Saturday, October 28, 2006

Military announces death of 97th GI

Military announces death of 97th GI
Associated Press

BAGHDAD, Iraq - The U.S. military said Friday a U.S. soldier had been killed northeast of the capital, raising to 97 the number of American forces killed in Iraq during October, now the fourth deadliest month since the war began.

The soldier was assigned to the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, was wounded in combat in Diyala province on Thursday, "and later died of wounds," the military statement said.

The soldier's name was not released pending notification of the family.


House Investigators: Hastert's Office Hindered Corruption Probe
Investigators Say Speaker’s Aide Hindered Inquiry of Hill Security Contracts
By Steven T. Dennis, CQ Staff

Two former House committee investigators who were examining Capitol Hill security upgrades said a senior aide to Speaker J. Dennis Hastert hindered their efforts before they were abruptly ordered to stop their probe last year.

The former Appropriations Committee investigators said Ted Van Der Meid, Hastert’s chief counsel, resisted from the start the inquiry, which began with concerns about mismanagement of a secret security office and later probed allegations of bid-rigging and kickbacks from contractors to a Defense Department employee.

Ronald Garant and a second Appropriations Committee investigator who asked not to be identified said Van Der Meid engaged in “screaming matches” with investigators and told at least one aide not to talk to them. Van Der Meid also prohibited investigators from visiting certain sites to check up on the effectiveness of the work, the investigators said.

Van Der Meid oversaw Capitol security upgrades for Hastert, R-Ill., and worked closely with the office that was charged with implementing them, the investigators said.

K. Lee Blalack, a lawyer for Van Der Meid, said Friday that neither he nor Van Der Meid would comment on the matter.

John Scofield, a spokesman for the Appropriations Committee, said the former investigators were taken off of the investigation, but denied that it was terminated.

“Nothing has been closed down on this study,” Scofield said. “It is a pending study.”

Scofield said it was a case of “sour grapes” because the investigators’ contracts were not renewed. He also said the case was assigned to more senior staff, whom he declined to identify.

The inquiry began in late 2003 or early 2004 and was authorized by former Appropriations Chairman C.W. Bill Young, R-Fla., and the panel’s top Democrat, David R. Obey of Wisconsin. The probe focused on the office entrusted with ensuring continuity of Congress in the event of a terrorist or other attack. That office had grown from a sleepy Cold War relic to one that was spending hundreds of millions of dollars a year on numerous security upgrades on and off Capitol Hill in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist strikes and anthrax attacks the following month.

The investigation was carried out by members of the Appropriations panel’s Surveys and Investigations team, which looks into charges of waste and abuse.

Robert Pearre, the team’s director, ordered the investigators to stop their work on the security contracts in the fall of 2005. Before that, the investigators said they were looking into allegations that security contractors had showered a Defense Department employee with kickbacks in the form of Redskins tickets, golf outings, a set of golf clubs and meals. The allegations of kickbacks did not implicate congressional aides.

The investigators also said they were looking into concerns expressed by contractors that some of the security upgrades would fail to work in the event of a terrorist attack.

The office in charge of the upgrades was funded through the Defense Department and overseen by the Capitol Police Board, but the Speaker’s office took a lead role because of Hastert’s status as third in line to the presidency, the investigators said.

According to the investigators, Van Der Meid sought to stop their investigation shortly after it began.

“We got called into his office,” said Garant, who served previously in the Defense Department’s Comptroller’s Office before becoming an investigator for the Appropriations Committee. Van Der Meid shouted at them, Garant said: “What the [expletive] are you looking at this for? . . . He wanted to shut the operation down right then and there.”

According to the investigators, Van Der Meid was reluctantly persuaded to allow the inquiry into the security upgrades to go forward but continually hindered the investigators’ work.

“They had resisted all along,” the other investigator said about the Speaker’s office. Nonetheless the investigator said he was “stunned” when the inquiry was shelved about a year ago. Pearre, a former FBI agent, had strongly backed the inquiry until shortly before he ordered them to stop their work on it.

The order was “get out of there by sundown,” Garant said, referring to the secure offices they had used for the probe because of its sensitive nature.

Garant said the investigators believed that the Speaker’s office had successfully pressured appropriators to stop their inquiry. “From our perspective it was obvious. . . . The only people who would give a [expletive] was the Speaker’s office because this was an organization very close to them.”

Scofield said that neither Van Der Meid nor the Speaker’s office had ordered that the investigation be shut down.

Rob Nabors, the committee Democratic staff director, declined through a spokeswoman to comment for this story.

Lisa C. Miller, a spokeswoman for Hastert’s office, would not comment directly on Van Der Meid’s role in the investigation. “What I can tell you is what John Scofield has told you is what I know to be true,” she said. “Beyond that, everything else is highly classified.”

The investigation was launched under Young, who had a rocky relationship with House leaders, after the secret continuity office failed to spend more than $100 million before the appropriations expired, prompting an urgent and tardy request to have the money re-appropriated just as another Defense spending bill was being finalized.

The committee and its staff had to scramble to find room in the budget, and launched its investigation of the office.

Young said he does not recall the details surrounding the start of the inquiry.

The former Appropriations chairman said that after the Sept. 11 attacks his panel initially oversaw improvements to the Capitol Hill campus, including protective coatings that were added to windows to reduce the potential damage from a truck bomb. At some point, oversight of upgrades was taken over by House leadership, Young said.

“We were in effect put out of the process by the leadership office,” Young said. “The last two years of my chairmanship they basically cut me out of the loop.”

By the time the investigators said they were ordered to drop their work, Rep. Jerry Lewis, R-Calif., had taken over as Appropriations chairman amid expectations by House GOP leaders that he would be more of a team player than Young.

Unsuccessful bidders were the source of some, but not all, of the allegations of problems with the security contracts.

One would-be vendor complained that bid requests drawn up by the Army Corps of Engineers were drafted in such a way that only one contractor would be eligible for the work, Garant said.

“You don’t know how much of it was sour grapes and how much of it was real, but there was enough of it that you started to think there was something here,” Garant said.

Investigators said that in addition to allegations of bid-rigging and kickbacks, they were looking into allegations that some security upgrades would fail to work.

“The word was that what they were trying to do was physically or technically impossible to do but that they were spending a heck of a lot of money trying to do it,” said Garant.

The other investigator said he was told that “people are going to die” because the upgrades would fail to do the job.

“That whole organization was very, very secret and very few people even knew that it existed, but it was a great dispenser of money,” said Garant, who was dismissed in March from his position as a contract investigator.

The Appropriations Committee’s investigation team, formed in 1943, has been in turmoil for several years. The upheaval culminated last week in Chairman Lewis’ decision to dismiss all 60 remaining contractors on the investigative staff, which included many retired investigators from the FBI, CIA and other government agencies. A permanent staff of 16 remains.

Scofield said last week that the contractors’ dismissals were part of a “bipartisan review” of the staff, and said the staff’s work recently “has not been that good.”

Committee Democrats have not commented on the dismissals.


Lynne Cheney: LYING LIAR

Huffington Post
Martin Lewis
Lynne Cheney: LYING LIAR

"I have never written anything sexually explicit..." - Lynne Cheney on CNN "The Situation Room" - October 27th 2006.

Lynne Cheney - you are a liar. A lying liar. And as an author who is currently hyping a book targeted at children - you should be especially ashamed of the flagrant tissue of lies that spewed from your lips today.

Please explain the presence of the lesbian love affair, brothels and attempted rapes in your serious literary work "Sisters" (1981)

And what is the character of the Vice President in your book "The Body Politic" (1988) doing to his mistress at the precise moment when he has a heart attack? Playing mahjong perhaps?

Here's a link to "Sisters" - especially interesting to social conservatives and Virginia voters who wish to see how the Vice President's wife extols "family values":

Read the entire book online. (Kleenex not included)

Further Reading:

"Sisters" (1981) (ISBN 0-451-11204-0)
"The Body Politic" (1988) (ISBN 0-312-97963-0)


Furor Over Cheney Remark on Tactics for Terror Suspects

The New York Times
Furor Over Cheney Remark on Tactics for Terror Suspects

WASHINGTON, Oct. 27 — The White House found itself fending off questions on Friday about what Vice President Dick Cheney meant when he agreed with a talk-radio host that there was nothing wrong with dunking a terrorism suspect in water if it saved lives.

Tony Snow, the White House spokesman, said Mr. Cheney was not endorsing water-boarding, a coercive interrogation technique that simulates drowning and that many have said qualifies as torture. Mr. Snow said Mr. Cheney was not, in fact, referring to any technique, whether it was torture or not, because administration officials do not discuss interrogation methods.

President Bush was also confronted by reporters about Mr. Cheney’s comments as he made a joint appearance with Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, the secretary general of NATO. “This country does not torture; we’re not going to torture,” Mr. Bush said, without referring directly to Mr. Cheney or his comments.

The questioning was set off when Mr. Cheney was interviewed Tuesday by Scott Hennen, a conservative radio talk show host in Fargo, N.D. “Would you agree that a dunk in water is a no-brainer if it can save lives?” Mr. Hennen asked.

“Well, it’s a no-brainer for me,” Mr. Cheney replied.

“But for a while there I was criticized as being the vice president for torture. We don’t torture. That’s not what we’re involved in.”

Mr. Snow, who spent much of his day dealing with questions about the comments, told reporters that none of them related to interrogation techniques, which are classified. “I’m telling you what the vice president’s view is, which is it wasn’t about waterboarding. Period,” he said.

The exchanges grew testy at times, especially when Mr. Snow said Mr. Cheney is not someone who slips up. One reporter noted that the vice president had once used a profanity on the Senate floor, and also shot a friend in the face during a hunting accident last February.

