Welcome to the Greenbelt's

Amazing News Stand

Open For Business!

Skip the explanation for the reopening and go straight to New News here, or look here for the old (and one "everything old is new again") items or just read on...

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The Newstand has been closed for a while, because the current state of the Union had me really depressed and unwillling to keep cataloging the depressingingly amazing news that kept coming up. But - as Mark Morford of the San Francisco Gate said:
You cannot leave. You cannot drop the armor now. Why? Because you are needed, more than ever. You are mandatory to keep the energy flowing, the karmic vibrator buzzing, to keep the progressive and lucid half of the nation breathing and healthy and awake and ever reaching out to the half that's wallowing in fear and violence and homophobia and sexual dread, hoping to find harmony instead of cacophony, common ground instead of civil war, some sort of a shared love of a country so messy and internationally disrespected and openly confused its own president can't even speak the language.

After all, you don't hand over all your children the first time the flying monkeys bang on your door...

It's far from over. The tunnel is just a little darker -- and longer -- than we imagined.

And Thomas Jefferson said this more than two hundred years ago:
Be this as it may, in every free and deliberating society, there must, from the nature of man, be opposite parties, and violent dissensions and discords; and one of these, for the most part, must prevail over the other for a longer or shorter time. Perhaps this party division is necessary to induce each to watch and relate to the people the proceedings of the other. But if on a temporary superiority of the one party, the other is to resort to a scission of the Union, no federal government can ever exist. ... A little patience, and we shall see the reign of witches pass over, their spells dissolved, and the people recovering their true sight, restoring their government to its true principles. It is true, that in the meantime, we are suffering deeply in spirit, and incurring the horrors of a war, and long oppressions of enormous public debt. .... If the game runs sometimes against us at home, we must have patience till luck turns, and then we shall have an opportunity of winning back the principles we have lost. For this is a game where principles are the stake. Better luck, therefore, to us all, and health, happiness and friendly salutations to yourself. Adieu.

SO.

Okay. I'm back to equilibrium after the election. And now I reckon I have to stop hoping that things will get better in time, because it's pretty obvious that W & Co can deal in hate and fear and lies well enough to fool, as they say, too many of the people enough of the time. So The Amazing News Stand is open for business again.

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It begins to look like this country is indeed dying from the head down.
A 'Concerted Effort' to Discredit Bush Critic
Prosecutor Describes Cheney, Libby as Key Voices Pitching Iraq-Niger Story

By Barton Gellman and Dafna Linzer, Washington Post Staff Writers

Sunday, April 9, 2006 As he drew back the curtain this week on the evidence against Vice President Cheney's former top aide, Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald for the first time described a "concerted action" by "multiple people in the White House" -- using classified information -- to "discredit, punish or seek revenge against" a critic of President Bush's war in Iraq.

Bluntly and repeatedly, Fitzgerald placed Cheney at the center of that campaign. Citing grand jury testimony from the vice president's former chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Fitzgerald fingered Cheney as the first to voice a line of attack that at least three White House officials would soon deploy against former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV.

So this is one more thing the President and the Vice-President "get to do"? Declassify and leak classified information to smear their opponents?

It's good to be the king!

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Whoo-hoo! Tom DeLay is GONE!

It's not much, in the grand scheme of things, perhaps. But it's one damn fine start.

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March 29, LA TIMES Editorial, without further comment:
The law vs. the government

IF POLITICS MAKES FOR strange bedfellows, as the saying goes, so does the law. In Tuesday's arguments of a landmark Supreme Court case challenging President Bush's power to deal with "enemy combatants" any way he sees fit, several justices appeared to be allied with Osama bin Laden's former driver. That may be because the court itself, and the nation's judicial branch, seemed to be as much in the government's cross hairs as any alleged terrorist.

In the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, both the White House and Congress have tried to curtail judicial review of proceedings against detainees picked up on the battlefield (a somewhat amorphous concept in this war) and now held at Guantanamo Bay or elsewhere. Salim Ahmed Hamdan, the plaintiff in the case, is to be tried by a special military tribunal that does not provide the same procedural safeguards accorded defendants in a court-martial, or as required under the Geneva Convention. His lawyers are challenging the legality of this makeshift judicial system, but late last year Congress passed a law limiting access to the federal courts for those detained in the war on terrorism.

The arguments before eight justices — Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. recused himself because he ruled on this case while an appellate judge — exposed the case's procedural and jurisdictional complexities.

Did Congress intend to impose its new limits on judicial review to cases already being litigated? Based on the tenor of their questions, a majority of the justices appeared offended by the government's notion that Congress can retroactively take away someone's right to his day in court. Indeed, it is not clear that Congress could do so under the Constitution, even for future cases.

For their part, justices Antonin Scalia and Samuel A. Alito Jr., comparing this case to run-of-the-mill criminal cases, suggested that Hamdan should not be bringing this suit until convicted of a crime, if then. But that makes no sense if the issue at stake is the legal competence of the tribunal itself. There have been military tribunals in the past for enemy combatants who were not prisoners of war covered by the Geneva Convention, most recently during World War II. But there is some doubt whether Hamdan can be tried solely on conspiracy charges in such a court. Conspiracy is not recognized as a "crime of war" that these tribunals are designed to adjudicate.

It is always dangerous to make assumptions about the outcome of a case based on the justices' questions. But it was heartening to hear a majority of justices practically bristle at the government's assertion that the court should have no say on the boundaries of presidential authority in this war. The court should not allow the other two branches of government to usurp its constitutional role.


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Let's just get one thing clear, shall we? What Dick Cheney was doing is not hunting.

Hunting doesn't involve driving around in SUVs, shooting at ranch-raised birds.

What Dick Cheney was doing is called "slaughtering". And it's probably indistinguishable from the animal-cruelty that marks sociopaths.

For men who couldn't be motivated to fight their generation's war, these guys sure love to kill defenseless things. Makes you wonder...

Makes you afraid.

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Mike Argento writes:

Dec 26, 2005 — Today, of course, is the day after Christmas, and since this is being written before Christmas, I just want to know, did everything go OK yesterday?

I mean, Christmas wasn't canceled, was it?

You all still had a tree and presents and a big ham dinner and time well spent with family, friends, acquaintances, hangers-on, right? You still were able to go to midnight services and later, have a little snack before retiring with dreams of Santa bringing you a new iPod or Blackberry or some other gizmo that properly pays homage to the season, right? You were still able to drink a bunch of wine and fall asleep on the couch while your kids played Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas on the big-screen TV, right?

You were still able to go outside and stand in the cold as Christmas Eve segued into Christmas morning and hear the mournful moan of the New York Wire Co.'s steam whistle playing "Silent Night," right?

