The Commons is a weblog for concerned citizens of southeast Iowa and their friends around the world. It was created to encourage grassroots networking and to share information and ideas which have either been suppressed or drowned out in the mainstream media.

"But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and arms and heads, chopped off in battle, shall join together at the latter day and cry all 'We died at such a place;' some swearing, some crying for a surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their children rawly left. I am afeard there are few die well that die in a battle; for how can they charitably dispose of any thing, when blood is their argument? Now, if these men do not die well, it will be a black matter for the king that led them to it; whom to disobey were against all proportion of subjection." (Henry V, Act V, Scene 4)

Thursday, May 12, 2005

HoustonChronicle.com - Editorial Journal: The No Facts Zone

HoustonChronicle.com -- http://www.HoustonChronicle.com | Section: Editorial


May 12, 2005, 10:19AM

EDITORIAL JOURNAL
The No Facts Zone
Read before you complain
Copyright 2005 Houston Chronicle

The 19th century American writer and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson once said of a man, "The louder he talked of his honor, the faster we counted our spoons." Were he alive today, Emerson might be thinking of television host Bill O'Reilly.
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On The O'Reilly Factor cable television program Tuesday night, the popular host included a segment that took the Houston Chronicle to task for an editorial that had run the same day. The editorial was entitled Cold comfort: Florida's sex offender law has emotional appeal, but it's not the best way to stop sexual predators from preying on children.

Hang on while I count our spoons:

At the start of the segment, O'Reilly stated that the Chronicle had "taken a lot of shots at me, so it must be left of center." O'Reilly's name has appeared only once in a Chronicle editorial, which concerned not O'Reilly, but Fox News' suit against Al Franken for his use of the phrase "fair and balanced." The suit was thrown out of court.

O'Reilly told his viewers that the Chronicle editorial said the Florida law was too harsh. He was mistaken. The editorial excerpts that O'Reilly projected on the screen said nothing about the harshness of the punishment. The editorial, citing extensive research on this subject, said hooking GPS monitors to sexual predators released from prison might prove less effective than closer supervision by parole officers and other low-tech strategies. The Chronicle did not call for lighter punishment; it called for the adoption of the most effective measures to protect our children.

O'Reilly said the editorial advocated "community service" for sexual predators. It did not.

O'Reilly accused his guest, Austin defense attorney Courtney Anderson, of misleading the audience when she defended the Chronicle editorial. O'Reilly then read what he said was a quote from the editorial. Unfortunately, not one word of what O'Reilly read appeared in the Chronicle editorial or anywhere else in the paper. He and his staff apparently confused someone else's commentary with the Chronicle's.

O'Reilly claims his show is free of spin. Spin is when someone casts the facts in such a light as to reinforce his argument and weaken his opponent's. What O'Reilly did was to disregard the facts altogether, even going so far as to attribute to the Chronicle words and views it did not print and does not espouse. That's not spin; it's misrepresentation that is unprofessional, unwarranted and injurious to the public debate about a serious and urgent issue: protecting children from predators.

The Chronicle's reader representative and letters editor received several complaints about the editorial from people who admitted they hadn't read it, or who attributed to it quotations that did not appear in the editorial. Before Chronicle readers complain about an editorial, I hope they take the time to read the editorial carefully, rather than relying on someone else's careless characterization of its contents.

James Howard Gibbons editor / opinion pages

On Way Out, Okrent Knocks 'N.Y. Times' WMD and Civilian Casualty Coverage

On Way Out, Okrent Knocks 'N.Y. Times' WMD and Civilian Casualty Coverage

By E&P Staff

Published: May 12, 2005 10:15 AM ET

NEW YORK About to be liberated from his duties at The New York Times, outgoing Public Editor Daniel Okrent, who was critical of the paper's pre-Iraq war coverage but in a measured way, spoke more bluntly in an interview with Salon.com this week.

Okrent said the Times did "a lousy job on WMD," and, while it was "not consciously evil," it was "bad journalism, even very bad journalism."

Asked if the Judith Miller-led distortions on WMD has proven more destructive than the sins of ex-reporter Jayson Blair, Okrent responded: "I don't know if I could speak to comparative sins. It certainly was a very serious case of bad journalism. It was not, to the best of my ability to determine, a case of 'I know we're lying as I write this,' which Jayson Blair was. Here was a guy consciously plagiarizing. Here was a guy who meant to break the rules. The Times did a lousy job on WMD, but I can't imagine there was anybody in the office saying: 'Let's make up some things.'"

Asked if the Times made a mistake in not disciplining Miller, Okrent replied: "I don't know that one can say she wasn't disciplined. They don't reveal personnel matters to me. For all I know, she was disciplined. For all anyone knows, she was disciplined. Only Judith Miller and Times management know for sure."

And what about the famous Times editors' note that promised aggressive coverage of the WMD misinformation campaign to partially make up for its original lapses? ""There was one really good long piece by Michael Gordon," Okrent replied. "But I don't think it was enough. I think they could have done more."

In another area, asked if the Times has reported aggressively enough on civilian casualties in Iraq, Okrent answered, "No. I think on civilian casualties they could do more. It's actually something I've discussed with the editors involved. They're aware of it, and I'm hopeful that there

http://www.editorandpublisher.com/eandp/news/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1000919524will be more reporting on that."
E&P Staff

Sirotablog: ABC News: We're Not Interested in Covering the Iraq War

ABC News: We're Not Interested in Covering the Iraq War
Davis Sirota

Why do Americans think journalism is a complete and total joke? Maybe because news organizations treat the most serious, somber news as a a complete and total joke. Just look at this from ABC News's "The Note" today:

"Brides gotta run, planes gotta stray, and cable news networks gotta find a way to fill a lot of programming hours as cheaply as possible...We say with all the genuine apolitical and non-partisan human concern that we can muster that the death and carnage in Iraq is truly staggering. And/but we are sort of resigned to the Notion that it simply isn't going to break through to American news organizations, or, for the most part, Americans...What is hands down the biggest story every day in the world will get almost no coverage."

Let me reiterate how unbelievable this actually is: A MAJOR AMERICAN MEDIA OUTLET HAS NOW DECLARED THAT THEY SIMPLY ARE NOT INTERESTED IN LETTING THE CARNAGE IN IRAQ "BREAK THROUGH" IN THEIR NEWS COVERAGE - AS IF IT IS SIMPLY NOT NEWSWORTHY. You can just imagine the pathetic newsroom attitude: we don't cover cats getting stuck in trees, we don't birthday parties at the local McDonalds, and we don't cover America's multi-billion dollar war in the Mideast.

Sorry America, the insulated, out-of-touch, Washington media is simply uninterested in providing any real coverage about the war. Because remember, the media has to be "very deferential" because "no one want[s] to get into an argument with the president at this very serious time."

Truly nauseating.

http://www.davidsirota.com/2005/05/abc-news-were-not-interested-in.html

We Like Ike

'Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are [a] few other Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or business man from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid.'

- President Dwight D. Eisenhower, 11/8/54"

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Molly Ivins -- They Lied to Us

They Lied to Us
By Molly Ivins
AlterNet

Tuesday 10 May 2005

I thought it was time we moved past the now unhelpful, "How did we get into this mess?" However, I cannot let this astounding Downing Street memo go unmentioned.

Meanwhile, back in Iraq. I was going to leave out of this column everything about how we got into Iraq, or whether it was wise, and or whether the infamous "they" knowingly lied to us. (Although I did plan to point out I would be nobly refraining from poking at that pus-riddled question.)

Since I believe one of our greatest strengths as Americans is shrewd practicality, I thought it was time we moved past the now unhelpful, "How did we get into his mess?" to the more utilitarian, "What the hell do we do now?"

However, I cannot let this astounding Downing Street memo go unmentioned.

On May 1, the Sunday Times of London printed a secret memo that went to the defense secretary, foreign secretary, attorney general and other high officials. It is the minutes of their meeting on Iraq with Tony Blair. The memo was written by Matthew Rycroft, a Downing Street foreign policy aide. It has been confirmed as legitimate and is dated July 23, 2002. I suppose the correct cliché is "smoking gun."

"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. (There it is.) The NSC (National Security Council) had no patience with the U.N. 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."

After some paragraphs on tactical considerations, Rycroft reports, "No decisions had been taken, but he (British defense secretary) thought the most likely timing in US minds for military action to begin was January, with the timeline beginning 30 days before the US congressional elections.

