3/05/2005

Coming to a town near you...

Bill seeks to prevent public-college teachers from pushing ideologies
Minneapolis Star-Tribune

A national movement that supporters say protects college students from indoctrination by college professors but opponents say stifles debate made its way to Minnesota on Wednesday when two legislators proposed legislation that they call the "Academic Bill of Rights."
Sen. Michele Bachmann, R-Stillwater, and Rep. Ray Vandeveer, R-Forest Lake, said their bill would require the state's publicly funded colleges and universities to adopt policies that would mandate that professors not use their classrooms to promote their personal political or ideological beliefs. It also says that students would not be punished for disagreeing with their instructors' politics.
While Bachmann, who has announced that she is a candidate for Congress, said the law would apply across the political spectrum, the focus nationally has been complaints from conservative students that left-wing professors have tried to use their classrooms to indoctrinate young minds with liberal propaganda.
At a morning news conference, speakers included students and professors who talked of feeling punished for their conservative views. No speakers complained about conservative instructors.
Lawmakers in 21 other states have introduced similar bills, part of a national movement spearheaded by Students for Academic Freedom, a Washington-based student network founded by conservative activist David Horowitz.
Horowitz spoke at the news conference, saying it was unprofessional for professors to impose their political ideologies on their students.
"You don't go into a doctor's office and expect to get a political lecture or see on his office door cartoons bashing John Kerry or bashing George Bush," he said.
Critics of such measures, including the American Association of University Professors, have said the bills could stifle debate and questioned whether its supporters had ulterior motives, such as wanting more conservative professors.
Michael Livingston, president of the Minnesota Chapter of the American Association of University Professors, said he has heard the classroom horror stories anecdotally but believes they are rare occurrences at best.
"I find this very puzzling because it's a solution to a problem that doesn't exist," Livingston said. "The purpose of college professors is to help students think. We help them by presenting divergent perspectives. Sometimes we believe those perspectives, but a lot of times we don't. We just need to present our students with perspectives so they can think them through and understand them.
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A decent respect for the opinions of mankind? That's like so 1776

Jonathan Zimmerman in the Boston Globe:
At first glance, President Bush's tributes to freedom and democracy resemble Wilson's paeans to self-determination for nations around the globe.
Under the Dubya doctrine, however, Bush believes that the United States can accomplish this feat on its own. He pursues Wilsonian ends via decidedly un-Wilsonian means.
Even more, he turns his back on the Founding Fathers themselves. Last time I checked, conservatives were supposed to preserve America's original principles and purposes. But the Dubya doctrine flouts them. A "decent respect for the opinions of mankind"? That's, like, so 1776.
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Couldn't have said it better myself

From James Ridgeway of the Village Voice:
It is a bitter irony that while Bush tours the Mideast trumpeting the American-French rapprochement and the administration's cornball, P.R. version of "democracy," U.S.-led forces shoot at and wound Giuliana Sgrena, the Italian journalist who was just released by her captors after being held hostage for a month, reportedly killing an Italian intelligence officer who accompanied her at the same time.
It will turn out to be an even more bitter irony if the shots came from the Fighting 69th, the National Guard unit from New York City (profiled in Friday's New York Times) whose duty it is to guard Baghdad airport road.
When is enough enough? Must Americans endure their country steadily sinking in world stature until we become even worse than a laughing stock? We're fast turning into a pariah. We send out prisoners to be tortured in countries whose human rights records we attack. We run military prisons unfit beyond any description. We send men and women to fight without decent equipment. Worst of all, we put them into combat under leaders who would be ridiculed out of office anywhere else. Rumsfeld, the bumbling goofball of a defense chief. Gonzales, the smiling attorney general who endorsed torture. Cheney, whose former employer Halliburton rips off the Iraqi people as we promote our occupation under the banner of phony democracy.
Who's kidding who here? It's long past time to get out of Iraq. The exit plan is simple: Pack up and leave.
But let Ms. Sgrena say it, in her recent tense and emotional plea for mercy while she was being held prisoner: "You must end the occupation, it's the only way we can get out of this situation. I'm counting on you."
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3/04/2005

Grim milestone

From TruthOut:
As a suicide bomb in Hilla, Iraq, takes the lives of over 100 Iraqis, and an average of two U.S. soldiers are killed each day, we are on the eve of two tragic milestones: the 1,500th troop death in Iraq, and March 19, 2005, the second anniversary of a war that should never have happened. Military Families Speak Out honors all who have fallen - US service men and women, and Iraqi men, women and children -- who have all died in a war that is neither just nor justifiable. Despite all the "banner days" that were supposed to mark turning points in this war, the violence continues and escalates. The U.S. occupation of Iraq continues to be the problem, not the solution.
Military Families Speak Out - an organization of over 2,000 military families including those with loved ones who are serving in Iraq, who have died as a result of the war in Iraq, and who are newly deploying or redeploying to Iraq - urges politicians on the local, state and national level to call for the return of all our troops to their home duty stations, for troops to be taken care of when they get home, and for an end to the policies that allowed this reckless military misadventure to happen.
For more information on MFSO, click on the title.
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Duh

A recent New York Times/CBS News Poll indicates that Americans say President Bush does not share the priorities of most of the country on either domestic or foreign issues, are increasingly resistant to his proposal to revamp Social Security, and say they are uneasy with Mr. Bush's ability to make the right decisions about the retirement program.
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A 50-state strategy would indeed be nice...

From the AP:
Praying for American troops and evoking biblical images of helping the needy, Howard Dean told Mississippi Democrats on Tuesday night that the national party won't give up on socially conservative states. "We're not going to concede the South," the new chairman of the Democratic National Committee told an overflow crowd of more than 900 people in a dining room that was set up for 800 in the Clarion hotel near downtown Jackson. "The South will rise again, and when it does, it will have a D after its name," Dean said to applause from the diverse crowd of blacks and whites.
Dean was elected DNC chairman last month and is on a "red, white and blue" tour of states with long records of voting Republican. Last week, he was in Kansas, which has voted Republican in every presidential race since 1964. Mississippi has gone Republican in every presidential race since 1980, and Democratic presidential nominees rarely campaign in the state. Dean said he'll go to Tennessee soon. "The way we're going to win elections in this country is not to become Republican lite. The way we're going to win elections in this country is to stand up for what we believe in," Dean said.
Speaking at the $75-a-plate Mississippi Democratic Party dinner, Dean criticized the national debt and said: "You cannot trust Republicans with your taxpayer dollars." He prayed for American troops, saying even those who had criticized the war in Iraq should support soldiers and their families. He also said the Democratic Party should reach out to evangelical Christians and the party has room for people with divergent views on abortion.
"I want to reach out to people who are worried about values," Dean said. "We are going to embrace pro-life Democrats because pro-life Democrats care about kids after they're born, not just before they're born."
Jackson Mayor Harvey Johnson Jr., a Democrat who's seeking re-election, gave Dean a key to the capital city and told him: "You're already upsetting Republicans here in Mississippi. Keep up the good work."
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Do tell!

From Rick Klein in the Boston Globe:
A group of more than 50 House members filed a bill yesterday that would reverse the 12-year-old "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy and allow gays and lesbians to serve openly in uniform, arguing that the ban against them undermines national security at a time when the military is struggling to recruit soldiers.
The bill represents the first major congressional effort to repeal the policy since it went into effect in 1993, under a compromise brokered by President Clinton. It also reflects an attempt by Democrats and gay-rights advocates to reframe the debate over the rights of gays and lesbians, in an era when Republicans have used the controversial same-sex marriage issue as a political club against Democrats.
The measure's sponsors argue that national security demands that gay and lesbian soldiers be allowed to serve. A Government Accountability Office study released Friday found that more than 750 service members in jobs considered crucial in combating terrorism - including linguists and intelligence specialists - were among the nearly 10,000 who have been dismissed from the armed forces for being gay, lesbian, or bisexual under the policy.
"The policy is a proven failure," said Representative Martin T. Meehan, a Lowell Democrat who is the bill's lead sponsor. "In a time of war, it's outrageous that the military continues to discharge thousands of experienced, courageous, dedicated service members, with many of the critical skills that are needed in the war on terror, for reasons that have nothing to do with their conduct in uniform."
The bill is a long shot in the GOP-controlled Congress; of its 53 sponsors, only one - Representative Christopher Shays of Connecticut - is a Republican. The House Armed Services Committee will take up the measure; its chairman Duncan Hunter, Republican of California, favors a complete ban on gays in the military, and said the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy is too lenient.
Patrick Guerriero, president of the gay-rights group Log Cabin Republicans, acknowledged that "a lot of work" has to be done to persuade his fellow Republicans in Congress. But he said the political climate has changed greatly since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, because of the increased strain on the US military. Some coalition forces serving in the war on terror are now being led by openly gay British officers, with no ill effects on morale or job performance, Guerriero said.
"We need soldiers in Fallujah who shoot straight, not necessarily who are straight," said Guerriero, a former mayor and state representative from Melrose. "It's interesting that people think throwing people out of the military makes sense in a time of war."
The bill's backers say the measure could pick up support after last week' s GAO report, which found that the policy has forced out more than 300 foreign-language specialists, as well as code-breakers, interrogators, and counterintelligence specialists. Recruiting and training replacements for those soldiers has cost taxpayers about $200 million, according to the report.
"These resources could be better spent protecting our troops with up-armored Humvees instead of perpetuating an outdated witch hunt," said Representative James P. Moran, a Virginia Democrat who has signed on as a cosponsor of the bill. "Military linguists able to translate Arabic and Farsi - skills desperately needed in the war on terror - have been discharged, to the detriment of our military intelligence and security of Americans."
Military law has long prohibited gay and lesbian conduct, considering it grounds for dismissal. In 1992, Clinton campaigned on a promise to lift that ban, but the ensuing controversy led to a compromise: Gays and lesbians could serve, if they kept their sexual orientations private and did nothing to alert their superiors.
At the time, opponents of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" argued that members of the military were overwhelmingly opposed to serving alongside gays and lesbians, and any change could harm readiness within the ranks. But attitudes among service members appear to have shifted since then, Meehan said. He cited a study by the University of Pennsylvania's National Annenberg Election Survey last fall, which found that about half of the junior enlisted personnel who were questioned say gays and lesbians should be able to serve openly in the military. Higher-ranking officers, however, were solidly opposed, according to the survey.
Meehan's bill has been endorsed by eight retired generals and admirals, including three who are the highest-ranking US officers to come out publicly as gay or lesbian. On another front, the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy is being challenged in court in two separate cases: one involving 12 soldiers who were dismissed from their units and another involving an undisclosed number of service members still in uniform but not openly homosexual.
Retired Army Brigadier General Evelyn Foote said the urgencies of a modern military demand that the best men and women serve, regardless of their sexual preferences. "The issue is military readiness, not sexual orientation," Foote said yesterday at a press conference arranged by Meehan's office. "It's a critical way to begin bringing the military into the 21st century."
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Oh Canada!

