Support Howard Dean

Now that "Chairman Dean" is official, let's get Dean's back.
The former Vermont governor promised to learn how Democrats can communicate positions more effectively.
Dean said that no one is ''pro-abortion,'' but ''we are the party in favor of allowing women to make up their own minds about their health care.''
And Democrats are not for ''gay marriage,'' but ''we are the party that has always believed in equal rights under the law for all people,'' he said.
Dean is determined to seize the moral high ground from Republicans, arguing Democratic positions on helping the poor and protecting children are consistent with religious values.
The new chairman sounded like a man in a hurry: ''Republicans wandered in the wilderness for 40 years before regaining Congress. ... The American people cannot afford to wait 40 years for us to regain control in Washington and put the government back to work for Americans.''
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Remember, the GOP will unload on Dean. Everytime you hear the "Dean Scream" without context, consider donating.
When you hear some empty head talk about the party "moving left" with Dean, consider donating.
When you hear about unnamed big dollar Democratic donors whining about pulling their money out of the party, consider donating.

Return of the draft?

Great Rolling Stone article about the possibility.

Are the Democrats turning into an opposition party?

From Ron Brownstein of the LA Times:
In style and substance, Democrats are mounting a much more aggressive and unified opposition to President Bush than they did following his election in 2000.
With the expected selection Saturday of firebrand Howard Dean as chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Sen. John F. Kerry's rapid reemergence as a Bush critic, and the sharp congressional challenges to Cabinet nominees Alberto R. Gonzales and Condoleezza Rice, Democrats are consistently choosing confrontation over conciliation in their early responses to Bush in his second term. That approach contrasts sharply with the opening months of Bush's first term, when even some leading party liberals worked with him on education reform and several centrists supported his tax cuts.
But the Democrats' newly assertive tone may reflect more anxiety than confidence. "What's going on is Democrats are coming to recognize and accept that we are not the majority party anymore," said Simon Rosenberg, president of the centrist New Democrat Network and a former challenger to Dean for the party chairmanship. "Democrats recognize we have to fight harder for our values and our ideas."
Republicans believe the shift opens Democrats up to charges of obstructionism. The Republican National Committee is already branding the Democrats as "the party of 'no.' " "I don't know of any party that has done well as the party of objection," said Matthew Dowd, a senior strategist for Bush's reelection campaign. "I think it's a big risk and it has a lot of political downside."
Yet some Democrats believe that by following a more partisan course, the party is merely emulating Bush's strategy of primarily pursuing policies that motivate his political base. Over the long term, it's unclear whether a strategy of ideological polarization will serve Democrats as well as it has Republicans in a country where the number of self-identified conservatives outnumbered liberals by more than 3 to 2 in the last election, according to exit polls. But the tougher tone reflects the urgency in the Democratic ranks about the GOP gains in November and the fervent demand for militancy from the party's liberal base, whose influence appears to be rising. Liberal groups such as MoveOn.org are far more advanced than party centrists at building a grass-roots organization through the Internet, and are moving with increasing confidence to push the party toward a more combative strategy. "We want to be in a position to give a backbone to the Democratic Party," said Eli Pariser, the executive director of the MoveOn political action committee, which says it has 3 million members.
Depending on one's political persuasion, Democrats since November have displayed either more backbone or more spleen. But there's no question they have come out in the first months since Bush's reelection throwing more punches.
Among the signs:
•  The Democratic National Committee is expected to select Dean as its chairman by acclamation; the other contenders for the post have dropped out. A favorite of the party's most liberal activists, Dean centered his presidential campaign last year on the charge that Democrats in Washington had cooperated too often with Bush. Dean previewed the pugnacious tone he was likely to set in his new job at a recent party forum in New York when he declared, "I hate the Republicans and everything they stand for."
•  Kerry, the Massachusetts senator and the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee, lashed Bush's record on healthcare in a speech one week after the president's second inauguration. Al Gore, the 2000 Democratic nominee, gave his first speech criticizing Bush more than one year after Bush's 2001 inauguration. Kerry is assuming a day-to-day opposition role unprecedented for recent presidential losers. He has even conferred with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who initially led the Labor Party when it was a minority in Parliament, on how to build an opposition party.
•  Congressional Democrats have seized almost every opportunity to register opposition to Bush, including protests by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) to November's results from Ohio, and searing questioning by Boxer and others during Rice's confirmation hearing to become secretary of State. And although they chose not to attempt a filibuster, 35 of 41 Senate Democrats present voted against Gonzales' confirmation as attorney general.
•  Every Senate Democrat except Nebraska's Ben Nelson signed a letter last week expressing opposition to any Social Security restructuring that would increase the federal budget deficit. That condition would effectively rule out their support for Bush's call for diverting part of the payroll tax into private accounts that workers could invest in stocks or bonds.
This near unanimity, if it holds, will contrast with 2001, when the final version of Bush's tax cut drew support from 28 Democrats in the House and 12 in the Senate.
The experiences of Bush's first term, the issues now at center stage and changes in the political climate all help explain the Democratic shift. Bush moved into the White House after a campaign in which he promised to govern as "a uniter, not a divider." But his first term was marked by partisan confrontations that left even centrist Democrats leery of cooperating with him. "Democrats don't trust Bush and don't trust doing business with him," said Bruce Reed, president of the centrist Democratic Leadership Council.
Bush also has made it easier for Democrats to unify by opening his second term with an idea so few of them support: introducing private accounts to Social Security. "Bush couldn't have handed us a better place to start as an opposition than Social Security, because there is so much consensus" against his plan, Pariser said.
Rosenberg said that psychologically, November's losses had forced more Democrats to acknowledge that they no longer constituted the country's majority party — as they had for decades after President Franklin D. Roosevelt — and must define themselves more sharply through opposition.
The GOP success at capturing Democratic Senate seats in states that Bush won also reduced the number of moderates urging a more conciliatory approach — and raised doubts among the remaining centrists about whether such a strategy offered much of an electoral defense.
Liberal groups are employing both carrots and sticks to focus broad anti-Bush sentiment among rank-and-file Democrats into concentrated pressure on party leaders. MoveOn's PAC rewarded Boxer and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) for the challenge to Ohio's presidential vote by posting an online petition to thank them and by giving the legislators the names of about 100,000 signers — a potentially valuable fundraising list. The group is also running television ads criticizing Bush's Social Security plans in the district of the sole House Democrat supporting him — Rep. Allen Boyd of Florida.
Apart from some private grumbling about Dean's reemergence, the party's more militant style has drawn little open dissent from Democratic centrists — many of whom have grown almost as critical of Bush as party liberals. But some moderates worry that the party may be following a dangerous path. "We cannot be just the anti-Bush party," said former Rep. Timothy J. Roemer of Indiana, whose bid for the DNC chairmanship was doomed by opposition from liberal activists, particularly over his position against legal abortion. "We will always be a minority party if we cannot say where we want to take America in the future and have a positive and optimistic vision."

Al Franken interview

After a wonderful career on Saturday Night Live and then debunking right-wing propaganda in his best-selling books and Grammy-winning audio books, Lies, and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them and Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot, Al Franken has taken the fight to America's airwaves on Air America. With co-host Katherine Lanpher, Franken offers three hours a day of commentary and comedy, as well as substantive interviews – last week's guests included FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmunds, former EPA head Christine Todd Whitman, The Innocence Project's Barry Scheck, David Brock, author of The Republican Noise Machine, and Jared Diamond, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Guns, Germs, and Steel and Collapse.
The fastest growing network in radio history, Air America is now on in 50 markets, including seven of the top 10, and doing very well against Rush, Hannity and the rest of the rabid right.
And while Franken isn't yet running for senator of Minnesota, could a leap into politics be too far in the future?
Click on the link in the title to read an interview with him.

