- Please send as far and wide as possible.
Editor, The Konformist
Iranian press hail Hamas's win
Conservative Iranian newspapers hail a new Islamist electoral
breakthrough, in their first response to Hamas's surprise
Palestinian poll win.
Story from BBC NEWS:
Saturday, 28 January 2006
But reformist papers like Sharq and E'temad nudge Hamas to act
wisely, suggesting it transform its guerrilla into a lawful police
and security framework.
Hamas'ss win in the Palestinian parliamentary elections completed
the circle of Islamic victories in 2005-2006. Before Hamas,
principle-ists achieved victories in Iranian, Afghan and Iraqi
presidential and parliamentary elections, respectively, running on
pro-religious and anti-Western platforms... [US President George W]
Bush, who has always uttered Hamas and terrorism in the same breath,
announced that he would accept the new situation and offered his co-
operation. The Europeans also expressed their willingness to
reassess their views...
The astounding victory of the Islamists in the Palestinian elections
poses a kind of deadlock for the Arab countries, because they don't
want Palestinians to run their own affairs. Some Arabic media have
tried to taint this victory and create division among the
Palestinians... But Palestinians have acted correctly so far. Fatah
has accepted Hamas's win, and the Palestinian Authority has
recognised Hamas'ss right to form a new government. The whole world
understands the significance of this victory. Everyone realises that
the Middle East is shaping around the Islamists.
Jomhuri-ye Eslami (hard-line)
The results of the Palestinian parliamentary elections reaffirmed
the justified cries of an oppressed nation which has always tried to
free itself from the yoke of the occupation. For Palestinians, the
elections were another way of making themselves heard by the whole
world... Hamas'ss victory delivered a major blow to the Zionists. It
shocked and disappointed them... The Zionists, the Americans and the
Europeans have no other option but to accept the will of the
Palestinians. But this does not mean a final victory for the
Palestinians. They will, undoubtedly, face future threats from the
Zionists and their supporters. There are already talks about putting
pressure on Hamas to abandon its armed struggle and recognize the
Zionist regime. The Zionist regime aims to isolate and undermine
Hamas, thereby forcing it to sur
Iran News (moderate)
Hamas's victory indicates the movement's favourable standing among
the Palestinian nation and this will have wide-ranging repercussions
at international and regional levels... Hamas won people's votes due
to its opposition to Israel and Middle East peace process and if, as
predicted by some analysts, it takes a U-turn politically and
ideologically, there is a great chance that it would lose people's
backing in the future. Election results were a major triumph for
Hamas and good advantage should be taken of it in order to realise
the rights of the oppressed Palestinian nation.
Experience shows that the success of any armed struggle depends
greatly on being run by secret organisations which have no fixed
base or centre of operation. Hamas is acutely aware of this fact...
But the Hamas political leaders will realise that the clandestine
operations will be meaningless after the organisation forms the new
Palestinian government. They will have to attend parliamentary
sessions and discuss the issues in such se
By forming the new Palestinian government, Hamas will have to
abandon any military activity which falls outside of the normal
government duties... In fact, Hamas'ss victory in the Palestinian
parliamentary elections have not only shocked Israel, the West and
Arab countries, but it has also astounded the movement itself... It
is quite conceivable that Hamas might have to change from an armed
movement to a political institution. As a ruling party and an
elected government, it must redefine its military activities within
a legitimate and lawful police and military framework.
The results of an election, calling for a change usually means the
rejection of a ruling body or support for a group offering a
different platform... The victory of Hamas was in fact a protest
vote, rejecting the policies of the Palestinian National Authority
and wanting an end to political and financial corruption... Fatah's
loss in the elections was in fact a defeat for the US, Europe and
Israel... But the US and Europe are forced to accept this Islamic
movement within the framework of democracy. Hamas, for its part,
faces a new and difficult situation. The victory can prove costly to
Hamas, should it fail to act wisely.
BBC Monitoring selects and translates news from radio, television,
press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries in more
than 70 languages. It is based in Caversham, UK, and has several
Bush defends NSA spying program at White House press conference
By Joe Kay
28 January 2006
US President George W. Bush's remarks at a White House press
conference on Thursday, and in an interview with CBS News broadcast
on Friday, are further indications that the administration is going
on the offensive in support of one of its central tenets: an
insistence on the unconstrained powers of the executive branch.
On the CBS program, Bush was asked by anchorman Bob Shieffer, "Do
you believe that there is anything that a president cannot do if he
considers it necessary" in time of war? In response, Bush called it
a "good question." After some hesitation, he said he thought torture
and the assassination of foreign leaders might not be acceptable. He
called it, however, "a very interesting Constitutional question."
In other words, whether or not the president functions with
dictatorial powers is an interesting Constitutional question subject
to debate. In fact, administration lawyers have argued in the past
that the torture of prisoners is included among the powers of the
president as commander-in-chief.
At the Thursday press conference, Bush was asked whether he would
support a move in Congress to modify the existing lawthe Foreign
Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) of 1978, that restricts
domestic surveillance by the National Security Agency (NSA)or to
write a new law to give the president explicit authority to do what
he has already done.
Such a solution to the dispute over the spying program has been
proposed by some Democratic and Republican legislators. It would
give a pseudo-legal sanction to this antidemocratic infringement on
the personal freedoms and constitutional rights of US citizens.
The president's reaction to such a proposal was decidedly cool.
After making unsupported assertions that the NSA program is legal
because administration lawyers have told him soand that it does not
intrude on the civil liberties of the American people, Bush made the
"It's important for people to understand that this program is so
sensitive and so important, that if information gets out to how it's
how we do it, or how we operate, it will help the enemy.... If the
attempt to write law makes this programis likely to expose the
nature of the program, I'll resist it.... Why tell the enemy what
we're doing if the program is necessary to protect us from the
More clearly, Bush is saying that the White House will oppose any
legislation that sets specific limitations on the spying powers of
the US government. In fact, such legislation already exists,
including FISA, which specifically prohibits the NSA from monitoring
communications into or out of the United States without a warrant.
The existence of this legislation has constrained government actions
for decades, rendering absurd the administration's position that any
new legislation of a similar character would constitute an
impermissible breach of security.
But Bush's concern has nothing to do with keeping the program secret
from Al Qaeda. His concern, rather, is keeping it secret from the
American people. The expansive nature of the spying program, as
revealed in numerous press accounts, conflicts with administration
claims that it is intended specifically to target Al Qaeda members.
If the administration were to seek legal authority for carrying out
the program, it would have to acknowledge that it in fact includes
surveillance of the communications of significant sections of the
The Bush administration is opposed to any law that places limits on
the powers of the presidency. The argument employed repeatedly since
9/11 is that the president has what amounts to a blank check from
Congress, which came in the form of the Authorization to Use
Military Force (AUMF), passed shortly after the terrorist attacks.
The White House contends AUMF gives the president the authority "to
use all necessary and appropriate force" against anyone he
determines was responsible for the terrorist attacks or harbored
those who were responsible for them.
According to this theory, the AUMF helps buttress the president's
claim to commander-in-chief powers in the "war on terror." These
powers cover not only the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, but the
authority to impose antidemocratic measures such as the NSA spying
program and other infringements on democratic rights.
On the particular issue of the NSA spying program, the
administration is asserting the position that the legislative branch
of government cannot, through FISA, require the executive branch to
be subject to any control from the judicial branch, which according
to FISA is tasked with authorizing search warrants.
This is why the administration is not pushing for new legislation in
Congress that would authorize the NSA spying. To give support to
such a law would give credence to the conception that the president,
in fact, needs such authorization.
The Bush administration's contempt for restrictions on its powers
was also demonstrated in the president's answer to another question
on the NSA program. Asked why FISA needed to be circumvented, Bush
declared: "The FISA law was written in 1978. We're having this
discussion in 2006. It's a different world. And FISA is still an
important tool.... But also...I said, look, is it possible to
conduct this program under the old law? And people said, it doesn't
work in order to be able to do the job we expect us to do."
More plainly, the law is outdated, so it is necessary to go outside
the law. This is a novel legal theory, which holds that a law is
merely a "tool" that comes with an expiration date, after which it
is no longer applicable and can be cast aside. However, FISA was not
intended as a tool for the use of the government in surveillance,
but as a protection for the American people against government
surveillance. It was enacted under the political impact of the
exposure of massive spying on domestic political opponents,
particularly by the Nixon administration. What other laws and
protections are on the books that, according to this administration,
belong to a prior era?
At the press conference, Bush also defended a statement he made when
signing the McCain amendment banning torture, in which he declared
that the law would be interpreted in a way that did not violate the
constitutional powers of the president as the unitary executive.
This statement was necessary, Bush said, in order to "make it clear
that the executive branch has got certain responsibilities.
Conducting war is a responsibility in the executive branch, not the
This statement could not be clearer. In the conduct of war, only the
executive branch has any say, and cannot be limited by the
legislature or constrained by law. Torture is considered to be part
of "conducting war" and can therefore be authorized by the president.
Buffy, It Ain't
By Annalee Newitz, AlterNet
Posted on January 25, 2006
I've been dying to obsess about TV again, but until recently my
quest seemed hopeless. No shows created by Joss Whedon are on the
air, and popular, new science fiction series Battlestar Galactica
makes me feel crawly and abused rather than fannish. I'd been
reduced to late nights with my vaporizer and replays of Buck Rogers
in the 25th Century on the SciFi Channel. I'd hit rock bottom.
Then I started hearing about this show called Veronica Mars, whose
kick-ass teenage heroine sounded like Buffy, only without the
whining. Initially I was dubious. No spaceships, mythological
creatures, supernatural lawyers, slutty aliens or time travel? It
sounded dangerously like realism. But what did I have to lose? I was
sick of watching the chick who played Ensign Ro Laren on Star Trek
tell her troops they could beat and rape cylon prisoners on
Battlestar Galactica. If things got any worse, I was going to start
watching Drawn Together.
Luckily, around that time Warner released a DVD box set of Veronica
Mars' first season. My all-knowing girlfriend Charlie picked it up,
and one evening we began to watch. Every 50 minutes or so, we'd look
at each other and ask, "Should we watch another one?" We didn't stop
until 4 a.m.
Yes, it was realism -- a rather extreme version of realism, in fact.
This isn't Buffy's Sunnydale High, where battles are fought between
humans and demons from the Hellmouth. Instead, at Veronica's Neptune
High, battles are fought between the multiracial underclass and a
mostly white, ultrarich crowd of "09ers" (named for the suffix in
their zip code). Veronica's hard-boiled voice-over tells us there is
no middle class in Neptune. There's just class warfare.
The first episode finds Veronica, once a popular "nice girl,"
becoming the town outcast when her 09er best friend, Lilly, is
murdered and Veronica's father, Keith -- Neptune's sheriff --
accuses the girl's software mogul dad of the crime. The 09er parents
band together, using their wealth and influence to shuffle Keith out
of office. Meanwhile, somebody doses Veronica with rufies at an 09er
party and rapes her. She has no superpowers, and she has no Scooby
gang. All she's got is a plan to get even, and her father, who hires
her to assist at his PI firm, Mars Investigation.
Eventually, Veronica gains allies. There's Wallace, the boy next
door with a mysterious past; Mac, the computer geek with a blue
streak in her hair; and Weevil, the Mexican biker-gang leader who's
sick of the 09ers calling him "the pool boy" or "the housekeeper's
son." And then there's sexy, troubled 09er bad boy Logan, whose
movie star father has a violent streak a mile wide (and seems to
have passed it on to his son).
I call these people allies because Veronica doesn't really have
friends or buddies in the way TV heroes usually do. She's too
hardened to have pals. She's had to do things like kick her boozed-
up mom out of the house and accuse her boyfriends of murder.
Most of Veronica's sometimes-twisted energy is focused on work:
investigating for her father, solving Lilly's murder, getting to the
bottom of the murders of dozens of her classmates in a bizarre bus
crash. She spies on people; she plants GPS devices on their cars and
bugs their phones. She uses her blond hotness to weasel information
that's inevitably guarded by horny dorks. Sometimes it's hard to
sympathize with a character who is willing to play bimbo and whose
wiretapping habits are so prodigious they make the NSA seem like a
bunch of pansies.
Veronica's not a particularly nice person, but whenever there's an
injustice, she does something about it. No magic or sword necessary.
I think that's the core of what makes this often depressing show so
addictive. We've got a flawed and nonsuperpowered person whose life
has been shattered, but she still fights for truth and protects the
proverbial little guy. She'll always make time to rescue the stolen
dog of an unpopular girl or make sure Weevil isn't victimized by
racist 09ers. This isn't to say there aren't enough salacious
plotlines in Veronica Mars to satisfy even a Twin Peaks fan. The
first season and a half are packed with violent infidelity, possible
incest and dramatic family secrets.
Although I still love Wonder Woman, Xena and Buffy, I've always
found it a little disturbing that their justice-making powers were
somehow supernatural. Sure, Veronica may not be entirely realistic,
but at least she follows the laws of physics. So hurry up and watch,
already! It's nice to imagine justice in the real world for once.
Annalee Newitz (happilyobsessed@...) is a surly
media nerd who can't wait to read Veronica/Mac fanfic, but would be
willing to make do with more Veronica/Logan 'shipper trash.
