Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Bush is hemorrhaging support of the big boys...

By Evan Derkacz
Posted on February 27, 2006

In the past week, the Bush administration and the neocons have been hemorrhaging bigtime supporters so badly you'd be forgiven for assuming there's another Cheney hunting party in the works.

First, in an upcoming book, Project for a New American Century signatory Francis "the End of History" Fukuyama declares that neoconservatism "should be discarded on to history's pile of discredited ideologies."

Wow. The Alex Massie article also notes that "Mr Fukuyama now thinks the war in Iraq is the wrong sort of war, in the wrong place, at the wrong time."

Strike one.

Then Bill O'Reilly advocated for withdrawal from Iraq on his radio show due to Crazy People Underestimation -- the idea that we couldn't have known just how crazy "these people" really were.

Strike two.

Now, National Review editor at large William F. Buckley believes that "One can't doubt that the American objective in Iraq has failed... and the administration has, now, to cope with failure."

Strike three.

Each has, of course, found a way to remain at the president's side and to actually, with a presumably straight face, blame the very outcome predicted by progressives well before the fighting started as the result of one or two unforseeable hitches in an otherwise noble and practical plan. But the war? On that the con, the former neo-con and the con-man agree... it's over.

But what will the reaction be? Well, Glenn Greenwald has the "tar and feather him" catalogue of Right Wing reactions to Howard Dean's relatively tame statement from two months ago that the war was a failure. Will Michelle Malkin, Ben Shapiro, the Jawa Report ("Howard Dean Traitor and Ally to Zaqueery") and the, uh, National Review be so unkind to these three "traitors"? (Unclaimed Territory)

Evan Derkacz is a New York-based writer and contributor to AlterNet.

View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/bloggers/evan/32862/

Monday, February 27, 2006

Framing an election: U.S. media avoids tough questions on interference in Palestine

Media analysis by Dane Baker
From NewStandard

Presenting a startling example of the Bush administration’s warm embrace of democracy, a February 14 New York Times article begins: “The United States and Israel are discussing ways to destabilize the Palestinian government so that newly elected Hamas officials will fail and elections will be called again, according to Israeli officials and Western diplomats” (Steven Erlanger, “U.S and Israelis Are Said to Talk of Hamas Ouster”).

To its credit, the Times presents important information up front, eschewing the tendency to bury crucial details deep within stories: a tactic common at the “Newspaper of Record” and elsewhere. The problem lies in the editors’ insistence that only “official” voices be heard: in this case, information attributed to unnamed “officials and diplomats,” including one who said: “The point is to put this choice on Hamas’s shoulders. If they make the wrong choice, all the options lead in a bad direction.”

The Times, for its part, makes sure to ignore dissent that may interfere with official proclamations while using careful language to describe efforts to strangle a Hamas-led Palestinian government before it has even been set up. So we read in Erlanger’s account that the current effort to undermine the elected Hamas government is a “strategy [that] has many risks, especially given that Hamas will try to secure needed support from the larger Islamic world, including its allies Syria and Iran, as well as from private donors.” These being the only “risks” that apply for the Times, the story quickly moves on. Reporter and editors taking it upon themselves to peer into their crystal ball, noting that “[Hamas] will blame Israel and the United States for its troubles.”

An Associated Press article that ran the same day (Amy Teibel, “Hamas Assails U.S., Israeli ‘interference’”) played a similar game, with all the correct characterizations included. The lead notes that “Hamas protested ‘interference’ by the United States and Israel,” putting the crucial word in quotes to further undermine its validity, even though there can be no doubt that both parties have admittedly interfered. The implications follow as the AP describes the alleged efforts as a “plot,” noting that “the State Department said it was reviewing US aid to the Palestinians and would make a decision within two weeks” – surely the only serious matter at hand.

The AP account also reports only “official” voices, since only those who -- to borrow Erlanger’s phrase from the Times account -- have the “levers on the Palestinian authority” are quotable. They quoted White House spokesman Scott McClellan as saying, “There’s no plot,” using the magic phrase echoed by State Department spokesman Sean McCormack, who insisted, “There is no plan, there is no plot.”

Official denouncements are, as usual, treated with the reverence and weight they supposedly deserve, as editors know their place and quickly move the narrative along. Interestingly enough, recent developments – whether they prove to be “plots” or not – suggest nothing to journalists about the legitimacy of Bush administration efforts to spread “democracy” to the Middle East… perhaps because current efforts to deny Palestinian self-determination are too obvious.

The Palestinians have made their choice at the ballot box, and now, to borrow a phrase from an unidentified Western diplomat quoted by the Times’ Erlanger, they must prepare to face a possibly grimmer future where “all the options lead in a bad direction,” assisted by a willing “free press” corps and their editors in the United States.

Dane Baker lives in Knoxville, Tenn.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Frist Attempts to Protect Big Pharma From Its Victims

BILL THEOBALD, TENNESSEAN - Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and House Speaker Dennis Hastert engineered a backroom legislative maneuver to protect pharmaceutical companies from lawsuits, say witnesses to the pre-Christmas power play. The language was tucked into a Defense Department appropriations bill at the last minute without the approval of members of a House-Senate conference committee, say several witnesses, including a top Republican staff member. In an interview, Frist, a doctor and Tennessee Republican, denied that the wording was added that way.

Trial lawyers and other groups condemn the law, saying it could make it nearly impossible for people harmed by a vaccine to force the drug maker to pay for their injuries. . . The legislation, called the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act, allows the secretary of Health and Human Services to declare a public health emergency, which then provides immunity for companies that develop vaccines and other "countermeasures." Beyond the issue of vaccine liability protection, some say going around the longstanding practice of bipartisan House-Senate conference committees' working out compromises on legislation is a dangerous power grab by Republican congressional leaders that subverts democracy. "It is a travesty of the legislative process," said Thomas Mann, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank.


Sen. Graham Calls For Action Against Citizens Who Disagree With BushCo

NAT PARRY, CONSORTIUM NEWS - Sen. Lindsey Graham suggested to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales a new target for the administration's domestic operations -- Fifth Columnists, supposedly disloyal Americans who sympathize and collaborate with the enemy. "The administration has not only the right, but the duty, in my opinion, to pursue Fifth Column movements," Graham, R-S.C., told Gonzales during Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on Feb. 6.

"I stand by this President's ability, inherent to being Commander in Chief, to find out about Fifth Column movements, and I don't think you need a warrant to do that," Graham added, volunteering to work with the administration to draft guidelines for how best to neutralize this alleged threat. "Senator," a smiling Gonzales responded, "the President already said we'd be happy to listen to your ideas."

ConsortiumNews Article...

History, redacted...

SCOTT SHANE, NY TIMES In a seven-year-old secret program at the National Archives, intelligence agencies have been removing from public access thousands of historical documents that were available for years, including some already published by the State Department and others photocopied years ago by private historians.

The restoration of classified status to more than 55,000 previously declassified pages began in 1999, when the Central Intelligence Agency and five other agencies objected to what they saw as a hasty release of sensitive information after a 1995 declassification order signed by President Bill Clinton. It accelerated after the Bush administration took office and especially after the 2001 terrorist attacks, according to archives records.

But because the reclassification program is itself shrouded in secrecy — governed by a still-classified memorandum that prohibits the National Archives even from saying which agencies are involved — it continued virtually without outside notice until December. That was when an intelligence historian, Matthew M. Aid, noticed that dozens of documents he had copied years ago had been withdrawn from the archives' open shelves.

NYT Article...

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The Sweet Taste of Success

Wed, 22 Feb 2006
By Frances Moore Lappé, GNN
Former WTC workers turn grief into a dream: a new employee-owned restaurant.

What do a Virgin Islands perfume shop, a Utah dog boutique, and dozens of Dunkin’ Donuts have in common? All got help from 9/11 terrorism recovery funds.

And who didn’t get help? Workers at what was the Twin Towers’ Windows on the World restaurant. Losing 73 colleagues and their jobs on Sept. 11, 34 mostly immigrant workers turned their grief into a new dream: Colors, a tony art-deco restaurant owned by the workers themselves. It opened in January in Greenwich Village – but not without a lot more grief from their should’ve-been helpers.

“Everyone kept saying, ‘No, no, no’ when we went for financing,” remembers former Windows on the World employee Feddak Mamdouh, as I waited for my “asparagus with truffle sauce” appetizer in a booth at Colors recently.