You were still able to stay up late and watch "A Christmas Carol," the old one with Alastair Sim, and follow it up with your annual screening of "Bad Santa," a movie recommended only for those with horribly twisted minds and souls, right?

And you were still able to wake up today and plan a trip to the mall to return ill-fitting sweaters, ties so ugly that they have their own gravitational pull and things so useless that you can't even justify putting them in the attic until your neighborhood yard sale, right?

Just checking.

We've all heard so much about this supposed War on Christmas that somehow, I believed, that the holiday may have been canceled and that we were all forced to observe, I don't know, some kind of secular orgy of conspicuous consumption. From all of the dire warnings expressed by the intellectually challenged minds that run Fox News, I expected no Christmas this year. I expected to awake Sunday to face just another Sunday, just another day to lounge around and watch the Eagles lose to some Pop Warner team. I expected no presents, no trees, no ham, no "Bad Santa."

Just a guess.

It is interesting to note that Christmas was once banned in this country. The Puritans did it in the 17th century, arguing that there was no Biblical authority for the celebration of Christmas on Dec. 25 and levying a five shilling fine against anyone caught celebrating Christmas.

Anyway, that was a long time ago.

As Frank Rich writes:
THE good news today is that the great 2005 war on Christmas, the conflagration that launched a thousand op-ed pieces and nearly as many battles on Fox News, is now officially over. And yes, Virginia - Christmas won!

Secularists, Jews, mainline Protestants and all the other grinches failed utterly to take Kriss Kringle down. Except at those megachurches that canceled services today rather than impede their flocks' giving and gorging, Christmas is alive and well everywhere in America. Last night NBC even rolled the dice and broadcast "It's a Wonderful Life" in prime time. With courage reminiscent of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's defiance of Stalin, the network steadfastly refused to redub the final scene's cries of "Merry Christmas!" with the godless "Happy holidays!"

As Michelle Goldberg wrote last month in her definitive debunking for Salon, there was in fact no war on Christmas, but rather "a burgeoning myth of a war on Christmas." Most of the grievances cited by Christmas's whiniest protectors - red and green banned from residents' wardrobes in Michigan, "Silent Night" censored in Wisconsin - were either anomalous idiocies or suburban legends. The calls for boycotts against chain stores with heathen holiday trees lost their zing when it turned out that even George and Laura Bush's Christmas card had called for a happy "holiday season."

But like every other chapter of irrational hysteria in America's cultural history, from the killing of "witches" in colonial Salem to the panic induced by Orson Welles's radio broadcast of the fictional "War of the Worlds" on the eve of World War II, the fake war on Christmas was not without its hidden meanings. Or not so hidden. If you worked at Fox News, wouldn't you want to change the subject from the war in Iraq to a war in which victory is a slam-dunk?

This is so utterly stupid, so utterly transparent, and so ultimately utterly meaningless (except to fuel the paranoia of those who, now that they have lost their privileged status, feel denigrated instead of equal), that there's no point in my railing about it. Plenty of better writers than I have. Read the rest of Frank Rich's column, for instance, or of Mike Argento's. Or the Salon piece of Michelle Goldberg he referenced. Or Adam Cohen's excellent Talking Points article. Or Joel Stein's LA Times column. Or Randolph Holhut's OpEd piece. Or any of the others.

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On the Subject of Leaks Here's a NYT editorial that pretty much says it all, so no commentary. Just the editorial:

Given the Bush administration's appetite for leak investigations (three are under way), this seems a good moment to try to clear away the fog around this issue.

A democratic society cannot long survive if whistle-blowers are criminally punished for revealing what those in power don't want the public to know - especially if it's unethical, illegal or unconstitutional behavior by top officials. Reporters need to be able to protect these sources, regardless of whether the sources are motivated by policy disputes or nagging consciences. This is doubly important with an administration as dedicated as this one is to extreme secrecy.

The longest-running of the leak cases involves Valerie Wilson, a covert C.I.A. operative whose identity was leaked to the columnist Robert Novak. The question there was whether the White House was using this information in an attempt to silence Mrs. Wilson's husband, a critic of the Iraq invasion, and in doing so violated a federal law against unmasking a covert operative. There is a world of difference between that case and a current one in which the administration is trying to find the sources of a New York Times report that President Bush secretly authorized spying on American citizens without warrants. The spying report was a classic attempt to give the public information it deserves to have. The Valerie Wilson case began with a cynical effort by the administration to deflect public attention from hyped prewar intelligence on Iraq. The leak inquiry in that case ended up targeting the press, and led to the jailing of a Times reporter.

When the government does not want the public to know what it is doing, it often cites national security as the reason for secrecy. The nation's safety is obviously a most serious issue, but that very fact has caused this administration and many others to use it as a catchall for any matter it wants to keep secret, even if the underlying reason for the secrecy is to prevent embarrassment to the White House. The White House has yet to show that national security was harmed by the report on electronic spying, which did not reveal the existence of such surveillance - only how it was being done in a way that seems outside the law.

Leak investigations are often designed to distract the public from the real issues by blaming the messenger. Take the third leak inquiry, into a Washington Post report on secret overseas C.I.A. camps where prisoners are tortured or shipped to other countries for torture. The administration said the reporting had damaged America's image. Actually, the secret detentions and torture did that.

Illegal spying and torture need to be investigated, not whistle-blowers and newspapers.

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Bush sends marines as flood fury grows
Julian Borger and Jamie Doward in Baton Rouge
Sunday September 4, 2005, The Observer

President George Bush ordered an extra 17,000 troops - including 7,000 elite airborne troops and marines - into New Orleans and the devastated Gulf Coast yesterday to try to bolster the stumbling flood relief effort and salvage the reputation of his presidency.

The order was announced after it became clear that National Guard troops sent into the city on Friday were no match for the scale of the disaster unleashed by Hurricane Katrina and the consequent collapse of the levees around the city. Within two days the number of military personnel in the area is hoped to reach some 54,000 people. As a full-scale rescue operation finally got under way and thousands of victims of the storm were ferried from the city by bus, plane and truck, the US military announced it would be deploying a further 10,000 National Guards.

Despite the increase in the rescue efforts, 5,000 people were still stranded in the Superdome stadium yesterday, although it had been promised they would be evacuated by Friday night. Meanwhile, another 20,000 people seem condemned to spend at least another night in the city convention centre, where they had spent most of the week with minimal food and water and no sanitation or medical care.

Relief workers were confronted with a new face to the catastrophe, as up to 60 fires blazed in the city. The worst engulfed the warehouse district on the waterfront, where firefighters were unable to operate due to the lack of running water.

