September 26, 2007

Parts of the PATRIOT ACT Ruled UNCONSTITUTIONAL

Provisions allow search warrants issued without probable cause, she says

PORTLAND, Ore. - Two provisions of the USA Patriot Act are unconstitutional because they allow search warrants to be issued without a showing of probable cause, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.

U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken ruled that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, as amended by the Patriot Act, "now permits the executive branch of government to conduct surveillance and searches of American citizens without satisfying the probable cause requirements of the Fourth Amendment."

Portland attorney Brandon Mayfield sought the ruling in a lawsuit against the federal government after he was mistakenly linked by the FBI to the Madrid train bombings that killed 191 people in 2004.

The federal government apologized and settled part of the lawsuit for $2 million after admitting a fingerprint was misread. But as part of the settlement, Mayfield retained the right to challenge parts of the Patriot Act, which greatly expanded the authority of law enforcers to investigate suspected acts of terrorism.

Mayfield claimed that secret searches of his house and office under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act violated the Fourth Amendment's guarantee against unreasonable search and seizure. Aiken agreed with Mayfield, repeatedly criticizing the government.

"For over 200 years, this Nation has adhered to the rule of law — with unparalleled success. A shift to a Nation based on extra-constitutional authority is prohibited, as well as ill-advised," she wrote.

By asking her to dismiss Mayfield's lawsuit, the judge said, the U.S. attorney general's office was "asking this court to, in essence, amend the Bill of Rights, by giving it an interpretation that would deprive it of any real meaning. This court declines to do so."

Elden Rosenthal, an attorney for Mayfield, issued a statement on his behalf praising the judge, saying she "has upheld both the tradition of judicial independence, and our nation's most cherished principle of the right to be secure in one's own home."

Justice Department spokesman Peter Carr said the agency was reviewing the decision, and he declined to comment further.

Received apology from FBI

Mayfield, a Muslim convert, was taken into custody on May 6, 2004, because of a fingerprint found on a detonator at the scene of the Madrid bombing. The FBI said the print matched Mayfield's. He was released about two weeks later, and the FBI admitted it had erred in saying the fingerprints were his and later apologized to him.

Before his arrest, the FBI put Mayfield under 24-hour surveillance, listened to his phone calls and surreptitiously searched his home and law office.

The Mayfield case has been an embarrassment for the federal government. Last year, the Justice Department's internal watchdog faulted the FBI for sloppy work in mistakenly linking Mayfield to the Madrid bombings. That report said federal prosecutors and FBI agents had made inaccurate and ambiguous statements to a federal judge to get arrest and criminal search warrants against Mayfield.

September 23, 2007

Iran’s Ahmadinejad arrives in U.S.

President to talk at Columbia University; denied visit to WTC site

TEHRAN, Iran - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrived in New York to protests Sunday and said in a television interview that Iran was neither building a nuclear bomb nor headed to war with the United States.

The president’s motorcade pulled up to the midtown hotel where he will be staying while he appears at a series of events including the U.N. General Assembly and a forum at Columbia University, where about 40 elected officials and civic leaders decried his visit.

Ahmadinejad’s public-relations push appears aimed at presenting his views directly to a U.S. audience amid rising strains and talk of war between the two nations.

VIEW AN NBC ESSAY Mystical populist: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
Watch an in-depth profile of the Iranian president: firebrand, soccer fan and true believer in Khomeini's Islamic Revolution.

Tensions are high between Washington and Tehran over U.S. accusations that Iran is secretly trying to develop nuclear weapons, as well as helping Shiite militias in Iraq that target U.S. troops — claims Iran denies.

“Well, you have to appreciate we don’t need a nuclear bomb. We don’t need that. What need do we have for a bomb?” Ahmadinejad said in the “60 Minutes” interview taped in Iran on Thursday. “In political relations right now, the nuclear bomb is of no use. If it was useful it would have prevented the downfall of the Soviet Union.”

‘There is no war in the offing’

He also said that: “It’s wrong to think that Iran and the U.S. are walking toward war. Who says so? Why should we go to war? There is no war in the offing.”

Before leaving Iran, Ahmadinejad said the American people have been denied “correct information,” and his visit will give them a chance to hear a different voice, the official IRNA news agency reported.

Washington has said it is addressing the Iran situation diplomatically, rather than militarily, but U.S. officials also say that all options are open. The commander of the U.S. military forces in the Middle East said he did not believe tensions will lead to war.

“This constant drum beat of conflict is what strikes me, which is not helpful and not useful,” Adm. William Fallon, head of U.S. Central Command, said in an interview with Al-Jazeera television, which made a partial transcript available Sunday.

Controversial visit
VIEW A VIDEO NBC ESSAY Sept. 23: President Amadinejad’s visit to New York has generated a wave of controversy. NBC’s Lester Holt reports


Ahmadinejad’s scheduled address to the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday will be his third time attending the New York meeting in three years.

But his request to lay a wreath at ground zero was denied by city officials and condemned by politicians who said a visit to the site of the 2001 terror attacks would violate sacred ground.

Police cited construction and security concerns in denying Ahmadinejad’s request. Ahmadinejad told 60 Minutes he would not press the issue but expressed disbelief that the visit would offend Americans.

After the Sept. 11 attacks, hundreds of young Iranians held a series of candlelight vigils in Tehran.

“Usually you go to these sites to pay your respects. And also to perhaps air your views about the root causes of such incidents,” Ahmadinejad told the network.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini also appeared dismayed that the request was rejected.

“What kind of damage will the U.S. face (by Ahmadinejad visiting the site)?” Hosseini said at his weekly press conference Sunday.

Columbia canceled a planned visit by the Iranian president last year, also citing security and logistical reasons.

Tough questions

University President Lee Bollinger has resisted requests to cancel Ahmadinejad’s speech this year but promised to introduce the talk himself with a series of tough questions on topics including the Iranian leader’s views on the Holocaust, his call for the destruction of the state of Israel and his government’s alleged support of terrorism.

Ahmadinejad has called the Holocaust “a myth” and called for Israel to be “wiped off the map.”

At the protests, New York state Assemblyman Dov Hikind said Ahmadinejad “should be arrested when he comes to Columbia University, not invited to speak for God’s sake.”

Ahmadinejad’s visit to New York is also being debated back home. Some in Iran think his trip is a publicity stunt that hurts Iran’s image in the world.


Click for related content
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Israel's raid on Syria: Prelude to nuke crisis?

Political analyst Iraj Jamshidi said Ahmadinejad looks at the General Assembly as a publicity forum simply to surprise world leaders with his harsh rhetoric.

“The world has not welcomed Ahmadinejad’s hardline approach. His previous address to the assembly didn’t resolve any of Iran’s foreign policy issues. And no one expects anything better this time,” he said.

But conservative lawmaker Alaeddin Boroujerdi said it was a good chance for Iran to air its position.

“This trip gives the president a good chance to meet world leaders and inform them of Iran’s rightful position,” IRNA quoted Boroujerdi as saying.

Keith Olbermann Special Commentary on the MOVEON.ORG Advertisement and President Bush's Response

On September 20, 2007, Keith Olbermann makes a rare commentary on the hypocrisy of George W. Bush.



It looks like Reagan had Bush's number back in 1986!

Ronald Reagan writing about Dubya:

"A moment I've been dreading. George brought his
ne'er-do-well son around
this morning and asked me to find the kid a job. Not
the political one who lives in Florida. The one who hangs around here all
the time looking shiftless. This so-called kid is already almost 40
and has never had a real job. Maybe I'll call Kinsley over at The New
Republic and see if they'll hire him as a contributing editor or something. That
looks like easy work."