Getting the (Purple) Finger

From Naomi Klein on AlterNet:
"The Iraqi people gave America the biggest 'thank you' in the best way we could have hoped for." Reading this election analysis from Betsy Hart, a columnist for the Scripps Howard News Service, I found myself thinking about my late grandmother. Half blind and a menace behind the wheel of her Chevrolet, she adamantly refused to surrender her car keys. She was convinced that everywhere she drove (flattening the house pets of Philadelphia along the way) people were waving and smiling at her. "They are so friendly!" We had to break the bad news. "They aren't waving with their whole hand, Grandma – just with their middle finger."
So it is with Betsy Hart and the other near-sighted election observers: They think the Iraqi people have finally sent America those long-awaited flowers and candies, when Iraq's voters just gave them the (purple) finger.
The election results are in: Iraqis voted overwhelmingly to throw out the U.S.-installed government of Iyad Allawi, who refused to ask the United States to leave. A decisive majority voted for the United Iraqi Alliance; the second plank in the UIA platform calls for "a timetable for the withdrawal of the multinational forces from Iraq."
There are more single-digit messages embedded in the winning coalition's platform. Some highlights: "Adopting a social security system under which the state guarantees a job for every fit Iraqi ... and offers facilities to citizens to build homes." The UIA also pledges "to write off Iraq's debts, cancel reparations and use the oil wealth for economic development projects." In short, Iraqis voted to repudiate the radical free-market policies imposed by former chief U.S. envoy Paul Bremer and locked in by a recent agreement with the International Monetary Fund.
So will the people who got all choked up watching Iraqis flock to the polls support these democratically chosen demands? Please. "You don't set timetables," George W. Bush said four days after Iraqis voted for exactly that. Likewise, British Prime Minister Tony Blair called the elections "magnificent" but dismissed a firm timetable out of hand. The UIA's pledges to expand the public sector, keep the oil and drop the debt will likely suffer similar fates. At least if Adel Abd al-Mahdi gets his way – he's Iraq's finance minister and the man suddenly being touted as leader of Iraq's next government.
Al-Mahdi is the Bush administration's Trojan horse in the UIA. (You didn't think they were going to put all their money on Allawi, did you?) In October he told a gathering of the American Enterprise Institute that he planned to "restructure and privatize [Iraq's] state-owned enterprises," and in December he made another trip to Washington to unveil plans for a new oil law "very promising to the American investors." It was al-Mahdi himself who oversaw the signing of a flurry of deals with Shell, BP and ChevronTexaco in the weeks before the elections, and it is he who negotiated the recent austerity deal with the IMF. On troop withdrawal, al-Mahdi sounds nothing like his party's platform and instead appears to be channeling Dick Cheney on Fox News: "When the Americans go will depend on when our own forces are ready and on how the resistance responds after the elections." But on Sharia law, we are told, he is very close to the clerics.
Iraq's elections were delayed time and time again, while the occupation and resistance grew ever more deadly. Now it seems that two years of bloodshed, bribery and backroom arm-twisting were leading up to this: a deal in which the ayatollahs get control over the family, Texaco gets the oil, and Washington gets its enduring military bases (call it the "oil for women program"). Everyone wins except the voters, who risked their lives to cast their ballots for a very different set of policies.
But never mind that. Jan. 30, we are told, was not about what Iraqis were voting for – it was about the fact of their voting and, more important, how their plucky courage made Americans feel about their war. Apparently, the elections' true purpose was to prove to Americans that, as George Bush put it, "the Iraqi people value their own liberty." Stunningly, this appears to come as news. Chicago Sun-Times columnist Mark Brown said the vote was "the first clear sign that freedom really may mean something to the Iraqi people." On The Daily Show, CNN's Anderson Cooper described it as "the first time we've sort of had a gauge of whether or not they're willing to sort of step forward and do stuff."
This is some tough crowd. The Shiite uprising against Saddam in 1991 was clearly not enough to convince them that Iraqis were willing to "do stuff" to be free. Nor was the demonstration of 100,000 people held one year ago demanding immediate elections, or the spontaneous local elections organized by Iraqis in the early months of the occupation – both summarily shot down by Bremer. It turns out that on American TV, the entire occupation has been one long episode of Fear Factor, in which Iraqis overcome ever-more-challenging obstacles to demonstrate the depths of their desire to win their country back. Having their cities leveled, being tortured in Abu Ghraib, getting shot at checkpoints, having their journalists censored and their water and electricity cut off – all of it was just a prelude to the ultimate endurance test: dodging bombs and bullets to get to the polling station. At last, Americans were persuaded that Iraqis really, really want to be free.
So what's the prize? An end to occupation, as the voters demanded? Don't be silly – the U.S. government won't submit to any "artificial timetable." Jobs for everyone, as the UIA promised? You can't vote for socialist nonsense like that. No, they get Geraldo Rivera's tears ("I felt like such a sap"), Laura Bush's motherly pride ("It was so moving for the president and me to watch people come out with purple fingers") and Betsy Hart's sincere apology for ever doubting them ("Wow – do I stand corrected").
And that should be enough. Because if it weren't for the invasion, Iraqis would not even have the freedom to vote for their liberation, and then to have that vote completely ignored. And that's the real prize: the freedom to be occupied. Wow – do I stand corrected.

Marketing 101 for Democrats

From Thom Hartmann of Common Dreams:
Politics is all about branding. And brands are not about issues or details - they're about identity.
When progressives and Democrats think of how Bush voters understand the word "Republican," they assume these folks are thinking "pro-life"; "moral values"; privatization and deregulation; "free trade"; lower taxes; and stripping power from what Republicans call "special interests," like labor unions and groups advocating rights for women, gays, and other minorities.
But that's not the picture average Americans think of when they hear the words "Republican" or "conservative."
Instead, like any good brand, the words "Republican" and "conservative" evoke feelings as much as pictures. The main feeling is one of identity: "My tribe." The main picture is the brand's logo - the American flag. At a deeper level, they carry pictures, stories, and feelings of NASCAR, Budweiser, the American flag, "standing tough" and "standing tall" in the world, and pulling yourself up by your bootstraps.
Not only are most Republican voters largely unaware of the details of the issues facing our nation, studies show that most are badly misinformed. In some part this is the fault of the media, but the larger reason is that when a person has bonded to a brand, it becomes part of their identity. They then develop a psychologically sophisticated and largely unconscious internal system to filter out and reject contradictory information.
Progressives, liberals, and Democrats have failed to apply this simple reality, and therefore have allowed conservatives to define our brands for us. The very sophisticated effort to do this has been led by Gingrich, Luntz, and Limbaugh, three men who understand the psychology of branding, and have used it to sell the Republican party and the word "conservative" to Americans with all the zeal - and all the cash - used by other famous brands like Coke, Levi's, and Wal-Mart.
This is not rocket science, and it's not a secret. There's an entire industry devoted to teaching these concepts (in which I worked for two decades).
So why haven't progressives and Democrats figured this out?
We're still letting cons define our brand for us, and they're still doing it aggressively. In the month of February, 2005, timed to coincide with the Academy Awards, a con group has rented prominent billboards in Hollywood that will show a smiling picture of George W. Bush with the slogan: "Thank you, Hollywood!". In a row under the prominent and smiling Bush are less flattering photos of Michael Moore, Whoopi Goldberg, Ben Afleck, and other outspoken liberals. There are no Democratic billboards showing the biggest supporters of the Republican Party - corporate fat-cats like Ken Lay, with private jets and limousines, living in baronial mansions.
In classic marketing theory, there are two foundational concepts. Features ("what is it?") without benefits ("why should I care?") lack relevance. And, benefits without features lack credibility. Once these are mastered, you "chunk up" (to use NLP terminology) to branding: "Features and benefits without identification ("Who am I when I use this product?") lack "stickiness" or persistence.
Progressives and Democrats are still working on features - the details of programs.
Most progressives know all the features they're interested in: Universal single payer health care, a viable social safety net, prison and sentencing reform, a livable wage, support for unions and the repeal of Taft-Hartley and its heirs, voting (and voting machine) reforms, revoking corporate personhood and getting corporate money out of politics, moral leadership in the world, and working for a reduction of crime and poverty at home and towards stable, lasting worldwide peace (to name a few).
But there's no "benefit statement" in lists like these. Sure, some people think they're obvious, but the cons know - as does any good marketer - that you have to lead with the benefit, and only then do you follow with the features. Sell "lower taxes" to everybody before rolling out tax cuts for the wealthy. Sell "personal accounts" for Social Security before rolling out benefit cuts for future generations. Sell "protect your children" before rolling out homophobia and theocracy.
And, even worse, the left hasn't yet defined its brand.
What is our logo? Bill Moyers briefly talked about wearing a flag on his lapel, trying to re-brand the flag as the logo of the liberals, but because there was no national effort behind it, it died.
What is our identity? The cons have succeeded in making much of America think that to be liberal is to either be a wealthy actor or a scruffy gadfly. While many people wouldn't mind being either, few identify themselves in such terms.
The largest lights of the Democratic Party - its founder, Thomas Jefferson, and its two most famous recent presidents, FDR and LBJ - knew their brand and their identity, and brought the majority of Americans along with them. The largest landslide Democratic election victories of the 20th century were FDR's after he introduced the New Deal, and LBJ's after he introduced the Great Society. Their logo was the flag, and their identity was average working people, and those who aspire to the economic and educational middle class.
Jefferson not only defined the identity of the Democratic Party that he founded - the longest-lasting political party in world history - but defined the identity of America as well. He defined us in positive terms (what we're for) in the Declaration of Independence, as well as in contrasting terms (what we're against like the "ban on monopolies in commerce" he tried to write into the Bill of Rights). For example, in a February 8, 1786 letter to James Madison, Jefferson made clear his thoughts on what he considered a great international immorality - national belligerence that leads to a war of choice. "And it should ever be held in mind," Jefferson wrote, "that insult and war are the consequences of a want of respectability in the national character."
Later, Madison - also a member of Jefferson's Democratic Republican Party (which dropped the "Republican" from its name in the 1830s, although the www.whitehouse.gov website now lists Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, and John Quincy Adams - the first four Democratic presidents - as "Republicans") would write, "No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare."
FDR brought us back to Jefferson's ideals with his third inaugural address, sometimes called his "Four Freedoms speech," on January 6, 1941, when he said: "The basic things expected by our people of their political and economic systems are simple. They are :
"Equality of opportunity for youth and for others.
"Jobs for those who can work.
"Security for those who need it.
"The ending of special privilege for the few.
"The preservation of civil liberties for all.
"The enjoyment of the fruits of scientific progress in a wider and constantly rising standard of living.
"These are the simple, the basic things that must never be lost sight of in the turmoil and unbelievable complexity of our modern world. The inner and abiding strength of our economic and political systems is dependent upon the degree to which they fulfill these expectations."
In that, FDR created a brand, a packaging concept, a place for people to anchor their identity. It's name was the New Deal, but it was far more inclusive than just that.
Twenty-three years later, in his first State of the Union speech after the death of JFK, Lyndon B. Johnson said:
"This administration today, here and now, declares unconditional war on poverty in America...These programs are obviously not for the poor or the underprivileged alone. Every American will benefit by the extension of social security to cover the hospital costs of their aged parents. Every American community will benefit from the construction or modernization of schools, libraries, hospitals, and nursing homes, from the training of more nurses and from the improvement of urban renewal in public transit." In declaring his Great Society program and starting the Medicare program, LBJ cut poverty in America in half. And he, too, created a brand. (Had he not gotten caught up in Vietnam, he may now be remembered as one of our greatest presidents, as the impact of his social programs on America were tremendous.)
And, like Jefferson, both FDR and LBJ were overwhelmingly re-elected by the American people after declaring sweeping social programs that benefited average working people and those who aspired to the middle class.
The brand - the identity - of progressive ideals doesn't need to be reinvented. It's been with us since the founding of this nation. It long predates the Republican's Faustian deal with the Robber Barons and war profiteers. And when the Democratic Party has been strongest, it's been because Democrats have asserted a clear brand that stood in opposition to Republicans and their fat-cat owners. We are the - truly - We the People.
If the Democratic Party is to survive, it must embrace the progressive concepts that led to its founding in the late 1700s. It must tell average Americans what's in it for them, and once again give Americans a "brand" with which they can identify. It must stop playing defense, letting the Republicans define the agenda of public debate, and instead reinvigorate traditional progressive rhetoric, legislation, and identity.
Democrats must reassert their brand, and establish their identity. To do this, the Party must say, loudly: "We're for the average working stiff in America, and we'll prove it by bringing jobs back from overseas by pulling out of the WTO and NAFTA, supporting organized labor, strengthening the social safety net, and keeping government from being a honey pot for either churches or corporations." And then they must come up with a simple name for it, like Newt's "Contract" or Roosevelt's "New Deal" or LBJ's "Great Society" to provide voters with a hook for identification. They must further back this up by working with Greens and progressives for Instant Runoff Voting (IRV), the end of Republican-affiliated corporations programming our voting machines, and advocate social, economic, and environmental reforms - and bringing them into the Party.
Only then will the Party of Jefferson, Roosevelt, and Johnson again be able to advance social justice at home and peace around the world.