In his weekly radio address, Bush acknowledged the shortcomings of the relief effort. 'Many of our citizens simply are not getting the help they need, especially in New Orleans. And that is unacceptable,' he said. 'In America, we do not abandon our fellow citizens in their hour of need. And the federal government will do its part. Where our response is not working, we'll make it right. Where our response is working, we will duplicate it. 'We have a responsibility to our brothers and sisters all along the Gulf Coast, and we will not rest until we get this right and the job is done.'

National Guard soldiers arrived on Friday night to provide evacuees with their first hot meal since Katrina struck. Since then more than 25,000 residents have been evacuated, claimed Mike Brown, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which is facing severe criticism for its response to what it now describes as the 'worst catastrophe in living memory'. Brown admitted that the number of people left in the city and the death toll remained unknown because people were still turning up at evacuation sites and dead bodies were still being counted. Brig Gen Mark Graham added: 'There are people in apartments and hotels that you didn't know were there.' Thousands more people were reported to be in limbo on a motorway, waiting for buses that failed to come because there was no plan for housing the victims elsewhere

Bush also signed a $10.5 billion emergency aid package for the stricken area. But he is struggling to restore his personal credibility after liberals and conservatives joined forces to criticise the federal relief effort.

Louisiana Senator David Vitter, a Republican, said the federal response had been 'an abject failure'. Attacks on the Bush administration's tardy reaction to the disaster also came from unexpected quarters in the media; even conservative commentators on the usually loyal Fox News channel lambasted the President's performance.

Even Fox...

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Bush can reshape high court with Rehnquist's death

By James Vicini , WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The death of Chief Justice William Rehnquist has created a rare double opening on the U.S. Supreme Court, giving President George W. Bush the chance to reshape the court and move it to the right. The choice by Bush, who has already selected conservative appeals court Judge John Roberts to replace the more moderate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who is retiring, could have far-reaching impact on constitutional issues for years. The court has been closely divided between liberal and conservative factions on hot-button issues such as abortion, the death penalty and church-state separation, and the impact of the new justices could be felt immediately.

Wade Henderson of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights said the second vacancy "could radically shift the delicate balance" of the court and added, "Nothing less than our individual rights, liberties and freedoms are at stake."

In its new term that opens on October 3, the court already has on its docket a number of high profile cases, including one on Oregon's assisted suicide law and one about a parental notification law for minors seeking an abortion.

...

Bush could decide to tap Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, a close aide from the days when Bush was governor of Texas in the late 1990s. If he chose Gonzales, Bush would make history by naming the first Hispanic-American to the court. But some of Bush's conservative supporters have opposed Gonzales because of positions he has taken on abortion and on affirmative action programs to help minorities overcome past discrimination.

Boy, we're in some big trouble now. Not that Rehnquist was anything to cheer about, as a justice. He led the court to the right, put Bush in the White House in the first place, and was in favor of federal funding for religious groups. He voted with the conservative majority to expand states' rights while limiting the federal Government's power, to restrict appeals by death row inmates and to allow more public funding of religious activities.

That's what he was for. What was he against? He dissented from the landmark 1973 ruling that women have a constitutional right to an abortion and from the 1992 decision reaffirming that right. He dissented from major rulings in 2003 upholding gay rights and use of race in student admissions at public universities, and from the decision this year that abolished the death penalty for juveniles.

So, no. He won't be missed. But now W has the chance to put a nice young judge on the Court, one who'll be there another forty years.

We are in trouble.

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U.S. Lowers Sights On What Can Be Achieved in Iraq

Administration Is Shedding 'Unreality' That Dominated Invasion, Official Says
By Robin Wright and Ellen Knickmeyer, Washington Post Staff Writers, Sunday, August 14, 2005 - The Bush administration is significantly lowering expectations of what can be achieved in Iraq, recognizing that the United States will have to settle for far less progress than originally envisioned during the transition due to end in four months, according to U.S. officials in Washington and Baghdad.

The United States no longer expects to see a model new democracy, a self-supporting oil industry or a society in which the majority of people are free from serious security or economic challenges, U.S. officials say.

"What we expected to achieve was never realistic given the timetable or what unfolded on the ground," said a senior official involved in policy since the 2003 invasion. "We are in a process of absorbing the factors of the situation we're in and shedding the unreality that dominated at the beginning."

"Shedding the unreality", are they? Well, it's about time.

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Death Tax? Double Tax? For Most, It's No Tax

By EDMUND L. ANDREWS, WASHINGTON Aug 14 - WHEN Congress comes back from its summer recess, one of the first things Senate Republicans will try to do, again, is kill the estate tax.

Perhaps no other tax has so many passionate, persevering and politically organized opponents as the estate tax, or "death tax," as they have branded it.

As Michael J. Graetz and Ian Shapiro of Yale recount in "Death by a Thousand Cuts" (Princeton University Press), their entertaining account of the repeal movement, opponents of the estate tax have already achieved a remarkable political feat by building broad public support for abolishing a tax that currently affects only 2 percent of all estates.

But repeal would be costly - more than $70 billion a year, once it was complete - and many of the populist arguments in favor of repeal are misleading. If estate or inheritance taxes were frozen at today's levels, they would have almost no impact on family farmers and most small-business owners. And while opponents contend that the estate tax is a "double tax," many of the earnings that are subject to it were never taxed in the first place.

The tax opponents, many of whom began as political neophytes more than 20 years ago, lead a powerful coalition of small-business owners, farmers, trade associations and corporate lobbying groups like the American Council on Capital Formation. Killing the estate tax is one of President Bush's top priorities, and the House of Representatives has already passed a repeal measure four different times. But Senate Republicans, despite attempts to cut a deal with conservative Democrats before the summer recess, have been stalled on the issue.

One of Bush's top priorities? I'm sure it is - he wants himself, and his buddies, to inherit all their daddies' unearned capital gains without any taxes. And damn the consequences for the already insanely huge deficit...

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All options open, Bush warns Iran
Times online, August 13, 2005 11:56 - President Bush has warned that "all options are on the table" if Iran refuses to comply with international demands to halt its nuclear programme. Noting that he has already used force to secure the United States, he said in an interview with Israel TV that the US and Israel "are united in our objective to make sure that Iran does not have a weapon". If diplomacy fails, President Bush said "all options are on the table".
WTF?

We're "secure" now, are we? Tell that to London, why don't you?

Oh, that's right - you did. Right after the bombings you made a speech at Quantico where you repeated that old standby about "fighting terrorists in Iraq so we don't have to fight them here." As long as it isn't DC, or Crawford, I guess it's not "here"...

And what the hell is this macho chestbeating crap about "all options", anyway? Does W seriously think we can take on Iran at the present? Even if Israel helps? Does he seriously think that is going make the US and its few remaining allies in the madness any safer, any more secure? That an attack on a Muslim country trying to do what we flauntingly do by us and Israel will make the rest of the Muslim world suddenly see the light or something?

