Thursday, June 30, 2005

Operation BYOBS - Bring your own BS

How cute. It only took Blair two months to come up with this novel defense on the damning information contained in the Downing St Minutes. Taking a page from the Rove handbook for handling public relations disasters - and God knows Karl has a lot of experience with that - Blair has decided to skip the facts and simply deny everything.

He appears to be at inept at lying as Karl's main client however. He raises as his defense that he did everything the Minutes detailed as necessary to carrying out the subterfuge. In effect he's admitting the Minutes are true and offering that as proof that they are false because that's what any world leader would do, mislead his people for their own good.

Who knew he had such a facility for languages? He seems to have learned Bushspeak in record time.
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End of the Iraq occupation?

My friend Jules Siegel, writer, artist and political analyst extraordinaire is fond of pointing out that despite what us 60s activists types think, the war in Vietnam ended the day the Wall Street Journal came out against it. Well, we're about to put that theory to the test as this op-ed effectively skewering Bush's grand plan for democracy in the Middle East was posted in Monday's edition.
God help the army that must fight for an idea rather than an objective. After somehow failing to argue competently on behalf of a patently justifiable invasion, and as its more specious arguments were collapsing, the Bush administration then pivoted with breathtaking enthusiasm to nation building, something so Clinton-tinged that it had previously been held in contempt. The more that nation building in Iraq is in doubt, the more the mission creeps into a doubling of bets in hope of covering those that are lost. Now the goal is to reforge the politics, and perforce the culture, not merely of Iraq but of the billion-strong Islamic world from Morocco to the South Seas. That--evangelical democracy writ overwhelmingly large--is the manic idea for which the army must fight.

Mark Helprin of the conservative Claremont Institute, has much more to say on the folly of the PNAC plan Bush seems so bent on plying in the international arena and also points out our vulnerability at home due to his misguided policy priorities. Read it for yourself.
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Spain joins list of countries legalizing gay marriage

This is interesting. I didn't know it was pending there, but Spain also passed legislation legalizing gay marriage yesterday. This AP account ignores the identical passage in Canada, calling Spain the third in line to recognize same sex unions.

This story also, in contrast to Canada, was featured on the Yahoo news alerts. Curious and curiouser. Why is the Major MonoMedia suppressing the news from our northern neighbor?
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Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Canada codifies same sex marriage

Why isn't this bigger news? Canada passed a law yesterday recognizing same sex marriages. It was a controversial and hard fought piece of legislation, bringing Canada in line behind only the Netherlands and Belgium in legalizing the unions. The passage was hotly contested by the Canadian equivalent of our own religious right zealots, who have been coaching their Northern brethren. The Canadian Conservatives are already threatening to take over the government in the next election round in order to revisit the law.

Not a whisper of it on the front page of either Google or Yahoo News. What do think that means?
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Kelo and Bush

Well, I was looking for a news lead anywhere in the US press about the same sex marriage law that was passed in Canada yesterday. I didn't find one but I did find some other interesting items. The AP picks up on Freestar Media's bid for Justice Souter's property in New Hampshire under the auspices of the Kelo decision.

It's beginning to look less of a joke and more of a possibility.
"Am I taking this seriously? But of course," said Charles Meany, Weare's code enforcement officer. "In lieu of the recent Supreme Court decision, I would imagine that some people are pretty much upset. If it is their right to pursue this type of end, then by all means let the process begin."

Souter's two-story colonial farmhouse is assessed at a little more than $100,000 and brought in $2,895 in property taxes last year.
Logan Darrow Clements can offer a much bigger tax return on that property with his proposed project the "Lost Liberty Hotel." He's got a serious offer on the table. "Clements said it would include a dining room called the 'Just Desserts Cafe' an a museum focused on the 'loss of freedom in America.'"

It appears the local constabulary is also taking it seriously.
A few police cruisers were parked on the edge of Souter's property Tuesday. "It was a precaution, just being protective," said Lt. Mark Bodanza.
Meanwhile, I also discovered Joe Gandelman at The Moderate Voice has a post listed on the front page of Google News. They linked to an amusing fisk of the President's speech in Joe's inimitable droll style. Next lifetime, I want to be funny.
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Make your vacation plans now

I'm going to Weare, NH and will be staying at the Lost Liberty Hotel, which is to built on land seized from the Hon. David Souter under the auspices of the Kelo decision that clearly states, "local governments may seize property from one property holder and transfer it to a private citizen or firm, if the new use would 'promote economic development'."

Logan Darrow Clements has figured out how to make that work for us. He's pitching the town fathers in Weare to take Souter's property and turn it into a museum/hotel. He needs to demonstrate economic value however and you can help. All you have to do at the moment is sign the pledge and await your confirmation number. It may be a while, construction will not begin until the land taking by eminent domain is completed. Still it will be worth the wait. Weare is lovely in the summer.

[via The Agitator]
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Eyes on You

They're everywhere. New developments in public surveillance bring us one step closer to a police state.
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Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Bush speaks - says nothing

The Fort Bragg speech was a waste of a perfectly good half hour. As I said in the comments at The Moderate Voice, they could have spliced together clips of George's last four speeches and just sent the video. I already blogged about this here and here tonight so I think I'll save further analysis for the morning.

Meanwhile, Joe Gandelman thinks he should have used the Oval Office. I should have reminded him that Bush does his "hard work" at the Crawford Ranch and on his bicycle. He works in the Oval Office so infrequently, chances are he couldn't find it without help.
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Kelo takes more than land

SCOTUS opened up a Pandora's Box with the Kelo decision and first to escape is greed. The Agitator stands at the floodgates and counts the victims being swept up as the deluge begins. Radley discovers there have been 10,000 eminent domain cases in the last five years. You can multiply that times ten now, as every big bucks developer will want to get in on the deal.

I've already blogged my reaction here, so I won't repeat it except to say, compensated or not, it's still a form of forfeiture without the tiresome bother of having to prove a nexus to illegal activity. It's like taking the ring that has been handed down for generations in your family and giving you the dollar value in compensation. Maybe it's even enough to buy a better stone, but it won't be the family ring with the barely legible engraving inside. Say what you will, stealing personal history is still theft in my book, even if you can't quantify its monetary worth.

I was five when Interstate 84 was built in my town and they took the home of some family friends by eminent domain. They were an elderly couple. I called them Grandma and Grandpa. They had an extraordinary cherry tree in their yard. It was huge and had the sweetest fruit. They had planted it as a sapling. It was the first tree I ever climbed. I remember crying when my mother told me they cut it down to build the highway.

Grandma and Grandpa got a better house out of the deal. It was bigger and newer with much more land. It had a big rec room with a wet bar and it was fun to play with the swizzle stick collection, but it was never the same. There were no cherries. In fact there wasn't a mature planting on the property and the couple didn't live long enough to see their grandchildren climb another tree. How do you compensate for that?
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Bush offers cheap talk while vet benefits are cut

Here's your daily dose of irony. On the same day that Bush will use a handful of handpicked troops in Fort Bragg as his backdrop for PR stop of the day, trying to sell the country and these men on putting their lives on the line for some ill-defined strategy, his cronies among the GOP extremists in the House voted to underfund veteran's benefits by at least a billion dollars.

Talk about out of touch. Way to support our troops Congresspeople. And isn't time for Bush to get off this road trip selling policy and back into the White House to do some work on repairing it?
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The biggest corruption scandal in history

Fast becoming the newspaper of record in the US, once again it's the London Times breaking the news, revealing that US officials are secretly meeting with insurgents trying to broker a deal to end the violence. WaPo reports Rumsfeld has admitted the talks were held but downplayed their importance saying it shouldn't be surprising.

Middle East analysts mainly agree that the talks are unlikely to resolve the ongoing problems as long as the US continues to occupy the country, robbing the government, already thought of as completely corrupt, of any credibility.

"Iraq is in the midst of what is internationally now being described as 'the biggest corruption scandal in history,'" says a recent story in Azzaman.

"Iraqis wonder where the billions they hear about are going and whether the billions more their government is asking for will improve conditions in the violence-hit country."
They blame the United States for the corruption.
...Iraqis have less food, less electricity, less job opportunities, less clean water and worsening health conditions.

In practice, the government has almost stopped offering public services and amenities that are available in some of the world’s most impoverished countries.
Even the food rationing system which has helped millions of households stave off starvation is beginning to collapse with families not getting basic food stuffs like flour, sugar and rice for months.

Poverty breeds discontent that is undermining the status of current government in Iraqi eyes and raising eye brows about U.S. presence in the country.
Meanwhile, "Pentagon auditors have questioned more than $1 billion in costs by contracting giant Halliburton Co. for its work in Iraq, a number several times higher than previously disclosed, according to a report by congressional Democrats."

