Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Molly Ivins is Dead. Long Live Molly Ivins!

The nation's mostly widely syndicated progressive columnist and a great friend of The Nation, Molly Ivins died today at age 62 after a long battle with what she referred to as a "scorching case of cancer." John Nichols' tribute to the warmest-hearted populist ever to pick up a pen is the first in a series of appreciations we plan to publish. As he writes, "If anyone picked a fight with the powerful, she was there, writing with passion, humor and unbridled joy." She'll be dearly missed.

Peter Rothberg, The Nation

Paul Krassner Reviews Himself...

Had the human potential movement of the sixties not been co-opted by the corporate media and fed back to somnambulistic consumers as commodity, the world as we know it would now be quite a different place. Viva La Revolucion!--Pete

- In 1967, Abbie Hoffman, his wife Anita and I took a work-vacation in Florida, renting a little house on stilts in Ramrod Key. We had planned to see "The Professionals." "That's my favorite movie," Abbie said. "Burt Lancaster and Lee Marvin develop this tight bond while they're both fighting in the Mexican revolution, then they drift apart." But it was playing too far away, and a hurricane was brewing, so instead we saw the Dino Di Laurentiis version of "The Bible."

Driving home in the rain and wind, we debated the implications of Abraham being prepared to slay his son because God told him to. I dismissed this as blind obedience. Abbie praised it as revolutionary trust. This was the week before Christmas. We had bought a small tree and spray-painted it with canned snow. Now, we were tripping on LSD as the hurricane reached full force. "Hey," Abbie yelled over the roar, "this is powerful [bleepin'] acid!"

We watched Lyndon Johnson on a black-and-white TV set, although LBJ was purple-and-orange. His huge head was sculpted into Mount Rushmore. "I am not going to be so pudding-headed as to stop our half of the war," he was saying, and the heads of the other presidents were all snickering to themselves and covering their mouths with their hands so they wouldn't laugh out loud.

This was the precise moment we acknowledged that we'd be going to the Democratic convention in August to protest the Vietnam war. I called Jerry Rubin in New York to arrange for a meeting. On the afternoon of December 31, several activist friends gathered at the Hoffmans' Lower East Side apartment, smoking Colombian marijuana and planning for Chicago.

Our fantasy was to counter the convention of death with a festival of life. While the Democrats would present politicians giving speeches at the convention center, we would present rock bands playing in the park. There would be booths with information about drugs and alternatives to the draft. We sought to utilize the media as an organizing tool, but we needed a name so that journalists could have a "who" for their "who-what-when-where-and-why" lead paragraph. . .

I came up with Yippie as a label for a phenomenon that already existed, an organic coalition of psychedelic hippies and political activists. In the process of cross-fertilization at antiwar demonstrations, we had come to share an awareness that there was a linear connection between putting kids in prison for smoking pot in this country and burning them to death with napalm on the other side of the planet. It was the ultimate extension of dehumanization. And so we held a press conference.

A reporter asked me, "What happens to the Yippies when the Vietnam war ends?" I replied, "We'll do what the March of Dimes did when a cure for polio was discovered; we'll just switch to birth defects." But our nefarious scheme worked. The headline in the Chicago Sun-Times read, "Yipes! The Yippies Are Coming!" What would later happen at the convention led to the infamous trial for crossing state lines to foment riot. . .

I got a call from director Brett Morgen, who was working on a documentary about the 1960s antiwar movement. It would have no narrator and no talking heads, only archival footage and animated re-enactments based on actual events and transcriptions of trial testimony. However, Allen Ginsberg levitating during meditation can be construed as cartoonic license. Brett invited me to write four specific animated scenes. . .

Although Brett "loved, loved, loved" the scenes I wrote, the backers objected to the use of LSD, fearful of diverting attention from the main focus of the film. I was disappointed, if only for the sake of countercultural history. The CIA originally envisioned employing LSD as a means of control; instead, for millions of young people, LSD served as a vehicle to explore their own inner space, deprogramming themselves from mainstream culture and living their alternative. The CIA's scenario had backfired. Anyway, my suggestion--instead of referring to it as acid, Abbie could yell, "Hey, this is powerful [bleepin'] aspirin"--was rejected. Thus, the hurricane, which was originally going to open the film, has been omitted, but of course it'll be on the DVD. . . .

Brett's goal isn't that ambitious, but when he called to tell me that "Chicago 10" had been selected to open the Sundance Film Festival, he said, "Wouldn't it be great if Abbie's legacy turns out to be that he helped to end the war in Iraq?" I hadn't seen any of the rough cuts and didn't know what to expect at the festival screening. Well, I loved, loved, loved it. Brett got a standing ovation. Although he was born two months after the protests in Chicago, he has managed--with the determination of a salmon swimming upstream to spawn, aided by 180 hours of film, 50 hours of video, 500 hours of audio and 23,000 pages of trial transcripts--to reveal in this unique neo-doc, the horror and the humor, the rhetoric and the reality, of those events and their aftermath, in a style and rhythm calculated to resonate with--and inspire--contemporary youth. . .

Sundance may be a long way from Ramrod Key, the spirit of Yippie lingers on.

Iran May Have Trained Attackers That Killed 5 American Soldiers, U.S. and Iraqis Say

NYT Article Here...

Remember Chuck Hagel's admonition that BushCo would soon stage event propaganda for the express purpose of empirical expansion when you read the next piece, from the NYT. The wingnuts would have you believe that the Times is the voice of the "liberal elite" - whatever that is - the elite being the ones with the capital, i.e., the Reeps. The Times falls right into their appointed role as the mouthpiece of the administration, lest their Washington "reporters" lose their cherished "inside sources."--Pete

BAGHDAD, Jan. 30 — Investigators say they believe that attackers who used American-style uniforms and weapons to infiltrate a secure compound and kill five American soldiers in Karbala on Jan. 20 may have been trained and financed by Iranian agents, according to American and Iraqi officials knowledgeable about the inquiry.

The officials said the sophistication of the attack astonished investigators, who doubt that Iraqis could have carried it out on their own — one reason a connection to Iran is being closely examined. Officials cautioned that no firm conclusions had been drawn and did not reveal any direct evidence of a connection.

A senior Iraqi official said the attackers had carried forged American identity cards and American-style M-4 rifles and had thrown stun grenades of a kind used only by American forces here.

Tying Iran to the deadly attack could be helpful to the Bush administration, which has been engaged in an escalating war of words with Iran.

One American soldier was killed during the initial attack and four more were abducted and killed shortly afterward as the police pursued the sport utility vehicles used in the attack.

The attack was focused on a meeting at a joint security station, where American and Iraqi forces mesh their efforts in the new security plan.

An Iraqi knowledgeable about the investigation said four suspects had been detained and questioned. Based on those interviews, investigators have concluded that as they fled Karbala with the abducted Americans, the attackers used advanced devices to monitor police communications and avoid the roads where the police were searching.

The suspects have also told investigators that “a religious group in Najaf” was involved in the operation, the Iraqi said, in a clear reference to the Mahdi Army, the militia controlled by the breakaway Shiite cleric, Moktada al-Sadr. If that information holds up, it would dovetail with assertions by several Iraqi officials that Iran is financing and training a small number of splinter groups from the Mahdi Army to carry out special operations and assassinations.

“I hear that there are a number of commando and assassination squads that are disconnected and controlled directly by Iran,” the senior Iraqi official said, citing information directly from the prime minister’s office. “They have supplied JAM and others with significant weaponry and training,” he said using shorthand for the group, from its name in Arabic, Jaish al Mahdi.

Confirmation of a Mahdi Army connection to the deadly incident would also support the argument by Bush administration officials that the group has a direct role in attacks on American troops.

Another senior Iraqi official said that military actions by the United States against JAM essentially pushed it toward Iran.

“During the conflicts between the Mahdi Army and the United States, Iran was the only side that supported JAM,” the official said. “And they told them, ‘Hey, we are here to help you and we are here to support you, and we will not let you down.’ ”

The Karbala operation involved 9 to 12 armed militants and at least five sport utility vehicles, the American military has said. The initial attack on the compound killed one American soldier and damaged three Humvees, the military said.

But what has caught the attention of investigators is the way the convoy of S.U.V.’s was able to give the impression that it was American and slip through Iraqi checkpoints unchallenged. An American military official said all possibilities were being explored, with the focus on whom the United States can trust, even among senior Iraqi officials, in the Karbala area.

“We’ve got to be very careful as to who we define as our allies, and who we trust and who we don’t,” the military official said. “Was the governor involved? Were the Iraqi police that were on guard complicit or just incompetent?”

The unusual nature of the attack has made it a major topic of discussion in the upper echelons of the Iraqi government. It has spawned bizarre theories including the idea that a Western mercenary group was somehow involved.