Unfrellingbelievable.

Update:

BERLIN, Aug. 13 (Reuters) - Chancellor Gerhard Schröder on Saturday rejected the threat of military force against Iran, hours after President Bush said that, on general principle, he could not rule out the use of force as a last resort to press the government to give up its nuclear program. Mr. Schröder, one of the most prominent European opponents of the American-led war in Iraq, told an election rally in his home city, Hanover, that the threat of force was not acceptable.

"I am worried about developments there, because no one can want the Iranian leadership to gain possession of atomic weapons," Mr. Schröder said. "The Europeans and the Americans are united in this goal. Up to now we were also united in the way to pursue this."

"This morning I read that military options are now on the table," he said. "My answer to that is: dear friends in Europe and America, let us work out a strong negotiating position. But let's take the military option off the table. We have seen it doesn't work."

Here we go again...

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Mother Teresa charity defends tying children to beds

New Delhi, India, August 1, 2005 - 2:38PM - A charity founded by Mother Teresa has said disabled children at one of its homes in India were restrained for their safety, after a British television reporter filmed children tied to their beds.

Britain's Five News, in a program to be broadcast tomorrow, said it had uncovered "serious shortcomings" at a care centre run by the Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta.

It secretly filmed many of the 59 children -- aged six months to 12 years -- living at the Daya Dan shelter tied by their ankles to their cots at night, restrained while being fed and left for up to 20 minutes on the toilet by their carers.

In a statement, Five News said it began investigating the home after hearing complaints from international aid workers.

The global order of nuns said today its charitable homes tied children only when absolutely necessary.

Does this surprise anyone who paid attention to the standards of care in Mother Teresa's hospices? She was never interested in helping people get better, only in helping them die to glorify God.

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Poaching making China elephants evolve tuskless
Reuters, Sun Jul 17,12:03 PM ET -

Chinese elephants are evolving into an increasingly tuskless breed because poaching is changing the gene pool, a newspaper reported on Sunday.
Five to 10 percent of Asian elephants in China now had a gene that prevented the development of tusks, up from the usual 2 to 5 percent, the China Daily said, quoting research from Beijing Normal University.
"The larger tusks the male elephant has, the more likely it will be shot by poachers," said researcher Zhang Li, an associate professor of zoology. "Therefore, the ones without tusks survive, preserving the tuskless gene in the species."
Since only male elephants have tusks, there were now four female elephants for each male in China, up from the ideal ratio of two, the paper said.
Similar changes in elephant tusk development and sex ratios have been reported in Africa and India.
Gasp! Evolution in action!

(Though I suppose this sort of thing "doesn't count".)

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Pakistan Lifts Travel Restrictions on Rape Victim
-Salman Masood, NYT, ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, June 15

"During her United States visit, [Ms Mukhtar] was expected to talk of her experiences since the incident.

That prospect made the Pakistani government jittery, human rights advocates say, for it would focus more attention on Ms. Mukhtar's ordeal. Government ministers, in turn, have lashed out at human rights activists, claiming that they have exploited the case for financial gain and have tarnished the country's image."

You know - some images deserve tarnishing.

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Whoa! Stop the presses. Captain Morton (see below) has been sacked from her job. (Full story here) Sure, the Air Force sees it differently. "We don't see this as a dismissal," Colonel Fox said. "This kind of a transition is a normal process that happens in squadrons across the Air Force."

But last week she was set at the Academy for another year anyway...

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Air Force Chaplain Tells of Academy Proselytizing
By LAURIE GOODSTEIN, New York Times, Published: May 12, 2005
A chaplain at the Air Force Academy has described a "systemic and pervasive" problem of religious proselytizing at the academy and says a religious tolerance program she helped create to deal with the problem was watered down after it was shown to officers, including the major general who is the Air Force's chief chaplain.

The academy chaplain, Capt. MeLinda Morton, 48, spoke publicly for the first time as an Air Force task force arrived at the academy in Colorado Springs on Tuesday to investigate accusations that officers, staff members and senior cadets inappropriately used their positions to push their evangelical Christian beliefs on Air Force cadets.

The academy began developing the tolerance program, called Respecting the Spiritual Values of all People, or R.S.V.P., in response to a survey it took last year. The survey found that more than half of the cadets said they had heard derogatory religious comments or jokes at the academy.

For more than a year, the Air Force has been struggling to respond to accusations from some alumni, staff members and cadets that evangelical Christians in leadership positions at the academy were creating a discriminatory climate. Air Force officials say the task force they dispatched this week shows that they are taking the accusations seriously. The investigators are to make a preliminary report on May 23.

You know, I heard someone from the Academy on the radio whining that it was always Christians who had to say they were sorry. Maybe that's because it's always the Christians who screw up?

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Kansas Evolves Back

Washington Post, May 7 2005. As an editorial says

NEARLY FIVE YEARS into the 21st century, the Kansas State Board of Education has begun an earnest discussion of whether schools in that state should teach science that was obsolete by the end of the 19th century. The board is holding hearings into proposed changes to its model science standards, changes intended to cast doubt on conventional evolutionary biology and inject into classrooms the notion of "intelligent design" -- the idea that the complexity of life can be explained only by some conscious creator's having designed it.

Intelligent design is not your parents' creationism. It's a slick set of talking points that are not based on biblical inerrancy but framed, rather, in the language of science: molecular biology, the structure of DNA and holes in the fossil record. Moreover, the ostensible justification for the changes is a seductive one. Proponents say they mean merely to ensure that schoolchildren are given a full sense of the scientific controversy over evolution so that they can make up their own minds. Who can object to that?

But there is no serious scientific controversy over whether Darwinian evolution takes place. Intelligent design is not science. Whatever its rhetoric, the public questioning of evolution is fundamentally religious, not scientific, in nature. That is not to say that wonder is illegitimate; it is a perfectly reasonable response to the beauty and enormity of the universe to believe that it could not have happened without a divine hand. But the proper place to discuss such belief is not the public schools. Biology classes need to be taught with sensitivity to the religious sensibilities of students but not by casting doubt on evolution.

Sigh ... Why is it that we are so afraid of "people of faith" that we will let them usher in a new round of the Dark Ages, when anything that threatens their shaky grasp on their superstitions can be banished - even if the net result is that, as Bill Gates warned not too long ago, the US falls behind in science and technology and ends up begging for crumbs from Europe and India and China's tables? What is it about religion that makes us treat it with the respect it doesn't deserve?

What is it?

Read the whole editiorial here, and check out the Emory Valley Center for Evolutionary Studies on my site here.

