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Monday, January 30, 2006

the good fight

I want to take a moment to pay tribute to my two wonderful senators, John Kerry and Ted Kennedy, for fighting the uphill battle to filibuster Alito. They fought with conviction, with passion, and I could not possibly be prouder of both of them than I am right now.

They argued forcefully against taking a step backwards towards a country where women have individual rights only after they answer to their husbands. Where a woman does not have the right to decide whether she will or will not bear children. Where the president is czar. Where the right to take their grievances to court is not an option for the little people. Where police can shoot first and say "oops, sorry" later, when it's too late.

You democrats who voted for cloture today may think we'll forget, but I sure as hell won't. And I am not alone. I don't care why you got in line with the republican bullies; what matters is that you got in line. Shame on you, every one of you.

Akaka (HI)
Baucus (MT)
Bingaman (NM)
Byrd (WV)
Cantwell (WA)
Carper (DE)
Dorgan (ND)
Inouye (HI)
Johnson (SD)
Kohl (WI)
Landrieu (LA)
Lieberman (CT)
Lincoln (AR)
Nelson (FL)
Nelson (NE)
Pryor (AR)
Rockefeller (WV)
Salazar (CO)

(cross-posted on ToughEnough.)

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Some "filibuster inspiration" for our Democratic Champions

GV has put together a really nice video for us at Neptune.com. It's a tribute to those who have stepped up in the last few days to defend democracy here at home:

Filibuster Inspiration
(no login required - click "Enter as guest". But, sigh, Internet Explorer is required. Ah well. The video is worth it, I can tell you.)

And no, it's not over the top to say that calling for filibuster of Samuel Alito is "defending democracy." The more I learn about his extremist views, and his history as a judicial activist - an activist against the rights of individuals, an activist promoting granting more power to the already-powerful, the more I realize that we must fight this nomination with everything we can muster.

Our champions in this fight knew it would be an uphill battle, yet they are standing and fighting for us anyway. Should we fail to block the nomination, we still win - at least our voices will have been heard by a few more people, and a little more debate will have been raised. And perhaps - perhaps - the American people will pay more attention, sooner, on the next nominee.

We should all thank Senators Kerry, Kennedy, and the others who have agreed to join this battle, for taking up the cause of right even though the odds are long. This is what democracy is all about, and they are truly defending our democracy.

Saturday, January 28, 2006


According to the consistently clueless White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan, the World Economic Forum is not exactly what it purports.

Critical meeting to discuss global economic concerns or ski junket? Of course, the complicit media talking heads at CNN are yukking it up right along side their pal Scotty.

The website for the summit describes it’s goal:

To realize its vision of being a catalyst for action in the public interest, the World Economic Forum organizes issue-specific task forces and initiatives devoted to developing new solutions, expanding common ground among different stakeholders, or mobilizing additional effort on important problems.

But to hear McClellan at yesterday's press briefing describe the forum, it’s a boondoggle on the slopes at Davos, where, apparently, such technology as the telephone and the internet does not exist.
Q Can I also ask you, on Senator Kerry's comments, what is your reaction to the filibuster call by Senator Kerry, on Judge Alito?

MR. McCLELLAN: On his call yesterday? It was a pretty historic day. This was the first time ever that a Senator has called for a filibuster from the slopes of Davos, Switzerland. I think even for a Senator, it takes some pretty serious yodeling to call for a filibuster from a five-star ski resort in the Swiss Alps. (Laughter.)

Q But you know he's not there skiing.

MR. McCLELLAN: Les, I didn't ask you to yodel. I can hear you. (Laughter.)

Go ahead, Paula.

Whoa. Way to deflect, Scotty. When it's pointed out that people are WORKING in Davos, it's on to the next snide comment and an easier question. Nice.

So, exactly how many world government and business leaders did Scotty insult with his remark?

Over the course of the five-day Meeting, over 2,340 participants from 89 countries will gather in Davos.

