by a meeting of 200 people speaking in tongues - pretty much all their meetings have been closed to journalists. I turn up at three fringe events waving my press pass, and I am turned away by glossy blonde women who are polite and totally hateful.

So I resolve that I will foil the United States Secret Service and force my way into the secret enclaves of the Republican Party. Terrifyingly, I succeed with hardly any effort. I discover Karl Rove, the President's most trusted adviser, is to speak to the college Republicans in a Bryant Park restaurant. With no expectation of success, cunningly I try the back door marked Staff Only. It opens and I'm in, standing in a mesh of cables and cameras. I stride past them confidently. I look out over a room full of jocks with effortlessly happy expressions and empty minds.

The most animated ones are wearing fogeyish clothes: bow-ties and blazers. I approach the most handsome and ask him why he is a Republican. "Uh, because I believe in freedom. I like Bush. He's strong." These three sentences take him several minutes. I ask around; he's typical. I ask them what books have influenced their political thought. They look at me as though I am insane.

Full Story

Oxygen Thief



OXYGEN THIEF is an Australian term for someone who is a waste of the air they are breathing, but it applies to Bush on so many more levels than that.

(Bush by Numbers reprise)
Environmentalist

$44m Amount the Bush-Cheney 2000 campaign and the Republican National Committee received in contributions from the fossil fuel, chemical, timber, and mining industries.

200 Number of regulation rollbacks downgrading or weakening environmental laws in Bush's first three years in office.

31 Number of Bush administration appointees who are alumni of the energy industry (includes four cabinet secretaries, the six most powerful White House officials, and more than 20 other high-level appointees).

50 Approximate number of policy changes and regulation rollbacks injurious to the environment that have been announced by the Bush administration on Fridays after 5pm, a time that makes it all but impossible for news organisations to relay the information to the widest possible audience.

50 Percentage decline in Environmental Protection Agency enforcement actions against polluters under Bush's watch.

34 Percentage decline in criminal penalties for environmental crimes since Bush took office.

50 Percentage decline in civil penalties for environmental crimes since Bush took office.

$6.1m Amount the EPA historically valued each human life when conducting economic analyses of proposed regulations.

$3.7m Amount the EPA valued each human life when conducting analyses of proposed regulations during the Bush administration.

0 Number of times Bush mentioned global warming, clean air, clean water, pollution or environment in his 2004 State of the Union speech. His father was the last president to go through an entire State of the Union address without mentioning the environment.

1 Number of paragraphs devoted to global warming in the EPA's 600-page "Draft Report on the Environment" presented in 2003.

68 Number of days after taking office that Bush decided Not to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, the international treaty to reduce greenhouse gases by roughly 5.2 per cent below 1990 levels by 2012. The United States was to cut its level by 7 per cent.

1 The rank of the United States worldwide in terms of greenhouse gas emissions.

25 Percentage of overall worldwide carbon dioxide emissions the United States is responsible for.

53 Number of days after taking office that Bush reneged on his campaign promise to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from power plants.

14 Percentage carbon dioxide emissions will increase over the next 10 years under Bush's own global-warming plan (an increase of 30 per cent above their 1990 levels).

408 Number of species that could be extinct by 2050 if the global-warming trend continues.

5 Number of years the Bush administration said in 2003 that global warming must be further studied before substantive action could be taken.

62 Number of members of Cheney's 63-person Energy Task Force with ties to corporate energy interests.

0 Number of environmentalists asked to attend Cheney's Energy Task Force meetings.

6 Number of months before 11 September that Cheney's Energy Task Force investigated Iraq's oil reserves.

2 Percentage of the world's population that is British.

2 Percentage of the world's oil used by Britain.

5 Percentage of the world's population that is American.

25 Percentage of the world's oil used by America.

63 Percentage of oil the United States imported in 2003, a record high.

24,000 Estimated number of premature deaths that will occur under Bush's Clear Skies initiative.

300 Number of Clean Water Act violations by the mountaintop-mining industry in 2003.

750,000 Tons of toxic waste the US military, the world's biggest polluter, generates around the world each Year.

$3.8bn Amount in the Superfund trust fund for toxic site clean-ups in 1995, the Year "polluter pays" fees expired.

$0m Amount of uncommitted dollars in the Superfund trust fund for toxic site clean-ups in 2003.

270 Estimated number of court decisions citing federal Negligence in endangered-species protection that remained unheeded during the first year of the Bush administration.

100 Percentage of those decisions that Bush then decided to allow the government to ignore indefinitely.

68.4 Average Number of species added to the Endangered and Threatened Species list each year between 1991 and 2000.

0 Number of endangered species voluntarily added by the Bush administration since taking office.

50 Percentage of screened workers at Ground Zero who now suffer from long-term health problems, almost half of whom don't have health insurance.

78 Percentage of workers at Ground Zero who now suffer from lung ailments.

88 Percentage of workers at Ground Zero who Now suffer from ear, nose, or throat problems.

22 Asbestos levels at Ground Zero were 22 times higher than the levels in Libby, Montana, where the W R Grace mine produced one of the worst Superfund disasters in US history.


Letters from the Troops

Operation Truth describe themselves as a "non-profit, non-partisan organization that seeks to educate the American public about the truth of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan from the perspective of the soldiers who have experienced them first-hand. "

Here are some extracts from the troops' letters featured on the website

Captain David Chasteen
I will do everything I can to wrench power from the neohawks, fundies, and morons currently at the reiqns, and return it to someone who has a little intelligence and respect for, well, the idea of not invading people at random just because you're in the mood and the polling supports it. Imagine if we spent the 20 Billion dollars we spent on this war trying to actually make things better for the starving, dirty, pissed-off people who seem enamored with the idea of sending us all to hell. Imagine if we sent real live Americens to do it in person. Actually backing up the promises the President made during the previous state of the union might be a good place to start...

...I ended up being part of an invasion force that I don't support politically but am duty-bound to support in reality. The thing that bothers me about the glory that comes from this job is that Americans, almost universally apply it without any caveats. Very few people, mostly soldiers and the people very close to them realize that war itself is not a noble thing. That the soldiers coming back from this war should be praised, but not for the things that most Americans think they should be praised for. I am not happy about this war. I am not glad to be here. I am not glad that I risked my life for something as stupid as this. But I did take an oath to follow the orders of the president and a lot of parents were counting on me to get their kids home safe, and I did that. And I did risk my life to serve my country which is more than just about any of the congressmen and the president who sent me here can say...

Specialist Zach Petersen
...as far as general lack of support, our unit really didn't have much support from the active duty component. We had to drive out to their compound at the Iraqi Olympic stadium to STEAL -- not receive -- our bottled water. Our body armor was just a flack vest...

A soldier with a blog
..I spoke with an Army Captain the other day who was telling me that the Global Security civilian Contractors who work here in Iraq with us are referred to as: "Black Death" by the locals downtown

Quartermaster
Some new soldiers were sent to the unit that did not recieve the new interceptor vest at Ft. Stewart and I could not get them one in Kuwait, but they were outfited with them despite this fact. Some members of my unit that wouldn't be on the front line, including me gave them ours. I realy didn't want to give up my protection, but it was my job to outfit my company for war and if a soldier died because I didn't do my job I couldn't live with myself. I wish our leaders in government felt the same as I do.

I remember the night that the 2nd Brigade entered Iraq. A group of us were gathered around talking. The sky was suddenly filled with lightening. It was our artilery firing on Iraqi border positions. My xo somberly said, "Iraqi's are dying." I was very sad. We were later told that our group would be crossing over in the morning. I prayed very hard that night. I didn't pray for myself. I think praying for ones self is selfish. I prayed for the Iraqi people and for the Iraqi soldiers. I knew what was coming at them. I had built some of it. I prayed that they would run away and not fight. I knew if they did they would die.

Murph
My one year ‘boots on the ground’ came to an end in May. In Kuwait and just days from flying home, Secretary Rumsfeld reneged on his one-year promise and extended my unit’s tour by three months. We headed back to Iraq. Our new mission was to guard Halliburton truck drivers, civilian contractors who made three and four times my $20,000 salary.

I wondered what on earth civilian truck drivers were doing in a combat zone. Riding with Halliburton on long convoys, we faced roadside bombs, rocket-propelled grenades and small arms fire to protect these high-paid contractors.

Finally, we were sent home in August. I enlisted in the Army Reserve following September 11, 2001, one of the hardest and best decisions I have made in my life. I love the United States, the Army and my unit. Out of this deep love ask that we as Americans take a long look in the mirror. We must ask ourselves who we are and what we stand for. We as a nation must face the monster we have created in Iraq sooner rather than later. We must find a way out of the mess in Iraq with minimal loss of American and Iraqi life. We owe it to the soldiers on the ground and the embattled Iraqi people.

Loan Sharks Target Military Families

Clustered around military bases, stores advertising “quick loans” and “check cashing” do a lot of business with members of the military. But their high-interest loans, often taken in moments of family crisis, can lead to a spiraling debt for our troops. Some of these companies rely on misleading advertising and deceptive practices, but they all are profiting from young servicemembers’ inexperience and from the economic hardships that currently face many people in the armed services.

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It took this long to figure this out??

U.S. Changes Arrest Techniques in Iraq
Saturday September 4, 2004 2:01 AM
By JIM KRANE
Associated Press Writer

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - The U.S. military is avoiding once-common arrest techniques like bagging suspects' heads, the U.S. commander in charge of the Iraqi capital said, because such actions are considered humiliating by Iraqis and pushing new recruits into the insurgency.
``You've got to see it from a force protection standpoint: You're making more enemies,'' U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Peter Chiarelli told The Associated Press. ``When we mistreat one person I've got a net increase of nine enemies.''

Soldiers are told to avoid handcuffing or blindfolding suspects - often done by placing a cloth sack over a suspect's head - in front of their families, said Chiarelli, who commands the Texas-based 1st Cavalry Division, which controls security in Baghdad.

The Army's 1st Infantry Division, which guards a swath of the Sunni Arab homeland north of Baghdad, started a similar ``dignity and respect'' initiative in April. Its commander, Maj. Gen. John Batiste, asked soldiers to be more courteous at traffic checkpoints and to stop putting bags over detainees' heads, division spokesman Maj. Neal O'Brien said.

Especially insulting is the practice of subduing Iraqi men by stepping on them.

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About last night: RNC Francophobia embarrasses Houghton

Seven French parliamentary representatives, members of the French-American Friendship Caucus were invited to attend the RNC where they were insulted (in quick succession) by both Zell Miller and Dick Cheney's speeches.

This made for an embarrassing breakfast next day for Amo Houghton who created the congressional organisation to provide some measure of damage control after the invasion of Iraq- much to the chagrin of the republican right. I doubt that witnessing the hate-fest helped further that goal.

Houghton asked the French group to try to keep the rhetoric of the speeches in perspective, (approximate translation with my very shaky grip on the French language-) "these speeches are the meat one throws the primitives, the people in the conference room are the party extremists"

Moderate Republican Amo Houghton is retiring this year aged 78, having seen the party swing way too far to the right for his comfort.

Le Figaro considers these and other insults.

Une délégation de l'UMP reçue à New York

Les embarras du lobby profrançais

New York : Guillemette Faure [03 septembre 2004]

Il y a des matins pas faciles. Hier matin, Amo Houghton, représentant républicain président du groupe de rapprochement franco-américain au Congrès, recevait une délégation de parlementaires français pour un petit déjeuner. Les sept députés de l'UMP étaient venus assister à la convention du Parti républicain.

Or, la veille au soir, Zell Miller, un des orateurs stars de la soirée républicaine, un démocrate qui venait de tourner sa veste en décidant d'endosser la candidature de George Bush, faisait copieusement huer John Kerry en déclarant que s'il était élu, le candidat démocrate «laisserait Paris décider quand l'Amérique a besoin de se défendre». [let Paris decide when America needs defending] Après lui, le vice-président Dick Cheney a répété l'attaque, mentionnant cette fois la France dans un style plus indirect : «Le sénateur Kerry dénonce l'action américaine quand d'autres pays la désapprouvent, comme si tout l'objet de notre politique étrangère était de plaire à quelques critiques obstinés.» [Senator Kerry denounces American action when other countries don't approve as if the whole object of our foreign policy were to please a few persistent critics]

Un «French Caucus» au Congrès ? Amo Houghton n'avait «jamais pensé que ce soit nécessaire» avant de recevoir la visite de Jean-David Levitte, l'ambassadeur de France à Washington, qui l'a convaincu de travailler à ce rabibochage pour calmer les effets du différend sur l'Irak. A 78 ans, à son neuvième et probablement dernier mandat de représentant au Congrès de l'Etat de New York, l'homme ne craint pas d'être sanctionné en s'affichant avec des Français (un adversaire politique l'a quand même accusé dans un journal local d'avoir «du mal à comprendre qui sont nos vrais alliés»). Il a rallié tout un groupe de représentants et de sénateurs, démocrates comme républicains.

Tous les membres du «French Caucus» ne sont pas des militants actifs du rapprochement. Ainsi, au début du mois, Gordon Smith, sénateur d'Oregon, était le dernier républicain à brocarder les attaches françaises présumées du candidat démocrate. «Ce n'est pas la faute de John Kerry s'il ressemble à un Français, mais c'est sa faute s'il veut mener des politiques qui nous feraient nous conduire comme des Français, déclarait-il à la presse. Il défend toutes sortes de socialismes sur un plan intérieur et l'apaisement à l'extérieur, ce qui se traduira par de la faiblesse à l'avenir.» ["It's not John Kerry's fault that he looks French but it is his fault that he wants to pursue policies that have us act like the French. He advocates all kinds of additional socialism at home, appeasement abroad, and what that means is weakness for the future."] Effectivement, il fait partie du groupe d'amitié, admet Amo Houghton, «mais Bob Ney aussi».

Celui-là, représentant d'Ohio, avait fait parler de lui en proposant de débaptiser les «French fries» (les frites françaises) de la cafétéria du Congrès pour les rebaptiser «freedom fries» (frites de la liberté).

Alors hier matin, face à ces invités français, Amo Houghton, un peu désolé, décode les propos de la veille et le fonctionnement de la convention. «Je vous demande de mettre ces mots en perspective, dit-il à propos «des monologues» de la Convention. Ces discours, c'est de la viande qu'on jette aux fauves, explique-t-il. Les gens qui sont dans la salle sont les plus extrêmes du parti.»-

Friday, September 03, 2004

Zell wipes the lipstick off the pig

Despite the very low expectations the International community have of the Bush regime, Zell Miller’s bizarre, hate-filled rantings have staggered commentators the world over. His tirade was so stunningly offensive to Kerry, the Democrats, Europe, the UN and Iraq, his lies so transparent, that even the notoriously apathetic American media felt obliged to react.

After the speech his incoherent rage when CNN dared to question even a couple of his lies, and his embarrassingly crazy challenging of Chris Matthews to a duel have led some to ponder if he may be in the early stages of alzheimers.

Salon.com describes the events:

Maybe Zell Miller was just strung too tight following his wild-eyed attack on John Kerry Wednesday night. But following his prime-time convention address, he made the rounds on the cable TV circuit and stole the show -- and not in a good way. Miller's speech was so over-the-top (he essentially questioned Kerry's loyalty to America), it prompted mild-mannered talking head David Gergen to compare Miller to racist demagogue Lester Maddox, while Time's Joe Klein had to pick his jaw up off the ground before he could analyze it. But Miller's post-speech cable performance was even more jaw-dropping, as he first badly fumbled questions from CNN anchors, then lost it with "Hardball's" Chris Matthews, repeatedly challenging the MSNBC host to a duel and telling him to "shut up."

On CNN, he came under respectful but close questioning from Wolf Blitzer, Judy Woodruff and Jeff Greenfield, who pressed the wayward Democrat about why he mocked Kerry for using the phrase "occupiers" when describing U.S. troops in Iraq (Miller prefers "liberators"), when President Bush has himself used the same phrase for the same U.S. troops. Miller clearly had no idea that was the case and passed on giving a response. He was also asked why just three years ago he had introduced Kerry in Georgia as an American hero who had worked hard for our nation's security (the speech is still up on Miller's Web site). Miller suggested he was new to the Senate at the time and basically didn't know what he was talking about.

And about those weapons system votes that Miller criticized Kerry for making over a decade ago -- wasn't it true that while as secretary of defense Dick Cheney raised similar doubts about those very same systems? Miller said he'd let Cheney answer that himself. Finally, Blitzer asked Miller why he looked so angry during his speech, and couldn't that hurt the cause he was pushing? Miller, who in fact looked like he was suffering from flashback Atlanta road rage at the podium periodically, said he was sorry if he came across as angry because he didn't mean to.

But that was just the warm-up. Next it was over to Chris Matthews' "Hardball" on MSNBC where Miller, perhaps still bruised by his wobbly CNN showing, just plain lost it. Actually, Miller appeared from Madison Square Garden, while "Hardball's" set was over in Herald Square. And when Miller was announced he was greeted with a chorus of "boos" by the crowd of local Democrats assembled behind the "Hardball" taping area. Things went downhill for Miller from there.

Matthews asked Miller to defend his speech, and particularly his allegations that John Kerry voted "against" various defense appropriations. (As both Matthews and Miller know, voting against a large appropriations bill doesn't necessarily mean that you disapprove of every part of the bill). Miller got progressively angrier as Matthews persisted in holding him to his statement, telling Matthews several times that he wished he was in the studio so he could "get up in your face."

As Miller steamed, Matthews asked him if he thought that he was helping the political discourse in the country, and then, whether he even thought he was helping the Republicans by what he was saying. At that point Miller's meltdown peaked. He started waving his arms around, demanding Matthews "shut up" and let him answer the question. Miller then lapsed into a dialogue with himself wondering, "I don't know why I even came on this program," before returning to Matthews and announcing he wished they lived in a previous era because he would have "challenged you to a duel."

Thursday morning, Miller may deny he was serious when he said all of that, but the semi-deranged expression on his face at that moment suggested he'd truly lost control. Matthews, slightly embarrassed by the whole thing, laughed off Miller's left-field explosion, and invited him back tonight in person for a "more civil discussion." More important, Matthews insisted the show would get great ratings because everybody would be waiting to see if Miller was going to "beat me up."


For myself, I have never seen anything like this outside of secretly filmed excerpts of British National Party meetings or Hitler's rallies. but this is, of course an extremist fascist group too.

This obscene orgy of hatred contrasts very starkly indeed with the Democratic National Convention’s feel-good focus on hope, unity and the future.

The degree of Republican delusion and hatred of the global community is hideous to behold and frightening in its ramifications. Given that America represents 4% of the world population, these people represent at best, 2% and yet all of our destinies are threatened by their self-serving greed, hostility and willful ignorance.

Here are some reactions from around the web and the world.

Rupert Cornwell in The Independent:

…Today "Kerry would let Paris decide when America needs defending." Such barbs are common currency, said with a smile and played for laughs. But Mr Miller - who still professes to be a Democrat, as he was when 12 years earlier he delivered the main speech for Bill Clinton at the Democratic convention in the same Madison Square Garden arena - was deadly serious. Not once did he smile. His address came across as a malevolent cocktail of bitterness, anger, and score-settling.

Referring to a recent speech by Mr Kerry, the 72-year-old Georgia senator declared that "nothing makes this old Marine madder than when he hears American troops described as 'occupiers,' rather than liberators." Hardboiled cable pundits were flabbergasted by the performance. One likened Mr Miller to Lester Maddox, Georgia's former racist demagogue governor. Joe Klein, Time magazine columnist, author of Primary Colors and a man rarely lost for words, was initially speechless when asked for his reaction.

The nearest comparison at recent conventions was the "religious war" tirade of the populist Pat Buchanan at the 1992 Republican convention, widely believed to have scared off independent voters and thus to have contributed to the defeat of George Bush Snr that year. But that was a generic assault against liberals. Mr Miller's was a vitriolic ad hominem attack. The question is, will his rabid assault have a similar effect?

Sidney Blumenthal in The Guardian

The belligerence of the Republican convention's keynote speaker was so overpowering it easily obscured the monochromatic performance of Dick Cheney. Senator Zell Miller of Georgia did not vary his grim expression or his shouting like a backwoods preacher casting out the devil…

…Miller's oration, extraordinary in its hostility was hardly pitched to win over undecided voters, mostly women. It reflected more than a Republican base strategy calculated for maximum partisan motivation. Miller's skewed history of the United States was intended to taint political debate itself as subversive. But it was Theodore Roosevelt who said: "To announce that...we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public."

John Shields for the BBC

Mr Kerry's respect for the United Nations was derided with loud boos, as was Senator Miller's claim that "Kerry would let Paris decide when America needs defending".

Short of firing up the party base, the impact of Mr Miller's attacks is likely to be limited.
His political acrobatics have earned him the nickname Zig Zag Zell among Georgia Democrats.
The speech marks the finale of his political career. He is not seeking re-election to the Senate in November.


Both message and messenger compare poorly with the keynote address at the Democratic convention - an appeal for national unity from the party's rising young African-American star Barack Obama.

Jonathan Cohn in The New Republic

It was one of the most vile political speeches in recent American history, every bit as offensive as Pat Buchanan's infamous call in 1992 for "religious war" and, perhaps, a little more disturbing. Buchanan's speech, after all, was an assault on decency. Last night Miller declared war on democracy.

Matthew Yglesias

Watching that speech from inside the hall, I was genuinely afraid at one or two points. The audience was so enthused by his frankly fascistic remarks that at any moment I thought the distinguished Senator might point up and say "see, there, right there is one of these unpatriotic liberal journalists busy abusing the freedoms our soldiers fight to protect -- he must be destroyed for the safety of the Republican" and that Matt Welch and I would need to fend for our lives against the onrushing hordes.

Of course it didn't quite come to that, but I don't believe I've ever heard a more disgusting speech delivered in the English language. The fact that I couldn't see a single person on the floor who seemed to feel anything less than the utmost enthusiasm for that lunacy was, well, a bit disturbing.

Even the Bush administration are now trying to distance themselves from Miller’s tirade, despite the obvious irony of the fact that they read and approved it before hand. MSNBC reports

…The Bush campaign stepped backed from Miller’s comments Thursday after it was received with almost immediate criticism, including complaints from prominent Republicans like Sen. John McCain of Arizona…

…Late Thursday, Miller and his wife were removed from the list of dignitaries who would be sitting in the first family’s box during the president’s acceptance speech later in the evening. Scott Stanzel, a spokesman for the Bush campaign, said Miller was not in the box because the campaign had scheduled him to do too many television interviews.

There was no explanation, however, for why Miller would be giving multiple interviews during Bush’s acceptance speech, or what channels would snub the president in favor of Miller. Nor was it made clear why Miller’s wife also was not allowed to take her place in the president’s box 24 hours after his deeply personal denunciation of his own party’s nominee.

Despite republican attempts to ‘put lipstick on the pig’ by presenting a moderate façade at their conference Miller gave the game away by presenting the true, ugly face of the republican party. Reports of the audience’s rapturous reception confirm all suspicions that this sector of American society is not the least bit interested in being a democracy.

The concept of an America that represents freedom and equality may be gone forever, teetering on the brink of being replaced by a theocratic dictatorship that brooks no opposition or dissent.

Paul Krugman sums up these fears nicely:

...There was plenty of hatred in Manhattan, but it was inside, not outside, Madison Square Garden.

Barack Obama, who gave the Democratic keynote address, delivered a message of uplift and hope. Zell Miller, who gave the Republican keynote, declared that political opposition is treason: "Now, at the same time young Americans are dying in the sands of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan, our nation is being torn apart and made weaker because of the Democrats' manic obsession to bring down our commander in chief." And the crowd roared its approval.

