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Beck: John Birch Society makes ‘more and more sense.’

Thu, 2007-07-26 16:19

On his CNN Headline News show last night, Glenn Beck hosted Sam Antonio, a national spokesperson for the John Birch Society, to discuss various “conspiracy theories” about immigration and border security, including the idea that “the Mexican government” has “a hold on our enforcement of laws here in America.” Beck told Antonio that he used to think the Society members were “a bunch of nuts,” but that they are now “starting to make more and more sense” to him. Watch it:

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As Salon’s Alex Koppelman notes, the group’s founder, Robert Welch, once accused Dwight Eisenhower of being “a dedicated conscious agent of the communist conspiracy.” The Southern Poverty Law Center has listed the John Birch Society as a group that “advocates or adheres to extreme antigovernment doctrines.”

Fox News On Arabic Culture School: ‘Al Qaeda Is Coming Soon To A Classroom Near You’

Thu, 2007-07-26 15:21

Yesterday, Fox News’ Hannity & Colmes did a segment asking if the Khalil Gibran International Academy, the first New York City public school “dedicated to the study of the Arabic language and culture,” is “a breeding ground for radicals.”

As Fox rolled footage of the 9/11 attacks, Sean Hannity asked if the New York Board of Education was “blurring the line between the separation of church and state” by using “tax dollars to fund an all Muslim school. ” After displaying banners with “Islam 101?” and “Funding Fatwa?,” Alan Colmes introduced the segment by saying, “Coming soon to a classroom near you, Al Qaeda!” Watch it:

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In reality, the school is open to “students of all racial and ethnic background,” not just Muslims, and its curriculum is “not religion-based.” According to the New York Board of Education, the academy will offer “a standard college preparatory curriculum, with separate Arabic language instruction,” and special emphasis on the “the history and contributions of the Arab people.”

Hannity also suggested that instruction of reading and writing should precede lessons in Arabic culture and history. “Once we teach kids to read, write and math then we can expand out?” But like the more than 60 other dual-language New York public schools, which “focus on cultures as diverse as Creole and Chinese and Russian,” the Khalil Gibran International Academy will teach Arabic culture while simultaneously preparing students for the “rigorous New York State Regents Examinations.” As the National Association for Bilingual Education points out, “English-speaking students who learn a second language routinely do better in school and get better jobs.”

And if the above segment is any indication, then the school’s mission, to “embrace of New York City’s growing Arab population and of internationalism,” and dispel “the stereotypes” of Arab Americans, is all too relevant.

(HT: News Hounds and Media Matters)

Igor Volsky

College students to face higher birth control prices.

Thu, 2007-07-26 14:51

College students returning to school this fall “will be greeted by steep increases in one of the few items they have been able to buy cheap: birth control. For years, drug companies sold birth-control pills and other contraceptives to university health services at a big discount.” But due to the Deficit Reduction Act, signed by the President last year, drug companies now have a “disincentive” to offer the discounts to college students.

Mueller Contradicts Gonzales Testimony, Confirms NSA Program Was Subject Of Hospital Visit

Thu, 2007-07-26 13:38

Speaking with the House Judiciary Committee today, FBI director Robert S. Mueller contradicted Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’ sworn Senate testimony from Tuesday, confirming that the “terrorist surveillance program” run by the National Security Agency (NSA) was the subject of discussion during Gonzales’ controversial visit to former Attorney General John Ashcroft’s hospital bed. Gonzales had testified that it was about “other intelligence activities”. Watch it:

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Mueller’s testimony is only the latest evidence suggesting that Gonzales perjured himself before Congress.

– On Tuesday, Sen. John D. Rockefeller (D-WV) and Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA), who were briefed on the program at the March 2004 White House meeting, also confirmed that the NSA program was discussed.

– Yesterday, the AP revealed a four-page, May 2006 memo from then-National Intelligence Director John Negroponte confirming that the NSA program was the subject of a March 2004 White House intelligence briefing for top congressional leaders that preceded the hospital visit.

Despite the evidence contradicting Gonzales’ statements to Congress, the White House is refusing to acknowledge the truth. Asked by reporters about the contradiction last night, Justice spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said Gonzales “stands by his testimony.” Today, White House spokesperson Tony Snow said Gonzales “was speaking consistently.”

