Friday, March 30, 2007


During the past few days the situation in Iraq has largely taken a back seat to the US Attorney firings in the news. While under-reported of late, the situation in the middle-east is as troublesome as ever. The House and Senate both passed emergency funding measures that include time-lines for withdrawing US combat forces from Iraq, which President Bush has pledged to veto. Iran and Britain are engaged in an increasingly tense standoff over the Iranian seizure and detention of 15 British Sailors and Marines. On Thursday Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah denounced the "illegitimate foreign occupation" of Iraq while speaking at a gathering of the Arab League.

When asked about the King's comments White House Spokeswoman Dana Perino said "It is not accurate to say that the United States is occupying Iraq." Merriam-Webster defines 'occupy' as "to take or hold possession or control of " and 'occupation' as "the holding and control of an area by a foreign military force." It is farcical to argue that the presence of American forces in Iraq does not amount to an occupation of that nation, even if the level of control exercised is less than the war's architects desire.

To her credit the reporter inquiring of Ms. Perino was not satisfied, the entire exchange went as follows:

Q I have two questions on the Middle East. Has the President been in touch
with King Abdullah on his critical comments that we're wrong to be in Iraq?

MS. PERINO: Not that I'm -- no. The President only spoke to President Roh
this morning, of South Korea. There have been no other calls that I know of.
Let me just remind you of something I said this morning, which is the United
States and Saudi Arabia cooperate on a wide number of issues. It is not accurate
to say that the United States is occupying Iraq. We are there under --

Q It is not right to say we're occupying Iraq --

MS. PERINO: That's right.

Q -- with 150,000 troops there?

MS. PERINO: Helen, we are there at the invitation of the sovereign government of Iraq that was democratically elected --

Q Did we invade that country?

MS. PERINO: We were there under the U.N. Security Council resolution, and we are there now at the -- I think one of the things to point out -- and I think somebody brought up the Talabani comments this morning -- is that he was talking about the initial when we -- initially when we went in, of establishing a coalition provisional authority, rather than an Iraqi provisional authority. And we were there --

Q Did we have a right to go in?

MS. PERINO: We were there under a U.N. mandate, yes.

Ms. Perino was also at least partly wrong when she said "When it comes to the coalition forces being in Iraq, we are there under the U.N. Security Council resolutions and at the invitation of the Iraqi people." According to a recent poll taken by D3 Systems for BBC, ABC News, ARD German TV, and USA Today the majority of Iraqi people do not support the occupation of their country. 78% percent of Iraqi's either strongly (46%) or somewhat (32%) opposed "the presence of coalition forces in Iraq."

While the legitimacy of the US led invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq can be debated, Ms. Perino is clearly wrong in her assertion that the US is not occupying Iraq and is grossly inaccurate in her indications that the Iraqi people have invited American forces into Iraq.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Africa is Africa

Running into another white person (or just foreigner if you're sensitive about it) in the middle of the Sahel is always a bit odd. After a year of living in a small village in Guinea (that's in West Africa ) I caught myself starting to stare whenever I would see another obviously foreign person in the big city. I stared at the Saudi Arabians, the Lebanese merchants, the American missionaries, the drum tourists, the Chinese technicians and the Russian/Eastern European miners. And yes, in Guinea , all of these people are white. But I didn't want to talk about racial politics, I wanted to talk about how much tourists piss me off.

I was waiting at the bus station in Kayes (Kai), Mali , trying to get myself onto the bus that was leaving to make the 1000 km trip to Dakar that day. I had spent the night on a filthy 'clando' bus that wasn't even supposed to carry passengers, but picked me and another woman up from where our first bus broke down the day before, less than half way from Bamako to Kayes, and I'd been awake since we arrived at 5 am. I felt like I was making a rare and adventurous excursion into the less traveled regions of the Sahel . And what happens? A white guy gets on my bus.

Now you have to understand, this attitude is exactly what pisses me off about tourists. I don't actually mind seeing a fellow traveler on a back road, I enjoy the company of most of these people, but sometimes I find they have a strange attitude about the places we're visiting. I'm not much of a tourist. I don't like to go places just for the spectacle, and I don't really want to go to the effort of meeting new people when I'm on vacation. I love living in places that are new to me, I love being surrounded by a culture different than my own, and I love wandering down strange streets or making long distance marathon trips from one place to another. But I don't think this is why most travelers come to Africa .

My bus companion turned out to be named Olivier, from Paris . He was teaching French as a volunteer in a school in Mbour , Senegal . We were sitting in the dust by the side of the road between Tambacounda and Dakar , waiting for the drivers to fix whatever part of the undercarriage had fallen off and started squealing and rattling... I think it was part of the drive train actually, when Olivier asked me what had disappointed me most about living in Africa . Despite his awkward English, this is a complaint I've become very familiar with.

To me, this is a part of the exotic myth of Africa , the 'real culture' that tourists come here expecting to find, that they demand and pay for and create in a way through the money that they throw at Rastas and artists. I don't know that I've ever met an African artist who was creating art predominantly for an African audience. This is in part due to the rampant poverty in Guinea , and the lack of a middle class. I would be very surprised if Senegal isn't light-years beyond Guinea in this respect, just as it is in every other respect. But to hear Olivier tell it, Africans have abandoned their culture, and this was his greatest disappointment, that they weren't living up to his idea of what Africa should be.

To be fair, Mbour, where my French acquaintance is based, is a tourist trap and a big city. But honestly, how much time does the average farmer have to go about making costumes out of animal skins and dancing? Dance, art, music, these are activities that require leisure time, and it's in short supply to your average hardworking subsistence farmer. Musicians and artists have leisure time because they get paid well by tourists to create a spectacle, sell them pot and talk about one love and unity. I'm sure there are exceptions to this, but its a lucrative area of work. There are many many craft people I've met who don't fall into this category, but they aren't making as much money, and generally, if they don't party, they're not hanging out with tourists.

What really irritates me, though, is that this fringe of society is exactly what a certain kind of tourist comes to Africa to find; the "real" Africa , unpolluted by western ideals and capitalism. I mean, it isn't as disgusting as the sex tourists or the expats working and living abroad to take advantage of all those benefits: servants, younger, attractive companions, power, deference; but I find it almost as demeaning. What is the 'real culture' of Africa ?

Culture is a fluid concept. Africa is not a museum piece, and Africans are not immune to change, or isolated from modernization, and I see no reason why finding a village left in the last century would be a good thing. I say this because I think there are those among us who come to Africa looking for exactly that; a village untouched by modern convenience, sheltered from the passing of time, where the villagers still turn the soil with simple hand tools, and practice their ancient handicrafts exactly as their ancestors did. I think this bothers me for several reasons. Though mostly I think this is based on a misconception about culture. We don't dress like Victorians, we don't try to enforce stagnation of our own media, we are constantly searching for inspiration and innovation in art, and yet what we seek in Africa is preserved and stagnant. Culture is the constant evolution of a society's art. If you're interested in pre-colonial Africa, go to a library or a museum instead of going to Guinea and asking an artist to make the same mask over and over again because you think that's what Africans ought to do.

For the record, I have never seen anyone actually wear a mask in the two years I've been here. And while we're at it, the masks they sell to white people may be pretty, but they exist solely to be sold to tourists, and they were invented for that purpose. Don't get me wrong, I do think some of them are quite spectacular, and I'll probably get one to hang on my wall someday. What irritates me is not the existence of these things or the tourist trade itself, what irritates me are the tourists who insist on deluding themselves that they've brought back a piece of a noble and ancient culture.

I can't count how many times I've been passed in the street by some young tourist holding hands with a guy with dreads who won't even make eye contact because I don't fit into the image they've created for themselves. I don't like Rastas. I've fallen prey to the common Guinean stereotype that says that guys with dreads sell drugs, and that people who do drugs are 1: dishonest, 2: thieves, and 3: lazy. I have not met every Rasta in Guinea , but I have yet to spend enough time with one to get past the fact that what they want to do is get high and have sex. I want to be respected, and in African society, that means you don't hang out with the guys that everyone knows sells pot.

