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Saturday, January 21, 2006

Impeachment is now in play

Call is out to impeach Bush
Link Here

WASHINGTON -- A Democratic congressman, a prominent legal scholar and a self-described target of government surveillance urged Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee on Friday to consider impeaching President George W. Bush for his domestic surveillance program.

The recommendation by Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., law scholar Jonathan Turley and Florida-based political activist Richard Hersh emerged at an unofficial Judiciary Committee hearing staged entirely by Democrats.

The proceedings on Capitol Hill were conducted with no legal authority after the committee chairman, Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., rejected Democrats' requests for an inquiry into the spying program.


"There should not be a single American who today remains confident that it couldn't happen to them."

U.S. accused of spying on those who disagree with Bush policies

Link Here


"Neither you nor anybody in that (Quaker) church had anything to do with terrorism," said Rep. Robert Wexler, D-Fla. "The fact is, the Truth Project may have a philosophy that is adverse to the political philosophy and goals of the president of the United States. And as a result of that different philosophy, the president and the secretary of defense ordered that your group be spied upon.

'His objection is dishonest. '

Link Here


What does "unitary powers" mean? It means that if the President alone decides that the country is faced with what he alone defines to be a critical problem, his authority is unchecked. In other words, he decides where the powers lies in the Constitution -- he decides the contour of his power. This sounds more like a monarchy, more like authoritarianism than a democracy.

The taking of this power is not a coup d'état because the people today have the power of the vote in 2008. But it is dangerously close on that path -- the Founders recognized the danger of a too-powerful President.

The Bush Administration told us it does not deal with reality -- it creates reality -- Bush has created a legal façade allowing him to create his own world and then react to it as he chooses. Unfortunately, we are all dragged into his make-believe world with its make-believe legal system.

Samuel Alito, John Roberts (in his Circuit Court decisions), Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, and wunderkind John Yoo give the President unchecked domestic and foreign powers to create that world. Bush can start his own wars, preemptive or otherwise, is the ultimate interpreter of foreign treaties, he defines enemy combatants as he wishes, he detains prisoners for as long as he wishes, he continues surveillance on foreign intercepts for as long as he wishes, he tortures as he wishes, he can ignore Congressional directives and statutes such as those creating FISA, as well as essential elements of our Constitution.

This litany has no end. We cannot now anticipate all the ramifications of the "unitary" president and his claim of "inherent powers," except that it clearly allows him to fully take over the government.


Oh Israel.. Just because Sharon is mostly dead and NEVER coming back....

Does NOT mean the rest of us have to join him.

BTW. You are VERY welcome for our convienant removal of what was the number one threat to you in the region.

I mean, it only cost us thousands of our own CHILDREN.

It only cost SOME ONE ELSE one itty bitty little forgery. One day we will ALL be talking about it openly. You know, between 'friends'.

Please try not to start a nuclear war with your NEW number one threat, because frankly, your mouth is bigger than your ass.


New York City Knows How To Say No, Oh Yeah.

Media Matters Shows How The US Media Is Aiding And Abetting TREASON At The Highest Levels Of Our Government By Doing The Mathmatics Of A Blow Job

News organizations devote little attention to NSA spying story

Link Here

On January 22, the day after The Washington Post first broke the Lewinsky story, the paper ran the following stories:

1. "FBI Taped Aide's Allegations; Seeking Cooperation, Bureau Confronted Ex-White House Intern," a 2,663-word front-page article by Peter Baker and Susan Schmidt

2. "Clinton Scoop So Hot It Melted; Newsweek Editors Held Off On Scandal Story," a 1,098-word Howard Kurtz article about reporting of the matter, on the front page of the Style section

3. "FBI Taped Aide's Allegations; Clinton Denies Affair, Says He 'Did Not Urge Anyone' to Lie," a 1,474-word front-page article by John Harris, with contributions by Terry Neal

4. "Clinton Tie to Va. Woman Led to Probe's Latest Angle," a 605-word article about Kathleen Willey by R.H. Melton

5. "Kindred Spirits' Pentagon Bond; White House Exiles Shared Lively Chat, Confidences," a 1,620-word front-page article by Dana Priest and Rene Sanchez with contributions by Ceci Connolly, Judith Havemann, Susan Glasser and David Segal

6. "Jordan: Power Broker And 'FOB' Without Peer; Lawyer Is Now Key Figure in Starr Probe," a 782-word article by Thomas Edsall, with contributions by staff researcher Ben White

7. "THE POLITICAL IMPLICATIONS; President Imperiled as Never Before," a 933-word article by Dan Balz, with contributions by Helen Dewar

8. "Affairs of State," an 833-word column by Mary McGrory

9. "THE LEGAL IMPLICATIONS; Allegations Against Clinton Could Lead to Impeachment, Prosecution," a 1,042-word article by Ruth Marcus

10. "The Allegations," a 420-word editorial

11. "The Reliable Source," a regular multipart feature of the Style section that dedicated 374 words to the Clinton investigation by Ann Gerhart and Annie Groer.

That's a total of 11 articles, written by or using contributions from at least 20 reporters, and comprising 11,844 words dedicated to allegations that the president lied about a consensual relationship.

The New York Times gave the story similar treatment:

1. "THE PRESIDENT UNDER FIRE: THE WHITE HOUSE RESPONSE; In Interviews, President Denies Affair With Intern," a 1,067-word article by James Bennet

2. "THE PRESIDENT UNDER FIRE: THE FRIENDS; Friendship of 2 Women Slowly Led to the Crisis," a 1,881-word front-page article by Jill Abramson and Don Van Natta


4. "THE PRESIDENT UNDER FIRE; Independent Counsel Cites Deceit Pattern," a 419-word article by Sephen Labaton

5. "THE PRESIDENT UNDER FIRE: THE CONFIDANT; In Fair Weather and Foul, a Friend to Clinton," a 563-word article by Richard Berke

6. "THE PRESIDENT UNDER FIRE; Excerpts From Statements by White House and President on Accusations," a 1,465-word article

7. "A Crisis From Petty Sources," a 755-word editorial

8. "Essay; Presume Innocence," a 692-word column by William Safire

That's a total of eight articles, written by at least eight reporters, comprising 9,044 words.

Now, here's what the Post did on December 17 -- the day after the initial disclosure of the Bush administration's use of the National Security Agency (NSA) to conduct domestic surveillance that has been widely described as an illegal trampling of the Constitution:

1. "On Hill, Anger and Calls for Hearings Greet News of Stateside Surveillance," a 1,372-word front-page article by Dan Eggen and Charles Lane, with contributions from Carol D. Leonnig, Barton Gellman, and R. Jeffrey Smith, and researcher Julie Tate

2. "Renewal of Patriot Act Is Blocked in Senate," a 1,073-front-page article dealing tangentially with the NSA matter, by Charles Babington

3. "At the Times, a Scoop Deferred," a 782-word article by Paul Farhi

That's all. Three articles, eight reporters, 3,227 words -- and that's generously including the USA Patriot Act article in the tally.

And from the Times, which had broken the NSA story the day before:

1. "SENATORS THWART BUSH BID TO RENEW LAW ON TERRORISM," a 1,875-word front-page article by Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Eric Lichtblau, with contributions from James Risen

2. "Behind Power, One Principle," a 1,201-word front-page article by Scott Shane

That's it for the Times: two articles, four reporters, 3,076 words.

All told, on January 22, 1998, the Times and the Post ran 19 articles (five on the front page) dealing with the Clinton investigation, totaling more than 20,000 words and reflecting the words of at least 28 reporters -- plus the editorial boards of both newspapers.

In contrast, on December 17, the Times and the Post combined to run five articles about the NSA spying operation, involving 12 reporters and consisting of 6,303 words.

On February 25, 1998, 35 days after the story first broke, the Post ran four articles and an editorial about the Clinton investigation, totaling 5,046 words, involving 11 reporters, and the paper's editorial board. The Times ran four articles, two opinion columns, and an editorial -- seven pieces in all, totaling 5,852 words and involving at least six reporters and columnists, in addition to its editorial board. The papers combined for 12 articles, columns, and editorials, involving 17 reporters and columnists, as well as both editorial boards.

On January 20, 35 days after the NSA story first broke, the Times ran one 1,324-word article about the NSA operation written by two reporters. The Post ran one 945-word article written by one reporter. Combined: two articles, three reporters, 2,269 words.

We could go on and on with comparisons like these, and bring in other news organizations, but it should be clear by now that the nation's leading news organizations haven't given the NSA spying story anywhere near the coverage they gave the Clinton-Lewinsky matter. And, based on available evidence, they haven't dedicated nearly the resources to pursuing the NSA story that they dedicated to the Lewinsky story.

So, some questions for the Times, and the Post, and ABC, and CBS, and NBC, and CNN, and Time, and Newsweek, and other leading news organizations:

1)How many reporters, editors, and researchers did you assign to the Lewinsky story when it broke? How many remained assigned to that story one month later?

2)How many reporters, editors, and researchers did you assign to the NSA story when it broke? How many remained assigned to that story one month later?

3)How do you explain the disparity?