“Colors received no assistance from the very organizations created to support recovery from 9/11, like the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. and the NYC Partnership’s Investment Fund,” said Bruce Herman, executive director of the National Employment Law Project.

Mamdouh, originally from Morocco, is a founder and assistant director of the Restaurant Opportunities Center of New York (ROC-NY) set up to help restaurant workers displaced by 9/11. His chagrin at the resistance they faced boils over: “It’s like they didn’t think the immigrant workers – including waiters and dishwashers – could do it.”

The “it” required $2.2 million to renovate and equip 4,000 square feet that, ironically, had most recently been a restaurant locked in a bitter labor dispute, in which ROC-NY had supported the workers. When the place shut down, ROC-NY realized this well-placed site – beside the Public Theater on Lafayette Street – was just right for launching what it hopes will be only the first of its worker-owned eateries.

“Restaurants have always been known as places where immigrants go for work, but many of them are abused; there is a lot of discrimination. We want to show that we can improve conditions,” Mamdouh told the Associated Press when Colors opened.

Commercial banks weren’t interested, Saru Jayaraman, executive director of ROC-NY, told NewYorkBusiness.com, “because no one could provide personal backing for the loans.”

In my book, Democracy’s Edge, I argue that our thin democracy will continue to fray unless we extend democracy’s values of inclusion, mutual accountability and fairness to ever wider circles. In the book, I use the Colors story to help make my case for the democracy-strengthening potential of worker ownership. So what better place than Colors, I thought recently, to celebrate my birthday with friends?

Little did I know that one of my guests, sustainability educator Hilary Baum, was the daughter of Windows on the World founder, Joe Baum. So the royal tour was ours, led by general manager Stefan Mailvaganam. We learned about the wall fixtures from the 1939 World Fair and visited the kitchen, which was designed ergonomically to protect the sous-chefs, runners and dishwashers from the burns and injuries common in the industry.

In the kitchen, a flyer taped to the wall announced: “Today’s Mexican Seafood Soup, inspired by Oscar’s family recipe.” Many of the menus, we learned, were inspired by family favorites of worker/owners who hail from more than 22 countries. On the frequently changing menu, I identified dishes from Bangladesh, Colombia, Peru and Thailand. The staff buys from local farmers and from those using sustainable farming practices.

When my dinner guest, Anne Ferrell (herself a farmer) asked our waiter where the grass-fed beef came from, his response was immediate: “Wolfe Neck Farms, upstate New York.” Later, Mailvaganam explained that the workers are learning about ecological and health consequences of how the food they serve is produced.

My entreé, “organic seitan with apricot, basil and yellow split-pea chutney with parsnip frisee salad,” was exotic—and stunningly delicious.

As a worker cooperative, Colors owner/workers make decisions by consensus and provide vacation and overtime. Ultimately, they plan to offer pensions to workers, something rare in the restaurant business. Everyone working the line, serving and dishwashing, makes $13.50 an hour—double New York’s standard minimum wage—and the wait staff split tips.

ROC-NY hopes to do more with its money than help create one business. Toward that end, it attached a special condition to its $500,000 investment: that Colors’ worker/owners put in 100 hours of “sweat equity” teaching other restaurant employees how to build their own worker-owned restaurant.

For another $500,000, Colors’ founders had to cross the ocean. Good Italian Food, a consortium of Italian cooperatives anchored by the CIR Food Group, came through. Apparently, Italians find it easier to view worker cooperatives as bankable. In Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region alone, more than 80,000 people are employed by cooperatives contributing 20 percent to 35 percent of the GDP. (The International Cooperative Alliance estimates there are 800 million members of cooperatives around the world, suggesting more individuals hold shares in cooperatives than hold shares in companies via stock markets.)

So that workers at Colors could start out as owners, equity partners contributed 20 percent of their stake to the employees. Over time, the workers are expected to buy out the Good Italian Food shares at their original value and eventually own 51 percent to 60 percent of the equity. ROC-NY will keep 40 percent of the equity to use in creating a multiplier: The goal is that returns will seed other restaurant cooperatives.

The 20-year-old Nonprofit Finance Fund (NFF) provided a $210,500 term loan and put together the remaining $1.2 million needed from 15 lenders, including community development financial institutions, foundations and a credit union. Modest funds came from Roman Catholic nuns in California, Michigan and Ohio.

As I enjoyed my first Colors dining experience, the restaurant’s name grew on me. I absorbed the richness around me, from the elegant cartography motif to the luscious chocolate pudding cake, knowing the people serving us were earning dignified wages and that the people who grew our food were caring for the earth. Now, that’s dining in full color.

Frances Moore Lappé is the author of fifteen books including the just-released Democracy’s Edge: Choosing to Save Our Country by Bringing Democracy to Life.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

The Climate Scientist That Nasa Tried To Gag Tells It Like It Is

JIM HANSEN, INDEPENDENT, UK - A satellite study of the Greenland ice cap shows that it is melting far faster than scientists had feared - twice as much ice is going into the sea as it was five years ago. The implications for rising sea levels - and climate change - could be dramatic. Yet, a few weeks ago, when I - a NASA climate scientist - tried to talk to the media about these issues following a lecture I had given calling for prompt reductions in the emission of greenhouse gases, the NASA public affairs team - staffed by political appointees from the Bush administration - tried to stop me doing so. I was not happy with that, and I ignored the restrictions. . .

We are seeing for the first time the detailed behavior of the ice streams that are draining the Greenland ice sheet. They show that Greenland seems to be losing at least 200 cubic kilometers of ice a year. It is different from even two years ago, when people still said the ice sheet was in balance. . .

Our understanding of what is going on is very new. Today's forecasts of sea-level rise use climate models of the ice sheets that say they can only disintegrate over a thousand years or more. But we can now see that the models are almost worthless. They treat the ice sheets like a single block of ice that will slowly melt. But what is happening is much more dynamic.

Once the ice starts to melt at the surface, it forms lakes that empty down crevasses to the bottom of the ice. You get rivers of water underneath the ice. And the ice slides towards the ocean. . .

And once these ice streams start moving, their influence stretches right to the interior of the ice sheet. Building an ice sheet takes a long time, because it is limited by snowfall. But destroying it can be explosively rapid. . .

How far can it go? The last time the world was three degrees warmer than today - which is what we expect later this century - sea levels were 25 [meters] higher. So that is what we can look forward to if we don't act soon. None of the current climate and ice models predict this. But I prefer the evidence from the Earth's history and my own eyes. I think sea-level rise is going to be the big issue soon, more even than warming itself. . .

We have to stabilize emissions of carbon dioxide within a decade, or temperatures will warm by more than one degree. That will be warmer than it has been for half a million years, and many things could become unstoppable. If we are to stop that, we cannot wait for new technologies like capturing emissions from burning coal. We have to act with what we have. . . . We don't have much time left.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Disturbing Screen Grab

From Talking Points Memo:

Let's put this headline in amber and pack it into the time capsule. Let folks know what it was like.

Sic Transit.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Time to wake up!

I'm too sick to joke about the Vice President's cavalier dismissal of his near manslaughter. I am furious at the unbelievable level of horror being perpetrated in our name in sovereign nations around the world, but most especially in Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. Here is a link to the newly released photos as well as to a video that I can't watch.

How is it that the citizens of these Relatively United States don't rise up en masse and demand immediate resignations before criminal proceedings against the entire administration begin in earnest? How can we sit idly by, staring at American Idol, while the nation we have made is ground into the shit and the mud by wealthy industrialists whose disregard for life is plainly evident?

It is time to gather together in our towns and cities and formulate plans to exercise true democracy. It is long past time to raise the black flags, Patriots!

Wednesday, February 15, 2006


HAARETZ, ISRAEL - Hamas derided the U.S. and Israel on Tuesday following reports they were exploring ways to topple the militants' incoming government. Israeli security officials said they were looking at ways to force Hamas from power, and were focusing on an economic squeeze that would prompt Palestinians to clamor for the return of Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas' ousted Fatah Party. The New York Times, citing anonymous U.S. and Israeli officials, reported Tuesday that United States and Israel were considering a campaign to starve the Palestinian Authority of cash so Palestinians would grow disillusioned with Hamas and bring down a Hamas government. . .

Since Hamas' electoral victory, the West has been threatening to cut nearly $1 billion in annual aid to the Palestinians, though Russia's recent invitation to Hamas to visit Moscow, and France's support for the Russian approach, have cracked the united front. Israel has also threatened to cut off monthly transfers to the Palestinians of about $50 million (-40 million) from taxes and customs it collects for them, once Hamas takes power. . .

