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The Agonist: Front Page

I want to . . .

. . . really encourage y'all to give this diary post by Congressional candidate Coleen Rowley and the attendant conversation a serious look. The main thrust of the debate is a timeless question: exactly what is the proper balance between security and civil liberties? I don't know.

Somehow I don't think being able to look into my (or anyone else's) library account is going to make me any safer. It is also an unreasonable invasion of my privacy. Conversely, I have a feeling that the certain aspects of the NSA program recently revealed may make me safer and I can say they don't make me feel that I have less privacy. (However, no one should be above the law.)

In the end, this is a tough subject, at the core of who were are and who we want to be and we should all take a deep breath and listen to each other while we discuss this urgent topic. Do check it out.

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By Sean Paul in Diaries on Wed Dec 28th, 2005 at 01:20:29 PM PDT

Agonist Radio
Sean-Paul Kelley | San Antonio | December 28

The Agonist - It's that time again! Agonist Radio. And here is the lineup for Wednesday, December 28:

7-730 Intro segment, introduce the night's guests, main topic etc . . .

730-800: 550 KTSA and Agonist Radio Legal Expert discusses Enron and Rick Causey's recent plea.

8-830: TBA

830-900: Chris Bell will be on the air where we will discuss his primary opponent Bob Gammage, Kinky Friedman, "One Tough Grandma" Strayhorn and Governor Rick "Good-Hair" Perry.

9-10: Very special guest appearance by Guy Forsyth, singer, songwriter and all around raconteur.

You can listen to the live stream at And of course, you can call us using these numbers: local, 599-5555, toll-free: (800) 299-KTSA.

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By Sean Paul in Agonist Sightings on Wed Dec 28th, 2005 at 11:54:23 AM PDT

Godalming geek made millions running the Pentagon's propaganda war in Iraq
Patrick Foster and Tim Reid | Washington | December 28

Times Online - It was astounding enough for Washington�s political elite: last month they discovered that the man at the heart of a scandal over the planting of US propaganda in Iraqi newspapers was a dapper but unknown 30-year-old Oxford graduate who had somehow managed to land a $100 million Pentagon contract.

What is even more remarkable however, after an investigation by The Times, is that just ten years ago Christian Bailey, whose US company is under investigation for planting fake news stories in Iraqi newspapers, was a nerdy, socially awkward English school-leaver called Jozefowicz.

The transformation of the geeky but ambitious Christian Jozefowicz, who just a few years ago was growing up in a modest terraced house in Godalming, Surrey, to the charming, baby-faced multimillionaire Christian Bailey now rubbing shoulders with some of the most powerful figures in Washington � and who next year will probably face questions on Capitol Hill about his company � is one of the more extraordinary stories to have emerged from the Iraq war.

Hattip to the impeccable Laura Rozen

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By worldwise in USA: Military Issues on Wed Dec 28th, 2005 at 10:24:03 AM PDT

Algebra Is Icky . . .

. . . but the stamp is pretty cool.

Speaking of math, when the lede graf of a story starts out:

Numbers aren't just facts. They can be interpreted in many ways, even if they come from the same or similar sources.

Don't you just know the rest of the story is going to be crap? In my universe, 2+2=4. Same in Digby's.

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By Sean Paul in Diaries on Wed Dec 28th, 2005 at 08:50:30 AM PDT

Defense Lawyers in Terror Cases Plan Challenges Over Spy Efforts
Eric Lichtblau & James Risen | Washington | Dec 28

NYT -  Defense lawyers in some of the country's biggest terrorism cases say they plan to bring legal challenges to determine whether the National Security Agency used illegal wiretaps against several dozen Muslim men tied to Al Qaeda.

The lawyers said in interviews that they wanted to learn whether the men were monitored by the agency and, if so, whether the government withheld critical information or misled judges and defense lawyers about how and why the men were singled out.

