Archive for September, 2007

Seymour Hersh on Iran (9/30/07)

September 30, 2007

The illustration from the the October 7 , 2007 issue of the New Yorker accompanies Seymour M. Hersh’s installment for Annals of National Security, “Shifting Targets: The Administration’s plan for Iran.”

Hersh reports on increased activity and posits that Bush’s change to emphasize “surgical” strikes on Revolutionary Guard Corps facilities in Tehran and elsewhere,

reflects three developments. First, the President and his senior advisers have concluded that their campaign to convince the American public that Iran poses an imminent nuclear threat has failed (unlike a similar campaign before the Iraq war), and that as a result there is not enough popular support for a major bombing campaign. The second development is that the White House has come to terms, in private, with the general consensus of the American intelligence community that Iran is at least five years away from obtaining a bomb. And, finally, there has been a growing recognition in Washington and throughout the Middle East that Iran is emerging as the geopolitical winner of the war in Iraq.

Hersh reports that a former senior intelligence official told him about a White House meeting with Cheney this summer in which the administration agreed it could fend off criticism of limited strikes by saying

Bill Clinton did the same thing; he conducted limited strikes in Afghanistan, the Sudan, and in Baghdad to protect American lives.

The former intelligence official added,

There is a desperate effort by Cheney et al. to bring military action to Iran as soon as possible. Meanwhile, the politicians are saying, “You can’t do it, because every Republican is going to be defeated, and we’re only one fact from going over the cliff in Iraq.” But Cheney doesn’t give a rat’s ass about the Republican worries, and neither does the President.

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Seymour M. Hersh first gained national attention for writing about the My Lai massacre and cover up, winning the 1970 Pulitzer Prize for International reporting. According to The People’s Almanac,

Failing to sell the piece to Life and Look magazines, Hersh filed it with the fledgling Dispatch News Service, which peddled it to 36 major newspapers at $100 each.

Hersh first wrote for the New Yorker feature “Reporter at Large” in 1971, at least that’s the first article abstracted on the magazine’s site. His first column for “The Annals of National Security” feature questioned Clinton’s bombing of a pharmaceutical company in Sudan in retaliation for Bin Ladin in “The Missiles of August,” which appeared in the October 12, 1998 issue (p. 34) .

August and September 2007: 34,030
2007 YTD: 126,073
2006 TOTAL: 61,308
Total since 1/1/06: 187,381

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The MoveOn Flap (9/29/07)

September 29, 2007

Mike showed me “Ad About You,” Jon Stewart’s take on the absurdity of the flap about MoveOn.org’s ad in the New York Times, “General Betray Us.”

Carnacki did a great job at Daily Kos of skewering the Democrats who voted for the measure. When I read his entry at West Virginia Blue on the House Resolution, he merely had a link to the vote, 910. It took me a while to realize the topic. Readers here know I was tied up writing a commentary on SCHIP for llrx. And so of course, I knew about the vote on the continuing budget resoltion. But, while I had heard there was a vote condemning the MoveOn ad, I hadn’t made the connection that it was submitted as an amendment to recommit the continuing budget resolution

What I found particularly disappointing was Chairman Obey’s facile demogoguery supporting the amendment, somehow (and ironically) tying his loathing of MoveOn to his antipathy to Joe McCarthy.

I want to urge support for this motion. As those in this House who know me well understand, I come from the State of Joe McCarthy. And one of the reasons that I changed political parties, because I grew up in a Republican family, is because I saw what the local McCarthy supporters did to the best teacher I ever had when they impugned his patriotism by calling him a Bolshevik back during the McCarthy heyday. And to this day there is nothing that gets my dander up more than to have someone’s patriotism questioned on this House floor or anywhere else in the political realm. And if I’m going to get upset when that kind of juvenile activity occurs on the part of the political right, then I’ve got an obligation to be equally upset when that kind of juvenile debate emanates from the left.

It seems to me that we all ought to recognize that we can have honest and profound differences with the policy that the general was selling 2 weeks ago without getting personal about it. I think what we ought to do is accept this motion, vote for it, send the continuing resolution to the Senate and get on with the business of negotiating out the content of these appropriation bills so that we can do our duty to the country.

I yield back the balance of my time and ask for an “aye” vote.

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I mean, really, isn’t Obey impugning the patriotism of MoveOn. And I’d be curious as to when he ever voted deplore the “kind of juvenile activity occurs on the part of the political right.”

