Friday, May 26, 2006
Guest Workers: How the Republican Party wants to create a permanent disenfranchised underclass of workers.
A Guest Worker program without the opportunity to become a permanent resident or a citizen will in fact create a permanent pool of workers for whom the corporate elites can exploit without fear of being held accountable by our elected representatives. Our elected representatives will not have to consider the issues facing this permanent underclass. This type of a program will create an American Caste System not seen since Jim Crow.
A Guest Worker Program without the opportunity to join the larger society will create an American Caste System for workers. We've seen what these types of Guest Worker Programs have wrought in Europe. A permanent underclass with no voice in the system gives rise to disaffected youth, who can then be recruited to wreak havoc upon the larger society. Disaffected youth are also more likely to be recruited to extremist causes.
The Republican Leadership would be stupid to go down this path. Let's hope they don't.
The Aristocracy of Pull: Mike Brown isn't the only one who got ahead based on connections rather than achievement.
Bush Aide Gets Exception at Harvard
The Harvard Crimson: "A 26-year-old college dropout who carries President Bush’s breath mints and makes him peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches will follow in his boss’s footsteps this fall when he enrolls at Harvard Business School (HBS)."
"Though it is rare for HBS -- or any other professional or graduate school -- to admit a student who does not have an undergraduate degree, admissions officers made an exception for Blake Gottesman, who for four years has served as special assistant and personal aide to Bush."
Thursday, May 25, 2006
Republicans Can't Find Anything Positive to Point To That BushCo has Done... So They Rally Support by Claiming Dems Might Hold Bush Accountable?
By William Rivers Pitt
t r u t h o u t | Perspective
Thursday 25 May 2006
All in all, the framers would probably agree that it's better to impeach too often than too seldom. If presidents can't be virtuous, they should at least be nervous.
- Joseph Sobran
Representative John Conyers Jr. of Michigan is a small and soft-spoken man. One gets the definite sense upon meeting him that here is a man who could probably have made a fortune in Hollywood, had he chosen a different direction in life, playing the role of the wise and kindly grandfather. He wound up in public service, and today - if you listen to Karl Rove and the GOP - he is easily the most terrifying man in America.
Back on May 10th, Howard Fineman wrote for MSNBC: "Then there is the attention being paid - and it's just starting - to obscure Democratic characters such as Rep. John Conyers of Michigan. As of now, only political junkies know that Conyers, an African-American and old-school liberal from Detroit, would become chairman of the Judiciary Committee if the Democrats regain control of the House. Few know that Conyers has expressed interest in holding hearings on the impeachment of the president."
A direct-mail piece from Senator Elizabeth Dole (R-NC) popped up several days ago. In the mailer, Dole warned that unless the faithful donate money for the midterm elections, rampaging Democrats were going to, "increase your taxes, call for endless investigations, Congressional censure and maybe even impeachment of President Bush."
A Fox News online editorial acknowledges the very real possibility of a Democratic takeover of the House, and proposes several steps the Democrats should take in such an event, in order to do right by the country. "Step one," reads the Fox editorial, "would be for the Democratic leadership to definitively put to rest any loose talk of impeaching President Bush. They should say in one and two syllable words that impeachment will not happen once they are in the majority and thus take away a potential rallying cry for the beleaguered Republicans."
This may be, when all is said and done, one of the funniest moments in time in all of American political history.
Approval ratings for the Bush administration are at historic lows, and approval ratings for the Republican Congressional majority currently languish in a root-cellar beneath those historic lows. There are 159 days until the November 7th midterm elections, and the Republican majority has absolutely nothing to run on. The economy? They say it is strong but no one believes them, and rising gas prices don't do their arguments any favors. Immigration? This is a self-inflicted brawl that has ripped a wide rift down the middle of the Republican coalition. National security? Iraq.
On top of this big three, the White House and the Republican Congressional majority are also walking around with NSA domestic spying, the investigation into the outing of Valerie Plame, the now-axiomatic belief that Bush left New Orleans to die, and a half-dozen other millstones hanging around their necks.
The White House can't shed these millstones, because just about all of these catastrophes came out of 1600 Pennsylvania. The Republican Congressional majority can't shed them, because they stapled themselves to this White House a long time ago, and there are no pliers in the world large enough to extricate them from that association.
The abandonment of Congressional oversight is a lot of the reason we are in such a sorry state, and that abandonment was authored by Republicans who were stupid enough and opportunistic enough to trust that Bush and his people would lead them to the promised land of a permanent majority. This won't be forgotten by November.
Beyond that, few people are going to rise in response again to the waving of the bloody shirt of September 11. The Cunningham and Abramoff scandals continue to grow, chopping down Republicans left and right. The GOP's usual electoral strengths - morality and security - are gone, and the Republican base is abandoning them. The cupboard is just about empty.
What's left? Vote for us, or else we'll be held accountable! That's just funny.
Usually, the Republican National Committee has to roll out horror stories about mandatory abortions, the planned annihilation of every Bible in the land, and the prospect of Jack and Joe's civil union eviscerating the sanctity of millions of unhappy marriages everywhere. To be sure, these themes will be played throughout the upcoming election seasons, but clearly the GOP overmind is not confident that the masses will dance to the tune.
Thus, the warning: if the Republicans lose in November, Bush will be impeached, and the Earth will immediately thereafter hurtle into the sun. This isn't just a lot of smoke and scare-tactics, however. The Republicans are genuinely worried about what will happen if the Democrats re-take the House in November. They have ample cause for concern.
Beyond the specter of John Conyers doing an impersonation of Peter Rodino should Conyers become chairman of the House Judiciary Committee - in an interesting historical quirk, Conyers sat on the Judiciary Committee when Rodino shepherded it through drafting the three articles of impeachment against Nixon, and voted "Yes" on all three articles - lie a number of other House Democrats whose rise to a chairmanship would be devastating to the White House.
Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) sits on the Committee on Government Reform, and will become chairman should the Democrats re-take the House in November. Waxman, in 1998, founded the Special Investigations Division within the minority offices on this committee, "to conduct investigations into issues that are important to the minority members of the Government Reform Committee and other members of Congress."
There are more than fifty investigations that have been performed and continued to be performed by Waxman's Special Investigations Division. Among these are investigations into the torture at Abu Ghraib, Cheney's notorious energy task force meetings, a variety of Halliburton payoffs, electronic voting, the administration's response to Hurricane Katrina, and the vast scandal surrounding administration abuse of Iraq intelligence and the exposure of CIA agent Valerie Plame.
There is enough meat on that bone to keep Rep. Waxman, armed with subpoena power, busy as a beaver for the foreseeable future. It is also worth noting, when considering the formidable arsenal of information Waxman can bring to bear against the Bush White House, the legacy of Dan Burton.
Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.) became notorious as chairman of Government Reform during the Clinton administration. He fired off enough subpoenas to fill an oil tanker, almost all of them inspired by baseless and scurrilous accusations. Without actually proving much of anything, beyond the fact that subpoena power is an astonishingly large stick to hand to someone, Burton managed to keep the Clinton administration tied in knots for years.
Burton was throwing mud. Waxman will be throwing fire, if handed the opportunity. Beyond Waxman and Conyers, there will be Barney Frank chairing the House Financial Services Committee. There will be Louise Slaughter chairing the House Committee on Rules. There will be Charlie Rangel chairing the Ways and Means Committee. This list goes on, and on.
As amusing as the GOP's fear of impeachment is, the truth is that this Constitutional doomsday device is the least of their worries. Conyers does not have to impeach George W. Bush to throw a few torpedoes into the side of the Republican battleship. All he has to do, along with Waxman and the other chairs, is investigate with subpoena power. Tell the truth in public hearings with the principals under oath. Let the facts come to light in a way we have not seen for many years.
The result of this would be an even greater Democratic Congressional victory in 2008, and an incredible series of obstacles for any Republican presidential nominee to overcome. A drumbeat of truth about Iraq, Katrina, Abu Ghraib, Halliburton, Plame and all the rest of it would have every Republican who has ever uttered Bush's name in public fleeing for their lives. The long-sought permanent majority lusted after by the GOP would be transformed into a cemented minority, reminiscent of the shattered state of the Republican party in the aftermath of Watergate.
All of this only comes to pass, of course, if the Democrats re-take the House. What was considered an incredible long-shot even a few months ago has become an even-money proposition. Nothing is guaranteed by any stretch, and events may well transpire that swing the electorate back in favor of Bush and his Congressional allies. The fiasco that is electronic voting and the Help America Vote Act will stand in favor of the GOP come November, as it always has. If the Democrats want to win in November, they will have to work harder than they ever have before.
For now, it is enough to be amused by the smell of fear emanating from the GOP. This newest tactic - warning people about the potential for impeachment - begs one simple question: if they have nothing to hide, what are they afraid of? The answer, clearly, is John Conyers. He is, you'll hear soon enough, a terrifying man.
Big Government Republicans: Bush, Rummy, the Republican Leadership in Congress have created a Police State.
By Jim Hightower
Wednesday 24 May 2006
While claiming that they must "secure'" America for a post-9/11 world, the BushCheney zealots are taking us back to a pre-1776 world.
In 1928, Justice Louis Brandeis wrote that the real threat to American freedom was not from an outside assault, but from the devious manipulations of our own misguided leaders. "The greatest dangers to liberty," he observed, "lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning, but without understanding."
Nearly 80 years after Brandeis's warning, the zealots have been brought in from the far-right fringe on the golden chariot of George W, and they've shown that they have no understanding of the essence of America, which includes our hard-won liberties, our rule of law and our system of checked-and-balanced governmental power.
But these men of zeal - Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, et al. - are hardly well-meaning. They are deliberately and determinedly striving to impose the AntiAmerica on our own land - an unrecognizable America of supreme executive authority, constant surveillance of the citizenry, secret government and suppression of dissent. Their chief weapon is fear. They feverishly wave the bloody flag of 9/11, shouting that the citizenry must surrender liberties or be attacked again by The Madmen, that we mustn't question authority for this only encourages The Madmen, that all government operations must be cloaked in a dark veil of secrecy to keep The Madmen off balance, and that executive and police power must drastically expand to protect us from The Madmen.
While claiming that they must "secure" America for a post-9/11 world, the BushCheney zealots are taking us back to a pre-1776 world. They have been astonishingly successful in a remarkably short time, insidiously taking autocratic step after step, which a compliant Congress and the establishment media have mostly missed, ignored, minimalized or applauded. These two "institutions of vigilance" have failed us. So it is up to "We The People" to assert ourselves against this dangerous rise of authoritarianism in Bush's America.