Living Wage Battles
Last Sunday, Jon Gertner had a good piece for the New York Times
Magazine about the living wage campaigns that are proving extremely
popularand successfulin cities across the country. The main point
of the piece is that the progressives running these campaigns tend
to make their appeals in moral, rather than economic terms, and
suggests that its popularity could even make it a liberal wedge
issue; as one living-wage advocate says, "This is our gay marriage."
But Gertner also takes time to point out that the economic case for
raising the minimum wage can hold its own too. Here, for instance,
is what happened in Santa Fe, which voted to raise the local minimum
to $8.50 an hour in 2003. Granted, Gertner considers "data" a plural
word (which is strictly correct but still ludicrous), but the rest
To look at the data that have accumulated since the wage went into
effect is to get a more positive impression of the law. Last month,
the University of New Mexico's Bureau of Business and Economic
Research issued some preliminary findings on what had happened to
the city over the past year and a half. The report listed some
potential unintended consequences of the wage raise: the exemption
in the living-wage law for businesses with fewer than 25 employees,
for instance, created "perverse incentives" for owners to keep their
payrolls below 25 workers. There was some concern that the high
living wage might encourage more high-school students to drop out;
in addition, some employers reported that workers had begun
commuting in to Santa Fe to earn more for a job there than they
could make outside the city.
Yet the city's employment picture stayed healthy - overall
employment increased in each quarter after the living wage went into
effect and was especially strong for hotels and restaurants, which
have the most low-wage jobs.
That jibes with what economists David Card and Alan Krueger found in
their study on the minimum wage. Why wouldn't a wage hike force
employers to hire fewer workers? They reasoned that in the actual,
existing labor market, employers might often have various undue
advantages over their workers and as a result, businesses are able
to bargain wages below what they would be in a market where wages
were determined solely by supply and demand, in order to raise their
profits. A minimum wage simply corrects this imbalance. Back to
Most encouraging to supporters: the number of families in need of
temporary assistance - a reasonably good indicator of the squeeze on
the working poor - has declined significantly. On the other hand,
the city's gross receipts, a reflection of consumer spending and
tourism, have been disappointing since the wage went into effect.
That could suggest that prices are driving people away. Or it could
merely mean that high gas and housing prices are hitting hard. The
report calculates that the cost of living in Santa Fe rose by 9
percent a year over the past two and a half years.
Opponents of the minimum wage tend to argue that hiking the floor
for wages will only increase inflation, as businesses are "forced"
to increase prices, but they rarely cite any sort of proof, and it
remains to be seen whether this is actually what happened in Santa
Fe. It's worth noting that last year, after Florida raised its state
minimum, prices in local restaurants only rose about 3 percent. It's
also worth noting that workers will almost certainly come out ahead
even factoring in for inflationthat was the case in Baltimore after
living wage laws went into effect in 1994. (Granted, runaway
inflation would definitely hurt workers, but as James K. Galbraith
pointed out a while back, there's no evidence that an inflationary
spiral induced by a wage increase has ever occurred.) One more quote:
Rob Day of the Santa Fe Bar and Grill sees this [i.e., the high cost
of living] as the crux of the matter. In his view, the problem with
Santa Fe is the cost of housing, and there are better ways than wage
regulations - housing subsidies, for example - to make homes more
affordable. In the wake of the wage raise, Day told me, he
eventually tweaked his prices, but not enough to offset the payroll
increases. He let go of his executive chef and was himself working
longer hours. "Now in the matter of a year and a half, I think there
is a whole group of us who thought, If we were going to start over,
this isn't the business we would have gone into," he says.
Some of Day's concerns are valid, and it's true, some individual
businesses may suffer, but on the whole, it's hard to be sympathetic
here. Between 1968 and 2004, domestic corporate profits rose 85
percent while the minimum wage fell 41 percent and the average
hourly wage fell 4 percent. In the retail sector, profits have gone
up 159 percent. Obviously capitalism wouldn't work very well if no
one made a profit, but even a living wage is hardly going to put
that in danger. (Moreover, some evidence, again, from Baltimore's
experiment with a living wage in the 1990s, suggested that some
employers absorb the increase in labor costs through efficiency
gains, especially lower turnover and "reduced shirking" at work.)
At any rate, owners and managers who have to work more thanks to a
wage hike may find life a bit more burdensome, but presumably less
burdensome than families who, at the federal minimum of $5.15 an
hour, have to get by with a little over $10,000 a year. (And yes,
despite the myth that only teenagers work for $5.15 an hour, most
minimum wage workers tend to be breadwinnersHeather Boushey has
estimated that the average minimum-wage worker earns 68 percent of
his or her family's income.) If we're matching sob stories here,
it's not really a contest, which partly explains the success of
- Bradford Plumer
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