Thursday, May 31, 2007

Raise your hand if you believe in science

Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas is one of several longshot Republican presidential hopefuls. His, er, clarification in the NYT on his assertion, by way of raised hand during the last GOP presidential debate, that he doesn't believe in evolution, does not annoy me because it is wrong. No, his op-ed (see below) annoys me because it "reasonably" claims a middle ground in the Evolution vs. Creation debate that does not exist.

Americans love the middle ground. They love compromise. And they are very religious. That is why Brownback's slick attempt at sounding reasonable and moderate on this issue will be very appealing to many U.S. readers.

But don't you be fooled! Sam Brownback's "middle ground" is Creationism dressed in a professor's tweed and elbow patches.

Science and rational thought have had to fight against religion – and often die – to win every inch of their acceptance in the past 500 years.

More recently, however, mankind reached a tipping point: Discoveries came so fast, and the scientific method was so manifestly correct and useful, that religion was abruptly (perhaps irrevocably) pushed back on its heels. And there it has remained… until recently.

Nowadays, those religious fundamentalists of yore are trying to make a comeback. They're enrolling in real universities and getting scientific degrees in order to "prove" things like Noah's flood, and how dinosaur bones became fossilized over hundreds – not millions – of years. They're learning the scientific lingo, and how to spin a mythic tale like scientific possibility. Yet they always give themselves away: In one breath they will tell you they love science, and in the next, that there are certain truths they will never accept, the facts be damned. Evolution being chief among those unacceptable truths.

But real scientists can't do that. It would be absurd for a physicist to insist, for instance, "I will never accept string theory, because it is incompatible with two-dimensional quantum gravity as described by Einstein." A scientist who uttered such silliness would no longer be a scientist; he would be a dogmatist.

Science is about keeping an open mind, as long as some phenomenon has not been adequately explained. Modern fundamentalists seek to take advantage of science's suspension of judgment on unexplained questions by asserting, unscientifically, that what science hasn't yet explained, it can never explain.

But the past 500 years should show us the folly in such assertions. Every time we think we've reached the boundaries of scientific knowledge, somehow we push farther. And every time we do, religion claims the remaining, shrinking universe of Uncertainty as its sole domain and refuge. "What you don't yet know only proves what we believe! You cannot push farther!" religion has alternately taunted and warned us. Yet we can, we do, and we must push knowledge farther. 500 years from now, religion will probably still exist, but its jealous domain of Uncertainty will have surely dwindled to the size of a tiny island in the vast cosmos of human understanding.

Thank God for progress.

What I Think About Evolution
By Sam Brownback

May 31, 2007 | New York Times

IN our sound-bite political culture, it is unrealistic to expect that every complicated issue will be addressed with the nuance or subtlety it deserves. So I suppose I should not have been surprised earlier this month when, during the first Republican presidential debate, the candidates on stage were asked to raise their hands if they did not "believe" in evolution. As one of those who raised his hand, I think it would be helpful to discuss the issue in a bit more detail and with the seriousness it demands.

The premise behind the question seems to be that if one does not unhesitatingly assert belief in evolution, then one must necessarily believe that God created the world and everything in it in six 24-hour days. But limiting this question to a stark choice between evolution and creationism does a disservice to the complexity of the interaction between science, faith and reason.

[Interaction? What interaction? There is no interaction whatsoever between [sic] science, faith, and reason. They are apples and oranges. That's the whole point! People like Brownback want to elevate modern religion by hitching it to science's rising star; and at the same time, weigh down science's progress by burdening it with the task of disproving unprovable religious "theories" taken from mythical tradition and the Bible. It is a trick. Don't be fooled! – J]

The heart of the issue is that we cannot drive a wedge between faith and reason. I believe wholeheartedly that there cannot be any contradiction between the two. The scientific method, based on reason, seeks to discover truths about the nature of the created order and how it operates, whereas faith deals with spiritual truths. The truths of science and faith are complementary: they deal with very different questions, but they do not contradict each other because the spiritual order and the material order were created by the same God.

People of faith should be rational, using the gift of reason that God has given us. At the same time, reason itself cannot answer every question. Faith seeks to purify reason so that we might be able to see more clearly, not less. Faith supplements the scientific method by providing an understanding of values, meaning and purpose. More than that, faith — not science — can help us understand the breadth of human suffering or the depth of human love. Faith and science should go together, not be driven apart.

The question of evolution goes to the heart of this issue. If belief in evolution means simply assenting to microevolution, small changes over time within a species, I am happy to say, as I have in the past, that I believe it to be true. If, on the other hand, it means assenting to an exclusively materialistic, deterministic vision of the world that holds no place for a guiding intelligence, then I reject it.

[But what if reason and observation lead us to the conclusion that mankind evolved from apes over millions of years, and that this process was indeed influenced largely by "accidents?" Would Brownback then not reject provable facts to preserve his faith?

In fact, religious "thinkers" like Brownback believe that reason and scientific observation can never prove "an exclusively materialistic, deterministic vision of the world." And their certainty in that belief is exactly why they can't be trusted to decide the question. Science is about keeping an open mind on unproven propositions. Brownback's mind is closed; for him, it is simply not possible for there to be a purely scientific (i.e. materialistic) explanation for existence. – J]

There is no one single theory of evolution, as proponents of punctuated equilibrium and classical Darwinism continue to feud today. Many questions raised by evolutionary theory — like whether man has a unique place in the world or is merely the chance product of random mutations — go beyond empirical science and are better addressed in the realm of philosophy or theology.

The most passionate advocates of evolutionary theory offer a vision of man as a kind of historical accident. That being the case, many believers — myself included — reject arguments for evolution that dismiss the possibility of divine causality.

Ultimately, on the question of the origins of the universe, I am happy to let the facts speak for themselves. There are aspects of evolutionary biology that reveal a great deal about the nature of the world, like the small changes that take place within a species. Yet I believe, as do many biologists and people of faith, that the process of creation — and indeed life today — is sustained by the hand of God in a manner known fully only to him. It does not strike me as anti-science or anti-reason to question the philosophical presuppositions behind theories offered by scientists who, in excluding the possibility of design or purpose, venture far beyond their realm of empirical science.

[Baloney. We would have no fundamental understanding of biology without the theory of evolution. Without Darwin, and the subsequent discovery of genes, we would only be able to classify and describe organisms, not explain how they came to be, or predict how they might further develop. Without evolution, biology would be little more than taxidermy and butterfly collecting. – J]

Biologists will have their debates about man's origins, but people of faith can also bring a great deal to the table. For this reason, I oppose the exclusion of either faith or reason from the discussion. An attempt by either to seek a monopoly on these questions would be wrong-headed. As science continues to explore the details of man's origin, faith can do its part as well. The fundamental question for me is how these theories affect our understanding of the human person.

[Again, Brownback just doesn't get it. Science is not a "discussion" or a debate club. It is about observation, and provable facts (and often rubbing those facts in your doubters' smug scientific faces). Religion, by contrast, depends on invisible hocus pocus and unexplainable miracles. The two are fundamentally opposed; there can be no marriage between them. – J]

The unique and special place of each and every person in creation is a fundamental truth that must be safeguarded. I am wary of any theory that seeks to undermine man's essential dignity and unique and intended place in the cosmos. I firmly believe that each human person, regardless of circumstance, was willed into being and made for a purpose.

While no stone should be left unturned in seeking to discover the nature of man's origins, we can say with conviction that we know with certainty at least part of the outcome. Man was not an accident and reflects an image and likeness unique in the created order. Those aspects of evolutionary theory compatible with this truth are a welcome addition to human knowledge. Aspects of these theories that undermine this truth, however, should be firmly rejected as an atheistic theology posing as science.

[There he goes again, stating what beliefs he cannot be persuaded by the facts to abandon. He is illustrating quite clearly why there is no middle ground between science and faith. – J]

Without hesitation, I am happy to raise my hand to that.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

German Op-Ed: Europe, Thy Name is Cowardice

Well, being European doesn't make you right. This is all bunk. Thanks for forwarding it though. Here's why this is full of crap:

> Serbs murdered more Albanian Kosovars
after the NATO bombing campaign began. We did not stop ethnic cleansing by attacking Serbia, we facilitated it. The bombing was not particularly effective in destroying Serbia's military, was never backed up by threat of a NATO ground invasion, and it gave Serbs the cover of war to carry out their dirty deeds. What's worse, Madeline Albright, Richard Holbrook, and Bill Clinton knew that the ethnic cleansing would probably get worse after NATO started bombing. Their goal wasn't to save Kosovars' lives, it was to re-legitimize NATO as a military institution in Russia's former back yard. It was a war to save NATO, not the Kosovars.

> "...bombings in Israel by fundamentalist Palestinians." By slipping in that word "fundamentalist" he's trying to group Palestinians in with every other Islamic terrorist with a gripe in the world. Nice try. But the fact is, Palestinians have been some of the least "fundamentalist" Muslims in the Mideast. Their grievances against Israel have been and remain
territorial, not religious. Over time, some Palestinians' religion may have become more radicalized, but only because extreme Muslim groups and countries like Iran have been the first to offer aid and support.

"Ronald Reagan ended the Cold War." You can't debunk this myth enough times. The USSR was always doomed to fall apart, because it was a murderous, inefficient, illegitimate government. Things like the USSR's failed war in Afghanistan, regional separatism & Russian chauvanism, glastnost and perestroika starting an unitended wildfire of freedom the government couldn't put under control, and yearning for consumer culture ended the Soviet Union, not Ronald Reagan. Ronald Reagan just took all the credit. Even if Ronald Reagan played an important role (which I don't believe), he didn't "end" the Soviet Union himself, to the exclusion of all the forces mentioned above, and others. If it were that easy to overthrow a regime, by speeches and threats and military buildups, then Saddam Hussein's Iraq -- which was a weakling compared to the USSR -- should have been crushed easily under 10 years of combined U.S. and Western pressure. The invasion of Iraq never should have been necessary, if speeches and threats could topple regimes!

> Ah... Oil-for-Food again. The stealing under Oil-for-Food was nothing compared to the $ billions in Saddam's outright smuggling under the U.S.-led embargo. And WE (THE U.S. GOV'T) KNEW ABOUT IT BUT DID NOTHING because Saddam was selling this cheap oil to our allies like Turkey.

His main point, that Germany's creating a Muslim holiday is appeasement, is laughable, unless he believes (which he does, the lunatic!) that Germany is "at war" with Muslims. A growing number of Germans are Muslim. Many are from secular, democratic Turkey, a staunch U.S. ally, and a model of what we would like the entire Mideast to look like. Perhaps, therefore, it's not appeasement, but rather courtesy and common sense, for Germany to recognize their religion positively? What's the harm in that?

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: May 29, 2007 8:34 PM
Subject: Fw: German Editorial - EUROPE - THY NAME IS COWARDICE
To: Undisclosed-Recipient


If any of you still feel that this war on terror is a mistake, here is an opinion from an unexpected source. It's fascinating that this should come out of
Europe . Mathias Dapfner, Chief Executive of the huge German
publisher Axel Springer AG, has written a blistering attack in DIE WELT,
Germany's largest daily paper, against the timid reaction of Europe in the face of the Islamic threat.

This is a must-read by all Americans. History may well certify its correctness.


(Commentary by Mathias Dapfner CEO, Axel Springer, AG)

A few days ago Henry Broder wrote in Welt am Sonntag, "
Europe - your family name is appea sement." It's a phrase you can't get out of your head because it's so terribly true.

Appeasement cost millions of Jews and non-Jews their lives, as
England and France, allies at the time, negotiated and hesitated too long before they noticed that Hitler had to be fought, not bound to toothless

Appeasement legitimized and stabilized Communism in the
Soviet Union, then East Germany, then all the rest of Eastern Europe, where for decades, inhuman suppressive, murderous governments were glorified as the ideologically correct alternative to all other possibilities.

Appeasement crippled
Europe when genocide ran rampant in Kosovo, and even though we had absolute proof of ongoing mass-murder, we Europeans debated and debated and debated, and were still debating when finally the Americans had to come from halfway around the world, into Europe yet again, and do our work for us.

Rather than protecting democracy in the
Middle East , European Appeasement, camouflaged behind the fuzzy word "equidistance," now countenances suicide bombings in Israel by fundamentalist Palestinians.

Appeasement generates a mentality that allows Europe
to ignore nearly 500,000 victims of Saddam's torture and murder machinery and, motivated by the self-righteousness of the peace movement, has the gall to issue bad grades to George Bush... Even as it is uncovered that the loudest critics of the American action in Iraq made illicit billions, no, TENS of billions, in the corrupt U.N. Oil-for-Food program.

