Thursday, June 29, 2006

Media Literacy 101

In the mainstream and even select alternative media, Israeli forces “arrest” or “detain” unarmed Palestinian civilians and hold them as “prisoners,” whereas Palestinians “abduct” and “kidnap” armed Israeli soldiers and hold them as “hostages.”
--Brian Dominick, NewStandard

No bias there, right? Of course not!--Pete


[Whether the same principle applies to paying a hooker or bribing a cop remains undecided--Sam Smith, Undernews]

NEIL A. LEWIS, NY TIMES - The Supreme Court ruled today that a Vermont law restricting campaign donations and expenditures was unconstitutional. The court said that the law's limits on how much a candidate could spend violated a landmark 30-year-old ruling equating such spending with free speech and that its limits on donations to a campaign were far too stringent. . . The justices said that some limits on donations were constitutional as part of an effort to control the influence of money in politics. But the court said that the money a candidate spent in an election was equivalent to free speech and any limit on that would be an unconstitutional infringement on that right.

NYT Article...

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Miami bomb plot suspects 'entrapped,' lawyers say

Reuters Article...

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Seven men charged with conspiring to bomb the Sears Tower in Chicago and the FBI building in Miami were entrapped by a federal informant, lawyers for two of the suspects said on Monday.

An indictment issued last week accused the men of pledging loyalty to Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda and seeking the group's support to "wage war" against the U.S. government.

The person they thought was an al Qaeda representative was actually an FBI informant, U.S. Justice Department officials said.

Albert Levin, the court-appointed attorney for suspect Patrick Abraham, said he believes his client was ensnared by the informant.

There was "a lot of talking going on by the informant and more listening by the defendant and or the defendants," Levin told Fox News Channel host Bill O'Reilly.

Nathan Clarke, a lawyer for another suspect Rotschild Augustine, agreed.

"With respect to my client, from what I can read in the indictment, there's going to be a question of whether there's even sufficient evidence to sustain the burden of proof on conviction," Clarke said.

"If by any chance there's a scintilla of that then, of course, there's going to be the entrapment issue," he said.

"This thing took place over eight months, according to the indictment and at the end of the indictment, it says that this thing became disorganized and nobody had ever done anything or did anything," Clarke said.

Abraham, Augustine and three other men arrested on Thursday in Miami appeared briefly in a magistrate's court on Friday.

Another suspect arrested in Atlanta made his initial court appearance there on Friday. The seventh suspect, arrested in the Miami area earlier last week on a probation violation, was scheduled to appear in court on Wednesday.

© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved.

Labor News - Nurses file wage-suppression lawsuits

In an action designed to draw attention to the chronic shortage of nurses across the nation, a Washington, DC law firm last week filed four class-action suits alleging that hospitals in four cities are illegally colluding to drive down wages.

The suits, filed in Chicago, San Antonio, Albany, and Memphis, accuse hospital administrators of agreeing not to compete with one another over nurse wages.

In 2001, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that the number of registered nurses had been declining for several years and noted that a near-flat growth in wages was one of many factors contributing to the decline. Median salaries for RNs have been at or below the change-rate of the consumer price index since the early 1990s, the GAO noted. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the average annual income for registered nurses in 2004 was $52,330.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006


The fifth paragraph is the kicker.--Pete

JOANNE LEVINE, WASHINGTON POST - A team of reporters I supervise went to shoot a story about the Great Plains emptying out. When the sheriff of Crosby, a town near the Canadian border, heard about it, he contacted the U.S. Border Patrol. An agent soon showed up at the local newspaper, asking for the journalists' names. Other agents asked whether they "seemed like U.S. citizens." The journalists are Peggy Holter, Josh Rushing and Mark Teboe. They are all experienced reporters, and they are all U.S. citizens. So what was it that raised officials' antennae? The channel they work for: al-Jazeera. . .

Take Border Patrol Assistant Chief Lonnie Schweitzer, who questioned the legitimacy of our reporters' presence in Crosby. "It's al-Jazeera," he told the local newspaper. "What is the interest of an Arab news organization in Crosby, North Dakota?". . .

Several employees I know believe they have suffered consequences for joining the network -- one was dropped by an adoption agency she once used and another had two rental applications rejected after naming her employer. . .

Perhaps most significant, scores of people refuse to be interviewed by our reporters. On numerous stories, I have approached people who know me from my past jobs. They will talk to me on the phone, but they refuse to appear on camera, saying they can't be seen on al-Jazeera. I have heard this too often -- from officials in government and Congress as well as from other people in the
media. . .

What many Americans also don't know is that, before Sept. 11, 2001, al-Jazeera was lauded and applauded by the Bush administration for [its] fearless attitude toward the dictatorships of the Middle East. High-ranking administration officials, including Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and then-national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, made frequent appearances on the network.

After 9/11 -- and especially after the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 -- tensions between the West and the Middle East escalated, and al-Jazeera's reporting often angered Americans. The network showed civilian casualties caused by U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. It also showed images of U.S. troops taken hostage in Iraq. It broadcast pictures of Iraqis celebrating over a downed U.S. aircraft. When four U.S. contractors were killed in Fallujah in March 2004 and their burned and mutilated bodies were hung from a bridge, al-Jazeera put it on TV.

The White House now takes every opportunity to demonize the network's editorial choices. . .

Each incident shrouded in bigotry has served to convince me ever more that the United States needs an outlet like al-Jazeera International, offering a wider panorama of views. These are dangerous times

WaPo Article here...


How surprising...--Pete

THINK PROGRESS - Last week, the Pentagon shut down access entirely to the Guantanamo Bay prison after the suicide deaths of three detainees. Journalists covering the suicides had their clearances revoked and were immediately flown back to the United States, and regular visits between detainees and their lawyers were cancelled. Human rights groups protested: "The Bush Administration is afraid of American reporters, afraid of American attorneys and afraid of American laws."

Afraid of American journalists, that is, as long as they're not from Fox. This morning, Fox News analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano described how the Defense Department had personally invited him on a trip to Guantanamo on Wednesday:

NAPOLITANO: I was doing my radio show with Brian Kilmeade the other day and I get an email from the Defense Department saying, "We have an extra seat on a flight down to Guantanamo, would you like to come?" So, of course, I cleared it all — I cleared it here with our superiors. …

HOST: What'd you see?

NAPOLITANO: Well, we saw everything. . . We saw all six camps. . . We had FBI interviews, I actually sat down and examined the evidence they're going to use at trial with prosecutors. It was very detailed.

HOST: That was some kind of access.

NAPOLITANO: It was. It was great.

Napolitano offered his fair and balanced review of conditions at the prison: among other glowing reviews, he claimed it is "now gentle, almost child-like the way they treat the detainees."


JOHN O'NEIL - The Federal Bureau of Investigation's deputy director said today that a plot to blow up the Sears Tower in Chicago by seven Miami men now facing federal conspiracy charges was "more aspirational than operational," but illustrated the threat posed by small groups without connections to international terror networks. . . "These are members of a homegrown terrorist cell," said John S. Pistole, the F.B.I.'s deputy director. "Their goal was simple: to accomplish attacks against America.". . . Mr. Pistole said the group had no actual connection to Al Qaeda. And beyond the oath, the only other overt act described in the indictment was taking video footage of the F.B.I. office in Miami. (Italics mine - Pete)

NYT Article Here... (semiotics analysis advised)

And Furthermore...

When U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said the group "posed no immediate threat," you wonder what the yelping is all about, if not to stir the media and bolster the watchdog successes of the FBI, INS, and homeland security. Or, much more alarming, the further scape-goating and criminalization of African American youth. . .

Herb Boyd, Black World Today

Monday, June 26, 2006

The People's Path to Impeachment

By Onnesha Roychoudhuri, AlterNet
Posted on June 26, 2006

On June 6, Jim Bronke of Concord, Penn., addressed the Concord Township board of supervisors:

Township supervisors and friends, I come here today not as a Republican or as a Democrat but as an American citizen concerned for our way of life. I hope that you can view this package not as a political statement but as a plan for the future … Rules of the House of Representatives explicitly allow state and city legislatures to introduce resolutions. Our First Amendment guarantees any citizen, city, or state "to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." This is what I ask you to do with this motion.

Bronke requested that the board consider a motion to request an impeachment inquiry of the president of the United States. When a board supervisor told Bronke that the only path to impeachment was through U.S. senators and representatives, Bronke corrected the supervisor, stating that "there are multiple paths toward impeachment, this is another."

Bronke was absolutely right.

The Concord board is hardly national news. But taken in conjunction with the staggering number of state legislatures and city and town councils across the country that have passed impeachment resolutions, the lack of coverage of the movement is a conspicuous absence in mainstream media.

Illinois, Vermont and California state legislatures have impeachment resolutions pending. The Democratic parties of Vermont, New Hampshire, Alaska, Maine, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado, California and Hawaii have all passed resolutions. Then there are the 18 city and town councils that have passed resolutions, with seven more resolutions (including Concord) pending, to say nothing of the 27 local political groups and parties across the country that have adopted impeachment resolutions.