The Rapture Index

From Jon Carroll of the SF Chronicle:
Let us consider the Rapture Index. This is a real thing prepared by serious people. If it makes you laugh, you have not gotten the memo. You probably have not read any of the 12 volumes of the "Left Behind" series, the best-selling books in America today.
Those Left Behind are those who did not experience the Rapture, which is an instant in time when all the truly holy people are taken directly to heaven, leaving their clothes in small neat piles behind them. The rest of the ungodly losers are left to deal with natural disasters and wars and the armies of the Antichrist, after which they die in various colorful ways while the ranks of the saved watch with compassion tempered with an understandable sense of satisfaction.
The Rapture Index, as of this writing, stands at 153. Anything over 145 is labeled by the Rapture Actuaries as "Fasten your seat belts." In other words: Repent for the End Is Near. You may see all this for yourself at www.raptureready.com/rap2.html, should you think I'm making it up.
The Rapture Index is based on 45 prophetic categories, things like drought, plague, floods, liberalism, beast government and mark of the beast. "Beast government" is apparently the European Union; the news that the EU is looking for a new president is seen as a sign that the end time is drawing nearer. The latest "mark of the beast" is a plan by the Antichrist that will result in said mark being implanted in the right hand or forehead of unbelievers. The relatively high number of this indicator is explained thusly: "Wal-Mart is falling behind in its plan to bar code all products with radio tags." There are some parts of this belief system I have not yet grasped.
The Rapture is a good thing, and therefore floods, famine, drought and all that are also good things because they portend the coming of end times. Even liberalism is a good thing, because there need to be a lot of Christ- deniers for the end times to come. (Among the prophesied Christ-deniers: the pope. That part is pretty much played down in the pamphlets.)
The end times begin when Russia (also known as the ancient nation of Gog) and Iran join forces to attack Israel. Before this can happen, however, the old temple must be rebuilt. Peace between Israel and the Palestinians is necessary for that to happen, so the Rapture Index sees the peace talks as a good sign. Not as a good as the tsunami, but definitely positive.
I am not the first one to notice this. The environmental Web site www.grist.org has been covering it; Bill Moyers also wrote a column about it (preserved by truthout at www.truthout.org/docs_ 2005/013105F.shtml). Alas, the quote attributed to James Watt, the secretary of the interior under Ronald Reagan ("after the last tree is felled, Christ will come back"), is not verifiable, although it's been reported many times. Probably the liberal media again, taking time out from promoting the homosexual agenda.
So read the Rapture Index. Consider its implications: One of George Bush's core constituencies is actively praying for environmental degradation. Its members are in fact praying for the end of the world, because the end of the world is the beginning of the fun part of salvation.
Let's look at the new budget through this lens, which is (I emphasize) neither fanciful nor satirical. Money for clean water: down. Money for the cleanup of old nuclear sites, including the massive job at the Hanford (Wash.) Nuclear Reservation: way down. Number of Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management acres open for logging: up. Amount of territory in Alaska declared OK for oil drilling: way up.
You might even consider the impact of the Rapture on deficit financing. Who cares how much debt we accrue? Christ will come and forgive it all. Why not borrow against the future to pay for the present? The future is gonna be a whole different deal. We're just placeholders for God's own totalitarian state.
For us secular humanists, us gay-marrying, porn-reading, prayer-mocking harbingers of doom, all this seems incredible. We are still in the reality- based paradigm; we have not yet crossed over into the faith-based paradigm. In the faith-based world, the apparent inconsistencies within the Bush administration fade into nothingness.
Millennial Christians have somehow convinced themselves that the founding fathers would have approved of all this because they were all old-time Christians following that old-time religion. Because Rapture theology was mostly cobbled together in the 19th century based on very selective readings from parts of the New Testament, it is unlikely that the founding fathers believed anything of the sort. Not important: Once again, I'm indulging in reality-based thinking.
Like the prophet said: Fasten your seat belts.
The thing about the Rapture Index is this: If you're part of the problem, you're part of the solution, because it's no good smiting sinners if there are no sinners to smite.

Meet the extremist hate-mongers of the Washington (Moonie) Times

From the Southern Poverty Law Center:
Marian Kester Coombs is a woman who believes America has become a "den of iniquity" thanks to "its efforts to accommodate minorities." White men should "run, not walk" to wed "racially conscious" white women and avoid being out-bred by non-whites. Latinos are "rising to take this country away from those who made it," the "Euroamericans." Muslims are "human hyenas" who "smell blood" and are "closing in" on their "weakened prey," meaning "the white race." Blacks, Coombs sneers, are "saintly victims who can do no wrong." Black solidarity and non-white immigration are imposing "racial revolution and decomposition" in America.
Coombs describes herself as just "a freelance writer in Crofton, Maryland." But this is one writer who's a bit more well-positioned than she lets on. Marian Kester Coombs is married to Francis Booth Coombs, managing editor of the hard-right newspaper The Washington Times. Fran Coombs has published at least 35 of his wife's news and opinion pieces for his paper, although his relationship to her is not acknowledged in her Times bylines.
And that's not all. Fran Coombs has presided over the Times' republication of articles taken from white supremacist hate groups, not to mention allowing a key employee at the paper to write fawning pieces about the same groups. Just this February, Times officials had to apologize to a Jewish group for publishing one anti-Semitic ad for a book called For Fear of the Jews. What they didn't say was that they had published similar ads nine other times in a single month last fall, plus another from a key Holocaust denial outfit.
Both Coombses declined comment. So did Washington Times editor in chief Wesley Pruden and officials of the organization that owns the newspaper.
Most of Marian Coombs' especially inflammatory writings have appeared in white supremacist venues such as The Occidental Quarterly, which ran her glowing review of a book on "racially conscious" whites by Robert S. Griffin, a member of the neo-Nazi National Alliance. But the Times has published its share.
In one opinion piece in the Times, Coombs described the whole of human history as "the struggle of ... races." Non-white immigration, she wrote in another column, is "importing poverty and revolution" that will end in "the eventual loss of sovereign American territory." In England, Muslims "are turning life in this once pleasant land into a misery for its native inhabitants."
In at least two Times pieces, Coombs cites Nick Griffin, head of the British National Party (BNP), as an authority on Muslim culture. In fact, eight paragraphs of one short story are quotations from Griffin. What Coombs forgets to mention is that the BNP is a whites-only extremist party whose leader has been convicted in England of race-hate crimes (see the Intelligence Report's Fall 2001 exposé, Hands Across the Water).
Elsewhere, she is more candid. In Chronicles, a key far-right publication, Coombs expanded on some of her ideas on race in an article bitterly condemning globalization. Healthy cultures, she suggested, will "proudly prefer [their] own people." Such a people will, among other things, "revel in the unrivaled beauty of [their] characteristic complexion, hair texture, eye color and head shape."
In another Chronicles article, Coombs offers her very own theory on the origins of homosexuality. Boys, she wrote, become homosexual in utero because "[s]tress on the mother interrupts the vital action of the testosterone upon the male fetus, leaving his brain insufficiently male." These mothers are "neurotic women" who have "unsexed their male infants in the womb." And, she adds, a 1987 article in a gay magazine that discusses ways for gays to win further acceptance is "a sort of Protocols of the Elders of Queer" — a secret takeover plot, in other words.
Before refusing further comment, Fran Coombs did tell the Intelligence Report in an e-mail that he had "no relationship with The Occidental Quarterly," and did not know what it was. (Started in 2002, the journal is published by William H. Regnery II of the famous publishing family. Regnery said he started it because "conservatives have simply become indistinguishable from progressives on issues of race and ethnicity." The magazine is dedicated to the study of "racial character," and its first issue called for dividing America into racial mini-states.) Coombs would not respond to any questions about his wife's frequent articles for the magazine. That separates the Times from at least one other highly conservative periodical. When the Report told Thomas Winter, editor in chief of Human Events, that his managing editor, Kevin Lamb, also edited The Occidental Quarterly, Lamb was immediately let go. Lamb, who has also written for other racist publications, simultaneously lost his job as managing editor of The Evans-Novak Political Report. The same day, Winter ousted four contributors to Human Events whose background was provided by the Report: Wayne Lutton and Peter Gemma, both members of the racist Council of Conservative Citizens; Marian Kester Coombs; and Robert Stacy McCain, a key Washington Times editor who has suggested that "perfectly rational people" react with "altogether natural revulsion" to interracial marriage. In its 60-year history, Winter told the Report, Human Events had never "knowingly hired a racist, never published racist articles, and never tolerated racist sympathies ... and we never will." Within hours, archives of articles by Coombs, McCain and the others had disappeared from the Human Events website.
But McCain, whose articles run under headlines like "Backlash Building in White America," still works at The Washington Times. Under the direction of Fran Coombs and national editor Ken Hanner, in fact, McCain puts together the paper's page-two "Culture Briefs" section. In that section, McCain has used excerpts from racist venues including American Renaissance magazine and the VDARE website. (For her part, Coombs has written articles for VDARE and once wrote to American Renaissance: "Whites do not like crowded societies, and Americans would not have to live in crowds if our government kept out Third-World invaders.") In fact, McCain may be the only mainstream newspaper reporter to have covered four American Renaissance conferences. Twice, he offered no description of the group, which is devoted to race science. Once, he said it was "critical of liberal positions on race and immigration." Only in 2004 did he note that some viewed it as racist. McCain, who declined all comment, has also been identified by the League of the South hate group, for whom he occasionally writes, as a member. Despite his well-known sympathies, McCain has written in the Times about the "pro-South" groups he favors. Last June 27, for instance, he penned an extremely long front-page article headlined "Southern Pride Rallies 'Round the Flag."
The Washington Times has taken something of a public relations beating recently. This Jan. 20, it ran an ad attacking Jews as "those folks of the anti-Christ." After the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington complained, Times general manager Richard Amberg Jr. wrote the group to profusely apologize, claiming the Times "never knowingly" allows ads that "denigrate religions."
That may be. But in just one sample period in late 2004, the newspaper ran at least nine similar ads — on Oct. 11, 13, 15, 20, 22, 26, 29, 30 and 31 — many of them plugging an anti-Semitic book called For Fear of the Jews. On Dec. 6, it went one better, publishing an ad for the Institute for Historical Review, a leading anti-emitic hate group that specializes in denying the World War II Holocaust.
The Washington Times is relatively small (circulation 102,000) and money-losing (it's been estimated that its backer, the Unification Church, has spent more than $1 billion to keep it going over the past 22 years). But its influence cannot be measured in those statistics. President Reagan once described it as his favorite paper. The first President Bush said it "in my view brings sanity to Washington, D.C." That influence may have reached a public peak this winter, when President George W. Bush invited its top leaders — including Coombs, Pruden, Hanner and others — to the White House for an exclusive, 40-minute interview. The resulting stories were spread across the front page of the Times' Jan. 12 edition.
Presumably the president, who on Feb. 8 denounced "the baggage of bigotry" and called racism "the central defect of our founding," knew little of the paper's record on race. 

Important questions remain about Jeff/James Gannon/Guckert

From Media Matters for America:
There remain numerous unanswered questions reporters who are serious about covering this story should be asking -- several of them raised by the "liberal bloggers" who are so frequently blamed for delving into the "personal stuff." Below are just a few:
How exactly was Gannon allowed into the press briefing room?
McClellan has said, "I don't think it's the role of the press secretary to get into picking or choosing who gets press credentials." Does he really mean to imply that if, say, incoming Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean were to ask, he would be allowed into presidential press conferences?
Would Bush call on Dean? Would he answer Dean's question?
What if Dean first paid $50 for a two-day journalism course at the right-wing Leadership Institute, like Gannon did?
What if Dean started calling himself "Harry Dixon" instead of using his real name?
Gannon apparently obtained a copy of classified documents regarding CIA operative Plame. What specific steps is President Bush taking to ensure that his administration never again illegally hands classified documents that reveal the identity of covert operatives over to someone using a pseudonym?
Given that Gannon was using a pseudonym, the administration official who apparently gave him the classified documents presumably did not know his true identity -- McClellan himself claimed he only "recently" became aware that Gannon is not his real name. What are the national security implications of someone running around the halls of the White House, using an assumed identity while talking to people with security clearance about CIA operatives?
Did Gannon's misrepresentation of his identity constitute a security breach?
Was anything illegal done -- other than the disclosure of Plame's identity in apparent violation of the law?
Did the White House use Gannon to disseminate any other controversial or illegal materials?
When did McClellan find out Gannon was using a pseudonym? When did others on the White House staff find out? Who in the press office decided to allow Gannon into briefings?
Why did Gannon use a "daily pass" nearly every day for two years, rather than obtaining a "hard pass"? Was this an "end-around" the normal process, designed to hide the fact that a partisan operative was posing as a "journalist"?
At least one reporter -- The Washington Post's Dana Milbank -- has said he believes he saw Gannon walking around with a "hard pass." Which is correct? Will the White House release any and all documents relating to Gannon's visits to the White House?
President Bush is notoriously disinclined to hold press conferences, and even more notoriously likes to befriend the reporters who cover him. The Bush White House is also well-known for scripting Bush's every move. Is it really plausible that Gannon has been covering the White House for two years, and was able to ask Bush a question at a briefing, without Bush knowing who he is?
Did Gannon ever travel with the rest of the White House press corps? Did he accompany Bush to Crawford, Texas, or on any other trips away from Washington? Did he fly on Air Force One?
Who else regularly attends White House press briefings using "daily passes"? Do any of them, like Talon, pass off White House talking points as original reporting?
Talon is looking for a replacement for Gannon; will Talon again be allowed to send a fake reporter to briefings? Will he or she be called on?


Blaming Black Men

From today's Progress Report:
With support for his Social Security privatization program lagging, President Bush has decided to focus his hard sell on African Americans. Last month, in his pitch, he said: "African-American males die sooner than other males do, which means the system is inherently unfair to a certain group. This needs to be fixed." President Bush has his priorities backwards. The issue that needs to "be fixed" isn't Social Security, it's the troubling statistic that African-American males have a shorter life expectancy than any other ethnic or racial group in America. If President Bush is serious about reaching out to the African-American community, his time would be more wisely spent addressing countless inequalities faced by African Americans in the U.S. today, like unequal access to health care, a higher incidence of unemployment, a disproportionate poverty rate and a higher rate of deadly youth violence. Instead, he has systematically cut programs designed to help combat these very issues.
THE SOCIAL SECURITY MYTH: African Americans depend heavily on Social Security benefits, which would be cut under President Bush's plan. The AARP found African Americans rely on Social Security benefits for about 44 percent of their income in retirement. That number is even higher for African-American women, who are likely to rely on Social Security for 56.8 percent of their income in retirement. On top of that, African Americans are less likely to have income from private assets; thus "Social Security is the only source of income for one in three African Americans over age 65." According to Hillary Shelton of the NAACP, "African-American children are almost four times as likely to be lifted out of poverty by Social Security benefits than our white counterparts."
INADEQUATE HEALTH CARE: African Americans are more likely to suffer from many life threatening diseases like cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Also, "African-American men and women have higher incidence of colon, rectal and lung cancer than any other group." And "black women are more likely to die from breast cancer even though white women have a higher incidence of the disease." Much of this problem is due to the inferior access many blacks have to basic health care. Based on the latest Census data, since Bush took office, the number of African Americans without health insurance has jumped by 400,000. More than one in five African Americans is now uninsured. A full "22 percent of black Americans" today rely on Medicaid for their health care. President Bush's new budget would slash Medicaid by $45 billion over the next decade, cutting crucial services and benefits.
PERILOUS POVERTY: Lower-income Americans today are disproportionately black and Hispanic. It's a situation that's gotten worse under President Bush. According to the Census, 300,000 black Americans fell into poverty in 2002, making the poverty level among blacks today a whopping 24.3 percent. While the median income of African-American households was 65 percent of whites' in 2000, it slipped to 62 percent by 2003. And according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, "unemployment among blacks hit a historic low of 7.1 percent in 2000, but has grown to 9.9 percent or higher since January 2002." One of the best ways to combat poverty is employment; President Bush, however, eliminated the Youth Opportunity Grants program, a program that gives job training to young people.
UNHEALTHY COMMUNITIES: Many people of color find attaining the American dream tough to do when tethered to crumbling communities. President Bush, however, has eliminated important programs designed to build up communities. For example, two federal banking agencies headed by Bush appointees are trying to change laws that would cripple the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA), a civil-rights law prohibiting discrimination by banks against people who live in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods. Bush also has proposed a 40 percent cut in federal juvenile crime prevention funds.
COMBATING VIOLENCE: In his State of the Union, President Bush said he wanted to give "young men in our cities better options than apathy, or gangs, or jail." In reality, the president has proposed a 40 percent cut in federal juvenile crime prevention funds, which would effectively "pull the plug" on local programs that reduce gang and youth violence.

The baddest dude in DC

From Jonathan Chait of the LA Times:
At this very moment, there are millions of conservatives across the land who, unbeknown to them, will soon develop an intense personal loathing for Nevada Sen. Harry Reid. The process, inevitable as the changing of the seasons, began on Monday night when the Republican National Committee distributed a 15-page memo accusing Reid, the chief Senate Democrat, of various transgressions.
It's working. Conservative talking heads have already begun expounding upon Reid's treacherous ways. Though many rank-and-file Republicans may have no strong feelings about Reid today, and some have never even heard of him, it won't be long before the very mention of the words "Harry Reid" will send GOP partisans into paroxysms of rage.
The need for the campaign against Reid is clear enough. Unlike the icy Hillary Rodham Clinton or the hotheaded Howard Dean, Harry Reid does not easily lend himself to hostile caricature. He is anti-abortion and anti-gun control. As the New York Times reported, Reid "is appearing more often on national television, where strategists in both parties say he comes off as reasonable and evenhanded."
Republicans carried out a nearly identical operation to drive up antagonism against Tom Daschle, the previous Democratic Senate leader, who was also inconveniently mild-mannered. Republicans sent out talking points, and in short order conservatives everywhere found themselves deeply vexed by the previously inoffensive, low-profile South Dakota senator. Rush Limbaugh, taking the demonization campaign a tad too literally, began calling Daschle "El Diablo." Perhaps now, with the devil himself already having been used, Limbaugh is thumbing through "Paradise Lost" looking for lesser satanic figures after which to name Reid. (My money's on "Beelzebub.")
It's entirely natural that Republicans would have no love for a leading Democrat. And there's nothing wrong with hating a particularly loathsome member of the other party, or even of your own party. I've done plenty of both myself. The trouble is that this particular campaign is highly dishonest.
A headline on the RNC document, for instance, calls Reid the "Chief Democrat Obstructionist." Now, "obstructionist" has a very specific meaning. An obstructionist doesn't merely try to stop legislation he disagrees with. If that were the case, every minority leader in a legislative body would be guilty of obstructionism. Obstructionists try to stop any legislation from passing, good or bad, merely to prevent the majority party from claiming credit. During the first two years of the Clinton administration, Republican Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole kept setting his preconditions higher and higher until eventually he renounced his own healthcare bill. Now that's obstructionism.
What act of actual obstructionism has Reid committed? The charges center on his current opposition to privatizing Social Security. To suggest he has flip-flopped, the RNC quotes Reid as saying in 1999 "most of us have no problem with taking a small amount of the Social Security proceeds and putting it into the private sector." Fox News apparatchiks Brit Hume and Sean Hannity have trumpeted this as evidence that Reid has reversed himself out of expediency.
But the plan Reid praised, which Clinton floated five years ago, was not privatization. It called for the government to invest a portion of the Social Security trust fund in stocks. Unlike President Bush's plan, it wouldn't have exposed individuals to any greater risk. Nearly all privatization advocates opposed the Clinton plan, and nearly all advocates of the Clinton plan oppose privatization.
The RNC also notes that in 1999 Reid took a trip to Chile to examine its privatized pension system. In fact, the high-minded explanation for Reid's trip is that he wanted to learn about privatization, but he wasn't persuaded that it would work in the United States. The low-minded explanation is that he wanted a free junket to Chile. Either way, there's no evidence he's changed his stance, let alone that he's done so for partisan reasons.
The real reason Republicans object to Reid is that he's a Democrat who disagrees with key points of Bush's agenda. Of course, you can't very well whip the Fox News audience into a lather by pointing at Reid and shouting: "He's a Democrat, and he's voting against us! The nerve!" Hence the need for insults like "obstructionist" and "partisan" — another favorite term of abuse against both Reid and Daschle — which are merely ways of making membership in the other party sound like some kind of affront.
This kind of transparent propaganda is, sadly, a normal function of political parties. But if you get gulled into believing it, or repeating it, you're either a dupe or a partisan hack.

