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Saundra Hummer
March 27th, 2009, 04:25 PM
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Ask FactCheck posted these new items during the week ending March 27, 2009

(Follow links to read complete answers)
Q: Would a new bill in Congress make my backyard organic garden illegal?
A: A House bill proposes to split the Food & Drug Administration, creating a separate entity to oversee food safety. It's aimed at food sold in supermarkets and doesn't say anything about organic gardening, pesticides, farmers' markets or that tomato plant in your backyard.

Q: Did FDR promise that Social Security would be voluntary? Did Democrats end tax deductions for Social Security withholding?
A: Social Security has never been voluntary and taxes paid to support it have never been deductible from federal income taxes. A widely e-mailed "history lesson" gets nearly all its facts wrong.

Q: Is it true that Obama is dropping the federal safety program that allowed pilots to carry guns?
A: No, the program is not being ended, according to the Transportation Security Administration, the Department of Homeland Security and the largest airline pilots union. In fact, TSA says the program is being expanded. The claim comes from a Washington Times editorial that has been removed from the paper's Web site.

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The FactCheck Wire posted these new items during the week ending March 27, 2009

(Follow links to read complete wire posts)Obama’s Old Campaign Group out with New Ad
It repeats the president's sound bite on the deficit.
Targeting Obama with Bonus ‘AIG’itation
A conservative group's ad attacks the president for those anger-inducing AIG bonuses.
Plane False
Government e-mails show Pelosi didn't demand use of a big Air Force jet, despite what chain e-mails say.

Check The FactCheck Wire for more of our short posts. And we're on Facebook. And now you can follow us on Twitter.


Just the Facts

The weekly vid-cast from FactCheck.org - a nonpartisan, nonprofit, "consumer advocate" for voters that aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics. We monitor the factual accuracy of what is said by major U.S. political players in the form of TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews, and news releases. Our goal is to apply the best practices of both journalism and scholarship, and to increase public knowledge and understanding.

The Annenberg Political Fact Check is a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania. The APPC was established by publisher and philanthropist Walter Annenberg in 1994 to create a community of scholars within the University of Pennsylvania that would address public policy issues at the local, state, and federal levels.

The APPC accepts NO funding from business corporations, labor unions, political parties, lobbying organizations or individuals. It is funded primarily by the Annenberg Foundation.

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Saundra Hummer
March 27th, 2009, 04:47 PM
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The De Soto Family Crest

Friday, Mar. 27, 2009
The de Soto Family Crest has an open-winged golden eagle on a blue background. Hernando de Soto received the title of Golden Eagle in his investiture as a Knight in the Order of Santiago (Spain’s highest honor) in 1538 after his quest for gold in Peru. Men of many adventures, under many skies and over many seas are given a blue background for their crest. Note the absence of red, which would symbolize bloodshed.

In de Soto’s case, blood was shed only in self-defense. There are eight open, blue padlocks on a gold background around the shield. Blue again refers to one of noble birth, and the eight padlocks represent the custom of de Soto’s ancestors - friendship, open house, open coffers in charitable institutions spread over eight provinces in Spain (Galicia, Estremadura, Granada, Vazarra, Andalucia, Toledo, Vizcalla and Castilla). On the Escutcheon’s top middle section is a helmet graced with five feathers, two gold and three blue. These represent the five adventures in which de Soto was involved. The two gold plumes represent the two explorations in which gold was found -in Peru, under Pizzaro, and in Nicaragua under Pedrarias. The other three plumes represent his exploration of Mexico under Cortez; Cuba, where he left his brother, Diego, as governor; and Florida. It is an honor that the Family Crest has become the logo for the Hernando de Soto Historical Society and the Conquistador Historical Foundation. The Family Crest can be found in the monument commemorating de Soto’s landing on the shores of the Manatee River at De Soto National Memorial in northwest Bradenton.

This information was furnished in 1975 by Rafael M. de Soto, a descendant of Hernando de Soto. He obtained the material from the Royal Dispatch of Blazonry, Royal Archives, Madrid.

Go on-site to view crest, etc.

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Saundra Hummer
March 27th, 2009, 06:40 PM
Beyond the AIG bailout

Greenwich Citizen Staff
Updated: 03/27/2009
04:52:28 PM EDT

We bail out American International Group Inc. and they party. We bail them out again and they hand out millions of dollars of the taxpayers' money in bonuses. What spectacular self-interest. Is it any wonder that some people are comparing this sort of free market capitalism to organized crime?
It is galling that we have to sit back and watch as our government bails out a few select corporations, some guilty of unbridled greed or incompetence (or both), while the rest of us are left to fend for ourselves.

AIG recently used $165 million of its bailout funds for "retention bonuses" and cited provisions of the Connecticut Wage Act as justification. AIG says it is bound by state law because its financial products division, the source of its problems, is in Wilton. The division, essentially a hedge fund attached to an insurance company, engaged in high-risk activities that some have characterized as gambling.

Edward Liddy, AIG's new chairman and chief executive officer, brought in to clean up the mess, said at last week's hearing that the "retention bonuses" were paid to people who were helping to clean up the mess and were important to the primary task of avoiding a disorderly breakdown of AIG.

U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., has characterized the argument as "specious."

In addition, if it didn't pay the bonuses, according to Liddy, the company could be sued for twice the amount of the bonus or more.

Retention bonus is an unfortunate term. These people were given a job to do. If they did it, they got the bonus. Many of them left after getting the bonus. It's not much of a surprise that people aren't enamored of working at AIG these days.

While we have some sympathy for Liddy, the fact remains that no AIG employees would have received any bonuses if the firm went bankrupt and that's what would have happened without the bailout.

Bottom line? Taxpayers paid for these bonuses and there is widespread anger as a result. People are angry with AIG but there is also a deep disenchantment with the greed of corporate America in general as well as the government's failures in oversight.

People who misuse bailout funds, whether for parties, obscene bonuses or any other self-absorbed uses, are little more than parasites feasting at the public trough. They deserve neither our trust nor our hard-earned money. Abusing the public trust in such a flagrant manner should have serious consequences. Right now, Congress is playing the Washington game, trying to find out who knew what when.

The federal government is currently seeking ways to address this egregious misuse of funds. One idea is to tax 90 to 100 percent of the bonus money. That's not ideal but at least it's something. Another idea is to sue AIG to recover the funds.

Gov. M. Jodi Rell recently wrote to the Connecticut congressional delegation and urged them to amend the Troubled Asset Relief Program to ensure that a similar debacle doesn't happen again.

"American taxpayers are rightly upset that their tax dollars would be used in such a wrong-headed manner," said Rell. "It is incredibly inappropriate to reward employees whose mismanagement and avarice have led to the failure of these companies. Our taxpayers are funding a financial system that has collapsed largely due to its own greed and a regulatory system that failed to curb the abuses."

State Sen. John McKinney, R-28, characterized AIG's actions as "outrageous." McKinney, the Senate Republican leader, hit the nail squarely on the head. Outrageous is the word, at least the one we can print.

Most of us are dealing with "voluntary" pay cuts, staff reductions, hiring freezes, cost cutting, etc., and these guys are handing out $165 million of the taxpayers' money as bonuses to executives who are probably already millionaires? The sheer audacity boggles the mind and people are hopping mad.

On the positive side, some Connecticut Republicans have seen enough and want to tighten up the Connecticut law cited by AIG as justification for this reverse Robin Hood farce.

"We are outraged to learn that AIG is using Connecticut Wage Laws as leverage to use taxpayer money to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in bonuses," said McKinney. "The legislature should move immediately to change Connecticut law. We in Connecticut can do what Congress failed to do, which is protect taxpayers from having their hard-earned money used for these exorbitant bonuses."

The Connecticut Republicans spearheading the initiative expect bipartisan support and they should get it.

Meanwhile, Rell has instructed the Consumer Protection Commission to see whether the AIG bonuses can be voided under the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act. She wants the commission to subpoena the relevant employment contracts cited by AIG.

"Since the company cited Connecticut law, they will have to live by Connecticut law," said Rell.

Liddy, who makes $1 a year, said he has asked AIG employees to give back the bonuses. So far, several have. We'll see what transpires in the days ahead.


Saundra Hummer
March 27th, 2009, 07:15 PM

The Free Market, Financial Style
How the Scam Works

March 27, 2009 "Counterpunch" -- Newspaper reports seem surprised at how high banks are bidding for the junk mortgages that Treasury Secretary Geithner is now bidding for, having mobilized the FDIC and Fed to transfer yet more public funds to the banks. Bank stocks are soaring – thereby bidding up the Dow Jones Industrial Average, as if the “financial industry” really were part of the industrial economy.

Why are the very worst offenders – Bank of America (now owner of the Countrywide crooks) and Citibank the largest buyers? As the worst abusers and packagers of CDOs, shouldn’t they be in the best position to see how worthless their junk mortgages are?

That turns out to be the key! Obviously, the government has failed to protect itself – deliberately, intentionally failed to do so – in order to let the banks pull off the following scam.

Suppose a bank is sitting on a $10 million package of collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) that was put together by, say, Countrywide out of junk mortgages. Given the high proportion of fraud (and a recent Fitch study found that every package it examined was rife with financial fraud), this package may be worth at most only $2 million as defaults loom on Alt-A “liars’ loan” mortgages and subprime mortgages where the mortgage brokers also have lied in filling out the forms for hapless borrowers or witting operators taking out mortgages at far more than properties were worth and pocketing the excess.

The bank now offers $3 million to buy back this mortgage. What the hell, the more they bid, the more they get from the government. So why not bid $5 million. (In practice, friendly banks may bid for each other’s junk CDOs.) The government – that is, the hapless FDIC – puts up 85 per cent of $5 million to buy this – namely, $4,250,000. The bank only needs to put up 15 per cent – namely, $750,000.

Here’s the rip-off as I see it. For an outlay of $750,000, the bank rids its books of a mortgage worth $2 million, for which it receives $4,250,000. It gets twice as much as the junk is worth.

The more the banks holding junk mortgages pay for this toxic waste, the more the government will pay as part of its 85 per cent. So the strategy is to overpay, overpay, and overpay. Paying 15 per cent is a small price to pay for getting the government to put in 85 per cent to take the most toxic waste off your books.

The free market at work, financial style.

Michael Hudson is a former Wall Street economist. A Distinguished Research Professor at University of Missouri, Kansas City (UMKC), he is the author of many books, including Super Imperialism: The Economic Strategy of American Empire (new ed., Pluto Press, 2002) He can be reached at mh@michael-hudson.com

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This is a teriffic site and there's a newletter to subscribe to. There's a lot to see and benefit from. Another site run on donations, no sponsors dictating what it is we're allowed to read and learn about. SRH

Saundra Hummer
March 28th, 2009, 01:24 PM

Dear Saundra R.,

I wanted to make sure you knew about a petition campaign we launched yesterday in support of the University of Notre Dame's decision to invite President Obama to deliver the 2009 commencement address.

The Notre Dame student body is proud and excited the President will be speaking at their school, but partisan operatives are working to force Notre Dame to rescind the invitation.

Our campaign to support Notre Dame has been amazingly successful, with more than 15,000 people signing up in less than 24 hours. But we need to do more. Those attacking Notre Dame are claiming more than 170,000 signatures. We clearly have a lot of work ahead of us, but I'm confident we can do it.

Have you signed our petition to support Notre Dame? Click here to make your voice heard.

We need all hands on deck to show there is another voice out there. Here's what you can do:

1. Sign the petition at: www.wesupportnotredame.org.

2. Encourage your friends and family to do the same. http://www.wesupportnotredame.org/tell-a-friend

3. Call Notre Dame president Father John Jenkins at 574-631-5000 and tell him that you stand behind the university's invitation. The far right is flooding his office with calls, and he needs to hear from those who support him.

Our nation's universities are meant to be places that embrace open discussion of the issues of our day. Don't let Notre Dame cave to political pressure. Join the campaign and register your support today.


Beth, Jennifer, Dan, Kristin and Katie

The Faithful America team

All content © 2008 Faithful America
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Washington, DC 20005

Saundra Hummer
March 28th, 2009, 02:25 PM
Zillion TV Worth Zip

Art Brodsky
March 17, 2009 - 9:56am
The news from the media front was pretty dismal. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer will end 146 years of printing newspapers, becoming the largest newspaper to go web only. The Hearst company couldn’t find a buyer for the P-I, leaving Seattle with the Times as the only physical newspaper.

Another venerable publisher, the E.W. Scripps Co., recently shuttered the Rocky Mountain News in Denver, just days short of its 150th birthday. Gannett is closing the Tucson Citizen, almost 140 years old, on March 21. Some of Rocky’s alumni are trying to start an online paper, if they can get 50,000 paying customers at $4.99 per month by April 23.

If there were any doubt that the Web will become not only a secondary source of news and information for millions of people, but, increasingly, a primary one, those developments should dispel the remaining questions. That’s why a concept like Zillion TV is so dangerous.

Zillion was announced earlier this month to modest fanfare as a partnership among studios, tech entrepreneurs and VISA to provide a new kind of online entertainment outlet. So far, so good. But, the kicker in the formula is that Zillion wants to enter into a partnership with an Internet Service Provider (ISP) to offer the service exclusively on that ISPs network.

We’ve waited a bit before commenting on Zillion to try to get some answers from them about the technology they are using, and to see which ISP steps forward as the first partner. We haven’t been successful on the first, and no one has stepped up to the second. We’re disappointed about the first, but not disappointed about the second. Any ISP that volunteers will have some explaining to do.

In its presentation to reporters during its launch, Zillion officials said that ISPs would find affiliation “boosts customer loyalty and reduces customer churn.” That’s not good enough a reason to start destroying the open, non-discriminatory Internet.

The vehicle for Zillion’s on-demand, customer-driven service is a $50 set-top box, which would sit along side the other set-top boxes like the one Netflix uses, and would be another customer choice for video-on-demand, like those that cable systems offer for movies and the Web sites like Hulu offer to allow viewers to watch TV shows they missed and didn’t record.

What makes this different, and dangerous, is the precedent of the ISP partner. Cable, for better or worse, is a closed network, with a centralized gatekeeper. A site like Hulu is owned by NBC and Fox. While they control the content, anyone has access to it over the Web. That is how it should be.

Zillion’s model reportedly would be different. It would sign up ISPs that could confer the advantages of network control on Zillion, offering the service only on that ISP. That model is unacceptable in an open Internet environment. It would reduce consumer choice and would set a truly unfortunate precedent by encouraging just the type of exclusionary partnerships that the Internet was designed to avoid. Should Qwest be allowed to offer the Denver Post exclusively? Or Comcast offer the Washington Post? Of course not.

Having an ISP partner would only further consolidate the choke-hold ISPs are wrapping around the Web. With more video going online, not only from TV shows and movies, but also integrated into social networking, some Internet providers are instituting bandwidth caps to crunch down customer usage.

At a time when most Internet consumers have at most two realistic options (not counting wireless or satellite), the type of favoritism a Zillion model portends shouldn’t be allowed, whether it’s offered on one ISP or several. That’s why Zillion’s model is worth Zip.

About the Author
Art Brodsky
Art Brodsky is communications director of Public Knowledge. He is a veteran of Washington, D.C. telecommunications and Internet journalism and public relations.
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Saundra Hummer
March 28th, 2009, 02:42 PM

Musicians Want the Airwaves Back

March 17, 2009
Posted by Candace Clement
Passing the Local Community Radio Act will be like opening your windows on that first day of spring after a really long winter. We've been listening to the same stale, recycled music since the mid-90s. Who's particularly thrilled about the bill's potential? Musicians.

~ ~ ~
The musicians of America are packing their gear and heading to Austin, Texas, this weekend for the annual South by Southwest (or SXSW) music festival. With more than 1,900 acts expected to descend on the city (and those are just the ones we know about), SXSW presents precisely the sort of explosive and diverse soundscape we could expect to start hearing on the airwaves again if Congress takes action this year.

The Local Community Radio Act (HR 1147 / S 592) is the perfect antidote to the drudgery on the radio dial since 1996, when massive radio consolidation resulted in stations constantly spinning the same songs across the country.

For musicians, Local Community Radio Act will be invaluable. It’s become nearly impossible for local bands to get their songs played in their hometowns as playlists have become automated and computers have replaced the local deejay with her ear to the ground. Gone are the days when artists could bring their music down to the local radio station for a chance to be “discovered” as the next big thing. As far as commercial radio goes, you’re lucky if anyone’s at the station at all.

Making music, reaching people
I have a special place in my heart for this bill, both as a musician and as a former community radio station volunteer. For the past ten years, I have been making noise beside my friends and working alongside them to set up shows, promote albums, and sell t-shirts in bars, basements, attics and anywhere else people are eager to come see live music.

We do it because we love it – because we don’t know how not to – and none of us are really expecting to strike it rich. We simply want to make music, and we want that music to reach as many people as possible.

Luckily, we have a community radio station that plays our music, and the music of other artists living in the Pioneer Valley. But what about those places where only commercial radio exists? Might as well be static.

Corporate media would like us to believe they’re only feeding us the content we’re clamoring for, but don’t be fooled. We hear the same songs over and over again because it’s cheap and easy to produce and because payola – a rigged (and illegal) pay-to-play game where record execs bestow prizes and gifts on DJs – has come to dominate the commercial radio market.

Because of this crooked system, to actually get radio play is not a reflection of talent or merit or even taste. Instead, it’s all about money, and usually the only way a band can get on the radio is to follow the beaten path of seeking record deals and distribution through the major labels, who judge bands not on their sound, but on dollar signs.

No substitute for radio
The closed game of commercial radio is totally out of sync with the dramatic changes that have taken place on the production side of music. Over the past decade, technology has made it increasingly easy to record an album. The Internet has connected us to more affordable options for packaging and distribution. Social networks like MySpace have led to success stories, with unknown artists reaching a massive audience overnight. And online radio stations and podcasts have allowed new and underground content to reach even more ears.

But while the Web is great, it’s no substitute for broadcast media. With 40 percent of America still not connected to high-speed Internet (the kind of speed required to stream audio files), we can’t look to the Web as the definitive solution. Radios are a one-time cost (there is no monthly subscription fee) and you are connected for life.

The airwaves, which belong to the public in the first place, should be returned to communities. With the Local Community Radio Act, thousands of new noncommercial stations can be licensed across the country, giving musicians and fans an opportunity to hear an astonishing array of music, from local talent to a tune from across the ocean.

And if you don’t agree with the deejay, you can get your own show and share your love for reggae, metal, freak folk, electronica or whatever else you fancy.

Passing this bill will be like opening your windows on that first day of spring after a really long winter. We’ve been breathing the same stale, recycled air since the mid-90s.

Let’s turn up the volume already and make this happen.

There are numerous links within this article, just click on the URL to gain access to them>


Saundra Hummer
March 29th, 2009, 03:32 AM
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March 27, 2009 by Faiz Shakir, Amanda Terkel, Satyam Khanna, Matt Corley, Benjamin Armbruster, Ali Frick, and Ryan Powers


Stop The O'Reilly Harassment Machine
Last Saturday, March 21, Fox News host Bill O'Reilly sent two of his employees to stalk, harass, and ambush ThinkProgress.org Managing Editor Amanda Terkel. Upset over a ThinkProgress report that noted O'Reilly's insensitive comment towards a rape victim, O'Reilly dispatched his producer Jesse Watters, along with a cameraman, to stake out Amanda's home in Washington, DC, follow her for two hours across state lines, and ambush her while she was on vacation in Winchester, VA. O'Reilly then used a small portion of highly-edited footage he obtained from Watters's ambush interview to falsely claim that Amanda was bringing "a lot of pain and suffering" to rape victims. Unfortunately, Amanda is just one of roughly 40 different victims of these kind of ambush tactics. Indeed, O'Reilly has hired producers whose primary job is to track, harass, and intimidate anyone whom O'Reilly perceives as an opponent or an enemy. That's not journalism -- that's a mafia-style intimidation operation, and we need to put an end to it. ThinkProgress has launched a campaign asking O'Reilly's major sponsors to issue a clear statement opposing O'Reilly's Harassment Machine. Please consider joining this campaign here.

THE ANATOMY OF AN AMBUSH: O'Reilly's ambush of Amanda was sparked by a short piece that she wrote on March 1 highlighting the fact that O'Reilly had been invited to speak at a fundraiser for a rape victims support group, the Alexa Foundation. Amanda noted in response, "O'Reilly has made controversial comments about an 18-year-old woman, Jennifer Moore, who was raped and murdered, implying that it was partially her fault." Indeed, O'Reilly called Moore "moronic" and implied that because she was "wearing a miniskirt and a halter top with a bare midriff" and had been drinking, she should have expected to be assaulted, raped, and murdered. Nowhere in her piece did Amanda comment on the Alexa Foundation itself. O'Reilly, however, couldn't stand to see Amanda highlight his offensive commentary, so he sent Watters after her. Last Saturday, Amanda left her Washington, D.C. home for a weekend trip to Winchester, VA. After driving two hours, Amanda checked into her lodgings and then decided to take a walk. As she left the hotel, Watters approached Amanda with a cameraman in tow and demanded that she explain why she had caused "pain and suffering" to rape victims and the Alexa Foundation. Amanda had told no one where she was going, so she concluded that Watters and his cameraman had "staked out my apartment and then followed me for two hours" (Amanda recalls that a tan SUV had been tracking her car). O'Reilly then spliced footage from the Watters's ambush interview to characterize Amanda as "evil" and "certainly a villain." O'Reilly never showed his audience what Amanda actually wrote and never played what he said about Moore, nor did he explain how his henchmen tracked her down.

O'REILLY'S BULLYING TACTICS: In August 2007, O'Reilly defended his ambush tactics, claiming that they are "a vital tool in holding public servants accountable for their actions" and that "we do not go after people lightly." "We always ask them on the program first or to issue a clear statement explaining their actions," he said. In Amanda's case, no one at the O'Reilly Factor or Fox News attempted to contact her for comment or a chance to appear on O'Reilly's show before stalking and ambushing her in rural Virginia. In all, O'Reilly's ambush tactics have been used on nearly 40 different individuals. Some are public servants, but many are private citizens who work at non-profit foundations, while others work as journalists, priests, actors, and authors. A woman who wrote an op-ed for Newsday suggesting that shock jocks could in some cases be inspiring violent acts, was ambushed by O'Reilly's henchmen in her driveway. Michael Hoyt, executive editor for the Columbia Journalism Review, was ambushed as he tried to board a public bus, while Jeffrey Immelt, CEO of General Electric, was ambushed in a restaurant while having dinner. Such ambushes are not journalism and are hardly distinguishable from the paparazzi journalists that O'Reilly calls "the scum of the earth."

STOPPING THE MACHINE: We need to Stop O'Reilly's Harassment Machine. Therefore, ThinkProgress has launched an e-mail campaign asking O'Reilly's major corporate sponsors to issue a clear statement opposing O'Reilly's "ambush journalism." As Amanda explained on MSNBC's Keith Olbermann last night, "This is not a liberal or conservative issue." Olbermann agreed, saying in reference to ambush journalism tactics, "It's inappropriate. There are some rules here and they apply in both directions to everybody." At least some of O'Reilly's sponsors appear to agree as well. In the 48 hours since ThinkProgress first launched its campaign, over 5,000 e-mails have been sent to O'Reilly's advertisers. Ford, AT&T, UPS, and Capital One have all responded. UPS said in a statement, "We are sensitive to the type of television programming where our messages and presence are associated and continually review choices to affect future decisions. Further investigation is underway related to this placement." Similarly, Capital One said, "We regret that you found the Bill O'Reilly programming during which one of our ads was aired to be offensive. ... Capital One in no way endorses the views/opinions portrayed during the news broadcasts in which we advertise." Despite this, a number of prominent advertisers including Audi, Hyundai, Johnson and Johnson, Bayer, and Proctor & Gamble have yet to respond. O'Reilly complained on air about the campaign, calling ThinkProgress "insects" for "going after" his sponsors. If you want to help get under O'Reilly's skin and put an end to his ambush and harassment tactics, ask his advertisers to express their disapproval of his tactics. Click here to help Stop the O'Reilly Harassment Machine.

RADICAL RIGHT -- KRISTOL LAUNCHES PROJECT FOR A NEW AMERICAN CENTURY 2.0: 'THE FOREIGN POLICY INITIATIVE': After Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and his neoconservative foreign policy were soundly defeated at the polls last year, Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol told right-wing talker Hugh Hewitt that he was considering putting together a refashioned version of the Project for a New American Century (PNAC). "A little bit of a political organization" for "the Fred Kagans and Bob Kagans and Reuel Gerechts of the world" wouldn't "be bad," said Kristol. His new "political organization" for neoconservatives is now a reality. "The blandly-named Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI) -- the brainchild of Weekly Standard editor William Kristol, neo-conservative foreign policy guru Robert Kagan, and former Bush administration official Dan Senor -- has thus far kept a low profile," wrote Daniel Luban and Jim Lobe for IPS News on Wednesday. Though it's not mentioned on their Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI) bio page, Kristol and Kagan were co-founders of PNAC in 1997. The Wonk Room's Matt Duss writes that Kristol and Kagan seem to be re-naming their old organization because it became "inextricably bound in the public's imagination to one of the worst foreign policy blunders in American history" -- the invasion of Iraq. Noting that FPI's first public event next week, Afghanistan: Planning For Success, features a heavy representation of Iraq war advocates, Duss suggests that a far better title for the event would be, "Afghanistan: Dealing With The Huge Problems Created By Many Of The People On This Very Stage."

ECONOMY -- REPORT: OBAMA'S BUDGET WILL HELP SMALL BUSINESSES: A common attack refrain by conservatives on President Obama's budget proposal is that tax increases will hurt small businesses. Beginning in 2011, Obama's plan would slightly increase taxes on households earning more than $250,000 and individuals earning over $200,000. In defending the Republican's alternative budget proposal that offers a large tax cut to businesses, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) said, "Republicans know that raising taxes on small businesses will only result in more workers losing their jobs." However, a new study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities finds that "under the Clinton Administration, when the tax treatment of high-income families was very similar to what President Obama has proposed, small businesses generated jobs at twice the rate as under the Bush tax code." During the Clinton years, small businesses generated 756,000 new jobs, versus only 367,000 new jobs under the tax conditions set by Bush, which Republicans seek to replicate. Further, "more small business owners would receive tax cuts" under Obama's plan because they do not fall into the $250,000-plus tax bracket. "Most small business owners aren't in the top two marginal tax rates," said Benjamin Harris of the Tax Policy Center. "In my opinion, there's some misunderstanding in these political debates that the people who'll be affected are middle-income Americans who run mom-and-pop stores."

JUSTICE -- ASHCROFT: 'I THINK HISTORY WILL BE VERY KIND' TO BUSH: Earlier this week, former attorney general John Ashcroft spoke at the University of Texas at Austin on the differences between the Obama and Bush administrations. Although "[m]ost in attendance were respectful of Ashcroft's right to speak," he was greeted by a group of protesters who waved "signs of dissent" and booed when he first appeared. During his speech, Ashcroft launched a vociferous defense of both Bush's career and his own, saying that history will judge Bush well: "I think history will be very kind to [him]." While Ashcroft, the chief architect of the invasive Patriot Act, admitted that Bush made some mistakes during his presidency, he claimed to have no regrets about his own tenure as attorney general. "I don't have a mark on my conscience," he said. He also defended his decision to approve waterboarding in 2003, saying, "There are things that you could call waterboarding that I am firmly convinced are not torture. There are things that you could call waterboarding that might be torture." But as Keith Olbermann and former White House counsel John Dean discussed on MSNBC last night, all waterboarding is torture. "I think waterboarding is waterboarding. Maybe this is a defense we haven't read about that John Yoo came up with, or the memo hasn't been released yet that says maybe how much water you pour may make it waterboarding or not waterboarding. But this is pretty silly," Dean said.

Immigration advocates are launching a new strategy to push immigration reform through Congress. They want millions of undocumented workers legalized now, while a new independent commission would study the number of foreign workers allowed to enter the U.S. in the future -- a provision they hope will gain the backing of America's unions.

This morning, President Obama will announce a new strategy for the war in Afghanistan that "plans to further bolster American forces" and "for the first time set benchmarks for progress in fighting Al Qaeda and the Taliban there and in Pakistan." In addition to the 17,000 combat troops Obama ordered to Afghanistan last month, he will add 4,000 more troops to train Afghanistan security forces.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) called the use of a budget reconciliation process -- which requires only simple majorities -- "the best prospect" for passing health care reform this year, something she said was "absolutely essential." Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) also "refused to rule out" the use of reconciliation, saying, "Let's see what happens in the next three weeks, in the next month."

Thousands of buildings at U.S. bases in Iraq and Afghanistan "have such poorly installed wiring that American troops face life-threatening risks". Of the nearly 30,000 buildings the Army examined, more than half "failed miserably." A "majority…were wired by contractor KBR."

The Senate Budget Committee yesterday approved President Obama's "ambitious budget blueprint" giving the president "a symbolic endorsement of efforts to boost clean energy, fight global warming and improve access to health care." The party-line vote "sets the stage for floor debate next week, where moderate Democrats unhappy with deficits wield more influence."

The Obama administration plans to raise fuel efficiency standards for passenger cars to 30.2 mpg for the 2011 model year, which is "the first increase in passenger car standards in more than two decades." President Obama's new standard is "slightly less stringent" than the 31.2 mpg proposed by the Bush administration, but officials are working "on a more comprehensive set" of rules for vehicles through 2015.

"The former finance chief of a Texas company controlled by Nasser Kazeminy, a close friend of former Sen. Norm Coleman, said in a deposition last week that Kazeminy ordered $100,000 in fees be paid to a Minneapolis insurance agency where Coleman's wife was employed. The deposition is the first corroboration of claims that Kazeminy funneled payments to Hays Companies aimed at benefiting the Colemans.

And finally: Yesterday Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) spoke at the Heritage Foundation, making clear he had no illusions about what happened in the 2008 presidential election. "God bless" all the people who voted for me, said McCain, adding, "Over 50 million people voted for me and Sarah Palin -- mostly for Sarah Palin.” The audience "erupted" in laughter.

The Senate approved the Edward Kennedy Serve America Act, expanding community service programs by "increasing the number of positions to 250,000 from 75,000 and creating new cadres of volunteers focused on education, clean energy, health care and veterans."

TEXAS: Social conservatives "succeeded in requiring teachers to evaluate critically a variety of scientific principles like cell formation and the Big Bang."

NEW HAMPSHIRE: New Hampshire House votes to allow same-sex couples to marry.

MISSOURI: "A federal appeals court has upheld a lower court's ruling that Missouri officials must issue license plates that read 'Choose Life.'"

THINK PROGRESS: Former House speaker Newt Gingrich warns that President Obama's financial regulation plan will create a "dictatorship."

WONK ROOM: Take Action by April 9: Overturn former President Bush's rule blocking access to contraceptives and other health care services.

YGLESIAS: Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) doesn't know what the deficit would be if Pence's budget were implemented.

FEMINISTING: Announcing blog for Fair Pay Day 2009.


"Will Obama Administration Abandon Dollar for a Multi-National Currency?"
-- Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), 3/25/09

"Asked if he foresaw a change in the dollar's centrality, [Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner said,] 'I do not.'"
-- Politico, 3/25/09


The research team that brings you The Progress Report and ThinkProgress.org needs summer interns! Click here for more information:


l contact us l archives l

. . . . . . . . . . . . .

Saundra Hummer
March 30th, 2009, 02:34 PM
. . . . . . .

Obama's Attack on the Middle Class

Paul Craig Roberts
March 29, 2009

Obama and his public relations team have made it appear that his trillion dollars in higher taxes will fall only on “the rich.” Obama stresses that his tax increase is only for the richest 5 percent of Americans while the other 95 percent receive a tax cut.

The fact of the matter is that the income differences within the top 5% are far wider than the differences between the lower tax brackets and the “rich” American in the 96th percentile.

For Obama, being “rich” begins with $250,000 in annual income, the bottom rung of the top 5 percent. Compare this “rich” income to that of, for example, Hank Paulson, President George W. Bush’s Treasury Secretary when he was the head of Goldman Sachs.

In 2005 Paulson was paid $38.3 million in salary, stock and options. That is 153 times the annual income of the “rich” $250,000 person.

Despite his massive income, Paulson himself was not among the super rich of that year, when a dozen hedge fund operators made $1,000 million. The hedge fund honchos incomes were 26 times greater than Paulson’s and 4,000 times greater than the “rich” man’s or family’s $250,000.

For most Americans, a $250,000 income would be a godsend, but envy can make us blind. A $250,000 income is not one that will support a rich lifestyle. Moreover, many people prefer lesser incomes to the years of education, long work hours and stress of personal liability that are associated with many $250,000 incomes. In truth, those with $250,000 gross incomes have more in common with those at the lower end of the income distribution than with the rich. A $250,000 income is ten times greater than a $25,000 income, not hundreds or thousands of times greater. On an after-tax basis, the difference shrinks to about 6 times.

The American tax code taxes the $250,000 income at the same rate as it taxes a $100,000,000 or higher income. On an after tax basis, after the federal government grabs 30% in income taxes and state government grabs 6%, the “rich” man or woman or family earning $250,000 has $160,000. In New York City, where there is a city income tax in addition to state and federal, this sum diminishes further. State sales taxes take another 6 or more percent of most consumption expenditures.

When all is said and done, the after-tax value of a $250,000 income in New York City is about $140,000.

Is this rich? It might be in a small town in Alabama, but not in New York City. The “rich” person or family won’t be purchasing a Manhattan apartment, much less a brownstone. They won’t be driving a luxury car. Indeed, they won’t be able to afford a parking garage for an economy car. If they fly anywhere, it won’t be in a first class seat.

For the most part, $250,000 incomes are located in large cities where the cost of living is high. For example, a husband and wife who are associates at major law firms, each of whom works 60 hour weeks and has no job security, earn $125,000 each. They might both have student loans to pay down. For the Obama administration to lump these people in with Hank Paulson or billionaire hedge fund operators is propagandistic.

What is the difference between the $250,000 “rich” income and the $245,000 “non-rich” income? After Obama’s tax scheme goes into effect, the $245,000 income will benefit from a tax cut, and the $250,000 will have a tax increase. Will people in the 96th percentile ask for pay cuts that will drop them into the 95th percentile?

In America, the truly rich are those in the top 0.5% of the income distribution. These are the people with yachts, private airplanes, and who are still rich after they lose half their wealth in a stock market collapse caused by government policy that accommodated financial gangsters.

“Oh well, I was worth $600,000,000 last year and only $300,000,000 this year. Perhaps we should stop drinking $1,000 bottles of rare vintages and move down to $100 a bottle wines. Probably shouldn’t buy that new yacht or that villa in the south of France.”

The upper middle class with $250,000 gross incomes are major losers of the financial collapse. Many of the people in this income class are leveraged to the hilt in order to maintain appearances and can be swept away as easily as the very poor. But those who were frugal and invested for their future have lost 50% of their savings. These wiped out people are the ones who will bear the brunt of Obama’s tax increase.

If the tax rate on a multi-million dollar annual income goes up by 5 percentage points, the cutbacks won’t really affect the lifestyle. But for the $250,000 gross income group, it means no prospect of private schools and Ivy League education for the children, who will be attending state colleges with the rest of the non-rich.

Obama is attacking the only income class that has any independence--the upper middle class professionals. The real rich are few in number and seldom present any opposition to government. Recently, the New York Times reported (March 23, 2009) that the 400 richest Americans’ “share of the nation’s total wealth has nearly doubled to more than 22 percent.” The average income of the 400 richest Americans is $263 million annually. That is 1,052 times the income of the “rich” $250,000 income.

What the Obama administration is really doing is taxing ordinary people in order to bail out the super rich. The 95% of Americans who get the tax cut will find that it is offset many times by the depreciation in the dollar and the raging inflation that will result from monetizing the multi-trillion dollar budget deficits made necessary by the bailouts of the banksters.

In the United States, government has become expert at manipulating both left-wing and right-wing ideologies. It keeps those on both ends of the spectrum set at each other’s throats in order to ensure the government’s continuing independence from accountability.

Historically, the definition of a free person is a person who owns his own labor. Serfs were not free, because they owed their feudal lords, the government of that time, a maximum of one-third of their labor. Nineteenth century slaves were not free, because their owners could expropriate 50% of their labor.

Today, no American is a free person. The lowest tax rate, not counting state income, property tax and sales tax, is 15% Social Security tax and 15% federal income tax. The “free American” starts off with a 30% tax rate, the position of a medieval serf.

In medieval Europe, when tax rates reached beyond 30%, serfs rebelled and killed their masters.

Author's Bio: Paul Craig Roberts, a former Assistant Secretary of the US Treasury and former associate editor of the Wall Street Journal, has held numerous academic appointments. He has been reporting shocking cases of prosecutorial abuse for two decades. A new edition of his book, The Tyranny of Good Intentions, co-authored with Lawrence Stratton, a documented account of how Americans lost the protection of law, was published by Random House in March, 2008.

Original Content at:


Go on-site for the numerous and (this time) interesting comments, and art work. It's worth the read. SRH
. . . . . . . . .

Saundra Hummer
March 30th, 2009, 03:01 PM

Insanity: Doing the Same Thing Over and Over and Expecting Different Results

Bob Kendall
03:24:07 PM EST
America's liberals are laying into Obama headlined the front page Financial Times March 28, an article by Edward Luce in Washington:
"Paul Krugman describes the toxic asset purchase plan as `cash for trash.' Jeffrey Sach calls it a `thinly veiled attempt to transfer hundreds of billions of U.S. taxpayer funds to the commercial banks.' Robert Reich depicts Tim Geithner, Treasury Secretary, as a prisoner of Wall Street while Joe Stiglitz says the plan `amounts to the robbery of the American people.'

"Democrat economists accuse Mr. Obama along with Mr. Geithner, and Lawrence Summers, the president's senior economic adviser, of taking dictation from the same financiers who have brought the economy to the brink of depression."

Herbert J. Gans, professor emeritus of Sociology at Columbia University, on March 29 was published on the New York Times editorial page:

"Perhaps political support will now begin to build for developing the considerably more progressive income and wealth taxes needed to help pay the country's bills in future years."
Kathryn Fitzgerald of Toronto was published March 24 in the New York Times Letters to the Editors:

"Your March 24 (`The Bank Rescue') editorial 'Rescue Plan, with Fine Print, Dazzles Wall St.' says it all. Wall St. caused the global financial meltdown and refuses to be held accountable for its mistakes, misdeeds and greed.

"Wall St. is now dazzled by Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner's latest rescue plan suggestions that those of us on Main Street are getting a raw deal: corrupt and incompetent bankers receiving yet another windfall at taxpayers expense."

It is past time to do what should have been done long ago and nationalize the federal reserve.

Paul Schoenbaum of Williamsburg, VA on March 24 wrote this letter to the New York Times:

"You are correct on the approach that you advocate for insolvent banks. You say 'There is no getting around firing the executives and failing banks, acknowledging the losses, wiping out shareholders and then deciding how the government can best restructure the institutions.'

"What is needed is a surgical approach, rather than a series of band-aids to cleanse the banking system so the economy can be jump started sooner rather than much later if at all under the questionable plan offered by Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner."

The plain truth revealed in these letters is what we do not need is more of the same, yet this is what is happening as under Obama's plan toxic assets are purchased by taxpayers while those who have failed in the past have had their risky failures underwritten.

It is indeed irrational to let the same bank bandits do the same thing over and over and expect different results.

KEYWORDS: Wall Street Bailout, Robert Reich, Joe Stiglitz, Lawrence Summers, Timothy Geithner


Saundra Hummer
March 30th, 2009, 03:15 PM

A Shameful Right Wing Message of Hate and Lies
10/24/2008 12:31:17 AM EST
If it weren't for the particularly nasty tone or incessantly misleading words contained in an October 20 opine by Linda Harvey in the conservative "World Net Daily", any response to Mission America's typically insecure, filth laced and fright filled hyperbole wouldn't be worthy of time or effort.
But, in this case, a word or two, perhaps even a counter attack are warranted because, in her latest poisonous diatribe, Harvey not only spews lies about one of the LGBT community's most respected organizations, the Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network, or GLSEN, but also attempts to link her lies to the candidacy of Democratic Presidential Candidate Barack Obama.

cross-posted from OPEDNEWS
Barring a vision from the Lord himself,there is probably no way to alter the thinking of those who subscribe to the philosophy of fringe right wing groups like the Columbus Ohio based Mission America and its leader Linda Harvey.

And, if it weren't for the particularly nasty tone or incessantly misleading words contained in an October 20 opine by Linda Harvey in the conservative "World Net Daily", any response to Mission America's typically insecure, filth laced and fright filled hyperbole wouldn't be worthy of time or effort.

But, in this case, a word or two, perhaps even a counter attack are warranted because, in her latest poisonous diatribe, Harvey not only spews lies about one of the LGBT community's most respected organizations, the Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network, or GLSEN, but also attempts to link her lies to the candidacy of Democratic Presidential Candidate Barack Obama.

Understanding just how fringe Mission America is easy. This is a group that beckons visitors to its web page by advertising "learn the truth about homosexuality, witchcraft, changing Christian Church, Radical Feminism and the Youth Culture. Even more "mainstream" right wing groups may find this a bit outrageous.

Mission America calls itself a public policy analysis foundation. According to its 2007 tax returns, the private non operating foundation Mission America took in a meager $12,000 in contributions and donations. On its IRS Form 990 PF on a question where it asks did the foundation attempt to influence any national, state or local legislation or participate in any political campaigns, Harvey, or whoever filled out the returns, checked NO.

That said, there's no doubt Harvey and her writing is indeed attempting to influence this year's campaign. And, she's using a tired tactic, one long used by those on the far right that attempts to plant seeds of fear, be they racial, spook tactics on national security or in this case, the always reliable hot button homosexual agenda.

Currently featured in a prominent spot on the group's web page is a link to the article "Advocate of homosexual corruption of kids is leader in Obama's campaign.

That link then takes visitors to 'Gay" pedophilia and Obama', the "World Net Daily" piece where Linda Harvey asks if Obama agrees with his GLBT supporters.

Harvey's article charges that the LGBT organization GLSEN's mission "has been to plant 'gay' clubs and training programs in as many schools as possible" calling those groups a Trojan Horse into America's school children's minds.

She says that the "more closely one reads the GLSEN material, the worse it gets," implying that all manner of sexually suggestive material and pedophilia are acceptable behaviors. She says "just about every sexual practice imaginable is apparently acceptable and even worthy of celebration by any age student or teacher as far as GLSEN is concerned."

Then she asks "is this the kind of 'school reform' Obama has in mind?"

Harvey makes these charges because GLSEN's founder, Kevin Jennings, happens to be a prominent fundraiser in the LGBT community for the Obama campaign.

In the article, she says that Obama should remove Jennings from his 'position' and that voters need answers to a series of questions from Obama regarding his stance or beliefs about the origins, practice and acceptance of homosexuality especially when it comes to school aged children.

She then kicks her piece with "if we want a totalitarian, pansexual society, with its accompanying disease, dysfunction and abuse, and no room for nobility, goodness and tradition, then we need to make sure we vote for Obama with all his various revolutionary hangers-on, including Jennings." If, on the other hand, we envision another America, it's time to speak up now."

Well, Ms Harvey is correct, we do need to speak up.

It's nothing short of pathetic that Mission America would resort to such disgusting misleading smears that use vulnerable children in a Presidential campaign.

Perhaps her desperation arose out of the clear indication that If the "another America" Harvey envisions resembles the noble, good society where the 'tradition' of the past eight years are celebrated, according to a number of polls, most Americans plan to pass this go round.

Clearly, most voters are choosing to look beyond the political smokescreen of far right groups like Harvey's Mission America that have long sought to steer voters from the true issues affecting their lives, and their children's futures by raising false charges about candidates like Harvey does in her Obama/GLSEN piece. There are greater concerns occupying the minds of voters than an LGBT fundraiser at the Obama campaign.

But, besides that, if Americans look at the fine work of all the LGBT organizations in America, GLSEN has the distinction of perhaps being one of the more politically benign. It's mission is clear and it actually speaks to a fundament of who we are as a nation, the opportunity for all Americans to receive a quality education in a safe learning environment.

The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network narrows its mission 'to assure that each member of every school community is valued and respected regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression.'

Exactly how does that mission mission cross over into pedophilia?

GLSEN's battles have been defined by its own research.
According to a recent GLSEN survey of almost seven thousand school children across the nation, 86.2% of LGBT students reported being verbally harassed, 44.1% reported being physically assaulted because of their sexual orientation. Around 74 percent heard derogatory remarks like "faggot" or "dyke" used often at school. According to the survey, more than 60 percent of students felt unsafe because of their sexual orientation.

Linda Harvey and her friends at Mission America must not remember what goes on in the hallways or schoolyards of America's schools. The truth is, kids can be extremely cruel, often resorting to name calling and bullying, unfortunate behaviors usually directed at the most vulnerable, those perceived as different or weak, maybe the less than masculine male, or the masculine appearing female. Harvey fails to understand that those taunts, those abuses, that even the victims themselves are often ashamed of, have the ability to leave a child feeling isolated, alone and damaged. Those insults backed up by much of society's deep prejudices have the ability to cripple the self esteem and psychological health of children for years, if not lifetimes.

And, what good does it do the child issuing those taunts, or more importantly, the child on the receiving end of those taunts, when his or her parent, has read a piece like Linda Harvey's or any of the other vicious material on her website, where she has equated the mission of GLSEN and the candidacy of Barack Obama to pedophila or the "homosexual agenda?"

While GLSEN does indeed help in the establishment of what are called Gay Straight Alliances in schools across the nation, the fact is, they are more prominent in places that tend to be more tolerant, places with more socially open school districts, and rarely in the rural hamlets of Mississippi or Alabama, places where if a child who happens to be different, perhaps gay or lesbian, life can be hellish, perhaps destructive and very lonely.

If parents in those more conservative areas are subscribing to the hate filled vitriol of Linda Harvey and her crowd, a child may feel he or she has no place to turn.

Back in 1989, the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued its "Report on the Secretary's Task Force on Youth Suicide," which found that "a majority of suicide attempts by homosexuals occur during their youth, and gay youth are 2 to 3 times more likely to attempt suicide than other young people.

In 2001, the American Psychological Association said that suicide is the number one cause of death for gay teens.

Calling someone heterosexual or straight is not a common insult or perceived as hurtful. In most school yards, shopping malls, social functions or other gathering places the straight jock or pretty cheerleader has less to worry about when it comes to the prejudices facing them. But the prejudices, even disregard for humanity that gets reinforced by the rhetoric of ghoulish figures like Linda Harvey, individuals who spew poisonous rhetoric, reinforcing hate for political gain into the minds of concerned parents and voters is nothing short of shameful.

KEYWORDS: Obama, GLSEN, Kevin Jennings, Mission America, Linda Harvey, LGBT, Campaign 2008
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Saundra Hummer
March 30th, 2009, 04:08 PM
^ ^ ^


03/30/2009 04:34 PM


Iran Ups Support for Gaza and Lebanon Hardliners

Iran is reportedly increasing its military aid to both Hezbollah and Hamas, according to Israeli intelligence sources. Meanwhile, Tehran is suspected of interfering in the reconciliation talks between the rival Palestinian factions.
It appears that Iran is continuing with is massive support for extremist groups that are intent on attacking Israel. A 20-page dossier compiled by the Israeli intelligence agencies, which has been seen by SPIEGEL, reports that Iran "has strengthened its operative help to Palestinian terror groups." The military aid is said to take the form of supplies of weapons, ammunitions and money, as well as the education and training of fighters.

Masked Palestinians take part on an anti-Israel rally organised by Hamas in the Gaza Strip. (PHOTO: go on-site to view.)
The weapons are reported to include mortar shells and anti-tank missiles such as RAAD missiles, which are manufactured in Iran. They are said to be transported by land, sea and air. According to the report, Teheran has sent agents to establish posts along the smuggling routes to guarantee a smooth delivery.

The findings of other intelligence agencies in the Middle East also indicate that Iran is sending weapons and explosives to Hezbollah in Lebanon and to the Palestinian radical group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip. The latest indication of this kind of support came with a failed attack on a shopping center in the Israeli port of Haifa on Sunday, March 22. Security forces managed to disable several dozen kilograms of explosives that had been loaded into a car parked outside the mall. Both Palestinian and Israeli experts who cooperated on the case believe that the attempted attack was the work of Iranian-backed Hezbollah.

Meanwhile, the Israelis have carried out aerial attacks in Sudan in an attempt to halt the delivery of weapons to Hamas -- including rockets with a range of 70 kilometers, far enough to reach Tel Aviv from the Gaza Strip. The Israeli Air Force bombed a convoy of 17 trucks travelling through the Sudanese desert which were attempting to deliver weapons to Gaza via Egypt. The two bombing raids in January and February killed more than 30 people, including Sudanese, Ethiopians and Eritreans. Last Thursday a Sudanese government official confirmed the attacks took place and on Friday the New York Times quoted unnamed US officials saying Israeli warplanes had attacked the convoy.

The level to which Iran is intervening politically in the region is made evident by the failure of attempts so far to achieve reconciliation between the rival Palestinian factions. The moderate Fatah movement of President Mahmoud Abbas, which controls the West Bank, is locked in a bitter conflict with the radical Islamist group Hamas, which forced Fatah out of the Gaza Strip in June 2007. Sources close to the Egyptian mediation efforts say that an agreement between the two sides has been tentatively close on several occasions. There had even been a deal to release 450 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails in exchange for the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit who is being held hostage by Hamas. However, even the veteran Egyptian mediators had underestimated Iran's influence.

Khaled Mashaal is regarded as Tehran's man in Hamas. The politburo chief lives in exile in Damascus but in recent months he has been frequently on the move, with Iran one of his most important destinations. Many Fatah officials, such as Ibrahim Abu al-Nasha from Gaza City who has known Mashaal for over 30 years, are convinced that the Hamas leader allowed the talks to fail under pressure from Tehran.

The Fatah veteran explains Mashaal's resistance to reconciliation between the Palestinian factions by rubbing his thumb and index finger together -- the sign for the money he assumes Iran has paid the Hamas leader to buy his hardline position.

Despite the setbacks talks are expected to resume this Wednesday to try to heal the rift between the rival Palestinian factions and the issue is expected to be an important item on the agenda at the Arab League summit that started in Qatar on Monday.

SPIEGEL/wire reports
SPIEGEL Interview with the Emir of Qatar: 'We Are Coming to Invest' (03/29/2009)
Iranian Elections: 'Khatami Sacrificed Himself' (03/23/2009)
Changing Regime Change: US and EU Need a Unified Strategy for Iran (03/02/2009)
SPIEGEL Interview with Iranian Foreign Minister Mottaki: 'The Mass Murdering Must Come to an End' (01/13/2009)

All Rights Reserved
^ ^ ^ ^ ^

Saundra Hummer
March 30th, 2009, 05:41 PM

Political Punch

Power, pop, and probings from ABC News Senior White House Correspondent Rick Wagoner:
"Sacrificial Lamb" or Corporate Ostrich?

March 30, 2009 11:19 AM

Go on-site to view:
Jake Tapper is ABC News' Senior White House Correspondent based in the network's Washington bureau. He writes about politics and popular culture and covers a range of national stories.
On another network this morning, Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm described former General Motors chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner as a "sacrificial lamb" in the Obama administration's attempts to force U.S. automakers to, in their view, aggressively restructure.

A "sacrificial lamb"?

Under Wagoner's tenure, GM's market share declined from 29 percent in 2000, when Wagoner took the reins, to its 2008 rate of 20 percent.

When he took control of the company, the stock was peaking around $90 a share. It's currently below $3 a share. That's about $50 billion in shareholder wealth that has vanished.

GM in the last two years has lost $70 billion.

And then there's the restructuring plan Wagoner submitted to the Treasury Department last month, one the Obama administration considers weak, with unrealistic sales assessments and insufficient urgency.

"The GM plan, in its current form, is not viable and will need to be restructured substantially," a senior administration official says.

How so?

. Some of the restructuring initiatives aren't set to be finished until 2014;
. The assumptions in GM’s business plan are too optimistic -- the company has been losing 0.7 percent of the market share every year for the last 30 years, and yet GM's projections assume a decline of only 0.3 percent;
. President Obama's auto task force believes GM's plan retains too many dud nameplates (Hummer, Saturn, Saab, Pontiac) that tarnish the GM brand, "distract the focus of its management team, demand increasingly scarce marketing dollars and are a lingering drag on consumer perception, market share and margin";
. GM's plan doesn't close enough unprofitable/underperforming car dealers quickly enough, in the Obama administration's view;
. GM's plan relies too much on the high-margin trucks and SUVs that are "vulnerable to energy cost-driven shifts in consumer demand";
. GM lags significantly on green R&D;
even with all its optimistic assessments, the plan assumes too much debt.
Obviously, not all of this can be blamed on Wagoner, and GM has made a number of advances.

But as the chairman and CEO, shall we say, the Buick stops with him.

- jpt

March 30, 2009 | Permalink | User Comments (39)

User Comments

Mar 30, 2009 1:29:52 PM



Saundra Hummer
March 30th, 2009, 09:07 PM
About our president: Just a few things being reported on today, these came in in a news brief, my alerts.

Talking about President Obama hitting the ground running, that saying can't even begin to cover it.

Here's the alerts, all in one email I might add.

Obama signs Christopher Reeve bill
C-Health Mon, 30 Mar 2009 14:05 PM PDT
WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama has signed into law a bill named for "Superman" actor Christopher Reeve that provides for paralysis research and rehabilitation.

White House moves dramatically on auto industry
AP via Yahoo! Finance Mon, 30 Mar 2009 14:04 PM PDT
President Barack Obama declared Monday that General Motors and Chrysler restructuring plans were too little too late, leaving him no choice but to push out GM's chief executive and set a one-month deadline for Chrysler to merge with Italy's Fiat SpA.

Obama Puts GM, Chrysler on Short Leash
FOX 4 News Dallas - Fort Worth Mon, 30 Mar 2009 14:03 PM PDT
President Barack Obama asserted unprecedented government control over the auto industry Monday, bluntly rejecting turnaround plans by General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC, demanding fresh concessions as the price for long-term federal aid and raising the possibility of controlled bankruptcy for either ailing auto giant.

Obama signs wide-ranging conservation law
AFP via Yahoo! UK & Ireland News Mon, 30 Mar 2009 14:03 PM PDT
President Barack Obama signed legislation on Monday expanding and protecting US public parks and wilderness areas from oil and gas development, billed as the largest US conservation measure in more than 15 years.

President signs bill authorizing Ute Water Project
Portales News-Tribune Mon, 30 Mar 2009 14:02 PM PDT
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama signed a public lands omnibus bill Monday containing authorization for the Ute Water Project.

Obama OKs New Wilderness Protections
KPRC Local 2 Houston Mon, 30 Mar 2009 14:01 PM PDT
President Barack Obama has signed legislation that sets aside more than 2 million acres as protected wilderness. The president said the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 -- a collection of nearly 170 separate measures -- protects the land, lakes and shorelines for future generations.

Analysis: Obama's Afghan policy -- deja vu
UPI Mon, 30 Mar 2009 14:00 PM PDT
By CLAUDE SALHANI UPI Contributing Editor WASHINGTON, March 30 (UPI) -- President Barack Obama's new Afghan policy is eerily reminiscent of President Lyndon B. Johnson's Vietnam policy, when in 1965 Johnson announced the buildup of the war in Southeast Asia, saying he was sending more U.S. combat troops to Vietnam as well as civilian workers.

The Kalamazoo Gazette Mon, 30 Mar 2009 13:58 PM PDT
President Barack Obama raised the possibility of bankruptcy for General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC when he laid out his plan for the restructuring of the two troubled automakers Monday. And with that came a new term uttered by an...

Zimbabwe: Sanctions Counter-Productive
AllAfrica.com Mon, 30 Mar 2009 13:57 PM PDT
For those who for what so ever reason had given United States of America President Barack Obama the benefit of the doubt have to think again especially with regards to his recent pronouncements on Zimbabwe.

Obama signs bill protecting wilderness acreage
The Jackson Sun Mon, 30 Mar 2009 13:57 PM PDT
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama has signed legislation that sets aside more than 2 million acres as protected wilderness.


These are just todays. There's been so much more since he first took office.

No one can accuse Barack Obama of being a "Do nothing" president, for good or not, now can they?

I have one thing I'm hoping to see him change and that is his approval and backing of Ethanol. Look up it's destructive properties in a google search. It needs to be stopped, the government making it mandatory for us to use in our cars and trucks. This is so wrong to my way of thinking. It destroys engine parts; the parts necessary to run gas engines. It is costly and damaging, it causes fires and it ruins valves, etc.

It's illegal in airplanes as it's known just how destructive it is. No one wants to fall out of the sky due to it's damaging properties. SRH

Saundra Hummer
March 30th, 2009, 09:30 PM
. . . . .

Banks Starting to Walk Away on Foreclosures


sent by Fiore since 9 hours 55 minutes, published about 5 hours 24 minutesMercy James thought she had lost her rental property here to foreclosure. A date for a sheriff’s sale had been set, and notices about the foreclosure process were piling up in her mailbox.Ms. James had the tenants move out, and soon her white house at the corner of Thomas and Maple Streets fell into the hands of looters and vandals, and then, into disrepair. Dejected and broke, Ms. James said she salvaged but a lesson from her loss. So imagine her surprise when the City of South Bend contacted her recently, demanding that she resume maintenance on the property. The sheriff’s sale had been canceled at the last minute, leaving the property title — and a world of trouble — in her name. “I thought, ‘What kind of game is this?’ ” Ms. James, 41, said while picking at trash at the house, now so worthless the city plans to demolish it — another bill for which she will be liable. City officials and housing advocates here and in cities as varied as Buffalo, Kansas City, Mo., and Jacksonville, Fla., say they are seeing an unsettling development: Banks are quietly declining to take possession of properties at the end of the foreclosure process, most often because the cost of the ordeal — from legal fees to maintenance — exceeds the diminishing value of the real estate. The so-called bank walkaways rarely mean relief for the property owners, caught unaware months after the fact, and often mean additional financial burdens and bureaucratic headaches.

tags: banks, foreclosures, mortgages
4 comments/category: Business and Economy karma: 184
. . . . . . .

Saundra Hummer
March 30th, 2009, 10:55 PM
* * * * *

Conspiracy Theory (DVD) with Julia Roberts
Richard Donner
Go on-site for photo.

Okay, Mel Gibson is a drunken, fundamentalist Catholic, Anti-Semite. We don't approve of his statements or behavior. Let's get that out of the way.

Still, you can't ignore his acting before he fell from grace due to his own offensive beliefs. And he and Julia Roberts do a bang-up job in this overlooked Hollywood conspiracy thriller from a few years back. It's especially relevant because it involves a rogue CIA assassination unit. Anyone recently read about Seymour Hersh's revelation that there was a secret assassination unit that reported only to Cheney?

So this is one conspiracy theory in a movie that has a lot of timely relevance, even though it was made some time ago.

Actually, time has proven "Conspiracy Theory" to be prescient.

Yes, there's a lot of violence in the film -- as well as a quirky, offbeat budding romance between the "crazed" conspiracy theorist (Gibson) and a lawyer in the U.S. Attorney's office (Roberts). And there are occasional chase scenes that are thrilling but push at the edge of the credibility envelope a bit.

But the basic "conspiracy" upon which the film is based has, apparently, proven true (although the assassination unit reporting to Cheney is allegedly part of the military, not the CIA). And Gibson does a convincing job of portraying a poor man's Jason Bourne, spewing out his conspiracy theories to passengers in his New York taxi cab.

And they are hesitant about investigating this man? This sorry excuse of a man, one who should have never wielded so much power, as he only abused and abused it. Maybe people are, and were, afraid of what he could do to them. He had and still has that kind of power.

Funny, now I can post about him and my computer isn't crashing, yet he is still someone to be careful of, I'd have to imagine. What is he capable of these days? A whole lot don't you think?

He's a spook.


* * * * *

Saundra Hummer
March 31st, 2009, 02:41 PM
. . . . . . .


March 31, 2009 by Faiz Shakir, Amanda Terkel, Satyam Khanna, Matt Corley, Benjamin Armbruster, Ali Frick, and Ryan Powers


Introducing PNAC 2.0
Today in Washington D.C., neoconservatives William Kristol, Robert Kagan, and Dan Senor will officially launch their new war incubator -- The Foreign Policy Initiative -- with a half-day conference on "the path to success in Afghanistan" (never mind the fact that Kagan and Kristol declared that "the endgame seems to be in sight in Afghanistan" almost seven years ago). Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard, and Kagan, Carnegie Endowment fellow and Washington Post columnist, have long histories of advocating policies that rely heavily on the United States exerting its influence throughout the world by using military force. Senor, who has stayed relatively under the radar, served as Coalition Provisional Authority spokesman in Iraq under L. Paul Bremer. But as the New Yorker's George Packer noted, Senor "slowly lost his credibility in the daily press briefings he gave...during the first year of the occupation of Baghdad." In its initial focus on the war in Afghanistan, FPI chose heavy representation of Iraq war advocates for its panelists and guest speakers. As the Wonk Room's Matt Duss recently wrote, "a far better title" for FPI's maiden voyage would be "Afghanistan: Dealing With The Huge Problems Created By Many Of The People On This Very Stage."

'PNAC=MISSION ACCOMPLISHED': Kristol and Kagan -- with support from Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, and Donald Rumsfeld -- co-founded the Project for a New American Century (PNAC) in the late 1990s with the mission "to shape circumstances before crises emerge, and to meet threats before they become dire." Military force was always an option, and often the preferred one. Indeed, the group led the charge to get President Clinton to sign the Iraq Liberation Act in 1998, and it served as a key lobby for the invasion of Iraq in 2003. But with neoconservatism now all but dead and its principles soundly rejected in the 2006 and 2008 elections, the face of PNAC 2.0 -- The Foreign Policy Initiative -- is less bellicose. Indeed, as Duss recently noted, "this new very innocuous sounding Foreign Policy Institute" indicates that neoconservatives "understand that they have something of an image problem," adding that it is "encouraging" that they "have some relation to reality." Yet there is no reason to believe there will be much of an ideological shift from its its predecessor, as its main founders -- especially Kristol -- are still deeply wedded to neoconservatism. Indeed, Michael Goldfarb, PNAC alum and editor of The Weekly Standard, wrote on Twitter yesterday: "PNAC=Mission Accomplished; New mission begins tomorrow morning with the launch of FPI."

ALREADY AT ODDS: Senor told Foreign Policy magazine last week that part of the group's mission is to build "consensus" on major international issues that challenge the current thinking of those who currently hold power in the U.S. government. "We think there needs to be consensus on the other side of these issues," he said. Yet even before the organization's first event, it appears that FPI is having trouble building that "consensus." Kristol called President Obama's recent "historic" message to Iran "an embarrassment" and a "message of weakness," claiming Obama has "no sense of urgency about Iran's nuclear program" and is "kowtowing" to its leaders. However, it appears that Kagan did not get Senor's "consensus" memo. Days later, commenting on Obama's message, Kagan offered a relatively more sensible view. "[T]here is logic to the administration's approach. After all, if the White House is going to give diplomacy and engagement a chance, it might as well do so thoroughly and aggressively," he wrote in the Washington Post. "I honestly can't see the harm in the Obama administration's efforts. I hope they succeed," he said.

EXPECT NO ACCOUNTABILITY: Despite the fact that the invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq has been regarded as one of the worst foreign policy blunders in American history, expect no remorse from the PNAC/FPI crowd. In fact, Kristol has been declaring victory in Iraq at every step of the way, from saying in April 2003 that the "battles of Afghanistan and Iraq have been won decisively and honorably," to claiming last December, "We've won the war" in Iraq. Just last week, a caller on C-SPAN's Washington Journal asked Kristol if he would apologize for hyping the threat from Saddam Hussein before the war, given that no WMD existed and "the fact that there are 4,500 American lives lost there." "No. I think the war was right, and I think we've succeeded in the war," Kristol replied. While Senor thinks the war has been a huge defeat for Iran (it hasn't), Packer noted that Kagan has "written many words about the war, but has never been able to acknowledge his own intellectual failures on Iraq." Despite the failures of neoconservatism, FPI's mission statement contains the neo-neocon buzz words: military engagement in the world, "rogue regimes," "rogue states," "spread...freedom," "strong military" (with a "defense budget" to back it up), "fascism," "communism," and "pre-9/11 tactics." Discussing FPI with Duss last week, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow asked, "Why is it that people who are catastrophically wrong about big important things like foreign policy and war never, like, flunk out of that as a subject? "There seems to be this special dispensation in American foreign policy that, as long as you are wrong on the side of more military force, then all is forgiven," Duss replied. He added that "the way it works in Washington, if you're arguing for more military intervention which necessitates more military expenditures, you're always going to find someone to fund your think-tank."

RADICAL RIGHT -- FORMER CHENEY AIDE SUGGESTS THAT HERSH'S ACCOUNT OF 'EXECUTIVE ASSASSINATION RING' IS 'CERTAINLY TRUE': Last month, The New Yorker's Seymour Hersh revealed in Minnesota that former vice president Cheney presided over an "executive assassination ring." "Under President Bush's authority, they've been going into countries, not talking to the ambassador or the CIA station chief, and finding people on a list and executing them and leaving," Hersh explained. Yesterday, CNN interviewed Hersh and former Cheney national security aide John Hannah. Although he expressed regret for revealing the story (calling it a "dumb-dumb"), Hersh stood by his initial statements. "I'm sorry, Wolf, I have a lot of problems with it," he said about the assassination scheme. "I know for sure...the idea that we have a unit that goes around, without reporting to Congress...and has authority from the President to go into the country without telling the CIA station chief or the ambassador and whack somebody," said Hersh. Hannah replied that Hersh's account of the assassination scheme "is not true." Yet, in the same breath, when asked about a "list" of assassination targets, Hannah largely echoed Hersh's statements. Hannah said that "troops in the field" are given "authority" to "capture or kill certain individuals" who are perceived as a threat. "That's certainly true," said Hannah.

BUSINESS -- OUSTED GM CEO RICK WAGONER TO RECEIVE $20 MILLION RETIREMENT PACKAGE: Yesterday, CEO of General Motors Rick Wagoner announced that he was stepping down at the request of the Obama administration. Subsequently, ABC News reported that Wagoner will receive a $20.2 million retirement package, despite his ineligibility for severance pay. With Wagoner at the helm, GM lost tens of billions of dollars, requiring the federal government to loan over $13.4 billion to the ailing company. Additionally, as CEO, Wagoner "cut tens of thousands of jobs and announced plans to cut 47,000 employees by the end of 2009." In 2008, he was one of the three auto executives to travel by private jet to Washington to participate in congressional hearings on the then-proposed government bailout of the auto industry. Still, Wagoner is set to receive $20.2 million in retirement benefits for his 32 years of service. According to GM spokeswoman Julie Gibson, this will be paid out as an annuity over five years with a remaining portion saved for lifetime payments. The conditions of the current TARP agreement between GM and the Treasury Department prohibit severance pay to senior executives. Yet as the Washington Post reported, "That ban does not appear to apply to retirement benefits." "I think it's another perfect example of why there's so much frustration among working people," said Tiffany Ten Eyck of Labor Notes, a Detroit-based independent publication covering unions.

ADMINISTRATION -- CLINTON SAYS ADMINISTRATION 'OBVIOUSLY' HAS STOPPED SAYING 'WAR ON TERROR': Throughout his tenure in office, President Bush routinely lambasted critics of the phrase "war on terror," a term his administration coined in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. "This notion about how this isn’t a war on terror in my view is naive. It doesn’t reflect the true nature of the world in which we live," he said in 2007. Earlier this month, the Washington Post reported that the Obama administration "appears to be backing away from the phrase 'global war on terror,' a signature rhetorical legacy of its predecessor." An Office of Management and Budget (OMB) directive reportedly said that the term "Overseas Contingency Operation" should be used instead. However, OMB Director Peter Orszag later distanced himself from the report, saying, "I'm not aware of any communication I've had on that issue. It was a communication by a mid-level career civil service." Similarly, Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said he "never received such a directive. ... Perhaps somebody within OMB may have been a little over-exuberant." Today, however, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton firmly said that the Obama administration has fully broken with the Bush administration's use of the phrase. "It's just not being used," Clinton said en route to the Hague to talk about Afghanistan policy. "The administration has stopped using the phrase and I think that speaks for itself. Obviously."

66 percent: President Obama's approval rating, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. Forty-two percent of the public believes the country is on the "right track," the "highest percentage saying so in five years and marks a sharp turnabout from last fall, when as many as nine in 10 said the country was heading in the wrong direction."

Business Forward, a new trade group founded by several Democratic consultants, is providing business lobbyists an opportunity to court key White House staffers. "Some business trade association representatives see Business Forward as an invention of the White House to create a fissure within the business community, which typically leans Republican."

As President Obama leaves for the G20 summit in London today, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner said there is only "a very small gap" between the United States and Europe on "how to make the [global financial] system more robust and stable." Geithner told the Financial Times regulation would be a sovereign issue, rejecting the idea of a global systemic risk regulator.

The Justice Department announced yesterday that it has decided to release a detainee from Guantanamo Bay named Dr. Ayman Saeed Abdullah Batarfi. Batarfi, "a Yemeni doctor who the Bush administration once claimed had taken part in an anthrax program of Al Qaeda," will be released to "an appropriate destination country." He is the second detainee released by the Obama administration.

Today, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) will "unveil draft legislation to reduce U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions by 20 percent," with the ultimate goal being to reduce emissions to "83 percent below 2005 levels by 2050." The draft "will be missing crucial details for a cap-and-trade program, including how emission credits would be either given to businesses or sold to them via auction." Yglesias explains why auctions are preferable.

Residents in upstate New York's 20th's congressional district will pick the successor to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) today in a race between Republican Jim Tedisco and Democrat Scott Murphy. The race is "tight." President Obama has endorsed Murphy, and Vice President Biden has recorded a radio ad for him.

"Nearly 70 percent of the Pentagon's 96 largest weapons programs were over budget last year,for a combined total of $296 billion more than the original estimates," the Government Accountability Office reported yesterday. The auditing agency also found that "the programs were behind schedule by an average of 22 months, up from 21 months last year and 18 months in 2003."

MSNBC's Keith Olbermann and CNBC's Suze Orman were honored last weekend for supporting and promoting equal rights for the LGBT community. They were honorees at the 20th annual Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) Media Awards.

And finally: Do the personalities on the Fox Business Network have the skills to be rock stars? David Asman, Cody Willard, and others joined together this past weekend to play "Learning to Fly" by the Foo Fighters. Watch their performance here.

President Obama "signed legislation on Monday expanding and protecting US public parks and wilderness areas from oil and gas development, billed as the largest US conservation measure in more than 15 years."

WEST VIRGINIA: State House of Delegates "voted along party lines against advancing a proposed constitutional amendment on marriage. "

TEXAS: Eighteen leading scientists send a letter to the Legislature objecting to a Senate provision restricting funding for embryonic stem cell research.

SOUTH CAROLINA: Gov. Mark Sanford (R-SC) goes after health care funds in latest recovery package battle.

THINK PROGRESS: Fox News blames unions for auto companies' demise, suggests firing the head of the United Auto Workers.

WONK ROOM: General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner heads out, as banking executives stay put.

YGLESIAS: Iraq's still unresolved political conflicts.

HUFFINGTON POST: The View gave Fox News's Bill O'Reilly a pass on his harassment tactics.


"We contacted that Website. We heard nothing."
-- Bill O'Reilly, 3/30/09, saying he contacted ThinkProgress's Amanda Terkel before ambushing her


"Neither I nor anyone else at ThinkProgress ever received any sort of request from anyone at Fox News."
-- Terkel, 3/30/09


The research team that brings you The Progress Report and ThinkProgress.org needs summer interns! Click here for more information.

Go on-site for complete articles, these are summaries.

. . . . . . . . .

Saundra Hummer
March 31st, 2009, 05:37 PM

Former Cheney Aide Suggests That Hersh’s Account Of ‘Executive Assassination Ring’ Is ‘Certainly True’
Last month, The New Yorker’s Seymour Hersh revealed in Minnesota that former vice president Cheney presided over an “executive assassination ring.” “Under President Bush’s authority, they’ve been going into countries, not talking to the ambassador or the CIA station chief, and finding people on a list and executing them and leaving,” Hersh explained.

Today, CNN interviewed Hersh and former Cheney national security aide John Hannah. Although he expressed regret for revealing the story (calling it a “dumb-dumb”), Hersh stood by his initial statements. “I’m sorry, Wolf, I have a lot of problems with it,” he said about the assassination scheme:

HERSH: I know for sure…the idea that we have a unit that goes around, without reporting to Congress… and has authority from the President to go into the country without telling the CIA station chief or the ambassador and whack somebody. … You’ve delegated authority to troops in the field to hit people on the basis of whatever intelligence they think is good.

Hannah replied that Hersh’s account of the assassination scheme “is not true.” Yet in the same breath, when asked about a “list” of assassination targets, Hannah echoed Hersh’s statements. Hannah said that “troops in the field” are given “authority” to “capture or kill certain individuals” who are perceived as a threat. “That’s certainly true,” he said:

Q: Is there a list of suspected terrorists out there who can be assassinated?

HANNAH: There’s clearly a group of people that go through a very extremely well-vetted process, interagency process…that have committed acts of war against the United States, who are at war with the United States or are suspected of planning operations of war against the United States, who authority is given to our troops in the field in certain war theaters to capture or kill those individuals. That is certainly true.

Hannah didn’t directly dispute Hersh’s claim that Congress wasn’t informed about the assassinations. “It is extremely hard for me to believe,” he said. Watch it:

Speaking about the program to MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann, former Nixon White House counsel John Dean said, “It’s potentially a war crime, it‘s potentially just outright murder, and it could clearly be in violation of the Ford executive order” — referring to a 1976 Executive Order that said, “No employee of the United States government shall engage in or conspire to engage in political assassination.”

55 Responses to “Former Cheney Aide Suggests That Hersh’s Account Of ‘Executive Assassination Ring’ Is ‘Certainly True'
blistex11 Says:
hate to disagree with you tokin librul but there are plenty of us who would wholeheartedly agree with anyone who believes that no one is against the law and the constitution of this country.

Obama would get incredible kudos from the american people who are sick and tired of the Bush/Cheney crimes and want to see justice served.

Not only do I disagree with you; in fact, I know what you espouse is untrue. Eric Holder is being pressed to bring investigations and charges as we type.

blistex11 Says:
On one count you are undoubtedly accurate: The longer we sit back and remain silent; the more we look like the germans during Hitler’s crimes.

blistex11 Says:
As we discovered this weekend, Spain is investigating 6 Bushitcos right now on charges of torture. If they take this to the international tribunal not only will other countries join in but this country will be essentially forced to bring these six plus Bush & Cheney to justice as well.

tokin librul Says:
People, people, people…

Do not be naive…

There is absolutely, utterly NO PHUQING WAY anybody in the Obama regime will try to bring ANY charges against ANY former Bushevik.

That is because there is not a single jury in the whole country that would convict any of them for ‘excessive’ zeal in ‘trying to protect the American people.’

We are ALL good Germans now…

Does anyone here seriously entertain the notion that it would be better to prosecute, knowing what kind of political hellstorm would be unleashed upon the country, at a time when we’re already factured along our socio-cultural axis?

It would be complete gridlock. But if Obama doesn’t prosecute, he forces The Hague to act, and it becomes a matter of honoring long-held international treaties, and not internecine conflict involving only Americans. Since we are all good germans, as you say, the same remedy must be pursued, as the WW2 war crimes tribunal. It is the natural course this inevitably must take.

Barb C. Says:
………and those that were “suicided”…..Hunter Thompson…Gary Webb?

Somebody smarter than me should write a book “The Suiciding of Hunter S. Thomson”. Lots of possibilities there. Too bad David Foster Wallace isn’t around to write it.

wizard2000 Says:
Remember the Niger forgeries?

Something similar to Cheney’s right-wing death squads happened in Italy, where forged Niger documents were planted, and then the CIA station chief and the office of the U.S. ambassador to Italy were bypassed, so the documents could wind up in the office of Vice President Cheney and his intelligence chop shop.

These forged Niger documents, alleging that Iraq’s Saddam Hussein had been seeking yellow cake uranium from French-controlled uranium mines in Niger, were used by the Bush/Cheney administration to justify both their Authorization to use Military Force request in late 2002 as well as their preemptive invasion of Iraq in March 2003…along with this manufactured lie showing up in Bush’s 2002 State of the Union address.

But the key was that the CIA station chief in Rome and the U.S. ambassador to Italy were apparently both bypassed so that these forged Niger documents could “get legs” and make it into the Bush/Cheney anti-Iraq portfolio.

Remember when a Muslim cleric was kidnapped off an Italian street and renditioned to a more torture-friendly location? The CIA station chief must have been involved, but the U.S. ambassador to Italy was no doubt left out of the loop. And one has to wonder who in Italian intelligence circles cooperated with the CIA agents who kidnapped this guy, even though an Italian judge later issued arrest warrants for the CIA agents who did the kidnapping?

So the idea that Cheney’s snatch and grab of (and even killing of) suspected “terrorists” has been limited to “war zones,” and executed by our soldiers in the field who are just following orders, is laughable…since in the Bush/Cheney “Global War on Terror” mindset, the entire world is a “war zone” and even our allies, like Italy, apparently have not been immune from these clandestine Bush/Cheney operations.

But Bush and Cheney are now gone (though never forgotten, since their terroristic legacy will linger for a long, long time). The real question is what President Barack Obama (and Vice President Biden) intend on doing with all the secretive, bullying, totalitarian crap handed off to them by Bush and Cheney? Will the new administration succumb to the same temptation? The jury is still out.

mjvpi Says:
This is the result of Iran/Contra being left un-investigated and, for the most part, un-prosecuted. The same characters and their proteges. This demonstrates the need to investigate and prosecute the Bush administration.

tbone Says:
I guess it is time to start writing letters again. I had stopped for awhile because it is just so tiresome, and I had hoped for more on this from Obama.

It disgusts me to no end that torture and other war crimes have been committed in the name of the people of the US.

I also disagree with the viewpoints that have expressed a desire to postpone this or punt it to the international courts. Yeah, things might get messy, but that’s what happens when the rule of law dissolves and institutions abdicate their responsibilities. This country went through 4 years of civil war, but it can’t investigate a former president? People broke laws. The slippery slope is history. We’re already sliding down, and I think it is time we start climbing back up. We should take out our own trash and show some dignity and sense of justice.

March 30th, 2009 at 11:12 pm

I have only included a few of the comments, there are many more and they're oftentimes interesting. SHR


Saundra Hummer
March 31st, 2009, 05:40 PM

Former Cheney Aide Suggests That Hersh’s Account Of ‘Executive Assassination Ring’ Is ‘Certainly True’
Last month, The New Yorker’s Seymour Hersh revealed in Minnesota that former vice president Cheney presided over an “executive assassination ring.” “Under President Bush’s authority, they’ve been going into countries, not talking to the ambassador or the CIA station chief, and finding people on a list and executing them and leaving,” Hersh explained.

Today, CNN interviewed Hersh and former Cheney national security aide John Hannah. Although he expressed regret for revealing the story (calling it a “dumb-dumb”), Hersh stood by his initial statements. “I’m sorry, Wolf, I have a lot of problems with it,” he said about the assassination scheme:

HERSH: I know for sure…the idea that we have a unit that goes around, without reporting to Congress… and has authority from the President to go into the country without telling the CIA station chief or the ambassador and whack somebody. … You’ve delegated authority to troops in the field to hit people on the basis of whatever intelligence they think is good.

Hannah replied that Hersh’s account of the assassination scheme “is not true.” Yet in the same breath, when asked about a “list” of assassination targets, Hannah echoed Hersh’s statements. Hannah said that “troops in the field” are given “authority” to “capture or kill certain individuals” who are perceived as a threat. “That’s certainly true,” he said:

Q: Is there a list of suspected terrorists out there who can be assassinated?

HANNAH: There’s clearly a group of people that go through a very extremely well-vetted process, interagency process…that have committed acts of war against the United States, who are at war with the United States or are suspected of planning operations of war against the United States, who authority is given to our troops in the field in certain war theaters to capture or kill those individuals. That is certainly true.

Hannah didn’t directly dispute Hersh’s claim that Congress wasn’t informed about the assassinations. “It is extremely hard for me to believe,” he said. Watch it:

Speaking about the program to MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann, former Nixon White House counsel John Dean said, “It’s potentially a war crime, it‘s potentially just outright murder, and it could clearly be in violation of the Ford executive order” — referring to a 1976 Executive Order that said, “No employee of the United States government shall engage in or conspire to engage in political assassination.”

55 Responses to “Former Cheney Aide Suggests That Hersh’s Account Of ‘Executive Assassination Ring’ Is ‘Certainly True'
blistex11 Says:
hate to disagree with you tokin librul but there are plenty of us who would wholeheartedly agree with anyone who believes that no one is against the law and the constitution of this country.

Obama would get incredible kudos from the american people who are sick and tired of the Bush/Cheney crimes and want to see justice served.

Not only do I disagree with you; in fact, I know what you espouse is untrue. Eric Holder is being pressed to bring investigations and charges as we type.

blistex11 Says:
On one count you are undoubtedly accurate: The longer we sit back and remain silent; the more we look like the germans during Hitler’s crimes.

blistex11 Says:
As we discovered this weekend, Spain is investigating 6 Bushitcos right now on charges of torture. If they take this to the international tribunal not only will other countries join in but this country will be essentially forced to bring these six plus Bush & Cheney to justice as well.

tokin librul Says:
People, people, people…

Do not be naive…

There is absolutely, utterly NO PHUQING WAY anybody in the Obama regime will try to bring ANY charges against ANY former Bushevik.

That is because there is not a single jury in the whole country that would convict any of them for ‘excessive’ zeal in ‘trying to protect the American people.’

We are ALL good Germans now…

Does anyone here seriously entertain the notion that it would be better to prosecute, knowing what kind of political hellstorm would be unleashed upon the country, at a time when we’re already factured along our socio-cultural axis?

It would be complete gridlock. But if Obama doesn’t prosecute, he forces The Hague to act, and it becomes a matter of honoring long-held international treaties, and not internecine conflict involving only Americans. Since we are all good germans, as you say, the same remedy must be pursued, as the WW2 war crimes tribunal. It is the natural course this inevitably must take.

Barb C. Says:
………and those that were “suicided”…..Hunter Thompson…Gary Webb?

Somebody smarter than me should write a book “The Suiciding of Hunter S. Thomson”. Lots of possibilities there. Too bad David Foster Wallace isn’t around to write it.

wizard2000 Says:
Remember the Niger forgeries?

Something similar to Cheney’s right-wing death squads happened in Italy, where forged Niger documents were planted, and then the CIA station chief and the office of the U.S. ambassador to Italy were bypassed, so the documents could wind up in the office of Vice President Cheney and his intelligence chop shop.

These forged Niger documents, alleging that Iraq’s Saddam Hussein had been seeking yellow cake uranium from French-controlled uranium mines in Niger, were used by the Bush/Cheney administration to justify both their Authorization to use Military Force request in late 2002 as well as their preemptive invasion of Iraq in March 2003…along with this manufactured lie showing up in Bush’s 2002 State of the Union address.

But the key was that the CIA station chief in Rome and the U.S. ambassador to Italy were apparently both bypassed so that these forged Niger documents could “get legs” and make it into the Bush/Cheney anti-Iraq portfolio.

Remember when a Muslim cleric was kidnapped off an Italian street and renditioned to a more torture-friendly location? The CIA station chief must have been involved, but the U.S. ambassador to Italy was no doubt left out of the loop. And one has to wonder who in Italian intelligence circles cooperated with the CIA agents who kidnapped this guy, even though an Italian judge later issued arrest warrants for the CIA agents who did the kidnapping?

So the idea that Cheney’s snatch and grab of (and even killing of) suspected “terrorists” has been limited to “war zones,” and executed by our soldiers in the field who are just following orders, is laughable…since in the Bush/Cheney “Global War on Terror” mindset, the entire world is a “war zone” and even our allies, like Italy, apparently have not been immune from these clandestine Bush/Cheney operations.

But Bush and Cheney are now gone (though never forgotten, since their terroristic legacy will linger for a long, long time). The real question is what President Barack Obama (and Vice President Biden) intend on doing with all the secretive, bullying, totalitarian crap handed off to them by Bush and Cheney? Will the new administration succumb to the same temptation? The jury is still out.

mjvpi Says:
This is the result of Iran/Contra being left un-investigated and, for the most part, un-prosecuted. The same characters and their proteges. This demonstrates the need to investigate and prosecute the Bush administration.

tbone Says:
I guess it is time to start writing letters again. I had stopped for awhile because it is just so tiresome, and I had hoped for more on this from Obama.

It disgusts me to no end that torture and other war crimes have been committed in the name of the people of the US.

I also disagree with the viewpoints that have expressed a desire to postpone this or punt it to the international courts. Yeah, things might get messy, but that’s what happens when the rule of law dissolves and institutions abdicate their responsibilities. This country went through 4 years of civil war, but it can’t investigate a former president? People broke laws. The slippery slope is history. We’re already sliding down, and I think it is time we start climbing back up. We should take out our own trash and show some dignity and sense of justice.

March 30th, 2009 at 11:12 pm

I have only included a few of the comments, there are many more and they're oftentimes interesting. SHR


Saundra Hummer
April 1st, 2009, 02:05 PM

Pissed Off at the Corporate Banking Industry? Here's an Easy Way You Can Hurt Them

Stephen Pizzo
News for Real
Posted on April 1, 2009,
Printed on April 1, 2009
I voted for Barack Obama, and I continue to wish him nothing but success. But I have to admit his and Tim Geithner's solution to the banking crisis is exactly the wrong solution. The administration seems to believe the best thing to do is to throw the drunken "money center" bankers into detox, hose them off and put them back in the game.

It's a bit like asking ExxonMobil to run the Environmental Protection Agency, or appointing Charles Keating to head the General Accounting Office.

The strange thing is that others in the administration, particularly those tasked with straightening out the auto industry, are taking the opposite -- and correct -- tact. They fired the head of GM and cleaned out GM's board of directors for good measure.

That's how you begin fixing stuff that's broke -- first you get rid of the folks who broke it. What you don't do is hand them billions of free bucks, a hearty slap on the back and a rousing "Now, go get 'em tiger!" (Because they will.)

But that's precisely what the administration is doing for America's failed money center banks. The nation's largest banks are often referred to as money market banks or money center banks.

In addition to the traditional markets, to be a money center bank today means to have a global presence as well as heavy involvement in wholesale banking with clients including many retail banks and large corporations. Citibank, JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America fit this description. Here's a list of America's leading money center banks.

So, it appears we will have to take matters into our own hands. By "we" I mean anyone with a checking account, savings account or certificates of deposit. That, my friends, would be you. You are up at bat, and we're counting on you.

What we need to do is force the administration to do to these tumorlike institutions -- currently hiding behind the myth they are "too big to fail" -- what they just did to GM. Tell them that, since taxpayers are now major stakeholders, they must fire their senior management and either clean up the mess they made or face immediate seizure and liquidation.

And just how are you going to force such a change? It's just this simple:

1) If you bank with any of these money center banks, withdraw your funds immediately

2) Go to this site and find an independent community bank in your area and deposit your funds there instead. (Credit unions are another excellent and safe alternative to banking a money center bank.)
That's it. That's the whole enchilada. The outflow of what bankers call "retail funds," if large enough, will become the final straw that breaks the backs of these bulls in our fiscal china shop.

But, you ask, will my money be safe in a small, community bank?

Of course it will be safe, just as safe, maybe safer, than it was at Citibank or BofA. First, community banks are covered by exactly the same deposit insurance as money center banks. But beyond that, community bankers are community bankers. They live in the communities they serve. They know their towns. And, most importantly, they know their borrowers.

Community banks are, for the most part, the last remaining healthy sector of American banking. If they are hurting at all, it's because their customers are losing their jobs, not because they lent a godzillion dollars to some fly-by-night schemer or invested in anything with an AIG logo on it.

A good community banker's definition of a toxic asset is more along the lines of Farmer Jones' wrecked pickup on which the bank holds the paper.

So, if you are customer of one of those money center banks, institutions currently hoarding hundreds of billions of dollars in taxpayer bailout funds, walk right in, sit right down and tell them you want the dough that still has your name on it, and you want it now.

Otherwise these tumor-banks will survive Geithner's weak-kneed chemo treatments to emerge intact to pillage another day.

I don't know if what I am suggesting is legal or not. I remember back in 1983, when I wrote my first story about how a savings and loan was using deregulation to put taxpayers at risk. The thrift's lawyers contacted me at the paper and warned me that they were going monitor withdrawals and, if there were a lot of customers withdrawing their money, they ask that I be arrested and charge with breaking a federal law -- still on the books -- that made it illegal to spark a run on a bank.

I took my chances then, and was proved right. I'll take my chances again. So, run baby. Run.

Stephen Pizzo is the author of numerous books, including Inside Job: The Looting of America's Savings and Loans, which was nominated for a Pulitzer.

© 2009 News for Real All rights reserved.

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Saundra Hummer
April 1st, 2009, 02:18 PM

Is Obama's Car Czar Plotting to Crush the Auto Unions?

David Sirota
Blog for Our Future
Posted on March 1
2009, Printed on April 1, 2009
http://www.alternet.org/story/134389/Remember Gordon Gekko from the movie Wall Street? Specifically, remember how Gekko's entire scheme for the airline industry was based on crushing the blue-collar union that Bud Fox's dad (Martin Sheen) was part of? Welcome to a real life version of that story, starring corporate raider Steve Rattner, who President Obama appointed to head the White House team now overseeing the auto industry (and don't say you weren't warned).

As the Wall Street Journal reports, Rattner's strategy is to use the government's leverage to try to specifically crush auto workers and force them to accept even more contract concessions than they've already agreed to:

DETROIT -- President Barack Obama's recovery plan for General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC appears to take aim at union retirees, a usually reliable Democratic constituency. After studying the plight of the companies, the president's auto task force concluded GM and Chrysler's survival is dependent on greater concessions from the United Auto Workers union.

The White House has total leverage over the situation because the UAW knows that if the industry doesn't get the loans it needs, it will be forced into bankruptcy court, where judges will shred labor contracts (somehow, AIG bonus contracts are sacrosanct, but union worker contracts can be shredded in a heartbeat). Indeed, many analysts believe this is the administration's ultimate goal.

IMHO, The most immoral part of this is the specific targeting of retirees.

As opposed to younger workers, retirees often can't get another job or go back to work because of obvious physical limitations. As one retiree said, "What 85-year-old can go out and get another job?"

I'm not saying that the auto industry's legacy costs are sustainable - not at all. But I am saying that when you put Gordon Gekko in control of government policy overseeing an industry, you are inevitably going to get a policy that assumes workers are the big problem. If you had a different kind of team, you may have a policy that says, for instance, we have to create a robust universal health care system before throwing retirees off their existing health care.

Last I checked, we have enough money to create that system just lying around ready to be handed out to Rattner's Wall Street friends. Hell, $8 trillion will get us a damn good universal health care system, won't it? Yes, it will - but it will also buy a lot of yachts for AIG execs, and when you have Gordon Gekko making public policy yachts come before health care.

