August, 2008 link archive

Friday, August 1, 2008

Following reports of the apparent suicide of a key suspect in the 2001 anthrax attacks, Glenn Greenwald points to unanswered questions about "four well-placed and separate sources" that fed ABC News false information tying the attack to Iraq, and distracted attention from the 'homegrown threat.'

The revelation that a meeting in Vice President Cheney's office had discussed a plan to dress up Navy SEALs as Iranians and "start a shootup" in order to provoke a war with Iran, was omitted by the editors from Seymour Hersh's latest New Yorker piece, apparently because the plan never moved from word to deed.

Rejecting Bush administration claims of executive privilege in what Marty Lederman terms a "landmark decision," a federal judge rules that Joshua Bolten and Harriet Miers must comply with congressional subpoenas, and notes in several places that "Congress likely has ... the inherent authority to arrest and detain."

With American officials telling the New York Times that Pakistani Intelligence aided in the attack on Kabul, Juan Cole emphasizes that it's "not about Pakistan ... It is about corruption," while Robert Dreyfuss warns that the U.S. is "singularly ill-equipped to go bungling into that part of the world like some drunken sheriff."

An umbrella group representing 100 national and international NGOs in Afghanistan warns that violence there has reached its highest level since 2001, as Afghan refugees resist going home, and Marjorie Cohn questions continued support for 'the other illegal war.'

As the Guantanamo tribunal goes secret to hear testimony from an Army psychiatrist about coercive interrogations, and trial observers take time out from the "bizarre" proceedings for an on-site screening of "The Dark Knight," Dr. Steven Miles pens an editorial in a British medical journal arguing that doctor complicity in torture warrants sanctions.

Time gets confirmation and BBC's "Newsnight" goes in depth on long-denied charges that the British-controlled island of Diego Garcia was used a site to interrogate detainees, sparking calls for an international investigation and causing embarrassment for the British government.

Although President Bush talks up progress and teases troop reductions in Iraq, attacks on police in Fallujah raise security fears, and Reuters demands that U.S. forces produce evidence to justify their detention of an Iraqi cameraman.

As 'Iraq oil production peaks,' Laura Rozen investigates 'The Hunt for Kurdish Oil,' asking "why do Bush-linked companies keep getting Kurdish-area oil concessions that bypass the Iraqi national government?," while Mark Benjamin presents a confidential memo suggesting that a McCain adviser was a war profiteer.

Jonathan Cook reports on resistance to a 'home demolition spree' targeting Palestinians in Jerusalem, Real News finds Palestinians shooting back with cameras to document the Israeli occupation, and "Democracy Now!" examines the killing of two Palestinian youths at a site of non-violent wall demonstrations.

As the McCain campaign follows up a star-studded attack with an attempt to pin the race card on Obama, and some suspect contingency planning comes to light, Billmon resurfaces with a retrospective illustrating why the transformation of McCain from White Knight to the GOP's 'Great White Hope' should have come as no surprise.

The real reason that the McCain campaign has decided to "go tabloid," it's suggested, isn't to highlight Obama's inexperience, "it's about mobilizing the evangelical base." Plus: Celebrity scrubbing.

While a Writ columnist suggests that the recent congressional apology for slavery and Jim Crow is "more about assuaging the residual guilt of the white folks" than coming to grips with history, Glenn Beck rails against it as "a front (sic) to the principles of Christianity."

As 'predatory lenders boost political giving,' and Wal-Mart mobilizes to warn of the dangers of a Democratic win, William Greider notes that Washington's bipartisan solution to the current economic crisis seems to simply be 'bailing out the bad guys.'

Exxon's record profits are put in context, and weighed against the company's expenditures on alternative energy, as McCain gets hit with falling oil barrels in an ad emphasizing his ties to big oil.

From a polar bear's perspective: While there might still be some ice here (and even there) -- oil and mining interests are laying the groundwork for reversing the bears' endangered species listing.

July 31

Monday, August 4, 2008

As Glenn Greenwald reviews some unresolved issues in the anthrax investigation on "Democracy Now!" and highlights some 'additional key facts,' Jay Rosen boils it all down into 'three vital questions for ABC News about its anthrax reporting in 2001.'

Although reports suggest that anthrax scientist Bruce Ivins 'stood to benefit from a panic,' had aired some hard right views, and was in a position to spread disinformation, the FBI evidence against him, according to a New York Times source, is "largely circumstantial." Plus: What does this say about our conspiracy theorists?

"Has the unprecedented boom in biodefense research made the country less secure by multiplying the places and people with access to dangerous germs?," asks the New York Times, as a Stratfor analysis downgrades the bioterror threat.

As NPR covers the Guantanamo tribunal with a touch of 'tortured humor,' a Los Angeles Times analysis of some of the legal peculiarities of the trial notes that Salim Hamdan will remain incarcerated no matter the verdict.

Andy Worthington sums up what is now known about the secret CIA-run prison on Diego Garcia, as questions are raised about 'the real torture timeline,' and Mark Benjamin notes that Obama's 'brain trust' wants to "form a commission on torture ... but put off prosecutions -- if any -- till a second term."

Prepping for an envisioned "long war" heavy on the counterinsurgency, the Air Force begins deploying a new armed drone, but Pentagon efforts to militarize the social sciences are running into resistance.

An analysis of the 'Bio-politics of Baghdad' emphasizes the role of ethnic cleansing in making the sectarian divide appear less prominent, as questions are raised about 'what to do with the Sons of Iraq,' and the apportionment of blame in a new IGC report on the refugee crisis is challenged.

A territorial dispute over oil-rich Kirkuk, to which Kurdish officials have laid claim, stalls attempts to hold key provincial elections in Iraq, while Al Jazeera examines what's involved in guarding a pair of the country's most valuable off-shore oil rigs.

'Holidays in the Garden of Eden' Under the slogan "tourism not terrorism," the Iraqi government -- along with some foreign investors -- is mounting a concerted effort overcome its dangerous image and draw travelers to an array of attractions both old and new. Plus: Touring Honecker's bunker.

Haaretz calls attention to a recent "upturn in the number of reports of violent incidents against Palestinians by West Bank settlers," and a report by an Israeli human rights group charges that Palestinians are being pressured to cooperate with Israeli intelligence as a condition of access to medical care.

Despite a recent study downplaying the consequences of an attack on Iran, signed off on by some key Obama advisers, Washington insiders suggest that bombing remains unlikely, while Chris Hedges sketches out some worst case scenarios to underline just how dangerous an attack could be.

Commenting on the new direction taken by the McCain campaign in recent weeks, a piece in the New Yorker finds that "he's opted out of truth," and David Gergen calls out the coded racial signals, while it's argued that McCain's real 'problem isn't his tactics. It's his GOP ideas.'

With McCain's early promotion of an anthrax-Iraq connection (scroll down) underlining doubts about his political and strategic judgment, the candidate looks to some Iraq war tactics as a model for dealing with urban crime in the U.S.

"The largest field operation in the history of American politics" is seen as giving Obama the potential to turn the Democratic party upside down, while a prominent media narrative appears to boil down to the peculiar complaint that Obama is 'acting too presidential.'

The 'FCC rules against Comcast for bitTorrent blocking' in what's described as 'a major victory for open internet,' while the RIAA's lawsuit strategy faces a key challenge at a Monday hearing.

With the Olympic games set to begin amid a 'festival of commerce,' Phillip Cunningham considers the appeal of Beijing's overlapping forbidden cities, Christian Parenti reports on signs of 'class struggle in the new China,' and the Great Firewall sprouts some cracks.

As rising 'shipping costs start to crimp globalization,' the notion that the world is flat appears to take another hit.

Against a background of mounting economic woes, and fears of a bigger wave of home loan defaults, Dollars & Sense looks at the role of commodity markets in pushing up food prices, and a Mother Jones dispatch finds 'civil rights groups defending predatory lenders: priceless.'

Aug. 1-3

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

"It would have to come from the very top," says Ron Suskind, interviewed about the bombshell claim in his new book that "the White House ordered the CIA to forge a back-dated, handwritten letter from the head of Iraqi intelligence to Saddam ... designed to portray a false link between Hussein's regime and al Qaeda as a justification for the Iraq war." Plus: 'Tenet statement on Suskind.'

The release of Suskind's book coincides with a Daily News report that the 'FBI was told to blame anthrax scare on al Qaeda by White House officials,' and as it's reminded that "Colin Powell used the anthrax case in his UN presentation," Gerald Posner, in a "Countdown" segment, discusses the Daily News article and the evidence against Bruce Ivins, a registered Democrat.

Former UNSCOM inspector Richard Spertzel, who said in an October 2001 "NewsHour" interview that "Iraq is certainly capable of producing ... weapons grade anthrax," and that he personally believed Iraq had a connection to Osama bin Laden, comes to the defense of Ivins in a Wall Street Journal op-ed.

