February 2004

I must admit, I have not yet seen The Passion of the Christ, but I can’t wait until I get a chance to do so. Apparently one other person who hasn’t seen the movie is John Kerry, although that didn’t stop him from weighing in with his opinion on the film (Democrat Kerry Urges Caution on ‘Passion’).

"I don’t know," he said when asked if he would see the Mel Gibson film about the last days of Jesus’ life and its particularly harrowing focus on his crucifixion. Kerry, a Catholic, said he was worried about the movie’s potential anti-Semitism. Some critics have complained that Gibson portrays Jews as responsible for Jesus’ death. "I am concerned," he told reporters. "I don’t know if it’s there or not but there’s a lot of it around now. I think we have to be careful."

To me it is very simple – anyone even remotely familiar with the Passion story would know that it is not anti-semitic. By even repeating that ignorance does a disservice to all. But is is, after all, a movie about Christianity, so clearly it is open to ridicule. It’s fine to portray Jesus as a character as long as you make him a fool. Try to show a literal interpretation of the Gospels and that is clearly dangerous.
But all that aside, there was probably the best summary of the real motivation behind the comments, interestingly enough, in a column by Ed Siegel in today’s Boston Globe (On religion, ‘Passion’ is literal, ‘Rings’ is liberal):

Conservatives would tend to agree with Gibson, that evil is as absolute as the truth. In "The Passion," the devil is real, not abstract. Pilate’s moral relativism ultimately thwarts his standing up to the mob. He asks his wife "What is truth?" and it is his Hamlet-like inability to see that Christ represents the truth which gives Caiaphas, the Jewish leader, the opportunity to demand the death of Jesus. It is the same kind of moral relativism that drives conservatives crazy about liberals. Why can’t liberals see, conservatives wonder, that Saddam Hussein is pure evil?

It’s the absolutism of people like Gibson and President Bush that drives liberals crazy. Why, for example, can’t conservatives see that Hussein was no greater danger than other dictators? There is a lot of questioning about where the truth lies in "The Lord of the Rings," as in most modern literature and modern art in general.

Elections, today, are often fought between absolutist conservatives and relativist liberals, with Middle-earth — or Middle America — deciding between those poles. Think of how Michael Dukakis’s relativist answer about capital punishment turned off voters in 1988. Ditto Pat Buchanan’s absolutist performance at the 1992 Republican Convention. Voters preferred Bill Clinton’s relativism to Republican absolutism, but couldn’t decide between the two eight years later.

And now? For George W. Bush, as for Mel Gibson, you’re either for us (or Jesus), or against us. The truth is not so simple for John Kerry. Changing his mind about Vietnam years ago, and insisting that not every issue has a simple answer, is a sign of strength to his supporters, a sign of weakness to conservatives.

To quote Gandalf, then: "So it begins, the great battle of our time."

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Holy and merciful God, we confess to You and to one another and to the whole communion of saints in heaven and on earth, that we have sinned by our own fault in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone.

We have not loved You with our whole heart and mind and strength.
We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.
We have not forgiven others as we have been forgiven.
Have mercy on us, O God.

We have not listened to Your call to serve as Christ served us.
We have not been true to the mind of Christ.
We have grieved Your Holy spirit.
Have mercy on us, O God.

We confess to You, O God, all our past unfaithfulness: the pride, hypocrisy and impatience in our lives;
We confess to You, O God.

Our self-indulgent appetites and ways and our wrong dealings with other people;
We confess to You, O God.

Our anger at our own frustration and our envy of those more fortunate than ourselves;
We confess to You, O God.

Our intemperate love of worldly goods and comforts and our dishonesty In daily life and work.
We confess to You, O God.

Our negligence in prayer and worship, and our failure to commend the faith that is in us.
We confess to You, O God .

Accept our repentance, O God, for the wrongs we have done: for our neglect of human need and suffering and indifference to injustice and cruelty.
For all false judgments, for uncharitable thoughts toward others, and for our prejudice and contempt for those who differ from us;
For our waste and pollution of Your creation and our lack of concern for those who come after us;
Accept our repentance, O God.

Restore us, O God, and let Your anger depart from us.
Favorably hear us, O God, for Your mercy is great.

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After a day of hearing about supposed attacks on John Kerry’s Patrotism, it was refreshing to the today’s guest column in the AJC by Eugene Methvin entitled Bush’s Guard duty was honorable:

As a 1950s Air Force fighter pilot who flew the all-weather F-86 fighter-interceptor in a squadron transitioning into the F-102, the plane that George W. Bush later flew, I find most reporters’ stories on Bush’s military service terribly skewed by ignorance and partisanship.

Bush was not shirking duty. He was shunted aside. Our experiences were analogous.

We both were "lame ducks" nearing the end of our military commitment.

The Air Force in 1958 faced the problem of maintaining flight proficiency and combat readiness amid cutbacks as President Eisenhower determined to balance his budget; and in 1972 the problem was to "build down" from the Vietnam War.

Commanders allotted precious flying time to senior pilots who had long commitments ahead.

"For the convenience of the government," I and hundreds like me were booted back to civilian life three months early. Like Bush, we spent a lot of time in pilots’ lounges "reading flight safety magazines and studying flight procedures," as Lt. Col. John B. Calhoun, a retired Alabama National Guard officer in Atlanta, described Bush’s activity.

As a short-termer in 1972 Bush was essentially grounded and would never fly the F-102 again and knew it. And the Air Guard waved a happy goodbye when he applied for a six-months-early release to attend Harvard Business School. Basically, we were both pushed out so commanders could maintain maximum readiness. This was just the way the military worked.

Yet here, three decades later, comes then-Lt. Col. Bill Turnipseed, who "doesn’t remember" Bush ever reporting for duty. Who is this witness? I asked a former Alabama National Guard pilot and friend who, like me, graduated from the University of Georgia in Air Force ROTC and spent three years flying in the country’s Cold War air deterrent array. This classmate flew RB-47s on a lead combat crew in the Strategic Air Command, left active duty in 1958, and while working in Montgomery as a television journalist flew with the same Alabama Air National Guard unit run by Turnipseed in which Bush later served.

My friend left journalism for a career in Republican campaign media and in 1972 was running Fletcher Thompson’s Republican Senate campaign in Georgia. He recalls: "I know the players. I always liked Bill Turnipseed. The Air Guard in Montgomery was a 100 percent partisan Democrat group. Bush was working about a half hour’s drive time from Dannelly Field in the Blount U.S. Senate campaign against their top elected official; Red Blount had been Nixon’s postmaster general.

"The Air Guard commanders knew precisely where to find Bush had he been needed. This Bush/Guard myth has never been anything more than a Democrat political lie top-to-bottom designed to smear Bush."

Moreover, the suggestion that Bush sought to evade the risk of wartime service in Vietnam by volunteering for the National Guard betrays colossal ignorance.

Air Force pilot training for all-weather fighter-interceptors typically covers 18 months of full-time active duty, followed in Bush’s case by Air National Guard duty flying F-101s and F-102s. The death rate among military pilots flying the all-weather fighter-interceptors, landing in blizzards and rainstorms at night, has always been high.

It probably compares to and may exceed service in Vietnam, where fewer than 15 percent were assigned to combat units. (Al Gore was in that noncombat category.)

In my 33-month military career I was in the air or on the flight line when seven pilots "bought the farm." I have flown through the funeral pyre of a wingman and friend who crashed on takeoff, and seen the deadly thunderflash of another pilot who crashed in the same night fog and rain in which I had just landed my similarly crippled F-86.

Bush, in his five years of full-time pilot training and "weekend warrior" service, compiled 625 cockpit hours, more than the 519 I logged in three years on full-time active duty in training and combat-ready squadron service.

It is the custom among military veterans in Washington to stand when bands play their service tunes.

At the 2001 Gridiron dinner, among the thousand or so attendees, a sparse few dozen stood for the Army’s "Caissons Go Rolling Along" and the "Marines Hymn"; fewer for the Navy’s "Anchors Aweigh" and for the Air Force’s "Wild Blue Yonder."

I noted only two standing — this old Cold War peacetime fighter jock and former Lt. George W. Bush, the commander in chief.

I wonder how many of the reporters and editors feasting on these stories about "Bush’s Guard records" have ever served in the military?

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A week ago, I wrote about the characterization of Bush as one who runs a smear campaign.

  • Kerry’s spokeswoman, Stephanie Cutter, said the video "demonstrates two things: the Bush White House is going to run a gutter campaign, and their worst fear is a Democratic nominee named John Kerry." Bush’s camp should stop "wasting time sticking their nose in a Democratic primary and engaging in smear tactics." (USA Today)
  • Kerry: "I promise you that when the Republican smear machine trots out the same old attacks in this election, this is one Democrat who will fight back." (USA Today)

Seemingly unrelated, according to the news media, negative advertising is well underway. As a Yahoo! news story reported this week(Kerry, Edwards Both Lead Bush, Poll Shows), the non-DNC Democratic ad machine is well underway:

A liberal-leaning online group that is running television ads criticizing President Bush says it has raised $10 million for its advertising fund. The total for the MoveOn.org Voter Fund doesn’t include the estimated $1.5 million from financiers George Soros and Peter Lewis.

The group currently is spending $1.4 million to run an ad in West Virginia, Missouri, Nevada, Ohio and Florida that takes Bush to task for the Iraq war and shows a polygraph machine reacting as Bush is heard saying sentences such as "Saddam Hussein had an advanced nuclear weapons development program."

The group also is running radio ads in Maine, New Mexico, Kentucky, Tennessee and Iowa, urging citizens to call their representatives in Congress to ask that they censure Bush for what the group calls "misleading the nation into war."

Don’t forget that this was the same organization that sponsored the contest containing such satire as that Bush is Hitler.

