May 07, 2005

What is media coverage of Iraq war good for? Absolutely nothing


On May 1, the British Sunday Times revealed a secret memo, dated July 23, 2002, that was circulated among British defense and foreign policy officials and staff. The memo read in part:

C reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC [National Security Council] had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action. [Emphasis added.]
Salon.com's Joe Conason wrote of the memo:

There is a "smoking memo" that confirms the worst assumptions about the Bush administration's Iraq policy, but although that memo generated huge pre-election headlines in Britain, its existence has hardly been mentioned here.
[...]
[The memo read in part,] "The Foreign Secretary said he would discuss this with Colin Powell this week. It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing was not yet decided. But the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran."

Those few lines sum up everything that went wrong in the months and years to come -- and place the clear stamp of falsehood on the Bush administration's public pronouncements as the president pushed the nation toward war.

Think Progress has more on the memo's implications.
As Conason noted, the memo has received scant attention in the U.S. media. A May 6 Knight Ridder article began:

A highly classified British memo, leaked during Britain's just-concluded election campaign, claims President Bush decided by summer 2002 to overthrow Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and was determined to ensure that U.S. intelligence data supported his policy.

But beyond that, American media outlets have been largely silent about the memo -- despite paying great attention to the British elections upon which the revelation of the memo had considerable impact.

CNN, for example, aired only the briefest of passing references to the memo:

CAROL LIN (anchor): "Also, it's an election week in Great Britain. And Prime
Minister Tony Blair is on the defensive, mainly over accusations in British
press, reportedly from leaked secret documents that he and the U.S. president
had planned the invasion of Iraq and committed troops nine months before it
happened." [CNN Sunday Night, 5/1/05]

ROBIN OAKLEY (CNN European political editor): "But Tony Blair and his party
are not behaving as if they've got this election in the bag. And the reason is
the wrong subject keeps cropping up in the headlines. It's Iraq, Iraq, Iraq, day
after day, more revelations, leaked memorandums, leaked Downing Street about the
government, for example, committing itself to war in Iraq many months before it
has previously indicated that it did so. And Tony Blair is worried that in the
marginal seats, a lot of traditional labor supporters who didn't like the war
will fail to turn out in what may be a low turnout election." [News from CNN,
5/2/05]

That's it -- and that's more than we can find on MSNBC or Fox News.
Of
course, as we noted last
week
, news organizations have a difficult task in deciding what is and isn't
newsworthy.

In this case, for cable news outlets to have covered the disclosure of a memo that suggests that President Bush manipulated pre-war intelligence to support his agenda, they might have had to cut back on their wall-to-wall coverage of one of the most important issues of our time: the so-called "Runaway Bride," Jennifer Wilbanks. A search of the Nexis database yields 125 news reports about Wilbanks on CNN, MSNBC, and Fox since May 1 (including online news reports). Or perhaps they would have had to pare down their coverage of American Idol, or the Michael Jackson trial.

The cable "news" networks aren't alone in ignoring the story, though. The New York Times, which famously apologized for its pre-war coverage, apparently still hasn't learned its lesson -- the "paper of record" hasn't yet mentioned the British memo.
Maybe that will change now that 88 members of Congress have sent President Bush a letter demanding answers about the matter. If not, Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), who circulated the letter, might want to see if Paula Abdul will sign it.

(P.S.: After this was written, but before it was posted, CNN again mentioned the memo: Inside Politics host Judy Woodruff introduced the May 6 "Inside the Blogs" segment by saying, "A secret British government memo has been made public, and it has the blogosphere all abuzz. We check in now on that and more with CNN political producer Abbi Tatton and Jacki Schechner, our blog reporter." Woodruff offered no explanation for why CNN and other media outlets haven't been similarly "abuzz" over the memo. Regardless, it's a dark day when CNN's "witheringly bad" and "excruciatingly empty" blog segment actually does a better job of covering the news than the rest of the network.)

May 05, 2005

IMPEACHMENT TIME: "FACTS WERE FIXED."