The strategy of bringing Palestinians to their knees by cutting off cash could easily backfire, however, with Palestinians blaming the U.S. and Israel - not Hamas - for their growing misery. Morever, Hamas would certainly turn to the Muslim world and private donors to try to make up at least some of the Western shortfall.


Vice President mistakes 78-year-old friend for bird, part deux

From The Daily Show with Jon Stewart

Rob Corddry: "Jon, tonight the vice president is standing by his decision to shoot Harry Wittington. According to the best intelligence available, there were quail hidden in the brush. Everyone believed at the time there were quail in the brush.

And while the quail turned out to be a 78-year-old man, even knowing that today, Mr. Cheney insists he still would have shot Mr. Whittington in the face. He believes the world is a better place for his spreading buckshot throughout the entire region of Mr. Whittington's face."

Jon Stewart: "But why, Rob? If he had known Mr. Whittington was not a bird, why would he still have shot him?"

Rob Corddry: "Jon, in a post-9-11 world, the American people expect their leaders to be decisive. To not have shot his friend in the face would have sent a message to the quail that America is weak.".

Tuesday, February 14, 2006


RIVERBEND, BAGHDAD - We were collected at my aunts house for my cousins birthday party a few days ago. J. just turned 16 and my aunt invited us for a late lunch and some cake. It was a very small gathering- three cousins- including myself- my parents, and J.'s best friend, who also happened to be a neighbor. . . By 8 pm, my parents and J.'s neighbor were gone. They had left me and T., our 24-year-old female cousin, to spend a night. It was 2 am and we had just gotten J.'s little brother into bed. He had eaten more than his share of cake and the sugar had made him wild for a couple of hours.

We were gathered in the living room and my aunt and her husband, Ammoo S. [Ammoo = uncle] were asleep. T., J. and I were speaking softly and looking for songs on the radio, having sworn not to sleep before the cake was all gone. T. was playing idly with her mobile phone, trying to send a message to a friend. "Hey- there's no coverage here. . . is it just my phone?" She asked. J. and I both took out our phones and checked, "Mine isn't working either. . . " J. answered, shaking her head. They both turned to me and I told them that I couldn't get a signal either. J. suddenly looked alert and made a sort of "Uh-oh" sound as she remembered something. "R.- will you check the telephone next to you?" I picked up the ordinary telephone next to me and held my breath, waiting for a dial tone. Nothing. . .

T. suddenly sat up straight, "Do you hear that?" She asked, wide-eyed. At first I couldn't hear anything and then I caught it- it was the sound of cars or vehicles- moving slowly. "I can hear it!" I called back to T., standing up and moving towards the window. I looked out into the darkness and couldn't see anything beyond the dim glow of lamps behind windows here and there. . .

Meanwhile, the sound of cars had gotten louder and I remembered that one could see some of the neighborhood from a window on the second floor. T. and I crept upstairs quietly. We heard Ammoo S. unlocking 5 different locks on the kitchen door. "What's he doing?" T. asked, "Shouldn't he keep the doors locked?" . . .

I stood awkwardly, watching them make preparations. J. was already in her room changing- she called out for us to do the same, "They'll come in the house- you don't want to be wearing pajamas. . . "

"Why, will they have camera crews with them?" T. smiled wanly, attempting some humor. No, J. replied, her voice muffled as she put on a sweater, "Last time they made us wait outside in the cold." I listened for Ammoo S. and heard him outside, taking the big padlock off of the gate in the driveway. "Why are you unlocking everything J.?" I called out in the dark.

"The animals will break down the doors if they aren't open in three seconds and then they'll be all over the garden and house. . . last time they pushed the door open on poor Abu H. three houses down and broke his shoulder. . . " J. was fully changed, and over her jeans and sweater she was wearing her robe. It was cold. . .

Twenty minutes later, we were all assembled in the living room. The house was dark except for the warm glow of the kerosene heater and a small lamp in the corner. We were all dressed and waiting nervously, wrapped in blankets. . .

"There will be no problem," My aunt said sternly, looking at each of us, thin-lipped. "You will not say anything improper and they will come in, look around and go." Her eyes lingered on Ammoo S. He was silent. He had lit a cigarette and was inhaling deeply. J. said he'd begun smoking again a couple of months ago after having quit for ten years. "Are your papers ready?" She asked him, referring to his identification papers which would be requested. He didn't answer, but nodded his head silently. . .

We waited. And waited. . . I began nodding off and my dreams were interspersed with troops and cars and hooded men. I woke to the sound of T. saying, "They're almost here. . . " And lifted my head, groggy with what I thought was at least three hours of sleep. I squinted down at my watch and noted it was not yet 5 am. "Haven't they gotten to us yet?" I asked. . .

A big clanging sound on the garden gate and voices yelling "Ifta'u [OPEN UP]". I heard my uncle outside, calling out, "We're opening the gate, we're opening. . . " It was moments and they were inside the house. Suddenly, the house was filled with strange men, yelling out orders and stomping into rooms. It was chaotic. We could see flashing lights in the garden and lights coming from the hallways. . .

Suddenly, two of them were in the living room. We were all sitting on the sofa, near my aunt. My cousin B. was by then awake, eyes wide with fear. They were holding large lights or ‘torches' and one of them pointed a Klashnikov at us. "Is there anyone here but you and them?" One of them barked at my aunt. "No- it's only us and my husband outside with you- you can check the house." T.'s hands went up to block the glaring light of the torch and one of the men yelled at her to put her hands down, they fell limply in her lap. . .

I listened for Ammoo S., hoping to hear him outside but I could only distinguish the harsh voices of the troops. The minutes we sat in the living room seemed to last forever. . .

Suddenly, someone called out something from outside and it was over. They began rushing to leave the house, almost as fast as they'd invaded it. Doors slamming, lights dimming. We were left in the dark once more, not daring to move from the sofa we were sitting on, listening as the men disappeared, leaving only a couple to stand at our gate.

"Where's baba?" J. asked, panicking for a moment before we heard his slippered feet in the driveway. "Did they take him?" Her voice was getting higher. Ammoo S. finally walked into the house, looking weary and drained. I could tell his face was pale even in the relative dark of the house. My aunt sat sobbing quietly in the living room, T. comforting her. "Houses are no longer sacred. . . We can't sleep. . . We can't live. . . If you can't be safe in your own house, where can you be safe? The animals. . . the bastards. . . "

They took at least a dozen men from my aunts area alone- their ages between 19 and 40. The street behind us doesn't have a single house with a male under the age of 50- lawyers, engineers, students, ordinary laborers- all hauled away by the ‘security forces' of the New Iraq.


Look, he got between me and my quail - waddaya want me to do?

From Capitol Hill Blue

Let's see.

The Vice President of the United States, hunting without a proper license and in a red-haze firing frenzy, shoots someone and it's the victim's fault because he happened to be in the line of fire?

I suppose that if the Bush White House can plunge the nation into a war based on lies about weapons of mass destruction that didn't exist and a non-existent threat from Iraq and then use those lies to justify the killing of more than 2,000 American soldiers and countless thousands of Iraqi civilians, then blaming a hunting accident on the guy that got shot is second nature.

Monday, February 13, 2006

California conservatives to governator: Terminate lesbian!

By Melissa McEwan
Posted on February 13, 2006

By way of 429 News comes the news that California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is facing a potential Republican Party rift, and risks losing the state GOP's endorsement for reelection, if he doesn't shitcan his lesbian--and Democratic--chief of staff.

Conservative Republicans are threatening to withhold the party's endorsement of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's bid for re-election unless he fires LGBT activist Susan Kennedy, Democrat, as his chief of staff.

The group is demanding a vote on what it calls its "Susan Kennedy Resolution" at the Republican Party winter convention in San Jose…

The resolution says Kennedy "has spent most of her adult life pursuing a partisan Democratic agenda for higher taxes, greater government spending, gay rights, abortion rights ... and other anti-Republican policy issues."

The measure calls on the party to withdraw its endorsement of Schwarzenegger, effective March 15, unless the governor fires her.

Kennedy, who served as a top adviser to former Gov. Gray Davis, was hired by Schwarzenegger in an attempt to mollify the LGBT community and many moderate voters who were irked by his decision to support a state bill seeking to prohibit gay marriage. Now the wingers are pissed off. Poor guy--I just feel so sorry for him that his flaccid attempt to pander has only enraged his wingnut, gay-hating base.

(429 News)

Melissa McEwan writes and edits the blog Shakespeare's Sister.

