Easter Lemming Liberal News

Saturday, May 31, 2003

Socially Acceptable Bigotry Only Against Republicans?


Supposedly a lot of conservatives are reading this to loud shouts, or perhaps grunts, of approval.

Willy Stern tries hard to convince readers that bigotry against Republicans is the only socially acceptable bigotry left.

Bull Shit.

Three points -

One - Republicanism is a voluntary condition of the privileged. He brings this up but dismisses it with invalid and poor comparisons.

Two - I feel like Senator Santorum feels about gays, if Republicans never commit Republican acts, they are God's lovable creatures. If they do commit Republican acts then they are damned to Hell and good people should recognize that.

One - I hear much more bigotry against Democrats here in Texas. This bigotry is also often linked with bigotry against minorities. The DeLay plan, and a national GOP plan, is to link Democrats with minorities. This is what the Texas redistricting map was all about. The common story here and through the South, and a lot of the North when I was there, is that no sensible white person votes Democratic.

With "Democrat" joining "liberal" as a cuss word word I guess we could have expected some kind of spin/slam that people are prejudiced against Republicans .



Who will get No - $0 - benefit from the new tax cuts? 8 million households


Five million taxpayers in the 10 percent bracket who have no children and no dividend or capital gains income. This group, which constitutes 89 percent of all single taxpayers in the lowest bracket, do not benefit from the expansion of the 10 percent bracket because they are already in it. They have no children, so they do not get the child credit, and they do not benefit from the law's relief for married couples. Members of this group, who make $9,300 to $13,800 a year, now pay up to $600 in income taxes.

Next, 2.5 million taxpayers in the head-of-household filing status — mostly single parents — who have a child over 16 and who are in the two lowest tax brackets. The study found that they will not receive a tax cut, even though they pay as much as $5,200 in income taxes, because the lowest bracket is not expanded for head-of-household filers under the new law. The child credit is not available, either, because of the age of the children.

Then, a half-million additional taxpayers at all income levels who will not benefit from the new law because they fall between the cracks. They include a childless married couple in the lowest tax bracket who itemize their deductions and cannot take advantage of the increased standard deduction for couples.

Finally, about 12,000 taxpayers making more than $200,000 will also receive no benefit because they have no dividend or capital gains income, and make too much money to take advantage of the increased exemptions from the alternative minimum tax in the law.

Atrios



Europe is Deeply Troubled By the NeoCons and the U.S.


"Some of the pages listed below are highly critical of US Administration policies and point what we perceive as defects in the way things are currently organised in your political system. We acknowledge that some users may find our comments offensive. Honesty is the best policy and we make our criticisms as a contribution to the debate which is necessary in a free society.

"As Europeans we owe a great debt to the United States of America and as friends of your country we think we should be frank with you when discussing matters on which we disagree."

A European Legal Website has a page linking to sites trying to figure out what is going on in the U.S. My site is one they link to.



Rumsfeld pushes for regime change in Iran


UK FT -- According to one official, Condoleezza Rice, national security adviser, has stepped in to freeze the fierce debate within the administration over Iran.

I'd like to see that cat fight.



Most bloggers 'are teenage girls' - survey


In addition to pointing out that lovely statistic the Register concludes:

Maybe blogs are a way of keeping the truly antisocial out of harm's way. So if you know a middle-aged sociopath, for heaven's sake, point him to a computer and show him how to start a weblog.

At least it will keep him off the streets.



Iraq repercussions trouble top Bush advisers


San Jose Mercury News -- Some of President Bush's top advisers, who had hoped the war in Iraq would be the turning point in the battle against terrorism and the centerpiece of the president's re-election campaign, fear it is instead becoming a political, diplomatic and military mess.

"The postwar period in Iraq is messy. We haven't found what we said we'd find there and there are unpleasant questions about assumptions we made and intelligence we had,'' said a senior national security official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "If many more months go by and our troops are still there, the Iraqis are still fighting each other and us, and we still haven't found any WMD'' -- weapons of mass destruction -- "there will be hell to pay.''



As long as I am looking at radicals - what does Agee have to say?


Most of what he says is now common knowledge, but not when Playboy interviewed him in the 70's.

What the CIA does is to work carefully, usually over several years' time, to undermine those
governments whose policies are unfavorable to U. S. interests. Through propaganda, political action and the fomenting of
trade-union unrest, often carried out through many different front organizations, the CIA cuts away popular support from the
undesired government or political leader. Major emphasis is placed on influencing reactionary military officers. Once this process
gets started, it will acquire its own momentum and eventually lead to the desired coup. The CIA can sometimes speed things up by
providing a catalyst: let's say preparing a forged document such as a list of military officers allegedly due for assassination,
then seeing that the list gets publicized.

After reading about the CIA cap Kerry carries with him read what a real CIA operative says.

The more I got to know about the corrupt government we were backing,
the less I liked my work. I began to see that the landowners,
ranchers, bankers and professionals--a small minority--were using
the government for their own selfish purposes. Why were we
supporting such people? Then came the invasion of the Dominican
Republic by U.S. Marines. That really got to me. It was done under
the pretext that the Dominican Republic might become another Cuba,
which was so absurd I had to wonder what the real reason was. For
the first time, I had to consider that the CIA might not really be
serving the cause of liberal reform. And then one day I got a
shock that's still painful to talk about.

PLAYBOY: What was it?

AGEE: I overheard a man being tortured by the police--a man I'd
fingered for them. You know, at that time, the police in
Latin-American countries didn't use torture as some of them do
now. For years I'd been having people arrested, but I don't think
I'd ever actually seen what happened to them afterward. Then, in
December 1965, during a state of siege, I told the Uruguayan
police to pick up a Communist named Oscar Bonaudi for preventive
detention, because he was quite active in street demonstrations.
About five days later, the new chief of station, John Horton, and
I were visiting police headquarters to show the police chief a
forged document we'd prepared, and I began to hear moans coming
from somewhere above the police chief's office. The chief was
embarrassed and told one of his assistants to turn up the radio. I
remember there was a soccer game on. Well, the moans got louder
and the assistant kept turning up the radio. Finally, the moans
turned to screams and the radio was blaring so loudly we couldn't
hear ourselves talk. I had this strange feeling--terror and
helplessness. Two days later, I found out that the man they had
been torturing was Bonaudi.



Are Left-Wing Media Funded By Institutions to Suppress Conspiracy Theories?


Answers -- Elite foundations do not throw their money around without looking for a return on their investment, and the rapidly broadening and expanding foundation funding of establishment Left media indicates that they have been getting the return they desire. The elites are paying to promote the type of opposition which they believe is most compatible with their interests; they are paying to promote the type of "dissidence" which will do them the least harm.

Those who have fully studied the issues and facts concerning 9/11 and the Bush administration's inexplicable coverup and lies understand rationally that this is not a topic of "conspiracy theory" but instead a true scandal of serious proportions. This can no longer be denied. It is a scandal which, if aggressively pursued by the media, should have helped hamstring and sideline the Bush administration months ago, which would have made it politically impossible for them to push ahead with their war plans in the first place. Thus, for those who have been striving to uncover the underlying truths behind 9/11 and the "War on Terror," the imminent possibility of this terrifying new war is a double tragedy. For this reason, we feel there is an urgent imperative to expose and scrutinize the institutional factors which have steered the establishment Left media toward their current gatekeeping / censorship agendas.

Main Page with Chart at the bottom

This would be radical left conspiracy thinking, I should ignore it. Of course, why is Kerry the likely Democratic nominee? Does being Shrub's frat brother have anything to do with it?



America's Most Wanted is caught at last

The anti-abortion, anti-gay, anti-semitic bomber holed in the North Carolina mountains is finally caught.

Rudolph's capture marks the conclusion of the story of domestic US terrorism that dominated the headlines long before Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda supplanted him and his kindred spirits in America's far right movement as public enemy Number One.

Rudolph is the only person to be charged in the 1996 bombing of the Atlanta Olympics in which two people died and dozens were wounded. The bombing, a severe embarrassment to the Games itself, came soon after the blast that levelled federal offices in Oklahoma City and triggered national fear of the rise of a well-organised neo-Nazi militia bent on overthrowing the government in Washington and answering to the fierce credo of armed self-sufficiency.

But police did not link Rudolph to that crime for two years - initially pointing the finger at the hapless security guard Richard Jewell - until the attacks were connected by forensic evidence to double bombings of an abortion clinic and a gay nightclub in Atlanta in 1997 and with an attack on an abortion clinic in Florida a year later that killed a security guard and severely wounded a nurse.

Rudolph's life as a fugitive at the head of the FBI's Most Wanted list began in July 1998 after his pick-up truck was spotted driving away from the Florida abortion clinic.

Sympathy for Rudolph in the area ran deep. The region, first settled by Scots-Irish immigrants, has never lost its anti-authoritarian character. At the tail end of the Smokey Mountains, it is still the home to moonshiners and inbred back woodsmen, and retains the character of a place out of time.

Local townspeople sold T-shirts saying 'Run Rudolph Run' and car-bumper stickers proclaiming 'World Hide and Seek Champion' while more committed sympathisers slipped pictures of dead foetuses on the cars of FBI and media joining the chase.



Bush - the Megatron of class warfare

This tax cut looks less like class warfare than class massacre.

Being as we're repeating Reagan's policies it might be worthwhile to remember what followed his 1981 tax cuts: because of the budgetary crisis that ensued and the deepening of the recession the following year there were numerous tax hikes: a tax hike in 1982 that cancelled a third of the 1981 tax cut - the largest tax hike since WWII, a gasoline tax in 1983, a massive payroll tax increase in 1983 affecting primarily the working poor and middle class, a tax hike on business in 1984, and the tax reform in 1986 that closed sieves in the corporate tax code opened in 1981, effectively raising corporate taxes while lowering income taxes for middle and high wage earners in the balance.


Talking Points Memos


One - On NeoCons Blaming State Dept. -- If there was anyone who pushed them into making WMD the central issue, it was the American people. That doesn't necessarily mean they made the argument in bad faith or that the war might not still be justified on other lines. But to suggest that State forced the hawks to hype the WMD threat is just the same sort of up-is-down, too-clever-by-four-and-a-half funny-business that made a lot of us distrust these guys in the first place.

Two - Texas DPS Coverup -- Yesterday a judge ordered everybody to show up to get deposed next Monday, the four members of the DPS and Burnam and his legislative director.

On Thursday afternoon, I spoke to Burnam. He told me that he has "multiple sources" at the DPS who told him about the alleged document destruction. He also says he will identify his sources at the deposition on Monday, though he is currently trying to arrange some sort of whistleblower protection for them. When I asked Burnam why he thought the AG's office placed such importance on finding out the identity of his sources, he said he thought "they are trying to find out what I know and who I know it from and how they can get to them."

Three -- More On Texas DPS and Runaway Dems

Bailey disputed comments made yesterday by Gov. Perry¹s office that their involvement in the DPS search was negligible.

"My source in the DPS paints a very different picture," Bailey said. "I was told the DPS felt like they were puppets. That was their exact words. They felt they were being manipulated throughout."

Add to this the following fact: Rep. Lon Burnam (D-Dallas Fort Worth) is the Texas rep who sued the Department of Public Safety to prevent them from destroying any more records connected to the Dem manhunt. He is now being forced to reveal his sources at DPS. Burnam says the Texas AG "is apparently trying to find out who a whistle-blower is rather than stopping the illegal shredding of documents."



$500 Billions To Be Added To Debt This Year

A new round of tax cuts, coupled with a continuing U.S. occupation of Iraq, will push the federal budget deficit to nearly $500 billion next year and could help drive up the federal debt by $3.6 trillion through 2011, according to new forecasts by House Budget Committee Democrats.

The numbers, while compiled by partisan staff members, are in line with private sector estimates from Wall Street. They also reflect deteriorating fiscal conditions noted early this month by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, well before the tax cut was signed into law.

"Those are all sensible numbers," said Douglas Holtz-Eakin, CBO's director and a former Bush administration economist.

I had said back last year Bush could break $500 billion. he has no sense of fiscal responsiblity. Still compared to $44 trillion in unfunded liabilities he is building up...



I see that DailyKos has been all over this as well

In fact, he has a lot of my digests, I have not checked him lately but some things I check probably use him. He does point out that Bush Lies have cost us over $200 billion dollars and over 200 dead US and UK soldiers in Iraq and a lot of our soldier should go home, they are tired and angry, not what you want in peacekeepers.



Attack That Balloon Maker! "BioWeapon" Trucks were used to pump up balloons


Slate -- The CIA report reveals considerable ambiguity about the nature of these vehicles. For example, it notes that Iraqi officials—presumably those currently being interrogated—say the trailers were used to produce hydrogen for artillery weather-balloons. (Many Army units float balloons to monitor the accuracy of artillery fire.) In response to this claim, the report states:

Some of the features of the trailer—a gas-collection system and the presence of caustic—are consistent with both bioproduction and hydrogen production. The plant's design possibly could be used to produce hydrogen using a chemical reaction, but it would be inefficient. The capacity of this trailer is larger than the typical units for hydrogen production for weather balloons.

One could ask: Since when was Saddam's Iraq considered a model of efficiency?

The report concedes that U.S. officials found no traces of any bioweapons agent inside the trailers. "We suspect," it states, "that the Iraqis thoroughly decontaminated the vehicle to remove evidence." That's possible.

The report also notes that, in order to produce biological weapons, each trailer would have to be accompanied by a second and possibly a third trailer, specially designed to grow, process, sterilize, and dry the bacteria. Such trailers would "have equipment such as mixing tanks, centrifuges, and spray dryers"—none of which were spotted in the trailers that were found. The problem, the CIA acknowledges, is that "we have not yet found" these post-production trailers. Question: Is it that they haven't been found—or that they don't exist?

Does it matter?

"I have absolutely no doubt at all about the existence of weapons of mass destruction," Blair told reporters on Thursday. Asked if it matters whether they exist, Blair replied, "It matters immensely because the basis on which the war was sold to the British House of Commons, to the British people, was that Saddam represented a serious threat."

It was, of course, sold on that basis to the Congress and to the American people, too.



Tenet Tries to Defend Iraq Intelligence


WashPost -- The statement by Tenet was a rarity for a director of Central Intelligence, who normally does not react publicly to criticism about intelligence matters except during testimony before Congress. It underscored the ferment building within intelligence agencies because U.S. forces in Iraq so far have not uncovered any proscribed weapons.

Three complaints have been filed with the CIA ombudsman about the administration's possible politicization of intelligence on Iraq, an intelligence official said.

Tenet's statement came in response to the release on Thursday of a "memorandum" to President Bush posted on several Internet sites by a group of retired CIA and State Department intelligence analysts. The analysts said there is "growing mistrust and cynicism" among intelligence professionals over "intelligence cited by you and your chief advisers to justify the war against Iraq."

The group, which calls itself Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, said the failure to find weapons of mass destruction after six weeks of searching "suggests either that such weapons are simply not there or that those eventually found there will not be in sufficient quantity or capability to support your repeated claim that Iraq posed a grave threat to our country's security."

The group called on the president to allow United Nations inspectors to return to Iraq, saying, "If the U.S. doesn't make undisputed discoveries of forbidden weapons, the failure will feed already widespread skepticism abroad about the motives for going to war."

It added that intelligence in the past had been "warped for political purposes but never before has such warping been used in such a systematic way to mislead our elected representatives into voting to authorize launching a war."



Latest Bushism: 'We Found' Banned Weapons


WashPost -- KRAKOW, Poland, May 30 -- President Bush, citing two trailers that U.S. intelligence agencies have said were probably used as mobile biological weapons labs, said U.S. forces in Iraq have "found the weapons of mass destruction" that were the United States' primary justification for going to war.

What is this, a Polish joke? Two trucks with no biological agents and no evidence that they were ever used to make biological weapons are now the proof that Iraq was a threat to the United States?

The agency reported that no pathogens were found in the two trailers and added that civilian use of the heavy transports, such as water purification or pharmaceutical production, was "unlikely" because of the effort and expense required to make the equipment mobile.



Is There Anything Left That Matters?

From Common Dreams -- This is what I don't understand: All of a sudden nothing seems to matter.

First, they said they wanted Bin Laden "dead or alive." But they didn't get him. So now they tell us that it doesn't matter. Our mission is greater than one man.

Then they said they wanted Saddam Hussein, "dead or alive." He's apparently alive but we haven't got him yet, either. However, President Bush told reporters recently, "It doesn't matter. Our mission is greater than one man."

Finally, they told us that we were invading Iraq to destroy their weapons of mass destruction. Now they say those weapons probably don't exist. Maybe never existed. Apparently that doesn't matter either.

Except that it does matter.

I know we're not supposed to say that. I know it's called "unpatriotic."

But it's also called honesty. And dishonesty matters.

Originally in National Catholic Reporter



Powell On First Draft - "I'm not reading this. This is bullshit."


Yahoo News AFP -- US Secretary of State Colin Powell was under persistent pressure from the Pentagon and White House to include questionable intelligence in his report on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction he delivered at the United Nations last February, a US weekly reported.

US News and World Report magazine said the first draft of the speech was prepared for Powell by Vice President Richard Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, in late January.

According to the report, the draft contained such questionable material that Powell lost his temper, throwing several pages in the air and declaring, "I'm not reading this. This is bullshit."

Cheney's aides wanted Powell to include in his presentation information that Iraq has purchased computer software that would allow it to plan an attack on the United States, an allegation that was not supported by the CIA, US News reported.

The White House also pressed Powell to include charges that the suspected leader of the September 11 hijackers, Mohammed Atta, had met in Prague with an Iraqi intelligence officer prior to the attacks, despite a refusal by US and European intelligence agencies to confirm the meeting, the magazine said.



Colombia's Long Civil War Spreads Turmoil to Venezuela


JUAN FORERO NY Times -- Increasingly, the guerrillas have set up camps and the drug traffickers used by both sides to support their forces have opened transport corridors through isolated jungles in other countries as a Washington-backed drug eradication (i.e. employment for spooks, mercenaries and drug agents and money for government contractors) program in Colombia has intensified. The refugee problem is also spilling over, with more than 300,000 Colombians having crossed into Ecuador, Panama and Venezuela in the last four years, according to United Nations estimates that have not been publicly released.

The problems are most pronounced here in Venezuela, where a 1,400-mile border has become a flash point between the left-leaning government of President Hugo Chávez and its ideological opposite in Colombia under President Álvaro Uribe.

Part of continued pressure for U.S. intervention in Columbia and Venezuela.



Get your liberal nudity here


I haven't done this in a while. Here is your link to a Dirty Old Man Association International weekly newsletter with a collection of beautiful women without clothes, absolutely naked, links to some classic photo books containing naked pictures and a liberal discussion of child porn all without pop-ups or any advertising. Naked pictures, liberal ideas, essays about child porn, literature and art, you'd think I was turning into Playboy or Penthouse without the advertising or disgusting pornography.

This is all for you, if you want you can thank me by sending me just your dirty money, all of it, and I'll clean it and see it gets a good home.

Erotica, pornography with redeeming social value. If you believe in pornography



This is no manufactured hero... and other matters


I see reachm.blog-city.com has a lot of apt and interesting comments about Salam Pax. I have given up reading the conservative blogs, I have to watch my blood pressure, but you could have read lots of incredibly stupid speculations about him for months from the punk neo-cons. Nice to see some thoughtful blogging from a liberal on Salam.

He also recently sent me an email, also a number of other people, to update our blogrolls or blog lists to include more liberal and/or women bloggers. Good idea but I am very slow about updating my template and adding links because of the way blogger works. I found it is a several step process if you don't want to screw things up. I have several text documents I have to use instead of just making additions or corrections to what is out there. There are a number of new links and new things I want on this page and they are coming, just not immediately.

Separately, QuasiPundit in San Antonio wrote me to say he wasn't a conservative. I should have realized that by the majority of his links but I found it hard to otherwise classify someone who objected to the long tradition of quorum busting used by both parties and independents in Texas.

The GOP used unconstitutional excessive gerrymandering in an off-year in Colorado and also tried it in Texas and all he complained about was our Democrats quorum busting here in Texas and an apparent attempt by Democrats to also gerrymander New Mexico. Almost the first I ever heard about New Mexico, which looks like it was a minor idea quickly dropped. Still he says he is independent but liberal leaning and it looks to be true.

I have taken to notifying bloggers I link to with a quick "You've been digested" message. Might eventually get me more links which I have never really strived for.

And finally, I saw Thomas Friedman on Charlie Rose last night. He is back to being bright but incredibly naive, eccentric and egotistical. He is all theory, usually a new one every time you turn around, but no hat.


I suppose I should quit bitching about Democrats and go back to considering ways of saving the world from the neo-con vampires. Bring back Buffy and Willow!


Friday, May 30, 2003

Conservative Journalists' Dirty Little Secret



TOMPAINE.com

Reposted - a conservative at The Weekly Standard came clean -

The interviewer asked, "Why have conservative media outlets like The Weekly Standard and Fox News Channel become more popular in the past few years?"

You might expect the answer to come back something about the popularity of President Bush or the rise of nationalism after 9/11. But Labash was honest enough not to spin.

Conservative news organizations are popular, he admitted, "because they feed the rage. We bring the pain to the liberal media. I say that mockingly, but it's true somewhat.... While these hand-wringing Freedom Forum types talk about objectivity, the conservative media likes to rap the liberal media on the knuckles for not being objective. We've created this cottage industry in which it pays to be un-objective.... It's a great way to have your cake and eat it too. Criticize other people for not being objective. Be as subjective as you want. It's a great little racket."

Disregard, for a moment, the post-modern ironic tone of those remarks; it masks their underlying seriousness. Instead, let's examine more closely what that quote really says about the motivations of the conservative press.

Let's feed the rage...

There are lots of pissed-off people out there, Labash admits, enough to support a weekly magazine or a cable news channel. Usually they're white men anxious about their socio-economic status in a country with rapidly changing demographics. Conservative journalists cater to these disgruntled types by stirring the pot. I suspect that liberals would rather calm angry passions than incite them, that they seek harmony rather than promote division, and as earnest as that may sound, I still think it's better.

While these hand-wringing Freedom Forum types talk about objectivity...
In Labash's construction, the media is triangulated between conservatives, liberals and handwringers who schlep along the sidelines and babble about ethics. The idea that there are any objective journalists, or even just journalists who try to be objective, is apparently a complete fiction. So much for fair and balanced.

It pays to be un-objective.... It's a great little racket.

Well, yes -- but give Labash points for admitting it. I've long thought that one reason conservatives have come to dominate the political media is because it pays better to be right-wing. Just look at David Brock, who made far more working for the American Spectator than he ever would have at The Nation. And back when The Weekly Standard started, new hires such as editors Fred Barnes and Bill Kristol were paid several hundred thousand dollars. That's about the sum total of the salaries of the entire New Republic. Which raises the question: Who wants to be the liberal Rupert Murchoch? Someone? Please?



Do the Democrats Have a Prayer?

Washington Monthly - For the Democrats to win in 04 they will need to appeal to the moderate religious voter.

Despite the claims of the highly vocal religious right, this sort of religious moral vision isn't the exclusive province of the GOP. In fact, the most religious presidents of the past 30 years were Democrats: Carter and Clinton. Both were able to avoid the fates of religiously bland Democratic nominees--including George McGovern and Walter Mondale, each the son of a minister. And both defeated Republican opponents who had either loose religious ties or, at the very least, an aversion to discussing religion publicly. Although the two Southern governors shared other characteristics that worked to their political advantage, their facility with religious language certainly contributed to their success. In his anthology of great speeches, Lend Me Your Ears, William Safire, for instance, selected as Clinton's oratorical triumph an address to a Memphis church that was essentially an extemporaneous sermon. The Southern Baptist cadences, almost more than the words themselves, gave the speech its power--"We will honor the life and the work of Martin Luther King. We will honor the meaning of our church. We will, somehow, by God's grace, we will turn this around." And while Carter's presidency is today remembered as a failure, in 1976, his candidacy--that of a devout born-again Christian with strong ties to the civil rights establishment, taking on a Republican party tarnished by Watergate--was heady and exciting. Many Democrats remember Carter's famous promise to the American people--"I'll never lie to you"--as hokey or embarrassing, but it did help to evict Gerald Ford from the White House.

Democrats are a coalition party when it comes to religion, much as they are when it comes to race, ethnicity, and class. Gore voters in 2000 were an amalgam of FDR Catholics, marginalized mainline Protestants, secularists, religious African Americans, Jews, some Muslims, and all other minority religious groups except Mormons. "Democrats worry about talking about religion in a way that endorses a particular faith or offends anyone," says one senior Democratic congressional aide. "So they've just decided not to talk about religion around other people, and that's hurting them." Nearly every Democrat I spoke to expressed concern that if Democrats focus on religion, they will alienate some portion of their base. But, in fact, 80 percent of Gore's support in 2000 came from religiously committed voters. While Democratic voters may distrust the religious right, they don't dislike religion itself.

What if Democrats stopped playing defense on religion--or, more accurately, started playing at all? They could gain political traction with religious moderates by pointing out the true nature of Bush's strategy on religion: Talk from the center, but govern from the right. For instance, while religious moderates cheered Bush's initiative to give social-service grants to faith-based organizations, many were turned off when one of the first large grants went to an organization run by Pat Robertson, who is considered a charlatan even by most evangelicals. If Democrats were less ignorant of America's religious landscape, they would know they could criticize Bush's attachment to Robertson without offending the swing faithful by appearing anti-religious.

Moreover, an authentically religious Democrat would have the moral standing to criticize the "bait and switch" aspect of other Bush policy pledges, on issues from AIDS prevention to hydrogen-powered cars. In his 2003 State of the Union address, Bush appeared to be reaching out to swing voters with compassionate-sounding new initiatives. But in reality, almost none of the "new money" in Bush's pledge to combat AIDS in Africa was slated for appropriation before 2006-2008--by which time many of the 21 million Africans expected to contract AIDS by 2010 will already be infected. Likewise, his announcement of a $1.2 billion program to develop a hydrogen-powered car turns out to be a boondoggle, plying automakers with public money without any requirement that they actually produce a working result. Criticisms of Bush's doubletalk will resonate because they're part of a larger pattern. At the same time that Bush talks about extending the ability of faith-based organizations to provide social services, his budget slashes funds for those same services.

If Gore had reached out to religious communities in 2000 and succeeded in peeling off even a small percentage of the evangelical votes that Clinton won in 1992 and 1996, he could have overcome the margin by which he lost states like West Virginia, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Florida. Disaffected evangelical and Catholic moderates could find a natural home in the Democratic Party, which shares their values of social justice, concern for the earth, and economic equality. They're not looking for a tent revival at the Democratic Convention. They're just looking for a little respect.



TNR and The Press Corps Lying Again About Blumenthal in the Howler

The Daily Howler - Readers sometimes write TDH, asking what they can do about current situations. Today, we offer this advice—purchase and study the current New Republic. People of the center and left—and the non-talk show right—need to be armed with this knowledge.

“HE’S STILL LYING,” its new cover says. “Bush’s Most Dishonest Tax Cut.” A Culture of Lying surrounds George Bush. In its current issue, TNR makes the case, loud and clear.

TNR’s language is frank, and it’s ugly:

In his weekly “TRB: From Washington” column, Peter Beinart hammers Bush for his “functional lies,” and he belts the Admin for “dishonesty and abuse.”

In his detailed, invaluable cover piece (“Race to the Bottom”), Jonathan Chait scalds the Bush Admin for its “fiscal madness.” TNR sub-headline: “The Bush tax cut is madness. And it has been sold with lies.”

Even in its lead NOTEBOOK item (“FOOL ME TWICE”), TNR batters hapless Nebraska “Democrat” Ben Nelson for his latest cave-in on the Bush cuts.

Over the past decade, the talk show-right has sold so many lies that it’s simply impossible to fight them all off. But the chronology of Blumenthal’s grand jury visits has been perfectly clear since 1999. No, that jury forewoman didn’t scold Sidney for what he said on the courthouse steps. But Bartley and Carlson just keep on lying, and “good guy” pundits keep looking away. Contempt for the facts simply rules our press culture. If not, then ask yourself how this ugly story continues to be peddled so widely. And ask yourself why you have to come here to be told that the lying must stop.

Sorry. Sidney was asked about his press contacts. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 2/5/99.

Christopher Hitchens repeated Starr’s bogus facts in The Nation. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 2/22/99.

The story began with outright lies—from Ken Starr’s staff. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 2/23/99.

Four years ago, we asked the press to explain where it got this fake story. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 2/24/99.



Teacher, Rumsfeld won't stop passing notes!

Boston Globe - President Bush, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, and other top officials are spending hours coping with frequent, unsolicited attempts by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to make foreign policy, according to senior administration officials who are directly involved.

From his first days in office, Rumsfeld has inundated Washington with a blizzard of memos regarding foreign policy, not usually the responsibility of a defense secretary.

''There are literally thousands of them,'' said one frequent recipient of Rumsfeld's foreign policy ideas and advice. ''The theme is control. He wants everyone to have to play on his field.''

In an April 29 memo addressed to Bush, Cheney, and Powell, Rumsfeld suggested that the administration launch information operations to destabilize the communist regime of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il. It was an idea that skeptics elsewhere in the administration dismissed as unlikely to make a dent in so rigid and secret a government.

April was a banner month for ''Snowflakes'' and ''Rummygrams,'' as the defense secretary's classified and unclassified memos are called.

Rumsfeld's frequent foreign-policy forays, with Vice President Dick Cheney supporting some of them behind the scenes, are driving Powell and his aides to distraction, the officials said. The secretary of state and former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the senior officials said, has kept his nose out of Defense Department business.

The officials said Bush himself had to quash a Rumsfeld proposal last month to send Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz to South Korea to announce that the United States was pulling American troops off the demilitarized zone that separates North and South Korea.

The announcement, involving no prior consultation with allies, would have come on the eve of the first official visit to Washington by new President Roh Moo Hyun of South Korea.

The officials, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity, said such a move would have embarrassed Roh and sent the wrong signals to North and South Korea about the steadfastness of the US commitment to defend South Korea

Finally remembered, after 10 minutes, the link was from Atrios.



Secret Transcripts Reveal - Powell and Straw had doubts about WMDs


UK Guardian Blockbuster -- Jack Straw and his US counterpart, Colin Powell, privately expressed serious doubts about the quality of intelligence on Iraq's banned weapons programme at the very time they were publicly trumpeting it to get UN support for a war on Iraq, the Guardian has learned.

Their deep concerns about the intelligence - and about claims being made by their political bosses, Tony Blair and George Bush - emerged at a private meeting between the two men shortly before a crucial UN security council session on February 5.

The meeting took place at the Waldorf hotel in New York, where they discussed the growing diplomatic crisis. The exchange about the validity of their respective governments' intelligence reports on Iraq lasted less than 10 minutes, according to a diplomatic source who has read a transcript of the conversation.

The foreign secretary reportedly expressed concern that claims being made by Mr Blair and President Bush could not be proved. The problem, explained Mr Straw, was the lack of corroborative evidence to back up the claims.

Much of the intelligence were assumptions and assessments not supported by hard facts or other sources.

Mr Powell shared the concern about intelligence assessments, especially those being presented by the Pentagon's office of special plans set up by the US deputy defence secretary, Paul Wolfowitz.

Mr Powell said he had all but "moved in" with US intelligence to prepare his briefings for the UN security council, according to the transcripts.

But he told Mr Straw he had come away from the meetings "apprehensive" about what he called, at best, circumstantial evidence highly tilted in favour of assessments drawn from them, rather than any actual raw intelligence.

Mr Powell told the foreign secretary he hoped the facts, when they came out, would not "explode in their faces".

The Waldorf transcripts are all the more damaging given Mr Powell's dramatic 75-minute speech to the UN security council on February 5, when he presented declassified satellite images, and communications intercepts of what were purported to be conversations between Iraqi commanders, and held up a vial that, he said, could contain anthrax.

Let's see it explode.

Previously I had linked that Powell lied or mislead about 40 times in the UN speech. I think this was a link.




Bad blood among leaders: Nice summit talk won't cover it at Evian summit

Jonathan Eyal - The Straits Times -- Mr Bush's itinerary in Europe makes it clear that Washington may be in a mood to forget, but it is not ready to forgive what has happened over the last few months.

True, the US leader is visiting Russia, supposedly in order to mark the 300th anniversary of the city of St Petersburg, the jewel of a town which also happens to be Russian President Vladimir Putin's original political base.

And, yes, he has to be in France, if only because the French are hosting this year's Group of Eight (G-8) summit.

But he could not resist a visit to Poland, the biggest country in the former communist East, the one-half of Europe which regards the Americans as liberators from Soviet domination, and which overwhelmingly supported Washington's policy on Iraq.

So, the message of the visit is clear from the start: Russia and France represent diplomatic duties which the American leader has to fulfil; Poland and the rest of eastern Europe are a question of pleasure, the representatives of half of the European continent now being viewed in Washington as America's true allies.



The Faint Voice of the Left


Thane Peterson - BusinessWeek Online -- Here's a quiz for you: Name the best-known and most influential conservative commentators in America? Rush Limbaugh? George F. Will? Bill O'Reilly? Now, quick, who are their liberal counterparts?

If you can't think of any, you're not alone. Conservatives love to rant that liberals dominate the news media. Trouble is, it's just not true. In fact, I'd argue that the biggest problem with America's public discourse today is that the left is barely represented at all on mainstream TV and radio talk shows and in major newspapers and magazines.

To my mind, that's the main reason debate in the U.S. and Europe is diverging so radically on issues ranging from the war in Iraq to genetically engineered food and capital punishment. In, say, London a much more lively debate is going on between the left [given voice in mainstream outlets such as the BBC and Guardian] and the right.

The U.S. situation is likely to get a lot worse if Michael Powell, Federal Communications Commission chairman, has his way. He wants to loosen or remove many of the last remaining restrictions on how much of the market Big Media conglomerates can control. Among other things, Powell would allow more cross-ownership of local TV stations and newspapers by the same companies. He also would let a single company own TV stations covering 45% of the national viewing audience, up from 35% now.

Link from Off the Kuff who got it from Rhetoric and Rhythm's May 20th essay which has more to say.

Fox News has become the leading cable news channel by offering a steady stream of Republican propaganda and right-wing commentary without even the pretense of trying to be fair or balanced. CNN has abandoned most commentary shows in an effort to avoid being labled “liberal.” Even, the old workhorse “Crossfire” has been cut back and stuck in a poorly watched time slot so as to attract as little notice as possible. I haven’t watched the show in a while, but I believe it is currently one of the only shows where you can hear an unapologetic liberal voice -- James Carville or Paul Begala -- balanced of course by two or three conservative voices. And over at MSNBC, the lone liberal commentator Phil Donohue saw his show canned in favor of a slew of new shows for right-wing talkers including Dan Savage and Joe Scarborough.

The best chance for hearing a liberal perspective on TV these days resides with PBS (which Newt Gingrich and the Republican’s in Congress failed to shut down a few years ago) especially with Bill Moyers’ NOW program. But like CNN, PBS and its radio counterpart NPR have felt pressure to “balance” every liberal voice with a conservative one - something that the other networks and radio shows fail to do in reverse.

For people looking for a left perspective today one is practically forced to turn to the Internet where you can track a few liberal columnists at major newspapers like Paul Krugman and Frank Rich at the New York Times, E.J. Dionne at the Washington Post, Robert Scheer at the Los Angeles Times and Molly Ivins at the Fort Worth Star Telegram. Another powerful voice from the left is Michael Kinsley, the former editor of the online Slate Magazine, whose columns appear regularly in Slate and the WashPo.

Next, one must turn to the blogosphere to find leading voices from the left. Joshua Marshall has become very influential with his Talking Points blog as has Eric Alertman’s Altercation hosted by MSNBC.com. Then there is the anonymous Atrios who runs the Eschaton blog. Also, look for Joe Conason’s regular journal entries at the online Salon magazine.

It is a pretty thin list today, especially when compared to the number of folks lining up to pontificate the right-wing perspective over the corporate-controlled airwaves.

One problem for the left today is the continuing scourge that is Ralph Nader and the Green Party which drove a split through the Democratic Party and handed the presidency to George W. Bush during the 2000 election. A number of left leaders became caught up in the Nader charade including Michael Moore, Jim Hightower and to some extent even Molly Ivins. Today, some though not all of these people have returned to their senses. But it still remains to be seen whether the left can rally around a Democratic candidate be it Howard Dean, John Kerry or someone else.

Posted almost entirely as his archives are bloggered.



Salon -- Allies angry over missing WMDs

Since the Iraq war began and no evidence was immediately found to back up Vice President Dick Cheney's Aug. 26 pronouncement that "simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction," the administration has been back-pedaling. In his April interview with NBC's Tom Brokaw, for instance, President Bush lowered the bar, indicating that the U.S. was looking for evidence not of the weapons themselves but that despot Saddam Hussein "had a weapons of mass destruction program." The same day as the Brokaw interview, at an Abrams Army Tank plant in Lima, Ohio, Bush noted that "whether he destroyed them, moved them or hid them, we're going to find out the truth."

This has sufficed for those like Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., of the alleged opposition party, who told NBC on May 11 that he doesn't think the failure to find WMD would be damaging to U.S. credibility. "I think we've got to recognize that there were more than one goal here," Daschle said, as if reading from White House talking points. "One of the other goals was to remove a threat to this country, to remove a threat to the region, to remove a person who not only repressed and tortured his own people but clearly posed some serious problems throughout the world."

Something is not right with Daschle.



Houston's Protest Central

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saturday 2-6 pm



Child Tax Credit Puts Bush Team on Defensive


LA Times -- One day after President Bush signed one of the largest tax cuts in history, the White House and congressional Republicans were forced Thursday to defend the new law from charges that it will deny low-income taxpayers the refund checks that middle-class taxpayers will soon receive under the child tax credit.

At issue was a Senate-passed proposal that would have cost $3.5 billion, or 1% of the $350-billion final total of the tax cut and spending package.

Had the proposal been in the final legislation, some tax analysts calculate, nearly 12 million children in families with lower incomes — from $10,500 to $26,625 — would have received some benefit. Without it, experts say the expanded tax credit, which rises this year to $1,000 a child from $600, will mainly help families with incomes above $30,000 a year.

For instance, the liberal-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates, a married couple with two children and an income below $22,100 will not be eligible for one of millions of refund checks of up to $400 a child that the Treasury Department expects to mail starting in late July.



Poll: Most Want Health Coverage, Not Tax Cut


Yahoo News Reuters -- Nearly two-thirds of Americans would have preferred the Bush administration had extended health care to 41 million uninsured people than cut taxes, according to a poll published on Thursday.

Stony Brook University said a nationwide poll taken in May while President Bush and Congress worked out a $350 billion tax cut bill concluded that more than one-third were willing to pay higher taxes to raise money for a universal health care plan.



Hillary Clinton Taking Fire From New York Liberals


NYTimes -- Core Democratic constituencies that helped Mrs. Clinton win her Senate seat in New York two and a half years ago are expressing deep disappointment in her, saying she has been unwilling to challenge President Bush and Republican leaders in Congress on issues of importance to them.

Those who have expressed disappointment in Mrs. Clinton include gay rights advocates, antiwar organizers and even advocates for children and the poor, a group with which she has been closely associated for decades.

Political analysts and critics on the left say Mrs. Clinton appears to be modeling herself on her husband, Bill Clinton, who was also criticized for abandoning the Democratic Party's liberal base to win larger political appeal. In Mrs. Clinton's case, they say, she appears to be taking for granted her liberal allies, a strong source of support, in favor of cultivating a broader audience.

Hillary in 2008 or 2012.



Robin Hood sent back to court

An advocate for property-wealthy school districts said Thursday the Texas Supreme Court’s decision to push the Robin Hood school funding case back to trial court sends a signal that elected leaders should find a solution to school finance or the courts will do it for them.

“The legislature will probably act on school finance before the lawsuit will be retried, but it still sends a great message that if you don’t fix it this time, be aware that the Supreme Court has already ruled this way and would probably be likely to rule this way again,” said Brad Shields of the Texas Smokestack School Coalition.


Even Conservatives think Laws Were Broken In Craddick's Office

Tony Adragna - Quasipundit -- Mr. Kimbrough ought know — I assert that he does know — that using the Dept of Homeland Security in the way that happened here is not just improper, but probably criminal. If he knew that DPS was going to bring in the Feds, he should've advised against it.

But, Kimbrough says — or, a spokesman from the AG's office says — that rather than counselling his client to not break the law, he would've just handed over the number and walked away [there's a legal term for that — it's called "willful blindness"]

Something is definitely very wrong here — probably even criminally wrong .



Kevin Drum, CalPundit, is back and brings this great essay among other things


TAXES....Taxes, taxes, taxes, how much is enough?

It's remarkable, really, that even with the growth of Social Security and Medicare over the past half century tax rates have stayed pretty stable. But it can't last forever, and the best estimates of the Social Security trustees are that taxes have to increase by about 3% of GDP over the next three decades in order to fund Social Security at its present level. Medicare has similar problems, and the best estimate is that its cost will also grow by about 3% of GDP during the same period. That's a total of 6%.

So here's the deal: if tax rates have averaged 18% of GDP, and we need to raise that by 6 points over the next few decades, that's an increase of about one-third. In other words, a lot.

But — if we're running budget deficits of 3-4% of GDP into the far future, then in order to fund Social Security and Medicare and balance the budget, tax rates may need to rise by 9 or 10 points. That's an increase of over 50%.

This is why deficits and current tax cuts matter. If we want to keep Social Security and Medicare around in their current form — and I think a large majority of people do — then taxes will have to rise by about 1% a year over the next 30 years. If Republicans keep cutting taxes and we end up having to fix a chronic deficit as well, then taxes have to go up nearly 2% a year instead. That's a big difference.

Social Security and Medicare are expensive programs, and we should have a national debate about their future. The current round of tax cuts is part of that debate, but their impact is being obscured by tax cut zealots who are deliberately trying to create a crisis atmosphere in which it's "obvious" that we can't continue to fund these programs.

But we can. Repeal the Bush tax cuts and agree to a tax increase of 1% a year for the next 30 years and we can do it. If you don't think that's worth it, fine. Make your argument. But in any case, let's argue honestly and may the best argument win.

More with a great chart here.



The Pfc. Lynch Propaganda Wars


Robert Scheer -- Last week, this column reported the findings of a British Broadcasting Corp. special report that accused the U.S. military and media of inaccurately and manipulatively hyping the story of U.S. Pvt. Jessica Lynch and her rescue from an Iraq hospital. The column was also informed by similar and independently reported articles and statements in the Toronto Star, the Washington Post and other reputable publications.

Expected — and received — was a hysterical belch of outrage from the right-wing media, led by Rupert Murdoch's Fox empire, which has already committed a huge book advance to the telling of this mythic tale. A fiery and disingenuous response from the Pentagon, however, was quite a bit more sobering.

He goes on to note the Pentagon response refutes no facts but instead questions the patriotism of everyone bringing up the story.

Perhaps [General] Clarke is frustrated that in the days since the BBC report, several major publications such as the Chicago Tribune and the London Daily Mail have independently verified much of the BBC's disturbing account of what the broadcasting corporation called "one of the most stunning pieces of news management ever conceived."

What is particularly sad in all of this is that a wonderfully hopeful story was available to the Pentagon to sell to the eager media: one in which besieged Iraqi doctors and nurses bravely cared for — and supplied their own blood to — a similarly brave young American woman in a time of madness and violence. Instead, eager to turn the war into a morality play between good and evil, the military used — if not abused — Lynch to put a heroic spin on an otherwise sorry tale of unjustified invasion.


AN ARMY OF DRAGONS


Dave Pollard - how to save the world blog -- Millions killed in genocide in Sudan, resurging famine in Ethiopia and Somalia, political instability, corruption and economic collapse in South America, tens of millions displaced and homeless due to wars in Asia and Africa, guerrilla movements and brutal, corrupt dictatorships in Central Asia, environmental holocaust accelerating everywhere, dozens of countries governed by madmen and criminals. But no mention of any of this in most of the American press or government speeches.

Afghanistan - Wasn't this the country that Tony Blair and George Bush pledged, in the same breath that announced war, that the people of Afghanistan would not be forgotten? Well, I can say after two visits to Afghanistan that they are not only forgotten but well and truly betrayed. The country is on its knees: roads, bridges, tunnels, schools, homes, hospitals, and farmlands are reduced to rubble and dust. It is one of the most heavily land-mined countries in the world. Only 5% of the rural population have access to clean water, 17% have access to medical services, 13% have access to education, 25% of all children are dead by the age of five. Life expectancy is 43. An estimated three million people are still in refugee camps in Iran and Pakistan, let alone the hundreds of thousands of internally displaced peoples. This country is in a mess and if anyone tells me that millions of dollars worth of aid is getting into this country then I will gladly take them to Afghanistan and point out the brutal truth. The people are dying! And we are turning a blind eye.

Congo - It is estimated that more than three million people have died in Congo's four-year war as a dizzying array of rival rebel armies and their patrons from nine neighboring countries have fought over Congo's enormous spoils. Gold, diamonds and coltan ? a mineral used in cellphones ? are among the precious loot in this northeastern province called Ituri, and peace deals so far have done nothing to stanch the bloodletting. The latest massacre took place over several days this month, as militias belonging to rival Hema and Lendu tribes battled for control here in Ituri's largest town. Today, the death toll stands at 350. Most have been buried in unmarked graves since their remains offered few details about who they were, let alone which of the warring ethnic groups they belonged to. As many as 17,000 people are huddled inside the tent cities that have sprung up in a United Nations compound, at the airport and in the heart of town.

Link from Natasha at the watch.


Canada's PM promises cash, troops for peace

Prime Minister Jean Chrétien took up the cause of peace on his first full day in Russia on Friday, pledging both Canadian peacekeepers for the Middle East and big money to help Russia decommission its aging nuclear arsenal.

Giving his full support for the U.S.-backed peace plan between Israel and the Palestinians, Mr. Chrétien said Canada is ready to send peacekeepers to the region should those efforts result in an agreement.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister also pledged $149-million to help Russia decommission its older nuclear submarines and material for thousands of bombs and missiles.

He said the contribution is part of the $1-billion promised by Canada over 10 years to an international program to help the former Soviet Union deal with its aging arsenal.

"[It] will improve international security by destroying chemical weapons, dismantling nuclear submarines, disposing of fissile materials and redirecting former weapons scientists into peaceful research," Mr. Chrétien said.

See, I can find good news, I just have to find a liberal government.



For Those Looking For Jobs DeLong Points Out - Newspaper Help Wanteds are at 41-year lows

Help-wanted advertising falls to 41-year low as firms delay hiring BLOOMBERG NEWS. WASHINGTON - The volume of help-wanted advertising in major U.S. newspapers fell in April to the lowest in more than 41 years as companies put off hiring to focus on cutting costs.

The Conference Board's help-wanted advertising index dropped to 35, the lowest since September 1961, from 38 in March. It was the third consecutive monthly decline. The index stood at 47 in April 2002.

"April may represent a low point for the ailing labor market," said Ken Goldstein, an economist at the research group, which is based in New York. "After initial unemployment claims revealed a big rise in layoffs, want-ad volume significantly declined from already very depressed levels."



A list by Brad DeLong from an essay on why Mickey Kaus and Bush are wrong


The Semi-Daily Journal --

1 Why didn't the Bush administration take steps to break up manipulation of prices in the energy market in 2001?
2 Why didn't the Bush administration move more quickly and effectively to punish miscreants and restore confidence when it became clear that lots of people who worked for George W. Bush's friend "Kenny Boy" and lots of others were faking their corporate accounts?
3 Why did the Bush administration impose a steel tariff?
4 Why did the Bush administration push for a farm bill that reversed the progress toward agricultural subsidy reform that Newt Gingrich (in one of his few good deeds) and others had accomplished in the 1990s?
5 Why is Afghanistan such a mess today, and the Bush administration so unwilling to "do nation building" in Afghanistan?
6 Why were Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction not where the Bush administration believed them to be?
7 Why did we attack Iraq without sufficient forces to rapidly search for and secure weapons of mass destruction (if any) before they were carried off by bandits and others who might want to sell them to Al Qaeda?
8 Why did we attack Iraq without the forces or a plan to keep civil order in the country?
9 Why have we gone to such pains to annoy and alienate every single one of our allies? I mean, when the President of Mexico won't take a call from the President of the United States, something is very wrong.
10 Why does Ariel Sharon feel that he can blow off every U.S. request designed to make the "roadmap for peace" more than a scrap of paper?
11 Why has there been next to no progress on the Doha Round?
12 Why do developing countries find that their access to the pharmaceuticals they need is still largely blocked?

Now none of these are cases in which the Bush administration's view of the national interest and national welfare of the United States is different from mine. These are all cases in which we agree on what would be good. All of these are cases in which the incompetence of the Bush administration is truly breathtaking. And its failure to prepare to deal with a liquidity trap is one more powerful and important reason why this particular bunch of bums should never have been elected, and should be thrown out as quickly as possible.

Check the great comments to this a s well.



Canadian PM on U.S. deficit, Bush, and Canada

Prime Minister Jean Chrétien criticized the massive deficits being posted by the "right-wing" Bush administration in the United States yesterday, while boasting of his own government's economic management.

He bragged about Canada's economic performance under his Liberal government, and noted that he has been asked by leaders of the Group of Eight to report on the state of the world's economy at their summit next week in Évian, France.

"Why? It is because we seem to have a good recipe," he said.

"I'm a Canadian Liberal; he is a southern conservative," Mr. Chrétien said, adding that he is pro-choice on abortion, while Mr. Bush is not; he supports gun control, while Mr. Bush does not, and he opposes capital punishment, which Mr. Bush supports.

He said Canada is now the envy of the world, with a strong economy, political stability, and a diverse and tolerant population. He chided Canadians — and the media in particular — for failing to celebrate the country's successes.

The Prime Minister said Canada is the only country among the G8 industrialized nations to have put its public pension system on a sound financial footing.

He also said European leaders are envious of Canada's ability to absorb roughly 200,000 immigrants a year without the kind of political backlash that is roiling their countries. Italy, for example, expects to see its population decline from 60 million people to 40 million in a few decades, he said, but has trouble winning public support for higher immigration levels.

"How can you run a country with social programs when you have a population that is decreasing?" he said.

He added that his "failure" was that he was unable to achieve the target immigration level of 1 per cent of the Canadian population, or more than 300,000 new arrivals a year.

"For them, the question is how to accept a few."

No wonder my brother and sister-in-law want to move to Canada.



Wired - Media More Diverse? - Not Really

"If we look at measures of concentration in media markets, what we find is there's not the diversity that we thought," Murray said. "Yes, there are 500 channels on cable television, but five companies control the same market share that the three networks did in the 1970s."

The prospect of concentration of ownership has brought together strange bedfellows -- the National Rifle Association, the Catholic Conference, the Writers Guild of America, the National Organization for Women -- to oppose lifting the restrictions.

MoveOn.org, a civil rights advocacy group, espoused the same conclusion in a recent newspaper advertising campaign (PDF), which featured pictures of media mogul Rupert Murdoch under the banner, "This Man Wants to Control the News in America." The group claims that five companies -- Murdoch's News Corp., Disney, Viacom, GE and AOL Time Warner -- control 75 percent of the total U.S. television audience and 90 percent of the television news audience for broadcast and cable.

In a Thursday report, media analysts at JPMorgan predicted that FCC commissioners will approve the broad relaxation. The most significant changes are expected to be the loosening of rules that prevent companies from owning newspapers and television stations in the same market, and the end of a limit of on the number of stations a company can own nationally.



Blogs Opening Iranian Society?


Wired News -- Derakhshan, a 28-year-old Iranian expatriate now living in Toronto, Canada, ported some basic blogging tools from ASCII to Unicode, enabling Iranians to blog in their own language.

Derakhshan's efforts are just one example of how Iranians are using the latest technology to modernize their society and adopt Western ways without giving up their heritage. There are now roughly 12,000 Farsi blogs created by Iranians, Derakhshan said, with more coming online every day.

"Until there is a free press in Iran again, weblogs will flourish. In the last few years about 90 (pro-democracy) newspapers in Iran have been shut down. So people have turned to the Internet to get news," Derakhshan said Friday during his presentation at BlogTalk, a two-day conference on weblogs at the Danube University Krems Center for New Media in Vienna.

About 1 million Iranians have access to the Internet, which is largely uncensored but is monitored by the government.

"There have been great social changes in Iran since the 1979 Islamic revolution," Derakhshan said. "There are many popular reformists, but (they are) not particularly powerful. The real leaders are still hard-line."

The more moderate faction of the government is more tech-savvy but turns a blind eye to personal Iranian blogs, some of which contain soft-core pornography or political criticism, according to Derakhshan.

But that tolerance may be coming to an end. On April 19, journalist Sina Motallebi was arrested in Tehran. His crime: blogging.

Motallebi is now awaiting trial. According to the Islamic news agency, he has been charged with "undermining national security through cultural activities" for the content of his blog, as well as his other writings and interviews he gave to foreign media outlets. Motallebi wrote for Iran's reformist newspaper Hayat-e-No until it was closed by the government in January.



Oliver Willis has a Great Essay on Dean and the Democratic Party


Oliver Willis - Say "Howard Dean" to your local conservative and his eyes are likely to light up in glee. And how could you blame him (or her)? Here's a candidate who publicly announced his opposition to the war with Iraq, hails from a small northern state, and is most known for the law he signed allowing homosexual couples to essentially marry. In an era that has been painted by the media as a return to Reaganism, a candidate like this should be dead in the water going up against the Bush-media alliance. As far as electoral gamesmanship goes, they could quite possibly be right. But for the long term policies of the Democratic Party, Howard Dean could be precisely what the doctor ordered - presidential win or not.

Yes, we live in a one-party state (executive, judiciary, and legislative) but that is more a byproduct of apathy and incompetence than a clear desire for right wing politics in every pot. The presidency was "won" only through the slightest of margins, the judiciary essentially swinging on one vote, and the legislature produced through gerrymandering (the House) or weak candidacies (the Senate). If anything, the amount of voters who stayed away from Election 2002 said to the Democrats: For The Love Of God, Stand For Something. When you line up many of the issues (Economic Security, Diversity, Education, Personal Freedom) the Democrats are on the plus side - they just do a horrible job of selling that to Joe Average Voter.

So where does Dean come in? As a little-known politician, it has been smart of Dr. Dean to embrace the liberal wing of the party. His support is genuinely from the grassroots and extends to many of the alienated Nader voters who were blind to the more media-savvy ways Clinton represented their ideals. But when you look at the Dean record it looks more like a centrist Democrat from the Clinton wing than the radical leftist that the right would like to portray him as. What Dean has that the other candidates haven't demonstrated so far (including the one I support) is the ability to mobilize the base of the party like Clinton did in 1992. While his appeal to the left may turn off moderate voters down the line (and lose a national election), it may get the left to wake up and put the spats that seem to rule the day on the backburner. Dean would be able to get progressive ideas on the stage, and his brand of rhetoric that I have seen so far excels at making these Democratic ideals and not "reactions to Bush". That is critical.

and more excellent stuff with links



WHATEVER on Taxes


John Scalzi -- Look, I'm one of those people who is personally going to get more out of this tax cut than many of the rest of you (yeah, I know. Can't figure it out, either). But at the same time, I've got a public library that I have to contribute books to so it has an astronomy book from the last decade, a public school that's in an academic emergency, a state that is tearing through social services and rocket-launching the cost of its public universities because it's running a huge deficit it's not allowed to run, a social security system that's going to be insolvent by the time I reach retirement age, and deficits that mean it's highly likely my kid and her kids are going to be saddled with unfathomable debt.

I don't want any more tax cuts. I personally don't need any more tax cuts. If this was 1980 and the highest federal marginal tax rate took more of my take-home pay than I took home, then yes, I could see why I might want a tax cut. But it's 2003, the highest federal marginal rate last year is 38% , and my effective federal tax rate (meaning the amount I actually pay) is less than 20%, which means the large majority of Americans pay even less than I do. Throw in my tax indebtedness to Ohio and my local government, and I'm still cruising along at about 25% of my total income.

I can afford this. And, in order to forstall crushing debt collapsing on subsequent generations, I'm perfectly happy to kick in a little more if necessary. Not a whole lot more, mind you. I want to play with my own money and I don't want to get back to a situation where we have 70% marginal tax rates. But at the very least, I don't see the point right now in paying less.

As for raising deficits, it's just another strategy to keep Republican financial ethos in control even when they inevitably get booted from office, since the Democrats, dim bulbs that they are, will spend most of their time in power trying to correct the damage the Republicans wrought. Republicans in my estimation spend a lot of their time exploiting the persistent Democratic position of befuddled niceness, and this is just another example. The Democrats need to have their huevoes drop into their sacs and take it to the Republicans (who, like all bullies, whine like mewling kittens when the tactics they use are used against them), but that's another rant entirely.

To be entirely honest about it, I lump people who believe that Republicans are fiscally responsible in with the people who believe in astrology and that the Earth was created in six days, in that whatever other positive qualities they might have, they have a fundamental defect in their ability to process reality. Mind you, this does not mean I expect Democrats to be correspondingly fiscally sound. That's a false opposition. But honestly, people. We have a three administration track record of Republicans gulping down debt like they're dipsomaniac sorority girls at Free Margarita Night, and then calling for yet another round of tax cuts. How much more evidence do you need?

Here's my position: Call me crazy, but I expect a certain level of government service. It's not dizzingly high, but it's there. I'm comfortable with funding a certain number of things I don't necessarily agree with with my tax dollars in order to get certain services others might not agree with. I'm comfortable spending money on services I don't need to use personally -- welfare, unemployment, the military -- because I think they provide for a better quality of life for my fellow citizens at large. And for all of that, I'm willing to pay a fair amount, and the emphasis here is on "fair." I don't want to pay more than is necessary, and I want to make sure what's being spent is accounted for -- I remember reading recently that Pentagon accountants don't know where a trillion dollars they were given went, and that's just no good -- but for the quality of life and government services I expect, yes, I'll pay my taxes. Happily.

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Salam Pax's Story now in the UK Guardian

The most gripping account of the Iraq conflict came from a web diarist known as the Baghdad Blogger. But no one knew his identity - or even if he existed. Rory McCarthy finally tracked him down, and found a quietly spoken, 29-year-old architect. From next week he will write fortnightly.

Explains the name of the blog - As with so much in Iraq, it was never meant to be like this. In June last year, Salam (this much of his name, at least, is real) was a recently graduated architect, aged 29, living at home with his parents and brother in Baghdad. His best friend was Raed, 25, a Palestinian-Jordanian he had met while studying architecture, who was taking a masters degree in Jordan. Raed was at best an infrequent email correspondent and so Salam started writing up his news from home on a weblog, a site on the internet where he could post his scribblings as often as he liked for his friend to read. He called it: Where is Raed?

As he wrote in more detail, he began to touch more often on the unspoken hardships of life in Iraq under the paranoid regime of Saddam Hussein. He could hardly have taken a greater risk if he had tried. More than 200,000 people went missing under Saddam, many for far lesser crimes than the open criticism of the regime that Salam voiced in his writings. Now that the regime has fallen, human rights workers are tripping over mass graves in Iraq every few days as they trawl through the legacy of 23 years of unimaginable brutality and persecution.

Like all Iraqis, Salam was familiar with the dangers. At least four of his relatives had gone missing. In the past year, for no apparent reason, one of his friends was summarily executed, shot in the head as he sat in his car, and two others were arrested; one was later freed and another, a close friend, has never returned.

Not only had Salam criticised the regime, he had written openly about the fact that he is gay. It was a frank admission in a repressive dictatorship and one that, even in the new, postwar Iraq, which at heart is still a conservative, Islamic society, represents a significant risk. And so he continues to guard his identity. "I am not going to be the first one to carry the flag. I hide behind computer screens," he says.

Despite the risks, Salam soon became hooked on his daily diary. He gave simple but honest descriptions of life at Hotel Pax, as he called his family home, which was fast filling up with anxious relatives. He talked equally freely about the soaring price of tomatoes and the sudden arrival of the feared Ba'ath party militia, who, to the neighbours' horror, set up a gun position in an empty house on his street. He wrote either in the office of the architectural firm he was representing in Baghdad, or at home, in his chaotically untidy bedroom.

Screens cover the windows to keep the midday sun away from his three computers, each of which has been opened up into a sprawling tangle of wires and circuit boards. A poster from the film The Matrix hangs on the wall, looking down on a jumble of computer books and CDs strewn over the floor. Pages of website addresses and computer commands are tacked to the wall above his screen. It was here that Salam would sit and talk endlessly about the impending war with Raed, who returned to Baghdad before the war, and the friend he describes only as G - Ghaith, another young, intelligent, eloquent architectural graduate who spent much of his adult life dodging military service. They talked eagerly about the demise of Saddam, but they were scared too. Scared of being called up for military service because all young men were reservists, and scared of being obliterated by an American bomb.

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Road to Surfdom covers Wolfowitz with some excellent stuff


Tim Dunlop --

Liberation

First, let's pull out the comment about “liberation” as this is the justification that so many hawks continue to soothe their souls with. As I've pointed out at length, this was never a reason for launching an invasion and Wolfowitz confirms this:

The third one (that is, rescuing the Iraqi people from the tyranny of Saddam Hussein) by itself, as I think I said earlier, is a reason to help the Iraqis but it's not a reason to put American kids' lives at risk, certainly not on the scale we did it.

This gels with what Australian Prime Minister, John Howard, has said and I think we can safely now confine it to the realms of proven convenient fiction. So hawks, you can, if everything goes swimminingly and considerably better than it currently is, mention “liberation” as a side-effect of invasion, but you really should stop pretending it was the reason for invasion.

The three bears scenario

The real reasons for invasion, the only ones strong enough to get them to commit troops, according to Wolfowitz, are the first two--links to terrorism and the existence of WMD and, if you like, the link between these two facts, namely, that WMD could be passed onto terrorists.

So three reasons (sort of four if you follow his logic), but for "bureaucratic reasons" they decided to run with the WMD alone. He is quite specific here: liberation alone doesn't cut it; the links to terrorism are "the one about which there's the most disagreement within the bureaucracy"; while finally (WMD) "we settled on the one issue that everyone could agree on which was weapons of mass destruction as the core reason."

So we've got a three-bears scenario: the first one (terrorism links) is too hard; the second one (liberation) is too soft; but the third one, WMD, is just right.

What is completely unclear here is what he means by that last sentence. Does he mean that “everyone” agreed that WMD were an unequivocal problem; or does he mean that “everyone” agreed that WMD was just the best cover story? If he meant the former, then that means they really thought there were WMD. If he meant the latter, then that means they knew there weren’t any but they decided to run with it anyway.

Mess up or cover up?

If they really thought there were WMD and it turns out there aren't any, then they are incredibly incompetent (and deserve to lose office). If they really thought there weren’t any, and there never were any, but they said there were, then they lied through their teeth (and deserve to lose office).

So this is his logic, if I'm reading it right: we need to stabilise the Middle East; Saddam is causing instability because of his support for terrorism and his WMD. So we need to have a war and we need to sell that war to the American people and the world at large. We ourselves (the Administration) don't believe liberation is a good enough reason, so nix that; we amongst ourselves (the Administration) are divided over the seriousness of Saddam's ties to terrorists, especially al Qaeda (which is really just Wolfowitz's polite way of saying, there is no proof--though he does give a couple of misleading examples) so nix that too; WMD is something we all agree on, so let’s go with that.

But again, what do they agree on: that he really has them or that this is the best cover story?

Here’s one thing that is absolutely clear: Wolfowitz's entire argument relies on the existence of WMD. If they are not there, the whole argument for Iraq causing instability falls apart.

We can kind of accept the idea that they wanted to stabilise the region as Wolfowitz said. But if his argument is that Saddam was causing the instability then you also have to accept that they believed Saddam had serious WMD. You simply have no choice: without serious WMD, Saddam couldn’t destabilise a sandcastle let alone a Saudi palace let alone an American Administration.

But if Saddam didn’t have them, and the US thought they did, then Saddam has pulled off one of the biggest con jobs in history, all to no good end. In other words he created an imaginary threat so believable that his biggest enemy fell for it and wiped him out on the basis of it. This might be all to the good, and kind of funny, but the ramifications are awful, especially if Iraq itself doesn’t turn into the pristine democratic timeshare we were shown in the brochures.

As I say, there are really only two options here, neither of them pretty. Either the Bush Administration lied and continues to lie about the reasons for invading Iraq or it was hoodwinked by a two-bit dictator of their own invention. (And if the latter, talk about blowback!)

If it isn’t obvious by now, you should never accept the word of the person whose only excuse is that the end justifies the means, that in order to save the village you have to destroy it.



After 9 months, I am a Crawly Amphibian Among Blogs

Curently ir recognizes 12 inbound links ranking me 1185 among blogs. Earlier this month I had 14 ranking 1021.



The Real Media Monopoly


AOL Drops Suit For $750 Million, Joins Microsoft In Alliance

Microsoft Corp. agreed yesterday to pay $750 million to AOL Time Warner Inc. to drop an antitrust suit against the software giant, in a deal that turns one-time rivals into powerful partners.

In addition to settling their legal battle, the two companies -- the world's biggest software maker and the biggest entertainment company -- agreed to collaborate on technology that could one day set the standard for how music and movies are sold over the Internet.

"Now Microsoft gets to own another market which is critical," said Mike Pettit, executive director of ProComp. "It's worth billions and billions and billions of dollars."



Ted Turner - The Choice, Monopoly or Democracy

On Monday the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is expected to adopt dramatic rule changes that will extend the market dominance of the five media corporations that control most of what Americans read, see and hear. I am a major shareholder in the largest of those five corporations, yet -- speaking only for myself, and not for AOL Time Warner -- I oppose these rules. They will stifle debate, inhibit new ideas and shut out smaller businesses trying to compete. If these rules had been in place in 1970, it would have been virtually impossible for me to start Turner Broadcasting or, 10 years later, to launch CNN.



What is Happening In Iraq - Not Knowing the Culture Soldiers Provoke Popular Uprising

Iraqis said the soldiers who entered their homes that day, and talked to the women inside, crossed a line established by tradition and honor. Within a day, this conservative town on the Euphrates River 110 miles west of Baghdad, in a relatively well-off region that is home to much of Iraq's Sunni Muslim minority, became the scene of what seems to have been the first popular uprising against the U.S. occupation.

By morning Wednesday, hundreds angered by the house-to-house searches had poured into the streets, marching to the police station whose officers had accompanied the soldiers. In a tumultuous scene, stones and a grenade were thrown, and U.S. soldiers fired warning shots. By afternoon, the U.S. troops withdrew. The crowd, having swelled to thousands, hauled the station's furniture to a nearby mosque. Then they set the station on fire, hurling a few more grenades for good measure.



Kristof - US Spooks Say White House Manipulated Our Intel To Cause A War

"The Al Qaeda connection and nuclear weapons issue were the only two ways that you could link Iraq to an imminent security threat to the U.S.," notes Greg Thielmann, who retired in September after 25 years in the State Department, the last four in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research. "And the administration was grossly distorting the intelligence on both things."

A column earlier this month on this issue drew a torrent of covert communications from indignant spooks who say that administration officials leaned on them to exaggerate the Iraqi threat and deceive the public.

"The American people were manipulated," bluntly declares one person from the Defense Intelligence Agency who says he was privy to all the intelligence there on Iraq. These people are coming forward because they are fiercely proud of the deepest ethic in the intelligence world — that such work should be nonpolitical — and are disgusted at efforts to turn them into propagandists.

The outrage among the intelligence professionals is so widespread that they have formed a group, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, that wrote to President Bush this month to protest what it called "a policy and intelligence fiasco of monumental proportions."

"While there have been occasions in the past when intelligence has been deliberately warped for political purposes," the letter said, "never before has such warping been used in such a systematic way to mislead our elected representatives into voting to authorize launching a war."

Ray McGovern, a retired C.I.A. analyst who briefed President Bush's father in the White House in the 1980's, said that people in the agency were now "totally demoralized." He says, and others back him up, that the Pentagon took dubious accounts from émigrés close to Ahmad Chalabi and gave these tales credibility they did not deserve.

Intelligence analysts often speak of "humint" for human intelligence (spies) and "sigint" for signals intelligence (wiretaps). They refer contemptuously to recent work as "rumint," or rumor intelligence.

"I've never heard this level of alarm before," said Larry Johnson, who used to work in the C.I.A. and State Department. "It is a misuse and abuse of intelligence. The president was being misled. He was ill served by the folks who are supposed to protect him on this. Whether this was witting or unwitting, I don't know, but I'll give him the benefit of the doubt."

Some say that top Pentagon officials cast about for the most sensational nuggets about Iraq and used them to bludgeon Colin Powell and seduce President Bush. The director of central intelligence, George Tenet, has been generally liked and respected within the agency ranks, but in the last year, particularly in the intelligence directorate, people say that he has kowtowed to Donald Rumsfeld and compromised the integrity of his own organization.

"We never felt that there was any leadership in the C.I.A. to qualify or put into context the information available," one veteran said. "Rather there was a tendency to feed the most alarming tidbits to the president. Often it's the most ill-considered information that goes to the president.

"So instead of giving the president the most considered, carefully examined information available, basically you give him the garbage. And then in a few days when it's clear that maybe it wasn't right, well then, you feed him some more hot garbage."

The C.I.A. is now examining its own record, and that's welcome. But the atmosphere within the intelligence community is so poisonous, and the stakes are so high — for the credibility of America's word and the soundness of information on which we base American foreign policy — that an outside examination is essential.

Congress must provide greater oversight, and President Bush should invite Brent Scowcroft, the head of the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board and a man trusted by all sides, to lead an inquiry and, in a public report, suggest steps to restore integrity to America's intelligence agencies.

I have posted most of article here.


Krugman - Waggy Dog Stories

An administration hypes the threat posed by a foreign power. It talks of links to Islamic fundamentalist terrorism; it warns about a nuclear weapons program. The news media play along, and the country is swept up in war fever. The war drives everything else — including scandals involving administration officials — from the public's consciousness.

The 1997 movie "Wag the Dog" had quite a plot.

Although the movie's title has entered the language, I don't know how many people have watched it lately. Read the screenplay. If you don't think it bears a resemblance to recent events, you're in denial.

The Iraq war was very real, even if its Kodak moments — the toppling of the Saddam statue, the rescue of Pfc. Jessica Lynch — seem to have been improved by editing. But much of the supposed justification for the war turns out to have been fictional.

The failure to find W.M.D.'s has been described as an "intelligence failure," but this ignores the fact that intense pressure was placed on intelligence agencies to tell the Bush and Blair administrations what they wanted to hear. Even before the war began we learned of such pratfalls as the presentation of a plagiarized, decade-old report about Iraqi capabilities as hot new intelligence, and the use of crudely forged documents as evidence of a nuclear program.

Last fall the former head of the C.I.A.'s counterterrorism efforts warned that "cooked intelligence" was finding its way into official pronouncements. This week a senior British intelligence official told the BBC that under pressure from Downing Street, a dossier on Iraqi weapons had been "transformed" to make it "sexier" — uncorroborated material from a suspect source was added to make the threat appear imminent.

A final note: Showtime is filming a docudrama about Sept. 11. The producer is a White House insider, working in close consultation with Karl Rove. The script shows Mr. Bush as decisive and eloquent. "In this movie," The Globe and Mail reports, "Mr. Bush delivers long, stirring speeches that immediately become policy." And we can be sure that the script doesn't mention the bogus story about a threat to Air Force One that the White House floated to explain Mr. Bush's movements on the day of the attack. Hey, it's show business.



Ashcroft - US corporations should be above the law

The current suit cites one of America’s oldest laws, the Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCA). Passed by the first Congress in 1789, it holds that foreign citizens can bring suits in the United States for abuses "committed in violation of the law of nations or a treaty of the United States." The law was designed to prevent the U.S. from becoming a safe haven for pirates.

Which brings us to Ashcroft. In his brief, he argued that ATCA should not be used in civil cases, and that the "law of nations" outlined in the act should not be interpreted to include human-rights treaties. Ashcroft didn’t file a brief specifically in defense of Unocal; he filed a brief against the very idea that foreigners should be allowed to apply to U.S. courts for redress when international laws are violated. Moreover, he wrote, such litigation "bears serious implications for our current war against terrorism, and permits [ATCA] claims to be easily asserted against our allies in that war."

So a kid from a Buffalo ghetto travels to Afghanistan, visits a terrorist training camp and comes home. Before he commits any crime, he goes to jail for 10 years. Even the government admits there was no overt violent crime here: "Material assistance to a foreign terrorist organization" was stretched to include the purchase of a uniform at the camp. But if an American company goes overseas and for six years invests millions of dollars and uses slave labor and torture to build some miserable gas pipeline–committing not one crime, but many hideous violent crimes, at a systemic level–it shouldn’t even be sued, according to our attorney general.

Just this week, a seventh Lackawanna suspect, Jaber Elbaneh, was indicted by the Justice Department. He’s overseas somewhere. There would have been an eighth named Kamal Derwish, but he was killed last year in a CIA missile attack in Yemen. In Iraq and everywhere else, the whole world has been informed that it is subject to U.S. law. With a few exceptions.

No one has ever argued that US corporations are not bound by US law when operating overseas - until Ashcroft.

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