With a teacher like Halliburton, it's no wonder the Iraqis are getting so good at corruption.
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Dole defends plan for more war dead

Speaking of North Carolina, one of the weirdest things about moving here is that my Senator is now Liz Dole instead of Teddy Kennedy. It's a whole different world in Southern politics. When you call her office to register an opinion that runs contrary to her own position, the staff doesn't bother to even pretend to be polite and you're sure they're not tabulating the calls in opposition. How else to explain this quote?
U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole on Monday attacked a political action committee that is planning TV and newspaper ads to run today calling on U.S. leaders to bring troops home. Dole, in a statement, called the ad campaign "poisonous."

"To politicize the war in Iraq at this critical juncture emboldens the enemy," Dole said.
I wonder if you need to take lessons in swallowing that much hypocrisy at once? What's poisonous are out of touch, democracy destroying remarks like that. One suspects our Senator Dole is on the warmonger's dole.

As the Raleigh News & Observer reports, even in GOP friendly NC, support for the occupation is rapidly diminishing. If she keeps this sort of rhetoric up, her re-election campaign could be more interesting than I expected. A moderate Libertarian candidate might be able to mount a strong challenge with a state's rights/personal liberties platform.
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Bush PR troops pull into town

Bush is due to arrive here in my newly adopted state of North Carolina and the weather couldn't be more perfectly symbolic. It's a dreary gray and rainy day. The kind of day you want to nap through things like another stop on the pointless Presidential PR tour.

The Fayetteville On-Line runs a surprisingly snarky article on the visit, noting Bush's motives in selecting the base as his platform for this speech.
"He gets the benefit of a backdrop of American soldiers who are the most respected group in society," said Richard H. Kohn, a military history professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "He's using the venue, hoping it will transfer the support we have for the military to support for him and his policies."
Fat chance. It's becoming obvious even to his supporters that he's using the venue and the soldiers as pawns in these heartless war games. The article notes,
Fort Bragg officials had no word Monday afternoon about which soldiers will get tickets. The president is expected to meet privately with some servicemen...
As with all Bush events, it's to be a handpicked crowd. Even in the comfort of a base so intimately involved in the occupation, dissenters are apparently to be found.
Back-to-back deployments from Fort Bragg have strained troops and their families.

"There are some signals out there that a lot of soldiers out there aren't cheering," said Thad Beyle, a political science professor at UNC-Chapel Hill.
The Fayetteville also runs commentary from ten local citizens on what they want to hear from the president. I doubt he'll want to hear what they have to say.

Meanwhile, The Heretik previews Bush's speech tonight and asks the $400 billion tax dollar question. "How long will we waste our time against an enemy who never attacked us...?"

To which I add, how much longer must the taxpayer fund a traveling dog-and-pony show to trick us into believing they did?
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Monday, June 27, 2005

They don't need no stinkin' due process

I never could understand why Bush enjoyed such strong support from Iraqi-Americans at the beginning of the occupation but I'm not surprised it didn't last. The latest polls show that 77% in this group now think Bush is doing a poor job in handling the "war."

One expects this could have something to do with Bush's falling support.
(New York, June 27, 2005)-Operating behind a wall of secrecy, the U.S. Department of Justice thrust scores of Muslim men living in the United States into a Kafkaesque world of indefinite detention without charge and baseless accusations of terrorist links, Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union said in a report released today. Following the September 11 attacks, the Justice Department held the 70 men-all but one Muslim-under a narrow federal law that permits the arrest and brief detention of "material witnesses" who have important information about a crime, if they might otherwise flee to avoid testifying before a grand jury or in court. Although federal officials suspected the men of involvement in terrorism, they held them as material witnesses, not criminal suspects.

If the destruction of civil liberties and making a mockery of our justice system was an Olympic sport, the Bushies wouldn't be able to stand up with the weight of the gold medals around their necks.
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Sunday, June 26, 2005

When K Street and neocons collude

The net around the Delay/Abramoff ethics violations investigation has widened to pull in more big fish. So far, scrutiny of his emails has revealed heavy ties to "antitax activist Grover Norquist and Christian conservative Ralph Reed." Word has it there are a lot more neocons on the Hill who are nervous about being implicated in the political payola gained through the wholesale defrauding of Native America casino owners.
"If you painted that money purple, there'd be a lot of purple pockets around town," says Senator Byron Dorgan, the ranking Democrat on the committee.
And that does just about as much for our democracy as all those purple fingers did for Iraq's.

[via Buzz Flash]
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Bushspeak for peace

Bush made this statement on 6/7/05 in response to a question about the Downing St Minutes, at a joint press conference with Blair.

Rather ridiculous remark in light of this post at veiled4allah, on connecting the dots on Iraq. She picks up on the money point emerging from the flood of leaked documents out of the UK. The illegal bombing raids that started in 2002. Seems Raw Story unearthed a quote from a US General who admitted it was done to prepare for the invasion.
Addressing a briefing on lessons learnt from the Iraq war Lieutenant-General Michael Moseley said that in 2002 and early 2003 allied aircraft flew 21,736 sorties, dropping more than 600 bombs on 391 "carefully selected targets" before the war officially started.

...The nine months of allied raids "laid the foundations" for the allied victory, Moseley said. They ensured that allied forces did not have to start the war with a protracted bombardment of Iraqi positions.

...Moseley told the briefing at Nellis airbase in Nebraska on July 17, 2003, that the raids took place under cover of patrols of the southern no-fly zone; their purpose was ostensibly to protect the ethnic minorities.
If this doesn't show prior intent, then nothing does. This goes way beyond the White House excuse that they had to plan for the eventuality of war. It's clearly a premeditated, pre-emptive offensive in preparation for an invasion. Which means every word that came out of George Bush's mouth about war as a last resort, was and is, a bald-faced lie.
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Saturday, June 25, 2005

It's not easy...

It's hard work and he's thinking of it every minute, even when he's sitting with Condi in the box seats at the ball game.

[via Mankind Minus One]
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Why the major media speaks in monotone

Common Dreams posts a handy guide from Peter Phillips on the incestuous relationship between corporate America and what we like to term the Main Stream Media. Phillips points out this is something of a misnomer, since the MSM is not really mainstream. We might call it the Major Mono Media for the amount of diversity in its ranks - which is none.
A research team at Sonoma State University has recently finished conducting a network analysis of the boards of directors of the ten big media organizations in the US. The team determined that only 118 people comprise the membership on the boards of director of the ten big media giants.

...These 118 individuals in turn sit on the corporate boards of 288 national and international corporations. In fact, eight out of ten big media giants share common memberships on boards of directors with each other.
Just one big happy family in the MMM today, looking out for each other's interests and that doesn't include us, the mainstream Americans. If you want to know why we don't get real news in the US anymore, the list Phillips provides is enlightening.

[via Buzz Flash]
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Light posting

Having internet issues today which may or not be a result of the hack over at the Big Brass Alliance board. I think I have resolved the problem but now have some stuff to do that won't wait.

Look for light posting after 9:00 tonight
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Friday, June 24, 2005

Curtain opens on Spirit of Justice

This is amusing. With Ashcroft's tender sensibilities now absent from the Great Hall at the Justice Dept, the Spirit of Justice, standing guard over the podium since the early 30s, has been unveiled. The $8000 installation of heavy draperies has been dismantled and the statue can flaunt her bare breast with impunity once again.

Her counterpart, the Majesty of the Law can also show his pecs, having been draped as well during Ashcroft's reign because the ex-AG didn't want to discriminate on the basis of gender. Who says the guy never thought about civil rights?

[hat tip to Jules Siegel. Read his books]
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The end of private property as we know it

I feel like an idiot for scolding people for not voting Democratic, (or not voting at all) because it would keep Bush from filling the next Supreme Court vacancies with conservative judges. Considering this decision, essentially authorizing theft of private property by municipalities for the benefit of private, for-profit entities was rendered by the so called liberals on SCOTUS, pass me that dish of crow. All of you who said it doesn't make a bit of difference were right.
"The city has carefully formulated an economic development that it believes will provide appreciable benefits to the community, including -- but by no means limited to -- new jobs and increased tax revenue," Justice John Paul Stevens wrote for the majority.
Read that as the local politicos want to cater to the local deep pocket contributors to their reelection campaigns and any increased tax revenue will come from the few people that may obtain employment from the project. The guy making the real profits will get the tax loopholes. Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, for the dissent gets it right.
"Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party, but the fallout from this decision will not be random," O'Connor wrote. "The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms."
The liberals sell out the little guy while the conservatives dissent? It's enough to give a progressive heartburn.
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Thursday, June 23, 2005

An honest conversation

The News Blog has a brilliant post up that distills the Iraq argument to its most basic element. For all the rhetoric, Americans have already voted with their feet - at the recruiting office. You don't exactly see the war hawks on either side of the fence waving their patriotism by lining up to join the badly undermanned troops that are stuck there or by sending their children to go in their proxy. News Blog puts it simply. Excerpts:
We need to be honest here: Iraq is not worth one more dead American.

...It's bad the soldiers are trapped there, but we have made it their problem, No one is willingly going to join them, and 5,000 have deserted so far.

...We have a volunteer army with fewer and fewer volunteers, and people reenlisting only to save their friends. There is a time limit to their ability to be in combat. They cannot serve forever. They will have to be replaced. And fewer and fewer are willing to replace them,

What I want people to do is be honest.

If you will not serve in Iraq, and no one you know will serve, stop expecting someone else to do what you will not.

Therefore, it is time to stop calling for more troops, or the US to make Iraq safe. We cannot do this and even Americans are refusing to join the fight. It is time to look at your actions and realize, that despite your ideals, you oppose continuing this war. In practical terms, you have decided that this war is not worth your life or anyone you know. And million of Americans have joined you in this decision.
Indeed, if no one is willing to go it is certainly time to support our troops by getting them out of the shooting gallery. It's the ultimate disrespect to allow the brave souls who remain to become little more than carnival dolls for terrorist target practice.
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Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Cadging on K Street

While we've been focusing on Downing Street, there's another street we should keep in mind. One street in DC holds the checks that our founding fathers couldn't forsee would throw our government into imbalance. "K Street, the lobbyists' boulevard." The WaPo takes a stroll and reports that it's out on control.
The number of registered lobbyists in Washington has more than doubled since 2000 to more than 34,750 while the amount that lobbyists charge their new clients has increased by as much as 100 percent. Only a few other businesses have enjoyed greater prosperity in an otherwise fitful economy.

...There's unlimited business out there for us," said Robert L. Livingston, a Republican former chairman of the House Appropriations Committee and now president of a thriving six-year-old lobbying firm. "Companies need lobbying help."

Lobbying firms can't hire people fast enough. Starting salaries have risen to about $300,000 a year for the best-connected aides eager to "move downtown" from Capitol Hill or the Bush administration. Once considered a distasteful post-government vocation, big-bucks lobbying is luring nearly half of all lawmakers who return to the private sector when they leave Congress, according to a forthcoming study by Public Citizen's Congress Watch.
And thanks to a "business friendly" administration, they've changed their tactics from defense to offense.
In the 1990s, lobbying was largely reactive. Corporations had to fend off proposals that would have restricted them or cost them money. But with pro-business officials running the executive and legislative branches, companies are also hiring well-placed lobbyists to go on the offensive and find ways to profit from the many tax breaks, loosened regulations and other government goodies that increasingly are available.
And here's how it works.
"People in industry are willing to invest money because they see opportunities here," said Patrick J. Griffin, who was President Bill Clinton's top lobbyist and is now in private practice. "They see that they can win things, that there's something to be gained. Washington has become a profit center."

Take the example of Hewlett-Packard Co. The California computer maker nearly doubled its budget for contract lobbyists to $734,000 last year and added the elite lobbying firm of Quinn Gillespie & Associates LLC. Its goal was to pass Republican-backed legislation that would allow the company to bring back to the United States at a dramatically lowered tax rate as much as $14.5 billion in profit from foreign subsidiaries.

The extra lobbying paid off. The legislation was approved and Hewlett-Packard will save millions of dollars in taxes. "We're trying to take advantage of the fact that Republicans control the House, the Senate and the White House," said John D. Hassell, director of government affairs at Hewlett-Packard. "There is an opportunity here for the business community to make its case and be successful."
So do you think HP is going to do the patriotic thing for the economy and pass those savings onto it's employees and consumers? I don't either. There's all too much more. Read it for yourself.
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Wolfowitz won't talk

The satire site, Spoof News picks up on a story that caught my eye as well. They open their "news" report with this.
Former Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz marked Day 6 of "Truth Behind the Gates" by joining the ranks of Bush administration officials who are unable to get their hands on a copy of the Downing Street Memo.
Astounding but true. St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports
(KRT) - WASHINGTON - World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz, a prime architect of the Iraq war during his service as Deputy Defense Secretary, said Tuesday that he hasn't read any of the recently disclosed British government memos that call into question his role and that of other senior administration officials in the run-up to war during 2002.

..."There's a lot I could say about what you're asking about, if I were willing to get distracted from the main subject," Wolfowitz said. "But I really think there's a price paid with the people I've just spent time with, people who are struggling with very real problems, to keep going back in history.

"There will be a time and place to talk about history," he added, "but I really don't believe it's now."
Sure Paul. How about when hell freezes over? Think you'll be ready to talk about it then? And do you really believe that a guy who was a major architect of the invasion and the focus of one of the newly disclosed memos, wouldn't bother to read documents that are freely available on the internet and have been viewed by millions?

As Peter Hart, a media analyst with Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting, said,
"The fact that Wolfowitz will not discuss these issues underscores the importance of these memos and what they mean."
And the fact that he would deny reading them, as any normal human being in his position would have done, goes to show how reflexive lying has become with this crowd. They lie when the truth would do just as well.

It would have been much more credible to say he read them and had no comment. But these guys have political power and apparently couldn't care less about their credibility with the public.
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Bush 1999

Iran is next on his list.
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Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Dionne on Downing Street

EJ Dionne has an much more politic take on the Downing St Minutes than I do. He's basically excusing the Bushies with the bumbling idiot defense. They weren't lying because they're so far gone, they really believed what they were saying. EJ has a sharp eye and I respect his opinion. If they weren't making so much money from the war, I might even buy into it. But after 18 years of doing intake interviews for the ACLU, I know a lie when I hear one.

Nonetheless, EJ's kindness becomes him and his concern in the end is the same as mine. He gets the quote of the day with these closing lines.

Those who still see the invasion of Iraq as a noble mission don’t need to protect the policy from the war’s critics. They need to rescue it from its architects.
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New Madness at Notables

The madcap Mad Kane has added podcasts to her repertoire. Now I don't know from IPod and haven't heard it myself, unfortunately, but looking at the code, it appears she is reciting some of my favorite versified interpretations of the breaking news. Check it out if you've got the equipment and check back frequently. She's threatening to perhaps sing a parody or two down the line.

Makes me wish I was more technohip.
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US says no to speedy trial for Saddam

Considering how hell bent they were to "take him out," it is curious that now US officials are urging Iraq to delay Saddam Hussien's trial - until maybe after mid-term elections in 06?
Iraqi's justice minister said today that U.S. officials are trying to delay interrogations of Saddam Hussein.

Justice Minister Abdel Hussein Shandal, in Brussels for an international conference on Iraq, also accused the U.S. of concealing information about the ousted Iraqi leader.

"It seems there are lots of secrets they want to hide,'' he told The Associated Press in an exclusive interview.
Hmm. Curious and curiouser.
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The two faces of Condi

Secretary of State Condi Rice is on a PR tour of the Middle East. She stopped in to have tea with de facto Saudi ruler Crown Prince Abdullah and the foreign minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal and to do some "tough talking" at the ensuing press conference.
"Throughout the Middle East the fear of free choices can no longer justify the denial of liberty," she said. "It is time to abandon the excuses that are made to avoid the hard work of democracy."
Considering the state of democracy in the US, better she should say that stuff to her boss man Bush, but apparently the only criteria for diplomats in the Bush administration is to be able to deliver zingers like this with a straight face.
She was referring to three activists in Saudi Arabia - Ali al-Demaini, Abdullah al-Hamed and Matruk al-Faleh - sentenced to between six and nine years in prison in May on charges of demanding a constitutional monarchy.

"That should not be a crime in any country," she said, speaking in praise of "brave citizens" who demanded "accountable government" in Saudi Arabia.
Yeah, tell that to all the people who have been arrested at Bush rallies for wearing Tshirts with mildly disapproving slogans or the Americans thrown out of a taxpayer funded "town meeting" for having a bumper sticker on their car saying, "No war for oil."

The Saudis, unsurprisingly laughed off her comments saying calls for reform are more appropriate coming from the citizens of sovereign countries - not hypocritical US officials.
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Iraqis say Yankee go home

This is interesting. Not only are Americans fed up with the occupation of Iraq, DefenseNews reports we have worn out our welcome with the Iraqis themselves.

Iraqi lawmakers from across the political spectrum called for the withdrawal of foreign forces from their country in a letter released to the media June 19.

...Eighty-two Shiite, Kurdish, Sunni Arab, Christian and communist deputies made the call in a letter sent by Falah Hassan Shanshal of the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA), the largest group in parliament, to speaker Hajem al-Hassani.

...In the letter, Shanshal said the 275-member parliament was the Iraqi people’s legitimate representative and guardian of their interests.

"We have asked in several sessions for occupation troops to withdraw,” the letter said. “Our request was ignored."
It appears, outside of the US supported embedded politicians, most Iraqis feel ready to take over the reins of government themselves.
..."Iraqi security forces have managed to break the back of terrorist groups and maintain security in the streets of Iraq, and have gained the trust of Iraqi citizens to arrive at their final goal, total sovereignty for Iraq."

..."It is dangerous that the Iraqi government has asked the U.N. Security Council to prolong the stay of occupation forces without consulting representatives of the people who have the mandate for such a decision.

"Therefore we must reject the occupation’s legitimacy and renew our demand for these forces to withdraw," the letter added.
An invitation we shouldn't refuse.
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Monday, June 20, 2005

Dying to be GOP

Thom Hartmann at BuzzFlash posts a hard-hitting op-ed on the Bush agenda. He sees grounds for impeachment and exposes even more lies around the run-up to Iraq but it's his analysis on the reasons behind the invasion that make this piece worth reading in full. Excerpts:
So why then did George W. Bush lie us into invading and occupying Iraq?

We know that Bush wanted to massively cut taxes on his corporate sponsors and people, like himself, with substantial inherited fortunes. He wanted to weaken government protections of the environment, children, the poor, the elderly, the ozone layer, and our nation's forests. He wanted his oil-rig and mining-interest friends to have more access to public lands.

We know he wanted to undo Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal by stripping the American workplace (particularly government and schools) of unions, rolling back "socialist" unemployment and Social Security programs, and eliminating SEC and tort restraints on predatory corporate behavior. He'd even campaigned on this platform - particularly Social Security privatization - back in 1978 when he unsuccessfully ran for Congress from Texas.

We know he wanted to increase the police power of the federal government, gut the First and Fourth Amendments, and thus create a "safe and orderly nation" of people under constant surveillance, who never question those in power.

We know he wanted to give billions of our tax dollars to churches he approved of, and bring their leaders into the halls of government. He wanted to pass laws incorporating religious dogma about when human life begins, what is appropriate sexuality, and free churches to use tax-exempt dollars to influence politics.

It was an ambitious agenda. In order to bring about this neoconservative paradise, Bush knew he'd need considerable political capital. And that kind of capital didn't come from his being selected as President by the Supreme Court.

Such political capital - such raw political power - would only come, he believed, by his becoming a "war president."

...It wasn't a war for oil - cheap oil was just a useful secondary benefit.
It wasn't a war against terrorism - that was just a convenient excuse.
It wasn't a war to enrich Bush's and Cheney's cronies - those were just pleasant by-products.

...It was a war for political power. That had to be first. Everything else - oil, profits, ongoing PATRIOT Act powers, easy manipulation of the media - all could only come if political power was seized and held through at least two decisive election cycles.

The Bush administration lied us into an invasion to get and keep political power. It's that simple.

...Probably the only two things that could slow down the American electorate's growing realization of the magnitude and horror of Bush's political lies would be another attack on America or a new Bush-led war into Syria, Iran, or North Korea.
The second is a distinct possibility and seems in fact to be already occuring but that's for another post.

But if Jefferson was right when he said that the best defense of democracy was an informed electorate, there is still a small window of opportunity for the American press to do the job they've been so carefully avoiding these past five years.

Let us hope our Fourth Estate is up to the task.
Let's hope we all are.
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Quote of the Day

'One of the keys to being seen as a great leader is to be seen as a commander-in-chief.' And he said, 'My father had all this political capital built up when he drove the Iraqis out of Kuwait and he wasted it.' He said, 'If I have a chance to invade, if I had that much capital, I'm not going to waste it. I'm going to get everything passed that I want to get passed and I'm going to have a successful presidency."

George Bush to Mickey Herskowitz in 1999. "He was thinking about invading Iraq in 1999," Herskowitz told Baker. "It was on his mind.

And he's been fixated on it ever since.
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Fisking of the President

Bush has fired the opening salvos in his public relations offensive to defend the war and the remarks in his weekly radio address deserve a good fisking. He said:
"We went to war because we were attacked, and we are at war today because there are still people out there who want to harm our country and hurt our citizens."
George, sweetie, that was the justification for Afghanistan, not Iraq, and you left there without the guy responsible for attacking us, Osama - dead or alive - remember?
"Some may disagree with my decision to remove Saddam Hussein from power, but all of us can agree that the world's terrorists have now made Iraq a central front in the war on terror."
Yes they have, now that we pissed them off by killing tens of thousands of innocent Muslim civilians. Besides it's become the place to get media exposure.
"These foreign terrorists violently oppose the rise of a free and democratic Iraq, because they know that when we replace despair and hatred with liberty and hope, they lose their recruiting grounds for terror."
We handed them the best recruiting tool they ever had by invading and occupying a sovereign Islamic country with no legal justification. The last thing the "foreign" terrorists want is for us to exit Iraq.
"Our troops are fighting these terrorists in Iraq so you will not have to face them here at home."
"These [foreign] terrorists," are a tiny fraction of the insurgency. The insurgents are mainly Iraqi citizens who weren't fighting before we got there and have made no threat against our country. They're defending their own. We're the foreigners in control of Iraq. The insurgents live there and always have.

And think about this. What if a foreign country invaded us to "liberate us" from neo-cons and starting bombing the bejesus out of our infrastructures, leveling entire cities, killing innocent civilians and rounding up citizens "suspected" of being neo-cons and torturing them? Would you fight back to protect your family and property? Of course you would. Would you consider yourself a terrorist for doing so? I think not, but moving on.
Terrorists "know there is no room for them in a free and democratic Middle East, so the terrorists and insurgents are trying to get us to retreat."
Again, there's no reason the real terrorists would want us to leave. It's much better for them to let us stay while they keep beating us bloody, making us look like fools in the court of world opinion.
"Their goal is to get us to leave before Iraqis have had a chance to show the region what a government that is elected and truly accountable to its citizens can do for its people."
Their goal is make us look like incompetent, clueless, idiots while they continue to inflict chaos. Again it's in their best interests to keep us there, bleeding billions and losing world status by their continuous demonstration of our inability to quell them.
"I am confident that Iraqis will continue to defy the skeptics as they build a new Iraq that represents the diversity of their nation and assumes greater responsibility for their own security," Bush said. "And when they do, our troops can come home with the honor they have earned."
Sorry if your confidence doesn't inspire my own Mr. President. I can't help but recall you confidently declaring "mission accomplished" over two years ago. You confidently declared the insurgency "broken" at least a half a dozen times already. And I'll believe that you care about the honor of the troops when you start honoring the soldiers that are coming home from your war right now - unannounced, under the cover of darkness, in flag draped coffins.
"This mission isn't easy, and it will not be accomplished overnight. We're fighting a ruthless enemy that relishes the killing of innocent men, women, and children."
Nor can it be accomplished in 100 years, if the goal is to impose your agenda on the Middle East. Do you think it makes a difference to the survivors if their loved ones were deliberately killed by "ruthless" insurgents or "accidentally" killed by our friendly fire. Democracy and freedom won't bring back their dead, nor will fill their empty bellies or rebuild their destroyed homes. As long as we occupy the country, the onus is on us for bringing this war, uninvited, to their back yards.
"By making their stand in Iraq, the terrorists have made Iraq a vital test for the future security of our country and the free world. We will settle for nothing less than victory."
You chose Iraq as the battleground Mr. Bush, and our country is failing the test. How will we define victory and by what criteria can we declare success anyway? The surest way to end the violence is to remove the cause of it, our presence. If we weren't there in active combat, there would far less media attention. Take away the cameras and you take away the incentive for grand gestures. No point in a suicide bombing if no one is watching.

It's time to bring our troops home and allow the Iraqis to sort out their government on their own. I mean, we really did turn over "sovereignty" to the Iraqi government almost exactly a year ago, didn't we? Why don't we let them exercise it?

Update: Help! Call AAA - I'm caught in a traffic jam at Outside the Beltway.
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Bush opens new PR front on War

Faced with rapidly diminishing public support for the Iraq occupation, Bush has launched yet another public relations campaign to sell his ill-conceived agenda to Americans.
"The president recognizes that this is a concern that's on the minds of the American people," McClellan said. "That's why he's going to sharpen his focus, spending more time talking about the progress that's being made on the ground — there's significant progress that has been made in a short period of time — the dangers that remain and that lie ahead, as well as our strategy for victory in Iraq."
How comforting that it only took over two years for him to come forward with a "strategy for victory." Can't wait to hear what it is. But this is why our foreign and domestic policy is in such a mess.
...the president has shown no public evidence yet of backing down and has traveled the country weekly — and will again next week — to campaign for his proposals.
The guy is so busy traveling, on our dime, selling his badly-laid "plans" that he's never in the White House doing his job. He's supposed to be running the country, not just aimlessly running around as a PNAC frontman.
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Sunday, June 19, 2005

Keep your eye on the agenda

This is scary. Norman Solomon at gives voice to this nagging suspicion that's been hounding me all day. The Downing Street Minutes push is feeling like it's almost too easy. The White House is not fighting back hard enough. It feels very much like the election in 04 when it seemed certain Kerry would win even with such a lackluster campaign, but the Bushies barged on relentlessly, knowing they had the fix in with the touchscreen voting machines.

Solomon makes a credible case for concern that this is all a smokescreen while they set up for an attack against Iran. It makes all too much sense.
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Progressive's progress

Jeez, it's enough to give a wary (and weary) progressive some hope. Everybody seems to be taking Bush to task this week. All of sudden it feels like a damn has burst and all this pent up truth is breaking down the wall of lies. It's sort of like when you go to a music club where everyone is waiting for someone else to start dancing. All it takes it that first couple to tear up the floor, to get the rest of the crowd up on their feet.

Richard A. Clarke at the NYT puts on his dancing shoes today and looks at War and Weakness. Here's the money quote.
Maybe it is time to at least begin a public dialogue about ''staying the course.'' Opponents of an ''early'' departure of American forces say it would result in chaos in Iraq. Yet we already have chaos, and how sure can we be that sectarian fighting will not follow our departure whenever we leave? Is it unpatriotic to ask if the major reason for the fighting in Iraq is that we are still there.
I'd say it's unpatriotic not to ask.
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Um - could you say that again please?

Robert K. Brown catches the AP in some curious on-the-fly editing. Gotta watch that language you know. In perception management, syntax is everything.
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Deluded on Downing Street

Kevin Drum catches the first whiff of sweat among the big boys on the Bushie side of the blogosphere. It appears they're about to break out with a bad case of Rathergate fever and Captain's Quarters is leading the charge.

It would be comical if it wasn't so sadly desperate. First they ignored the story; then when it finally hit the news stream, they minimized the importance of the Downing St. Minutes. When that didn't work, they started mocking the messengers. Now, despite their best efforts, the story has got mo' - 670 items just on Google News today. They now see they can't kill it, so they're attacking the authenticity of the documents? Drum debunks this theory out of the gate of course.

It's interesting that CQ is leading the way on this, considering he was so all-fired up about the alleged corruption in Canada. Putting aside that the basis of the so-called scandal he broke was the funneling of government money into PR firms, an everyday occurrence in GOP-DC; it's curious he's offended by the Canadian government lying to Canadians, but when his own President lies, he's offended by the proof.

Hard to describe a guy who can pull an about-face like that in his moral judgments as an ideologue. There are other words for it though. I leave you to pick one for yourself.

[via BuzzFlash]
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How many al-Zarqawi's aides does it take to...

Supply your own joke or just read Moon of Alabama's post. Using Bernhard's handy "create your own headline" template along with the almost two dozen previously reported arrests of top al-Zarqawi aides, you too can write next week's lead story for the NYT without the bother of actually having to go to Iraq yourself.

That's the beauty of the Bush, or should I say Rove, strategy. Since it's too bloody dangerous to leave Baghdad, the White House can say anything it wants. Who's going to prove them wrong?

[hat tip to JackL]
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Downing Street gone viral?

An uplifting post at the Democratic Underground on a personal encounter in the deep South. Here's the highlights.
I went to go hit a bucket of golf balls today. (Beautiful day, 85 and sunny). The place I go to is inhabited by crusty old men who scratch a lot and talk shit all day long.

...Today I'm walking in to get my bucket and I hear one dude telling another in his heavy southern drawl "did you see the thing on C-SPAN with this COnyers feller?" That's all I needed. I spent the next 45 minutes telling them about the petition, the work that's been going on for weeks, and so on. They had a lot of questions and I was able to fill in some gaps in their information.

...When I started to walk away and start hitting golf balls... ...Here it comes.....The guy I originally started talking to says "I think there's gonna be an impeachment".!!! EVERYONE ELSE WAS NODDING THEIR HEADS IN AGREEMENT.
These old guys sure ain't no lib'ruls either. Don't you love a story with a happy ending?

[hat tip to Tim Meehan]
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Over the border on Downing Street

What the news would look like if we still had an independent media instead of White House stenographers. From the CBC in Canada.
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Saturday, June 18, 2005

Reverend Moon's revenge?

What does it mean when The Washington Times keeps taking pot shots at Bush? This isn't the first critical piece I've seen sourced to the Moon empire lately but it's the most bizarre. Credible evidence that the Towers were taken down by demolition and not by the airplanes on 9/11?

It's not a story I would expect to see in any credible (okay semi-credible) newspaper, much less in one owned by such a formerly staunch supporter of our President. And wouldn't it be something if it turned out that 9/11 really was staged to justify the war - as so many have suspected?

You don't want to believe something that inhumane is possible, but given the track record of this administration, I fear I find it within the limits of credibility myself.

Update: In this morning's mail, a short but excellent video making the case for this theory.
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Bush pre-invasion push into Iraq illegal

This somehow is no surprise. Yet another scoop at the London Times.
A sharp increase in British and American bombing raids on Iraq in the run-up to war "to put pressure on the regime" was illegal under international law, according to leaked Foreign Office legal advice.

It seems that everything about this "war" is either illegal, immoral or ill-conceived. Please let me know when something legal, moral or well-planned happens. I would hate to blink and miss it.
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Inside track on Iraq

Fabulous interview in RedPepper with Patrick Cockburn, veteran Middle East correspondent from the UK. He's been covering Iraq since 1978, before Saddam rose to power. He's living in Baghdad and gives us an inside look at life in the Green Zone, and outside of it, but not far. It's too dangerous to leave the city - for anyone. He has some fascinating observations.
You see people being killed merely because they don’t understand American hand signals for directing traffic, which look like somebody giving signals to the deaf.

..There is enormous paranoia on their part, combined with enormous firepower. If there's any sort of attack, their orders are to open fire in all directions. If there's a roadside bomb, treat it as an ambush. So, almost invariably, some Iraqi, sometimes inside a house or walking on the street, gets killed when there’s any attack on American troops.

..And does the resistance claim any popular support locally?

Before the capture of Saddam, the US and British generals in Baghdad all emphasised that the resistance was all remnants of Saddam's regime. Then they had a bit of a problem when they actually captured Saddam. It actually validated what all of us believed, that there was never any real connection with Saddam.

..At last count, I think there are 38 different organisations that are claiming attacks on the Americans. It's a very complicated jigsaw. It is important to realise that, in the beginning, the main motive is a very simple one. The Iraqis – like everyone else in the world – don't like to have their lives controlled by foreigners and foreign troops. All this happens in the context of an understandable and predictable hatred of occupation felt by anybody who's being occupied.

..Why is there sufficient sympathy amongst large groups for these often pretty ruthless brutes? This is the most important question. The antipathy to the occupation is, aside from Kurdistan, universal.

..The last poll I saw showed that 82% of the Sunni Arabs want the US Army to withdraw now or in the near future. That is somewhat predictable, but the figure for Shi'a Arabs was also 69%.

..Even when I have travelled in the Shi'a areas, often after a bomb directed at say police recruits, people I speak to around the site say, 'Why are they attacking Iraqis like this, why don't they kill Americans instead?' The first part of the sentence often appears on American television. The second part is very seldom mentioned.

So they are fine with insurgents attacking Americans?

Yes, in fact that’s what they invariably say.

..Everyone gives too much credit to American policy as being highly sophisticated. First of all, what has happened has been pretty disastrous for the US. Iraq, if we stand back a bit, was meant to be a demonstration of power – of the military and political ability of the US to act alone and destroy its enemies. In fact, the opposite has happened. Two years on, the US army doesn't even control the roads between Baghdad and its base at Baghdad airport.

They do not have the military strength to control Iraq, or to turn whatever military strength they do have into political victory.
There's much more. Cockburn speaks about the targeting of journalists, the fallacy of a free press and the transfer of power that hasn't really happened other than symbolically.
Leaving aside the Kurds, who are a special case, the members of this government would have to leave the country if they didn't have Western bodyguards.
It's a realistic and sobering picture of the daily life of Iraq. Read it in full for yourself.
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The secret is out

Taking a short break from politics, here's a site for students of the human condition. Post Secret is an ongoing community art project where people mail-in their secrets anonymously on one side of a homemade postcard. Some are raw and sad but many are beautiful and all are interesting.

Worth a few minutes of time and you might be inspired to get out the construction paper and scissors yourself. They say sharing is therapeutic.
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Lost on Downing Street?

Robert Parry at Consortium News throws a wet blanket on the Downing Street Activists fire. He finds it a lost cause.
If American progressives think they have enough media clout to make a real issue of George W. Bush’s possible impeachment over the Iraq War, they should read the account of Rep. John Conyers’s rump hearing on the Downing Street Memo that appeared in the Washington Post.
He goes on to make his point using the tragic case of Gary Webb's expose on the CIA and Drugs to illustrate how the "Right" has developed their echo chamber into a forceful media machine that squelches any meaningful news that could derail their agenda. Their tactics aren't pretty.
Those of us who have covered Washington for years have seen the pattern before. A group without sufficient inside-the-Beltway clout tries to draw attention to a scandal that the Post and other prestigious news arbiters have missed or gotten wrong. After ignoring the grievances for a while – and sensing that the complainers have no real muscle – the news arbiters start heaping on the abuse.
It's a good point and his analysis is on target.
Certainly, any thoughts about impeaching Bush are little more than pipedreams given the reality of today’s national media. In that sense, the Post’s attacks on the Downing Street Memo hearing should serve as a splash of cold water in the face of the American Left.

While Web sites and progressive talk radio have helped puncture the image of Bush’s invulnerability, a much broader media infrastructure would be needed if issues, such as the Iraq deceptions, are to be forced consistently into the national debate.
Nonetheless, I think perhaps Parry is surrendering before the battle is even waged. The Left may be late in learning the lesson but we're quick studies on this side of the fence. It's a testimony to our newly acquired effectiveness that the Downing Street story is still alive after six weeks of concentrated effort on the noise machine's side to squelch it, first with indifference and now derision. Don't write us off yet.
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Friday, June 17, 2005

Laugh of the day

Sublimely absurd. From a Newsday article on revelations of Tom DeLay's latest conflict of interest. It appears he owns about $100,000 worth of ExxonMobil stock while simultaneously pushing for legislation that would protect the corporate behemoth from lawsuits regarding the irresponsible use of the additive MTBE in their product.
Dan Allen, DeLay's spokesman, scoffed at the suggestion the second highest-ranking House Republican has done anything untoward.

"First of all, everyone knows Congressman Tom DeLay bases his votes on the merits of legislation before him and only the merits of the legislation," Allen said.
Sounds like a line from The Daily Show.
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By the numbers

You know I'm not big on polls but the numbers here are rather remarkable. An unscientific MSNBC survey that drew 6,000 responses revealed 94% believing that Bush lied to take us to war. The obvious follow up question would be - do they care?
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Conyers corners WaPo's Milbank

The Raw Story posts a copy of the letter John Conyers wrote in reponse to Milbank's snippy and inadequate coverage of the hearings on the Downing St Minutes. It speaks for itself.
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Downing St paving the way to impeachment?

Quote of the day is John Bonifaz at yesterday's hearings on the Downing Street Minutes.
"The United States House of Representatives has a constitutional duty to investigate fully and comprehensively the evidence revealed by the Downing Street minutes and other related evidence, and to determine whether there are sufficient grounds to impeach George W. Bush, the President of the United States."
The Globe and Mail goes on to say, in a rather snarky article,
Not since the impeachment blotted out all else in former president Bill Clinton's second term, has the term been bandied about on Capitol Hill.

Mr. Conyers's pseudo-hearing yesterday was a bit of a sham. The majority Republicans rejected his call for formal hearings into the Downing Street memo. Still, with more than a dozen of his fellow Democrats crammed into a small, flag-bedecked room, an effort was made to give the meeting the appearance of a hearing. In spite of the cameras and microphones and congressional niceties, it was, in fact, devoid of legality and had no powers of subpoena.
The article fails to mention that 105 121 Congress members signed the petition and it was noted frequently by those members able to attend the hearing, that there was an unprecedented 20 11 votes on important bills suddenly scheduled for the same time frame, by those same majority Republicans.

The Orange County Register also covered the hearings and reports on the White House response.
White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan rebuffed the inquiry, saying Conyers "voted against the war in the first place and is simply trying to rehash old debates that have already been addressed."
But this debate is not about war, it's about veracity. It's about transparency in governance. It's about trust. To paraphrase the proponents of the excesses in the Patriot Act, "If Bush has got nothing to hide, then let him produce the official US minutes that disprove the facts in the Downing Street Documents.

Video of the Conyers' hearing is available here at Information Clearing House.
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Truth elusive in Iraq

Yet more Bush administration lies are exposed today at the UK Independent. In a private letter obtained by the Independent, UK Defense Minister Adam Ingram admitted to another MP that he had inadvertently lied to the Parliament, when he passed on false information given to him by our government, about the use of next generation napalm weapons in Iraq.

Humanitarian groups have been saying for months that evidence suggests these bombs were used in Falluja. The Pentagon has consistently denied this, (it would be illegal to use them against civilians by the way), in fact the Pentagon denied they were used at all - that is until the British press came forward with irrefutable evidence. Now the Pentagon says well, they were used just once at the beginning of the war against military targets.

I'm beginning to think that the Downing Street naysayers are right about us focusing too much on the lies about the Iraq occupation. It would probably be much more efficient to try to find the truth that has been told. There appears to be so little, it wouldn't take up much time at all.
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Thursday, June 16, 2005

Site-seeing on Downing Street

The latest news via BuzzFlash shows a lot of last minute support for the Conyer's hearings. Yahoo reports the petition was signed by 105 members of Congress and more than 540,000 Americans, upping the earlier numbers considerably.

More on the hearings in his own words at Conyer's blog, (it's on overload at the moment) and Google News has it on the front page with 344 links.

It would appear this story has finally found some legs.
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Oh Great

How embarrassing. I just singlehandedly crashed the Big Brass Alliance site trying to promote my last post. "Fixing" it made it worse. Life isn't easy for a technodope. Hope they don't kick me out for this.
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Down on Downing Street

I was tied up this afternoon and arrived home to find my co-blogger at the Detroit News, George Bullard, had joined the ranks of the dismissers. You know, I love George, even though he's almost always wrong, but this time he went over the top and I had to answer the challenge. I won't repeat it all here but these, I think were my best shots.
If it's not a big deal, then Bush should simply produce his minutes of the meetings and we'll all know how he came to his "graven in stone" decisions. That's how an open government should work anyway. Last I looked, our taxes are still paying his salary and I believe that makes him accountable to us.

...All that being said, the Downing Street Minutes is not about the war itself, it's about honesty. Honesty, as in telling the truth, as any self-professed God fearing hearing Christian should want to do. Show us the Pennsylvania Ave Crawford Ranch Minutes. I would think those that support the President on this issue would want that as well. So ask him to prove he didn't lie, if only to prove the 500,094 Americans (and the million more that either didn't know or were afraid to sign) wrong.

It doesn't seem too much to ask.
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Missing Media on Downing Street

Media Matters for America notices, "While editors nationwide call for increased scrutiny of Downing Street Memo, biggest editorial pages remain silent." They crunch the numbers on the coverage and find an embarrassingly small number of outlets that have mentioned the Downing Street Minutes, however of those, the vast majority say it's news and chide their peers for failing to cover the story.

Media Matters posts a list of the newspapers and also some delicious quotes from the positive editorials and op-eds. The quotes from the sources that seek to minimize the importance of the Minutes and thus no doubt assuage their own guilt for failing to do their jobs as journalists reveal just how deeply they sit in the Bush administration's pocket.
The Denver Post trots out this tired canard. "The American media has been castigated for not giving more prominence to the British memo, but it reinforces what we already know from other sources. ...Attention now is best focused on how to win the war and leave Iraq to a democratic future."
I guess this guy is a little behind on his reading. Maybe he didn't notice the growing chorus of military experts that have been stepping up lately to say the bloody occupation cannot be won. Our best bet is to negotiate a truce with the so called insurgents (otherwise known as Iraqi citizens) and get the hell out of Baghdad.
The Bangor Daily News takes a new approach. "[T]he discovery of the memo is like finding out that the glove fit O.J. Simpson after all -- interesting in a historical sense but proving nothing new. George Bush was disingenuous about the impetus for the war in Iraq, his consideration of alternatives to war and the cost of the war. This was all understood before November 2004."
Bush was "disingenuous?" That's like saying Ted Bundy was disingenuous about his intentions before he killed all those women. And I know Maine is kind of out in the sticks and all, so maybe this editor forgot that in November 04, something like at least 60% of Americans, (or was it 75%) still believed we found WMDs in Iraq and that Saddam had something to do with 9/11, because goldbrickers like him failed to do his job and make the public aware of the facts. That goes for the other similarly lame excuses from the White House stenos in Atlanta and Philly.

So kudos to the courageous editors that have finally dared to step over the Bush line - one hopes their bravery will prove to be contagious. As for the likes of Kingsley at the LAT and his ilk, if that's your phone ringing, it's probably Scott McLellan with your "lead" for today - or would that be leash?
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Two hours on Downing Street Minutes today

Today is the day. After Downing Street reports:
On Thursday June 16, 2005, from 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. in Room HC-9 of the U.S. Capitol, Rep. John Conyers, Jr., Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee, and other Congress Members will hold a hearing on the Downing Street Minutes and related evidence of efforts to cook the books on pre-war intelligence.

The hearings had been planned for the Democratic National Committee offices because the Republicans controlling the House Judiciary Committee had refused to permit the ranking Democratic Member to use a large room on the Hill.

At 5:00 p.m. ET in Lafayette Square Park, in front of the White House, a large rally will support Congressman Conyers who plans to deliver to the White House a letter addressed to President Bush and signed by over 500,000 Americans and at least 94 Congress Members. The letter asks the President to respond to questions raised by the Downing Street Minutes.
The hearings will be covered by C-Span 3 , Pacifica, RadioLeft and PDA Blog. You can also purchase a DVD.

It's going to be an interesting afternoon in DC.
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Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Downing St Minutes - coverage and cover-ups of the day

Baltimore Sun has an excellent editorial on damning evidence can't be ignored. Here's the money quote.
Lying to Congress is a felony. Either lying to Congress about the need to go to war is a high crime, or nothing is.
SF Gate gives a good overview of the salient points of the Minutes and the related UK Cabinet briefing paper. And out of Africa, this editorial reviewing the facts that the US media, can't or won't get straight.

Meanwhile the Bush apologists, after an embarrassingly long silence while they desperately tried to cook up a counter attack on the emerging truth, finally latched onto their usual strategy - when you can't attack the facts, attack the messenger. Why not just label 100 Congressman and 500,000 Americans as drooling, left wing, paranoid, conspiracy theorists. And of course, don't forget the ever popular right wingnut tactic - decide on the message and everybody lie your ass off in tandem. They figure they can just say they have facts and evidence to counter the actual evidence on the table of criminal White House activity, without ever having to produce any. Hey, it's been working for them until now.

My personal favorite excuse for this pathetic attempt at a wholesale cover-up of the story is the premise that the revelations coming from Downing Street are "old news." Everybody already knew Bush is incompetent and a liar so what's the big deal?

In other words, they just spent the last five years on their knees, sucking up the neo-con dreck and regurgitating it into cyberspace because they knew it was all a lie, but they approve of governance by deceit and foreign policy built on deliberately manipulated intelligence that has directly caused the death of thousands of other human beings? The operative word here being, I suppose, "other" human beings. As long as their comfy little sycophantic seats are secure, why should they worry just because hundreds of thousands of Iraqis are afraid to leave their homes - those that still have homes that is - and it's other mother's sons who are coming home in flag draped caskets?

As the Bush Pack are often fond of saying, better there than here, better them than me. Nice people, huh? And they call the left hateful?

Update: When my friend Steven Couch calls me out on a post, I know I've gone over the top so while I stand by it, it does occur to me that I was indulging in the same sort of perjorative speech I was complaining about. It contributes nothing to the discussion, but sometimes it just feels good to get it off your chest. Maybe the noise machine needed to do it too. I expect they're irritated for their own reasons.

That being said, I'd like to point out that I don't consider every blogger for Bush part of that mass-distraction mongering Pack. Steven and many others that support this administration, (Joe Gandelman comes to mind), offer cogent arguments for their positions and while they haven't convinced me, they haven't pissed me off either and they make me think. That's the level of discourse I usually strive for here.
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The Lost Boys

We're not talking Neverland here. This is just sad.

It's hardly indicative of the world at large, but it represents a significant group. These are terrorists our government should be cracking down on but instead our justice department chases a couple of hundred people that peacefully imbibe a hallucinogenic cup of tea.
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Free market pharmaceuticals

There's a worldwide AIDS/HIV epidemic.
There are approximately 600,000 HIV-positive Brazilians, about 155,000 of whom are receiving antiretrovirals at no cost (Valor Economico, 6/2).

People are dying from lack of medicine. In Brazil, they decided to do something about it.
Brazil's lower house of government on Wednesday approved a bill that would suspend patents on all antiretroviral drugs and allow Brazilian companies to produce generic versions of the drugs if the Brazilian government cannot negotiate price reductions or licensing agreements with patent-holding pharmaceutical companies.
This is what a good government should do. Protect their citizens against the heartless mega-corporations that consider human life mere collateral damage in the war for obscene profit margins. Lula is doing his best to answer his people's call for a cure.

Our government's response to this plea for humanitarian aid? Get behind the pharma corps.
...the Brazilian government could face U.S. trade sanctions if it decides to break the patents (Nunez Diaz, Global Insight Daily Analysis, 6/2). "The government is taking actions that will undermine initiatives seeking new and better treatment for AIDS," Abbott spokesperson Brian Kyhos said, adding, "The respect to intellectual property is important as it leads to more investments" (, 6/1).
For what it costs to bomb Iraq for one day, we could afford to subsidize the drug outright for dying Brazilians. But the Bush administration would rather pay Halliburton to take lives than to help Brazil save them. I believe they call this the "free market."
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Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Traffic building on Downing Street

The mysterious Deep Throat of the Downing Street Minutes, leading by example, seems to have finally kicked the major media into action on the issue, at least at the WaPo. Hot on the heels of a front page treatment on Sunday, of the Minutes and the related newly leaked Cabinet level briefing paper, WaPo posts again today on the story, speculating about who our British benefactor might be.

Meanwhile, Raw Story - who has been on this since day one - posts a fabulous timeline starting in January of 98 when the Project for a New American Century urged Clinton to take out Hussein, going through the "evidence" manipulated by Bush during the run-up to the invasion and ending with the revelations in the UK that the intelligence was "sexed up," shortly after the invasion began in late 2003. Raw Story also links to all the documents related to the story on their front page. These are of course also available at

And at MyDD, Paul Rosenberg posts an excellent piece on the doublethink the MSM uses to excuse their negligence and support their complicity in the Bush bait and switch school of foreign policy. It's amazing when one recovers from historical amnesia to find that in a way they're right about this being an old story. USA Today for instance did an excellent piece in 2002 that basically revealed the same truth about the Bush administration's duplicity. The only difference being is that it was summarily ignored by the rest of the MSM and USA Today didn't press the issue.

The Downing Street Minutes would no doubt have suffered a similar fate except that this time we were organized and ready to keep it in the public arena and a few of our legislators have finally found their cajones again, led by the indefatigable John Conyers and his letter signed by 500,000 Americans asking the president to please explain himself.

I'm really looking forward to those hearings on Thursday and if you are able to get out of work on a weekday, there will also be rallies in DC and various other locations around the country afterward. Info here.

It's beginning to look like a movement folks.
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Hang 'em high?

You can't make this stuff up. How the hell can anyone in good conscience come out against an anti-lynching bill? You think these 20 Senators who did so, actually have constituents that support lynching? That would be scary.
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The Rambling Gleaner

Charles M. Madigan has a good column up at the Chicago Tribune on the myth of the liberal media. Ain't no such animal in the first place, he says, and stop blaming the media for the troubles we created ourselves in the second. As for himself, he sums it up in the closing.
So, liberal? No, that's wrong.

Pragmatist. That's what I am.

Come up with a health-care program that works, that provides benefits for all Americans, and I'm on board. Develop a realistic foreign policy that isn't going to drag people we love and cherish into war, and I'm with you.

Protect us realistically and effectively. It's not too much to ask.

Somehow, that has been translated into taking Swiss Army knives and other pointy things from folks at airports. We get cut to the very heart by terrorists and the government concludes Swiss Army knives are the problem.

Finally, because we live in a society, I want the best for everyone.

My own interests are best protected when the interests of my countrymen are well protected.

I don't think that is liberal. I don't think that is conservative.

I think that is practical and smart.

Hard to argue with that logic.
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Mass media loses bid to further stifle competition

This is good news. SCOTUS may have blown it on the Raich decision but they got it right on media consolidation.
The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected effort by large broadcasters to skirt federal limits on how many TV stations or newspapers they can own. The court turned aside without comment appeals from media giants such as Tribune Co., News Corp. and Viacom in a decision that represents a victory for consumer groups. Media companies say the rules are outdated in the age of the Internet, but critics warn that excessive industry consolidation would harm consumers.
Indeed. It already has harmed the public as the current miserable dearth of investigative reporting would illustrate. It seems unlikely that even less competition would improve coverage.
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Monday, June 13, 2005

Draft on tap

Sen. Joe Biden pours a cold draught of reality on a hot issue that's been simmering on the back burner since before the 04 elections. I predicted back then that the draft would be back. Why else would they be quietly rebuilding the manpower of the Selective Service Boards?

You didn't have to be clairvoyant to call that one and with military recruitment at dangerously low levels, Biden notes,
"We're going to have to face that question," Biden said on NBC's "Meet the Press" television show when asked if it was realistic to expect restoration of the draft. "The truth of the matter is, it is going to become a subject, if, in fact, there's a 40 percent shortfall in recruitment. It's just a reality," he said.

Of more concern and virtually unmentioned so far, is the widening criteria for who can be called. Don't feel too exempt just because you're not an 18-27 year old male.
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CNN reports rewrites the story

Ward Harkavy at the Village Voice catches the spin at CNN, who finally report on the Downing Street Minutes with this lede on Headline News:
But this evening, here's CNN Headline News saying that the Downing Street Memo "suggests that the Bush administration saw the Iraq war as inevitable …"
Well, unless you've been sleeping under a rock this week, you know of course, that the Minutes suggest much more than that. It proves Bush was hellbent for war and nothing - certainly not the truth - was going to stop him. As Harkavy notes, CNN did vow to bring "story telling" back to the format. Who knew they were talking about fiction?
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Sunday, June 12, 2005

Up on Downing Street

Up on Downing Street

Media on the Downing Street Minutes is building some momentum. St Petersburg Times had a reasonably hard hitting editorial but Eric Margolis in the Toronto Sun has the last scathing word of the day. This was my favorite graf.
British and U.S. intelligence agencies were ordered to produce "evidence" to justify a war. In the U.S., faked "evidence" and grotesque lies were fed to the frightened public by pro-war neo-conservatives and frenzied national media. The U.S. Congress clapped for war like trained seals.
But this is the more important point.
The U.S. ordered its intelligence services to shut their eyes, toe the White House party line and accept as genuine patently false reports about the Mideast from known disinformers and self-serving sources that wanted to see Iraq destroyed.

But don't just blame Bush and Blair. VP Cheney, CIA boss George Tenet (aka "Dr. Yes"), Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice and other senior administration officials who promoted falsehoods over Iraq and war fever were just as guilty of deceiving and misleading the American people and Congress.
Think about that. Almost 2000 dead, 15,000 more permanently disabled and not one honest US Cabinet Member found the conscience to stop the senseless slaughter. As Shakespeare's Sister points out, the Deep Throat of Downing Street speaks with a British accent and whoever is doing this, a great big heartfelt thank you from this American.

Ironic in that we fought a revolution to get out from under the influence of the British Empire. At the moment I couldn't be happier to have them aboard.

[link via Blaghdaddy]
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Saturday, June 11, 2005

The Smoking Cannon - Downing Street Docs pile up

This just in from BuzzFlash. The Times of London reports on yet another leaked document, this time it's a Cabinet Office briefing paper, in which the Ministers were warned that the US was going into Iraq and the UK was going to be standing ankle deep in complicity when the shit hit the fan.
The warning, in a leaked Cabinet Office briefing paper, said Tony Blair had already agreed to back military action to get rid of Saddam Hussein at a summit at the Texas ranch of President George W Bush three months earlier.

The briefing paper, for participants at a meeting of Blair’s inner circle on July 23, 2002, said that since regime change was illegal it was “necessary to create the conditions” which would make it legal.
Meanwhile, John Conyers letter asking for accountability has 500,000 signatures on it and is expected to have as many as one million by the time he presents it to Bush. It's going to be a hell of a hearing on Thursday and this should also give the Resolution sponsored by After Downing Street some added steam.
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Family and friends

With my sister leading the charge, they're defending my patriotism in the comments section at The Detroit News.
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What's a progressive to do?

I have a feeling I'll regret stepping into this, but PennyWit posts on this little imbroglio that strikes a chord. It seems Kos has some kind of blogad for some stupid reality show that offended the feminists at Democratic Underground.

Bill of InDC rallies the Patriarchal Defense Team while Kos remains defiant although he did apologize for painting his critics with too broad a brush.

Guess I'm joining the Women's PDT auxiliary. Kos was right. Calling to remove the ad is no different than the "moral censorship" being practiced by religious extremists. I didn't bother to click it myself, but the description sounds like a promo clip I saw on television. It's stupid, maybe even sexist, but no more so than an thousand other little media memes currently in public circulation. It exists because there is a legal market for it.

Kos is also right in saying there are more important issues to address. Sorry D.U.ers, I'm usually down with the sisters but it does more harm than good to pick a fight over the inconsequential when our energies could be so much better spent on bigger problems. It trivializes the whole feminist movement and (wrongly) gives the impression that all feminists are self-absorbed extremists obsessed with PC minutiae.

We need to be fighting for more speech, not less. What do you say we spend our anger on, for instance, media consolidation or the ongoing and vigorous assault by the Fundie extremists on a woman's right to choose?
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By the numbers

I'm not a big believer in polling but these numbers are hard to ignore. The thing is if anybody inside the DC beltway was doing their job, the polls wouldn't look this dismal.

Neither party escapes the embarrassment. The Dems have been pathetic about taking advantage of the public temperment, now receptive to change, in order to restore some semblance of a two party system to our government. They appear to be too afraid of Limbaugh and Fox News to actually stand up for an alternate position.

And I know Dean likes to think he's trying, but all that foot-in-the-mouth strident screeching is not helping. The Dems would be better off following Conyer's lead. He seems the only career man that hasn't lost his hearing when it comes to his constituents.

Update: PennyWit has the last 1000 words on Dean.
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Press intimidation hits home

I don't know why people find it so difficult to believe our troops are intimidating the press in Iraq when intimidation of dissenting press voices happens here in the US on a regular basis. Take this latest example.
More than a dozen local law enforcement officers and Secret Service agents detained journalist Lyng-Hou Ramirez of Grupo de Diarios America for one hour Saturday at an Organization of American States meeting in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., according to a complaint she filed with OAS. She was not told why she was detained, she said.
Ramirez is content director for the Miami-based Grupo de Diarios America, which compiles information from 11 newspapers in Latin America.

..."They said this was international territory because of the conference," she said. "They said 'we make the rules, not them.'"

The agent finally told her she could leave, but kept her press credentials and told her she would have to obtain new press accreditation.
Law enforcement authorities remarkably, claim no knowledge of the incident.

This is why we don't get anything but regurgitated White House press releases from the major US media anymore. Only the foreign press and the ever dwindling US independent journalists have the balls to stand up to this sort of intimidation.
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Support Community Access and Muni-Wifi

Update on Pete Sessions attack on internet access for the people. Freepress has an action center where you can contact your legislators. Take a moment to sign on. It's your government but they're not clairvoyant. They won't respond to your interests if you don't show up to let them know who's boss.
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Simple legislation is best

I've been pushing for simplified language in governance since the early 70s when my first ever LTE was published in the Hartford Courant on political platforms. Since then the situation has only deteriorated to the point where even our legislators don't read the laws they're passing. They don't show up for the debate because they've already made their back room deals on the outcome. (Flip on CSPAN right now for proof of that). No one has a clue, even those who sneak in last minute provisions, as to what they're actually wreaking on the public with their votes.

They are certain of the political implications for their own careers however. It's not lawmaking, it's horse trading and it's time to stop it. Enter, Downsize DC who has proposed the "Read the Bills Act of 2005," an Act that would compel our representatives to read every piece of legislation - out loud - on the floor, before it's passed. An entirely sensible proposition that already has an impressive list of sponsors.

Get involved. They have an action center where you can send a letter to your representatives. Here's what I sent.

Our legislative process has become too complicated. It's essential for the preservation of our system of government to simplify the process, so ordinary Americans can follow the progress of pending legislation and became engaged in the process as the framers of our constitution intended.

Towards that end, I strongly urge you to support this bill.

Save democracy as we know it. Send a letter too.
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Friday, June 10, 2005

US Media go Slow-mo on Downing Street

There's a lot of huff going around about bloggers and journalists lately but I read this excellent Salon article posted at on the Downing Street Minutes and thought journalism as we knew it died when the major media morphed from a source of news to a political PR machine. Forget the ivory tower. This is the new media - bubble up journalism.

It's been five weeks since the story broke in the UK and the broadcast networks and other major media are just sort of starting to mention it. The execs that answer to the seven Bush Rangers who own them, say oh, they didn't cover it because it didn't break any new ground. So we all knew Bush was a liar and manipulated the world into going to war because they covered the story so well right along? Eric Boehlert's piece has the statistics on that.

According to TVEyes, an around-the-clock monitoring service, between May 1 and June 6 the story received approximately 20 mentions on CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, NBC and PBS combined. (With Blair’s arrival in Washington Tuesday, there was a slight spike in mentions but still very little reporting of substance.)

By contrast, during the same five-week period, the same outlets found time to mention 263 times the tabloid controversy that erupted when a photograph showing Saddam Hussein in his underwear was leaked to the British press.

[As of] May 1, White House spokesman Scott McClellan has held 19 daily briefings, at which he has fielded approximately 940 questions from reporters, according to the White House's online archives. Exactly two of those questions have been about the Downing Street memo and the White House's reported effort to fix prewar intelligence. (Three weeks after the memo was leaked in Britain, McClellan prefaced a response to a question about it by telling White House reporters he was not familiar with "the specific memo."
Team Bush thought they could sweep it under the rug again but I think perhaps we are witnessing the first fruits of the left blogosphere's organizing into a coherent voice, having learned our lesson in 04.
...On Tuesday, a query on the blog search engine Technorati retrieved 3,039 sites on which the Downing Street memo was being discussed.
Now that they're forced to admit it's a story, the MSM have taken a peculiar tack. They're pretending they already covered it.
That's just the latest press oddity surrounding the memo story, says Swanson at "It’s very strange that when it now comes up in the media, it's described as well known. It's not well known. Most people don't know anything about the memo. It’s very disturbing."

Very disturbing indeed. Worth reading in full.

More links and commentary at The Detroit News.
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