David Sirota is a best-selling author whose newest book, "The Uprising," was just released this month. He is a fellow at the Campaign for America's Future and a board member of the Progressive States Network -- both nonpartisan organizations. His blog is at www.credoaction.com/sirota.
© 2009 Blog for Our Future All rights reserved.

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Saundra Hummer
April 1st, 2009, 02:40 PM
^ ^ ^


Why Jim Hightower Shouldn’t Be the Only One Debating John McCain on Afghanistan

Posted by
ZP Heller
Brave New Foundation
March 31, 2009 / 5:48 AM.
The same neocons who orchestrated the war in Iraq and undermined US efforts in Afghanistan the first time around are at it again, determined to sink us deeper into the costly Afghan quagmire. They have resurfaced in the form of the Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI), a Washington think tank headed by Robert Kagan, Bill Kristol, and Dan Senor. As Sam Stein reported last week on The Huffington Post, the FPI will hold a summit today titled “Afghanistan: Planning for Success.” And slated to attend the event are powerful Republicans and Democrats like Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), Rep. John M. McHugh (R-NY), and Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA). What’s particularly troubling about McCain and a think tank like the FPI is that they are trying to manipulate President Obama’s plans for military escalation into a massive, limitless war of Iraq proportions.

We already know where McCain stands on Afghanistan. He and fellow warmonger Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) celebrated the sixth anniversary of the Iraq war by urging the Obama administration to support an all-out military commitment in Afghanistan, regardless of cost. McCain clearly shares the FPI’s warped notion of “success” in Afghanistan, which he has discussed everywhere from the Op-Ed pages of the Washington Post to his recent speech at the American Enterprise Institute. He envisions a Utopian outcome to this war, one in which our military engages in a broad-based, long-term counterinsurgency to create “a stable, secure, self-governing Afghanistan that is not a terrorist sanctuary.” Compounding that highly improbable scenario is the fact that McCain and the FPI are getting away with defining “success” in Afghanistan because not enough mainstream journalists or members of Congress are contesting their views.

You know your foreign policy is highly questionable if Bill Kristol goes on FOX News and says he supports it, which is what happened Sunday. Kristol was able to sweep Obama’s plan into the neocon call for a major counterinsurgency, falsely claiming an all-out war is in the interest of national security and defeating al Qaeda. Kristol even managed to suggest Obama is now divided with his own administration on Afghanistan, and in a twisted retrospective kicker, Kristol compared the Afghan and Iraq surges to imply President Bush actually showed good leadership.

Because Obama is toying with escalation by sending 4,000 trainers (in addition to the 17,000 troops he already pledged), McCain, Kristol and their FPI cohorts are now taking that foreign policy to the logical extremes of military commitment. But where are the journalists to call out Kristol? Where are the members of Congress who will hold oversight hearings that bring in real experts to explain to us what escalation will mean for Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the United States? More people ought to be picking apart McCain’s wholly unrealistic notion of victory and reclaiming the frame of success in Afghanistan; just watch Jim Hightower show you how it’s done.

The reality is that the kind of success McCain and the FPI dream of would require an commitment of at least 640,000 troops–a far fry from the 21,000 Obama has called for. And if the current rate of escalation could cost our country $1 trillion by the end of Obama’s first term, as Tom Hayden has predicted in his must-read piece “Don’t Go There, Mr. President,” then you can only imagine how much this war could cost (and how exponentially difficult it will become to pull ourselves out of this recession) if we keep allowing McCain and his neocon pals at the FPI to manipulate foreign policy.

It’s time to reclaim the frame on Afghanistan, and that starts with real debate in the mainstream media and the halls of Congress.

Tagged as: john mccain, brave new foundation, bill kristol, jim hightower, rethink afghanistan, foreign policy initiative
ZP Heller is the editorial director of Brave New Films. He has written for The American Prospect, AlterNet, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and The Huffington Post, covering everything from politics to pop culture.

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Saundra Hummer
April 1st, 2009, 03:45 PM

Seymour Hersh: Secret U.S. Forces Carried Out Assassinations in 'a Lot of' Countries, Including in Latin America

Amy Goodman
Democracy Now!
Posted March 31, 2009.

The investigative journalist for The New Yorker explains his recent bombshell revelation about Dick Cheney's "executive assassination" squads.
Amy Goodman: Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Seymour Hersh created a stir last month when he said the Bush administration ran an executive assassination ring that reported directly to Vice President Dick Cheney. Hersh made the comment during a speech at the University of Minnesota on March 10th.

Seymour Hersh: Congress has no oversight of it. It's an executive assassination wing, essentially. And it's been going on and on and on. And just today in the Times there was a story saying that its leader, a three-star admiral named McRaven, ordered a stop to certain activities because there were so many collateral deaths. It's been going in -- under President Bush's authority, they've been going into countries, not talking to the ambassador or to the CIA station chief, and finding people on a list and executing them and leaving.
Amy Goodman: Yesterday, CNN interviewed Dick Cheney's former national security adviser, John Hannah. Wolf Blitzer asked Hannah about Sy Hersh's claim.

Wolf Blitzer: Is there a list of terrorists, suspected terrorists out there who can be assassinated?
John Hannah: There is clearly a group of people that go through a very extremely well-vetted process, inter-agency process, as I think was explained in your piece, that have committed acts of war against the United States, who are at war with the United States, or are suspected of planning operations of war against the United States, who authority is given to the troops in the field and in certain war theaters to capture or kill those individuals. That is certainly true.
Wolf Blitzer: And so, this would be, and from your perspective -- and you worked in the Bush administration for many year-- it would be totally constitutional, totally legal, to go out and find these guys and to whack 'em.
John Hannah: There's no question that in a theater of war, when we are at war, and we know -- there's no doubt, we are still at war against al-Qaeda in Iraq, al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and on that Pakistani border, that our troops have the authority to go after and capture and kill the enemy, including the leadership of the enemy.
Amy Goodman: That's John Hannah, Dick Cheney's former national security adviser. Seymour Hersh joins me now here in Washington, D.C., staff writer for The New Yorker magazine. His latest article appears in the current issue, called "Syria Calling: The Obama Administration's Chance to Engage in a Middle East Peace."

OK, welcome to Democracy Now!, Sy Hersh. It was good to see you last night at Georgetown. Talk about, first, these comments you made at the University of Minnesota.
Seymour Hersh: Well, it was sort of stupid of me to start talking about stuff I haven't written. I always kick myself when I do it. But I was with Walter Mondale, the former vice president, who was being amazingly open and sort of, for him -- he had come a long way … since I knew him as a senator who was reluctant to oppose the Vietnam War. And so, I was asked about future things, and I just -- I am looking into stuff. I've done -- there's really nothing I said at Minnesota I haven't written in the (New Yorker). Last summer, I wrote a long article about the Joint Special Operations Command.

And just to go back to what John Hannah, who … I think ended up being the senior national security adviser, almost -- if not the chief of staff, deputy chief of staff for Dick Cheney in the last three or four years, what he said is simply that, yes, we go after people suspected -- that was the word he used -- of crimes against America. And I have to tell you that there's an executive order, signed by Jerry Ford, President Ford, in the '70s, forbidding such action. It's not only contrary -- it's illegal, it's immoral, it's counterproductive.

The problem with having military go kill people when they're not directly in combat, these are asking American troops to go out and find people and, as you said earlier, in one of the statements I made that you played, they go into countries without telling any of the authorities, the American ambassador, the CIA chief, certainly nobody in the government that we're going into, and it's far more than just in combat areas. There's more -- at least a dozen countries, and perhaps more. The President has authorized these kinds of actions in the Middle East and also in Latin America, I will tell you, Central America, some countries. They've been -- our boys have been told they can go and take the kind of executive action they need, and that's simply -- there's no legal basis for it.

And not only that, if you look at Guantanamo, the American government knew by -- well, let's see, Guantanamo opened in early 2002. "Gitmo," they call it, the base down in Cuba for alleged al-Qaeda terrorists. An internal report that I wrote about in a book I did years ago, an internal report made by the summer of 2002, estimated that at least half and possibly more of those people had nothing to do with actions against America. The intelligence we have is often very fragmentary, not very good. And the idea that the American president would think he has the constitutional power or the legal right to tell soldiers not engaged in immediate combat to go out and find people based on lists and execute them is just amazing to me. It's amazing to me.

And not only that, Amy, the thing about George Bush is, everything's sort of done in plain sight. In his State of the Union address, I think January the 28th, 2003, about a month and a half before we went into Iraq, Bush was describing the progress in the war, and he said -- I'm paraphrasing, but this is pretty close -- he said that we've captured more than 3,000 members of al-Qaeda and suspected members, people suspected of operations against us. And then he added with that little smile he has, "And let me tell you, some of those people will not be able to ever operate again. I can assure you that. They will not be in a position." He's clearly talking about killing people, and to applause.

So, there we are. I don't back off what I said. I wish I hadn't said it ad hoc, because, like I hope we're going to talk about in a minute, I spend a lot of time writing stories for The New Yorker, and they're very carefully vetted, and sometimes when you speak off the top, you're not as precise.
Amy Goodman: Explain what the Joint Special Operations Command is and what oversight Congress has of it.
Seymour Hersh: Well, it's a special unit. We have something called the Special Operations Command that operates out of Florida, and it involves a lot of wings. And one of the units that work under the umbrella of the Special Operations Command is known as Joint Special Op -- JSOC. It's a special unit. What makes it so special, it's a group of elite people that include Navy Seals, some Navy Seals, Delta Force -- what we call our black units, the commando units. "Commando" is a word they don't like, but that's what we, most of us, refer to them as. And they promote from within. It's a unit that has its own promotion structure. And one of the elements, I must tell you, about getting ahead in promotion is the number of kills you have. Of course. Because it's basically devised -- it's been transmogrified, if you will, into this unit that goes after high-value targets.

And where Cheney comes in and the idea of an assassination ring -- I actually said "wing," but of an assassination wing -- that reports to Cheney was simply that they clear lists through the Vice President's office. He's not sitting around picking targets. They clear the lists. And he's certainly deeply involved, less and less as time went on, of course, but in the beginning very closely involved. And this is the elite unit. I think they do three-month tours. And last summer, I wrote a long article in The New Yorker, last July, about how the JSOC operation is simply not available, and there's no information provided by the executive to Congress.
Amy Goodman: What countries, Sy Hersh -- what countries are they operating in?
Seymour Hersh: A lot of countries.
Amy Goodman: Name some.
Seymour Hersh: No, because I haven't written about it, Amy. And I will tell you, as I say, in Central America, it's far more than just the areas that Mr. Hannah talked about -- Afghanistan, Iraq. You can understand an operation like this in the heat of battle in Iraq, killing, I mean, taking out enemy. That's war. But when you go into other countries -- let's say Yemen, let's say Peru, let's say Colombia, let's say Eritrea, let's say Madagascar, let's say Kenya, countries like that -- and kill people who are believed on a list to be al-Qaeda or al-Qaeda-linked or anti-American, you're violating most of the tenets.

We're a country that believes very much in due process. That's what it's all about. We don't give the President of United States the right to tell military people, even in a war -- and it's a war against an idea, war against terrorism. It's not as if we're at war against a committed uniformed enemy. It's a very complicated war we're in. And with each of those actions, of course, there's always collateral deaths, and there's always more people ending up becoming our enemies. That's the tragedy of Guantanamo. By the time people, whether they were with us or against us when they got there, by the time they've been there three or four months, they're dangerous to us, because of the way they've been treated …
Amy Goodman: One question: Is the assassination wing continuing under President Obama?
Seymour Hersh: How do I know? I hope not.

See more stories tagged with: al qaeda, dick cheney, cnn, guantanamo, seymour hersh, latin america, barack obama, george w. bush, wolf blitzer, walter mondale, john hannah, university of minnesota

Amy Goodman is the host of the nationally syndicated radio news program, Democracy Now!
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I don't get it
Posted by: ivanguar on Mar 31, 2009 3:51 PM I don't get it
I don't get you Americans. I can't believe you could be surprised about stuff like this.
When I was a little kid in early 70s growing up in South America, that was widely known, and a reality we had to deal with every single day of our lives.
Back then were the Comando Sur and the CIA who organized the "killing squads" all around Central and South America.
El Salvador, Guatemala, Chile, Nicaragua, Argentina, Paraguay, Peru, Brasil, Bolivia, Colombia... what part of your own history are you guys missing?
You guys have been assassinating us for decades and by the hundreds of thousands either by using your own hands or by hireing native mercenaries.
So, why are the news about Cheney commanding an asessination ring so scandalous but instead if the Comando Sur or the CIA does it is perfectly acceptable?
There is a lot of hipocresy in people like this journalist from the New Yorker, who "suddenly" discovers that the American Empire assassinates people all around the world, but he tries to blame it on Cheney.
Cheney may be a murderous nazi, but so it was (and may be way worst) Ronald Reagan, Ford, Nixon, Bush senior, and all.
The hipocrasy is in the fact that he tries to put the blame on one particular person, when he knows very well that these are the methodologies that allow the American Empire to mantain its economic-political and financial control over weaker countries.
These policies are not exceptional but actually the normality of the foreign policy of the Empire in the era of senility of capitalism.

JSOC? The JTTFs are worse - and see the Official Psyops Doctrine for Joint Operations.

Posted by: gunboat diplomat on Apr 1, 2009 5:58 AM
Everyone has a fascination with "special forces" and "elite military culture" because we live in a fairly militarized society, as do many other people. Beats living under the Nazis, doesn't it?

However, the question is what they were being used for. There were numerous reports of Special Forces colonels protesting to the Pentagon about how Rumsfeld and Cheney were using their troops. The Special Forces units were set up inside Iraq outside of normal military control - the regular military didn't know what they were up to, but all the evidence points to a large-scale assassination program in Iraq that coincided with the surge - an Operation Phoenix program that really has not yet come to light.

They were used to create splits between Sunni and Shia insurgents, and were probably responsible for the bombing of the Samarra shrine - it was reported that U.S. helicopters were providing air cover over the area right before the explosion, which was a carefully planned demolition of the structure. That was intended to split the insurgency and get the Iraqis fighting each other - and it worked, for a while, anyway.

That is all due to Cheney and Rumsfeld, who have read the manual:

"1. Scope: This doctrine addresses the use of military psychological operations (PSYOP) assets in planning and conducting PSYOP in support of joint operations across the range of military operations."

"Psychological operations (PSYOP) are operations planned to convey selected information and indicators to foreign audiences to influence their emotions, motives, objective reasoning, and ultimately the behavior of foreign governments, organizations, groups, and individuals."

It's like some psychotic marketing program, right out of the Nazi manual. Here are their "essential concepts":

A) Persuasive Communications. All communications systematically convey information and impressions directly to all involved.

Control of the media - including the "alternative media" - is essential. Check.

B) Command Disruption. Disruption of C4 not only directly interferes with the capabilities of an opponent to succeed in combat but also can have serious impact upon the opponent’s morale, cohesion, discipline, and public support essential to efficient operations.

The use of FBI and JTTF spies to infiltrate and disrupt anti-war groups in the U.S over the past eight years? Check.

C) Information Denial. Competing parties can systematically deny opponents information they require to formulate decisions.

A corrupt pandering corporate media? Check. An alternative media that stays dead silent about certain issues (anthrax attacks, AIG counterparty kickbacks to Citigroup, etc.)? Check.

D) Intelligence Shaping. It is possible to systematically convey and deny data to opposing intelligence systems with the objective of causing opposing analysts to derive selected judgments.

Well, that was how the Iraq war was sold, wasn't it? These tactics are widely used in the U.S. - NPR and Amy Goodman are shining examples of how PYSOP tactics are used against the American public - and it's obvious with the Goodman crowd, they're way too chuckly - bad actors.

Plus, if you look at Amy Goodman's funding, it somewhere to the right of Steve Forbes. That was aided by a Bush-era decision to reduce reporting requirements for non-profits - you want to find the real shadiness in the U.S., look no further than the large private foundations.

http://www.alternet.org/rights/134347/seymour_hersh%3A_secret_u.s._forces_carried_out_as sassinations_in_%27a_lot_of%27_countries%2C_includ ing_in_latin_america/?page=entire


Saundra Hummer
April 1st, 2009, 04:43 PM
:: :: :: :: ::

"Too Big to Fail"
Is Too Big -- Period

Jim Hightower
A Syndicate of Talent
As skiers and backcountry hikers know, a whiteout is a blizzard that's so intense that those caught in it can't even see the blizzard.

That's how I think of the Wall Street bailout now swirling around us. So many trillions of our tax dollars are being blown at the financial giants that we're blinded by the density of it, unable to see where we are or know what direction we're headed.

However, one way to get your bearings in this bailout blizzard is to focus on the central point that both the bailors (Washington) and the bailees (Wall Street) keep pounding as an irrefutable truth that everyone simply has to accept — namely, the institutions being rescued are too big to fail.

Even sheep know to flee when coyotes howl in unison — and we commoners need to confront the absurdity of this "too big" claim, which forms the rationale for the entire diversion of regular people's money into rich people's pockets. Wachovia, Merrill Lynch, Citigroup, Bank of America, AIG — omigosh, cried the Powers That Be, these behemoths are linked to every other behemoth, so if we don't stuff them with tax dollars ... well, we have no choice, because they're just too big for the government to let fail.

Point No. 1: They have failed. They are kaput. It costs more to buy a snickerdoodle than to buy a share of Citigroup stock. AIG is 80 percent owned by you and I, the taxpayers. These once haughty outfits are insolvent — wards of the state.

Point No. 2: If they're too big, why should we sustain them? Let's be clear about something the establishment doesn't want you and me to understand — these giants did not get so big and interconnected because of natural market forces and free-enterprise efficiencies. They amassed power the old fashioned way: They got the government to give it to them. In the past 20 years or so, they lobbied furiously to get Washington to rig the rules so they could latterly bloat ... and float out of control.

A new report by wallstreetwatch.org reveals that from 1998 to 2008 the finance industry made $1.7 billion in contributions to Washington politicians (55 percent to Repubs, 45 percent to Dems), spent $3.4 billion on lobbyists (3,000 of them on the industry payroll in 2007 alone) and won a dozen key deregulatory victories that led directly to today's financial meltdown.

Inherent in the industry's push for unbridled expansion was the unstated goal of guaranteeing that they would get taxpayer bailouts if things went badly.
So many investors, businesses, employees and others would be hooked into these multi-tentacled blobs that government would be compelled to rescue the banks from their own excesses. Knowing that they could privatize all of the profits from quick-buck schemes and socialize the losses, bankers were unleashed to do their damnedest. Which they did.

What to do now? Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is calling on Congress to create a "super-regulator" to control the irrational risks that the too-big boys take. Immodestly, Bernanke suggests that the Fed be this overseer. He is backed up by Timothy Geithner, Obama's treasury secretary and point man on rescuing the giants. He has just outlined a new regulatory regime that he suggests we entrust to the Fed.

Bad idea all around. First, the Fed already has far-reaching watchdog authority that it refused to use as today's crisis built up. We heard no bark and got no bite because, while the Fed has enormous public authority to regulate America's money supply, interest rates and banks, it is governed by — guess who? — bankers, and it operates essentially as a private banking cartel.

Second, and most important, too-big-to-fail is too-big-to-regulate. And too-big-to-regulate means they are too big to tolerate. Period.

The answer is to split their investment, banking and insurance functions into separate companies and reinvigorate America's antitrust laws to restore competition in each of the three sectors of finance. As Newsweek columnist Michael Hirsh put it in an online column in February, "We can't have a free-market economy dominated by institutions so huge that they don't have to play by free-market rules."

To find out more about Jim Hightower, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at www.creators.com.

:: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Saundra Hummer
April 1st, 2009, 05:15 PM

Do any of you know that DMSO saved the lives of those with severe brain injury, and that it oftentimes prevents brain trauma from leaving a loved one permanently brain damaged?

It isn't approved for treatment of brain injury in humans, but it is for fallen bladders, and so you know it is going though ones system when used for this as it is absorbed throughout your whole body, excepting hair and fingernails.

It is used in burn centers when veins aren't to be found or are incapable of being used, feeding them milk and administering medications through their tissue, and it has worked wonders.

It is used by some hospitals; one here in Central Oregon, even though it isn't approved for people but for that one malady, a fallen bladder. It works on it as it shrinks scar tissue, which is part and parcel of a fallen bladder, scar tissue. When used on brain trauma, it has had miraculous results according to the head E-Ray technician. He says you wouldn't believe the lives they had saved with it and how they hadn't suffered debilitating permanent brain damage.

After the Natasha Richardson accident, I had believed she would have been treated with it, as the best we've found is made in Canada. But I do doubt that it was made available to her, or that her doctors were even aware of it's miraculous properties.

We have used it for years, using the 99% pure with 1% distilled water. It's said we don't need it that strength, but we prefer it.

We have used it on severely injured cattle, dogs, etc, and on ourselves. I can attest to it healing things and how there will oftentimes be no scar when used on 3rd degree grease burns, etc.

When animals wouldn't let us get up to them to treat an injury, we put it in a squirt bottle and treated them that way, just like you see the NFL players being squirted through their sox. Sports teams use it by the gallon we hear.

DMSO prevents and removes swelling and blood pooling, the hemorraging, it works on so many things that the pharmaceutical companies are against it as it has been around too long to patent.

Let everyone you know of in on this, and do a google search for the Oregon research on it, along with it's history. I can't begin to explain how it heals and relieves pain. Even an abcessed exposed molar tooth nerve was brought under control with it, and an oral surgeon said he wished he could use it as he could heal many gum diseases in a matter of about 3 weeks instead of several months and a fortune in medications.

So really, let everyone you know in on this an talk to doctors (who are oftentimes afraid of it's use), and get everyone you know write to their newspapers and TV stations to insist it be looked into, to try to get doctors to use it, as it truly can be a life & quality of life saver.

Saundra Hummer
April 1st, 2009, 08:32 PM

Leroy "GRANNY" Grannis
Of Hermosa Beach & Carlsbad California
Famous For His Surfing Photo's
Is living on Social Security
Government Assistance from MediCal!

To my way of thinking, this is criminal

His substantial life's earnings have been eaten up by executors, and others, Renee Linton and Lars Isaacson are two of those who are involved.

Granny no longer can afford to stay in the assisted living home he has been living in.

How can this be?

Is this right?

How is this lawful? Or is it?



Saundra Hummer
April 3rd, 2009, 04:22 PM

This is the truth on drugs ... any questions?

David Sirota
Posted: 04/03/2009 12:30:00 AM MDT
Finally, a little honesty.

It started with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stating an embarrassingly obvious truth that politicians almost never discuss. In a speech about rising violence in Mexico, she said, "Our insatiable demand for illegal drugs fuels the drug trade," and then added that "we have co-responsibility" for the cartel-driven carnage plaguing our southern border.

She's right, of course. For all the Rambo-ish talk about waging a "War on Drugs" that interdicts the supply of narcotics, we have not diminished demand — specifically, demand for marijuana that cartels base their business on.

According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, Americans spend about $9 billion a year on Mexican pot.

Add that to the roughly $36 billion worth of domestically produced weed, and cannabis has become one of the continent's biggest cash crops. As any mob movie illustrates, mixing such "insatiable" demand for a product with statutes outlawing said product guarantees the emergence of a violent black market — in this case, one in which Mexican drug cartels reap 62 percent of their profits from U.S. marijuana sales.

That last stat, provided by the White House drug czar, is the silver lining. Every American concerned about Mexico's security problems should be thankful that the cartels are so dependent on marijuana, and not a genuinely hazardous substance like heroin. Why? Because that means through pot legalization, we can bring the marijuana trade out of the shadows and into the safety of the regulated economy, consequently eliminating the black market the cartels rely on. And here's the best part: We can do so without fearing any more negative consequences than we already tolerate in our keg-party culture.

Though President Obama childishly laughed at a question about legalization during his recent town hall meeting, his government implicitly admits that marijuana is safer than light beer. Indeed, as federal agencies acknowledge alcohol's key role in deadly illnesses and domestic violence, their latest anti-pot fear mongering is an ad campaign insisting — I kid you not — that marijuana is dangerous because it makes people zone out on their couches and diminishes video gaming skills.

(This is your government on drugs: Cirrhosis and angry tank-topped lushes beating their wives are more acceptable risks than stoners sitting in their basements ineptly playing Halo ... any questions?).

Despite this idiocy, despite polls showing most Americans support some form of legalization, and despite such legalization promising to generate billions of dollars in tax revenue, Clinton only acknowledged the uncomfortable reality about demand. That's certainly no small step, but she did not address drug policy reform. Confronting that taboo subject was left to Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va.

Last week, this first-term lawmaker proposed creating a federal commission to examine potential changes to the prison system, including a relaxation of marijuana statutes.

Webb hails from a conservative-leaning swing state whose criminal justice laws are among the nation's most draconian, so there's about as much personal political upside for him in this fight as there is for Clinton — that is to say, almost none. That isn't stopping him, though.

"The elephant in the bedroom in many discussions on the criminal justice system is the sharp increase in drug incarceration," he said in a speech, later telling the Huffington Post that pot legalization "should be on the table." Finally, a little honesty — and now, maybe, some action.

David Sirota is the bestselling author of the books "Hostile Takeover" (2006) and "The Uprising" (2008). He is a fellow at the Campaign for America's Future. Find his blog at OpenLeft.com or e-mail him at ds@davidsirota.com.


Saundra Hummer
April 3rd, 2009, 08:10 PM
* * * * * * *

Is Homophobia Just Narcissism?

— By Debra J. Dickerson
→ Civil Liberties
Thu April 2, 2009 11:46 AM PST

Ta-Nehisi Coates thinks so:
Bigotry is the heaping of one man's insecurity on to another. Sexism, racism, homophobia, anti-Semitism, anti-Islamism, anti-immigrantism, really all come from the same place--cowardice. In his history of lynching, Phillip Dray notes that mob violence against black men wasn't simply about keeping black men in their place--it was about keeping white women in their place. Lynching peaked as white women went to work outside the home in greater numbers, developing their own financial power base. White men, afraid that they couldn't compete with their women, would cowardly resort to lynching. I am not saying that the anti-gay marriage crowd is a lynch mob. But in tying opposition to the sexual revolution what you see is, beyond a fear of gay marriage, a fear for marriage itself. A fear that their way of life can't compete in these new times. It's ridiculous, of course. But bigotry always is.
DuBois wrote about racism as "the psychological wages of whiteness". Black equality would cost white people, and, of course, it did. You can't kill or rape blacks with impunity anymore, you can't make them sit in the back of the bus or stop them from drinking from 'your' fountain. So whites definitely lost things, both tangible and intangible, with the coming of equality. Of course, whites never had a right to those things. That's why the racial hierarchy had to be established, with all the attendant bennies and burdens nicely justified (whites are smart and work harder, etc.)

So, I think Coates is on to something with this notion - heteros lose one of the few advantages left to those born on the lucky side of any hierarchy, in this case, the sexuality continuum. Homophobes are manic about losing the right to have someone to openly look down on. To consider innately inferior. Which is convenient because their unworthiness then allows you to collect those psychological wages like straights only in the military, straights only in the classroom, straights only in public office (just imagine an openly gay Prez), straights only with the right to marry and all the bennies that come with it. Notice how quickly the psychological wages become all too tangible.

But this is an issue, like race, whose time has come. Enjoy the last few years left of discriminating against gays 'cuz them days is almost gone.

It's hard out there for a bigot. Homophobia is on a short list of acceptable bigotries. But it's fading fast.


Saundra Hummer
April 3rd, 2009, 10:24 PM

The Fallen Four are all set in BuzzFlash's Republican Race to the Bottom

Submitted by
on Fri, 04/03/2009
We are down to the Fallen Four in our BuzzFlash Republican Race to the Bottom. We had a feeling this week's contests, motivated by the honor of reaching this echelon, would be sufficiently intense as to keep you on the edge, wanting more.

The highlight of the week clearly was Wednesday, when George "The Decider" Bush had his fate decided by you, the voters, and ousted in a climatic juggernaut by the Supreme Court Federalist Foursome 53%-47%.

This letter in the BuzzFlash mailbag captured the raw emotion expended in consuming this battle:

I am sitting here at 1:15 AM, in complete shock by the results of tonight's game. It now appears that the #2 seeded Decider has been defeated in his attempt to reach the Fallen Four. I sincerely believed that he would have no trouble defeating the #5 seeded Federalist Four.

Oh sure, the whole world knows how they overturned the will of the voters and appointed him to the throne, but that was only one crime. Just look at all of the corruption, incompetence, deception, and illegal unconstitutional acts that he was responsible for in the eight gloomy years that followed. I was so confident that he would make it to the Fallen Four. There must be some way that we can electronically get these vote totals switched.

Let's see, what did I do with that phone number for Diebold...... or whatever they're calling themselves now???

The other Fallen Four winners had an easier time. Despite Alberto Gonzales looking even more foolish than normal, he was no match for the evil stare of #1 seed Karl Rove. In Monday's contest, Rove slammed Gonzales with 88% of the vote.

The other #1 seed, Dick Cheney, also scored 88% in his second-round match, though on paper, Bill O'Reilly's loud presence on the court was thought to be more worrisome against the out-of-shape Cheney. But when you're Darth Vader in somewhat-living form, you don't have to rely on your outside shot.

In a battle of clueless, egomaniacal pundits, Ann Coulter's "all over the place" skills were no match for the heat brought by Rush Limbaugh, mostly because he breathes really hard and has a lot of hot air. In Thursday's contest, Limbaugh easily handled Coulter with 79% of the vote. For someone who doesn't normally do well with women, Limbaugh defeated Sarah Palin and Coulter to reach the Fallen Four.

As we saw in the last round, plenty of truly evil Republicans went by the wayside. Those that have clawed, lied, threatened, and intimidated their way to the Fallen Four deserve respect, but they would prefer your fear.

Secretly, we were curious to see how a battle between Bush and Bush's brain would end up, but we have the next best thing: Bush's brain (Rove) vs. the essential spirit and some of the flesh that crowned Bush, starting Rove's national road trip of evil.

The other Fallen Four battle royale involves two legendary heavyweights: Dick Cheney and Rush Limbaugh. One considers himself the leader of the Republican Party, and the other secretly is.

Momentum and evil are on the side of Cheney in this grudge match, but there is a small issue of what Cheney recently said about Limbaugh:

"Rush is a good friend. I love him. I think he does great work and has for years ... I think Rush is a good man and serves a very important purpose."

Last summer, Cheney sent Limbaugh a recorded message calling him "one of the great names in broadcasting history."

Uh, that isn't exactly trash talking. But knowing Cheney, he's just buttering up Limbaugh (which takes a lot of butter, seriously) in order to take him down.

Due to the extreme nature of these major contests, we will launch both games on Monday, April 6 (same day as the championship of some other tournament). You, and your many, many friends, will have TWO DAYS to make your votes known. The fate of who is the most evil may come down to these two brawls; we want to make sure everyone who wants to vote has their chance.

The beaten, bloodied winners of these contests go head-to-head Wednesday, April 8, so we may crown the champion in our Republican Race to the Bottom.

Click here for last week's roundup and here for our analysis of Week One.

Go on-site to gain access to the numerous links within this article:


Saundra Hummer
April 4th, 2009, 02:54 PM
. . . . . . .

Stop HR 875, The Food Fascism Act,
Like Our Lives Depended On It
(Because They Do)

Friday, April 3, 2009 3:51 PM
From: "The Pen"

HR 875 Is Not About Food safety, It's About Genocide of Agricultural

One of the most potentially dangerous bills we've ever heard of is trying to sneak its way through Congress right now, in the sheep's clothing of so-called "modernization" of food safety. HR 875 (text of bill) is a bill put up by Monsanto and other monolithic corporations trying to seize totalitarian control over all agriculture. It was introduced by Rosa DeLauro, whose husband WORKS for Monsanto, and is ultimately about one thing, defining ONLY their own GMO products as "safe".

What makes the bill so dangerous is that it is heavy on penalties including prison time, while at the same time being incredibly vague about what would actually trigger those sanctions. HR 875 is nothing but a Trojan horse, with an invading army to be designated later, in the form of an bureaucratic administrator (most likely a corporate lobbyist shill) with draconian LAW MAKING POWER to make up their own definitions so that all competitors are either driven into bankruptcy or locked up. There are problems with food safety we can talk about, but HR 875 is not going to make us safer, any more than invading Iraq made us safer. It MUST be stopped.

Stop HR 875 Action Page: http://www.peaceteam.net/action/pnum959.php

So in the midst of this attempted Panzer action by Monsanto, are we hearing about any of this in our propaganda based mainstream media? No, they distract our attention talking about Michelle Obama's adorable organic garden at the White House, as if she is making agricultural policy.

But will that little White House garden end up as something like a diorama, a quaint reenactment of what farming used too be like when it was healthy, they way they would reenact Betsy Ross sewing the first American flag? Will they lull us into complacency while down the street Congress at the same time paves the way for breaking the back of every small farmer in the country, turning our entire agricultural system into a chemically overtreated, Genetically Mutated Organism (GMO) nightmare?

Hell, No! Not if we will have anything to say about it. And you can
bet the farm we will.

We'd like to also remind our Facebook participants that all action
pages can be found in their system as well. So let's get all our
Facebook friends in on the activist resource there.

Facebook Version:


(must be a member of Facebook and logged in to use this link)
And we are working very hard on even more magical new code to expand the access options for getting a message through to Congress even further. Please stay tuned and we will have some amazing news for you shortly. We will start beta testing the new module by the weekend.

We just got the "Convict Dick & W" caps in for those who have requested in the last week or so, and another bulk shipment for all of you will hit the post office by this coming Tuesday. So if you have not requested yours yet, to demonstrate that the words "Justice For All" actually means something, you can request yours here.

Convict Dick & W Caps:

Please take action NOW, so we can win all victories that are supposed to be ours, and forward this alert as widely as possible.

If you would like to get alerts like these, you can do so at:

. . . . . . . . . . . . .

Saundra Hummer
April 4th, 2009, 05:14 PM

Op-Ed Columinst

Pitchforks and Pistols

April 4, 2009
Lately I’ve been consuming as much conservative media as possible (interspersed with shots of Pepto-Bismol) to get a better sense of the mind and mood of the right. My read: They’re apocalyptic. They feel isolated, angry, betrayed and besieged. And some of their “leaders” seem to be trying to mold them into militias.

At first, it was entertaining — just harmless, hotheaded expostulation. Of course, there were the garbled facts, twisted logic and veiled hate speech. But what did I expect, fair and balanced? It was like walking through an ideological house of mirrors. The distortions can be mildly amusing at first, but if I stay too long it makes me sick.

But, it’s not all just harmless talk. For some, their disaffection has hardened into something more dark and dangerous. They’re talking about a revolution.

Some simply lace their unscrupulous screeds with loaded language about the fall of the Republic. We have to “rise up” and “take back our country.” Others have been much more explicit.

For example, Chuck Norris, the preeminent black belt and prospective Red Shirt, wrote earlier this month on the conservative blog WorldNetDaily: “How much more will Americans take? When will enough be enough? And, when that time comes, will our leaders finally listen or will history need to record a second American Revolution?”

Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, imagining herself as some sort of Delacroixian Liberty from the Land of the Lakes, urged her fellow Minnesotans to be “armed and dangerous,” ready to bust caps over cap-and-trade, I presume.

And between his tears, Glenn Beck, the self-professed “rodeo clown,” keeps warning of an impending insurrection by saying that he believes that we are heading for “depression” and “revolution” and then gaming out that revolution on his show last month. “Think the unthinkable” he said. Indeed.

All this talk of revolution is revolting, and it hasn’t gone unnoticed.

As the comedian Bill Maher pointed out, strong language can poison weak minds, as it did in the case of Timothy McVeigh. (We sometimes forget that not all dangerous men are trained by Al Qaeda.)

At the same time, the unrelenting meme being pushed by the right that Obama will mount an assault on the Second Amendment has helped fuel the panic buying of firearms. According to the F.B.I., there have been 1.2 million more requests for background checks of potential gun buyers from November to February than there were in the same four months last year. That’s 5.5 million requests altogether over that period; more than the number of people living in Bachmann’s Minnesota.

Coincidence? Maybe. Just posturing? Hopefully. But it all gives me a really bad feeling. (Where’s that Pepto-Bismol?!)

I invite you to visit my blog, By the Numbers:


Please also join me on Facebook, and follow me on Twitter, or e-mail me at:

Go on-site to gain access to the links for these sites

Saundra Hummer
April 4th, 2009, 09:51 PM
:: :: ::

Analysis: Negotiating a minefield of bad news

Does the name Byran Uyesugi ring a bell? Odds are not. What about Robert A. Hawkins? Or Mark Barton? Terry Ratzmann? Robert Stewart?
Each entered the national consciousness when he picked up a gun and ended multiple lives. Uyesugi, 1999, Hawaii office building, seven dead. Hawkins, 2007, Nebraska shopping mall, nine dead. Barton, Ratzmann and Stewart _ 24 dead among them in 1999 (Atlanta brokerage offices), 2005 (Wisconsin church service) and last week (North Carolina rehab center).

And each has been largely forgotten as the parade of multiple killings in America melts into an indistinguishable blur. We bemoan, we mourn, we move on.

What's even more disturbing is that the list above was cherrypicked from a far lengthier tally of recent mass shootings in the United States. And now, this weekend, on a crisp, sunny Saturday morning in Pittsburgh, the lives of three police officers ended in gunfire after a domestic dispute turned lethal.

The mass shootings that left 14 people dead in Binghamton, N.Y., on Friday were horrifying, depressing, nationally wrenching. They were also, to some extent, unsurprising in a society where the term"mass shooting" has lost its status as unthinkable aberration and become mere fodder for a fresh news cycle.

"We have to guard against the senseless violence that this tragedy represents," President Barack Obama said in Europe on Saturday. Senseless violence: Two centuries from now, if we're not careful, it could be an epitaph for our era.

Even in a media-saturated nation that encourages short memories, these numbers are conversation-stopping: Forty-seven people dead in the past month in American mass shootings and their aftermaths. It's to the point where on Saturday, dizzyingly, the mayor of Binghamton found himself offering Pittsburgh its sympathies.

Put aside for a moment the debate over guns. This isn't about policy. It's about asking the urgent question: What is happening in the American psyche that prevents people from defusing their own anguish and rage before they end the lives of others? Why are we killing each other?

This is not an era of good feeling in the United States. We have under our belt eight years of pernicious terrorism angst, six years of Iraq war weariness and, now, months of wondering how bad the American economy's going to get and when _ or, worse, whether _ it's going to come back. People are tense. There's less inclination to help out your fellow human being.

Meanwhile, anchors and analysts and witnesses and bloggers cast about in an information-age fog trying to make sense of something that is, in the worst way, nonsensical. They rush to offer solutions, but the thing they typically dodge is that we seem to be powerless to stop it all _ that our community, our neighbors, may be next. That's too terrifying to contemplate, not to mention too open-ended for American news consumers reared on tidy Hollywood endings.

The Binghamton newspaper, the Press&Sun Bulletin, seemed to acknowledge the resignation in a glum editorial Saturday that wondered if it was simply, sadly, and inevitably Binghamton's turn to give up a few of its people to the juggernaut.

"It is our turn to grieve and to rally in support of those whose lives have been shattered," the newspaper said."And it's our turn to hug those in our own families and wonder how a quiet, rainy Friday in a peaceful place became the setting for such a nightmare."

The strangest of contradictions hangs over the Binghamton shootings. The shooter and many of the victims were immigrants _ part of the pool of human beings who look to America as a place of opportunity and take often anonymous steps to realize their dreams here. On Friday, the idea that had beckoned them betrayed them.

The man believed to be the shooter, Jiverly Wong, had lost his job at an assembly plant, was barely getting by on unemployment and was frustrated that the American dream, so highly billed and coveted, wasn't coming through for him. Early reports suggest that the suspect in the Pittsburgh officers' killings, too, was angered at being laid off from a glass factory.

People are of course responsible for their actions, but it's hard to avoid wondering what's afoot in the darkest recesses of what we like to call American exceptionalism. For so long, the national narrative has been so bullish about equality of opportunity, so persuasive in its romance of possibility for all. Is it so subversive to speculate, then, that when the engine of possibility runs into roadblocks, people can't cope?

Without excusing one whit of the violent tendencies that ended with so many bullets in so many bodies from Binghamton to North Carolina to Alabama to California in the past month, isn't it time, finally, to figure out where this national dream makes a wrong turn?

"Maybe research can prevent further tragedies of this type," a man named Charles Whitman wrote one day in 1966. Then he ascended a tower at the University of Texas, looked out over the campus, pulled out a shotgun, three rifles and three pistols and killed 16 people.

Forty-three years and countless reams of research and lost loved ones later, we have not figured it out. Today, the American Civic Association in Binghamton says so. The Pittsburgh Police Department says so. The vulnerable people at the Pinelake Health and Rehab Center in Carthage, N.C., say so.

Of Jiverly Wong, Binghamton police Chief Joseph Zikuski had this to say Saturday:"He must have been a coward." Perhaps. But that's the beginning of an answer, not the end of one. On Friday, the federal government announced that 663,000 Americans lost their jobs in March. What's truly unsettling in America's new era of gloom and dead ends is wondering how many of those 663,000 might be deeply, irrevocably angry about it _ and might have a gun.

Because the American tragedies that haven't happened yet are the most terrifying ones of all.


EDITOR'S NOTE _ Ted Anthony covers American culture for The Associated Press.
04/04/09 12:33 pm | AP News

From the Hawaiian Bulletin Newsletter


:: :: :: :: ::

Saundra Hummer
April 4th, 2009, 10:21 PM
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

--- On Sat, 4/4/09, Dr. Bruce "Snake" Gabrielson wrote:

From: Dr. Bruce "Snake" Gabrielson
Subject: [worldwidesurfers] We are Number 1
To: worldwidesurfers@ yahoogroups. com
Date: Saturday, April 4, 2009, 3:48 PM

In case anyone has been following this news groups rise, we are now the #1 ranked surfing newsgroup on yahoo. Good job all.


Saundra Hummer
April 9th, 2009, 04:10 AM

Modern life's pressures may be hastening human evolution

Robert S. Boyd
McClatchy Newspapers
Wed Apr 8, 1:49 pm ET

WASHINGTON — We're not finished yet. Even today, scientists say that human beings are continuing to evolve as our genes respond to rapid changes in the world around us.

In fact, the pressures of modern life may be speeding up the pace of human evolution, some anthropologists think.

Their view contradicts the widespread 20th-century assumption that modern medical practice, antibiotics, better diet and other advances would protect people from the perils and stresses that drive evolutionary change.

Nowadays, the idea that "human evolution is a continuing process is widely accepted among anthropologists,'' said Robert Wald Sussman , the editor of the Yearbook of Physical Anthropology at Washington University in St. Louis .

It's even conceivable, he said, that our genes eventually will change enough to create an entirely new human species, one no longer able to breed with our own species, Homo sapiens.

"Someday in the far distant future, enough genetic changes might have occurred so that future populations could not interbreed with the current one,'' Sussman said in an e-mail message.

The still-controversial concept of "ongoing evolution'' was much discussed last week at the annual meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists in Chicago .

It's also the topic of a new book, "The 10,000 Year Explosion,'' by anthropologists Henry Harpending and Gregory Cochran of the University of Utah , Salt Lake City .

"For most of the last century, the received wisdom in the social sciences has been that human evolution stopped a long time ago,'' Harpending said. "Clearly, received wisdom is wrong, and human evolution has continued.''

In their book, the Utah anthropologists contend that "human evolution has accelerated in the past 10,000 years, rather than slowing or stopping. . . . The pace has been so rapid that humans have changed significantly in body and mind over recorded history.''

Evolutionary changes result when random mutations or damage to DNA from such factors as radiation, smoking or toxic chemicals create new varieties of genes. Some gene changes are harmful, most have no effect and a few provide advantages that are passed on to future generations. If they're particularly beneficial, they spread throughout the population.

"Any gene variant that increases your chance of having children early and often should be favored,'' Cochran said in an e-mail message.

This is the process of "natural selection,'' which Charles Darwin proposed 150 years ago and is still the heart of modern evolutionary theory.

For example, a tiny change in a gene for skin color played a major role in the evolution of pale skin in humans who migrated from Africa to northern Europe , while people who remained in Africa kept their dark skin. That dark skin protected Africans from the tropical sun's dangerous ultraviolet rays; northerners' lighter skin allowed sunlight to produce more vitamin D, important for bone growth.

Another set of gene variants produced a different shade of light skin in Asia .

"Asians and Europeans are both bleached Africans, but they evolved different bleaches,'' Harpending said.

Despite modern medical and technological advances, the pressures that lead to evolution by natural selection have continued.

The massive AIDS epidemic that's raging in southern Africa , for example, is "almost certainly'' causing gene variants that protect against HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, to accumulate in the African population, Harpending said.

When he was asked how many genes currently are evolving, Harpending replied: "A lot. Several hundred at least, maybe over a thousand.''

Another anthropologist, John Hawks of the University of Wisconsin-Madison , said, "Our evolution has recently accelerated by around 100-fold.''

A key reason, Hawks said, is the enormous growth of the world's population, which multiplies the size of the gene pool available to launch new varieties.

"Today, beneficial mutation must be happening far more than ever before, since there are more than 6 billion of us,'' Cochran said.

The changes are so rapid that "we could, in the very near future, compare the genes of old people and young people'' to detect newly evolving genes, Cochran said. Skeletons from a few thousand or even a few hundred years ago also might provide evidence of genetic change.

"Human evolution didn't stop when anatomically modern humans appeared or when they expanded out of Africa ,'' Harpending said. "It never stopped.''


The American Association of Physical Anthropologists

MORE FROM MCCLATCHY Some of your body's cells have a 'license to kill'

Internal clocks keep you, all living things ticking



Saundra Hummer
April 9th, 2009, 04:37 AM

Leroy "GRANNY" Grannis
Of Hermosa Beach & Carlsbad California
Famous For His Surfing Photo's
Is living on Social Security
Government Assistance from MediCal!

To my way of thinking, this is criminal

His substantial life's earnings have been eaten up by executors, and others, Renee Linton and Lars Isaacson are two of those who are involved.

Granny no longer can afford to stay in the assisted living home he has been living in.

How can this be?

Is this right?

How is this lawful? Or is it?



A fund is being set up by John Van Ornum in Molokai to help with Mr. Grannis's situation and I do hope that it will change how things are for him. This was being set up today, and I hope it is a success.

Check out the progress by going to:


Saundra Hummer
April 9th, 2009, 01:41 PM

Tell Obama: Appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Rove.
Dear Friend,

For the past eight years, Karl Rove blurred the lines of legality again and again - putting his own priorities above the law, and even above the lives and safety of Americans.

In addition to being one of the chief architects behind the war in Iraq, Rove was also allegedly involved in in the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame, in the harassment and prosecution of Alabama Governor Don Siegelman, and in the firing of nine U.S. attorneys for political reasons.

Congress has subpoenaed Rove to testify about these matters again and again, but until recently, he's refused to testify. Rove's agreement to meet with the House Judiciary Committee is a step in the right direction, but it is nowhere near enough.

I just took action to tell President Obama to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Rove and -- pending the outcome of that investigation -- to prosecute him to the fullest extent of the law. I hope you will, too.

Please have a look and take action.


Sign the petition
"President Obama, we urge you to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Karl Rove. In addition to being one of the chief architects behind the war in Iraq, Rove was also allegedly involved in in the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame, in the harassment and prosecution of Alabama Governor Don Siegelman, and in the firing of nine U.S. attorneys for political reasons. Americans deserve to know whether Karl Rove broke the law while serving in the Bush White House. And if he did break the law, Karl Rove deserves to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Please appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Rove and, pending the outcome of that investigation, to bring him to justice."

Complete the following to sign the petition. You'll receive periodic updates on offers and activism opportunities.

Go on-site to gain access to this petition.



Saundra Hummer
April 9th, 2009, 04:25 PM
::: ::: ::: ::: :::

Keith Olbermann on Obama and Bush administration illegal wiretapping

There's more: You can watch MSNBC host Keith Olbermann and Constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley discuss Obama's use of the "state secrets" privilege to protect the Bush administration on illegal wiretapping in this:
YouTube video:

Says Olbermann: "The Obama administration is just flat out dead wrong about this."

Another great way to help bring the Bush administration to justice for its potentially illegal wiretapping program is to spread the word to your friends and family. You can just forward the sample letter below.

Spreading the word is critical, but please only pass this message along to those who know you -- spam hurts our campaign.

Thanks for all you do.

--The CREDO Action Team

Here's a sample message to send to your friends:

Subject: Tell Obama: Stop blocking court review of illegal wiretapping.

Dear Friend,

We have an opportunity to bring the Bush administration to justice for illegal wiretapping. But President Obama is blocking the way.

On April 2, President's Obama's lawyers invoked Bush's radical theory of executive power -- and the 'state secrets' defense -- to argue for the dismissal of the Electronic Frontier Foundation's litigation against the National Security Agency for the warrantless wiretapping of countless Americans.
LINK: http://www.eff.org/issues/nsa-spying .

MSNBC host Keith Olbermann has said "The Obama administration is just flat out dead wrong about this." You can watch Olbermann and Constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley discuss Obama's use of the "state secrets" privilege to protect the Bush administration on illegal wiretapping in this YouTube video:

If EFF's case against the NSA is dismissed, we may never know the extent of the Bush administration's illegal spying on Americans.

Please join me and take action to support the Constitution.

::: ::: :::

Saundra Hummer
April 9th, 2009, 05:00 PM

Lipstick in School
According to a news report, a certain private school in Washington was recently faced with a unique problem.
A number of 12-year-old girls were beginning to use lipstick and would put it on in the bathroom.

That wasn't the problem, but after they put on their lipstick they would press their lips to the mirror leaving dozens of little lip prints.
Every night the maintenance man would remove them and the next day the girls would put them back.

Finally the principal decided that something had to be done.
She called all the girls to the bathroom and met them there with the maintenance man.
She explained that all these lip prints were causing a major problem for the custodian
who had to clean the mirrors every night (you can just imagine the yawns from the little princesses).

To demonstrate how difficult it had been to clean the mirrors, she asked the maintenance man to show the girls how much effort was required.
He took out a long-handled squeegee, dipped it in the toilet, and cleaned the mirror with it.
Since then, there have been no lip prints on the mirror.

There are teachers.... and then there are educators.


Thomas McElroy
April 9th, 2009, 05:18 PM
I have Indian blood... Choctaw on my grandfather's side... I have studied Islam and also see it for what it is... I have always thought that any religion that tells you to either join or be beheaded cannot be real. Any religion that is real must teach Love and compassion as it's core value.. anything else is not real.

Saundra Hummer
April 9th, 2009, 07:13 PM

Regressive Antidote

David Michael Green on Politics

When The Hour Is Late, And Things Aren't Going So Great...
...Just Fabricate!!

What do you do when your politics suck, your politicians have been repudiated and thrown out of office, all your ideas have proved disastrous, and the public hates you?

Well, if you had even the slightest shred of integrity, you’d apologize, fix your politics, and start all over again.

Of course, regressives in America don’t quite meet that latter test. So maybe I better rephrase. What do you do when your politics suck, your politicians have been repudiated and thrown out of office, all your ideas have proved disastrous, the public hates you, AND you don’t have even the slightest shred of integrity?

Ah, well that’s easy. You just start fabricating reality.

And that is precisely what regressives are now doing.

Of course, this is not exactly a news flash. Remember how Ronald Reagan defeated the Soviets and won the Cold War? Remember how “the adults were back in charge” when George W. Bush came to Washington?

Without deceit, about seventy percent of the content of right-wing politics would immediately disappear. (The other thirty percent is just pure bullying.)

Just the same, it’s remarkable the degree to which regressives have gone completely off the deep-end lately, and are now absolutely just making it up as they go.

As usual, Dick Cheney sets the gold standard. In this case, not only for telling tall tales, but also just for being such a completely tacky (alleged) human being. Cheney is even making George W. Bush look good by comparison, as the latter has had the decency (or is it fear?) not to attack the new administration in its first months. I guess Cheney, who went out of office with single-digit approval ratings, is seeking to determine just how utterly despised a politician can be (hint: Mussolini was shot, hung upside-down on meathooks, and then stoned by an angry public). Are negative numbers a possibility here? Can more people hate you than there are people? If anyone can do it, it would certainly be the Dick.

Nowadays the guy is running all over creation telling anyone who’ll listen that Barack Obama’s foreign and defense policies constitute a threat to American national security. The great irony here is that Obama is basically running the same set of ugly policies that the Bush administration employed, and sometimes even going them one better when it comes to shredding the Bill of Rights. True, Obama has said that he will close down Guantánamo – not that he is setting those prisoners free to go party in Vegas, mind you – but otherwise just about the only significant change I can see between the two administrations on security policy is that the current one seems to want to fight actual enemies of the United States, rather than fabricated ones sitting on top of oceans of oil.

Good grace dictates that Cheney should just shut up. More to the point for this discussion, however, when it comes to the substance of his assertions, he’s just making it up as he goes.

So is the latest right wing media freak du jour, Glenn Beck, who has been on a tirade of late telling his audience that Obama has a secret plan to take away their guns. Let’s leave aside for the moment the fact that we actually live in a country where it’s legal to buy assault rifles. And let’s leave aside for the moment the fact that even George W. Bush claimed he was opposed to that policy. All that aside, I am completely unaware of any actual evidence that the Obama administration has any plans to mess with gun control in America. Much to my chagrin, in fact, it seems pretty transparent that he has absolutely no interest in spending the enormous political capital that would be required to go after this issue, even if it was something that interested him, for which there is also absolutely no evidence that I’m aware of. This is even more embarrassingly stupid than the notion that Bill Clinton killed Vince Foster. There isn’t even a dead body to explain.

But it actually gets a whole lot weirder from here. Ralph Peters is a columnist for the New York Post and is described as a “strategic analyst” for Fox “News”. That’s pretty much all you need to know about the guy’s level of expertise. But his latest column provides an astonishing tour de force lesson in how to fabricate hysterically when the facts inconveniently don’t fit your politics.

Did you know that Barack Obama’s recent European and Middle Eastern tour was a complete disaster, and that he apologized for America everywhere he went? Did you know that Obama went to Turkey “on his knees” and “gave his seal of approval to a pungently anti-American Islamist government”? You know, the same government of the same country that has been a key US NATO ally for decades, and is one of Israel’s best friends? Did you know that Obama made “disdainful remarks” about George W. Bush? Did you know that “he told the Europeans that the global economic crisis is all our fault”? Did you know “He gave the Russians yet another blank check, too. (Meanwhile, in Moscow, Putin's thugs beat an aging pro-democracy dissident to a pulp.)”?

Did you? Personally, I didn’t know any of this stuff! Possibly because it is completely untrue. When Peters refers to the dissident-beating thugs of this “Putin” guy, does he mean the same Putin whose eyes George W. Bush looked into and saw a good-hearted soul? That Putin? Now that was some tough, skilled diplomacy right there, babe.

All in all, this is really remarkable stuff. If Peters argued that Obama had actually gone to the Gamma Quadrant, rather than Europe, and apologized to American-hating, socialist aliens, his tirade couldn’t be any more hallucinatory than it is. It’s really quite astonishing. These guys are clearly starting out with the conclusion that President Obama is badly failing, and then scrambling to fabricate ‘facts’ out of whole cloth in order to support that assertion, since reality is inconveniently spitting in their faces. And they’re doing it on national television, no less.

Another wonderful example comes from some lunatic named William Murchison. He’s real unhappy that gay marriage is on the march in America. So unhappy, in fact, that he’s decided to simply fabricate it out of existence. He writes: “You really can't have ‘gay marriage,’ you know, irrespective of what a court or a legislature may say. ... The human race – sorry ladies, sorry gents – understands marriage as a compact reinforcing social survival and projection. It has always been so. It will always be so, even if every state Supreme Court pretended to declare that what isn't suddenly is. Life does not work in this manner.”

Believe it or not, it actually gets more bizarre from there. Fundamentally, Murchison argues that gay marriage cannot exist because it doesn’t serve the purpose of procreation, and he therefore even goes on to take shots at married heterosexuals who fail to reproduce, calling that “so odd a thing, to put the matter as generously as possible”.

Addressing the Iowa Supreme Court justices who disagree with him, he writes: “These learned folk tell us earnestly that the right to ‘equal protection of the law’ necessitates a makeover of marriage. And so, by golly, get with it, you cretins! Be it ordered that. One can say without too much fear of contradiction that people who set themselves up as the sovereign arbiters of reality are – would ‘nutty’ be the word?”

Get it? Because Murchison sees marriage solely for the purpose of procreation, not only does he get to decide who can marry, he even gets to pretend that there’s no such thing as other forms of marriage outside of his narrow, bigoted and historically inaccurate definition of the term. If the guy is willing to say there’s no such thing as gay marriage, why doesn’t he just get it over with and say there’s no such thing as gays? Or Democrats? Or presidents named Obama? I mean, if you’re going to do denial, why not do it right?

There is a whole lot more of this stuff, everywhere you turn. But I guess my favorite example is given to us by a guy you may have heard of before – a certain Karl Rove. Rove is really upset – and understandably so if you’re familiar with his gentle biography – at the notion that the Obama administration might actually use leverage, or remember who its friends are, when it comes to playing legislative politics in America. So upset, in fact, that he devoted his entire last column in the Wall Street Journal (natch) to a single heinously egregious incident of this. According to Rove, Representative Peter DeFazio got a taste of the presidential backhand when he voted against the stimulus bill. According to Rove, at a subsequent closed-door meeting Obama told fellow Democrat DeFazio, “Don’t think we’re not keeping score, brother”. Oooooohh! Ouch! Now that’s some rough stuff, eh?

Of course, we don’t know if Obama actually said that. And we don’t know if he said it in jest, either. But, just for the sake of argument, let’s assume that it all went down in the way Karl Rove reports it. Does that seem like a case of particularly tough politics to you? Does that seem like a president who is really playing some serious hardball? Does that seem like something that doesn’t happen every five minutes in Washington, and arguably should happen?

More importantly, does that seem like something that the Karl Rove that we’ve all come to know and love this last decade would really have a problem with? Does it seem like a tawdry, pugilistic, or despotic behavior, far below anything Rove himself could imagine employing? One answer to those questions comes from Ron Suskind, who wrote a piece about Rove in 2003. It’s worth quoting at some length:

“Eventually, I met with Rove. I arrived at his office a few minutes early, just in time to witness the Rove Treatment, which, like LBJ's famous browbeating style, is becoming legend but is seldom reported. Rove's assistant, Susan Ralston, said he'd be just a minute. She's very nice, witty and polite. Over her shoulder was a small back room where a few young men were toiling away. I squeezed into a chair near the open door to Rove's modest chamber, my back against his doorframe.

“Inside, Rove was talking to an aide about some political stratagem in some state that had gone awry and a political operative who had displeased him. I paid it no mind and reviewed a jotted list of questions I hoped to ask. But after a moment, it was like ignoring a tornado flinging parked cars. "We will **** him. Do you hear me? We will **** him. We will ruin him. Like no one has ever fucked him!" As a reporter, you get around – curse words, anger, passionate intensity are not notable events – but the ferocity, the bellicosity, the violent imputations were, well, shocking. This went on without a break for a minute or two. Then the aide slipped out looking a bit ashen, and Rove, his face ruddy from the exertions of the past few moments, looked at me and smiled a gentle, Clarence-the-Angel smile. ‘Come on in.’ And I did. And we had the most amiable chat for a half hour.”

Of course, we could go on and on in describing the sort of hardball politics that Karl Rove used over and over again in order to win at all costs. Stuff that Barack Obama would never dream of touching. Stuff like creating rumors that Ann Richards was a lesbian. Stuff like spreading lies that John McCain had fathered a black baby out of wedlock. Stuff like scheduling the Iraq vote right before the midterm elections. Stuff like running ads against triple-amputee Vietnam vet Max Cleland, morphing his face into Osama bin Laden’s.

Stuff like that. When a guy who’s capable of this and so much more worries out loud that Barack Obama is a tyrant because maybe he made a mental note of a member of his party letting him down on a key vote, you really have to ask yourself what’s going on here. Clearly what isn’t going on here is that Rove and the regressive right have any sort of genuine concern about fair play and benighted sweetness and light in the practice of politics. Just as clearly, what is going on is that a political ideology that has exhausted its viability has now turned to wholesale fabrication in a desperate attempt to make the old voodoo work again.

Yep, it’s ugly out there, people. But there is good news in the land, nevertheless. First, what seemed false and idiotic and pernicious only to progressives five years ago now thankfully seems false and idiotic and pernicious to most Americans today. And it is therefore well that the practitioners of these gutter politics continue their practice. Indeed, the more their desperation compels them in frequency and in absurdity, the better our hopes of transcending the threat of regressive politics forever. Clearly, and finally, as Bush and Rove themselves demonstrate, they are their own worst enemies.

Second, like any good regressive should be expected to do, they have now pulled out their forks and knives and are busy eating their young. The regressive movement and its chief political agent, the Republican Party, have never been busier attacking each other and slashing each other to bits. Just last weekend the Virginia GOP had a civil war over what to do with their state chairman, truly a junior version of Michael Steele, and every bit as buffoonish. He’s now gone, and it probably won’t be long before Steele is gone as well, as Republicans seek to join the Know Nothings in the ash bin of history. Yes, as a matter of fact, it is Rush’s party now. I, for one, couldn’t be happier.

Finally, the public increasingly just has no use for these sick puppies. Go figure, eh? A lunatic in Pittsburgh killed three cops with his AK-47 the other day, because he believed that President Obama was going to take away his guns. Hard to figure why some folks might decide not to watch Glenn Beck henceforth.

A New York Times poll released this week shows that only 27 percent of Americans have a favorable opinion of the Republican Party. Fifty-six percent have a favorable opinion of the Democrats, and, hey, those guys are weenies! When asked which party is more concerned with the needs of people like themselves, Americans picked the Democrats over the Republicans, fifty-seven percent to twenty-two percent. They trust Obama to make the right decisions about the economy, sixty-three percent to twenty percent for the Republicans. And, remarkably, they trust Obama over the Republicans even on national security issues, sixty-one to twenty-seven percent. Can you say “finished”? When the GOP is getting clobbered more than two-to-one even on their stock-in-trade scary-movie security issues, the show’s over, folks.

That doesn’t mean we won’t continue to see outrageous fabrications of the sort chronicled above, as the regressive movement writhes through its painful and self-inflicted death throes.

It just means that such a display will lean rather more towards the comical than – as in recent years – the catastrophic.

It's a regressive world out there. Sign-up here for your Weekly Antidote. Keep your eyes on the lies.


Saundra Hummer
April 9th, 2009, 08:27 PM
I have Indian blood... Choctaw on my grandfather's side... I have studied Islam and also see it for what it is... I have always thought that any religion that tells you to either join or be beheaded cannot be real. Any religion that is real must teach Love and compassion as it's core value.. anything else is not real.

That's why people were, and are, leaving the "Desert Born" religions, they were, and are, too violent for what they want to believe in.

I don't understand violence being such an integral part of any religion.

Saundra Hummer
April 9th, 2009, 08:47 PM

Cheney refuses to turn over his records to Bush library

David Edwards and John Byrne
Published: Tuesday April 7, 2009

It appears that Vice President Dick Cheney's penchant for keeping things close continues even beyond his term.

The former deputy commander-in-chief won't even turn his records over to the library of President George W. Bush, though he originally appeared to be willing to do so.

"As the Republican Party searches for meaning in the political minority, one of the men who put them in the political memory, Dick Cheney, does not want his records out of his clutches, especially if they were to go to the George W. Bush presidential library in Dallas anytime soon," MSNBC's Rachel Maddow reported Monday evening.

Bush's number two says he needs his records to stay in Washington so he can tap them for his memoirs.

Last year, one of the architects of Bush's library wrote to the National Archives that "we received a call from [George W. Bush Foundation president] Mark Langdale that the Vice Presidential holdings will now be located at the GWBPL [George W. Bush Presidential Library]" and asked for assistance in revising the library's blueprints.

But according to the Dallas News, there was a "miscommunication."

Keeping vice presidential records at the National Archives is not unusual -- Al Gore opted for his records to remain there after leaving office. But Cheney's obsession with secrecy and control have raised liberal eyebrows over the revelation. A 2007 article in The Washington Post revealed that Cheney's obsession with controlling information goes so far as to involve the purging of Secret Service visitor logs.

"Across the board, the vice president's office goes to unusual lengths to avoid transparency," the Post's Barton Gellman wrote. "Cheney declines to disclose the names or even the size of his staff, generally releases no public calendar and ordered the Secret Service to destroy his visitor logs.

MSNBC's Maddow delivered the news tongue-in-cheek.

"This means that the space set aside for Vice President Cheney's official and personal records in the Bush library will remain empty, a void where information should be," she remarked. "You know, that's how I'll always think of him."

"It made more sense and was more convenient to keep them in D.C.," a Cheney spokesman told the Dallas News.


This video is from MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show, broadcast Apr. 6, 2009.

Download video via RawReplay.com
Go on-site to gain access to the links, video, photo's etc.

Spirited them away, learned a lot during his Nixon days it seems, and we footed the bill for his back from him carrying out his stuffed full boxes himself, not trusting anyone digging through them finding information he can be indicted and tried for. SRH

Saundra Hummer
April 9th, 2009, 09:28 PM

Kanye says 'South Park' put him in check
AP – In this animated still released by Comedy Central, a cartoon version of rapper Kanye West is shown on …Photo: go on site to gain access to this and other functions.

AP Music Writer Nekesa Mumbi Moody,
2 hrs 36 mins ago
NEW YORK – "South Park" may have accomplished the impossible — getting Kanye West to check his ego. The Comedy Central show skewered the famously self-important rapper on its show Wednesday night, painting him as a narcissistic figure so out of touch with reality he couldn't even take a (very politically incorrect) joke.

West's love of himself and his work has been almost as integral to his image as his music: Just last year, he told The Associated Press that he was the "voice of this generation." Also recently, he was quoted as saying his greatest regret was not being able to see himself perform live.

Yet, on his blog Thursday, West appeared chastened, and ready to turn over a new leaf.

West said that he started stroking his ego long ago to build up his self esteem — but he now realizes he needs to "GET PAST MYSELF."

In the self-reflective post, he said that people won't take him seriously if he keeps it up (perhaps referring to his well-documented meltdowns at awards shows when he didn't win what he expected).

And perhaps to show that he's really serious about making that change, he provided a link to one of the most biting moments from the "South Park" show, and thanked the writers as well.


http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090409/ap_on_en_mu/people_kanye_west;_ylt=AiIdSnjf6ZAGjfQUWq8XNdWs0NU E;_ylu=X3oDMTFpMXExbGU1BHBvcwMyNwRzZWMDYWNjb3JkaW9 uX21vc3RfcG9wdWxhcgRzbGsDa2FueWVzYXlzc291On the Net:


Saundra Hummer
April 10th, 2009, 12:45 AM

Chinese Art: Tricks Of The Trade

Gady Epstein
12:06 AM ET
Beijing Dispatch

BEIJING -- China has endured multiple market collapses in the last year, but perhaps none can teach us more about the perils of investing in China than the bust in the contemporary art market. The escalation in prices was so lightning fast that almost everyone knew it was crazy, that it couldn't last. By a year ago, both signature and lesser-known works were selling for 10 times higher than two or three years earlier, which was another 10 times higher than two or three years before that.

Since the failure of Lehman Brothers, prices and sell-through rates have plunged dramatically, and the supply of premium pieces to Sotheby's and Christie's has dried up because sellers know the buyers won't be there. The hot money is gone.

Many saw this collapse coming. They should have seen the same thing coming in Chinese real estate and stocks (See "Shanghaied"), because each market exhibited the classic features of a speculative bubble: hype, scams and insider dealing, all preying on investors' hopes that they could buy high and sell higher.

In the contemporary art market, as Forbes detailed a year ago, China's pay-for-play culture was a perfect match for the self-dealing ethos of the art world. Top Chinese artists were mass-producing paintings in almost assembly-line fashion, selling them directly out of their studios in unknown quantities for up to hundreds of thousands of dollars apiece. Auction houses were working with lesser-known artists, galleries and dealers to bid up their works and set a good public price for private sales.

Artists routinely paid critics for praise and museums for exhibitions to build up their brands. Want to get prime show space at a top national museum? Artistic merit is nice, but money talks. Want the cover of an art magazine, or a lengthy article inside? That is all for sale--and still is, but presumably at a deep discount now.

The game is up, but for those who got in early enough and got out, the money's been made. "That whole Chinese collector cartel, it was kind of like a big Ponzi scheme," says Philip Tinari, an art critic and curator in Beijing. People kept recruiting new buyers to pour more money into the market, driving up prices. "It was quite clear what it was."

Similar thinking applied in other markets. The winners were whoever was in on the deal earliest. In Chinese stocks, mutual fund managers made a killing by tipping off private investors to their next buys.

More brazenly, market operators used numerous ghost accounts to manipulate the fates of some small companies. These operators are called zhuangjia, or dealers, like in a casino, which is what the Chinese stock market is often called. Such things are worth remembering when you see the Chinese markets rally and you consider investing in a China-themed index fund.

In real estate, developers bought up huge tracts of land to look more valuable at IPO. Insiders picked up properties on the cheap and made nominal sales to friends to establish a high market price. The deceptions continue, tailored for the bust: Just this week, state media reported on developers hiring actors to pose as buyers to create an illusion of a buying frenzy--an amusingly common sales trick.

Why would investors fall for any of this? Most investors know there are tricks to every hot market, but they are usually confident they're not the ones being tricked. Investors want desperately to get in on a can't-miss investment strategy, and all three of these markets offered the same tantalizing one.

There is a great story to sell about China no matter the investment opportunity: urbanization and income growth will increase demand for housing and consumer products; Chinese households have high savings, so there's plenty of money out there for the taking; and the yuan will rise in value, so you can buy just about anything and let currency appreciation make you money for free.

Taken together, this is a narrative that can be used to combat against all forces of argument, especially when you throw in the clincher: It's China. There's more than 1.3 billion people there. You can't lose. Except that it turns out you can lose, and lose big. It is not just that investors get greedy and keep increasing their bets as prices go up--it is that investors, both Chinese and foreign, do so in spite of a massive asymmetry in information. They know the can't-miss strategy, but they are not aware of what they do not know, and there is a lot they don't know.

See also:

Market Maker

Olympian Bust?

You Won't Find Your Bubble Here



Saundra Hummer
April 10th, 2009, 02:14 PM
. . . . . . .

Ask FactCheck posted these new items
during the week ending April 10, 2009
(Follow link to read complete answer)

Q: Is Snopes.com run by "very Democratic" proprietors? Did they lie to discredit a State Farm insurance agent who attacked Obama?
A: A chain email that "exposed" Snopes contains falsehoods. And in fact, the site is run by someone who has no political party affiliation, and his non-voting Canadian wife. A State Farm spokeswoman confirms what they reported about the Obama-baiting agent.

Q: Do illegal immigrants cost $338.3 billion dollars a year? More than the Iraq war?
A: A chain e-mail that makes this claim is loaded with errors and misleading assertions. Published studies vary widely but put the cost to government at a small fraction of that total.

Mobile users go here

Now you can follow us on Twitter. And we're on Facebook, too.

This message was sent from FactCheck.org to %Member:Email% . It was sent from: FactCheck.org, 320 National Press Building, Washington, DC 20045.


A: A chain e-mail that makes this claim is loaded with errors and misleading assertions. Published studies vary widely but put the cost to government at a small fraction of that total.

This chain e-mail has been forwarded to us by readers many times over the past year. The most recent version adds a new angle, claiming that the amount of money taxpayers spend on illegal immigrants would be enough to "stimulate the economy." But no matter the spin, the e-mail is rife with errors.

It also contains several red flags that should tip off readers that this is more bogus than believable. For one thing, the figures given don't add up to a "whopping $338.3 billion dollars a year" spent on illegal immigrants in the U.S., as the e-mail claims.

The e-mail lists 14 claims about illegal immigrants, all of which were included in a longer list penned by anti-immigration activist Frosty Wooldridge and published on the conservative Web site NewswithViews.com on Jan. 22, 2007. Another NewswithViews columnist, Lynn Stuter, included Wooldridge's list, with some updated links, in an article posted on April 15, 2008.

The source cited for at least nine of the items is either the conservative Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) or the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), both of which call for more restrictive immigration laws. CIS spokesman Bryan Griffith told us that he had never seen the e-mail but that he suspected something was out there because of occasional surges in traffic that forced him to rewrite Web pages. When told about the e-mail's contents and conclusion of a $338.3 billion yearly cost, he responded that CIS "never said anything of the like and is not going to comment on a chain e-mail that is in no way scientific."

The e-mail also continually blurs the important distinction between legal and illegal immigrants – a sign of sloppy and untrustworthy work.

SummaryBecause we're gluttons for punishment, we've gone through each claim in turn and report on each in detail farther down. But here are a few highlights (or lowlights) of what we found:

The e-mail includes a link to a CIS report that contradicts some of the e-mail's own claims. The report found that illegal immigrant welfare use "tends to be very low." It also estimates the total federal net cost of households headed by illegal immigrants at under $10.4 billion, a small fraction of what this message claims.

One "paper" that is cited is a non-peer-reviewed, non-scientific study that essentially fabricates a number for illegal immigrant criminals.

Five of the links lead to transcripts of Lou Dobbs' cable television show, which fulminates regularly against illegal immigration and is hardly a neutral source. Furthermore, in all instances, the e-mail then takes the original Dobbs reporting out of context. So, how much do illegal immigrants cost federal, state and local governments in the U.S.? Estimates vary widely, and no consensus exists. The Urban Institute put the net national cost at $1.9 billion in 1992; a Rice University professor, whose work the Urban Institute criticized, said it was $19.3 billion in 1993. More recently, a 2007 report by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office examined 29 reports on state and local costs published over 15 years in an attempt to answer this question. CBO concluded that most of the estimates determined that illegal immigrants impose a net cost to state and local governments but "that impact is most likely modest." CBO said "no agreement exists as to the size of, or even the best way of measuring, that cost on a national level."

The Details
For those who want more, we take on each of the e-mail's claims in order:
1. "$11 Billion to $22 billion is spent on welfare to illegal aliens each year."
This item is completely false. The link given to "verify" the claim actually leads to an issue brief by the conservative Federation for American Immigration Reform. But the FAIR brief says nothing of the sort. It says: "Each year, state governments spend an estimated $11 billion to $22 billion to provide welfare to immigrants." That's welfare payments in 2001 to all immigrants – both legal and illegal – plus households including U.S. citizens if they are headed by a person who was born outside the United States.

The site says the FAIR report was last updated in October 2002, but a footnote credits this statistic to a March 2003 report from the Center for Immigration Studies. CIS began as an off-shoot of FAIR. But the CIS report doesn't actually say anything about $11 billion or $22 billion. And it explains that its references to "immigrant households" include persons here legally and persons born outside the U.S.

CIS report: Like the Census Bureau, and other academic work that has examined this question, this report looks at welfare use by immigrant and native households. Households are defined as immigrant or native based on the nativity of the household head. As already indicated, this report uses the terms immigrant and foreign-born synonymously.

CIS estimated that welfare payments to illegal immigrant households averaged $1,040 per household in 2001, mainly Medicaid "on behalf of their U.S.-born children." But the report did not attempt to come up with a total for all such households.

2. "$2.2 Billion dollars a year is spent on food assistance programs such as food stamps, WIC, and free school lunches for illegal aliens."
3. "$2.5 Billion dollars a year is spent on Medicaid for illegal aliens."
These figures supposedly come from a 2004 report by CIS that estimated the costs to the federal government of households headed by illegal immigrants in 2002. But the CIS report actually put the costs of food stamp, WIC and free school lunch programs to "illegal alien households" at $1.9 billion, not the $2.2 billion claimed in the e-mail. The $2.5 billion figure for Medicaid to such households is quoted accurately, but again, much of this was in benefits for U.S.-born children, who are citizens.

Most interesting is that the CIS report includes a total net cost estimate to the federal government for illegal immigrants of just under $10.4 billion for the year, after accounting for the taxes these immigrants paid. That doesn't include any potential costs to state or local governments, but it's a far cry from this e-mail's cost claim of $338.3 billion.

CIS report: Households headed by illegal aliens imposed more than $26.3 billion in costs on the federal government in 2002 and paid only $16 billion in taxes, creating a net fiscal deficit of almost $10.4 billion, or $2,700 per illegal household.

Even CIS' figures have been questioned by other researchers. The Urban Institute reviewed a related 2003 CIS paper and concluded that its "methods overstate the percentage of the population receiving Medicaid and the share of immigrants on Medicaid, resulting in misleading conclusions about welfare use among immigrants."

Even so, the CIS report actually rebuts claims repeated by this chain e-mail:

CIS: Our findings show that many of the preconceived notions about the fiscal impact of illegal households turn out to be inaccurate. In terms of welfare use, receipt of cash assistance programs tends to be very low, while Medicaid use, though significant, is still less than for other households. Only use of food assistance programs is significantly higher than that of the rest of the population. Also, contrary to the perceptions that illegal aliens don’t pay payroll taxes, we estimate that more than half of illegals work “on the books.”

4. "$12 Billion dollars a year is spent on primary and secondary school education for children here illegally and they cannot speak a word of English!"
5."$17 Billion dollars a year is spent for education for the American-born children of illegal aliens, known as anchor babies."
Both links given to "verify" these claims lead to an April 1, 2006, episode of "Lou Dobbs Tonight" on CNN. During the show, correspondent Christine Romans cited both of these stats and attributed them to FAIR. A FAIR research paper from 2005 does include these cost projections, but a closer look shows that the underlying assumptions are inflated or unsupported.

The FAIR report starts with the presumption that there are "1.5 million school-aged illegal immigrants residing in the United States." That figure is attributed to an Urban Institute presentation that doesn't actually say that. Instead, the Urban Institute said: "We estimate that there are about 1.4 million undocumented children under 18 with about 1.1 million of school age (5 -19)."

The FAIR report also assumes there are 2 million "U.S.-born siblings" of illegal immigrant families. However, the Urban Institute makes no estimates of U.S.-born siblings and FAIR gives no citation for its figure. And in any case, again, those U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants are themselves U.S. citizens and not "illegal aliens."

6. "$3 Million Dollars a DAY is spent to incarcerate illegal aliens."
7. "30% percent of all Federal Prison inmates are illegal aliens."

Both of these claims can be traced back to that same April 1, 2006, episode of "Lou Dobbs Tonight" on CNN, in the same segment, with the same correspondent, Christine Romans. But the e-mail misrepresents what Romans said. She gave figures for people who are "not U.S. citizens," a category that would include legal residents as well as "illegal aliens."

Romans said that "according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, 30 percent of federal prisoners are not U.S. citizens," adding that "most are thought to be illegal aliens." Actually, the Federal Bureau of Prisons does not keep figures on illegal immigrants. What solid numbers we can find point to a much smaller figure. A Department of Justice report from 2003 found that only 1.6 percent of the state and federal prison populations was under Immigration and Customs Enforcement jurisdiction, and thus known to be illegal immigrants. Half of these prisoners were detained only because they were here illegally, not for other crimes.

The Bureau of Prisons does track prisoners by offense when information is available. By that metric, 10.7 percent of prisoners in federal jails were incarcerated for immigration offenses in 2009. In 2006, when Romans gave her report, the figure was 10.2 percent.

The "$3 million dollar a day" figure is based on the false assumption that 30 percent of all inmates are illegal immigrants, and thus is greatly inflated.

8. "$90 Billion Dollars a year is spent on illegal aliens for Welfare & social services by the American taxpayers."

The link to "verify" this claim is dead. However, we found a transcript of a Lou Dobbs episode on Oct. 29, 2006, in which Robert Rector of the conservative Heritage Foundation made the following statement:
Robert Rector, Oct. 29, 2006: Well, assuming that we have about 11 million immigrants in the U.S., the net cost or the total cost of services and benefits provided to them, education, welfare, general social services would be about $90 billion a year, and they would pay very little in taxes. It's important to remember that at least half of illegal immigrants are high school dropouts.
We checked with Rector, who said he was referring to both legal and illegal low-skill immigrant households (those headed by someone who doesn't have a high school diploma). His research also looked at many forms of government spending per household, including money spent on parks and transportation.

9. "$200 Billion Dollars a year in suppressed American wages are caused by the illegal aliens."

Again, this is from that same April 1, 2006, Lou Dobbs episode. On the show, Dobbs said that "estimates by the most authoritative and recent study put the suppressed wages at $200 billion a year, as a result of immigration, both legal and illegal." The e-mail continues its practice of ignoring any distinction between legal and illegal immigration.

We couldn't find any study that supported Dobb's figure.

10. "The illegal aliens in the United States have a crime rate that's two and a half times that of white non-illegal aliens. In particular, their children, are going to make a huge additional crime problem in the US"
This is false. The "verify" link leads to yet another transcript of Lou Dobbs speaking with Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation. This one is dated June 12, 2006, and Rector says, "Hispanics in the United States have a crime rate that's two and a half times that of white non-Hispanics."

Rector said Hispanics, not illegal immigrants, as the e-mail alleges. Considering there are 45.4 million Hispanics in the country, and an estimated 11.9 million illegal immigrants, the distinction is notable. Rector's statistic for all Hispanics is correct, according to a 2003 report from the Justice Department.

11. " During the year of 2005 there were 4 to 10 MILLION illegal aliens that crossed our Southern Border also, as many as 19,500 illegal aliens from Terrorist Countries. Millions of pounds of drugs, cocaine, meth, heroin and marijuana, crossed into the U. S from the Southern border. "
The link goes to a 2006 report written by the Republican staff of the House Subcommittee on Investigations of the Committee on Homeland Security. To start, the "19,500" number of "illegal aliens from Terrorist Countries" is nowhere to be found in this report. In fact, the report estimates the number of illegal immigrants coming over the southern border from countries known to harbor terrorists to be in the "hundreds." We've seen a similar scare tactic used previously in ads advocating for a border fence.

And the 4 million to 10 million statistic is extrapolated using some imprecise reasoning. The committee report figures that since "Border Patrol apprehended approximately 1.2 million illegal aliens" in 2005 and since "Federal law enforcement estimates that 10 percent to 30 percent of illegal aliens are actually apprehended," that "therefore, in 2005, as many as 10 to 4 million [sic] illegal aliens crossed into the United States." That simplistic math produces a figure starkly different from more widely accepted estimates. The Pew Hispanic Center estimated that in 2005 there were 11.1 million illegal immigrants total, living in the United States. The center also estimated that about 500,000 illegal immigrants a year came to the U.S. from 2005 to 2008.

12."The National Policy Institute, 'estimated that the total cost of mass deportation would be between $206 and $230 billion or an average cost of between $41 and $46 billion annually over a five year period.' "

No, it didn't. The National Policy Institute, a group that says it promotes the rights of "white Americans," ironically was citing figures from the liberal Center for American Progress in a report that argued against mass deportation of undocumented workers. CAP said such deportation would cost more per year than the entire Department of Homeland Security budget, illustrating "the false allure of deportation as a response to our broken immigration system."

13. "In 2006 illegal aliens sent home $45 BILLION in remittances back to their countries of origin."

This is another bogus figure. The email's link leads to the original Frosty Wooldridge article, which in turn cites as its source for this figure a link to a Contra-Costa Times article, which is no longer working. Nevertheless, we were able to find a news release from the Inter-American Development Bank stating Latin American immigrants sent $45 billion in remittances in 2006. But that figure applies to all immigrants, including legal residents.

14. "The Dark Side of Illegal Immigration: Nearly One Million
Sex Crimes Committed by Illegal Immigrants In The United States."

Once again, the "verify" link is dead. But a little Internet research found the article cited. An independently published, non-peer-reviewed study did estimate that nearly a million sex crimes have been committed by illegal immigrants over a seven-year period, but it employs some highly creative math and interesting assumptions to get there. The "study" is actually a pretty good case study in bad research.

The author assumes that 2 percent of illegal immigrants are sex offenders after "examining ICE reports and public records," but does not say how that figure was calculated. A bibliography cites miscellaneous Immigration and Customs Enforcement press releases and media accounts of instances of apprehending illegal immigrants who were sex offenders (seemingly manufacturing a "rate" based on anecdotal evidence). The author then makes no distinction between male and female illegal immigrants when estimating the number that are "sex offenders."

As we've said before, anonymous chain e-mails making dramatic claims are quite likely to be false. And that goes even for those that may seem to cite legitimate sources. This one is yet another good candidate for the "delete" key.

– Justin Bank

Steven A. Camarota, “Back Where We Started: An Examination of Trends in Immigrant Welfare Use Since Welfare Reform,” Center for Immigration Studies, March 2003.

Camarota, Steven A., "The High Cost of Cheap Labor: Illegal Immigration and the Federal Budget," Center for Immigration Studies, August 2004.

"Immigration and Welfare," Federation for American Immigration Reform, Oct 2002.

"A Line in the Sand: Confronting the Threat at the Southwest Border," prepared by the Majority Staff of House Committee on Homeland Security, Subcommittee on Investigations, Nov 2006.

Goyle, Rajeev, "Deporting the Undocumented: A Cost Assessment," Center for American Progress. 26 July 2005.

"Sending Money Home: Leveraging the Development Impact of Remittances," Inter-American Development Bank. 18 Oct 2006.

Schurman-Kauflin, Dr. Deborah, "The Dark Side of Illegal Immigration: Nearly One Million Sex Crimes Committed by Illegal Immigrants in the United States," Violent Crimes Institute, 2006.

Martin, Jack, "Breaking the Piggy Bank: How Illegal Immigration is Sending Schools Into the Red," Federation for American Immigration Reform. June 2005.

Fix, Michael and Passel, Jeffrey, "U.S. Immigration—Trends and Implications for Schools," Immigration Studies Program, The Urban Institute, 2003.

"Estimates of the Unauthorized Immigrant Population Residing in the United States: 1990-2000," Office of Policy Planning, U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, January 2003.

"Table 169, Current Expenditure Per Pupil in Fall Enrollment in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools, by State: 1969-70 to 1999-00," Digest of Education Statistics 2002, National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education.

Go on site for the first fact check and for the links in this one, the 2nd one by clicking on the following link:

. . . . . . . . . . .

Saundra Hummer
April 10th, 2009, 03:09 PM

Why Republican Senators Are Holding The Torture Memos For Ransom, And Why We're Not Going To Let Them Get Away With It.
Friday, April 10, 2009
12:30 AM
From: "The Pen"

There was a story this week that Republican senators were threatening to "go nuclear" and filibuster EVERYTHING (as if they were not already doing that) if the Justice department released the secret memos that the Bush administration had drafted to their own evil specifications to say that torture was OK. If these apparently flimsy, self-serving documents were supposed to stand as a get out of jail free card for the Bush/Cheney torturers, they must be pretty damning stuff.

Indeed, if this was supposed to be their defense for war crimes, war crimes that have made us all dramatically less safe by exponentially ramping up hatred for the U.S. all over the world, they should be proud to display their defense in the full light of day. But it is Republican members of Congress who are desperately trying to get Obama to keep their filthy, treasonous secrets with them, so we must speak out to them in particular. Shame on the so-called rule of law crowd ... for abject, irredeemable shame. And on us as well unless we demand the immediate release of these legal hack jobs.

Action Page: http://www.peaceteam.net/action/pnum963.php
The same judge in Spain, who everyone applauded when he reached out with the doctrine of univeral jurisdiction to nail Augusto Pinochet, has already drafted a 98 page complaint against the so-called attorneys (including Gonzales) who prostituted their craft to sign off on those patently craven atrocities. Accountability is coming. Justice is coming. The only question is whether there are enough true Americans in this country with the courage to make it happen.

Will we or will we not keep speaking out on this? We have no other moral and patriotic choice but to do so.

Progress On The Real Food Safety Actions
Thanks to the magnificent response to the food safety alerts we are starting to have an impact on what the agribusiness mega-corporations assumed would just be a mow down. Chellie Pingree has now REMOVED herself as a sponsor of the HR 875 because she now sees it would have "unintended consequences" (her own words) detrimental to small and organic farms, who are the salvation of our real food safety. We applaud new House Member Pingree for listening to the wisdom her constituents, what a representative is supposed to do.

Of course, it was the terminal vagueness of HR 875 which was our PRECISE and CORE complaint in the first place. We stand by the action page in every respect. And we're not going to be distracted by talk that DeLauro is now getting input from certain still unnamed organic food advocates (after we spoke out), or any of the other various nitpicking counterattacks we're heard. We know we are winning when they start attacking the people who are speaking the truth.

HR 875 is crop failure on arrival, and what we need instead is a REAL food safety bill that squarely confronts the real problems.

We are ESPECIALLY proud of our participants who used our free "create your own action page" functions to initiate their own independent support actions on this for their own mailing lists, for your work is large part of this victory in the making as well. And you can do the same thing on any issue of your own you care about.

Create Your Own Action Page Function:
http://www.usalone.com/bladesofgrass.htm A real food safety bill would require stringent, long term affirmative safety testing of any Genetically Mutated Organism (GMO) BEFORE it is introduced into our environment. The history of nature is replete with examples of ignorant, careless human meddling that has gone horribly wrong, and that without even creating new species. Gypsy moths in the Northeast, rabbits overrunning Australia, killer bees that could arrive any day now, the list is endless. And they are seriously talking about polluting our agricultural gene pool WITHOUT even considering the potentially dire and permanent consequences? What kind of arrogant lunacy is that?

A real food safety bill would compel full disclosure to the consumer of any food products with unnatural content, including milk contaminated with bovine growth hormone. The reason they are trying to keep the infiltration of our food supply with such products a secret is they know that wise, health conscious consumers would categorically reject them.

A real food safety bill would force large factory farms, to seriously clean up their act, to stop breeding animals in cramped, unhealthy conditions where they are force fed antibiotics that help breed the resistant superbugs like the one that killed an otherwise healthy teen recently in just 5 days. These concentrated animal filth operations (CAFOs) are the sole and exclusive source of all contaminating bacteria now invading even our vegetable fields, the root cause of every food recall and scare of late. It is the massive
overflow of animal waste from these corporate cesspools that must be traced and STOPPED, not the well cared for flocks of small local farmers.

These are just some of the things that a real food safety bill would do. And we will not settle for pig in poke like HR 875 no matter how much lipstick they try to put on it. So if have not yet submitted our action page opposing the bad bill, please do so as well.

Stop HR 875 Action Page: http://www.peaceteam.net/action/pnum959.php Please take action NOW, so we can win all victories that are supposed to be ours, and forward this alert as widely as possible.

If you would like to get alerts like these, you can do so at :


Saundra Hummer
April 10th, 2009, 03:55 PM

Somali Pirates and Vanity Fair
Does anyone subscribe to, or read Vanity Fair? I subscribed to it, and have received my first two magazines and I have to say, it is impressive and cheap, ha. I got a years subscription for $15.00.

I especailly liked an older article, one which I read before finally subscribing. The article was about Somali Pirates. It was such an odd take on their lives and the why's and how's of their piracy. It is worth the price just for that one article alone.

I had always thought of Vanity Fair as just another womans magazine, but it's far from it, and there's so much in it that it's surprising. I find it well written and not just a bunch of fluff. It has longer articles than most magazines as well, & more in depth than most newspaper articles. Besides, I haven't found one thing about dieting, amazing in itself. Are you as tired of hearing about losing weight, and how to do it, as I am?