So how does this relate back to ideas about culture? I guess I don't really think that these tourists are getting to know the people that I like and respect, the everyday Guinean who doesn't seek out the company of tourists. The people that I work with are humble and dignified, and like people anywhere else in the world they want the best for themselves and their children. The people I know laugh and dance and sing when they have time, but they what they really want is electricity in their village, and running water, and a road. They want computers and a better education. They want a new car and a TV. I don't understand the position that it's a terrible shame that these are the things they want. If you live in a hut with a straw roof and a dirt floor, it's not just a change to get a tin roof and cement floor, it's a huge improvement.
And yes, everyone does want to go to America . They all want to go and make money and live the high life. What's wrong with that? Yes, it's true that not everyone in the US is rich. Yes, we have our own problems with poverty and disenfranchisement. But Guinea is an entire country without a sanitation system. This is a country that has floods of raw human waste (that's piss, shit and everything else) in the capital. Where the fuck does a tourist get off getting high and playing the drum and glorying in the absence of running water and roads? I've had my share of thrills off-roading, but I'm not about to go around claiming that there's anything noble about the isolation of tiny communities in the bush. And I'm certainly not about to romanticize the kind of life that people live without clean drinking water and a good education.

It infuriates me when I hear someone complain about the lack of culture in Africa . I miss discussions about art and movies, I miss galleries and museums, but the art is here, passion and creative spirit, entertainment, spectacle, and not all of it is just for tourists. Museums have to be supported by a government interested in promoting the arts, and by a society with the time and money to spend on such things. So tourists are either disappointed because they're looking for a romantic idea of the African bush, or they find for themselves a culture that has very little to do with daily life for most Africans. Either way, I find myself reminded of pseudo-anthropological treatises about the noble simplicity of the African savage. It sounds to me like a reduction, a simplification of the continent into a neat compartment that can be admired and put away, because its problems are rooted in the beauty of its passionate and elemental culture.

I guess I'm just mad that most people don't give a shit about Africa, and here are a bunch of curious adventuresome people who do care about Africa , but make it out to be something it's not.

-Becca Coppola

The War of Words

While American soldiers continue to perish amidst a battle that is not their own, American politicians continue to debate the merits of a time-line to bring 'the troops' home. In the current war of words among pundits and politicians over the situation in Iraq 'the troops' are constantly referenced. Pro and anti-war groups alike claim to "support our troops" or have the best interest of 'the troops' in mind.

The problem is that no one is actually talking about troops. True, there are groups of soldiers in Iraq, one of the definitions of 'troops'. 3200 'troops' have not given their lives in Iraq, however, 3200 soldiers have. Individual men and women have been killed and tens of thousands more injured and maimed. To depersonalize these individuals by labeling them with a term that has no singular sense, a troop does not return home in a casket, does them a grave disservice and insulates the American public from the horrors of war.

John McWhorter, a linguist at the Manhattan Institute, spoke eloquently about this issue on the Tuesday March 27th episode of All Things Considered:

The problem is that this usage of troops is only possible in the plural. One cannot refer to a single soldier as a troop. This means that calling 20,000 soldiers "20,000 troops" depersonalizes the soldiers as individuals, and makes a massive number of living, breathing individuals sound like some kind of mass or substance, like water or Jell-O, or some kind of freight.

It's rather like the word news: there is no such thing as a "new," which is why news conveys a quickly passing blur of events leading one into the other, and also sounds slightly trivial. When something winds up "in the news," it sounds like it has taken a step down, been tatted up a bit.

And so it's almost fitting that it is in said news that masses of soldiers are typically referred to as troops. The Democrats are seeking to bring soldiers — persons — home, not troops. Mothers do not kiss their troop goodbye as he takes off for Anbar Province. One will never encounter a troop learning to use her prosthetic leg.

Using a name for soldiers that has no singular form grants us a certain cozy distance from the grievous reality of war. Meanwhile, it serves no purpose: It certainly isn't clearer than soldiers, and in fact is less clear, because one may wonder whether squadrons are meant rather than individuals.

Our national conversation about this war would be more honest if the usage of troops when one means soldiers was considered clumsy, and even rude. Our position on this war must be based on direct consideration of the fact that we are sending human beings to Iraq. After all, we do not designate the contents of a body bag as a troop.

A second troubling rhetorical construction that is unfortunately commonplace today is the 'war on terror'. Since the 9/11 attacks President Bush and his administration have declared war on terror. Sadly this is impossible. As Zbigniew Brzezinski, former National Security Adviser, recently pointed out:

The phrase itself is meaningless. It defines neither a geographic context nor our presumed enemies. Terrorism is not an enemy but a technique of warfare -- political intimidation through the killing of unarmed non-combatants.

A strategy is not an enemy that can be sought out and confronted. The deliberate vagueness in the 'war on terror' has allowed the Bush Administration to wield it as a powerful tool in its incessant campaign of fear-mongering that the Administration has perpetrated on the American public for the past six years to great success. Among the other evils this turn of phrase has brought about Mr. Brzezinski points out that:

The damage these three words have done -- a classic self-inflicted wound -- is infinitely greater than any wild dreams entertained by the fanatical perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks when they were plotting against us in distant Afghan caves.

The war of words which this nation finds itself mired in, has brought the level of discourse and understanding to disturbing new lows. Using words to mask and distort the issues at hand, important issues that are integral to the future of this country, is cowardly and dishonest.

The debate on Iraq concerns the safety and welfare of our soldiers. The war is against al Qaeda, who attacked the United States.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007


Alicia’s husband hates me, Sonja’s parents are deaf. It can be incredibly difficult to remember people’s names. My friend Nick once met a girl five times and could never recall her name, I once had a girl come up to me while I was crossing the quad in college and tell me she was supposed to introduce herself to me when I was sober.

It’s definitely not an easy task to keep peoples names straight, especially when you’re not sure that you care. Drinking also does not help the situation. I met two guys that I went to high school with tonight, yes you read that correctly and yes it seemed a little weird. In my defense the high school that we attended was very large, about 3,000 kids, and these guys were a year behind me. Regardless of those mitigating circumstances while I vaguely recognized one of the pair, I would have sworn on a stack of bibles, despite that fact that I am either a non-practicing pagan, agnostic or an atheist depending on which day you ask me, that I had never before seen the other dude. Luckily, I suppose, my buddy Eric new who they were.

Eric is much better at remembering names than I am, mostly because he is smart enough to use them in whole sentences, such as Ethan is a season ticket holder, or either of the two that I stole from him to begin this essay. I, on the other hand, am absolutely fucking terrible at this game. I meet a lot of people in my day to day life, it involves boats and schmoozing, not writing, it’s kind of a long story, and for the most part I can’t remember their names seconds after they’ve introduced themselves. This may make me a bad person. It certainly won’t help the networking skills that my small expensive liberal arts college considered so important. I make snap judgments on whether or not I will ever meet people again and therefore if I will need to know their name at all. I would say that around 90% of the time I decide that the person in question is not someone with whom I will again cross paths and so I think about something else while he or she tells me his or her name. If I go on to have an interesting conversation with the person I feel bad about having either forgotten or never paid attention to their name. This would mean that my snap decision was wrong; this happens maybe 25% of the time. Probably less, seeing as how most people think I’m some sort of pirate and I hate people who think I’m a pirate and therefore don’t need to know or remember their names. If in the course of a conversation I decide that I have underestimated my new acquaintance and that I would indeed like to know their name I can normally pull of something along the lines of; ‘I’m sorry I’m bad with names, you were…?’ while shaking their hand and making eye contact. I’m good at eye contact. It scares some people when you manage to make and maintain eye contact; sometimes I do it just because I think that it’s interesting that it trips a lot of people up. It makes it easier for me to pull off this ‘I’m bad with names’ crap because I’m cute and have a nice smile; this does not mean that I am not full of shit. I am most definitely full of it, I have a government degree.

All of this is really just to say that it’s nice when you can remember someone’s name; they will appreciate the fact that you paid attention. They will feel good, so will you. This should be an easy thing for us to do, but it is decidedly not. Eric and Nick, another friend of mine who also recognized Ethan but could not remember his name, agree that it is a great way to end a conversation, especially one with business connotations, by using someone’s name. Let’s just hope you can remember if it’s Jim or James or maybe it was Jeff or John or Jamie could it have been Jake?

Say it with me everyone; Alicia’s husband hates me, and Sonja’s parents are deaf.

Note: This essay was originally written on 1/11/07 and appeared on an earlier version of this site


My sister is wearing a t-shirt that says “Eric Hutchinson is pretty good”. This is an interesting statement, especially to be making on a t-shirt. Why would you proclaim to the world, or at least the slice of it that will see you in the course of your day, that someone is ‘pretty good’? I suppose you could find Eric and ask him but I know that he doesn’t really like to talk about what he does (I can’t blame him I don’t like doing that either, honestly who does?).

Besides I’m really just interested in t-shirts and how much interesting stuff you can read on someone’s chest these days. My t-shirt, which is buried under a quarter-zip sweater and a jacket and as such is unreadable, says “Moosehead Lake Maine 04441” just in case you wanted to send a postcard to the lake. My friend Nick is also sitting at the table and I don’t know what his t-shirt says since it is likewise covered by several layers, this is the problem with becoming interested in t-shirts in January, I should wait and ask these questions in June or July when I can read remarkable slogans on nearly everyone’s chest.

The spate of ‘retro’ t-shirts and the fact that you can get anything you want put on a t-shirt via the interweb mean that many many people are wearing shirts displaying sentiments that mean absolutely nothing to them, or that may mean a great deal to them but not because of what they say. One of my favorite t’s that finally met the rag bag said “U.S. Forest Service FIRE” across the back. Fire was written in very large letters, and consequently people were constantly asking me about fighting forest fires, or about Tahoe (the shirt said “Lake Tahoe Region” on the front) which was kind of nice since I enjoyed the attention. Only I’ve never even been to the state of Nevada, let alone fought forest fires around Lake Tahoe. So I guess my question is this: was I lying to everyone whenever I wore this shirt? Does it matter that I’m pretty sure the friend I inherited the shirt from was never in the Forest Service either? Would it be better if she had been? Does it mean anything that I did get the shirt from a friend and not from the thrift store? Since I hate rhetorical questions my answers are: yes kind of, maybe, yes, and yes definitely.

The second worst trend in fashion right now is the printing up of ‘retro’ t’s, the only thing worse is the practice of selling pants and shorts to twelve year old girls with slogans scrawled across the ass in a deliberate and desperate attempt to draw your attention, seriously there should be a law against this. The highest offenders of the ‘retro’ t crime wave are the companies that make, the stores that sell, and the morons who wear concert t-shirts that were made yesterday in Indonesia but claim to be from rock concerts in the 70’s. These people are most definitely lying to you, they were not at these concerts, most of the kids who wear these t’s weren’t even close to being alive during the tours their shirts announce. Sometimes an entirely genuine t can end up putting you in an unfortunately awkward situation or even a fortunately awkward one. The later being exemplified when I wore my “Dean for America” t into a shop selling “friends don’t let friends vote democrat” shirts, the proprietors were horrified, they may have thought I was going to trash the place, and I may or may not have alluded to doing so.

Nick has just told me and my sister, Becca, his favorite t-shirt story too, it involves a decidedly unfortunate situation that is hilarious in its awkwardness. Nick’s friend James had been in a death-metal band at one point and they had made t’s proclaiming that they supported necrophilia; specifically the shirts said “I support necrophilia” and had a box that was checked off. Well, James’ grandmother passed away suddenly and he had to rush to the funeral. The only shirt that his mom, mind you, managed to bring for him to wear was, yes you saw this one coming, his necrophilia supporter’s t.

I kid you not folks this kind of stuff will happen to you. James wasn’t lying to anyone, but the rest of his family didn’t need to know he was all for some corpse f**cking while they were burying his grandma. So choose your t’s carefully, if you’re frightened go with a solid color, and if you’re going to make a statement try not to lie to me. And by the way, Eric Hutchinson is pretty good.

Note: This essay was originally written on 1/8/07 and appeared on an earlier version of this site

John McCain Can't Handle The Truth

Updated Below

Senator, and Republican Presidential candidate, John McCain became this week's greatest abuser of the truth as pertaining to the situation in Iraq when he claimed that “There are neighborhoods in Baghdad where you and I could walk through those neighborhoods, today.” Mr. McCain made the statement on Bill Bennett's Morning in America radio show on Monday morning.

For a refreshing change, CNN's Wolf Blitzer actually questioned Mr. McCain on his claim on Tuesday, not surprisingly Mr. McCain offered more lies in response:

BLITZER: Here’s what you told Bill Bennett on his radio show on Monday. “There are neighborhoods in Baghdad where you and I could walk through those neighborhoods, today. The U.S. is beginning to succeed in Iraq.”

Everything we hear if you leave the so-called Green Zone, the international zone, and you go outside of that secure area, relatively speaking, you’re in trouble if you’re an American.

McCAIN: That’s where you ought to catch up on things, Wolf. General Petraeus goes out there almost every day in an unarmed humvee. I think you oughta catch up. You are giving the old line of three months ago. I understand it. We certainly don’t get it through the filter of some of the media.
Not only did Mr. McCain claim falsely that General Petraeus travels in an "unarmed humvee," he also blamed the press for not reporting the situation in Iraq accurately. Again, in a welcome surprise, CNN chose to refute the Senator's misleading and false statements. To do so Mr. Blitzer talked to reporter Michael Ware, who has been stationed in Baghdad for the past four years, and as such is familiar with the actual situation on the ground:
Well, I’d certainly like to bring Sen. McCain up to speed if he ever gives me the opportunity. And if I have any difficulty hearing you right now Wolf, that’s because of the helicopters circling overhead and the gun battle that is blazing away just a few blocks down the road. Is Baghdad any safer? Sectarian violence, one particular type of violence, is down. But none of the American generals here on the ground have anything like Sen. McCain’s confidence. I mean, Sen. McCain’s credibility now on Iraq, which has been so solid to this point, is now being left out hanging to dry. To suggest that there’s any neighborhood in this city where an American can walk freely is beyond ludicrous. I’d love Sen. McCain to tell me where that neighborhood is and he and I can go for a stroll. And to think that Gen. David Petraeus travels this city in an unarmed humvee? I mean, in the hour since Sen. McCain’s said this, I’ve spoken to military sources and there was laughter down the line. I mean, certainly the general travels in a humvee. There’s multiple humvees around it, heavily armed. There’s attack helicopters, predator drones, sniper teams, all sorts of layers of protection. So, no, Sen. McCain is way off base on this one.

CNN's refusal to accept Mr. McCain's pro-war talking points as the truth is commendable, and a sign that real reporting does, if only occasionally, still exist and emerge from the bowels of the main stream media. Lest anyone should be disinclined to believe Mr. Ware's description of the security situation in Iraq it should be noted that two Americans were killed inside the heavily fortified 'Green Zone' in Baghdad on Tuesday. How can Mr. McCain even pretend that other neighborhoods might be safe when the most heavily guarded section of Iraq is currently unsafe for Americans to walk about in?

Mr. McCain's blind support of the war in Iraq is disturbing enough, his championing of it with false rhetoric and claims of success that are simply untrue are grossly negligent and dangerous in the extreme.

Think Progress and Crooks and Liars have more.


Think Progress has a report of Mr. McCain denying that he said "General Petraeus goes out there almost every day in an unarmed humvee." CNN's John Roberts, in a continuation of its good coverage and reporting on this story, confronted Mr. McCain this morning:

ROBERTS: Senator, did you mean to say that, that General Petraeus goes out every day in an unarmed humvee?