Iraq: The Cheers Were All Ours

Jonathan Steele of the Guardian (UK):
...Queues of voters are not the defining issue for a decent election. In Iran last year they were so long that in many places polling stations had to stay open an extra four hours to give everyone a chance. Nor is turnout the decisive marker. Voters take part for a host of reasons.
El Salvador held an election in 1982, which Reagan administration officials such as John Negroponte, its then ambassador in nearby Honduras and now Washington's man in Iraq, touted as a glorious day for freedom because guerrillas attacked a handful of polling stations and people carried on voting regardless. On the lips of establishment TV anchors the generalization for the whole poll was "they defied the terrorists", as though violence was pervasive. A different picture emerged in a small town I visited north of the capital, San Salvador, as the polls were about to close. The queue broke down as frantic would-be voters stormed the desk to try to get their ID cards stamped. They were not specially interested in any of the parties on offer, they told reporters. The government had made a big issue of getting a high turnout, and they were terrified the army would brutalize them if they could not prove they had voted.
Every election is specific. Long before the Iraqi poll it was clear that Kurds and Shias would vote in large numbers. Their areas have not seen much violence, and both groups saw the poll as a chance to reflect their collective strength in the constitution-writing process. So there should have been no surprise that queues built up.
Fear of not voting was also a factor, though much less than in El Salvador in 1982. "I tore up my ballot paper," said a young woman who works for a US government-funded NGO in Basra. "But I wanted my finger inked, in case the religious parties check on people in the street."
Others abstained for different reasons. "Many of my friends will not be voting," Sayed Mudhaffer, a Basra official of the Writers' Union, told me. "Some don't know which list to vote for, because there hasn't been enough campaigning on what they stand for. Some think that because the United Nations isn't supervising, it won't be fair or honest."
His last point is well taken. As the old saying has it, what matters is not who votes, but who counts. Because of security fears there were even fewer international monitors in Iraq than in Afghanistan last year, and most stayed only a few minutes in the polling places they visited. They saw very little.
Why is it taking as much as two weeks to come up with a result in Iraq? In the polling station, where I watched the count, when the doors closed last week, they tabulated all 1,500 votes in just over three hours. Everything seemed above board and the results were given out "on background". But they had to be sent to Baghdad for "checking" before a public declaration.
In many other polling stations there were no observers, not even Iraqi ones. In Basra, even the representative of prime minister Iyad Allawi's party complained of the scope for fraud. Waleed Ketan said he had only been given credentials for 134 monitors while there were 386 polling stations in the province. His point was given substance by the head of the Basra election commission (who is widely accused of links to one of the main religious parties). Asked on three different occasions how many monitors he had accredited, he answered variously 4,000, 6,000, and 8,000.
The Iraqi election was, in fact, both normal and abnormal. In Basra, many Shias treated it as historic, saying it marked the real end to Saddam Hussein's dictatorship. Embarrassed and humiliated that foreigners rather than Iraqis had toppled him, they seemed proud that the election was an Iraqi show. I heard no one thanking Bush and Blair.
I also heard no one describe his or her vote as defiance of terrorism, let alone the insurgency. Blair called it "a blow right to the heart of global terrorism". Maybe a voter in Baghdad might have said such a thing. It was not the mood in the Shia south.
Most gave mundane reasons for their vote: patriotism, a sense of duty, concern over joblessness and power cuts, and the hope that the election might be a first step towards change. There was also a strong underlying feeling that having an elected government could hasten the restoration of sovereignty and an end to the occupation. This was certainly the view of those supporters of the radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who decided that voting mattered more than the risk of legitimizing the occupation.
Although some Shias say they supported the US offensive against the largely Sunni city of Falluja, and explain their feelings in terms of revenge for Ba'athist (seen as Sunni) oppression, it is more common to find Shias who deplore the talk of Sunni versus Shia conflict. They blame the foreign occupiers for stressing sectarian identity, an issue which, they say, has never been a matter of significance for ordinary Iraqis.
So this was certainly not an election which justified the invasion after the event or gave the occupation some kind of popularity among Shias. Nor did it reduce the pressure for a withdrawal of foreign troops and the dismantling of the bases the US is building. The main Sunni parties boycotted the poll because the Americans refused to give a timetable. The Shia parties will have to explain to their voters what they are doing to get one.
As Iraqis know, the main killers in Iraq are not the insurgents but the Americans. The Iraqi ministry of health's latest statistics show that in the last six months of 2004 they killed almost three times as many people as the insurgents did. On this issue, just as on the elections, TV images usually simplify, if not falsify, the story.

Hypocrite of the week: Howie Kurtz

From BuzzFlash.com:
Kurtz, alleged media critic for the Washington Post, took to the Wolf Blitzer CNN show to indignantly defend the faux journalist with a pseudonym, Jeff Gannon.
In what can only be described as journalistic malfeasance, the controversial Kurtz came to the defense of the mysterious right-wing pseudo-journalist, claiming that bloggers had wrongly dug into his personal life. Kurtz went on to opine that any journalist could get a day pass to the White House and ask the President a question. In short, Kurtz made Gannon (aka James Guckert) out to be the victim of some sort of liberal witch hunt.
Following the Gannon story, anyone with half a brain cell realizes that Kurtz's comments are simply damage control bullet points from or for the White House. The blogging world did what the lackey mainstream press will no longer do, expose a story that is at the epicenter of the deceit and propaganda media campaign central to how the Bush Cartel continues to control America. The Gannon story touches upon everything from manufactured news to manufactured "reporters" to the Valerie Plame affair to websites that have a connection to the White House, but appear independent, to a Bush Cartel hypocrisy about gays, to payola, to scripted Bush news conferences, to who knows what. This is a BIG media story that should be on the cover of the New York Times and Post.
But it isn't, of course. They know what their marching orders are.
And what did Howard Kurtz do? Why, he participated in the White House propaganda campaign by coming to the aid of one of their faux-journalist agents, a guy who was there for the sole purpose of helping move along the White House message points and to keep the news conferences and gaggles from getting derailed by the truth.
Hey, Howard, let's just poke one small hole in your tortured "Gannon as Victim" White House message point. In this day of post-911 security, would any reporter using a pseudonym who had no prior record of reporting and supposedly built gay pimp websites . . . be granted a security clearance? Can just any reporter get a day pass and end up asking Bush a question?
Which brings us to this: what is Kurtz's real name? That's what we want to know. And what is his connection to the White House beyond being married to Arnold Schwarzenegger's former public relations director, a woman who ran media campaigns for a slew of right wing initiatives in the Golden State? Oh, I guess we are getting too personal now, aren't we, Howard?
By the way, should we mention that it was a triple-hat week for Kurtz and his heart of media darkness and duplicity? There's his mind-boggling and nonsensical defense of the fabricated journalist calling himself Jeff Gannon. Then Kurtz accepted the White House Press Secretary's "word" that the Bush Administration had nothing to do with an exclusion list meant to keep Democrats from a Presidential speech in Fargo, North Dakota. The next day, a North Dakota newspaper proved that the list came from, you guessed it, the White House. Then, all in 7 days, Slate took Kurtz to task for "crafting a careful damage-controlling column about CNN news chief Eason Jordan." Uh, did we mention that Kurtz moonlights for CNN? (He's the host of "Reliable Sources" - how ironic!)
You know, if the Washington Post had any journalistic standards, Kurtz would have been fired long ago. His beat is the media after all, not defending the White House.
Until next week, just remember our motto at BuzzFlash.com: So many Republican hypocrites, so little time.

