Saturday, June 30, 2007

Media Matters for America, June 30, 2007

Luntz retracted prior smear of Clinton as "shrill," now concedes it is "passion"

On the June 29 edition of the Public Broadcasting Service's Tavis Smiley, while leading a focus group analysis of the previous day's Democratic presidential forum, Republican pollster Frank Luntz said of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (NY): "What I realized tonight -- and I've used the word 'shrill' to describe her -- what I realized tonight is that it's not shrill, it's passion." Read more

FRANK RICH: When the Vice President Does It, That Means It’s Not Illegal

WHO knew that mocking the Constitution could be nearly as funny as shooting a hunting buddy in the face? Among other comic dividends, Dick Cheney’s legal theory that the vice president is not part of the executive branch yielded a priceless weeklong series on “The Daily Show” and an online “Doonesbury Poll,” conducted at Slate, to name Mr. Cheney’s indeterminate branch of government.

The ridicule was so widespread that finally even this White House had to blink. By midweek, it had abandoned that particularly ludicrous argument, if not its spurious larger claim that Mr. Cheney gets a free pass to ignore rules regulating federal officials’ handling of government secrets.

That retreat might allow us to mark the end of this installment of the Bush-Cheney Follies but for one nagging problem: Not for the first time in the history of this administration — or the hundredth — has the real story been lost amid the Washington kerfuffle. Once the laughter subsides and you look deeper into the narrative leading up to the punch line, you can unearth a buried White House plot that is more damning than the official scandal. This plot once again snakes back to the sinister origins of the Iraq war, to the Valerie Wilson leak case and to the press failures that enabled the administration to abuse truth and the law for too long.

One journalist who hasn’t failed is Mark Silva of The Chicago Tribune. He first reported more than a year ago, in May 2006, the essentials of the “news” at the heart of the recent Cheney ruckus. Mr. Silva found that the vice president was not filing required reports on his office’s use of classified documents because he asserted that his role in the legislative branch, as president of the Senate, gave him an exemption.

This scoop went unnoticed by nearly everybody. It would still be forgotten today had not Henry Waxman, the dogged House inquisitor, called out Mr. Cheney 10 days ago, detailing still more egregious examples of the vice president’s flouting of the law, including his effort to shut down an oversight agency in charge of policing him. The congressman’s brief set off the firestorm that launched a thousand late-night gags.

That’s all to the public good, but hiding in plain sight was the little-noted content of the Bush executive order that Mr. Cheney is accused of violating. On close examination, this obscure 2003 document, thrust into the light only because the vice president so blatantly defied it, turns out to be yet another piece of self-incriminating evidence illuminating the White House’s guilt in ginning up its false case for war.

The tale of the document begins in August 2001, when the Bush administration initiated a review of the previous executive order on classified materials signed by Bill Clinton in 1995. The Clinton order had been acclaimed in its day as a victory for transparency because it mandated the automatic declassification of most government files after 25 years.

It was predictable that the obsessively secretive Bush team would undermine the Clinton order. What was once a measure to make government more open would be redrawn to do the opposite. And sure enough, when the White House finally released its revised version, the scant news coverage focused on how the new rules postponed the Clinton deadline for automatic declassification and tightened secrecy so much that previously declassified documents could be reclassified.

But few noticed another change inserted five times in the revised text: every provision that gave powers to the president over classified documents was amended to give the identical powers to the vice president. This unprecedented increase in vice-presidential clout, though spelled out in black and white, went virtually unremarked in contemporary news accounts.

Given all the other unprecedented prerogatives that President Bush has handed his vice president, this one might seem to be just more of the same. But both the timing of the executive order and the subsequent use Mr. Cheney would make of it reveal its special importance in the games that the White House played with prewar intelligence.

The obvious juncture for Mr. Bush to bestow these new powers on his vice president, you might expect, would have been soon after 9/11, especially since the review process on the Clinton order started a month earlier and could be expedited, as so much other governmental machinery was, to meet the urgent national-security crisis. Yet the new executive order languished for another 18 months, only to be published and signed with no fanfare on March 25, 2003, a week after the invasion of Iraq began.

Why then? It was throughout March, both on the eve of the war and right after “Shock and Awe,” that the White House’s most urgent case for Iraq’s imminent threat began to unravel. That case had been built around the scariest of Saddam’s supposed W.M.D., the nuclear weapons that could engulf America in mushroom clouds, and the White House had pushed it relentlessly, despite a lack of evidence. On “Meet the Press” on March 16, Mr. Cheney pressed that doomsday button one more time: “We believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons.” But even as the vice president spoke, such claims were at last being strenuously challenged in public.

Nine days earlier Mohamed ElBaradei of the International Atomic Energy Agency had announced that documents supposedly attesting to Saddam’s attempt to secure uranium in Niger were “not authentic.” A then-obscure retired diplomat, Joseph Wilson, piped in on CNN, calling the case “outrageous.”

Soon both Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia and Congressman Waxman wrote letters (to the F.B.I. and the president, respectively) questioning whether we were going to war because of what Mr. Waxman labeled “a hoax.” And this wasn’t the only administration use of intelligence that was under increasing scrutiny. The newly formed 9/11 commission set its first open hearings for March 31 and requested some half-million documents, including those pertaining to what the White House knew about Al Qaeda’s threat during the summer of 2001.

The new executive order that Mr. Bush signed on March 25 was ingenious. By giving Mr. Cheney the same classification powers he had, Mr. Bush gave his vice president a free hand to wield a clandestine weapon: he could use leaks to punish administration critics.

That weapon would be employed less than four months later. Under Mr. Bush’s direction, Mr. Cheney deputized Scooter Libby to leak highly selective and misleading portions of a 2002 National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq to pet reporters as he tried to discredit Mr. Wilson. By then, Mr. Wilson had emerged as the most vocal former government official accusing the White House of not telling the truth before the war.

Because of the Patrick Fitzgerald investigation, we would learn three years later about the offensive conducted by Mr. Libby on behalf of Mr. Cheney and Mr. Bush. That revelation prompted the vice president to acknowledge his enhanced powers in an unguarded moment in a February 2006 interview with Brit Hume of Fox News. Asked by Mr. Hume with some incredulity if “a vice president has the authority to declassify information,” Mr. Cheney replied, “There is an executive order to that effect.” He was referring to the order of March 2003.

Even now, few have made the connection between this month’s Cheney flap and the larger scandal. That larger scandal is to be found in what the vice president did legally under the executive order early on rather than in his more recent rejection of its oversight rules.

Timing really is everything. By March 2003, this White House knew its hype of Saddam’s nonexistent nuclear arsenal was in grave danger of being exposed. The order allowed Mr. Bush to keep his own fingerprints off the nitty-gritty of any jihad against whistle-blowers by giving Mr. Cheney the authority to pick his own shots and handle the specifics. The president could have plausible deniability and was free to deliver non-denial denials like “If there is a leak out of my administration, I want to know who it is.” Mr. Cheney in turn could delegate the actual dirty work to Mr. Libby, who obstructed justice to help throw a smoke screen over the vice president’s own role in the effort to destroy Mr. Wilson.

Last week The Washington Post ran a first-rate investigative series on the entire Cheney vice presidency. Readers posting comments were largely enthusiastic, but a few griped. “Six and a half years too late,” said one. “Four years late and billions of dollars short,” said another. Such complaints reflect the bitter legacy of much of the Washington press’s failure to penetrate the hyping of prewar intelligence and, later, the import of the Fitzgerald investigation.

We’re still playing catch-up. In a week in which the C.I.A. belatedly released severely censored secrets about agency scandals dating back a half-century, you have to wonder what else was done behind the shield of an executive order signed just after the Ides of March four years ago. Another half-century could pass before Americans learn the full story of the secrets buried by Mr. Cheney and his boss to cover up their deceitful path to war.

MAUREEN DOWD: Tears on My Pillow

“I miss Albania!” W. wails. “They know how to treat a president there. Women were kissing me and men rubbed my hair. The crowd kept yelling, ‘Bushie!,’ and they almost grabbed the watch right off my wrist trying to get at me.”

The concerned group huddling outside the president’s closed-bedroom door in Kennebunkport can barely hear him. His voice is muffled because he has his face buried in his feather pillow, which the Secret Service has carefully transported from Washington to Maine for the weekend, knowing that it would be needed. They guard it so conscientiously that they have even given it a code name. Since the president’s Secret Service name is Tumbler, his agents christened his beloved pillow Slumber.

“Son, I know how you feel,” Poppy calls in to him, trying to sound positive. “Riding high in 2002, shot down in 2007. That’s life, as Sinatra says. You were a puppet and a pawn to King Dick and it screwed up your presidency and our party and the Middle East and the Atlantic alliance and the family legacy and Jeb’s future, not to mention the fate of the planet. But you can’t just roll yourself up in a big ball and die, George. Your friend Vlad the Impaler is here, and I think you should come out and talk to him. You invited him and he came all the way from Russia, and you don’t want to be rude.

“I’ve already taken him to Mabel’s Lobster Claw and out on the boat. He scared all the fish away. I don’t know what else to do with him, George. He brained the Filipino manservant, the little brown one, with a horseshoe.”

Putin steps forward. “Let me try,” he tells Poppy.

“George, hey, it’s me, Ostrich Legs, Pooty Poot. Remember when you gave me those nicknames? Come out, and I show you my real soul. Dark, dark, dark. I put the Putin back in Rasputin. Listen, Albania stinks. Maine much nicer. I saw Moose and Squirrel in the woods. Let’s throw horseshoes at them! I love this American sport.”

Tumbler burrows into Slumber. “Why doesn’t anybody like me anymore, Daddy?” he keens. “Man, I miss Tony. My Iraq poodle left me with a porcupine. And I can’t believe my own Republicans crossed me on the immigration bill. Now my Mexican buddies from Midland are saying, ‘Adiós, Jorge.’ Vice doesn’t even want to be in the same branch of government as me. Where is Dick, by the way?”

His mother steps briskly up to the door. “Now listen, Georgie,” Barbara says. “We didn’t invite Dick. He’s not our kind. He has utterly ruined your presidency. There’s a Washington Post series I want you to read. I’ve put it in the kitchen by your bowl of Cookie Crisps. It explains all about how Dick played you for a fool on everything from Iraq to capital gains. He set up the West Wing paper flow in a way that undermined your goals and advanced his. He let you act like you were the Decider, dear, when you were really just the Dupe.”

W. howls, “Dick promised me I would never be a wimp and now I’m a wimp!”

Putin intervenes. “No, George, don’t blame Dick,” he says. “Dick good man. Shoots friend in face. But Dick too soft. Friend lived. He needs put more people in your Gitmo gulag, shut down newspapers, kill more critics. I’ll send you some of my special polonium-210 pellets. They just like Altoids, curiously strong.”

Clarence Thomas rushes up to the door, black robes flapping. “I got here as fast as I could,” he assures Poppy, before yelling in to W.: “I’m sorry about the Guantánamo decision. I don’t know what my brethren were thinking, applying the Constitution to Cuba. What’s law got to do with it? I should have fought harder. I was a little distracted by our decision to stop race from being a factor in making schools racially diverse. I needed to make sure that black children all over America would have none of the advantages I had.”

Henry Kissinger oils his way across the floor. “Mr. President,” he rumbles through the door, “it’s not so bad bungling a war. I got to date Jill St. John.”

Condi joins the group, and wrinkles her nose at Putin. He puts his arm around her and gives her head a noogie. “When I said U.S. aggression is like Third Reich,” he tells her, with his most charming K.G.B. smile, “I meant it in a good way.”

Condi ignores him and coos to W.: “There’s bad news and good news, sir. Or maybe it’s Vice versa. Cheney’s going to pardon Scooter. And the Albanians have agreed to put your presidential library in Tirana.”

THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN: Dog Paddling in the Tigris


It’s too early to pronounce the U.S. military’s surge in Iraq a failure. It’s not too early to say, though, that there’s no sign that it’s succeeding — that it’s making Iraqi politics or security better in any appreciable, self-sustaining way. At best, the surge is keeping Iraq from descending into full-scale civil war. At best we are dog paddling in the Tigris. Which means at least we should start to think about what happens if we have to get out of the water.

We have to start by taking stock — honestly — about where we are. President Bush talks about Iraq as a country where the vast majority of the people are longing to live with each other in peace, harmony and freedom, and where only a tiny minority of terrorists and die-hard Baathists are standing in the way.

I wish. If that were really the case, how could it be that after four years, hundreds of billions of dollars, tens of thousands of U.S. troops and thousands of casualties, we and our Iraqi allies have not been able to defeat this tiny minority? It doesn’t add up. No minority could be that powerful.

The truth is we have a majorities problem in Iraq, not just a minority problem. For too many Iraqi leaders and too many of their followers, America’s vision of Iraq — a unified, pluralistic, democratizing, free-market — is actually their second choice, at best.

The first choice for many Shiites is a pro-Iranian, Shiite-dominated religious Iraq, where Sunnis have little say and little power. The first choice for many Sunnis is a return to the good old days of Sunni minority rule over the Shiite majority. The first choice for many Kurds is an independent, democratic Kurdistan. In too many cases, the violence that is bedeviling Iraq today — while carried out by a minority of people — reflects the broad aspirations or fears of the respective majorities.

In short, our first-choice soldiers are dying for Iraqis’ second choice. That is wrong, terribly wrong. It has to stop.

What to do? Most of the options being floated by Democrats and Republicans talk about abandoning the whole idea of trying to implant democracy in Iraq and focusing instead on America’s core “national interests.” Those are described as getting as many of our troops out of Iraq as possible, while preventing the inevitable Iraqi civil war — which would follow any U.S. withdrawal — from spreading around the region. Such proposals are only half right.

Some things are true even if George Bush believes them. And one thing that remains true (maybe the only thing) about Mr. Bush’s strategy toward Iraq is that it is still in our national interest to try to create a model of decent, progressive, pluralistic politics in the heart of the Arab world.

You need to only look at Gaza and Lebanon, not to mention Baghdad, to see how badly this region needs a different model of governance. But I just said earlier that we have a majorities problem in Iraq. So what to do? Build on the minority.

“Go for the Kurdish option,” says Hazem Saghiyeh, the noted columnist for the London Arabic daily Al Hayat. “You can’t build a democratic example in all of Iraq today, but you can build it in Kurdistan. That is where you should go.”

He’s right. If the surge fails to pave the way for a Sunni-Shiite power-sharing agreement in Iraq, then we have to remove our troops from their areas and relocate them to the border to contain their civil war. But we should also talk to the Kurds about setting up a base in Kurdistan and buttressing its development. Kurdistan is not Switzerland (still too much corruption). But it does have the cultural and institutional foundations — including an active Parliament, vibrant newspapers, open universities and free markets — for a decent democratizing example in the heart of the Arab-Muslim world. Many Iraqis have already fled to Kurdistan to find safety or even vacation in its thriving hotels. A U.S. base in Kurdistan would protect it from invasion by Turkey, and assure Turkey that an autonomous Kurdistan will not be a problem for it.

Nothing could justify the staggering cost of the Iraq war anymore, but if we could get one decent example implanted in the neighborhood, even a small one, at least it wouldn’t be a total loss. The example set by little, progressive, modernizing, globalizing Dubai has had a big impact on other countries in the Gulf. A thriving, progressive Kurdistan could do the same. If such an example doesn’t make Iraqi Sunnis and Shiites come to their senses, it will at least be a mirror that shows them every day how utterly wasteful, senseless and self-destructive their civil war is.

