Saturday, May 21, 2005


DMN: Divisiveness of Bush playing religion card - May 21

President Bush, right, praying Friday before the second annual National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in Washington.
AP-Bush praying-----

Some at Christian college find fault with president's deeds, views

By DAVID JACKSON / The Dallas Morning News

WASHINGTON -- President Bush's commencement speech at a Christian college in Michigan seemed to be a perfect match of politician and constituency -- religious conservatives who helped re-elect the president.

Yet the event also illustrates a growing debate over the role of religion in politics, as about 800 teachers, students and alumni of Calvin College signed a letter saying the president's policies do not reflect their religious values.

"Your deeds, Mr. President -- neglecting the needy to coddle the rich, desecrating the environment, and misleading the country into war -- do not exemplify the faith we live by," said the letter published in an ad in The Grand Rapids Press.

"Moreover," the letter continued, "many of your supporters are using religion as a weapon to divide our nation and advance a narrow partisan agenda."

From the Terri Schiavo case to the current Senate standoff over judges, the church-state question has rarely been as prominent, or as heated, as it is during the George W. Bush era.

"I can't think of a time in the last 50 years where religion has mattered as much as it does today," said Stephen Schneck, who chairs the politics department at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. "It really is at the crux of our political divide in the United States."

This week, Catholic Church officials protested the decision by Loyola College in Maryland to give an honorary degree to former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, a Republican who supports abortion rights.

And religion is playing into the debate over Bush judicial nominees. Some Republicans have said some opponents hold the nominees' religious views against them, particularly anti-abortion Catholics. Democrats say the Republicans are using religion as a smokescreen to protect extremist nominees.

The coming weeks may see a revival of the dispute over embryonic stem cell research, which some religious conservatives oppose because it destroys human embryos.

On Friday, just a few hours after a Catholic prayer breakfast where Mr. Bush said he backs a "culture of life," he threatened to veto legislation that would expand public funding of stem cell research.

In addition to expressing a concern about potential cloning, Mr. Bush said he supports stem cell research, but not the use of federal tax money "to promote science which destroys life in order to save life."

While critics at Calvin and elsewhere have accused Mr. Bush of using religion for political purposes, the president calls religion a "personal issue."

"I get great strength from my faith," Mr. Bush said last month. "But I don't condemn somebody in the political process because they may not agree with me on religion."

Mr. Bush and his team have made a calculated effort to attract Catholics, once a reliably Democratic group. During brief remarks to the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast on Friday, Mr. Bush paid homage to the late Pope John Paul II, saying, "the best way to honor this great champion of human freedom is to build a culture of life where the strong protect the weak."

Catholic critics of Mr. Bush say his call for a "culture of life" is belied by his support of capital punishment and the war in Iraq. A group called Catholic Democrats said on its Web site that "Catholics across America are standing up to policies and practices of a second Bush administration that profoundly violate Catholic ethics."

Calvin college, located in Grand Rapids, Mich., and named for the Protestant Reformation theologian John Calvin, describes itself as "a comprehensive liberal arts college in the Reformed tradition of historic Christianity." School officials said Calvin, which offers more than 100 majors and programs in a variety of disciplines, is not a fundamentalist school like Bob Jones University. "It's a Christian college that takes the life of the mind very, very seriously," said college spokesman Phil de Haan.

White House officials declined to comment on the Calvin College protests. The Bush team got to know officials at the college when it hosted a debate early in the 2000 campaign, officials said, and they approached Calvin about the commencement. It is one of two Mr. Bush is delivering this year, the other being at the U.S. Naval Academy.

Some of the 900 graduates gathered Saturday afternoon at the Calvin College Fieldhouse wore armbands to protest various Bush policies. Those who signed the anti-Bush letter said they do not oppose his visit so much as his policies.

Communications professor Randall Bytwerk said a "substantial majority" of the students and "a majority" of faculty members are happy the president visited: "On the whole, I like most of what Bush does. Bush is certainly doing his best to carry out a reasonable Christian influence on politics."

E-mail djackson@dallasnews.com.

Dallas Morning News full story.


Haigler: Abilene animal-rights protesters threatened with arrest - May 21

by Dave Haigler, posted 5:31 p.m. Saturday
Abilene, May 21 -- A group of Abilene Libertarian and Republican animal-rights protestors were threatened with arrest by staff of the Ringling Brothers Circus appearing in Abilene this weekend for carrying signs that allegedly caused little children to cry.  The signs they carried asked what happens to circus animals when they get old, according to Megan Buda, protest organizer, who is a Libertarian. 
Staff attending the gates to the Taylor County Coliseum said the protestors were unruly and were exposing themselves to passers-by. 
Journey Murry, who is an Abilene Cooper High School student, one of the protestors, denied they were exposing themselves, but said they were wearing makeup to demostrate how injured animals look when mistreated.  Murry's mother is Republican activist Betty Deneen, who also participated in the protest.


AP: Hillary receives honors at Rensselaer - May 21

Hillary degree
Sen. Hilliary Rodham Clinton, D-New York, center, receives an honorary degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., during commencement excercises Saturday, May, 21, 2005.
At left is Professor Jeffrey Durgee and at right is Provost G.P. 'Bud' Peterson.
(AP Photo/Tim Roske)


AP: Calvin College graduates support, oppose Bush with slogans on hats, others protest with newspaper ads - May 21

A Bush supporter, below left, and an anti-war advocate, right, listen as President Bush addresses the 2005 Commencement at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich., Saturday, May 21, 2005.
(AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Bush Urges Graduates to Serve Community
President Bush's commencement speech at Calvin College Saturday was as much about politics as it was about inspiring the graduates of this Christian college to commit themselves to community service.

"This isn't a Democratic idea. This isn't a Republican idea. This is an American idea," Bush told the students in a bipartisan message about community service that stood in contrast with protests surrounding his visit.

"As your generation takes its place in the world, all of you must make this decision: Will you be a spectator or a citizen?" Bush asked about 900 seniors graduating from this liberal arts college.

The students cheered him warmly before he spoke, but Bush's visit was not welcomed by all.

Several dozen people protested outside the event, wearing buttons that said: "God is not a Republican or Democrat."

A third of the college's faculty members signed a letter protesting his visit. The letter, published Saturday in a half-page ad in the Grand Rapids Press, said: "As Christians, we are called to be peacemakers and to initiate war only as a last resort. We believe your administration has launched an unjust and unjustified war in Iraq."

Another letter of protest from students, faculty and alumni appeared in a full-page ad in the paper on Friday.

"In our view, the policies and actions of your administration, both domestically and internationally over the past four years, violate many deeply held principles of Calvin College," that ad in the Grand Rapids newspaper said.

Calvin College administrators say they were thrilled when the White House asked if Bush could speak at the commencement -- his third trip this year to Michigan, which he narrowly lost to Democrat John Kerry in last year's election.

Bush's speech here is one of only two commencement addresses he's giving this year. Next Friday, he speaks at the U.S. Naval Academy.

The choice of the 4,000-student Christian college led to speculation that the president wanted to reach out to his evangelical base in this Midwestern state. But some associated with the college noted the school's Christian background does not make it part of the conservative Christian movement.

In his commencement speech, Bush mentioned advancing freedom around the world and voiced his support for faith-based, or religious, groups getting involved in social service.

"To make a difference in this world, you must be involved by serving a higher calling here and abroad," Bush said. "You will make your lives richer and build a more hopeful future for our world."

His appearance was not all serious.

"Some day you will appreciate the grammar and verbal skills you learned here," quipped the president who is not known for his eloquence. "If any of you wonder how far a mastery of the English language can take you, just look what it did for me."


Associated Press writer James Prichard contributed to this report.

Source: AP-Yahoo.


Slate: Today's Papers - Veto Position - May 21

By Jay Dixit
Posted Saturday, at 1:57 AM PT

The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times lead with the news that President Bush threatened to veto legislation to expand federal funding for stem cell research, setting the stage for a showdown with Congress. The Washington Post's top non-local story reports that Sunnis are closing mosques across Iraq to protest recent killings they blame on Iraq's Shiite-led government.

The stem cell bill, currently pending in the House, would loosen the restrictions that Bush imposed in 2001. Mike Castle, the bill's Republican sponsor, reportedly told Bush, "We have a bill and we're going to be pushing as hard as we can." But Bush took the rare step of vowing to exercise his veto power, telling the press, "I've made it very clear to the Congress that the use of federal money, taxpayers' money to promote science which destroys life in order to save life is… I'm against that." The new legislation would still ban federal funding for creating embryos for research, but would allow research using discarded embryos from fertility clinics. The measure has Republican backers, but the WP notes that Bush's warning could dissuade Republicans who are already wary of angering antiabortion groups. The LAT story neatly summarizes the scientific debate.

The WP reports that Sunnis in Iraq say that in recent weeks, security forces have raided their mosques, failing to distinguish between insurgents and innocent Sunnis. In protest, Sunnis will close their mosques for three days, hoping to attract world attention. As one Sunni put it, "Every Muslim in the world will hear this, and he will go crazy and ask, why are we doing this?" Meanwhile, Shiite mosques were shelled in what Shiite politicians said were attempts to spark a sectarian war.

The NYT reports that for many Muslims, Guantanamo Bay defines America. Reports of abuse at Guantanamo reinforce Muslims' suspicions about American contempt for Islam. Further evidence: A Pakistan private school put on Guantanamo, a "very relevant" documentary play based on spoken evidence from Guantanamo Bay prisoner testimony; Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya use images of Muslim prisoners in station promos; Muslims hear stories about Quran desecration and think to themselves, "It is something the Americans would do." As one former Afghan commander put it, "The Americans were good people before … People are changing their minds."

Continue Slate article.

Friday, May 20, 2005


Newsweek-Clift: Stopping filibusters is only the beginning of the GOP's radical agenda - May 20

By Eleanor Clift

When Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist accuses Democrats who oppose Owen and Brown of wanting to “kill, to defeat, to assassinate these nominees,” he transforms political rhetoric into an apocalyptic vision that is better suited to Bible class than the floor of the Senate. What’s behind his passion is naked ambition. He wants to be president and he’s courting the religious right. The scary part is that this over-the-top wooing of God-obsessed Christians is embraced by a growing number of Republican senators, all apparently sincere in their religiosity and some, like Frist, with presidential aspirations.

Stripping Senate Democrats of their right to filibuster judicial nominees is a prelude to a broader assault on the judiciary known as “court stripping.” Alabama Republican Richard Shelby last year introduced The Constitution Restoration Act of 2004 to acknowledge God as the sovereign source of law and threaten judges with impeachment should they uphold separation of church and state. Former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore appeared with Shelby at the press conference announcing the legislation. Moore is now touring the country with the granite block depicting the Ten Commandments that he was ordered to remove from the state court house.

Shelby reintroduced the bill in March of this year when the Terri Schiavo case was in the headlines. His press secretary says the two events were unrelated, yet if anything like Shelby imagines comes to pass, it would turn our constitutional democracy into a theocracy. The legislation says no court has jurisdiction to rule on issues surrounding God, the flag, separation of church and state and establishment of religion. The wording is broad enough to remove from civil law all matters of personal status, like whom you can marry and issues related to child custody and child support. “We’re lulled into thinking it’s too ridiculous to pass,” says Judith Lichtman with the National Partnership for Women & Families. “But it’s the genius of the right to make what is really radical accepted in the mainstream.”

CONTINUED: Shelby and Backers Are After Gay Marriage

D.H.: They're not just whistling Dixie, either. They've passed several of these "court stripping," sometimes called "court curbing" bills already. Not all of these bills try to strip the courts of jurisdiction over merely "religious" matters. One recent bill gave the Secretary of Homeland Security jurisdiction to declare all laws "invalid" within national border barriers and purported to deny the courts any jurisdiction to review the law.

The root concept is sometimes called "originalism" or "strict constructionism" or "constitutionalism," all of which theories say we can go back to a point in time, pre-1972, or pre-1937, or pre-1800, to what the law supposedly was at that time. Pre-1972, it was thought that administrative agencies couldn't make substantive rules. Pre-1937, many social services were not considered constitutional. Pre-1800, slavery and denying voting to women were considered constitutional. I've analyzed such notions in more detail in Haigler Public Policy Articles, items 2 & 3.


Salon: Here come the judges, again - May 20

- - - - - - - - - - - -
By Dan Noyes and Andy Isaacson

Meet the seven antiabortion, anti-gay, pro-industry Bush nominees who could rise from the ashes of the filibuster.

Prepare for the not-so-magnificent seven. With Republicans poised to pull the trigger on the nuclear option, President Bush's right-wing nominees ride again.

Their return -- all were blocked in the Senate their first time around -- is propelling the government into a crisis, as they prepare to take seats in federal appeals courts, the second highest position in the judicial branch of government, beneath only the authority of the U.S. Supreme Court. Democrats oppose them for their extreme judicial and political philosophy, what they consider a conservative version of "judicial activism."

An assessment of the nominees' records suggests that all consider government regulation a central problem, while they view private enterprise and property a bedrock constitutional right. These nominees are the most visible examples of a judicial nomination trend that the Center for Investigative Reporting discovered in examining all appeals court and court of federal claims nominees during George W. Bush's first term as president.

In the CIR study, 21 of 59 had a history of working as lawyers and lobbyists on behalf of the oil, gas and energy industries. This trend concerns legal scholars, who fear that long-term industry ties may raise questions about the judges' ability to be fair and objective. Rutgers University School of Law professor Jay Feinman told CIR, "Increasingly you will have federal courts with a pro-industry and anti-government perspective."

Some of the nominees' judicial philosophies were shaped while in the service of corporate clients (Owen, Saad, Pryor, McKeague and Myers), and some while working closely with the Republican Party (Pryor, Saad, Brown, McKeague and Myers). Democratic opponents see them potentially eroding public power and expanding private reach, while heartening the religious right on key issues such as abortion.

At stake is no less than Republican domination of all three branches of government -- not only to recast laws, but to extend their impact long after President Bush has left office, and undo a generation of legal precedents. Here's a look at the extremist credentials they would bring to the bench.

William H. Pryor Jr., nominated to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals

He argued that civil rights for same-sex couples would logically extend to activities like necrophilia and bestiality.

During his seven-year tenure as the attorney general of Alabama (1997-2004), Pryor's unabashed conservativism was legendary. His strong public opinions on a litany of contemporary issues suggest where his judicial opinions might be headed if his nomination is confirmed. He once called Roe vs. Wade "the worst abomination of constitutional law in our history"; in 2002 he argued in the Supreme Court, on behalf of Alabama and four other states, for states' execution of mentally retarded inmates; he termed the Voting Rights Act "an affront to federalism and an expensive burden that has far outlived its usefulness"; and he affirmed in 2003 that extending the civil rights of same-sex couples would logically extend to activities like necrophilia and bestiality. It came as no surprise, then, when he rescheduled a family trip to Disney World to avoid arriving during a "Gay Days" event.

He is considered a leading voice in the modern states' rights movement: "With the New Deal, the Great Society, and the growing federal bureaucracy," Pryor testified at a 1997 U.S. Senate Judiciary Subcommittee hearing, "we have strayed too far in the expansion of the federal government."

