Saturday, February 10, 2007
The New York Times today published a front-page story by Michael Gordon which recites administration claims about Iran’s involvement in Iraq “without the slightest questioning, investigation, or presentation of ample counter-evidence.” Greg Mitchell notes, via Glenn Greenwald, that it was Gordon “who, on his own, or with Judith Miller, wrote some of the key, and badly misleading or downright inaccurate, articles about Iraqi WMDs in the run-up to the 2003 invasion.”
The Times story comes even as evidence grows that a “briefing” on Iranian involvement in Iraq that the administration planned to release contained cooked intelligence.
In little noted comments on Feb. 2, National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley acknowledged that the Iran briefing washeld back because it was “overstated” and not “focused on the facts.”
HADLEY: The reason we put the intelligence briefing on hold was really two reasons. One, we thought we’d better get the NIE out so people could see the full context, which you now can. And secondly, quite frankly, we want to make sure that if we put out intelligence, the intelligence community and MNFI can stand behind it, because we are sensitive to try and put out the facts as accurately as we can. …
Q And now [the briefing has] been pushed back. Can we conclude anything from that other than people looked at the intelligence that was set to offered and said, this is not good enough?
MR. HADLEY: No, I wouldn’t –
Q Does that mean there was a willingness to overstate it?
MR. HADLEY: The truth is, quite frankly, we thought the briefing overstated. And we sent it back to get it narrowed and focused on the facts.
But a new report in the National Journal states that it was the intelligence community, not the White House, that demanded the briefing be “scrubbed” of overstated claims:
At least twice in the past month, the White House has delayed a PowerPoint presentation initially prepared by the military to detail evidence of suspected Iranian materiel and financial support for militants in Iraq. The presentation was to have been made at a press conference in Baghdad in the first week of February. Officials have set no new date, but they say it could be any day.
Even as U.S. officials in Baghdad were ready to make the case, administration principals in Washington who were charged with vetting the PowerPoint dossier bowed to pressure from the intelligence community and ordered that it be scrubbed again.
Despite the intelligence community’s intervention, there is still no guarantee that the intel on Iran that is eventually made public will be factual or comprehensive. As yesterday’s report on Douglas Feith reinforced, senior administration officials are perfectly willing to work around intelligence professionals to obtain the “facts” that justify their ideology.
Over the past few weeks, The Los Angeles Times has published several detailed and well-documented articles casting serious doubt on the administration's claims that Iran is fueling the Iraqi insurgency with weapons. A couple of months ago, The Washington Post published a very well-researched article reporting that extensive searches by British military brigades in Southern Iraq -- specifically in the areas where such weapons would almost certainly be transported and maintained -- have turned up nothing. It seemed as though the media was treating the war-inflaming claims of Bush officials against Iran much more skeptically, refusing to simply pass along accusations without first conducting an investigation to determine if those claims were true.
But today, The New York Times does precisely the opposite -- it has published a lengthy, prominent front-page article by Michael Gordon that does nothing, literally, but mindlessly recite administration claims about Iran's weapons-supplying activities without the slightest questioning, investigation, or presentation of ample counter-evidence. The entire article is nothing more than one accusatory claim about Iran after the next, all emanating from the mouths of anonymous military and "intelligence officials" without the slightest verified evidence, and Gordon just mindlessly repeats what he has been told in one provocative paragraph after the next.
Start with the headline: Deadliest Bomb in Iraq is Made by Iran, U.S. Says. That is a proposition that is extremely inflammatory -- it suggests that Iranians bear responsibility for attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq, even though that is a claim for which almost no evidence has been presented and which is very much in dispute. Why should that be the basis for a prominent headline when Gordon's sole basis for it are the uncorroborated assertions of the Bush administration? The very first paragraph following that headline is the most inflammatory:
The most lethal weapon directed against American troops in Iraq is an explosive-packed cylinder that United States intelligence asserts is being supplied by Iran.
Is that extremely provocative claim even true? Gordon never says, and he does not really appear to care. He is in Pravda Spokesman mode throughout the entire article -- offering himself up as a megaphone for administration assertions without the slightest amount of scrutiny, investigation or opposing views.
What is the basis for the entire article? Gordon summarizes it this way:
The assertion of an Iranian role in supplying the device to Shiite militias reflects broad agreement among American intelligence agencies, although officials acknowledge that the picture is not entirely complete.
In interviews, civilian and military officials from a broad range of government agencies provided specific details to support what until now has been a more generally worded claim, in a new National Intelligence Estimate, that Iran is providing “lethal support” to Shiite militants in Iraq.
Every one of Gordon's sources are officials in the Bush administration, and all of them are completely anonymous, so one has no way to assess their interest, perspective, bias, or independence. And Gordon himself does not offer the slightest information to enable the reader to make such determinations, and he himself appears blissfully uninterested in any of that.
This is completely irresponsible journalism. The latest indications, including new revelations over the last few days, lend strong support to the suspicion that the Bush administration is intensifying its preparations for a military confrontation with Iran. The emotional and psychological impact of Gordon's story is glaringly obvious -- if Iranians are purposely supplying Shiite militias with the "most lethal weapon directed against American troops," that obviously will have the effect of heightening anger towards Iranians among Americans and leading them to believe that war against Iran is necessary because they are killing our troops.
Gordon recognizes the high stakes of his story, but naively passes this along:
Any assertion of an Iranian contribution to attacks on Americans in Iraq is both politically and diplomatically volatile. The officials said they were willing to discuss the issue to respond to what they described as an increasingly worrisome threat to American forces in Iraq, and were not trying to lay the basis for an American attack on Iran.
No, perish the thought. But why are these sources granted anonymity? All they are doing is passing along the standard, official line of the Bush administration, supposedly revealing the most inflammatory conclusions that the administration will "unveil" in just a few days. What possible purpose is served by shrouding these sources in anonymity in order to enable them to pass along these controversial claims with the appearance that Gordon has scored some sort of "scoop" by provoking candid "officials" to speak off the record? This is just Bush administration propaganda dressed up as a "leak" to induce Gordon and the NYT to excitedly publish this on their front page. Judy Miller anyone?