I can't figure out why I was so ill informed about Vanity Fairs content all these years. Pick up a back issue at the library and find the Somali story, I have it somewhere, if I come across it, I'll let you know which month it's in, it's probably not more than 6 months back..

Saundra Hummer
April 10th, 2009, 05:15 PM

Karl Rove Calls Joe Biden 'Exaggerator,' 'Liar'
Jim Meyers
Friday, April 10, 2009 10:43 AM
Republican strategist Karl Rove has called Vice President Joe Biden a “liar” and a “serial exaggerator” for concocting a story about President George W. Bush “out of whole cloth.”

What set Rove off were comments Biden made in an interview with CNN on Tuesday regarding what he claimed was a meeting with President Bush in the Oval Office.

“Well, Joe, he said, I’m a leader. And I said, Mr. President, turn around and look behind you. No one’s following.”

Asked about the comments by Fox News' Megyn Kelly on Thursday, Rove — who was a close adviser to Bush — said: “It didn’t happen. I hate to say it, but he’s a serial exaggerator. If I was being unkind, I’d say he’s a liar. But it is a habit he ought to drop.

“You’ll notice every one of these incidents has the same structure. Joe Biden courageously raises the impudent question. The president befuddledly answers, and Joe Biden drives home the dramatic response. And I mean, it just — it’s his imagination. It’s a made-up, fictional world.”

Kelly asked: “So you’re saying he just made this thing up out of whole cloth with no basis in fact?”

Rove responded: “He’s making these things up out of whole cloth.”

Rove also disputed Biden’s claim that he had spent “a lot of hours alone with” Bush.

"Joe Biden was never alone with the president for more than a few moments," Rove said. "There was staff in the room at all times…

"I think there are very few presidents who spend hours with somebody in the Oval Office, particularly a — with all due respect, a blowhard like Joe Biden."

Rove also said: “These are the kinds of things you can get away with if you are a United States senator or a backbencher in the U.S. House of Representatives. You should not exaggerate and lie like this when you’re the vice president of the United States.”

Biden spokesman Jay Carney told Fox News earlier this week: “The vice president stands by his remarks.”

Rove pointed out that Biden dropped out of the 1988 Presidential race because he was found to be plagiarizing a speech by Neil Kinnock, the leader of the British Labour Party, “and recounting an episode in Kinnock’s life as if it were in his own life.”

Biden was also criticized for claiming last July that he had been "shot at" during a trip to Iraq, Fox reported. He later amended that assertion, telling The Hill newspaper: "I was near where a shot landed."

© 2009 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
Hey, if I'm near where a shell landed, I'd be saying I was shot at as well. Not such a big fib, now is it? Karl Rove is truthful and above suspicion?, well then lets see how he himself holds up, if he ever does appear for questioning. Subpoenas don't mean doodley squat to Karl Rove, as according to how he thinks, he's still protected by executive priviledge? That's been his claim. Sheer unmitigated gall. Makes one feel ill to hear Rove spew out such garbage as he so oftentimes has and does. Give me Joe Biden's world over Karl Rove's world any day. I can live with that, as I'm sick and tired of the one Karl Rove's and his crew have already carved out for us. SRH


Saundra Hummer
April 10th, 2009, 07:03 PM

Maybe Billy Bob Thornton and Joaquin Phoenix have been partaking of the same sauce, or could it be the water?

What's up with these two very talented actors?


Saundra Hummer
April 11th, 2009, 03:48 AM
Confronting An Obstructionist Minority


Ann Davidow

Didn't the Democrats just win large majorities in both houses of Congress and didn't the country elect President Obama by a healthy eight million vote plurality? In November voters seemed ready for change and even some Republicans were willing to soften their stand on social issues in the hope that a new administration would address other more pressing national concerns.

How then has an obstructionist minority managed to gum things up, achieving power denied them in the electoral process and pretending their party is really where the country's at. Whenever an opportunity exists to impede the administration's agenda they are hard at it, which wouldn't be so hard to stomach if there were real substance behind their "no" doctrine. However, their empty sloganeering, their sniping tactics in Congress, their obeisance to the gun lobby and their financial backing of Norm Coleman's never-ending appeals of the Minnesota election are just dead-end politicking.

The right wing has its intractable advocates, of course, who support people like Representative Cantor and Senator Cornyn and think Representative Bachmann is on track even as she runs off the rails. Massaging the base works on some level, but minority efforts to hamper the simplest congressional procedures, hold up nominations and project their narrow vision on a public that has in many respects moved on, is simply a partisan blockade. Making conservative opinion part of the record is certainly one aspect of the core Republican mission, but acting as if it should serve to define our national principles is way outside the mainstream of current political thinking.

Nevertheless, Senate Republicans continue to stall Obama nominations to important posts. Tammy Duckworth, nominated to be Assistant Secretary at the Department of Veterans affairs, was held up by North Carolina's Senator Richard Burr for unknown reasons. One would think Duckworth, who lost her legs in combat serving our country, would be a shoo-in for the position. And there's the ever-present and oh-so-limited Senator Cornyn blocking the nomination of Dawn Johnsen to head the Office of Legal Counsel. Strangely, he says she lacks the "seriousness and necessary resolve to fight terrorism" although it's more likely he objects to her pro-choice advocacy.

The right wing calls Harold Koh, State Department's legal advisor nominee, a "threat to democracy" because he's an international law expert. The "fervent opponents of ...Koh turn out to be enthusiastic defenders of John Yoo" (ThinkProgress.org 4/4/09) that guy who penned the infamous memo referring to the Geneva Conventions as "quaint". As for Chris Hill, Obama's choice for Ambassador to Iraq, his nomination is being held up by Kansas Senator Brownback, a position embraced by the far right.

A conservative news group describes Obama as "polarizing", but isn't it the right wing chorus line that divides with its use of procedural impediments and claims we are headed for socialism, and questions like ‘do you want the government making health decisions for you'? In fact such decisions are made every day by insurance companies. And when clinics and hospitals servicing the needy close for lack of funds, the uninsured and under-insured, denied access to cancer therapy and meds, are essentially presented with a death warrant - - the most polarizing outcome possible.

One boost to the economy, distressingly, is that gun sales are up because the right wing claims Obama is going to take our guns away, though that isn't on his agenda. No doubt folks on society's lunatic fringe are building up their arsenals; one gun-shop owner says he's having trouble keeping ammunition in stock. In the next spate of shootings by frenzied wingers or distraught workers who have lost jobs, the charge of gun confiscation will have become moot. General Wesley Clark once invited people who like assault weapons to join the armed forces "we've got lots of them" he said. Now there's an idea.

In any case, reasonable people should be calling their senators to express displeasure about Obama's delayed nominees. Veteran's groups may have put enough pressure on Senator Burr to encourage him to finally lift his hold on Tammy Duckworth's appointment. Whatever the reason, her confirmation now appears assured.

Their constant rant often makes conservative positions seem more widely held than they really are. It can be exhausting trying to refute all the false claims and hysterical accusations that continue to consume a lot of right-wing air time. Sometimes one feels that the only thing left to say in response to all the nonsense is "oh please just shut up."

Please respond to Ann Davidow's commentary by leaving comments below and sharing them with the BuzzFlash community.


I do not understand why the
Submitted by gryzelda on Fri, 04/10/2009 - 10:23am.
I do not understand why the majority of MSM, with the exception of MSNBC, some progressive radio stations and shows, and certain publications, continue to give the right so much airtime for their views and so little for progressive speakers. Anything the GOP and their pet pundits want to say against the current administration is entertained and encouraged to engender controversy and boost ratings. I agree with the previous writer, Dems in congress are wimps and fear to use the power they have. When the GOP was in power Dems were cut off from all decisions. We have tried bi-partisianship so far and it doesn't work. If they do not choose to be part of the change, to hell with them (which would not be a bad idea...)

Stop making deals - there
Submitted by Atmost11 on Fri, 04/10/2009 - 9:52am.
Stop making deals - there are two sides - down with bipartisanship - down with wusses - down with wusses - down with wusses - down with wusses - lets see some actual filibustering on TV. Stop making it easy for them - there are two sides - down with bipartisanship.

Simply Put
Submitted by sulphurdunn on Fri, 04/10/2009 - 9:13am.
minority party obstruction is actually minority party rule. This is only possible because it now requires 60 votes in the Senate to even pass a resolution to break for lunch. There is no constitutional requirement regarding this but merely an archaic rule called the filibuster. Of course, even if the Republicans held fewer than 41 seats, they could reliably count on enough Democrats to cross the isle and ensure their de facto 41 vote veto threat. Inversely, when Republicans control the Senate by even one vote, they can again rely on enough Blue Dogs to extinguish any serious threat of a Democratic filibuster.

Follow The Money
Submitted by neoconned on Fri, 04/10/2009 - 6:19am.
Deep Throat's advice to Woodward and Bernstein continues to be accurate today.

Minority obstruction could not be possible without the cooperation of the majority party. Said cooperation is being promoted by the major campaign contributors to both sides, who just happen to be America's largest corporations. They would love to do away with "quaint" and messy niceties like popular sovereignty and electoral governance and replace it with absolutist corporate directives. They will thus do everything they can to frustrate the populace with obstructionism until they can reclaim control, and they don't want to have large legal changes to reverse when they do.

Go on-site for more topical issues of the day, just click on the following link:

Saundra Hummer
April 11th, 2009, 04:02 PM

Showdown Seen Between Banks and Regulators

April 11, 2009

WASHINGTON — As the Obama administration completes its examinations of the nation’s largest banks, industry executives are bracing for fights with the government over repayment of bailout money and forced sales of bad mortgages.

President Obama emerged from a meeting with his senior economic advisers on Friday to say “what you’re starting to see is glimmers of hope across the economy.” But there were also signs of growing tensions between the White House and the nation’s banks over the next phase of the financial rescue.

Some of the healthier banks want to pay back their bailout loans to avoid executive pay and other restrictions that come with the money. But the banks are balking at the hefty premium they agreed to pay when they took the money.

Jamie Dimon, the chief executive of JPMorgan Chase, and two other executives of large banks raised the issue with Mr. Obama and the Treasury secretary, Timothy F. Geithner, at a meeting two weeks ago.

“This is a source of considerable consternation,” said Camden R. Fine, who attended the White House meeting as president of the Independent Community Bankers, a trade group of 5,000 mostly smaller institutions, many of which are complaining about the repayment requirements.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration wants weaker banks to move more quickly to relieve their balance sheets of the toxic assets, the home loans and mortgage bonds that nobody wants to buy right now. But the banks are resisting because they would have to book big losses.

Finally, there is increasing anxiety in the industry that the administration could use the stress tests of the 19 biggest banks, due to be completed in the next three weeks, to insist on management changes, just as it did with General Motors when officials forced the resignation of its chief executive after examining that company’s books.

Senior officials, recognizing that the next few weeks could prove pivotal for both the industry and the bailout effort, are moving ahead with major plans.

“You will be seeing additional actions by the administration,” Mr. Obama said after the meeting Friday, when the officials discussed the bank stress tests and the new $500 billion to $1 trillion plan that will use public subsidies to encourage private investors to buy mortgage assets.

Attending the session were Mr. Geithner; Sheila C. Bair, the head of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation; Lawrence H. Summers, the chairman of the National Economic Council; and other top regulators.

The tension between the industry and the administration is rising as the government’s bailout fund is dwindling, putting the administration in a bind. It is all but certain to need to seek more money from Congress, which wants to see results from existing programs first.

The fund is down to its final $134 billion, according to Treasury officials, and is expected to face new requests for money in the coming weeks to aid tottering banks, the auto industry and possibly insurance companies.

“Between now and Memorial Day we’re going to know a whole lot more about the degree of trouble the banks are in,” said Senator Charles E. Schumer, a New York Democrat who is vice chairman of the Joint Economic Committee. “At the same time, we will begin to have a good initial reading as to how well the administration’s programs are working.”

This month, the nation’s largest banks began announcing their latest quarterly earnings. Some, like Wells Fargo, have released results early to trumpet their profitable first quarter — and possibly to give them leverage in coming negotiations with their regulator.

The immediate concern for the administration is how to get the weaker banks to relieve their books of deteriorating mortgages and mortgage-backed securities.

Industry analysts estimate that United States banks alone have more than $1 trillion of such mortgages on their books but have recognized only a small share of the likely losses.

Economists at Goldman Sachs estimated recently that banks were valuing their mortgages at about 91 cents on the dollar, far more than investors are willing to pay for them.

Even though the Treasury Department plans to subsidize the purchases of toxic assets by giving buyers low-cost loans to cover most of their upfront cost, a growing number of analysts warn that many if not most banks will remain reluctant to sell.

“The gap is still very wide,” said Frank Pallotta, a former mortgage trader at Morgan Stanley, now a consultant to institutional investors. “If every bank was forced to sell at the market-clearing price, you’d have only five banks left in the market.”

The stress tests of the banks are aimed at estimating how much each bank would lose if the economic downturn proved even deeper than currently expected.

Government officials do not plan to disclose the results for individual banks but may reveal broad results for the entire industry at the end of the month.

If the test indicates that the losses would leave a bank with too little capital, the bank will have six months to either raise extra money from private investors or get money from the government. Executives at some banks are worried that regulators will start demanding changes in management and strategy, possibly forcing them to merge with stronger institutions.

Treasury officials said they understood that banks had valid reasons for placing higher values on their mortgages than investors, and said they were hoping to avoid major conflicts.

Facing a host of government restrictions — from how much they pay executives to how many foreign citizens they employ — some small banks have returned the bailout money, and some larger ones, including Goldman Sachs, Wells Fargo and Northern Trust, have said they want to do so as quickly as possible.

On Friday, Sun Bancorp of Vineland, N.J., became the sixth bank to exit the program, returning $89.3 million just three months after it received its loan.

Regulators are reluctant to approve the early repayments until banks can show that they have the capital to withstand further erosion in the economy and will not curtail their lending.

Both large and small banks have pressed the Obama administration to make it less costly for them to exit the bailout program by waiving the right to exercise stock warrants the banks had to grant the government in exchange for the loans. At a meeting last month, the chiefs of three of the largest banks separately asked Mr. Obama to direct the Treasury not to exercise the warrants, Mr. Fine said.

Douglas Leech, the founder and chief executive of Centra Bank, a small West Virginia bank that participated in the capital assistance program but returned the money after the government imposed new conditions, said he complained strongly about the Treasury Department’s decision to demand repayment of the warrants. That effectively raised the interest rate he paid on a $15 million loan to an annual rate of about 60 percent, he said.

“What they did is wrong and fundamentally un-American,” he said. “Even though the government told us to take this money to increase our lending, the extra charge meant we had less money to lend. It was the equivalent of a penalty for early withdrawal.”

Stephanie Cutter, a spokeswoman at the Treasury Department, said it did not comment about the participation of specific banks in the plan or their efforts to exit the program.

In a BuzzFlash newsletter: Bank Thieves Now Want to Get Out of Paying What They Agreed to Pay for the Taxpayers to Bail Them Out of Their Greed. Just Charge Them, Try Them, and Put Them in Jail. Guess What, They Don't Want to Honor the Contracts That They Signed with the Government. Tim Geithner and Barack Obama Better Not Let Them Have a Double Standard.

Go on-site to gain access to the links within this article and go to Buzz Flash.com to sign up for their informative newsletter. Just click on the following link:


Saundra Hummer
April 12th, 2009, 02:18 PM


Obama releases Reagan records

By: Josh Gerstein
April 10, 2009 04:40 PM EST

President Barack Obama is ordering the release of nearly a quarter of a million pages of records from the Reagan White House that were kept from the public during a lengthy review by President George W. Bush.

The Reagan documents – which include presidential briefing papers, speechwriting research materials and declassified foreign policy records — are expected to be released Monday.

Officials said the Obama administration’s quick verdict on the documents was prompted by an executive order Obama signed in January that gives the incumbent president 30 days to make such a decision, unless he sets a longer period. By contrast, Bush’s executive order on presidential records set no time limit on the White House’s review.

“With regard to the Reagan Administration records, I am writing to inform you that the President has not asserted executive privilege over any of this material,” White House Counsel Greg Craig wrote in a letter Thursday obtained by POLITICO.

“Pursuant to the President’s Executive Order, NARA may release these records — opening close to 250,000 pages of history,” Craig wrote to the director of the presidential libraries unit at the National Archives and Records Administration, Nancy Kegan Smith.

A smaller batch of 797 pages from President George H.W. Bush’s presidential library on the topic of Saudi Arabia also has been cleared for release Monday.

In recent years, historians and open-government groups complained bitterly that the review process President George W. Bush instituted was causing a backlog that was stalling the release of tens of thousands of pages of presidential records. “The cynical view is that the process is deliberately inefficient,” Thomas Blanton of the National Security Archive testified at a Congressional hearing on the issue in 2007.

One advocate for greater disclosure hailed Obama's move.

"This is a great development," Scott Nelson of the Public Citizen Litigation Group said. "It's very encouraging that the Bush order and the burden it imposes on the White House to do a page-by-page review apparently won't be taking place under this administration. We won't have this additional layer of delays."

However, there were indications that the most contested presidential records from the Reagan era might not be among the roughly 250,000 pages cleared for release by Obama.

Nelson’s group fought a court battle for about a dozen documents, including memoranda about possible pardons for Iran-Contra figures such as Oliver North and John Poindexter. Representatives of former President Reagan objected to the release of those documents and were backed up in almost all instances by lawyers for President Bush. A federal judge ruled that the requesters’ had no legal grounds to overcome the incumbent president’s assertion of privilege.

Craig’s letter says Reagan’s representative approved of the release of the documents the White House cleared on Thursday, making it unlikely the files contain the same records that led to the court battle. A representative for the elder Bush also consented to have his documents released, officials said.

Obama’s openness to releasing historical presidential records could put him at odds with former presidents or their families who seek to block such a release. But officials said there was no disagreement about the records to be released next week.

© 2009 Capitol News Company, LLC

See Also
Deadlock: Rise of the endless election
GOP govs get dose of stimulus reality
Obama may get ASU honor after all



Saundra Hummer
April 12th, 2009, 03:37 PM
Revive Lincoln’s Monetary Policy:
an Open Letter to President Obama

Ellen Brown
April 10, 2009 --

Dear President Obama:

The world was transfixed on that remarkable day in January when, to poetry, song, and dance, you gazed upon Abraham Lincoln's likeness at the Lincoln Memorial and searched for wisdom to navigate these difficult times. Indeed, you have so many things in common with that venerable President that one might imagine you were his reincarnation in different dress. You are both thin and wiry, brilliant speakers, appearing on the national stage at pivotal times. Fertile imaginations could envision you coming back triumphantly as one of those slaves you freed, to prove once and for all the proposition that all men are created equal and can achieve great things if given a fighting chance. But as Wordsworth said, our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting; and if that is true, you may have forgotten a more subtle form of slavery from which Lincoln freed his countrymen, even if you were there at the time. You may have forgotten it because it has been omitted from the history books, leaving Americans ill-equipped to interpret the lessons of our own past. This letter is therefore meant to remind you.

We are now met on another battlefield of that same economic war that visited Lincoln and the Founding Fathers before him. President Obama, the fate of our economy and the nation itself may depend on how well you understand Lincoln's monetary breakthrough, the most far-reaching "economic stimulus plan" ever implemented by a U.S. President. You can solve our economic crisis quickly and permanently, by implementing the same economic solution that allowed Lincoln to win the Civil War and thus save the Union from foreign economic masters.

Lincoln's Monetary Breakthrough

The bankers had Lincoln's government over a barrel, just as Wall Street has Congress in its vice-like grip today. The North needed money to fund a war, and the bankers were willing to lend it only under circumstances that amounted to extortion, involving staggering interest rates of 24 to 36 percent. Lincoln saw that this would bankrupt the North and asked a trusted colleague to research the matter and find a solution. In what may be the best piece of advice ever given to a sitting President, Colonel Dick Taylor of Illinois reported back that the Union had the power under the Constitution to solve its financing problem by printing its money as a sovereign government. Taylor said:

"Just get Congress to pass a bill authorizing the printing of full legal tender treasury notes ... and pay your soldiers with them and go ahead and win your war with them also. If you make them full legal tender ... they will have the full sanction of the government and be just as good as any money; as Congress is given that express right by the Constitution."

The Greenbacks actually were just as good as the bankers' banknotes. Both were created on a printing press, but the banknotes had the veneer of legitimacy because they were "backed" by gold. The catch was that this backing was based on "fractional reserves," meaning the bankers held only a small fraction of the gold necessary to support all the loans represented by their banknotes. The "fractional reserve" ruse is still used today to create the impression that bankers are lending something other than mere debt created with accounting entries on their books. 1

Lincoln took Col. Taylor's advice and funded the war by printing paper notes backed by the credit of the government. These legal-tender U.S. Notes or "Greenbacks" represented receipts for labor and goods delivered to the United States. They were paid to soldiers and suppliers and were tradeable for goods and services of a value equivalent to their service to the community. The Greenbacks aided the Union not only in winning the war but in funding a period of unprecedented economic expansion. Lincoln's government created the greatest industrial giant the world had yet seen. The steel industry was launched, a continental railroad system was created, a new era of farm machinery and cheap tools was promoted, free higher education was established, government support was provided to all branches of science, the Bureau of Mines was organized, and labor productivity was increased by 50 to 75 percent. The Greenback was not the only currency used to fund these achievements; but they could not have been accomplished without it, and they could not have been accomplished on money borrowed at the usurious rates the bankers were attempting to extort from the North.

Lincoln succeeded in restoring the government's power to issue the national currency, but his revolutionary monetary policy was opposed by powerful forces. The threat to established interests was captured in an editorial of unknown authorship, said to have been published in The London Times in 1865:

"If that mischievous financial policy which had its origin in the North American Republic during the late war in that country, should become indurated down to a fixture, then that Government will furnish its own money without cost. It will pay off its debts and be without debt. It will become prosperous beyond precedent in the history of the civilized governments of the world. The brains and wealth of all countries will go to North America. That government must be destroyed or it will destroy every monarchy on the globe."

In 1865, Lincoln was assassinated. According to historian W. Cleon Skousen:

"Right after the Civil War there was considerable talk about reviving Lincoln's brief experiment with the Constitutional monetary system. Had not the European money-trust intervened, it would have no doubt become an established institution."

The institution that became established instead was the Federal Reserve, a privately-owned central bank given the power in 1913 to print Federal Reserve Notes (or dollar bills) and lend them to the government. The government was submerged in a debt that has grown exponentially since, until it is now an unrepayable $11 trillion. For nearly a century, Lincoln's statue at the Lincoln Memorial has gazed out pensively across the reflecting pool at the Federal Reserve building, as if pondering what the bankers had wrought since his death and how to remedy it.

Building on a Successful Tradition

Lincoln did not invent government-issued paper money. Rather, he restored a brilliant innovation of the American colonists. According to Benjamin Franklin, it was the colonists' home-grown paper "scrip" that was responsible for the remarkable abundance in the colonies at a time when England was suffering from the ravages of the Industrial Revolution. Like with Lincoln's Greenbacks, this prosperity posed a threat to the control of the British Crown and the emerging network of private British banks, prompting the King to ban the colonists' paper money and require the payment of taxes in gold. According to Franklin and several other historians of the period, it was these onerous demands by the Crown, and the corresponding collapse of the colonists' paper money supply, that actually sparked the Revolutionary War. 2
The colonists won the war but ultimately lost the money power to a private banking cartel, one that issued another form of paper money called "banknotes." Today the bankers' debt-based money has come to dominate most of the economies of the world; but there are a number of historical examples of the successful funding of economic development in other countries simply with government-issued credit. In Australia and New Zealand in the 1930s, the Depression conditions suffered elsewhere were avoided by drawing on a national credit card issued by publicly-owned central banks. The governments of the island states of Guernsey and Jersey created thriving economies that carried no federal debt, just by issuing their own debt-free public currencies. China has also funded impressive internal development through a system of state-owned banks.

Here in the United States, the state of North Dakota has a wholly state-owned bank that creates credit on its books just as private banks do. This credit is used to serve the needs of the community, and the interest on loans is returned to the government. Not coincidentally, North Dakota has a $1.2 billion budget surplus at a time when 46 of 50 states are insolvent, an impressive achievement for a state of isolated farmers battling challenging weather. 3 The North Dakota prototype could be copied not only in every U.S. state but at the federal level.

The Perennial Inflation Question

The objection invariably raised to government-issued currency or credit is that it would create dangerous hyperinflation. However, in none of these models has that proven to be true. Price inflation results either when the supply of money goes up but the supply of goods doesn't, or when speculators devalue currencies by massive short selling, as in those cases of Latin American hyperinflation when printing-press money was used to pay off foreign debt. When new money is used to produce new goods and services, price inflation does not result because supply and demand rise together. Prices did increase during the American Civil War, but this was attributed to the scarcity of goods common in wartime rather than to the Greenback itself. War produces weapons rather than consumer goods.

Today, with trillions of dollars being committed for bailouts and stimulus plans, another objection to Lincoln's solution is likely to be, "The U.S. government is already printing its own money - and lots of it." This, however, is a misconception. What the government prints are bonds - its I.O.U.s or debt. If the government did print dollars, instead of borrowing them from a privately-owned central bank that prints them, Uncle Sam would not have an eleven trillion dollar millstone hanging around his neck. As Thomas Edison astutely observed:

"If our nation can issue a dollar bond, it can issue a dollar bill. The element that makes the bond good, makes the bill good, also. The difference between the bond and the bill is that the bond lets money brokers collect twice the amount of the bond and an additional 20%, whereas the currency pays nobody but those who contribute directly in some useful way. It is absurd to say that our country can issue $30 million in bonds and not $30 million in currency. Both are promises to pay, but one promise fattens the usurers and the other helps the people."

A Wake-up Call

Henry Ford observed at about the same time:

"It is well enough that people of the nation do not understand our banking and monetary system, for if they did, I believe there would be a revolution before tomorrow morning."

Today we the people are starting to understand our banking and monetary system, and we are shocked, dismayed, and furious at what we are discovering. The wizard behind the curtain turns out to be a small group of men pulling levers and dials, creating an illusory money scheme that, behind all the talk and bravado, is mere smoke and mirrors. These levers are controlled by a privately-owned, unaccountable central bank called the Federal Reserve, which has recently dispensed billions if not trillions in funds to its banker cronies, without revealing where these monies are going even under Congressional inquiry or in response to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. As Chris Powell pointed out recently in conjunction with an FOIA request brought by Bloomberg News, which the Fed declined to comply with:

"Any government that can disburse $2 trillion secretly, without any accountability, is not a democratic government. It is government of, by, and, for the bankers." 4

There was a time when private central bankers were the heavyweights in control, able to run their ultra-secret agenda with impunity; but that era is coming to an end. The bankers are scrambling, trying to patch up their crumbling creations with schemes, bailouts and sleight of hand. That effort, however, must ultimately prove futile. As investment adviser Rolfe Winkler said in a recent article:

"The great Ponzi scheme that is the Western World's economy has grown so big there's simply no ‘fixing' it. Flushing more debt through the system would be like giving Madoff a few billion to tide him over. Or like adding another floor to the Tower of Babel. To what end? The collapse is already here. The question is: How much do we want it to hurt? Using the public's purse to finance ‘confidence' in a system that is already kaput may delay the Day of Reckoning, sure, but at the cost of multiplying our losses. Perhaps fantastically." 5

The bankers are on the run, feverishly trying to use the collapse of the current system to steer us toward an "Amero"-style North American currency, or a one-world private banking system and privately-issued global currency that they and only they control. We the people will not accept those solutions, however, no matter how bad things get. We demand real solutions that empower us, not enslave us.

Abraham Lincoln had such a solution. President Obama, you can finally bring his monetary solution to fruition. Manifest the vision of Lincoln, Jefferson, Madison and Franklin, and we the people will make sure you are placed in the pantheon of our greatest leaders and are revered for all time. America's greatest days can still be ahead of us; but for this to happen, we need to expose and root out the deceptive banking scheme that would enslave us to a future of debt and increasing homelessness in this great country our forefathers founded. The time has come for democracy to rise superior to a private banking cartel and take back the power to create money once again. Such a transformation would represent the most epochal and empowering shift that humanity has ever seen. As you recently said:

"This country has never responded to a crisis by sitting on the sidelines and hoping for the best. Throughout our history we have met every great challenge with bold action and big ideas."

Your words are a timely reminder of our long legacy of action and bold solutions in the face of adversity. Can we do this? Yes we can.

Ellen Brown, J.D., wrote this article in April, 2009, for Path to a New Economy, a collection of online articles for YES! Magazine, on economic and financial solutions. Ellen developed her research skills as an attorney practicing civil litigation in Los Angeles. In Web of Debt, her latest book, she turns those skills to an analysis of the Federal Reserve and “the money trust.” She shows how this private cartel has usurped the power to create money from the people themselves, and how we the people can get it back. Her eleven books include the bestselling Nature’s Pharmacy, co-authored with Dr. Lynne Walker, and The Key to Ultimate Health (co-authored with Dr. Richard Hansen). Her websites arewww.webofdebt.com and www.ellenbrown.com

Click on "comments" below to read or post comments Comments (29) Comment (0)

http://informationclearinghouse.info/article22391.htm http://www.informationclearinghouse.info

Saundra Hummer
April 12th, 2009, 04:40 PM


US citizens locked up as illegal immigrants

4/12/2009 12:31 PM
By: Associated Press
3:06 pm
Pedro Guzman has been an American citizen all his life. But in 2007, the 31-year-old Los Angeles native signed a waiver agreeing to leave the country without a hearing and was deported to Mexico as an illegal immigrant.

Guzman had been jailed for a misdemeanor. He was mentally ill and illiterate.

For almost three months, he slept in streets, bathed in filthy rivers and ate out of trash cans while his mother scoured the city of Tijuana with his photo in hand. He was finally found trying to cross the border at Calexico, 100 miles away.

In a drive to crack down on illegal immigrants, the United States has locked up or thrown out dozens of its own citizens over the past eight years, probably many more.

A months-long AP investigation has documented 55 such cases on the basis of interviews, lawsuits and documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. These citizens are detained for anything from a day to five years. Immigration lawyers said there are actually hundreds of such cases.

It's illegal to deport U.S. citizens or detain them for immigration violations. Yet citizens still end up in detention because the system is overwhelmed. The number of detentions overall is expected to rise by about 17 percent this year to more than 400,000, putting a severe strain on the enforcement network and legal system.

Copyright 2009 Associated Press, All rights reserved.


Saundra Hummer
April 12th, 2009, 05:11 PM

Amazing Health News
We All Should Know About

Some doctors treat eye cancer with plaque brachytherapyThis type of internal radiation therapy delivers a highly concentrated dose of radiation to the tumor. The source of the radiation is small radioactive seeds attached to a gold or steel bowl called a plaque. That plaque is attached to the wall of the eye to cover the base of the eye tumor.
FULL STORY >> 4/10/2009 1:50 PM

Amputees find hope through dolphin's surgeryA dolphin named Winter, with the help of expert prosthetists, underwent a tail replacement. The design of Winter's prosthetic may also help human amputees.
FULL STORY >> 4/9/2009 1:20 PM

Doctors 'fish' for a cure for cancerA recent step in zebrafish research involved developing a new, transparent breed of zebrafish called the "casper" to give scientists a literal peek inside how the body works, especially as it battles diseases like cancer.
FULL STORY >> 4/8/2009 9:52 AM

Surgeons navigate the spine with GPS technologySurgeons are now using image-guided spinal navigation, similar to global positioning systems, or GPS, to navigate the spine during spinal fusion surgery.
FULL STORY >> 4/7/2009 7:50 AM

Device helps patients take steps after a strokeElectrical stimulation works to help stroke patients regain mobility by delivering a shock to the survivor's muscles. That shock activates the nerves and makes the associated muscle move.
FULL STORY >> 4/6/2009 10:17 AM

Medicine opening doors to sickle cell cureA recent study at the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh looked into a form of bone marrow transplantation that uses reduced-intensity conditioning prior to the transplant.
FULL STORY >> 4/3/2009 4:51 PM

Doctors use glue to fill aneurysmsDoctors have a new way to fill aneurysms: onyx, a thick black substance that turns solid when exposed to blood.
FULL STORY >> 4/2/2009 10:11 AM

Software makes childbirth saferA Web-based system can be used to predict a woman's risk of shoulder dystocia during birth from 37 weeks of gestation onward.
FULL STORY >> 4/1/2009 10:40 AM

Cane Fu seniors put up a heck of a fightThere's a new exercise trend. It's not kung fu, it's Cane Fu, and some seniors are putting up their dukes to stay healthy and live longer.
FULL STORY >> 3/27/2009 1:00 PM

A new option helps filter out bad cholesterolMore than 34 million American adults have high cholesterol levels. For some, diet and exercise can bring it down, but for others, even medication won't help. For the latter group, a new treatment is available.
FULL STORY >> 3/26/2009 3:03 PM

Hope for beating the odds of pancreatic cancerA more recent clinical trial looked into treating patients with operable pancreatic cancer with surgery, chemotherapy and the immune system stimulator interferon.
FULL STORY >> 3/25/2009 8:42 AM

Brain surgery through the eyelidsSurgeons at Allegheny General Hospital (AGH) in Pittsburgh, Pa., are using a new procedure to fix life-threatening brain aneurysms.
FULL STORY >> 3/24/2009 10:38 AM

Neck surgery leaves less scarring, less painMitchell Austin, M.D., an otolaryngologist at Nemours Children's Clinic in Orlando, Fla., describes a new kind of surgery to remove cysts that leaves kids with less scarring and less pain.
FULL STORY >> 3/23/2009 3:02 PM

Doctors test use of artificial liverSee how doctors are now testing an artificial liver that gives patients another chance at survival.
FULL STORY >> 3/19/2009 8:08 AM

On Weekdays News 8 Austin’s Health Beat brings you reports on health care, treatments and medical news from our community facilities and from around the nation.
Search Health


Saundra Hummer
April 13th, 2009, 02:48 PM
The World Newser
World News' Daily Blog

Bailed Out Banks Jacking Up Credit Card Rates

April 13, 2009 9:58 AM
Have you gotten anything in the mail lately from your credit card company? Perhaps a letter informing you that your interest rates are going up? Or that there's a new fee for something that used to be free of charge? You are not alone.

The Wall Street Journal reports today that the committee charged with watching the dollars and cents of the bail effort is now investigating how these banks are treating their customers -- the fees, the special charges, the rates going up. Bank of America will be raising rates on 4 million. Bank of America received $45 billion from tax payers to stay afloat.

Have you seen your rates go up recently? Did you miss a payment or was this out of the blue?

* * *

April 13, 2009 | User Comments (30)
Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Bailed Out Banks Jacking Up Credit Card Rates:
User CommentsWe got it on a few of our credit cards, no missed payments, just out of the blue...and they jacked it up to like 28%...I sort of figured it was punishment for not using it as often and the bill being almost paid off...

^Posted by: samhiguchi | Apr 13, 2009 10:19:36 AM^
My Bank of America credit card was just raised to 28% - out of the blue. Luckily, I was able to pay off the balance right away, so no harm done immediately. But I wasn't late, and had no notice of the rates being raised. American Express did the same thing to both of my cards, as did Chase for both of those cards (not one card is below 27% now!) and my credit score is 720!!. I just paid off ALL of my credit card balances, but was completely alarmed by the rates being raised for no reason at all!! Especially when they are getting all these bailouts! It should be a crime!! I hope something is really done, because not everyone is lucky enough to be able to pay off all their cards at once!!
Megan in NH

^Posted by: Megan | Apr 13, 2009 10:22:30 AM^
I didnt get a letter.
I got my limit cut in half - my interest rate went up to 26.99%.
It made me over my limit - etc.
I transfered the balance, and cancelled the card.
Credit Card companies are like the government - THEY DONT CARE ABOUT YOU!

^Posted by: Ruby | Apr 13, 2009 10:23:43 AM^
All of my credit cards now reflect a 32% intrest rate. I have never missed a payment, always pay over the minimum and have been a valid customer. I called and all I was told that this is the new policy, and even threatening to cancel my accounts did nothing for me. Infact they were eager to help me with the process!

^Posted by: Josh | Apr 13, 2009 10:25:45 AM^
Got it. Called the company and told them to cancel the card because of it. Company promptly "reduced my rate back to the original because I am such a reliable customer".

^Posted by: John | Apr 13, 2009 10:29:46 AM^
Being a bit of a leftie, I went with a credit union long ago. My credit card rate (6.9% APR) hasn't changed for years, the minimum payment is pulled automatically from my savings account if I forget so I've never seen if they have any late fees, and the only other fee is $25 a year (and that is only because I enroll in the optional 'earn miles' program). And they have never seemed to mind that I usually pay it off in full every month.

If you can get into one of the top 10 largest US credit unions (and if you live in Washington state, you probably can), it's a little silly to stick with for-profit banks.

^Posted by: jhw539 | Apr 13, 2009 10:33:43 AM^
It isn't just BOA doing this. We have perfect credit, never late, never missed, never gone over, always pay more than asked, and we had two credit cards that raised our interest rates.....Capital One and Sears/Citi. I've been with Capital One since 1990. Mine went from a 5.99 to 15.99 interest rate, two months ago.

^Posted by: KdOklahoma | Apr 13, 2009 10:51:04 AM^
My fees on my debit card haven't changed and I haven't used a credit card for 15 years. A while back our credit score was hurt because we don't use credit cards.
^Posted by: unshrub | Apr 13, 2009 11:00:15 AM^

The interest rate on both my and my wife's CitiBank cards jumped from 7.99% where it's been for more than 5 years to 17.99% overnight about two months ago and we've never been even a minute late with a payment. With both our credit scores in the 810's there's absolutely no way that it's anything but a scam by CitiBank.

^Posted by: Kevin | Apr 13, 2009 11:15:35 AM^
Yup..Bank of America raised mine to 30%. It's crazy. I've paid thousands more than is on the card because of the 30% rate.

^Posted by: Sunflower | Apr 13, 2009 11:29:01 AM^
From an economic and personal money management standpoint these rate increases may be a good thing. We have floated along on credit for 30 years now & perhaps its time to rebalance our household books. I think the banks want a dramatically lower level of credit in the overall economy. Painful? Sure can be if you have a large balance.
^Posted by: Claude | Apr 13, 2009 11:37:40 AM^
It was bound to happen... we bail out the banks and now we are getting raped on credit card interest.... everyone should have seen this coming..

Inflation and high prices are now here...if you thought the recession was over, think again...

No bank that recieved TARP money should be allowed to raise their rates... they have already been bailed out by the taxpayers and now they want to rape us again...

Wonder what government will do about this?
^Posted by: lm | Apr 13, 2009 11:56:05 AM^
People who maintain a credit card balance are at the mercy of the lender. The answer is simple -- get out of credit card debt and stop borrowing against the unknown future!
^Posted by: dk | Apr 13, 2009 12:07:06 PM^
" and stop borrowing against the unknown future!"

Words the Coorperations should be living by right now...they over extended themselves no matter how many different ways you slice it. We 'The Taxpayer' have already paid for bad credit decisions on behalf of the credit card companies. Hell, if you think about it, I just paid off the girl's balance who didn't pay it by virtue of the money I just paid in taxes. Now, I have to incur another fee from the credit card companies by suffering a tripled interest rate? I already told my credit card company this: You're punishing the people that pay on time while rewarding the dead beat people who don't.
^Posted by: Woody | Apr 13, 2009 12:55:50 PM^


Saundra Hummer
April 13th, 2009, 03:40 PM

. . . . . . .

Norm Coleman knows Al Franken won.

The courts just finished counting and recounting all potential ballots, and the results are clear: Al Franken got more votes than Norm Coleman did. In fact, this last round of Coleman challenges actually widened Franken's lead.1

But Coleman is betting on the fact that Al Franken doesn't have the funds to keep fighting a long legal battle. So instead of conceding gracefully, Coleman plans to appeal this final ruling, and drag this case through the Minnesota Supreme Court for several more months.2

It's cynical. It's selfish. And it's hurting Minnesotans—not to mention Obama's ability to pass real health care reform, create millions of green jobs, and build a new-energy economy.

If Al Franken can show that he has the war chest to keep going, Coleman won't be able to justify dragging this out longer. All of us need to pitch in and help send a strong message to Norm Coleman: Al Franken won this election, and we're sticking by him until he's seated in the U.S. Senate. (I've edited out fund request. SRH)

Everyone knows this story ends with Al Franken being seated as a U.S. senator.

The question is: Can Franken raise enough money now to prove that another court appeal is pointless? Or will they have to duke it out in court for months to prove that same point?

So far, Franken's team has done a great job. For the last seven weeks, Coleman made every conceivable legal argument he could to bolster his case. They presented more than 20,000 pages of legal filings.

The outcome? Al Franken gained votes. He started with a 225-vote lead, and now is up by 312 votes.3

Republicans in Washington know Coleman's not going to win on the merits. As one former Republican senator said, their attitude is, "We will continue to fund you, just to keep the Democrat out of the Senate."4

They want Coleman to keep flogging this legal case, depriving Minnesota voters of their second senator for months or years more—and depriving Democrats of a 59th vote that they won fair and square.

The better equipped Franken's lawyers are to fight, the more easily they'll be able to defeat Coleman in court. Can you chip in (edited request) to help Al Franken finally become Senator Franken?

And there's another candidate who needs our help, too.

Democratic House candidate Scott Murphy—who President Obama called "the kind of partner I need in Washington"5—is entering a long recount battle of his own after the special election in New York's 20th District.

That race is virtually tied, so Republicans are resorting to smearing Murphy any way they can. If he's going to make it to D.C. to help Obama, he's going to need real resources to defend himself and make sure every vote gets counted and recounted. If you can, please chip in to help Murphy at the same link above.

–Nita, Joan, Peter, Eli and the rest of the team

(At MoveOn.org)


1. "Absentees push Franken's Senate lead to 312," Associated Press, April 8, 2009,

2. "Coleman team vows to appeal tally," Minneapolis Star Tribune, April 8, 2009,

3. "Absentees push Franken's Senate lead to 312," Associated Press, April 8, 2009,

4. "The Conservative Case Against Coleman," The New Republic, April 8, 2009,

5. "New York congressional race tests Obama," AFP, March 30, 2009

For more on Murphy's recount battle, check out

. . . . . . .

Saundra Hummer
April 13th, 2009, 06:14 PM


Herbal wine, just the thing for ailing pharoahs

Associated Press
05:00 PM EDT

When great-grandma took a nip of the elderberry wine "for medicinal purposes," she was following a tradition that goes back thousands of years.

Indeed, researchers say they have found evidence that the Egyptians spiked their wine with medicinal herbs as long as 5,000 years ago.
A chemical analysis of pottery dating to 3150 B.C. shows that herbs and resins were added to grape wine, researchers led by Patrick E. McGovern of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology report in Tuesday's edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

Adding tree resin to wine to prevent disease was widely known in ancient times, also being reported in ancient China, and continuing into the Middle Ages, the researchers say.

And they note that Egyptian records report that a variety of herbs were mixed in wine, beer and other liquids for medical uses.

Chemicals recovered from the pottery indicate that in addition to wine there were savory, blue tansy and artemisia - a member of the wormwood family - present. Other chemicals indicate the possible presence of balm, senna, coriander, germander, mint, sage and thyme.


Copyright 2009 Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Saundra Hummer
April 13th, 2009, 09:11 PM
After the lock down on the "Why can't we talk religion?", take a look at Joseph Cambell's writings and discussions for an insight on myth and comparitive religion. I wish I had the whole collection, as much of it is fascinating, as are the time-lines on much of what has been written in religious tomes down through the ages. Joseph Campbell's book are listed on the following site.

He has many books on myth and his "Follow Your Bliss series on PBS" were wonderful for it's words, it's art work and photo's


Saundra Hummer
April 13th, 2009, 11:02 PM

Will Israel Attack Iran?

Roane Carey
13 April, 2009
JERUSALEM -- Israel has been steadily ratcheting up pressure on the United States concerning the grave threat allegedly posed by Iran, which seems poised to master the nuclear fuel cycle, and thus the capacity to produce nuclear weapons. The new Israeli prime minister, Likud Party hawk Benjamin Netanyahu, has warned President Barack Obama that if Washington does not quickly find a way to shut down Iran's nuclear program, Israel will.

Some analysts argue that this is manufactured hysteria, not so much a reflection of genuine Israeli fears as a purposeful diversion from other looming difficulties. The Netanyahu government is filled with hardliners adamantly opposed to withdrawal from, or even a temporary freeze on, settlements in the occupied territories, not to mention to any acceptance of Palestinian statehood. On his first day as foreign minister, extremist demagogue Avigdor Lieberman, with characteristic bluster, announced that Israel was no longer bound by the 2007 Annapolis agreements brokered by Washington, which called for accelerated negotiations toward a two-state settlement.

Such talk threatens to lead the Israelis directly into a clash with the Obama administration. In what can only be taken as a rebuttal of the Netanyahu government's recent pronouncements, in his speech to the Turkish Parliament Obama pointedly reasserted Washington's commitment to a two-state settlement and to the Annapolis understandings. So what better way for Netanyahu to avoid an ugly clash with a popular American president than to conveniently shift the discussion to an existential threat from Iran -- especially if he can successfully present it as a threat not just to Israel but to the West in general?

All of this adds up to a plausible argument against undue alarm over the latest Israeli warnings about an attack on Iran, but it's flawed on several grounds. There is a broad, generally accepted paranoia in Israel about Iran, a belief that its leaders must be stopped before they proceed much further in their uranium enrichment program. (This view is not shared on the Israeli left, but it's now a ghost of its former self.)

In an interview for TomDispatch, Ephraim Kam, deputy director of the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv and a specialist on the Iran issue, commented, "Of course there are different opinions, but there is a general consensus, among both security experts and political leaders, from Labor to the right wing. This is not a controversial issue: if Iran acquires nuclear weapons, it will pose a deep threat. It will be the first time in our history that another country can deal a major blow to Israel."

Kam hastens to add that, in his own view, the scenario Netanyahu proposes -- that Iran is led by irrational fanatics who would nuke Israel at the first chance, even knowing that an Israeli nuclear counterstrike would be swift and catastrophic -- is false. "Iran is a pragmatic, logical player," Kam says. He remains convinced that "even a radical fundamentalist regime" wouldn't attack Israel, but he adds, "This is just my assessment, and assessments can go wrong. I wrote a study on wrong assessments, so I know something about this." In other words, if Kam's claims about the Israeli consensus are correct, the country's leadership takes it for granted that Iran is indeed hell-bent on producing a nuclear weapon and is not inclined to take a chance that a nuclear Iran will play by the MAD (as in mutually assured destruction) rules hammered out by the two Cold War superpowers decades ago and never use it.

This attitude reflects a longstanding Israeli strategic principle: that no neighboring state or combination of states can ever be allowed to achieve anything faintly approaching military parity, because if they do, they will try to destroy the Jewish state. By this logic, Israel's only option is to establish and then maintain absolute military superiority over its neighbors; they will, so this view goes, accept Israel's presence only if they know they're sure to be defeated, or at least vastly outmatched.

This is the famous "iron wall," conceived by early Zionist leader Vladimir Jabotinsky more than 80 years ago, well before the founding of Israel itself. (Jabotinsky founded the Revisionist movement, which in opposition to the Labor mainstream refused to accept any territorial compromise regarding Zionist aims, such as partition. Although he and his followers were for years shut out of the political leadership, their views regarding Israel's neighbors became deeply lodged in the public psyche.) If Iran were to acquire the capacity to build even one nuke -- Israel itself is estimated to have 150-200 of them -- that iron wall would be considered seriously breached, and the country might no longer be able to dictate terms to its neighbors. Given Iran's support for Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza, Israel would then have to recalibrate its strategy both on its northern front and vis-à-vis the Palestinians.

Recent developments in Israel could certainly give the impression of a nation preparing for war: the Home Front command, one of four regional divisions of the Israeli army, has just announced the largest defense exercise in the country's history. It will last an entire week and is intended to prepare the civilian population for missile strikes from both conventional warheads and unconventional ones (whether chemical, biological or nuclear). Meanwhile, the country is accelerating its testing of missile defense systems, having just announced the successful launch of the Arrow II interceptor.

Can Israel Go It Alone?

Would Israel really attack Iran without at least tacit approval from Washington? Could Israel do so without such approval? At the very least, Israel would need approval simply to get permission to fly over Iraq, whose airspace is controlled by the U.S. military, not the Iraqi government in Baghdad. As columnist Aluf Benn put it in the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz, "Defense experts say that without a green light from Washington, Netanyahu and Barak will not be able to send in the air force." Kam adds, "In my judgment, it is somewhere between difficult to impossible for Israel to do it alone, for both technical and political reasons."

Most analysts here believe that a solo Israeli attack would, at best, set back Iran's nuclear program by several years -- not that this would necessarily be a deterrent to Netanyahu & Co. It's widely believed that, in their view, even a temporary delay in Iran's nuclear capability would be an improvement on the current course. It's worth recalling that Israel sought an explicit go-ahead from the Bush administration for an attack last year, which President Bush -- presumably fearing massive conventional retaliation from Iran in both Iraq and Afghanistan -- sensibly refused, a rare moment in his tenure when he did not accede to Israeli wishes.

It's also clear that President Obama seeks to resolve the standoff with Iran through diplomatic means. He's abandoned the confrontational rhetoric of his predecessor and continues to extend peace feelers to the Islamic Republic. Tehran's response has been mixed, but at least a new mood of negotiation is in the air.

Israeli strategists, however, see this new mood as threatening, not hopeful. Any U.S. rapprochement with Iran -- especially if carried out on terms that acknowledge Iran's status as a regional power -- could, they fear, undermine Israel's "special relationship" with Washington. As Iran analyst Trita Parsi put it in a recent piece in the Huffington Post, Iran would then "gain strategic significance in the Middle East at the expense of Israel."

It's within the realm of possibility, for example, that Washington could work out a grand bargain with Tehran terminating its policy of regime change and ending sanctions in return for Tehran's vow never to weaponize its nuclear program. Intrusive international inspections would presumably guarantee such a bargain, but Tehran's national pride would remain intact, as it would be allowed to retain the right to enrich uranium and develop a peaceful nuclear infrastructure.

There has even been some recent slippage in Washington's language when it comes to demands placed on Iran -- with an insistence on an end to all nuclear enrichment evidently being replaced by an insistence on no weapons development. To Israel, this would be a completely unsatisfactory compromise, as its leaders fear that Iran might at some point abandon such an agreement and in fairly short order weaponize.

Given Obama's new approach, it might seem that Israel is stymied for now. After all, it's hard to imagine Obama giving the go-ahead for an attack. Just this week, Vice President Joe Biden told CNN that he thought such an Israeli attack "would be ill-advised."

Other factors, however, play in the hardliners' favor: the Obama administration's new special envoy for Iran, Dennis Ross, is himself a hardliner. Last year, Ross was part of an ultra-hawkish task force that predicted the failure of any negotiations and all but called for war with Iran. Ross is a man who not only knows how to play the bureaucratic game in Washington, but has powerful backers in the administration, and his views will have plenty of support from pro-Israel hawks in Congress.

The attitude of another key sector in decision-making, the high command of the U.S. military, may also be evolving. Washington's dilemma in Iraq is not nearly as dire as it was two years ago. The nightmare envisioned by the American generals running the Iraq campaign in recent years -- that, in response to an attack on its nuclear facilities, Iran could send tens of thousands of well-trained commandos across the border and inflict grave damage on U.S. forces -- has faded somewhat. The Iraqi government's military has much better control of the country today, with insurgent violence at far lower levels. The Shiite Mahdi Army and Iran-connected "special groups" seem to be mostly quiescent.

Of course, the situation in Iraq is still unstable, and any attack on Iran could easily throw the country back into ungovernable chaos. Still, given the role we know American commanders played in nixing such an attack in the Bush years, the question remains: Has resistance to such an attack lessened in the military? It's unclear, but an issue worth monitoring, because American commanders were the most consistent, persuasive voices for moderation during the Bush administration.

It should go without saying that an Israeli attack on Iran would have disastrous consequences. No matter what Washington might claim, or how vociferously officials there denounce it, such an attack would be widely understood throughout the Muslim world as a joint U.S.-Israeli operation.

It would, as a start, serve as a powerful recruiting tool for extremist Islamist groups. In addition, an outraged Iran might indeed send commandos into Iraq, aid armed Iraqi groups determined to attack U.S. and government forces, shoot missiles into the Saudi or Kuwaiti oilfields, and attempt to block the Straits of Hormuz though which a significant percentage of global oil passes. Washington would certainly have to write off desperately needed cooperation in the war against the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Any attack would only strengthen the reign of the mullahs in Iran and reinforce the country's determination to acquire a nuclear deterrent force that would prevent future attacks. And keep in mind, Iran's nuclear program has overwhelming public support, even from those opposed to the current regime.

Given the Netanyahu government's visible determination to attack, an ambiguous signal from Washington, something far less than a green light, could be misread in Tel Aviv. Anything short of a categorical, even vociferous U.S. refusal to countenance an Israeli attack might have horrific consequences. So here's a message to Obama from an observer in Israel: Don't flash the yellow light -- not even once.

Roane Carey, on leave as managing editor of the Nation magazine, is on a journalism fellowship at the Chaim Herzog Center for Middle East Studies and Diplomacy at Ben-Gurion University in Beer-Sheva, Israel. He is co-editor of The Other Israel (New Press).

Copyright 2009 Roane Carey.


Saundra Hummer
April 15th, 2009, 02:39 PM

Taxing Matters

Robert Borosage
April 15th, 2009
9:22am ET

Tax Day. Fox News is flogging Astroturf "tea parties" underwritten by corporate lobbyists, while its pundits warn that raising the top income tax rate to the level it was under Bill Clinton constitutes "socialism." The Wall Street Journal editorializes about the evils of the estate tax. Ari Fleischer, Daddy Bush's old flack, is trotted out to complain that "redistribution of income" through the tax code "is getting out of hand."

Really? Here's the grim reality. Since 1980, when the conservative era began, inequality has reached Gilded Age extremes—while top-end tax rates have been cut. The wealthiest few captured ever more of the nation's income while successfully lowering their tax rates.

And worse, this is still going on. This month, every Republican senator—joined bizarrely by 10 Democrats—pushed for yet another tax break for the super-rich—those with fortunes over $7 million. Apparently worried that the heirs of the Paris Hilton class might not be able to keep the yacht clubs humming, Republican senators voted in lockstep to direct the Congress to raise the full exemption of estates from $7 million to $10 million per couple, and drop the top rate from 45 percent to 35 percent. Over a decade when fully in effect, this represents a bauble worth about $90 billion to the 1 in 400 estates (one-fourth of one percent) that reach that level.

Fleischer would suggest this is a small, but inadequate step to curb the confiscatory redistribution of the tax code. But he's peddling bull.

In 1980, as "Gilded Age Taxation," a study by the Institute for America's Future shows, the richest 1 percent of Americans captured fully 7.7 percent of the nation's after-tax income. The middle 60 percent captured about 50.9 percent. By 2006, the latest Congressional Budget Office figures show the opulent 1 percent—making an average $1.3 million —captured a staggering 16.3 percent of the nation's income after all that tax-code redistribution, while the middle 60percent garnered only 44.1 percent. If class war is being waged, the rich are on the march.

The Institute for Policy Studies in a new report details the staggering contrast to the Eisenhower years. In 1955, the top 400 taxpayers averaged about $12.3 million in income (2006 dollars) and paid, after exploiting every loophole imaginable, 51.2 percent of that in federal income tax. A half century later, the richest 400 average a breath-taking $263.3 million in income each, and pay a mere 17.2 percent of that in federal income taxes—a lower tax rate than paid by most of their secretaries.

If those 400 taxpayers had paid at the same rate in 2006 as a half century earlier, the federal treasury would have collected $35.9 billion more in revenue, or enough to double the energy and transportation budget combined. No wonder Ike, clearly a stealth "socialist," could afford to build the interstate transport system.

So why do Republican senators en mass and 10 wayward Democrats—Max Baucus, Evan Bayh, Maria Cantwell, Mary Landrieu, Blanche Lincoln, Patty Murray, Bill Nelson, Ben Nelson and Jon Testor—think the wealthiest one-fourth of one percent of Americans need another tax break? They wax eloquent about saving family farms and small businesses. But upon sober review, The New York Times editorial board provided a tempered evaluation of the argument: "That is swill." Opponents of the estate tax haven't been able to dig up a family that was forced to liquidate its farm or business due to the tax because these folks simply do not exist.

The sad reality is that conservative dominance over the last decades has had profound effects. One of these is that income inequality grew to Gilded Age extremes, while top-end tax rates were slashed. Fleischer is right. We did witness a lot of redistribution. But it went from the middle class to the very top, not the other way around.

Incidentally the new tax break isn't a done deal. A conference committee will decide its fate in the next week or two. You might want to call or write Republican senators or the wayward Democratic 10 and tell them enough already.

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Saundra Hummer
April 15th, 2009, 03:34 PM
:wohoo: :elephant: :wohoo: :elephant: :wohoo: :elephant: :wohoo:

A Mad Tea-Party

Bernie Horn
April 14th, 2009
11:30am ET

Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be late!” says the White Rabbit who looks remarkably like Fox News bloviator Glenn Beck.

Beck and his fellow Fox partisans Sean Hannity, Neil Cavuto, and Greta Van Susteren are hurrying to publicize and legitimize the so-called “Tax Day Tea Party” tomorrow. But the multi-city event makes as much sense as a caterpillar smoking a hookah.

Organizers claim that “Tea Party” refers to the Boston Tea Party—which was a protest against taxation by the British Parliament without representation from America. But you don’t hear them crying out “no taxation without representation” or calling for D.C. statehood.

Also, unlike the 1773 protest in Boston, this is hardly a grassroots affair. It’s actually being organized by corporate front groups, including Dick Armey’s FreedomWorks, and literally sponsored by Fox News.
So it must be inspired by some other kind of tea party…

Go on-site for cartoon drawingYes, the right wingers have fallen Down the Rabbit-Hole into a Wonderland where the absurd becomes entirely routine.

First the riddle, what is the Tax Day Tea Party about? What do the participants want?

“Have you guessed the riddle yet?” the Hatter said, turning to Alice again.
“No, I give it up,” Alice replied: “what's the answer?”
“I haven't the slightest idea,” said the Hatter.
“Nor I,” said the March Hare. Look at the wild comments on their website. Like Alice’s tea, it’s not about anything. No doubt there will be participants who don’t like paying taxes. But that’s hardly newsworthy. The Mad Haters' cacophony of complaints fall into three categories.

The loudest howls are about the $700 billion TARP bailout of Wall Street. Which is fine. Except Congress authorized that six months ago—at the insistence of President George W. Bush. If they’re fuming about TARP, isn’t this party a little late? And how do they explain all the anti-Obama signs?

“Curiouser and curiouser!”Okay, their second biggest complaint is about the $787 billion economic recovery act, enacted by Congress to create or preserve 3.5 million jobs. At least this one is Obama’s responsibility. But you’ve got to wonder, what do these people have against jobs? Every intellectually honest economist in the nation told us that Congress had to enact a stimulus package this year and many experts believe we will need another one before the year is over. The choice was between economic stimulus and something like a global depression.

The folks coming to a Tax Day Tea Party are either cynically dishonest or woefully ignorant. Either way, they are certainly mad…steaming, boiling mad.

“But I don't want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.
“Oh, you can't help that,” said the Cat: “we're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad.”
“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.
“You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn't have come here.” Of course, the corporate organizers of the Tax Day Tea Party are neither ignorant nor mad. They have an agenda, but you have to dig a little to find it. Look at their Resources page. It takes you to “The Tool Kit for Tea Parties,” which is a few PDFs on a website called “American Solutions.”

And what are the principal solutions? Cut tax rates for the rich. Cut the corporate tax rate. Abolish the capital gains tax. Abolish the estate tax. Oh, and oppose the Employee Free Choice Act.

Wow! Who in the world is American Solutions? Why it’s Newt Gingrich’s organization. (Click here for a fine picture of Newt grinning like a Cheshire Cat. Go on-site to gain access to this function.)
The whole tea party scam is designed to push people toward the maddest, craziest, most irresponsible right-wing corporate agenda Gingrich could imagine. And—once again—the lower-income, right wing rank-and-file are just being played as suckers by the rich.

Any tea party protester with half a grain of sense will come back agreeing with the girl who, 144 years ago, fell down the rabbit hole:

“At any rate I'll never go there again!” said Alice as she picked her way through the wood. “It’s the stupidest tea-party I ever was at in all my life!”
* * *
The writer is a Senior Fellow at Campaign for America’s Future and author of the recent book, "Framing the Future: How Progressive Values Can Win Elections and Influence People."

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Saundra Hummer
April 15th, 2009, 04:11 PM
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Guantanamo Prisoner Calls Al-Jazeera

Yassin Musharbash

Once a week Mohammed el Gharani, Guantanamo inmate number 269, is allowed to call a relative. But the 'uncle' he claimed to be speaking to was a journalist at Al-Jazeera. He spoke of being beaten with a baton, having his head beaten against the ground and being doused in tear gas.

Prisoners in Guantanamo. Mohammed El Gharani says the running of the camp hasn't changed since Barack Obama took office.
Go on-site to view photo.
Arab news channel Al-Jazeera on Tuesday published the first interview ever conducted with a current inmate of Guantanamo, the US prison camp. "They had a thick rubber or plastic baton they beat me with," said Mohammed el Gharani, a 21-year-old Chadian national who has been held in the camp for seven years.

El Gharani makes further accusations. He says guards broke one of his front teeth, that they beat his head against the ground and emptied about two canisters of tear gas on him. All this happened after he refused to leave his cell. He said six men wearing helmets and protective clothing came into his cell and were accompanied by a soldier with a camera and canisters of tear gas.

His mistreatment in Guantanamo took place just 20 days before the inauguration of US President Barack Obama, el Gharani said. Obama declared on his second day in office that the camp would be closed within a year. But el Gharani says regardless of the new president, "there has been no change in the administration of Guantanamo."

Prisoner Knows Al-Jazeera Journalist
It seems that el Gharani, who was 14 when the Pakistani police handed him over to the US military, gave the interview by tricking prison authorities. He enjoys certain privileges because he is no longer classified as an "enemy combatant" thanks to a court ruling in January 2009. That means he is allowed to call relatives once a week -- or, to be precise, he can have them called. The number of the "uncle" he asked to be called was in fact the number of Sami al-Hajj, an Al-Jazeera cameraman who had spent six years in Guantanamo before being released last year.

Al-Hajj transcribed part of the interview and Al-Jazeera put it on its Web site on Tuesday.

The broadcaster also confronted the Pentagon and the US Justice Ministry with el Gharani's statements, but received an evasive response from the spokesman of the camp. Commander Brook DeWalt said he had no evidence that the phone transcript was authentic or that the claims were true.

Sami al-Hajj, the Al-Jazeera cameraman who spoke to el Gharani, told SPIEGEL ONLINE on Wednesday that the published phone conversation wasn't the first he had with the man from Chad. The first contact was about 10 days ago. He said he had given el Gharani his number when he had still been a detainee in Guantanamo. "So I know him well," Hajj said. "I'm convinced that he's telling the truth. Just as I'm convinced that he never had any links with the Taliban or al-Qaida."

Insufficient Evidence
El Gharani is being held in Camp Iguana, al-Hajj said. That part of Guantanamo is where inmates are held who are to be released. El Gharani has been part of that group ever since a judge ruled on January 19 that the US government doesn't have reliable evidence of his involvement in international terrorism.

According to documents in his case published by the New York Times, the US government accused el Gharani of having received military training in an al-Qaida-affiliated military training camp, been a courier for high-ranking members of the network and having been a member of an al-Qaida cell based in Lolndon.

Judge Richard J. Leon concluded that too many of the accusations were based on possibly unreliable statements by fellow detainees, or on secret documents that were inconsistent. He said that while doubts remained, none of the evidence justified classifying him as an "enemy combatant." As a result, all possible diplomatic steps should be taken to release him.

Al-Hajj said el Gharani was now aware of this decision and was preparing to be deported to Chad, although he had never been there before. According to US government documents, el Gharani is a citizen of Chad but was born in Saudi Arabia, from where he is alleged to have entered Pakistan with a forged passport.

It is difficult to verify el Gharani's accusations. Ever since Guantanamo was set up in 2002, the US government has prohibited any contact between inmates and journalists. El Gharani was one of the first, and one of the youngest, inmates to arrive in the prison camp in Cuba.

Released Guantanamo Detainee: What Did Tony Blair Know? (02/23/2009)
UK Lawyer on Renditions Victim: The British Government Is 'Hiding Things' (02/18/2009)

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Saundra Hummer
April 15th, 2009, 04:58 PM


April 15, 2009
Faiz Shakir, Amanda Terkel, Satyam Khanna, Matt Corley,
Benjamin Armbruster, Ali Frick, Ryan Powers, and Lee Fang


Tea Baggers Against Obama
While Americans across the country prepare to pay their taxes today, many right-wing activists plan to spend the day dressed in colonial tri-corner hats as they wave tea bags in the air. Conservatives are calling for these "tea party" protests, allegedly modeled on the Boston Tea Party, to oppose President Obama and to denounce taxes. Though the "tea" in tea party supposedly stands for "Taxed Enough Already," no American household or business will face higher taxes this tax day. In fact, the economic stimulus package signed into law by Obama enacted one of the largest tax cuts ever for middle-class families, making good on Obama's campaign promise to cut taxes for 95 percent of Americans. The first benefits from these cuts arrived in paychecks earlier this month. What's more, a recent Gallup poll found that Americans' views of income taxes are among the most positive since 1956. In his budget proposal, Obama has recommended raising the top income tax brackets back to rates under the Clinton administration and closing corporate loopholes, two issues he campaigned on, in order to strengthen America's economy by funding health care, clean energy, and education reform. Well-heeled corporate lobbyists are helping engineer today's "tea party" protests as an act of opposition to the Obama agenda.

SPONTANEOUS UPRISING?: Although spokesmen of the tea parties have made significant efforts to portray the protests as organic uprisings of like-minded citizens, corporate lobbyists have engineered much of the planning and execution of the events. The corporate front group FreedomWorks, run by lobbyist and former House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-TX), had its staff organize the very first tea party on Feb. 27 in Tampa, FL, following CNBC's Rick Santelli's call for a Boston Tea Party-like upheaval to protest Obama's housing plan. Soon after, FreedomWorks began planning nationwide tea party protests and had their operatives help coordinate logistics, call conservative activists, and provide activists with everything from organizing tips to sign ideas. Americans for Prosperity, a front group run by corporate lobbyist Tim Phillips (a former partner to Ralph Reed), assisted with the effort, drawing upon its extensive field staff to plan events, write press releases, and distribute talking points for people on the ground. Newt Gingrich's American Solutions for Winning the Future -- which is funded by polluters and helped orchestrated the "Drill Here, Drill Now" campaign last summer -- has also signed on to support the protests.

FOX NEWS MEGAPHONE: Both Fox News and Fox Business have run back-to-back promotions explicitly encouraging viewers to attend the tea parties. The Fox broadcasts are in turn being used by the tea party organizers to promote their protests. Promising "fair and balanced" coverage, Fox News hosts such as Glenn Beck, Neil Cavuto, and Sean Hannity are all planning to broadcast live from the events. The segments for the tea parties are replete with enthusiastic endorsements, like the recent announcement of one Fox pundit that it's "time to party like it's 1773!" In their drive to promote the protests, Fox is fueling paranoia by making unsubstantiated, conspiratorial claims that the Obama administration may send "spies" to the tea parties. Another claim Fox asserts to justify its nonstop promotional coverage is that the network provided similar coverage for the Million Man March in 1995. However, Fox News didn't launch until 1996.

A POLITICAL STRATEGY: Congressional Republicans have fully embraced the tea parties as a channel for opposing Obama. House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) is speaking at a tea party in Bakersfield; Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) will be speaking at an Americans for Prosperity tea party in Madison. Over 35 other Republican lawmakers have been invited to speak at other tea party rallies. Republican governors who opposed the economic stimulus package -- such as Rick Perry of Texas and Mark Sanford of South Carolina -- plan to address tea party protests in their own states. Even after being rebuked by organizers of the tea parties, Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele has moved the RNC to officially support the protests. If the GOP's effort to brand and own the protests weren't already apparent, Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) introduced legislation formally honoring April 15th as "National Tea Party Day." "It's going to be more directed at Obama," observed Daily Beast reporter Ana Marie Cox on the Republican Party's obsession with the tea parties. "This is very much, I think, part of the midterm strategy."

THE UNIFYING MESSAGE -- OPPOSE OBAMA: Despite steady, high approval ratings for President Obama, the proponents of the tea parties seem intent on demonizing him as the cause of the country's problems. The ostensible anti-tax platform of the tea parties in fact has not resonated with all the participants. The events have drawn various elements of the fringe right-wing movement, with gun rights militias, secessionists, radical anti-immigrant organizations, and neo-Nazi groups currently working to contribute to the organizing effort, bringing with them their own pet issues. Past tea parties have featured gatherings of people inspired to protest Obama over conspiracies related to the President's birth certificate. One of the most prominent Obama birth certificate conspiracy theorists, Alan Keyes, is the keynote speaker of the Washington, D.C. tea party today.

RADICAL RIGHT -- DHS REPORT: AFTER OBAMA'S ELECTION, RIGHT-WING EXTREMISM 'MAY BE GAINING NEW RECRUITS': The extreme right -- those who are "hate-oriented," "mainly antigovernment," or those dedicated to a "single issue" -- is a legitimate threat that law enforcement must deal with, according to a new assessment from the Office of Intelligence and Analysis at the Department of Homeland Security. The report, which was coordinated with the FBI and is being given to federal, state, and local law enforcement, warns, "The economic downturn and the election of the first African American president present unique drivers for rightwing radicalization and recruitment." Most extremists have made "rhetorical" statements and have "stopp[ed] short of calls for violent action," but since the 2008 election, right-wing extremists are "reaching out to a wider audience of potential sympathizers." The DHS under President Bush was apparently more reluctant to make such assessments about the right. According to CQ, a 2005 report outlining terrorist threats "does not mention anti-government groups, white supremacists and other radical right-wing movements." Conservative bloggers -- such as Michelle Malkin and Newsbusters -- are up in arms over the report. A DHS official responded to the right's criticism, noting that DHS did an assessment of left-wing extremism in January. "This is nothing unusual. ... This is about awareness," the official said.

IMMIGRATION -- REPORT: 75% OF IMMIGRANTS DEPORTED FOR CRIMES COMMITTED NON-VIOLENT CRIMES: A report by Human Rights Watch finds that "the U.S. government's stepped-up enforcement in recent years has led to the deportation of hundreds of thousands of immigrants convicted of nonviolent crimes," despite the government's claims that it is prioritizing violent criminals. According to the report, nearly 75 percent of the 897,000 immigrants deported between 1997 and 2007 after serving criminal sentences were nonviolent offenders, and one-fifth were legal permanent residents. "The top reasons for deportation during the 10-year period were entering the U.S. illegally, driving while under the influence of alcohol, assault and immigration crimes, such as selling false citizenship papers." The report comes just days after the AP released an investigation showing the the U.S. has imprisoned or even deported "dozens, probably many more" of legal U.S. citizens. "A monthslong AP investigation has documented 55 such cases, on the basis of interviews, lawsuits and documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. These citizens are detained for anything from a day to five years. Immigration lawyers say there are actually hundreds of such cases." Last week, Obama administration officials said the White House's push to enact comprehensive immigration reform could come as early as this year.

MEDIA -- EDITOR: 'I'M EMBARRASSED' I PUBLISHED REP. BACHMANN'S CAP AND TRADE LIES: On April 8, global warming denier Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) published an op-ed in the Minneapolis Star Tribune that attacked green economy legislation by claiming that "cap and trade" is really "cap and tax." To make her argument, Bachmann wrote, "[A]ccording to an analysis by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the average American household could expect its yearly energy bill to increase by $3,128 per year." This claim, however, was a flat lie, as a letter to the editor published the very next day pointed out. In fact, Bachmann's lie had been debunked publicly by MIT's John Reilly with Politifact.com on Tuesday, March 24. Reilly also sent a letter to the congressional Republican leadership denouncing their repeated use of the fabricated figure. In an interview with the Wonk Room's Brad Johnson, Eric Ringham, the opinion page editor of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, acknowledged that the MIT lie was fully debunked before the column was submitted by Bachmann. "It wasn't on my radar. I'm embarrassed to have let it go unchallenged," said Ringham. Ringham told Johnson that with both the limited resources he has and the role of the opinion page as a forum for argument, it is "an uncomfortable role" for an op-ed editor to run corrections after a column's publication. "I'm not equipped -- or really inclined -- to go, after the fact, probing someone's assertions," said Ringham. Despite the fact that a correction will not be run, Ringham said, "You can rest assured this study is never going to be represented in the paper again without confirmation it's being accurately portrayed."


Forty-one percent of Americans now believe that lower-income people are paying their "fair share" of federal taxes, up from 32 percent last year, according to a new Gallup poll. At the same time, just 23 percent say that upper-income taxpayers pay their “fair share," while 60 percent say they pay too little.

The Obama administration plans to "disclose the conditions of the 19 biggest banks in the country." Administration officials concluded that "keeping many of the findings secret could send investors fleeing from financial institutions rumored to be weakest." All the banks are expected to pass the "stress tests," but "some are expected to be graded more highly than others."

While details remain vague, "clues are now emerging" that suggest President Obama intends to strengthen President Bush's No Child Left Behind law by toughening "requirements on topics like teacher quality and academic standards" and increasing the law's emphasis on helping failing schools.

"The Obama administration is leaning toward keeping secret some graphic details of tactics allowed" in CIA interrogations, which include stories about head smashing. Top CIA officials and "some in the White House...argue that disclosing such secrets will undermine the agency's credibility with foreign intelligence services."

A 21-year-old Guantanamo detainee, Mohammed el Gharani, called Al-Jazeera "to say he was severely beaten for refusing to leave his cell." Al-Jazeera would not disclose how it managed to speak with el Gharani, whom a judge ordered to be released in January.

Human Rights Watch reports that the government has deported hundreds of thousands of immigrants convicted of nonviolent crimes in recent years, despite its claim to prioritize violent criminals for deportation. "Nearly three-quarters of the roughly 897,000 immigrants deported from 1997 to 2007 after serving criminal sentences were convicted of nonviolent offenses, and one-fifth were legal permanent residents."

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said today "that he was preparing a new proposal to resolve disputes with the West over Iran's nuclear program, opening the door to talks with the United States." Ahmadinejad "did not elaborate on the contents of the proposal," but his announcement appeared to be a response to the recent U.S. decision to join discussions with Iran on its disputed nuclear program.

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke told an audience at Morehouse College that "recently we have seen tentative signs that the sharp decline in economic activity may be slowing," noting that housing and consumer spending may be flattening. "A leveling out of economic activity is the first step toward recovery," he said.

And finally: It seems that fallen governor Rod Blagojevich isn't quite ready to get out of the spotlight. Since losing his gubernatorial perch, Blagojevich has filled in as a talk radio host on WLS radio in Chicago. Now he may star in an NBC reality TV show called "I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here."

Today, a U.S. ship carrying food aid destined for Kenya "foiled an attack by Somali pirates" who are pledging revenge for their recent defeat by Navy SEALs.

ALASKA: Gov. Sarah Palin (R) says global warming is real but advocates more drilling to solve it.

ILLINOIS: Former governor Rod Blagojevich pleads not guilty in federal court to sweeping corruption charges

CALIFORNIA: Los Angeles school district plans to lay off more than 5,000 teachers, counselors, custodians, and other staff.

THINK PROGRESS: Sen. John Ensign (R-NV): Republicans will revive "Drill Here, Drill Now" push this summer.

WONK ROOM: Ralph Peters plays his only tune, "crush the barbarians."

YGLESIAS: Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) is trying to start bank runs.

FIREDOGLAKE: Newt Gingrich's American Solutions spent over $3 million on private planes in 2008.


"There's a big difference between covering something and promoting it."

-- Fox Business's Charles Payne, 4/14/09, on Fox News advocating for the tea parties


"It's now my great duty to promote the tea parties."
-- Fox News's Stuart Varney, 4/13/09


The research team that brings you The Progress Report and ThinkProgress.org needs summer interns! Click here for more information.

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Saundra Hummer
April 15th, 2009, 05:48 PM

Somalian 'Piracy Can Only Be Ended on Land'
In the aftermath of Sunday's dramatic rescue of an American ship captain from Somali pirates, US President Barack Obama has pledged to work with partners to prevent further attacks. Some German newspapers Tuesday argue that the only way to solve the crisis is to sort out the chaos in Somalia.The dramatic rescue on Sunday of the American ship captain held by pirates off the Horn of Africa may have ended the hostage crisis that had gripped the US, but the scourge of Somali piracy continues. On Tuesday, a Greek ship was hijacked in the Gulf of Aden, the third act of piracy following the two daring rescues by French forces on Friday and the US Navy on Sunday night which left five Somali pirates and one French hostage dead.

US Naval Forces rescued Richard Phillips, right, on Sunday
Go on-site for photo. Captain Richard Phillips was freed from his five-day ordeal on Sunday night when Navy SEAL snipers killed three of the four pirates who had been holding him on a drifting lifeboat. The capture of a US citizen has pushed the issue of piracy in one of the world's busiest shipping routes firmly up the White House agenda. Speaking in Washington on Monday, President Barack Obama said that he was committed to working with other nations to "halt the rise of piracy" and "prevent further attacks."

The United States is reportedly considering new military and diplomatic strategies in the aftermath of the hostage crisis, including deploying Navy gunships along the Somali coastline and launching a campaign to disable pirate "mother ships."

While the US president has been praised for giving the go-ahead for the rescue operation, some experts warn that the fatal shooting of three of Phillips' captors could lead to an escalation of the piracy conflict. Heavily armed gunmen, often teenagers, have seized dozens of vessels in recent years and most have negotiated a ransom from the ship owners, with the gangs generally treating their captives well. However, Somali pirate leaders have now vowed to take revenge on US and French citizens for the killing of the pirates this week.

The relatives of the 228 foreign nationals, many from the Philippines, still being held hostage by Somali pirate gangs have voiced fears that their loved ones could bear the brunt of the US and French military action.

The ongoing anarchy in Somalia has created conditions that allow groups of pirates to launch their attacks, and the United Nations in December authorized nations to "use all measures," including land assaults to combat the pirate problem. However, following the disastrous US peacekeeping mission in Somalia in the early 1990s, which saw 18 American soldiers killed, there is little appetite in Washington for a land operation in the chaotic country.

On Tuesday, German commentators look at the options facing the international community and the United States in particular in the aftermath of Sunday's successful operation. Many argue that the only way out of the crisis is to address the political chaos in Somalia itself.

The center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung writes:

An image of the lifeboat where Maersk-Alabama captain Richard Phillips was held hostage, as taken by an American drone. Photo: go on site to view."The president has proved to his conservative critics, who had vilified him for being too weak on questions of national security, that he does not shy away from using military force if it is required. He also did not balk at the risk that it could end in a possible failure. It must have been clear to him how much a failure of a commando action can damage the reputation of a president -- particularly a Democrat -- after Clinton's unsuccessful intervention in Haiti in 1993 and Jimmy Carter's disastrous attempt to rescue embassy hostages in Tehran."

"However, the pirates will hardly be deterred. They have already threatened to kill future US hostages. The US Navy warns that the violence will escalate. Even if Obama only wanted to rescue one life, the pirates feel challenged to a battle to the end. And the international community does not have a coherent strategy to win such a battle. The real test of Commander in Chief Obama will be whether he can change that."

The conservative Die Welt writes:

"Captain Richard Phillips' rescue from Somali pirates was a welcome success for President Barack Obama. Shortly before his 100th day in office the man who up to now appeared as a fine orator has also proven himself to be a resolute commander in chief. However, he cannot rest on his laurels. The pirates are holding several other hostages and have scouts all along the African coast. There is a possible link to Islamist groups close to al-Qaida -- groups that want try to take control of the country. A second Afghanistan could emerge on the Horn of Africa."

"Obama is now openly considering trying to put a spoke in al-Qaida's wheel in Somalia. This is not supposed to look like the start of a second Afghanistan war, but it could become one under the force of circumstances."

The left-leaning Die Tageszeitung writes:

"The most likely outcome is that in the future pirates will give ships sailing under the US flag a wide berth. Instead they will concentrate on other countries' ships -- for the time being. If, for example, Germany sends in troops to storm its ships ... then the pirates will at some point rearm -- and the ships of the rich nations will do the same. The result would be an arms race on the high seas."

"It's clear already who the losers will be. They are the sailors from low-wage countries like the Philippines who already make up the majority of the 240 hostages held by the pirates. Hardly anyone cares about them. Their governments lack the money, know-how and often the political will to attempt a rescue. The West doesn't care about them unless they happen to be on board a European ship. This means they will be the victims of future pirate attacks."

The Financial Times Deutschland writes:

"The pirate attacks off the Horn of Africa have been a growing problem for months -- but until now it was not a big problem for the Americans. It was European ships that were being hijacked and the hostages were primarily Asian sailors."

"Since the weekend the pirate plague has become an issue in Washington. The fact that the US will now be drawn deeper into the conflict should prompt the international community to change its strategy for dealing with the problem. It is time to understand that the fight against piracy along one of the most important trading routes cannot be won on the ocean. The area surrounding Somalia is simply too big to be controlled by war ships."

"The pirate chaos can only be ended on land. As long as anarchy reigns in the Puntland region, because the Somali government has no influence there, the pirates will not give up their lucrative business."

"An immediate military action on land to clear the pirate villages is not what is required. What is urgently needed is for the West to get involved in the Somali civil war, which it has largely ignored since the traumatic peacekeeping mission of the 1990s. The African Union is too weak to put pressure on the warring parties, or to build up the state structures and give the shattered country any economic prospects. This is where the US government can play an important role."

The center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung writes:

"Rescues by force cannot become the rule. The principle that seafaring nations should not allow themselves to be blackmailed into paying ransoms is a noble one, but it doesn't increase the risks for the pirates. The battle against piracy cannot be a rivalry about who has the best snipers -- it is simply not clear how many new pirates are emerging. "

"The power struggle on the Horn of Africa is far from decided, neither between the pirates and the war ships, nor between the schools of thought about the best course of action to take."

-- Siobhán Dowling, 1.20 p.m. CET


Somalia Swashbucklers: Pirates Extend their Hunting Grounds (04/09/2009)
Photo Gallery: Pirate-Infested Waters
Policing the Gulf of Aden: Somali Pirate Trial Tests Limits of EU Mission (04/01/2009)
Prelude to Piracy: The Poor Fishermen of Somalia (12/04/2008)

All Rights Reserved


Saundra Hummer
April 15th, 2009, 08:13 PM
. . . . . . . . .

Karl Rove Wouldn't Know the Truth
if it
Bit Him on the Butt

posted by: Aaron Pendell
4 days ago

Go on-site for photo.

Oh how I wish, ha.


When I heard Karl Rove call Vice President Joe Biden a "liar" yesterday, I had to laugh. Rove, "The Architect," or "Turd Blossom," as George W. Bush nicknamed him, is a man whose relationship with the truth is adversarial in nature. He's a man who is so full of crap that you can hear it slosh about when he goes into a turn. That Karl Rove is assigned any credibility at all, that he's still allowed a public platform from which to spew such nonsense, is mind boggling, to say the least.

Rove's on-air slight of the Vice President stemmed from Biden's statement that he had once confronted Bush about the latter's lacking leadership skills. In an interview with CNN on Tuesday, Biden recalled a brief exchange with the former President:

I remember President Bush saying to me one time in the Oval Office, "Well, Joe," he said, "I'm a leader." And I said: "Mr. President, turn and around look behind you. No one is following."

Rove responded Thursday from the "fair and balanced," bastion of objectivity (sarcasm intended), Fox News:

It didn't happen. Look, Joe Biden does this. I remember this a couple of years ago when he made a similar claim. Joe Biden said, for example, that he spent hours with the president. Joe Biden was never alone with the president for more than a few moments. There were staff in the room at all times. He never said these kinds of things.

I hate to say it, but he's a serial exaggerator. If I was being unkind I would say he's a liar. But it is a habit he ought to drop...

It is worth noting that Karl Rove avoided taking issue with what Biden told his interviewers just before the above quote:

...the last administration left us in a weaker posture than we've been any time since World War II: less regarded in the world, stretched more thinly than we ever have been in the past, two wars under way, virtually no respect in entire parts of the world...

I imagine that Rove left that tidbit untouched because truer words have yet to be spoken.

Rove's accusation can only be taken seriously if you discount his previous behavior. Consider his disclosure of Valerie Plame's identity to Time's Matt Cooper. After weeks of denying his involvement, Rove admitted his role in the leak.

As recently as this week, Rove circumvented the truth in his Wall Street Journal column, within which he declared that Obama had become a "divisive figure." Rove based his assessment on figures from a Pew poll, which would be fine, except Pew had already publicly stated that their figures weren't supportive of that argument.

Rove even had the audacity to lie in the same interview in which he asserted that Biden was a "liar." He dusted off the old, discredited, nugget that gets brought up every time conservatives discuss Joe Biden. The "Biden is a plagerist" meme:

Look, this is a guy whose 1988 presidential campaign was derailed because he was found to have been copying, plagiarizing a speech by Neil Kinnock, the leader of the British Labor Party, and recounting an episode in Kinnock's life as if it were in his own life, involving I think a coal miner relative or something.

As David Neiwert wrote in his April 10 post at CrooksAndLiars.com, "This is a lie -- or at least a grotesque enough distortion of what happened to count as one."

These are only the most recent examples of Karl Rove's apparant inability to tell the truth. I could go on, but a proper listing of his falsehoods would be too exhaustive for a mere blog post. However, please be sure to tell me your opinion in the comments section below. Better yet, give me your favorite example of Rove's deviousness. There are plenty to choose from.

Read more:
bush, rove, politics, political, opinion, cnn, george bush, obama, vp, george w bush, plamegate, Biden, Karl Rove, fox news, obama administration, rove lies, turd blossom, joe biden, vice president, bushs brain, valerie plame, biden interview


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Saundra Hummer
April 16th, 2009, 01:20 PM


Fox News Sponsors Teabagging Tax Day Parties, Wins BuzzFlash's Media PUTZ of the Week

Submitted by
Wed, 04/15/2009
9:00pm. BuzzFlash Honors

Media PUTZ.com

April 16, 2009

Fox News

For reporting that is an embarrassment to the profession of journalism, and for being beholden to corporate paymasters rather than the citizens of America.

Go on-site for photo/graph.
The bowl games at the end of the college football season used to have simple names: Cotton, Rose, Sun, Orange. Now, we get AT&T Fed Ex Capital One Papa John's Tostitos bowls. Sponsorships run amok, but these are businesses trying to associate their name on a product for publicity.

This week, we had the "FNC Tax Day Tea Parties" -- at least, this is the way the events were portrayed on the Fox News Channel (LINK). The day featured FNC personalities on the road as part of the process: Neil Cavuto in Sacramento, CA, Glenn Beck in San Antonio, TX, Sean Hannity in Atlanta, and Greta Van Susteren in Washington, DC.

You may have heard the phrase from serious journalists that "they never want to be part of the story." A good journalist knows this. But then again, we are talking about the Fox News Channel.

Covering events is part of what journalists do. Promoting events, including but not limited to putting your initials before the event, is not what journalists do.

There are several Fox News contributors who are directly involved with the teabagging parties. Then there is the outright hosting of a party as Fox News' new Web site, The Fox Nation, will "host a virtual tea party."

What's funny is watching how the Fox "News" Channel promotes the tea parties, but sometimes goes out of their way to say that they aren't sponsoring the tea parties. From Steve Doocy of "Fox and Friends":

"Right here on Fox & Friends, we're going to be kicking things off throughout the day. And Fox isn't sponsoring any of this stuff."

Gee, Steve. According to the transcript, no one said you were sponsoring the events. Guilty conscience??

Having Neil Cavuto try and justify the difference in covering events was made even more hilarious as he claimed the channel covered an event (Million Man March) that happened before the channel went on the air. Nice research there, Neil.

But it's what Cavuto said before his Million Man goof that speaks volumes to the "journalism" practiced by FNC.

"we are going to be right in the middle of these protests because at FOX we do not pick and choose these rallies and protests."

Smack in the middle of the teabagging: a very strategic position. Seriously though, you aren't supposed to be in the middle of anything. You stand outside and you cover.

It would be nice if there was footage of Fox News covering the Iraq War protests with equal passion, but of course, there is no video.

The piece de resistance was on Teabagging, er, Tax Day when Cavuto was caught exaggerating the crowd in Sacramento by at least 100%-200%, according to Daily Kos.

Why would you need to exaggerate the count unless your tie-in credibility would have otherwise suffered?

Fox News likes to pretend it's in the journalism and cable news business. But its support of teabagging events ins much more in line with its actual mission, spreading right-wing propaganda under the guise of "fair and balanced" and "journalism."

For giving this honorable profession yet another black eye, Fox News wins the Media PUTZ of the Week award.

Fox News previously won the Media PUTZ of the week on May 15, 2008.



Fixed Noise Media Putz of the Millennium
Submitted by Malgoska on Thu, 04/16/2009 - 11:33am.
I think they richly deserve the title. Media Putz of the week does not even scratch the surface.

I guess greta van susteren

Submitted by christopherflynn on Thu, 04/16/2009 - 10:16am.
I guess greta van susteren is a "foxy lady"...(albeit, a stupid one...)


Saundra Hummer
April 16th, 2009, 01:31 PM

News Hounds
We watch FOX so you don't have to

Glenn Beck Praises Texas Secessionists As Patriots: They Just Think Texas Does America Best

Reported by Ellen
April 16, 2009
Go on-site to read
On last night's (4/15/09) On The Record, Greta Van Susteren interviewed Glenn Beck at a tea party protest at The Alamo in San Antonio, Texas. Beck who, you may recall burst into tears on national television just thinking about how much he loves his country, nonetheless praised the Texans behind him who cheered raucously when Van Susteren referred to Texas Governor Rick Perry's recent statement that Texas might have to secede. “They just think Texas does America best,” Beck said jovially about the secessionist-supporting crowd. With video.

Standing in front of the Alamo, Beck said, “This is the place – everybody's always heard, you know, 'Draw a line in the sand' – this is where it happened. They drew a line in the sand and said 'Enough is enough.'”

Beck later told Van Susteren, “Texans understand a republic better than anybody else in the country.” Wild cheers erupted behind him.

At that point, Van Susteren brought up Governor Rick Perry's statement earlier in the day, after speaking at that same protest, in which he suggested to reporters that Texas might have to secede. “Governor Perry has some pretty harsh words for the federal government right now,” she said. Another wild cheer broke out at those words.

Beck responded by saying he had talked to the governor and while he didn't know how popular Perry is (another big cheer), “His words rang true to an awful lot of people, not just in Texas, but I think a lot of people all around the country.” Speaking figuratively to the federal government, Beck said, “You need to back off!” That brought on another burst of loud approval.

“I don't want to be too dramatic,” Van Susteren said, “but it almost seems like Texas is looking to secede from the rest of the nation.” Now there were cheers, applause and banner-waving.”

Beck didn't disagree. He asked the cameras to get a shot of a large banner of the Texas flag with the words, “Texas Independence” on it. That prompted what were probably the loudest, longest cheers yet.

Bragging about how well he understands Texas (because he lived there for four years), Beck said, “These people love America (more cheers). They just think Texas does America best.”