And what were these people claiming to accomplish between a day on the slopes and après-ski?
The Creative Imperative
25-29 January, Davos, Switzerland
A tough take on Tehran
Google, Microsoft, Cisco and Skype lay out their next big thing
Environment and the bottom line
India and the US move from relationship to partnership
Turnaround in difficult times
Roads can go a long way in fighting hunger
Obasanjo, Brown and Gates call on leaders to fund new TB plan
No impending energy crisis, say energy chiefs
Public-private fusion on nuclear proliferation
Western agricultural reform crucial for Africa's development
Invest in your staff before your competition does
Condoleezza Rice comments on Palestinian elections
Annan details UN reform plan
Harnessing the business response to disaster
Muslim societies ready to modernize - on their terms
Cultivating responsible trade ties between China and Africa
Musharraf outlines qualities of leadership in the wake of natural disasters
New CEOs: Take good counsel and a deep breath
Stopping AIDS requires changing society
China's growing appetite
China's development will rely on its domestic market
Europe's challenge is to recast its labour force
Merkel says “the creative imperative" key to prosperity
The World Economic Forum chooses China as its Asia base
Big Debate sets the business agenda
World leaders embrace "The Creative Imperative"
US consumer could be weakest link for 2006
Vocational training required to fill skills gap

As much as I like to imagine Senator Kerry schussing down the slopes of Davos with the likes of Jack Straw, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, UK, Kamal Nath, the Minister of Commerce and Industry for India, Saxby Chambliss, US Senator from Georgia, Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, Mohamed ElBaradei, Director-General, IAEA, Paul Wolfowitz, President of the World Bank, The United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf, Senator John McCain and the Archbishop of Dublin, I don’t think that was the purpose of the Summit.

Of course, it's possible that Mr McClellan's jab at Senator Kerry was just his typically feeble attempt at humor, and that he didn't really intend to belittle the efforts of the 2,340 summit participants by suggesting they were on a ski trip.

Sorry, Scotty. Maybe next time you’ll be invited. Probably not.

How did Senator Kerry manage to find a telephone and internet connection in Switzerland, anyway? Must be one of those ‘elitist’ things.

Even more puzzling, how did Senator Kerry manage to get back from Switzerland so quickly to speak on the Senate floor on Friday when it took President Bush 10 hours to get from Sarasota to DC on 9/11/01 , and five days to get from his southwest US vacation to respond to Katrina when New Orleans was drowning?

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Adding 2 + 2


Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Ask Mr. Uninformed Liar

Washington Post: It was actually even worse than that. Rachel Maddow played a sound clip of this segment on her radio show this morning, and it was clear from Bush's response that he had no idea what the student was talking about.

Video and actual facts in this Think Progress post. Here's part of the transcript:

And by the way, the audience, red though it may have been, roared its approval of her question. More from the Carpetbagger here.

Monday, January 23, 2006

"What did you just say, Jacques?"

How interesting that I happened across this news story while reading the Rude Pundit. Granted, I have been skirting the tv news channels since Osama's latest screed freaked out the commentariat, but still you might think this was a story that would be setting off alarm bells all over the place. Real men don't need nukes to feel like real men.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Bob Casey's ethics plan: introduced 11/15/05 (what took the Republicans so long?)

In a conference call with supporters tonight, Bob Casey discussed the need for ethics reform in Washington, and the 6-point plan that he introduced last November...long before the Republicans felt it necessary to distract attention from their ethical lapses and violations of existing laws by proposing their own "plan" to change the laws. (so they can break even more of them next time around?)

Bob's 6-point ethics plan is posted on his campaign website here:

Here are the 6 points. For more details, and links to newspaper coverage, visit the link above.

1. Close the K Street Project

Members of Congress and their staff should be prohibited from using threats or coercion to influence the hiring decisions of lobbying firms, interest groups, or other private entities.

2. Slow the Revolving Door

Increase to two years the "cooling off period" before former Members and senior aides can lobby their former colleagues. Also, they should be barred from drafting lobbying strategy and indirectly lobbying.

3. Improve Reporting

Ensure timely release of information by requiring lobbying disclosures to be filed quarterly rather than semi-annually.

4. Same-Day Disclosure

Lobbyists should be required to report every substantive conversation they have with a Member of Congress. They should disclose the date and issue area discussed in each conversation. These meetings would be disclosed on the Internet on the same day that the meeting occurs.

5. Ground Special Interest Flights

It is too easy for corporate special interests to give favors to Members of Congress by flying them on their private jets. These trips, their itineraries, and the people on board the plane should be fully disclosed. And the price paid for these flights should be increased to more accurately reflect their value. Politicians are now only required to reimburse corporations for the price of a first class ticket. The ticket price should be increased to that of a chartered plane.

6. Blind Trusts Should Be Blind

The Ethics Committees should ensure that Members who have a blind trust to avoid conflicts of interest do in fact have no knowledge of their holdings.

Welcome new bloggers!!

Well okay, I'm about ten days late on this. Lame excuses coming up. But first, let me thank my three friends who are going to be joining me on this blog: GV, Diane, and Tay. We all post in various other spots in the blogosphere (part of the reason for some of the gaps in posting here), and we basically met at Democratic Underground. Although I knew Diane from another blog first, come to think of it, and I think I saw GV once in awhile, a long time ago, at that orangish-colored site that is the scourge of the liberal blogosphere (we all have erred in our youth).

We also shared the experience of having a beer with John Kerry. (Woo-hoo! Yowza!! Okay. Calm now.) Just the fact that we ended up in that place at that time was an indicator of some shared core values, so it's natural for us to team up on this blog. Of course we haven't set a schedule or anything, so we may all post on the same day one week and then go two weeks without any of us posting. Thems the breaks.

Okay I promised lame excuses, so here they are. Really this is "what I've been up to." Well for Democratic Party activists, which I am when I get my act together, 2006 is shaping up to be a barn burner of a year. Particularly in my neck of the woods, where we have one of the headliner Senate races (Casey to evict Santorum, yay), an interesting US House race, and a few other things going on as well. And my township is red turning to blue and the local party is just starting to find enough people to actually do anything. So I am election inspector and committeeperson for my precinct. Not to mention being webmaster of the Township Committee site which frankly, I update less often than I've been blogging here. (It has a "contact" link. It's better than nothing.) Well, now that I'm finished school, I just joined a Casey grassroots team, and I promised to set up a knowledge base for them. Then the county asked me to also head up a Voting Rights Task Force (which also needs a knowledge base, believe me). And oh yeah, would I mind taking over as webmaster for the county site?

So you get the idea. I'm glad GV, Diane, and Tay have decided to help with the blog from time to time. Looks like we'll need them. And I think it will be nice to have a few different voices in the mix here.

So, welcome GV, Diane, and Tay! Please post some more soon. :-)

Monday, January 09, 2006

This could get old fast.

Highlights of the Alito confirmation hearings, Day 1: To quote Stephanie Miller, "...thanks for playing really bad analogy..."

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Apologies to Massachusetts (Again)

I’m thinking of having some cards printed.

To the people of Massachusetts
Sincerest Apologies

It started with this, back in July, when the sanctimonious Rick “Finest mind of the 13th century” Santorum (R-PA) decided to announce that the root of all sin was firmly planted in the Bay State. The issue was the Catholic Church priest pedophilia scandal. The victims were the children. The target for Senator Santorum, though, was not the perpetrators of these vile acts, but the people of Massachusetts.

''It is no surprise that Boston, a seat of academic, political, and cultural liberalism in America, lies at the center of the storm"
-Rick Santorum (R-PA)

The obviously deluded Santorum failed to mention that Boston was only the “center of the storm”, in that the good people of Massachusetts have been at the forefront of the investigations into this horrible abuse.

Did you think Pennsylvania is exempt from this scandal, Ricky?

Well, lookie here, Senator. And here. Seems that we have our share of pedophile priests right here in our own state, now doesn’t it?

Just to be clear, Rick, Philly is in PA. I know you don’t get back often.

OK. So that was my first apology, back in July when the oblivious Senator Santorum spewed his vile accusations at the good people of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

I know this is not much, but it’s a start: Sorry, Mass. Our Jr. Senator sucks.

Why bring this up now?

Because something IS being done to help the victims of child sexual abuse (child internet pornography) by the Jr. Senator from MASSACHUSETTS, and co-sponsored by Senator Johnny Isaacson, a Georgia Republican. And damn, Ricky, the abuser was from Pittsburgh (That’s in Pennsylvania). I am not blaming Pennsylvania for this, obviously. This type of scum can be found in all 50 states. Just trying to help Ricky out with the geography.