Speaking of Judy Miller, the NYT today gives us one paragraph after the next like this one:
The link that American intelligence has drawn to Iran is based on a number of factors, including an analysis of captured devices, examination of debris after attacks, and intelligence on training of Shiite militants in Iran and in Iraq by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and by Hezbollah militants believed to be working at the behest of Tehran. . . .
The information includes interrogation reports from the raids indicating that money and weapons components are being brought into Iraq from across the Iranian border in vehicles that travel at night. One of the detainees has identified an Iranian operative as having supplied two of the bombs. The border crossing at Mehran is identified as a major crossing point for the smuggling of money and weapons for Shiite militants, according to the intelligence.
Has Gordon reviewed any of those devices, seen any of the debris or the reports describing them, spoken to independent experts about the accuracy of the administration's claims, or evaluated the credibility of the original sources for all of this alleged "intelligence"? If he has done any of that, he does not share any of those assessments in his article. He is simply echoing what he has been told, without regard to its persuasive qualities.
In fact, with the exception of one cursory note buried in the middle that the Iranian Government denies supplying Shiite militias with weapons, every paragraph in the article -- every one -- simply echoes accusations by military and other Bush officials that Iran is behind the attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq. If the White House were to prepare one of its famous Position Papers setting forth its case against Iran, it would look exactly like the article Gordon and the NYT just published on behalf of the administration. What is the point of this sort of article? Why would the New York Times just offer itself up again as a mindless vessel for what are clearly war-seeking accusations by the administration? Have they learned nothing?
And all of this is particularly inexcusable in light of the ample analysis and evidence -- already published by the LA Times and Washington Post, among others -- which raise serious questions about the reliability of the administration's accusations against Iran. There is no excuse whatsoever for writing a long, prominent article summarizing the administration's claims without even alluding to that evidence, let alone failing to conduct any investigation to determine the accuracy of the government's statements.
UPDATE: As I noted the other day, The Washington Post's Dan Froomkin published a list of basic journalistic rules for avoiding the media's government-enabling mistakes in Vietnam and Iraq. If the NYT set out to create a textbook article which violates as many of these principles as possible, it would not have been able to surpass the article published today by Gordon. Here are just a few of Froomkin's rules:
You Can’t Be Too Skeptical of Authority
- Don’t assume anything administration officials tell you is true. In fact, you are probably better off assuming anything they tell you is a lie.
- Demand proof for their every assertion. Assume the proof is a lie. Demand that they prove that their proof is accurate.
- Just because they say it, doesn’t mean it should be make the headlines. The absence of supporting evidence for their assertion -- or a preponderance of evidence that contradicts the assertion -- may be more newsworthy than the assertion itself.
- Don’t print anonymous assertions. Demand that sources make themselves accountable for what they insist is true.
Provocation Alone Does Not Justify War
- War is so serious that even proving the existence of a casus belli isn’t enough. Make officials prove to the public that going to war will make things better.
Be Particularly Skeptical of Secrecy
- Don’t assume that these officials, with their access to secret intelligence, know more than you do.
- Alternately, assume that they do indeed know more than you do – and are trying to keep intelligence that would undermine their arguments secret.
Don’t Just Give Voice to the Administration Officials
- Give voice to the skeptics; don’t marginalize and mock them.
- Listen to and quote the people who got it right last time: The intelligence officials, state department officials, war-college instructors and many others who predicted the problem we are now facing, but who were largely ignored.
Is there a single journalistic principle which this article did not violate?
UPDATE II: As Greg Mitchell recalls in an article in Editor & Publisher, it was Michael Gordon "who, on his own, or with Judith Miller, wrote some of the key, and badly misleading or downright inaccurate, articles about Iraqi WMDs in the run-up to the 2003 invasion," and Gordon himself "wrote with Miller the paper's most widely criticized -- even by the Times itself -- WMD story of all, the Sept. 8, 2002, 'aluminum tubes' story that proved so influential, especially since the administration trumpeted it on TV talk shows" (h/t Zack).
The fundamental flaws in this article are as glaring as they are grotesque. Given the very ignominious history of Gordon and the NYT concerning the administration's war-seeking claims, how can this article possibly have been published?
Friday, February 09, 2007
That this is even notable at all, or that it has to be said, is by itself significant:
A top Pentagon leader weighed in yesterday on the war debate and appeared to undercut the argument advanced by the White House and many GOP lawmakers that a congressional debate challenging the Bush plan would hurt troop morale.
"There's no doubt in my mind that the dialogue here in Washington strengthens our democracy. Period," Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified before the House Armed Services Committee. He added that potential enemies may take some comfort from the rancor but said they "don't have a clue how democracy works."
It is not, of course, only "potential enemies" who "don't have a clue how democracy works." The same can be said for Dick Cheney, Joe Lieberman and their most extremist war supporters who spent the last month insisting that debates over the Leader's decisions must be stifled and that those who express opposition are helping the Enemy. The spectacle of watching American political leaders and their loyal pundit-allies instruct Americans of their duties to "be quiet for six or nine months" with regard to the Leader's actions is almost too extreme for words.
One of the more egregious examples of not "having a clue of how democracy works" -- independent through related -- is documented here by Isaac Chotiner, who highlights remarks by former federal prosecutor and current National Review commentator Andrew McCarthy, in which McCarthy accuses pro bono lawyers for Guantanamo detainees of "volunteering to help the enemy use  our courts as a weapon of war against us" (and, just incidentally, someone should ask former prosecutor Rudy Giluiani his view of that particular controversy). That was preceded by The Corner's Clifford May's dissemination of absolutely reckless and fact-free innuendo that these lawyers are receiving secret payments from Saudi Arabia and other Terrorists helpers.
It is only those who are losing a debate who have a desire to suppress it. And it is only those who are acting illegally who are desperate to avoid judicial scrutiny of their behavior. In 2002, attempts to equate scrutiny and criticism of the Bush movement with pro-Terrorism and anti-Americanism was a potent and effective tool of intimidation. But now, it just seems desperate, the last gasps of a political movement which is dying and which knows it is, and whose only hope is to forcibly coerce acceptance of their views -- and foreclose examination of them -- by insisting that open debates are themselves improper and therefore must cease at once.
