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By Fin on 2/6/2005 10:15am PT  

Guest blogged by Fin

For those who wondered why Senator Feinstein didn't join Senator Boxer in opposition to Condoleezza Rice, we have this from The Byrne Report:

ON JAN. 18, California senator Dianne Feinstein introduced Dr. Condoleezza Rice at a Senate nomination hearing for Secretary of State in terms so saccharine that molasses seemed to ooze out of her mouth....That very same day, Feinstein's husband, Richard Blum, took advantage of a spike in the price of his URS Corporation stock. He sold a third of his holdings in the defense contractor for $57 million, according to filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. With Rice confirmed, the business of death and occupation looks rosy as hell for Feinstein, who--let's get real--benefits tremendously from sharing community property with Blum....Hubby holds a controlling interest in another engineering firm, Perini Corporation of Framingham, Mass....After the Senate, Feinstein included, approved Bush's war plans in 2002, Perini's defense contract awards soared from negligible to $2.52 billion. But, as with many of the sole-source, open-ended contracts awarded to politically connected firms, there are problems with accountability. Last summer, Department of Defense auditors determined that Perini could not adequately justify its costs in Iraq as fair and reasonable.

Some would say it's just business as usual, but with 1,500 dead and tens of thousands wounded (both physically and psychologically), it all seems criminal.

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By Fin on 1/29/2005 9:21pm PT  

Guest blogged by Fin

The first hour is officially over and I think I saw all of 3 people come into vote on the Fox News Baghdad feed. The talking heads are trying to cheerlead their asses off but it's looking pretty grim. Anybody still up and watching?

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The View From Inside
By Fin on 1/29/2005 2:13pm PT  

Guest blogged by Fin

From Christopher Allbritton at his always insightful Back to Iraq

The security situation is unreal. No cars tomorrow—except those with special passes, which includes media, cops, political guys, etc. in short, if you're an insurgent and you hit a car tomorrow, you're bound to get someone vaguely important. Only five polling stations in Baghdad will allow cameras or other electronic gear, so bear that in mind when you look at photographs of the election.

I'll be out in the thick of it for a while at least... Out with my photographer and seeing what goes on. Not sure if I'll be driving or walking. That will depend on my security guys. This is a free election? Insurgent pamphlets are being distributed that anyone walking to a polling center is a target. Several centers have already been blown up. The fear is thick enough to cut with a knife. The Iraqi security forces—with their American patrons—have tanks at the end of my street. Old Soviet T-55s, but tanks, nonetheless.

He goes on to give a detailed prediction on how the vote percentages might play out and what might happen next. He finishes with this far from ringing endorsement of freedom's march:

Tomorrow is shaping up to be a big day. Lots of security issues, worries about the future and general anxiety. Will the elections be successful? What would constitute successful? To be honest, I don't know anymore. A high turnout would definitely help, but even that may not be enough if the Sunni don't come to the polls and can't be enticed into the constitutional process. One thing is certain though: The insurgency will continue unabated. Our sources in the insurgency—the Ba'athists and nationalists, not the jihadis—pledge that Sunday means nothing. As long as Iraq is occupied by Americans and their puppets, “brought in on the back of their tanks,” as the saying goes, the violence will continue. And since I don't see the government changing much, I don't see much changing in Iraq. The infrastructure will continue to limp along or deteriorate further, Americans and Iraqis will continue to die, in large numbers in the case of the latter. And Iraq will further disintegrate into a failed state.

Now, I may be surprised by the turns of events here. And Lord knows I've been wrong before. But from here in Baghdad, people are voting not because they want democracy, but because they're grasping onto anything they think will help. For Iraqis, hope is fleeting and life is short. This isn't optimism, it's desperation, and that's no basis for a democracy.

The whole post is worth a read.

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By Fin on 1/27/2005 10:08am PT  

Guest blogged by Fin

Brad just contacted me with this information from one of his sources inside the Judiciary Committee.

Washington, D.C. - Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT), Ranking Member on the Senate Rules Committee, and Rep. John Conyers, Jr, (D-MI), Ranking Member on the House Judiciary Committee, announced that they will be working together in seeking changes to our nation's elections system this Congress. Dodd introduced S. 17, the Voting Opportunity and Technology Enhancement Rights Act of 2005 (“VOTER Act”) Monday, and Conyers will introduce a House companion version based in significant part on the Senate bill shortly.

Among other things, their legislation will provide for a nationwide federal write in/absentee ballot; require states to provide for a voter verified ballot; insure that provisional ballots cast anywhere in a state are counted; eliminate disparities in the allocation of voting machines and poll workers; mandate early voting and election day registration procedures; and protect against improper purging of registration lists in federal elections.