The broad sweep is not surprising as the evidence is well-documented: President George W. Bush lied to Congress and the American people in order to lead the country into war, and continues to conduct illegal wiretaps, sanction torture and violate the separation of powers by picking and choosing congressional legislation.

Despite the clear case, impeachment has become a taboo word in D.C. politics. A chasm has emerged between high-level politicians too afraid to push for accountability, the media that seeks the "news" that comes from these politicians and their circles, and the American public they are supposed to be serving.

In a recent Zogby poll, Americans were asked what would restore their trust in government and the No. 1 reply was "personnel changes/impeachment." As David Swanson of notes, polls by Ipsos, Zogby and American Research Group have found support between 43 percent and 53 percent. And if it's Democrats, the numbers shoot up to 80-90 percent, with a consistent majority of Independents supporting impeachment.

Swanson says, "For impeachment to have anything close to majority support despite opposition by both political parties and almost no positive coverage in the media is remarkable."

Dennis Loy Johnson of Melville House Publishing is intimately familiar with the divide between Americans and the political representatives and media who are supposed to represent them. Johnson worked with lawyers from the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) to create the book Articles of Impeachment Against George W. Bush -- a concise reader that makes the legal case for impeachment. Says Johnson, "We've had more than one friendly mainstream journalist tell us they pitched a story to their editor and were told, 'Don't even go there.'"

Despite the media blackout, people from every state in the union have participated in the Melville House campaign, sending copies of the book to their representatives. Johnson notes that they have heard from groups as varied as Veterans for Peace, Goldstar Families and Republicans for Impeachment. "A lot of people were paying more attention in civics class than you think," he quips.

Teaming up again, Melville House and CCR have arranged a National Impeachment Teach-In launching on July 19 with events around the country. Centered on a 30-minute DVD, "How to Impeach a President," materials are being made available online, providing the information and tools to reclaim political power. It's telling that the constitutional lawyers at CCR are appealing to the public -- attesting to the fact that holding this administration legally accountable will not happen without public support.

As CCR lawyer Michael Ratner says in the film, "This is not going to happen in a court. It's going to happen when the people of the United States say to their members of Congress, we've had enough."

But what of the political likelihood? Johnson thinks it's a "winnable fight." He says,

This is not about party politics. It's about the very real damage being done to the constitutional separation of powers by this administration. This is a grassroots movement that represents American democracy at its best -- people from all walks of life trying to work with their government to enact the corrective measures put into the Constitution by the founding fathers for exactly this purpose.

Onnesha Roychoudhuri is a former assistant editor of AlterNet.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Behind the "Delay" in Renewing Law is Scheme for Theft

by Greg Palast
For The Guardian
June 23, 2006

[New York] Don't kid yourself. The Republican Party's decision yesterday to "delay" the renewal of the Voting Rights Act has not a darn thing to do with objections of the Republican's White Sheets Caucus.

Complaints by a couple of Good Ol' Boys to legislation has never stopped the GOP leadership from rolling over dissenters.

This is a strategic stall — meant to de-criminalize the Republican Party's new game of challenging voters of color by the hundreds of thousands.

In the 2004 Presidential race, the GOP ran a massive multi-state, multi-million-dollar operation to challenge the legitimacy of Black, Hispanic and Native-American voters. The methods used broke the law -- the Voting Rights Act. And while the Bush Administration's Civil Rights Division grinned and looked the other way, civil rights lawyers are circling, preparing to sue to stop the violations of the Act before the 2008 race.

Therefore, Republicans have promised to no longer break the law -- not by going legit but by eliminating the law.

The Act was passed in 1965 after the Ku Klux Klan and other upright citizens found they could use procedural tricks -- "literacy tests," poll taxes and more -- to block citizens of color from casting ballots.

De-criminalizing the "caging" lists

Here's what happened in '04 -- and what's in store for '08.

In the 2004 election, over THREE MILLION voters were challenged at the polls. No one had seen anything like it since the era of Jim Crow and burning crosses. In 2004, voters were told their registrations had been purged or that their addresses were "suspect."

Denied the right to the regular voting booths, these challenged voters were given "provisional" ballots. Over a million of these provisional ballots (1,090,729 of them) were tossed in the electoral dumpster uncounted.

Funny thing about those ballots. About 88% were cast by minority voters.

This isn't a number dropped on me from a black helicopter. They come from the raw data of the US Election Assistance Commission in Washington, DC.

At the heart of the GOP's mass challenge of voters were what the party's top brass called, "caging lists" -- secret files of hundreds of thousands of voters, almost every one from a Black-majority voting precinct.

When our investigations team, working for BBC TV, got our hands on these confidential files in October 2004, the Republicans told us the voters listed were their potential "donors." Really? The sheets included pages of men from homeless shelters in Florida.

Donor lists, my ass. Every expert told us, these were "challenge lists," meant to stop these Black voters from casting ballots.

When these "caged" voters arrived at the polls in November 2004, they found their registrations missing, their right to vote blocked or their absentee ballots rejected because their addresses were supposedly "fraudulent."

Why didn't the GOP honchos 'fess up to challenging these allegedly illegal voters? Because targeting voters of color is AGAINST THE LAW. The law in question is the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The Act says you can't go after groups of voters if you choose your targets based on race. Given that almost all the voters on the GOP hit list are Black, the illegal racial profiling is beyond even Karl Rove's ability to come up with an alibi.

The Republicans target Black folk not because they don't like the color of their skin. They don't like the color of their vote: Democrat. For that reason, the GOP included on its hit list Jewish retirement homes in Florida. Apparently, the GOP was also gunning for the Elderly of Zion.

These so-called "fraudulent" voters, in fact, were not fraudulent at all. Page after page, as we've previously reported, are Black soldiers sent overseas. The Bush campaign used their absence from their US homes to accuse them of voting from false addresses.

Now that the GOP has been caught breaking the Voting Rights law, they have found a way to keep using their expensively obtained "caging" lists: let the law expire next year. If the Voting Rights Act dies in 2007, the 2008 race will be open season on dark-skinned voters. Only the renewal of the Voting Rights Act can prevent the planned racial wrecking of democracy.

"Pre-clearance" and the Great Blackout of 2000

Before the 2000 presidential balloting, then Jeb Bush's Secretary of State purged thousands of Black citizens' registrations on the grounds that they were "felons" not entitled to vote. Our review of the files determined that the crimes of most on the list was nothing more than VWB -- Voting While Black.

That "felon scrub," as the state called it, had to be "pre-cleared" under the Voting Rights Act. That is, "scrubs" and other changes in procedures must first be approved by the US Justice Department.

The Florida felon scrub slipped through this "pre-clearance" provision because Katherine Harris' assistant assured the government the scrub was just a clerical matter. Civil rights lawyers are now on the alert for such mendacity.

The Burning Cross Caucus of the Republican Party is bitching that "pre-clearance" of voting changes applies only to Southern states. I have to agree that singling out the Old Confederacy is a bit unfair. But the solution is not to smother the Voting Rights law but to spread its safeguards to all fifty of these United States.

White Sheets to Spread Sheets

Republicans argue that the racial voting games and the threats of the white-hooded Klansmen that kept African-Americans from the ballot box before the 1965 passage of the Voting Rights Act no longer threaten Black voters.

That's true. When I look over the "caging lists" and the "scrub sheets," it's clear to me that the GOP has traded in white sheets for spreadsheets.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

BushCo Tries To Make The Corporate Press Capitulate To His Version Of "Freedom"

Surprisingly, they refuse!

AP - The Bush administration and The New York Times are again at odds over national security, this time with new reports of a broad government effort to track global financial transfers. The newspaper. . . declined a White House request not to publish a story about the government's inspection of monies flowing in and out of the country. The Los Angeles Times also reported on the issue Thursday night on its Web site, against the Bush administration's wishes. The Wall Street Journal said it received no request to hold its report of the surveillance. Administration officials were concerned that news reports of the program would diminish its effectiveness and could harm overall national security. . . Treasury Department officials spent 90 minutes Thursday meeting with the newspaper's reporters, stressing the legality of the program and urging the paper to not publish a story on the program, McManus said in a telephone interview.

Ann Coulter/General Grievous: Separated at Birth?

With an assist from La Cucaracha

Right-wing columnist Ann Coulter, who claims to be from Earth, is a dead ringer for Star Wars creature General Grievous.

One is a cold, heartless automaton and the other is a Star Wars character.

The End of Net Neutrality?

Big Telecom companies want to control the Internet
By Joshua Frank
Published: Tuesday June 20th, 2006

If you haven’t been following this big story about the future of Net Neutrality, I’ll try to lay it out as simply as I can.

Good Guys: Proponents of Net Neutrality.

Bad Guys: The telecom giants who want to extract fees for service.

The Good Guys want to protect the internet and keep it in the hands of folks like you and I. The Bad Guys want to control it and put it in the hands of big telecommunication corporations. Now, it’s not that black and white of an issue, but for the most part the Bad Guys are looking to gain more, while the Good Guys (Google, – still not great) want to protect what they already have.

