ThinkFast: May 23, 2006

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"ThinkFast: May 23, 2006"

Writing in this weekend’s Washington Post, prominent conservative fundraiser Richard Viguerie criticized “Bush’s base betrayal.” Yesterday, the White House responded by emailing around previous quotes of Viguerie’s criticisms of Ronald Reagan. Viguerie responds, “That is standard operating procedure for this White House: Put the spotlight on the president’s critic, rather than respond to the critic’s arguments.”

Despite Condoleezza Rice’s insistence that “No one would like to shut down Guantanamo more than this administration,” Bloomberg reports, “They’re settling in for the long haul at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.” Work is almost complete on a new $30 million state-of-the-art detention facility.

A story written by Amir Taheri, a prominent neo-con, regarding new legislation in Iran “allegedly requiring Jews and other religious minorities to wear distinctive-colored badges circulated around the world last weekend before it was exposed as extremely dubious.” Juan Cole described the article as “typical of black psychological operations campaigns,” particularly in its origin in an “out-of-the-way newspaper that is then picked up by the mainstream press.”

“Railroad to Nowhere” off the tracks? A wasteful $700 million earmark to relocate a railroad line in Mississippi “will not be included in the conference report for the emergency supplemental bill…, a Frist budget aide said Monday,” though “a spokeswoman for the author of the provision, Senate Appropriations Chairman Thad Cochran (R-MS) said it was still on the table.”

Public Citizen yesterday released a report, “The Bankrollers: Lobbyists’ Payments to the Lawmakers They Court,” which provides “more proof of the symbiotic relationship between K Street and Capitol Hill.” The report found lobbyists and their political action committees have given members of Congress $103 million since 1998.

President Bush once again labeled a political milestone in Iraq as the crucial “turning point.” “We can expect the violence to continue, but something fundamental changed this weekend,” Bush said.

U.S. anti-terror policies worldwide undermined human rights in 2005,” according to Amnesty International’s newest annual report. “The US relentlessly pursued its ‘war on terror’ under a shroud of secrecy, unlawfully transferring terror suspects around the world, ignoring allegations of torture and ill-treatment refusing to close the detention camp in Guant¡namo Bay.”

The last reporter in Iraq for the federally-funded Voice of America news service is leaving, and VOA’s Baghdad bureau is closing. But the reporter “isn’t leaving because of the general violence. She’s leaving because ever since she reported on a Shiite-run government torture center, she’s been threatened, had her phone tapped, and had two apparent assassination attempts against her.”

Corruption in Iraq “has worsened dramatically since the war began,” ranging from “epic schemes involving hundreds of millions of dollars in government contracts [to] smaller-scale cases such as the purchase of better grades by university students.”

And finally: The Public Commission on the Oregon Legislature recommended that “Oregon legislators and staff members should not be drunk while performing their official duties.” “The new policy was suggested by Steve Doell, president of Crime Victims United, who said he and another member of the group noticed alcohol on the breath of at least one legislator at the end of the 2005 session while they were advocating tougher drunken-driving penalties.”

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