"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 neighbors, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran. We should work up a plan for an ultimatum to Saddam to allow back in the U.N. weapons inspectors. This would also help with the legal justification for the use of force.

"The attorney general said that the desire for regime change was not a legal base for military action. There were three possible legal bases: self-defense, humanitarian intervention or UNSC authorization. The first and second could not be the base in this case."

There is much more in the memo, which can be found easily online. What's difficult now is placing the memo in the timeframe. Can you remember how little you knew about a war with Iraq in July 2002? Most of us who opposed the war concluded some time ago this was the way it went down. There was plenty of evidence, though nothing this direct and cold. Think of the difference it would have made if we had known all this three years ago. Now? The memo was a huge story in Britain, but is almost unreported here.

The memo does get us some forwarder. At least it finally settles this ridiculous debate about how Dear Leader Bush just wanted to bring democracy all along and we did it all for George Washington.

Enough said. What to do? Now that we're there, at least we're on the right side, not even withstanding the disgusting Ahmed Chalabi as oil minister. Unfortunately, our very support for the good guys is making it much harder for them. A tactical catch-22. I was impressed by the premise of Reza Aslan's new book, "No God but God," which is that all of Islam is undergoing a struggle between the modernists and the traditionalists, between reformers and reactionaries.

But in Iraq, which already had a secular state, we have the additional complication of sectarian/ethnic divisions - your Sunnis, your Shiites, your Kurds - not to mention, the tribalism within those divisions. (Am I bitter enough to point out once again that Paul Wolfowitz said under oath, "There is no history of ethnic strife in Iraq"? You bet your ass I am.)

Our most basic problem in-country is that having the US of A. on your side automatically makes you about as popular as a socialist in the Texas Legislature: We are working against the guys we want to win by supporting them. This requires some serious skulling but is not, in politics, all that unusual a pickle.

There is a political solution. Like all politics, it requires a deal. What about letting the interim government make a deal with the Sunnis for us to withdraw - as in, "You cooperate with us, and we'll get the Americans out of here for you." We can't make that deal, but the Iraqis can.

Molly Ivins is a best-selling author and columnist who writes about politics, Texas and other bizarre happenings.

http://www.truthout.org/docs_2005/051105H.shtml

Daily Kos :: What reporters actually doing their job sounds like

What reporters actually doing their job sounds like
by Magorn (dailykos)

Wed May 11th, 2005 at 10:41:39 PDT

Well, well, a member of the press finally stood up and asked W and actual hard, informed and relevant question:


"Q Mr. President, I can't let you go from here without a question of terrorism.

THE PRESIDENT: Sure.

Q Latest surveys show that the numbers of terrorism are increasing, not decreasing.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes.

Q Why is that?

THE PRESIDENT: Well --

Q You have made a lot of efforts.

Well check that out. A question that put the president on the spot by forcing him to explain a failing policy!

So which media outlet just got back from OZ with some new-found courage? ABC, NBC? CBS? CNN? MSNBC? FOX (Puh-leez)?

Nope. This exercise in actual journalism was brought to you by Estonian national TV

They've only had a free press for barely more than a decade now, and already they are doing a better job speaking truth to power, than all the American coporate media outlets combined.

And it isn't just the Estonians showing up the American press corps either, here's a question from Latvian TV :

Q The sentiment of anti-Americanism, as I'm sure you know, is quite widespread in Europe, and in my country, as well. Do you think there is any degree of your own fault in the fact that this sentiment is on the rise or --

In other Words "Mr. President are you a big part of the reason so many of your former allies now hate America?"

Its not a question you'll hear dear Wolf Blitzer ask anytime soon. In fact, its not a question any American reporter has had the testicles/ovaries to ask to date.

W's answers in both cases were worthless as far as actually providing thoughful insight. They sounded like they were derived by playing mix and match with random lines from his stump speeches. But that's not the point.

Yes, Bush may have dodged the answers, but at least the questions got asked, and the world could see W's slimy wriggling in real-time. The answer to the terrorism question, though, was notable because it was laugh-out-loud stupid: There are more terrorist attacks because we've been so successful in attacking terrorism.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, that's why. If we weren't trying to find the enemy and bring him to justice, the world would look relatively peaceful.
...And so when you engage the enemy, when you try to bring them to justice, they don't like to be brought to justice. .. so part of the reasons why activity is up is because we're chasing them down...

Q How long it takes to curb, finally?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, that's a good question. However long -- it takes as long as necessary. I just don't know. I don't have a -- I can't give you a timetable...

See that thing at the end ? The Reporter even asked a question, known in the biz as a follow-up question designed to elicit more information when an answer is incomplete or unclear. We should try that once in a while

And apparently it ain't just the Baltic TV boys who actually practice something resembling the journalistic craft.

This question comes from Roundtable with Foreign Print Journalists


Q: Mr. President, a few months ago you mentioned in Brussels the violence in The Netherlands. I presume you referred then to the murder of moviemaker [Theo] van Gogh.

THE PRESIDENT: I did.

Q: And that murder reminded the Dutch that they have a common interest with you -- with the U.S. in combating terrorism. But some critics argue that tensions in Dutch society and in the world -- between Muslims and non-Muslims -- were not only a result of 9/11, but also a result of the way you responded to 9/11, especially with the Iraq war. What is your answer to those critics?

THAT Virginia, is what a REAL reporter is supposed to sound like. Again, the answer was nothing special; a duck of the essential question and rant about evil-doers and extremists. But the wonder of the thing is that the question was asked at all.

And then there's this incredible moment. A reporter asks the $64,000 question that is at the heart of Bush's foreign policy:


Q: Mr. President, you're often speaking about freedom, and about the march to freedom, and about -- freedom. How do you define freedom?

Inasmuch as George has only used that word approximately 4,968,758 times, in this term alone, as a justification for everything from the War and Taxes to Social Security; you'd think somebody would have asked this one by now.

And you know what? This time the answer was actually informative. Though, it made me wonder if W realizes that by his definition, Freedom has yet to march into America:


THE PRESIDENT: Well, I view freedom as where government doesn't dictate. { like, oh say, a private end of life decision for a brain dead woman? }

Government is responsive to the needs of people. { and the People needed the Bankruptcy bill and the Patriot act how exactly?}

We say "of the people, by the people, and for the people." And a free society is one if the people don't like what is going on, they can get new leaders. { Cough, Florida, Cough, Diebold Cough Cough }

and then there was an absolute showstopper of a question, the one that SHOULD have been the first one asked at every presidential press availability:


Q: Mr. President, ..promoting democracy in the world is a very ambitious goal; and achieve peace, changing the ... But such a far-reaching idealism can also easily lead to moral inconsistencies that risk to undermine your credibility. For instance, how does the way detainees at Guantanamo Bay are being handled, how does that relate to your promotion of democracy and the rule of law?

In other words: "How can you expect the world not to think you are full of shit when you talk about one thing and do the opposite"?

W's answer revealed the utter depths of his Cluelessness. He seems to think that the only problem we have in holding the moral high ground is that those darn Abu Gharib pictures made us look bad. Seriously:

I appreciate that. That, and, for example, the pictures people saw about the prison --...I can understand people being concerned about prison abuse when they see the pictures out of Abu Ghraib, ...I'm realistic enough to know that images on TV have sullied our country's image, at times. And we've just got to continue to spread -- tell people the truth, be open about the mistakes of Abu Ghraib, hold people to account."
{Would it be impolite to note that we've just cleared every officer involved in Abu Gharib except the initial whistleblower?}

The reporter also asked an excellent follow-up about the limits of America's Freedom Doctrine, but Bush's answer was so nonsensical that attempting to read it may cause a sprain of your frontal lobes, so I'm omitting it as a public service.

And this just in:
It appears that even Dutch high school students are outclassing the American "pros" (from Dan Froomkin's Column in the Wapo yesterday

I wrote in yesterday's column about the tough questions Bush apparently faced from a group of Dutch students. I say "apparently" because the press was ushered out of the room after the first two.

Well, Dutch NOS television caught up with some of the students afterward, and as far as I can tell from this highly amusing and only somewhat helpful automated translation , after the press was ushered out, one student asked Bush if he realizes his policies have frightened moderate Muslims. And another student apparently asked about the detention of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.

Now that's just sad. Why, the last time the President met with an unscreened group of Americans for an unscripted discussion......

well okay, thats never actually happened....