And now we are faced with a particularly grotesque form of appeasement. How is
Germany reacting to the escalating violence by Islamic Fundamentalists in Holland and elsewhere? By suggesting that we really
should have a "Muslim Holiday" in

I wish I were joking, but I am not. A substantial fraction of our (German) Government, and if the polls are to be believed, the German people, actually believe that creating an Official
State "Muslim Holiday" will somehow spare us from the wrath of the fanatical Islamists. One cannot help but recall Britain's Neville Chamberlain waving the laughable treaty signed by Adolph Hitler and declaring European "Peace in our time".

What else has to happen before the European public and its political leadership get it? There is a sort of crusade underway, an especially perfidious crusade consisting of systematic attacks by fanatic Muslims,
focused on civilians, directed against our free, open Western societies, and intent upon Western Civilization's utter destruction.

It is a conflict that will most likely last longer than any of the great military conflicts of the last century - a conflict conducted by an enemy that cannot be tamed by "tolerance" and "accommodation" but is
actually spurred on by such gestures, which have proven to be, and will always be taken by the Islamists for signs of weakness. Only two recent American Presidents had the courage needed for Anti-appeasement: Reagan and Bush.

His American critics may quibble over the details, but we Europeans know
the truth. We saw it first hand: Ronald Reagan ended the Cold War, freeing half of the German people from nearly 50 years of terror and virtual slavery. And Bush, supported only by the Social Democrat Blair, acting on moral conviction, recognized the danger in the Islamic War against Democracy. His place in history will have to be evaluated after a number of years have passed.

In the meantime,
Europe sits back with charismatic self-confidence in the multicultural corner, instead of defending liberal society's values and being an attractive center of power on the same playing field as the
true great powers,
America and China.

On the contrary - we Europeans present ourselves, in contrast to those "arrogant Americans", as the World Champions of "tolerance", which even (
Germany's Interior Minister) Otto Schily justifiably criticizes. Why?
Because we're so moral? I fear it's more because we're so materialistic, so devoid of a moral compass.

For his policies, Bush risks the fall of the dollar, huge amounts of additional national debt, and a massive and persistent burden on the American economy - because unlike almost all of
Europe, Bush realizes
what is at stake - literally everything.

While we criticize the "capitalistic robber barons" of
America because they seem too sure of their priorities, we timidly defend our Social Welfare systems. Stay out of it! It could get expensive! We'd rather discuss reducing our 35-hour workweek or our d ental coverage, or our 4 weeks of paid vacation... Or listen to TV pastors preach about the need to "reach out to terrorists. To understand and forgive".

These days,
Europe reminds me of an old woman who, with shaking hands, frantically hides her last pieces of jewelry when she notices a robber breaking into a neighbor's house.


Europe , thy name is Cowardice.

---God Bless

Monday, May 28, 2007

GOP prez. hopefuls perpetuate Iraq-9/11 myth

Bush and the GOP have made Americans dumber by conflating Islam with Al Qaeda with Saddam Hussein with the Iraqi insurgency. We think everybody wants to kill us, and we see enemies everywhere. That kind of thinking leads a country to make rash, violent decisions, and choose cocky leaders who strut around making threats at our omnipresent enemies. Not good.

Romney's most recent gaff would make even G.W. Bush blush: "They want to bring down the West, particularly us. And they've come together as Shia and Sunni and Hezbollah and Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaeda, with that intent."

GOP rivals embrace unproven Iraq-9/11 tie

WASHINGTON -- In defending the Iraq war, leading Republican presidential contenders are increasingly echoing words and phrases used by President Bush in the run-up to the war that reinforce the misleading impression that Iraq was responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

In the May 15 Republican debate in South Carolina, Senator John McCain of Arizona suggested that Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden would "follow us home" from Iraq -- a comment some viewers may have taken to mean that bin Laden was in Iraq, which he is not.

Former New York mayor Rudolph Guiliani asserted, in response to a question about Iraq, that "these people want to follow us here and they have followed us here. Fort Dix happened a week ago."

However, none of the six people arrested for allegedly plotting to attack soldiers at Fort Dix in New Jersey were from Iraq.

Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney identified numerous groups that he said have "come together" to try to bring down the United States, though specialists say few of the groups Romney cited have worked together and only some have threatened the United States.

"They want to bring down the West, particularly us," Romney declared. "And they've come together as Shia and Sunni and Hezbollah and Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaeda, with that intent."

Assertions of connections between bin Laden and terrorists in Iraq have heated up over the last month, as Congress has debated the war funding resolution. Romney, McCain, and Giuliani have endorsed -- and expanded on -- Bush's much-debated contention that Al Qaeda is the main cause of instability in Iraq.

Spokespeople for McCain and Romney say the candidates were expressing their deep-seated convictions that terrorists would benefit if the United States were to withdraw from Iraq. The spokesmen say that even if Iraq had no connection to the Sept. 11 attacks, Al Qaeda-inspired terrorists have infiltrated Iraq as security has deteriorated since the invasion, and now pose a direct threat to the United States.

But critics, including some former CIA officials, said those statements could mislead voters into believing that the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks are now fighting the United States in Iraq.

Michael Scheuer , the CIA's former chief of operations against bin Laden in the late 1990s, said the comments of some GOP candidates seem to suggest that bin Laden is controlling the insurgency in Iraq, which he is not.

"There are at least 41 groups [worldwide] that have announced their allegiance to Osama bin Laden -- and I will bet that none of them are directed by Osama bin Laden," Scheuer said, pointing out that Al Qaeda in Iraq is not overseen by bin Laden.

Nonetheless, many GOP candidates have recently echoed Bush's longstanding assertion that Iraq is the "central battlefront" in the worldwide war against Al Qaeda and have declared that Al Qaeda would make Iraq its base of operations if the United States withdraws -- notions that Scheuer said do not withstand scrutiny.

"The idea that Al Qaeda will move its headquarters of operation from South Asia to Iraq is nonsense," said Scheuer.

The belief that there is a clear connection between Iraq and the 9/11 attacks has been a key determinant of support for the war. A Harris poll taken two weeks before the 2004 presidential election found that a majority of Bush's supporters believed that Iraq was behind the 9/11 attacks -- a claim that Bush has never made. Eighty-four percent believed that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had "strong links" with Al Qaeda, a claim that intelligence officials have long disputed.

But critics have maintained that Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney encouraged these ideas by using misleading terms to describe the threat posed by Iraq before the war.