The crowd erupted into a “USA!” chant.

VIDEO: Go on-site to view.

http://www.newshounds.us/2009/04/16/glenn_beck_praises_texas_secessionists_as_patriots _they_just_think_texas_does_america_best.php

Saundra Hummer
April 16th, 2009, 02:16 PM

The Graveyard of Empires:
America's New Asian Quagmire

Submitted by rick on Thu, 02/19/2009 - 20:48

Anti-Imperialism/Anti-War Central Asia
With the situation on the ground rapidly deteriorating, U.S. imperialism's South
Asian adventure is going off the rails.The New York Times reported February 4 that supplies "intended for NATO forces in Afghanistan were suspended Tuesday after Taliban militants blew up a highway bridge in the Khyber Pass region, a lawless northwestern tribal area straddling the border with Afghanistan."

The 30-yard-long iron bridge, located 15 miles northwest of Pakistan's Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP) provincial capital, Peshawar, a thriving metropolis of several million people, was a major supply route ferrying some 80 percent of NATO supplies into Afghanistan.

Tuesday's attacks were followed-up Wednesday when insurgents torched 10 supply trucks returning from Afghanistan, the Los Angeles Times reported. Supplies destined for NATO forces in Afghanistan--primarily food and fuel--are trucked through Pakistan by local contractors. Many are now refusing to drive the circuitous route through the Khyber Pass because of the dangerous conditions.

As Asia Times reported January 29, Peshawar "is the commercial, economic, political and cultural capital of the Pashtuns in Pakistan." Increasingly, it is morphing into a major power center for jihadists--on both sides of the border.

Peshawar and its surrounds are also now the epicenter for the Taliban and other militants in their struggle not only in Afghanistan and Pakistan but also in their bid to establish a base from which to wage an "end-of-time battle" that would stretch all the way to the Arab heartlands of Damascus and Palestine. (Syed Saleem Shahzad, "On the Militant Trail, Part 1: A battle before a battle," Asia Times Online, January 29, 2009)

With kidnappings--whether by militants or criminal gangs--and beheadings on the rise, the city is cloaked in fear. Residents believe "a major showdown" between the state and the jihadists "is imminent."

Daily Times reported February 4 that the "Talibanization" of Orakzai Agency near Peshawar has accelerated to such an extent that local people have fled the area to "escape Taliban-style rule." Daily Times avers,

Orakzai, which borders Kurram in the west and Hangu district in the east, provides a means to the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) to expand its influence to Peshawar through Khyber Agency. The organisation has already made its presence in the region known by attacking truck terminals for Afghanistan-bound supplies for NATO and US forces. Despite government attempts to block their infiltration, the Taliban recently celebrated their "complete control" over the region by inviting a group of journalists to the area in a show of power. (Abdul Saboor Khan, "Orakzai becomes a new have for Taliban," Daily Times, February 4, 2009)

Pakistani officials told the New York Times "it was not immediately clear how soon the trucks carrying crucial supplies for NATO forces would be able to travel throughthe Khyber Pass to Afghanistan."

Meanwhile, in a further setback for U.S. regional plans, The Guardian reported
February 3, that the Central Asian nation of Kyrgyzstan, a former Soviet Republic, was threatening to close the U.S. airbase of Manas "a key staging post for coalition forces fighting in nearby Afghanistan."

Both US and Nato commanders have expressed dismay at the possible closure. It comes at a time when Nato is desperately trying to expand its supply routes to Afghanistan via the northern countries of central Asia following a series of devastating attacks on truck convoys from Pakistan. (Luke Harding, "Closure of US base in Kyrgyzstan could alter Afghanistan strategy," The Guardian, February 3, 2009)

In an echo of the 19th century "Great Game" for the control of Central Asia by
Czarist Russia and Imperial Britain, Russia has been pressuring Kurmanbek Bakiyev's authoritarian regime to expel the Americans, viewed as a destabilizing power in the region.

The expulsion of U.S. forces from the Manas airbase would be a blow to U.S. efforts to control vital routes of licit and illicit cargo--including the booming heroin trade--and would follow a similar expulsion from Uzbekistan in 2006 following a deal between Moscow and the Uzbek kleptocracy run by President Islam Karimov.

The Kyrgyz Parliament is expected to vote next week on a measure to expel the Americans from Manas. The "loss of the base would present a significant problem for the Obama administration," The New York Times reported February 5. TheTimes averred, "About 15,000 personnel and 500 tons of cargo pass through Manas each month. The base is also the home of large tanker aircraft that are used for in-air refueling of fighter planes on combat missions over Afghanistan."

But behind the posturing over money and loans to the impoverished Central Asian nation, the Russian government is expecting a quid pro quo from the Obama administration if the U.S. is allowed to continue to use Manas as a launching pad into Afghanistan. In a move designed to pressure the U.S., the Russians are playing hardball, seeking concessions from the administration to scrap planned "missile defense" facilities in Poland and the Czech Republic, viewed by Moscow as a first strike weapon.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, U.S. imperialism and their NATO partners have encircled Russia with a string of bases in Europe, Central Asia and the Caucasus in tandem with the eastward expansion of NATO. Additionally, the CIA, Britain's MI6 as well as Pakistan's ISI have fueled the on-again, off-again "Islamist" insurgency in Chechnya; a move designed to hasten the disintegration of the Russian Federation into docile statelets aligned with the United States--a familiar playbook used in the dismemberment of the former Yugoslavia.

With the Obama administration banking on a favorable outcome in Afghanistan as the United States ramps-up military operations, doubling American forces to some 60,000 troops within twelve months, the prospects for resupplying those troops without Russian cooperation are grim.

The Washington Post reported February 4 that "newly installed officials describe a situation on the ground that is far more precarious than they had anticipated." On Monday, The Independent averred that the situation on the ground in Helmand province in southern Afghanistan is particularly unnerving for NATO operations.

During Operation Kapcha Salaam or "Cobra Salute," a joint British and Afghan army offensive that included heavy armor and warplanes, soldiers were under near continuous attack by insurgents firing rockets, heavy mortars and detonating sophisticated roadside bombs. According to The Independent, insurgent ranks were filled with Pakistani and Chechen militants. The fighting has taken a heavy toll on Afghan citizens.The Independent revealed,

Outside Koshtay, Haji Mohammed Amin came up to complain that "Talibans and bandits" were preying on residents. "They come at night and ask us to feed them, sometimes they ask for money; they are not Afghans, they are Pakistanis. We have had 30 years of war and it still continues. Where is our government? Why don't they help us? We hardly have enough to eat." Another, Ahmed Jan, complained: "This is our land, we need this land to live. And you and the Taliban are using it to fight your wars. We want to be left in peace. You are here but then you will go away and the Taliban will come back." (Kim Sengupta, "Under fire in the Afghan badlands," The Independent, February 2, 2009)

If the U.S. administration has its way, there won't be peace any time soon. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, a Bush holdover, told Congress last week that the war would be a "long slog" with an uncertain outcome. But if history is a predictor of future events, it may not be a pretty finale for imperialism--or the people of South Asia.

While top Obama administration officials and Pentagon bureaucrats are relying on the government of President Asif Ali Zadari to stabilize the situation on Pakistan's side of the border, reports indicate that the ISI continue to fund and advise various proxy armies.

The Los Angeles Times revealed February 3, that Afghan security officials had broken up a suicide bombing cell in the capital, Kabul, and that the 17 men arrested were believed "to be affiliated with a Pakistan-based militant group known as the Haqqani network and that the cell's ringleader was a Pakistani national."

Although relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan have "warmed considerably" since Zadari took over the reins from the despised Musharraf regime according to the L.A. Times, the ISI's policy of seeking "strategic depth" over geopolitical rival India by controlling a compliant Afghan client state has not changed, despite billions of dollars in U.S. military and "counterterrorism" assistance showered on the Army and ISI.

The spy agency's long-standing ties to the Haqqani network, led by veteran Taliban commander Jalaluddin Haqqani and his son Sirajuddin, were spotlighted last year whenU.S. intelligence backed up Afghan authorities' assertion that the ISI had aided the group in its bombing of the Indian Embassy in Kabul in July. That attack killed nearly 60 people. (M. Karim Faiez and Laura King, "Suicide Bombing Ring Is Brought Down in Afghanistan, Officials Say," Los Angeles Times, February 3, 2009)

With a two month deadline tied to an April 3 NATO summit, the Pentagon is scrambling to come come up with a comprehensive strategy. It won't be an easy sell for America's NATO partners, outraged by orders from NATO's commander, U.S. General John Craddock, to kill opium dealers.

Protected Drug Trade and American HypocrisyIn a bid to import the Iraqi "surge strategy" into Afghanistan, the United States is fielding armed militias to fight the Taliban, theAssociated Press reported.

Afghanistan's interior minister announced the program had begun with the U.S. "paying for all aspects" including "buying Kalashnikov automatic rifles for members of the Afghan Public Protection Force," modeled after the American-sponsored Awakening Councils in Iraq. A sceptical Afghan official told theAssociated Press, "only criminals would join because most citizens wouldn't want to face the Taliban in combat."

But perhaps this is precisely the intent of the program; to wrest control of the
lucrative heroin trade from unreliable elements beholden to the Taliban and
al-Qaeda, who allegedly derive $100 million a year from the global drug trade. What better means to disrupt the "Islamist" insurgency than to grant U.S.-allied criminals and warlords a piece of the action.

In this context, Craddock's orders are all the more ironic when one considers that the forces currently battering NATO in Afghanistan grew rich during the 1980s when Washington turned a blind-eye to drug networks they themselves encouraged as a means to wound their Cold War adversary, the Soviet Union.

According to scholar Alfred W. McCoy, "During the 1980s CIA covert operations in Afghanistan transformed southern Asia from a self-contained opium zone into a major supplier of heroin for the world market." As a cats' paw for imperialism, the ISI doled out funds, weapons and expertise to far-right militants such as Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. Coming to prominence as a thug who attacked communist students and infamously threw acid into the faces of unveiled women at Kabul University during the 1970s, Hekmatyar was a major narcotrafficker--and darling of the CIA and their ISI partners in crime. McCoy writes,

As the ISI's mujaheddin clients used their new CIA munitions to capture prime
agricultural areas in Afghanistan during the early 1980s, the guerrillas urged their peasant supporters to grow poppies, thereby doubling the country's opium harvest to 575 tons between 1982 and 1983. Once these mujaheddin elements brought the opium across the border, they sold it to Pakistani heroin refiners who operated under the protection of General Fazle Huq, governor of the North-West Frontier province. By 1988, there were an estimated 100 to 200 heroin refineries in the province's Khyber district alone. Trucks from the Pakistan army's National Logistics Cell (NLC) arriving with CIA arms from Karachi often returned loaded with heroin--protected by ISI papers from police search. (The Politics of Heroin, CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade, Chicago: Lawrence Hill Books, 1991, pp. 453-454)

The German newsmagazine Der Spiegel revealed January 28 that "top NATO commander John Craddock wants the alliance to kill opium dealers, without proof of connection to the insurgency. NATO commanders, however, do not want to follow the order."

In a classified document leaked to Der Spiegel, Craddock issued a "guidance"
providing NATO troops with the authority "to attack directly drug producers and facilities throughout Afghanistan." In other words, the United States wants to widen the free-fire zone that already exists, one directly responsible for thousands of civilian casualties. Der Spiegel reports,

According to the document, deadly force is to be used even in those cases where there is no proof that suspects are actively engaged in the armed resistance against the Afghanistan government or against Western troops. It is "no longer necessary to produce intelligence or other evidence that each particular drug trafficker or narcotics facility in Afghanistan meets the criteria of being a military objective," Craddock writes. (Susanne Koelbl, "NATO High Commander Issues Illegitimate Order to Kill," Spiegel Online, January 28, 2009)

German NATO General Egon Ramms and other European commanders are refusing to "deviate from the current rules of engagement for attacks," a move that has outraged Craddock. Considered a loyal Bushist who "fears that he could be replaced by the new US president," Craddock is threatening to remove any commander who doesn't toe the new party line and "follow his instructions to go after the drug mafia."

But here as elsewhere, things aren't always what they seem. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that General Craddock, under pressure from the Obama administration's new anti-Karzai policy, particularly now that Washington is eyeing newer, more compliant "provincial allies" in the Afghan Public Protection Force will target some narcotraffickers--those in Karzai's orbit--while handing their new "best friends forever," Afghan warlords and Pakistani "businessmen," the lucrative opium concession.

As Peter Dale Scott documented in Drugs, Oil and War, "conscious decisions were definitely made, time after time, to ally the United States with local drug
proxies." In Central- and South Asia such "drug proxies" and the financial
institutions which served powerful political, intelligence and military interests
such as the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) and that institution's shadowy "Black Network," helped transform the Afghan mujaheddin into al-Qaeda.

While espousing an overt Islamist discourse, al-Qaeda and their various affiliates continued to serve Western intelligence agencies as disposable assets used in various destabilization operations in Europe, the Middle East and Asia during the 1990s and today. While "the routes shifted with the politics of the times," Scott writes, "the CIA denominator remained constant."

Absurd? Consider this. When the U.S. Army's Special Forces Operational
Detachment-Delta (known as Delta Force) "brought down" Pablo Escobar's Medellín Cartel in the early 1990s, they relied on other narcotrafficking cartels, notably the larger and more profitable Cali Cartel run by the Orejuela brothers, Gilberto Rodríguez and Miguel Rodríguez, to get the job done.

We now know with last year's release of declassified CIA and U.S. Embassy documents by the National Security Archive that this was indeed the case. More importantly, the documents provided confirmation that CIA "anti-narcotics interdiction efforts" did not target the drug trade per se, but only those criminal gangs who ran afoul of wider U.S. geostrategic interests in resource rich Colombia.

In other words, U.S. policy in the area amounted to a protected drug traffic for allies engaged in anti-left counterinsurgency operations. While U.S. Special
Operations Command and the CIA were targeting Escobar's Medellín cartel, they were directly collaborating with a death squad that later morphed into the Colombian Army-allied paramilitary group, the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC). Founded by major international narcotrafficker Carlos Castaño, the AUC were close political allies of the Orejuela brothers and the man who would later become Colombia's president, Alvaro Uribe.

The parallels between these two resource rich regions couldn't be more striking. Pakistani investigative journalist Ahmed Rashid described a similar pattern when the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan began in 2001.

The Pentagon had a list of twenty-five or more drug labs and warehouses in
Afghanistan but refused to bomb them because some belonged to the CIA's new NA [Northern Alliance] allies. The United States told its British allies that the war on terrorism had nothing to do with counter-narcotics. Instead, drug lords were fêted by the CIA and asked if they had any information about Osama bin Laden. Thus, the United States sent the first and clearest message to the drug lords: that they would not be targeted. (Descent into Chaos: The United States and the Failure of Nation Building in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asia, New York: Viking, 2008, pp. 320-321)

Under America's ever so tolerant counterterrorist regional strategy, Afghanistan produced a staggering 8,700 metric tons of opium and now accounts for 92% of global opium production, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNDOC) in their 2008 World Drug Report.

Meanwhile, as the Obama administration and the Pentagon prepare a major military escalation in the region and the Taliban expand their writ, "efforts to stem cultivation of opium poppies and the narcotics trade that lines Taliban and government pockets," the Washington Post reports, "have made little discernible progress."

Rather, such "efforts" on the part of NATO allies and Islamist adversaries alike
presage a strategic battle for control over the multibillion dollar heroin market.
Whoever "wins," the people of South Asia will certainly suffer the consequences.


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Saundra Hummer
April 16th, 2009, 03:47 PM

Why Hydrogenated Fat Is So Bad

(Part 1 of a series on trans fats)
Heidi Stevenson

Trans fats, whether fully or partially hydrogenated, are not simply foods from which nutrition has been leached. They're poison. To suggest that partially hydrogenated oils are okay is like suggesting that it's better to take one poison because it's less poisonous than another. Both are poisons. When you consider how heavily vegetable oils have been pushed—virtually defined as
the key to good health—it isn't difficult to see why cancer, heart disease, and many other chronic diseases have become so common.

Risks of Hydrogenated Fats (Part 2 of a series on trans fats) continues with a discussion of the types of diseases trans fats can cause.
A 2008 report from the University of Paris in France found a connection between breast cancer and trans fats(3). A report in the American Journal of Epidemiology found direct evidence to connect trans fats to colon polyps, which are noted to be precursors of cancer(4).


Overview of Harm from Trans Fats
Rather than bore you with details, here's an overview of other harm done by trans fats:

<>Neurological problems may develop or be aggravated. These can include attention deficit disorder, autism, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and multiple sclerosis.
<>The lungs may be damaged.
<>Reproductive organs and other areas that are affected by their hormones can be harmed.
<>Arthritis risk and other immune system disorders may be increased.
<>Aging may be speeded up.
<>Glandular function is harmed, which can have knock-on effects throughout the body.
<>Energy levels may be depressed.
<>Digestion can be deranged.
<>The ability to think clearly may be damaged.
<>Liver function can be harmed.
<>The obesity epidemic is likely caused, in part, by trans fats.

The known harms from trans fats are so extensive that governments have started to limit them. Denmark has banned them completely.


How to Identify and Avoid Trans Fats in Foods
(Part 3 of a series on trans fats) discusses how you can spot trans fats when you shop.

Foods Particularly Heavy in Trans Fats
Anything deep-fat fried will be very heavy in trans fats, unless it's been fried in a naturally saturated fat, like lard—which is not something you're likely to find in a supermarket. Thus, crisps, chips, fries, doughnuts, poppadums—all are loaded with trans fats. Other foods to be wary of include:

Baked goods
Breakfast cereals
Bread & crackers
Fish sticks and other breaded fish
Frozen pizzas & pot pies
"Health" bars
Microwave popcorn (one of the worst)
Nondairy creamers (known as lighteners in the UK)
Peanut butter
Puddings (trans fats used for creamy consistency)
Ramen noodles are particularly bad
Tortillas (more often known as wraps in the UK)
This list is, of course, far from exhaustive. It should, though, give you a good idea of what foods to be particularly careful about

The Weston A. Price Foundation for Wise Traditions, The Importance of Saturated Fats for Biological Functions, by Mary G. Enig, PhD
ScientificPsychic, Fats, Oils, Fatty Acids, Triglycerides



I've only posted a summary, go on site to view these information filled articles in their entirety.

High Fructose is another killer, and it is in so many things, even our breads, crackers, cereals, etc., so it's hard to keep trans fats, as well as fructose out of our everyday meals, drinks, and snacks, but we work at it, especially after a serious health issue brought on by high fructose. We try to use pure butter or a transfat free buttery spread, we also use oils which have been cold pressed with no trans fats and the difference in how we feel is amazing, and age spots?; they disappear. You're better off with pure butter or lard than you are trans fats. Then again, any fat or oil has to be fresh, not rancid or turning as then it works in reverse. Don't ever eat stale breads, crackers, etc. Old oils and fats are very harmful. SRH


Saundra Hummer
April 16th, 2009, 04:14 PM
. . . . . . .

The Truth Hurts?
Well isn't that something?

McClellan: Bush insiders planning to 'spin an alternative reality'

04/15/2009 @ 9:20 am
Filed by David Edwards and Muriel Kane
Former President George W. Bush has been holding a reunion of his "old gang" in Texas this week to make plans for his presidential library and policy institute.

According to Scott McClellan, one-time Bush White House press secretary, those plans can be expected to center on attempting to spin the history of the Bush administration rather than addressing it honesty.

"This gathering in Dallas is really the first meeting of the Bush legacy-shaping group," McClellan told MSNBC's Keith Olbermann on Tuesday, "which happens to include the core members of the White House Iraq Group. And I think some of their thinking is still grounded in the mentality that was used to sell the war in Iraq in the first place."

As described by McClellan in his book, What Happened, the White House Iraq Group was "set up in the summer of 2002 to coordinate the marketing of the war to the public" and "to convince Americans that war with Iraq was inevitable and necessary."

"There's more of a focus on trying to create, or spin, an alternative reality," McClellan told Olbermann, "than coming to grips with the reality of where things went wrong and how this administration went off course."

"The only way he can actually shape his legacy for the better is to begin by addressing those issues," McClellan emphasized, "the controversial decisions that he made, whether it was Iraq or Katrina or the economic crisis that unfolded on his watch. The only way he can shape his legacy for the better is to accept responsibility for those mistakes and those management failures."

This video is from MSNBC's Countdown, broadcast Apr. 14, 2009.

Download video via RawReplay.com

. . . . . . .
A "Bush Policy Institute"?
I'm going to have to get arm rests for my office chair to prevent me from falling on the floor whenever I read such as this again, and somehow I believe something just as ludicrious will pop up about the man.

Knock me on the floor amazing, and fall on the floor comical; both at the same time. Unbelievable.
Bush Policy Institute: How to orchestrate failure?
Still can't get over this one.

Go on-site for the video. Just click on the following link:


. . . . . . . . . . .

Saundra Hummer
April 17th, 2009, 12:36 PM

U.S. future depends on torture accountability

Olbermann: We cannot let mistakes of the past haunt our future

April 16: In a Special Comment, Countdown’s Keith Olbermann makes one more plea to President Barack Obama to prosecute Bush administration officials who allowed the torture of prisoners to occur, to set an example for the future that America does not tolerate torture.
Keith Olbermann
Anchor, 'Countdown'
• Profile
As promised, a Special Comment now on the president's revelation of the remainder of this nightmare of Bush Administration torture memos. This President has gone where few before him, dared. The dirty laundry — illegal, un-American, self-defeating, self-destroying — is out for all to see.

Mr. Obama deserves our praise and our thanks for that. And yet he has gone but half-way. And, in this case, in far too many respects, half the distance is worse than standing still. Today, Mr. President, in acknowledging these science-fiction-like documents, you said that:

"This is a time for reflection, not retribution. I respect the strong views and emotions that these issues evoke."

"We have been through a dark and painful chapter in our history.

"But at a time of great challenges and disturbing disunity, nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past.

Mr. President, you are wrong. What you describe would be not "spent energy" but catharsis.
Not "blame laid," but responsibility ascribed. You continued:

"Our national greatness is embedded in America's ability to right its course in concert with our core values, and to move forward with confidence. That is why we must resist the forces that divide us, and instead come together on behalf of our common future."

Indeed we must, Mr. President. And the forces of which you speak are the ones lingering — with pervasive stench — from the previous administration. Far more than a criminal stench, Sir. An immoral one. One we cannot let be re-created.

One, President Obama, it is your responsibility to make sure cannot be re-created. Forgive me for quoting from a Comment I offered the night before the inauguration. But this goes to the core of the President's commendable, but wholly naive, intention. This country has never "moved forward with confidence".without first cleansing itself of its mistaken past.

In point of fact, every effort to merely draw a line in the sand and declare the past dead has served only to keep the past alive and often to strengthen it. We "moved forward" with slavery in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. And four score and nine years later, we had buried 600,000 of our sons and brothers, in a Civil War.

After that war's ending, we "moved forward" without the social restructuring — and protection of the rights of minorities — in the south. And a century later, we had not only not resolved anything, but black leaders were still being assassinated in our southern cities.

We "moved forward" with Germany in the reconstruction of Europe after the First World War.

Nobody even arrested the German Kaiser, let alone conducted war crimes trials then. And 19 years later, there was an indescribably more evil Germany and a more heart-rending Second World War.

We "moved forward" with the trusts of the early 1900s. And today, we are at the mercy of corporations too big to fail. We "moved forward" with the Palmer Raids and got McCarthyism.
And we "moved forward" with McCarthyism and got Watergate. We "moved forward" with Watergate and junior members of the Ford administration realized how little was ultimately at risk.

They grew up to be Paul Wolfowitz and Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney. But, Mr. President, when you say we must "come together on behalf of our common future" you are entirely correct. We must focus on getting things right in the future, as opposed to looking at what we got wrong in the past.

That means prosecuting all those involved in the Bush administration's torture of prisoners, even if the results are nominal punishments, or merely new laws. Your only other option is to let this set and fester indefinitely. Because, Sir, some day there will be another Republican president, or even a Democrat just as blind as Mr. Bush to ethics and this country's moral force. And he will look back to what you did about Mr. Bush. Or what you did not do.

And he will see precedent. Or as Cheney saw, he will see how not to get caught next time. Prosecute, Mr. President. Even if you get not one conviction, you will still have accomplished good for generations unborn. Merely by acting, you will deny a further wrong — that this construction will enter the history books: Torture was legal. It worked. It saved the country.

The end. This must not be. "It is our intention," you said today, "to assure those who carried out their duties relying in good faith upon legal advice from the Department of Justice that they will not be subject to prosecution." Mr. President, you are making history's easiest, most often made, most dangerous mistake — you are accepting the defense that somebody was "just following orders." At the end of his first year in office, Mr. Lincoln tried to contextualize the Civil War for those who still wanted to compromise with evils of secession and slavery. "The struggle of today," Lincoln wrote, "is not altogether for today. It is for a vast future also."

Mr. president, you have now been handed the beginning of that future. Use it to protect our children and our distant descendants from anything like this ever happening again — by showing them that those who did this, were neither unfairly scapegoated nor absolved. It is good to say "we won't do it. again." It is not, however...enough


Saundra Hummer
April 17th, 2009, 04:15 PM
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Sewing machine hoax hits Saudi Arabia
Saudi police say they are investigating a hoax that has seen people rushing to buy old-fashioned sewing machines for up to $50,000 (£33,500).
The Singer sewing machines are said to contain traces of red mercury, a substance that may not exist.

But it is widely thought that it can be used to find treasure, ward off evil spirits or even make nuclear bombs.

It is believed that tiny amounts can sell for millions of dollars, the Saudi Gazette reported.

The paper said that trade in the sewing machines was brisk across the country.

Rumours about the sewing machines have been spreading for days by word of mouth and over the internet, it said.

These included rumours that foreign experts and companies had been buying up Singers.

In Dhulum, it was reported that people had broken into two tailors' shops to steal the machines.

In the city of Madina, people were holding mobile phones up to the machines, due to the belief that they could be used to detect the presence of red mercury.

An interior ministry spokesman said authorities were trying to discover who had spread the rumours.

"We have to find out who started this hoax," he told Reuters news agency.

"People hope to make profit," he added. "This is no different to cases of citizens who put their money in untrustworthy schemes."

Story from BBC NEWS:


Published: 2009/04/14 21:37:02 GMT© BBC MMIX
They have that kind of money to spend, while loaded down with such backwards superstitions? One foot in the modern world, the other back in another time altogether. Will they have learned from this, that it's time to move forward? Get over it all of you with such inane superstitions.

Will they quit killing endangered species just so they can, well you know, now that they have Viagra and other performance enhancing pharmaceuticals? It's a topsy turvy world we live in. You'd think it would improve drastically, but as we can see, .....

Saundra Hummer
April 17th, 2009, 09:57 PM

Decriminalization of drugs in Portugal:
5 years later

DRUG PLAN: Portugal decriminalized the use and possession of marijuana, cocaine, heroin and other illicit street drugs in an attempt to cut down on related deaths and infections
In the face of a growing number of deaths and cases of HIV linked to drug abuse, the Portuguese government in 2001 tried a new tack to get a handle on the problem—it decriminalized the use and possession of heroin, cocaine, marijuana, LSD and other illicit street drugs. The theory: focusing on treatment and prevention instead of jailing users would decrease the number of deaths and infections.

Five years later, the number of deaths from street drug overdoses dropped from around 400 to 290 annually, and the number of new HIV cases caused by using dirty needles to inject heroin, cocaine and other illegal substances plummeted from nearly 1,400 in 2000 to about 400 in 2006, according to a report released recently by the Cato Institute, a Washington, D.C, libertarian think tank.

"Now instead of being put into prison, addicts are going to treatment centers and they're learning how to control their drug usage or getting off drugs entirely," report author Glenn Greenwald, a former New York State constitutional litigator, said during a press briefing at Cato last week.

Under the Portuguese plan, penalties for people caught dealing and trafficking drugs are unchanged; dealers are still jailed and subjected to fines depending on the crime. But people caught using or possessing small amounts—defined as the amount needed for 10 days of personal use—are brought before what's known as a "Dissuasion Commission," an administrative body created by the 2001 law.

Each three-person commission includes at least one lawyer or judge and one health care or social services worker. The panel has the option of recommending treatment, a small fine, or no sanction.

Peter Reuter, a criminologist at the University of Maryland, College Park, says he's skeptical decriminalization was the sole reason drug use slid in Portugal, noting that another factor, especially among teens, was a global decline in marijuana use. By the same token, he notes that critics were wrong in their warnings that decriminalizing drugs would make Lisbon a drug mecca.

"Drug decriminalization did reach its primary goal in Portugal," of reducing the health consequences of drug use, he says, "and did not lead to Lisbon becoming a drug tourist destination."

Walter Kemp, a spokesperson for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, says decriminalization in Portugal "appears to be working." He adds that his office is putting more emphasis on improving health outcomes, such as reducing needle-borne infections, but that it does not explicitly support decriminalization, "because it smacks of legalization."

Drug legalization removes all criminal penalties for producing, selling and using drugs; no country has tried it. In contrast, decriminalization, as practiced in Portugal, eliminates jail time for drug users but maintains criminal penalties for dealers. Spain and Italy have also decriminalized personal use of drugs and Mexico's president has proposed doing the same. .

A spokesperson for the White House's Office of National Drug Control Policy declined to comment, citing the pending Senate confirmation of the office's new director, former Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs also declined to comment on the report.

COMMENTSThursday April 16, 2009, 11:52 am
Hmmm...what novel concepts. Not putting thousands of people in jail whose only "crime" is making an adult decision about their own lives. Addressing drug use as a social "problem" rather than a criminal one. I wonder if anyone in out government is taking notes.

Kit B. (160) Thursday April 16, 2009, 11:55 amAlmost ever thing we think and believe about all drugs is filtered through a concentrated effort of propaganda. There are many healthy, reasonable and logical ways of dealing with problems with out probhibition which has never worked, is costly in both human life and fiscal expenses. Education and careful management will serve us far better then continuing on path of death, and more drug wars and ever increased prison populations.

Gini Brown (8) Thursday April 16, 2009, 3:42 pmThere is no One solution to this issue. We need to stop the drug trade period. We have lost too many people to something we should have taken care of before it got this big.

Aletta Kraan (23) Thursday April 16, 2009, 4:03 pmNoted . thanks !!

Steven Wells (10) Thursday April 16, 2009, 7:03 pmClose analysis of the US Drug War since Reagan ironically ISN'T about drugs at all. On the international front. Internationally the war is all about removing the competition that the CIA faced utilizing the drug trade to raise funds for covert operations unaccountable to Congress. General Noriega was taken out because he was starting to squeal on Daddy Bush's Directorship of CIA operations.Ironic that all those pictures of Bush senior with Noriega disappeared after daddy started to run for president in the primary against Reagan. Noriega was on the CIA payroll. The illegal funds from the CIA drug running thru Panama with Noriega's Cover. was used to help fund the illegal CIA covert support Contra war. (Iran-Contra scandal ring a bell) CIA helped train and supply those solders who killed the priests and nuns. There was a California investigative journalist who had started to piece together the operations and started publishing a series on the issue. soon he was found in his apartment dead of two (YES 2) shots to the head. Ruled a "suicide".Go figure.
On the domestic front, the war is being fought for two reasons. All the millions of dollars funneling to the law enforcement agencies to buy all their neat toys that the corporate suppliers are making a ton of profit off of. Secondly a side benefit is it racially rids communities by the locking up of their blacks and undesirable who lives are a miserable existence anyways who turn to drugs for the mental anguish relief. That feeds the pockets of yet another growing corporate greed holder, Privatized prisons. And the CIA keeps the price fixed just low enough to sucker the dealers and users.enabled to funnel the money to the Big man with CIA connections. Make no mistake. The US Drug war has nothing to do with drugs, but a method to get the corporate world's hand in the taxpayers treasury and fund the propaganda, that their being "effective" Bullshit! A third aspect allowed law enforcement to confiscate anything that was used in the domestic operations. I recall a private jet had been stolen and used for a couple of Colombian drug runs. The owners, who had no connection to the illegal activity never got their multimillion dollar plane back. Remember all those ads that ran about buy Govt confiscated luxury homes, cars boats and plane at auction?? How's your math skills at putting 2 + 2 together. Wouldn't that be a conflict of interest?? Jack up fake charges on someone and ever though the cases are dropped for lack of evidence, you still lost you house??
Yes this MADNESS HAS TO STOP!!! Besides you only hear about these Drug war crime bills during election time, and those who want to appear and take the common sense approach are labeled "SOFT ON CRIME!!! MONEY, MONEY, the love of which is the root of all government corruption!

Robert Garvin (18) Friday April 17, 2009, 4:06 pmThe way you guys are down on the CIA, anyone might begin to think that they are the investigative side of the Society of Jesus and that they funnel untold billions into the coffers of their mother Church. You better stop this incriminating evidence or you may be next on the hit list. OR worse still, you might have your internet access denied and you will just be another bit of collateral damage. You will be charged with fomenting insurrection and any other charge that they can put against you to shut you up. So, what else have you got to say?

I thought Umerica was supposed to be the mouth piece of freedom. ha ha ha, they will get you where ever you are and in whatever country, the holy Roman Empire WILL rule the world ( at least for a short while before they go under.) War on drugs? YES, so they have NO competition and they are financed by every country that is supposedly against drugs. then when the drugs ARE legalised, who will be in control of the supply? Same mob. They win either way.


Saundra Hummer
April 17th, 2009, 11:55 PM

NSA spied on member of Congress
and broke new laws, report says

04/16/2009 @ 8:47 am
Filed by RAW STORY

UPDATE (at bottom): Senate intelligence committee plans hearing on reported NSA violations
An article in The New York Times detailing new violations of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act reports that in recent months the National Security Agency has been intercepting the communications of Americans on a scale going well beyond the broad legal limits established last year by Congress.

Even more shocking, the paper reveals that under the Bush administration the NSA spied on a member of Congress and sought to wiretap the lawmaker without a warrant.

Reports the Times:
And in one previously undisclosed episode, the N.S.A. tried to wiretap a member of Congress without a warrant, an intelligence official with direct knowledge of the matter said.

The agency believed that the congressman, whose identity could not be determined, was in contact — as part of a Congressional delegation to the Middle East in 2005 or 2006 — with an extremist who had possible terrorist ties and was already under surveillance, the official said. The agency then sought to eavesdrop on the congressman’s conversations, the official said.

The official said the plan was ultimately blocked because of concerns from some intelligence officials about using the N.S.A., without court oversight, to spy on a member of Congress.
According to the Times, the NSA unintentionally spies on many Americans because it can't distinguish between American and non-American calls as "it uses its access to American telecommunications companies’ fiber-optic lines and its own spy satellites to intercept millions of calls and e-mail messages."

The NSA's operational problems have "come under scrutiny from the Obama administration, Congressional intelligence committees and a secret national security court," and officials are concerned that the controversy "could damage the credibility of legitimate intelligence-gathering efforts."

The Justice Department has already issued a statement confirming the problems but insisting that it has taken "comprehensive steps to correct the situation and bring the program into compliance."

However, constitutional lawyer Glenn Greenwald suggests that "these widespread eavesdropping abuses enabled by the 2008 FISA bill -- a bill passed with the support of Barack Obama along with the entire top Democratic leadership in the House, including Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer, and substantial numbers of Democratic Senators -- aren't a bug in that bill, but rather, were one of the central features of it."

"Everyone knew that the FISA bill which Congressional Democrats passed -- and which George Bush and Dick Cheney celebrated -- would enable these surveillance abuses," Greenwald continues. "That was the purpose of the law: to gut the safeguards in place since the 1978 passage of FISA, destroy the crux of the oversight regime over executive surveillance of Americans, and enable and empower unchecked government spying activities. This was not an unintended and unforeseeable consequence of that bill. To the contrary, it was crystal clear that by gutting FISA's safeguards, the Democratic Congress was making these abuses inevitable."

"There are exceedingly few specifics in [the Times] story detailing exactly what the abuses were," Greenwald says in conclusion "In other words, most of the information about the NSA's abuses remain concealed. We have learned only a small fraction of what took place."

Read the full New York Times story here.
UPDATE: Senate intelligence committee plans hearing on reported NSA violations

According to a follow-up report published mid-day, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) told the Times:

“These are serious allegations, and we will make sure we get the facts. The committee is looking into this, and we will hold a hearing on this subject within one month."

Sen. Feinstein is the head of the Senate intelligence committee.

Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Senate Intelligence Committee, sent out a press release in the Thursday morning hours after the Times story was published.

In reaction, Feingold writes, "Since 2001, I have spent a lot of time in the Intelligence Committee, the Judiciary Committee, and on the floor of the Senate bringing attention to both the possible and actual effects of legislation that has dangerously expanded the power of the executive branch to spy on innocent Americans."

"Despite these efforts, Congress insisted on enacting several measures including the USA PATRIOT Act, the Protect America Act, and the FISA Amendments Act, embarking on a tragic retreat from the principles that had governed the sensitive area of government surveillance for the previous three decades," Feingold added.

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Saundra Hummer
April 20th, 2009, 01:58 PM

April 20, 2009 by Faiz Shakir, Amanda Terkel, Satyam Khanna, Matt Corley, Benjamin Armbruster, Ali Frick, Ryan Powers, and Igor Volsky


Right-Wing Extremists Threaten The Nation
Last week, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released a report warning that the economic recession and the election of the first African-American president could mobilize right-wing extremist groups inside the United States to gain new recruits. To bolster their ranks, the groups may target veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan, according to the analysis. The report concluded that while the DHS "has no specific information that domestic rightwing terrorists are currently planning acts of violence," right-wing extremists -- or movements that it defined as "primarily hate-oriented...and those that are mainly antigovernment" -- "are focusing their efforts to recruit new members, mobilize existing supporters, and broaden their scope and appeal through propaganda." This document, along with an earlier report on radicalized left-wing groups, was requested by the Bush administration after FBI Director Robert Mueller and other Bush appointees acknowledged the threat of right-wing extremism. One DHS official described the report as "nothing unusual." "This is the job of DHS, to assess what is happening in this country, with regard to homegrown terrorism, and determine whether it's an actual threat or not, and that's what these assessments do. ... These assessments are done all the time," the official said. But despite the nature of the report, conservative commentators are outraged, insisting that the document's characterization of "right-wing extremism" represents a direct attack on Republican loyalists, conservative ideology, and veterans returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan. Christian Coalition founder Pat Robertson went so far as to suggest that the report "shows somebody down in the bowels of that organization is either a convinced left winger or somebody whose sexual orientation is somewhat in question."

WHAT THE REPORT SAYS: According to the report, "the consequences of a prolonged economic downturn -- including real estate foreclosures, unemployment, and an inability to obtain credit -- could create a fertile recruiting environment for rightwing extremists and even result in confrontations between such groups and government authorities." Specifically, the report finds that "rightwing extremist groups' frustration over a perceived lack of government action on illegal immigration" and the government's "heightened interest in legislation for tighter firearms, may be invigorating rightwing extremist activity." The report also found that extremist groups may "attempt to recruit and radicalize returning veterans in order to exploit their skills and knowledge derived from military training and combat." In February, the Southern Poverty Law Center reported that the "number of hate groups operating in the United States continued to rise in 2008 and has grown by 54 percent since 2000 -- an increase fueled last year by immigration fears, a failing economy and the successful campaign of Barack Obama."

CONSERVATIVES PRETEND THEY ARE TARGETS: Most conservative commentators passionately argued that the report's description of right-wing extremists represented a politically-motivated attempt to "smear" conservatives. In a column published on FoxNews.com, Oliver North declared that his Christian faith and respect for the second amendment "makes me a 'right-wing extremist.'" Fox News host Neil Cavuto asserted that the report "more or less states the government considers you a terrorist threat if you oppose abortion, speak out against illegal immigration, or you are a returning war veteran." Sean Hannity announced that "if you disagree with that liberal path that President Obama's taken the country down, you may soon catch the attention of the Department of Homeland Security." Appearing on Hannity's Fox News show to rant about the report, RNC Chairman Michael Steele similarly declared that "to segment out Americans who dissent from this administration, to segment out conservatives in this country who have a different philosophy or view from this administration and labeling them as terrorists...to me is the height of insult." Rush Limbaugh claimed that the report portrayed "standard, ordinary, everyday conservatives as posing a bigger threat to this country than al Qaeda terrorists or genuine enemies of this country like Kim Jong Il," and Rep. Peter King (R-NY), the ranking Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee, even "asked for a hearing into the matter," suggesting that the DHS should focus on the threat emanating from Muslims instead. The DHS report did not target "conservatives" or "Republican loyalists." Indeed, it's odd that conservatives would willingly group themselves and Republicans in with "rightwing extremist activity, specifically the white supremacist and militia movements" -- the actual focus of the DHS report.

CONSERVATIVES CLAIM OBAMA TARGETED VETERANS: Several conservatives also misrepresented the intelligence assessment as an attack on American veterans. The Obama administration is "specifically warning that veterans returning home from war, are to be feared -- that they could be right-wing extremists that want to launch terror attacks on America," Joe Scarborough argued on MSNBC's Morning Joe. House Republican Leader John Boehner (R-OH) claimed that "to characterize men and women returning home after defending our country as potential terrorists is offensive and unacceptable. The Department of Homeland Security owes our veterans an apology." But the report actually argued that the danger isn't from veterans themselves, but from the efforts of right-wing extremists to "recruit and radicalize returning veterans in order to exploit their skills and knowledge derived from military training and combat." "The willingness of a small percentage of military personnel to join extremist groups during the 1990s because they were disgruntled, disillusioned, or suffering from the psychological effects of war is being replicated today," the report concluded. And while Napolitano apologized to those who found the report offensive, she explained that "the report is not saying that veterans are extremists. Far from it. What it is saying is returning veterans are targets of right-wing extremist groups that are trying to recruit those to commit violent acts within the country. We want to do all we can to prevent that." In fact, as Media Matters pointed out, the report even "cited a 2008 FBI report -- authored during the Bush administration -- as evidence that 'some returning military veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have joined extremist groups.'" The 2.2 million-member Veterans of Foreign Wars also issued a statement clarifying that "the report should have been worded differently, but it made no blanket accusation that every soldier was capable of being a traitor like Benedict Arnold, or every veteran could be a lone wolf, homegrown terrorist like Timothy McVeigh. It was just an assessment about possibilities that could take place."

ENVIRONMENT -- BOEHNER CITES COW FARTS IN ORDER TO DOWNPLAY GLOBAL WARMING: Yesterday on ABC's This Week, host George Stephanopoulos asked House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) to describe the GOP "plan" for dealing with global warming. Boehner downplayed the risk of carbon dioxide and global warming, claiming carbon dioxide is simply a natural compound that is present even in cow flatulence. "George, the idea that carbon dioxide is a carcinogen that is harmful to our environment is almost comical. Every time we exhale, we exhale carbon dioxide. Every cow in the world, you know, when they do what they do, you've got more carbon dioxide," he said. While humans and animals exhale carbon dioxide naturally, no one is arguing that CO2 itself is harmful. But excessive carbon dioxide in the air is harming the planet and human health. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency recently ruled in a landmark decision that carbon dioxide emissions are "a danger to human health and welfare." Furthermore, it is methane, not carbon dioxide, that is the primary chemical in cow flatulence that contributes to global warming. Boehner also expressed skepticism about the degree that global warming is caused by man. "The question is how much does man have to do with it, and what is the proper way to deal with this?" he asked. Boehner isn't the only Republican to downplay the risk of greenhouse emissions recently. Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL) said last month that capping carbon dioxide would take away "plant food" from the atmosphere.

ADMINISTRATION -- OBAMA CHIEF OF STAFF: WHITE HOUSE OPPOSES PROSECUTING TORTURE MEMO AUTHORS: Last week, when President Obama released four Bush-era legal memos authorizing the use of torture against terrorist suspects, he declared that his administration would not seek to prosecute those "who carried out their duties relying in good faith upon legal advice from the Department of Justice." The declaration seemed to leave the door open to prosecutions of the Justice Department officials, like current federal judge Jay Bybee, who authorized illegal torture. However, on ABC's This Week yesterday, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel rejected such a possibility. "[T]hose who devised the policies...should not be prosecuted either. And it's not the place that we go," Emanuel said. However, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture, Professor Manfred Nowak, said in a recent interview that any grant of immunity from Obama is likely a violation of international law. When asked if Obama's decision not to pursue prosecutions of CIA officials was "supportable," Nowak replied, "Absolutely not. The United States has, like all other Contracting Parties to the U.N. Convention Against Torture, committed itself to investigate instances of torture and to prosecute all cases in which credible evidence of torture is found." To those who call for investigations, Emanuel simply stated, "This is not a time for retribution. It's a time for reflection." Fire Dog Lake's Jane Hamsher asks, "Is Rahm saying that President Obama believes they're nothing more than an angry, vindictive mob, and that nobody could possibly have a rational basis for believing that our laws should be enforced?"

RADICAL RIGHT -- CITING NO EVIDENCE, STEELE ALLEDGES GOVERNMENT WAS SPYING ON ANTI-ABORTION RALLY HE ATTENDED: Last Friday on Fox News, host Sean Hannity and his guest, RNC Chairman Michael Steele, ranted and raved about a Department of Homeland Security report requested by the Bush administration that warned of increasing incidents of "rightwing radicalization and recruitment." Hannity responded by implying that President Obama himself is a possible terrorist threat. "If you're pro-life, you're viewed as the potential extremist," he complained, but "you can start your career in the home of an unrepentant terrorist and hang out with a guy named Jeremiah Wright." "I don't want to beat an old horse here," said Hannity, who incessantly harps on Obama's past affiliations. "But I'm telling you if anyone hung out with radicals that needs to be investigated by Homeland Security," he said, cutting himself off before explicitly stating that the President of the United States might be a terrorist threat. Steele, who spoke at an anti-abortion rally in Indiana this past week,then said he was "sure" that the government spied on the event. "They've got their eye on the 3,000 Americans who assembled in Indiana last night, in Evansville, Indiana, to profess their continued effort to save the life of the unborn....I'm sure there was somebody in the room with a notepad and a camera taking snapshots and writing down names. But that's not the place our government needs to be," Steele said. Of course, Steele offered no evidence that the government was monitoring the event.

President Obama will visit the CIA today, "in a bid to reassure staff stung by the release of memos detailing harsh interrogation techniques." Obama will discuss "the importance of the CIA" and "reassure CIA officers of his promise not to seek prosecution of CIA agents or former officials" involved in torture.

Days after Gov. David Paterson (D-NY) unveiled a same-sex marriage bill, Rudy Giuliani is "declaring war on gay marriage." Giuliani, who is pro-civil unions, is "vowing to use his strong opposition of it against the Democrats if he runs for governor next year."

Republicans are struggling with a health care reform "message [that] is still vague and unformed." "I thought we would have been much farther along than we are," said Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX). Rep. Roy Blunt's (R-MO) Health Care Task Force "wants to come up with fresh solutions and not just party rhetoric -- and that takes some time," said a spokesman for Blunt.

ExxonMobil has supplanted Wal-Mart atop the Fortune 500 list, which ranks companies by their annual earnings. "Texas-based Exxon took in $442.85 billion in revenue last year, up almost 19% from 2007." Wal-Mart, which had held the top spot for six of the last seven years, had revenues of $405.6 billion.

Every day, the White House sorts through its mail and picks at least 10 letters for President Obama to read, a process designed to "offer a sampling of what Americans are thinking." The letters are read by the president, and he sometimes answers them by hand. In a letter to the mother of a soldier, Obama wrote, "I will do everything in my power to make troops like Matthew my priority. ...Please tell him 'thank you for your service' from his commander in chief!"

Today, the Senate is scheduled to vote to end debate on the nomination of Chris Hill to be ambassador to Iraq. The opposition to Hill's nomination from several Republican senators led by Sam Brownback (KS) is "not expected to derail Hill's eventual confirmation."

Al Qaeda's second-in-command, Ayman al-Zawahri, posted a video online today, urging "Muslims not to be fooled by U.S. President Barack Obama's policies, which he said...are no different to those of his predecessor, George W. Bush." "[Obama] is calling for change, but he aims to change us so that we abandon our religion and rights," al-Zawahri said.

And finally: First runner-up Miss California caused a stir in yesterday's Miss USA pageant when she was asked a question about legalizing same-sex marriage. "We live in a land where you can choose same-sex marriage or opposite marriage," Carrie Prejean said. "And you know what, I think in my country, in my family, I think that I believe that a marriage should be between a man and a woman. No offense to anybody out there, but that's how I was raised." Scott Ihrig, a gay man who attended the pageant with his partner, called her answer "ugly," adding, "That is not the value of 95 percent of the people in this audience. Look around this audience and tell me how many gay men there are."

President Obama plans to order Cabinet secretaries to cut $100 million from their combined budgets over the next 90 days, a signal of "the president's determination to cut spending and reform government."

NORTH CAROLINA: Recession is leading to a health-care crisis.

MISSOURI: State House approves legislation rejecting Real ID.

NEW JERSEY: Bills offering in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants face an uncertain future.

THINK PROGRESS: Alberto Gonzales stopped an FBI probe of Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA) because he "needed Jane" to sell warrantless wiretapping.

WONK ROOM: Rep. Bob Latta (R-OH): With cap-and-trade, President Obama "has declared war on Ohio and Indiana."

YGLESIAS: Commentary's Abe Greenwald is pro-torture.

GRIST: How to comment on the Environmental Protection Agency's finding that greenhouse gases endanger public health.


"McCain for the longest time said torture doesn't work, then he admitted...last summer that he was broken by the North Vietnamese."
-- Rush Limbaugh, 4/17/09, advocating the use of torture

"I gave the names of the Green Bay Packers' offensive line, and said they were members of my squadron. When asked to identify future targets, I simply recited the names of a number of North Vietnamese cities that had already been bombed."
-- Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), from his memoir, Faith of My Fathers

This is only a summary. Go on-site for complete articles and to gain access to the links within this post. They're numerous.

Saundra Hummer
April 20th, 2009, 04:57 PM
> > >$$$$$< < <

New bill would better protect farmland

If passed, the bill would eliminate six different uses of land zoned EFU

Kevin Gaboury

A new bill that would increase protection on Oregon farmland was heard by the Oregon House Land Use committee last week.
HB 3099 would eliminate six uses on land zoned EFU (exclusive farm use) - landfills, dog kennels, model airplane clubs, living history museums, spring water bottling and fireworks displays
Along with this, the bill would require rural schools sited on EFU land to serve primarily rural students and limit aggregate mining on farmland. It would also ban golf courses on EFU land require non-farm dwellings to be located where they would least interfere with farming.
Supporters, including the Oregon Farm Bureau and 1,000 Friends of Oregon, say it's time to limit the number of uses allowed on farmland.
(I take issue with these restrictions, doing so for any number of reasons. Our property taxes being just one of them, since we won't be allowed to profit from sales or development, and we are in need of doing so at this time. Their restrictions are already a burden, and our taxes will still come due each year with these new restrictions as well. Are they willing to absorb our tax burden in full for their unrestricted views, and rural uncrowded roads, the ones they say will be congested if we are allowed to develop our own land? SRH)
"Farmland is not undeveloped land waiting for one of these conflicting uses. It is already developed land that supports one of Oregon's leading industries," 1,000 Friends of Oregon said in a statement. "The agricultural industry is a primary driver of the Oregon economy and it keeps growing every year. Most of these conflicting uses have nothing to do with farming. It's time to simplify our land use laws so that exclusive farm use zones are exclusively for farming."
Representatives with the Oregon Farm Bureau could not be reached for comment.
However, opponents feel that there are already too many restrictions on farmland.
(Most of our neighbors don't own over 200 acres, and these little farms aren't enough acreage to support one's family, just enough to supplement ones income, if that, as there are so many variables in farming, supply and demand, the weather, etc., and if you figure in the time and effort spent keeping up farms of this size and smaller, you lose money, & you and lose bigtime. SRH)
"We should be allowing more uses of rural land to improve Oregon's economic situation," said Bill Mashofsky, vice president of Oregonians in Action, a non-profit organization dedicated to land-use and property rights. "They are taking away some of the uses that are important to a number of people, so we just believe that it's wrong at this stage to take away some of the limited uses that landowners can have."
In Oregon, more than 16 million acres are zoned EFU, and Mashofsky said some is not exactly suitable for farming and is a product of "open-space zoning." He added that over the years, exceptions have been made to allow landowners to use farmland in other ways.
"(This bill) is a huge barrier to common sense and the sensible use of land," he said. "It's heading the state in the wrong direction. It's a matter of principle and a matter of preserving the rights for the landowners who would be directly affected."
According to Crook County Judge Mike McCabe, the majority of the county's land is zoned EFU, and the county has made efforts to keep compatible uses in EFU zones.
However, he does not feel the state should make broad decisions regarding land use.
"I think the state should refer to counties in all land-use matters," he said. "We're here, we have to live with it, so we should be able to have some control over our destiny. In land use, one size does not fit all, and what "works in Multnomah County sometimes doesn't work here.


Saundra Hummer
April 20th, 2009, 08:06 PM
:: :: ::


April 20, 2009

Dear Friend,

Today we filed suit to stop the horrible abuse of children at a Mississippi detention center, where they are confined in filthy, bug-infested cells for 23 hours a day with no adequate mental health or education services.

Our client, D.W., is a 17-year-old African-American youth who endured a brutal physical assault by guards who slammed his face into a concrete floor. After a week at the facility, he tried to hang himself with a bed sheet. But rather than provide him counseling, guards harassed and taunted him — telling him his mother no longer cared and would not visit him again.

The children held at the Harrison County Juvenile Detention Center in Biloxi are not hardened criminals. Most are accused of minor, nonviolent offenses and are simply awaiting court hearings.

This detention center is operated for profit by a company that has blocked civil rights investigators from inspecting the facility, even though they have a right under federal law to monitor the conditions there.

Dozens of other children describe their own nightmarish experiences. Because their cells were overcrowded, many slept on the floor next to dirty toilets. Infections were rampant. Guards were quick to use violence. One teen described conditions as "unbearable" and said children were treated like "dogs."

It's appalling that a private company is being allowed to profit from the misery and suffering of these children.

This lawsuit is just one of the strategies we're using to protect children from a broken system that would rather spend money on prisons than mental health services and education. Across the country, thousands of children — disproportionately black and many suffering from mental disabilities — are being needlessly incarcerated for petty offenses.

We're doing everything we can to stop this unconscionable abuse. You can help by adding your voice to this fight. Click here to tell Harrison County officials to stop abusing children.

We'll make sure they get your message.

Thanks for your support.

Richard Cohen

Add your voice to this fight. Tell Harrison County officials to stop abusing children.

We welcome your feedback.
Contact us online.

Or by mail:
Southern Poverty Law Center
400 Washington Ave.
Montgomery, AL 36104
:: :: :: :: ::

Saundra Hummer
April 21st, 2009, 03:36 PM


April 21, 2009
by Faiz Shakir, Amanda Terkel, Satyam Khanna, Matt Corley, Benjamin Armbruster, Ali Frick, and Ryan Powers


Impeach Judge Bybee
Last week, President Obama released four Bush-era Office of Legal Counsel memos that had authorized torture. "In dozens of pages of dispassionate legal prose, the methods approved by the Bush administration for extracting information from senior operatives of Al Qaeda are spelled out in careful detail -- like keeping detainees awake for up to 11 straight days, placing them in a dark, cramped box or putting insects into the box to exploit their fears," The New York Times writes. The earliest memo, from 2002, was signed by Jay Bybee, then an Assistant Attorney General and now a federal judge on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Bybee's memo provided "a legal authorization for a laundry list of proposed C.I.A. interrogation techniques," including waterboarding. The techniques Bybee approved are illegal by U.S. statute and an international treaty to which the U.S. is a signatory. Bybee attempted to give legal cover to illegal acts, and thus broke the ethical, professional, and legal standards that govern lawyers. For this, Judge Jay Bybee should be impeached. The Progress Report has launched a campaign to persuade the House Judiciary Committee to initiate impeachment hearings against Bybee. Already, more than 3,000 of you have taken action. Join our effort to convince the committee to launch hearings.

WHAT BYBEE APPROVED: "n the finest legalese" and with "grotesque, lawyerly logic," Bybee wrote 40 pages of justification for treatment that clearly constituted "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment." He approved a method called "walling," which entailed slamming a detainee against a wall. Bybee claimed that "any pain experienced is not of the intensity associated with serious physical injury." He also gave a thumbs up to slapping a detainee's face as long as the interrogator took off any rings. "The facial slap does not produce pain that is difficult to endure," he insisted. And feel free to place detainees in stress positions, Bybee said: these "simply involve forcing the subject to remain in uncomfortable positions." Most notoriously, Bybee declared that waterboarding -- a technique perfected during the Spanish Inquisition that the United States later prosecuted Japanese officers for conducting against U.S. POWs -- was both legal and safe. "The waterboard…inflicts no pain or actual harm whatsoever," Bybee claimed. He said that U.S. law bans only techniques that cause "pain and suffering," a phrase "best understood as a single concept, not distinct concepts of 'pain' as distinguished from 'suffering.'" Since waterboarding causes no "pain," Bybee declares it legal. In fact, he wrote, even one separates "pain" from "suffering," waterboarding would still be acceptable: "The waterboard is simply a controlled acute episode, lacking the connotation of a protracted period of time generally given to suffering."

HOW TO IMPEACH BYBEE: The Progress Report is asking readers to sign a petition to be sent to the House Judiciary Committee, urging it to hold hearings on Bybee. After the hearings, the Committee would draw up articles of impeachment, and pass them with a simple majority vote. From there, the articles move to the full House, which can also approve them with a simple majority. The House sends two "managers" to serve as prosecutors in the impeachment trial, conducted in the Senate if a majority agrees to move forward. It takes 67 Senators to convict -- and a conviction would remove Bybee from the bench. Calling for his impeachment in January, Yale Law professor Bruce Ackerman wrote, " impeachment is not a prelude to a sweeping political vendetta. It focuses on a very particular problem: Jay Bybee may serve for decades on one of the highest courts in the land. Is his continued service consistent with his role in the systematic perpetration of war crimes?" The New York Times called for Bybee's impeachment this weekend, writing that the "memos make it clear that Mr. Bybee is unfit for a job that requires legal judgment and a respect for the Constitution." "His flagrant contempt for the rule of law is utterly inconsistent with his judicial position and speaks directly to his competency to function in that office," stated the Center for Constitutional Rights. "He ought to be impeached," House Judiciary Committee member Jerry Nadler (D-NY) told the Huffington Post yesterday. "It was not an honest legal memo. It was an instruction manual on how to break the law. "Senate Judiciary Committee member Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) agreed that impeachment is "certainly possible." "The idea of the author of one of these memos sitting on the federal bench makes a farce of the whole legal system," wrote the Center for American Progress Action Fund's Matthew Yglesias.

A PATH TO ACCOUNTABILITY: In 2003, Bybee was nominated by President Bush and approved by the Senate to sit on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. During his confirmation hearing, Bybee refused to answer questions, citing executive privilege at least 20 separate times. "If the Senate had known the truth, it would have rejected him," Ackerman wrote. Launching the impeachment process would force Bybee to finally answer questions. And with the Obama administration hesitant to launch prosecutions of any kind, an impeachment hearing might be the closest thing Americans get to a full accounting of Bush's torture program. Indeed, when pressed yesterday on why Obama was refusing to hold Bush administration lawyers who authored the torture memos "accountable," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs stated simply, "The president is focused on looking forward. That's why." Looking forward, however, "it is simply obvious that, if there is no accountability when wrongdoing is exposed, future violations will not be deterred," House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) said yesterday. Sign our petition here

ENERGY -- HEARINGS ON CLEAN ENERGY BILL START TODAY: Today, the House Energy and Commerce Committee will begin four days worth of hearings on a draft of The American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009. The bill requires utilities companies to generate 25 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2025; promotes carbon capture and sequestration for coal plants; increases incentives for electric vehicles; and requires energy savings in buildings, manufactured homes, industry, and government. Most importantly, it creates a cap-and-trade system, ensuring that carbon emissions that are 83 percent lower in 2050 than in 2005. Tomorrow, Secretaries Steven Chu (Energy) and Ray LaHood (Transportation), as well as EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, will testify; on Thursday, Al Gore will address the panel. A wide variety of government and business leaders will also talk about green job opportunities and local steps to addressing climate change. Recent statements from GOP congressman could serve as a preview of their witnesses' views. Just this weekend, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) nonsensically declared that "it's almost comical" to think carbon dioxide emissions are dangerous, claiming that since humans exhale carbon dioxide, it could never be dangerous, no matter how large the dose. Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL) recently said the planet is "carbon-starved" and wondered, "If we decrease the use of carbon dioxide, are we not taking away plant food from the atmosphere?" Yet just last week, the EPA reported that "the case for finding that greenhouse gases in the atmosphere endanger public health and welfare is compelling and, indeed, overwhelming."

ETHICS -- NEW YORK TIMES ACKNOWLEDGES THAT HARMAN URGED THE PAPER TO HOLD WIRETAPPING ARTICLE IN 2004: Yesterday, CQ's Jeff Stein reported that in 2005 Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA) was "overheard on an NSA wiretap telling a suspected Israeli agent that she would lobby the Justice Department [to] reduce espionage-related charges against two officials of the American Israeli Public Affairs Committe." In exchange, Harman asked for help lobbying Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to "appoint her chair of the Intelligence Committee after the 2006 elections, which the Democrats were heavily favored to win." Stein also reported that contrary to previous reports that an FBI probe into Harman had been dropped due to "lack of evidence," it was actually then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales who intervened on Harman's behalf in mid-2005 to stop the FBI's investigation because he needed her help selling the Bush administration's warrantless wiretap program. According to Stein, Gonzales told then-CIA Director Porter Goss that Harman had helped persuade the New York Times to hold a story on the wiretapping program before the 2004 elections. In an initial statement to The Plum Line's Greg Sargent yesterday, New York Times executive editor Bill Keller said "Ms. Harman did not influence my decision. I don't recall that she even spoke to me." But in a second statement yesterday, Keller acknowledged that "Harman called Philip Taubman, then the Washington bureau chief of The Times, in October or November of 2004" and "urged that The Times not publish the article." Harman's office released a statement yesterday as well, arguing "the CQ Politics story simply recycles three year-old discredited reporting of largely unsourced material." Harman said that she "never contacted the Justice Department" about the prosecution. Harman's statement did not address whether she had "contacted anyone at the White House."

JUSTICE -- ORDER FOR BUSH TO TESTIFY IN LAWSUIT AGAINST SMU RELATED TO ACQUISITION OF LAND FOR BUSH LIBRARY: After weeks of legal battles to keep President Bush out of court, Texas district judge Martin Hoffman ruled last Friday that Bush could be deposed in a lawsuit against Southern Methodist University (SMU). The case was brought by two condominium owners near SMU who are claiming "the university bullied owners into selling without disclosing plans to build a presidential library at the site." Hoffman ruled that Bush can be deposed because he has "clearly relevant and material information about the central issues of the case," including if SMU shared building plans with him before buying the land. The plaintiffs have already received statements from Dallas businessman Ray Hunt and former White House counsel Harriet Miers. Still, Larry Friedman, the lawyer representing the condominium owners, said in response that this new development is "monumental for our case. We've been seeking transparency." Immediately following the ruling, however, Bush's lawyers said they will file a claim that the judge "abused his discretion" in ordering the former president to testify. Judge Hoffman stated in his ruling that he would not enforce the order while Bush's legal team sustained such an appeal. A sitting or former president has been called to testify in a civil court case only three times. Yet as Judge Hoffman said, "Presidents are not immune from the judicial process."


The debate over health care reform is intensifying as liberals are warning their Democratic allies to resist caving. Recently, more than 70 House Democrats "warned party leaders that they will not support a broad health reform bill that does not offer consumers a government-sponsored policy, and two unions withdrew from a high-profile health coalition because it would not endorse a public plan."

A new poll released yesterday found that 67 percent of Cuban-Americans "now support the removal of all restrictions for travel to Cuba, an 18-point increase from three years ago, when the same question was asked." Despite the community's "reputation for loyalty to Republicans, the poll found widespread approval for Mr. Obama," with 67 percent having a favorable or somewhat favorable opinion of the president.

"House leaders in both parties were publicly mum" in the wake of a CQ report yesterday alleging that Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA) "engaged in a quid pro quo with a suspected Israeli agent to advance her stature in Congress." Further, "the Republican messaging machine, usually quick to churn out e-mails alerting reporters to every alleged ethical misstep by a Congressional Democrat, stayed silent on the news."

Three Bush administration lawyers who signed the OLC torture memos -- John Yoo, Jay Bybee, and Steven Bradbury -- "are the subjects of a coming report by the Justice Department’s ethics office that officials say is sharply critical of their work." The office has the "power to recommend disbarment or other professional penalties or, less likely, to refer cases for criminal prosecution."

As of 8 a.m. ET this morning, more than 3,000 of you have taken action to urge the House Judiciary Committee to begin impeachment hearings against Jay Bybee. Please join our campaign by clicking here.

CongressDaily reports that, "despite criticism of earmarks by House Republican leaders during completion of the FY09 appropriations process," many are still requesting them. Reps. Jerry Lewis (R-CA) and Bill Young (R-FL) are among those in the Republican leadership still asking for and receiving millions in earmarks.

Yesterday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called for the "speedy release" of Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi, who has been convicted of spying by a court in Tehran. Iranian Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi has agreed to take up Saberi's defense, and the head of Iran's judiciary, Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, has spoken out calling for a fair trial.

On Thursday, President Obama will meet with credit card executives "to tell them to support strict measures that curb lending abuses or face the wrath of angry consumers and a determined Congress." Lawmakers are launching efforts "to crack down on credit card companies for such practices as arbitrarily raising interest rates on existing balances...and charging interest on debt that was paid on time."

A TARP watchdog report said "the Treasury should take steps to better manage its financial-rescue effort so that taxpayer dollars are safeguarded and programs are more fraud-resistant, accountable and transparent." The report also said the total bailout price tag could reach $3 trillion "when Federal Reserve loans, Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. guarantees and private money are factored in."

And finally: George W. Bush has "gone from commander-in-chief to chief pooper-scooper." Speaking to an audience in China on Saturday, Bush recounted how he recently took his beloved Scottish terrier Barney on a walk -- and brought along his own baggies to clean up the mess. "I was picking up what I had been dodging for eight years," Bush said, "scoring laughs" from the crowd.

Today, President Obama is expected to sign a bill expanding the AmeriCorps program which will provide more funding to help more Americans mentor children, clean up parks, or build and weatherize homes for the poor.

FLORIDA: "A top House Republican will unveil legislation Tuesday that could open the door to the first oil and gas drilling off Florida's coast in decades."

NEW YORK: Gay rights groups are angry with former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani's war on same-sex marriage.

TEXAS: State Senate goes against Gov. Rick Perry (R) on unemployment aid in the federal stimulus.

THINK PROGRESS: Newt Gingrich falsely claims U.S. presidents don't "smile and greet" Russian leaders.

WONK ROOM: Steel town mayor to testify on behalf of green jobs during whirlwind week of clean energy hearings.

YGLESIAS: The United States is falling behind in the development of clean energy technology.

GLENN THRUSH: Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) defends Texas secession as "very much an American principle."


"He's just an entertainer."
-- Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-KS), 4/14/09, referring to right-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh


"The congressman believes Rush is a great leader of the conservative movement in America."
-- Tiahrt's spokesperson, 4/19/09


The research team that brings you The Progress Report and ThinkProgress.org needs summer interns! Click here for more information.

There are [B][I]numerous links within this newsletter, , this is only a summary click on the following link for more of the articles, etc.




Saundra Hummer
April 21st, 2009, 06:55 PM


Meet the Press and the Media’s Distortions of the Bush Prosecutions Debate


PHOTO – By Glenn Greenwald
Go on-site to view.
Whatever else one thinks about the debate over investigations and prosecutions for Bush crimes, there is no question that huge numbers of Americans — likely majorities — favor them. And that was true even before the release of the most graphic and stomach-turning evidence yet: the 4 DOJ memos released this past week which describe the torture in detail. The assertion that “most Americans” don’t want investigations — whether made by media stars to argue against investigations or Obama supporters to justify the immunity the President wants to extend to everyone involved — is factually false.

A USA Today from February — headlined: ”Poll: Most want inquiry into anti-terror tactics” — found “two-thirds of those surveyed said there should be investigations into allegations that the Bush team used torture to interrogate terrorism suspects and its program of wiretapping U.S. citizens without getting warrants,” and “four in 10 favor criminal investigations.” A Gallup poll from mid-February found that between 60 to 70% of Americans favor investigations for torture, warrantless eavesdropping and DOJ politicization, and that majorities of Democrats (and more than 40% of all Americans and independents) favor criminal prosecutions. Only small percentages of independents — between 25-38% — oppose investigations for each of the three lawbreaking allegations. A Washington Post/ABC News poll from January similarly found that a majority of Americans (50-47%) — and an overwhelming majority of Democrats (69%) – believe that the Obama administration should investigate whether the Bush administration’s treatment of detainees was illegal. While polls can vary based on how the questions are asked, every poll shows substantial percentages favoring investigations.

These facts about public opinion are virtually always excluded from establishment media discussions, and those who advocate investigations and prosecutions — the view held by large percentages, if not majorities, of Americans — are virtually never heard from. That’s because the belief that elites should be exempted from all consequences when they break the law is as close to a trans-partisan religious tenet of Beltway culture as it gets.

Consider yesterday’s Meet the Press panel discussion of this issue involving David Gregory and five exceedingly typical Beltway insiders — The Washington Post’s Steven Pearlstein, Fortune’s Nina Easton, Time’s Rick Stengel, former GOP House Majority Leader Dick Armey, and former “moderate” Democratic Rep. Harold Ford Jr. That’s three ostensibly non-partisan journalists, a right-wing fanatic, and a New Republic/DLC Democrat from Tennessee whose career was built on proving how much he embraces GOP policies — that’s called ”diversity of views” in Establishment Media World.

Exactly as one would expect, they were all in full and complete agreement that there must be no investigations or prosecutions. There was not a syllable uttered that political officials should be treated the same as ordinary Americans when they got caught breaking the law. As always, only the suffocatingly narrow Beltway consensus is heard in our political debates, even when huge percentages of Americans reject it:

ARMEY:Forget about–why are you talking, smacking George Bush around now? Look for the future.”

STENGEL: ”[Obama] is very Mandelalike in the sense that he’s saying let the past be the past and let us move into the future.”

FORD: ”Look, I think the president said it best . . . He said look, the past is the past, let’s move forward. . . . After September the 11th we asked men and women in this country serving in our military and our intelligence agencies to go out and find bad guys. I’m always a little hesitant afterwards when we try to judge the kinds of things they did. “

EASTON: ”I was just going to say that he clearly wanted to put this behind him, or behind the country, by releasing them. . . . Dennis Blair, the director of National Intelligence, said in, in one very telling quote, “It’s very easy to look back on this safe, warm April 2009 day and second guess a lot of these decisions.”

What a vibrant, spirited debate that was. And the way they all harmoniously recite the same White House Orwellian script — look to the glorious future, citizens, for that is where your salvation lies — is almost as creepy as the OLC torture memos themselves. Too bad for the 2.1 million Americans in prison — the largest prison population on the planet — that the profound sense of forgiveness exuded by Obama and our Beltway elites only seems to apply to themselves, and especially to Bush officials who systematically violated the law. For ordinary citizens caught in America’s criminal justice system, mercy and understanding are the rarest commodities one can imagine. Perhaps it’s time to begin a FREE BERNIE MADOFF campaign based on Obama’s oh-so-moving decree that this is a time for reflection, not retribution, and that we must look forward, not backwards.

Last week, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Manfred Nowak, argued that Obama’s pledged immunity for CIA officials who tortured detainees violates international law and our treaty obligations — and the clear language of both the Geneva Conventions and the Convention Against Torture seem to leaves no doubt about that. Other legal experts have made the same point. And that was argued before Rahm Emanuel said yesterday that the immunity applies not only to the torturing CIA agents but also the Bush officials who designed the torture policies. How are those who spent the last eight years venerating international law, our treaty obligations, and U.N. pronouncements going to justify that? As the early, vigorous Obama supporter Andrew Sullivan put it today:

"And so Obama’s refusal to investigate war crimes is itself against the law. And so torture’s cancerous route through the legal and constitutional system continues, contaminating the future as well as the past, rendering the US incapable of upholding Geneva against other nations, because it has violated Geneva itself, and giving to every tyrant on the planet a justification for the torture of prisoners.

In this scenario, America becomes a city on a hill, where the rule of law is optional and torture acceptable if parsed into legal memos that do not pass the most basic professional sniff-test.

America becomes a banana republic.
Despite Obama’s desire to extend immunity beyond CIA agents to Bush officials, Digby notes that credible reports now suggest that “Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. is seriously considering appointing an outside counsel to investigate whether CIA interrogators exceeded legal boundaries—and whether Bush administration officials broke the law by giving the CIA permission to torture in the first place.”

It’s worth remembering that the decision of whether to prosecute is not Obama’s to make. We are supposed to have an independent Justice Department which makes descisions about prosecutions free of the type of political influence Obama and Rahm Emanuel seem eager to exert on the decision-making process. That, one might recall, was the crux of the various Alberto Gonzales scandals — that he was making prosecution decisions based on the dictates and interests of the White House rather than apolitical legal considerations. One could actually argue that Obama’s opinion about who should and should not be prosecuted is entirely irrelevant. The Attorney General has the independent obligation to make those decisions without regard to the President’s political wishes. Either way, at this point, given how aggressive Obama has become about demanding that there be no prosecutions, it seems clear that only a Special Prosecutor can discharge that duty.

Contrary to the debates which the establishment media presents about these matters, there is clearly a very substantial portion of public opinion that wants investigations. Beltway mavens love the idea that Beltway elites have exemption from legal consequences, but — for obvious reasons — that is not an idea embraced by many Americans. These latest revelations, and the ones to come, can be used to expand and channel this substantial public opinion to pressure Holder to ignore Obama’s wishes and instead act in accordance with basic legal principles that compel equal treatment under the law, rather than the two-tiered justice system (legal immunity for political elites) that is becoming increasingly undeniable by the day.

* * * * *

Here is one online commentator, sharing his views about the Obama/Emanuel approach of calling for “refleciton, not retribution” and “looking to the future” as a reason why war crimes should be forgotten and the high-level criminals immunized:

Regarding torture..... Go on-line to gain access to this function and to the numerous links within this article.

UPDATE: My podcast interview with CQ’s Jeff Stein, the reporter who wrote the story on Jane Harman, Alberto Gonzales and AIPAC, is now posted at the bottom of my post from earlier today on Stein’s story.

UPDATE II: As Think Progress notes, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs today was forced explicitly to acknowledge that the architects of the torture policy are “not being held accountable.” Gibbs, too, recited like some religious chant the increasingly compulsory mantra that we must “look forward, not backwards.” The President can look as foward as he wants. Nobody needs him to prosecute. They can just appoint a Special Prosecutor with the mandate to follow the law, and then Obama can spend all of his time contemplating the future.

Credit where it’s due: CNN’s Ed Henry did a good job of asking these questions:

VIDEO: GIBBS: We're not holding torture authors accountable
UPDATE III: msnbc.com
Case (not) closed
More on the very important (and overlooked) duty of the responsibilities of the Attorney General to make decisions about prosecutions free and independent of the political desires of the President, from Newsweek’s Mike Isikoff, with Rachel Maddow:



2 Responses to “Meet the Press and the Media’s Distortions of the Bush Prosecutions Debate”
Posted on 21 Apr 2009 at 2:11 pm by Adamwestiii
I certainly support a full investigation and if there is sufficient evidence, then let’s haul’em off to court and let the court decide. To just move on and forget the past only sets a precident for this President and future Presidents.
Chaney definitely needs to be proscuted as he has done nothing but lied and put this great country in tremendous risk, besides killing innocent women and children in Iraq!
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Posted on 21 Apr 2009 at 3:38 pm by Ralph White
If the Bush Administration get by with this, what about an administration four or five times down the line. Obama needs to re-think this and let’s get on with investigations and prosecutions.


Saundra Hummer
April 21st, 2009, 07:10 PM
^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^

Top Democrat tried to kill wiretap story in 2004

"Raw Story"
April 21, 2009 7:55 AM

The New York Times confirmed late Monday that a top Democratic congresswoman called the paper in 2004 and tried to keep it from publishing an article exposing the Bush Administration’s warrantless wiretapping program — possibly helping to sway the balance in the 2004 presidential election.

The New York Times exposed the warrantless wiretapping program in 2005, revealing that the National Security Agency had engaged in the interception of thousands of American and foreign calls without a warrant as part of a program intended to disrupt terrorist plots. Upon running the story, they also admitted that they had withheld the article for a year at the urging of Bush Administration officials.

But buried in a Times article published Tuesday is the revelation that the top Democratic congresswoman on the House Intelligence Committee, Jane Harman (D-CA), called the paper’s Washington, D.C. editor in “October or November” of 2004 in an effort to quash the story.

“Bill Keller, the executive editor of The Times, said in a statement Monday that Ms. Harman called Philip Taubman, then the Washington bureau chief of The Times, in October or November of 2004,” the Times writes. “Mr. Keller said she spoke to Mr. Taubman — apparently at the request of Gen. Michael V. Hayden, then the N.S.A. director — and urged that The Times not publish the article.”

“She did not speak to me,” Keller said in a statement, “and I don't remember her being a significant factor in my decision.”

In addition, “Shortly before the article was published more than a year later, in December 2005, Mr. Taubman met with a group of Congressional leaders familiar with the eavesdropping program, including Ms. Harman. They all argued that The Times should not publish,” they Times reporters added.

At the time of her calls in 2004, Harman was part of the Gang of 8 — one of eight powerful members of Congress who are briefed on heavily classified intelligence matters. She was the most senior Democrat in the House dealing with intelligence affairs, and was sidelined after the 2006 congressional elections.

“October or November” 2004 would have been the month before, or the month of, respectively, of the election that Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) lost to then-incumbent President George W. Bush.

The paper did not give the exact date of Harman’s call.

Harman’s role in the wiretapping scandal emerged after a story Sunday in Congressional Quarterly, which disclosed that the California Democrat had been caught on an NSA wiretap promising an Israeli agent that she’d lobby to get the charges for two Israeli lobbyists accused of espionage reduced. The Times expanded on the story today.

An “official with access to the transcripts said someone seeking help for the employees of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a prominent pro-Israel lobbying group, was recorded asking Ms. Harman, a longtime supporter of its efforts, to intervene with the Justice Department,” the paper wrote. “She responded, the official recounted, by saying she would have more influence with a White House official she did not identify.

“In return, the caller promised her that a wealthy California donor — the media mogul Haim Saban — would threaten to withhold campaign contributions to Representative Nancy Pelosi, the California Democrat who was expected to become House speaker after the 2006 election, if she did not select Ms. Harman for the intelligence post,” the paper added.

The full Times story is available here.

-John Byrne


^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^

Saundra Hummer
April 21st, 2009, 07:46 PM

Dick Cheney: Obama’s Acting Like a Weak President

Monday, April 20, 2009 7:35 PM
Former Vice President Dick Cheney slammed the Obama administration Monday night for what he described as a disturbing tendency to criticize America abroad and embrace avowed enemies like Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez while not praising the nation’s success in the war against terrorism.

As an example, Cheney revealed that he had pressed for the release of documents that would show how the Bush administration’s allegedly harsh interrogation techniques had thwarted major terrorist attacks. Instead, President Barack Obama only ordered the release of memos detailing the controversial techniques, not the results.

Cheney made the statements in a two-part interview with Fox News Channel’s Sean Hannity. The first part was broadcast Monday night; the second will be broadcast Tuesday night at 9 p.m.

“What I find disturbing is the extent to which he has gone to Europe, for example, and seemed to apologize profusely in Europe, and then to Mexico, and apologize there, and so forth,” Cheney told Hannity.

“And I think you have to be very careful. The world outside there, both our friends and our foes, will be quick to take advantage of a situation if they think they're dealing with a weak president or one who is not going to stand up and aggressively defend America's interests.”

“The United States provides most of the leadership in the world… I don’t think we have much to apologize for.”

Cheney also said that: the release of CIA memos detailing interrogation techniques was a “little bit disturbing” because the administration hadn’t released documents detailing how those techniques were successful in thwarting terrorism.

the Bush administration’s policy of ignoring Chavez and other leftist leaders like Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua was more effective than embracing a dialogue with them. That only serves to validate their anti-democratic tendencies at home.

Obama’s habit of traveling abroad – to Europe and Mexico – and apologizing “profusely” for American actions signal weakness to friends and foes alike.

criticizing the previous administration is nothing new, and is to be expected from a new president. “We did it. I'm sure the Obama administration is not the first one ever to do that.”

Cheney told Hannity that he had “formally asked” for the declassification of documents he says would “lay out what we learned through the interrogation process and what the consequences were for the country.”

he had no substantive policy discussions with Vice President Joe Biden, who never asked Cheney for his insight on policy. They only met once after the election.

Cheney explained the Bush administration's interrogation methods in terms of the situation after 9/11. The Bush administration knew little about al-Qaida, and had to quickly get up to speed with much of New York City already in ruins.

“One of the things that I find a little bit disturbing about this recent disclosure is they put out the legal memos, the memos that the CIA got from the Office of Legal Counsel, but they didn't put out the memos that showed the success of the effort,” the former vice president said. “And there are reports that show specifically what we gained as a result of this activity. They have not been declassified.”

“I formally asked that they be declassified now,” Cheney said. “I haven't announced this up until now, I haven't talked about it, but I know specifically of reports that I read, that I saw that lay out what we learned through the interrogation process and what the consequences were for the country.”

“And I've now formally asked the CIA to take steps to declassify those memos so we can lay them out there and the American people have a chance to see what we obtained and what we learned and how good the intelligence was, as well as to see this debate over the legal opinions.”

The handshake between Obama and Chavez was not good because it only serves to undermine the cause of democratic oppositions in countries like Venezuela, where the Chavez regime has moved to crush dissent.

“You have millions of people all across South America who are watching how we respond,” Cheney said. “And if they see an American president sort of cozying up to somebody like Daniel Ortega or Chavez, I think it's not helpful. I think it sort of sets the wrong standard.”

“I've seen Hugo Chavez in operation before, and Daniel Ortega down in Nicaragua,” Cheney said. “These are people who operate in our hemisphere, but who don't believe in and aren't supportive of basic fundamental principles and policies that most of us in this hemisphere adhere to.”

“Basically, the position we took in the Bush administration was to ignore it. I think that was the right thing to do.”

One of the biggest temptations for a new administration is to focus on being liked rather than respected, Cheney said.

“The United States provides most of the leadership in the world. We have for a long time. And I don't think we've got much to apologize for. You can have a debate about that. But the bottom line is that, you know, when you go to Europe and deal with our European friends and allies, some things they do very well, some things they don't.”

“Sometimes it's important that a president speak directly and forthrightly to our European friends. And you don't get there if you're so busy apologizing for past U.S. behavior.”
© 2009 Newsmax. All rights reserved

^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^
Now he shows his face and has lots to say after he made himself so scarce for so long. President Obama Weak? President Obama bowing to foreign powers? Have they ever heard of diplomacy? What did they do that was better? Did they ever really work to improve our country and our world? This man, this Cheney character would be laughable if he weren't so dangerous. Assassination teams? Only answerable to him? So beyond our laws as to be a criminal offense? This is what we now have to overcome, the upside down world Cheney and Bush have left us. I see just the opposite in President Obama, a man who hit the ground running and who's doing all in his power and knowledge to undo the damage brought on our country by these two neer-do-wells, Dick Cheney, and GW Bush.

Could be this is his problem, in that he he equates intelligence, strength and know-how with being one sneaky, mean bastard. This is his M.O. and it seems that President Obama is light years away from fitting into the Dick Cheney, or, GW Bush molds. Thankfully so. Barack Obama comes nowhere near what the worst administration in our history ideals are. The Cheney/Bush administration was so out of it that even in hindsight, failure is impossible for them to admit. But wait, Cheney is off in his counting house taking stock of all the money he made for Halliburton and it's subsideries during his watch. Cheney a failure? Depends on what one's ideals are. If it is only about his own money and the companies he had run, he's a blarring success.

Mistakes made? Obama has made mistakes? Sure, and who hasn't? In his situtaion, who wouldn't? I don't always like some of what he's doing, nor what he plans on doing, with coal and ethanol being a prime example, so sure, and then there's those emotions, those thoughts, but he isn't as Cheney is saying, and where is his glass house anyway? Maybe I want to throw some rocks.

100 days, and who's to say what else will happen down the road? It's been a really busy time.

I wish our president my best.

Saundra Hummer
April 22nd, 2009, 02:07 PM
. . .

The Pirate Latitudes
PHOTO:Go on-site to view:The 290-foot, three-masted cruise ship Le Ponant was targeted last year by Somali pirates, who held hostage its crew of 30—a harbinger of attacks to come. By Thierry Lacour/Gamma/Eyedea/Zuma Press.

When the French luxury cruise ship Le Ponant was captured by a raggedy, hopped-up band of Somali pirates last spring, in the Gulf of Aden, it looked as if the bandits had bitten off more than they could chew. But after a week-long standoff, they got what they had come for—a $2.15 million ransom. Describing the terrifying attack, the ordeal of the ship’s epicurean crew, and the tense negotiations, the author examines the ruthless calculus behind a new age of piracy.

William Langewiesche
April 2009 Last spring, as crew members of the small French-flagged cruise ship Le Ponant prepared to sail through the Gulf of Aden, off the coast of Somalia, they taped blackout cardboard over the windows, readied fire hoses to repel boarders, and mounted a special pirate watch to port and starboard. The Gulf of Aden is a hotbed of piracy, a crucial waterway where over the past several years Somali gangs operating far from shore have been hijacking ships, and allied navies have tried to respond. The Ponant was not built for such places. It is a modern, 290-foot, three-masted sailing vessel, with Riviera-style raked lines, that sells luxurious holidays to a maximum of 64 passengers at a time. It has four decks (including an upper one for lounging in the sun), two restaurants serving sophisticated French cuisine, individually air-conditioned cabins, a bar, a library, and a marina platform close to the water at the stern, for the launching of Zodiacs and water toys. It spends Northern Hemisphere summers in the Mediterranean on old-stone excursions to dead-city sites, and Southern Hemisphere summers in the Indian Ocean, visiting Madagascar and the pristine islands of the Seychelles. Its customers tend to be silver-haired and genteel. Most are American or French, traveling in groups sufficiently large to charter the entire ship. On this run now, however, no passengers were aboard. The ship was being repositioned to the Mediterranean for the summer season—a trip requiring a monotonous passage beyond sight of land for a full week at sea. The crew took advantage of the pause to relax and perform minor chores. Despite their precautions they did not believe that the Ponant would be attacked.

There were 30 crew members aboard—the ship’s full complement, less one professional pianist. They occupied cramped but adequate quarters on the lowest deck, toward the bow. Most were not sailors but hotel staff. Six were Filipinos, and formed a group apart. In the kitchen, the chef was an African from Cameroon, but because he had learned to cook in Lyon from Paul Bocuse, a famous father of nouvelle cuisine, he was considered to be as French as the French themselves. Of the rest of the crew all except one Ukrainian were as French as the French, but by birth. This meant that nouvelle cuisine was important to them, and, generally speaking, so was sex. With the exception of a 69-year-old ship’s doctor who had gone to sea after a rough divorce, they were young to middle-aged. Seven of them were women, and sporting as European women can be. Three couples had formed—the cruise director with the chief mechanic, a chambermaid with a steward, and the sports coordinator with the third mechanic. Their liaisons were discreet but of interest to everyone. There were no secrets on a ship the size of the Ponant. Surprisingly, there were also few jealousies.

You had to be sociable to endure in the job, because however pleasant the Ponant seemed to its passengers, the conditions of work aboard were not easy. The wages were low, the hours were long, and no retirement benefits were provided. During rotations ashore there were no wages at all. These terms were non-negotiable. They stemmed from the culture of a global shipping industry which over the past 60 years has pursued profit and efficiency in part by ridding itself of labor unions, and more fundamentally by freeing itself from the constraints of the nation-state and its laws. The company that owns the Ponant is a Marseille-based shipping conglomerate called CMA CGM, which is held by a Franco-Syrian-Lebanese family named Saadé, and does business through 650 agencies and offices worldwide, serving 403 ports in 150 countries, and operating more than 400 container ships, many of them under flags of convenience—cherry-picking the official home ports in a mockery of national chauvinisms. If there were a God looking down from above, he would have to approve, if only on the basis that all are equal in his sight. Appropriately, the CMA CGM personnel department promotes the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and vigorously denounces “any kind of discrimination, based on national, social or ethnic origin, race, sex, age, religion, political or other opinions.” This means, of course, that the company denounces discrimination in favor of the French.

The WarningIt has to deal with the customers’ prejudices nonetheless. As is well known, the French still think that French is better, and many Americans quietly go along. It might be difficult to sell expensive cruises on a truly non-discriminatory ship, for instance sailing under the Mongolian flag with a mixed Pakistani and Indonesian crew. A partial answer for the Ponant is a special registry based 10,000 miles from Marseille in the South Pacific, in a tax haven that does not impose French labor laws on shipowners but allows the French flag to be flown. The tax haven is Mata-Utu, the home port painted on the Ponant’s stern, and the capital of a loosely held French protectorate called Wallis and Futuna, where the Ponant has never been. There are three main islands there, one of which has been uninhabited for more than a century—ever since, it is reputed, the last of its residents were killed and eaten. Today the territory is ruled by a French envoy, a fractious assembly, and three local kings. CMA CGM maintains a mailbox and an e-mail address there, in Mata-Utu, through which employment inquiries can be routed. But these are details that did not have to concern the passengers, for whom, by appearances, the Ponant was a French ship with a French crew that was happy and healthy and did not require tips.

The crew were romantics, or they never would have gone to sea. The captain was a die-hard sailor named Patrick Marchesseau, aged 40, who came from La Rochelle, on the French Atlantic coast, and had three young daughters, two of whom, Alizéa and Océana, had nautical names. Marchesseau is a gracious, soft-spoken man, whose appearance, except for the crow’s feet around his eyes, is unmarked by the sea. I met him in a village in the center of France. He told me that he started sailing as a child in nine-foot Optimists, became a sailing instructor as a teenager, made his first ocean trip at age 18 in a 41-foot fiberglass sloop, went off to merchant-marine school, graduated, rose through the ranks aboard various vessels, and at the age of 35, in 2003, assumed command of the largest passenger ship then operating under the French flag—a 700-foot, 1,700-person monster called the Mistral, which belonged to the Greek-owned Festival Cruises and was home-ported (naturally) in Mata-Utu. Marchesseau had 500 crew members representing 40 nationalities under his command, and as captain of a ship was rather far removed from the sea. The job was above all an exercise in scheduling, logistics, and personnel management. Then Festival Cruises went broke, and creditors stepped in to seize the Mistral in Marseille. It was January 16, 2004. One day later Océana was born. Eventually, Marchesseau flew to Tahiti, where he captained a yacht for a few months, before returning to Marseille to manage a small maintenance crew on the Mistral, which remained blocked in port. These were hard times, but to be expected in the business.

In the fall of 2004, Marchesseau’s luck changed, and he was hired to serve as one of two rotating captains of the Ponant. The split duty placed him onshore more than he would have preferred, and meant that he would be paid for only half of every year, but the offer was better than others in sight and had the added attraction that the Ponant is a true sailing ship, capable of moving under wind power alone. Marchesseau flew to the Seychelles and assumed command. Soon afterward, on December 26, 2004, the ship was anchored in deep water off an island called Curieuse, tending to a group of French passengers, most of whom had gone ashore to loll on a beach. Around noon a sailor radioed from the island reporting in confusion that the ocean had suddenly somehow withdrawn. It was the ebb before the surge of the murderous Asian tsunami that was reaching across the Indian Ocean and slamming into its shores. Marchesseau had received no warning of the event, and he had no time to make sense of the sailor’s call. The tsunami swept smoothly under the Ponant’s keel, in the form of a current, pivoting the ship 90 degrees around its anchor, and then rearing up into a steep wave which obliterated the beach from right to left before Marchesseau’s eyes. Marchesseau was horrified, but perhaps because the French are so well practiced with beaches, it turned out that every passenger survived. Elsewhere, a quarter-million people died. Marchesseau retrieved his wards. He was annoyed that some of them then made a fuss about losing their sunglasses.

PHOTO:Patrick Marchesseau, captain of the Ponant, at the harbor of La Flotte, France, near his home. Photograph by Jonas Fredwall Karlsson.

On a larger ship a captain would not have had to listen to such complaints. Nonetheless, Marchesseau was pleased with the Ponant’s modest size. He liked the proximity to the sea and the crew, and he appreciated the flexibility that comes with attending to only 64 passengers at a time.

Many of the trips were full charters. Among the national groups, the French were the easiest to handle, if not necessarily to like. They slept late, savored the refined cuisine, and demanded little of an itinerary beyond the chance to lie in the sun. They could be imperious with the waiters and maids, but overall they were simple to satisfy. American passengers were different—individually more accessible than the French, but collectively exhausting. The problem seemed to stem from a lack of skepticism, or of philosophical distance from themselves. Certainly this was not true of all Americans, but it did seem to apply to the types who came to these cruises. They sincerely regarded traveling on the Ponant as an opportunity for self-improvement. They would read up beforehand (from recommended lists), and then appear for the trips with sunblock creams and special shoes, accompanied by lecturers who were expected to enrich their minds. They were nice people, but of the sort who go for swims wearing long-brimmed visors and drawstring hats. Rather than lingering late in the Ponant’s bar, they retired after dining because they wanted to be fresh for sunrise departures and goal-oriented hikes. They did not walk, but trekked. They did not like long lunches of nouvelle cuisine. Midday they preferred quick meals of barbecued burgers and New York cheesecake, or Caesar salad. They did not mean to offend. But their tastes were insulting to the chef, and upsetting by birthright to the crew.

Three such American groups had chartered the Ponant consecutively just prior to the repositioning run last spring, and another was scheduled to join the ship a week ahead, on the far side of Yemen, for a self-improvement sail up the Red Sea. Marchesseau wanted to give the crew a rest. From Victoria, the capital of the Seychelles, they motored north for several days, doing 12 knots across a flat sea and tidying the ship when not sleeping or reading or sitting down to eat. On the first night out, a Sunday, they enjoyed an exquisite dinner of freshly caught bonito. We know about the food because Marchesseau later published a book in France recounting the ship’s ordeal, and, as a Frenchman writing for the French, he kept the readers closely informed on matters of cuisine. The book is called Prise d’Otages sur le Ponant. It is a chronological account, informed by technical detail. In the absence of the ship’s log, which has never been made public, it is the closest thing to a document of record, and a helpful supplement to the captain’s memories.

On the morning of the second day, a Monday, a breeze arrived from the northeast, and the crew raised the sails—16,000 square feet of brilliant white fabric, which added only slightly to the speed produced by the ship’s engine, but was glorious to observe. That night they passed the latitude of Mogadishu, but 800 miles at sea. Their route was the prudent one. It gave the Somali coast a wide berth for the longest possible time, at first by sailing north to a position northeast of the island of Socotra, off the Horn of Africa, before turning west and entering the Gulf of Aden. The Gulf of Aden is a gauntlet between Somalia and Yemen, about 550 miles long by 200 miles wide, which ships sailing to and from the Suez Canal must cross. The pirates there are drawn by the concentration of prey, and nourished by the freedoms that exist along both shores, especially in Somalia, where formal government has long since collapsed.

One of the ironies at play is that the maritime industry being victimized is itself a standard-bearer for the advantages that exist in a world beyond law and regulation. But Marchesseau was not thinking about that. He planned to traverse the Gulf of Aden exactly as the French Navy recommended, moving precisely along the centerline and skirting each coast by an equal 100 miles. The route was too predictable to be prudent, and it seemed mostly to reflect a bureaucratic preference for symmetry, but it was justified by the claim of equal dangers to the left and right. As the professional captain of a passenger ship, Marchesseau was in no position to disagree. In any event, they would be in the most dangerous zone for only about 36 hours. Marchesseau was not very worried.

But on the morning of the third day out from the Seychelles, with hundreds of miles still to sail before the turn point beyond Socotra, he received word from the global Piracy Reporting Centre, in Kuala Lumpur, that pirate attacks in the Gulf of Aden were again on the rise, and that a chemical tanker had just been shot up while evading five speedboats that had pressed an assault despite the presence of a warship in the vicinity.

Marchesseau assembled the crew to review the situation. He pointed out that thousands of ships pass through the Gulf of Aden every year, that the Ponant itself had made the passage 12 times before, and that they would be in communication with the French and allied navies. Nonetheless, the situation had deteriorated, and the crew would have to take defensive measures—standing reinforced watches, blacking out the windows, preparing the fire hoses, and trailing lines from the stern to ensnare the propellers of small boats approaching from behind. From what was known of Somali patterns, an assault was more likely in daylight than at night. Marchesseau said that the low marina deck aft would be the obvious place for pirates to climb aboard. It was all very unlikely, but there was one other point he needed to make: given the obvious risks to the women if the Ponant came under attack, he expected all seven of them to move immediately into the forward storage hold, a sub-deck space toward the bow beneath the crew’s quarters, where pirates would be unlikely to look.

But it still seemed unreal. Months later, the bartender Bertrand Viallet mentioned to me that a few crew members had expressed concern after Marchesseau’s briefing, but that others had easily reassured them. Out in the Ponant’s aft open-air restaurant, they had a light salad accompanied by delicately grilled meats subtly spiced with herbs from Provence. Blacked out, they sailed past Socotra in the night. The following day, they turned west and headed for the midpoint entrance to the Gulf of Aden, about 300 miles ahead. Marchesseau sent a position report to the French Navy. The wind was light. The sails were up. Marchesseau ran a combination fire and abandon-ship drill, and was pleased with the results. He inspected the storage holds for cleanliness and order. In the afternoon he gave the crew time to relax. Two women put on bathing suits and lounged on the upper deck looking beautiful in the sun. Two decks below, Bertrand Viallet cranked some music up full blast. Marchesseau settled in with a biography of the explorer Captain Cook. The sun set, and the wind shifted to the southeast, freshened, and filled the sails from behind. The night passed without event. By morning the Ponant had progressed some way into the Gulf of Aden and was rushing westward at its maximum practical speed of 13 knots.

“They’re Coming!”
Around lunchtime on an empty ocean a blip appeared on the Ponant’s radar, about nine miles ahead. Marchesseau was on the bridge along with a junior officer who was standing watch. The target was stationary and directly on the centerline route. After a few minutes Marchesseau was able to spot it through binoculars. It seemed to be a fishing boat, a long-liner of perhaps 150 feet, with a high bow and a rugged oceangoing appearance. Marchesseau was wary. He ordered the junior officer to approach no closer than four miles, and if necessary to deviate to the south to pass at a safe distance on the upwind side. He then walked aft to eat. The lunch was a delightful meal of salad, potatoes, and grilled meats, accompanied by a light wine, but Marchesseau was preoccupied. The Ponant, he recorded, detoured to the south as planned. From the aft restaurant the fishing boat came into view to starboard: it remained stopped in the water, with no sign of activity on the decks. Marchesseau watched it uneasily. While the rest of the crew ate, he allowed the meat to cool on his plate, and accepted a second offering of salad without knowing if he was hungry. Such is the burden of command. Eventually, however, with the fishing boat dropping farther astern, and the Ponant continuing to sail westward at 13 knots, he allowed himself to relax. As the tables began to be cleared, and coffee was served to others, he returned to his meal.

PHOTO:The ship’s vulnerable marina deck, with the Kalashnikov-wielding pirates visible on the upper deck (below). From the French Defense Ministry/Handout/Reuters/Corbis.

It was at that moment that the cruise director said, “Captain, aren’t those boats over there?” So much for the formal pirate watch. Marchesseau leapt out of his chair. Two small skiffs—white dots to the naked eye—were speeding from the fishing boat toward the Ponant. He said, “Shit, they’re coming!” He ran to the bridge and broadcast a message throughout the ship, ordering the women to take refuge in the forward hold, and the men to prepare to repel boarders. Most of the women were in the restaurant at the time. Some were attired in bathing suits, and some in shorts—a poor choice for an Islamic region, but hardly surprising on a ship unaccustomed to accommodating local cultures. The local culture was certainly approaching now. One woman rushed to the rail to see. One grabbed a bottle of wine, a rosé of average quality. The cook urged them to get moving. Together they hurried down through a floor hatch, closing themselves off below the waterline in the storage hold.

The aggressors approached quickly from behind. Up on the bridge Marchesseau transmitted a silent distress signal to the naval authorities. He instructed the officer on watch to take manual control of the helm. On a lower deck the crew had extended the fire hoses and were crouched defensively against the bulkheads, particularly above the vulnerable marina platform at the stern. The pirates themselves were now clearly in view—eight ragtag Somalis between the two boats, armed with Kalashnikovs and a reloadable rocket-propelled-grenade launcher. They seemed to be experienced men. They ignored the temptation of the marina platform, and advanced with both boats to a mid-hull position on the Ponant’s starboard side, bypassing the ropes trailing off the stern, and rendering all but one fire hose useless. Marchesseau ordered the helmsman to zigzag violently, hoping to overwhelm the skiffs or shake them off, but because the mid-hull position was close to the Ponant’s axis of rotation, the maneuvering had little effect on the pirates. For five minutes at 13 knots the struggle went on. Marchesseau ordered the fire hose into use, but it was weak and could not deter the attack. The pirates managed to hook a ladder over the ship’s gangway, and one of them began to clamber up the side. The ship’s doctor fought back, straining to dislodge the ladder and throw the pirate into the sea, but the angle was difficult, and he could not overcome the weight. Faced with resistance, two gunmen began to spray the Ponant with rifle rounds. The banging of their Kalashnikovs was muted compared to the augmented sounds portrayed in the movies, and this led some of the crew to conclude that the rifles were toys. Others knew better, and shouted for everyone to get down. Everyone did, and then went squirming off in every which direction as the pirates came climbing over the railing. For a brief but indeterminate time, sex and even nouvelle cuisine were forgotten aboard the Ponant.

Six crewmen had taken shelter on the bridge. With the pirates closing fast, Marchesseau made a single blind radio call to the French Navy. He set down the microphone just as the pirates burst onto the bridge with their rifles leveled. Marchesseau and the others raised their hands. The pirates were scrawny and barefoot young men, dressed in rags, and edgy under the effect of the stimulant khat. Their leader was more mature but equally nervous. He was a short, clean-shaven man, with a muscular build and deep scars on his shoulders. Among all the pirates, he was the only one in shoes, and the sole possessor of a pistol, which he had attached to his belt with a cord and was now waving around menacingly. Marchesseau figured he was 30 years old. Later Marchesseau would learn that his name was Ahmed, and that for lack of proper upbringing he did not speak French. His English was not much better. First he shouted, “O.K.!” Then he shouted, “All crew!” Then he shouted, “Who captain? Who chief?”

Marchesseau answered, “Me.” Communication was with gestures as much as words. At gunpoint Ahmed forced Marchesseau to slow the ship and summon all hands to the upper deck. Marchesseau took the risk, in French, of summoning only the men. The women remained safe and unknown to the pirates. The men surrendered, and were forced to sit on the sundeck under heavy guard. They were 22 in all—less one Filipino steward, who was dead or wounded or in hiding. Marchesseau did not mention the missing man. He claimed that the assembly constituted the entire crew. He asked, “What do you want?”

Ahmed answered, “Money.”

It seemed easy enough. These people were not political. They were not terrorists. They were perhaps Muslims, but probably not devout. They were pirates, plain and simple. The crew assumed they would rob the ship and leave. Marchesseau wanted to get them off as soon as possible, and he hoped it could be done cheaply. He enlisted the hotel director and led Ahmed two decks below to the cramped hotel office, where the proceeds from the sale of trinkets were stored. In a safe there they found about 800 euros. Ahmed was disappointed. On the way out, he spotted a fleece jacket inscribed with the Ponant’s logo in a display case. To Marchesseau’s surprise, he did not smash the glass with his pistol, but waited patiently for the hotel director to dig up a key and unlock the case before helping himself to the prize—in size extra-extra-large. He put on the jacket as if unaware of the heat of the afternoon. But back on the upper deck the sun was cooking the crew. Marchesseau asked that they be moved into the shade of a sail and given something to drink. Ahmed issued the necessary orders. At 2:30 in the afternoon, an hour and a half after the attack had begun, a Canadian naval helicopter arrived overhead. The crew was relieved, but the pirates did not seem to care. Some made dismissive gestures. The man with the rocket launcher raised his weapon as if to fire. The helicopter circled twice and flew away to the northeast.

Soon afterward Marchesseau’s hopes for the pirates’ imminent departure were dashed when additional gunmen arrived carrying large quantities of cigarettes and supplies, which they began unloading onto the marina platform. The food was crude but not beneath comment by the French. It included disgusting soft drinks, disgusting cooking oils, and cartons of disgusting spaghetti, which spilled onto the deck from a box that split. A bucket contained a full sheep’s worth of disgusting sun-dried meat. It was upsetting. Surely these Somalis realized that a ship like the Ponant would have plenty of its own supplies, and that in terms of cuisine it was not just some average prize. As if in punishment for this stupidity, one of the pirates then slipped off the marina platform and fell into the wake. He immediately disappeared. Ahmed came rushing up the stairs and demanded that Marchesseau maneuver the ship to search for him. The search lasted 15 minutes, until Ahmed called it off. He said the dead man was a hero, and his family would be paid $100,000 for his sacrifice. That sum was probably a brag, but the promise of a payment indicated a level of organization that turned out to be real.

Marchesseau had taken advantage of the confusion to steer the Ponant to the northeast, toward the helicopter which was still visible on the horizon. He hoped to close the distance with whatever naval force lay out there. Ahmed had a different idea. He ordered the crew to turn the ship to the south and make full speed for Ras Asir, the cape that tips the Horn of Africa. Ras Asir is on the coast of Puntland, a so-called breakaway region of the so-called Somali Republic, and currently the world’s premier pirate haven. Like the rest of Somalia, Puntland ranks low in the measures of national progress that matter, for instance, to people like the statisticians of Transparency International, but in its own fashion it is without a doubt one of the freest places on earth. Marchesseau dreaded going there, but he advanced the throttle and directed the ship toward Ras Asir. Cheating was impossible because of the close supervision of a nasty little pirate named Adam, who stood on the bridge worshipping a handheld G.P.S. and arguing over every compass degree. The cape lay 120 miles ahead—merely eight hours away under the ship’s combination of sail and engine power. Marchesseau was determined to delay. He came up with a ruse which allowed one of the ship’s engineers to surreptitiously push an engine-kill button on the bridge. The engine stopped, the alarms sounded, and Marchesseau feigned surprise. The pirates briefly left him unguarded on the bridge, and hurried the engineers down into the engine room to see what was wrong. When Marchesseau was alone, the satellite phone rang. It was a manager from the company, calling from Marseille. Marchesseau did not let him speak. In French he said, “We have about 10 pirates aboard. They want to take us to Somalia. We’ve stopped the motor. I can’t talk any longer. It’s dangerous, and I’m hanging up.” His heart pounded. He had taken a chance, but the contact with the company turned out to be the one that counted.

Belowdecks, the engineers were taking their own chances by claiming they could not re-start the engine, though circumstances strongly hinted that the failure was contrived. Ahmed realized he was being taken for a fool. Furious at the insult, he marched the engineers from the engine room with a pistol to the head of one of them, then went up to Marchesseau and fired a round into the deck at his feet. “O.K.! Finish to play!” he said. Marchesseau got the message. He ordered the engine re-started. The Ponant proceeded south at eight knots, which was the least Marchesseau believed he could get away with.

The ArmadaAround sunset a Canadian warship named the H.M.C.S. Charlottetown appeared over the northern horizon and assumed a position a few miles in trail. Its captain did not dare get closer because of the hostages. The Charlottetown was cruising in the Gulf of Aden as part of the U.S.-led effort known as Operation Enduring Freedom—the global war against terrorism, which in its naval form naturally requires the deployment of carrier task forces, nuclear submarines, and large allied fleets. The Charlottetown is a 443-foot frigate that carries a crew of 225 and is capable of dashing around at more than 30 knots. The Canadian Navy boasts that the ship possesses a complex command-and-control system combined with an impressive array of electronic sensors and modern weaponry. It has eight Boeing Harpoon long-range surface-to-surface missiles, 16 Raytheon Sea Sparrow surface-to-air missiles, a Bofors 57-millimeter rapid-fire gun, a General Dynamics Vulcan Phalanx 20-millimeter close-in defensive gun system, an untold number of Honeywell Mark 46 torpedoes with ship and airborne launchers, and six Browning .50-caliber machine guns. It also has a Sikorsky Sea King helicopter—the one that had circled the Ponant and departed. A month later, after the ship returned to its home port, in Halifax, the Canadian Navy summarized its deployment as follows: “Charlottetown contributed significantly to deterrence of terrorism and other threats to maritime security—illegal migration, bootlegging and drug-running, for example—that harm legitimate commerce in the Gulf region. And because terrorism is a global problem, [the ship’s] efforts in the Gulf region also contributed significantly to security in Canada.”

More modestly, the Ponant’s crew felt relieved by the Charlottetown’s arrival. The pirates, however, did not seem to care. With these hostages they could hold off any armada. They rummaged through the ship, helping themselves to the clothes and music players they found. The Ponant continued steadily south. Marchesseau knew that the three crewmen with shipboard lovers were consumed with worries for their safety. He himself was frustrated by the isolation of the women in the forward hold, but he assumed that their continuing silence meant that they were finding some way to get by. He approached Ahmed and demanded food for the men on the upper deck, insisting that the chef be allowed to prepare a proper meal. Apparently, Ahmed knew better than to argue back. He dispatched the chef to the kitchen along with four guards to watch over the kitchen knives. The chef whipped up a meal of wok-seared vegetables and al dente pasta, with which he and the guards returned to the upper deck. The crew ate using proper forks and plates. They had nothing for dessert, but some privation was to be expected. The pirates for their part let pass the chance to experience creative French cuisine, and chose instead to prepare a concoction of dried meat fried in rancid oil and shredded into a starchy spaghetti mash, which they ate out of a communal bowl with unwashed fingers. It was a small but disconcerting moment for the civilized world—evidence of the anarchy that prevails where nations fail and savagery threatens Canada. Luckily for the French, the bartender, Bertrand Viallet, had filled some thermoses with aperitifs, which helped to ease the trauma.

Night fell. The French government arrived, at first with another warship, a smallish, 260-foot corvette named the Commandant Bouan, which overtook the Canadians and assumed a position about three miles in trail of the Ponant. Unbeknownst to the Ponant’s crew, a large operation had been launched by officials in Paris under the direct supervision of the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy. Over the next several days the operation would grow to include a half dozen French Navy ships, two Bréguet maritime patrol planes, several Falcon executive jets, at least one government Airbus, many helicopters, at least 50 commandos from the navy and the gendarmerie, a squad of frogmen, several landing craft, hundreds of amphibious assault troops, multiple urgent motorcades through Paris (with motorcycle escorts), and a string of command-and-control centers, starting with a 24-hour crisis-management bureau that was established in the presidential palace. The commandos were particularly dashing, the way they flew from Djibouti and parachuted into the sea to get aboard the warships.

Meanwhile, on their first night aboard the Ponant, the pirates took blankets and pillows to the upper deck to ease the sleep of their captives. Marchesseau remained awake on the bridge. The wind rose to 35 knots, and he roused some men to help him lower the sails. They came to Ras Asir before dawn, and headed south down the wild Somali coast. The sun rose. Marchesseau asked for a full French breakfast for his crew. Ahmed acquiesced. The cook responded with a buffet of cheese and charcuterie, fresh fruits, cereals, warm pastries, French bread, little pots of apricot jam, and strong French coffee. A French maritime patrol plane had arrived overhead and was circling persistently, as if drawn to the offering.

Ahmed the GallantBy that afternoon the women had been 24 hours in hiding. With them in the forward storage hold was the missing Filipino steward, who had panicked as the pirates approached, and had burrowed into the farthest reaches of the space, behind a stack of empty suitcases, from where he refused to move. The women were disdainful of his fear—all the more so because three of them had lovers who had squarely faced the threat and, for all the women knew, were now dead. The storage hold was an isolating place to hide, cut off even from sounds by the clattering of a water pump overhead. Like most sanctuaries it began to feel like a prison. It was physically uncomfortable too, because, although it was lit and ventilated, it had a sloped floor (corresponding to the V shape of the forward hull), and was encumbered with a central ballast tank and racks of hotel supplies. Luckily, the supplies included raisins and nuts, and bottles of good wine, which by birthright the women were able to open. As necessary they relieved themselves into a steel bucket. No leader emerged among them. Rather, they handled the situation collegially, as women are said to do. They had little to go on. They were certain only that the ship remained in motion. As the first night passed, and the following morning wore on without sign of life from above, they began to imagine that the men had been slaughtered, and even that the pirates might have gone. If so, the Ponant was sailing on autopilot alone, heading blindly for ruin on some desolate shore. Desperate for information, they decided to risk a scouting mission. The person they selected for it was the Filipino steward. This made sense to them collegially. Somehow they bullied the man out of his hiding place and got him up the ladder, through the overhead hatch, and into the crew quarters above. Ten minutes passed in suspense until he returned. He had spent much of that time hiding, but finally had dared to peek out on deck and had spotted a pirate right away.

The women went back to their deliberations. Some were crying in fear. Most were calm, though concerned. Whether or not the crewmen had been killed, it was clear that the pirates continued to control the ship, and would for the foreseeable future. The wine remained in good supply, but the food was running low, and it was obvious that they could not endure indefinitely in the storage hold. Of course they could have stayed there a few more days, but late that afternoon they took a vote and decided to emerge right away. The idea was frightening, but they saw it through. Led by the hapless steward, clustered together for courage, holding hands and expecting the worst, they climbed out of their hiding place and emerged into view on the Ponant’s forward deck, almost all of them now in tears. The pirates were stunned. Marchesseau was in the restaurant at the time. Ahmed rushed him to the scene and demanded an explanation. Marchesseau admitted that these were the rest of the crew, and that he had hidden them because he had feared that women might be at risk. Ahmed was offended at the very idea. He said, “We do not touch women! We want money!” Referring to himself and his men, he said, “Robbers! Not terrorists!” With that distinction again in mind, he made a show of scolding Marchesseau for having subjected the women to such conditions. It was an annoying performance, but at least unthreatening. Marchesseau informed the women that none of the crew had been killed or injured. Ahmed escorted the group aft to the luxurious lower lounge, where he ordered that the women be provided with water and food. He was very gallant. He smoked a cigarette dramatically. When the water arrived, he sent it back for being lukewarm.

Jamah the LawyerBy strutting in front of the women and pretending to the high moral ground, Ahmed weakened himself to Marchesseau, who increasingly was able to demand that Ahmed and his men live up to the standard they professed. The crew noticed the change, and were amused by Marchesseau’s assertiveness, which probably helped to protect them from violence. Nonetheless, the pirates remained in control. The Canadians had dropped out of sight over the horizon. With the French warship trailing close behind, the Ponant moved deeply down-coast through Somali waters, heading for a fishing town called Garacad, now known as a pirate stronghold. It took two days to get there, during which time the pirates aboard the Ponant showed some concern about piracy themselves, and fired warning shots on a few occasions to keep small boats away. They made a stop along a stretch of coast, where small boats began to shuttle to and from the Ponant, delivering reinforcements and supplies. The supplies included two sheep whose job, in an unrefrigerated environment, was to keep their meat from rotting until they could be properly bled out on the deck, chopped up, and fried. At Ahmed’s invitation, another pirate chief came aboard, was given a formal tour of the ship, and responded with expressions of admiration, as if he approved of the décor.

On the third night of the ordeal, the Ponant arrived off Garacad, and anchored about a mile offshore. In the morning the crew could see the town only as some metal roofs, perhaps a half-mile inland from the beach. As the French warship loitered helplessly nearby, Ahmed convened a council of the senior leadership to decide the fate of the Ponant. Among the dignitaries was an older man who introduced himself to Marchesseau as the group’s chairman. More important, a translator had come aboard in preparation for ransom negotiations. The translator’s name was Jamah. He wore polyester slacks and a long-sleeved shirt, and informed Marchesseau that he was a lawyer. Marchesseau remarked that he must not have many clients in Somalia, and Jamah answered without irony that he would indeed rather practice in Europe. He might also have considered the United States.

Jamah was a reader. Jamah spoke good English. Jamah turned out to be the nastiest pirate of them all. Once he was aboard, business could be done. Ahmed seated the group in the Ponant’s formal dining room. After 45 minutes of discussion they decided to ask for a ransom of $3 million in cash to be brought directly to the ship. The demand for cash delivery is a relatively new twist in the patterns of Somali piracy. In Mombasa, Kenya, I recently spoke to a seafarer named Andrew Mwangura, who has become the go-to man in many piracy cases, and who described elaborate payment schemes involving investors, money-launderers, and specialized middlemen in London, Dubai, and Nairobi. But Ahmed was going to handle this differently. He authorized Marchesseau to make the call to the company headquarters in Marseille, where CMA CGM had set up a 24-hour crisis office, under the direction of the owner’s 38-year-old son and heir apparent, Rodolphe Saadé. A stranger answered in Marseille. Speaking in English, Marchesseau relayed the pirates’ demand. The man promised to call back. Long hours later, the company’s representative (it was Rodolphe Saadé himself, though Marchesseau did not know this then) called and pleaded for time. By nightfall no counter-offer had been made. If this was a tactic, it seemed reckless. Marchesseau knew that, on the scale of the Saadés’ operations, the sum demanded was quite small. He began to suspect that an assault was planned. The pirates seemed to sense the same. Their moods were swinging wildly. By now there were around 30 of them aboard—the exact number was hard to know. Some were secretly consuming alcohol from the mini-bars in the guest cabins, and all of them, it seemed, were hopped up on khat. The crew had assembled in the lower lounge. Marchesseau spoke to them discreetly in French to prepare them for a military action. In the case of a raid, he thought they should try to escape down the stairs. The choices were limited. It was likely that if shooting started crew members would die.

The French Navy knew it, too. To assist the warship already on the scene, two additional French vessels were charging into the area—a 460-foot frigate equipped to fight World War III, and a 600-foot helicopter carrier that was getting old but was armed with naval artillery and anti-ship missiles, and could launch multiple helicopters at a time. In addition were the congregations of commandos and anti-terrorist police—every one of them over-trained, under-used, and eager for action. If you added up the assets already available, or soon to be, the display of French power was impressive indeed. And it was arrayed against what? A band of barefoot natives, Fuzzy Wuzzies in rags, hip-firing their Kalashnikovs with poor aim, and worshipping some filthy G.P.S. as if it had fallen from the sky. They should have surrendered days before, even to the Canadians. But they hadn’t, and that was the problem. They were not particularly bellicose or arrogant, but they refused to be impressed when they should have been. A warship coming at you is supposed to present an intimidating sight. But it was as if the pirates inhabited a different dimension from that of the governments confronting them. With nothing but a group of French nationals as a shield, they were enjoying meals, going back and forth between ship and shore, and negotiating directly with the Saadés in Marseille, as if the French Navy did not even exist. The pattern was unusually frustrating to French authorities, as more recent piracy cases have been to American, Russian, and Chinese authorities. It raised disturbing questions about the relevance of governments and the exercise of power. More specifically, a suspicion crept in that these pirates knew exactly what they were doing, and that they understood the forces at play with more sophistication than had been assumed. Fuzzy Wuzzies they were, but until Paris decided it could accept casualties among the Ponant’s crew, they had stymied the French national will.

Sealing the DealIt was a serious challenge in Nicolas Sarkozy’s view because Sarkozy is the embodiment of the French national system. He stands five feet five inches tall. As an intent law-and-order man, he was opposed in principle to negotiations with the pirates, and eager to show them the fist of France. He was, however, merely a president, and like others he was less powerful than he was made out to be. Politically it would have been difficult to order an assault on the Ponant before exhausting all alternatives. Furthermore, the ship’s owner, CMA CGM chairman Jacques Saadé, was making it clear through back channels that he intended to pay some sort of ransom. Sarkozy and Saadé were acquaintances and political allies, if not close friends. It is said that Sarkozy invoked principle to persuade Saadé not to pay, but to no avail. Saadé understood the reasoning, but in practice he had to place the safety of his crew and ship first—a decision compounded by the certainty that casualties would impose costs higher than the paltry $3 million demanded. Besides, the money was not going to be paid directly by CMA CGM, but by its insurance company—which, according to the Paris-based Intelligence Online, was the now-notorious American company A.I.G. This was private money, floating free of national constraints, and it could be spent quite legally on ransom. To be clear about the rules that apply: extortion is illegal everywhere, except when it is construed as taxation; the payment of extortion, however, is legal, unless it is construed as bribery. This meant that for a while Sarkozy’s hands would be tied. Reluctantly he agreed to give Saadé several days to work out a deal before he would damn the consequences and send the French Navy into action. He summoned the families of the crew to a confidential meeting in the presidential palace, where he is reported to have said, “We’re dealing with crooks. They want money. We’re going to give it to them. But afterward it’s my affair.”

Jacques Saadé intended to pay, but only after maneuvering for advantage. At two a.m. on the second day of negotiations, Rodolphe Saadé called the Ponant and offered $1.2 million. Marchesseau called him back some minutes later with the pirates’ vigorous rejection. The night wore on in this ballet, until the pirates made a final demand—for $2.15 million. The Saadés kept trying to bargain, but to no avail. In the afternoon the pirates declared a freeze on any further discussions. Marchesseau knew that they were serious. They allowed him to make one final call, during which he informed the Saadés that they had come to the end of the line. Rodolphe remained noncommittal. After the conversation, the possibility of an assault seemed even more real. Jamah said to Marchesseau, “In any case, you are the first one we will kill.” But that night Rodolphe called back and agreed to the deal—the release of the crew and ship in return for $2.15 million, to be delivered in cash. The game was not over yet. Looming ahead was the difficult question of how to arrange for the handoff of the ransom, and the safe disengagement of the pirates, and the liberation of the crew. But after the deal was struck, everyone on the Ponant had a lot to lose if things went wrong.

One night Jamah predicted to the assembled crew that they were all going to die. He had found a book critical of the invasion of Iraq, The Assassins’ Gate, by George Packer, and it seemed to have riled him up. Jamah announced that he was against the war in Iraq, against al-Qaeda, and in favor of an Iranian nuclear bomb. No one much cared. For most of the crew, life with the pirates had settled into a routine. The crew spent the nights in the lower lounge, woke every morning at eight, moved up one level to the aft restaurant for the day, and returned to the lounge at sundown. There was not much to do but wait. They played cards and board games—poker, Trivial Pursuit, Monopoly, Pictionary. They ate well. They drank in moderation. They celebrated one birthday. The couples did not make love, because they lacked the privacy and were held under guard at all times, but a new couple did form, a sailor and a receptionist. It was assumed that they had noticed each other before, but had been shy until now. The bartender Bertrand Viallet believed that their relationship would endure, and he was thoughtful in such matters. He was thoughtful about the pirates too. Later he went around saying that he might have become one himself, had he been born on the coast of Somalia. He meant it more as a declaration of fact than of sympathy. Whether because of the barriers of language and culture, or the active risk of being shot, none of the crew members seem to have bonded with their captors. They did, however, learn to distinguish between the bad and the better among them, and they relaxed enough to laugh about the pirate teetotalers suffering hangovers for the first time. One of the Ponant’s women tried khat. One of the pirates tried French cooking. Some of the pirates got into American adventure movies on the library’s DVD TV, dialogue be damned. Others got into women’s fashion magazines. By degrees, they lowered the muzzles of their weapons.

PHOTO:French Navy helicopter pilot Lieutenant Marine Bayer and Midshipman Thomas Baratte. By Jacques Demarthon/AFP/Getty Images.

Over time they provided small insights into their pirate careers. They called themselves the Coast Guard, and apparently did have origins as vigilante fishermen who in the early 1990s sailed out to regulate and rob foreign boats that were smuggling all manner of contraband to and from Somalia and overfishing the coastal waters. Loosely speaking, they were the same group who later, in September 2008, hijacked the Ukrainian ship Faina, loaded with weapons for southern Sudan, and who ignored the presence of American warships for more than four months, and then walked away with $3.2 million, to the embarrassment of officials worldwide. The Coast Guard is said to have 400 members—whatever membership means, and however a count could be taken. Four or five such pirate groups are believed to operate in Puntland. They are large, fluid, clan-based alliances whose contours are inherently difficult to discern, and who derive their resilience in part from the very looseness of their structures. They are genuine organizations nonetheless. The Somalis on the Ponant had been through rudimentary training, some in boat handling, some in weapons, and all of them to some extent on the importance of battle discipline. Several times when Marchesseau objected to the theft of possessions from the crew, Ahmed reprimanded the culprits, and the possessions were at least temporarily returned. Equally surprising, signs appeared in Somali on the doors of some toilets forbidding the pirates’ entry at the risk of a $500 fine. According to Marchesseau’s book, Jamah described other sanctions: $100 for returning late from shore leave, $500 for discharging a weapon unnecessarily, $1,000 for sleeping on duty, $1,500 for leaving the ship without permission, and $2,000 for harming a hostage. Some skepticism is required here. As word of Jamah’s scribbled list got into the press, it escalated into reports that the pirates were guided by a full-blown “pirate manual.” They were not. Furthermore, the penalties described, if remotely accurate, were probably poorly enforced. But although the pirates rejected French cooking to the end, they were less wild than the crew at first had believed.

PHOTO:Crew members evacuate after a deal is struck. From Maxppp/Landov.

The ExchangeIt did not make them less dangerous. No one doubted that they would shoot to kill if the coming exchange went wrong. Several days of negotiations were required to work out the plan. The pirates were wary of a trap, but ultimately had to trust in the Saadés’ intention to act with the minimum of risk and publicity. The appointed day was a Friday, one week after the Ponant’s capture. The moves were carefully choreographed, spelled out in e-mails, and agreed to in detail by all sides. In the morning Marchesseau raised the anchor and repositioned the Ponant still closer to the beach. The small warship that had been standing by steamed away and was replaced by a larger French frigate, to which the Saadés’ cash had been delivered. Twenty miles away, and just over the horizon, the 600-foot French helicopter carrier had been in position for several days trying to make itself discreet, despite the presence of Somali fishing boats that kept motoring by. Now it launched helicopters with snipers aboard, several under the command of a female pilot, a 33-year-old lieutenant named Marine Bayer, who was French in the best way, and elegant in a flight suit that seemed to be tailor-made. When I met her months later at an air base in Brittany she was modest about her role in the affair. Her orders were to come in close in a crisis and provide the snipers with clear shots at pirates on the Ponant’s decks. But unless there was trouble, she was to stand off beyond the horizon and keep her forces out of sight.

Marchesseau was not aware of the helicopters, but he was wary of naval heroics, and he was determined to let nothing go wrong. Behind schedule but according to plan, all but six pirates evacuated the Ponant and shuttled to the shore. Among those leaving was the so-called chairman, who before his departure invited Marchesseau to visit Garacad. Marchesseau politely declined. Ahmed and Jamah remained on the Ponant, along with their four fiercest gunmen. After various delays, a Zodiac departed from the frigate carrying the cash and three unarmed men—one from the navy, two from the gendarmerie. Ahmed, Jamah, and another pirate, also unarmed, boarded a skiff and motored toward the midpoint meeting place. Three pirates remained on the Ponant, with their weapons leveled at the crew. The small boats met, and the French agents handed over the ransom in three bags, the first two containing a million dollars each, and the third containing the remainder—$150,000. The French held the boats together while the pirates got down to counting.

After 15 minutes, Ahmed declared himself to be satisfied. Leaving Marchesseau as the sole remaining hostage, the rest of the Ponant’s crew boarded two Zodiacs and proceeded toward the frigate. With the money in hand, Ahmed and Jamah separated from the French agents and sped to the beach. Briefly Marchesseau was left with the three remaining guards. A skiff came out from the shore and fetched them. Marchesseau watched them depart. It was one p.m., and seven days to the hour after the Ponant’s capture. Alone at last and free, Marchesseau jumped into the ocean as instructed by the gendarmes, and began to swim. He was swooped up by commandos, who threw him face-first into the bottom of their boat. This was for his protection, of course. It was very dramatic. Soon enough, he climbed aboard the frigate. There he was re-united with his crew, who, because of the hour, had already sat down to lunch.

EndgameLieutenant Marine Bayer is an argument for French habits, I suppose. After the hostages were liberated, she and the other helicopter pilots returned to their ship, where they, too, sat down for a decent meal. Bayer later forgot what exactly she ate, but remembered that she lingered over it for a full 30 minutes before starting into a dessert of chausson aux pommes. At that very moment her helicopters again were scrambled. She ran and got airborne right away. An admiral on another ship had made the call. One of the patrol planes had spotted a four-wheel-drive vehicle heading west on a desert track from Garacad, probably with pirates aboard. The admiral wanted it stopped. Six helicopters joined the chase, one of them carrying a navy video crew, the others with commandos and sharpshooters aboard. Someone radioed a suggestion for the video crew to go in first, to get the most dramatic footage, but Bayer vetoed the idea and put the shooters up front. The largest helicopter was a Panther with a team of three commandos. It took the lead. The formation swept low over the beach and picked up the track on the far side of Garacad. The vehicle was not hard to find. It was a Japanese S.U.V., creeping along through scrubland about six miles west of town. The Panther hovered beside it, and a sniper fired a single round into its engine block, bringing it to a halt. As the helicopters dropped into the desert, six men jumped out of the vehicle and tried to flee, scattering in different directions and diving into the bushes. The commandos easily rounded them up, and were videotaped in grainy scenes later shown on global TV. In the vehicle the French forces found some Kalashnikovs and two sacks containing 10 percent of the ransom, some $200,000 in cash. They confiscated it, loaded the suspects into the helicopters, and took off. One of the helicopters turned back and fired an anti-tank missile into the disabled S.U.V. It exploded. This, too, was videotaped. The suspects were flown to the frigate offshore, where they were placed in the brig for eventual delivery to France. Soon afterward, Marchesseau had a look at them and recognized only three. As for the others, it would be up to the prosecutors to demonstrate their connection to piracy. One of them claimed to be merely a taxi driver and did seem rather upset about the loss of the S.U.V.

PHOTO:President Nicolas Sarkozy greets the freed hostages at Orly airport. By Philippe De Poulpiquet/Maxppp/Landov.

The main culprits and 90 percent of the ransom money remained in Garacad, a town clearly in view from the frigate yet completely out of reach. Marine Bayer spent a few hours that afternoon shuttling the Ponant’s crew to the helicopter carrier, which, as a larger ship, had the space to accommodate these guests. In the evening there was a get-together, and Bayer met the Ponant’s crew socially for the first time. The women in particular opened up to her. One said angrily, “They were despicable! We should kill them all!” Another said, “They were not so bad. Honestly, they were pretty nice pirates.” Between the two views it was hard to say that one was more right than the other. But then there came another woman, who hugged Bayer and cried, “You saved our lives!,” and that was just plain wrong. In fact it was embarrassing. The pilots had saved no one’s life. Bayer planned to leave the navy and become a nurse, where she would have a better chance of doing such things. It was true that she had performed some sort of service to something by helping with the arrest of the six Somalis, at least three of whom were pirates. But the hope that this would have a deterrent effect in the future was pretty far-fetched.

If anyone had saved lives it was the pirates themselves, along with Marchesseau, and the shipowners in Marseille, Rodolphe and Jacques Saadé. By satellite phone they had succeeded with negotiations in an evolving global dimension that lies beyond the reach of government and its conventions. For all its firepower and training, the French Navy was neutralized by the fact that Ahmed never threatened to start executing the hostages, and that for whatever reason he actually cared about their welfare. As a result, the best the French Navy could do was stand by, eat well, and serve as bagmen for the money. It was successful at this—maybe more so than other navies would have been—but the claims that were subsequently made of a French national victory were exceedingly thin.

Nonetheless, the claims were loud. Within hours in Paris the top French military commanders held a triumphant press conference during which they announced the liberation of the hostages, and the arrest of six Somalis (half the pirate force, they said), at the end of a successful military operation that had been carried out with the permission of Somali authorities, whatever that may mean, and had involved no payments of state funds. For public dissemination, the government described President Sarkozy’s personal satisfaction: “The president expresses his profound gratitude to the French armed forces and all the state services which enabled there to be a swift outcome to the hostage-taking without incident. He shares the joy and relief of the families, whom he will meet again at five p.m. today.” From the helicopter carrier Marchesseau called home to speak to his wife. His sister answered the phone, saying, “Haven’t you heard? She’s at the Élysée Palace!” Gendarmes on the ship took Marchesseau aside and rehearsed him on handling the press.

The Ponant was left to a ferry crew, to be escorted later to safety. The helicopter carrier sailed north and west with its special guests through the Gulf of Aden toward the French base in Djibouti. At one point a French flagship with an admiral aboard came alongside blaring “We Are the Champions” over its loudspeakers. I do not know what Marine Bayer thought of this, but Marchesseau is a good sport, and he wrote in his book that he was pleased. When the crew got to Djibouti, they were greeted by diplomats, high officials, and other V.I.P.’s. A French government Airbus was waiting to whisk the crew to Paris. They arrived early, but were delayed in the air to give President Sarkozy himself time to get to the airport. They landed and pulled up to a gaggle of cameramen at 7:30 p.m., a half-hour before the French evening news. President Sarkozy was waiting at the bottom of the stairs. He was flanked by Minister of Defense Hervé Morin, because of the military victory being declared, and transport secretary Dominique Bussereau, because the Ponant flies the French flag, though of the Wallis and Futuna Islands. Astutely, Sarkozy did not make a speech, but welcomed the Ponant’s crew with handshakes. Marchesseau was flustered. He thanked Sarkozy for everything he had done to liberate the crew. Sarkozy had the grace to leave when the photo session was over.

The Lawless SeaMarchesseau went home to La Rochelle and wrote his book with the help of a newspaper reporter. The book was published several months later, and in France it was widely, if superficially, noted. It was an adventure tale, and taken as such. But it was also unassuming and honest, and the story that it told had little to do with naval heroics, grave threats to the world order, or the importance of the French state. This was overlooked in references to the book, because the Ponant’s narrative had come to stand overwhelmingly for the opposite—for strong national leadership, for a vigorous French Navy, and for interventions abroad in places where anarchy is said to threaten civilization itself. Merely hours after Marchesseau had effected his own release, and French warships had clearly demonstrated the navy’s impotence, the French foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner (a founder of Doctors Without Borders), called for United Nations action, and for an allied naval escalation off the coast of Somalia. It was an early step in what has turned into an ongoing process of doing more of precisely what has proved not to work.

Today, almost one year later, Somali pirates continue to ignore the increasingly urgent displays of national power. One of the ironies of the concern being shown is that the shippers being provided with naval protection are the very same people who for years have made a mockery of the nation-state idea. They know that whatever pirate tolls they pay will always pale in comparison with the taxes that would be imposed if global law and order ever actually prevailed. But there is little danger of that. In its place a convoy system has been instituted for crossing the Gulf of Aden. CMA CGM has ordered its cargo ships to use it when practical. The company runs about 65 transits a month. Because of an increase in crew pay, insurance, and other piracy-related costs, the company has imposed a $23 surcharge on every standard-size container that it takes through—amounting to a quarter-million dollars for each trip by the largest ships. Given the margins built in, and despite the need for the occasional payout, this means that CMA CGM, its insurers, and its crews are profiting from Somali piracy. Other shipping companies are, too. By nature they are adaptable. If the navies would just sail away, they would devise their own methods to get through, maybe at still-higher cost, and probably at calculated risk, but almost certainly without violence.

But the navies will not sail away. The evidence lies not in the hijacking of the Ponant but in the hijacking of the Ponant’s story. I don’t think Marchesseau thought about it or cared. He toured around France after the book came out, went on television, and gave some public talks. A few members of the crew were acerbic—opposed to Sarkozy’s grandstanding, and disgusted by the treatment of the detained Somalis, who were being held under maximum security in Paris, as if they were serious threats to the state. Marchesseau did not get into all that. He kept his talks fairly easy. He soon went back to sea, in command of the Ponant again, with many of the same crew members aboard. They did not feel particularly traumatized. In December 2008, they sailed alone through the Red Sea, under escort through the Gulf of Aden, and alone again to the Seychelles. They were not overly worried about piracy, but they were aware of it. And therefore? Nothing new, really. You can always tilt at disorder, and national leaders, invested as they are, will always insist on disorder’s dire consequences. But ships will keep sailing anyway, and people will go on with their lives, and maybe, just for once, here’s a reason not to go to war.

William Langewiesche is Vanity Fair’s international correspondent.

. . . . .

Saundra Hummer
April 23rd, 2009, 02:52 PM


April 23, 2009. . . . .

Dear Friend,

The first 100 days of the Obama administration are coming to a close, and there has certainly been no shortage of unhinged and outrageous media moments.


From Rush Limbaugh saying that "we are being told to bend over and grab the ankles ... because his father is black," to Glenn Beck imitating President Obama pouring gasoline on an "average American," conservatives in the media have wasted no time in stoking a culture of paranoia with extreme, vitriolic, and often irresponsible rhetoric.

Now it's your turn to weigh in. Watch the most outrageous media moments from the first 100 days, and vote for which you think is the worst:


In addition to the examples referenced above, candidates for the Worst Media Moment also include:

.CNBC's Larry Kudlow complaining about Obama and Chavez's "Boyz N The Hood handshake"

.Reporting on tea parties, Fox Business' Cody Willard asked: "Guys, when are we going to wake up and start fighting the fascism that seems to be permeating this country?"

.Fox's Dick Morris declaring that the "crazies" who "say 'We're going to kill ATF agents because the U.N.'s going to take over' ... [are] beginning to have a case"

Instead of focusing on substantive policy discussions, media figures have all too often launched relentless political attacks, and bypassed legitimate reporting and commentary in favor of demagoguery. You can help us bring attention to this troubling pattern by watching our video and participating in our poll.


We will announce the results on our blog, County Fair, on Wednesday, April 29, so please vote today!


Eric Burns
Media Matters for America


Saundra Hummer
April 24th, 2009, 12:42 PM


Helen Was Right

By Brooks Jackson ~ April 22nd, 2009. Filed under: FactCheck.org, President Obama.
Did President Obama teach constitutional law or not? The question came up at a White House press briefing on April 14, when the president’s press secretary publicly contradicted veteran reporter Helen Thomas on that point.

Thomas: Why is the president blocking habeas corpus from prisoners at Bagram? I thought he taught constitutional law. And these prisoners have been there …

Gibbs: You’re incorrect that he taught on constitutional law.

Thomas: … for many years with no due process.

The contradiction was left unresolved and might have continued to go unnoticed had the Wall Street Journal not reprinted this exchange as the lead of an April 21 opinion piece by William McGurn, former chief speechwriter for President George W. Bush.

McGurn’s main contention was that Thomas had raised a valid point about the administration’s efforts to deny rights to prisoners held in Afghanistan. But he also seemed to imply that Gibbs was right and Thomas was wrong about the president’s credentials as a teacher of constitutional law: “All Mr. Gibbs could do was interrupt and correct the doyenne of the White House press corps about Mr. Obama’s class as a law professor,” McGurn wrote.

Actually, Thomas was right and Gibbs was wrong.

According to the University of Chicago Law School:

U.C. Law School News Release, Nov. 4 2008: Barack Obama taught at the Law School from 1992 until his election to the U.S. Senate in 2004. During those years, he brought a dynamic teaching presence to his courses, which included “Constitutional Law III: Equal Protection,” “Voting Rights and the Democratic Process,” and a seminar entitled “Current Issues in Racism and the Law.”

And the White House says the same thing in the president’s online biography:

White House Web Site: Upon graduation [from Harvard Law School], he returned to Chicago to help lead a voter registration drive, teach constitutional law at the University of Chicago, and remain active in his community.



Saundra Hummer
April 24th, 2009, 01:11 PM


April 24, 2009
Faiz Shakir, Amanda Terkel, Satyam Khanna, Matt Corley, Benjamin Armbruster, Ali Frick, and Ryan Powers


Obstructing Progress
Yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said that in the next five weeks until Memorial Day recess, the Senate will "tackle a hefty legislative agenda that includes bills to rein in predatory practices in the housing and credit card industries and a reform of government procurement." Looking back on what Congress has accomplished since the beginning of the year, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said, "The three pillars of the president's budget -- education, energy and health care -- have already been advanced down the field to a significant extent in the first three months." The optimistic tone of the Democratic leaders in Congress, however, is not shared by their counterparts in the Republican Party. House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) said in a press conference yesterday that, in the last four months, "it's become clear to him [Obama] that the idea of bipartisanship 'was a ruse.'" However, the seeming absence of bipartisanship isn't a result of the Obama administration's lack of trying. Congressional Republicans have done little but delay key executive branch nominees and attempt to block key legislation, all the while failing to offer any alternative ideas of their own.

DELAYING NOMINEES: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) objected to a motion to begin debate on the nominations of Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D-KS) as Secretary of Health and Human Services, David Hayes for deputy secretary of the Interior Department, and Thomas Strickland for assistant secretary for fish and wildlife at Interior. Regarding Sebelius, McConnell said he objected because members of his caucus had not yet had time to consider her candidacy properly. However, the real reason is that a select few in the Republican caucus are attempting to delay her appointment -- at the insistence of right-wing social conservative groups -- because of her commitment to pro-choice women's health policies. The delay is reminiscent of what transpired after Ambassador to Iraq Christopher Hill's nomination, when a small group of Republican senators -- including John McCain (AZ), Lindsey Graham (SC), and Sam Brownback (KS) -- announced their opposition, claiming Hill "lacks experience in the Middle East." As the National Security Network's Max Bergmann pointed out, they really took issue with his desire to avoid bombing North Korea. Further, the only substantive result of delaying Hill was to hinder the Obama administration's ability to effectively and efficiently make progress in Iraq. Indeed, Gen. David Petraeus was reportedly "frustrated by the delay." A similar chain of events is likely to play out with Sebelius, Dawn Johnsen, Harold Koh, and many other key nominees. The goal in holding up Obama nominees, it should be clear by now, is not to find better qualified nominees or answer substantive concerns. Rather, it appears to be part of an attempt on the part of Republicans in Congress to "obstruct and delay" the implementation of the legislative agenda the American people voted for last November.

BLOCKING THE PROGRESSIVE AGENDA: Since January, Congress has expanded access to health care for low-income children through the passage of SCHIP Expansion, laid the ground work for economic recovery with the passage of Obama's Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and passed a budget resolution that demonstrated the Obama administration's intention to push for real progressive changes in the tax code, the health care system, and environmental regulation. On health care in particular, congressional Republicans have worked hard to register their opposition to reform. As the Wonk Room's Igor Volsky explained yesterday, "Key Republicans voted against the popular SCHIP legislation, eight Republican senators (including health care heavy weights Grassley and Hatch) voted [in committee] against Gov. Kathleen Sebelius's nomination to head the Department of Health and Human Services, misrepresented the intent of health information technology...in the stimulus, and have already taken the public option off the table." But both the Senate and House leadership are serious about making health care reform happen this year. Due to obstructionism, however, they may now have to implement health care reform through the budget reconciliation process, which would allow the reform measures to be "protected from filibusters and passed by a simple majority vote." Republicans used reconciliation to pass the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts, key provisions of their signature legislative agenda in 1994, the Contract with America, and on many other occasions in the last 30 years. Now, however, the Republicans have developed a bit of "political amnesia" and are calling the use of reconciliation the "Chicago approach to governing" and "a declaration of war." Further, they are plotting retaliatory parliamentary tactics -- including refusing to attend committee hearings and demanding that the text of bills, often hundreds of pages long, be read aloud -- that would "grind the Senate to a virtual halt." Yesterday, however, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) conceded that Democrats have the "right" to pass health care reform using the reconciliation process.

FAILING TO PROVIDE AN ALTERNATIVE: While Republicans have worked hard at saying "no," they have repeatedly failed to offer realistic alternative proposals. Several days after presenting his budget proposal, Obama pointed out during a prime-time press conference that congressional Republicans were failing to offer concrete alternatives to his budget. In response, Boehner hurriedly assembled a news conference to introduce their alternative "budget." "Here it is, Mr. President," Boehner declared, brandishing a glossy 19-page document in his hand. The only problem was that Boehner's budget didn't contain any numbers. When Republicans finally offered a detailed plan on, ironically, April Fool's Day, it did not appear to make any more economic sense than the brochure of recycled ideas they released the week before. Indeed, despite the growing recession, the plan called for a five-year spending freeze which, as the Wonk Room's Pat Garofalo explained, would "negate the stimulus, while betting economic recovery will occur thanks to an abundance of supply-side tax cuts." This trend appears likely to continue. Indeed, in a week dominated by congressional hearings on energy and health care, Boehner mentioned each issue only once yesterday in his press conference -- and that was to tell reporters that House Republicans still have no alternative health care plan and no alternative energy and environment plan. "Our health care solutions group is continuing to do their work. Our energy solutions group continues to do its work." Still, he insisted that "you'll continue to see us try to be the party of better solutions."

HUMAN RIGHTS – MINERALS USED IN EVERYDAY ELECTRONIC DEVICES FUEL WORLD'S DEADLIEST CONFLICT: Today, the Enough Project published a paper highlighting the link between violence in eastern Congo -- the deadliest conflict in over 50 years -- and Western electronics corporations. Specifically, electronics companies are utilizing mined minerals as components of the equipment they sell -- such as cell phones, computer screens, and other common devices. Enough and the Grassroots Reconciliation Group are calling on the companies to publicly demonstrate they are not using minerals that fuel and finance the war. "It is no accident that the majority of the violence in eastern Congo has been carried out in areas rich with minerals. Conflict minerals remain a key source of financing for some of the most reprehensible armed groups in the world," John Norris, Enough's executive director, explained. "Bringing transparency to the consumer electronics supply chain is an essential first step if we want to transform Congo's mineral resources from a curse into an engine of growth for millions of people who remain trapped by both violence and poverty." Enough has also kicked off a consumer-led initiative through the RAISE Hope for Congo campaign to compel the 21 largest electronic companies in the United States to ensure that their products are conflict-free. "As consumers and global citizens, we have a critical role to play in demanding that companies and governments exercise leverage over the supply chain," says Enough Co-Founder John Prendergast.

CIVIL RIGHTS -- U.S. ATTORNEY UNDER BUSH APPROVED WARRANTLESS CELL PHONE TRACKING: While serving as a U.S. attorney during the Bush administration, Christopher Christie tracked the whereabouts of citizens through their cell phones without warrants. The ACLU obtained the documents detailing the spying program from the Justice Department in an ongoing lawsuit over cell phone tracking. While the documents reveal 79 such cases on or after Sept. 12, 2001, they do not specify how many of the applications were made during Christie's tenure. Christie served as U.S. attorney from Jan. 17, 2002 through November 2008. The new revelations about the cell phone tracking program under Christie is yet another example of the warrantless spying programs authorized under the Bush administration. Previous programs approved without a court order or warrant have included the secret program to monitor radiation levels at over 100 Muslim sites and the National Security Agency spying program on the phone and e-mail communications of thousands of people inside the U.S.

RADICAL RIGHT -- REP. SHIMKUS SAYS CAPPING CO2 IS A GREATER 'ASSAULT ON DEMOCRACY' THAN 9/11: Yesterday, Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL) described President Obama's energy plan as "the largest assault on democracy and freedom in this country that I've ever experienced." Speaking at a hearing for the Waxman-Markey Clean Energy and Security Act -- which if passed, will introduce stricter regulations on greenhouse gas emissions in order to build a clean energy economy -- Shimkus made his intense fear of the legislation clear, saying, "I've lived through some tough times in Congress -- impeachment, two wars, terrorist attacks. I fear this more than all of the above activities that have happened." Shimkus's comments, however, are not the first nonsensical remarks he has made about environmental policy. Earlier this year, the congressman asserted that there is no need for a cap-and-trade system to limit CO2 emissions both because CO2 is "plant food" and because carbon emissions were much lower "in the age of the dinosaurs," therefore yielding a "theological debate that this is a carbon-starved planet, not too much carbon." He has also claimed that global warming is not an issue since "the earth will end only when God declares its time to be over."

In the debate over whether to release the Office of Legal Counsel torture memos, President Obama faced "one of the sharpest policy divides of his young administration." On one side was Obama's top counterterrorism adviser and CIA director Leon Panetta; on the other was Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Michael Mullen, White House counsel Gregory Craig, Attorney General Eric Holder, and DNI Dennis Blair.

Since President Obama indicated that he would be open to an investigation into the Bush administration's authorization of torture, pressure has mounted for a full inquiry. However, the White House and Democratic leadership in the Senate signaled yesterday that "they would block for now any effort" to establish an independent inquiry into the matter.

Last night, the Obama administration agreed to "release dozens of photographs depicting alleged abuses" at U.S. facilities in Iraq and Afghanistan under the Bush administration. This marks the first time photos from prisons other than Abu Ghraib will be made public. A "substantial number" of photographs are set to be released by May 28.

According to a "previously undisclosed Iraqi government tally" obtained by the Associated Press, at least "87,215 Iraqis have been killed in violence since 2005." Yesterday, at least "80 people died and 120 others were injured" in three suicide bombings in Iraq.

Congressional Democrats are preparing to "deliver a big gift to President Obama on his 100th day in office: a fiscal 2010 budget resolution that makes room for his top domestic policy priorities." Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said that "budget negotiators could complete work on a final plan by Monday, clearing a path for House and Senate passage by the middle of next week."

In late 2005, then-attorney general Alberto Gonzales told then-CIA director Porter Goss "to hold off on briefing lawmakers about the conversation" between Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA) and an Israeli intelligence official. "One reason Mr. Gonzales intervened...was to protect Ms. Harman because they saw her as a valuable administration ally in urging The New York Times not to publish" its 2005 article about warrantless wiretapping.

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Michael Mullen said in an interview to be broadcast today that he is "extremely concerned" about the Taliban moving closer to Pakistan's capital of Islamabad. "We're certainly moving closer to the tipping point" where Pakistan could be overtaken by Islamic extremists, he said. Mullen added that he feels "events continue to move in the wrong direction" in both Pakistan and Afghanistan.

"The Obama administration is preparing to admit into the United States as many as seven Chinese Muslims who have been imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay in the first release of any of the detainees into this country." But the Homeland Security Department has already "registered concerns about the plan."

And finally: Dick Cheney and Karl Rove are annoying Meghan McCain. Yesterday, McCain guest-hosted ABC's "The View" and offered some blunt talk for Rove and Cheney, two of the most prominent critics of the Obama administration. "It's very unprecedented for someone like Karl Rove or Dick Cheney to be criticizing the president," McCain said. "My big criticism is just, you had your eight years, go away."

The House Judiciary Committee approved legislation yesterday to extend federal hate crimes law to cover offenses based on sexual orientation.

CALIFORNIA: "California became the first state in the nation Thursday to mandate carbon-based reductions in transportation fuels."

MASSACHUSETTS: Landlords are seeking a ban on smoking in homes.

MISSOURI: Gov. Jay Nixon (D) issues "an executive order requiring state agencies under his direction to reduce their energy consumption by at least 2 percent a year for the next decade."

THINK PROGRESS: Interested in working for ThinkProgress?

WONK ROOM: The Weekly Standard compounds $3,100 GOP lie with a $3,900 lie.

YGLESIAS: The economic impact of educational achievement gaps.

ANDREW SULLIVAN: How Karl Rove sees the rule of law.


"Everything that was done in this [torture] program, as has been laid out and described before, are tactics that our own people go through in SERE training."
-- Vice President Cheney's daughter, Liz Cheney, 4/23/09, justifying the Bush administration's authorization of torture

"Individuals undergoing SERE training are obviously in a very different situation from detainees undergoing interrogation; SERE trainees know it is part of a training program, not a real-life interrogation regime."
-- Office of Legal Counsel memo authorizing torture, 5/30/05

This is only a summary. Click on the following URL/LINK to gain access to the complete articles.


Saundra Hummer
April 24th, 2009, 02:51 PM

Dick Cheney Is Full of Crap

I saw this article on Care2 and thought you'd like it as well.

Care2 is the largest and most trusted information and action site for
I think most of us have been wondering exactly who Dick Cheney thinks he is for the past 8 years, but Cheney's latest incarnation--as a citizen advocate for open government--is perhaps the most ironic position he's ever taken.

CQ Politics' Craig Crawford says it this way:

"If a vice president is worth no more than a warm bucket of piss, as one who occupied the office once called it, how much is a former vice president worth?

And yet Dick Cheney now presumes the power to make demands?

"I have now formally asked CIA to declassify those memos" showing the results of enhanced interrogation of suspected terrorists."
That's right, the most secretive man who ever served the U.S. government has requested that the CIA declassify torture memos that demonstrate that his torture program yielded results. As a private citizen no less. Come to think of it, I'd like to see the CIA memos about Elvis and Joe Stummer. Do any of you have memo requests for the CIA? I'm SURE the CIA has nothing better to do.

Sorry for getting sidetracked there.

I wonder if Cheney thinks being able to show that his torture program yielded results will be a good defense when he faces a Justice Department investigation? No matter how many times Cheney claims that waterboarding Khalid Sheikh Mohammed 183 times was a "success," it's clear even to subhumans that it's anything BUT an endorsement for torture. In fact, I'd say it's more a predicter of Cheney's final destination--a place that's incredibly hot and not in the Paris Hilton sense of the word.

As one intelligence expert quoted in the New York Daily News put it: "Cheney is full of crap."

Read more: politics

quick pollvote now! thanks for voting! Should Cheney be prosecuted for human rights violations?

no! leaning no leaning yes yes! 4%no! 1%leaning no 5%leaning yes 90%yes! 1590 votes see results take this poll

Helen T. says
Apr 24, 2009 8:34 AM Cheney is so evil that the guy he shot in the face apologized for getting in the way! That should tell you something.

Linda T. says
Apr 24, 2009 8:29 AM Dick-Head should be put in prison for life.

Sharen B. says
Apr 24, 2009 7:22 AM The world will be a better place, if Bush and buddies were tried. I hate to think Cheney has power NOW, still after the fact. He is the scum, the lowest. I know he knows we all think that. I can only hope for a slow, guilty death for all in this administration. May their minds go crazy from all the hate they feel. And may they feel this till the end.

George W. says
Apr 24, 2009 5:48 AM People forget his part under Nixon.He Had alot of years to get His Ducks in a row.And his laws work.This whole admis was working to get Elected which was wrong in the First Place,So we got what the People did not elect.TROUBLE.911 lets redue the Investigation.Like Why the Feds did the CleanUps at the Towers & the Pentagon

Ellen M. says
Apr 24, 2009 5:33 AM He is one of the reasons Americans are loathed in Europe.
He should and must be taken and tried for war crimes..

mary c. says
Apr 24, 2009 4:56 AM Doug C. argues that Cheney was just trying to save Americans. How effective was Cheney in saving the 3000 + that died on 9/11 or the 4000+ service people who died in the needless, unwise Iraq war that he and his buddies incompetently mismanaged?

I am willing to give a pass for enhanced interrogation in the days immediately following 9/11. However, torture did not end there as we continued to send suspects out to other countries to be tortured. Abu Gehrab was instigated by higher ups not the poor slobs that went to jail.

I want to see a serious investigation into how we were deceived into the Iraq war by Cheney et al. The torture issue is a distraction from the more serious matter of a country being lied into an unnecessary war that has cost so many lives and billions of dollars.

Then we have the injustice at Justice that Karl Rove perpetrated and the other abuses of power by the Bush administration. Where were the administration regulators while our financial system was running amok creating the worst recession since the depression???

So many investigations to do so little time. It is not about retribution. It is about the attack on our government by the Bushies. Their misgovernance has led us into our current mess of two ongoing wars, national insolvency and a host of unresolved problems.

Apr 24, 2009 4:50 AM Judging from what I read of some previous contributers, turture seems to be alright with them, and excuse all them that is guilty, including the illegal war that killed innocents, I would call it a war crime, but then I am from Germany, and know about Nuremberg. Those good people who know turture is wrong, are true Americans, and thank God for them standing up, and wanting their country back, those poor soldiers who died in the second war fought against all that which some Americans now claim is quite allright, you are shaming their lives their sacrifice, I hate you for that, for I was happy, always, for America to be a beacon of light to the world. If fear can motivate you to that extend, than I am glad you weren't helping Hitler, for he surely would have won the war.

Tracy Viselli says
Apr 23, 2009 8:24 PM Victoria S. I don't necessarily think of Paris Hilton as hot but she is kind of famous for making it one of the most over-used words in the English language....;-)

Evelyn S. says
Apr 23, 2009 7:39 PM Always amazes me that wing nuts frequent care2. Isn't that an oxymoron???? Or do they just come here to spew their BS around?
Pretty sad!!!

Catarina W. says
Apr 23, 2009 7:08 PM Well, well, well, look at the mob mentality here wooooohoooo, you progressives sure talk a good game haha ~ Actually, that's all you do is yap. No dialog, just yap.

posted by: Tracy Viselli 2 days ago



Saundra Hummer
April 24th, 2009, 11:07 PM
* * * * *

April 24, 2009
Torture, handshakes, and Pulitzers, oh my!

This Week's Top Story:

Apparently, torture is friggin' hilarious to media conservativesFor most rational human beings, even the notion of torture is bone-chilling. Media conservatives, on the other hand, apparently find it hilarious. Following President Obama's release of four previously classified Justice Department memos that had authorized the use of harsh interrogation techniques on detainees -- including "stress positions," "cramped confinement," "sleep deprivation," and "the waterboard" -- numerous conservatives in the media have downplayed, mocked, and jeered the notion that those practices constitute torture. Hard to believe? Here are just a few of the many examples:

Conservative leader and radio host Rush Limbaugh asserted, "If you look at what we are calling torture, you have to laugh," said that "if somebody can be water-tortured six times a day, then it isn't torture," and claimed that "appeasers" have "water[ed] down" definition of torture like "NOW gang" did with definition of domestic violence.

Radio host G. Gordon Liddy compared the proposed technique of placing a detainee who "appears to have a fear of insects" in "a cramped confinement box with an insect" to his appearance on a game show, stating, "I went through worse on Fear Factor."

Fox News contributor Mike Huckabee mocked the same technique: "Look, I've been in some hotels where there were more bugs than these guys faced." Huckabee went on to state that under the Obama administration, "We're going to talk to them, we're going to have a nice conversation, we're going to invite them down for some tea and crumpets." Fox & Friends co-host Gretchen Carlson replied, "That usually works with your kids, too, right? When they're in trouble for something, they just tell you everything." To which her co-host Steve Doocy joked, "Mr. Moussaoui, it's time for you over in the time-out chair."

To buttress his support of torture, Fox News' resident conspiracy-theorist-in-chief Glenn Beck aired a clip from Fox's 24.

When they weren't bowled over with laughter, many media conservatives were serving up the dubious claim that harsh interrogation techniques used on Khalid Shaikh Mohammed "stopped an attack on the Library Tower in Los Angeles." The claim conflicts with the chronology of events put forth on multiple occasions by the Bush administration. Indeed, the Bush administration said that the Library Tower attack was thwarted in February 2002 -- more than a year before Mohammed was captured in March 2003. Facts be damned, Fox News and others pressed forward with the story repeatedly. Typifying the use of this story, Sean Hannity claimed this week that enhanced interrogation techniques "saved an American city, Los Angeles."

The hysterical nature of coverage surrounding the torture issue by conservatives didn't reach everyone in the media. This week, Fox News' Shepard Smith stood out among his colleagues at the conservative news network when he said of torture, "We are staring into an abyss and it's staring back at us, and we don't do it. We are America."

Other Major Stories This Week:

I'm sorry "diplomacy" isn't in our vocabulary
(as well as "consistency" and "truth")This week, media conservatives went into a frenzy over Obama's handshake with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez during the Summit of the Americas on April 17. For example, Fox News contributor Newt Gingrich asked of the handshake, "[W]hat signal does it send to other dictators?" adding that "it sends a very sad signal about human rights around the world." Not to be outdone, a Fox News military analyst said Obama and Chavez were "fist bumping and making lovey dovey," and CNBC's Larry Kudlow opined about Obama and Chavez's "Boyz N The Hood handshake."

Numerous conservative media figures claimed that Obama's actions at the Americas summit showed "weakness." If that wasn't enough, some dived off the deep end altogether. Limbaugh asked, "Do you realize that Obama and Chavez have more in common than they do not?" while Hannity wondered aloud whether Obama "even likes" America, since he "has so completely condemned his own country." And Hannity was hardly alone in his ridiculous characterization that Obama was "palling around" with Chavez.

Interestingly enough, a Media Matters search of the Nexis database found no examples in 2002 of Fox News personalities criticizing President Bush's handshake with Uzbekistani President Islam Karimov, which took place during a White House photo op in March of that year. According to a State Department report issued prior to that photo op, Karimov was "chosen president in a 1991 election that most observers considered neither free nor fair," "was elected to a second term in January 2000 against token opposition with 92.5 percent of the vote under conditions that were neither free nor fair," and his "[g]overnment's human rights record remained very poor."

Indeed, according to the report, Uzbekistan's "security forces committed a number of killings of prisoners in custody" and "routinely tortured, beat, and otherwise mistreated detainees to obtain confessions."

Fox front man Bill O'Reilly was beside himself over the handshake, indignantly claiming that former President Richard Nixon never met with Chinese leader Mao Zedong. Perhaps O'Reilly would benefit from a refresher in Political History 101, because it's a well-established fact that Nixon met with Mao in 1972, a point Keith Olbermann drove home in naming O'Reilly "Worst Person" on Thursday for his historically challenged comment.

Pay no attention to the Pulitzer behind the curtainA year ago this week, The New York Times published an explosive story by investigative reporter David Barstow detailing the hidden ties between numerous media military analysts, the Pentagon, and defense contractors. Media Matters subsequently released an exhaustive report that found that between January 1, 2002, and May 13, 2008, the analysts named in the Times report appeared or were quoted more than 4,500 times by news outlets, including more than 600 appearances by retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey alone on NBC, MSNBC, and CNBC.

In a follow-up article published last November, Barstow focused on McCaffrey's ties to contractors and appearances on the various NBC channels. NBC News president Steve Capus -- the same Steve Capus who extolled the virtues of "responsibility," "trust," and "doing what's right" in the wake of the Imus scandal -- responded by contending McCaffrey need not follow NBC's conflict-of-interest rules because he's a "consultant."

So, when news broke this week that The New York Times had won five Pulitzers, one going to Barstow for the military media analysts story, which award do you think NBC and MSNBC went out of its way to avoid noting in reports on the Times' success? Bingo ... Barstow's honor.

On the April 20 edition of NBC's Nightly News, reporting on the awarding of the Pulitzers earlier that day, anchor Brian Williams stated that "The New York Times led the way with five, including awards for breaking news and international reporting." But Williams did not note that Barstow was awarded a Pulitzer or the story for which he was awarded the honor.

MSNBC didn't fare much better, airing numerous reports on the Times' honors -- in some cases describing what the individual Pulitzers were awarded for -- but repeatedly failing to single out Barstow's success.

Media Matters has repeatedly documented the unwillingness of the major broadcast networks, including NBC, to report on Barstow's April 20, 2008, Times article. Moreover, NBC joined ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC in reportedly declining to participate in a segment based on Barstow's article that aired on the April 24, 2008, edition of PBS' NewsHour.

Blame Obama for bears, credit tea parties for bullsFor weeks, it's been the same story over at Fox News: When the stock market declines, regardless of what the cause or causes may be, blame Obama. So, with the market rebounding over the past six weeks and the Dow up 24 percent, you'd think that Obama would get the credit. After all, if his actions day-to-day can cause a decline, the converse must also be true, that his actions day-to-day can make the market rebound. Well, we all know what happens when we make assumptions, especially about Fox News.

Last weekend on Fox News' Bulls & Bears, host Brenda Buttner led a discussion on the market's rise with an on-screen caption describing the segment's topic as "Stocks rally as 'tea parties' catch fire; coincidence?" In a post to his Twitter profile, Fox News' Eric Bolling described criticism from Media Matters over the segment as "Liberal blogs got their panties in a wad over our Bulls and Bears show." Way to stay classy, Bolling.

Be sure to visit FinancialMediaMatters.org for the latest on those who report on the financial industry as well as those who report on labor, business, economic, and other fiscal matters.

This Week's Media Columns
This week, Media Matters Senior Fellow Jamison Foser takes a look at gaps in the Right's "banana republic" rhetoric.

Do you Facebook or Twitter?
If you use the social networking site Facebook, be sure to join the official Media Matters page and those of our Senior Fellows Eric Boehlert, Jamison Foser, and Karl Frisch as well. You can also follow Media Matters, Boehlert, and Frisch on Twitter!

Week in Review VideoThis weekly wrap-up was compiled by Karl Frisch, a Senior Fellow at Media Matters. Frisch also contributes to County Fair, a media blog featuring links to progressive media criticism from around the Web as well as original commentary. You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook or sign up to receive his regular weekly columns by email.

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* * *

Saundra Hummer
April 25th, 2009, 02:02 AM

^ ^ ^ ^ ^

Moscow warning saves Iranian warplanes

Published: April 24, 2009 at 1:43 PM
JERUSALEM, April 24 (UPI) -- Iran moved 140 fighter planes from an air base in April after being told by Moscow that Israel was set to destroy them, military sources say.

The Russian warning prompted Iran to relocate the warplanes to remote bases and cancel an army air show planned for the next day, the military intelligence Web site DEBKAfile reported Friday.

The Israeli-based Web site says it learned from Iranian and intelligence sources that Tehran intended to hold its biggest air show ever on April 18 to let the world know that it was capable of fighting off an Israeli attack on its nuclear facilities.

Instead, only four aircraft flew over the base. Iranian media reported that the big show had to be canceled because of inclement weather.

DEBKAfile said Moscow's spy satellites and intelligence sources warned Tehran in time to save the planes.

Had the raid taken place, Iran would have lost the bulk of its air force, leaving its nuclear sites without aerial defense, the report said.

© 2009 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Related Searches
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Saundra Hummer
April 26th, 2009, 05:30 PM
* * *

The New York Times

The Banality of Bush White House Evil

Op-Ed Columnist
April 26, 2009

WE don’t like our evil to be banal. Ten years after Columbine, it only now may be sinking in that the psychopathic killers were not jock-hating dorks from a “Trench Coat Mafia,” or, as ABC News maintained at the time, “part of a dark, underground national phenomenon known as the Gothic movement.” In the new best seller “Columbine,” the journalist Dave Cullen reaffirms that Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris were instead ordinary American teenagers who worked at the local pizza joint, loved their parents and were popular among their classmates.

On Tuesday, it will be five years since Americans first confronted the photographs from Abu Ghraib on “60 Minutes II.” Here, too, we want to cling to myths that quarantine the evil. If our country committed torture, surely it did so to prevent Armageddon, in a patriotic ticking-time-bomb scenario out of “24.” If anyone deserves blame, it was only those identified by President Bush as “a few American troops who dishonored our country and disregarded our values”: promiscuous, sinister-looking lowlifes like Lynddie England, Charles Graner and the other grunts who were held accountable while the top command got a pass.

We’ve learned much, much more about America and torture in the past five years. But as Mark Danner recently wrote in The New York Review of Books, for all the revelations, one essential fact remains unchanged: “By no later than the summer of 2004, the American people had before them the basic narrative of how the elected and appointed officials of their government decided to torture prisoners and how they went about it.” When the Obama administration said it declassified four new torture memos 10 days ago in part because their contents were already largely public, it was right.

Yet we still shrink from the hardest truths and the bigger picture: that torture was a premeditated policy approved at our government’s highest levels; that it was carried out in scenarios that had no resemblance to “24”; that psychologists and physicians were enlisted as collaborators in inflicting pain; and that, in the assessment of reliable sources like the F.B.I. director Robert Mueller, it did not help disrupt any terrorist attacks.

The newly released Justice Department memos, like those before them, were not written by barely schooled misfits like England and Graner. John Yoo, Steven Bradbury and Jay Bybee graduated from the likes of Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Michigan and Brigham Young. They have passed through white-shoe law firms like Covington & Burling, and Sidley Austin.

Judge Bybee’s résumé tells us that he has four children and is both a Cubmaster for the Boy Scouts and a youth baseball and basketball coach. He currently occupies a tenured seat on the United States Court of Appeals. As an assistant attorney general, he was the author of the Aug. 1, 2002, memo endorsing in lengthy, prurient detail interrogation “techniques” like “facial slap (insult slap)” and “insects placed in a confinement box.”

He proposed using 10 such techniques “in some sort of escalating fashion, culminating with the waterboard, though not necessarily ending with this technique.” Waterboarding, the near-drowning favored by Pol Pot and the Spanish Inquisition, was prosecuted by the United States in war-crimes trials after World War II. But Bybee concluded that it “does not, in our view, inflict ‘severe pain or suffering.’ ”

Still, it’s not Bybee’s perverted lawyering and pornographic amorality that make his memo worthy of special attention. It merits a closer look because it actually does add something new — and, even after all we’ve heard, something shocking — to the five-year-old torture narrative. When placed in full context, it’s the kind of smoking gun that might free us from the myths and denial that prevent us from reckoning with this ugly chapter in our history.

Bybee’s memo was aimed at one particular detainee, Abu Zubaydah, who had been captured some four months earlier, in late March 2002. Zubaydah is portrayed in the memo (as he was publicly by Bush after his capture) as one of the top men in Al Qaeda. But by August this had been proven false. As Ron Suskind reported in his book “The One Percent Doctrine,” Zubaydah was identified soon after his capture as a logistics guy, who, in the words of the F.B.I.’s top-ranking Qaeda analyst at the time, Dan Coleman, served as the terrorist group’s flight booker and “greeter,” like “Joe Louis in the lobby of Caesar’s Palace.” Zubaydah “knew very little about real operations, or strategy.” He showed clinical symptoms of schizophrenia.

By the time Bybee wrote his memo, Zubaydah had been questioned by the F.B.I. and C.I.A. for months and had given what limited information he had. His most valuable contribution was to finger Khalid Shaikh Mohammed as the 9/11 mastermind. But, as Jane Mayer wrote in her book “The Dark Side,” even that contribution may have been old news: according to the 9/11 commission, the C.I.A. had already learned about Mohammed during the summer of 2001. In any event, as one of Zubaydah’s own F.B.I. questioners, Ali Soufan, wrote in a Times Op-Ed article last Thursday, traditional interrogation methods had worked. Yet Bybee’s memo purported that an “increased pressure phase” was required to force Zubaydah to talk.

As soon as Bybee gave the green light, torture followed: Zubaydah was waterboarded at least 83 times in August 2002, according to another of the newly released memos. Unsurprisingly, it appears that no significant intelligence was gained by torturing this mentally ill Qaeda functionary. So why the overkill? Bybee’s memo invoked a ticking time bomb: “There is currently a level of ‘chatter’ equal to that which preceded the September 11 attacks.”

We don’t know if there was such unusual “chatter” then, but it’s unlikely Zubaydah could have added information if there were. Perhaps some new facts may yet emerge if Dick Cheney succeeds in his unexpected and welcome crusade to declassify documents that he says will exonerate administration interrogation policies. Meanwhile, we do have evidence for an alternative explanation of what motivated Bybee to write his memo that August, thanks to the comprehensive Senate Armed Services Committee report on detainees released last week.

The report found that Maj. Paul Burney, a United States Army psychiatrist assigned to interrogations in Guantánamo Bay that summer of 2002, told Army investigators of another White House imperative: “A large part of the time we were focused on trying to establish a link between Al Qaeda and Iraq and we were not being successful.” As higher-ups got more “frustrated” at the inability to prove this connection, the major said, “there was more and more pressure to resort to measures” that might produce that intelligence.

In other words, the ticking time bomb was not another potential Qaeda attack on America but the Bush administration’s ticking timetable for selling a war in Iraq; it wanted to pressure Congress to pass a war resolution before the 2002 midterm elections. Bybee’s memo was written the week after the then-secret (and subsequently leaked) “Downing Street memo,” in which the head of British intelligence informed Tony Blair that the Bush White House was so determined to go to war in Iraq that “the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.” A month after Bybee’s memo, on Sept. 8, 2002, Cheney would make his infamous appearance on “Meet the Press,” hyping both Saddam’s W.M.D.s and the “number of contacts over the years” between Al Qaeda and Iraq. If only 9/11 could somehow be pinned on Iraq, the case for war would be a slamdunk.

But there were no links between 9/11 and Iraq, and the White House knew it. Torture may have been the last hope for coercing such bogus “intelligence” from detainees who would be tempted to say anything to stop the waterboarding.

Last week Bush-Cheney defenders, true to form, dismissed the Senate Armed Services Committee report as “partisan.” But as the committee chairman, Carl Levin, told me, the report received unanimous support from its members — John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman included.

Levin also emphasized the report’s accounts of military lawyers who dissented from White House doctrine — only to be disregarded. The Bush administration was “driven,” Levin said. By what? “They’d say it was to get more information. But they were desperate to find a link between Al Qaeda and Iraq.”

Five years after the Abu Ghraib revelations, we must acknowledge that our government methodically authorized torture and lied about it. But we also must contemplate the possibility that it did so not just out of a sincere, if criminally misguided, desire to “protect” us but also to promote an unnecessary and catastrophic war. Instead of saving us from “another 9/11,” torture was a tool in the campaign to falsify and exploit 9/11 so that fearful Americans would be bamboozled into a mission that had nothing to do with Al Qaeda. The lying about Iraq remains the original sin from which flows much of the Bush White House’s illegality.

Levin suggests — and I agree — that as additional fact-finding plays out, it’s time for the Justice Department to enlist a panel of two or three apolitical outsiders, perhaps retired federal judges, “to review the mass of material” we already have. The fundamental truth is there, as it long has been. The panel can recommend a legal path that will insure accountability for this wholesale betrayal of American values.

President Obama can talk all he wants about not looking back, but this grotesque past is bigger than even he is. It won’t vanish into a memory hole any more than Andersonville, World War II internment camps or My Lai. The White House, Congress and politicians of both parties should get out of the way. We don’t need another commission. We don’t need any Capitol Hill witch hunts. What we must have are fair trials that at long last uphold and reclaim our nation’s commitment to the rule of law.

Copyright 2009 The New York Times Company

Past Coverage
Obama Resisting Push for Interrogation Panel (April 24, 2009)
Gates Voices Concerns About Release of Interrogation Memos (April 24, 2009)
Any Indictment of Interrogation Policy Makers Would Face Several Hurdles (April 23, 2009)

Interrogations' Effectiveness May Prove Elusive (April 23, 2009)
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Saundra Hummer
April 26th, 2009, 06:18 PM
Murder He Wrote:
Why Aren't Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld Being Prosecuted?

Submitted by Anonymous
Sun, 04/26/2009 - 7:07am.
Mark Karlin

If you're a mafia kingpin and you authorize a "hit," the feds will nail you for murder if they can prove the case.

As I have detailed in two recent BuzzFlash editor blog entries, the proof that Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld authorized, promoted and ordered actions that led to the murder and deaths of perhaps hundreds of detainees and merely "assumed bad guys" -- not to mention rapes and other brutality -- is overwhelming. The authors of legal memos, whose writers include Bush-appointed Federal Judge Jay Bybee, should certainly be disbarred.

But that doesn't begin to address the underlying crimes that include the unnecesary and horrifying deaths of anyone that Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld -- and Condoleezza Rice -- believed was in the way of their demonic "War on Terrorism" (which for Cheney and Rumsfeld -- and others -- was really a war for natural resources).

Details abound in the public record -- as we have mentioned -- of the homicidal acts that led to the deaths and disappearances of countless of individuals the Bush Gulag apparatus deemed "suspicious." Some of the bodies have been accounted for; some of the alleged "enemies" just disappeared -- as was the case in Chile and Argentina during the infamous reign of terror in those countries.

As I noted:

It's not considered politically correct -- even among the high-profile progressive political blogs that are now quoted by the D.C. Beltway corporate media -- to accuse the Bush Administration of murder and sadism. It's "the wave" now to urge an investigation of the torture memos and potential prosecution, but the reality that torture resulted in the murders of an untold number of detainees in the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld Gulag is not discussed much.

That's why I wrote a BuzzFlash Editor's Blog yesterday, "The Legal Case Against Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Et Al., Is Murder One, Not Just War Crimes." Yet, as much as I agree that the torture memo authors should be tried (and Judge Bybee impeached), the MSM and progressive Internet's focus on the memos discounts and dishonors the justice that is necessary for those perhaps hundreds of detainees -- many of them, if not most of them, innocent of any actual crimes -- who were murdered as a result of torture.
That's why it's not surprising to see the multi-billion dollar corporate media machine continue to intentionally and ineptly still debate whether torture took place, as in this exchange between NBC's latest insipid enabler of the status quo on "Meet the Press" and King Abdullah II of Jordan:

DAVID GREGORY: 'Do you think the United States engaged in torture?'

KING ABDULLAH: 'Well, from what we've seen and what we've heard, ... there are enough accounts to ... show that that is the case. But there is still a major battle out there. ... [A]nd I think this is what President Obama is trying to do, is make sure that the legal system that America is known for [its] transparent to make sure that illegal activity-'

DAVID GREGORY: 'That's an important point. You actually do believe that the United States engaged in torture.'

KING ABDULLAH: 'What I see on the press ... shows that there were illegal ways of dealing with detainees.'

Some of the Bush era memos legalizing torture, just recently released by the Obama Administration, are an important corroboration of what we already knew, just as we knew that people were being murdered under the Pentagon and CIA torture guidelines distributed to commanding officers of known and secret detention sites around the world.

The evidence of criminal abuse, including rape and murder, that was authorized as a general torture and abuse policy directly from the White House on down is abundant. It only need be assembled as legally admissible proof of guilt in an American court of law or International War Crime tribunal.

As just one of literally hundreds -- perhaps thousands of examples -- a Salon article in 2004 noted a report by the indefatigable "last of his kind" investigative journalist, Seymour Hersh:

Debating about it, ummm ... Some of the worst things that happened you don't know about, okay? Videos, um, there are women there. Some of you may have read that they were passing letters out, communications out to their men. This is at Abu Ghraib ... The women were passing messages out saying 'Please come and kill me, because of what's happened' and basically what happened is that those women who were arrested with young boys, children in cases that have been recorded. The boys were sodomized with the cameras rolling. And the worst above all of that is the soundtrack of the boys shrieking that your government has. They are in total terror. It's going to come out."

"It's impossible to say to yourself how did we get there? Who are we? Who are these people that sent us there? When I did My Lai I was very troubled like anybody in his right mind would be about what happened. I ended up in something I wrote saying in the end I said that the people who did the killing were as much victims as the people they killed because of the scars they had, I can tell you some of the personal stories by some of the people who were in these units witnessed this. I can also tell you written complaints were made to the highest officers and so we're dealing with a enormous massive amount of criminal wrongdoing that was covered up at the highest command out there and higher, and we have to get to it and we will.
How much evidence has been destroyed -- the CIA "disappeared" the torture tapes -- we don't know, but clearly the shredders and "burn bags" were kept busy in the last days of the Bush Administration. Still, the Obama WH is ordering more devastating detainee abuse photos released in the near future.

But all of these are just small pieces in the very large puzzle of a massive White House orchestrated sanctioning of War Crimes, including rape and murder.

It is not unexpected that the corporate mainstream media would attempt to minimize the criminal behavior of the Bush Administration, because D.C. insiders -- the villagers -- and the corporate oligarchy protects its own.

But I am a bit mystified why the progressive blogs and most liberal and civil liberties websites are more caught up with fingering the authors of the memos than the masterminds of the War Crimes policies: Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rice (not to mention Wolfowitz, Feith, etc.).

As has been pointed out by others, after WW II some Japanese tried for War Crimes were hanged for waterboarding allied prisoners.

The torture unto death, rape, sexual violations, and abuse that violated the Geneva Conventions was rampant in the Bush Gulag.

The most pressing issue of justice is not who wrote the enabling torture (murder and rape) memos -- although the attorneys should be held accountable -- but who should be tried for inititiating and promoting War Crimes.

Murder is not something to split hairs about on Sunday morning talk shows.

It belongs in a courtroom so that justice is rendered, the perpertrators jailed, and the Constitution preserved.


Our leaders have become what we revolted against in 1812

Submitted by Chabuka on Sun, 04/26/2009 - 12:35pm.and just as in 1812-1814 we have the "Tories" on one side, the "Whigs" on the other... "Broadly defined, The Tories beleived in the divine right of Kings to rule - that they were ordained by God. Whigs believed that the King was there at the request and goodwill of the ruling families of the country so could only continue to rule at their approval." Any way you slice it a few (hopefully a minority) have come to believe in the divine rights of the "ruling class" (mostly funded by (campaign funds) by the huge corporations and Wall Street) not "the people"..and there's the danger..we have given away our freedoms (most only have guns so they can keep their guns, don't care about any other civil rights) our honor doesn't appear to exist any more either...(torture!!)

The only good thing about

Submitted by Paul Revere on Sun, 04/26/2009 - 12:01pm. The only good thing about the latest torture revelations is that maybe more Americans will wake up and realize the American government was taken over in a coup de' tat by the criminals a long time ago. Now the crime family that we call congress is being aided and abetted in the most egregious, treason by the MSM whores and presstitutes as they are attempting to obfuscate the torture issue by debate. The only rational debate is when and how to start prosecuting the criminals that try to deflect their heinous crimes by using the whores that want to debate what shouldn't be debateable. Torture is immoral, illegal,doesn't work, and is against the Geneva Conventions and everything America stands for.