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2005/5/11/134139/892

Freakishly Confident

Freakishly Confident
By Digby (Hullabaloo)

Avedon Carol, pinch hitting over at Eschaton writes:

One reason I don't think it's at all paranoid to suspect that the Republicans have deliberately taken over the voting system in order to cheat is that they keep doing things that don't otherwise make sense. There's a rather long list of things you just wouldn't expect them to think they could get away with unless they really thought they could control the ballot box, because otherwise they would have to expect that the public would kick enough of them out to not only end some political careers but also make impeachment - and prison - a distinct possibility.



As pointed out to me this morning by my favorite correspondent, the item at the top of the list (that may just be the "real" nuclear option) is this provision in the "Real ID" bill that removes judicial review. This article calls the hoohaw over the filibuster a trojan horse ---- it's the elimination of judicial review that's the constitution buster.

The right has held for decades that judicial review has no constitutional foundation. Because of various rulings over the past 50 years on civil and individual rights with which they disagree, they have developed the dogma that the courts do not have the right to determine if a law is unconstitutional, despite more than 200 years of acceptance of Marbury vs Madison and the debate that came before. This is what Pat Robertson is talking about when he says, "if you look over the course of a hundred years, I think the gradual erosion of the consensus that's held our country together is probably more serious than a few bearded terrorists who fly into buildings." (It's actually the last 200 years he's trying to overturn, but what's a century or two?)

This isn't a new thing, but like so much else lately in wingnut governance, it was until quite recently a fringe position that nobody took seriously. Indeed, even conservative legal scholors like John Yoo, who is not one would ever call a moderate, disagrees with this interpretation. But, it has clearly gained currency recently. The Senate, for instance, has put forth several more or less symbolic bills that are explicitly exempted from judicial review. There's S. 1558, the "I can put the 10 commandments anywhere I damn well please and judge is going to tell me I can't" Act. And there's S. 2082, the "I can say God told me to do this and no judge can say it's unconstitutional" Act (also known as the "foreign govmint's got nothin' to do with our laws" Act.) And then there's S 3920 the "two thirds majority can overturn the Supreme Court" Act.

But these have no chance at passage. The "Real ID" bill, however, does. As far as I've been able to ascertain, nobody has ever actually passed and signed a bill that would explicitly exempt legislation from judicial review. This is unprecedented and if it happens it should trigger a constitutional crisis. If congress can pass any laws it wants and declare them exempt from judicial review --- as with the Real ID bill -- and also peremptorily "bar judicially ordered compensation or injunction or other remedy for damages" then our system of checks and balances has been gutted. There will be nothing to stop a majority, particularly if it ends the filibuster, from passing any laws it chooses with a simple majority and exempting all of them from judicial review for constitutionality. In other words, the constitution says what the majority says it says.

As Avedon Carol points out in the post I linked to above, you have to wonder why they would do this when the shoe could easily be on the other foot at any given time. You have to believe that it has always been that threat that kept previous majorities from enacting such a fundamental change to our system that could only help a party intent upon enacting its agenda unimpeded --- but which could be used by either party to do it. These last few elections have been close. The GOP majority is not solid. And while I have argued that the double standard is entrenched because of the republicans' willingness to make nonsensical arguments that confuse the press and render any accountability useless, it will not do them much good if the rules have been changed and a new Democratic majority operates as ruthlessly unconcerned with public opinion as they do.

No, you really do have to wonder how they think they can get away with such radical changes that have no constitutional or even popular support. It really does make you have to at least consider the possibility that they know they will not lose elections.

http://digbysblog.blogspot.com/2005_05_08_digbysblog_archive.html#111576181700350905

USATODAY.com - Ridge reveals clashes on alerts

Ridge reveals clashes on alerts
By Mimi Hall, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON — The Bush administration periodically put the USA on high alert for terrorist attacks even though then-Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge argued there was only flimsy evidence to justify raising the threat level, Ridge now says.

Ridge, who resigned Feb. 1, said Tuesday that he often disagreed with administration officials who wanted to elevate the threat level to orange, or "high" risk of terrorist attack, but was overruled.

His comments at a Washington forum describe spirited debates over terrorist intelligence and provide rare insight into the inner workings of the nation's homeland security apparatus.

Ridge said he wanted to "debunk the myth" that his agency was responsible for repeatedly raising the alert under a color-coded system he unveiled in 2002.

"More often than not we were the least inclined to raise it," Ridge told reporters. "Sometimes we disagreed with the intelligence assessment. Sometimes we thought even if the intelligence was good, you don't necessarily put the country on (alert). ... There were times when some people were really aggressive about raising it, and we said, 'For that?' "

Revising or scrapping the color-coded alert system is under review by new Homeland Security secretary Michael Chertoff. Department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said "improvements and adjustments" may be announced within the next few months.

The threat level was last raised on a nationwide scale in December 2003, to orange from yellow — or "elevated" risk — where the alert level is now. In most cases, Ridge said Homeland Security officials didn't want to raise the level because they knew local governments and businesses would have to spend money putting temporary security upgrades in place.

"You have to use that tool of communication very sparingly," Ridge said at the forum, which was attended by seven other former department leaders.

The level is raised if a majority on the President's Homeland Security Advisory Council favors it and President Bush concurs. Among those on the council with Ridge were Attorney General John Ashcroft, FBI chief Robert Mueller, CIA director George Tenet, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Ridge and Ashcroft publicly clashed over how to communicate threat information to the public. But Ridge has never before discussed internal dissention over the threat level.

The color-coded system was controversial from the start. Polls showed the public found it confusing.

Contributing: Associated Press

http://usatoday.printthis.clickability.com/pt/cpt?action=cpt&title=USATODAY.com+-+Ridge+reveals+clashes+on+alerts&expire=&urlID=14193111&fb=Y&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.usatoday.com%2Fnews%2Fwashington%2F20

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Robert Dreyfuss - The Quagmire

The Quagmire
By Robert Dreyfuss
Rolling Stone

Thursday 05 May 2005

As the Iraq war drags on, it's beginning to look a lot like Vietnam.

The news from Iraq is bad and getting worse with each passing day. Iraqi insurgents are stepping up the pace of their attacks, unleashing eleven deadly bombings on April 29th alone. Many of the 150,000 Iraqi police and soldiers hastily trained by U.S. troops have deserted or joined the insurgents. The cost of the war now tops $192 billion, rising by $1 billion a week, and the corpses are piling up: Nearly 1,600 American soldiers and up to 100,000 Iraqi civilians are dead, as well as 177 allied troops and 229 private contractors. Other nations are abandoning the international coalition assembled to support the U.S., and the new Iraqi government, which announced its new cabinet to great fanfare on April 27th, remains sharply split along ethnic and religious lines. But to hear President Bush tell it, the war in Iraq is going very, very well. In mid-April, appearing before 25,000 U.S. soldiers at sun-drenched Fort Hood, in Texas, Bush declared that America has succeeded in planting democracy in Iraq, creating a model that will soon spread throughout the Middle East. "That success is sending a message from Beirut to Tehran," the president boasted to chants of "U.S.A.! U.S.A.!" from the troops. "The establishment of a free Iraq is a watershed event in the global democratic revolution." Staying on message, aides to Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, later suggested that U.S. forces could be reduced from 142,000 to 105,000 within a year.

In private, however, senior military advisers and intelligence specialists on Iraq offer a starkly different picture. Two years after the U.S. invasion, Iraq is perched on the brink of civil war. Months after the election, the new Iraqi government remains hunkered down inside the fortified Green Zone in Baghdad, surviving only because it is defended by thousands of U.S. troops. Iraqi officials hold meetings and press conferences in Alamo-like settings, often punctuated by the sounds of nearby explosions. Outside the Green Zone, party offices and government buildings are surrounded by tank traps, blast walls made from concrete slabs eighteen feet high, and private militias wielding machine guns and AK-47s. Even minor government officials travel from fort to fort in heavily armed convoys of Humvees.

"I talk to senior military people and combat commanders who tell me that the situation is much more precarious than admitted," says Col. Patrick Lang, former Middle East chief for the Defense Intelligence Agency. "Even inside the Green Zone you are not safe, because of indirect fire. And if you were to venture outside at night, they'd probably find your headless body the next morning."

Car bombs rock Baghdad and other cities virtually every day, and insurgents conduct hundreds of attacks each week on U.S. troops, Iraqi recruits and civilian police. Thousands of Iraqi police and soldiers have scattered or disappeared, and countless others either do no fighting or covertly support the insurgency. The out-of-control security situation means that few reconstruction projects can get off the ground. Transport is crippled, and Iraq's core infrastructure -- its roads and bridges, its power plants, its water-treatment facilities, and its all-important oil fields, pipelines and oil terminals -- remains heavily damaged from the war.

