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The LiberalOasis Blog
The daily view from the oasis

February 24, 2006 PERMALINK
United Sweatshop Emirates
(posted Feb. 24 1:45 AM ET)

So everyone now knows that the United Arab Emirates, the country that owns Dubai Ports World, has a spotty record on fighting terrorism.

But how is their record as an employer?

Human Rights Watch offers some interesting info:

Nearly 80 percent of the UAE’s population are foreigners, and foreigners account for 90 percent of the workforce in the private sector, including as domestic workers...

... There are persistent credible reports of abuses committed by employers, especially in small firms and against low-skilled workers. A main factor is the immigration sponsorship laws that grant employers extraordinary control over the affairs of migrant workers.

Abuses committed against migrant workers include nonpayment of wages, extended working hours without overtime compensation, unsafe working environments resulting in death and injury, squalid living conditions in labor camps, and withholding of passports and travel documents by employers...

...Women domestic workers are often confined to their places of work, and may be at particular risk of abuse including unpaid wages, long working hours, and physical or sexual abuse.

Sounds like the entire company -- er, country -- is one giant sweatshop.

Good thing for them that, “The [Bush] administration did not require Dubai Ports to keep copies of business records on U.S. soil, where they would be subject to court orders.”

Our port workers have strong union representation, so don’t expect their rights to be junked immediately.

But don’t be surprised if, when current union contracts are up for renegotiation, Dubai Ports cracks down.

February 23, 2006 PERMALINK
Iraq Civil War Brews
Will Dems Continue Moving Towards Singular Strategy?
(posted Feb. 23 1:15 AM ET)

That Dubya, when he’s right, he’s right.

Back in December he said, “This election [in Iraq] will not mean the end of violence.”

Sure enough, it didn’t.

Of course, the idea in his address was supposedly that the election would put Iraq on a positive path towards ending violence.

Instead, the violence continues to corrode Iraqi society.

Following yesterday’s attack on the Askariya shrine, we’re hearing more and more talk of full-blown civil war (as opposed to the low grade civil war Iraq has already been experiencing.)

NBC’s Mike Boettcher blogged yesterday:

According to one respected newspaper editor I spoke to, Iraqis smell civil war in the air.

He had no official figures, but he said Iraqi's, who are able, have been leaving the country in significant numbers recently according to his government sources.

He pointed out that three members of his own staff had left the country in recent days.

He said he, too, was contemplating leaving Baghdad.

And Back To Iraq 3.0 reports:

If this doesn’t spark a much-feared civil war, we’ll be lucky. This is the tensest Baghdad has been in two years.

While Just World News concludes:

All in all, the current situation inside Iraq seems eerily reminiscent of the situation around a year ago[.]

Then too in the aftermath of an election in which the US's favored candidate ... did not win, there was a long and very politically unclear period of inter-administration "transition", in the course of which the level of violence soared ominously...

...[though in] February 2006, Iraqis are probably even more fed up than they were a year ago with the continued US presence[.]

Hopefully, these disturbing developments won’t derail Dems from rallying behind the Center for American Progress plan for “strategic redeployment” by the end of 2007, as the Boston Globe recently reported could happen soon.

While DNC Chair Howard Dean has been pushing the plan and winning support, there still are some congressional Dems that are reluctant to commit to any timetable.

Increased violence in Iraq might make them more skittish. It shouldn’t.

This is not a time to give bipartisan cover for a continued military presence.

This is a time to challenge conventional wisdom about the military presence, as CAP, Sen. Russ Feingold and Rep. John Murtha have been doing.

This is not a time to offer suggestions to the Bush Administration how to better manage the occupation.

This is a time to argue that the Bush Administration’s strategy is failing and its true goals are fundamentally flawed.

This is a time to take a clear stand against permanent military bases, to show that only one party is committed to leaving the country in the hands of its own people.

(TomDispatch, after offering the latest on the bases, laments that the media won’t mention "'permanent,' 'bases,' and 'Iraq' ... in the same sentence..." But that will change if Dems make opposition to bases a cornerstone of their platform.)

This is a time to argue that a change in congressional leadership is needed to send a clear message: we must end the occupation, in a reasonable timeframe, to truly liberate and stabilize Iraq.

February 22, 2006 PERMALINK
Can Bipartisan Outrage Tell The True Port Security Story?
(posted Feb. 22 3 AM ET)

So we got some major bipartisan outrage at the imminent takeover of 6 US ports by Dubai Ports World, a company owned by the United Arab Emirates government.

Who is that going to help in the end?

Are Republicans unwittingly making the case that Democrats are better for national security?

Or are Democrats unwittingly helping Republicans position themselves for the post-Dubya world, so they can imply that Bush’s only failing was not being right-wing enough?

That depends on the arguments that Democrats make.

Right now, they’re making the easy argument everyone can agree on: a foreign government should not manage national security assets such as our ports.

While that is a valid argument that should be made, it’s an argument many Republicans are making also.

Therefore, it’s not an argument that speaks to how Democrats would handle national security better than Republicans.

What aspect of this deal speaks to how the parties differ?

The privatization of our port system, and in turn, the lack of government investment in our port security.

Increased corporate control of our ports is standard Republican operating procedure: dismantling government and ceding responsibility.

In theory, our federal government could still take responsibility by working with both the public port authorities and private port operators on national security matters.

But the GOP President and GOP Congress have refused to make the necessary investment.

Take port security grants.

Bush has been trying to kill off the already starved Port Security Grant Program, by folding it into another grant program, forcing port operators to compete for scarce funds with other transit systems.

Last June, a Center for American Progress report on port security found:

Port security is currently an unfunded mandate and that situation will deteriorate because the Bush administration plans to eliminate the specific grant program – poorly funded as it is – that supports municipal, state and private sector owners and operators as they attempt to implement security plans...

CAP called for the program to get $500M a year. Last September, a compromise was made to give it a paltry $175M. And the latest Bush budget renews the effort to end the program altogether.

Take cargo inspections.

Stephen Flynn of the Council for Foreign Relations, in a recent piece titled “Port Security Is Still A House of Cards,” reports that Customs is intentionally only inspecting 5% of incoming cargo:

Before stepping down as [Customs] commissioner in late November 2005, Robert Bonner repeatedly stated in public and before Congress that his inspectors were “inspecting 100% of the right 5% of containers.” That implies the [Custom’s] intelligence and analytical tools can be relied upon to pinpoint dangerous containers.

...only a tiny percentage of containers as potential security risks.

Unfortunately, [Custom’s] risk-management framework is not up to the task of reliably identifying them, much less screening the low- or medium-risk cargoes that constitute the majority of containerized shipments and pass mostly uninspected into U.S. ports...

And if we want to inspect more, Customs is tens of thousands of personnel (and a couple billion dollars) short to do the job.

Take worker background checks.

Last December, the House Dems reported that even though the Administration pledged to strengthen the background checks and issue special ID credentials by 2004, they still haven’t gotten the job done.

And take radiation monitoring.

Despite a 2003 pledge by then-Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge to give “portable radiation detectors to each one of our primary inspectors,” the same December House Dem report found that:

Only 2 seaports have the capability to screen 100 percent of the cargo entering the country for radiological or nuclear material, and no airport has the capability to do so...

... for a mere $280 million, the Department could install radiation portal monitors at every port of entry. Yet the President has not requested this funding nor has Congress provided it.

If Dems and GOPers continue to use the same script, they may well generate enough heat and force Bush to reneg on the Dubai deal, or to override a Bush veto.

But such a development, by itself, will provide false comfort, and give the GOP Congress points they don't deserve.

It’s better for Dems to write their own script, and take on the entire GOP for outsourcing port operations instead of investing in port security.

February 20, 2006 PERMALINK
The Sunday Talkshow Breakdown
A weekly feature of LiberalOasis
(posted Feb. 20 3 AM ET)

Yesterday was the first Sunday after last Tuesday’s Media Matters report, “If It’s Sunday, It’s Conservative,” which documented that “conservative voices significantly outnumber progressive voices on the Sunday talk shows.”

(Fox News Sunday was not even part of the analysis.)

One of the findings concerned the pundit roundtables:

In every year examined by the study -- 1997 - 2005 -- more panels tilted right (a greater number of Republicans/conservatives than Democrats/progressives) than tilted left.

In some years, there were two, three, or even four times as many right-titled panels as left-tilted panels.

So how did the shows react to the report yesterday?

Both NBC’s Meet The Press and ABC’s This Week had roundtables.

Both probably thought they deftly inoculated themselves from crticism, as MTP booked NY Times’ Maureen Dowd and This Week booked The Nation’s Katrina van de Huevel.

But both unintentionally exposed the entire problem with the Beltway Establishment mindset towards liberals.

The MTP roundtable was still skewed Right.

Two party-line conservatives, the Wall Street Journal’s Paul Gigot and informal Cheney adviser and spokesperson Mary Matalin.

One straight news reporter, NBC’s David Gregory, who was very aggressive about the Cheney story during the week, but yesterday took time to apologize for his behavior in pursuing the story, and offered that “one of the things we may have missed this week is a little bit more empathy for the vice president, given what he went through.”

And Dowd, not even a reliable liberal, though she did take a tough line on Cheney yesterday.

Matalin’s creepy performance, largely unchecked by host Tim Russert, has already been well-dissected by James Wolcott, Arianna Huffington, The Left Coaster, Oliver Willis, Eschaton, Talking Points Memo and Hullabaloo.

So allow LiberalOasis to focus more on the This Week roundtable, which is arguably even more revealing.

The roundtable also skewed Right.

In addition to true blue liberal van de Heuvel it had the deeply anti-government George Will and the right-leaning dispenser of Establishment wisdom Cokie Roberts, as well as host George Stephanopoulos.

More important than the composition, was the treatment of van de Heuvel.

The condescension towards her, and liberals in general, was palpable.

Following a clip of Bill Clinton saying he didn’t want to pile on Dick Cheney following the shooting, Stephanopoulos began the discussion with:

Katrina, let me begin with you, because I suspect you do want to pile on, so why don’t you just go to it.

Cokie then chuckled.

Stephanopoulos’ glib remark undercut and trivialized van de Heuvel’s remarks before she had to chance to speak.

Yet she did not flinch and with great poise, proceeded to slam the mainstream media for deciding to pick this story to finally aggressively question the Administration.

Soon after, Will sarcastically remarked, “It’s a metaphor for American imperialism and patriarchy.”

To which Katrina eloquently responded:

It is a metaphor for an Administration which preaches responsibility to a society, and then doesn’t take responsibility for its actions.

Yes, Iraq is the greatest strategic blunder.

But the other fact is this is an Administration which has been arrogant, which has been reckless, which has been staggeringly incompetent, and has escaped the scrutiny which it deserves.

So it all comes together. It comes together at a moment which, to use a cliché George, is maybe a tipping point...

Roberts and Will then shared another dismissive chuckle.

Finally, Stephanopoulos brought up a Pew poll which found that 45% of GOPers and 40% of conservatives said they were “happy,” compared with 30% of Dems and 27% of liberals (not to mention 29% of independents and 33% of moderates.)

Of course, the logical observation to make is – why is every strain of the political spectrum generally unhappy?

But instead, the debate was, why are liberals more unhappy than conservatives.

Will offered:

Conservatives believe in the pursuit of happiness.

Llberals believe in the delivery of happiness from a post-New Deal government, and it’s better to pursue it.

Katrina responded, warmly smiling all the way:

I think for Democrats, or for people who believe that the Declaration of Independence meant the unalienable right to pursue happiness, that you look around your country today, at the squandered promises, the unfulfilled promises.

And you can’t sit back and sing ... “Be Happy, Don’t Worry,” because you got to get out there with some passion and remake this nation, be proud of it again.

At “squandered promises,” Roberts and Will laughed uproariously, like two snot-nosed schoolchildren who can’t believe some new kid sat at their cafeteria table.

Then Will lobbed one last immature, idiotic insult: “Do you still have a Kerry Edwards bumper sticker on your car? That’s a sure sign of anger.”

Once again, Katrina did not flinch, maintained her poise, and calmly shot back, “I have no anger in me, I just have a passion.”

In sum, when members of the Beltway punditocracy are faced with an actual liberal, their instinctual response is elitist, yet sophomoric, disdain.

Which is why actual liberals are so rarely booked on Sunday roundtables. They simply are not taken seriously by nonliberals in DC.

At the same time, media hosts and bookers are so fearful of the right-wing critique that they are too liberal themselves, they think they will fend of criticism by “balancing” themselves with right-wing hacks.

CBS “Public Eye” blogger Vaughn Ververs criticized the methodology of the Media Matters study: “what real conclusions can be drawn from a study examining labels rather than what was actually said?”

Fair enough. The labels don’t tell the entire story.

The content of yesterday’s roundtables tell the rest of it.

The Blog Wire
Tracking the liberal blogosphere

Unclaimed Territory: "Federal court orders Justice Dept. to release NSA documents. This development seems quite significant; at the very least, it will ensure that the scandal continues regardless of the White House's success in suppressing a meaningful Congressional investigation ..."

Salon's Russ Feingold: "It took a long time for Democrats to step up and challenge the administration's baseless assertions that the Patriot Act could not be changed without threatening the security of the American people. When we finally did so, when we decided to make the case that we can fight terrorism and protect our American principles at the same time, it looked like Democrats were finally ready to stand on principle and offer strong leadership. Instead, too many Democrats have folded ..."

Just World News: Hamas's diplomatic and leadership strategies unfold

Fact-esque: "so Preval is in but in an election marred by minor violence and alleged threats of more to come if demands were not met. I've got my tinfoil hat on about that ... If we go down the cui bono? path, you have to admit that the protests help the losers the most since they can start delegitimizing Preval before he even takes office. Of course they also worked to pressure the powers that be to do the right thing ... As with so much else we get to hear out of Haiti, it's a murky story."

Angry Bear: Treasury Sec. Withholds Checks to the Retirement Accounts of Federal Workers

ZNet: "The USAID-UNOPS program ... made significant contributions, some $3 million, to the campaigns of non-Lespwa (Preval) parties, providing election materials, television and radio advertising credits, leaflets, posters, several campaign offices, vehicles, computers; in short, all the means to conduct a 'fair and democratic' election campaign designed to allow Haiti's elites to finally obtain power through 'democratic' means."

Huffington Post's RJ Eskow: "So was Cheney drinking, and was there anything inappropriate about this hunting party? We don't know, and nobody's investigating. There's reason to be suspicious."

Syria Comment: "Sean McCormack, Secretary Rice's Spokesman gave a long press interview about Hizbullah and US attitudes towards the Lebanese Government which is interesting in light of increased US military aid to the Lebanese government. Hizbullah, a terrorist organization, participates in the government, making further US aid to it awkward. The obvious parallel is with the new Hamas led governemnt in Palestine. McCormack said he didn't know if the US is giving any aid to the Lebanese government on the day that the US announced it would triple military assistance to the Lebanese army."

Body and Soul: "Last fall, a federal judge ordered the government to reveal the redacted sections of the documents, along with 87 photos and 4 videos, taken at Abu Ghraib, that Joseph Darby, the AG whistleblower, turned over ... Via Elendil, who has posted one of the photos (warning -- it's very disturbing), I see that an Australian television program has gotten hold of 60 of the photographs, which it broadcast yesterday"

Republic of T.: "Probably nobody is much going to care that a recent U.N. report accuses the U.S. of torture."

War and Piece: "For me, this is one of the saddest results of the past five years of the Bush administration's blunders at home and abroad. Losing Turkey and Turkish hearts and minds."

The Left Coaster: McClellan Didn't Tell Press Corps About Heart Attack, But Still Joked Anyway

Oliver Willis: Rush says Dems pushed out Paul Hackett because Sherrod Brown is black. (He's not.)

Jewschool: Israelis Launch Own Antisemitic Cartoon Contest

Jamaican Observer: "If you really want to know what's wrong with Haiti consider this: On Thursday night, when it was clear that Rene Preval was getting something over 60 per cent ... [t]he candidate running third, a millionaire sweatshop owner named Charles Henri Baker ... with about six per cent of the vote, one-tenth of Preval's ... was promising to launch an election petition, charging fraud, hoping to overturn the results. I cannot imagine anything which more clearly illustrates the mind-set of Haiti's so-called ruling class, the elite, whose rapacious greed, arrogant intransigence and bone-headed stupidity have provided the main roadblock in Haiti's 200-year-long struggle to establish a free and civilised society."

Raw Story and The Washington Note: Plame was working on Iran

**************

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