“That’s a great line,” Mr. Snow said, “but it’s not germane.”

Waterboarding is actually not a dunk in the water, but rather, covering a subject’s face with a constantly soaked cloth to make breathing difficult. It has been reported as having been used on some suspected members of Al Qaeda who were secretly held by the Central Intelligence Agency until their transfer last month to the United States detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

Tom Malinowski, the Washington director of Human Rights Watch, said, “If Iran or Syria detained an American, Cheney is saying that it would be perfectly fine for them to hold that American’s head under water until he nearly drowns, if that’s what they need to do to save Iranian or Syrian lives.”

When Mr. Cheney’s wife, Lynne, was asked on CNN about the comments, she told Wolf Blitzer: “That is a mighty house you’re building on top of that mole hill there, a mighty mountain. This is complete distortion. He didn’t say anything of the kind.”


Blackwater Hires Ken Starr to Defend Against Charges made in "Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers."

Huffington Post
Rick Jacobs
Blackwater Hires Ken Starr to Defend Against Charges made in "Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers."

As stated in the terrific blog post and Nation article by Jeremy Scahill, Blackwater Security Consulting, a company hardly on the lips of the American public, hired Ken Starr to try to use the Supreme Court as a blunt instrument to dismiss murder charges against it. As evocatively depicted in the film Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers, Blackwater sent four men to their deaths in Fallujah in March, 2004.

While few know Blackwater, we all remember the horrific picture of the charred hulks that were once people left dangling from a bridge. Blackwater sent these men into the most dangerous city on the planet (quite literally, although thanks to the Bush Administration's excellent work, several other cities in Iraq now compete for that title), without proper protection, support or even maps. The result was predictable, but no less horrifying. Not only were these fine men killed by a mob outraged at the US Government, but Marines had to enter the city to retrieve the bodies, thus beginning the spiral toward outright war against American troops that has become Iraq since then.

The families of some of those men sued Blackwater for as close a charge to murder as they could get, demanding recompense for the deaths at something greater than the standard $4,200 a month or so that the military pays out as survivor benefits. Since Blackwater is a private company, and since it acted recklessly at best, the families reason that they should be entitled to some reasonable monetary damages for the outrage. Blackwater's Eric Prince, one of the largest donors to the Republican Party and to right wing causes generally, has fought the families' rights to sue. As told clearly by the Nation, his lawyers have argued consistently that Blackwater is covered by the Military Base Act and is therefore in essence a part of the US Government, so it should not stand trial for the negligent and outrageous deaths.

Knowing that the last resort before having to stand trial is the Supreme Court, Mr. Prince used his millions and clout to hire Ken Starr, who so willingly squandered tens of millions of dollars to attack President Clinton, only to discover that no wrong had been done by him. The Nation quotes an expert who speculates that Mr. Starr's Republican credentials and close personal relationships to justices of the Supreme Court will not help him with this case, but rather his one intellect will. Who knows? My guess is that Mr. Prince hired Mr. Starr for another reason: to fend off the Congressional investigations and inevitable charges by a US Government not completely bought and sold by Mr. Prince. (Iraq for Sale and the web site show how his easy money bought insider lobbyists to keep his contracts after Fallujah.) Those charges eventually will likely be against Blackwater for conspiracy to defraud the taxpayers of the United States of America. Since Mr. Starr has considerable experience with wasting taxpayers' money, he'll know just what to do when defending Mr. Prince against the most serious charge of all: war profiteering, in his case literally over the dead bodies of his employees.


Halliburton exploited federal regulations to hide details on its contract performance

Yahoo! News
Report: Halliburton unit exploited rules
By ANNE PLUMMER FLAHERTY, Associated Press Writer

The Halliburton subsidiary that provides food, shelter and other logistics to U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan exploited federal regulations to hide details on its contract performance, according to a report released Friday.

The special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction found that Halliburton's Kellogg, Brown & Root Services routinely marked all information it gave to the government as proprietary, whether it was or not. The government promises not to disclose proprietary data so a company's most valuable information is not divulged to its competitors.

By marking all information proprietary — including such normally releasable data as labor rates — the company abused federal regulations, the report says.

In effect, Kellogg, Brown & Root turned the regulations "into a mechanism to prevent the government from releasing normally transparent information, thus potentially hindering competition and oversight."

Halliburton spokeswoman Cathy Mann said that since the current contract is being reviewed and may be divided among several contractors, "It is clearly appropriate to mark data as proprietary that could potentially be used for competitive purposes" as would be the case in any new contract.

She said such proprietary markings have been used on a majority of the data for at least the last decade, and the company will work with the military on matters outlined in the interim report as the final audit is completed.

The Iraq reconstruction audits have routinely found significant problems with contracting and rebuilding in the country, ranging from high costs for security and overhead to alleged fraud and lack of oversight.

Sen. Byron Dorgan (news, bio, voting record) of North Dakota, chairman of the Democratic Policy Committee, said that in 13 oversight hearings on the war in Iraq the committee found more than $1 billion in waste, fraud, abuse and what it called "shoddy work" by contractors.

"I'm convinced that this is the most significant waste, fraud and abuse in the history of this country," Dorgan said.

If the Democrats take control of the Senate, he said, they will launch oversight hearings on war matters ranging from faulty intelligence leading up to the war to wrongdoing by contractors.


AP Writer Laurie Kellman contributed to this report.


Why do the Republicans Keep Telling Their Candidates to Run on the Economy?

Huffington Post
Jeff Madrick
Why do the Republicans Keep Telling Their Candidates to Run on the Economy?

You have to wonder why the Republicans keep telling their candidates to run on the economy. Bill Frist earlier this week talked about drawing attention away from the Iraq War and stressing the strong economy. President Bush keeps talking up a strong economy. Why do the surveys say people are worried about the economy when Gross Domestic Product is up and unemployment is down, they ask.
Must be the media. If anything, the media have been telling it the Republican way.

Well, one of those favorite headline stats came up bad today, reflecting long-simmering concerns among the allegedly misled public. GDP, the government estimates, grew at an annual pace of only 1.2 percent between July and September. It hasn't grown that slowly in a few years. A main reason was the big drop in home buying, which means less spending on construction and the sinking housing market may subdue consumer buying power a lot because so much spending depends on borrowing against the value of the house.

But the key point is that economy's problems started long before this. The two headline stats--GDP and the unemployment rate-- don't tell the real story. This five years expansion has been crummy for anyone but assorted business owners and hedge fund operators. The confusion is that we keep thinking the GDP is, well, the economy. In fact, GDP is a useful but arbitrary construction of economists, going back before Adam Smith but only formalized seventy or so years ago. It measures the final goods and service a nation produces. The flip side of GDP is that this production creates the nation's income: its salaries, wages, business profits, interest, rent.

So the economy in modern usage is the income the nation generates each year. A rising GDP, as America has enjoyed fairly consistently since 2002, means there's more income to go around. But this doesn't tell us anything about who gets the money.

Similarly, a low unemployment rate doesn't tell us anything about whether everyone who wants a job is really looking for one. And it sure doesn't tell us what wages they are getting when they get that job.

GDP has been expanding nicely, sure, but the income is going to business profits, not working Americans, who by the way includes almost all of us.

Nikolaos Papanikolaou, a grad student at our think tank at The New School, the Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis, calculated the follow data on family incomes. In 2000, the typical family--the median family right in the middle of the pack-- earned $57,715 adjusted for inflation. In 2005, the median family earned less, $56,194. Meantime, business profits boomed, the stock market went back up, and hedge fund operators are spending their fortunes on the world's best art, biggest yachts, and fastest polo ponies.

So think what's happened to Americans during the Bush economy. Rising gas prices first scared Americans, who after all hadn't gotten a raise for five years. Gas price relief earlier this year wasn't going to mollify them. Add to this rising healthcare costs, college tuitions, rents, and mortgage rates--and a whole lot of talk about collapsing home prices. Meantime, many Americans are looking at a pile of debt, wondering how they can work even more hours than they do and take care of the kids, and scared that if they lose a job, they won't only lose a salary but also healthcare insurance for the family. The pride of the Bush administration, the tax cuts, largely went to the very rich, and weren't enough for middle income Americans to allay deeper concerns about their future standard of living.

One last point. Economists are mostly mystified about why family income and wages haven't been rising. No one puts much stock in the knowledge of economists, granted. But the collective confusion is offputting. Democrats are increasingly united around demanding an increase in the minimum wage. But if Democrats take a Congressional house or two in a couple of weeks, some much more serious thinking ought to be done about what's happened to an economy that economic theory maintains should lift all boats. Some subjects for discussion: a government-supported living wage; vigorously protecting the right to form unions; raising taxes on the well-off to support needed social programs; a renewed effort to end racial and gender discrimination on the job; and serious, courageous thinking about how to get healthcare costs under control and get everyone covered by insurance, whether or not they have a great job.


Johnny Reb Allen's Swift Boating Of Jim Webb

Huffington Post
Bob Cesca
Johnny Reb Allen's Swift Boating Of Jim Webb

Bear with me as I try to figure out this Jim Webb situation. Senator Allen and the mighty GOP cabal is making a big deal about several historical novels written by Jim Webb and endorsed by Senator McCain which depict the horrors of the Vietnam war. The horrors include sexual references and acts which many veterans observed in the war. This somehow proves Jim Webb's lack of character.

Am I getting it so far?

Good. Let's continue.

Senator Allen and many of his fellow right wing parrots never served in Vietnam or in any war for that matter and one of the only Republicans who did in fact serve in Vietnam is actually on the record claiming the book is a vivid depiction of the some of the war's atrocities.