SEN. JOHN McCAIN (R-AZ): I mean that there are neighborhoods safe in Iraq and he does go out into Baghdad and the fact is there has been significant progress and people are stuck in a time warp of three months ago. Of course, it’s still dangerous. Of course it’s still very dangerous. We only have two of the five brigades there and we are already seeing significant progress.

ROBERTS: Because I checked with General Petraeus’s people overnight and they said he never goes out in anything less than an up-armored humvee. You also told Bill Bennett on his radio program on Monday. You said there are neighborhoods in Baghdad where you and I could walk through those neighborhood today yet retired General Barry McCaffrey said no Iraqi government official, coalition soldier, diplomat reporter could walk the streets of Baghdad without heavily armed protection. We’ve got two different stories here. Who’s right?

McCAIN: Well, I’m not saying they could go without protection. The President goes around America with protection. So, certainly I didn’t say that.

Mr. Roberts also deserves credit for actually investigating pro-war claims and not simply repeating them as truth as happens all too often. Another bit of actual journalism was conducted by the Washington Post, which covered retired General Barry McCaffrey's new report on the situation in Iraq that Mr. Roberts mentioned. In his report Mr. McCaffrey states that:
"no Iraqi government official, coalition soldier, diplomat, reporter, foreign NGO [nongovernmental organization], nor contractor can walk the streets of Baghdad, nor Mosul, nor Kirkuk, nor Basra, nor Tikrit, nor Najaf, nor Ramadi, without heavily armed protection."

Mr. McCaffery goes on to say of the situation in Iraq "the US Armed Forces are in a position of strategic peril," and to sum up the Iraqi viewpoint as such; "The population is in despair. Life in many of the urban areas is now desperate." Further proof that Mr. McCain has misled the public and falsely characterized the situation in Iraq by lying about the situation on the ground.

When investigated Mr. McCain's claims proved to be false. His solution was to deny that he made them in the first place, apparently in Mr. McCain's reasoning one bad lie deserves another.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Deaf, Dumb, and Blind; Just Not Mute

For over six years now the main stream media, particularly its members who reside in this nation's capitol city, have remained silent and obediently complicit as the Bush Administration rides roughshod over the Constitution, the rule of law, and most of the general principles upon which this country was founded.

Through abuse after abuse, lie after lie, breach after breach, and crime after crime the media has remained deaf, dumb, and blind. The abdication of journalistic integrity and responsibility has been complete and total.

Until recently it was easier for the main stream media to behave this way and the media elites in Washington D.C. appear to hope that it will remain so. For the first six years of the Bush Administration whenever something questionable or untoward arose, regardless of its deeper implication or blatant criminality, the press blithely repeated the Administration's talking points. The main stream media took to the airwaves and to the pages of newspapers and magazines to assure the American public that there was no real wrongdoing, that the President could be trusted, that even asking or hinting about impropriety would make America less safe, that the mere suggestion that the Administration was overstepping its bounds or trampling on the Constitution would aid the terrorists, that dissent was unpatriotic, and that everything would work out just fine if we simply did not ask so many questions.

And so terrorists attacked America on September 11th and no questions were asked, and American invaded Iraq and the questions were thrown aside. Those who dared to ask them were labeled as unpatriotic and quickly shouted down. American's were spied on illegally by their own government and it was business as usual, a great American city was flooded and destroyed and the blame was passed along. Things went from bad to worse and justification to justification in Iraq and we were told to stay the course.

It has been more difficult of late for the main stream media and its D.C. talking heads to aid and abet the Administration's gross derelictions of duty. Finally there is a voice in this country again that believes in responsibility and accountability. The American people elected Democrats to Congress because they were tired of corruption in the White House and the complacency of the Republican Congress. This new Congress has begun to stand up for the people who elected it, and to question and demand answers from an Administration not used to giving them and a press not used to asking them. The treatment of soldiers has been investigated, and the conduct of the war in Iraq is finally being examined, and the abrogation of justice through overt politicization at the Department of Justice is under investigation as well.

Still the Administration insists that everything is okay because they say so, and the press goes right along insisting that the Administration does and will tell the truth blindly ignoring all of the accumulated evidence. The press takes the Administration's talking point that subpoenas and investigations are but show trials and that the Democrats have but a political ax to grind, ignoring both the pursuit of the truth as well as a Constitutional responsibility to oversight.

The main stream media has grown too comfortable with a government behind closed doors. Their friends in power have sedated them and sown effectively the seeds of apathy which now poison our nation's journalists. Journalism should construe nothing less than a zealous and unending pursuit of the truth, and in America that right is codified in law.

With what country have the press confused America? With whom have they confused its citizens? For how long will they continue to call themselves journalists without deserving the name?

Glenn Greenwald and Media Matters offer more details.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

NY Times Gives Misleading Report On US Attorney Document Gap

The New York Times published a scandalously misleading article today under the headline "Democrats See a 'Document Gap' in Dismissals." The article reports correctly that an 18 day gap exists in the most recently released set of documents. The headline, however, as well as the opening paragraph are devoted to insinuating that the Democrats have cooked up "a long and ever-growing list of theories...about ulterior motives and suspicious coincidences." and that the gap is nothing more than the latest conspiracy theory. In fact the gap is a concrete reality and you do not have to be a Democrat to observe it as such.

The NY Times reporters continue in their obfuscation as they selectively quote from the released documents:

One of the last e-mail messages before this period was sent by D. Kyle Sampson, then chief of staff to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, to Harriet E. Miers, then the White House counsel, and includes a request that the White House approve the plan. “We’ll stand by for a green light from you,” said the Nov. 15 e-mail message.

A little more than a half-hour later, Ms. Miers replied: “Not sure whether this will be determined to require the boss’s attention. If it does, he just left last night so would not be able to accomplish that for some time.”

It is not known whether Ms. Miers was referring to Mr. Bush.

As White House Counsel at the time to whom else could Ms. Miers have been referring? To that end the final email before the gap was a return message from then Attorney General Chief of Staff Kyle Sampson which read:

Who will determine whether [whether] this will require the President's attention?

Mr. Sampson's response to Ms. Miers makes it quite obvious that she was also referring to the President.

The NY Times chose to withhold this crucial piece of information and in doing so effectively obscured the truth from its readers, much as the Bush Administration is obscuring the truth from the American people by withholding documents from that 18 day period.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Subpoena Showdown

Congressional oversight appears to be returning to our nation's capitol. The new, Democratically controlled, Congress has recently held hearings concerning; the treatment of wounded soldiers and veterans, the White House's altering of climate change reports, the FBI's abuse of National Security Letters and other powers, and most visibly the removal of at least eight United States Attorneys by the Department of Justice and the White House, to name just a few.

The US Attorney 'purge' has dominated the headlines of late and is rapidly approaching a full-fledged confrontation between the White House and the Congress. Both the Senate and House Judiciary Committees have announced their intentions to hear sworn, open testimony from White House aide Karl Rove and former aide Harriet Miers. President Bush has indicated that he will refuse to allow them to testify under such conditions and the Administration has begun to roll out the executive privilege defense and to insinuate that there is a precedent against White House aides testifying before Congress.

The doctrine of executive privilege does not prevent White House staff from testifying, nor is there a historical precedent against such testimony.

Think Progress has some examples of the White House and its supporters alleging a precedent:

White House Press Secretary Tony Snow: Well, as you know, Ed, it has been traditional in all White Houses not to have staffers testify on Capitol Hill. [3/13/07]

White House Counselor Dan Bartlett: I find it highly unlikely that a member of the White House staff would testify publicly to these matters. [3/13/07]

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH): No, I think you’re violating a precedent there that should not be violated. … I believe that under the separation of powers, there are limits to the extent to which Congress can subpoena or demand testimony from those who were closest to the president. [3/15/07]

Despite these statements the Congressional Research Service reports that since the close of World War II White House aides have testified before Congress on 78 occasions and have only declined to do so eight times. Hardly precedent setting numbers.

Both President Clinton and President Nixon attempted to use the doctrine of executive privilege to prevent their aides from testifying in potential embarrassing and damaging investigations. On both occasions courts upheld the subpoenas issued by the Congress and compelled the testimony of the aides in question. The Supreme Court ruling in U.S. v. Nixon (1974) assigned the doctrine a narrow scope allowing it to be invoked to protect 'national security', Chief Justice Burger wrote (emphasis added):

However, neither the doctrine of separation of powers, nor the need for confidentiality of high level communications, without more, can sustain an absolute, unqualified Presidential privilege of immunity from judicial process under all circumstances. The President's need for complete candor and objectivity from advisers calls for great deference from the court. However, when the privilege depends solely on the broad, undifferentiated claim of public interest in the confidentiality of such conversations, a confrontation with other values arises. Absent a claim of need to protect military, diplomatic, or sensitive national security secrets, we find it difficult to accept the argument that even the very important interest in confidentiality of Presidential communications is significantly diminished by production of such material for in camera inspection with all the protection that a district court will be obliged to provide.

The impediment that an absolute, unqualified privilege would place in the way of primary constitutional duty of the Judicial Branch to do justice in criminal prosecutions would plainly conflict with the function of the courts under Art. III. In designing the structure of our Government and dividing and allocating the sovereign power among three co-equal branches, the [Framers] sought to provide a comprehensive system, but the separate powers were not intended to operate with absolute independence. To read the Art. II powers of the President as providing an absolute privilege as against a subpoena essential to enforcement of criminal statutes on no more than a generalized claim of the public interest in confidentiality of nonmilitary and nondiplomatic discussions would upset the constitutional balance of "a workable government" and gravely impair the role of the courts under Art. III.

Clearly the dismissal of US Attorneys and the ensuing obfuscation of the reasons for the firings and the cover-up of the White House's role in the decision do not rise to the level of "military, diplomatic, or sensitive national security secrets."

Nevertheless the Bush Administration and its allies will continue to argue, falsely, that Mr. Rove and Ms. Miers cannot be compelled to testify due to executive privilege. Glenn Greenwald points out that many of the voices who are now supporting the doctrine of executive privilege were loudly and forcefully dismissing it when President Clinton attempted to invoke the same doctrine. Chief among the boisterous hypocrites is sure to be White House Press Secretary Tony Snow, who in March of 1998 authored an Op-Ed in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch titled "Executive Privilege is a Dodge" Mr. Snow wrote (emphasis added):

Evidently, Mr. Clinton wants to shield virtually any communications that take place within the White House compound on the theory that all such talk contributes in some way, shape or form to the continuing success and harmony of an administration. Taken to its logical extreme, that position would make it impossible for citizens to hold a chief executive accountable for anything. He would have a constitutional right to cover up.

Chances are that the courts will hurl such a claim out, but it will take time.

One gets the impression that Team Clinton values its survival more than most people want justice and thus will delay without qualm. But as the clock ticks, the public's faith in Mr. Clinton will ebb away for a simple reason: Most of us want no part of a president who is cynical enough to use the majesty of his office to evade the one thing he is sworn to uphold -- the rule of law.

Perhaps a White House reporter will take the initiative and inquire of Mr. Snow how he balances that statement with those that he is now making. If, as President Bush purports, there indeed has been no wrong-doing then why is he willing to go to extraordinary lengths to prevent his aides from testifying openly and fully? Further in light of the last six years and the continuing trouble with and disdain for the truth displayed by the Bush Administration why should anyone believe the President when he claims to want to find the truth?

Despite what Mr. Bush and his supporters say there is no precedent or privilege that would prevent the testimony of White House aides before Congress. The truth has been hidden from the American people for too long, it is time for the curtains to be lifted and legitimate transparency returned to the United States government.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Taxation Without Representation

The White House indicated on Friday its opposition to the D.C. Voting Rights Act (DCVRA), an action that will certainly endanger the bill as it heads to the full Congress. The DCVRA, which would finally provide the residents of Washington D.C. with full representation in the House of Representatives, passed out of the Judiciary Committee late last week and appeared to be building momentum as Democratic leaders vowed to bring it to a vote this week.

The White House opposition, as reported in the Washington Post, is based on Constitutional Concerns; "The Constitution specifies that only 'the people of the several states' elect representatives to the House," said White House spokesman Alex Conant. "And D.C. is not a state." Mr. Conant is referring to Article I Section II which states "The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the several States." No where in the Constitution is full representation for the District in the House prohibited; in fact in Article I Section VIII Congress is granted the power "To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States." Legal scholars, including Republican luminaries Ken Starr and Viet Dinh, have found that:

We conclude that Congress has ample constitutional authority to enact the District of
Columbia Fairness in Representation Act. The District Clause, U.S. Const. Art. I, § 8, cl. 17, empowers Congress to “exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District” and thus grants Congress plenary and exclusive authority to legislate all matters concerning the District. This broad legislative authority extends to the granting of Congressional voting rights for District residents—as illustrated by the text, history and structure of the Constitution as well as judicial decisions and pronouncements in analogous or related contexts. Article I, section 2, prescribing that the House be composed of members chosen “by the People of the several States,” does not speak to Congressional authority under the District Clause to afford the District certain rights and status appurtenant to states. Indeed, the courts have consistently validated legislation treating the District as a state, even for constitutional purposes. (The Authority of Congress to Enact Legislation to Provide the District of Columbia with Voting Representation in the House of Representatives)
To take one line from the Constitution and from it deny full representation to American citizens while ignoring other provisions within the Constitution that provide for and allow the enfranchisement of those citizens is wrong. It is akin to declaring that the Bible says homosexuality is an abomination (Leviticus 18:22), while not also selling your daughter into slavery (Exodus 21:7), and advocating the death penalty for all those who work on the sabbath (Exodus 35:2), to name just two examples. When one cites from a historical document, whether in the realm of the law, or as a source of moral code, one must remember the document in its entirety. One cannot have only the parts that he or she likes best while disregarding those that are inconvenient to their argument.

The fact that the Constitution makes no provision for the voting rights of the residents of the District is not surprising considering that the District did not come into formal existence under the control of the federal government until 1800, ten years after the framing of the Constitution. During that ten year window according to the terms of cessation outlined by the States of Maryland and Virginia and as granted by the Congress residents of the District voted for and were thus represented by Congressmen from their former States. In essence, providing for the enfranchisement of the residents of the District was seen as unnecessary by the framers of the Constitution; having just fought for and end to taxation without representation it is illogical to take this oversight as an intent to disenfranchise the residents of the District.

If President Bush and the White House trust Mr. Dinh when it comes to the Constitutionality of the Patriot Act should they not also trust his judgment as to the Constitutionality of fully enfranchising the residents of the District? The only obvious differences lie in the feelings of the Bush Administration towards the two bills. Laws that give wide ranging power to the Administration with little regard to the civil liberties ensconced in the Bill of Rights must surely be Constitutional. Whereas laws that would end an egregious oversight and the relegation of the residents of the nation's capitol city to the status of second class citizens clearly violate the Constitution in that they would likely lead to an additional Democratic seat in Congress.
The DCVRA, in a bipartisan compromise, attempts to assuage Republicans by also creating a new seat in typically Republican Utah, which will be receiving an additional seat based on the 2000 census report.

Today on the fourth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq President Bush held up the democratic elections that have taken place in that war torn country as a sign of progress and as an accomplishment worth the sacrifice of more than 3000 American lives. Mr. Bush is willing to send Americans half way around the world to die so that citizens of a foreign land might have the right to vote, sadly he is unwilling to sign a bill into law that would give the American citizens who are his neighbors that same right.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Bill Broad And The New York Times Can't Handle The Truth

On Tuesday the New York Times published an article by Bill Broad that viciously attacked former Vice President Al Gore and his film An Inconvenient Truth. Mr. Broad and the NY Times allege in the title, From A Rapt Audience, A Call to Cool The Hype, as well as the opening paragraphs that the scientific community is "uneasy" and "that some of Mr. Gore’s central points are exaggerated and erroneous."