The Night the Lights Went Out

By Maya Schenwar, AlterNet
Posted on February 13, 2006

In the middle of February, while most people are dialing their thermostats up to the max, microwaving multiple cups of hot chocolate and huddling around their television sets, a few dedicated Chicagoans will give up electricity in order to draw attention to the electricity shortage in Iraq. These folks really mean it: Their electricity fast, "Lights Out Chicago," starts Feb. 15 and will last to March 20. They seek to experience some of the hardships and confront the difficulties that Iraqis are experiencing since their power has been cut short.

"My hopes for this fast are simply that many conversations will be sparked, and that people will stop and think for a moment about how their actions affect such crucial elements of Iraqis' daily life," said Laura Gardiner, one of the fast's organizers. "When I tell friends, family and acquaintances that I will be participating in an electricity fast, they are often dumbfounded as to how that is possible. This is exactly the response that I hope to challenge; to show others that what we see as difficult or nearly impossible is the reality for many people."

The electricity fast forms a part of the Winter of Our Discontent, a 33-day food fast taking place in Washington, D.C., organized by the Chicago-based group Voices for Creative Nonviolence (VCNV). The fasters will call for an end to the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq, reparations for the damage done by the war, and full funding for the reconstruction of Iraq, among other demands, according to Jeff Leys, one of the action's coordinators. In addition to fasting, VCNV activists will participate in civil disobedience and nonviolent resistance at the Pentagon, the White House, the Capitol and the World Bank, with quite a few risking arrest.

"Through creative actions, both the Winter of Our Discontent and Lights Out Chicago will press for the payment of war reparations by the U.S. to Iraq, for the damage inflicted by the past 15 years of economic and military warfare," said Joel Gulledge, an organizer with VCNV who will participate in both fasts.

As the Voices crowd abstains from food to call attention to the widespread hunger in Iraq, Gardiner and her co-organizers hope that Lights Out Chicago will provide the American public with a glimpse of the grim physical realities caused by Iraq's electricity shortage, which the Bush administration has no plans to alleviate.

Electricity shortages have increased dramatically since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, which critically damaged at least four power plants. The closure of a major oil refinery this past December has caused conditions to deteriorate further. Before the war, Baghdad residents had access to electricity 24 hours a day, while most rural areas followed a consistent schedule of four hours with electricity, then four hours without, says Gardiner. Today, according to IRIN, a U.N. humanitarian news service, people in Baghdad have power for less than eight hours a day. Moreover, access is fickle; Iraqis don't know when electricity will come on or shut off. In 14-degree Fahrenheit weather, that unpredictability is no small matter.

U.S. officials originally decided to build Iraq's new electricity plan on a foundation of natural gas, installing gas generators in many Iraqi power plants. However, according to a December report in the Los Angeles Times, the pipelines to transport that gas power were never built.

The United States has made clear that filling the electricity gap is not a priority. Of the 425 projects originally planned to improve Iraq's power situation, only 300 will be completed, according to a report in late January by the office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction.

"Even though it may seem like there have been gains in Iraq's power supply, those gains are not reliable," Gardiner said. She noted that many hospitals cannot function for lack of the electricity needed to power essential equipment.

The month of Lights Out Chicago will include several workshops to encourage those not participating in the fast to try out the electricity-free lifestyle in smaller doses. Mehmet Ak, chef and proprietor of the Chicago raw-food restaurant, Cousins Incredible Vitality, will lead a workshop on cooking sans electricity. Gardiner, Gulledge and others will also host a series of community-building get-togethers featuring electricity-free activities for fasters and non-fasters alike.

"I hope that both those who choose to abstain from electricity and others who find out about our project can't help but empathize with the millions of ordinary people in Iraq who are unable to rely on electricity," Gulledge said. "I also hope that people living in Iraq will learn of what we are doing, and know that the problems they face aren't going completely unnoticed."

Maya Schenwar is a Chicago-based freelance writer and an editor for Publications International.
© 2006 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/31982/

Saturday, February 11, 2006


From the Disinfo.com Newsletter

US President Bush's has announced that the Administration's counter-terrorism experts foiled an Al Qaeda plot in 2002 on the West Coast. Bush's announcement follows a pattern of revealing counter-terrorism operations at politically convenient times.

As Lee Clarke observes in Worst Cases: Terror and Catastrophe in the Popular Imagination (2005), the propaganda battle for 'hearts and minds' in the Global War on Terror has diffused from policymaking circles into the popular cultural imagination. If you accept Clarke's analysis, this climate requires the Administration to make operations announcements in order to convince the public about Al Qaeda's status as an enemy.

Consequently, the break-up of terrorist cells and clandestine groups has a similar status in the GWOT that fears of nuclear Mutually Assured Destruction had in the Cold War.

Stay tuned.

Muslim Cartoon Controversy: What the Media Isn't Telling You

by Soj
Sun Feb 05, 2006 at 11:01:49 AM PDT
Cross-posted from Daily Kos

I had a friend over today who lives out of town and we switched on the traditional news media television and saw what most of you have probably seen - angry rioters protesting, burning flags and attacking various Danish embassies around the world.

Despite the spectaculor footage and a bevy of experts "weighing in" on the issue, I did not one single mention of what's actually going on. And so therefore, by my duty as a citizen journalist, I will now share it with all of you.

The issue has been framed by the traditional media as "Free Expression/Speech" in contrast with "Sensitivity to Religion". Do newspapers in democratic societies have the right to publish offensive images? Well that's something definitely worth debating, but it's overlooking an important step.

12 cartoons were published in the Danish newspaper Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten, which you can see here. Some were very bland, others seem to be unquestionably offensive. Yet these cartons were published on September 30, 2005. What the traditional media has failed to explain is why the protests are occuring now.

Soj's diary :: ::

But before we explain that, it's time to address a few other issues. The first issue is whether or not it is inflammatory or offensive to Islam to depict the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) at all. Traditionally, the answer is the Qur'an (the Muslim equivalent to the Christian Bible) does not forbid it, it only forbids "idolatry", which would imply worshipping a statue or other representation of Mohammed (PBUH). The Hadith, which has no equivalent in Christianity but is equivalent to Judaism's Talmud, and is somewhat of a secondary literary source of the Muslim faith, prohibits any pictures or drawings of sacred figures, including Mohammed (PBUH). That being said, in practical terms, it occurs quite regularly.

There are images similar to Orthodox Christian ikons that are commonplace in Shi'ite communities, especially in Iran. There are also Muslim works of art depicting Mohammed (PBUH) in Central Asia, and neither these nor those in Iran are considered inflammatory and neither are they censored.

There are a number of depictions of Mohammed (PBUH), some in very unflattering situations, in Christian churches in Europe, especially Italy. The famous book/poem "Inferno" by Dante makes a very unflattering reference to Mohammed (PBUH) and there are several pieces of artwork depicting Dante's descriptions.

There have been several derogatory or potentially inflammatory usages of Mohammed (PBUH) in American entertainment vehicles, perhaps the most famous being South Park. And last but not least, there is an actual sculpture of Mohammed (PBUH) on the Supreme Court building in Washington, DC.

The point I'm trying to make here is that Mohammed (PBUH) has been depicted, painted or made appearances in animated cartoons on many, many occasions and yet there's been no rioting, storming of embassies and CNN coverage. The question becomes, not why were the Danish cartoons offensive or inappropriate, but why is there such a strong reaction now?

Denmark has a long history of multi-cultural tolerance, including their famous solidarity stand with Jewish citizens during World War 2. The newspaper Jyllands-Posten itself was surprised by the strong reaction to their cartoons and even apologized publically for any offense they may have caused. And for 2 months, there was hardly a peep from any Muslim group outside a small protest in Denmark itself and somewhat larger protests in Pakistan.

So what triggered this? Well it takes a blog to explain it. What CNN and the other traditional media failed to tell you is that the thousand gallons of fuel added to the fire of outrage came from none other than our old pals Saudi Arabia.

While it was a minor side story in the western press, the most important of Muslim religious festivals recently took place in Saudi Arabia - called the Hajj. Every able-bodied Muslim is obligated to make a pilgrimage once in their lifetime to Mecca, which is in modern-day Saudi Arabia. This pilgrimage can be done at any time of the year but most pilgrims arrive during the Muslim month known as Dhu al-Hijjah, which follows a lunar calendar that does not exactly match the western Gregorian calendar.