According to U.S. officials, the resistance attacks are being aided by an extensive network of informers. Insurgents, apparently making use of engineers and former insiders, have been able to hit oil installations and power plants expertly, foiling U.S. efforts to sustain Iraqi oil exports and to provide electricity and water to Iraqi cities. "They have tentacles that reach all through the new government and the new military," Lt. Gen. Walter Buchanan, who commands U.S. air forces in the Persian Gulf, admitted recently.

The new government is not only powerless to stop the attacks by insurgents, it is dominated by the same clique of warlords and exiles who lobbied the Pentagon to go to war in the first place, many of whom have close ties to the warring camps that control vast parts of the country. "In the Arab world, Iraq is seen as a zone of chaos in a pre-civil-war situation, held together only by the U.S. occupation," says Chas Freeman, who served as U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia under Bush's father. A brief survey of the three major forces in Iraq -- Shiites in the south, Sunnis in the center and Kurds in the north -- makes clear the sharp divisions that threaten to blow the country apart:

The Shiites: The Bush administration's plan for reconstruction envisioned the Shiites -- the majority population long oppressed by Saddam Hussein -- as the chief power in a democratic Iraq. The United Iraqi Alliance, a Shiite party backed by Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, won a majority in the new national assembly. But a militant bloc of fundamentalist Shiites has been using its newfound strength -- and its street thugs -- to forcibly impose Islamic law throughout the southern half of Iraq. Militias loyal to rival Shiite factions are blowing up liquor stores and movie theaters, forcing women to wear ultraconservative Islamic dress and assassinating secular officials and other opponents.

One militant force, the Mahdi Army, recently stormed a peaceful picnic in Basra, where they ripped the blouse of a woman wearing Western garb. "We will send a picture to your parents," a gunman told her, "so they can see how you were dancing naked with men." The Mahdi, which battled U.S. forces during two major uprisings last year, is fiercely loyal to the charismatic and fanatical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, the scion of a leading fundamentalist Shiite family. Al-Sadr's militia, hammered in last year's clashes, is quickly rebuilding with new recruits armed with machine guns, rocket launchers and rocket-propelled grenades. It now controls a big chunk of Basra, Iraq's only port and second-largest city, along with Kut, Amarah, Nasariyah and the huge eastern district of Baghdad known as Sadr City. In April, al-Sadr organized a rally of 300,000 people to demand that U.S. troops leave Iraq.

The Mahdi Army's main rival for power among the Shiites is the Badr Brigade, which has an estimated 20,000 men under arms. Badr is run by the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, which was founded by Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran and trained by his Revolutionary Guards. SCIRI's leaders still have close ties to Iran, even though many of its officials have been elected to the new Iraqi parliament. The hard-line group is powerful in Iraq's two holy cities, Najaf and Karbala, and controls another chunk of Basra.

Other Shiite forces include the Dawa Islamic Party, whose chieftain, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, is Iraq's new prime minister. Dawa was an underground terrorist organization in Iraq from the 1960s through the 1980s, and militants linked to the group attacked the U.S. and French embassies in Kuwait in 1983. While the State Department says it has no evidence to connect al-Jaafari himself to any terrorist acts, those who study the group suspect that Dawa also gets support from Iran. "They've been spreading money to everyone," says Juan Cole, an expert on Shiism at the University of Michigan.

The Sunnis: In central Iraq, millions of formerly dominant Sunnis opted out of the elections for the new government, which they see as being almost entirely in the hands of southern Shiites and northern Kurds. There are now several dozen Sunni organizations fighting the U.S. occupation, broadly divided into two camps: mainstream, secular Arab nationalists who served as military officers and Baath Party leaders under Saddam, and Islamist fundamentalists, including extremists associated with Abu Musab Zarqawi.

Most of the attacks on American forces -- the roadside IEDs, mortar strikes and full-scale assaults -- have been conducted by the mainstream resistance, who are intent on driving out the U.S. They have brought down helicopters, destroyed at least eighty of the Abrams tanks that are the mainstay of the U.S. occupation, and mounted large-scale actions involving scores of fighters, such as the April attacks on the Abu Ghraib prison and at Al Qaim near the Syrian border. In one recent incident, car bombs exploded simultaneously in front of and behind a U.S. convoy, which then came under intense fire from automatic weapons wielded by snipers inside abandoned buildings along the route.

The Islamist extremists, including partisans tied to Al Qaeda, mix attacks on U.S. and Iraqi troops with bloody suicide bombings against Shiites and other Iraqi civilians on pilgrimages and in mosques. According to intelligence sources, including U.S. military officers who travel frequently to Iraq, such attacks on civilians have fueled a split between the two camps. "There is a big gap between the mainstream resistance and the extremists," says a U.S. military officer, who added that the nationalists are debating how to create a political force to represent them, much as the Irish Republican Army had both military and political wings.

The Sunni insurgency is larger and more homegrown than the Bush administration acknowledges. American forces, after first insisting that the resistance was composed of no more than 5,000 foreign fighters with ties to Al Qaeda, now hold more than twice that many prisoners at Abu Ghraib, Camp Bucca and Camp Cropper -- and admit that as many as 20,000 well-funded fighters remain at large. "We're facing a well-developed, mature insurgency with the support of the local population," Maj. John Reed, stationed outside the city of Husaybah, said recently.

Even Fallujah, a city of 300,000 that was virtually obliterated in a U.S. blitz last fall, is quietly re-emerging as a center of resistance. Fallujah's mayor, in the circumspect language of one U.S. official, is "doing some things not positive in nature." Meanwhile, the city of Mosul has become the newest hotbed of the insurgency. Last fall, during an attack by insurgents there, thousands of Iraqi police melted away at the first sign of violence. "I went from 2,000 police to 50," a U.S. commander on the scene told reporters.

According to Wayne White, who served until March as director of the State Department's Iraq intelligence team, Iraq cannot hold together unless a substantial bloc of Sunnis is brought into the government. But in Baghdad, the newly ascendant Shiite political parties plan to purge Iraq's security forces and fledgling intelligence service of their few remaining Sunnis. Such a move would gut the only forces in Iraq that are actually taking on the insurgency, and would alienate the remaining Sunni moderates, pushing them over into the resistance. Leading the purge, sources say, will be none other than Ahmed Chalabi, the darling of U.S. neoconservatives and Pentagon officials who helped engineer the American invasion.

The Kurds: A non-Arab population that inhabits the three northern provinces, the Kurds have long been America's closest friends in Iraq. But if the country descends into civil war, it will likely be because of the Kurds, whose territory is even further beyond the control of the Green Zone-based government than the Shiite south. Since the U.S. invasion, the Kurds have run a de facto state of their own, controlled by their militia under the command of two warlords, Jalal Talabani of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and Massoud Barzani of the Kurdistan Democratic Party. Talabani, who was named president of Iraq in April, makes no bones about his beliefs. "Historically and demographically speaking, Kurdistan was never part of Iraq," he says. In January, about ninety-seven percent of Kurds voted in favor of an independent Kurdistan.

"The central government has no authority whatsoever in Kurdistan," says Peter Galbraith, a former State Department official who is a longtime Kurdish sympathizer. "The government doesn't even have an office there. No Iraqi flag flies there. Signs say, WELCOME TO KURDISTAN OF IRAQ."

To make matters worse, the Kurds have set their sights on Kirkuk, a multiethnic city that sits atop Iraq's vast northern oil fields. Even though the city lies outside of Kurdistan, Talabani calls it "the Jerusalem of Kurdistan," and Barzani says, "We are ready to fight and to sacrifice our souls to preserve its identity." The Kurds are already engaging in some brutal expulsions of Arabs from the city. "They're doing their own ethnic cleansing, and it's dirty stuff," says Judith Yaphe, a former CIA analyst on Iraq. A full-scale Kurdish takeover, however, would be resisted by Arabs and Turks in Kirkuk, pushing Iraq even faster toward civil war. And the Kurds would roil Iraq's neighbors Turkey, Iran and Syria, which fear their own Kurdish minorities. Many experts predict Turkey would invade northern Iraq to prevent the Kurdish seizure of Kirkuk.