Why not just have the balls to say, “I urge my fellow members to vote nay and to consider, that while they may find this ad juvenile in tone (as I found the waving of flipflops at the Republican Convention) or even consider it namecalling (but certainly not in the same degree as the Swift Boat Veterans) I find myself loathe to stifle free speech and to make such stifling an amendment to the continuing budget resolution.”

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I was also disappointed in the editorial cartoonist Ed Stein for his facile cartoon, which came down against MoveOn and let him know on his blog and referred him to Carnacki’s satire.

Stein, you may remember did one of the best cartoons, by my lights, on SCHIP…

VCU and the Tobacco Industry (9/28/07)

September 28, 2007

Dwane Powell ( archive, bio, email ) of the Raleigh New & Observer penned this cartoon dated 9/2/06.

Tobacco activist Anne Landman (bio, email), while at the American Lung Association of Colorado, documented how tobacco companies paid retailers generous fees to strategically place self-service cigarette displays out of the line of sight of clerks and near the doors, resulting in cigarettes being shoplifted, primarily by youth. Her efforts culminated in CBS Evening News broadcasting an April 12, 1999 “Eye on America” segment , “Tempting Teens with Tobacco.”

Now she has written an interesting September 12 blog entry for PRWatch exposing Virginia Commonwealth University’s connections with the tobacco industry. This university which includes the Medical College of Virginia receives a lot of money from tobacco giant Philip Morris. Additionally its president, Dr. Eugene Trani, who has worked to make VCU a smoker-friendly campus, on February 11, 2000,

was appointed a director of the Universal Corporation, a holding company that owns Universal Leaf Tobacco, the country’s largest purchaser and supplier of tobacco leaf. According to Universal’s Web site, Trani still sits on the company’s Board of Directors as of 2007. An August 9, 2007 filing with the Securities Exchange Commission available online reveals that he currently owns 6,250 shares of common stock in the Universal Corporation, thereby profiting personally from domestic and foreign cigarette sales.

Landman edits the Sourcewatch portal TobaccoWiki, which examines the tobacco industry because its

strategies, propaganda tactics and corporate behaviors … can give insight into the behavior of other multinational industries and corporations. To that end,TobaccoWiki seeks to increase public understanding of tobacco industry strategies to deceive the public about the health effects of smoking and secondhand smoke; delay regulation of cigarettes, influence regulation and standards in their favor;market their products more heavily in the third world, where there is less regulation; market to young people; form front groups, coalitions and fake “grassroots” groups to do the industry’s bidding; leverage human emotional and psychological needs to make cigarDwane ette advertising more effective; target less-educated, low income and minority ethnic groups; alter the American judicial system to block lawsuits (“tort reform”); intimidate legislators, regulators, public health scientists and voluntary health organizations; draft and pass laws in their favor; preempt local efforts to limit indoor smoking; engineer cigarettes for addiction, and much, much more.

Landman’s trove of tobacco documments can be found online here, along with others made available through the American Legacy Foundation (ALF), started in March 1999 as a result of the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) between a coalition of attorneys general in 46 states and five U.S. territories and the tobacco industry. It’s purpose is to discourage smoking in youth. ALF is also co-sponsoring TobaccoWiki.

When U was finishing up the llrx article on schip. I noted that several Democrats who voted against the measure come from tobacco states. Presumably, they objected to the taxing of cigarettes to fund children’s healthcare.

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Helped Mike with progressive link list.

Senate passes SCHIP (9/27/07)

September 27, 2007

Senate vote was 67-29 in favor of SCHIP.

Congressional Budget Office report in May

found that Bush’s plan — a $5 billion expansion over five years — would underfund the program by $9 billion during that period.

Yesterday the House voted 404-14 to pass HJ Res 52, a continuing resolution which included the SCHIP program, as none of the 12 budgets bills have been signed into law. The House has passed all 12 spending bills, while the Senate has approved four, but there have been no conference committees and Bush has threatened vetoes of all the bills. Acording to AP writer andrew Taylor, House Appropriations Chair David Obey (D-WI) complained,

The president would have the country believe that we … are pouring money into the domestic budget. I would suggest that restoring $16 billion in presidential cuts is mighty small potatoes compared to the $200 billion he wants us to spend in Iraq.

See John Kerry’s commentary at his site.

Dirty Sexy Money Worth Watching (9/26/07)

September 27, 2007

Watched the new series , “Dirty Sexy Money,” with its ace cast led by Donald Sutherland, Jill Clayburgh, Billy Baldwin and Peter Krause after redoing the printing of VE. This looks like a winner.