Thursday, May 5, 2005
By Greg Palast

Here it is. The smoking gun. The memo that has "IMPEACH HIM" written all over it.

The top-level government memo marked "SECRET AND STRICTLY PERSONAL," dated eight months before Bush sent us into Iraq, following a closed meeting with the President, reads, "Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam through military action justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."

Read that again: "The intelligence and facts were being fixed...."

For years, after each damning report on BBC TV, viewers inevitably ask me, "Isn't this grounds for impeachment?" -- vote rigging, a blind eye to terror and the bin Ladens before 9-11, and so on. Evil, stupidity and self-dealing are shameful but not impeachable. What's needed is a "high crime or misdemeanor."

And if this ain't it, nothing is.

The memo, uncovered this week by the Times, goes on to describe an elaborate plan by George Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair to hoodwink the planet into supporting an attack on Iraq knowing full well the evidence for war was a phony.

A conspiracy to commit serial fraud is, under federal law, racketeering. However, the Mob's schemes never cost so many lives.

Here's more. "Bush had made up his mind to take military action. But the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbors, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran."

Really? But Mr. Bush told us, "Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised."

A month ago, the Silberman-Robb Commission issued its report on WMD intelligence before the war, dismissing claims that Bush fixed the facts with this snooty, condescending conclusion written directly to the President, "After a thorough review, the Commission found no indication that the Intelligence Community distorted the evidence regarding Iraq's weapons."

We now know the report was a bogus 618 pages of thick whitewash aimed to let Bush off the hook for his murderous mendacity.

Read on: The invasion build-up was then set, says the memo, "beginning 30 days before the US Congressional elections." Mission accomplished.

You should parse the entire memo -- posted on my website -- and see if you can make it through its three pages without losing your lunch.

Now sharp readers may note they didn't see this memo, in fact, printed in the New York Times. It wasn't. Rather, it was splashed across the front pages of the Times of LONDON on Monday.

It has effectively finished the last, sorry remnants of Tony Blair's political career. (While his Labor Party will most assuredly win the elections Thursday, Prime Minister Blair is expected, possibly within months, to be shoved overboard in favor of his Chancellor of the Exchequer, a political execution which requires only a vote of the Labour party's members in Parliament.)

But in the US, barely a word. The New York Times covers this hard evidence of Bush's fabrication of a casus belli as some "British" elections story. Apparently, our President's fraud isn't "news fit to print."

My colleagues in the UK press have skewered Blair, digging out more incriminating memos, challenging the official government factoids and fibs. But in the US press
nada, bubkes, zilch. Bush fixed the facts and somehow that's a story for "over there."

The Republicans impeached Bill Clinton over his cigar and Monica's affections. And the US media could print nothing else.

Now, we have the stone, cold evidence of bending intelligence to sell us on death by the thousands, and neither a Republican Congress nor what is laughably called US journalism thought it worth a second look.

My friend Daniel Ellsberg once said that what's good about the American people is that you have to lie to them. What's bad about Americans is that it's so easy to do.


Greg Palast is author of the New York Times bestseller, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy. Read the memo in its entirety at www.GregPalast.com

May 04, 2005

Voucher Bill DEAD In South Carolina

Friends of Public Education,

Today is a great day for the children of South Carolina and the future of public schools. The Governor's misguided and misnamed voucher bill called, "Put Parent's In Charge" was defeated today in the S.C. House by a vote of 60 - 53. It was a close vote, which in this father's opinion made all the hard work EVER MORE SWEET.

In our new century, politics has become too focused on "marketing". We get 30-second sound bites from politicians and we think they represent our values. Soon we learn they are supporting ideas that put the interests of the few over the needs of all South Carolinians. We feel disconnected from the work they do on our behalf and feel like we can't make a difference.

Well, friends, TODAY WE PROVED REGULAR CITIZENS CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE!

Seven votes... a mere SEVEN VOTES swung the future of our public schools back from a segregationist, privatization abyss.