Here comes the whitewashing . . . .
Submitted by kathy2 on Sun,
04/26/2009 - 11:49am. A current argument among the public and pundits against release of the torture videos is that their release would spawn ME outrage, further eroding security. As if the atrocities Hersch brought up weren't already communicated among the Iraqi and ME populations. Sometimes it's the guilty conscience that denies and fights truth the most aggressively. Excuse me, first and foremost, it's the culpable and then the denial of the supporters, who refuse to acknowledge their government's capacity for the unspeakable. It would surprise me if the videos Hersch referred to were not destroyed, much less ever accessible to the public. His 2004 assertions were surely one of the major catalysts in the ACLU demanding videos and photographic evidence. I hope somehow the truth emerges to the public consciousness without an excessive amount of bleaching.
Bush/Cheney unmentioned crime
Submitted by paganbaby on Sun, 04/26/2009 - 11:45am.The Bush/Cheney administration was informed/warned about terrorist/AlQaeda efforts to attack US facilities in Dec. 2000 by the Clinton team meeting with the Bush/Cheney transition team. In Jan./Feb. of 2001 at the first of the new cabinet meetings there were discussions of removing Saddam Hussein from power. Cheney was named as the head of the a Terrorist Task Force and proceeded to never call any meetings in the spring/summer of 2001. CIA director Tenet tried to get Rice to be concerned about terrorist rumblings in the summer of 2001. August 2008 Bush, at a PDB, was warned about Al Qaeda desire to attack US. Bush's reaction to the aforementioned--"OK, you've covered your ass"(with your report). There were efforts time and time again to get the Bush/Cheney administration to be concerned about the known terrorist events (Trade Tower incident 1993, Cole bombing) as being indicators of a continuing effort to attack the US. The response of the Bush/Cheney administration? No response! Why? Because they didn't believe anything presented by the Clinton transition team? Because they didn't trust reports by the CIA? Because they are so all knowing, that if they didn't initiate the activity, it wasn't worth pursuing? I don't know the answer to the question. But I do think it is worth us trying to get the answer the 9/11 commission wasn't willing to pursue. The Bush/Cheney answer of "no one could have expected such an event" as the 9/11 attack doesn't cut it in light of what we now know about the information bombarding the Bush/Cheney presidency. In addition to the above, we now know the Bush/Cheney minions were also ignoring the law, the Constitution, and international treaties/obligations in an effort to torture to get a confession of a Al Qaeda-Hussien connection. And the suggested response to all of this is to forget it all? Not the way I see it. We need more investigations. We need investigations of just about every major activity of the Bush/Cheney disaster. We need to prove to the American people that the guiding principles of the conservative/GOP/fundamentalist movement is a formula for destruction of a modern, technological, 21st century society. In fact, the destruction has already happened, now it's time to have everyone learn how it came to be.

Bring the S.O.B.s to justice
Submitted by ETS on Sun, 04/26/2009 - 11:39am.
I remember when Gerald Ford pardoned Richard Nixon, essentially absolving him of any and all Watergate wrong-doing in advance of any grand jury indictment, because, said Ford, it was time for the nation "to heal." That little act of mercy healed nothing.

I remember President Bill Clinton ignored all the blatant crimes committed by the Reagan administration in the name of stopping "communism" in Nicaragua. What did it get Clinton? A opera buffa impeachment for a blowjob in the Oval Office and Oliver North on the radio. Certainly healed me, didn't it you?

Now we have nearly irrefutable evidence that high crimes and misdemeanors, torture, were in fact committed under orders of highly placed officials in the Bush administration, Vice President Richard Cheney. Yet in the face of mounting prosecutable evidence the president dithers while Democratic Senate Majority Leader, Harry "Cap'n Milquetoast" Reid, plans strategies to delay and derail even a toothless "truth commission." To what f*cking end? So Ivy League-educated weasels, who came from "good" families and had terrific resumes before entering government service will never have to spend a day in one of the federal prison system's country club facilities. Utter nonsense!

How is letting fat-fingered John Yoo walk going to "heal" the country? Or his pal Steven Bradbury? Or Judge Jay Bybee?

If by "healing the nation" one means sending the signal to poor young black men and poor young white men and poor young Hispanic men that there is, indeed, two systems of justice in this country: one for well-connected and wealthy "whites" (Yoo, a Korean, like so many of his compatriots is accorded honorary W.A.S.P. status) who can commit heinous crimes, especially in the name of "national security," until someone on Wall Street loses a sh*tpot of money, and the other for the rest of us.

No wonder Americans are cynical about our system of justice. Johnny next door gets pulled over for his third DUI and gets sent to jail for 60 days, followed by years of probation and worthless, privatized rehab he must pay for out-of-pocket. Meanwhile Cheney, Yoo, Bradbury and Bybee wander round free to continue fomenting whatever nefarious schemes their black hearts desire.

You see the difference, in the eyes of what passes for jurisprudence in the United States these days, is that Johnny here is a drunk and a danger to himself and the community whenever he gets behind the wheel of a car. Dick Cheney, John Yoo, Steve Bradbury and Jay Bybee all are members of "good" families, went to the right schools, have great resumes and long years of "faithful" service to the country. Gee, can't we just give these poor guys a break?

Utter nonsense.

The New York Times' Frank Rich says it best in concluding his Saturday column:We don’t need another commission. We don’t need any Capitol Hill witch hunts. What we must have are fair trials that at long last uphold and reclaim our nation’s commitment to the rule of law.

More Than Torture
Submitted by lcompton on Sun, 04/26/2009 - 11:21am.Forget torture. What kind of country do we live in where our leaders are allowed to break the law and violate the Constitution with impunity? Torture is the lesser issue. The Republic can survive state-sponsored torture in wartime. The real issue here is whether the President and those he commands are above the law. Where does it say in the Constitution that laws passed by the Legislature can be ignored by the Executive? We’re talking felonies here: kidnapping, murder and torture. You can add tapping our phones, which is the same issue. All these were illegal, unconstitutional acts by a president who claimed virtually unlimited executive power in wartime and acted on it. All we have to remember is this: the law is the law. If we simply enforce the law, the Constitution will take care of itself.

Murder Schmurder They Wrote
Submitted by cagey on Sun, 04/26/2009 - 10:56am.
I tuned into CNN this morning long enough to hear John King question Diane Feinstein, Joe Lieberman, and Lindsey Graham (now there's some diversity)about the torture investigation. Feinstein said it would take between SIX TO EIGHT MONTHS to finish her investigation, and that Dick Cheney had sent her some papers showing how torture had worked to gain valuable information and blah blah. Lieberman said it was wrong of Obama to release the memo's, and Graham muttered something, but I had already stopped listening, and then turned it off. So we're going to see a long, drawn out, spin war which will probably eventually lead to a whitewash with a few wrist slaps. I just hope Obama has the guts (and I believe he does) to keep releasing information to the public, so that this story of MURDER, not just torture, will stay on the front burner. God help us if we don't punish these crimes. America will never be a beacon for freedom and justice. We will be just another corporate slave-labor camp in the global economy, empty of even sound and fury and signifying nothing. It is up to US, people, first as Americans, then as citizens of the world community to bring justice down on the murderers in our midst.

"rule of law" always favors one's "own" class
Submitted by rjf7r on Sun, 04/26/2009 - 10:49am.
Perhaps there is an ever simpler, more fundamental reason for the bi-partisan reluctance to do anything concrete to respond to very solid documentation of very high crimes: in spite of all our talk about "rule of law", we rarely apply the law with full force to our "own kind".

Just as we whites (speaking for myself) find it so much easier to arrest, prosecute, and punish those who are not our "own kind", and thus minorities disproportionately suffer the force of "the law", so too do our highest officials find it difficult to apply the law to their "own kind".

What we are seeing is indeed the "rule of law" as we actually practice it.

I said months ago
Submitted by lmjohnson on Sun, 04/26/2009 - 9:55am.
that the low-ranking enlisted people who were prosecuted (England, Graner) were scapegoats and that these people wouldn't have "just done this" unless they had been greenlighted by higher-ups. The rot of all this started at the top and needs to be prosecuted starting at the top. Like others have commented, I too grew up when we started our school week with the flag raising ceremony and the Pledge and the flag lowering at the end of the school week. That is precisely WHY I am so angry and disgusted with the spin on all of this. I'm a child of a WW II vet and his wife (both now deceased) and grew up believing that my country stood for justice and freedom and that we also stood for humanistic principles (not to be confused with religious principles). To see now that this is not what my government stands in is very disconcerting and disturbing. The bottom line is this: We are a principle member of the United Nations and we are also signatory (still are last I checked) of the Geneva Conventions. What our government did was to violate those laws. I believe our government MUST investigate, and if not willing to prosecute of their own volition, turn the information to the UN and the International Court and let them make the decision to try and adjudge these war criminals known as "The Bushies." If we fail to this, I will never believe my government again, nor trust it and I will become an aging anarchist instead of a pissed off flower child.

Childhood Training
Submitted by PacoC on Sun, 04/26/2009 - 8:40am. I recall that when I was in grade-school, along with my classmates I was subjected to daily training in patriotism. We said the pledge of allegiance and we sang the national anthem along with a variety of other patriotic songs. This is how we started our school day, every day for a long part of our formative years.

Maybe it is less true today than it was in the 1950's, but this daily training built some things into the very fiber of our being and among those things was a reverence for our country and for its president. It is hard for people to turn against this kind of childhood religious training.

I think this is at the root of why we hear demands for prosecution of the lawyers who were instrumental in bringing to the point of being a country that tortures, but we still shy away from calls to punish those who are actually most guilty in this matter. How can we punish someone who was president or vice president? Can you do that?

Of course matters were different in the case of punishing Clinton for a sexual matter; maybe our reticence to punish is tempered with partisanship. In the 1950's the president was a Republican after all.

Submitted by godistwaddle on Sun, 04/26/2009 - 8:36amWhen justice is done, Bush, Cheney, Wolfowitz, Powell, Rice, Feith, Perle, Rumsfeld AND about 300 members of congress who voted for Iraq will hang at Nuremberg. Well, it's a pleasant fantasy.

Fight Ignorance: Read BuzzFlash.com


Saundra Hummer
April 26th, 2009, 10:05 PM
:clown: :elephant: :clown:

For some fun photo's taken in New York City,
click on the following URL:


:clown: :elephant: :clown:

April 26th, 2009, 10:38 PM
:clown: :elephant: :clown:

For some fun photo's taken in New York City,
click on the following URL:


:clown: :elephant: :clown:


Saundra Hummer
April 26th, 2009, 10:55 PM

Aren't they though?

I miss things like that, especially being up here in the midst of all this nature.

People in the city pack up and head for the hills on their vacations, not me, I head for a city and all that it offers. I have the great out of doors all the time, give me some variety, visual, and tactile, then there's the food. It's an adventure I really enjoy. Like the country as well, enjoy our privacy and the quiet, but for a different kind of excitement, give me a big city and all of it's warts. Skip the violence, but those pictures are making me wish I could go there for just a few days.

Saundra Hummer
April 27th, 2009, 02:31 PM
^ ^ ^ ^ ^

Beware surfers: cyberspace is filling up
By Times Online.
Internet users face regular “brownouts” that will freeze their computers as capacity runs out in cyberspace, according to research to be published later this year.

Experts predict that consumer demand, already growing at 60 per cent a year, will start to exceed supply from as early as next year because of more people working online and the soaring popularity of bandwidth-hungry websites such as YouTube and services such as the BBC’s iPlayer.

It will initially lead to computers being disrupted and going offline for several minutes at a time. From 2012, however, PCs and laptops are likely to operate at a much reduced speed, rendering the internet an “unreliable toy”.

When Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the British scientist, wrote the code that transformed a private computer network into the world wide web in 1989, the internet appeared to be a limitless resource. However, a report being compiled by Nemertes Research, a respected American think-tank, will warn that the web has reached a critical point and that even the recession has failed to stave off impending problems.

“With more people working or looking for work from home, or using their PCs more for cheap entertainment, demand could double in 2009,” said Ted Ritter, a Nemertes analyst. “At best, we see the [economic] slowdown delaying the fractures for maybe a year.”

In America, telecoms companies are spending £40 billion a year upgrading cables and supercomputers to increase capacity, while in Britain proposals to replace copper cabling across part of the network with fibreoptic wires would cost at least £5 billion.

Yet sites such as YouTube, the video-sharing service launched in 2005, which has exploded in popularity, can throw the most ambitious plans into disarray.

The amount of traffic generated each month by YouTube is now equivalent to the amount of traffic generated across the entire internet in all of 2000.

The extent of its popularity is indicated by the 100 million people who have logged on to the site to see the talent show contestant Susan Boyle in the past three weeks.

Another so-called “net bomb” being studied by Nemertes is BBC iPlayer, which allows viewers to watch high-definition television on their computers. In February there were more than 35 million requests for shows and iPlayer now accounts for 5 per cent of all UK internet traffic.

Analysts express such traffic in exabytes – a quintillion (or a million trillion) bytes or units of computer data. One exabyte is equivalent to 50,000 years’ worth of DVD-quality data.

Monthly traffic across the internet is running at about eight exabytes. A recent study by the University of Minnesota estimated that traffic was growing by at least 60 per cent a year, although that did not take into account plans for greater internet access in China and India.

While the net itself will ultimately survive, Ritter said that waves of disruption would begin to emerge next year, when computers would jitter and freeze. This would be followed by “brownouts” – a combination of temporary freezing and computers being reduced to a slow speed.

Ritter’s report will warn that an unreliable internet is merely a toy. “For business purposes, such as delivering medical records between hospitals in real time, it’s useless,” he said.

“Today people know how home computers slow down when the kids get back from school and start playing games, but by 2012 that traffic jam could last all day long.”

Engineers are already preparing for the worst. While some are planning a lightning-fast parallel network called “the grid”, others are building “caches”, private computer stations where popular entertainments are stored on local PCs rather than sent through the global backbone.

Telephone companies want to recoup escalating costs by increasing prices for “net hogs” who use more than their share of capacity.

– By John Harlow

Additional reporting: Adam Lewitt

One Response to “Beware surfers: cyberspace is filling up”
Posted on 27 Apr 2009 at 12:32 pm by Phracktivist
Anyone with a clue about how computers work knows that this is a load of crap. This is another Y2K scare, plain and simple.

The internet isn’t “filling up”, it’s constantly expanding. Considering the arm and a leg that US ISPs charge for broadband access; they’re not going to go broke anytime soon from upgrading their infrastructure.

I repeat: THIS IS A Y2K SCARE.


Saundra Hummer
April 27th, 2009, 04:15 PM


The Boy Scout of Baghdad

David Corn
Sun April 26, 2009
7:18 PM PSTIn March 2003, Salam Adhoob, a prominent lawyer in the Iraqi city of Suwayrah, was glad to see US forces roll into his country. Iraqis, he felt, would be able "to rebuild our country again." But when he saw looters ransack Baghdad's National Museum on TV, he began to worry that the authorities could not protect his nation's public resources. In the ensuing months, he was horrified as corruption ran rampant amid the postinvasion chaos. So when he was asked, in 2004, to join the Commission on Public Integrity (cpi), an independent Iraqi government agency charged with investigating official corruption, Adhoob enthusiastically accepted. He was soon pursuing high-ranking officials—as well as, in some cases, American contractors—involved in bribery, kickback schemes, oil smuggling, procurement fraud, and other wrongdoing. Eventually he became the country's chief corruption investigator, overseeing 100 staffers who handled thousands of cases. "Now I could protect public money and help make the country work," he recalls.

"He was a Boy Scout," says James Mattil, a former chief of staff for the Office of Accountability and Transparency, a small unit in the US Embassy assisting the cpi. "He strictly enforced the law, regardless of whose toes he stepped on." An Iraqi minister, Adhoob recounts, once tried to buy him off by offering up jobs for his family. "I told him, 'I am in your office because I have a case. I just want you to allow me to do my work.'"

Today, two years after escaping Iraq amid death threats, the soft-spoken 45-year-old lives with his wife and their four children in a modest brick rambler (on loan from a local church) in a Washington suburb. Adhoob has no income. He'd landed a job as an Arabic instructor for the State Department, but was terminated after testifying on Capitol Hill that the US government has ignored the theft of at least $9 billion in US taxpayer dollars—some of it funneled to insurgents who killed American soldiers.

Adhoob cannot return to Iraq, where he would likely be killed. He feels betrayed by the US government, in whose promises he once placed such hope. His tale illustrates the tremendous difficulty of establishing the rule of law in Iraq—and the lack of commitment by the US to stamp out corruption.

Adhoob and his colleagues didn't lack for work. "For investigators at the fbi or Customs, a $2 million case is a significant case," says Kenneth McNamara, a former US Customs agent who worked with Adhoob. "For cpi, these were almost throwaway cases. They went after cases involving hundreds of millions, if not billions, of embezzled dollars." The administration of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a target of many of the cpi's probes, issued numerous orders obstructing the commission's investigations. In response, staffers held a one-day strike, and Adhoob led a demonstration in front of parliament. "I thought this was one of the best instances of democracy taking root," says Mattil. Adhoob and the cpi, McNamara says, were "the only shining light of honesty within the Iraqi government."

In the spring of 2007, the Maliki administration ordered the head of cpi, Judge Radhi al-Radhi, to fire Adhoob, according to Mattil, but Radhi refused. Worse, Adhoob and Radhi were receiving death threats. As McNamara notes, Adhoob was going after targets who "had their own militias. He was a marked man. There were late-night knocks on his door." Some evenings, Adhoob slept in his office rather than risk the trip home. At times, he even needed armed guards at his Green Zone apartment. "The Green Zone was the center of the corruption," he explains.

Adhoob's fears were well warranted. Thirty-two of the cpi's 200 employees had been killed. Adhoob's father-in-law, who had furtively ferried him about Baghdad, was murdered. And a few months after Maliki asked for Adhoob's dismissal, Mattil says, the US Embassy confirmed a report obtained by the cpi that a death squad had been organized to take care of the government's political enemies—including cpi officials.

Around this time, a group of American former law enforcement officers tasked with training cpi investigators asked the head of the US Embassy's accountability office, Art Brennan, to protect Adhoob and Radhi. The State Department, they said, had declined to help. That upset Brennan, a Republican retired judge from New Hampshire, who was already worried that senior officials, including Ambassador Ryan Crocker, were not truly committed to addressing corruption in the Iraqi government. After all, he notes, much of the embassy's staff was busy trying to build good relations with many of the same politicians Adhoob was investigating. "We were advising officials like Salam, teaching them how to investigate within the rule of law," Brennan remarks. "They were actually doing it at great risk to themselves and their families, and no one in the State Department was really serious about it."

That summer, when Radhi was in the United States for training sessions, Maliki ousted him as cpi chief. Radhi decided to stay in America—where he publicly compared the Maliki administration to the Mafia and declared that government officials had stolen more than $12 billion. With Radhi gone, Adhoob says, Maliki's office again ordered the cpi to fire him.

At the time, Adhoob was working several big cases—from a Maliki aide suspected of embezzling school-construction money to a relative of a high-ranking defense ministry official who had managed to obtain $1.2 billion in military contracts, many of which weren't fulfilled. Stripped of his job, Adhoob would not be able to pursue any of this. And he and his family would have to move out of the Green Zone, becoming easy targets for the assassins.

Adhoob holed up in a trailer in the US Embassy compound while his friends worked the byzantine process necessary to win him a US visa. After several weeks, word finally came: Can you be ready to leave Iraq in the next 90 minutes? The family grabbed their possessions and hurried to the airport.

Once in the US, Adhoob and Radhi applied for asylum. But senior US Embassy officials sent out emails directing staff not to write letters in support of their asylum request—to avoid, Brennan says, annoying the Maliki administration. "This was treachery to me," says Brennan. "They knew Radhi and Salam were in great danger."

The asylum requests were granted nonetheless. Adhoob says he'd expected to get a job with the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, the US military unit investigating American corruption in Iraq. But sigir chief Stuart Bowen Jr. says that Adhoob was never promised employment, though he has "continued to meet with sigir agents and to provide information on a significant ongoing case."

"Sad to say," remarks a former embassy official, "Salam became just another Iraqi émigré." Last June, Adhoob did get a job as an Arabic instructor for the Foreign Service Institute. But his troubles weren't over. On September 22, he testified about Iraqi government corruption before the Senate Democratic Policy Committee. Adhoob told the senators that "based on the cases that I have personally investigated, I believe that at least $18 billion have been lost in Iraq through corruption and waste, more than half of which was American taxpayer money." He cited specific instances of sleaze: $24.4 million spent on an electricity project that existed only on paper; a front company run by the brother-in-law of a Ministry of Defense official being paid $4.5 million for the same helicopters that were purchased for $1.5 million just a few years earlier; and Iraqi ministries' fraudulently paying contractors for "phantom projects." He also maintained that an American company had delivered only one-third of the 510 Humvees it had been paid to supply the Iraqi military. (In mid-February, Adhoob notes, a sigir investigator informed him that this case was close to producing an indictment.)

Coming in the midst of an economic collapse and a red-hot presidential campaign, the hearing caused little stir. Still, Adhoob's superiors apparently noticed. The next day, he says, his supervisor at the Foreign Service Institute told him that higher-ups wanted to talk about his Capitol Hill appearance. Adhoob demurred, saying his testimony was unrelated to his job. Soon afterward, he was notified that the institute would not renew his contract.

Ironically, at the time Adhoob was providing language instruction to Joseph Stafford, the former US ambassador to Gambia, who was preparing to serve as the new anti-corruption coordinator at the US Embassy in Baghdad. In a reference letter, Stafford later praised Adhoob as a "superb language instructor" and hailed him for having "battled heroically against corruption." (A spokeswoman for the institute said she could not discuss Adhoob's case.)

Art Brennan says he feels "very embarrassed by how Salam has been treated by the government." For him, Adhoob's plight symbolizes much of the United States' postinvasion endeavor in Iraq: noble rhetoric undermined by neglect and hypocrisy. Mattil concurs. "Salam's story," he says, "contradicts the claims that Prime Minister Maliki has the political will to fight corruption and calls into question the whole mission in Iraq." (In the fall of 2007, Mattil was relieved of duty a day after appearing for a formal interview with congressional investigators probing Iraqi corruption. He has since filed a whistleblower complaint against the State Department.)

With Adhoob and Radhi gone, the Maliki government has had an easier ride. Last fall, Maliki summarily fired inspectors general in various ministries. "The corruption problem in Iraq is worse than it's ever been since the invasion," says sigir's Bowen.

Pacing barefoot in his barely furnished living room clad in a dark sweater and pleated black trousers, Adhoob says he likes his new neighborhood, and his kids are enjoying the local schools. But he's worried about the future—he's been told he can only stay in the house until the end of the year—and haunted by the cases he can no longer pursue. Holding a folder with documents pertaining to his unfinished investigations, he says, "Sometimes I can't sleep because of all this crime. Americans and Iraqis died because of this corruption. The Iraqi government is a group of criminal people who were supported by the Bush administration. I came here to tell American people the truth."

He pauses before adding, "No one here cares."


An Iraqi Militia Tour of Baghdad
What it's like to be almost kidnapped in Baghdad by the Mahdi Army.
Iraq War, 6 Years and Counting
I don't think any of us thought the Iraq War would last this long.
Person of the Day: Nouri al-Maliki


Submitted by David Ritchie (not verified)
on April 27, 2009 - 5:49am.
Frankly, I was not the least bit surprised when I read this article. It's truly unfortunate that things ephemeral can lead people to making decisions that fissure the world landscape, that further progresses the othering of brothers and sisters. I only hope that people can pull their heads out of theirs asses and follow through on decisions to help rather than merely relying on voting to help, because voting means nothing when people refuse to act upon what they publicly state their opinions are.

Flashpoints: Guide to World Conflicts
Submitted by James Mattil (not verified)
on April 27, 2009 - 8:45am.
Those of us involved in the anticorruption debacle remain hopeful that the Obama administration and Sec. of State Clinton will soon be acting to address the issues raised in Mr. Corn's insightful story of treachery and betrayal. Ultimately, this story does not leave us with much hope that the new Iraq will be the kind of Iraq we had hoped to see and that would help justify the sacrifices of those who gave their lives and bodies for the mission.

I plan on sharing this brave mans story with friends and relatives, hope you will do the same. Posting it around the web as well on any site you might think will get a lot of online traffic might be the way to go as well.

He was fired by our own government for letting them in on who was, and is, corrupt? How inept and corrupt themselves.

No one in the new administration is interested in his findings?

Firing those who fired him would be an appropriate response to their actions, don't you think? Firing those who allowed it, regardless of whomever it might be, would be just, don't you believe?

I'm sickened by the lows our own country has sunken to. Don't we all believe the time has come for change? Don't we all believe that it's time to climb up out of the muck? Listening to this man, fixing the problems he tells of is an action we need to take. I believe reinstating him, giving him an even better position needs to take place. This would be one step up and out of the darkness; letting us step into the light once again.

Installing corrupt men in any government by us, our installing corrupt men as our puppets in the Iraqi government is just an old tried and true way to control a country, we've used it (to our detriment), using it all too often in the past. Think our government would have at least learned this is so. These tactics have always come back to bite us. Our successes? Germany and Japan. Our dealings with them, just goes to show what an honest effort can accomplish. There were problems with how that was done as well, but nothing like our dealings with other countries we've dealt with down though the decades. Our past (bungled history) is out there to check on. SRH

Saundra Hummer
April 27th, 2009, 06:11 PM

Iran "Arms Ship" Bound for Gaza Downed Near Sudan
By Haaretz Service

April 27, 2009 "Haaretz" -- --An Iranian vessel laden with weapons bound for the Gaza Strip was torpedoed off the coast of Sudan last week, allegedly by Israeli or American forces operating in the area, the Egyptian newspaper El-Aosboa reported on Sunday.

Anonymous sources in Khartoum told the newspaper that an unidentified warship bombed the Iranian vessel as it prepared to dock on Sudan before transferring its load for shipment to the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

These sources said they suspects U.S. or Israeli involvement in the attack, but neither Washington nor Jerusalem have released a statement yet on the matter.

The Israel Air Force, meanwhile, is suspected of attacking a convoy of Iranian arms that passed through Sudan en route to Gaza in January, according to reports released in March.

American officials confirmed the IAF involvement in that attack, The New York Times later reported, abd said they had received intelligence reports that an Iranian Revolutionary Guards operative had gone to Sudan to help organize the weapons convoy said the report.

Israel has neither denied nor confirmed involvement in that incident.

In February, Cypriot authorities detained an Iranian arms ship en route Iranian arms ship en route to Syria, apparently upon request of the U.S. and Israel.

A search of the ship, which was sailing from Iran to the Syrian port of Latakia, found ammunition for T-72 tanks, used by the Syrian army, as well as various types of mortar shells, said a senior Israeli official.

The United States has claimed that the ship was carrying weapons from Iran to Hamas or the Lebanon-based militant group Hezbollah.

Go on-site for links within this article and much more, then too, there are their archives, cartoons, viewer comments, video's, etc.


Saundra Hummer
April 28th, 2009, 02:02 PM

the CASE


CONservtive Spin

At a time when families and businesses are tightening their belts to make ends meet, "it's time for government to tighten their belts and show the American people that we 'get' it."

PRO gressive Response

The Freudian slip in a quote from House Minority Leader John Boehner to CBS News—"it's time for government to tighten their belts"—inadvertently reveals something of the Republican mindset about the role of government, for it is us who will be strangled by the belt that conservatives say they want to tighten.

The reality is that in this fiscal emergency asking government to spend less on programs that will rebuild our schools, roads and other public facilities; set the stage for universal health care; help states prevent layoffs of thousands of public servants and prepare the country for a new energy future is simply wrongheaded. With the country on the verge of a depression and the downturn going global, consumers are cutting back, businesses are laying off workers, state and local governments are facing severe budget cuts. It is precisely at this time when the federal government—and governments around the world—must spend more money to lift the economy, and put people back to work.

more pro vs con >>

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URL: http://www.ourfuture.org/content/an%2Beconomy%2Bfor%2Ball/pro_vs_con http://www.tompaine.com

Saundra Hummer
April 29th, 2009, 02:41 PM



100 Days of Spin

April 29, 2009

What Obama said -- and what has been said about him.

After 100 days in office, we find President Obama is sticking to the facts – mostly.

Nevertheless, we find that the president has occasionally made claims that put him and his policies in a better light than the facts warrant. He has claimed that private economists agreed with the forecast in his budget, when they were really more pessimistic. He's used Bush-like budget-speak trying to sound frugal while raising spending to previously unimagined levels. And he has exaggerated the problems his proposals aim to cure by misstating facts about school drop-out rates and oil imports.

At the same time, there's been no shortage of dubious claims made about the president by his political opponents. Republicans have falsely claimed that Obama planned to spend billions on a levitating train and that his stimulus bill would require doctors to follow government orders on what medical treatments can and can't be prescribed, among other nonsense.

And those whoppers are mild compared with some of the positively deranged claims flying about the Internet. No, the national service bill Obama signed won't prevent anybody from going to church, for example. And no, he's not trying to send Social Security checks to illegal immigrants.


Go on-site to gain access to photo and any links within this article.


Economic Cheerleading
Facing some heat from critics who complained that the administration’s budget figures are too rosy, Obama offered a misleading defense to a national TV audience during his March 24 prime-time news conference. He said: “Our assumptions are perfectly consistent with what Blue Chip forecasters out there are saying.” That wasn’t true.

Obama was referring to the Blue Chip Economic Indicators, a survey of forecasts from 50 private economists. In fact, at the time he spoke, the most recent Blue Chip forecast was far more pessimistic than the administration’s budget projections. That’s no small matter, since a weaker economic performance will produce even larger federal deficits than the Obama budget already forecasts.

Obama's Prime Time Pitch

March 25

Obama also got it wrong when he claimed in that same speech that “we are reducing nondefense discretionary spending to its lowest level since the '60s.” His own forecast puts this figure higher than in many years under Reagan, Clinton or either Bush.

Furthermore, he used the same verbal sleight-of-hand that President George W. Bush had used to deflect attention from the larger truth – that total federal spending is (and was) soaring far beyond the government’s means to pay for it. “Nondefense discretionary spending” is just a small slice (under 20 percent) of total spending. It excludes military spending, homeland security spending and rapidly rising Social Security and Medicare spending, among other things. So even if Obama’s claim had been true, it would have been misleading – pure spin.

Obama's Prime Time Pitch
March 25

Presidential Puffery
We've noted a tendency for Obama to puff up the problems he's facing, as well as the solutions he's proposing. For example:

. He told a joint session of Congress Feb. 24 that "we import more oil today than ever before." That's untrue. Imports peaked in 2005 and are lower today.

Fact-Checking Obama's Speech
Feb. 25

. He claimed in the same speech that his mortgage aid plan would help "responsible" buyers but not those who borrowed beyond their means. But even prominent defenders of the program in his administration concede that foolish borrowers will be aided, too.

Fact-Checking Obama's Speech
Feb. 25

. He claimed in a March 10 address on education that the high school dropout rate has "tripled in the past 30 years.” But according to the Department of Education, it has actually declined by a third.

Education Spin
March 18

We’ve also found Obama being more certain than is warranted. He is fond of repeating, for example, that his stimulus bill will “create or save” 3.5 million jobs. Maybe so; some leading economists figure that’s possible, though it's far from a certainty. The immediate reality, however, is that the economy has been losing an average of 22,000 jobs per day since Obama took office.

Stimulus Bill Bravado
Feb. 13

Another example occurred April 16 during his visit to Mexico. Obama wanted his hosts to crack down on the violent drug trade and was promising that the U.S. would do its bit, too. But he went too far when he said, “More than 90 percent of the guns recovered in Mexico come from the United States.” It's true that U.S. officials say that more than 90 percent of the guns Mexican officials ask them to trace are found to have come through the U.S. But Mexican officials don't ask the U.S. to trace all the guns they recover, so there's no way to know exactly how many come through the U.S.

Counting Mexico's Guns
April 17

Republican Spin
Of course, we’ve noted plenty of false claims made by Obama’s critics, too.

. Republican Rep. Tom Price of Georgia claimed Obama’s stimulus bill created "a national health care rationing board," when in fact it did nothing of the sort.

Doctor's Orders?
Feb. 20

. A number of House and Senate Republicans claimed that Obama’s stimulus bill contained $8 billion for a “levitating train.” In fact, not a dime of the money was earmarked for the proposed 300-mph “maglev” bullet train between Anaheim, Calif., and Las Vegas; the $8 billion is now being directed to 10 other passenger routes using more conventional technology

GOP Stimulus Myths
Feb. 24

Internet Dementia

The wildest claims about Obama continue to come from anonymous chain e-mails that spread like viruses. Some notable examples:

. There's no evidence that Obama dithered and delayed the rescue by Navy SEALs of Capt. Richard Phillips from Somali pirates, as claimed in a quick-spreading e-mail full of military jargon. The retired rear admiral who (in some versions) supposedly wrote it told us he's not the author, and that he never even met a Navy SEAL. The message's central claims are false, according to both White House and Pentagon officials.

Did Obama delay the rescue of Captain Phillips? [LINK]
April 24

. Nobody will be prevented from going to church by the national service bill Obama signed on April 21, and students won't be forced into slave-like forced labor either. The bill actually had broad support from Republican lawmakers, many of whom enthusiastically joined Democrats to pass it. It greatly expands such existing programs as VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America).

Is Congress creating a mandatory public service system? Are participants not allowed to go to church?
March 31

. And there's no point in sending Obama a petition asking him to veto a bill to pay Social Security benefits to illegal immigrants, as urged in yet another viral message. Obama has never supported such a move, and there's no such bill anyway.

Is Congress about to give Social Security to illegal immigrants? [LINK]
March 1

None of this surprises us. Spin, fact-twisting and deceptive claims have been standard fare in Washington for a long time, and we doubt that will change. It's just part of the messy process we know as democracy, and it's our job to help citizens sort through all that.

– by Brooks Jackson

Go on-site for the numerous links within this article as well as gaining access to mobile and to view other topical issues of the day. A great site for sorting out the truth from the spin. Just click on the following URL: SRH


Saundra Hummer
April 29th, 2009, 03:41 PM

Specter and EFCA

Kevin Drum
Tue April 28, 2009
1:39 PM PST

A few weeks ago Arlen Specter announced that he would oppose the Employee Free Choice Act (aka "card check"), labor's top legislative priority. But now that he's a Democrat, what will he do? Jon Chait speculates:

Specter says he’ll still oppose EFCA, but I have trouble seeing him really maintain that stance. He has to make it through a Democratic primary now. That’s very hard to do in Pennsylvania when the AFL-CIO is out for your blood.

Specter’s most likely play is to stay formally opposed to EFCA, but support a compromise along the lines of what some moderate Democrats might favor. He certainly can’t risk being the decisive anti-EFCA vote. Democrats in the Senate may be offering him institutional support in the primary, but primaries tend to be low-turnout operations, and Specter is going to have to work his way into the favor of the partisan Democratic base.
I think that's probably right. Specter won't completely flip-flop, but there was some wiggle room in his statement announcing opposition to EFCA. Even without changing his position on secret ballots, then, I could see him working with a few conservative Dems and moderate Republicans to construct a compromise bill that pretty effectively boosts his labor bona fides. After all, the current version of EFCA is almost certainly dead in the water (and was likely dead before Specter announced his oppostion), so gaining support for even a watered down version would allow him to position himself as the guy who rescued EFCA and got half a loaf where there was nothing previously.

It might not work, of course, but it's probably worth a try for him. I wouldn't be surprised to see him give it a go.


Coleman should learn . . .
Submitted by Trippp on April 28, 2009 - 2:07pm.
that the best time to jump is after the wind changes. You don't jump before the change and have it hit you in the face.

Specter said flatly
Submitted by gyrfalcon on April 28, 2009 - 2:20pm.
at his press conf today that he not only was still very much opposed to EFCA, but that he would not vote for cloture on it, either. Perhaps he can wiggle that into supporting or not opposing some modification of it, but that would be a pretty pretzel-like trick even for Specter.

60% super-majority sign-up
Submitted by urban legend on April 28, 2009 - 2:44pm. 60% super-majority sign-up will still get 99% success rate compared to 50%.

political victory of Democrats over Republicans means nothing
Submitted by tpx on April 28, 2009 - 2:48pm.
A political victory of Democrats over Republicans in the Senate translates into nothing constructive for the people. Specter's corporate constituency will still be served.

gyrfalcon hits a good point
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 28, 2009 - 2:49pm.
gyrfalcon hits a good point -- we don't need his vote for legislation, just for cloture. People seem to be missing this important detail (not for this issue, but in general).
PS -- Kevin, as much as I enjoy you, I come here less and less -- I hate this site.

tpx, I acknowledge our corporate masters
Submitted by Trippp on April 28, 2009 - 2:59pm.
but it is not totally fair to compare dems to reps. Sure, they both bow to corporate control, but aside from that they have their differences.
Until the revolution there is not much more we can do.

I say, let him take credit
Submitted by MNPundit (not verified) on April 28, 2009 - 3:31pm.
I say, let him take credit for axing card check. It's not that important to the bill anyway, so he can just say that card check was what he really opposed.

learn to projectile ...
Submitted by tpx on April 28, 2009 - 3:35pm.
It is totally fair to compare dems to reps. Sen. Specter is now a Democratic senator. Yesterday he was a Republican senator. Not too long ago Sen. Spector, the Republican, facilitated the appointments of Roberts and Alito to the SC. Today the Democratic Specter is going to solve the Democratic majority's cloture problem, but those Republican corporate flunkies still sit on the SC and card check is no closer to passing.
One thing we can do is learn to projectile vomit on Democrats who are Republicans.

"One thing we can do is
Submitted by Drew on April 28, 2009 - 6:22pm.
"One thing we can do is learn to projectile vomit on Democrats who are Republicans. "
Yes because if there's one lesson we should learn from this, it's that extremists should definately viciously attack moderates in their own party: what could go wrong!
Card Check is just a loser. It's a controversial provision that not even many pro-labor people think is a good solution. And it's holding up a bill that has many very important and sensible reforms to protect workers from employer shenanigans and actually gives some teeth to labor law. There's no reason why it can't be fought for some other time, but it's NOT worth sinking or even delaying every other reform.

Sorry, that should say
Submitted by Drew on April 28, 2009 - 6:24pm.
Sorry, that should say something more along the lines of "that even many pro-labor don't think..." rather than implying that it doesn't have as many supporters as it does detractors.

The easiest compromise that
Submitted by ChrisinATL (not verified) on April 28, 2009 - 10:42pm.
tagged as: solution
The easiest compromise that will allow him to change his mind will be a super-majority compromise on the EFCA. For example, they might compromise that if the union can get 67% - 75% of the employees to sign up and request a card-check process, that is what is used. Also, as an alternative he will probably get behind faster election procedures (i.e. a requirement to hold an election within 60 days) and allowing the labor union to have access to employees on the business grounds

just to note, elections are
Submitted by justintime (not verified) on April 29, 2009 - 10:58am. just to note, elections are 'mandated' to be held within 45 days of filing at present.


Saundra Hummer
May 8th, 2009, 08:53 PM
~~~ ~~~ ~~~ ~~~

Marine Protection as Empire Expansion

by: David Vine and Miriam Pemberton
Wednesday 06 May 2009
Visit article original @ Foreign Policy in Focus
A northeast view of the runway on Johnston Atoll, located southwest of Oahu, Hawaii. (Photo: Ron Plante) Go on site to gain access to photo's, links, etc.
At the 100-day mark, the new president has tackled an extraordinarily wide-ranging agenda, but one item will need his attention soon: closing the empire of U.S. bases around the world. One place to start is to reverse the marine protection areas that the last president established in the Pacific.
In a last-minute bid to salvage a legacy, President George W. Bush created three new protected marine areas in the Pacific. Environmental groups like the Natural Resources Defense Council applauded. But the situation is more complicated than it looks.

Why would a president who rarely saw a public land or offshore site he didn't want to drill on, and whose climate change policies have done lasting damage to oceans and their inhabitants worldwide, exhibit such concern for marine life in these particular faraway places?

One possible clue: This protective blanket will extend only 50 miles beyond land, rather than the 200 that the law permits. Could it be his real concern was for the land itself rather than for the water around it?

Because these aren't just any Pacific islands. Two - Wake and Johnston - are home to important U.S. military installations, while a huge area of protected ocean encompassing the Mariana Trench borders U.S. military bases on Guam, Saipan, Rota, Tinian, and Farallon de Medinilla. The islands are right now at the receiving end of a major eastward shift in the U.S. military base infrastructure from concentrating bases and troops in Europe and Okinawa, Japan to concentrations elsewhere in Asia and the Mariana Islands in particular. Guam is set to receive an additional 8,000 Marines and 40,000 civilians on an island where the military already controls one-third of all land.

In designating the protected areas, the White House took pains to say that "nothing" in this action "impairs or otherwise affects the activities of the U.S. Department of Defense."

Many in Guam are opposed to the expansion of the military's presence, concerned about increased crime, accidents, violence against women, health and environmental damage, and other forms of social and cultural disruption. And remember too that the islands involved are effectively U.S. colonies without full voting rights and congressional representation and are still on the UN's list of territories slated for decolonization. Whatever else it may do, the marine monument designation will add a positive environmentalist spin to the permanent U.S claim on these territories as military outposts.

But this spin has a problem. Military bases and regular military operations are notorious for their harmful impact on the environment. Such damage includes the blasting of pristine coral reefs, clear-cutting of virgin forests, deploying underwater sonar dangerous to marine life, leaching carcinogenic pollutants into the soil and seas from lax toxic waste storage and military accidents, and using land and sea for target practice, decimating ecosystems with exploded and unexploded munitions. Guam alone is home to 19 Superfund sites.

It's hard to imagine that the net result of base-expansion-plus-monument-designation will be good for the surrounding marine life.

In fact, the case of Vieques, Puerto Rico, offers a telling precedent: After locals won a decades-long fight to evict the Navy from their island, the Pentagon was exempted from cleaning up most of the environmental disaster area it left behind when the federal government declared the former base a "wildlife refuge."

How then can these precious resources really be protected? First, and most importantly, the Pentagon cannot be exempted from environmental regulations. Second, full control over Wake Island and Johnston Atoll should immediately be transferred from the Department of Defense to the Department of the Interior - there's no reason that the Pentagon should have its own private islands. Third, the people of Guam and the rest of the Northern Mariana Islands should be given full control over the areas above and below the water surrounding its territory in full accordance with international law.

To fulfill the Pacific marine reserve's promise of environmental protection and conservation, environmental groups initially enthusiastic about the Bush plan must unite with allies on Capitol Hill and a growing movement of those critical of the Pentagon's expanding reach to press the new administration to reverse this expansion. Those concerned about the environment must make sure that the Pentagon does not use the mantle of environmental protection as a cover for its profligate and environmentally damaging plans to use military bases to control the Pacific. With around 1,000 military bases outside the 50 states - each one a possible environmental disaster area - now is the time when we should be closing and consolidating our overseas bases, not finding new and increasingly stealthy ways to solidify their presence.

Miriam Pemberton is a research bellow at the Institute for Policy Studies. David Vine is assistant professor of anthropology at American University, whose book about the military base on Diego Garcia, "Island of Shame," will be released in May by Princeton University Press. They are both contributors to Foreign Policy In Focus.

Editor: John Feffer

Great article, thanks for
Fri, 05/08/2009 - 23:08 — Skanda (not verified)
Great article, thanks for shining light on the outrage of the Military Industrial Complexes reach around the world. How sad & pathetic that this so-called free society continues to squander our money, threaten & attack other nations at the drop of a hat. Just as we kill civilians with the disgusting drone program in the middle east we are locking up space as a means to threaten all nations with the star wars programs. If we spent 1/100 of that money on making friends & not enemies the world could live in peace. But we only see enemies & work hard to make new enemies with each bloody death we cause. I do hate the policies of the US as it is constituted. The corrupt 3 branches of government that are whores to the financial elite. That elite that puts the accumulation wealth way above humanity. The ignorant military that train to kill in each new generation humans that are yet to be born. Shame on them all. Rather assume we can live with & prosper with other nations & other peoples. Do our best to be good stewards of the earth & it beauty. Take the profit out of environmental destruction. Ahimsa: Do no harm to any person or animal by thought (even in dreams), word (good, kind, helpful or necessary) or deed (by your body). Be vegetarian, better yet vegan. Animals are not commodities to be used for food or profit. They have their own lives, feelings & purpose. They nurture their young. Love them & leave them alone! It is the same callous attitude that sees enemies instead of loving the gifts of the world.

Add a comment:


Wouldn't you just know it? I was so surprised to see GW Bush sign into law this gigantic effort to protect this vast area of the Pacific. Knowing the men and women in office and in the cabinet, this act of progressive thought, just didn't fit. Now we can see the administrations reasoning, or at least the Neo Con PNAC reasoning behind such a sweeping move. This great act of conservation wasn't for what we had believed after all, and the deviousness of their actions should come as no surprise to any of us, now should it? Nothing they have ever done is surprising, regardless of how nefarious the deed. Instead their acts are disgusting. They leave one feeling half sick more often than not.

Where do people like these get to be like they are?

Any number of negative thoughts about these men, and women, from the Cheney/Bush administration are absolutely warranted, and they've lived up to our worst thoughts about them, not once, not twice, but over and over. Here is just one more prime example of their duplicity, their down, and dirty conniving. SRH
~~~ ~~~ ~~~

Saundra Hummer
May 9th, 2009, 05:29 PM
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Conservatives are foaming at the bench
As news that Supreme Court Justice David Souter will be stepping down at the end of this term thus providing President Obama with his first Supreme Court appointment continued to burn up the airwaves this week, Media Matters released an extensive report documenting and correcting common myths and falsehood propagated by the media on the subject -- an essential primer for anyone following or covering the story.

Yes, there's nothing like a pending Supreme Court nomination to get media conservatives hot under the collar.

Even Obama's desire for an empathetic nominee was maligned. Several media figures and outlets -- among them The Washington Post, Fox News congressional correspondent Major Garrett and O'Reilly Factor guest host Laura Ingraham -- falsely suggested that Obama said that he will seek a replacement for Souter who demonstrates the quality of "empathy" rather than a commitment to follow the law. Blinded by the rest of Obama's statement, they ignored the simple fact that immediately after stating that he saw the "quality of empathy" as "an essential ingredient for arriving as just decisions and outcomes," Obama stated that he would "seek somebody who is dedicated to the rule of law, who honors our constitutional traditions, who respects the integrity of the judicial process and the appropriate limits of the judicial role."

Others advanced the bizarre claim that, in the words of a National Review editorial, "[e]mpathy is simply a codeword for an inclination toward liberal activism." Perhaps they'd benefit from a review of two recent studies of Supreme Court justices indicating that in two key categories, those most frequently labeled "conservative" were also among the most activist. Moreover, several former Republican senators have previously cited "compassion" as a qualification for judicial nominees.

Of all the names on the media's short list for Obama, Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judge Sonia Sotomayor has been the subject of the harshest criticism from media conservatives, with many misrepresenting her past comments. For example, Fox News host Jane Skinner asserted that Sotomayor "is coming under some fire for making some comments that were recorded on tape a while back, saying that it's her job, really, to make policy from the bench" when, in fact, Sotomayor did not say that. Still others, like The New Republic's Jeffrey Rosen and Fox News' Andrew Napolitano, sank to citing anonymous sources criticizing Sotomayor, including law clerks, which an American University law professor called "extremely problematic." Rosen, incidentally, has perhaps been Sotomayor's harshest critic, even resorting to misrepresenting a footnote in making his purported "Case Against Sotomayor."

Conservatives in the media have also sought to prop up the profile and background of Sen. Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, who was selected to lead the Republican minority on the Senate Judiciary Committee leading into the Supreme Court confirmation hearings. The Washington Times reported that Sen. Sessions' 1986 nomination to a federal court was "blocked by Democrats," but offered no explanation for that opposition. However, two Republicans voted against Sessions' nomination, which failed amid accusations that his pursuit of voter fraud charges against three African-American civil rights activists as U.S. attorney in 1985 were racially motivated and that he had made racially insensitive comments. Which must explain why Fox News' Neil Cavuto described Sessions as "widely respected on all sides." I'll wait while you finish laughing.

Finally, if you really want to get a feel for just how off the wall conservative media coverage of this story has been over the past week, you need only look at the Fox News' new website, Fox Nation which this week stated (with a question mark to play it safe): "Why aren't white males being considered for Supreme Court?"

Other Major Stories This Week:

Hate crimes: Backed into a corner, media conservatives cry "pedophilia"
Perhaps fearing a hate crimes bill that protects gay, lesbian, and transgender people will soon be enacted, many media conservatives have seen fit to maliciously attack the legislation often times raising the right-wing's favorite red herring that efforts to protect the LGBT community will somehow protect "pedophiles."

During a recent edition of his top-rated cable program, Fox News' Bill O'Reilly said of the hate crimes bill, which not only adds gay, lesbian, and transgender people to the list of protected classes but the disabled as well, "[Y]ou could make an argument that a pedophile has a disease, and because the disease is there, he's a target or she's a target." O'Reilly later added that pedophiles could be included because "[d]isability is included. They have a mental disability." He's wrong. Pedophilia is not considered a "disability" under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990; in fact, the ADA specifically excludes pedophilia. But then, bringing up "pedophilia" during discussion of gay and lesbian issues is old hat for those opposed to full equality for the LGBT community.

O'Reilly wasn't alone pushing this line of attack at Fox News. Sean Hannity, Bill Hemmer, and The Fox Nation website all advanced the false claim that House Democrats voted to "protect" or "defend" pedophiles. On-screen text along the bottom of the screen on Fox quite literally read, "HOUSE DEMS VOTE TO PROTECT PEDOPHILES, BUT NOT VETERANS."

Equally misleading were the false claims by media conservatives that passage of the bill would somehow suppress religious thought or speech. During a segment on Fox News' America's Newsroom, correspondent Molly Henneberg reported without question that religious groups are concerned that "they may be prosecuted for their religious beliefs if they believe that homosexuality is a sin, that it could gag ministers who preach that, or even if a church may not want to marry a gay couple. There is concern that they could face lawsuits as well." In fact, the legislation in question specifically protects an individuals First Amendment's right to free speech and exercise of religion - something you just won't hear from those lined up against the bill.

What discussion of LGBT civil rights wouldn't be complete without a healthy dose of mean-spirited hate from the likes of Rev. Pat Robertson, who this week suggested the "ultimate conclusion" of legal same-sex marriage is legal polygamy, bestiality, child molestation, and pedophilia, or self-described "openly gay, pro-choice, gun owning, pro-death penalty, voted-for-President Bush authentic feminist" Tammy Bruce who chatted about how the "gay Gestapo," as she put it on Fox News, "ultimately smears every gay person."

The right obsesses over Obama's choice of food again -- this time it's mustard

Stop the presses -- President Obama is eating a hamburger with the Vice President! In all seriousness, if you were watching cable news this week you may have heard news that Obama, horror of horrors, asked for mustard rather than ketchup on his lunchtime burger -- spicy mustard, no less. That's right, following his visit to Ray's Hell Burger in Arlington, Virginia (which I highly recommend to anyone visiting the Commonwealth) Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, and Rush Limbaugh Show guest host Mark Steyn criticized the president as an elitist because he ordered a burger with "spicy mustard" or "Dijon mustard." Hannity claimed that Obama ordered a "fancy burger" with a "very special condiment," while Steyn asserted Obama is trying "to enlighten us" through his order. Ingraham asked of Obama: "What kind of man orders a cheeseburger without ketchup but Dijon mustard? ... The guy orders a cheeseburger without ketchup? What is that?" In their discussions of Obama's burger order, Hannity, Ingraham, and Steyn all referenced a Grey Poupon commercial featuring actors portraying wealthy British men expressing desire for the mustard. Wonder why Fox News' attempt at a comedy show never worked out? Here's a hint -- they aren't funny.

MSNBC's Ed Schultz did an admirable job highlighting Hannity's Dijon derangement, while the Chicago Tribune's food blog, The Stew, interviewed Barry Levenson, curator of the Mount Horeb Mustard Museum, who noted, "There's nothing pretentious about Dijon mustard ... It's a very simple product. To say that it's elitist to put Dijon mustard on a hamburger is absurd." Indeed.

Regular readers of Media Matters know this isn't the first time right-wingers in the media have gone berserk over Obama's choice of food or beverage.

Pentagon pundits redux
You may recall mention here of David Barstow's Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times exposé detailing the hidden relationship among numerous media military analysts, the Pentagon, and defense contractors. Shortly after Barstow's piece was published, Media Matters released an exhaustive report which found that since January 1, 2002, the pundits named in the Barstow's story appeared or were quoted more than 4,500 times by news outlets.

Earlier this year, The Washington Post reported the findings of a January 14 report by the Defense Department's inspector general's office on the Pentagon's Retired Military Analyst program, which found that, according to the Post, "The Pentagon did not violate internal policies or regulations in a program that gave briefings to retired military officers who served as news commentators on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, nor did those analysts use their access to benefit their business interests." But with the exception of brief write-ups in two blogs and an online column, the Post has yet to report that the inspector general's office this week withdrew its findings. Reporting on a May 5 memo by the Pentagon's deputy inspector general for policy and oversight, Barstow wrote that "the report was so riddled with flaws and inaccuracies that none of its conclusions could be relied upon." He added: "In addition to repudiating its own report, the inspector general's office took the additional step of removing the report from its Web site."

It makes you wonder if aides to former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld will continue to bash Barstow in news reports now that the initial DOD inspector general's report has been withdrawn and disowned.

MSNBC's Rachel Maddow ran a hilarious "special report" on the withdrawal and attacks on Barstow, while Democracy Now's Amy Goodman sat down for a fascinating exclusive interview with Barstow that everyone should take some time to watch - definitely some must see web-TV. Keep in mind, his exposé came out more than a year ago and Goodman is still able to call this interview an "exclusive." As Barstow notes, he hasn't received "any invitations" to appear on "any of the main network and cable programs." Surprise, surprise.

The Washington Times vs. reality on Obama's popularity

County Fair, the official Media Matters blog, last week called out the conservative Washington Times for its bizarre, fact-free editorial that claimed President Obama's job approval ratings were "in the basement" and that he was historically unpopular. True Alice-in-Wonderland stuff since recent polling data suggest the exact opposite about the president's popularity. Well, it took a whole week, but the Times finally walked back that nonsense retracting the entire editorial noting, "We hereby retract our April 28 editorial 'Barack's in the basement' because we misapplied several polling comparisons of various presidents after their first 100 days in office." That's being generous when you consider the entire piece was completely made up.

So, now the only question that remains is whether those who ran with the Times editorial will do the right thing and run a retraction of their own. We're talking to you Amy Holmes, Ann Coulter and Jim Pinkerton.

This week's media columns
This week's media columns from the Media Matters senior fellows: Eric Boehlert looks at how Limbaugh is living large while his radio boss Clear Channel implodes; Jamison Foser asks where Sonia Sotomayor should go to get her reputation back; and Karl Frisch details how the media still can't get it right on hate crimes 10 years after Matthew Shepard.

Week in review video
Go on-site to gain access to this video and all links within the article.

Do you Facebook or Twitter?
If you use the social networking site Facebook, be sure to join the official Media Matters page and those of our senior fellows Eric Boehlert, Jamison Foser and Karl Frisch as well. You can also follow Media Matters, Boehlert, Foser and Frisch on Twitter!

This weekly wrap-up was compiled by Karl Frisch, a senior fellow at Media Matters. Frisch also contributes to County Fair, a media blog featuring links to progressive media criticism from around the web as well as original commentary.

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Saundra Hummer
May 10th, 2009, 01:36 PM
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Wanda Sykes Roasts Obama, Rips Rush

Today 8:15 AM PDT
Jovie Baclayon


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Rush Limbaugh's gonna have a mouthful to say about Wanda Sykes.

The actress/comedian roasted President Barack Obama and just about everyone else in Washington at the annual White House Correspondents Dinner last night.

Sykes, who stars in The New Adventures of Old Christine, poked fun at everything from the president's shirtless photos ("I know you're into this transparency thing, but we don't need to see your nipples") to the Obamas giving the Queen an iPod ("What's she gonna do? Download Lady Gaga?").

She also took hits at first lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, former President George W. Bush, former Vice President Dick Cheney and Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.

However, the night's biggest quip was at Limbaugh's expense. In January, the conservative political commentator said he hoped "Obama fails," which Sykes called "treason."

"You might want to look into this, sir, cuz I think maybe Rush Limbaugh was the 20th highjacker but he was just so strung out on oxycontin he missed his flight," joked Sykes. Limbaugh admitted to being addicted to prescription drugs in 2003.

On the jump, watch Obama's comedy stylings ("Dick Cheney is working on a book, tentatively titled, 'How to Shoot Friends and Interrogate People" and see which celebs were on hand to yuck it up with our Commander-in-Chief.

Plenty of celebs hobnobbed with Washington's press corps at the event, including Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes, Whoopi Goldberg, Eva Longoria Parker, Chris Tucker, George Lucas, Jon Bon Jovi, chef Gordon Ramsey, Dwayne Johnson, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Alicia Keys, Ashton Kutcher, Demi Moore and Tyra Banks.

President Obama at the White House Correspond...

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Saundra Hummer
May 10th, 2009, 08:22 PM

In defense of Yoo, Bybee & Bradbury

Submitted by pmcarpenter
Thu, 05/07/2009 - 6:41am.

P.M. Carpenter
The Bush administration's Justice Department must have used Sidney Lumet's 1973 police-crime drama, "Serpico," as its investigative lodestar, because after a vigorously self-honest self-investigation, it found, as I'm sure you have read by now, that, all things considered, the legal firm of Yoo, Bybee & Bradbury was clean as a hound's tooth.

Mistakes? Well, sure they made mistakes. Shucks, who doesn't? These Brooks Brothered American boys with a license to brutalize perhaps got a little carried away in the noble defense of their country -- and hey, we're talking this exceptional country, so normal rules of international standards imposed by fussy globalists don't apply -- but, as they say, that's why they put erasers on pencils. No real harm done, let's all just move along, nothing much to see here.

The creative-writing specialists behind the 220-page draft report may themselves be guilty of having knowingly, willfully labored under serial oxymorons -- their draft is the official product of "the Office of Professional Responsibility, an internal ethics unit within the Justice Department" -- but other than that, these big-hearted lovable slobs couldn't find much fault.

Oh yeah, there were "lapses of judgment" committed by Yoo, Bybee & Bradbury all right, especially in their crafting of "secret memorandums authorizing brutal interrogations" which unambiguously violated not only the federal anti-torture statute but Articles A-Z of the Geneva Conventions.

But it would body forth the splitting of the very finest of legal hairs to argue that unambiguous violations of an unambiguous felony statute are worthy of criminal prosecution -- not, heaven forfend, when nothing but goodness fluttered and swelled the perpetrators' red-blooded hearts. If only Willie Sutton had thought of arguing he was merely making determined withdrawals on behalf of poor widows and destitute orphans.

No, criminal prosecution would be foolishly fussy, if not downright unpatriotic. Instead, the "internal ethicists" went one better: They have issued a "stinging rebuke." Yes, a stinging rebuke, mind you -- one that could potentially close the door on the future law practice of Yoo, Bybee & Bradbury, yet maybe open the door to luxurious professorships at Bob Jones ... uh ... University.

In fact, this rebuke was so stinging that it moved former Attorney General Michael Mukasey to dash off a 10-page rebuttal; a rebuttal intended to show, no doubt, that not only is Mr. Mukasey even more patriotically infused than the fastidious ethicists, but that the ethicists were, indeed, being excessively fastidious.

Even a rebuke -- let alone prosecution -- is unthinkably harsh. But, if a rebuke need be, then let it be so: a classic negotiation-kind-of-plea-bargain tactic.

President Obama's attorney general, Eric Holder, must still decide if he wants any editing done on the Bush-ethicists' creative-writing term paper, although administration officials said that while "it is possible that the final report might be subject to further revision ... they did not expect major alterations in its main findings or recommendations."

Excellent. We wouldn't want to clutter up a joke of a legal finding with a bunch of serious legal thought.

In fact, in keeping with that, the only change I'd recommend to Attorney General Holder is a dandy addendum: the complete reprint of a 4/21/09 article in New York Magazine that buttresses, as a kind of amicus brief from the non-legal community, the kind of unserious legal thinking that's coming out of Bush's Justice Department.

Just a few examples should suffice.

Such as, let's say, Dick Cheney, whose defense of torture, in an interview with Sean Hannity, largely came down to this: "F*ck federal statutes. If criminal behavior better accomplishes our goals, then let's pop the cork and start drowning." Go ahead, go to the NY Mag article and read for yourself what Cheney said and then tell me that that's not essentially what he said.

Or there's ethics-maven Rush Limbaugh, who reasoned that "If somebody can go through water-boarding for 183 times, 6 times a day .... it means you’re not afraid of it, it means it’s not torture. If you’ve found a way to withstand it, it can’t possibly be torture."


But I digress. Remember, we don't wish to be fussy.

Or maybe Bill O'Reilly's insight: "If you go beyond posing questions in an even voice, you’re torturing, according to the Times." Get a goddamn clue, Bill. The Times doesn't even use the term, "torture."

But there I go, digressing again, when I -- we all -- should be warming to the Office of Professional Responsibility's draft report just as the draft reporters warmed to certain "techniques." Here, Karl Rove informs: "By reading [the recently released Justice Department memos] people will be reassured and they’ll see the lunacy of the people on the left" -- such as Ken Adelman, John McCain, John Warner, Lindsey Graham or Andrew Sullivan -- "who say it’s torture."

Yep, that's just like those latte-sipping, tree-hugging, Volvo-driving lefties, who, nevertheless, it turns out, aren't the ones with bleeding hearts for misunderstood criminals.

Please respond to P.M.'s commentary by leaving comments below and sharing them with the BuzzFlash community. For personal questions or comments you can contact him at [B]fifthcolumnistmail@gmail.com




Saundra Hummer
May 16th, 2009, 01:36 PM
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Dick Cheney, Torture, Iraq, and Valerie Plame

By: emptywheel Friday

I've been reluctant to embrace suggestions that torture, Iraq, and Valerie Plame were all going to coalesce into one linked story. After all, it would be too easy for me, of all people, to argue these stories were linked. But I increasingly suspect they are.
First, let me pull together some data points.

Nancy Pelosi and Bob Graham are linking the non-briefings on torture with the Iraq NIE
Now that they are explicitly stating that CIA lied in its September briefings on torture, Nancy Pelosi and Bob Graham are also both linking those lies with the lies they were telling--at precisely the same time--in the Iraq NIE. Here's Pelosi:

Of all the breifings that I have received at this same time, earlier, they were misinforming the American people there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and it was an imminent threat to the United States. I, to the limit of what I could say to my caucus, told them, the intelligence does not support the imminent threat that this Administration is contending. Whether it's on the subject of what's happening in Iraq, whether it's on the subject of techniques used by the intelligence community on those they are interrogating, every step of the way, the Administration was misleading the Congress.

And that is the issue. And that is why we need a truth commission.

And here's Graham:

Yes, they're obligated to tell the full Intelligence Committee, not just the leadership. This was the same time within the same week, in fact, that the CIA was submitting its National Intelligence Estimate on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq which proves so erroneous that we went to war, have had thousands of persons killed and injured as a result of misinformation.

Now, it's quite possible Graham and Pelosi are tying these two lies together just to remind reporters how unreliable CIA is. Perhaps they're doing it to remind reporters of how they got burned leading into the Iraq War, trusting the spin of the Administration.

But perhaps they're trying to say there's a direct connection, an explicit one, between the NIE and torture. We know Ibn Sheikh al-Libi's claims appeared in there. Did anything that came out of Abu Zubaydah's interrogation? Or Ramzi bin al-Shibh?

Did CIA not reveal they were torturing detainees to dodge any question about the accuracy of claims about Iraq intelligence?

The proposal to waterboard Muhammed Khudayr al-Dulaymi
Then there's not just the revelation, by Charles Duelfer, but the timing he describes of OVP proposals to waterboard Muhammed Khudayr al-Dulaymi, a Mukhabarat officer. He says Dick Cheney's office proposed waterboarding the officer in late April to May 2003.

At the end of April 2003, not long after the fall of Baghdad, U.S. forces captured an Iraqi who Bush White House officials suspected might provide information of a relationship between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein’s regime. Muhammed Khudayr al-Dulaymi was the head of the M-14 section of Mukhabarat, one of Saddam’s secret police organizations. His responsibilities included chemical weapons and contacts with terrorist groups.

Duelfer says he heard from “some in Washington at very senior levels (not in the CIA),” who thought Khudayr’s interrogation had been “too gentle” and suggested another route, one that they believed has proven effective elsewhere. “They asked if enhanced measures, such as waterboarding, should be used,” Duelfer writes. “The executive authorities addressing those measures made clear that such techniques could legally be applied only to terrorism cases, and our debriefings were not as yet terrorism-related. The debriefings were just debriefings, even for this creature.”

Duelfer will not disclose who in Washington had proposed the use of waterboarding, saying only: “The language I can use is what has been cleared.” In fact, two senior U.S. intelligence officials at the time tell The Daily Beast that the suggestion to waterboard came from the Office of Vice President Cheney.

“Everyone knew there would be more smiles in Washington if WMD stocks were found,” Duelfer said in the interview. “My only obligation was to find the truth. It would be interesting if there was WMD in May 2003, but what was more interesting to me was looking at the entire regime through the slice of WMD.”

But, Duelfer says, Khudayr in fact repeatedly denied knowing the location of WMD or links between Saddam’s regime and al Qaeda and was not subjected to any enhanced interrogation. Duelfer says the idea that he would have known of such links was “ludicrous".

Cheney's office was proposing the waterboarding of a Mukhabarat officer in April to May 2003. That's significant because Cheney wouldn't have had to work through the chain of command in the least to propose waterboarding this guy. He had a representative on the ground in Baghdad, closely involved in intelligence collection: Harold Rhode. (Those who know my work well will be smiling at this timing, but for now, I'll have to leave my treatment of Rhode and Kudhayr at that.)

Dougie Feith has said his DOD intell office helped formulate policy on detainees
As I reported last week, when asked specifically about how his little intelligence shop at DOD helped formulate policy, Feith described three ways:

. DoD response to the presence in Iraq of the al-Qaida affiliated Ansar al-Islam terrorist group.
. DoD response to the presence in Iraq of al-Qaida operative Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his CB W network.
. Helping to formulate requirements for the debriefings of al-Qaida fighters detained at Guantanamo and Bagram.
Granted, Khudayr was not held at Gitmo or Bagram, nor did he have ties (AFAIK) to Ansar al-Islam or Zarqawi.

But Harold Rhode--who at the time OVP suggested Khudayr be waterboarded was in Baghdad--was Feith's deputy and tied to his intelligence shop. If Feith was involved in "formulating requirements for the debriefings of detainees" in Iraq at all, Rhode would have been the one on the scene to implement that policy.

Dick Cheney outed Valerie Plame because of Joe--but also because of pushback at CIA
There were two factors that led Dick Cheney and Scooter Libby--on the orders or George Bush--to target the Wilsons starting on June 9, 2003. The first was a series of articles--several of them written by Walter Pincus--describing doubts at CIA about Iraq intelligence.

On May 29, Pincus reported with Karen DeYoung, "US Hedges on Finding Iraqi Weapons." It included a statement from Paul Wolfowitz (Feith's boss) that revealed a difference of opinion over things like Iraqi ties to Al Qaeda.

Looking back at the spotlight the administration cast on the weapons issue in building its case for war, Wolfowitz said, "There was no oversell." But he acknowledged yesterday that there "had been a tendency to emphasize the WMD [weapons of mass destruction] issue" as the primary justification for war because of differences of opinion within the administration over the strength of other charges against the Iraqi government, including its alleged ties to al Qaeda.

On May 31, Pincus had a scathing A1 article, "Tenet Defends Iraq Intelligence."

CIA Director George J. Tenet took the unusual step yesterday of publicly defending the agency's intelligence on Iraq's possession of chemical and biological weapons, amid growing criticism that the Bush administration exaggerated what it knew about Iraqi weapons programs to advance the case for going to war.

The article revealed the three complaints to the CIA Ombud about politicized intelligence.

Three complaints have been filed with the CIA ombudsman about the administration's possible politicization of intelligence on Iraq, an intelligence official said. He would not describe the substance of the complaints.

One senior administration official said CIA analysts have complained they felt pressured by administration policymakers who questioned them before the war about their assessment of Iraq's arms programs.

It reported the first salvo from VIPS--the group of intelligence professional condemning the politicization of intelligence.

Tenet's statement came in response to the release on Thursday of a "memorandum" to President Bush posted on several Internet sites by a group of retired CIA and State Department intelligence analysts. The analysts said there is "growing mistrust and cynicism" among intelligence professionals over "intelligence cited by you and your chief advisers to justify the war against Iraq."

The group, which calls itself Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, said the failure to find weapons of mass destruction after six weeks of searching "suggests either that such weapons are simply not there or that those eventually found there will not be in sufficient quantity or capability to support your repeated claim that Iraq posed a grave threat to our country's security."

It targeted Feith's little intelligence shop and claims about ties to al Qaeda.

But opponents of the war -- some from inside the government, others from outside -- expressed concern that the administration failed to make its case about Iraq's weapons programs, as well as the country's alleged ties to al Qaeda. Opponents focused much of their criticism on a Pentagon intelligence analysis unit established last year by Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz, who was among the administration's most prominent advocates for invading Iraq.

And it repeated the reports of Cheney's (and Libby's) visits to CIA prior to the war.

A senior administration official said that during the run-up to the war, the CIA's Iraq analysts had been questioned by administration policymakers, including Cheney. But the official added, "There is nothing wrong with them sitting down with analysts and asking them questions about how they know this or that."

Over the past year, Cheney has made "multiple trips to the CIA on many different subjects, including several times on Iraq," Cathie Martin, a Cheney spokeswoman, confirmed yesterday.

Thus, the story brought together Cheney's personal involvement, false claims about WMD and al Qaeda, and Dougie Feith's role, as well as portraying a range of current and former intelligence officials directly attacking the politicization of intelligence.

A June 5 Pincus article, which evidence submitted at the Libby trial makes clear was a big deal within OVP, expands the report on pressure from Cheney and Libby.

Vice President Cheney and his most senior aide made multiple trips to the CIA over the past year to question analysts studying Iraq's weapons programs and alleged links to al Qaeda, creating an environment in which some analysts felt they were being pressured to make their assessments fit with the Bush administration's policy objectives, according to senior intelligence officials.

With Cheney taking the lead in the administration last August in advocating military action against Iraq by claiming it had weapons of mass destruction, the visits by the vice president and his chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, "sent signals, intended or otherwise, that a certain output was desired from here," one senior agency official said yesterday.

It also focused on Feith's shop.

In a signal of administration concern over the controversy, two senior Pentagon officials yesterday held a news conference to challenge allegations that they pressured the CIA or other agencies to slant intelligence for political reasons. "I know of no pressure," said Douglas J. Feith, undersecretary for policy. "I know of nobody who pressured anybody."

Feith said a special Pentagon office to analyze intelligence in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks did not necessarily focus on Iraq but came up with "some interesting observations about the linkages between Iraq and al Qaeda."

Officials in the intelligence community and on Capitol Hill, however, have described the office as an alternative source of intelligence analysis that helped the administration make its case that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein posed an imminent threat.

On June 7, Pincus and Dana Priest reported discrepancies between what analysts concluded and what Bush and Cheney said publicly.

During the weeks last fall before critical votes in Congress and the United Nations on going to war in Iraq, senior administration officials, including President Bush, expressed certainty in public that Iraq possessed chemical and biological weapons, even though U.S. intelligence agencies were reporting they had no direct evidence that such weapons existed.

In an example of the tenor of the administration's statements at the time, the president said in the Rose Garden on Sept. 26 that "the Iraqi regime possesses biological and chemical weapons. The Iraqi regime is building the facilities necessary to make more biological and chemical weapons."

But a Defense Intelligence Agency report on chemical weapons, widely distributed to administration policymakers around the time of the president's speech, stated there was "no reliable information on whether Iraq is producing or stockpiling chemical weapons or whether Iraq has or will establish its chemical agent production facilities."

On June 8, Condi Rice appeared on George Stephanopolous' show; he asked her extensively about the case for war and brought up Wilson's accusation from the Kristof article. The very next morning, after Bush told Libby he was concerned about the Kristof allegations, Libby and John Hannah and Dick Cheney started madly collecting oppo research on Joe Wilson. By the end of the week, Cheney was trying to launder Valerie's identity through Robert Grenier's office so it would go into a Pincus article. So when, on June 12, Pincus reiterated Wilson's charges anew and not long after Spencer and friends repeated it, Cheney and Libby started leaking Plame's identity directly to Judy Miller.

When asked about these articles during his grand jury appearance a year later, incidentally, Scooter Libby still remembered them and their content.

The point is, it was never just Valerie and Joe. Dick Cheney outed Valerie Wilson because of a sense that a large number of intelligence professionals were about to reveal just how fraudulent the case for war had been, with a special focus on his own pressure of intelligence professionals and Dougie Feith's little intelligence shop.

And we know that Cheney's office was already trying to get out of that fix by torturing people. We don't know what was happening with Gitmo interrogations at this time, nor what questions the torturers were asking Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. But Duelfer's revelations make it clear that Cheney's office had already, frantically, been trying to torture some kind of validation for his claims for war out of boh Iraqi and al Qaeda detainees.

Wilson's recent comments tying everything together
Which brings us to a piece Joe Wilson wrote several weeks ago, after Jonathan Landay reported that Cheney and Rummy had ordered torture to find ties between Iraq and al Qaeda. Wilson alluded to that report.

We have also learned that a principal reason for having tortured senior al Qaeda detainees was not, in fact, to defend the Homeland, but rather to build the case for war with Iraq based on alleged ties between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. Despite literally hundreds of waterboarding sessions, there was no evidence developed that such a link existed. But that did not stop Cheney. He and others in the Bush administration simply asserted a link even though they knew one did not exist.

And then tied all of these things together.

The disinformation campaign to manipulate public opinion in favor of the invasion, the torture program, and the illegal exposure of a clandestine CIA agent—my wife, Valerie Plame Wilson—were linked events. In their desperate effort to gather material to whip up public support, Cheney and others resorted to torture, well known in the intelligence craft to elicit inherently unreliable information. Cheney & Co. then pressured the CIA to put its stamp of approval on a series of falsehoods—26 of which were inserted into Secretary of State Colin Powell’s speech before the United Nations Security Council. At the same time, Cheney was furiously attempting to suppress the true information that Saddam Hussein was not seeking yellowcake uranium in Niger. After I published the facts in an article in The New York Times in July 2003, Cheney tried to punish me and discredit the truth by directing the outing of a CIA operative who happened to be my wife.

Now, as I said, I still remain skeptical that it's all as neat as this. It may well be that Joe is pulling all these threads together because Dick Cheney is a secretive power hungry asshole to everyone, and the renewed focus on Cheney gives the Wilsons another opportunity to hit back at Cheney for outing Valerie.

But I'm struck by two things: the insistence on Pelosi's and Graham's part that the NIE lies have ties to the torture briefings. And the likelihood that Dick Cheney's guy in Iraq, Harold Rhode, may have suggested waterboarding an Iraqi to shore up the case for war.

May 15, 2009 2:32 pm

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Saundra Hummer
May 16th, 2009, 02:42 PM
^ ^ ^ ^ ^

Obama Picks a Clarence Thomas For the EPA
May 16, 2009 at 12:52:10
Rob Kall Page 1 of 1 page(s)
When George Bush the dubya semen supplier (senior) chose Clarence Thomas for the supreme court, he hid the most conservative judge on the court under the cover of blackness. Now, Obama is hiring a female latina who just happens to be a lawyer for the nation's largest toxic polluters to take responsibility for enforcing our nation's evironmental laws. WTF?

Ya think there's a problem here?

Think progress reports that President Obama "announced his intent to nominate” Ignacia S. Moreno to be Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division in the Department of Justice. Moreno, general counsel for that department during the Clinton administration, is now the corporate environmental counsel for General Electric, “America’s #1 Superfund Polluter“:

Number five in the Fortune 500 with revenues of $89.3 billion and earnings of $8.2 billion in 1997, General Electric has been a leader in the effort to roll back the Superfund law and stave off any requirements for full cleanup and restoration of sites they helped create.

This February, General Electric lost an eight-year battle to “prove that parts of the Superfund law are unconstitutional.” One of the 600-person DOJ environmental division’s “primary responsibilities is to enforce federal civil and criminal environmental laws such as” the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, and the Superfund.

Before General Electric, Moreno worked as a corporate attorney at Spriggs and Hollingsworth. Moreno’s name is found in the Westlaw database as an attorney defending General Motors in another Superfund case, the GM Powertrain facility in Bedford, Indiana:

Historical uses and management of PCB containing hydraulic oils and PCB impacted materials has contaminated on-site areas as well as the sediment and floodplain soil within Bailey’s Branch and the Pleasant Run Creek watershed.

But wait. There's more. This nominee, the NY Times reports, "worked for DOJ during the Clinton administration, serving as special assistant and principal counsel to the assistant attorney general for the environment division. According to Thinkprogress,

During the Clinton administration, Moreno was involved in another controversial case, unsuccessfully defending the Secretary of Commerce’s decision to weaken the dolphin-safe tuna standard. In Brower v. Daley, Earth Island Institute, The Humane Society of the United States, and other individuals and organizations brought suit against the United States government for actions that were “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, and contrary to law,” winning their case in 2000.

We have to wonder how Obama is rationalizing this one, or, who has helped Obama to rationalize this. There is some defense of his decision, with one former Bush EPA director, Eric Schaeffer, director of the nonprofit Environmental Integrity Project, who quit because Bush's direction was going to anti-environment, who suggests that a corporate attorney will know how to play the game.

But this nascent appointee fought against dolphin-free tuna laws. That was under Clinton. The smell of Clinton always seems to show up with Obama's worse appointees. Or maybe it's Rahm. Same thing. I really thought that with Obama's election we'd seen the beginning of the end of the DLC. Boy, was I wrong. The only way Obama's going to start heading in the right direction is if he purges ALL of his Clinton appointees, and that's not likely to happen very soon.

Meanwhile, it does give one pause for concern about the SCOTUS appointment he will make soon. Maybe he's been reading too much of that that Team of Rivals Lincoln presidency stuff. Maybe it's time he remembers who elected him-- people who cared about the war, the environment, illegal spying, torture, corruption, health care for all-- because he seems to have forgotten every single one of them. He came talking about change but the change we've seen is HIM looking more like the do-nothings in congress on both sides of the aisle... except what they do for corporations and lobbyists.

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Saundra Hummer
May 16th, 2009, 04:59 PM

* * * * *

The Government's Shameful War
Marijuana Users
Chuck Simpson
May 15, 2009 at 21:42:22

History is replete with examples of governmental attempts to modify human behavior by imposing prohibitions. All attempts failed, most of them miserably.

In the 16th century, coffee was banned in Egypt and supplies were burned. Coffee consumption increased rapidly.

In the 17th century, the Tsar of Russia executed people caught using tobacco. Among unexecuted Russian citizens, tobacco usage increased.

Similar results obtained when tobacco usage was banned in Bavaria, Saxony and Zurich. Violators were executed, by order of the Sultan. Among survivors, tobacco usage increased.

In England, the 1736 Gin Act was intended to increase prices to the extent consumption would decrease. General lawbreaking resulted. Gin consumption increased.

In China, a 1792 law required strangulation of keepers of opium shops. Opium usage increased.

San Francisco County recently banned smoking in all public buildings. This ban was deemed to include the jailhouse. The price of black market jailhouse cigarettes immediately jumped to $120 per pack.

The Puritans who sailed to Plymouth Rock in 1620 should have provided a clue. They packed 14 tons of water as emergency backup for 42 tons of beer and 40 tons of wine.

America imposed a tax on distillation of whiskey in 1791. The resulting civil protests quickly grew into armed rebellion against the new government. In 1794 President Washington called out the militias of several states to form an army roughly the size of that which defeated the British, put down the rebellion and established the right of the federal government to make war against its own citizens. But the Army couldn't enforce the Whiskey Tax, which was repealed in 1803, long after unlicensed stills relocated to secluded forests in remote mountains in eastern Kentucky, where alcoholic beverages have been produced under shining moons for over 200 years.

Between 1875 and 1914, 27 states and cities banned smoking of opium. In those localities, opium consumption increased sevenfold. Abraham Lincoln earlier called this one right:

"Prohibition... makes a crime out of things that are not crimes... and strikes a blow at the very principles upon which our government was founded."

Under President Obama, a few fragile green shoots are becoming apparent to those who seek to provide a dose of Hope, Change and basic sanity to America's war on citizens who use marijuana.

Which leads inquiring minds to ask: Where did this insane and inhumane war come from, and were the reasons valid?

The answer to the first question: Richard M. Nixon.

The answer to the second question: No.

Nixon initiated America's War on Drugs based almost solely on personal hateful racial bigotry and a profound level of ignorance of history. Nixon was recorded telling his chief of staff: "You have to face the fact that the whole problem is really the blacks. The key is to devise a system that recognizes this while not appearing to."

Those emotions have blindly controlled national policy on marijuana ever since.

Under President Johnson, the progressive 1966 Narcotic Addiction Rehabilitation Act allowed treatment as an alternative to federal prison. A 1968 amendment allowed suspended sentences and for the criminal records of people who stayed out of trouble for a year to be expunged.

In 1969 the Supreme Court ruled the Marijuana Tax Act, the 1937 law that made marijuana illegal, was unconstitutional. In response the Comprehensive Drug Abuse and Control Act, commonly called the Controlled Substances Act, was passed in 1970. Some provisions of the 1970 law were progressive. Congress determined that prisons were overflowing and the courts were ineffective because, due to the barbaric 1951 Boggs Act, they had no flexibility to make the punishment fit the crime. Mandatory sentencing requirements that treated a casual user possessing a quarter-ounce of marijuana the same as a determined dealer with a wheelbarrow full of heroin waiting outside an elementary school for his customers to be dismissed were recognized as a failed policy and were eliminated. Other provisions were not progressive.

With some Congressional misgivings, marijuana became a Schedule I substance, a drug with high potential for abuse and no currently accepted medical use. And also because it was used primarily by anti-war protesters and hippies, who were intent upon undermining Nixon's anal-retentive policies.

But Congress had lingering concerns about the dangers and medical benefits of marijuana. To resolve those concerns, Congress created the National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse early in 1971. Unfortunately, nine of the 13 members were appointed by Nixon. Because Nixon was personally opposed to drugs, he stuffed the commission with hardliners. The chair was Raymond Shafer, a former prosecutor and Republican governor of Pennsylvania, well known for his tough law and order approach to drugs. At the time Shafer coveted, actively sought and was being seriously considered for lifetime appointment as a federal judge.

The commission sponsored over 50 research projects, conducted numerous opinion polls and held many hearings, at which it took thousands of pages of testimony. To this day, the commission's work stands as the most thorough, unbiased study of marijuana ever conducted by the federal government.

Recently released tapes of 1971-1972 Oval Office conversations concerning Shafer and his commission reveal that Nixon, in his uniquely homey style, provided staff with extraordinarily lucid explanations for a number of societal issues that had long perplexed learned scholars. One of his more startling revelations explained the cause of decline of ancient Greek civilization:

"You know what happened to the Greeks. Homosexuality destroyed them. Sure, Aristotle was a homo, we all know that, so was Socrates."

Per Nixon, a similar fate befell the mighty Roman Empire:

"Do you know what happened to the Romes, Romans? The last six Roman emperors were fags... The last six. Nero had a public wedding to a boy."

And the Roman Catholic Church as well:

"You know what happened to the Popes? Its all right that, po-po Popes were laying the nuns, that's been going on for years, centuries, but, when the Popes, when the Catholic Church went to hell in, I don't know, three or four centuries ago, it was homosexual..."

Britain and France suffered the same terrible affliction:

"Now that's what happened to Britain, it happened earlier to France."

Russia escaped this moral plague, only to be engulfed by another:

"Why the hell are those Communists so hard on drugs? Well why they're so hard on drugs is because, uh, they love to booze. I mean, the Russians, they drink pretty good."

Nixon offered an eminently reasonable explanation for why booze is beneficial to society while marijuana is not. Nixon, who was known to drunkenly stagger through the halls of the White house while having incoherent one-sided conversations with portraits of presidential predecessors, piously explained:

"People use marijuana to get high."

"People use alcohol to have fun."

But these were merely gratuitous side comments provided to enliven discussions about Shafer, his commission and its findings.

The tapes make evident the extent and direction of Nixon's preconceptions about the causes of marijuana's increasing popularity:

"Every one of the bastards that are out for legalizing marijuana is Jewish."

Anti-war protesters represented the disastrous results of America's lenient drug policy:

"These uh, more radical demonstrators that were here the last, oh, two weeks ago. They're all on drugs. Oh yeah, horrible..."

The commission took almost 12 months to complete its work. On a number of occasions during that time, Nixon prematurely proclaimed the commission's conclusions and recommendations. His comments to his staff and to Shafer, made at various times, in equally coherent terms, included:

"I think that's what you want to do, take a strong line."

"Now, this is one thing I want. I want a Goddamn strong statement on marijuana. Can I get that out of this sonofabitching, uh, Domestic Council?"

"I mean one on marijuana that just tears the ass out of them."

"We are going to hit the marijuana thing, and I want to hit it right square in the puss, I want to find a way of putting more on that."

"I want to hit it, against legalizing and all that sort of thing."

The day before the Commission released its final report, Nixon said: "We need, and I use the word 'all out war', on all fronts... We have to attack on all fronts."

Knowledgeable government professionals were not allowed to provide input. The Department of Health, Education and Welfare wasn't to be consulted: "Don't go to HEW. Well, we might, we might have big problems with HEW too."

Input by the National Institutes of Health was forbidden: "Did you see this statement by Brown... this morning? Uh, he should be out. I mean, today, today. If he's a presidential appointee all I do is fire the son- of-a-b*tch, and I mean today."

No wonder Barry Goldwater was quoted as saying: "I wouldn't trust Nixon from here to that phone."

In March of 1972, to his great credit, Shafer bucked the President and delivered an honest report, with conclusions based on all the evidence. The commission concluded that marijuana's relative potential for causing harm does not justify punishment for users and recommended decriminalization of possession and use of small quantities of marijuana. A Zogby poll taken shortly after found that 61 percent of voters nationwide agreed with Shafer Commission conclusions that marijuana users should not be arrested or jailed. Only 33 percent supported treating marijuana users as criminals.

Nixon refused to read the report before denouncing its findings. Raymond Shafer was eliminated from the list of those being considered for appointment as federal judges. Echoing the words spoken the day before the final report was issued, Nixon declared the nation to be engaged in a "War on Drugs". In June 1971, when polls indicated the populace considered heroin a prime problem as the result of a massive publicity campaign orchestrated by the White House, Nixon sent a message to Congress declaring:

"America's Public Enemy Number One is drug abuse."

"...present efforts to control drug abuse are not sufficient... The problem has assumed the dimensions of a national emergency. I intend to take every step necessary to deal with this emergency."

In remarks to media executives the next day, Nixon claimed: "Drug traffic is public enemy number one domestically in the United States today and we must wage a total offensive, worldwide, nationwide, government-wide, and, if I might say so, media-wide."

The war was on.

Why? Because "Every one of the bastards that are out for legalizing marijuana is Jewish."

And because "... radical demonstrators that were here the last, oh, two weeks ago. They're all on drugs..."

Insane reasons for an insane war. The time for government to recognize it has lost yet another war and to surrender is long past.

* * *

The author is a retired professional civil and structural engineer, reformed attorney, fierce Progressive, policy junkie, vociferous reader, lifelong learner, aspiring writer and author of the crime-thriller "The Geronimo Manifesto". He is also a (more...)

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* * * * * * *

Saundra Hummer
May 18th, 2009, 12:10 PM


12 Bush lawyers face disbarment complaints
A liberal activist group has filed disciplinary complaints in four states and the District of Columbia calling for the disbarment of twelve lawyers they say are associated with the Bush administration’s position on torture.

The complaints — running more than 500 pages — enumerate in excruciating detail the case against key Bush officials that participated in defending “torture techniques” employed by the administration against alleged al Qaeda suspects.

The complaints are posted online at disbartorturelawyers.com.

The complaints were filed against former White House Legal Counsel attorneys John Yoo, Jay Bybee (pictured above right...Go on-site to view) and Stephen Bradbury; former Attorney Generals Alberto Gonzales, John Ashcroft and Michael Mukasey; former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff; former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney David Addington, Alice Fisher, William Haynes II, Douglas Feith and Timothy Flanigan with the state bars in the District of Columbia, New York, California, Texas and Pennsylvania.

“The individually tailored complaints allege that the named attorneys violated the rules of professional responsibility by advocating torture, which is illegal under both United States and international law,” the activist group Velvet Revolution said in a release. “Specifically, the Geneva Convention, UN Convention Against Torture, the Eighth Amendment, the Army Field Manual and the United States Criminal Code against torture and war crimes all prohibit torture of detainees.

“The memos written and supported by these attorneys advocating torture have now been repudiated by the Department of Justice, the White House, the Department of Defense and other experts in the field,” they continued. “The recently released Senate and Red Cross reports on detainee treatment provide uncontroverted evidence that the torture techniques advocated by the attorneys were used on human beings over an extended period of time. ”

In addition, the group says that evidence surrounding the Bush administration’s legal wrangling shows the lawyers engaged in “moral turpitude.”

“We have asked the respective state bars to revoke the licenses of the foregoing attorneys for moral turpitude,” they write. “They failed to show ‘respect for and obedience to the law, and respect for the rights of others,’ and intentionally or recklessly failed to act competently, all in violation of legal Rules of Professional Conduct.”

The complaints seek disciplinary action and disbarment — the prohibition of allowing any of the aforementioned officials from practicing law.

Jay Bybee, who authored an infamous memo that laid out the techniques the Bush administration sanctioned, is now a judge in the District of Columbia. The complaint regarding the former White House Office of Legal Counsel attorney argues that Bybee’s involvement amounts to a “travesty of justice.”

“The [Office of Legal Counsel] memoranda offered the patina of legal sanction to the use of techniques such as waterboarding, hypothermia, stress positions, extensive sleep deprivation and confinement with stinging insects to exploit prisoner phobias,” the activists write. “The memos, by carefully defining parameters, clearly demonstrate that the authors of the memos were deeply engaged in the application of torture techniques, not merely giving abstract legal counsel.”

“Therefore, Velvet Revolution calls upon the Board on Professional Responsibility, District of Columbia Court of Appeals, to act immediately to disbar Mr. Bybee for conduct that is a travesty of justice and an affront to the rule of law and the standards of professional legal and ethical conduct,” they write.

-John Byrne

Raw Story | P.O. Box 21050 | Washington | DC | 20009

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Saundra Hummer
May 18th, 2009, 12:53 PM
. . . . . . .

Shootings of Unionists Continue Unabated

Humberto Márquez

CARACAS (IPS) - Two shots to the head, fired from a van, put a sudden end to the life of Argenis Vásquez, the organising secretary of the Toyota assembly plant workers' union in the city of Cumaná, 400 kilometres east of the Venezuelan capital, as he was leaving his home at 09:00 local time.

But his death was just one of the cases that marked the start of another bloody month for Venezuelan trade unionists.

The day before, on May 4, 29-year-old Keller Maneiro, a delegate of the Union of Construction and Lumber Workers in Ciudad Guayana, 500 kilometres southeast of Caracas, was murdered in the parking lot of a supermarket.

A few days later, Sergio Devis, leader of another construction union in Ciudad Guayana, was intercepted along a rural road by men who roughly forced him out of his car and dispatched him with shots to the head, according to witnesses.

Vásquez had organised a strike at the Toyota plant in April, and immediately after he was killed a group of enraged workers attacked the factory, destroying gates, windows and a security booth. They set two cars on fire and assaulted one of the supervisors as well as reporters covering the event.

The state governor, Enrique Maestre, of the governing United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), to which Vásquez also belonged, said he was "concerned that hired killers should have reached our state of Sucre," in the northeast of the country.