A very nice summary of the situation by Charles Krauthammer (It’s not GOP’s slime machine you hear) includes the following:

And now, after six weeks of carpet-bombing Bush, the Democrats are shocked — shocked! — that the Republicans might answer back with "negativity."

What, in fact, have the Republicans mustered? A single Internet ad about Kerry, the Senate’s king of special-interest money, denouncing special interests. And one speech by the Republican National Committee chairman on Kerry’s conventional liberal (i.e. budget-cutting) positions on defense and intelligence.

The Republicans have yet to go after Kerry on his most critical vulnerability, his breathtaking penchant for reversing course for political convenience.

Maybe all we can say is that ‘sleazy’, ‘smear’, and ‘gutter politics’ are all in the eye of the beholder.

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Today I learned that the flag and a love of country is equivalent to taking a stand against the environment. In today’s AJC, we hear that the new design of the Georgia vanity license plate is promoting wildlife does not please environmentalists (Patriotism on wildlife tag doesn’t fly with all). Instead of a deer standing by a bush, the new design features a bald eagle against the backdrop of an American flag. Now the bald eagle is actually connected to Georgia’s wildlife conservation efforts, so it’s really the flag that some people upset. But not all people… in fact in two months time, the new design has nearly as much in sales as a half-year’s worth of the old plate. According to the article:

Environmentalist Mike Moody wants to contribute to Georgia’s wildlife protection fund, but he’s not sure he wants to do it by buying and displaying a license plate adorned with a bald eagle and an American flag.

"Why did [the state] pick that tag? I have friends who refuse to buy it because it’s so rah-rah," Moody said. "I’m a patriot, but I’m not a gun-toting, flag-waving, Bush-loving patriot."

The new plate poses a dilemma for some environmentalists. In Georgia, as elsewhere, many of them lean to Democrat or Green Party candidates. Some see a connection between flag-waving symbols and President Bush, who they say favors big business over the environment. When pushed, many say they don’t support the U.S. war effort in Iraq.

So when was it that the Democratic Party started to oppose the flag? I certainly see the candidates standing in front of enough of them lately. Or is it just ‘pure’ environmentalists?

It’s pretty sad when you can’t love your country. But the best quote was from a rep from the DNR: "We know the hard-core environmentalists would have preferred to see [wildlife and plants] in their habitat. But you’ve got to think about how many pickup trucks in Georgia are going to put a pink ladyslipper on the back."

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So which kind of person are you – someone who thinks that this whole war on terrorism thing is simply ‘fear-mongering’ (perhaps even something dreamt up to try to win a politcal contest) or one who believes that we are involved in a larger struggle that is far from done? This seems to be truely a polarizing issue, and it strikes me hard to believe that we all have so very short memories.

I think about this a lot. And sometimes it bothers me more than others. Today I read Cynthia Tucker’s opinion piece in the AJC, and I can hardly believe the words have been commited in good conscience to the pasge (What’s scary is more Bush). Ms. Tucker apparently has apparently decided, like many in political office, that opinion is not based on an absolute scale, but by the latest opinion poll.

Actually, Bush wants you emotionally stuck in the horrible aftermath of the terrorist attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania. The weeks following the atrocities saw the president transformed into a forceful commander in chief and brought him sky-high approval ratings. With his ratings now down to about 50 percent, he’d love to flytrap American voters in a 9/11 mind-set until November — which, he thinks, would ensure his re-election.

But the strategy won’t work. The president’s fear-mongering merely created a strange discordance, since most Americans don’t consider the war on terror the most important issue facing the country. A January poll by the Pew Center showed that only 37 percent view defense and security as the nation’s most pressing concern. Thirty-five percent list the economy, while nearly 20 percent list other domestic issues as the most important. (The rest chose other issues or none.)

Barring another attack on U.S. soil, the presidential election won’t be won or lost on the war on terror. Bush beats the war drum too late; for the past two years, he has spent precious little time enlisting the average American in the war effort.

So let me understand: Some Americans have become complacient (or have started to believe the statements from most of the Democratic Presidental candidates who repeat them every single day) and either are overconfident that the war on terror is over or never should have started, in response to 9/11 or any other attack. So therefore, the President should ignore it. You see, there was a poll.

Instead of raising taxes to pay for soldiers and materiel, Bush pushed through a set of tax cuts that heavily favored the wealthy, meanwhile producing a budget deficit that threatens to make America the next Argentina. Instead of insisting that Americans reduce their dependence on foreign oil, the Bush administration went along with granting a tax exemption to small-business owners who buy the biggest and costliest SUVs. Instead of emphasizing the hardships that would accompany an invasion of Iraq, Vice President Dick Cheney et al. made absurd predictions about American soldiers being greeted as liberators and an oil-rich nation that would pay for its own reconstruction.

And didn’t they tell us we were safer with the capture of Saddam Hussein?