YOUR letters made a difference. YOUR emails made a difference. YOUR calls made a difference. We sent the right-wing activists from Washington, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Colorado packing!! Hopefully for good!

Today is a great day to be a supporter of public education and I sincerely thank you
for your support of CHOOSE CHILDREN FIRST. Nice article in The State Newspaper:

http://www.thestate.com/mld/thestate/11562771.htm

Ken Campbell, Choose Children First
Oconee County

Hey MEDIA: Wake Up!!!

Congressman John Conyers (D-MI) is circulating a letter calling for a further inquiry into a secret U.S.-UK agreement to attack Iraq, RAW STORY has
learned.

In a statement, Conyers says he is disappointed the mainstream media has not touched the revelations.

"Unfortunately, the mainstream media in the United States was too busy with wall-to-wall coverage of a "runaway bride" to cover a bombshell report out of the
British newspapers," Conyers writes. "The London Times reports that the British government and the United States government had secretly agreed to attack Iraq
in 2002, before authorization was sought for such an attack in Congress, and had discussed creating pretextual justifications for doing so."

"The Times reports, based on a newly discovered document, that in 2002 British Prime Minister Tony Blair chaired a meeting in which he expressed his support for "regime change" through the use of force in Iraq and was warned by the nation's top lawyer that such an action would be illegal," he adds. "Blair also discussed the need for America to "create" conditions to justify the war."

Conyers says he is seeking an inquiry. "This should not be allowed to fall down the memory hole during wall-to-wall coverage of the Michael Jackson trial and a runaway bride," he remarks. "To prevent that from occuring, I am circulating the
following letter among my House colleagues and asking them to sign on to it."

The letter follows:
The Honorable George W. Bush
President of the United States of America
The White House 1600 Pennsylvania
Avenue, N.W. Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. President:

We write because of troubling revelations in the Sunday London Times apparently confirming that the United States and Great Britain had secretly agreed to
attack Iraq in the summer of 2002, well before the invasion and before you even sought Congressional authority to engage in military action. While various
individuals have asserted this to be the case before, including Paul O'Neill, former U.S. Treasury Secretary, and Richard Clarke, a former National Security Council official, they have been previously dismissed by your Administration. However, when this story was divulged last weekend, Prime Minister Blair's representative claimed the document contained "nothing new." If the disclosure is accurate, it raises troubling new questions regarding the legal justifications for the war as well as the integrity of your own Administration.

The Sunday Times obtained a leaked document with the minutes of a secret meeting from highly placed sources inside the British Government. Among other things, the
document revealed:

* Prime Minister Tony Blair chaired a July 2002 meeting, at which he discussed military options, having already committed himself to supporting President Bush's plans for invading Iraq.

* British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw acknowledged that the case for war was "thin" as "Saddam was not threatening his neighbours and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea, or Iran."

* A separate secret briefing for the meeting said that Britain and America had to "create" conditions to justify a war.

* A British official "reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush
wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the
policy."

As a result of this recent disclosure, we would like to know the following:

1) Do you or anyone in your Administration dispute the accuracy of the leaked document?

2) Were arrangements being made, including the recruitment of allies, before you sought Congressional authorization go to war? Did you or anyone in your Administration obtain Britain's commitment to invade prior to this time?

3) Was there an effort to create an ultimatum about weapons inspectors in order to help with the justification for the war as the minutes indicate?

4) At what point in time did you and Prime Minister Blair first agree it was necessary to invade Iraq?

5) Was there a coordinated effort with the U.S. intelligence community and/or British officials to "fix" the intelligence and facts around the policy as
the leaked document states?


We have of course known for some time that subsequent to the invasion there have been a variety of varying reasons proffered to justify the invasion,
particularly since the time it became evident that weapons of mass destruction would not be found. This leaked document - essentially acknowledged by the Blair government - is the first confirmation that the rationales were shifting well before the invasion as well.