The most recent Hajj occurred during the first half of January 2006, precisely when the "outrage" over the Danish cartoons began in earnest. There were a number of stampedes, called "tragedies" in the press, during the Hajj which killed several hundred pilgrims. I say "tragedies" in quotation marks because there have been similar "tragedies" during the Hajj and each time, the Saudi government promises to improve security and facilitation of movement to avoid these. Over 251 pilgrims were killed during the 2004 Hajj alone in the same area as the one that killed 350 pilgrims in 2006. These were not unavoidable accidents, they were the results of poor planning by the Saudi government.

And while the deaths of these pilgrims was a mere blip on the traditional western media's radar, it was a huge story in the Muslim world. Most of the pilgrims who were killed came from poorer countries such as Pakistan, where the Hajj is a very big story. Even the most objective news stories were suddenly casting Saudi Arabia in a very bad light and they decided to do something about it.

Their plan was to go on a major offensive against the Danish cartoons. The 350 pilgrims were killed on January 12 and soon after, Saudi newspapers (which are all controlled by the state) began running up to 4 articles per day condemning the Danish cartoons. The Saudi government asked for a formal apology from Denmark. When that was not forthcoming, they began calling for world-wide protests. After two weeks of this, the Libyans decided to close their embassy in Denmark. Then there was an attack on the Danish embassy in Indonesia. And that was followed by attacks on the embassies in Syria and then Lebanon.

Many European papers, including the right-wing German Springer media group, fanned the flames by reprinting the cartoons. And now you have the situation we are in today, with lots of video footage of angry crowds and the storming of embassies and calls for boycotts of Danish and European products.

Saudi Arabia's influence on the Sunni Muslim world is incalculable. The sermons from high-ranking Muslim clerics are read and studied by Muslims around the world, who in turn give sermons to their local congregations. While the Saudis do not have direct control of the world's Sunni flocks, their influence is similar somewhat to the Pope's pronouncements and the sermons that Catholic priests give to their flocks the following Sundays. Saudi Arabia also finances a number of Muslim "study centers", where all the literature and material is provided by the Saudi government, filled with hatred for Jews and other extremely racist material. For them to promote an idea based on religion, including "outrage" at some cartoons published months earlier, is standard operating procedure.

Of course there is more than Saudi Arabia's hand at play here. The issue has metamorphed from religious outrage at a dozen cartoons to a clash of those who feel they are oppressed and downtrodded by the Christian world and those they consider their oppressors. That's why there was anti-Christian rioting in Lebanon, where the two religious groups have a long and tumultous co-existance.

As I sat there watching CNN (International) with my friend today, I could not help but note the number of Saudi flags that the various rioters were waving in Lebanon and Syria. Coincidence? I think not. Look for yourself - they are green with a large expanse of Arabic writing in white above a sword.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Just Like Hitler!

In what appears to be preparation for war in support of the capitalist profit motive and waged upon another largely poor, indigenous people, Donald Rumsfeld has berated Venezuela for spending on military hardware rather than provide for people's needs.

Honest, he actually did. Really.

(Be advised that the U.S. has again significantly increased its military budget for 2006 while making deep cuts in social programs.)

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Feds seizing Canadian prescription drugs

Minnesotans who rely on getting medications through over-the-border pharmacies have been getting a letter from the Customs Service instead.

Mark Brunswick, Star Tribune

Minnesotans buying mail-order prescription drugs from Canada are having medications confiscated by U.S. Customs in escalating numbers, a step that has some worried that life-saving supplies may not reach customers on time.

Scores of participants in mail-order drug programs, including those involved through the state of Minnesota's websites, the Minnesota Senior Federation, and Canadian pharmacies have had their shipments intercepted since the first of the year.

The confiscations are making some people anxious that the government could take legal action against them. Others are concerned that federal authorities are keeping tabs on what medications they take.

Buying prescription drugs from abroad is illegal, but federal officials have allowed individuals to import medications for their own use.

It is unclear why federal authorities have increased confiscations now.

Charlotte Bystrom of Crane Lake, Minn., was expecting a package of six medications in mid-January. Instead, the 69-year-old got a letter from U.S. Customs and Border Protection telling her the $600 shipment had been "intercepted."

The letter gave her two options: She could voluntarily "abandon" the drugs and waive any rights to the property; or she could request that they be sent to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for testing and disposal. Either way, she wasn't getting her medications back.

It was the first time in the three years she has been participating in a Minnesota Senior Federation drug import program that such a seizure had occurred.

"I thought I would be in jail," Bystrom said. "I could order a dress from Canada or shoes from Canada. I could order nearly everything I wanted from Canada -- except drugs."

"I felt like the drug companies are [calling] the shots here," she added. "They're controlling our government. I felt violated, like something was stolen from me."

Orders can be reshipped

The Minnesota Senior Federation, which operates its own drug importation program, says it has seen a marked increase in drug seizures.

At least 25 people have reported having their medications seized in the past three weeks, compared with five or so a month before that.

The number of recent seizures could be considerably higher, possibly more than 100.

"I'm afraid this is a much bigger program and we're just hearing about a portion of it," said Lee Graczyk, issues director for the federation.

The Canadian pharmacy association that deals with the Minnesota Senior Federation has experienced 2,000 drug seizures in the past three months, representing 6 to 10 percent of its volume.

That is a considerable spike in confiscations, which usually account for about a half of a percent of its volume.

Neither representatives from the Chicago field office of Customs and Border Protection nor officials from the Washington, D.C. office responded to repeated inquiries about the confiscations.

As in Bystrom's case, people receiving the letters are being advised by mail-order programs to contact their Canadian pharmacy, which should re-ship the order at no cost. Bystrom received the new shipment without incident.

"It still makes me angry," she said. "I just am disgusted with the state of affairs in our country right now."

The confiscations have affected programs run by the State of Minnesota as well, but the impact is unclear. State employees who use the program have reported having their medications confiscated in increasing numbers. But state officials say they do not know if there has been a surge in confiscations, because pharmacies alerted them to the increases only near the end of the year.

A posting on the program's website urges affected state workers to contact their Canadian pharmacy to have the order re-shipped. "It's unlikely to be intercepted a second time," the website says.

State program under fire

The confiscations are renewing criticism of the state program, which is beset by concerns about its effectiveness.

In late 2003, when he announced the program would begin, Gov. Tim Pawlenty predicted it could cover nearly 700,000 Minnesotans and save the state "tens of millions of dollars a year."

January sales through the four Canadian mail-order pharmacies in the program were down 17 percent from December. The number of prescriptions ordered last month was the lowest since June 2004, a few months after the program began in January of that year. Sales peaked in January 2005 at $153,130 and, except for one month, have declined since then. Since the program began, 18,400 prescriptions have been ordered.

This week, members of the House DFL caucus may call for an end to the program, citing the threats of confiscation and the low participation.

"This is an initiative that was all flash and no substance," said House Minority Leader Matt Entenza, DFL-St. Paul.

He said the program should be scrapped and the state should focus on using its buying power to reduce prescription prices in Minnesota.

Pawlenty spokesman Brian McClung said the program was never designed to provide services to large numbers, but to people who might have been ordering prescriptions from unknown and potentially unsafe discounters.

"It has been a significant program that has assisted thousands of Minnesotans who are seeking a safe and affordable outlet for their prescriptions," McClung said.

They came to praise King and bury Bush

Posted at February 8, 2006 01:05 AM in The Rant.


George W. Bush’s pathetic attempt to turn Coretta Scott King’s funeral into a politically-advantageous photo op fell flatter than his State of the Union speech Tuesday – a textbook example of just how out of touch the President has become with the American people.

"This commemorative ceremony this morning and this afternoon is not only to acknowledge the great contributions of Coretta and Martin, but to remind us that the struggle for equal rights is not over," said former President Carter, who remarks brought loud cheers. "We only have to recall the color of the faces of those in Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi, those who were most devastated by Katrina, to know that there are not yet equal opportunities for all Americans."

Carter’s comments ring true about Bush and his right-wing Republican followers – a group of rabid racists whose tokenism only deepens the racial divide in this country.

But Carter drew even louder cheers when he compared King’s struggles against FBI harassment and surveillance to Bush’s use of the National Security Agency and other government agencies to spy on Americans.

“It was difficult for them personally,” Carter said of both Kings, “with the civil liberties of both husband and wife violated as they became the target of secret government wiretapping, other surveillance, and as you know, harassment from the FBI."

Bush tried his usual plastic smile but his body language clearly showed discomfort as speaker after speaker zeroed in on the hypocrisy of his Presidency – one that talks unity but practices division.