Mr. Broad then proceeds to offer complaints and expressions of unease from climate-change deniers with few if any actual scientific credentials. Mr. Broad further fails to indicate any exaggerations or errors in Mr. Gore's presentation.

For a full scale breakdown and proper debunking of this excuse for journalism please see the excellent article Debunking the NYT's sloppy hit piece on Gore by David Roberts.

As Mr. Roberts indicates Mr. Broad and the NY Times have simply regurgitated a tired set of inaccurate and false right wing talking points. Should the American public no longer expect journalists at one of the nations leading newspapers to do any real reporting or investigating?

The main stream media, the NY Times included, must return to actual, investigatory journalism, they have and are failing in their obligation to their readers, the American Public.

Alberto Gonzales Can't Handle The Truth

The latest member of the Bush Administration to demonstrate a complete disregard for honesty, fact or truth is Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Surprising? Hardly, when you consider the lengthy record of lies and distortions proffered by the Bush Administration throughout its tenure but particularly in the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq.

The irony in the fact that the Attorney General as head of the Department of Justice has been lying to Congress and the American people is too poetical to escape mention.

Mr Gonzales' lies and distortions were laid bare by Senator Charles Schumer at a press conference Tuesday morning

Here are some of the falsehoods we've been told that are now unraveling.

First, we were told that the seven of the eight U.S. attorneys were fired for performance reasons.

It now turns out this was a falsehood, as the glowing performance evaluations attest.

Second, we were told by the attorney general that he would, quote, "never, ever make a change for political reasons."

It now turns out that this was a falsehood, as all the evidence makes clear that this purge was based purely on politics, to punish prosecutors who were perceived to be too light on Democrats or too tough on Republicans.

Third, we were told by the attorney general that this was just an overblown personnel matter.

It now turns out that far from being a low-level personnel matter, this was a longstanding plan to exact political vendettas or to make political pay-offs.

Fourth, we were told that the White House was not really involved in the plan to fire U.S. attorneys. This, too, turns out to be false.

Harriet Miers was one of the masterminds of this plan, as demonstrated by numerous e-mails made public today. She communicated extensively with Kyle Sampson about the firings of the U.S. attorneys. In fact, she originally wanted to fire and replace the top prosecutors in all 93 districts across the country.

Fifth, we were told that Karl Rove had no involvement in getting his protege appointed U.S. attorney in Arkansas.

In fact, here is a letter from the Department of Justice. Quote: "The department is not aware of Karl Rove playing any role in the decision to appoint Mr. Griffin."

It now turns out that this was a falsehood, as demonstrated by Mr. Sampson's own e-mail. Quote: "Getting him, Griffin, appointed was important to Harriet, Karl, et cetera.

Sixth, we were told to change the Patriot Act was an innocent attempt to fix a legal loophole, not a cynical strategy to bypass the Senate's role in serving as a check and balance.

It was Senator Feinstein who discovered that issue. She'll talk more about it.

So there has been misleading statement after misleading statement -- deliberate misleading statements. And we haven't gotten to the bottom of this yet, but believe me, we will pursue it.

Mr. Gonzales is not simply a pundit or journalist who has misled the public, he is a public servant who has lied to and betrayed the trust of the American People, his employers. Mr. Gonzales should not be allowed to maintain his position as the head of the Department of Justice in light of his blatant disregard for the truth, without which there can be no justice.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Andrea Mitchell Can't Handle The Truth

MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell became the latest talking head parading as a legitimate reporter of the news to pass off patently false statements as fact. As Atrios, Think Progress, and Crooks and Liars have reported on Monday night's edition of Hardball Ms. Mitchell said:

They're going to try to really tamp this down and appeal to the polling which indicates that most people think, in fact, that he should be pardoned. Scooter Libby should be pardoned.
Ms. Mitchell may believe that Mr. Libby should be pardoned, this is her opinion which she may freely state as such. Recent polling by CNN shows that only 18% of Americans think Mr. Libby should be pardoned while fully 69% opposed a pardon. It would seem that the only way Ms. Mitchell could make the above statement was to wholly fabricate it.

The larger problem is that such statements are allowed to pass unchallenged and unreported and as such enter the mainstream media as truths. These blatant falsehoods are then bandied about by right wing pundits, politicians, and so-called news sources and peddled as the truth.

The American people deserve better, they can handle the truth.

Washington DC and Guns

Washington D.C. enjoys a terrible reputation when it comes to violent crime, particularly in regards to its homicide rate. In recent years, however, the District has seen a steady and promising decrease in its homicide rate. In 2005 (most current year for which complete statistics are available) Washington D.C. was not in the top ten cities for homicide rates per capita.

This week has seen a major blow to safety and sanity struck by the District's Federal Appeals Court in its decision to overturn D.C.'s long standing ban on hand guns. In its ruling the court went against nearly 70 years of Supreme Court precedent in determining that the Second Amendment can be applied to individuals as opposed to its intent to protect 'well regulated militias.'

Gun enthusiasts will argue that if guns are illegal than only criminals have guns, whereas law-abiding citizens will now be able to defend themselves. It boggles the reasonable mind to see how making guns, especially hand guns, easier to obtain and thereby increasing the number of weapons on the street could possibly stand to make anyone safer. Additionally studies have shown that guns kept in the home only serve to increase the likelihood that members of said home will be shot, and that guns are almost never used to deter home invasion scenarios.

Regulating guns, particularly hand guns, makes sense. The fewer guns available and the more difficult those guns are to obtain the less often guns will be used in the commission of criminal acts or, for that matter, in the accidental shootings that also plague our nation. Only criminals run stop signs; should we therefore eliminate stop signs? As D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty told NPR's Steve Inskeep "if you had less stop signs then there'd be more accidents you don't stop regulating something just because you haven't completely eliminated the problem." Incidentally Mr. Inskeep could have been more pro gun and pro violence in the conduction of that interview but he would have had to start calling Mr. Fenty names to accomplish that feat (see below for a letter to NPR in regard).

Hopefully on further appeal this unfortunate and out of step ruling of the Appeals Court will be overturned and hand guns will not proliferate in the District. Sadly sanity and common sense when it comes to gun control have a much harder road to hoe. Most Americans believe falsely that the Second Amendment gives individuals the right to own and keep guns in their homes. They believe this because the pro gun lobby has so artfully misconstrued the Second Amendment, as former Chief Justice Warren Burger said, "[The Second Amendment] has been the subject of one of the greatest pieces of fraud, repeat the word 'fraud,' on the American public by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime."

Letter to NPR:

to: Morning Edition

subject: Mayor Fenty Interview and Coverage of DC Gun Ban Case

Dear Sir or Madam,

I am writing in regards to this mornings interview of Washington DC Mayor Adrian Fenty and the coverage afforded to the DC gun ban case.

While I am nearly always impressed with your coverage of a wide range of stories and the presentation of both multiple sides to a story as well as multiple questions that many stories raise, your coverage of the DC gun ban case fell woefully short in both cases.

All of Mr. Inskeep's questions were posed from a pro-gun standpoint and he perseverated in forcing Mr. Fenty to defend his city's long standing and publicly popular ban on hand guns. A more balanced and neutral tone would have been more appropriate.

More importantly the interview and coverage missed one of the major tenets of this story. DC's ban on guns is not new, it has existed with degrees of success since 1976 and was just struck down by an Appeals Court ruling that flies in the face of nearly 70 years of precedent. Dating to the 1939 Supreme Court ruling in United States v. Miller which declared 'that the Second Amendment was adopted "with obvious purpose" of protecting the ability of states to organize militias and "must be interpreted and applied with that end in view."'(wording borrowed from Washington Post Editorial Dangerous Ruling).

This story is very arguably about this dangerous ruling that is drastically out of step with all other American courts. To fail to cover that aspect of the story was inexcusable. To adopt a tone for the interview that suggested there is nothing wrong with keeping a gun in your house was just distasteful.