Right now the Senate is heating up, with a vote likely to come down in the near future. A lot of our elected representives have not come out one way or another on this important issue. This really is the future of the internet we are talking about here. In the days ahead, if we abandon Net Neutrality and some big honcho in New York City decides websites like this one aren’t worth putting on his company’s search engine, or provider package, it could be lost.

These corporations very well could decide what is and what isn’t available to be viewed on the internet. They could price the little guys out. It could be like Wal-Mart of the web. They could very well control most content, and pick what you can and cannot see, read or listen to. It’d be the end of internet democracy in the United States, where all sites can be accessed.

There is quite an underhanded campaign going on now by a group called “Hands off the Internet”, who claim to want to protect the internet from regulators and Big Government. They are even running deceptive ads on blogs and other websites in hopes of pulling internet readers in to their camp. Some of the big names behind these cunning ads include AT&T, BellSouth, and Verizon.

Co-chair of this group is the ex-spokesman for President Bill Clinton and other Democrats, Mike McCurry. And what a trickster McCurry is. He even writes a column over at the “liberal” Huffington Post from time to time. He claims Net Neutrality will kill the internet.

Fact is, it’s Net Neutrality that has gotten us this far. Yet he writes, “The Internet is not a free public good. It is a bunch of wires and switches and connections and pipes and it is creaky. You all worship at Vince Cerf who has a clear financial interest in the outcome of this debate but you immediately castigate all of us who disagree and impune our motives. I get paid a reasonable but small sum to argue what I believe.”

So how much does this guy get paid? Well, not sure how much the big telecom giants are dolling out (hundreds of thousands, I’m sure), but he charges $10,000 and up per speaking gig. That’s not a “small sum” in my book. And to think that the web isn’t a “pubic good” is exactly the kind of thinking that has taken away our airwaves and put them in the hands of big corporations.

You know how when you turn on your TV how there isn’t thousands of channels at your disposal? That’s because you have to pay for those channels, they aren’t free – even though you supposedly own the airwaves. The same thing could happen to the internet if guys like McCurry have their way. You’d have to pay for access to the web, and each carrier would have much different ideas about what the “web” is. There would be different packages and different sites available per package. Sort of like cable TV vs. DirectTV. It would radically change the way the web works. And in the process it would likely leave out alternative blogs and news sites – as they would have to pony up big bucks to have access to consumers. And even if they did, they might not make the cut. Somebody else could decide if it’s a site worth your time or interest.

The internet is a work in progress, spearheaded by innovative and creative people, not big corporations. As the ol’ adage goes: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Cheney Assails Press for Reporting Executive Abuse...

NYT Article Here...

WASHINGTON, June 23 — Vice President Dick Cheney on Friday vigorously defended a secret program that examines banking records of Americans and others in a vast international database, and harshly criticized the news media for disclosing an operation he said was legal and "absolutely essential" to fighting terrorism.

"What I find most disturbing about these stories is the fact that some of the news media take it upon themselves to disclose vital national security programs, thereby making it more difficult for us to prevent future attacks against the American people," Mr. Cheney said, in impromptu remarks at a fund-raising luncheon for a Republican Congressional candidate in Chicago. "That offends me."

The financial tracking program was disclosed Thursday by The New York Times and other news organizations. American officials had expressed concerns that the Brussels banking consortium that provides access to the database might withdraw from the program if its role were disclosed, particularly in light of anti-American sentiment in some parts of Europe.

But the consortium, the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, or Swift, published a statement on its Web site on Friday, saying its executives "have done their utmost to get the right balance in fulfilling their obligations to the authorities in a manner protective of the interests of the company and its members."

A representative for the cooperative, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not allowed to talk about its internal discussions, said that he knew of no discussions about withdrawing, adding that the group was "very resolute" in its commitment to the financial tracking operation.

The program, run out of the Central Intelligence Agency and overseen by the Treasury Department, has allowed counterterrorism authorities to gain access to millions of records of transactions routed through Swift from individual banks and financial institutions around the world. The data is obtained using broad administrative subpoenas, not court warrants.

Investigators have used the data to do "at least tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of searches" of people and institutions suspected of having ties to terrorists, Stuart Levey, an under secretary at the Treasury Department, told reporters at a briefing on Friday. Officials say the program has proven valuable in a number of foreign and domestic terrorism investigations, and led to the 2003 capture of the most wanted Qaeda fugitive in Southeast Asia, known as Hambali.

News accounts of the program appeared just as President Bush returned from a two-day trip to Europe, where he met in Vienna with leaders of the European Union. Neither that organization nor any of its member states commented Friday, but one advocate for civil liberties in London said the program could create new tensions in Europe just as Mr. Bush was trying to smooth trans-Atlantic relations.

"Our data has been effectively hijacked by the U.S. under cover of secret agreements and entirely undisclosed terms," said the civil liberties advocate, Simon Davies, the director of Privacy International, a London-based organization focused on the intrusion on privacy by governments and businesses. "There will be a snapping point, and this may be it."

Initial reaction from global banks was muted, with one executive saying that while the privacy of information was a contentious issue within the industry, the Swift operation had so far generated few complaints.

In Washington on Friday, privacy groups and civil liberties advocates were critical of the program, as were some Democrats and one prominent Republican on Capitol Hill.

The executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, Anthony D. Romero, condemned the program, calling it "another example of the Bush administration's abuse of power."

Lauren Weinstein, the head of the California-based Privacy Forum, an online discussion group, raised concerns about lack of independent review of the operation. "Oversight is the difference between something being reasonable and something being abuse," he said.

Senator Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he had sent letters on Friday to both Treasury Secretary John W. Snow and Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales on the issue. While he declined to release the letters, he said he was concerned about the legal authority for the operation.

Mr. Specter has been at odds with the administration over another previously secret counterterrorism operation, the National Security Agency's domestic eavesdropping program. The senator said he was particularly troubled that the administration had expanded its Congressional briefings on the financial tracking program in recent weeks after having learned that The New York Times was making inquiries.

"Why does it take a newspaper investigation to get them to comply with the law?" the senator asked. "That's a big, important point."

In explaining the program, Mr. Levey, the Treasury under secretary who oversees the program, said in an interview earlier in the week that "people do not have a privacy interest in their international wire transactions." But Mr. Specter was skeptical.

"I'm not surprised that a Treasury official would take that position, but I'm not so sure he's right," the senator said. "I don't think it's an open-and-shut question."

Representative Edward J. Markey, the Massachusetts Democrat who has made privacy a signature issue, said, "I am very concerned that the Bush administration may be once again violating the constitutional rights of innocent Americans as part of another secret program created in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks."

But Mr. Cheney was emphatic on Friday in arguing the program is necessary, and predicted that the Bush administration might be criticized over it in much the same way that critics have assailed the National Security Agency eavesdropping, which has been done without warrants.

"The fact of the matter is that these are good, solid, sound programs," the vice president said at the fund-raiser in Chicago for David McSweeney, a Republican who is running against Representative Melissa Bean, a freshman Democrat.

"They are conducted in accordance with the laws of the land," Mr. Cheney continued, adding, "They're carried out in a manner that is fully consistent with the constitutional authority of the president of the United States. They are absolutely essential in terms of protecting us against attacks."

Mr. Cheney's sentiments were echoed Friday by two other top administration officials, Treasury Secretary Snow and the White House press secretary, Tony Snow.

The two men, who are not related, defended the program in separate news conferences on Friday. The Treasury secretary called the operation "government at its best," and the press secretary derided criticism of it as "entirely abstract in nature."

The Treasury secretary called the program "an effective weapon, an effective weapon in the larger war on terror."

Administration officials spoke to various reporters about the financial tracking program Thursday night after The New York Times published an article about the program on its Web site. Bill Keller, executive editor of The Times, has said the newspaper decided to publish the story because "we remain convinced that the administration's extraordinary access to this vast repository of international financial data, however carefully targeted use of it may be, is a matter of public interest."

Swift has said that its role in the program was never voluntary, but that it was obligated to comply with a valid subpoena, and had worked to narrow the range of data it provided to American officials.

But the Treasury secretary, Mr. Snow, said Friday that after the Sept. 11 attacks, Treasury Department officials initially presented the cooperative with what he described as "really narrowly crafted subpoenas all tied to terrorism." Officials at Swift responded that that they did not have the ability to "extract the particular information from their broad database."

"So they said, 'We'll give you all the data,' " Secretary Snow said.

Craig S. Smith contributed reporting from Paris for this article, Eric Dash from New York and Laurie J. Flynn from San Francisco.

An officer says No to 'war crimes'

From Peek
Posted by Evan Derkacz at 11:41 AM on June 22, 2006

Today, as his Stryker Brigade leaves for the Air Force Base that will transport them to Iraq, Lt. Ehren Watada becomes the first commissioned officer to refuse deployment claiming that "[my]participation would make me party to war crimes."

When Watada, who had attempted to resign his commission at least twice, learned in May that his request was denied, he simply refused to deploy, saying:

"Although I have tried to resign out of protest, I am forced to participate in a war that is manifestly illegal. As the order to take part in an illegal act is ultimately unlawful as well, I must as an officer of honor and integrity refuse that order."

Upon learning of Watada's intentions, his commanding officer attempted to shut him up by launching an official investigation into his public opposition. Needless to say, it didn't work.