If it comes to civil war, the disintegration of Iraq will be extremely bloody. "The breakup of Iraq would be nearly as bad as the breakup of India in 1947," says David Mack, a former U.S. assistant secretary of state with wide experience in the Arab world. "The Kurds can't count on us to come in and save their bacon. Do they think we are going to mount an air bridge on their behalf?" Israel might support the Kurds, but Iran would intervene heavily in support of the Shiites with men, arms and money, while Arab countries would back their fellow Sunnis. "You'd see Jordan, Saudi Arabia, even Egypt intervening with everything they've got -- tanks, heavy weapons, lots of money, even troops," says White, the former State Department official.

"If they see the Sunnis getting beaten up by the Shiites, there will be extensive Arab support," agrees a U.S. Army officer. "There will be no holds barred."

In fact, it may already be too late to prevent Iraq from exploding. Iraq's new government is stuck in a fatal Catch-22: To have any credibility among Iraqis it must break with the U.S. and oppose the occupation, but it couldn't last a week without the protection of American troops. The Bush administration is also stuck. Its failure to stabilize Iraq, and the continuing casualties there, have led to a steady slide in the president's popularity: Polls show that a majority of Americans no longer think that the war in Iraq was worth fighting in the first place. Yet withdrawing from Iraq would only lead to more chaos, and the rest of the world has exhibited little interest in cleaning up America's mess. Of the two dozen or so countries that sent troops to Iraq, fewer and fewer remain: Spain, Portugal, Hungary and New Zealand have already quit, and the Netherlands, Bulgaria, Ukraine and Italy have announced they are getting out. Even if the United Nations agreed to step in, there is little or no chance that the administration will internationalize control over Iraq. In the face of a full-scale civil war in Iraq, says a source close to the U.S. military, Bush intends to go it alone.

"Our policy is to make Iraq a colony," he says. "We won't let go."

http://www.truthout.org/docs_2005/050905D.shtml

Daily Kos :: Interview Skills 101--Surviving the Fox Hunt

Interview Skills 101--Surviving the Fox Hunt
by TrueBlueMajority


Mon May 9th, 2005 at 17:35:35 PDT

The secret to succeeding on Fox or any other hostile "interview" environment is to have one simple main point you want to make and keep making it no matter what the question is.


From The Art of War: "Do not swallow bait offered by the enemy." No matter what intro question you are asked, give the pithy (shorter than 10 seconds long) and simple answer that expresses your main point. Don't even worry about whether it sounds like a non sequitur. Rs do this all the time. This is an easy tactic to copy.

Keep repeating your main point until you have had a chance to say it in its entirety at least three times. Rephrase slightly if you have to so it is not as obvious that you are repeating yourself:

* These personal risk accounts proposed by the Republicans endanger the future financial security of workers in their 30s.

* Workers in their 20s and 30s should not gamble their future on these Republican-sponsored personal risk accounts.

* Younger workers want a system of guaranteed benefits, they will not take a chance on these personal risk accounts the Republicans are pushing on everyone.

If there's any time left after you get your main point and your framing phrase ("personal risk accounts") in three times, go to one of your subpoints and do the same thing until time is up.

When constructing your ten second responses:

* the verb is the most memorable part of the statement. make it a word that the average middle school student would know.

* speak in active verbs rather than passive constructions that require more mental processing.

* whenever possible say what we are for rather than what we are against.

* when that is not possible, state what the Republicans are for, using verbs with negative connotations (this comes straight from the Newt Gingrich's 1996 GOPAC memo: Language: A Key Mechanism of Control. Memorize that document. It contains a wealth of information).

The key to "surviving the Fox hunt" is to stop pretending it's a fair fight or a fight by reality-based rules. It's not an actual interview or a real conversation--the questions don't deserve to be answered. If you choose to be responsive rather than proactive you have lost before you open your mouth because you have decided to let the Rs frame the agenda with loaded questions. Do not swallow bait offered by the enemy.

When the host notices you are not answering his question (and he will, because his question was designed to trap you and he will notice that you sidestepped the trap) and draws the audience's attention to the fact that you have not answered the question, that's all to the good, because that also encourages the audience to pay very close attention to whatever you say next:

Sean: Just answer my question: why haven't the Democrats offered any alternatives to the President's social security plan?

[now everyone is listening even more closely to decide for themselves whether your answer is responsive or not. But you still only get ten seconds...]

TBM: That is my answer, Sean: Democrats are offering the guaranteed benefits of the present system, not the gamble of personal risk accounts.

If they cut you off before the ten seconds are up:

* finish saying your prepared ten-second phrase. NEVER stop talking just because they are talking over you. Make them take your mike down in order to quiet you. And if your mike gets taken down, wear that as a badge of honor. You struck a nerve and they couldn't think of any other way to shut you up.

* become a broken record if you have to. repeat your ten second phrase a second time, calmly and forcefully as though people were still listening to you. some people are listening to you. it is hard to listen to two people at once and not everyone's attention will jump to the person who interrupted you.

* after this then look right into the camera and throw in this magic phrase: "You're not letting me answer because you know I'm telling the truth." Don't scream, just say it with firm conviction (it helps that it is true). You are saying this to the viewers/listeners, not the host. The magic phrase gets the listener's attention and they will start mentally evaluating for themselves whether what you just said was the truth or not. Not just whether you are telling the truth about them not letting you talk, but whether you are telling the truth in your main point about personal risk accounts. If the host starts justifying why he isn't letting you talk, that only draws more attention to the fact that he isn't letting you talk. Suddenly you have become a proven truth teller and have gained a tiny bit of credibility in the listener/viewer's mind.

* hold the thought in your mind that we're right and they're wrong and someday this will get through to the people. use that or some similar thought to calm yourself so that you do not get frustrated or yell back. this is just one battle in a longer engagement--we can't win them all and we don't have to win them all. we are simply trying to lay bricks in the credibility wall for 2006 and 2008. it is already beginning to get through to some segments of Red America that we were right about the war. Soon they will begin to wonder what else we are right about. Every little bit of truth telling helps.

* If possible, smile, knowing that you have the host rattled and on the run. Both the smile and the rattled host help our side in the long run.

* If they give you any opening at all, go back to your main ten-second summary with a very brief lead-in like: "All I'm trying to say is" or "I just want to make this one point" or "It's really very simple".

Dems do badly on these shows for the same reason we have done badly in recent elections. We persist in thinking the public discourse/campaign trail/pundit shows have something to do with reasoned argument. We naively believe in spite of all the contrary evidence that Joe Redvoter makes up his mind based on a critical analysis of facts. That has not been true for a very long time, if it was ever true.

Joe and Jane Redvoter respond best to repetition of simple arguments. Blue voters are in a bind because we prefer our leaders to be smart if not intellectual, and we shoot ourselves in the foot by asking such leaders to communicate with people who are neither. It is as unnatural as learning to speak a foreign language. But it is learnable. Some people are naturally gifted at it, like the Big Dog. It was one of Dean's strengths, too: I want my country back!

People only remember arguments that are short enough for them to remember. To this day can anyone give a ten second answer to Kerry's position on the war? Kerry's public speaking skills were appalling by the standards of modern political communication; run-on sentences full of dependent clauses and parenthetical statements and by the time he got to the verb you couldn't remember the subject. That style may be very persuasive to people who are capable of following complex arguments, and it probably wowed Rollin Osterweis and the Yale debate team, but it is one of the many obvious things that cost us the election.

A simple lie will be believed by more people than a complex truth. Iraq War. Need I say more?

We have yet to determine whether a simple truth will be believed by more people than a simple lie. We haven't tried it yet!

This diary and its title were inspired by Georgia10's earlier diary about resisting the temptation to boycott Fox. It does no good to keep complaining about an uneven playing field. For better or worse, we must learn how to engage Rs in the venues where red and purple voters are getting their information. This means we can not simply boycott Fox Political Entertainment Channel and all the other "news" outlets where Rs have been so successful at shaping public opinion. It is way past time to turn their own strategy against them.

There is some evidence that Dems are beginning to come down off the high horse of claiming we are "above" such tactics. We used to find the entire strategy distasteful and claim we would rather lose than engage in underhanded psychological tactics. And we lost and felt self-righteous about it. But now we are using minimalist charts and repetitive backdrops and memorable visuals and simplified arguments. I believe this is a big part of the reason why we have managed to score a few points lately on Social Security and the nuclear option and the excommunicated Dems in North Carolina. As we get better and more consistent we will continue to build on these victories.

From Ender's Game: "You will learn to defeat the enemy. He will teach you how." I believe we can teach ourselves to use aggressively simple communication tactics in support of the truth more effectively than Rs can use those same tactics to deceive and destroy. But first we must accept the fact that this strategy works and study it until we can thoroughly understand and adapt it.

All of us should be working on this until we have a critical mass of people who are capable of doing it at all media levels: from live appearances on Fox all the way down to calling in to your local wingnut drive time talk show. Every blue warrior here who has not yet read "Don't Think of an Elephant" needs to order a copy from Powell's today.

The tactics themselves are only dishonorable when they are used in the service of lies. It's time we redeemed these tactics by using them in order to tell the truth. There is no shame in communicating with people at a level they can comprehend, using words and concepts they can easily understand. Anyone who wants to be a leader in the inclusive justice movement has got to practice doing this until it becomes second nature. Our political future as Democrats, and indeed the future of our beloved country and the entire world depend on it.

We will learn to defeat the Republicans. They are already teaching us how.

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2005/5/9/203535/9165

Frank Rich - Laura Bush's Mission Accomplished

The New York Times
May 8, 2005
Laura Bush's Mission Accomplished
By FRANK RICH

AS we commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Drudge Report and the second anniversary of the Jayson Blair scandal, American journalists are in a race with the runaway bride for public enemy No. 1. Newspaper circulation is on the skids, the big three network anchor thrones are as precarious as King Lear's, bloggers are on the rampage, and the government is embracing fake reporters and threatening to jail real ones. A Pew Research Center poll shows that Americans now trust the press less than every other major institution, from government to medicine to banks. We can only be grateful that the matchups didn't include pornographers or Major League Baseball.

Then - just when you think things couldn't get any worse - along comes the annual White House Correspondents' Association dinner.

This is the black-tie Washington Hilton fete at which journalists mingle with sources and celebrities and play host to the president, who is then required to be "funny." This year's outing is already famous for a startling innovation: a first lady delivered a shaggy horse gag about masturbation for the first time in our history. (In public, anyway.) Watching the proceedings from the safe distance provided by C-Span, I was as impressed as everyone else by Laura Bush's slick performance. If the Friars can't book Susie Essman or Sarah Silverman for the dais of their next roast, Mrs. Bush would kill.

It's the press's performance that is discomforting. Once these dinners were just typical Washington rubber-chicken fare, unseen on television and unnoticed beyond the Beltway. That began to change in 1987 when Michael Kelly, then a reporter for The Baltimore Sun, invited as a guest Fawn Hall, the glamorous mystery woman in the Iran-contra scandal. Over the years, Kelly's amusing prank has metastasized into a pageant of obsequiousness and TV Land glitz, typified by this year's roster of A-list stars from the 1970's (Goldie Hawn, Mary Tyler Moore) and C-list publicity hounds from the present (Jon Cryer, Ron Silver, the axed "American Idol" contestant Constantine Maroulis). As this gaggle arrives via red carpet, it's hard to know which is worse: watching reporters suck up to politicians in power or watching them clamor to rub shoulders with Joe Pantoliano.

Jonathan Klein, the new boss at CNN and a dinner attendee, hit the right note when, in an April speech to the National Association of Broadcasters, he made the "modest proposal" that the gala be canceled and that the White House Correspondents' Association "instead spend that time and energy creating standards - and enforcing them - for those who would call themselves White House correspondents." He meant Jeff Gannon, who masqueraded as a reporter at White House news briefings for two years before it was discovered that his news organization was a front for G.O.P. activists and that his most impressive portfolio had been as a model in ads for an escort service. But there's a bigger issue here than Mr. Gannon. The Washington press corps' eagerness to facilitate and serve as dress extras in what amounts to an administration promotional video can now be seen as a metaphor for just how much the legitimate press has been co-opted by all manner of fakery in the Bush years.

Yes, Mrs. Bush was funny, but the mere sight of her "interrupting" her husband in an obviously scripted routine prompted a ballroom full of reporters to leap to their feet and erupt in a roar of sycophancy like partisan hacks at a political convention. The same throng's morning-after rave reviews acknowledged that the entire exercise was at some level P.R. but nonetheless bought into the artifice. We were seeing the real Laura Bush, we kept being told. Maybe. While some acknowledged that her script was written by a speechwriter (the genuinely gifted Landon Parvin), very few noted that the routine's most humanizing populist riff, Mrs. Bush's proclaimed affection for the hit TV show "Desperate Housewives," was fiction; her press secretary told The New York Times's Elisabeth Bumiller that the first lady had yet to watch it.

Mrs. Bush's act was a harmless piece of burlesque, but it paid political dividends, upstaging the ho-hum presidential news conference of two days earlier in which few of the same reporters successfully challenged administration spin on Social Security and other matters. (One notable exception: David Gregory of NBC News, whose sharply focused follow-ups pushed Mr. Bush off script and got him to disown some of the faith-based demagoguery of the Family Research Council.) Watching the Washington press not only swoon en masse for Mrs. Bush's show but also sponsor and promote it inevitably recalls its unwitting collaboration in other, far more consequential Bush pageants. From the White House's faux "town hall meetings" to the hiring of Armstrong Williams to shill for its policies in journalistic forums, this administration has been a master of erecting propagandistic virtual realities that the news media have often been either tardy or ineffectual at unmasking.

It was only too fitting that Mrs. Bush's performance occurred on the eve of the second anniversary of the most elaborate production of them all: the "Top Gun" landing by the president on the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln. The Washington reviews of her husband at the time were reminiscent of hers last weekend. "This president has learned how to move in a way that just conveys a great sense of authority and command," David Broder raved on "Meet the Press." Robert Novak chimed in: "He looks good in a jumpsuit." It would be quite a while before these guys stopped cheering the Jerry Bruckheimer theatrics and started noticing the essential fiction of the scene: the mission in Iraq hadn't been accomplished, and major combat operations were far from over.

"We create our own reality" is how a Bush official put it to Ron Suskind in an article in The Times Magazine during the presidential campaign. That they can get away with it shows the keenness of their cultural antennas. Infotainment has reached a new level of ubiquity in an era in which "reality" television and reality have become so blurred that it's hard to know if ABC News's special investigating "American Idol" last week was real journalism about a fake show or fake journalism about a real show or whether anyone knows the difference - or cares. This is business as usual in a culture in which the Michael Jackson trial is re-enacted daily on cable and the most powerful television news franchises, the morning triumvirate of "Today" and its competitors, now routinely present promotional segments about their respective networks' prime-time hits as if they were news.

No wonder many local TV news operations thought nothing of broadcasting government video news releases in which fake correspondents recruited from P.R. firms pushed administration policies; in some cases, neither the stations' managers nor journalists even figured out these reports were frauds. Now that public broadcasting is being turned over to Republican apparatchiks, such subterfuge could creep into the one broadcast news organization that, whatever its other failings, was thought to be immune to government or commercial interference.

The more the press blurs these lines on its own, the more openings government propagandists have to erect their Potemkin villages with impunity. "Our once noble calling," wrote Philip Meyer in The Columbia Journalism Review last fall, "is increasingly difficult to distinguish from things that look like journalism but are primarily advertising, press agentry or entertainment." You know we're in trouble when Jeff Gannon, asked about his murky past on Bill Maher's show on April 29, moralistically joked that "usually the way it works is people become reporters before they prostitute themselves." No less chastening was the experience of watching Matt Drudge, in conversation with Brian Lamb the same day, sternly criticize Fox for cutting off the final moments of the Bush news conference for Paris Hilton's reality series. When Mr. Drudge is a more sober spokesman for the sanctity of news than his fellow revelers at the correspondents' dinner, pigs just may start to fly.

Much as we all delight in the latest horse-milking joke, the happiest news in comedy last week was the announcement that "The Daily Show" will be spinning off a new half-hour on Comedy Central starring its "senior White House correspondent," Stephen Colbert. Make no mistake about it: the ratings rise of Jon Stewart's fake news has been in direct relation to the show's prowess at blowing the whistle on propaganda when the legitimate press fails to do so. The correspondents' dinner, itself a "Daily Show" target last week, could not have been a more graphic illustration of why, at a time when trust in real news is plummeting, there's a bull market for fake news that can really be trusted to know what is fake.

Speaking of Comedy Central and journalistic bloopers: Contrary to what I wrote here a week ago, the cable network did not bleep out the 162 repetitions of a four-letter expletive in an episode of "South Park," God bless 'em.

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/05/08/opinion/08rich.html?pagewanted=print

Gary Hart - IRAQ: Exit or Empire?

Gary Hart
IRAQ: Exit or Empire?