Why are the Republicans so angry? One reason is that they have nothing positive to run on (during the first three days, Mr. Bush was mentioned far less often than John Kerry).
The promised economic boom hasn't materialized, Iraq is a bloody quagmire, and Osama bin Laden has gone from "dead or alive" to he-who-must-not-be-named.


Another reason, I'm sure, is a guilty conscience. At some level the people at that convention know that their designated hero is a man who never in his life took a risk or made a sacrifice for his country, and that they are impugning the patriotism of men who have.

That's why Band-Aids with Purple Hearts on them, mocking Mr. Kerry's war wounds and medals, have been such a hit with conventioneers, and why senior politicians are attracted to wild conspiracy theories about Mr. Soros.

It's also why Mr. Hastert, who knows how little the Bush administration has done to protect New York and help it rebuild, has accused the city of an "unseemly scramble" for cash after 9/11. Nothing makes you hate people as much as knowing in your heart that you are in the wrong and they are in the right.

But the vitriol also reflects the fact that many of the people at that convention, for all their flag-waving, hate America. They want a controlled, monolithic society; they fear and loathe our nation's freedom, diversity and complexity.

The convention opened with an invocation by Sheri Dew, a Mormon publisher and activist. Early rumors were that the invocation would be given by Jerry Falwell, who suggested just after 9/11 that the attack was God's punishment for the activities of the A.C.L.U. and People for the American Way, among others. But Ms. Dew is no more moderate: earlier this year she likened opposition to gay marriage to opposition to Hitler.

The party made sure to put social moderates like Rudy Giuliani in front of the cameras. But in private events, the story was different. For example, Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas told Republicans that we are in a "culture war" and urged a reduction in the separation of church and state.

Mr. Bush, it's now clear, intends to run a campaign based on fear. And for me, at least, it's working: thinking about what these people will do if they solidify their grip on power makes me very, very afraid.






Bush by Numbers: Read This!!

Bush by numbers: Four years of double standards
By Graydon Carter
03 September 2004

The Independent

1 Number of Bush administration public statements on National security issued between 20 January 2001 and 10 September 2001 that mentioned al-Qa'ida.

104 Number of Bush administration public statements on National security and defence in the same period that mentioned Iraq or Saddam Hussein.

101 Number of Bush administration public statements on National security and defence in the same period that mentioned missile defence.

65 Number of Bush administration public statements on National security and defence in the same period that mentioned weapons of mass destruction.

0 Number of times Bush mentioned Osama bin Laden in his three State of the Union addresses.

73 Number of times that Bush mentioned terrorism or terrorists in his three State of the Union addresses.

83 Number of times Bush mentioned Saddam, Iraq, or regime (as in change) in his three State of the Union addresses.

$1m Estimated value of a painting the Bush Presidential Library in College Station, Texas, received from Prince Bandar, Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States and Bush family friend.

0 Number of times Bush mentioned Saudi Arabia in his three State of the Union addresses.

1,700 Percentage increase between 2001 and 2002 of Saudi Arabian spending on public relations in the United States.

79 Percentage of the 11 September hijackers who came from Saudi Arabia.

3 Number of 11 September hijackers whose entry visas came through special US-Saudi "Visa Express" programme.

140 Number of Saudis, including members of the Bin Laden family, evacuated from United States almost immediately after 11 September.

14 Number of Immigration and Naturalisation Service (INS) agents assigned to track down 1,200 known illegal immigrants in the United States from countries where al-Qa'ida is active.

$3m Amount the White House was willing to grant the 9/11 Commission to investigate the 11 September attacks.

$0 Amount approved by George Bush to hire more INS special agents.

$10m Amount Bush cut from the INS's existing terrorism budget.

$50m Amount granted to the commission that looked into the Columbia space shuttle crash.

$5m Amount a 1996 federal commission was given to study legalised gambling.

7 Number of Arabic linguists fired by the US army between mid-August and mid-October 2002 for being gay.

George Bush: Military man

1972 Year that Bush walked away from his pilot duties in the Texas National Guard, Nearly two years before his six-year obligation was up.

$3,500 Reward a group of veterans offered in 2000 for anyone who could confirm Bush's Alabama guard service.

600-700 Number of guardsmen who were in Bush's unit during that period.

0 Number of guardsmen from that period who came forward with information about Bush's guard service.

0 Number of minutes that President Bush, Vice-President Dick Cheney, the Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, the assistant Defence Secretary, Paul Wolfowitz, the former chairman of the Defence Policy Board, Richard Perle, and the White House Chief of Staff, Karl Rove ­ the main proponents of the war in Iraq ­served in combat (combined).

0 Number of principal civilian or Pentagon staff members who planned the war who have immediate family members serving in uniform in Iraq.

8 Number of members of the US Senate and House of Representatives who have a child serving in the military.

10 Number of days that the Pentagon spent investigating a soldier who had called the President "a joke" in a letter to the editor of a Newspaper.

46 Percentage increase in sales between 2001 and 2002 of GI Joe figures (children's toys).

Ambitious warrior

2 Number of Nations that George Bush has attacked and taken over since coming into office.

130 Approximate Number of countries (out of a total of 191 recognised by the United Nations) with a US military presence.

43 Percentage of the entire world's military spending that the US spends on defence. (That was in 2002, the year before the invasion of Iraq.)

$401.3bn Proposed military budget for 2004.

Saviour of Iraq

1983 The year in which Donald Rumsfeld, Ronald Reagan's special envoy to the Middle East, gave Saddam Hussein a pair of golden spurs as a gift.

2.5 Number of hours after Rumsfeld learnt that Osama bin Laden was a suspect in the 11 September attacks that he brought up reasons to "hit" Iraq.

237 Minimum number of misleading statements on Iraq made by top Bush administration officials between 2002 and January 2004, according to the California Representative Henry Waxman.

10m Estimated number of people worldwide who took to the streets on 21 February 2003, in opposition to the invasion of Iraq, the largest simultaneous protest in world history.

$2bn Estimated monthly cost of US military presence in Iraq projected by the White House in April 2003.

$4bn Actual monthly cost of the US military presence in Iraq according to Secretary of Defence Rumsfeld in 2004.

$15m Amount of a contract awarded to an American firm to build a cement factory in Iraq.

$80,000 Amount an Iraqi firm spent (using Saddam's confiscated funds) to build the same factory, after delays prevented the American firm from starting it.

2000 Year that Cheney said his policy as CEO of Halliburton oil services company was "we wouldn't do anything in Iraq".

$4.7bn Total value of contracts awarded to Halliburton in Iraq and Afghanistan.

$680m Estimated value of Iraq reconstruction contracts awarded to Bechtel.

$2.8bnValue of Bechtel Corp contracts in Iraq.

$120bn Amount the war and its aftermath are projected to cost for the 2004 fiscal year.

35 Number of countries to which the United States suspended military assistance after they failed to sign agreements giving Americans immunity from prosecution before the International Criminal Court.

92 Percentage of Iraq's urban areas with access to potable water in late 2002.

60 Percentage of Iraq's urban areas with access to potable water in late 2003.

55 Percentage of the Iraqi workforce who were unemployed before the war.

80 Percentage of the Iraqi workforce who are unemployed a Year after the war.

0 Number of American combat deaths in Germany after the Nazi surrender in May 1945.

37 Death toll of US soldiers in Iraq in May 2003, the month combat operations "officially" ended.

0 Number of coffins of dead soldiers returning home that the Bush administration has permitted to be photographed.

0 Number of memorial services for the returned dead that Bush has attended since the beginning of the war.

A soldier's best friend

40,000 Number of soldiers in Iraq seven months after start of the war still without Interceptor vests, designed to stop a round from an AK-47.

$60m Estimated cost of outfitting those 40,000 soldiers with Interceptor vests.

62 Percentage of gas masks that army investigators discovered did Not work properly in autumn 2002.

90 Percentage of detectors which give early warning of a biological weapons attack found to be defective.

87 Percentage of Humvees in Iraq not equipped with armour capable of stopping AK-47 rounds and protecting against roadside bombs and landmines at the end of 2003.