Also, check out Nicholas Kristoff's Review of Bishop Spong's new book, The Sins of Scripture here - Liberal Bible-Thumping.

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Ah, yes ... here's a story on the Pope's famous intolerance of dissent on theology. After all, what's the good of being the Pope if people can still disagree with you? More on the Pope here

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So Rep Chafee says it's okay for Bolton to be a bully who's abusive toward his employees, because, even though it's "wrong", still - like George Steinbrenner - "some people use that behavior for their success."

Pardon me - but haven't the Yankees actually succeeded? (How much Steinbrenner has to do with it is beside the point - let's cede it.)

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As Frank Rich writes (The God Racket, 27 March, Washington Post):
The same Mr. Bush who couldn't be bothered to interrupt his vacation during the darkening summer of 2001, not even when he received a briefing titled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.," flew from his Crawford ranch to Washington to sign Congress's Schiavo bill into law. The bill could have been flown to him in Texas, but his ceremonial arrival and departure by helicopter on the White House lawn allowed him to showboat as if he had just landed on the deck of an aircraft carrier. Within hours he turned Ms. Schiavo into a slick applause line at a Social Security rally. "It is wise to always err on the side of life," he said, wisdom that apparently had not occurred to him in 1999, when he mocked the failed pleas for clemency of Karla Faye Tucker, the born-again Texas death-row inmate, in a magazine interview with Tucker Carlson.
Or when he signed a law in Texas (the "Futile Care Law") that allows doctors to remove life-sustaining treatment over the objections of families, provided an ethics committee agrees and the hospital gives the family 10 days to see if another facility will accept the patient. In fact, just last week, Sun Hudson, a 5-month-old, died after a judge gave Texas Children's Hospital in Houston permission to disconnect his ventilator over the objections of his mother. Where were Mr Bush and Mr DeLay and Randall Terry, et al, then? Could it be that the severely handicapped baby of a woman who -- let's be as kind as possible, since after all she named the baby after his father. Yes, the sun -- wasn't of their relgious persuasion, had no money, no connections, no way to bring the whole Randall-Terry-machine in on her side... could it be that "err[ing] on the side of life" isn't important if the life belongs to a somehow less desirable person (and as others have pointed out, voting for the Schiavo bill and voting at the same time for Medicaid cuts -- which, under laws like the Texas law, means that people will have their plugs pulled not because their families want them to die sooner but because their health-care providers don't want to run up a bill for unpaid care -- is pretty damned outrageous.

But then - W & Co want this to be "an ownership society", with the Biblical (Mat 13:12) "For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath" applying in a very real - and very wicked - way.

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So now it's Askar Akayev's turn to go. This revolution is a lot closer to the meaning of the term (bloody, violent, with looting) than the velvet ones of Georgia and Ukraine (espcially here: hundreds of thousands of people camping out on Independence Square for weeks and not so much as a window broken!), but it's clearly the next in the series. I don't know if Putin's nervous yet, but you have to think Karimov is.

Of course, Uzbekistan is America's friend now - and that usually means we don't just put up with a repressive dictator like Karimov, we actually help him out, at least as long as he's useful to us. Just ask Musharraf. Or Saddam Hussein, for that matter.

But Putin's got to be paying attention... As Mark McDonald of Knight Ridder Newspapers wrote on Friday:

The flamboyant leader of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, called the Kyrgyz revolutionaries "scum" and said Russia should "suppress the mutiny of the vulgar mob" that ousted Moscow's friend, President Askar Akayev.

"If we don't do this now," he said in an interview on Ekho Moskvy radio, "the infection will spread throughout Central Asia."

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Pentagon Will Not Try 17 G.I.'s Implicated in Prisoners' Deaths
By DOUGLAS JEHL
Published: March 26, 2005 WASHINGTON, March 25 - Despite recommendations by Army investigators, commanders have decided not to prosecute 17 American soldiers implicated in the deaths of three prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2003 and 2004, according to a new accounting released Friday by the Army.

Investigators had recommended that all 17 soldiers be charged in the cases, according to the accounting by the Army Criminal Investigation Command. The charges included murder, conspiracy and negligent homicide. While none of the 17 will face any prosecution, one received a letter of reprimand and another was discharged after the investigations.
...
The accounting was the most detailed the military has yet made public of the deaths of prisoners in American custody in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Of the 28 deaths investigated, 13 occurred in American detention centers in those countries and 15 occurred at the point where prisoners were captured. Only one occurred in Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, which has been known until now as the site of the most extensive abuses by American military personnel. The 28 deaths include two cases involving members of the Navy Seals, which are still being investigated by the Navy, according to military officials. They also include a prisoner in Marine Corps custody whose death resulted in the conviction of two marines on charges including assault and dereliction of duty, according to a Marine spokesman. Not included in the 28 are three other deaths of prisoners involving marines but under investigation by the Navy.

With the disposition of the three cases involving the 17 soldiers not prosecuted, the Army now has 21 soldiers listed as subjects for prosecution on criminal charges including, among others, murder, negligent homicide and assault. Of those 21 soldiers, at least 3 have been convicted in general courts-martial, and at least 3 others are awaiting trial, the Army accounting showed. There's nothing to say I haven't said before, so I won't say it again.

But this is going to make Condi's job of "selling democracy" just a wee bit harder, don't you think?

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So where's W's outrage over this school shooting? After all, his habit is to speak out right away, isn't it? Why isn't he saying anything now? Surely it's not because this shooting happened on an Indian reservation instead of in a nice white suburb? (And I'm not talking race here, necessarily: I'm talking money and votes.)

W has a disturbing way of being silent when he ought not to be. It took days to get him to come outside and mention the tsunami victims. How long will it take him to just say something to this bereaved community?

Update: Five days. (Or six, depending on how you want to count them.) That's how long it took. He finally said something on Saturday.

By Adam Entous
CRAWFORD, Texas (Reuters): Clyde Bellecourt, a Chippewa Indian who is the founder and national director of the American Indian Movement in Red Lake, said Bush's response came too late. "He should have been the first one to reach out to the Red Lake Indian community," he said. Bellecourt cited Bush's decision to break off his Texas vacation to sign emergency legislation on Monday that permitted federal courts to consider appeals by Schiavo's parents to force the reconnection of the feeding tube.

"He does not have any problems flying in to restore the feeding tube to Terri Schiavo. I'm sure if this happened in some school in Texas and a bunch of white kids were shot down, he would have been there too," Bellecourt said.

Dana Perino, a White House spokeswoman, said the president received "regular and full briefings on the tragedy."

"The president's immediate focus was on making sure the federal government was responding to the needs of the community. They were and they continue to do so," she said.

