Monday, July 31, 2006

Open Letter to Chris Matthews

Trying to figure out what Chris Matthews really believes can be a full-time job.

On MSNBC's Hardball, he tacks to the right. More often than not, the far right. On Leno, he's almost a liberal. And on his 30-minute Sunday morning show on NBC, he's moderately-Republican, Hardball-lite. Lite-rightwing and lite-mind. But no matter where he's speaking, Matthews is always working one angle, and it's not maintaining journalistic integrity by giving the public the best news and information. Matthews is committed only to keeping his job, no matter how much he has to whore himself.

On Sunday, July 30, 2006, Chris Matthews ended his Sunday morning program [on video] with this commentary:
MATTHEWS: Two years ago, King Abdullah of Jordan warned me of what was coming in the mideast. His prediction was dead on. He spoke of his fears and what the United States was doing in iraq, toppling one government, electing another, was creating what he called a shi’ia crescent, from Tehran through Baghdad to Beirut that threatened to dominate the Arab world, challenging modern Sunni governments in Egypt and Saudi Arabia and others with an axis of Shia power based in Iran.

When I look at the map today, that Shia crescent the King foretold has come to light.

It is hard for us westerners to understand the internal politics of another region when we can’t predict whether the Democrats will take congress from the Republicans three months from now, how could we see the Shi’ia grabbing the high ground from the Sunni in the mideast three years ago? That’s what happened. We converted Iraq from a country which has fought revolutionary Iran for eight years to a bloody stand still to a Shia dominated ally of Iran and created a boulevard of common religion and common regional politics.

Did you hear the new Iraqi leader take sides with Hezbollah in a struggle with Israel? This is the emerging threat, not just to the moderate Sunni countries including Egypt and Jordan who formed and honored treaties to Israel and us. Our brave soldiers have fought, died and been dismembered in Iraq only to connect the disparate pieces of Shi’ia radicalism into a frankenstein monster that has come to life right there on our TV screens and worse yet in the vicarious mideast where young arabs found a hero named Hezbollah.

In the days leading up to the war in Iraq, Chris Matthews was cautiously vociferous against Bush taking the U.S. to war. Just one month before the war began, MSNBC fired Phil Donahue (who had the best ratings out of all of MSNBC's line-up) because of his outspoken opposition to the looming carnage.

The only anti-war opinion we heard out of Matthews after Donahue was fired was in softball interviews that he conducted with pro-war advocates where Matthews would cite someone else's anti-war quotes and ask for a comment. Like in this interview with John McCain on March 12, 2003, just days before Bush began the attack on Iraq:
MATTHEWS: In the "New York Times" this Sunday, former President Jimmy Carter questioned the moral justification for a war in Iraq. Here's what the president wrote.

Quote -- "As a Christian and as a president who was severely provoked by international crises, I became thoroughly familiar with the principles of a just war and it is clear that a substantially unilateral attack on Iraq does not meet these standards."

In today's "New York Times", Senator John McCain of Arizona issued a sharp rebuttal. He wrote - quote - "Our armed forces will fight for peace in Iraq, a peace built on more secure foundations than are found today in the Middle East. Even more important, they will fight for two human conditions of even greater value than peace: liberty and justice."

Senator McCain joins us now. Tell us a little bit more for the people that don't read "The New York Times" either Jimmy Carter's or your -- what's the bottom line difference between you and him on this war on the moral question?

Before Matthews ventured any opinions again on the war, he spent months dancing with GOP spokesmen on his show about people being able to criticize a President's policies without being labeled "a traitor" and "unpatriotic."

So when Chris Matthews says, "It is hard for us westerners to understand the internal politics of another region when we can’t predict whether the Democrats will take congress from the Republicans three months from now, how could we see the Shi’ia grabbing the high ground from the Sunni in the mideast three years ago?", I, in astonishment, have two things to say:

1.) The outcome of the November elections can't be predicted because it will depend on whether Democrats will allow Republicans to steal another one. There is no question at all that more voters will cast legal, but uncounted ballots for Democratic candidates. The X-factor is whether Democrats will allow its' voters to be disenfranchised, provisional ballots to go uncounted, too few voting machines (and bad ones, hacked) to be placed in Democratic strongholds, etc., as has happened the last two election cycles, at least.

2.) If Matthews had spoken with anyone other than GOP stooges intent upon going to war, or if he had done the barest of journalistic research, he would know that if the people in Iraq could vote, like in a democracy, they would most likely elect a Shi'ia government. Because more of them are Shi'a - population of Iraq is 2/3's Shi'a to 1/3 Sunni. [In Iran, it's 89% Shi'a and 9% Sunni. The population in Lebanon is 95% Arab and the religious mix is Muslim 59.7% (Shi'a, Sunni, Druze, Isma'ilite, Alawite or Nusayri), Christian 39% (Maronite Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Melkite Catholic, Armenian Orthodox, Syrian Catholic, Armenian Catholic, Syrian Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Chaldean, Assyrian, Copt, Protestant). The U.S./Israel siege on Lebanon is succeeding in driving the Lebanese people to the side of Hezbollah.]

Or was Matthews counting on the CIA doing what they do best (fixing the elections in other countries) in Iraq?

The best that can be said of Chris Matthews is that he's an excellent representative of today's mainstream American journalism. All that is wrong with it.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

What the Rest of the World Knows

We, the trailer:

We, the documentary:

Arundhati Roy on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, with powerful footage of life in an occupied territory.

'We' is a fast-paced 64-minute documentary that covers the world politics of power, war, corporations, deception and exploitation.
Today the world is run by three of the most secretive institutions in the world: The International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the World Trade Organization, all three of which, in turn, are dominated by the U.S. Their decisions are made in secret. The people who head them are appointed behind closed doors. Nobody really knows anything about them, their politics, their beliefs, their intentions. Nobody elected them. Nobody said they could make decisions on our behalf.

"Donald Rumsfeld said that his mission in the War Against Terror was to persuade the world that Americans must be allowed to continue their way of life. When the maddened king stamps his foot, slaves tremble in their quarters. So, standing here today, it's hard for me to say this, but "The American Way of Life" is simply not sustainable. Because it doesn't acknowledge that there is a world beyond America."

George W. Bush's policy for peace in the Middle East (or anywhere in the world) is like trying to lose weight by bingeing at McDonald's. What we are doing in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon and everywhere else in the world that we have identified as vital to America's economic way of life will never prevent terror-attacks like September 11th from happening - it will only guarantee more.

The World will never know peace with Republicans' in charge, and Bush-Cheney at the helm

Saturday, July 29, 2006

C-SPAN to Air Historic 9/11 Exposé

9/11 + The Neo-Con Agenda Panel Discussion to Run on Saturday, July 29th at 8PM (EST):
C-SPAN has confirmed that their coverage of the 9/11 + The Neo-Con Agenda Panel Discussion will air on C-SPAN 1 on July 29th at 8PM (EST). The panel features incredible presentations by 9/11 Scholars for Truth founder James Fetzer, BYU Physics Professor Steven Jones, President of the Institute for Space and Security Studies Dr. Robert M. Bowman, Lt. Col., USAF, ret., Filmmaker and Radio Broadcaster Alex Jones, and Terrorism Expert Webster Tarpley.

The appearance of this discussion on the nation’s premiere public affairs cable network is an incredible boon to the 9/11 Truth Movement. None of the 9/11 Truth events that C-SPAN has covered in the past are as hard-hitting as the 9/11 + The Neo-Con Agenda program. This panel discussion cuts to the heart of the issue and exposes the events of September 11th, 2001 as a complex premeditated plot carried out by criminal elements within the U.S. Government as a pretext for launching the endless “War on Terror” in which the globe is currently embroiled. C-SPAN’s coverage of this pivotal information will bring considerable national attention to the 9/11 Truth Movement. It will also lend further credibility to the Scholars for 9/11 Truth, the premiere organization within the movement for peer-reviewed scientific research on 9/11 issues.

Each member of the panel brought their own particular perspective and expertise to the discussion while each maintained throughout their comments that 9/11 was an “inside job.”

Alex Jones, a progenitor of the 9/11 Truth Movement introduced the panel and acted as moderator. Professor Steven E. Jones, an expert in Physics, re-capped his vital new research which has conclusively proven that demolition incendiaries were used to bring down World Trade Center and could have only been placed there in advance of 9/11.

As a Distinguished McKnight University Professor of Philosophy at the University of Minnesota and a former Marine Corps officer, James Fetzer cut through the myths surrounding the 9/11 hijackers. Former Air Force Interceptor Pilot Robert Bowman brought up the lack of air defense on the day of 9/11 and shed light on the slough of drills conducted on 9/11 to distract the military and prevent Flights 11 & 77 from being shot down.