Bush, for instance, repeatedly spoke of Hussein's support for terrorism -- which many Americans apparently took to mean that Hussein supported Al Qaeda in its jihad against the United States. The administration, however, sourced that claim to Hussein's backing of Palestinian terrorist groups targeting Israel.

Now, some GOP presidential candidates refer to "the terrorists" as one group, blurring distinctions between Al Qaeda, which has attacked the United States repeatedly, and groups that former intelligence officials say have not targeted the United States.

Romney said Friday: "You see, the terrorists are fighting a war on us. We've got to make sure that we're fighting a war on them."

Romney's comment in the earlier debate that "they've come together as Shia and Sunni and Hezbollah and Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaeda" struck some former intelligence officials as particularly misleading. Shia and Sunni, they said, are branches of Islam and not terrorist groups. There are an estimated 300 million Sunni Muslims in the Middle East, many of them fighting Al Qaeda.

"Are Shia and Sunni together? Is the Muslim Brotherhood cooperating with all these other groups? No," said Judith Yaphe, a former CIA Iraq analyst.

"There's a tendency to exaggerate in a debate," she added. "You push the envelope as far as you can."

No point has been emphasized more strongly at GOP debates than the link between the Iraq war and Al Qaeda. During the debates about war funding, GOP leaders have downplayed the role of sectarian violence in Iraq and emphasized the role of Al Qaeda.

On Friday, McCain called any attempt to cut Iraq war funding, "the equivalent of waving a white flag to Al Qaeda."

But specialists say that the enemy the military calls "Al Qaeda Iraq" is a combination of Iraqi jihadists and an unknown number of fighters from countries throughout the Middle East. "AQI" came together after the US invasion. And while there is evidence that AQI members coordinate attacks among themselves, there is little evidence that they coordinate closely with bin Laden.

In pressing his case for continued war funding, Bush last week said a previously classified intelligence report indicated that bin Laden had sent a messenger in early 2005 to urge the late Iraqi terrorist chief Abu Musab al-Zarqawi to aim more attacks at the United States.

But there is no further evidence that bin Laden, who is believed to be hiding along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, exerts control over Al Qaeda Iraq, according to a senior military official in Baghdad in an interview last week.

"We don't have any direct information that would link Al Qaeda Iraq to getting e-mails, memos, whatever, from bin Laden," the military official said, speaking under condition of anonymity.

A McCain spokesman said the senator did not mean to suggest in his debate comments that bin Laden was in Iraq. But aides to Romney and McCain, in interviews, insisted that the candidates are not exaggerating when they speak of bin Laden and the link between Al Qaeda and Iraq.

"The larger point shouldn't be in dispute," said Randy Scheunemann , McCain's foreign policy adviser. "If there's a territory where Al Qaeda is left unmolested, free to plan, conduct, and train for operations, they will do so."

Romney's national press secretary, Kevin Madden, said the former governor's linking of Shia, Sunni, Al Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Muslim Brotherhood was based on their common hostility to the West. "I think [Romney's statement] was much more directed at intent -- they all share a common ideology or intent to bring down Western governments," Madden said. "There's a shared attempt to fight any beachhead of democracy in that region."

Analysts say that Hamas and Hezbollah are participating in democratic governments and that the leaders of Shi'ite militias are part of the Iraqi government.

"All of the bad actors in the Middle East get mixed up in people's minds," said Andrew Kohut , director of the nonpartisan Pew Research Center, which has polled extensively on views on Iraq. "That's why it was easy to play on the perception that Saddam Hussein got together with Osama bin Laden and said 'Let's fly some planes into buildings.' Saddam Hussein was seen as a bad guy in the Middle East, and so it all gets jumbled up in people's thinking."

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Bush Admin. ignored U.S. intel predictions in 2003

Now that these two reports from the National Intelligence Council have been declassified, we can see that their predictions in January 2003 about the likely aftermath of a preventive Iraq invasion were almost 100% accurate. These reports were delivered to the White House and the Pentagon.

Why didn't the Bush Administration take these reports seriously? Why weren't the intelligence community's predictions taken into account when planning for post-Saddam Iraq?

Today Bush loyalists say that Bush simply followed the CIA's judgments on the nature & scope of Saddam's WMD programs. So, if the Bush Admin. did not question the CIA's opinion on Iraq's WMD, why did they ignore the entire intelligence community's opinions about what Iraq would be like after Saddam?

What's that called when you accept expert judgment when you happen to agree with it, but disregard it when you don't?...

Assessments Made in 2003 Foretold Situation in Iraq
Intelligence Studies List Internal Violence, Terrorist Activity

By Walter Pincus
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, May 20, 2007; A06

Two intelligence assessments from January 2003 predicted that the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and subsequent U.S. occupation of Iraq could lead to internal violence and provide a boost to Islamic extremists and terrorists in the region, according to congressional sources and former intelligence officials familiar with the prewar studies.

The two assessments, titled "Principal Challenges in Post-Saddam Iraq" and "Regional Consequences of Regime Change in Iraq," were produced by the National Intelligence Council (NIC) and will be a major part of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence's long-awaited Phase II report on prewar intelligence assessments about Iraq. The assessments were delivered to the White House and to congressional intelligence committees before the war started.

The committee chairman, Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), and the vice chairman, Sen. Christopher S. Bond (R-Mo.), announced earlier this month that the panel had asked Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell to declassify the report for public release. Congressional sources said the two NIC assessments are to be declassified and would be part of a portion of the Phase II report that could be released within the next week.

The assessment on post-Hussein Iraq included judgments that while Iraq was unlikely to split apart, there was a significant chance that domestic groups would fight each other and that ex-regime military elements could merge with terrorist groups to battle any new government. It even talks of guerrilla warfare, according to congressional sources and former intelligence officials.

The second NIC assessment discussed "political Islam being boosted and the war being exploited by terrorists and extremists elsewhere in the region," one former senior analyst said. It also suggested that fear of U.S. military dominance and occupation of a Middle East country -- one sacred to Islam -- would attract foreign Islamic fighters to the area.

The NIC assessments paint "a very sobering and, as it has turned out, mostly accurate picture of the aftermath of the invasion," according to a former senior intelligence officer familiar with the studies. He sought anonymity because he is not authorized to speak about still-classified assessments.

The former senior official said that after the NIC papers were distributed to senior government officials, he was told by one CIA briefer that a senior Defense Department official had said they were "too negative" and that the papers "did not see the possibilities" the removal of Hussein would present.

