Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Govt Releasing Secret Wiretap Documents

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Govt Releasing Secret Wiretap Documents

Al-Maliki: Iraq Can't Be Battleground For US Against Iran, Syria

Al-Maliki: Iraq Can't Be Battleground For US Against Iran, Syria

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Jerusalem Registers First Same-Sex Marriage

Jerusalem Registers First Same-Sex Marriage
by Newscenter Staff

Posted: January 30, 2007 - 11:00 am ET

(Jerusalem) The Interior Ministry's Jerusalem office has recorded the first same-sex marriage - three months after the country's highest court directed the government to register gay marriages performed outside of Israel.

Last June Jerusalem residents Binyamin and Avi Rose flew to Canada where same-sex marriage has been legal for several years. They obtained a license in Toronto and were wed on June 28 and then returned to Israel.

On November 29 the High Court of Justice, in a case involving several couples who were married in countries where gay marriage is legal, ruled that

the government to register the marriages of same-sex couples married abroad in countries that recognize such unions. (story)

The high court ruling only directs the government to record the marriages for the purpose of collecting statistics. It does not require that the marriage receive official recognition or that the couples receive any of the rights of marriage.

Marriage under Israeli law is the monopoly of rabbis. There is no civil marriage in Israel.

"It was wonderful to get married at the city hall in Toronto, but it was far more important for the State of Israel to recognize us as a couple," Avi Rose told the Jerusalem Post.

Binyamin, a student at a Conservative yeshiva in Jerusalem, said the registration sends a strong positive message to other gay couples - especially after the protests the resulted in Jerusalem's gay pride celebrations being scaled back this year. (story)

"The protests last year over the Gay Pride Parade in Jerusalem really spooked us, and many of our friends here chose to leave the city," Avi Rose said. "But we are very committed to building our lives in Jerusalem and the Interior Ministry provided us with a very positive experience today."

The issue of civil marriage and same-sex unions is expected to come before the high court again as same-sex couples fight for spousal benefits.

Same-sex couples have been slowly gaining recognition in Israel. In 2005 Israel's Family Court for the first time recognized a same-sex couple as the joint parents of their children. (story)

“I would suggest moving back,”


Bush said as he climbed into the cab of a massive D-10 tractor during his visit to a Caterpillar factory today. “I’m about to crank this sucker up.” Newsweek notes, “As the engine roared to life, White House staffers tried to steer the press corps to safety, but when the tractor lurched forward, they too were forced to scramble for safety. ‘Get out of the way!’ a news photographer yelled. ‘I think he might run us over!’ said another. … Even the Secret Service got involved, as one agent began yelling at reporters to get clear of the tractor. Watching the chaos below, Bush looked out the tractor’s window and laughed, steering the massive machine into the spot where most of the press corps had been positioned.” January 30, 2007 6:24 pm

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Jon Stewart Rips Apart FNC

Jon Stewart Rips Apart FNC

tds-fnc.jpgYou knew it was only a matter of time before The Daily Show weighed in on FOX's Obama smear and boy, was it a doozy. Instead of summarizing, I'll just leave you with this instantly classic line…

video_wmv Download (9637) | Play (9695) video_mov Download (3782) | Play (5678)

"By the way, I actually believe the last time that Doocy used the phrase "this is huge" is when he and Hannity were caught in the broom closet at the Christmas party giving each other a sloppy Cronkite. What? You never had a sloppy Cronkite?!"

Congress Can Stop Iraq War, Experts Tell Lawmakers
by Susan Cornwell

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Congress has the power to end the war in Iraq, a former Bush administration attorney and other high-powered legal experts told a Senate hearing on Tuesday.

Louis Fisher, Specialist in Constitutional Law, Library of Congress, center, and others, testify on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2007 before the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Congress' constitutional power to end a war. From left are, David Barron, Professor of Law, Harvard Law School; Robert F. Turner of the Center for National Security Law, University of Virginia School of Law; Fisher, attorney Bradford Berenson; and Walter Dellinger. (AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari)
With many lawmakers poised to confront President George W. Bush by voting disapproval of his war policy in the coming days, four of five experts called before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee said Congress could go further and restrict or stop U.S. involvement if it chose.

"I think the constitutional scheme does give Congress broad authority to terminate a war," said Bradford Berenson, a Washington lawyer who was a White House associate counsel under Bush from 2001 to 2003.

"It is ultimately Congress that decides the size, scope and duration of the use of military force," said Walter Dellinger, former acting solicitor general -- the government's chief advocate before the Supreme Court -- in 1996-97, and an assistant attorney general three years before that.

The hearing was frequently punctuated by outbursts from more than a dozen anti-war protesters, who were asked several times to be quiet but not thrown out.

The subcommittee's chairman, Sen. Russ Feingold, said he would introduce a bill on Wednesday prohibiting the use of funds for the war six months after enactment.

"Today we've heard convincing testimony and analysis that Congress has the power to stop the war if it wants to," said Feingold, a Wisconsin Democrat.

The Senate is poised in the coming days to take up a resolution opposing Bush's recent decision to add 21,500 troops in Iraq. But that resolution would not be binding on the president, while legislation to cut funds -- assuming it passed -- would be. However, this idea is much more controversial among lawmakers as many do not want to slash funds when troops are already abroad.


The expert who took a more limited view of Congress' powers under the U.S. Constitution, Robert Turner of the University of Virginia School of Law, echoed Bush's frequent assertion that in matters of war, he is the "decider."

"In the conduct of war, in the conduct of foreign affairs, the president is in fact the decider," Turner said. He suggested lawmakers might need to "run for president" if they wanted to manage war policy.

At least on that latter point Turner was preaching to the choir: a half-dozen U.S. senators already have expressed an interest in running for the White House in 2008.

The other experts said that while the Constitution makes the president commander-in-chief of U.S. forces, Congress' constitutional power to declare war and fund U.S. forces also gave it the power to stop what it had set in motion.

Feingold, who considered a presidential run but decided against it, said he had no desire to place troops in danger. His legislation would allow time for the administration to redeploy U.S. forces, while letting a limited number remain in Iraq to conduct "targeted counter-terrorism" and training missions.

Republican Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania argued that under the Constitution, the president shared his powers with Congress.

"I would respectfully suggest to the president that he is not the sole 'decider,'" said Specter, the head of the Judiciary Committee until Democrats won control from Republicans in November. "The decider is a shared and joint responsibility."

One thing was certain: the debate would continue. The new Judiciary Committee chairman, Vermont Democrat Patrick Leahy, and Specter wrote to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales asking for his views on the powers of Congress with respect to war.

Ronald Reagan’s many admirers may find this idea offensive, but – given a new report by the Washington Post – it might be fitting to have a display at Reagan National Airport to show how Salvadoran baby skulls were used as candle holders and good luck charms. 1/30

Shell says business more important than who you do business with, signs $10 billion with Iran 1/30

Impeachment very high on the minds of anti-war protesters 1/30

Bush's "Private Military Contractors" Fight and Die Unchecked in Iraq: The Blackwater Story

Bush's "Private Military Contractors" Fight and Die Unchecked in Iraq: The Blackwater Story


The Bush Administration is employing private armies to fight in Iraq. These "private military contractors," that is, mercenaries, are often ex-U.S. special forces soldiers with additional paramilitary training operating below the radar. Their legal status in Iraq falls under neither civilian nor military jurisdiction, and they earn far more money than American troops.

This may sound crazy, but it's all true. Not all "contractors" are civilian truck drivers or mechanics.

The five Americans killed in the helicopter incident last week were employed by the largest military contractor company and war-profiteer, Blackwater, just like the contractors killed and mutilated on the Fallujah bridge in 2004. In his movie "Iraq for Sale," Robert Greenwald exposes the shady dealings between Blackwater and the government. The company was founded by Erik Prince, a former Navy SEAL and heir to a billion-dollar fortune, and who also happens to be an ultra-Christian Republican campaign donor. Blackwater is still operating under a $300 million State Department no-bid contract to guard administrator L. Paul Bremer in Iraq, among other contracts.

The problem is that there is zero transparency with such private companies since their actions, costs, and casualties are not reported like military information is. Often their work takes place under multiple layers of sub-contracting. According to Jeremy Scahill of the Nation Institute, there are about 100,000 contractors in Iraq, of which 48,000 work as private soldiers. The Myrtle Beach Sun-News reported on 12/26/06 that as of last October, a whopping 646 U.S.-financed contractors had been killed in Iraq, a relatively high percentage of troop deaths. Further, every private contractor is insured by the U.S. taxpayers because of two WWII-era laws.

But it's not just about the money; it's about what these mercenaries are doing when nobody is watching. On 1/11/07 the Virginian-Pilot reported that a Blackwater contractor shot and killed an Iraqi security officer, but that no charges were ever filed. In fact, no private contractor has ever been charged for any illegal conduct in Iraq, in part because of "a legal gray area, in which it's uncertain whether they're subject to civilian law, military law or neither."

The problem of out of control contractors has become such a problem that U.S. Rep. David Price (D-NC) has introduced legislation to bring transparency and accountability to private contractors, and subjects them to oversight in civilian courts. "The lack of a legal framework for battlefield contracting has allowed certain rogue contractor employees to perpetrate heinous criminal acts without the threat of prosecution," Price said.

It turns out that the Fallujah incident itself also has some question marks behind it. On 9/29/06 the Raleigh News & Observer reported that congressional testimony regarding the incident revealed that the Army had not actually authorized Blackwater to guard convoys or carry weapons. "One unsolved mystery at the hearing," the newspaper notes, "was whether Blackwater . . . was ultimately working for U.S. taxpayers when its contractors were killed." The families of the Fallujah victims are currently suing Blackwater for wrongful death.

With tens of thousands of completely unregulated American mercenaries at his disposal, George Bush commands a considerably larger military presence in Iraq than most people realize. It is important to remember that each of these people are American citizens - at least one of the recent helicopter casualties was fresh out of the Marines. However, there are serious problems with subcontracting national defense to private corporations under secretive conditions with no oversight.

Let's bring our troops home, and our mercenaries, too.

Save the Internet

Save the Net

Internet freedom is under attack as Congress pushes a law that would give companies like AT&T the power to control what you do online.

Investigating Warrantless Domestic Spying

Law Prof. Karl Tobias argues that Congress must investigate the NSA's warrantless surveillance program, despite the Attorney General's belated assurance that the administration will cooperate with FISA courts in the future.

Congress must expeditiously acquire all of the applicable data that lawmakers need to make the most informed determinations. Once Congress systematically assembles and evaluates pertinent material, it should guarantee that the program appropriately balances national security and civil liberties.

Libby May be on Trial for Perjury, But Bush and Cheney Should be on Trial for Treason

Libby May be on Trial for Perjury, But Bush and Cheney Should be on Trial for Treason


We all know that the Libby trial is legally about perjury, even though the damage done to the United States by the executive branch of our government was much more than a legal violation; it was an impeachable offense.

At the same time that Bush and Cheney were selling America a war on the basis of Iraq allegedly having Weapons of Mass Destruction, they had not the least bit of compunction about rendering inoperative a CIA employee who specialized in tracking the illicit transfer of WMDs that existed in reality -- not just in the propaganda playbook of the Neo-Con dead enders.

It wasn't just a legal issue that evolved into a perjury charge; it was treason.

Exposing an entire network of individuals and resources who worked with Valerie Plame -- while blowing her cover -- was something that you would expect of Al Qaeda (or Al Capone), not the White House.

But the White House did the damage, which makes them something more than cunning. It makes them dangerous to the national security interests of the people of the United States of America.

All of this isn't technically on trial, because the charges against Libby are narrowly focused.

But the implications of the Valerie Plame outing continue to get covered up in a fog of exculpatory smoke and mirrors by the GOP echo chamber.

Betraying one's country should not be lauded by an amen choir of highly-paid corporate media shills, unless treason is a new right wing "moral value."

Combined with the multi-pronged, insidious and unrelenting assault on our Constitution by the Busheviks, we don't have to worry about terrorists bringing down our democracy and endangering our well being.

Bush, Cheney and their cohorts are doing bin Laden's work for him.

As long as the Neo-Con dead enders are in power, the "enemy" is winning -- and winning big.


George W. Bush Is Going To Bomb Iran

George W. Bush is going to bomb Iran. This is the purpose of the "surge". No amount of troops is going to fix Iraq; they couldn't if they tried. If Bush wanted to fix Iraq, he'd give them jobs. People who are employed in decent jobs can figure out how to live with their neighbors. More American troops in the Persian Gulf are not going to quell violence in Iraq any more than the ones already there are.

George W. Bush is going to bomb Iran. And there may be almost nothing we can do to stop it.

Iran has a single trump card - their nuclear program. I share the doubts that Bush can destroy the whole thing. There will be no repeat of Israel's surgical removal of the nuclear ambitions of Saddam Hussein. But Bush can take out enough of Iran's nuclear facilities to knock them back a few more years in the development of a feasible weapon. That is all he needs to bomb - that is, until Iran makes its move.

And that's what the surge is for. Ostensibly, it's about Iraq. Nobody thinks that Iraq needs more American soldiers. And it doesn't today. But Bush is sending them anyway, because he knows what he's about to do, and Iraq is going to need more soldiers when the Shiite forces sympathetic to Iran erupt in violence.

The first attack in this final war against Iran has already occured. You read about it, I'm sure. The White House excised a number of passages from an op-ed in the New York Times that talked about the history of this administration's secret negotiations with Iran. Any mention of Iran's critical help in forming the Afghan government now in place? Gone. Any word of Bush's constant double-dealing with the Iranians over people you may not have heard of, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and the Mujaheddin-e Khalq? Blacked out. And any mention of Iran's 2003 offer to put everything on the table, including recognition of Israel? The Times and the two authors of the piece, Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann, were threatened with criminal prosecution if they were to put words like that into print.

I know about all of this "secret" material, because none of it was secret. Leverett and Mann published their sources, all mainstream media with the exception of a report or two from Leverett's think tank, the Century Foundation. All of the things marked out of this op-ed by the White House are in the public domain. And yet the Bush Administration felt so threatened by this op-ed that they pulled out their little black markers and crossed out any hint of a peace-seeking Iran being played by a cynical America for all it could get.

Why? Because Bush is about to bomb Iran. Any talk of how Iran was making some genuine offers for peace (back before they were spinning any centrifuges) and how Iran was working with the United States to bring stability to the region, all of that is counterproductive. The Bush Administration isn't a slave to reality - it makes reality.

A reality to be ignored: Before 9/11, Iran had built up a large number of contacts among the various Afghan warlords. After 9/11, the Iranians worked those connections above and beyond in cooperation with the United States to stabilize Afghanistan under the interim government. James Dobbins, a participant in that accomplishment, explains:

Two weeks after the fall of Kabul, all the major elements of the Afghan opposition came together at a U.N.-sponsored conference in Bonn. The objective was to create a broadly based successor government to the Taliban. As the U.S. representative at that gathering, I worked both with the Afghan delegations and with the other national representatives who had the greatest influence among them, which is to say the Iranian, Russian and Indian envoys. All these delegations proved helpful. None was more so than the Iranians. On two occasions Iranian representatives made particularly memorable contributions. The original version of the Bonn agreement, drafted by the United Nations and amended by the Afghans who were present, neglected to mention either democracy or the war on terrorism. It was the Iranian representative who spotted these omissions and successfully urged that the newly emerging Afghan government be required to commit to both.

The second was even more decisive. The conference was in its final hours. The German chancellor was due to arrive momentarily for the closing ceremony. Yet we still lacked agreement on the central issue: composition of an interim Afghan government. The Northern Alliance was insisting on 18 of 25 ministerial portfolios, which would have marginalized other opposition groups. From 2 a.m. to 5 a.m. the four key envoys -- those from Washington, Tehran, Moscow and New Delhi -- worked along with the U.N. representative, Lakhdar Brahimi, and our German host to persuade the recalcitrant Northern Alliance delegate to make the necessary compromises.

Two weeks later President Hamid Karzai and his new cabinet were inaugurated in Kabul. The most senior foreign delegation was headed by Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi, who had stopped in Herat on his way in to pick up the one warlord, Ismail Khan, whose attendance and support for the new government was most in doubt. At the Tokyo donors' conference the following month, Iran pledged $500 million in aid to Afghan reconstruction, by far the largest sum from any neighboring state or developing nation.

(That's from Dobbin's May 2004 op-ed in the Washington Post, by the way. I had to buy a monthly pass to get it, but it's all open source, it's public domain. No classified information was released in the publishing of that article.)

Later on, Iran was asked by Karzai and Washington to keep a particularly nasty anti-American cleric Gulbiddin Hekmatyar in their country. Washington wanted Iran to keep him close, keep him safe. Tehran agreed, but they asked that Washington not accuse them of harboring terrorists. That would be a pretty nasty trick, don't you think? Ask a country to keep a terrorist under the equivalent of house arrest, and then accuse them openly of supporting terrorists?

Bush did so. Not six weeks after the Bonn negotiations, not a month after the Hekmatyar request, Bush declared Iran a member in good standing of the "axis of evil".

Hekmatyar left Iran soon after. As the redacted op-ed says, "the Islamic Republic could not be seen to be harboring terrorists." A year later, Bush got to designate him a terrorist. He's still in Afghanistan, and while he thinks the recent defeat of Republicans is proof that America will be pushed out of Afghanistan like the Soviets, he's endorsing George W. Bush for a third term. Bush is our Brezhnev, he says. He's great for business.

After all, look how Bush handled the Mujaheddin-e Khalq (MEK). MEK is "an Iranian opposition group based in Iraq... that is on a U.S. State Department list of terrorist groups." Saddam used these guys to pull off attacks in Iran. The United States had been meeting regularly with Iran after 9/11, working out day-to-day matters in the region. The Washington Post reports:

At one of the meetings, in early January, the United States signaled that it would target the Iraq-based camps of the Mujaheddin- e Khalq ...After the camps were bombed, the U.S. military arranged a cease-fire with the group, infuriating the Iranians. Some Pentagon officials, impressed by the military discipline and equipment of the thousands of MEK troops, began to envision them as a potential military force for use against Tehran, much like the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan.

We told Tehran we would target a terrorist organization, and then we decided that the terrorists might be able to help us take out Tehran. Let that sink in a minute.

[Richard] Armitage said it was a mistake for the U.S. military to have arranged a cease-fire agreement with the MEK during the war, a decision that alarmed Iran. "We shouldn't have been signing a cease-fire with a foreign terrorist organization," he said.

Wow, Richard. You think?

The United States then told Iran on May 3 that they were going to disarm MEK. We also discussed exchanging prisoners, al-Qaeda members in custody in Iran for MEK prisoners in Iraq. But Armitage "ruled out such a deal":

..."because we can't be sure of the way they'd be treated," referring to the MEK members. He said officials were questioning MEK members to determine who had terrorist connections. "In my understanding, a certain number of those do," he said, adding that they will face charges.

Hold that thought. Hold the thought that Iran had been given our word that we would target the MEK. Hold onto the thought that we'd instead started touting them as a force to help topple Iran. Hold onto the thought that we'd then given our word about disarming these terrorists, although we wouldn't do any prisoner exchanges, not even for al-Qaeda prisoners.

You still don't have the full context, yet:

Just after the lightning takeover of Baghdad by U.S. forces..., an unusual two-page document spewed out of a fax machine at the Near East bureau of the State Department. It was a proposal from Iran for a broad dialogue with the United States, and the fax suggested everything was on the table -- including full cooperation on nuclear programs, acceptance of Israel and the termination of Iranian support for Palestinian militant groups.

Everything was on the table. Everything. Peace in the Middle East. George W. Bush had it in his hand.

What did we do? We scolded the Swiss diplomats who had passed it on to us, and then we started making nice with terrorists who hated Iran.

Nine days after the May 3rd meeting in which we promised to disarm MEK, terrorist bombings erupted in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The US blamed Iran, and cut off talks. Some other countries tried to get the United States and Iran back to the table but failed.

Did you go to the link? Because today, it's clear who did those attacks: al-Qaeda. Hekmatyar's compatriots. Osama's army. The terrorists who attacked us on 9/11.

Not Iran.

Bush has never wanted peace with Iran. There will be no win-win situation with this president and Iran, because Bush is playing to win on his terms alone, the way that he was able to play Libya's recent capitulation to the West.

But Iran's not doing the Gaddafi shuffle. It's always had more support in the region than Gaddafi ever did. Iran's been a fly in the American ointment since 1979. And now, after being rebuffed repeated in a quest for peace, Iran is back on the nuclear path.

So people, get ready. Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid can talk all day long about the first hundred hours. We can start considering our options for the 2008 presidential primary. Hey, what are your plans for the New Year?

George W. Bush is going to bomb Iran.

Any references not linked in this piece are to Washington Post articles available only for a price on the web. They are from Leverett and Mann's citations, and are:

“Iran’s Leader Condemns Saudi Attacks,” The Washington Post, May 15, 2003

“Time to Deal With Iran,” The Washington Post, May 6, 2004

“In 2003, U.S. Spurned Iran’s Offer of Dialogue: Some Officials Lament Lost Opportunity,” The Washington Post, June 18, 2006

“U.S. Ready to Resume Talks With Iran, Armitage Says,” The Washington Post, Oct. 29, 2003

“U.S. Eyes Pressing Uprising in Iran: Officials Cite Al Qaeda’s Link, Nuclear Program,” The Washington Post, May 25, 2003

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Monday, January 29, 2007

ADVANCED STORY: Bush signs order giving himself more power.

ADVANCED STORY: Bush signs order giving himself more power.

Government In Danger Of Collapse In Gay Unions Feud
(Rome) The leftist government of Premier Romano Prodi is reportedly so divided on legislation to legalize civil partnerships of same-sex couples that it is in danger of imploding.

Gays Take Moscow To European Court Over Pride Ban
(Moscow) Gay rights leaders in Moscow filed a civil rights lawsuit against the city of Moscow and its conservative mayor Juri Lushkov at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France on Monday.

Haggard's Whistleblower Visits Disgraced Pastor's Megachurch
(Colorado Springs, Colorado) The former male prostitute whose accusations against New Life Church founder Ted Haggard led to Haggard's dismissal as pastor has paid a visit to the megachurch.

Pelosi's trip: She believes more strongly that withdrawal will help region

Pelosi's trip: She believes more strongly that withdrawal will help region, says troops deserve better policies than president's

- Marc Sandalow, Washington Bureau Chief
Monday, January 29, 2007

(01-29) 04:00 PST Washington
-- Three days in Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan have made House Speaker Nancy Pelosi even more certain of her view that moving troops out of Iraq is the best way to bring stability to the region, she told The Chronicle on Sunday.

Speaking from Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany, Pelosi said the nation owes its troops a better policy than the one now being pursued by President Bush, and emphasized the importance of reconstructing the war-torn region.

As Congress prepares to challenge the president's Iraq policy, Pelosi offered no indication that her meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had softened her opposition to Bush's plan to send 21,500 more American troops into the war.

The high-level meetings highlighted Pelosi's determination to place Iraq near the top of the agenda for the new Democratic Congress. It also emphasized on a world stage the enormous differences between Congress and the White House over the way forward.

"We owe them better policy. We owe them better initiatives,'' Pelosi said after meeting the past three days with scores of U.S. troops and military commanders, as well as the top political leader in each of the three countries. "I believe redeployment of our troops is a step toward stability in the region.''

Pelosi's visit comes as Congress readies a resolution opposing Bush's plan for new troops to Iraq. The Senate is expected to debate the resolution as early as Tuesday, and the House is expected to take up a similar measure soon.

A clear majority of senators oppose the president's troop increase, although competing resolutions and a filibuster threat make vote counts difficult. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joseph Biden, D-Del., predicted Sunday that fewer than 20 senators -- not even half of the 49 Republicans -- would be willing to voice support for Bush's plan during the coming debate.

At the White House on Sunday, Vice President Dick Cheney said withdrawing from Iraq would have a direct negative impact on efforts to fight terrorism throughout the region.

"There are consequences of what Congress does under these circumstances,'' Cheney said in an interview with Newsweek magazine, according to a transcript distributed by the White House.

Pelosi said the president was aware in advance of her trip -- a plan that was kept secret from the public for security reasons until Pelosi had departed -- but aides said there was little coordination with the White House.

Pelosi said Bush had wished her well during a private conversation in the Capitol on the night of his State of the Union address last Tuesday, and she said she looked forward to briefing him on her findings sometime after her return today. Pelosi's last visit to Iraq was nearly two years ago, when the Congress was controlled by Republicans and the country was more evenly divided between those who supported the war and those who opposed it.

Pelosi was accompanied by six House members, including the chairman of the House Armed Services and Foreign Affairs committees. She said she told al-Maliki what she has said repeatedly at home for many months -- that there must be political and diplomatic initiatives to match the military effort, and there are disappointingly few signs of such successes.

"We are very proud of the effort made by our military, but this cannot be won by our military alone,'' Pelosi said.

Pelosi said she did not explicitly warn al-Maliki of the U.S. public's waning patience with the war, saying, "The (November) election spoke more eloquently than anything else we could say.''

By bringing an array of committee chairs and a Republican -- five of the seven lawmakers voted in favor of authorizing the use of force in Iraq in 2002 -- Pelosi said she intended to deliver the message to al-Maliki that "this is not about the politics of America, it's about the policy (in Iraq) that the American people are objecting to.''

Pelosi and Senate Leader Harry Reid of Nevada have sent Bush several public letters urging a new Iraq policy that would redeploy troops and shift the emphasis from combat to training and reconstruction.

"Sadly, there was nothing that we saw there that would say that the plan we have been proposing should be changed,'' Pelosi said of her visit.

Pelosi said the prime mission of the trip was to offer support for the troops, whom she said were quite interested in meeting with the delegation.

"Our purpose was to salute our troops and commend them for their patriotism, their sacrifice, and the sacrifice of their families.''

The region's volatility was underscored by a bomb that exploded Friday at a Marriott Hotel in Islamabad, Pakistan, where Pelosi and the delegation had intended to stay. Other accommodations were quickly found.

Aides to the House members kept news of the trip secret until the delegation had departed Washington for fear that such a high-level group might become a target. Pelosi described the group as "very, very, heavily guarded.''

After meeting with al-Maliki in Baghdad, the group traveled to Pakistan for a meeting with President Pervez Musharraf, then to Afghanistan where they met with President Hamid Karzai.

After meeting with Karzai on Sunday, the House lawmakers issued a statement commending his leadership and expressing general support for the White House's recent request for $10.6 billion in assistance. They reiterated support for additional U.S. forces for what they called the forgotten war.

The statement also warned about the nation's escalating poppy cultivation, which the group said is "undermining the efforts of the Afghan government and coalition forces to stabilize the country.''

In addition to Pelosi, lawmakers traveling in the group were Reps. Tom Lantos, D-San Mateo, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee; Ike Skelton, D-Mo., chairman of the Armed Services Committee; John Murtha, D-Pa., chairman of the subcommittee that oversees the Pentagon's appropriations; Nita Lowey, D-N.Y.; and Dave Hobson, R-Ohio.

Lantos reiterated Pelosi's opposition to Bush's war plans.

"What we saw and heard in Baghdad leaves me even more convinced than before that the administration's 'stay the course' approach will only lead us deeper into disaster,'' Lantos said. "Placing more troops in harm's way in order to shore up a failed policy is unconscionably reckless and only compounds the mistakes already made.''

E-mail Marc Sandalow at

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Kucinich: Bush's actions 'could lead to impeachment'

Mike Sheehan
Published: Friday January 26, 2007
Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) says the White House is "up to its old tricks" as it preps for a U.S. attack on Iran, according to a press release.
The 2008 Democratic presidential candidate warns that Bush's actions could result in impeachment.
Kucinich accuses the Bush administration "of mounting a media blitz to prepare the U.S. public for an eventual attack on Iran," according to the release, which cites a report that the President authorized the military to kill Iranians operating inside Iraq.
"The White House is up to its old tricks again," says Kucinich,
accusing the administration of "providing information by anonymous sources and portraying Iran as an aggressor in Iraq." He continues, "The President is mischaracterizing U.S. action vis à vis Iran. In fact, the U.S. is already engaged in offensive and provocative acts against Iran.
"The President's strategy, by portraying our involvement as only being on the defensive, is laying out the groundwork for him to attack Iran and bypass authorization by Congress."
The six-term Congressmember, a long-time advocate for peace, blasts "the White House spin machine" for "providing justification for a new war ... against Iran." He adds, "The Washington Post is quoting strategically placed Administration sources who are providing justification for an attack... This new twist on Iran, a country this Administration refuses to have free and open diplomatic talks with, is stating the Administration's case for war."

Kucinich closes by warning, "The degree to which this President continues to take steps to go to war against Iran without consulting with the full Congress is the degree to which he is increasingly putting himself in jeopardy of an impeachment proceeding."
The full release is available at Rep. Kucinich's official site.

President Carter Interceded on Behalf of Former Nazi Guard

President Carter Interceded on Behalf of Former Nazi Guard

BY DANIEL FREEDMAN - Staff Reporter of the Sun
January 19, 2007

The scandal surrounding President Carter's attitude toward the Jewish state, sparked by the publication of his book, which blames the Jews for the fate of the Palestinian Arabs, was given a fresh boost yesterday when a document surfaced showing that the former president interceded on behalf of a former Nazi guard.

The document in question shows that Mr. Carter asked the Justice Department's Office of Special Investigation — the unit responsible for the prosecution of Nazis — to show "special consideration" toward a man who murdered Jews at Mauthausen concentration camp.

The New York Sun has obtained a copy of the note that Mr. Carter sent to the OSI in September 1987. It was attached to a letter from the daughter of the Waffen SS guard, Martin Bartesch. The letter accused the OSI of "cruel and un-American activities" by extraditing the Nazi guard from America and barring him from returning. The OSI had taken away Bartesch's citizenship and deported him in May 1987 because of his role in the Holocaust.

The letter stated, "Not only are they punishing my father by ousting him out of the country he has loved and spent most of his adult life in (32 years), but they are punishing his wife, children and grandchildren by denying him the right to continue their lives together. It goes beyond that. He has had to give up his precious citizenship and is on the dreaded ‘Nazi Watch list,' forever denying him the right to visit his children and grandchildren."

Bartesch's daughter also writes that "my father was a 16 year old boy of German ethnicity, born in Romania, conscripted into a terrible war, sent to a foreign country with no control over his destiny."

Mr. Carter sent the letter to the OSI and added a handwritten note. "I hope that, in cases like this, that special consideration can be given to affected families for humanitarian reasons. Jimmy Carter." The letter is stamped as "received" on September 22, 1987.

The director of the OSI at the time, Neal Sher, told the Sun that Bartesch "was one of the relative handful of guards at Mauthausen. Mauthausen was a place in business for one purpose only, to degrade, torture, and murder Jews." Mr. Sher said the Justice Department had uncovered documented evidence of Bartesch's role in the genocide.

Mr. Sher told the Sun that Bartesch "acknowledged to the U.S. government that he served there and that he lied when he had entered country" about his Nazi record. He said he volunteered for the Waffen SS and served in the SS Death's Head Division at Mauthausen.

Mr. Sher said he had been "surprised to receive [a] letter from Mr. Carter. Certainly in that form." He said that "generally, when high ranking officials" received queries about Nazis, they would "first contact the office to find out the facts of case."

Mr. Sher said he was "taken aback" that Mr. Carter didn't ask questions about the Waffen SS guard and "just accepted" what the family of Bartesch claimed. Mr. Sher told the Sun that by the time Mr. Carter's letter was received, Bartesch had been extradited to Austria.

Israel's Arutz Sheva reported yesterday that an entry in a book kept by the SS guards, and captured by Americans when they liberated the concentration camp, recorded for October 10, 1943, "the shooting death of Max Oschorn, a French Jewish prisoner. His murderer was also recorded: SS guard Martin Bartesch."

The chief Nazi hunter and director of the Jerusalem Office of the Simon Weisenthal Center, Efraim Zuroff, told the Sun that "Carter was never particularly sensitive on Jewish issues" and that the news of his appealing on behalf of a former Nazi "doesn't surprise" him. Mr. Zuroff described Mr. Carter's approach as "a classic case of misplaced sympathy syndrome."

Mr. Zuroff said Mr. Carter "shows an acute lack of understanding for the horrors of the Holocaust" and a "lack of sensitivity toward the fate of the victims of the Holocaust."

Mr. Sher told the Sun that he decided to make the letter public after publication of Mr. Carter's book "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid." It was first reported on the news service JTA.

The letter in question can be read in full on the Internet at:

Friday, January 26, 2007

Dismissal of Lawsuit Against Warrantless Wiretaps Sought

Dismissal of Lawsuit Against Warrantless Wiretaps Sought

By Dan Eggen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 26, 2007; A05

A lawsuit challenging the legality of the National Security Agency's warrantless surveillance program should be thrown out because the government is now conducting the wiretaps under the authority of a secret intelligence court, according to court papers filed by the Justice Department yesterday.

In a filing with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, in Cincinnati, Justice Department lawyers said the lawsuit of the American Civil Liberties Union and other plaintiffs -- which received a favorable ruling from a federal judge in Detroit -- should be considered moot because the case "no longer has any live significance."

The ACLU called the government's arguments implausible and said it plans to file its response today.

The brief is the latest volley in the legal battle over the controversial spying effort, dubbed by the administration as the "Terrorist Surveillance Program," or TSP. Under the program, the NSA monitored, without obtaining warrants, telephone calls and e-mails between the United States and overseas if the government determined that one of the parties was linked to al-Qaeda or other terrorist groups.

Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales announced last week that the government was terminating the program and that eavesdropping will be overseen by a secret 11-member court that administers the law governing clandestine spying in the United States, known as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA.

The government contends that the new arrangement essentially invalidates an August ruling in the ACLU case by U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor, who declared the surveillance program unconstitutional and ordered it halted. The government appealed to the 6th Circuit court. It wants Taylor's ruling vacated and the lawsuit dismissed.

"Plaintiffs' challenge to the TSP is now moot," the government said in its filing yesterday. "The surveillance activity they challenge . . . does not exist. And the specific relief they sought and were awarded -- injunction of the TSP -- cannot redress any claimed injury because no electronic surveillance is being conducted under the TSP."

Crucial to the Justice Department's argument is the contention that the government did not act voluntarily to stop the NSA program. "This is not an instance of 'voluntary cessation' of allegedly unlawful activity," the government lawyers wrote. "The government has not ceased surveillance -- instead, the facts and legal authorities have changed."

But Ann Beeson, the ACLU's associate legal director, said that argument is "not plausible." She added that previous court rulings made it clear that the government cannot escape a legal judgment merely by voluntarily halting its illegal activity.

"The FISA court didn't reach out on its own to do something; the government asked it to do something," Beeson said. "And absent a ruling, they are free to return to their illegal conduct again."

The new lines of argument in the ACLU case come less than a week before a hearing scheduled for next Wednesday in Cincinnati where both sides are set to offer oral arguments.

Most of the details of the new spying arrangement are considered classified by the Bush administration, including a set of orders issued by a FISA judge on Jan. 10 that authorizes the eavesdropping. As a result, the precise outlines of and legal justifications for the monitoring remain unclear.

The government signaled in its filing that it would oppose a public release of the orders, saying that "the longstanding practice is that FISA Court orders remain classified and not subject to public dissemination." Senate Judiciary Committee leaders have asked to see copies of the orders but have, so far, been rebuffed.

Jon Stewart Tries to Relate to Cheney

Jon Stewart Tries to Relate to Cheney

tds-cheneybanner.jpgOn The Daily Show last night, Jon Stewart broke down Dick Cheney's interview with Wolf Blitzer, then reached out in an act of solidarity and offered some helpful advice for the embattled VP.

video_wmv Download (5329) | Play (4720) video_mov Download (2198) | Play (2872)

As you may recall, Stewart tried the same with Bush back in September. How'd that work out for you, Jon?

Anne Frank's father's letters discovered in New York

Anne Frank's father's letters discovered in New York dpa German Press AgencyPublished: Friday January 26, 2007

New York- A cache of letters written by Anne Frank'sfather, recently discovered in New York, details Otto Frank'sdesperate struggle to save his family from the Nazis during World WarII, reports said Friday.The 80 documents discovered at the New York YIVO Institute forJewish Research are to be declassified and released at a pressconference on February 14, a Time magazine report said.The previously unknown documents are Otto Frank's letters fromApril to December 1941, written at the time when Germany declared waron the United States, Time said.The letters included correspondence with US relatives. The Franks'two years of hiding, which inspired Anne Frank's diary, began in July1942 in an attic above Otto Frank's office in Amsterdam.Otto Frank made valiant efforts to secure the safety of hisdaughters Margot and Anne, his wife Edith and mother-in-law RosaHollander.According to Time, the letters evoke "page by page" how the familytried to escape from the Netherlands.Since the US consulate was closed in the Nazi-occupied country,Otto Frank explored possible escape routes through Spain into neutralPortugal. He also tried to get visas for his family to travel toParis and tried to arrange for his family to flee to the US and Cuba.According to the Time report, the letters originally belonged tothe New York-based Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, HIAS), whichbequeathed their archive material to the YIVO-Institute.An archivist at the YIVO institute found the letters a year and ahalf ago. However, the archive kept the discovery secret in order toinvestigate the complicated copyright questions they raised.Otto Frank was the only member of the family to survive theHolocaust. After the war, he published his daughter's diary. He diedin Switzerland in 1980.In 1945, Anne Frank, then 15, and her sister Margot who was 18died of typhoid in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany.

Lawmakers call for Bush impeachment, NM

Lawmakers call for Bush impeachment, NM

04:34 PM Mountain Standard Time on Wednesday, January 24, 2007
By Deborah Baker / Associated Press

SANTA FE (AP) -- Two New Mexico lawmakers have introduced a measure calling on Congress to impeach President Bush and Vice President Cheney.

State Sens. John Grubesic of Santa Fe and Gerald Ortiz y Pino of Albuquerque, both Democrats, said the resolution is a serious effort to try to trigger impeachment proceedings.

New Mexico, where lawmakers are meeting until March 17, would be the first state to pass the resolution, they said.

The measure alleges that Bush and Cheney conspired with others to intentionally mislead Congress and the public about the threat posed by Iraq in order to justify the war.

It also cites the administration's warrantless wiretapping program and alleges the torture of prisoners and the denial of constitutional rights to enemy combatants.

''This is not a publicity stunt,'' Ortiz y Pino told a cheering crowd at a rally at the Capitol on Tuesday. ''This is action that we can take, and it's an opening for the citizens to act.''

Ortiz y Pino said lawmakers in their 60-day session are grappling with the effects of resources at the national level being diverted from human needs and used instead for warfare and oppression.

''We simply cannot carry out the business of the Legislature with that shadow, that pall, hanging over us,'' he said.

Grubesic told the crowd that by introducing the resolution, ''we created a ripple. Your voice is going to turn it into a tidal wave, hopefully.''

The state Democratic Party, at a meeting in March, adopted a call for Bush's impeachment as part of its platform. Party chairman John Wertheim said at the time it stemmed from ''perceived abuses of power and corruption in the Bush administration.''

Nationally, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has made it clear she will not entertain efforts to pursue impeachment.

A state can't mandate impeachment, but impeachment charges from a state can be forwarded to the U.S. House of Representatives and referred to the House Judiciary Committee, according to impeachment advocates.

Rumsfeld Given Pentagon-Paid Office and Staffers to Shred Incriminating Documents. That's the BuzzFlash Take on It. 1/26
NY Times: Clashes in Iraq parliament lead to threats, chaos

Video: Sunnis 'brutally beaten' as American troops 'stand idly by'

NY Times: 'Bizarre secrecy' in domestic wiretapping suits

Conyers, Feingold announce hearings on Bush policy

White House 'will cooperate' - Cheney sought to stall probe

Bush authorizes troops to kill Iranian operatives in Iraq

A hidden history: Administration's movetowards Iran strike dates back six years


GOP sen.: Military 'misled' Congress'Unusually combative' Sen. Warner; Stalled intel report 'will undermine surge.'

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Bush Cuts 'See You Next Year' from Speech - An Encouraging Omen?

Odd Final Line Not Delivered by Dubya in Last Night's State of the Union Address...

One interesting --- dare we say, hopeful --- point we just noticed about last night's speech.

In the text transcript at the White House website, the speech was written to end, curiously enough, with the following words:

Yet we can go forward with confidence --- because the State of our Union is strong, our cause in the world is right, and tonight that cause goes on. God bless. (Applause.)

See you next year. Thank you for your prayers.

"See you next year"???

Anybody ever recall such an ending to a State of the Union address?! Now why would they include something like that, one has to wonder.

But as odd as it was to include those words in the first place, what's even more interesting is that Bush didn't say them, choosing instead to end simply with "God bless."

Shall we take this as an encouraging omen? I say we do.

BLOGGED BY Brad ON 1/24/2007 11:03AM PT

BREAKING CIA LEAK CASE: Prosecutor Says Libby 'Destroyed' Cheney Note, V.P. 'Far More Involved in Leak Case Than Previously Known'

BREAKING CIA LEAK CASE: Prosecutor Says Libby 'Destroyed' Cheney Note, V.P. 'Far More Involved in Leak Case Than Previously Known'
Defense Attny: Libby Was Worried About Being 'Sacrificial Lamb for Karl Rove'

WASHINGTON - Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald used his opening statement in the CIA leak trial Tuesday to allege that Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff lied and destroyed a note showing Cheney's early involvement.

Fitzgerald said Cheney told his chief of staff, “Scooter” Libby, in 2003 that Wilson’s wife worked for the CIA and Libby spread that information to reporters. When that information got out, it triggered a federal investigation.

“But when the FBI and grand jury asked about what the defendant did,” Fitzgerald said, “he made up a story.”

Fitzgerald alleged that Libby in September 2003 “destroyed” a Cheney note just before Libby's first FBI interview when he said he learned about Wilson from reporters, not the vice president.

It also appears that Libby's Defense is preparing to go against the White House, according to their opening statement. Or, at least they seem to be claiming he was worried about being thrown under the bus to protect Rove...

Attorney Theodore Wells said Libby went to Cheney in 2003 and complained that the White House was subtly blaming him for leaking Plame’s identity to columnist Robert Novak.

“They’re trying to set me up. They want me to be the sacrificial lamb,” Wells said, recalling the alleged conversation between Libby and Cheney. “I will not be sacrificed so Karl Rove can be protected.”

Full MSNBC story, plus video, here...

FireDogLake is live blogging their notes on the scandal from inside the courtroom. Coverage of Prosecutor Fitzgerald's opening here..., Defense Attny Wells opener here....

BLOGGED BY Brad ON 1/23/2007 10:27AM PT
BuzzFlash News Network A Veteran New York Times Reporter Pulls the Fire Alarm on the Christian Fascist Movement That's the Rocket Booster for the GOP: "American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War On America"

The Democratic-controlled Senate Foreign Relations Committee dismissed Bush's plans to increase troops strength in Iraq on Wednesday as "not in the national interest," an unusual wartime repudiation of the commander in chief.

Bush to New Orleans: Drop Dead. My Campaign Contributing War Profiteering Companies Can't Make Enough Money Off of Rebuilding. They Need War! 1/25

Troop Buildup Expands To Afghanistan...

Libby Trial Update...Bush Admin: Libby Obsessed With War Critic Joe Wilson...Libby: Bush Admin's Making Me “Its Scapegoat”...
Senators Vote Against Bush Iraq Plan...

news photo


Excerpts From Sen. Schumer's Book Positively American: Our Energy Policy Can Not Be Sustained...

Israeli President Asked To Step Down Amid Rape Allegations...

Monday, January 22, 2007

Rep. believes Democratic media reform bill may prevent possible 'fascist' takeover of US media

Rep. believes Democratic media reform bill may prevent possible 'fascist' takeover of US media Miriam RafteryPublished: Sunday January 21, 2007

Rep. Hinchey: New bill would break up media monopolies and restore fairness doctrine
Warns media reform critical to prevent 'end of democratic republic'
Concerns about monopolies and fears of a possible "fascist" takeover of the US media have prompted a Democratic congressman to push to restore the Fairness Doctrine, RAW STORY has learned.

"Media reform is the most important issue confronting our democratic republic and the people of our country," Representative Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) said at the Free Press National Media Reform Conference held in Memphis, Tennessee last weekend. "This is a critical moment in history that may determine the future of our country…maybe forever."

Hinchey told RAW STORY he plans to reintroduce the Media Ownership Reform Act (MORA) that would break up media monopolies and restore the Fairness Doctrine, which was eliminated by the Federal Communications Commission under the Reagan administration.

“If Rush shoots his mouth off, he must give equal access to our side,” Hinchey said. “The American public will begin to get both sides or all sides of an issue. That is basic – fundamental to a democracy.”

Last year, Hinchey introduced H.R. 3302 (MORA), but Republicans blocked the measure in committee. He also founded the Future of American Media Caucus in Congress in 2005. With Democrats now in control of Congress, a new media reform measure is expected to be assigned to the House Energy and Commerce Committee within the next couple of weeks, Hinchey’s staff confirmed.

“We’ll be trying hard to get the subcommittee and the full committee chairs to bring this to the House floor,” Hinchey pledged. A companion bill will be introduced on the Senate side by Bernie Sanders (D-VT), he added.

MORA would restore the Fairness Doctrine, reinstate a national cap on ownership of radio stations, lower the number of radio stations that one company can own in a local market, and reinstate the 25 percent national cap on television ownership, among other restrictions. The bill’s no-grandfathering provision would compel media conglomerates to divest to comply with new ownership limitations.

MORA would also require public interest reports from broadcasters and require more independently produced programming on TV. In addition, it establishes new public interest obligations to assure that broadcasters meet the needs of local communities and requires increased, sustained public input and outreach to give the people a voice in programming.
Media 'con job'

Hinchey faults the mainstream media for failing to tell Americans the truth about “an administration in Washington that has falsified information to people about weapons of mass destruction in order to justify an illegal and unjustified attack perpetrated on Iraq. How was it that Congress voted to give the President that authority? And how was it that so many people just bought into it when Iraq had nothing to do with the attacks on the World Trade Center and whatever weapons they had were given to them by the Reagan administration?”

Talk radio has become dominated by shows that are “right wing, even neo-fascist,” he said, adding that even the best newspapers gave readers a “con job” by reporting false information fed by the administration.

“This should make every single citizen in America deeply concerned,” he told conference attendees. “What lies will they tell in the future to jeopardize this democratic republic or even end this democratic republic? That is the objective of many of those involved.”

Hinchey believes the takeover of the U.S. media has been carefully calculated by the “political right wing,” starting with the abolition in 1987 of the Fairness Doctrine, which was originally adopted in 1949 in reaction to the rise of global fascism prior to World War II.

“Fascist government dominated discussions in Europe. They could now broadcast all over and control all information going out. That’s how they took over governments in Spain and Italy,” Hinchey recalled. “The U.S. said the airways should be owned by everyone.”

The Fairness Doctrine required that broadcasters give equal time to people who wished to express an opposing viewpoint. “Under the Reagan administration, the FCC wiped out that rule and said only businesses that operate stations can express their view,” Hinchey noted. Congress passed a bill that would have required the FCC to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine, but that bill was vetoed by Reagan.

“The veto said clearly that this is an idea from the political right wing because we do not want to allow other points of view – because if we allow free and open discussion on the environment, healthcare [and other issues], in almost every case the right wing will lose.”

Asked whether the Congressman believes there is now an attempt at a fascist takeover of the U.S., a Hinchey staffer noted that Rep. Hinchey’s legislation arose from his concern about increasing concentration of media ownership into the hands of a few individuals and corporations. “Whether or not there is a purpose that includes fascism, we could wind up in a fascist situation if corporations end up controlling information without the government providing some balancing mechanism, such as the Fairness Doctrine,” said the staffer, who spoke on background only and did not wish to be named. “He would also say that the FCC’s recent efforts to weaken media ownership rules in order to enable corporations to own more and more outlets plays into that as well.”

How far would the Fairness Doctrine go?

If reinstated by Hinchey’s bill, the Fairness Doctrine would govern all news programs on public airways, including networks as well as cable stations such as Fox or MSNBC, but would not apply to entertainment shows. Thus a broadcaster such as Comedy Central could argue that the Daily Show or Colbert Report is exempt. Requiring multiple viewpoints via a Fairness Doctrine is particularly important in rural areas, where residents may have access to only a single TV station and can’t afford cable, the staffer added.

Similarly, regulation of talk radio programming would be dependent on whether those shows are defined by broadcasters as news or entertainment. But a Hinchey staffer noted, “We would argue that they are providing commentary on news much like what you see at the end of a news broadcast and as such, they should provide time to people providing other views. We are not saying that they should be taken off the air.”

Just how far would the Fairness Doctrine go? RAW STORY asked Hinchey’s staff whether a station might be compelled to give equal time to a holocaust denier or KKK spokesman if pro-Jewish or civil rights viewpoints were aired. According to a staffer, a station might air controversial opposing views with a disclaimer that those views do not necessarily reflect the station’s viewpoint. A broadcaster might also provide a factual report to dispel lies told by a guest.

A Hinchey spokesperson stressed that the Fairness Doctrine does have limits. “If you’re reporting on al Qaeda, you’re not going to have to have a sympathizer talk about the merits of Al Qaeda activities.”

What about races such as the California gubernatorial election following the recall of Governor Grey Davis, in which around 100 candidates were on the ballot? A broadcaster could impose “reasonable standards.” For example, a TV debate during the California gubernatorial race included candidates who polled above a certain level. “There is no way to have an exact science, but the spirit is what’s important,” Hinchey’s staffer said. “The FCC would look to see that a broadcaster had employed some guidelines and done its utmost to respect the doctrine.” Complaints would be investigated on a case-by-case basis by the FCC, as is currently done for indecency complaints, the staffer added.

The need for media reform is crucial, Hinchey stressed, citing the President’s escalation of the Iraq War and “jacking up” a “need to attack Iran and Syria.” He also expressed concerns over the elimination of habeus corpus and the President’s recent signing statement declaring a right to open citizens’ mail. “He is violating the Constitution and the law,” Hinchey said. “If you can control the media, you control ideas and actions of the people.”

While Hinchey said that impeachment is not likely to go forward, he stressed the importance of making sure that the American people see the proceedings of a “series of investigations” in the new Congress. “The people of America have got to understand what happened, who did it, and why they did it to make sure that no future president gets away with it again.”

Asked by RAW STORY what steps can be taken to assure that Congressional oversight hearings on the administration will be aired by major broadcast networks, Hinchey replied, “Some networks will carry it.”

Hinchey added, “There is a definite role for the public. The American people have got to understand how important this is. Five corporations control ninety percent of radio and TV. They are trying to change the rules of access to let them control the newspapers as well.”
In an op-ed published at a website run by the right-wing think tank Frontiers of Freedom Institute, the owner of the web-based news journal, Daley Times-Post, argues that Democratic efforts to exhume the fairness doctrine reveal "just how far to the left their party has slid over the years."

"Mr. Hinchey states that MORA 'seeks to restore integrity and diversity to America's media system by lowering the number of media outlets that one company is permitted to own in a single market,' but he fails to point out that no company is going to be successful enough to buy very many media outlets in any market unless it gives its audience what it wants," Edward L. Daley writes. "Fed up with the left-wing bias that has permeated the television news industry for decades, today's media consumers demand both diversity and integrity from the people who provide them with news and information."

"That's why talk radio programs are so popular these days," Daley adds. "Shows like Rush Limbaugh's afford their listeners with a wide variety of viewpoints, and their hosts routinely cite articles from the most reputable news sources around."

On newspaper consolidation

RAW STORY spoke with Hinchey about increasing newspaper consolidation and newspapers that restrict access to political candidates. For example, the San Diego Union-Tribune refused to cover Democratic Congressional candidate Jeeni Criscenza, who was running against Republican incumbent Darryl Issa, the richest member of Congress, despite the fact that Criscenza visited hotspots in the Middle East, traveled to Mexico to observe the vote count, and made numerous high-profile campaign appearances throughout the district she sought to represent.
“This is an issue we’ll have to look at and address,” Hinchey said. “It’s clear it is a conspiratorial agenda going on, led by the right wing political operatives in America.”

Asked whether a Fairness Doctrine for newspapers is worth considering, particularly in cities with only one major newspaper, Hinchey responded, “It is, but the big thing now is for television and radio. The primary focus is on the broadcasting system, because that is where most Americans get their news.” Partisan newspapers is nothing new, he added, noting that Colonial Era publishers attacked both Jefferson and Madison.

As early as April of this year, a window is expected to open for the FCC to approve applications for FM radio stations. RAW STORY asked Hinchey what criteria the FCC will use to determine who will be awarded high-power FM licenses and how to make sure that right-wing groups or churches are not given priority over progressive applicants.

“To be candid, there isn’t anything we can do to be certain that this won’t happen,” the Congressman revealed. He noted that the FCC is an executive branch agency with five commissioners – and three are Republicans who control decisions. “It is a roll of the dice,” he warned, “but some of those dice are loaded – and the FCC is loading them.”
With Democrats now in control of the House, Hinchey has been named to a subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee with jurisdiction over the FCC budget. He posed a challenge to members of Congress to pass media reform, asking, “Will we be strong enough to bear this responsibility?”

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Matthews on Sen. Clinton: "Is she Dukakis in a dress?"

Matthews on Sen. Clinton: "Is she Dukakis in a dress?"

On the January 15 edition of MSNBC's Hardball, host Chris Matthews compared Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) to former Massachusetts governor and 1988 Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis when he asked former White House adviser and frequent Hardball
contributor Ron Christie: "Is she Dukakis in a dress?" Matthews, who has
made this comparison before, has a history of leveling baseless smears against Clinton, as Media Matters for America has noted.

From the January 15 edition of
MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews:

CHRISTIE: That's exactly right. But if you look at [former Vice President]
Al Gore, if you look at [Sen.] John Kerry [D-MA], they did not do very well in
the interior of the country. They played very well to the coasts. The question
will be: "Will Senator Clinton be able to overcome some very difficult --

MATTHEWS: Is she Dukakis in a dress?

CHRISTIE: I'm not going to go there.
She will be difficult to win a general election because I think there are a lot
of people who have had Clinton
fatigue. You and I have talked about this before.

know. I think we've gone around this block.



Page Six claims Albany Democrats worried about 'closet cases'

Page Six claims Albany Democrats worried about 'closet cases' Ron BrynaertPublished: Sunday January 21, 2007

According to a popular gossip column in a New York City tabloid, Democratic lawmakers in upstate New York are worried about "closet cases" in the ranks.
"Albany pols are concerned because one of the possible candidates to succeed state Comptroller Alan Hevesi is said to be a closeted homosexual," claims The New York Post's Page Six. "The Democratic majority in the Assembly will pick Hevesi's replacement, probably from their own ranks."

Hevesi, also a former Democratic Assemblyman for the state of New York from 1968 to 1993, resigned last month after pleading guilty to a felony charge for defrauding the government. The former Comptroller - for New York City before serving one term for the stae - had made use of state resources to help care for his ailing wife, along with other personal usages.

The column from the daily newspaper owned by Rupert Murdoch continues, "'Though they would appoint an openly gay candidate, they worry about someone in the closet,' one Dem told Page Six. "After the Hevesi fiasco, they want honesty, and worry about the pressures involved for a statewide official to remain in the closet." They point to what happened to New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey, who was forced to resign when his secret came out."

Two-and-a-half years ago, the married McGreevey resigned after revealing to the world that he was a "gay American." The former Democratic governor claimed that he was being blackmailed by his former homeland security advisor Golan Cipel who reportedly was asking for $5 million not to file a sexual harrassment suit. After McGreevey "came out," Cipel denied that the two had ever engaged in any "romantic affair."

Saturday, January 20, 2007

The Administration is Playing a Shell Game With Its Unconstitutional Warrantless Wiretapping


The Administration is Playing a Shell Game With Its Unconstitutional Warrantless Wiretapping

The Bush administration's warrantless wiretapping program has represented one of its most egregious claims of unfettered executive power and a threat to our constitutional democracy. It spit in the face of both the FISA Act requiring warrants for such wiretapping and the constitutional protections of free speech, privacy and separation of powers.

Before the election, the Bush administration claimed that this program was vital to protect the security of the nation and attacked critics as being soft in the war on terror.
Recently, a Federal District Court ruled the program illegal and unconstitutional. A Federal Appeals court is set to review the case in two weeks and could issue a precedential opinion holding the program illegal, a decision that could only be overturned by the Supreme Court. A new Democratic Congress is likely to hold hearings with the possibility of legislation specifically requiring case by case warrants.

In that context, the Justice Department suddenly announced on Wednesday that it had received sanction for such wiretapping from a single FISA judge in a secret proceeding. Questioned by Senators on Thursday, Attorney General Gonzales refused to reveal whether the FISA judge had approved only a specific wiretap or had approved a wider program of wiretapping. Although the FISA judge offered to supply her decision to the Senate, Gonzales refused, claiming the decision was classified.

This is part of the Bush administration's continuing shell game to keep its unprecedented and unconstitutional claims of executive power away from oversight by Congress or review by the normal Federal court system.

On the eve of the Supreme Court's review of the case of Jose Padilla, Padilla was transferred to the criminal system, thus preventing a Supreme Court ruling. After the Supreme Court ruled in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld that an enemy combatant has the right to challenge his detention in court, the administration freed Hamdi and sent him to Saudi Arabia rather than face further judicial proceedings. In a much quoted passage from her decision in the Hamdi case, Justice Sandra Day O'Conner stated, "We have long since made clear that a state of war is not a blank check for the president when it comes to the rights of the Nation's citizens."

In connection with the NSA wiretapping case, the administration still maintains that it is free to operate without court approval and had referred the case to the secret FISA judge on a strictly voluntary basis. President Bush denied that there had been any change in the NSA program except that it had been blessed by the FISA judge. According to Bush, "the reason it's important that they [the FISA judge] verify the legalities of the program is it means its going to extend, make it extend beyond my presidency." In other words, Bush wants to make his unprecedented claims of executive power permanent.

It is essential that the Judiciary Committee continue to aggressively pursue this matter in spite of Secretary Gonzales's stonewalling. Senators must insist that they be provided with all relevant information. If necessary, Congress must pass new legislation spelling out the exact procedures the administration must follow to obtain a warrant. It is equally important that the Federal Appeals Court hear the case, and not find it moot, until it can determine the specifics of the administration's procedures and the degree to which the administration continues to maintain the right to wiretap without a case by case warrant. A secret ruling from a single FISA judge in a secret proceeding that the administration considers optional gives little comfort that the Bush administration will obey the law. An opinion of a Federal Appeals Court is a far greater protection of Americans' rights.

The Bush administration has over and over threatened our constitutional democracy with claims of unfettered executive power--the future of the country demands that it be stopped.