Roswell officer's amazing deathbed admission raises possibility that aliens DID visit

Daily Mail

But last week came an astonishing new twist to the Roswell mystery - which casts new light on the incident and raises the possibility that we have, indeed, been visited by aliens.

Lieutenant Walter Haut was the public relations officer at the base in 1947, and was the man who issued the original and subsequent press releases after the crash on the orders of the base commander, Colonel William Blanchard.

Haut died last year, but left a sworn affidavit to be opened only after his death.

Last week, the text was released and asserts that the weather balloon claim was a cover story, and that the real object had been recovered by the military and stored in a hangar. He described seeing not just the craft, but alien bodies.

He wasn't the first Roswell witness to talk about bodies. Local undertaker Glenn Dennis had long claimed that he was contacted by authorities at Roswell shortly after the crash and asked to provide a number of child-sized coffins.......

Afghan civilians said killed in clash

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - U.S.-led airstrikes targeting Taliban militants who had attacked NATO forces slammed into civilian homes in southern Afghanistan, killing both civilians and insurgents, Afghan and Western officials said Saturday.

Like most battles in the dangerous and remote regions of Afghanistan, casualty estimates varied widely.

Local government officials said up to 60 civilians and 35 insurgents had been killed. NATO did not give an estimate of casualties, but one Western military official said privately that around eight civilians had been killed.

It was not possible to independently verify the casualty claims.

The U.S. acknowledged some civilians were killed during the fighting in Helmand province's Gereshk district late Friday after fighters sought shelter in village homes, a familiar scenario in Afghanistan that has led to the deaths of hundreds of innocent bystanders this year.

The U.S. news release did not say how many civilians were killed.

The battle began when Taliban fighters tried to ambush a joint U.S.-Afghan military convoy late Friday before fleeing into the nearby village of Hyderabad for cover, said Mohammad Hussein, Helmand's provincial police chief.

Airstrikes targeted the militants in the village, said Dur Ali Shah, the mayor of Gereshk.

Shah said late Saturday that between 50 and 60 civilians and 35 Taliban fighters had been killed. He said the fighters were mostly Arab.

Maj. John Thomas, a spokesman for NATO's International Security Assistance Force, said the military had no information "at this time to corroborate numbers that large." He said NATO would not fire on positions if it knew there were civilians nearby.

"It's the enemy fighters who willingly fire when civilians are standing right next to them," he said.

The U.S.-led coalition said the airstrikes were in response to machine gun, mortar and rocker propelled grenade attacks on a joint Afghan-coalition patrol......

Exposed Birth Secrets of George W Bush

The Daily Squib

TEXAS — Joan Wilder was the ceremonial priestess present at the birthing of the now President of the United States, George W Bush. She recounts her harrowing tale after many years of silence.

The following description is from the harrowing tale of Joan Wilder. She spoke to the Squib from a safe location after many years in hiding. The stories have been corroborated by other ceremonial staff present at the birthing of George W Bush. Be warned some of the descriptions may upset some readers.

The birthing chamber described by Mrs Wilder is a dark dungeon beneath the Bush residence and amongst all the ceremonial paraphernalia and remnants of past sacrificial offerings there is a central platform jutting out from the stone floor. The dark and moist walls are decorated with scribblings from the Sumerian script Cuneiform and speak of ancient scriptures long lost in the sands of time.

Before the birthing, we prepare the ground for the brood mother by sacrificing a pot bellied pig on the altar, then drinking the blood.

We invoke Moloch, then the birthing begins:

Barbara Bush straddles the altar and utters a blood curdling banshee scream, the windows judder in unison to this unholy vibration. She lifts her dress exposing her undergarments, their antiquated design of the last century yellow with fluid, easing them down under her hairy varicose veined knees she exhales a gut-blasting fart so almighty that a waft of methane clouds the windows, the noxious fumes' heavy particles hang like rain clouds over Nebraska in the winter. Her anus erupts further as her eyes roll back in her head exposing only the whites. Out of her over-stretched anus the beastly chuffs head emerges as her frothing rabid mouth recites ancient incantations at speed. A guttural nonsense low in tone and reminiscent of an animal's - she exhales.

We assist the brood mother by whipping her body with chains until the final grunt.

The evil joy is unceremoniously ejected from her puckered arse with an audible popping sound and then a further gaseous fart release. A champagne cork of effluent is released and bubbles cohesively. A wry smile now appears over her brooding face and she coos with delight at the sight of her unholy sh*t covered spawn as it gnashes its sharp teeth.

"I shall name him George Walker..."

The brood mother is satisfied and proceeds to lick her offspring clean with her hairy tongue. George will be presented to the rest of the brood later on in the evening and the sacrificial celebrations will begin in earnest.

Joan Wilder's tell-all book "Confessions of a Satanic Priestess" will be published in August by Macmillan


US-led raids 'kill 26' in Baghdad


US-led forces say they have killed 26 militants in overnight operations in the Sadr City area of Baghdad in which four vehicles were destroyed.

Troops also detained 17 militants in pre-dawn raids on the area, a Shia stronghold, the US military said.

But Iraqi hospital and police officials put the death toll at eight and said civilians were killed in their homes.

The raids are the latest in a series of US offensives against militants accused of smuggling weapons from Iran.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki criticised the raids on Sadr City, saying his government strongly opposed operations carried out by US-led forces without its permission.

In another development, the US military denied reports from Thursday that 20 headless bodies had been found south of Baghdad and suggested it had been misinformation spread by insurgents..........

US troops on Iraq murder charges (Another New Case)


The US military in Iraq has charged two of its soldiers with the murder of three Iraqis between April and June in the Iskandariya area, south of Baghdad.

Both of the men are accused of premeditated murder and placing weapons beside the bodies of the dead, who were killed in three separate incidents.

Staff Sergeant Michael A Hensley is accused of three murders and Specialist Jorge G Sandoval of one.

Charges were brought after fellow soldiers alerted the authorities.

Both suspects, who are from the Alaskan-based 25th Infantry Division, are now being held in US custody in Kuwait. Spc Sandoval was detained while at home in Texas.

The military statement announcing the charges says the men are "merely an accusation of wrongdoing".

"The soldiers are presumed innocent unless and until they are proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of any alleged offense," it adds.

Pentagon investigators are already conducting a number of investigations into incidents of alleged unlawful killings by US forces in Iraq.

In the biggest case, six members of one marine battalion are accused of a role in the killing of 24 civilians in the town of Haditha, north-west of Baghdad, in late 2005.

Extremists using false media reporting to incite sectarian violence

BAGHDAD, Iraq – Friday, news media reported a mass killing in a village near Salman Pak where 20 men were allegedly found beheaded. It now appears that the story was completely false and fabricated by unknown sources.

Upon learning of the press reports, coalition and Iraqi officials began investigating to determine if the reports were true. Ultimately it was concluded the reports were false.......

Document warns Taliban threatens Pakistan

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, June 30 (UPI) -- Gen. Pervez Musharraf has been warned by his own ministers that his lax attitude toward Taliban and Afghan militants could lead to chaos in Pakistan. "There is a general policy of appeasement towards the Taliban, which has further emboldened them," said a report from Pakistan's interior ministry to President Musharraf, the New York Times reported Saturday.

The document warns Taliban fighters are rapidly spreading into Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province, where outnumbered security forces have all but surrendered to the militants.........

'Iran-linked terrorists' killed in Baghdad raid: US

Sydney Morning Herald

US and Iraqi forces backed by helicopters killed 26 militants suspected of links to "Iranian terror networks" in raids in the Baghdad Shi'ite district of Sadr City on Saturday, the US military said.

Seventeen other suspects were detained.

"Coalition forces conducted two separate raids targeting suspected secret cell terrorists during predawn hours Saturday in Sadr City," the military said.

"It is believed that the suspected terrorists have close ties to Iranian terror networks and are responsible for facilitating the flow of lethal aid into Iraq," it added.

A medic at Al-Sadr hospital in Sadr City said that the hospital had received eight bodies and admitted 20 people wounded in the raids.