A member of the Senate committee, without disclosing the contents of the studies, said recently that the release will raise more questions about the Bush administration's lack of preparation for the war's aftermath.

In his book, "At the Center of the Storm," former CIA director George J. Tenet discussed the NIC assessments as well as prewar intelligence analyses his own agency prepared on the same issues. Some of the language in the CIA reports that Tenet describes are similar to judgments in the NIC assessments because the agency is a major contributor to such papers, according to present and former intelligence analysts.

While Tenet admits that the CIA expected Shiites in southern Iraq, "long oppressed by Saddam, to open their arms to anyone who removed him," he said agency analysts were "not among those who confidently expected coalition forces to be greeted as liberators."

Tenet writes that the initial good feeling among most Iraqis that Hussein was out of power "would last for only a short time before old rivalries and ancient ethnic tensions resurfaced." The former intelligence analyst said such views also reflected the views in the NIC paper on post-Hussein Iraq.

The NIC assessments also projected the view that a long-term Western military occupation would be widely unacceptable, particularly to the Iraqi military. It also said Iraqis would wait and see whether the new governing authority, whether foreign or Iraqi, would provide security and basic services such as water and electricity.

Tenet wrote that the NIC paper on Iraq said that "Iraqi political culture is so imbued with norms alien to the democratic experience . . . that it may resist the most vigorous and prolonged democratic treatments."

The senior intelligence official said that the prewar analysis of challenges in post-Hussein Iraq contained little in the way of classified information since it was an assessment of future situations and was almost all analysis. The assessment of regional consequences of regime change in Iraq would require deletions since it contains "comments on the policies and perspectives of some friendly governments."

The committee focused on the two NIC assessments -- rather than analyses by the CIA, Defense Intelligence Agency or the State Department -- because they were written under the supervision of national intelligence officers and coordinated with all intelligence agencies. Such papers are similar to more formal National Intelligence Estimates except they are not finalized and approved by the National Foreign Intelligence Board, made up of the heads of the agencies.

Iraq on verge of collapse

Iraq is on the verge of collapse: report

Thu May 17, 2007 3:05PM EDT
By Ibon Villelabeitia

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq's government has lost control of vast areas to powerful local factions and the country is on the verge of collapse and fragmentation, a leading British think-tank said on Thursday.

Chatham House also said there was not one civil war in Iraq, but "several civil wars" between rival communities, and accused Iraq's main neighbors -- Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey -- of having reasons "for seeing the instability there continue."

"It can be argued that Iraq is on the verge of being a failed state which faces the distinct possibility of collapse and fragmentation," it said in a report.

"The Iraqi government is not able to exert authority evenly or effectively over the country. Across huge swathes of territory, it is largely irrelevant in terms of ordering social, economic and political life."

The report also said that a U.S.-backed security crackdown in Baghdad launched in February has failed to reduce overall violence across the country, as insurgent groups have just shifted their activities outside the capital.

While cautioning that Iraq might not ultimately exist as a united entity, the 12-page report said a draft law to distribute Iraq's oil wealth equitably among Sunni Arabs, Shi'ites and ethnic Kurds was "the key to ensuring Iraq's survival."

"It will be oil revenue that keeps the state together rather than any attempt to build a coherent national project in the short term," the influential think-tank said.

The oil law, among benchmarks Washington has set Baghdad as critical steps to end sectarian violence, has yet to be approved by parliament. Ethnic Kurds, whose autonomous Kurdistan region holds large unproven reserves, oppose the draft's wording.

Rather that one civil war pitting majority Shi'ites against Sunnis nationwide, the paper said Iraq's "cross-cutting conflicts" were driven by power struggles between sectarian, ethnic and tribal groups with differing regional, political and ideological goals as they compete for the country's resources.

The author of the report, Middle East expert Gareth Stansfield, said instability in Iraq was "not necessarily contrary to the interests" of Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

"(Iraq) is now a theatre in which Iran can 'fight' the U.S. without doing so openly," Stansfield said, adding that Iran was the "most capable foreign power" in Iraq in terms of influencing future events, more so than the United States.

The rise to power of Iraq's long-oppressed Shi'ite majority has caused concern in Sunni Gulf states, particularly Saudi Arabia, which deeply distrusts non-Arab, Shi'ite Iran's influence in Iraq, Stansfield wrote.

Should a U.S. withdrawal herald the beginning of a full-scale Sunni-Shi'ite civil war in Iraq, Saudi Arabia "might not stand by," the paper said, "with the possibility of Iran and Saudi Arabia fighting each other through proxies in Iraq".

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Taibbi: Dem's Want Iraq's Oil, Too

Man, Rolling Stone must have the worst web site of any major publication. If you want to read Taibbi's latest posts, you'd better have a friend at Google to find them for you online. Anyway, here 'tis, a bit belated but still not past its expiry date…

Pelosi's New Iraq Supplemental Is Outright Colonial Robbery

By Matt Taibbi,
Posted on May 9, 2007

There is a growing number of people out there who believe the Reid-Pelosi Iraq war supplemental is a gigantic crock of shit, and who think the Democratic Party leadership should now officially be labeled conspirators in the war effort. I've even seen it suggested that Reid and Pelosi should now be sent official "certificates of war ownership," to formally put them in a club with Bush, Cheney, Richard Perle and the rest of the actual war authors.

The growing tension between the real antiwar movement and the Democratic Party was reflected in a long article over the weekend in the New York Times. "Antiwar Groups Use New Clout to Influence Democrats." The piece that described how an umbrella group of antiwar activists called Americans Against the Escalation in Iraq was ready to drop the public relations hammer on the Dems, should they cave too easily in their negotiations with the president.

The thinking goes something like this: the Democrats, who are mostly the same people who voted for the war in the first place, don't really want to end it. They do, however, want to take political advantage of antiwar sentiment. So they will appear to be against the conflict but set things up in such a way that their "efforts" to end the war will fall just slightly short, like a fourth-quarter pass thrown by a point-shaving quarterback.

I was squarely in that camp until recently, when it occurred to me to wonder; if Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi were to wake up one morning with innocent, uncorrupted brains and decide, really decide, to end the war in Iraq, how exactly would they do it? And the answer, I think we all have to admit, is: they would do it exactly the way they're doing it now.