The expected legal challenges, in cases from Florida, Ohio, Oregon and Virginia, add another dimension to the growing controversy over the agency's domestic surveillance program and could jeopardize some of the Bush administration's most important courtroom victories in terror cases, legal analysts say.

This is potentially a huge issue that could effect every prosecution in the WOT and then some. Former prosecutor ReddHedd explains why at Firedoglake. -ww

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By candy in USA: Intel and Policy on Wed Dec 28th, 2005 at 08:01:56 AM PDT

Elevated From Diaries
A Gift from Juan Cole--Clarity on Iraq

You may never read a clearer, more concise summary of the actual situation in Iraq than this well-crafted essay by Professor Juan Cole, "Top Ten Myths about Iraq in 2005":

Informed Comment link here.

Professor Cole reveals details that I had no idea were happening, including a much more interesting view of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, who is not the chummy pal of Iran that I was led to believe.

Cole also puts into proper perspective the factors that should govern the US government's decisions for that country.  Required reading.

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By Jimbo92107 in Diaries on Tue Dec 27th, 2005 at 09:30:03 PM PDT

Well, you learn something . . .

. . . new every day. Especially when you stick your own foot up your ass so publicly.

Anyhow, that Rik Reppe dude, he's cool. Ever met someone you just get good vibes from the first time you shake hands? That's Rik. I told him, "I look forward to the day when our paths cross again." I hope it happens soon.

Once again, big hoo-rah thanks to Brian Parrish for saving my butt. Big time. Tomorrow promises to be a good show. From 9-10 we'll have a real treat with Guy Forsyth. Excellent music. Hopefully I'll get to beat up on Cornyn a little more tomorrow too!

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By Sean Paul in Diaries on Tue Dec 27th, 2005 at 09:30:00 PM PDT

Please visit our advertisers so we don't have to beg you for money!

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By Sean Paul in Diaries on Tue Dec 27th, 2005 at 09:29:55 PM PDT

I still don't . . .

. . . have email. Please send it to spkelley1-at-gmail for the time being.

Lots of technology problems today. We had a mic bust in the studio and we're having connnection issues with Bob Rivard--that is a big bummer because I want to talk with him. Arghhh. Not the best night, but always good to learn. After all that is what life is about, learning.

Now, how about an Agonist call me: 800-299-5872 or 210-599-5555.

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By Sean Paul in Diaries on Tue Dec 27th, 2005 at 06:52:28 PM PDT

Apparently saying . . .

. . . the word "blow job" is a big no-no on radio. Why is that? We can talk about a 4 hour erection on national TV, and Ken Starr can drag the country through the mud for a year about Clinton's blow-job but we can't say it on the air? Strange. I am sorry I said it. But I find our attitudes about sex in this nation curious, to say the least.


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By Sean Paul in Diaries on Tue Dec 27th, 2005 at 05:36:47 PM PDT

I officially . . .

. . . hate Google. You know how gmail has that cool feature where you type in the first letter or two and you get a list of email addresses? Well, for some reason mine disappeared today. And then I typed in an email to someone and then went to type another email to someone with a similar email address and the last email I sent came back up. (Are you still with me?)

Then I had a brilliant idea: email all the people on my contact list (I swear I had no idea there were so many people) so the little feature I missed would return. Still with me? (Did I mention I blew up my RSS reader today too?) So, I hit send and it worked. Kind of. The feature is there and I get that cool list of emails back but now I can't send any emails! Google now thinks I am a spammer and has me in the time out box!

</bangs head against wall>

It get's worse: you know all those people whose emails you never return, but promise yourself you will? Well, now I have emailed all those people and they want to know how I am doing, how was my Christmas, how is the wife, etc. . . and I can't email them back!

</bangs head against wall again>

Anyone know how long googlatory lasts? (Temporary email:

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By Sean Paul in Diaries on Tue Dec 27th, 2005 at 02:10:40 PM PDT

Many of you . . .

. . . will already know that during a recent radio show I took Senator "Box Turtle" Cornyn and his office to task for being such whiny-babies. They called the station and complained that if I were going to have a liberal on to talk about possible Ralph Reed, Tom DeLay, Abramoff like corruption linked to John Cornyn then they needed to be on the air during or afterwards to refute the charges, equal time and all that. (Like Rush Limbaugh ever gave Bill or Hillary equal time!)

"Yeah, right," I said on the air. And then continued to criticize Senator "Box Turtle" Cornyn, deservedly so, for the next 20 minutes.  

Well, they started up again, called the station and made a kind of wink-wink-nudge-nudge implied threat to pull access not only for the guy I guest host for, but the whole station. Pretty sad operation in my book. I recognize they don't want negative press. But you can't own the press and then complain that it's the "Liberal Media�" that's keeping you down. I didn't realize someone could be a wimp and a bully at the same time but Cornyn's people have succeeded. They're wimps because they can't handle a little criticism and they are bullies by throwing their weight around trying to prevent it.

That, people, is what is wrong with politicians these days. And I am telling you all this because this is my website and Senator "Box Turtle" Cornyn can't pull my access to anyone because I don't have any. Go bully Alan Colmes.

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By Sean Paul in Diaries on Tue Dec 27th, 2005 at 12:26:56 PM PDT

elevated from the diaries ~ Welsh is our Canadian election correpsondent
Canadian Election Interregnum

The last two weeks of December - from the week before Christmas till New Years is over, mark the half time, and time-out, of the Canadian election.  As such it's fitting to look back at what has happened in the first half of the campaign, and what the second half may hold.

The campaign started with the Liberals riding high, almost to 40% ratings, with the Conservatives down at about 25% and the NDP as low as an anemic 13%.  Dire warnings of a possible Conservative collapse were uttered and Red Tories and soft-NDPers seemed to be turning to the Liberals.  In Quebec the Liberal party was in disarray and the Bloc Quebecois looked likely to return a record crop of MPs.

... More after the jump.   (Thread on Canadian Election here)

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By Ian Welsh in Diaries on Tue Dec 27th, 2005 at 12:26:52 PM PDT

elevated from the diaries ~Rowley is a Congressional Candidate
Contrary to some analysts, Moussaoui no justification for Bush's program

In the past week, many Republicans have used the Moussaoui case as justification for President Bush's attack on our civil liberties. I subsequently wrote a letter to the editor setting the record straight to the WaPo which published an abbreviated version. The following is the complete letter.

As legal counsel to the Minneapolis FBI Division and witness to the entire Moussaoui case, I can tell you that these assertions are not just factually wrong, they miss the real problems that existed within our intelligence gathering superstructure.  I wrote a 13 page memo and testified before Congress on these very failures. Yet, some individuals continue to misapply and misrepresent what I said.

more after the jump

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By Coleen Rowley in Diaries on Mon Dec 26th, 2005 at 10:50:01 PM PDT

A Way To Fight Bird Flu?
Emily Tai & Eric Koo Peng Kuan | Singapore | December 26

The Agonist - In a modern age where farming and animal husbandry is directed by technological advances and scientific knowledge, viruses, diseases and plague arising from poultry still remain of concern and are issues of concern to the rest of the consumer world. In early December 2005, it was reported that Thailand had experienced its second bird flu case within two months, China its fifth, and two new outbreaks from Vietnam.1 U.S. health authorities have also approved an initiative to market the antiviral drug Tamiflu for preventing influenza in children ages 1 through 12.2

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By Sean Paul in Agonist Exclusives on Mon Dec 26th, 2005 at 10:26:35 PM PDT

What's The Best Book You Read This Year?
Sean-Paul Kelley | San Antonio | December 26

The Agonist - As the title to the post says, "What's the best book you've read this year?" Tell me yours and I will tell you mine. The book can be two thousand years old (or two months), but you had to have read the entire thing, from cover to cover, this year.

