Tuesday, January 24, 2006

"Judiciary Committe Votes" Tuesday "on Alito; Filibuster Possible, Says Durbin" (The Feminist Wire)

Tuesday is the vote on Samuel Alito. Note this from the Feminist Wire:

Judiciary Committee Votes Tomorrow on Alito; Filibuster Possible, Says Durbin
Tomorrow, two days after the 33rd anniversary of Roe v Wade, the Senate Judiciary Committee will vote on Samuel Alito, a Supreme Court nominee who in 1985 wrote that the Constitution does not protect a woman's right to an abortion. Women's rights leaders and activists rallied last night at the Supreme Court in support of the landmark Supreme Court ruling.
"Since we last gathered to commemorate Roe v. Wade, two seats have opened up on the Supreme Court, and George W. Bush has used both opportunities to nominate judges whose records show a disdain for privacy rights and individual liberties," said Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization for Women. "The Senate is poised to vote on confirming Samuel Alito, who would replace Sandra Day O'Connor, a justice whose vote has upheld women's rights for nearly 25 years. How quickly the fate of women's reproductive rights could turn in this nation."
Already, at least nine Senators have come out publicly and strongly against Alito's confirmation, including four who voted in favor of confirming John Roberts as chief justice. In an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times, Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL), the Democratic Whip, said that a filibuster was possible.
"A week ago, I would have told you it's not likely to happen," Durbin said. "As of [Wednesday], I just can't rule it out. I was surprised by the intensity of feeling of some of my colleagues. It's a matter of counting. We have 45 Democrats, counting [Vermont independent] Jim Jeffords, on our side. We could sustain a filibuster if 41 Senators ... are willing to stand and fight."
GET THE INSIDE SCOOPwith The Smeal Report and the New Leif blogs at MsMagazine.com
TAKE ACTIONCall your Senators and urge them to oppose Alito
DONATEMake an emergency contribution to the Feminist Majority's Save Roe Campaign. We must be a strong voice in this crucial fight to save Roe and the Supreme Court for women’s rights.
Media Resources: Feminist Majority; NOW statement 1/22/06; Chicago Sun-Times 1/20/06

You're tired? We're tired. But make an effort to do something. We hope Alito's filibustered or outright defeated, but if our side's going down, let's go down fighting.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

A Note to Our Readers

Sunday, Sunday, can't trust that day. Computer problems always seem to get in our way.

What should have been a straight hour of nonstop posting (three hours ago) has instead been nothing but error messages. On the plus side, we didn't lose any entries.

But we really had hoped to be sure that everyone had time to grab some sleep. We thank Betty and Cedric for staying with us especially since they're giving up sleep and will be headed straight to church. Everyone's been busy the past weekend and this weekend attempting to stop the confirmation of Alito to the Supreme Court. Some of us will be speaking to people on that topic later today. Yeah, yeah, yeah, whine us a river.

But we've got an edition up. Ava and C.I. really didn't think they had anything left in them to give. But they managed to finish the race in the last lap. Check out their "TV: Mayberry on Crack aka My Name Is Earl." We think you'll enjoy it.

The other features were a group effort by the following:

The Third Estate Sunday Review's Dona, Jess, Ty, Ava and Jim;
Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude;
Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man;
C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review;
Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills);Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix;
Mike of Mikey Likes It!;
Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz;
and Wally of The Daily Jot

For those who feel they've given so much in the last week, they're near the breaking point, we'd suggest that you start reading with "How do you think a story can change a life?" (Laura Flanders to Robert Redford).

After we did that, we thought about how that's advice we've given but we're not following. So we decided to do an easy feature where we each answered a question that had come up in the e-mails: "Mailbag."

"Osama plays Alanis, Bully Boy pretends to be a man" is the feature that took the most time and had C.I. cursing us all for our lousy book collections. (Hey, we're library users.) Seriously, it was a lot of work and it would have been easier if C.I. had been home and not on the road as made clear when C.I. sighed at one point and asked, "Rebecca, are you awake?" An excerpt from a Robert Parry book would fit in perfectly and C.I. kept waiting for Rebecca to suggest that. When she pulled the book down, she went to the index and started searching. Another sigh. "Try page 326." This happened repeatedly as we'd go through books and find us ourselves reading a chapter or chapters only to have C.I. sigh and ask us to flip to page ___. Since C.I. had no books packed for the road trip we've decided the title of reference librarian has been more than earned.

We'd hoped to have several features on abortion but in the end really only addressed it in
"A populist uprising greets the never-say-win Dems." If hopes were hours, we might all have a decent night's sleep.

That feature fits in nicely with our editorial this edition "Editorial: Senate Dems, if you're done enjoying that golden shower . . ."

We hope everyone grasps what's happening with Alito. We don't mean "filibuster!" (though we pray that will be the case). We mean that once again the Democrats thought they could dimiss the concerns of members of their own party. They have learned in the last week that such is not the case. We need to spend a lot of time between now and the election educating them on that reality.

We thank Maria, Trina and Ruth for allowing us to repost their contributions. We thank Dallas, always, for hunting down links. We thank our readers for their time. Hopefully we provide some enjoyment and you'll find something hear to make you think, make you laugh or enrage you to activism. Ideally all three but we'll go for what we can get.

See you next week.

-- Jim, Dona, Jess, Ty, Ava and C.I.

Editorial: Senate Dems, if you're done enjoying that golden shower . . .

Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts from last week. We think it acurately portrays the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on the nomination of Judge Samuel Alito Jr. to the Supreme Court.

There's Bully Boy prancing around with Alito on a leash. There's Alito hiking up his leg and taking a whizz on the Dems. Notice that none of them attempt to run off. We believe that's Dick Durbin who's at least trying to block the urine from his face.

Watching the hearings and then the Sunday chat & chews that followed and reading through the press on MLK Day, we felt as though the Democrats were attempting to act out a scene from Adam's Family Values. As though they were the young girl at camp, waving her hand in the air and excitedly saying, "I'll play the victim!"

To which the Democratic base, playing Christina Ricci's Wednesday Adams, responded, "All your life."

Democrats seemed shocked that the very people who've screamed "BLUE!" everytime the Bully Boy has sworn the sky was brown wouldn't cut them some slack as they attempted to spin their own defeat.

Get used to it.

Learn to listen to the voters who regularly turn out for the Democratic Party or stop seeking office.

It's really appalling that the Democrats seemed happy to be soaked in urine and play along until they were called on it. Maybe Joe Biden enjoys a golden shower?

The voters don't. While Bully Boy's soaked the rich with cash and tax breaks, the rest of the people have just gotten pissed on. To turn around and see their so-called leaders roll around in it was disgusting.

Right now, at this moment, it appears the so-called leaders may have a tiny bit of a spine. Or maybe they're just attempting to stand straight because they've heard loud and clear that they damn well better?

They better start doing something.

There seems to be a rallying cry of, "We're going to win in November because of the DeLay, Frist and Abramoff scandals!" Yeah, seems like a done deal, doesn't it?

The same way that giving Bully Boy a blank check in 2002 seemed smart to the so-called leaders. "We won't oppose and after the elections we'll be back in power because the opposition party always picks up seats in the off year elections!" Was that the "logic"?

Didn't quite work out that way, now did it?

Here's what will work. Showing some action behind the words. Taking some stands. Not aping the Bully Boy. Not being Bush-lite.

If the Democratic Party can't get it together before the election, there's no reason to believe that they will after. Don't give us promises of "serious hearings" when every promise you've made to be tough thus far has ended up a broken one.

You say you're going to fight for us. Let start seeing some bruises. It's not just that you continue losing to the Republicans, it's that you don't even fight back.

It's past time to put some action behind all the words. Do it or step aside and let some new blood pick up the seats because there's too much at stake for 'fraidy cats and lapdogs to be holding office.

A populist uprising greets the never-say-win Dems

More Senators Announce Opposition to Alito
More Senators have announced their opposition to Samuel Alito for the Supreme Court. Encouragingly, no additional Democrats have announced support for Alito since Ben Nelson (NE).
Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL), the Democratic Whip, announced his opposition to a packed auditorium at Northwestern University School of Law. "In the record, the writings, the words, and the life of Samuel Alito, I searched for evidence of his caring heart -- evidence that for the next two or three decades he would use his position on the Supreme Court to enlarge our freedom, protect our privacy, and respect the delicate balance of power and responsibility our Constitution creates," said Senator Durbin. "At the end of the day, at this historic moment, I cannot say with confidence that Samuel Alito meets that test."
Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), in announcing his opposition, said, "Based on his record, I am gravely concerned that Judge Alito does not believe the Congress has the authority to protect the fundamental rights of all Americans."
Other Senators who have announced publicly their opposition to Alito include Patrick Leahy (D-VT) (the Ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) (the only woman on the Judiciary Committee), Ted Kennedy (D-MA), Ken Salazar (D-CO), and Max Baucus (D-MT). Senators Leahy, Baucus, and Salazar all voted for John Roberts in September.
with The Smeal Report and the New Leif blogs at MsMagazine.com
Call your Senators and urge them to oppose Alito
Make an emergency contribution to the Feminist Majority's Save Roe Campaign. We must be a strong voice in this crucial fight to save Roe and the Supreme Court for women's rights.
Media Resources: Harkin statement 1/19/06; Durbin statement 1/19/06; Feminist Majority

The above is from the Feminist Wire and if it's not one of the most linked to items, you can't say this community didn't do their part. Throughout the country, people stood up and did their part and then some. It was a "done deal" by the time last week's edition was done. That's when various "strong" Senators (on the Democratic side of the aisle) took to the Sunday chat & chews to throw in the towel.

