Saturday, September 09, 2006


U.S. count of Baghdad deaths excludes car bombs, mortar attacks

By Mark Brunswick and Zaineb Obeid
McClatchy Newspapers

BAGHDAD, Iraq - U.S. officials, seeking a way to measure the results of a program aimed at decreasing violence in Baghdad, aren't counting scores of dead killed in car bombings and mortar attacks as victims of the country's sectarian violence.

In a distinction previously undisclosed, U.S. military spokesman Lt. Col. Barry Johnson said Friday that the United States is including in its tabulations of sectarian violence only deaths of individuals killed in drive-by shootings or by torture and execution.

That has allowed U.S. officials to boast that the number of deaths from sectarian violence in Baghdad declined by more than 52 percent in August over July.

But it eliminates from tabulation huge numbers of people whose deaths are certainly part of the ongoing conflict between Sunni and Shiite Muslims. Not included, for example, are scores of people who died in a highly coordinated bombing that leveled an entire apartment building in eastern Baghdad, a stronghold of rebel Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

Johnson declined to provide an actual number for the U.S. tally of August deaths or for July, when the Baghdad city morgue counted a record 1,855 violent deaths.

Violent deaths for August, a morgue official told McClatchy Newspapers on Friday, totaled 1,526, a 17.7 percent decline from July and about the same as died violently in June.

The dispute is an important one. With Baghdad violence reaching record levels in July, U.S. commanders warned that the country was tipping toward civil war. They then ordered 8,000 U.S. troops and 3,000 Iraqis to conduct house-by-house searches of Baghdad's neighborhoods in an effort to root out insurgent gunmen and militia death squads in Operation Together Forward.

The program, which began in earnest Aug. 7, included bringing in thousands of American troops from other parts of Iraq in what was seen by many as a last-ditch effort to head off a civil war that many Iraqis say has already begun.

Within weeks of the kickoff of the Baghdad security plan, the U.S. military's top spokesman, Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell, boasted that the murder rate in Baghdad had fallen by 46 percent and attributed most of the fall to the new security sweeps.

On Thursday, Caldwell revised the figures, posting a statement on the website of the Multi-National Force-Iraq that the murder rate had dropped even more - by 52 percent from July.

That claim was immediately contradicted by the morgue figures, which trickled out in accounts by various news organizations citing unnamed officials.

Johnson said he couldn't comment on morgue figures and declined to release the raw numbers on which Caldwell's claim was based. He said the numbers were classified and that releasing them might help "our enemy" adjust their tactics.

"We attempt to strike the right balance, being as open and transparent as possible without providing information that places our troops or Iraqi civilians at undo risk by the enemy adjusting their tactics for greater impact," he said, in explaining the decision not to release the figures.

Johnson said the numbers more accurately reflect the impact of Operation Together Forward's mission: targeting operations of shadowy sectarian death squads, who often use drive-by shootings, torture and executions as tactics for terror, rather than suicide bombings or rocket or mortar attacks.

He said the figures quoted by Caldwell reflect a "cautious optimism" that the situation is improving in Iraq.

But whether the violence is truly improving is far from clear. The morgue numbers made public this week reflect only deaths in Baghdad and figures compiled by the Ministry of Health for August violent deaths throughout Iraq won't be released until later this month.

Car bombs daily claim tens of victims, and tit-for-tat exchanges of mortar fire are nightly occurrences. Every morning bodies are discovered, many with their hands and feet bound.

The distinction in the way those people die is lost on victims' relatives, some of whom suggest the true numbers are higher.

"If you want the truth, even when we hear or see the scenes of explosions, assassinations, or number of dead on TV, we don't really care anymore, our feelings are dead," said Dhiya Ahmed, whose 17-year-old nephew was killed on Aug. 11. The young man was walking with a friend near his house when gunmen approached and shot them both dead.

"The numbers are not quite true," said Ahmed. "I bet the actual number is much more."

The family's tragedy has been intense. Last year the victim's father was killed in a similar fashion.

Even while touting the successes, Caldwell on Thursday warned on the coalition Web site about possible increases in violence from insurgent and terrorist attacks that he said would be used to divert attention from the Baghdad security initiative.

"It should not be a surprise if we witness brief up ticks in violence in the near future," he wrote.

Government leaders seem to be bracing for more bodies. A meeting was held recently between officials in the Health Ministry to talk about importing refrigerators for the morgue. The idea was to set them up in an empty building nearby.

But the discussion quickly broke down over what kind of freezers they would use: ones with sliding doors or a single large freezing room. More talks are scheduled.

In Baghdad on Friday, three civilians were killed and three others wounded when a bomb targeting the convoy of the Karrada neighborhood police commander exploded. Three police officers also were wounded.

Police also discovered 14 bodies in a western portion of the city.

Drew Brown in Washington contributed to this report.

Friday, September 08, 2006


ABC & Disney- Are You Going to Continue to Insult Us?


Who's Behind "the Path to 9/11?" David "Mahmoud Ahmadinejad" Horowitz. ABC really fucked up this time.


Discover the Secret Right-Wing Network Behind ABC's 9/11 Deception

Less than 72 hours before ABC's "The Path to 9/11" is scheduled to air, the network is suddenly under siege. On Tuesday, ABC was forced to concede that "The Path to 9/11" is "a dramatization, not a documentary." The film deceptively invents scenes to depict former President Bill Clinton's handling of the Al Qaeda threat.

Now, ABC claims to be is editing those false sequences to satisfy critics so the show can go on -- even if it still remains a gross distortion of history. And as it does so, ABC advances the illusion that the deceptive nature of "The Path to 9/11" is an honest mistake committed by a hardworking but admittedly fumbling team of well-intentioned Hollywood professionals who wanted nothing less than to entertain America. But this is another Big Lie.

In fact, "The Path to 9/11" is produced and promoted by a well-honed propaganda operation consisting of a network of little-known right-wingers working from within Hollywood to counter its supposedly liberal bias. This is the network within the ABC network. Its godfather is far right activist David Horowitz, who has worked for more than a decade to establish a right-wing presence in Hollywood and to discredit mainstream film and TV production. On this project, he is working with a secretive evangelical religious right group founded by The Path to 9/11's director David Cunningham that proclaims its goal to "transform Hollywood" in line with its messianic vision.

Before The Path to 9/11 entered the production stage, Disney/ABC contracted David Cunningham as the film's director. Cunningham is no ordinary Hollywood journeyman. He is in fact the son of Loren Cunningham, founder of the right-wing evangelical group Youth With A Mission (YWAM). The young Cunningham helped found an auxiliary of his father's group called The Film Institute (TFI), which, according to its mission statement, is "dedicated to a Godly transformation and revolution TO and THROUGH the Film and Televisionindustry." As part of TFI's long-term strategy, Cunningham helped place interns from Youth With A Mission's in film industry jobs "so that they can begin to impact and transform Hollywood from the inside out," according to a YWAM report.

Last June, Cunningham's TFI announced it was producing its first film, mysteriously titled "Untitled History Project." "TFI's first project is a doozy," a newsletter to YWAM members read. "Simply being referred to as: The Untitled History Project, it is already being called the television event of the decade and not one second has been put to film yet. Talk about great expectations!" (A web edition of the newsletter was mysteriously deleted yesterday but has been cached on Google at the link above).

The following month, on July 28, the New York Post reported that ABC was filming a mini-series "under a shroud of secrecy" about the 9/11 attacks. "At the moment, ABC officials are calling the miniseries 'Untitled Commission Report' and producers refer to it as the 'Untitled History Project,'" the Post noted.

Early on, Cunningham had recruited a young Iranian-American screenwriter named Cyrus Nowrasteh to write the script of his secretive "Untitled" film. Not only is Nowrasteh an outspoken conservative, he is also a fervent member of the emerging network of right-wing people burrowing into the film industry with ulterior sectarian political and religious agendas, like Cunningham.

Nowrasteh's conservatism was on display when he appeared as a featured speaker at the Liberty Film Festival (LFF), an annual event founded in 2004 to premier and promote conservative-themed films supposedly too "politically incorrect" to gain acceptance at mainstream film festivals. This June, while The Path to 9/11 was being filmed, LFF founders Govindini Murty and Jason Apuzzo -- both friends of Nowrasteh -- announced they were "partnering" with right-wing activist David Horowitz. Indeed, the 2006 LFF is listed as "A Program of the David Horowitz Freedom Center."

Since the inauguration of Bill Clinton in 1992, Horowitz has labored to create a network of politically active conservatives in Hollywood. His Hollywood nest centers around his Wednesday Morning Club, a weekly meet-and-greet session for Left Coast conservatives that has been graced with speeches by the likes of Newt Gingrich, Victor Davis Hanson and Christopher Hitchens. The group's headquarters are at the offices of Horowitz's Center for the Study of Popular Culture, a "think tank" bankrolled for years with millions by right-wing sugardaddies like eccentric far right billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife. (Scaife financed the Arkansas Project, a $2.3 million dirty tricks operation that included paying sources for negative stories about Bill Clinton that turned out to be false.)

With the LFF now under Horowitz's control, his political machine began drumming up support for Cunningham and Nowrasteh's "Untitled" project, which finally was revealed in late summer as "The Path to 9/11." Horowitz's PR blitz began with an August 16 interview with Nowrasteh on his FrontPageMag webzine. In the interview, Nowrasteh foreshadowed the film's assault on Clinton's record on fighting terror. "The 9/11 report details the Clinton's administration's response -- or lack of response -- to Al Qaeda and how this emboldened Bin Laden to keep attacking American interests," Nowrasteh told FrontPageMag's Jamie Glazov. "There simply was no response. Nothing."

A week later, ABC hosted LFF co-founder Murty and several other conservative operatives at an advance screening of The Path to 9/11. (While ABC provided 900 DVDs of the film to conservatives, Clinton administration officials and objective reviewers from mainstream outlets were denied them.) Murty returned with a glowing review for FrontPageMag that emphasized the film's partisan nature. "'The Path to 9/11' is one of the best, most intelligent, most pro-American miniseries I've ever seen on TV, and conservatives should support it and promote it as vigorously as possible," Murty wrote. As a result of the special access granted by ABC, Murty's article was the first published review of The Path to 9/11, preceding those by the New York Times and LA Times by more than a week.

Murty followed her review with a blast email to conservative websites such as Liberty Post and Free Republic on September 1 urging their readers to throw their weight behind ABC's mini-series. "Please do everything you can to spread the word about this excellent miniseries," Murty wrote, "so that 'The Path to 9/11' gets the highest ratings possible when it airs on September 10 & 11! If this show gets huge ratings, then ABC will be more likely to produce pro-American movies and TV shows in the future!"

Murty's efforts were supported by Appuzo, who handles LFF's heavily-trafficked blog, Libertas. Appuzo was instrumental in marketing The Path to 9/11 to conservatives, writing in a blog post on September 2, "Make no mistake about what this film does, among other things: it places the question of the Clinton Administration's culpability for the 9/11 attacks front and center... Bravo to Cyrus Nowrasteh and David Cunningham for creating this gritty, stylish and gripping piece of entertainment."

When a group of leading Senate Democrats sent a letter to ABC CEO Robert Iger urging him to cancel The Path to 9/11 because of its glaring factual errors and distortions, Apuzzo launched a retaliatory campaign to paint the Democrats as foes of free speech. "Here at LIBERTAS we urge the public to make noise over this, and to demand that Democrats back down," he wrote on September 7th. "What is at stake is nothing short of the 1st Amendment."

At FrontPageMag, Horowitz singled out Nowrasteh as the victim. "The attacks by former president Bill Clinton, former Clinton Administration officials and Democratic US senators on Cyrus Nowrasteh's ABC mini-series "The Path to 9/11" are easily the gravest and most brazen and damaging governmental attacks on the civil liberties of ordinary Americans since 9/11," Horowitz declared.

Now, as discussion grows over the false character of The Path to 9/11, the right-wing network that brought it to fruition is ratcheting up its PR efforts. Murty will appear tonight on CNN's Glenn Beck show and The Situation Room, according to Libertas in order to respond to "the major disinformation campaign now being run by Democrats to block the truth about what actually happened during the Clinton years."

While this network claims its success and postures as the true victims, the ABC network suffers a PR catastrophe. It's almost as though it was complacent about an attack on its reputation by a band of political terrorists.


ABCNews smears Clintons and supporters over 9/11 show controversy

by John Aravosis

So much for ABCNews claiming they had no role in the entire scandal. Check out ABC's Web site. I guess now we know what ABC means by "reasonably accurate":


Senate Report Finds No Prewar Saddam-al-Qaida Ties


WASHINGTON (Sept. 8) - There's no evidence Saddam Hussein had a relationship with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his Al-Qaida associates, according to a Senate report on prewar intelligence on Iraq. Democrats said the report undercuts President Bush's justification for going to war.

The declassified document being released Friday by the Senate Intelligence Committee also explores the role that inaccurate information supplied by the anti-Saddam exile group the Iraqi National Congress had in the march to war.

The report comes at a time that Bush is emphasizing the need to prevail in Iraq to win the war on terrorism while Democrats are seeking to make that policy an issue in the midterm elections.

It discloses for the first time an October 2005 CIA assessment that prior to the war Saddam's government "did not have a relationship, harbor, or turn a blind eye toward Zarqawi and his associates," according to excerpts of the 400-page report provided by Democrats.

Bush and other administration officials have said that the presence of Zarqawi in Iraq before the war was evidence of a connection between Saddam's government and al-Qaida. Zarqawi was killed by a U.S. airstrike in June this year.

White House press secretary Tony Snow played down the report as "nothing new."

"In 2002 and 2003, members of both parties got a good look at the intelligence we had and they came to the very same conclusions about what was going on," Snow said. That was "one of the reasons you had overwhelming majorities in the United States Senate and the House for taking action against Saddam Hussein," he said.

Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., a member of the committee, said the long-awaited report was "a devastating indictment of the Bush-Cheney administration's unrelenting, misleading and deceptive attempts" to link Saddam to al-Qaida.

The administration, said Sen. John D. Rockefeller, D-W.Va., top Democrat on the committee, "exploited the deep sense of insecurity among Americans in the immediate aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, leading a large majority of Americans to believe - contrary to the intelligence assessments at the time - that Iraq had a role in the 9/11 attacks."

The chairman of the committee, Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., said it has long been known that prewar assessments of Iraq "were a tragic intelligence failure."

But he said the Democratic interpretations expressed in the report "are little more than a vehicle to advance election-year political charges." He said Democrats "continue to use the committee to try and rewrite history, insisting that they were deliberately duped into supporting the overthrow of Saddam Hussein's regime."

The panel report is Phase II of an analysis of prewar intelligence on Iraq. The first phase, issued in July 2004, focused on the CIA's failings in its estimates of Iraq's weapons program.

The second phase has been delayed as Republicans and Democrats fought over what information should be declassified and how much the committee should delve into the question of how policymakers may have manipulated intelligence to make the case for war.

The committee is still considering three other issues as part of its Phase II analysis, including statements of policymakers in the run up to the war.


'Gaza is a jail. Nobody is allowed to leave. We are all starving now'

By Patrick Cockburn in Gaza

Published: 08 September 2006

Gaza is dying. The Israeli siege of the Palestinian enclave is so tight that its people are on the edge of starvation. Here on the shores of the Mediterranean a great tragedy is taking place that is being ignored because the world's attention has been diverted by wars in Lebanon and Iraq.

A whole society is being destroyed. There are 1.5 million Palestinians imprisoned in the most heavily populated area in the world. Israel has stopped all trade. It has even forbidden fishermen to go far from the shore so they wade into the surf to try vainly to catch fish with hand-thrown nets.

Many people are being killed by Israeli incursions that occur every day by land and air. A total of 262 people have been killed and 1,200 wounded, of whom 60 had arms or legs amputated, since 25 June, says Dr Juma al-Saqa, the director of the al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City which is fast running out of medicine. Of these, 64 were children and 26 women. This bloody conflict in Gaza has so far received only a fraction of the attention given by the international media to the war in Lebanon.

It was on 25 June that the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was taken captive and two other soldiers were killed by Palestinian militants who used a tunnel to get out of the Gaza Strip. In the aftermath of this, writes Gideon Levy in the daily Haaretz, the Israeli army "has been rampaging through Gaza - there's no other word to describe it - killing and demolishing, bombing and shelling, indiscriminately". Gaza has essentially been reoccupied since Israeli troops and tanks come and go at will. In the northern district of Shajhayeh they took over several houses last week and stayed five days. By the time they withdrew, 22 Palestinians had been killed, three houses were destroyed and groves of olive, citrus and almond trees had been bulldozed.

Fuad al-Tuba, the 61-year-old farmer who owned a farm here, said: "They even destroyed 22 of my bee-hives and killed four sheep." He pointed sadly to a field, its brown sandy earth churned up by tracks of bulldozers, where the stumps of trees and broken branches with wilting leaves lay in heaps. Near by a yellow car was standing on its nose in the middle of a heap of concrete blocks that had once been a small house.

His son Baher al-Tuba described how for five days Israeli soldiers confined him and his relatives to one room in his house where they survived by drinking water from a fish pond. "Snipers took up positions in the windows and shot at anybody who came near," he said. "They killed one of my neighbours called Fathi Abu Gumbuz who was 56 years old and just went out to get water."

Sometimes the Israeli army gives a warning before a house is destroyed. The sound that Palestinians most dread is an unknown voice on their cell phone saying they have half an hour to leave their home before it is hit by bombs or missiles. There is no appeal.

But it is not the Israeli incursions alone that are destroying Gaza and its people. In the understated prose of a World Bank report published last month, the West Bank and Gaza face "a year of unprecedented economic recession. Real incomes may contract by at least a third in 2006 and poverty to affect close to two thirds of the population." Poverty in this case means a per capita income of under $2 (£1.06) a day.

There are signs of desperation everywhere. Crime is increasing. People do anything to feed their families. Israeli troops entered the Gaza industrial zone to search for tunnels and kicked out the Palestinian police. When the Israelis withdrew they were replaced not by the police but by looters. On one day this week there were three donkey carts removing twisted scrap metal from the remains of factories that once employed thousands.

"It is the worst year for us since 1948 [when Palestinian refugees first poured into Gaza]," says Dr Maged Abu-Ramadan, a former ophthalmologist who is mayor of Gaza City. "Gaza is a jail. Neither people nor goods are allowed to leave it. People are already starving. They try to live on bread and falafel and a few tomatoes and cucumbers they grow themselves."

The few ways that Gazans had of making money have disappeared. Dr Abu-Ramadan says the Israelis "have destroyed 70 per cent of our orange groves in order to create security zones." Carnations and strawberries, two of Gaza's main exports, were thrown away or left to rot. An Israeli air strike destroyed the electric power station so 55 per cent of power was lost. Electricity supply is now becoming almost as intermittent as in Baghdad.

The Israeli assault over the past two months struck a society already hit by the withdrawal of EU subsidies after the election of Hamas as the Palestinian government in March. Israel is withholding taxes owed on goods entering Gaza. Under US pressure, Arab banks abroad will not transfer funds to the government.

Two thirds of people are unemployed and the remaining third who mostly work for the state are not being paid. Gaza is now by far the poorest region on the Mediterranean. Per capita annual income is $700, compared with $20,000 in Israel. Conditions are much worse than in Lebanon where Hizbollah liberally compensates war victims for loss of their houses. If Gaza did not have enough troubles this week there were protest strikes and marches by unpaid soldiers, police and security men. These were organised by Fatah, the movement of the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen, which lost the election to Hamas in January. His supporters marched through the streets waving their Kalashnikovs in the air. "Abu Mazen you are brave," they shouted. "Save us from this disaster." Sour-looking Hamas gunmen kept a low profile during the demonstration but the two sides are not far from fighting it out in the streets.

The Israeli siege and the European boycott are a collective punishment of everybody in Gaza. The gunmen are unlikely to be deterred. In a bed in Shifa Hospital was a sturdy young man called Ala Hejairi with wounds to his neck, legs, chest and stomach. "I was laying an anti-tank mine last week in Shajhayeh when I was hit by fire from an Israeli drone," he said. "I will return to the resistance when I am better. Why should I worry? If I die I will die a martyr and go to paradise."

His father, Adel, said he was proud of what his son had done adding that three of his nephews were already martyrs. He supported the Hamas government: "Arab and Western countries want to destroy this government because it is the government of the resistance."

As the economy collapses there will be many more young men in Gaza willing to take Ala Hejairi's place. Untrained and ill-armed most will be killed. But the destruction of Gaza, now under way, will ensure that no peace is possible in the Middle East for generations to come.

The deadly toll

* After the kidnap of Cpl Gilad Shalit by Palestinians on 25 June, Israel launched a massive offensive and blockade of Gaza under the operation name Summer Rains.

* The Gaza Strip's 1.3 million inhabitants, 33 per cent of whom live in refugee camps, have been under attack for 74 days.

* More than 260 Palestinians, including 64 children and 26 women, have been killed since 25 June. One in five is a child. One Israeli soldier has been killed and 26 have been wounded.

* 1,200 Palestinians have been injured, including up to 60 amputations. A third of victims brought to hospital are children.

* Israeli warplanes have launched more than 250 raids on Gaza, hitting the two power stations and the foreign and Information ministries.

* At least 120 Palestinian structures including houses, workshops and greenhouses have been destroyed and 160 damaged by the Israelis.

* The UN has criticised Israel's bombing, which has caused an estimated $1.8bn in damage to the electricity grid and leaving more than a million people without regular access to drinking water.

* The Israeli human rights group B'Tselem says 76 Palestinians, including 19 children, were killed by Israeli forces in August alone. Evidence shows at least 53 per cent were not participating in hostilities.

* In the latest outbreak of violence, three Palestinians were killed yesterday when Israeli troops raided a West Bank town in search of a wanted militant. Two of those killed were unarmed, according to witnesses.


Keith Olbermann Continues To Shine.....

"Have You No Sense of Decency, Sir?"
By Keith Olbermann
MSNBC Countdown

Tuesday 05 September 2006

It is to our deep national shame-and ultimately it will be to the President's deep personal regret - that he has followed his Secretary of Defense down the path of trying to tie those loyal Americans who disagree with his policies - or even question their effectiveness or execution - to the Nazis of the past, and the al Qaeda of the present.

Today, in the same subtle terms in which Mr. Bush and his colleagues muddied the clear line separating Iraq and 9/11 - without ever actually saying so - the President quoted a purported Osama Bin Laden letter that spoke of launching, "a media campaign to create a wedge between the American people and their government."

Make no mistake here - the intent of that is to get us to confuse the psychotic scheming of an international terrorist, with that familiar bogeyman of the right, the "media."

The President and the Vice President and others have often attacked freedom of speech, and freedom of dissent, and freedom of the press.

Now, Mr. Bush has signaled that his unparalleled and unprincipled attack on reporting has a new and venomous side angle:

The attempt to link, by the simple expediency of one word - "media" - the honest, patriotic, and indeed vital questions and questioning from American reporters, with the evil of Al-Qaeda propaganda.

That linkage is more than just indefensible. It is un-American.

Mr. Bush and his colleagues have led us before to such waters.

We will not drink again.

And the President's re-writing and sanitizing of history, so it fits the expediencies of domestic politics, is just as false, and just as scurrilous.

"In the 1920's a failed Austrian painter published a book in which he explained his intention to build an Aryan super-state in Germany and take revenge on Europe and eradicate the Jews," President Bush said today, "the world ignored Hitler's words, and paid a terrible price."

Whatever the true nature of al Qaeda and other international terrorist threats, to ceaselessly compare them to the Nazi State of Germany serves only to embolden them.

More over, Mr. Bush, you are accomplishing in part what Osama Bin Laden and others seek - a fearful American populace, easily manipulated, and willing to throw away any measure of restraint, any loyalty to our own ideals and freedoms, for the comforting illusion of safety.

It thus becomes necessary to remind the President that his administration's recent Nazi "kick" is an awful and cynical thing.

And it becomes necessary to reach back into our history, for yet another quote, from yet another time and to ask it of Mr. Bush:

"Have you no sense of decency, sir?"


Afghanistan: Bush's "Other War" Still Not Accomplished. Taliban Resurgent, Worst Fighting In Five Years.

Bomber Kills 16, Including Two GIs in Kabul
Attack in Afghanistan Is Worst Since Taliban's Fall

KABUL, Afghanistan (Sept. 8) - A suicide car bomber struck a convoy of U.S. military vehicles Friday in downtown Kabul, killing at least 16 people, including two American soldiers, and wounding 29 others. It was the Afghan capital's deadliest suicide attack since the Taliban's 2001 ouster.

The blast near the U.S. Embassy came as NATO chiefs appealed for member nations to send reinforcements to combat resurgent Taliban militants fanning the deadliest violence in five years. A top British general said the fighting in volatile southern Afghanistan was now more ferocious than in Iraq.

The bomb blew pieces of an American Humvee and U.S. uniforms into trees, which were set ablaze by the explosion. The blast shattered windows throughout downtown, and a cloud of brown smoke climbed hundreds of feet into the sky.

The bombing came three days ahead of the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks and as Afghans remembered Ahmad Shah Massood, the fabled Northern Alliance commander who fought Soviet forces and the Taliban and was assassinated by suspected al-Qaida operatives posing as journalists on Sept. 9, 2001.

The Kabul blast went off about 50 yards from the landmark Massood Square, which leads to the main gate of the heavily fortified U.S. Embassy compound. It dug a 6-foot-wide crater and left body parts, Muslim prayer caps, floppy khaki-colored military hats and shoes scattered on the ground.

President Hamid Karzai condemned the attack, saying, "Today's heinous act of terrorism is against the values of Islam and humanity."

A witness, Najibullah Faizi, said he saw a blue Toyota Corolla driven by a young, heavyset man speed past another car on the inside lane before ramming one of two U.S. Humvees in a convoy.

"I fell to the ground after the blast. American soldiers started shooting at another car nearby. There was smoke and flames everywhere," Faizi, 25, told reporters.

Sixteen people were killed and 29 were wounded, said Ali Shah Paktiawal, criminal director of the Kabul police. Two American soldiers in the vehicle were among those killed and two were among the wounded, said U.S. military spokeswoman Lt. Tamara Lawrence. The attacker also died.

Among the victims was an elderly woman who had been sitting with her granddaughter in a small yard outside a Soviet-era apartment building.

"My mother just went to the park for some fresh air with my daughter when the explosion happened," said the woman's son, Farid Wahidi, 40. "Shrapnel hit her in the chest and killed her."

An Associated Press reporter saw the bodies of two coalition soldiers lying yards from the Humvee. U.S. troops stood guard around the bodies, one of which was slumped in the gutter, the other covered by a plastic sheet.

Dozens of U.S. and British soldiers cordoned off the scene as investigators sifted through the wreckage of the charred military vehicle.

Soldiers retrieved body parts, apparently from the suicide bomber, and placed them into plastic bags for further investigation.

Afghanistan is facing its deadliest spate of violence since U.S.-led forces toppled the hard-line Taliban regime for hosting Osama bin Laden. Hundreds on both sides have been killed each month this year.

A roadside bomb hit an Italian military convoy in western Farah province Friday, wounding four troops, one seriously, NATO and the Italian Defense Ministry said.

Some 20,000 NATO soldiers and a similar number of U.S. forces are in Afghanistan trying to crush an emboldened Taliban insurgency. The heaviest fighting takes place across vast desert plains in southern Helmand and Kandahar provinces, also center of the country's massive opium trade.

"The fighting is extraordinarily intense. The intensity and ferocity of the fighting is far greater than in Iraq on a daily basis," Brig. Ed Butler, the commander of British Forces in Afghanistan, told British ITV news.

He echoed NATO commander Gen. James L. Jones' call Thursday for more troops. Jones, who said the next few weeks would be decisive in the fight against militants, was expected to press officials from the 26 NATO member states for more soldiers and air support at talks being held in Poland on Friday and Saturday.

Butler said more soldiers would allow operations to be carried out faster. "It will continue to be tough and we will continue to take more casualties, but morale is extraordinarily high," he said.

Also Friday, a would-be suicide attacker killed only himself when his bomb-packed car exploded prematurely in Kandahar, said police official Rehmat Ali.

The car was parked on the main road to the Kandahar Airfield, where NATO vehicles, Afghan security forces and government officials regularly pass. None were in the area at the time of the blast.

Afghan security forces, meanwhile, found four bombs near a northern Kabul high school, defusing two and safely detonating the others, said police official Mohammed Arif.

About 70 Taliban fighters fired rockets at a district government headquarters in the central province of Wardak early Friday before police repelled them, said provincial police chief Mahboobullah Amiri.

Eight Taliban were killed and four wounded according to witnesses, Amiri said, but police had retrieved no bodies. One policeman was lightly wounded, and eight militants were arrested.

NATO forces launched airstrikes and artillery and mortar barrages on Taliban positions in Kandahar's Panjwayi district overnight, inflicting an unspecified number of Taliban casualties, said Maj. Scott Lundy, a NATO spokesman. No NATO or Afghan forces were hurt.

Lundy said NATO would press on with Operation Medusa, which began Saturday in Panjwayi, until it had "removed" all the Taliban militants. NATO says it has killed more than 270 insurgents since the offensive began and that hundreds more are massed in the district, west of Kandahar.

Associated Press writers Amir Shah and Matthew Pennington in Kabul and Noor Khan in Kandahar contributed to this report.

9/8/2006 10:58:20


Right Wingers & Bush Try Out New Terminology: Islamo-Fascism. Let Us Define FASCISM

Definitions of Fascism on the Web:

* "A philosophy or system of government that is marked by stringent social and economic control, a strong, centralized government usually headed by a dictator, and often a policy of belligerent nationalism." (From The American Heritage Dictionary)

* The name comes from the Latin fasces – a bundle of rods with a projecting axe, which was the symbol of authority in ancient Rome. The term was applied by Mussolini to his movement after his rise to power in 1922. The Fascists were viciously anti-Communist and anti- liberal and, once in power, relied on an authoritarian state apparatus. They also used emotive slogans and old prejudices (for example, against the Jews) to bolster the leader's strongman appeal. ...

* A social and political ideology with the primary guiding principle that the state or nation is the highest priority, rather than personal or individual freedoms.

* a totalitarian political system led by a single dictator who allows no opposition, promoting an aggressive nationalism and often racism.

* A system of government that promotes extreme nationalism, repression, anticommunism, and is ruled by a dictator.

* A political philosophy, movement, or regime that exalts the nation above the individual; characterized by a centralized government and headed by a dictatorial leader.

* Political philosophy that became predominant in Italy and then Germany during the 1920s and 1930s; attacked weakness of democracy, corruption of capitalism; promised vigorous foreign and military programs; undertook state control of economy to reduce social friction. (p. 870)

* An extreme form of nationalism that played on fears of communism and rejected individual freedom, liberal individualism, democracy, and limitations on the state.

* a political system in which all power of government is vested in a person or group with no other power to balance and limit the activities of the government. Fascist governments are often closely associated with large corporations and sometimes with extreme nationalism and racist activities. Modern fascism is often called "CORPORATISM".

* a political theory advocating an authoritarian hierarchical government (as opposed to democracy or liberalism)

Do these definitions fit Al-Qaeda? Or Bush, Cheney, Limbaugh, Hannity, Coulter, etc?

We report, you decide.


Democratic Leadership Grows Some Balls....

September 7, 2006

Mr. Robert A. Iger
President and CEO
The Walt Disney Company
500 South Buena Vista Street
Burbank CA 91521

Dear Mr. Iger,

We write with serious concerns about the planned upcoming broadcast of The Path to 9/11 mini-series on September 10 and 11. Countless reports from experts on 9/11 who have viewed the program indicate numerous and serious inaccuracies that will undoubtedly serve to misinform the American people about the tragic events surrounding the terrible attacks of that day. Furthermore, the manner in which this program has been developed, funded, and advertised suggests a partisan bent unbecoming of a major company like Disney and a major and well respected news organization like ABC. We therefore urge you to cancel this broadcast to cease Disney’s plans to use it as a teaching tool in schools across America through Scholastic. Presenting such deeply flawed and factually inaccurate misinformation to the American public and to children would be a gross miscarriage of your corporate and civic responsibility to the law, to your shareholders, and to the nation.

The Communications Act of 1934 provides your network with a free broadcast license predicated on the fundamental understanding of your principle obligation to act as a trustee of the public airwaves in serving the public interest. Nowhere is this public interest obligation more apparent than in the duty of broadcasters to serve the civic needs of a democracy by promoting an open and accurate discussion of political ideas and events.

Disney and ABC claim this program to be based on the 9/11 Commission Report and are using that assertion as part of the promotional campaign for it. The 9/11 Commission is the most respected American authority on the 9/11 attacks, and association with it carries a special responsibility. Indeed, the very events themselves on 9/11, so tragic as they were, demand extreme care by any who attempt to use those events as part of an entertainment or educational program. To quote Steve McPhereson, president of ABC Entertainment, “When you take on the responsibility of telling the story behind such an important event, it is absolutely critical that you get it right.”

Unfortunately, it appears Disney and ABC got it totally wrong.

Despite claims by your network’s representatives that The Path to 9/11 is based on the report of the 9/11 Commission, 9/11 Commissioners themselves, as well as other experts on the issues, disagree.

Richard Ben-Veniste, speaking for himself and fellow 9/11 Commissioners who recently viewed the program, said, “As we were watching, we were trying to think how they could have misinterpreted the 9/11 Commission’s findings the way that they had.” [“9/11 Miniseries Is Criticized as Inaccurate and Biased,” New York Times, September 6, 2006]

Richard Clarke, the former counter-terrorism czar, and a national security advisor to ABC has described the program as “deeply flawed” and said of the program’s depiction of a Clinton official hanging up on an intelligence agent, “It’s 180 degrees from what happened.” [“9/11 Miniseries Is Criticized as Inaccurate and Biased,” New York Times, September 6, 2006]

Reports suggest that an FBI agent who worked on 9/11 and served as a consultant to ABC on this program quit halfway through because, “he thought they were making things up.” [MSNBC, September 7, 2006]

Even Thomas Kean, who serves as a paid consultant to the miniseries, has admitted that scenes in the film are fictionalized. [“9/11 Miniseries Is Criticized as Inaccurate and Biased,” New York Times, September 6, 2006]

That Disney would seek to broadcast an admittedly and proven false recounting of the events of 9/11 raises serious questions about the motivations of its creators and those who approved the deeply flawed program. Finally, that Disney plans to air commercial-free a program that reportedly cost it $40 million to produce serves to add fuel to these concerns.

These concerns are made all the more pressing by the political leaning of and the public statements made by the writer/producer of this miniseries, Mr. Cyrus Nowrasteh, in promoting this miniseries across conservative blogs and talk shows.

Frankly, that ABC and Disney would consider airing a program that could be construed as right-wing political propaganda on such a grave and important event involving the security of our nation is a discredit both to the Disney brand and to the legacy of honesty built at ABC by honorable individuals from David Brinkley to Peter Jennings. Furthermore, that Disney would seek to use Scholastic to promote this misguided programming to American children as a substitute for factual information is a disgrace.

As 9/11 Commission member Jamie Gorelick said, “It is critically important to the safety of our nation that our citizens, and particularly our school children, understand what actually happened and why – so that we can proceed from a common understanding of what went wrong and act with unity to make our country safer.”

Should Disney allow this programming to proceed as planned, the factual record, millions of viewers, countless schoolchildren, and the reputation of Disney as a corporation worthy of the trust of the American people and the United States Congress will be deeply damaged. We urge you, after full consideration of the facts, to uphold your responsibilities as a respected member of American society and as a beneficiary of the free use of the public airwaves to cancel this factually inaccurate and deeply misguided program. We look forward to hearing back from you soon.


Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid
Assistant Democratic Leader Dick Durbin
Senator Debbie Stabenow
Senator Charles Schumer
Senator Byron Dorgan


Breaking News: Disney, ABC Cave and Won't Air "Path to 9/11"

Executives at Disney are now saying they will not release a film politicizing 9/11 so close to an election.

Oops my mistake... That is what happened 2 years ago when the Right Wing Corporate Shill Bushevics were complaining about the release of Fahrenheit 9/11.

Here's the Irony, the right wing claimed the FACTS in Fahrenheit 9/11 were NOT true. It turns out every FACT in 9/11 was completely accurate.

Now the left says that the FACTS are not true in "Path to 9/11" and the right's defense is that it is a "fictionalized account" of events that are "essentially accurate" and "based on the 9/11 commission" which again is NOT TRUE.

So apparently, in BIZZARRO WORLD, you can show a "fictionalized account" of events that lay the blame for 9/11 on President Clinton for getting a blowjob and being distracted from fighting terrorism ALL OF WHICH ARE NOT TRUE, OR EVEN FACTUALLY ACCURATE, yet Fahrenheit 9/11 was too hot for Disney to handle, even though it was FACTUALLY ACCURATE.

Welcome to the Corporate Republic of America.


Bush, Corporate Corruption, ABC and "The Path to 9/11": Buzzflash sums it all up for you. It doesn't get explained any better than this.

A License to Lie
Submitted by BuzzFlash on Fri, 09/08/2006 - 6:29am. Editorials


As BuzzFlash readers know by now, the ABC Television Network, owned by entertainment behemoth Disney, has spent $40 million to run a commercial-free, fictionally-"enhanced" account of the events leading up to and surrounding 9/11.

The fiction, by all accounts, comes from fabricated scenes that place much of the blame, were they actually true, for 9/11 on the Clinton Administration. Some of these television "moments" were made up out of whole cloth. In short, like the Bush Administration itself, you won’t be able to tell the truth from the lies.

A project of an avowed right wing shill, the 9/11 "Disney in Wonderland" television drama appears to be a pre-election pay-off to the Bush Administration.

We have been running a slew of stories about this travesty on BuzzFlash this past week, so we won’t get into the details. But we bet our bottom dollar that you won’t see a scene of Bush kicking a CIA briefing officer out of the room after the man gave Bush a document entitled ""Bin Ladin Determined to Strike in US." This occurred on August 6, 2001.

According to a recent book by Ron Suskind, Bush’s reaction to being told that our nation was about to come under likely terrorist attack was to get peevish for having his vacation disrupted. He kicked the briefer out of the room by dismissing him with these words, "'All right, you’ve covered your ass."

Bush then did nothing – absolutely nothing – to attempt to forestall the attack or prevent hijackings by having heightened screening implemented at airports. He did nothing at all, except go back to relax on his month-long vacation in Crawford.

Do you think that will be in the film?

Or how about the scene of Bush cluelessly reading "My Pet Goat" in a classroom at the Brooker Elementary School while America was under attack and people were leaping from the twin towers in New York. Will that be in this piece of Mickey Mouse GOP propaganda?

We somehow doubt it.

Anyone who reads BuzzFlash knows that we never stop raising the alarm about how Republican politics, entertainment, news and corporate profits have morphed, for the most part, into one synergistic pump. All the "news coverage" water, more or less, comes from the same well. Or, perhaps a more apt description, as the ABC-Bushevik vision of 9/11 aptly illustrates, the Republicans and the news and entertainment television companies are on the same script – in this case, literally.

Suffice it to say, ABC would not run a $40 million film that is a hit job on the Democrats – and leaves Bush barely grazed – a few weeks before a national election if it weren’t expecting something in return from the White House.

For-profit companies don’t blow $40 million without advertising revenue out of "goodwill." They want something in return – and you can be sure, if the Republicans maintain control of both houses of Congress, Disney will be well-rewarded by the Bush Administration -– well-rewarded indeed.

We long ago arrived at the point in the world of television that broadcast networks were given the public airwaves basically free of cost – and then abused that privilege by putting profits before service to the public. They are given a license to lie in order to ingratiate themselves with the GOP and reap a return on their political investment by getting legislative and regulatory financial "advantages."

The uproar over the ABC propaganda film – and it is heartening to see the Democrats fighting so aggressively against this shameful act of collusion on the part of ABC – is a symbolic apotheosis of sorts. It represents a recognition that the entire Bush administration is based on rule by a series of mutually complimentary "scripts." All of these scripts, including the ABC 9/11 rewrite of history and Bush’s ongoing "War on Terrorism" mini-series, are part of a larger "narrative" stitched together by Karl Rove.

It’s a narrative that has little to do with reality. It’s storytelling at its best, like reading a nightmarish bedtime tale to a child and then reassuring him or her that all will be well because Daddy is guarding the house against goblins and evil doers with a big gun.

But, needless to say, in a democracy, a major broadcast network, owned by the company that is synonymous with the creation of "branded" fantasy for children, should not be in the business of providing campaign support to a political party through a $40 million television program (for which, we repeat, they will receive no advertising revenue).

Democracy in America is on the endangered species list as long as big media companies are given a license to lie and influence election outcomes, even though we, the public, own the airwaves.



Hypocrisy at ABC...

Eric J. Weiner from Huffpo

Say What You Will About 9/11, But Don't Piss On The Reagans

Here we are a few days before the fifth anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks, and ABC is preparing to air a mini-series purportedly based on the "9/11 Commission Report." But instead of simply focusing on the obvious intelligence failures that led to one of the most disastrous days in American history, this movie dares to look deeper and point a finger where the blame truly lies - at Bill Clinton.

Beautiful. I wonder if ABC can rewind the entire calendar back to 1998 so we can just forget about terrorism altogether and resume the argument over whether fellatio actually constitutes sex.

In case you haven't been paying attention, on Sunday and Monday ABC is airing a program called "The Path to 9/11." It was written and co-produced by Cyrus Nowrasteh, who's apparently buddies with Rush Limbaugh (at least according to the arch conservative radio personality.) Democrats are rightly steamed about several scenes that happen to blame the Clinton administration for not acting against terrorist Osama bin Laden when they had the chance...and also happen to be wrong.

For instance, in one scene CIA operatives are in a position to capture or kill bin Laden but Sandy Berger, Clinton's national security adviser, refuses to give the go-ahead. There's only one problem. It never happened. And in another scene, the so-called "wall" between the FBI and CIA established by the Clinton Justice Department is blamed for the agencies' failure to share critical information on terrorism. It would be a damning accusation if it were true. Unfortunately it isn't, at least according to former Sen. Slade Gordon, a Republican member of the 9/11 Commission.

So let me get this straight. Shortly before the 9/11 attacks President Bush received an intelligence briefing stating in no uncertain terms that Osama bin Laden was planning to attack us. He and his administration did nothing. Yet ABC's comfortable airing a program that says it's Bill Clinton's fault that the World Trade Center collapsed. Who's the network planning to blame for the Iraq quagmire - Kennedy and McNamara?

What's eerie about this controversy is it closely mirrors a similar problem CBS had three years ago with a mini-series it planned to run about former President Ronald Reagan. At the time conservatives and Republicans were in an uproar because the film wasn't entirely sympathetic to the Reagan legacy. Sure it portrayed him as a brilliant politician and deeply moral man who single-handedly ended the Cold War. But it also made him look callous to AIDS patients and the gay community; and it showed him as a hands-off leader and somewhat bumbling as he battled with Alzheimer's disease in his second term.

What did CBS do? Well remember this was 2003, Michael Powell was at the FCC, and Karl Rove still was roaring. So naturally CBS panicked and then caved. At the last minute it shunted off the flick to its sister pay cable outlet Showtime, which has a tiny fraction of CBS's audience. But conservatives still weren't appeased until they had Dan Rather's head on a plate, which happened a little later. And now they can watch Katie Couric and know that they saved the Gipper's legacy from being sullied before a national audience. Good for you guys!

So now what will ABC do with "The Path to 9/11"? I'm betting the network will run it as planned, if for no other reason than as long as Bush is in office the Republicans control the FCC. Besides, there isn't a Democrat in Washington powerful enough to truly frighten a network executive into action.

Therefore, as a response I'm pitching my own idea for a miniseries that I'll gladly give to any enterprising producer. It's loaded with drama and has a guaranteed twist ending. I call it "The Path to Fallujah." Here are the broad strokes:

A few months after the attacks on New York and Washington, the U.S. has the entire world as an ally and is bombing Afghanistan in a feverish search for Osama bin Laden and his followers. Based on all intelligence the terrorist mastermind and numerous other Al Qaeda fighters appear to be trapped in the mountainous Tora Bora region of eastern Afghanistan on the border of Pakistan, our ally in this fight. Still, smoking the terrorists out of their caves (the president's hackneyed words, not mine) remains an extremely tricky proposition given the challenging weather conditions and high altitude, and the enemy's intimate familiarity with the vast, jagged terrain.

And then we receive our national head fake. Suddenly our political leaders stop talking about bin Laden and Al Qaeda and start telling us that we have to immediately deal with the threat of Saddam Hussein and Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. The military buildup to wage war in Iraq begins, and as a result the resources being used in the hunt for bin Laden are diverted from Afghanistan. So the terrorists escape and are able to continue menacing America from hiding.

And how does it all wrap up? Well, Bush's lone ally, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, loses his political support and is forced from office. The rest of the world reverts to hating us. No weapons of mass destruction are found in Iraq. And we're militarily bogged down trying to police a civil war that we triggered. Of course the best part of the movie is the networks can have audience members write their own endings - because the war will be going on for years and years and years!

On second thought, maybe it is easier on the narrative to just blame Bill Clinton. It's worked for the Republicans since 1992. They must know something. Right?


Who the $#*!x?!@ are they kidding?

Everyone is all excited the president admitted we have secret prisons. Now that this administration and its apologists are busy fessing up to stuff they used to deny, claiming credit for stuff they didn't do, laying blame where it doesn't belong and asking us to blindly trust them to get things right while they keep doing exactly what they used to say they weren't doing... all I want to know is: Who do they think they are kidding?

Here's my problem...actually two problems...actually three problems...well more than three, but for now I will only focus on two.....

First off ...just to get this out of the way.... let's look at the "We haven't been attacked in five years" line that is the foundational justification for this.

The WTC was first attacked in 1993. The guys that were responsible were caught and brought to justice. They ain't running around doing crazy shit or inciting crazy muthafuckas to do crazy shit. They are in jail. Done. Case closed. What happened? Nothing. That's right. For the remainder of the Clinton administration they were not able to attack us on US soil. That's a pretty good run. How did the Clinton administration accomplish this feat?

Did they deploy a massive army? No.
Did they invade anybody? No.
Did they blow a hole in the budget? No.
Did they scrap the constitution? No.
Did terrorist attacks around the world dramatically increase? No.
Did they alienate our allies by pursuing a unilateral defense policy? No.
Did they convince congress to provide the executive with extraordinary powers? No.
Maybe it was luck? Doubtful.

Whatever it was they were doing .... it worked for eight years.

The Corrupt Bastards Club takes over and what happens? Less than a year into their first term, we get attacked! Not once, but twice! You probably think I am counting the WTC and Pentagon as separate attacks, right? Surprise! Have you forgotten about the Anthrax Attacks? tsk, tsk. But somehow they are protecting us better than the guys who kept us from being attacked for eight long years? That just doesn't add up. Maybe I am just a poor publick skool produck but where I come from an eight beats a five every time.

When you consider the facts it is clear the previous administration did a better job of protecting us than the current one at a fraction of the cost.

For some reason that simple fact eludes the talking heads on TV. I won't even bother with the attacks overseas... this administration's own data shows the attacks have grown dramatically since we invaded Iraq. So much for "cakewalks", "last throes", and "birth pangs of a new Middle East."

So let's go to problem two. The lack of historical perspective. Sure, we can forget who was running the show when things went bad. We can forget the guy who told us "We know where they[WMD] are," didn't. Now we are supposed to forget this administration repeatedly denied the existence or illegality of the very prisons the President of the United States has just admitted we have. I'm not going to dance through the historical record, you don't need me to help you search Google using the keywords Rice denied secret prisons united states. To quote Rummy..."Goodness Gracious!" Do these people still believe they create their own reality? Golly Gee Whiz! They remind me of the guy who gets caught lying who then says, "Ok. Ok. This time I'll tell you the truth." Oh yeah, that engenders confidence.

Oh, and another thing..... While everyone is focusing on the latest head fake, here's a tidbit that seems to keep falling out of frame: According to Bloomberg News

President George W. Bush's proposal for trying suspected terrorists captured overseas would allow the use of evidence obtained by coercion and let judges bar defendants from hearings where classified evidence is discussed.
I'm not even going to comment on that nonsense except to say that when I started writing this I was going to make some snarky references to how Orwellian this administration's doublethink has become. Between you and me, I think they are way past Orwell... they are positively Kafkaesque.

When I was young, "1984" used to be a book about the future....

Thursday, September 07, 2006


NYT Falsely Claims 9/11 Commission Concluded Lewinsky Distracted Clinton Admin From Terrorism

From the New York Times review of Path to 9/11:

The Sept. 11 commission concluded that the sex scandal distracted the Clinton administration from the terrorist threat.

What the 9/11 Commission actually says (pg. 118):

Everyone involved in the decision had, of course, been aware of President Clinton’s problems. He told them to ignore them. Berger recalled the President saying to him “that they are going to get crap either way, so they should do the right thing.” All his aides testified to us that they based their advice solely on national security considerations. We have found no reason to question their statements.

This is what happens when people learn about the 9/11 Commission by watching Path to 9/11.


ABC's big whine

by Kos

ABC seyz:

"The Path to 9/11? is not a documentary of the events leading to 9/11. It is a dramatization, drawn from a variety of sources including the 9/11 Commission Report, other published materials, and personal interviews. As such, for dramatic and narrative purposes, the movie contains fictionalized scenes, composite and representative characters and dialogue, and time compression. No one has seen the final version of the film, because the editing process is not yet complete, so criticisms of film specifics are premature and irresponsible. The attacks of 9/11 were a pivotal moment in our history, and it is fitting that the debate about the events related to the attacks continue. However, we hope viewers will watch the entire broadcast of the finished film before forming an opinion about it.

"No one has seen it"? Well, "nobody" if you overlook the 900 right-wing media outlets and bloggers which got a copy of the movie.

Criticisms of the film are "premature and irresponsible"? So why did they seed those 900 screeners to right-wing media outlets? Wasn't it to generate discussion and reviews (critiques) of the movie? So it's only "premature and irresponsible" if the reviews aren't glowing hossanas to the movie?

But, you say, ABC says no one has seen the final edit! Okay, but let's not forget that ABC has already reassured its winger supporters that it wouldn't make substantial edits to the film.

The Disney execs met all through the weekend - unheard of in this business - debating what changes would be made and what concessions should be given. Here is what looks to be the conclusion:

- There will be a handful of tweaks made to a few scenes.
- They are minor, and nuance in most cases - a line lift here, a tweak to the edit there.
- There are 900 screeners out there. When this airs this weekend, there will be a number of people who will spend their free evenings looking for these changes and will be hard pressed to identify them. They are that minor.
- The average viewer would not be able to tell the difference between the two versions.
- The message of the Clinton Admin failures remains fully intact

The ABC statement was a joke.

And some memories of Disney, courtesy of Atrios:

Disney may block anti-Bush film
Media company attempts to stop Miramax unit from releasing Michael Moore documentary.


One [Disney] executive told the paper it did not want to be seen taking sides in the election and risk alienating customers of different political views.

"It's not in the interest of any major corporation to be dragged into a highly charged partisan political battle," said the executive, who was not identified by the paper.

"... unless it's on behalf of right-wing ideologues", added the executive.

Update: Great post on the subject from Glenn Greenwald, including this quote from the right-wing WSJ's James Taranto:

"The Clintonites may have a point here. A few years ago, when the shoe was on the other foot, we were happy to see CBS scotch 'The Reagans.'"

And more substantively:

Unlike CBS did for the much less consequential The Reagans, Disney/ABC, at least for now, is refusing to refrain from broadcasting this proaganda. C&L has the video (and transcript) of the statement from Disney/ABC here, in which they attack critics of the film by claiming: "No one has seen the final version of the film–because the editing process is not yet complete, so criticisms of film specifics are premature and irresponsible."

That makes no sense. The only reason anyone knows anything about the content of the film is because they sent it around to the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Hugh Hewitt precisely to induce them to comment (favorably) on it. If it's "premature and irresponsible" to comment on the film because it's not complete yet, why did they send around screeners to (right-wing) commentators? It only became "irresponsible" once the commentary went from drooling partisan praise to critiques of the film's fabrications and inaccuracies.

In addition to the obvious inequities, CBS' quick and complete cave-in to conservative protests over The Regans, set next to ABC's combative attack on critics of this film, tell you all you need to know about the merits of the incessent, petulant complaints from Bush supporters about the "liberal MSM."

Wednesday, September 06, 2006


ABC Tells Fox That Path to 9/11 ‘Is Based Solely and Completely on the 9/11 Commission Report’

Fox News is running a puff piece promoting ABC’s docudrama Path to 9/11.

Former 9/11 Commission Co-Chair Tom Kean — a paid advisor to the film — has been defending its many inaccuracies by saying the film uses fictionalized composites and is based on many sources besides the 9/11 report.

But that’s not what ABC is telling Fox. In a segment this afternoon, Fox reported it was told by ABC producers that the film was “based solely and completely on the 9/11 Commission Report.”

n fact many scenes from the movie are directly contradicted by the 9/11 Commission report.

Write ABC and tell them to tell the truth about 9/11.


FOX REPORTER: It’s called “The Path to 9/11″ and it’s scheduled to air on ABC Sunday and Monday Night without commercial interruption. In the cross hairs are bureaucrats in the Clinton Administration.

[Clip from film]

KEAN: Only by understanding the story of 9/11 will we be able to make the changes, both in Washington in our cities, towns and states — we have to make sure this doesn’t happen again.

FOX REPORTER: Its producers say it is based solely and completely on the 9/11 Commission Report as it follows the footsteps of F.B.I. agent John O’Neal.


ABC Insider Assures Right-Wing Bloggers: ‘The Message of the Clinton Admin Failures Remains Fully Intact’

ABC won’t give President Clinton, Madeleine Albright or Sandy Berger a copy of its 9/11 docudrama, “The Path to 9/11.” But there is virtually nothing about the film ABC won’t share with the right-wing blogosphere.

For example, an ABC insider sent this missive to right-wing blogger Hugh Hewitt about potential edits to the film:

The Disney execs met all through the weekend - unheard of in this business - debating what changes would be made and what concessions should be given. Here is what looks to be the conclusion:

- There will be a handful of tweaks made to a few scenes.
- They are minor, and nuance in most cases - a line lift here, a tweak to the edit there.
- There are 900 screeners out there. When this airs this weekend, there will be a number of people who will spend their free evenings looking for these changes and will be hard pressed to identify them. They are that minor.
- The average viewer would not be able to tell the difference between the two versions.
- The message of the Clinton Admin failures remains fully intact.

Read the full email to Hewitt here.

Right now, former Gov. Tom Kean (R-NJ) — a paid senior advisor to this film — is digging in and defending ABC. If the network is making edits to the film to correct errors, they should tell everyone, not just right-wing bloggers.

The fact that ABC continues to cater to Rush Limbaugh and conservative bloggers, while refusing to show even the most basic courtesy to a former President of the United States, says a lot about what this “docudrama” is really about.


David Horowitz? Or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad?

David Horowitz's Double

By Max Blumenthal at Huffington Post

The Associated Press reported yesterday that David Horowitz's plan to purge liberal professors from America's university system is going ahead at full steam. Here's an excerpt:

LOS ANGELES, California (AP) - David Horowitz Freedom Center President David Horowitz called Tuesday for a purge of liberal and secular teachers from the country's universities, urging students to return to 1950s-style McCarthyism. "Today, students should shout at the president and ask why liberal and secular university lecturers are present in the universities," Horowitz's official organ FrontPageMag quoted him as saying during a meeting with a group of students.

Horowitz complained that reforms in the country's universities were difficult to accomplish and that the educational system had been affected by secularism for the last 40 years. But, he added: "Such a change has begun."

Horowitz, in his role as self-anointed head of his country's conservative Cultural Revolution, wants the authority to make such changes. But his comments Tuesday seemed designed more to encourage hard-line students to begin a pressure campaign on their own, thus forcing universities to oust the teachers.

Update: In reprinting a portion of AP's article on the purge of liberal professors, I mistook David Horowitz for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. I apologize for any confusion I might have caused. Here is the correct AP article:
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) - Iran's hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called Tuesday for a purge of liberal and secular teachers from the country's universities, urging students to return to 1980s-style radicalism.

"Today, students should shout at the president and ask why liberal and secular university lecturers are present in the universities," the official Islamic Republic News Agency quoted Ahmadinejad as saying during a meeting with a group of students.

Ahmadinejad complained that reforms in the country's universities were difficult to accomplish and that the educational system had been affected by secularism for the last 150 years. But, he added: "Such a change has begun."

The president, in his role as head of the country's Council of Cultural Revolution, does have the authority to make such changes. But his comments Tuesday seemed designed more to encourage hard-line students to begin a pressure campaign on their own, thus forcing universities to oust the teachers.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


Bob Kerrey’s response on Bush’s role in 9/11: “Bush’s Straw Man” 11-09-04

by John Amato

Bob Kerrey, who was on the 9/11 Commission joined Paula Zahn right after the ’04 election and was very critical of Bush’s role in the 9/11 attacks that appears to be missing from ABC’s mini series. I would have more info if they sent me the movie to review like they did the right wingers. He said that BushCo repeatedly ignored warnings by the CIA. It was bad enough that they kept these finding to themselves until after the election.

Video-WMP- Video-QT ( Transcript)

KERREY: Well, the 9/11 report says in chapter eight — now that it’s beyond the campaign, so the promise I had to keep this out of the campaign is over.

The 9/11 report in chapter eight says that, in the summer of 2001, the government ignored repeated warnings by the CIA, ignored, and didn’t do anything to harden our border security, didn’t do anything to harden airport country, didn’t do anything to engage local law enforcement, didn’t do anything to round up INS and consular offices and say we have to shut this down, and didn’t warn the American people.

The famous presidential daily briefing on August 6, we say in the report that the briefing officers believed that there was a considerable sense of urgency and it was current. So there was a case to be made that wasn’t made.

ZAHN: But what we continue to hear from this administration is that the threat was much too diffuse. There was no way you could zero in on the fact that al Qaeda was going to use jets as bombs and ram them into buildings.

KERREY: That is a straw man.

The president says, if I had only known that 19 Islamic men would come into the United States of America and on the morning of 11 September hijack four American aircraft, fly two into the World Trade Center, one into the Pentagon, and one into an unknown Pennsylvania that crashed in Shanksville, I would have moved heaven and earth. That’s what he said.

Mr. President, you don’t need to know that. This is an Islamic jihadist movement that has been organized since the early 1990s, declared war on the United States twice, in ‘96 and ‘98. You knew they were in the United States. You were warned by the CIA. You knew in July they were inside the United States. You were told again by briefing officers in August that it was a dire threat.

And what did you do? Nothing, so far as we could see on the 9/11 Commission. Now, that’s in the report. And we took an oath not to talk about it during the campaign, I think correctly so, to increase the capacity of that commission’s report to be heard by the people’s Congress.


New Republican Campaign Ad: From Democratic Underground


Questions for ABC

by Kos

Jennifer Nix has questions about ABC's fictionalized take on 9-11.

- Why, if this is a non-partisan project, is only the Republican co-chair of the 9/11 Commission being asked to front this project?

- Why were many of the principals of this film, like Richard Clarke, not shown relevant scenes from the movie early on, so that research and scenes could be vetted--and corrected, if misrepresented?

- Why did you provide the movie to only right-wing bloggers and mainstream media in your advance outreach for this project, and not to left-wing bloggers and media?

- Was it the network's or the PR firm's idea to reach out in advance only to right-wing blogs, and to exclude left-wing blogs?

- If you were truly intending to provide a non-partisan public service to the American public, why not produce and air a true documentary actually based on the 9/11 Commission Report and vetted by both Democrats and Republicans?

- Did you know about Cyrus Nowrasteh's and David Cunningham's extreme conservative views?

- Will you consider pulling scenes proven to be false?

- Will you consider removing the "based on the 9/11 Commission Report" imprimatur from promotional materials, and from the miniseries itself on the air dates?

- Will you consider giving Richard Clarke and/or prominent Democrats, who disagree with this airbrushing of the 9/11 story, the opportunity to point out the movies flaws on network time?

- Will ABC News report on the controversy over this project in the one-hour news special scheduled to air on September 11, following the movie?

And questions for Tom Kean:

Did you have any reservations about promoting this movie without the Democratic co-chair of your Commission?

- Were you a paid consultant on this project, and if you were, do you have any misgivings at this point about trading in on your Commission role?

- Do you think it's in the best interest of this nation to offer up this docudrama, which directly contradicts your own report in several instances, as being "based on the 9/11 Commission Report?

- Did you recommend to the screenwriter, director and producers that there should be Democratic vetting of this project as well?

- Do you believe that American children should be treated to well-documented and balanced accounts about 9/11, or do you give your blessing to students being served up lesson plans based on this movie, which has been proven to directly contradict your own Commission's findings?

ABC is also pushing this mockumentary hard to high school students.

And Think Progress has an activist center so you can give ABC a piece of your mind.


Global Warming Hoax: Republicans Would Rather Read Michael Crichtons Fiction than True Science. Meanwhile Earth Continues to Heat Up.

Ice bubbles reveal biggest rise in CO2 for 800,000 years
By Steve Connor, Science Editor
Published: 05 September 2006

The rapid rise in greenhouse gases over the past century is unprecedented in at least 800,000 years, according to a study of the oldest Antarctic ice core which highlights the reality of climate change.

Air bubbles trapped in ice for hundreds of thousands of years have revealed that humans are changing the composition of the atmosphere in a manner that has no known natural parallel.

Scientists at the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) in Cambridge have found there have been eight cycles of atmospheric change in the past 800,000 years when carbon dioxide and methane have risen to peak levels.

Each time, the world also experienced the relatively high temperatures associated with warm, inter-glacial periods, which were almost certainly linked with levels of carbon dioxide and possibly methane in the atmosphere.

However, existing levels of carbon dioxide and methane are far higher than anything seen during these earlier warm periods, said Eric Wolff of the BAS.

"Ice cores reveal the Earth's natural climate rhythm over the last 800,000 years. When carbon dioxide changed there was always an accompanying climate change," Dr Wolff said. "Over the past 200 years, human activity has increased carbon dioxide to well outside the natural range and we have no analogue for what will happen next.

"We have a no-analogue situation. We don't have anything in the past that we can measure directly," he added.

The ice core was drilled from a thick area of ice on Antarctica known as Dome C. The core is nearly 3.2km long and reaches to a depth where air bubbles became trapped in ice that formed 800,000 years ago.

"It's from those air bubbles that we know for sure that carbon dioxide has increased by about 35 per cent in the past 200 years. Before that 200 years, which is when man's been influencing the atmosphere, it was pretty steady to within 5 per cent," Dr Wolff said.

The core shows that carbon dioxide was always between 180 parts per million (ppm) and 300 ppm during the 800,000 years. However, now it is 380 ppm. Methane was never higher than 750 parts per billion (ppb) in this timescale, but now it stands at 1,780 ppb.

But the rate of change is even more dramatic, with increases in carbon dioxide never exceeding 30 ppm in 1,000 years -- and yet now carbon dioxide has risen by 30 ppm in the last 17 years.

"The rate of change is probably the most scary thing because it means that the Earth systems can't cope with it," Dr Wolff told the British Association meeting at the University of East Anglia in Norwich.

"On such a crowded planet, we have little capacity to adapt to changes that are much faster than anything in human experience."

Monday, September 04, 2006


Bush Declares Eco-Whistleblower Law Void for EPA Employees

Author: Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility
Published on Sep 4, 2006, 08:40

The Bush administration has declared itself immune from whistleblower protections for federal workers under the Clean Water Act, according to legal documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). As a result of an opinion issued by a unit within the Office of the Attorney General, federal workers will have little protection from official retaliation for reporting water pollution enforcement breakdowns, manipulations of science or cleanup failures.

Citing an "unpublished opinion of the [Attorney General's] Office of Legal Counsel," the Secretary of Labor's Administrative Review Board has ruled federal employees may no longer pursue whistleblower claims under the Clean Water Act. The opinion invoked the ancient doctrine of sovereign immunity which is based on the old English legal maxim that "The King Can Do No Wrong." It is an absolute defense to any legal action unless the "sovereign" consents to be sued.

The opinion and the ruling reverse nearly two decades of precedent. Approximately 170,000 federal employees working within environmental agencies are affected by the loss of whistleblower rights.

"The Bush administration is engineering the stealth repeal of whistleblower protections," stated PEER General Counsel Richard Condit, who had won several of the earlier cases applying environmental whistleblower protections to federal specialists. "The use of an unpublished opinion to change official interpretations is a giant step backward to the days of the secret Star Chamber." PEER ultimately obtained a copy of the opinion under the Freedom of Information Act.

At the same time, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is taking a more extreme position that absolutely no environmental laws protect its employees from reprisal. EPA's stance would place the provisions of all major federal environmental laws, such as the Clean Air Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act, beyond the reach of federal employees seeking legal protection for good faith efforts to enforce or implement the anti-pollution provisions contained within those laws.

These actions arose in the case of Sharyn Erickson, an EPA employee who had reported problems with agency contracts for toxic clean-ups. After conducting a hearing, an administrative law judge called EPA's conduct "reprehensible" and awarded Erickson $225,000 in punitive damages but the Labor Secretary overturned that ruling.

"It is astonishing for the Bush administration to now suddenly claim that it is above the law," said PEER Senior Counsel Paula Dinerstein, who is handling Erickson's appeal of the Labor Secretary's ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit based in Atlanta. "Congress could end this debate by simply declaring that it intends that the whistleblower protections of these anti-pollution laws apply to the federal government."

Congress is now debating Clean Water Act clarifications in the wake of a confusing U.S. Supreme Court decision (Rapanos et ux., et al. v. United States) handed down this June that muddies the extent of federal jurisdiction over wetlands. Unless Congress also resolves the Clean Water Act sovereign immunity question, scores of federal employee whistleblower cases may be dismissed or languish in limbo while the issue is litigated.


Why Won’t Workers Join Unions?

Those of us in the union movement hear this a lot: “If workers really wanted to join unions, they would.”

But at Cingular Wireless operations nationwide, 40,000 workers have joined the Communications Workers of America (CWA) in recent months—18,000 in just the past 12 months—because Cingular respects workers’ rights to make up their own minds about unions without threats and intimidation from the employer.

It’s not because the technicians and call-center workers at Cingular are any different from most U.S. employees. In fact, some 57 million working people say they would join a union if they had a chance, according to a survey from Peter D. Hart Research Associates.

So why don’t more workers join unions?

The answer lies in the nation’s outmoded labor laws. U.S. labor laws, passed in the 1930s, sound on the face of it like a democratic process: They are set up so workers at a jobsite vote in secret ballot elections to determine if there’s enough support to join a union.

But the reality is more complex. The so-called election process (run by the National Labor Relations Board, NLRB) enables employers to routinely harass, intimidate and coerce workers who try to exercise their freedom to form a union at work. By the time they vote in NLRB elections on whether to join a union, many employees have been forced to sit in captive audience meetings where employers paint a picture of unions so evil, they defy even the worst stereotype. The lengthy NLRB election process gives employers lots of time to harass workers—who receive veiled threats of demotion or lousy job assignments or are badgered by supervisors who even are followed to the restroom by their supervisors. Studies by Cornell University Prof. Kate Bronfenbrenner show 78 percent of private-sector employers require supervisors deliver anti-union messages to workers they oversee.

And in many cases, when workers cast their ballots, they fear if they vote in favor of joining a union, they will lose their jobs. It’s illegal, but 25 percent of private-sector employers fire workers who try to form a union. And many more threaten workers with closings, layoffs and outsourcing.

In 2001, when Delta flight attendants began to form a union with the Flight Attendants, the company launched a vicious anti-worker campaign that included renting out movie theaters to hold mandatory meetings full of propaganda against the union. Supervisors intimidated attendants and even wrote people up for talking about the union (which is illegal). Delta sent letters and videos from senior management to the homes of flight attendants implicitly threatening job loss if they formed a union. Management even went so far as to tell the more than 3,000 flight attendants laid off after the Sept. 11, 2001, tragedy they couldn’t vote—when, in fact, they could. Delta flight attendants were not able to overcome these tactics and lost their union election.

So when they were thinking about joining a union, Cingular employees decided to hold what’s called a majority verification process, also known as card-check recognition. Workers who want to have a union sign a card authorizing the union to represent them. If 51 percent of the bargainnig unit wants a union, their employer must honor their choice and bargain with their union. No lengthy process during which employers have time to hassle workers. To further ameliorate employer intimidation, Cingular workers also negotiated a code of conduct with management in which Cingular agreed not to interfere in the process.

Under the original set of U.S. labor laws passed as part of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) in 1935, such employer interference with workers’ freedom to form unions was illegal. But corporate muscle helped push revisions to the nation’s labor laws through Congress, resulting in the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act which legalized much of the harassment employees experience today. In a typical double-speak twist, Big Business at the time argued the NLRA gave unions an unfair advantage in reaching out to workers, and so employers also deserved “free speech” at the workplace—never mind that corporations control the hiring and firing of staff, wages, benefits and job assignments.

Since Taft-Hartley, the trend toward employer harassment has only gotten worse. Lance Compa, senior lecturer at Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations, writes recently in Human Rights and Workers’ Rights in the United States:

In the 1950s, workers who suffered reprisals for exercising the right to freedom of association numbered in the hundreds each year. In 1969, the number was more than 6,000. By the early 2000s, some 20,000 workers each year suffered a reprisal serious enough for the National Labor Relations Board to issue a “back pay” or other remedial order.

Further, the NLRB’s structural and procedural delays greatly benefit the employer––and employers increasingly utilize the NLRB’s systemic delays as a prime management tactic in fighting union organizing, as demonstrated by the sharp rise in unfair labor practice cases over the decades. In 1953, 63 percent of the Board’s caseload consisted of union representation elections, compared with 37 percent unfair labor practice cases. By 2002, that ratio was more than reversed: Twenty percent of NLRB cases involved union representation, compared with 80 percent devoted to unfair labor practices.

“As long as there is no law to protect us better, I don’t think it is likely that I will organize again,” Mario Ramirez said, after the Manhattan sewing shop where he worked closed down in the wake of a 1997 union organizing drive.

Ramirez was among workers profiled in a Human Rights Watch report. Human Rights Watch, an international organization that conducts systematic investigations of human rights abuses in 70 countries, turned its attention to the United States in 2000 and concluded that “freedom of association is a right under severe, often buckling pressure when workers in the United States try to exercise it.”

The 211-page report thoroughly documented the extent to which U.S. labor laws and the NLRB structure and court system that enforce them systematically deny workers the freedom to form unions. In not taking a strong stand in support of workers’ freedom to form unions, and in making it difficult and nearly impossible for them to do so, the United States flies against international standards—those which it presumably would enforce in spreading democracy to other nations.

One of those internationally-agreed upon set of principles is the 1948 U.N. Declaration on Human Rights, which the United States signed. The Declaration recognizes the right to join a union and bargain as a basic human right. Another international agreement, the International Labor Organization’s Declaration on fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, also sets out freedom of association as the first such principle and right. According the Human Rights Watch report, when the United States in 1998 adopted the ILO declaration, then-Labor Secretary Alexis Herman said:

The ILO has underlined and clarified the importance of the fundamental rights of workers in an era of economic globalization…ILO members have accepted the need to be accountable and with this action there will now be a process within the ILO to demonstrate that accountability.

It comes as no surprise that the Bush administration’s disregard for international treaties and agreements carries over to the UN and ILO Declarations. But this administration has not just ignored international norms for workplace rights—it has made destroying unions a top priority. Together with Bush’s anti-worker NLRB appointees, the ability of U.S. workers to freely join unions is being rapidly eroded. Take a look at what’s happened in the past few years:

In forming the Department of Homeland Security, Bush revoked the right of its 180,000 employees to be represented by unions.

In 2005, the NLRB ruled certain newspaper carriers cannot organize.

The NLRB in 2004 took away from graduate employees their right to a federally-protected unionization process. They can join a union, but the employer no longer has to recognize the union.

The NLRB again in 2004 ruled against workers, effectively eliminating the right of temporary agency workers to form a union.

The Bush administration in 2003 denied collective bargaining rights to tens of thousands of newly federalized airport security screeners.

A Bush administration official terminated the collective bargaining rights of more than 1,300 workers at the National Imagery and Mapping Agency in 2003.

Bush in 2002 issued an executive order revoking union representation for workers in the Justice Department’s U.S. attorney’s offices, the Criminal Division, the U.S. National Central Bureau of INTERPOL, the National Drug Intelligence Center and Office of Intelligence Policy and Review.

Meanwhile, 23 states have revoked the right to organize from public employees and as of 2005, 32 million U.S. workers are expressly forbidden to organize. And in a potentially devastating decision, the Bush-packed NLRB could issue rulings in three cases that could alter the definition of supervisor—potentially taking away the federally protected right to form unions from up to 8 million nurses, building trades workers, newspaper and television employees and others.

Clearly, the Bush administration’s opposition to unions is ideological—as is that of so many corporate employers—and not based on rational analyses. Because when it comes to productivity, in nearly all cases studied, union membership increases productivity.

Back at Cingular, management figured out that union representation among its staff did not decrease productivity or harm the bottom line. Instead, in the most recent quarter, Cingular achieved the best financial results in its history.

According to a July 17 Workforce Management article (subscription required), Lew Walker, Cingular vice president of human resources for operations and labor, believes there’s a connection between a union workforce and a better bottom line.

The company remained neutral while a majority of workers authorized union representation by signing cards. The result, according to the company, is engaged employees who are focused on customer service and building the Cingular network rather than nursing grudges against management.

“We view the CWA as a strategic partner,'’ Walker said last month at an event at the Center for American Progress, a Washington, D.C., think tank. “What’s good for Cingular is good for CWA.'’

That attitude undergirds negotiations on wages, benefits and work rules, according to Walker. “They allow a contract to go out that allows us to be competitive,'’ he says of the union.

He emphasized several times the fierce battles that are waged every day between competing wireless carriers. Cingular, with 39,000 employees in unions, is the only one staffed by organized labor.

Rather than the politically impossible task of pushing for repeal of the Taft-Hartley Act, with its myriad of provisions affecting every inch of labor law—from barring supervisory employees from union membership to arcane rules covering secondary boycotts—the union movement is pressing for a new set of labor laws. The Employee Free Choice Act, introduced in the current Congress as S. 842 and H.R. 1696, would do the following:

Allow employees to freely choose whether to form unions by signing cards authorizing union representation.

Provide mediation and arbitration for first-contract disputes.

Establish stronger penalties for violation of employee rights when workers seek to form a union and during first-contract negotiations.

The bill has 216 co-sponsors in the House, two short of the total needed for passage. In the Senate, 43 lawmakers have signed on. (See a list of co-sponsors here.) Even if passed, the Bush administration would veto the bill, making the upcoming elections in 2006 and 2008 all the more critical for working people.

Yet talking with lawmakers around the country about why new labor laws are needed and getting their sign-on has been a critical part of the AFL-CIO union movement’s education process among House and Senate members and their staff—too many of whom, while in general supportive of issues affecting working people, have no idea the amount of harassment workers endure when they seek to form unions.

Sen. Edward Kennedy, long a champion of working people, introduced the legislation in the Senate in 2005 and 2003, along with Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) in the House. In Labor and Employment Relations Association magazine, Kennedy writes:

The time has come to stop the rampant abuse of millions of employees. Workers who are trying to form a union or obtain a first contract face insurmountable battles under current law. The Employee Free Choice Act levels the playing field for these brave workers, and ensures that the law does a better job of protecting their fundamental rights to organize and bargain with their employer. Surely this nation owes its hard-working men and women these opportunities.

Each year, on Dec. 10, the anniversary of the U.N. Declaration on Human Rights, workers and their unions hold events across the nation to remind and educate lawmakers and the public about the need for fair labor laws to ensure working people in this country have the freedom the United States champions in other nations. Last year, 11 Nobel Peace Laureates including The Rev. Desmond Tutu and Lech Walesa, former president of Poland, signed a statement supporting U.S. workers freedom to form unions (seems like just yesterday the United States was urging Poland to support a free trade union movement in Solidarnosc…).

This year, we again will be out on Dec. 10. But all of us in the union movement know that only with broad support can we succeed in ensuring America’s workers have the same options as workers in other democratic countries. AFL-CIO Organizing Director Stewart Acuff succinctly sums up how we must go forward:

Forming coalitions and alliances with like-minded people and organizations, linking local organizing campaigns and workplace fights to our larger national struggle, turning local efforts into human rights campaigns—all…are essential to our ultimate victory.

by Tula Connell

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