Lloyd Axworthy, president of the University of Winnipeg and a former Canadian foreign minister, published an open letter to Condi Rice in the Winnipeg Free Press.
He kicked ass.

Dear Condi,
I'm glad you've decided to get over your fit of pique and venture north to visit your closest neighbour. It's a chance to learn a thing or two. Maybe more.
I know it seems improbable to your divinely guided master in the White House that mere mortals might disagree with participating in a missile-defence system that has failed in its last three tests, even though the tests themselves were carefully rigged to show results.
But, gosh, we folks above the 49th parallel are somewhat cautious types who can't quite see laying down billions of dollars in a three-dud poker game.
As our erstwhile Prairie-born and bred (and therefore prudent) finance minister pointed out in presenting his recent budget, we've had eight years of balanced or surplus financial accounts. If we're going to spend money, Mr. Goodale added, it will be on day-care and health programs, and even on more foreign aid and improved defence.
Sure, that doesn't match the gargantuan, multi-billion-dollar deficits that your government blithely runs up fighting a "liberation war" in Iraq, laying out more than half of all weapons expenditures in the world, and giving massive tax breaks to the top one per cent of your population while cutting food programs for poor children.
 Just chalk that up to a different sense of priorities about what a national government's role should be when there isn't a prevailing mood of manifest destiny. Coming to Ottawa might also expose you to a parliamentary system that has a thing called question period every day, where those in the executive are held accountable by an opposition for their actions, and where demands for public debate on important topics such a missile defence can be made openly.
You might also notice that it's a system in which the governing party's caucus members are not afraid to tell their leader that their constituents don't want to follow the ideological, perhaps teleological, fantasies of Canada's continental co-inhabitant. And that this leader actually listens to such representations.
Your boss did not avail himself of a similar opportunity to visit our House of Commons during his visit, fearing, it seems, that there might be some signs of dissent. He preferred to issue his diktat on missile defence in front of a highly controlled, pre-selected audience.
Such control-freak antics may work in the virtual one-party state that now prevails in Washington. But in Canada we have a residual belief that politicians should be subject to a few checks and balances, an idea that your country once espoused before the days of empire.
If you want to have us consider your proposals and positions, present them in a proper way, through serious discussion across the table in our cabinet room, as your previous president did when he visited Ottawa. And don't embarrass our prime minister by lobbing a verbal missile at him while he sits on a public stage, with no chance to respond.
Now, I understand that there may have been some miscalculations in Washington based on faulty advice from your resident governor of the "northern territories," Ambassador Cellucci. But you should know by now that he hasn't really won the hearts and minds of most Canadians through his attempts to browbeat and command our allegiance to U.S. policies. Sadly, Mr. Cellucci has been far too closeted with exclusive groups of 'experts' from Calgary think-tanks and neo-con lobbyists at cross-border conferences to remotely grasp a cross-section of Canadian attitudes (nor American ones, for that matter).
I invite you to expand the narrow perspective that seems to inform your opinions of Canada by ranging far wider in your reach of contacts and discussions. You would find that what is rising in Canada is not so much anti-Americanism, as claimed by your and our right-wing commentators, but fundamental disagreements with certain policies of your government. You would see that rather than just reacting to events by drawing on old conventional wisdoms, many Canadians are trying to think our way through to some ideas that can be helpful in building a more secure world.
These Canadians believe that security can be achieved through well-modulated efforts to protect the rights of people, not just nation-states.
To encourage and advance international co-operation on managing the risk of climate change, they believe that we need agreements like Kyoto.
To protect people against international crimes like genocide and ethnic cleansing, they support new institutions like the International Criminal Court - which, by the way, you might strongly consider using to hold accountable those committing atrocities today in Darfur, Sudan.
And these Canadians believe that the United Nations should indeed be reformed - beginning with an agreement to get rid of the veto held by the major powers over humanitarian interventions to stop violence and predatory practices.
On this score, you might want to explore the concept of the 'Responsibility to Protect' while you're in Ottawa. It's a Canadian idea born out of the recent experience of Kosovo and informed by the many horrific examples of inhumanity over the last half-century. Many Canadians feel it has a lot more relevance to providing real human security in the world than missile defence ever will.
This is not just some quirky notion concocted in our long winter nights, by the way. It seems to have appeal for many in your own country, if not the editorialists at the Wall Street Journal or Rush Limbaugh. As I discovered recently while giving a series of lectures in southern California, there is keen interest in how the U.S. can offer real leadership in managing global challenges of disease, natural calamities and conflict, other than by military means.
There is also a very strong awareness on both sides of the border of how vital Canada is to the U.S. as a partner in North America. We supply copious amounts of oil and natural gas to your country, our respective trade is the world's largest in volume, and we are increasingly bound together by common concerns over depletion of resources, especially very scarce fresh water. Why not discuss these issues with Canadians who understand them, and seek out ways to better cooperate in areas where we agree - and agree to respect each other's views when we disagree.
Above all, ignore the Cassandras who deride the state of our relations because of one missile-defence decision. Accept that, as a friend on your border, we will offer a different, independent point of view. And that there are times when truth must speak to power.

In friendship,
Lloyd Axworthy
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Give 'em hell, Harry

From the Washington Post:
Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan generally gets accolades for his public pronouncements. Yesterday he got a brickbat from Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), who blasted Greenspan as "one of the biggest political hacks we have here in Washington." Reid ripped Greenspan during an interview on CNN's "Inside Politics." He said the Fed chairman has given President Bush a pass on deficits that have built up in the past four years and should be challenging Republicans on their fiscal policies, rather than promoting Bush's plan to introduce personal accounts into Social Security.
Reid said that when Bill Clinton was president, Democrats had confronted the deficit problem by enacting a tax increase in 1993, which helped bring about a balanced budget and strong economic growth later in the decade. "Why doesn't he respond to the Republicans and tell them the big problem here is the debt that this administration [has] created?" he said. "We had a $7 trillion-dollar surplus when Bush took office. Now we have a $3 or $4 trillion-dollar deficit. That's, in fact, what Greenspan should be telling people."
...Reid's personal attack reflected Democrats' frustration over Greenspan's support for the key element of Bush's Social Security plan -- voluntary personal saving accounts for younger workers funded by diverting a portion of payroll taxes. Reid has led the Democrats in their united opposition to Bush's plan, and Reid spokesman Jim Manley said Greenspan's congressional testimony on Wednesday amounted to "shilling for the president with proposals that would put us deeper in debt."

Now that's what I call reframing.
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Challenging tort reform misconceptions

From Stephanie Mencimer at The American Prospect:
Politicians, like the rest of the general public, have been influenced by a sophisticated media campaign waged by the insurance and tobacco industries and other large companies to help insulate themselves from liability for injuries to consumers. They’ve heard the story of the McDonald’s coffee lawsuit.
“It’s the result of 30 years and hundreds of millions of dollars by the business community to convince people that tort reform is right,” says Pamela Gilbert, a Washington attorney who served as the executive director of the Consumer Products Safety Commission during the Clinton administration and has lobbied for consumer groups against tort reform. “The public is beginning to believe that we have too many lawsuits and the people to blame are the ones suing, not the wrongdoers. The Democrats who vote for tort reform should know better.”
Sober government data lend credence to what Gilbert is saying. Despite Bush’s frequent characterization of the legal system as “out of control,” his own Justice Department notes that lawsuit filings are on the decline and jury awards are down. The Government Accountability Office has concluded that doctors aren’t leaving medicine because of lawsuits.
But as with Iraq and Social Security, the Democrats are deferring not to the facts on tort reform but to some political calculus defined by their opponents. “They’ve gotten into this losing mind-set that they’re constantly playing defense,” Weaver says. “They’re constantly giving up ground to the Republicans over what were once their core principals.”
Gilbert believes the move by Democrats to embrace tort reform is shortsighted, because despite what they may think, it doesn’t protect them from attacks by Republicans and big business. Take Nelson, the Nebraska senator, she says. “The Republicans will go after him anyway,” Gilbert says. “They’re not going to reward him for those tort-reform votes.”
Indeed, the state of Mississippi provides a case study in how Republicans have effectively used tort reform to regain political dominance in once-Democratic strongholds, where many Democrats attempted to find “middle ground” on tort reform and still got clobbered for it in elections. In the state’s 2003 gubernatorial race, Washington über-lobbyist Haley Barbour effectively pummeled Ronnie Musgrove as a shill for trial lawyers, even though Musgrove had actually signed into law sweeping tort reform a year earlier in an attempt to mollify the business community. Democratic Lieutenant Governor Amy Tuck, due to her embrace of tort reform, lost her trial-lawyer support and was forced to switch to the Republican Party to save her political career; there was simply nowhere else to turn for campaign donations as a Democrat. In Mississippi, like in many states, trial lawyers are the only source of significant campaign funding for progressive candidates.
Pam Johnson, a lobbyist for the Mississippi Trial Lawyers Association, says that the Republicans, aided by outside money and resources from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, did such a good job of demonizing trial lawyers and candidates who took their money that Democrats felt like challenging the tort-reform myths outright was a losing battle. As a result, she says, “Nobody will come out and say it’s a big lie.”
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Great stuff on TomPaine: Superpower on the wane, Taxing wealth to improve schools, Why more Democrats didn't oppose "tort reform," Filibustering

Superpower? Really?
Jonathan Schell
Our economy is in hock to China. Our military is overstretched in Iraq. Our reputation is lying in tatters in most world capitals. Jonathan Schell writes that when Bush went to Europe, America's inherent weakness was on display. But the implications of our agressive powerlessness are serious.  If the United States continues to spread dysfunction and call it democracy, Europe may take the mantle of leader of the free world.

Taxing For Success
Robert B. Reich
It's pretty obvious why Wellesley, Mass. has better public schools than Washington, D.C.: a higher property tax base. Our system for funding public schools skews things in favor of kids lucky enough to live in affluent districts with high property taxes. And unless the playing field is leveled, all the achievement testing in the world isn't going to help kids in poor districts succeed. Here, Robert Reich lays out his simple tax plan for change.

Class-Action Warfare
Stephanie Mencimer
The conventional wisdom about an "out of control" civil legal system doesn't stand up to scrutiny. President Bush's own Justice Department reports that lawsuit filings are on the decline and jury awards are down. And Republicans admit that tort reform is designed to weaken the Democratic Party's funding base. Given all this, why did 18 Democrats vote in favor of the class-action bill recently?

Nuking Free Speech
Robert Byrd
Senator Robert Byrd in famous for at least three things: highways in West Virginia, long speeches and his encyclopedic knowledge of the Senate. Now the senior senator takes a stand to defend one of the few remaining mechanisms for ensuring minority rights in our federal legislature: the filibuster. His is a passionate call. Will others stand with him?
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Going for broke...

Courtney Mabeus of Capital Eye talks about what's behind the bankruptcy legislation before Congress:
Fresh from their successful effort to pass class action reform, Senate Republicans are hoping they have enough momentum to push through legislation that would make it more difficult for consumers to escape from debt by filing for bankruptcy.
Financial interests, which have led a years-long effort to toughen bankruptcy laws, scored a small victory last month when the Senate Judiciary Committee approved bankruptcy legislation on a 12-5 vote. But as the Senate debates the bill this week, a coalition of consumer advocates, labor unions and others is working to ensure that the measure’s passage is far from certain.
Bankruptcy legislation has failed twice in the past seven years. In 2002, Democrats doomed the bill by inserting language to prohibit abortion clinic protesters from filing for bankruptcy to escape court-imposed fines. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) has vowed that he will try to include the abortion provision again. Democrats also may try to attach an amendment to raise the minimum wage by $2.10 over the next 26 months, a move that Republicans say they will resist. With its expanded majority in the House and Senate following the 2004 elections, the GOP may finally get its way.
The bill’s backers include some of the biggest contributors in politics. Finance, insurance and real estate interests combined for more than $306 million in individual and political action committee contributions during the 2004 election cycle, 59 percent to Republicans. President Bush raised $33.5 million from these interests, which contributed $13.9 million to the Democratic nominee, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.).
Credit companies and commercial banks arguably have the most at stake in the bankruptcy debate. The credit card industry has contributed $24.8 million to federal candidates and political parties, 65 percent to Republicans, since 1999. MBNA, the nation’s No. 1 issuer of credit cards, has accounted for $6.7 million of the total over that time period. The company’s employees and PAC are among President Bush’s top contributors, having given a total of $594,000 for his two presidential campaigns. MBNA spent a little more than $17 million lobbying Congress from January 1999 through June 2004.
Commercial banks have contributed $76.2 million to federal candidates since 1999. Of that, 64 percent has gone to Republicans. The American Bankers Association, the leading trade group for commercial banks, has strongly supported bankruptcy reform for years. It has contributed more than $5.8 million in individual and PAC donations to federal candidates, 57 percent to Republicans, since 1999. It spent about $22 million on federal lobbying between 1999 and mid-year 2004.
A number of other business interests, including retailers and car dealers, have supported the bankruptcy bill in years past. Credit unions, whose representatives met in Washington this week, also back the legislation.
Patrick Keefe, executive vice president of communications for the Credit Union National Association, said as many as 3,000 of the group’s members would meet with lawmakers on Capitol Hill to urge their support for the bill. Abuse of bankruptcy laws accounts for $90 million, or 40 percent, of credit union losses annually, he said. Keefe said CUNA is not interested in restricting people from declaring bankruptcy for justifiable means. Rather the organization wants to end the use of bankruptcy "as a personal financial planning tool," he said.
In past years, the lobbying battle in support of bankruptcy legislation was led by the Coalition for Responsible Bankruptcy Laws. Its members included MBNA, the ABA and the American Financial Services Association, the leading trade group for financial services firms. The coalition’s executive director, Jeffrey Tassey, has been urging Congress to pass the bill this year.
"The vast majority of Americans say that bankruptcy's more socially acceptable than it was years ago," Tassey told the Dallas Morning News in January. "Most Americans have seen somebody down the street with two cars, where they go bankrupt and there are no consequences to that, and it really upsets them."
However, the extent of the coalition’s role in this year’s debate is unclear. ABA spokeswoman Laura Fisher said there is no longer a "formalized" coalition of business or financial interests lobbying for the legislation. "What we’re doing is our own work," Fisher said. She said the ABA was trying to build opposition to Democratic-sponsored amendments, but could not give specific details. Tassey did not return phone messages.
The bankruptcy bill would apply a means test to determine how much money a debtor should be forced to repay. That would shift more debtors from Chapter 7 bankruptcy status, which usually results in the cancellation of most debts, to Chapter 13 status, which more often results in the debtor being assigned a repayment plan. Debtors whose incomes fall below their states' median income level would not be affected by the legislation.
Consumer advocates complain that the bill ignores the factors that contributed to an individual’s bankruptcy filing. They argue that many of the 1.5 million people who file for bankruptcy each year do so as a result of job loss, divorce or health problems and are not wasteful spenders.
The Consumer Federation of America, which is leading the opposition to the bankruptcy bill, and its allies also blame credit card companies for aggressive marketing and inadequate disclosure of penalties and interest rates. The groups want bankruptcy laws that would shield the poor from what they view as predatory practices.
Travis Plunkett, a CFA lobbyist, said the political climate has changed considerably in the years since Congress first considered bankruptcy reform. "The last time the Senate considered this bill was before September 11," Plunkett said. "The rhetoric in the late 1990s was go-go. We had a booming economy." But now, he added, the "other thing that’s booming is consumer debt. We’ve had a recession, we’ve had scandals."
CFA has spent more than $660,000 on federal lobbying since 1999, according to Senate filings.
Not all finance companies are supporting the current bill. This week, ING Direct CEO Arkadi Kuhlmann appeared at a Capitol Hill news conference with leading Senate Democrats to announce his company’s opposition to the bankruptcy legislation.
ING spokesperson Ashlee Stokes said the current bill could be harmful for consumers. The company, a subsidiary of Dutch financial giant ING Group, had plans to run ads in national newspapers this month. ING’s employees and PAC have contributed more than $818,000 to federal candidates and political parties since 1999, 61 percent to Republicans. The company spent $400,000 on federal lobbying in 2003 and the first half of last year.
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Frank Rich: Gonzo Gone, Watergate Still Here

From TomPaine.com:
Questions about Jeff Gannon/Guckert's access to White House press briefings persist, according to Frank Rich of the NY Times. He warns that, given the monopoly on power the Republicans have right now, the only investigation possible will have to come from the press. This sordid business reminds Rich of another not-so-golden era in American journalism—the days before Watergate. You can read Rich's latest column from the link above.
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Count Every Vote Act

I just wrote my members of Congress to urge them to co-sponsor the Count Every Vote Act, a sweeping federal election reform bill sponsored by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (NY) and Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones (OH). People For the American Way, the Election Protection coalition and other voting rights advocates are supporting this bill with me.
The Count Every Vote Act is a comprehensive, commonsense set of solutions to the voter problems we witnessed in 2000, 2002 and 2004. Please ask your senators and representative to become co-sponsors of this bill so that we can implement these reforms in time for the 2006 federal election.
You can e-mail or fax a letter supporting the Count Every Vote Act at:
http://www.pfaw.org/pfaw/general/default.aspx?oid=16842&action=1887
This legislation faces an uphill battle in Congress. The first step is getting a strong, bipartisan group of senators and representatives to co-sponsor it. This bill is what Americans have been demanding since November 2, and it needs your support now.
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3/02/2005

Post-Modern Bush

From Paul Waldman at Gadflyer:
Eric Boehlert, probably the best media reporter in America, has a vitally important piece at Salon today.
The systematic effort to undercut journalists, to strip them of their traditional influence in national affairs, represents the Bush administration taking steps to "decertify" the professional press corps by "trying to unseat the idea that these people, professional journalists assigned to cover politics, have a legitimate role to play in our politics," according to Jay Rosen, journalism professor at New York University. He views that effort, along with James Guckert's (aka Jeff Gannon's) ascension at White House press briefings, as being closely linked: "Creating 'Jeff Gannon' as a credible White House correspondent and creating radical doubt about the intentions of mainstream journalists (in order to decertify the traditional press) are two parts of the same effort."...
Ron Suskind argues that the Bush administration has rejected the fundamental idea of debate and intellectual exchange. "Other administrations ceded to fact, and saw the benefit -- the value -- to meaningful public dialogue based on fact," he says. "They understood that was one of their obligations, to engage with people who were there to ask pointed and pertinent questions and demand answers to them. They understood that's how it worked and that that was the precedent. This administration has said, 'What does that have to do with me?'"...
Suskind notes, "If you believe there is no inherent value to public dialogue based on fact, then that frees you up to try all sorts of things other people in power wouldn't have ever thought of. And we're seeing the evidence of that now."
If the project succeeds, what we're left with is a truly post-modern nation, in which "facts" and "truth" do not exist and everything is a matter of partisanship. Do we have a huge budget deficit? That's just liberal spin. Are there 45 million Americans without health insurance? More Democratic propaganda. If that's the case, then the administration doesn't have to be held accountable for anything.
The most disheartening part of it all is that the journalistic community, whose very existence is under assault, has responded not by standing up for itself but by falling to its knees in utter defeat.
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Works for me