A lesson in conservative media tactics

Eric Alterman on the Center for American Progress website:
The past several weeks have seen a steady stream of stories that have exposed the right-wing media machine. The first example came in early January, when it was revealed that commentator Armstrong Williams was paid $241,000 by the Education Department to help promote President Bush's No Child Left Behind Act in his syndicated column and television appearances. Later in the month, Maggie Gallagher, herself a syndicated columnist, was found to have been paid $21,500 by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to publicize and promote the president's marriage initiative in 2002. As part of her contract, she drafted a magazine article for an HHS official, wrote brochures for the program and briefed department officials about the program. Another contract which extended into 2003 paid her an additional $20,000 from a Justice Department grant to the National Fatherhood Initiative for writing a report for the organization.
In some ways, Gallagher's payola scheme wasn't as damning (or expensive) as Williams's. But like him, she seemed to forget that no matter what protestations she may make to the contrary, she is also a journalist, and as such is expected to disclose – or turn down – contracts which may unduly influence her work. While both feigned surprise at the uproar and maintained that they had done nothing wrong, it's hard to imagine that Williams and Gallagher didn't know exactly what they were doing. They both filed stories extolling the virtues of the very programs they were paid to support, while also appearing on television to promote the administration line – all while "forgetting" to disclose that they were on the government payroll.
Completing the trifecta in late January was the case of Mike McManus, who writes a weekly column that is syndicated in over 30 newspapers, and who Salon's Eric Boehlert revealed was paid about $4,000 by HHS to train marriage mentors in 2003 and 2004. But that's only the tip of the iceberg. It seems that McManus's nonprofit group, Marriage Savers, also received $49,000 from a group that received an HHS grant to counsel unwed couples who are having children. As USA Today reported, "Since the consulting deals began in January 2003, McManus has touted Bush's marriage initiative in several of his columns. At least three of them quoted [Wade] Horn, a former member of the Marriage Savers board of directors. Horn's office manages the grant and contract under which McManus' group is paid."
If the old saw, "three is a trend" is true, the media has largely failed to recognize the payola scandal as such, and has yet to produce any reporting of substance tying these three cases together. A salient fact lost in the shuffle is that all the money going to buy favorable coverage comes from the public till, and it is the American taxpayer who is footing the bill for these schemes. A U.S. House of Representatives report filed this January found that in 2004, the Bush administration spent over $88 million on contracts with public relations agencies, as opposed to the $39 million spent in 2000 – the last year of the Clinton administration. The most famous of these PR contracts occurred last year and revolved around "reporter" Karen Ryan, who appeared in several video news releases – made to look like actual news reports – put out by the government to promote its Medicare bill. It turns out Ryan is actually a PR professional paid by the government to play the part of a reporter. (In some cases, however, the tab was picked up elsewhere. Jeff Gannon, reporter for the conservative Talon News – with its own ties to the conservative media establishment and fund raising apparatus – was outed by Media Matters as little more than a lifeline for administration figures when press conferences got testy. On Wednesday, Gannon quit Talon over the flap, which included evidence that he simply cut and pasted large sections of administration talking points in his alleged news stories.)
Blame is a two-way street, however, and if the press continues to fail to call the Republican media machine what it is – a well-funded, craftily coordinated up and down effort – then it will continue to be "shocked" each time the right tries to subvert (or buy) what has been considered our ostensibly free press. Beyond the prevalence of right-wing punditry on the nation's airwaves and the glut of partisans posing as journalists, there is also the issue of state-sponsored media, and the recent case of the RNC trying to intimidate television stations into not airing content that tells the truth about the president's proposed policies.
In the first case, CNN.com reported over the weekend that the Defense Department currently runs two websites masquerading as objective news sources – one aimed at the Balkan region in Europe, and the other targeting the Maghreb area of North Africa. They write, "The sites are run by U.S. military troops trained in 'information warfare,' a specialty that can include battlefield deception....At first glance, the Web pages appear to be independent news sites. To find out who is actually behind the content, a visitor would have to click on a small link – at the bottom of the page – to a disclaimer, which says, in part, that the site is 'sponsored by' the U.S. Department of Defense."
This all looks to be an attempt by the Bush administration to pay its way around what it has repeatedly, however inaccurately, called the "liberal media filter." In fact, on Jan. 26, the RNC's Ken Mehlman sent out a fundraising memo to the party faithful saying, "we need your help to get the president's message past the liberal media filter and directly to the American people." One way to do this is, of course, is to stifle the voices of dissent. Last week, the RNC sent threatening letters to local television stations in Indiana demanding that they not air anti-Social Security privatization ads sponsored by MoveOn.org. As reported in the South Bend Tribune, the letter – signed by RNC Deputy Counsel Michael Bayes – stated that "This letter places you on notice that the information contained in the above-cited advertisement is false and misleading. Your station should act responsibly and refrain from airing this advertisement." Kevin Sargent, vice president and general manager for WSJV-TV, told the Tribune, "When a letter says 'this letter places you on notice,' that's kind of threatening." So far, no station has pulled the ad, which, as Josh Marshall points out, is factually accurate, while the complaints the RNC are lodging are actually the ones that don't seem to be based in reality.
In a very real sense, these cases serve to paint a portrait of a conservative establishment that decries the unfair shake it gets in the press while at the same time buying favor to ensure good coverage, and bilking the taxpayer to do so. The question is, how long will the mainstream media continue to ignore the evidence?

How to talk to a conservative about Social Security

From TomPaine.com:
Social Security reform chatter is everywhere, and it's likely that at some point, you're going to be cornered by the water cooler or in the cafeteria and asked what you think. Your conversation partner may even be (gasp) a conservative. So be ready. This guide from Think Progress (a project of the American Progress Action Fund) includes point-by-point claims in the Bush administration's words, coupled with the real facts about Social Security. Make sure you're able to explain to a conservative why that "personal" account won't really be yours to control, or why passing on account money to your grandchildren won't be possible. Click on the link in the title.

Clarke Warns, Condi Ignores

From the Herald Sun, in Australia:

Eight months before the September 11 attacks the White House's then counterterrorism adviser urged then national security adviser Condoleezza Rice to hold a high-level meeting on the al-Qaeda network, according to a memo made public today.
"We urgently need such a principals-level review on the al-Qaeda network," then White House counterterrorism adviser Richard Clarke wrote in the January 25, 2001 memo.
Mr Clarke, who left the White House in 2003, made headlines in the heat of the US presidential campaign last year when he accused the Bush White House of having ignored al-Qaeda's threats before September 11.
Mr Clarke testified before inquiry panels and in a book that Rice, his boss at the time, had been warned of the threat. Rice is now US Secretary of State.
However, Ms Rice wrote in a March 22, 2004 column in The Washington Post that "No al-Qaeda threat was turned over to the new administration".
Mr Clarke told a commission looking into intelligence shortcomings prior to the attacks, "There's a lot of debate about whether it's a plan or a strategy or a series of options - but all of the things we recommended back in January were those things on the table in September. They were all done, but they were done after September 11."
The document was released by the National Security Archive, an independent US group that solicits government documents for public review.
Another document released by the archive said that from April to September 2001, the US Federal Aviation Administration received 52 intelligence reports on al-Qaeda, including five that mentioned hijackings and two that mentioned suicide operations, according to today's New York Times.
The Times quoted a previously undisclosed report by a commission set up to investigate the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington.
The report criticises the FAA for failing to strengthen security measures in light of the reports and describes as "striking" the false sense of security that appeared to predominate in the civil aviation system before the attacks, the paper said.

Why is Bill O'Reilly chairing our faculty meetings?

From Dahlia Lithwick at Slate:

File Ward Churchill under "Annoying Blowhards Who Have Come To Embody Important Policy Questions." One couldn't unearth a less attractive poster boy for free-speech rights in academia. Churchill may be fired from his faculty position at the University of Colorado for having written and spoken some of the most moronic nonsense ever to emanate from the mouth of an alleged academic. But he shouldn't be punished for being a hack. The folks who hired him should.
Shortly after Sept. 11, Churchill authored an essay, "Some People Push Back: On the Justice of Roosting Chickens," in which, among other things, he suggested that everyone who died in the Twin Towers that day were "little Eichmanns"—mindless capitalist functionaries somehow deserving of their fate. (Churchill has since stated that the janitors, children, and firemen who died should probably have been excluded from that charge.) He celebrated the 9/11 terrorists as freedom fighters. The essay is pretty much a sophomoric rant, intended solely to shock, and indistinguishable in kind and in tone from some of his earlier "scholarship," including this nonsense on the Jewish plot to claim "exclusive rights" to the Holocaust, which is, in turn, based on this drivel, lauded in some circles as groundbreaking political theory.
Now, nobody at the University of Colorado seems to have much minded that Churchill's footnotes often took the form of creative exaggerations and omissions, or that his trite little analogies to all-things-Nazi is a rhetorical device most of us outgrew in the third grade. Indeed, Churchill—who holds only a Masters Degree from Sangaman State University—is a tenured professor and was, until he resigned earlier this week, the esteemed head of the university's Ethnic Studies Department.
What changed over the past week has nothing to do with Churchill's scholarship or comments, or even with his increasingly dubious claims of Native American ancestry. What changed was that Churchill was invited to give a speech at Hamilton College—a small liberal arts university in upstate New York—on "The Limits of Dissent." What changed was that someone on the faculty at Hamilton Googled Churchill and reasonably felt his "little Eichmann" remarks were offensive. What changed was that the governor of New York called him a "bigoted terrorist supporter," and the perennially classy Bill O'Reilly posted the address of Hamilton College President Joan Hinde Stewart on his show. The predictable flood of death threats she received convinced her to cancel the speech—for fear of student safety at the event.
And suddenly, Ward Churchill is a household name. Garnering a hero's welcome back in Colorado this week, Churchill deliberately taunted both Colorado Gov. Bill Owens, who's called for his termination, and the school's board of regents, who have opened an emergency 30-day review period in which to determine whether he can legally be fired.
But fired for what, exactly?
For making Bill O'Reilly mad? For irking the Wall Street Journal's editorial writers? For embarrassing the governor of Colorado?
If academic tenure means anything at all, it means professors must be allowed to say and write what they choose without fearing removal by popular referendum. That's why the decision to grant someone tenure must be taken so seriously in the first place. One hundred percent of the blame for the Churchill debacle rests with the University of Colorado's board of regents that hired, granted tenure to, and promoted an individual whose scholarship and personal qualifications are now, and must always have been, in serious question. Churchill's silly notions have been in the public domain for years. Firing him only now suggests that Bill O'Reilly, as opposed to his faculty peers, gets the deciding vote on who is allowed to teach our young people.
Churchill's 9/11 comments were patently offensive. But they were not hate speech, they were not treason, and they were not in any sense a call to imminent violence on the part of his listeners. Read in context, his words are the purest form of political speech. Does that mean students have to take his classes? No. Does it mean any university needs to invite him to speak or even hire him in the first place? No. But does it mean that the governor or the board of regents are entitled to remove him now, simply because some "taxpayer money" goes to pay his salary? No. That would make virtually every professorship in the land subject to a heckler's veto.
A few years ago I wrote a piece about the kinds of violent protest witnessed at Hamilton last week—suggesting that when students or community members block an unpopular speaker through riots or death threats, it is they, rather than the speaker, who have crossed the line from protected speech to assault. We've become so persuaded that college students' fragile political sensibilities trump both academic rigor and open discourse that when they silence unpopular ideas through protest or threats of violence, we treat it as their sacred right.
Virtually everyone who has called for Churchill's removal makes the same argument: "What if it was your son/husband/mother killed in the towers?" But that is not an argument for suppressing speech—particularly on college campuses and particularly at a forum ostensibly testing the "limits of dissent." It's an argument for making all political discourse conform to the sensibilities of the most fragile victim. It's an argument for banning any discussions of the American Revolution in history classes because some student may have burnt her tongue on a mug of tea once.
In his essay On Liberty, John Stuart Mill wrote:
[T]he peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.
We can none of us learn anything—not our college kids and not our choleric talk show hosts—if our fixed notions aren't challenged. In a perfect world they would be challenged by scholars and intellectuals rather than cheap provocateurs. But it's ultimately the university's task, not mine or yours, to draw that distinction.

