OpinionJournal – Best of the Web Today – August 31, 2007

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Best of the Web Today – August 31, 2007

    Today’s Video on WSJ.com: Brendan Miniter on gambling in California and the presidential campaign.

    Editor’s note: James Taranto is returning from an assignment today. In place of his regular column, here’s a free sample of our premium email newsletter, OpinionJournal’s Political Diary. If you like it, you can subscribe here. Mr. Taranto returns Tuesday.

    In today’s Political Diary:

    A New Member of ‘Exiles for Hillary’?

    Norman Hsu, the fugitive from justice who may have illegally funneled over a million dollars to Hillary Clinton and other leading Democrats, has apparently gone missing. The New York Times tried to find the elusive Mr. Hsu this week and ran into a stone wall.

    There are no offices for Mr. Hsu at any of the addresses he listed for his companies, and at the elegant residential tower that he gives as his personal address, Times reporters were told he moved out two years ago.

    Even E. Lawrence Barcella, Mr. Hsu’s lawyer, seemed to be abandoning his client. He said that Mr. Hsu was getting a California lawyer to represent him over a warrant that was issued there in the 1990s when Mr. Hsu failed to show up for a court hearing after pleading no contest to grand theft charges. Mr. Barcella carefully declined to comment on the whereabouts of his client and stressed that he won’t be handling Mr. Hsu’s argument with California authorities: “On that matter, he will be represented by California counsel.”

    All of this is very reminiscent of the 1996 Clinton fundraising scandal. A total of 120 witnesses either fled the country, pleaded the Fifth Amendment or otherwise were unavailable for questioning. In the end, a total of 14 people were found guilty on various charges relating to the scandal. No wonder the Hillary Clinton campaign wants to change the subject away from Mr. Hsu.

    — John Fund

    In the Future, We’ll All Work for Bloomberg

    The rich are different, and so is New York City. That’s the way to understand Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s latest big idea. In conjunction with the Rockefeller Foundation, he’s promoting a privately funded demonstration project to pay poor New York City parents to take better care of their kids. Take your kid to the dentist: $100. Get your kid a library card: $50.

    The Mayor is not the first to discover bribery as a means of kid-behavior management. His own daughter Georgina is famous even in top-flight horsy circles as an unusually indulged young lady (so much so that she’s started a business selling second-hand jodhpurs). Mr. Bloomberg told NPR: “We pay rich people not to plant corn. We pay rich people to drill in some places and not others.” He added: “We have been trying to end poverty for a long time. We have spent trillions of dollars… Time to try something different.”

    Less clearly stated is another rationale. Because New York is already fiscally responsible for the poor, it can make sense to pay them to change their behavior. More than 30% of city residents are Medicaid recipients, a million receive food stamps, and more than $100 million goes out every month in public assistance checks. New York also spends far more than other cities on public housing and rental subsidies, on child-support enforcement, on home health-care subsides, on everything.

    A similar rationale was behind the mayor’s public smoking ban and trans-fat ban — because the city ends up paying for the health consequences of smoking and obesity. Mr. Bloomberg has a consistent philosophy at least, which might be called public ownership of the welfare class.

    Such ultra-interventionist behavior management undoubtedly appeals to New York taxpayers more than it might to taxpayers elsewhere. Polls show voters see Hizzoner’s just-make-it-happen attitude as a sensible route in a city where the costs of it not happening end up in their tax bills.

    — Collin Levy

    Quote of the Day

    “Speaking at a forum organized by Lance Armstrong on cancer research, Hillary Clinton told Chris Matthews if she is elected president, she will declare war on cancer, and then she will support the war on cancer for two years, and then she will be against it for a year, and then she will back out of it all together” — Jay Leno, host of NBC’s “Tonight Show.”

    Terms Unlimited?

    Talk about election officials being hoisted by their own political petard.

    Facing a forced career change next year under the state’s term-limits law, California Senate President Don Perata and Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez have fast-tracked a ballot initiative that would allow them to stay in office. While the measure would ostensibly toughen the term limits law, it would also create a special “transition period” that would let 80% of today’s sitting legislators delay their departure. “The practical effect of the measure would be to allow more lawmakers… to stay in office longer,” concluded a San Francisco Chronicle analysis.

    Armed with a highly favorable ballot summary crafted by Democratic Attorney General Jerry Brown, the two legislative leaders appeared to be well on their way to hoodwinking the electorate. But this week it became clear that those in charge of gathering signatures to put the measure on the ballot — mostly paid mercenaries and public employee union members — may have slacked off on the job. County voter registrars are reporting that an unusually low number of signatures are passing muster during sample checks. Los Angeles County, for example, is clocking in with only a very low 59% validity rate.

    While it’s still likely the measure will qualify for the ballot, registrars now are contemplating a laborious manual check of the million-plus signatures, a process that might not be completed by the late September deadline to allow the measure to qualify for the February presidential primary ballot. If not, the measure would have to go on the June primary ballot, when parties nominate candidates for Congress and the state legislature.

    But there’s a fly in the political ointment: Candidates for state legislature must file for re-election in March. None of the termed-out legislators would legally be eligible to file. They’d have to seek other employment.

    There is another way to make sure the Perata-Nunez employment extension proposal makes it on the all-important February ballot. A two-thirds vote of the legislature can override any obstacles and place it there. But minority Republicans would be in a position to exact enormous concessions for supporting the initiative, including perhaps a redistricting commission that would draw more competitive seats or even a major overhaul of state budgeting practices.

    Even if the Perata-Nunez plan makes it before the voters in February, the latest desperate maneuvering may finally cause the public to gag. “A lot of voters may ask themselves why these people just can’t go into the private sector and find work,” says Jon Fleischman, who broke the story of the signature meltdown on his political blog FlashReport.org.

    — John Fund

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    URL for this article: http://www.opinionjournal.com/best/?id=110010548

    Today on OpinionJournal:

    • John Bolton: Thanks to feckless diplomacy, Kim Jong Il may preserve his nuclear program.
    • Kim Strassel: How the GOP can woo the ladies.
    • Peggy Noonan: America needs unity in dealing with Iraq. That means the president must lead.
    • Pete du Pont: Curtail the First Amendment? Why not just do away with elections?
    • The Journal Editorial Report: Tune in this weekend for an encore presentation: the Romney campaign, the White House after Rove, and Muslim footbaths.

    And on the Taste page:

    • Naomi Riley: Why sex scandals still scandalize.
    • Howard Husock: Arriving in a new city gives me a sense of what it’s like to be an immigrant.
    • Nathaniel Popper: Do culture-themed public schools cross a legal line?


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[TrackEngine] Unknown News | "News that’s not known, or not known enough." | Oct. 9-15, 2006

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Please call Nancy Pelosi and tell her to
impeach Bush and Cheney and arrest Gonzales, et al: (202) 225-4965.

Breathtakingly barbaric nominee for
judgeship will be considered by Senate

Excerpt: Why are so many unions opposed to Southwick? Because Southwick voted against the interests of injured workers and consumers in divided decisions 89 percent of the time. Why are civil rights groups opposed? Because he also voted overwhelmingly 54 of 59 times against defendants alleging juror discrimination.

That prompted his own colleagues on the Mississippi Court of Appeals to accuse him of “establishing one level of obligation for the State, and a higher one for defendants on an identical issue.” Southwick, they charged in a dissent, placed his “stamp of approval on the arbitrary and capricious selection of jurors.”

Comment: Among numerous other shockingly callous and cruel decisions, Leslie Southwick is the judge who declared a mother unfit to raise her 8-year-old child solely because she’s a lesbian. And I dare you to read through a few of the other lowlights on his résumé. This man is such a monster I’m a little surprised he’s not running for the Republican Presidential nomination.

I know it’s tiresome, and I know you’ve done it before, but please, call your Senator and politely remind him or her that you’ve got tar and feathers in your garage. Helen & Harry PERMANENT LINK

Foreign policy experts: Iraq “surge” makes U.S. less safe

Excerpt: The US is losing the war on terror. That’s the assessment of the nation’s top foreign-policy, intelligence, and national-security leaders from across the ideological spectrum.

In this year’s Terrorism Index, a survey released Monday by Foreign Policy magazine, 84 percent of these experts believe the nation is losing the war on terror, while more than 90 percent say the world is growing more dangerous for Americans.

“The main reason for this pessimism appears to be events on the ground,” says Mike Boyer, senior editor of Foreign Policy. “[Fifty-three] percent of the experts say the surge of troops into Baghdad is having a negative impact on the war effort, an increase of 22 percent from just six months ago.” The sentiment crosses party lines, he says. So, too, does a desire to disengage from Iraq.

Intel report: “Surge “is making Iraq even more sectarian, unstable

Excerpt: The number of Iraqis fleeing their homes has soared since the American troop increase began in February, according to data from two humanitarian groups, accelerating the partition of the country into sectarian enclaves.

The assessment, known as a National Intelligence Estimate, casts strong doubts on the viability of the Bush administration strategy in Iraq.

Comment: The Bush administration is trying to spin this news (and most of the media is going along) to say that it actually BOLSTERS their argument that we absolutely can’t leave Iraq anytime soon, because of how unstable it is. This is similar to a person with a can of gasoline refusing to stop pouring it on a fire and walk away, because look how awful the fire’s getting! Madeline Zane PERMANENT LINK

Number of Iraqi refugees doubles during “surge”

Excerpt: The number of Iraqis fleeing their homes has soared since the American troop increase began in February, according to data from two humanitarian groups, accelerating the partition of the country into sectarian enclaves.

Despite some evidence that the troop buildup has improved security in certain areas, sectarian violence continues and American-led operations have brought new fighting, driving fearful Iraqis from their homes at much higher rates than before the tens of thousands of additional troops arrived, the studies show.

Statistics collected by one of the two humanitarian groups, the Iraqi Red Crescent Organization, indicate that the total number of internally displaced Iraqis has more than doubled, to 1.1 million from 499,000, since the buildup started in February.

Sheehan urges action on Iraq refugee crisis

Excerpt: Ms Sheehan announced the launch of a coalition between the people of Iraq and the Camp Casey Peace Institute and the Hip Hop Caucus, which they hope will have global reach.

She said: “There is a humanitarian crisis in the Middle East that is destabilizing the entire region. It started in Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s spread to especially Syria and Jordan, who have taken the brunt of the refugees who are displaced outside the country.”

U.S. wants U.N. to address Iraq refugee crisis

Excerpt: One in ten Iraqis has left the country. Baghdad’s elite are trying to make ends meet in neighboring Jordan and Syria. Washington wants the United Nations to address the refugee crisis. In the meantime, the country is losing its best minds the very people needed to rebuild Iraq.

Comment: We made the mess, you get to clean it up! E13 PERMANENT LINK

Cheney’s office has subpoenaed documents on warrantless
surveillance, but won’t turn them over to Senate investigators

Excerpt: Vice President Cheney’s office acknowledged for the first time yesterday that it has dozens of documents related to the administration’s warrantless surveillance program, but it signaled that it will resist efforts by congressional Democrats to obtain them.

Comment: Apparently, there’s nothing but air in Patrick Leahy’s pants. Helen & Harry PERMANENT LINK

Bush offers to comply IF Congress quickly rewrites law

Excerpt: The Bush administration yesterday signaled to Senate Democrats that it will provide the legal rationale for its domestic surveillance program if Democrats reciprocate by permanently updating the key law governing foreign spying.

Iran — Run-up to the next war:

Former CIA analyst sees our insane president attacking Iran soon

Excerpt: “With the propaganda buildup we have seen so far, what seems most likely, at least initially, is an attack on Revolutionary Guard training facilities inside Iran, and that can be done with cruise missiles.

With some 20 targets already identified by anti-Iranian groups, there are enough assets already in place to do that job. But the while-we’re-at-it neocon logic referred to above may well be applied after, or even during, that kind of attack from the air.”

U.S. general says Iran trains enemy in Iraq

Excerpt: A senior U.S. general said Sunday that about 50 members of an elite Iranian military unit are training Shiite militias south of Baghdad, the first time the U.S. military has alleged that Iranians are aiding insurgents from inside Iraq.

Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, who commands U.S. operations south of Baghdad, said the men were sent by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps a military branch that the U.S. government has decided to label a “specially designated global terrorist” to train Shiite insurgents in firing mortar rounds and rockets.

Comment: Just for the heck of it, I searched on-line for other comments from Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, to help gauge his reliability. It took me about three minutes to decide he’s either a little dim, flat-out delusional, or just another liar:

“What we’re finding is indeed the people of al-Anbar Fallujah and Ramadi, specifically have decided to turn against terrorists and foreign fighters.” [February 2006]

“We’re not seeing civil war igniting in Iraq,” Lynch said at a news briefing in the heavily fortified Green Zone in Baghdad. “We’re not seeing 77, 80, 100 mosques damaged. We’re not seeing death in the streets.” [February 2006]

“We can confirm based on our investigation that individuals dressed like this, in chocolate-chip desert combat uniforms, riding in eight vehicles, drove up and kidnapped 50 local nationals,” US military spokesman Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch said Thursday, referring to his combat fatigues. “We don’t know who did that. In our conversations with Iraqi authorities, they don’t know either.” [March 2006] Helen & Harry PERMANENT LINK

Robert Greenwald and Bernie Sanders warn
news nets not to follow Fox News to another war

Excerpt: The video and an accompanying “open letter” to ABC, NBC, CBS, MSNBC and CNN viewable at www.FoxAttacks.com urge news organizations to ask tough questions about administration policy on Iran and say citizens should pressure them to do so.

Famed CIA operative sees war with Iran within six months

Excerpt: “I’ve taken an informal poll inside the government,” [Bob] Baer told Fox. “The feeling is we will hit the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.” His Time column also suggested that “as long as we have bombers and missiles in the air, we will hit Iran’s nuclear facilities.”

Bush moves to stop states from insuring middle income kids

Excerpt: The Bush administration, continuing its fight to stop states from expanding the popular Children’s Health Insurance Program, has adopted new standards that will make it much more difficult for California, New York and other states to extend coverage to children in middle-income families.

In interviews, they said the changes are designed to return the Children’s Health Insurance Program to its original focus on low-income children and to make sure the program does not become a substitute for private health coverage.