Neither of these Democratic leaders, after all, are Huey Newton, or even Benjamin Spock. They are not going to get up on a table, shake a shoe in the direction of the White House, shout "Fuck you, pig!" and just turn off the money, consequences be damned. No, these are career bureaucrats, political herd animals who survive year after year by clinging for dear life to the concept of safety in numbers. They will watch the bushes with great big eyes to see what is rustling back there, and when exactly two-thirds of the herd decides to bolt, they all will -- not just the Democrats, but the Boehners and McConnells too, leaping over logs, tearing off big chunks of fur against the bark of trees, etc.

I can certainly see a scenario in which people like Reid and Pelosi would make a secret deal to compromise now and give Bush his money, in exchange for another bite at the apple later this year -- by which time a veto-overriding coalition of Democrats and "moderate" Republicans will have magically coalesced. The Republicans crossing the picket line later this summer will inevitably claim to have done so with heavy heart, out of principle and "concern for the safety of the troops," and yet at the same time there will mysteriously appear a new raft of appropriations calling for expensive dam and highway projects in certain districts. That tends to be the blueprint for how 67% of congress will catch up to 67% of the population on major issues like these.

So maybe Reid and Pelosi really are working the phones on this one, who knows. What I do know is this; there are elements of the Democratic-crafted Iraq supplemental that are not only severely regressive but would actually tend to encourage the continuation of the insurgency. Anyone who wants an example of why the areas in which the Democrats and Republicans are in agreement are more significant than the ones in which they differ need only look at the two parties nearly unanimous endorsement of the "Benchmarks" the Iraqi government must meet, according to the supplemental. The key passage reads as follows:

(2) whether the Government of Iraq is making substantial progress in meeting its commitment to pursue reconciliation initiatives, including a hydro-carbon law...

It is notable that the hydrocarbon law comes in first place in this clause, ahead of "legislation necessary for the conduct of provincial and local elections," reform of de-Baathification laws, amendments to the constitution and allocation of revenues for reconstruction projects. For whether or not it really was "all about oil" at the beginning of the war, the fate of the occupation really does hinge almost entirely upon oil initiatives now, as the continued presence of U.S. troops in the region may depend on whether or not the Iraqi government bites the bullet and decides to eat the proposed hydrocarbon law in question.

The law, endorsed here by the Democrats, is an unusually vicious piece of legislation, an open blueprint for colonial robbery of the Iraqi nation. It is worth pointing out that if you go back far enough in the history of this business, the law actually makes the U.S. an accomplice in the repression of Saddam Hussein, the very thing we claim to be rescuing the country from.

This has all been described at length by better reporters than myself, people like Michael Schwartz and Tom Engelhardt, but the genesis of the proposed law goes something like this:

During the Saddam years, the Iraqi government racked up massive debts as Hussein stole outright much of the country's oil revenues and built himself elaborate palaces packed with gold leafing and Balinese whores and whatever else assholes of that ilk use to furnish their garish pink mansions. Upon occupying the country, the United States agreed to forgive some of that debt in exchange for its acceptance of a "standard International Monetary Fund program," which among other things included an end to consumer price controls on food and fuel -- a move that, whatever one's feelings about government price controls may be, inarguably made it more difficult for a newly-impoverished, war-torn population to afford to eat.

Another condition was the liberalization of the economy, and the opening up of the oil industry to foreign interests. To recap: Saddam Hussein rips off Iraqi people, America "liberates" said people from Saddam, then bludgeons them with Saddam's debts until they hand over the keys to the oil industry. Nice deal, yes?

The proposed Hydrocarbon Law is a result of pressure from the American government on the Iraqis to draft an oil policy that would adhere to the IMF guidelines. It allows foreign companies to take advantage of Iraqi oil fields by allowing regions to pair up with foreigners using what are known as "production-sharing agreements" or PSAs, which guarantee investing companies large shares of the profits for decades into the future. The law also makes it impossible for the Iraqi state to regulate levels of oil production (seriously undermining OPEC), allows oil companies to repatriate profits, and would also allow companies to hire foreign workers to man facilities. Add all the measures up and the Hydrocarbon law not only takes control of the oil industry away from the Iraqi state, but virtually guarantees that the state will profit very little from future oil exploitation.

Now, I live in America and have been known to drive a car occasionally and I also understand something else -- when mighty industrial countries need oil or anything else, they're going to take it. They're also unlikely to acquiesce forever to the whims of an organization like OPEC out of mere morality and decency, when military power can change the equation. Anyone who's going to be shocked, shocked by this kind of shit had better be prepared to live in a tent and eat twigs and berries instead of African cocoa or Central American sugar or any of the millions of other products we basically steal from hungry, dark-skinned people around the world on a daily basis.

But I'll tell you what I can do without. I can do without having to listen to American journalists, as well as politicians on both sides of the aisle, bitch and moan about how the Iraqi government better start "shaping up" and "taking responsibility" and "showing progress" if they want the continued blessing of American military power. Virtually every major newspaper in the country and every hack in Washington has lumped all the "benchmarks" together, painting them as concrete signs that, if met, would mean the Iraqi government is showing "progress" or "good faith."

"President Bush will not support a war spending bill that punishes the Iraqi government for failing to meet benchmarks for progress," was how the AP put it.

"Among the mile markers that should be used to measure Iraqi progress is a finalized revenue-sharing agreement on current and future oil reserves," was the formulation of the Savannah Daily News.

Still other papers, like the Baltimore Sun, cast the supplemental as a means of exercising "tough love" with the lazy and ungrateful Iraqis, who to date have failed to show interest in governing their own country. "The talk around Congress," wrote the Sun, "was of putting together a bill with (probably nonbinding) benchmarks, designed to hold the feet of the Iraqi government to the fire -- or at least near the fire."

The title of the Sun editorial, humorously, was "Small steps" -- as if such a radical decision about what may turn out to be a fourth of the world's oil reserves is a "small step."

Of course, among politicians, it was the same bullshit. "And we now have to see... a good-faith effort on the part of the Iraqi government," said Maine's Olympia Snowe, "that they're prepared to do what it's going to require to achieve a political consensus." The recently "antiwar" Chuck Hagel concurred: "We're seen the Iraqi government miss benchmark after benchmark," he said. "You have to connect consequences to those in some way."

Nancy Pelosi, meanwhile, described the benchmarks as a means to "hold the Iraqi government accountable." As if their failure to pass the Oil law would make them "not accountable."