The simple truth is that the United States should be engaged in a grueling, long-term campaign against Islamist fanatics. But that sort of war would likely have entailed an invasion of Pakistan instead of the distraction of Iraq. Pakistan has done everything that Bush falsely claimed Iraq had done: it sheltered al-Qaida, and its scientists sold secrets and parts for making the mother of all WMD — the nuclear bomb — to North Korea, Libya and Iran. But a war against a nuclear power like Pakistan may have involved thousands of U.S. casualties. It would have been a real war.

Instead, Bush told us we’d stroll into Iraq, overthrow Saddam, implant democracy and watch it bloom throughout the region — ultimately bringing peace between Israel and the Palestinians. In fact, the president still says that. (Yet, he continues to fertilize the soil with American blood.)

I am always amazed to read stuff like this. You know, if someone wants to have a debate on issues, it can be a very healthy way to come to some determination on a case by the facts. But this type of rambling can never be held up to criticism because it continually contradicts itself. What did we learn from Ms. Tucker:

  • Bringing up class warfare (referring to tax payers as ‘the wealthy’) and insinuating that somehow tax cuts hurt the soldiers in the field… but in reality which Presidental candidate actually voted against funding here?

  • Apparently dusting off the old Islamic terrorists hate us because of what we do… like drive SUVs which consume gasoline… which causes money to flow to them for oil. Of course, if someone pays me, I would hate them too. Didn’t the SUV thing lose traction with all but eco-nuts after Arianna Huffington disappeared from the California governor’s race?
  • I guess Cynthia believes, like Howard Dean, that we are not safer with Saddam captured. That it would be better for the Iraqis to live under his regime. To continue to allow him to operate against twelve years of UN resolutions. Of course we could try to build more international support… but then that pesky list of oil-for-food bribes keeps coming up.
  • But, she notes, it is a "simple truth" that we should be at war with Islamic fanatics. But earlier Bush was wrong to indicate there we are at war because Americans have become complaicent? But which is it? We are at war or not? Maybe it’s only war if there are greater casulties, as she hopes for in an invasion of Pakistan. Again, Cynthia – regardless of the evil done by Pakistan (and that story is not over yet)… what exactly has happened that would prompt us to invade them? Remember we still can’t agree on Iraq and there was a clear path there. What about the soil fertilized with the blood of Americans there? So all I can take from this is that Bush is a coward for picking on someone he could beat, but couldn’t beat him fast enough or with too few casualties, and should be standing up for a broader war which actually doesn’t exist. Perfectly clear.

Don’t ever forget what has happened. This is not revenge… this is a continuation. Anyone who believes this battle to be over is mistaken. This is not some military action staged for a photo op – this is for real. Sound bites and witty quotes don’t win such things… and it’s not done quickly.

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Yesterday morning I happened to see a bit of the CBS Early Show. I kind of had a sick feeling even watching, knowing in the back of my mind that I would probably find something to be disturbed about, but my wife was waiting to see the latest Survivor cast-off, as I’m sure were many millions of other people, who incidentally are also people who are eligible to vote in the next election.

But the particular pundit chatting with Harry Smith (sorry pundit, I did was not paying attention when they showed your name – was it Craig Crawford?) started talking about how rhetoric for the presidential election is starting already, 9 months before the election. As a case in point, they showed a brief spot about Kerry that was posted on the Internet by the Bush re-election campaign. CBS News also featured the spot with the following description (Clark Salutes Kerry):

Determined to slow Kerry’s momentum, the president’s re-election campaign has begun posting attack videos on its official Web site and e-mailing them to supporters around the country.

One posted on Thursday night mocks Kerry’s frequent claim that he intends to show the special interests the door if elected.

"Sounds good," says the announcer, while the video shows a series of computer searches being launched. The results turn up newspaper stories that say Kerry raised "more special interest money than any other senator," and that "nominations and donations coincided."

"Kerry … brought to you by the special interests," says the announcer. "Millions from executives from HMOs, telecoms, drug companies, Ka-ching. Unprincipled?"

The Kerry campaign labeled the Bush video a "smear tactic" and said it proves "the Bush White House is going to run a gutter campaign."

If you want to take a look for yourself, you can see it at http://www.georgewbush.com/unprincipled/. It shows a clip of one of Kerry’s speeches blasting special interests and promising to chase them out. It then shows several news stories, such as the one over the last week in the Washington Post, correctly showing that Kerry is the biggest receiver of special interest donations in the Senate.

Now we can try to debate the points and whether the connection on special interest money has merit. Kerry clearly is implying something about Bush with his original points and is upset when someone else implies something about him when responding.

But I think the bigger question is not about the specifics of special interest donations, but rather the "smear campaign" charge. In the Early Show spot, the pundit went on to explain how this is shaping up to be a particularly nasty campaign, and announced over and over how George W. Bush, like his father before him, is particuarly skilled at "the politics of personal destruction." So the implication, for an uninformed viewer, is that there is likely an underhanded "smear campaign" coming up, and it will be run by the President, not the Democrats. Perhaps someone was afraid that people would see this ad and believe it, so it needed to be discounted, not just refuted. I don’t know the motivations, but it is troubling.

It seems there are two types of advertisements in play in politcal contests, regardless of level or race. Some are ads that promote a particualr candidate and explain how good they are, either based on their record or in promoting some particular position. The other type attempts to describe the short-comings of the other candidate. Quite often it is a hybrid approach, the good of one candidate and at least a little of the bad of the other. You can say it would be better if we were more ‘positive’, but both types of ads are going to exists for everyone – and you can not tell me this is unique to Republicans, Democrats, or even non-partisans. If you don’t think that Democrats are going to attack Bush in this election… wait a minute, has anyone actually seen the Democratic nominating process. It has nothing to do with any particualr candidate (other than this mystical ‘electability’ we’ve recently heard so much about to Dean’s dismay), it is entirely about the evil that is George W. Bush. Both on the policies as President and him as a human being. The same people who might nod their heads in agreement with the concept that Bush is a ‘master of the politics of personal destruction’ are the same ones parroting ridiculous claims that he was AWOL from his National Guard Service, dreamed up the War in Iraq from his Texas ranch, had pre-knowledge about 9/11, manipulated intelligence data on WMD, and staged the capture of Saddam from his spider hole. He is simultaneously the most stupid person alive and the most cunning, even managing to trick well informed Senators into voting incorrectly (of course, we must define an ‘incorrect’ vote as one that is inconvienent for the person at the current moment in time, not judged against some absolute truth).

When did we last hear about the ‘Poltics of Personal Destruction’? Was it from Hillary Clinton while she was promoting her book (Clinton laments ‘politics of personal destruction’ as she hawks book). I know all about the ‘vast right-wing conspiracy’. But neither liberals or conservatives have a corner on this market.

I also think it’s interesting that the Early Show and CBS News article picked the Bush ad as an example of smear politics. It does not use particularly strong language. It mearly shows an apparent contradiction between the words Kerry has spoken and his actions while Senator. The words are quotations. The actions are a matter of record. Any connection and implications is left to the viewer. Is Kerry welcome to describe how appearances are deceiving – sure… we would all welcome that (although I doubt that it will be coming henceforth). Back in January we had a small burst of excitement when MoveOn.org hosted on contest for the best anti-Bush ‘ad’. Of course one of the entrants did not suggest that voters do research and draw their own conclusions about some issue, but rather painted George Bush as being the same as Adolph Hitler including the line "A nation warped by lies. Lies fuel fear. Fear fuels aggression. Invasion. Occupation. What were war crimes in 1945 is foreign policy in 2003." (Ad Comparing Bush to Hitler Gets Heat). Of course, at the time, the organization and its various defenders said it could not be responsible for someone’s freedom of speech, that it was an incident blown out of proportion, and that Republicans just don’t understand ‘satire’. (Actually I think that those calling that satire are the ones who need a refresher on the meaning of the word). No word from those same defenders that the comparisons were wrong or misrepresentative, just not their fault. Of course, I guess the White House is left to issue a statement that, in fact, George Bush is not actually the second coming of Hitler, but how exactly do you even counter such crap? But for the sake of argument, let’s put this aside as well, and say that it was not the direct product of the Democratic National Committee, so it doesn’t count.

When CBS refused a MoveOn.org ad to run during the Super Bowl, CBS news correspondant Lee Cowan said "I think it basically amounts to censorship." (Super Bowl Ad Smackdown) Democratic Senator Dick Durbin even announced "It’s time for CBS to announce that the name of its network is the Conservative Broadcasting System." That’s about a ridiculous as it gets.

I agree that it will probably be an ugly campaign. The Democratic debates alone show it will be ugly. I hope that both sides can use restraint. I could care less about seeing pictures of Kerry with Jane Fonda. Whether or not Kerry has a girlfriend is of little interest to me. I hope we don’t hear the refrains from 2000 that Bush is a cocaine addict and alcoholic. Let’s keep it together and in perspective. But this problem is certainly not unique to Republicans.

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The following is text from President George W. Bush’s remarks on WMD proliferation delibered at the National Defense University on Feb. 11. 2004:

On September the 11th, 2001, America and the world witnessed a new kind of war. We saw the great harm that a stateless network could inflict upon our country — killers armed with box cutters, mace and 19 airline tickets. Those attacks also raised the prospect of even worse dangers of other weapons in the hands of other men.

The greatest threat before humanity today is the possibility of secret and sudden attack with chemical or biological or radiological or nuclear weapons.

In the past, enemies of America required mass armies and great navies, powerful air forces to put our nation, our people, our friends at risk.

In the Cold War, Americans lived under the threat of weapons of mass destruction, but believed that deterrents made those weapons a last resort.

What has changed in the 21st century is that, in the hands of terrorists, weapons of mass destruction would be a first resort, the preferred means to further their ideology of suicide and random murder.

These terrible weapons are becoming easier to acquire, build, hide and transport. Armed with a single vial of a biological agent or a single nuclear weapon, small groups of fanatics or failing states could gain the power to threaten great nations, threaten the world peace.

America and the entire civilized world will face this threat for decades to come. We must confront the danger with open eyes and unbending purpose.

I made clear to all the policy of this nation: America will not permit terrorists and dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world’s most deadly weapons.

Meeting this duty has required changes in thinking and strategy. Doctrines designed to contain empires, deter aggressive states and defeat massed armies, cannot fully protect us from this new threat. America faces the possibility of catastrophic attack from ballistic missiles armed with weapons of mass destruction. So that is why we are developing and deploying missile defenses to guard our people.

The best intelligence is necessary to win the war on terror and to stop proliferation, so that is why I have established a commission that will examine our intelligence capabilities and recommend ways to improve and adapt them to detect new and emerging threats.

We’re determined to confront those threats at the source. We will stop these weapons from being acquired or built. We’ll block them from being transferred. We will prevent them from ever being used.

One source of these weapons is dangerous and secretive regimes that build weapons of mass destruction to intimidate their neighbors and force their influence upon the world.

These nations pose different challenges. They require different strategies.

The former dictator of Iraq possessed and used weapons of mass destruction against his own people. For twelve years, he defied the will of the international community. He refused to disarm or account for his illegal weapons and programs.

He doubted our resolve to enforce our word. And now he sits in a prison cell while his country moves toward a democratic future.

To Iraq’s east, the government of Iran is unwilling to abandon a uranium-enrichment program capable of producing material for nuclear weapons. The United States is working with our allies and the International Atomic Energy Agency to ensure that Iran meets its commitments and does not develop nuclear weapons.

In the Pacific, North Korea has defied the world, has tested long-range ballistic missiles, admitted its possession of nuclear weapons and now threatens to build more. Together with our partners in Asia, America is insisting that North Korea completely, verifiably and irreversibly dismantle its nuclear programs.

America has consistently brought these threats to the attention of international organizations. We’re using every means of diplomacy to answer them. As for my part, I will continue to speak clearly on these threats. I will continue to call upon the world to confront these dangers and to end them.

In recent years, another path of proliferation has become clear, as well. America and other nations are learning more about black market operatives who deal in equipment and expertise related to weapons of mass destruction.

These dealers are motivated by greed, fanaticism or both. They find eager customers in outlaw regimes; paid millions for the parts and plans they need to speed up their weapons programs.

And the deadly technology and expertise on the market, there’s the terrible possibility that terrorist groups could obtain the ultimate weapons they desire most.

The extent and sophistication of such networks can be seen in the case of a man named Abdul Qadeer Khan. This is the story as we know it so far.

A.Q. Khan is known throughout the world as the father of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program. What was not publicly known until recently is that he also led an extensive international network for the proliferation of nuclear technology and know-how.

For decades, Mr. Khan remained on the Pakistani government payroll earning a modest salary. Yet he and his associates financed lavish lifestyles through the sale of nuclear technologies and equipment to outlaw regimes stretching from North Africa to the Korean peninsula.

A.Q. Khan himself operated mostly out of Pakistan. He served as director of the network, its leading scientific mind, as well as its primary salesman.

Over the past decade, he made frequent trips to consult with his clients and to sell his expertise. He and his associates sold the blueprints for centrifuges to enrich uranium, as well as nuclear design stolen from the Pakistani government.

The network sold uranium, hexafluoride, the gas that the centrifuge process can transform into enriched uranium for nuclear bombs.

Khan and his associates provided Iran and Libya and North Korea with designs for Pakistan’s older centrifuges, as well as designs for more advanced and efficient models. The network also provided these countries with components and, in some cases, with complete centrifuges.

To increase their profits, Khan and his associates used a factory in Malaysia to manufacture key parts for centrifuges. Other necessary parts were purchased through network operatives, based in Europe and the Middle East and Africa.

These procurement agents saw the trade in nuclear technologies as a shortcut to personal wealth. And they set up front companies to deceive legitimate firms into selling them tightly controlled materials. Khan’s deputy, a man named BSA Tahir ran SMB Computers, a business in Dubai.

Tahir used that computer company as a front for the proliferation activities A.Q. Khan network. Tahir acted as both the network’s chief financial officer and money launderer. He was also its shipping agent, using his computer firm as cover for the movement of centrifuge parts to various clients.

Tahir directed the Malaysia facility to produce these parts, based on Pakistani designs, and then ordered the facility to ship the components to Dubai. Tahir also arranged for parts acquired by other European procurement agents to transit through Dubai for shipment to other customers.

This picture of the Khan network was pieced together over several years by American and British intelligence officers. Our intelligence services gradually uncovered this network’s reach and identified its key experts and agents and money men.

Operatives followed its transactions, mapped the extent of its operations. They monitored the travel of A.Q. Khan and senior associates. They shadowed members of the network around the world. They recorded their conversations. They penetrated their operations.

We’ve uncovered their secrets. This work involved high risk. And all Americans should be grateful for the hard work and the dedication of our fine intelligence professionals.

Governments around the world worked closely with us to unravel the Khan network and to put an end to its criminal enterprise. A.Q. Khan has confessed his crimes. And his top associates are out of business.

The government of Pakistan is interrogating the network’s members, learning critical details that will help them prevent it from ever operating again. President Musharraf has promised to share all the information he learns about the Khan network and has assured us that his country will never again be a source of proliferation.

Mr. Tahir is in Malaysia, where authorities are investigating his activities. The Malaysian authorities have assured us that the factory the network used is no longer producing centrifuge parts. Other members of the network remain at large.

One by one, they will be found and their careers in the weapons trade will be ended.

As a result of our penetration of the network, American and the British intelligence identified a shipment of advanced centrifuge parts manufactured at the Malaysian facility. We followed the shipment of these parts to Dubai and watched as they were transferred to the BBC China, a German-owned ship.

After the ship passed through the Suez Canal bound for Libya, it was stopped by German and Italian authorities. They found several containers, each 40 feet in length, listed on the ship’s manifest as full of used machine parts. In fact, these containers were filled with parts of sophisticated centrifuges.

The interception of the BBC China came as Libyan and British and American officials were discussing the possibility of Libya ending its WMD programs.

The United States and Britain confronted Libyan officials with this evidence of an active and illegal nuclear program. About two months ago, Libya’s leader voluntarily agreed to end his nuclear and chemical weapons programs, not to pursue biological weapons, and to permit thorough inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

We’re now working in partnership with these organizations and with the United Kingdom to help the government of Libya dismantle those programs and eliminate all dangerous materials.

Colonel Gadhafi made the right decision, and the world will be safer once his commitment is fulfilled.

We expect other regimes to follow his example. Abandoning the pursuit of illegal weapons can lead to better relations with the United States and other free nations.

Continuing to seek those weapons will not bring security or international prestige, but only political isolation, economic hardship and other unwelcome consequences.

We know that Libya was not the only customer of the Khan network. Other countries expressed great interest in their services. These regimes and othreats of a new era.

America and the nations of Australia, France and Germany, Italy and Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom have launched the Proliferation Security Initiative to interdict lethal materials in transit.

Our nations are sharing intelligence information, tracking suspect international cargo, conducting joint military exercises. We’re prepared to search planes and ships to seize weapons and missiles and equipment that raise proliferation concerns, just as we did in stopping the dangerous cargo on the BBC China before it reached Libya.

Three more governments, Canada and Singapore and Norway, will be participating in this initiative. We’ll continue to expand the core group of PSI countries. And as PSI grows, proliferators will find it harder than ever to traorld’s efforts to stop the spread of deadly weapons.

First, I propose that the work of the proliferation security initiative be expanded to address more than shipments and transfers. Building on the tools we’ve developed to fight terrorists, we can take direct action against proliferation networks.

We need greater cooperation, not just among intelligence and military services, but in law enforcement, as well.

PSI participants and other willing nations should use the Interpol and all other means to bring justice to those who traffic in deadly weapons, to shut down their labs, to seize their materials, to freeze their assets.

We must act on every lead. We will find the middlemen, the suppliers and the buyers. Our message to proliferators must be consistent and it must be clear: We will find you, and we’re not going to rest until you are stopped.

Second, I call on all nations to strengthen the laws and international controls that govern proliferpassed the Nunn-Lugar legislation. Senator Lugar had a clear vision, along with Senator Nunn, about what to do with the old Soviet Union. Under this program, we’re helping former Soviet states find productive employment for former weapons scientists. We’re dismantling, destroying and securing weapons left over from the Soviet WMD arsenal. We have more work to do there.

And as a result of the G-8 Summit in 2002, we agreed to provide $20 billion over 10 years, half of it from the United States, to support such programs.

We should expand this cooperation elsewhere in the world. We will retain WMD scientists and technicians in countries like Iraq and Libya. We will help nations end the use of weapons-grade uranium and research reactors, urge more nations to contribute to these efforts.

The nations of the world must do all we can to secure and eliminate nuclear and chemical and biological and radiological materials. As we track and destroy these networks, we must also prevent governments from developing nuclear weapons under false pretenses.

The nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty was designed more than 30 years ago to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons beyond those states which already possess them.

Under this treaty, nuclear states agreed to help non-nuclear states develop peaceful atomic energy, if they renounce the pursuit of nuclear weapons. But the treaty has a loophole, which has been exploited by nations such as North Korea and Iran.

These regimes are allowed to produce nuclear material that can be used to build bombs under the cover of civilian nuclear programs. So today as a first step, I propose a way to close the loophole.

The world must create a safe, orderly system to field civilian nuclear plants without adding to the danger of weapons proliferation. The world’s leading nuclear exporters should ensure the states have reliable access at reasonable cost to fuel for civilian reactors, so long as those states renounce enrichment and reprocessing.