But the existence of what American commanders sometimes call “rogue JAM” — separate from the central, controlled militia — has put the Mahdi Army at the center of the investigation, officials say.

Two American officials in Washington confirmed that American military investigators were looking into the possibility of Iranian involvement in the Karbala attack. One of those officials said the working assumption by the investigators was that the operation had been carried out by a splinter group of the Mahdi Army.

The second official said the operation could be seen as retribution for three recent American raids in which Iranians suspected of carrying out attacks on American and Iraqi forces were detained. On Sunday, the Iranian ambassador to Iraq conceded that two Iranians detained in Baghdad last month were security officials, but said that they were making legitimate contacts with Iraqi government officials.

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

The Iraqi Resistance is not an “insurgency”

The Iraqi Resistance is not an “insurgency”. Insurgency is an organized rebellion aimed at overthrowing a legitimate and constituted government by force, such as the Contras, a U.S. proxy terrorist gang used against the legitimate government of Nicaragua in the late 1980s. There is nothing legitimate about the U.S. Occupation and its puppet government in Iraq. The Iraqi Resistance has the support of most Iraqi. One only needs to watch the jubilation of Iraqis at a destroyed U.S. tank or a Humvee to have a sense of Iraqi feelings. This distortion of the truth is part of U.S. psychological warfare not only against the Iraqi people but also against the rest of the world. It denies indigenous Iraqis their right for legitimate national resistance, and it deliberately demonizes the armed struggle against the invaders. The presence of “insurgency” implies that the U.S. Occupation is (nonexistent) peaceful and legal, and that the puppet government is legitimate government; it is not imported to Iraq on the back of U.S. tanks and imposed and legitimized by undemocratic and fraudulent elections at gunpoint.

Courtesy of Countercurrents and Ghali Hassan

Feingold Justifies Cutting off Bush's War

By Evan Derkacz
Posted on January 31, 2007

The good folks at PoliticsTV videotaped this Senate Judiciary Hearing on Congress's Constitutional Right to cut off funding for the war on Iraq.

There is no mealy-mouthed, namby-pamby speak here. In the Framers' brilliant design, Feingold says, Congress got the power of the purse, and the president got the power of the sword. They had the foresight to separate the two.

Of Cheney's recent pronouncement that Congress could not stop him and Bush from the War on Iraq, Feingold responded: "In the United States of America the People are sovereign, NOT the president..."

The video is over 7 minutes...

And don't miss Glenn Greenwald's post on our Senators' shifting opinions of Congress' ability to end a president's war. As you'd expect, many who demanded that Clinton set a timetable for withdrawal are suddenly singing a different tune...

He writes: "And Sen. McCain in particular made arguments in favor of Congressionally-mandated withdraw that are patently applicable to Iraq today. And he specifically argued with regard to forcible troop withdrawal that "responsibilities for that lie with the Congress of the United States." The Constitution hasn't changed since 1993, so I wonder what has prompted such a fundamental shift in Republican views on the proper role of Congressional war powers."

Evan Derkacz is an AlterNet editor. He writes and edits PEEK, the blog of blogs.

© 2007 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Shape Of Unions To Come

Anya Kamenetz

January 30, 2007

Anya Kamenetz is a freelance writer, the author of Generation Debt and a journalistic fellow of the Freelancers Union. She can be reached at her website,

Do you have your dream job? If the answer is "yes," you are probably in a union. That's the finding of a nationwide marketing survey of over 37,000 workers released on January 25. The respondents most likely to report that they were in their dream jobs were police and firefighters (35 percent) followed by teachers (32 percent.)

By coincidence, on that same date, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released a report showing yet another severe drop in U.S. union membership—from a steady 12.5 percent in 2004 and 2005 to 12 percent in 2006. The remaining stronghold of unionism, with a 41.9 percent membership rate, is local government workers. As the BLS points out, "This group includes several heavily unionized occupations, such as teachers, police officers and firefighters."

The biggest surprise disappointment in this new report is the drop within the traditional base of manufacturing—for the first time in many decades, a factory worker is actually less likely to be unionized than a worker at large.

There is a longstanding progressive debate over whether the decline in unionization is due mostly to sustained business and political enmity towards organizing, or is simply a product of broader global economic forces. A recent Center for Economic and Policy Research report supports the former theory. The researchers found a sharp increase in illegal firings of pro-union workers in the 2000s, estimating the likelihood that a union organizer will be axed during a campaign at 1 in 5.

On the other hand, recent statements at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland give evidence for the latter view. The head of Infosys Technologies, India's second-largest software exporter, said he expects the continued growth of outsourcing and offshoring around the world in 2007.

Did the traditional union die of natural causes, or was it murdered? It may be up to historians to settle the debate. Meanwhile, pragmatism demands alternative models to protect the interests of workers. Increasingly, these are found in "social movement unionism": an approach that is flexible and broad in its definition of workers' issues, often enlisting the cooperation of business and government, rather than being tied to a specific job or employer. Here are three diverse recent examples.

● The Service Employees International Union, the nation's largest health care workers union, is endorsing ten principles of universal health care reform in concert with business owners, seniors and other stakeholders. They are pursuing legislation in six states and reaching out to big business. SEIU President Andrew Stern testified before Congress in January on the need for "fundamental change," declaring "The employer-based health system is dead."

● The Freelancers Union, based in New York, offers group rate health insurance to 14,000 of its approximately 40,000 self-employed members. The organization lowers the cost of insurance by treating its members as though they belonged to one large employer, an idea hailed by Harvard Business School as a "disruptive innovation for social change." While the group does not bargain with employers, they do offer a range of services on an a la carte basis, much like a guild or mutual aid society. These include networking and education events and advocacy for tax benefits, unemployment insurance and other components of a social safety net. They are planning on expanding to 10 more states by the end of 2007, to serve more of the nation's 20 million independent workers. "Our ultimate goal is to update the New Deal," Sara Horowitz, the founder of the Freelancers Union, told The New York Times last week. "It is to create a new safety net that's connected to the individual as they move from job to job."

● Jennifer Gordon, a Fordham University law professor, in a paper forthcoming in the Southern California Law Review, proposes a scheme of "transnational labor citizenship." The idea is to bring migrant workers under the wing of transnational grassroots organizing groups that uphold a "floor" of working conditions. The proposal moves beyond decades of bitter standoff: Labor unions often try to stem immigration or exclude undocumented workers, while employers take advantage of their unprotected status to offer lower wages and worse conditions for the so-called "jobs Americans won't do." While offering a sweeping vision that she says is "unfeasible" today, Gordon's paper opens with a description of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee, an affiliate of the AFL-CIO, organizing prospective migrant workers in Monterrey, Mexico in 2005. The FLOC also has an "associate members" program, which offers unorganized, undocumented workers the chance to protect their human and working rights.

A job that includes membership in a traditional union is nice work if you can get it. The rest of us need new solutions. Renegotiating a real social safety net for all is going to take time and hard work, but the way there is forward, not back.

10 Reasons To Debate User-Generated Content

10. It can be a cover for "attack PR" agencies.

9. Does it appeal inevitably to "lowest common denominator" media?

8. Does the above question really matter?

7. The readers who "strike back" may be spambots.

6. It all ends up being sampled by a U2 film clip, anyway.

5. Become too successful and Elevation Partners will stage a VC buyout.

4. Dave Sifry has projections of blogger uptake . . . but how do we judge quality?

3. It triggers lawsuits such as 20th Century Fox's against YouTube.

2. Our page is more fun.

1. 23 Skidoo vs. VJ remix.

Can't You See What Love Has Done?

U2's new song, "Window In The Skies", is a thing of beauty from a band that has been producing such for over 27 years. The video for the song, directed by Gary Koepke, is phenomenal, and stands as testament to the fact that pop culture and art can co-exist.

Watch and be moved...

Spray-On Solar-Power Cells Are True Breakthrough

Mon, 29 Jan 2007

Recently in President Bush’s State of the Union speech, our faithful leader claimed that we are on the verge of techonological breakthrough which will lead us to live less dependant on foriegn oil, become better environmental stewards and live more sustainably.
Nanotechnology is delivering this crutch to the Hummer driving, overconsuming citizens of the world.

[Posted By Merlin]
By Stefan Lovgren
Republished from National Geographic News
Scientists have invented a plastic solar cell that can turn the sun's power into electrical energy, even on a cloudy day.

The plastic material uses nanotechnology and contains the first solar cells able to harness the sun’s invisible, infrared rays. The breakthrough has led theorists to predict that plastic solar cells could one day become five times more efficient than current solar cell technology.

Like paint, the composite can be sprayed onto other materials and used as portable electricity. A sweater coated in the material could power a cell phone or other wireless devices. A hydrogenpowered car painted with the film could potentially convert enough energy into electricity to continually
recharge the car’s battery.