House Votes on SCHIP (9/25/07)

September 27, 2007

Spent afternoon at the media center learning photoshop. Cropped a photo of Sig and Jill from bookgroup as above to make it look more like a closeup and mailed it out to folks.

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The House voted 265-159 on the conference version of SCHIP (summary), which closely resembled the Senate plan, falling short of the 290 needed to override Bush’s threatened veto.

The compromise worked out by negotiators would renew the program for five years, with a total of $60 billion, financing the $35 billion in additional spendingby increasing the federal excise tax on cigarettes by 61 cents, to $1 a pack. The measure stripped privatized Medicare Advantage cuts in the House version, H.R. 3162, which drew Republican opposition.

Senator Susan Collins of Maine, a Republican seeking re-election, urged the president to reconsider his threat of a veto, saying he would be “making a terrible mistake.” Ted Kennedy said,

The House has voted for the most important advance in children’s health in a decade and so will the Senate. After vetoing bills to end the war in Iraq and to support life-saving stem cell research, it would be outrageous for President Bush to make uninsured children the latest casualty of his veto pen.

The Senate is set to take up the measure Thursday.

Entry for September 24, 2007

September 27, 2007

Mikhaela Reid’s 12/14/2006 take on Guliani.

Republicans accused Jimmy Carter of flipflopping on tax policy. Bush supporters distributed Kerry flip-flop sandals to delegates at the GOP convention, the Bush campaign produced a Kerry flip-flop game for its Web site, and the president brought it up almost every day on the campaign trail.

That’s why it’s so interesting to read this look at Guiliani’s record as he chastises Clinton and other Democrats for being soft on terror: “Giuliani’s Rhetoric on Terror Contrasts With His Record,” Alec MacGillis, The Washngton Post, September 24.

Giuliani stakes the same claim he used to build a successful consulting firm after leaving City Hall: that he is not only a strong leader in a crisis, but someone who was deeply engaged with the Islamic extremist threat long before planes hit the World Trade Center.

But for most of Giuliani’s career as a Department of Justice official, prosecutor and New York’s chief executive, terrorism was a narrow aspect of his broader crime-fighting agenda, which was dominated by drug dealers, white-collar criminals and the Mafia. Giuliani expressed confidence that Islamic extremism could be contained through vigorous investigation by law enforcement agencies and prosecution in the court system — the same approach he now condemns.

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Fixed Thai chicken for Victoria and Jessica.

Bush and Blackwater (9/23/07)

September 27, 2007

Clinton was plagued by Whitewater, why not Bush by Blackwater? See: “U.S. Repeatedly Rebuffed Iraq on Blackwater Complaints,” Sudarsan Raghavan and Steve Fainaru, The Washington Post.

Senior Iraqi officials repeatedly complained to U.S. officials about Blackwater USA’s alleged involvement in the deaths of numerous Iraqis, but the Americans took little action to regulate the private security firm until 11 Iraqis were shot dead last Sunday, according to U.S. and Iraqi officials.

See Truthdig’s March 30, 2007 interview with Jeremy Scahill about his book, Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army, privatization in America and abroad, and our dysfunctional democracy.

Update: Scahill also has an essay in the upcoming Nation, “Making a Killing.”

Sufi dancing (9/22/07)

September 25, 2007

Went to Sufi dancing tonight after cooking a cauliflower curry for Victoria and Todd.

Spitzer, Schwarzenegger and SCHIP (9/21/07)

September 25, 2007

Governors Eliot Spitzer (D-NY) and Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA) sent a letter September 17 to Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt saying they and 28 other governors had joined their effort to pressure the administration to reconsider changes to the State Children’s Health Insurance Program that limited the scope unless States had enrolled 95% of children below 200 percent of the poverty level _ $34,340 for a family of three.

The requirements amount to a unilateral restriction on state authority to provide health insurance coverage for children and undermine the foundation of the state-federal partnership upon which SCHIP was built.

This followed up on letter by forty-four senators, including six Republicans, to President bush on September 10, calling for him to rescind the new restrictions.

We oppose these new requirements as they will result in the loss of coverage for tens of thousands of children and could block efforts underway by other states working to insure more kids.

Senators Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA), Gordon H. Smith (R-OR), Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), and Olympia J. Snowe (R-ME) also released a statement September 12 that they had introduced legislation that will prevent states from having to drastically restricting the number of children who can access care.

The House and Senate agreed today to a compromise on the SCHIP bill, but the details are not available yet.