The Spook Society
"You can fool some of the people all the time, and those are the ones you have to concentrate on," George W said with a laugh at Washington's Gridiron dinner in 2001.
If only we'd known then that behind George's snickers, the Bushites were serious. Employing a combination of deceit, defiance, arrogance, flag-waving and secrecy, they have fooled a majority of Congress and the media into accepting the overlay of a "spook society" on our "Land of the Free." The far-reaching extent of their efforts are only now becoming clear.
Last month's installment covered Bush's secret and blatantly illegal directive for the National Security Agency to spy on citizens here at home. This clandestine four-year program of executive eavesdropping - scooping up billions of phone calls and emails sent or received by innocent Americans - has now been getting wide media coverage. But to focus only on this one piece is to miss the more startling reality: the quiet installation inside our country of a massive snoopervision complex, much of it initiated, funded and controlled by Donnie Rumsfeld's Orwellian Pentagon.
Since the founding of America, a central tenet of our liberty has been that the military is not to be turned on our own people. Violations of this guiding rule have occurred in the past, but rarely and only temporarily, and when it's been violated, public outcry has forced the reinstatement of the rule.
Bush & Co., however, has not only turned loose the military to spy extensively on the American people, but has also asserted the right to do so in perpetuity. Its claim is that 9/11 turned the homeland into a foreign battlefield, so the nation's historic prohibition against military surveillance of Americans is null and void. And since this war on terrorists has no end ("the long war," Rumsfeld calls it), the Bushites maintain that the Pentagon can engage in domestic spying ad infinitum.
This military intrusion into our privacy has come with a heavy dose of linguistic perversions by top officials. For example, a secret Pentagon memo from Nov. 5, 2001, has now surfaced. In it, the Army's chief intelligence officer insists that while the Pentagon cannot "collect" information on citizens who have no connection to foreign terrorists, it can "receive" such information. "Remember," he wrote with Machiavellian delight, "merely receiving information does not constitute 'collection' [Military intelligence] may receive information from anyone, anytime."
Meanwhile, the ever-sneaky Bushites have quietly been pushing legislation that would compel the FBI and other police agencies to give information that they collect on you and me to the Pentagon, as long as the info is somehow "related" to a foreign intelligence investigation. This does not mean that, to spy on you, the snoops must have cause to think that you are in any way tied to terrorism, but only that they claim their investigation to be vaguely related to some foreign matter - a catchall that sweeps up war protestors, for example.
The legislation has yet to pass, but intelligence watchdogs say that Bush has already implemented it by fiat - Executive Order 13388 appears to authorize the Pentagon to access domestic intelligence files. Also, the military has already created a robust collection system of its own. A new Northern Command, established in Colorado in 2001 to monitor Americans, now employs more intelligence analysts than does the Homeland Security Department. Also, the Marines launched an operation under a 2004 executive order for the "collection, retention and dissemination of information concerning U.S. persons," noting that the corps will be "increasingly required to perform domestic missions." And, during the past five years, each of the service branches has created its own domestic snooping enterprises. As Sen. Ron Wyden complained last year, "We are deputizing the military to spy on law-abiding Americans in America. This is a huge leap without even a [public] hearing."
Total Information Awareness
A nightmare right out of 1984, complete with the ominous, all-seeing name it was given, TIA was the ugly spawn of John Poindexter, the convicted master schemer behind the Iran-Contra scandal in Reagan's White House. George W and Rummy had snuck him back into the government in 2001, ensconcing him deep inside the Pentagon, where he ran a team to develop TIA's unprecedented and voracious ability to grab every speck of private data on Americans from every public and corporate data bank. The plan was to put it all in a Pentagon supercomputer and mine it to build files on anyone the authorities might deem suspicious.
Luckily, a couple of years ago, this massive invasive madness came to light. The public howled so loudly that Congress rose up and demanded that the program be terminated, and Poindexter was forced to slink away.
But wait - who's that guy in the shadows, and what's he doing? He's Brian Sharkey, Poindexter's close pal who was a key player in the creation of TIA. He now heads a firm that's been getting government contracts to keep pursuing TIA's shadowy projects. In an internal email to TIA's subcontractors, Sharkey gleefully announced: "Fortunately, a new sponsor has come forward that will enable us to continue much of our previous work." He added that the TIA effort would henceforth go by the cryptic code name of "Basketball."
The new "sponsor" of this hoops game is a highly classified outfit called Advanced Research and Development Activity (ARDA) that is housed inside NSA (yes, the very agency that's been running George W's illegal domestic spying program). In a February public hearing, Sen. Wyden asked Bush's director of national security and the head of the FBI a direct question: "We want to know if Mr. Poindexter's programs are going on somewhere else." We don't know, replied our nation's top two snoops. When a reporter asked an NSA spokesman whether TIA had been moved to ARDA, he clammed shut: "We can neither confirm nor deny actual or alleged projects." ARDA itself is now being moved to the national intelligence agency and given a new name: "Disruptive Technology Office." It's hard to follow all of the trick passes of "Basketball," but the bottom line is that TIA was halted in name only, having been stealthily slipped into another agency that has been moved and had its own name changed.
Salute Your Big Brother
Three years ago, the Pentagon set up a new, ultrasecret agency called CIFA, for Counterintelligence Field Activity. Its initial task was to detect terrorist plots against military installations in the United States, but two years ago, a directive from the Pentagon's top ranks ordered CIFA to broaden its scope by creating and maintaining "a domestic law enforcement database." The agency's motto became "Counterintelligence to the Edge."
In May 2003, Rumsfeld's top deputy, "Howling Paul" Wolfowitz, authorized a new snooping operation code-named TALON (Threat And Local Observation Notice). It directed military officers throughout the country to collect raw information about suspicious activities by local people and to feed reports on them into CIFA's humming computers. In its first year alone, TALON's far-flung network of military snoops fed more than 5,000 "local activity" reports into the electronic maw of CIFA.
Nearly everything about CIFA, including its budget, is kept secret, but it is known that the agency has generously spread its budgetary wealth to Pentagon contractors. Northrop Grumman, for example, received funds to develop a CIFA database dubbed "PersonSearch," and Computer Sciences Corp. got a grant for an electronic system to detect and monitor people's "abnormal activities and behaviors." You might say, OK, Hightower, but surely these fine public servants and civic-minded corporations are merely protecting us homelanders by watching known terrorist types with Arab-sounding names and Muslim affiliations. Right?
Uh-uh. Forget about merely needing to defend the rights of Arab-Americans - the Pentagon is invading everyone's liberties. You could ask these folks:
In October 2004, the Broward County Anti-War Coalition was discovered by the ever-alert snoops to be planning a demonstration outside a military recruitment office. The group ended up in the CIFA database, even though the only crime of the 15-20 members who protested was to wave a giant sign proclaiming, "Bush Lied."
In 2004, George Main, head of the Sacramento chapter of Vietnam Veterans for Peace, had organized a small Veterans Day protest in front of a military office. Not only did he and his VVP buddies end up with their names in a TALON report, but he also got a call from his government the night before the protest, pointedly suggesting that he was a threat to national security. "It was very intimidating to have a special agent call out of the ether," George says.
About 10 peace activists who showed up outside Halliburton's Houston headquarters in June 2004 also were reported to CIFA by a TALON team. Why would Halliburton warrant coverage under a program supposedly designed to stave off attacks on military installations? Pentagon officials say that its "force protection" mission now includes its private contractors.
These intrusions into perfectly legitimate First Amendment activities are not isolated mess-ups by a few overzealous military officers. Even the Pentagon concedes that thousands of TALON reports have been filed on totally innocent, nonthreatening civilians and are retained in CIFA's computer banks.
The Pentagon is hardly alone in rummaging through America's vast array of computerized records - collecting, crosschecking, storing, analyzing and monitoring trillions of bits of our personal data, from our credit card transactions and our phone calls to every single internet search we've ever made. The Government Accountability Office reports that 52 federal agencies now operate nearly 200 of these data-mining programs, building files on anyone that the computers and bureaucrats deem the least bit suspicious. As one privacy expert puts it, "We have lists that are having baby lists at this point. They're spawning faster than rabbits."
The irony is that this mass invasion of our privacy does nothing to make Americans safer. Internet security expert Bruce Schneier points out that these data-mining systems are "so flooded with false alarms" that they're "useless," forcing agents to waste money and time chasing after thousands of innocent people.
Dick Nixon must be grinning in his grave, for the FBI is now reprising the abusive role it played in tracking down Tricky Dick's infamous enemies list. The FBI's own "terrorist" files show that the agency has again been spying on such nonthreats as peaceful demonstrators at the 2004 political conventions, while also maintaining a "Terrorist Watch" list that includes such groups as "Food Not Bombs," a volunteer group that serves vegetarian meals to homeless people.
Also, in 2002, the FBI's Pittsburgh office spied on a group of "terrorists" operating in a "cell" called the Thomas Merton Center for Peace and Justice. An agency memo warned that the center "holds daily leaflet distribution activities in downtown Pittsburgh." The memo notes that the Merton Center "is a left-wing organization advocating, among many political causes, pacifism."
Pacifism! Holy J. Edgar Hoover! Forget about terrorists attacks - there are pacifists passing out leaflets in Pittsburgh!
Speaking of disruptive, the newly extended Patriot Act creates a new class of federal felon: the disruptor.
This chilling provision, tucked into the bill in January without a hearing or debate, authorizes the Secret Service "to charge suspects with breaching security or disruptive behavior at National Special Security Events." What is NSSE? An event where the president or other protected official "will be temporarily visiting," such as a public speech, a political rally, an inauguration ball, the Olympics, the Super Bowl or any other event designated by the Secret Service as being of "national significance."
We've seen that simply wearing an anti-Bush T-shirt or having a pro-Democrat bumper sticker is enough to get you branded a disruptor, bounced from a Bush event and thrown in jail. But this provision broadens the reach of Bush's exclusion zones, sanctions the lockdown on free speech and assembly rights, and turns what was a trespassing misdemeanor into a felony. Also, you can be considered a disruptor even if the VIP has not arrived at the NSSE or has already left. Under this provision, not only is the public official protected from "disruptors," but also the NSSE itself becomes the protectee, criminalizing free speech at public events.
There are a thousand other cuts that the Bushites are making to America's Bill of Rights, the rule of law and separation of powers. Theirs has become, for example, the most secret government in our history, spending billions of tax dollars a year to classify millions of even mundane documents, issuing executive fiats to deny "We The People" access to crucial public information under right-to-know laws, and trying to make it a federal crime not only to leak internal executive information (unless, of course, the White House does the leaking), but also to receive any leaked info.