Moreover, let's just say this about the Democratic Party. They can wash their hands of this war as much as they want publicly, but their endorsement of this crude neocolonial exploitation plan makes them accomplices in the occupation, and further legitimizes the insurgency. It is hard to argue with the logic of armed resistance to U.S. forces in Iraq when both American parties, representing the vast majority of the American voting public, endorse the same draconian plan to rob the country's riches. This isn't a situation in which there's going to be a better deal down the road, after Bush gets thrown out of office. Looking at it from that point of view, peaceful cooperation with the Americans is therefore probably impossible for any patriotic Iraqi; the economic consequences are too severe.

(A side note: there's also an argument to be made that the smart play for the Iraqis is to cooperate now, and then tear up any agreement made with the Americans once they get their troops out. The instant our army leaves, any "laws" passed now under American pressure will be meaningless anyway. Yeah, sure, take all the oil you want... hey, do you want these bath towels, too? Oh, wait, you're leaving? You sure you can't stay? Etc.)

Moreover, this endorsement of these neoliberal "benchmarks" by the Democrats makes me believe a lot less in their "gradualist" approach to ending the war. If they viewed the war as much of the world did, as a murderous and profoundly immoral criminal enterprise, they would understand that morally, they really have no choice now but to refuse to send Bush even a dime more for this war. After all, it's impossible to justify on any level voting to give George Bush more money for more troops "in the short run" if you believe that the occupation is fundamentally evil and exploitative. But the Democrats clearly do not believe it is wrong. They don't even mind having a big hand in it. They just don't think it's going very well, and understand that in the long run, it's a non-starter politically.

And that, in the end, is about the best thing you can say about Democrats -- they are just barely smart enough to step out of a burning house. Well, maybe they are. Tune in next fall, for the next supplemental...

Buchanan: Paul -- Not Rudy -- Was Right About 9/11

Once again, Pat Buchanan is the only conservative pundit who nails the truth on Iraq and U.S. foreign policy. Hey all you Republicans, for God's sake listen to the man!

But Who Was Right -- Rudy or Ron?

by Patrick J. Buchanan
Posted 05/18/2007 ET |

It was the decisive moment of the South Carolina debate.

Hearing Rep. Ron Paul recite the reasons for Arab and Islamic resentment of the United States, including 10 years of bombing and sanctions that brought death to thousands of Iraqis after the Gulf War, Rudy Giuliani broke format and exploded:

"That's really an extraordinary statement, as someone who lived through the attack of 9-11, that we invited the attack because we were attacking Iraq. I don't think I have ever heard that before, and I have heard some pretty absurd explanations for Sept. 11.

"I would ask the congressman to withdraw that comment and tell us what he really meant by it."

The applause for Rudy's rebuke was thunderous -- the soundbite of the night and best moment of Rudy's campaign.

After the debate, on Fox News' "Hannity and Colmes," came one of those delicious moments on live television. As Michael Steele, GOP spokesman, was saying that Paul should probably be cut out of future debates, the running tally of votes by Fox News viewers was showing Ron Paul, with 30 percent, the winner of the debate.

Brother Hannity seemed startled and perplexed by the votes being text-messaged in the thousands to Fox News saying Paul won, Romney was second, Rudy third and McCain far down the track at 4 percent.

"I would ask the congressman to ... tell us what he meant," said Rudy.

A fair question and a crucial question.

When Ron Paul said the 9-11 killers were "over here because we are over there," he was not excusing the mass murderers of 3,000 Americans. He was explaining the roots of hatred out of which the suicide-killers came.

Lest we forget, Osama bin Laden was among the mujahideen whom we, in the Reagan decade, were aiding when they were fighting to expel the Red Army from Afghanistan. We sent them Stinger missiles, Spanish mortars, sniper rifles. And they helped drive the Russians out.

What Ron Paul was addressing was the question of what turned the allies we aided into haters of the United States. Was it the fact that they discovered we have freedom of speech or separation of church and state? Do they hate us because of who we are? Or do they hate us because of what we do?

Osama bin Laden in his declaration of war in the 1990s said it was U.S. troops on the sacred soil of Saudi Arabia, U.S. bombing and sanctions of a crushed Iraqi people, and U.S. support of Israel's persecution of the Palestinians that were the reasons he and his mujahideen were declaring war on us.

Elsewhere, he has mentioned Sykes-Picot, the secret British-French deal that double-crossed the Arabs who had fought for their freedom alongside Lawrence of Arabia and were rewarded with a quarter century of British-French imperial domination and humiliation.

Almost all agree that, horrible as 9-11 was, it was not anarchic terror. It was political terror, done with a political motive and a political objective.

What does Rudy Giuliani think the political motive was for 9-11?

Was it because we are good and they are evil? Is it because they hate our freedom? Is it that simple?

Ron Paul says Osama bin Laden is delighted we invaded Iraq.

Does the man not have a point? The United States is now tied down in a bloody guerrilla war in the Middle East and increasingly hated in Arab and Islamic countries where we were once hugely admired as the first and greatest of the anti-colonial nations. Does anyone think that Osama is unhappy with what is happening to us in Iraq?

Of the 10 candidates on stage in South Carolina, Dr. Paul alone opposed the war. He alone voted against the war. Have not the last five years vindicated him, when two-thirds of the nation now agrees with him that the war was a mistake, and journalists and politicians left and right are babbling in confession, "If I had only known then what I know now ..."

Rudy implied that Ron Paul was unpatriotic to suggest the violence against us out of the Middle East may be in reaction to U.S. policy in the Middle East. Was President Hoover unpatriotic when, the day after Pearl Harbor, he wrote to friends, "You and I know that this continuous putting pins in rattlesnakes finally got this country bitten."

Pearl Harbor came out of the blue, but it also came out of the troubled history of U.S.-Japanese relations going back 40 years. Hitler's attack on Poland was naked aggression. But to understand it, we must understand what was done at Versailles -- after the Germans laid down their arms based on Wilson's 14 Points. We do not excuse -- but we must understand.

Ron Paul is no TV debater. But up on that stage in Columbia, he was speaking intolerable truths. Understandably, Republicans do not want him back, telling the country how the party blundered into this misbegotten war.

By all means, throw out of the debate the only man who was right from the beginning on Iraq.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

McConnell: If Iraqis ask us to leave, 'we'll... comply'

Now we're talking! Finally, the GOP has offered a face-saving way to leave Iraq, which also happens to respect Iraqi democracy. Now all we have to do is work behind the scenes and push the Iraqi parliament to schedule a vote on the U.S. occupation. To borrow a much maligned term, their "no" vote would be a slam dunk!

Sen. McConnell on Iraq: "If they vote to ask us to leave, we'll be glad to comply"

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell spoke of his growing frustration with the Iraqi leadership today on CNN's Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer. McConnell said: "The Iraqi government is a huge disappointment. Republicans overwhelmingly feel disappointed about the Iraqi government. I read just this week that a significant number of the Iraqi parliament want to vote to ask us to leave. I want to assure you, Wolf, if they vote to ask us to leave, we'll be glad to comply with their request."

About the two month vacation the Iraqis had been planning, McConnell said "That's completely and totally unacceptable."

--From CNN Associate Producer Jennifer Burch

Posted 5/13/2007 01:33:00 PM

Saddam's oil-for-food theft replaced with...Iraqi oil theft

Funny how Republicans were so upset over corruption (which the U.S. government knew about well before 2003) in the UN the oil-for-food program, but now that nearly as many barrels a day of oil (at least 300,000) are being stolen now on America's watch, we don't hear anything about it except from the lib'rul New York Times.

Why the double standard? Why isn't FOXNews reporting on it?

News sources of the best informed Americans

Public's Grasp of Current Issues Unchanged Despite Internet, Cable TV

Jim Lobe

WASHINGTON, Apr 16 (IPS) - Despite the emergence of 24-hour cable television news and fast-growing use of internet news sources, the U.S. public's knowledge of national and international personalities and issues is little changed from nearly 20 years ago, according to a new survey released by the Pew Research Centre for the People and the Press.

Indeed, the survey, which was conducted in early February, found that in some areas public knowledge may actually have declined somewhat.

While three out of four U.S. respondents could name their state's governor in 1989, for example, only two-thirds could do so today. Similarly, nearly half (47 percent) could correctly identify the president of Russia 18 years ago, compared to only 36 percent today.

Perhaps most remarkably, only 69 percent could identify Dick Cheney, who has been in office for six years, as the current vice president, while 74 percent correctly named then-vice president Dan Quayle in 1989, despite the fact that he had been in office for less than a year.

On the other hand, the 1,502 respondents in the survey were somewhat more knowledgeable about national issues than their counterparts 18 years ago.

''The survey provides further evidence that changing news formats are not having a great deal of impact on how much the public knows about national and international affairs,'' according to an analysis that accompanied the results.

The poll also found that respondents with the most correct answers were more likely to watch ''The Daily Show'' and the ''Colbert Report'' on cable's Comedy Central network and peruse the major newspaper internet websites.

Those respondents with the least correct answers, on the other hand, were more likely to watch the right-wing Fox News cable channel, local television news, or the major television network morning news programmes.

The survey, which posed 23 core questions to measure knowledge of current events, found that correct answers correlated most strongly with education, income levels, voter registration, and gender. There was virtually no difference, on the other hand, between respondents who identified themselves as Republican, Democrats, or independents.

Among other things, the survey tested whether the respondent could identify key national and local public officials, such as Hillary Rodham Clinton, Robert Gates, Barack Obama, and Arnold Schwarzenegger; what party controls Congress; and the status of important pending legislation. It also asked several factual questions about the war in Iraq and the U.S. trade balance.

The average respondent answered 12 of the 23 questions correctly.

For comparison purposes, the respondents were divided into three roughly equal groups: the 35 percent who got 15 or more answers correct were classified as ''high''- knowledge respondents, while another 31 percent, who answered 10 to 14 questions correctly, were classified as ''medium''. The remaining 34 percent fell into the ''low'' category.

The best predictor turned out to be education. Sixty-three percent of college graduates -- compared to only 20 percent of respondents with a high-school education or less -- fell into the ''high'' category.

[This shows that a good public education system is important not only for our economy -- but also for the health of our democracy, because educated citizens know more about politics & current events, and thus can vote more intelligently. -- J ]

Gender was also a significant factor: 45 percent of men answered 15 or more questions accurately, while only 25 percent of women did.

There were also major differences among age groups. The so-called baby-boom generation -- those aged between 50 and 64 -- were more than three times more likely (47 percent compared to 15 percent) to score in the ''high'' category than the youngest group, aged 18 to 29.

Those with annual incomes greater than 100,000 dollars were four times more likely to score in the ''high'' range than those respondents with annual incomes of less than 20,000 dollars, according to the report.

In addition, over 90 percent of respondents in the ''high'' category were registered to vote compared with about half of the respondents in the ''low'' category.

The poll found that those respondents who use more news sources to obtain their knowledge about the world knew more than those who use fewer sources.

[So, if you get all your news from just one source, like Sen. Jim Bunning does from FOX, then chances are you don't know jack. -- J ]

The respondents were asked if they regularly watched, read, or listened to each of 16 different sources, including local television and newspapers, network morning and evening news, cable stations, National Public Radio (NPR), TV news, newspaper, and other internet blog or search-engine sites, and specific news and talk radio and TV programmes.

Ninety-four percent said they regularly get news from at least one of the sources. The average number of sources regularly used was between four and five (4.6).

Local TV news was cited by 71 percent of respondents as one of their regular sources of news, followed by their local daily newspaper (54 percent), network evening news (46 percent), the Fox News Channel (43 percent), Cable News Network (CNN- 39 percent), and network morning news (34 percent).

Of those who scored in the ''high'' knowledge range, the most popular sources of news were the Comedy Central news shows, the major newspaper internet websites, public television evening news programme ('NewsHour with Jim Lehrer'), the 'O'Reilly Factor' (a talk show on Fox News), NPR, and Rush Limbaugh's right-wing talk-radio show.

All of these, however, have relatively small audiences. Twenty-eight percent of respondents said they regularly listen to NPR; 17 percent, the 'O'Reilly Factor'; 16 percent cited the Comedy Central shows; 14 percent, the 'NewsHour'; 12 percent, major newspaper websites; and eight percent, Rush Limbaugh. Among college graduates, meanwhile, all six sources were considerably more popular.

Ninety-three percent of respondents were able to correctly identify both Senator Hillary Clinton and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, while nearly two-thirds could identify Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Senator Barack Obama.

Nearly half (49 percent) could identify the new Democratic speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, while only one in five identified Pentagon chief Robert Gates and even fewer -- a mere 15 percent -- the new Senate Majority Leader, Democrat Harry Reid.

Nearly nine in ten respondents knew that President George W. Bush intended to increase troop levels in Iraq, and three out of four knew that the Democrats hold a majority in the House and that Clinton is running for president. Seven out of ten knew that more civilians have died in Iraq than U.S. troops and that Washington is running a trade deficit with the rest of the world.