That's nice, Dana, but someone needs to point out to W that part of his job is to say things. And especially when he runs around flaunting his religiosity (I can't call it religiousness, it's too focussed and calculating for that), he'd better be aware how it looks on those occasions he chooses to ignore the tragedies. You know - the times there's nothing in it for him except an expression of a little common or garden variety human decency.

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Just a little note from listening to NPR this morning: many firms (like Gap, Domino's, ) are "revising their earnings" because they either "owe more taxes" than before or haven't been reporting their leasing costs.

Well ... maybe the accounting scandals will have *some* value after all...

After Shootings in Wisconsin, a Community Asks 'Why?'
By JODI WILGOREN, New York Times Published: March 14, 2005
BROOKFIELD, Wis., March 13 - Two weeks ago, Terry Ratzmann stalked out of a meeting of his church, upset about something in the sermon. On Saturday, he stormed in late to the weekly service at the Sheraton hotel here and without a word began spraying the congregation with bullets.

The authorities remain unsure whether Mr. Ratzmann's rampage, which killed seven members of the Living Church of God, including the pastor, and ended in suicide, was a result of religious frustration. Church members said he had been suffering from depression and had just lost his job.

What they do know is that Mr. Ratzmann, 44, a computer programmer with a fondness for gardening who had no criminal record, ignored pleas from a friend to stop, instead popping a second magazine into his 9-millimeter handgun and firing 22 bullets in a minute or less.

So once again a nice, quiet, good, churchgoing fundamentalist takes a semi-automatic weapons and kills people - and this time more churchgoing fundamentalists.

It's the kind of thing that happens when your holy scriptures are full of one bloody massacre after another, all ordered by your god.

And please note: 22 bullets in a minute or less. That's something you just couldn't do without automatic weapons, even if you wanted to. A couple of hundred years ago, this guy couldn't have killed that many people. (As I have said before... and will probably have to say again, the way things are going.

Just a couple of things to think about...

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House to Consider Relaxing Its Rules

Fri Dec 31, 4:59 AM ET By Mike Allen and Charles Babington, Washington Post Staff Writers, with contributions by Research editor Lucy Shackelford: House Republican leaders are urging members to alter one of the chamber's fundamental ethics rules, which would make it harder for lawmakers to discipline a colleague.

The proposed change would essentially negate a general rule of conduct that the ethics committee has often cited in admonishing lawmakers -- including Majority Leader Tom DeLay -- for bringing discredit on the House even if their behavior was not covered by a specific regulation. Backers of the rule, adopted three decades ago, say it is important because the House's conduct code cannot anticipate every instance of questionable behavior that might reflect poorly on the chamber.

Republicans, returning to the Capitol on Tuesday after increasing their House majority by three seats in the Nov. 2 election, also want to relax a restriction on relatives of lawmakers accepting foreign and domestic trips from groups interested in legislation before the House.

A third proposed rule change would allow either party to stop the House ethics committee from investigating a complaint against a member.

Government watchdog groups called the proposals startling and unjustified. If the proposed rules are adopted next week as GOP leaders suggest, they would amount to "the biggest backtracking on House ethics rules that we have seen," said Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21.

The proposals are among the nearly two dozen House rule changes being circulated for comment this week by GOP leaders, in preparation for the 109th Congress. The majority Republican caucus plans to discuss the proposals Monday, with the full House scheduled to vote on them Tuesday.

Several Republicans have criticized the ethics process in the wake of three admonitions this year against DeLay (R-Tex.). A House official familiar with the new proposal on the rule about bringing discredit said the ethics committee could not have acted against DeLay if the change had been in place.

Or if DeLay had any ethics in the first place, of course...
DeLay, responding to the ethics committee's findings in September, said that he "would never knowingly violate the rules of the House" and that he deeply believes that members "must conduct ourselves at all times in a manner that reflects creditably on this institution."
Well, that makes me feel so much better.
Earlier this year, House Republicans rewrote a party rule so that DeLay can keep his leadership job even if he is indicted by a Texas grand jury. The grand jury has indicted three of his political associates in an investigation of campaign finances related to a House redistricting plan that DeLay helped push through in Texas. Republican aides said Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) is also leaning toward removing the ethics committee's chairman, Rep. Joel Hefley (R-Colo.), who oversaw the admonishments of DeLay.

Congressional watchdogs sharply criticized the proposed rule change on bringing discredit to the chamber, which they said would weaken the House's already lax system of policing its members' conduct. "This would be a fundamental undermining of the ethics rules in the House and a direct attempt to vitiate the findings of ethical misconduct against Majority Leader DeLay," Wertheimer said. "If this is done, it would be an extraordinarily destructive action against the ethics rules and would fundamentally undermine the integrity of the House."

Gary Ruskin, director of the Congressional Accountability Project, said the result would be "a climate more conducive to corruption." "The most important part of a congressional investigation is at the outset -- whether to have one -- so Republicans are trying to make sure they don't have them," Ruskin said.

Wertheimer said the change would mean "one-party veto power" over complaints. "It's a clear backtracking on an already weak process," he said. "It looks like an effort to increase the capacity to bury complaints without even looking at them."

But the Republicans wouldn't do that, would they? Would they? Oh...

As Celia Viggo Wexler, vice president for advocacy at Common Cause, said: "When a party is in power for a certain amount of time, they get more lax about ethics. You also see a kind of culture growing up that is troubling: If there's a rule that's nettlesome or in your way, just get rid of it."

Sheesh. And these guys are the party of moral values? I guess moral values only means beating up people you don't approve of - like women, gays, poor folks, children - not following any standard of behavior yourself, or expecting to be held to account. We already knew the GOP doesn't believe in the sancticty of marriage, only the heterosexualness of it, but now they aren't even trying to pretend to be ethical.

A Cabinet of yes-men and a House free to bring as much discredit on the House as they like, so long as they don't break any "applicable" laws or regulations. The Emperor isn't pretending to have any clothes on.

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New US Memo Says Torture Violates Law

AP, Dec 31, 2004:

Frabjous day! The Justice Department has now rewritten its legal definition of torture, and acknowledges that torture violates US and international law. The White House continues to insist that they never intended torture to be part of the American way of doing things, that "it has been US policy from the start" to observe the "spirit" of the Geneva Conventions.

Of course, the memos now repudiated (the memos Attorney General nominee Gonzalez had more than a hand in writing) say otherwise. But at least we've officially changed our mind.

Not that it's at all clear that anything will actually change ... since, after all, we've never done the wrong thing as a matter of policy, no matter what that policy happened to be at the time...

