Tuesday, November 27, 2007

As Halliburton CEO, Cheney Evaded Law To Do Business With Iran

In an interview published yesterday with Fortune magazine's Nina Easton, Vice President Dick Cheney conceded that as Halliburton CEO, he had opposed unilateral sanctions on Iran, even though he now strongly supports them. Cheney explained that as a private sector official, he didn't have any responsibility to "worry about" the impact of his company's dealings with the country. What Cheney conveniently neglects to mention is that Halliburton evaded U.S. law in order to deal with Iran. The International Emergency Economic Powers Act authorizes the president to block transactions and freeze assets to deal with rogue nations. In 1995, President Clinton signed an executive order barring U.S. investment in Iran's energy sector. To evade U.S. law, Halliburton set up an offshore subsidiary that engaged in dealings with Iran. In 1996, Cheney blasted the Clinton administration for being "sanction-happy as a government." "The problem is that the good Lord didn't see fit to always put oil and gas resources where there are democratic governments," Cheney explained of his desire to do business with Iran. As the Bush administration now presses for tougher sanctions against Iran, Cheney should concede that Halliburton violated the spirit of the law and encourage other U.S. companies not to follow his lead.

Wal-Mart Extends Its Influence

  • Wal-Mart partners with opponents [United Press International]
    Wal-mart's quest to improve its image means partnering with opponents the U.S. firm ignored just a few years ago, The Washington Post reported. One example is Wal-mart's partnership with Conservation International, which has joined with Wal-mart to oppose deforestation in Brazil, the Post reported.
  • Wal-Mart Loses Bid To Seal Court Papers In State Tax Dispute [Wall Street Journal]
    A North Carolina state judge rejected an attempt by Wal-Mart Stores Inc. to block public access to certain court documents in a tax dispute with state authorities. The retailer asked a state court in North Carolina last month to have some future filings in a prominent tax dispute case sealed from public view. The company's action followed a page-one article in The Wall Street Journal that detailed how Wal-Mart paid its outside auditor, Ernst & Young LLP, to design complex strategies to cut its state-tax bills.

What Do Wal-Mart's Employees Have to be Thankful For? [Huffington Post]
That do Wal-Mart's employees have to be thankful for this season? Perhaps not as much as they would like.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Windfalls Of War II

The Center for Public Integrity has a follow up to its highly acclaimed 2003 Windfalls of War, which profiled U.S. contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan, their staff has worked to expose further information about what’s behind those contracts. Here’s a snapshot of what they learned in the new report, Windfalls of War II:

  • Government contracts – and the money behind them – are growing exponentially. U.S. government contracts for work in Iraq and Afghanistan have grown more than 50% annually, from $11 billion in 2004 to almost $17 billion in 2005 and more than $25 billion in 2006. Read more.
  • Missing contracts and a lack of serious scrutiny. While the dollar amounts and complexity of war-related contracting has been going up, oversight has been going down, according to the Government Accountability Office. Example: The Federal Procurement Data System does not include any of the millions of dollars in contracts originating in Baghdad. Read more.
  • Government contract allocations are hidden. The Center’s 2003 report was the first to show that Halliburton was the largest single contractor in Iraq. That is still true today—the former Halliburton subsidiary, KBR, Inc. (once known as Kellogg, Brown and Root) again earns the top spot among individual companies and subsidiaries. But that firm’s $16 billion is overshadowed by $20.4 billion in contracts that went to unidentifiable “foreign contractors,” representing about 45% of the money awarded to the top 100 contractors. Read more.

To read more about Windfalls of War II, please click here.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Arafat as a hero

What is it about heroes that attracts and draws us? This week the Palestinians everywhere in their thousands remembered Yasser Arafat on his third death anniversary. Watching the milling crowds in the West Bank and elsewhere in the Occupied Territories, I ask myself this question.

Arafat was a hero and a great one at that. He was a giant among men. Abu Ammar, as he was popularly known, was the first and perhaps last Palestinian leader to unify and rally his people behind him like a rock-solid wall of resistance. It was his larger than life personality and unflinching idealism that helped turn Palestine into a global cause. Even those who did not agree with Arafat couldn’t help admire and respect him.