Some of Toyota's workers say the company is responsible for Vásquez's murder, while others blame a power struggle within the union.

The national chief of the judicial police, Wilmer Flores, is conducting an investigation, but veteran police agents say, based on experience at Ciudad Guayana, that if hired killers are involved it will be difficult to establish connections between the victim and the assassins.

The area around Ciudad Guayana is a centre of heavy industry, where iron ore, bauxite and precious minerals are mined and there are steel and aluminium works and hydroelectric plants. Bridges, dams and other infrastructure are also under construction.

So far this year, four activists belonging to different construction industry unions have been murdered. One was shot inside a hospital in Ciudad Guayana.

Pedro Moreno, human rights officer in the Venezuelan Workers' Confederation (CTV), which is aligned with the opposition and has long faced accusations of corruption, told IPS that in the last decade "more than 150 trade unionists have been killed.

"Together with Provea, a human rights organisation, we have prepared a report to take before the International Labour Organisation (ILO)."

Provea said that in the period from October 2007 to September 2008 there were 29 homicides related to union activity – lower than the 53 murders during the period from October 2006 to September 2007.

"As well as being heinous crimes, they are a sign of the weakening of the trade union movement and a threat to the effective rights of workers," Marino Alvarado, the head of Provea, told IPS.

In Moreno's view, "these crimes are committed by organised groups within the unions created by the ruling party, which hand out jobs to workers in exchange for their first month's salary and other payments. Then when labour activists oppose these practices, they settle the problem with their guns."

In November 2008, three union activists at the Colombian-owned Alpina food company in Villa de Cura, 100 kilometres west of Caracas, were murdered, presumably by hired killers.

They were active in the Classist Unitary Revolutionary and Autonomous Current (C-CURA), a group that supports the administration of Hugo Chávez, with reservations, within the National Union of Workers (UNT), a pro-government central trade union.

In January, in the eastern state of Anzoátegui, governed by Tarek Saab of the PSUV, police fired upon picketing workers who were occupying a Mitsubishi assembly plant. Two workers were killed.

"Two workers dead. That is a blow I feel deep down in my heart," President Chávez said on that occasion. "Those responsible must be sent to prison."

Orlando Chirino, the head of C-CURA, retorted that "it is not enough to make speeches promising thorough investigations and severe punishment for those responsible. What has happened is a systemic problem of workers being targeted in violent attacks, not just an isolated incident of excessive force by police."

"What's happening in some Venezuelan labour sectors is basically a result of the chaos that followed the near-dissolution of political parties," Francisco Iturraspe, head of the department of Labour Law at the Central University and a leading figure in the Latin American Association of Labour Lawyers, told IPS.

Ever since the 1930s, when political parties and trade unions were organised, "the parties, especially the social democratic Acción Democrática (AD), exercised discipline over the labour movement through its union bureaux, but this collapsed when the parties unravelled during the past decade," according to Iturraspe.

He quoted Enrique Tejera París, foreign minister in the second government of former President Carlos Andrés Pérez (1974-1979 and 1989-1993), as saying that "without the tutelage of AD, trade unions in Venezuela would start a war over access to their share of oil revenues."

But the PSUV "has no apparatus to control the workers' movement, which has been of secondary importance in its strategy of power, and this can be seen in the different currents vying for control of the UNT, multiplying the number of unions to the point that in Ciudad Guayana there are nearly a dozen pro-government unions in the construction industry," Iturraspe said.

William Lizardo, secretary of the Federation of Construction Workers, said "the Labour Ministry is responsible, because it permitted and encouraged the creation of unions headed by people who are criminals or have been dismissed from companies for wrongdoing, in a bid to displace the traditional unions."

He said there were 24 unions in the construction industry in 2002, one for each region of the country, but now there are 150 unions, "each vying for their members to be allocated jobs on some construction site."

"This is very clear in Ciudad Guayana, where unemployment is twice the official national figure (of 7.3 percent in March 2009), and thousands of workers gather at the gates seeking work. They fall prey to unscrupulous mafias operating under the cover of the profusion of unions," Víctor Moreno, president of the regional union federation, told IPS.

Meanwhile, Labour Minister María Cristina Iglesias said "when we entered government (in 1999) there were approximately 1,300 unions. Now we have close to 6,000. This means we are a country where there is trade union freedom.

"Never have there been so many union organisations, and never have they been listened to as they are now.

"These organisations are maturing, trying to build a different reality, which involves demands for better wages and conditions, and also means making the political leap toward having a say in the management of companies and making decisions about production. In other words, it means taking on their role as the working class in the building of socialism," the minister said.

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One would think that Toyota itself could squelch the violence. I believe that Toyota should work towards that end. I know a lot of Japanese businesses pulled out of Mexico due to the violence there, a smart move on their part as we're now witnessing the attrocities that haven done nothing but escalate since that time. It was bad enough back then, but now it is about to topple the Mexican government, as it just can't function properly with all that's going on. Those who would do good for Mexico, and it's people, are often times killed, as are it's journalists and priests. Poor Mexico. How will it ever get better for it's people as long as illegal acts, and those who dictate, and carry them out, rule the country? Japanese businesses pulled out when they were at their zenith world wide. Maybe they will think about leaving Venezuela as well. I think Toyota should be telling the Venezuelan's this, while laying down the law to anyone who is even considering a violent path. SRH


. . . . . . . . . .

Saundra Hummer
May 18th, 2009, 01:06 PM
::: ::: ::: ::: :::

Secret memo reveals Bush was given humane, legal alternative to harsh interrogation

John Byrne
Published: May 18, 2009

The Bush administration was given clear and unequivocal advice encouraging a detainee interrogation system that followed humane practices that adhered to US and international law, a previously secret memo reveals.

A detailed memorandum authored by a counselor to former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in 2005 also reveals that the Bush Administration was offered a comprehensive alternative to its use of torture techniques. The author, Rice deputy Philip Zelikow (along with then-acting deputy secretary of defense Gordon England), asserted that the adoption of a clear and humane approach to interrogation would pay dividends for the US in the years to come.

The memo was published Thursday at Secrecy News, a blog written by secrecy expert Steven Aftergood. It can be read here in PDF form.

Zelikow acknowledged an argument frequently promulgated by former Vice President Dick Cheney — that the interrogation of detainees could save thousands of lives. But he argued that humane treatment was the only right course for the United States.

“Some [terrorist suspects] have information that may save lives, perhaps even thousands of lives,” Zelikow wrote. “They do not fit readily into any existing system of criminal or military justice. And, while balancing the danger these individuals may present, they must be treated humanely, consistent with our values and the values of the free world.”

Zelikow and England argued — conscious of the techniques that the Bush administration had already adopted and in an apparent snipe at then-approved standards endorsing torture — that such a program must “pass muster for years to come under American law and relevant standards of international law,” and “give workable clear and unambiguous guidelines for the professional and humane conduct expected from those who will operate the system.”

And, they said, whether a prisoner was caught in any number of countries abroad, “the treatment of a prisoner should be built on a foundation of common values and basic standards - a system that is reasonably interoperable.”

Zelikow recently found himself in the news after alleging that the White House sought to round up and destroy all copies of another memo he wrote that year, which argued explicitly that the Bush administration’s interrogation techniques were illegal. According to Zelikow, the “White House attempted to collect and destroy all copies of my memo.” In a recent article, Zelikow said his “supposition at the time” was that the office of Vice President Dick Cheney was behind the push.

In the memo released Thursday, the two Bush officials said they believed that the US should effectively give terrorist detainees the rights enumerated under the Geneva Conventions.


“This interim approach also is one that civilian courts are more likely to understand,” they continued. “This interim approach is also one that Americans and the world are more likely to understand and accept as reasonable.”

Both also argued for the temporary holding of detainees as opposed to their long-term imprisonment at Guantanamo Bay. They proposed an alternative system whereby individuals would be questioned when information is most current.

“In every country, individuals are held temporarily, away from public scrutiny, often just after they are apprehended, in order to conduct human but effective questioning and gather information while it is most current,” they wrote.

“As part of this interim system, and as the number of detainees goes down,” they continued, “the US will no longer need to maintain a detention facility in Guantanamo. That facility will close and we expect to transfer remaining detainees to a facility in the United States.”

Perhaps most telling was a line penned midway through the memo — a prognostication that has proven eerily true.

“If the US acts as if it has something to hide,” the officials wrote, “Americans and the world will assume that it does.”

Go on-site to gain access to Zelikow article regarding this issue, as well as these two links: The memo was published Thursday at Secrecy News, a blog written by secrecy expert Steven Aftergood. It can be read here in PDF form.

::: ::: :::

Saundra Hummer
May 18th, 2009, 01:59 PM
* * * * *
Liz Cheney Claims Her Father Would Never ‘Substitute His Own Judgment’ For The CIA’s

Last month, after President Obama released Bush-era legal memos authorizing torture, McClatchy’s Jonathan Landay reported that former Vice President Dick Cheney “applied relentless pressure on interrogators to use harsh methods on detainees in part to find evidence of cooperation between al Qaida and the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s regime.” Earlier this week, former NBC News investigative producer Robert Windrem reported for The Daily Beast that in 2003, “Cheney’s office suggested waterboarding an Iraqi prisoner, a former intelligence official for Saddam Hussein, who was suspected to have knowledge of a Saddam-al Qaeda connection.”

On ABC’s This Week today, Cheney’s daughter, Liz Cheney, a former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, responded to the allegations by pointing to a report yesterday in which intelligence officials “denied that the questioning on Iraq had included waterboarding.” Asked, however, if she denied that Cheney’s office asked “to have information about Iraq-al Qaeda connections presented” to the Iraqi detainee, Cheney did not outright deny it:

STEPHANOPOLOUS: You’ve explained one part of it, I just want to ask you to explain another part of it. The report though that the vice president’s office did ask specifically to have information about Iraq-al Qaeda connections presented to this detainee, do you deny that?

CHENEY: I think that it’s important for us to have all the facts out. And and, the first and most important fact is that the vice president has been absolutely clear that he supported this program, this was an important program, it saved American lives. Now, the way this policy worked internally was once the policy was determined and decided, the CIA, you know, made the judgments about how each individual detainee would be treated. And the Vice President would not substitute his own judgment for the professional judgment of the CIA.

* * *
Watch it: Go on-site to gain access to the video.
* * * * *
Cheney’s claim that her father would never “substitute is own judgment for the professional judgment of the CIA” is striking, especially in the context of establishing a link between al Qaeda and Iraq. The truth is that when the CIA didn’t give Cheney the info he wanted about an Iraq-al Qaeda connection, he marginalized the agency:

In the initial stages of the war on terror, Tenet’s CIA was rising to prominence as the lead agency in the Afghanistan war. But when Tenet insisted in his personal meetings with the president that there was no connection between Al Qaeda and Iraq, Cheney and Rumsfeld initiated a secret program to re-examine the evidence and marginalize the agency and Tenet. Through interviews with DoD staffers who sifted through mountains of raw intelligence, FRONTLINE details how questionable intelligence was “stovepiped” to the vice president and presented to the public.

New Yorker reporter Jane Mayer, who wrote a book about “the dark side” of the war on terror, told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow this week about how after 9/11 Cheney “was dissatisfied with the kind of information that had been given to them from the CIA,” so he requested raw intelligence reports and “took away the filter that the CIA had had.”

VANDEN HEUVAL: But you said, George, that the next big controversy is Guantanamo. The next big controversy is the mounting evidence showing that torture was used to extract evidence to create a link, a false link, between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda.

CHENEY: Let me respond to that.

VANDEN HEUVAL: That is a crucial area of investigation.

STEPHANOPOLOUS: Let me give a little context here and then I’ll let Liz respond.

CHENEY: Two points though.

STEPHANOPOLOUS: Let me just explain to the viewers what Katrina’s, a little more context on what she’s talking about. There were some reports this week that the Vice President’s office, actually back in 2003, in April of 2003, I believe, sent some sort of word to Iraq that a detainee in custody should be waterboarded in order to get information to establish whether there was a connection between Iraq and al Qaeda. Or more information on weapons of mass destruction. Your response.

CHENEY: Well, two things. It’s easy to sit here inside the Beltway and say, “gosh, no problem to put terrorists in Colorado.” And I think, frankly, the people in Colorado would have something to say to that, to object. On this particular allegation, you know, nobody who’s talking about this in the press has any knowledge of specific detainee treatment. And you saw the CIA yesterday come out and say, absolutely unequivocally, waterboarding was not used to establish this kind of a link.

VANDEN HEUVAL: I have not seen it, yeah.

CHENEY: Now, well you should read the Post yesterday. But let me, no, but George, you asked me to explain this.

STEPHANOPOLOUS: There was a Walter Pincus, but I want to press, I want to press one thing. Because there was a report. You’ve explained one part of it, I just want to ask you to explain another part of it. The report though that the vice president’s office did ask specifically to have information about Iraq-al Qaeda connections presented to this detainee, do you deny that?

CHENEY: I think that it’s important for us to have all the facts out. And and, the first and most important fact is that the vice president has been absolutely clear that he supported this program, this was an important program, it saved American lives. Now, the way this policy worked internally was once the policy was determined and decided, the CIA, you know, made the judgments about how each individual detainee would be treated. And the Vice President would not substitute his own judgment for the professional judgment of the CIA.

STEPHANOPOLOUS: Not no one in his office either?

CHENEY: So, I think it’s very important for us to look at exactly what the facts are. And the facts are that three people were waterboarded. The people that are claims to be waterboarded in these articles, are not any of those people. And I think, frankly, you’ve also got to look at the source for some of these allegations. And one of the big sources is, you know, Colonel Wilkerson. Now, Colonel Wilkerson gets coverage because of his associations with General Powell.

STEPHANOPOLOUS: Former chief of staff.

CHENEY: And has made a cottage industry out of, you know, fantasies about the vice president since he left office.

STEPHANOPOLOUS: Well, he’s not the only one reporting it. But it’s good to get your answer.

Go on-site to view the numerous comments or to add your own.
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* * * * * * *

Saundra Hummer
May 18th, 2009, 04:41 PM

Judge who denied jailed Democrat’s motion for release was Karl Rove protege
By Raw Story
Lindsay Beyerstein and Larisa Alexandrovna
Published: Aug-ust 25, 2008
Updated 9 months ago

This investigative report is dated, yet with what is going on in our legal system, it seems this is another judge who should lose her seat on the bench for sitting in on cases from which she should have recused herself. SRH

Rove raised campaign money for judge in Minor caseThe federal judge who denied a prominent Democratic fundraiser’s motion for release pending appeal last week is a former client and protégé of former White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove.

On Aug. 15, US Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Priscilla Owen (above right, go on-site for photo) upheld a lower court’s decision to keep Mississippi attorney Paul Minor in jail pending his appeal, adding more controversy to a case already steeped by allegations of both a politically motivated prosecution and conflicts of interest on the part of the US Attorney.

Minor, a once-prominent trial lawyer, was formerly Mississippi’s largest Democratic donor and made millions from a 1998 settlement with tobacco companies of a lawsuit for costs incurred by Medicare from smoking-related illnesses. The suit kindled resentment among Republicans who had been beneficiaries of the tobacco companies’ largesse.

Owen’s two-sentence order reads: “Minor has failed to establish by clear and convincing evidence that he is not likely to pose a danger to the community if released.”

Minor was convicted of mail fraud and bribery in 2007. The prosecution has contended that Minor is dangerous because he violated the terms of his pre-trial bond two years ago. The defense countered that Minor’s rule-breaking was trivial, non-violent in nature, and unlikely to recur because Minor has now been successfully treated for his drinking problem.

As reported in Raw Story’s ongoing award-nominated series, The Permanent Republican Majority, many saw the two Minor trials – which included as co-defendants Justices Wes Teel and John Whitfield, who were also found guilty, and Justice Oliver Diaz, who was not – as connected with the politicization of the US Department of Justice and the alleged use of US Attorneys by former White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove to target political opponents and perceived enemies of the Bush administration. (See links to part 4, 5, 6, and 7 of the series following this article.)

Both Minor and Diaz allege that they were victims of political prosecution orchestrated by Rove.

It is the alleged involvement of Karl Rove in the prosecutions of Paul Minor – as well as the better-known case of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman – that has raised eyebrows among Minor supporters about Owen’s recent ruling.

Rove, the Kingmaker
Priscilla R. Owen was one of the Bush administration’s most conservative and most controversial judicial appointees. The Senate Judiciary Committee voted against Owen’s confirmation as a federal judge in 2002.

A New York Times op-ed excoriated Bush for nominating Owen a second time over the objections of the Senate Judiciary Committee, saying that “ignoring the committee’s decision is only one in a growing list of ways the White House and its allies have politicized judicial selection.” Ultimately, Bush got his way and Owen was confirmed following a second battle in Congress.

It was Karl Rove’s interest in seeing Owen on the bench that kept her nomination alive, despite strong criticism of her hard-right interpretation of the law.

Rove had a longstanding interest in Owen’s career, beginning in 1994, when Owen hired him as a campaign consultant in her successful bid for a seat on the Texas Supreme Court, paying him $250,000 for his efforts. Rove helped Owen raise over $900,000 for that campaign.

Jim Moore, a long-time Texas journalist who has chronicled Rove’s career in several books, including Bush’s Brain: How Karl Rove Made George W. Bush Presidential, explained the unique relationship between Rove and Owen in a Wednesday phone interview.

“He did everything for her. He created her career. He handpicked her to go to the Texas Supreme Court when he was trying to take over the Texas Supreme Court,” said Moore. “He was looking for people to groom and raise money for and have in his pipeline. Rove went and plucked her out of obscurity. She was an unknown lawyer in Houston.”

According to a 2003 article in Mother Jones “[Rove] signed on, giving the candidate the seal of approval from the state’s corporate establishment.”

“Rove went and plucked her out of obscurity,” says Moore, “He did everything he needed to to promote her. He’s the guy who brought her name up to Bush for the federal appointment.”

A 2005 article in the New York Times noted that Owen’s appointment to the Fifth Circuit “is the latest reward of a partnership that began a dozen years ago when a prominent Texas conservative introduced her to Karl Rove, who was at the time a political consultant and emerging kingmaker.”

As recently as 2006, Rove called Owen “my friend” in a speech to the Republican National Lawyers Association

A Conflict of Interest?
Lawyers familiar with the judicial process say Owen could not have been assigned the case by means of favoritism because it would be impossible to interfere with the process of randomly assigning cases to judges without implicating the clerk of court and possibly other judges in a conspiracy.

Yet the appearance of impropriety, even when none actually exists, is often reason for recusal.

According to canon two of the US Code of Conduct for United States Judges, “A judge should avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all activities.”

It’s unknown whether Owen was aware of allegations Rove had been involved in the prosecutions of Minor, Diaz, Whitfield and Teel. However, the public record and legal filings both either mention Rove by name or reference the White House’s alleged involvement in political prosecutions in general terms.

For example, in a letter (pdf) from Paul Minor to the US House Judiciary Committee, dated Oct. 22, 2007, Minor expresses his belief that Rove was directly involved in his prosecution.

“I am writing to you because you are the only people who can help me prove that the Bush Justice Department’s prosecution of me and Justice Oliver Diaz, Jr., and Judges Wes Teel and John Whitfield was politically motivated,” he writes. “Over the past few months, it has become increasingly clear that Karl Rove, political strategist for Bush and other Republicans, conceived a strategy to dry up political money to Democratic candidates which included using the Justice Department as an instrument to prosecute prominent Democrats, particularly trial lawyers.”

On Apr. 18, 2008, the House Judiciary Committee issued a majority report titled “Allegations of Selective Prosecution in Our Federal Criminal Justice System.” The report names Rove in connection with the alleged political prosecution of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman, and briefly discusses less prominent alleged cases of political prosecution, including Minor’s.

On May 22, the Committee subpoenaed Karl Rove “for testimony about the politicization of the Department of Justice.”

Rove refused to appear. His lawyer said he had a previous engagement overseas.

As recently as last month, Minor’s attorneys filed a brief on appeal with the Fifth Circuit in which an entire section was devoted to the US Attorney scandal and alleged political prosecutions. The document does not explicitly name Rove or any other senior Bush administration officials, but the source documents do.

In part of the brief, for example, Minor’s attorneys state that should there have been an investigation and hearings held by Congress and other relevant bodies into the prosecution of Paul Minor, et al and “that such a hearing would also end with an evidentiary confrontation against the White House itself.”

Given the level of public interest and media attention in this case, and the controversy and allegations of impropriety already surrounding it, many of Minor’s supporters feel that Owen should have recused herself.

A Republican legal scholar and attorney in the South, who wishes not to be named for fear of retaliation, said during a late Monday phone interview that “the appearance of impropriety, even if none exists, is as bad as actual impropriety,” in relation to Owen’s ruling on Minor’s case. “She should have recused [herself].”

According to Professor Matt Steffey, a Constitutional scholar at Mississippi College School of Law, Owen’s connections to Karl Rove might raise the specter of divided loyalties if more information were to come to light. There are two factors to consider, Steffey explained, the first being the strength of the evidence against Rove.

“If clear wrongdoing by Mr. Rove can be established, then it would be time to take a closer look at those political ties.” Steffey said, “As more becomes clear about the strength of the relationship or Rove’s involvement in wrongdoing then there is cause, perhaps, to revisit.”

“I do think that the nature of the case comes into play, and i do think extra care is warranted when the case is already under close public scrutiny,” Steffey added.

Stephen Gillers, Emily Kempin Professor of Law at New York University, was unable to say whether Owen should have recused herself without a complete understanding of the circumstances.

Gillers explained that many variables come into play when deciding if a judge should recuse herself, such as whether Minor was asking the judge to evaluate specific allegations of wrongdoing by her former campaign consultant and political ally.

“Owen can sit on the appeal and a bail application unless Rove’s conduct is an issue in either decision,” Gillers wrote in a follow-up email. “For that to happen, someone in the case would have to inject it, most likely the defendant. Otherwise, Rove’s relationship to the case is just background noise so far as the law is concerned.”

Asked whether public apprehensions about the integrity of the Minor case could affect Owen’s ability to sit, Gillers replied, “Courts sometimes say the perception of justice is as important as justice. However, the fact that Owen has ties to Rove – owes her job to him perhaps – is not sufficient to create a disqualifying perception if nothing Rove did or did not do ever arises in the case as a subject for the court to address.”

No Crime in Mississippi or Texas
In an ironic twist, Owen herself has been criticized for not recusing herself in cases brought by big corporate donors to her judicial campaigns and for allowing her Texas Supreme Court clerks to accept thousands of dollars in bonuses from law firms with business before the Texas Supreme Court.

For example, Owen received $8,000 from Enron employees and PACs in her 1994 campaign for a seat on the Texas Supreme Court. She later authored an opinion in the Enron bankruptcy case that saved the company $225,000.

According to Andrew What, the Research Director for the non-profit legal watchdog Texans for Public Justice, Owen’s career has been rife with questionable decisions.

“When we followed her on the Texas Supreme Court, she was an activist jurist that was results oriented,” What wrote in an email late Wednesday. “Her record suggests that she was keenly aware and sensitive to what side her bread was buttered on. She threw out precedent out again and again to deliver decisions that benefited the business community that paid her bills.”

Professor Steffey notes, however, the fact that Owen accepted campaign contributions from corporations that later appeared before her as a judge would not disqualify her from ruling on Minor’s motion for release or hearing his appeal, despite the marked parallels between her corporate rulings and what Minor has been convicted of doing.

Steffey said that the allegations against Minor and his onetime co-defendant Justice Oliver Diaz seem to have stemmed from “pretty standard campaign activity.”

“One thing that always troubled me about the prosecution of Justice Diaz was that I never understood what he was alleged to have done wrong,” Steffey said. “These campaign finance issues are kind of nebulous.”

Minor has already served two years of his seven-year sentence. Prosecutors argued that Minor should not be released because he presents a danger to the community. The lower court agreed, and Owen’s ruling supports that ruling.

Judge Owen’s order comes as a blow to Minor, who had hoped to be released to care for his wife, Sylvia, who is suffering from late-stage terminal brain cancer.

Lindsay Beyerstein is an investigative reporter for Raw Story, regularly covering national issues relating to civil liberties, corruption, and women’s rights. Her writing has appeared in Salon, In These Times, the New York Press, and AlterNet, and her photography has appeared in TIME and other publications. Lindsay can be reached at lindsay@rawstory.com

Larisa Alexandrovna is the Managing Editor of Investigative News for Raw Story and regularly reports on intelligence and national security matters. She has been covering the US Attorney Scandal for nearly a year. Her essay on the Siegelman case appears in a newly published anthology, Loser Taker All: Election Fraud and The Subversion of Democracy, 2000-2008, edited by New York University professor Mark Crispin Miller, which features a collection of essays from prominent journalists, activists, and scholars. Contact her at larisa@rawstory.com

The Permanent Republican Majority Series and Related Raw Story Articles

Part One -Government opposes appeal by imprisoned attorney to visit dying wife Democrat claiming political prosecution appeals decision to prohibit visit to dying wife

Part Two – Exclusive interview with jailed governor’s daughter, Dana Siegelman

Part Three – Running Elections from the White House

Part Four – How Bush pick helped prosecute top Democrat-backed judge

Alabama station drops 60 Minutes expose on Don Siegelman prosecution

Interview with Dana Jill Simpson and alleged Rove smear campaign

Karl Rove’s Next Move: A million dollar home on Florida’s Emerald Coast

Part Five – Mississippi Justice: Bush US Attorney targeted my wife, supporters and friends

Part Six – Break-ins plague targets of US Attorneys

Justice Department investigating two US Attorneys for political prosecution

Part Seven - Justice for Sale: How Big Tobacco and the GOP teamed up to crush Democrats in the South

No wonder they don't stand up to Bush and his merrie crew of pirates and ... The unfortunate Siegelman will probably need a presidential pardon to walk free ...

The reasons opined for Don Siegelman still being in custody seem to make sense, after skimming an article on his case, and other possible litigation involving so many other elected officials, as it would open the doors to hell for too many in office, and they're talking Democrats as well as Republicans. It's an odd situation, one I've never heard of before. I had it up one time and my computer crashed and I can't recall where it is, or the wording, or the reasoning and consequences, but this man's dire situation was brought about by Karl Rove at his best. So much for "Compasionate Conservatism". SRH

The Political Prisoner
Going to Jail for Being a Democrat: How Alabama Gov. Don ...

www.alternet.org/rights/78407/ - 152k - Similar pages


Saundra Hummer
May 18th, 2009, 05:17 PM
. . . . . .

Feudalism With A Smiling Face

Tom Sullivan
May 18th, 2009
12:59am ET
The rich and powerful live in a different world from average men. They consider themselves privileged. Entitled. Untouchable. Better than the rest of us.

Los Angeles Dodgers slugger Manny Ramirez drew a 50-game suspension for using a banned substance. He failed his drug test. Listen to the play-by-play on the Manny Ramirez suspension. Sports columnists and commentators wonder why a marquee player like Ramirez would risk taking any medication not pre-approved beforehand. They concoct explanations for Ramirez’s positive test that no one believes. Seattle radio personality “New York” Vinnie Richie on Air America radio’s The Ron Reagan Show took a more jaundiced view [timestamp 3:08]:

“Athletes don’t live in the same world that we live in … They live in the world where the same rules don’t apply to them as apply to everybody else … When you grow up in that world, I think you develop a feeling that you can skirt the law, that you’re kind of immune to it, that you can go around things.”

Athletes. Vinnie was speaking of athletes.

Elsewhere, high officials in the Bush administration authorized a regime of torture for suspected terrorists in prisons spread across the globe. They and their “enhanced interrogation” defenders are circling the wagons trying to stave off investigations and criminal charges. Wall Street crashed after creating the largest Ponzi scheme the world has ever known. Now President Obama is looking to crack down on their offshore tax havens. The health insurance industry is cozying up to his administration. They hope to crowd out the single-payer option preferred by six in ten Americans.

What Vinnie said of Ramirez is true of many celebrities, elected officials, and Wall Street and corporate moguls. We are dumbfounded that any of them think no one will notice their misdeeds, much less demand accountability for them. But there’s a reason they thought that: Money means power and power means impunity.

The rules don’t apply to our 21st century Gatsbys because they’re better than us. Rules are for commoners, not royals. Welcome to feudalism with a smiling face.

Money has always meant privilege and, sometimes, the kind of privileged recklessness that precipitated the crash of 1929. In response, Franklin Roosevelt's administration enacted banking regulations to keep 1929 from recurring, striking back at "privileged princes" who had "reached out for control over Government itself." In the wake of Roosevelt and WWII, the United States built the world’s largest middle class on a foundation of universal education, a thriving industrial economy, a strong labor movement and a social safety net. It was the fulfillment of the American Dream for a large swath of U.S. citizens. It narrowed the income gap between the oligarchs and the poorest Americans.

During the Reagan years, however, the oligarchs struck back, deregulating industry after industry, attacking organized labor and attempting to dismantle the social safety net put in place by the New Deal. With globalization came pressure to keep stock prices up by keeping wages low, a decline in organized labor and an explosion in health care costs. The income gap widened again into a yawning gap, the largest since the 1920s.

The new crop of Gatsbys, from pundits to politician to power hitters, is even more entitled and otherworldly than the last. Money, celebrity and notoriety are now nearly interchangeable, and goals in and of themselves. All bring with them power, privilege and, often, a self-righteous sense of entitlement. Success has become disconnected from contribution to society, as Wall Street’s collapsed house of cards and the tantrums of its bonused princes make clear.

They are better than the rest of us.

The ideology behind this sybaritic view says the oligarchs’ success is no accident of birth, but earned solely through individual hard work and discipline. From Ken Lay to Jim Bakker, the attainment of wealth and power signify God’s approbation – a state of grace. How dare we, as lesser men, stand in their way, much less form a jury of “peers” to judge them for any malfeasance?

There is no more stunning recent example of this Randian world view than the April 30 fit of pique by Fox Business’ Stuart Varney:

How dare Cornell University economist Robert Frank state the obvious, that while important, “talent and hard work are neither necessary nor sufficient for economic success”? For that matter, how dare Warren Buffett – one of the wealthiest men in the world – imply that an accident of birth played any role in his?

“I personally think that society is responsible for a very significant percentage of what I’ve earned. If you stick me down in the middle of Bangladesh or Peru or someplace, you’ll find out how much this talent is going to produce in the wrong kind of soil. I will be struggling 30 years later. I work in a market system that happens to reward what I do very well – disproportionately well.”

– Warren Buffett, Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting, Omaha, 1996.

Buffett's comments call into question the royals' entitlement to rewards without social responsibilities, rewards owing to what President Franklin Delano Roosevelt derided as "privileged enterprise, not free enterprise." In accepting his party's nomination for president at the 1936 Democratic national convention, Roosevelt said:

“[O]ut of this modern civilization economic royalists carved new dynasties. New kingdoms were built upon concentration of control over material things. Through new uses of corporations, banks and securities, new machinery of industry and agriculture, of labor and capital—all undreamed of by the fathers—the whole structure of modern life was impressed into this royal service...

These economic royalists complain that we seek to overthrow the institutions of America. What they really complain of is that we seek to take away their power. Our allegiance to American institutions requires the overthrow of this kind of power. In vain they seek to hide behind the Flag and the Constitution. In their blindness they forget what the Flag and the Constitution stand for. Now, as always, they stand for democracy, not tyranny; for freedom, not subjection; and against a dictatorship by mob rule and the over-privileged alike.”

Roosevelt's New Deal struck back against the wreckage wrought by America's last great experiment with laissez faire capitalism. With the American middle class under assault and the banking system again in crisis, we have come full circle in seven short decades. Once again, "privileged princes" have bent the government to their will with familiar results.

So far, the Obama administration has thoughtfully provided golden parachutes for this latest generation of royals. But as job losses continue to deepen, they are right to be anxious about a new New Deal. President Obama's moves against offshore tax havens is a reminder to the over-privileged that evading their “obligation of citizenship,” is intolerable. While the American people are a patient people, that resource is not without limits, as George III discovered.

Related Topics: America's Future Now

Go on-site to gain access:
. . . . .

Saundra Hummer
May 18th, 2009, 06:05 PM

Pentagon Briefings Carried Bible Verses

posted: 2 HOURS 23 MINUTES AGO

(May 18) --In the early days of the Iraq war, daily intelligence briefings from the Pentagon were published with cover sheets that juxtaposed war photos with Bible quotations, according to an article in GQ magazine.

The article, by Robert Draper, focuses on Donald Rumsfeld's tenure as defense secretary in the Bush administration, focusing on complaints from ex-colleagues that in some cases, Rumsfeld's flawed decision-making sometimes damaged the Bush presidency and American interests.
GQ has an exclusive slideshow of some of the images here. The magazine shared a smaller selection with AOL News. You can see them in the gallery below.

Scripture on Pentagon ReportsGQ.com4 photos
This is a cover sheet for a Pentagon intelligence report from April 2003, soon after the United States launched the war in Iraq. A Pentagon intelligence official came up with the idea of using Bible verses on the daily reports after the war began, but the practice disturbed others at the Pentagon, according to a report in GQ magazine.

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Are you comfortable with the role of Christianity in the U.S. military? Why or why not?
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(Note: Go on-site to gain access to these functions, link is at end of article)Draper wrote that he received the 6-year-old papers from a "government official [who] was disturbed enough by these biblically seasoned sheets to hold on to copies."

The cover sheets from the briefings, titled 'Worldwide Intelligence Update,' were controversial at the Pentagon, and some officials worried that if they became public, it would suggest that the invasion of Iraq was shaped by religion, the article said.

"At least one Muslim analyst in the building had been greatly offended; others privately worried that if these covers were leaked during a war conducted in an Islamic nation, the fallout—as one Pentagon staffer would later say— 'would be as bad as Abu Ghraib,'" Draper wrote.

The article attributed the idea for using Bible verses on the cover sheets to Maj. Gen. Glen Shaffer, an intelligence director at the Pentagon. Though Rumsfeld didn't have a reputation for promoting his own religious views, the article suggested that he saw the cover sheets as a way of making inroads with Bush.

In a story for Monday's editions, The New York Times cast doubt on some elements of the GQ article. The newspaper suggested that Bush may not have seen the briefing on a regular basis because it was less complete than his personal daily intelligence brief.

The Times interviewed Lawrence De Rita, the Pentagon spokesman during Rumsfeld's tenure. He said he had no memory of seeing the cover sheets and doubts that Rumsfeld would have put up with them.

"The suggestion that Rumsfeld would have used these reports to somehow curry favor over at the White House is pretty laughable," Di Rita told the newspaper. "He bristled anytime people put quotes or something extraneous on the reports he wanted to read."

http://news.aol.com/article/pentagon-briefings-carried-bible-verses/487977?icid=main|htmlws-main|dl1|link4|http%3A%2F%2Fnews.aol.com%2Farticle %2Fpentagon-briefings-carried-bible-verses%2F487977
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Saundra Hummer
May 19th, 2009, 12:59 PM
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Dear Friend of Mother Jones,

Have you ever heard of "universal default"? You should have. It's in the fine print of every credit card application you've ever signed, and it means that if, say, you're a few days late paying your bill, your credit card company can add a few points to the interest rate on your outstanding balance. In fact, it can double your interest rate if it feels like it. It's nuts. But it's legal because Congress has never dne anything to stop it.
This is the kind of thing I write about on my blog at MotherJones.com. It's the kind of thing that ought to make you outraged.

But if you aren't, here's another pop quiz: Have you ever heard of "carried interest"? No? It's the way hedge fund billionaires classify their income, and it means they pay a lower income-tax rate than you do. A lot lower. Why? Because Congress has never put a stop to it.

Now are you outraged? Good. I could go on and on—and will in my blog in the days and months to come. This is what I write about—and it's a big reason why I decided to blog at MotherJones.com. Sometimes it's wonky and deep in the weeds. But it's important. And it's the kind of thing that the daily paper and the evening news rarely touch. Mother Jones does—and it's why I want you to make a donation to the Mother Jones Investigative Fund right now.

Even after a reckless decade in which they nearly touched off v2.0 of the Great Depression, the financial industry still controls Congress. How do we know? Because universal default and carried interest taxation, among others, are still alive and well. They're still legal.

But they won't be forever if someone keeps banging away about them. Someone like us. It's why I've been obsessively tracking the trillions in new banker bailouts being promoted in Washington these days. It's why we keep publishing some of the most genuinely promising ideas for real reform. It's why MoJo's editors have made following the money, pushing for financial transparency, and covering corporate misdeeds a top priority.

An edited version of Kevin Drum's newsletter. Go on-site to gain access to unedited version. SRH


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Saundra Hummer
May 19th, 2009, 01:21 PM
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Medical Care Costa Rica

People ask us about medical care in Costa Rica. The quality, the availability etc. The quality is excellent and some of the private hospitals and private clinics here offer world class quality care and probably a far superior bed side manner than an north american is used to.

The social medicare is also a very high quality standards however the main difference between the social medical system and the private medicare offered in Costa Rica would be the waiting time. Where there is virtually no wait for private medical care and attention, the socially run system is the most widely used by most all Costa Rican nationals and therefore we have the waiting.

Cosmetic surgery for foreigners has become very popular here in Costa Rica. Fabulous facilities, extremely professional attention and all the state of the art medical equipment and services offered and very affordable prices. A breast implant procedure that can run up to US$ 8500 in the USA, this same procedure will cost $3500 maximum here in Costa Rica.

Intelligent surgery rooms are available in Costa RIca and have put Costa Rica's medical procedures popularity as being at the top of the heap with some of the best North American and European hospitals in the world.

In Costa RIca you have an intelli gent choice if you need to go to a surgery room. An integrated surgery room provides patients surgical procedures with less risk of infection, faster recovery, less bleeding, and fewer anesthetic interventions.

According to Dr. Jorge Cortes director of the privately owned hospital Clinica Biblica, where this service is available, the operating room has a complete surgical equipment platform with high definition imaging in which any kind of surgery can be conducted.

"The intelligent or integrated operating room enables laparoscopic surgeries which are surgical techniques performed through small incisions and some even thriugh the navel" explaines Dr Cortes.

As stated by Dr. Cortes, this new technology provides a decrease of 30% in the duration of surgeries and it places Costa Rica in the vanguard and at the same level of the best hospitals in the United States, Europe and Asia where this technology is commonplace.

For all of you reading this newsletter, you would probably be interested to know whether as foreigners, can you have access to the medical system in Costa RIca? The answer is yes you can. Both the social subsidized medicare system and the private medicare insurance. The approximate cost for the private medical insurance for a man aged 47 years, you will pay approximately US$ 887.00 per year with US$ 250,000 of coverage. Now here in Costa RIca that is an extremely large amount of coverage that more than adequately covers any possible medical emergency or care required here in this country.

In closing as part of Costa Rica Property Sales complete real estate services and the R.E.A.D Organization Personal Advisors in Central America, we go beyond just the purchase and sale of a property. We help our clients get the right advise, do the right things with the right professionals wherever their personal needs require. From insurance matters, banking and establishing bank accounts, opening corporations, purchasing vehicles,construction permitting and land planning for development even establishing a full time resident visa status without giving up your US citizenship.

This service mention by no means implies we do all of this for you, however we certainly are involved in making sure all that you want to do is done correctly and done with the right professionals in a cost effective and time efficient manner through our vast professional resources (Bilingual) that we place at our clients disposal.

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For more information and direct contact to Costa Rica Property Sales Owner & Principal Broker / R.E.A.D Organization Founder & President call TOLL FREE Direct to Mr. Gary L. Haynes - 1-800-913-0511

I have read reports by Americans who have had medical issues come up unexpectedly, with them having to be hospitalized while in Costa Rica, and how they were amazed and totally happy with the care and professionalism with which they were treated. I have to say, I'm a bit leery, but people keep assuring us that there is really nothing to be fearful of. I read where most of the doctors in Costa Rica and India, as well as elsewhere, have been trained in U.S. teaching hospitals and are every bit as qualified as our own doctors here in the states. Cleanliness is paramount, and I do wonder how this is handled in other countries.
^ ^ ^ ^ ^ .

Saundra Hummer
May 19th, 2009, 07:04 PM


BlueCross BlueShield of North Carolina's Desperate Attempt To Deceive

7 hours and 58 minutes ago

In an effort to preserve the broken status quo, insurance giant BlueCross BlueShield of North Carolina is preparing three television ads based on myths, half truths and downright hypocrisy. The ads make it clear that the company is more concerned with protecting their stranglehold on American patients than earnestly improving the country's health care system. The accusations lead one to ask: If BlueCross BlueShield of North Carolina is so sure a public health care option would be a disaster, why are they so afraid to compete with it?

BlueCross BlueShield of North Carolina Has A History Of Denying Coverage Due To Preexisting Conditions
BCBS Of North Carolina Implied Public Option May Not Cover Preexisting Conditions. The Washington Post obtained storyboards of BlueCross BlueShield of North Carolina advertisements opposed to health care reform. In a crowded gathering, the advertisement viewer will hear, "...pre-existing conditions? Nobody knows yet..."

It is BlueCross Blue Shield of North Carolina that has a history of denying coverage due to preexisting conditions.

BCBS of NC: "Maternity Benefits And Preexisting Conditions Are Excluded." A BlueCross BlueShield of North Carolina press release announcing new coverage options stated, "maternity benefits and preexisting conditions are excluded, among other benefit limitations. To apply for Short Term Health Care, a consumer must be a resident of North Carolina, under age 65 and not eligible for Medicare or Medicaid."

BCBS Of North Carolina Denied Coverage To Applicants Due To PREEXISTING CONDITIONS. As reported by the News & Observer: "In the world of individual health insurance, it doesn't take much to become undesirable. For Denis O'Connor, 61, of Chapel Hill, all it took was too many years without sunscreen and a few small skin cancers. For his wife Alice, 54, it was migraine headaches. Those health conditions got the retired couple a health insurance quote of $3,000 a month -- $36,000 a year -- when they applied for a Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina plan in October 2003. They declined it." [News & Observer, 2/27/05]

After Wrongly Denying Coverage To Customers, BCBS Of North Carolina Was Forced To Pay For Medical Services. According to the Durham Herald-Sun: "A state insurance department program launched in 2002 has forced North Carolina health plans to pay almost $1 million for medical services they had refused to cover.... Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina, the state's largest health insurer, had the second most cases reviewed at 28, of which 32 percent were overturned." [Herald-Sun, 5/22/05]

"Blue Cross And Blue Shield Of North Carolina... Said Denial-Of-Coverage Cases Really Are About Contract Interpretation." According to the Charlotte Observer, "Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina general counsel Brad Wilson said denial-of-coverage cases really are about contract interpretation -- whether an insurance policy covers a service or not. Consumer advocates argue that insurers use vague contract language as grounds to deny payment and save themselves money." [Charlotte Observer, 4/27/99]

Yes, Al Can Still See Dr. Ferguson
BlueCross BlueShield Of North Carolina Implied Public May Be Unable To Keep Their Current Doctors. According to storyboards of a BlueCross BlueShield of North Carolina advertisement obtained by the Washington Post: "As the camera searches the room, or continues to narrow the frame after beginning at a wide focus, an older Hispanic woman comes into view. She's standing quietly in the middle of the action, as if she found herself at the wrong party, and doesn't know a soul. The background noise is dialed down significantly, enough to hear her say to no one in particular: 'Will somebody just tell me whether my Al will still be able to see Dr. Ferguson if we go through with this government plan?'"

President Obama: "Americans Must Have The Freedom To Keep Whatever Doctor And Health Care Plan They Have." While announcing a partnership to lower health care costs, President Obama laid out his vision for health care reform. He said, "I'm also committed to ensuring that whatever plan we design upholds three basic principles: First, the rising cost of health care must be brought down; second, Americans must have the freedom to keep whatever doctor and health care plan they have, or to choose a new doctor or health care plan if they want it; and third, all Americans must have quality, affordable health care." [Obama Remarks via RealClearPolitics, 5/11/09]

BlueCross BlueShield Of North Carolina Says One Thing, Does Another

Says One Thing...

BlueCross BlueShield Of NC: "We Believe An Unchecked Government-Run Plan Would Lower Payment To Doctors." Discussing an upcoming ad campaign against health care reform with the Washington Post, BlueCross BlueShield of North Carolina spokesman Lew Borman said: "We believe an unchecked government-run plan would lower payment to doctors and hospitals, forcing them to attempt to charge private insurers more and thus further eliminate private insurers' ability to compete against the government." [Washington Post, 5/18/09]

Does Another...

BlueCross BlueShield Of North Carolina Lost $128 Million Lawsuit For Fraudulently UNDERPAYING DOCTORS. As reported by the Durham Herald-Sun, "Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina was among 23 Blues plans across the country that Friday announced a $128 million settlement of a class action lawsuit brought by 900,000 physicians regarding the insurers' business practices. Numerous state medical societies, including the N.C. Medical Society, were involved in the lawsuit, which charged that North Carolina Blue Cross and other Blues plans harmed doctors with unfair business practices that denied and delayed payments for medical care... The complaint identified numerous Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans as defendants in an alleged scheme to defraud doctors in violation of the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO)." [Herald-Sun, 4/28/07]

BlueCross BlueShield: Not One To Talk
BlueCross BlueShield Ad Implies Premiums Would Rise Under Public Plan. According to storyboards of a BlueCross BlueShield of North Carolina advertisement obtained by the Washington Post, the viewer can overhear partygoers discuss "rising premiums."

In Reality:

Private Health Insurance Premiums Are Up 119% Since 1999, Compared To A 34% Increase In Wages. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, health insurance premiums have increased 119% since 1999, while workers' earnings have increased by just 34%. [Kaiser Family Foundation, accessed 5/19/09]

Any Public Option Would Provide The Private Sector With Healthy Competition

BlueCross BlueShield Ad States The Health Care System Would Be Government-Run. According to storyboards of a BlueCross BlueShield of North Carolina advertisement obtained by the Washington Post, the narrator says: "We need a plan for reform that will achieve the right results the first time around. We can do a lot better than a government-run health care system."

House Democrats Are Committed To A Public Health Care Option Which Will "Spur Competition Within The Insurance Industry." The Hill reported: "[Majority Leader] Hoyer indicated that House Democrats are committed to including a public plan option in their bill. 'We believe that a public option clearly is going to be necessary' to provide consumers with an alternative to private insurance and to spur competition within the insurance industry, Hoyer said." [The Hill, 3/26/09]

Senate Democrats Have Proposed That Public Health Care Should "Comply With All The Rules And Standards That Apply To Private Insurance" To Ensure That Private Insurance Can Compete. According to the New York Times: "In an effort to defuse the most explosive issue in the debate over comprehensive health care legislation, a top Senate Democrat has proposed that any new government-run insurance program comply with all the rules and standards that apply to private insurance. The proposal was made Monday by Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, the third-ranking member of the Senate Democratic leadership, in a bid to address fears that a public program would drive private insurers from the market." [New York Times, 5/5/09]

Speaker Pelosi Is Looking For A Public Option To Make Private Insurers More Competitive. According to Bloomberg: "House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House this year will consider health-care legislation including an option for a government-run program that would compete with insurers. 'This is a big agenda, and I believe it should have a public option in it for it to be really substantial,' Pelosi told reporters at her weekly news conference in the U.S. Capitol. Pelosi said the Democratic-controlled House will be 'aggressive' in its approach to a health-care overhaul, which is a centerpiece of Obama's agenda. She said a government role in health care will help U.S. companies be more competitive."

[B]The Administration Advocates For Health Care Reform That Will "Reduce Long-Term Growth Of Health Care Costs For Businesses And Government." According to the White House: "The Administration believes that comprehensive health reform should:

[B]. Reduce long-term growth of health care costs for businesses and government
. Protect families from bankruptcy or debt because of health care costs .
Guarantee choice of doctors and health plans
. Invest in prevention and wellness
. Improve patient safety and quality of care
. Assure affordable, quality health coverage for all Americans
. Maintain coverage when you change or lose your job
. End barriers to coverage for people with pre-existing medical conditions"
[WhiteHouse.gov, accessed 5/11/09]
–Media Matters Action Network



Saundra Hummer
May 20th, 2009, 01:15 PM


And He Shall Be Judged

Robert Draper
Tuesday 24 March 2009
A photo of an oil painting by Iraqi artist Moayyed Mohsen depicting former US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. (Image: Getty Images) Go on-site to gain access to photo's, artwork, links, etc.

Former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld has always answered his detractors by claiming that history will one day judge him kindly. But as he waits for that day, a new group of critics - his administration peers - are suddenly speaking out for the first time. What they're saying? It isn't pretty. On the morning of Thursday, April 10, 2003, Donald Rumsfeld's Pentagon prepared a top-secret briefing for George W. Bush. This document, known as the Worldwide Intelligence Update, was a daily digest of critical military intelligence so classified that it circulated among only a handful of Pentagon leaders and the president; Rumsfeld himself often delivered it, by hand, to the White House. The briefing's cover sheet generally featured triumphant, color images from the previous days' war efforts: On this particular morning, it showed the statue of Saddam Hussein being pulled down in Firdos Square, a grateful Iraqi child kissing an American soldier, and jubilant crowds thronging the streets of newly liberated Baghdad. And above these images, and just below the headline secretary of defense, was a quote that may have raised some eyebrows. It came from the Bible, from the book of Psalms: "Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him ... To deliver their soul from death."

This mixing of Crusades-like messaging with war imagery, which until now has not been revealed, had become routine. On March 31, a U.S. tank roared through the desert beneath a quote from Ephesians: "Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand." On April 7, Saddam Hussein struck a dictatorial pose, under this passage from the First Epistle of Peter: "It is God's will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men."

GO ON-SITE TO VIEW These cover sheets were the brainchild of Major General Glen Shaffer, a director for intelligence serving both the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the secretary of defense. In the days before the Iraq war, Shaffer's staff had created humorous covers in an attempt to alleviate the stress of preparing for battle. Then, as the body counting began, Shaffer, a Christian, deemed the biblical passages more suitable. Several others in the Pentagon disagreed. At least one Muslim analyst in the building had been greatly offended; others privately worried that if these covers were leaked during a war conducted in an Islamic nation, the fallout - as one Pentagon staffer would later say - "would be as bad as Abu Ghraib."

But the Pentagon's top officials were apparently unconcerned about the effect such a disclosure might have on the conduct of the war or on Bush's public standing. When colleagues complained to Shaffer that including a religious message with an intelligence briefing seemed inappropriate, Shaffer politely informed them that the practice would continue, because "my seniors" - JCS chairman Richard Myers, Rumsfeld, and the commander in chief himself - appreciated the cover pages.

But one government official was disturbed enough by these biblically seasoned sheets to hold on to copies, which I obtained recently while debriefing the past eight years with those who lived them inside the West Wing and the Pentagon. Over the past several months, the battle to define the Bush years has begun taking shape: As President Obama has rolled back his predecessor's foreign and economic policies, Dick Cheney, Ari Fleischer, and former speechwriters Michael Gerson and Marc Thiessen have all taken to the airwaves or op-ed pages to cast the Bush years in a softer light. My conversations with more than a dozen Bush loyalists, including several former cabinet-level officials and senior military commanders, have revealed another element of this legacy-building moment: intense feelings of ill will toward Donald Rumsfeld. Though few of these individuals would speak for the record (knowing that their former boss, George W. Bush, would not approve of it), they believe that Rumsfeld's actions epitomized the very traits - arrogance, stubbornness, obliviousness, ineptitude - that critics say drove the Bush presidency off the rails.

Many of these complaints are long-standing. Over the past three years, several of Bush's former advisers have described their boss's worst mistake as keeping Rumsfeld around as long as he did. "Don did not like to play well with other people," one cabinet official told me - stating a grievance that nearly everyone in the White House seemed to share, except for Bush himself. "There was exasperation," recalls a senior aide. "'How much more are we going to have to endure? Why are we keeping this guy?'" Rumsfeld has also received ongoing criticism that his Bush-mandated efforts to modernize America's Cold War-era military contributed to the early stumbles in Iraq. But in speaking with the former Bush officials, it becomes evident that Rumsfeld impaired administration performance on a host of matters extending well beyond Iraq to impact America's relations with other nations, the safety of our troops, and the response to Hurricane Katrina.

The Scripture-adorned cover sheets illustrate one specific complaint I heard again and again: that Rumsfeld's tactics - such as playing a religious angle with the president - often ran counter to sound decision-making and could, occasionally, compromise the administration's best interests. In the case of the sheets, publicly flaunting his own religious views was not at all the SecDef's style - "Rumsfeld was old-fashioned that way," Shaffer acknowledged when I contacted him about the briefings - but it was decidedly Bush's style, and Rumsfeld likely saw the Scriptures as a way of making a personal connection with a president who frequently quoted the Bible. No matter that, if leaked, the images would reinforce impressions that the administration was embarking on a religious war and could escalate tensions with the Muslim world. The sheets were not Rumsfeld's direct invention - and he could thus distance himself from them, should that prove necessary.

Still, the sheer cunning of pairing unsentimental intelligence with religious righteousness bore the signature of one man: Donald Rumsfeld. And as historians slog through the smoke and mirrors of his tenure, they may find that Rumsfeld's most enduring legacy will be the damage he did to Bush's.

"What Rumsfeld was most effective in doing," says a former senior White House official, "was not so much undermining a decision that had yet to be made as finding every way possible to delay the implementation of a decision that had been made and that he didn't like." At meetings, he'd throw up every obstacle he could. "Rumsfeld would say, 'Golly, we haven't had time to read all of these documents! I mean, this is radical change!'" the official adds. "And then, if you suggested that maybe he should've read all the documents when everyone first got them a week ago, he'd say: 'Well! I've been all over the world since then! What have you been doing?'"

The Department of Justice got a taste of such stalling tactics two months after September 11, when the president issued an order authorizing the establishment of military commissions to try suspected terrorists. Rumsfeld resisted this imposition of authority on his DoD turf. "We tried to get these military commissions up and running," recalls one former DoJ official. "There'd be a lot of 'Well, he's working on it.' In my own view, that's cost the administration a lot. Hearings for detainees would've been viewed one way back in 2002. But by 2006" - the year commissions were at last enacted - "it's not so appealing."

Similarly, Rumsfeld delayed the implementation of a 2004 presidential order granting our Australian and British allies access to the Pentagon's classified Internet system known as SIPRNet. "He always had what sounded like a good reason," says one of Bush's top advisers. "But I had a lot of back channels and found out that it was being held up." It finally took Australian prime minister John Howard forcibly complaining to Bush about the matter in the fall of 2006 for SIPRNet to become accessible.

"In many ways," says one of Bush's national-security advisers, "Rumsfeld was more interested in being perceived to be in charge than actually being in charge." When I repeated this quote to an administration official privy to Rumsfeld's war efforts, this person's eyes lit up. "One of the most fateful, knock-down-drag-outs was over postwar reconstruction," says this official. "It was the question of who'd take charge, State or DoD. Rumsfeld made a presentation about chain of command. 'If State takes over here, are you saying Tommy Franks is going to report to a State official? Mr. President, that's not in the Constitution!'"

"I'm not saying State could have done any better," this official says of the bungled reconstruction efforts. "But he owned it."

That is, until he disowned it. In May 2003, six weeks after the fall of Baghdad, Bush decreed that newly appointed envoy to Iraq Paul Bremer would be reporting directly to the secretary of defense. But within seven months, according to Bremer's book "My Year in Iraq," Rumsfeld had completely washed his hands of the faltering reconstruction efforts.

At times, this my-way-or-no-way approach could even come at the expense of his soldiers. Shortly before the Iraq invasion, King Abdullah II of Jordan decreed that warplanes could not overfly his country if they had previously flown over Israel. The king's demand meant that U.S. fighters would need to make a multiple-hour detour before proceeding to their targets. Rumsfeld had himself been a fighter pilot and presumably recognized the absurdity of the detour, and so one NSC aide approached him during a meeting in the Situation Room as the matter was being discussed.

"Excuse me, Mr. Secretary," said the aide. "I want you to know that Dr. Rice is prepared to call the king to get that restriction removed so that our kids don't have to fly the extra two and a half or three hours."

Rumsfeld looked up from his coffee. "When I need your help," he said, "I'll ask."

The secretary did not ask for the help, and so his soldiers went the extra distance, unnecessarily. This seemingly instinctive stubbornness adds to the growing consensus that Rumsfeld's obduracy - on increasing troop levels, on recognizing the insurgency - was a primary cause of mishap in Iraq. But Rumsfeld and his defenders have already begun to counter this story line, most notably with an op-ed by Rumsfeld himself in The New York Times published last November - in which he argued, remarkably, that he had been "incorrectly portrayed as an opponent of the surge in Iraq." ("I was amused by that," says one top White House official, sounding unamused. "The Casey war plan was very much his." A former senior commander qualifies this view by pointing out that General George Casey did in fact increase troop levels in 2004 and 2006 - but then adds, "Whenever we asked for increases, there was a certain amount of tension with Rumsfeld: Why couldn't we do with less?")

The assignment of blame for what went wrong in Iraq will continue to be a matter of vigorous debate. But what's been less discussed is Rumsfeld's effect on the relationship between Bush and Vladimir Putin. Bush began his presidency determined to forge a new, post-Cold War relationship with Putin, and a year after their June 2001 "sense of his soul" meeting, the two leaders released a statement pledging dialogue on matters ranging from bilateral investment to missile-defense systems. But Rumsfeld, who had also served as Gerald Ford's secretary of defense during the Cold War, wasn't on board. According to an administration official closely involved in U.S.-Russia policy, "From the get-go, it was clear that the Pentagon had no interest in anything that was in that document. Rumsfeld wanted to do the minimum and move on."

Rumsfeld's office cut against Bush's pledge of cooperation and transparency with Russia on "a whole host of things," says this official: the proposed Russian-American Observation Satellite, the Joint Data Exchange Center, plutonium disposition. By 2005 the Bush-Putin partnership had soured for a variety of reasons, including Russia's growing economic swagger and America's Iraq-induced decline in global prestige. But, the official observes, Rumsfeld "did not help the relationship; that's clear." Russia came to believe that the U.S. wasn't interested in cooperating, and Rumsfeld's actions "devalued what the president had originally said. It made the Russians believe he lacked credibility."

"No one," says another former official, "threw sand in the gears like Rumsfeld."

One of rumsfeld's other favorite tactics was obfuscation. "He was always bringing questions," recalls a senior White House adviser of Rumsfeld. "Never answers." The SecDef most famously revealed this obsession with mystery in a February 2002 news conference while speculating on Iraq's links to terrorist groups. There were, he explained, "known knowns" and then "known unknowns - that is to say, there are things that we now know we don't know." But, he added, there were also "unknown unknowns - the ones we don't know we don't know." The paradox of Rumsfeld's tenure is that in seeking to know all he could know, he also sought to control all he could control - and control inevitably came at the expense of accurate knowledge.

"Rumsfeld believed that all of the power from the military needed to migrate up to his level," recalls one former senior commander who got along well with the SecDef. "But you can't run an organization like the Department of Defense with everything going through the eye of the needle. It just doesn't work. And it wasn't just his inability to build a team below him. It was also his inability to play as a team player above him."

This unwillingness to cooperate was not a trifling matter. When the Department of Homeland Security was formed in 2002, Rumsfeld smelled a turf war. "He was very uncooperative in a petty way, and he would send some lower-level person to the secretarial meetings," recalls one former top West Wing adviser. At least he sent somebody. When Condoleezza Rice appointed Robert Blackwill to the Iraq Stabilization Group in 2003 to oversee that country's rickety reconstruction efforts, Rumsfeld saw the new group as an encroachment and therefore elected to dispatch no DoD personnel to its meetings. Here was the Rumsfeld paradox in action - his need for control trumping his desire for information - and his own subordinates could see the cost. "The truth is," recalls a former aide, "having people in the National Security Council is how you influence the NSC. So he would weaken himself by not having his eyes and ears there."

Another such trespasser on Rumsfeld's turf was the deputy national-security adviser for combating terrorism - an office that Rumsfeld once decreed does not exist. Its third occupant was a woman, Fran Townsend, and Rumsfeld's contempt for her was well-known throughout the building. "You think I'm going to talk to this broad?" he would complain.

After repeatedly being snubbed, Townsend approached Rumsfeld at a principals' meeting, the NSC gatherings of senior officials. "Mr. Secretary, if I've in some way offended you, I apologize," she said. "I'm just trying to do my job."

Whereupon Rumsfeld laughed loudly, put his arm around her shoulder, and boomed, "Ab-so-lute-ly not! Why, nothing could be further from the truth!"

Two years later, however, Townsend had received a promotion - to assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism - yet was still unable to command Rumsfeld's respect. In the midst of Hurricane Rita, Townsend learned that Texas Governor Rick Perry had signaled his willingness to cede control of the National Guard to the federal government. She called Rumsfeld's aide and was told, "The secretary and Mrs. Rumsfeld are at an event."

Townsend knew that. The event was an ambassadors' ball; she was supposed to be there but was instead dealing with the crisis. "Put me in to his detail," she ordered.

A minute later, Townsend was on the phone with Rumsfeld's security agent, who then spoke to the SecDef. "The secretary will talk to you after the event," she was told.

Later in the evening, her phone rang. It was Chief of Staff Andy Card. "Rumsfeld just called," said Card. "What is it you need?"

Livid, Townsend said, "I want to know if the president knows what a fucking asshole Don Rumsfeld is."

Sighing, the chief of staff replied, "It isn't you, Fran. He treats Condi the same way. Me, too. He's always telling me I'm the worst chief of staff ever."

As objects of Rumsfeld's scorn, Card and Townsend took a backseat to Senator Ted Kennedy. During the final months of the Bush presidency, a White House program had been quietly under way to award numerous Presidential Medals of Freedom. Nomination forms were distributed, and several in the White House - apparently including Condi Rice and Chief of Staff Josh Bolten - suggested Kennedy, without whose support Bush's single most important domestic-policy achievement, the No Child Left Behind education initiative, would never have been realized. Administration sources say Bush was warm to the idea of awarding a medal to the cancer-stricken senator. Doing so would have come across as a bighearted, postpartisan gesture in the unpopular president's final days. But ultimately he chose not to, siding with the more conservative members of the White House who had been receiving encouragement from the vice president's longtime friend Donald Rumsfeld. The former SecDef had even made a point of bringing up the subject at a Beltway social gathering late last year.

"They can't give Kennedy a medal!" he'd declared. "Not after he murdered that woman!" - referring to the Mary Jo Kopechne incident on Chappaquiddick Island nearly forty years earlier.

A final story of Rumsfeld's intransigence begins on Wednesday, August 31, 2005. Two days after Hurricane Katrina made landfall in New Orleans - and the same day that Bush viewed the damage on a flyover from his Crawford, Texas, retreat back to Washington - a White House advance team toured the devastation in an Air Force helicopter. Noticing that their chopper was outfitted with a search-and-rescue lift, one of the advance men said to the pilot, "We're not taking you away from grabbing people off of rooftops, are we?"

"No, sir," said the pilot. He explained that he was from Florida's Hurlburt Field Air Force base - roughly 200 miles from New Orleans - which contained an entire fleet of search-and-rescue helicopters. "I'm just here because you're here," the pilot added. "My whole unit's sitting back at Hurlburt, wondering why we're not being used."

The search-and-rescue helicopters were not being used because Donald Rumsfeld had not yet approved their deployment - even though, as Lieutenant General Russ Honoré, the cigar-chomping commander of Joint Task Force Katrina, would later tell me, "that Wednesday, we needed to evacuate people. The few helicopters we had in there were busy, and we were trying to deploy more."

And three years later, when I asked a top White House official how he would characterize Rumsfeld's assistance in the response to Hurricane Katrina, I found out why. "It was commonly known in the West Wing that there was a battle with Rumsfeld regarding this," said the official. "I can't imagine another defense secretary throwing up the kinds of obstacles he did."

Though various military bases had been mobilized into a state of alert well before the advance team's tour, Rumsfeld's aversion to using active-duty troops was evident: "There's no doubt in my mind," says one of Bush's close advisers today, "that Rumsfeld didn't like the concept."

The next day, three days after landfall, word of disorder in New Orleans had reached a fever pitch. According to sources familiar with the conversation, DHS secretary Michael Chertoff called Rumsfeld that morning and said, "You're going to need several thousand troops."

"Well, I disagree," said the SecDef. "And I'm going to tell the president we don't need any more than the National Guard."

The problem was that the Guard deployment (which would eventually reach 15,000 troops) had not arrived - at least not in sufficient numbers, and not where it needed to be. And though much of the chaos was being overstated by the media, the very suggestion of a state of anarchy was enough to dissuade other relief workers from entering the city. Having only recently come to grips with the roiling disaster, Bush convened a meeting in the Situation Room on Friday morning. According to several who were present, the president was agitated. Turning to the man seated at his immediate left, Bush barked, "Rumsfeld, what the hell is going on there? Are you watching what's on television? Is that the United States of America or some Third World nation I'm watching? What the hell are you doing?"

Rumsfeld replied by trotting out the ongoing National Guard deployments and suggesting that sending active-duty troops would create "unity of command" issues. Visibly impatient, Bush turned away from Rumsfeld and began to direct his inquiries at Lieutenant General Honoré on the video screen. "From then on, it was a Bush-Honoré dialogue," remembers another participant. "The president cut Rumsfeld to pieces. I just wish it had happened earlier in the week."

But still the troops hadn't arrived. And by Saturday morning, says Honoré, "we had dispersed all of these people across Louisiana. So we needed more troops to go to distribution centers, feed people, and maintain traffic." That morning Bush convened yet another meeting in the Situation Room. Chertoff was emphatic. "Mr. President," he said, "if we're not going to begin to get these troops, we're not going to be able to get the job done."

Rumsfeld could see the writing on the wall and had come prepared with a deployment plan in hand. Still, he did not volunteer it. Only when Bush ordered, "Don, do it," did he acquiesce and send in the troops - a full five days after landfall.

Today, when I presented this account to Rumsfeld's then homeland-affairs assistant, Paul McHale, he denied that Rumsfeld's actions resulted in any delay: "This was by far the largest, fastest deployment of forces probably for any purposes in the history of the United States." McHale argues that Rumsfeld's caution was due to his conviction that Bush could not send in the military as de facto law-enforcement officers under the Insurrection Act. But as one of the top lawyers involved in such scenarios for Katrina would say, "That in my mind was just a stall tactic so as not to get the active-duty military engaged. All you needed to do was use them for logistics."

Ultimately, Rumsfeld's obfuscations about National Guard rotations, unity-of-command challenges, and the Insurrection Act did not serve his commander in chief, says one senior official intimately involved with the whole saga: "There's a difference between saying to the president of the United States, 'I understand, and let me solve it,' and making the president figure out the right question to ask."

"What it's about," says this official, "is recognizing that in an emergency, the appearance of control has real operational significance. If people are panicked, everything becomes harder. If we had put those troops in on Thursday, the narrative of Katrina would be a very different one."

At any burial, some praise is appropriate. Donald Rumsfeld demanded much of others, but also of himself. Even the commanders who loathed him appreciated how he stood up for them in wartime, especially during the pitfalls at Fallujah and Abu Ghraib. He did not whine. He did not capriciously fire - and, if anything, was too slow to fire those he found wanting. Quietly yet frequently, he visited the hospital beds of those he had sent into battle. And though his former colleagues have been quick to point out his miscues, one man - the man who dubbed himself "the Decider" when describing his refusal to let Rumsfeld go - clearly saw something in him.

What, then, was it that caused Bush to keep Rumsfeld around for so long?

The relationship between the two men was formal, reflecting generational differences. The president never called Rumsfeld "Rummy" to his face, says a close adviser: "He'd always do a dramatic 'Mr. Donald Rumsfeld! Mr. Secretary!' You have to understand, in any cabinet but no doubt in ours, Condi, Powell, and Rumsfeld were larger-than-life personalities who dwarfed any other cabinet member. And Rumsfeld used that to great effect."

Bush also enjoyed Rumsfeld's cussedness, his alpha-dog behavior toward the media. That same behavior toward his colleagues did not seem to bother the president. To Bush, rivalry was healthy, and the full extent of Rumsfeld's conduct was not known to him for the simple reason, say aides, that they did not wish to trouble the leader of the Free World every time Rumsfeld jerked them around.

But when the Abu Ghraib scandal broke in the spring of 2004, Bush was upset that the Pentagon had not shared the damning photos with him before 60 Minutes II aired them. He called Rumsfeld on the Oval Office carpet, an incident that the White House leaked to The Washington Post to convey the president's dissatisfaction to the public. Rumsfeld read the story the next morning, May 6, and promptly drafted a letter of resignation. Bush received the letter with bemusement. Ol' Rummy had called his bluff. The president took no further action.

Nonetheless, as conditions in Iraq worsened throughout 2005 and early 2006, removing Rumsfeld was a "rolling conversation" with Bush and top aides. One adviser recalls bringing up the matter twice. Each time, says this adviser, Bush shrugged and said, "Who've we got to replace him?" The adviser wondered why the president never initiated a search process.

By the spring of 2006, Bush at last seemed receptive to relieving Rumsfeld. But in April, when a half-dozen retired generals voiced their beliefs that the SecDef should be fired, Bush dug in his heels. That same month, Bush invited several of his top advisers to a meeting at the White House, where a show of hands went in favor of removing Rumsfeld before the '06 midterm elections. "There were plenty of substantive reasons given for why he should be fired," recalls a participant, "and not one substantive reason for why he should stay. People said that it would look bad to fire him after the retired generals said he should be fired, but no one offered any defense of Rumsfeld at all."

Rumsfeld kept his job for six more months while midterm-threatened Republicans clamored for his head. Politicizing the issue by replacing Rumsfeld during the electoral cycle was precisely what the president refused to do, say aides. These same aides were deluged with calls from angry Republicans when Bush announced the day after the election that Bob Gates would be replacing Rumsfeld. "A lot of people on the Hill were pissed," admits one such adviser.

"I think most Republicans believe that if Rumsfeld had been dismissed before the election, we would've hung on to the Senate," says South Carolina senator Lindsey Graham. "I think they're probably right."

"I know him enough to know that he was both surprised and hugely disappointed," says one military commander who saw the SecDef shortly after Bush's November 8 announcement of his departure. But at his hour-long farewell ceremony at the Pentagon on December 15, Rumsfeld maintained his unflappable affect. Though the event was freighted with solemnity, replete with salutes and detonating cannons, he joked merrily with both the vice president and Bush - "almost to an inappropriate degree for the setting," says one colleague, who later asked Rumsfeld about his ebullience.

Referring to Bush and Cheney, Rumsfeld said, "I wanted them to have fun."

But at the end of the ceremony, the president could be seen climbing into his sedan, wearing an expression that one could interpret any number of ways: guilt, disappointment, self-loathing, a general sadness. Not "fun," however.

From beginning to end, the Rumsfeld experience was never that.


GQ correspondent Robert Draper is the author of "Dead Certain: The Presidency of George W. Bush."
Read More by this author»

Go on-site to read the numerous, as well as interesting comments, and to gain access to other topical issues of the day.

One incident alone is terribly disturbing, downright shocking, as well as disgusting. We are still wanting to know how is it that the Search & Rescue helicopter which was fully equipped for such a mission, was being used to ferry people about following Katrina, but not being used to rescue those who were dying. The pilot, along with his full squadron which was base bound in another state, were themselves wondering why. Everyone is still wondering "why?". SRH


Saundra Hummer
May 20th, 2009, 06:28 PM

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
“As violence falls in Iraq, cemetery workers feel the pinch”

Human Events “Quote of the Year”

By McClatchy News Service reporters
Jay Price and Qasim Zein
October 16

~ ~ ~

“You don’t have money to fund the war or children. “But you’re going to spend it to blow up innocent people if we can get enough kids to grow old enough for you to send to Iraq to get their heads blown off for the president’s amusement.”

Pete Stark

~ ~ ~

“Al Qaeda really hurt us, but not as much as Rupert Murdoch has hurt us, particularly in the case of Fox News. Fox News is worse than al Qaeda -- worse for our society. It’s as dangerous as the Ku Klux Klan ever was."

”MSNBC Keith Olbermann
Playboy magazine
October issue.

~ ~ ~

"This is hate of the worst order. It's like the Ku Klux Klan. It's like the Nazi party. It's no different." [...] "These are people who are wishing people with whom they disagree, ill. That's who they are. That's what they do. That's all they do."

Bill O'Reilly
Daily KOS

~ ~ ~

"There's only three things he (Republican presidential candidate and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani) mentions in a sentence: a noun and a verb and 9/11."
--Presidential candidate Joe Biden,
on fellow candidate Rudy Giuliani's style.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Saundra Hummer
May 20th, 2009, 07:04 PM


May 20, 2009

Dear Saundra,
My name is Damon Moglen, and I've just started as the director of Greenpeace's global warming campaign. In these last weeks, the first piece of legislation attempting to seriously address global warming was introduced in Congress. The bill - authored and introduced by Representatives Waxman and Markey - started off as a good first step toward solving the climate crisis.

But following pressure from an all-out $45 million lobbying push by the coal, gas and oil industries, the bill looks very different today than it did two weeks ago. That's why I want to let you know where Greenpeace stands on the bill.

Unfortunately, we simply can't support this bill in its current state. Here are a few of the reasons why:

. The bill calls for reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by less than 4-7 percent below 1990 levels by 2020. Even with supplemental reductions elsewhere in the bill, that's way short of the 25-40 percent cuts that leading scientists call for.
. The biggest polluters would receive hundreds of billions of dollars in subsidies. This is unacceptable. Taxpayers should not foot the bill for dirty industries hoping to continue business as usual.
. Given all of the carbon "offsets" that the bill offers to dirty industries, they could avoid reducing their greenhouse gas emissions for more than a decade. By that time, it could be too late to stop the worst impacts of global warming.
. A new generation of dirty coal-fired power plants will be supported through some $10 billion in ratepayer subsidies for carbon capture and sequestration (or CCS) - an unproven technology that doesn't even exist yet.
. The bill sets a renewable electricity standard that would achieve less than states are likely to accomplish on their own.

All together, this bill simply does not do what the science says is necessary to avoid the worst effects of global warming and to rescue the climate. And for us here at Greenpeace, that has always been the bottom line.

This moment requires bold leadership from President Obama and Congress, and Greenpeace fully intends to demand just that. We'll be in touch over the coming weeks and months to let you know exactly what's needed to rescue the climate. In the meantime, I want to personally thank you for your activism and commitment to this important issue. I'm looking forward to working with you.


Damon Moglen
Greenpeace Global Warming Campaign Director
702 H Street, NW,
Suite 300,
Washington, D.C. 20001
(800) 326-0959
. . . . . . . . .

Saundra Hummer
May 20th, 2009, 08:01 PM


GQ Report Blames Rumsfeld for Military Delay After Katrina

by: Visit article original @ The Times-Picayune

Monday 18 May 2009
According to Bush administration sources, Donald Rumsfeld delayed the use of the military in Katrina rescue efforts. (Photo: Telegraph UK. Go on-site to view)
A report on the GQ magazine Web site is quoting unnamed former Bush administration official as blaming former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for many failures, including a delay in military assistance in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

The report says "in speaking with the former Bush officials, it becomes evident that?Rumsfeld impaired administration performance on a host of matters extending well beyond Iraq to impact America's relations with other nations, the safety of our troops, and the response to Hurricane Katrina.

The Washington Monthly highlights more of Robert Draper's article in GQ:

"[T]hree years later, when I asked a top White House official how he would characterize Rumsfeld's assistance in the response to Hurricane Katrina, I found out why. "It was commonly known in the West Wing that there was a battle with Rumsfeld regarding this," said the official. "I can't imagine another defense secretary throwing up the kinds of obstacles he did."

Though various military bases had been mobilized into a state of alert well before the advance team's tour, Rumsfeld's aversion to using active-duty troops was evident: "There's no doubt in my mind," says one of Bush's close advisers today, "that Rumsfeld didn't like the concept."

The next day, three days after landfall, word of disorder in New Orleans had reached a fever pitch. According to sources familiar with the conversation, DHS secretary Michael Chertoff called Rumsfeld that morning and said, "You're going to need several thousand troops."

"Well, I disagree," said the SecDef. "And I'm going to tell the president we don't need any more than the National Guard."

After the president had returned to the White House, he eventually convened a meeting in the Situation Room to discuss the government's response. Bush barked, "Rumsfeld, what the hell is going on there? Are you watching what's on television? Is that the United States of America or some Third World nation I'm watching? What the hell are you doing?"

When Rumsfeld mentioned his concerns about "unity of command" issues, Bush stopped talking to his Defense Secretary and directed all inquiries to Lieutenant General Honore, via video screen, who was on the ground in Louisiana.

But still the troops hadn't arrived. And by Saturday morning, says Honore, "we had dispersed all of these people across Louisiana. So we needed more troops to go to distribution centers, feed people, and maintain traffic." That morning Bush convened yet another meeting in the Situation Room. Chertoff was emphatic. "Mr. President," he said, "if we're not going to begin to get these troops, we're not going to be able to get the job done."

Rumsfeld could see the writing on the wall and had come prepared with a deployment plan in hand. Still, he did not volunteer it. Only when Bush ordered, "Don, do it," did he acquiesce and send in the troops -- a full five days after landfall.


Saundra Hummer
May 21st, 2009, 05:12 PM

^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^

Gaia’s Health - and ours.

Posted by Editor
Gaia’s Health is poor. She’s feverish and there are no drugs that can help. That, in fact, is the problem - the administration of too much toxic material. Junk of every type has been put into her system. And, like modern medicine, we avoid dealing with the problem by refusing to face reality - by ignoring what’s in and around us, by blaming things outside ourselves.

As a result, like our own, Gaia’s health is going downhill.

There’s a connection between our health and the earth’s. I sincerely doubt that most of us nowadays have any idea how it feels to be healthy. It’s hardly a surprise that so many people find it hard to believe that the state of the earth is so bad. It seems normal to them. Just like a lack of energy, inability to sleep, constant stress, and running to the doctor seems normal.

But it’s not. It isn’t normal for there to be so many hurricanes, droughts, floods, and fires. Neither is diabetes or asthma. We don’t understand our own nature or that of the earth. We have insulated ourselves from both.

In trying to survive in this disconnected culture, we have defined health in such a narrow way that we refuse to accept certain innate characteristics of us all, actually denying them.

The fact that our bodies must heat up to fight infections is treated as the problem. Instead of being seen as a means to heal ourselves, fever is treated as the problem itself - so that we try to suppress the fever that might have healed us.

The idea that we’re greedy is unacceptable, so we refuse to acknowledge it in ourselves - in spite of the fact that a certail dollop of greed is necessary to take what we need for survival. We believe that anger is bad. We’re even told it’s unhealthy. But anger is the seed for change, the spark that ignites action against unfairness.

So, we take those “undesirable” traits and do what schizophrenics do. We push them outside - refuse to acknowledge that they’re inside us. Of course, like any schizophrenic, the traits are still there. Obviously so, as you know if you’ve seen any schizophrenic wrestling with voices outside himself.

Where do we put those traits undesirable in modern society? Corporations, of course! That’s where we allow our greed and anger free expression. That’s where we put our dark side. And that’s why we find it so hard to acknowledge the evil of such constructs. Like a schizophrenic, we deal with those traits by refusing to admit they’re part of us.

We’re reaching the end of this insanity. We’ve entangled more than ourselves in our craziness. We’ve pushed it to the point of destroying the world.

What saddens me more than anything else isn’t the impending doom of humanity. If this is the best we can do, with all our vaunted intelligence and awareness, then we shouldn’t exist. But most of the rest of Gaia’s creation is going down with us.

Now is the time for anger and outrage. Let’s get honestly greedy. It’s time to take the world back from the corporations, time to bring it back from the brink of annihilation. Let the rage come. Let us own our greed. Those people who’ve stolen from the rest of us without earning it need to be shorn of such wealth.

If you happen to read this and it spikes a bit of interest, perhaps you’d enjoy my website, Gaia Health, which is focused on the concept that the health of humans is inextricably linked with the health of the earth. It’s dedicated to telling the truth as best I can. I believe that, if you know how you’ve been misled by agribusiness, Big Pharma, modern medicine, and corporations in general, then you might develop a sense of outrage. I certainly hope so, because without it, we have no hope .

^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^

Saundra Hummer
May 23rd, 2009, 11:30 AM



May 22, 2009
... and in this corner, Darth Cheney

This week, Fox News' Jonathan Hunt aptly described how the GOP's political tactics are successfully framing the torture debate around House Speaker Nancy Pelosi instead of the Bush administration. Hunt's comments come against the background of a media landscape still very much obsessed with Pelosi's criticism of the CIA, in which reports oftentimes fail miserably to live up to basic journalistic standards.

Despite the media's inability to focus on the true issue at hand, a new made-for-TV skirmish managed to erupt in the form of "dueling" national security speeches from President Obama and former Vice President Dick Cheney.


Go on-site to gain access to video, link available at bottom of post
Perhaps Jon Stewart of Comedy Central's The Daily Show described coverage of the pairing best. The show aired a clip of The Weekly Standard's William Kristol saying of the back-to-back speeches, "Just going to be fun, don't you think? Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, you know? And I want to say that I was always on Darth Vader's side." Stewart retorted, "Now you tell us. You know, as one of the main intellectual forces behind the Iraq war, that's kind of a weird thing to admit. You might have wanted to mention, 'Oh, quick caveat to my plan on a new American century: I'm on the Darth Vader side.' "

So, on the speeches went, complete with play-by-play from the cable networks as though we were witnessing a presidential debate delayed by seven months.

MSNBC contributor Pat Buchanan went on to refer to Cheney's remarks as "candid." Similarly, over on Fox News, contributor Ralph Peters said of the speech, "every single point he raised was accurate. I am 100 percent behind him on this, because he's right." Their high praise for Cheney missed the mark entirely. During his remarks, the former vice president offered discredited assertions with respect to the relationship between interrogation techniques used at the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and Abu Ghraib prison and whether detainees provided information without the use of "enhanced interrogation techniques."

On the other hand, MSNBC's Chris Matthews called Cheney's defense of the CIA "odd" considering he "was at war with" the CIA "through much of his administration," while MSNBC political analyst Lawrence O'Donnell said of the speech, "This was as sleazy a presentation by a vice president as we've had since Spiro Agnew. This was an absolute abomination."

Keep in mind, for much of the past week, coverage of Cheney's media crusade to salvage the Bush administration's legacy has ignored important information related to the use of torture.

Despite covering questions regarding what Pelosi knew about the Bush administration's interrogation policies for the past 10 days, as of Monday, none of five major newspapers -- The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, and USA Today -- had reported on a May 13 Daily Beast article reporting that Cheney's office "suggested waterboarding an Iraqi prisoner, a former intelligence official for Saddam Hussein, who was suspected to have knowledge of a Saddam-al Qaeda connection." On the May 17 edition of ABC's This Week, Cheney's daughter Liz, a former State Department official, was specifically asked twice about the report and dodged both questions.

Moreover, those same newspapers had yet to report on a May 15 McClatchy Newspapers article by Jonathan S. Landay highlighting comments made by Cheney in 2004 that detainees at Guantánamo Bay provided information confirming Iraq's involvement in giving chemical and biological weapons training to Al Qaeda.

Other major stories this week:
David Brock: Get on the "Bus"This week, David Brock, founder and CEO of Media Matters for America, reviewed the new book Bloggers on the Bus: How the Internet Changed Politics and the Press by Eric Boehlert, a Senior Fellow at Media Matters. Brock writes:

In his new effort, Boehlert goes inside the liberal blogosphere and provides the most definitive and extensive look at the netroots movement to date. Using the historic 2008 White House campaign as a backdrop, Boehlert also details how bloggers helped set the agenda -- a role once considered to be the exclusive province of the establishment Beltway press corps.

Inspired by Timothy Crouse's landmark 1973 book, The Boys on the Bus, which unveiled modern campaign journalism at the time, Boehlert pulls back the online curtain and helps readers better understand the revolution that's taken place, as well as the unlikely participants who are leading it: students, housewives, attorneys, professors, musicians.

Bloggers on the Bus exposes the traditional press' outdated stereotypes about bloggers and leaves them by the roadside in order to paint a more complete portrait of this increasingly influential community.

You can now order your own copy of Bloggers on the Bus and help Media Matters at the same time. Either order your copy through Amazon.com for a reduced price by clicking here -- a small portion of sales will benefit Media Matters -- or make a contribution of $50 or more to Media Matters and receive an autographed copy of Bloggers on the Bus.

Limbaugh mockingly steps down as "titular head" of the GOPWe're still waiting for Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) to apologize to El Rushbo for saying on Monday, "It's not up to Rush Limbaugh to decide who ought to be in the Republican Party." After all, so many of his fellow GOP colleagues have backtracked after being critical of the conservative movement's de facto leader, it should only be a matter of time.

In any case, Rush Limbaugh resigned this week as the "titular head of the Republican Party," mockingly suggesting that Colin Powell take his place. Limbaugh's resignation came following days of attacks by the right-wing talker on Powell, who he said "represents the stale, the old, the worn-out GOP that never won anything," adding, "Frankly, I'm more interested in what Gisele Bündchen thinks than Colin Powell."

Limbaugh's antics failed to go unnoticed. Former Rep. Chris Shays (R-CT) called on GOP chairman Michael Steele to "defend Republicans who are being criticized by the talk show hosts." While Fox hosted Limbaugh to explain why "[t]he Republican Party is a mess right now," Chris Matthews discussed Rush's "shout goodbye" as "titular head" of the GOP, and CNN's Wolf Blitzer managed to squeeze a "Nice try, Wolf" out of Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) when asking the House GOP leader to comment on the Limbaugh/Powell controversy.

Ultimately, Limbaugh made his point quite clear, saying that Boehner, Rep. Pete Sessions (head of the National Republican Congressional Committee), and Steele "don't run the Republican Party," nor does "anybody in Congress or the Senate."

That doesn't leave many options.

CAFE standards change causes conservative media hyperventilation
Following the news from the White House this week that Obama would "for the first time in history ... set in motion a new national policy aimed at both increasing fuel economy and reducing greenhouse gas pollution for all new cars and trucks sold in the United States," media conservatives wasted little time attacking the policy.

On Fox News, actor and former Nixon speechwriter Ben Stein described the president's plan as "the nerdy kids in high school who didn't have cars or had to take the bus to school or mothers had to drive them to school, they're taking revenge on the cool kids who had the cool cars." Over on the Fox Business Network, Neil Cavuto likened the administration's plan to a fictional mob boss, saying, "It is not the American way, but it may be the Tony Soprano way."

Additionally, numerous media outlets (National Public Radio, Reuters, CBS News, Fox News, Fox Business, CNN, and CNBC) this week falsely asserted or suggested that Obama's proposal alone would increase the cost of the average car by $1,300. In fact, according to the administration, its proposal would add $600 to the price of the average car by 2016, with an additional $700 increase resulting from increased emissions requirements included in the Energy Independence and Security Act, which was signed by President Bush in 2007.

With an environmental issue like increased CAFE standards on the table, media conservatives took the opportunity to repeat bizarre, simplistic, scientifically deficient claims relating to climate change.

Pointing to the natural occurrence of carbon dioxide, media conservatives continued to ridicule the idea that it can be harmful to the environment. Of course, scientists do not assert that it is inherently harmful; they simply point to the danger posed to the atmosphere by excessive discharges of CO2. Fox example, on the May 20 broadcast of Clear Channel's The War Room with Quinn & Rose, co-host Jim Quinn stated, "Carbon is not pollution. I repeat, carbon is not pollution. We are made of carbon. Carbon is essential. Carbon dioxide is essential. As a matter of fact, we probably have too little carbon dioxide in the air right now. We could use more."

In particular, Fox's Sean Hannity led this week's war on science. On his nationally syndicated radio program, Hannity falsely claiming that "[t]here's now pretty much consensus that we're in a period of global cooling," defying "the phony science of global warming," and saying "we breathe carbon dioxide ... there's nothing wrong with the automobile."

To give you an example of just how demented the right has become when it comes to the issue of climate change, you need look no further than nationally syndicated radio host Michael Savage. Following news of the president's CAFE standards proposal, the San Francisco hate radio talker said that Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) could help "redesign the tailpipes" of "Government Motors" cars.

Report: Conservatives dominates Lou Dobbs TonightMedia Matters this week released an analysis of guest appearances on CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight for the first four months of 2009 showing that significantly more Republicans and conservatives than Democrats and progressives have appeared on the program -- a result consistent with a 2006 Media Matters study on Dobbs' guest lineups. Despite this conservative tilt in the Lou Dobbs Tonight guest list and Dobbs' frequent falsehoods and distortions, CNN domestic network president Jon Klein reportedly contends that Dobbs -- while the network's most opinionated anchor "by a mile" -- is "doing more of a straight newscast than he's ever done before."

The most recent Media Matters analysis found that of the 326 guest appearances on the show from January 1 to April 30 of this year, 143 -- or approximately 44 percent -- were Republicans or conservatives. By contrast, 94 -- or approximately 29 percent -- were Democrats or progressives. In other words, 52 percent more Republicans and conservatives appeared than Democrats and progressives. The study classified the remaining 89 appearances -- approximately 27 percent -- as neutral. Read the entire report here.

This week's media columns
This week's media columns from the Media Matters Senior Fellows: Eric Boehlert asks who cares what Newt Gingrich thinks, and Jamison Foser looks at Karl Rove, Super Genius.

The new MediaMatters.orgAs you've probably noticed, we recently unveiled a major redesign of our website, MediaMatters.org. The most obvious change is to the look and feel of the site. The clean new design makes our content more accessible, readable, and visually appealing. Be sure to stop by and take a look around.

Do you Facebook or Twitter?
If you use the social networking site Facebook, be sure to join the official Media Matters page and those of Senior Fellows Eric Boehlert, Jamison Foser, and Karl Frisch as well. You can also follow Media Matters, Boehlert, Foser, and Frisch on Twitter.

This weekly wrap-up was compiled by Karl Frisch, a Senior Fellow at Media Matters. Frisch also contributes to County Fair, a media blog featuring links to progressive media criticism from around the Web as well as original commentary.

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Saundra Hummer
May 23rd, 2009, 04:58 PM

Cheney and Gingrich: the GOP's worst enemies

Submitted by pmcarpenter
Sat, 05/23/2009 - 7:12am. P.M.

Already, more than a few Republican pols are steaming down the dual tracks of fear and loathing -- of their own.

At first it all seemed so happily serendipitous -- the self-presented target of San Francisco-überliberal Nancy Pelosi; plus, like manna from heaven, visions of pampered, Gitmo-released, daggers-in-their-teeth, swarthy terrorists roaming the streets of wholesome Des Moines at Barack Obama's invitation -- almost gifts from St. Jude, the saint of hopeless causes, including hopelessly imprudent political parties.

But now it appears the good saint carries boomerangs of regret as well as crosses of hope.

With respect to Pelosi, "After a one-two punch from Newt Gingrich and Dick Cheney," as Politico has reported, "House Minority Leader John Boehner and other Republican lawmakers worry that their party has overplayed its hand."

The specter of the ghoulish former vice president -- who by the way had had his own problems with the CIA -- nipping in his standard unchivalrous fashion at Pelosi's speakership heels was bad enough. But the GOP went and put Newt Gingrich in charge of the general attack, whose ultimate goal -- "Pelosi's ouster" -- is now being described as quixotically "unattainable."

That means this overeager saga has evolved into a tale of yet more GOP extremism and yet another GOP failure. And as one "senior Republican lawmaker" so aptly framed it: "If the story becomes about us and not her, it’s a problem for us." It did and it is.

