Wednesday, September 21, 2005

THE DAY GONE BY ... Al Gore has won Buzzflash's Wings of Justice Award for flying two planeloads of hurricane victims from the Gulf Coast to Tennessee, where they are receiving medical care at his expense. The people rescued were hospital patients who had been forgotten or overlooked by the federal government.

Hurricane Rita has been upgraded to a Category 5, and is expected to hit the Texas Gulf Coast on Saturday.

The big antiwar rally scheduled for this Saturday, Sept. 24, is expected to draw about 100,000 peace activists, including thousands of military families, both for and against continued U.S. military involvement in Iraq. It's nothing new for war supporters to attend antiwar rallies as counterdemonstrators; but you don't usually see large numbers of military families marching in support of bringing the troops home.

Apparently, many of these families were inspired by Cindy Sheehan's public opposition to the war in Iraq.

Sheehan also galvanized Phil and Linda Waste, who were riding one of the "Bring Them Home Now" buses through the hills of North Carolina last week. Their three sons, grandson and granddaughter are all in the military and have served a total of 58 months in Iraq, and the Wastes have white-knuckled their way through each of those tours of duty.

They sat in their Hinesville, Ga., living room for months, cursing at the television reports from Iraq.

"Then we saw Cindy in Texas," said Linda Waste, holding tight to the table's edge on the bumping bus. Her husband picked up her thought: "And then we heard people call her unpatriotic. And that was it."

The Wastes finish each other's sentences and kiss each time they say "bring them home now" in unison. The people on the bus have started to call them Philinda.

"It's something I've got to do. Otherwise, I can't live with the guilt of what I did to my sons," Phil Waste said. He served in the Navy and has the blurry, sagging tattoos to prove it. He never fought in a war and used the mechanical skills he learned in the military to earn a decent living repairing elevators. "I told them the military was a good place to start out, a good place to learn a skill." He shakes his head and begins to cry.

* * *

Too bad Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont does not have the same courage and independence of mind displayed by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (a Democrat, not a Republican, as I mistakenly wrote yesterday). Leahy, senior Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, announced today that he will vote to confirm Roberts. Leahy said he "can only take [Roberts] at his word that he does not have an ideological agenda." Leahy does not explain why he feels obligated to take Roberts' assurances at face value.

For the second time in four months, Afghan President Hamid Karzai has talked back to his handlers in the Bush administration. The first time was back in May, when Karzai told the White House he should have more control over the 20,000 coalition troops (mostly American, of course) still in Afghanistan. Bush said no.

Now, Karzai has objected to a couple of aspects of the continuing U.S. military presence in Afghanistan. He wants the U.S. to stop "major foreign military operations" in Afghanistan, saying that rooting out terrorist networks and plugging up their sources of support is more important now than bombing raids (i.e., he wants the Bush administration to stop turning a blind eye to Pakistan's role in training and supplying Taliban terrorists). And he wants the U.S. military to stop unauthorized (by Karzai's government), forcible searches of private homes. Both requests seem quite reasonable to me. I mean, if Afghanistan is a democracy now, as Rumsfeld insists it is, the people of Afghanistan should, at the very least, be free from forced searches of their homes by a foreign military, without their permission or their government's authorization.

Iran asserts that it has an "inalienable right" to have and to keep a nuclear program. Iranian officials point to the recent agreement in principle with North Korea to bolster their claim that Iran's decisions about its nuclear program are a sovereignty issue.

Both the IAEA's boss, Mohammad ElBaradei, and British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw had called on Iran to "follow" the North Korean example. But the response of Ali Larijani, the new, hard-line secretary of Tehran's Supreme Council on National Security which supervises negotiations on the nuclear issue, was to argue that what was good enough for North Korea ought to be good enough for Iran.

"We see now that America and Europe got almost nothing from the talks (with Pyongyang) except that North Korea announced it would not produce nuclear weapons, something we have always said, repeated and reiterated," Larijani said. "After years of negotiations you (in this case the United States, China, South Korea, Russia, and Japan) ended up accepting North Korea's rights. Why not also accept ours now?"

And here's a very blogger-relevant news item:

A writers' group representing more than 8,000 authors is suing Google for "massive copyright infringement" over its fledgling programme of digitising library books.

The Authors Guild has issued legal proceedings in a New York court claiming damages and demanding the search engine stops uploading the contents of library books.

Google Print launched last October, enables people to search the contents of books online and, according to Google, makes it easier to find relevant books.

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