He offered phony applause when the Rev. Joseph Lowery, King protege and longtime critic, who cited Coretta King's opposition to the war in Iraq and scored the administration’s phony commitment to helping the poor.

"She deplored the terror inflicted by our smart bombs on missions way afar," Lowery said. "We know now there were no weapons of mass destruction over there. But Coretta knew and we knew that there are weapons of misdirection right down here. Millions without health insurance. Poverty abounds. For war, billions more, but no more for the poor."

When Bush’s turn came, the audience, for the most part, sat on their hands, offering only muted applause for his seven-minute eulogy. It was a pitiful performance by a President whose legacy is marked all too often by shameless self-promotion.

Longtime political scientist George Harleigh, who worked in both the Nixon and Reagan White House, called the President’s appearance at King’s funeral “the equivalent of a walk-on, a token but-failed attempt to show compassion that does not exist for a cause he does not support.

“George Bush has never been a compassionate man,” says Harleigh, “but lately he looks more detached than normal, like someone going through the motions, marking his time and hoping against hope that his time is not up.”

But Bush, despite his clumsy attempts to put on a strong public face, should realize he is living on borrowed time, not only as a lame duck President but as one who could well face impeachment if enough Democrats win seats in this fall’s House and Senate elections.

“The Bush era is coming to an end – in 2008 or perhaps even sooner,” Harleigh says. “It is an era that will not be remembered fondly.”

There is little doubt that George W. Bush will go down in history as one of the most controversial, morally-challenged, dishonest Presidents to serve at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. What remains in doubt is how his Presidency will end and whether or not there will be an America left to put that painful memory behind it.


Monday, February 06, 2006

Five Questions for Gonzales

You know, you really should be careful to not read this blog too much or consider its validity.

That's my impressionistic take on a comment from today's congressional hearings on the constitutionality of warrantless spying by Republican Senator Jeff Sessions: "We've gotta be careful that we don't become Congressional-centric." Yeah, because that's really a danger right now.

Just as Alberto Gonzales questions the constitutionality of congress in today's hearings, "Can the Congress question the President's right to protect the Country during wartime?" what better time to post Glenn Greenwald's five questions that should be asked

Question 1

In a September 25, 2001 Memorandum Opinion addressed to the Deputy Counsel to the President, John C. Yoo, then-Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Office of Legal Counsel, wrote (emphasis added):

In both the War Powers Resolution and the Joint Resolution, Congress has recognized the President's authority to use force in circumstances such as those created by the September 11 incidents. Neither statute, however, can place any limits on the President's determinations as to any terrorist threat, the amount of military force to be used in response, or the method, timing, and nature of the response. These decisions, under our Constitution, are for the President alone to make.

(a) Does this paragraph reflect, or did it ever reflect, the position of the Bush Administration with regard to the President’s powers to respond to "any terrorist threat."

(b) If not, in what way does the Administration’s positions on this issue differ from that paragraph?

(c) What powers does Congress possess, if any, to regulate or limit "the method, timing, and nature" of the President’s response to the threat of terrorism?

(d) What powers does the judiciary possess, if any, to regulate or limit "the method, timing, and nature" of the President’s response to the threat of terrorism?

(e) Are there any limits at all on the President’s power to order actions as a response to threats of terrorism and, if so, what are those limits?

(f) In his Memorandum, Mr. Yoo wrote, quoting the Supreme Court opinion in Youngstown: "As Lincoln aptly said, '[is] it possible to lose the nation and yet preserve the Constitution?'" Does the Administration believe that, as Mr. Yoo suggested, that the threat of terrorism means that we must choose between preserving the Nation or preserving the Constitution?

Question 2

Does Congress have any power whatsoever to regulate or limit the President’s ability to order eavesdropping on either the international or domestic communications of American citizens? If so, what are those limits?

Question 3

Congress has been debating whether to renew all of the provisions of the Patriot Act. Some of the original Patriot Act provisions which are in dispute include those provisions that gave the Administration new surveillance and investigation powers, including those provisions:

(a) allowing the government to obtain secret court orders in domestic intelligence investigations to get all kinds of business records about people, including library records, medical records and various other types of business records whenever the Government certified that the records were "sought for" a terrorism investigation (section 215); and,

(b) expanding the National Security Letter (or "NSL") authority that was contained in Section 505 to enable the FBI to obtain certain types of records using NSLs, with no judicial review.

If Congress decides not to extend these provisions, and the Patriot Act is renewed and signed into law only once these provisions are eliminated, can the President nonetheless exercise those very powers on the ground that he has the authority to unilaterally decide our nation’s response to the terrorism threat regardless of what Congress allows or prohibits?

Question 4

In December of last year, Congress, over the administration’s objections, overwhelmingly passed a Defense Appropriations bill that included the McCain Amendment, which "prohibit[s] cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of detainees by all U.S. personnel, anywhere in the world":

(a) Does Congress have the legal authority to regulate and limit the treatment of detainees by the United States?

(b) Does the President have the power to order treatment of detainees which is prohibited by the McCain Amendment?

(c) After President Bush signed the McCain Amendment into law, the White House issued a "signing statement" in which the President stated:

The executive branch shall construe Title X in Division A of the Act, relating to detainees, in a manner consistent with the constitutional authority of the President to supervise the unitary executive branch and as Commander in Chief and consistent with the constitutional limitations on the judicial power, which will assist in achieving the shared objective of the Congress and the President, evidenced in Title X, of protecting the American people from further terrorist attacks.

With regard to this paragraph in the signing statement:

(i) What are the "Constitutional limitations on the judicial power" with regard to the McCain Amendment?

(ii) What is "the constitutional authority of the President to supervise the unitary executive branch and as Commander in Chief" with regard to the McCain Amendment?

(iii) Does this mean, or is it the Administration’s position, that the question of how detainees will be treated is for the President alone to decide, and neither Congress nor the courts can limit the President’s power?

(d) Once the signing statement was issued with regard to the McCain Amendment, an article in The Boston Globe reported that a senior administration official made clear that the position of the Administration is that it has the power to violate the McCain Amendment if the President believes it is in the national interest to do so:

A senior administration official, who spoke to a Globe reporter about the statement on condition of anonymity because he is not an official spokesman, said the president intended to reserve the right to use harsher methods in special situations involving national security. . . .

But, the official said, a situation could arise in which Bush may have to waive the law's restrictions to carry out his responsibilities to protect national security. He cited as an example a ''ticking time bomb" scenario, in which a detainee is believed to have information that could prevent a planned terrorist attack.

''Of course the president has the obligation to follow this law, [but] he also has the obligation to defend and protect the country as the commander in chief, and he will have to square those two responsibilities in each case," the official added. ''We are not expecting that those two responsibilities will come into conflict, but it's possible that they will."

With regard to the McCain Amendment, is it the Administration’s position that the President has the power to "waive the law’s restrictions" if the President deems it in the national interest to do so?

Question 5

The Department of Justice ("DoJ") issued a Press Release on January 27 summarizing its legal position with regard to the NSA eavesdropping matter. In support of its position that "[t]he NSA activities described by the President are consistent with FISA," the DoJ identified two arguments:

(i) the AUMF authorized the Administration to eavesdrop without the warrants required by FISA, and

(ii) if FISA is found to restrict the Administration’s power to eavesdrop without warrants, then it is quite likely unconstitutional.

The DoJ issued a lengthier document on January 19, 2006 setting forth its legal defenses of the NSA program, and these same two arguments were the ones invoked in that document to explain why its NSA eavesdropping program did not violate FISA.

(a) Leaving aside any exemption provided by the AUMF, does the Administration acknowledge that the NSA eavesdropping authorized by the President’s Executive Order was the type of eavesdropping which is prohibited by FISA in the absence of judicial oversight and approval?

(b) The DoJ has issued numerous documents, and made multiple statements, setting forth its legal position with regard to this matter. In any of those documents or statements, has the DoJ ever claimed that the type of NSA eavesdropping ordered by the President is not within the scope of FISA?

(Unclaimed Territory, RCFYA)

Danish Paper Rejected Drawings Mocking Jesus

Jyllands-Posten, the Danish newspaper that first published the cartoons of the prophet Muhammad that have caused a storm of protest throughout the Islamic world, refused to run drawings lampooning Jesus Christ, it has emerged today. The daily turned down the cartoons of Christ three years ago, on the grounds that they could be offensive to readers and were not funny. "In the Muhammad drawings case, we asked the illustrators to do it. I did not ask for these cartoons. That's the difference," the paper's cartoon editor said.