Henry Coppola

Monday, March 12, 2007

Army Ordering Injured Troops To Iraq

So this is what support means. Republican Legislators, the Bush Administration and their pundit lap-dogs continue to hound anyone who might dare to question the manner in which they are conducting the war in Iraq, let alone suggest that it is well past time to remove American forces from the quagmire that the Administration has created. The primary claim is that anyone suggesting the war is not going well is unpatriotic and is not supporting the troops.

Meanwhile this administration has created a horrible situation at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and throughout the Veterans Administration in their 'support' of not only troops but severely wounded ones, both physically and mentally, at that.

As if that alone did not fully demonstrate where the Administration stands in 'support' of the troops, on Sunday reported on the doctoring of medical records as the Army orders injured troops to return to Iraq. 75 soldiers at Fort Benning, GA had their physical profiles downgraded without medical exams and are being returned to active duty in Iraq despite being physically unfit to do so. Many of these soldiers suffer from injuries that prevent them from wearing their protective gear. According to one of the soldiers these moves are being made in an effort to get more bodies into Iraq.

The 3,900-strong 3rd Brigade is now leaving for Iraq for a third time in a steady stream. In fact, some of the troops with medical conditions interviewed by Salon last week are already gone. Others are slated to fly out within a week, but are fighting against their chain of command, holding out hope that because of their ills they will ultimately not be forced to go. Jenkins, who is still in Georgia, thinks doctors are helping to send hurt soldiers like him to Iraq to make units going there appear to be at full strength. "This is about the numbers," he said flatly.

This is certainly not the only recent instance in which the Administration has put increased pressure on troops in an effort to meet the numbers for their new 'surge.' The AP has reported several times on the lack of properly rested and trained troops and on the continuing use of stop loss orders and the general extension of tours in Iraq.

If liberal thinkers and elected officials, both Democrat and Republican, who advocate the removal of US troops from Iraq are to be accused of failing to support the troops, what are we to make of the record of failure that the Administration and its supporters now have in service to American soldiers?

Such baseless claims from the Bush Administration should not be allowed to go unquestioned. The complete disregard for the well-being of American soldiers that has been shown by this Administration and its supporters should be reported alongside any of their claims that anti-war advocates are failing to support the troops.

If elected officials are to be accused of not supporting the troops when they talk of removing them from Iraq then the American military and the American public should also be attacked. In recent polls an increasing percentage of the military disaproves of President Bush's handling of the war and a majority of Americans favor bringing US soldiers home from Iraq.

So who really supports the troops?

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Democrats Join Edwards, Stand Up To Fox

On Friday Nevada Democrats and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid joined former Sen. John Edwards in dismissing a debate that was to be hosted by Fox News.

According to The Huffington Post, the decision was finally reached after the president of Fox News, Roger Ailes, compared Sen. Barack Obama to Osama bin Laden Mr. Edwards had previously decided against attending the debate in question.

The decision to cancel the Fox News debate was unquestionably the proper one, it does however, beg the question; Why would Fox News ever be allowed to parade itself as a legitimate news organization by hosting and moderating a debate among Democratic Presidential Candidates?

Fox News has long since been uncovered as a bed of vile hatred and rhetoric and baseless propaganda of the worst kind. Perhaps more than any other organization Fox News bears responsibility for the depths to which mainstream American journalism has sunk. Open disqualification of Fox News as a legitimate news source is an important step that should be taken by Democratic leaders as well as anyone who would like to see their nation returned to a fair and balanced state.

MoveOn has more.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Untrammeled Hypocracisy

That rank hypocrisy dominates the baseless and puerile rhetoric that passes for argument and fact among the Bush Administration and its apologists and supporters should, by this point, no longer be considered a new story. This week has seen conservatives offer several striking examples of limitless hypocrisy.

Nearly before the judge's gavel had struck for the final time the right wing was falling all over itself in a rush to call for a pardon for Scooter Libby and to dismiss his conviction as a 'travesty of justice.' These were largely the same individuals and outlets who had called for President Clinton's head on a platter during his impeachment. Remember President Clinton was impeached on the grounds that he perjured himself in regards to a sexual infidelity. Mr. Libby stood accused and has now been convicted of perjury in regards to the disclosure of a covert agents identity, obstruction of justice and making false statements. If President Clinton's transgressions merited his impeachment then surely Mr. Libby's crimes deserved prosecution.

Apparently the rule of law is only an important concept to be upheld as long as it does not go against the conservatives. Unfortunately for the American public the rule of law means little if anything to the current Administration who continues to disregard the law and the Constitution as it sees fit.

One of President Clinton's most prominent detractors, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich admitted today that he was engaged in an extra-marital affair while leading the impeachment proceedings against President Clinton for lying about having an extra-marital affair. Perhaps a new level of hypocrisy even for Mr. Gingrich.

To round out the hypocritical field Senator Hillary Clinton, in an interview with Think Progress, pointed out some of President Bush's more glaring moments of hypocrisy in regards to military readiness. In 2000 Mr. Bush, then a candidate said:

So let’s get something straight right now. To point out that our military has been overextended, taken for granted and neglected, that’s no criticism of the military. That is criticism of a president and vice president and their record of neglect. [CNN, 11/3/00]
While the military then was not dangerously over-extended and ill-equipped it certainly is now. Is Mr. Bush willing to stand by his earlier statements and take responsibility for the illogical and embarrassingly poor treatment and state of the American Military or would he rather pass the buck and expose his true, hypocritical nature.

Hypocrisy is never a pretty sight. It is particularly sickening to see it celebrated throughout the mainstream media and foisted upon the American public and the world at large by the Bush Administration.

Pardon Scooter Libby, Not So Fast

Most mainstream news outlets have been bandying about the prospect of a pardon for former Vice-Presidential Chief of Staff I. Lewis 'Scooter' Libby since he was convicted of four felonies this week. The White House has downplayed the possibility of a pardon and refused to comment on the situation, claiming it is an ongoing legal matter. Conservatives across the board have called for an immediate pardon, and Democrats and liberals have cautioned against doing so.

All of this debate may well be beside the point. As Media Matters for America reports, the Justice Department rules that govern clemency procedures would not allow President Bush to pardon Mr. Libby. Part 1.2 of the Rules Governing Petitions for Executive Clemency titled Eligibility for filing petition for pardon states that:

No petition for pardon should be filed until the expiration of a waiting period of at least five years after the date of the release of the petitioner from confinement or, in case no prison sentence was imposed, until the expiration of a period of at least five years after the date of the conviction of the petitioner. Generally, no petition should be submitted by a person who is on probation, parole, or supervised release.

President Bush has indicated that his decisions on and treatment of pardons are rooted in and follow the Justice Department rules. If Mr. Bush remains true to his word and obeys the Justice Department rules he will be unable to issue a pardon to Mr. Libby.

Doing what they say, telling the truth, and following the rules have proven to be extremely difficult for the Bush Administration, so maybe the pardon debate is warranted after all.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Edwards Stands Up to Fox

When former Senator and current presidential candidate John Edwards announced that he would not participate in a Nevada Primary debate hosted by Fox News he demonstrated that he does indeed have the courage of his convictions and that he is willing to take a stand.

In recent memory the Democratic Party has been short on backbone as well as the ability to stand behind an issue. Mr. Edwards has, of late been doing his best to reverse that trend. Beginning with his apology for his vote to authorize the Iraq war and continuing this week with his refusal to legitimate the right wing soap-box that is Fox News.

Fox News is anything but 'fair and balanced' and to agree to let them host and moderate a Democratic primary debate is ludicrous and laughable at best. Thankfully Mr. Edwards has taken the crucial step of refusing to attend, perhaps now that he has opened the door to taking a principled stand against legitimizing a venomous and hateful propaganda machine.

Mr. Edwards has made the right decision, is it too much to ask that other democrats will follow his example. Unfortunately it may well be, if Mr. Edwards' apology for voting for the war in Iraq is any example.

The other Democratic candidates should heed the calls of their constituents and join Mr. Edwards in a boycott of the Fox News debate. Fox News has no business pretending to bring national news to the American public, it certainly shouldn't be allowed to stain and degrade any political debates among legitimate candidates, let alone a Democratic one.