Whether the U.S. does or does not intend to establish a permanent military presence in Iraq is a factual question.

The Bush administration has repeatedly stated that it intends to withdraw American military forces as the new Iraqi government develops the means, with our help, to defend itself and provide its own security. To my knowledge, the Administration has not positively stated, nor has it been definitively asked by the press or Congress, whether it intends to withdraw ALL troops.

There is one way to find out. Are we, or are we not, building permanent military bases in Iraq? Yes or no? If we are withdrawing ALL troops, we do not need permanent bases. If we are building military bases, we do not intend to withdraw all our troops. Simple as that.

Though the press has been unaccountably lax in pursuing this question, the best evidence, mostly from non-"mainstream" sources, is that we are building somewhere between 12 and 14 permanent military bases. Permanent in this context means concrete and steel not tents and trench latrines.

If the goal of the Project for a New American Century, as it thereafter became the Bush administration, was to overthrow Saddam Hussein, install a friendly government in Baghdad, set up a permanent political and military presence in Iraq, and dominate the behavior of the region (including securing oil supplies), then you build permanent bases for some kind of permanent American military presence. If the goal was to spread democracy and freedom, then you don’t.

So, are we? Or are we not?

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/theblog/featuredposts.html#a000290

Jim Lampley - The Biggest Story of Our Lives

The Biggest Story of Our Lives

At 5:00 p.m. Eastern time on Election Day, I checked the sportsbook odds in Las Vegas and via the offshore bookmakers to see the odds as of that moment on the Presidential election. John Kerry was a two-to-one favorite. You can look it up.

People who have lived in the sports world as I have, bettors in particular, have a feel for what I am about to say about this: these people are extremely scientific in their assessments. These people understand which information to trust and which indicators to consult in determining where to place a dividing line to influence bets, and they are not in the business of being completely wrong. Oddsmakers consulted exit polling and knew what it meant and acknowledged in their oddsmaking at that moment that John Kerry was winning the election.

And he most certainly was, at least if the votes had been fairly and legally counted. What happened instead was the biggest crime in the history of the nation, and the collective media silence which has followed is the greatest fourth-estate failure ever on our soil.

Many of the participants in this blog have graduate school educations. It is damned near impossible to go to graduate school in any but the most artistic disciplines without having to learn about the basics of social research and its uncanny accuracy and validity. We know that professionally conceived samples simply do not yield results which vary six, eight, ten points from eventual data returns, thaty's why there are identifiable margins for error. We know that margins for error are valid, and that results have fallen within the error range for every Presidential election for the past fifty years prior to last fall. NEVER have exit polls varied by beyond-error margins in a single state, not since 1948 when this kind of polling began. In this past election it happened in ten states, all of them swing states, all of them in Bush's favor. Coincidence? Of course not.

Karl Rove isn't capable of conceiving and executing such a grandiose crime? Wake up. They did it. The silence of traditional media on this subject is enough to establish their newfound bankruptcy. The revolution will have to start here. I challenge every other thinker at the Huffington Post: is there any greater imperative than to reverse this crime and reestablish democracy in America? Why the mass silence? Let's go to work with the circumstantial evidence, begin to narrow from the outside in, and find some witnesses who will turn. That's how they cracked Watergate. This is bigger, and I never dreamed I would say that in my baby boomer lifetime.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/theblog/archive/2005/05/biggest-story-of-our-live.html

Why aren't TV pundits, politicians pro-enlistment?

Why aren't TV pundits, politicians pro-enlistment?
by kos
Tue May 10th, 2005 at 11:49:58 PDT

Yesterday I asked why the 101st Fighting Keyboardists and Religious Right aren't pro-enlistment. I mean, there is a real crisis in Army and Marine recruitment right now:
In April, the Army missed its recruiting goal for the third month in a row, short by nearly 2,800 recruits, or 42 percent off its target. And for the first time in 10 years, the Marine Corps missed its recruiting goal for the last four months.
Yet the cowards hiding behind monitors and pulpits can't stop singing the war's praises.

Ahh, but they're not alone.

Where is Rush Limbaugh's plea to his listeners to enlist? How about Sean Hannity? Bill O'Reilly? Nevermind they passed on serving their nation when they had a chance. Why aren't they using their influence to encourage military service?

How about President Bush? Where is he in this important issue? Joe Lieberman? Bill Frist? Tom DeLay? Sure, they shirked their duty given the chance. But since they're cheering the quagmire in the Gulf, shouldn't they be working balls-out to ensure we have the resources to fight their war?

Cowards, the lot of them. Mouthing "support" for the troops means nothing unless those troops have the manpower and equipment to fight the war effectively.

Yet they do no such thing. Why? It doesn't hurt that the draf-dodging lot of them have no credibility asking others to sacrifice when they themselves couldn't lift a finger in service to their nation when their nation needed them most.

I actually agree with this:
In an appeal to the nation's patriotism, the Army's vice chief of staff, Gen. Richard Cody, warns this issue is about far more than military service alone.

"This recruiting problem is not just an Army problems, this is America's problem," he said. "And what we have to really do is talk about service to this nation — and a sense of duty to this nation."
Except that this sense of duty to a nation, shared by millions of current servicemembers and veterans (including me) doesn't extend to the people who control the levers of power and the airwaves. Who is setting the example? Not the fighting chickenhawks, who wouldn't know service to their nation if it hit them smack upside the head.

So the hypocritical cowardly lot of them hide behind their "support" for the troops, even as those men and women continue to die in Iraq.

And a final thought -- the chickenhawks had a much stronger argument against the "didn't serve" argument when the war started. Our armed services were fully staffed, and a steady stream of volunteers kept the ranks replenished. But that has changed as the need for new recruits grows more dire by the month.

Their president needs them to keep fighting his war, a war they support and have cheerleaded from the sidelines. Time to turn words into deeds. That is, if they're not the elitist cowards I think they are.

I won't hold my breath.

Daily Kos :: EUREKA! How Dkos can break through to the national media

EUREKA! How Dkos can break through to the national media
by Addison

Mon May 9th, 2005 at 17:28:24 PDT

Oh letters to the editor! Oh issue-specific missives to Congressional representatives! Oh wordy epistles to Chris Matthews! How quaint you all seem, and how well we Kossacks know you! And how absolutely shitty you've been to us. A compendium of all letters sent by Kossacks to the local newspaper's op-ed page, or our representatives, or to cable news anchors would fill several shelves (if not whole annexes) in a library. And yet where have they gotten us? Reid's strategical genius is largely responsible for our newfound success -- but we still seem to be floundering, caught between our great stories and getting publicity for them. I may have solved the problem. I may have found a way to save our poor hands from becoming clawlike and arthritic in old age, victims of nonstop and useless writing to people who don't give a damn what we think simply because we think it -- even if the substance is factual and compelling. We need to be a virus, we need to use the news machine to reproduce our stories and views nationally. Ok. Onward.

Dkos's problem, why we've been so unsuccessful at getting our message(s) heard, is that we go for the big kahunas of news with our stories because that's where we want the story to end up. It is a wrongheaded strategy (one almost worse than writing letters to the editors of tiny local newspapers no one reads!). For whatever reason the national media doesn't like anything that smells like a liberal screed. They want something that seems neutral and/or that can be traded for influence with the White House. They want an in-house, professional story to co-opt -- they don't want to embellish some amateur sleuthing, they went to J-school for Christ's sake! They're very important people! So if we want to get results we first need to get our material into their system -- the professional journalism system. Well, let's look at the media's food chain diagram, look at what outlets lack news material, and feed the mouth that's hungry.

Well, in most non-metropolitan markets the local evening news is absolutely starved for content. A whiff of a story that has broader implications -- or that makes Blandsville, Blandissippi look like an important place where big news happens -- sends the local affiliates running to get an interview or a press release they can report on-air. We've all seen it. The desparate look on the face of a local news anchor reading a story about a cat in a tree off the teleprompter, wishing, hoping, dreaming that someday they'll get to report something important. Hey, we've got important and we are (separately) all local! OK, we've got a supply, they've got demand. Got it?

The Colorado University sex abuse scandal, "sexy cheerleading" in Texas, the dozens of "missing white girl" cases, the Virginia law against "saggy pants," the al-Qaqaa explosives story, the Sun Hudson case, the recent Baptist church political purging, Yucca Mountain, etc. -- all of them started as mere local news on local news affiliates. And, thanks to our national media's recent shift toward nationalizing local news stories, all of them ended up on CNN, MSNBC, FoxNews, and then the national newspapers. All of them became flashpoints for Democrats and Republicans -- all of them became the battlegrounds on which national political battles of all sizes were fought. And they were all originally local. Do you see where this is going?