Pryor's close ties to industry have been critical in his rise to power. The single largest donor to his 2002 election campaign for attorney general was the Progress PAC, the political action committee of the Alabama Business Council. He founded the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA) with "the explicit aim of soliciting funds from the firearms, tobacco and paint industries and other industries facing state lawsuits over cancer deaths, lead poisoning, gunshots and consumer complaints," according to the Washington Post. Mike Moore, attorney general of Mississippi and the first attorney general to sue the tobacco companies, called Pryor "the biggest defender of tobacco companies of anyone I know. He did a better job of defending the tobacco companies than their own defense attorneys."

Pryor stood alone among the 50 state attorneys general in challenging the constitutionality of key portions of the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act, asserting that land use and wildlife protection are "traditional areas of state environmental primacy" that should remain free of federal government regulation. The Forestry PAC of the Alabama Forestry Association contributed $43,500 for his reelection.

Confirmation to the 11th Circuit would put him one step closer to the Supreme Court -- which could be a troubling development for at least one of the court's current members. To a gathering of Federalist Society members in 2000, Pryor once opined, "Please God, no more Souters!"

Janice Rogers Brown, nominated to the District of Columbia Circuit

She is known for her fervent anti-government attacks, and once received a "not qualified" rating from the American Bar Association.

Janice Rogers Brown, a rock song-quoting daughter of an African-American sharecropper, currently sits on the California Supreme Court as its first black woman justice. Prior to Brown's rise to the California Supreme Court, her legal and judicial career was closely connected to the Republican Party, which saw a judicial star in the black conservative. Republican Gov. Pete Wilson appointed her his legal affairs secretary, and then to a seat on the state Court of Appeals in 1994. The legal establishment was unimpressed, though, and prior to her appointment she received a "not qualified" rating from the American Bar Association.

Brown startled many legal observers with her speech in 2000 to the Federalist Society in Chicago, when she warned that, "Where government moves in ... the result is a debased, debauched culture, which finds moral depravity entertaining and virtue contemptible." Brown has denounced President Franklin Roosevelt's Supreme Court as transforming the Constitution into a "significantly different document," and the Democratic New Deal as the triumph of "our own socialist revolution." It is this fervid ideological opposition to government and regulation of private enterprise that causes Democratic opponents to denounce her lack of judicial fairness. Critics fear Brown's anti-government attacks, and opposition to regulation of corporate and financial interests that could block her impartiality on the federal court.

William Myers III, nominated to the 9th Circuit Court

In 2003, a federal court concluded that he had badly misinterpreted federal law.

Myers' long history of working for the law firm Holland & Hart as a lobbyist on behalf of the mining and energy industries has galvanized a broad coalition of environmental, health and consumer groups against his nomination. Democrats fear that he will attempt to give private property rights greater weight in judicial decisions than attempts to protect public lands, water and endangered species. Of particular concern is Myers' nomination to the 9th circuit, whose jurisdiction over the Western states covers many of the same industries whose interests he has spent his career lobbying or representing in court.

Myers served from 2001-03 as solicitor general of the Department of Interior. In 2003, a federal court concluded that Myers had badly misinterpreted federal law in permitting a mining company to operate on public land in California. The National Congress of American Indians, a coalition of more than 250 tribal groups, opposes Myers, claiming that the policies he executed during his tenure at the Interior Department threatened native sites without consulting the tribes involved.

As Salon reported last year, Myers' congressional lobbying in 2000 on behalf of major coal interests resulted in legislation that paved the way for a merger between two major coal companies that was later opposed by the Federal Trade Commission. The commission concluded that the merger was potentially anti-competitive and harmful to consumers and electricity users. These same coal interests routinely have cases before the 9th Circuit Court.

Finally, Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee point out that Myers has minimal courtroom experience and has never been a judge. He received a "qualified" rating from the American Bar Association, the ABA's lowest passing grade, with a minority voting "not qualified."

Next page | Against reproductive rights, workers' rights, prisoners' rights, civil rights, consumers' rights and environmental protections
1, 2

Salon full article.


Slate-Today's Papers: Class Clone, the Korean stem-cell breakthrough - May 20

By Eric Umansky
Article Posted Friday, at 12:54 AM PT

The New York Times and USA Today lead with South Korean researchers announcing their stem-cell breakthrough: The scientists said they've been able to harvest the cells from embryos cloned from sick or injured people. In other words, the scientists essentially completed the process for therapeutic cloning, creating stem cells capable of replacing tissue in humans. The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox with embryo coverage but emphasizes the pickle President Bush may soon find himself in as the House is expected to take up a bill next week that would allow for expanded funding of stem cell research.
The Los Angeles Times leads with a somewhat vague piece saying that the U.S. is taking a more hands-on approach with the new Iraqi government, in particular pushing for more Sunni representation. "We don't dictate action plans," said one "U.S. official." "But we constantly remind them that we're working toward the same goal, and we have our 'red lines.' "
The Washington Post leads with the merger of US Airways and America West, a $1.5 billion deal that would create the country's sixth-largest airline. US Airways is HQ'd in the D.C.-area.

The South Korean researchers explained that they have no interest in making human clones. "Our proposal is limited to finding a way to cure disease," said one. Other scientists were seriously psyched about the research. "This may be nature's best repair kit," said one doc. As the NYT recounts, each harvested embryo consisted of about 100 cells, totaling about 0.08 inch in diameter.

A frontpage piece in the Journal notes that the U.S. has cut off all food aid to North Korea. The administration has long been toying with the idea of trying to encourage the collapse of Pyongyang. But a State Dept. spokesman said the stoppage has nothing to do with that, and is instead about North Korea impeding monitoring of where the food is going.

Rest of the Slate article.Harry Blackmun

D.H.: This is long, but worth reading, as it covers several stories on prisoner abuse in Afghanistan and Iraq, among other stories.

On this same page is a review entitled "The Trouble with Harry," of an interesting biography of the late Justice Harry Blackmun (who authored Roe v. Wade), shown here, which detailed his packrat tendencies and lifelong love-hate relationship with that era's chief justice, Warren Burger. 


Houston Chronicle: Prosecutor in probe of DeLay PAC raises funds for other side


Earle's speech on political corruption keys on the GOP leader, whom he likens to a bully

Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle, who denies partisan motives for his investigation of a political group founded by Republican leader Tom DeLay, was the featured speaker last week at a Democratic fund-raiser where he spoke directly about the congressman.

A newly formed Democratic political action committee, Texas Values in Action Coalition, hosted the May 12 event in Dallas to raise campaign money to take control of the state Legislature from the GOP, organizers said.

Earle, an elected Democrat, helped generate $102,000 for the organization.

In his remarks, Earle likened DeLay to a bully and spoke about political corruption and the investigation involving DeLay, the House majority leader from Sugar Land, according to a transcript supplied by Earle.

"This case is not just about Tom DeLay. If it isn't this Tom DeLay, it'll be another one, just like one bully replaces the one before," Earle said.

"This is a structural problem involving the combination of money and power," he added. "Money brings power and power corrupts."

The crowd of 80 to 100 Democratic activists responded by making donations that exceeded the event's fund-raising goal.

Earle and his staff of prosecutors have obtained indictments of three DeLay associates on charges that their political committee, the DeLay-led Texans for a Republican Majority, broke state campaign finance laws with the use of corporate donations on its way to helping establish Republican control in the state House.

Earle said Wednesday he knew the group that met in Dallas was raising money for Democrats, but that it was not his reason for speaking.

"I'd make the same speech to any group, Republican or Democrat, as long as the group was interested in honest, open government," Earle said in a telephone interview.

The prosecutor said he did not recall making other fund-raising speeches for anyone besides himself since he began investigating DeLay.

"We are investigating anybody who has committed a crime," he said when asked if DeLay is a target of the probe.

Houston Chronicle full story.


Knight Ridder: Senators debate filibuster - May 20

SantorumWashington, Friday--Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., shown here, said Democrats have violated a long tradition of giving judicial nominees up-or-down confirmation votes.

He then denounced "the audacity of some [Democratic] members to stand up and say, 'How dare you break this rule?' It's the equivalent of Adolf Hitler in 1942 saying, 'I'm in Paris. How dare you invade me?' " Several liberal groups called the remarks out of bounds.

"If Republicans persist in the course they have set," said Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., "they will destroy the 'compact of comity' that enables the Senate to fulfill its constitutional responsibilities."

The true issue, all agreed, is whether to bar judicial filibusters, which would give President Bush more leeway in naming a staunch conservative to the Supreme Court.

Full article.


CNN: Red Cross warned U.S. over Quran in 2003, no abuse reports since - May 20

Protesters shown here burning a U.S. flag in Pakistan

From Elise Labott
CNN Washington Bureau

Thursday, Posted: 11:29 PM EDT (0329 GMT)


WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The International Committee of the Red Cross gathered "credible" reports about U.S. personnel at the Guantanamo Bay naval base disrespecting the Quran and raised the issue with the Pentagon several times, a group spokesman said Thursday.

Simon Schorno said the allegations were made by detainees to Red Cross representatives who visited the detention facility throughout 2002 and 2003.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Thursday the Pentagon in 2003 issued strict guidelines on how U.S. personnel should handle the Quran.

Schorno said the Red Cross heard no more allegations about mishandling of the Quran after the guidelines were issued.

CNN full story.

D.H.: So why is this news now?


EarnedMedia: Right-wing groups to hold prayer vigil at Supreme Court over filibusters - May 20

When: 10 a.m. today

Who: The National Clergy Council and the Christian Defense Coalition

1. Rev. Rob Schenk, President of the National Clergy Council, states, “We are enlisting hundreds of thousands of church leaders and members to pray that pro-abortion, anti-values forces will not be able to hold the federal courts--and especially the Supreme Court--hostage to their extremist views through pressing Senators to continue the misuse of the filibuster rule. Now is the time to end the abuse of this rule for the sake of the country.”

2. Rev. Patrick J. Mahoney, Director of the Christian Defense Coalition, comments, “The eyes of the faith community have finally been opened to the grave danger of judicial activism. We now understand it was activist courts who ushered in abortion and ordered the removal of prayer from the public schools. It was activist judges who ordered the removal of Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube and demanded that ‘One Nation Under God’ be taken out of the Pledge of Allegiance. And, it is activist courts that are attempting to redefine marriage and family. We want to make it clear that we will not go silently into the night on this issue and we will now speak up with a loud and passionate voice within the public square. This filibuster battle is only the first step in reigning in an out of control judiciary and bringing moral sanity back to our courts.”

Groups also plan to hold prayer vigils outside of the Capitol if a vote is scheduled to overturn the filibuster rule for judicial nominees.

Full EarnedMedia story.

D.H.: This is perhaps the clearest statement I've seen that this is all about the religious-right controlling the courts.

Thursday, May 19, 2005


CNN: Robert Novak presumes to express Democrats' views on Dean - May 19

story.dean.jpgIn a piece entitled "Howard Dean Unmuzzled," CNN's Robert Novak presumes to say that leading Democrats (all unnamed, of course, except perhaps for Barney Frank) feel that DNC Chair Howard Dean is erratic and intemperate.
Example of Novak's fair and balanced reporting:
Dean's election by the DNC membership was a case of the inmates seizing control of the asylum.
Other examples:
He has described the Republican leadership, in various venues, as "evil," "corrupt" and "brain-dead." He has called Sen. Rick Santorum, chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, a "liar." He has referred to conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh as "drug-snorting."

Addressing the Massachusetts Democratic convention in Lowell, Dean declared: "I think DeLay ought to go back to Houston where he can serve his jail sentence down there courtesy of the Texas taxpayers."

Sorry, Robert.  Is he giving the Republicans hell?  Dr. Dean's just telling the truth, and they think it's hell.  -D.H.


CNN: Senate Deal would allow vote on 5 of 7 Bush judicial picks - May 19

story.frist.reid.jpgThursday, Posted: 2:58 PM EDT (1858 GMT)
D.H.: While Senate Majority Leader Frist and Minority Leader Reid, shown here, remain at odds, a coalition of 6 Republicans and 6 Democrats is working on a deal that would deny both parties the full goals the respective majority leaders have been articulating.

Proposal preserves filibuster for "extraordinary circumstances."

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A bid to end the Senate standoff over President Bush's judicial picks would let five nominees advance to a final vote while preserving the right of a minority of senators to block two others.

A draft of the deal, which CNN obtained Thursday, would allow up-or-down confirmation votes on five of the seven nominees whom Democrats have blocked -- including Priscilla Owen, whose nomination to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals faces debate in the Senate this week.

The document, dated at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, is not the most current, but "it's close," a senior congressional source said.

Six Democrats would vote to end debate on those nominees. In exchange, six Republicans would vote against the "nuclear option" to limit judicial filibusters, leaving the GOP a vote shy of a majority on that step.

Under the compromise, nominees William Myers, a pick for the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and Henry Saad, for the 6th Circuit, would remain blocked.

The deal would preserve the use of the filibuster, through which a minority of 41 senators can keep debate open indefinitely -- but call for its use only in "extraordinary circumstances."

It also calls on Bush to consult with home-state senators and members of the Senate Judiciary Committee from both parties before sending up a nominee.

Full CNN story.


SPLC: A Thorn in Their Side - May 19

The Rev. Mel White, pictured here, demonstrates against anti-gay bigotry.Mel White
(Photo courtesy of Soulforce)

Full article in Southern Poverty Law Center Intelligence Report: Mel White was a culture warrior on the religious right - until he came out.

From the 1960s through the early 1990s, the Rev. Mel White played a behind-the-scenes role in the resurgence of evangelical Christianity. While pastoring several West Coast churches and working with national crusades like Youth for Christ, White produced films and ghostwrote books for a "who's who" of evangelical leaders, including the Revs. Billy Graham, Jerry Falwell, D. James Kennedy and Pat Robertson.

Unknown to his friends and colleagues, White was also a closeted gay man who was nearly driven to suicide after two decades of struggling to save his marriage -- and, he believed, his soul -- with "reparative therapies" including electric shock and exorcism.

In 1993, White came out publicly and wrote a memoir, Stranger at the Gate: To Be Gay and Christian in America. Ignored or rejected by all his famous colleagues -- Robertson advised more therapy and "healing" -- he began a campaign of nonviolent resistance against "spiritual violence," leading protests of anti-gay intolerance at events like the Southern Baptist Convention.

In 1998, White founded Soulforce, an organization inspired by the civil-disobedience tactics of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. He has been arrested during several protests, and may face jail time again this spring, when Soulforce holds three days of vigils and protests at Focus on the Family's headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colo.

The Intelligence Report interviewed White this January in Washington, D.C.:

INTELLIGENCE REPORT: You've compared the anti-gay movement to the Nazi movement against Jews in Germany. Is that really a fair comparison?

MEL WHITE: I'm convinced that if you walk through the Holocaust Museum here in D.C. and substitute the word "gay" for the word "Jew" during those early years of the Nazi regime, you will be convinced that what [Hitler's chief propagandist] Goebbels did is exactly what Jerry Falwell and [Focus on the Family's] James Dobson and Pat Robertson and Pope John Paul II are doing now.

They are demonizing us. They are creating a case for why we're the problem, and why the nation has gone foul. They are describing us as disease-carriers, child-snatchers, money-grubbers.

All that demonizing creates a deadly environment. The killing here has been isolated and scattered so far, but it certainly has begun.

IR: And you hold religious leaders primarily responsible?

WHITE: It is the Christian Right movement that has become the number one enemy of God's gay children. Their churches are the primary sources of misinformation about gay and lesbian people that leads to suffering and death.

No longer am I afraid of Skinheads and neo-Nazis and white supremacists, by comparison to a church that's committed to the destruction of the civil rights and human rights and families of my sisters and brothers.

Skinheads and Klansmen I can recognize for the enemies that they are. But anti-gay Christians come in the disguise of love, and that disguise is a powerful weapon in itself. They demonize, but they don't see themselves as responsible for the violence their demonizing causes.

I try to bring up examples like that terrible killing of a gay couple in California by the Williams brothers [Matthew and Tyler, in 1999]. When one of them was asked by his mother, "Why'd you do it?" he said, basically, "The Bible says the world would be better off without them."

There are so many of these stories. What kind of smoking gun is more smoking than that?

IR: You've talked personally with both Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson about gay issues. How did they respond when you charged them with responsibility for fomenting anti-gay violence?

WHITE: "You lie! You have no proof that anything happens because of what we say. We love gay people." Dobson is saying that a lot now, because everybody is recognizing how hateful he is.

"We love gay people," he'll say. "But they're ruining the nation, and they're seducing your children, and they're bringing disease to your community. Of course, we love them — although they shouldn't have gay marriage, and they shouldn't be able to adopt because you know what they do to children. But we really love gay people!"

IR: You don't believe the religious right truly "loves the sinner but hates the sin"?

WHITE: To say, "I love you, but I have reservations" is to say, "I don't love you." To say, "I love you as you are" -- that's love. There is no "but" or "if" in love. When are they going to get that?

You can't love the sinner and hate the sin, when the sin is what I am. I am a gay man, and I love my partner of 23 years, Gary Nixon.

Can you love me and not love my relationship with Gary? Give us a break! Quit using that. That is total false advertising. You don't love me at all unless you love me as I am.

Rest of the article.


Soechting: "It's official -- Republicans can't govern" - May 19


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:                    CONTACT:  Mike Lavigne

Thursday                                                512-478-9800


(AUSTIN) -- With the legislative session about to move into its final full week, Texas Democratic Party Chairman Charles Soechting today said that the past five months have removed all doubt about whether ideological extremists should be in charge of state government.


"It's official: Republicans can't govern," Soechting said.  "They have become living proof of the Peter Principle -- mediocre management will always attain the highest level of its incompetence."


Soechting said the 'tax-and-spend Republicans' in charge of state government have failed to meet their stated goals of reforming public school funding and delivering significant local property tax relief.


"They have simultaneously raised taxes and cut services," Soechting said.


Republicans outnumber Democrats nine to one on the conference committee currently trying to reach a compromise on major differences between the House and Senate versions of a historic GOP tax bill.  The bill features the single-largest tax hike in Texas history, less than half the local property tax relief initially promised by Republican lawmakers, and a variety of measures pushed by ideological extremists.


While failing to significantly reduce local property taxes, Soechting said, GOP leaders have muscled through a bill that raises their own pensions while cutting funds for retired public school teachers.  Despite raising state government spending by a record 12 percent, Republicans have failed to find any new resources for public school classrooms -- and are still pushing a measure that would siphon billions of tax dollars out of public schools to fund a private-school voucher scheme pushed by top GOP campaign contributors.


In addition, Soechting said, the Republican tax hike seeks to expand the number of small businesses paying the state franchise tax from approximately 150,000 to more than one million.


"These small business owners are going to be hard pressed to lay their hands on the 'tax relief' Republican politicians are going to try to claim they delivered," Soechting said.


Soechting noted that even the troubled Child Protective Services agency, declared an emergency by GOP Gov. Rick Perry before the start of the legislative session, has been shortchanged by Republican lawmakers in the current budget.


"The uniform disappointment Texans feel with the current Republican leadership crosses partisan, regional, ethnic, and gender lines," Soechting said.  "It is one thing to advocate for less government or even for more government, but when Texans look at the Republicans in charge, what they long for most is better government."




WashPost: Gloves Off As Senators Start Debate On Judges - May 19

Senator Frist With Judicial Nominees-----
Thursday, Page A01 - Sen. Frist, shown here, with nominees Brown and Owen.

Fiery Words on Filibusters, But Also Talks on a Deal

By Shailagh Murray and Charles Babington
Washington Post Staff Writers

The Senate opened a long-awaited debate on whether to ban filibusters of judicial nominees with vividly partisan attacks yesterday, as a small group of moderates worked behind the scenes for a compromise to avert the showdown.

Senators from both parties filled the chamber all day with impassioned speeches about their constitutional duty to give the president "advice and consent" on judicial nominees. Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) set the tone with an opening speech that said Democrats want to "kill, to defeat, to assassinate these nominees." Democrats denounced his remarks.

Even more intense action took place in small groups and closed meetings, as half a dozen GOP centrists, and an equal number of Democrats, tried to close a deal that would defuse the controversy. Aides familiar with the negotiations said they focused on two issues: the fate of seven pending appellate court nominees who were blocked from an up-or-down vote in Bush's first term and the more difficult issue of agreeing on how Democrats would treat the right to filibuster judicial nominees in coming months, when a Supreme Court vacancy might occur.

The "six and six" proposal, as it is called, would obligate Democratic signatories to forswear backing a filibuster against future judicial nominees except in extraordinary circumstances. In return, the six GOP signers would agree to vote against efforts to ban judicial filibusters, the aides said.

Such an arrangement would effectively end the crisis because Democrats would not have the votes they need to prevent votes on the nominees in question. At the same time, Frist would not have the 51 votes he needs to disallow filibusters of judicial nominations.

It was unclear how the proposed accord would handle the seven pending Bush nominees. Under one scenario, all would receive confirmation votes -- and presumably be seated on various appeals courts -- except Henry W. Saad of Michigan and William G. Myers III of Idaho. Sources said Saad had made too many Democratic enemies, in part by accidentally sending a senator an e-mail that criticized the lawmaker. Myers, aides said, is a lower priority to Republican conservatives determined to secure confirmations for Priscilla Richman Owen of Texas, Janice Rogers Brown of California and William H. Pryor Jr. of Alabama.

Senators participating in the negotiations included Democrats Joseph I. Lieberman (Conn.), Ben Nelson (Neb.), Mark Pryor (Ark.), Robert C. Byrd (W.Va.), Mary Landrieu (La.) and Ken Salazar (Colo.). Republican negotiators included Olympia J. Snowe (Maine), John McCain (Ariz.), Mike DeWine (Ohio), John W. Warner (Va.), Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska). Warner hosted at least one meeting. "It's 200 years of tradition and precedent -- there are a lot of issues to consider," Snowe told reporters.

Full WashPost article.


Slate-Today's Papers: Debate over Owen is really about whether Dems can keep the filibuster - May 19

Posted Thursday

By Eric Umansky

The Washington Post and New York Times lead with what could be the prelude to the filibuster battle: The Senate began debate on the nomination of Justice Priscilla Owen to a federal appeals court. Majority Leader Bill Frist kicked off the festivities by announcing in an opening speech that Democrats want to "kill, to defeat, to assassinate these nominees."

The Los Angeles Times' lead breaks down Antonio Villaraigosa's mayoral win. He beat L.A.'s incumbent mayor by 17 points.

Apparently fresh out of lead story material, the USA Today goes with a to-do list for communities that are about to be faced with the expansion of nearby military bases: Schools will have to ramp up, etc.

Owen, a member of the Texas Supreme Court, is known for strongly conservative and pro-business rulings. Democrats have promised to filibuster her nomination. But Republicans have warned that in turn they'll change Senate rules, killing the filibuster, meaning nominations could pass with just 50 votes rather than the current filibuster-proof 60.

A bipartisan group of senators is still trying to hammer out a deal. And no real vote is expected until next week. But as Slate's Mickey Kaus points out, the whole thing might end up being as climactic as the opening of Al Capone's vault: Democrats may well skip a filibuster—and allow cloture, as they say in Senate-speak—unless they're confident they have the 50-plus votes necessary to defeat what would be the Republicans' response: killing the filibuster rule. Better to hold their fire until the Supreme moment.

Full Slate article.


NYT: Generals Offer Sober Outlook on Iraqi War - May 19


BAGHDAD, Iraq -- American military commanders in Baghdad and Washington gave a sobering new assessment on Wednesday of the war in Iraq, adding to the mood of anxiety that prompted Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to come to Baghdad last weekend to consult with the new government.

Read entire NYT depressing article.

D.H.: The articles goes on to say our troops could be stuck there for many years and the mission could fail.


AP-ABC: U.S. officials met bilaterally with North Korean officials in New York last week - May 19

Thursday morning

So much for Bush's refusal of bi-lateral talks with N. Korea. -D.H.
TOKYO - U.S. officials met with North Korean officials in New York last week, the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo said Thursday, in an apparent effort to draw the volatile nation back into six-nation nuclear talks.

The meeting, reportedly at the North Korean representative office at the United Nations, came as concerns are mounting that the reclusive regime is moving toward extracting weapons-grade plutonium and could be preparing for a nuclear test.

"We can confirm that we had working-level contact with North Korean officials on Friday, May 13, in New York," an embassy official said. "This channel is used to convey messages about U.S. policy, not to negotiate."

The Bush administration earlier this month offered a couple of carrots to the North -- direct talks and recognition of its sovereignty -- in a bid to derail its nuclear weapons program.

But Washington has also talked tough with Pyongyang, saying that a nuclear test would be punished, and that the U.S. had not ruled out bringing the case before the U.N. Security Council for consideration of sanctions.

The Boston Globe reported in its Thursday edition that Friday's meeting was attended by Joseph DiTrani, the U.S. special envoy to the six-nation nuclear talks, and Jim Foster, the head of the State Department's Office of Korean Affairs.

Japan's Asahi newspaper reported in its Thursday evening edition that senior U.S. State Department officials told North Korean officials in the meeting that Washington recognizes North Korea as a sovereign nation under the leadership of Kim Jong Il.

The U.S. officials also told the North Korean side that the administration of President Bush does not intend to attack North Korea, the Asahi said.

AP-ABC News full story.

D.H.: Maybe Bush should blow up a few small villages there, like he's doing in Iraq, to show President Kim he means business.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005


Reuters: Iran's nuclear negotiator will delay showdown over Tehran's resuming tests - May 18

HassanIran's chief nuclear negotiator Hassan Rohani, shown here, speaks during an interview in Tehran May 18, 2005.
Iran will not back down on resuming nuclear activities opposed by the West but may wait for a few weeks if talks with European powers go well, chief negotiator Hassan Rohani said on May 18. Such a delay could postpone a growing crisis with the European Union and the United States over Tehran's nuclear plans until after an Iranian presidential election on June 17, although Rohani said there was no link between the two.
Photo by Raheb Homavandi/Reuters
Reuters - Wednesday 4:48 PM


Slate's Fred Kaplan debunks myth of "Operation Matador" success in western Iraq - May 18

Excerpt from Kaplan's article:

Villagers who returned after the fighting were stunned to find entire neighborhoods destroyed. Men who had stayed behind to help were found dead in shot-up houses. Over 100 jihadists were killed, but so were a lot of Iraqis fighting on the side of the Americans, to say nothing of several bystanders caught in the crossfire.

How to enrage Iraq's Sunnis, full story.


Chicago Tribune: Judge whose husband & mother were murdered by disgruntled litigant asks Senate for better security - May 18

Joan Humphrey Lefkow
Published Wednesday, 11:28 AM CDT

Illinois federal judge Joan Lefkow, shown here, comes out publicly on loss, security

By Jeff Coen, Tribune staff reporter
WASHINGTON -- In her first major public appearance since a disgruntled plaintiff murdered her husband and mother in her Chicago home, U.S. District Court Judge Joan H. Lefkow today called for better protection for judges.

She also asked lawmakers to repudiate recent "gratuitous attacks" on the judiciary by commentators such as Pat Robertson and by some members of Congress.

"In the age of mass communication, harsh rhetoric is truly dangerous," Lefkow said. "Fostering disrespect for judges can only encourage those that are on the edge, or the fringe, to exact revenge on a judge who ruled against them."

Lefkow said more resources need to be given to the U.S. Marshals Service to evaluate potential threats and protect judges. She said judges themselves were not in a position to evaluate threats.

She also called on lawmakers to disperse as quickly as possible the $12 million Congress has approved to install home security systems for the 2,200 active and semi-retired judges and magistrates in the federal court system.

Lefkow said there was no time for delay in releasing the funds.

"As recently as last Friday, May 13, I was spotted and harassed in a restaurant in downtown Chicago," she said. "Had that harasser come back not with a nasty sign but with a gun, I would not be here today to speak with you."

Testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Lefkow described the Feb. 28 slayings of her husband, Michael, 64, and mother, Donna Grace Humphrey, 89, as the family's "own personal 9/11."

She asked committee members where the nation would be without judges who can do their work without fear.

The jurist was invited to testify as the panel considers judicial security matters in the wake of the Lefkow slayings and the recent courthouse shootings in Atlanta.

In introductory remarks, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) commended Lefkow for her "incredible courage for appearing before the committee."

Lefkow has maintained her privacy for months, but emerged today on a national stage to request more security funding and legislation that prohibits Internet postings of personal information about judges.

The judge noted that her own healing is continuing, but said, "I am here today because I believe it is important to speak to this body, which has the power to effect much-needed changes in the manner in which the federal judiciary is protected from assassination and lesser attacks."

Lefkow was composed as she spoke. Her four daughters and other family members watched and, at times, cried, during her testimony.

Lefkow's husband and mother were shot to death by a man who had broken into the family's North Side home and hidden in the basement, waiting for the judge to come home.

Bart Ross, a 57-year-old unemployed electrician from Chicago, committed suicide in suburban Milwaukee in March after leaving a note confessing to the murders. He was angry that Lefkow dismissed a medical malpractice suit he had filed, authorities said.

The judge also was the target of a murder plot by white supremacist Matthew Hale. A federal jury convicted Hale in April 2004 of soliciting her murder, and he was sentenced last month to 40 years in prison. She was never attacked.

In citing recent criticisms of federal judges, Lefkow referred to the uproar surrounding Terri Schiavo, the brain-damaged Florida woman who died after a feeding tube was withdrawn from her. Some Republican members of Congress lashed out at judges involved in the case.

"This loss happened because our legal system did not protect the people who need protection most, and that will change,'' House Majority Leader Tom DeLay said. ``The time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior.''

Pat Robertson, founder of the Christian Coalition and head of the Christian Broadcasting Network, appeared on ABC's "This Week'' earlier this month and criticized the federal courts.
"Over 100 years, I think the gradual erosion of the consensus that's held our country together is probably more serious than a few bearded terrorists who fly into buildings,'' Robertson had said.

In her testimony today, Lefkow said, "Whether liberal or conservative, I have never encountered a judge in the federal judiciary who can remotely be described as posing a threat 'probably more serious than a few bearded terrorists who fly into buildings.'''

After her appearance before the committee, Lefkow met briefly with reporters in the offices of Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) to discuss her testimony.

Lefkow declined to say when she may return to the bench. She said she had decided to speak out publicly because of the weight of the issue and because her colleagues are at risk.

Rest of this Chicago Tribune story.


Haigler letter to editor blasts political censorship of NPR - May 18


Taylor County Chair Dave Haigler, pictured here, today spoke out against political interference with NPR's editorial independence:

Bush appointee Kenneth Tomlinson, the chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, is meddling too much in the programming of NPR, which constitutes government censorship.

This censorship is being planned under the guise of monitoring Middle East coverage on NPR news programs for evidence of bias. The corporation's board has said it should consider redirecting money away from national newscasts and toward music programs produced by NPR stations. Last month, the corporation's board, which is dominated by Republicans named by President Bush, talked about the need to change programming from news to music in light of a conversation one of them had had with a taxi driver driving to the meeting.

Top officials at NPR and member stations are upset as well about the corporation's decision to appoint two ombudsmen to judge the content of programs for "balance." They might as well put Rush Limbaugh or FOX News in charge of what news NPR can run.

At the request of two senior members of Congress, the inspector general at the corporation is examining whether Mr. Tomlinson's decision to monitor only one television program, "Now," with Bill Moyers, may have violated a law insulating public broadcasting from politics. There is too much pressure from this administration over the news media. They need to gets hands off NPR. FOX News parrots whatever they say, and that is too much already.

Yours truly,

Dave Haigler, lawyer


CNN: Senate moves toward showdown on judges - May 18

Wednesday morning
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, center, and Minority Leader Harry Reid, right, discuss Priscilla Owen's nomination on Wednesday.

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- After weeks of political wrangling, the U.S. Senate on Wednesday began debating one of President Bush's most controversial judicial picks -- Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen's nomination to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tennessee, brought Owen's nomination to the floor Wednesday morning -- the first step toward a showdown with Democrats, who have fought to block her confirmation for four years.

The Senate is expected to spend the rest of the week debating the nomination.

Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, and other Democrats urged Frist to move first on other judges who could be confirmed more easily.

Democrats have used the filibuster to block 10 of Bush's 218 judicial nominees. The president renominated seven of them this year, including Owen.

The filibuster, a form of extended debate that dates to the 1850s, can be overcome by a three-fifths majority of 60 votes.

With Democrats holding 44 seats in the 100-member Senate, they could hold up a vote on a nominee indefinitely. Their threat of a filibuster usually has been sufficient to keep Republicans from bringing a nomination to the floor for a vote.

If Democrats try to block the nominees by refusing to end debate, Frist has said he will move to change Senate rules with a simple majority vote to prevent filibusters of judicial nominees.

That step has been dubbed the "nuclear option." Democrats have said they would respond by slowing Senate business to a crawl.

"I've made it clear what the principle is -- a fair up-or-down vote," Frist said Tuesday. "And we will have whatever debate is required to really exhaust the discussion on these candidates."

CNN - rest of this story.


WashPost: Debate of Controversial Judicial Nominee Begins - May 18

Wednesday, 11:42 AM EDT

Frist Rejects Latest Attempt to Avoid Showdown Over Filibuster Rule Change

By Jesse J. Holland, The Associated Press

Concluding it was time to act, the Republican-controlled Senate began debating one of President Bush's most contested judicial nominations Wednesday in a showdown over whether the White House can place like-minded judges on the federal bench over the objection of minority Democrats.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., called the Democratic blockade of seven Bush U.S. Appeals Court nominees "radical," and said one of those judges, Texas judge Priscilla Owen, should be confirmed despite Democratic accusations that she is a "judicial activist" who pursues an ideological agenda.

"Vote for the nominee. Vote against the nominee," Frist said. "Confirm the nominee. Reject the nominee. But, in the end, vote."

But Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid said Democrats would fight to retain what power they still have in a Washington where the GOP controls the White House and both houses of Congress.

"Right now, the only check on President Bush is the Democrats' ability to voice their concern in the Senate," said Reid, D-Nev. "If Republicans roll back our rights in this chamber, there will be no check on their power. The radical, right wing will be free to pursue any agenda they want."

Frist rebuffed last-minute offers from Reid to skip over Owen's nomination to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, and instead confirm consensus nominees to two other courts.

"I'm trying to move to a qualified nominee, Priscilla Owen and we hear these attempts to delay even right now, to sidetrack, to even consider somebody else and that's the challenge," Frist said. "That's why we're on the floor of the United States Senate, with the light of day, with the American people watching."

Reid also suggested that Frist call a senator-only meeting in the Capitol's Old Senate chamber -- no aides, no press, just all 100 senators -- where they could hash out the controversy on their own, just as they did to work out how senators would handle President Clinton's impeachment.

"Have all of us retire to the chamber, sit down and talk though this issue to see if there's a way we can resolve this short of this nuclear option," Reid said.

But Frist said he was ready to move forward. Reid then told Frist that Democrats would block all committee hearings from going on while the Senate debated Owen. Committees may meet while the Senate is in session only with the unanimous consent of all of the 100 senators, so a single senator can block committee meetings that last longer than two hours after the Senate begins.

With the Owen nomination now pending, time is running out on senators who want to find a compromise and avoid a vote in the Senate to block Democrats from filibustering the White House's judicial nominees. If majority Republicans opt to change the rules to disallow filibusters of judicial nominees -- a move labeled the "nuclear option" -- parliamentary warfare between Democrats and Republicans could escalate and stall Bush's legislative agenda.

Senators expect to debate Owen's nomination all this week and take a test vote early next week. If that vote is not successful, then Frist plans to call a vote on banning judicial filibusters, aides said.

WashPost full story-continued.


Reuters: Despite Newsweek's retraction, Iranian Muslims still protest Gitmo Quran desecration - May 18

Quran desecration protest in IranAn Iranian cleric holds up a copy of the Koran as he shouts anti-U.S. slogans during a demonstration at a seminary in Qom, 120 km (75 miles) south of Tehran May 18, 2005.
Hundreds of Iranian clerics denounced the reported desecration of the Koran at Guantanamo Bay, despite Newsweek magazine retracting the report.
REUTERS/Morteza Nikoubazl
Source: Reuters - 13 minutes ago


Dave Collins: Blogger finds 10 stories on Gitmo desecration of Quran going back to March '03 - May 18

We have all watched as the Cheney/Bush White House has done a "Rather" on Newsweek regarding their reporting of desecration of the Qur'an at Gitmo. We have heard the non-denial denials like Condi Rice's "it is unfortunate that got out" or the anonymous Pentagon spokesperson's "we've heard no credible source...".
Well, an industrious "blogger" did a Nexus/Lexis search and low and behold, this is a story that has been in the press for two years, beginning in March, 2003 with the Washington Post. For your information and reference, the stories and sources the search revealed are provided, below.
"Believe nothing, no matter where you hear it or who has said it, not even if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense." Buddha
-Dave Collins
Copyright 2005 The Denver Post
All Rights Reserved
The Denver Post
January 9, 2005 Sunday
LENGTH: 1088 words
HEADLINE: Nightmare of Guantanamo.... U.S. prison camp in Cuba has become legal black hole, reporter says
BYLINE: John Freeman Special to The Denver Post
They were punched, slapped, denied sleep, had seen other prisoners sexually humiliated, hooded and forced to watch copies of the Koran being flushed down toilets. Eventually the pressure proved too much - they gave false confessions that the British intelligence service, MI5, later showed to be untrue. Upon their return to the United Kingdom they were released without being charged.
- - - - -
Herald Sun (Melbourne, Australia)
January 3, 2005 Monday
LENGTH: 177 words
HEADLINE: Koran prayer torture claim
LONDON -- A British detainee claims he was tortured at Guantanamo Bay for reciting the Koran when talking was banned.

Moazzam Begg told lawyers he was tortured using the strappado, in which a prisoner is suspended from a bar with handcuffs, Britain's Observer newspaper said.

Mr Begg alleged he had been shaven several times against his will and a guard had said on one such occasion: "This is the part that really gets to you Muslims isn't it?"
- - - - -
Financial Times (London, England)
October 28, 2004 Thursday
London Edition 2
LENGTH: 310 words
HEADLINE: Four Britons held at Guantanamo sue US government
Four British subjects detained without trial for nearly three years in the US military base of Guantanamo Bay in Cuba are suing the US government.
In the first legal action of its kind, the former detainees, who were released in March, are alleging torture and other human rights violations.
In August Mr Ahmed, Mr Rasul and Mr Iqbal issued a 115-page dossier accusing the US of abuse, including allegations that they were beaten and had their Korans thrown into toilets.
- - - - -
October 18, 2004, Monday, FINAL EDITION
LENGTH: 820 words
HEADLINE: Spy case was a 'life-altering experience' for airman
BYLINE: Laura Parker
FAIRFIELD, Calif. ---- The day Ahmad Al Halabi, an Air Force translator at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, was arrested, he was more puzzled than alarmed.
Al Halabi says he did not witness any treatment of prisoners that has now been called into question as abusive. But he says he saw things at Guantanamo that disturbed him. He says guards would purposely mishandle the Koran "just to see the detainees' reaction."

"All I wanted was for them to treat those prisoners like human beings," Al Halabi says.
- - - - -
Daily News (New York)
August 5, 2004 Thursday
LENGTH: 320 words
THREE BRITONS freed from the terror prison in Guantanamo Bay say they were stripped naked and faced other abuses that mirrored what happened to inmates in Iraq.
They say that rats and scorpions had free run of their sweltering cages, loud rock music was used to drown out the sound of prayers, and sleep deprivation was common.

"They would kick the Koran, throw it into the toilet and generally disrespect it," Asif Iqbal wrote.
- - - - -
The Independent (London)
August 5, 2004, Thursday
SECTION: First Edition; NEWS; Pg. 6
LENGTH: 729 words
BYLINE: JONATHAN BROWN Azmat Begg said his son's health was deteriorating Matthew Fearn/PA; Moazzam Begg: Held at Guantanamo for two years
THE FATHER of a British man being held in Guantanamo Bay called on the Government yesterday to immediately bring home the detainees following new claims of sexual, physical and psychological torture. Moazzam Begg, who is still in solitary confinement at the United States' military facility in Cuba after two and a half years, was described in a report published yesterday as being "in a very bad way".
In the report, released in New York, Asif Iqbal, Rhuhel Ahmed and Shafiq Rasul - the so-called Tipton Three - said one inmate was threatened after being shown a video in which hooded inmates were forced to sodomise each other. Guards allegedly threw prisoners' Korans into toilets, while others were injected with drugs, it was claimed.
- - - - -
The San Francisco Chronicle
LENGTH: 3005 words
Since reports first surfaced of abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison, other accounts of ill treatment have surfaced in Iraq and at U.S. detention facilities in Afghanistan and at Guantanamo Bay.
Prisoners have been forced to strip naked -- nudity is a violation of Muslim principles; forced to commit actual or simulated sex acts; prevented from sleeping; threatened with dogs; hooded; given electric shocks; beaten with fists, chains, boots and other objects; forced to maintain painful positions for hours; kept in frigid isolation rooms; subjected to loud music, strobe lights and diets of bread and water; urinated on and prevented from praying or reading the Koran.
- - - - -
The Observer
May 16, 2004
SECTION: Observer News Pages, Pg. 8
LENGTH: 2441 words
HEADLINE: Inside Guantanamo Bay: I was in extreme pain and so weak that I could barely stand. It was freezing cold and I was shaking like a washing machine. They questioned me at gunpoint and told me that if I confessed I could go home: As America struggles to come to terms with military abuse in Iraq, similar stories are emerging from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Tarek Dergoul, a Briton released from the camp in March, talks here for the first time about his two-year ordeal. By David Rose
BYLINE: David Rose
'THEY HAD already searched me and my cell twice that day, gone through my stuff, touched my Koran, felt my body around my private parts. And now they wanted to do it again, just to provoke me, but I said no, because if you submit to everything you turn into a zombie.
- - - - -
The Guardian (London) - Final Edition
May 14, 2004
SECTION: Guardian Home Pages, Pg. 1
LENGTH: 564 words
HEADLINE: Guantanamo abuse same as Abu Ghraib, say Britons
BYLINE: Suzanne Goldenberg in Washington, Tania Branigan and Vikram Dodd
Two British men who were held at Guantanamo Bay claimed that their US guards subjected them to abuse similar to that perpetrated at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
According to a source, who has interviewed them in secret since their release, they were initially too ashamed to talk about it, and are only now starting to give details. The source said: "They are embarrassed about talking about it because they feel humiliated. We have had an account that their religion was used against them, that a copy of the Koran was brought in front of them and pages torn out."
- - - - -
The Observer
March 14, 2004
SECTION: Observer News Pages, Pg. 5
LENGTH: 5420 words
HEADLINE: World Exclusive: Inside Guantanamo: How we survived jail hell: For two years the Tipton Three have been silent prisoners in Guantanamo Bay. Now, in this remarkable interview with David Rose, they describe for the first time the extraordinary story of their journey from the West Midlands to Camp Delta
BYLINE: David Rose
As Muslims, they were shocked when in repeated 'shakedown' searches of the sleeping tents, copies of the Koran would be trampled on by soldiers and, on one occasion, thrown into a toilet bucket. Throughout their stay at Kandahar the guards carried out head-counts every hour at night to keep the prisoners awake.
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The Washington Post
March 26, 2003 Wednesday
Final Edition
LENGTH: 888 words
HEADLINE: Returning Afghans Talk of Guantanamo;
Out of Legal Limbo, Some Tell of Mistreatment
BYLINE: Marc Kaufman and April Witt, Washington Post Staff Writers
DATELINE: KABUL, Afghanistan March 25
Afghan men freed today after spending months in legal limbo as U.S. prisoners in the war on terrorism said they were generally well-fed and given medical care, but housed in cramped cells and sometimes shackled, hit and humiliated.
The men, the largest single group of Afghans to be released after months of detainment at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, gave varying accounts of how American forces treated them during interrogation and detainment. Some displayed medical records showing extensive care by American military doctors, while others complained that American soldiers insulted Islam by sitting on the Koran or dumping their sacred text into a toilet to taunt them.


AP: Former Taliban official files for Afghan parliament seat - May 18

Taliban candidateAfghanistan's Taliban Foreign Minister Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil, as shown in this Jan. 12, 2001, photo in the Pakistani capital Islamabad.
The former foreign minister for the ousted Taliban regime, considered a relative moderate, on Wednesday, May 18, 2005 announced that he would be a candidate in Afghanistan's upcoming parliamentary elections.
(AP Photo/B.K.Bangash)
AP - 17 minutes ago
Source:  AP-Yahoo.

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