So much for freedom of speech, let alone thought.
The play My Name Is Rachel Corrie, directed in London by actor Alan Rickman anddue to open in New York City in March,
The play adapts the diaries of the 23-year-old woman from Seattle who wasmurdered inRafah in 2003, when she was deliberately run down by anIsraeli Defense Forces bulldozer. Rachel had traveled to the Gaza Strip during the last intifada as an activist for the International Solidarity Movement.
The decision of the Democratic Party in rural Walworth County to call for the impeachment of President Bush, which Katrina vanden Heuvel recounts on this blog, is an encouraging one, indeed. If there is talk of impeachment in Walworth County, a bastion of Badger State conservatism where the president personally campaigned last fall and won almost 60 percent of the vote, then this movement is spreading much further than most national Democratic leaders have dared imagine.
Indeed, in Wisconsin, it has spread far beyond Walworth County. The Democratic Party of Wisconsin overwhelmingly endorsed impeachment of Bush, Vice President Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld at its state convention last June.
Wisconsin Democrats aren't alone on this front. Last month, after the warrantless wiretapping scandal blew up, the executive committee of the North Carolina Democratic Party backed a resolution urging the state's representatives in Washington to support efforts to impeach Bush, Cheney and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.
February has been a very queer month for the US military.
Early this month, the Defense Department admitted (in a letter to the Senate Armed Services Committee) that its TALON (Threat and Local Observation Notice) surveillance program engaged in "inappropriate" domestic spying on anti-war groups. As NBC News reported late last year, military intelligence labeled UC Santa Cruz's Students Against War a "credible threat" after they shut-down a recruitment visit and returned a few months later to spy on a kiss-in against the military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy. Likewise, the FBI spied on a demonstration against military recruiters organized by NYU's OUTLaw. The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (along with the ACLU) has filed a lawsuit requesting more information on the program and its impact on LGBT organizations.
On February 14, a 12-member commission assembled by the University of California (which included Clinton's Defense Secretary William Perry and Reagan's Assistant Defense Secretary Lawrence Korb) concluded that the GAO has severely underestimated the cost of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. The panel found that the total cost of implementing Don't Ask, Don't Tell (including discharging and replacing troops) during its first decade was $364 million, almost double the GAO figure of $190 million.
As Russian-watcher and ex-Nation blogger Matt Bivens detailed in this space last week, despite the spate of media coverage being devoted to Larry Summers' resignation as Harvard University's President, little, if anything, has been said about Summers' role as deputy treasury secretary in the Clinton Administration in aiding and abetting Russian corruption during the Yeltsin era.
That is, until today, when the New York Times reported that a devastating 18,500 word (22,007 with sidebars) expose in Institutional Investor, "How Harvard Lost Russia," may have led to Summers' downfall. The article, written by award winning journalist David McClintick, chronicled financial improprieties by those in charge of Harvard's Russia project, including Andrei Shleifer, a professor of economics who is a friend and protÃ©gÃ© of Dr. Summers's, and Jonathan Hay, a Harvard-trained lawyer. Shleifer, who agreed to pay $2 million in a settlement, has not been subjected to any disclipinary action by Harvard. As the Times reports, "Some Harvard watchers attribute that to Dr. Summers' influence, though he formally recused himself from the matter, and they see the entire affair, assiduously detailed by Mr. McClintick, as an indelible stain on Harvard's reputation."
The Nation has been reporting on this for some time. Click here to read Bivens' piece for the details of Summers' role in Russian corruption which didn't make the New York Times.
The other day, I received a letter from Robert Burrows of Whitewater, Wisconsin. I was moved to read his description of why the Democratic Party of Walworth County, Wisconsin voted for a motion to impeach President George W. Bush.
Here's what he wrote:
Dear Ms. Vanden Heuvel:
How serious are Republican -- and some Democratic -- politicians who go on and on about the need to restrict embryonic stem-cell research?
Stem cell research, which scientists believe holds the promise of cures or treatments for everything from diabetes to Alzheimer's disease, is popular with the American people. But it is unpopular with the faction of the anti-choice movement that tends to be most active in Republican primaries. So a lot of prominent Republican politicians tip their hat to the "pro-life" crowd by backing so-called "anti-cloning" bills that purport to restrict mad science but that are really written to prevent promising research projects from going forward.