Given the importance of this matter, we would ask that you respond to this inquiry as promptly as possible. Thank you.

Sincerely,

Congressman John Conyers

The Top 10 Conservative Idiots


Hoo boy, this duck isn't just lame - it's had its legs amputated. George W. Bush took to the airwaves last week in an attempt to prop up his approval ratings, and for his fabulous efforts he receives - for the first time ever - all ten slots on the Top 10 Conservative Idiots list. Way to go, prez! All the press conference quotes listed below come from the transcript on the official White House website. Due to Our Great Leader's Great Press Conference, I must apologize if I've missed your favorite story from the list - we do have a "Best of the Rest" section at the end for some of the other idiocy of the week. Enjoy, and don't forget the key!

1. Prime-Time Party-Pooper
He started weak and got worse, but let's begin with the most obvious hypocrisy of the night, which came when Bush responded to this question:

Q: Mr. President, a majority of Americans disapprove of your handling of Social Security, rising gas prices and the economy. Are you frustrated by that and by the fact that you're having trouble gaining traction on your agenda in a Republican-controlled Congress?

The predictable answer:

BUSH: Polls? You know, if a President tries to govern based upon polls, you're kind of like a dog chasing your tail. I don't think you can make good, sound decisions based upon polls. And I don't think the American people want a President who relies upon polls and focus groups to make decisions for the American people.

Yeah, right! Which is why, faced with his approval ratings dropping through the floor, Team Bush decided that it would be prudent to interrupt everyone's Thursday night entertainment with a prime-time press conference. Where he could talk about how, uh, approval ratings aren't important to him.

But considering how tightly the administration manages its messages you'd think someone would have pointed out that 8:00pm on the biggest television night of the week is not the best time to try to prop up your poll numbers. Especially when the night in question also happens to be the first night of May sweeps. So millions of Americans across the country who were settled in to see a brand new episode of their favorite show were instead treated to an hour-long Chimpfomerical where they learned that George W. Bush is going to take away their Social Security benefits. Now that's what I call smart politics!

2. It's A Gas
Let's go back to the top. Bush's first big issue of the night was the nation's concern over rising gas prices. He began:


BUSH: Millions of American families and small businesses are hurting because of higher gasoline prices. My administration is doing everything we can to make gasoline more affordable. In the near-term, we will continue to encourage oil producing nations to maximize their production. Here at home, we'll protect consumers.

Hear that folks? Bush is doing everything he can to make gasoline more affordable and protect consumers. Nice of him to assume some responsibility. But wait, what's this? Ten minutes later...


BUSH: You can't wave a magic wand. I wish I could. It's like that soldier at Fort Hood that said, how come you're not lowering the price of gasoline? I was having lunch with the fellow, and he said, go lower the price of gasoline, President. I said, I wish I could. It just doesn't work that way.

Oh... well I guess Our Great Leader was tiptoeing through the tulips with Prince Abdullah for nothing then.


READ THE FULL LIST...

Oconee Prayer Breakfast Tomorrow

Friends of ALL religious denominations,

In celebration of the National Day of Prayer, a prayer breakfast will be held TOMORROW at Jimmy’s Restaurant, Thursday, May 5, at 8 a.m. to pray for our country. The prayer breakfast will be less than an hour, and charges are about five dollars for the meal. The event is sponsored by the Oconee County Democratic Party.

National Day of Prayer is not a political movement or a movement of any religious group. It is a day based on a formal proclamation from the President of the United States and all state governors.

It has historic background.

Writing on “indications of the Divine Beneficence towards us,” President George Washington proclaimed the first National Day of Prayer on January 1, 1795. Subsequently, National Days of Prayer have often been called by Presidents, but a specific nation-wide day was established by President Truman and the United States Congress in 1952. President Reagan amended the law in 1988 to permanently establish the first Thursday in May as the National Day of Prayer.

From Washington, the theme of this National Day of Prayer is “God Shed His Grace on Thee.” Five specific strains of prayer have been named: Government, Media, Education, Church and Family.

