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Iraqi Civilian Deaths Up in March

| Mon Apr. 2, 2007 10:25 AM EDT

Data compiled by Iraqi ministries indicate civilian deaths in Iraq totaled 1,861 for the month of March, up from 1,645 in February. That 13% increase comes in the face of repeated claims from the government that that the surge is working, and claims from U.S. diplomats that violence is down 25% in Iraq.

More in-depth figures on the number of Iraqis dead and on the number of soldiers lost from each country in the coalition can be found here. Mother Jones coverage of the difficulty of counting Iraqi civilian deaths (and the government's unwillingness to do so) can be found here and here.

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On the Internet, Nobody Knows You're a Werewolf

| Mon Apr. 2, 2007 3:41 AM EDT

Women writers are subjected to so many more ad hominems than male writers that the Editor in Chief at Salon.com call them "ad feminems." Joan Walsh weighs in on what difference having a female byline makes.

"When Salon automated its letters, ideas that had only seen our in boxes at Salon were suddenly turning up on the site. And I couldn't deny the pattern: Women came in for the cruelest and most graphic criticism and taunting," Walsh writes. "Is there really any doubt that women writing on the Web are subject to more abuse than men, simply because they're women? ...I say this as a mouthy woman who has tried for a long time to pretend otherwise: that Web misogyny isn't especially rampant -- but even if it is, it has no effect on me, or any other strong, sane woman doing her job."

As much as pretending otherwise may help brush it off, like the old "sticks and stones" rhyme, Walsh points out how verbal attacks corrode a writer's confidence, security, and credibility.

Too often hate speech is framed and dismissed as free speech. For starters, the First Amendment doesn't protect death threats and libel. Also, the First Amendment doesn't call for us to honor haters any more than the Second Amendment calls for us to admire our neighbor's collection of assault rifles.

What's disturbing is that it's not just peripheral geeks like RageBoy who turn into werewolves behind their PCs. It's grade schoolers in Novato, Calif., who drove an epileptic girl into home-schooling. It's even Yale Law students.

Bush Knew Tillman was Killed by Friendly Fire

| Sat Mar. 31, 2007 12:06 AM EDT

tillman.jpgWell, the Bush administration sure does keep us busy at Mother Jones. We were just kicking back and relaxing a bit after the completion (and nomination for a national magazine award) of our massive Lie by Lie timeline. No rest for the weary: The AP reports today that Bush and the military knew almost immediately that former football star Pat Tillman had probably died from friendly fire. Seven days after Tillman's death, Bush received a memo about the likely circumstances. He eulogized Tillman a few days later with no reference to friendly fire, and the Pentagon then deceptively awarded the dead soldier a posthumous Silver Star—an award for valor in combat. Tillman's family learned a full month after the memo was written that their son died in friendly fire.

Brazil Cracks Down on Soy

| Fri Mar. 30, 2007 9:59 PM EDT

Brazil's environmental agency is finally cracking down on the soy crop that has been devastating the Amazon. In response to Greenpeace activism, Brazil has closed a soy-processing facility and port both operated by the U.S.-based multinational Cargill. Greenpeace has been publicizing the fact that large swaths of rainforest are being cleared to make room for the soy crop. Last May, a Greenpeace ship blocked the port. Vegetarians can keep eating tofu in peace, because according to the Greenpeace report, "Eating up the Amazon," the Amazonian soy crop actually feeds chickens that wind up in fast-food restaurants and supermarkets.

Inhofe Wreaks Revenge on Gore, the Earth, Sane People, and Music Lovers Everywhere

| Fri Mar. 30, 2007 8:14 PM EDT

Al Gore's Live Earth concert—performances on seven continents slated for 7/7/07—has been thwarted by none other than the Interior Department. The department refused to grant organizers a permit to host part of the worldwide event on Capitol Hill, claiming that they would not be able to provide enough portapotties. Maybe those reading the application glanced right over the Gore letterhead it was on? Or then again, maybe that's all they saw, given Bush's painstaking efforts to politicize every bureaucratic office in the government.

Gore, who's still got a few connections, headed over to Congress to try to get a resolution that would allow the event to go ahead. Rejected by Senator James Inhofe, climate-change denier and one seriously vindictive dude! Inhofe threw a hissy fit, calling the event partisan (and therefore inappropriate for the Capitol?), though Gore has said climate change isn't a partisan issue but a moral issue, and the resolution he sought was co-sponsored by Republican Olympia Snow.

It's not like Inhofe is confronting a radical proposal to stop climate change. We're talking about a rock concert, for Christ's sake. When will somebody put Inhofe in a rubber room and let the rest of us get on with the baby steps toward sanity we're finally taking with regard to climate change?

Catholic League Displeased by Edible Nude Crucifix

| Fri Mar. 30, 2007 6:54 PM EDT

The Catholic League's Bill Donahue, who must not be using the Piss Christ for comparison, has called the six-foot, loincloth-less, milk chocolate Jesus sculpture that is set for April 1st Manhattan display "one of the worst assaults on Christian sensibilities ever."

What's truly scandalous about this story is that the gallery is "considering its options" after an onslaught of angry protests. That the exhibition could get canceled is preposterous; the Catholic League should be excited that an artist has created a really captivating reminder of how bad it would suck to get crucified naked in the name of saving a bunch of sinning ingrates only to have the sacrifice remembered by a holiday synonymous with chocolate-gorging.

Oh, and also there's some sort of amendment or something that protects free speech.

—Nicole McClelland

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Details and Contradictions in the David Hicks Gag Order

| Fri Mar. 30, 2007 6:50 PM EDT

As part of the plea bargain that will get David Hicks out of an Australian jail in anywhere from two to seven years nine months, Hicks had to sign a gag order at Guantanamo in which, according to the Center for Constitutional Rights, which has represented Hicks in the past, Hicks agrees to not speak to the media for one year after his release and to state that he has never been mistreated while at Guantánamo. He also has to agree that his detention was lawful pursuant to law of armed conflict.

Furthermore, he was forced to give up the right to sue over his treatment in the future, and will cooperate with investigators should the need arise. He is forbidden from profiting from his story by, for instance, publishing a book or selling movie rights.

Some portions of the gag order are plainly ridiculous, and contradicted by earlier statements. On December 10, 2004, Hicks filed an affidavit with the Adjutant General stating among other things:

- I have been beaten before, after, and during interrogations….
- I have been menaced and threatened, directly and indirectly, with firearms and other weapons before and during interrogations….
- I have been beaten while blindfolded and handcuffed...
- I have been in the company of other detainees who were beaten while blindfolded and handcuffed. At one point, a group of detainees, including myself, were subjected to being randomly hit over a eight hour session while handcuffed and blindfolded….
- I have had my head rammed into asphalt several times (while blindfolded)…
- I have had medication - the identity of which was unknown to me, despite my requests for information - forced upon me against my will. I have been struck while under the influence of sedatives that were forced upon me by injection…
- I have witnessed the activities of the Internal Reaction Force (hereinafter "IRF"), which consists of a squad of soldiers that enter a detainee's cell and brutalize him with the aid of an attack dog. The IRF invasions were so common that the term to be "IRF'd" became part of the language of the detainees. I have seen detainees suffer serious injuries as a result of being IRF'ed. I have seen detainees IRF'ed while they were praying, or for refusing medication.

You can read the entire affidavit here and learn more about David Hicks here and here.

-- James Ridgeway

Make More than $100 K? Give Me My Money Back!

| Fri Mar. 30, 2007 6:34 PM EDT

Did you notice in my last post that the income gap between rich and poor—or actually rich and everyone else—is at its highest point since the ominous year of 1928?

Yes, indeed. Total reported income in the United States increased by 9 percent in 2005, but average incomes for all but the wealthiest 10 percent of Americans were down by .6 percent.

So who got more money? Why, the top 1 percent, of course. Their incomes rose by 14 percent to an average of more than $1.1 million per household. Sweet! The top 10 percent—those who make more than $100,000—also lived off the fat of the rest of us. Nicely done, lads!

The New York Times reports:

[T]he top 300,000 Americans collectively enjoyed almost as much income as the bottom 150 million Americans. Per person, the top group received 440 times as much as the average person in the bottom half earned, nearly doubling the gap from 1980.

That sounds seriously messed up, right? Well, yeah, but it's probably even worse for two reasons. First, the wealthiest Americans are the most likely to file late, so the data may be slightly skewed. Second—and this is my favorite—the IRS claims to "find" 99 percent of all wage income but only about 70 percent of business and investment income.

Maybe if they stopped wasting their time auditing the poor and starting auditing the rich—you know, the ones with big bucks to hide and tax advisors to tell them how to do it—they might find the untold billions of unpaid taxes on the 30 percent all profits and capital gains.

Giuliani Meltdown?

| Fri Mar. 30, 2007 6:02 PM EDT

giuliani.jpgIf things weren't bad enough for Rudy Giuliani, he just accepted the endorsement of radical conservative Steve Forbes. In accepting the endorsement, Giuliani even touted Forbes' signature idea, the flat tax he had called a "mistake" and a "disaster" in 1996 when Forbes was running for president. Of the income tax—one of just a few progressive taxes in the United States, a country in which the rich/poor gap is greater than at any time since 1928—Giuliani said: "Maybe I'd suggest not doing it at all, but if we were going to do it, a flat tax would make a lot of sense." Wingnut alert, y'all!

Today's New York Times also reports that Giuliani was briefed on Bernard Kerik's ties to a company with ties to organized crime before he appointed Kerik as police commissioner. Giuliani would go on to support Kerik's nomination for secretary of homeland security. Giuliani claims not to remember the briefing, but hasn't denied it happened.

The charges against Kerik are significant not just because he was ascending towards the nation's top law enforcement positions, but also because he pleaded guilty last summer to letting the "connected" company, Interstate Industrial Corporation, do $165,000 worth of unpaid renovations to his apartment just before Giuliani appointed him. The problem for Giuliani gets a little stickier, too, when you factor in that the ex-mayor's private company does background checks for businesses.

Party Ben's Top 10 Stuff & Things, 3/30/07 - NYC Special!

| Fri Mar. 30, 2007 5:59 PM EDT

Hello from New York! I'm here for a DJ gig, and so I figure why not make this Party Ben Top 10 a special New York edition. Unfortunately I've been here just 18 hours at this point, so it'll be only slightly New York-y; plus due to limited computer time, I got no pictures and few links. But you'll get the idea. Start spreading the news: