Friday, June 17, 2005
Give these good folks your support, if possible
Washington Post Officially Declares Allegiance to GOP
June 17, 2005
Mr. Michael Abramowitz, National Editor
Mr. Michael Getler, Ombudsman
Mr. Dana Milbank
The Washington Post
1150 15th Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20071
I write to express my profound disappointment with Dana Milbank's June 17 report, "Democrats Play House to Rally Against the War," which purports to describe a Democratic hearing I chaired in the Capitol yesterday. In sum, the piece cherry-picks some facts, manufactures others out of whole cloth, and does a disservice to some 30 members of Congress who persevered under difficult circumstances, not of our own making, to examine a very serious subject: whether the American people were deliberately misled in the lead up to war. The fact that this was the Post's only coverage of this event makes the journalistic shortcomings in this piece even more egregious.
In an inaccurate piece of reporting that typifies the article, Milbank implies that one of the obstacles the Members in the meeting have is that "only one" member has mentioned the Downing Street Minutes on the floor of either the House or Senate. This is not only incorrect but misleading. In fact, just yesterday, the Senate Democratic Leader, Harry Reid, mentioned it on the Senate floor. Senator Boxer talked at some length about it at the recent confirmation hearing for the Ambassador to Iraq. The House Democratic Leader, Nancy Pelosi, recently signed on to my letter, along with 121 other Democrats asking for answers about the memo. This information is not difficult to find either. For example, the Reid speech was the subject of an AP wire service report posted on the Washington Post website with the headline "Democrats Cite Downing Street Memo in Bolton Fight". Other similar mistakes, mischaracterizations and cheap shots are littered throughout the article.
The article begins with an especially mean and nasty tone, claiming that House Democrats "pretended" a small conference was the Judiciary Committee hearing room and deriding the decor of the room. Milbank fails to share with his readers one essential fact: the reason the hearing was held in that room, an important piece of context. Despite the fact that a number of other suitable rooms were available in the Capitol and House office buildings, Republicans declined my request for each and every one of them. Milbank could have written about the perseverance of many of my colleagues in the face of such adverse circumstances, but declined to do so. Milbank also ignores the critical fact picked up by the AP, CNN and other newsletters that at the very moment the hearing was scheduled to begin, the Republican Leadership scheduled an almost unprecedented number of 11 consecutive floor votes, making it next to impossible for most Members to participate in the first hour and one half of the hearing.
In what can only be described as a deliberate effort to discredit the entire hearing, Milbank quotes one of the witnesses as making an anti-semitic assertion and further describes anti-semitic literature that was being handed out in the overflow room for the event. First, let me be clear: I consider myself to be friend and supporter of Israel and there were a number of other staunchly pro-Israel members who were in attendance at the hearing. I do not agree with, support, or condone any comments asserting Israeli control over U.S. policy, and I find any allegation that Israel is trying to dominate the world or had anything to do with the September 11 tragedy disgusting and offensive.
That said, to give such emphasis to 100 seconds of a 3 hour and five minute hearing that included the powerful and sad testimony (hardly mentioned by Milbank) of a woman who lost her son in the Iraq war and now feels lied to as a result of the Downing Street Minutes, is incredibly misleading. Many, many different pamphlets were being passed out at the overflow room, including pamphlets about getting out of the Iraq war and anti-Central American Free Trade Agreement, and it is puzzling why Milbank saw fit to only mention the one he did.
In a typically derisive and uninformed passage, Milbank makes much of other lawmakers calling me "Mr. Chairman" and says I liked it so much that I used "chairmanly phrases." Milbank may not know that I was the Chairman of the House Government Operations Committee from 1988 to 1994. By protocol and tradition in the House, once you have been a Chairman you are always referred to as such. Thus, there was nothing unusual about my being referred to as Mr. Chairman.