The Bushites have made unprecedented efforts to silence scientists and dissenters within government. This administration has also launched a sweeping array of "citizen watch" programs with names like Coastal Beacon, CAT Eyes and Eagle Eyes, enlisting individuals and groups to spy on neighbors and report even the most unsubstantiated gossip to authorities. The eerie slogan of these watch programs is "Be our eyes and ears so we can calm your fears."
Using its never-ending war as a bugaboo, the BushCheney regime is asserting that it is entitled to operate as a military presidency. The Madmen hate our freedoms, the Bushites screech, so in order to defeat The Madmen, our freedoms must be suspended - for as long as it takes. Not only is that grotesquely absurd, it is entirely un-American.
Bob "Douchebag" Novak and Karl "Turdblossom" Rove: Conspiracy to Obstruct Justice. I hope they both end up in jail.
Rove-Novak Call Was Concern To Leak Investigators
By Murray Waas, National Journal
National Journal Group Inc.
Thursday, May 25, 2006
On September 29, 2003, three days after it became known that the CIA had asked the Justice Department to investigate who leaked the name of covert CIA officer Valerie Plame, columnist Robert Novak telephoned White House senior adviser Karl Rove to assure Rove that he would protect him from being harmed by the investigation, according to people with firsthand knowledge of the federal grand jury testimony of both men.
In the early days of the CIA leak probe, then-Attorney General John Ashcroft was briefed on a crucial conversation between Robert Novak and Karl Rove.
Suspicious that Rove and Novak might have devised a cover story during that conversation to protect Rove, federal investigators briefed then-Attorney General John Ashcroft on the matter in the early stages of the investigation in fall 2003, according to officials with direct knowledge of those briefings.
Ashcroft oversaw the CIA-Plame leak probe for three months until he recused himself and allowed Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald to be named to take over the investigation on December 30, 2003. Ashcroft received routine briefings about the status of the investigation from October to December of that year.
Sources said that Ashcroft received a special briefing on the highly sensitive issue of the September 29 conversation between Novak and Rove because of the concerns of federal investigators that a well-known journalist might have been involved in an effort to not only protect a source but also work in tandem with the president's chief political adviser to stymie the FBI.
Rove testified to the grand jury that during his telephone call with Novak, the columnist said words to the effect: "You are not going to get burned" and "I don't give up my sources," according to people familiar with his testimony. Rove had been one of the "two senior administration" officials who had been sources for the July 14, 2003, column in which Novak outed Plame as an "agency operative." Rove and Novak had talked about Plame on July 9, five days before Novak's column was published.
Rove also told the grand jury, according to sources, that in the September 29 conversation, Novak referred to a 1992 incident in which Rove had been fired from the Texas arm of President George H.W. Bush's re-election effort; Rove lost his job because the Bush campaign believed that he had been the source for a Novak column that criticized the campaign's internal workings.
Rove told the grand jury that during the September 29 call, Novak said he would make sure that nothing similar would happen to Rove in the CIA-Plame leak probe. Rove has testified that he recalled Novak saying something like, "I'm not going to let that happen to you again," according to those familiar with the testimony. Rove told the grand jury that the inference he took away from the conversation was that Novak would say that Rove was not a source of information for the column about Plame. Rove further testified that he believed he might not have been the source because when Novak mentioned to Rove that Plame worked for the CIA, Rove simply responded that he had heard the same information.
Asked during his grand jury appearance his reaction to the telephone call, Rove characterized it as a "curious conversation" and didn't know what to make of it, according to people familiar with his testimony.
James Hamilton, an attorney for Novak, said he could not comment on the ongoing CIA leak probe. Ashcroft, now in private practice, did not respond through a spokesperson to inquiries for this article. A spokesman for Fitzgerald said that the special prosecutor's office would not comment on the matter.
A spokesman for Rove, Mark Corallo, said, "Karl Rove has never urged anyone directly or indirectly to withhold information from the special counsel or testify falsely."
Rove, according to attorneys involved in the case, volunteered the information about the September 29 call during his initial interview with FBI agents in the fall of 2003.
Neither Rove nor Novak has been charged in the leak case, and legal sources say that Fitzgerald faces an especially high legal hurdle in bringing charges involving a private conversation between two people.
Foremost among the reasons that federal investigators harbored suspicions about the September 29 conversation was its timing. Three days earlier, NBC broke the news that the CIA had asked the Justice Department to launch a probe into the leaking of Plame's identity. During the noon news briefing at the White House on September 29, various reporters asked spokesman Scott McClellan repeatedly whether Justice was indeed investigating the Plame leak.
"If someone leaked classified information of the nature that has been reported, absolutely, the president would want it to be looked into," McClellan responded. "And the Justice Department would be the appropriate agency to do so."
In fact, Justice was already preparing to announce such a criminal probe, and the department made the formal announcement the following day, September 30.
Stanley Brand, a Washington lawyer who has represented numerous clients in several special-prosecutor investigations, said in an interview: "It is the better part of wisdom and standing instruction that witnesses to an investigation do not talk to other witnesses about the case when the case is still pending. It raises the inference that they are comparing each other's recollections and altering or shaping each other's testimony."
Brand has advised his clients not to talk to other witnesses in federal criminal investigations, he said, because there is a "thin line between refreshing each other's recollections ... and suborning someone to lie under oath."
Mark Feldstein, the director of journalism programs at George Washington University, said that Novak apparently acted outside traditional journalistic standards by reaching out to Rove after he believed that a criminal investigation had commenced: "A journalist's natural instinct is to protect his source. Were there no criminal investigation, it would have been more than appropriate for a reporter to say to a source, 'Don't worry, I'm not going to out you.' But if there is a criminal investigation under way, you can't escape the inference that you are calling to coordinate your stories. You go very quickly from being a stand-up reporter to impairing a criminal investigation."
A second reason that federal investigators were suspicious, sources said, is that they believed that after the September 29 call, Novak shifted his account of his July 9, 2003, conversation with Rove to show that administration officials had a passive role in leaking Plame's identity.
On July 22, 2003 -- eight days after the publication of Novak's column on Plame -- Newsday reporters Timothy Phelps and Knut Royce quoted Novak as telling them in an interview that it was White House officials who encouraged him to write about Plame. "I didn't dig it out, it was given to me," Newsday quoted Novak as saying about Plame. "They thought it was significant. They gave me the name, and I used it."
If Novak's interview with Phelps and Royce was accurate, sources said, it suggests that Rove was actively involved in trying to expose Plame's CIA job.
Novak did not speak publicly on the matter again until September 29 -- later on the same day as his conversation with Rove in which he assured the president's chief political aide that he would protect him in the forthcoming Justice Department investigation. What Novak said publicly was different from the earlier account in Newsday:
"I have been beleaguered by television networks around the world, but I am reserving my say for Crossfire," Novak said on his own CNN program, which is no longer on the air. "Nobody in the Bush administration called me to leak this. In July, I was interviewing a senior administration official on Ambassador [Joseph C.] Wilson's report [on his Niger trip], when [the official] told me the trip was inspired by his wife, a CIA employee working on weapons of mass destruction. Another senior official told me the same thing.
"As a professional journalist with 46 years' experience in Washington, I do not reveal confidential sources. When I called the CIA in July, they confirmed Mrs. Wilson's involvement in a mission for her husband on a secondary basis, who is -- he is a former Clinton administration official. They asked me not to use her name, but never indicated it would endanger her or anybody else."
In explaining the discrepancy between what he told Newsday a week after he outed Plame and everything he said later regarding Plame, Novak has said that Phelps "badly misquoted" him. Phelps, who is Newsday's Washington bureau chief, denied that, saying he took accurate notes of his interview with Novak and reported exactly what Novak told him.
Novak's quotes in Newsday -- that administration officials had encouraged him to write that Plame worked for the CIA, and that she played some role in sending her husband, Wilson, to Niger to investigate claims that Iraq had tried to buy uranium from the African country -- were consistent with the later accounts of the other journalists who had spoken to White House officials for their stories on Plame. Those reporters included Judith Miller of The New York Times and Matthew Cooper of Time magazine. Government witnesses who have testified in Fitzgerald's investigation have consistently told that story, too, sources said.
Novak's disclosure of Plame's covert CIA job was part of a broader White House effort to discredit Wilson, who had alleged that the Bush administration had misrepresented intelligence information to make the case to go to war with Iraq.
To blunt Wilson's criticism, Rove; I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the then-chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney; and at least one other senior administration official mounted an intensive effort alleging, among other things, that Wilson's CIA-sponsored mission to Niger amounted to nepotism.
Rove, Libby, and at least a third administration official told Novak, Cooper, Miller, and Walter Pincus of The Washington Post about Plame's CIA job. Rove has said he discussed Plame with Novak and Cooper.
A third reason that investigators are said to be concerned about a possible cover story was the grand jury testimony of both Novak and Rove about their July 9, 2003, conversation. On that day, Novak was still reporting for his July 14 column.
Novak and Rove have testified that it was Novak, not Rove, who raised the subject of Plame's CIA job and Wilson's trip to Niger, according to people familiar with the testimony of both men.
Rove has testified that he simply told the columnist that he had heard much the same information about Plame, which perhaps was nothing more than an unsubstantiated rumor. Novak's account of the July 9 call matched Rove's. Investigators were suspicious that, if this version was true, the columnist would have relied on Rove as one of his two sources to out Plame as an "agency operative."
Ashcroft was advised during the briefing that investigators had strong reservations about the veracity of the Novak and Rove accounts of the July 9 conversation. If Rove had simply said that he heard the same information that Novak did, investigators wondered why Novak would have relied on such an offhand comment as the basis for writing the column. Investigators also wondered why Novak had not at least asked Rove about what else he knew about Plame, sources said.
Geneva Overholser, a journalism professor at the University of Missouri, questioned the propriety of Novak's using Rove as a source on the Plame story if, in fact, Rove had passed along only unsubstantiated gossip.
"It's very hard for me to believe that any journalist would write a story of such importance based on someone making an offhand comment that 'I heard that too,'" Overholser, who is a former chair of the Pulitzer Prize board and a former editor of The Des Moines Register, said in an interview. "A comment like that could mean that it's just the gossip going around. That means something very different than an affirmation to go with a story. If that was the basis for Novak's story, it was the slimmest of reeds."
