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The LiberalOasis Blog
The daily view from the oasis

May 26, 2006 PERMALINK
Immigration Train Wreck Looms
(posted May 26 2 AM ET)

LiberalOasis has always contended that the House and Senate would not be able to reconcile their respective nativist and corporatist immigration bills in conference.

But for the Senate bill to pass with only a minority of the majority GOP caucus, will put the Senate conferees in an especially weak position.

House Speaker Dennis Hastert undemocratically only allows bills on the floor that are supported by the “majority of the majority” – which of course, can mean a minority of the overall House, and essentially freeze out the 203 duly elected Democrats from the legislative process.

So a Senate bill with primarily Democratic support will not put any pressure on Hastert and his fellow House GOPers to abandon their nativist bill.

Nor will a president with an approval rating mired in 30s.

With a humiliating train wreck on the horizon, we may see a desperation attempt to move towards Dubya’s original idea – a temporary guest worker program that doesn’t let those immigrants stay.

This idea has never received much support from the nativists, who just want the immigrants out of the country, or immigrant advocates, who want immigrant families to be able to build stable lives.

Sen. Arlen Specter initially tried to get a bill like that out of committee, but failed to secure any support.

(Corporations, of course, would happily take a steady flow of cheap labor that couldn’t stay long enough to organize and demand raises.)

The NY Times reports today that while there is much pessimism about a compromise:

...some Republicans in the House said that the ground seemed to be shifting, if only slightly.

They pointed to Representative Mike Pence, Republican of Indiana, the leader of the conservative caucus in the House, who proposed a bill this week that would allow illegal immigrants to become guest workers, though not permanent residents or citizens.

Pence’s idea however, is not the same as Bush’s. It’s even more ludicrous:

A temporary guest worker program that would require all 11 to 12 million illegal immigrants, most of whom are already woven into our economy, to unweave themselves and “self-deport,” then come back as temporary workers.

That will not be the basis of a GOP compromise.

The Senate bill, with its different rules for illegal immigrants depending on how long they’ve been here, is already a messy, unworkable split-the-baby compromise. And it failed to unite the GOP’s factions.

This baby can only be split so much more.

The only remaining question is: will the GOP try really hard to get a bill passed before November, attracting much media attention for the eventual train wreck?

Or will they save themselves the headache, put off negotiations until after November, and try to fail as quietly as possible?

May 25, 2006 PERMALINK
Another War, Another PR Firm
(posted May 25 3 AM ET)

Talking Points Memo points to an important piece from Jewish Week, tracking how the bogus claim that Iran passed a law forcing Jews and Christians to wear color-coded badges ever made it into print.

Where did the story originate?

From a column by neoconservative Amir Taheri, pushed by his PR agency Benador Associates, and first published by Canada’s The National Post.

Jewish Week tells us more about Benador:

Benador Associates, the public relations agency that placed the story with The National Post, is a boutique firm specializing in promoting neoconservative figures such as Taheri, Michael Ledeen, Richard Perle, Charles Krauthammer and others who supported the Iraq war and “regime change” in Iran now.

How was the story debunked? Jewish Week reports:

...within hours after the National Post of Canada hit the streets Friday morning, it became clear the story had serious problems.

By 7:41 a.m., a Montreal news radio station, AM940, had an interview with Israeli Iran expert Meir Javedanfar of Middle East Economic and Political Analysis debunking it.

“It’s absolutely factually incorrect,” he told the station.

“Nowhere in the law is there any talk of Jews and Christians having to wear different colors. The Iranian people would never stand for it. The Iranian government wouldn’t be stupid enough to do it.”

Indeed, the law’s text and parliamentary debate, available in English from the BBC Service, discloses no provision mandating that any Iranians will have to wear any kind of prescribed dress...

...Denials...also started pouring in from official Iranian sources...The cumulative force of this information compelled the National Post to run a retraction on its Web site later that same Friday.

Of course, in true neocon/up is down/anti-reality-based fashion, Taheri and Benador continue to stand by it, and The New York Post published the disingenuous defense.

Nevertheless, to debunk a bogus story within 24 hours and severely limit its spread is not an easy task.

And therefore, this is a heartening episode.

In 1990, people didn’t think to question whether it was true that Iraqi soldiers ripped babies from incubators and let them die – a lie shepherded by the Hill & Knowlton PR firm.

In 2002, few challenged the false claims of Iraq’s WMD – which came out of an elaborate operation concocted by the “perception management” firm the Rendon Group.

But the yellow badge hoax from Benador Associates got knocked down right away, and failed to attract much mainstream media coverage.

After being burned so badly with Iraq, people may well be learning to be skeptical of sensational stories, and to check sources out before spreading stories around.

Such a development must be strongly encouraged.

We all have to get better at rapid debunking, as the right-wing PR firms are already dishing out the propaganda to sucker us into another war.

The key is to always be uber-skeptical.

And keep in mind that legit organizations can get snookered and lend underserved credibility.

(Amnesty International fell for the incubators, and the Simon Wiesenthal Center fell for the badges.)

So a second-hand confirmation from a respected group is not necessarily good enough. Be sure that the original source of a story is rock-solid.

(UPDATE 5/25/06 12:45 PM ET -- More from Taylor Marsh, who was a source for the Jewish Week piece.)

QUICK HIT

CNN Responds, Barely

Yesterday Greg Sargent, of the American Prospect blog “The Horse’s Mouth,” followed up on the LiberalOasis post regarding CNN’s use of the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens as a source for a map graphic, on the 5/23 edition of “Lou Dobbs Tonight.”

He contacted CNN about the episode, and received a weak response, which he posted.

LO had said, “CNN should apologize to its viewers and reprimand those involved in the report.” CNN did neither.

In a statement to Sargent, a CNN spokesperson pawned off blame on a “freelance field producer” who “grabbed” the map “without knowing the nature of the organization.”

She continued, “The graphic was a late inclusion in the script and, regrettably, was missed in the vetting process.”

Not only is this not an apology, and not a reprimand, the statement was not even delivered to the viewers of “Lou Dobbs Tonight” last night.

It was not readers of “The Horse’s Mouth” that were fed racist propaganda disguised as news.

It was viewers of “Lou Dobbs Tonight” and they are the ones who deserve an apology and a full explanation.

May 24, 2006 PERMALINK
Time To Push For Direct Talks With Iran Is Now
(posted May 24 1:15 AM ET)

The W. Post cut against the prevailing media narrative about Iran with today’s front page story, “Iran Requests Direct Talks on Nuclear Program” which also noted that “The [Bush] administration repeatedly has rejected talks[.]”

The W. Post focuses on the significance of the letter from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. (It still can’t manage to report on the Hassan Rohani letter, but let’s not nitpick today.)

And it is clear from the story that much of non-neocon Establishment Washington sees the Ahmadinejad letter as a real diplomatic opening, and in turn, is pushing for direct talks:

...U.S. officials who spoke on condition of anonymity said government experts have exerted mounting pressure on the Bush administration to reply to the letter, seconding public urgings from commentators and former officials.

"The content was wacky and, from an American point of view, offensive. But why should we cede the high moral ground, and why shouldn't we at least respond to the Iranian people?" said an official who has been pushing for a public response.

Analysts, including American specialists on Iran, emphasized that the contents of the letter are less significant than its return address...

..."There is no question in my mind that there has been for some time a desire on the part of the senior Iranian leadership to engage in a dialogue with the United States," said Paul Pillar, who was the senior Middle East intelligence analyst with the CIA until last fall.

As noted here last month, there is a growing contingent of Senators on both sides of the aisle, supportive of direct talks.

If they really want to make that happen, they need to act boldly.

And with the fresh momentum that this W. Post piece can bring, the timing is right to act now.

Pro-talks senators Chuck Hagel and Dick Lugar from the GOP, and Evan Bayh, Chris Dodd, Dianne Feinstein and Harry Reid from the Dems (and anyone else who wants to come along), need to stand together at a press conference, make a dramatic call for direct talks, and then fan out throughout the media and make the case to the people in coordinated fashion.

Passively stating their individual positions in reaction to questions, which is all that's happening now, isn’t going to change the dynamic of the debate.

That only gives them “I’d Told You So” cover when things go awry.

If they’re serious about averting another unnecessary war, they must get proactive and start working together to publicly push back against a reckless White House.

May 23, 2006 PERMALINK
CNN Cites White Supremacist Group As Source
(posted May 23 7:45 PM ET)

Today on "Lou Dobbs Tonight," CNN ran a graphic sourced to the Council of Conservative Citizens, a group deemed to have a "white supremacy" ideology according to the Anti-Defamation League.

During a piece about illegal immigrants in Utah, reporter Casey Wian said, "Utah is also part of the territory some militant Latino activists refer to as Aztlan, the portion of the southwest United States they claim rightfully belongs to Mexico."

As he said that, CNN ran the following map graphic:

CCC

As you can see in the right hand corner, the source of the map is the Council of Conservative Citizens.

For more background on the CCC outside of the ADL report, check out this 1999 W. Post piece and this from The Nation's' John Nichols about Trent Lott's CCC ties

CNN should apologize to its viewers and reprimand those involved in the report.

(UPDATE 5/23/06 9 PM ET -- More from The Great Society)

(UPDATE 5/23/06 9:15 PM ET -- Background on the dubious Aztlan theory from Orcinus, via Crooks and Liars)

(UPDATE 5/23/06 10:30 PM ET -- You can contact CNN at this link.)

(UPDATE 5/24/06 10:30 AM ET -- More from Daily Kos' Colorado Luis, Hullabaloo and The News Blog)

May 22, 2006 PERMALINK
The Sunday Talkshow Breakdown
A weekly feature of LiberalOasis
(posted May 22 1:30 AM ET)

How unserious is the White House about a peaceful resolution for Iran’s nuclear program?

On NBC’s Meet The Press, Sec. of State Condi Rice offered the boilerplate regarding any standoff: keeping the “military option” on “the table” while wanting a diplomatic solution:

RICE: We have a lot of tools at our disposal. We have three tracks.

The U.N. Security Council track, which we will pursue.

We have the negotiating track, which we will pursue—and by the way, the United States will support that track and support it fully.

And we have the -- whatever states, like-minded states may wish to do outside of the Security Council, with financial measures and the like.

TIM RUSSERT: And a military option as well?

RICE: The president’s not going to take any option off the table, but we believe that this is something that can be resolved diplomatically.

In and of itself, that statement is no big deal.

Even most people committed to a peaceful solution can appreciate the bargaining value of nominally leaving the “military option” on the table.

But if you were really interested in a diplomatic solution, you wouldn’t take the “peace option” -- assurances that you won’t seek to militarily overtake Iran if it relinquishes any effort to obtain a nuke –- off the table either.

Yet over on Fox News Sunday, that is exactly what Rice did.

Rice was asked about a Saturday NY Times report that said the White House was rejecting European attempts to include “security guarantees” against regime change as part of a deal to stop any nuclear weapons program.

While she dismissed any notion of a US-European split in her response, she also said, “security assurances are not on the table.”

So, the “military option” is on the table, and “security assurances” are off.

When Rice said on Meet The Press that “the president’s not going to take any option off the table,” she forgot to mention that doesn’t include the peace option.

As noted here before, it is such telegraphing -- that regime change is around the corner – that constitutes a major incentive for Iran to pursue nukes.

A serious effort to defuse the situation would involve taking away those incentives, not making more.

Which means that there is no serious effort to defuse the situation.

QUICK HITS

Journos, Watch Your Back

Crooks and Liars has the video of Attorney General Gonzales threatening to prosecute journalists for doing their job. More at War and Piece.

The Blog Wire
Tracking the liberal blogosphere

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Wait!
The debut book from LiberalOasis' Bill Scher
Available 9/19/06
Pre-order today at Amazon or Powell's

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Just World News: US Amb. to Iraq undermining legitmacy of new Iraqi government

Confined Space: Bush Should Withdraw Mine Safety Nominee

The Washington Note: "Another person with deep knowledge about this investigation called to say that Fitzgerald seems to have abandoned any interest in securing indictments regarding the 'outing' of Plame and has invested his efforts in challenging the 'white collar cover-ups' involved. According to this source, the information provided by Richard Armitage is -- more than any other information -- what has put Karl Rove at major risk of indictment."

The Stakeholder: Republican group tries to oust Rep. Bennie Thompson by telling "Republican white voters" to vote in the Dem primary

Carpetbagger Report: "As Knight Ridder's Daniel Rubin put it, 'If the job of CIA director requires the ability to answer hours of sharp questions and not actually say much, Hayden passed a critical test.'"

POGO Blog: Industry and Incompetence In Charge at Mine Safety Agency

Democracy Arsenal: "It appears that the serial offensiveness of the US decision to restore diplomatic ties with Libya has been lost on most observers. It marks yet another instance of the Bush administration’s implacable disregard for Arab democracy."

Opinions You Should Have: Overtaxed National Guard To Use Illegal Immigrants To Guard Mexican Border

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