The researchers envision that one day “solar farms” consisting of the plastic material could be rolledacross deserts to generate enough clean energy to supply the entire planet’s power needs.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Is a story about a protester spitting at a wounded Iraq vet a right-wing lie?

By Joshua Holland
Posted on January 29, 2007

Uh-oh. The New York Times caught this bit of lefty incivility at Saturday's protest against the occupation of Iraq …

There were a few tense moments, however, including an encounter involving Joshua Sparling, 25, who was on crutches and who said he was a corporal with the 82nd Airborne Division and lost his right leg below the knee in Ramadi, Iraq …

... as antiwar protesters passed where he and his group were standing, words were exchanged and one of the antiwar protestors spit at the ground near Mr. Sparling; he spit back. Capitol police made the antiwar protestors walk farther away from the counterprotesters. "These are not Americans as far as I'm concerned," Mr. Sparling said.

The Washington Post characterized Sparling's participation like this:

At least one veteran from the Iraq war tried to bridge the divide between the groups. Cpl. Joshua Sparling, 25, from Port Huron, Mich., who lost his right leg below the knee in an 2005 explosion in Ramadi, spoke to both groups.

What could be more damning than the image of dirty hippie protesters spitting at a vet, especially a wounded vet who was just trying to bridge "the divide" between the anti-war protesters and what turns out to have been a small group of "freepers"?

Well, it turns out that Joshua Sparling has conveniently been the victim of many outrageous acts of leftist brutality over the years. So much so, in fact, that he's become a bit of a celebrity among the wing-nuts.

Digby has the details.

Sparling was featured in rah-rah military PR efforts as far back as 2005.

Then, in December of 2005, while recovering from his wounds at Walter Reed Medical Center, he was victimized by a Christmas card -- given to him by the Red Cross -- that was wrapped in patriotic fluff on the outside, but inside bore the message: "Have a great time in the war and have a great time dieing in the wor [sic]." It was signed, suspiciously, "Miguel." Fox, Michelle Malkin and the rest of the wingnuttisphere jumped all over the story. Sparling became an instant darling of the right; he even got a personal visit from war criminal Oliver North! What's more, the incident got the Sparlings an invitation to the State of the Union address.

A white supremacist named Michael Crook later took credit for sending the card.

Then, earlier this year, another ugly incident befell our "hero," this time at an airport as Joshua and his father tried to get home for a convalescent leave from Walter Reed …

We told them we would need a wheelchair and assistance with security because he was a wounded paratrooper confined to a wheel chair. They told us that would not be a problem…

We arrived at the airport at 4:30 pm for a 5:10 flight. When we arrived there was no wheel chair, no one at the SPIRIT counter and no security. I looked for a SPIRIT employee for ten minutes. Joshua said, "Dad I'm going to miss my flight, just get me to the gate and they can help us there." Northwest gave us a wheel chair, but we still had no security. Security would not let us through because we had no boarding pass. We informed them that SPIRIT had our boarding pass and asked that he please let us go to the gate with him and he could verify it, or get someone from SPIRIT and they could give it to him. The security guard said, "You are no different than any other passenger with no boarding pass - no go."

My son started to cry uncontrollably and told the guard to go to hell. Another lady spoke up and said, "That's what you get for fighting in a war we have no business in." Madder and very emotional I asked, "Can't you remember 9-11?" She responded that was just our excuse to be in Iraq when we should not be there and we deserved whatever we got. That is when my son really lost it. Three WWII vets were coming off flights into DC, gave my son a hug, and stood up to the lady and security guard. They stayed with my son until he flew out. […]

Meanwhile, Joshua was still at security. I told him "SPIRIT would not help us, but hang tight, I'll get you out tonight, I promise." Joshua said, "never mind Dad, it's not worth it. I'm going to end it tonight. I said don't you dare do anything stupid. There are too many people who care about you and too many people have got you where you are today.

Can't you hear the violins?

Of course, it falls within the realm of possibility that this guy just happens to always be at the exact spot where some unhinged war opponent sinks to blaming the troops, therefore validating one of the right's most cherished myths. But I don't buy the story at the airport -- even if someone was thinking 'you deserved what you got,' nobody would ever say it to a wounded vet in a wheel-chair. And we know that not a single incident of hippies spitting on vets returning from Vietnam was ever reported in the 1960s and 1970s -- that urban legend apparently popped up out of the blue in the 1980s, as the right was working overtime to rehabilitate American militarism.

As Digby writes:

Some might find it odd that such terrible treatment would befall the same man --- first he gets a terrible Christmas card (Christmas!) that tells him to "go die." Then, he was spat upon by protestors --- a myth of the 1960's come to life right before our very eyes. What are the odds?

Luckily the New York Times, which obviously reported his spitting incident without even the most cursory google search on his name, is helping to perpetuate this story for a new generation. From now on, any search of "spitting on Iraq veterans" will turn up this incident to back up the inevitable future claims by wingnuts that they were mistreated by the dirty hippies of 2007. Good job NY Times. That's why they call it the paper of record.

Joshua Holland is a staff writer at Alternet and a regular contributor to The Gadflyer.
© 2007 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
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Half a Million Patriots Gather In D.C. To Demonstrate For Peace In the Face of Imperial Tyranny

Oh, how these souls must love their nation, to show their en masse disapproval of the illegitimate executive's imperial reign!

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Video: Iraqi troops beat captives as U.S. trainers cheer

Two British TV journalists embedded with the US Army’s First Cavalry division in Baghdad witnessed Iraqi army soldiers viciously batter helpless Sunni men while Americans cheered them on. After learning they had filmed the extensive affair, the Americans threatened the journalists, held them under armed guard and attempted to seize their footage. Their video was saved, and it includes shocking images of abuse carried out by Shia Iraqi troops under the encouragement of the US soldiers assigned to train them in the field.
Main Source: Channel 4

Dems help sink real opposition to Bush's Iraq

By David Sirota
Posted on January 25, 2007, Printed on January 27, 2007

Circus contortionists never cease to amaze, because the moment you think they can't twist their bodies any further, they somehow do something even more absurd, like tying a full slip-knot with one leg. The same can be said of Washington politicians these days when it comes to Iraq: the moment you think they can't obscure their positions any further, they go right ahead and wow the crowd with ever more hideous poses.

Nowhere is this more apparent than among top congressional Democrats. As we saw earlier this week, just months after the public delivered a strong anti-war mandate to Washington, top House Democrats are demanding that Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D) take a "go slow" approach to Iraq - Washingtonese for a "do nothing" approach. Now yesterday, Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joe Biden (D-MBNA) led a group of Democrats on his committee in voting down a bill that would have forced President Bush to get congressional authorization for an Iraq escalation. Ignoring basic historical precedent as laid out by Rick Perlstein in Salon, Biden instead championed a toothless, non-binding resolution.

But it gets worse - much worse.

At the very same time this is happening, Senate Democrats are somehow trying to pretend they have absolutely no power to do anything and, in one high-profile case, they are basically claiming they aren't even part of the government.

As I noted before, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is actually asking the public to sign a petition demanding President Bush back off his escalation plan. The petition, of course, says nothing about the fact that Democrats, now in the majority, could themselves stop the escalation by using any number of Congress's constitutional powers. Put another way, the petition is asking the public to demand President Bush do something that the petition sponsors themselves could do.

Then, today, there is Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY), the senator who - despite every effort to make us forget - voted for the war and continues to this day to oppose efforts to end the war and bring our troops home. The New York Times reports that she said offered up the classic pass-the-buck self-fulfilling prophecy that "we’re not likely to stop this escalation." Still, she said, congressional lawmakers like her "are going to do everything we can to send a message to our government and the Iraqi government that they had better change."

Let's repeat that to comprehend it's true absurdity: U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton, who serves as a senior member of the majority party that controls both Houses of our government's Congress, said that all she can do is "send a message to our government" that "they had better change."

This is triangulation on a bad acid trip. Whereas old-style Bill Clinton triangulation meant sucking face with Republicans and Big Money interests in order to isolate Democrats, the new strung out, acid trip-style triangulation by Hillary Clinton means Senators actually pretending that they, as majority party lawmakers, aren't really part of "our government." Seriously - is she planning on having her staff "send a message to our government" in a self-addressed stamped envelope? I mean, I understand that she's very, very busy now running for president, and can't be bothered with details like, oh, massive U.S. troop casualties in a war she pushed. But did this woman and her professional political entourage forget that about 3 months ago, she asked New York voters to re-elect her to serve as a U.S. Senator in "our government" rather than as some innocent bystander sending "messages" to something she's supposedly not a part of?

All of this is happening as the vast majority of Americans and, courageous lawmakers like Sens. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and Chris Dodd (D-CT) and state legislators from all over the country are saying it's time for Congress to use something more than polite senatorial "non-binding" requests to stop a war that is killing more and more people, further destabilizing and already unstable region, and severely damaging U.S. national security.