So what is Senator Kerry doing?

See video of Senator Kerry and Masha’s press conference, and read the story here.
From the Boston Channel:

Sen. John Kerry has found a powerful ally in a young girl from Russia in the fight against child pornography.
After five years, the FBI caught up with the Pittsburgh man and he is now in jail. More than 500 photos of her were posted on the Internet -- pictures still being downloaded today and considered to be collector's items by pornographers.
"What does it tell you about Washington's misplaced priorities that the penalty for downloading songs off the Internet is three times what the penalty is for downloading pornography, child pornography?" Kerry asked.

And from Senator Isakson:

"What happened to Masha was a terrible tragedy that should never be repeated," said bill co-sponsor Sen. Johnny Isakson, (R-GA). "Unfortunately, reminders of her horrific ordeal remain posted on the Internet for all to see every day."

To be fair to Senator Santorum, I did check to see what legislation he has sponsored to fight this horrible abuse of our children. How many bills has the blowhard Boston-basher proposed to help save our children from child pornographers and pedophiles?

Check for yourself or trust me. I’ll give you a hint. It starts with ‘Z’ and ends with ‘ero’.

So, again, Massachusetts, since you won’t hear it from our Senator, I’ll just have to say from the great Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, I’m sorry. Not that Masha’s abuser is from Pittsburgh. It’s a fabulous city in a beautiful state. It’s also my home. No, this pervert could have been from anywhere. The apology comes because, for all his bloviating, I haven’t see the Jr. Senator from Pennsylvania voice his support for this bill. And until I do, his inaction is just further proof that he’s no more interested in helping child abuse victims now than he was last summer.

And come this fall, you all will have an opportunity to thank Pennsylvania.

If you’re reading this, Rick, sign on to this one, too. I’m only ordering enough cards to get through November.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Teresa Heinz Kerry – Respected in the World

I found this article today, and it gave me an opportunity to showcase one of my favorite people on my first blog post at Freedom’s Fire. As a guest here, I asked first about the mission, and this is what stood out:

“I intend this blog to focus on the work of the tenders, those whose aim is to keep the fire of freedom burning.”

OK, so I know I’ve selected the right subject.

The Economic Times, India Times (Jan 5) touches briefly but pointedly on the reason I most admire THK. Apparently, Teresa, unlike Laura, is not seen by the India Times as so much White House wallpaper.

And if Laura scored over Teresa Heinz Kerry in the 2004 presidential campaign, it was because the Democratic candidate’s spouse was not always smiling cheerfully at the TV cameras tracking her every move in public. US public opinion wants its First Lady wannabes to want to look interested in remaining gracefully in the White House background!

A well deserved smack down of US public opinion.

Of course, that doesn’t mean Teresa doesn’t ‘smile cheerfully’. I’ve met her. Just once, but I can assure you that she does. I think that when you see Teresa smile, you can be pretty sure it’s the real thing. A stunning, warm and very real smile from a woman with the same attributes.

I’m guessing Teresa would agree that there’s an appropriate time to be cheerful, and considering the current state of affairs in Washington, this ain’t always it.

Check out her recent editorial (12/23) “The Outrageous Silence of George W. Bush” In it, Teresa chastises the administration’s lack of response to the hateful claims of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who called the Holocaust “a myth”.

OK. I’ll say it. She is saucy, isn’t she? But more than that, she’s right.

So, what are Mrs. Kerry’s credentials? What makes her more than the typical wife of a Washington politician?

Teresa has said that the fact that she grew up under a dictatorship in Mozambique prompted her to become a voice for “against tyranny and hate”. Well, she is that. But her activism goes far beyond that. Human rights, women’s rights, children’s issues, the environment, the arts… If it’s a cause that is right and that she can help champion, Theresa puts her time, money, and incredible voice behind it. How? Glad you asked.

I like lists, so here’s a run down, very possibly incomplete, in list form:

Women's Leadership Award - Save the Children (2003)
World Ecology Award International Center for Tropical Ecology University of Missouri (2003)
Albert Schweitzer Gold medal for Humanitarianism (2003)
Carlow College's National Woman of Spirit (2001)
Community Service Human Rights Award from the American Jewish Committee
Boston Bar Federation Public Service Award (2001)
Art Rooney Award from the Catholic Youth Association of Pittsburgh (2002)
Gold Medal conferred by the American Institute of Architects in Pittsburgh (2001)
Massachusetts Women's Political Caucus lifetime achievement award (2003)
UTNE Reader's 100 Visionaries (1995)
National Council for Research on Women “Women Who Make a Difference” (2005)

Brookings Institution trustee
Visiting Committee for the Kennedy School
Harvard University environmental committee
American Institute for Public Service (Jefferson Awards) board member
Carnegie Mellon University trustee
American Academy of Arts and Sciences fellow
Heinz Awards – founder
Heinz Endowments – chair
Heinz Family Philanthropies - chair
Women's Health and the Environment conferences – sponsor and host
Women's Institute for a Secure Retirement (WISER) – founder
Women's Campaign Fund – co-founder
Environmental Defense - board member
Heinz Center – vice chair
Teresa Heinz Scholars for Environmental Research – founder
John Heinz Environmental Fellows Program for the United Negro College Fund – founder
Earth Communications Office - advisory board
Second Nature (literacy) – co-founder
Alliance to End Childhood Lead Poisoning – co-founder
Center for Children's Health and the Environment at Mount Sinai School of Medicine – advisory council

Beloit College (Wisconsin)
University of Massachusetts (Boston),
Bank Street College of Education (New York),
Pine Manor College and Clark University (Massachusetts),
Carnegie Mellon University
The Medical College of Pennsylvania
Drexel University
Washington and Jefferson College
Carlow College

BA romance languages and literature - University of the Witwatersrand Johannesburg, South Africa
Interpreters School of the University of Geneva
English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese

So, while Laura smiles and blends into the background, our Teresa proudly and eloquently speaks truth to power. And the world recognizes what so many here at home do not.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

WV Mine disaster: Who will go to jail?

I'm no legal eagle but I'm betting – no one.

Twelve Americans are dead. If the headline was "foreign terrorists kill 12 Americans", our government would be considering which country to bomb or invade. If the headline was "12 killed in botched robbery attempt", the law-and-order crowd would be screaming for the death penalty.

But in this case the murderer is a corporation - International Coal Group Inc. (Or is it? The Sago mine was purchased by International only two months ago, from Anker West Virginia Mining Co. So maybe International only drove the getaway car.)

Why "murder"? Because the Sago mine had racked up 208 federal safety violations in the last year, including 21 citations last year for a build-up of combustible materials. (Yet, " The largest individual fine last year was $440; the citations for combustible materials carried fines of $60." ) Clearly there was a pattern of disregard for safety at this mine. One also wonders if the current head of the Mine Safety and Health Administration came to his job in a similar manner as ex-FEMA head Michael Brown (David G. Dye; apparently not). According to this op-ed in the Miami Herald, MSHA has the power to shut down an unsafe mine. So why was Sago even online with this kind of safety record?

Anyway, instead of bombing the "terrorists" or charging the apparent culprits with capital murder, the U.S. Government (via Dye) has announced that it will "begin an in-depth investigation of the accident." That's nice. Hopefully the fine will be a little more than $440 this time, at least.

I am reminded of when I once worked for a large defense contractor. Believe it or not, an expression occasionally heard there was "no I can't do that – I could go to jail." I'm not joking – many of us actually believed, back then, that certain types of malfeasance at our jobs could actually land us in jail.

Maybe that's a fear that ought to be a little more prevalent around coal mines, and the companies that operate them.


Mine Safety and Health Administration
MSHA information page for Sago mine explosion

Monday, January 02, 2006

20 Year First: EarthJustice formally opposes Supreme Court nominee (Alito)

Press Release, Dec. 20th 2005 (okay, so I'm slow - hat tip to LiberalOasis)

(click the link and scroll to bottom for some background info pdf's)

December 20th, 2005

Contact Info:
Cat Lazaroff, 202-667-4500 x 213
John McManus, 510-550-6707

Washington DC-- Today, Earthjustice joined four other national environmental groups in announcing formal opposition to the nomination of Judge Samuel Alito Jr. to a lifetime seat on the Supreme Court. This is the first time in nearly 20 years that Earthjustice has opposed a Supreme Court nominee.