From a BuzzFlash reader:
The corporate press tell us they are fair and objective. Still, we see this string of things: the unremarked (or dismissed) Gannon scandal, the payola for "journalists" and opinion-makers, Fox/Clear Channel/Sinclair/Talk Radio's outright lies and propaganda, the shameless and illegal use of phony "news," the use of dirty tricks and false alerts to distract the public, all this abetted and compounded by the acquiescence, selective silence, and cheerleading of our lapdog press...
Well, this situation needs a handy and accurate way to describe it.
The existing phrases: corporate media; mainstream media, left- or right-leaning press, media cartel, etc., all have something going for them but don't really "say it". It's time that we name what we're dealing with: " The Media Apparatus."
The dictionary defines "apparatus" as "any system or systematic organization of activities, functions, processes, etc., directed toward a specific goal."
The goal, clearly demonstrated every day, is to protect the Bush faction from criticism and exposure, and to help them gain the power to loot the treasury--at the same time reducing the citizenry to the status of cash-cows and soldiers. Media as we know it will never do anything but act the way it does now, for it exists to act the way we see it.
The media behaves as an apparatus in the precise sense Lenin, Mao, Castro, Goebbels, and the other hypocrite/idealists of the 20th century used it: a thing used to promote Maximum Leader and to destroy his opponents.
Now, is there any phrase for our current anti-democratic, anti-American press better than this: Media Apparatus?
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Off the deep end

From Jim David in The Advocate:
To sane people from other countries, it must seem that some Americans, specifically social conservatives, have gone completely mental. Right wingers and family values vultures, newly drunk with power, are reaching a level of hypocritical hysteria that makes the Janet Jackson breast brouhaha seem like a tempest in a C cup. The same people who see the Virgin Mary in a grilled cheese sandwich are suddenly seeing threatening gay images everywhere. The hits just keep on coming, as absurd as Monty Python but not as entertaining.
Surely you've read of this madness. Not being content to respect the privacy of one's bedroom, now they are attacking the privacy of one's pineapple. In his latest attempt to get laughed off the world stage, James Dobson of Focus on the Family decreed that Sponge Bob Square Pants is sending out subliminal gay messages to unsuspecting toddlers. If Dobson wants to go after a gay sponge, why not David Gest? And Buster, the animated PBS rabbit, was taken to task by the new Secretary of Education for having the nerve to show a legally united Vermont family headed by lesbians, as normal as a family with two June Cleavers and no Ward can get. Even the sight of Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval gays are potentially too much to bear for American children, and the Secretary, apparently unconcerned with such issues as education, took a cue from boss George W. and made a preemptive strike.
The Family Research Council has on its payroll, I'm not kidding, a "homosexuality detection expert" whose duties include informing us that words like "tolerance" and "diversity" are part of a "coded language that is regularly used by the homosexual community," as well as alerting families to potential gays in the midst. What a dream job - Gaydar To Go. I picture a Miss Gulch type roaming the aisles of churches and schools, armed with a crooked stick that violently shakes whenever a teenage closet case is near. Maybe Dick Cheney should have hired her years ago.
These cases, while hilariously aggravating, are nonetheless predictable. Every so often homophobia and paranoia makes people go "Tilt." What wasn't as predictable was the over the top level of naked, selective hypocrisy on display. Alan Keyes, one of the most sanctimonious politicians in history whose entire presidential campaign was based on moral values, was revealed to have a gay daughter and responded by using his moral values to kick her out of the house and withhold her college tuition. What do his fellow conservatives have to say? Nothing - it's a "private matter." Rather than act as a desperately needed positive role model for parents of gays nationwide, Dick and Lynne Cheney, otherwise vocal on every issue known to man, are completely silent about their gay daughter, it being a "private matter."
The wildest disconnect between what they say and what they do is occurring with the "Jeff Gannon" scandal. In this case, a fake reporter who used an alias, from a fake news organization which was nothing but a Republican propaganda outlet, had a White House press clearance endowed by the Secret Service and regularly asked the president softball questions. Big surprise, right? Here's the surprise: he was also a $200 an hour (or $1200 a weekend) ex-marine hustler, complete with X rated web photos revealing just how endowed he is...What do his fellow conservatives have to say? Nothing--it's a "private matter," as "Jeff" himself said in a CNN interview.
There's nothing out of the ordinary about a biased reporter. There's not even anything strange about a fake reporter spreading White House propaganda. But now conservatives such as Ann Coulter, who knows a propaganda spreading fake reporter whore when she sees one, are rushing to "Jeff's" defense, saying that hypocritical liberals are going after him simply because he's gay. Say what? No, they're going after him because he was a gay male prostitute with a White House press clearance who has written anti-gay articles.
"Jeff" has launched a new, G rated website (www.jeffgannon.com) defending himself and his "rock solid" values, as well as refusing to comment on his "personal life." Man, it's not your personal life, it's your professional life. You're a hustler spread-eagled with a woody online for any kid to see after they watch Sponge Bob. Have conservatives suddenly taken "don't ask don't tell" to an absurd extreme? Are they strong on terrorists but soft on gay hookers?
...You would expect James Dobson, Alan Keyes, or any of the other moral watchdogs to go ballistic over this guy. There has to be a logical reason why a call boy with online money shots and a White House clearance gets a fraction of the attention as Sponge Bob or Buster the rabbit, but one doesn't look for logic with these guys. Maybe "Jeff" is on call to William Bennett, who was revealed a gambling addict but also allegedly hired a Vegas dominatrix. Maybe he has a boyfriend on the Joint Chiefs of Staff. But whatever the case, it's evidently a "private matter" if you're a conservative Republican in lockstep with the Bush Brigade who dutifully stays in the closet, but not if you're a Democrat, a lesbian from Vermont, an out gay American, a soldier, or a sponge. And it doesn't matter if you're a whore, it just matters whose whore you are.
Tilt!
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World's ten worst dictators

I actually found something useful in Parade Magazine:

The past year was a good one for dictators—unfortunately. None of the most serious offenders lost his job. Competition for the Top 10 Worst of the Worst was so heated that two dictators who made last year’s list were nudged off—Fidel Castro of Cuba and King Mswati III of Swaziland—even though their actions were as harsh as the year before. The list has been prepared after consultation with Human Rights Watch, Freedom House, Amnesty International, and Reporters Without Borders—human-rights groups that have not hesitated to expose the policies of dictatorships on both the left and the right.

See if you can guess who they are, then go to the link and see if you can figure out which ones the US supports.
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This should cheer Bush up after a bad day in the courts

Salon has a a pretty depressing story about how the Bush regime is "trying to roll back efforts to improve the status of the world's women by demanding that the United Nations publicly renounce abortion rights." This demand came at the opening of a conference marking the 10th anniversary of the Beijing Commission on the Status of Women, "an event seen as a landmark in efforts to promote global cooperation on women's equality."
The Vatican was the only other entity that supported the U.S. position.
Bill Clinton administration (of course) was a strong supporter of the Beijing declaration in 1995, and until President Bush took power in 2001, Washington was viewed as a leader in international family-planning efforts. Bush has steadily reversed Washington's support for such initiatives, blocking U.S. funds to the U.N. Population Fund and diverting cash toward programs promoting abstinence.

Sigh.
I used to be disgusted, but now I try to be...
Oh, forget it.

UPDATE MARCH 5:
Salon reports that the U.S. ambassador to the UN has dropped her four-day campaign to add an antiabortion amendment to a one-page statement affirming women's rights at a UN conference this week, due to a total lack of support from other countries. The US has signed on to the declaration. And NY Times/Reuters reports that "jeers and catcalls greeted the top U.S. delegate to a global women's conference on Friday as she stressed Washington's opposition to abortion and support for sexual abstinence and fidelity...The loudest catcalls, unusual at the world body, came when she articulated U.S. policy on AIDS prevention for adolescents: 'We emphasize the value of the ABC -- abstinence, be faithful, and correct and consistent condom use where appropriate -- approach in comprehensive strategies to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS and the promotion of abstinence as the healthiest and most responsible choice for adolescents.'"
New Zealand's U.N. Ambassador Don Mackay, speaking for his country, Canada, and Australia said the Beijing document included a woman's right to control her sexuality.
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3/01/2005

Concerned about intellectual diversity at Stanford? Read on.

A shocking recent study has discovered that only 13% of Stanford professors are Republicans. The authors compare this to the 51% of 2004 voters who selected a Republican for President and argue this is “evidence of discrimination” and that “academic Republicans are being eradicated by academic Democrats”.
Scary as this is, my preliminary research has discovered some even more shocking facts. I have found that only 1% of Stanford professors believe in telepathy (defined as “communication between minds without using the traditional five senses”), compared with 36% of the general population. And less than half a percent believe “people on this earth are sometimes possessed by the devil”, compared with 49% of those outside the ivory tower. And while 25% of Americans believe in astrology (“the position of the stars and planets can affect people’s lives”), I could only find one Stanford professor who would agree. (All numbers are from mainstream polls, as reported by Sokal.)
This dreadful lack of intellectual diversity is a serious threat to our nation’s youth, who are quietly being propagandized by anti-astrology radicals instead of educated with different points of view. Were I to discover that there were no blacks on the Stanford faculty, the Politically Correct community would be all up in arms. But they have no problem squeezing out prospective faculty members whose views they disagree with.
Sure, some might say, but the color of a person’s skin is irrelevant to their duties as a professor while beliefs are at the core of the job. And to these critics, one can only say: you “knowledge” elitists have ignored the devastating critique of factual knowledge put together by the postmodernists! Objective reality is unknowable; our beliefs about it are merely “local truths”, cultural whims we could change at a moment’s notice. The only fair way to decide what gets taught is by what is believed!
But these far-left academics just ignore these devastating critiques. They continue to pretend their job is to investigate “reality” and believe things based on “evidence”, when everyone can see that these are merely absurd justifications for them to maintain their positions power and status over society. And, as has widely been conceded, their advanced “search committees” and “hiring requirements” are just ways to prevent nonconformists from challenging their orthodoxies.
The party of McCarthy must save academic freedom. Wealthy businessmen must pool their resources to fight elitism. Racists and sexists must tout the values of diversity. Conservatives must embrace postmodernism. Hard work? No doubt. But they are bravely willing to sacrifice all credibility to protect our nation’s youth. We should salute their courage.

From the hilarious weblog of Aaron Swartz.
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I think he's really just there for the poppies...

From Columbia Journalism Review:
Recently our competitor, American Journalism Review, reported that only five U.S. news organizations have full-time reporters or stringers in Afghanistan.
Well, there's a new guy in town. But don't expect to see him bellying up to the bar at whatever watering hole the other reporters favor, or combing the countryside to get a feel for -- well, for Afghanistan. With a planned itinerary and a full military escort, he has a full plate, hanging with defense contractors, cabinet members and ambassadors. You know, the real people.
Yessir, Rush Limbaugh, the "Doctor of Democracy," was in Afghanistan this week, pulling back the veil on what the other five guys cover up.
The Taliban? "Nobody is afraid of them anymore."
The troops? "Happy as can be!"
The development community? "Everybody here loves the ambassador from the United States. He goes back to the Reagan administration. He's a good guy."
The military contractors? "Guess who serves me breakfast every morning, the dreaded Halliburton people ... I said 'Hey, you guys, where are you hiding the oil?' and they chuckled and laughed."
The media? "Guess what the most popular media in this country is? It's radio! More people listen to radio in this country than watch TV and there's a huge effort. They've got talk shows, call-in talk shows that were featured during the presidential campaign. Now, none of this stuff is being reported out of here because none of it makes the Bush administration look bad and none of it makes America look bad and none of it is really bad."
Rush "really bonded" with the Afghan minister of defense over dinner and a viewing of vintage CBS News footage of the mujahideen's war against the Soviets. "I told him, I said, 'General, you invite us all here to your home for dinner to make us watch Dan Rather?' I said, 'I came to Afghanistan to get away from Dan Rather.'"
Bada bing !
Funny how the farther one travels, the more insulated one gets.
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Biden's Counter-Bamboozlism

Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo has been blogging the hell out of the Social Security issue. Recent post:
I'm a big fan of Sen. Joe Biden (D) of Delaware. But I usually figure him for a foreign policy and judiciary guy, rather than a big hitter on domestic policy. But take a look at his appearance today with Senator Santorum (R) on Meet The Press. He hits all the key points. Like: "No matter how you cut it, this real debate on personal accounts is about the legitimacy of Social Security; it's not about the solvency of Social Security."
Yes, just so.
Or this: "And the presumption that Social Security can't meet its obligations rests on the notion that the federal government will default, something it's never done in 220 years, on an obligation, on Treasury notes, IOUs, just like the IOUs Japan has and other countries have in terms of buying our Treasury bonds. And so I don't think we'll default."
So true! It was a minor masterpiece of counter-bamboozlism.
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Gimme an "F"

From Michael Tomasky of The American Prospect:
Well, it was delightful to read last week that President Bush believes in a free press and vital opposition.
In Russia.
Here in the United States, the story is different. His administration turns three willing journalists into paid propagandists. At the same time, it turns a propagandist into a journalist by giving him access to the White House’s daily press briefings. Meanwhile, a top administrator of the Social Security Administration -- an arm of the government that is supposed to remain scrupulously free of public partisanship -- goes on a pro-privatization tour with four Republican officeholders, saying his role is simply to inform the American public, but failing to explain why he’s informing only that portion of the American public that’s represented by Republicans. And finally, one of the administration’s most slavish congressional henchmen, Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma, subpoenas the tax documents of an organization that had the bad judgment to send a representative before his committee to say not what he and the administration wanted to hear about the “Clear Skies” initiative but what the organization actually thought. And these are just the examples that have come to light in February.
I’ve been writing lately about the internal discussions Democrats and liberals need to have to understand and update their core philosophy and communicate it to voters more effectively. Those discussions are vital, but they’re only one side of the equation. There’s something else Democrats need to do, which isn’t nearly so complicated. They need to fight.
We’re just a month into George W. Bush’s second term, and already it’s becoming pretty clear what this country will look like four years from now if the Democrats don’t fight. Let’s just start, for example, with public television. The fate of the republic will not rise or fall on this question. We survived without it until 1965, and one supposes we will again, especially since public TV has pretty much been reduced to showing those pitiful Britcoms that even my mom is getting tired of.
If preventing mediocre programming were the impulse, yanking the subsidies from the Public Broadcasting Service would be fine. But we know that is not the impulse. As the recent attacks on PBS President and CEO Pat Mitchell show us, the impulse is one of enforcing cultural purity: The kind of people who work at PBS are the kind of people who think it’s all right for a cartoon character to pay a call on a lesbian couple, and a community that is run by people like that, to today’s right, is a community that has to be destroyed.
Amtrak, too, could be gone in four years, making the United States the only advanced country in the world without a subsidized public rail system (increasingly, if something will make America the only advanced country without X, that’s all the more incentive for these yahoos to undertake it). Again, Amtrak is a long way from perfect (the lighting on the Acela feels like an interrogation room); we survived without it until 1971, and one supposes we can do so again if we have to, although air and highway traffic along the East Coast would become abominable. Amtrak, of course, has nothing to do with the culture wars. But funny thing: The vast majority of the people who depend on Amtrak live in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Maryland. I hardly need to say what they all have in common politically, but it has to do with the word “blue.”
Democrats will be tempted to think of these battles as fights over television and trains. They are not. They are part of a larger project of the Leninist right of remaking society to conform top to bottom with the goals and priorities of the right-wing state. Television that offers positive gay couples and foreign programming and artsy-fartsy symphonies is counterrevolutionary. Subsidized railroads that chiefly serve populations that voted incorrectly are dispensable.
Too many elected Democrats still don’t understand what’s happening in this country. They want to seem “reasonable,” and they think they can work out compromises with these people. Tom Daschle thought that, too, and he went to his political death, so to speak, still not quite willing to believe that conservatives would do or say anything about him in order to get him out of office. By the time he realized it, it was too late.
Which brings us back, as most everything does these days, to Social Security. Now that the administration sees that its privatization show has bombed in Peoria and will need Democratic votes by the time it gets to Broadway, it will start using conciliatory rhetoric and talking about bipartisanship. There are a handful of Democrats who always fall for this.
If these Democrats “compromise” on Social Security, they need to face consequences. I’d like to think Howard Dean, more impressive than I’d expected so far in his first two weeks as party chairman, is having one of his people secretly looking into whether primaries against Democratic senators in 2006 -- in states like, oh, let’s say Connecticut, to pick one out of the air -- are a live option if those senators compromise on Social Security.
This is a moment of truth for Democrats. The Social Security fight is symbolic of a larger struggle in which the ascendant right is trying to remake the nation in its own image. The nation, despite giving Bush 51 percent of its vote, is admirably resistant to this push in many ways. The Democrats had better represent this resistance.
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The Slate 60

The 60 largest American charitable contributions of the year, compiled by the Chronicle of Philanthropy.
Familiar names: Gates, Turner, Buffett, Templeton, Bloomberg, Winfrey.
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A secret organization the public needs to know about

Just what is the Council for National Policy, and why isn't it paying taxes? Sarah Posner investigates this tax-exempt "Secret Society" founded by Tim LaHaye of "Left Behind" books infamy. The group has no web site and "makes a concerted effort to hide" its journal.
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War Criminal

From Reuters:
Human rights lawyers will file a lawsuit in federal court on Tuesday against Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on behalf of eight men who say they were tortured by U.S. forces in custody in Iraq and Afghanistan, sources familiar with the case said.
The lawsuit charges that officials at the highest levels of the U.S. government shoulder ultimate responsibility for the physical and psychological injuries sustained by the men while in American custody. It was the latest development in a scandal over ill-treatment of U.S. war prisoners that has drawn criticism from around the world.
The case will be filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights First in U.S. District Court. The two groups scheduled a news conference later on Tuesday to announce details. The groups did not state who would be named in the lawsuit, but sources familiar with the case said it was Rumsfeld.
"The men represented in the lawsuit were incarcerated in U.S. detention facilities in Iraq and Afghanistan, where they were subjected to torture and other cruel and degrading treatment, including severe and repeated beatings, cutting with knives, sexual humiliation and assault, mock executions, death threats, and restraint in contorted and excruciating positions," the two groups said in a statement. None of the eight men was charged with a crime, the groups said.
Bill Lann Lee, an assistant U.S. attorney general for civil rights during the Clinton administration, and retired Rear Adm. John Hutson, former judge advocate general of the U.S. Navy, were due to participate in the news conference.
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Winners of the "Name Ann Coulter's New Book!" Contest

Sponsored by CampusProgress.org:
CampusProgress.org is proud to announce the winner of our “Name Ann Coulter’s Next Book” contest.
In the spirit of Coulter’s previous masterpieces such as Slander: Liberal Lies About the American Right and Treason: Liberal Treachery from the Cold War to the War on Terrorism, CampusProgress.org turned to its community of young people to craft the title for her next work of fiction.
The rules for the contest were simple: The book title had to be the same format as Coulter’s books—a single word, followed by an explanatory subtitle.
While the entires were all creative—truly as unique and delicate as Ms. Coulter herself—there could be only one winner. And that distinctive honor goes to 26-year-old UNC graduate Ryan Sniatecki of Baltimore, Maryland, for his suggestion:

“Roosevelt: Wheelchair-riding, America-hating terrorist”

For his efforts, Ryan will receive the grand prize—his very own talking Ann Coulter Action Figure. Everyone here at Campus Progress expresses their utmost gratitude to Ryan, not only for participating but for the fact that the doll scares the hell out of us and we’re anxious to get the thing out of our office.
In addition, our webmaster, August, will be reaching out to Ms. Coulter’s editors with the winning entry and the honorable mentions listed below offering them all as possible future book titles. Any response from Coulter or her editor, cease-and-desist letters included, will be posted here.

Here’s a selection of some of the best runners-up:

Pander: How character assassination and name-calling will make you popular and rich
Witchhunt: I Saw Liberals Speaking With The Devil!
Democracy: The Liberal Plot to Feed Your Children to the Poor
Liberals: Liberals, Liberals, Liberals, Liberals, Joe McCarthy
Damn: I can’t believe I get away with this!
Liars: “Charity,” “Tolerance,” and Seven Other Words Liberals Just Made Up to Confuse You
Help: I’m Out Of Liberal People, Places And Organizations To Hate
Crazy: Why My Divorce from Reality Should be Declared an Annulment and my Obvious Loss of my Marbles Should be Overlooked Because of my Extreme Hot Blonde Sexiness as Portrayed in the Many Posed Photos of Me on my Website, Even Though All You Have to Do is Look Into My Eyes To Hear the Whistling Sucking Void Where my Soul Presumably Once Was
Truth: lalalalala, I’m not listening!
Attack: Fly, my monkeys, fly!
Ann: Doesn’t Eat, Shoots, and Never Leaves
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Three painfully obvious things progressives must do...

From Joshua Holland on CampusProgress.org:
With the exception of one brief period, the Democrats – who enjoyed a 50-seat majority in the House 30 short years ago—haven’t controlled either chamber of Congress for a decade. If it weren’t for the stain of Nixon and Bill Clinton’s sparkling charisma (and Ross Perot), they’d be looking at a presidential drought dating back to 1968.
Lost in the media’s post-election obsession with “values voters” and out-of-touch blue-state elites is the root of the problem: Democratic leaders of recent years have shown stunning political incompetence. Watching them is reminiscent of the film “Groundhog’s Day”; you know what’s going to happen, but you have to suffer through it again and again.
Whether it’s gay marriage or Willie Horton or flag burning, the right has introduced issue after issue to separate progressives from the “real Americans” of the heartland. Democrats have taken those hot potatoes and fumbled them; they’ve produced photo ops of their candidates hunting, praying and driving tanks and failed to nuance their way out of the GOP’s traps and into their “kitchen table” issue comfort-zone.
It’s getting tiresome. But there are three incredibly obvious things progressives can—and must—do right now to start fighting back. They need to better analyze the conservatives’ strategy and provide alternatives to their wedge-issue proposals; they’ve got to play the frame game with a bit of ‘touch,’ and they have to define not only what they stand for but also what it is that they stand against.

Culture war ju-jitsu
Democrats have been turned 180 degrees in the wrong direction for decades. They looked around at a country that the New America Foundation’s Michael Lind characterized as “center right on social questions and center left on economic questions,” and they decided to fight their base’s culture wars and head towards the right on the economy to assuage their corporate patrons.
It’s been incredibly easy for the right to create issues that trap them: they take—or create—a popular, socially conservative issue and then offer a solution that sounds moderate but is, covertly, quite unacceptably extreme. Take the Federal Marriage Amendment; it’s ostensibly to prevent judges from forcing states to recognize other states’ gay marriages. But in actually it’s likely to be twisted to prohibit civil unions, and maybe even private sector same-sex partner benefits. Keeping red states from being forced to accept blue state marriages seems reasonable. The rest doesn’t; it just smacks of intolerance and civil rights violations.
Democrats understand the way this plays out, but still they fight against phony issues instead of doing what is obvious to opposition parties in democracies around the world: present alternative plans for the “problems” identified by the governing party. Just look across the pond at Britain. For every Minister in the governing party’s Cabinet, the opposition has a ‘Shadow Minister’ that talks about what the minority would be doing if it held the reigns of power.
A competing, Democratic Federal Marriage Amendment might have simply codified the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in the Constitution. Dems could have put in their own stealth provisions—maybe mandating states to recognize civil unions. With an alternative proposal in place, candidates wouldn’t have to squeeze a nuanced position into a ten-second sound byte, as John Kerry constantly tried to do during last Fall’s campaign. They could just say: “I, too, support an amendment to protect marriage. I like the Democratic version, which is moderate and celebrates diversity as well as preserving traditional values.”
Providing moderate alternative plans would show the electorate just who the extremists are in America, and that’s the way to win back the mushy center.

Stop regurgitating the right’s frames
George Lakoff’s bestselling Don’t Think of an Elephant! has gotten a lot of attention recently, but people have been writing about the conservatives’ ability to frame issues—defining the terms of debate to their advantage—without opposition from the left for fifteen years. It is a testament to the ineptitude of Democratic leaders that so many of their candidates and commentators continue to use right wing catch-phrases like ‘tax relief’ and ‘tort reform.’
By constantly reinforcing the right’s terminology, progressives only serve their opponents’ purposes. They need to come up with language with which they can present their values, they need to test that language with focus groups and they have to start disseminating winning rhetoric across their party infrastructure. Essentially, they need some message discipline. Then they should be chastised – maybe even fined like a child uttering a foul word – every time they break that discipline and mention, for example, tort reform without also adding their own spin; I like something down-homey like ‘amnesty for corporate crooks.’

What do you stand against?
Let’s give credit where it’s due: the Democrats have done a fairly good job defining what they stand for. Protecting the middle class, expanding healthcare coverage, investing in education, striking environmental balance and adopting an assertive multilateral approach to foreign policy are all good, moderate positions for an opposition party to hold in today’s political environment.
But ask yourself what the Dems stand against and the only things that come to mind are Republican initiatives. There is no aspect of American society—with all its blemishes—that the Democrats oppose.
Which leaves Democrats with a passion gap. We saw in this election that people will go to great lengths to stand for their beliefs. But they’ll go that extra mile to stand up against a perceived assault. Conservatives are against socialism; hypocritical political correctness; reverse discrimination; activist judges legislating from the bench; shadowy one-world governments; leftist religious persecution and Hollywood elites. If you bought the right’s mythic arguments you would have put up a hell of a fight too.
The sad thing is that the Dems—under the current leadership—are unable to define themselves as being against what brings together regular Americans from across the spectrum: entrenched money in politics and the unchecked corporate power it buys. A New York Times poll last year found that by a margin of 55-37 Americans felt that the GOP paid more attention to corporate interests than human needs. It’s a rich vein of disenchantment to mine, but to date the Dems are too much in the sway of the corporate types who finance their campaigns to jump on it.
Unfortunately, while that low fruit hangs out in front of us, Democrats continue their silly ideological debates and are constantly reminded by their corporate wing of the dangers of “class warfare” and economic populism. I think the short-term is bleak. Until they learn how to fight on the political playing field the right has built over the past four decades, I fear the Dems will continue to fall into trap after trap and folks like me will have to keep voting Green.
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How does "Neocon World Bank" sound?

The Financial Times reports that Paul Wolfowitz is on a short list of people being considered for president of the World Bank.
Good God.

On second thought, I must give some thought to John Cavanagh's (Institute of Policy Studies) "Top 10 Reasons Why Paul Wolfowitz Would Make a Good World Bank President:

He would follow in the great tradition of World Bank president Robert McNamara, who also helped kill tens of thousands of people in a poor country most Americans couldn’t find on a map before getting the job.
It helps to be a good liar when you run an institution with employees who earn over $100,000 a year to pretend to help billions of people who live on less than $1 a day.
With all his experience helping U.S. companies grab Iraq ’s oil profits, he's got just the right experience for doling out lucrative World Bank contracts to U.S. businesses.
After predecessor James Wolfensohn blew millions of dollars on "consultations" with citizen groups to give the appearance of openness, Wolfowitz's tough-guy style is just what’s needed to rid the World Bank of those irritating activists.
Unlike former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, another one of the four leading candidates, at least Wolfowitz hasn't failed at running a Fortune 500 company.
Unlike the Treasury Department’s John Taylor, another leading candidate, at least Wolfowitz doesn't want to get rid of the institution he would head.
While earning a University of Chicago Ph.D., he was exposed to the tenets of market fundamentalism that have reigned at the World Bank for decades.
He has experience in constructing echo chambers where only the advice he wants to hear is spoken.
He knows some efficient private contractors who build echo chambers for only a few hundred billion dollars (cost plus, of course).
He can develop a pre-emptive poverty doctrine where the World Bank could invade countries that fail to make themselves safe for U.S. business, modeled on the U.S. pre-emptive war doctrine he helped craft.
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Bill Moyers lets it rip...

...in an interview with the Santa Barbara Independent Online. Excerpts:

I never took (Bush) as a compassionate conservative. I’m a Texan. I saw what he had done to Texas and I knew he would do to the nation what he had done to Texas. And by God he’s done it. He’s turned the environment over to the polluters, he’s turned the courts over to big business, and he’s turned the schools over to the religious right. I was not fooled by his prevarications and his camouflage and his deceits.