The prayer breakfast will be less than an hour, and charges are about five dollars for the meal. The non-political event is sponsored by the Oconee County Democratic Party. Jimmy’s Restaurant is located on Hwy 123 By-Pass in Seneca. All are welcome and encouraged to attend.

Ethics: Who Cares?

As many of you know, I'm not a fan of the Democratic Leadership Council... the conservative wing of the Democratic Party. Personally, I think their Republican-lite idealogy has stunted the growth of the Democratic Party and lured us away from our populist roots. With that said, the article below, from their website, puts GOP hipocricy center-stage and paints a bulls-eye on their corrupt leadership. Nice work.

As ethics problems lap up on the shore of the Republican-controlled Congress like poisoned fish, there have been two disturbing types of reactions in GOP circles.
The first, of course, is the line being peddled by House Republican Leader and ethics recidivist Tom DeLay of Texas, which is that all this ethics bushwa is just part of a left-wing conspiracy financed by George Soros to destroy the conservative movement. This approach, which trumps every fact with ideological and partisan solidarity, has been adopted almost robotically in many avenues of conservative opinion.

But there's a second take that's possibly even worse: Who cares about congressional ethics? And there are two examples of this cynical dismissal of any kind of enforceable standards of official behavior in the latest editions of the two Capitol insider newspapers, Roll Call and The Hill.

In Roll Call, an unnamed "Republican campaign strategist" bluntly says ethics violations just don't matter so long as congressional Republicans don't act like they matter. "There are no political implications from this... In order for any of this to gain steam you have to have some sort of grass-roots traction. We're continuing to get stuff done. It's not like Congress has stopped. It's not like Congress is crippled."

Well, you could have fooled us, since Congress is basically ignoring most national challenges except those -- like the budget deficit, the tax code, and the solvency of Social Security and Medicare -- it is trying to make worse, but that's an argument for another time.

Meanwhile, over at The Hill, another GOP political consultant, David Hill, pens a column dismissing the whole subject of ethical behavior by politicians as inherently unimportant to voters. "My first reaction to any political party running on a political reform platform is to smile smugly," says Hill. Why? Voters don't care, and to the extent they do care, their expectations of the ethical standards of politicians are so low that they don't think anything will ever change.

Maybe we are imagining things, but we seem to recall that a little over a decade ago, public disgust with irresponsible and self-serving politicians who wouldn't deal with problems like the budget deficit created a nationwide term limits movement, lifted an eccentric Texas billionaire into a national political force, and contributed heavily to the first Republican takeover of both branches of Congress since 1954. The abuses of power, the cozy relationship with moneyed special interests, and the contempt for any kind of accountability so evident today among GOP congressional barons are far, far greater than those which vaulted today's Republicans into power in the first place.

Certainly "reform" is not the only message Democrats need today; laying out a strong agenda for national security, economic opportunity, and the values and interests of working families is as essential as ever. But at a time when power-addicted Republicans continue to talk as though Democrats are the party of big and unaccountable government, Democrats have a responsibility, and also a political opportunity, to let Americans know that lawmakers, not just middle-class citizens, need to play by the rules as well.

So let Republicans try to claim that being conservative means turning a blind eye to corruption and irresponsibility, or smile smugly at the naove idea that voters give a damn in the first place. If Democrats -- and a few brave Republican heretics like Sen. John McCain -- care enough about ethics to talk about this issue frequently and consistently, then we suspect enough voters will care about it to make it matter again in Washington.

May 02, 2005

Legislator Emails Factless "Talking Points" On Voucher Bill

Below is an Email exchange that is worth reading... not only for the facts outlined by the citizen's response to this Republican legislator, but also for entertainment purposes. Mr. Webb completely dismantles this legislators support of PPIC. I had to laugh out loud a couple of times! KC
John Webb:

Thank you very much for taking your time to write to me on the Put Parents in Charge Bill currently before the South Carolina House.

