Senate Democrats have once again blocked the confirmation of John Bolton, President Bush’s controversial pick for UN ambassador. Last night, Republicans failed for the second time to force a vote. The motion to close off debate fell six votes short of the three-fifths majority of 60 required for cloture. The vote was 54-38 — largely along party lines. But there is concern that Bush may try and get Bolton in through a back door. The White House has not ruled out the possibility of sidestepping the Senate by naming Bolton as UN ambassador in a recess appointment. If that happened, Bolton would get an 18-month stint that would not require Senate approval. White House spokesman Scott McClellan said “It is critical that we get him in place.” This came after Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice hinted on Sunday that Bush may install Bolton through a temporary recess appointment. She told FOX News “We’ll see what happens this week.”
In Lebanon, there has been another apparent assassination of an anti-Syrian politician. George Hawi, a former leader of the Lebanese Communist Party, was killed on Tuesday when a bomb ripped through his car in Beirut, two days after parliamentary elections ended with victory to an alliance that opposed Damascus’s role in Lebanon. It was the second killing of an anti-Syrian figure in Beirut this month. Newspaper columnist Samir Kassir was killed on June 2 when a similar explosion destroyed his car.
Now to the case of the anti-Castro Cuban militant Luis Posada Carriles. A judge in Texas announced yesterday that he was denying Posada’s request to have his case moved from El Paso to the right-wing Cuban hotbed of Miami. Posada is wanted in Venezuela for the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airplane that killed 73 people, including the entire Cuban fencing team. He is next set to appear in court on Friday for a bail hearing. The US refuses to hand Posada over to Venezuela despite volumes of evidence that he was involved in the bombing.
Forty-one years ago today, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner were helping register black voters when they were ambushed by a gang of Klansmen. Four decades later, the murder case against white supremacist Edgar Ray Killen for their 1964 murders is in the hands of a 12 member jury in Mississippi. In their closing argument, prosecutors made an impassioned plea, saying the victims’ families have waited more than 40 years for someone to be brought to justice. Yesterday, the jury reported being deadlocked 6-6, but was told by the judge to return Tuesday for deliberations. The 3 civil rights workers were beaten and shot, and their bodies were found 44 days later buried in an earthen dam.
Now to the fight over public broadcasting. The New York Times is reporting that a researcher retained secretly by the chair of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to politically monitor Bill Moyer’s “Now” program, worked for 20 years at a journalism center founded by the American Conservative Union, as well as for right wing columnist M. Stanton Evans. Last week it was revealed that CPB Chair Kenneth Tomlinson had paid the researcher, Fred Mann, more than $14,000 without the knowledge of the CPB’s board. His job was to report on the political leanings of the guests appearing on “Now.” The Times reports that until last year, Mann worked at the National Journalism Center, which for the last few years has been run by the Young America’s Foundation. The foundation describes itself on its Web site as “the principal outreach organization of the conservative movement.” Last week Democratic Senator Byron Dorgan of North Dakota said that in response to a request, Tomlinson gave him data from Mann’s reports. Dorgan said that data concluded in one episode of the “Now” program that Republican Senator Chuck Hagel was a “liberal” because he questioned the White House policy on Iraq and that a second “Now” segment on financial waste at the Pentagon was “anti-Defense.” Last night, Democratic Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey called for Tomlinson’s resignation. Lautenberg said of Tomlinson “Your conduct has undermined the CPB and its mission of quality public broadcasting free of political interference.” Tomlinson responded by saying he would not step down.
Meanwhile, Congressmember Ed Markey is hosting what he calls an emergency rally today in Washington DC to Protect Public Broadcasting. He will be joined by Clifford the Big Red Dog, Arthur and other PBS characters, as well as the founder of Action for Children’s Television, the National Parent Teacher’s Association and Children NOW .
The bill for the Bush administration’s so-called war on terror has just moved a step toward expanding significantly. The House of Representatives voted to give the Pentagon another $45 billion for the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan as it passed a $409 billion defense spending bill. The increased spending proposal comes as President Bush faces growing opposition to the occupation of Iraq from the American people and members of his own party.
Meanwhile, the latest CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll shows that nearly six in 10 Americans oppose the war in Iraq and a growing number of them are dissatisfied with the war on terrorism. The poll was released yesterday and shows that support for the war has fallen significantly since March and is hovering at about 40 percent.
Republican Senator Chuck Hagel has amplified his criticism of the Bush administration’s policy in Iraq. In this week’s U.S. News & World Report, the Nebraska Senator said “The reality is that we’re losing in Iraq.” Continuing, he said “Things aren’t getting better; they’re getting worse,” adding: “The White House is completely disconnected from reality. It’s like they’re just making it up as they go along.” Hagel has criticized the administraton’s handling of the war before, but his talk of “losing in Iraq” represents his harshest assessment yet. His comments come after Vice President Dick Cheney declared that the world is seeing the “last throes” of the resistance in Iraq.
Meanwhile, a group of 50 progressive Congressmembers has formed a new group called The Out of Iraq Congressional Caucus. They say its mission is to try to increase pressure on the Bush administration and Congress to end the Iraq conflict and bring US forces home.
This comes as eighty-two members of the Iraqi parliament have sent a letter to the speaker of the house demanding that the United States withdraw its troops from Iraq. Some of the leaders of this movement come from the United Iraqi Alliance, the coalition of religious Shiite parties that has a majority of the 275 seats.
California Republican Congressmember Randy “Duke” Cunningham officially informed the House of Representatives on Monday that he’s been served with a document subpoena in California and plans to comply with it. A spokesperson for Cunningham said the subpoena concerned constituent casework, adding that it was unrelated to a real estate transaction by Cunningham that federal authorities in California are investigating. A federal grand jury has reportedly convened in his home state to look into the November 2003 sale of Cunningham’s home to Mitchell Wade, president of the defense contracting firm MZM Incorporated. Cunningham is a member of the defense appropriations subcommittee. He sold the home to Wade for $1.7 million. Wade put the house back on the market shortly after buying it, and took a $700,000 loss on it a year after the initial sale. About the same time, little-known MZM began receiving large government contracts. Last Wednesday, the North County Times learned that MZM President Wade owns a 42-foot yacht named “Duke-Stir” in a marina slip that Cunningham rents, and on which he stays at least part of the time when he is doing business in Washington. When his aides were asked for an explanation and an interview with Cunningham on the issue, the congressman instead e-mailed a brief statement to the North County Times in which he said that he is paying Wade for the use of the boat. Under House rules, members must alert the House when they receive a subpoena.
And, Mexico’s Zapatista rebel army has put its forces on red alert but it is unclear what has prompted the action. The leader of the Zapatistas, Subcommandante Marcos said in a statement on Monday they were grouping their fighters together, temporarily closing down their radio station and pulling out of villages they govern. The statement said, however, that all of the social services provided by the Zapatistas would continue. They did not give a reason for the moves in the southern state of Chiapas. The last time the group declared a similar “red alert” was in 1997 after paramilitary forces massacred 45 people in the village of Acteal.