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Musharraf confirms military role, US has no comment

BBC, Dec 18, 2004; Washington Post, Dec 29, 2004:

Paervz Musharraf came to power in a military coup - overthrowing a democratically elected government. From day one, Bush has said that what's important is that Pakistan is stable. (It's a bit of a double standard, of course; I'm sure Saddam Hussein thinks so.) Now Musharraf is reneging on his word to resign as chief of the army, and once again Bush is praising him. W calls him a crucial ally in the war against terror (though in actuality very little is being accomplished on that front), and praises him for leading Pakistan toward democracy (having first, of course, smashed the country's democracy to pieces). But it looks much more as if Musharraf is becoming the classic American ally: an authoritarian right-wing thug. Bush has repeatedly said he rejects that sort of government, but apparently it depends on who and where they are...

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Aid Increased Amid Remarks About President's Absence

Washington Post, Dec 29, 2004

Remarks about the president's absence? (Shuffling through the channels yesterday, I even saw some guy on Fox making a comment on it!) Gee ... I wonder why people were remarking? The tsunamis struck on Sunday, and it wasn't until Wednesday that Bush made even so much as a phone call to a single head of state to offer condolences. His god forfend that he should take a break from his vacation - cutting brush and taking long walks at the ranchette - to say he's sorry that tens of thousands of people are dead.

And even then, it looks like what moved him was a Norwegian remarking that the indeustrialized nations were stingy - an insult to W's amour propre, not the death or the suffering.

Actions speak louder than words, he says, but it's more than customary - it's human to express sympathy for such an occurence. Every other leader in the world did so.

Which is another thing - possibly the real thing - that moved W to come out of the brush to make a phone call or two. It was absolutely incredible how the first thing that the administration said was ... to blame Bill Clinton for speaking out! The Elephant Heads may not like to admit this, but Bill is a popular man in foreign countries, not to mention a genuinely empathic man. But the GOP nurses a pathological, obsessive hatred of him - probably because he beat George I, but maybe because he's a human being. Who knows?

Whatever the cause, their incessant attempts to blame him for everything have now truly crossed the line of shamefulness. Not that it will stop them.

But it's not Bill Clinton's fault that W couldn't be bothered to make any condolence calls for four days. That, if you'll pardon the expression, was his call, and no one else's. "Compassionate conservative" indeed.

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(I'm going to post this whole thing - it's not long - without comment. I mean, what is there to say?)

Sunday News Quiz

New York Times, Dec 26, 2004, By Thomas L. Friedman

My wife constantly regales me about her favorite National Public Radio show, "Wait Wait ...Don't Tell Me." The show features three journalists who have to answer questions about the week's news. Some of the news stories they are quizzed about seem totally unbelievable, while others are straightforward. Well, this is my last column for 2004, so let's play a little "Wait Wait ... Don't Tell Me." I'll give you 10 news stories from the past few weeks and you tell me what they all have in common.

1. The report that Colin Powell told President Bush a few weeks ago that we do not have enough troops in Iraq and that we don't control the terrain. 2. The report that the Pentagon's $10 billion-a-year effort to build an antimissile shield, and have a basic ground-based version in place by the end of this year, ran into difficulty two weeks ago when the first test in almost two years failed because the interceptor missile didn't take off. 3. The report that the Bush-Republican budget for 2005 contained a $100 million cut in federal funding to the National Science Foundation. 4. The report that at a time when young Americans are competing head to head with young Chinese, Indians and Eastern Europeans more than ever, the Bush team is trimming support for the Pell grant program, which helps poor and working-class young Americans get a higher education. (The change will save $300 million, while some 1.3 million students will receive smaller Pell grants.)

5. The report this month that children in Asian countries once again surpassed U.S. fourth graders and eighth graders in the latest Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study. (U.S. eighth graders did improve their scores from four years ago, but U.S. fourth graders remained stagnant.) A week earlier, the Program for International Student Assessment showed U.S. 15-year-olds scoring below average compared with those in other countries when asked to apply math skills to real-life tasks, the A.P. reported. 6. The report this month that the Bush administration has reduced America's contribution to global food aid programs intended to help the world's hungry feed themselves. (The Bush team said the cut was necessary to keep our deficit under control!) 7. The report that U.S. military spending this year is running at about $450 billion.

Wait, wait, don't go way; there's more: 8. The report that Donald Rumsfeld was confronted by troops in Iraq about the fact that they did not have enough armor on their vehicles and were having to scrounge for makeshift armor to protect themselves. 9. The report that among President Bush's top priorities in his second term is to simplify the tax code and to make the sweeping tax cuts from his first term permanent. (The cost to the Treasury for doing so, the A.P. reported, would be over a trillion.) And finally: 10. The report that the U.S. dollar continued to hover near record lows against the euro.

So what is the common denominator of all these news stories? Wait, wait, don't tell me. I want to tell you. The common denominator is a country with a totally contradictory and messed-up set of priorities.

We face two gigantic national challenges today: One is the challenge to protect America in the wake of the new terrorist threats, which has involved us in three huge military commitments - Afghanistan, Iraq and missile defense. And the other is the challenge to strengthen American competitiveness in the wake of an expanding global economy, where more and more good jobs require higher levels of education, and those good jobs will increasingly migrate to those countries with the brainpower to do them. In the face of these two national challenges, we have an administration committed to radical tax cuts, which, one can already see, are starting to affect everything from the number of troops we can deploy in Iraq to the number of students we can properly educate at our universities. And if we stay on this course, the trade-offs are only going to get worse.

Something has to give. We can't protect America with the grand strategy George Bush has embarked on and strengthen our students with the skills they need and cut taxes, as if we didn't have a care in the world.

If we were actually having a serious national debate, this is what we would be discussing, but alas, 9/11 has been deftly exploited to choke any debate. Which reminds me of my wife's other favorite NPR radio show. It's called "Whad'ya Know?" It always opens the same way. The announcer shouts to the studio audience, "Whad'ya know?" And they shout back. "Not Much. You?"

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After Outcry, Rumsfeld Says He Will Sign Condolence Letters
(The Washington Post, Sunday, December 19, 2004)

Rumsfeld is at it again... hard on the heels of his cavalier dismissal of soldiers' concerns (honestly: "you go to war with the army you have"? That's the excuse of someone who didn't pick the time, place, and enemy!), we find out that for the last year or more he hasn't even been signing the condolence letters for the dead in that war. Instead, he's been having them signed by a machine. As Dana Milbank wrote in the Washington Post:

The Pentagon has acknowledged that Donald H. Rumsfeld did not sign condolence letters to the families of soldiers killed in Iraq, but it said that from now on the embattled defense secretary would stop the use of signing machines and would pick up the pen himself.

In a statement provided to Stars and Stripes, the military newspaper, Rumsfeld said: "I wrote and approved the now more than 1,000 letters sent to family members and next of kin of each of the servicemen and women killed in military action. While I have not individually signed each one, in the interest of ensuring expeditious contact with grieving family members, I have directed that in the future I sign each letter."

