Political MoJo

ACLU files suit on behalf of New York corrections officers

| Thu Jul. 13, 2006 6:14 PM EDT

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit today against the New York City Department of Correction on behalf of two female officers who claim they faced both discrimination and retaliation when they reported sexual and physical assaults by male officers.

"There are supposed to be procedures that protect officers who have been assaulted, but they have proven hollow, and I've been punished for speaking out," says one of the plantiffs, Danielle Simmonds. Simmonds was sexually assaulted by a male officer while she was on duty late at night. She says she followed departmental procedure and reported the assault, but that there was no response and she was given no protection. Her colleague, Sonya Henderson, was beaten severely by her then-partner, who was also her co-worker. He was arrested, but the DOC took no disciplinary action against him, despite his repeated violations of a court order of protection. The officer in charge of investigating the charge against Simmonds' perpetrator has never contacted her and has never returned her calls, though the incident occurred over a year ago.

Both women maintain that they have been treated with "hostility and suspicion" by their supervisors and have been the objects of multiple disciplinary actions.

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Gaza Resolution Vetoed

Thu Jul. 13, 2006 5:48 PM EDT

The United States vetoed a UN resolution today that would have condemned Israel's military offensive in Gaza. Haaretz, the Israeli daily, reported that it was the first time a UN Security Council was vetoed in nearly two years. The last veto, not surprisingly, was also cast by the U.S. to thwart a resolution condemning Israel's excessive use of force against Palestinians in Gaza. According to The Jewish Virtual Library, the US has vetoed 40 Security Council resolutions critical of Israel since 1972.

Why Invade Lebanon Now?

| Thu Jul. 13, 2006 5:04 PM EDT

Not surprisingly, The New Republic is busting out the pom-poms and cheering on Israel's latest incursion into Lebanon. Here are two telling quotes:

The attacks [by Hamas and Hezbollah] were unprovoked, except by the attackers' view of the world. Israel has rightly chosen to regard these provocations very seriously, and so far it has earned the sympathy of decent observers everywhere. ...

Hezbollah has always been Hamas's teacher in the great madrassa of anti-Israeli terrorism. Now the teacher has taken a cue from the student and taken its own Israeli hostages. Israel must now remind its adversaries that it was deadly in earnest when, decades ago, it proclaimed that it would tolerate no such aggression along its northern border.The first part, sloppy ad hominems aside (i.e., suggesting that anyone who disagrees shares "the attackers' view of the world"), basically makes a fair point as far as Lebanon is concerned: Hezbollah did launch an unprovoked attack and was wrong to do so. Israel may well have the "right" to respond (although thus far its actual response has been massively disproportionate and completely unjust). But just because they have the right doesn't mean it's the smart thing to do.

As many people remember, "decades ago" when Israel "proclaimed that it would tolerate no such aggression along its northern border," as TNR put it, the end result was an occupation of southern Lebanon that didn't really solve much of anything. And it's hard to imagine that going in immediately, bombing a bunch of Lebanese civilians and disabling the Beirut airport, and potentially turning Lebanon into a failed state is going to solve much of anything this time around, either.

That's especially true given the other options that were available here. The UN has long demanded that Hezbollah disarm and it's quite possible that a greater amount of diplomatic pressure could've potentially been brought to bear on Lebanon by the international community before full-scale war "needed" to be launched. Meanwhile, it appears that the Bush administration's preferred solution to this crisis is to ramp up tensions with Iran. That should end well, no doubt.

The Hidden War on Women in Iraq

| Thu Jul. 13, 2006 3:48 PM EDT

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Photo: AP

The rape and murder of an Iraqi girl by American soldiers is a focus of media attention right now, but the larger issue of what's happened to the majority of Iraqi women in war-ravaged, occupied Iraq goes largely unexamined. Via Tomdispatch, Ruth Rosen takes up a crucial but overlooked question: What has the U.S. "liberation" of Iraq meant for that country's women?

Like women everywhere, Iraqi women have always been vulnerable to rape. But since the American invasion of their country, the reported incidence of sexual terrorism has accelerated markedly. -- and this despite the fact that few Iraqi women are willing to report rapes either to Iraqi officials or to occupation forces, fearing to bring dishonor upon their families. In rural areas, female rape victims may also be vulnerable to "honor killings" in which male relatives murder them in order to restore the family's honor. "For women in Iraq," Amnesty International concluded in a 2005 report, "the stigma frequently attached to the victims instead of the perpetrators of sexual crimes makes reporting such abuses especially daunting."