Earlier today, Senate Democrats called for a special prosecutor to investigate whether Gonzales has perjured himself.

UPDATE: More at the Gavel.

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Fox Attacks: Bloggers.

Thu, 2007-07-26 13:20

As part of his Fox Attacks series, Robert Greenwald has a new video compiling Fox News’ assault on the progressive blogosphere. The network’s hosts and guests have attacked bloggers as “radical Internet assassins,” “McCarthyism,” and “conspiracy-driven.” Watch it:

Contact Fox News’s advertisers and inform them about the network’s inaccurate reporting.

Intelligence Official Contradicts Bush: ‘Primary’ Terrorist Threat Is From ‘South Asia,’ Not Iraq

Thu, 2007-07-26 12:11

On Tuesday, President Bush delivered an address claiming that al Qaeda in Iraq is the central terror threat to the United States:

Here’s the bottom line: Al Qaida in Iraq is run by foreign leaders loyal to Osama bin Laden. … We are fighting bin Laden’s al Qaida in Iraq; Iraq is central to the war on terror; and against this enemy, America can accept nothing less than complete victory.

Top U.S. intelligence officials testifying before the House yesterday explained that Bush’s monolithic conception of al Qaeda does not represent their views. As NPR reported, “none of the officials testifying would put it quite the way President Bush has.”

In rare testimony, Edward Gistaro, “a principal author” of the recent National Intelligence Estimate, said the “primary concern” today comes from Afghanistan and Pakistan.

CRAMER: So then, if, as the NIE reflects, we are concerned about a threat to the homeland here, who calls that shot from al Qaeda?

GISTARO: Primary concern is al Qaeda in South Asia, organizing its own plots against the United States.

Watch it:

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Rep. Bud Cramer (D-AL) pressed Gistaro to parse out the connections between al Qaeda in Iraq and al Qaeda in Afghanistan, a subject of extensive public interest in recent weeks. While Gistaro acknowledged that “al Qaeda n Iraq is an affiliate organization to al Qaeda in South Asia,” he asserted that “we’re dealing with an Al Qaida that has a decentralized command-and-control structure. And I don’t want to leave a false impression that we’re talking about a monolithic organization.”

Spencer Ackerman has more.

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Slave labor used to contruct U.S. Embassy In Baghdad.

Thu, 2007-07-26 11:30

During testimony before the House Oversight Committee today, Rory Mayberry, a former subcontract employee of the firm responsible for the construction of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, said he believes that at least 52 Filipino nationals had been kidnapped to work on the embassy project. He testified:

Mr. Chairman, when the airplane took off and the captain announced that we were heading to Baghdad, all you-know-what broke out on the airplane. The men started shouting, it wasn’t until the security guy working for First Kuwaiti waved an MP5 in the air that the men settled down. They realized that they had no other choice but to go to Baghdad. Let me spell it out clearly: I believe these men were kidnapped by First Kuwaiti to work at the US Embassy… I’ve read the State Department Inspector General’s report on the construction of the embassy. Mr. Chairman, it’s not worth the paper it’s printed on. This is a cover-up and I’m glad that I’ve had the opportunity to set the record straight.

Leahy Subpoenas Rove, Jennings For Documents And Testimony Related To U.S. Attorneys Purge

Thu, 2007-07-26 10:52

Senate Judiciary Chairman Pat Leahy (D-VT) announced today he is issuing subpoenas compelling White House officials Karl Rove and J. Scott Jennings to provide testimony and information into the firings of U.S. attorneys.

“What the White House stonewalling is preventing is conclusive evidence of who made the decisions to fire these federal prosecutors,” Leahy wrote.
“Indeed, the evidence we have been able to collect points to Karl Rove and the political operatives at the White House.”

The White House’s refusal to allow a transcript of Rove’s testimony forced the Committee to issue the subpoenas. Leahy argued that the White House’s “blanket assertions of executive privilege” are fomenting a “constitutional crisis”:

With our service of these subpoenas, I hope that the White House takes this opportunity to reconsider its blanket claim of executive privilege, especially in light of the testimony that President was not involved in the dismissals of these U.S. Attorneys. I hope that the White House steps back from this constitutional crisis of its own making so that we can begin to repair the damage done by its untoward interference with federal law enforcement. … Mr. Rove and the White House must not be allowed to continue manipulating our justice system to pursue a partisan political agenda.

Documents revealed that “the idea of firing all 93 U.S. attorneys” was raised by Rove in early January 2005, and discussed with Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. The evidence indicated “Rove was more involved in the plan than previously acknowledged by the White House.” Furthermore, U.S. attorney Bud Cummins was allegedly fired to make way for Rove-protege Tim Griffin.

Jennings set up a meeting between Moonica Goodling and New Mexico Republican officials in June 2006 to discuss U.S. Attorney David Iglesias’s “situation” in New Mexico. Documents show that Jennings also had knowledge of the plan for firing the U.S. attorneys.

The deadline for submitting documents and testimony is August 2 at 10:00 a.m.

Read Leahy’s letter to Rove here.

Gates expresses regret for aide’s attack on Clinton.

Thu, 2007-07-26 10:25

In a new letter to Sen. Hillary Clinton, Defense Secretary Robert Gates apologizes for Under Secretary of Defense Eric Edelman’s recent attacks on her. He writes, “I emphatically assure you that [the Defense Department does] not claim, suggest, or otherwise believe that congressional oversight emboldens our enemies, nor do we question anyone’s motives in this regard.” The AP reports:

“I truly regret that this important discussion went astray and I also regret any misunderstanding of intention,” Gates wrote.

“I agree with you that planning concerning the future of U.S. forces in Iraq — including the drawdown of those forces at the right time — is not only appropriate but essential,” Gates wrote, adding that Edelman also agrees with that point.

“You may rest assured that such planning is indeed taking place with my active involvement,” he wrote in the letter.

Matt Damon: I demeaned myself to promote flex fuels.

Thu, 2007-07-26 10:01

Last night on the Tonight Show, actor Matt Damon talked about the Clean My Ride campaign. In an effort to attract attention to flex fuels, Damon dresses as a gas pump in one of the campaign’s six webisodes. (Watch it.) “What were you doing?” Leno asked. “What I was doing was demeaning myself to promote flex fuels,” Damon joked. Watch it:

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Read more about the campaign here. Do you have concerns over corn-based ethanol? If so, read this.

Senators Call For Appointment Of Special Counsel To Investigate Gonzales For Perjury

Thu, 2007-07-26 09:18

At a news conference this afternoon, four members of the Senate Judiciary Committee called for the appointment of a special counsel to investigate Alberto Gonzales on perjury charges.

Sens. Charles Schumer, Dianne Feinstein, Russ Feingold, and Sheldon Whitehouse explained in a letter to Solicitor General Paul Clement that “it has become apparent that the Attorney General has provided at a minimum half-truths and misleading statements” to the Judiciary Committee. They wrote:

We ask that you immediately appoint an independent special counsel from outside the Department of Justice to determine whether Attorney General Gonzales may have misled Congress or perjured himself in testimony before Congress.

Yesterday, the AP revealed documentary evidence that contradicted Gonzales’ sworn testimony regarding the NSA warrantless wiretapping program. Gonzales had said a White House intelligence briefing in 2004 were in regards to “other intelligence activities.” Then-National Intelligence Director John Negroponte confirmed in a May 2006 memorandum that the meeting was in fact about the NSA program.

Yesterday on MSNBC’s Countdown, Sen. Patrick Leahy urged Gonzales to look back at the transcript of his testimony and correct the record. Instead, Gonzales and the White House have refused to concede any errors. On Wednesday night, the Justice Department said Gonzales “stands by” his Senate testimony. White House Press Secretary Tony Snow said, “The attorney general was speaking consistently. The president supports him.”

At a press conference this afternoon, Schumer said Gonzales has violated his constitutional oath:

He took an oath to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Instead he tells the half truth, the partial truth, and everything but the truth. And he does it not once, not twice, but over and over and over again. His instinct is not to tell the truth, but to dissemble and deceive.

Watch it:

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Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) previously suggested the possibility of appointing a special prosecutor to investigate the U.S. attorney scandal.

UDPATE: A copy of the letter can be found here.

UPDATE II: Sen. Feingold: “Based on what we know and the evidence about what happened in terms of the gang of eight and what he said in that sworn testimony in the committee, I believe it’s perjury.”

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More from the O’Reilly-approved messageboard.

Thu, 2007-07-26 09:11

Bill O’Reilly said recently, “When we see objectionable things [on my website], we take it off immediately.” AmericaBlog notes a commenter on who suggests a terrorist attack against the U.S. Capitol building. For pointing that out, John Aravosis says he has now been banned from the site.

UPDATE: BarbinMD from DailyKos was banned too.

Scandal-plagued Vitter to ‘rebrand’ conservatives.

Thu, 2007-07-26 09:04

Speaking at a policy lunch on Tuesday, Sen. David Vitter (R-LA), who recently admitted to frequenting a prostitution service run by the “DC Madam,” told his colleagues that Senate conservatives should “rebrand” themselves “by reclaiming the fiscal conservative mantle.” According to The Hill, “This time, his colleagues held the applause.”

Iraq soccer bombing shreds hope for unity.

Thu, 2007-07-26 08:18

A widespread love of soccer is “one of the few things that unite Iraqis across ethnic and religious lines,” seen in how “violence dropped to unusually low levels as Iraqis sat transfixed through the nail-biting match.” But barely two hours after the game ended, two suicide car bombs exploded “amid throngs that poured into Baghdad’s streets after the Iraqi national soccer team edged South Korea to reach its first Asian Cup final. Police said at least 50 people were killed and 135 were injured.”

Leahy Explains Cheney’s F-Bomb Incident, Says Hayes’ ‘Puff Piece’ Got It Wrong

Thu, 2007-07-26 07:28

In his biography of the Vice President, Stephen Hayes recounts Dick Cheney version of why he dropped the f-bomb on Patrick Leahy on the Senate floor in 2004. Cheney asserts he told Leahy to “go f— yourself” because he was close to kissing him.

A congressional source who witnessed the incident disputed that account and told ThinkProgress that Cheney unloaded his expletive when Leahy attempted to cordially shake the Vice President’s hand.

Last night on MSNBC’s Countdown, Leahy — speaking publicly about the incident for the first time — explained that traditionally all Vice Presidents have reached out to both sides of the aisle when they come onto the Senate floor, but “Dick Cheney never does. He always stands on the Republican side.” Leahy continued:

So I walked over and thought maybe he was being shy. I said, Dick, come on over and talk to the Democrats too. We won’t bite you. He reacted as he has described he reacted.

The irony is that the Republican Senators who were there were the ones who told the press about it. I didn’t say anything to anyone about it. In fact, I think this is the first time I’ve publicly stated what happened.

Watch it:

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Leahy criticized Hayes for failing to check Cheney’s version of events with others who witnessed the incident. “If Mr. Hayes had intended to write a serious story other than a puff piece about the Vice President,” Leahy said, “he would have actually picked up the phone and called me or called several of the senators standing there.”

State Deptartment falls short on Iraq refugees.

Thu, 2007-07-26 07:12

The State Department has confirmed it “will fall far short of the 7,000 Iraqi refugees it had said it was prepared to accept by the end of September,” with plans to interview just 4,000 potential Iraqi refugees by then.

80 percent:

Thu, 2007-07-26 06:45

Number of Americans who believe the “Iraq war has hurt the United States’ standing the international community,” according to a new UPI-Zogby poll.

ThinkFast: July 26, 2007

Thu, 2007-07-26 06:08

In a letter to the Washington Post, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) responds to the paper’s opposition to the Senate’s recent all-night debate on Iraq. “On reading the July 21 editorial ‘The Phony Debate,’ it became clear why The Post’s editorial writers have been such eager cheerleaders for the Bush administration’s flawed Iraq policies — the two share the same disregard for the facts en route to drawing dubious conclusions,” Reid writes.

“In a little-noticed addition to legislation requiring the July and September assessments on Iraq from the White House, Congress mandated a third report” from the Government Accountability Office, which has “quietly done the most work to track the missteps, miscalculations, misspent funds and shortfalls of both the United States and Iraq since the 2003 invasion.”

As part of the debate over the farm, “House Democrats proposed legislation that would make it harder for overseas companies to use tax havens to avoid taxes on U.S. profits, drawing immediate opposition from the Bush administration.”

“The commanding general at Fort Lewis, Wash., the third-largest Army base in the nation, on Wednesday rescinded a plan calling for a once-a-month collective memorial service rather than individual ones for soldiers killed in action.”

“A new media report that Rep. Don Young (R-AK) is now a target of an expanding federal criminal investigation involving an Alaska oil company and state elected officials has once again put House Republicans in a difficult political position, as they continue to be dogged with corruption scandals eight months after they lost the majority in the midterm elections.” (more…)

AP Reveals New Document Demonstrating ‘Clear Case’ Of Gonzales Perjury On Spying Program

Wed, 2007-07-25 20:26

The AP reports that a four-page memo sent by then-National Intelligence Director John Negroponte in May 2006 confirms that a March 2004 White House intelligence briefing for top congressional leaders was on “the Terrorist Surveillance Program.”

The revelation is significant because just yesterday Alberto Gonzales testified that the White house briefing was about “other intelligence activities.”

“The dissent related to other intelligence activities,” Gonzales testified at Tuesday’s hearing. “The dissent was not about the terrorist surveillance program.”

“Not the TSP?” responded Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y. “Come on. If you say it’s about other, that implies not. Now say it or not.”

“It was not,” Gonzales answered. “It was about other intelligence activities.”

ThinkProgress obtained the document, which confirms the accounts of Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA) and Sen. John Rockefeller (D-WV), who claimed the briefings they received were about the administration’s NSA domestic surveillance program. Negroponte lists all the lawmakers who attended “briefings on the Terrorist Surveillance Program,” including the eight lawmakers who attended the March 10, 2004 meeting.

Gonzales’ misleading response appears to be an effort to resolve discrepancies with his earlier statements. In Feb. 2006, Gonzales testified that “there has not been any serious disagreement” about the warrantless spying program conducted by the National Security Agency (NSA). Testimony by former Deputy Attorney General James Comey proved there were indeed serious disagreements when the administration tried to seek legal approval for the spying program in 2004.

Instead of settling the contradictions in his testimony, Gonzales is simply compounding his problems by continuing to mislead Congress. MSNBC’s David Shuster reported tonight that “this is a really, really big deal and a big problem for Gonzales. … The legal expert I talked to tonight said this is a clear case of perjury.” Watch it:

Read the full memo HERE.

UPDATE: Commenter burro notes that the “bupkis” is rapidly increasing.

Despite Congress’ Thrashing Of Gonzales, Snow Claims Nobody ‘Really Laid A Glove On Him’

Wed, 2007-07-25 15:43

During the White press briefing today, a reporter asked press secretary Tony Snow whether Alberto Gonzales had lost his “credibility” due to his apparently misleading testimony to Congress. Snow said he hadn’t, claiming “nobody’s really laid a glove” on the Attorney General yet:

QUESTION: But has it reached the point for the attorney general to — he’s lost his effectiveness and his credibility?

SNOW: Well, you know, what’s interesting is that there have been all these hearings on the attorney general and yet nobody’s really laid a glove on him. […] At this point, we have hundreds of hearings that have produced bupkis.

Snow is dead wrong. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’ multiple appearances before Congress have left his reputation in tatters. Sen. Patrick Leahy said, “I don’t trust you.” Sen. Arlen Specter said, “I do not find your testimony credible.” The Washington Post writes, “At what point does someone lose so much credibility that he should no longer serve in public office?”

In particular, the contradictions in Gonzales statements regarding the administration’s warrantless wiretapping program has members of the Senate Judiciary Committee considering an inquiry into whether he has perjured himself. In attempting to “clarify” his previous misstatments, Gonzales only appears to have lied again to Congress.

In fact, contrary to Snow’s claim that Congress never “laid a glove” on Gonzales, lawmakers yesterday leveled one blow after another to the Attorney General’s already-bruised credibility. Watch a compilation of some of the most vigorous exchanges:

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Transcript: (more…)