My favorite was Black Sea by Neal Ascherson. Although this book falls into no pre-determined genre, or specific category few books have sustained a more fascinating, eye-opening and provocative sense of wonder on a single subject: the Black Sea, its littoral and the people who have (and continue) to derive their livelihood from it. Should you ever see this book in the store, pick it up. You will not be disappointed.

Now it's your turn.

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By Sean Paul in Book Reviews on Mon Dec 26th, 2005 at 01:31:56 PM PDT

Doc Makes Candid Comments on HIV Vaccine
John Solomon | Washington | Dec 26

AP -  In an unusually candid admission, the federal chief of AIDS research says he believes drug companies don't have an incentive to create a vaccine for the HIV and are likely to wait to profit from it after the government develops one.

And that means the government has had to spend more time focusing on the processes that drug companies ordinarily follow in developing new medicines and bringing them to market.

"We had to spend some time and energy paying attention to those aspects of development because the private side isn't picking it up," Dr. Edmund Tramont testified in a deposition in a recent employment lawsuit obtained by The Associated Press.

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By candy in Health Issues on Mon Dec 26th, 2005 at 10:06:58 AM PDT

Over at Kos . . .

. . . SusanG asks:

It would be interesting to find out if these kind of official summonses are of recent vintage, or if they've been going on all long ... especially in the run-up to the Iraq invasion.

Everyday we get more and more indications of White House/Bush Administration pushback/interference/persuasion/coercion vis-a-vis the press. How about some enterprising young reporter dig around about that? How about someone report on how involved the White House is with the editors of the WaPo, the NYT and other papers? I sure would like to know, wouldn't you?

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By Sean Paul in Diaries on Sun Dec 25th, 2005 at 10:13:24 PM PDT

Bloggers, Money U.S. Weapons in Information War
Jonathan Finer and Doug Struck | Baghdad | December 26

WaPo - Retired soldier Bill Roggio was a computer technician living in New Jersey less than two months ago when a Marine officer half a world away made him an offer he couldn't refuse.

You can find the Fourth Rail here.

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By Sulla Jones in Iraqi-American War on Sun Dec 25th, 2005 at 09:01:58 PM PDT

Pro-Israel Group Criticizes White House Policy on Iran
Dafna Linzer | Washington, DC | December 26

WaPo - After years of unwavering support for the Bush administration, the powerful pro-Israel lobbying group AIPAC has begun to sharply criticize the White House over its handling of Iran's nuclear program.

In lengthy news releases and talking points circulated to supporters on Capitol Hill, AIPAC describes the Bush administration's recent policy decisions on Iran as "dangerous," "disturbing" and "inappropriate." One background paper suggests that White House policies are actually helping Iran -- a sworn enemy of the Jewish state -- to acquire nuclear weapons.

Harsh words coming from AIPAC. ~eds.

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By dukeyman in Iran on Sun Dec 25th, 2005 at 08:47:58 PM PDT

Christmas Thoughts
December 25
~by Agonist reader JH

The Agonist - Christmas is many things: celebration of family, of various cultural symbols, of an important (if contested) historical event, of Christian assertions and doctrines, and much more. It has also become a site of contention, one more battlefield moment in America's incessant--and sometimes inane--culture wars. Among the sillier dust-ups of late has been the attempt to paint "Happy holidays!" as a dark, Bavarian plot to erase "Merry Christmas!" from our cultural lexicon. Not only is "Christmas" itself, as a tradition, shot through with all kinds of extra-Christian elements, it also seems a bit incongruous to find conservative American Evangelical Protestants, ostensibly committed to sola Scriptura, getting exercised over a "mass" of any kind, let alone one that, as a celebration, has absolutely no New Testament precedent. But that's only half the silliness. There's also the explosion of dismay and alarm in these circles over the sentiment expressed from the official White House card: "With best wishes for a holiday season of hope and happiness 2005." While certain cynics imagine--given the kinds of folk this White House might have in their rollodex--that it's the "hope and happiness" part of the greeting that offends, but no, it's that term "holiday." Which is, when you think about it, an odd place to draw a line in the sand and initiate Armageddon. As almost everyone knows, the word is of Old English derivation, as in haligdæg, from halig "holy" and dæg "day." One might think a little etymological reminder that certain days and times are "holy" (as in "set apart unto the Lord") would be just the kind of angelic hint a secular age might need and that God's self-proclaimed partisans would be grateful for that intimation of mystery. Guess not.