Oh, it's over. Let the Republicans play like their Starship and sing "Nothing's Gonna' Stop Us Now." That was the message in simplest form.

And they must have thought the people were simple as well. That we'd respond with, "Oh well if Dianne Feinstein's so sure that just because she disagrees with Alito fundamentally on every issue doesn't mean he shouldn't serve on the bench, then we're okay with it."

Feinstein's San Francisco office, Friday, was the site of protest demanding that she filibuster Alito. We doubt she still feels so sanguine. (We could be wrong.)

An amazing thing happened this past week. Democrats who have lost their spine said "Nothing to see here, move on." It was the same message too many of them use when asked why they won't speak out against the war. It was the same message that too many of them told us following election 2004. After all the promises that, unlike 2000, they would fight, fight for the victory, for the fight for the voter, they would fight, fight like never before . . .

They knew there were problems with the Ohio vote yet before it could be looked into, the presidential candidate was throwing in the towel and our "brave" Democratic officials were telling us it was for the best.

They're real fond of talking big ahead of elections and then, afterwards, all the big talk fades and words like "realistic" get tossed around. Funny how "realism" never enters the picture while their fundraising.

So they trotted out the same message yet again and this time the public refused to be played for suckers.

Nothing to do, move along? Well if there's nothing to do, why the hell have we been working for your campaigns, giving you donations, showing up to vote for you?

If there's nothing to be done, exactly why do we waste our time with you?

The Democrats hadn't counted on the anger of the people. You can be sure of that. With Republicans scandals in the headlines, they were hoping for an easy lap to victory in this fall's elections. Only now, golly gee, those mean voters weren't playing along.

They seemed surprised early in the week when "people power" started demanding that maybe they actually work for the people. They seemed surprised that working for us meant more than providing soundbytes on the chat & chews.

The people forced this. There's still work to be done to force a filibuster.

But the people took a "done deal" and undid it.

Whether Alito gets confirmed or not, the people rose up.

We think it goes to the summer of protest. Time and again, we stood up to the Bully Boy following Cindy Sheehan's brave example. Along the way, Sheehan's been asking us to stand up to Democrats who continue to support the disaster of the invasion/occupation. Maybe her words are finally sinking in?

For the first time, the Democrats saw large numbers of their own voters demand action. They better get used to that because, regardless of how the Alito vote goes, the easy ride's over. You want to represent us? Start doing it.

The same energy and drive that's been poured into protesting the Bully Boy came back to smack the Democrats in their spineless backs. That's people power.

You can ask and be ignored for only so long. The people got angry, they got motivated and they demanded some action. This was a powerful moment in democracy.

But it's not over yet. We need to keep the pressure on. If you care about civil rights, civil liberties, reproductive rights, human rights, the Constitution, then Alito is not the Supreme Court Justice for you and you need to make yourself heard loud and clear.

As Laura Flanders noted on Saturday's RadioNation with Laura Flanders, "Friend don't let friends fail on the filibuster." Demand it. Demand action. Demand accountability. Don't go hat in hand begging for your representatives to work for you.

That's what they're supposed to do, work for you. But some have been in DC so long, they seem to have forgotten who exactly sent them there. It wasn't corporate lobbyists. It was the people. And they need to start doing the people's business.

Laura Flanders also noted in another segment that women are tired of being shut out and they're tired of candidates who toss a few morsels about abortion rights their way in a campaign and then lose their will to fight. "Issues like choice are raised . . . and then forgotten," she said.

Consider the choice issue where Democratic voters can draw a line that tells the Democratic Party that it's either with us or it's not. It's really quite simple. We've seen the Party back away from the unions, back away from African-American voters, back away from most of what it's supposed to stand for. If it throws in the towel on reproductive rights, it might as well just admit it's joined at the hip to the Republican Party.

Voters want clear differences and clear choices. Let's make the Alito vote a line in the sand where Democratic leaders have to either support the people or own up to the fact that they're happy to take our monies and grab our votes but they really don't like to be associated with us.
Part of the reason for the mess we're in is our own fault.

We've failed to pressure the Democratic Party to return to the base.

It's time they rediscovered their concerns about poverty and health care, time they rediscovered the support for unions, time they realized that African-American voters deserved more than a campaign photo op (usually at a church).

The Democratic Party needs to start serving the Democratic base. It's that simple. To us. If it's hard for them, they need to let us know so we can work on getting new representatives into office, ones who'll fight for us and for what we believe in.

TV: Mayberry on Crack aka My Name Is Earl

My Name Is Earl. NBC, Thursday nights. One of the few audience favorites of a lackluster fall. Along the way, it's been hailed by some as "innovative" and therein lies the problem.

There's nothing "fresh" about My Name Is Earl. The concept is Mayberry on Crack. "Not taped before a studio audience!" scream some. Which make us wonder exactly how far back some "experts" and their knowledge go?

What it reminds us of is the sort of bragging the "geniuses" behind Molly Dodd did (to Rolling Stone as that show was about to start airing). Earl, Jason Lee, is Andy Taylor . . . "trashed." Earl represents America about as well as Molly Dodd represented American women. Which is to say, not very well at all. And the correlation of Earl to America v. Molly Dodd to American women, that's the sort of "critical" thought we can hear from the gadflys who haunt the mythical water coolers. We're a bit tired of lazy critics who constantly play the game of men represent a country and women only represent a subsection of the country (their own gender). But that notion of "representation" is also at the heart of the show.

Earl and company, a bunch of "good old boys," get to coast on warm feelings and the only damn life in the show comes from Jamie Pressly's character of Joy. The show wants to be cute and huggable, but it knows no one will watch a half-hour of whimsy, so it has it both ways by letting the men be cuddly while the main female character is a total bitch.

It's not just that Joy is a bitch and that she's the lead female. By that we mean, it's not just that we've got a stereotype with no alternative lead offered. It's that the show wants to play it as though it's likeable and good natured and many are buying into that.

How do you update The Andy Griffith Show? Apparently turning Andy Taylor into a small town thief instead of a sheriff isn't enough, it's also necessary to turn Thelma into the town nightmare. All the praise for the warm fuzzy ("inspirational" is a favorite word) fails to capture how nasty this show is and how hateful the words that flow out of Pressly's mouth are.

This passes for "charming." Men become a little more petty criminal but keep their hearts of gold while everyone goes to town on Joy and the cheap laughs ensue. Somewhere Aunt Bea's mouth is dropping.

She probably also wonders about Randy Hickey (played Ethan Suplee) and exactly how the hell someone decided that Opie and Barney could be blended into one character? That "blend" works about as well as you'd expect, which is to say not at all.

But the blend does provide the easy chuckle when viewers see Randy and Earl sleeping together. They're brothers! Everything about this show is designed for the maximum comfort of the easily shocked.

Which is why the bland Catalina exists. She's in a few scenes each episode and rarely has anything to do. So why is she part of the cast? To allow someone to go to town on Joy. Yes, My Name Is Earl, like the Bully Boy, hides behind the skirts of women. (For Earl it's Catalina, for the Bully Boy? Katherine Harris, Karen Hughes, Condi Rice . . .)

There's nothing "updated" about the attitude towards women. There's nothing here worth praising. But your water cool critics, who must have gleaned their "critical knowledge" at the water coolers, don't like to comment on that. They like to pretend that this isn't the show where a man can be outraged that another man slept with one of his wives until he finds out which one and then they can share a chuckle and bond over what a tramp she was.

The women don't get to share chuckles. We'll give the show credit for casting Nadine Velazquez as Catalina but we're still waiting for her to be given the chance to strut her stuff. Instead she's stuck playing the walking stereotype (supposedly benign) of the earth mother closer to the land and the mysteries of the world -- a character who only leaves her laconic pose when it's time to lash out at Joy. To do the work that the male character on this show are too scared to do and, in the process, offer up yet another tired catfight.

We'll note that Eddie Steeples plays supporting character Darnell (Joy's husband) and, again, we're glad to see that they've cast someone who brings more diversity to the look of the show. (Steeples is African-American.) But until they find something for Darnell to do, he's not impacting anything but the look.

"Just the good old boys, never meaning no harm?" If true, that wouldn't change the fact that the show is harmful.

We know people working on My Name Is Earl and, after seeing the first episode, before it aired, intended to take a pass on it. The show goes nowhere. Episode after episode. It's Andy Taylor, er Earl, strolling through the neighborhood getting cheap chuckles from the "locals." But then the show started getting praised as "innovative" and "groundbreaking." And then it moved to Thursdays.

Were it not for the deep abiding hatred of women, the show would go nowhere. Pressly has the talent to provide laughter. When one of her sons points out he's five and not four as he looks at the four candles on his birthday cake, Pressly can wring a laugh as she says, "I know how old you are, honey. One, two, three, four, five!" while she puts her lit cigarette into the cake. But after you're done laughing, you're left with a nasty taste in your mouth.

We're going to say that no one involved with the show meant for it to be this offensive. That doesn't change the fact that it is. Or the fact that without Pressly the show's title would be My Name Was Earl. ("I lasted four episodes in the fall of 2005.") Cheap, nasty laughs at the expense of women and people who are working class may delight some but we didn't attend Water Cooler University so we must have missed the whole class on how when you're (male) leads are so flacid and dull it's okay to viciously attack everyone that surrounds them.

Osama plays Alanis, Bully Boy pretends to be a man

So Osama bin Laden, fearful of remaining Osama bin Forgotten by the Bully Boy, allegedly releases a a message to the world.

In case you missed it:

Bin Laden Threatens US, Hints At Truce in New Message (Democracy Now!):
In an audiotaped message broadcast on the Arabic television network Al Jazeera Thursday, Osama Bin Laden warned of new attacks on the United States. Warning Islamic militants were prepared to carry out further attacks, Bin Laden said "[that] reality testifies to the fact that the war against America and its allies is no longer restricted to Iraq, as [Bush] claims, but rather Iraq has become a centre that attracts and renews the energies of those who are qualified (to fight)." Bin Laden added: "mujahedeen have been able to infiltrate all the security measures taken by the unjust allied countries time and time again, and the proof of that is the explosions you have seen in the capitals of the most important European countries in this aggressive alliance. The delay in the perpetrating of similar operations in America is not because of an inability to penetrate your security measures; the operations are being prepared, and you will see them in the midst of your own territory."
[. . .]

The White House responds:

White House Dismisses Idea of Truce With Bin Laden (Democracy Now!):
The US immediately rejected the idea of a possible truce with Bin Laden. White House spokesperson Scott McClellan said: "We do not negotiate with terrorists. We put them out of business. We must not stop until they are defeated."

"We put them out of business." At Tora Bora, Scotty?

Why does it all seem like a lovers' quarrel, between two men, that the rest of the world has to put up with?

Kitty Kelley' The Family (page 626):

The President told Lionel Chetwynd, a conservative filmmaker who wrote DC 9/11: Time of Crisis, that visiting Ground Zero had been visceral for him. "I was lifted up by a wave of vengeance and testosterone and anger. I could feel it."

What does it take to get your ya-yas, Bully Boy? And why does the world have to suffer through your attempts to get "lift off"?

As we face another terrorist threat, we'd be wise to keep our wits about us. That means grasping both what happened before (only the adminstration, according to Condi Rice, couldn't have known) and some perspective.

First let's note some recent history.

From Greg Palast's The Best Democracy Money Can Buy (Pages 98-99):

According to insiders, FBI agents had wanted to check into two members of the bin Laden family, Abdullah and Omar, but were told to stay away by their superiors -- until September 13, 2001. By then, Abdullah and Omar were long gone from the USA.
Why no investigation of the brothers bin Laden? The Bush administration's line is that the Binladdins (a more common spelling of the Arabic name) are good folk. Osama's the Black Sheep, supposedly cut off from his Saudi kin. But the official line notwithstanding, some FBI agents believed the family had some gray sheep worth questioning -- especially these two working with the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY), which the file labels "a suspected terrorist organization." Let's be careful here: WAMY may be completely innocent. The FBI targets lots of innocents, too many in fact, but there were plenty of signs that the WAMY crew deserved the organization's scrutiny. . . .
Despite these tantalizing facts, Abdullah and his operations were A-OK with the FBI chiefs, if not their working agents. Just a dumb SNAFU? Not according to a top-level CIA operative who spoke with us on condition of strictest anonymity. After Bush took office, he said, "there was a major policy shift" at the National Security Agency. Investigators were ordered to "back off" from any inquiries into Saudi Arabian financing of terror networks, especially if they touched on Saudi royals and their retainers. That put the bin Ladens, a family worth a reported $12 billion and a virtual arm of the Saudi royal household, off limits for investigation. Osama was the exception; he remained a wanted man, but agents could not look too closely at how he filled his piggy bank. The key rule of any investigation, "follow the money," was now violated, and investigations -- at least before September 11 -- began to die.

So Bully Boy had a back off policy? And did it cease on September 11th?

From Bob Graham's Intelligence Matters (pages 105-106):

On September 13 as we [Congress] were working out the draft language of the joint resolution authorizing the President to use force against those responsible for September 11, the President was holding a meeting with Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States, Prince Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz, more commonly called Prince Bandar. Bandar had been informed the night before by a high-ranking CIA official that fifteen of the nineteen hijackers were Saudis, and that it looked increasingly as if Osama bin Laden, an exiled Saudi, might have been its mastermind. Presumably, this information created a difficult situation for both Prince Bandar and President Bush. Prince Bandar, a scion of the Saudi Royal family, had to maintain a relationship with America -- a country that purchased hundreds of billions of dollars in Saudi oil and supplied Saudi Arabia with hundreds of billions of dollars of weaponry -- although many of the people his family ruled saw America as a mortal enemy. President Bush owed a debt to a family that had been an ally in the 1991 Gulf War, funneled millions of dollars to his own family through an investment group, and, stunningly, would reportedly propose, more than a year later, to lower the price of oil to "prime the U.S. economy for 2004."
Neither the President nor Prince Bandar has disclosed what was discussed in that meeting. But later that day, something strange began to happen. Although the FAA had ordered all private flights grounded, a number of planes began flying to collect Saudi nationals from various parts of the United States. For example, a ten-passenger Learjet picked up three young Saudi men in Tampa and flew them to Lexington, Kentucky, where a Boeing 747 was waiting for some Saudi horse-racing enthusiasts. (For nearly three years, the White House and other agencies insisted that these flights never took place, confirming their existence only under investigation by the independent 9/11 Commission.)
By September 19, more than 140 Saudis -- including several members of the bin Laden family -- had been flown out of the United States. Certainly, the majority of the travelers were innocent of any crime. However, at least one is thought to have had terrorist ties, and even the innocent members of bin Laden's family could probably have provided some insight into his funding and operations. The FBI interviewed none of them.

What did Bully Boy and Bandar discuss? And what of a "debt"? For the answer to the last question, we turn to Michael Moore's Dude, Where's My Country? (Pages 7-9):

Mr. Bush, in 1977, when your father told you it was time to get a real job, he set you up with your first oil company, something you called "Arbusto" (Spanish for "shrub"). A year later, you received financing from a man named James A. Bath. He was an old buddy of yours from your days (the ones when you weren't AWOL) in the Texas Air National Guard. He had been hired by Salem bin Laden -- Osama's brother -- to invest bin Ladens' money in various Texas ventures. Some $50,000 - or 5 percent of control of Arbusto -- came from Mr. Bath.
Was he acting on behalf of the bin Ladens?
Most Americans might be surprised to learn that you and your father have known the bin Ladens for a long time. What exactly is the extent of this relationship, Mr. Bush? Are you close personal friends, or simply on-again, off-again business associates?
[. . .]
After leaving office, your father became a highly paid consultant for a company known as the Carlyle Group. One of the investors in the Carlyle Group was none other than the bin Laden family. The bin Ladens put a minimum of $2 million into the Carlyle Group.
Until 1994, you headed a company called CaterAir, which was owned by the Carlyle Group. The same year you left the soon-to-be-bankrupt CaterAir, you became governor and quickly oversaw the University of Texas -- a state institution -- make an investment of $10 million in the Carlyle Group. The bin Laden family had also gotten on the Carlyl gravy train in 1004.
The Carlyle Group is one of the nation's largest defense contractors, among their many other lines of work.
[. . .]
After September 11, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal both ran stories pointing out this strange coincidence. Your first response, Mr. Bush, was to ignore it, hoping, I guess, that the story would just go away. Your father and his buddies at Carlyle did not renounce the bin Laden investment. Your army of pundits went into spin control. They said, we can't paint these bin Ladens with the same brush we use for Osama. They have disowned Osama! They have nothing to do with him! They hate and despise what he has done! These are the good bin Ladens.
And then the video footage came out. It showed a number of those "good" bin Ladens -- including Osama's mother, a sister and two brothers -- with Osama at his son's wedding just six and a half months before September 11. It has been reported in The New Yorker that not only has the family not cut ties to Osama, but they have continued to fund him as they have been doing for years.

So there's a complicated "entanglement" (to steal a favorite term of Bill Keller's)? From Paul Krugman's The Great Unraveling (page 103):

Carlyle specializes in buying down-and-out defense contractors, then reselling them when their fortunes miraculously improve after they receive new government business. Among the company's employees is former President George H. W. Bush. Among the group's investors, until late October [2001], was the bin Laden family of Saudi Arabia.

Well that's certainly interesting. Ties between Bully Boy's family and bin Ladens. But Bully Boy was determined to catch bin Laden, right? We went into Afghanistan with the Bully Boy cry of "dead or alive," remember?

Remember the backing off of that cry? From Gore Vidal's Dreaming War (page 43-44):

Also, there is USA Today, November 11, 2001, "The US combat commander in Afghanistan said Thursday that apprehending Osama bin Laden isn't one of the missons of Operation Enduring Freedom."
[. . .]
Although with much fanfare we went forth to wreak our vengeance on the crazed sadistic religious zealot who slaughtered three thousand American citizens, once that "war" was under way, Osama was dropped as irrelevant and so we're back to the Unocal pipeline, no a go-project. In the light of what we know today, it is unlikely that the Junta was ever going to capture Osama alive: he has tales to tell. One of Rumsfeld's best numbers now is: "Where is he? Somewhere? Here? There? Somewhere? Who knows?" And we get his best twinkle.

Wait, as Danny Schechter might ask in his documentary WMD, was it all a dream? Bully Boy did make that cry, right? From Robert Parry's Secrecy & Privilege (page 326):

For his part, Bush started talking tough about "smoking out" al-Qaeda or bringing in Osama bin Laden "dead or alive." He also broadened America's goals, defining the task ahead as not just the defeat of the al-Qaeda killers but the destruction of terrorism and the eradication of "evil." Bush began to see the "war on terror" as part of his religious calling. "I think in [Bush's] frame, this is what God has asked him to do," a close acquaintance told The New York Times. "It offers him enormous clarity."

Well it offered him something. A wave of testoterone which is apparently something to be prized by the prep school boy who spent his teens as a male cheerleader. The facts have never spoken to Bully Boy's "valor." Let's return to Parry's Secrecy & Privilege (page 325-236):

In explaining Bush's delay in returning to Washington until after 4 p.m., political adviser [Karl] Rove said there were still reports about civilian jetliners aloft until then and thus still a threat to Air Force One. But Benjamin Sliney, the top Federal Aviation Administration official responsible for air-traffic control, said the agency informed the White House and the Pentagon at 12:16 p.m. that there were no more hijacked planes in the air and all commerical planes were out of U.S. airspace, the Wall Street Journal reported.
There were additonal discrepancies about what orders Bush actually issued that day. Bush told the town-hall meeting in Orlando that "one of the first acts I did was to put our military on alert." But the Journal reported that the evidence was that Air Force General Richard Myers, the acting head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, made the decision to raise the U.S. defense level to Defcon III, the highest state of military threat since the 1973 Arab-Israeli War.

Ah yes, his little Bunny Fu Fu hop-scotch across the nation that followed his sitting in a Florida classroom and doing NOTHING.

So here we are, five years later this September and what's been accomplished? Bully Boy's blustered and stomped his feet. He's lost interest in Osama bin Laden as he pursued an old partner of his father's. And now Osama sends out his "You Ought to Know" recording. (Tip of the hat to Isaiah's whose The World Today Just Nuts illustrates this feature and who caught the "I'm hear to remind you . . ." nature of the alleged recording.)

We've gone to war on Afghanistan. Supposedly the Taliban but we really didn't run them out of that country. We did go to war on Afghanistan and now we're pretty much done with assisting them, in case you missed that news. We went to war with Iraq for many stated reasons and none of them had any basis in reality. We're still there (as we are in Afghanistan) and "quagmire" may be too weak a word for the situation. We're done pretty much with finanical assistance there as well. We bombed the public utilities and water and electricity are still hit and miss but, hey, that's something for private investors to take care of.

So two wars (still ongoing) and no Osama. (It might be worth remembering that the Taliban asked for our proof of Osama's involvement in 9/11 before they would turn him over. We rebuffed that and the nation still awaits the proof from the government. The media's offered a variety of accounts but the government's much touted proof appears to have slipped everyone's mind.)

Let's drop back a bit again. From Arianna Huffington's Pigs At The Trough (pages 119-120):

It is now painfully clear that our leaders -- both in the current administration and its predecessor -- knew that a terrorist attack on American soil would almost surely happen at some point. So, why didn't they do more to protest us? Could it be because the public interest didn't have a gaggle of lobbyists patrolling Congress and the White House offering cash incentives to protect American people from fanatics and madmen?
If counterterrorism had been an industry doling out large contributions, our political leaders would surely have leapt into action -- pushing through legislation to ensure our airports were secure and our intelligence operations were actually collecting intelligence. Instead, the attacks exposed not only how vulnerable our airports are but how vulnerable our system of government is when policy priorities are determined not in response to the public interest but in response to the best-funded interest groups.

Why didn't they do more to protect us? Good question. And here's the kicker for the Bully Boy who seems to benefit from each of Osama bin Laden's broadcasts, he and his party are in charge.
They control the Congress, they control the White House. (And they stack and pack the judiciary.) If there's another attack on America, he'd be better off not kidding himself that America will want to play rally 'round the loser one more time. He's had almost five years and what has he done?

Nothing really. Well, he did stage his third war, war on Americans. But other than that, he's vacationed a lot, he's handed out a lot of tax breaks to the rich, he's obsessed over the state of gay marriage in a manner that honestly should beg questions as to why he's so concerned, he's made the world less safe, he's vacationed, he's hidden out from Cindy Sheehan (apparently a more frightening figure to him than Osama), he's mangled the English language, he's vactioned . . .

It's going to be a bit more difficult to scream "Bill Clinton!" this time though we're sure he and his court will do just that. But the reality is that he's probably in a worse spot than he was before 9/11. Back then, people just suspected that he was inept. 9/11 came along and two days after he had a photo op, people were scared, and there was a rallying behind him. Bully Boy would do well to remember the reaction to his administration in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. People held him accountable, rightly. And if there's another attack on American soil, people will hold him even more accountable. Photo-ops following a Bunny Fu Fu will probably fall flat.

The 9/11 Commission came up with a list of recommendations. He ignored them. Now here's Osama back to "remind him" in a very Alanis style manner.

We have no idea what sick, symbiotic relationship the two of them share but bin Laden does seem to pop up whenever Bully Boy needs propping. As valid questions are being asked about his illegal activites in spying on Americans without warrants, here's Osama with another recording. It's all very Bully Boy & bin Laden. Someone should stage an adaptation of Romeo & Juliet with the two of them in the leads.

Riding the wave that seemed to assure him that, despite the fact that Big Babs once kicked off the house shoes to join her little cheerleader on the field, he had testes, Bully Boy's waved his hammer and struck at will. The world's a lot less safe for it. Maybe if we'd had a leader with a lot less to prove, we could have followed a wiser course?

Such as the one suggested in Amy Goodman and David Goodman's The Exception to the Rulers (page 39-40):

A few days after the Twin Towers fell, President Bush came to Ground Zero. I watched as a chilling cheer went up around him: "U-S-A! U-S-A!" chanted the crowd in unison. Among those who set up this Ground Zero photo op -- a defining moment in Bush's presidency -- was Jim Wilkinson, who went on to become the media point man in Qatar spinning the Jessica Lynch story and was then appointed communications czar of the 2004 Republican National Convention.
I don't think rallying around the flag is the answer to what happened on Septemeber 11. The answer is a global community united against terror, determined to rout it out wherever it originates -- including the White House and the Pentagon.
The answer is institutions such as the International Criminal Court (ICC), where people who commit crimes against humanity can be tried. But who is the primary force opposing this court? The United States. A reluctant President Clinton waited until the last moment to sign the treaty to recognize the authority of the ICC. Then Bush came in and unsigned the treaty. In mid-2003, Bush strong-armed the UN Security Council to pass a resolution that would exempt U.S. officials and soldiers from being held accountable in the same way as others around the world. And the Bush adminstration has pressured countries, at the risk of losing U.S. aid, to sign bilateral agreements that would prohibit them from bringing charges against the U.S. citizens before an international court.
Of course I think that Osama bin Laden and his accomplices should be tried for what happened on September 11. But when you look at where bodies have stacked up around the world -- from Chile and Argentina to Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, and East Timor -- I think Henry Kissinger should also be tried for crimes against humanity.
If we have any hope of routing out terror and breaking the cycle of blowback, we must have a universal standard of justice.

But we didn't choose international order, we chose Bully Boy chaos. The world's a lot less safer. If the recording is real and accurate, we don't appear any safer than we were prior to September 2001. But remember Bully Boy was occupying the Oval Office then too.

"How do you think a story can change a life?" (Laura Flanders to Robert Redford)

"How do you think a story can change a life?" that's what Laura Flanders asked Robert Redford on RadioNation with Laura Flanders Saturday. It led to a wonderful discussion based in facts and philosophy.

We think that's a question we should all ask ourselves.

Don't worry, this isn't a homework assignment.

But in dealing with each and every attempt of the Bully Boy's to destroy the American way of life, there can be a tendancy to lose focus of the long range picture.

That's why one of us loathes a daily paper. (Which one? Guess. Okay, who did you guess? Surprise, it's C.I.) As reporters try to hammer out the most recent development in whatever newly emerging fact or factoid, a larger perspective falls by the wayside.

There comes a time when you need to shut it all off and center.

We hope everyone's actively engaged in the fight to stop the confirmation of Alito to the Court; however, if you're worn out and have nothing to left to give, do the smart thing and take some time for yourself.

Elaine, due to being a "shrink" (she hates that term), gets many of the mental health queries from the community. This week, she heard from a number of members who said, basically, "I'm in this fight against Alito but I'm really burnt out."

Her advice, stay active on this and then take a breather. That might be a few hours, a day or two, or even a week. People need to recharge. Or, as C.I. says, refill the well.

We love Elaine and we'd love to pretend like we were following her advice but there's not a person taking part in this edition that is. There's just too much at stake right now. And that will probably be the case for the forseeable future, barring impeachment of the Bully Boy.

But what we plan to do in the immediate future is the long mentioned best-of edition. That would be where we each pick a favorite feature from the past, write a brief introduction on why we enjoyed it and make that the edition.

Everytime that idea is floated or mentioned, we get e-mails that say, basically, "Great idea, I can't wait to see what you pick, but Ava & C.I. will still do a new TV review, right?"

Wrong. That sort of defeats the purpose to say to Ava and C.I., "Hey, we're going to kick back and get some down time, but you two go to work on a new review or commentary."

For readers who've forgotten, Ava and C.I. have done a TV review every week since this site started. In the beginning, we all worked on them and that lasted about two or three weeks before we realized that Ava and C.I. were better left alone on those. There was one week where they didn't do a TV review but instead took on two print critics. The e-mail reaction was "Great! But where's the TV thing?" Which led to Ava and C.I. doing not one but two TV reviews the following week (on three shows).

Have you noticed a reliance on Thursday and Friday shows? Want to know why? They dread watching TV each week as they think about the expectations readers have of their reviews. Usually around Wednesday, they'll ask each other what they think they can bear watching? It's been over a year and, week in and week out, they've done the reviews. The rest of us can coast or blow something that we all work on together and know it's no big deal, there's always next weekend. But the TV reviews are the most cited feature in the e-mails. They get the most attention, they get the most feedback. They're the calling card for this site.

So when we do get around to doing the best of edition, there will not be a new TV review. We also will ignore the suggestion by Kristen to let Ava and C.I. pick the review. Good suggestion, Kristen, for anyone else. But they loathe their reviews and never read them after they finish writing them. (Ava just said, "Sometimes we don't even read them then. We just toss our thoughts out in what we hope are complete sentences as we try to meet a deadline.") So we'll let someone else pick the review or we'll highlight the one that resulted in the most e-mail.

But Elaine brought up a serious issue and it's burnout. If you're a member who feels you've given everything you have and then some, absolutely, take some time to refocus. You're no good to anyone, including yourself, if you're a walking shell.

Battling the Bully Boy isn't a one day thing or a one week thing. Barring impeachment, we're stuck with him until January 2008. There will be many battles on the horizon. When you need downtime, take it and regroup. It's the smartest and healthiest thing you can do. (None of us claimed to be smart and/or healthy.)

Maybe you just need to let your mind go blank in that time? If so, do so. But if not, think about Laura Flanders' question: "How do you think a story can change a life?"

It's an important one and your answer to it won't only reveal who you are, it will help you figure out where you need to be going.

There are many ways to address issues and problems though we frequently are led to believe that there's only one. But more than the known potential ways are the unknown ones, the ones that haven't been thought up yet. Innovation is to be prized.

So if you need to step away from the table for a moment, and feel guilty about it, remember that you might very well come back to the table with a new way of seeing an issue or a new way of addressing it. You may not. But that's what regrouping and refocusing is all about.

Activism and involvement are important but they go beyond the daily frame. So whether you take time off or not, think about Laura Flanders question and figure out how the stories you tell are important and life changing.


Being wiped out, we decided to go to the mailbag and select some questions that have come up and let members participating respond to them.

Lolis wondered if Ava felt additional pressure as the only Latino working on each addition?

Ava: That's a really good question and one that I often ask myself as well. In the earliest days, I was just hoping to get something, anything, in an edition. It's been noted here and elsewhere that I would toss out an idea or sentence and feel like no one was listening. That went to the group dynamics, where everyone's convinced that their idea is best and willing to fight for it. I'll fight for mine now but until C.I. said, "Hey, is anyone listening to Ava at all?" I really don't think anyone was. So in the earliest days, that didn't even enter my mind during the sessions, I was just desperate to have some sort of impact on a piece. I noticed, when we were doing the news reviews, that I was usually highlighting the countries that aren't the "big news" in the mainstream media. I think that goes to an awareness. That might be a Latin America country or it might be Haiti or some other country that I think the press should be following closely but doesn't. One thing I refused to do early on and continue to refuse to do is to be the go-to-person for all things Spanish. My attitude then and now is that the majority of the people helping are in college and those that aren't were so if someone needs something translated, they're educated, they can do it themselves. It may seem like a small thing, even a petty thing, but if there were going to be any cultural clashes, and I don't know that there would have been, I think that stance early on prevented them. I think it helps with an awareness the same way that, for instance, Kat's love of music or Mike's love of sports add to where a feature goes.

This one is for Cedric and it's from Taylor who wonders if Cedric misses the news review because Taylor thinks Cedric seemed to enjoy them the most.

Cedric: I did enjoy them and I understand that they'll come back at some point in the future when everyone's not so exhausted and pressed for time. Near the end, they were going way over an hour and they weren't being what they were intended, which was a quick way to get a feature down in basically an hour. I'm glad you felt I enjoyed them because I really did. I think my own site became better as a result because I got to play around and have fun. That was with helping Betty and Ty do a skit or doing my own thing where I'd start off repeating a piece of administration spin. The first time I did that, there was this quiet gasp over the phones like, "What the heck?" Nobody knew where I was going with it and I think they thought I'd gone off the reservation for a few seconds before I started debunking the spin. Credit C.I. with keeping cool and keeping the tone light because I really did have my own little set pieces going on at the end and I never bothered to let anyone know ahead of time that I'd start off with the talking point and then debunk it in what I hoped was a humorous way.

Laraine wrote this to Jess and was wondering a few things. Doesn't he think it would be better to be a musician than a reporter? What was the inspiration for the Tom DeLay thing? Laraine's been hearing a lot about Saipan lately and DeLay's connection and she credits the lyrics to a thing we did hear with her being able to follow it.

Jess: Laraine, is it? You sound like my mother with your question about wouldn't it be better to be a musician. I forgot about that Tom DeLay thing and had to be reminded of it. We'll put the words to it below. We actually all worked on it. We were trying to figure out how to end the piece and I was bored and tapping out a rhythm on the desk which was probably irritating everyone. C.I. heard it and came in with a counter-rhythm. (Laughing) I think it was Jim who told us to knock it off. We didn't. Someone, Kat?, said Tom DeLay on rhythm and I added "working for the man" and C.I. jumped in with "making a killing in Saipan" which I loved, and love, because it gave it some weight. As soon as that happened, everyone's interest perked up. As everyone was tossing out lines, some of them really deep, I remember it was Kat, C.I. and me that would nix anything that didn't fit with the rhythm. We really had a melody going for that and if we ever added sound to the site, we should record it.

Here are the lyrics Laraine was speaking of:

You dirty, bitter bore
You're rotten and nasty to the core
You been down on your knees
Had loads of money, but still you wanted more.
That's why you been working for the man,
Making a killing in Saipan.
Tom DeLay, Tom DeLay
What ethics did you break today?
Tom DeLay, Tom DeLay
When they gonna' cart you away?
Tom DeLay, Tom DeLay
Are you looking at a prison stay?
Oh Tom DeLay, Tom DeLay

Tim wonders if Wally watches Larry King constantly due to his and Mike's fondness for yelling "For the hour!"

Wally: I enjoy the concept of Larry King more than I enjoy watching him. But it's just fun to scream, "For the hour!" Try it, you'll see.

Vicky wrote to praise Ty on his solo piece and to also note "K-BoyTries to Get Back Home" which is a short story that Ty originated. She wondered whether he thought his piece was buried?

Ty: Well thank you, Vicky. Um. Let me admit to more than a bit of ego. Instead of thinking that I was being buried, I was so excited that my piece was the first new content item to go up that I was on the phone to my family going, "Get online, read it!" I know a lot of readers did feel that way and, of course, it was the first thing C.I. asked when we got back together that day to do the editorial. It got spotlighted last week and it got a lot of e-mails so people did see it and read it. Unlike the readers and C.I., I was part of the posting session for that and I knew that my piece was done and that the others were still being fleshed out so I didn't see it as any attempt to bury it but I'm flattered that everyone thinks it was so strong that it should have been higher up in the edition. I was nervous about it until it went up and then I was just proud. Thanks to C.I. for listening to me read it over the phone and reading it via e-mails in all its drafts. K-Boy started with a head of steam and once that ran out, I brought the others onboard and they kept it going. I hope we'll do another all fiction, summer edition this year.

Stu writes Dona to say he used to think she was either a bitch or a snob who felt she was too good for the process but now he realizes that she's the steady hand guiding everything. He says that the roundtable she participated in at The Common Ills helped him see that.

Dona: Well actually, Stu, I am a bitch and a snob and still the person guiding everything. In fact, that's why I guide everything. I'm joking. Usually what happens is that there are a number of ideas, all different and at odds, flying around at once and I end up being the person that steps in and tries to put them in some sort of ranking order. I'm also usually the one watching the time and trying to make sure we stick to a reasonable time period. With the roundtable, C.I. ran that and I was able to kick back and just participate. Which was a lot more fun. I sometimes feel like I'm stuck in the role of teacher, substitute teacher, of a rowdy class.

Barry wonders if Rebecca's announcement, which he doesn't doubt the veracity of, last week was planned to emphasize Robert Parry's book?

Rebecca: C.I. accused me of the same thing! Look, the way that happened was that Friday morning, an announcement was supposed to go up at The Common Ills. We kept C.I., my ex-husband and me, on the phone all night. I was wanting to blow the whole thing off but he was enraged and the only thing that would solve it at that moment was for an announcement to go up but he felt that it shouldn't be from me because it would be as though I was engaging the stalker in a conversation. C.I. wrote the thing and called us back before posting. My ex-husband had a bit of sleep and was calmer. He could tell it was a lot for the entry C.I. was doing and that it overwhelmed the other news in the entry. So he told C.I. thanks but don't worry about it. I really hadn't planned to bring it up. I don't know why I did then. But C.I. did point out that I waited until after we'd discussed Robert Parry's book and did wonder if that was a way to get some more attention to the book? (Laughing) My roots in public relations are always held against me. If that did happen, it was on instinct and not planned. But Barry, did you read Parry's book?

Ronald writes to say thank you to Betty for her participation here. He loves her site but feels he can always pick out what Betty's added here in a group effort and that he always enjoys her singled out contributions.

Betty: That's very sweet of Ronald. I feel like my motto should be: "Each and every day, I fail in another way." If I had the time, I'd redo every entry at my site. I'm trying to learn to let go and accept that, Kat's motto, "It is what it is." This week, I did that in terms of posting but not in terms of my own head where I continue to rewrite and harshly critique the latest chapter.
It's more fun and easier to work in a group so I'll say thank you to everyone for involving me in this.

Saul writes to ask about Mike. He said he enjoyed the interview with Trina but wondered what it was like to interview your own mother? He also says good for Mike for ending the interview with praise of Trina, even over her objection.

Mike: That was so weird because I didn't know we were going to interview her and when it started I was still thinking, "What?" It was like when I was interviewing Elaine and didn't know that she'd started her own site and she then just dropped that bombshell on me. Blew my mind both times. Ma won't take praise, which is kind of funny considering she said basically the same thing about C.I. last night, they're both that way. But she deserves praise and I wanted it known that she's smart and special and a great person and a great mother. She's really cool and I hope everyone's checking out her site.

Saul also had a question for Elaine which was how do peace and activism coincide?

Elaine: That's something for someone theoretical. I'll speak to it in terms of my own life. I live in a high rise, not an ashram. By that I mean, don't expect me to be the princess of peace. I'm a pacifist and I believe in peace but I'm not floating on a cloud beaming down at the world. It's a . . . wait. What's the line I'm looking for?

Jim: Probably help me to know "from what?"

C.I.: "You've got to shake your fists at lightening."

Elaine: Thank you. "You've got to shake your fists at lightening/ You've got to roar like forest fire/ You've got to spread your light like blazes/ All across the sky. / They're going to aim the hoses at you/ Show them that you won't expire." Joni Mitchell's "Judgement of the Moon and Stars." I'd love to be able to tell Saul that I'm serenity in motion and never have a cross thought or bad mood but that's not the case. I don't know that it would be a good thing if it were. We are living through an awful period of time and I think a) you don't remain silent and b) when you're upset, you express that. I am for peace and peaceful solutions but I'm very much a part of the world I live in and the two factions are at war constantly.

Gary writes wondering if January is going to pass without Kat doing a CD review and why we don't do more musical features here?

Kat: It does look like that. I'm as involved as everyone here with stopping Alito's confirmation. There's only so much time. It is what it is, you know? As for more musical features, we had hoped to do one tonight but we're all too tired so we'll probably do it next week. It's a Broadway soundtrack and everyone's gone to the trouble of purchasing a copy so I can't imagine we wouldn't pick it up next week. I agree there should be more music, both here and my own reviews, but there's only so much time.

Next to last question is from Cynthia who notes that she enjoys Ava and C.I.'s TV reviews but she read them and then reads an entry at The Common Ills that's "by the book, by the facts" and then reads something that's more essay style and then reads something that's more humorous. She wonders which is the real C.I. and is there more than one person writing at The Common Ills?

C.I.: Unless otherwise credited, the person is me. I may dictate it and sometimes a person will either miss a word or hear another one. I do provide a lot of qualifiers and sometimes, when someone's typing it up while I'm dictating it over the phone, the qualifiers will be minimized or removed. Which is the real me? I have no idea. I'm just trying to make a point, and usually trying to be funny unless it's just "___ said . . . and check out ___." The essay pieces result from having more time at that moment and members having written in requesting a thought piece. If I could, I'd be funny all the time, but, like Elaine said, "I'm very much a part of the world I live in." There are entries I loathe just because there wasn't time and there's never time so that's just something to accept or ignore. Credit the best stuff to members who suggest topics and keep me on my toes, lay the blame and fault at my feet.

Last question is for me, Jim, and it's from Noel who writes that I'm either the biggest ass or the most honest.

Jim: Uh, why can't I be both, Noel? Why do you want to limit me like that? Seriously, I enjoy conflict. If I was making all the decisions, calling all the shots, we'd offer commenting here and I'd be online in the comments giving back to the right-wingers as good as they gave. I enjoy that sort of exchange. The answer is probably both, honestly. If I have a saving grace it's that I can be called on my shit without taking offense to it. I also have a lot of energy and that probably shows up as well which can make me look "energetic" or like a steamroller plowing over everyone and everything in my path. I generally mean well if that helps any.

Hoy se inicia la Segunda Comisión Investigadora de Crímenes Contra la Humanidad cometidos por el gobierno de Bush

Hoy se inicia la Segunda Comisión Investigadora de Crímenes Contra la Humanidad cometidos por el gobierno de Bush

Maria: Hola. De parte de "Democracy Now!" nueve cosas que vale hacer notar este fin de semana. Paz.

Hoy se inicia la Segunda Comisión Investigadora de Crímenes Contra la Humanidad cometidos por el gobierno de Bush
La segunda reunión de la Comisión Internacional de Investigación de Crímenes Contra la Humanidad Cometidos por el Gobierno de Bush comenzará hoy en Nueva York. La comisión investigará una serie de acusaciones de que el gobierno de Bush cometió crímenes de guerra y crímenes contra la humanidad. Se redactó un borrador de las acusaciones en la primera comisión realizada en octubre. Entre quienes deben declarar ante la comisión se encuentran el ex director de Abu Ghraib, Brigadier General Janis Karpinski; el ex embajador británico en Uzbekistán Craig Murray; el conductor y activista Harry Belafonte, y el ex inspector de armas de la ONU Scott Ritter.

Lideres iraquíes y musulmanes estadounidenses piden la liberación de Carroll
Líderes musulmanes iraquíes y estadounidenses adhirieron a los llamados de familiares y colegas de la periodista estadounidense secuestrada Jill Carroll para pedir que sea liberada sana y salva. Carroll, una periodista de 28 años de edad que trabajaba de forma independiente para el periódico "Christian Science Monitor" en Irak, fue secuestrada en Bagdad a principios de este mes. Integrantes del grupo de apoyo musulmán estadounidense Consejo de Relaciones Estadounidenses-Islámicas (CAIR, por sus siglas en inglés), están viajando a Irak para intentar obtener la liberación de Carroll. Mientras tanto, Muthanna Harith al-Dhari, una destacada figura del grupo sunita iraquí Asociación de Eruditos Musulmanes (MSA, por sus siglas en inglés), dijo: "Todos los secuestros y asesinatos son totalmente rechazados... especialmente cuando se trata del secuestro de un periodista. Los periodistas están aquí para informar al mundo sobre la ocupación, por lo tanto, secuestrar a un periodista es esconder la verdad". Al-Dhari agregó: "La periodista, Jill Carroll... es una de las grandes periodistas que están en contra de la ocupación. Es considerada una de las mejores periodistas que se opuso a la ocupación estadounidense de Irak y centró sus artículos en ... contarle al mundo sobre el sufrimiento de los iraquíes".

Periodistas iraquíes liberados describen calvario bajo custodia de Estados Unidos
En otra noticia sobre Irak, los dos periodistas iraquíes que fueron liberados esta semana, luego de estar detenidos sin ser acusados durante más de cuatro meses por las Fuerzas Armadas estadounidenses, describieron su calvario. El periodista de "Reuters" Majed Hameed dijo: "Las fuerzas estadounidenses llevaron a cabo una redada en casa, mi casa, el 8 de agosto (de 2005) y encontraron una cámara con la que yo había filmado enfrentamientos en Ramadi que ocurrieron en la ciudad desde el mediodía hasta la tarde. (Filmé) con mi cámara tomas muy sencillas de las fuerzas estadounidenses atacando la mezquita de Haj Maqbulaa, y una de las casas, con vidrios rotos desparramados por el piso. Realizaron una redada en mi casa y vieron estas cosas, yo respondí que sólo eran enfrentamientos y luego de eso inmediatamente tomaron mis cámaras, los dispositivos de comunicación, la computadora y luego me arrestaron". Hamedd fue liberado esta semana luego de estar bajo custodia de Estados Unidos, junto con el camarógrafo de "Reuters" Ali al-Mashhadani, quien fue arrestado en agosto. Ambos estaban detenidos en las prisiones dirigidas por Estados Unidos en la cárcel de Abu Ghraib y Camp Bucca. Al menos otros tres periodistas iraquíes que trabajan para los medios de comunicación internacionales permanecen bajo custodia de Estados Unidos.

HRW dice que la política exterior de Bush socava derechos humanos
En Estados Unidos, "Human Rights Watch" dio a conocer su informe anual el miércoles. El informe incluye una dura critica contra el gobierno de Bush, al que acusa de socavar el respeto por los derechos humanos en el mundo debido al modo en que está dirigiendo la llamada guerra contra el terrorismo. Este grupo también pidió al Congreso que establezca un panel independiente para investigar las violaciones de los derechos humanos llevadas a cabo por Estados Unidos. El director ejecutivo de "Human Rights Watch", Kenneth Roth, dijo: "Lamento informar que la defensa mundial de los derechos humanos se ha visto seriamente comprometida por la decisión política del gobierno de Bush de violar algunas de las normas básicas de los derechos humanos, por creer erróneamente que es la mejor manera de luchar contra el terrorismo. Se sabe desde hace tiempo que no se puede culpar a algunos soldados rasos del turno de la noche por la tortura y los tratos inhumanos aplicados por el gobierno de Bush. Por lo menos, y según lo que sabemos hasta ahora, las decisiones políticas tomadas por los de más alto rango crearon una atmósfera de tolerancia hacia las violaciones. Y entre esas decisiones políticas se puede citar, por ejemplo, la violación de la Convención de Ginebra en Guantánamo, su extraordinariamente limitada definición de tortura, al punto de que la mayoría de los abusos no son considerados tortura".

Estados Unidos se niega a disculparse por bombardeo de la CIA en Pakistán
En otras noticias, el gobierno estadounidense se negó a expresar arrepentimiento por el bombardeo de la CIA de la semana pasada en Pakistán. Según trascendió, el ataque mató a 17 personas, entre las que encontraban mujeres y niños. Estados Unidos no dijo mucho sobre el bombardeo, pero se cree que fue llevado a cabo por un avión Predator a control remoto de la CIA. El martes, el portavoz del Departamento de Estado, Sean McCormack, dijo a periodistas: "Estados Unidos claramente valora las vidas inocentes. Y es por eso que estamos llevando a cabo la guerra contra el terrorismo". Mientras tanto, funcionarios pakistaníes dijeron el martes que el ataque mató a cinco personas sospechosas de ser militantes.

Senador suizo dice que evidencia confirma traslados de la CIA en Europa
En Europa, un Senador suizo dijo que ya no cabe duda de que la CIA llevó a cabo actividades ilegales en Europa, al trasladar y encarcelar secretamente a sospechosos de terrorismo. El funcionario, Dick Marty, está dirigiendo una investigación europea sobre acusaciones de que la CIA manejaba prisiones secretas en Polonia y Rumania. Marty también dijo que la culpa era de todas las naciones europeas que ayudaron a Estados Unidos a llevar a cabo sus operaciones secretas. El Senador Suizo Dick Marty dijo: "Me gustaría que quedara claro que el problema no es sólo de Rumania y Polonia. Sería demasiado fácil criminalizar a estos dos países. Creo que la responsabilidad es de toda Europa, que aceptó permanecer en silencio, porque si es cierto que algo pasó en Rumania y Polonia, también paso algo en muchos otros países, y muchos de ellos ciertamente sabían lo que estaba sucediendo. Y para mi, en una situación así, saber y quedarse callado es tan malo como tolerar que este tipo de actividades sean llevadas a cabo en su territorio". La semana pasada, un periódico suizo publicó el contenido de un memorando egipcio interceptado sobre los centros de interrogatorio de Estados Unidos en Europa del Este y los Balcanes. El memorando había sido enviado por fax desde el Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores de Egipto a la embajada egipcia en Londres. Pero había sido interceptado por el servicio secreto suizo y luego entregado a la prensa.

Gobierno de Bush demandado por espionaje telefónico de la NSA
En Estados Unidos, el Centro para los Derechos Constitucionales y la Unión Estadounidense por las Libertades Civiles (ACLU, por sus siglas en inglés) están presentando hoy demandas por separado para impugnar la orden del Presidente Bush de que la Agencia de Seguridad Nacional (NSA, por sus siglas en inglés) lleve a cabo operaciones de espionaje a nivel nacional sin las ordenes judiciales que exige la ley.

Al Gore: Bush violó la ley "de forma reiterada y persistente"
El lunes, el ex Vicepresidente Al Gore pronunció un importante discurso en Washington en el que acusó a Bush de violar la ley "de forma reiterada y persistente" al autorizar las intervenciones telefónicas de la NSA. Gore pidió al Fiscal General Alberto Gonzales que designe un fiscal especial para investigar estas violaciones. Gore dijo que el programa ilegal de espionaje de Bush puso en peligró "la propia estructura de nuestro gobierno".

Comisión del gobierno finaliza investigación sobre asesinato de Menezes
En Gran Bretaña, una comisión del gobierno finalizó la investigación sobre el asesinato por parte de la policía de Jean Charles De Menezes. La policía británica mató a balazos a Menezes, de nacionalidad brasileña, en una estación de trenes subterráneos de Londres, un día después de un atentado fallido con bombas en el sistema de trenes subterráneos británico en julio. En un principio la policía dijo que creía que Menezes era un bombardero suicida. La policía afirmó que Menezes intentó escaparse y que tenía puesta una campera abultada. Pero desde entonces, se reveló que Menezes era inocente y que la policía mintió sobre las circunstancias de su muerte. El jueves, la familia de Menezes pidió justicia.
Alex Pereira, primo de Jean Charles De Menezes, dijo: "Es muy simple, si haces algo bueno no tienes que mentir u ocultar nada; ellos mintieron y ocultaron cosas, y la explicación es que fue un asesinato, ellos (de Menezes) fueron asesinados. ¿Por qué tengo que mentir si hice bien mi trabajo? Creo que es así de simple".

Maria: From Democracy Now!, here are nine headlines. Democracy Now! provides daily headlines in English and in Spanish, text and audio. Peace.

Second Commission of Inquiry On Crimes Against Humanity Committed by the Bush Administration Opens Today
The second gathering of the International Commission of Inquiry On Crimes Against Humanity Committed by the Bush Administration will begin today in New York. The commission will look into a series of charges the Bush administration has committed war crimes and crimes against humanity. The indictments were drafted at the first commission held in October. Those scheduled to testify before the commission include the former head of Abu Ghraib, Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski; former British ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray; the entertainer and activist Harry Belafonte, and former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter.

Leading Iraqi, US Muslims Call For Jill Carroll's Release
Leading Iraqi and American Muslims have echoed the calls of family members and colleagues of kidnapped American journalist Jill Carroll to plead for her safe release. Carroll, a 28-year old freelance reporter working for the Christian Science Monitor in Iraq, was kidnapped in Baghdad earlier this month. Members of the Muslim-American advocacy group Council on American-Islamic Relations are traveling to Iraq to attempt to win Carroll’s release. Meanwhile, Muthanna Harith al-Dhari, a prominent figure in the leading Iraqi Sunni group the Muslim Scholars Association, said: "All kidnappings and assassinations are completely rejected... especially when kidnapping a journalist. Journalists are here to tell the world about the occupation so kidnapping a journalist is going to hide the truth.” Al-Dhari continued: "This journalist, Jill Carroll... is one of the great journalists who are against the occupation. She is considered one of the best journalists who stood against the American occupation of Iraq and she focused in her articles on... telling the world about the Iraqi people’s suffering."

Freed Iraqi Journalists Describe Ordeal US Custody
In other Iraq news, the two Iraqi journalists who were freed this week after being held by the US military without charge for over four months have come forward to describe their ordeal.
Reuters journalist Majed Hameed : "The US forces raided the house, my house on August 8 (2005) and found a camera with which I filmed clashes in Ramadi that erupted in the city from noon until evening. [I filmed] with my camera very simple shots of the US forces attacking Haj Maqbulaa mosque, and one of the houses, with broken glass scattered on the floor. They raided my house and saw these things, I replied it is only clashes and after that they immediately collected my cameras, communication devices, computer and then they arrested me." Hameed was freed this week from US custody along with Reuters camera operator Ali al-Mashhadani, who was arrested in August. The two were held at the US-run prisons at Abu Ghraib prison and Camp Bucca. At least three other Iraqi journalists working for the international media remain in US custody.

HRW Says Bush Foreign Policy Undermining Human Rights
Here in the United States, Human Rights Watch released its annual report Wednesday. The report includes a scathing critique of the Bush administration, accusing it of undermining human rights around the world by the way its waging the so-called war on terror. The group also called on Congress to set up an independent panel to investigate U.S. human rights abuses.Human Rights Watch Executive Director Kenneth Roth : "I'm sorry to report that the global defense of human rights has been profoundly compromised by the Bush administration's policy level decisions to flout some of the most basic human rights norms out of a misguided sense that is the best way to fight against terrorism. It's long been understood that the Bush administration's torture and inhumane treatment could not be blamed on a handful of low level soldiers on the night shift. At minimum, we understand until now, that policy decisions taken at the top had created an atmosphere of tolerance for abuse. And among those policy decisions that one could cite would be, for example, is the Bush Administration's ripping of the Geneva Convention with respect to Guantanamo, its extraordinarily narrow definition of torture to the point that most forms of abuse are not considered torture."

US Refuses to Apologize For CIA Bombing in Pakistan In other news, the US government has refused to express regret over last week’s CIA bombing in Pakistan. The attack killed a reported 17 people, including women and children. The U.S. has said little about the bombing but it is believed to have been carried out by a CIA Predator drone. On Tuesday, State Department spokesperson Sean McCormack told reporters only: "The United States clearly values innocent human life. And that is why we're fighting the war on terror." Meanwhile, Pakistani officials said Tuesday the strike had killed up to 5 suspected militants.

Swiss Senator Says Evidence Confirms CIA Renditions in Europe
In Europe, a Swiss Senator has said there is no longer any question that the CIA undertook in illegal activities in Europe by secretly transporting and jailing suspected terrorists. The official -- Dick Marty -- is heading up a European investigation into allegations that the CIA operated secret prisons in Poland and Romania. He also said blame has to be placed on all European nations who have helped the U.S. carry out its covert operations.
Swiss Senator Dick Marty : "I'd like it to be clear that the problem does not only concern Rumania and Poland. It would be too simple to criminalize these two countries. I think it's to whole of Europe that accepted to keep quiet, because if it's true that something happened in Rumania and Poland, something also happened in many other countries, and many of them were certainly aware of what was going on. And to me, in such a situation, knowing and keeping quiet is as bad as tolerating that such activities be led on its territory." Last week a Swiss newspaper published the text of an intercepted Egyptian memo about U.S. interrogation centers in Eastern Europe and the Balkans. The memo had been faxed from the Egyptian foreign ministry to the Egyptian embassy in London. But it had been intercepted by the Swiss secret service and then leaked to the press.

Bush Administration Sued Over NSA Wiretaps
Here in this country, the Center for Constitutional Rights and the American Civil Liberties Union are filing separate lawsuits today challenging President Bush's order for the National Security Agency to conduct domestic spy operations without legally required court warrants.

Al Gore: Bush "Repeatedly and Persistently" Broke Law
On Monday, former Vice President Al Gore gave a major speech in Washington accusing Bush of "repeatedly and persistently" breaking the law by authorizing the NSA wiretaps. Gore called for Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the abuses. Gore said Bush's illegal spying program threatened "the very structure of our government."

Gov. Commission Completes Inquiry Into Menezes Shooting
In Britain, a government commission has completed its inquiry into the police shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes. Menezes, a native of Brazil, was shot dead by British police in a London subway station one day after an attempted bomb attack on the British subway system in July. At first, British police said they believed Menezes was a suicide bomber. They claimed he had run from police and was wearing a bulky jacket. But since then it has been revealed that he was innocent and that police lied about the circumstances of his death. On Thursday, Menezes’ family appealed for justice.
Alex Pereira, the cousin of Jean Charles De Menezes : "It is very simple, if you do something good you don't need to lie or hide; they lie they hide, and the explanation is that it was an assassination, they (de Menezes) were murdered. Why do I have to lie if I have done a good job? I think it's that simple."

Spotlight: Ruth gives you the 411 on the Conyers' hearing on NSA spying

In a week as busy as last week, we don't know how Ruth found time to do daily "Ruth's Morning Edition Report" for the gina & krista round-robin and still found time for a Saturday one. We're glad though (we're selfish). Ruth, you put us all to shame.

Ruth's Morning Edition Report

Ruth: Yesterday, Pacifica Radio broadcast Representative John Conyers Jr.'s hearings on the NSA spying of American citizens that circumvented the FISA courts. If you heard the broadcast, anchored by Larry Bensky, you had a good idea of how the Senate should run their hearings. This was the second time we have been able to count on Representative Conyers to call a hearing that the Republican controlled House did not want.

There were strong questions and equally strong answers. I do not know whether there will be any press coverage on this or if, as with the last hearing, the press will just choose to ignore it. If they do cover it, I assume that they will offer snippets of Congress members and expert witnesses.

I would like to draw attention to Richard Hersh because I found his testimony to be to the point and because, if there is press coverage, he seems the sort of witness the press would ignore because he is speaking of his own personal experiences.

Mr. Hersh is not a terrorist but he and his peace group have been spied upon by the Defense Department. These are old tactics of one Bully Boy, Nixon, brought back by our current Bully Boy.

Mr. Hersh noted that, "Quakers welcomed us into their church. . . They knew our purpose was solely to excercise our First Amendment rights . . . We had no idea, until one year later, that the unfamiliar faces in the church, had been sent by the President to spy on us. . . . Agents rummaged through trash, hacked websites and listened in on phone calls. Indeed address books and activist's meetings lists have disappeared. . . . I was spied on in a house of worship in the United States and in a private home in Flordia . . ."

Mr. Hersh further noted that, "I think it's time for us to act. I think to protect our civil liberties and our constitutional rights it's important to hold him accountable. To hold the president and his entire administration accountable for their behaviors. "

The Defense Department's actions were revealed shortly before we learned of the NSA spying and, in the mainstream press, that earlier report seems to have gotten lost; however, it is important and Kate Martin's testimony noted this, "The Defense Department appears to be sending people into religious meetings. . . If we could get the facts, I think we would see that they have changed all the rules . . . and that the NSA is only one aspect of it."

It will be interesting to see whether the Senate hearings touch on this aspect or if, instead, they narrow down the range of discussion to allow the Bully Boy even more wiggle room. The spying is a serious issue and, if you were fortunate enough to listen to the hearing on Pacifica Radio, you heard a strong example of how the Senate should run their own hearings. Among the other strong witnesses offering testimony were James Bamford, Professor Jonathan Turley, and Carole Frederickson.

Representative Jerrold Nadler made the point that the crimes Bully Boy committed in his warrantless spying on American citizens are crimes that come with a long statute of limitations. Short of pardoning himself, even if he escapes Congressional punishment, the crime is still open to prosecution for many years.

After last week's Senate Judiciary Committee hearings, the Conyer's hearings demonstrated that Democrats, at least House members, can still be effective and strong voices.

If you missed the hearings, you can access the KPFA archives for the broadcast and you can also note this program airing Sunday:

Sunday Salon
Big Brother Really IS Watching You...
A look at the Bush Administration's unauthorized domestic surveillance program. Commentary on Representative John Conyers' Congressional hearings on surveillance, and a listen to Al Gore's Martin Luther King Jr. Day speech slamming Bush for breaking the law.Listen to past shows, get contact and reference info for guests, see announcements of upcoming programs, and more at: SundaySalon.org

Last Sunday, Larry Bensky, the host of Sunday Salon, addressed the realities and the media coverage of Iraq. It was a lively discussion. Mr. Bensky anchored the coverage of the Conyers' hearing so this Sunday's broadcast should also be of interest.

Friday on CounterSpin, which I listen to on WBAI, Stephen Zunes, a professor at the University of San Francisco, discussed the violent and bloody legacy of Ariel Sharon in contrast to the media portrayals of Prime Minister Sharon as "peacemaker." In addition to that interview, also of interest to the community should be the interview with Danny Schechter, the News Dissector.Mr. Schechter disussed the Samuel Alito Jr. hearings and wondered, "How did the Democrats blow it so badly?"

The media frame going into the Senate Judiciary Committee was that Judge Alito would react to questioning the way Robert Bork had. When that did not happen, the Democrats had no "alternative strategy." Mr. Schechter pointed out that Judge Alito's performance should not have been surprising since it followed Chief Justice John Roberts Jr.'s hearings "where the same tactic was used."

Once again, as Mr. Schechter explained, the Democrats did not make the case to the American people of why the nomination mattered and why the Supreme Court mattered. Instead, they attempted to provide legal analysis. When the media began rewarding Judge Alito's nonanswers by focusing on "strategy" as opposed to substance, the problems with the existing media were obvious. More on this topic can be found in Mr. Schechter's "AFTER ALITO: WHAT HAPPENED? WHAT NOW?" What now? The goal should be to become a part of the media process and "grab the opportunity" to do so as we see a shift away from traditional media forms.
Mr. Schechter's books, When News Media Lies and The Death of Media: And the Fight to Save Democracy, were noted and he was asked to explain the main points that could be taken from the books. With regards to When News Media Lies, Mr. Schechter noted that we would not have "the war in Iraq if the media wasn't supporting it." He spoke of the media war that has existed side by side with the war in Iraq.

This is a topic that his film Weapons of Mass Deception addresses. As noted at this site Thursday, WMD just won "the top jury award for documentaries in the Breakthrough Human Rights Festival in India." When my grandson Jayson saw that, he asked that I note it and note that his favorite film is WMD. When many of us were in D.C. for the September protest, C.I. and my granddaughter Tracey had planned to exchange a number of books and C.I. also passed along that documentary. If you have not already seen WMD, I will tell you that not only is it Jayson's favorites but it is one that has led to many discussions in my family about the role the media played in the lead up to the war. It is a comprehensive look at the broadcast media that addresses the failures to seriously address administration claims and to offer a wide range of discussion. My very good friend Treva has deemed it the film to watch if you want to "get angry and get active."

Also on Friday, I did listen to a program Rachel suggested on WBAI, Nonfiction hosted by Harry Allen. This was an interesting program and one I will attempt to listen to in the future. Mr. Allen's first guest Friday was author William Blum. Blum is, as Tracey says, the author of Rogue State "Osama's Book of the Month pick." In the recent broadcast remarks alleged to have been made by Osama bin Laden, the book Rogue State was noted. Since bin Laden was never captured, "dead or alive," he appears to be attempting to poach Oprah's territory. Mr. Blum noted that there were actually two books by him, Freeing the World to Death being the second one, but bin Laden appeared to compress them into a single book.

Mr. Blum said that there would be no "blurb" added to the cover of Rogue State, which has lept up the Amazon.com charts, but that a news item might be added. Mr. Allen asked if bin Laden had attempted to contact him and Mr. Blum replied that had that happened, he would have been worried. The author explained that the book had been translated into Arabic and that possibly bin Laden read a translated copy. (Egypt was one of the two countries that offered an Arabic translation.) More information about Mr. Blum's works can be found at his website Killing Hope.

As most members know, I have been mentioning Pacifica programming in the daily column for the gina & krista round-robins. I have saved Friday's programs for this site but I do have a column in Saturday's round-robin which is an interview I did with Treva where she reflects back on her college days, we went to college together, and what it was like then when abortion was illegal. Please remain active in opposing the confirmation of Judge Alito to the Supreme Court.

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