To administer his coup-de-grace, Milbank literally makes up another cheap shot that I "was having so much fun that [I] ignored aides' entreaties to end the session." This did not occur. None of my aides offered entreaties to end the session and I have no idea where Milbank gets that information. The hearing certainly ran longer than expected, but that was because so many Members of Congress persevered under very difficult circumstances to attend, and I thought - given that - the least I could do was allow them to say their piece. That is called courtesy, not "fun."
By the way, the "Downing Street Memo" is actually the minutes of a British cabinet meeting. In the meeting, British officials - having just met with their American counterparts - describe their discussions with such counterparts. I mention this because that basic piece of context, a simple description of the memo, is found nowhere in Milbank's article.
The fact that I and my fellow Democrats had to stuff a hearing into a room the size of a large closet to hold a hearing on an important issue shouldn't make us the object of ridicule. In my opinion, the ridicule should be placed in two places: first, at the feet of Republicans who are so afraid to discuss ideas and facts that they try to sabotage our efforts to do so; and second, on Dana Milbank and the Washington Post, who do not feel the need to give serious coverage on a serious hearing about a serious matter-whether more than 1700 Americans have died because of a deliberate lie. Milbank may disagree, but the Post certainly owed its readers some coverage of that viewpoint.
Sincerely,John Conyers, Jr.
Thursday, June 16, 2005
McClellan says White House won't communicate with any member of Congress who votes "wrong" on the war
by John in DC - 6/16/2005 05:08:00 PM
That's what he just said. Read the transcript. "How did they vote?" is his answer to whether the White House will reven respond to letters from Congress? Gee, how's that "uniting" going?
As for Scottie's little comment that whether Bush lied about the war is looking to the past while he wants to look to the future. Well, fortunately, the statues of limitation on the Bush administration's crimes will still afford us the chance to "look back" and throw his ass and all of the rest of them in jail once we take over in 3 years.
Can't wait to see Scottie explaining himself with all these cute little phrases when he's extradited to Belgium.
Well, our slumber is over. We're not going to sit back and let these un-American, law-breaking, torture-enabling criminals in the White House and the right-wing noise machine defend an outright violation of the law, defend the torture of innocents, and think that we're going to sit back and shrink like a violet.
Monday, June 13, 2005
A BUZZFLASH NEWS ANALYSIS
This morning (June 10, 2005), House Judiciary Chairman James Sensenbrenner, Jr. (R-WI) unilaterally and arbitrarily shut down committee hearings on the reauthorization of the Patriot Act without comment or issuing a statement. Sensenbrenner gaveled the committee hearings in the middle of witnesses testifying about human and civil rights abuses at Guantanamo Bay, racial profiling of individuals of Middle Eastern descent, prolonged detentions of Americans after September 11th and other abuses.
The suppression of free speech and testimony in the congressional committee in charge of protecting our civil liberties shows the Republican’s power grab has no limits and no decency. The irony was not lost on anyone.
The witnesses appearing before the House Judiciary Committee included, Chip Pitts, Chair of the Board of Amnesty International USA; Dr. James J. Zogby, President of the Arab American Institute; Deborah Pearlstein, Director of the U.S. Law and Security Program “Human Rights First”; and Carlina Tapia Ruano of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.
The witnesses were called by the indomitable Rep. John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) who continues to stand up to the right-wing’s attempt to eviscerate American Constitutional liberties.
“There are few issues that are more important to this Committee or this Congress than the Patriot Act and the war against terror. This not only affects the rights and privacy of every American, but impacts the extent to which our nation is able to hold itself out as a beacon of liberty as we advocate for democracy around the world,” said Congressman Conyers as he opened the committee hearings.
Sixteen provisions in the USA Patriot Act are expiring because Rep. Conyers fought for sunset provisions to keep the erosion of civil liberties from becoming permanent when the Patriot Act was first introduced in the fervor following September 11th. Now the Bush administration is seeking to not only reauthorize but expand the reach and power of the Patriot Act, such as giving the FBI the ability to issue secret wire taps and conduct searches without warrants approved by a federal judge. A policy tantamount to creating a secret police force above the rule of law.
“Rather than making us safer, the abuses and excesses of our war against terrorism are actually tarnishing our nation's reputation and making us less safe,” said Conyers.
Chip Pitts of Amnesty International USA in his written statement to be addressed to the House Judiciary Committee – before Sensenbrenner effectively muzzled him and other witnesses – observed that the Patriot Act has a “chilling affect on freedom.” Pitts added “the law jeopardizes due process and fair trial procedures by encouraging a presumption of guilt until proven innocent. …The Patriot Act is of concern both in itself, and also because it has inspired a significant cascade of similar legislation around the world that weakens the rule of law which is so essential to the protection of human rights.”
The overarching fear with expanding the Patriot Act is the lack of oversight given to judges, the denial of due process to American citizens such as keeping detainees from the right to see a lawyer, and the broad discretion given to police and homeland security officials in the Bush administration. You can be labeled a suspected terrorist, if not presumed guilty, if the Bush administration says you are. The secretive Busheviks appear more interested in obtaining Stalin-like police powers than in protecting Americans from terrorism.
Sensenbrenner's Soviet-style tactic of gaveling a meeting to end it because he didn't like what he heard about the Bushevik abuses of our civil liberties is a horrifying example of what America faces if the GOP one-party state is given expanded police powers to invade the rights of Americans.
“The governments that are most effective in safeguarding human security are those that operate strictly under the rule of law: that is, under a system in which people are governed by public laws that are set in advance, applied equally in all cases,” said Deborah Pearlstein, Director, U.S. Law and Security Program who was called to testify.
The Bush administration has routinely flouted the rule of law since September 11th claiming the need for broad police powers to protect security and prevent terrorism. But the Bush administration as well as Department of Justice and Homeland Security officials have been routinely discredited and rebuked for their actions. They have repeatedly initiated arrests and invasions of privacy for public relations purposes, only to drop charges later.
In short, many Americans and organizations just don’t trust the Bush administration, and rightly so after a systematic pattern of abuse and erosion of the Constitution. The Busheviks are clearly using the fear of terrorism as a means to consolidate dictatorship like powers.
What member of Congress in their right mind could possibly consider giving more power to an Administration that endorses torture and indefinite detentions?
Democracies do not fail overnight. They slowly erode and descend by denying rights to the minority, the takeover of an independent judiciary, suppressing speech and assembly, and the rise of secrecy and repressive police powers in the executive branch.
Sensenbrenner’s belligerent act to shut down dissent and gag witnesses warning about the broad police powers given to the administration should give Americans pause as the Republican Party inches closer and closer to turning American into a one-party state.
The witnesses to the Bushevik violations of our Constitution, civil liberties, and individual rights valiantly continued to speak after Sensenbrenner formally shut down the hearing (probably as a result of a phone call from the White House). But their voices were hardly heard, which was the objective of the Busheviks.
What makes the barbarians in the White House shudder most is a bright light of truth reaching the American public.
They have been unusually successful in intimidating the media into enabling their lies. Now, they are just preemptively breaking laws and the rules of Congress to suppress the truth.
It can happen here, and it is.
A BUZZFLASH NEWS ANALYSIS
This week in Corporate Malfeasance: Microsoft puts profits over Justice
Microsoft's new Chinese internet portal has banned the words "democracy" and "freedom" from parts of its website in an apparent effort to avoid offending Beijing's political censors.
Users of the joint-venture portal, formally launched last month, have been blocked from using a range of potentially sensitive words to label personal websites they create using its free online blog service, MSN Spaces.
Attempts to input words in Chinese such as "democracy" prompted an error message from the site: "This item contains forbidden speech. Please delete the forbidden speech from this item." Other phrases banned included the Chinese for "demonstration", "democratic movement" and "Taiwan independence".
It was possible to enter such words within blogs created using MSN Spaces, but the move to block them from the more visible section of the site highlights the willingness of some foreign internet companies to tailor their services to avoid upseting China's Communist government.
Beijing has long sought to limit political debate on the internet and is in the throes of a campaign to force anybody who operates a website to register with the central government.
MSN this year became the first big international internet service to win a licence to offer value-added telecoms services in China, a coup that was possible in part because of its decision to team up in a joint venture with Shanghai Alliance Investment (Sail). Sail is an investment arm of the Shanghai city government. Microsoft has also been careful to ensure that news and other content offered through the Chinese MSN portal are provided by local partners who can work within the informal and shifting boundaries set by China's unseen army of internet censors.
The MSN Spaces service, however, is directly operated by the joint venture, Shanghai MSN Network Communications Technology, in which Microsoft holds a 50 per cent stake.
MSN on Friday declined to comment directly on the ban on sensitive words, but its China joint venture said users of MSN Spaces were required to accept the service's code of conduct. "MSN abides by the laws and regulations of each country in which it operates," the joint venture said. The MSN Spaces code of conduct forbids the posting of content that "violates any local and national laws".
But while China's ruling Communist Party deals harshly with political dissenters, there is no Chinese law that bars the mere use of words such as democracy.
Bush Lied to take U.S. to War. It's time for Impeachment.
From: http://atrios.blogspot.com /
First and most damaging to me, why would the White House see a need to build a strategic information campaign using White House staff to manipulate media coverage in favor of a war months in advance of going to the UN, Congress, and the American people if the issue and decision had not already been made? Retired Air Force Colonel Sam Gardiner wrote a little-noticed but never disputed paper that outlined the steps the Bush Administration took to build what in essence was a strategic influence and disinformation campaign to manipulate the media and sway public opinion in favor of a war that Bush says he hadn’t yet decided upon.
These efforts started with the creation of the Coalition Information Office by none other than Karen Hughes at about the same time the Downing Street Memo said that Bush had made up his mind. Colonel Gardiner feels that organization was in fact put together at the time of the memo, and that the “marketing” of the war began in September when Congress returned from summer recess. Since his study came out, Colonel Gardiner has received confirmation from a number of sources including sources inside the Bush Administration that almost all of his initial conclusions were correct.
Even though the whole study is chilling, pay particular attention to his material from Page 50 onward to see how the Downing Street Memo can be supported with Gardiner’s work. Perhaps Congressman Conyers can call Colonel Gardiner as a witness next week to lay out the involvement of the White House and outside GOP public relations firms in selling a war to the Congress and the American people through an intimidated and spoon-fed media, a campaign that actually commenced around the same time that the Downing Street Memo indicated a decision had already been made. And yes, I've talked with Gardiner today, and Colonel Gardiner is willing to share his information with Conyers.
Second, none other than Bob Woodward himself in his wet-kiss book “Bush at War” reported that Bush authorized Rumsfeld to move approximately $700 million from Afghanistan reconstruction to the establishment of a logistical infrastructure to support an Iraq invasion, without the required congressional notice and authority. When did this happen, as Woodward notes with a great deal of risk of legal problems for the White House? It happened in July 2002, at about the same time as the Downing Street Memo was written saying the decision had already been made by Bush, within a month of the Downing Street Memo. Perhaps Conyers can call Bob Woodward as a witness to testify about what he found in researching his book on this congressionally-unauthorized transfer of funds from Afghan reconstruction to Iraq war planning during the Summer of 2002.
And lastly, it has been reported that Bush dropped in on a White House meeting in Condi Rice’s office in March 2002, and blurted to the three startled US senators Rice was meeting with “Fuck Saddam, we’re going to take him out.” Perhaps Conyers can call the three senators as well as Michael Elliott and James Carney of Time Magazine to confirm what Bush said and did, three months before the Downing Street Memo said that a decision had already been made.
Again, the key for Conyers is not to get trapped into building his case primarily upon the fixed intelligence claim in the memo, but to build also a circumstantial case as well that supports the bigger claim that the decision had already been made by the White House to go to war in the Summer of 2002, despite what was being told to Congress and the American people.