The Journal also reports that Muqtada al-Sadr "intends to disarm his once-dominant Mahdi Army militia and remake it as a social-services organization," and if it's looking for a cause: 'Squatters in Iraqi buildings fear they'll soon be on the street.'

A report that "There were strenuous efforts within the Army over the last year to censor" a book on war surgery "and keep it out of civilian hands," notes that "Paradoxically, the book is being issued as news photographers complain that they are being ejected from combat areas for depicting dead and wounded Americans."

With a 'Pakistani mum extradited to U.S. on terror charges,' the Washington Post reports that the 'U.S. may have taped visits to detainees' at Guantanamo, where the 'Jury is out for Hamdan -- and the tribunal process.'

The NRDC depicts President Bush as a snake oil salesman in a full-page ad that ran in the Post on Tuesday, Rolling Stone reports on 'Big coal's campaign of lies,' and Sen. Obama is criticized for toying with "a coal-friendly ticket."

As Obama outlines his 'new "New Energy" plan,' that includes a "use it or lose it" approach to oil leases, a "drill anywhere" proposal is advanced.

While a senior McCain aide is described as "practically giddy" over tire gauges, an AP fact check finds that "McCain is wrong when he says inflating tires is the only thing Obama is proposing to address America's energy challenges."

Jonathan Alter speaks of a "smear gap" between Democrats and Republicans, Glenn Greenwald interviews Digby about campaign coverage, and the Daily Howler argues that "It was amazingly foolish to start yelling 'race' about that silly blip of Spears ... Instead of laughing at the ad and saying it showed that McCain is a fly-weight."

Two anti-Obama books, one by Jerome Corsi and the other by David Freddoso, attain "Hot New Releases" status on Amazon, but Media Matters finds the former 'filled with falsehoods,' and the latter 'marked by false and misleading assertions about Obama, accompanied by dubious citations."

As the Green Bay Packers draft Ari Fleischer to spin the Brett Favre circus, a survey of U.S. chief marketing officers finds that nearly one in five "say their organizations have bought advertising in return for a news story."

An Independent article outlines 'China's Olympic challenge,' McClatchy reports that "Chinese officials have not lived up to key promises they made to win the right to host the Olympics," and an argument is made that if you want 'To change the Olympics, change the channel.' Plus: 'Fortress Beijing.'

A review of the book "Iron Fists," by former New York Times senior art director Steven Heller, describes how "Heller, by means of unsettling images and shrewd analysis, amply restores the vileness to branding." And in an illustrated article adapted from the book, Heller looks at 'Branding Youth in the Totalitarian State.'

The passing of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn prompts an examination of "Solzhenitsyn and the right," and, an observation from the editor of Novy Mir, which published "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich," that in Russia, "There is no demand for great people."

A new book, "The Forsaken," tells the story of American citizens who emigrated to the U.S.S.R., beginning in the 1930s, for economic or ideological reasons, with most having their U.S. passports confiscated, and many arrested as spies and shipped off to the Gulag. Earlier: 'Stalin's political pilgrims.'

August 4

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Ron Suskind begins a "Countdown" interview by parsing the statements of CIA officials who are now distancing themselves from his book, and Tim Rutten looks at the media firestorm that accompanies books like Suskind's, which, "reveals no he said/she said dispute over the letter," written on "creamy White House stationery."

In responding to Suskind's book, which gets a mixed review from Salon, John Dean says that "It looks like Cheney's been very effective in setting up his deniability and being the fail-safe for Bush," while agreeing that Suskind's Iraq war allegations alone are worse than Watergate.

The explosive charges from a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter didn't merit a mention on the signature news shows of either PBS, or, CNN, whose "bulldog reporter" did manage "to rip the Lohan family to shreds" earlier in the day.

As an 'Anthrax Timeline' is laid out, CJR poses "Three more questions for ABC News," concerning the anonymous sources who fed it the bogus benonite-anthrax claim, and it's now reported that 'Ivins told ethics officer about anthrax clean-up.'

A GAO report finds 'Iraq's oil profits huge as U.S. bears reconstruction load.'

With Iraq seeking investors for a 'six billion dollar Baghdad masterplan,' Dutch novelist Arnon Grunberg writes of 'Fear and loafing in the Green Zone,' and an Iraq war vet recalls that after "kicking doors down and taking weapons from people and getting shot at all day ... all of a sudden you're in a low-end construction job ... It's not an ego booster, I'll tell you that."

A report that the 'Iraqi army is willing, but not ready, to fight,' is coupled with one on 'A ragtag pursuit of the Taliban' in Afghanistan, about which there seems to be some dispute within the Pentagon over whether or not the situation is 'urgent.' Plus: 'Afghan war edges out Iraq as most important for U.S.'

The Washington Post reports on a McCain bundler who 'Collects from unlikely donors,' and McClatchy picks up on the story of the office manager at Hess. Corp, and her Amtrak foreman husband, who have written $61,600 in checks to McCain's presidential campaign and the RNC, $57,000 worth "within days of McCain's decision to endorse offshore oil drilling."

As David Brooks again tests his "meme-making abilities," John McCain, in prepared remarks, puts Sturgis on the political map, after which one is asked to "imagine if Obama had said something like that about Michelle."

St. Paul will see an 'array of demonstrators,' and a possible 'prostitution spike,' and with the current 'Cheney not expected to attend GOP convention,' the DNC targets "the next Cheney."

As 'Obama links energy troubles to unpopular Cheney,' a man posing as a news photographer 'heckles Obama' over the Pledge of Allegiance, and in ridiculing the tire gauge gambit, Obama declares that "It's like these guys take pride in being ignorant," but Thomas Frank explains 'Why misgovernment was no accident in George W. Bush's Washington.'

As 'Yet another Republican pushes China-Cuba oil myth,' the New Republic interviews the candidate it describes as 'The House GOP's desperate choice for desperate times,' who recently received a raft of publicity for what he later admitted was a joke about Al-Jazeera trying to kidnap him.

After the campaign manager for Colorado GOP Senate candidate Bob Schaffer engaged in some 'political proctology,' saying of their opponent that "We're going to shove a bunch of 30-second ads up his ass" on energy issues, Schaffer's son apologized for his 'obnoxious Facebook page.'

The New Yorker reports on the 'Purpose-driven hype' attending Rick Warren's August 16th 'Compassion & Leadership' forum with Sens. McCain and Obama, and Bill Berkowitz asks: 'But what about the separation between Mega-church and state?' More Berkowitz, on 'Marketing Obama to Evangelicals.'

'Texas executes Mexican killer amid international protests,' in a case that was framed as a 'sovereignty threat' for viewers of "Lou Dobbs Tonight."

A Tyson plant in Tennessee dropping Labor Day for the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, is seen as something that "isn't going to end well," while a review of Mark Levine's "Heavy Metal Islam," finds "something truly heartening about the Moroccan thrash girls Mystik Moods striving to break through centuries-old sexist taboos."

August 5

Thursday, August 7, 2008

'What are the "war crimes" for which Hamdan was convicted?,' asks Balkanization, and a Newsweek article wonders, "Is driving a car a war crime? The appeals court may decide not - in which case even this meager verdict could be thrown out." Plus: Hamdan sentenced to 66 months.

'It don't Gitmo better!' Visitors to a Coney Island sideshow can witness a "Waterboard Thrill Ride," one artist's contribution to a "Democracy In America" campaign.

Newsweek's Mark Hosenball, and Gerald Posner, analyze the evidence in the anthrax case, and Glenn Greenwald points out 'The FBI's selective release of documents.'

"It may well be that, absent a trial, it will fall to reporters to aggressively test the solidity of the case against Ivins," writes "Nation of Secrets" author Ted Gup, who previously detailed his chance encounter with George Tenet.

Dan Froomkin catalogs 'The White House's weak denials' of Ron Suskind's allegation that it ordered the CIA to forge evidence of a link between Iraq and al Qaeda, and Suskind speaks of the "enormous pressure" on former CIA officials John Maguire and Rob Richer to change their stories.

Juan Cole speculates that former Iraqi intelligence chief Habbush created the forgery, and in an appearance on C-SPAN, during which he fielded calls, Suskind cited a quote in his book attributed to Donald Rumsfeld, that "we will bend Iraq to our reality. They will succumb to our view of how things should be." Plus: What Bush said.

Although 'Iraqis fail to agree on provincial election law,' there is talk of a possible breakthrough on a status of forces agreement with the U.S., and as KBR unplugs in Iraq, KFC in Fallujah comes undone.

A former Rocky Mountain News reporter 'Tells untold stories of war,' in a book based on his Pulitzer Prize-winning feature, with the author said to have taken a cue from a famous 1963 column by Jimmy Breslin.

As a GAO report finds that 'U.S. counterterrorism efforts flounder in North Africa,' the 'Pakistan coalition cranks up pressure on Musharraf,' with the Independent quoting a senior member of the late Benazir Bhutto's party as saying, "It is the unanimous decision of the two parties to go for President Musharraf's impeachment."

The 'Mystery deepens around McCain bundler,' Jason Leopold points out that McCain has all but adopted 'Cheney's Energy Plan,' and following McCain's tour of a nuclear plant, Greg Palast reviews the extent of each candidate's support for nuclear energy, likening McCain's plan to 'Homer Simpson without the Donut.'

As a question is raised about what GOP stands for, conservatives set about 'Defining Obama 24/7,' and with one 'Tool' identified in the debate over tire gauges, another conveniently waited until the Republican attacks were deflated to ridicule the notion.

With the NRA said to have "had no intention of abiding by any sort of logic" for a mailer claiming that Obama is the most anti-gun candidate the group has ever faced, the AP picks up on Mother Jones' report on a gun lobby mole, about which David Corn has this to say, 'Why so silent, NRA?'

For a Washington Post online chat with Rep. Nancy Pelosi, someone erased the words "with Amy Hill Hearth" from the cover of Pelosi's 192-page, double-spaced book, which currently sits at about 1,500 in's sales rank, despite all the publicity.

As it's observed that the National Enquirer's "Spy Photo" purporting to show John Edwards, "looks like something, possibly human, wearing a blue t-shirt and holding, what appears to be, a Cabbage Patch doll," CJR asks: 'The Edwards story's next step?'

Ishmael Reed's "Mixing It Up," is described as "a rant, but mostly an informed one ... and his core concern of blacks not getting a fair shake in mass media is unimpeachable." Read Reed's Counterpunch articles, and an interview, parts one, two and three.

August 6

Friday, August 8, 2008

Regional politics heat up in Iraq, with disputes over Kirkuk reportedly exposing weaknesses in the ruling coalition along fault lines dividing "the powers that be" from "the powers that aren't," and trying the patience of the Awakening movement.

Although the U.S. and Iraq are reportedly near negotiating a withdrawal date for U.S. forces, there are competing accounts of what "withdrawal" means, while Moqtada al-Sadr is conditioning complete demilitarization of his forces on the implementation of a timetable.

Andrew Bacevich proposes taking the "war" out of the war on terror, Spencer Ackerman offers "a guide to some of the most pronounced, and pernicious, euphemisms of the Iraq War," and Lawrence Lessig warns of an "iPatriot Act" waiting in the wings.

Looking "past the vanilla headlines," Eric Umansky finds that the FBI has not yet proved its case against the alleged anthrax killer, and as congressional representatives propose investigating the investigators, questions are raised about why he wasn't declared an "enemy combatant," and Robert Scheer concludes that ultimately 'the enemy was us.'

Ron Suskind agrees to release transcripts of interviews with a top CIA official confirming his story of a White House ordered forgery linking Iraq to 9/11, although another source now claims that it was Doug Feith's Office of Special Plans, and not the CIA that forged the letter. Plus: The "Armageddon Test."

Murray Waas reports that the 'DOJ probe has expanded to the White House,' over allegations that Bush administration officials made false or misleading statements to Congress about Karl Rove's role in the replacement of a fired U.S. attorney.

Both the U.S. and Britain talk about doubling their troop commitments, as tours of duty are extended to deal with a conflict in Afghanistan described by one top general as "generational," while Greg Mitchell questions whether the U.S. is really ready for a long war.

The Pakistani legislature reaches a deal to impeach the country's president on a set of charges likely to include "high treason," sparking "jubilation as well as fears across the country," and predictions of increased political instability at least in the short term.

As the number of foreign journalists in Israel declines, human rights groups express outrage over the minor penalties faced by a senior Israeli officer over the videotaped "shooting of a bound and blindfolded Palestinian prisoner by a soldier under his command."

In a cordial end to a trial still open to legal challenge, a military jury hands down a relatively light sentence to Salim Hamdan that leaves him eligible for release just in time for the next president to take a stand, while Robert Parry draws out the implications of 'The Hamdan Principle and You.'

As the Washington Independent puts 'ends and means in war crimes trials' in comparative perspective, President Bush's moral authority for singling out China for human rights criticism is questioned.

The Beijing Olympics open amid symbolism and pageantry, but "the grandest prize" contends Dave Zirzin, "is not a gold medal but a glittering entree to China's seemingly endless army of potential consumers," at the "coming out party" for a potential new export that Naomi Klein terms "McCommunism."

As the attack ad wars heat up, the Obama campaign moves swiftly to counter some selective and vintage endorsements, and with McCain offering 'a surge for all seasons,' Paul Krugman suggests that the GOP's de facto slogan has become "Real men don't think things through."

Although Sen. Bob Casey may get a speaking slot at the Democratic convention in spite of his opposition to abortion rights, an attempt to insert an "abortion reduction" plank into the draft Democratic platform is rejected.

With Obama still struggling with the evangelical math, critics charge that a recent McCain ad is dropping coded hints that his opponent is the Anti-Christ, a theme apparently taken seriously by some on the religious right.

Random House cancels publication of a novel about Mohammed's first wife on the heels of a bad blurb and apparently fearing violence of some sort. Read the prologue of the novel on line here.

Aug. 7

Monday, August 11, 2008

Give Us a Break!

Cursor will be dark from Tuesday through Thursday of this week, but no exotic or elitist vacation for us. We need to work on trying to raise some money so that we can put food on our families, and, get a little break so we don't end up here. We'll be back at high noon on Friday.

As the fighting in Georgia spreads, Jonathan Steele notes that part of what is at stake is the sphere of "Russian influence," Helena Cobban draws out some broader implications for world politics, and the first lesson a BBC analysis formulates is "Do not punch a bear on the nose unless it is tied down."

While the current fighting is only the latest flare up in an old conflict, it's argued that 'Georgia's volatile risk-taker has gone over the brink,' and Chris Floyd forecasts "death and ruin for multitudes who have nothing to do with the violent aggression of corrupt elites on every side." Plus: Dan Froomkin on 'Bush's Georgian Betrayal.'

With war in the North Caucasus termed a "3 a.m. moment," Sen. McCain, who has some campaign ties to the region, issues what the editor of the eXile describes as "a stark raving statement" calling for Nato intervention, while after some baiting, Sen. Obama edges closer to his opponent's position.

The U.S. gives Georgian troops a lift home from Iraq, a mission that may, the New York Times suggests, have helped embolden "boisterously pro-American" Georgia "to enter a fight it could not win." But "getting back to Edwards ..."

As walls continue to spring up in Sadr City, and Iraqi politicians worry the U.S. with talk of "ironclad agreements" for troop withdrawal, Muqtada al Sadr's demilitarization moves are variously interpreted as the product of 'a secret deal' with the U.S., 'a bid for power,' or the result of an internal crisis in the Mahdi Army.

While Iraq's 'private sector falters', U.S. soldiers dole out cash under the guidelines of a field manual titled "Money as a Weapon System," and Al Jazeera investigates the 'appalling conditions' in which Iraq's lepers have been abandoned.

In Beijing, President Bush talks up church and engages in some "sporting" activities, but when asked about "America's own problems," blandly replies "I don't see America having problems."

The Olympics opens to a dazzling spectacle annotated by Kissinger Associates, as an article in the Nation points to the stories missed by too exclusive a focus on Beijing, and John Ross considers how from Mexico 1968 to Beijing 2008 "cutthroat capitalism" has set the stage.

Olympic politics go backstage and protests go on line, but official protest pens go largely unused, as Mark Leonard discusses new directions and divisions in how intellectuals in China envision the country's future.

Putting aside some journalistic reservations, Ron Suskind posts a transcript of his discussion with a former CIA agent about the Habbush forgery, with the aim of corroborating his account, and pointing the finger both at former CIA director George Tenet and "downtown."

While earlier anthrax questions to ABC News are still not getting answers to satisfy all critics, Glenn Greenwald highlights an apparent contradiction in the official time line, and talks to "On the Media" about the media's failure to cover the story skeptically.

The AP reports that the DHS 'disregarded experts' in ranking potential sites for a national lab (pdf) to study virulent biological threats in "the latest example of what critics assert is the Bush administration's politicizing of government decisions.'

If, as Tim Rutten contends, the Edwards confessional has left 'old media dethroned' as the arbiter of "the limits of acceptable journalism," questions about McCain's divorce and alleged infidelity have nonetheless failed to spark significant media interest so far.

In Bolivia, Evo Morales wins a recall referendum by an even larger margin than the vote that put him in office, with the issue of 'lopsided control over land and natural gas' looming large, and the country's president serving as an "an ink blot" upon which both Bolivians and the media projected "their deepest hopes and fears."

As 'Mexico's drug traffickers set their sights on top officials' with the aid of an "iron river of guns" smuggled in from the U.S., a Mexican army general who put out a public appeal to bypass the police and call the army for help is ousted.

Palestinians plan a state funeral for Mahmoud Darwish, a 'poet of exile' who was credited with helping to 'forge a Palestinian consciousness after the six-day war in 1967,' and who gave his final recital in Ramallah just a few weeks ago. More on his legacy from "Democracy Now!"

With credit cards raking in debt from students, and tightening their grip abroad, Bill Moyers looks into the boom in the "poverty business," and Danny Schechter warns that the credit card bubble may soon go pop.

August 8-10

Friday, August 15, 2008

Despite U.S. assurances that a new missile deal with Poland was not meant as a provocation, it sparks an angry response, heightening tensions with Russia, as the 'Georgian president checks in with Glenn Beck, Katie Couric.'

In an essay for Foreign Policy in Focus and in a discussion on "Democracy Now!," Michael Klare argues that the Russian-Georgian conflict is largely an "energy war" over access to the region's vast oil and natural gas reserves, while Real News goes in depth with a series of reports on 'the geopolitics of Georgia.'

With McCain apparently discovering that "It's wrong for nations to invade other nations," and warning of a 'dramatically different relationship with Russia,' questions are raised about the propriety and the sense of his focus on Georgia.

In an article in Slate, a curious volunteer in the Georgia-Russia cyberwar -- which may have preceded the hot war by weeks -- sheds light on "why the recent cyberwar has been so hard to pin down and why no group in particular has claimed responsibility."

Despite rescue efforts by western diplomats and official denials, Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf is expected to resign before Monday, and perhaps travel abroad, but Tariq Ali suggests keeping democratic expectations low, in view of the continuing importance of U.S. ties with the Pakistani army.

Although reports find the Taliban and Al Qaeda busy executing suspected U.S. informants in the tribal area along the Pakistan border, and the Taliban closing in on the doorstep of Kabul, the city's security is scheduled to be handed over to the Afghan army on August 28.

Tallying up the cost of private contractors in Iraq, the CBO projects $100 billion by the end of the year, but an IPS analysis points to signs that President Bush is "preparing to throw security contractors such as Blackwater under the political bus."

As the U.S. army solicits PR for reconciliation in Iraq, a suicide bomber strikes pilgrims near Baghdad, and six U.S. sailors working as prison guards face courts-martial for allegedly sealing detainees into a pepper spray filled cell and other abuse at Camp Bucca in Southern Iraq.

In a pair of articles adapted from his new book and posted at Tomdispatch, Andrew Bacevich reviews the collapse of overblown expectations about America's ability to reinvent war, and considers what lessons should be drawn from this failure. More on Bacevich on Friday's Bill Moyers Journal.

Amy Goodman critiques plans to 'cage dissent' some distance away from the Democratic convention, which include holding pens for mass arrests that protesters have termed 'Gitmo on the Platte.' And if that is not real enough, Amnesty International plans to offer convention-goers its own simulation.

As CNN reveals that its coverage of both conventions will be sponsored by Exxon-Mobil, and drilling advocates try for a total shut out of renewable energy, Media Matters attempts to counter growing support for offshore drilling with a fact sheet exposing 'myths and falsehoods about oil policies.' Plus: 'Touring Hanford.'

As the real estate recession deepens with no bottom in sight, the Labor Department reports that "the cost of living ... is rising at the fastest rate since the recession of the early 1990s, and EPI tackles the big picture in preview chapters from its report on 'The State of Working America.'

A GAO report concludes that two-thirds of U.S. corporations are paying no income tax with a little help from "transfer pricing," suggesting that high-end tax rate both Obama and McCain have pledged to lower, is largely mythical, while an analysis of new IRS data finds 'two tax systems, separate and unequal.'

Media Matters' Paul Waldman squares off with Jerome Corsi over his new anti-Obama book, which recycles "secret Muslim" charges, and various other dubious allegations that the New York Times hesitates to label outright lies.

SPLC notes that Corsi is scheduled to appear on a white supremacist radio show again this Sunday, Bag News Notes covers the book's 'swiftboating of a facial expression,' and a New York Times blog examines his conspiracy credentials.

Confronted over double standards on infidelity, Sean Hannity deploys a POW ordeal excuse for McCain (and ignores Giuliani), while the candidate floats back to the top of the news buoyed by negative advertising, but beset by renewed questions about ties to lobbyists.

With conservative groups attempting to refocus the election with hot button initiatives, the Colorado Independent takes a detailed look at how 'anonymous dough flows into Colorado initiative campaigns.'

The Fifth Circuit court rules that the consultation of the Bible by a jury does not invalidate a death sentence, another jury finds a positive-thinking pastor accused of going postal on a flight attendant not guilty, and 'a teacher's branding case opens a religious divide.'

August 11

Monday, August 18, 2008

Opting for a Nixonesque exit, President Musharraf gives up on "saving" Pakistan and resigns in a speech laying out what he has accomplished for the country, while the Independent offers a peek at what might serve as his 'luxury retirement pad.'

Response to the resignation announcement was "electric and instantaneous" according to a Los Angeles Times report, and lawyers were dancing in the streets.

After 'checkmate' in Georgia, the "message for America," writes Tony Karon, is that "Russia has stopped retreating," as David Remnick sizes up the new 'boundary issues,' and the Arab world highlights the hypocrisy of Bush condemning Russia.

Laying out "hard truths" about America's "empire of consumption" on "Bill Moyers Journal," Andrew Bacevich wins high praise from both left and right, and prompts an illuminating recollection from his own past.

With suicide bombings continuing, a report back from Iraq highlights concerns that Prime Minister Maliki has become "overconfident," and "dark clouds" are discerned on the election horizon, where a dispute over the fate of Kirkuk has remained a key impediment.

Although 'security contractors in Iraq remain outside the law,' the U.S. Department of Justice has sent "target letters" to Blackwater guards accused in the Nisour Square massacre, and Iraq too insists on the right to prosecute them.

Faced with continuing outbreaks of violence and friendly fire, Afghanistan celebrates its Independence Day at an undisclosed location in a capital surrounded by thousands of police.

The Bush administration proposes a "new domestic spying measure that would make it easier for state and local police to collect intelligence about Americans," and Walter Pincus notes that a new unit of the DIA will for the first time be authorized to carry out "strategic offensive counterintelligence operations" at home and abroad.

As a 'Gitmo psychologist pleads the fifth on torture,' protesters condemn participation in abusive interrogation at the annual meeting of the APA, where what's described as "a fight for the soul of the profession" is taking place. Plus: 'Even the kangaroos were offended.'

'The Candidate We Still Don't Know' Addressing the ubiquitous concerns about why Obama isn't winning by a landslide, Frank Rich notes that given the way the press has been grading on a curve, "that public doesn't know who on earth John McCain is."

As the candidates line up for question time at a megachurch, McCain pulls out the anecdotes, including one well-worn tale with a suspiciously literary ring, cites as an example of pure evil a newspaper story long since debunked, and dodges the definition of "rich."

Following the forum, a McCain spokesman attempts to fend off a "cone of silence" controversy with the notion that such questions somehow impugn his integrity as a former POW.

With the most recent Gallup poll indicating that 'McCain continues strong in the South, but nowhere else,' Facing South looks at the trend lines and finds that the only state in which McCain's lead is actually growing is South Carolina.

A new Pew survey on the political affiliations of cable news watchers finds that CNN's audience has become even more heavily Democratic, but the play it gave to 'Obama the Antichrist?' belies its liberal reputation, while even at "the coolest pit stop on television" John McCain remains the favored celebrity.

New furniture for the Oregon Legislature initially provides fuel for expense-minded attack ads in the state's Senate race, but then turns the spotlight on the prison labor that was used to construct it.

Under the headline 'Dr. Doom,' the New York Times profiles Nouriel Roubini, whose gloomy prognosis for the economy has recently gained greater currency and who, surveying the depths of the country's indebtedness, suspects that we are seeing "the beginning of the end of the American empire."

Salon runs a pair of columns busting "myths about cheap and unlimited oil" being bandied about on the right, and noting that as far as energy is concerned both candidates are fronting a "sacrifice-free election strategy," while Dollars & Sense offers a case study of how 'climate reality eludes the business press.'

Aug. 8-10

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

In his 'Anatomy of A(nother) Fiasco,' Billmon finds that "Even after the fiasco in Iraq, the bloody failure in Lebanon, the downward spiral in Afghanistan and, now, the futile posturing in Georgia, there's absolutely no evidence the U.S. foreign policy elite is inclined to moderate its ambition to re-organize the world along American lines."

Rude Awakening (Councils) The Iraqi government moves against some U.S.-backed Sunni fighters, 'Kurdish control of Kirkuk creates a powder keg in Iraq,' and USA Today reports that "Iraq is fast becoming one of the United States' top customers for military sales," in a region said to be 'experiencing the largest and fastest arms race in the world.'

As Peter Bergen asks of 'Al-Qaeda At 20... Dead or Alive?,' an 'Algeria bombing kills 43,' and CounterPunch publishes an interview with suspended Afghan parliamentarian, Malalai Joya, dubbed the country's "bravest woman," while an Independent reporter visits an Afghan jail where 'the majority of female prisoners are serving 20-year sentences for being forced to have sex.'

Although it's argued that 'Musharraf's exit will not end Pakistan's woe,' Juan Cole sees it as "Pakistan's first chance for a decent political future since 1977," and Tariq Ali, who has a new book on Pakistan and the U.S., writes of Musharraf: "We can only speculate whether he would have lasted nine years had it not been for 9/11 and the 'war on terror.'"

U.S. journalist Nicholas Schmidle, who was kicked out of Pakistan, returns to gauge Pakistani reaction to Musharraf's resignation, and goes 'Searching for Pakistan's future at Benazir Bhutto's house,' following "one of the first fall-outs of the resignation."

A "News Hour" segment includes speculation that Musharraf will end up in New Mexico, and as Sen. McCain's embrace of Musharraf is recalled, McCain's embrace of Rep. John Lewis is rebuffed, while his continued questioning of Sen. Obama's patriotism, as well as his campaign's railing against NBC, provide fodder for a "Special Comment."

Arianna Huffington sees 'a Three-Man Race: Obama vs The Two McCains,' Cindy McCain's half-sister surfaces, saying that she's "angry" about Cindy claiming to be an "only child," the McCains get McMansioned, and Rick Warren invokes the Secret Service to defend his "cone of silence." Plus: Warren now chatting up Georgian President Saakashvili?

'McCain hires a Hollywood agent in hunt for convention glamour,' and as anti-RNC graffiti starts appearing in the Twin Cities, Sen. Norm Coleman, whose lead over Al Franken is shrinking, according to one poll, tries to distance himself from the RNC by claiming that "If the convention wasn't in St. Paul, I wouldn't be at the convention."

As 'Lobbyist parties for lawmakers bend rules,' the Democratic Party's platform calls for 'More diversity in media,' but one newshound explains 'Why I won't be politically high In the Mile High City,' while another describes having survived Netroots Nation without a laptop, iPhone or Blackberry!

With George Clooney's purchase of the film rights for "The Challenge," Jonathan Mahler's book on Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, Variety reports on efforts by conservatives to portray Clooney as a 'secret Obama adviser.'

Although Bill Moyers' interview with Andrew Bacevich garnered little notice from mainstream commentators, it was a different story with bloggers and book buyers, and on the heels of her 'Why-haven't-you impeached-the-president tour,' it's revealed that House Speaker Pelosi is banking on T. Boone Pickens.

As Tom Engelhardt poses 'Six questions about the anthrax case, ' Merck faces another round of criticism,' this time over a 1999 Vioxx study that "was designed as a marketing tool, not a scientific investigation," according to a paper, with accompanying editorial, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Editor & Publisher interviews Rory Kennedy about her documentary on Helen Thomas, and Greg Mitchell points out that a review by Tom Shales "offers no evidence" to support his claim of Thomas's "stridency in criticizing Israel and defending its enemies," and Dan Froomkin asks Thomas what she 'would be asking if she could.'

As one reporter steps 'Outside the Beijing bubble,' the city's protest parks are said to be "strictly for the birds," with the Chinese government going 0 for 77 in approving permits, and a U.S. statue bars the NBA from contract discussions with an Iranian Olympics star.

Michael Phelps is racking up even more sponsors than gold medals, and with the host country's athletes 'Burdened by China's gold standard,' Psychology Today examines the 'Plight of the Little Emperors.'

August 18

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

'The Legacy of a Modern Diplomat' Five years after Sergio Vieira de Mello was killed in a Baghdad bombing, his biographer and former Obama adviser, Samantha Power, chronicles 'a War on Aid Groups.'

As Secretary of State Rice declares that military power is "not the way to deal in the 21st century," the PBS program "Wide Angle" provides what is described as "a first-rate look" at the "Iraqi Exodus," and McClatchy reports on a 'chaotic pre-dawn raid' of Diyala's provincial government compound.

With 'The end of the Bush-Mush affair,' Gareth Porter recounts how "the Bush administration covered up the Musharraf regime's involvement in the activities of the A. Q. Khan nuclear technology export programme and its deals with al Qaeda's Pakistani tribal allies."

As an 'After Musharraf' report speculates that "given a dangerous vacuum, the U.S. could increase its activity in the border region, pursuing militants or bombing their hideouts," the Bush administration appears to soften its stance on granting Musharraf asylum in the U.S.

Harriet Miers adds Pakistan to her lobbying portfolio, as the country's two main parties deadlock on judges, revealing "a severe strain in the alliance."

As it's argued that "McCain's approach and tone on foreign policy has always been more emblematic of a TV pundit rather than a sober president," David Brooks, in 'making excuses' for McCain, is said to have the "ability to faithfully serve the interests of the Republican Party while maintaining a stance of ironic detachment and independence."

McCain takes a five-point lead over Obama in a Reuters/Zogby poll, and a Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll finds that 'Obama's image suffers amid John McCain attacks,' and "that 35% of voters have questions about how patriotic Obama is."

With commentators continuing to falsely claim that McCain is reluctant to talk up his POW biography, former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack tells reporters that 'McCain puts oil first, not country,' and "Countdown" reveals that in McCain's 2002 memoir, he wrote: "I wanted to be president because it had become my ambition to be president."

As 'McCain's "Judeo-Christian values" reference puzzles,' a Harris poll finds that 'Gay voters support McCain less than they did Bush,' and a co-founder of, a dating and sex site for gay men, was booted from the board after contributing $2,300 to the McCain campaign.

With Veepstakes hounds gorging on a morsel from Sen. Biden, conservatives are all atwitter over a widely-circulated commentary by CNN's Jack Cafferty comparing McCain to Bush, including one commentator at Human Events who likened Cafferty to Goebbels.

Murray Waas reports on a 'New Justice Department push to keep Bush aides from testifying,' the Senate Judiciary Committee pressures the White House for torture documents, a survey reveals the difficulty in gaining access to military court dockets and proceedings, and "On the Media" devotes an entire show to investigative reporting.

Dun Deal As Indian outsourcing gets a boost from debtors in the U.S. and the U.K., an ex IMF-economist sets off a firestorm with his "whopper" of a prediction, which was followed by a report that U.S. wholesale prices are rising at the fastest pace since 1981. Plus: 'Meet the 51 corporations wining and dining GOP-convention media.'

After the New York Times ripped "The Wrecking Crew" on Sunday and Monday, a defense was mounted, while Reason was asking: 'What's the Matter With Libertarians?'

It's showtime for Rachel Maddow, and as Kevin Drum leaves one (blog) post for another, the Times reports on how you can 'Broadcast your view for only $6.'

As the issue of 'John Edwards and Fake Morality' is addressed, it's said that Edwards "is not going to Denver," but the Charlotte Observer interviews Edwards' delegates who are going, and McSweeney's rolls out 'Edwards! The Musical.'

August 19

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Likening Iraq to "A House of Cards," a "Western security adviser," writing anonymously in the New York Times, credits the "Awakening Groups" for much of the recent progress, but they're 'in danger of collapse,' reports McClatchy, with the Iraqi government having "brought only a relative handful of the more than 100,000 militia members into the security forces."

About a supposed troop deal between the U.S. and Iraq, CNN reports that "officials from the two countries seemed to be disagreeing on what the agreement will say." And while 'political rifts' are blamed for the 'slow recovery of Iraqi oil,' one Iraqi official rails against the oil companies.

'Exiting Iraq,' Gen David Petraeus is under fire for his public endorsement of "Under Orders," subtitled "A Spiritual Handbook for Military Personnel," which, according to Petraeus, "should be in every rucksack for those times when soldiers need spiritual energy." Plus: PR Watch identifies 'The Pentagon's Most Prolific Pundit.'

The House Judiciary Committee 'wants to interview six about claim of forged Iraq letter,' including George Tenet and Lewis Libby. Last week Rep. Conyers and Ron Suskind were interviewed together on "Democracy Now!," and Suskind faced off with Sean Hannity.

Ray McGovern asks Conyers: "if Pakistan can move forward to impeach a sitting president and force his resignation, why can't you?" And the Wall Street Journal interviews Nawaz Sharif about his threat to pull his party out of the governing coalition if sacked judges aren't reinstated immediately. Plus: 'Goodbye Musharraf, hello Taliban.'

As 'Suicide blasts kill 57 at Pakistan arms factory,' a 'Suspected U.S. missile strike kills eight militants in Northwest Pakistan,' and anywhere from "more than a dozen" to "at least 20" Afghan civilians were reportedly killed in an air strike by "U.S.-led" troops. Earlier: 'Predator pilots suffering war stress.'

Speculation that a string of car bombings in Algeria, which this week claimed more than 50 lives, are being carried out by "militants who had trained with insurgents fighting U.S. occupation in Iraq," follows recent reports about an alliance between Algerian insurgents and Al-Qaeda.

With 'American credibility' said to be on trial in the case of "frequent flyer," Mohammed Jawad, a Human Rights Watch monitor describes her "Eight days in Guantanamo," Joanne Mariner recaps the 'Military commissions, so far,' and artist Steve Powers asks: "What's more obscene, saying that waterboarding is not torture or creating a waterboard thrill ride?"

'Experts predict slew of torture suits,' reports the Washington Independent, "as the hundreds of prisoners abused and then released from U.S. detention centers around the world begin seeking redress from Washington," and, 'Iraq wants to put torturers on trial.'

With the 'West Baffled by 2 Heads for Russian Government,' the U.S. is warned that "rushing to judgment and pronouncing a return of the Cold War risks becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy," and in an interview, the head of the Georgian Labor Party says that "Saakashvili had real delusions of grandeur, and saw himself as the Napoleon of Asia."

A 'House committee report criticizes Bush's signing statements,' Medicare's top officials are said to have fraudulently boasted of reducing fraud, Harper's provides an example of how Rep. Jack Murtha "basically runs a racket," and it's argued that T. Boone Pickens' "Clean Energy Plan" is a Ponzi scheme.

The Times-Picayune reports that "the president generally steered clear of the tough challenges that still plague residents," and in a "NewsHour" interview, the paper's editor said of Katrina: "You'd think three years after an event like this that there would be more normalcy, but there isn't." Plus: 'Outraged citizens organize to protest against the Mayor's "Leadership" Award.'

Nouriel Roubini updates his argument for why "this will turn out to be the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression and the worst U.S. recession in decades," including his predictions of "the beginning of the decline of the American Empire," and "a crisis of the Suburban American way of life." Earlier: 'Urban decline moves to the suburbs.'

As 'Voters in poll want priority to be economy,' the Daily Howler accuses Maureen Dowd of being "visibly disturbed," and sugests that "the Obama campaign will have a hard time driving themes against McCain's character," and Mother Jones is asked why it's asking: "Is Barack Obama exaggerating when he compares his campaign to the great progressive moments in U.S. history?"

With 'McCain unsure how many houses he owns,' a half-brother emerges to give the race symmetry, and one reporter laments 'The dream ticket, that wasn't,' while another is reduced to staking out Sen. Evan Bayh's house and trying make news out of a gym bag recovery.

August 20

Friday, August 22, 2008

As the "feverish speculation" ends with the news that Sen. Joe Biden is Barack Obama's running mate, Open Secrets looks at 'The money behind Biden.'

Now that negotiators have emerged with some "aspirational timetables" for a U.S. pullout from Iraq, it's noted that the June 2009 date set for withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraqi cities appears to coincide with a "key date for transitioning the remaining Sons of Iraq contracts to the Iraqi government." And Froomkin, 'A timetable by any other name.'

At the landmark trial of a marine for the deaths of detainees in Fallujah, jurors are told of how "toy babies increased the complexity" of "mock-village training" soldiers received at an abandoned apartment complex in California.

The continuing wave of attacks on Nato troops in Afghanistan, one analyst contends, "reflects experience gained from insurgent battlefields such as Iraq," while Time suggests that Afghanistan has developed 'renewed jihadi allure,' and "Democracy Now!" weighs the civilian cost of a continued troop presence.

As Condoleezza Rice explains how Polish missile defense is really about "long-range missile threats from countries like Iran or from North Korea," not Russia, Real News' Pepe Escobar ties it all together in terms of intensified efforts to gain 'full spectrum dominance,' which would likely also entail 'increased danger of nuclear confrontation.'

Although a New York Times analysis plays up Russia's difficulties with media strategy during the Georgia crisis, an op-ed in the Financial Times notes that "most of the world is bemused by western moralizing on Georgia."

Giving the confrontation between Georgia and Russia a more philosophical spin, "nouveau philosophe" and self-made journalist Bernard-Henri Levy observes and interprets, but what he claims to have seen appears to be at odds with the accounts of those who were standing right alongside him.

A report on a proposed loosening of FBI surveillance restrictions -- on top of an earlier proposed expansion of police spying powers -- is seen as taking the country further down "a rabbit hole" and provokes a sharp critique of the new 'rush to spy' from the New York Times.

Colin Meloy of the Decemberists offers an acoustic preview of an "amorous tribute" to Valerie Plame that will be included in the group's upcoming singles series and is scheduled for performance on "Late Night With Conan O'Brien" on the eve of the election.

While security turns the party conventions into '$100 million fortresses,' a police bulletin leaked to the ACLU lists suspicious protester supplies, including maps and bicycles, that police should watch out for and report, and anti-nuclear billboards go up and then down at convention city airports.

Although the value of the McCains' homes is set at nearly $14 million, keeping track of the number of properties (estimates keep growing), with all the subdividing and merging, appears to have become somewhat of a metaphysical problem.

McCain's forgotten mansions problem prompts McClatchy to revisit GOP attacks on John Kerry, and puts a crimp in his campaign's efforts to tag Obama as elitist, as McCain tries to keep the focus on his "primary residence," and gets some sympathy in the media.

In 'Made Man,' Noam Scheiber highlights the role Cindy Hensley played in inventing John McCain, as the family's butler budget is reviewed, and their enhanced baby adoption tale comes unraveled. Plus: 'The right and men who live off their second wives' inherited wealth.'

Behind the question about what it means to be rich, Paul Krugman notes real class differences between the candidates on tax policy, as an IPS analysis examines the potential downsides of ' McCain's plan to privatize veterans' health care,' and OMB Watch compares the candidates on 'outsourcing government.'

John Dean contends that the lack of consequences for the 'smears and slurs promulgated by the author of "Obama Nation" illustrates how modern American defamation law has gone astray, while Glenn Greenwald notes how reaction to Rachel Maddow's new gig has exposed double standards about serious journalism.

A new Pew poll finds that 'more Americans question religion's role in politics,' an Olympic coach's proselytizing raises ethical questions, and Mother Jones profiles the Fellowship of Christian Magicians, whose "Scripture-quoting puppets and flaming Bibles win souls for the Lord."

The Bush administration rushes forward with a controversial abortion rule which would empower federal health officials to pull funding from health care providers if they do not accommodate anti-abortion employees. The ACLU warns that this "could seriously undermine women's ability to access reproductive health services, including birth control."

As satellite images track the breakup of Greenland's ice, federal wildlife monitors note new signs that diminished sea ice is endangering polar bears, which the Bush administration agreed to list as an threatened species earlier this month.

Aug. 21

Monday, August 25, 2008

Despite the announcement of Iraq withdrawal dates, there still seems to be 'more disagreement than agreement,' and Iraqi cleric Muqtada Sadr has expressed reservations that are amplified in a widely downloaded militia comeback song.

In "the Iraq of the future," Patrick Cockburn envisions an "increasingly authoritarian" state coming down hard on the Sunni minority, whose Awakening councils are already a target for 'politics as war by other means.' while Chalmers Johnson revisits 'the past destroyed: five years later.'

After a coalition airstrike on Friday kills nearly 100 civilians, two Afghan army officers are fired and the U.S. says it will investigate, as Left I on the News looks at the evasive language on display in the New York Times' version of the story.

Contemplating the angry reaction on the streets to the bombing, Chris Hedges argues that "Sending more soldiers and Marines to fight the Taliban is only dumping gasoline on the bonfire."

The Guardian reports that in Afghanistan "the Taliban are winning support by building a parallel administration, which is more effective, more popular and more brutal than the government's," while the London Times highlights 19th and 20th century antecedents to way they are disrupting supply lines and moving in towards the capital.

Jim Lobe reviews ' A really bad couple of weeks for Pax Americana' during which "unruly areas between the Caucasus and the Khyber Pass ... appear to have gone up in flames," as Israel looks at the downside of its contractors' attempts to cash in on prospects for a new cold war.

Breaking Israel's naval blockade of Gaza for the first time, peace boats filled with international activists receive a jubilant welcome from thousands of Palestinians. Al Jazeera's "Inside Story" considers the significance of the landing and the plight of Gaza.

With Judiciary Chair John Conyers raising questions about the CIA's role in the creation of a forged letter linking Saddam Hussein to al Qaeda, the agency officially takes offense in the opening salvo of what Laura Rozen describes as 'Operation Squelch Congressional Investigation.'

While pundits and writers -- with some notable exceptions -- start hitting McCain for his fixation on 'a noun, a verb, and POW,' his campaign nonetheless insists that it is a theme that has been "underused."

The director of a new documentary on the 'CIA's most secret place on Earth,' which tells the history of the former CIA base at Long Chen in Laos, makes the case that "Laos was the progenitor of the way America fights wars in the 21st century."

Joe Biden enters the fray, and goes on the offensive with the prospect of perhaps helping Obama 'plug key gaps in the electorate,' but Glenn Greenwald suspects that his real editorial appeal is as a signal that "the prevailing orthodoxies of our political system won't be meaningfully challenged."

As it's argued that Biden's record on Iraq could be a 'double-edged sword for the ticket,' "Democracy Now!" hosts a debate over whether his selection constitutes a betrayal of the anti-war movement, and Reidar Visser notes that "every trace of his 'plan for Iraq' now appears to have been erased from his website."

AP Washington Bureau Chief Ron Fournier starts a netroots firestorm with a piece suggesting that Obama's VP choice highlights the candidate's lack of "self-confidence," as Fox News gets mystified by the hostile greeting it gets from convention protesters, who were also treated to some "balancing" by NPR.

The Los Angeles Times shines some light on potential conflict of interest issues raised by corporate sponsors, who will be navigating around the "toothpick rule" and similar arcane ethics rules as they throw some 400 parties for convention goers. Plus: First edition swag.

Charlie Savage reports that "Immigrants seeking asylum in the United States have been disproportionately rejected by judges whom the Bush administration chose using a conservative political litmus test," as a voluntary deportation program is abandoned for want of incentives to participate.

With 'U.S. and global economies slipping in unison,' Robert Bryce interviews Charles Morris about 'the madness of bankers' who helped set the stage for the current crisis, and the 'Ninth Circuit rules subprime borrower due no damages for lender disclosure failures.'

A New York Times article focuses on one teacher's struggle to teach evolution to evangelicals using or perhaps abusing Mickey Mouse to bridge the culture gap.

Aug. 22-24

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

As Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki 'moves the goalposts,' now 'Afghans want a deal on foreign troops,' following reports that up to 90 civilians, including 60 children, were killed in what the Pentagon contends was a "legitimate" air strike. And, U.S. Air Force officials cite an "insatiable" demand for drones in Afghanistan.

Gen. David Petraeus "concedes" to Newsweek that the Sunni Awakening could "possibly" have succeeded without the surge, and Arab states are told to "Beware of cooperating with the Americans, or you will share the Awakening Councils' fate."

As McClatchy tells the story of a 'Dazed Iraqi teen' who could have been "this year's 31st suicide bomber in Iraq," it's suggested that a U.S.-financed airport in Kurdistan might also serve as a launching pad for attacks on Iran, and, 'After 5 years of war, Iraqis desperate for water.'

A 'Top US diplomat escapes gun attack in Pakistan,' following the collapse of the ruling coalition, and Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., is reportedly "facing angry questions from other senior Bush administration officials over what they describe as unauthorized contacts with Asif Ali Zardari," who is running against a former chief justice for the presidency.

With Russia now issuing warnings to Moldova, CJR contends that 'U.S. bloggers failed the Georgia war,' which was 'Rooted in U.S. self-deceit on NATO,' according to Gareth Porter, who cites an observation that "Saakashvili's buddies in the White House and the Office of the Vice President kept egging him on."

Media Matters illustrates 'The thematic structure of the right-wing smear campaign against Barack Obama,' with its narrative that the subject is "not one of us," and the evangelical author of a sympathetic biography of Obama, tells the Nashville Scene: "I got death threats, oh yeah."

With an alleged 'Plot to kill Obama called not credible,' his campaign answers the 3rd party ad attempting to link him to William Ayers, and asks the Justice Department to investigate the ad, about which, Billmon is "curious to see if a slur so hopelessly retro still has some juice left in it."

McCain again invokes the "Hanoi Hilton," before a fundraiser at the Beverly Hilton, while AFP sees an 'Obama dilemma as celebrities descend on Denver.'

As it's predicted that McCain "will not get the kid-glove treatment this week that the Democrats gave President Bush four years ago in Boston," a convention speech about the candidates' differences on reproductive rights, is said to be no match for coverage of the "vague meta-talk about 'what Obama needs to do' to win over Hillary Clinton's supporters".

Chuck Todd said on MSNBC that the Obama vs. Clinton rift is being overplayed, and a veteran of political conventions is surprised at the degree to which 'Dems cater to talk show hosts.'

First it was AT&T extending the back of its hand, now the Party Time crowd discovers that there's 'No room for us at "widely attended" Qwest party,' and as corporate sponsors continue to 'mix business with politics,' OpenSecrets wonders, 'So, who's up in those skyboxes?'

As 'Denver's ironic treatment of homelessness' is noted, a 'Water torture act creates a stir at protest,' and Amnesty International lures convention-goers with a life-size re-creation of a Guantanamo cell, all of which escaped Dana Milbank's recycling of bad cliches.

Before a pepper spraying and charges that protesters were being treated like "political prisoners," one report described Denver protests as 'a pale shadow of '68,' while another said to 'Forget '68. This wasn't even 2004."

On the occasion of "Miami and the Siege of Chicago" being reissued, it's said of 1968, that it was "a goodish year for the literary man as frontline magazine reporter."

House Speaker Pelosi and her husband reportedly "got in on the ground floor" as investors in T. Boone Pickens' Clean Energy Fuels Corp., and various reports detail the degree to which one industry is banking on Sen. Biden.

As 'Hotel guests throw in the towel on the environment,' the 'U.S. considers protecting vast swaths of Pacific,' a move that was tipped by NPR months ago, and environmentalists blame the design of a border security fence in Arizona for causing flooding.

Orion previews the forthcoming book "Exodus/Exodo," by Charles Bowden and photographer Julian Cardona, which grew out of an article in Mother Jones.

August 25

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Despite "convincing evidence" from a U.N. human rights team that 90 civilians, including 60 children, were killed in air strikes on a village in western Afghanistan last Thursday, the U.S. military is standing its ground, while 'Bush is pouring gas on Afghanistan's bonfire.'

The U.S. is building a new "detention center" to replace the "Bagram Theater Internment Facility" in Afghanistan, where opium cultivation was down 19% in 2008 from the previous year's record harvest, according to a U.N. report, which also found that more opium was being turned into heroin for domestic consumption.

'Iraq says U.S. sought troop presence to 2015,' and three U.S. Army officers killed four Iraqi prisoners with pistol shots to the head, according to documents obtained by the New York Times, which also carries a review of Ron Suskind's "The Way of the World," by Mark Danner, who calls it "a complex, ambitious, provocative, risky and often maddening book."

As some of Sen. Obama's advisers undercut his tough talk on Russia, William Pfaff weighs what he describes as 'The cost of Saakashvili's folly,' and a Los Angeles Times blog post asks: 'Why was Cheney's guy in Georgia before the war?'

In an interview with Real News, Naomi Klein takes MoveOn and others to task for failing to pressure Obama, who "does not have an anti-war position, not in Afghanistan, not in Iraq," and, discusses what a Bloomberg article describes as Obama's 'Tilt Toward Rubinomics.' And, watch Klein's speech at the media reform conference.

In her speech, Sen. Clinton "delivered a strong, convincing affirmation of Obama and, just as importantly, a thumping of McCain," writes the much-maligned Ron Fournier.

Identifying 'Three Speeches in One,' Robert Stein goes against the grain to argue that "Despite the burblings of Keith Olbermann and other cable pundits about the speech as 'a grand slam,' it looked more like a safety squeeze to score without risk or all-out effort."

Media Matters finds that during four interviews on Monday, "18 of the 20 questions NBC and MSNBC correspondents and anchors asked" dealt with the Clintons or her supporters, and Christopher Hayes argues that "The 'Dems divided' meme has been cooked up by the RNC and McCain campaign and fed to the press," with Fox News gorging.

As journalists Twitter away, it's estimated that about a third of the "public" events at the DNC are closed to the media, Ted Koppel roams around inside and outside of the hall asking people what goes on at a convention, and an AP report examines 'The cult of the regular guy in America.'

Rep. Dennis Kucinich tries to "Wake Up America," a Wednesday panel at the DNC featuring T. Boone Pickens is deemed to be "Crunchtime ... for two leaders on the left," and conservatives try to push back against House Speaker Pelosi asking pro-drilling protesters, "Can we drill your brains?"

A Wall Street Journal column looks at how the Democratic 'Party's left pushes for a seat at the table,' but the platform has no plank addressing the country's top-heavy distribution of income and wealth, and as Jeremy Scahill tries to pin down Democratic lawmakers in Denver, Party Time finally gets some face time.

CNN flashes an "average tax change" graphic that only shows annual incomes above $161,000, during an interview with Charles Barkley, who's considering a run for governor in Alabama, where the state's most populous county is facing what would be the "largest municipal bond default in U.S. history."

As 'St. Paul homeless say city wants to hide them during RNC,' a call goes out for GOP yard signs to "House the lower classes," and Las Vegas Weekly profiles a man who courts controversy by housing the homeless in foreclosed homes.

Harry Shearer points out that New Orleans was missing from Sen. Clinton's speech, and as it's argued that this is 'The Age of Katrina - Not Obama,' a FEMA trailer dubbed the "KatrinaRitaVille Express" rolls into Denver, and the New York Times reports that three years on, 'the backup is a fixture' in New Orleans.

A claim to having displayed the "largest ever protest sign," is made by a group describing itself as "The personhood wing of the pro-life movement," and an arm of the Southern Baptist Convention announces an electoral prayer vigil seeking to protect public officials "from the attacks of Satan."

August 26

Thursday, August 28, 2008

"But it turned out to be not about him at all," writes the Washington Post's David Maraniss, "with Clinton delivering a speech that framed the case for Sen. Barack Obama and against the Republicans in a way that no one at this convention had done before."

'Joe Biden Is Thugged Out' "He does this righteous anger on behalf of working America really well," concludes Spencer Ackerman, liveblogging Biden's speech, "And - thank God - they're playing Bruce Springsteen's 'The Rising' on the way out." Plus: 'Smash-Mouth and The Rising.'

As Sen. John Kerry takes the flip-flop fight to McCain during his speech, an article on how 'Obama tightens grip on podium speeches,' notes that one line about Republicans was struck from the speech given by Rep. Dennis Kucinich: "They're asking for another four years - in a just world, they'd get 10 to 20."

What was described as "a great night for Democratic television," is also said to have disappointed a conflict-hungry media, and while PBS is lauded for its convention coverage, it failed to post an interview with Walter Mondale on the historical significance of the Democratic Party nominating an African-American candidate for president.

NPR's David Folkenflik talks convention punditry with Seymour Hersh, Jane Mayer and Ron Suskind, and "Fresh Air" interviews the author of a New England Journal of Medicine article, summarized here, comparing the health care plans of McCain and Obama, one of whom is getting much more drug money than the other.

The McCain campaign 'gleefully mocks' Obama's speech set, but it's pointed out that "George W. Bush accepted his own nomination in 2004 on a set with a similar neoclassical theme," and with McCain reportedly set to announce his VP choice on Friday, casting doubt on Fox News' "sources," it's reported that 'Rove tried to kill Lieberman VP pick.'

CBS Outdoor has pulled a billboard featuring the giant face of a U.S. soldier, which was scheduled to be among the many billboards, including two from Ron Paul supporters, greeting Republican convention-goers to the Twin Cities.

With Iraq soliciting designs for a giant Ferris wheel in Baghdad, an Iraqi who writes that "I cannot describe the pain of my heart when I read the news," also suggests that "the government first supply us electricity for two continuous hours."

One of the three U.S. Army officers who allegedly gunned down four Iraqis, was a central figure in the plagiarism controversy involving the New Republic, and a ceremony marking the turnover of Anbar province from U.S. to Iraqi control, happens to coincide with the first day of the now Gustav-threatened GOP convention.

With a "Tiny" new ad from the McCain campaign, that is said to cross "a new line into dishonesty," comes the suggestion that "it's time to take the gloves off and paint McCain as the reckless and dangerous overeager warrior that he is."

Fox News let stand Donald Trump's claim that Obama wants "everybody ... to pay double and triple the taxes," and Rep. Michele Bachmann, who insists that Barack Obama "isn't well-schooled," said on CNN that gas prices would drop to $2 a gallon if McCain is elected, but could double under Obama: "Will we have $2 a gallon gasoline, or will we have $6 or $8?"

As Democrats take T. Boone private, after allowing him to evade questioning, a coal industry front group is said to be handing out pieces of green coal in Denver, and a speech by Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer, prompts the question: Is it possible to "own American wind and sunshine"?

The president of MSNBC 'defends convention team,' following two on-air arguments involving Joe Scarborough, and a name-calling back and forth with Clintonite Howard Wolfson, as video clips show the contrasting coverage of Michelle Obama's speech on MSNBC and Fox News.

The network of Murrow and Cronkite follows the political coverage lead of Fox, and as the "political narrative" for each day of the DNC is said to illustrate 'The idiocy of political journalism,' one of the 15,000 reporters in Denver goes 'Partying with the political-industrial complex.'

In profiling the career of Elvis Costello, and reviewing his twenty-eighth album, David Yaffe recounts a recent performance of "Radio, Radio," in which Costello still "sounded pissed off, as if he were a deskbound drone with a wanker for a boss." In 1977, Costello ignored a warning from "Saturday Night Live" that he not play the song because it was "anti-media."

August 27

Friday, August 29, 2008

Let us do the work on Labor Day -- special update, regular time.

As 'history echoes all around,' Obama delivers "bare knuckled eloquence" and 'economic populism' in a speech peppered with direct criticisms of his opponent and the Republican party.

Prefaced by an American biopic and concluding on a country note, the address is celebrated in rave reviews left, right and center, but gets trashed by "liberals" -- although not by Bill Kristol -- on Fox News, even though it proved 'way too liberal' for the Wall Street Journal.

Responding to charges that Obama has a messiah complex, Jonathan Chait makes one point that is seen as being "a little too valid," as the candidate's campaign confronts a radio station over "terrorist smears," and the 'strange bedfellows' behind an 'anti-Obama turban ad' are investigated.

Keith Olbermann advises a career move for AP reporter who jumps the gun with criticisms of the Obama speech for lacking specifics, even as one of his colleagues at AP was publishing a (mostly critical) review of seven specific policy proposals in the speech.

Even before Obama takes the stage, the convention generates one 'great big bounce' in the polls and then another, all without touching on "the sheer radicalism and extremism of the last eight years" (Greenwald) or offering any real challenge to "the most pernicious lie ... that the rule of law is a luxury, not a necessity" (Lithwick).

Attempting to cover the Democratic convention, Al Jazeera gets a 'less than Golden' reception in its venture into an Old West biker bar, but what coverage it had of the town was relatively positive.

After politely congratulating his opponent, McCain reaches for the headlines with the announcement that he has chosen dark-horse first term Alaska governor, and social conservative Sarah Palin as his vice-presidential nominee, amid worries on the right that it might look like a "desperation move."

Sen. McCain plans even more concentrated "milking" of his POW time in Minneapolis, as another campaign advisor is apparently "thrown under the bus" for reprising a position that might suggest "indifference to the struggles of ordinary Americans."

With already deadly Gustav bearing down on the Gulf Coast, perhaps toward a not yet rebuilt New Orleans, and mixing reminders of one disaster with preparations for another, the GOP ponders delaying next week's national convention to avoid a potential "public relations nightmare."

Even as the GOP sets a ban on embryonic stem-cell research in concrete, pitting ''theocrat GOP vs. free-market stem cells,' scientists stir up debate again with an advance in reprograming cell function, while HSS lays out policy with a 'contraceptive fudge.'

Mexico's Supreme Court upholds a law "legalizing abortions during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy," over the objections of one justice who is quoted as saying "When she does not want to keep the product of the pregnancy, she still has to suffer the effects during the whole period."

In an update of her earlier essay on the ongoing "war against women" in Afghanistan, Ann Jones calls recent surging in Afghanistan "too much, too late," as the U.N. condemns an under the radar presidential pardon for men convicted of 'bayonet gang rape.'

"Iraq is a peaceful, stable country now," insists Sen. McCain, as Iraq's prime minister 'picks a date with destiny,' a Chalabi aide is arrested for bombings that killed Americans and Iraqis, and KBR is sued for "human trafficking."

While Andrew Sullivan points to signs that a McCain administration would mean "Not just four more years - but four more years like Bush's first term," on a personal level McCain apparently hasn't been so much in touch with the current commander-in-chief of late.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin accuses the U.S. of "instigating the fighting in Georgia," perhaps for domestic political reasons, as Vice President Cheney comes calling, and the Democratic team adopts a tough posture. Meanwhile, the Georgian president gets caught up in 'ex-post facto justifications' and kettle-pot comparisons.

The Justice Department has asked federal prosecutors to give lenient sentences to "professor" Jack Abramoff, who has been getting along famously with prosecutors and fellow inmates. He is scheduled to 'testify and be sentenced on the day of McCain's acceptance speech.'

Plans for a Milton Friedman Institute spark criticism from faculty at the University of Chicago, who smell "a right wing think tank," and "the proposal which launched it," remarks Thomas Frank, "fairly drips with politics."

With both the Northeast and Northwest Passages now open to navigation, and Arctic ice in "a death spiral," shippers spy profit, Canada and Britain stake claims, and the walrus moves on, imperiling a native Alaskan economy.

August 28

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