More after the jump

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By Sean Paul in Faith And Spirituality on Sun Dec 25th, 2005 at 04:25:40 PM PDT

Merry Christmas
The Agonist Family | Blogistan | December 25

From our families to yours we wish you a day of peace, joy, serenity and happiness. Love thy neighbor as you would love yourself. Live in the moment. Breath in the world surrounding you and engage in an uproarious love affair with life.

May the new year greet you with happiness, luck, cheer and the chance meeting of old friends, a rich tapestry of new experiences and hope, always hope.

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By Sean Paul in Miscellany on Sun Dec 25th, 2005 at 12:06:50 PM PDT

Scientists find 'mass dodo grave'
Mauritius | December 24

BBC - Scientists have discovered the "beautifully preserved" bones of about 20 dodos at a dig site in Mauritius.

No complete skeleton has ever been found in Mauritius, and the last full set of bones was destroyed in a fire at a museum in Oxford, England, in 1755.

Researchers believe the bones are at least 2,000 years old, and hope to learn more about how dodos lived.

A team of Dutch and Mauritian scientists discovered the bones in a swampy area near a sugar plantation on the south-east of the island.

Update: Saddam questioned in their disappearance.

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By Scott M in Science on Sun Dec 25th, 2005 at 12:06:46 PM PDT

Taking on QWERTY's illogic
John Borland | December 24

CNET - John Parkinson thinks the world has been tied to an Industrial Age keyboard for long enough.

One of a long line of entrepreneurs and scientists who have been outraged by the seeming illogic of the standard QWERTY keyboard, the 62-year-old electrical engineer is showing off a new, rival keyboard design next month at the upcoming Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

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By Sean Paul in Technology on Sun Dec 25th, 2005 at 08:19:47 AM PDT

Iraq Update  December 22 - 31

Dec 23:  US to scale down Iraq presence in 2006
RTE News - Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, has announced that the US will withdraw between 5,000 and 9,000 soldiers from Iraq by next spring. However, troops involved in training Iraq's new military would be increased.

Mr Rumsfeld was speaking on the second day of a surprise visit to Iraq. He is due to hold talks with the Iraqi President, Jalal Talabani, in Baghdad today.
  - Kos thread on what this does and does not mean
  - The Asheville Citizen-Times finds mixed local reaction

Dec 22:  Iraq poll fails to follow US script
Sidney Morning Herald - Fraud allegations, threatened boycotts and a vote along rigid ethnic and religious lines are robbing last week's Iraqi election of its acclaimed certainty as a building block in US democracy plans for the Middle East.

As release of new provisional figures confirmed the stunning success of conservative religious parties - Shiite and Sunni alike - a chorus of foul play erupted from the secular parties that the US had banked on to guide Iraq through the baby steps of its democracy blueprint. Washington's best hope is that the anger and rhetoric are tactical, rather than heartfelt.
Update Dec 25 - An Iraqi court has disqualified at least 90 candidates in the recent national elections from serving in parliament because of their ties to Saddam Hussein's Baath party. Several are leaders of the group of candidates led by the former prime minister Iyad Allawi, including Adnan Janabi and Saad Janabi.

This is the Iraq news thread. Please post new stories and comments about Iraq on this thread. (Prior week's Iraq Updates here).

All articles posted under fair use rules in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, and are strictly for the educational and informative purposes of our readers.

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By Editor in Iraqi-American War on Sun Dec 25th, 2005 at 08:18:13 AM PDT

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