THE POINT: Getting a story on local news is infinitely easier than getting it run on a cable news net, and then once a story is in the corporate media's system it's incredibly easy to push it onto the national scene -- for it to bubble-up. The local affiliates are the farm teams for the major league networks, and the farm teams are desperate for players. We just need to make those local stories our stories (the minor league players our players). Stories that highlight injustice, or inadequate health care, or Republican malfeasance, or any such general topic on which we liberals have the high ground or could conceivably work with more successfully than, you know, another cable news story about "liberals in Hollywood."

Sometimes, as in the case of the Amina Ali Abduladif, we may have to try making a story local through research before this strategy can be initiated. This isn't a problem because local media loves nationwide or international connections, makes them feel cosmopolitan! So, we can uncover a local connection to a broader story, then exploit it.

Still other times you may be able to take an ongoing story that's just had a recent development -- such as new medicaid rules, education funding cuts, or a new deployment of troops -- and find local people affected by it. Find some impacted citizens at a nursing home, a school, or a bar, and claim you're from an activist group who wants to make sure their story is heard. Hey, that's basically true! Get their contact info, set it amongst the backstory, then write or call the local TV station. SHAZAAM! You've gotten the media to talk about something that you want them to talk about. All because they're desperate for content!

Then, once the local media covers the story we bundle (this is vital) other facts and viewpoints along with the story as it bubbles up toward national coverage. Let's say we are successful getting a story about Amina Ali Abduladif on the local news by letting a local station know about an American relative of hers who's pleading for her release. Ok! Great! We then start developing ways to frame the story that benefits us as well as Amina: we talk about Bush's double standards re: Middle Eastern dictatorships. About the rights of women internationally. About the pitfalls of capital punishment. The story that we pushed from the grassroots will be beneficial, and the stuff we glob on to it will ensure it remains beneficial as it becomes a nationalized topic.

So, here's what I need you all to do to help me test this tactic out. The next time something happens in your town or county that is either of national importance or touches on a national issue where we have the high ground (the more sensational and cartoonish the better): CALL or WRITE your local ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, WB, or UPN affiliate. Provide them with a press release or simple "letter from a dedicated viewer" that details the backstory and the characters, perhaps tell them how passionately a certain segment of the local populace feels about the story (ie: potential for ratings!), give them a hook (suffering, injustice, tabloid wackiness, etc.) to sell the story with and -- most importantly -- give them the name of a person or persons who they can interview on videotape, preferably with a viewpoint favorable our to side. Then, if it's reported, write a diary on Dkos about the coverage with a link to the affiliate's story on the web and Kossacks nationwide will then send that link, and not necessarily the original story, to the national media. Then we'll see if this plan works or flops -- whether it's revolutionary or yet another big liberal meta-idea in the dustbin.

The best part about this is how clean the process is. We're not tricking the local news, we're not manipulating them, we're not bullying them, and we're not hectoring them about ethics; we're providing them with free scouting and free fact kits. And they, in turn, provide us with the video footage, investigation, and respectability our stories need in order to be presented national on national television. Another great feature is that local stories -- those that occur in the real world to average people -- are almost uniformly Democrat-friendly stories. The Republicans can't effectively steal this tactic. I mean, what local story are they going to push? "Local millionaire upset by high taxes?" "Local army wife wants husband in Iraq longer?" "Young man says 'thanks but no thanks' to affordable health care?" HA!

Postscript: Of course we should still use direct means to get salient facts and our viewpoint on the national cable networks and into national newspapers. We should still email Keith Olbermann, and if possible Kos or AmericaBlog or Yglesias should try to have an aboveboard cooperative agreement with Keith or others, where we'll feed him (or anyone else...) juicy stories researched by us before they're posted. That sort of symbiosis would be much more immediate and reliable than pushing "self-made" local stories national.

Postscript II: Jensequitur has written an excellent guide to writing press releases, specifically the sort of press releases a local affiliate would want before it pursued a story further. However, as Mary Julia notes below: "If you want them to cover something, CALL THEM. If you don't know the reporters at a station, ask to talk to the news director. But if you're smart, ask for some reporter you've watched on local news that you can get along with, and ASK for that person. Tell them you have a scoop. And get to KNOW your local reporters." A press release is a compendium of information relevant to the story, not a substitute for developing a personal rapport with local reporters.

Postscript III: There are oodles of good hints, tips, and suggestions in the thread below that I've no room for in the diary. Check 'em out.

Postscript IV: I have come up with a pithy phrase to market this strategy, one which I sincerely hope will someday annoy as many people as Lakoff's "framing" does: Bubble-up.

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2005/5/9/202824/5172

Paul Krugman - The Final Insult

The New York Times
May 9, 2005
The Final Insult
By PAUL KRUGMAN

Hell hath no fury like a scammer foiled. The card shark caught marking the deck, the auto dealer caught resetting a used car's odometer, is rarely contrite. On the contrary, they're usually angry, and they lash out at their intended marks, crying hypocrisy.

And so it is with those who would privatize Social Security. They didn't get away with scare tactics, or claims to offer something for nothing. Now they're accusing their opponents of coddling the rich and not caring about the poor.

Well, why not? It's no more outrageous than other arguments they've tried. Remember the claim that Social Security is bad for black people?

Before I take on this final insult to our intelligence, let me deal with a fundamental misconception: the idea that President Bush's plan would somehow protect future Social Security benefits.

If the plan really would do that, it would be worth discussing. It's possible - not certain, but possible - that 40 or 50 years from now Social Security won't have enough money coming in to pay full benefits. (If the economy grows as fast over the next 50 years as it did over the past half-century, Social Security will do just fine.) So there's a case for making small sacrifices now to avoid bigger sacrifices later.

But Mr. Bush isn't calling for small sacrifices now. Instead, he's calling for zero sacrifice now, but big benefit cuts decades from now - which is exactly what he says will happen if we do nothing. Let me repeat that: to avert the danger of future cuts in benefits, Mr. Bush wants us to commit now to, um, future cuts in benefits.

This accomplishes nothing, except, possibly, to ensure that benefit cuts take place even if they aren't necessary.

Now, about the image of Mr. Bush as friend to the poor: keep your eye on the changing definitions of "middle income" and "wealthy."

In last fall's debates, Mr. Bush asserted that "most of the tax cuts went to low- and middle-income Americans." Since most of the cuts went to the top 10 percent of the population and more than a third went to people making more than $200,000 a year, Mr. Bush's definition of middle income apparently reaches pretty high.

But defenders of Mr. Bush's Social Security plan now portray benefit cuts for anyone making more than $20,000 a year, cuts that will have their biggest percentage impact on the retirement income of people making about $60,000 a year, as cuts for the wealthy.

These are people who denounced you as a class warrior if you wanted to tax Paris Hilton's inheritance. Now they say that they're brave populists, because they want to cut the income of retired office managers.

Let's consider the Bush tax cuts and the Bush benefit cuts as a package. Who gains? Who loses?

Suppose you're a full-time Wal-Mart employee, earning $17,000 a year. You probably didn't get any tax cut. But Mr. Bush says, generously, that he won't cut your Social Security benefits.

Suppose you're earning $60,000 a year. On average, Mr. Bush cut taxes for workers like you by about $1,000 per year. But by 2045 the Bush Social Security plan would cut benefits for workers like you by about $6,500 per year. Not a very good deal.

Suppose, finally, that you're making $1 million a year. You received a tax cut worth about $50,000 per year. By 2045 the Bush plan would reduce benefits for people like you by about $9,400 per year. We have a winner!

I'm not being unfair. In fact, I've weighted the scales heavily in Mr. Bush's favor, because the tax cuts will cost much more than the benefit cuts would save. Repealing Mr. Bush's tax cuts would yield enough revenue to call off his proposed benefit cuts, and still leave $8 trillion in change.

The point is that the privatizers consider four years of policies that relentlessly favored the wealthy a fait accompli, not subject to reconsideration. Now that tax cuts have busted the budget, they want us to accept large cuts in Social Security benefits as inevitable. But they demand that we praise Mr. Bush's sense of social justice, because he proposes bigger benefit cuts for the middle class than for the poor.

Sorry, but no. Mr. Bush likes to play dress-up, but his Robin Hood costume just doesn't fit.

E-mail: krugman@nytimes.com