This specific rape of one Iraqi girl, however, is now becoming symbolic of the way the Bush administration has violated Iraq's honor; Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has already launched an inquest into the crime. In an administration that normally doesn't know the meaning of an apology, the American ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad and the top American commander in Iraq, Gen. George W. Casey Jr. both publicly apologized. In a fierce condemnation, the Muslim Scholars Association in Iraq denounced the crime: "This act, committed by the occupying soldiers, from raping the girl to mutilating her body and killing her family, should make all humanity feel ashamed."

Shame, yes, but that is hardly sufficient. After all, rape is now considered a war crime by the International Criminal Court. ...

No one accuses American soldiers of running through the streets of Iraq, raping women as an instrument of war against the insurgents (though such acts are what caused three Bosnian soldiers, for the first time in history, to be indicted in 2001 for the war crime of rape).

Still, the invasion and occupation of Iraq has had the effect of humiliating, endangering, and repressing Iraqi women in ways that have not been widely publicized in the mainstream media: As detainees in prisons run by Americans, they have been sexually abused and raped; as civilians, they have been kidnapped, raped, and then sometimes sold for prostitution; and as women -- and, in particular, as among the more liberated women in the Arab world -- they have increasingly disappeared from public life, many becoming shut-ins in their own homes.

Read the full article at MotherJones.com.

P.S. David Enders wrote last year from Baghdad for MJ.com on women and sharia in Iraq.

Will Specter Rein In the White House?

| Thu Jul. 13, 2006 3:22 PM EDT

I'm not sure what to make of Arlen Specter's latest proposed bill that would authorize the FISA court to review the constitutionality of the Bush administration's domestic spying program. It seems like a step to bring oversight to the program, and to determine whether it's legal or not, but why couldn't this have been done with from the beginning? And what if the FISA court finds that the administration has been acting illegally all this time? At any rate, as with most "policy shifts" from the White House these days, this strikes me as quite suspicious, so I'll hold off rejoicing until we learn more.

Ralph Reed's Rank Hypocrisy: Nothing New

| Thu Jul. 13, 2006 2:21 PM EDT

Ralph Reed's bid for Lieutenant Governor of Georgia is looking even iffier today after the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas sued him and Jack Abramoff, among others, for millions of dollars of losses incurred from a casino the tribe says was fraudulently closed in 2001. (NYT)

We reported on this a couple of years ago. Basically, Abramoff, Reed and three others appear to have cooked up a fake religiously themed moral crusade to mobilize the forces of righteousness to block the legalization of gambling in Indian casinos in Texas--their real motive being to protect a competing casino in Louisiana.

Peter Stone's piece on Reed for Mother Jones in late 2004 showed that this was no one-off for Reed, former head of the Christian Coalition and an insufferable moralizer, who often used his credentials with the religious right to further his clients' business agendas--even when the latter were at odds with Christian values.

Since its founding in 1997, his consulting firm, Century Strategies, has racked up millions in fees from companies including Enron, Microsoft, Verizon, and other Fortune 100 companies, according to sources familiar with its client list. ...

Reed's political ties have allowed him to carve out a special niche among political influence merchants. "Ralph has cornered the market in corporate strategic communications and grassroots using his social conservative base combined with his personal communications skills and his influence in the Bush reelection campaign," says lobbyist Scott Reed (no relation), who managed Bob Dole's 1996 presidential campaign. "This is a unique role for a GOP operative that has huge value for corporate America."

Among Reed's clients is Channel One, a company that provides television equipment to schools in exchange for airing 10 minutes of news and 2 minutes of commercials daily. Prominent conservatives have blasted the company for exposing children to junk-food ads and explicit movie promos. In response, Channel One turned to Reed, who in 2002 helped the company deflect a proposed Texas Board of Education resolution that would have urged schools to jettison Channel One. Reed, who points out that Channel One also runs ads promoting abstinence and anti-alcohol messages, phoned several board members and dissuaded them from voting for the resolution, much to the dismay of conservatives like Phyllis Schlafly, a longtime critic of Channel One. "I'm surprised that any conservative would work for it," Schlafly said. "They're all advertising things that I wouldn't want my children to buy."

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Oh, and Reed also helped a powerful coalition of business groups lobby Congress to normalize trade relations with China, which has supplanted the Soviet Union in the Christian conservative universe as a Godless, human rights-abusing evil (would-be) empire.

Read the full article here.

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Dems and Hillary

Thu Jul. 13, 2006 2:10 PM EDT

Ah-ha! A recent Washington Post-ABC News poll has finally revealed how Democrats feel about Hillary Clinton. And the answer is—wait for it… wait for it…their feelings are mixed! Most of them think she displays solid leadership and strong family values, and that she's pretty friendly as well. But only 37 percent say they would definitely vote for her at this stage. And those are Democrats; forget independents or, for that matter, Republicans who would gladly empty their bank accounts to help their party defeat her.