Got it. But wait...

Senator Allen, meanwhile, made a cameo appearance in the awful movie Gods and Generals (in the interest of fairness, Stephen Lang, who played Stonewall Jackson, was brilliant). Gods and Generals, apart from being a preachy love letter to the Confederacy with an editorial pace which made it seem only about two minutes shorter than the actual war, contained repeated instances of the word "darkies" to describe slaves while glorifying the generals who engaged in what technically amounted to an organized military and political insurrection against the United States. Senator Allen is seen in the movie singing the Bonnie Blue Flag lyric, "Hurrah! Hurrah! For Southern rights, hurrah!" implying, in part, the right to own slaves. Senator Allen, when you boil it right down, portrayed a traitor against the United States. An insurgent, if you will.

Yet few would be insane enough to indict Allen for this, other than his taste in writer/directors. It was a movie about actual events and actual behavior in Virginia during the American Civil War. He was involved in a production which fictionalized actual historical events -- events which included the ugliness of American war. Even after repeated allegations of racism, no-one I can think of has actually made an argument against Allen based on his Gods and Generals appearance. If anything, the Republicans could've made a gigantic hoohah over the fact that Allen appeared in the same scene as "far-left secular progressive" Ted Turner who, by the way, financed the movie and portrayed a Confederate officer.

That said, Senator Allen has again exposed his own lack of character and, more than anything, his myriad of political weaknesses in this latest desperate smear of his opponent. Allen dressed up in the mustache and the butternut uniform in a movie about the Southern rebellion. Webb actually served meritoriously in the Vietnam war. Allen literally pretended to be a soldier which is as close as he ever got to military service. What's more is he pretended to be a man who engaged in treason against the United States. Webb described ugly truths he witnessed in wartime and its aftermath.

Now tell me -- because maybe I'm missing it -- does Senator Allen and his chickenhawk supporters in the wingnut media have a leg to stand on? Does Lynn Cheney, who's written salacious books and whose husband received five deferments from the draft during Vietnam ("Dick did not"), have any right to impugn Jim Webb on CNN? Do the hypocrite roster. It's not too difficult. Check out some of Arnold's movies. Check out what the president and others did while members of Yale's Skull & Bones society.

At the end of the day, the Rove Republicans have once again highlighted how shameless they can truly be. Not only have they brazenly and without remorse attacked the patriotism of decorated veterans like Max Cleland and Senator McCain, but now they're attacking a decorated veteran who wrote about the war. They've ripped these passages out of context for the easily led masses and posted them on Drudge. Then, in the most ridiculous strategic move in this outrageous stratagem, they pooped out Lynn Cheney and dumped her in CNN's lap to perpetuate this trumped up outrage against a Vietnam war veteran.

Now Jim Webb, a well-vetted Reagan appointee, has been forced to defend his stories of the war. Likewise, Michael J. Fox has been forced to defend his Parkinson's symptoms. What kind of party is this which controls our entire government and most of our media right now? It's surely a party which hasn't deserved a single second of that kind of success. And the only reason why they've managed to attain this power is very simply because they're good at, as Karl Rove quoted from City Slickers this week, "one thing." That one thing is manipulation. They manipulate you and everyone they encounter through fear, deception and ignorance of the truth. They manipulate good people into defending themselves when no defense would otherwise have been required.

I think I've grasped this now. Thanks for your patience.

A final note to anyone who's written about the atrocities of the Iraq War and who plans to one day serve in politics. Delete now -- especially if there's a chapter about Abu Ghraib containing the phrase "naked men smeared with feces forming a human pyramid." Who knows what brand of futuristic cyberwingnut will try to nail you on it.


Ex-Bush aide Safavian gets 18-month prison term

Ex-Bush aide Safavian gets 18-month prison term
By Richard Cowan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Former Bush administration official David Safavian was sentenced to 18 months in prison on Friday for lying and obstructing justice in connection with the Jack Abramoff influence-peddling scandal that has ensnared Republicans.

Safavian, 39, a former chief of staff of the General Services Administration (GSA) and ex-White House budget office appointee, received the prison term less than two weeks before elections that will determine whether Republicans keep control of the U.S. Congress.

Besides the Iraq war, ethics breaches have dominated many Senate and House of Representatives campaigns, allowing Democrats to accuse Republicans of fostering a "culture of corruption" in Washington.

"I stand here contrite and ashamed," a tearful Safavian told U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman at his sentencing. He acknowledged he should not have given disgraced Washington lobbyist Abramoff information on the GSA, but did not admit to the four charges of concealing his dealings with Abramoff.

Safavian's lawyers are expected to appeal the conviction, during which time he could remain free.

Before sentencing Safavian, Friedman scolded, "The truth is he doesn't accept responsibility for the offenses" that the judge called "a classic case of abuse of trust."

But Friedman rejected the government's request for a tougher prison term for Safavian. "He did not give or receive bribes, he did not enrich himself ... he did not give away contracts."

Reflecting on the Abramoff lobbying scandal that has engulfed Washington, Friedman said Safavian had joined an "environment that frankly has become more and more corrupt."

In another Abramoff case, Ohio Republican Rep. Bob Ney pleaded guilty on October 13 to illegally accepting trips, meals and other items worth tens of thousands of dollars in return for doing favors for Abramoff and his clients.

Safavian was with Ney and others on a lavish golf trip to Scotland in 2002 that Abramoff arranged.

Prosecutors said Safavian lied about his involvement in Abramoff's attempts to do business with GSA, including a possible acquisition of a historic post office near the White House.

The White House has played down its relations with Abramoff. Safavian is the only former White House official convicted and sentenced to prison in the scandal.

But earlier this month, Susan Ralston, an aide to President George W. Bush's top political adviser Karl Rove, resigned after a congressional report said she had passed White House information to Abramoff while accepting tickets to sporting and entertainment events from the ex-lobbyist.


Government lawyers said Safavian used his government positions to unfairly advantage Abramoff over three years. They said that when confronted, Safavian lied to protect himself.

Abramoff pleaded guilty in January to defrauding lenders in a Florida casino-ship deal and agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors in the Washington influence-peddling probe.

On June 20, a federal jury convicted Safavian on four counts of lying and obstructing justice. He was acquitted on another charge of obstructing justice.

Safavian is the only person linked to Abramoff to have gone to trial. Others have pleaded guilty.

Safavian was chief of staff at the General Services Administration from 2002 to 2004. The agency manages government offices and procures material for the federal workforce. After leaving GSA, Safavian became chief procurement officer at the White House budget office.

The Abramoff scandal has touched several members of Congress, mostly Republicans. Two former aides to ex-Rep. Tom DeLay of Texas, the former House majority leader, also have been convicted. DeLay resigned in June while fighting unrelated campaign-finance charges in Texas and being dogged by questions about relations with Abramoff.


Senate campaign turns to seamy fiction in finale

Senate campaign turns to seamy fiction in finale

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. congressional election campaigns, already dominated by negative advertising, took a seamy turn on Friday as a Republican incumbent seized on sexually explicit passages from a Democratic opponent's novel.

Virginia Republican Sen. George Allen, in a tight race for re-election with Democratic challenger and Vietnam veteran James Webb, issued a press release citing racy passages from five of Webb's military novels.

The excerpts included passages that detailed underage sex scenes and scenes that could be construed as demeaning to women.

Webb told The Washington Post Radio on Friday the release of the excerpts was "a Karl Rove campaign tactic" and a "classic example of the way this campaign has worked. It's smear after smear." Rove is the top White House political adviser.

Webb defended his fiction as "illuminative" and complained that the interviewer read the sexually charged passages from his books on the radio.

The Allen campaign's tactic came during a week in which the Republican National Committee released an advertisement aimed at a Democratic candidate for the Senate from Tennessee, Harold Ford.

That ad pointed out that Ford had attended a Playboy party and it included a bare-shouldered white woman urging the black Ford to give her a call sometime. Some complained the ad was racist before it was withdrawn.

In defense of his books, Webb referred to a novel written by Vice President Dick Cheney's wife Lynne, which the Democratic Senate campaign committee later said "featured brothels and attempted rapes."

In a CNN interview, Lynne Cheney refuted those claims. "I have never written anything sexually explicit," she said.


Friday, October 27, 2006

Web site offers to 'fix' elections -- for a price
Web site offers to 'fix' elections -- for a price
Robert McMillan

October 27, 2006 (IDG News Service) "Winning is everything."

That's the mantra of Election Partners Ltd., whose slick Web site offers such services as "real-time voter correction," and "enhanced retrospective tallying." The site features attractive stock-photography models and inspirational New Age music.

"Using state of the art technology, we overcome the challenges of competition and ensure election results for our clients," the Web site states.

But according to electronic-voting experts the site is most likely satire.

The company's 800 number was answered by a man identifying himself as Darius Parker, who claimed to be a consultant, and then president of the company. He refused to say whether or not the Web site is satire, but said that he had been contacted by representatives of about 30 political campaigns to date. "They're asking me the details of a specific geographic location and what I can do to enhance the election for them," he said.

Parker declined to elaborate on exactly what kind of services he is offering. "If you're not an employee or a representative of a campaign, there's really not much I can tell you," he said.

The domain is registered by Domains by Proxy Inc., a Godaddy Inc. affiliate that can be used to conceal the name of the company or person who owns the Web site. Parker said he registered the domain about 45 days ago. Godaddy executives were not immediately available to comment.

With elections that may shift the balance of power in Congress less than two weeks away, the Web site seems designed to draw attention to the security concerns plaguing electronic voting.