Hypocritical Media Response To Islamic Anger Over Disparaging Editorial Cartoons

Click For Larger Image...

Put The Memo To The Public!

The activist group that helped break mainstream media silence on the original Downing Street Memos needs your help correcting the miserable lack of current coverage of the newest Bush/Blair meeting transcript, which reveals that Bush and Blair agreed on war in January 2003—not March 2003, as they insist. It also reveals they knew there was no legitimate case for war, that Bush was hoping to assassinate Saddam Hussein, and that Bush was so desperate to provoke a war that he even proposed painting U.S. planes to look like U.N. planes and flying them low over Iraq in hopes of getting shot at—which he thought would be grounds for war.

As with the Downing Street Memos, these revelations are considered news in Europe, but not in the U.S.

Sunday, February 05, 2006


If the House Republicans had elected their leadership the way the country runs its elections, Rep. Blunt would be majority leader. In fact, however, the GOP used a system somewhat similar to what has been proposed by backers of instant run-off voting. Although not accomplished in one ballot - as in the case of IRV - when the House GOP was unable to decide by majority vote, they dropped the two bottom choices and took another count. It was on this second vote that Rep. Boehner was chosen. Here's how it looked in the first round:

Blunt: 110 votes
Boehner: 79 votes
Shadegg: 40 votes
Ryun: 2 votes

Now according the election law just about everywhere in the U.S. save godless, gay San Francisco and the House GOP caucus, Rep Blunt won the election based on the sacred first-past-the-post principle. But the GOP wanted something more than just a first round winner and so eliminated Shadegg and Ryun and counted again. Second time out:

Boehner: 122
Blunt: 109

In other words, the Republicans were smart for a change. Meanwhile in San Francisco a report by Fair Vote California finds that instant runoff voting (or "ranked choice voting" in San Francisco terminology) increased voter participation in the decisive round of last November's citywide election for assessor-recorder by an estimated 2.7 times. Moreover, six out of 25 neighborhoods in the city had triple the turnout they would have likely had with a traditional runoff; these neighborhoods represent the poorest and most racially diverse in the city, showing how IRV truly is a voting rights issue as well as a good government reform.

Says Fair Vote, nearly every single federal primary runoff has had lower turnout than the first round over the past dozen year, with an average decrease of more than 35%.


Saturday, February 04, 2006

Republicans eat their own... votes?

By Evan Derkacz
Posted on February 2, 2006

Oh, how the irony keeps a bob bob bobbin' along. In the vote to determine just how ethically-challenged Tom DeLay's successor would be, the first tally had to be tossed as there were more votes than members casting them.

It's not that anyone was actually attempting rig the results -- who would be stupid enough to do that in such a small group? [rhetorical, please don't answer that] -- but the symbolism is rich you'll have to admit.

In the end it was Rep John Boehner who won the vote. He'll be succeeding Tom DeLay as House Majority Leader winning by a margin of 122-109. For an explanation of the voting mishap and a look at Boehner's boners, see Josh's excellent analysis [HERE]. (For truly tasteless but funny plays on Boehner's -- pronounced Bay-ner -- name, go HERE).

But that wholly symbolic display of the Republican culture of corruption stands side by side with this news about the "reformer" moseying into town, from Campaign for America's Future:

Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, gave nearly $150,000 to colleagues from his leadership political action committee to influence today’s vote for majority leader, according to fundraising records he filed with the Federal Election Commission Tuesday and reported today in a Capitol Hill newspaper.

The Hill today reported that Rep. Boehner gave $150,000 to 30 Republican colleagues on Dec. 15, according to his filing for his leadership committee, the Freedom Project. More than a dozen Republicans receiving money from Rep. Boehner declared their intention to vote for him ahead of today’s vote, including Rep. Gresham Barrett, R-S.C., Rep. Charles Boustany, R-La., Steve Chabot, R-Ohio., Rep. Melissa Hart, R-Pa., Rep. Joe Knollenberg R-Mich., Rep. Steve LaTourette, R-Ohio, Rep. Thaddeus McCotter, R-Mich., Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M., Rep. Jon Porter, R-Nev., Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Calif., Rep. Dennis Rehberg, R-Mont., Rep. Jean Schmidt, R-Ohio, and Rep. Lee Terry, R-Neb.

Incest Within The Press

DUNCAN SPENCER, THE HILL - The death-by-negligence of New York Times editor David Rosenbaum [is] a perfect example of the ugly layers of Washington society, and particularly the structure of the high court of the new dukes and duchesses of that society, news reporters. Can one imagine the same case (elderly man clobbered and robbed of his wallet and cards by two thugs) happening in Wards 7 or 8, where the victim would almost surely have been black? The case would never have gotten beyond The Washington Post's "Metro Briefs" and would have ended there.

But several layers of our unexamined and uncriticized social gradation separated Rosenbaum from the Ward 7 and 8 man. Rosenbaum was white. He was sober. He was walking in a Far Northwest neighborhood considered safe (i.e., almost all white). And he was a news reporter. Not only a news reporter but associated with the country's only national daily, the Times.

It was this combination of social factors that triggered a deluge from the press corps (or better, the Press Court) to include high indignation from such luminaries as Maureen Dowd, John Tierney (both NYT), Marc Fisher and Cokie Roberts, to mention only the best known of the indignant. . .

The memorial service on the 13th was little less than a press royal occasion, homage being paid not only by those who knew the decedent but by those who wanted to be known as having known him, as well as by those most public senators, Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.)

Eulogist NYT bureau chief Philip Taubman called the crime "unfathomable, unthinkable, unspeakable." Of course he was referring only to one (his own) social layer - in another part of town . . . such a crime would not only be fathomable, thinkable and speakable but an all-too-frequent experience. But the victim almost certainly would not have been a New York Times reporter. . .

This town's media elite regard themselves as eminently important and amusing, while the public, ever yearning for a new example of that financial, social magic called celebrity, has eagerly embraced regular news columns on the media, the press reporting on itself. Regularly scheduled media columns ensure that stories are not written to report news but are written under the oldest whip in our business - finding something to fill that hole. What's easier than another column about news royalty?. . .

As the press ascends to the level of social godhead, perhaps each scribbler should reread at least once a week Janet Malcolm's shocking confession: "Every journalist who is not too stupid or too full of himself to notice what is going on knows that what he does is morally indefensible. He is a kind of confidence man, preying on people's vanity, ignorance or loneliness, gaining their trust and betraying them without remorse."

Too strong? Then read Washington Examiner writer Karen DeWitt: "I became a reporter like many in my generation, because I wanted to shine a light on wrongs and stand up for the little guy against the powerful." The Press Court is now the powerful. It stands up not for the little guy but for its own.

Article From The Hill...
(scroll down to "Hacks favorite subject:themselves")

Bush Crimes Commision Update

February 2, 2006


Today the Bush Administration was found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity for invading Iraq, instituting torture and indefinite detention, attacking efforts to control global warming and for deliberately failing to prevent devastation and loss of life during Hurricane Katrina.

These findings were released at the National Press Club by the International Commission of Inquiry on Crimes Against Humanity Committed by the Bush Administration. The full text of can be found at www.bushcommission.org.

Shortly after the findings were released, activist Heather Hurwitz confronted Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld with the Commission's verdict during his press luncheon. Hurwitz, of World Can't Wait--Drive Out the Bush Regime, declared Rumsfeld and The Bush Administration were guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity and that thousands were gathering Saturday, February 4th in Washington to demand that they step down. (www.worldcantwait.net)

Ms. Hurwitz was quickly removed by security personnel. After she was led away, Rumsfeld joked, "We'll count her as undecided." When informed of Rumsfeld's comment, Hurwitz said, "war crimes and crimes against humanity are not joking matters. Rumsfeld's attitude typifies this administration's brazen immorality and lawlessness, and this is why it must step down."

Earlier, at the Commission's press conference, Ajamu Sankofa, Executive Director of Physicians for Social Responsibility-NY and one of the panel of jurists, stated "The historical significance of this tribunal is that American citizens, civil society, is demonstrating courage to stand up and speak its definition of the truth against a wholly orchestrated system of deliberate deceptions."

"This commission is attempting to change the level of discourse," said Abdeen Jabara, another panelist and former President of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. "We want people to understand Iraq is not simply a war of choice but an actual war of aggression from which flow certain legal consequences. Torture is often reported as 'abuse' rather than torture. So we need to change the way these items are talked about for people to face the fact of what this government is doing."

