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Sunday, March 23, 2008


U.S. Pushed Allies on Iraq, Diplomat Writes

Chilean Envoy to U.N. Recounts Threats of Retaliation in Run-Up to Invasion

By Colum Lynch
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 23, 2008; Page A11

UNITED NATIONS -- In the months leading up to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, the Bush administration threatened trade reprisals against friendly countries who withheld their support, spied on its allies, and pressed for the recall of U.N. envoys that resisted U.S. pressure to endorse the war, according to an upcoming book by a top Chilean diplomat.

The rough-and-tumble diplomatic strategy has generated lasting "bitterness" and "deep mistrust" in Washington's relations with allies in Europe, Latin America and elsewhere, Heraldo Muñoz, Chile's ambassador to the United Nations, writes in his book "A Solitary War: A Diplomat's Chronicle of the Iraq War and Its Lessons," set for publication next month.

"In the aftermath of the invasion, allies loyal to the United States were rejected, mocked and even punished" for their refusal to back a U.N. resolution authorizing military action against Saddam Hussein's government, Muñoz writes.

But the tough talk dissipated as the war situation worsened, and President Bush came to reach out to many of the same allies that he had spurned. Muñoz's account suggests that the U.S. strategy backfired in Latin America, damaging the administration's standing in a region that has long been dubious of U.S. military intervention....(Click here for remainder of article.)


Bill Maher: New Rules 3-21-08


Sex Scandal Cheat Sheet


Cuyahoga County Board of Elections begins investigation of primary crossover voters

Thursday, March 20, 2008
Joe Guillen, Plain Dealer Reporter

The Cuyahoga County Board of Elections has launched an investigation that could lead to criminal charges against voters who maliciously switched parties for the March 4 presidential primary.

Elections workers will look for evidence that voters lied when they signed affidavits pledging allegiance to their new party. And at least one board member, Sandy McNair, a Democrat, wants the county prosecutor to review the findings.

But it remained unclear Wednesday whether the four-member board will agree to pursue prosecution. A 2-2 vote would mean that Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, a Democrat, would have to break the tie.

The investigation comes 10 days after The Plain Dealer reported that more than 16,000 Cuyahoga County Republicans changed parties before voting March 4.

After the election, some local Republicans admitted they changed parties only to influence which Democrat would face presumed Republican nominee John McCain in November. One voter scribbled the following addendum to his pledge as a new Democrat: "For one day only."

Such an admission amounts to voter fraud, said McNair, who pushed for the investigation....(Click here for remainder of article.)


Blackwater's PAC and Chris Shays

by: Matt Stoller
Sat Mar 22, 2008 at 14:50
Reposted from

Since we've been discussing whether to ban or simply regulate private military contractors, it's worth pointing out that Blackwater actually has a PAC called the Professional Services Council. This is a political incentive for increased use of mercenaries in hot zones and disaster areas by the US government. Of course, there's no reason these skilled workers couldn't be hired by other governments or even wealthy interests, which is why the use of armed military contractors is generally a very bad idea. The Responsible Plan to End the War in Iraq defunds Blackwater in Iraq for precisely this reason.

One of the key allies of Blackwater is so-called moderate Republican Chris Shays, who is facing a stiff challenge from Democrat Jim Himes in Connecticut. Shays has repeatedly praised Blackwater's CEO Eric Prince, saying in one committee hearing that the company was doing a 'perfect job'. Just one week early, on 9/26/07, Shays had received $1000 from the Professional Services Council PAC.

So far, the PAC is not particularly large, but it has the potential to grow into a real political malignancy. The country is slowly acclimatizing to the open use of private military contractors, an extraordinarily dangerous development for our republic, as even Barack Obama does not necessarily want to defund them. On the other side, there was tremendous organizing going on among rural conservatives in Portrero, California against Blackwater's possible new facility near the Mexican border, supplemented by the Courage Campaign's organizing of progressive activists around the country. Blackwater was prevented from opening their new facility, blocked by a major local zoning fight.

This kind of momentum against the privatization of the military is extremely useful, and I'm quote hopefuly that Himes will use Blackwater and its links to Shays as a political issue in his race, so that the public has the opportunity to weigh in on the use of private military contractors.


Hillary Clinton's Bosnia Lie

by: Matt Stoller
Sat Mar 22, 2008 at 19:20
Reposted from

Via Matt Yglesias, here's what Clinton said about that trip.

I certainly do remember that trip to Bosnia, and as Togo said, there was a saying around the White House that if a place was too small, too poor, or too dangerous, the president couldn't go, so send the First Lady. That's where we went. I remember landing under sniper fire. There was supposed to be some kind of a greeting ceremony at the airport, but instead we just ran with our heads down to get into the vehicles to get to our base.

Clinton's assertion that her vote for war in Iraq was not a vote for war has always rubbed me the wrong way. That said, I would be open to some explanation of how this episode and her recounting of it isn't dishonest. The whole 'she's experienced' because she was first lady has always been kind of ridiculous, but much less ridiculous than the notion than voting for the war and refusing to acknowledge the mistake makes you serious or demonstrates some capacity to exercise good judgment.


McCain Ignores Webb’s Call to Sponsor GI Bill

This is how John McCain supports the troops:

Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) is calling on presumptive GOP presidential nominee Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) to sign on as a co-sponsor to his GI bill, which would improve educational benefits to veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"McCain needs to get on the bill," Webb told reporters after a Christian Science Monitor breakfast meeting on Wednesday. He said legislation mirroring the post-World War II GI bill should not be considered a "political issue."

This is how the Democrats support the troops:

Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) and Barack Obama (Il.), the Democratic presidential candidates, both have signed on to the bill.


Clinton Camp: Richardson an Insignificant Judas

James Carville on Bill Richardson's endorsement of Barack Obama:

"An act of betrayal," said James Carville, an adviser to Mrs. Clinton and a friend of Mr. Clinton.

"Mr. Richardson’s endorsement came right around the anniversary of the day when Judas sold out for 30 pieces of silver, so I think the timing is appropriate, if ironic," Mr. Carville said, referring to Holy Week.

Mark Penn on Richardson's endorsement:

"The time that he could have been effective has long since passed," he continued, "I don’t think it is a significant endorsement in this environment."

According to Mark Penn, thirty pieces of silver ain't what it used to be...but then, Clinton's paying him millions. Meanwhile, Richardson can take comfort that he's not the only one that doesn't matter.


Media Narrative and Hard Financial Facts Turning Against Clinton

The polls, the finances and the conventional wisdom are all pointing in the same direction: it's almost impossible for Hillary Clinton to win the Democratic Presidential nomination.

First, the polls. The Wright controversy hurt Barack Obama, and it may in the long run be a problem. But he appears to have recovered from the dip in the polls that coincided with the height of negative attention over Obama's former pastor. He's recovered the lead over Clinton in the Gallup daily tracking poll that he lost during the Wright affair; the day of his Philadelphia speech, Clinton had opened up a 49% to 42% lead. Three days later, Obama has regained the lead, 48% to 45%.

The CBS/NYT poll (pdf) asked questions about Obama's Tuesday speech on race. 71% of voters following the story thought Obama did a good job of explaining Wright. 73% of Democrats polled agree with Obama's views on race relations in the US, against only 14% who disagreed. Among independents, it was 65% agreeing, and only 25% disagreeing. When asked if his speech would make voters more likely to vote for Obama, less likely, or wouldn't make a difference, the net movement was zero.

Obama would need to be severely damaged by the Wright controversy for it to benefit Hillary Clinton. The polls suggest that the damage, at least within the Democratic primary electorate, may be minimal....(Click here for remainder of post.)


McCain's FEC Problem

We noted this yesterday. But The Washington Post does a good job today in sizing up the situation and its possible mammoth consequences for McCain's campaign.

There are really two completely separate issues here.

First, McCain opted in to the public finance system for the primaries last year. It meant that his struggling campaign would get $5.8 million in public matching funds in March. Now that he's effectively the Republican nominee, he wants out, because the system entails a spending limit of $54 million through the end of August. He's almost spent that much already, according to the Post.

So the McCain campaign sent the Federal Election Commission a letter (pdf) earlier this month saying that he was opting out. But there's a problem. And FEC Chairman David Mason, a Republican, made it plain in his letter (pdf) yesterday: McCain can't tell the FEC that he's out of the system. He can only ask.

And the FEC, which normally has six commissioners, can't give him an answer until it has a quorum of four commissioners. It currently only has two. That's because the Senate has been deadlocked over four nominees; Democrats insist on a separate confirmation vote for vote-suppression guru Hans von Spakovsky, and Republicans insist on a single vote for all nominees....(Click here for remainder of post.)