Concerns have been mounting as the election nears. Last week, an anonymous source mailed copies of source code for Diebold Election Systems Inc.'s voting machines to a Mayland e-voting critic. And a month earlier, researchers at Princeton University disclosed that they had created vote-altering code that could be installed on Diebold hardware in less than a minute.

Ed Felten, a professor of computer science and one of the authors of the Princeton study said that "looks like satire to me. These services couldn't be provided lawfully."

However, what claims to offer may be technically feasible, he added. "If somebody were willing to break the law, it's within the realm of possibility."

Avi Rubin, a Johns Hopkins University computer science professor who has examined Diebold's source code, agreed that such offerings "might be possible," but said that he also believes the site is satire.

"I suppose it depends on whether they know something about the way the machines were programmed that I don't know," he said via e-mail. "The fact that it's impossible to know whether such a thing is possible is really the big problem."

The company, which also does business under the name Election Consultants, certainly seems confident.

"Election Consultants is so confident in our ability to secure a desirable outcome for your next election, that we guarantee complete satisfaction," the Web site says. "If any individual precinct covered by our services fails to deliver promised results, then all fees will be waived."

Then the fine print: "Guarantee does not include precincts that use non-electronic voting equipment."


Thursday, October 26, 2006

U.S. troops on active duty call for Iraq withdrawal

U.S. troops on active duty call for Iraq withdrawal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - More than 200 active duty U.S. armed service members, fed up with the war in Iraq, have joined an unusual protest calling for withdrawal of U.S. troops from the country, organizers said on Wednesday.

The campaign, called the Appeal for Redress from the War in Iraq, is the first of its kind in the Iraq war and takes advantage of Defense Department rules allowing active duty troops to express personal opinions to members of Congress without fear of retaliation, organizers said.

"As a patriotic American proud to serve the nation in uniform, I respectfully urge my political leaders in Congress to support the prompt withdrawal of all American military forces and bases from Iraq," states the appeal posted on the campaign's Web site at

"Staying in Iraq will not work and is not worth the price. It is time for U.S. troops to come home," it adds.

The Web site allows service members to sign the appeal that will be presented to members of Congress. Organizers said the number of signatories has climbed from 65 to 219 since the appeal was posted a few days ago and Wednesday when it was publicly launched. There are 140,000 U.S. troops in Iraq.

Active duty service members are restricted in expressing personal views publicly. But rules governed by the Military Whistleblower Protection Act give them the right to speak to a member of Congress respectfully while off-duty and out of uniform, making clear they do not speak for the military.

In a conference call with reporters, a sailor, a Marine and a soldier who had served in the Iraq operation said American troops there have increasingly had difficulty seeing the purpose of lengthy and repeated tours of duty since the fall of Saddam Hussein.

Their misgivings have intensified this year as the country has edged toward civil war, they said.

"The real grievances are: Why are we in Iraq if the weapons of mass destruction are not found, if the links to al Qaeda are not substantiated," said Marine Sgt. Liam Madden of Rockingham, Vermont, who was in Iraq from September 2004 to February 2005 and is based at Quantico, Virginia.

"The occupation is perpetuating more violence," he said. "It's costing way too many Iraqi civilian and American service member lives while it brings us no benefit."

The campaign's sponsoring committee includes the activist groups Iraq Veterans Against the War, Veterans for Peace and Military Families Speak Out.

Navy Seaman Jonathan Hutto of Atlanta, stationed at Norfolk, Virginia and the first service member to join the campaign, said a similar appeal during the Vietnam War drew support from over 250,000 active duty service members in the early 1970s.


Iraq withdrawal to be put to voters in three states

Iraq withdrawal to be put to voters in three states

BOSTON (AP) — Voters in three states will consider calls for an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq when they go to the polls in less than two weeks.

Opinion polls show the increasingly unpopular war contributing to declining prospects for the Republican Party in nationwide congressional elections.

The referendums are the work of committed individuals such as 81-year-old Hamer Lacey, who hauled his broken back and clipboard to a Gloucester grocery store parking lot last summer, looking for signatures of residents who shared his fervent opposition to the war in Iraq.

His work put Gloucester among 139 Massachusetts communities where residents will vote next month on a non-binding question calling for an immediate U.S. withdrawal from Iraq.

Voters in several cities in Wisconsin and Illinois will consider a similar question. The referendums are held at the same time as elections for practical reasons.

Organizers said they do not expect the results to turn U.S. policy around. But they said the outcome could at least make the growing anti-war sentiment clear to policymakers.

"There's a gap between what the public wants and what public officials want," said Steve Burns of the Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice. "They're not acting in our name. We hope, in time, we can bring them around."

Wade Zerkle, executive director of Vets for Freedom, said the referendums are a publicity stunt, and the outcome will not represent the majority: "I don't think a ballot referendum in some of the most liberal cities in America is going to hold much water."

He said most Americans, even those with growing doubts about the war, know that leaving Iraq prematurely will create a terrorist haven that the U.S. will have to deal with.

Since the March 2003 invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, more than 2,800 members of the U.S. military have been killed in Iraq, according to an Associated Press count. The United Nations has said 100 Iraqis are being killed each day.

"We're just hoping people will look into their hearts and say, 'What is going on here?"' said Paul Shannon of the American Friends Service Committee, the Quaker peace group that helped organize the Massachusetts signature drive. "Are we really willing to throw away more lives tomorrow? For what?"

In Wisconsin, 10 communities will vote in November on withdrawal. In April, 24 of 32 Wisconsin communities voted in favor of removing U.S. forces.

In Illinois, the question will be considered in Chicago, as well as smaller cities, including Springfield and Urbana, and about a half-dozen towns.

The list of Massachusetts communities where the question will appear includes liberal cities such as Boston, Newton and Cambridge, and communities such as Chicopee, a town in western Massachusetts where Westover Air Reserve Base is situated.

Berkeley, California, and two Wisconsin communities also will vote on whether President Bush should be impeached.

Organizers said the results of the referendums cannot be dismissed as the opinions of a lot of liberals. Burns said six Wisconsin communities that voted last spring for withdrawal cast their ballots for Bush in 2004.

Lacey said he has been anti-war since his Navy service in World War II, when he witnessed the destruction in civilian areas of Japan. The retired pediatrician's signature-gathering was limited to a few hours at a time by pain from a cracked vertebra, suffered in an auto accident in 2003.

"The whole gist of the Bush presidency is in conflict with what my ideals are," he said.

Zaida Walters of Houston, whose Marine son was killed in Fallujah, disagreed with the call to bring the troops home. She said her son, Leroy Sandoval Jr., was committed to the mission and would believe in it today.

"I think we need to finish what we started," Walters said. "I really do."

Find this article at:


Social Security Enters Elections; Bush Remarks Please Democrats, Perplex Republicans
Social Security Enters Elections
Bush Remarks Please Democrats, Perplex Republicans
By Lori Montgomery
Washington Post Staff Writer

More than a year after Social Security reform faded from the political radar screen, the debate erupted anew yesterday, as Democrats seized on news that President Bush hopes to revive an unpopular proposal to make changes in the national retirement program.

In recent days, Bush has said Social Security remains one of the "big items" he wants to tackle next year and he continues to "believe that a worker, at his or her option, ought to be allowed to put some of their own money . . . in a private savings account, an account that they call their own."

The statement appeared to represent no substantive change for the White House, and it varied little from the president's previous remarks.

But with just two weeks to go until the Nov. 7 congressional elections, Democrats highlighted Bush's comments, seeing an opportunity to remind voters about a Republican proposal that polls have shown is highly unpopular with many voters.

"Just when you thought your Social Security was safe from privatization, George Bush is bringing back his plan to privatize Social Security and cut guaranteed benefits," declared a news release from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee

, the party's fundraising arm for Senate races.

Democratic strategists were gleeful about the chance to draw a sharp distinction between the parties on Social Security, an explosive issue among elderly voters. "I couldn't believe it. What an opening," Democratic pollster Celinda Lake said. "I think he had an out-of-body experience."

Some Republicans were equally perplexed by Bush's timing.

"I guess you could argue if it gets Iraq off the front page, it was probably a good thing at this point," said Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.), a top Republican strategist who opposed the president's Social Security plan. But a new White House push on the issue "is not going anywhere. This president never likes to back down. I think he's putting it on the table, but I don't think anybody's going to pick it up."

The administration is trying to mount a new, bipartisan effort to rein in the costs of Social Security, along with Medicare and Medicaid.

Though Bush's plan stalled in Congress last year, the new Treasury secretary, Henry M. Paulson Jr., has said he took the job in part to tackle the rising cost of government health-care and Social Security spending, which he has called "the biggest economic issue facing our country." And Bush regularly mentions his desire to take another stab at the issue.

White House spokesman Tony Fratto yesterday said that the president "is interested in addressing the long-term challenges our country faces, and he's not going to be shy about doing that."

Fratto was traveling with Bush in Florida, where last year's aborted attempt at Social Security reform has been an issue in competitive House races. In South Florida, where Bush attended a Republican National Committee fundraiser, Rep. E. Clay Shaw Jr. (R-Fla.) has touted his opposition to Bush's push for private accounts in a television ad.

"I represent the state of Florida, not a political party," Shaw says in the ad. The 13-term incumbent is locked in a tight race with Democratic state senator Ron Klein.

Republicans elsewhere have also scrambled to distance themselves from the president on the issue. In Ohio, Rep. Deborah Pryce and Sen. Mike DeWine have struggled, under attack, to explain their positions on the president's plan.

DeWine said he opposes using tax dollars for private accounts, according to a candidate survey by AARP, the group formerly known as the American Association of Retired Persons.

And Pryce said in a debate last month that while she still agrees with the concept, she has heeded voter demands to drop the issue, according to news reports. Her campaign has called her strong backing of the Bush plan "ancient history."

AARP yesterday released candidate surveys from 35 competitive House races and 10 competitive Senate races in which Republican candidates overwhelmingly refused to take a definitive stand on private accounts -- or opposed them outright.

One of the few exceptions was Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), chairman of a Senate subcommittee on Social Security and an outspoken advocate of the president's plan. He is trailing Democrat Robert P. Casey Jr. in recent polls.

Santorum told AARP that he continues to support private accounts, so long as they are voluntary. On the campaign trail, he has lashed out at Casey -- and Democrats in general -- for failing to offer their own ideas for tackling the Social Security problem.

"He won't give you an -- he won't give you an answer on Social Security. He won't give you an answer on anything to make any changes," Santorum said in a television debate last month. "My question to Mr. Casey is: If you're not for personal retirement accounts, which he says he's not, how much are you going to raise their taxes? Or how much are you going to cut benefits to fix the Social Security problem?"


Watchdog Group Accuses Churches of Political Action

The New York Times
Watchdog Group Accuses Churches of Political Action

A nonprofit group has filed a complaint asking the Internal Revenue Service to investigate the role that two churches may have played in the re-election campaign of Kansas’ attorney general.

The complaint by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a nonpartisan legal watchdog organization, cited a memorandum from the attorney general, Phill Kline, a Republican, directing members of his campaign staff to recruit churches to distribute campaign literature and serve as the sites for events.

“This is the top law enforcement official in the state who is encouraging everyone to break the law,” said Melanie Sloan, executive director of the watchdog group. “He’s either abysmally unfamiliar with the law, or he’s deliberately violating it.”

A spokeswoman for Mr. Kline, Sherriene Jones, did not return calls to her office.

In his memorandum, Mr. Kline identified two Topeka churches, the Light of the World Christian Center and the Wanamaker Woods Church of the Nazarene, which he said had participated in “lit drops” by handing out campaign literature. A woman who answered the telephone at Wanamaker Woods Church said the church had no comment.

The Rev. Greg Varney, pastor of Light of the World Christian Center, issued a statement saying that Mr. Kline had preached at the church on July 9, but insisting that no illegal activity had occurred. “At no time here at our church did Phill bring up politics, re-election or campaign contributions,” the statement said.

Mark W. Everson, the commissioner of the I.R.S., has repeatedly warned that the agency will crack down on religious organizations that violate laws barring charities of any type from involvement in partisan political activities.

This election cycle, additional accusations of such violations have been made against religious organizations in California, Minnesota, Missouri and Ohio.

Whether the I.R.S. has responded to those complaints is unknown; the agency is barred by law from disclosing its investigations.

All Saints Church, an Episcopal congregation in Pasadena, Calif., has said it was under investigation, but no other church named in complaints that have become public has acknowledged an I.R.S. inquiry.

Despite a report last year by the Treasury Department’s inspector general that concluded political considerations had played no role in the I.R.S.’s selection of nonprofit groups for review, the agency’s silence regarding its investigations has led to accusations of political bias.

“From what we know, the I.R.S. has gone after liberal organizations primarily, the N.A.A.C.P. and the liberal church in California,” Ms. Sloan said, referring to the inquiry into All Saints Church. An I.R.S. investigation of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was closed with no finding of wrongdoing.

“Clearly, there are violations on the conservative side, and no action appears to be taken.” Ms. Sloan said. “If they’re being even-handed,” she added, “I certainly can’t tell.”

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington also filed a complaint with the I.R.S. last week against the Living Word Christian Center in Brooklyn Park, Minn., accusing its senior pastor of violating the law by openly stating his support for a Congressional candidate.

“We can’t publicly endorse as a church, and would not for any candidate,” the senior pastor, the Rev. Mac Hammond, told his congregation during a service on Oct. 14 as he introduced Michele Bachmann, a Republican state senator who is running for a seat in the United States House of Representatives. “But I can tell you personally that I’m going to vote for Michele Bachmann,” he said.

During her remarks that followed, Ms. Bachmann said that she had been called by God to run for the House seat after three days of fasting and praying with her husband.

The Star Tribune in Minneapolis later reported that Mr. Hammond could not vote for Ms. Bachmann because he does not live in her district.

Mr. Hammond did not respond to messages seeking comment.

The Star Tribune quoted Mr. Hammond as saying he had “learned my lesson.”


Dean: "The president made it clear that he intends to stay the course"

Radio Actuality: Dean On President Bush's News Conference

WASHINGTON, Oct. 25 /U.S. Newswire/ -- Today, Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean responds to President Bush's press conference this morning, his administration's failed policies on Iraq and Democrats' new direction for America:

"I think the president made it clear that he intends to stay the course and I think that's the wrong thing to do. It's a permanent commitment to a failed strategy, what the president doesn't seem to understand is that this is not about politics; this is a foreign policy problem that requires more than politics. We're in the middle of a civil war in Iraq. We need a new direction not just in Iraq. We need a new direction for the country. We've got to get rid of corruption in Congress. We need to do something for ordinary American families such as raising the minimum wage and finally dealing with health insurance, like 36 other countries in the world have. We need a new direction."

To download Chairman Dean's remarks, please copy and paste the link below in your browser: nse.mp3


Cardinals' Pitcher Jeff Suppan urges Missouri voters to oppose stem-cell research

The New York Times
Cardinals' Suppan Pitching and Politicking

ST. LOUIS, Oct. 25 - Jeff Suppan is scheduled to pitch for the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 4 of the World Series at Busch Stadium, but his time on the mound will not be his only appearance on the baseball telecast.

Suppan is one of several athletes in a political campaign commercial to be broadcast regionally during the Fox network’s telecast of the game. The ad urges Missouri voters to oppose stem-cell research and vote against Amendment 2 to the state constitution, on the ballot in the Nov. 7 election.

In a video copy of the ad, produced and distributed by an anti-amendment group called Missourians Against Human Cloning and posted on the Internet, Mr. Suppan’s face appears in the first 10 seconds. He is not wearing a baseball cap in the ad.

"Amendment 2 claims it bans human cloning, but in the 2,000 words you don’t read, it makes cloning a constitutional right," Mr. Suppan says in the ad. "Don’t be deceived."

Other athletes who appear in the ad are Kurt Warner of the Arizona Cardinals football team, who formerly played with the St. Louis Rams, and Mike Sweeney of the Kansas City Royals baseball team. James Caviezel, the actor who played Jesus in the film The Passion of the Christ, also appears.

The timing is no coincidence: Cathy Ruse, a spokeswoman for Missourians Against Human Cloning, said the group specifically bought advertising time during Game 4, when Mr. Suppan would be pitching.

Scott Leventhal, Suppan’s agent, said early Wednesday evening that Suppan has approved use of the ad during the telecast of the game in which he is pitching. Leventhal had said earlier in the day that he would try to get the ad withdrawn because it would be a distraction to Suppan’s team trying to win a championship.

But, after speaking by telephone with Suppan in the Cardinals’ clubhouse, Leventhal said Suppan had given his permission for the ad to be used during the game.

Austin Ruse, husband of Cathy Ruse and also a member of the group, said Suppan had his comments taped by himself at his home and they were picked up by the group on Tuesday and inserted into the ad.

"He was the last piece to fall into place," Austin Ruse said of Suppan. "He shot it. He said it was ready. We slipped it in."

Tony La Russa, manager of the Cardinals, was asked Wednesday his opinion of Suppan’s involvement and his policy regarding players involving themselves in such causes.

"Our organization encourages guys to get involved in something beyond just baseball," La Russa said. "I just like the fact that guys make a commitment."

The stem-cell research issue has moved to the center of the Missouri Senate campaign between Jim Talent, the Republican incumbent, and Claire McCaskill, the Democratic challenger. Mr. Talent opposes the amendment; Ms. McCaskill supports it.

The actor Michael J. Fox, who suffers from Parkinson’s disease one of many conditions that researchers hope to cure through stem-cell research has taped a commercial supporting Ms. McCaskill and her stand on the issue.

Because that ad ran during an earlier World Series telecast, the opponents of the amendment decided to respond in kind with the ad featuring the athletes.

Ms. Ruse said her group paid $135,000 to air two ads during the game on stations carrying the game in Missouri one a 60-second version, the other a different 30-second ad. Suppan appears only in the longer version.

She said that members of her group who happened to be neighbors of Suppan told the group he was sympathetic to their views. Leventhal confirmed that Suppan feels passionately about the stem-cell issue and was aware of the ramifications of getting involved in a political issue when he made the advertisement.

"Jeff has been in this game a long time," Leventhal said. "He knows what he is doing."

Connie Farrow, a spokeswoman for a group that favors the amendment, the Missouri Coalition for Life-Saving Cures, said that even though Suppan was one of her favorite Cardinal pitchers, she disagreed with his statements in the ad and would prefer to rely on the opinions of medical experts on questions of science.

"He’s wrong - respectfully, I say that," Farrow said of Suppan in a telephone interview. "I would ask Jeff Suppan why Missourians don’t deserve to be treated the same as other Americans when it comes to health care."

If the ad is broadcast, it will be seen only on stations serving Missouri; viewers in other parts of the country will see local advertising for their region instead. Should Game 4 be postponed by rain on Wednesday, the ad would run on Thursday or whenever the game is played.


In Tight Race, Ad on Black Candidate Stirs Furor

The New York Times
In Tight Race, Ad on Black Candidate Stirs Furor

KNOXVILLE, Tenn., Oct. 25 — The Tennessee Senate race, one of the most competitive and potentially decisive battles of the midterm election, became even more unpredictable this week after a furor over a Republican television commercial that stood out even in a year of negative advertising.

The commercial, financed by the Republican National Committee, was aimed at Representative Harold E. Ford Jr., the black Democrat from Memphis whose campaign for the Senate this year has kept the Republicans on the defensive in a state where they never expected to have trouble holding the seat.

The spot, which was first broadcast last week and was disappearing from the air on Wednesday, featured a series of people in mock man-on-the street interviews talking sarcastically about Mr. Ford and his stands on issues including the estate tax and national security.

The controversy erupted over one of the people featured: an attractive white woman, bare-shouldered, who declares that she met Mr. Ford at a “Playboy party,” and closes the commercial by looking into the camera and saying, with a wink, “Harold, call me.”

A spokeswoman for Mr. Ford, who is single, said he was one of 3,000 people who attended a Playboy party at the Super Bowl last year in Jacksonville, Fla.

Critics asserted that the advertisement was a clear effort to play to racial stereotypes and fears, essentially, playing the race card in an election where Mr. Ford is trying to break a century of history and become the first black senator from the South since Reconstruction.

Hilary Shelton, director of the N.A.A.C.P.’s Washington bureau, said the spot took aim at the sensitivities many Americans still have about interracial dating.

John Geer, a professor at Vanderbilt University and a specialist in political advertising, said that it “is playing to a lot of fears” and “frankly makes the Willie Horton ad look like child’s play.”

Professor Geer was alluding to the case of a convicted black murderer used in Republican commercials contending that the 1988 Democratic nominee for president, Michael S. Dukakis, was soft on crime.

Mr. Ford has been campaigning as an independent, new generation Democrat dedicated to changing the atmosphere in Washington; to putting more attention on the needs of the middle class and on bread and butter issues like health care and to bringing a fresh approach to the war in Iraq. He has strongly resisted Republican efforts to pigeonhole him as a liberal.

Bob Corker, the Republican candidate, offers himself as committed to Tennessee values, with a track record in business and public life of solving problems, in contrast to what he asserts is Mr. Ford’s “total life experience” in Washington, politics, and serving the Ford political dynasty in Memphis.

The debate over the spot was more impassioned on the campaign trail Wednesday, when Mr. Ford and his allies took their bus across a wide swath of eastern and middle Tennessee, campaigning in small towns and courthouse squares.

Representative Lincoln Davis, the conservative Democrat from the heavily rural district in the state’s midsection, introduced Mr. Ford at a rally in Crossville with a fierce attack on the advertisement.

“I’m ashamed at what I see Republicans putting out today,” Mr. Davis declared, as an overwhelmingly white audience of more than a hundred cheered on the small town square. “You tell Karl Rove that we don’t want this stuff on TV in Tennessee. We don’t want our kids seeing that.”

Mr. Ford told his audience here, and elsewhere in recent days, that the attacks coming his way were simply a sign of desperation, a sign the Republicans have nothing else to say. He added, “You know your opponent is scared when his main opposition against you is, ‘My opponent likes girls.’ ” The audience erupted in laughter.

“You know it’s a big problem if at the end of a race, if the best they can come up with is this sleaze they’re putting up,” he said. “What are they going to brag about? Taking care of the middle class? What are they going to brag about, managing this war the right way?”

In an interview, Mr. Ford demurred when asked if he thought the advertisement was injecting race into the campaign. “You need to ask those people over there what they tried to do with that ad,” he said. “It’s tasteless — but I’ve come to expect that from my opponent.”

Mr. Corker, a former mayor of Chattanooga, quickly tried to distance his campaign from the advertisement. The Corker campaign had been claiming momentum in recent days, citing a flurry of recent polls indicating the Republican had regained a slight lead after steadying its message and its campaign organization.

A spokesman for the Corker campaign, Todd Womack, said the campaign was pleased that the spot had been taken off the air. “It was tacky, over the top,” Mr. Womack said. “Tennesseans deserve better.”

The spot was paid for by the Republican National Committee but was produced by an independent expenditure group that is supposed to have an arm’s length relationship with the actual campaigns. As a result, Ken Mehlman, chairman of the Republican National Committee, said he did not see the spot before it was broadcast and did not have the power to order it removed.

Even so, Mr. Mehlman said he did not see a racial subtext to the ad. “I will tell you that when I looked at the ad, that was not my reaction,” he said. “I hear and respect people who had a different reaction, and I hope they respect me too.”

Moreover, Republican spokesmen said they did not believe the advertisement had been taken off the air in response to the controversy, but had simply, in the words of one, “run its course.”

The furor puts Mr. Mehlman in a difficult position. He has spent considerable time as the national chairman preaching the inclusiveness of the Republican Party and its openness to black candidates and black voters. He said in an interview Wednesday night that he did not believe that this would damage his Republican outreach efforts.

Officials with the Republican independent expenditure committee, who include longtime allies of the Bush political circle, did not respond to requests for comment.

The Senate race here is one of three, along with Missouri and Virginia, that are pivotal to control of the Senate, and all three are considered neck-and-neck. Mr. Ford and Mr. Corker are seeking the seat left vacant by the Senate majority leader, Bill Frist, who is retiring.

A Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll published this week showed Mr. Corker leading Mr. Ford, 49 percent to 44 percent. The poll was conducted last Friday through Monday, and had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus four percentage points.

If he wins, the campaign Mr. Ford has been running here will be considered a roadmap for Democrats in conservative and rural areas. Mr. Davis invariably introduced him this week as a man who would never “take away your Bible or your gun,” but would raise the minimum wage so people could afford them.

At one point, Mr. Davis’s eyes welled up as Mr. Ford worked his way through a crowd — largely friendly, although not entirely so — at a heavily Republican barbecue. “You’re watching history,” Mr. Davis said.

Mr. Ford said later that he was not thinking history. “I’m trying to win a race,” he said, before he jumped into his bus, whose destination sign read, “success express.”


Heartlessness: Michael J. Fox is an example of how we should all be living our lives. Rush Limbaugh’s nasty stem-cell-ad response is not.

Michael J. Fox is an example of how we should all be living our lives. Rush Limbaugh’s nasty stem-cell-ad response is not.
By Patti Davis

Oct. 25, 2006 - When I was a kid, I was once being teased relentlessly by a bully at school, and I faked being sick to stay home and avoid him. My parents knew I was faking (the thermometer under hot water trick didn’t work) but they also knew something was wrong. My father came into my room to talk to me, and I willingly confessed. He patiently explained to me that the best way to deal with a bully was to totally ignore him—treat him as if he is invisible. Because all bullies really want is attention.

I got it right back then. I returned to school, ignored the persistent bully, and he backed off. I seem less able to do that now when a bully by the name of Rush Limbaugh has accused Michael J. Fox of faking the symptoms of Parkinson’s (OK, he actually said “acting”) for political purposes. Fox, who could easily be held blameless if he reacted with rage and vitriol, has exhibited grace and dignity, ignoring the blathering accusations of the radio host and expressing appreciation that, just two weeks before the midterm elections, we are discussing stem-cell research. We could all learn from the way the actor has responded to cruelty; certainly I can.

Fox, stricken with Parkinson’s disease while still in his 30s, has not shied away from public view or expressed any self-pity or anger at the hand fate has dealt him. In fact, he has called himself “lucky”—for the unwavering love of his family, a career he can be proud of and the opportunity to use his fame to bring attention to the miracles that stem-cell treatment holds for people afflicted with many diseases, including Parkinson’s. He has demonstrated courage, generosity and compassion.

Limbaugh, on the other hand, flagrantly broke the law by procuring large amounts of drugs and then escaped the punishment that someone who is not white, wealthy and famous would have gotten. He spends his time insulting people and gets paid handsomely to do so; now we have seen that even those with serious diseases don’t get a reprieve from his cruel bluster. And his apology doesn’t cancel out the nastiness of his original comment.

While I am obviously not ignoring Limbaugh, I am determined to focus more of my attention on Fox, because he is an example of how all of us should live our lives. There will always be cruelty in the world, there will always be bullies. How we respond is what matters. There are loftier goals than mudslinging. The people we will remember years from now are those who kept walking calmly and kindly through the worst mudslinging, who kept their attention on the changes they wished to make in the world and who treated others with compassion even when they were being abused.

Fox could slink away and hide his disease from us—few would blame him. Instead, he is using the misfortune that came his way to try and open doors to a miraculous future—a future in which diseases like Parkinson’s, diabetes, ALS and Alzheimer’s could perhaps be cured. He will be known for that work, as well as for his dignity in the face of insults.

Hopefully, stem-cell treatment will be available in time to cure Michael J. Fox. There are no stem cells, though, that can cure heartlessness. Cruelty is a demon that feeds on itself. Limbaugh’s fate is ultimately the harsher one.


"Stay The Course"; "Stay The Course"; "Stay The Course"; "Stay The Course"; "Stay The Course"; ...

Crooks and Liars
Countdown: Making adjustments to the language of making adjustments
By: Jamie Holly

Keith Olbermann did a great run down tonight on Bush's use of "stay the course".

Video - WMV Video - QT

Olbermann: Evidently, somebody at the White House needs a little help with "The Google."

Actually using a simple Google query of "stay the course" within the White House's press release directory (which includes transcripts) returns 160 results of the term "stay the course" being used. I wonder how many more times we could find it used by others such as Rummy or Condi.

You have probably forgotten this, it stuck about as well as did "the New Coke"…

But just last year, the Pentagon tried to change the language. We were no longer fighting a "War on Terror" — we were fighting a "Global Struggle Against Violent Extremism".

But despite Donald Rumsfeld's endless repetition of his new phrase, the effort failed because the Commander-in-Chief refused to call the "Global Struggle Against Violent Extremism" anything but "The War on Terror".

Now in our fourth story on the Countdown — that message miscommunication is happening in reverse.

On Monday, the White House "fired" the under-producing catch-phrase "stay the course".

And apparently nobody told the Secretary of Defense.

The problem becomes when you can't make adjustments, even about the language of making adjustments.

The White House Press Secretary is now revising his revisionist history on the phrase and still coming up short. First saying that the President never said "stay the course" then yesterday, saying this to Fox News:

Well sure, to be fair, the President did say "Stay the Course" eight times.

So there they are, the eight — and only eight — times President George W. Bush ever said the phrase "Stay The Course"

[video of Bush saying "Stay the Course" 29 times]

And now you know tomorrow's headline from Mr. Snow.

"I never said he only said it eight times; I said we could only find eight times."

Evidently, somebody at the White House needs a little help with "The Google."


Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Election Warning From Winston Churchill: Do Not Let Them Steal Your Freedom Any More

Huffington Post
Brent Budowsky
Election Warning From Winston Churchill: Do Not Let Them Steal Your Freedom Any More

Democracy can die a slow death from a thousand cuts, inflicted by a few small men, wielding deadly little knives, drawing blood one drop at a time, on a slumbering people, who take their freedom for granted, and let it slip slowly away.

Even today, after 2000, after 2002, after 2004, there are stories in the news about abuses
against the right to vote, committed by the same people, for the same reason, done the same ways, and yet the people who should care, dont, and the people who should be fighting against this, aren't.

In my day when the Battle of Britain was raging, when bombs were bursting above our heads, when all of Europe had fallen and the imperial army had stormed across the Pacific, we knew what you forget, that freedom is precious, that freedom is hard, that freedom comes at a high price, that not one inch of freedom must ever be lost, because once we surrender one inch, we risk it all.

In my day had a foreign power invaded America and installed a proconsul, who ruled that your Bill of Rights and National Laws were no longer in effect, unless he permitted it, a righteous people would have rallied in the streets with a thundering voice calling out: never, never, never.

The world needs America. The world needs America to be America. The world needs America to be the light and the flame and the torch. Yet today because you have lost sight about what America means at home, you have inflicted great harm and shed great blood on yourselves, and the world.

I do not need to make dire predictions about the future, the ugly truth is told by the shame of the present.

When your Leader said he could take away your Bill of Rights on his own personal whim, you did nothing.

When your Leader said he could violate law based on some claimed power he has, you stayed silent.

When your Leader claimed he could inflict horrid acts of torture that break international laws honored by every democracy on earth, you surrendered.

When your Leader claimed the power to jail people without hearings and imprison people without justice, you gave in.

When your Leader claimed the power to detain people without charges, and inflict punishment and pain on unknown people without lawyers or law, you submitted.

When your Leader seized the power to invade your home without a warrant and take your body without a writ, you did nothing.

When your Leader claimed the power to take your privacy without a court and take your rights without a hearing, you gave in.

When your Leader said the Congress has no right to be involved in the policy of making war, you gave up.

When your Leader said your Courts have no responsiblity for upholding your Constitution without his permission, you stood down.

Every one of these abridgments of basic freedom was done before your eyes and in plain view, with the support of many, with the submissiveness of some, and with the ignorant acquiesence of others who had better things to do than value the freedom that braver men and women than you, died to leave to you, in trust.

Here is how it looks to the friends of freedom in heaven who are shouting to you with the great documents, books and ideas for democracy that have been written through the ages.

It all begins with the unbridled arrogance of those who won the 2000 election and came to believe, so far correctly, that they could get away with anything.

Every American, every Democrat, every friend of freedom should go to sleep every night, and wake up every morning, with giant pictures of Katherine Harris, Karl Rove, John Bolton and Jim Baker as they were counting the votes in Florida.

Every American, every Democrat, every friend of freedom everywhere should go to sleep every night, and wake up every morning, and read the decision of the United States Supreme Court acting like partisan hacks making a party line vote, deciding the American Presidency.

Every American, every Democrat, every friend of democracy should go to sleep every night, and wake up every morning, and read the stories from 2002 and 2004 about voters being threatened and intimidated, about voting lists being purged, about voting rolls being stripped, about letters of threat to voters being sent in the mail, about leaflets aimed to intimidate voters being handed out even in churches, about polls being close early, about voters being fraudulently turned away, about honorable people being forced to wait seven hours for their most important right to be honored.

Every American, every Democrat, every friend of freedom in this land should go to sleep every night, and wake up every morning, and read the stories about an election only days away, about problems with voting in state after state already this year, about predictions of chaos and warnings of crisis, from those desperately trying awaken a slumbering nation.

Every American, every Democrat, every friend of democracy should spend every one of these last few days asking how six years after 2000, our election system is more dangerously flawed than ever before, with machines that even the election officials do not always understand, with technology that remains secret from our nation, with standards do not exist, election workers who are too often untrained. and a media that is obsessed with spin doctors, dirt mongers and dance contests more than the sanctity of democracy.

To average Americans, security moms, soccer moms, military communities, workers, families, men and women of faith please understand that the problems that plague us today, come naturally and inevitably, from the attitudes of those who believe they can get away with anything. Those who deliberately destroy the checks and balances of democracy. Those who aggressively demean the opinion of others. Those who deliberately destroy the very fabric of democratic debate and who deliberately destoy the very unity of nations, seeking ever more ugly politics, aimed at winning ever nastier elections, resulting in ever more catastrophic disasters.

This is what happens when our democratic institutions and democratic spirit of goodwill are destroyed in the name of aggressive and hostile partisanship, in the single minded pursuit of total power. This disrespectul and contemptuous one-partyism is the cause of our crisis from mismanagement of the war in Iraq to the abuses of pages in Washington, from the corruption that has turned our capital into the house of the bought and sold, to our inabiity to agree even on urgent missions such as protecting our ports, defending our borders and supplying our troops.

To good Republicans, many of you agree with much of what I write here, and you need to have a heart to heart with yourselves, about whether the time has belatedly come for you to dissent from your party, on behalf of your country, before this madness goes further.

To Democrats you should be embarrassed and ashamed that after 2000, 2002, and 2004 the party of the people will be disastrously outspent, yet again, on election day, in getting out the vote. Have you learned nothing?

It is pathetic, wrong and inexcusable that after 2000, 2002 and 2004 your party remains ten years behind the Republicans on matters of bringing out voters on election day and fighting to ensure that the voting is honest.

It is incredible, unbelievable and pathetic that after 2000, 2002 and 2004 you have leading party financiers who have given ten times more to promote democracy in Russia than to defend democracy in America, that you have a former candidate hoarding tons of money from 2004, because he wants to be a candidate in 2008, rather than using that money and being the hero who leads the fight for the right to vote in 2006.

Every American, every Democrat, every friend of freedom everywhere should be pounding the table with outrage at the Election Assistance Commission, that was created after 2000 to ensure integrity of democracy and is nothing more than a fraud, a farce and a sham that at best has done zero, and at worst, is the great enabler for the potential corruption and chaos of elections in America.

Every American, every Democat, every friend of freedom should be demanding that every Secretary of State entrusted to protect the franchise, and every election official that allows this to happen, who have not done their jobs six years after 2000, be impeached, fired, recalled or removed if there are crises in their jurisdictions that they are doing nothing to prevent today.

This is a warning in the most Churchillian terms to Democrats in the Sunday New York Times sounding like schoolchildren giddy with glee, that you finally might win an election, or acting like Halloween trick or treaters, spooked at what the Republican ghouls will do to you, again.

This is not the time for giddy glee and this is not the time for paranoid fears. This is the time to fight for freedom and democracy in your own backyard, knowing that this election could be decided by a handful of votes in a handful of places. Knowing that the arrogance and contempt from those who think they can get away with anything, will be without limits if you let them get away with this. Knowing that they have you outgunned, outmanned, outorganized, outspent and outmanuevered yet again, this time, now even more than ever before, in the machinery of getting out and counting the votes.

This is a warning in the most Churchillian tones to a party that has known little but losing for the last six years. You have to do what we did, when our back was against the wall in the Battle of Britain and we fought them on the beaches, and we fought them on the seas, and we fought them on the land, and we fought them in the air because the stakes were beyond description and our will to win was single-minded, and strong beyond anything we have known before.

Democrats should be holding hearings right now in Washington, even with Democrats only, bringing this matter to the front pages with the truth about dangers already proven this year.

Democrats should be threatening hearings after the election with investigators and subpoenas aimed at anyone who tries to steal even one vote, in one precinct, in one race in these coming days.

Democrats should be mobilizing hundreds and thousands of lawyers from the firms large and small, from the law schools and halls of academia, far more powerful than anything being done now, far more similar to the Freedom Summers in the 1960's than the losing tactics of recent years, airlifting them on Election Day into key states and precints where trouble is most likely.

Democrats should be prepared to call for grand juries and prosecutions in trouble spots in a moment's notice getting ready now, today, this minute, in jurisdictions with a history of trouble.

Democrats should be voting in droves using absentee ballots to protect their franchise.

Democratic leaders should conduct a national emergency conference call with everyone throughout the blogosphere and conduct the most massive and unprecedented fundraising drive in the history of democracy to raise emergency money for the NAACP and other programs to get out the vote and ensure the integrity of this election.

Democratic financiers should have a sense of urgency and passion and conviction and write large last minute checks to respected groups that police the honesty of elections.

National Democratic Leaders with giant PACs to promote future candidacies must go the extra mile and make major contributions in these closing days and those sitting on money given to them in trust for 2004 must use it now, now, now, now when the stakes are so high and the consequences of failure so enormous.

And to answer Senator Kerry's staff in the New York Times, I dont know who is behind the anonymous website, it is certainly not me. I am not anonymous, I am not a coward, and I say openly and clearly that it is a total disgrace for John Kerry to be hoarding money that he did not use in an election he did not fight hard enough to win. It is disgrace for candidates not running or candidates in safe seats to be hoarding huge piles of money, when we are in the fight of our lives, for the values we hold dearest, in a country facing crisis.

The hosts of Air America and progressive radio everywhere should act like war rooms with broadcasts that appeal for money and support, work with candidates and blogs, use the media to create a 24/7 megaphone for democracy that sets aside the grievances and becomes a national machine for empowerment, action and organization for these last few days before these huge, historic elections.

In a few short days when the people vote there will be a cannon of democracy that will be heard around the world. This will either be the finest hour or the darkest day. This is not the moment to be giddy or gleeful for an election that could well be lost. It is not the moment for paranoia or fear about an election that could still be stolen or given away through malfeasance or mistake, in a handful of precincts, that determine a small number of races, that will decide control of the Congress.

This is a time for organization, battle, focus, commitment, energy and mission and it is a time to fight them on the beaches, on the land, in the sky, on the seas and everywhere.

The stakes are high.

The mission is clear.

The cause is just.

The battle is now.

It is up to you.


U.S. October death toll in Iraq hits 91

Associated Press
U.S. October death toll in Iraq hits 91
By Christopher Bodeen

BAGHDAD, Iraq - U.S. officials said Tuesday Iraqi leaders have agreed to develop a timeline by the end of the year for progress in stabilizing Iraq, and Iraqi forces should be able to take full control of security in the country in the next 12 to 18 months with "some level" of American support.

Even as October marked the deadliest month for U.S. forces in Iraq this year, the top U.S. commander in Iraq said he felt the United States should continue to focus on drawing down American forces in the country.

On Tuesday, the military announced the deaths of four more U.S. troops, raising the month's toll to 91. At least 2,801 members of the U.S. military have died since the war started in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.

Regardless, Gen. George Casey said he would not hesitate to ask for more troops if he felt they were necessary.

He appeared at a rare joint news conference with U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad in the heavily fortified Green Zone in Baghdad. A power failure in the Green Zone briefly cut off the broadcast of the remarks.

"We are about 75 percent of the way through a three-step process in building those (Iraqi) forces. It is going to take another 12 to 18 months or so till I believe the Iraqi security forces are completely capable of taking over responsibility for their own security that's still coupled with some level of support from us," Casey said.

With violence in Iraq at staggering levels, the United States is battling on both the military and political fronts to tame growing chaos in regions where Sunni insurgent violence now is compounded by sectarian killing.

Khalilzad said the Iraqi government had agreed by the end of the year to develop a timeline for progress. At the same time, he declared, the United States needed to redouble its efforts to succeed in Iraq.

"Iraq leaders have agreed to a timeline for making the hard decisions needed to resolve these issues," Khalilzad said. "Iraqi leaders must step up to achieve key political and security milestones on which they've agreed."

Details of the milestones were not spelled out, but Khalizad mentioned several areas in which progress would be measured, including devising a system to share the country's oil wealth among all religious and ethnic groups.

His comments came a day after Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said U.S. government and military officials were working with Iraq to set broad time frames for when Iraqis can take over 16 provinces that are still under the control of U.S. troops. He said officials were not talking about penalizing the Iraqis if they don't hit certain benchmarks.

The Iraqis have taken control of two southern provinces but have been slow to take the lead in others, particularly those around Baghdad and in the volatile regions north and west of the capital city. Rumsfeld said specific target dates probably will not be set. Instead, he said there might be a broader time frame — such as a one- to three-month window — for the Iraqis to take control of certain provinces.

Rumsfeld said the United States was looking at when the Iraqis would move close to setting up a reconciliation process to help quell worsening sectarian violence between Sunnis and Shiites.

Violence has spiked during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. Casey said the Iraqi army lost 300 men during the fasting month ending this week.

The American military announced the deaths in combat of two U.S. Marines and a sailor Monday in the insurgent stronghold of Anbar province, west of Baghdad. It also said a soldier died Tuesday after his patrol was struck by a roadside bomb in central Baghdad.

October is on course to surpass the October 2005 death toll of 96. Before that the deadliest months were January 2005, at 107; November 2004 at 137 and April 2004, at 135.

The U.S. military also carried out house-to-house searches in an upscale Baghdad neighborhood for an Army translator missing after reportedly being kidnapped while visiting relatives, but said Tuesday they had found no sign of him.

The military said the U.S. soldier, who was not identified by name, was last seen Monday in the heavily guarded Green Zone in central Baghdad.

Khalilzad said the government should transform the committee that was formed to insure that Saddam Hussein's loyalists held no important national positions into an organization that would seek entice them back to the political process.

That was seen as a bow to the Sunni insurgency. Sunnis comprise a minority of the population in mostly Shiite Iraq but were dominant under Saddam's regime.

"We are helping Iraqi leaders complete a national compact. ...Political forces must make difficult decisions in the coming weeks to reach agreements on numbers of outstanding issues on which Iraqis differ," Khalilzad said.

Casey and Khalilzad castigated Iran and Syria, Iraq's neighbors east and west, for trying to undermine the American effort to stabilize the country, with Casey saying both countries had been "decidedly unhelpful."

Khalilzad said radical anti-American Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr had agreed through Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to U.S. demands that the government develop a timeline that would include the eradication of militias.

Al-Sadr controls the Mahdi Army, the country's most feared band of armed men, largely drawn from the downtrodden, poor and unemployed in Baghdad's Sadr City, a Shiite slum enclave.

The U.S. ambassador said the United States was engaging with insurgent leaders, trying to persuade them to lay down their weapons and join the political process. He also announced the Americans had sought and received agreement from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan — all largely Sunni Muslim countries — to intercede with the insurgency.

The military said the missing soldier was a linguist with the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Baghdad. American troops who raided Baghdad's al-Furat TV on Monday said they were looking for an abducted American officer of Iraqi descent who went to join relatives in Karradah.

"We will leverage all available coalition resources to find this soldier," Maj. Gen. James D. Thurman said in a statement. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to his loved ones, and we are working for his safe return."

Sectarian violence persisted in the southern city of Amarah, with at least two more policemen shot to death Tuesday. Militiamen loyal to al-Sadr have been hunting officers aligned with a rival group in a new outbreak of Shiite-on-Shiite revenge attacks in the city.

The attacks came despite a public call by al-Sadr to halt the killings, suggesting that splinter groups were developing within his militia.

"I totally reject any Shiite-Shiite fighting or Sunni-Shiite sectarian fighting in Iraq under any pretext," al-Sadr said in an address to supporters Tuesday marking the beginning of the three-day festival of Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan. "Protecting Iraq is our main goal and the expulsion of the occupation troops from the country is our objective too."

Sunni Muslims marked the start of the festival on Monday.

Police elsewhere reported that 11 Iraqis were killed in bombings and shootings, and 14 bullet-riddled bodies were found — many showing signs of torture.


Many Follow U.S. Example on Detainees

Associated Press
Many Follow U.S. Example on Detainees
By Nick Wadhams

UNITED NATIONS -- Several governments around the world have tried to rebut criticism of how they handle detainees by claiming they are only following the U.S. example in the war on terror, the U.N. anti-torture chief said Monday.

Manfred Nowak, the U.N. special investigator on torture, said that when he criticizes governments for their questionable treatment of detainees, they respond by telling him that if the United States does something, it must be all right. He would not name any countries except for Jordan.

"The United States has been the pioneer, if you wish, of human rights and is a country that has a high reputation in the world," Nowak told a news conference. "Today, many other governments are kind of saying, 'But why are you criticizing us, we are not doing something different than what the United States is doing?'"

Nowak said that because of its prominence, the United States has a greater responsibility to uphold international standards for its prisoners so other nations do not use it as an excuse to justify their own behavior.

The remarks were the latest in a tense back-and-forth between Nowak and the United States. He has been an outspoken critic of U.S. detainee policy, chastising the United States for maintaining secret prisons. He has also been skeptical about new legislation that would protect detainees from blatant abuse - such as rape and torture - but does not require automatic legal counsel and specifically bars detainees from protesting their detentions in federal courts.

State Department spokesman Kurtis Cooper said Monday night that he had not seen Nowak's comments and had no response.

Nowak reiterated his opposition to that prohibition, saying "we should have enough trust in them that they should be the ones to deal with" the detainees.

He has said the United States must close its Guantanamo Bay detention facility and refused an invitation to visit because he would not be allowed to interview detainees. Nowak has reported that reliable accounts indicate suspected terror detainees being held there have been tortured.

Nonetheless, Nowak said the United States had improved its handling of detainees, particularly in Iraq after the Abu Ghraib scandal. The big problem in Iraq now were allegations of detainee torture by militias and the Interior Ministry.

He said detainees were now afraid of being transferred from the control of multinational forces to Iraqi prisons.

"They would prefer if they are in detention now to be in the international detention facilities rather than the Iraqi detention facilities," Nowak said.

Nowak also recently canceled a trip to Russia after he was told Russian law prohibited him from visiting detainees. He had planned to go there from Oct. 9-20. He said countries need to make sure his terms of reference - which give him the right to meet with detainees - are obeyed.

"I would appeal to governments before inviting to really make sure that their domestic laws and policies fully comply with my terms of reference," he said. "Otherwise, it doesn't make much sense to invite me."