That includes the Islamists of Hamas, who were dead against the Oslo Peace Accord Arafat inked with the Israelis with the blessings of the Americans, but respected the late leader. It had less to do with the force of Arafat’s charismatic personality than the decisive role he had played in the Palestinian struggle. Like I wrote in an emotional full-page tribute three years ago the day Arafat died, the late leader was a Walking Palestine.

His whole life and struggle had been the chronicle of his people’s struggle during the past six decades. Few leaders, with the exception of Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela, have so powerfully and eloquently epitomised their people’s aspirations and rights. If you ever saw any of those fiery speeches by Arafat on television, you’d know what I mean. It’s thanks to the sheer magnetism of his personality that people like me, growing up in distant India, identified with the Palestinian cause. Not because I happen to be a Muslim. Many of my friends who didn’t share my faith admired Arafat. He was very close to Indian leaders and boisterously embraced the late Indira Gandhi, (he called her sister) whenever he visited India, which was often.

Today, the United States, never a big supporter, seems to have dumped the Palestinian cause. Instead, it’s always and unquestioning, reaching out to Israel. But then, like someone argued, a nation has no permanent friends and foes; only permanent interests. Arafat lived dangerously all his life pursuing the impossible dream of freedom for his people, driven and chased all over the Middle East and the world, from Egypt to Lebanon and from Tunis to Ramallah. But he remained a fighter, a mujahid, to the very last — never giving up on hope and never giving in to the occupation and all that it represented. More importantly, he refused to sell and surrender what belonged to his people — their dreams, their hopes, their aspirations and their right to their land.

Even when Israel made him a prisoner in his Ramallah headquarters. Even when he was repeatedly attacked by the mighty forces of Israel and eventually became a victim of its conspiracies. In the end, Arafat died without realising his dream of an independent Palestine. But that can’t take away from him the glory of his achievements as a leader. Not only the history of Palestinian struggle will always revolve around Abu Ammar but wherever and whenever people fight for freedom, they will always look up to Arafat. Arafat’s stature as a leader is all the more augmented by the pygmies who have succeeded him. But then every pretender to the greatness can’t be great.

It is the ability of ordinary men and women to rise above their extraordinary circumstances that makes them great. They are ordinary people of flesh and blood like me and you. What makes them extraordinary is their ability to rise and respond to extraordinary situations and challenges. It’s this quality that turns ordinary people into Gandhi, Mandela, Arafat and Aung San Suu Kyi. It’s this power that enables a frail old man — or naked fakir as Churchill contemptuously called him — bring the British empire to its knees. I was very young when Mandela completed 25 years in prison, which was more than my life then on earth. It fascinated me no end then how one could spend all his life behind the bars for one’s beliefs. But then this is why Mandela is a hero. He spent a total of 27 years in the Robin Island prison. Suu Kyi has spent nearly two decades as a prisoner in her own home, cut off from her family and rest of the world.

Both Mandela and Suu Kyi need not have gone through all this. Mandela could have chosen to live in freedom by ignoring what went on around him. Suu Kyi could have gone back to UK where her husband and children lived (her husband died of cancer in 1999 and she couldn’t attend his funeral). They could have chosen to compromise with their circumstances and go with the tide, as most of us do. But then this is what distinguishes great men and women from the rest of us. They swim against the current! What adds to Mandela and Suu Kyi’s stature is the fact that both remain untouched by the bitterness and unpleasantness of it all.

After his release in 1990, Mandela not only forgave his tormentors, the ruthless apartheid regime, he went on to heal the divide between the black and white South Africans. And Suu Kyi remains the picture of hope and optimism for a new Burma despite what she has gone through. Just look at her face. God’s angels couldn’t be more serene and dignified. We all need our heroes. They appeal to our good side, persuading us a fairer and better world is possible. They offer us hope to go on when we are weighed down by our own cynicism and mundane, existential issues.

So Martin Luther King Jr was a hero when he refused to accept the indignities heaped on his people. Buddha was a hero when he dumped the kingdom he had inherited for the kingdom of heaven. Moses was a hero when he challenged the Pharaoh leading his people to the promised land. Jesus was a hero when he chose to say the truth as it is and pay the ultimate price for it. In fact, all the prophets had been heroes of their people and times. Whether they were chosen by God for their greatness or they were great because they were the chosen ones hardly matters. What matters is they left the world a better place than the one they had inherited.

This is why, I think, the greatest hero of them all was the Last Prophet. Not because I believe in him; but because he combined and epitomised all the great qualities that we so admire and love in heroes. He was a complete hero and leader of the world in every sense of the term. No other individual has influenced and changed the world in such a short time. Muhammad Bin Abdullah, peace be upon him, was born an orphan and never learned how to read and write. He was 40 when the Quran was first revealed to him.

And when he died at the age of 63, the whole of Arabia and the two great empires of the day, Persia and Rome, lay at his feet. This was the most peaceful revolution in the world and he accomplished all this within two decades. What makes the Prophet of Islam truly great is his incredibly multifaceted personality. He was a Messenger of God, philosopher, warrior, noble friend, ideal husband and father, gracious host and a great leader of men. This is why Michael Hart picked up the unlettered man from Makkah to lead his list of hundred individuals who scripted history and changed the world. As Hart says in his book: The 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History. “He was the only man in history who was supremely successful on both the religious and secular levels. It is this unparalleled combination of secular and religious influence which I feel entitles Muhammad to be considered the most influential single figure in human history.”

A world without heroes would be so dull. That’s why every age gets its share of extraordinary men and women. And here’s a man who remains a hero for all times – past, present and future.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Kerry Answers Wager to Debunk SBVT Smear

Senator John Kerry wrote a letter to Swift Boat Veterans for Truth financer T. Boone Pickens, accepting his million dollar challenge to give $1 million to the person who proves wrong a single fact asserted by the right wing smear group. Kerry does not seek the million dollars for himself, but rather for the Paralyzed Veterans of America to help veterans returned home from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Pickens keynoted a dinner recently, sponsored by the American Spectator in Washington D.C., at which he announced that he would pay $1 million to anyone who could prove wrong a single allegation asserted by the so-called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth in 2004.

Now Kerry is taking Pickens up on his offer.

Please find the text of Kerry’s letter below:

T.Boone Pickens
8117 Preston Rd
Dallas TX 75225

Mr. Pickens,

It has come to my attention through the accounts of individuals who were in attendance at the American Spectator’s Robert L. Bartley Dinner & 40th Anniversary Gala as well as through the public accounts, that you personally “staked one million dollars” that “no one” could “prove anything the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth said in 2004 was false” (RedState.Com) and offered “a million dollars to anyone who could prove wrong anything the Swiftboat Veterans charged about Kerry.” (AmericanThinker.com)

I welcome the opportunity to prove that you are a man of your word and that the so-called “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth” lied. While I am prepared to show they lied on allegation after allegation, you have generously offered to pay one million dollars for just one thing that can be proven false. I am prepared to prove the lie beyond any reasonable doubt.

I would request that your check be made payable to the Paralyzed Veterans of America which is doing incredible work every day to meet the needs of veterans returned home from Iraq and Afghanistan. My hope is that by sending this money to such a dedicated organization – founded for veterans, by veterans – some good can come out of the ugly smears and lies of the orchestrated campaign you bankrolled in 2004 in an attempt to discredit my military record and the record of the men who served alongside me on the Swift Boats of the Mekong Delta.

Todays Cartoon

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Caught in More Lies: Kathleen Willey

In a November 14 column discussing Kathleen Willey's new book Target: Caught in the Crosshairs of Bill and Hillary Clinton, Joseph Farah -- founder and editor of the right-wing news website WorldNetDaily -- asserted: "Many of us who crossed the Clintons -- whether it was because of what we wrote or whether it was because we didn't yield to unwanted sexual attacks -- feared for our lives as a result of winding up on their 'enemies list.' " He also claimed that "there were real-world consequences to being on the Clintons' enemies list," such as "losing jobs," "threats and harassment," "invasion of privacy," "break-ins and dead pets and flat tires," and "audits from the Internal Revenue Service." Farah added, "I am convinced, as is Willey, it could mean untimely death." Media Matters for America has documented numerous examples of media figures portraying the Clintons and their staff as ruthless and even violent.

In the book, Willey rehashes disproven conspiracy theories regarding former deputy White House counsel Vince Foster's 1993 suicide and suggests possible parallels between Foster's death and the suicide of her husband, Clinton fundraiser Ed Willey Jr., as well as the reported suicide attemptcharged with fraud and violating campaign finance laws in California. World Ahead Publishing, which published Target, and WND Books, WorldNetDaily's publishing imprint, became partners in October 2006. Also, in an interview with WorldNetDaily discussed in a November 5 article, Willey asserted that she "[m]ost definitely" suspects that her husband was murdered and that she "ha[s] suspicions" the Clintons were involved. of Norman Hsu, a fundraiser for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) who was

Farah also asserted that Willey's book "is perhaps the best expose of the personal, moral bankruptcy of both Clintons" and claimed that the book showed that President Clinton is "capable of just about anything -- including rape." As Media Matters has noted, on the March 15, 1998, edition of CBS' 60 Minutes, Willey alleged that Bill Clinton fondled her against her will in 1993 during a private White House meeting in which she asked for a paid position in the administration. Clinton denied making any sexual advance toward Willey. As the report by independent counsel Robert Ray noted, "Because the alleged incident arose in an employment context, Judge Susan Webber Wright ruled the allegations could be explored during discovery in Jones [v. Clinton]," the lawsuit in which former Arkansas state employee Paula Jones claimed that Clinton sexually harassed her.

Ray's report, however, concluded that "Willey's Testimony to the Grand Jury About the Alleged Incident Differed Materially from Her Deposition Testimony Given in Jones v. Clinton," noting that Willey "said at her deposition ... that [Clinton] did not fondle her." Ray also found that Willey contradicted herself on whether she had told others about the alleged incident and asserted that Willey gave false information to the FBI.

Monday, November 12, 2007

In 2006, Wal-Mart was responsible for $27 billion in U.S. imports from China and 11% of the growth of the total U.S. trade deficit with China between 2001 and 2006. Wal-Mart's trade deficit with China alone eliminated nearly 200,000 U.S. jobs in this period [Economic Snapshots, 6/27/07].

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the nation's biggest retailer, said it will employ between 20,000 and 25,000 seasonal workers nationally, half the number the company said it would hire last year.

Neoconservatives and International Relations

With little notoriety, a major political storm is brewing over the ratification of the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). On one side, an impressive coalition has formed, uniting the Bush administration, business groups, environmentalists, oil companies, a large bipartisan majority of U.S. senators, and 155 different nations under one tent. On the other side, a small contingent of knee-jerk isolationists is threatening to sink a seemingly non-controversial treaty that would "create a system for negotiating drilling, mining, and fishing rights." Revealing their core distrust of multilateralism, a familiar cadre of right-wing voices such as former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton, neconservative hawk Frank Gaffney, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), and others are aggressively attempting to thwart passage of the UNCLOS treaty. "The opposition to the Law of the Sea is based entirely on a visceral hatred for multilateral cooperation," writes Scott Paul, deputy director of government relations for Citizens for Global Solutions. "Its champions detest all forms of international organization and believe the purpose of international law is to constrain U.S. behavior." The same far-right ideologues who have argued that the United States should feel unencumbered by international law to go to war, torture, and pollute are now raising their heads in opposition to the UNCLOS treaty. For that reason, the convention is the "the perfect issue for progressives to rally around," writes The American Prospect's Kate Sheppard, because "it reveals the outrage from the outer edges of the right for what it really is: anti-cooperative isolationism that is both unfounded in fact and counter to American interests." Moreover, winning the battle over the Law of the Sea is an important step toward restoring America's international reputation and paving the path for future international agreements on climate change, weapons proliferation, and a host of other issues.

THE NEED FOR UNCLOS: Beginning in 1973 and ending in 1982, representatives from 160 nations met regularly under U.N. auspices to "hash out concerns about military navigation rights, territorial boundaries, environmental protections, and use of the ocean's resources." The convention also established tribunals that would resolve disputes that might arise between nations' interpretation of their sea rights. Since 1982, the Law of the Sea has languished without U.S. ratification. But new leadership in the Senate has bolstered hopes of passage. Seventy percent of the earth's surface is covered by ocean, and the mission of UNCLOS is to preserve marine resources for future generations. The treaty binds all nations to protect the "marine environment, protect fish stocks, and prevent pollution with as much care as the U.S. does." Former Republican Secretaries of State James Baker and George Schultz write that the longer the United States delays ratification, the more it "compromises our nation's authority to exercise its sovereign interests, jeopardizes its national and economic security, and limits its leadership role in international ocean policy." The UNCLOS would help address such issues as the current scrambling over the Arctic's mineral and energy reserves, helping stave off military confrontations that could arise.

HELD CAPTIVE BY THE FAR RIGHT: The far right has engaged in hyperbolic misrepresentations and fear-mongering to rally the activist base against the treaty. CNN's right-wing pundit Glenn Beck characterized it as a "socialist, globalist, elitist" accord. Inhofe, who annually leads an effort to defund the United Nations, called it the "greatest raid on sovereignty" in his lifetime. Bolton has been lobbying lawmakers to oppose the treaty, despite the fact that just a couple of years ago, he repeatedly advocated for it. Gaffney has formed the Coalition to Preserve American Sovereignty, which is stoking fear in the right-wing base over the impact of a multi-national sea accord. Senate Minority Whip Trent Lott (R-MS) has pledged his opposition, explaining, "I'm not going to get in a twit about what the Swiss or Belgians may think about us." Sens. John Sununu (R-NH), Norm Coleman (R-MN), and George Voinovich (R-OH), who all voted for the Law of the Sea in 2004, are now reconsidering their votes in a clear pander to the activists. Even the Republican presidential candidates are chiming in. "Let's stop the Law of Sea Treaty," former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) said recently at the Values Voters Summit, drawing an ovation from religious conservatives.

A TEST FOR PROGRESSIVES: The battle of the UNCLOS treaty is a defining issue for progressives, both because it reveals the failed unilateralist approach and restores the principles of global cooperation. "You have an agreement that's endorsed by a Republican president, the Department of State, the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Coast Guard, an overwhelming number of senators from both political parties, business groups, trade associations, and you already have 155 countries that are party to the treaty. It seems like if you can't get that through, I don't know what kind of treaty you can get through the Senate," said Spencer Boyer, director of international law and diplomacy for the Center for American Progress. Scott Paul, who has been spearheading the awareness campaign on the left, adds, "Winning the ratification battle would seriously de-fang the same pugnacious nationalists who are on the opposite side of almost every important foreign policy issue facing the U.S."

Friday, November 9, 2007

There They Go Again

During the "Grapevine" segment of the November 6 edition of Fox News' Special Report, Fox News Washington managing editor and host Brit Hume asserted: "The Clintons' ability to withhold information from the public extends not just to the Clinton Presidential Library it seems, but also to the University of Arkansas library as well. Four enormous binders of data about the Clinton presidency -- and [Sen.] Hillary Clinton's [D-NY] role in it -- apparently will not be released to the public by the university library before next year's election." However, Hume provided no evidence of "[t]he Clintons' ability to withhold" from the public documents held by the University of Arkansas library. Indeed, as Hume later acknowledged: "The Clinton campaign says it has not had any contact with the University of Arkansas about delaying the release of the papers." In a November 6 ABCNews.com article on the papers, which Hume cited during his report, ABC News senior national correspondent Jake Tapper reported: " 'It's not a conspiracy,' [Tom] Dillard [head of the University of Arkansas Special Collections Department] told ABC News. No representative of the Clintons has been in touch with the Library, he said. 'No, absolutely not. No political campaign has been in touch with us. Nor have any individuals been in touch with us asking us to do anything different from what we would normally do.' "

Additionally, Hume claimed:

HUME: Last month, the library said the papers would not be made public until 2009 because they were not yet processed. But the library's annual report for '05-'06 says the processing is, quote, "nearing completion," and, one year later, the library newsletter said the Blair papers were, quote, "previously processed."

While Hume claimed that the university library's newsletter said the "papers were, quote, 'previously processed,' " the newsletter simply stated that university archivist Kerry Jones "previously processed the papers of the late Diane Blair." Tapper wrote that this "implied the job has been completed." However, Tapper also quoted Dillard saying: "All I can say is that was a preliminary estimation and neither of the collections that were reported on are finished, neither Blair nor Congressman Hutchinson's papers"; "They're just not ready."

The newsletter reported:

The Special Collections Department is gearing up to begin processing its largest manuscript collection, the papers of former U. S. Congressman John Paul Hammerschmidt. These records, more than 1,400 boxes of materials, document Hammerschmidt's 26-year tenure as the representative for Arkansas' third district, 1967-1993.

According to Timothy G. Nutt, the manuscripts and rare books librarian in the Special Collections Department, a staff of three processing archivists as well as an intern from the Honors College have been hired to process the collection. Leading the processing is Felicia Thomas, who previously worked on the papers of another former third-district congressman, Asa Hutchinson. Other processors are Kerry Jones, who previously processed the papers of the late Diane Blair, and Case Minor, a history graduate student. Will Puddephatt, an Honors College junior majoring in German and history, will serve as the project intern.

The library's '06-'07 annual report, which appears to cover the time period from June 30, 2006, to June 30, 2007, indicated that library staff worked on the Blair papers during that period:

The Libraries had the assistance of four Honors College interns this year in Special Collections. They assisted manuscript processors in working on various manuscript projects, including the Diane Blair Papers, the John Paul Hammerschmidt Papers, the Fay Jones Collection, the Larry Vonalt Papers, Cynthia Rodes Smith Correspondence, Henry and Katie Wood Collection, John M. Page Correspondence, the 20th Century Club Collection.

From the November 6 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume:

HUME: The Clintons' ability to withhold information from the public extends not just to the Clinton Presidential Library it seems, but also to the University of Arkansas library as well. Four enormous binders of data about the Clinton presidency -- and Hillary Clinton's role in it -- apparently will not be released to the public by the university library before next year's election.

ABC News reports the information was compiled by Clinton friend Diane Blair for a book, but Blair never wrote it and passed away in 2000. The Clintons have one copy of the papers, the other's at the university.

Last month, the library said the papers would not be made public until 2009 because they were not yet processed. But the library's annual report for '05-'06 says the processing is, quote, "nearing completion," and, one year later, the library newsletter said the Blair papers were, quote, "previously processed."

The Clinton campaign says it has not had any contact with the University of Arkansas about delaying the release of the papers.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

OSHA Investigates Wal-Mart

OSHA's Wal-Mart Investigation [BusinessWeek]
  • The Labor Dept.'s Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) has opened an investigation into a whistleblower complaint against Wal-Mart Stores (WMT). OSHA sent a letter to Chalace Epley Lowry, the employee involved, saying the agency is "notifying the party named in the complaint about the filing of the complaint" and "conducting an investigation into your allegations," according to a copy of the letter reviewed by BusinessWeek.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Never Too Young

TINY TOTS OPEN THEIR PIGGY BANKS TO CANDIDATES You're never too young to make a campaign contribution, according to the Federal Election Commission, and bundlers are capitalizing on this loophole more than ever this election cycle. Because the FEC has not set any age limit on donations and doesn't ask donors' ages, parents looking to give more than the $2,300 limit per election are breaking open their kids' piggy banks (or trust funds) and contributing more in their names, listing their occupation as "student" in most cases. Having given $2.9 million already in the first nine months of this year, students (many of whom are over 18 and eligible to vote) have surpassed the $2.8 million in contributions they gave to presidential candidates in the entire 2004 election cycle. Democrats are collecting 69 percent of the money. Hillary Clinton has collected the most from students -- at least $836,000.

*Read more about 3rd Quarter contributions from students, along with other Q3 observations:

*Read the Washington Post article:

Despite his anti-war stance, or perhaps because of it, Ron Paul has collected more money from members of the U.S. military than any other presidential candidate, including John McCain, a Vietnam War prisoner who backs the administration's policy in Iraq. Paul has brought in at least $53,670 from the uniformed services since the campaign's start, compared to McCain's $40,000. Democrat Barack Obama, who opposed the resolution to go to Iraq from the start, is the number-two recipient with at least $45,200. (Obama had been ahead of Paul after the 2nd Quarter.) The contribution record of the military has become less Republican since the Iraq war began, and some donors say they're contributing to express dissatisfaction with the Bush administration's handling of the war and foreign policy. Tallying donations exceeding $200, Democrats have received 35 percent of the total $319,000 in contributions from uniformed service members this year. By comparison, in 2000, the last presidential race before the Iraq war began, Democrats received only 18 percent of contributions from the military.

*Read a Capital Eye story from September about military giving:

Hillary Clinton, the lone woman in the presidential field, is bringing in more money from female donors than any other candidate. But she doesn't have the largest number of female donors. That distinction belongs to Democrat Barack Obama, who has so far collected money from at least 22,045 women giving more than $200, compared to Clinton's 17,539. (Only donors who give more than $200 are itemized in campaign finance reports, so it's impossible to determine a gender breakdown for smaller donors.) Clinton is nearly tied with Democrat Dennis Kucinich in the percentage of total funds coming from women -- about 44 percent for both of them. Among Republicans, a larger number of women have given to Mitt Romney than any other candidate in the party, 8,801 donors giving a total of $12.1 million, or about 32 percent of his total. But with about 35 percent of his funds from women, dropout Sam Brownback's receipts from females make up the largest percentage of his total compared to all other GOP candidates.

*Presidential contributors by gender:

Thursday, November 1, 2007

The siege of Gaza is going to lead to a violent escalation

Seumas Milne
Thursday November 1, 2007
The Guardian

There is, it seems, an unbridgeable gap between the western world's apparent recognition of the dangers of Palestinian suffering and its commitment to do anything whatever to stop it. This week the collective punishment of the people of Gaza reached a new level, as Israel began to choke off essential fuel supplies to its one and a half million people in retaliation for rockets fired by Palestinian resistance groups. A plan to cut power supplies has only been put on hold till the end of the week by the intervention of Israel's attorney general.

Both moves come on top of the existing blockade of Gaza imposed by Israel since last year's election of Hamas and the confiscation of hundreds of millions of dollars of taxes it is obliged to pass on as part of previous agreements. And instead of being restrained by the US or European Union, both have deepened the crisis by imposing their own sanctions and withdrawing aid. The result has, inevitably, been further huge increases in unemployment and poverty. But far from discouraging rocket attacks, they have risen sharply - though the ratio of Palestinian to Israeli deaths has been running at more than 30 to one, compared with four to one at the height of the intifada five years ago.

The UN's senior official in Gaza, Karen Koning-Abu Zayd, yesterday branded Israel's intensification of the Gaza siege as a violation of international law: despite its withdrawal two years ago, Israel continues to control all access to the Gaza Strip and remains the occupying power both legally and practically. Not that the situation is much better in the occupied West Bank. Despite the US and Israel's fatal backing for the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and his emergency government of a non-existent state, Israeli demolitions, land seizures, settlement expansion, assassinations, armed incursions, segregated road-building and construction of the land-grabbing separation wall continue apace in the territory where Abbas's nominal writ supposedly runs.

There are now 563 checkpoints in the West Bank, squeezing this already constricted piece of land into apartheid-style cantons, and making free movement or normal economic activity entirely impossible. All this is in contravention of international law; much of it directly violates UN security council resolutions, such as resolution 446 against Israeli settlements in the occupied territories. But, whereas the occupied people face sanctions and international isolation, the occupiers pay no penalty at all. On the contrary, they are aided and armed to the hilt by the US and its allies.

Given the speed at which Israel continues to create facts on the ground, it's no surprise that even Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, warned a few days ago that the "window for a two-state solution" could be closing. But it is of course her government that has underpinned this takeover at every stage. And having preached democracy as the salvation of the Middle East, the US and its allies demonstrated what that meant in practice when it greeted the winners of the Palestinian elections with a political and economic boycott.

Unless Hamas recognised Israel, renounced violence and signed up to agreements it had always opposed, the western powers insisted, the Palestinian electorate would be ignored. No such demands, needless to say, have been made of Israel. The US and Israel then went one step further, funding and arming a section of the defeated Fatah leadership in an attempt to overthrow Hamas's administration. When that failed, the US encouraged Abbas to impose an unconstitutional administration of his own and blocked any power-sharing with Hamas, which is the precondition for Palestinian advance.

Instead, the US is gearing up for a peace conference in Annapolis, Maryland, from which Hamas is excluded and which almost nobody believes offers any prospect of real progress towards a settlement. Its main appeal to the Bush administration is perhaps that it can be seen to be doing something about the Israel-Palestine conflict at a time when it needs to corral its Arab allies for the coming confrontation with Iran. For the Palestinians, it's maybe just as well that the Israeli government is resistant to any timetable for statehood - let alone serious negotiation on Jerusalem, refugees and final borders - as any agreement that such a weak leadership could now secure would not stand a chance of being accepted by its people.

Already, Hamas and the other non-Fatah Palestinian parties are preparing to stage their own conference in Damascus to coincide with the Annapolis jamboree. Their aim is to challenge the right of Abbas, who has never had any of the legitimacy of Yasser Arafat, to represent the Palestinian people in negotiations over its future. While they were prepared to accept him as a negotiator for a national unity government, there will be no acceptance of deals made by a figure many Palestinians now regard as simply operating under US and Israeli licence.

Nor should there be any interest in such a setup for anyone who wants to see a lasting settlement of the conflict. As in previous periods when political progress has been blocked, there are clear signs that pressures for a return to wider resistance are building up on the Palestinian side. The head of Israel's Shin Bet security service, Yuval Diskin, said on Monday that he did not expect a new intifada if Annapolis failed because the Palestinian public was "exhausted and lacks leadership". It's true that any new upsurge in violence is likely to be different from in the past. But Palestinians are also well aware that it was the first intifada that led to the Oslo agreement, for all its weaknesses, and the second intifada that triggered Sharon's withdrawal from Gaza.

Hamas has mostly held back from armed action against Israel in the past couple of years, though it has allowed attacks by others. That may be about to change. This week Israel's defence minister, Ehud Barak, declared that "every passing day brings us closer to a broad operation in Gaza", while Hamas leader Ahmad Nimr told a rally that the movement was now ready to "strike inside the heart of Israel, the occupation entity" if Israel did not stop its killings in Gaza. Hamas has a variety of options - including rocket attacks on Israeli cities from the West Bank over the much-vaunted security barrier - that could dramatically escalate the conflict. The wider international interest in a just settlement could not be more obvious.

Ann Coulter: The "irreligious" are "trying to stir up trouble with the religious"

On the October 30 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, co-host Alan Colmes said to his guest, conservative author and pundit Ann Coulter: "I haven't spoken to you since you made your infamous comment saying that people like me need to be 'perfected,' " adding, "So how about embracing one of the great Christian virtues, as Jesus discussed, humility, and apologizing to all those people you offended by that comment?" Colmes was referring to Coulter's statement, documented by Media Matters for America, on the October 8 edition of CNBC's The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch that "we" Christians "just want Jews to be perfected." Responding to Colmes, Coulter stated: "[I]f you're going to go around citing all the people I have offended, Alan, I have 1,000 Orthodox rabbis supporting me." Later, Colmes asserted: "You claim 1,000 Orthodox rabbis support you. I don't know who they are, but I can tell you, you know the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Congress, and many others have condemned you for that. Do you care?" Coulter responded: "I wear it as a badge of honor. It's like citing the National Organization of Women to tell me how all women feel. The point is: This is the same old fight we see all the time with the irreligious trying to stir up trouble with the religious."

Coulter's response on Hannity & Colmes echoes remarks she made on the October 15 broadcast of Townhall Radio's The Michael Medved Show, where -- as Media Matters documented -- she claimed: "This is just the irreligious against the religious," while responding to criticism surrounding her comments on The Big Story. Coulter made a similar statement later that same evening on Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, as Media Matters also documented.

Coulter's assertion that "I have 1,000 Orthodox Jews supporting me" is an apparent reference to an October 15 article published on LifeSiteNews.com -- a "non-profit Internet service dedicated to issues of culture, life, and family" that "emphasizes the social worth of traditional Judeo-Christian principles" -- which quoted Rabbi Yehuda Levin, a spokesman for the Rabbinical Alliance for America and the Union of Orthodox Rabbis of the United States and Canada, saying: "She said nothing that in any way indicates anti-Semitism." The article characterized Levin as a "spokesman for some 1000 orthodox rabbis" and also quoted him as saying: "It is a fact that millions of Christians believe in evangelizing and preaching the gospel and it is their belief for a Jew to accept the tenets of Christianity and accept the divinity somehow completes them and brings them to perfection," and noted that "Levin stressed, 'That's obviously not our belief, that's not the traditional Jewish belief at all.'"

During the show, following Colmes' assertion that Coulter "doesn't want to own up to" her October 8 statement, Coulter said: "I gave a beautiful description of the Old Testament and the New Testament, but it's very frightening to secularists."