Bob Hagan has for decades been one of Ohio's most progressive-minded and intellectually adventurous legislators. So it comes as no surprise that the Democratic state senator from Youngstown would blaze a new policy-making trail with a plan to reform adoption laws.
Hagan's proposal: Ban Republicans from adopting children.
In an email dispatched to fellow legislators last week, the senator announced his plan to "introduce legislation in the near future that would ban households with one or more Republican voters from adopting children or acting as foster parents."
I spent this past weekend bunkered in with 350 movement conservatives and some of their favorite pols and strategists – from John Ashcroft to Tom Tancredo to Jim Woolsey --and let me tell you, even many of these folks are openly worried about Republican chances in the Fall.
The Phoenix gathering was the latest edition of David Horowitz's Restoration Weekend, a traditional gathering of the right-wing tribes. And no, I didn't go native. I was merely a panelist on the future of the Democratic Party along with Matt Bai of The New York Times and Democratic consultants Flavia Colgan and Pat Caddell. You can see my personal blog for the Ashcroft jokes.
But here's the serious part: there's a lot of fear and trembling going on among Republicans. A rich sampler from this weekend's panel discussions:
As we approach the third anniversary of Bush's invasion of Iraq, with domestic spending being gutted, tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans being extended, and the Bush administration submitting a request for an additional $72.4 billion in war-related funding, the National Priorities Project (NPP) has issued an invaluable new report demonstrating the financial impact of the war on taxpayers in every state.
Upon approval of the supplemental funding bill, total spending on the war and occupation in Iraq will exceed $315 billion. Nobel Prize-winning economist, Joseph Stiglitz, estimates that when all is said and done the final price tag will reach somewhere between $1 trillion and $2 trillion.
The NPP highlights the unfathomable trade-offs our nation is making in order to continue funding the Iraq occupation â€“ other spending priorities that are being missed â€“ both at the state and national levels.
In the New York Times on Friday, Ted Koppel – now a columnist free from the strictures of ABC-Disney – lays it on the line in examining the undeniable role of oil in our continuing occupation of Iraq. Koppel notes, "….America's rapt attention to the security of the Persian Gulf is what it has always been. It's about the oil."
Hmmm….I seem to recall hearing some ideas along those lines – years ago – from the likes of Michael Moore in Farenheit 9/11 and many other lefties & progressives as well. They were each summarily dismissed – not just by the right but also by many in the MSM – as "unpatriotic," "conspiracy-theorists," "paranoid," "un-American," "simplistic," "leftists," etc.
Perhaps now, after three years of confronting the chaos, ineptitude, dishonesty, and failures of Iraq policy, critics will no longer face the scathing, simplistic, backlash that once confronted them.
There's one thing you can say about Duke Cunningham: He didn't come cheap. Mitchell Wade, the defense contractor who purchased Cunningham's California home for a price inflated by $700,000, today pleaded guilty to showering Duke with $1 million in bribes.
These bribes included, among other things, a $140,000 yacht (the "Duke-Stir"), an 1850s Louis Phillipe commode, Persian rugs, a Rolls Royce and two silver candelabras, all used to "feather his nest in San Diego." The requests came courtesy of Duke's "bribe menu." In return Wade's company MZM earned over $150 million in government contracts, courtesy of Duke's seat on the House defense appropriation subcommittee.
According to his plea Wade also bribed the former executive director of the Army's National Ground Intelligence Center and two sitting members of Congress, Reps. Virgil Goode (R-VA) and Katherine Harris (R-FL).
Bill Moyers is hitting the road in California for an eight-city speaking tour to raise issues of money and politics. And, as usual, he's got a lot to say about the withering state of our democracy.
But how could anyone think that the Texas-born observer of the American Zeitgeist would avoid comment on the vice presidential "peppering" spree that recently took place in Moyers' home state.
Moyers promises to leave "the rich threads of humor to pluck from the hunting incident in Texas" to The Daily Show's Jon Stewart. But the man who once served as press secretary for former President Lyndon Johnson is intrigued by the backstory of Dick Cheney's trevails that is rich with insight and righteous indignation about what has become of our politics and our public life.
Co-written by Sam Graham-Felsen.
If there's one core cause for progressives to unite around, it just may be the clean elections movement. Until elections are publicly financed, big money will continue to dominate politics and legislation--from health care to trade to minimum wage initiatives--will continue to be crafted in the interests of corporations, not citizens.
Fortunately, in the past two weeks, there's been some major progress in the fight to take money out of politics. On Valentine's Day, San Francisco's Board of Supervisors voted 9 to 2 in support of public financing of the city's mayoral elections. The ordinance will provide $6 million in public funds to all qualifying mayoral candidates in each election cycle. Although the measure does not provide 100 percent public financing like the intitiatives in Portland, Oregon and Albuquerque, New Mexico, Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, the legislation's sponsor, said it will be an important first step to "ward off the corrosive impact of big money and special interests."
Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and Cisco Systems are under fire from Congress for helping China censor and prosecute political dissidents. But a proposed law to guide technology companies doing business abroad raises troubling questions for Internet users everywhere.
A judge in Colombia has ruled that a bicycle courier be jailed for four years for grabbing a woman's bum while he whizzed past her on the street. When the grabber was caught, Diana Marcela Diaz, the grabbed, was given three choices: let him go, file a complaint, or slap him. She chose the precedent-setting but perhaps less-immediately gratifying route of filing a complaint. Now that cyclist will have four long years to think about what he's done.
The Colombians may have overreacted just a little, but the Italians could take a clue from their playbook. Last weekend it was reported in the Times that Italy's highest court ruled that sexually abusing a girl who is not a virgin is a less serious crime than sexually abusing a virgin. I'd like to face the judge of that court with the same three options that Diana Marcela Diaz had; I think I'd take option 2 AND 3.
The federal officials who are busy assuring Americans that they've got their act together when it comes to managing port security are not inspiring much confidence with their approach to airline security.
When Dr. Robert Johnson, a heart surgeon who did his active duty with the U.S. Army Reserve before being honorably discharged with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, arrived at the Syracuse airport near his home in upstate New York last month for a flight to Florida, he was told he could not travel.
Why? Johnson was told that his name had been added to the federal "no-fly" list as a possible terror suspect.
The country's most dynamic and progressive union coalition – The Los Angeles County Federation of Labor--finds itself in a world of pain this week, just a few months out from a looming hotel workers' showdown.
Earlier this week, the charismatic County Fed leader Martin Ludlow – a close ally of L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa--was forced to resign under the cloud of a criminal investigation. Ludlow reportedly took a plea deal to avoid jail by stepping down after a multi-agency probe turned up evidence that he violated campaign laws when he accepted undisclosed union phone banking support during his 2003 election to the City Council.
This is the second shock to the 800,000 member County Fed in less than a year. Last May, its highly successful leader, Miguel Contreras, died of a sudden heart attack. Contreras had forged the Fed into a political powerhouse whose endorsement was readily sought by aspiring candidates. Contreras, however, had thrown the Fed's support to then-incumbent Mayor James Hahn against challenger Villaraigosa. It was a decision that had deeply split labor ranks; Villaraigosa, a former union organizer, had been considered labor's best friend and seemed the natural favorite for the Fed.
Iraq is in the early stages of a civil war, as events on the ground make painfully clear. At least 111 people have been killed since Sunni insurgents attacked one of the holiest Shiite mosques yesterday, in what the AP called "two days of rage." Sunnis claim that 168 of their own mosques have been hit in retaliation by Shiite militias. The crossfire claimed the lives of three Iraqi journalists and seven more US troops.
In the best-case scenario, the NIC said, Iraq could be expected to achieve a "tenuous stability" over the next 18 months. In the worst case, it could dissolve into civil war.
The Onion may have grounds for legal action against the Bush administration for unfair competition.
After all, the administration is supposed to make its best effort to manage the affairs of state in a responsible manner. The Onion, a weekly humor publication that plays the news for laughs much as John Stewart's "Daily Show" does, is supposed to satirize the inevitable mistakes, missteps and misdeeds.
But the month of February has seen the administration stealing The Onion's thunder on a regular basis.