It begs questions I asked a few days ago: in the face of such inaction, distortion and dishonesty, isn't it time we finally face up to the fact that there is a powerful faction of Democrats on Capitol Hill who support the Iraq War, support the escalation and support President Bush? And further, because Democrats now have real power in the majority, isn't it time that the progressive movement spend some real resources not just chasing cheap media-grabbing headlines by going after our partisan foes like John McCain (R-AZ), but also doing the less glamorous, more serious, might-get-you-kicked-off-the-D.C.-Christmas-party-list work of taking on those in the Democratic Party who clearly are helping President Bush continue this war?

Is this too much to ask? My pessimistic side says it might be - there remains serious resistance within quarters of the progressive movement to actually going after Democrats, no matter how many troops die, no matter how much those specific Democrats may undermine their own party, no matter how much these specific Democrats lay waste to the progressive agenda. That resistance seems to have as much to do with cocktail party chumminess as it does with the cold, hard cash that comes with political consulting fees, campaign jobs, and insider careeerism.

Then again, we are in historically uncharted waters. The convergence of an unpopular war and new political technologies that are giving citizens back more of their voice really provides a chance to break into some truly new politics (and I'm not referring to the hackneyed "post-partisanism" that the media now reflexively ascribes to any new politician that hasn't been in D.C. for the last quarter century and yet who, upon being elected to federal office, instantly knows to utter only nebulous, substance-free platitudes). There is a huge amount of organizing going on right now, whether through the Progressive States Network's 50-State Anti-Escalation Campaign, this Saturday's march on Washington or through scores of other efforts. We can make a difference, I am sure of it - but only if we are willing to take on our opponents - ALL of them.

David Sirota is a veteran political strategist and author of Hostile Takeover, a New York Times bestseller about the corruption of both political parties.

© 2007 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
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Hundreds of Thousands Rally in D.C. for Troop Withdrawal

By Michael E. Ruane
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 27, 2007; 2:36 PM

Tens of thousands of demonstrators from across the country converged on the Mall in Washington today to urge the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq as President Bush is proposing to send more troops in an effort to stabilize the country.

The event, organized by the group United for Peace and Justice, appeared to draw fewer than the 100,000 people that authorities had said might come. It began with a rally at 11 a.m. and was followed by a march around the Capitol.

Among those who addressed the crowd were Jane Fonda, Susan Sarandon and Jesse Jackson.

Fonda seemed to acknowledge her past role as a provocative figure. "I haven't spoken at an antiwar rally for 34 years," she told the crowd, adding that she had been afraid that lies about her past could undermine the antiwar cause. "Silence is no longer an option," she said.

"I'm so sad that we still have to do this, that we didn't learn the lessons of the Vietnam War," she said, including approaching the people of a foreign land with "hubris and arrogance."

Still, she took pains to praise the service men and women and their families who have come out against the war in Iraq, saying it took twice as long -- six years -- for the same thing to happen during the Vietnam War era. "Their presence here is critical and we should acknowledge their courage."

The enthusiastic crowd was generally good natured and orderly, waving hundreds of placards and chanting slogans such as "Not another day, not another dollar" and "This is what democracy looks like."

Barbara Abrams, 78, from Rochester, N.Y., waded into the crowd near the stage and helped hold up a banner saying "Raging Grannies."

"I think we should pull out of Iraq," she said. "I think the 20,000 soldiers should be sent with all the money to New Orleans."

When asked whether she thought the United States had some duty to try to stop the bloodshed in Iraq, she replied, "Nonsense. Those people have an old and noble civilization and they can take care of themselves."

Some of the protesters said they were saddened that a U.S. pullout of Iraq could leave behind a chaotic and violent situation. Nonetheless, they wanted troops withdrawn.

"Yes, I know that they are human beings and they are dying too, but those people have been in conflict for generations," said Gloria Jackson, 55, a teacher who traveled from the Fredericksburg, Va., area. "We made it more dangerous, but in the same breath I don't want anymore Americans dying. It's time to come home."

Mark Ballard, 30, of New York City, came wearing a replica army helmet that had glued on the top a President Bush doll holding assault weapons. "I don't do much protesting," he said. "I guess I came to this one because I've been complaining for four years. It's time to sacrifice a Saturday."

Shortly before the march kicked off, Jesse Jackson took the stage, receiving a rousing applause when he said, "Keep hope alive."

"America is a fundamentally good nation," Jackson told the crowd. "The war in Iraq is causing a war on the poor at home. We do not need more troops in Iraq. We need more money at home."

Earlier in the day, a smaller rally was held at the Navy Memorial on Pennsylvania Avenue. About 3,000 people, many wearing pink or carrying pink signs, showed up for an antiwar protest sponsored by a women-run peace organization called CodePink.

Oriana Futrell, a Spokane, Wash., resident who said she has grown weary of going to the funerals of her friends' husbands, carried a sign also urging the return of her husband, an Army lieutenant in Iraq.

Across the street, however, was a counter-protest, staged by the Washington chapter of the conservative organization Those protesters, who organizers said feared that the antiwar march would hurt the U.S. anti-terror efforts, yelled and sported signs, such as one that read, "Go to hell traitors. You dishonor our dead on hallowed ground."

At least one veteran from the Iraq war tried to bridge the divide between the groups. Cpl. Joshua Sparling, 25, from Port Huron, Mich., who lost his right leg below the knee in an 2005 explosion in Ramadi, spoke to both groups.

Near the end of the CodePink rally, Sparling, a patient at Walter Reed Army Medical Hospital who used crutches to walk, went to the microphone and told the protesters that they are entitled to the right to demonstrate and must fight for what they believe in. But he reminded them that the situation is dire for many Iraqis and U.S. troops there believe that they are fighting to help provide a better option for the people of Iraq. He was rewarded with general applause, although a few feint boos could be heard.

When he finished, he walked across the street and spoke with the FreeRepublic group also.

The event was expected to draw groups of many stripes. The assembly site had sections reserved for veterans and labor, gay and peace organizations, in addition to others dedicated to opposing global warming, nuclear arms and torture and a group called End Israeli Occupation of Palestine.

Henry Singleton, 55, of New York, helped organize a contingent of health care union members who came to the rally from Washington, Baltimore and New York. He said the group had 55 buses coming into Washington from New York carrying protesters.

"This war is a problem for our members and it's a problem for our members' children, he said. "It's sad to see our members in the National Guard told to go to war and then to come back and have problems getting their jobs back."

Some of the demonstrators began gearing up yesterday.

Amid frigid temperatures and a biting wind, CodePink and the group Iraqi Voices for Peace held a rally at noon on the Mall in front of the Capitol.

With songs and speeches, the groups unveiled an installation of several thousand shoes in and around a clear plastic bin, which they said symbolize Iraqi civilians who have died since the war began. The shoes bear tags with names that the protesters said are those of Iraqis killed in the war, along with a few details of their deaths.

"We don't talk enough about the suffering and the pain that the Iraqis are experiencing," Jodie Evans, co-founder of CodePink, said on the Mall yesterday. "We do a lot of talking. But when you visually see a pair of shoes with a tag on it that says, 'So and so, aged 3, died in a bombing in Fallujah,' it becomes very real for you, the cost of this war."

Evans said the shoe installation, which she said the group used during last year's election campaign, was inspired by the display of concentration camp victims' shoes at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. "I remembered how powerfully it affected me," she said.

In Arab culture, shoes can be a sensitive issue, said Aseel Albanna, a District architect, Baghdad native and co-founder of Iraqi Voices for Peace. The improper display of the bottoms of shoes can be impolite, and shoes are traditionally left at the threshold of a house upon entering.

But in this case, she said on the Mall yesterday, symbolism is more important than tradition.

The groups cited a study by Johns Hopkins University last year that estimated that almost 655,000 civilian deaths in Iraq have occurred as a result of the war. President Bush had placed that number at 30,000, and a British-based group research group at about 50,000.

"We were surprised" at the study's findings, said Shannon C. Doocy, a Hopkins research associate who co-authored the study. "I don't think anyone intended the war to have this large of a consequence."

Staff writers Ruben Castaneda, Fredrick Kunkle, Michael Laris and Sue Anne Pressley contributed to this report.

Peace Activists to March on Washington Saturday

Peace activists have announced they will hold an anti-war rally on the National Mall in Washington Saturday, the first since Democrats assumed control of Congress. Organizers say they have given up on swaying President Bush and plan now to take their demands to the halls of Congress. VOA's Marissa Melton reports.