After learning of the new policy, some state officials said Monday that it could cripple their attempts to cover more children and would impose standards that could not be met.

Before making such a change, states must demonstrate that they have “enrolled at least 95 percent of children in the state below 200 percent of the federal poverty level” who are eligible for either Medicaid or the child health program.

Deborah Bachrach, a deputy commissioner in the New York State Health Department, said, “No state in the nation has a participation rate of 95 percent.”

CIA dropped the ball on Al Qaeda but not until Bush took office

Excerpt: George Tenet, then the director of central intelligence, rang the Qaeda alarm. He sent a memo to the entire intelligence community saying that he wanted no effort spared in the “war” with Osama bin Laden. He took on the president’s closest advisers to agitate for a strike on a Qaeda base in Afghanistan.

The disturbing thing was that this all happened under President Bill Clinton. When George W. Bush won the White House, Tenet seems to have shifted his priorities. …

Another disturbing aspect of the report released this week was its date, June 2005, which neatly sums up Bush’s policies on transparency and accountability he doesn’t believe in either. Perhaps it’s not surprising that the report wasn’t released in 2005. Bush had just given Tenet the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his “pivotal” role in fighting Al Qaeda.

Federal Reserve props up Bank of America,
Citigroup, JP Morgan Chase, and
Wachovia with half a billion bucks each

Excerpt: Four major banks said Wednesday they each borrowed $500 million from the Federal Reserve’s discount window, lending weight to the central bank’s efforts to restore liquidity to tight markets.

Comment: If there is ever a Museum of Spin this article will be engraved on the door.

The Associated Press has turned a story about four huuuge banks turning to our country’s financial last resort, to the tune of two billion dollars, into a story about those institutions’ bravely leading the way in an effort to improve the image of the Fed’s discount window. … MORE …

HappySysiphus PERMANENT LINK

Top Swiss banker attacks US lending standards as ‘unbelievable’

Excerpt: Jean-Pierre Roth, president of the Swiss National Bank, said market turmoil was far from over as tremors from the sub-prime debacle continued to rock the world.

“We’re certainly not at the end of the story. There are question marks surrounding the development of the American economy,” he said. “Something unbelievable happened. People who had neither income nor capital got credit with very attractive conditions. Now reality is striking back,” he said.

Fed bends rules to help two big banks

Excerpt: In a clear sign that the credit crunch is still affecting the nation’s largest financial institutions, the Federal Reserve agreed this week to bend key banking regulations to help out Citigroup (Charts, Fortune 500) and Bank of America (Charts, Fortune 500), according to documents posted Friday on the Fed’s web site.

The Aug. 20 letters from the Fed to Citigroup and Bank of America state that the Fed, which regulates large parts of the U.S. financial system, has agreed to exempt both banks from rules that effectively limit the amount of lending that their federally-insured banks can do with their brokerage affiliates. The exemption, which is temporary, means, for example, that Citigroup’s Citibank entity can substantially increase funding to Citigroup Global Markets, its brokerage subsidiary. Citigroup and Bank of America requested the exemptions, according to the letters, to provide liquidity to those holding mortgage loans, mortgage-backed securities, and other securities.

FEC complaint filed against “testing the waters” candidate Thompson

Excerpt: “As I understand the law, a “testing the waters” fund is only legitimate for the purpose of helping an individual decide whether he should become a candidate. Once someone has decided to become a candidate, the exemption no longer applies, and 11 CFR 100.72 lists five factors to determine when that has taken place.

On three of these factors, the examples are numerous that indicate that Mr. Thompson has gone far beyond the activities and speech allowable under the law. These examples do not come from personal knowledge, but rather from numerous accounts in the press, some being direct quotations from Mr. Thompson or his staff. Other facts reported are from public documents available on the internet.”

Magic “Petraeus report” scheduled for 9/11

Comment: We already know that this report is being written by the White House instead of General Petraeus, whether his name is on it or not. Now we find out that it is scheduled to be released on 9/11 for maximum propaganda value.

So instead of the factual account of the war’s progress that we have been promised, we’re going to get a pre-scripted advertisement for the war, based in part on the Giant Lie that Iraq has any connection to 9/11. And this is how we’re supposed to decide what to do next about Iraq? America would do better basing its foreign policy on tarot cards than on this so-called “report.” Madeline Zane PERMANENT LINK

Democratic Party takes hard line
against earlier and earlier primaries

Excerpt: Members of a Democratic National Committee panel voted to give Florida 30 days to amend its plan to hold a binding primary on Jan. 29. Under DNC rules, only Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire and South Carolina may hold a primary election or nominating caucus before Feb. 5.

If the state doesn’t submit a new plan for selecting delegates, it will lose all of its 210 delegates to the party’s national convention in Denver next year the harshest possibly penalty.

“We have 49 other states as important as Florida is to our democratic process and to our country,” said Alexis M. Herman, co-chair of the DNC rules committee. “There is a fairness principle here.”

Comment: Inside party politics usually bores me, but the ongoing shuffling of primary dates is dangerous and dumb and ought to be stopped. The rules are there, enforcing them to the letter makes sense. Helen & Harry PERMANENT LINK

Efforts to crack down on lead paint
thwarted by China, Bush administration

Excerpt: The Bush administration has hindered regulation on two fronts, consumer advocates say. It stalled efforts to press for greater inspections of imported children’s products, and it altered the focus of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), moving it from aggressive protection of consumers to a more manufacturer-friendly approach.

“The overall philosophy is regulations are bad and they are too large a cost for industry, and the market will take care of it,” said Rick Melberth, director of regulatory policy at OMBWatch, a government watchdog group formed in 1983. “That’s been the philosophy of the Bush administration.”

Jose Padilla sues Bush officials for unlawful detainment, torture

Excerpt: Jose Padilla is seeking to hold former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and 59 other US officials responsible for what his lawyers say were abusive and unconstitutional tactics used against Mr. Padilla while he was held in military custody as an enemy combatant from 2002 to 2006.

Lawyers working on Padilla’s behalf filed the civil lawsuit earlier this year in federal court in South Carolina. It was publicly disclosed by the lawyers this week.

Analysts say that regardless of the guilty verdict in Miami, significant constitutional and other legal issues surrounding Padilla’s treatment by the military remain unresolved.

Chief among them is whether a US citizen, like Padilla, who was arrested on American soil, can be stripped of most of his constitutional rights while being held in military custody and interrogated as an enemy combatant.

In BushCheneyWorld, no search or seizure is unreasonable

Democrats say wiretap approval could grant Bush extra powers

Excerpt: Congressional Democrats are acknowledging President Bush’s broad new spying powers approved this month could be even more extensive than initially claimed. Ambiguous language defining “electronic surveillance” means the so-called Protect America of 2007 Act could go well beyond wiretapping to permit physical searches and financial record-gathering all without court approval.

The admission comes amidst news the Bush administration has privately said it won’t be held to those limits the legislation does set on surveillance activities. The New York Times reports Justice Department officials refused repeated entreaties to commit to following Congressional rules at a private meeting last week. Participants in the meeting say assistant attorney general for national security Ken Wainstein told former Justice Department lawyer Bruce Fein the administration does not consider itself bound by Congressional restrictions.

Spy chief confirms AT&T, Verizon, other
telcom companies help government with wiretaps

Excerpt: [National Intelligence Director Mike] McConnell confirmed for the first time that the private sector assisted with President Bush’s warrantless surveillance program. AT&T, Verizon and other telecommunications companies are being sued for their cooperation. “Now if you play out the suits at the value they’re claimed, it would bankrupt these companies,” McConnell said, arguing that they deserve immunity for their help. …

McConnell said it takes 200 hours to assemble a FISA warrant on a single telephone number. “We’re going backwards,” he said. “We couldn’t keep up.”

Comment: Good luck trying to parse any truth out of anything Mike McConnell says he works for George Bush, so ipso facto, he’s a liar.

For example, stop and ponder his claim that it takes 200 hours to fill out the forms for a FISA warrant on a single telephone number. That’s simply absurd anyone who’s ever worked in law enforcement knows that’s a lie and FISA warrants are notoriously much easier to get than ordinary (Constitutional) search warrants. FISA has issued thousands and thousands of these unconstitutional but at least somewhat legal warrants, with about half a dozen rejections and we’re supposed to believe it takes five work-weeks of one employee’s time to obtain each rubber-stamp surveillance warrant?

Sweet jeebers, as American taxpayers, don’t we at least deserve lies that are somewhat plausible? So bear in mind that McConnell is a bald-faced liar, as he further lies that “fewer than 100 people inside the United States are monitored under FISA warrants”. Helen & Harry PERMANENT LINK

ACLU again calls on bush administration to stop
using “classified information” as a political weapon

Excerpt: The American Civil Liberties Union today condemned recent comments of Director of National Intelligence, Mike McConnell, regarding the administration’s warrantless surveillance activities under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). The comments, made to the El Paso Times, continue a pattern under which government officials strategically and selectively disclose classified information in order to advance the administration’s legislative agenda or broader political goals. Since McConnell’s comments included specific references to previously classified court rulings from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), the ACLU also renewed its call for the release of those orders and legal opinions.

Discussing Bush’s illegal wiretaps will cause
Americans’ deaths, says intelligence honcho

Excerpt: Earlier this month, Congress caved to President Bush and passed legislation updating the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, vastly expanding Bush’s powers to wiretap American citizens without court oversight. In an extensive interview with the El Paso Times, National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell decried continued public discussion of the wiretapping program, claiming Americans, particularly in Iraq, would “die” because of the debate.

Defense Dept says it’s shutting down
program that spies on anti-war protesters

Excerpt: TALON was a Pentagon program that was originally designed to track possible threats to military bases, but expanded in scope to include reports about non-violent demonstrations and anti-war rallies. It has always been a wonder to me how this happened how a group of Santa Cruz students, along with Quaker and church groups, found itself on a terrorist monitoring database. This was not only ridiculous, but wrong.

Comment: Over the past several years the Pentagon has become a full-fledged arm of the Bush-Cheney all-lie administration, and at this point no official pronouncements from the Defense Dept should be taken at face value. In that spirit, we offer two points:

First, the TALON (Threat and Local Observation Notice) database can’t easily and simply won’t be destroyed. And second, if TALON is “dead”, you can count on its resurrection under some new silly acronym, quite probably one we won’t hear about for several years. Helen & Harry PERMANENT LINK

Leaders meet to discuss secret second phase of NAFTA

Excerpt: Faced with opposition from the left and the right, George W. Bush, Felipe Calderon, and Stephen Harper met August 20-21 in Montebello, Canada to discuss the little-known second phase of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Since the SPP [Security and Prospertiy Partnership] is not a law or a treaty or even a signed agreement, there are no formal mechanisms of accountability built in. It is essentially a “gentleman’s agreement” between the executive branches and major corporations in the three nations.

Although rarely identified as such, some SPP recommendations have already popped up in policies and regulation reforms. These include accelerating environmentally damaging oil production in Mexico and Canada, and “harmonizing” national standards so they sing to the tune of corporate profits rather than consumer protection.

Police use provocateurs at Quebec summit

Excerpt: Protesters are accusing police of using undercover agents to provoke violent confrontations at the North American leaders’ summit in Montebello, Quebec.

Such accusations have been made before after similar demonstrations but this time the alleged “agents provocateurs” have been caught on camera.

“These three guys are cops!

Comment: Watch as big, burly, bandana-wearing cops you can almost tell they’re cops, just by their bodies try to turn a peaceful protest into a riot and are outed by one outspoken but peaceful protester. Helen & Harry PERMANENT LINK

Quebec police admit sending undercover agents
to protest, but deny they were agent provocateurs

Excerpt: The Quebec provincial police will not comment any further on the affair, a spokeswoman in Montreal said.

Quebec Justice Minister Jacques Dupuis was made aware of the news, but a spokesman from his office said he will not comment on the matter either.

Comment: Yeah, no further comment indeed ‘cuz it’s better to shut the hell up than to continue stating obvious lies.

If these cops weren’t agent provocateurs, then what’s with the bandanas over their faces and the big ol’ rock in one cop’s hand? Helen & Harry PERMANENT LINK

Australia will become temporary police state
during Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit

Excerpt: The details come as NSW Police admit they are preparing for ”mass arrests” during the meeting. They plan to quarantine at least 500 beds in jail cells ready for protesters who will be denied bail during the week-long forum.

At least 200 prisoners will be allowed to sleep in their own beds over the APEC long weekend of September 7-9 to free up cells after federal and state police asked the NSW Government to make space for the hundreds who might be arrested during the summit in Sydney.

Comment: Sometimes I have to stop and read something twice to make sure I’ve read it right: Australian officials will send real criminals home from their jails, to make room for “mass arrests” of protesters, who’ll be held for the duration of the week-long summit, to make sure they have no chance to be heard and there’s no mention that protesters will have to do anything violent to be arrested. Helen & Harry PERMANENT LINK

Republicans use Justice Department to subvert justice

White House is not subject to Freedom of Information Act,
says Justice Dept in attempt to hide five-million emails

Excerpt: The suit was brought by the advocacy group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. It was based on estimates that there are at least five million missing White House e-mails from March 2003 to October 2005.

While the Justice Department says the White House Office of Administration is not subject to the disclosure requirements of the Freedom of Information Act, not everyone agrees. A lawyer for the National Security Archive says the Office of Administration should be subject to public disclosure rules.

Bush cronies who sabotaged Justice Dept’s civil rights division resign

Excerpt: The department said that the resignation of the official, Assistant Attorney General Wan J. Kim, had nothing to do with the recent controversies over Mr. Gonzales’s performance, and that Mr. Kim had been planning his departure for months.

His departure was announced on the same day that department officials confirmed that a senior official who preceded Mr. Kim in running the civil rights division, Bradley J. Schlozman, had also resigned.

In Senate testimony two months ago, Mr. Schlozman, who was interim director of the division in 1993, acknowledged that he had actively recruited conservative Republican applicants to work in the division and that he had rewritten the performance evaluations of career lawyers who were not considered loyal to the Bush administration.