Finally Author and Historian Webster Tarpley tied all of the information together to paint a picture of 9/11. He described the drills, Bush’s actions and the blow-by-blow details of that fateful day that revealed what could only be called the horrible truth of a conspiracy fact.

It is crucial that everyone see this historic panel discussion on C-SPAN. Tell your friends and family, email colleagues, and post links on message boards. This is an incredible step in spreading the truth about 9/11.

The program will air on C-SPAN 1 at 8PM EST (7PM CST) on Saturday, July 29th and then air again for the West Coast at 11pm EST (10pm CST).

Friday, July 28, 2006

More Cats Found with Bird Flu

Researchers suggest feline 'sentinels' could identify dangerous outbreaks.

Could cats help help us keep watch on bird flu?:
Domestic cats may be widely susceptible to infection with the avian flu H5N1 virus, according to scientists who this week reported the virus in two dead cats in northern Iraq. The latest reports, following recent cat cases in Austria, Germany, Thailand and Indonesia, reinforce the hypothesis that cats may play a role in the spread of the virus, although none of the human victims thus far is thought to have caught the virus from a cat.

The findings also suggest that cats might help provide an early-warning system for avian flu by acting as 'sentinels', say the scientists, who work at a US Naval Medical Research Unit in Cairo, Egypt. Many remote areas lack the veterinary infrastructure to test quickly for H5N1. So as a proxy, they argue, H5N1 should be immediately suspected and guarded against whenever unusual bird and cat die-offs happen together.

Bird flu continues to hit Asia. Thailand has just seen a resurgence in chicken cases this week, after being apparently free of the virus for a year.

Cat curiosity

H5N1 was first reported in domestic cats in Thailand in 2004, and a later survey showed that some Thai cats carry antibodies to the virus. Further lab work showed that cats can carry the virus in their guts and faeces, and so could contaminate the environment to spread the virus. "In nature we saw exactly what they saw in the lab," says Samuel Yingst, the lead author of the new work, speaking from Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.

The researchers tested the cats out of curiosity during a two-week field trip last February near Erbil City, in Kurdish northern Iraq, after hearing anecdotal reports of cat deaths associated with H5N1 outbreaks in Turkey and Iraq the month before. Their findings are published in the August issue of Emerging Infectious Diseases1.

"It's conceivable that cats could spread the virus," says Yingst, although he suspects that they may be 'dead-end' hosts that die after receiving the disease without passing it on.

Baffling virus

Dick Thompson, a spokesman for the World Health Organization (WHO), says the latest paper does not change the WHO's current position: "there is no present evidence that domestic cats play a role in the transmission cycle of H5N1 viruses. To date, no human case has been linked to exposure to a diseased cat."

That said, some cases of H5N1 continue to baffle scientists. There have been reports of cat die-offs in Indonesia in areas where no bird outbreaks have been reported, for example. And one cat virus has been shown to share gene sequences with human cases; gene sequences that have not been reported in poultry samples.

Some human cases from Java "have no obvious avian counterparts", concluded a dozen international experts in animal and human health at the Avian Influenza Expert Consultation meeting in Jakarta from 20-23 June. They said there is an "urgent need" to compare human, cat and bird sequences, but that such efforts are being hindered by a lack of data.

On the alert

In the meantime, the study could help spark an idea for early-alert systems. "Where cats show respiratory infections in areas where avian flu is endemic, H5N1 will probably be one of the causes," says Magdi Saad, a co-author on the work. Cats could therefore serve "as sentinels in areas which don't have access to good diagnostics", adds Yingst.

"I'd completely agree that cats can serve as sentinels, they seem very susceptible," says Albert Osterhaus, whose team at Erasmus University in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, has shown that experimentally infected cats can transmit the virus. Other carnivores are also likely to fall foul of flu, he says, adding that his group is now also looking at ferrets, foxes and seals.

Sentinels are important as a first alert, the experts agree, but they are no substitute for detailed investigation.

Cat Bird Bath

Gilroy Garlic Festival - July 28th, 29th & 30th

The Annual Gilroy Garlic Festival in Gilroy, California, garlic capital of the world, begins today and continues through Sunday.

The festival celebrates all-things-garlic, and is one of the top ten food festivals in America, if not the world. Garlic lovers can binge to their heart's delight on all things made with the stinking rose, even ice cream (their food alley is fantastic), without fear of offending others - all of Gilroy smells of garlic!

For those dedicated bloggers who can't make it to Gilroy this weekend, get out the Donvier and catch the festival fun *live* on the GarliCam:

Garlic Ice Cream
2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons mashed roasted garlic cloves (recipe follows)
1 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise
7 large egg yolks

In a heavy saucepan, combine the milk, 1/4 cup of the sugar, the cream, honey, and garlic and stir until blended. Using the flat edge of a butter knife, scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the milk mixture Add the vanilla bean halves and stir. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and cover to keep warm.

In a bowl, combine the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and the egg yolks. Whisk for 2 to 3 minutes until thick and pale in color.

Gradually whisk 1/2 cup of the hot milk mixture into the egg yolks in a thin stream. Gradually add the remaining milk mixture 1/2 cup at a time.

Pour the mixture into a saucepan and cook, stirring constantly, over medium-low heat until it coats the back of the spoon. Remove from the heat. Place the saucepan in a bowl of icewater and stir occasionally until it has reached room temperature, about 30 minutes.

Freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions. Eat right away for a soft-serve consistency, or transfer to a container and place in the freezer for 1 hour to harden.

Makes about 1 quart

Roasted Garlic Cloves
2 cups garlic cloves
1 cup olive oil.

In a heavy saucepan, combine the garlic and olive oil and cook over low heat for about 40 minutes, stirring once at 20 minutes, until the garlic begins to soften. Preheat the oven to 250 F. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the garlic to a baking sheet. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the cloves are golden brown and slightly wrinkled.

Makes about 1/2 cup

Kick it up a notch, by drizzling a little (chocolate) mole sauce over the top:

Mole Sauce
1 yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, halved
Olive oil, for drizzling
2 ancho chiles
4 pasilla chiles
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
2 tablespoons dark molasses
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cloes
2 tablespoons heavy cream
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Spread the onion and garlic on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Roast for 20 to 25 minutes, until the garlic is golden brown and the onion is curling and browned on the edges.

Meanwhile, soak the chiles in warm water for at least 30 minutes, or until rehydrated. Stem and seed the chiles, then rins and pat them dry. Chop coarsely. In a blender, combine the chilese and the roasted garlic and onions and pulse until a thick paste is formed. Add the chicken broth, vinegar, molasses, cinnamon, coriander, and cloves and puree until smooth.

Pour into a small saucepan and stir in the cream. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, then stir in the chocolate until melted; do not boil. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 3 minutes to blend the flavors. Remove from the heat and serve swarm.

Makes about 1 cup

[Recipes from The Stinking Rose Restaurant Cookbook by Andrea Froncillo with Jennifer Jeffrey]

Friday Cat Blogging

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Chinese Activist 'Beat Himself Up'

Mr. Fu helped people displaced by the Three Gorges dam project:
Mr Fu has helped people displaced by the Three Gorges Dam
Chinese investigators say activist Fu Xiancai, who was paralysed after a severe beating, inflicted the blows himself, according to a rights body.

Mr Fu, who campaigned for people displaced by the Three Gorges Dam, was beaten up returning home after he was summoned by police in Hubei province.

The June beating was so severe he is not expected to walk again, according to Human Rights in China (HRIC).

But an official investigation has ruled the attack was fabricated.

Officials told Mr Fu's son, Fu Bing, that investigators had failed to find anyone else's footprints at the scene of the attack, and had concluded that he must have hit himself.

The blow to the back of his neck was so severe that three of his vertebrae were broken, HRIC said.

HRIC said it was strongly concerned about the independence of the investigation, which was carried out by the same public security bureau that had a record of harassing Mr Fu.

Mr Fu has highlighted the plight of people moved to make way for the Three Gorges dam.

He had been subject to a series of threats, attacks and harassment in the past year, the group said.

China says the dam, which will be the world's largest hydro-electric project, will provide electricity for its booming economy and help control flooding on the Yangtze River.

But it comes at the expense of villagers, who in many cases have been resettled on inferior land and been deprived of compensation by corrupt local officials, the rights group said.

The billboard indicates where the water line will be once the dam is operable.

At least 1200 cities and towns will be submerged under the rising waters of the dam's reservoir.

Bush Plays Congress For Fools. Yet Again.

Hours after the U.S. House of Representatives voted to sell nuclear technology to India and rejected a move by critics to delay the vote over concerns that India had not sufficiently aided U.S. efforts to contain Iran, the Bush administration imposes sanctions on two Indian firms for transfers to Iran:
Under terms of the U.S. Iran-Syria Non-proliferation Act, "we are going to report to Congress about transactions by two private Indian companies with Iran," one official said.

He and another official declined to identify the firms but one official said the transfers involve "dual-use items related to missiles."

While the administration is mandated by law to report violations of the act to Congress every six months, sanctions are discretionary but "they won't be waived" in these cases, the other official said.

The officials did not specify the exact sanctions to be imposed but in previous cases, sanctioned companies were barred from receiving U.S. government contracts, assistance or military trade as well as certain controlled goods which have both civilian and military purposes.

Congressional critics had accused the administration of withholding any conclusive word on possible sanctions until after the vote on the nuclear deal, so the issue would not affect the vote.

The nuclear agreement is viewed as the cornerstone of an evolving new strategic alliance between India and the United States, former Cold War adversaries.

The administration has repeatedly defended India as having an excellent record of protecting sensitive technology.

According to lawmakers, the United States since 2003 has filed at least eight non-proliferation sanctions against at least seven Indian companies or persons, including two sanctions in December 2005. The new sanctions would add to that tally.

Why do we allow Bush and his administration to be characterized as trustworthy?

When Democrats are brought on to news programs to rebut Republicans' positions (or journalists to discuss Bush's policies), and it's suggested that Bush's word and motives are honest ("so let's get that off the table"), they all nod in agreement and move on!

It's no wonder that the American people haven't taken to the streets to march on Washington with torches - they are confused by the message that they see and hear from those Democrats and mainstream press corps on the front lines.

Find out more.

Cindy Sheehan Buys 5-Acres in Crawford, Texas

"We decided to buy property in Crawford to use until George's resignation or impeachment, which we all hope is soon for the sake of the world"

Camp Casey is moving:
The Camp Casey Peace Movement, and the peace movement in general, will be eternally grateful to the Mattlage Family for allowing us to use their land near George's Crawford, Tx ranch. They were extremely generous and courageous in allowing us to use their property when we were bursting at the seams at Camp Casey I this past August and we were also being threatened by shot gun blasts and drunken drivers plowing through our memorial. We also are grateful for being allowed to use the site for our other two subsequent Camp Caseys at Thanksgiving and at Easter especially since the Mc Clennan County Supervisors passed the ordinances suppressing our 1st Amendment rights to camp at Camp Casey I. We owe the Mattlage Family a debt of gratitude that I don't know if we will ever be able to repay! I know that their comfort, as well as ours, will be when our troops come home from the illegal and immoral occupation of Iraq.

However, we have now grown out of Camp Casey II and we needed to move on to bigger property. During Camp Casey Easter, we housed a few hundred people that the site could barely contain. With our commitment to being in Crawford every time that George goes on vacation (even though he seems to be skipping out on us a lot lately) we decided to buy property in Crawford to use until George's resignation or impeachment---which we all hope is soon for the sake of the world.

Our new property is in town and literally right around the corner from the Peace House. It is a beautiful, wooded 5 acres of land that will be ideal for our expanding peace population and for hosting our growing family. We are looking forward to being good neighbors in Crawford whenever we are there and we are looking forward to having good neighbors, also.

I think the people of Crawford are beginning to understand that we come in peace and love and that we just have an issue with just one resident: George Bush. Even though we don't agree politically with many of our neighbors we hope to enjoy a cordial relationship with everyone.

I never understood how George Bush could pick such a place as Crawford to have his home. When I first arrived and set up camp there last August 6 th, I had even bigger misgivings…but now after spending an entire year there in every season, I totally understand. I even get upset now when people put Crawford down in any way---but these are people who have never been there.

Crawford is a beautiful place and Camp Casey has made it even lovelier. I feel so at home there. When I am able to return, I feel a renewal and resurgence of energy and hope. The sunrises and sunsets and star-lit nights are breathtaking and there is nothing like a cool (if rare) Crawford evening breeze to dry off the sweat and sweeten the soul.

Dwight David Eisenhower said that when the people of the world finally want peace the governments better get out of their way. Well we want peace. BushCo, so get out of our way. Come to Camp Casey and show George and the other governments of the world that you want peace and when you say you want peace, you mean it! It is so imperative today when violence is being born out of violence and the world is crumbling around us. With almost 2600 of our brave soldiers tragically dead for George's lies and greed and countless numbers of Iraqis dead because they had the audacity to live on top of Exxon's oil, how can we not gather together in peace and commitment to ending this travesty in Iraq and call for those in the Bush Regime who are truly responsible, to be punished.

We have been advertising that Camp Casey was going to begin on the 16th of August, so George is now going to his ranch in Crawford until the 14th. Since he didn't visit his ranch at Easter for the first time since he has been President, we are beginning to believe that he is frightened of us. It can't be because we are a physical threat to him: We have proven to be peaceful and non-violent---so it must be that he is afraid of the truth and too cowardly to, again, face grieving families and thousands of others who adamantly oppose his murderous policies. Consequently, we will begin Camp Casey on August 12th so we can at least share part of the summer with Georgie. We will still run Camp Casey until Sept. 2nd. There is so much to do.

Here's to Crawford. Here's to Camp Casey---
but most of all, here's to peace and accountability.

Donate to the operation of Camp Casey this summer.

Camp Casey plans on running this year on its new site from August 13th to September 2nd. For more info such as what to bring, etc, please go to the Gold Star Families for Peace website.

For more information on this summer's protests in Crawford, visit the Crawford Peace House website.

Why Israel Would Intentionally Kill UN Observers

Israel lost the moral high ground long ago, and with it went all rights to being given the benefit of any doubt. I say that as an American Jew who takes no comfort whatsoever in opposing lansmen.

Ahead of New Confirmation Hearings, UN Ambassador Bolton Blocks Measure Condemning Lethal Israeli Attack on UN

Democracy Now! reports

US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton has blocked a Security Council resolution condemning Israel's killing of four UN observers in Lebanon. UN commanders say that Israel ignored 10 calls to stop attacking the UN base. Meanwhile, the Senate holds confirmation hearings for Bolton today. We're joined by author Phyllis Bennis.

On Tuesday, four UN peacekeeping troops died in an Israeli airstrike in Khiam in southern Lebanon. UN commanders say their outpost came under attack for hours and that Israel ignored 10 calls to stop. By the time the assault ended peacekeeping troops from Canada, Finland, China and Austria had died.

Israel is denying its troops were targeting the UN. But the Consul General of Israel in New York, has accused the UN troops of being sympathetic to Hezbollah.

Last week interim U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton dismissed calls for an immediate ceasefire in Lebanon, and today the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is holding hearings on Bolton’s nomination to become U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. Last year President Bush gave Bolton a recess appointment after he failed to win enough support in the Senate.

Phyllis Bennis joins us from Washington, D.C. -- she is a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies, specializing in Middle East and United Nations issues. She is the author of several books including ‘Challenging Empire: How People, Governments, and the UN Defy US Power.’

JUAN GONZALEZ: This is Ambassador Arye Mekel, speaking on CNN:

ARYE MEKEL: I can tell you that when I represent Israel at the UN, not a week went by without me going over there to complain against UNIFIL and their being in cahoots with Hezbollah.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Arye Mekel, consul general of Israel, former Israel ambassador to the United Nations. Phyllis Bennis joins us now from Washington, D.C., Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies, specializes in Middle East and United Nations, author of a number of books on the UN. Her latest is Challenging Empire: How People, Governments, and the UN Defy US Power. Welcome to Democracy Now!, Phyllis.

PHYLLIS BENNIS: Good to be with you both.

AMY GOODMAN: Let's start with what's going on in Lebanon right now, and particularly look at what happened to the UN workers, the four that were killed.

PHYLLIS BENNIS: The four UNIFIL observers were killed after somewhere between six and eight hours of consistent shelling, during which there were ten separate phone calls made by UN officials to the Israeli military, who agreed they knew it was underway and each time told them it would stop. It didn't stop. Instead, it culminated in a so-called precision-guided missile that led to the death of the four that you mentioned.

It bares a striking resemblance to the 1996 incident in which an Israeli missile killed UN peacekeepers in Lebanon at the town of Qana, where 106 Lebanese refugees were also seeking shelter in a UNIFIL observation post. In both those cases, in 1996 through a drone plane, a pilot-less plane, with a camera that was circling in the area and was visible in the photographs that were taken, and in this case, because of the phone calls, there is absolutely no question that Israel knew that these were staffed UN posts with live people in them who were UN officials. They knew that they were where they were supposed to be. They were well marked. They were both longstanding, not brand new, observer posts. So there is really no question here that Israel knew that they were firing on these UN posts.

And in both cases, I think we can look and say there was a message designed here. We just heard from the consul general in New York from Israel, who tried to justify it, who said, not unrelated obviously to the killing of the four peacekeepers, that there was never a week when I didn't have to complain about UNIFIL. This is an unbelievable outrage. Certainly, it's no more tragic when UN peacekeepers are killed than when Lebanese civilians are killed. It's the same human unnecessary death. But what is different here is that this was sent as a direct message to the United Nations: a UN force is not welcome here. There are indications that the Israeli government may be feeling the pressure to give in to accept an international peacekeeping operation of some sort on their terms, occupying South Lebanon, not inside Israel, not on the border. But even that, this is a message: they will not go unscathed, they will not go unpunished.

We should note that John Bolton , who is going through his hearing again today to possibly be appointed on a permanent basis to become the UN ambassador for the United States, said years ago, and I quote here, "For 50 years we have tried to keep the UN out of the Middle East, because it is not an honest broker." An extraordinary hypocrisy from John Bolton. Nothing unusual for him, of course. But I think that it would be a mistake to see this as anything but a very conscious and deliberate Israeli message to the United Nations and to the world community as a whole.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, Phyllis, the Israelis are, of course, saying that it was not deliberate, that it was an operational error. But some of the reports that are now surfacing indicate that not only did attack continue for all those hours, but then even after Israeli commanders had given safe passage to rescuers, that the shelling continued on the rescue unit that went to try to see what happened to the four peacekeepers.

PHYLLIS BENNIS: That's right, Juan. What happened, the story as we understand it, and I spoke about 2:00 this morning with Khaled Mansour, who’s the main spokesman for the United Nations in Beirut -- he was then in Tyre -- he's quoted this morning in the New York Times. Apparently what happened was that after the UN officials lost contact with the peacekeepers, who had been killed by then, and notified the Israelis in the most recent of the six to eight phone calls where they did manage to get through to the Israeli commanders, they said, “Okay, we're opening a safe passage for rescuers now to go in.” And at that point, when the rescuers went in, they did, as you say, continue shelling of the outpost.

JUAN GONZALEZ: There have also been some reports that Secretary General Kofi Annan has withdrawn his allegations that this was deliberate. Any comment on that, from what you've been able to tell?

PHYLLIS BENNIS: It was very careful language from the secretary general. At first he said that it did appear to be deliberate. Later, when he was challenged -- “How can you say that?” -- he said that he accepts that Israel is claiming that it was not deliberate. That's a far cry from saying that it wasn't. It's his usual cautious form of diplomacy, particularly when it comes to Israel. But it is significant that he has not withdrawn his earlier statement. And I think that we're going to hear much more about how this was inevitably a deliberate act. There was simply too much information flooding the Israeli military commanders for them to claim that they didn't know that this was simply an operational issue.

There's a particular irony, given that there are U.S. planes, from three days ago and again yesterday, en route to Israel, filled with exactly this kind of supposedly precision-guided missiles. If they are so precise, there's no doubt that Israel intended the target to be this UN outpost.

AMY GOODMAN: Phyllis, I wanted to ask you about John Bolton. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee, as you said, is holding hearings today on the nomination of John Bolton to become the U.S. ambassador to the UN. Last year, President Bush gave Bolton a recess appointment after he failed to win enough support in the Senate. Last week, Bolton dismissed calls for an immediate ceasefire in Lebanon.

JOHN BOLTON: The notion that you just declare a ceasefire and act as if that's going to solve the problem, I think, is simplistic. Among other things, I want somebody to address the problem, how you get a ceasefire with a terrorist organization. I’d like to know when there's been an effective ceasefire between a terrorist organization and a state in the past.

AMY GOODMAN: That's John Bolton. Phyllis Bennis, your response.

PHYLLIS BENNIS: John Bolton's position. There are two reasons that his position is now being decided again. One is that the one Republican who opposed him, [George] Voinovich, has changed his position and said he would vote for him. The other reason is that there are indications that leading Democrats, particularly the New York Democratic senators, Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer, are prepared to change their vote and support Bolton, because, as they're putting it, Israel is under attack. And leading supporters of Israel are putting pressure on them, and they may succeed in convincing them to support Bolton as the main defender of Israel.

John Bolton, of course, is the one who has called the United Nations a, quote, "target-rich environment," particularly ironic in this moment of the UN actually being a target of the Israeli military, something that Bolton seems to think is fine. Bolton, of course, has also said that the United Nations is only an instrument of American policy. We are faced with a situation where the current crisis in Lebanon, which is leading to a massive congressional onslaught of trying to see who can be more defensive of the Israeli war against Lebanon than the other, could lead to a permanent appointment for John Bolton.

I think that what we're seeing at a moment when Condoleezza Rice is representing the United States's position that it is not time for a ceasefire -- we want to ask her how many more people have to die before it's time for a ceasefire -- but nonetheless John Bolton's position has been absolutely in synch with that. No longer, I think, can we say that John Bolton is too extreme, that John Bolton somehow doesn't represent this administration. John Bolton's extremism has become the mainstream of the Bush administration, particularly on this issue of Israel's war in the Middle East.

AMY GOODMAN: As those hearings are going on, Phyllis, I wanted to play an excerpt of an event you were at, a 1994 presentation given by John Bolton at the United Nations.

JOHN BOLTON: The point that I want to leave with you in this very brief presentation is where I started, is there is no United Nations. There is an international community that occasionally can be led by the only real power left in the world, and that's the United States, when it suits our interest and when we can get others to go along. And I think it would be a real mistake to count on the United Nations as if it's some disembodied entity out there that can function on its own.

AMY GOODMAN: That was John Bolton speaking about the United Nations, not at the United Nations in 1994. Final comment, Phyllis Bennis?

PHYLLIS BENNIS: John Bolton said that in a debate with me and with the late Erskine Childers back in 1994, and I think at the time we were shocked that a former official would say something so boldly opposing the legitimacy of the United Nations. We now have that bold denial of legitimacy in the presence of the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. That is what U.S. diplomacy has become. Madeleine Albright's longtime statement, “The UN is a tool of American foreign policy,” has been brought to new fruition in the Bush administration, and with John Bolton potentially becoming the ambassador for another two years, I think that we have a great deal to worry about. The only saving grace is that with Bolton at the United Nations, it strips away any illusions in the rest of the world about what U.S. foreign policy really does represent.

AMY GOODMAN: Phyllis Bennis, Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, D.C. Among her books, Challenging Empire: How People, Governments, and the UN Defy US Power.

Zizu's Zheep

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Corporate Giants (Microsoft, AT&T, Northrop Grumman) Get $Billion$ in Federal Small-Business Loans

Democratic congressional investigators are asking "Why?"; Republicans on the small-business committee call the investigation a "purely political exercise":
Some of the biggest and richest companies in the world, including Microsoft, AT&T Corp. and Rolls Royce, have qualified for what could add up to as much as $12 billion worth of small-business contracts from the federal government.

Democratic congressional investigators are asking why in a report they're releasing today.

The legislators allege a myriad corporate giants were wrongly awarded millions.
Meral contract, which she says went to a larger business.

"I would tell a small business that wants to stay in business to stay away from the federal government and its programs," Hughes said.

Republicans' arrogance is breathtaking.

Small businesses criticize snail’s pace of SBA loans
Lee Fernandez, owner of Bio-Chem Medical Services Inc. in Metairie, said he waited 10 months to receive a loan from the Small Business Administration. He worries the long wait will hurt other small businesses in his position.

Lee Fernandez has given up.

Like more than 80 percent of Louisiana business owners whose shops were damaged by hurricanes Katrina or Rita, Fernandez applied for an emergency loan from the Small Business Administration, was approved and never saw a dime.

Meet the U.S. Senate's Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship:

Olympia J. Snowe, Maine, Chair

Christopher S. Bond, Missouri

Conrad Burns, Montana

George Allen, Virginia

Norm Coleman, Minnesota

John Thune, South Dakota

Johnny Isakson, Georgia

David Vitter, Louisiana

Michael Enzi, Wyoming

John Cornyn, Texas


John F. Kerry, Massachusetts, Ranking Member

Carl Levin, Michigan

Tom Harkin, Iowa

Joseph I. Lieberman, Connecticut

Mary Landrieu, Louisiana

Maria Cantwell, Washington

Evan Bayh, Indiana

Mark Pryor, Arkansas

Play Hookey & Take Your Kid (Real or Inner) to a Museum....

.....and get those creative juices flowing!

Today's featured art site is Art-O-Mat

A clever enterprise, this is.

Filed under: Art-O-Mat, Museum Day

Coffee Critter Break!


Okay, back to work.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

New Harris Poll: 50% of U.S. says "Iraq had WMDs"

Are they putting something in the water? Is radioactive dust from the DU we dropped on Iraq drifting over here?:
Half of Americans now say Iraq had weapons of mass destruction when the United States invaded the country in 2003 -- up from 36 percent last year, a Harris poll finds. Pollsters deemed the increase both "substantial" and "surprising" in light of persistent press reports to the contrary in recent years.

The survey did not speculate on what caused the shift in opinion, which supports President Bush's original rationale for going to war. Respondents were questioned in early July after the release of a Defense Department intelligence report that revealed coalition forces recovered 500 aging chemical weapons containing mustard or sarin gas nerve agents in Iraq.

"Filled and unfilled pre-Gulf War chemical munitions are assessed to still exist," said Sen. Rick Santorum, Pennsylvania Republican, during a June 21 press conference detailing the newly declassified information.

Rep. Peter Hoekstra, chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, who shared the podium, said, "Iraq was not a WMD-free zone."

In recent weeks, the Michigan Republican has recommended that more material confiscated since the invasion be declassified and made public, including a 1998 standing order to Iraqi officials to hide or destroy weapons and thus evade inspectors from the United Nations.

Meanwhile, the Harris poll offered some positive feedback on Iraq. Seventy-two percent of respondents said the Iraqi people are better off now than under Saddam Hussein's regime -- a figure similar to that of 2004, when it stood at 76 percent. In addition, 64 percent say Saddam had "strong links" with al Qaeda, up from 62 percent in October 2004. Fifty-five percent said that "history will give the U.S. credit for bringing freedom and democracy to Iraq."

And although the response is tepid, American confidence in the Iraqis has improved: 37 percent said Iraq would succeed in creating a stable democracy, up five points since November.

Americans remain in touch with the realities of Iraq: 61 percent said the conflict has motivated more Islamic terrorists to attack the U.S. -- a number that has remained virtually unchanged since 2004.

An additional 41 percent say the war has reduced the threat of another major terrorist attack in the United States, a sentiment also unchanged in the past two years.

The financial burden of the war may be less keenly felt. The poll found that 56 percent said spending "huge amounts" for ongoing military efforts in Iraq means less funds are available to protect Americans at home. The figure was 62 percent last year, but 51 percent in 2004.

Has the war earned respect for the U.S. overseas? Sixty-eight percent said "no," the same as last year. The figure stood at 62 percent in 2004.

The poll of 1,020 adults was conducted July 5 to 11 and has a margin of error of three percentage points.

Or is it that there just wasn't much up there in that 50% to begin with?

Bush Hasn't Revoked ANYBODY'S Security Clearance Over Plame Leak

I'll keep beating this dead horse until it gets up and whinnies.

The AP reports:
No one in the Bush administration has been stripped of security clearances over the leak of former CIA officer Valerie Plame's identity to reporters three years ago.

In a letter to Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., the CIA said it had no record of anyone in the administration who is no longer privy to the nation's most sensitive secrets because of the Plame leak.

The CIA also revealed it has not yet completed a formal assessment of the damage to national security that may have been caused by Plame's outing in 2003.

The assessment won't be completed until a criminal investigation of the leak has been concluded, Christopher J. Walker, the CIA's director of congressional affairs, said in the July 19 letter to Lautenberg.

For more than a year, Lautenberg and other Democrats have been calling on President Bush to fire presidential adviser Karl Rove and any other aides who discussed Plame's CIA status with reporters _ or, at the least, to revoke their security clearances.

So far, only I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, has been charged in the investigation. Libby faces trial in January on perjury and obstruction-of-justice charges for lying to the FBI and a federal grand jury about how he learned about Plame's CIA status and what he later told reporters.

Rove's lawyer revealed in June that Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald had decided not to seek criminal charges against the senior White House aide, who was the architect of Bush's presidential election campaigns.

Plame's identity as a CIA officer was classified information when it was revealed in a July 14, 2003, article by syndicated columnist Robert Novak. The Novak column appeared eight days after Plame's husband, former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson, alleged in an opinion piece in The New York Times that the administration had twisted prewar intelligence on Iraq to justify going to war.

Earlier this month, Plame and Wilson filed a lawsuit accusing Cheney, Rove, Libby and 10 unnamed administration officials of leaking Plame's identity and wrecking her career to punish Wilson for his criticism of the White House's motives in Iraq.

Plame left the CIA in January and is writing a book about what happened to her.

"We know that members of the administration were leaking classified information, so it makes no sense that no one has had their security clearances revoked," Lautenberg said. "President Bush should not allow anyone who has divulged sensitive information to have continued access to national secrets."

Gray Davis Vindicated; Long Term Contracts a Good Deal After All

Little risk to Schwarzenegger of blackouts, thanks to Gray Davis:
Despite the heat wave that pushed energy use to an all-time high this week, experts say Governor Schwarzenegger probably does not have to fear the blackouts that ended former Governor Davis' political career.

And he has Davis to thank for that.

The long-term contracts Davis signed, at great political cost, guarantee plentiful energy for the next few years at what now look like good rates.

Davis was recalled from office in 2003 partly because of the energy crisis.

Schwarzenegger's Democratic opponent, state Treasurer Phil Angelides, is warning of "a new energy crisis." He says Schwarzenegger has not built enough power plants.

But today's situation is different from the energy crisis, because experts say California isn't likely to run into the shortages that occurred in 2000 and 2001 because of market manipulation.

Shall Gray David be Recalled?" was the question on the ballot.

The vote fell out along similar lines/counties as the Bush vote - California's central valley is conservative, or green; the coastal cities trend toward the left, or red.

Greg Palast asks "After the profiteering from Katrina, after the California power scandal of 2000, after the Great Black-out of 2003, even after the hand-cuffing of Ken Lay, why are we still under a deregulation regime that Ken Lay seems to rule from the grave? Why is it that we're still at the mercy of power vampires?"

Monday, July 24, 2006

Bush to Uber-Rich Americans: "Go Ahead & Cheat on Your Taxes; I'm Firing the IRS Lawyers Who Would've Audited You"

Bush Finds the Backdoor for More Tax Breaks to His Benefactors; Layoffs at IRS Will Halve Audits of Wealthy Estates

David Cay Johnston reports
The U.S. government is moving to eliminate the jobs of nearly half of the lawyers at the Internal Revenue Service who audit the tax returns of some of the wealthiest Americans, specifically those who are subject to gift and estate taxes when they transfer parts of their fortunes to their children and others.

The administration plans to cut the jobs of 157 of the agency's 345 estate tax lawyers, plus 17 support personnel, in fewer than 70 days.

Kevin Brown, an IRS deputy commissioner, confirmed the cuts after The New York Times was given internal documents by people inside the IRS who oppose the action.

The Bush administration has successfully lobbied Congress to enact measures that reduce the number of Americans who are subject to the estate tax which opponents refer to as the "death tax" but has failed in its efforts to eliminate the tax entirely.

Brown said during a telephone interview that he had ordered the cuts because far fewer people were obliged to pay estate taxes under Bush's legislation.

But six lawyers whose jobs are likely to be eliminated said during interviews that the cuts were just the latest moves to shield people. Sharyn Phillips, an IRS estate tax lawyer in New York, called the cuts a "backdoor way for the Bush administration to achieve what it cannot get from Congress, which is repeal of the estate tax."

Brown dismissed as preposterous any suggestion that the IRS was soft on rich tax cheats. He said that the money saved by eliminating the estate tax lawyers would be used to hire revenue agents to audit returns, especially those from people making more than $1 million

Brown said that civil service rules barred the estate tax lawyers from moving to audit income taxes. An IRS spokesman said that the agency had asked for permission to allow such transfers twice but that the Office of Personnel Management had not responded.

Estate tax lawyers are the most productive tax law enforcement personnel at the IRS, according to Brown. For each hour they work, they find an average of $2,200 of taxes owed to the government

Brown said that analysis showed the IRS was auditing enough returns to catch cheats and that 10 percent of the estate audits brought in 80 percent of the additional taxes. He said that auditing a greater percentage of such returns would not be worthwhile because "the next case is not a lucrative case" and likely to be of relatively little value.

That is a change from six years ago, when the IRS said that 85 percent of large taxable gifts it audited had sought to shortchange the government.

Over the past five years, officials at both the IRS and the Treasury have told Congress that cheating among the highest-income Americans was a major and growing problem.

What will they do with all that extra cash?

A mere $135 million buys Starwood Estate in Aspen, Colo.
Prince Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdul Aziz, former Saudi Arabian ambassador to the U.S., has put his 95-care ranch on the market. The Starwood Ranch estate includes a 56,000-square-foot mansion with 15 bedrooms and 16 baths, several smaller buildings, stables, a tennis court and an indoor swimming pool.

You remember Bandar Bush, don't you?:

George W. Bush and Prince Bandar (affectionately known as Bandar Bush to members of the Bush family) in the private residence of the White House, September 12, 2001.

For $65 million, the Gold Coast Mansion in San Francisco, Calif., is a steal. It's clad in French limestone and needs two more years of work. But this Gold Coast palace is certainly exclusive - you won't even get a go-see without having $800 million in the bank. The dramatic neoclassical villa was sold two years ago for $32 million; neighbors on "Billionaire's Row" include the Getty family.

Then again, with the hell on earth that Bush and Republicans are creating, sitting out the inevitable economic crash and widening war on a private island might be just the ticket:

A mere $39.7 million will put you on Isla de sa Ferradura, off the coast of Spain. This 14-acre island lies just off the northern coast of Ibiza, in the bay of San Miguel. Edged by dramatic cliffs, the resort island is dominated by a luxurious white hacienda. It features a large salon, home theater, professional kitchen, dining room that seats 14 and several terraces, including a revolving one overlooking the swimming pool. The pool has its own waterfall and bar. There is also a cave complex built to house a whirlpool, solarium, steam bath and other amenities. Ferradura can be reached by boat, helicopter or by the small private road that connects it to the main island.

A little closer to home, this large landmass (it totals about 35,000 acres) is located off the east coast of Baja, in the Sea of Cortez:

Cerralvo Island, Mexico, for sale at $35 million. Trump might like this one. The rugged island has beaches and sandy points, and a consistently balmy climate. Incredibly deep water nearby provides extraordinary fishing opportunities. Though Cerralvo is undeveloped, it could accommodate several hotels and golf courses. I actually know this island, although it didn't cost me a cent to visit. Tip to Buyer: Bring gallons of insect repellent - the place is swarming with sand fleas.

Although, with the deal that Bush cut with India that has started a new nuclear arms race (Pakistan, feeling "slighted", is back in the nuclear arsenal building business - 50 nuclear bombs a year), Down-under, "On The Beach," isn't the worst idea:

Pakatoa Island, New Zealand, is available for $35 million. Most of the islands in Hauraki Gulf have been set aside as reserves. Pakatoa, which is occupied by an inactive resort, is one of the few exceptions. Among its amenities are 24 beachside cabins, 38 hillside cottages, a nine-hole golf course, beaches, two mini tennis courts, a bowling green, squash court, gym and restaurant. Pakatoa is about 30 miles from Auckland, and is accessible by boat or plane (it has its own landing strip).

Or maybe more portable wealth - a shopping spree at Christie's?:
Unmounted pear-shaped diamond weighing 50.67 carats. Estimate: $2.25 million to $2.5 million

The Rojtman Diamond, a round-cornered square brilliant-cut of fancy yellow color weighing 107.46 carats, within a pendant mounting. Estimate: $1.5 million to $2 million

Look! Isn't this the Bennifer ring?:
Colored diamond ring set with a modified square-cut fancy pink diamond weighing 5.25 carats, which is flanked on either side by a trapeze-cut diamond, mounted in 18 karat rose gold and platinum. Estimate: $400,000 to $600,000

The Bennifer Ring

Or a "Him & Her, Carats & Carry" shopping spree:

Magnificent Diamond and Emerald Necklace - "Price Upon Request" A virtual cascade of white and green, this Magnificent Diamond and Emerald Necklace from Chopard's "Haute Joaillerie" collection will keep all eyes on your sweetheart, whatever the occasion. There are 191-carats worth of Columbia's most beautiful emeralds on there, completely set by 16 carats of rose-cut and drop-shaped diamonds. Though officially "price upon request," you should figure on spending $3 million-plus.

Guy Equivalent: Two '66 Ford GT 40s (the most expensive Ford, ever) - if you can find them:

I need a nap; shopping with the rich is exhausting.

Filed under: Bush, IRS, audits, fire, uber-rich, estate tax, Prince Bandar, private islands, diamonds, Ford GT40, conspicuous consumption, David Cay Johnston

You Think We Got Trouble Here on Earth?

Jupiter's Two Largest Storms Nearly Collide
Two storms systems larger than Earth are nearly colliding right now on planet Jupiter. No one was sure what would happen, but so far both storms have survived. In the above false-color infrared image taken last week by the Gemini Observatory in Hawaii, the red spots appear white because their cloud tops tower above other clouds. Blue color represents lower clouds than white, while clouds colored red are the deepest. The smaller red spot, sometimes called Red Spot Jr. or just Oval BA, turned red earlier this year for reasons unknown. If both Jovian hurricanes continue to survive, they will surely pass near each other again in a few years since they revolve around Jupiter at different rates. Astronomers will continue to monitor Red Spot Jr. closely, however, to see if it will remain red when it rotates away from the larger Great Red Spot.

This photograph comes from today's "Cool Site," Astronomy Picture of the Day.

Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

Bill Clinton's Trip to Connecticut - Sister Soldjah Redux

Bill Clinton's stumping for Joe Lieberman is less about his supporting Lieberman in next month's Connecticut primary, and more a warning shot across the bow to us, the liberal base.

It was a Sister Soldjah moment.

However, instead of the Black-American faction of the Democratic Party being isolated, marginalized and culled out from the rest of the party for "take it or leave it"-treatment by Clinton, it's the netroots' turn to be intimidated into obedience and acquiescence.

Imagine, registered democrats participating in the process, and the former President (and co-architect with Joe Lieberman of the DLC's plan to move the party to the right) is compelled to interject himself into the process. To redirect the 'poor, misguided voter' who prefers the other guy.

"Obviously, the voters must be horribly confused if they prefer the other guy" is the message meant for the voters when the former head of the party endorses a candidate in a primary election. It ranks way up there (the top) on the list of gross violations of the democratic process. It's a very subtle, but extreme abuse of power, which is why every previous President has abstained (as well as all party heads) from doing it.

The primary is the only part in the founders' grand design for our government, a democratic republic, where the citizen is heard. We get to designate who we can trust to make legally binding decisions on our behalf. It's the only, and most important, decision that the citizen can make. Everywhere else in government, the decisions are left to others. They're left to those we have elected to represent us and those whom those others have appointed.

We consent to be governed, if we get to choose who will govern us. We get to choose who is going to make the laws about how we will live, and in these troubled times if we will live. Some designated other, making decisions, in our name.

Well-informed or not, I had dutifully voted in every election for almost 20 years before I fully understood just how grave a responsibility voting was. Entrusting strangers with the awesome power that is the U.S.A. is reflexive for most Americans - the scope and gravity of the American government's activities worldwide is removed from most Americans' day-to-day awareness. It certainly was for me.

It is very easy to live life in America, and except for the odd natural disaster like an earthquake or avalanche half a world away, you can be blissfully unaware of the misery around the world. But once a sensational, brutal act hit my family, terrorism was no longer an abstract experience happening on television to total strangers. The news commentators were singling out these murders as deserving of special or extra condemnation, because it happened to "innocent civilians."

From that tragedy, I realized that in a democracy, the only innocents are those who don't get a vote. Children. And everyone who fills out provisional ballots, because their votes aren't counted. But everyone else? We are all responsible for what our government does to others around the world because we gave them the power to do it with our votes. Whether we know what they're up to or not. So we'd better find out what they're up to. And what deals they're making on behalf of Big Business. Deals that are making some people very rich while condemning others to lives of misery, servitude, torture and death. Because it's us, the ordinary American citizen who is on the front lines, riding public transit, out and about in the world. We'd better find out what they're doing in our name, to people about whom you might say "There but for the grace of God, go I." Because Jenna and Barbara Bush, and the Cheney girls, aren't flying commercial. It's the ordinary American citizen who takes the hits for those that terrorists would really like to get their hands on - our elected leaders.

George Bush and Dick Cheney, their families, and the rest of their administration are going to walk away from Washington with enough money and protection to never be effected by all that they have done to our government these last six years. They'll never have to abide by any of the laws they put into place for their religious fundamentalist base - they don't have to abide by any laws that control the rest of us. When they don't have Arlen Specters making their crimes legal retroactively, they have the Secret Service running interference with local gendarmes when they shoot people. And for all times inbetween, they just make it up out of whole cloth or executive orders, or exempt themselves from having to comply with the law with signing statements.

I'm surprised that Bush hasn't yet written an executive order that classifies all of his executive orders and signing statements, burying them all in that great big "memory hole" at his father's Presidential Library. The same place that he stashed the documents from the SEC's investigation of his sale of Harken stock. Who knows, maybe he has.

Despite Bush's and other politicians' best efforts to prevent it, technology is moving faster than their ability to suppress information. Slowly, Americans are learning that things are not as they've believed them to be, that there is a whole other view of the world which doesn't revolve around the U.S. And maybe that's a good thing.

But just as this populist grassroots' movement gains traction across the nation (a movement that has the capability of transforming the U.S. into a citizen-centered democracy), a former Democratic President of the U.S., Bill Clinton, drops back into public political life, and intervenes in a primary election on behalf of the incumbent Joe Lieberman. Lieberman, an officeholder of a state not even Clinton's own. It's unprecedented. But then again Clinton has never been much for tradition or respecting protocol if it stood in his way.

Don't get me wrong - I voted for the man. Twice, but not in primaries. Sometime I'll write about my take on the Clinton years. They certainly weren't awful. But, like the man himself, they hinted at great possibilities, if only. If only there was more time to build upon, to make the change long-lasting, permanent. If only a crucial part hadn't been voted down in a separate amendment, etc. If only candidates could gain the experience and wisdom necessary for national office without having made powerful enemies along the way. . . . enemies who are more interested in their own personal fortunes than the welfare of their 300 million countrymen. If only American politics weren't adversarial.

But that's for another day, another rant.

MSNBC broadcast about five minutes of Clinton's speech at Lieberman's rally before the programming returned to Chris Matthews and Hardball:
WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you for so many things that Connecticut has given me over the years, a law school education, a wife, and a senator from New York. A long friendship with Chris Dodd, and my law school classmate Dick Bloomenthal, I want you to look up here. You talk about the vagaries of biology. Dick Blumenthal and I are the same age and I resent it. He looks 20 years younger than I do. If I would have remembered how much I resent it, I might not have come today, it‘s unbelievable.

I am proud of his service, proud of my long friendship with Chris Dodd, which takes many twists and turns and is one of the rich blessings of my life. I am proud that I helped Joe Lieberman in 1970. I am proud that we‘ve been friends all these years, proud of his three terms in the Senate and his distinguished run for vice-president. I want you to know why I am here. And you have to for give me if I don‘t give too much of a woopty do. First of all, I am a little bit out of practice. That‘s known as the obligatory hill billy poor mouth. But that‘s really not why I‘m going to do this. I want to talk to you today because we have all the votes in here, and you need to go get the votes out there. And you have plenty of time to go get them.

I want to tell you, I am for Joe Lieberman for reasons that have to do with yesterday, and more important, reasons that have to do with tomorrow. You heard him say that he voted for my economic plan, what he did not say is that, he was not only the first senator outside my home state to endorse me, but when he and Chris voted for that plan, it only passed by one vote. Al Gore had to break the tie because the Republicans, the same Republicans that control both the Congress and the White House today, said it would wreck the economy, and instead it gave us three balanced budgets and three surpluses in a row for the first time in 70 years.

They have taken us, by contrast, they have taken us from a $5.8 trillion surplus over ten years to a $5.3 trillion deficit. It helped to create 22 million jobs and to move one hundred times as many people from poverty in to the middle class in our eight years as under the twelve previous Republican years, one hundred times. Don‘t ever let anybody tell you that these guys are not good Democrats. Don‘t say that about Joe Lieberman.

He helped me move 100 times as many people out of poverty as the Republicans took out, in the job, into a future. By contrasts, they have had six years, and have had about 6 million jobs, the slowest job recovery in a half a century. The only time since economists have been keeping statistics, that the American workers have increased their productivity on the job five years in a row, and average wages have not gone up. So average wages are flat, poverty is increases and job growth is anemic. Joe supports Democratic policies.

Three things, Bill:
1) Lieberman may have helped you move 100 times as many people out of poverty, but Lieberman turned around and helped Bush put them back into poverty.

2) There is no evidence that Joe Lieberman supports Democratic policies - "in his heart" isn't enough. If you're suggesting that Lieberman's votes reflect Democratic values, not the Democratic values that most democrats hold. Lieberman's values reflect DLC values, which are actually Republican values.

3) Get a life outside of politics and Washington, Bill. Yes, you're a relatively young man, and politics is how you spent your adult life. But getting involved in primary party politics by trying to influence state voters on who they should vote for is meddling in the minutiae of the process, unbecoming for a former U.S. President.

If Lieberman felt that he had to bring Clinton in because his campaign was sinking, obviously the netroots are posing a significant threat to the DLC's continued control over the Democratic Party (and to all incumbents). In the 1980s, Bill Clinton, along with Joe Lieberman, was one of the original architects of the plan to "move the Democratic party to the right." By having their highest-ranking and most visible representative show up in Connecticut to save the political life of a Democrat-who-votes-as-a-Republican, the DLC is feeling the pressure and power of the people. As they should. Because these midterm elections are as much about a contest between the people of the U.S. and those whom they have entrusted to represent them at home and abroad, as they are about the candidates running against each other.

When a candidate threatens to leave the political party that you identify with if he doesn't win the primary (the political party that best represents what you believe in and how you consent to be governed), to run in another party against the candidate that has won your party's nomination (the candidate committed to your party's beliefs), that's not your ally. Yet that's what the Democratic politicians who show up to stump for Lieberman are endorsing: The right of the professional politician in a democratic republic to vote any way that he wants once in office.

And the professional politician also believes that he has the right to do whatever it takes to get into office. Even if that means running on a platform that he doesn't believe in. A conservative, for instance, whose beliefs best fall within the Republican Party's platform, running as a Democrat. Because as a declared Republican, he would never win in Democratic district. Or because somebody else has the Republican nomination sewn up. If he has to lie to the electorate to get the electorate to believe that he'll vote whatever way they want (and then not vote that way once in office), "so be it." It's the electorate's right "to not believe me."

How many times have we heard "free to vote our conscience" and have let it go unchallenged? The "Gang of 14" said it. It was in their collective public statement. It sounds reasonable, in America, to be able to "vote your own conscience." Situations arise and citizens expect that their elected representatives will do the best they can to remain true to the philosophies that they campaigned on. But that's not what today's politician, or the Gang of 14, mean when they announce that they are "voting their own conscience." They mean "all bets are off, I'll vote the way that is politically expedient for ME!" The cocky omnipotence displayed by some of these incumbents can, frequently, taken my breath away. But none more so than the Democrats currently in office.

The DLC-politician has thrown down the gauntlet to the base. The DLC-politician is telling the Democratic voters to "Accept my support for Bush's policies (of which support for the war in Iraq is just one item on a long list of issues that separate the DLC from the base-democrats, such as election integrity, Medicare reform, rightwing judicial appointments, social security reform, abortion limitations and bans, gay marriage and rights' guarantees, health insurance, the bankruptcy bill, corporate welfare, warrantless spying on citizens, the Patriot Act, sustainable energy policy, RE-regulation, inheritance tax abolishment, church encroachment into public institutions, loss of jobs, loss of support for public schools, opportunities for college and university education, sane and fair foreign and trade policies, arms and weapons control, immigration reform, environment destruction, etc...Accept that I know better than you, or I'll leave the Democratic Party to join another party, whichever party will get me into power."

Implied in the threat is that the DLC-politician will take with him the support of others, Democrats and Republicans, (centrists), and win the election leaving you out in the cold, unrepresented.

Well it's not like the DLC-politician has been representing my interests now!

Whereas the DLC-politician who leaves the Democratic Party to run in another party might attract enough votes to win a general election, more likely than not, he will just split the Democratic vote, enabling a Republican to win in what is certainly a Democratic stronghold. That's some loyal Democrat. It's certainly someone who thinks that having a Republican represent the district isn't any big deal. Of course he wouldn't think it's any big deal - that's who he is at heart. A Republican. A Republican who has no problem with Republican legislation and policies.

Joe, positioned to the right of Bush in the Oval Office, discussing faith based initiatives:

Joe, joining Republicans Olympia Snowe and John McCain to carve out "business-friendly" legislation on global warming:

Joe, as the only Democratic Senator to attend Bush's signing of the reauthorization of the Patriot Act:

"The Kiss":

Finding photographs of Lieberman with other Democratic politicians is no easy task.

In reality, all that a Republican is is a self-serving opportunist whose only allegiance is to himself, his career and his own enrichment. Since there are only so many offices available in government, if he can't win in his own district authentically (as a Republican), he'll run on any ticket. And that is how Republicans managed to take over the Democratic Party twenty years ago. The fight to take back the party is long overdue.

The conventional wisdom in the Democratic Party (the DLC) is that after what Lieberman said of Clinton during his impeachment, Clinton owed Lieberman his Presidency. That had Lieberman not written the op-ed piece for the NYT (calling for censure and not removal from office) and given the speech on the floor of the Senate condemning Clinton's relationship with Monica Lewinsky, Democrats in the Senate wouldn't have had a position to rally around other than removing Clinton from office. That's purely spin, and shows how once a politician is inside the beltway, on the incumbent chowline, he's less interested in reading the pulse of the people, and most interested in bending the people to his will.

Had the Democrats come out and said to the American people, "What Bill Clinton did stinks, but it's a private family matter and not a matter for the Congress of the United States," it would have been over and done with, and most Americans would have rallied behind the Democrats. The fact that not one Democratic politician had the wherewithal to step forward and just say that, straight out, explains why Democrats have lost so much ground in elections. If you need a political consultant to help you craft a position that will attract a majority and not raise any hackles (instead of using your own common sense, able to speak your mind and extemporaneously) you're not any kind of leader capable of making people's lives better; you're out for yourself and your career. Like Lieberman. I don't know how else you can describe someone who is threatening to rip apart the Connecticut Democratic Party if he loses the primary by running as an independent. What Democratic leader would or should support a candidate at any stage of a campaign who threatens that?

When I learned that Bill Clinton was going to Connecticut to stump for Joe Lieberman, I remembered Jennifer Aniston's comment about Brad Pitt, after they had separated but before their divorce was final. Pictures showing Pitt and Angelina Jolie together with her 3-year-old son Maddox, on a beach in Africa, had been published, as well as a fashion spread in W magazine — a concept of Pitt’s — that showed Pitt and Jolie as a 1960’s-style married couple.

“There’s a sensitivity chip that’s missing,” Aniston said of Pitt.

With Bill Clinton, it's an integrity chip. I think he thinks his motives for people here and abroad are good, but he'll throw people overboard in order to say "I made a deal."

With Joe Lieberman, it's an authenticity chip.

With Hillary, it's both.

Bill Clinton, like all of the DLC Democrats, is trying to shape and frame the Lamont campaign as "one-issue." Anti-war. It's not one issue, but many issues. But that one issue is a hot tamale. Clearly, trying to frame the differences between Lamont and Lieberman as "just the one issue" is on the Lieberman campaign's talking point sheet - Lieberman said it in his debate with Lamont, Barbara Boxer said it when she stumped for Lieberman, and Clinton said it at the rally. Looking at what Clinton said, it's such empty, meaningless rhetoric. Referring to "the pink elephant in the room," Clinton said that Democrats should bear no blame for "the mistakes that were made after the fall of Saddam Hussein" and, "We can disagree on what we do next...but we can fight together and we can go forward together."

How about Democrats bearing the blame for not being the opposition party, for not doing their job of oversight and holding the Bush administration to account? How about Democrats bearing the blame for joining in lockstep and giving Bush the authorization to take the nation into war that he wanted before he had done what he had promised, which was to exhaust all other possibilities? How about holding Bush to account for not returning to the Congress for another vote, as Bush promised he would before taking the nation into war with Iraq?

But it's not just Iraq. It's Bush's entire right-wing, conservative agenda that he has managed to get through, with little if any opposition from Democrats. Because Democrats allowed "everything changed after 9/11" to mean they were to go passive and mute.

Lieberman votes with Bush and the Republican party on just about everything. His record is shamefully pro- Big Business and anti-People, as were many of Clinton's policies. That's why the DLC is so intent upon trying to marginalize all real Democrats, and characterize the differences as "just the one (anti-war) issue." It's not just one issue.

We have the DLC (and all Democrats in office today) to blame for Bush's and the Republicans' successes over the last thirty years. For failing to stand up against conservatives, Democrats in office gave up valuable ground that has led to Bush being able to drive the nation over the cliff these last six years. Why was it difficult, no, impossible, for Democratic politicians to defend liberalism? Building the Hoover Dam is something to run from? Electricity in every home is an embarassment? America's highways, and mass transit. Public-owned parks, beaches - the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, all preserved for the public's use because of liberal legislation. The space program, the Peace Corps, the public airwaves, the Internet, banking laws, the FDIC, the polio vaccine, public health programs, the CDC, a safe food supply (food inspections, labeling, regulations), the National Weather Service (not very sexy, but would we ever be in trouble without it), environmental protections - clean water and sewage systems (the Clean Air Act, Water Quality Act , an end to child labor, 40 hour work weeks, the right of employees to collectively bargain, overtime pay, workplace safety laws, coal and mine safety laws, affordable higher education that enabled millions of Americans to get a college education (whole generations of scientists, engineers, business leaders, inventors who have contributed to America's being on the cutting edge came from the lower classes being able to get their children educated), vocational training, the Small Business Administration, the GI Bill, better jobs, home ownership, disability insurance, unemployment insurance, social security, pensions, the Minimum Wage Act, eliminating poverty among the elderly, a decent, basic guarantee of food and shelter, medical care, protecting children and families, these are bad things?

What liberals have created and expanded on (the computer that you're reading this on wouldn't exist had it not been for these liberal accomplishments and innovation), conservatives have worked to destroy.

Welfare reform is one good example of how Clinton failed the people who needed the help of government the most. Without installing a safety net for those truly in need, who will always need assistance, Clinton embraced the Republicans' plan to destroy a guarantee of a bare minimum standard of living for all people, and not only Americans. Especially in this time when Republicans will soon force women into forced pregnancies and prevent dying with dignity. It has provided Bush and Republicans with the momentum to curtail and eliminate other government programs - everything from FEMA to public education.

Shame on Bill. But Bill Clinton doesn't know shame, and neither does Joe Lieberman, which accounts for his "shock" over this large and loud movement to unseat him.

Apparently, Lieberman wasn't bothered by Clinton's relationship with Lewinsky, or any of Clinton's other indiscretions. Lieberman was bothered by the politics of the indiscretions, should they come to light:
Lieberman had known Clinton since the future president walked precincts for him in 1970 as a Yale law student during Lieberman's first Connecticut campaign, for the state Senate. But he never had been a Clinton mentor, once wryly observing, according to a friend, "Clinton runs around saying that I taught him how to be a politician, when the truth is he was a politician long before I ever met him. He knew everything. He could have taught me."

Clinton was the Mozart of politics, ingenious at his art, and indulged in nearly everything else. As the young man soared, the older man became for a while one more politician linking himself to the prodigy's fortunes. Another friend recalled Lieberman telephoning him in 1991, to ask whether he believed the private rumors of Clinton's extramarital affairs, and whether the rumors would publicly surface and endanger Clinton's presidential chances. Lieberman didn't raise any moral qualm or question, remembered the friend, who guessed that the senator was looking to him for simply a political analysis.

No, the friend said, he didn't think the whispering would hurt, as he doubted any woman would ever expose Clinton.

Not long afterward, in January 1992, Lieberman became the first non-Southern senator to endorse Clinton. Six years later, on September 3, 1998, with Clinton having acknowledged the inappropriateness of his relationship with Lewinsky, a disgusted Lieberman stepped into a nearly empty Senate chamber, which serves in modern politics as little more than a makeshift TV studio on most late afternoons. The next 23 minutes transformed his career. In a voice tinged with regret and mourning, he declared that Bill Clinton's affair with Lewinsky was "disgraceful."

Until then, Senate Democrats had been essentially quiet on the matter, as if to condemn a president of their own party might be the act of betrayal that could topple Clinton. Lieberman looked pained, as if his friendship with Clinton made what followed hard to say, and so all the more affecting. "Such behavior is not just inappropriate. It is immoral . . . [The president's] transgressions . . . should be followed by some measure of public rebuke and accountability."

The condemnation of his old friend and political ally had an emperor-has-no-clothes quality to it: Lieberman simply gave voice to the obvious, to the scathing view that so many other Democrats in the Senate cloakroom privately held but wouldn't yet publicly express -- some out of timidity, thought then-Sen. Bob Kerrey; others because the White House had successfully striven, Kerrey believed, to guilt people out, to leave them convinced that Democrats needed to rally around an embattled Clinton. Taken by surprise, hearing Lieberman over a television monitor in another part of the Capitol, an exultant Kerrey rushed to the floor, to congratulate Lieberman and rise to echo his remarks. By day's end, one of the Senate's deans, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, had delivered his own reproach of Clinton, and the rush was on among Democrats to reap the political benefits of expressing outrage with a puerile presidency. "A lot of members in [Congress] wanted to join in by then," remembered Kerrey.

There can be only one First, and Lieberman was Neil Armstrong to everyone else's Buzz Aldrin. News coverage of the speeches focused almost solely upon Lieberman. His temerity won him the rapt attention of Talk Show Nation. He had emerged as the crisis's only Democratic star, the new moral voice of a party plagued, some thought, by the Boy President.
We should have purged the party of these cynical, amoral, self-serving politicians long ago. They have only their own interests at heart.

I've just made another contribution to Ned Lamont's campaign. Bill Clinton has succeeded in moving this liberal to not only not vote for Hillary should she run for President in 2008, but to actively work against her becoming President, and getting the rest of these DLC Democratic incumbents out of office.