Susan Sarandon on Capitol Hill (24 Jan 2007)
Susan Sarandon on Capitol Hill (24 Jan 2007)
The anti-war group United for Peace and Justice is organizing Saturday's march on the National Mall. Veteran activist Jane Fonda and Hollywood actors Susan Sarandon and Danny Glover are slated to speak, as well as an active-duty member of the U.S. Navy and a retired Army colonel and U.S. diplomat. Organizers say they expect thousands of demonstrators from all over the nation.

This is the first peace march in Washington since Mr. Bush made the call earlier this month for an additional 21,000 troops to be sent to Iraq, in a new push to end sectarian violence there. Tuesday in his State of the Union address, he defended his plan, saying the new troops are necessary to win the war.

"This is not the fight we entered in Iraq, but it is the fight we're in," said President Bush. "Every one of us wishes this war were over and won. Yet it would not be like us to leave our promises unkept, our friends abandoned, and our own security at risk."

California Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey, who is scheduled to appear at Saturday's rally, said the president's new plan shows he is not listening to the American people even though they made their opinions clear in November's congressional elections.

"On November 7th, the American people spoke and they said we trust Democrats to run this country because they will get us out of Iraq," said Lynn Woolsey. "That was the mandate and it must be heard. First and foremost, we know the president won't hear it ... but the senators and representatives must."

Organizers of the peace rally are calling on demonstrators to remain in Washington through the weekend and visit the offices of their members of Congress on Monday, to demand legislation that would end the war. The Senate Armed Forces committee is discussing a nonbinding resolution criticizing the president's plan to send more troops to Iraq, but Tom Andrews, national director of the Win Without War organization, said stronger action is needed.

"This is all about Congress now," said Tom Andrews. "We have a system of checks and balances in this country, and this system provides for relief when the president so defies the will of his people. We are not going to be satisfied until there is binding action by this Congress to turn this situation, this disaster, around and bring our troops home."

Congressman Woolsey says she has introduced just such legislation: a binding resolution that would bring troops home, provide a framework to bring stability to Iraq, and fully fund the veterans' health care system. She says the bill has 27 co-sponsors; all are Democrats.

However, the Democratic leaders of Congress, Senate Majority leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, have proposed a third option: the phased redeployment of U.S. forces out of Iraq over the next four to six months.

Say what you will about Sarah Olson, she got the story. On the ground and armed with only an audio tape recorder, reporter Olson did nothing more radical than dig deep – the first law of journalism. Her interview with Lt. Ehren Watada vividly painted the portrait of a young man in anguish – to serve or not to serve. As the after-hours boys in the Press Bar used to say, “It’s a great story!”

The Watada case is about to become front page, his court-martial at Fort Lewis, Washington is sure to be covered by the networks, the wire services, the major dailies and all the grandees of big journalism. Olson – the local scribe with little power and no budget – got there first. She should be an exemplary reference in the opening day lecture at journalism school, she got all the “gots,” the coin of journalism’s realm. She got there, got it right and got it out.

She did all this and now she’s threatened with jail if she doesn’t help the prosecutors punish Lt. Watada in a military court. By summoning this reporter to testify against her source the Bush administration is once again admonishing dissenters (and the press who cover them) to shut up and sing, a very un-American thing to do.

Over six thousand U.S. military have gone AWOL since the beginning of the Iraq war, a great story, an important story. How much deep digging can be expected from reporters who risk being forced into court just for talking with these resisters? What acts of conscience will never be known because an over reaching Federal Government looms over the powerless, local journalists who still have the passion for this kind of true story of courage?

Join PEN, the LA Times, the Society of Professional Journalists, the National Press Club, and other organizations (not to mention the Framers of our Constitution) and help keep journalists free to be pushy, unpopular and inelegant—sticking a nose under the tent to learn what the righteous have decided is good for us. Dan Ellsberg, John Berendt and Barbara Ehrenreich and do as I have done, sign the petition calling on the Feds to back off this kind of media intimidation. There is no substitute for free and unfettered news gathering. Journalists are not cops nor are they public relations people. They are reporters and there is no substitute for them.

And there is no substitute for Sarah Olson – alone and on the ground – getting a great story right and getting it out there.

Find out how you can get involved here:

Phil Donahue is a former talk show host.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Helping Lara Logan

An unusual plea from CBS News Foreign Correspondent Lara Logan highlights the fact that the network television’s coverage of the Iraq war still leaves something to be desired.
By Rory O'Connor and David Olson.

Sometimes it’s hard to swim in the mainstream.

There has been much heated debate over the past few years over media coverage of the Iraq War. The Bush administration has repeatedly attacked the ‘liberal bias’ of the mainstream news industry, claiming that it doesn’t report enough of the “good news” from Iraq, and focuses instead on the sensational and violent.

Those critical of the war and the occupation say just the opposite; that the mainstream news media has ignored much of the ‘bad news’ coming out of Iraq, leaving Americans with an impression of the war based more on a desire to follow the official White House narrative than facts on the ground. MediaChannel has long been in the latter camp, sponsoring (for example) last year’s ‘Show Us the War’ project, which published video pieces showing an Iraq overrun with violence and chaos –and an administration that seemed more intent on faith and ’spin’ than reality. We at MediaChannel believe that an informed citizenry is necessary to keep our democracy viable, and we have been strong advocates of the call for all news outlets–mainstream or independent–to produce and distribute accurate stories on the situation in Iraq.

Which brings us to Lara Logan.

One would assume that Ms. Logan, as CBS chief foreign correspondent, has a fair amount of influence as to what stories she gets to cover, and that most of her important stories, once produced and delivered, will be broadcast. But when the story comes out of the mean streets of Baghdad, and doesn’t fit the officially-sanctioned narrative of Iraqis and US soldiers working arm in arm to help protect thankful Iraqi citizens, even chief foreign correspondents sometimes need to ask for help in getting it seen. Imagine our surprise recently when–over the digital transom–we received a copy of an email from a frustrated Lara Logan (see below)

In it, Logan asks for help in getting attention to what she calls “a story that is largely being ignored even though this istakingplace everysingle [sic] day in Baghdad, two blocks from where our office is located.”

The segment in question–”Battle for Haifa Street”–is a piece of first-rate journalism but one that only appears on the CBS News website–and has never been broadcast. It is a gritty, realistic look at life on the very mean streets of Baghdad, and includes interviews with civilians who complain that the US military presence is only making their lives worse and the situation more deadly.

“They told us they would bring democracy, they promised life would be better than it was under Saddam,” one told Logan.
“But they brought us nothing but death and killing. They brought mass destruction to Baghdad.”

Several bodies are shown in the two- minute segment–”some with obvious signs of torture,” as Logan points out. She also notes that her crew had to flee for their lives when they we were warned of an impending attack. While fleeing, another civilian was killed before their eyes.

Logan’s email, with the one-word subject line of ‘help’, was sent to friends and colleagues imploring them to lobby CBS to highlight that people are interested in seeing the piece. In it, Logan argues that the story is “not too gruesome to air, but rather too important to ignore… It should be seen. And people should know about this.”

We agree. And we’d like to help Ms. Logan and CBS get the piece seen, although that task would be made immeasurably easier if CBS News chief Sean McManus simply made the decision to broadcast it.

Ms. Logan, who is embedded with US forces in Iraq, was unavailable for comment. But CBS News spokeswoman Sandy Genelius told us that the segment in question was not broadcast but only run on the web because “the Executive Producer of the Evening News thought some of the images in it were a bit strong­ plus on that day the program was already packed with other Iraq news.”

Regarding Logan’s unusual email plea for “help” from friends and colleagues, Genelius said she and other CBS executives were unaware of its existence until contacted by MediaChannel. About Logan’s contention that the segment is “not too gruesome to air, but rather too important to ignore,” Genelius said “There are discussions and even disagreements everyday about what goes on air,” and noted that “One of the characteristics that makes Lara so special is her passion for her job. Of course she wants her pieces to be broadcast!”

In conclusion, Genelius added that “CBS News has aired countless hours of coverage about Iraq. It is the single most important part of our news coverage, and I hope that people will look at the sum total of what we have put on the air.”

On an average night, eight million people watch the broadcast version of the CBS Evening News. CBS company policy prohibits the disclosure of “internal analytics,” so no figures are available for the number of viewers Logan’s web-only segment has had–but it is undoubtedly far less.

See for yourself what the controversy is all about. You can watch the video here (RealPlayer required):

And don’t forget to let CBS know what you think about this outstanding example of video journalism–and help Lara Logan by telling CBS what you think about them keeping those images of the battle for Haifa Street–no matter how strong, no matter how gruesome–far from the eyes of their prime-time audience.


From: lara logan
Subject: help

The story below only appeared on our CBS website and was not aired on CBS. It is a story that is largely being ignored, even though this istakingplace verysingle day in central Baghdad, two blocks from where our office is located.

Our crew had to be pulled out because we got a call saying they were about to be killed, and on their way out, a civilian man was shot dead in front of them as they ran.