Closer coverage of the potential debate can be found at DailyKos and MyDD.

Jim Shea And The Hartford Courant Can't Handle The Truth

To: Hartford Courant Reader Representative / Associate Editor Karen Hunter

Subject: Specious and Personal Partisan Attacks Have No Business In News Section

Ms. Hunter,

I am writing in regards to Jim Shea’s Raucous column of Wednesday, March 7, 2007 titled JUST DRAIN THE POOL, AL which appeared on page A2 of the Courant. Mr. Shea’s specious and personal partisan attacks on Mr. Gore have no business running alongside important and (hopefully) accurate stories within the News section of the Courant. Mr. Shea’s column shared a page with stories on; the continuing investigation into sales practices at Best Buy, a single-engine plane crash, medication errors and their tragic effects, and the recent devastating earthquake in Indonesia. These are legitimate news stories; Mr. Shea’s column is not.

The placement of Mr. Shea’s column on page A2 among these stories invites and encourages it to be mistaken for factual reporting. I am sure that Mr. Shea will respond by pointing out that his column is meant to be humorous and not a news item. While this may be true it certainly does not excuse its placement, which offers it the obnoxious opportunity to masquerade as truth.

Furthermore Mr. Shea could at least make an effort to be timely with his slanders; the so called controversy to which he refers first reared its ugly head on Monday, February 26. Not only is Mr. Shea late to the party but he has failed to do his homework. A few minutes of research would have revealed to Mr. Shea the baseless nature of the claims of hypocrisy leveled against Mr. Gore.

First of all the Gore household purchases ‘green’ electricity and ‘carbon offsets’ which reduce its carbon footprint to zero, hardly Mr. Shea’s ‘Bigfoot’. Additionally Mr. Gore’s energy consumption as defined per square footage falls well within, in fact below the average for the region, as defined and reported by the US Department of Energy. Yes Mr. Gore would certainly use less electricity if he moved into a tent, as would we all. Mr. Shea’s claim that Mr. Gore’s credibility has taken a hit over this flap is ludicrous in the extreme. I will refrain from commenting on the nature of the petty personal attacks on Mr. Gore’s personal appearance.

Mr. Shea’s shoddy attempts at humor in the guise of childish insults and supported by fabrications as to Mr. Gore’s lifestyle choices should not appear among news stories. Mr. Shea’s column should be moved to the opinion section of the Courant, or to the Life section where other humor pieces, both more comical and more accurate can be found.

The saddest revelation of Mr. Shea’s column is his emergence as the latest mouth piece in the right-wing echo chamber. Mr. Shea swallowed whole the talking points of a decidedly partisan think tank and lent his name and stature to their fabrications. Is it now too much to ask that even the smallest bit of effort be expended to determine the veracity of a story before a reporter or columnist puts their name to it? I had come to expect more from Mr. Shea and from the Courant, I see now that I was mistaken.


Henry Coppola

Cc: Jim Shea, Letters to the Courant

Jim Shea's column is here.

This fiasco was well dealt with by both Think Progress and The Anonymous Liberal, who provides the energy department numbers and links.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Coulteral Problems

Ann Coulter isn't really the problem. Neither, for that matter, is Maureen Dowd, who as Bob Somerby has demonstrated is often nothing more than a cleaned up, intellectualized, and mainstreamed version of Ms. Coulter.

Sure they say terrible, hateful things, as do many other conservative pundits. They viciously denigrate Arabs and Muslims in general and attack the masculinity of any and all leading Democrats. This is all ground that has already been well covered by a variety of other bloggers, Glenn Greenwald has a good overview here.

The problem isn't even that major Republican groups invite Ms. Coulter to speak and endorse and encourage her vile rhetoric.

The problem is that the national media continues to condone and even encourage such actions. Despite denunciations by the major Republican candidates the mainstream media has reacted to Ms. Coulter's latest outburst with a shrug. Perhaps this is a responsible reaction, surely ignoring Ms. Coulter's remarks and refusing to legitimize them by deeming them newsworthy is a step in the right direction. While this argument on its surface seems sound the rank hypocrisy that underlies its application is devastating to its legitimacy. If Al Frankin or Arriana Huffington called President Bush a faggot the media would be all over the story.

There is a story here, what does it say about Republicans in general and conservatives in particular that they treat Ms. Coulter as a hero? What does it say that she is the key note speaker at the year's most important conservative convention, CPAC ? What does it say that current presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney says it is a 'good thing' to hear from Ms. Coulter?

Why is so much of the conservative platform based around hurling insults at their detractors? Again Glenn Greenwald has an answer.

This goes deeper than that though. Republicans, especially the neo-conservative wing of the party, do not have a leg to stand on when it comes to supporting their policies. Instead of explaining and defending their decisions Republicans call their detractors faggots, or label them unpatriotic, or say that they embolden the enemy.

Rebuplicans have a problem with the truth because it can only hurt them. The mainstream media has a problem with the truth because it is easier to go along with the Republican talking points than actually do any reporting or investigating.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Wasted Sacrifices

In the past month two of the leading 2008 Presidential candidates have criticized the war in Iraq for 'wasting' American lives. While both Barack Obama, a Democrat, and John McCain, a Republican, quickly retreated from their statements, they never the less raise several interesting questions which should at least be asked.

The different tacts taken by the two candidates in explaining their comments are of interest, as are the reactions to and especially the media coverage of their original statements.

Most importantly it should be asked whether the lives of the 3171 American soldiers killed in Iraq to date have been wasted or sacrificed.

Speaking with David Letterman on his late night television show Sen. McCain said;

Americans are very frustrated, and they have every right to be. We've wasted a lot of our most precious treasure, which is American lives.

His comments closely resembled those of Sen. Obama's, made at a rally in Ames, Iowa;

We ended up launching a war that should have never been authorized, and should have never been waged, and on which we've now spent $400 billion, and have seen over 3,000 lives of the bravest young Americans wasted.

When Sen. Obama gave his speech, nearly a month prior to Sen. McCain's interview, his use of the word 'wasted' garnered immediate mainstream media coverage in the New York Times, Washington Post, and LA Times as well as among many other news outlets. In contrast Sen. McCain's comments were only picked up by the AP, while the NY Times, Washington Post, and LA Times all failed to mention Sen. McCain's 'wasted' utterance despite covering his appearance on Mr. Letterman's show. Media Matters for America has more on the disparity in coverage presented by the mainstream media as does Keith Olbermann.

Two candidates made almost the same statement and were treated completely differently over it, why? This one, arguably, small story says much about the level to which the mainstream media has bought into the right-wing fallacy that Democrats are failing to support the troops, while Republicans support the troops completely.

In response to media coverage and calls to apologize both candidates backed away from their original use of 'wasted' to describe the loss of American life in Iraq. Both men said that they should have used 'sacrificed' instead of 'wasted.' Which brings up the much more important question of which term is more appropriate as a description of American deaths in Iraq?

The American Heritage Dictionary defines sacrifice as;

Forfeiture of something highly valued for the sake of one considered to have a greater value or claim.

and waste as:

To use, consume, spend, or expend thoughtlessly or carelessly.

The war in Iraq has not made America safer, it is the creation of neo-conservative war-mongers who do not possess the courage of their convictions and will never themselves pay the ultimate price and have their lives or the lives of their loved ones wasted. Those who have lost loved ones do decry the waste. It is these war-mongers who insist on referring to lost lives in this war as sacrifices. This war in Iraq does not have a 'greater value', it never has. The sad truth is that the American soldiers who have given their lives in Iraq have been 'thoughtlessly and carelessly expended.'

It is well past time for this waste to be acknowledged and an end to it demanded. War opponents and their elected representatives must stand up and do so.

War-mongers must be questioned, they must be made to explain specifically and in detail why the war in Iraq has a higher value than the lives of so many young Americans. Empty rhetoric must not be excepted and passed on any longer.

The national media must reclaim its post and fulfill its journalistic obligation to the American People that it has forfeited for the past six years.

Tom Toles weighs in.