Saturday, December 24, 2005

Other Items

How do you get attention from the press in Iraq? Picket? Rally? Stage a happening? Whatever you do, you better do it in Baghdad (in the Green Zone -- heavily guarded area of Baghdad -- or the Red Zone but Green Zone preferred).

That's how Sunni Arabs got Sabrina Tavernise's attention in "Thousands of Sunnis Protest in Baghdad, Charging Fraud in Election:"

Several thousand Sunni Arabs gathered Friday in a residential neighborhood in central Baghdad to protest what they said was broad-based fraud in elections last week, in a sign of deepening Sunni discontent over the vote.
As many as 3,000 people, including secular Shiites, choked a main boulevard in the Yarmouk neighborhood near the headquarters of a prominent Sunni political party early Friday afternoon. Thick crowds of demonstrators shouted slogans and held banners that read, "No to falsification," and "No to marginalization."

Think that's a silly idea? Note the third paragraph, tossed in as an aside:

Protesters also spilled onto streets in Samarra, a Sunni Arab city north of Baghdad, and in Mosul, in northern Iraq.

Another aside, tossed in at the end, final paragraph:

Three American soldiers were killed by roadside bombs in Baghdad in two separate incidents on Thursday and Friday, the American military said in a statement.

Molly notes the Associated Press' "Italy Seeks Arrests in Kidnapping Case" which will summarize. Prosecutor Armando Spataro has argued successfully to a judge that twenty-two people involved in the 2003 kidnapping of Muslim cleric Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr in Italy (cleric from Egypt, kidnapping took place in Milan) and warrants have been issued. One of the twenty-two, all are believed to be CIA, is identified: Robert Seldon Lady. Lady is currently in the US but had been the CIA "station chief in Milan."

Kara notes Russ Baker's "NSA Spooking You? Facts First, Please" (The Huffington Post via Common Dreams):

There's a separate issue: who eavesdrops domestically? The NSA is not supposed to conduct domestic surveillance -- that should properly be the province of the FBI. Why could information from NSA intercepts abroad not have been efficiently passed to the FBI for immediate further domestic intelligence, with the special court being notified within the mandated 72 hours? Was it a technological thing -- only the NSA had the electronic chops to track so many real-time chats? Or was someone afraid that the FBI was too leak-prone to be entrusted with what might very well turn out to be illegal acts? (It has been reported that some NSA operatives were nervous about having to perform such acts.)
We don't know any answers to any of this because everything is secret. Only a handful of senior congressmembers get 'briefed' at all, but in truth they understand little of what they're being told, lack any means of independently verifying it, and (according to Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia) cannot complain publicly if they don't like what they're hearing.
What this affair is really about is the government's fear of sharing basic facts about how it operates -- and how it spends billions of tax dollars each year ostensibly to protect us. The boilerplate claims that the mere revelation of general policies and broad outlines of intelligence management will aid the enemy are patently ridiculous. With the Soviet bloc gone, there is no commensurate establishment on the other side that is plotting out sophisticated moves based on knowing the total size of the US intelligence budget, or on understanding information-sharing between agencies. I've yet to see evidence or even good argument that Osama bin Laden has this capability -- or even any interest in it. He's got other things to do.
Our government needs to start sharing a whole lot more facts with us. After all -- and this is worth reminding ourselves -- it is our country. And the government works for us.

Eddie notes Stephen Crockett (co-host, Democratic Talk Radio) Stephen Crockett's "Republicans to Poor: 'Freeze to Death'" (BuzzFlash):

Republicans in Congress cut home heating assistance funding to poor Americans by around $200 million. Democrats were seeking $5 billion. Republicans approved $2 billion.
Home heating costs are up around 40 percent to 70 percent over last year depending on the type of heating used.
Oil companies have huge excess profits that could be taxed to fund the program. Republicans in Congress have effectively blocked any attempt to tax these excess oil industry profits to help poor Americans from freezing to death.
Poor citizens do not give huge campaign contributions to Republican politicians like oil industry executives and oil industry political action committees. The poor tend to vote more Democratic than Republican over economic issues. Freezing to death voters who might support opposing political parties might be good politics but is both un-American and un-Christian. The Republicans in Congress should be kinder to their less fortunate American citizens and try to follow the Christian admonishment to help the poor.
These same Republican politicians are supporting cuts in food assistance and health care programs for poor Americans. The results will eventually be the same for some fellow American citizens. They will die earlier and have more unhealthy lives. Is this what America should be doing this Christmas?

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