“America depends upon Supreme Court justices to uphold and enforce our nation's environmental safeguards and to protect the rights of all Americans. We cannot afford to have someone like Judge Alito deciding which rights will be protected, and which will be thrown out,” said Buck Parker, Executive Director of Earthjustice. “After a careful consideration of Judge Alito’s record, we believe that, if confirmed to the Supreme Court, he would vote to roll back key protections for public health and the environment.

The last Supreme Court nominee to be opposed by Earthjustice and other national environmental groups was Robert Bork, nominated in 1987. Earthjustice did not oppose any of the eight Supreme Court nominees between Judge Bork and Judge Alito.

Like Judge Bork, Judge Alito has an extreme record on issues that are central to fundamental legal safeguards for public health and our environment, including the scope of the Commerce Clause, which is the constitutional basis for most federal environmental laws. Judge Alito’s positions also threaten the ability of average Americans and government agencies to ensure that these laws are enforced.

For example, one of his dissenting opinions concluded that a Congressional ban on possession and transfer of machine guns was unconstitutional under the Commerce Clause, contradicting many circuit courts of appeal decisions. Alito’s views indicate that he would support Commerce Clause challenges by polluters and developers to public health and environmental laws that Americans have relied upon for decades, including the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act the Endangered Species Act, and the Safe Drinking Water Act.

In other cases, Alito provided the deciding vote in favor of polluters to overturn pro-environmental actions by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). One of these cases overturned an EPA emergency Safe Drinking Water Act clean-up order that protected drinking water for 180,000 people from toxic pollution. Alito also joined another 2-1 Clean Water Act decision that unfairly barred average Americans from court, by creating constitutional barriers that were later essentially overruled by the Supreme Court.

“Judge Alito’s record indicates that he would pursue his own extreme legal theories to create new barriers that prevent the enactment and enforcement of national laws that protect families and communities from pollution,” said Glenn Sugameli, Earthjustice Senior Judicial Counsel. “There is too much at stake; Judge Alito’s nomination must be defeated.”

TWN: "President Bush: Please Define 'Democracy' "

Great post by Steve Clemons at The Washington Note:

President Bush: Please Define "Democracy"


As reported in the Washington Post today, Bush said:

"This is a limited program designed to prevent attacks on the United States of America, and I repeat limited," Bush said before flying back to Washington after six days cloistered on his ranch in Crawford, Tex. "I think most Americans understand the need to find out what the enemy's thinking.

"If somebody from al Qaeda is calling you, we'd like to know why."

We'd like to know why a Court would not authorize you to listen to that phone call or read that email, Mr. President. Why do you -- as President of the United States -- think that it is OK to systematically circumvent the American justice system? That is the question at hand.


Do you know what a democracy is, Mr. Bush? Do you know what checks-and-balances means?


You've taken this country into the Orwellian nightmare that we all accused the Soviet Union of promulgating -- and now that has become us. We are spying on ourselves without Constitutional protections and judicial regulation.

That is NOT democracy, though I'm sure that those in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East who are allegedly "learning democracy" from us are taking notes.

-- Steve Clemons

What is scariest to me is that polls are showing that many Americans are okay with being spyed on. (I know, I need to post links to those polls. When I find them I will.)

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Happy New Year: The Year of the Citizen

I want to wish all my readers a happy, healthy and productive year in 2006. I hope we will work together to bring real, positive change to America and to our nation's role in the world.

There is much to be done, but it will be rewarding work. Two inspiring quotes come to mind:

Margaret Mead:
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.

John Kerry:
There is no more important word in the American language, other than love, than citizen.

Let's make 2006 the Year of the Citizen.

Updated to add: we can take back our government this year, we can make significant strides in taking back the media, and we can start to revitalize the notion of citizenship in this country.

It's on us to make it happen.

Iraq on the Record: The Bush Administration's public statements on Iraq
The Bush Administration's
public statements on Iraq
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