Making the country safer

$3.29 Average amount allocated per person Nationwide in the first round of homeland security grants.

$94.40 Amount allocated per person for homeland security in American Samoa.

$36 Amount allocated per person for homeland security in Wyoming, Vice-President Cheney's home state.

$17 Amount allocated per person in New York state.

$5.87 Amount allocated per person in New York City.

$77.92 Amount allocated per person in New Haven, Connecticut, home of Yale University, Bush's alma mater.

76 Percentage of 215 cities surveyed by the US Conference of Mayors in early 2004 that had yet to receive a dime in federal homeland security assistance for their first-response units.

5 Number of major US airports at the beginning of 2004 that the Transportation Security Administration admitted were Not fully screening baggage electronically.

22,600 Number of planes carrying unscreened cargo that fly into New York each month.

5 Estimated Percentage of US air cargo that is screened, including cargo transported on passenger planes.

95 Percentage of foreign goods that arrive in the United States by sea.

2 Percentage of those goods subjected to thorough inspection.

$5.5bnEstimated cost to secure fully US ports over the Next decade.

$0 Amount Bush allocated for port security in 2003.

$46m Amount the Bush administration has budgeted for port security in 2005.

15,000 Number of major chemical facilities in the United States.

100 Number of US chemical plants where a terrorist act could endanger the lives of more than one million people.

0 Number of new drugs or vaccines against "priority pathogens" listed by the Centres for Disease Control that have been developed and introduced since 11 September 2001.

Giving a hand up to the advantaged

$10.9m Average wealth of the members of Bush's original 16-person cabinet.

75 Percentage of Americans unaffected by Bush's sweeping 2003 cuts in capital gains and dividends taxes.

$42,000 Average savings members of Bush's cabinet received in 2003 as a result of cuts in capital gains and dividends taxes.

10 Number of fellow members from the Yale secret society Skull and Bones that Bush has named to important positions (including the Associate Attorney General Robert McCallum Jr. and SEC chief Bill Donaldson).

79 Number of Bush's initial 189 appointees who also served in his father's administration.

A man with a lot of friends

$113m Amount of total hard money the Bush-Cheney 2000 campaign received, a record.

$11.5m Amount of hard money raised through the Pioneer programme, the controversial fund-raising process created for the Bush-Cheney 2000 campaign. (Participants pledged to raise at least $100,000 by bundling together cheques of up to $1,000 from friends and family. Pioneers were assigned numbers, which were included on all cheques, enabling the campaign to keep track of who raised how much.)

George Bush: Money manager

4.7m Number of bankruptcies that were declared during Bush's first three years in office.
2002 The worst year for major markets since the recession of the 1970s.

$489bn The US trade deficit in 2003, the worst in history for a single year.

$5.6tr Projected national surplus forecast by the end of the decade when Bush took office in 2001.

$7.22tr US national debt by mid-2004.

George Bush: Tax cutter

87 Percentage of American families in April 2004 who say they have felt no benefit from Bush's tax cuts.

39 Percentage of tax cuts that will go to the top 1 per cent of American families when fully phased in.

49 Percentage of Americans in April 2004 who found that their taxes had actually gone up since Bush took office.

88 Percentage of American families who will save less than $100 on their 2006 federal taxes as a result of 2003 cut in capital gains and dividends taxes.

$30,858 Amount Bush himself saved in taxes in 2003.

Employment tsar

9.3m Number of US unemployed in April 2004.

2.3m Number of Americans who lost their jobs during first three Years of the Bush administration.

22m Number of jobs gained during Clinton's eight years in office.

Friend of the poor

34.6m Number of Americans living below the poverty line (1 in 8 of the population).

6.8m Number of people in the workforce but still classified as poor.

35m Number of Americans that the government defines as "food insecure," in other words, hungry.

$300m Amount cut from the federal programme that provides subsidies to poor families so they can heat their homes.

40 Percentage of wealth in the United States held by the richest 1 per cent of the population.

18 Percentage of wealth in Britain held by the richest 1e per cent of the population.

George Bush And his special friend

$60bn Loss to Enron stockholders, following the largest bankruptcy in US history.

$205m Amount Enron CEO Kenneth Lay earned from stock option profits over a four-year period.

$101m Amount Lay made from selling his Enron shares just before the company went bankrupt.

$59,339 Amount the Bush campaign reimbursed Enron for 14 trips on its corporate jet during the 2000 campaign.

30 Length of time in months between Enron's collapse and Lay (whom the President called "Kenny Boy") still not being charged with a crime.

George Bush: Lawman

15 Average number of minutes Bush spent reviewing capital punishment cases while governor of Texas.

46 Percentage of Republican federal judges when Bush came to office.

57 Percentage of Republican federal judges after three years of the Bush administration.

33 Percentage of the $15bn Bush pledged to fight Aids in Africa that must go to abstinence-only programmes.

The Civil libertarian

680 Number of suspected al-Qa'ida members that the United States admits are detained at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

42 Number of nationalities of those detainees at Guantanamo.

22 Number of hours prisoners were handcuffed, shackled, and made to wear surgical masks, earmuffs, and blindfolds during their flight to Guantanamo.

32 Number of confirmed suicide attempts by Guantanamo Bay prisoners.

24 Number of prisoners in mid-2003 being monitored by psychiatrists in Guantanamo's new mental ward.

A health-conscious president

43.6m Number of Americans without health insurance by the end of 2002 (more than 15 per cent of the population).

2.4m Number of Americans who lost their health insurance during Bush's first year in office.

Environmentalist

$44m Amount the Bush-Cheney 2000 campaign and the Republican National Committee received in contributions from the fossil fuel, chemical, timber, and mining industries.

200 Number of regulation rollbacks downgrading or weakening environmental laws in Bush's first three years in office.

31 Number of Bush administration appointees who are alumni of the energy industry (includes four cabinet secretaries, the six most powerful White House officials, and more than 20 other high-level appointees).

50 Approximate number of policy changes and regulation rollbacks injurious to the environment that have been announced by the Bush administration on Fridays after 5pm, a time that makes it all but impossible for news organisations to relay the information to the widest possible audience.

50 Percentage decline in Environmental Protection Agency enforcement actions against polluters under Bush's watch.

34 Percentage decline in criminal penalties for environmental crimes since Bush took office.

50 Percentage decline in civil penalties for environmental crimes since Bush took office.

$6.1m Amount the EPA historically valued each human life when conducting economic analyses of proposed regulations.

$3.7m Amount the EPA valued each human life when conducting analyses of proposed regulations during the Bush administration.

0 Number of times Bush mentioned global warming, clean air, clean water, pollution or environment in his 2004 State of the Union speech. His father was the last president to go through an entire State of the Union address without mentioning the environment.

1 Number of paragraphs devoted to global warming in the EPA's 600-page "Draft Report on the Environment" presented in 2003.

68 Number of days after taking office that Bush decided Not to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, the international treaty to reduce greenhouse gases by roughly 5.2 per cent below 1990 levels by 2012. The United States was to cut its level by 7 per cent.

1 The rank of the United States worldwide in terms of greenhouse gas emissions.

25 Percentage of overall worldwide carbon dioxide emissions the United States is responsible for.

53 Number of days after taking office that Bush reneged on his campaign promise to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from power plants.

14 Percentage carbon dioxide emissions will increase over the next 10 years under Bush's own global-warming plan (an increase of 30 per cent above their 1990 levels).

408 Number of species that could be extinct by 2050 if the global-warming trend continues.

5 Number of years the Bush administration said in 2003 that global warming must be further studied before substantive action could be taken.

62 Number of members of Cheney's 63-person Energy Task Force with ties to corporate energy interests.

0 Number of environmentalists asked to attend Cheney's Energy Task Force meetings.

6 Number of months before 11 September that Cheney's Energy Task Force investigated Iraq's oil reserves.

2 Percentage of the world's population that is British.

2 Percentage of the world's oil used by Britain.

5 Percentage of the world's population that is American.

25 Percentage of the world's oil used by America.

63 Percentage of oil the United States imported in 2003, a record high.

24,000 Estimated number of premature deaths that will occur under Bush's Clear Skies initiative.