Obama makes a fox news anchor walk off set!


Speaking Truth to Fox News

Posted on Mar 21, 2008

Fox newsman Chris Wallace just bit the hand that feeds him talking points. While a guest on “Fox and Friends,” Wallace took his colleagues to task for their coverage of Obama and race, accusing them of both belaboring and distorting the story.


Bill Clinton’s Latest Campaign Controversy

Posted on Mar 22, 2008

Even some Hillary Clinton supporters have expressed reservations over the role of the former president in the campaign. Others have argued that the media and the Obama campaign exaggerate when it comes to his comments. Whatever the case, Bill’s mouth has gotten him into trouble again.

In the clip below, the former president says a race between Hillary Clinton and John McCain, “two people who loved this country and were devoted to the interest of this country,” would be great. The implication being, some have said, that Barack Obama doesn’t love his country.

Obama’s top military adviser, retired Air Force Gen. Merrill “Tony” McPeak, likened Bill Clinton to Joe McCarthy. The admiral himself has gotten into trouble for having a loose tongue on the trail.

The Clinton campaign called McPeak’s comment “an outrage.” And the vicious campaign cycle of comment-outrage-repeat goes on.


Bush says Iraq surge is 'working'

Holy crap! This idiot is like a broken record. Again and again this Fascist cabal regurgitates the same detritus. That on top of the big Dick saying that he really doesn't give a whit about what the American public thinks and wants. God I hate these people!

George Bush, the US president, has said that the US is safer after its invasion of Iraq, adding that the troop 'surge' had succeeded in promoting stability there.

Bush made his comments in a speech at the Pentagon to mark the fifth anniversary of the US-led invasion that toppled the government of Saddam Hussein, Iraq's president.

"Because we acted the world is better and the United States of America is safer," he said on Wednesday.

"Because of the troop surge, the level of violence is significantly down. Civilian deaths are down. Sectarian killings are down. Attacks on American forces are down.

Surge 'working'

The US president acknowledged that work still had to be done.

"The gains we've made are fragile and irreversible, but on this anniversary, the American people should know that since the surge began, the level of violence is significantly down, civilian deaths are down, sectarian killings are down," Bush said.

"We have captured or killed thousands of extremists in Iraq, including hundreds of key al-Qaeda leaders and operatives....(Click here for remainder of article.)


Canada doubles Iraqi refugee quota

Canada is to double the number of Iraqi refugees it permits to enter the country next year, according to immigration officials.

Diane Finley, Canada's citizenship and immigration minister, said on Wednesday that Canada would accept between 1,800 and 2,000 Iraqi refugees in 2008, up from about 900 people last year.

Canada is also increasing its Middle East resettlement target to 3,300 people this year, marking a 54 per cent increase compared to last year.

"We are responding to the situation in Iraq by significantly increasing the number of Iraqi refugees we accept," Finley said.

"Consistent with Canada's longstanding tradition of providing protection to refugees most in need, we will continue to monitor this situation and explore options to further meet resettlement needs with respect to Iraqis."

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that since the Iraq conflict began in 2003 more than two million Iraqis have fled violence in the country, mostly to Syria, Jordan and Egypt.

An additional 2.5 million have been displaced internally due to the violence, the organisation says....(Click here for remainder of article.)


Arrests made at US war protests

How wonderful. Sigh. Our civil liberties continue to be eroded by the Bush crime family. For those who are a little hazy on what the US Constitution says about this:
First Amendment - Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Oh well, according to Bush, it's just a "Goddamn piece of paper."

At least 32 people have been arrested during protests in Washington DC marking the fifth anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq, police said.

About 100 Protesters in the US capital blocked the entrance to the Internal Revenue Service, the US tax collection agency, as campaigners attempted to focus attentions on funding for the war.

The activists were arrested when they cross barriers outside the building, police said.

The protest was one of a number marking the Iraq war set to take place across the US.

We wanted to put our bodies between the money and what that money goes to fund - the war, the occupation, the bombs," said Frida Berrigan, from the War Resisters League.

"It would have been nice to shut down the building for the whole day but I think this was a good symbolic action," she said.

Protests planned

At the American Petroleum Institute in downtown Washington, dozens of protesters held signs reading "Out of Iraq" and "No blood for Oil!"

In Miami, a small group of protesters ressed in black waved anti-war signs at drivers stuck in early morning rush-hour traffic near the US Southern Command military complex.

In New York, protesters from the Granny Peace Brigade were set to hold a "knit-in" at the Times Square military recruitment center that was targeted in a bomb attack earlier this month....(Click here for remainder of article.)


US economic misery continues

The US economy is continuing its economic downturn although it would be "premature" to officially declare a recession, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has said.

"The US economy is now essentially moving sideways, if not contracting outright,'' the OECD said on Thursday.

"It may be premature to declare a recession, but with the pace of activity so far below potential, economic slack is widening rapidly."

The news comes as the US department of labour said jobless claims had risen to 378,000, up from 356,000 the week before.

The department's report said the total number of payroll jobs fell by 63,000 in February, an even bigger decline that the drop of 22,000 jobs in January - the first monthly decline since mid-2003.

US stocks closed higher on Thursday, with the Dow Jones rising 268 points, or 2.2 per cent to 12,368.15, while the Nasdaq rose 47.5 points, or 2.1 per cent, to 2,257.51....(Click here for remainder of article.)


US immigrant veterans' new battle

By Kristen Saloomey in New York

Waiting years to get US citizenship can be frustrating, especially if you have been risking your life for the country in Iraq.

In 2002, before the US invasion of Iraq, George Bush, the US president, promised to fast-track naturalisation applications for immigrants who serve in the military.

But despite that promise, security measures introduced since the attacks of September 11, 2001, and bureaucratic mix-ups are delaying service members from receiving their citizenship.

Abdool Habibullah filed his application in September 2005, after returning from a tour of duty in Iraq. The 27-year-old immigrant from Guyana is still waiting.

"Why?" asks the former marine, who still has his military style haircut and pressed T-shirts.

"Why should someone who served in the military in a time of combat - put their life on the line - why should I have to wait for citizenship?"

The delays often have consequences.

Habibullah planned to go into law enforcement when he came back to the US, where he has lived since he was 10-years old, but you have to be a citizen to apply....(Click here for remainder of article.)


Ecuador warns of new diplomatic war

Ecuador has threatened to launch a new diplomatic offensive against Colombia if DNA tests confirm that Colombia's military killed an Ecuadorean citizen during its raid on a rebel camp in Ecuador's jungle.

The threat was made by Rafael Correa, the Ecuadorian president, on Saturday after relatives of missing Ecuadorean Franklin Aizalia claimed to have seen news photos that indicate a body that Colombia removed from the camp was that of their son.

The relatives will travel to Bogota on Monday in a bid to confirm the body's identity.

If it proves to be Aizalia, rather than a Colombian, Correa vowed "to start an extremely strong diplomatic fight, because we will not leave this killing unpunished."

Ecuador and Venezuela sent troops to their borders with Colombia after the March 1 cross-border raid. Tensions were largely defused at a regional summit days later....(Click here for remainder of article.)


Talking about race: Um, you first

Obama's speech called for a conversation that not everyone wants.

By Stephanie Simon and Richard Fausset, Los Angeles Times Staff Writers
March 23, 2008

LITHONIA, GA. -- How do we start a national dialogue on race?

Charlotte Griffin was at a restaurant one evening when a white woman complimented her on her children's behavior. The stranger may have meant to be kind. But Griffin wondered if she heard a note of condescension -- an assumption, perhaps, that black kids aren't usually so polite.

How do we navigate that minefield?

As a teenager, Stan North went to work on the assembly line at Ford. He made good money. But he noticed that he -- like all the other white guys -- always got the dirty jobs. Seething, he concluded that the boss wouldn't dare give a black man heavy lifting, for fear of being tagged a racist.

How do we acknowledge that anger?

In his recent address on race relations in America -- prompted by his minister's explosive sermons on that topic -- Sen. Barack Obama declared that whites must understand the black experience in America and blacks must appreciate the white perspective. Otherwise, he said, we face a grinding "racial stalemate."...(Click here for remainder of article.)


Democrats increase their numbers as primary deadline nears

By J.D. Prose, Times Staff
Published: Saturday, March 22, 2008 11:00 PM EDT

With Pennsylvania’s April 22 primary now less than a month away, the campaigns of the Democratic presidential hopefuls — U.S. Sen. Barack Obama and U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton — are intensifying their efforts to register Democrats, and county elections offices are seeing a surge.

Beaver County elections director Dorene Mandity said 1,370 county residents had registered as Democrats between Nov. 1, 2007, and Wednesday, compared with 730 newly registered Republicans.

Those figures included 607 voters who changed their registration to Democratic and 260 voters who changed to Republican.

“In that short a period, (the increase in Democrats) is a lot,” she said.

As of Wednesday, there were nearly 113,500 registered voters in Beaver County, including 67,522 Democrats and 35,523 Republicans.

Mandity said neither Democratic campaign had submitted a large number of voter registration forms, and she feared “that they’ll just wait until the last minute” and submit everything they’ve collected on Monday, the last day to register or change registration for the state’s primary.

Since last fall’s election, statewide Democratic enrollment has swelled by more than 111,000 — an increase of about 3 percent in less than six months that state elections Commissioner Harry Van Sickle said is apparently unprecedented.

On Wednesday, Democratic registration was barely 5,000 votes shy of a record 4 million.

The smaller statewide enrollments of Republicans and voters not registered in either party have declined slightly....(Click here for remainder of article.)


Church leaders defend Wright's style, not words

11:03 PM EDT, March 22, 2008

The fiery oratory of Sen. Barack Obama's former pastor -- words that have ensnared the Democratic presidential challenger in the stickiest controversy of his candidacy -- drew from rhetorical traditions that are well within the mainstream of black church congregations.

"He is a phenomenal preacher," said the Rev. Reginald Tuggle, pastor of Memorial Presbyterian Church in Freeport.

"He is not a crank. He is mainstream in the black theological tradition," said Union Theological Seminary professor James Cone, whose texts on black liberation theology formed the basis of study for most black seminary graduates serving in pulpits today.

Controversy over the Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr.'s comments broke into the national consciousness 10 days ago, when ABC's "Good Morning America" aired a video clip from a 2003 sermon in which Wright said: "The government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strike law and then wants us to sing 'God Bless America'? No, no, no. Not God bless America. ... God damn America for treating our citizens as less than human."

Wright, who officiated Obama's marriage and baptized his two daughters during Obama's more than 20 years as a member of Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ has also referred to America as the "United States of KKK -- A."...(Click here for remainder of article.)


Green Zone hit by barrage of artillery

By Robert H. Reid
Associated Press | March 23, 2008

BAGHDAD - The heavily fortified Green Zone was hit by a sustained barrage of rocket or mortar fire early this morning, one day after a roadside bomb killed three American soldiers north of the capital, pushing the US death toll in the five-year conflict to nearly 4,000.
more stories like this

Also yesterday, Iraqi authorities reported that a US air strike north of the capital killed six members of a US-backed Sunni group - straining relations with America's new allies in the fight against Al Qaeda.

Two Iraqi civilians also died in the roadside bombing, which occurred as the Americans were patrolling an area northwest of the capital, the US military said in a statement.

Two of the soldiers were killed in the blast and the third died of injuries sustained in the blast, the statement said. The soldiers were assigned to Multinational Division-Baghdad, the statement said, but gave no further details.

The latest deaths brought to 3,996 the number of US service members and Pentagon civilians who have died since the war began on March 20, 2003, according to an Associated Press count....(Click here for remainder of article.)


Leading Obama Adviser Attacks Ex-President for Remarks

Published: March 22, 2008

MEDFORD, Ore. — As Senator Barack Obama folded his arms and looked on, one of his leading military advisers forcefully defended Mr. Obama’s patriotism here Saturday and accused former President Bill Clinton of trying to employ “divisive attacks” to promote his wife’s presidential candidacy.

Mr. Clinton, in a speech to voters in North Carolina on Friday, said “it would be a great thing if we had an election year where you had two people who loved this country and were devoted to the interest of this country.”

At a town meeting here Saturday, retired Air Force Gen. Merrill A. McPeak, who is a co-chairman of Mr. Obama’s campaign, read the quote from Mr. Clinton. A few members of the audience gasped and hissed at the former president’s words.

“Let me say first, we will have such an election this year because both Barack Obama and John McCain are great patriots who love this country and are devoted to it — so is Hillary Clinton,” General McPeak said, speaking over loud applause. “Any suggestion to the contrary is flat wrong.”...(Click here for remainder of article.)



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