Let me take a minute to give you some of my thoughts on the subject. I am in step with the basic concepts of this bill as I will explain further later. My concern surrounds the ability to measure results and compare apples to apples in a true market setting. We must be in a position if successful with passage of this bill to prove success, and allow the market forces to make informed decisions.

With all of this in mind, let me give you my key principles and core values as it relates to education for South Carolina. First, I feel that we need to put more dollars into the classroom and less into the bureaucracy. I feel that there has been a lack of focus on the core mission and issues of our public education system.

Secondly, I feel that children have a right to a violence-free and drug-free environment. Children simply cannot learn if they are afraid.

We need to increase the role of parents in the day-to-day education oftheir children and decrease the role of the education bureaucracy. Parents should have the right to send their children to the schools of their choice and, after all, it is their money, their children and their future. This choice should include public schools, charter schools,private schools and home schooling.

Fourthly, Education is not about government, about bureaucrats, or about teacher unions, or tax credits or federal mandates. Education is first,last and always about our children, and our education system should be child-centered.

Lastly, every child, regardless of income, should have the right to a quality education. No child should be left behind just because of where he or she lives or because of his or her parents? financial situation.

Again, thank you for taking your time, and I hope this shed some light on what I feel is important in this debate.

Garry R. Smith
South Carolina House of Representatives
District 27
Greenville County
www.garrysmith.org

And now Mr. Webb's response, truly a GEM:

Mr. Smith,

Thanks for responding. Let me take a moment to address each of your points.
Your point #1- "First, I feel that we need to put more dollars into the classroom and less into the bureaucracy. I feel that there has been a lack of focus on the core mission and issues of our public education system."

My response: I agree with you however, if you were even the slightest bit familiar with the workload and dedication that public school instructors devote toward meeting their student's needs and educational requirements, I don't believe there would be any question in your mind about focus and issues.

Your point #2-"I feel that children have a right to a violence-free and
drug-free environment. Children simply cannot learn if they are afraid."


My response: I agree again, however there is no guarantee in any school (public or private) that it will be drug or violence free. This is not part of the voucher or tax credit issue.

Your point #3 - "We need to increase the role of parents in the day-to-day education of their children and decrease the role of the education bureaucracy. Parents should have the right to send their children to the schools of their choice and, after all, it is their money, their children and their future. This choice should include public schools, charter schools, private schools and home schooling."

My response: Parents are already involved and have that right. PPIC would not increase that participation. The ones who are involved will stay involved. The others will not. Parents already have freedom of choice to select public, charter, private or home schooling. This bill would have absolutely no effect. There is NO guarantee that every student wishing to attend alternative institutions would be accepted. In fact, in the history of South Carolina, private schools are often equated with racial segregation, whether religion based or not. Simply put, SC white parents historically would prefer not to have their children mix with others of a different religion, race or creed. This bill smacks of the same pandering efforts by politicians.

Your point #4 - "Education is not about government, about bureaucrats, or about teacher unions, or tax credits or federal mandates. Education is first,last and always about our children, and our education system should be child-centered."

My response: - I agree, and our current public school system is already child-centered.

Your point #5 -"Lastly, every child, regardless of income, should have the right to a quality education. No child should be left behind just because of where he or she lives or because of his or her parents financial situation."

My response: I agree. There are already options in the private sector. As I mention before, 2 members of my family are currently public school instructors in Greenville County. They also previously taught for 10 years in private schools. They are now seeing first hand what the lack of proper funding and distribution of wealth in the public schools are doing to the quality of the infrastructure and resources available.

So start out with abandoning this privatization effort by Gov. Sanford and avoid the net outflow of funds from the tax base away from the very place it is needed most. If the governor had only chosen to put his own children into either the Lexington or Richland county schools instead of the the Heathwood Academy, he might be more motivated toward improving their education.

Please vote against the PEPSI bill along with the tax credit idea and school vouchers. It will only serve to destroy our school system.

Sincerely,
J.T. Webb
CDR USN Retired
Greenville, SC