I would be very grateful if any of you have a chance to watch this story and pass the link on to as many people you know as possible. It should be seen. And people should know about this.

If anyone has time to send a comment to CBS – about the story – not about my request, then that would help highlight that people are interested and this is not too gruesome to air, but rather too important to ignore.

Many, many thanks.

Update: Since we posted this piece, MediaChannel has created a little echo chamber of our own. Many blogers excerpted the piece as if Lara had written them personally. In response to the comment below from “charles,” who said he saw the piece on CBS News last night, we contacted CBS and were told on Thursday evening:

that is not correct. this particular piece has not run on the cbs evening news. but there have been many pieces by lara on haifa street (and other areas of baghdad and iraq, of course), so it’s possible someone could be confused.

People's strike defies Lebanese regime

By Bill Cecil
Published Jan 25, 2007

Lebanon’s working class showed its power Jan. 23. It shut the country down.

Factories and transportation came to a halt as unorganized workers, youth and the unemployed joined union members in a general strike called by the National Opposition and the General Confederation of Labor. Masses of protesters blocked the country’s main roads and highways with concrete blocks and burning tires.

At least three people died in violent attacks by sectarian gangs organized by supporters of the U.S.-backed Siniora regime. Over 100 were injured, some by bullets. The strike united Shiite and Sunni Muslims, Maronite and Orthodox Christians, and Druze workers in defiance of the unconstitutional government’s attempts to provoke sectarian strife.

The strike paralyzed Beirut and was almost completely effective in the South, including the cities of Saida (Sidon) and Sour (Tyre), and in the Bekaa Valley. But it was also effective in parts of the North and the Shouf Mountains, where pro-regime parties have their social base.

The strikers are protesting an “economic reform plan” the Siniora government wants to impose on Lebanon. The plan includes social service cuts, privatization of electricity and telecommunications, and a huge sales tax.

The regime is trying to please international bankers and Western governments that are holding a conference on Lebanon’s $45 billion debt in Paris later this week. U.S. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns said the conference would be a “huge show of support” for the Siniora regime.

The labor movement supports the National Opposition movement’s demand for a representative national unity government and early elections. Nearly half of Lebanon’s population joined in opposition demonstrations in Beirut in December. Since then, Opposition supporters have been camped in a tent city in central Beirut’s two main squares.

On Jan. 22, Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah, general secretary of Hezbollah, a leading opposition party, called on all Lebanese to take part in the strike. He accused the regime of trying to retain power by provoking Sunni-Shiite civil war. Hezbollah is based among Shiite Muslims, Lebanon’s largest and poorest group. But it has wide popular support because its forces defended Lebanon against last summer’s U.S.-funded Israeli invasion.

On the evening of Jan. 23 Gen. Michel Aoun, leader of the Free Patriotic Movement, another leading Opposition party, declared the strike a success. He said the Opposition would soon announce the next steps in its campaign for democracy. People’s Movement leader Najah Wakim also hailed the strike as a success and said the movement would not retreat in the face of the regime’s threats of violence.

Leaks have revealed the Siniora regime encouraged the 2006 Israeli attack in hopes of destroying the Lebanese Opposition. Israel’s defeat caused Israeli army Chief of Staff Dan Halutz to resign last week.

Lebanon’s workers are defying not only the Siniora regime but also its masters in Washington and on Wall Street. The U.S. corporate media gives little coverage to the people’s struggle in Lebanon—it challenges the racist stereotypes of the Arab world they spoon-feed people in the U.S. But events there are of grave concern to the oil company government in Washington.

In December the Bush regime directed the CIA to launch operations against Hezbollah. The Pentagon has been arming and building up Lebanon’s Internal Security Forces, which are controlled by Siniora. The Siniora government has been afraid to use the regular army to attack the Opposition, which represents the majority of Lebanese.

U.S. Undersecretary of State Burns reiterated U.S. support for the Siniora government against the Lebanese people’s movement. For Washington, support for Siniora is not only a matter of imposing pro-Wall Street economic policies on Lebanon. It sees a national unity government in Lebanon as an obstacle to its plans to launch war against Iran and Syria.

The White House, the Pentagon and Wall Street are clear whose side they are on. Labor, anti-racist and anti-war forces in the U.S. should stand in solidarity with the people of Lebanon against the Bush regime’s attempts to crush their struggle.
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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Devil's Lexicon
Unspeak exposes the language twisters.
By Jack Shafer

Unspeak, writer Steven Poole's term for a phrase or word that contains a whole unspoken political argument, deserves a place in every journalist's daily vocabulary. Such gems of unspeak, such as pro-choice and pro-life, writes Poole in the opening pages in his book Unspeak: How Words Become Weapons, How Weapons Become a Message, and How That Message Becomes Reality, represent

an attempt to say something without saying it, without getting into an argument and so having to justify itself. At the same time, it tries to unspeak—in the sense of erasing, or silencing—any possible opposing point of view, by laying a claim right at the start to only one choice of looking at a problem.

Pro-life supposes that a fetus is a person and that those who are anti-pro-life are against life, he writes. Pro-choice distances its speakers from actually advocating abortion, while casting "adversaries as 'anti-choice'; as interfering, patriarchal dictators."

Poole's list of suspicious phrases rolls on for more than 200 pages. Tax relief and tax burden, which covertly argue that lowered taxes automatically relieve and unburden everybody. Friends of the Earth casts its opponents as enemies of the earth and implies that the Earth is befriendable, a big, huggable Gaia.

Poole cautions readers not to confuse unspeak with doublespeak, a word that grew out of the concepts of Newspeak and doublethink that George Orwell introduced in Nineteen Eighty-Four. Poole writes, "But Unspeak does not say one thing while meaning another. It says one thing while really meaning that one thing," and the confusion unspeak generates is almost always calculated and deliberate.

Poole calls community one of the most perfect political words in English because it

can mean several things at once, or nothing at all. It can conjure things that don't exist, and deny the existence of those that do. It can be used in celebration, or in passive-aggressive attack. Its use in public language is almost always evidence of an Unspeak strategy at work.

The plasticity of community allows it to encompass geography, ethnicity, profession, hobby, or religion, and in the mouths of diplomats and journalists can expand to include everybody, as in the international community, a concept that Justice Antonin Scalia once described—rightly—as "fictional."

We're drawn to the "semantically promiscuous" word, Poole writes, because it allows us to simultaneously express our tolerance for a group and our discomfort. For example: the homosexual community and the black community. People rarely refer to the heterosexual community, the white community, or even the Christian community, because in the United States and Britain, they are the "default" positions and carry the "privilege of not having to be defined by a limiting 'identity.' " Likewise, a group defined by the majority as transgressive, say, the Ku Klux Klan, would never qualify as a "community" even though it organizes itself with the same conscious effort as the "anti-war community."

Unspeak concurs with my position that journalists everywhere reject the word reform because it's become meaningless. He assails the Tories in England who spoke of "bogus asylum seekers" because the phrase destroys any presumption of sincerity, and served as code for "simple racism." When governments speak of a tragedy, they imply that the bloody results of their work were unforeseen—as if visited upon man by the gods—and nobody can be blamed. Surgical strike conveys the benevolent practice of medicine, ridding a target of its disease. Collateral damage redefines the death of innocents as injury. Smart weapons posit the opposite of dumb weapons that kill indiscriminately. Daisy cutter sanitizes the killing power of the daisy-cutter bomb. Weapons of mass destruction, which earlier referred to the horrific mechanized tools of warfare being stockpiled in the 1930s, now applies to biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons when possessed by nonstate actors or regimes in disfavor.

Unspeak usually flows from the lips of politicians, but news organizations are equally inventive. Poole quotes a Fox News Channel executive who instructed reporters to refer to U.S. "sharpshooters" in Iraq instead of U.S. "snipers," because snipers was negative. The same Fox News sought to substitute "homicide bombers" for "suicide bombers" because "suicide" gave too much prominence to the attacker.

Poole asks how the war on terror can exist when it's almost impossible to wage war on a technique; he recoils at the euphemism of detainee abuse, which minimizes physical and psychological violence; and punctures those who dress their acts in the cloths of democracy, freedom, and liberty.

Other suspect phrases and words that Poole takes his cane to: intelligent design. Sound science. Security fence. Regime change. Extremism. Moderate. Coalition forces.

Unlike George Lakoff, who lectures the Democratic Party about the importance of "framing" political debates in order to win them, Poole dismisses this tactic as fighting unspeak with unspeak, as the "pro-choice" and "pro-life" schools demonstrate. Quoting linguist Ranko Bugarski, Poole maintains that what's needed is "judicious use of normal language, allowing for fine-grained selection and discrimination, for urbanity and finesse," even though "normal language" is already subject to unending political debate.