Conscientious Objector status, by the way, is only available to those who are strict pacifists -- rejecting all war, "legal" or not -- so flat-out refusal was the only means at his disposal.

In fact, far from being a pacfist, Watada's objections are specific to Iraq; as the Seattle P-I reported, Watada has said that "he would serve in Afghanistan."

Video of tuesday's press conference is HERE. Watada's mother, Carolyn Ho, who flew in from Hawaii, had this to say:

My son’s decision to refrain from deploying to Iraq comes through much soul searching. It is an act of patriotism. It is a statement to all Americans, to men and women in uniform, that they need not remain silent out of fear, that that they have the power to turn the tide of history: to stop the destruction of a country and the killing of untold numbers of innocent men, women, and children. It is a message that states unequivocally that blindly following orders is no longer an option. My son, Lt. Watada’s stance is clear. He will stay the course. I urge you to join him in this effort.

Standing with Watada is retired Col. Ann Wright, who resigned in 2003. She noted that: "The country of Iraq did nothing to the United States of America," and supported Watada's right to disobey "illegal orders."


UPDATE, from Thank You site: "At this time Lt. Watada has been restricted to base, possibly confined to quarters, and has been ordered to have no contact with any non-military personnel, with the exception of his civilian lawyer."

More info HERE.

Drug Prices Already Rising Under New Medicare Plan

by Jessica Azulay, NewStandard

June 22 – Now that millions of seniors are locked into Medicare's new private prescription drug plans, an analysis released this week found that prices for medication sold through the plans rose in just the first five months.

Families USA, a liberal healthcare-reform group critical of the Medicare Part D program, evaluated prices charged by the private companies administering the program for the 20 drugs most-often prescribed to seniors. Comparing prices reported by the companies in November, when seniors began enrolling in the program, to prices the next April, researchers found that nearly all companies raised rates for the majority of the medications studied.

"At the same time that the Bush administration and congressional leaders are touting the effectiveness of the Medicare drug plans, those plans are quietly raising the prices that they charge," said Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, in a press statement announcing the study. "As a result, seniors will pay more and more – as will America's taxpayers."

Peter Ashkenaz, a spokesperson for Medicare, told reporters that many seniors were insulated from the cost increases because they enrolled in plans with flat co-pays.

Among the key findings: all of the plans raised prices for the cholesterol-lowering drug Zocor, nearly 99 percent upped costs for the osteoporosis medication Fosamax, and more than 97 percent increased charges for Lipitor, another cholesterol-lowering drug.

More than nine out of ten companies raised prices on Actonel for osteoporosis, Toprol XL for high blood pressure, Xalatan for glaucoma, Clebrex for pain, Nexium for gastrointestinal problems, Norvasc for heart problems, and Aricept for Alzheimer's symptoms.

At least half the drugs studied went up in price by 3.7 percent or more, and of the 2,202 Medicare-plan prices analyzed, more than 88 percent rose, while only 7.6 percent fell.

While the companies involved in the Medicare program are free to change their prices at any time, seniors and people with disabilities enrolled in the plan are not able to switch between companies to get better rates.

Since Congress explicitly forbade Medicare from negotiating with pharmaceutical companies for lower prices, Families USA also compared drug prices under Medicare to those under the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health plan, which is allowed to bargain with drugmakers for lower prices.

Zocor cost over $1,200 per year under the Medicare plan with the best rates for that drug, while the VA paid just over $127 for the same amount. Fosamax, under the cheapest Medicare price, went for nearly $730, while the VA got the medication for just under $463.

The study found that all of the 20 most frequently prescribed drugs for seniors cost more under the lowest Medicare price than the VA's price.

A separate report put out by the senior advocate AARP this week found that prices for the most widely used 193 brand-name medications by seniors rose about 6.2 percent over the last year, almost twice the rate of general inflation.

The Families USA study also compared the Medicare Part D price increases to wholesale price changes by pharmaceutical companies and found that in almost all cases, they were parallel.

"This means," said Pollack, "that Part D plans are doing essentially nothing to contain the fast-rising prices by the drug industry."

The group did not report whether the prices paid by the VA went up during the same period.
© 2006 The NewStandard.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The Minimum Wage Goes Down...

From Katrina vanden Heuvel's The Notion:

The GOP just shafted the working people of America. By rejecting an attempt to raise the minimum wage, the Republican-controlled Senate showed that it is far more interested in lining the pockets of its campaign contributors than – as Paul Krugman wrote in a New York Times op-ed on Monday – arriving at a "new New Deal" and working to "rebuild our middle class." The 52-46 vote was eight short of the 60 needed for approval. (The measure drew the support of eight Republicans --four of these are up for reelection in the fall.)

Sen. Edward Kennedy's amendment would have raised the wage from the current $5.15 an hour to $7.25 – the first raise in a decade. "The minimum wage," as economist Gwendolyn Mink, makes clear, is supposed to guarantee an income floor to keep full-time wage-earners out of poverty. But today, the federal minimum wage guarantees abject poverty for workers... nearly $6,000 per year below the federal poverty line for a family of three."

But the vast majority of Republican Senators, several of them millionaires several times over, don't care about poverty or the well-being of their working class constituents, What they really care about is that they're sitting pretty, having voted themselves another raise --to $168,500 --on January 1.

Even the not-exactly-populist Wall Street Journal points out, "While the minimum wage has remained frozen, lawmakers' salaries have risen with annual cost-of-living increases keyed to what is given federal employees. And last week's vote in the House Appropriations Committee followed a floor vote days before in which the House cleared the way for members to get another increase valued at thousands of dollars annually." So, while Congress will soon make close to $170,000 a year, hardworking full-time minimum wage workers make just $10,700 annually.

One group that did important work to end this inequity is the Let Justice Roll coalition--a fast-growing program of more than 70 faith and community groups. The coalition labored mightily to target senators who were critical to passing this legislation and preventing it from being weakened by Republican's bogus charges of "class warfare." (For the true definition of class warfare, check out my Dictionary of Republicanisms. "Class warfare, n.: any attempt to raise the minimum wage").

For millions of families, this callous vote means another day of choosing between rent and health care, putting food in the refrigerator or gas in the car. Meanwhile, a Big Oil CEO makes $37,000 an hour. Want to talk about class warfare?

Permalink Here...

Reclaim the Issues - "Occupation, Not War"

by Thom Hartmann

Every time the media - or a Democrat - uses the phrase "War in Iraq" they are promoting one of Karl Rove's most potent Republican Party frames.

There is no longer a war against Iraq.

It ended in May of 2003, when George W. Bush stood below a "Mission Accomplished" sign aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln and correctly declared that we had "victoriously" defeated the Iraqi army and overthrown their government.

Our military machine is tremendously good at fighting wars - blowing up infrastructure, killing opposing armies, and toppling governments. We did that successfully in Iraq, in a matter of a few weeks. We destroyed their army, wiped out their air defenses, devastated their Republican Guard, seized their capitol, arrested their leaders, and took control of their government. We won the war. It's over.

What we have now is an occupation of Iraq.

The occupation began when the war ended, and continues to this day. According to our own Pentagon estimates, at least ninety five percent of those attacking our soldiers are Iraqi civilians who view themselves as anti-occupation fighters. And last week both the Defense Minister and the Vice President of Iraq asked us for a specific date on which the occupation would end.

The distinction between "war" and "occupation" is politically critical for 2006 because wars can be won or lost, but occupations most honorably end by redeployments.

We won World War II and it carried Roosevelt to great political heights. We lost the Vietnam War and it politically destroyed Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Jerry Ford. And as we fought to a draw in Korea, it so wounded Harry S. Truman politically that he didn't have a strong enough base of support to run for re-election against Dwight D. Eisenhower.

American's don't like to lose or draw at a war. Even people who oppose wars find it uncomfortable, at some level, to lose, and Republican strategists are using this psychological reality for political gain. When wars are won - even when they're totally illegal and undeclared wars, like Reagan's adventure in Grenada - it tends to create a national good feeling.

On the other hand, when arguably just wars, or at least legally defensible "police action" wars, like Korea, are not won, they wound the national psyche. And losing a war - like the German loss of WWI - can be so devastating psychologically to a citizenry that it sets up a nation for strongman dictatorship to "restore the national honor."

On the other hand, an "occupation" is something that logically should one day end, and, if it's an expensive occupation in lives or money, will find popular support to end as soon as possible.

The various colonial powers of Europe ended their occupations of most of Africa, for example, and there was no national emotional pain associated with it. Churchill's withdrawal from Uganda increased his popularity with Brits.

While Americans hate to lose wars, we're generally pleased to wrap up occupations. We had no problem with ending our occupation of The Philippines, numerous South Pacific islands, and the redeployment of our troops stationed in nations conquered in World War II (Japan and Germany) from broad-based "occupation" to locally based "assistance." (Although we still have troops in Japan and Germany, neither country has been functionally "occupied" by us since the late 1940s and the "legal" occupation of both ended shortly thereafter. It should also be remembered that not a single American life was lost because of hostile fire in either brief post-war occupation.)