That rationale is the hallmark of every petty tyrant, and (as surging anti-war sentiment and the last election demonstrate) most Americans, when freed from exploitive fear-mongering, instinctively recoil from it. When even the Bush administration's top General publicly repudiates their principal weapon of coercion, it is a clear sign of how weakened and discredited they have become.
UPDATE: I'm reminded in comments that Anonymous Liberal has written the definitive post on the matter of the Guantanamo lawyers, the threats directed at them by Bush Pentagon official Cully Stimson, and the smearing of them by National Review Cornerites, including (needless to say) Mark Steyn.
Veteran Iowa editor wants outsiders, not people in the news industry, to examine why the press is reluctant to challenge authority at times when the country most needs a vigorous, questioning fourth estate.
By Gilbert Cranberg
As the war in Iraq nears its fourth anniversary, and with no end in sight, Americans are owed explanations. The Senate Intelligence Committee has promised a report on whether the Bush administration misrepresented intelligence to justify the war against Iraq. An explanation is due also for how the U.S. press helped pave the way for war. An independent and thorough inquiry of pre-war press coverage would be a public service. Not least of the beneficiaries would be the press itself, which could be helped to understand its behavior and avoid a replay.
Better a study by outsiders than by insiders. Besides, journalism groups show no appetite for self-examination. Nor would a study by the press about the press have credibility. Now and then a news organization has published a mea culpa about its Iraq coverage, but isolated admissions of error are no substitute for comprehensive study.
The fundamental question: Why did the press as a whole fail to question sufficiently the administration’s case for war?
Q. Why did the Knight Ridder Washington Bureau’s “against-the grain reporting” during the build-up to war receive such “disappointing play,” in the words of its former bureau chief?
Q. Why did the press generally fail to pay more attention to the bureau’s ground-breaking coverage?
Q. Why, on the eve of war, did the Washington Post’s executive editor reject a story by Walter Pincus, its experienced and knowledgeable national security reporter, that questioned administration claims of hidden Iraqi weapons and why, when the editor reconsidered, the story ran on Page 17?
Q. Why did the Post, to the “dismay” of the paper’s ombudsman, bury in the back pages or miss stories that challenged the administration’s version of events? Or, as Pincus complained, why did Post editors go “through a whole phase in which they didn’t put things on the front page that would make a difference” while, from August 2002 to the start of the war in March 2003, did the Post, according to its press critic, Howard Kurtz, publish “more than 140 front-page stories that focused heavily on administration rhetoric against Iraq”?
Q. Why did Michael Massing’s critique of Iraq-war coverage, in the New York Review of Books, conclude that “The Post was not alone. The nearer the war drew, and the more determined the administration seemed to wage it, the less editors were willing to ask tough questions. The occasional critical stories that did appear were…tucked well out of sight.”
Q. Why did the New York Times and others parrot administration claims about Iraq’s acquisition of aluminum tubes for nuclear weapons when independent experts were readily available to debunk the claims?
Q. Why did the Times’s Thomas E. Friedman and other foreign affairs specialists, who should have known better, join the “let’s-go-to-war” chorus?
Q. Why was a report by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace accusing the administration of misusing intelligence by misrepresenting and distorting it given two paragraphs in the Times and 700 words in the Post (but deep inside), with neither story citing the report’s reference to distorted and misrepresented intelligence?
Q. Why did Colin Powell’s pivotal presentation to the United Nations receive immediate and overwhelming press approval despite its evident weaknesses and even fabrications?
Q. Why did the British press, unlike its American counterpart, critically dissect the speech and regard it with scorn?
Q. Why did the Associated Press wait six months, when the body count began to rise, to distribute a major piece by AP’s Charles Hanley challenging Powell’s evidence and why did Hanley say how frustrating it had been until then to break through the self-censorship imposed by his editors on negative news about Iraq?
Now is an opportune time for behavioral experts to study these and related aspects of Iraq war coverage while memories are fresh and the actors are readily available. A team of social scientists needs to be convened to design a study and probe the gate-keepers who determined what Americans were told about the lead-up to the Iraq war.
The shortcomings of Iraq coverage were not an aberration. Similar failure is a recurrent problem in times of national stress. The press was shamefully silent, for instance, when American citizens were removed from their homes and incarcerated solely because of their ancestry during World War II. Many in the press were cowed during McCarthyism’s heyday in the 1950s. Nor did the press dispute the case for the fact-challenged Gulf of Tonkin resolution that led to a greatly enlarged Vietnam war.
The press response to the build-up to the Iraq war simply is the latest manifestation of an underlying and ongoing reluctance to dissent from authority and prevailing opinion when emotions run high, especially on matters of war and peace, when the country most needs a questioning, vigorous press.
Foundations that invested in research into how and why the press behaved as it did on Iraq would make a profoundly important contribution.
Testifying about the report before the Senate Armed Services Committee today, Gimble said Feith’s office “did not provide the most accurate analysis of intelligence to senior decision makers” at a time when the White House was making the public case for war at home.
While Feith’s “intelligence” analysis was presented to the White House, Gimble explained that he was unable to determine to what extent the White House used Feith’s false reports. Under questioning from Sen. John Warner (R-VA), Gimble revealed that White House attorneys refused to allow National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley to be interviewed:
GIMBLE: Senator, we requested an interview with Mr. Hadley. The lawyers at the National Security Council did not let us interview him. So we requested and were unable to. Frankly, he is not a member of our department, so we don’t have any authority to interview…
WARNER: I understand that. But the simple fact is you made a request, for whatever reason. On counsel’s advice, he declined.
At the conclusion of the hearing, Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) pledged that his committee would pursue both Hadley and Scooter Libby. “We will be talking to witnesses who presented [the Feith analysis] to the Vice President’s Office and to the National Security Council.” Addressing Gimble, Levin said, “So if you would supply us with the names of the people from the Feith office that did make this presentation, we will be interviewing those folks.” Stay tuned.
Yesterday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that she doesn't remember if she saw a fax detailing an Iranian diplomatic overture in 2003. Today, Michael Hirsch of Newsweek has something that should jog her memory: the fax itself.