“It is imperative that we have elections that count every vote of every eligible voter,” declared Dodd and Conyers. “A provisional ballot cast anywhere in the state of Ohio should count just as it does in the state of Iowa. There is no reason that voters in inner city areas should be forced to wait in lengthy lines, while their counterparts in the suburbs are able to vote immediately. If voters in Oregon can vote early, why can't voters in Michigan, and if citizens in Idaho enjoy same day registration, why can't voters in Florida?”

“Our elections are the very foundation of our democracy. We've made great strides in repairing cracks in that foundation, but clearly we still need to do more to strengthen and reinforce each American's right to vote and have that vote counted,” said Dodd. “This measure can hopefully act as the democratic mortar to anchor one of our nation's most precious rights and ensure that all voters are treated equally on election day.”

Conyers stated “Our nation has just endured the second consecutive presidential election which came down to a single state, and that state – Ohio – was riddled with irregularities and the appearance of partisan manipulation. If there is any issue that is central to our democracy, it is insuring that eligible voters are freely able to participate in our elections. I intend to do everything I can to insure that this issue does not go away until we have a set of uniform and non-discriminatory rules that respects all of our citizens' right to vote.”

In 2001, in the wake of the myriad problems that surfaced in Florida and around the nation in the presidential election, Sen. Dodd and Rep. Conyers jointly introduced election reform legislation that ultimately passed into law as the Help America Vote Act.

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By Fin on 1/27/2005 8:32am PT  

Guest blogged by Fin

Juan Cole puts it all in perspective:

In his appearances on Wednesday, President Bush said that it was a positive that Iraqis are even having elections, since three years ago it would have seemed out of the question. You know, if all you have to boast about is that you are better than Saddam Hussein, it isn't actually a good sign. Can you imagine what would have happened to the Republican Party if its reply to Kerry's criticisms of last summer had been, "Well, the American Republican Party is a damn sight more progressive than Hitler was." Saddam was overthrown on April 9, 2003. It is 2005, and the US has been running Iraq for nearly two years. Now the question is, how does the situation in Iraq compare to the Philippines, or India, or Turkey. Answer: It sucks. There is little security, people are killed daily, there is a massive crime wave, and elections are being held in which most of the candidates cannot be identified for fear of their lives. So the conclusion is that the Bush administration has done a worse job in Iraq than the Congress Party does in India, or the AK Party does in Turkey. That's the standard of comparison once Saddam was gone. And, by the way, veteran NYT journalist John Burns, who is nobody's fool, told Tina Brown last Friday that he was taken aback when an Iraqi told him recently that he wished Saddam were back. This was an Iraqi who really had been delighted at the American invasion. So Bush should drop the cute sound bite about being better than Saddam.

Then again, our Dear Leader has always been graded on a serious curve, hasn't he? From his humble upbringing as a poor little rich kid, to his drug filled days at Yale and beyond, to his 'aw shucks isn't it funny I can't speak English' act, Bush has always been cut a serious amount of slack for his actions and inactions. But it's not cute or uplifting, it's embarassing.

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By Fin on 1/25/2005 8:23pm PT  

Guest blogged by Fin

What will be the tipping point of the Bush Presidency? Iraq? The Economy? Another terrorist attack in the U.S.? Another pretzel?

Enlighten me.

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By Fin on 1/24/2005 7:40pm PT  

Guest blogged by Fin

I (like you, I'm sure) was thrilled and energized by the President's call to increase Freedom and Liberty across the globe. To that end, in today's L.A. Times comes an article that I'm sure will make our Dear Leader's heart leap. One in which a repressed group of people are finally being given the opportunity to cross over into the promised land of freedom. The money quote:

In the Islamic Republic of Iran... hundreds of people are having their gender changed legally, bolstered by the blessings of members of the ruling Shiite clergy.

Let's take a moment and think about this. How monumental that one of the original members of the Axis of Evil (back before it was trendy) has chosen to give liberty to a discriminated against group. (Now, for the sake of full disclosure, the excised text in the above quote did say "gay male sex still carries the death penalty and lesbians are lashed", but still this is a clear beacon of freedom for thousand of men and women yearning to be free of...well, being lashed and killed.)

What's that, you say, Mr. President? You didn't mean that kind of freedom? Oh, I see. I missed the fine print at the bottom of your speech. Funny, the list of unapproved freedoms listed is a lot longer than that other one. A few samples...

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---

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