If Democrats can succeed over the next three months in making it clear to average Americans that the "War In Iraq" ended in 2003, and that we're now engaged in an "Occupation Of Iraq," then Democratic suggestions to end or greatly diminish the occupation will take on a resonance and cogency that will both help them in an election year, and help to bring our soldiers to safety and Iraq to stability.

On the other hand, if Democrats are perceived as pushing for America to "lose the war in Iraq," they will be vilified and damned by Republicans and many swing voters, and could thus lose big in 2006.

The "War" is over. The Occupation has now lasted 3 years and one month - far longer than necessary.

Here's a "for example" scenario - fictitious at this moment - of how Democrats should play it out:

[Tim Russert]: So, Senator Reid, what do you think of this most recent news from the War In Iraq?

[Senator Reid]: The war ended in May of 2003, Tim. Our military did their usual brilliant job, and we defeated Saddam's army. The Occupation Of Iraq, however, isn't going so well, in large part because the Bush Administration has totally botched the job, leading to the death of thousands of our soldiers, and dragging our nation into disrepute around the world. I'd like to see us greatly scale down the current Occupation of Iraq, redeploy our Occupation Forces to nearby nations in case we're needed by the new Iraqi government, and get our brave young men and women out of harm's way. Occupations have a nasty way of fomenting civil wars, you know, and we don't want this one to go any further than it has.

[Tim Russert]: But isn't the War In Iraq part of the Global War On Terror?

[Senator Reid]: Our Occupation Of Iraq is encouraging more Muslims around the world to eye us suspiciously. Some may even be inspired by our Occupation of this Islamic nation to take up arms or unconventional weapons against us, perhaps even here at home, just as Osama Bin Laden said he hit us on 9/11 because we were occupying part of his homeland, Saudi Arabia, at the Prince Sultan Air Force Base, where Bush Senior first put troops in 1991 to project force into Kuwait and enforce the Iraqi no-fly zone. The Bush policy of an unending Occupation Of Iraq is increasing the danger that people will use the tactic of terror against us and our allies, and, just like George W. Bush wisely redeployed our troops from Saudi Arabia, we should begin right now to redeploy our troops who are occupying Iraq.

[Tim Russert]: But the War...

[Senator Reid]: Tim, Tim, Tim! The war is over! George W. Bush declared victory himself, in May of 2003, when our brave soldiers seized control of Iraq. That's the definition of the end of a war, as anybody who's ever served in the military can tell you. Unfortunately, our Occupation Of Iraq since the end of the war, using a small military force and a lot of Halliburton, hasn't worked. We should take Halliburton's billions and give them to the Iraqis so they can rebuild their own nation, the way we helped Europeans rebuild after World War Two. And go from being an occupying power to being an ally of Iraq and the Iraqi people, like we did with Japan and Germany.

[Tim Russert (bewildered)]: I can't call it a war anymore? We have to change our NBC "War In Iraq" banners and graphics?

[Senator Reid (patting Russert's hand)]: Yes, Tim. The war is over. It's now an occupation, and has been for three years. And like all occupations, it's best to wrap it up so Iraq can get on with their business. I'm sure your graphics people can come up with some new logos that say "Occupation Of Iraq." It'll be a nice project for them, maybe even earn them some much-needed overtime pay. The "War In Iraq" graphics are getting a bit stale, don't you think? After all, soon we'll be able to say that we fought World War II in less time than we've been in Iraq. Wars are usually short, but occupations - particularly when they're done stupidly - can be hellish.

[Tim Russert (brightening)]: Ah, so! Now I get it! I even wrote about wars and occupations in my book about my dad. Thanks for coming on the program today and clarifying this for us.

If the Democrats don't shift the discussion from "war" to "occupation," the Republicans will succeed in painting them as being "in favor of losing a war," which will destroy their electoral possibilities.

Instead, every time a Republican or a member of the press uses the Rove slogan "War in Iraq," Democrats need to correct them by saying, "You mean the Occupation of Iraq..."

Thom Hartmann is a Project Censored Award-winning best-selling author, and host of a nationally syndicated daily progressive talk show carried on the Air America Radio network and Sirius.

Sunday, June 18, 2006


AP - Gritty rats and mice living in sewers and farms seem to have healthier immune systems than their squeaky clean cousins that frolic in cushy antiseptic labs, two studies indicate. The lesson for humans: Clean living may make us sick. The studies give more weight to a 17-year-old theory that the sanitized Western world may be partly to blame for soaring rates of human allergy and asthma cases and some autoimmune diseases, such as Type I diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis. The theory, called the hygiene hypothesis, figures that people's immune systems aren't being challenged by disease and dirt early in life, so the body's natural defenses overreact to small irritants such as pollen.

The new studies, one of which was published Friday in the peer reviewed Scandinavian Journal of Immunology, found significant differences in the immune systems between euthanized wild and lab rodents. When the immune cells in the wild rats are stimulated by researchers, "they just don't do anything they sit there; if you give them same stimulus to the lab rats, they go crazy," said study co-author Dr. William Parker, a Duke University professor of experimental surgery. He compared lab rodents to more than 50 wild rats and mice captured and killed in cities and farms.

USA Today Article


RICHARD PRINCE, JOURNAL-ISMS - An examination of the portrayal of Latinos in the nation's leading newsmagazines in 2005 shows the group to be depicted chiefly in the context of immigration and principally as problems. The study, "U.S. News Magazine Coverage of Latinos," was conducted for the National Association of Hispanic Journalists by the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University and released at the NAHJ convention in Fort Lauderdale,
Fla. . .

"As is often the case regarding minority groups, the representations seem to fall at the end of two extremes," the report said. "Latinos were either positioned as a problem/threat, or as the successful exception/role model of their community, even the success of Latinos in politics was often represented with ambivalence and danger.

"And yet, the majority of Latinos do not fall into either camp. Indeed, the majority of the coverage did not represent Latinos as average Americans leading mainstream lives. It also suggests that Latinos are only newsworthy when they are doing something that marks them as unique. As long as these news practices persist, Latinos cannot be incorporated as full citizens in U.S. society."

The report found that of 1,547 magazine stories published in Time, Newsweek and U.S. News & World Report, only 18 stories, or 1.2 percent, were about Latinos. Twelve of the 18 focused on immigration.

"In these immigration stories, Latino immigrants were portrayed, for the most part as a negative and disruptive force on U.S. society," it said.

The study noted a headline in Newsweek after the election of Antonio Villaraigosa as mayor of Los Angeles: "A Latin Power surge. A New Mayor in L.A. A Decisive Showing in 2004. Latinos are Making their Mark on Politics as Never Before. Get Used to It." . . .


GREG MITCHELL AND JOE STRUPP, EDITOR & PUBLISHER - In the aftermath of the three suicides at the notorious Guantanamo prison facility in Cuba last Saturday, reporters with the Los Angeles Times and the Miami Herald were ordered by the office of secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to leave the island today.

A third reporter and a photographer with the Charlotte Observer were given the option of staying until Saturday but, E&P has learned, were told that their access to the prison camp was now denied. An E&P "Pressing Issues" column on Tuesday covered an eye-opening dispatch by the Observer's Michael Gordon carried widely in other papers.

He had listened in, with permission, as the camp commander gave frank instructions to staff on how to respond to the suicides. A Pentagon spokesman, J.D. Gordon, confirmed the order to leave the island this morning, but told E&P it was unrelated to the stories produced by the journalists, while admitting that Gordon's piece had caused "controversy." He asserted that the move was related to other media outlets threatening to sue if they were not allowed in. He did not say why, instead of expelling the reporters already there, the Pentagon did not simply let the others in, beyond citing new security concerns. . . A curt e-mail to reporters Carol Rosenberg of the Herald and Carol Williams of the L.A. Times mentioned a directive from the office of Rumsfeld, and stated: "Media currently on the island will depart on Wednesday, 14 June 2006 at 10:00 a.m. Please be prepared to depart the CBQ [quarters] at 8:00 a.m."

Article here...



"Lawyers in the suit. . . said parts of the ruling could potentially be used . . . to detain any non-citizen in the United States for any eason."

NINA BERNSTEIN, NY TIMES - A federal judge in Brooklyn ruled yesterday that the government has wide latitude under immigration law to detain non-citizens on the basis of religion, race or national origin, and to hold them indefinitely without explanation. The ruling came in a class-action lawsuit by Muslim immigrants detained after 9/11. . . This is the first time a federal judge has addressed the issue of discrimination in the treatment of hundreds of Muslim immigrants who were swept up in the weeks after the 2001 terror attacks and held for months before they were cleared of links to terrorism and deported. The roundups drew intense criticism, not only from immigrant rights advocates, but also from the inspector general of the Justice Department, who issued reports saying that the government had made little or no effort to distinguish between genuine suspects and Muslim immigrants with minor visa violations. Lawyers in the suit, who vowed to appeal yesterday's decision, said parts of the ruling could potentially be used far more broadly, to detain any non-citizen in the United States for any reason.

Four Months Into Aid Cutoff, Gazans Barely Scrape By

June 18, 2006
NYT Article Here (free registration necessary)...

JABALIYA CAMP, Gaza Strip, June 16 — In the fourth month without salaries from the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority, the Abu Rizek family scours greenhouses after the harvest, looking for potatoes left in the ground.

Mariam al-Wahedi no longer receives her $21 a month from social services and is living off the $200 she got last month by selling her last piece of jewelry, a bracelet given to her 30 years ago. Khalid Muhammad, a policeman, moonlights in a friend's shop, selling used cellphone batteries for $2.25, and says he now yells at his wife and sometimes hits his children. Umm Jihad, with six children, begs in the market.

Awni Shibrawi, a jeweler, admits that he is almost too bad-tempered to go to work in his shop and sit all day doing nothing. Khadida Farajabah, a vegetable seller, says she has granted nearly $2,000 in credit, digging out the list she keeps inside her blouse, and cannot afford to give any more. Majid Nofad, a butcher, says business is down 60 percent and he has stopped giving credit after the total mounted to nearly $3,000.

More middle-aged men can be seen on the piers of Gaza, fishing with boys, to try to catch some protein for dinner. Couples are postponing marriage. Muhammad Kahloot, a colonel in the Palestinian police, is trying to decide whether he can afford the $700 his son, Khaled, needs to finish his last semester at the university, or whether to use the money for food and utilities.

When Colonel Kahloot uses his cellphone, he hangs up quickly, so his number appears as a "missed call" and he is not charged, leaving it up to a friend to phone him back.

Mr. Muhammad, 31, the moonlighting policeman, has four children. "When my wife goes to the grocery, the owner says, 'Where's the money?' And she says, 'Maybe today, maybe tomorrow,' and this way we pass the time." Mr. Muhammad said the family eats beans and local greens, which are about 20 cents a pound. "Forget about meat," he said, laughing. "We don't know the chicken anymore. We hear in the news about the fish."

The ordinary Palestinians of Gaza are coping as best they can in a world without salaries and very little money circulating, after the Western cutoff of aid to the Palestinian Authority, which Hamas took over in March. The Authority employs almost 40 percent of those with regular jobs in Gaza.

There is not a humanitarian crisis here yet, but one is building. No one knows anyone who is starving, but nearly everyone dependent on government salaries is eating less and less well, with a sharp reduction of chicken, meat and vegetables in a diet that is now based on the cheapest ingredients — beans, potatoes, greens and bread.

The World Food Program, with 160,000 nonrefugee beneficiaries out of Gaza's population of 1.4 million, sends its workers on house visits. They say people are cutting down on the number of meals a day, and few are eating meat, eggs or yogurt, said Kirstie Campbell, a spokesman, who estimates that half the population of Gaza is not getting enough to eat.

More Here...

Thursday, June 15, 2006



DECLAN WALSH, GUARDIAN - A controversial UN report that has been shelved for 18 months names and shames leading Afghan politicians and officials accused of orchestrating massacres, torture, mass rape and other war crimes. The 220-page report by the UN high commissioner for human rights, which the Guardian has obtained, details atrocities committed by communist, mujahideen, Soviet and Taliban fighters over 23 years of conflict. Originally scheduled for release in January 2005, the report's publication has been delayed repeatedly due to sensitivities over identifying former warlords still in positions of power. . . Debate over the role of former warlords has grown more heated since anti-foreigner riots rocked Kabul two weeks ago, casting clouds over the $12bn western-funded reconstruction effort. European diplomats are angered that days after the riots President Hamid Karzai appointed 13 former commanders with links to drugs smuggling, organized crime and illegal militias to senior positions in the police force. The names were inserted at the last minute into a list of 86 police chiefs that had been selected by US, German and Afghan officers as part of a drive to professionalize the corrupt force. . .

A European official said the 13 appointments had strained Mr Karzai's relationship with foreign donors and further eroded his credibility with ordinary Afghans. "This is not acceptable to us. If we let people who have committed human rights abuses and economic crimes slip through, Afghans are going to start asking what we are doing here," he said.



DECLAN WALSH, GUARDIAN - A controversial UN report that has been shelved for 18 months names and shames leading Afghan politicians and officials accused of orchestrating massacres, torture, mass rape and other war crimes. The 220-page report by the UN high commissioner for human rights, which the Guardian has obtained, details atrocities committed by communist, mujahideen, Soviet and Taliban fighters over 23 years of conflict. Originally scheduled for release in January 2005, the report's publication has been delayed repeatedly due to sensitivities over identifying former warlords still in positions of power. . . Debate over the role of former warlords has grown more heated since anti-foreigner riots rocked Kabul two weeks ago, casting clouds over the $12bn western-funded reconstruction effort. European diplomats are angered that days after the riots President Hamid Karzai appointed 13 former commanders with links to drugs smuggling, organized crime and illegal militias to senior positions in the police force. The names were inserted at the last minute into a list of 86 police chiefs that had been selected by US, German and Afghan officers as part of a drive to professionalize the corrupt force. . .

A European official said the 13 appointments had strained Mr Karzai's relationship with foreign donors and further eroded his credibility with ordinary Afghans. "This is not acceptable to us. If we let people who have committed human rights abuses and economic crimes slip through, Afghans are going to start asking what we are doing here," he said.


BOSTON GLOBE - The Rhode Island General Assembly is considering legislation that could give police access to Internet and phone records and credit card and bank information without a warrant or other court review, civil libertarians said. The state police said the legislation would help track down the increasing instances of Internet-based crime, including fraud and child exploitation. They say they are only seeking expanded access to Internet records, not phone or banking records.

But lawyers familiar with this area of law say the bills as crafted would give Rhode island police the right to obtain the same information that some of the nation's major communication companies have been accused of giving to the National Security Agency illegally. . . State police say going before a judge to get a warrant can be time-consuming and cumbersome. Cpl. John Killian, the state police's computer crime specialist, said it can take three to four hours of work to obtain a warrant. "There's a balance between privacy and police authority," Killian said.

BG Article Here...


GREGG KRUPA, DETROIT NEWS - The Bush Administration argued in U.S. District Court on Monday that it cannot defend itself against accusations that a domestic spying program is illegal and unconstitutional because details of the program would be revealed, rendering it ineffective and jeopardizing national security. "The president has decided that the program is necessary to protect and defend the United States," Anthony Coppolino, a lawyer for the Department of Justice said in the nation's first court hearing on the program. "Without evidence that goes to the heart of the matter, the president's claims cannot be addressed.". . .

A lawyer for the plaintiffs argued that the Bush Administration's position about state secrets is of little relevance."The issue in this case is simply whether the National Security Administration is violating the law and the Constitution in eavesdropping on the telephone calls of Americans without a warrant," said Ann Beeson, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union.

Donald Hall, Poet Laureate


The question, What is poetry for? has a corollary: What is everything that is not poetry for? That's what I found myself wondering as I reread Donald Hall's poem "The One Day" after hearing the good news that he will be the next poet laureate of the United States. The question has a circular, elliptical answer. In the life of a poet, what is not poetry is for the making of poems. It is the raw stuff, like "a bad patch of middle-life," as Mr. Hall puts it in his note on "The One Day." It took 17 years to make that 60-page poem, and 17 years for a poem of that magnitude is a decent rate of exchange.

In this country there is no job description for the poet laureate. And yet the title, which carries a stipend and a travel grant, is not entirely honorific. It's assumed that the laureate will try to advance the cause of poetry — especially the public awareness of poetry — in a manner somehow separate from the writing of poems. To speak on behalf of poetry sounds like a natural task for a poet, and for some poets it certainly is. I don't know whether Donald Hall will turn out to be that kind of laureate, and, in a way, I hope he doesn't. So much of his poetry has emerged from the rigor of his privacy — from what appears in his verse to be a deep, unsettling sense of what's possible in one's life. There's always the temptation for the laureate to find some anodyne ground to stand on. But these are not anodyne times.

To many readers, Donald Hall has lived what appears to be an eminently poetical life — in an ancient farmhouse in New Hampshire. The setting is pastoral, and yet there is a ferocity in Mr. Hall's voice that undoes the pastoral, which is always waiting to be undone. As Mr. Hall once wrote in an essay about the withering of the National Endowment for the Arts, "the mathematics of poetry's formal resolution does not preclude moral thought, or satisfaction in honest naming, or the consolation of shared feeling." I'm looking forward to the mathematics and the morality of this new laureate. After all, it doesn't matter where you watch life from if your gaze takes in the whole world.

NYT Editorial...

A Leap of Faith, Off a Cliff

On Monday, the Bush administration told a judge in Detroit that the president's warrantless domestic spying is legal and constitutional, but refused to say why. The judge should just take his word for it, the lawyer said, because merely talking about it would endanger America. Today, Senator Arlen Specter wants his Judiciary Committee to take an even more outlandish leap of faith for an administration that has shown it does not deserve it.

Mr. Specter wants the committee to approve a bill he drafted that tinkers dangerously with the rules on wiretapping, even though the president has said the law doesn't apply to him anyway, and even though Mr. Specter and most of the panel are just as much in the dark as that judge in Detroit. The bill could well diminish the power of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, known as FISA, which was passed in 1978 to prevent just the sort of abuse that Mr. Bush's program represents.