Residents were awakened before dawn to the sound of rockets slamming into buildings and machine-gun fire echoing off the concrete apartment blocks of the impoverished neighbourhood, an AFP correspondent said.

Dozens of gunmen ran through the streets, firing pistols and machine-guns at the US helicopters circling overhead, which responded with missiles. Several cars and homes were destroyed.

The US military confirmed that its forces came under heavy attack, with militants firing several rocket-propelled grenades. No US or Iraqi troops were wounded in the clashes.

Sadr City is a major bastion of support for anti-American Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, whose powerful Mahdi Army militia patrols the streets and provides welfare services to the neighbourhood.

The US military also accuses the militia of killing Sunni Arabs in the sectarian conflict gripping Iraq.

Today's raids are the latest in a series of operations targeting militants in the area that US commanders say receive weapons and support from neighbouring Iran......

100 journalists killed so far this year

BRUSSELS, Belgium - One hundred journalists and other news media workers died on the job in the first six months of the year, putting 2007 on the path to becoming the deadliest year for the news business, the International News Safety Institute said Friday.

Iraq has been the most dangerous country for journalists in recent years, and the group said the 100-mark was reached with a death there Tuesday — the killing of Hamed Sarha, a 30-year veteran of the Iraqi national news agency by unidentified gunmen.

According to statistics compiled by the Brussels-based group, 83 journalists and 17 other media professionals died around the globe covering news stories between Jan. 1 and June 26, with 72 of them slain......

Pendleton Marines investigated in alleged killings (NEW CASE)

NORTH COUNTY ---- A federal agency is investigating whether Camp Pendleton Marines shot and killed a group of prisoners in the city of Fallujah, Iraq, in 2004, according to several military and legal sources.

The sources told the North County Times that the Naval Criminal Investigative Service probe centers on whether five to 10 Marines violated the laws of war.

"They have interviewed about 20 people so far and some have been read their rights," a source with direct knowledge of the probe said Friday.

Under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the killing of a captured enemy combatant who does not present a threat is considered murder.

Some of those being questioned are no longer in the Marine Corps, and at least one has hired a private defense attorney who specializes in military law, sources said. Because of the sensitivity of the matter, the five sources who spoke with the newspaper agreed to do so on the condition that they not be named.

The Marines are believed to have been involved in the deaths of as many as eight people who were captured during one of the largest battles of the Iraq war, according to the sources.

Questions the sources said that they could not immediately answer include whether the Iraqis had been declared prisoners, whether any or all were bound in any way and where specifically the slayings occurred.

The incident reportedly took place on or about Nov. 10, 2004, three days after the U.S. launched a major assault in Fallujah, an Anbar province city in western Iraq that at the time was under insurgent control.

One of the Marines has said that the troops believed they were carrying out the orders of their commanders when the insurgents were shot, according to one source.

A Marine Corps public affairs officer referred questions to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service in Washington, D.C.

Agency spokesman Ed Buice, who was presented with questions reflecting the essence of what the newspaper had been told, said Friday that no one would comment on the report. The Department of the Navy law enforcement agency is composed of civilian investigators who are not under Marine Corps control.

The sources said the Fallujah investigation arose as a result of the ongoing prosecution of three Camp Pendleton enlisted Marines charged with murder in the deaths of 24 Iraqi civilians in the city of Haditha on Nov 19, 2005. Four officers face charges of dereliction of duty for failing to fully investigate the deaths at Haditha.

In another ongoing Iraqi death case, five of eight Camp Pendleton troops have pleaded guilty for their roles in the abduction and shooting of a retired Iraqi policeman in April 2006. Three defendants in that incident face trial this summer.

None of the men being prosecuted in the Haditha or Hamdania cases are subjects of the Fallujah investigation, a source said........

Friday, June 29, 2007

BOB HERBERT: When Is Enough Enough?

Chances are you didn’t hear it, but on Thursday night Senator Hillary Clinton said, “If H.I.V./AIDS were the leading cause of death of white women between the ages of 25 and 34, there would be an outraged outcry in this country.”

Her comment came on the same day that a malevolent majority on the U.S. Supreme Court threw a brick through the window of voluntary school integration efforts.

There comes a time when people are supposed to get angry. The rights and interests of black people in the U.S. have been under assault for the longest time, and in the absence of an effective counterforce, that assault has only grown more brutal.

Have you looked at the public schools lately? Have you looked at the prisons? Have you looked at the legions of unemployed blacks roaming the neighborhoods of big cities across the country? These jobless African-Americans, so many of them men, are so marginal in the view of the wider society, so insignificant, so invisible, they aren’t even counted in the government’s official jobless statistics.

And now this new majority on the Supreme Court seems committed to a legal trajectory that would hurl blacks back to the bad old days of the Jim Crow era.

Where’s the outcry? Where’s the line in the sand that the prejudiced portion of the population is not allowed to cross?

Mrs. Clinton’s comment was made at a forum of Democratic presidential candidates at Howard University that was put together by Tavis Smiley, the radio and television personality, and broadcast nationally by PBS. The idea was to focus on issues of particular concern to African-Americans.

It’s discouraging that some of the biggest issues confronting blacks — the spread of AIDS, chronic joblessness and racial discrimination, for example — are not considered mainstream issues.

Senator John Edwards offered a disturbingly bleak but accurate picture of the lives of many young blacks: “When you have young African-American men who are completely convinced that they’re either going to die or go to prison and see absolutely no hope in their lives; when they live in an environment where the people around them don’t earn a decent wage; when they go to schools that are second-class schools compared to the wealthy suburban areas — they don’t see anything getting better.”

The difficult lives and often tragic fates of such young men are not much on the minds of so-called mainstream Americans, or the political and corporate elites who run the country. More noise needs to be made. There’s something very wrong with a passive acceptance of the degraded state in which so many African-Americans continue to live.

Mr. Smiley is also organizing a forum of Republican candidates to be held in September. I wholeheartedly applaud his efforts. But if black people were more angry, and if they could channel that anger into political activism — first and foremost by voting as though their lives and the lives of their children depended on it — there would not be a need to have separate political forums to address their concerns.

If black people could find a way to come together in sky-high turnouts on Election Day, if they showed up at polling booths in numbers close to the maximum possible turnout, if they could set the example for all other Americans about the importance of exercising the franchise, the politicians would not dare to ignore their concerns.

For black people, especially, the current composition of the Supreme Court should be the ultimate lesson in the importance of voting in a presidential election. No branch of the government has been more crucial than the judiciary in securing the rights and improving the lives of blacks over the past five or six decades.

George W. Bush, in a little more than six years, has tilted the court so radically that it is now, like the administration itself, relentlessly hostile to the interests of black people. That never would have happened if blacks had managed significantly more muscular turnouts in the 2000 and 2004 elections. (The war in Iraq would not have happened, either.)

There are, of course, many people, black and white, who are working on a vast array of important issues. But much, much more needs to be done. And blacks, in particular, need to intervene more directly in the public policy matters that concern them.

In the 1960s, there were radicals running around screaming about black power. But the real power in this country has always been the power of the vote. Black Americans have not come close to maximizing that power.

It’s not too late.

TIMOTHY EGAN: Courage Without the Uniform


Every time a soldier from Oregon dies in the Iraq war, Senator Gordon Smith calls up the mother or surviving spouse, and commiserates. His son killed himself four years ago, he tells them. He knows what it’s like to lose a boy.

He has made this call 103 times. Inevitably, after the tears and the awkward pauses, they ask him this question about their lost loved one in Iraq: was it worth it?

“I wish I could tell them what they want to hear,” said Senator Smith, a Republican. “I wish I could tell them something else. I say, ‘I hope history proves me wrong, but...’ ” and then he trails off.

Senator Smith woke up one morning last December with the alarm set to news and traffic — another day, another dozen American soldiers dead. He had his Groundhog Day moment, he says. “I just went from steamed to boiled.”

Later, on the floor of the Senate, he said the words that are still echoing around the political world:

“I, for one, am at the end of my rope when it comes to supporting a policy that has our soldiers patrolling the same streets in the same way, being blown up by the same bombs day after day. This is absurd. It may even be criminal.”

It was that last word that set people on fire. Conservatives called him a traitor — to the party, the country. Liberals embraced him. Bring on impeachment!

If anything, the senator feels stronger today than he did then, though he said he would change one word in his speech. “If I could take back any word, it would be ‘criminal,’ ” he said. “I’d replace it with the word ‘insane.’ ”

At the time, Smith was one of only two Republicans in the Senate — the other being the maverick, Chuck Hagel of Nebraska — to come out against the president’s war policy. This week, Richard Lugar of Indiana joined other Republican senators who have since broken ranks, making at least six who are calling for a new policy.

By the time Congress takes up the postsurge failures of the war in September, there may be a dozen or more Republicans in the Senate ready to defy the president, said Mr. Smith.

The war has started to resemble a postapocalyptic sci-fi film like “Blade Runner.” Here is a troubled superpower headed by a pair of delusional men, with a rag-tag army fighting a constant low-grade insurgency. The cause has long since been forgotten, the slogans are hollow, death lurks around every shadowy corner.

But if we are to retrieve our honor, to restore our place in the world, to make good on those lost Oregon lives, it may be because people like Gordon Smith couldn’t take it any more, that he finally said enough — bring the kids home.

Smith is a Mormon who did his mission abroad and an Eagle Scout from the eastern Oregon town of Pendleton — one of the West’s most authentic places, part Indian, part cowboy. A senator for 10 years, he is up for re-election next year.

His reading of World War I, when Europe’s finest were thrown up against machine guns day after day, and a more recent book, “Fiasco,” Tom Ricks’s devastating account of American blunders in Iraq, left him sleepless and angered.

After visiting Iraq three times, he has concluded that those in power “are more focused on revenge than reconciliation — it’s a quicksand of ancient hatreds.”

Some people question the timing of the senator’s change of heart. Smith is vulnerable in this blue state, they say, and his conversion is just a ploy to save his seat. But there is something else at work here. Smith has the seat once held by Senator Mark Hatfield, another Republican who defied his party on matters of war and peace. Hatfield was a Navy man, a veteran of Iwo Jima and one of the first Americans to see Hiroshima after the atomic bomb was dropped. All that carnage changed his world view.

Smith was never in the armed forces. His biggest regret in life, he says, is that he never wore his country’s uniform. But unlike some chicken-hawks who did not serve — chief among them, Vice President Cheney, with his numerous draft deferments — he is not trying to make up for lost courage.

Not long ago, Hatfield called up the junior senator from Oregon and brought up the fact that Smith, once a vigorous booster, had changed his mind on the war.

“I’m proud of you for that,” he said. It meant a lot, coming from Hatfield, who is a giant in Oregon politics. But it meant even more that he was an ex-warrior.

Timothy Egan, a former Seattle correspondent for The Times and the author of “The Worst Hard Time,” is a guest columnist.

Police hunt Iraqi on run after double bomb plot in London

POLICE were last night hunting an Iraqi, suspected of plotting car-bomb attacks in Britain, who went on the run just days before two vehicles packed with petrol, gas and nails were found in central London.

The first device was discovered in a Mercedes parked outside one of the city's biggest nightclubs, Tiger Tiger, at about 1am when hundreds were packed inside for a ladies' night.

Police, alerted by ambulance workers who thought they saw fumes inside the car, defused the bomb.

Officers later found similar materials in a Mercedes that had been parked nearby. They said it contained gas, fuel and nails that could have been detonated and that the two cars were obviously linked.

It was reported last night that the first car, a metallic green Mercedes, was stolen in early June and was spotted first in Scotland and then in Birmingham in the two days before the bomb was defused in London.

Police say they are looking for an Iraqi who went on the run from a control order only 11 days before yesterday's failed bombing attempts. The man, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, is part of a six-strong cell linked to al-Qaeda in Iraq.

He went missing on 18 June in north-west England, and his whereabouts are unknown....

Let’s Play the Blame Game

Don’t like Bush? Blame Reagan. It’s 40’s fault that 41 and 43 became presidents, says Michael Barone on his U.S. News blog. Barone writes:

The way we pick vice presidents is crazy. We spend lots of time and money and psychic energy on picking our presidents, with millions of people in one way or the other involved. But we let one man (or, quite possibly this time, one woman) select the vice presidential nominee. And this is considered by just about everyone as the way it should be. Yet, as [Times of London columnist Gerard] Baker points out, vice presidents have a tremendous advantage when it comes to running for president. So the decision of Ronald Reagan at something like 3 in the morning in a Detroit hotel room to pick George H.W. Bush as his running mate leads directly to Bush’s election as president in 1988 and his son’s election as president in 2000 and 2004. Had Reagan picked someone else, it is extremely unlikely that either Bush would have been president.”

  • Don’t like Alberto Gonzales? Blame Cheney — and more important, “Cheney’s Cheney,” David Addington. The Washington Post recently reported that Addington was the real author of a memo that Gonzales signed and that called the Geneva Conventions “quaint.” Laura Rozen writes at her blog, War and Piece: “Without any apparent opinion or conviction on these matters that out of some circumstance ended up in his inbox, Gonzales lightly signed off on these grave issues of killing, torture and subverting the Constitution, perhaps out of no greater motivation than to please his bosses and advance his career.”

  • As a closed platform, the iPhone is antithetical to the nature of the Internet and personal computing, writes Columbia law professor Tim Wu in Slate:

    Unlike your Macintosh computer, which can run whatever software developers write for it, the iPhone will, in native mode, run only whatever Apple (and AT&T) approve of. While there are some technical and security reasons to do things this way, there’s an ideological point here, too. The closed iPhone stands in contrast to the open-platform design that has been the bedrock of both the personal computer and Internet revolutions. By design, the iPhone embodies the opposite of what made the Apple II so successful.

    Chris Suellentrop
  • Joyful Critic Joel Siegel, Gone at 63


    Surrounded by family and friends, ABC's beaming and insightful movie critic Joel Siegel has died in New York, after a long and remarkably courageous struggle with cancer, at the age of 63.

    Both colleagues and fans delighted in his unique way of blending cheerful good humor and piercing critical acumen in reviews that made them instantly clear to anyone. You knew exactly what he thought — often with the bonus of a good laugh

    Marines Drop Case Against Iraq Veteran

    KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The Marines won't kick out an Iraq war veteran who made anti-war statements in a speech and wore part of his uniform at a protest, the service said Friday, despite a recommendation to discharge him early.

    An investigating officer had recommended in May that Liam Madden, 22, of Boston receive an other-than-honorable discharge, the worst discharge possible under non-court martial conditions.

    Madden is part of the Individual Ready Reserve, which consists mainly of those who have left active duty but still have time remaining on their eight-year military obligations. He is scheduled to be discharged in 2010.

    Madden was accused of making "disloyal statements" during a speech in February in New York in which he accused President Bush of betraying service members and called the fighting in Iraq a "war crime." The speech was posted on the Internet.

    Madden also was accused of a uniform violation for wearing a camouflage, button-down shirt and jeans at a demonstration in Washington in January.

    The Marines said in a news release that they were dropping the case because they had "received sufficient indication" from Madden that he would no longer wear his uniform when engaged in political activities. They also determined that his statements did not warrant further action.

    Madden insists he never reached an agreement with the Marines and planned to keep wearing his uniform at protests. He did write in an e-mail to the Marine Corps on Tuesday that he would agree to stop wearing his uniform at protests if the corps put in writing "that my statements are neither disloyal nor inaccurate.".....

    Missing Seattle talk show host reportedly found dead (Mike Webb)

    SEATTLE (AP) - KOMO Radio reports that the sister of Seattle talk show host Mike Webb says police told her the body in the crawl space of his home is Webb's.

    The body was found yesterday by workers cleaning out the rental home. It was in the crawl space, covered by boxes and a tarp.

    Webb had been missing since April after losing his job at KIRO because he was accused of insurance fraud.

    Police are investigating the death as suspicious.....

    3 sought after 2nd car bomb found in London


    British authorities were seeking three men Friday after police defused two car bombs that they said could have caused “significant injury or loss of life” in London.

    The three men are believed to be from the Birmingham area, a center of radical Islamic unrest in Britain, U.S. officials who had been briefed on the developments told NBC News.....

    Fear of a ‘Non-White’ School District

    Writing on his blog, Is That Legal?, North Carolina law professor Eric Muller explains why he thinks Justice Anthony M. Kennedy’s concurrence in the Supreme Court decision about the Seattle and Louisville school systems isn’t as impenetrable as some find it. Kennedy wrote that Seattle “failed to explain why, in a district composed of a diversity of races, with fewer than half of the students categorized as ‘white,’ it has employed the crude categories of ‘white’ and ‘non-white’ as the basis for its assignment decisions.”

    “Under Seattle’s plan, a school that was 40 percent white and 60 percent Asian would be just as ‘diverse’ as a school that was 40 percent white and 60 percent African-American. That’s nonsense,” Muller writes. “It appears that what Seattle was really after was not ‘diversity,’ but ensuring that no school would be excessively non-white.” Muller also writes:

    A very significant percentage of the enrollment in Seattle’s high schools is neither white nor black. (Think about it: Seattle is a major city on the Pacific Rim; lots of folks in the Seattle schools are of Asian ancestry.) So it is very hard for me to take seriously the claim that the Seattle school district was seeking to achieve genuine “diversity” by making school assignment decisions with a “white/non-white” system of categorizing students.

    Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne isn’t so sanguine about the decision. Dionne wants the Democratic majority in the Senate to block any future judicial nominees — for the Supreme Court or for lower courts — unless President Bush engages in “serious consultation” with the Senate. Dionne writes:

    And if conservatives claim to believe the president is owed deference on his court appointees, they will be — I choose this word deliberately — lying. In 2005 conservatives had no problem blocking Bush’s appointment of Harriet Miers because they could not count on her to be a strong voice for their legal causes. They revealed that their view of judicial battles is not about principle but power. When they went after Miers, conservatives lost the deference argument.

    Chris Suellentrop

    TWO car bombs found in West End


    Police say two separate explosive devices have been found in cars parked in London's West End.

    The first bomb, made of 60 litres of petrol, gas cylinders and nails, was found in a Mercedes outside a night club in Haymarket at 0130BST (0030GMT).

    Police say a second device was found in a Mercedes in a car park in Park Lane after it was towed away from Cockspur Street, close to Trafalgar Square.

    Both devices were "viable" and "clearly linked", police said.

    Deputy Assistant Commissioner Peter Clarke, head of Scotland Yard's counter-terrorism command, said the discovery of the second device was "obviously troubling".

    "There was a considerable amount of fuel and gas canisters, as in the first vehicle. There was also a substantial quantity of nails," he said.

    Parking ticket

    An ambulance crew spotted smoke inside the first metallic green Mercedes by chance after they were called to the Tiger Tiger night club to help a sick person.

    Police then defused a bomb inside.

    The second device was found in a blue 280E model Mercedes. It was given a parking ticket at 0230BST on Friday after being found illegally parked in Cockspur Street.

    The vehicle was then towed to the Park Lane car pound at about 0330BST.

    The BBC's Daniel Sandford said police were alerted to it after staff who had heard about the Haymarket bomb noticed a strong smell of petrol coming from it.

    Park Lane was closed for much of the afternoon while bomb squad officers checked the vehicle and was eventually reopened at 1930BST.

    The Haymarket area remains closed as dozens of officers carry out forensic searches. The first Mercedes is being tested at the Forensics Explosives Laboratory in Kent and the second has now been towed away for examination.

    CCTV footage from Haymarket is also being examined and police are believed to be making some progress towards getting an image of the driver.....

    Reid threatens to call off August recess


    Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) Friday threatened to scrap the Senate’s August recess until senators resolve disputes holding up conference negotiations over two bills central to the Democratic agenda.

    The bills, which would implement the recommendations made by the bipartisan 9/11 Commission and overhaul lobbying and ethics rules, have been stalled by Senate Republicans, who have demanded assurances over the final contents of the legislation.

    The measures were cornerstones of the Democratic 2006 campaign platform, and Reid said lawmakers would clear the measures even if it meant working on Capitol Hill for Congress’s annual August recess.

    “If it means our recess is going to go away, we’re going to complete those two pieces of legislation,” Reid said at a Friday morning news conference.

    Reid and Republican leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) appeared close Thursday to naming Senate conferees to the ethics and lobbying overhaul bill, but Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) objected, demanding that stringent earmark disclosure rules would remain in the final bill.....

    Lebanon army 'kills protesters'


    Soldiers have fired on Palestinian protesters in Lebanon, killing at least three people and injuring about 40, witnesses and medics say.

    The Palestinians were trying to break through a checkpoint to get back to their homes in the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp in northern Lebanon.

    The camp has been the scene of weeks of clashes between the army and Islamists.

    Fighting at the camp and associated unrest has left 200 people dead since 20 May.

    This makes it Lebanon's worst internal violence since the 1975-90 civil war.

    Witnesses said soldiers fired in the air above the heads of at least 100 demonstrators.

    When the crowd did not disperse, the troops fired automatic rifles at the protesters.

    However, an unnamed army spokesman was quoted by the AFP as saying that soldiers only fired warning shots.

    Thousands of Palestinian refugees had fled the camp, where the Lebanese army has been fighting militants from the Fatah al-Islam group for nearly six weeks.

    Most refugees have been sheltered since then in the overcrowded Baddawi camp, about 5km (three miles) away from Nahr al-Bared.

    Although the stand-off between the army and the militants is continuing, the refugees have been demanding to be allowed to return home.

    Lebanon has 12 refugee camps housing more than 350,000 Palestinians. They are people who fled or were forced to leave their homes when Israel was created in 1948, or their descendants.

    Media Matters for America, June 29, 2007

    AP uncritically reported groups' reasons for excluding Ron Paul from Iowa forum

    The Associated Press uncritically reported that Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul was excluded from the Iowa presidential forum because, according to one of the groups sponsoring the event, Paul "didn't meet the criteria the groups drew up," including "having an established exploratory committee and garnering at least 1 percent in a national poll."

    The AP did not mention that Paul established his presidential exploratory committee months before invitations for the forum were sent and was polling at 1 percent in at least one national poll at that time. Read more

    Ignoring his colleagues, CNN's Blitzer repeatedly suggested only Democrats voted for subpoenas

    On the June 27 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, host Wolf Blitzer repeatedly suggested that only Senate Democrats subpoenaed the White House and Vice President Dick Cheney's office, seeking documents about the administration's warrantless domestic wiretapping program.

    Blitzer continued to frame the news as a confrontation between Democrats and the Bush administration even though CNN correspondents Dana Bash and Elaine Quijano and Democratic strategist Paul Begala all pointed out during The Situation Room that several Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee had voted to authorize the subpoenas. Read more

    NBC's Gregory repeated Coulter falsehood on Today

    On the June 28 edition of NBC's Today, guest host and NBC News chief White House correspondent David Gregory uncritically repeated the false claim made by right-wing pundit Ann Coulter on the June 26 edition of MSNBC's Hardball that Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards received "big money to speak in front of a poverty group."

    Gregory used the claim during an interview with Edwards' wife, Elizabeth, to argue: "If you strip away some of the inflammatory rhetoric [by Coulter] against your husband and other Democrats, the point she's trying to make about your husband ... is in effect that he's disingenuous, especially on the signature issue of poverty, whether it's a $400 haircut or taking big money to speak in front of a poverty group." Gregory asked, "[I]s that a real point of vulnerability that you have to deal with in this campaign?" Read more

    Fox's Hannity again smeared pastor of Barack Obama's church as "black separatist"

    On the June 26 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, co-host Sean Hannity again accused Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright -- pastor of the Trinity United Church of Christ, which Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) attends -- of holding "these black-separatist views, about the Black Value System." Following a trend from previous shows, Hannity did not mention Wright's explicit denial on the March 1 edition of Hannity & Colmes that his church embraces separatism Moreover, Hannity cited no specific evidence that Trinity espouses black separatism, and, indeed, Media Matters for America could find no reference on Trinity's website suggesting an espousal of black separatism, which, as articulated by African-American activist Stokely Carmichael, is the position that "[i]f we are to proceed toward true liberation, we must cut ourselves off from white people." Read more

    Coulter defended CPAC comment about Edwards: "I wasn't saying it on TV"

    During an interview on the June 27 edition of CNN Headline News' Glenn Beck, right-wing pundit Ann Coulter defended a controversial remark she made about Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards during the 2007 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) by claiming, "I wasn't saying it on TV. I was saying it at a right-wing political convention with 7,000 college Republicans.

    I didn't put it on TV." In fact, Coulter's March 2 CPAC speech -- during which she said she couldn't "really talk about" Edwards because "you have to go into rehab if you use the word 'faggot' " -- aired on C-SPAN, like many of the other speeches at the conference. Moreover, Coulter has previously used the epithet "on TV." Indeed, during the July 27, 2006, edition of MSNBC's Hardball, she referred to former Vice President Al Gore as a "total fag." Read more

    Coulter falsely claimed Elizabeth Edwards "lied about" her column

    During an interview with right-wing pundit Ann Coulter on the June 28 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe, host Joe Scarborough asked Coulter about an exchange Coulter had with Elizabeth Edwards, wife of Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, on the June 26 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews.

    Scarborough noted that Elizabeth Edwards "said that you had written some column where you had made light of John Edwards' dead son," and asked Coulter: "What's the story behind that?" Coulter replied: "Needless to say, that is not true. ... You can look it up. It's all over the Web.

    It's a fabulous column, titled 'The Party of Ideas,' written in 2003. I had to go back and get the full gist of the column. It was about all of the Democratic primary opponents." In the column, published on November 19, 2003, Coulter, addressing John Edwards, wrote: "If you want points for not using your son's death politically, don't you have to take down all those 'Ask me about my son's death in a horrific car accident' bumper stickers?" Coulter further said on Morning Joe, "I'm the only person in America who has to go back and constantly explain an entire column when it is lied about like this. ... I am getting a little fed up with being described as the aggressor in these matters. In any event, it was about the Democratic presidential nominees back then." But Coulter did not explain how what Elizabeth Edwards said constituted a "lie[]." Read more

    MSNBC's Jansing asked Edwards: "Why give Ann Coulter more publicity?"

    On the June 28 edition of MSNBC Live, anchor Chris Jansing interviewed Elizabeth Edwards, wife of Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, about her exchange with right-wing pundit Ann Coulter on the June 26 edition of MSNBC's Hardball, in which Edwards asked Coulter to stop making "personal attacks" against her husband and others. At one point during the interview, Jansing said to Edwards: "There are people who support your opinion, I'm sure you know, who say, 'Why even dignify it with a response? Why give Ann Coulter more publicity?' "read more

    Police avert car bomb 'carnage'


    A car bomb planted in central London would have caused "carnage" if it had exploded, police sources have said.

    A controlled explosion was carried out on the car, packed with 60 litres of petrol, gas cylinders and nails, in Haymarket, near Piccadilly Circus.

    An ambulance crew saw smoke coming from the green metallic Mercedes, near the Tiger Tiger nightclub at 0130 BST.

    "International elements" are believed to be involved, Whitehall sources told the BBC.

    Deputy Assistant Commissioner Peter Clarke, head of Scotland Yard's counter-terrorism command, said: "It is obvious that if the device had detonated there could have been serious injury or loss of life."

    The ambulance had been called to the nightclub to treat a sick man when they spotted smoke, now believed to be vapour, inside the car.

    Bomb experts manually disabled the "potentially viable explosive device".....

    Thursday, June 28, 2007

    PAUL KRUGMAN: The Murdoch Factor

    In October 2003, the nonpartisan Program on International Policy Attitudes published a study titled “Misperceptions, the media and the Iraq war.” It found that 60 percent of Americans believed at least one of the following: clear evidence had been found of links between Iraq and Al Qaeda; W.M.D. had been found in Iraq; world public opinion favored the U.S. going to war with Iraq.

    The prevalence of these misperceptions, however, depended crucially on where people got their news. Only 23 percent of those who got their information mainly from PBS or NPR believed any of these untrue things, but the number was 80 percent among those relying primarily on Fox News. In particular, two-thirds of Fox devotees believed that the U.S. had “found clear evidence in Iraq that Saddam Hussein was working closely with the Al Qaeda terrorist organization.”

    So, does anyone think it’s O.K. if Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, which owns Fox News, buys The Wall Street Journal?

    The problem with Mr. Murdoch isn’t that he’s a right-wing ideologue. If that were all he was, he’d be much less dangerous. What he is, rather, is an opportunist who exploits a rule-free media environment — one created, in part, by conservative political power — by slanting news coverage to favor whoever he thinks will serve his business interests.

    In the United States, that strategy has mainly meant blatant bias in favor of the Bush administration and the Republican Party — but last year Mr. Murdoch covered his bases by hosting a fund-raiser for Hillary Clinton’s Senate re-election campaign.

    In Britain, Mr. Murdoch endorsed Tony Blair in 1997 and gave his government favorable coverage, “ensuring,” reports The New York Times, “that the new government would allow him to keep intact his British holdings.”

    And in China, Mr. Murdoch’s organizations have taken care not to offend the dictatorship.

    Now, Mr. Murdoch’s people rarely make flatly false claims. Instead, they usually convey misinformation through innuendo. During the early months of the Iraq occupation, for example, Fox gave breathless coverage to each report of possible W.M.D.’s, with little or no coverage of the subsequent discovery that it was a false alarm. No wonder, then, that many Fox viewers got the impression that W.M.D.’s had been found.

    When all else fails, Mr. Murdoch’s news organizations simply stop covering inconvenient subjects.

    Last year, Fox relentlessly pushed claims that the “liberal media” were failing to report the “good news” from Iraq. Once that line became untenable — well, the Project for Excellence in Journalism found that in the first quarter of 2007 daytime programs on Fox News devoted only 6 percent of their time to the Iraq war, compared with 18 percent at MSNBC and 20 percent at CNN.

    What took Iraq’s place? Anna Nicole Smith, who received 17 percent of Fox’s daytime coverage.

    Defenders of Mr. Murdoch’s bid for The Journal say that we should judge him not by Fox News but by his stewardship of the venerable Times of London, which he acquired in 1981. Indeed, the political bias of The Times is much less blatant than that of Fox News. But a number of former Times employees have said that there was pressure to slant coverage — and everyone I’ve seen quoted defending Mr. Murdoch’s management is still on his payroll.

    In any case, do we want to see one of America’s two serious national newspapers in the hands of a man who has done so much to mislead so many? (The Washington Post, for all its influence, is basically a Beltway paper, not a national one. The McClatchy papers, though their Washington bureau’s reporting in the run-up to Iraq put more prestigious news organizations to shame, still don’t have The Journal’s ability to drive national discussion.)

    There doesn’t seem to be any legal obstacle to the News Corporation’s bid for The Journal: F.C.C. rules on media ownership are mainly designed to prevent monopoly in local markets, not to safeguard precious national informational assets. Still, public pressure could help avert a Murdoch takeover. Maybe Congress should hold hearings.

    If Mr. Murdoch does acquire The Journal, it will be a dark day for America’s news media — and American democracy. If there were any justice in the world, Mr. Murdoch, who did more than anyone in the news business to mislead this country into an unjustified, disastrous war, would be a discredited outcast. Instead, he’s expanding his empire.

    David Brooks is off today.

    David Corn,The Nation: I've Never Done This Before

    Dear Member of the Nation Community,

    David CornI’ve never written a fundraising letter—not counting the few notes I sent my parents when I was in college. I’m a journalist. I write articles and books—about politics, national security, and the world around us. And I’m damn lucky; I get paid to do so by The Nation. But the magazine has been hit by a fiscal crisis—one caused by the sort of institutional Washington corruption I often cover—and I’ve been asked by our publishing team to ask you for help. Please click here to pitch in.

    Last week, Teresa Stack, The Nation’s president, sent you a letter explaining this crisis. To recap:

    Postal regulators have accepted a scheme designed in part by lobbyists for the Time Warner media conglomerate. In short, mailing costs for mega-magazines like Time Warner's own Time, People and Sports Illustrated will go up only slightly or decrease. But smaller publications like The Nation will be hit by an enormous rate increase of half a million dollars a year.

    For The Nation, $500,000 a year is a lot of money. Believe me, I know. I’ve been working at the magazine for over 20 years. The pay ain’t great. But there are few media outlets that allow their writers and reporters the freedom to go beyond the headlines and take on the powers that be—to ask inconvenient questions and pursue uncomfortable truths.

    But starting July 15, 2007, The Nation will face this whopping postal rate hike. Not to be melodramatic, but this rate increase is a threat to democratic discourse. Why should magazines that can afford high-powered lobbyists receive preferential treatment? This rise in mailing costs will make it harder for the magazine to deliver the investigative reporting and independent-minded journalism upon which you depend. (Take my word; I see the editors and publishing people in our New York office freaking out about this postal rate hike and discussing possible cutbacks.)

    The magazine is fighting this corporate-driven, unfair and anti-democratic increase as best it can. It has joined forces with conservative publications in an attempt to beat back the rigged rate structure. (Imagine Katrina vanden Heuvel and Rich Lowry, the editor of National Review, working together!) But even if we “win”—which, I’m told, is a long shot—The Nation will still face hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional postage.

    So I’m turning to you. I’ve never asked our readers for anything—except the time it takes to read what I write for the magazine and its website. But The Nation needs you to help us cover this shortfall, and it needs that help now. Simply put, I’m asking you to send us money: whatever contribution you can, as soon as you can. Click here.

    I’m not entirely comfortable writing to you as a fundraiser. Because people like you have supported the magazine, I’ve been able to do the work I enjoy for years. I appreciate that. Now I’m hoping you’ll come through in this time of need. Certainly, I’d rather be chasing kick-ass stories than worrying about magazine budget cuts and writing pleading letters. So please help us deal with this unfair rate hike, and I’ll go back to my day job.


    David Corn, Washington Editor

    Will Bush Get ‘Saved’ Again?

    David Corn, Washington editor for The Nation, predicts on his personal blog that the Bush administration will end not with a whimper but a bang: “With Democrats comparing Bush to Nixon — which is not fair…to Nixon (he was never as imaginative in his constitutional interpretations as Cheney) — these constitutional confrontations are probably heading toward the Supreme Court. Which means Bush could end his presidency much like he began it: being saved by justices appointed by him or his father.”

  • At the newly redesigned and reloaded-with-contributors group blog The American Scene, Noah Millman speculates about the “unpredictable” foreign policy of a President McCain: “I would anticipate at least one, and possibly multiple ‘hail Mary’ gambits. I would not be at all shocked if McCain attempted a serious rapprochement with Iran. I would also not be shocked if McCain got us into a war with China.”

  • Is it July 2007 yet? It’s never too early for the veepstakes! The Atlantic’s Marc Ambinder and NBC News’s Chuck Todd publish their monthly National Journal presidential rankings. Their take on why Mike Huckabee Fever has yet to light out for the territories: “We still can’t figure out why this guy is so bad at organizational politics,” they write. “The organization doesn’t match Huck’s national potential. But move over, Tim Pawlenty. There’s a new VP front-runner.”

  • Chris Suellentrop


    Flout of Office Reply

    If you can’t defund him, just impeach him: Some opponents of the idea of impeaching President Bush (such as Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson) base their opposition on the frightening notion of President Dick Cheney. Writing in Slate, conservative heretic Bruce Fein proposes a solution for that problem: Impeach Cheney. Fein, who was associate deputy attorney general and general counsel of the Federal Communications Commission under President Reagan, writes:

    In grasping and exercising presidential powers, Cheney has dulled political accountability and concocted theories for evading the law and Constitution that would have embarrassed King George III. The most recent invention we know of is the vice president’s insistence that an executive order governing the handling of classified information in the executive branch does not reach his office because he also serves as president of the Senate. In other words, the vice president is a unique legislative-executive creature standing above and beyond the Constitution. The House judiciary committee should commence an impeachment inquiry. As Alexander Hamilton advised in the Federalist Papers, an impeachable offense is a political crime against the nation. Cheney’s multiple crimes against the Constitution clearly qualify.

    Take the vice president’s preposterous theory that his office is outside the executive branch because it also exercises a legislative function. The same can be said of the president, who also exercises a legislative function in signing or vetoing bills passed by Congress. Under Cheney’s bizarre reasoning, President Bush is not part of his own administration.

    Of course, the administration recently declared Cheney’s I-am-an-island legal theory to be, shall we say, inoperative. But Fein cites many other “abuses and excesses” committed by Cheney. An incomplete list:

    “Mr. Cheney claimed authority to detain American citizens as enemy combatants indefinitely at Guantanamo Bay on the president’s say-so alone, a frightening power indistinguishable from King Louis XVI’s execrated lettres de cachet that occasioned the storming of the Bastille”; “The vice president initiated kidnappings, secret detentions, and torture in Eastern European prisons of suspected international terrorists”; “Mr. Cheney has championed a presidential power to torture in contravention of federal statutes and treaties”; “He has advocated and authored signing statements that declare the president’s intent to disregard provisions of bills he has signed into law that he proclaims are unconstitutional”; “He concocted the alarming theory that the president may flout any law that inhibits the collection of foreign intelligence, including prohibitions on breaking and entering homes, torture, or assassinations”; and “The vice president has orchestrated the invocation of executive privilege to conceal from Congress secret spying programs to gather foreign intelligence, and their legal justifications.”

    Cheney’s “tyrannical attitudes” can be traced to a single source: “his views on secrecy,” says Harper’s Magazine contributor Scott Horton, a New York attorney. Horton writes at No Comment, his Harper’s blog:

    Put simply, for Cheney, the public office holder, everything he does must be kept secret from the people. But on the other hand, the ordinary people are entitled to no secrets from him: he can engage in unwarranted wiretapping and surveillance to his heart’s content. And no matter that it’s a violation of federal criminal statutes. Why the office of the Vice President, he thinks, is above the law.

    (Dick Cheney would, of course, hardly be the first criminal to hold the office of vice president. Aaron Burr was a murderer. And Spiro Agnew pleaded nolo contendere to charges of tax evasion and money laundering. What distinguishes Dick Cheney is that he is the first vice president to openly engage in criminal acts with total impunity.)

    The continuing support among Republicans for Cheney and “Cheneyism” “spotlights a new authoritarian strain in the Republican Party and the conservative movement that is not an ephemeral reaction to 9/11 or a peculiarity of an administration with an especially weak president,” writes Ed Kilgore from his new perch as managing editor of the online publication The Democratic Strategist. “If you pay attention to what the leading candidates for the Republican nomination for president in 2008 are saying about executive powers and anti-terrorism methods, Cheneyism will survive its author and its presidential enabler if the GOP hangs onto the [White] House. And that ought to be a campaign issue for Democrats.”

    Chris Suellentrop