The best assessments of the pros and cons of a Hillary candidacy are two Washington Monthly pieces from a few months back, one of which says she's totally electable, the other quite the opposite.

America's Role in the Gaza Invasion

Thu Jul. 13, 2006 2:02 PM EDT

Think what you may of him, but Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh put his finger on a great deal of truth in his Washington Post op-ed a few days ago.

The current Gaza invasion is only the latest effort to destroy the results of fair and free elections held early this year. It is the explosive follow-up to a five-month campaign of economic and diplomatic warfare directed by the United States and Israel. The stated intention of that strategy was to force the average Palestinian to 'reconsider' her vote when faced with deepening hardship; its failure was predictable, and the new overt military aggression and collective punishment are its logical fulfillment. The 'kidnapped' Israeli Cpl. Gilad Shalit is only a pretext for a job scheduled months ago.
His assessment of the United States' hand in this is particularly revealing. Despite being the self-declared standard bearer of Middle East democracy, the Bush administration has stood by and watched the outcome of Palestinians' clean and fair elections essentially be annulled by force. In an article today for the Century Foundation, Michael Shtender-Auerbach argues that this complicity goes part and parcel with Bush's disengagement from the Middle East peace process. "Let us not mistake American disengagement for neutrality: all of the signs point to a U.S. administration that appears to be in full support of the Israeli agenda to topple Hamas," he writes pointedly.

Bush's response to Israel's retaliatory attacks on Lebanon—warning that ''Whatever Israel does… it should not weaken the Saniora government in Lebanon''—further highlights the double standard. Whatever happens in the present crisis in Gaza, this seems like a great way to make sure it shakes out as badly as possible in terms of our credibility and influence in the region.

Sen. Ted Stevens: "The Internet is a Series of Tubes"

| Thu Jul. 13, 2006 1:21 PM EDT

Sen. Ted Stevens as quoted on The Daily Show: "The Internet is not something you just dump something on. It's not a big truck. It's a series of tubes." So there you have it. From the Chairman of the Commerce Committee.

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Al Qaeda vs. The Trees of Mystery

| Thu Jul. 13, 2006 11:48 AM EDT

As we've often been reminded, we're fighting the terrorists abroad so we don't have to fight them in the streets of Indianapolis. But should that horrific day ever come, let Al Qaeda be warned that we shall fight in the petting zoo; we shall fight on the beach at the end of the street; we shall fight in Jay's Sporting Goods and in the mall at Sears; we shall fight in the Frontier Fun Park; we shall never surrender. Terrorists could target those places and 77,000 more, at least according to the Department of Homeland Security's database of "crtical infrastructure and key resources." As reported yesterday, the list is chock full of what the DHS's Inspector General politely calls "curious" and "out of place" entries, such as the aforementioned suburban battlegrounds. It seems that when DHS asked the states to indentify potential targets, boosterism combined with antiterrror zeal (and just perhaps the prospect of some sweet homeland security pork) to erase the distinctions between nuclear power plants and strip malls. But then, maybe terrorists don't make such distinctions. If you hate America, maybe hating The Trees of Mystery is just part of the package.

Here's the complete list of less-than-critical assets identified by the DHS IG report [PDF]:


Old MacDonald's petting zoo
Mall at Sears
Bean Fest
Nix's Check Cashing
Amer. Society of Young Musicians
Trees of Mystery
Car Dealerships
Kennel Club and Poker Room
Historical Bok Sanctuary
4 Cs Fuel and Lube
DPW Landfill
Kangaroo Conservation Center
Assyrian American Association
Right to Life Committee
Association for the Jewish Blind
Insect Zoo
Bourbon Festival
Theological Seminary
Jay's Sporting Goods
Nestle Purina Pet food Plant
Auto Shop
Veterinary Clinic
Groundhog Zoo
Sweetwater Flea Market
High Stakes Bingo
Petting Zoo
Community College
Restaurant
Frontier Fun Park
Travel Stop
Mule Day Parade
Beach at End of Street
Amish Country Popcorn
Pepper and Herb Company
Psychiatry Behavioral Center
Order of Elks National Memorial
Ice Cream Parlor
Bakery & Cookie Shop
Inn
Donut Shop
Sears Auto Center
Wine and Coffee Co.
Sports Club
Casket Company
Bass Pro Shop
Muzzle Shoot Enterprise
Several Wal-Marts
Property Owners Associations
Apple and Pork Festival
Rolls Royce Plant
Pepsi Bottlers
Yacht Repair Business
Anti-Cruelty Society
Tackle Shop
Elevator Company
Center for Veterinary Medicine
American Legion
UPS Store
Heritage Groups
Parcel Shop
YMCA Center
Brewery
Mail Boxes Etc.
Night clubs