Weighing the Facts
Rove and Novak, investigators suspect, might have devised a cover story to protect Rove because the grand jury testimony of both men appears to support Rove's contentions about how he learned about Plame. Rove has testified that he did not learn that Plame was a CIA operative from classified information, that he was not part of a campaign with Libby or other White House officials to discredit Wilson or out Plame, and that any information that he provided Novak and Cooper about Plame's CIA job was only unsubstantiated gossip.
According to sources, Rove told the FBI and testified to the federal grand jury that he first heard that Plame worked for the CIA from a person whose name he could not remember. That person, he said, might have been a journalist, although he was not certain. Rove has also said that he could not recall whether the conversation took place in person or over the telephone.
Rove has testified that he heard more about Plame from Novak, who had originally called him on July 9 about an entirely different matter. It was only at the end of their conversation that Rove heard that Plame worked for the CIA and had some role in sending her husband on his CIA-sponsored trip to Niger, Rove has testified. Having been told this information by Novak, Rove told the FBI, he simply said he had heard the same thing.
Rove told the FBI that on July 11, 2003, two days after his conversation with Novak, he spoke privately with Libby at the end of a White House senior staff meeting. According to Rove's account, he told Libby of his conversation with Novak, whereupon Libby told him that he, too, had heard the same information from journalists who were writing about the Niger controversy.
Rove has testified that based on his conversation with the first person he had spoken to (whom he cannot identify), what Novak told him, and what Libby said, he had come to believe that Plame might have worked for the CIA.
The grand jury indicted Libby in the CIA leak case last October on five counts of making false statements, perjury, and obstruction of justice for attempting to conceal his own role in leaking information about Plame to the media. Central to those charges are allegations by Fitzgerald that Libby first learned that Plame worked for the CIA from Vice President Cheney and other government officials, not journalists.
On July 11, 2003, the same day Rove says he spoke to Libby, Rove told Time magazine's Cooper that Plame worked for the CIA. Although Rove has said he has little recollection of his conversation with Cooper, he has testified that similar to his conversation with Novak, he passed along to Cooper the same rumors about Plame he had originally heard from journalists.
Fitzgerald is still investigating Rove for possible perjury and obstruction of justice for Rove's failure to disclose in his initial FBI interview and his initial grand jury testimony that he had provided information about Plame to Cooper. Rove has said that his failure to disclose his conversation with Cooper was because of a faulty memory.
As Fitzgerald considers whether to bring charges against Rove, central to any final determination will be whether Rove's omissions were purposeful.
Dan Richman, a law school professor at Fordham University and a former federal prosecutor for the Southern District of New York, says that perjury and obstruction cases are difficult to bring. "In many instances, you almost have to literally take the jury inside a defendant's head to demonstrate their intent," he said.
As of now, it appears unlikely that Fitzgerald will bring charges related to the September 29 conversation, according to Richman and other legal experts. Even if the prosecutor and his investigative team conclude that Rove and Novak did indeed devise a cover story to protect Rove, it is simply too difficult to prove what happened in a private conversation between two people.
A longtime friend of Rove, who doesn't have firsthand knowledge of the CIA leak case but who knows both Rove and Novak well, doubts that Fitzgerald could get a conviction -- "as long as neither [Novak nor Rove] breaks, and there is no reason for them to, no matter how much evidence there is. These are two people who go way back, and they are going to look out for each other."
Richman says that a grand jury could consider circumstantial evidence in weighing whether to bring charges, so long as there is also other substantial evidence, and that the prosecutor can present that evidence at trial.
"It's possible that prosecutors would view their [September 29] conversation as the beginning of a conspiracy to obstruct justice, given that they had reason to believe that an investigation would soon be under way," says Richman. "It's even more likely that this conversation would help prosecutors shed light on Rove's motivations and intent when he later spoke to investigators."
It's about Time. Bush's Buddy "Kenny Boy" Lay can add CONVICT to his resume.
Former CEOs convicted of securities, wire fraud
The Associated Press
Updated: 1:04 p.m. ET May 25, 2006
HOUSTON - Former Enron Corp. chiefs Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling were convicted Thursday of conspiracy to commit securities and wire fraud in one of the biggest business scandals in U.S. history.
The verdict put the blame for the 2001 demise of the high-profile energy trader, once the nation’s seventh-largest company, squarely on its top two executives. It came in the sixth day of deliberations following a trial that lasted nearly four months.
Lay was also convicted of bank fraud and making false statements to banks in a separate trial non-jury trial before U.S. District Judge Sim Lake related to Lay’s personal banking.
Lay was convicted on all six counts against him in the trial with Skilling. Skilling was convicted on 19 of the 28 counts against him, including one count of insider trading, and acquitted on the remaining nine.
“Obviously, I’m disappointed,” Skilling told reporters outside the courthouse. “But that’s the way the system works.”
Skilling’s lawyer, Dan Petrocelli, said the verdict “doesn’t change our view of what happened at Enron ... or Jeffrey Skilling’s innocence.”
Lay did not come outside the courthouse to speak with reporters immediately after the verdict.
Lake told jurors, “you have reflected on this evidence for the last few days and reached a very thorough verdict, and I thank you.”
He set sentencing for Sept. 11.
Lake set a $5 million bond for Lay and ordered him to surrender his passport before he leaves the courthouse. The judge said the bond already in place for Skilling was sufficient. The judge said he did not believe home confinement was necessary for either.
The former corporate titans are now felons facing years in prison after being convicted of running an elaborate fraud that gave the company a glamorous illusion of success.
Jurors declared through their verdict that both men repeatedly lied to cover a vast web of unsustainable accounting tricks and failing ventures that shoved Enron into bankruptcy protection in December 2001.
The conviction was a major win for the government, serving almost as a bookend in an era that has seen prosecutors win convictions against executives from WorldCom Inc. to Adelphia Communications Corp. and homemaking maven Martha Stewart. The public outrage over the series of corporate scandals led Congress to pass the Sarbanes-Oxley act, designed to make company executives more accountable
The panel rejected Skilling’s insistence that no fraud occurred at Enron other than a few executives skimming millions from secret scams behind his and Lay’s backs, and a lethal combination of bad press and poor market confidence sank the company.
Both men testified in their own defense. Skilling is expected to appeal.
The government’s victory caps a 4 1/2 year investigation that nabbed 16 guilty pleas from ex-Enron executives, including former Chief Financial Officer Andrew Fastow and former Chief Accounting Officer Richard Causey.
Former Enron chairman Ken LayAll are awaiting sentencing later this year except for two who either finished or are serving prison terms.
Many deemed the outcome of the Lay-Skilling case a final exam of sorts of the federal government’s ability to prove complicated corporate skullduggery.
Enron’s implosion and the subsequent scandals vexed Wall Street, sent skittish investors fleeing, increased regulatory scrutiny over publicly traded companies and prompted Congress to stiffen white collar penalties.
Former WorldCom head Bernard Ebbers awaits a 25-year prison term for orchestrating the $11 billion accounting fraud that bankrupted the company. Stewart did five months in prison and more time confined to work and home for lying about a stock sale. Adelphia Communications Inc. founder John Rigas and his son got double-digit prison terms for looting their company.
HealthSouth Corp. founder Richard Scrushy bucked the trend with his acquittal last year of fraud charges despite five former finance chiefs pointing the finger at him in a $2.7 billion scheme to inflate earnings. He dropped in on the Lay-Skilling case during Fastow’s lengthy testimony in March, saying the ex-CFO couldn’t be believed.
But those cases were much simpler than that against Lay and Skilling.
The government’s vast investigation seemed to stall until Fastow pleaded guilty in January 2004 to two counts of conspiracy and paved the way for prosecutors to secure indictments against his bosses. Fastow also led investigators to Causey, who was bound for trial alongside Lay and Skilling until he broke ranks with their unified defense and pleaded guilty to securities fraud just weeks before the trial began.
Bill O'Lielly continues to "have no idea what's going on" and must "get his news from Fox."
Summary: Bill O'Reilly asserted that "[m]any Americans ages 18 to 24 have no idea what's going on," stating that they "get their news from [Comedy Central host] Jon Stewart and their point of view from bomb-throwing entertainers." In fact, studies have shown that viewers of Comedy Central's The Daily Show with John Stewart are consistently better informed about current events than consumers of other media, and Daily Show viewers are significantly better educated than viewers of The O'Reilly Factor. Further, consumers of Fox News in general have been found to be significantly more misinformed about current events than consumers of other mainstream media.
During the May 23 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, Bill O'Reilly asserted that "[m]any Americans ages 18 to 24 have no idea what's going on," stating that they "get their news from [Comedy Central host] Jon Stewart and their point of view from bomb-throwing entertainers." In fact, studies have shown that viewers of Comedy Central's The Daily Show with John Stewart are consistently better informed about current events than consumers of other media, and Daily Show viewers are considerably better educated than viewers of The O'Reilly Factor. Further, consumers of Fox News in general have been found to be significantly more misinformed about current events than consumers of other mainstream media.
In 2004, the nonpartisan Annenberg Public Policy Center released its National Annenberg Election Survey, which found Daily Show viewers to be better informed on campaign issues than consumers of other late-night television programs, newspapers, network news, or cable news. In a press release, Annenberg senior analyst Dannagal Goldthwaite Young said: "Daily Show viewers have higher campaign knowledge than national news viewers and newspaper readers -- even when education, party identification, following politics, watching cable news, receiving campaign information online, age, and gender are taken into consideration."
The survey asked respondents to answer a six-question quiz designed to measure "political knowledge." Daily Show viewers ages 18 to 29 scored higher than those who consumed any amount of network news, any amount of newspapers, or one to three days of cable news; young Daily Show viewers scored the same as young viewers who watched four or more days of cable news. The survey did not say what percentage of Daily Show viewers regularly consumed news from other media outlets. Overall, Daily Show viewers scored the highest out of any group surveyed, with Daily Show viewers answering, on average, 60 percent of the questions correctly.
Also, according to CNN, Nielsen Media Research statistics show that when directly compared with O'Reilly Factor viewers, "Stewart's viewers are not only smart, but more educated than O'Reilly's.":
"Daily Show" viewers are 78 percent more likely than the average adult to have four or more years of college education, while O'Reilly's audience is only 24 percent more likely to have that much schooling.
Additionally, an October 2003 study conducted by the University of Maryland's Program on International Policy (PIPA) found Fox News viewers were "significantly more likely to have misperceptions" about the Iraq war than all other media consumers. The study was "based on a series of seven US polls conducted from January through September" 2003 and measured respondents' "key perceptions and beliefs" on "US policy" in Iraq. The study found that "[t]hose who receive most of their news from Fox News are more likely than average to have misperceptions." For instance, of the "three key misperceptions" -- which the study listed as "the beliefs that ... links between Iraq and al-Qaeda have been found, that WMD have been found in Iraq and that world public opinion approved of the US going to war with Iraq" -- Fox News watchers were found not only to be the "most likely to hold misperceptions," but "were more than twice as likely than the next nearest network to hold all three misperceptions." The PIPA study found that 80 percent of Fox News viewers held at least one of the three misperceptions.
As CNN noted, during Stewart's appearance on the September 17, 2004, edition of The O'Reilly Factor, O'Reilly told Stewart that his Daily Show viewers were "stoned slackers" and "dopey kids," and declared it was "really frightening" that Stewart actually had "an influence on this presidential election."
LOU DOBBS XENOPHOBIA TOUR CONTINUES. Now he's relying on White Supremacists for his "Information."
Summary: On CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight, Lou Dobbs claimed that the Senate immigration bill, which includes numerous provisions targeting illegal immigration, does "absolutely nothing for border security." On the same show, correspondent Casey Wian characterized Mexican President Vicente Fox's trip to Salt Lake City, Utah, as a "Mexican military incursion," and claimed that "[y]ou could call" Fox's trip to the United States "the Vicente Fox Aztlan tour" -- drawing a baseless link between Fox and the reconquista movement, which maintains that portions of the American Southwest belong to Mexico.
On the May 23 edition of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight, host Lou Dobbs claimed that a Senate immigration bill, which includes numerous provisions targeting illegal immigration, does "absolutely nothing for border security." Later, during the same broadcast, CNN correspondent Casey Wian characterized Mexican President Vicente Fox's trip to Salt Lake City, Utah, as a "Mexican military incursion," and claimed that "[y]ou could call" Fox's trip to the United States "the Vicente Fox Aztlan tour" -- drawing a baseless link between Fox and the reconquista movement, which maintains that portions of the American Southwest (territory referred to by supporters of the theory as "Aztlan") belong to Mexico. During Wian's report, CNN featured a graphic of "Aztlan" that was sourced to the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC) -- an organization linked to white supremacists.
Reporting on the Senate immigration bill, Dobbs said: "Still ahead here, as the Senate moves closer to voting for a bill that would give amnesty to illegal aliens and do absolutely nothing for border security, one of the legislation's leading critics joins me, Senator Jeff Sessions [R-AL]. Senator Sessions says the Senate should be ashamed of itself." As Media Matters for America has noted, however, the proposed immigration legislation includes numerous provisions to increase border security. On March 27, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved an immigration bill based on the "Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act" -- sponsored by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and co-sponsored by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA). A fact sheet provided by Kennedy stated that, in addition to providing a guest worker program and a path for illegal immigrants to gain citizenship, the bill that emerged from the Senate Judiciary Committee would:
* Double the strength of the Border Patrol by add[ing] 12,000 new agents (2,400 each year for the next 5 years)
* Double interior enforcement by adding "1,000 investigators per year for next 5 years"
* Create a "[n]ew [s]ecurity [p]erimeter" by "add[ing] new technology at the border to create [a] 'virtual fence' "
* "Tighten [c]ontrols" by "expand[ing] exit-entry security system at all land borders and airports"
* Call for the "[c]onstruction of [b]arriers" by "mandat[ing] new roads and vehicle barriers at borders"
* Call for the "[c]onstruction of [f]ences" by "provid[ing] additional border fences at specific vulnerable sectors"
* "[A]uthorize new permanent highway checkpoints near border"
* Demand a "[c]omprehensive [s]urveillance [p]lan" that would "mandate new land and water surveillance plan[s]"
* "Create new crime for construction, financing, and use of unlawful tunnels."
Reporting on Fox's Utah trip, Wian said: "This Mexican military incursion was fully authorized. A Mexican air force jet carrying President Vicente Fox was not just invited to Utah, but encouraged to visit by Governor [Jon] Huntsman [Jr.]." Wian was likely alluding to a January 17 Washington Times article, which reported: "The U.S. Border Patrol has warned agents in Arizona of incursions into the United States by Mexican soldiers 'trained to escape, evade and counterambush' if detected -- a scenario Mexico denied yesterday." Wian went on to report:
WIAN: It's estimated Utah has about 100,000 illegal aliens, and the number is growing rapidly. Utah is also a part of the territory some militant Latino activists refer to as Aztlan, the portion of the Southwest United States they claim rightfully belongs to Mexico.
As Wian was speaking, CNN showed a graphic of "Aztlan" sourced to the CCC.
As Media Matters has previously noted, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SLPC), the CCC "has described blacks as 'a retrograde species of humanity,' compared singer Michael Jackson to an ape, and promoted neo-Nazi and Holocaust denial materials."
According an Anti-Defamation League report, the CCC was "[e]stablished by former activists in the segregationist White Citizens' Councils," and "[a]lthough the group claims not to be racist, its leaders traffic with other white supremacist groups and its publications, Web sites and meetings all promote the purportedly innate superiority of whites."
Wian then linked Fox to the concept of "Aztlan," reporting:
WIAN: You could call this the Vicente Fox Aztlan tour, since the three states he'll visit -- Utah, Washington, and California -- are all part of some radical group's vision of the mythical indigenous homeland.
U.S. Marines Massacre 24 Iraqi Civilians Including Women and Children. Hey Neocons, how's that Project For a New American Century coming along?
By Gayle S. Putrich
MARINE CORPS TIMES STAFF WRITER
A key member of Congress said he “wouldn’t be surprised” if a dozen Marines faced courts-martial for allegedly killing Iraqi civilians Nov. 19. Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., told Marine Corps Times that the number of dead Iraqis, first reported to be 15, was actually 24. He based that number on a briefing from Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Mike Hagee on Wednesday.
Hagee visited Capitol Hill in anticipation of the release of two investigation reports, which are expected to show that among the 24 dead civilians, five of the alleged victims, all unarmed, were shot in a car with no warning, Murtha said. The killings took place in Hadithah, 125 miles northwest of Baghdad.
At least seven of the victims were women and three were children.
“If the allegations are substantiated, the Marine Corps will pursue appropriate legal and administrative actions against those responsible,” said Col. David Lapan, a spokesman at Marine Corps headquarters.
“The investigations are ongoing, therefore any comment at this time would be inappropriate and could undermine the investigatory and possible legal process,” he said. “As soon as the facts are known and decisions on future actions are made, we will make that information available to the public to the fullest extent allowable.” Murtha, an outspoken war critic and retired Marine colonel, has maintained for several weeks that the reality of the Hadithah incident was far more violent than the original reports suggested.
“They originally said a lot of things. I don’t even know how they tried to cover that up,” he said.
Two investigations into the incident are ongoing, according to the Pentagon — one by Multi-National Forces Iraq, expected before the end of the week, and a second by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, that is due in June.
The Marine Corps originally said a convoy from the Camp Pendleton, Calif.-based Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines, hit a roadside bomb Nov. 19 that killed Lance Cpl. Miguel Terrazas, 20, of El Paso, Texas.
Marine officials initially said 15 Iraqi civilians also were killed in the blast, but later reported that the civilians were killed in a firefight that took place after the explosion.
But a 10-week investigation by Time magazine resulted in a March 27 report that included claims by an Iraqi civil rights group that the Marines barged into houses near the bomb strike in retaliation, throwing grenades and shooting civilians who were cowering in fear.
Three officers from the 3/1, including battalion commander Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani, were relieved April 7 for “lack of confidence in their leadership abilities stemming from their performance during a recent deployment to Iraq.”
The two other Marines who were relieved, Capts. Luke McConnell and James Kimber, were company commanders in the battalion.
Officials would not explicitly connect the firings to the Hadithah investigation.
While no charges have been filed yet, defense attorneys who handle military cases are bracing for what could fast become a busy summer season in the courtroom.
“It looks like it’s coming,” said one San Diego area-based civilian defense attorney who has handled other cases of assault and manslaughter and has gotten a sort of “warning order” about potential new cases.
“I think there’s a lot of pressure to do something,” the civilian attorney said.
“It’s going to be extraordinarily difficult for them to find enough defense counsel,” one Marine Corps attorney said.
Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, who was also briefed on the reports, said his committee will hold hearings on the incident after lawmakers return from their Memorial Day recess.
Hunter was matter-of-fact about the reports’ contents.
“It is not good,” he said. “Let the chips fall where they may.”
Hagee was due to brief leaders of the Senate Armed Services Committee late Wednesday.
Staff writers Rick Maze and Gidget Fuentes contributed to this report.
Wednesday, May 24, 2006
Afghanistan Update: We're Losing This War Too.
UK aircraft catches fire while landing, no casualties reported
(CNN) -- At least 29 people have been killed in the latest bloodshed in the escalating conflict in southern Afghanistan, according to the U.S.-led coalition.
The coalition command in Kabul said Wednesday that 24 insurgents, four Afghan National Army soldiers and one Afghan National Police officer were killed late Tuesday in the Tarin Kowt District of Uruzgan province.
This six-hour fight began "when a joint combat patrol of Afghan and coalition forces returned fire against several enemy fighters who were hiding in a compound shooting at them."
The troops responded "with heavy machine gun fire and forced the attackers to retreat. Enemy fighters then attempted to reinforce with additional militants from two nearby compounds."
Six Afghan soldiers and three Afghan police were wounded.
Heavy fighting between troops and Taliban-aligned fighters has claimed dozens of lives in recent weeks.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has called for an investigation into reports of the deaths of 16 civilians killed while apparently being used as human shields during Monday's fighting in Kandahar province. (Full story)
Dozens of Taliban fighters were killed in the fighting, according to the U.S. military.
Fighting this week in Afghanistan has been among the most intense since the U.S. invasion more than four years ago, with more than 300 people reported killed since last Wednesday.
Meanwhile, there were reports that a British military aircraft caught fire Wednesday while landing in the southern Afghan province of Helmand.
The UK's Ministry of Defence confirmed to CNN that a "C-130 Hercules plane was involved in an incident on landing outside Lashkar Gah in Afghanistan."
"First reports suggest there were no UK casualties," the ministry said.
Let's Play Connect the Dots..........
News Item (2004): President Bush appoints former ChevronTexaco lawyer as chairman of the Federal Trade Commission.
News Item (2006): Federal Trade Commission clears oil companies of price fixing.
The system works.
And it just gets better:
News Item (2004): Bush administration says "we're turning the corner" in Iraq.
News Item (2005): Bush administration says "we've turned the corner" in Iraq.
News Item (2006): Bush administration says we are at "a turning point" in Iraq.
Almost, almost . . . full circle.
Brit Hume: Propagandist for the Bush Administration.
Reported by Janie - May 23, 2006
Last night (5/22) on "Special Report with Brit Hume", Hume discussed conservative and former pollster, Richard A. Viguerie's criticisms of the Bush administration that he leveled in a recent Washington Post article entitled "Bush's Base Betrayal". In typical Fox fashion, Hume attacked the messenger in an attempt to discredit Viguerie, but his talking points literally came directly from an e-mail issued by the White House.
During the "Two Minutes of Hate" (AKA "Grapevine") segment, Hume had this to say about Viguerie:
"Conservative activist Richard Viguerie — who pioneered direct mail in political fundraising — argues in Sunday's Washington Post that conservatives feel betrayed by President Bush, and urges them to avoid the polls in November, saying, 'Nothing will change until there's a change in the GOP leadership.'
Viguerie may no longer hold much influence with the Republican Party, but he has a history of disillusionment with its leaders. In 1981, Viguerie said Ronald Reagan's Cabinet choices, 'gave conservatives the back of the hand' and complained that Reagan allied himself with 'the liberals, the Democrats and the Soviets.'
Viguerie later said of Reagan, 'The emperor has no clothes on; just about every conservative I know is now acknowledging it.'"
According to Yahoo Business:
"In response, Peter Wehner, Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of Strategic Initiatives, sent an e-mail message to an unknown number of persons, citing statements made by Viguerie in 1981, 1983, 1987, and 1988 that criticized some aspects of the Reagan Administration."
Well, we now know one recipient of this e-mail: Fox News. Hume outright took the talking points from the White House and repeated everything the Administration wanted made known to the public to discredit Viguerie. Fox News seems to have officially become the state sponsored "news" of the Administration. I guess Jon Stewart was right when he said, "Wow. The entire network of anchors has been hired to be the press secretary!"
Tuesday, May 23, 2006
THIS WEEK IN WINGNUTTERY: FOX NEWS DAVID ASMAN REPORTS THAT AL GORE'S MOVIE ON GLOBAL WARMING COULD DESTROY OUR ECONOMY!
This weekend on Fox News, host David Asman asked his guests to discuss the following question: “If people buy into [Al Gore’s] global warming hysteria, will it put him in the White House and our economy on the skids?” Steve Forbes answered yes, and called Gore’s new movie “a real recipe for more socialist regulation.”
For what it’s worth, the Apollo Alliance, a coalition of labor and environmental groups, has developed a plan to “develop alternative fuels, increase energy efficiency, rebuild and expand public transportation networks and come up with other initiatives to reduce fossil fuel use” that would create more than three million jobs in the process.
ASMAN: Al Gore’s new documentary, An inconvenient Truth, it hits the theaters this week. If people buy into his global warming hysteria, will it put him in the White House and our economy on the skids? Steve, first off, is it gonna get him in the White House?
FORBES: No, if he believes that’s gonna get him in the White House, he needs to rub on something stronger than this sunscreen.
ASMAN: Alright, but if his global warming agenda somehow gets mixed up into our agenda, the national agenda, what’ll it do to the economy?
FORBES: It will ice the economy. And after all, some people do believe the DiVinci Code, so some will believe the DiGore Code. [Laughter] But the fact of the matter is, the policies that result from it would hurt the economy, would create unemployment. It’s a real recipe for more socialist regulation.
Ahhhhh sniff sniff sniff. I can smell that fair and balanced stink all the way over here. These guys and their right wing fear mongering remind me of Pat Robertson that time he said "Feminism is a socialist, anti-family, political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians."
FAUX NEWS: We Distort, You Decide. Studies have shown that Fox News Viewers are often Misinformed about current events. Here's Why.
In the days leading up to Fox News' special May 21 presentation, Global Warming: The Debate Continues, Fox News host Neil Cavuto referred to it as the "definitive piece" on the issue of climate change, while his Fox News colleague John Gibson informed viewers that David Asman "gets to the bottom of this debate" as host of the program. In the broadcast's introduction, Asman left viewers with the impression that there is a significant divide among scientists regarding the cause of global warming. "Today, almost all scientists agree that there is global warming," he said, "but there is no scientific consensus about what causes global warming or how it will affect our lives." But, while Asman went on to interview numerous experts skeptical of the threat posed by global warming or whether human activity causes it, he never informed viewers that those skeptics represent a small minority within the scientific community.
Moreover, as Media Matters for America noted, the program's roster of contributors included numerous climate change skeptics tied to organizations with a financial stake in combating global warming theory and, in some cases, whose works on the issue have been discredited by the scientific community. These skeptics included John Christy, Roy Spencer, Bjørn Lomborg, and Patrick J. Michaels -- as well as Sen. James M. Inhofe (R-OK), a fervent opponent of global warming who has received more than $1 million in campaign contributions from the energy industry. But during the hour-long broadcast, Asman failed to challenge their misleading arguments and omitted mention of their ties to energy interests.
Sen. James Inhofe
The program devoted a significant amount of airtime to Inhofe, who is notorious for his 2003 statement that global warming is "the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people" -- a sentiment he repeated in his interview with Asman. "A total hoax. It's an outrageous lie ... and they knew it,' he said after Asman showed him the headline of an article on global warming in a March 2006 issue of Time magazine -- "Be worried, be very worried." Inhofe noted that Time had, 30 years earlier, warned of an impending ice age, which he described as a "hoax" on par with global warming. But as Media Matters has previously documented, this is a misleading comparison often advanced by skeptics of global warming theory.
Asman identified Inhofe as "chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee" and "a critic of the predictions of future catastrophe from global warming." But he failed to inform viewers that Inhofe has received nearly $550,000 in campaign contributions from oil and gas interests, electrical utility companies, and the mining industry since 2001 -- totaling more than $1 million over the course of his congressional career.
Inhofe did face a question about his recent inquiry into a proposed agreement between the National Science Foundation and the National Center for Atmospheric Research, an exponent of global warming theory. Inhofe responded, "[A]ll we want is to use real science. ... They're complaining because they just want to use the funds and any kinds of grants they can get to promote their concept of global warming." But Asman failed to note that this is not the first time Inhofe has targeted research operations that reinforce the threat of climate change. Indeed, in 2000, Inhofe joined an effort to discredit the peer-reviewed National Assessment on Climate Change, a government report on the potential regional impact of global warming. Further, Inhofe appeared as a co-plaintiff in a lawsuit filed by the industry-funded Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) alleging that procedural rules had been violated during the development of the report.
John Christy and Roy Spencer
Among the contributors highlighted by Media Matters prior to the broadcast of Global Warming: The Debate Continues, Christy and Spencer enjoyed the most airtime on the program. Both are professors at the University of Alabama-Hunstville and both have ties to industry-friendly organizations such as CEI and the George Marshall Institute (GMI). Together, they published a 1992 report that analyzed extensive data from weather satellites and purported to show minimal warming in the troposphere. Skeptics of global warming theory frequently cited their findings to cast doubt over data showing significant warming on the earth's surface. But a series of subsequent reports identified flaws in Christy and Spencer's calculations, as Media Matters noted. One such study, published in 2003, reanalyzed the data using the corrected methodology and found more pronounced warming in the troposphere.
On the broadcast, Asman introduced Christy and Spencer as "atmospheric scientists whose temperature measurements from satellites have made them skeptical of both the catastrophic predictions" and aired clips of them saying that these measurements "don't show a very dramatic warming" and are "relatively modest." But Asman failed to inform viewers that the conclusion of their satellite study has been discredited.
The program featured an appearance by Lomborg, associate professor of statistics in the Department of Political Science at the University of Aarhus in Denmark, who said that while he used to "think that everything was coming to an end," he believes that "the data, the facts tell you that many, many things are moving in the right direction." Speaking specifically about climate change, he argued that there are many more urgent problems and that the Kyoto treaty "is going to cost $150 billion a year and do very little good." Asman introduced Lomborg as the author of The Skeptical Environmentalist (Cambridge University Press, 2001), in which Lomborg purported to reanalyze the data behind numerous environmental problems -- including global warming -- and show that these threats have been exaggerated. But Asman failed to disclose that the book has been widely discredited by the scientific community. Media Matters noted that, in the January 2002 issue of Scientific American, a group of well-known environmental specialists derided The Skeptical Environmentalist for its "egregious distortions," "elementary blunders of quantitative manipulation and presentation that no self-respecting statistician ought to commit," and sections "poorly researched and ... rife with careless mistakes."
Patrick J. Michaels
Asman also interviewed Michaels for the program, who said of the threat posed by climate change, "If you're going to tell me that altering the temperature two or three degrees will extinct homo sapiens, I'm not going to believe you. I might just laugh." As Media Matters noted, Michaels is employed by the Cato Institute and has ties to GMI -- both institutions that receive significant financial support from energy interests. Further, he is chief editor of the World Climate Report, a biweekly newsletter on climate studies, for which he has received "more than $165,000 in fuel-industry funding, including money from the coal industry," according to an October 11, 2005, Seattle Times article. Notwithstanding his strong ties to the fossil fuel industry, Asman simply introduced Michaels as the "Virginia state climatologist."
By Joshua Holland, AlterNet
Posted on May 22, 2006, Printed on May 23, 2006
There's a story, perhaps apocryphal, that Pentagon planners wanted to name the invasion of Iraq, "Operation Iraqi Liberation." Only when someone realized that the acronym -- O.I.L. -- might raise some uncomfortable questions, was "Operation Iraqi Freedom" born.
[Editor's Note: Apocryphal? I don't think so. Check out Ari Fliescher's press briefing March 24, 2003. Fliescher said " He (the president) began with Prime Minister Blair, where the two discussed the ongoing aspects of Operation Iraqi Liberation.]
Supporters of the Iraq war airily dismiss chants of "no blood for oil" as a manifestation of the antiwar crowd's naïveté. They point out that Iraq's government still controls its oil and argue that we could have simply bought it on the open market.
Both of those claims are true on their face, but bringing Iraq's vast oil wealth under the control of foreign multinationals -- with U.S. firms the best positioned to develop it -- was always central to U.S. plans for Iraq. That Iraq's oil will continue to be "owned" by the "Iraqi people" is what differentiates classical 19th-century colonialism practiced by British officers in pith helmets from the neocolonialism the United States perfected in the second half of the 20th century. The newer brand can be summed up like this: We'll respect your sovereignty and abide by your domestic laws -- as long as we can help you write those laws to guarantee our firms' profits.
That's the central tenet of corporate globalization. Trade deals like NAFTA -- and the agreements implemented by the WTO -- are designed to "harmonize" countries' domestic laws regulating everything from capital flow to food safety to the environment in order to make them friendly to international investment. In Iraq, that philosophy was taken to an extreme, at gunpoint and with disastrous consequences.
Oil -- the engine that drives Iraq's potentially rich economy -- was the prize that made it worth a full-scale commitment of American armed forces.
It was a prize that the first oil presidency -- the president, vice president and national security advisor are all former oil execs -- lusted after long before the attacks of 9/11. The Washington Post reported that even as the Bush transition team prepared to take power in 2001, changing Iraq's regime and seizing its oil were already on the table:
Early discussions among the administration's national security "principals" -- Cheney, Powell, Tenet and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice -- and their deputies focused on how to weaken Hussein diplomatically. But Deputy Defense Secretary Wolfowitz proposed sending in the military to seize Iraq's southern oil fields and establish the area as a foothold from which opposition groups could overthrow Hussein.
Former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill told author Ron Suskind that Dick Cheney also supported an invasion of Iraq before Sept. 11, and the New Yorker's Jane Mayer reported on a top secret National Security Council document dating back seven months before the terror attacks that gave some insight into the vice president's thinking:
It directed the N.S.C. staff to cooperate fully with [Cheney's secretive] Energy Task Force as it considered the "melding" of two seemingly unrelated areas of policy: "the review of operational policies towards rogue states," such as Iraq, and "actions regarding the capture of new and existing oil and gas fields."
In her new book, “The Bush Agenda,” Antonia Juhasz detailed how, six months before the invasion, the administration brought in a group of oil executives to advise them on Iraqi oil policy (this occurred as President Bush was telling the American people that he had no intention of going to war). The State Department also set up a consulting group under the "Future of Iraq Project" called the "Oil and Energy Working Group." After some back and forth among the various consultants, a consensus was reached that Iraq's oil "should be opened to international oil companies as quickly as possible after the war."
But they couldn't just say that, or the war's proponents wouldn't be able to sneer at those unruly antiwar types. After the invasion, the administration did a yeoman's job of deflecting the criticism; Bush called Iraq's oil wealth its "patrimony" and promised it would stay in the hands of the Iraqi people. When all of Iraq's state firms were privatized, the administration exempted Iraq's national oil company.
But that was political cover. The administration and the oil execs who consulted on the policy, knowing that fully privatizing Iraq's oil production would give their critics powerful ammunition, took an approach to Iraq's oil that largely flew beneath the media's radar. They decided on writing a new "transitional" oil law that gave foreign companies a far greater cut of the country's oil wealth than they've been able to get anywhere else in the Middle East.
Oily new laws
I recently conducted an interview with Juhasz, who explained the details:
The United States crafted a new oil law for Iraq that provided for production sharing agreements (PSAs), which are contractual terms between a government and a foreign corporation to explore for, produce and market oil. Production sharing agreements are not used by any country in the Middle East or, in fact, by any country that's truly wealthy in oil. They're used to entice investors into an area where the oil is expensive to produce or there isn't a lot of oil.
But Iraq's oil reserves are very easy and cheap to get to. You essentially just stick a pipe in the ground and you get oil. There's absolutely no reason for Iraq to enter into PSAs, but there's every reason for Western oil companies to want them -- they provide the best terms short of full privatization of the oil.
[It's estimated that] Iraq has 80 oil fields. Seventeen of them have been discovered. Under the new oil law -- written into the constitution -- those 17 will be under the control of the Iraqi national oil company.
All undiscovered oil fields are now open to the PSAs. That means, depending on how much oil there is in Iraq, foreign companies will have control over at least 64 percent of Iraq's oil and as much as 84 percent.
PSAs are the worst possible deals for countries; in Latin America some of the worst PSAs gave domestic governments royalties of just one percent of their natural gas revenues.
Iraq's permanent oil law is being written with the help of Bearingpoint Inc. under a contract from USAID. The Virginia-based company (which was KPMG until it changed its name after being embroiled in the Arthur Anderson accounting scandal) prepared a report for the Bush administration in 2003 that concluded "foreign participation [is] the most efficient way of developing the sector," according to Dow Jones. A USAID spokesman said the company "will be providing legal and regulatory advice in drafting the framework of petroleum and other energy-related legislation, including foreign investment."
The principles embedded in the transitional oil law can't be dismissed down the road by Iraq's legislature with a simple vote; they were built into the country's Constitution, a document that Iraqis approved without having a firm grip on its details. (Read more of the interview with Juhasz for some insight into how that happened.)
Chapter 4, Article 109, specifies that all new oil fields will be developed "relying on the most modern techniques of market principles and encouraging investment." While the constitutions of other energy-rich countries lay out principles regarding their resources, Iraq's is unique in specifying that future governments must develop the country's most valuable commodity in tandem with foreign multinationals.
Contrast that with other oil producers; Saudi Arabia's state oil company, Saudi Aramco, has a monopoly on oil production, and it enters into agreements with foreign companies for specific parts of the process. The Saudi government imposes a special tax on foreign energy companies' revenues from those processes and invests the windfall from high oil prices in education and infrastructure.
Under Iraq's new laws, those kinds of policies -- common among oil-producing countries -- are prohibited.
Rewarding the corporations
Saying that Iraq's vast oil reserves -- projected by some analysts to be the largest in the world, greater than Saudi Arabia's -- was the sole motivation for the U.S. invasion of Iraq simplifies a complex issue. Opening Iraq's economy has the potential to reward the Bush administration's corporate allies with enormous windfalls as the country rebuilds after 25 years of war. Iraq has a well-educated work force and is well-positioned on global trade routes. Oil is the cherry on the sundae.
That's why Iraq's new oil laws have to be viewed in a larger context. Gaining control of the bulk of Iraq's oil was a key part of a broader economic invasion of the country, launched by an administration dominated by ideologues who view the agenda of corporate globalization as a vital part of the United States' national, as well as economic, security.
The Coalition Provisional Authority, under L. Paul Bremer (who U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi called the "dictator of Iraq") instituted an infamous set of "100 rules" -- rules that privatized Iraq's state companies, threw open its economy to foreign investment, established a flat tax and instituted a dozen other measures that the big-business right has lobbied for around the world -- largely unsuccessfully -- for decades.
They not only slashed corporate taxes and allowed foreign multinationals to take 100 percent of their profits out of the country, they also gave them -- by law -- the same status as Iraqi firms. That means that all the things countries like Iraq do to direct a portion of their foreign investment income into developing their domestic economies are off the table: Foreign firms can't be asked to invest in the local economy or buy goods from domestic firms or hire a certain number of Iraqi workers or build schools and health clinics or any of the other strategies that are common in poor but resource-rich countries. Saudi Arabia's tax on foreign energy producers would violate Iraqi law.
The same company that's helping draft Iraq's permanent oil law, BearingPoint Inc., planned Iraq's entire economy under a previous contract. All of the Bremer rules worked their way into the Iraqi Constitution as well; Chapter 6, Article 126, specifies that although the rest of the orders issued by the Transitional Authority are canceled, the "100 orders" remain on the books.
None of this is a conspiracy theory, as the war's supporters are wont to claim. All of it is well-documented in the public record. The national security arguments about Saddam Hussein's "WMD" and supposed ties to Al Qaeda -- all disproved -- only took centerstage after the attacks of 9/11. In the decade before, industry groups that are now closely tied to the Bush administration issued a string of position papers and op-eds urging the ouster of Saddam specifically in order to open Iraq's economy, and they openly lobbied for war on those terms.
People like Dick Cheney, George Schultz and Henry Kissinger (L. Paul Bremer was a protégé of Kissinger's) warned that American energy firms were at a competitive disadvantage as long as Saddam Hussein remained in power. While more than a third of Iraq's oil ended up in the United States during the years of sanctions against the Hussein regime, it mostly came through foreign middlemen -- Saddam gave few contracts directly to American firms, and that was intolerable to the U.S. business community.
Historians will debate the precise motivations for the American attack on Iraq for years to come. When official explanations don't stand up to scrutiny, it raises the question, cui bono? -- who benefits? After various architects of the war spent a decade pushing an attack on Iraq in order to open its economy, they came to power, and they did, in fact, invade the country and open its economy. Ultimately, that's the most compelling argument that it was, indeed, an invasion of Iraq's oil-rich economy more than anything else. Follow the money.
Joshua Holland is an AlterNet staff writer.
Don't Mess With Texas ... a note from Michael Moore
Today, the Dixie Chicks release their first album since the Right Wing and country radio tried to destroy their career. Three years ago, on March 10, 2003, Natalie Maines, lead singer for the Dixie Chicks, uttered this one sentence from the concert stage: "Just so you know, we're ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas." It was just 10 days before the start of the Iraq War and, although millions of people throughout America and the world had taken to the streets to protest the potential war, few in positions of notoriety were willing to take a stand. The Dixie Chicks did -- and the Right began a concerted effort to ruin their lives. They were banished from most radio stations, even though they had the number one song on country radio that week ("Travelin' Soldier"). Death threats followed. There were public burnings of their CDs. Bush's backers knew one thing: these three moms from Texas -- the perfect Republican demographic -- had to be stopped. If Bush lost the core support of country music lovers, well, that would be curtains for him. So an organized campaign to silence their voices began. And it almost worked.
Today, May 23, 2006, the Dixie Chicks have returned. They have made a beautiful album. They are pulling no punches and they bravely have remained true to themselves. Pundits are predicting that the damage the Right did to them may be too great for them to recover. Let's prove them wrong.
Let's never let the forces who seek to punish those who speak the truth win out.
Goodbye, Earl ... and goodbye, George!
From the NY Times:
May 21, 2006
The Dixie Chicks: America Catches Up With Them
By JON PARELES
THE DIXIE CHICKS call it "the Incident": the anti-Bush remark that Natalie Maines, their lead singer, made onstage in London in 2003. "Just so you know, we're ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas," said Ms. Maines, a Texan herself.
It led to a partisan firestorm, a radio boycott, death threats and, now, to an album that's anything but repentant: "Taking the Long Way" (Open Wide/Monument/ Columbia). The Dixie Chicks — Ms. Maines, Emily Robison and Martie Maguire — were the top-selling country group of the late 1990's and early 2000's. After country's gatekeepers disowned them over politics, they decided to keep their politics and let country music fend for itself.
The Incident is very much at the center of "Taking the Long Way." The album could have been "way safe and scared," Ms. Maines said. "We could have pandered." They didn't. The new songs are filled with reactions, direct and oblique, to the Incident. There are no apologies.
"We had to make this album," Ms. Maines said. "We could not have gotten past any of this without making this album. Even if nobody ever heard it."
The Dixie Chicks were in New York this month to make media appearances and to perform at the party for this year's Time 100, the magazine's list of influential people, which includes them. Sitting around a dinner table in a Chelsea loft that Ms. Maines owns but hasn't used much — a former gallery with artist friends' paintings parked on the brick walls — the three Dixie Chicks dug into takeout Italian food and sipped red wine. "I've thought about all this way too much," Ms. Maines said.
"Taking the Long Way," due out on Tuesday, is the first Dixie Chicks album on which group members collaborated in writing all the songs. The first single, "Not Ready to Make Nice," declares, "I'm not ready to back down/I'm still mad as hell," and starts with a tolling guitar more suitable for a Metallica dirge than a honky-tonk serenade. The Dixie Chicks and their manager insisted to their record company that "we need to approach everything like not one radio station is going to play one single song," Ms. Maines said. Asked about country radio, she said, "Do you really think we're going to make an album for you and trust the future of our career to people who turned on us in a day?"
Instead the album wraps gleaming California rock around its raw emotions. Although there's plenty of country in the music, "Taking the Long Way" reaches not for the lucrative yet insular country airwaves but for an adult pop mainstream. Meanwhile the core country audience may not be so hostile anymore. The album arrives at a time when approval for President Bush has dropped to as low as 29 percent, in a recent Harris Interactive poll.
On Amazon.com, preorders recently placed "Taking the Long Way" at No. 5 in a Top 10 that also includes albums with antiwar songs by Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, Paul Simon and Pearl Jam.
For those who expect knee-jerk Republicanism from country singers, the Dixie Chicks never fit the stereotype to begin with. "I always knew people thought that about us, and it bugged me," Ms. Maines said. "Because I knew who we were, and I knew who I've been my whole life. So to me it was such a relief for people to know."
The Incident occurred on March 10, 2003, 10 days before the United States invaded Iraq. "It felt pretty trite to me to be doing a show on what was supposed to be the eve before war," Ms. Maines said, "and not say anything about it. At that stage too everyone in Europe, or everyone outside of the U.S., talked about the U.S. like we all thought one way. So it was important for me to let them know that you can't group us all into one."
Her remark was reported in Britain and quickly picked up. Right-wing blogs and talk shows vilified the Dixie Chicks as unpatriotic and worse, and the Incident reached the nightly news. On March 12 a Web site statement from Ms. Maines said: "I feel the president is ignoring the opinion of many in the U.S. and alienating the rest of the world. My comments were made in frustration, and one of the privileges of being an American is you are free to voice your own point of view." On March 14, 2003, she apologized to President Bush for being "disrespectful" to his office, but added, "I just want to see every possible alternative exhausted before children and American soldiers' lives are lost."
At the Time 100 party a few days before this interview, the Dixie Chicks performed "Not Ready to Make Nice." Afterward Ms. Maines recounted, the Fox News commentator Bill O'Reilly — who has regularly denounced her, and whom she pointedly calls "despicable" — rushed over to greet them. "It's like, 'Just want to say that was great!' " Ms. Maines said. " 'I really like that new song.' "
"And I go, 'But two million tops, right?' And he goes, 'What?' And I said, 'I saw your show when you said we wouldn't sell more than two million, tops.' And he was like, 'Oh, ah, well, two million's pretty good these days, right?' And I was just like, 'Right, yeah. You were saying it in a positive way.' "
Ms. Robison interrupted, laughing. "That's what you call a no-spin zone."
"So then he was just backtracking," Ms. Maines continued. "He says: 'We really respect what you did. And we really respect that you stand up for yourself and blah blah blah. We just wish you would say it over here.' And I said, 'I'll say it over here.' "
The complaint that she criticized the president on foreign soil has been a talk-radio talking point. Ms. Maines dismisses it. "It wasn't like we played 20 shows in America and I was saving up this comment for London," she said. "I was in London when the war was about to start. That's where I said it. I would have said it anywhere, because I didn't think that it was a bad thing to say or a controversial thing to say."
(The next day on "The O'Reilly Factor," Mr. O'Reilly acknowledged that Ms. Maines had "chided" him. He mentioned the radio boycott but did not endorse it. "Not Ready to Make Nice" is "a pretty good song," he said. "There's no reason not to play it.")
Ms. Maines's free speech was costly. Country radio stations were bombarded with calls demanding that the Dixie Chicks be dropped from playlists. Within days, songs from the Chicks' 2002 album, "Home," virtually disappeared from American airwaves. They had the No. 1 country single that week with "Travelin' Soldier," which mourns a soldier killed in Vietnam; it plummeted to No. 63.
The Dixie Chicks' two previous albums, "Wide Open Spaces" (1998) and "Fly" (1999), had each been certified "diamond" for shipping more than 10 million copies in the United States. Without airplay, "Home" stalled that March at six million.
"I understand everybody was in a place of fear, and everybody's nerves were on edge, and mothers were sending their sons and daughters off to war, and tensions were high," Ms. Maguire said. "But you know when it continues and continues and people are still mad about it, I think back to those words and think: How is that bad, what she said? It's so harmless. It's so nothing."
The United States concerts on the Dixie Chicks' tour were already sold out. Promoters offered refunds, although there were more requests for new tickets than there were returns. Protesters showed up outside concerts; others burned Dixie Chicks albums.
"We have video footage of this lady at one of the shows protesting, holding her 2-year-old son," Ms. Maines said. The woman commanded her son to shout along with an angry chant. "And I was just like, that's it right there. That's the moment that it's taught. She just taught her 2-year-old how to hate. And that broke my heart."
The band received death threats, including at least one, in Dallas, that the F.B.I. considered credible. A newspaper printed Ms. Maines's home address in Austin, Tex., and she ended up moving first outside the city and then to Los Angeles. On the American tour a handful of boos were drowned out by fervent cheers. Suddenly there was more at stake than toe-tapping tunes.
In a way there always had been. The Dixie Chicks were never a typical country act. They got started in Texas, not Nashville. And their music is built around a country rarity: female instrumentalists. Ms. Robison plays banjo, and Ms. Maguire plays fiddle; they are sisters, and they helped found the Dixie Chicks as a bluegrass band in Dallas in 1989. After Ms. Maines replaced the group's lead singer in 1995, the Dixie Chicks became a voice of assertive, irreverent femininity in mainstream country. They also brought the sound of the banjo, once considered "too country," back to country radio.
While the Dixie Chicks' music was never confrontational, each album grew bolder. In the upbeat "Goodbye Earl," a hit from "Fly," an abused wife murders her husband and gets away with it. The album "Home" — made in Austin and produced by the Dixie Chicks themselves along with Lloyd Maines, Natalie's father — deliberately set aside the slick, electric sound of current country for a largely acoustic, bluegrass-rooted production and some haunted songs.
After their own tour ended — it was the top-grossing country music tour of 2003 — the Dixie Chicks joined the Vote for Change concert series supporting John Kerry. They had babies; Ms. Maguire and Ms. Robison both had twins. And they decided to record their next album in Los Angeles. The producer they chose was Rick Rubin, who has made albums with the Beastie Boys, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Johnny Cash and Shakira. The Incident had sparked Mr. Rubin's interest.
"After the Incident everyone started taking what they said seriously," Mr. Rubin said by telephone from Los Angeles. "To take a band that's popular not for that reason and give them that power seemed very exciting.
"It's the biggest thing that's ever happened to them, and it rattled them and it changed them," he added. "The pain of it is really lingering. I thought they needed to somehow address what happened in a way that was truthful about how they felt, whatever that was. I just wanted it to be an honest reflection of that, but also told in a way that if you didn't know what happened to them and just heard the songs, you might relate to it anyway."
On previous albums the Dixie Chicks wrote the more lighthearted songs and got serious material from other songwriters. This time, Ms. Maines said, "We knew we had things to write about." Mr. Rubin brought in co-writers including Gary Louris, from the Jayhawks, and Dan Wilson, from Semisonic. "They took the fear out of us," said Ms. Maines. "You know, 'You need to say that because that's the truth and that's the way you feel.' "
The studio band included the Chili Peppers' drummer, Chad Smith, and the guitarist Mike Campbell from Tom Petty's Heartbreakers. Mr. Rubin encouraged the Dixie Chicks to experiment on arrangements. With its layered acoustic guitars and elaborate vocal harmonies, "Taking the Long Way" often has more in common with 1970's Fleetwood Mac than with bluegrass or the Southern-rock electric guitars of the Nashville Muzic Mafia behind Gretchen Wilson and Big & Rich. ("Home" included the Dixie Chicks' version of Fleetwood Mac's "Landslide," which became a hit single.)
"I Like It" evolves from stark acoustic guitar to an ebullient Motown beat, while the gorgeous "Lullaby" uses no drums at all, as vocal harmonies cascade amid gently picked strings.
The Dixie Chicks sound determined not to whine on "Taking the Long Way," and they focus on personal reactions, not protests. The album is a defiant autobiography of their career, and "Not Ready to Make Nice" mentions the death threats after the Incident. But until it does, the song could be about the resentment following any breakup or betrayal.
"Lubbock or Leave It," a fierce country-rocker, describes Ms. Maines's Texas hometown as a hypocritical "fool's paradise" with "more churches than trees," blind to its own problems. But there aren't many other specifics on the album. Without the Dixie Chicks' back story, the songs work as meticulous pop vows of loyalty and determination.
Still, the Incident keeps peeking through the pretty arrangements. The countryish mandolin and pedal steel guitar of "Everybody Knows" carry the confession: "All the things I can't erase from my life/Everybody knows." An affectionate ballad, "Easy Silence," praises a companion who provides a refuge when "Anger plays on every station/Answers only make more questions." In the fiddle-topped waltz "Bitter End," one verse mocks fair-weather supporters: "As long as I'm the shiniest star,/Oh there you are." The album's finale, a gospel-soul anthem called "I Hope," insists, "I don't wanna hear nothin' else/About killin' and that it's God's will."
Three years after the Incident the Dixie Chicks insist that it liberated them. "When, no matter what you do, everybody's going to punch holes in it, then you just go and you do what you want," Ms. Maguire said. "And that's the most freeing place to be."
Ms. Maines added: "It will mean a lot to me if people buy the album just sort of out of protest. The naysayers and the people who were so organized to take us down did a really good job. And they succeeded. So it feels good to let the music win out in the end and say, 'Even your hatred can't stop what people want to listen to.' "
A smiling Ms. Maguire had the last word. "See you at the diamond record party," she said.