From the just published REAGAN DIARIES. The entry is
dated May 17, 1986.

THE JENA 6



Spidelblog: Back to the Future - Race Relations In America

September 23rd, 2007

A few days ago we saw in the news a white college student being escorted out of a political event being eventually tasered. This man (Andrew Meyer) was simply asking questions to Senator John Kerry. He was escorted out. He (to some accounts) resisted and was subsequently tasered. For the sake of this blog post, let’s not get to into the details of this case. Free speech, resisting or not resisting, soap box speech versus a question during a Q & A session, abuse of force, etc. - there are many aspects of this case to discuss. But let’s just simply focus on one thing: the media’s response. Read More

Support the Jena 6

September 20th, 2007

A major injustice is unfolding in Jena, LA as six black young men are railroaded in a case that reads like one straight from the era of Jim Crow. Read up and take action, now.

National Day of Action: Sept. 20th

This Thursday, as thousands descend on Jena to press for justice, you can take action in your own community to support the Jena 6. You can attend a vigil or rally near you, start one of your own, pass out flyers to spread the word, or make a few phone calls to increase pressure on public officials.

Sign the Petition at http://www.colorofchange.org/jena/main.html
Read the article ” Racism and Resistance:The Struggle to Free The Jena Six”,
http://leftturn.mayfirst.org/?q=node/747

The ACLU Urges Congress to Be Skeptical of Administration Claims on FISA



McConnell Tries to Scare America in to Giving Up Fourth Amendment

WASHINGTON – Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell and President George W. Bush have launched their version of a charm offensive to try to get controversial wiretapping legislation passed. Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the Washington Legislative Office of the ACLU said, “As part of the PR effort to gut the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act the Bush Administration has pulled out every scare tactic in the book including exaggeration and outright fibbing. This goes hand-in-hand with the usual fear-mongering, all designed to get Congress to vote to suspend the Fourth Amendment rights of Americans.”

The ACLU offers this guide to myths and facts around the administration’s efforts to undermine the civil liberties protections in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Myth: FISA needs to be expanded based on new technology.

Reality: FISA was specifically written to be technology neutral. There is absolutely no new technology that cannot be intercepted with a warrant under FISA. None. Even the man responsible for prepping and filing all FISA applications, James Baker, head of the Justice Department’s Office of Intelligence Policy and Review, has said that, “There’s no type of collection that’s prohibited by the statute.”

Myth: The so-called “Protect America Act” permits the collection of foreign-to-foreign calls and doesn’t implicate Americans.

Reality: No. What McConnell isn’t saying, is that the new law also allows the government to collect foreign to domestic calls and, quite possibly, domestic to domestic calls. Any communications that are “directed at” or even “concerning” someone overseas may be collected, even when one party to the communication is an American. That means that Americans will have our calls and emails swept up in this newly legalized dragnet.

Myth: McConnell said that it takes 200 “man” hours to get a court order to access a telephone number.

Reality: The math, courtesy of Wired.com. “In 2006, the government filed 2,181 such applications with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court. The court approved 2,176 2006 FISA Warrant Applications. That means government employees spent 436,200 hours writing out foreign intelligence wiretaps in 2006. That's 53,275 workdays.” The numbers have been greatly exaggerated. Also, in a June 2007 article in the Washington Post, Royce C. Lamberth, the presiding judge of FISC on 9-11 said he approved FISA warrants in minutes with only an oral briefing.

Even if it is merely a resource issue, there were and are bipartisan bills that would streamline the application process and grant more resources.

Besides, there is no “too-much-paperwork” exception to the Fourth Amendment.

Myth: Only 100 people in the U.S. are being surveilled.

Reality: Before this program was in place, maybe, but we don’t know. However, after passage of the “Protect America Act,” intelligence authorities are allowed to pick up all communications as long as one party is outside of the U.S. It’s a game of semantics – they may not technically be the “target” but it doesn’t matter because Americans’ phone calls are monitored and American’s emails are collected.

Myth: The “Protect America Act” requires a warrant for U.S. persons.

Reality: Again – not really. The government only needs a warrant if it is intentionally targeting a specific U.S. individual. It can, however, conduct mass untargeted surveillance of all communications coming into or out of the U.S. In other words, the Fourth Amendment has been turned on its head and suspected terrorists will have more protections than innocent Americans.
Myth: Retroactive amnesty for telecommunications companies’ involvement must be addressed.

Reality: These companies broke the law, and now they want Congress to completely absolve them of any accountability. The only thing more disturbing than the phone companies violating our rights is that members of Congress are now discussing whether to foot the bill for the fines with your tax dollars. They want to absolve the telecoms from pending lawsuits filed by citizens who have had their privacy violated, and instead have the government stand on trial in place of the companies.

What incentive will companies have to protect our information in the future if there are absolutely no consequences for violating our privacy?

Myth: Americans will die because of the public debate.

Reality: Years before the NSA’s wiretapping program was disclosed in the pages of the New York Times, the Bush Administration had been making it quite clear that terrorism suspects were being monitored. Terrorists are well aware that their communications are being scrutinized – that’s why they use code words. Having a frank and open discussion in the public square about the rights of Americans is the very essence of our democracy. To suggest that having a public debate about surveillance would cost American lives is one of the most sinister and manipulative claims to come out of this dialogue.

Myth: The so called “Protect America Act” helped thwart a terror attack in Germany.

Reality: No. That’s not true. In fact, after making this statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, McConnell had to retract it.

Coalition Sign-On Letter to Democratic Congressional Leaders Outlining Basic Privacy Principles Needed in the Wake of Changes to FISA http://www.aclu.org/safefree/general/31587leg20070904.html

What's Wrong with the Military Commissions Act & findhabeas.com

UNDERMINES THE CONSTITUTION AND THE RULE OF LAW,
MAKES THE PRESIDENT BOTH JUDGE AND JURY,
REJECTS CORE AMERICAN VALUES



You've heard of Where's Waldo? How about FIND HABEAS? CLICK HERE join the ACLU in protecting our Civil Liberties."

What you can do:

RESOURCES

AUDIO: Poets Steve Connell and Sekou (tha misfit) on the absence of Habeas Corpus


BLOG: The Road to Closure (Ben Wizner on Guantánamo:)


PHOTOS: Messages of Support for Habeas, On Flickr


AD CAMPAIGN: Restore the Constitution


LETTER: Urging Opposition to the Military Commissions Act of 2006


LEARN MORE: The ACLU's Work Against Torture


LEGAL DOCUMENTS

Harvard Memo Reviewing the Restoring the Constitution Act of 2007
(2/19/2007)

ACLU Letter to Congress Outlining Priorities for 110th Congress
(1/25/2007)

The 2007 State of Civil Liberties in America
(1/22/2007)

MORE RESOURCES

AUDIO: Rory Kennedy and the ACLU Discuss "Ghosts of Abu Ghraib"

LEARN MORE: Ali v. Rumsfeld and the Fight Against Unlawful Detention


AUDIO: ACLU's Legal Director on Guantanamo's Fifth Anniversary (1/10/2007)

LETTER: Urging Opposition to the Military Commissions Act of 2006

LEGAL DOCUMENTS

Memo Reviewing the Restoring the Constitution Act of 2007 by the Harvard Law School National Security Research Group (2/19/2007)

ACLU Letter to Congress Outlining Priorities for 110th Congress (1/25/2007)

The 2007 State of Civil Liberties in America (1/22/2007)

ACLU Letter to Congress Outlining Its Legislative Priorities for the 110th Congress (1/9/2007)

Washington Legislative Director, Caroline Fredrickson's Remarks Regarding the ACLU's Priorities for the 110th Congress
(1/9/2007)

Executive Director Anthony D. Romero's Remarks Regarding the ACLU's Priorities for the 110th Congress (1/9/2007)

ACLU Letter to the Senate Strongly Urging Senators to Block the Construction of a Courthouse on Guantanamo Bay (12/5/2006)

ACLU Washington Post Advertisement on Military Commissions Act (10/17/2006)

Coalition Letter to the House or Representatives Strongly Urging Rejection of the Military
Commissions Act of 2006 Compromise
(9/27/2006)

ACLU Letter to the Senate Strongly Urging Opposition to S. 3930, the Military Commissions Act of 2006 (9/25/2006)

Coalition Letter to the Senate Opposing Bush Military Commissions Bill (9/11/2006)

Coalition Letter to the House of Representatives Opposing Bush Military Commissions Bill (9/11/2006)

Keep the Pressure On Congress To Take the Time To Get ESEA Right

September 21, 2007

A special alert to NEA Cyberlobbyists earlier this week told you that every e-mail message you send to your Member of Congress—urging him or her to slow down the process of reauthorizing ESEA so Congress can get it right this time—will be copied to House Education Committee Chairman George Miller of California.

Please continue to send those emails.

Urge Senators to Cosponsor Bill On Common-Sense Assessment Systems
Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) has introduced the Improving Student Testing Act of 2007 (S. 2053). The NEA-supported bill would

Allow states to use growth models and multiple measures to assess student learning and school success, ending the over-reliance upon two standardized tests given one day out of the year;
Allow states to return to the pre-NCLB requirement of statewide annual testing once in elementary school, once in middle school, and once in high school; and

Provide grants to states to significantly improve the quality of their assessments and place far greater emphasis on higher order and critical thinking skills, instead of rote memorization.
Contact Your Senators Today!

Tell your Senators to cosponsor Senator Feingold's Improving Student Testing Act of 2007.

September 22, 2007

NPR: The Effects of Segretation in Our Schools

African Americans and Education
Inside Teaching and Learning in Black America in this Series

What's the Impact of School Segregation?
September 20, 2007 · Annie Wimbish, a school superintendent in Hattiesburg, Miss., and educator Jonathan Kozol are both long-time educators who work with children in public schools. They talk with Farai Chideya about the current trend of re-segregation in public schools.

Segregation Growing in American Schools
September 20, 2007 · Regardless of the racial tensions, Jena High School was — by definition — integrated. Other schools across America desegregated during the Civil Rights-era, but now they're unofficially re-segregating. The Civil Rights Project at the University of California Los Angeles is tracking this modern crisis in our classrooms.

Desperate for a Grade-A Education
September 17, 2007 · What won't parents do to get their children into the "right" school? Farai Chideya talks with education experts about how to get your kids the best education possible. She's joined by Andrew Rotherham, co-director of Education Sector; Lana Brody, an education consultant who helps families with private school selection; and Mikelle Willis, founder and director of the KIPP Academy of Opportunity in Los Angeles.

Education Roundtable
September 3, 2007 · Today we kick off a new, month-long series on education. While public school may be free, the price of making sure kids are equipped to learn is out of reach for some parents.

When Schools and Parents Collaborate
September 6, 2007 · News & Notes continues the monthlong education series with a look at what happens when parents and teachers approach education as a team effort.

Taking Teaching into New Territory
September 13, 2007 · Farai Chideya talks with a group of educators who have made an impact in the lives of countless young people in a big way — by breaking the rules.

Blacks and Education
What's the Impact of School Segregation?

September 21, 2007

Chile: Supreme Court Extradites Fujimori

Former Peruvian President to Face Charges for Role in Massacres

(Santiago, September 21, 2007) – The Chilean Supreme Court’s decision to extradite former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori to Peru to face trial for human rights abuses is welcome and unprecedented, said Human Rights Watch today.

Human Rights Watch noted that this is the first time that a court has ordered the extradition of a former head of state to be tried for gross human rights violations in his home country.

“After years of evading justice, Fujimori will finally have to respond to the charges and evidence against him in the country he used to run like a mafia boss,” said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch, who was in Santiago for the announcement.

Human Rights Watch said that the decision had special significance in light of Chile’s own history.
“This landmark ruling is a huge step forward for Chile,” said Vivanco. “After years of wrestling with Pinochet’s legacy of atrocities, Chile is now building a positive record on human rights and justice.”

Today’s landmark decision fits within a global trend started when the British House of Lords ruled that former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet could be extradited to Spain to face charges of torture.

In two other cases in recent years, former heads of state have been turned over by governments to international tribunals. Slobodan Milosevic was turned over by the Serbian government to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia for prosecution. Charles Taylor, the former dictator of Liberia, was turned over by the Nigerian government to face trial by the Special Court for Sierra Leone. However, both of these were cases in which the executive branch of government took the political decision to turn over the former rulers.

In contrast to these cases, Fujimori is not facing trial in an international court, and it is the Chilean Supreme Court that has decided that he can be handed over to Peruvian authorities pursuant to an extradition request filed by prosecutors during the administration of then-President of Peru Alejandro Toledo.

The Supreme Court’s ruling also sets an important precedent for other countries that are faced with the question of what to do with former heads of state wanted for atrocities. For example, in the case of Hissène Habré, the former dictator of Chad who is in detention in Senegal, Senegal has formally agreed to an African Union request to prosecute Habré.

“This decision is a remarkable example of the role that domestic institutions of justice can play in enforcing international standards and furthering accountability, even in highly sensitive cases,” said Vivanco. “It will now be up to Peru’s courts to show that they are up to the task of trying Fujimori and guaranteeing him a fair trial.”

Human Rights Watch said that it would be closely watching the proceedings in Peru to ensure a thorough and independent investigation and trial, in accordance with international standards of justice and due process.

The Supreme Court ruling authorizes Fujimori’s extradition to face prosecution and trial in Peru for the killings of 25 people in two separate massacres in 1991 and 1992. The massacres were allegedly carried out by the Colina Group, a specialized squad of military intelligence officers.

In the “Barrios Altos” massacre, Colina Group members broke into a party, shooting machine guns and killing 15 civilians, including an 8-year-old boy. In the “Cantuta” massacre, which happened within months after Fujimori had carried out a “self-coup” with the support of the armed forces, Colina Group members arrested nine students and a professor at La Cantuta University. They later shot and killed them, hiding the bodies.

In its 2005 report, Probable Cause: Evidence Implicating Fujimori, Human Rights Watch detailed the substantial evidence linking Fujimori to the Barrios Altos and Cantuta massacres. The evidence includes a videotaped interview in which the operational head of the Colina Group states that the group was created pursuant to an official government policy, specifically approved by Fujimori, of physical “elimination” of suspects. There is also extensive official documentation as well as testimony showing that the Colina Group was not independent, but rather existed as a formal structure within the Army Intelligence Service and received official support at the highest levels. Fujimori in fact signed two memos in which he recommended that several Colina Group members be given promotions and raises. And even once the Colina Group’s crimes had been made public, Fujimori pushed a law through the Peruvian Congress giving the group’s members an amnesty for their crimes.

September 20, 2007

A Letter from Senator Leahy

Your Letters to Congress on Restoration of Habeas Corpus are Appreciated. Leahy Vows to Not Back Down on Habeas Corpus

Dear friends,

I want to thank all 17,000 of you who signed on as citizen co-sponsors of the Habeas Corpus Restoration Act and lobbied your Senators by phone and email -- as well as the millions of other Americans who share our commitment to this critical issue. Yesterday's 56-43 vote clearly showed that a majority of the Senate -- and a majority of Americans -- favor the restoration of our basic civil liberties.

Congress made a mistake of historical proportions when it suspended habeas rights a few years ago -- and unfortunately Senate Republicans made another mistake yesterday by mounting a filibuster and failing to allow us to restore it. The good news is we've picked up 8 more votes since the Senate voted to suspend habeas corpus last fall, but we still need 4 more Senators to reach a filibuster-proof 60 vote margin.

I am disappointed that we did not succeed yesterday -- but we're not giving up, not by a long shot. Defending the Constitution is not always politically easy, especially in a time of war. But our nation is at its greatest when it stands up for the Constitution, during the best of times and the worst of times. That's why I believe in the Habeas Corpus Restoration Act, and why my colleagues and I are still working hard to pass it.

I am proud to have led the bipartisan effort to restore our fundamental rights along with my colleagues, including Senator Chris Dodd, Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senator Arlen Specter, and many others. Our bill had widespread support from conservatives, liberals, and independents alike.

With hard work and with the strength of our Constitution, I am confident that we will ultimately prevail. I thank you and my fellow Senators who stood up for an America that upholds its basic values and rights. I'm not backing down and will keep you posted on how you can help us restore habeas corpus rights in the coming weeks.

Thank you for your continued support.

Sincerely,

Patrick Leahy

Patrick Leahy
U.S. Senator

September 19, 2007

Amnesty International Responds to the Senate's Failure to Close Debate and Vote on Habeas Amendment

(Washington, DC) - Larry Cox, Amnesty International USA's executive director, issued the following statement in response to today's failed vote on cloture on the Specter-Leahy-Dodd amendment to the U.S. Department of Defense authorization bill to restore habeas corpus:

"The United States Senate missed a major opportunity to demonstrate leadership by failing to provide Senators the opportunity to help re-establish a cornerstone of the U.S. justice system - the right to habeas corpus. By not voting for cloture, the Senate gave up an important chance to help restore the United States' reputation as a nation that respects and adheres to the rule of law.

Amnesty International praises Senators Specter, Leahy and Dodd for their work and all the Senators who voted to reinstate a basic civil right.

Amnesty International encourages the U.S. House of Representatives to allow the question of habeas corpus to be debated in an open forum as a step forward in fixing the disaster Congress created last year by the passage of the Military Commissions Act."

September 18, 2007

Iraq Moratorium Begins Friday September 21: Words are Good, Action is Better!

September 18th, 2007

UFP&J Update Save the date! Saturday, October 27th National Mobilization to End the Iraq War! 11 Massive Demonstrations for Peace!

The Iraq Moratorium is about to begin. Initiated by antiwar activists from several groups around the country, it calls for local, decentralized, personal action or statements against the ongoing war and occupation of Iraq on the 3rd Friday of every month. This Friday, Sept. 21st, is the first of what promises to be a growing movement in the coming months.

United for Peace and Justice is enthusiastically supporting this effort. The delegates at our National Assembly a few months ago agreed: It is critically important to offer as many opportunities for a wide range of people to express their opposition to this horrendous, criminal war.

The idea is simple: Everyone, wherever you are, should try to do something that publicly says, "I am against this war -- and I want it to end now!" The Iraq Moratorium is something everyone can get involved with, either as an individual or as part of a group. Here are just a few ideas for what you can do:

1) Wear an antiwar button or sticker to work or school.

2) Wear a black armband to let people know you mourn the overwhelming loss of life in this war.
3) Hang an antiwar sign in your window, or put one on your lawn.

4) Call a local radio talk show and explain why you want this war to end.

5) Today, or tomorrow, write a letter to the editor of a local newspaper and let people know about the Iraq Moratorium and how they can get involved.

6) With just a few people, you can make a large antiwar sign or banner and hang it from a busy overpass where people traveling to or from work will see it, or from some other highly visible location.

7) Put together a small group to stand vigil in front of a military recruiting station, your local federal building, or the office of your senator or representative in Congress.

8) Call the Washington, DC, offices of your senators and your representative.

For more information about the Iraq Moratorium, visit: http://www.iraqmoratorium.org/.

And remember, if you are planning anything that others are welcome to join, please be sure to post it on UFPJ's online calendar. We encourage each of you getting this message to do something as part of the first day of the Iraq Moratorium this Friday, Sept. 21st!

And don't forget: United for Peace and Justice has initiated a call for a massive national mobilization against the war on Saturday, October 27th. This mobilization will be different from others -- instead if everyone going to Washington, DC, there will be 11 regional actions spread out across the country.

In the coming weeks we will be sending you more details, and we encourage you to check http://www.oct27.org/ for updates.

Save the date! Saturday, October 27th National Mobilization to End the Iraq War! 11 Massive Demonstrations for Peace!

September 17, 2007

NEA's Work on ESEA/NCLB Drafts a First Step--WE NEED YOU!

ESEA/NCLB Reauthorization Drafts Needs Member Action!

Take Action

RESTORE HABEAS CORPUS

This is NOT a Political Endorsement
ACTION ALERT!
This is a Post Informing Our Members About this Very Important Senate Vote Aimed to Restore Habeas Corpus Rights
to the US Rule of Law--Please Help US!


This week, we have a critical opportunity to restore habeas corpus -- that most fundamental of Constitutional rights which guarantees every person the right to challenge government detention before a fair and independent court. With it, we have the chance to help restore our diminished standing in the world and better secure America.

Many of you may recall the hasty passage of the Military Commissions Act in the weeks leading up to last year's election. The passage of this bill was a profound mistake, and its elimination of habeas corpus review was its worst error. The elimination of habeas review was a reflex driven by fear and is another stain on America's reputation in the world, further engendering ill will to our country and making it harder to fight global terrorism.

That's why, today, we have re-introduced the Habeas Corpus Restoration Act as an amendment to the Defense Authorization bill currently being debated on the floor of the Senate -- and we need your help to convince our colleagues to support this critical amendment.






Watch the video of Senator Dodd talking about the Habeas Corpus Restoration Act and become a citizen co-sponsor of this vital piece of legislation right now!




Please sign on as a citizen co-sponsor of the Specter-Leahy-Dodd Habeas Corpus amendment now -- and help us show our colleagues the strong support for this critical amendment!

The Habeas Corpus Restoration Act enjoys widespread Democratic support and some Republican support as well, including Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA). But we need many more Senators to join us to ensure its passage.

In July, Republican Senators filibustered Democratic amendments to change course in Iraq, bottling up the Defense Authorization bill and stymieing our efforts to restore habeas corpus. Now, with the Defense bill back on the floor of the Senate, our colleagues have another chance to do the right thing.

Will you join us as citizen co-sponsors of this critical legislation?

Please sign on as a citizen co-sponsor of the Specter-Leahy-Dodd Habeas Corpus amendment now -- and help us show our colleagues the strong support for this critical amendment!

The Habeas Corpus Restoration Act gives us a chance to reverse one of the Bush Administration's many assaults on our civil liberties, help restore our place in the world, and better secure our nation.

We all want to make America safe from terrorism, but becoming a nation that sanctions the unlawful detention of its own residents -- detaining and jailing them without the chance to appear before a judge -- does not make us safe. It endangers the values we have held dear for centuries, and by diminishing our standing in the world, endangers our security.





Watch Senator Leahy speak at the
"Restore Law and Justice" rally in June.

The elimination of basic legal rights undermines, not strengthens, our ability to defeat terrorists. It is from strength that America should defend our values and our way of life. It is from the strength of our freedoms, our Constitution, and the rule of law that we can prevail. We can ensure our security without giving up our liberty.

By joining us as citizen co-sponsors, you will help us show our colleagues -- both Democrats and Republicans -- the strong support that exists for the restoration of habeas corpus rights.

Please sign on as a citizen co-sponsor of the Specter-Leahy-Dodd Habeas Corpus amendment now -- and help us show our colleagues the strong support for this critical amendment!

Thank you so much for your support. We'll keep you updated in the coming days as this critical legislation is debated on the floor of the Senate.

Sincerely,
Patrick LeahyU.S. Senator
Chris DoddU.S. Senator

P.S. We can't overemphasize the importance of your support, right now, as our Habeas Corpus Restoration Act is being considered on the floor of the Senate.

Please sign on as a citizen co-sponsor of the Specter-Leahy-Dodd Habeas Corpus amendment now -- and help us show our colleagues the strong support for this critical amendment!

September 12, 2007

Chairman Miller on NCLB: Maintain Accountability in Schools and Make the Law Fair, Flexible, and Funded

Major Flaws in New Reauthorization Language
Cause Much Concern for Educators as Miller
Fails to Consider All of His Constituents

On July 30, in a speech at the National Press Club, Chairman George Miller said that, while the nation must maintain its commitment to the goals of the No Child Left Behind law of closing the academic achievement gap and helping all children learn by holding states and schools accountable for students’ academic progress, we must also make significant changes to the law in order to reach those goals. Miller highlighted six features he will focus on during reauthorization, including fairness and flexibility for schools, a rich and challenging curriculum, support for teachers and principals, school accountability, steps to turn around low-performing middle and high schools, and greater investments to achieve the law's goals.

Watch Video »
More on the six key features»
Read Chairman Miller's speech »

If Not Us Who? If Not Now, When?

HOT OFF THE PRESSES
ESEA/NCLB Draft Flying Off the Presses with Plenty of Bad News from Our Friends

Word from the D.C. caucus of NEA and State leaders is that there are major problems in the Title II Re-Authorization. As education has fallen off the radar as a top-three issue with almost all of the presidential campaigns, we MUST be on the front-line in this issue. Please forward this post to members in your unit, local and building. We need our people to be informed.

Read our September 8th post on the Title II Reauthorization titled Tell Congress to Respect Educators.

Vicki Goldsmith, Alan Young and Dave O'Connor represented our profession well in this article in the September 2, Des Moines Register titled Iowa Should Lead in Learning Not Follow.

Our Iowa state leadership--which represented us well on the national stage--has delivered reports back to constituents that says the draft is going from bad to worse. Please read Reg Weaver's letters to the players on the House side of this issue. Our friends aren't behaving that way with the flawed idea of Merit Pay.

President Weaver's August 16th, 2007 Letter to the House Committee on Education and Labor

President Weaver's September 11th Letter to Speaker Pelosi on Merit Pay

President Weaver's letter to Chair Miller on Merit Pay.doc

Check out this great site by Wisconsin teachers on Merit Pay. Some good work here.

September 11, 2007

Why I am Fasting: An Explanation to My Friends

Posted September 10, 2007 | 09:58 AM (EST)
by Jonathon Kozol from the Huffington Post

This morning, I am entering the 67th day of a partial fast that I began early in the summer as my personal act of protest at the vicious damage being done to inner-city children by the federal education law No Child Left Behind, a racially punitive piece of legislation that Congress will either renew, abolish, or, as thousands of teachers pray, radically revise in the weeks immediately ahead.

The poisonous essence of this law lies in the mania of obsessive testing it has forced upon our nation's schools and, in the case of underfunded, overcrowded inner-city schools, the miserable drill-and-kill curriculum of robotic "teaching to the test" it has imposed on teachers, the best of whom are fleeing from these schools because they know that this debased curriculum would never have been tolerated in the good suburban schools that they, themselves, attended.

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The justification for this law was the presumptuous and ignorant determination by the White House that our urban schools are, for the most part, staffed by mediocre drones who will suddenly become terrific teachers if we place a sword of terror just above their heads and threaten them with penalties if they do not pump their students' scores by using proto-military methods of instruction -- scripted texts and hand-held timers -- that will rescue them from doing any thinking of their own. There are some mediocre teachers in our schools (there are mediocre lawyers, mediocre senators, and mediocre presidents as well), but hopelessly dull and unimaginative teachers do not suddenly turn into classroom wizards under a regimen that transforms their classrooms into test-prep factories.

The real effect of No Child Left Behind is to drive away the tens of thousands of exciting and high-spirited, superbly educated teachers whom our urban districts struggle to attract into these schools. There are more remarkable young teachers like this coming into inner-city education than at any time I've seen in more than 40 years. The challenge isn't to recruit them; it's to keep them. But 50 percent of the glowing young idealists I have been recruiting from the nation's most respected colleges and universities are throwing up their hands and giving up their jobs within three years.

When I ask them why they've grown demoralized, they routinely tell me it's the feeling of continual anxiety, the sense of being in a kind of "state of siege," as well as the pressure to conform to teaching methods that drain every bit of joy out of the hours that their children spend with them in school.

"I didn't study all these years," a highly principled and effective first-grade teacher told me -- she had studied literature and anthropology in college while also having been immersed in education courses -- "in order to turn black babies into mindless little robots, denied the normal breadth of learning, all the arts and sciences, all the joy in reading literary classics, all the spontaneity and power to ask interesting questions, that kids are getting in the middle-class white systems."

At a moment when black and Hispanic students are more segregated than at any time since 1968 (in the typical inner-city school I visit, out of an enrollment that may range from 800 to 4,000 students, there are seldom more than five or six white children), NCLB adds yet another factor of division between children of minorities and those in the mainstream of society. In good suburban classrooms, children master the essential skills not from terror but from exhilaration, inspired in them by their teachers, in the act of learning in itself. They're also given critical capacities that they will need if they're to succeed in college and to function as discerning citizens who have the power to interrogate reality. They learn to ask the questions that will shape the nation's future, while inner-city kids are being trained to give prescripted answers and to acquiesce in their subordinate position in society.

In the wake of the calamitous Supreme Court ruling in the end of June that prohibited not only state-enforced but even voluntary programs of school integration, No Child Left Behind -- unless it is dramatically transformed -- will drive an even deeper wedge between two utterly divided sectors of American society. This, then, is the reason I've been fasting, taking only small amounts of mostly liquid foods each day, and, when I have stomach pains, other forms of nourishment at times, a stipulation that my doctor has insisted on in order to avert the risk of doing longterm damage to my heart. Twenty-nine pounds lighter than I was when I began, I've been dreaming about big delicious dinners.

Still, I feel an obligation to those many teachers who have told me, not as an accusation but respectfully, that it was one of my books that diverted them from easier, more lucrative careers and brought them into teaching in the first place. Some call me in the evenings, on the verge of tears, to tell me of the maddening frustration that they feel at being forced to teach in ways that make them hate themselves.

I don't want them to quit their jobs. I give them whatever good survival strategies I can. I tell them that the best defense is to be extremely good at what they do: Deliver the skills! Don't let your classroom grow chaotic! A teacher who can keep a reasonable sense of calm within her room, particularly in a school in which disorder has been common, renders herself almost inexpendable.

At the same time, I always recommend a healthy dose of sly irreverence and a sense of playful and ironical detachment from the criticisms of those clipboard bureaucrats who come around to check on them. (Teachers call them "the curriculum cops" or "NCLB overseers.") I urge them to develop mischievous and inventive ways to convince these gloomy-looking people that whatever they are teaching at that moment, no matter how delectably subversive it may be, is, in fact, directly geared to one of those little chunks of amputated knowledge, known as "state proficiencies," they are supposed to be "delivering" at that specific minute of the day.

But I've also felt the obligation to bring this battle to its source in Washington. I've tried very hard to convince a number of the more enlightened Democrats who serve on the Senate education panel to introduce amendments that will drastically reduce our government's reliance upon standardized exams in judgment of a child, school, or teacher, and attribute greater weight to factors that are not so simple-mindedly reducible to numbers.

Sophisticated as opposed to low-grade methods of assessment would not only tell us whether little Oscar or Shaniqua started out their essays with "a topic sentence" but would also tell us whether they wrote something with the slightest hint of authenticity and charm or simply stamped out insincere placebos. (A child gets no credit for originality or authenticity under No Child Left Behind. Sincerity gets no rewards. Endearing stylistic eccentricity, needless to say, is not rewarded either. That which can't be measured is not valued by the technocrats of uniformity who have designed this miserable piece of legislation.)

On a separate battlefront, I've also tried to win support for an amendment to the law that will take advantage of one of the loop-holes in the recent segregation ruling, an opening that Justice Kennedy has offered us by his insistence that criteria that are not race-specific may be used in order to advance diversity in public schools.

There is a provision in No Child Left Behind that permits a child in a chronically low-performing school to transfer to a more successful school. Up to now, it hasn't worked because there aren't enough successful schools in inner-city districts to which kids can transfer. The Democrats, I've argued, have the opportunity to make this option workable if they are sufficiently audacious to require states to authorize a child's right to transfer across district lines, and provide financial means to make this possible, so that children trapped in truly hopeless schools could, if their parents so desired, go to school in one of the high-spending suburbs that are often a mere 20-minute ride from their front door.

I was surprised that none of the senators with whom I spoke rejected this proposal as too controversial or politically unthinkable. More than one made clear that they enjoyed the notion of helping to "improve" a flawed provision that the White House had included in the law for reasons that most certainly were not intended to enable inner-city kids to go to beautiful suburban schools with 16 or 18 children in a room, instead of 29, or 35, or 40, as in many urban systems.

It was, however, on the testing issue that I received the most explicitly unqualified and positive response. Several of the senators made a lot of time available to think aloud about the ways in which to get rid of that sense of siege so many teachers had described and to be certain that we do not keep on driving out these talented young people from our schools.

The only member of the Democratic leadership I have been unable to get through to is the influential chairman of the education panel, Senator Ted Kennedy, who, one of his colleagues told me flatly, will ultimately "call the shots" on this decision. I've asked the senator three times if he'll talk with me. Each time, I have run into a cold stone wall. This has disappointed me, and startled me, because the senator has been a friend to me in years gone by and has asked for my ideas on education on a number of occasions in the decades since I was a youthful teacher and he was a youthful politician.

Senator Kennedy is, of course, a very busy man and has many other issues of importance he must deal with. But it's also possible, aides to other senators suggest, that he does not wish to contemplate dramatic changes in the law because he co-sponsored the initial bill in a deal with the Republicans. He is also renowned as a gifted builder of consensus in the legislative process. Lending his support to either of the two proposals I have made would almost surely guarantee a knockdown battle with conservative Republicans and, perhaps, with some of the Democratic neoliberals as well.

Still, Senator Kennedy has displayed a genuine nobility of vision in defense of elemental fair play for low-income children many times before. Is it possible that he may rise to the occasion once again? If he does, I may finally listen to the worries of my friends and decide it's time to bring this episode of fasting to an end. If not, I'll keep slogging on. It's a tiny price to pay compared to what so many of our children and their teachers have to go through every single day.

September 9, 2007

We Did It!

Thanks you very much for making our site a hit. We're proud to announce that we're 200 posts strong this month. All of us who've contributed posts are proud of our contribution to our on-line community in the last 32 weeks since the "New and Improved" Midwest Peace and Justice Caucus was relaunched.

WE NEED YOU!

Our blog is growing to be a team vs. an individual job.
We're looking for one or two folks from each state in the Midwest Region to help us every two weeks as we work to keep our blog up and running. We're just asking that folks help us cover the news-cycles a little more closely. Please join us by emaling us at our Midwest Peace and Justice Blog Spot Email Account.

Some Statistics

We've had 2,587 page loads (three more since we've designed the graphic above); 1,282 Unique Visitors-- this is the total of the returning visitors and first time visitors - all your visitors; 1,056
First Time Visitors and 266 Returning Visitors. That works out to 10 page loads a day, 5 Unique Visitors a Day, 4 First Time Vistitors a Day and 1 Returning Visitor a Day.

Visitors from Around the US and Globe

With visitors this week alone from Harjumaa, Tallinn, Estonia; England, Bristol, United Kingdom; England, London, United Kingdom; Oslo, Oslo, Norway; Singapore, Queenstown, Singapore; Jawa Barat (djawa Barat), Bogor, Indonesia; Fundacion Universidad Del Norte, Columbia; Comite Gestor Da Internet No Brasil, Brazil folks are reading about our issues around the world.

In the US this week alone we've had hits from
Midway City California; Houston, Aledo, and Dallas, Texas; Atlanta, Georgia; District Of Columbia, Washington DC; Glassboro & Edison, New Jersey; Kansas Cty & Ozark, Missouri; Carmel, Indiana; Madison, Wisconsin, lots of cities in Illinois, Michigan & Iowa we're excited that folks from around the U.S.A. are reading the Midwest Peace and Justice Blog.

Midwest Peace and Justice On-Line Meeting

Join Us in Our First Ever Midwest Peace and Justice On-Line Meeting to Discuss Election 2008

On Wednesday September 12, 2007 at 7:00-8:00 p.m. The Midwest Peace and Justice Caucus will hold an on-line meeting to discuss Election 2008. With an agenda available for download, some specific instructions on how well make this happen and some excitement, we’re excited to host our first on-line meeting right here on our site. Go to the sidebar and scroll down to our chat box. That's were the meeting will occur.

It appears after carefully studying the major campaigns, that education has dropped off the candidate's radar as a top three issue.

With the problems that we've seen in the reauthorization of NCLB, it is high time that we--the practitioners in the Midwest Region--touched base to discuss our feelings about how this issue impacts our students, our schools, our colleagues and our profession. At last count there were 93 pieces of legislation written for the ESEA Reauthorization process.

More than that, the candidates and thier positions on War in Iraq, healthcare, renewable energy, the environment and other issues are of paramount importance to us, our students, our school's families, our colleagues and more. As several of us have been talking to the campaigns, working with the campaigns and helping as leaders in the campaign, it's time for us to have a healthy discussion about the campaign. Please invite your presidential candidate or his/her designee to attend to visit with our members.

WHAT: MIDWEST PEACE & JUSTICE ON-LINE MEETING--Featured Topic Election 2008

WHEN: WEDNESDAY SEPTEMBER 12, 2007

TIME: 7:00-8:00 PM CST

WHERE: LOWER RIGHT CORNER OF OUR BLOG'S SIDE BAR IN OUR CHAT ROOM

Please click here for an agenda for this meeting.

Please feel free to send suggestions for the agenda that you feel are important or other advice to our official caucus email address.


Prepare for a Quick Log-In

Take the time to create a user name and a password below. If you forget your password, the chat has a function to resend it to you. Avoid hitting the little luggage tag...not cool. Everything else works great.

Please contact us at our official caucus email address to let us know if you plan on attending and also provide us your email address so that we can provide you with a log/minutes of our meeting. We would love to have a nice group gathered to test-drive this type of meeting. We're excited to give this a try. We hope you can join us.

NEA President Reg Weaver to Testify Before Congress on ESEA Reauthorization



Read about the problems with the Title I Reauthorization Discussion Document and the Process for Seeking Input in NEA's Letter to the Committee

NEA President Reg Weaver will testify at 10 a.m. Eastern time on Monday, September 10, before the House Education and Labor Committee on reauthorization of Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act/No Child Left Behind. The hearing will solicit comments on the Committee’s draft bill to reauthorize Title I of ESEA.

NEA has already submitted a letter to the Committee outlining major concerns with the draft, including the continued focus on measuring schools based on two test scores, and the imposition of many additional mandates and requirements on schools and states without any guarantee of additional funding to meet them. The letter also expresses NEA’s deep concerns about the extremely limited amount of time that was made available for a substantive and thorough review of the 435-page document.

To watch President Weaver's live testimony on Monday morning, go to the Committee Web site (http://capwiz.com/nea/utr/1/LCVXHOOVIR/JRIHHOPQKM/1399344446) and click on the "live webcast" link on the right-hand side.

More NCLB Drafts Released; Your Comments Needed

The House Committee on Education and Labor has now released “discussion drafts” for reauthorization of all the other parts of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act/No Child Left Behind.

Your Help Is Needed!

We urge you to review the drafts, which are posted on the Committee Web site and share your feedback with us so that we can include your voice in our comments to the Committee. The deadline for submission of comments to the Committee is September 14, so please send comments to ESEAinfo@nea.org as soon as possible.

As the Iraqis Stand Down, We'll Stand Up

Tuesday's 9/11 Anniversary Deserves Honor
Op-Ed Columnist
By FRANK RICH
Published: September 9, 2007

IT will be all 9/11 all the time this week, as the White House yet again synchronizes its drumbeating for the Iraq war with the anniversary of an attack that had nothing to do with Iraq. Ignore that fog and focus instead on another date whose anniversary passed yesterday without notice: Sept. 8, 2002. What happened on that Sunday five years ago is the Rosetta Stone for the administration's latest scam.

That was the morning when the Bush White House officially rolled out its fraudulent case for the war. The four horsemen of the apocalypse - Cheney, Rumsfeld, Powell and Rice - were dispatched en masse to the Washington talk shows, where they eagerly pointed to a front-page New York Times article amplifying subsequently debunked administration claims that Saddam had sought to buy aluminum tubes meant for nuclear weapons. "We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud," said Condoleezza Rice on CNN, introducing a sales pitch concocted by a White House speechwriter.

What followed was an epic propaganda onslaught of distorted intelligence, fake news, credulous and erroneous reporting by bona fide journalists, presidential playacting and Congressional fecklessness. Much of it had been plotted that summer of 2002 by the then-secret White House Iraq Group (WHIG), a small task force of administration brass charged with the Iraq con job.

Today the spirit of WHIG lives. In the stay-the-surge propaganda offensive that crests with this week's Congressional testimony of Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker, history is repeating itself in almost every particular. Even the specter of imminent "nuclear holocaust" has been rebooted in President Bush's arsenal of rhetorical scare tactics.

The new WHIG is a 24/7 Pentagon information "war room" conceived in the last throes of the Rumsfeld regime and run by a former ABC News producer. White House "facts" about the surge's triumph are turning up unsubstantiated in newspapers and on TV. Instead of being bombarded with dire cherry-picked intelligence about W.M.D., this time we're being serenaded with feel-good cherry-picked statistics offering hope. Once again the fix is in. Mr. Bush's pretense that he has been waiting for the Petraeus-Crocker report before setting his policy is as bogus as his U.N. charade before the war. And once again a narrowly Democratic Senate lacks
the votes to stop him.

As always with this White House, telegenic artificial realities are paramount. Exhibit A, of course, was last weekend's precisely timed "surprise" presidential junket: Mr. Bush took the measure of success "on the ground here in Anbar" (as he put it) without ever leaving a heavily fortified American base.

A more elaborate example of administration Disneyland can be found in those bubbly Baghdad markets visited by John McCain and other dignitaries whenever the cameras roll. Last week The Washington Post discovered that at least one of them, the Dora market, is a Potemkin village, open only a few hours a day and produced by $2,500 grants (a k a bribes) bestowed on the shopkeepers. "This is General Petraeus's baby," Staff Sgt. Josh Campbell told The Post. "Personally, I think it's a false impression." Another U.S. officer said that even shops that "sell dust" or merely "intend to sell goods" are included in the Pentagon's count of the market's reopened businesses.

One Baghdad visitor left unimpressed was Representative Jan Schakowsky, a Democrat from Chicago, who dined with her delegation in Mr. Crocker's Green Zone residence last month while General Petraeus delivered his spiel. "He's spending an awful lot of time wining and dining members of Congress," she told me last week. Though the menu included that native specialty lobster tortellini, the real bill of fare, Ms. Schakowsky said, was a rigid set of talking points: "Anbar," "bottom up," "decrease in violence" and "success."

In this new White House narrative, victory has been downsized to a successful antiterrorist alliance between Sunni tribal leaders and the American military in Anbar, a single province containing less than 5 percent of Iraq's population. In truth, the surge had little to do with this development, which was already being trumpeted by Mr. Bush in his January prime-time speech announcing the surge.

Even if you believe that it's a good idea to bond with former Saddamists who may have American blood on their hands, the chances of this "bottom up" model replicating itself are slim. Anbar's population is almost exclusively Sunni. Much of the rest of Iraq is consumed by the Sunni-Shiite and Shiite-Shiite civil wars that are M.I.A. in White House talking points.

The "decrease in violence" fable is even more insidious. Though both General Petraeus and a White House fact sheet have recently boasted of a 75 percent decline in sectarian attacks, this number turns out to be as cooked as those tallies of Saddam's weapons sites once peddled by WHIG. As The Washington Post reported on Thursday, it excludes Shiite-on-Shiite and Sunni-on-Sunni violence. The Government Accountability Office, which rejected that fuzzy math, found overall violence unchanged using the methodology practiced by the C.I.A. and the Defense Intelligence Agency.

No doubt General Petraeus, like Dick Cheney before him, will say that his own data is "pretty well confirmed" by classified intelligence that can't be divulged without endangering national security. Meanwhile, the White House will ruthlessly undermine any reality-based information that contradicts its propaganda, much as it dismissed the accurate W.M.D. findings of the United Nations weapon experts Hans Blix and Mohammed ElBaradei before the war.

General Petraeus intervened to soften last month's harsh National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq. Last week the administration and its ideological surrogates were tireless in trashing the nonpartisan G.A.O. report card that found the Iraqi government flunking most of its benchmarks.

Those benchmarks, the war's dead- enders now say, are obsolete anyway. But what about the president's own benchmarks? Remember "as the Iraqis stand up, we'll stand down"?

General Petraeus was once in charge of the Iraqi Army's training and proclaimed it "on track and increasing in capacity" three years ago. On Thursday, an independent commission convened by the Republican John Warner and populated by retired military officers and police chiefs reported that Iraqi forces can take charge no sooner than 12 to 18 months from now, and that the corrupt Iraqi police force has to be rebuilt from scratch. Let us not forget, either, Mr. Bush's former top-down benchmarks for measuring success: "an Iraq that can govern itself, sustain itself and defend itself." On that scorecard, he's batting 0 for 3.

What's surprising is not that this White House makes stuff up, but that even after all the journalistic embarrassments in the run-up to the war its fictions can still infiltrate the real news. After Michael O'Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack, two Brookings Institution scholars, wrote a New York Times Op-Ed article in July spreading glad tidings of falling civilian fatality rates, they were widely damned for trying to pass themselves off as tough war critics (both had supported the war and the surge) and for not mentioning that their fact-finding visit to Iraq was largely dictated by a Department of Defense itinerary.

But this has not impeded them from posing as quasi-journalistic independent observers elsewhere ever since, whether on CNN, CBS, Fox or in these pages, identifying themselves as experts rather than Pentagon junketeers. Unlike Armstrong Williams, the talking head and columnist who clandestinely received big government bucks to "regularly comment" on No Child Left Behind, they received no cash. But why pay for what you can get free? Two weeks ago Mr. O'Hanlon popped up on The Washington Post op-ed page, again pushing rosy Iraq scenarios, including an upbeat prognosis for economic reconstruction, even though the G.A.O. found that little of the $10 billion earmarked for reconstruction is likely to be spent.

Anchoring the "CBS Evening News" from Iraq last week, Katie Couric seemed to be drinking the same Kool-Aid (or eating the same lobster tortellini) as Mr. O'Hanlon. As "a snapshot of what's going right," she cited Falluja, a bombed-out city with 80 percent unemployment, and she repeatedly spoke of American victories against "Al Qaeda." Channeling the president's bait-and-switch, she never differentiated between that local group he calls "Al Qaeda in Iraq" and the Qaeda that attacked America on 9/11. Al Qaeda in Iraq, which didn't even exist on 9/11, may represent as little as 2 to 5 percent of the Sunni insurgency, according to a new investigation in The Washington Monthly by Andrew Tilghman, a former Iraq correspondent for Stars and Stripes.

Next to such "real" news from CBS, the "fake" news at the network's corporate sibling Comedy Central was, not for the first time, more trustworthy. Rob Riggle, a "Daily Show" correspondent who also serves in the Marine Reserve, invited American troops in Iraq to speak candidly about the Iraqi Parliament's vacation.

When the line separating spin from reality is so effectively blurred, the White House's
propaganda mission has once more been accomplished. No wonder President Bush is cocky again. Stopping in Sydney for the economic summit after last weekend's photo op in Iraq, he reportedly told Australia's deputy prime minister that "we're kicking ass." This war has now
gone on so long that perhaps he has forgotten the price our troops paid the last time he taunted our adversaries to bring it on, some four years and 3,500 American military fatalities ago.

September 8, 2007

Petraeus previews report in letter to troops

General says Iraqi politics haven’t matched security gains

In a preview of his report to Congress next week, Gen. David H. Petraeus yesterday expressed disappointment in the lack of progress toward political reconciliation in Iraq. Administration officials said he wants to return to Washington for another assessment in six months to allow more time for Iraqi politics to catch up with what Petraeus regards as rapidly improving security conditions.

Writing to his troops, the top U.S. commander in Iraq emphasized that violence there had diminished in eight of the last 11 weeks. But while "many of us had hoped this summer would be a time of tangible political progress," Petraeus said in a letter addressed to "Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, Coast Guardsmen, and Civilians" serving in Iraq that "it has not worked out as we had hoped."

Striking ‘a delicate balance’Petraeus has privately signaled that he can accept token reductions in U.S. troop strength, and U.S. military officials in Iraq have begun to identify areas where they can selectively draw down as many as 5,000 troops by spring, administration officials said. But Petraeus, who will be joined in testifying next week by Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker, wants to reassess conditions in Iraq in March before making further reductions, administration officials said.

"I think Dave will highlight in his testimony that he can see a place in the future where he can begin to shift his weight from doing what he is doing now to a new phase of operations, and that new phase of operations will require fewer troops," one senior administration official said. But he added: "This is a delicate balance to be struck. If you do it too quickly, you endanger the gains you have made."

President Bush's troop increase strategy -- first announced in January -- was premised on the idea that increased security would provide "breathing space" for the Iraqi government to make critical advances toward national reconciliation. Whatever security gains have been achieved have not been matched on the political front, however, and congressional Democrats, along with a influential Republicans, have argued that the Iraqi government is not seizing the opportunity U.S. forces have provided.

White house denies managing message

Petraeus briefed the president and offered his recommendations on how to proceed in Iraq over the last two weeks, but White House officials said they have not seen the text of the testimony he plans to deliver to Congress. They said Bush is not sure exactly what his general will say -- part of an effort to push back at criticism that the administration is stage-managing Petraeus's congressionally mandated appearance.

Although Bush has deflected political pressure to change course in Iraq by urging critics to wait for Petraeus's assessment, White House officials insist that the president himself will make the final determination of what to do in Iraq. Bush is receiving advice from senior Republicans as well as other members of his administration, whose views about Iraq strategy differ in varying degrees from those of Petraeus. Bush must deliver his own progress report on Iraq to Congress by Sept. 15, and administration officials said yesterday they expect him to address the nation before the end of next week.

Click on Links Below to Learn More

Text of Petraeus’ letter to U.S. forces
Petraeus eyes troop drawdown in spring
Republicans: Iraq withdrawals ‘off the table’
Lawmakers spar over panel’s call for Iraq shift


Dampened expectations

Petraeus's desire to make another Iraq assessment in six months was seen by some U.S. officials as an effort to forestall any major changes in strategy or troop deployments until security gains solidify and produce hoped-for political progress. For weeks, the president and his top advisers have pointed to the testimony from Petraeus and Crocker as a turning point, but officials are now indicating that they expect little change in strategy or force structure for the immediate future.

With the addition of 30,000 troops in recent months, there are currently about 168,000 U.S. troops in Iraq. Most U.S. officials expect the number to begin coming down in April, but exactly how fast -- and whether it can begin sooner -- is the subject of a fierce guessing game in Washington.

While Petraeus would like to keep as many forces as possible in place beyond the spring, he has indicated he could accept the removal of a brigade of between 3,500 and 4,500 troops, a senior U.S. official has said.

Turkey-Kurdish feud clouds drawdown

Northern Iraq and western Anbar province are considered the most promising regions for early troop drawdowns, according to military officials. Decisions in each case, officials said, would depend on other factors in addition to decreasing violence, such as the ability of Iraqi military units to take control. An Iraqi brigade currently in Mosul is considered highly capable, and the U.S. commander in northern Iraq, Maj. Gen. Benjamin R. Mixon, said this summer that U.S. troop totals in that region could be halved by 2009. But Turkey, a NATO ally, is unlikely to look favorably on a drawdown in the north until its concerns about cross-border attacks by renegade Iraqi Kurdish fighters are addressed.

The military officials said that even supportive members of Congress would be unlikely to be placated by any spring drawdown smaller than a brigade -- 4,500 to 5,000 troops -- but cautioned that most of the brigades in Iraq are widely dispersed, with components scattered to different areas according to need.