As the channel through which politicians, activists, and corporations market their words, reporters are usually the first recipients of new examples of unspeak. Monitoring how they say what they say is as important as reporting precisely what they say. As Poole notes, resisting unspeak isn't quibbling about semantics. It's attacking the "chain of reasoning at its base." Making sense of nonsense is 90 percent of what being a journalist is about. To forewarn readers about unspeak, Poole advises, is to forearm them.


As I read Poole's book, a couple of examples of unspeak came to me: Accept responsibility. Gridlock. Loopholes. Islamofacism. Send your favorite original examples to I'll publish the best of them and credit the senders.

Addendum, Jan. 23: No more submissions, please. See the Tuesday "Press Box" column for the readers' unspeak nominations.

(E-mail may be quoted by name unless the writer stipulates otherwise. Permanent disclosure: Slate is owned by the Washington Post Co.)

Jack Shafer is Slate's editor at large.

Article URL:

Copyright 2006 Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive Co. LLC

10 "Disruptive Technologies" We'd Like To See

10. An integrative global "vital signs monitor" of sustainability metrics.

9. TruthSpeak captions for television that reveal what's really being said.

8. Creative Commons licensing for State of the Union addresses.

7. An eco-friendly $100 laptop with solar powered abacus.

6. A Digital Rights Management scheme that disgruntled consumers can use on the homes of MPAA and RIAA executives.

5. Automatic backup for USB thumb drives.

4. A whole-site download of

3. A personal immortality option for Apple iLife.

2. Data transfer and digital continuity for next-gen mobile phones.

1. The spooky Black Monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Rich Targeted by New Venezuela Taxes

By ELIZABETH M. NUNEZ Associated Press Writer
© 2007 The Associated Press

CARACAS, Venezuela — President Hugo Chavez announced plans to slap taxes on luxury property including second homes, expensive cars and art collections on Sunday, targeting the rich to help fund his drive to remake Venezuela as a socialist society.

Chavez said proceeds of the new taxes, which have yet to be fully spelled out, would redistribute wealth by funding newly created communal councils at the neighborhood level.

Speaking to the nation on his weekly program "Hello President," Chavez said Venezuela needs a new tax "on large capital, large earnings," and told his finance minister: "I want new enabling laws on this... a tax on lavish property."

He outlined the plan in general terms and did not say how much the tax would be.

Addressing the wealthy, Chavez said: "Oh, you have a yacht? Perfect, give to me, buddy. You have a BMW? Well, that's fine. You go around Caracas in a tremendous car. You have a house where you live and another one by sea... You have some marvelous art collections _ come here, buddy."

"Everything that is collected ... goes to the communal councils," he said.

Chavez's government is increasing funding to thousands of communal councils across the country. The councils, made up of members chosen in neighborhood assemblies, decide on spending state money for everything from fixing potholes to building new sewers.

The new taxes are among dozens of laws Chavez plans to pass by decree once the entirely pro-Chavez National Assembly grants him broad lawmaking powers through an overarching "enabling law," which is expected to be approved in the coming week.

Chavez, who was re-elected for a third term last month, says he will use his six-year term to transform his oil-producing country into a socialist state. Critics say his real aim is to consolidate power.

Chavez enjoys his strongest support base among the poor and has famously declared that "being rich is bad."

But he also announced a broad-based measure to raise gasoline prices for the first time in years _ a move that would affect drivers regardless of income but would not apply to public transport or trucks distributing goods such as food.

Venezuelans have long enjoyed some of the cheapest gasoline on the planet thanks to heavy state subsidies. Gasoline costs as little as US$0.12 a gallon ($0.03/euro0.03 a liter) here, and low prices are considered a birthright.

Chavez said a price hike is long overdue, though he did not say how much it would be.

"In eight years, we haven't touched the price of gasoline and in reality it's outrageous to sell gasoline at the rate we are. It would be better to give it away," he said.

Chavez instructed his oil minister, Rafael Ramirez, to make sure the price hike does not "affect the transport of food, school transport, none of that. It doesn't have to affect the cost of anything."

With current cheap prices, he said, "the middle class and high class are the ones who benefit the most because a poor person will get on a bus or the subway."

He said higher prices will be paid by the driver "who goes to fill up the BMW or who has a huge sport-utility vehicle."

Sunday, January 21, 2007

And You Thought Swift-Boating Was Bad...

If this is true, it is merely more proof that HRC is one of the most craven, underhanded and corrupt politicos of this and the last century.--Pete

Insight Magazine reports that Hillary Clinton's people are investigating a story that Barack Obama was "raised as a Muslim by his stepfather in Indonesia. Sources close to the background check, which has not yet been released, said Mr. Obama, 45, spent at least four years in a so-called Madrassa, or Muslim seminary, in Indonesia. 'He was a Muslim, but he concealed it,' the source said. . . When contacted by Insight, Mr. Obama's press secretary said he would consult with 'his boss' and call back. He did not. . . The sources said the Clinton camp concluded the Illinois Democrat concealed his prior Muslim faith and education.


The following is not from the works of Barry Goldwater but from a Chicago resident running for president:

"Perhaps the single biggest thing we could do to reduce [inner city] poverty is to encourage teenage girls to finish high school and avoid having children out of wedlock."


SEACOAST ON LINE, NH - Using and selling marijuana would be legal under a bill debated by state legislators. The bill's sponsor, Rep. Charles Weed [sic] of Keene, told colleagues Wednesday that legalizing marijuana would give police more resources to tackle violent crime. He also said that existing laws governing marijuana are too harsh and lead to users being jailed with people who use or sell much more dangerous drugs, such as cocaine and heroin.

"If people are convicted for soft-drug use, they're in a problem for the rest of their lives," Weed, a Democrat, told the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee.

Gonzales Abolishes Yet Another Section Of The Constitution

[From Senate Judiciary Committee hearing]

Specter: Now wait a minute, wait a minute. The Constitution says you can't take it away except in the case of invasion or rebellion. Doesn't that mean you have the right of habeas corpus?

Gonzales: I meant by that comment that the Constitution doesn't say that every individual in the United States or every citizen has or is assured the right of habeas corpus. It doesn't say that. It simply says that the right of habeas corpus shall not be suspended.

BushCo Rejected Iranian Peace Offer

BBC - Iran offered the US a package of concessions in 2003, but it was rejected, a senior former US official has told the BBC's Newsnight program. Tehran proposed ending support for Lebanese and Palestinian militant groups and helping to stabilise Iraq following the US-led invasion. Offers, including making its nuclear program more transparent, were conditional on the US ending hostility. But Vice-President Dick Cheney's office rejected the plan, the official said.

The offers came in a letter, seen by Newsnight, which was unsigned but which the US state department apparently believed to have been approved by the highest authorities.

In return for its concessions, Tehran asked Washington to end its hostility, to end sanctions, and to disband the Iranian rebel group the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq and repatriate its members.

But as soon as it got to the White House, the old mantra of 'We don't talk to evil'... reasserted itself


An independent organization will be created to monitor the Bush administrations surveillance programs.

We used to have an organization to monitor this sort of executive branch abuse called Congress and the Bill of Rights.

Post-Constitutional America

People Chips: The Ultimate National I.D.

DAVID E. GUMPERT, BUSINESS WEEK - [Scott] Silverman's company, Verichip Corp., is preparing for widespread marketing of its people chips with an initial public offering that it expects to complete within the next 60 days. It has begun building what he refers to as "the infrastructure" by signing up more than 400 hospitals to adopt system scanners and databases and about 1,200 physicians to make chips available to patients likeliest to benefit from them, such as diabetics. . .

The big attraction . . . and the reason for the upcoming Verichip public offering, is the lure of implanting the chips into people. . . Of course, no discussion . . . It's important to remember that adoption of the RFID chips doesn't necessarily need to be legislated to become nearly universal. If enough hospitals and insurance companies begin requiring them, or treating patients wearing them more expeditiously than nonusers, or providing discounts for usage of the chips, they well could become the norm. Then, not wearing a chip might be akin to not having a bank ATM card or, increasingly in Eastern states with toll roads and turnpikes, not having a transponder to pay tolls in your car.

Businessweek Article...

Gonzales Makes Yet Another Pitch For Dictatorship

AP - Attorney General Alberto Gonzales says federal judges are unqualified to make rulings affecting national security policy, ramping up his criticism of how they handle terrorism cases. In remarks prepared for delivery Wednesday, Gonzales says judges generally should defer to the will of the president and Congress when deciding national security cases. . .


BushCo Fired U.S. Attorneys So He Could Appoint New Ones Without Senate Confirmation!

SENATOR DIANE FEINSTEIN - Recently it came to my attention that the Department of Justice has asked several United States Attorneys from around the country to resign their positions, some by the end of this month, prior to the end of their terms, and not based on any allegation of misconduct.  In other words, they are forced resignations.  I've also heard that the . . . Attorney General plans to appoint replacements and potentially avoid Senate confirmation by leaving an interim U. S. Attorney in place for the remainder of the Bush administration.

Now how does this all happen? The department sought, and essentially was given . . . new authority under a little known provision in the Patriot Act to appoint interim appointments who are not subject to Senate confirmation and who could remain in place for the remainder of the Bush administration.

Now to date I know of seven U. S. Attorneys forced to resign without cause, without any allegations of misconduct. . . The public response has been shock. Peter Nunez, who served as the San Diego United States Attorney from 1982-88 has said "This is like nothing I've ever seen in my 35+ years." He went on to say that while the President has the authority to fire a U. S. Attorney for any reason, it is extremely rare unless there is an allegation of misconduct.

Progressive Review Reader WAYNE MANN reminds us that while Bush has fired seven US Attorneys, Bill Clinton fired all of them in order to make way for his selections. One more case where Clinton was the warm-up band for Bush.

SEIU and Demos Falling For "Universal Healthcare" Con

[It's bad enough that centrist Democrats are falling for this, but now the leading labor union SEIU has joined in support of phony healthcare reform, backing a plan whose major attribute is that it will continue to permit insurance companies to make huge profits. Instead of a logical approach, such as expanding Medicare, a disturbing consensus is developing around a convoluted, inadequate, corporate-friendly mishmash  and calling it - in one of the great spin lies of our times - "universal healthcare." Steven Pearlsein, a corporate columnist of the Washington Post, naturally thinks it's swell]

STEVEN PEARLSTEIN, WASHINGTON POST - There, at the National Press Club, stood the president of the Business Roundtable, representing the country's largest corporations; the president of the Service Employees International Union, the country's most vibrant union and one of its fastest-growing; and the president of AARP, the formidable seniors lobby. They put aside their usual differences to deliver a clear, simple message to President Bush and congressional leaders of both parties: We stand ready to give you the political cover you need for a centrist, bipartisan fix for a broken health-care system. Or, if you refuse, we stand ready to embarrass you and run you out of office.

"Washington is behind where the rest of the country is," said Andy Stern, a labor leader. "Democratic leaders in Congress say this is not the time. The White House has said now is not the time. And we are saying, 'Now is the time.' "

Stern and his new friends are right about one thing: Something's going on.

A Republican governor of Massachusetts, working with Sen. Ted Kennedy and a Democratic legislature, hammered out a comprehensive reform plan last year. And last week, another Republican governor proposed a similarly bold plan for California.

Not coincidentally, both state plans conform roughly to a consensus that has been taking shape in Washington over the past two years, in behind-the-scenes negotiations among health insurers, hospitals, physicians, business and labor groups, drug companies and consumer groups such as Families USA. The first draft of their effort will be
unveiled tomorrow. And while the "consensus" will fudge some of the most difficult issues in an effort to keep the coalition together, the outlines of a genuinely comprehensive reform plan are coming into focus.

WaPo Article

BushCo Slashes Budget For Climate Studies

MARC KAUFMAN, WASHINGTON POST - The government's ability to understand and predict hurricanes, drought and climate changes of all kinds is in danger because of deep cuts facing many Earth satellite programs and major delays in launching some of its most important new instruments, a panel of experts has concluded.

The two-year study by the National Academy of Sciences, released yesterday, determined that NASA's earth
science budget has declined 30 percent since 2000. It stands to fall further as funding shifts to plans for a manned mission to the moon and Mars. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, meanwhile, has experienced enormous cost overruns and schedule delays with its premier weather and climate mission.

As a result, the panel said, the United States will not have the scientific information it needs in the years ahead to analyze severe storms and changes in Earth's climate
unless programs are restored and funding made available.

WaPo Article

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Four Ways To Stop the War

What Congress could do—if it dared.
By Emily Bazelon
Posted Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2007, at 5:41 PM ET

Congress is sticking to gestures in expressing its dissatisfaction with the Iraq War. The new Democratic leadership isn't trying to stop President Bush's planned troop increase. Instead, they're just planning a resolution to express disapproval of it, a measure whose only practical impact will be forcing Republicans to take sides on the issue. But what if Congress were to actually exercise its war powers? The Constitution gives Congress the power to declare war and also to decide when to fund and how to regulate the military. But generations of presidents have succeeded in expanding their authority as commander in chief at Congress' expense—and with its permission, tacit or otherwise. If Congress wanted to push back in Iraq, here's a list of possibilities for what it could do, from cleanest to messiest, legally speaking:

1. Unauthorize the war. Or reauthorize it.
In October 2002, Congress authorized the use of force in Iraq. It could repeal that resolution and pass another one saying no more war. Or it could reauthorize the use of force on a different and more limited basis. Sen. Robert Byrd argues for reauthorization. The idea is that the reasons we thought we were going to war—Saddam's supposed weapons of mass destruction and alleged operational relationship with al-Qaida—have nothing to do with the current conflict.

Two questions would follow from a de- or reauthorization of war resolution, as they would from any flexing of congressional war-power muscles. Would the president accept Congress' judgment, and which branch of government would the courts side with if he didn't? If Congress spoke clearly enough to repeal the authorization of force, it's hard to imagine the other branches wouldn't listen, no matter what the president's commander-in-chief powers are. As law professor Neil Kinkopf of Georgia State University writes, "When Congress, acting in the vast areas of overlapping power, tells the President 'no,' the President must comply." Harold Koh, dean of Yale Law School, makes a more aggressive argument about the lack of continuing relevance of the 2002 authorization of force.

2. Cut off the money.
This would also be pretty straightforward in constitutional terms. Congress has the power to "raise and support Armies." If Congress votes against spending more on the war in Iraq, the president presumably would have to comply.

There's a delayed-reaction problem, though. Ending future appropriations doesn't mean taking away current ones. Bush has the funds to get a troop surge under way—he's not asking for more money at the moment. So Congress would be a step behind if it tried to club the troop surge with this blunt weapon. And theoretically at least, it could risk putting soldiers in danger, by blocking the replenishment of spent equipment and ammunition.

3. Condition the money.
You want more money, Mr. President? OK, but you have to give us a fuller accounting of how you plan to spend it or a clear strategy for reducing the violence in Iraq. Or—Sen. Kennedy's tough-love version—you can have your money, but not for a troop surge.

The White House would undoubtedly say that such tying of its hands is an unconstitutional infringement on the president's core power as "commander in chief of the Army and Navy of the United States." Spokesman Tony Snow said Monday that he's demurring from playing "junior constitutional lawyer" but added, "You know Congress has the power of the purse. The president has the ability to exercise his own authority if he thinks Congress has voted the wrong way." At least some Democrats appear to agree with Snow. Sen. Joe Biden last weekend called it "constitutionally questionable" to "micromanage the war." Biden said Congress "can't go in and, like a tinker toy, play around and say, 'You can't spend the money on this piece and this piece.' "

A raft of law professors and lawyers disagree with Biden. They see little problem with Congress attaching strings to future appropriations. They believe Congress can tell the president that he can't use torture or nuclear weapons or 20,000 more troops, as long it does so through the funding power. There's some recent precedent for this. In June 1973, Congress stipulated in appropriating funds at the end of the Vietnam War that they could not be used to "support directly or indirectly combat activities." But according to Peter Irons' book War Powers, when Rep. Elizabeth Holtzman, a New York Democrat, sued to stop the bombing that continued that summer in Cambodia, the courts ducked. The Supreme Court stayed out of the case, and the Second Circuit invoked the "political question" doctrine, which is how judges usually duck out of policing war-powers fights between the executive and the legislature. Since then, courts have rejected efforts by members of Congress to sue the president for exceeding his war powers, ruling that lawmakers don't have standing to bring such a suit. (Though a soldier might.) So it's possible, at least, that making funding for the war conditional could prove trickier than simply shutting it off. On the other hand, if a bill like Kennedy's passed and then was challenged in court, the judicial-hands-off approach of the political question doctrine would favor Congress.

4. Set a time limit.
Congress could pass a law requiring that the president withdraw or redeploy troops according to a set timetable, Georgetown law professor Marty Lederman urges. He invokes the June 1973 law, which gave Nixon an Aug. 15 deadline for ending the fighting in Cambodia and Vietnam by saying no money could be spent on combat after that date. Nixon vetoed an early version of the bill, but in the end he got out on time. This wasn't exactly an act of great congressional self-assertion since it came at the tail end of the war. But it was something, and perhaps the current Congress could impose time limits at an earlier moment, when it mattered more.

Needless to say, the White House wouldn't like this one, either. But presidential commander-in-chief powers appear to trump congressional war powers in large part because presidents say they do and lawmakers let them get away with that claim. Congress will only find out what it can do about Iraq by trying to do something.