We assume many news organizations would respond by saying that they aren't devoting as much attention to the NSA matter because it hasn't captured the nation's attention the way the Lewinsky investigation did.

But that's a canard; as we demonstrated above, the Times and the Post ran a combined 19 articles totaling more than 20,000 words just a day after the Lewinsky story first broke -- long before they could have known whether the public was interested. If the story captured the nation's attention, it's because the media forced it down our throats. And if Americans aren't captivated by the NSA matter, it may be because the media aren't hyping it nearly as much as it has much lesser stories.

The Post's Howard Kurtz effectively -- if unintentionally -- illustrated this bizarre tendency by news organizations to pretend that they merely reflect what people are talking about rather than shaping the national conversation. In his January 18 online column, Kurtz responded to criticism by Media Matters for America and others that he gave unwarranted attention to ages-old, baseless right-wing attacks on Rep. John P. Murtha (D-PA) by writing an article recounting the attacks for the January 14 edition of the Post. Kurtz noted that the attacks are, indeed, old, but added they are now "getting national play."

But the attacks aren't "getting" national play -- Kurtz is giving them national play. Prior to his article, the only "play" the allegations were getting came in a hatchet job by the Brent Bozell-operated Cybercast News Service upon which Kurtz based his article.

NSA spying stories we'd like to see

What kinds of stories could we see if news organizations were to devote as much attention to the president's authorization of a domestic spying operation that many think is illegal and unconstitutional as they did to a presidential affair?

Profiles of the people involved: Such pieces were standard during the Lewinsky investigation, but are not nearly as common now. Who are the Justice Department and NSA officials responsible for crafting the spy plan? What are their backgrounds? Their expertise? What other controversial administration actions have they been involved in?

Serious and detailed examinations of the opinions of legal and constitutional experts. Conservative constitutional scholar Bruce Fein and American Enterprise Institute resident scholar Norman Ornstein have said that the president's authorization of the wiretapping scheme may constitute an impeachable offense -- but those comments haven't appeared in either the Times or the Post, or most other media outlets.

What other experts have criticized -- or defended -- the program? Rather than simply reporting that the Bush administration says its actions are legal, and critics disagree, news organizations could -- and should -- offer a comprehensive picture of the opinions and analyses of relevant experts.
Assessments of the effects of the NSA program. The Bush administration claims the domestic spying operation has thwarted terrorist attacks. Is this true? Some of the success stories the administration and the media have recounted are dubious at best, such as the much-touted capture of Iyman Faris, who pleaded guilty to a harebrained plot to destroy the Brooklyn Bridge with a blowtorch -- and whose capture reportedly had little to do with the NSA program.

An exploration of the possibility that the NSA program may not only have been an illegal and unconstitutional trampling of the rights of countless Americans, but may actually have harmed national security. For example, evidence obtained through the program may turn out to have been illegally obtained -- and thus inadmissible in court, which may result in actual terrorists going free.

Given that at least nine Republican senators have expressed concern over the NSA program, an enterprising reporter might try to get comments from every member of Congress. Given calls for congressional investigations, including those made by at least six Republican senators, an examination of previous congressional investigations and oversight of the Bush administration would seem to be in order. Have previous comments by Republicans expressing concern with administration policies resulted in meaningful investigations? Or have they simply paid lip service to the idea of oversight without following through?


Given the media's obsession with horse-race commentary and public opinion polling, it's long past time for detailed polling based on accurate questions about the NSA domestic spying and other Bush administration scandals. Zogby International polls have found that most Americans think Congress should consider impeachment if Bush deliberately mislead the country into war or if he "wiretapped American citizens without the approval of a judge" -- and those polls have been ignored by the media. News organizations that in 1998 polled on whether people thought Clinton should be impeached if he had an affair now refuse to ask whether people think Bush should be impeached if he broke the law.
Aside from impeachment, and questions relating to NSA spying, we've long argued that polls that ask if Bush mislead the country about Iraq should ask some obvious follow-up questions. Like, "Do you think the president's statements about the need to go to war in Iraq will make people more or less likely to believe him if he again makes the case for war?" And "If you think people will be less likely to believe him next time, does that make America more or less safe"?
And that's just a starting point. This is a situation in which the president of the United States admits ordering a secret domestic spying operation that many in his own party find troubling and that even some of his fellow conservatives have described as impeachable. Surely, if news organizations were to devote half the attention to this matter that they devoted to the Lewinsky matter, there would literally be dozens of worthwhile, interesting, and important stories to tell.

Leading Republican strategist criticizes spying operation; media yawn

We've previously noted that news organizations tend to play up Democratic criticism of fellow Democrats while downplaying Republican criticism of fellow Republicans.

This week brings a stunning new example.

Grover Norquist is, by most accounts, one of the most prominent and influential Republicans in the country. The Post has described him as a close ally of President Bush; as "one of the intellectual architects of the [1994] Republican Revolution." You'd be hard-pressed to find a knowledgeable political or media observer who would disagree with the statement that Norquist is among the dozen conservatives most directly responsible for the success of the movement and of the Republican Party.

On Tuesday, January 17, a group called Patriots to Restore Checks and Balances issues a press release titled, "Leading Conservatives Call for Extensive Hearings on NSA Surveillance; Checks on Invasive Federal Powers Essential."

Norquist was among those "leading conservatives," along with former Rep. Bob Barr (R-GA); David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union; Paul Weyrich, chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Foundation; and Alan Gottlieb, founder of the Second Amendment Foundation. Norquist said in the release: "Public hearings on this issue are essential to addressing the serious concerns raised by alarming revelations of NSA electronic eavesdropping."

Almost without exception, the media have ignored Norquist's comments.

The following news organizations didn't even mention Norquist's call for an investigation into "alarming revelations of NSA electronic eavesdropping":

The New York Times
The Washington Post
USA Today
Chicago Tribune
Los Angeles Times
Fox News Channel
Associated Press
United Press International
And on, and on, and on.

In reporting bin Laden's latest threats, media forget CIA director's claim that he knows where bin Laden is

Osama bin Laden -- the terrorist mastermind behind the 9-11 attacks on America, and a man Bush vowed to capture "dead or alive" -- resurfaced this week to issue more threats against the United States. Oddly absent from media coverage of bin Laden's threats has been any mention of the fact that the Bush administration has said it knows where bin Laden is hiding -- but won't go get him out of respect for "fair play" and to avoid offending foreign governments.

Instead, the media portray bin Laden's reemergence as a political boon for Bush and the Republicans since it reminds people of terrorism -- rather than as a boon for Democrats since it reminds people that it's been more than four years since the attacks of September 11 and that the Bush administration still hasn't captured the person responsible.

Wash. Post ombudsman: "From now on, I don't reply"

Post ombudsman Deborah Howell has gotten off to a rocky start at her new job -- some of it due to her dealings with Media Matters. Some recent news reports have mischaracterized the nature of our interaction with her. For example, on his CBSNews.com blog Public Eye, Vaughn Ververs conflated controversy surrounding Howell's January 15 column with an exchange Howell had with Media Matters regarding a previous Post article. The following is an overview of the Howell controversy to date, with particular emphasis on Media Matters' involvement.

Howell first drew Media Matters' attention by casually dismissing reader emails asking the Post to "do a poll on whether President Bush should be impeached." As Media Matters noted, Howell's answer simply didn't make sense; she claimed that Post polling director Richard Morin told her that such a question would be "biased" -- but didn't explain how. Media Matters pointed out that, in fact, the Post had asked the same question about Bill Clinton in 1998, so the explanation that the Post considers such questions "biased" doesn't hold water.

(The Post's polling director later changed his story, though his new answer wasn't any better. The Post, meanwhile, continues to not only refuse to conduct its own polling about impeachment, but also refuses to even mention polling conducted by Zogby International that shows a majority of Americans think Congress should consider impeachment proceedings "[i]f President Bush wiretapped American citizens without the approval of a judge.")

A few weeks later, Media Matters urged Howell to abandon her tendency to dismiss complaints about the Post's reporting by asserting that, since "both sides" complain, the Post must be doing something right:

In what other profession would it be considered a badge of honor for everyone to think your work is flawed? Shouldn't the goal be for nobody to think your work is flawed?

If a newspaper article calls one candidate an alcoholic and her opponent a compulsive gambler, and both complain, can the reader conclude that the reporter must have done "something right"?

Substantive criticism of news reports should not be dismissed simply because someone else has a different complaint. Howell's approach -- and that of too many journalists -- assumes that both complaints have equal merit, which is obviously not always true. And it assumes that if any article is unfair to Party A in one way and Party B in another way, they cancel each other out - essentially, that two wrongs make a right.

In her second column as the Post's ombudsman, Howell offered readers "a couple of tips on how best to use your ombudsman." It's time to return the favor with a tip for Howell, and for other journalists: Complaints about news reports should be dealt with on their own merits, not by simply matching them up against opposing complaints and discounting them all. Criticism from Media Matters, for example, should not be ignored simply because the Media Research Center also criticizes you -- and vice versa. On this, if little else, we suspect Media Matters, FAIR, Media Research Center, Accuracy in Media, and everyone else who regularly critiques the media can agree.

Then things accelerated considerably.