Ignored 9/11 warnings

This makes me so sick I don't know what to do except keep posting about it. Why????
I hope the story gets more and more traction.

Expressing outrage Thursday, family members of 9/11 victims called on the federal government to probe why it didn't act on intelligence warning of terrorist hijackings in the months before the World Trade Center was destroyed.
"The fact of the matter is these warnings were out there and nobody did anything about it," said Bill Doyle of Staten Island, who lost his son Joseph Doyle at the trade center. "My biggest concern is how high up did this get into the administration. There were people who testified at the 9/11 hearings that there were no warnings, but now we know there were. We need another investigation into the failures of 9/11. Obviously, someone at the FAA should be held accountable." Doyle said he received 253 e-mails yesterday from victim's families expressing anger over the declassified report.
Elaine Moccia, who lost her husband, Frank V. Moccia Sr., said releasing the information reopened old wounds.
"I am mad and upset that they keep bringing it up," Moccia said. "If they knew about it, why couldn't they have prevented it?"
Attorney Sanford Rubenstein, who represents families in a 9/11-related federal lawsuit against Saudi Arabia, said the families were hoping something good could come from the declassified information.
"It is clear that what the victims hope is what comes out of this information will prevent another 9/11," Rubinstein said. City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr.(D-Astoria), said, "It was outrageous that no action was taken by the FAA." "How much more specific than the word hijack before the FAA increases security?" said Vallone.

More on fake WH reporter from Salon

From Eric Boehlert, who was interviewed on Aaron Brown's CNN news show last night:
Before abruptly quitting his post this week as White House correspondent for the GOP-friendly group Talon News, Jeff Gannon enjoyed unfettered access to White House briefings. He gained that access not by going through the normal full background check most journalists face when obtaining a "hard pass," the ultimate White House credential, but rather by getting day passes, which require only an abbreviated background check. According to one current member of the White House press corps, Gannon was the only reporter to skirt the rules that way, obtaining daily passes month after month for nearly two years.
"Why did the White House circumvent the process for him?" asks the White House reporter.
That's just one of several questions that continue to swirl around the man who covered the White House under the pseudonym Jeff Gannon -- his real name is James Guckert -- and his abrupt departure from Talon News. After Guckert piqued interest in the blogosphere with an overly obvious softball question to President Bush at the Jan. 26 press conference, online sleuths uncovered the truth about Talon's close working ties with Republican operatives and their GOPUSA Web site as well as past identity. Faced with allegations that he was tied to gay-themed Web sites, Guckert resigned his Talon position Tuesday night. (Talon has posted scores of anti-gay articles.) Still left unanswered, though, is how a partisan novice reporter working for a fake news organization was able to gain regular access to White House briefings.
Hard passes to the White House are designed to give journalists who regularly cover the White House easy access: They simply swipe their credentials at the entrance while the Secret Service checks their bags. Day passes, which are picked up every day at the press office, are intended to provide flexibility for out-of-town journalists who might need to cover the White House for a day or two, or to allow White House reporters to bring in visitors who want to see the press briefings. But the current day-pass system was not set up to give permanent access to reporters who, like Guckert, fail to qualify for a hard pass.
The White House press office continues to be non-responsive to Salon's questions about the credentialing process and Guckert's apparent ability to rig the system. At Thursday's daily press briefing, White House press secretary Scott McClellan fielded several questions on the issue. He told reporters that Guckert had "never applied for a hard pass. He had a daily pass." Guckert's ineligibility for a hard pass -- the likely reason he never applied -- was left unmentioned.
To receive a hard pass, a journalist must submit a letter confirming that he or she works for a legitimate news organization, lives in the D.C. area, and needs access to the White House for regular news stories. But before the White House will send the request along to the Secret Service for a background check, the journalist must also confirm having received accreditation to cover Capitol Hill. Without Hill credentials, the White House will not forward a hard-pass application. Gannon had no such credentials.
But not because he didn't try to get them. On Dec. 12, 2003, Guckert applied to the Standing Committee of Correspondents, a group of congressional reporters who oversee press-credential distribution on Capitol Hill. On April 7, 2004, his application was rejected when the committee could not conclude that Talon was a legitimate, independent news organization. "We didn't recognize the publication, so we asked for information about what Talon was," Julie Davis, a reporter for the Baltimore Sun who is on the committee, previously told Salon. "We did some digging, and it became clear it was owned by the owner of GOPUSA. And we had asked for some proof of Talon's editorial independence from that group ... They didn't provide anything, so we denied their credentials, which is pretty rare," she said.
It's curious that the White House seemed disinclined to hold the Republican-leaning Talon News -- whose "news team" is made up of political activists with no journalism experience whatsoever -- to the same standards as the committee's. On Wednesday, McClellan insisted that all Guckert had to do to gain entrance to the White House was show "that he was representing a news organization that published regularly."
Still, without any hope of Hill credentials, Guckert had no prospect of landing a White House hard pass, so he simply adopted the day-pass system and turned it into his personal revolving door. In doing so, he created his own variation on a now-defunct third category of White House press pass, called the card index, which once allowed journalists to gain access to press briefings for weeks or months a time. But this system is defunct for one simple reason: It's not secure enough. Following the Sept. 11 attacks, the Secret Service did away with the card index, according to Martha Kumar, a professor of political science at Towson State University and an expert on White House press operations.
Indeed, security is a significant difference between the two types of passes that still exist. The hard pass requires a lengthy background check, punctuated by fingerprints and photographs. Someone picking up a day pass, however, simply presents a name, Social Security number and date of birth while the Secret Service does an instant check. That means Guckert, who covered the White House for nearly two years, was never subjected to a background check. Additionally, questions remain whether his passes were issued under his alias or his real name.
On Wednesday, when asked directly whether the reporter was being cleared by the White House under the name Guckert, McClellan hedged: "My understanding, [is] yes." McClellan did confirm he knew previously that "Jeff Gannon" was not the reporter's real name.

Krugman: Bush's Class Warfare Budget

Krugman in today's NY Times:
It may sound shrill to describe President Bush as someone who takes food from the mouths of babes and gives the proceeds to his millionaire friends. Yet his latest budget proposal is top-down class warfare in action. And it offers the Democrats an opportunity, if they're willing to take it.
First, the facts: the budget proposal really does take food from the mouths of babes. One of the proposed spending cuts would make it harder for working families with children to receive food stamps, terminating aid for about 300,000 people. Another would deny child care assistance to about 300,000 children, again in low-income working families.
And the budget really does shower largesse on millionaires even as it punishes the needy. For example, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities informs us that even as the administration demands spending cuts, it will proceed with the phaseout of two little-known tax provisions - originally put in place under the first President George Bush - that limit deductions and exemptions for high-income households.
More than half of the benefits from this backdoor tax cut would go to people with incomes of more than a million dollars; 97 percent would go to people with incomes exceeding $200,000.
It so happens that the number of taxpayers with more than $1 million in annual income is about the same as the number of people who would have their food stamps cut off under the Bush proposal. But it costs a lot more to give a millionaire a break than to put food on a low-income family's table: eliminating limits on deductions and exemptions would give taxpayers with incomes over $1 million an average tax cut of more than $19,000.
It's like that all the way through. On one side, the budget calls for program cuts that are small change compared with the budget deficit, yet will harm hundreds of thousands of the most vulnerable Americans. On the other side, it calls for making tax cuts for the wealthy permanent, and for new tax breaks for the affluent in the form of tax-sheltered accounts and more liberal rules for deductions.
The question is whether the relentless mean-spiritedness of this budget finally awakens the public to the true cost of Mr. Bush's tax policy.
Until now, the administration has been able to get away with the pretense that it can offset the revenue loss from tax cuts with benign spending restraint. That's because until now, "restraint" was an abstract concept, not tied to specific actions, making it seem as if spending cuts would hurt only a few special interest groups.
But here we are with the first demonstration of restraint in action, and look what's on the chopping block, selected for big cuts: the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, health insurance for children and aid to law enforcement. (Yes, Mr. Bush proposes to cut farm subsidies, which are truly wasteful. Let's see how much political capital he spends on that proposal.)
Until now, the administration has also been able to pretend that the budget deficit isn't an important issue so the role of tax cuts in causing that deficit can be ignored. But Mr. Bush has at last conceded that the deficit is indeed a major problem.
Why shouldn't the affluent, who have done so well from Mr. Bush's policies, pay part of the price of dealing with that problem?
Here's a comparison: the Bush budget proposal would cut domestic discretionary spending, adjusted for inflation, by 16 percent over the next five years. That would mean savage cuts in education, health care, veterans' benefits and environmental protection. Yet these cuts would save only about $66 billion per year, about one-sixth of the budget deficit.
On the other side, a rollback of Mr. Bush's cuts in tax rates for high-income brackets, on capital gains and on dividend income would yield more than $120 billion per year in extra revenue - eliminating almost a third of the budget deficit - yet have hardly any effect on middle-income families. (Estimates from the Tax Policy Center of the Urban Institute and the Brookings Institution show that such a rollback would cost families with incomes between $25,000 and $80,000 an average of $156.)
Why, then, shouldn't a rollback of high-end tax cuts be on the table?
Democrats have surprised the Bush administration, and themselves, by effectively pushing back against Mr. Bush's attempt to dismantle Social Security. It's time for them to broaden their opposition, and push back against Mr. Bush's tax policy.


Thanks, George

9/11 Commission Report describes multiple warnings to the FAA in the months before the attacks about possible hijackings by al-Qaeda operatives.

Howard Zinn: Changing Minds, One At A Time

From the March 2005 issue of The Progressive:
As I write this, the day after the inauguration, the banner headline in The New York Times reads: "BUSH, AT 2ND INAUGURAL, SAYS SPREAD OF LIBERTY IS THE 'CALLING OF OUR TIME.' "
Two days earlier, on an inside page of the Times, was a photo of a little girl, crouching, covered with blood, weeping. The caption read: "An Iraqi girl screamed yesterday after her parents were killed when American soldiers fired on their car when it failed to stop, despite warning shots, in Tal Afar, Iraq. The military is investigating the incident."
Today, there is a large photo in the Times of young people cheering the President as his entourage moves down Pennsylvania Avenue. They do not look very different from the young people shown in another part of the paper, along another part of Pennsylvania Avenue, protesting the inauguration.
I doubt that those young people cheering Bush saw the photo of the little girl. And even if they did, would it occur to them to juxtapose that photo to the words of George Bush about spreading liberty around the world?
That question leads me to a larger one, which I suspect most of us have pondered: What does it take to bring a turnaround in social consciousness--from being a racist to being in favor of racial equality, from being in favor of Bush's tax program to being against it, from being in favor of the war in Iraq to being against it? We desperately want an answer, because we know that the future of the human race depends on a radical change in social consciousness.
It seems to me that we need not engage in some fancy psychological experiment to learn the answer, but rather to look at ourselves and to talk to our friends. We then see, though it is unsettling, that we were not born critical of existing society. There was a moment in our lives (or a month, or a year) when certain facts appeared before us, startled us, and then caused us to question beliefs that were strongly fixed in our consciousness--embedded there by years of family prejudices, orthodox schooling, imbibing of newspapers, radio, and television.
This would seem to lead to a simple conclusion: that we all have an enormous responsibility to bring to the attention of others information they do not have, which has the potential of causing them to rethink long-held ideas. It is so simple a thought that it is easily overlooked as we search, desperate in the face of war and apparently immovable power in ruthless hands, for some magical formula, some secret strategy to bring peace and justice to the land and to the world.
"What can I do?" The question is thrust at me again and again as if I possessed some mysterious solution unknown to others. The odd thing is that the question may be posed by someone sitting in an audience of a thousand people, whose very presence there is an instance of information being imparted which, if passed on, could have dramatic consequences. The answer then is as obvious and profound as the Buddhist mantra that says: "Look for the truth exactly on the spot where you stand."
Yes, thinking of the young people holding up the pro-Bush signs at the inauguration, there are those who will not be budged by new information. They will be shown the bloodied little girl whose parents have been killed by an American weapon, and find all sorts of reasons to dismiss it: "Accidents happen. . . . This was an aberration. . . . It is an unfortunate price of liberating a nation," and so on.
There is a hard core of people in the United States who will not be moved, whatever facts you present, from their conviction that this nation means only to do good, and almost always does good, in the world, that it is the beacon of liberty and freedom (words used forty-two times in Bush's inauguration speech). But that core is a minority, as is that core of people who carried signs of protest at the inauguration.
In between those two minorities stand a huge number of Americans who have been brought up to believe in the beneficence of our nation, who find it hard to believe otherwise, but who can rethink their beliefs when presented with information new to them.
Is that not the history of social movements?
...What has happened in these two years is clear: a steady erosion of support for the war, as the public has become more and more aware that the Iraqi people, who were supposed to greet the U.S. troops with flowers, are overwhelmingly opposed to the occupation. Despite the reluctance of the major media to show the frightful toll of the war on Iraqi men, women, children, or to show U.S. soldiers with amputated limbs, enough of those images have broken through, joined by the grimly rising death toll, to have an effect.
But there is still a large pool of Americans, beyond the hard-core minority who will not be dissuaded by any facts (and it would be a waste of energy to make them the object of our attention), who are open to change. For them, it would be important to measure Bush's grandiose inaugural talk about the "spread of liberty" against the historical record of American expansion.
It is a challenge not just for the teachers of the young to give them information they will not get in the standard textbooks, but for everyone else who has an opportunity to speak to friends and neighbors and work associates, to write letters to newspapers, to call in on talk shows.
...Those truths make their way, against all obstacles, and break down the credibility of the warmakers, juxtaposing what reality teaches against the rhetoric of inaugural addresses and White House briefings. The work of a movement is to enhance that learning, make clear the disconnect between the rhetoric of "liberty" and the photo of a bloodied little girl, weeping. And also to go beyond the depiction of past and present, and suggest an alternative to the paths of greed and violence. All through history, people working for change have been inspired by visions of a different world. It is possible, here in the United States, to point to our enormous wealth and suggest how, once not wasted on war or siphoned off to the super-rich, that wealth can make possible a truly just society.
The false promises of the rich and powerful about "spreading liberty" can be fulfilled, not by them, but by the concerted effort of us all, as the truth comes out, and our numbers grow.

This is unbelievable.

From Will Pitt of TruthOut.org:
The blogosphere has been erupting over the last several days over the story of Jeff Gannon, a White House reporter for something called Talon News. The story has gone from irritating to infuriating to outrageous, and has lately parked itself squarely in the realm of the truly bizarre.
The issue: How did an obvious Republican operative from an unheard-of news outlet who uses a psuedonym - yeah, 'Jeff Gannon' isn't even his real name - and who looks as though he runs a gay prostitution ring in his spare time ever get credentials to cover the White House? Was this mystery man a key player in the exposure of CIA agent Valerie Plame?
Click on the link in the title for the background. Incredible reading.
The possible implications of this are huge.

Another lying liar who lies: Brit Hume of FOX

From Franken's blog:

As Media Matters noticed, here’s Brit Hume, the Fox News Channel’s top news anchor, on February 3: 

"In a written statement to Congress in 1935, Roosevelt said that any Social Security plans should include, quote, “Voluntary contributory annuities, by which individual initiative can increase the annual amounts received in old age,” adding that government funding, quote, “ought to ultimately be supplanted by self-supporting annuity plans."

Hume’s claim is that FDR wanted to replace Social Security with private accounts. Hume is lying. Here’s the FDR statement that Hume is misquoting:

"In the important field of security for our old people, it seems necessary to adopt three principles: First, non-contributory old-age pensions for those who are now too old to build up their own insurance. It is, of course, clear that for perhaps thirty years to come funds will have to be provided by the States and the Federal Government to meet these pensions. Second, compulsory contributory annuities which in time will establish a self-supporting system for those now young and for future generations. Third, voluntary contributory annuities by which individual initiative can increase the annual amounts received in old age. It is proposed that the Federal Government assume one-half of the cost of the old-age pension plan, which ought ultimately to be supplanted by self-supporting annuity plans."

So, FDR was proposing three things: a temporary “old-age pension,” for seniors who wouldn’t have time to pay into the Social Security system; a compulsory-contribution annuity--meaning, Social Security as we know it today--which would become a “self-supporting system,” and, third, voluntary individual accounts. Ultimately, the old-age pensions would be supplanted by the self-supporting annuity system (meaning, Social Security.)
Hume turns this completely on its head. He pulls two unrelated bits out of the FDR quote, and adds the wrods “government funding” between them. Because it’s so carefully done, it’s clear that it’s deliberate. And it’s a nasty form of dishonesty. Hume is manipulating Americans’ trust of FDR in order to build support for dismantling FDR’s legacy.
That same day on Fox, Hume’s dishonest point was echoed by Bill Bennett: "Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the guy who established Social Security, said that it would be good to have it replaced by private investment over time."
It’s just not true. But we know where it came from--Brit Hume.
Although it won’t be as explosive politically, this is worse than Dan Rather’s memo scandal. First of all, it's deliberate. Secondly, it's untrue. Dan Rather was guilty of being insufficiently skeptical of forged, true documents. But Brit Hume, Fox News Channel's #1 anchor--not commentator, not editorialist, anchor--is deliberately perverting the words of a hero to destroy the hero's legacy. 
Brit Hume should resign.
Tell Fox:
Show email: special@foxnews.com
Brit Hume’s email: brit.hume@foxnews.com
FOX News Channel
1211 Avenue of the Americas

Hume has responded to some listener emails by claiming our quote from him was taken out of context. But the context doesn’t help his case in the slightest. Here’s what he said:

"Senate Democrats gathered at the Franklin Roosevelt Memorial today to invoke the image of FDR in calling on President Bush to remove private accounts from his Social Security proposal. But it turns out that FDR himself planned to include private investment accounts in the Social Security program when he proposed it. In a written statement to Congress in 1935, Roosevelt said that any Social Security plans should include, quote, “Voluntary contributory annuities, by which individual initiative can increase the annual amounts received in old age,” adding that government funding, quote, “ought to ultimately be supplanted by self-supporting annuity plans."

Hume would be absolved if the full context had included something like,
"Now, when I say “government funding,” it might sound like I’m referring to regular old government-run Social Security. But I’m not. I’m referring to a little-known element of FDR’s initial proposal: temporary, government-funded pensions for people who were too old, in 1935, to pay into the Social Security system themselves. That’s what he wanted to phase out. Also, when I say FDR thought “self-supporting annuity plans” should ultimately replace the government funding, you might think I’m referring to the “voluntary contributory annuities” that I just characterized as private investment accounts. Again, you’d be wrong. Although I didn’t mention it, FDR’s original proposal used the phrases “compulsory contributory annuities” that would become a “self-supporting system” to describe what would become the Social Security system as we know it today. So, he was saying that Social Security would replace the temporary pension--not that private accounts would replace Social Security. Just wanted to get that clear."
Of course, that’s not what Hume said. (After the passage quoted above, Hume went on to talk about Harry Reid.) Mr. Hume wanted context; we provided context--and he comes out of it looking worse.
Actually, the context did clarify one thing: Hume was definitely claiming Roosevelt wanted “private investment accounts.” But according to the Social Security Administration, the voluntary accounts in Roosevelt’s proposal would just put extra money into the Social Security Trust Fund--not into private investments. Moreover, they were meant to be on top of the regular Social Security system, rather than carved out of it.)
So, top to bottom, Hume is dishonestly distorting FDR’s proposal in order to provide political cover to the Republican Party. That’s not news, that’s hackery; and the closer you look, the worse it gets. Al stands by his position: Hume should resign.