The committee is considering four bills. Only one even remotely makes sense now: it would give legal standing to groups that want to challenge the spying in court. The rest vary from highly premature (Senator Dianne Feinstein's proposed changes to FISA) to the stamp of approval for Mr. Bush's claims of unlimited power that Senator Mike DeWine drafted.

Mr. Specter's bill is not that bad, but it is fatally flawed and should not go to the Senate floor. He is trying to change the system for judicial approval of government wiretaps in a way that suggests Congress is facing a technical problem with a legislative solution, when in fact it is a constitutional showdown.

There is also a practical problem: a bill on the floor of this Senate becomes the property of the Republican leadership, which will rewrite it to the specifications of Vice President Dick Cheney, the man in charge of this particular show of imperial power. Mr. Specter, of all people, should have no doubt of that, having been forced to watch in embarrassment last week as Mr. Cheney seized control of the committee's deliberations on the spying issue.

Mr. Specter says his bill would impose judicial review on domestic spying by giving the special court created by FISA power to rule on the constitutionality of the one program that Mr. Bush has acknowledged. But the review would be optional. Mr. Specter's bill would eliminate the vital principle that FISA's rules are the only legal way to eavesdrop on Americans' telephone calls and e-mail. It would give the president power to conduct surveillance under FISA "or under the constitutional authority of the executive." That merely reinforces Mr. Bush's claim that he is the sole judge of what powers he has, and how he exercises them.

Mr. Specter's lawyers have arguments for many of these criticisms, and say the bill is being improved. But the main problem with the bill, like most of the others, is that it exists at all. This is not a time to offer the administration a chance to steamroll Congress into endorsing its decision to ignore the 1978 intelligence act and shred constitutional principles on warrants and on the separation of powers. This is a time for Congress to finally hold Mr. Bush accountable for his extralegal behavior and stop it.

NYT Editorial...

US 'biggest global peace threat'

People in European and Muslim countries see US policy in Iraq as a bigger threat to world peace than Iran's nuclear programme, a survey has shown.

The survey by the Pew Research Group also found support for US President George W Bush and his "war on terror" had dropped dramatically worldwide.

Goodwill created by US aid for nations hit by the 2004 tsunami had also faded since last year, the survey found.

The survey questioned 17,000 people in 15 countries, including the US.

The latest in a series of annual polls by the Pew Global Attitudes Project interviewed respondents between 31 March and 14 May 2006.

Its release coincides with a surprise visit by President George W Bush to Baghdad in an effort to shore up support for US policy in the region.

'Fading goodwill'

The latest survey shows the worldwide reputation of the US continues to suffer over its prosecution of the "war on terror".

Sharp declines in the public perception of the US were particularly apparent in India, Spain and Turkey.

Goodwill towards the US had fallen from 71% to 56% in India, from 41% to 23% in Spain and from 23% to 12% in Turkey.

A majority of people in 10 of the 14 countries outside the US surveyed said the war in Iraq had made the world a more dangerous place.

Some 60% of people in the UK, which is the US biggest ally, felt the Iraq war had made the world less secure, while 30% said it had made the world safer.

According to the survey:

* Worldwide support for the "war on terror" has remained the same or declined
* European confidence in Mr Bush has sunk even lower than it was last year
* A majority of people in most countries feel the US will not achieve its goals in the "war on terror"

The survey also found little remaining evidence of the goodwill the US had earned over its aid for victims of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

In Indonesia, a major recipient of US tsunami aid, favourable opinions of the US had fallen from 38% in 2005 to 30% this year.

"Last year we saw some good news in countries like Russia and India," Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Centre, told the Associated Press news agency.

"That good news being wiped away is a measure of how difficult a problem this is for the United States."

Muslim differences

According to the survey, people in the US and Europe have grown increasingly concerned in the last year over Iran's nuclear programme.

The US has accused Iran of seeking to build a nuclear bomb - but Iran says its nuclear programme has a purely civilian objective.

Almost half of the Americans surveyed, 46%, viewed the current government in Iran as a "great danger" to stability in the Middle East and to world peace - a figure that has risen from 26% in 2003.

In Germany, Spain, France and the UK, the percentage of people who regard Iran as a great danger is roughly three times greater than it was three years ago.

However, the poll showed public opinion in predominantly Muslim countries was far less troubled by Tehran's nuclear programme.

Muslim people also appeared less concerned than Europeans and Americans by the victory of the Hamas militant group in Palestinian elections earlier this year.

The survey found concern over bird flu was largely confined to Asia, while two-thirds of people surveyed in each country said they were worried by global warming.

Concern over the greenhouse effect was highest in India and Japan and lowest in the US and China.

The survey interviewed people in China, Egypt, France, Germany, Great Britain, India, Indonesia, Japan, Jordan, Nigeria, Pakistan, Russia, Spain, Turkey and the US.

Its margin of error was two to six percentage points.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Click Pic For Larger Image


MANITOBA HERALD, CANADA - The flood of American liberals sneaking across the border into Canada has intensified in the past week, sparking calls for increased patrols to stop the illegal immigration. The actions of President Bush are prompting the exodus among left-leaning citizens who fear they'll soon be required to hunt, pray, and agree with Bill O'Reilly.

Canadian border farmers say it's not uncommon to see dozens of sociology professors, animal-rights activists and Unitarians crossing their fields at night. "I went out to milk the cows the other day, and there was a Hollywood producer huddled in the barn," said Manitoba farmer Red Greenfield, whose acreage borders North Dakota. The producer was cold, exhausted and hungry. "He asked me if I could spare a latte and some free-range chicken. When I said I didn't have any, he left. Didn't even get a chance to show him my screenplay."

Canadian citizens have complained that the illegal immigrants are creating an organic-broccoli shortage and renting all the good Susan Sarandon movies. "I feel sorry for American liberals, but the Canadian economy just can't support them," an Ottawa resident said.


The Bilderberg Conference is an ideal example of how the American elite turns its back on facts even as it denigrates those who wonder what the hell is going on.

As of Saturday night, no major American media had reported the meeting of 130 of the world's most powerful and wealthiest individuals, a meeting so secret that one reporter was arrested for merely flying into the host city and the Ottawa police had to show credentials to private security guards to be permitted on the premises. The invited also include some nasty individuals such as Richard Perle and Ahmad Chalabi. You don't invite such types to a secret meeting if you plan to do anything worthwhile. There are no reports of any person of known moral standing being invited.

How does one explain the utter lack of journalistic curiosity about all this? One could come up with a conspiratorial explanation but the answer is probably even more troubling: no conspiracy was needed at all. Like a well trained child, the media doesn't even want to know what is going on.

Well, that isn't completely true since past participants have included the likes of Don Graham of the Washington Post and Paul Gigot of the Wall Street Journal.

Many city councils in America operate under some sort of freedom of information and/or sunshine law. Why is it so important that we know what our town council is talking about behind our backs and so irrelevant what 130 of the most powerful individuals in the world are talking about secretly? Sorry, the American media is not cleared to give you an answer.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Rove 'truth' to come 'out'

By Evan Derkacz
Posted on June 12, 2006

Several weeks back, Truthout investigative reporter Jason Leopold reported that a source informed him of an imminent Rove indictment in the Valerie Plame investigation.

As you know, that indictment never occurred. A flurry of "ohmygod are there hacks in the progressive media?" questions ensued and Leopold's reputation (along with Truthout's) hung in the balance.

Neither TO nor Leopold budged and now reveal that they have a case number for the indictment. Hmm. Via Dave Johnson at Seeing the Forest:

As of Friday afternoon that indictment, returned by the grand jury the week of May 10th, remains under seal - more than a month after it was handed up by the grand jury.

The case number is "06 cr 128." On the federal court's electronic database, "06 cr 128" is listed along with a succinct summary: "No further information is available."

Johnson writes: "He is not backing off. Truthout isn't either. Maybe there is something to this." (SeeingTheForest)

Evan Derkacz is a New York-based writer and contributor to AlterNet.
© 2006 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
View this story online at:

Thursday, June 08, 2006


In the battle for fairness, the Federal Marriage Amendment suffered a resounding defeat this morning in the U.S. Senate.

Not only did not a single Senator from the compromised left buckle to pressure and advertising campaigns from right-wing groups to switch their vote, but we gained two Senators, Senators Gregg (R-NH) and Specter (R-PA), who voted the other way in 2004.

President Bush and the Republican leadership gambled their dwindling political capital on a discriminatory amendment and came up empty.

To read the coverage in the press, visit

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Tomdispatch Interview: Ehrenreich, The Prey and the Predators

A Guided Tour of Class in America
A Tomdispatch Interview with Barbara Ehrenreich

You turn into a middle-class, suburban housing project on the periphery of Charlottesville, Virginia, and at a row of attached homes, you pull up in front of the one with the yellow "for sale" sign on the tiny patch of grass. Ushered inside, you take in an interior of paint cans, a mop and pail, and cleaning liquids. On the small porch that overlooks a communal backyard, workmen are painting the weathered wood railings a nice, clean white. Later, when they're gone, we step out for a minute, on a balmy late spring afternoon, and she says, "You know what I need out here? Flowers!" And it's true, the nearest neighbor's small porch is a riot of red, orange, and purple blooms, while hanging from her railing are three plant holders with only dirt and the scraps of dead vegetation in them.