Former Justice Dept attorney sues Rove over her firing

Excerpt: Elizabeth Reyes, an “attorney fired from the Texas secretary of state’s office for talking publicly about presidential adviser Karl Rove,” has “filed a lawsuit, saying she is the victim of political pressure.” In 2005, Reyes spoke to a Washington Post reporter about voter residency in Texas. Her quotes then showed up in a story about whether Rove was still eligible to vote in the state. Reyes was dismissed after Rove called Secretary of State Roger Williams, a large GOP donor, about her quotes.

New Bush rules on “detainees” make
Swiss cheese of Geneva Conventions

Excerpt: But the JAGs told the senators that a key part of the order opens the door to violations of the section of the Geneva Conventions that outlaws “cruel treatment and torture” and “outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment,” officials familiar with the discussion said.

The JAGs cited language in the executive order in which Bush said CIA interrogators may not use “willful and outrageous acts of personal abuse done for the purpose of humiliating or degrading the individual.” As an example, it lists “sexual or sexually indecent acts undertaken for the purpose of humiliation.”

Bush invokes lessons of Vietnam (that he never learned)
to argue for extending Iraq slaughter

Excerpt: “The price of America’s withdrawal was paid by millions of innocent citizens,” he told war veterans in Missouri. Mr Bush said the Vietnam War had taught the need for US patience over Iraq.

Comment: Our Moron-in-Chief thinks the big mistake of the Vietnam war was retreating after only ten years of full-fledged war and 50,000 dead Americans. Sweet Jesus, it’s hard to write this without profanities.

The lesson of Vietnam is that even people who aren’t white will fight off foreign invaders, that America shouldn’t slaughter foreigners who pose no threat to Americans, that a war ought to have some purpose that makes it worth even one American soldier’s life let alone 50,000, and that when there’s no worthy purpose to a war Americans will eventually grow tired of funerals for their brothers, fathers, sons, and other loved ones. The lesson of Vietnam is that America ought to grow a frickin’ conscience, and that soul-less monsters like GW Bush shouldn’t be allowed to visit the White House on a guided tour, let alone sit in the Oval Office.

And as for Bush’s empty-headed claim that lots of Iraqis will die if the American military leaves, that’s true and it’s been true ever since Bush decided to topple the tyrant Saddam, and it’ll be true whether the American military leaves in 2007 or 2107. Bush is to blame for those corpses, along with the 750,000 or so he’s killed already. And of course, an increasing portion of the blame belongs on the shoulders of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. Helen & Harry PERMANENT LINK

Bush’s analogy bewilders Vietnamese people

Excerpt: President Bush touched a nerve among Vietnamese when he invoked the Vietnam War in a speech warning that death and chaos will envelop Iraq if U.S. troops leave too quickly.

People in Vietnam, where opposition to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq is strong, said Thursday that Bush drew the wrong conclusions from the long, bloody Southeast Asian conflict.

“Doesn’t he realize that if the U.S. had stayed in Vietnam longer, they would have killed more people?” said Vu Huy Trieu of Hanoi, a veteran of the communist forces that fought American troops in Vietnam. “Nobody regrets that the Vietnam War wasn’t prolonged except Bush.”

He said U.S. troops could never have prevailed here. “Does he think the U.S. could have won if they had stayed longer? No way,” Trieu said.

Expert offers a lesson on Vietnam war history
to America’s extraordinarily ignorant President

Excerpt: “My understanding of the history of the Vietnam war and the lessons of that differs rather dramatically from Mr. Bush’s,” Robert Hathaway, an Asian expert at the Washington-based Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars, told Agence France-Presse.

Hathaway said that despite the eight-year US military involvement and its heavy casualties in Vietnam, Washington was still unable to create popular support in the south for a government that was widely considered to be corrupt and unpopular.

South Vietnam collapsed in 1975 not because American forces had withdrawn, but because the South Vietnamese and their army simply did not care enough about their government to fight in its defense, he said. The North Vietnamese simply walked almost unopposed into Saigon.

Historian quoted by Bush calls President’s outlook “perverse”

Excerpt: MIT professor John Dower [said], “They [war supporters] keep on doing this. They keep on hitting it and hitting it and hitting it and it’s always more and more implausible, strange and in a fantasy world. They’re desperately groping for a historical analogy, and their uses of history are really perverse. …”

US defenses will move from secure under-
granite location to nearby office building

Excerpt: The move will shift more than 100 people responsible for detecting attacks on North America from a facility that sits under 2,000 feet of granite to a basement in an office building on the base that officials concede offers lower protection.

Comment: They sure did a bang-up job detecting the attacks on Sept 11. That sarcastically said, moving the defense crew from their famous under-granite location to an office building reminds me of Giuliani’s ridiculous decision to put New York’s anti-terror center in the World Trade Center. Even in the Bush-Cheney era of stupidity, this is top-notch stupidity. Helen & Harry PERMANENT LINK

Bush lies about Al-Qaeda captures in Iraq

Excerpt: Some distortions are so massive and so deliberate as to constitute outright lies. See if you can spot the dishonesty in this line in President Bush’s speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars’ national convention today:

“U.S. forces have killed or captured an average of more than 1,500 al Qaeda terrorists and other extremists every month since January.” …

Since the surge began, the U.S. has had between 17,000 and 23,000 Iraqis in custody each month, according to the Brookings Institution’s Iraq Index. Last month, Ned Parker of the Los Angeles Times reported that of the 19,000 detainees in U.S. custody in Iraq, only 135 were foreigners the most likely indicator of membership in al-Qaeda.

DIA proposes another billion dollars for outsourced spying

Excerpt: The Defense Intelligence Agency is preparing to pay private contractors up to $1 billion to conduct core intelligence tasks of analysis and collection over the next five years, an amount that would set a record in the outsourcing of such functions by the Pentagon’s top spying agency.

The proposed contracts, outlined in a recent early notice of the DIA’s plans, reflect a continuing expansion of the Defense Department’s intelligence-related work and fit a well-established pattern of Bush administration transfers of government work to private contractors.

U.S. government threatens retaliation against states that reject REAL ID

Excerpt: The cards would be mandatory for all “federal purposes,” which include boarding an airplane or walking into a federal building, nuclear facility or national park, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff told the National Conference of State Legislatures last week. Citizens in states that don’t comply with the new rules will have to use passports for federal purposes.

Media finally notices:
Mine safety chief is Bush crony, recess appointee

Excerpt: And even though Richard Stickler does have considerable mining experience [Note: A lie; he’s a former mining executive, with no experience mining.], he is now acquiring a new not-so-favorable nickname.

Among many bloggers, he is now being referred to as the “new Brownie.” That in reference to Michael Brown who headed FEMA during Hurricane Katrina.

Documents show Utah mine owner is lying, repeatedly

Excerpt: Robert Murray insists that his company did not change the mining plan at Crandall Canyon after purchasing a joint interest in the mine last August.

But documents obtained by The Salt Lake Tribune clearly contradict Murray’s assertion, and show that Murray’s company sought and received approval from federal regulators to make a significant, and, experts say, risky change to the mining strategy.

White House manual advised how to stifle anti-Bush protests

Excerpt: It has been revealed that the White House published a manual in 2002 detailing how to deter protests at President Bush’s public appearances.

The manual urged rally organizers to take a number of the following steps: Tightly control who gets tickets to the event. Screen everyone entering to search for secret political signs. Station so-called ‘rally squads’ at strategic locations inside the event to shout down any anti-Bush demonstrators who manages to get inside. And if that does not work, remove protesters from the event. The manual also directs the White House advance staff to ask local police to designate a so-called protest area where demonstrators can be placed, preferably not in the view of the event site or motorcade route.

The manual was released under subpoena as part of a lawsuit filed on behalf of Jeffery and Nicole Rank who were arrested in 2004 for refusing to cover their anti-Bush T-shirts at a Fourth of July speech at the West Virginia State Capitol. Last week the federal government settled the First Amendment case for $80,000, but with no admission of wrongdoing.

Waxman confirms existence of Rove’s illegal politicization ‘teams’

Excerpt: In practical terms, that meant Cabinet officials concentrated their official government travel on the media markets Rove’s team chose, rolling out grant decisions made by agencies with red-carpet fanfare in GOP congressional districts, and carefully crafted announcements highlighting the release of federal money in battleground states.

NRC kept 2005 nuclear accident secret

Excerpt: The leak turned out to be one of nine violations or test failures since 2005 at privately owned Nuclear Fuel Services Inc., a longtime supplier of fuel to the U.S. Navy’s nuclear fleet.

The public was never told about the problems when they happened. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission revealed them for the first time last month when it released an order demanding improvements at the company, but no fine.

Ohio’s e-voting system seems to drop ballot secrecy

Excerpt: Ohio law permits anyone to walk into a county election office and obtain two crucial documents: a list of voters in the order they voted, and a time-stamped list of the actual votes. “We simply take the two pieces of paper together, merge them, and then we have which voter voted and in which way,” said James Moyer, a longtime privacy activist and poll worker who lives in Columbus, Ohio.

FBI divulges secrets in Sibel Edmonds case

Excerpt: For months, the FBI and Congress openly discussed the details of former FBI translator Sibel Edmonds’ case in unclassified settings, with participants who did not have security clearances. That is, none of the participants, including high level Counter-Intelligence agents, considered that the information was ‘secret.’

It was only later that Attorney General John Ashcroft decided that he needed to protect certain criminals (high level US officials at the Pentagon and State Department), and he slapped the State Secrets Privilege across the case.

In an apparent about-face, attorneys from the FBI and Dept of Justice have been discussing previously-classified elements of the case and placing it on the court record.

Ex-CNN News Chief defends vetting commentators with Pentagon

Excerpt: The former news chief of CNN is defending his decision to seek the Pentagon’s approval of prospective CNN news analysts during the lead up to the Iraq war. Eason Jordan’s comments have come under renewed scrutiny after being featured in Norman Solomon’s film War Made Easy.

… “I think it’s important to have experts explain the war and to describe the military hardware, describe the tactics, talk about the strategy behind the conflict. I went to the Pentagon myself several times before the war started and met with important people there and said, for instance ‘At CNN, here are the generals we’re thinking of retaining to advise us on the air and off about the war’ and we got a big thumbs-up on all of them. That was important.”

Jordan, who now runs the IraqSlogger website, defended his actions last week. He said: “Employers routinely vet prospective employees with their previous employers. In these cases, we vetted retired generals to ensure they were experts in specific military and geographic areas. The generals were not vetted for political views.”

Comment: Eason Jordan was the CNN exec who said he was surprised that Army PsyOps interns worked at his network. He later quit at CNN after suggesting that the U.S. military might be targeting journalists in Iraq, and then backpedaling to say he’d never meant that.

Beyond that, I know little about Eason, but I’m not surprised that an old-time, mainstream face runs IraqSlogger. We’re skeptical when a new publication pops up seemingly from nowhere, and is almost immediately cited widely, indicating almost instant acceptance and respect. Sounds paranoid, I know, but from years on the fringe dating back to the on-paper era, trust me, it’s utterly common to see well-funded, essentially corporate products try to falsely position themselves as independent or counterculture efforts.

I have to assume that’s what’s behind the name IraqSlogger it almost shouts “outside the mainstream,” but it is the mainstream… Launched just last December, it announces its goal is to be “the world’s premier Iraq-focused information source.” When I went to poke around their website just now, I couldn’t get to the content, as my way was blocked by pitches for subscriptions at $59.95 per month (and that’s a special discount price).

IraqSlogger ain’t the worst at this game, but it’s a company with a business strategy based on selling $60-a-month subscriptions to news about the Iraq war. It’s a company that’s literally profiting from war and has a vested interest in seeing that war extend onward. Helen & Harry PERMANENT LINK

Poll shows Californians lean toward dividing electoral votes
(i.e., handing Republicans White House in 2008)

Excerpt: The Field Poll found that 47 percent of registered voters back a change to California’s system for electoral votes, with 35 percent opposed. Republicans generally support the change more than Democrats.

When pollsters explained the political implication that Democratic presidential candidates might lose some electoral votes under a proportional system, the numbers changed: 49 percent supported the change and 42 percent opposed it. Opposition from Democrats and independent voters rose when the issue was put this way.

Schwarzenegger cool to Republicans’ effort to
rig election through splitting California’s electoral votes

Excerpt: “In principle, I don’t like to change the rules in the middle of the game,” the Republican governor told reporters.

Schwarzenegger added he wasn’t versed in details of the ballot proposal and stressed he wasn’t taking a definitive position. But his uneasy response is likely to make it harder for supporters to build momentum and could chill fundraising.

Army drops two most serious charges against Abu Ghraib officer

Excerpt: A military judge dismissed two of the most serious charges yesterday against the only officer charged with abusing detainees at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison, after an investigator [changed his earlier testimony to say that] he failed to read the defendant his rights.

In court yesterday morning, the prosecutor, Lieutenant Colonel John P. Tracy, announced that the investigator, Major General George Fay, had contacted prosecutors Sunday to say that he “misspoke” when he testified during a pretrial hearing that he advised Jordan of his rights during an interview in 2004.

Fay interviewed many other soldiers during his investigation. In his report, he concluded that Jordan’s tacit approval of violence during a weapons search on Nov. 24, 2003, “set the stage for the abuses that followed for days afterward.”

Comment: I had to revise the AP’s first paragraph they buried the fact that this investigator suddenly changed his testimony at the last minute in paragraph six. Most stories I saw on the court martial didn’t mention this at all. Madeline Zane PERMANENT LINK

Video shows Iraqi prisoners crowded into wire cages

Excerpt: Rare footage from inside a Baghdad prison camp shows hundreds of inmates packed into wire-mesh tents, protesting their innocence.

“I have been jailed for two years and have never been put before a judge or court!” one prisoner is shown shouting.

The footage showed row upon row of outdoor tents made of wire mesh and covered with white plastic sheeting, each about the size of a basketball court and housing dozens of inmates.

U.S. forces and Iraq’s own security forces have imprisoned tens of thousands of detainees without charge in the four years since the fall of President Saddam Hussein.

Only 1,500 armored vehicles to reach Iraq before ’08

Excerpt: Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said Wednesday that while defense officials still believe contractors will build about 3,900 of the mine-resistant, armor-protected vehicles by year’s end, it will take longer for the military to fully equip them and ship them to Iraq.