Enrichment and reprocessing are not necessary for nations seeking to harness nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

The 40 nations of the Nuclear Suppliers Group should refuse to sell enrichment and reprocessing equipment and technologies to any state that does not already possess full-scale, functioning enrichment and reprocessing plants.

This step will prevent new states from developing the means to produce fissile material for nuclear bombs.

Proliferators must not be allowed to cynically manipulate the NPT to acquire the material and infrastructure necessary for manufacturing illegal weapons.

For international norms to be effective, they must be enforced.

It is the charge of the International Atomic Energy Agency to uncover banned nuclear activity around the world and report those violations to the U.N. Security Council.

We must ensure that the IAEA has all the tools it needs to fulfill its essential mandate.

America and other nations support what is called the additional protocol, which requires states to declare a broad range of nuclear activities and facilities and allows the IAEA to inspect those facilities.

As a fifth step, I propose that by next year, only states that have signed the additional protocol be allowed to import equipment for their civilian nuclear programs.

Nations that are serious about fighting proliferation will approve and implement the additional protocol.

I’ve submitted the additional protocol to the Senate. I’ve urged the Senate to consent immediately to its ratification.

We must also ensure that the IAEA is organized to take action when action is required.

So a sixth step, I propose the creation of a special committee of the IAEA board which will focus intensively on safeguards and verification. This committee, made up of governments in good standing with the IAEA, will strengthen the capability of the IAEA to ensure that nations comply with their international obligations.

And finally, countries under investigation for violating nuclear nonproliferation obligations are currently allowed to serve on the IAEA Board of Governors.

As we move forward to address these challenges, we will consult with our friends and allies on all these new measures. We will listen to their ideas. Together, we will defend the safety of all nations and preserve the peace of the world.

Over the last two years, a great coalition has come together to defeat terrorism and to oppose the spread of weapons of mass destruction — the inseparable commitments of the war on terror.

We’ve shown that proliferators can be discovered and can be stopped. We’ve shown that for regimes that chose defiance, there are serious consequences. The way ahead is not easy, but it is clear.

We will proceed as if the lives of our citizens depend on our vigilance, because they do.

Terrorists and terror states are in a race for weapons of mass murder, a race they must lose.

Terrorists are resourceful; we’re more resourceful. They’re determined; we must be more determined.

We will never lose focus or resolve. We’ll be unrelenting in the defense of free nations and rise to the hard demands of dangerous times.

May God bless you all.

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Last night, as GM of the Atlanta Hawks, one of the doormats of the already weak Eastern Coference, you went out to make a trade. It’s been tough for you and the Hawks this year. Essentially playing a man down after unloading selfish ‘Big Dog’ Glenn Robinson for essentially a song… you have really been working for next year. Ironically, my family has seen more Hawks games this year than ever before…

If we go back in history to 2000 before you arrived on the scene, the year the Hawks decided that playing in the playoffs was a luxury. They made a different deal with the Blazers. At that time, they sent Steve Smith to Portland for JR Rider and Jim Jackson. At the time we looked at it as moving the team younger. Jackson didn’t pan out but JR Rider remained – putting in a few points but acting like a team cancer. After finally getting fed up and releasing him, JRcouldn’t even get it together to play for Phil Jackson on the Lakers.

Now it’s Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Theo Ratliff, and Dan Dickau to the Blazers for ‘bad-boy’ Rasheed Wallace and Wesley Person??? Are the Hawks acting as a charity to help out Portland?

Shareef was one of the only players out there busting his butt every night playing for this team. He didn’t open is mouth in the press. He didn’t lead the league in technical fouls. He doesn’t smoke pot and ignore his coach.

With Wallace on the team I doubt I can ever take my family to a game again.

I’m sure that you told Coach Terry Stotts, ironically an interim now with the longest tenure of a coach in the conference, that it’s about to end for him too.

Mr. Knight, if this is you the Hawks thank the fans of Atlanta – forget you.

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When Bill Maher writes (Lose the twang, y’all)

Enough with the Civil War complex: It’s time for Southern Democrats to get enlightened about voting Bush out of office.

North Carolina Sen. John Edwards has a powerful argument in his bid to be the Democratic nominee when he says, "What I give people is a candidate who can win everywhere in America."

Translation: "We Southerners ain’t gonna vote for no Yankee! You suckers up North will take our Clintons and Carters, but we just ain’t buyin’ Kerrys and Deans."

And that’s a shame. Not just for Democrats but for democracy itself. And I feel bad for the millions of intelligent people who live in a region still dominated by so much prejudice that anyone who wants to be president better have a twang in his voice and pronounce all four E’s in the word "shit."

I know that he just wants to suck people in. These statements are simply meant to get a reaction out of people from the south, and – perhaps worse yet – get Bill’s name back in a conversation. I won’t react as he expects, except to repeat (and I wish that I could attribute this correctly or get the quote exact) – A lot more sense has come out of Zell Miller’s mouth in the last year (even with a southern twang) than Ted Kennedy’s in the last twenty years!

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