On January 4, the Post published an article by reporter Dafna Linzer that included the following line:

The NSA program operated in secret until it was made public in news accounts last month. Since then, President Bush and his advisers have defended it as legal and necessary to protect the country against future attacks and have said Congress was repeatedly consulted.

Media Matters noted in an item that same day that, while Linzer did include an overview of criticism of the Bush program, she did not include any rebuttal to the grossly misleading administration claim that "Congress was repeatedly consulted."

Howell then mocked the Media Matters item in comments on her internal Post weblog, dismissing it as "weak" and asserting, "It was clear if you read the story that she was simply giving the administration's point of view as well as others." Media Matters followed up by noting once again that Linzer had not, in fact, given the point of view of others on the question of whether "Congress was repeatedly consulted" -- and that Howell's defense of the omission therefore constituted an endorsement of the practice of printing misleading administration claims without rebuttal.

Howell didn't much care for that, and dashed off an email (an email that, had Howell been the recipient rather than the target, she would no doubt describe as "angry") stating, "I did not say that I endorsed printing misleading or false statements. I would never do that. I said that she was giving the administration's point of view. Either take that off your site or print my side of this."

So we posted that email, acceding to Howell's request that we "print my side of this." But her email contained a misleading statement -- in fact, Howell had not merely said in her post on the internal weblog that Linzer "was giving the administration's point of view." She had said that Linzer "was simply giving the administration's point of view as well as others." In fact, Linzer had not included the point of view of "others" -- and that is the entire basis for our initial item about Linzer's article, and the ensuing controversy.

Because we disagree with Howell's apparent position that readers' interests are served by publishing misleading information without rebuttal, we rebutted her email. Politely, we thought.

Howell, however, characterized that rebuttal as an "attack" in comments she made on the Post's internal message board -- and vowed to never again reply to criticism from Media Matters:

Omb Learns Lesson

Posted By: Deborah Howell

Date: 1/13/06 5:45:52 PM EDT

* The omb lesson is that I replied to mediamatters.org last week that I thought I had been misrepresented. That's just brought another attack. From now on, I don't reply.

Meanwhile, Howell was coming under criticism for her January 15 column, in which she wrote that lobbyist/felon Jack Abramoff "made substantial campaign contributions to both major parties" and that "a number of Democrats, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) and Sen. Byron Dorgan (N.D.), have gotten Abramoff campaign money."

In fact, there is no indication that Abramoff has ever made any campaign contribution of any size to the Democratic Party, or to Reid, Dorgan, or any other Democrat. Media Matters and others pointed this out, noting that Abramoff's clients -- also known as his "victims" -- gave money to Democrats, but Abramoff, a longtime Republican insider, did not.

That's where things get interesting. The Post's public blog got flooded with comments pointing out Howell's error and asking for a correction. The Post then deleted some of those reader comments that it considered "personal attacks on Howell and others." Unfortunately, in the process, the Post also deleted (apparently accidentally) hundreds of comments that should not have been deleted. This, coupled with Howell's failure to address complaints about her false claim, led to even more comments, and to questions asked of Post reporters during online chats.

Post media reporter Howard Kurtz, for example, conceded that Howell's false Abramoff claims had been "inartfully worded" and could "have been more accurate." Howell herself finally commented in a January 19 post on the Post's public weblog, using much the same language:

I've heard from lots of angry readers about the remark in my column Sunday that lobbyist Jack Abramoff gave money to both parties. A better way to have said it would be that Abramoff "directed" contributions to both parties.

Howell's response fell short in at least two regards. First, she failed to acknowledge that claim that Abramoff "made substantial campaign contributions to both major parties" was not merely poorly worded, it was in fact wrong. Second, Howell went on to explain:

Lobbyists, seeking influence in Congress, often advise clients on campaign contributions. While Abramoff, a Republican, gave personal contributions only to Republicans, he directed his Indian tribal clients to make millions of dollars in campaign contributions to members of Congress from both parties.

Records from the Federal Elections Commission and the Center for Public Integrity show that Abramoff's Indian clients contributed between 1999 and 2004 to 195 Republicans and 88 Democrats. The Post has copies of lists sent to tribes by Abramoff with specific directions on what members of Congress were to receive specific amounts.

One of those lists can be viewed in this online graphic, while a graphical summary of giving by Abramoff, his tribal clients and associated lobbyists can be viewed here. The latest developments in the Abramoff investigation are available in this Special Report.

Howell's overview of campaign contributions connected to Abramoff suffers from the same flaws present in most media coverage of the topic. Among them is the implication that "Abramoff's Indian clients" contributed to Democrats because Abramoff told them to. In fact, Bloomberg has reported that Abramoff's clients gave a higher percentage of their contributions to Democrats before Abramoff began representing them:

Abramoff's tribal clients continued to give money to Democrats even after he began representing them, although in smaller percentages than in the past.

The Saginaw Chippewas gave $500,500 to Republicans between 2001 and 2004 and $277,210 to Democrats, according to a review of data compiled by Dwight L. Morris & Associates, a Bristow, Virginia-based company that tracks campaign-finance reports. Between 1997 and 2000, the tribe gave just $158,000 to Republicans and $279,000 to Democrats.

Further, tribes represented by Abramoff are unusual in steering the bulk of their contributions to Republicans: Indian tribes not represented by Abramoff tend to give more to Democrats, according to Bloomberg:

Between 2001 and 2004, Abramoff joined with his former partner, Michael Scanlon, and tribal clients to give money to a third of the members of Congress, including former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay [R-TX], according to records of the Federal Election Commission and Internal Revenue Service. At least 171 lawmakers got $1.4 million in campaign donations from the group. Republicans took in most of the money, with 110 lawmakers getting $942,275, or 66 percent of the total.

Of the top 10 political donors among Indian tribes in that period, three are former clients of Abramoff and Scanlon: the Saginaw Chippewa Tribe of Michigan, the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, and the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians of California. All three gave most of their donations to Republicans -- by margins of 30 percentage points or more -- while the rest favored Democrats.

When Howell's post prompted another flood of comments, the Post responded by turning off the comments feature of its blog, explaining:

What we're not willing to do is allow the comments area to turn into a place where it's OK to unleash vicious, name-calling attacks on anyone, whether they are Post reporters, public figures or other commenters. And that's exactly what was happening. That leads into the second complaint. The reason that people were not routinely seeing the problematic posts I mentioned were that we were trying to remove them as fast as we could in order to preserve the reasoned arguments many others were making. We removed hundreds of these posts over the past few days, and it was becoming a significant burden on us to try and keep the comments area free of profanity and name-calling. So we eventually chose to turn off comments until we can come up with a better way to handle situations like this, where we have a significant amount of people who refuse to abide by the rules we set out.

Washingtonpost.com executive editor Jim Brady later said in an online chat that the Post would "go back through them [the comments] and restore the ones that did not violate our rules."

Now, for the media coverage of the Howell-readers spat.

The Times ran a January 20 article by Katharine Seelye that seems to conflate the controversy over Howell's Abramoff column with the Media Matters-Howell dispute over Linzer's NSA article. The Times reported:

She [Howell] wrote a column about Jack Abramoff, the lobbyist who pleaded guilty to conspiracy, fraud and tax evasion, and said that several Democrats "have gotten Abramoff campaign money," apparently intending to say that they received campaign money from Mr. Abramoff's clients.

Her column generated complaints, and after saying she thought her views were being misrepresented, she was attacked again, prompting her to say she would not post any more replies.

Seelye's reference to Howell "saying she thought her views were being misrepresented" and saying "she would not post any more replies" seems to refer to Howell's post on the Post's internal weblog in which she said she would not reply to Media Matters. This incident had nothing to do with her Abramoff column or with the Post's decision to turn off comments on its blog.

Seelye's article did not point out that Howell's Abramoff column was in error, or that she waited four days to respond to complaints. Seelye's article extensively quoted Post employees, but neither quoted nor paraphrased any critic of either Howell's reporting or of the Post's handling of the matter.

Likewise, the AP glossed over the Post's conduct, focusing instead on "nasty reader postings." Like the Times, the AP did not point out that, in fact, the readers were right and Howell was wrong. Also, like the Times, the AP failed to explore the possibility that Howell's delay in responding to complaints about her inaccurate reporting, the Post's wholesale deletion of comments, and other issues may have contributed to the reader anger. (Though, of course, that does not mean vulgar personal attacks were justified.)

Ververs joined Seelye in conflating the flap over Howell's Abramoff reporting with the dispute over Linzer's NSA article.

Ververs, however, made a far more troubling statement. In his post, Ververs seemed to endorse Howell's statement that Abramoff "directed his Indian tribal clients to make millions of dollars in campaign contributions to members of Congress from both parties." And in another post in the comments section, he seemed to stipulate that Abramoff "steered money" from his clients to Democrats.

But in another comment in reply to a reader, Ververs responded by saying:

You're right, nobody "knows" whether Abramoff "directed" any money towards Democrats. Nobody "knows" that he didn't, either. When many Democrats are among those rushing to return money they have gotten from these interests, it is at least as compelling as all the circumstantial evidence offered up by those who claim no Democrats are involved.

The most responsible approach, especially given all this fog, is to report what is known, not what is supposed. That's all I am saying. The chips will fall and we'll all know more as this goes forward.

Whether or not Abramoff, in fact, "directed" contributions to Democrats, it is troubling to see Ververs stipulate that he did, apparently because "nobody 'knows' that he didn't."

Even so, those who know Corporal Poole say his personality - gregarious, kind and funny - has remained intact. Wounded on patrol near the Syrian border on June 30, 2004, he considers himself lucky to be alive. So do his doctors. "Basically I want to get my life back," he said. "I'm really trying."
But he knows the life ahead of him is unlikely to match the one he had planned, in which he was going to attend college and become a teacher, get married and have children. Now, he hopes to volunteer in a school. His girlfriend from before he went to war is now just a friend. Before he left, they had agreed they might talk about getting married when he got back.
"But I didn't come back," he said.
Men and women like Corporal Poole, with multiple devastating injuries, are the new face of the wounded, a singular legacy of the war in Iraq. Many suffered wounds that would have been fatal in earlier wars but were saved by helmets, body armor, advances in battlefield medicine and swift evacuation to hospitals. As a result, the survival rate among Americans hurt in Iraq is higher than in any previous war - seven to eight survivors for every death, compared with just two per death in World War II.
But that triumph is also an enduring hardship of the war. Survivors are coming home with grave injuries, often from roadside bombs, that will transform their lives: combinations of damaged brains and spinal cords, vision and hearing loss, disfigured faces, burns, amputations, mangled limbs, and psychological ills like depression and post-traumatic stress.
Dr. Alexander Stojadinovic, the vice chairman of surgery at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, said, "The wounding patterns we see are similar to, say, what Israel will see with terrorist bombings - multiple complex woundings, not just a single body site."
[American deaths in Iraq numbered 2,225 as of Jan. 20. Of 16,472 wounded, 7,625 were

Loot the Vote: The Bush Faction's Future Victories are Already in the Bag

Thursday, 19 January 2006
This is a slightly expanded version of my column in the Jan. 20 edition of The Moscow Times.

Things are looking a bit grim for the Bush Faction these days. Their chief bagman, Jack Abramoff, is in the clink, naming names. Their top congressional enforcer, Tom Delay, is in the dock, sinking fast. Their "war of choice" in Iraq has stalled in murderous quagmire. Their poll numbers are plummeting , as scandal after scandal -- corruption, despotism, torture, incompetence, deceit -- turn the American people against them. What then will be the fate of these brutal, bungling, bloodstained goons when they face the voters in the coming elections?
Why, victory, of course!

In fact, this year's congressional races and the presidential contest in 2008 are already over, and the Bushists have won. It's true that some of the candidates have not yet been chosen – including whatever front man the goon squad picks to replace the kill-crazy klutz from Crawford – but the vast machinery of electoral malfeasance that propelled this extremist faction to power over the wishes of the electorate in both 2000 and, yes, 2004, is not only still in place, it's growing stronger all the time.

No one has laid bare the malodorous innards of this democracy-devouring monster better than Mark Crispin Miller, whose new book, Fooled Again: How the Right Stole the 2004 Election and Why They'll Steal the Next One Too, takes us back to the dastardy of Election Day 2004 and the hydra-headed campaign of vote-rigging that preceded it. This second heist of the White House is one of the great untold stories of our time – even though it was largely carried out in plain sight. Miller performs the simple but increasingly rare act of journalism and gathers a mountain of overwhelming evidence from publicly available material. This is no "conspiracy theory" stitched together from anonymous sources, strained inferences and dark innuendo, but a solid case based on official records, sworn testimony, eyewitness accounts, news reports – and the Bushists' own words.

Indeed, the game was actually given away long before the balloting, when one of the Faction's congressional waterboys, Representative Peter King, was captured – on film – boasting that the fix was in. At a White House chow-down in summer 2003, King was asked who he thought would win in 2004. "It's already over," King said. "The election's over. We won…It's all over but the counting. And we'll take care of the counting."

Indeed they did. As often noted here, tens of millions of votes are now counted using paperless, easily-hackable electronic voting machines programmed – and often administered – by a handful of corporations whose officers are unabashed Bush backers. Two of these, the notorious Diebold and lesser-known, equally shadowy ES&S, were kickstarted by right-wing tycoon Harold Ahmanson, once the major backer of the "Christian Reconstruction" movement – which advocates total theocratic rule of state and society by Christian mullahs, with death for homosexuals, disenfranchisement for unbelievers, and slavery for debtors, among other delights. [See Vanishing Act: Disappearing the Republic at the Touch of a Button and Pin Heads: The New Bush Push for Theocracy.]
With these corporations at the helm, the 2004 vote was the most shambolic in American history, plagued by an epidemic of machine breakdowns and shortages (almost entirely in key Democratic precincts), and by a rash of "glitches" that "inexplicably" switched the voter's intended choice to a different candidate, or added hundreds or even thousands of "ghost" votes to a candidate's total. In every single recorded case of such "accidents," the beneficiary of these unearned votes was George W. Bush. Meanwhile, as in 2000, strange voting patterns emerged in pockets across the country, where unknown fringe candidates unaccountably received thousands of votes – at the expense of the Democratic candidate.

Of course, gaming the electronic voting grid was only part of the operation. Voter suppression techniques first unlimbered in 2000 were polished to a high sheen in 2004 – including purges of deliberately misidentified "felons" from the rolls; mass intimidation campaigns in poverty-ridden districts (e.g., "official" notices that anyone owing back rent, child support, unpaid traffic tickets, etc. would be arrested if they tried to vote); reducing the number of polling stations in Democratic-leaning precincts and stocking them with old, derelict machines; and a sophisticated, nationwide scam of deceitfully "registering" Democratic voters – who then discovered they were not on the books when they showed up to vote. The Republican National Committee paid millions to the man behind this flim-flam, the theocrat and Bush insider, Nathan Sproul.

The 2004 vote also saw the repetition of the exit poll debacles of 2002 and 2000, with the final results in each case defying the poll data to a remarkable degree. For decades, exit polls have proven so consistently reliable that they are used by many institutions – including the U.S. State Department – to gauge the fairness of elections around the world. Yet only in the United States – and only in the last three elections involving the Bush Faction – have they have failed utterly to jibe with the always "surprising" official tally.

This overview only scratches the surface of Miller's mountain of damning facts. But the book also includes insightful analysis to help us understand just how this gaggle of militarists, millenarists and money-grubbers have managed to seize – and keep – power in a decayed, sclerotic Republic whose institutions have proven too weak to withstand the gang's fanaticism – and too corrupt to resist the bribery, "legal" and otherwise, that the Bushists dole out from public and private coffers.

Despite the scandals, the indictments, the mounting death count in Iraq, and the ever-deepening unpopularity of Bush and his minions, the Faction's tools for "manufacturing consent" – so ably exposed by Miller – are greased and ready, unchallenged by the clueless, spineless Democrats and the dollar-dazzled media. So look for more "astonishing upsets" and poll-confounding "surprises" in the coming national elections, as brute power rapes reality once again.

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Medicare Drug Program May Harm, Not Help, GOP

Medicare Drug Program May Harm, Not Help, GOP
By Janet Hook, Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — Only months ago, congressional Republicans thought the new Medicare prescription drug benefit would help them make political inroads among traditionally Democratic senior citizens. Instead, they are facing a potentially damaging backlash among members of that crucial voting bloc, their families and even conservative activists dismayed over the program's bungled launch.

Georgia Rep. Jack Kingston, a member of the GOP leadership, held at least 10 workshops to help his elderly constituents navigate the complex drug plan, and he implored his Republican colleagues to do likewise.

"There's a tremendous opportunity for members of Congress to go out there and be the white knights — to listen, answer questions and get in the weeds with their constituents," he said. "But for members who feel they don't want to bother, they are going to hear from those voters in November."

"It's no windfall politically," said Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.), a physician who voted for the program. "It could hurt us, but sometimes doing the right thing does hurt."

Some Republicans think the problem will blow over once the inevitable kinks are worked out. Recent opinion polls cast doubt on such optimism. They suggest that, even among Republicans, support for the program has eroded.

Democrats on Thursday stepped up their criticism of the program, which they said benefited big drug and insurance companies at the expense of the elderly. They also called for congressional action on the many start-up problems. Hundreds of thousands of seniors — mostly low-income — have had trouble getting their medicines, and many have been overcharged. About 20 states, including California, have jumped in with emergency assistance.

"This Medicare bill is the biggest government fiasco in recent memory," said Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Republicans also are facing criticism from the conservative activists who opposed the program's creation in the first place. They see it as an emblem of how the GOP, after a decade in power, has betrayed the traditional conservative commitment to small government.

"The fallout is likely to be huge," said an aide to a prominent conservative member of Congress who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak for his boss. "It's likely to anger seniors, while reminding the conservative base about the biggovernment approach that Republicans took to healthcare."

Thus far, polls show no stampede of elderly voters to the GOP. Polling by the Pew Research Center on People and the Press shows that the portion of conservative Republican voters who approved of the drug plan dropped from 66% in December 2003 to 54% in December 2005; approval by moderate Republicans declined from 74% to 56%.

"It hasn't been the big political plus they hoped for. The question is whether it will be a minus," said Drew E. Altman, president of the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation, which conducts research and analysis on healthcare issues. "That is what is at stake in this early implementation period, which is not going so well so far."

Congress voted in 2003 to expand Medicare to cover prescription drug costs, but delayed the implementation of the plan until Jan. 1, 2006, to allow time to set up the complex program. Most Medicare recipients were given until May 15 to sign up for the program, which is voluntary. But several million Medicare recipients who also qualify for Medicaid, which serves the poor, were automatically moved into the new program Jan. 1. The number of people involved in the one-day transition has contributed to many start-up problems.

Many senior citizens have been overwhelmed by the complexity of the program. Medicare's information lines are jammed. Because of data errors, pharmacists have been unable to determine in many cases whether low-income beneficiaries are covered. The poorest beneficiaries have faced the biggest problems.

Democrats sense a political opportunity, especially at a time when the GOP is dealing with ethics scandals, internal squabbling and a leadership shake-up in the House.

The drug benefit issue has been used against some congressional Republicans in their reelection campaigns. Democrat Christopher S. Murphy is campaigning against Rep. Nancy L. Johnson (R-Conn.) by criticizing her leading role in creating the program.

"This is nothing but a massive giveaway to the drug industry," Murphy said on his campaign website. "Every senior citizen and hardworking American family should be offended that our government is giving away our healthcare system to the multibillion-dollar drug industry."

Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, predicted that complaints about the program would intensify as seniors bumped up against a limitation on benefits known as the "doughnut hole" — a gap in coverage of drug expenses. "If you think they are mad now, you ain't seen nothing yet," Emanuel said.

Senate Democrats proposed legislation Thursday to address the start-up problems.

One bill would provide federal reimbursement to the states that are stepping in with emergency funding for low-income seniors. The Bush administration has said states must look to private insurance companies for reimbursement, although Washington would support such recovery efforts. A second bill proposes longer-term fixes, including having trained Medicare employees at sign-up locations and improving the agency's telephone hotline.

Although the bill to compensate states drew two Republican cosponsors, Sens. Olympia J. Snowe of Maine and Norm Coleman of Minnesota, other Republicans have taken a wait-and-see attitude, arguing that the federal agency that runs Medicare should try to solve the problems administratively before Congress acts.

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NYT's Frank Rich hits Dems for 'ineptitude' in Alito hearings

RAW STORYPublished: January 21, 2006

By setting their hopes on a "fake story," Democrats ruined whatever chance they had of keeping Samuel Alito off the Supreme Court, according to Frank Rich in a column slated for Sunday's New York Times, RAW STORY has learned.

While Rich attacks all sides for not "meeting even the low threshold of truthiness" during the confirmation hearings, some of his harshest criticisms are directed at Senator Kennedy and other Democrats for making a big deal out of Alito's membership in a conservative group that's been accused of bigotry. Rich notes that the story had already been exposed as "fake" in The Times. "The Republicans would never have been so sloppy," Rich writes.

This will be Rich's last column until spring. "Starting next week, I will be on a book leave, writing nonfiction about our post-9/11 fictions," Rich informs his readers.

Once Alito came before the Senate Judiciary Committee, the Democrats decided to counter the Republicans' story by coming up with a fictional story of their own, or that's what they did once they stopped bloviating. Their fictional biography cast Alito as an out-and-out bigot. The major evidence cited to support this characterization was his listing his membership in Concerned Alumni of Princeton (CAP), a conservative group founded in reaction to the upheavals of the Vietnam era, on a job application for the Reagan Justice Department.

Alito testified that he had joined CAP because it supported the ROTC on campus, adding that he did not remember having "done anything substantial in relation to this group, including renewing my membership." The Democrats plunged on, betting the house (or the Supreme Court) on Teddy Kennedy's insistence that Judge Alito could be linked to what the senator described as CAP's "repulsive anti-woman, anti-black, anti-disability, anti-gay pronouncements." In one of only two dramatic moments in the whole soporific confirmation process -- a "Sunshine Boys"-style spat with the committee chairman, Arlen Specter -- Kennedy threatened to subpoena CAP "documents in the possession of the Library of Congress" to hunt down Alito's bigotry.

There was only one problem with the Democrats' fictional story line: It had been exposed as fake on the front page of The Times weeks before Kennedy presented it to the nation.

Kirkpatrick reported that he had examined the same papers Kennedy was threatening to subpoena -- as well as some others at Princeton's own library -- and found no trace of Alito's involvement with CAP as either an active participant or a major donor. When the Senate committee did Kennedy's bidding and looked at those documents yet again, it found exactly what The Times had in November, calling the senator's bluff and ending any remote chance the Democrats had for keeping Alito off the court. It says everything about the Democrats' ineptitude that when they spin fiction, they are incapable of meeting even the low threshold of truthiness needed to make it fly in this lax cultural environment.

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Pre-October Non-Surprise: The Goon Show of Bush and Bin Laden

Friday, 20 January 2006
Let's see now: President dropping in the polls; impeachment talk over illegal wiretaps gaining traction; majority of Americans now supporting withdrawal from Iraq; Abramoff scandal reaching into the White House; big push starting for war with Iran; the Bush gang reduced to defending their crime, deception and despotism with a last, threadbare card, the "terrorist threat".....

Why, yes, I think it's about time for a guest shot from Osama!

And so the deadly symbiosis between that dynamic, death-peddling duo, Bush and bin Laden, goes on. And as usual, the timing -- even the wording -- of the terrorist's bloviation falls, with eerie perfection, into lock-step with Bush's political needs. As noted above, the only way Bush can justify his now-open establishment of a de facto dictatorship -- arbitrary rule by "the unitary executive" -- is by the constant, hysterical invocation of a terrorist threat. To meet this threat, to preserve "our way of life," says Bush, we must shred all of our inherent liberties, our inalienable rights, our constitutional freedoms, our centuries-old system of checks and balances; we must give all power to the Leader, who will protect the only thing that matters: our skin.

This is of course a cynical and absurd argument; no terrorist attack, no matter how massive, could destroy the American republic. This can only be done from the inside -- and only by the deliberate choice of those in power. At every turn, the Bush gang has sought to instil a blind, quaking, automatic fear in the American people, so that when they hear the word "terror," they jump to the Boss's tune, they run for cover and burn the Constitution to keep them warm in their hidey-hole. It's been a remarkable exercise, really: the attempt to create a polity of cowards.

And if there is another terrorist attack in the United States -- as there certainly will be, given the fact that the Bushists deliberately allowed bin Laden to escape capture at Tora Bora in 2001 (more on this topic here next week), and have swelled the terrorist ranks with their murderous war in Iraq -- the last vestiges, the last pretenses of American civil rights and individual liberty will be stripped away. The people have long been inculcated with this idea, from top Bushists such as General Tommy Franks: if there is another terrorist attack in the "Homeland," then "the Constitution might be suspended." This is now the "conventional wisdom," a widely accepted notion -- despite there being no reason for such an action whatsoever. Yet the militarist-corporatist faction now represented by the Bushists -- which has long dreamed of suspending the civic order and ruling by decree and martial law, and has in fact been planning for this eventuality for decades -- will doubtless seize the day when the next attack comes. As Bush himself said just days after the September 11 attacks, when the bodies of the dead were still compacted with the smoking ruins of the Twin Towers: "Through my tears, I see opportunity."

So here we are. The dictatorship is now in the open, as the Justice Department's tortured "defense" of Bush's high crime of arbitrary spying this week proves once again. Like the "signing statement" that eviscerated the much ballyhooed "anti-torture bill," the latest load of cringing mendacity from that most servile minister, Attorney General Al Gonzales, again confirms the Bushist principle that the president is simply above the law: there is nothing he cannot do, no crime he cannot order in the exercise of his "plenary powers." But despite this naked display of apish chest-thumping -- "Me top monkey! You do me homage! You pick my fleas, bring me best fruit!" -- there are disturbed rumblings amongst the rabble. Recent polls show a majority of Americans support impeachment if it is proved that Bush ordered wiretaps without a court order. (The proof is copious, of course; and indeed, the criminal act is openly admitted by Bush.) A majority of Americans believe the Iraq war is a mistake and want the troops withdrawn. The new Medicare fiasco -- which has seen multitudes of the sick and old suffering needlessly -- will further embitter large swathes of the people against their cruel and rapacious masters.

What then can save the Leader? What can preserve, enhance and extend the power of his faction to carry on God's work (which naturally overrides any puny restrictions of human law)? What can keep the machine grinding forward, and keep the money rolling in? Only fear. Only cowardice. Only terror -- terror from without to justify the terror from within.

So terror is what we are going to get. I've written of this symbiosis many times, and a conclusion once drawn years ago is even more true today: Dazed by the lure of loot and glory, hamstrung by their own wilful ignorance of the complexities of history and human nature, the third-rate thugs of the Bush Regime have entered into a collaboration with the equally dazed, equally ignorant bin Laden mafia. Each gang draws meaning and justification from the other, each cloaks its own criminality and murder in the guise of a crusade against the other's evil. And both draw their power and profit from the same unrenewable natural resource:

The blood of innocent people.

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CNNMoney: Google sees its largest 1-day loss ever

Edited on Fri Jan-20-06 07:53 PM by DeepModem Mom

Yahoo! results, worries about Internet advertising market, U.S. search inquiry spark sell-off.
January 20, 2006

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) - Google stock posted its largest single-day loss ever Friday as investors showed concern about prospects for the Internet advertising market and the company's role in a Justice Department lawsuit about Internet searches.

Shares in Google sank $36.98 to $399.46 -- about 8.5 percent -- in heavy trading on Nasdaq. Volume of 31 million shares was nearly triple the normal daily average.

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The loss was the largest in both dollar and percentage terms. The shares previously lost 8.31 percent on Nov. 5, 2004. The previous record for dollar decline was $22.20 on Jan. 18, 2006.

Investors sent Yahoo tumbling Tuesday after the largest Internet media company surprised investors by posting earnings below expectations.

Google said Thursday it was resisting a Justice Department subpoena that the company turn over search records for a case regarding an anti-pornography law....

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Buffett warns U.S. trade deficit could cause 'political turmoil'

The U.S. trade deficit soared to a record $665.9 billion in 2004, and Buffett said he expects it to top $700 billion this year.

“That’s $2 billion a day. We are like a super rich family that owns a farm the size of Texas.
You sell off a little bit of the farm and you don’t see it,” he said.

Fifteen years ago, the U.S. had no trade deficit with China, he said.“Now it’s $200 billion.

If we don’t change the course, the rest of the world could own $15 trillion of us. That’s pretty substantial. That’s equal to the value of all American stock,” Buffett said.

“That’s the big danger. Our national debt does not bother me. Our public debt is not at a crazy level,” he said.



Amen to that

In his latest column for the New Statesman, John Pilger, returning to his homeland, finds the reaction to the death of Australia's richest man, Kerry Packer, providing a glimpse behind the facade of what author Donald Horne labelled 'the lucky country'. : Pilger : 19 Jan 2006


In his latest column for the New Statesman, John Pilger, returning to his homeland, finds the reaction to the death of Australia's richest man, Kerry Packer, providing a glimpse behind the facade of what the author Donald Horne once labelled 'the lucky country' - though he meant it ironically.

Shortly after Christmas, the Australian media tycoon Kerry Packer died in his mansion overlooking Sydney Harbour, guarded by large, salivating dogs. In Britain, he was remembered as the man who brought hoopla and money to cricket. Here, in Australia, his death provided a glimpse of the changes imposed on societies that once were proud to call themselves social democracies.

Lauded as "Australia's richest man" who "achieved" a rating on Forbes magazine's rich list, as if this put him alongside Donald Bradman and the Sydney Opera House, Packer excited a fear and sycophancy not normally associated with Australians. "Laid to rest in his beloved sunburnt country", said the obsequious banner headline across the front page of the Sydney Morning Herald. The Sydney Sun-Herald topped this with: "Packer's practical compassion a model for us all".

Packer was a hulk of man who lost his temper a lot, said "fuck" a lot, gambled and lost huge amounts, admired Genghis Khan (no irony) and ruled by the sheer power of his inherited money, much of it accumulated by having legally avoided paying many millions of dollars in tax - the fail-safe method employed by his principal competitor, Rupert Murdoch. In the mid-19th century the Australian press was one of the liveliest and bravest in the world; today, dominated by the marketing empires of Murdoch, Packer and Fairfax, it is little more than a voice of Australia's political elite and of Bush's Washington. Not surprisingly, the government of John Howard is to give Packer a state memorial service. "Kerry," said the prime minister, "was larger than life." It was Howard who, stricken with pneumonia, famously got out of bed to entertain "Rupert" at his home. It was Howard who embraced the mantle bestowed by a Packer magazine that he was George W Bush?s "deputy sheriff". (When asked about this, Bush immediately promoted him to "sheriff for south-east Asia".)

The fear and sycophancy that Howard and his Antipodean neoconservatives have promoted since coming to power almost a decade ago have put paid to Australia's tenuous self-regard as "the land of fair go". (The much-abused term "lucky country" was ironic, coined by the author, the late Donald Horne to denote a first-rate country run by second-rate people.)

Like Bush's America, Howard's Australia is not so much a democracy as a plutocracy, governed for and by the "big end of town", even though, as Mark Twain pointed out, this is "an entire continent peopled by the lower orders". He was not that far out; for my generation, like that of my parents, we were the poor who had got away. There was a sense that we had inherited something other than the British legacy. Long before the rest of the western world, Australians gained a minimum wage, an eight-hour working day, pensions, maternity allowance, child benefits and the vote for women. The secret ballot was invented here and became known as the "Australian ballot". The Australian Labor Party formed governments 25 years before any comparable social democracy in Europe. In the 1960s, with the exception of the Aboriginal people - who are always the exception - Australians could boast the most equitable spread of personal income in the world.

It is a proud history that is barely a memory in Howard's Australia. His is an undeclared union with the "opposition" Labour Party, which under his predecessors Bob Hawke and Paul Keating launched a spectacular redistribution of wealth in favour of the rich. According to the financial analysts County Securities Australia, the deregulation of the television industry alone gave Packer and Murdoch "a one billion-dollar gift entirely free of tax". The convicted crook Alan Bond built a paper empire that owed 14 billion Australian dollars, or 10 per cent of the national debt. "Bondy", said Hawke, was also "larger than life".

Howard takes his legislative lead from Blair and Bush, whose police-state impulses were recently made into law here. The few members of parliament who tried to debate this were silenced, incredibly, by the Speaker. The result is that Australians who seriously question Howard's role in Iraq risk prosecution under a law of sedition: penalty seven years. This was followed by a bill that guts trade union rights. In the United Nations, which Australia helped found, Australia has stood against almost all of humanity on global warming and the rule of international law in Palestine.

The recent race riots in Sydney were all but licensed by a government whose racism has seen asylum-seekers go to their deaths in leaking boats, or kept in harsh, remote camps. Aboriginal institutions and programmes have been destroyed or emasculated and land-rights claims tied down by laws that invite endless litigation. Most young black Australians can look forward to prison. Behind the glamour of Australian sport, black footballers - including whole teams - are often dead before the age of 40. Australia is the only developed country on a United Nations "shame list" of countries where trachoma, an entirely preventable disease that causes blindness, is tolerated among its indigenous people. Using acolytes in the press, the government has attacked institutions, such as the National Museum, and historians who dare to remind Australians of their true past and present. Donald Horne's "lucky country" was spot on.

First published inthe New Statesman - www.newstatesman.co.uk

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US author's sales jump after Osama mentions book

20 Jan 2006 23:04:15 GMT

Source: Reuters

WASHINGTON, Jan 20 (Reuters) - An unexpected endorsement from al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden has resulted in a huge jump in sales for a book by a critic of U.S. foreign policy.

William Blum's "Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower" was ranked 209,000 on Amazon.com's sales list before bin Laden mentioned it in an audiotape released on Thursday. By Friday, the book was No. 30 on the Amazon.com list.

Bin Laden said al Qaeda group was preparing more attacks in the United States but also told Americans, "It is useful for you to read the book 'The Rogue State.'"

"I was quite surprised and even shocked and amused when I found out what he'd said," Blum said on Friday in an interview with Reuters Television in his Washington apartment.

"I was glad. I knew it would help the book's sales and I was not bothered by who it was coming from.

"If he shares with me a deep dislike for the certain aspects of U.S. foreign policy, then I'm not going to spurn any endorsement of the book by him. I think it's good that he shares those views and I'm not turned off by that."

Blum said some friends and family members were afraid the bin Laden endorsement might endanger him but he said there had been no threats and he was not concerned.

Blum's 320-page book, which was published in 2000, begins with a chapter titled "Why Do Terrorists Keep Picking on the United States." The first sentence says, "Washington's war on terrorism is as doomed to failure as its war on drugs has been."

Other chapters in "The Rogue State" are titled "America's Gift to the World -- the Afghan Terrorist Alumni," "The U.S. Versus the World at the United Nations" and "How the CIA Sent Nelson Mandela to Prison for 28 Years."

Blum's other books include "Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II," "Freeing the World to Death: Essays on the American Empire" and "West Bloc Dissident: A Cold War Political Memoir."

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Friday, January 20, 2006

I Want You To Pay!:

You know what I say to you Georgie, Shove off you pay for your own dirty little war, with all your oil profits WANKER.

Remember you were told by you Secretary of State, you break it, You fix it. Well you sure as hell broke it with your WMDs so you bloody well fix it yourself, and then go wank yourself, because that is all you good for.

With the billions of dollars appropriated by the United States for Iraqi reconstruction mostly spent, Japan, Australia and other nations in US President George W Bush's "coalition of the willing" are likely to be asked to shoulder much of the burden for funding the large number of unfinished projects.

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Pakistan: Why Blame America?

By Yamin Zakaria

The US air strikes carried out on the 13th of January 2006, on the remote Pakistani village of Damadola was a clear act of terrorism. Out of the 18 civilians killed, 10 were women and children. It seems US terrorism inside Pakistan is becoming routine, earlier on the 7th of January 2006 at least eight civilians were killed by the US helicopters attack. To be precise, such acts are state-terrorism or primary-terrorism as opposed to the usual: secondary-terrorism of individuals or groups! The bombings were indiscriminate and without warning, like the routine bombings of the defenceless Iraqi cities or the Palestinian villages and towns.

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Clueless in Africa

While touring Africa and defending her husband's use of international AIDS funds to market abstinence, First Lady Laura Bush said: "I'm always a little bit irritated when I hear the criticism of abstinence, because abstinence is absolutely 100% effective in eradicating a sexually transmitted disease."

She went on to say: "In many countries where girls feel obligated to comply with the wishes of men, girls need to know that abstinence is a choice."

We cannot even get middle-class American girls to understand that abstinence is a choice, yet Bush is suggesting that girls whose only source of income involves having sex, and women whose husbands have never heard of equality in marriage just say no. Many young girls are forced to marry their husbands, and part of that obligation is sex; many other girls are forced into prostituion. A popular belief in Africa, especially South Africa, is that having sex with a virgin cures AIDS, and the men who opt for this "treatment" are not asking the virgins' permission.

The Bush administration has already endangered the lives of thousands of women and girls by restricting the counseling and educational activities of family planning clinics. Laura Bush's advice to African girls truly adds insult to injury.

Posted by Diane E. Dees on 01/17/06 at 07:37 PM

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(Ohio) Nuclear plant owner fined $28 million (Workers hid serious damage)

Nuclear plant owner fined $28 million
FirstEnergy admits workers covered up serious damage to facility
The Associated Press
Updated: 11:31 a.m. ET Jan. 20, 2006

CLEVELAND - Acknowledging that its employees covered up serious damage at a nuclear power plant, the facility's owner has agreed to pay $28 million in fines, restitution and community service projects, the U.S. Justice Department announced Friday.

Inspectors found an acid leak in 2002 that nearly ate through a 6-inch (15-centimeter) steel cap on the reactor vessel at the Davis-Besse plant owned by FirstEnergy Corp. Officials said it was the most extensive corrosion ever seen at a U.S. nuclear reactor.

Company and Nuclear Regulatory Commission investigations concluded that the rust hole had been growing for at least four years and that Davis-Besse's managers had ignored the evidence because they were focused on profits rather than safety at the plant, which sits along the Lake Erie shore about 30 miles east of Toledo.

As part of the agreement, FirstEnergy acknowledged that the government can prove that nuclear plant employees "knowingly made false representations to the NRC" at they tried to convince the commission the plant was safe to operate beyond 2001, the Justice Department said in a statement.

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US obtains internet users' search records

By Joseph Menn and Chris Gaither
The Los Angeles Times

Friday 20 January 2006

Yahoo and others reveal queries from millions of people; Google refuses. Identities aren't included, but the data trove stirs privacy fears.
San Francisco - Federal investigators have obtained potentially billions of Internet search requests made by users of major websites run by Yahoo Inc., Microsoft Corp. and America Online Inc., raising concerns about how the massive data trove will be used.

The information turned over to Justice Department lawyers reveals a week's worth of online queries from millions of Americans - the Internet Age equivalent of eavesdropping on their inner monologues. The subpoenaed data could, for example, include how many times people searched online for "apple pie recipes," "movie tickets 90012" or even "bomb instructions."

The Internet companies said Thursday that the information did not violate their users' privacy because the data did not include names or computer addresses. The disclosure nonetheless alarmed civil liberties advocates, who fear that the government could seek more detailed information later.

A Justice Department spokesman said the government was not interested in ferreting out names - only in search trends as part of its efforts to regulate online pornography. But the search-engine subpoenas come amid broader concerns over how much information the government collects and how the data are used.

Congress is debating an extension of the Patriot Act, which dramatically expanded the government's ability to obtain private data. And congressional hearings are expected soon on the legality of a National Security Agency program to track communications by US citizens without prior court approval.

Privacy advocates said the opportunity to peruse search queries provided an unprecedented glimpse into people's private thoughts and habits. Virtually unknown a decade ago, search engines rapidly have become an integral part of daily life.

Search engines maintain "a massive database that reaches into the most intimate details of your life: what you search for, what you read, what worries you, what you enjoy," said Kurt Opsahl, a staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. "It's critical to protect the privacy of this information so people feel free to use modern tools to find information without the fear of Big Brother looking over their shoulder."

The issue came to light this week only when Google Inc., the most-used Internet search engine, fought its subpoena. AOL, Microsoft and Yahoo also had been subpoenaed. Government lawyers filed a brief in US District Court in San Jose seeking to force Google to comply.

Google's refusal was first reported by the San Jose Mercury News.

Search engines and e-mail providers are asked for information on specific people in hundreds of cases yearly, both by law enforcement and in civil lawsuits. They generally comply, and their privacy policies warn users that data can be turned over to authorities.

Under a section of the Patriot Act expanding the use of so-called national security letters, companies such as Google can be asked to turn over potentially useful data - even about people who aren't suspected of wrongdoing - while being barred from disclosing those requests.

But no previous case is known to have involved such a wide range of data.

"Their demand for information overreaches," said Nicole Wong, Google's associate general counsel. "We had lengthy discussions with them to try to resolve this but were not able to, and we intend to resist their motion vigorously."

The other search engines disclosed the information after narrowing the government's original request for two months' worth of searches to one week's worth. The week was not specified.

"We are rigorous defenders of our users' privacy," Yahoo spokeswoman Mary Osako said. "We did not provide any personal information in response to the Department of Justice's subpoena. In our opinion, this is not a privacy issue."

A Microsoft spokeswoman said the company complied with the request "in a way that ensured we also protected the privacy of our customers. We were able to share aggregated query data ... that did not include any personally identifiable information."

AOL spokesman Andrew Weinstein said the Time Warner Inc. subsidiary initially rebuffed the Justice Department's requests and eventually provided "an aggregated and anonymous list of search terms... . What we gave them was something that was extremely limited, didn't have any privacy implications and is fairly common data."

Beth Givens, director of the nonprofit Privacy Rights Clearinghouse in San Diego, said those companies should have fought.

"Google and the other search engines," she said, "represent a very appealing honey pot for government investigators."

In some ways, Google's action echoes Verizon Communications Inc.'s fight against the record industry two years ago. The record labels used a provision of a digital copyright law to demand the names of subscribers to Verizon's Internet service who were suspected of swapping music files illegally. Verizon resisted, and a federal appeals court eventually agreed that the labels would have to sue individuals before forcing Verizon to turn over information on them. The Supreme Court declined to intervene in the case.

Justice Department spokesman Charles Miller said the government wanted an overview of what people look for online as part of its effort to restore an anti-pornography law that was struck down by the Supreme Court.

The Child Online Protection Act was adopted in 1998 after a similar law, the Communications Decency Act, was struck down on constitutional grounds. The Child Online Protection Act establishes fines and jail terms for businesses that publish sexually oriented material on the Web that is obscene or offensive, unless they weed out minors by demanding a credit card or other proof of age.

In 2004, the Supreme Court upheld an injunction against the law but sent the case back to a lower court in Pennsylvania. A majority of the high court wrote that the government could save the measure if it showed that the rules were more effective than Internet content filters at balancing the need to keep pornography from children against the free-speech rights of website operators.

Philip Stark, a UC Berkeley statistics professor working for the government, wrote in the San Jose court filing that the queries, along with a list of available websites, would help show what users were looking for and how often they found material that the government deemed harmful to minors.

The Justice Department also asked the Internet companies for the addresses to every website in their search-engine indexes, a request that was negotiated down to 1 million randomly chosen addresses. Government lawyers said they wanted that information to gauge the prevalence of websites that were harmful to minors and to measure the effectiveness of filtering software on those sites.

"We're not seeking any individual information regarding anybody who entered the query terms," Miller said.

He did not respond to other questions, including whether the department would rule out seeking such information in the future and how the existing data would be used.

Google said, though, that the words in a single text query could lead the government to a searcher's identity.

"One can envision scenarios where queries alone could reveal identifying information," the company wrote in a letter objecting to the demand.

Users often search for information about themselves.

More broadly, the company wrote, "Google's acceding to the request would suggest that it is willing to reveal information about those who use its services. This is not a perception that Google can accept."

Google has tried to cast itself as an enlightened company, going so far as to tell investors that it planned to do business under a simple rule: "Don't be evil."

But as Google has collected increasing amounts of information about its users, some observers have expressed concern that the company could break that rule by letting the data fall into the wrong hands or simply by complying with government demands.

"Google could help protect its users ... by limiting the information that is kept and how long it is stored," said the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Opsahl. "The easiest way to respond to a subpoena is by saying, "We don't have it.' "

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Art For Boys

Stopping Republican Organised Crime

Sen. Harry Ried, DSCC

have been in public service for over 40 years and never been as disillusioned as I am today. In 1977, I was appointed chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission. It was a difficult time for the gaming industry and Las Vegas, which were being overrun by organized crime.

During the next few years, there would be threats on my life, FBI stings and even a car bomb placed in my family's station wagon. What is happening today in Washington is every bit as corrupt as when Las Vegas was run by the mob, but the consequences for our country are worse. These Republicans have created the most corrupt government in our history. Their "K Street Project" is a shakedown machine that would make the mafia blush. We cleaned up Las Vegas, and we will clean up Washington DC.

Today, Democrats from Howard Dean in Ohio to Nancy Pelosi and me in Washington are declaring our commitment to a government as good and honest as the people it serves. To achieve that vision, this morning we introduced the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act. Our tough, real reforms go beyond the public relations fixes Republicans suggest.

For example, a key proposal in the Act, known as "The Jack Abramoff Rule," will ban staff and members from receiving gifts, meals and travel from lobbyists. This is not just about talking the talk; we are going to walk the walk, right now. Last night I told my staff that even though this bill is not yet law, our office will follow its provisions starting today. I am going to lead by example, and I challenge George Bush to do the same.

Join me, Howard Dean, Nancy Pelosi, and hundreds of Democratic elected officials from around the country by signing the Honest Leadership Pledge. Our goal is to have one million Americans join us in this commitment to honest government:


Republicans will be introducing their own ethics legislation. Quite frankly, having Republicans trying to clean up the mess in Washington would be like asking John Gotti to clean up organized crime.

There is a price to pay for the culture of corruption, and we can see it in almost every major issue facing our country. Big Oil, protected by Republicans, reaped $100 billion in profits in 2005 while middle class families are paying more for gas, heat and other needs. Take the state of health care. There are the HMOs that benefited from the $10 billion slush fund in the Medicare bill. On the other side are seniors who face gaps in their coverage and skyrocketing prescription drug costs.

And then there is our national debt. On one side are the special interests and the multimillionaires who have received tremendous tax breaks over the last five years. On the other side are our children and grandchildren who will pay for these tax cuts when they inherit billions in debt.

We are seeing what happens when lawmakers and lobbyists conspire to put the needs of special interests before the needs of the American people. Democrats will put a stop to the culture of corruption -- period.

Join us and sign the Honest Leadership Pledge today by visiting:


Thank you,

A Town Becomes a Prison

** Dahr Jamail's Iraq Dispatches **

*Inter Press Service*
Dahr Jamail and Arkan Hamed

*SINIYAH, Iraq, Jan 20 (IPS) - People of Siniyah town 200 km north of
Baghdad are angry over a six-mile long sand wall constructed by the U.S.
military to check attacks by rebels.*

"Our city has become a battlefield," 35 year-old engineer Fuad
Al-Mohandis told IPS at a checkpoint on the outskirts of the city. "So
many of our houses have been destroyed, and the Americans are placing
landmines in areas where they think there might be fighters, even though
most of the time it is near the homes of innocent civilians."

Soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division have been coming under nearly
daily attack from roadside bombs.

Fuad said the U.S. military was now enforcing a curfew from 5pm. He said
"so many explosions occur now which terrify our children."

The U.S. military began to use bulldozers Jan. 7 to build a large sand
barrier around the town in an effort to isolate fighters who have been
attacking U.S. patrols. Oil pipelines from the area which lead to Turkey
have been regularly sabotaged by resistance groups.

The drastic measures have enraged many of the 3,000 residents of the town.

"They think by these measures they can stop the resistance," Amer, a
43-year-old clerk at the nearby Beji oil refinery told IPS. "But the
Americans are creating more resistance by doing these things. The
resistance will not stop attacking them unless they pull out of our

The clerk said he had not been able to leave his house for several days,
and was unable to work or to visit family members outside Siniyah.

The U.S. military has named the project of building the huge sand wall
'Operation Verdun' after a battle from World War I. Occupation forces
believe the city has become the main launching pad for attacks on their
patrols, as well as mortar attacks on their nearby Summerall Base.

Checkpoints have been set up near the town, with U.S. and Iraqi security
forces checking every car for weapons and explosives.

"We can't work any more, our income depends on distributing fuel," truck
driver Abdul Qadr told IPS at one of the checkpoints. "We are in a very
bad situation. The city is isolated now and they are putting barricades
everywhere to stop the fighters. Our houses are raided daily while they
are searching for foreigners, yet they can't find any of them."

Abdul Qadr, who grew up in Siniyah, told IPS he and his neighbours felt
they were in a "concentration camp". That is also how residents of
Fallujah and Samarra have described their towns after U.S. forces built
similar walls around them.

An 18km long wall has been constructed by the U.S. military in Samarra,
while Israeli-style military checkpoints remain in place in Fallujah.
The occupation forces have imposed similar measures also in other towns
such as Al-Qa'im, Haditha, Ramadi, Balad, and Abu Hishma.

While such security measures have been in place for some time in several
towns, the attacks on security forces have only risen, to an average of
more than 100 a day over recent months.

"The Americans think the fighters are coming from outside Iraq," said
Qadr. "But they are not. Can't they see the only real solution is to let
the people of a country rule themselves?"

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One if by land, two if by sea

By Joan Chittister, OSB

I got a photograph this week that does as much to explain what we're reading in the newspapers these days as any article I've ever read.

I have a friend who roams the world with a camera in her hand, but not to take pictures of ruins and tourist traps. Instead, she tries to capture the sounds and sights and smells and spiritual fabric of a place.

This year she went to Syria. One of the pictures she brought back, I'll remember all my life.

It's not a picture of the ruins of Palmyra. It is a picture of a perfectly ordered, highly colorful shop display window. The top half of the photo is four rows of bras, nine deep. Every color, every pattern, every shape.

The bottom half of the picture is five rows of mannequin heads displaying Muslim head scarves. Every color, every pattern, every shape.

The photo is a study in contemporary cultural tensions. By Muslim standards, it shows us total indecency and total decency at the same time. Total exposure and total concealment at the same time. Religion and secularism at the same time. Culture and social cleavage at the same time.

Don't be surprised. These are not the only people with the problem. In fact, we're struggling with a touch of it ourselves these days.

This morning's headlines, in fact, brought a little good news, a little bad news; a little touch of the past, a little touch of the future; a little touch of risk, a little touch of the reactionary.

First, The New York Times confirms the fact that Rome -- the Vatican -- is perhaps signaling that it has made peace with Darwinian evolution. I could almost hear the world breathe a sigh of relief. Finally, a refreshing story about the church at peace with the modern world. If Darwin counts as the modern world, that is.

Nevertheless, L'Osservatore Romano , the official newspaper of Vatican City -- and not one inclined to print anything not formally approved by the Vatican -- carries an article in its Jan. 16-17 edition in which Fiorenzo Facchini, a professor of evolutionary biology at the University of Bologna, declares "correct" the decision of a judge in Pennsylvania, to bar the teaching of "intelligent design" in high school science classes as an alternative to evolution.

The implications of the position, for both the church and science, is significant. After all, God is not "scientific" either. God cannot be seen, weighed, measured, tested or proven. That does not mean either that God does not exist or that science is wrong about the universe. It means only that some things can be subjected to precise scientific observation -- and some things, like faith or love or disappointment or God, for instance -- cannot.

Put it this way: Would there be this much debate and consternation about the admixture of the two if there were a move to insist that Christian Science be taught as an alternative to medicine in modern medical schools? See what I mean?

Faith is one thing; science is another. This article out of L'Osservatore Romano respects both their existence and their line of demarcation.

On the other hand, another headline, this time an Associated Press story carried by CNN, calls our attention to another situation, at least as disturbing and possibly more so than the question of whether or not "intelligent design" is really scientific theory or religious dogma.

This story tells us of an alumni group that is offering students up to $100 per class to supply tapes and notes exposing professors who allegedly express extreme left-wing political views at the University of California, Los Angeles. The article goes on to tell us, "The year-old Bruin Alumni Association says it is concerned about professors who use lecture time to press positions against President Bush, the military and multinational corporations, among other things."

"Extreme left wing," it seems, is anything or anyone who criticizes the present administration or political policies of the United States. "Extreme left wing," in other words, is democracy.

I have dim memories of this kind of tactic. Children in Nazi Germany, children in Communist China, were trained to report parents who talked at their supper tables about the deficiencies of the then-regime. Teachers were removed from classrooms, preachers were removed from pulpits, political figures were removed from office for such things. Some of them went all the way to a firing squad, we're told

In this country, as well, in the 1950s, as a result of Senator Joe McCarthy's rabid right-mindedness and political paranoia, people who thought differently than he did, most of them Hollywood stars who had become outspoken about U.S. foreign policy at the time, lost jobs, were blacklisted, found themselves ostracized everywhere.

I thought we fought a war to stop such things.

From where I stand, it looks as if we might be flirting with mind control, political suppression and witch hunts, both religious and secular, all over again. And this time, note well, the president of this alumni organization is a graduate of UCLA class of 2003. This could well signal, in other words, a flaming new generation of intellectual autocrats. One if by land, two if by sea. ... Think about it

Comments or questions about this column may be sent to: Sr. Joan Chittister, c/o NCR web coordinator. Put "Chittister" in the subject line. E-mails with attachments are automatically deleted.

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