Through a Swiss intermediary, the Iranian regime proposed the basis for comprehensive discussions. If accepted, it would have meant the Iranians would have put on the table ending its support for Palestinian terrorist groups; "action" on transforming Hezbollah into a "mere political organization within Lebanon"; "transparency" that Iran isn't trying to develop WMD; and "enhanced action against Al Qaida members in Iran." In return, the U.S. would ultimately lift all sanctions on Iran; ensure "full access" to nuclear technology (!); and provide, in general, a "halt in hostile U.S. behavior," to include action against "anti-Iranian" terrorist groups. It's of course worth noting that the sincerity of the offer is not something to accept at face value. But that would have been the point: to create a diplomatic mechanism to find out how serious the Iranians actually were about reaching a modus vivendi with the U.S., and to determine if the price for that was acceptable. (Giving Iran access to nuclear technology, for instance, sounds like a pretty bad idea.) The alternative path, however, appears to be clear: an escalating series of tensions with an Iran that's only grown more anti-American in the intervening three and a half years. If yesterday's hearing is any indication, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee intends to explore this question in the days ahead -- and maybe now Secretary Rice will have a clearer memory.
Through a Swiss intermediary, the Iranian regime proposed the basis for comprehensive discussions. If accepted, it would have meant the Iranians would have put on the table ending its support for Palestinian terrorist groups; "action" on transforming Hezbollah into a "mere political organization within Lebanon"; "transparency" that Iran isn't trying to develop WMD; and "enhanced action against Al Qaida members in Iran." In return, the U.S. would ultimately lift all sanctions on Iran; ensure "full access" to nuclear technology (!); and provide, in general, a "halt in hostile U.S. behavior," to include action against "anti-Iranian" terrorist groups.
It's of course worth noting that the sincerity of the offer is not something to accept at face value. But that would have been the point: to create a diplomatic mechanism to find out how serious the Iranians actually were about reaching a modus vivendi with the U.S., and to determine if the price for that was acceptable. (Giving Iran access to nuclear technology, for instance, sounds like a pretty bad idea.) The alternative path, however, appears to be clear: an escalating series of tensions with an Iran that's only grown more anti-American in the intervening three and a half years. If yesterday's hearing is any indication, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee intends to explore this question in the days ahead -- and maybe now Secretary Rice will have a clearer memory.
Thursday, February 08, 2007
Hypocrisy! Right Wing Echo Chamber Totally Full of Shit.
|Matt Browner Hamlin|| |
Updated below...and again...and again
The rightwing blogosphere has tried to set the bar for what disqualifies a blogger from working on a political campaign so low that they've set themselves up to knock almost every single Republican staffer out of contention for their views. While attention is being brought on the Edwards campaign has started to gain traction, I have to wonder why Republicans are given such a free pass on their personnel decisions.As the likes of Michelle Malkin and Dan Riehl think that that low-mid level personnel decisions that campaigns make are fair game for unfair public scrutiny, it's time that we gave a serious look at some of the key figures that are working for leading Republican presidential candidates.
John McCain employs blogger Patrick Hynes of Ankle Biting Pundits. As a McCain employee, Hynes began attacking McCain's rivals without disclosing his ties to the McCain campaign, a deep insight into Hynes' weak ethical compass. Hynes was also levying false charges against liberal bloggers for being paid shills during the net neutrality fight.
Miner: Is it fair to call America a "Christian nation"?Hyne's keeps dubious company - his co-blogger titled a post "Barbara Boxer: Arrogant *itch." For those wondering, the content of the post makes it clear that the * signifies a "B."
Hynes: Yes. America is a Christian nation. As I write in my book, "Is America a Christian nation? Of course it is. Don't be ridiculous. What a stupid question.
McCain also hired Trey Walker, a man who's been investigated for election fraud and is a big fan of the attack smears on McCain during the 2000 primary. McCain's staffing policy seems to be to hire the dirtiest operatives with the most sordid history and bring their skills to bear for him.
Honesty was never one of Patrick Ruffini's strengths, as he was a misleading source for the Washington Post during his time as an operative for the RNC.
Much of the outrage surrounding the Edwards' campaigns hiring of Amanda Marcotte of Pandagon and Melissa of Shakespeare's Sister derives from the complaints of Bill Donohue of the Catholic League, a man who famously uttered this:
"We've already won. Who really cares what Hollywood thinks? All these hacks come out there. Hollywood is controlled by secular Jews who hate Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular. It's not a secret, okay? And I'm not afraid to say it. ... Hollywood likes anal sex. They like to see the public square without nativity scenes. I like families. I like children. They like abortions. I believe in traditional values and restraint. They believe in libertinism. We have nothing in common. But you know what? The culture war has been ongoing for a long time. Their side has lost." [MSNBC, Scarborough Country, 12/8/04]Donohue's own moral compass is something to be shunned, as we see in this defense of sexual predation.
As for the alleged abuse, it's time to ask some tough questions. First, there is a huge difference between being groped and being raped, so which was it Mr. Foley? Second, why didn't you just smack the clergyman in the face? After all, most 15-year-old teenage boys wouldn't allow themselves to be molested. So why did you?"But the controversy isn't just about the hypocritical blow-hards who have promoted it to the pages of the New York Times. It isn't just about internet politics either.
McCain's campaign manager, Terry Nelson, is one of the most dubious characters in the Republican Party. Nelson signed off on the race-baiting ad attack Harold Ford, he's been implicated in conspiracy and money-laundering charges involving Tom DeLay, and he was connected to the illegal Republican New Hampshire phone jamming scam that sent James Tobin to jail. Where is the outrage about McCain hiring such a dirty operative to run his campaign? Why is McCain given license to promote the same dirty tactics that his staff has employed in the past, including against him?
Republicans clearly want to keep the bar for termination low to pressure Democratic candidates into using Republican metrics for civility (a standard they themselves clearly fail) as the basis for staff policy. What they fail to understand is that while Democrats may hire some opinionated bloggers, Republicans are hiring criminals, hate-mongers, and hypocrites. They put this standard in place, but failed to realize the sheer volume of low-hanging fruit that will be rightly plucked by liberal bloggers through legions of posts like this one.
I thought I'd throw in a few more links to help show the scale of outrage about the hypocrisy Edwards' staffers are being subjected to by the right wing media.
Cliff Schecter, writing at The Real McCain, takes on the paralyzing hypocrisy of attacking Marcotte and McEwan while giving McCain's Nelson a free pass.