Not surprising really. Barbara Ehrenreich, our foremost journalist of, and dissector of class is regularly not here. Practically a household name since she entered the low-wage working class disguised as herself and, in her already classic account, Nickel and Dimed, reported back on just how difficult it is for so many hard-working Americans to get by. Then, a few years later, she repeated the process with the middle class, only to find herself not in the workforce but among the desperately unemployed who had fallen out of an ever meaner corporate world. Her most recent book, Bait and Switch, The (Futile) Pursuit of the American Dream, was the result. Now, she spends much time traveling the country talking to audiences about her -- and their -- experiences. She has become a blogger, is involved in launching a new group to help organize the middle-class unemployed, and in her spare time she's even finished a new book.

Now, after four years in Virginia (at least some of the time), she's about to head north. She gestures at the bookshelves. "There are a lot fewer books this week than last. I'm giving them to the Virginia Organizing Project." And it's true, the place is clearly being stripped down for sale. But you have the feeling, looking around, that it was a no-frills life to begin with, as Ehrenreich herself, in her short hair, jeans, T-shirt, and sneakers, presents a distinctly no-frills look. (Suddenly, imagining her with an image make-over advisor in Bait and Switch trying to give herself that perfect corporate look of employability seems amusing.)

Her mind is wide-ranging and daring indeed. Some years back, in a book entitled Blood Rites, she even managed to turn traditional ideas about the origins of war on their head. She is a thoroughly no-nonsense national resource.

Looking forward to a trip to the local gym followed by a visit with her two grandchildren (the daughters of her daughter Rosa Brooks, a law professor and columnist for the Los Angeles Times), we sit down at a paper-and-book cluttered dining-room table, which shows no evidence of having held a meal in some time, and -- eye on the clock, no fooling around -- begin.

Tomdispatch: You were at a graduation ceremony recently where the students were bouncing beach balls in the stands. The college president leaned over and whispered, "This is the problem with having the commencement in the afternoon. Some of these people have been partying for hours." In response, you wrote: "There are reasons, whether the graduates know them or not, to want to greet one's entrance into the work world with an excess of Bud." Could you start by explaining why an excess of Bud might be an appropriate response to leaving college today?

Barbara Ehrenreich: Well, a lot of graduates are simply not going to find jobs appropriate to their credentials. They're going to be wait staff. They're going to be call-center operators. Their twenties could be spent like that. I recently got Jared Bernstein of the Economic Policy Institute to do some research on this. It's still tentative, but he found that 17% of people in jobs that do not require college degrees have them. Those are very often people in their twenties who can't get professional-type employment, or people in their fifties who have been through one too many lay-off and are no longer employable because they're quote too old. So I was thinking of that, and then I was thinking that for a lot of those who do get jobs, you know, the fun is over. They're going to be sitting in cubicles and they won't be able to bounce balls around when they're in boring meetings with their bosses.

TD: The real earnings of college graduates fell by 5% between 2000 and 2004, so they also have that to look forward to.

Ehrenreich: There still is a real big earnings gap between college and non-college graduates, but it's begun to shrink. Jared tells me that the reason it was growing so fast in the nineties was not that college graduates were doing so well, but that low-wage people, blue-collar people, were doing so poorly. Their wages were being held down -- and that remains true.

TD: In 1989, you published a book about the middle class, or the professional-managerial class as you call them, entitled Fear of Falling. The book was way ahead of its time. If you were titling a work on the subject today you might just call it, Falling.

Ehrenreich: What I was thinking about then was the fear of intergenerational falling, the fear a lot of upper-middle class people have that their children will not get into the same class, because you can't just bequeath your class status to them. They can't inherit. They have to go through this whole education thing. Now, it could be Free Fall, though it isn't quite that bad… yet.

TD: In Bait and Switch, the book where, as an investigative reporter, you sought a corporate job and found yourself in the world of the middle-class unemployed or anxiously employed, you wrote, "On many fronts, the American middle class is under attack as never before." What happened to the middle class between then and now?

Ehrenreich: In Fear of Falling, I was concerned with the distance between the professional managerial class and the traditional working class. I thought I saw a new class developing. The strict Marxist idea is: You've got the bourgeoisie. Everybody else is a wage earner and they're not that different, whether they're accountants or laborers. And I was saying, no, there's a real difference here. The white-collar worker who sits at a desk is telling other people what to do in one way or another. Such workers are in positions of authority when compared to blue and pink-collar people.

Back then, I was emphasizing the differences. Today, in Bait and Switch, what I'm emphasizing is the lack of difference, that the security the professional-managerial class thought it had is gone. The safest part of that class, when I was writing in the eighties, seemed to be the professionals and managers with corporate positions. Then something happened in the nineties. Companies began to look at even those people as expenses to be eliminated rather than assets to be nurtured. What I was seeing in the late eighties was this pretty tight middle class where, really, the only problem was to get your kids into it, too.

Much More here...

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Today's Quote

"Enough details have emerged from survivors and military personnel to conclude that in the town of Haditha last November, members of the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment perpetrated a massacre. The killings may have been in retaliation for the death of a Marine lance corporal, but this was not the work of soldiers gone berserk. The targets (children from 3 to 14, an old man in a wheelchair, taxi passengers), the hours-long duration of killings, the number of Marines involved, the careful mop-up--all amount to willful, targeted brutality designed to send a message to Iraqis. As Representative John Murtha has pointed out, the patently false story floated afterward, blaming the killings on roadside bombs, and Marine payoffs to survivors imply a cover-up that may extend far up the chain of command."

~~ The Nation Editors, Why Haditha Matters

CNN's White Supremacist Sourcing

By Evan Derkacz
Posted on May 24, 2006

The thin, thin line between Lou Dobbs' punitive conservative views on immigration and unabashed bigotry was crossed, erased and spat upon yesterday.

Bill Scher writes:

During a piece about illegal immigrants in Utah, reporter Casey Wian said, "Utah is also part of the territory some militant Latino activists refer to as Aztlan, the portion of the southwest United States they claim rightfully belongs to Mexico."

The above map that accompanied the report was provided by the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens classified as a hate group by the ADL.

Dave Neiwert explains the fundamental misunderstanding in hysterical reporting and rightwing gumflapping on the "reconquista" issue:

The belief that the Southwest is part of their historical homeland is a legitimate belief for most Latinos, and the marchers [the Washington Times] cite[s] seem to be expressing that point. They're also expressing the belief that this historical claim overrides the latter-day borders that would deny them their heritage. What's utterly absent is any claim that they intend to retake the Southwest for Mexico, which is what the reconquista theory is all about. On the contrary, they seem intent on becoming American -- but they also are claiming they have a right, by virtue of their heritage, to become one.

Silly Dave. This is called nuance and rationality, two qualities melting away from the public discourse like polar ice caps in a quaint belief system once known as "science." (LiberalOasis, Orcinus)

--Evan Derkacz is a New York-based writer and contributor to AlterNet.
View this story online at:

From the "Wha', Where?" File...

During an interview with the Early Show concerning BushCo's new bid for isolationism in the U.S. while rampant corporate globalization is shoved down the throat of "developing" nations, one can actually see immigrants jumping the "most technologically advanced" border barrier ever.


Thanks to Jack Spellman (and Bryan, whoever you are)

Friday, June 02, 2006

Kennedy: 2004 Election was rigged

Via Alternet

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. writes, in Rolling Stone:

...what is most anomalous about the irregularities in 2004 was their decidedly partisan bent: Almost without exception they hurt John Kerry and benefited George Bush. After carefully examining the evidence, I've become convinced that the president's party mounted a massive, coordinated campaign to subvert the will of the people in 2004. Across the country, Republican election officials and party stalwarts employed a wide range of illegal and unethical tactics to fix the election.

On Exit Polls:

On the evening of the vote, reporters at each of the major networks were briefed by pollsters at 7:54 p.m. Kerry, they were informed, had an insurmountable lead and would win by a rout: at least 309 electoral votes to Bush’s 174, with fifty-five too close to call. In London, Prime Minister Tony Blair went to bed contemplating his relationship with President-elect Kerry.

As the last polling stations closed on the West Coast, exit polls showed Kerry ahead in ten of eleven battleground states – including commanding leads in Ohio and Florida – and winning by a million and a half votes nationally. The exit polls even showed Kerry breathing down Bush’s neck in supposed GOP strongholds Virginia and North Carolina. Against these numbers, the statistical likelihood of Bush winning was less than one in 450,000.

On Ohio:

[Ohio Sec of State Kenneth Blackwell] has openly denounced Kerry as ''an unapologetic liberal Democrat,''(50) and during the 2004 election he used his official powers to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of Ohio citizens in Democratic strongholds. In a ruling issued two weeks before the election, a federal judge rebuked Blackwell for seeking to ''accomplish the same result in Ohio in 2004 that occurred in Florida in 2000.''

There's more. Much more.