There are always a lot of people who prefer the comfortable lie to the uncomfortable truth. In this case, a majority of voters knew exactly what you’re saying, yet voted for him none the less. They did so for one of two reasons. First, Bush had America scared to death. And fear was the dominant issue in that campaign, not moral values. Second, many of Bush’s supporters buy into the belief system that he and his allies have propounded. And in that belief system — which is supported by Fox News and talk radio — no evidence to the contrary can be permitted. Ideologues embrace a worldview that cannot be changed because they admit no evidence to the contrary. The Washington Post had a story about a study recently about how even if what people first hear turns out to be wrong, they still tend to believe it’s true. That’s because, if it fits their value system, they don’t change it after they learn it’s not true. It’s a weird phenomenon. I’d also say conservatives have never been more politically dominant and more intellectually and morally bankrupt. Because of that they can keep their troops believing the Big Lie. The Big Lie is that the threat of Al Qaeda is greater to us than the threat of low wages, environmental pollution, the growing inequality in America, or the terrible failure of the Bush policies on schools. People just didn’t want the uncomfortable truth to disturb the comfortable lie.

It’s so interesting that one of the chief critics of smut in television, Brent Bozell, who runs a right-wing media watch group [Media Research Center], is silent when it comes to the public standards of Rupert Murdoch’s sleaze empire. They do have a double standard. They are silent about the fact that it’s capitalism, and that it’s the media tycoons who are polluting the public sphere.
I know there are a lot of people who are conservatives and Christians who do not share the Republican ideology...The mainstream media doesn’t give a damn. It wants the most flamboyant outspoken sensational Pat Robertson it can get.

(To get my news) I use the Internet widely and I read 10-12 newspapers every week and 50 magazines every month. I scan them. You have to work hard to stay informed in this society. You can’t take any one newspaper or any one magazine and expect to be informed. You have to work at it. Anybody who has the energy and the time and the will can be informed today. But you can’t do it by listening to one broadcast or watching one cable channel or reading one newspaper. You really have to become your own editor today. I think that’s both exhilarating and exhausting. It is also a necessity. You can’t rely on the networks. You have to read the other side and listen to the other side. I spend as much time with conservative Web sites and conservative journals as I do with the New York Times, Washington Post, or the L.A. Times.

(Bush has) Texanized American politics. I was never fooled by it, but if you go home to Texas today, it’s a Christian empire. The state of Texas is a Christian nation. Conservative Christians dominate everything there. I don’t know Bush. I’ve never met him. I don’t know if he’s a likable man or not. But I know if I met him I would ask him, “How can you grow up well-churched and well-loved and well-taught and be so utterly insensitive to other people’s reality? How can you be so indifferent to people?” He’s a privileged man who is the ally of people who are trying to undo the social contract in this country and to take us back to the pre-1932 period, when it was every man for himself and American economic strategy was to let the animal spirits of capitalism run and everyone take the consequences. I do not understand that. Except to say that if a son of privilege cannot see beyond his own prerogatives and is therefore unable to feel and see how life is for others, then that’s a tragedy and a political travesty.

And when asked if he would choose to go into journalism if he had it to do over again:
If you want to go cover Michael Jackson, I guess yes. But if you want to be a serious student and analyst of the world, if you want to do really good journalism and journalism that tells the truth as you see it, then broadcast journalism is not the place to go today. There are still good newspapers. If you’re young today and you have a fire in your belly, you’ve got to follow it because it’s that fire that will sustain you in moments of low wages, in the face of indifferent editors and hostile owners, and a public at large that doesn’t care. But if it were me, I’d probably do the same thing over again.
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A disappointing day for W

The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that the Constitution forbids the execution of killers who were under 18 when they committed their crimes, ending a practice used in 19 states. The 5-4 decision throws out the death sentences of about 70 juvenile murderers and bars states from seeking to execute minors for future crimes. The executions, the court said, were unconstitutionally cruel.
Scalia and Thomas, of course, dissented.

And...
A federal district judge in South Carolina (nominated to the court by Bush in 2003) ruled Monday that President Bush had greatly overstepped his authority by detaining an American citizen as an enemy combatant for nearly three years without filing criminal charges. The judge ruled that the government must release the American, Jose Padilla, within 45 days from the military brig in Charleston, S.C., where he has been held since June 2002. He sharply criticized the administration's use of the enemy combatant designation in Mr. Padilla's case: "The court finds that the president has no power, neither express nor implied, neither constitutional nor statutory, to hold petitioner as an enemy combatant...To do otherwise would not only offend the rule of law and violate this country's constitutional tradition," Judge Floyd wrote, "but it would also be a betrayal of this nation's commitment to the separation of powers that safeguards our democratic values and individual liberties."
The judge also said that to agree with the president would "be to engage in judicial activism," a phrase often used by the White House to criticize rulings with which it disagrees.
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Can he help out over here too?

From the Independent (UK):
Harold Pinter, one of Britain's greatest playwrights ("Betrayal, "The Birthday Party"), has announced that he is no longer writing plays but plans instead to focus on his political interests.
His decision to focus on his political interests should come as little surprise to close observers of the writer who was a trenchant critic of the bombing campaigns in Afghanistan and Kosovo as well as the more recent invasion of Iraq.
Among the political leaders who have been at the receiving end of his wrath was John Major, from whom he famously refused a knighthood, declaring: "I would not accept such recognition from a Conservative government."
But it was during the Iraqi conflict that his political activism reached a peak, reflecting his vociferous opposition to both Tony Blair and his foreign policy. He has described the Prime Minster as a "war criminal ... [who] keeps going with that lovely Christian smile on his face and I am disgusted by it".
The US under George W Bush, meanwhile, he branded a "country run by a bunch of criminals [...] with Tony Blair as a hired Christian thug".
Four months ago, he was among a group of celebrity campaigners, ranging from the actor Corin Redgrave to the record producer Brian Eno, who called for the Prime Minister's impeachment.
Most recently, last month, along with hundreds of leading figures from the arts, the church and legal world he signed a declaration accusing Mr Blair of violating "precious British values" over his controversial anti-terror plans.
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What a coinkidink

Just as Alberto Gonzales starts shilling for new Patriot Act legislation, we have this (drum roll, please...):
From MSNBC:
The United States has intercepted a message believed to be from fugitive al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, instructing the leader of the Iraqi insurgency to expand his operations and begin attacking U.S. targets outside Iraq, intelligence officials told NBC News on Monday. The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that the message was obtained within the past several weeks and prompted the Department of Homeland Security to send a bulletin to state and local law enforcement agencies. The officials refused to reveal exactly how the message from bin Laden to al-Zarqawi was intercepted. A U.S. official, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said the message was “quite vague” and did not instruct al-Zarqawi to carry out attacks inside the United States. Instead, it discussed the need to begin planning operations “outside Iraq,” the official said. The Homeland Security bulletin did not mention the specifics of the intercepted message, but restated al-Qaida’s interest in attacking targets inside the United States, the officials said.
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The Christian Right gives Bush a pass on Gannon/Guckert

Bill Berkowitz on WorkingforChange.com:
They were livid over SpongeBob Square Pants' participation in a video advocating tolerance, and fuming about Buster the Bunny's visit to a lesbian household. So where's the outrage from the Christian right over the Jeff Gannon Affair? Despite a chunk of time having passed since the Gannon Affair was first uncovered, Christian right organizations are still cloaked in silence. As of February 24, there wasn't any news about the Gannon Affair available on the Web sites of Focus on the Family, the Family Research Council, the American Family Association, or the Traditional Values Coalition. As best as I could determine, no special alerts about the Gannon Affair have been issued; and no campaigns have been launched to get to the bottom of the matter.
Curious about this wall of silence, I phoned several Christian right groups on Tuesday, February 22, hoping to find someone who could comment on the Gannon Affair. This is what I found:
# Dr. James Dobson's Focus on the Family: I filled out an interview form and waited to hear back. Several hours later, a FotF administrative assistant called me to say that no one there could answer my questions about Gannon. She said a lot of folks were out sick and no one was available. "Would someone be available tomorrow or Thursday," I asked. She pointed out that no one would be available the following day or the day after to talk about this issue. "Next week?" "No."
# The Family Research Council: I spoke with Amber Hildebrand, FRC's Media Director. She said "We haven't made any public comments about this. There have been other pressing issues that have taken precedent, although this came as a shock to FRC." Hildebrand said she would see if FRC's Vice President of Government Affairs Connie Mackey, would talk with me. At press time (Thursday evening) Mackey has not called.
# The Traditional Values Coalition: I filled out an interview form and waited for a call back. As of 2.22, TVC Action Alerts are focused on the persecution and subsequent dismissal of charges against the "Philadelphia 5," a group of fundamentalists that disrupted a pro-gay activity in Philadelphia in order to preach "the Gospel to homosexuals," and on Columbia House for developing "a new subsidiary called Hush to market pornographic materials in association with Playboy and other pornography companies." At press time no one had returned my call. After making a second call, a TVC spokesperson told me that "no one is available to speak on that topic right now."
# The Free Congress Foundation: Over at Paul Weyrich's Washington, DC-based organization, Jill Farrell, the Director of Communications told me that she hadn't "heard anyone say anything at all" about the Gannon Affair.
The editors at Town Hall, the Heritage Foundation's one stop shopping center for conservative ideas, and the Rev. Donald Wildmon's American Family Association, currently involved in trashing HBO's Bill Maher over recent remarks he made about religion, didn't return my calls. Charisma News Service and the Christian Response Network didn't respond to my email questions about their lack of coverage of the Gannon Affair.
That was then...
While waiting for callbacks, my minds eye drifted back to the Clinton White House. Tim Bannon, a liberal activist, had made his way into a presidential press conference; Bannon had been attending press briefings for nearly two years, under the name Slim Cannon. No one seemed knew much about FallOnNews.com, the Internet news service he worked with, but many suspected it was a front group for the Democrats.
Clinton had been taking a well-publicized beating over the Monica Lewinsky Affair. At the president's first press conference in quite some time, he called on Cannon, who asked the following question: "Mr. President, given revelations about House Speaker Newt Gingrich's serial affairs and the abandonment of his wife when she had cancer, and given that Congressman Bob Livingston has a similar record of perfidious peccadilloes, and given stories about the sexual shenanigans of a host of televangelists including Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart, could you please comment on whether the right wing media, isn't selectively focusing on the Lewinsky Affair, and doesn't want to deal with sexual scandals in its own backyard?"
Less than twenty-four hours later, a host of right wing Web sites -- suspicious that Cannon may have been planted by the White House -- discovered that Slim Cannon's cannon was prominently featured on a number of gay porn sites, and that in his off hours he may have been a gay "escort." Intrepid researchers find out that Cannon had been privy to secret documents before any other duly accredited White House reporters.
"Clinton's gay consort" became the right's theme for the next several months.
Reality-based fans will recognize that the above scenario never happened. If a Tim Bannon, as Slim Cannon, had insinuated himself into the White House on President Clinton's watch, and lobbed softball question after softball question, all hell would have broken loose. Right wing media, and the pulpits and newsletters of fundamentalist Christians, would have been ranting and raving: "Where's the outrage?" Bob Dole's mantra from his failed 1996 presidential campaign might actually have finally resonated. The mainstream media would have no doubt jumped on board.
This is now...
What has actually happened bears some resemblance to our fictitious scenario. The major difference is that the scandal involving Jeff Gannon, whose real name is James D. Guckert, is happening on President George W. Bush's watch. The vituperative voices of the right are quiet and their voracious appetites for sex, slime and salacious details about Democratic dalliances have disappeared since it's a GOP scandal.
On the heels of the payola scandal involving Bush Administration payoffs to Armstrong Williams, Maggie Gallagher and McManus -- a loose coalition of the shilling -- along comes the Gannon/Guckert affair.
James D. Guckert, as Gannon, represented a conservative news site called Talon News. Somehow, within a short time of his entering "journalism," Gannon was able to get credentialed and attend numerous White House briefings and lob softballs at White House officials. According to DemocraticUnderground.com, "Gannon was actually in the White House as early as February 28, 2003 -- a month before Talon News even existed. Gannon also got called on by President Bush at one of his rare news conferences. Gannon ended his question with "How are you going to work with people who seem to have divorced themselves from reality?" referring to Senator Hillary Clinton and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid.
Details of the Gannon/Guckert affair are still being uncovered. Thanks to the blogosphere and largely through the efforts of Media Matters for America and John Aravosis' Americablog we are learning more than we ever wanted to know about someone we rather no little about. These blogs, and a handful of other enterprising bloggers, blew the lid off Gannon's shameful charade. Beneath the lid was James D. Guckert in pre-fig leaf Garden of Eden splendor: As a contributor to such sites as Hotmilitarystud.com, Workingboys.net, Militaryescorts.com, MilitaryescortsM4M.com and Meetlocalmen.com, Gannon's cannon is on full display.
"'Jeff' has now quit Talon News," writes Frank Rich in the February 20 edition of the New York Times, "not because he and it have been exposed as fakes but because of other embarrassing blogosphere revelations linking him to sites like hotmilitarystud.com and to an apparently promising career as an X-rated $200-per-hour "escort." (For more on all of this including links to some of Gannon/Guckert's Web sites, see Americablog.)
There are innumerable aspects of the Gannon/Guckert Affair that should keep curious mainstream reporters busy for quite some time: how did Gannon/Guckert get into all those White House press briefings and the President's press conference?; Was he on the payroll of Team Bush?; Did he play a role revealing Valerie Plame's CIA employment? -- the investigation is ongoing; how did he get by with being a phony right wing reporter by day and a gay prostitute by night?
A few weeks back, Buzzflash.com editorialized: "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."
Unable to speak with representatives from Focus on the Family, the Family Research Council and the Traditional Values Coalition, I turned to Joe Conn of American United for Separation of Church and State and John Aravosis, the creator of Americablog.
In a telephone interview, Conn said he wasn't surprised that there hasn't been any response from Christian right organizations because "The religious right is pretty much a team player when it comes to the Bush Administration. Unless it's an issue like same-sex marriage -- a core issue of their agenda -- they will give the president a pass."
"Clearly this is an example of the religious right's hypocrisy," Conn point out. "If it was Bill Clinton they would be in total uproar."
Via e-mail, I asked Aravosis why he thought the Christian right was being silent about the Gannon Affair.
"Because they're hypocrites," he wrote in an e-mail. "They know this scandal is hurting Bush and they put politics ahead of their God. That's how petty and un-Christian they are."
"Am I correct in thinking that they certainly would have responded to a similar situation if Bill Clinton was still president?," I asked. Aravosis responded with tongue firmly implanted in cheek: "Do you think the religious right would care if Bill Clinton welcomed a gay hooker to the White House, and then slipped him classified intelligence information? Let me think about that one."
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Lessons from the Bonus Army

Sean Gonsalves has an excellent article on AlterNet about right wingers and "supporting the troops." Some great quotations:

This week's word according to Orwell is the phrase "support our troops." In popular political language it has become the rallying cry for those who supported the preventive war launched on a defenseless Iraq – a country that posed no threat to America and has since been turned into a greenhouse for the cultivation of "terrorists." From a marketing standpoint, the phrase is an ingenious antidote to the so-called "Vietnam War syndrome" – a pseudo-psychological condition caused by Uncle Sam exiting the Vietnam War, tail between legs, because "girlie-men" Americans couldn't stomach the needless death of thousands of its young.
...So yes, "support our troops" – but it doesn't logically follow that such a sentiment means supporting the policies that unnecessarily put troops in harm's way. Unfortunately, Bush-backers, many of whom claim to have a personal relationship with the "Truth" (Jesus), have somehow been convinced by the absurdity that public criticism of the policies dreamed up by privileged people in secure, plush offices is tantamount to not supporting troops.

He goes on to describe the lessons we can learn from the 1932 Bonus Army episode, which helped FDR get elected and paved the way for the GI Bill of Rights. He concludes:

Amazing how neocons completely ignore such things when chastising "liberals" about free-market panaceas and how government programs only make things worse...In other words, supporting troops means more than writing letters to soldiers abroad, flying the flag and putting a yellow ribbon around the old Oak tree. As you read these words, there are veterans in VA hospitals paying for their meals while the president's budget, among other things, would more than double the co-payment charged to many veterans for prescription drugs, and would require some to pay a new fee of $250 a year to use government health care. Why? To pay war bills while giving disproportionate tax cuts to those who least need it.
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2/28/2005

Are we mature enough to end Black History Month?

From Byron Williams on Common Dreams:
Now that we've reached the end of another Black History Month celebration, I have a confession. Under the right conditions, I would support its elimination.
I am quite certain that some are already asking themselves: "How can he possibly consider the elimination of Black History Month?" I recognize that it is a worthy tradition, but is it a tradition free from examination?
Black History Month began in 1926 as Negro History Week by Dr. Carter G. Woodson, as a way to bring attention to the positive contributions of black people in American history. Woodson's achievements alone are of great historical value. The son of former slaves, Woodson worked in the Kentucky coal mines in order to put himself through high school. He graduated from Berea College in Kentucky in 1903, and then went on to Harvard for his Ph.D. Woodson was concerned that one was hard pressed to find the contributions of blacks, positive or otherwise in American history books, even though blacks had been an integral part of American history since 1619. In 1915, he established the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, and then founded the Journal of Negro History and Negro History Bulletin. In 1926 he began promoting the second week of February as Negro History Week. In 1976, it became Black History Month.
As for the conspiracy theorists who wonder why black history is celebrated in the shortest month of the year, Woodson selected February as the month so that it coincided with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglas.
However, does the legitimate reasoning that necessitated the celebration of Black History Month still require that we maintain it today? Perhaps the more appropriate question is, does America possess the collective maturity to end Black History Month?
I come to these questions with mixed emotions.
I suspect there are a number of African Americans who are quite comfortable with Black History Month remaining in its current state.
Whether it is the belief that without Black History Month the achievements of African Americans would go the way of the spotted owl, or the comfort realized in being marginalized, it is a conversation that many are not prepared to entertain.
My reasoning for supporting the elimination of Black History Month is that it renders the achievements of African Americans to an adjunct status in American history.
It is a mistake to view the Civil Rights Movement as something that merely helped blacks gain equal rights. This was a movement that tested the elasticity of the Constitution. In doing so, it made America examine whether or not the Jeffersonian notion of equality had validity.
Is that not a lesson for all Americans to embrace? Why are the names of George Washington Carver, Fannie Lou Hamer and Ralph Bunche almost exclusive property of African Americans? Furthermore, does not the concept of Black History Month suggest that other marginalized groups have a month of celebration as well?
Thus, the solution would be to authentically integrate the achievements of African Americans as well as other marginalized communities into American history. Here is where I fear we do not possess collective maturity.
An authentic integration of American history would require that all communities be honest about its high and low moments. A genuine incorporation of history would therefore demand that America become self-reflective in ways that it has managed to avoid.
If the descendants of African slaves cannot receive an apology from the United States government for the obvious centuries of dehumanization, how can we realistically examine the mistreatment sustained not only by Native Americans, but also practically every group that has arrived on these shores?
Sadly, America is not at this place. Any attempts to authentically integrate black history into that of dominant culture, I fear, would further marginalize the former.
It is a mature nation that can look at itself authentically, not for the purposes of guilt, but rather to become better and stronger. When it is no longer necessary that February commemorate Black History Month, we will be well on our way.
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