300 Number of Clean Water Act violations by the mountaintop-mining industry in 2003.

750,000 Tons of toxic waste the US military, the world's biggest polluter, generates around the world each Year.

$3.8bn Amount in the Superfund trust fund for toxic site clean-ups in 1995, the Year "polluter pays" fees expired.

$0m Amount of uncommitted dollars in the Superfund trust fund for toxic site clean-ups in 2003.

270 Estimated number of court decisions citing federal Negligence in endangered-species protection that remained unheeded during the first year of the Bush administration.

100 Percentage of those decisions that Bush then decided to allow the government to ignore indefinitely.

68.4 Average Number of species added to the Endangered and Threatened Species list each year between 1991 and 2000.

0 Number of endangered species voluntarily added by the Bush administration since taking office.

50 Percentage of screened workers at Ground Zero who now suffer from long-term health problems, almost half of whom don't have health insurance.

78 Percentage of workers at Ground Zero who now suffer from lung ailments.

88 Percentage of workers at Ground Zero who Now suffer from ear, nose, or throat problems.

22 Asbestos levels at Ground Zero were 22 times higher than the levels in Libby, Montana, where the W R Grace mine produced one of the worst Superfund disasters in US history.

Image booster for the US

2,500 Number of public-diplomacy officers employed by the State Department to further the image of the US abroad in 1991.

1,200 Number of public-diplomacy officers employed by the State Department to further US image abroad in 2004.

4 Rank of the United States among countries considered to be the greatest threats to world peace according to a 2003 Pew Global Attitudes study (Israel, Iran, and North Korea were considered more dangerous; Iraq was considered less dangerous).

$66bn Amount the United States spent on international aid and diplomacy in 1949.

$23.8bn Amount the United States spent on international aid and diplomacy in 2002.

85 Percentage of Indonesians who had an unfavourable image of the United States in 2003.

Second-party endorsements

90 Percentage of Americans who approved of the way Bush was handling his job as president on 26 September 2001.

67 Percentage of Americans who approved of the way Bush was handling his job as president on 26 September 2002.

54 Percentage of Americans who approved of the way Bush was handling his job as president on 30 September, 2003.

50 Percentage of Americans who approved of the way Bush was handling his job as president on 15 October 2003.

49 Percentage of Americans who approved of the way Bush was handling his job as president in May 2004.

More like the French than he would care to admit

28 Number of vacation days Bush took in August 2003, the second-longest vacation of any president in US history. (Record holder Richard Nixon.)

13 Number of vacation days the average American receives each Year.

28 Number of vacation days Bush took in August 2001, the month he received a 6 August Presidential Daily Briefing headed "Osama bin Laden Determined to Strike US Targets."

500 Number of days Bush has spent all or part of his time away from the White House at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, his parents' retreat in Kennebunkport, Maine, or Camp David as of 1 April 2004.

No fool when it comes to the press

11 Number of press conferences during his first three Years in office in which Bush referred to questions as being "trick" ones.

Factors in his favour

3 Number of companies that control the US voting technology market.

52 Percentage of votes cast during the 2002 midterm elections that were recorded by Election Systems & Software, the largest voting-technology firm, a big Republican donor.

29 Percentage of votes that will be cast via computer voting machines that don't produce a paper record.

17 On 17 November 2001, The Economist printed a correction for having said George Bush was properly elected in 2000.

$113m Amount raised by the Bush-Cheney 2000 campaign, the most in American electoral history.

$185m Amount raised by the Bush-Cheney 2004 re-election campaign, to the end of March 2004.

$200m Amount that the Bush-Cheney 2004 campaign expects to raise by November 2004.

268 Number of Bush-Cheney fund-raisers who had earned Pioneer status (by raising $100,000 each) as of March 2004.

187 Number of Bush-Cheney fund-raisers who had earned Ranger status (by raising $200,000 each) as of March 2004.

$64.2mThe Amount Pioneers and Rangers had raised for Bush-Cheney as of March 2004.

85 Percentage of Americans who can't Name the Chief Justice of the United States.

69 Percentage of Americans who believed the White House's claims in September 2003 that Saddam Hussein was personally involved in the 11 September attacks.

34 Percentage of Americans who believed in June 2003 that Saddam's "weapons of mass destruction" had been found.

22 Percentage of Americans who believed in May 2003 that Saddam had used his WMDs on US forces.

85 Percentage of American young adults who cannot find Afghanistan, Iraq, or Israel on a map.

30 Percentage of American young adults who cannot find the Pacific Ocean on a map.

75 Percentage of American young adults who don't know the population of the United States.

53 Percentage of Canadian young adults who don't know the population of the United States.

11 Percentage of American young adults who cannot find the United States on a map.

30 Percentage of Americans who believe that "politics and government are too complicated to understand."

Another factor in his favour

70m Estimated number of Americans who describe themselves as Evangelicals who accept Jesus Christ as their personal saviour and who interpret the Bible as the direct word of God.

23m Number of Evangelicals who voted for Bush in 2000.

50m Number of voters in total who voted for Bush in 2000.

46 Percentage of voters who describe themselves as born-again Christians.

5 Number of states that do not use the word "evolution" in public school science courses.

This is an edited extract from "What We've Lost", by Graydon Carter, published by Little Brown on 9 September

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Torture and Child Rape Continue in American Detention Centers

American Lawyer Finds New Evidence of Recent Torture in Iraq
by Lisa Ashkenaz Croke (bio)
Brian Dominick (bio) contributed to this news article.

Aug 30 - While the latest reports investigating the widely condemned events at Abu Ghraib prison attempt to close the book on the Pentagon's culpability with a somber critique, new evidence gathered for a class action lawsuit filed against two US-based private contractors could prove that the scandal at Abu Ghraib was far from an isolated series of incidents perpetrated by a few rowdy "bad apples" working the night shift during Ramadan.

An attorney representing former detainees says his recent fact-finding mission to Baghdad uncovered dozens of cases of physical and psychological abuse, sexual humiliation, religious desecration and rape in ten US-run prisons throughout occupied Iraq.

The NewStandard spoke with Michigan-based attorney Shereef Akeel, who interviewed some 50 former detainees about their time and treatment in US custody. Part of the legal team behind a class action lawsuit against the firms for their employees' involvement in prison abuse at US-run facilities in Iraq, the former immigration lawyer found himself traveling to meet face-to-face with the people he is representing in the American court system.

His team has documented abuse dating from July 2003 to as recently as last month, when an Iraqi boy just fifteen years old says his captors at an American facility raped him. "He was told to go on all fours naked and was sodomized from behind," Akeel conveyed the fifteen year-old's testimony. "He said they made him dance and he was crying."

Full Story

US standing with Arabs hits a low

US standing with Arabs hits a low

Despite $2 billion in yearly aid, 98 percent of Egyptians have unfavorable view of US.

By Dan Murphy Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
from the September 02, 2004 edition

CAIRO – Ahmed Ibrahim has always dreamed about living in the United States. He thinks America provides a good model for Egypt. "I'd like us to have that kind of freedom, my sons to have that kind of freedom,'' he says. Yet, over the past year, he's come to see the US as an enemy of democracy in his region, a country that plays by a different set of rules at home than it does abroad.

"Now that I look back, we can see that the plan to control us has been there all along. I just didn't recognize it before,'' says Mr. Ibrahim, a prosperous businessman in his mid-30s. "The US supported the Shah of Iran, then dropped him. The same thing with Saddam. Now they say they're bringing democracy to Iraq, but it's just getting worse and worse. They're just shuffling the Arabs around like pieces on a gameboard."

He isn't alone. A June poll by Zogby International in six Arab countries showed that America's already-limited esteem in the Arab world has plummeted since the invasion of Iraq. Just two years ago, Zogby found that 76 percent of Egyptians had an unfavorable impression of the US. Today, that number is 98 percent.

Though lowest in Egypt, there are similar declines throughout the region, which analysts say will cut deeply into America's ability to pursue it's objectives here. Even though governments in the region aren't generally democratic, they still have to take into account popular opinion when forming their policies towards the US. The source of most frustration appears to be US policy towards Palestinians and the invasion of Iraq.

The declines extend beyond the Arab world's largest country to other key US allies. In Jordan, another major recipient of US aid, America's unfavorable rating jumped from 61 percent to 78 percent and in Saudi Arabia it rose from 87 percent to 94 percent.

"They say 'democracy,' but they support dictators,'' says Mohammed, a 26-year-old designer in Jordan who asked that his full name not be used. "Look at what's happening in Najaf. The US was killing Shia - the people America said it was there to liberate."

Full Story

The world election

Europeans don't have a vote in the United States - but Americans do care what we think
Timothy Garton Ash
Thursday September 2, 2004
The Guardian

Welcome to the most important American election in living memory. A world election, in which the world has no vote. Four more years of Bush can confirm millions of Muslims in a self-defeating phobia against the west, Europe in hostility to America, and the US on the path to fiscal ruin. Four more years, and the Beijing Olympics will see ascending China dictating its terms to a divided world.

Don't be fooled by those who say that one lot is as bad as the other, or even, like the New Statesman's John Pilger, that Bush's re-election may be the lesser evil, because "supremacy is the essence of Americanism; only the veil changes or slips". Don't be put off by John Kerry's attempts to out-Bush Bush, as he attacks rather than applauds the president for inadvertently admitting that this "war on terror" cannot be "won" in the way that the second world war was won. Beyond the electoral posturing, Kerry knows that is true. As president, he would act accordingly, and the change would make a vast difference to every one of us.

The American election will have far more consequences for Europe than the last European elections. It's probably more important to Britain than the next British election. Yet there seems so little we can do to affect the outcome. We feel like a punter whose life savings have been invested in a bet on a single boxer in a single bout. All we can do is cheer our lungs out from the ringside. Except that if we shout too loudly for Kerry we may actually help the other man - especially if we shout in French.

George Bush's chances of winning depend on convincing a sufficient number of American swing voters of the truth of his narrative about "America at war". While his close supporters fund accusations that John Kerry marginally falsified his own war story in Vietnam, the president's whole campaign is premised on selling a false war story.

"Like the second world war," he declared in mid-August, "the war we are fighting now began with a ruthless, surprise attack on America." Well, tell that to the Poles. (I'm writing this on the 65th anniversary of the true beginning of the second world war, which was indeed a ruthless, surprise attack - on Poland.) Or the British. Or the French. But for President Bush, the second world war began only with the Japanese attack on America at Pearl Harbor.

The contemporary analysis is as bad as the history. Again and again, the war on terror - Wot, in Washington shorthand - is compared to the second world war or the cold war. There's only one way to win the war on terror, his key political adviser Karl Rove told an audience of young Republicans in the run-up to the convention. And that is "to chase the enemy to the ends of the earth and utterly destroy him". Like the cowboy hero of a hundred westerns. At the convention, they rally support with a film of US army tanks advancing down a road and warships cutting through the seas. Bush's own re-election website (www.georgewbush.com) has a homepage link entitled "Winning the war on terror". Of course, Republican leaders can make more sophisticated arguments in private conversation, but this whole campaign depends on projecting a grand narrative in which the US is engaged in a conventional war, which it will win mainly by martial valour and force of arms.

But it isn't, and it won't. "Utterly destroy him," cries Karl Rove. But who is he? Osama bin Laden? A Palestinian suicide bomber? An Iranian mullah? The unknown terrorist? The whole point of this new kind of struggle is that there is no single clearly identifiable leader or regime, no Hitler or Soviet Union, who can be thus destroyed. (Obviously, capturing Osama bin Laden, if he's still alive, would certainly help.) And if we accept, as we should, that we face a serious array of new threats, among which Islamist terrorism plays an important part, what is the role of military force in reducing the threat? Much less than in earlier wars. If military force was 80% responsible for the west's victory in the second world war, and perhaps - through the impact on the Soviet Union of the arms race - 30% responsible for the west's victory in the cold war (and even that figure may be too high), it will only be 10% - or perhaps 15% - responsible for winning this one.

The victory will depend on courage, resolution, and a determination to defend what we value - American leaders are right to remind us of this. It will depend on skilled intelligence and police work. But it will depend, above all, on addressing the political and economic causes of terrorism, to dry the swamps in which al-Qaida mosquitoes breed, and preserving and unfolding the magnetic attractions of our own free societies. It's here that Bush has been such a disaster. He has presided over the largest build-up of the American military since the end of the cold war, and the swiftest, most comprehensive dismantling of the country's popularity in the world since Vietnam. In the weapons categories that really count, no one has done more to disarm America than George Bush.

A surprising number of Americans see this. In a recent Pew poll, 67% of those asked said that the US had become less respected in the world, and 43% thought this was a major problem. It's not just wishful thinking that makes Democrats constantly harp on the argument that Bush has ruined America's standing with its traditional allies and friends. They know it means votes.

So perhaps we are not such impotent bystanders at the ringside, after all. Yes, we don't have a vote. Yes, if we shout too loudly for Kerry it may help his opponent. But most Olympic contenders testify to the importance of the crowd. And this election, unusually for an American election, is as much about events and reactions outside America's borders as about anything at home, including even "the economy, stupid". In that same Pew poll, 41% of those asked say the most important problem facing the nation is "war/foreign policy/terrorism" against just 26% for economic issues.

It would obviously be disastrous if only those European countries that opposed the Iraq war now explicitly support Kerry. That would give credibility to the conservative senator Mitch McConnell's acid jibe that "Kerry wants to outsource our foreign policy to Paris and Berlin." It would be even worse if those countries that supported the Iraq war, especially Britain, Poland and Italy, did anything to suggest that Bush could carry on as he has since 2001 and still enjoy their support. No European government would be wise to endorse either candidate. They can leave that to us unofficial Europeans. But European leaders can spell out clearly the terms on which Europe stands ready to be a full partner of the US in reducing the threat of terrorism that concerns Europe at least as much as it does America. From the ringside of the world election, we should shout not for Europe, not for Bush, not even for Kerry, but for America to win. They'll know which America we mean.


George's Missing Years

Salon.com has new information on George's missing years. Following is part of a former family friend's account of the 26 year old Bush. This is what he was doing whilst John Kerry was risking life and limb. Its classy stuff:

Leaving the election-night "celebration," Allison remembers encountering George W. Bush in the parking lot, urinating on a car, and hearing later about how he'd yelled obscenities at police officers that night. Bush left a house he'd rented in Montgomery trashed -- the furniture broken, walls damaged and a chandelier destroyed, the Birmingham News reported in February. "He was just a rich kid who had no respect for other people's possessions," Mary Smith, a member of the family who rented the house, told the newspaper, adding that a bill sent to Bush for repairs was never paid. And a month later, in December, during a visit to his parents' home in Washington, Bush drunkenly challenged his father to go "mano a mano," as has often been reported.

Proof that Diebold vote counting software is designed to fix votes

Its not just the vote casting machines that are the problem, its the vote counting software that poses the real danger. On Air America's Unfiltered show on September 1st Bev Harris of BlackBoxVoting.org demonstrated before an audience how the Diebold software is designed to fix the vote.

Harris described Diebold's GEMS central tabulator software as 'the mothership', since its function is to count all the votes. Using a backdoor into the program she was able to change an example vote of 400 to 10,000. The process took 12 seconds. This is a feature of the software and not a bug. Computer gamers will be familiar with the concept of 'cheat codes'. The Diebold software's secret feature functions similarly. Harris explains:

By entering a 2-digit code in a hidden location, a second set of votes is created. This set of votes can be changed, so that it no longer matches the correct votes. The voting system will then read the totals from the bogus vote set. It takes only seconds to change the votes, and to date not a single location in the U.S. has implemented security measures to fully mitigate the risks...

These systems are used in over 30 states and each counts up to two million votes at once.

Bev Harris and co-researcher Andy Stephenson are currently demonstrating this software cheat feature the the American media and attempting to set up demonstrations for state officials. Many state officials are declining to view a demonstration because they would then be liable. They would have to do something.

Extensive details and documentation can be found at BlackBoxVoting.org. as well as contact details for Harris and Stephenson. Public officials can make an appointment to see a demonstration.




Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Republicans Mock Veterans: Have they no sense of decency?

Not content with sending other people's children off to die and cutting the pay and benefits of the survivors, Republicans are now insulting veterans by wearing mock Purple Heart Band-Aids. This was the repulsive idea of GOP activist Morton Blackwell from Virginia who made and distributed 400 of them. In this photo Pat Peel of Texas is wearing one on one of her chins.



Despite their readiness to disrespect veterans who gave life and limb in their name, the Republicans are happy enough to see DOD codes of conduct broken as they attempt to exploit the presence of military personnel at their conference, as Eric Alterman notes:

Is the Republican Party in violation of the US military’s rules on the participation in party politics by active duty military?

It sure looks that way. The RNC convention week is boasting that it has 144 active duty military delegates at the convention or three percent of the total. That information can be found here.

Meanwhile, according to DOD Directive 1344.10, which can be found here this is a violation of the code of military conduct. It explicitly says:

A member on active duty shall not ... Participate in partisan political management, campaigns, or conventions (unless attending a convention as a spectator when not in uniform).

But the Republican Party itself is claiming that the active duty personnel are not spectators but delegates. What’s going on here? Why are the Republicans encouraging our soldiers to violate the Uniform Code of Military Justice and its stated rules of political engagement? And why for goodness sakes, aren’t these rules being enforced?

And while all of this goes on, ex-pow John McCain stands up and defends these people, the people who so viciously tried to impugn him and his family. Perhaps someone should counsel him about beaten wife syndrome...



Global Warming Increaing Exponentially

Major Temperature Rise Recorded in Arctic This Year: German Scientists

PARIS - German scientists probing global warming said they had detected a major temperature rise this year in the Arctic Ocean and linked this to a progressive shrinking of the region's sea ice.

Temperatures recorded this year in the upper 500 meters (1,625 feet) of sea in the Fram Strait -- the gap between Greenland and the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen -- were up to 0.6 C (1.08 F) higher than in 2003, they said in a press release received here.

The rise was detectable to a water depth of 2,000 meters (6,500 feet), "representing an exceptionally strong signal by ocean standards," it said.

The experts, from the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in Bremerhaven, have been recording temperatures aboard a specialized vessel, Polarstern (Pole Star), for the past six weeks.

The sampling has been taking place in the West Spitsbergen Current, which carries warm water from the Atlantic into the Arctic Ocean.

The institute said water in the Fram Strait has been warming steadily since 1990 and over the past three years, satellite images had documented "a clear recession" of sea ice edges, both in the strait and the Barents Sea.

The latest data "point towards a further warming tendency," the institute said.
In June, a UN organization announced that American scientists had detected an "alarmingly rapid growth" this year in airborne concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2), the fossil-fuel pollutant blamed for global warming.

CO2 levels recorded in March 2004 at Hawaii measured 379 parts per million (ppm), an increase of three ppm over the previous year.

By comparison, there had been an annual increase of only 1.8 ppm over the past decade. Atmospheric concentrations of CO2 before the Industrial Revolution were 280 ppm.

Full Story from AFP at Common Dreams

Bushites continue to give New York the finger

As if they hadn't already caused enough offence to the people of New York, the Bush regime continues to put the boot in.

The New York Times reports:

The Bush administration is replacing the nation's three-decade-old financing system for public housing with a new formula that will redistribute billions of dollars, chiefly from New York and other big, urban areas in the Northeast and Midwest to small, rural places in the South.

The plans represent one of the most far-reaching changes in housing policy in decades, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development is still working out many of the details. But already, housing authorities in the Northeast, including New York City, Baltimore and upstate New York, are talking about the need to lay off security guards, close day care programs or charge tenants for snow removal, air-conditioning and other services...

Jimmy Breslin illustrates what this policy means to New York's poorest:

...And he [Giuliani speaking at the RNC] did not dare go near mentioning the long, grim campaign of Clara Rivera and so many others in the Brooklyn neighborhoods. The enemy is the landlord. His weapon, the eviction notice. And now, the Republican administration's new federal housing laws which send the money from Brooklyn to Texas and Florida.

Yesterday, children, seven of them, came out of the dark rooms in their hot Bushwick apartment and padded into the neat clean kitchen where the mother, Clara Rivera, stood at the stove. The youngest, Manuel Rivera, one year and seven months, hugged her. The husband was still over in New Jersey, where he works as a gardener for $250 a week.

They are an interesting family to study. They could be evicted shortly. Their best move then would be to move into public housing. However, the Republican administration has just changed the funding for housing in New York, sending the money to where the Republicans feel it does the most good for America — Texas and Florida.

Public housing would be hurt so much that there could be no room for the Riveras. The Riveras would be left with no place to go. They are not alone. All over the neighborhoods of Brooklyn once thought of as dangerous and dilapidated, there now is a real estate wildfire.

The landlords in Bushwick have taken these six-family houses, that are rent stablilized, and cut one apartment out, giving them a five-family house that no longer is regulated. They then can slap paint around the halls and double the rent and if the tenants can't pay, then throw them out.

On the Rivera's kitchen wall was a chart for a junior high school study of North Korea. There were headings for religion, food, language. Simultaneously, it was a day when lessons on their own city were conducted from a place they never see, Manhattan. There, on the first night of the great Republican convention, a former mayor, Koch, and the present mayor, Bloomberg, told their city about how George W. Bush swooped into New York right after the World Trade Center attack, or as soon as he could see his way clear, and saved this whole city.

Then Giuliani came on with a worldwide view. He seemed to be painting a vision of Bush crossing the Rhine. He never mentioned housing. Which was sensible. The Republicans seated in the Garden had just found another way to smack the poor around by taking the roofs off them. And it didn't hurt them. They couldn't see the dark rooms of Bushwick, so how could it stab them?

Bushwick could see the Republicans, in their great gaudy meeting hall, but only as faces on a screen. Not one of these faces told them that Republicans have this new rule that is going to throw Bushwick people onto the street.

Among them, and dangerously close right now, is Clara Rivera and her brood."How much is the rent?"

she was asked."Six hundred and forty six."

"A different landlord every year," the mother said in Spanish to John Powis, retired as a Catholic pastor and now spending his days with tenants in peril.

The present landlord has offered them $3,000 if they will move out of the apartment, so he can fix it and charge anything he can get, from $1,200 up.

Where do the Riveras go with their $3,000?"They'll be in a shelter," John Powis said.

Clara Rivera said she and her husband would be at a meeting on Wednesday night to discuss with others the $3,000 offer. "Don't lose this apartment," Powis told her. "We'll talk about how to do it."

But $3,000 to a woman in a kitchen with seven kids looking at her is a fortune of money and the thought of it robs the ability to see anything past it.

They worry all over the neighborhood. On Harman Street, on Stockholm and on Stanhope, women sat on the stoops in the heat and talked about being chased out of their houses. One house had no lights or heat. They had a thick wire running up the stairs from some source. Rosa Lopez, 27, sat on the stoop and said the owner had abandoned the place seven years ago and now sudddenly somebody wanted to take it over and she said, "Pay nothing to nobody."

Antonio Martinez stood in the doorway and showed the hole in the corner of the entranceway. It went down tol the basement. "It's a little weak," he said of the floor under him.

And last night, with children in Bushwick packed into beds, Giuliani was in Madison Square Garden telling the world about all that his Republicans had done for his city.

They have done quite a lot, they have tens of thousands in fear of losing the roof over their heads.

This is of course, only the most recent slap in the face the Bush regime have administered to their hosts, the people of New York. For more examples see The 10 Ways Bush Screwed New York

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