Saving time? This is his excuse? He's been frelling saving time??

Sweet Justice - how long does it take to sign a letter? Especially if you already "wrote" them? [What does that mean, anyway - that he "wrote the letters"? What did he do, dictate them, and then couldn't stick around while they were typed? Or was it just one form letter? That he then "approved" to be sent to all the families?]

This man's attitude could definitely use some work.

And he's the one cabinet member W wants to stick around?

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Homeland security nominee withdraws
Former NYC police commissioner cites employee problem

Saturday, December 11, 2004, WASHINGTON (CNN)

-- One week after President Bush nominated him to be secretary of homeland security, former New York Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik withdrew from consideration Friday night after discovering a former household employee had a questionable immigration status.

Kerik said in a news release the immigration problem with the former housekeeper and nanny was discovered while he was completing documents required for his Senate confirmation.

He said he also learned "that for a period of time during such employment, required tax payments and related filings had not been made."

Okay, look. I'll believe that Kerik didn't know his nanny was an illegal alien. (No, really. I mean it. It goes against common sense, but I'll do it.)

What I can't believe is that he didn't know he wasn't paying Social Security taxes on her.

(Hmmm... maybe we could fix Social Security just by having all these rich folks pay all that money in arrears?)

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IAEA Leader's Phone Tapped

Sun Dec 12,12:00 AM ET By Dafna Linzer, Washington Post Staff Writer:

The Bush administration has dozens of intercepts of Mohamed ElBaradei's phone calls with Iranian diplomats and is scrutinizing them in search of ammunition to oust him as director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, according to three U.S. government officials. But the diplomatic offensive will not be easy. The administration has failed to come up with a candidate willing to oppose ElBaradei, who has run the agency since 1997, and there is disagreement among some senior officials over how hard to push for his removal, and what the diplomatic costs of a public campaign against him could be.

Although eavesdropping, even on allies, is considered a well-worn tool of national security and diplomacy, the efforts against ElBaradei demonstrate the lengths some within the administration are willing to go to replace a top international diplomat who questioned U.S. intelligence on Iraq and is now taking a cautious approach on Iran. The intercepted calls have not produced any evidence of nefarious conduct by ElBaradei, according to three officials who have read them. But some within the administration believe they show ElBaradei lacks impartiality because he tried to help Iran navigate a diplomatic crisis over its nuclear programs. Others argue the transcripts demonstrate nothing more than standard telephone diplomacy. "Some people think he sounds way too soft on the Iranians, but that's about it," said one official with access to the intercepts.

In Vienna, where the IAEA has its headquarters, officials said they were not surprised about the eavesdropping. "We've always assumed that this kind of thing goes on," IAEA spokesman Mark Gwozdecky said. "We wish it were otherwise, but we know the reality."

The IAEA, often called the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog agency, coordinates nuclear safety around the world and monitors materials that could be diverted for weapons use. It has played pivotal investigative roles in four major crises in recent years: Iran, Iraq, North Korea and the nuclear black market run by one of Pakistan's top scientists. Each issue has produced some tension between the agency and the White House, and this is not the first time that ElBaradei or other U.N. officials have been the targets of a spy campaign. Three weeks before the invasion of Iraq in March 2003, the Observer newspaper in Britain published a secret directive from the National Security Agency ordering increased eavesdropping on U.N. diplomats.

ElBaradei, 62, an Egyptian diplomat who taught international law at New York University, is well-respected inside the United Nations, and many of the countries that sit on the IAEA board have asked him to stay for a third term beginning next summer. To block that, Washington would need to persuade a little more than one-third of the IAEA's 35-member board to vote against his reappointment.

But even some of the administration's closest friends, including Britain, appear to be reluctant to join a fight they believe is motivated by a desire to pay back ElBaradei over Iraq. Without clear support and no candidate, the White House began searching for material to strengthen its argument that ElBaradei should be retired, according to several senior policymakers who would discuss strategy only on the condition of anonymity. The officials said anonymous accusations against ElBaradei made by U.S. officials in recent weeks are part of an orchestrated campaign. Some U.S. officials accused ElBaradei of purposely concealing damning details of Iran's program from the IAEA board. But they have offered no evidence of a coverup. "The plan is to keep the spotlight on ElBaradei and raise the heat," another U.S. official said.

"However this effort is justified by the administration, the assumption internationally will be that the United States was blackballing ElBaradei because of Iraq and Iran," said Robert Einhorn, who was assistant secretary of state for nonproliferation until 2001. Several months ago, the State Department began canvassing potential candidates, including Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, two Japanese diplomats, two South Korean officials and a Brazilian disarmament expert.

But the South Koreans and Brazil's Sergio Duarte are now considered to be problematic candidates because both countries are under IAEA investigation for suspect nuclear work. Downer, who is not willing to challenge ElBaradei, still remains the administration's top choice. The deadline for submitting alternative candidates is Dec. 31. "Our original strategy was to get Alex Downer to throw his hat in the ring, but we couldn't," one U.S. policymaker said. "Anyone in politics will tell you that you can't beat somebody with nobody, but we're going to try to disprove that."

That strategy worked once before when the administration orchestrated the 2002 removal of Jose M. Bustani, who ran the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), a U.N. organization based in The Hague (news - web sites). Bustani drew the administration's ire when he tried to involve his organization in the search for suspected chemical weapons in Iraq. The administration canvassed the organization's board and then forced a narrow vote for his ouster. A successor was found three months later, and there was little diplomatic fallout from the administration's maneuver, mostly because the OPCW has a fairly low profile and its members wanted to avoid being drawn into the diplomatic row leading up to the Iraq war.

But John S. Wolf, who was assistant secretary of state for nonproliferation until June, said such action comes at a cost and makes it harder for the United States to keep the world's attention focused on pressing threats. "The net result of campaigns that others saw as spiteful was that even where the U.S. had quite legitimate and proven concerns, the atmosphere had been so soured that it wasn't possible to recoup," Wolf said.

Gareth Evans, a former Australian foreign minister who now heads a high-level panel on U.N. reform, said that ElBaradei has been excellent in his job and that Washington would be making a mistake to challenge him: "If they think they can get anyone who could have better handled the complex and difficult issues surrounding North Korea, Iran and other controversies, they are not understanding the world right now."

Not much of a comment needs to be made here. It's pure Bush: ElBaradei doesn't agree with us, so he's got to go, one way or another, and who the hell cares if we piss off anybody else while doing it.

When will this administration learn the old playground lesson: there's a difference between being boss, and being bossy? When will they learn that throwing our weight around does not make us popular?

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