Comment: These bastards don’t have any interest in all in protecting U.S. soldiers. Helen & Harry PERMANENT LINK

ACLU report details post-Katrina civil and human rights violations

Excerpt: The American Civil Liberties Union today released a report revealing continuing incidents of racial injustice and human rights abuses on the Gulf Coast since Hurricane Katrina devastated the area two years ago.

In its report, Broken Promises: Two Years After Katrina, the ACLU exposes numerous civil rights violations that have occurred in Louisiana and Mississippi since the storm, including reports of heightened racially motivated police activity, housing discrimination, and prisoner abuse.

Two years after Katrina, billions in relief funds are missing

Excerpt: When pressed on the slow pace of recovery in the Gulf Coast, President Bush insists the federal government has fulfilled its promise to rebuild the region. The proof, he says, is in the big check the federal government signed to underwrite the recovery allegedly more than $116 billion. But residents of the still-devastated Gulf Coast are left wondering whether the check bounced.

Whistleblowers who expose war profiteering are
fired, demoted, shunned, arrested, even tortured

Excerpt: “If you do it, you will be destroyed,” said William Weaver, professor of political science at the University of Texas-El Paso and senior advisor to the National Security Whistleblowers Coalition.

“Reconstruction is so rife with corruption. Sometimes people ask me, ‘Should I do this?’ And my answer is no. If they’re married, they’ll lose their family. They will lose their jobs. They will lose everything,” Weaver said.

NIH agency suppresses whistleblowers by forcing
them to record all contact with Congress

Excerpt: For the past several months, House and Senate committees have been investigating David Schwartz, the director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), which is a branch of NIH. They are examining whether Schwartz “disregarded conflict-of-interest guidelines,” broke government spending rules, and violated ethics rules. Since Schwartz’s arrival in 2005, three top institute officials have left. One NIEHS official stated, “Morale is just horrible” at the agency.

Under Schwartz, the agency is now requiring all of its employees to fill out a form to document all their contacts with Congress. The form, obtained by ThinkProgress, appears to be an attempt to discourage employees from cooperating with congressional investigators.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs will urge Iraq troop reductions

Excerpt: The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is expected to advise President Bush to reduce the U.S. force in Iraq next year by almost half, potentially creating a rift with top White House officials and other military commanders over the course of the war.

Comment: We’re mostly including this item because seven people sent it to us, but really, I doubt it’s true and I doubt it matters in the slightest what anyone says. All the evidence suggests that experts’ advice, intelligence reports, blue-ribbon panels, and public opinion mean nada to Bush or Cheney. They’ll do what they want, the world be damned. Helen & Harry PERMANENT LINK

Joint Chiefs Chair Pace denies reports
he might say something vaguely intelligent

Excerpt: “The story is wrong. It is speculative. I have not made nor decided on any recommendation yet,” Pace said in a statement.

Judge orders Bush to release suppressed assessment of global warming

Excerpt: The Bush administration must release a climate-change research plan and scientific assessment report that are as much as two years overdue, a federal judge ruled, rejecting a White House claim that compliance with a law requiring the studies is discretionary.

U.S. District Judge Saundra Armstrong in Oakland, California, said yesterday that the administration violated a 1990 U.S. law requiring the government to produce the research plans every three years and the assessments every four years. She ordered a summary of the research plan to be produced by March and the assessment by May.

Life in liberated Afghanistan & Iraq

Military “surge” leads to huge increase in Iraqi detainees

Excerpt: The number of detainees held by the American-led military forces in Iraq has swelled by 50 percent under the troop increase ordered by President Bush, with the inmate population growing to 24,500 today from 16,000 in February, according to American military officers in Iraq.

The detainee increase comes, they said, because American forces are operating in areas where they had not been present for some time, and because more units are able to maintain a round-the-clock presence in some areas. They also said more Iraqis were cooperating with military forces.

Comment: And ain’t it something how that Orwellian word “detainee” no longer needs quote marks. It’s fully slipped into the vocabulary, a word coined to sidestep the word “prisoner” because prisoners, after all, have legal rights. Detainees don’t. Helen & Harry PERMANENT LINK

Militias seizing control of Iraqi electricity grid

Excerpt: Armed groups increasingly control the antiquated switching stations that channel electricity around Iraq, the electricity minister said Wednesday. That is dividing the national grid into fiefs that, he said, often refuse to share electricity generated locally with Baghdad and other power-starved areas in the center of Iraq.

Maliki, in Syria, tells US it has no right to impose timetables

Excerpt: Iraq’s prime minister lashed out Wednesday at U.S. criticism, saying no one has the right to impose timetables on his elected government and that his country “can find friends elsewhere.”

Regulations keep life-saving Silly String from troops in Iraq

Excerpt: [Marcelle] Shriver got the idea from her son, a soldier in Ramadi. Before entering a building, troops squirt the gooey substance, which can travel about 10 to 12 feet, across an area. If it falls to the ground that’s an indication there are no trip wires. If it hangs in the air, troops know they may have a problem. …

Capt. Anthony Duggan, a spokesman for McGuire Air Force Base, said the Department of Defense forbids the transportation of items that don’t meet certain guidelines. For example, items sent must be in direct support of the military mission, he said.

Army cover-up of black soldier’s murder
gets almost no media coverage
VIDEO

Comment: PFC LaVena Johnson was severely beaten, couldn’t have inflicted the wound that killed her, and after her death her body was burned. And it was a suicide, the Army decides. Helen & Harry PERMANENT LINK

Matt Cooper says, sure, it was Karl Rove
who blew Valerie Plame’s cover

Excerpt: “Karl Rove told me about Valerie Plame’s identity on July 11th, 2003. I called him because Ambassador Wilson was in the news that week. I didn’t know Ambassador Wilson even had a wife until I talked to Karl Rove and he said that she worked at the agency and she worked on WMD. I mean, to imply that he didn’t know about it or that this was all the leak…”

Terror suspect list yields few arrests

Excerpt: The government’s terrorist screening database flagged Americans and foreigners as suspected terrorists almost 20,000 times last year. But only a small fraction of those questioned were arrested or denied entry into the United States, raising concerns among critics about privacy and the list’s effectiveness.

Levin calls for Maliki’s ouster

Excerpt: Declaring the government of Iraq “non-functional,” the influential chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee said yesterday that Iraq’s parliament should oust Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his cabinet if they are unable to forge a political compromise with rival factions in a matter of days.

“I hope the parliament will vote the Maliki government out of office and will have the wisdom to replace it with a less sectarian and more unifying prime minister and government,” Sen. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.) said after a three-day trip to Iraq and Jordan.

Comment: I’m no fan of Maliki, but he’s not the man ripping America to shreds. If Carl Levin wants to decide who should be Iraq’s Prime Minister, then Levin ought to run for the Iraqi Parliament. Sen Levin should open his eyes and look at his own country, and give a damn about what’s going on here. Helen & Harry PERMANENT LINK

Doomed Iraqi Prime Minister snaps at American criticism

Excerpt: “There are American officials who consider Iraq as if it were one of their villages, for example Hillary Clinton and Carl Levin,” Maliki told a news conference.

“This is severe interference in our domestic affairs. Carl Levin and Hillary Clinton are from the Democratic Party and they must demonstrate democracy. I ask them to come back to their senses and to talk in a respectful way about Iraq.”

Iraqi with CIA ties hires D.C. lobby firm to
push himself as next puppet Prime Minister

Excerpt: On the same day U.S. intelligence officials briefed reporters on their lack of confidence in Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to solve the problems facing his country, the U.S. Justice Department released documents showing that Dr. Ayad Allawi, a Maliki rival with close ties to the CIA, was paying the GOP firm Barbour Griffith & Rogers (BGR) more than a quarter-million dollars to lobby on his behalf.

Surge in U.S. home repossessions

Excerpt: Falling sales and decreasing prices have made it harder for homeowners who have hit difficulties to sell their homes and clear their debts.

The RealtyTrac data showed there were 179,599 foreclosure or repossession filings in July. This equates to one for every 693 households.

California, Florida, Ohio, Michigan and Georgia accounted for more than half of the cases. Borrowers with sub-prime loans have been particularly hard hit.

Comment: I was driving through Winter Park on my way to a camera store. Through, not the most posh section, but one right up there. Older houses in what is known as “Old Winter Park”.

I could not believe it. It seem as if every other house was up for sale and those not fore sale were for rent. Even a few under construction but nearly complete were for sale and people do not build in this section to sell, they build to live there.

If anyone thinks that the economy is just fine, they must be on some heavy hallucinogens. Chris M. PERMANENT LINK

ACLU sues DEA on behalf of trucker whose $24,000 was seized

Excerpt: Anastasio Prieto of El Paso gave a state police officer at the weigh station permission to search the truck to see if it contained “needles or cash in excess of $10,000,” according to the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed the federal lawsuit Thursday.

Prieto told the officer he didn’t have any needles but did have $23,700.

Officers took the money and turned it over to the DEA. DEA agents photographed and fingerprinted Prieto over his objections, then released him without charging him with anything.

Comment: Sigh. Pay attention please: Whether you have something to hide or not, never, ever submit to a “voluntary” search. Helen & Harry PERMANENT LINK

There are more than three stooges
(and one of them will be America’s next President)

Giuliani hires the company that made racist “Call me, Harold” ad

Excerpt: The firm’s client roster has included Sens. John Thune of South Dakota, Norm Coleman of Minnesota, Jim DeMint of South Carolina, Saxby Chambliss of Georgia and Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas. Clients who lost 2006 Senate races include former Rep. Mark Kennedy of Minnesota, former Sen. Jim Talent of Missouri and Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard in Michigan.

Comment: Yeow, that’s a pretty impressive list, ‘cuz every name the article mentioned triggers my scumbag alarm, except Sheriff Bouchard, who’s suspect just by being on the list. Helen & Harry PERMANENT LINK

Edwards isn’t sure whether Cuba has a
government-run health-care system

Excerpt: “I’m going to be honest with you I don’t know a lot about Cuba’s healthcare system. Is it a government-run system?”

Ron Paul says the NAFTA Superhighway is real
(it’s not) and will be built by Spaniards (it won’t)

Excerpt: “The chief project thus far of the SPP is the so-called NAFTA superhighway which would connect Mexico, the United States and Canada, cutting a wide swath through the middle of Texas and up through Kansas City,” warned Republican Congressman Ron Paul in a statement read at one of the morning news events in Ottawa yesterday.

“Millions would be displaced by this massive undertaking which would require the eminent domain actions [expropriations] on an unprecedented scale. … A Spanish construction company, it is said, plans to build the highway and operate it as a toll road.”

Dodd and Bush agree: Impeachment would be a bad idea

Excerpt: Dodd said Democrats could lose control of Congress in the 2008 elections if they pursued that course, because many Americans would object to Congress spending 14 months on impeachment proceedings rather than focusing on other problems facing the nation.

Comment: Well, I’ll certainly be willing to donate whatever I can afford if an Democrat wants to run against this lipflapper Dodd next time around. Helen & Harry PERMANENT LINK

Giuliani would require all foreigners
in America to carry biometric IDs

Excerpt: Giuliani … announced last week that all foreigners, including holiday-makers, would be obliged to carry a “tamper-proof” biometric card, which could be issued at ports of entry.

“If you don’t have that card, you get thrown out of the country,” Giuliani said. He intends to call it a Safe card (for secure authorized foreign entry).

Three life terms for 1964 murder of two black activists
(co-conspirator gets immunity for cooperation)

Excerpt: James Ford Seale, a reputed Ku Klux Klansman, was sentenced Friday to three life terms in prison for his role in the 1964 abduction and murder of two black teenagers in southwest Mississippi.

Seale, 72, was convicted in June on federal charges of kidnapping and conspiracy in the deaths of Charles Moore and Henry Hezekiah Dee, two 19-year-olds who disappeared from Franklin County on May 2, 1964.

Former White House Spokesliar Ari Fleischer fronts
$15-million ad campaign for more, longer war

Excerpt: Freedom’s Watch which is planning to spend $15 million in television and radio advertising through mid-September counts among its board members and donors several longtime friends of the Bush White House. Prominent among them is Ari Fleischer, President Bush’s first press secretary, who left Washington and politics four years ago, seemingly never to return.

Comment: Over the past few years, several different soft-spoken ad campaigns for peace have been refused by TV networks un-willing to air such “controversial” ads. Do you think you’ll read any news about any networks rejecting what’s literally an ad campaign for war? Helen & Harry PERMANENT LINK

Rep Renzi (R-Arizona), under investigation, announces retirement
(to spend more time with his family, no doubt)

Excerpt: Three-term Rep. Rick Renzi, an Arizona Republican facing a federal inquiry into his family’s insurance business, said Thursday he will not seek re-election next year. …

Renzi paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in back taxes while settling charges that his businesses improperly paid for his first congressional campaign.

Al-Sadr says “exclusive interview” in
London’s Independent was fabricated

Excerpt: Sheikh Ahmed al-Shibani, the official spokesman for al-Sadr’s office in Najaf, denied that Sadr had given an interview to the British newspaper The Independent on Monday. “The interview published by the paper was fabricated and groundless. His Eminence (Sadr) has never granted this paper any interviews,” Shibani told VOI by telephone. “We will sue any newspaper, TV station or web site that publishes fabricated news about His Eminence Muqtada al-Sadr or his office,” affirmed Shibani.

In response, The Independent says nothing

Excerpt: Dear Editor, … Once again, today too I’ve tried to find in your newspaper something on that denial about the Muqtada al-Sadr’s interview the Independent gave so much space on Monday. Nothing. Not even two words on that denial coming from Sheikh Ahmed al-Shibani, the official spokesman for al-Sadr’s office in Najaf.

Planned Parenthood sues over Missouri law
aimed at shutting down abortion service

Excerpt: “This onerous legislation has nothing to do with protecting women’s health and safety,” said Peter Brownlie, chief executive officer of the Planned Parenthood branch. “This is a blatant attempt to close down clinics and deny women their right to health care.”

New federal law raises price for birth control on campus

Excerpt: The Deficit Reduction Act of 2005, which went into effect in January, changes the calculation used by drug companies to determine Medicaid-related state rebates.

Before the law went into effect, drug companies offered colleges substantial discounts on birth control. The new law makes it too expensive for drug companies to continue offering those discounts.

National Guard cheers as Governor calls for withdrawal from Iraq

Excerpt: A call by Puerto Rico’s governor for a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq earned a standing ovation from a conference of more than 4,000 National Guardsmen.

Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila said Saturday that the U.S. administration has “no new strategy and no signs of success” and that prolonging the war would needlessly put guardsmen in harm’s way.

Iraq war coverage declines sharply

Excerpt: U.S. media reporting of the war in Iraq fell sharply in the second quarter of 2007, largely due to a drop in coverage of the Washington-based policy debate, a study [the Project for Excellence in Journalism] released Monday said.

The bulk of the fall took place after May 24, when Congress approved war funding without including troop withdrawal timetables. This was widely viewed by the media as a victory for President George W. Bush in a political battle with Congress sparked by his January 10 troop ‘surge’ announcement.

News from inside Iraq in the media surveyed became even more focused on Americans rather than Iraqis in the second quarter, the study found.

Comment: Nothing to see here. Move along, move along. Helen & Harry PERMANENT LINK

U.S. paid arms merchant and international trafficker $60-million

Excerpt: The U.S. government paid a wanted international criminal roughly $60 million to fly supplies into Iraq in support of the war effort, a new book alleges.

Tesco grocery stores come to America’s store-less neighborhoods

Excerpt: The world’s third-largest food retailer is seeking to woo U.S. shoppers with smaller convenience stores of around 10,000 square feet emphasizing ready-to-eat meals and fresh produce in areas that are underserved by supermarket and grocery store chains.

Gay-rights group will publicize signers of anti-rights petition

Excerpt: A coalition of conservative Christians is circulating petitions to put the two measures before voters in the November 2008 election. That would enable Oregon voters to decide whether to grant marriage-style rights to same-sex couples via domestic partnerships, and whether to ban discrimination against gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered people.

Comment: Sounds odd and awkward at first, but the more I think it over, the more I think it’s a brilliant strategy. Petitions for a ballot referendum are public records, and people who sign a petition to repeal other people’s civil rights should be publicly outed and shamed. Helen & Harry PERMANENT LINK

Bush OKs blowing up mountains for mining companies

Excerpt: The new rule will loosen a 1983 law which prohibits disturbing soils within 100 feet of streams (in the past, companies have been sued under the Clean Water Act for dumping mining waste into streams), essentially giving coal companies the go-ahead.

NPR stands for Nuclear Paid Rallying

Excerpt: In the six stories NPR has broadcast over the past 90 days about the future of nuclear power production in the U.S., NPR’s sources included only three opponents of nuclear power plants, versus eight sources touting the safety, environmental friendliness and financial benefits of nuclear energy.

One factor that is relevant to NPR’s cheerleading for nuclear power is its own financial links to the industry. According to NPR’s website, between 1993 and 2005, the public radio service received between $250,000 and $500,000 from Constellation Energy, which belongs to Nustart Energy, a 10-company consortium pushing for new nuclear power plant construction. During the same period, another nuclear operator, Sempra Energy, donated between $50,000 and $100,000 to NPR.

Windows Genuine Advantage suffers worldwide outage

Excerpt: We contacted our sources at Microsoft, who told us off the record that the company is aware of a major WGA server outage affecting users across the globe.

Comment: Windows Genuine Advantage is an anti-piracy device: so the main people hurt by its problems are law-abiding, paid customers NOT pirates.

Lord knows Windows users have plenty enough problems without Microsoft adding a demented software sheriff to their machines too.

An older version of WGA gave me some error messages in an automatic update on one of my PCs a year or two ago (and I am NOT a pirate). So recently, when yet another update to WGA was going to try to install itself on my PCs, I didn’t allow it.

Now it appears I may have saved myself a lot of trouble as that particular update seems to be the subject of this article. JR Mooneyham PERMANENT LINK

Most Palestinians don’t trust U.N.

Excerpt: An overwhelming majority of Palestinians does not trust the United Nations because they are convinced that it is dominated by the US, according to a new public opinion poll.

Out of 16 populations included in the poll, only the Palestinians rejected the idea that governments should be “more willing to make decisions within the UN” if this means going “along with a policy that is not its first choice.” An overwhelming 81% of Palestinians think their leaders should not be more open to such concessions.

Bush Ag undersecretary faces contempt charges

Excerpt: A federal judge in Montana has ordered the Bush administration’s top forestry official to explain why he should not be held in contempt of court for the U.S. Forest Service’s failure to analyze the environmental impact of dropping fish-killing fire retardant on wildfires.

If found in contempt, Agriculture Undersecretary Mark Rey, who oversees the U.S. Forest Service, could go to jail until the Forest Service complies with the court order to do the environmental review.

Kurds flee homes as Iran shells villages in Iraq

Excerpt: Iraqi Kurdish officials expressed deepening concern yesterday at an upsurge in fierce clashes between Kurdish guerrillas and Iranian forces in the remote border area of north-east Iraq, where Tehran has recently deployed thousands of Revolutionary Guards.

Bush will visit Seattle to boost re-election campaign of “Bush clone”

Excerpt: Rep. Dave Reichert’s office declined to provide further information, referring callers to the White House, which also declined to provide further details. A spokesman for the Washington State Republican Party also declined to comment.

Democrats said the Republicans’ reluctance to speak indicated embarrassment at hosting the president, whose approval rating in the state is dismal. Democrats portrayed Reichert as a virtual Bush clone in the 2006 campaign and regularly ridiculed the president’s June 2006 visit to the Seattle area on Reichert’s behalf.

And now, a break for silliness

3-year-old charged with leading Indian riot

Teenager cracks Australian government’s $84-million
internet porn filter in half an hour
(And is there anyone
on earth dumb enough they didn’t see that one coming?)

School suspends boy for sketching gun

Lightning round news

Brits investigate after U.S. drops 500-lb. bomb
on troops who called them for help

Talcum powder ‘poses cancer risk to women’

Hackers liberate iPhone from AT&T

A yogurt a day keeps the runs away

U.S. women dying in childbirth at highest rate in decades

Terror law puts Britons at risk of surveillance by US agents

Diabetic rushed to hospital after airline seizes insulin

“Renegade” Republican Senator wants to bring home
5,000 troops from Iraq, some day … but only if it’s OK with Bush

Dukakis predicts election loss for Democrats in 2008

Spain pulls live bullfights off state TV

Brainiacs say they can test sewer water
to track community’s meth, cocaine use

Scientists wonder, where have all the dolphins gone?

Eggheads predict artificial life within ten years

Bush concerned about hurricane victims (in Mexico —
he still doesn’t give a damn about Katrina victims)

FDA dumps flamboyantly stupid plan to close food-testing labs

More Republicans quit as party faces election disaster

Rep Bob Filner (D-California) allegedly gets pushy at the airport

We’ve spent 36 years and billions of dollars
fighting it, but the drug trade keeps growing

Putin says U.S. wants to dominate world

Cops you won’t see on TV’s COPS

Ex-deputy cleared in videotaped
killing of un-armed Air Force officer

Cop who “manhandled” driver gets scolding
from judge, probation, community service

Child-molesting school cop gets seven years term

Police officer gets three years for kidnapping and rape at traffic stop

Police officer gets probation on counterfeit-bill charge

Supervisor for California Bureau of
Narcotic Enforcement arrested for dealing drugs

Police officer charged with prostitution

State trooper pursued sex while on duty, authorities allege

Liars, scoundrels, and hypocrites

Limbaugh claims Dems’ interest in
Darfur is securing black “voting bloc”

Hume misrepresented study on the link
between solar activity and global warming

New York Times smears anti-war movement, again

MSNBC reports really, really fake news

Dateline‘s anti-predator nutball banned at Wikipedia

Ted Nugent threatens to kill Barack Obama and
Hillary Clinton during vicious onstage rant

Right wing answer to MoveOn rolls out pro-war ads

Chickenhawk Tucker Carlson blasts military truth-tellers

Fox News‘s Gibson now says Stewart “purposefully”
misunderstood being mocked over 9/11 grief

Lieberman shrugs off failed Iraq predictions,
now claims ‘road to victory’ goes through Syria

Glenn Beck lives in Connecticut because
“It’s out of reach of a nuclear explosion in Manhattan”

The love of money is the root of all evil

Companies offer non-toxic products
in Europe, toxic versions in America

China Airlines paints over name, logo on wreckage of jet

Sponge Bob SquarePants products recalled for lead paint

Mystery trader bets market will crash by a third

Comcast cuts off heavy internet users,
but keeps bandwidth limits secret

Comcast is starting the tiered internet … whether we like it or not

Privatization prices veggies out of school lunch program

Court says Old Nat’l Bank can’t be sued over stolen personal data

CBS Kid Nation contract holds network blameless
if kids die, are severely injured, or contract STDs

Half of America’s gain in income goes to richest 0.25 percent

Manhattan now has income disparity comparable to Namibia

Anheuser-Busch and Miller beers add caffeine
so drunk drivers won’t realize they’re drunk

Wal-Mart dog treats come with melamine

1.6 million records stolen from Monster.com

Group finds China toy factory conditions “brutal”

Toxic kiddie pajamas for sale in New Zealand

Family sues Mattel, seeks payment for testing of poison toys

At least 832,962 people have
been killed in Afghanistan & Iraq

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Mystery links (just for fun)

Commentary

I will not defend them
by Leon Fisher, Unknown News

Excerpt: Have our fellow human beings, our friends and neighbors, become overwhelmed by the course of events these last six years, so they’re burying their heads in the sand? Or have they become closet fascists, who privately support the dictatorship in Washington?

Give the gift economy a chance
by Herb Ruhs, MD, Unknown News

Excerpt: Concentration of wealth causes war. When the concentration of wealth decreases in a country, when wealth is more evenly shared, every health statistic of that country improves.

A three-alarm heads-up!
by Mr. Chuckles, Unknown News

Excerpt: All of this money market/commercial paper horror must be solved immediately within a month, maximum, and preferably this week.

If the short-term corporate paper markets remain illiquid then the U.S. faces its own Shock And Awe destruction of unimaginable scale as the System implodes, as people start demanding all of their money back which is impossible because it does not exist (remember It’s A Wonderful Life?).

Bush connects the dots
using the Neo-Domino Theory

by Kevin Good, Unknown News

Excerpt: Bush went on to say that if we leave before the job is done; the Iraqi domino will fall, causing all the other Middle East dominos to fall. These domino countries will become terrorist strongholds, killing all the people trying to colonize their countries and resources. If this happens, the terrorists will follow us home just like the communist Vietcong and North Vietnamese Army did when we stopped killing them in their country so we wouldn’t have to kill them here.

You’re sloppy, you’re
irresponsible, and you
refuse to change

by Kathy Fisher, Unknown News

Excerpt:I have no time because I have to work to pay my bills, so leave me alone. No, you stupid asses, don’t say bills. Say debt.

There are no Nazis in
Karl Rove’s family tree

by Helen & Harry Highwater, Unknown News

Excerpt: Karl Rove is a monster. He has spent his entire adult life telling lies, exploiting bigotry, abusing Christianity, and fanning false fears, all to build Republican electoral victories. He is complicit in starting a war that’s killed thousands of Americans and hundreds of thousands of other people. By ordinary, un-spun standards, he is guilty of treason, having revealed the name of an undercover CIA agent (a specialist in preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction) to further the lie that led to war, the lie that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Karl Rove is clearly, obviously, unmistakably a man of no principles, no scruples, no character, and no patriotism.

But claims that Rove is a Nazi or the grandson of Nazis are simply untrue and the real Rove is an abominably awful human being whose evil needs no exaggeration.

Libertarians’ blind spot
by HappySysiphus, Unknown News

Excerpt: Paying your taxes to a BIG GOVERNMENT like they do in Europe is an investment in adequate health care for you and your loved ones, unions with balls that can make sure you get paid more than a poverty wage, an infrastructure that doesn’t dump you in the river to die on your way to work, and a realistic adversary to the government that governs you the most The Corporation that holds your children hostage with the threat of abject poverty.

Our entire political
establishment is complicit

by Raymond R., Unknown News

Excerpt: The main result of the surge has been to move the end date of the Iraq War further into the future. … Voting for either party or lending any of them your support means that you voluntarily accept your share of the guilt of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Know Nothing Party, Part Deux
by Michelle L., From Reason to Freedom

Excerpt: 157 years ago, Know Nothings were anti-immigration and pro-Bible in the classrooms, and today Know Nothings are advocating the same freaking things.

It’s deja vu all over again.

Why I’ve returned my award to the
American Psychological Ass’n

by Mary Pipher, OpEdNews

Excerpt: I cannot accept the August 19, 2007 Reaffirmation of APA’s Position Against Torture (Substitute Motion Three.) Under this motion, psychologists will be allowed to continue working on interrogation teams that are not subject to the Geneva Conventions. This motion places our organization on the side of the CIA and Department of Defense and at odds with the United Nations, The Red Cross, the American Psychiatric Association and the American Medical Association. With this reaffirmation we have made a terrible mistake.

Once upon a time, we
used to expect our Presidents
to have some idea
what they were talking about

by hilzoy, Obsidian Wings

Excerpt: Once upon a time, when a President said something completely ludicrous, people were shocked and worried. For instance, when Gerald Ford said that “There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe, and there never will be under a Ford administration”, no-one just chuckled and thought: ha ha ha, isn’t that funny. They had the quaint, old-fashioned idea that our country’s leader ought to know better.

Under George W. Bush, of course, we have come to expect much less. …

We should never allow ourselves to get used to the idea that our President, the man who commands our armed forces and deploys our diplomats, has absolutely no idea what he’s talking about.

That’s why it’s worth dwelling on the speech he gave yesterday. It was an absolutely appalling mishmash of error, illogic, and slander.

Death by altruism
by Randy Balko, Reason

Excerpt: I was struck by the ease with which [warmonger Frank] Gaffney could transition between the incompatible arguments of “we need to stay in Iraq because the Iraqi people need us,” and “we’re fighting Al-Qaeda over there so we don’t have to fight them over here.” President Bush also often makes both of these arguments, usually in the same speech.

Imagine how this sounds to the average Iraqi. “America is fighting this war for your freedom and safety. Also, we’re drawing all the world’s worst terrorists into your backyard so they blow up your markets and police stations, and steer clear of ours.”

Pat Tillman’s murder:
The terror war in a nutshell

by Herb Ruhs, MD, Unknown News

Excerpt: The tremendous power in the hands of those who control the U.S. government seems to create an irresistible urge on the part of this degenerate leadership to manufacture perfect crimes.

If you look at history since WWII it is possible to discern a great trail of covert action in support of U.S. political and, most importantly, transnational commercial goals, each one of which can be seen as a perfect crime.

Pat Tillman’s murder is a small scale version of this more grandiose theme.

Karl Rove’s new website
by Kevin Good, Unknown News

Excerpt: A questionable photo of your opponent with a farm animal is only $175. Turning war heroes into cowards and cowards into war heroes, just $200 for each military commendation, AWOL incident, and draft deferment.

One more catastrophically stupid war
by Helen & Harry Highwater, Unknown News

Excerpt: Bush and Cheney clearly want another war. In our fine democracy, what these two schmucks want is all that matters. They’ve gotten everything they’ve wanted — with the eager cooperation of media, Congress, Democrats, and the American citizenry — from the day they secured the 2000 Republican nomination. And now they want war against Iran.

Hillary Clinton has leadership experience? Where?
by Mr. Chuckles, Unknown News

Excerpt: Perhaps Hillary Clinton learned a lot watching her husband in the Oval Office, but that didn’t teach her how to charm voters, or how to lead the country.

To the contrary, she is famous for “triangulating” — for never taking the lead on any issue until a middle path is defined by people who are willing to lead.

An open-book test
on demagoguery
and current events

by Herb Ruhs, MD, Unknown News

Excerpt: “The early 20th century American social critic and humorist H. L. Mencken, known for his “definitions” of terms, defined a demagogue as “one who preaches doctrines he knows to be untrue to men he knows to be idiots.”

What’s the first name that comes to mind?

You cannot go against nature
by HappySysiphus, Unknown News

Excerpt: We can’t deny what we are. Either we are going to leave this place and seek our greater destiny or we are the agents of Death come to destroy it. …

R.I.P., U.S.A.
by Ace, Unknown News

Excerpt: Personally, I never thought America was such a great idea in the first place. I mean, come on, we stole someone else’s land and slaughtered them! Nice beginning, patriots!

Honesty is the best policy
by Michelle, From Reason to Freedom

Excerpt: There’s a term for this type of thinking: ethnocentricity. We are so damn sure that our way is the right way, that we make no allowance for cultures and traditions; many of whom have existed far longer than ours. Our political and military leaders have for decades labored under the assumption that we can, in fact, police the world and deliver stability and democracy to every single corner of the planet. At least, democracy and stability as we define it — and if it protects and expands our interests.

So why aren’t we
manning the barricades?

by Murph, Cyclone’s Real Deal

Excerpt: As long as the carrot is dangled in the face of the slave population, they will not rebel. Until they realize that they can’t get to the carrot, they will not rebel. So until the really big pinch comes on the average Joe in the street, there isn’t going to be any French type barricades in the street, or active rebellion. Few people, including myself, are willing to be martyrs for a population that likes and defends their slavery.

Will there be a
run on the banks?

by Mike Whitney, Smirking Chimp

Excerpt: In truth, the “free market” means nothing to the men who run the system. It’s just a public relations scam designed to dupe investors into plunking their money into a system that’s rigged for the carnivores at the top of the economic food-chain.

Does anyone really believe that the market-commissars would allow the system to operate according to the arbitrary swings in investor confidence and random speculation?

This is THEIR SYSTEM and they run it THEIR WAY.


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OpinionJournal – Best of the Web Today – August 31, 2007

WSJ.comOpinionJournal





Best of the Web Today – August 31, 2007

    Today’s Video on WSJ.com: Brendan Miniter on gambling in California and the presidential campaign.

    Editor’s note: James Taranto is returning from an assignment today. In place of his regular column, here’s a free sample of our premium email newsletter, OpinionJournal’s Political Diary. If you like it, you can subscribe here. Mr. Taranto returns Tuesday.

    In today’s Political Diary:

A New Member of ‘Exiles for Hillary’?

Norman Hsu, the fugitive from justice who may have illegally funneled over a million dollars to Hillary Clinton and other leading Democrats, has apparently gone missing. The New York Times tried to find the elusive Mr. Hsu this week and ran into a stone wall.

There are no offices for Mr. Hsu at any of the addresses he listed for his companies, and at the elegant residential tower that he gives as his personal address, Times reporters were told he moved out two years ago.

Even E. Lawrence Barcella, Mr. Hsu’s lawyer, seemed to be abandoning his client. He said that Mr. Hsu was getting a California lawyer to represent him over a warrant that was issued there in the 1990s when Mr. Hsu failed to show up for a court hearing after pleading no contest to grand theft charges. Mr. Barcella carefully declined to comment on the whereabouts of his client and stressed that he won’t be handling Mr. Hsu’s argument with California authorities: “On that matter, he will be represented by California counsel.”

All of this is very reminiscent of the 1996 Clinton fundraising scandal. A total of 120 witnesses either fled the country, pleaded the Fifth Amendment or otherwise were unavailable for questioning. In the end, a total of 14 people were found guilty on various charges relating to the scandal. No wonder the Hillary Clinton campaign wants to change the subject away from Mr. Hsu.

— John Fund

In the Future, We’ll All Work for Bloomberg

The rich are different, and so is New York City. That’s the way to understand Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s latest big idea. In conjunction with the Rockefeller Foundation, he’s promoting a privately funded demonstration project to pay poor New York City parents to take better care of their kids. Take your kid to the dentist: $100. Get your kid a library card: $50.

The Mayor is not the first to discover bribery as a means of kid-behavior management. His own daughter Georgina is famous even in top-flight horsy circles as an unusually indulged young lady (so much so that she’s started a business selling second-hand jodhpurs). Mr. Bloomberg told NPR: “We pay rich people not to plant corn. We pay rich people to drill in some places and not others.” He added: “We have been trying to end poverty for a long time. We have spent trillions of dollars… Time to try something different.”

Less clearly stated is another rationale. Because New York is already fiscally responsible for the poor, it can make sense to pay them to change their behavior. More than 30% of city residents are Medicaid recipients, a million receive food stamps, and more than $100 million goes out every month in public assistance checks. New York also spends far more than other cities on public housing and rental subsidies, on child-support enforcement, on home health-care subsides, on everything.

A similar rationale was behind the mayor’s public smoking ban and trans-fat ban — because the city ends up paying for the health consequences of smoking and obesity. Mr. Bloomberg has a consistent philosophy at least, which might be called public ownership of the welfare class.

Such ultra-interventionist behavior management undoubtedly appeals to New York taxpayers more than it might to taxpayers elsewhere. Polls show voters see Hizzoner’s just-make-it-happen attitude as a sensible route in a city where the costs of it not happening end up in their tax bills.

— Collin Levy

Quote of the Day

“Speaking at a forum organized by Lance Armstrong on cancer research, Hillary Clinton told Chris Matthews if she is elected president, she will declare war on cancer, and then she will support the war on cancer for two years, and then she will be against it for a year, and then she will back out of it all together” — Jay Leno, host of NBC’s “Tonight Show.”

Terms Unlimited?

Talk about election officials being hoisted by their own political petard.

Facing a forced career change next year under the state’s term-limits law, California Senate President Don Perata and Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez have fast-tracked a ballot initiative that would allow them to stay in office. While the measure would ostensibly toughen the term limits law, it would also create a special “transition period” that would let 80% of today’s sitting legislators delay their departure. “The practical effect of the measure would be to allow more lawmakers… to stay in office longer,” concluded a San Francisco Chronicle analysis.

Armed with a highly favorable ballot summary crafted by Democratic Attorney General Jerry Brown, the two legislative leaders appeared to be well on their way to hoodwinking the electorate. But this week it became clear that those in charge of gathering signatures to put the measure on the ballot — mostly paid mercenaries and public employee union members — may have slacked off on the job. County voter registrars are reporting that an unusually low number of signatures are passing muster during sample checks. Los Angeles County, for example, is clocking in with only a very low 59% validity rate.

While it’s still likely the measure will qualify for the ballot, registrars now are contemplating a laborious manual check of the million-plus signatures, a process that might not be completed by the late September deadline to allow the measure to qualify for the February presidential primary ballot. If not, the measure would have to go on the June primary ballot, when parties nominate candidates for Congress and the state legislature.

But there’s a fly in the political ointment: Candidates for state legislature must file for re-election in March. None of the termed-out legislators would legally be eligible to file. They’d have to seek other employment.

There is another way to make sure the Perata-Nunez employment extension proposal makes it on the all-important February ballot. A two-thirds vote of the legislature can override any obstacles and place it there. But minority Republicans would be in a position to exact enormous concessions for supporting the initiative, including perhaps a redistricting commission that would draw more competitive seats or even a major overhaul of state budgeting practices.

Even if the Perata-Nunez plan makes it before the voters in February, the latest desperate maneuvering may finally cause the public to gag. “A lot of voters may ask themselves why these people just can’t go into the private sector and find work,” says Jon Fleischman, who broke the story of the signature meltdown on his political blog FlashReport.org.

— John Fund

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URL for this article: http://www.opinionjournal.com/best/?id=110010548

Today on OpinionJournal:

  • John Bolton: Thanks to feckless diplomacy, Kim Jong Il may preserve his nuclear program.
  • Kim Strassel: How the GOP can woo the ladies.
  • Peggy Noonan: America needs unity in dealing with Iraq. That means the president must lead.
  • Pete du Pont: Curtail the First Amendment? Why not just do away with elections?
  • The Journal Editorial Report: Tune in this weekend for an encore presentation: the Romney campaign, the White House after Rove, and Muslim footbaths.

And on the Taste page:

  • Naomi Riley: Why sex scandals still scandalize.
  • Howard Husock: Arriving in a new city gives me a sense of what it’s like to be an immigrant.
  • Nathaniel Popper: Do culture-themed public schools cross a legal line?


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A7News: Olmert Offers Judea, Samaria, Divides J’lem in Draft Accord

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Olmert Offers Judea, Samaria, Divides J’lem in Draft Accord

Israel offered Abbas 6,250 square kilometers, in a written draft. Jerusalem to be redivided. Corridor to connect Gaza, Judea and Samaria.

  1. Olmert Offers Judea, Samaria, Divides J’lem in Draft Accord
  2. Archaeologists Issue Urgent Warnings Against Temple Mount Dig
  3. Protests Pay Off, E. Gush Etzion-Jerusalem Road to Open Friday
  4. Today is “Be Nice” Day in Israel
  5. Hevron’s Jews: Gov’t Must Return Jewish Property
  6. Left-Wingers Try, Fail to Disrupt Hevron Ceremony
  7. Heftziba CEO Caught in Italy, to be Extradited to Israel
  8. Israel May Eliminate Visa Requirements for Russian Tourists
  9. Holy or Not, Madonna to Visit Tzfat for New Year

TV Programs
Video footage: Arab digging on Temple Mount

The bus to Gush Etzion is always late


Radio Programs
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1. Olmert Offers Judea, Samaria, Divides J’lem in Draft Accord

by Gil Ronen

Israel has agreed, in writing, to hand over 6,250 square kilometers of land – the equivalent of its entire biblical and strategic heartland – to an Arab terror state. So reports Dr. Guy Bechor, a leading expert on Arab affairs, who also supplies some of the details of the negotiations.

Bechor reports, based on “leaks from the Palestinian side,” that Israel has, in the past few days, presented Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas at least one draft of an “agreement of principles.”

  • The agreement calls for a state named Palestine to be established alongside Israel, and have a territory of 6,250 square kilometers: the equivalent of all of Judea, Samaria and Gaza.
  • “Palestine” will be demilitarized.
  • Most of the Jewish communities built in Judea and Samaria over the past 40 years are to demolished and their inhabitants expelled, according to the plan. The remaining communities are to be concentrated in small salients
    Most of the Jewish communities built in Judea and Samaria over the past 40 years are to demolished and their inhabitants expelled.
    for which the Arab state will be compensated with additional territory elsewhere in present-day Israel.
  • A passage of some sort will connect Gaza and Judea and Samaria. It will be under Jewish sovereignty and Palestinian administration.
  • Israel agrees to redivide Jerusalem. Arab neighborhoods will be under Arab sovereignty and Jewish ones under Jewish sovereignty. Mention is made of “religious areas,” but further details are not known as of yet. Each side will recognize the other’s spiritual needs.
  • The “refugee” question is not mentioned at all, and Bechor reports that this is the main sticking point. Abbas is insisting that Arabs descended from those who fled Israel in 1948 be allowed to return to Israel, at least in principle.

Bechor says that Abbas and his men have gone over the draft and are not pleased; they know how to negotiate, he notes. In a recent interview with PA TV, Abbas said that “declarations of principles are a waste of time” and “useless.” What the PA wants, he said, is a clear timetable for establishing Palestine, as well as an Israeli pullback, demolition of Jewish communities and “return of refugees” (i.e., the flooding of Israel with Arab citizens).

The Arabs are hoping Israel will become more pliable in November, when an international diplomatic conference, sponsored by the US, is to be held in an attempt to hammer out an accord.

An official close to Mahmoud Abbas, Mustafa Bargouti, said that the idea of a conference is “an Israeli trap” and that nothing will come of it.

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2. Archaeologists Issue Urgent Warnings Against Temple Mount Dig

by Hillel Fendel

Top Israeli archaeologists held an emergency press conference on Thursday, warning that a Second Temple courtyard wall is in danger of being destroyed by the Arab excavations there.

Members of the Committee to Prevent the Destruction of Temple Mount Antiquities warned that other artifacts could also be endangered by the unsupervised dig.

Dr. Gavriel Barkai opened by saying, “A month and a half ago, the Muslim Waqf [religious trust] began digging a trench more than 400 meters [1,300 feet] long – the largest such work ever carried out on the Temple Mount… These are criminal acts that have no place in a cultured country.”
“No other country in the world would allow such grave damage to its most precious archaeological treasures”

“Some man-worked stones have been found in the trench, as well as remnants of a wall that according to all our estimations, are from a structure in one of the outer courtyards in the Holy Temple. Such important work is being done without the supervision of the Antiquities Authority.”

Click here for a bird’s-eye view of the Temple Mount.

Dr. Eilat Mazar, who has long been involved in the fight to preserve the Temple Mount from unsupervised digging, said she saw Israeli policemen observing but taking no action against the dig. “Irreversible destruction is going on there,” she said.

The Committee has demanded that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert (fax: 02-670-5475, or 9722-670-5475 from abroad), Jerusalem Affairs Minister Rafi Eitan (Pensioners), and the Antiquities Authority order the work stopped immediately. In addition, they demand that tractors not be allowed to work on the Mount at all, nor may any digging take place without appropriate archaeological supervision.

“The archaeological damage is many times worse,” Mazar said, “in light of the fact that the ground level is only slightly above the original Temple Mount platform. And in fact, the bedrock has been uncovered in some places – meaning that earth that has been in place for many centuries, even possibly since the First Temple, has been removed.”

“No other country in the world would allow such grave damage to its most precious archaeological treasures,” Mazar said.

The Committee is planning to file a complaint with the police, and is considering submitting an appeal to the Supreme Court.

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3. Protests Pay Off, E. Gush Etzion-Jerusalem Road to Open Friday

by Ezra HaLevi

After years of work by activists and the local municipality, eastern Gush Etzion will now be reconnected directly to Jerusalem.

The new road, which was opened Friday morning, will make the drive from eastern Gush Etzion to Jerusalem less than ten minutes. Residents now travel upwards of 45 minutes, much of it in the wrong direction, to reach the capital.

Eastern Gush Etzion, south of Jerusalem and straddling the Judea Desert, has been isolated from the capital ever since the start of the Oslo War in 2000, when the road connecting it to Jerusalem was deemed too dangerous to drive on.

Even before that, residents faced intermittent attacks following the deployment of armed PLO forces in nearby Bethlehem in accordance with the Oslo Accords. In the mid-90s, when about 90 percent of the residents of Judea and Samaria benefited from the Rabin government’s construction of bypass roads around areas handed over to the PLO, eastern Gush Etzion was not included.

Protests in Recent Years
Several grassroots protests aimed to pressure the government to open the road, which lay nearly finished for over a year. Local residents of Tekoa, Nokdim, Maaleh Rechavam, Meitzad, Pnei Kedem and Maaleh Amos stood to benefit most from the road’s opening, but residents of western Gush Etzion towns like Efrat also sought the opening of the road as an alternative route when traffic tie-ups or accidents block off the main Tunnels Road on the Jerusalem-Hevron Highway.

Marches were held and activists tried to traverse the remaining unpaved segment of the road. Last December, MK Aryeh Eldad (National Union) said at one of the protests: “It is Defense Minister Amir Peretz and Chief of Police Moshe Karadi who are preventing the opening of this road. They are doing so for political reasons alone.”

Now, with Peretz out of the picture after losing Labor Party elections and Karadi forcibly retired due to police corruption, the road has now finally opened.

The Announcement
Last week, Gush Etzion’s municipality sent out a message announcing the road’s opening. “After many years of anticipation, and countless efforts with government offices we are happy to finally announce the opening of the new Jerusalem – Gush Herodion Highway (or Zaatra bypass road). The name Gush Herodion Highway comes from the fact that the road runs just below the flat-topped Herodion fortress constructed by King Herod.” The King’s tomb was recently uncovered at the site as well.

The highway opened at 6 AM, with a festive ceremony at the Mizmoria Junction at the Jerusalem side of the highway. A convoy left from the Herodion at 7:30 AM.

“In the first stage, the highway will be open daily from 6am-6pm only,” the municipality wrote to residents. “We are continuing to work together with the IDF to extend the hours.”

Activists Happy, Apprehensive
Anita Finkelstein, who heads Tekoa’s grassroots Action Committee, says she has been waiting for the construction of the bypass road since it was mentioned to her upon her moving to Tekoa 21 years ago.

She and her neighbors are still apprehensive. They have been informed before of the opening of the road, and are waiting until they see it up and running before they believe it. They are reluctant to take the opening of the road as a sign that they will now be included “inside” the route of the Partition Wall – which they are now set to be excluded from.

Overall, however, local activists are pleased that one of their goals has been reached. “All of us feel that everything we did was important to bringing this day,” Finkelstein says. “We hope and pray that it will encourage tourism in the region and that more and more people will decide to live here.”

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4. Today is “Be Nice” Day in Israel

by Hillel Fendel

For the fifth consecutive year, on August 31, the Association for the Advancement of Being Nice – known in English as the Society for a Friendlier World (SFW) – is running its “Be Nice” Day in Israel.

Booths have been set up at shopping malls around the country, mainly in central Israel, for the dissemination of literature explaining the importance of being nice. “This is our annual opportunity to bring the subject of ‘being friendly’ to public awareness,” SFW volunteers say.

As the largest-scale expression of this initiative, dozens of cars set out for Sderot today, to do their shopping – and smiling – in the rocket-besieged Negev city.

The focus this year is on people one may usually regard as “transparent.” The SFW recommends “surprising yourselves and those around you by relating to someone you are not generally accustomed to relating to. This can be done by saying Shalom [Hello], smiling, showing interest, engaging in a short conversation, giving a flower or a cup of cold water, or offering a ride.”

Last year’s focus was on being nice to relatives and friends, “on whom we sometimes take out our frustrations more than on others.”

The Tel Aviv-based SFW has been in operation since 1999, and has made it its goal to promote niceness as a way of improving interpersonal communications both in Israel and around the world. “Our goal is to make humanity more pleasant,” its mission statement reads. “We believe that the way to achieve this goal is raise the level of friendliness. Friendliness is a way of life, and as human beings who live in this hectic day and age, we often forget how easy it is to be friendly.”

“Everyone knows what friendliness is,” SFW posits, “but in general, we define it as ‘giving other people the feeling you’re happy they are around.’ This, regardless of any conflicts that exist anywhere where people come in contact. This idea may seem obvious, yet we feel that people, in general, are not behaving in a friendly-enough manner, and our goal is to make more and more people adopt the Friendliness philosophy.”

“Being friendly does not mean giving up your rights,” the statement concludes. “On the contrary: it strengthens you, and asserts that being friendly is being happy.”

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5. Hevron’s Jews: Gov’t Must Return Jewish Property

by Hillel Fendel

The Hevron Jewish Community has released a sharp, detailed report accusing the Israeli Government of breach of trust, abuse, and hostility towards the Jewish owners of Arab-stolen property in the City of the Patriarchs.

Entitled “The State of Israel’s Management of the Stolen Jewish Property in Hevron,” the report was issued this month in honor of the 78th anniversary of the Hevron massacre. In August 1929, Arabs brutally murdered 67 of their Jewish neighbors in their homes and in the local yeshiva. The Jewish survivors were then removed from Hevron, leaving behind their homes and land to be stolen by the Arabs. Only after the 1967 Six Day War did Jews return permanently to reclaim their homes and property. They soon found, however, that doing so under Israeli rule was not to be as easy as they thought.
…a major failure of legal, historic and moral significance

The report begins by terming itself a “grave indictment” against those in the government who, “for decades have been exploiting their standing and have tried to apply their full influence to prevent the return of the Jewish properties to their owners, and to prevent the correction of the historic injustice of the 1929 pogroms.”

The report aims to “detail how, for a generation, the State of Israel has been betraying its mission as the representative of the Jewish Nation in the City of its Forefathers, with disdain, disregard and even hostility vis-a-vis its historic mission of rehabilitating the ancient Hevron community that was destroyed by Arab rioters…”

In short, the report presents what it calls “a major failure of legal, historic and moral significance.”

What Happened When?
The report’s authors feel that a historic perspective is necessary, and Chapter One recounts the massacre of 1929, followed by the transfer of most of the property to Jordan’s “Trustee of Enemy Zionist Property” in 1948. With no one to stop them, the Jordanians proceeded to:

  • bulldoze the Jewish quarter’s houses, stationing an outdoor market there;
  • destroy and desecrate the Avraham Avinu synagogue, building atop it a sheep sty, garbage dump, and public restroom;
  • and destroy and vandalize the ancient Jewish cemetery, using the gravestones for local construction.

Parts of the property were rented out by the Jordanian Trustee to local Arabs, while other parts were ignored by the Trustee, and were simply taken over by private or public elements without being registered. “There is actually no proper and full registration anywhere of the stolen Jewish property in Hevron, because of faulty management by both the Jordanian conquerors and the Israel Trustee,” the report states.

Israel Takes Over From Jordan
The Israeli Trustee received control of the property in 1967 following the liberation of the Biblical homeland areas of Jerusalem, Judea (including Hevron), Samaria, and more. “It now had a historic Jewish-moral opportunity to correct the injustice and restore Jewish life to Hevron – but it did so only partially, despite repeated requests by both the original owners and the Jewish Community of Hevron that had received power of attorney to settle most of the properties.”

The function of the Trustee is to act in the best interests of those he is representing, the report states, and to ensure that the property does not remain desolate. “Yet Israel constantly and systematically did the opposite… For instance, regarding Hevron property that had been consecrated to a Jewish religious trust, the Supreme Court ruled that Israel could manage it as though it owned it. At the same time, regarding the Moslem Waqf properties in Judea and Samaria, the State does not intervene at all – even when the Waqf works in tandem with terror organizations.”

The report says that by allowing many of the properties to remain vacant and desolate, it is abrogating its basic obligations as a Trustee: “The Trustee/State absurdly overlooks the Arab renters’ obligations, while at the same time making extra sure their rights are not harmed… thus ignoring its obligations towards both the property (by leaving it vacant and desolate) and the owners (by not letting them move in).”

Tel Romeida, For Example
Two Jewish-owned plots of land (Bloc 34416, plots 52 and 53) at the heights of the Tel Romeida neighborhood stand adjacent to an IDF base and Jewish homes in the neighborhood – yet the government bans Jews from setting foot there. The land had been rented to an Arab, but the contract was stopped by the Civil Administration in 2000.

The Jewish Community of Hevron, granted power of attorney by the owners, has asked several times to be allowed to rent the land. In 2003, the IDF Central Region Commander agreed – but to this day nothing has been done to allow the Jews to move in, and it remains desolate. At the same time, the State/Trustee also does very little to stop Arab infiltration and illegal usage of the area – whereas Jews who have tried to enter the plots have been arrested and tried.

This is a perfect example, the report states, of the government’s hostile attitude towards the Jews of Hevron: “These plots have all the necessary conditions – land owned by Jews who have given official power of attorney to the Jewish Community, no Arab ‘third party,’ security permits, and the submission of proper requests throughout the years – and yet despite all, the property remains desolate, in clear violation of the owners’ will.”

Moving into the Market
The area now known as the Marketplace – the part of the Avraham Avinu neighborhood that the Jordanians turned into an outdoor market – is undisputedly Jewish-owned. After the IDF closed down the Jordanian market because of the security dangers it presented, and after it stood desolate for seven years, and immediately after the murder of the infant Shalhevet Pass by an Arab sniper terrorist, several Jewish families moved into the storefronts and turned them into their homes.
The Jews fulfilled their end of the bargain – but Attorney General Menachem Mazuz said the State need not fulfill its side

This led to a drawn-out legal battle in which the State demanded to expel the Jews. The State’s main claim was that families who moved in illegally should not be rewarded. The report notes the absurdity: “In the [State’s] eyes, the ‘sinners’ who must not be rewarded are the Jews who acted in accordance with the owners’ wishes and by their request – and not the Arabs who murdered and threw out the Jews in 1929!”

Ultimately, at the end of 2005, an agreement was worked out according to which the Jewish occupants would leave, to be replaced shortly afterwards by other Jewish families who would rent the buildings. The Jews fulfilled their end of the bargain – but Attorney General Menachem Mazuz said the State need not fulfill its side, because of “legal and political considerations.”

After having been thus betrayed, two families moved back in to adjacent buildings – and were brutally and violently removed by army and police forces earlier this month. This expulsion, the report states, is a “mocking symbol of the hostility and disdain that the State of Israel has for the stolen Jewish property,” from several aspects:

  • The eviction was not necessary, as the Supreme Court had ruled it permissible, not obligatory;
  • it was meant only to impart a lesson that ‘sinners should not be rewarded’ – when in fact it was clear to all that their requests to move in had been ignored for years, leaving Jewish-owned property vacant and desolate;
  • it was done against two families that had left peaceably on their own in the past, based on a government promise that was not fulfilled;
  • it was tremendously violent and destructive. The properties were turned into ruins – in opposition to the Trustee’s obligation to preserve the property, and as an indication that the government meant to ensure that no Jews ever live there. It was the first time since 1929 that a synagogue had been destroyed in Hevron – and the destroyers were Israeli soldiers and policemen.

Extra-Harsh
The report also notes the State’s extra-harsh approach towards Jews who wish to actualize their rights to the Jewish property – especially in comparison with the forgiving approach towards Arabs who infiltrate into these areas. For instance, a Jewish teenager was caught sleeping in one of the refurbished apartments in the market area. The police arrested him and demanded that he be distanced from the area for 60 days, claiming, “The State affirms the existence of a policy, approved by the Justice Ministry, calling for extra precautions to ensure that the Hevron market area remains empty.”

The judge asked the State representative about the closure order placed upon the apartments for “security reasons”: “Why do these security reasons necessitate only the closing of the apartments, yet allow people to walk by there? Is it more dangerous for people to enter the apartments than to merely walk by?”

The State’s representative answered, “This is the judgment of the Central Commander…” However, he did not add that the order was issued by the Central Commander at the behest of the Deputy Attorney General, Shai Nitzan, for the purpose of preventing Jewish entry into the storefronts.

Conclusion: End the Israeli Trusteeship!
Israel’s hostile approach cannot be due to its opposition to Jewish presence in Hevron, the report states: “The government of Israel has recognized, ever since a Cabinet decision in 1980, the legitimacy of Jewish habitation in Hevron – and even anchored this right in an international agreement, the Hevron Accord of 1997.”

“However,” the report continues, “as the Trustee of the property, Israel relates to the Jewish owners as an enemy. This is an absurd and intolerable situation for anyone who sees Israel as the country of the Jewish Nation.”

The writers of the report therefore call upon the State of Israel to end its trusteeship immediately, “especially given the fact that in 1995, a peace treaty was signed with Jordan – ending the state of war between the two countries, ending Israel’s status as an ‘enemy’ vis-a-vis Jordan, and ending the need for Israel to fill the shoes of Jordan’s Trustee of Enemy Zionist Property…”

“Alternatively,” the report concludes, “Israel’s policy makers must instruct all the government echelons to immediately stop the systematic harassment and discrimination of the owners of the stolen Jewish property… The State must first repair the damage it did in the market property, and then begin corrective reverse discrimination, leading to the restoration of dynamic Jewish life in Hevron as it was before the pogrom of 1929.”

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6. Left-Wingers Try, Fail to Disrupt Hevron Ceremony

by Hillel Fendel

Amidst pushing and shoving, followed by a measure of police intervention, Kiryat Arba/Hevron residents prevented leftists and Arabs from disrupting a ceremony honoring a soldier who refused to take part in evicting Jewish families.

The ceremony was held Friday morning, when residents of Kiryat Arba and Hevron gathered at the Hazon David synagogue, just outside Kiryat Arba. The synagogue was originally established six years ago following the terrorist murders of David Cohen and Chezi Mualem nearby, and has been destroyed by army forces and rebuilt by locals several times since then.

The purpose of today’s gathering was to honor IDF soldier David Sayad of Kiryat Arba, who refused earlier this month to expel Jews from their homes in Hevron. A soldier in the Duchifat combat brigade, he and several others refused to take part in what turned out to be a very violent eviction of two families from Jewish-owned property in the Avraham Avinu neighborhood. He was sentenced to 28 days in army prison for his stance.

An email address has been set up for well-wishers to congratulate the soldiers who refused to evict Jews; see below.

A Welcome Phenomenon
Some 100 people attended the ceremony, and were addressed by Kiryat Arba’s Mayor Tzvi Katzover, Hevron spokesman Noam Arnon, and Tzafrir Ronen of the not-religious Nahalal Forum in northern Israel. Katzover said, “I have been hearing from more and more youths of late that they plan to enlist in the IDF, but are declaring in advance that they will not take part in any expulsion of Jews. This is a growing, welcome phenomenon, and it is our chance to save Yesha [Judea and Samaria] and the entire State of Israel…”

Noam Arnon lauded the “great heroism of these soldiers who, on the one hand, are willing to give their lives to defend the country, but are also willing to stand up for their right to be free Jews and not take part in the crime of expulsion. These soldiers deserve our great admiration, and should serve as an example to all soldiers, showing that they can and must maintain their Jewish ideals even in the army.”

Tzafrir Ronen said, “The present struggle is for the identity of the Land of Israel. Our enemy wants to change its name to Palestine, and Olmert is going along with it… If Olmert’s plan is actualized, it means that the curse of Hadrian – the Roman emperor who was the first to change the name of the Land of Israel, calling it Palestine – will come true once again.”

Nadia Matar, leader of the Women in Green grassroots organization, was also present. Commenting on the use of police force against the Jewish residents, she told Arutz-7’s Oranit Atzar, “We must fight both the internal enemy and the external one, everywhere and all the time, without compromise.”

Larger Ceremony Postponed
A large-scale ceremony honoring all the IDF soldiers who refused to take part in the destruction of the Hevron Jewish Community’s Shalhevet neighborhood was to have been held Thursday night. It was postponed, however, so as not to detract from the IDF’s simultaneous ceremony awarding medals of bravery to soldiers who fought heroically in the Second Lebanon War last year.

Send Email Blessings
Another grassroots organization, Cities of Israel (COI), has opened an email account for the public to express its High Holiday new year wishes to the soldiers who refused to take part in the Hevron expulsion. “Polls show that while 14% of the public supports Olmert, more than twice as much – over 30% – support the ‘Hevron refusers,'” says COI’s Susie Dym. “We therefore decided to provide the public with a tool by which to communicate with the soldiers and express their support and good wishes.” The email address is “sarvanei.hevron@gmail.com” [sarvanei means ‘refusers of’].

“It is not enough that the soldiers did their duty and refused to take part in an action over which the black flag of illegality flies,” Dym says. “Now the public must respond, and must create a new national reality in honor of the new year, in which the Hevron heroism becomes the ideal, not something to be condemned.”

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7. Heftziba CEO Caught in Italy, to be Extradited to Israel

by Hana Levi Julian

Police Commissioner Dudi Cohen told reporters Friday that the CEO of the Heftziba Building Development & Investments Company, Boaz Yona, and his wife Tamar were nabbed while dining in a small town near Milan in a joint operation by the Israeli and Italian Police forces this week.

Earlier this week, Tamar Yona gave interviews to the Israeli press in which she denied knowing where her husband was and claimed she was now “fighting like a lioness” to raise their children on her own.

Interpol became involved in the international search after Yona was spotted in Rumania by other Israeli business owners. The Heftziba CEO fled the country and broke off contacts with the company’s creditors three weeks ago after the firm went bankrupt.

“The arrest brought an end to the long manhunt carried out by the Israel Police National Fraud Unit, with international aid abroad,” Cohen said. “Yonah is currently being investigated and his testimony is being collected. His wife will of course be freed.”

Israel began preparing the extradition request documents on Friday, in accordance with its joint extradition treaty with Italy.

Thousands of families who had spent their life savings and taken loans to purchase homes that were being built by Heftziba were left with huge debts and no homes. Many of them have taken over their unfinished apartments, connecting water and electricity in pirate manners. The Supreme Court ruled this week against a Peace Now petition to have them removed.

People who purchased apartments with the failed development firm were told that they could register their purchased property with the Israel Land Registry (Tabu), even without the form known as Form 50 that is normally included in the process.

Form 50 is a mandatory confirmation that documents the builder has fulfilled all its obligations to the Tax Authority. However purchasers of property from a company that has gone bankrupt or is in liquidation proceedings can register their apartment or house in their own names directly with the Land Registry, even without Form 50.

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8. Israel May Eliminate Visa Requirements for Russian Tourists

by Nissan Ratzlav-Katz

A government committee voted on Wednesday to lift visa requirements for visiting Russian tourists. Full cabinet approval of the decision is contingent upon Russia enacting a reciprocal policy. Minister of Public Security Avi Dichter, who expressed professional reservations, voted in favor of the proposal nonetheless.
Minister of Public Security Avi Dichter… expressed professional reservations.

The ministerial committee authorized Foreign Ministry officials to begin discussions with their Russian counterparts towards an agreement on the visa issue. Government officials estimated that an agreement could be finalized within months, possibly during or shortly after an upcoming visit to Israel by Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov. During his visit, scheduled for October, Israeli and Russian leaders will formally review the preliminary results of the negotiations. In Israel, officials representing all relevant ministries have given their approval for lifting the visa requirements for Russian tourists.

Tourism Minister Yitzchak Aharonovitch called the ministerial committee’s decision a triumph of “common sense.” Minister Aharonovitch, who initiated the current proposal earlier this year, said that canceling the visa requirement would encourage tens of thousands of Russian tourists to visit Israel each year. An increase in tourism, he said, would also create “thousands of jobs.”

In discussions about the visa initiative in July, Minister Dichter opposed the idea, saying that it would undermine Israel’s fight against trafficking in prostitutes, which has been underway for years. Removing the visa requirement, according to Dichter, would make it easier for pimps and prostitutes to enter from Russia.

Minister Aharonovitch rejected Dichter’s argument, pointing out that fewer than 200 Russian prostitutes have been arrested in the past three years. He further argued, more broadly, that organized crime could be prevented without a lengthy visa application process. Dichter was also roundly criticized at the time by Minister of Strategic Affairs Avigdor Lieberman, who saw the Public Security Minister’s opposition to the proposal as an expression of bigotry against Russian immigrants. Knesset Minister Zahava Gal’on (Meretz) criticized Dichter as well, accusing him of giving a bad name to Russian immigrants and tourists.

Minister Dichter said Wednesday that, while he voted in favor of the measure, he continues to stand behind his original statements regarding the problems that may be created by the change in entry requirements.

The Globes financial newspaper quoted leading Israeli businessman Lev Levayev, who also heads the Israel-Russia and Israel-Ukraine Chambers of Commerce, as saying that lifting
Tens of thousands of Russian tourists to visit Israel each year.
the visa requirement for Russian visitors “will yield benefits in many economic sectors in Israel as soon as goes it into effect. This is an important move that could double trade between the two countries to more than $1 billion…. I hope that the decision taken by the ministerial committee will also mark a turning point in the attitude of the government and society in Israel towards businesspeople from Russia and the CIS countries, and towards tourists who will now be visiting Israel more frequently and in larger numbers.”

Israel is now home to approximately one million immigrants born in Russia and the countries of the former Soviet Union. In 2005, officials of the Immigration Police estimated that another 70,000 relatives of Israeli citizens were living in Israel illegally. The dropping of visa requirements will increase the ease of family visits from the “old country.” On the other hand, it will facilitate trips to Russia by those Israeli Jews looking into their family roots in Europe.

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9. Holy or Not, Madonna to Visit Tzfat for New Year

by Hana Levi Julian

Plans for pop singer Madonna to spend the Rosh HaShanah New Year holiday in the Galilee city of Tzfat are causing a controversy in what is considered by many to be the birthplace of Jewish mysticism.

The singer, sometimes referred to as “The Material Girl” (after a song by the same name), will arrive in the city with her husband, English writer-director Guy Ritchie, and their three children, prior to the start of the holiday. They will be accompanied by several friends, including acting couple Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher, as well as top designer Donna Karan. Also arriving with Madonna will be some 3,000 students of the Los Angeles-based Kabalah Center.

The local tourism industry will be boosted beyond measure, say business owners who depend largely on the tourist trade in the small city of 30,000. The northern Israeli city has been struggling economically since last summer’s Second Lebanon War with Hizbullah terrorists, who peppered the north with deadly Katyusha rockets, driving all thoughts of tourism away during the busiest season of the year.

The Florida Jewish Federation has pledged $8 million in contributions for projects to help rejuvenate the region – and that sum includes $100,000 to build a Kabalah Center.

But the ten-day pilgrimage by Madonna and company, which is expected to end with the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, has split the city between those anticipating an economic boom and others worried about the cheapening of the concept of Kabalah. Madonna, a pop culture icon, is notorious for very sexually suggestive stage performances.

“A lot of people are looking for spiritual fulfillment and self-improvement,” contends Laurie Rappaport, a long-time resident of the city nestled in the hills of Galilee. Rappaport, who runs the visitor’s center for Livnot U’Lehibanot (To Build and to be Built), was blunt about the benefits of Madonna’s return to the city she visited in 2004. “From a business point of view, anything that brings people into Tzfat is desirable,” she said.

Not everyone is pleased about the idea of having thousands of wannabe Kabalists flooding the city during one of the holiest times of the Jewish year, however.

“Kabala is too holy to put into the hands of everybody,” said Jewish artist Ya’akov Kaszemacher of Tzfat, one Israel’s four holy cities along with Jerusalem, Tiberias and Hevron.

Serious Kabala students disapprove of mysticism being adopted by people who know little or nothing about Kabalah’s deeply metaphysical concepts and who are only familiar with its very basic, exterior ideas.

Realtors may also benefit in the long run; word has it that Madonna is also planning to buy a house in the Rosh Pina – Tzfat area.

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Friday, Aug. 31 ’07
17 Elul 5767

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OpinionJournal – On the Editorial Page – August 31, 2007

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On the Editorial Page BY JOHN R. BOLTON
Thanks to feckless diplomacy, Kim Jong Il may preserve his nuclear program.
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Outside the Box BY PETE DU PONT
Curtail the First Amendment? Why not just do away with elections?
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Peggy Noonan
America needs unity in dealing with Iraq. That means the president must lead.
12:01 a.m. EDT

Potomac Watch BY KIMBERLEY A. STRASSEL
How the GOP can woo the ladies.
12:01 a.m. EDT

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An encore presentation: the Romney campaign, the White House after Rove, and Muslim footbaths.
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On the Taste Page
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The Song of Bernanke
Spare us, Oh Lord, from the wrath of subprime.
Aug 31 2007
The Larry Craig Mess
The Republican Party needs to get its house in order.
Aug 31 2007

Commentary

Pyongyang’s Upper Hand
Thanks to feckless diplomacy, Kim Jong-il may preserve his nuclear program.
By JOHN R. BOLTON
Aug 31 2007
Don’t Blame the Rating Agencies
Their role in this turbulent market is misunderstood.
By VICKIE TILLMAN
Aug 31 2007
A Toast to the Family
On teen drinking problems in America.
By STANTON PEELE
Aug 31 2007
Reaganomics 2.0
They’re cutting taxes abroad. Why not here?
By STEPHEN MOORE
Aug 31 2007

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What Women Want
How the GOP can woo the ladies.
By KIMBERLEY A. STRASSEL
Aug 31 2007




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Your U.N. at Work III
Moments of clear moral judgment are short-lived here.
Aug 31 2007
The Cost of Freedom
The Korean hostages are finally on their way home.
Aug 31 2007

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http://www.wsj.com/wsjgate?source=jopinaowsj&URI=/article/0,,SB118852121338714146,00.html%3Fmod%3Dopinion%26ojcontent%3Dotep

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http://www.wsj.com/wsjgate?source=jopinaowsj&URI=/article/0,,SB118852146911014151,00.html%3Fmod%3Dopinion%26ojcontent%3Dotep

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A Toast to the Family
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Reaganomics 2.0
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What Women Want
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Your U.N. at Work III
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The Cost of Freedom
http://www.wsj.com/wsjgate?source=jopinaowsj&URI=/article/0,,SB118850802254913863,00.html%3Fmod%3Dopinion%26ojcontent%3Dotep