"The Commission is incredibly important for the future of the United States and really the world, because it's the people of America that are speaking to these very serious indictments," said panel member Ann Wright, a former US diplomat and retired US Army Reserve Colonel. Former CIA analyst Ray McGovern added, "Our German fore-bearers in the 1930s sat around, blamed their rulers, said 'maybe everything's going to be alright.' That is something we cannot do. I do not want my grandchildren asking me years from now, 'why didn't you do something to stop all this?'"

Brig. General Janis Karpinski, former UK Ambassador Craig Murray, and former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter, were among the 44 witnesses presenting testimony at the Commission's two sessions. The Commission will later issue detailed findings, accompanied by full documentation.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Five Myths About National Healthcare

[Tyler Zimmer, Campus Progress]

Myth #1: It would be too expensive

UHC would actually reduce the cost of health care. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that UHC could save up to $14 billion annually by spreading the risk evenly over the entire population, eliminating deductibles and co-pays and making preventive medicine available to the poor and uninsured. The federal government already subsidizes private health insurance in the form of tax deductions.

Private insurance companies also spend billions on administration and overhead, advertising, and determining and inspecting patient eligibility, all while trying to make a profit. UHC would not be burdened with some of those costs, like advertising, and unlike private business, it could run at a loss and still be viable. . .

Myth #2: It would require a huge, inefficient bureaucracy

The current system is already a huge, inefficient bureaucracy! As previously mentioned, much of the unnecessary overhead and micromanaging in the system now could be eliminated if UHC were implemented. For example, the bureaucracy and paperwork involved in determining patient eligibility would be completely unnecessary if everyone were eligible and covered. Insurance companies spend an estimated 25 cents of every dollar on administration. Canada, which already has a comprehensive UHC in place and still manages to pay 70 percent less per citizen on health care, spends about the equivalent of about 12 cents of every dollar on administration.

Myth #3: It would restrict patient choice

UHC wouldn't directly dictate what doctor you have to see in order to get treatment and would thus enable more choice in selecting a physician than the current system would for many, if not most, Americans.

Myth #4: It would be a socialist seizure of the medical industry

It would be nothing of the sort. Socialized medicine would entail hospitals and doctors becoming employees of the state. UHC only provides funding for people's health care, but doesn't provide the health care itself. . . UHC would be no more socialist than Medicare and arguably less so than public education.

Myth #5: UHC would impede economic growth

An added benefit of UHC would be that private business would no longer have to worry about health-care benefits, and employees wouldn't have to remain in unpleasant jobs just to keep their benefits. Benefits wouldn't interfere with wage increases, and employers would have more financial mobility. . .



AL KAMEN, WASHINTON POST - Been a big week for those on the State Department's terrorist list. Al Qaeda has become a television production company. Hamas has taken over its own sort-of country. And now, it seems the Iranian terrorist group MEK, or Mujaheddin-e Khalq, which opposes the current government, got a positive mention from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Speaking to reporters on her plane yesterday, Rice referred to it as a "dissident" group that helpfully exposed Iran's nuclear perfidy.

Article...(scroll down to "Life On The Terrorist List")

'Nightline' Investigation: Wounded Soldiers Told They Owe Money to Army

Troops Face Financial Crises After Learning Army Overpaid Them During Hospitalization

Jan. 31, 2006 — - It was one of the thousands of roadside bombs in Iraq that paralyzed Staff Sgt. Eugene Simpson.

"My first instinct was to jump farther back into the Humvee, you know, for protection," Simpson said. "But in doing that, I opened my back up to all the scrap metal and debris, which hit my spine and severed my spine, paralyzing me."

He was soon on a plane home.

Fast-working, skilled Army doctors saved his life, as they have so many.

Slow, bumbling Army bureaucrats would make his life miserable, as they have so many.

"And the military basically is, like, they turn their back on you, you kind of feel that you've just been used," Simpson said.

No Pay for Four Months

It started with a phone call from his wife, home with their four children. She didn't have enough money to pay the bills.

"And she was like, well, we haven't been paid," Simpson said. "And you know, instantly I was like, I don't know what to do. You know, I'm still in the hospital. I can't actually get up and go around and talk to these different people."

And until "Nightline" inquired at the Pentagon, Simpson said he could not find out what happened.

"Every day is something different," he said. "Well, this person isn't in. I'll have them call you back, give it a couple days. Couple days go by, I call back, well I got somebody else for you to talk to. And days lead to weeks, and weeks lead to months."

It turns out the Army had mistakenly continued to pay Simpson a combat duty bonus while he was in the hospital.

He had been overpaid thousands of dollars, and the Army wanted the money back.

"By law, he's not entitled to the money," said Col. Richard Shrank, "so he must pay it back."

Shrank said although that is the law, soldiers can apply for debt forgiveness if they believe the debt is a mistake. So far, more than 800 soldiers have done so. More than 600 of those requests have been granted, amounting to more than $600,000.

So, the Army said it withheld the paralyzed soldier's pay until it got back the amount he owed -- with no advance notice, Simpson said.

"Four months," he said. "I didn't get paid for four months."


The End of the Internet?

by JEFF CHESTER, The Nation

[posted online on February 1, 2006]

The nation's largest telephone and cable companies are crafting an alarming set of strategies that would transform the free, open and nondiscriminatory Internet of today to a privately run and branded service that would charge a fee for virtually everything we do online.

Verizon, Comcast, Bell South and other communications giants are developing strategies that would track and store information on our every move in cyberspace in a vast data-collection and marketing system, the scope of which could rival the National Security Agency. According to white papers now being circulated in the cable, telephone and telecommunications industries, those with the deepest pockets--corporations, special-interest groups and major advertisers--would get preferred treatment. Content from these providers would have first priority on our computer and television screens, while information seen as undesirable, such as peer-to-peer communications, could be relegated to a slow lane or simply shut out.

Under the plans they are considering, all of us--from content providers to individual users--would pay more to surf online, stream videos or even send e-mail. Industry planners are mulling new subscription plans that would further limit the online experience, establishing "platinum," "gold" and "silver" levels of Internet access that would set limits on the number of downloads, media streams or even e-mail messages that could be sent or received.


Pentagon trying to censor top US political cartoonist

by John in DC, from AMERICAblog - 2/01/2006 05:09:00 PM

The Joint Chiefs of Staff just sent a menacing letter to the Washington Post over a cartoon. AMERICAblog received a copy of the letter at 10AM this morning, but as its veracity was not yet confirmed, we waited until E&P was able to confirm that is is for real.

Here's the letter the Joint Chiefs of Staff wrote to the Post.

And why not have the Pentagon try to stifle a free media while supposedly promoting freedom in Iraq? The US government just arrested one of President Bush's top political critics for threatening his life with a t-shirt. So why not now threaten a top political cartoonist for drawing a cartoon that the Pentagon doesn't like? Why not use the power of government to try to censor the media, something that's a direct violation of that pesky and quaint 1st Amendment to the US Constitution - you remember, that document the Bush administration doesn't think is relevant.

I have no problem with citizens speaking out about political cartoons they find offensive - hell, we've done it recently with the anti-gay cartoon in the Post. But when the government does it, that's a whole other story that smacks of censorship, especially when that government is the Pentagon threatening you during wartime.

It will be interesting to see if the Post replied to the Pentagon. They sure didn't reply when it was a homophobic cartoon they published.

Hey, here's a thought. Now that the Joint Chiefs have addressed the insidious threat cartoons pose to our troops, perhaps they can move on to less pressing issues like getting them their damn body armor.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Bolivia leader halves his own pay

The Bolivian new left-wing President, Evo Morales, has cut his salary by more than a half to a little over $1,800 (£1,012) per month.

The decision means that the salaries of all Bolivian public sector employees will be reviewed, as no official can earn more than the president.

Mr Morales said the money saved would be used to increase the numbers of doctors and teachers.

Mr Morales suggested that members of Congress should cut their salaries too.

During the campaign, Mr Morales had pledged to halve his own pay if elected.

The move announced after his first cabinet went beyond that, with a cut of 57%.

BBC South America correspondent Daniel Schweimler says many voted for Mr Morales believing that he was different from the more conservative politicians who have governed in the past.

The former llama herder and coca leaf farmer was inaugurated last Sunday as Bolivia's first indigenous president.

He has promised to fight corruption, introduce a new tax on the wealthy, and renationalise energy companies.

Story from BBC NEWS: