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Murder, He Retracted (Tony Snow Eats Stem Cell Crow)

| Tue Jul. 25, 2006 1:00 AM PDT

In the "Whoops! What about the midterm!" category, talking/bobble head Tony Snow was made to eat crow yesterday when he said that in fact President Bush did not, as the New York Times put it, "equate embryonic stem cell research with murder…[and] apologized for his earlier assertion that Mr. Bush held that view."

"He would not use that term," Mr. Snow told reporters, adding, "The president has said that he believes that this is the destruction of human life."

Got that? "Destruction of human life"≠"murder." (And it is a good thing, too, considering that, while governor of Texas, Bush signed off on more than 150 executions.)

Moving right along, let's go back to Tony eating crow.

As of last Tuesday, Snow's parsing of the whole what?=murder issue was thus:

"The president believes strongly that for the purpose of research it's inappropriate for the federal government to finance something that many people consider murder. He's one of them. The simple answer is he thinks murder is wrong."

And well…who doesn't? However, things do get a bit complicated when it comes what the American public thinks of donating leftover IVF embryos for the express purpose of ending human suffering. Because, as GOP pollsters would be the first to tell you, a lot of anti-murder, pro-life, and/or just plain folks are all for research that holds out great hope of ending Alzheimer's, diabetes, Parkinson's, etc. Especially when the embryos in question were slated to be "expired" (as the euphemism goes) anyway.

To that end, On Meet the Press, White House chief of staff, Joshua B. (don't call me John. Or Michael!) Bolten, struggled (to borrow a phrase from the NYT) to explain Snow's characterization:

"It's a very complicated, very, very delicate issue," Mr. Bolten said.

By Monday, a chastened Snow apologized for having "created a little trouble for Josh Bolten…I will go ahead and apologize for having overstated, I guess, overstated the president's position."

Transcript of Snow's life-saving-research-using-discarded -embryos=murder statement follows after the jump.

Specter Bill To Sue Bush For Use of Signing Statements

| Mon Jul. 24, 2006 11:30 PM PDT

Arlen Specter's wiretapping bill may leave a lot to be desired, but the senator from Pennsylvania has the right idea when it comes to presidential signing statements. He's bringing it on -- with a bill to sue George W. Bush. "We will submit legislation to the United States Senate," Specter said on the Senate floor, "which will...authorize the Congress to undertake judicial review of those signing statements with the view to having the president's acts declared unconstitutional."

This on the same day, Monday, that an American Bar Association task force found Bush's use of the signing statements -- interpreting laws as he sees fit rather than as Congress plainly intends -- "contrary to the rule of law and our constitutional system of separation of powers."

Bush on Lebanon

| Mon Jul. 24, 2006 3:42 PM PDT

President Bush on the anniversary of the assassination of former-Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, February 14th, 2006:

Great challenges remain [for Lebanon], and the United States will continue to stand with the people of Lebanon as they strive to build a free and democratic future.
President Bush with Lebanese Prime Minister Siniora on the South Lawn, April 18th, 2006:
There's no question in my mind that Lebanon can serve as a great example for what is possible in the broader Middle East; that out of the tough times the country has been through will rise a state that shows that it's possible for people of religious difference to live side-by-side in peace; to show that it's possible for people to put aside past histories to live together in a way that the people want, which is, therefore, to be peace and hope and opportunity.
President Bush on July 13, 2006:
"Israel has a right to defend herself," Bush said at a news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. "Every nation must defend herself against terrorist attacks and the killing of innocent life."
President Bush to reporters at the White House, July 18, 2006:
Noting that Israel had a right to defend itself, Bush said, "Sometimes it requires tragic situations to help bring clarity in the international community… And it is now clear for all to see that there are terrorist elements who want to destroy our democratic friends and allies, and the world must work to prevent them from doing so."
President Bush to Tony Blair in Russia on the UN proposed peace plan, July 17th, 2006:
"I don't like the sequence of it, his attitude is basically ceasefire and everything else happens…What they need to do is get Syria to get Hizbollah to stop doing this shit and it's over. I felt like telling Kofi [Annan] to get on the phone with [Syrian president Bashar al-] Assad and make something happen."
President Bush during weekly radio address, July 22nd, 2006:
"We're...mindful of the cost to innocent civilians in Lebanon and in Israel, and we have called on Israel to continue to exercise the greatest possible care to protect innocent lives … America remains committed to lasting peace in the Middle East."

Congress to the Rescue

| Mon Jul. 24, 2006 3:13 PM PDT

WASHINGTON—While strongly supporting Israel, the Congress has decided to sit out the current war in Lebanon. The closest it came to getting involved occurred late last week in a pretty feeble debate over Lebanon, with American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the pro-Israeli lobby, trying to broker a "bipartisan" resolution on the conflict.

When the Republican majority leader in the House John Boehner approached Nancy Pelosi on the floor and tried to get her to sign on to a joint resolution supporting Israel, she balked, wanting it to include a phrase asking both sides to limit civilian casualties, reports the Hill. When the Republicans refused to add such language, Pelosi said she would back the resolution, but not actually sign it. So, Boehner made an end run around her — co-sponsoring the resolution, which backs Israel and commends Bush for "fully supp orting Israel as it responds to these armed attacks by terrorist organizations and their state sponsors," with Henry Hyde, chair of the International Relations committee and Tom Lantos, the California Democrat and Holocaust survivor who is the ranking minority member.
Republicans pointed out to members who wanted to add softening language, which discouraged the killing of civilians, that doing so would add legitimacy to both Hamas and Hazbollah, placing them in the same category as sovereign Israel.

Meanwhile a handful of Lebanese-American members, led by Darrell Issa of California, made a futile gesture, asking all parties to protect human life. On Monday, Congressman Nick Rahall, a Lebanese American Democrat from West Virginia, called for an immediate cease-fire. It failed.

Dennis Kucinich of Ohio also spoke out strongly against the fighting. He introduced a resolution with 23 backers including New York's Louise Slaughter and John Conyers from Michigan, calling on the President "to appeal to all sides in the current crisis in the Middle East for an immediate cessation of violence and to commit United States diplomats to multi-party negotiations with no preconditions."

Kucinich wants Bush to send a "high-level diplomatic mission to the region to facilitate such multi-party negotiations." He urges "multi-party negotiations to begin as soon as possible, including delegations from the governments of Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Lebanon, Iran, Syria, Jordan and Egypt; and supports an international peacekeeping mission to southern Lebanon to prevent cross-border skirmishes during such multi-party negotiations."

Specter's Out of Control

| Mon Jul. 24, 2006 2:55 PM PDT

banner_photo.gifIt would be an unmitigated disaster if Congress ends up passing Arlen Specter's NSA wiretapping bill, which would allow the president to get away with breaking the law. Read Glenn Greenwald on why Specter's bill must be stopped, and then read Christy Hardin Smith on how to help stop it. Specter is often lauded in media circles as a "moderate" (or better yet, "principled") Republican; that's always been a fiction, but it would be nice if people could stop pretending he's anything other than an administration stooge.

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New at Mother Jones: On the War in the Middle East

| Mon Jul. 24, 2006 2:51 PM PDT

We have a couple of excellent articles up at Mother Jones today about the conflict in the Middle East. (Both come by way of Foreign Policy in Focus.) In the first, retired U.S. Army Colonel Daniel Smith writes that just as the Bush doctrine of preventive war has failed to make the United States more secure in the world (while making the world more insecure from the the U.S.), so has Israel's security strategy--responding to any provocation with the application of maximum force--failed to win it peace and security. He writes: "Perhaps the United States and Israel should try something that neither country is very good at: examining policy from the viewpoint of those who do not have overwhelming military firepower."

In the other piece, Stephen Zunes reflects on last week's congressional resolution in support of Israel, which he argues, "reveals a bipartisan consensus on the legitimacy of U.S. allies to run roughshod over international legal norms. The resolution even goes so far as to radically reinterpret the United Nations Charter by claiming that Israel's attacks on Lebanon's civilian infrastructure is an act of legitimate self-defense...despite a broad consensus of international legal scholars to the contrary.

100 civilians a day dying in Iraq

| Mon Jul. 24, 2006 2:28 PM PDT

The United Nations has released a figure of 100 civilian deaths a day in Iraq. 3,149 civilians were killed in June, and it is expected that the number will rise in July.

More of this report by The Independent, made available by Alternet, says that Syria now has 351,000 Iraqi war refugees, and there are 450,000 refugees in Jordan.

Forgetting About Iraq?

| Mon Jul. 24, 2006 2:28 PM PDT

Um, what? CNN's homepage is running an article entitled "Iraq: The Forgotten War". Certainly no one should forget that currently over 100 Iraqi civilians are being killed each day in that country, and at least 31 American troops have been killed so far this month.

But leave that aside for a second. A lot of people watch CNN—some 2.4 million at last count. If the network's really worried that people are forgetting about the catastrophe in Iraq, they certainly have the power to do something about it. Instead, as Atrios points out, CNN has been running headlines about Israel and Lebanon noting that "fighting in the Middle East is in its 13th day." With a miniscule attention span, anything's possible!

Middle Class Disappearing From Cities

| Mon Jul. 24, 2006 1:48 PM PDT

Over the weekend, the New York Times had a fascinating article, based on this Brookings report, about cities that are slowly losing their middle-class residents. For instance, 43 percent of those in New York City are considered high-income and 41 percent low-income, leaving only 16 percent in the middle. Housing costs, as well as the low supply of middle-class jobs, are pushing people out to the suburbs.

This looks like a complex phenomenon with a variety of causes and consequences, but one rather striking effect is that many poor urban dwellers will have a harder time moving up the economic ladder. As a San Francisco Chronicle article noted a few weeks ago, people living in the poorer parts of this city often have nowhere to move if they want to escape. Meanwhile, many middle-income workers who have jobs in the city have to finding affordable housing in the suburbs or exurbs, but that forces them into long commutes and less time at home (not to mention all the carbon emissions given off by those four-hour drives).

At any rate, economists don't seem to be too worried about any of this, but it seems like the sort of trend that's drastically understudied and could cause problems down the road. Either way, the article's worth a read.