ABC News blogger Terry Moran tries to spin the story according to the Right's narrative and his commenters eat him alive. Dare I say rightly so. Gavin of Sadly, No! has more on Moran's horrendous coverage of the Marcotte/McEwan story.
Liza Sabater has by far the most comprehensive tally of all the liberal blogs that have written about this story today, as well as great action items to move forward with.
Jet at Bring It On! reminds us that if the Catholic Church expects the rest of us to let them handle the behavior of their priests, they ought to let the Edwards campaign make their own personnel decisions.
For those with a subscription, The New Republic did a close analysis of McCain's scoundrel Terry Nelson just a few days ago. Not surprisingly, no major media outlets picked it up.
Bill Scher of Liberal Oasis documents the affliction of "Conservative Correctness" and explains why the Marcotte/McEwan episode cannot become a victory for rightwing intimidation tactics. Scher went to college with Michelle Malkin and he offers unique insights into her, um, unique mindset.
Jeffrey Feldman of Frameshop makes a convincing case that Catholic League president Bill Donohue violated federal tax code for 501(c)(3) non-profits by actively advocating against a presidential campaign and for the firing of specific members of that campaign. Repeat: not only was Donohue grossly hypocritical, he likely broke the law.
WASHINGTON, Feb. 7 — A bipartisan federal commission warned on Wednesday that the Bush administration, in its zeal to secure the nation’s borders and stem the tide of illegal immigrants, may be leaving asylum seekers vulnerable to deportation and harsh treatment.
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, which Congress asked to assess asylum regulations, found two years ago that some immigration officials were improperly processing asylum seekers for deportation. The commission, which also found that asylum seekers were often strip-searched, shackled and held in jails, called for safeguards in the system of speedy deportations known as expedited removal, to protect those fleeing persecution.
But the commission, which will issue its new findings on Thursday, says officials have failed to put into effect most of its 2005 recommendations. It says the failures come even as the Bush administration has significantly expanded efforts to detain and swiftly deport illegal immigrants from countries other than Mexico without letting them make their case before an immigration judge.
“We are clearly concerned as to whether, in addition to prioritizing secure borders, the government is ensuring fair and humane treatment of legitimate asylum seekers,” said Felice D. Gaer, who is head of the commission, which was created by Congress in 1998. “We are really quite disappointed and dismayed by the lack of a response.”
Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, the Connecticut independent who is chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, also expressed concern about the slow pace of change. Mr. Lieberman said he planned to introduce legislation by March to require the Department of Homeland Security to adopt several of the commission’s main recommendations.
Officials from the Homeland Security Department emphasized that they had put into effect some recommendations, including naming the first senior adviser for refugee and asylum policy and updating training for immigration officers, detention workers and other personnel.
But they said many other recommendations were impractical given the challenges in trying to stop illegal immigrants from pouring into the country.
“We have taken their report seriously,” said Stewart A. Baker, an assistant secretary of homeland security. “But some of their recommendations just weren’t practical given the enormous flood of illegal immigrants that we deal with every day.”
Mr. Baker said the department looked forward to working with Mr. Lieberman and would review his measure after it had been introduced.
In its report, the commission praised the Justice Department, which oversees immigration courts, for training immigration judges on asylum law, expanding the number of legal orientation programs for detained immigrants and trying to improve immigration court decisions.
But the commission was sharply critical of the Department of Homeland Security, whose border agents and immigration officers interview asylum seekers at airports or land crossings.
Domestic security regulations require that immigration officials refer an illegal immigrant for what is known as a credible-fear interview if the immigrant indicates “an intention to apply for asylum, a fear of torture or a fear of return to his or her country.” The asylum seeker is then removed from the expedited removal process so an immigration judge can review the claim.
But the commission found no evidence that domestic security officials had taken steps to ensure that agents advised immigrants to ask for such protection or to ensure that agents did not deport immigrants who express fear of deportation.
The commission also found no indication that the Department of Homeland Security had taken steps to ensure that asylum seekers were not treated like criminals while their claims were being evaluated. Mr. Stewart said that it would be too burdensome to create a separate detention program for asylum seekers and that such a system might create incentives for people to claim that they were fleeing persecution.
Eleanor Acer of Human Rights First said the failure to address such problems promptly had “real human consequences.”
“Asylum seekers continue to be jailed in these prisonlike facilities for months and, in some cases, for years,” Ms. Acer said.
The commission also expressed concern that officials chose to expand the expedited removal process before addressing the problems in the handling of asylum seekers.
Wednesday, February 07, 2007
Yesterday Federal Reserve Chairman, Ben Bernanke, stated that the US would be better off not imposing trade barriers. In other news: water still wet. But there was something of a dry spot in Bernanke's talk, a little cloud of unease scutting across the blue sky of the billions corporations are raking in. An economic mystery that worried the top money guy.
Income inequality has increased in the United States over the last three decades, Bernanke said. Income at the 90th percentile of wage earners -- those close to the top -- rose 34 percent between 1979 and 2006, while the wage at the 10th percentile rose a scant 4 percent in that period, he said.
The percentage of total income for the top 1% doubled over that period, going from 8% to 16%, and making it a larger portion of overall income than in any period this side of the Great Depression. This inequity is becoming so severe, that the folks in charge of the economy are now worried that it's making our economy inflexible and leading to instability. Of course, Bernanke is right on top of the causes for this rising inequity.
The chairman, now in his second year, was careful to avoid prescriptions for solving income inequality or concluding that its causes result from any one problem such as executive pay, which he discussed.
"Understanding the sources of the long-term tendency toward greater inequality remains a major challenge for economists and policy makers," Bernanke said.
Um, okay. So the chairman of the Federal Reserve is willing to point to income inequity as a rising problem for the economy, and recognizes this as a concern for more than three quarters of Americans. However, he just can't put his finger on the reason for the rising inequality. Since the nation's chief economic detective seems to be baffled by this mystery, let's pull out the magnifying glass, clamp on a deerstalker cap, and see what evidence we can discover.
Hmm, look over here! It seems that corporations are paying less in salary to workers than every before.
Wages and salaries as a share of the cash corporations generated by producing a good or a service stood at 50.2 percent last year, the lowest in the post-war period.
And over here! Just look at this. Americans are working harder, and being more productive, but they're seeing no reward for their effort.
The U.S. labor force is working smarter and faster with the help of technology, keeping output per hour at a 3 percent average growth rate during the expansion which began in the final quarter of 2001. Still, the productivity gains are not showing up in bigger paychecks.
And what's that behind this huge sack of money? Could it be rising CEO pay?
In the 1970s, corporate chief executives earned 30 times as much as the average worker. Ten years ago, CEO compensation was 116 times the average. CEOs now earn close to 300 times as much as the average worker.
Hmmm, baffling. We've got flat rates of pay for most workers even though they're putting in more effort and productivity is up. We've got corporations being more stingy with salaries than any time in the past sixty years. And we have executive pay going up ten times while everyone else stays flat.
We just can't figure out what could possibly be causing that inequity, Mr. Bernanke. Could you put the clues together for us?
On executive pay, Bernanke noted research that says the economic value of skilled leadership has increased as firms have grown larger. He also discussed the franchise value of star athletes, which has boosted their compensation, citing the 2004 $22.5 million pay package for Manny Ramirez of Major League Baseball's Boston Red Sox. At the same time, he noted research that points to weak corporate governance as a source of high executive compensation.
Ahh! So executives are paid more because their increasing contribution to corporations justifies it, while the increasing productivity of workers is worthless. And besides, baseball players make tons of money. And oh, executives keep rewarding each other with bigger and bigger paychecks because, darn it, they just can't help themselves.
Case closed. We'll all sleep better now.
ABC News' Terry Moran enters the Edwards blogger fray, under this oh-so-coy headline:
Does John Edwards Condone Hate Speech?
How does Moran sum up the issue?
Questions: What, if anything, does it tell us about Edwards that he's joined up with this blogger? Is Edwards' association with a person who has written these things a legitimate issue for voters, as they wonder--among other things--whom he might appoint to high office if he's elected? If a Republican candidate teamed up with a right-wing blogger who spewed this kind of venom, how would people react?
One commenter to Moran's thread said perhaps all that needed saying:
Are you serious?
No surprise here, though. Terry Moran's brother, Rick, writes -- perhaps unsurprisingly -- pretty much the same stuff at his blog, RightWingNuthouse. That'll explain the blindness in the Terry's right eye.
If ABC News hasn't been able to discern for itself that the right blogosphere provides more than its share of controversial figures, and that those controversial figures are right now in the employ of leading GOP presidential candidates, as Glenn Greenwald demonstrates with about five seconds worth of Googling, then the blindness must be willful.
Does ABC News condone hate speech?
New York, NY, February 6, 2007 … The Ku Klux Klan, which just a few years ago seemed static or even moribund compared to other white supremacist movements such as neo-Nazis, experienced "a surprising and troubling resurgence" during the past year due to the successful exploitation of hot-button issues including immigration, gay marriage and urban crime, according to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).
The League, which monitors the activities of racist hate groups and reports its findings to law enforcement and policymakers, has documented a noticeable spike in activity by Klan chapters across the country. The KKK believes that the U.S. is "drowning" in a tide of non-white immigration, controlled and orchestrated by Jews, and is vigorously trying to bring this message to Americans concerned or fearful about immigration.
"If any one single issue or trend can be credited with re-energizing the Klan, it is the debate over immigration in America," said Deborah M. Lauter, ADL Civil Rights Director. "Klan groups have witnessed a surprising and troubling resurgence by exploiting fears of an immigration explosion, and the debate over immigration has, in turn, helped to fuel an increase in Klan activity, with new groups sprouting in parts of the country that have not seen much activity."
ADL has identified the following states as being notable for active or growing Klan chapters:
SOUTH: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas
MIDWEST: Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan and Ohio
GREAT PLAINS: Iowa and Nebraska
MID-ATLANTIC: Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and West Virginia
The troubling Klan resurgence has manifested itself in a number of ways:
- Longstanding groups have increased their activity and experienced a rapid expansion in size.
- New groups have appeared, causing racial tensions in communities previously untroubled by racial issues. They hold anti-immigration rallies and recruitment drives and distribute racist literature with a new emphasis on the immigration issue, and Hispanics.
- Klan groups have become more active in parts of the country that had not seen much activity in recent years, including the Great Plains States such as Iowa and Nebraska, and Mid-Atlantic states such as Maryland, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
- Klan groups increasingly are cooperating with neo-Nazi groups, especially the Minnesota-based National Socialist Movement.
- The Klan has adopted new publicity tricks, such as sending racist fliers to school teachers during Black History Month, and has embraced the Internet as a means to spread anti-Semitism and racism. One group, the Empire Knights of the KKK, runs an Internet-based radio station, dubbed "KKK Radio," which broadcasts white power music and racist and anti-Semitic propaganda.
Reinventing the Klan
"Although some Klansmen may still hold cross-burnings dressed in robes and hoods, today's young Klansmen are more likely to look virtually indistinguishable from racist skinheads or neo-Nazis," said Ms. Lauter. "Today's Klansmen may be as likely to gather at white power music concerts or socialize at so-called 'unity rallies' with other white supremacists, as to participate in ritualistic cross burnings in the rural wilderness."
Since the early 1990s, Klan groups have become increasingly "nazified," with members embracing and immersing themselves in neo-Nazi and racist skinhead subcultures, adopting the music, dress, tattoos and imagery of neo-Nazis, according to ADL. Another trend has been "the collusion and cross-fertilization" of Klan chapters and other major American racist groups.
In March 2006, for example, about 80 members of the National Socialist Movement and various Klan groups met in Laurens, South Carolina, to discuss ways to increase cooperation. Groups on hand for the event included the National Socialist Movement, Aryan Nations, the Griffin Knights of the KKK, the Teutonic Knights of the KKK and the Yahweh Knights of the KKK.
The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world's leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.
Bush/Cheney Lost 8 Billion Dollars in Iraq. They Put 12 Billion Dollars in cash on pallets and flew them into Baghdad. You must be fucking kidding.
U.S. sent pallets of cash to Baghdad
By Jeremy PelofskyTue Feb 6, 8:46 PM ET
The U.S. Federal Reserve sent record payouts of more than $4 billion in cash to Baghdad on giant pallets aboard military planes shortly before the United States gave control back to Iraqis, lawmakers said on Tuesday.
The money, which had been held by the United States, came from Iraqi oil exports, surplus dollars from the U.N.-run oil-for-food program and frozen assets belonging to the ousted Saddam Hussein regime.
Bills weighing a total of 363 tons were loaded onto military aircraft in the largest cash shipments ever made by the Federal Reserve, said Rep. Henry Waxman (news, bio, voting record), chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
"Who in their right mind would send 363 tons of cash into a war zone? But that's exactly what our government did," the California Democrat said during a hearing reviewing possible waste, fraud and abuse of funds in Iraq.
On December 12, 2003, $1.5 billion was shipped to Iraq, initially "the largest pay out of U.S. currency in Fed history," according to an e-mail cited by committee members.
It was followed by more than $2.4 billion on June 22, 2004, and $1.6 billion three days later. The CPA turned over sovereignty on June 28.
Paul Bremer, who as the administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority ran Iraq after initial combat operations ended, said the enormous shipments were done at the request of the Iraqi minister of finance.
"He said, 'I am concerned that I will not have the money to support the Iraqi government expenses for the first couple of months after we are sovereign. We won't have the mechanisms in place, I won't know how to get the money here,"' Bremer said.
"So these shipments were made at the explicit request of the Iraqi minister of finance to forward fund government expenses, a perfectly, seems to me, legitimate use of his money," Bremer told lawmakers.
WHERE'S THE MONEY?
Democrats led by Waxman also questioned whether the lack of oversight of $12 billion in Iraqi money that was disbursed by Bremer and the CPA somehow enabled insurgents to get their hands on the funds, possibly through falsifying names on the government payroll.
"I have no knowledge of monies being diverted. I would certainly be concerned if I thought they were," Bremer said. He pointed out that the problem of fake names on the payroll existed before the U.S.-led invasion.
The special inspector general for Iraqi reconstruction, Stuart Bowen, said in a January 2005 report that $8.8 billion was unaccounted for after being given to the Iraqi ministries.
"We were in the middle of a war, working in very difficult conditions, and we had to move quickly to get this Iraqi money working for the Iraqi people," Bremer told lawmakers. He said there was no banking system and it would have been impossible to apply modern accounting standards in the midst of a war.
"I acknowledge that I made mistakes and that, with the benefit of hindsight, I would have made some decisions differently," Bremer said.
Republicans argued that Bremer and the CPA staff did the best they could under the circumstances and accused Democrats of trying to score political points over the increasingly unpopular Iraq war.
"We are in a war against terrorists, to have a blame meeting isn't, in my opinion, constructive," said Rep. Dan Burton (news, bio, voting record), an Indiana Republican.
Dildo O'Reilley and CNN host Glenn Beck are racist assholes who shouldn't be on Television.
Last night on Fox News, Bill O’Reilly led a discussion about Sen. Joe Biden’s (D-DE) racially-insensitive remarks toward Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL). But instead of exlusively focusing on why the remarks were condescending to African-Americans, he said blacks should “feel sorry for us white folks here, because I’m telling you now I’m afraid to say anything. … White Americans are terrified.” Watch it:
My Two Sense points out that CNN’s Glenn Beck hosted a similar discussion last night, during which he said, “I don’t have a lot of African-American friends, and I think part of it is because I’m afraid that I would be in an open conversation, and I would say something that somebody would take wrong, and then it would be a nightmare.” Watch it:
As The New York Times’s Lynette Clemetson notes, “When whites use the word [articulate] in reference to blacks, it often carries a subtext of amazement, even bewilderment. … Such a subtext is inherently offensive because it suggests that the recipient of the ‘compliment’ is notably different from other black people.”
O’REILLY: Now you got to feel sorry for us white folks here, because I’m telling you now I’m afraid to say anything. You know, you’re an articulate guy, doctor, but I’m never going to say that. You’re a smart guy. Is that bad if I say you’re a smart guy? … Yes, absolutely, instead of black and white Americans coming together, white Americans are terrified. They’re terrified. Now we can’t even say you’re articulate? We can’t even give you guys compliments because they may be taken as condescension?
BECK: You know, Shelby, I don’t know if anybody else in the audience — oh, this is just going to be a blog nightmare over the next few days. But let me just be honest and play my cards face up on the table.
I was thinking about this just last week. I don’t have a lot of African-American friends, and I think part of it is because I’m afraid that I would be in an open conversation, and I would say something that somebody would take wrong, and then it would be a nightmare. Am I alone in feeling that?
The Aristocracy of Pull: American Government in the Hands of Bush/Cheney Cronies.
Cheney’s Son-In-Law Blamed for Delaying Investigations of Homeland Security Department
The Department of Homeland Security refuses to cooperate on oversight activities, according to testimony offered today by GAO Comptroller General David Walker and Homeland Security Inspector General Richard Skinner. The investigators highlighted the role of Philip Perry — Chief Counsel of the Department of Homeland Security and Vice President Cheney’s son-in-law — as the major stumbling block in their investigations.
Walker said the DHS strategy in dealing with investigations is to “delay, delay, delay.” CongressDaily reports:
“[Homeland Security] has been one of our persistent access challenges,” GAO Comptroller General David Walker told the House Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee. Walker said the problem is “systemic” and not the fault of any single individual. But he complained that GAO has had to go through the office of Chief Counsel Philip Perry. Perry is married to Elizabeth Cheney, a former State Department official who is one of the vice president’s two daughters. Walker said it is his understanding that Perry’s office has to review documents GAO seeks before they are released and that Perry selectively sits in on interviews with department employees.
The GAO’s Skinner “said his investigations have also been hindered”:
“We’re experiencing the same problem,” said Skinner, who added his office is “oftentimes” told who they can interview and that it sometimes takes weeks to get documents. Skinner said he prepared a document last summer to inform all department employees of the IG’s responsibilities and authorities and encouraging them to cooperate with investigations. “That letter has been sitting up in counsel’s office at DHS since I believe June or July of ‘06,” Skinner said.
The news is another in a series of black eyes for the agency. In a recent federal survey, DHS employees “scored last or almost last in job satisfaction, leadership and workplace performance.” The latest semiannual report from Inspector General Skinner highlighted “a litany of staff misconduct: immigration officials demanding sex in exchange for visas, airport screeners stealing money from tourists’ luggage, federal air marshals smuggling drugs, and employees from various DHS agencies committing sex crimes.”
Tuesday, February 06, 2007
DESPITE ANGUISH and anger over the Bush administration's decision to escalate its failing war in Iraq, Congress is unlikely to cut off funding. Even most opponents of the war fear that they could be blamed for not supporting the troops in the field and for a possible descent into even greater catastrophe in the face of a precipitous U.S. withdrawal from Iraq.
But nothing prevents Congress from using its power of the purse to prevent an American attack on Iran. President Bush's neoconservative advisors and pundit supporters have been beating the drums of war with Iran since 2003, when the president declared Iran to be part of an "axis of evil." Recall that a senior administration official told The Times that Iran should "take a number" in the wake of the invasion of Iraq. In his recent address to the nation on the troop surge in Iraq, Bush issued more threats to Iran. Now the president has named a Navy admiral to head the U.S. Central Command and dispatched a second aircraft carrier and minesweepers to the Persian Gulf, presumably to prevent Iran from closing the Strait of Hormuz in the event of conflict.
These developments and other administration moves could presage an air attack on Iran's nuclear facilities.
Iran is not innocent of dangerous and provocative behavior. Tehran has supported insurgent groups in Iraq, including helping to provide sophisticated explosives that have killed U.S. soldiers. And Iran's continued development of a nuclear enrichment facility is in defiance of the international community's demand to halt those actions. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's repulsive statements about the Holocaust and Israel add to the nervousness about Iran's future actions.
But war is not yet justified, except in the minds of those who have been lobbying for it for years. Iran is still years away from being a nuclear threat, and our experience with "preventive war" in Iraq should teach us a thing or two. Launching another such war without international approval would leave us even more politically isolated and militarily overstretched. Attacking a Middle Eastern country — one much stronger than Iraq and with the ability to cut off oil supplies from the Strait of Hormuz — could inflame the region, intensify Shiite militia attacks on our soldiers in Iraq and stimulate terrorist attacks on Americans and U.S. interests worldwide.
But recklessness, not prudence, has been the hallmark of this administration's foreign policy. Beyond this, the president and vice president subscribe to what some call the "unitary executive," which is a fancy way of saying they believe that Congress cannot prevent the president from doing almost anything he wants. The 1973 War Powers Act, passed in the wake of our disastrous war in Vietnam, allows the president to put U.S. troops in a combat situation under certain conditions before obtaining any congressional authorization to do so. When Bush signed the Iraq war resolution, he issued a statement challenging the constitutionality of the War Powers Act, indicating that he could take the nation to war without obeying its restrictions. Unfortunately, even if the president were to agree to the act's restrictions, he could still attack Iran and have up to 90 days before being required to get congressional authorization for the attack.
What to do? Congress should not wait. It should hold hearings on Iran before the president orders a bombing attack on its nuclear facilities, or orders or supports a provocative act by the U.S. or an ally designed to get Iran to retaliate, and thus further raise war fever.
Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has warned the administration that it had better seek congressional authorization for any attack on Iran. But we need Senate and House hearings now to put the Bush administration on notice that, in the absence of an imminent military attack or a verified terrorist attack on the United States by Iran, Congress will not support a U.S. military strike on that country. Those hearings should aim toward passage of a law preventing the expenditure of any funds for a military attack on Iran unless Congress has either declared war with that country or has otherwise authorized military action under the War Powers Act.
The law should be attached to an appropriations bill, making it difficult for the president to veto. If he simply claims that he is not bound by the restriction even if he signs it into law, and then orders an attack on Iran without congressional authorization for it, Congress should file a lawsuit and begin impeachment proceedings.
It is, of course, possible that the president's truculent language and actions toward Iran are a bluff, an attempt to rein in its irresponsible behavior.
But the administration's mendacious and incompetent course of action in taking the nation to war with Iraq gives us no reason to provide the president with the benefit of any doubt. And stiffening economic sanctions — at a time when Iran's economy is ailing and the regime is losing popular support — offers a better and safer prospect of exerting leverage.
Another war of choice would only pour fuel on the fires of the Middle East. And the history of this administration shows that if Congress does not constrain this president, he could well act recklessly again, in ways that would profoundly damage our national interest.
Monday, February 05, 2007
WASHINGTON -- Two of the Sept. 11, 2001, hijackers had a support network in the United States that included agents of the Saudi government, and the Bush administration and FBI blocked a congressional investigation into that relationship, Senator Bob Graham wrote in a book to be released Tuesday.The discovery of the financial backing of the two hijackers "would draw a direct line between the terrorists and the government of Saudi Arabia, and trigger an attempted coverup by the Bush administration," the Florida Democrat wrote.
And in Graham's book, "Intelligence Matters," obtained by The Miami Herald yesterday, he makes clear that some details of that financial support from Saudi Arabia were in the 27 pages of the congressional inquiry's final report that were blocked from release by the administration, despite the pleas of leaders of both parties on the House and Senate intelligence committees.
Graham also disclosed that General Tommy Franks told him on Feb. 19, 2002, four months after the invasion of Afghanistan, that many important resources -- including the Predator drone aircraft crucial to the search for Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda leaders -- were being shifted to prepare for a war against Iraq.
Graham, who was chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee from June 2001 through the buildup to the Iraq war, voted against the war resolution in October 2002 because he saw Iraq as a diversion that would hinder the fight against Al Qaeda terrorism.
He oversaw the Sept. 11 investigation on Capitol Hill with Representative Porter Goss. According to Graham, the FBI and the White House blocked efforts to investigate the extent of official Saudi connections to two hijackers.
Graham wrote that the staff of the congressional inquiry concluded that two Saudis in the San Diego area, Omar al-Bayoumi and Osama Bassan, who gave significant financial support to two hijackers, were working for the Saudi government.
Bayoumi received a monthly allowance from a contractor for Saudi Civil Aviation that jumped from $465 to $3,700 in March 2000, after he helped Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhdar -- two of the Sept. 11 hijackers -- find apartments and make contacts in San Diego, before they began pilot training.Saudi officials have denied ties to the hijackers or Al Qaeda plots to attack the United States.