The "problem" wasn't unforeseeable. As Democratic Congressman Bill Delahunt mused: "The best thing for anyone, let alone Nancy Pelosi, is to be the subject of a petty, venal, absurd attack by Newt Gingrich. He’s the gift that keeps on giving."

Yet, almost unbelievably, some amorphous strategy team inside the GOP is shipping Newt out to give some more tomorrow on "Meet the Press" -- to the ongoing horror of Republican moderates, whatever their shrinking numbers, everywhere.

But that ain't the half of it. The party's much larger problem is the hauntings of Dick Cheney.

In time, the geniuses at GOP Strategy Central will undoubtedly ask Newt to sheath his Pelosi-directed sword. Given his presidential aspirations and their concomitant need for some internal brotherly love, Newt will likely listen and obey. But Cheney has no such restraining aspirations for the future. What's more, he knows he's singularly right -- about everything -- while everyone else is wrong. And in this final act of his tragic life he means to let you know it.

In short, he doesn't give a damn about his party and its needs. And what is it his party needs now more than ever? You got it: the retention as well as return of moderates -- which is going to be slow going, or no going, as long as Dick Cheney is out there, recementing the party's image as one of hateful immoderation.

His initial national-security barbs at Obama were, in general, viewed by his party as helpful. He was a man of national conservative presence, but his out-of-office presence allowed him to take on the most popular pol in America without hammering the appearance of a direct GOP assault.

Cheneyism, however, has since become core Republicanism. The former's message as well as dark image could not be contained; now the moderates are fleeing from any association.

To date, John McCain has been perhaps the bluntest in his open disgust. When "asked about Cheney’s role in the party," the party's former presidential candidate -- and by all rights its titular head -- snapped: "I don’t have the time or energy to discuss that -- or the inclination."

When asked if she might want any campaign assistance from her party's former vice president, Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski said, pointedly and tellingly, "You know, I haven’t thought that far." Chimed Utah Sen. Robert Bennett, who, not incidentally, has a 2010 primary challenger: "The most powerful national politician in Utah is Mitt Romney, and he’s already come to Utah to campaign for me. And I think I’ll leave it at that." Utah, no less.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee's head, John Cornyn, said two days ago -- the day of Cheney's pro-torture, pro-Gitmo speech -- that he’d be "proud to appear with the vice president anywhere, anytime"; nonetheless "in the next breath, Cornyn said it would be up to individual GOP candidates to decide whether they want Cheney campaigning with them in 2010."

In Florida, Ohio and North Carolina, Democrats seized on Cornyn’s suggestion and pressured GOP candidates in those states to choose whether they want Cheney to stump in their states. Neither former Rep. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) nor Florida Gov. Charlie Crist -- both of whom are running for the Senate in 2010 -- responded to requests for comment about Cheney’s role, or lack thereof, in their campaigns.

As for North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr? "I’m not going to go there yet."

Sometimes it is well to remember that inside every silver lining there is a cloud. The GOP is now stuck with one that it can't just whisk away. While party moderates can indeed avoid further association with Dick Cheney, they cannot very easily shut down his increasing identification as the party itself. And that, as that Republican lawmaker said of the much shorter-term Pelosi affair, is a real "problem."

Please respond to P.M.'s commentary by leaving comments below and sharing them with the BuzzFlash community. For personal questions or comments you can contact him at fifthcolumnistmail@gmail.com


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who cares?
Submitted by godistwaddle on Sat, 05/23/2009 - 11:48am.Like any decent human being cares that the party of exploitation of labor, of defense of plutocracy, and of Hooverism continues in ANY way.

Are you talking about Dems or the GOP?
Submitted by Kevin Schmidt S... on Sat, 05/23/2009 - 1:09pm.Don't listen to what they say, watch what they do. They both exploit labor, defend the plutocracy, embrace Hooverism and preserve Constitutional rights only for themselves.

Who Cares, It's All Just More of the Same
Submitted by Kevin Schmidt S... on Sat, 05/23/2009 - 11:26am.Pelosi should have been beaten in November's election by Cindy Sheehan. But Pelosi had big lobbyist money and the MSM behind her, while Sheehan only had a lackluster campaign.

Still, San Fransisco voters should have been outraged by Pelosi's performance over the past two years to the point where they should have voted her out of office.

Now we have a continuation of the plutocracy's strategy of political divide and conquer. When Pelosi gets attacked by Republicans, the sheeple come running to support her. That trick works every time.

The Bush/Cheney regime policies continues on unabated in Obama/Pelosi/Reid. The names may have changed, but we still have more of the same.


Disaster Dick
Submitted by cagey on Sat, 05/23/2009 - 10:42am.
If Cheney gets his wish and there is another terrorist atack on the U.S. (possibly engineered by him), then he will regain lost ground and credibility. Don't put anything past a man who would order children to be raped in front of their parents, alledgedly. And Newt doesn't have enough charisma to get the vote of anyone under ninety, frankly.

There will be no attack
Submitted by Kevin Schmidt S... on Sat, 05/23/2009 - 11:40am.
Why should there be another staged attack? The plutocracy got what they wanted after their staged 9/11 attack, and still have it, which is open purse strings from the U.S. Treasury.

The combined national defense budget, including DOD and Homeland Security is now over ONE TRILLION DOLLARS! That's more than double of all other countries in the world combined!

Fraud runs rampant because there is little oversight. Hundreds of billions of dollars gets stolen every year.

Of course, that is chump change compared to the ongoing trillion dollar give away by the Obama administration to the corporatocracy too big to fail.

why another attack?
Submitted by cagey on Sat, 05/23/2009 - 12:34pm.
Because the beneficiaries of the last one got removed from power, and Obama is working to reform defense spending, close tax loopholes, and restore the Constitution. And, oh yeah, the Democratic congress is exercising oversight over fraud and abuse leading to stolen billions.

Are you being sarcastic?
Submitted by Kevin Schmidt S... on Sat, 05/23/2009 - 1:13pm.
The beneficiaries of the last attack, the plutocracy, are benefiting from the new Obama administration. It doesn't matter to them who is in power in D.C. Both parties are corrupted.

It's just more of the same, sang in a different key.

Hmmm . . .
Submitted by kathy2 on Sat, 05/23/2009 - 10:31am.
I didn't realize Pelosi was on a subcommittee investigating Gingrich for ethical violations --- maybe that has contributed to his glee in going after her. Nor was I aware of any House vote on investigating Pelosi or Cheney's claims that Democrats were informed on torture hundreds of times; if they were getting headlined in the MSM or any other major media outlets, I must have missed it.


Saundra Hummer
May 23rd, 2009, 05:27 PM

Cheney can now say with some degree of personal pride, "Mission Accomplished: I Dicked the Country Again!"
A BuzzFlash Editor's Blog
Was the Mainstream Media-Hyped Obama/Cheney Face-off Just Another World Wrestling Federation Ratings Event?
Submitted by mark karlin on Sat, 05/23/2009 - 11:07am. EditorBlog

By Mark Karlin
The Cheney Enigma Solved. Power is Virtue; Weakness is Evil. Lies on Behalf of Empire are Necessary Truths.
This might explain everything from how Cheney got himself appointed Vice-President (to serve as de facto president over "Fredo" Bush) to his invasion of Iraq (planned along with his sidekick in the assertion of American Empire, Donald Rumsfeld) for its oil and stratetic importance in securing a region soaked in fossil fuels.

Cheney and Rumsfeld -- and their "eager to prove his manhood" boy king, George W. Bush -- have a simple belief: if you have power, use it and use it without regard to its impact on the losers in life (the weaker ones). It's a simple view of the world that goes back to cave men. If you got a bigger cudgel, beat your competition for food and territory with it -- and make sure they don't get back up.

Cheney, who spent most of his 8 years in a bat cave as Regent to boy king Bush, emerged in an unprecedented media blitz to defend torture, attack a newly elected President, scare Americans again about terror, and call in one of his daughters to back him up on TV. It was, however, not to assert power, but to try to put a halt to a perfect storm that was brewing that would put him and his loyalists still in the CIA and military -- and those that have left -- in jeopardy of prosecution on a variety of legal issues: including torture, murder, illegal actions, etc.

That was how we ended up with a bizarre television spectacle of a former alleged Vice-President (functioning as President on foreign policy) acting as if he were running against the man who had just a few months ago been elected President by an electoral landslide.

Liz Cheney, who made her own marathon of television appearances in defense of her Dad (who had gotten her a powerful job at the State Department in the Bush years), finally admitted to FOX that Dick was just trying to stay out of prison.

“He certainly did not plan when he left office to be doing this,” Liz Cheney told Sean Hannity. “But I think as we watched in those very first days and weeks after President Obama came into office when he released the memos that lay out for the terrorists — the techniques we used to question them. Then when he suggested in the Oval Office itself that he would be open to the prosecution of former Bush administration officials including many who weren’t political appointees potentially, you know really, I think, made my dad realize this was just fundamentally wrong. We had to speak out.”

From the days when Rumsfeld and Cheney ran the White House under Gerald Ford's brief presidency and presided over America's chaotic departure from Vietnam, Cheney apparently vowed to adopt the doctrine -- if given the chance: "If it's ours to seize, take it. The weak deserve what they get; that's why they are weak."

Ethics, Morality, Decency, Legality: these are all pusillanimous concepts fostered by weak-kneed "liberals" who don't understand the realities of the world. They had no place in the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), which was the last ill-fated mob manifesto of American Exceptionalism that Cheney used as a roadmap to a cul-de-sac of failure and illegal corruption.

In the end, Cheney may not be prosecuted because it has been pretty clear that President Obama doesn't want to go there unless his hand is forced. But Cheney saw that the legal memo revelations of torture -- and the release of more torture and murder photographs -- might lead to further disclosures of illegality that would make it exceedingly difficult for Obama not to have Attorney General Holder pursue prosecutions.

So Dick hit the media -- and hit it hard. He brought his daughter into the breech to get broader coverage. He was going to send Obama and the Democrats in Congress this simple message: "If you even think about prosecuting me or any of my staff or Rumsfeld or anyone who worked in the DOD for crimes, I will destroy your political agenda with a media circus and political sabotage that will make Hurricane Katrina look like a mild summer breeze. Look what I've got my foot soldiers in Congress doing to Pelosi. Let it be a lesson to you. Don't mess with Dick!"

Of course, Bush is down in Texas, saying nary a word, except that he is carrying a plastic bag around on walks to clean up after Barney. If indictments came down, Cheney is probably thinking it would be hard to prove that the idiot understood what was going on -- and besides Cheney probably didn't tell Bush the details.

As for the past week, Cheney can now say with some degree of personal pride, "Mission Accomplished: I Dicked the Country Again!"


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Every Democratic Member Of Congress
Submitted by lapdogs on Sat, 05/23/2009 - 2:58pm.
Should get this editorial in their inbox - pronto!!

George and Barney
Submitted by kathy2 on Sat, 05/23/2009 - 2:18pmI'm impressed that Bush is poop scooping after Barney. That's so non-destructive, and it ranks up there among the top five list of the most constructive things he's done since he became governor of Texas.

and if the country is dumb
Submitted by christopherflynn on Sat, 05/23/2009 - 1:03pm.and if the country is dumb enough to accept this, then they deserve to be "dicked"...


Saundra Hummer
May 23rd, 2009, 05:55 PM
. . . . . . .

Guns in Parks

Guns Barred From National Parks Until Next Year

Glacier National Park Polebridge entrance.
File photo by Lido Vizzutti/Flathead Beacon
Go on-site for photo and more from "Flathead Beacon'

By Matthew Daly, Associated Press, 05-23-09
WASHINGTON – Not so fast, gun owners. A new law allowing loaded guns in national parks and wildlife refuges will not take effect until next year, the Obama administration said Friday.

President Barack Obama signed the gun law without comment Friday as part of a measure creating new rules for the credit card industry.

A spokeswoman for the Interior Department said that because the credit card law won't take effect until nine months after it is signed, the gun measure also will be delayed.

Spokeswoman Kendra Barkoff said the Interior Department will follow Congress's directive and put the new firearms law into effect in late February 2010.

Until then, rules adopted under the Reagan administration will remain in place. The rules severely restrict guns in the national parks, generally requiring that guns be locked or stored in a glove compartment or trunk.

"As Interior prepares to implement the new law, the department will work to understand and interpret its implications for our national parks and wildlife refuges, with public safety and the safety of our employees as our foremost consideration," Barkoff said. "For the time being, the current Reagan administration regulations governing possession of firearms in national parks and wildlife refuges remain in place."

The Interior Department's decision drew immediate criticism from Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., the chief sponsor of the gun measure.

Spokesman John Hart said Coburn will offer the gun amendment to other bills in order to implement the decision as quickly as possible.

Hart said Coburn was confident the amendment would be approved again, noting that the measure received support from 27 Democrats in the Senate, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

The measure, adopted by wide margins in the House and Senate, allows licensed gun owners to bring firearms into national parks and wildlife refuges as long as they are allowed by state law.

Hart said Congress clearly intended for the law to take effect soon, adding that Coburn was disappointed the law apparently will not be in place this summer, when national parks are most crowded.

Bryan Faehner, associate director of the National Parks Conservation Association, applauded the Interior Department's decision.

"We are pleased, because that provides more time that our parks will remain safe and free from shotguns, rifles and semiautomatic weapons," Faehner said.

"We hope that the American public and members of Congress will have more time to understand the far-reaching repercussions of this outrageous and disturbing law that has nothing to do with credit cards and will only put park visitors at risk," Faehner said.

Faehner called national parks among the safest places in the country. According to the FBI's Uniform Crime Report, there were 1.65 violent crimes per 100,000 national park visitors in 2006, far below the national average for violent crime.

Coburn countered that parks are not crime-free and that the law would help law-abiding people fight human and animal threats.

The vote allowing guns in parks was a bitter disappointment for gun-control proponents, who watched as a Democratic-controlled Congress handed a victory to gun-rights advocates that they did not achieve under Republican rule. Democratic opponents blamed the National Rifle Association, which pushed hard for the gun law.

Republicans said gun owners simply want to exercise their Second Amendment rights. The GOP called the current policy confusing to those who visit public lands, noting that merely traveling from state-owned parks to national parks meant some visitors were violating the law.

Obama did not mention the guns provision during a signing ceremony for the credit card bill. A White House spokeswoman referred questions to the Interior Department.

. . . . . . .

Saundra Hummer
May 25th, 2009, 02:24 PM


If this type of ingenuity were to be employed for good, think of what might be. SRH

Colombian Police Seize Undetectable 'Black Cocaine'
Bogota (AFP) — Colombian police seized a shipment of black cocaine that is almost impossible to detect with traditional anti-trafficking methods, regional police chief Fabio Cardona said.

"It's the first time we have encountered this type of cocaine," Cardona said after reporting that 15 packets of the drug had been discovered in the fuel tank of a car heading to the El Dorado airport in Bogota.

"It's one of the many strategies of the traffickers" to evade authorities, said Cardona.

Black cocaine has no odor, making it extremely difficult to detect, even for well-trained drug-sniffing dogs.

The 15 drug packets, of undetermined weight, were only found to be cocaine two days after their seizure, after police sent the stash to police laboratories to investigate their chemical compound.

Black cocaine can often be smuggled undetected -- disguised as plastic coating, print cartridge toner, make-up or fertilizer -- and effectively washed out with a solvent upon delivery.

2002 - 2009 INSIDECOSTARICA.COM.2133-1000 San José, Costa Rica


Saundra Hummer
May 26th, 2009, 01:10 PM
* * * * *

Why are we giving $80 million to the Iraq War profiteer responsible for electrocuting U.S. soldiers?

Hold KBR/Halliburton accountable.

Tell Robert Gates, Secretary of Defense, to stop giving a free pass to Bush/Cheney cronies profiteering from the Iraq war.

Go on-site to gain access to this function.

Call it Dick Cheney's legacy.

The Department of Defense just gave $80 million in bonuses to KBR, a former subsidiary of Halliburton, for electrical wiring contracts in Iraq. But in a dramatic Senate hearing, the DoD's own documents revealed that U.S. soldiers have died via electrocution as a direct result of KBR's shoddy and substandard work.

The Nation has issued a chilling report based on evidence revealed this week. Eighteen U.S. soldiers have died as a result of KBR's work. One of the electrocuted soldiers was a decorated Green Beret whose death was classified by the U.S. Army Criminal Investigations Division as a "negligent homicide."

Click here to demand that the Department of Defense seek criminal charges against the corporate executives responsible and block any new contracts from being awarded to KBR.

KBR/Halliburton is not just distinguished by its close relationship with Dick Cheney, the company's former CEO and the architect of the disastrous invasion of Iraq. It also happens to be the single largest war profiteer from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Bush's Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, may still lead the Department of Defense under the Obama administration. But that doesn't mean we can't end the blank checks for Bush and Cheney's cronies and hold war profiteers accountable.

Sign this petition today to ask Secretary Gates to rescind the KBR bonuses, pursue criminal charges against the officials responsible for the electrocution deaths of U.S. soldiers, and stop awarding defense contracts to KBR & Halliburton.

Click here to urge Secretary Gates to stop giving a free pass to Bush/Cheney cronies who are profiteering from the Iraq War.

Thank you for working to build a better world.

Kate Stayman-London, Campaign Manager
CREDO Action from Working AssetsP.S. CREDO is the phone company fighting to hold the Bush administration accountable for torture — as opposed to AT&T, which gave thousands to the Bush/Cheney PAC. (Check out their telephone service. SRH)

* * * * * * *

Saundra Hummer
May 26th, 2009, 03:46 PM
. . . . . . .

State of Paralysis

Op-Ed Columnist
May 25, 2009

California, it has long been claimed, is where the future happens first. But is that still true? If it is, God help America.

The recession has hit the Golden State hard. The housing bubble was bigger there than almost anywhere else, and the bust has been bigger too. California’s unemployment rate, at 11 percent, is the fifth-highest in the nation. And the state’s revenues have suffered accordingly.

What’s really alarming about California, however, is the political system’s inability to rise to the occasion.

Despite the economic slump, despite irresponsible policies that have doubled the state’s debt burden since Arnold Schwarzenegger became governor, California has immense human and financial resources. It should not be in fiscal crisis; it should not be on the verge of cutting essential public services and denying health coverage to almost a million children. But it is — and you have to wonder if California’s political paralysis foreshadows the future of the nation as a whole.

The seeds of California’s current crisis were planted more than 30 years ago, when voters overwhelmingly passed Proposition 13, a ballot measure that placed the state’s budget in a straitjacket. Property tax rates were capped, and homeowners were shielded from increases in their tax assessments even as the value of their homes rose.

The result was a tax system that is both inequitable and unstable. It’s inequitable because older homeowners often pay far less property tax than their younger neighbors. It’s unstable because limits on property taxation have forced California to rely more heavily than other states on income taxes, which fall steeply during recessions.

Even more important, however, Proposition 13 made it extremely hard to raise taxes, even in emergencies: no state tax rate may be increased without a two-thirds majority in both houses of the State Legislature. And this provision has interacted disastrously with state political trends.

For California, where the Republicans began their transformation from the party of Eisenhower to the party of Reagan, is also the place where they began their next transformation, into the party of Rush Limbaugh. As the political tide has turned against California Republicans, the party’s remaining members have become ever more extreme, ever less interested in the actual business of governing.

And while the party’s growing extremism condemns it to seemingly permanent minority status — Mr. Schwarzenegger was and is sui generis — the Republican rump retains enough seats in the Legislature to block any responsible action in the face of the fiscal crisis.

Will the same thing happen to the nation as a whole?

Last week Bill Gross of Pimco, the giant bond fund, warned that the U.S. government may lose its AAA debt rating in a few years, thanks to the trillions it’s spending to rescue the economy and the banks. Is that a real possibility?

Well, in a rational world Mr. Gross’s warning would make no sense. America’s projected deficits may sound large, yet it would take only a modest tax increase to cover the expected rise in interest payments — and right now American taxes are well below those in most other wealthy countries. The fiscal consequences of the current crisis, in other words, should be manageable.

But that presumes that we’ll be able, as a political matter, to act responsibly. The example of California shows that this is by no means guaranteed. And the political problems that have plagued California for years are now increasingly apparent at a national level.

To be blunt: recent events suggest that the Republican Party has been driven mad by lack of power. The few remaining moderates have been defeated, have fled, or are being driven out. What’s left is a party whose national committee has just passed a resolution solemnly declaring that Democrats are “dedicated to restructuring American society along socialist ideals,” and released a video comparing Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to Pussy Galore.

And that party still has 40 senators.

So will America follow California into ungovernability? Well, California has some special weaknesses that aren’t shared by the federal government. In particular, tax increases at the federal level don’t require a two-thirds majority, and can in some cases bypass the filibuster. So acting responsibly should be easier in Washington than in Sacramento.

But the California precedent still has me rattled. Who would have thought that America’s largest state, a state whose economy is larger than that of all but a few nations, could so easily become a banana republic?

On the other hand, the problems that plague California politics apply at the national level too.

. . . . .

Saundra Hummer
May 26th, 2009, 04:35 PM
:: :: :: :: ::

When Fascism Comes Through the Radio and TV & "Liberals" are the Enemy, Fight Back or Become the "Hunted" -- And We Know Who Has the Guns

The Eliminationists:
How Hate Talk Radicalized the American Right (Paperback) -- Fascism on the Airwaves Could be the Downfall of Democracy

David Neiwert
BuzzFlash.com's Review (excerpt)

We "liberals" are the enemy in the world of Sean Hannity and his ilk. We are to be hated and "eliminated." Take it seriously, because the listeners and viewers of hate talk do.

First read our BuzzFlash interview with David Neiwert, the author of "The Eliminationists."

Then read this excerpt from a review of the book and see if if rings a bell:

"Tendencies toward fascism, both in our historical past and in our current political climate, can be triggered by what the author calls "the mobilizing passions." As a checklist, it's probably one of the most useful I've run across:

1. A sense of overwhelming crisis beyond the reach of any traditional solutions.

2. The primacy of the group, toward which one has duties superior to every right, both universal and personal, and the subordination of the individual to it.

3. The belief that the group one belongs to is victimized, which justifies any action without legal or moral limits against the group's enemies, both internal and external.

4. Dread of the group's decline under the corrosive effect of individualistic liberalism, class conflict, and alien influences.

5. The need for closer integration of a purer community, by consent if possible, or by exclusionary violence if necessary.

6. The need for authority by natural leaders (always male), culminating in a national chief who alone is capable of incarnating the group's destiny.

7. The superiority of the leader's instincts over abstract and universal reason.

8. The beauty of violence and the efficacy of will, when they are devoted to the group's success.

9. The right of the "chosen people" to dominate others without restraint from any human or divine law, "right" being decided solely by the group's prowess in a Darwinian struggle."

"Last night, Dave Neiwert's brilliant new book, The Eliminationists: How Hate Talk Radicalized the American Right arrived. I've already read half of it and man is it a page turner of the first order. More importantly, it is essential reading if you want to understand clearly the danger posed by the likes of Limbaugh and Beck. Dave makes a convincing case that they are not mere buffoons whose eliminationist rhetoric can be downplayed or safely ignored, as it was recently in a disgracefully misleading front-page Times article on Beck. (Nowhere in the article did Brian Stelter or Bill Carter (or their editors) find the space, for example, to mention, as Dave does, that when he was on CNN Headline News, Glenn Beck publicly endorsed the John Birch Society or that Beck has continued to push Birchers in his new job on Fox.)"

-- Posted on Digby's Hullabaloo

Among progressive Internet sites, including BuzzFlash, some of the most-read articles on are on the right wing media shills. As liberals, we love to slam the likes of Limbaugh, O'Reilly, Hannity, Savage, Beck and their infamous colleagues.

BuzzFlash has always been of two minds about this: it is necessary, but the nutter media echo chamber uses progressive criticism to garner more publicity and more outrage from their angry audience. In short, we give them fuel for their flames.

This has become even more of a dilemma given the post-Obama election fanning the flames of armed rebellion (resulting in a rash of gun shootings recently) and apocalyptic political rhetoric of the right wing media hit squad. We can't ignore them because they are, in effect, inciting violence, but then they use progressive criticism to further whip up the fury of their viewers or listeners.

David Neiwert understands the gravity of the situation all too well in "The Eliminationists: How Hate Talk Radicalized the American Right."

"Drawing from his extensive reporting on right-wing groups, David Neiwert argues that the conservative movements alliances with far-right extremists have not only pushed the movements agenda to the right, but have become a malignant influence thats increasingly reflected in political discourse. The result is a pathology Neiwert calls pseudo-fascisma political style that talks and acts like fascism without its core violence and thuggishness. The author argues that only effective response is a rhetoric of peace and not a surrendering one, but the kind of peace that stands up for human values, civil discourse, and basic decency."

If condemnation from a wing nut is a recommendation to buy Neiwert's vitally important book, then read this nutter take-down of "How Hate Talk Radicalized the American Right" in the comments section of Amazon.com: "Most conservatives, according to Neiwert, are "unacceptable" and "conveyor belt neo-nazis." This would include Rush, Hannity, Ingrahm, Coulter. It seems as though he would like to ban all right wing talk radio that doesn't fit his "standard of decency." He presumes to define how conservatives should be, in order to meet his standard of decency. Any conservative that went along with Mr. Neiwert's definition of decency would be an ideologically gelded chump. If you let someone who hates you, define your standards of "decency" or "morality" for you, then you are defeated before you even begin to fight. If this sort of writing is to your taste, hey, go for it. But understand, it's just anti-white, anti-tradition, anti-conservative boilerplate. For entertainment purposes only, if ya get my drift."

Well, obviously Neiwert's correct and this Dittohead is wrong.

And the future of the nation hangs in the balance.


Read The Full Review >>>
:: :: :: :: ::

Saundra Hummer
May 28th, 2009, 01:42 PM


Secret cables may show doctors monitored CIA torture

Raw Story
May 28, 2009
8:56 am In
The non-profit investigative journalism site [1] ProPublica is reporting today that cables sent to CIA headquarters detailing the waterboarding of captured al Qaeda member Abu Zubaydah in August 2002 may indicate that doctors were involved in monitoring his torture. This would be in violation of medical ethics. The cables themselves remain secret, but summary descriptions released under the Freedom of Information Act show a daily “medical update” on the detainee’s condition.

The full ProPublica story follows.

Doctors may have monitored torture, CIA files show

Sheryl FinkEvidence is emerging that medical personnel monitored the medical effects of the waterboarding of Abu Zubaydah, the al-Qaida operative who was, according to government reports, subjected to the near-drowning at least 83 times in August 2002.

The new information comes from descriptions of cables, classified as top secret and relating to the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, that were transmitted from a Central Intelligence Agency field station to the agency’s Langley, Va., headquarters nearly every day between Aug. 1 and Aug. 18 that year.

The descriptions of the cables ([2] here and [3] here) reveal that a daily “medical update” and “behavioral comments” along with status and threat updates were sent to CIA headquarters throughout that period. On five occasions between Aug. 4 and Aug. 9, an additional cable was sent containing “medical information” along with such information as the strategies for interrogation sessions, raw intelligence, the use of interrogation techniques to elicit information, and the reactions to those techniques. The fact that medical information was included in these cables hints that Abu Zubaydah was medically monitored during or after being subjected to those techniques. Both professional organizations and human rights groups have rejected as unethical any monitoring role for medical personnel.

A summary of the 34 cables and of a handwritten log book were released to the American Civil Liberties Union earlier this month on orders of U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein, who is presiding over a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought by the group. The lawsuit was based on a request for records related to detainee treatment that the ACLU and four other advocacy groups made of the U.S. Departments of Defense, Justice and State and the CIA in 2003. The new summary, known as a Vaughn Index, was released in response to a motion that the ACLU filed in 2007 after then-CIA director Michael Hayden acknowledged that the agency had destroyed videotapes of detainee interrogations in 2005.

The cables themselves have not been made public, and the agency is contesting their release. In response to a request for more detail on the medical information included in the cables and the reasons that information was transmitted from the field site to CIA headquarters, CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano wrote in an e-mail to ProPublica: “The materials speak for themselves.”

The U.S. Department of Justice gave the ACLU [4] other documents this month that suggest the cables are among nearly 550 interrogation-related cables sent from field stations to CIA headquarters between April and December 2002. Among those analyzing the new documents are National Public Radio’s [5] Ari Shapiro, the Washington Independent’s [6] Spencer Ackerman and Firedoglake’s Marcy

The documents are the latest installment of an ongoing story about the role of doctors and psychologists in the government’s efforts to pry information from suspected terrorists. Professional organizations of doctors, nurses, public health practitioners and psychologists have stated their opposition to health professionals’ involvement in torture. “The AMA has taken the clear stand that the participation of physicians in torture and interrogation is a violation of core ethical values,” the American Medical Association said in a statement last Friday. Last month, the AMA sent a letter to President Barack Obama reiterating, as it did during the Bush administration, that the association’s ethical code prohibits physicians from participating in torture or coercive interrogation.

However, there is evidence that health personnel, at least some of them physicians, have been involved in interrogations. For example Col. Thomas M. Pappas, former chief of military intelligence at Abu Ghraib, who was interviewed as part of [7] the Taguba investigation, testified that a psychiatrist and another doctor [8] monitored interrogations at the prison and had the final say in what aspects of the interrogation plan were implemented.

The question raised by the cables is, How deep was the involvement of physicians or other health professionals in the actual interrogations at CIA “black sites” such as the one where Abu Zubaydah was held?

Previously released documents show that Bush officials overseeing the waterboarding of Abu Zubaydah saw the involvement of medical personnel as crucial because it could help prevent prosecution of interrogators under U.S. law. As ProPublica [9] previously reported, Assistant Attorney General Jay S. Bybee signed a memo on August 1, 2002 spelling out those concerns and the terms under which
interrogators could waterboard and slap Abu Zubaydah, subject him to “cramped confinement” and stress positions, and shove him into flexible walls.

“The constant presence of personnel with medical training who have the authority to stop the interrogation should it appear it is medically necessary indicates that it is not your intent to cause severe physical pain,” the memo said.

Abu Zubaydah began cooperating in late April under questioning by Ali Soufan, a Federal Bureau of Investigation agent who said he did not use coercive methods. In congressional testimony this month, Soufan disclosed that there was a “CIA medical team supporting us” when he and other FBI and CIA personnel first spoke with Abu Zubaydah. Soufan said the medical team insisted that Abu Zubaydah, who was injured during capture and in danger of dying, be taken to a hospital for treatment.

It is unclear whether the same CIA medical team that evaluated Abu Zubaydah’s health problems in the spring was still caring for him in August when he was waterboarded. Nor is it clear precisely how health personnel might have been asked to cross the line from providing medical care to participating in or supporting the interrogations, which Soufan and other sources have described as becoming increasingly abusive under the instruction of a former military Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and
Escape (SERE) training psychologist contracted by the CIA. Soufan and others, including another psychologist employed by the CIA, protested the escalating techniques and left the site. The new documents do not indicate whether medical personnel might also have objected.

In a cover letter accompanying the new Vaughn Index, acting U.S. attorney Lev L. Dassin wrote, “The Government is … acknowledging that August 2002 was the month during which Abu Zubaydah was subjected to the most intensive interrogations.” An Aug. 4, 2002, cable with the subject “Abu Zubaydah Interrogation” is a typical entry in the Vaughn Index:

This is a four-page cable from the Field to CIA Headquarters. The cable includes information concerning the strategies for interrogation sessions; the use of interrogation techniques to elicit information on terrorist operations against the U.S.; reactions to the interrogation techniques; raw intelligence; a status of threat information, and medical information.

The news that medical information was being transmitted regularly to CIA headquarters throughout the time Abu Zubaydah was being repeatedly waterboarded troubled medical ethics experts interviewed by ProPublica. Normally, health professionals who work at U.S. prisons share inmates’ medical information with authorities only “if there’s a need to know; for example if someone has a seizure disorder, we put in a medical order for a bottom bunk,” Dr. Dean Rieger, chief medical officer for Correct Care Solutions, a healthcare management company for correctional facilities, said in an interview with ProPublica. Rieger, who has been involved in corrections for more than three decades and who coauthors a column on medical ethics for the Society of Correctional Physicians, said it would be problematic to continue sharing an inmate’s medical information with authorities overseeing a system “that creates the harm in the first place.”

University of Pennsylvania bioethicist Arthur Caplan agreed. At that point, “you gotta start protesting and stop transmitting,” he said in an interview. “The issue isn’t privacy violations, it’s complicity … You’re part of the torture team at that point if you’re assessing injuries and saying whether the person’s capable of enduring more.”

Legal memos written in 2005 suggest the CIA had reached precisely the opposite conclusion — that waterboarding and other harsh interrogations should involve personnel from the CIA’s Office of Medical Services, including its physicians.

A recently declassified Justice Department memo discussed the involvement the OMS eventually had in supporting interrogations. [10] That memo, quoting still-classified OMS guidelines from December 2004, said that the “use of the waterboard requires the presence of a physician.” [11] Another memo said that OMS doctors and psychologists had been consulted about the effects of using several techniques together, such as “when an insult slap is simultaneously combined with water dousing or a kneeling stress position, or when wall standing is simultaneously combined with an abdominal slap and water dousing” and concluded they would not cause severe pain.

Medical personnel were also given the responsibility of monitoring the interrogations for safety. “Should it appear at any time that Abu Zubaydah is experiencing severe pain or suffering, the medical personnel on hand will stop the use of any technique,” Bybee’s 2002 memo said.

It is unclear whether the “medical personnel” designated to monitor Abu Zubaydah’s interrogation included M.D.s. “There is no role for physicians in those practices,” Dr. Otmar Kloiber, secretary-general of the World Medical Association, told ProPublica. Kloiber said that physician involvement in interrogations increases the chances that questioning will devolve into abuse and torture. A physician’s reassuring presence can give questioners a green light to escalate physical and mental pressure.

In a confidential [12] International Committee of the Red Cross report made public by New York Review of Books contributor Mark Danner last month, Abu Zubaydah described to ICRC interviewers days of being waterboarded to the point he believed he would die, slammed into hard and flexible walls, and confined in a small box where one of his wounds reopened and began to bleed. “Eventually,” Abu Zubaydah said, “the torture was stopped by the intervention of the doctor.”

The ICRC report also reveals that other detainees who spent time in the CIA’s black sites perceived that some staff who treated them or monitored their interrogations were physicians.

The potential presence of physicians as opposed to other types of personnel raises crucial questions.

Numerous officials, both Republican and Democrat, have characterized waterboarding as torture. There is widespread agreement among doctors — whether employed by the military, other government agencies, or not — that ethical standards prohibit physicians from using medical knowledge or information about patients to support torture.

The World Medical Association, which lists 85 countries including the U.S. as members, was established in 1947 to uphold independence and ethical behavior among physicians after the horrors of Nazi medicine were revealed. It is arguably the world’s key arbiter of medical ethics.

Earlier this month, the group’s governing council issued a resolution reaffirming the group’s long-standing position that physicians are forbidden from “participating in, or even being present during, the practice of torture or other forms of cruel, inhuman, or degrading procedures” and must denounce those acts whenever they’re aware of them.

According to officials from the WMA and the Norwegian Medical Association, which put forward the resolution, the original draft made specific reference to U.S. detention facilities. At the WMA council meeting in Jerusalem earlier this month, intense discussion ensued between normally staid physicians over whether to remove mention of the U.S. and make the language more generic.

WMA officials declined to say who took up which side.

“It got heated enough I had to call a short recess and have a cooling-off period,” WMA chair Dr. Edward Hill told ProPublica. Hill, a former president of the American Medical Association, said the U.S. delegation stayed out of the debate.

But the American delegation made its views clear, according to Dr. Trond Markestad, who drafted the original resolution and who chairs the ethics committee in the Norwegian Medical Association. “They felt it was a bit unfair, wasn’t really correct, to single out that one [example] since there were so many wars going on and so many things happening all over the world and since they’d already addressed this nationally.”

The final version of the WMA resolution passed unanimously after language naming the U.S. was removed. The resolution condemns “reports worldwide” of “deeply unsettling practices by health professionals, including direct participation in the infliction of ill-treatment, monitoring specific methods of ill-treatment, and participation in interrogation processes.”

The group also resolved to support physicians who refuse to participate in or condone torture. Kloiber told ProPublica that WMA members are concerned, for example, that physicians in areas where sharia law is adopted are being asked to [13] carry out punishments such as amputations.

The WMA resolution calls on national medical associations, such as the AMA, to investigate breaches of fundamental medical ethics among physicians. But the AMA has not made public whether its ethics and judicial body has ever investigated or sanctioned physicians for participating in torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

Last Friday, the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York [14] launched an advocacy campaign that aims “to hold accountable healers that have harmed.” The group is encouraging citizens to file complaints against health professionals suspected of participating in torture and to support legislation, [15] such as a proposed bill in New York state, that prohibits health professionals from participating in torture or the improper treatment of prisoners at home or abroad.

URLs in this post:
[1] ProPublica: http://www.propublica.org/
[2] here: http://www.aclu.org/torturefoia/legaldocuments/torturefoia_vaughn1_20090501.pdf
[3] here: http://www.aclu.org/torturefoia/legaldocuments/torturefoia_vaughn2_20090501.pdf
[4] other documents: http://www.aclu.org/torturefoia/legaldocuments/torturefoia_list_20090518.pdf
[5] Ari Shapiro: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=104350361
[6] Spencer Ackerman: http://washingtonindependent.com/43909/james-mitchell-asked-please-can-i-torture-abu-zubaydah-did-al
[7] the Taguba investigation: http://news.findlaw.com/hdocs/docs/iraq/tagubarpt.html
[8] monitored interrogations: http://www.usnews.com/usnews/news/articles/040709/Pappas.pdf
[9] previously reported: http://www.propublica.org/article/memos-suggest-abuse-isnt-torture-if-a-doctor-is-there-417
[10] That memo: http://luxmedia.vo.llnwd.net/o10/clients/aclu/olc_05102005_bradbury46pg.pdf
[11] Another memo: http://luxmedia.vo.llnwd.net/o10/clients/aclu/olc_05102005_bradbury_20pg.pdf
[12] International Committee of the Red Cross report: http://www.nybooks.com/icrc-report.pdf
[13] carry out punishments such as amputations: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/2587039.stm
[14] launched an advocacy campaign: http://whenhealersharm.org/
[15] such as a proposed bill in New York state: http://assembly.state.ny.us/leg/?bn=A06665

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Saundra Hummer
May 28th, 2009, 02:15 PM

Unreleased abuse photos depict rape, sexual abuse: report

Raw Story
May 27, 2009
@ 9:38 pm In
Unreleased photographs of alleged abuse by U.S. military personnel of prisoners at Iraqi prisons – which President Obama [1] refused to release earlier this month – include images of rape and sexual abuse, according to a new report.

Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, Major General Antonio Taguba, the former army officer who in 2004 investigated and wrote a report on allegations of detainee abuse in U.S. prisons in Iraq, has confirmed the existence of graphic photographs depicting the following:

–An American soldier apparently raping a female prisoner.
–A male translator apparently raping a male detainee.
–A female prisoner having her clothing forcibly removed to expose her breasts.

Other photographs depict sexual assaults on prisoners with a truncheon, wire and a phosphorescent tube, according to the [2] Telegraph story.

The still unreleased photos relate to abuse alleged to have taken place between 2001 and 2005 in Abu Ghraib and six other prisons. Taguba, now retired, supports Obama’s decision to block the release of the photos, which Obama had previously said would be released according to a court ruling in support of a lawsuit filed by the ACLU.

“These pictures show torture, abuse, rape and every indecency,” Taguba told the Telegraph. “I am not sure what purpose their release would serve other than a legal one and the consequence would be to imperil our troops, the only protectors of our foreign policy, when we most need them, and British troops who are trying to build security in Afghanistan.

“The mere description of these pictures is horrendous enough, take my word for it,” Taguba said.

The Telegraph reports:

It was thought the images were similar to those leaked five years ago, which showed naked and bloody prisoners being intimidated by dogs, dragged around on a leash, piled into a human pyramid and hooded and attached to wires.

Mr Obama seemed to reinforce that view by adding: “I want to emphasise that these photos that were requested in this case are not particularly sensational, especially when compared to the painful images that we remember from Abu Ghraib.”

URLs in this post:

[1] refused:http://rawstory.com/news/afp/Obama_rejects_release_of_detainee_a_05142009.html
[2] Telegraph story: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/5395830/Abu-Ghraib-abuse-photos-show-rape.html

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Saundra Hummer
May 28th, 2009, 02:41 PM

Center for American Progress

Think Again: Dick Cheney's Post Presidency

SOURCE: AP/Kevin Wolf

Former Vice President Dick Cheney flexes his punditry muscles on CNN's "State of the Union."
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Eric Alterman, Danielle Ivory
May 28, 2009
Former President George W. Bush recently mused with the press about scooping up his dog’s droppings. Meanwhile, former Vice President Dick Cheney has taken on the role of attack dog. Some conservatives have suggested that President Barack Obama somehow goaded Cheney into this role when he attacked the VP during the campaign.

Alas, it was no secret to anyone that much of what we call the “Bush administration” was really the “Cheney administration” beginning with Cheney’s choice of himself as VP. Cheney’s profile in the Bush administration was hardly that of the proverbial “warm bucket of spit.” Rather, as de jure vice president, Cheney acted as de facto president, sometimes behind the curtain, sometimes in front of it.

In his excellent book, Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency, Barton Gellman wrote, “Cheney's influence in the Bush administration is widely presumed but hard to illustrate. Many of the men and women who know him best said an explanation begins with the way he defined his role.” He continued:

Other recent vice presidents have enjoyed a standing invitation to join the president at "policy time." But Cheney's interventions have also come in the president's absence, at Cabinet and sub-Cabinet levels where his predecessors were seldom seen. He found pressure points and changed the course of events by "reaching down," a phrase that recurs often in interviews with current and former aides.

Mary Matalin, who was counselor to the vice president until 2003 and remains an informal adviser, described Cheney's portfolio as "the iron issues"—a list that, as she defined it, comprises most of the core concerns of every recent president. Cheney took on "the economic issues, the security issues . . . the energy issues"—and the White House legislative agenda, Matalin said, because he became "the go-to guy on the Hill." Other close aides noted, as well, a major role for Cheney in nominations and appointments.

This was unprecedented. As Robert Kuttner has pointed out Cheney’s role actually created a kind of constitutional crisis:

“The administration's grand strategy and its implementation are the work of Cheney—sometimes Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, sometimes Cheney and political director Karl Rove. Cheney has planted aides in major Cabinet departments, often over the objection of a Cabinet secretary, to make sure his policies are carried out. He sits in on the Senate Republican caucus, to stamp out any rebellions. Cheney loyalists from the Office of the Vice President dominate interagency planning meetings….The capture of the career civil service is pure Cheney. The disciplining of Congress is the work of Cheney and Rove. The turning over of energy policy to the oil companies is Cheney. The extreme secrecy is Cheney ….”

When Jimmy Carter gave voice to the global consensus terming George W. Bush “the worst president in history,” the outrage among administration supporters provided enough hot air to launch a battalion of F-16s. Dan Froomkin reported:

“Tradition calls for former presidents to avoid personal attacks on their successors—and for the White House to treat previous presidents with great respect. But with Carter's hyperbole apparently having violated the rules of the game, the White House responded with fire. ‘I think it's sad that President Carter's reckless personal criticism is out there,’ White House spokesman Tony Fratto said yesterday in Crawford, where Bush was spending the weekend. ‘I think it's unfortunate. And I think he is proving to be increasingly irrelevant with these kinds of comments.’”

James Gerstenzang wrote in the Los Angeles Times, "Perhaps not since Herbert Hoover took issue with the blame heaped on him for the Great Depression by Franklin D. Roosevelt have two presidents or their spokesmen feuded quite so publicly—and angrily—as former President Carter and President Bush….The exchange broke the unwritten code of the presidential fraternity—that members treat each other gently…. the vehemence of the language was unusual… especially in contrast to the friendship that Bush's father has developed with former President Clinton, who tossed him out of office after one term in the bitter 1992 campaign."

On the Today Show, Meredith Vieira asked the former president if he thought it was “appropriate to criticize the man sitting in the Oval Office, particularly during a time of war?” Carter eventually said that his remarks were “maybe careless or misinterpreted.”

Many were also shocked when Al Gore criticized the Bush administration. When his Assault on Reason hit the bookstores, ABC’s Jake Tapper called it “an assault on President Bush, 308 pages of professorially rendered, liberal red meat that shuns the cautious language employed by any politician standing to the right of Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-OH, and the left of Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-CO.” This, by the way, is nonsense. Others mocked Gore for his alleged professorial showoffiness, quoting philosophers like Jürgen Habermas and Baruch Spinoza.

Yet Carter and Gore served up vegan fare compared to the red meat Cheney is spewing. And yet because his de facto presidency was never fully recognized or admitted by the media—many of whose members felt the need to prop up President Bush no less urgently than did the White House Communications staff—his unprecedented assault on a sitting president just weeks into his first term goes unrecognized for the breach of protocol it clearly is.

Jane Mayer recognized this during the Bush presidency, explaining in a New Yorker profile of his aide, David Addington, that “the media focuses relentless attention on the president, on the premise that he is actually the chief executive. But for all intents and purposes, Cheney is chief, and Bush is more in the ceremonial role of the queen of England.”

Even more shocking is the agenda beneath Cheney’s attacks. Jeffrey Toobin rightly points out, “Even worse than Cheney’s distortions was the political agenda behind them. The speech was, as politicians say, a marker—a warning to the new administration. “Just remember: it is a serious step to begin unravelling some of the very policies that have kept our people safe since 9/11,” Cheney said. “Seven and a half years without a repeat is not a record to be rebuked and scorned, much less criminalized. It is a record to be continued until the danger has passed.”

Even leaving aside all the unnecessary death, destruction, and waste in the wake of the Iraq War, fully 16 U.S. intelligence agencies reporting together in 2006 found that Bush's misadventure in Iraq has "helped spawn a new generation of Islamic radicalism," according to The New York Times, and that "the overall terrorist threat has grown since the September 11 attacks." A 150-page Government Accountability Office report issued in November found virtually every agency in Bush's government woefully unprepared to "keep us safe."

The Department of Homeland Security, for example, "lacks not only a comprehensive strategy with overall goals and a timeline but also a dedicated management integration team to support its management integration efforts. It has failed to coordinate with other agencies such as FEMA, the Justice Department or the Agriculture Department to undertake the most fundamental survival tasks in the event of disaster."

Most outlandish, perhaps, has been the willingness of some in the media to embrace even Liz Cheney—the former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs (though often credited as “Dick Cheney’s daughter”)—for her alleged insight into America’s security dilemma. Steve Benen of Washington Monthly counted 12 separate television appearances for her in just 10 days.

It almost makes a liberal nostalgic for the antics of the Bush twins…. Almost!

Eric Alterman is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress and a Distinguished Professor of English at Brooklyn College. He is also a Nation columnist and a professor of journalism at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. His seventh book, Why We're Liberals: A Handbook for Restoring America's Most Important Ideals was recently published in paperback. He occasionally blogs at http://www.thenation.com/blogs/altercation.

Danielle Ivory is a reporter and producer for the American News Project. She lives in Washington, D.C.

This column was recently named as a finalist in the category of “Best Commentary—Digital” for the Mirror Awards. The series of columns judged can be found here.

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© Center for American Progress
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Saundra Hummer
May 28th, 2009, 03:30 PM
. . . . . . .


Cap-and-Trade Cost Inflation

May 28, 2009

Republicans puff up the impact of a cap-and-trade program on the average family's energy costs.


Leading Republicans are claiming that President Obama's proposal to curb greenhouse gas emissions would cost households as much as $3,100 per year. The Republican National Committee calls it a "massive national energy tax." But the $3,100 figure is a misrepresentation of both Obama's proposal and the study from which the number is derived.

Republicans say they base their figure on a study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. But one of the authors says that the GOP's use of the study is "simplistic and misleading" and that it ignores key provisions designed to cushion the impact on consumers. The author puts the true added cost of a cap-and-trade system at closer to $800 a year.

Obama himself once said energy costs would "skyrocket" under his plan, but the GOP's partisan claim of a $3,100 per household cost increase is far higher than figures produced by other studies. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates the average cost per household to be between $98 and $140 per year, based on the Democratic cap-and-trade bill working its way through the House. Even the conservative, pro-Republican Heritage Foundation figures the average family would see its energy bill increase by $1,500 a year, less than half what the GOP claims. A Congressional Budget Office expert recently estimated the cost per household at an average of $1,600 a year, but that figure doesn't account for energy rebates Obama has proposed giving to consumers. If the government did use revenue from cap and trade "to pay an equal lump-sum rebate to every household," the CBO expert said, "lower-income households could be better off."

AnalysisAs a presidential candidate, Barack Obama said he would tackle climate change by implementing a cap-and-trade system to limit the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. According to the budget President Obama proposed in February, the administration would aim to "reduce greenhouse gas emissions approximately 14 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, and approximately 83 percent below 2005 levels by 2050." The proposed system would require companies emitting gases (principally carbon dioxide) above the cap to buy allowances. Companies that emit gases under the cap would then be able to sell, or trade, their allowances to other companies that need them. But the plan faces opposition from some Republicans who say it is a costly "energy tax."

How Much Higher?

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Experts agree that the increased costs imposed by a cap-and-trade program would be passed down by companies to their consumers in the form of higher prices on energy products. But just how big of a hit would consumers take?

The Republican National Committee recently tried to scare up donations with a frightening e-mail. "President Obama and the Democrats are planning to jack up energy prices and pass the cost on to you and your family," it said, asking: "[C]an you and your family afford an additional $3,100 in higher energy taxes a year?"

The message goes on to assert that "if Obama and his liberal Democrat cohorts get their way, you and your family will be paying an additional $260 a month in energy taxes thanks to the Democrats' outrageous Cap & Trade legislation. That's $260 a month that you and your family should be allowed to spend, save or invest anyway you see fit." We've heard similar claims about the potential costs of a cap-and-trade program from other GOP members over the last few months as well.

"Simplistic and Misleading"How do Republicans figure American households will be out $3,100? The figure is based in part on a 2007 study by the MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change. The study estimated that a cap-and-trade market for 2015 would be worth $366 billion in revenue. Republicans, figuring that that amount would be passed from the energy companies to consumers, calculated the average cost per household by dividing $366 billion by 117 million households (a population of 300 million divided into households of 2.56 persons) to get $3,128, or roughly $3,100.

However, one of the authors of the MIT study disputes that figure.

In a letter sent to House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) on April 1, John Reilly, associate director for research at the MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change, said that the study he coauthored had "been misrepresented in recent press releases distributed by the National Republican Congressional Committee." He said the GOP's calculation fails to account for Obama's stated intent to provide rebates to consumers to cushion the effect of increased prices: "[M]any of the proposals currently being considered by Congress and as proposed by the Administration have been designed to offset the energy cost impacts on middle and lower income households and so it is simplistic and misleading to only look at the impact on energy prices of these proposals as a measure of their impact on the average household."

Reilly at first estimated the average annual cost of implementing a cap-and-trade program to each household to be about $340, but he later wrote a follow-up letter to Boehner on April 14 correcting what he said was an error in his calculations and increasing his estimate to about $800. He said his corrected estimate "includes the direct effects of higher energy prices, the cost of measures to reduce energy use, the higher price of goods that are produced using energy, and impacts on wages and returns on capital."

Despite Reilly's objections, Republicans continue to use the $3,100 figure. An April 2 "Leader Alert" on the House Republican Leader's Web site reads: "An MIT professor has questions about the $3,100 figure but his letter makes assumptions that are factually inaccurate." Boehner disputes Reilly's assumption that revenue from a cap-and-trade program would be returned to households: "[W]e all know that Democrats have no intention of using a cap-and-trade system to deliver rebates to consumers; they want the tax revenue to fund more government spending."

Tough SellThere's no question that curbing greenhouse gas emissions would bring about higher energy prices. Obama himself, speaking to the editorial board of the San Francisco Chronicle on Jan. 17, 2008, said electricity costs would "necessarily skyrocket" as a result of capping emissions levels, and that his job as president would be to convince the public and Congress that benefits outweigh costs. "If we can't make that argument persuasively enough, you can be Lyndon Johnson, you can be the master of Washington, you're not going to get that done."


Change power behavior

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When Obama unveiled his proposed budget for 2010, it said that revenue from the program would be used to fund energy investments and also to help consumers. "[T]his program will fund vital investments in a clean energy future totaling $150 billion over 10 years, starting in Fy 2012. The balance of the auction revenues will be returned to the people, especially vulnerable families, communities, and businesses to help the transition to a clean energy economy," the proposed budget explained. The budget also said that the administration would use the "climate revenue" from auctioning the allowances to fund the administration's "Making Work Pay" tax credit – $400 for individuals and $800 for couples.

The Republicans' claim of $3,100 per household simply ignores these features of Obama's proposal. Furthermore, the MIT study was not based on Obama's proposal specifically. It was done two years ago, long before Obama described his intentions in the budget. "We could not anticipate what he would propose, and frankly the details of any current proposal are not completely specified and will change as things go through the Congress," Reilly told FactCheck.org.

Waxman-Markey BillIndeed, a cap-and-trade plan that is different in key respects from Obama's is already advancing in Congress. On May 15, U.S. Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Edward Markey (D-Mass.) introduced H.R. 2454, the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, in the House of Representatives. The bill recently passed in the House Committee on Energy and Commerce by a vote of 33 to 25. And it has been referred to other committees for consideration.

It would cap emissions at 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, a steeper initial reduction than the 14 percent cut proposed by Obama. Another key difference is that while Obama would have had the government sell 100 percent of the available allowances, the House bill would give away 85 percent of them to start while auctioning off only 15 percent. (Those differences are in how the program is phased in. Eventually both proposals would auction 100 percent of allowances and cap emissions at 83 percent below 2005 levels in the year 2050.)

The initial 15 percent of auctionable allowances would be used for the specific purpose of protecting consumers from higher energy costs. According to an outline of the proposed allowance allocation, "15% of allowances will be auctioned each year and the proceeds of these allowances will be distributed to low- and moderate-income families to protect them from other energy cost increases."

Other Cost EstimatesIn past years, others have analyzed the possible economic impact of a cap-and-trade system and found that consumers' energy costs would increase, but that they could be lessened with the appropriate action.

Testifying before the House Subcommittee on Income Security and Family Support in March, Terry M. Dinan, a senior adviser for the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, conceded that price increases from a cap-and-trade system would increase energy costs for American households. According to Dinan's testimony, a 15 percent cut in CO2 emissions could run the average household about $1,600 (in 2006 dollars). The range: $700 for the average household in the lowest one-fifth of all households, according to income, to nearly $2,200 for households in the highest quintile.

But the CBO's estimate did not include "any benefits to households from lessening climate change." And the CBO also concluded that cost increases for some families, at least, could be offset if revenues from the allowances were returned to consumers. In his testimony, Dinan said that a 2000 CBO study "concluded that lower-income households could be better off as a result of the policy (even without including any benefits from reducing climate change) if the government chose to sell the allowances and use the revenue to pay an equal lump-sum rebate to every household in the United States."

And initial analyses of the impacts of the Waxman-Markey bill have varied as well.

The conservative Heritage Foundation, which analyzed the draft version of the bill, estimated that the "typical family of four will see its direct energy costs rise by over $1,500 per year" by 2035.

An EPA analysis of the draft version found that "[t]he cap & trade policy has a relatively modest impact on U.S. consumers assuming the bulk of revenues from the program are returned to household[s]," and it estimates the average cost per household to be between $98 and $140 per year.

—by D'Angelo Gore


Office of Management and Budget. A New Era of Responsibility, 2009.

Zabarenko, Deborah and Ayesha Rascoe. "Obama budget realistic on climate revenue: analysts." Reuters, 26 Feb. 2009.

Web site of House Republican Leader John Boehner. "Why the Dems' "Cap-and-Trade" Energy Tax Will Cost Each American Family Up to $3,100 Per Year." Republicanleader.house.gov, 2 April 2009.

Paltsev, Sergey, Reilly, John M., Jacoby, Henry D., et al. "Assessment of U.S. Cap-and-Trade Proposals: Report 146." MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change, April 2007.

Testimony. "The Distributional Consequences of a Cap-and-Trade Program for CO2 Emissions." Congressional Budget Office, 12 March 2009.

House Committee on Energy and Commerce. "Chairmen Waxman, Markey Release Discussion Draft of New Clean Energy Legislation," 31 March 2009.

House Committee on Energy and Commerce. "Chairmen Waxman and Markey Introduce “The American Clean Energy and Security Act," 15 May 2009.

Environmental Protection Agency. "EPA Preliminary Analysis of the Waxman-Markey Discussion Draft," 20 April 2009.

Copyright © 2003 - 2009, Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania
FactCheck.org's staff, not the Annenberg Center, is responsible for this material.


. . . . . . .

Saundra Hummer
May 29th, 2009, 02:02 PM

. . . . . . .
May 25, 2009

Q: Did the Obama administration burn soldiers' Bibles?

Please check on this, sent to me by a cousin:

BREAKING NEWS: Pentagon Burns Soldiers Bibles - Military Chaplains Attacked

The Pentagon under the Obama Administration has just acknowledged seizing and burning the privately owned Bibles of American soldiers serving in Afghanistan. The Bibles had been printed in the local Pashto and Dari languages, and sent by private donors to American Christian soldiers and chaplains, for distribution to American troops on overseas military bases during optionally-attended Christian worship services. Had the Bibles not been seized and destroyed, they could have legally been given as gifts during off-duty time to Afghani citizens who welcome our troops in their homes, as an expression of American gratitude for Afghani hospitality, promoting the democratic ideals of freedom of religion and freedom of the press.

But the Muslim controlled Al Jazeera television network obtained video footage of the Bibles, held by American soldiers while listening to a chaplain on the Bagram Air Base (inside the base chapel) whose sermon encouraged outreach and personal evangelism. The American values of freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, and freedom of Christian speech offended some extremist Muslim groups, and angered a small group of American atheists, who demanded the chaplain be punished for "proselytizing" because he simply repeated Jesus' words to "Go and make disciples of all nations" in church.

A: The military destroyed Bibles printed in Afghan languages to prevent distribution to local Muslims. But it happened during the Bush administration.

The e-mail sent to us is from a longer open letter written by former Navy Chaplain Gordon James Klingenschmitt of the "Pray in Jesus Name Project." It has been widely forwarded and posted on many Internet sites. Klingenschmitt claims that "the Pentagon, under the Obama administration, has just acknowledged seizing and burning the privately owned Bibles of American soldiers."

It's true that one soldier's Bibles were destroyed, but this claim is highly misleading. It strains to blame "the Obama administration" for something that happened a year earlier when George W. Bush was president, and which came to light recently.

Furthermore, contrary to Klingenschmitt's claim that the Bibles could "legally" have been distributed to local Afghans, military officials say such distribution would have violated longstanding Pentagon policy against religious proselytizing by U.S. armed forces.

The basic facts are clear and undisputed. The Bibles were sent about a year ago to an evangelical Christian soldier serving in Afghanistan, and they were printed in two different Afghan languages, Pashto and Dari. An Army spokesman says they were sent by the soldier's church in the U.S., unsolicited. Documentary producer Brian Hughes filmed a group prayer session during which soldiers discussed how they might give the Bibles to local Afghans. Much later, his footage became the basis for a television news report by Al Jazeera English that aired May 3 this year.

The Al Jazeera report also showed footage of Lt. Col. Gary Hensley, the chief of the U.S. military chaplains in Afghanistan, telling his congregation that followers of Jesus Christ have a responsibility "to be witnesses for him."

"The special forces guys — they hunt men basically. We do the same things as Christians, we hunt people for Jesus. We do, we hunt them down," Lt. Col. Hensley says. "Get the hound of heaven after them, so we get them into the kingdom. That's what we do, that's our business."

The report caused consternation in the Muslim world. Former Afghan prime minister Ahmed Shah Ahmedzai said there must be a "serious investigation" of the matter. It's considered a crime under Afghan law to try to convert a Muslim to another faith, and one Afghan convert to Christianity was threatened with the death penalty in 2006 in a highly celebrated case.

The Pentagon quickly denounced the Al Jazeera story. News accounts quoted a Pentagon official as saying that a chaplain had confiscated the Bibles and "as far as we know, none ever got off base.” The spokesman we contacted – Army Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Daly of the Combined Joint Task Force 101 media center at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan – confirmed that "the Bibles were confiscated by the chaplain at the conclusion of the prayer service." Daly was unable to say exactly how the Bibles were disposed of, or whether they were put in regular trash disposal for burning. "It happened over a year ago, so we can't be sure," Daly stated.

When an Al Jazeera reporter brought up the matter at a Pentagon news conference on May 4, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, said: "t certainly is – from the United States military's perspective – not our position to ever push any specific kind of religion. Period."

The U.S. Central Command General Order 1 prohibits "proselytizing of any religion, faith, or practice." The video footage that Al Jazeera used shows the soldiers and a military chaplain discussing how they might give out the Bibles without violating the General Order, but they don't arrive at any clear plan.

Footnote: In his letter, Klingenschmitt argues that the order should not have prevented distribution of the Bibles. "IT'S NOT PROSELYTIZING, IT'S EVANGELISM," he states in capital letters. We fail to see the difference in this case.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines "proselytizing" as "the process of making, or seeking to make, proselytes or converts." It defines "evangelism" as "the preaching or promulgation of the Gospel," and gives an added definition: "zealous advocacy of a cause or doctrine, proselytizing zeal." So evangelism aimed at Muslims would be proselytizing for Christianity, and doing so zealously at that.

[I]— Brooks Jackson and Justin Bank

AlJazeeraEnglish. "US soldiers' Bible group in Afghanistan - 05 May 09." YouTube, Accessed 21 May 2009.

Garamone, Jim. "Officials Reject Allegations of Proselytizing in Afghanistan." American Forces Press Service, 4 May 2009.

Munadi, Sultan M. "Afghan Case Against Christian Convert Falters." New York Times, 26 March 2006.

"Probe call in Afghan 'convert' row." Al Jazeera English, 4 May 2009.

Copyright © 2003 - 2009, Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of PennsylvaniaFactCheck.org's staff, not the Annenberg Center, is responsible for this material.
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Saundra Hummer
May 30th, 2009, 02:59 PM
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May 29, 2009
POTUS picks "bigot" "liberal" "radical" "racist" "reverse racist" "activist" "socialist" "Marxist" "anti-constitutionalist" "affirmative action" nominee for SCOTUS


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Link at bottom of postBe sure to bookmark Judicial Matters for the latest on conservative misinformation in media coverage of President Obama's Supreme Court nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor.
On Tuesday morning, President Obama announced his nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court. In the four short days that followed, understandably, most of the media's attention has centered on the nominee, though much of that attention has been riddled with conservative misinformation.

Yesterday, Media Matters released a special report noting that in coverage of Obama's announcement, the media have advanced numerous myths and falsehoods about Sotomayor. In some cases, the media assert the falsehoods themselves; in others, they report unchallenged the claims of others.

The report suggests that in addition to evaluating these claims on their merits, the media should also consistently report that conservatives were reportedly very clear about their intentions to oppose Obama's nominee, no matter who it was. Their attacks must be assessed in the context of their reported plans to use the confirmation process to, among other things, "help refill depleted coffers and galvanize a movement demoralized by Republican electoral defeats."

As documented in the report, the myths that have emerged or resurfaced since Sotomayor's nomination was announced include:

. Sotomayor advocated legislating from the bench
. Sotomayor said, "Latina judges are obviously better than white male judges"
. Sotomayor's Supreme Court reversal rate is "high"
. Liberal judges like Sotomayor are "activist[s]"
. Sotomayor was "[s]oft on New Jersey [c]orruption"
. New Haven firefighters case shows Sotomayor is an "activist"
. Sotomayor lacks the intellect to be an effective justice
. Sotomayor is "domineering" and "a bit of a bully"
. "Empathy" is code for "liberal activist"

Be sure to read the entire report for a detailed breakdown of the facts dispelling these right-wing myths and falsehoods.

In all, this week, Media Matters released more than 100 research items, blog posts, video clips, and columns surrounding media coverage of the Supreme Court and Sotomayor's nomination.

As the week went on, it became clearer that Sotomayor would be a victim of attacks from conservatives in the media reminiscent of those on Obama:

. MSNBC's Pat Buchanan called Sotomayor a "lightweight," "an anti-white, liberal judicial activist." He and his sister Bay both claimed that Sotomayor's nomination was the result of "affirmative action."

. Media Matters' Eric Boehlert went head-to-head with former Rep. Tom Tancredo on CNN over the context of Sotomayor's past comments. During the segment, Tancredo claimed Sotomayor was a member of the "Latino KKK," earning the right-wing former congressman the mocking of MSNBC's Rachel Maddow.

. Jeffrey Kuhner, filling in for right-wing radio host Michael Savage, claimed Sotomayor believes "that America is a racist, sexist, homophobic and misogynist society."

. Fox News' Glenn Beck said Sotomayor's appointment was more evidence of a Marxist "hostile takeover" of the United States. He also called her a "racist," who "is not that bright" and "divisive."

. Savage described Sotomayor as "Chairman O's pick for the Supreme Court" and a "radical activist."

. Radio host and conservative movement leader Rush Limbaugh called Sotomayor "an angry woman," "bigot," and "racist."

. Mark Krikorian, over at the National Review Online, had an issue with the pronunciation of Sotomayor's name, writing that "it sticks in my craw."

. Fox News' Sean Hannity claimed Obama turned "his back on Mainstream America" by nominating "the most divisive nominee possible," a "radical."

. Politico's Mike Allen and Jonathan Martin initially reported that Sotomayor was "a Latina single mother" despite the fact that Sotomayor has no children.
If media coverage of week one of the Sotomayor nomination is any indication, it's going to be a long, hot summer. Fear not, though -- Media Matters will be there through it all.

Other major stories this week:

Is there something in the water at Fox Nation?
Back in March, while promoting its newly launched website, TheFoxNation.com, Fox News ran advertisements telling viewers that "t's time to say 'no' to biased media and 'yes' to fair play and free speech." In the weeks since the website's launch, Media Matters has documented more than 50 instances where Fox Nation failed to come close to the bias-free, "fair play" standard set out by Fox News.

This week has been particularly awful. Case in point:

. Fox Nation is just asking: "Sotomayor Argued Death Penalty Is Racist... Is She?"
. With picture of burning WTC, Fox Nation wonders if Obama has "Pre-9/11 Mindset"
. Fox Nation: "Need Another Tea Party? National Sales Tax 'on the Table' "
. Fox Nation baselessly claims Sotomayor "Wants to Ban Guns"
. Fox News still trafficking in birth certificate theories
. Continuing to be "bias"-free, Fox Nation calls Obama "Cocky Barack"
Be sure to check out the Media Matters archive on Free Republic ... er, Fox Nation.

Rush Limbaugh's Failure-palooza By now, everybody watching the Obama administration remembers Rush Limbaugh's well wishes for the new president the day before his inauguration -- that's when El Rushbo said, "I hope Obama fails." The comment picked up a head of steam in the press, provoking Limbaugh to elaborate two days later, saying, "We are being told that we have to hope he succeeds, that we have to bend over, grab the ankles ... because his father was black." A month later, Rush let us all in on "the dirty little secret," as he described it, that "every Republican in this country wants Obama to fail, but none of them have the guts to say so; I am willing to say it."

Since then, Rush has been quick to wish failure on all kinds of things. For example, back in February, Limbaugh said, "I want the stimulus package to fail." In March, he strangely compared his hope for Obama's failure to a Steelers fan wanting the Cardinals' QB to fail in the Super Bowl. The same month, he seemed to offer up some reverse psychology, claiming, "If there's anybody who wants America as it was founded to fail, it's Barack Obama."

And so, Rush Limbaugh's failure-palooza marched on this week as news of Obama's selection of Sotomayor for a seat on the Supreme Court was reported. Without skipping a beat, Limbaugh said of the president's nominee: "Do I want her to fail? Yeah."

To give you an idea of how completely warped Rush's thinking is, two days after his Sotomayor "fail" comments, Limbaugh claimed, "This country is failing because President Obama is succeeding."

So, was it Sasquatch or Chupacabra driving the Chrysler?Another week, another bizarre conspiracy theory from the right. Eric Boehlert brings us the story of the budding Obama scandal that's been hatched this week within the right-wing blogosphere, which has all the hallmarks of previous failed Obama conspiracy theories. The latest centers on the idea that Obama's White House, as part of the automaker's restructuring, personally selected which Chrysler dealership would be closed. Not only that, but the Obama White House punished dealerships whose owners gave campaign contributions to Republicans. The horror!

Conservative bloggers excitedly claim that their research proves a massive conspiracy's afoot. Their research? A laundry list of names of dealers who have indeed given money to the GOP and have indeed been closed down as part of the GM restructuring. So why doesn't that prove Obama has a hit list? First, because nearly 800 dealerships are being closed down, yet bloggers detail campaign contributions for less than 10 percent of those dealership owners. Second, all the bloggers actually prove is that a lot of dealership owners are Republicans. Does that surprise anyone?

Statistician Nate Silver demolishes the theory with actual research, noting, "It shouldn't be any surprise, by the way, that car dealers tend to vote -- and donate -- Republican. They are usually male, they are usually older (you don't own an auto dealership in your 20s), and they have obvious reasons to be pro-business, pro-tax cut, anti-green energy and anti-labor. Car dealerships need quite a bit of space and will tend to be located in suburban or rural areas. I can't think of too many other occupations that are more natural fits for the Republican Party."

This week's media columnsThis week's media columns from the Media Matters senior fellows: Eric Boehlert asks why Washington Post columnists didn't call Cheney a disgrace; Jamison Foser looks at how suddenly it's OK to call a judicial nominee a racist; and Karl Frisch discusses the Right's supremely flawed opening argument against Sotomayor.

Don't forget to order your autographed copy of Eric Boehlert's compelling new book, Bloggers on the Bus: How the Internet Changed Politics and the Press (Free Press, May 2009).

Do you Facebook or Twitter?[I]
If you use the social networking site Facebook, be sure to join the official Media Matters page and those of our senior fellows Eric Boehlert, Jamison Foser, and Karl Frisch as well. You can also follow Media Matters, Boehlert, Foser, and Frisch on Twitter!

This weekly wrap-up was compiled by Karl Frisch, a senior fellow at Media Matters. Frisch also contributes to County Fair, a media blog featuring links to progressive media criticism from around the Web as well as original commentary.

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Saundra Hummer
May 31st, 2009, 09:29 PM


Who Is to Blame for the Next Attack?

Op-Ed Columnist
May 31, 2009

AFTER watching the farce surrounding Dick Cheney’s coming-out party this month, you have to wonder: Which will reach Washington first, change or the terrorists? If change doesn’t arrive soon, terrorists may well rush in where the capital’s fools now tread.

The Beltway antics that greeted the great Cheney-Obama torture debate were an unsettling return to the post-9/11 dynamic that landed America in Iraq. Once again Cheney and his cohort were using lies and fear to try to gain political advantage — this time to rewrite history and escape accountability for the failed Bush presidency rather than to drum up a new war. Once again Democrats in Congress were cowed. And once again too much of the so-called liberal news media parroted the right’s scare tactics, putting America’s real security interests at risk by failing to challenge any Washington politician carrying a big stick.

Cheney’s “no middle ground” speech on torture at the American Enterprise Institute arrived with the kind of orchestrated media campaign that he, his boss and Karl Rove patented in the good old days. It was bookended by a pair of Republican attack ads on the Web that crosscut President Obama’s planned closure of the Guantánamo Bay detention center with apocalyptic imagery — graphic video of the burning twin towers in one ad, a roar of nuclear holocaust (borrowed from the L.B.J. “daisy” ad of 1964) in the other.

The speech itself, with 20 mentions of 9/11, struck the same cynical note as the ads, as if the G.O.P. was almost rooting for a terrorist attack on Obama’s watch. “No one wishes the current administration more success in defending the country than we do,” Cheney said as a disingenuous disclaimer before going on to charge that Obama’s “half measures” were leaving Americans “half exposed.” The new president, he said, is unraveling “the very policies that kept our people safe since 9/11.” In other words, when the next attack comes, it will be all Obama’s fault. A new ad shouting “We told you so!” awaits only the updated video.

The Republicans at least have an excuse for pushing this poison. They are desperate. The trio of Pillsbury doughboys now leading the party — Rush Limbaugh, Newt Gingrich, Cheney — have variously cemented the G.O.P.’s brand as a whites-only men’s club by revoking Colin Powell’s membership and smearing the first Latina Supreme Court nominee as a “reverse racist.” Republicans in Congress have no plausible economic, health care or energy policies to counter Obama’s. The only card left to play is 9/11.

Yet even before Cheney spoke, Congressional Democrats were quaking in fear, purporting with straight faces that the transfer of detainees to “supermax” American prisons constituted a serious security threat. Many of the same senators who signed on to the Iraq war resolution in the fall of 2002 joined the 90-to-6 majority that put a hold on Obama’s Gitmo closure plans.

The déjà vu in the news media was more chilling. Rather than vet the substance of Cheney’s fulmination, talking heads instead hyped the split-screen “dueling speeches” gimmick of the back-to-back Obama-Cheney scheduling. Time magazine’s political Web site Photoshopped Cheney and Obama’s faces atop prize fighters’ bodies.

Most of the punditocracy scored the fight on a curve, setting up a false equivalence between the men’s ideas. Cheney’s pugnacious certitude edged out Obama’s law-professor nuance. “On policy grounds, you’ve got a real legitimate fight here,” David Gregory insisted on “Meet the Press” as he regurgitated the former vice president’s argument (“You can’t compromise on these matters”) and questioned whether the president could “really bring” his brand of pragmatism “to the issue of the war on terror.”

One New York Daily News columnist summed up Cheney’s supposed TKO this way: “The key to Cheney’s powerful performance: facts, facts, facts.” But the facts, as usual, were wrong.

At the McClatchy newspapers’ Washington bureau, the reporters Jonathan S. Landay and Warren P. Strobel detailed 10 whoppers. With selective quotations, Cheney falsified the views of the director of national intelligence, Adm. Dennis Blair, on the supposed intelligence value of waterboarding. Equally bogus was Cheney’s boast that his administration had “moved decisively against the terrorists in their hideouts and their sanctuaries, and committed to using every asset to take down their networks.” In truth, the Bush administration had lost Osama bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, not least because it started diverting huge assets to Iraq before accomplishing the mission of vanquishing Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan. That decision makes us less safe to this very minute.

You can find a link to the complete Landay-Strobel accounting of Cheney’s errors in the online version of this column. The failure of much of the press to match their effort has a troubling historical antecedent. These are the same two journalists who, reporting for what was then Knight Ridder, uncovered much of the deceit in the Bush-Cheney case for the Iraq war in the crucial weeks before Congress gave the invasion the green light.

On Sept. 6, 2002, Landay and Strobel reported that there was no known new intelligence indicating that “the Iraqis have made significant advances in their nuclear, biological or chemical weapons programs.” It was two days later that The Times ran its now notorious front-page account of Saddam Hussein’s “quest for thousands of high-strength aluminum tubes.” In the months that followed, as the Bush White House kept beating the drum for Saddam’s imminent mushroom clouds to little challenge from most news organizations, Landay and Strobel reported on the “lack of hard evidence” of Iraqi weapons and the infighting among intelligence agencies. Their scoops were largely ignored by the big papers and networks as America hurtled toward fiasco.

Another reporter who was ahead of the pack in unmasking Bush-Cheney propaganda is the author Ron Suskind. In his 2006 book on the American intelligence matrix, “The One Percent Doctrine,” Suskind wrote about a fully operational and potentially catastrophic post-9/11 Qaeda assault on America that actually was aborted in the Bush years: a hydrogen cyanide attack planned for the New York City subways. It was halted 45 days before zero hour — but not because we stopped it. Al-Zawahri had called it off.

When Bush and Cheney learned of the cancellation later on from conventional intelligence, they were baffled as to why. The answer: Al-Zawahri had decided that a rush-hour New York subway attack was not enough of an encore to top 9/11. Al Qaeda’s “special event” strategy, Suskind wrote, requires the creation of “an upward arc of rising and terrible expectation” that is “multiplied by time passing.” The event that fits that bill after 9/11 must involve some kind of nuclear weapon.

“What are the lessons of this period?” Suskind asked when we spoke last week. “If you draw the wrong lessons, you end up embracing the wrong answers.” They are certainly not the lessons cited by Cheney. Waterboarding hasn’t and isn’t going to save us from anything. The ticking time-bomb debate rekindled by Cheney’s speech may be entertaining on “24” or cable-news food fights, but is a detour from the actual perils before the country. “What we’re dealing with is a patient foe who thinks in decades while we tend to think more in news cycles,” Suskind said. “We have to try to wrestle this fear-based debate into something resembling a reality-based discussion.”

The reality is that while the Bush administration was bogged down in Iraq and being played by Pervez Musharraf, the likelihood of Qaeda gaining access to nuclear weapons in a Taliban-saturated Pakistan was increasing by the day. We know that in the month before 9/11, bin Laden and al-Zawahri met with the Pakistani nuclear scientist Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood. That was the real link between 9/11 and nuclear terror that the Bush administration let metastasize while it squandered American resources on a fictional link between 9/11 and a “nuclear” Saddam.

And where are we now? On the eve of Obama’s inauguration, David Sanger reported in The Times that military and nuclear experts agree that if “a real-life crisis” breaks out in Pakistan “it is unlikely that anyone would be able to assure an American president, with confidence, that he knew where all of Pakistan’s weapons were — or that none were in the hands of Islamic extremists.”

Pakistan is the time bomb. But with a push from Cheney, abetted by too many Democrats and too many compliant journalists, we have been distracted into drawing the wrong lessons, embracing the wrong answers. We are even wasting time worrying that detainees might escape from tomb-sized concrete cells in Colorado.

What we need to be doing instead, as Suskind put it, is to “build the thing we don’t have — human intelligence. We need people who are cooperating with us, who step up and help, and who won’t turn away when they see things happening. Hearts and minds — which we’ve botched — must be corrected and corrected quickly. That’s what wins the battle, not going medieval.” It’s not for nothing, after all, that Powell, Gen. David Petraeus and Robert Gates, the secretary of defense — among other military minds — agree with Obama, not Cheney, about torture and Gitmo.

The harrowing truth remains unchanged from what it was before Cheney emerged from his bunker to set Washington atwitter. The Bush administration did not make us safer either before or after 9/11. Obama is not making us less safe. If there’s another terrorist attack, it will be because the mess the Bush administration ignored in Pakistan and Afghanistan spun beyond anyone’s control well before Americans could throw the bums out.

Copyright 2009 The New York Times Company

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Saundra Hummer
June 1st, 2009, 08:58 PM


Waterboarding was 'well done,'
Cheney says


WATCH: Cheney also confuses Obama, Osama

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On Iraq and 9/11: ‘That’s not something I made up’

Former Vice President Dick Cheney is usually very careful at choosing his words.

Perhaps not so today. In a speech Monday at the National Press Club, continuing along familiar themes of terrorism, Guantanamo and his hatred for The New York Times, Cheney spoke defensively of the administration’s practice of water-boarding detainees.

“I don’t believe we tortured,” Cheney remarked, noting that the interrogation techniques approved by the Bush administration were vetted by White House lawyers. They didn’t cross a “red line,” he said.

And then he delivered the whopper: “There were three people who were water-boarded…. It was well-done.”

The former vice president also made an odd comment about detainees being held at Guantanamo Bay.

He framed their detention as a choice between two options: either we imprison them, or we kill them.

“We need Guantanamo… If we didn’t have it, we’d need to (invent) it,” Cheney remarked. “If you don’t have a place to hold these people, the only other option is to kill them.”

“We don’t operate that way,” he added.

Cheney’s comments were transcribed by The Swamp, the blog of the Chicago Tribune.

“If I had it to do all over again, I would do exactly the same thing,” he continued. “I don’t have much tolerance or patience for those who have the benefit of hindsight eight years later and have forgotten what happened on 9/11…. Just imagine, what would happen if you had 19 men in one of our cities… armed with a nuclear weapon or (a biological weapon).”

He also laid it thick on The New York Times:

“We found ourselves in a situation where The New York Times received a leak - we called them into the Oval Office,” Cheney said. “The publisher, the editor and the Washington Bureau chief… all came down to the Oval Office and talked to the president,” where they were told that writing about the program would let terrorists know the U.S. is reading their mail and would break some laws.) “They went ahead and they published it anyway, and their award for doing it was they won the Pulitzer.”

“My own personal view is that damaged our security,” he said.

“I think it’s going to be very difficult to close Guantanamo,” Cheney said. “The New York Times again, one of my favorite publications… referred to the prisoners at Guantanamo as abductees… These are bad actors…. The ones that are left, these are the worst of the worst… There is not a lot of great demand out around the country to have those folks shipped to the nearest facility.”

And about Iraq and 9/11: “That’s not something I made up.”

“The prime source of information on the relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda was George Tenet,” the former CIA director, Cheney said. “There was a relationship between al Qaeda and Iraq that stretched back 10 years. That’s not something I made up… That’s something the director of the CIA was telling us.

He added: “We know that he was making $25,000 payments to the families of suicide bombers… We know there were other terrorists… who had found safe harbor in Iraq over the years. I do not believe, and I have never seen any evidence to confirm, that he was involved in 9/11… But the fact of Saddam Hussein being a terrorist-sponsoring state… was, I think, a fact.”

What he didn’t say was that the Times held their story about the Administration’s warrantless wiretapping program for a year after they first had it — which meant the story stayed out of the news in 2004, when Cheney and President Bush were running for reelection.

-John Byrne

Raw Story | P.O. Box 21050 | Washington | DC | 20009

Saundra Hummer
June 3rd, 2009, 03:17 AM


Why cats fail to grasp string theory

Ewen Callaway
June 1, 2009

Now we know why cats never get bored of chasing string. A new study has found that domestic felines don't seem to understand cause and effect connections between objects.

Chimpanzees, tamarin monkeys, parrots and ravens all understand that tugging on one end of a string will bring a treat at the other end closer. Pigeons and human infants don't; and cat lovers dismayed at their pets' lack of nous can console themselves with the knowledge that dogs don't either.

"There's no reason to think that cats are more stupid than dogs," says Britta Osthaus, a comparative psychologist at Canterbury Christ Church University, UK, who led the study. "I've done quite a few tests and I always find that dogs just don't get it."

Working with 15 shelter cats, Osthaus's team attached fish or biscuit treats to one end of a string. A plastic screen with a small gap at the bottom separated cats from their reward, requiring the felines to tug on the string to get the treat.

With a single string attached to the food, most cats learned to paw at the string to get a snack. But when Osthaus' team introduced a second piece of string, unconnected to any foods, cats tugged on the correct string less than half the time.

This suggests that the cats couldn't infer cause-and-effect relationships between two objects and could only learn an association from scratch each time.

Journal reference: Animal Cognition (DOI: 10.1007/s10071-009-0228-x)

Purrfect Puss
Mon Jun 01 13:55:25 BST 2009 by Sue Schofield

My own cat refuses to tug at string, regardless of whether it's connected to a comparative psychologist or not.

I think this makes her smarter than the psychologist.

.Cats Strings
Mon Jun 01 14:13:38 BST 2009 by alan burden

My cat can open doors to play with something within that he hasn't seen for weeks. He knows that if he rattles keys hanging from the lock I will open the door for him. He knows that ,at approxiamarely the right time ,if he stares intently at me, I will feed him. All this seems to imply an understanding of cause and effect. Perhaps he just couldn't get up the enthusiasm to chase bits of string in a scientific experiment

Cats Strings
Mon Jun 01 16:36:00 BST 2009 by Will

Is that not just learned association?

Cats Strings
Mon Jun 01 19:42:38 BST 2009 by mcgrew

Flawed methodology, purr-haps?

Shelter cats were either kittiens before they were caged, or were adult cats too dumb to keep from getting caught by animal control.

It stands to reason that since intelligence varies from person to person, it probably varies from cat to cat also.

If you found a human who had been neglected as a child, (s)he may have trouble with cause and effect, too. If they had studied cats who were raised buy their feline mothers in human homes, the results might have come out quite differently.

Also, it mentioned that human infants don't understand cause and effect, perhaps that is learned knowlege and not hard-wired.

Cats Strings
Tue Jun 02 18:24:35 BST 2009 by gr8lakesgrrl

I think you've got something there!

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Saundra Hummer
June 3rd, 2009, 02:18 PM
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2012, 2036: What Threatens Us ...

Jacques Attali
Visit article original @ L'Express
Wednesday 3, 2009

Jacques Attali wonders why we as a species tend to scare ourselves with imaginary or less-serious threats, while we ignore threats that are potentially the most serious, such as the asteroid Apophis entering Earth's orbit in 2036. (Photo: Japan Documentation)

A massive release of methane from the Siberian tundra, a collision between the asteroid Apophis and the Earth: why aren't we talking more about these threats?

For many years, movies and video games have insistently conveyed to us the thousand and one catastrophes that could destroy humanity. Contrariwise, when it's a question of equally appalling - but actually real - threats, nobody talks about them! So with the tsunami, which everyone knew for years could occur and which no one thought of countering by establishing warning and prevention systems for coastal populations. So the various forms of flu coming from the animal world that people are just beginning to concern themselves with seriously. So other threats, just as terrible, and far less theoretical. Two examples:

We know for certain that Apophis, an asteroid of about 270 meters in diameter and 27 million tons in mass, could cross the Earth's orbit on April 13, 2036. The potential shock could emit energy equivalent to over 500 megatons, or 35,000 times more than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima August 6, 1945. The risk of head-on collision is minimal (a probability of one in 45,000, apparently), but the damage would be immense. What are we doing to prepare ourselves to deflect this monster? Virtually nothing, except speechifying on a possible international treaty project that is soon to ?e submitted to the UN.

Even more serious: many specialists are saying that climate transformation, whether aggravated or not by human activity, could have fatal consequences for the human species in the short term. Either it could release the bacteria contained in the Siberian tundra (specifically, in the merzlota, the Russian term to define the permafrost, the frozen part of the tundra subsoil) leading to the production of methane and nitrogen proto-oxide, which have far more impact on the climate than carbon dioxide, or the direct release of methane trapped in water crystals today would spread an asphyxiating gas over the planet. Many scientists are talking about these hypotheses; some have measured the presence of these bacteria in the Laptev Sea, in Russia, along the coast of the Arctic Ocean. Others propose a date for the catastrophe: 2012. The new American Energy secretary, Steven Chu, Nobel Laureate in Physics, talks about his own concerns. "The great fear is that the tundra will heat up, that the microbes will wake up and attack these reserves of carbon that would be released into the atmosphere. After that, no matter what humans did, the situation would be out of control." Other scientists, more reassuring, say that, on the contrary, the impact of these bacteria on the climate will not take place for 20,000 years, specifically because the sea level will rise....

Why aren't we talking more about these threats? We can understand that a government faced with the risk of public panic would hesitate to unleash uncontrollable reactions. Nonetheless: the polity owes the truth to the human species, as does a doctor to every individual. And just as a doctor may only assert a diagnosis and propose a treatment, the polity may only propose an analysis and an action. In other words, on these two subjects, as on so many others, it is urgent to know more: either these are futile fears, in which case they should be dispelled immediately, or these are serious dangers, in which case nothing is more urgent than to deal with them now.

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Truthout French language editor Leslie Thatcher. »
© 2009 truthout

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Saundra Hummer
June 4th, 2009, 11:09 AM
. . . . . . .

Bill O'Reilly Ignites the Fire of Hate and Kindles the Flames of Murder. He is the BuzzFlash Media Putz of the Weak.

Created 06/03/2009 - 9:00pm


Media PUTZ. com


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Bill O'Reilly

For reporting that is an embarrassment to the profession of journalism, and for being beholden to corporate paymasters rather than the citizens of America.

This was a special week for the lowest of the low in the media. We had a lot of great nominees for Media Putz. This was a week where these people did NOT win: Glenn Beck for his "Hispanic chick lady" rant; Rush Limbaugh for comparing Sonia Sotomayor to David Duke; and G. Gordon Liddy on the issue of racism, bizarre translations of Spanish, and of course, his fear of menstruating.

No, this week was special because one media figure stood above all the others, even above the previously stated mess. That person is Bill O'Reilly.

O'Reilly skewered Dr. George Tiller 29 times on the air since 2005, often in unbelievable reprehensible style. On Sunday, Dr. George Tiller was assassinated in cold blood inside a church where he worked as an usher.

Often in his rhetoric, O'Reilly would launch [1] into "Tiller, the baby killer, as some call him." Perhaps O'Reilly was correct, some may have called him that. But that speech pattern is prevalent in O'Reilly's work, expressing his own feelings about someone but hiding behind the "some people said" phrasing. After all, some people said O'Reilly wore a toupee during his "Inside Edition" days, but saying so doesn't mean it's true. In his traditional brand of cowardice, O'Reilly backtracked this week [2] without admitting that he did. Though saying that you aren't backtracking means you probably are.

"No backpedaling here [3], madam [Mary Mapes]. Unlike you, I report honestly. Every single thing we said about Tiller was true, and my analysis was based on those facts."

But it's not true [3].

"Dr. George Tiller destroys fetuses for just about any reason, right up until the birth date."

Nope, Kansas law requires that two independent doctors [4] agree that the mother would not be at risk of irreparable harm by giving birth.

"If you want to kill a baby, you hire Tiller. You've got to pay him $5,000 up front, and he'll kill the baby."

Tiller performed the procedure on girls as young as 10 who were victims of incest. It's doubtful that Tiller charged a 10-year-old girl $5,000 or demanded that up front before performing the procedure.

"This is the kind of stuff happened in Mao's China, Hitler's Germany, Stalin's Soviet Union."

No, this isn't. Again, Kansas law -- a rather conservative state -- has careful procedures to make sure there are legitimate reasons for doing so. And the women who have these procedures aren't being forced into procedures by any government official. But again, when you compare something to Mao or Hitler or Stalin, you are often, often wrong.

But O'Reilly isn't interested in these women's stories [1]. He was dismissive of their reasoning, even as O'Reilly wasn't even referring to specific instances. Disagreeing with a person's reasons for doing something is one thing, but when you don't even have the energy or concern to address them correctly, you undermine your own legitimacy.

When you listen to the stories of these women who wanted to be anywhere but where they were, of brains growing outside of skulls, of fetuses that were going to be born dead, you may not agree with them, but without that perspective, and the facts O'Reilly conveniently ignores, you can't make a true judgment on this story.

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In watching the tapes about O'Reilly, you can see that the truth of what Dr. George Tiller did never entered his brain, that O'Reilly never considered the stories of these women [5]. Instead, it's this false anger, this television emotion not geared at true anger over someone, but in a way to propel others to express his anger outside the television box.

This isn't to say that Bill O'Reilly killed Dr. George Tiller with his rhetoric, but O'Reilly did foster an unhealthy climate and obsession against the doctor with his reckless, inaccurate diatribes.

When you deliberately lie about what Dr. Tiller was doing in Kansas, when you distort the reasoning behind tough, crucial decisions, when you rise up countless times in fake TV anger, when you send your producers to stalk this non-public figure because you are too damn afraid to do it yourself, then you have crossed the line of decency and gone way past any sense of responsibility. We are sorry that we can only offer Bill O'Reilly one week's worth of being the Media Putz of the Week.

Bill O'Reilly previously won the Media PUTZ of the week on March 26, 2009 [6], February 12, 2009 [7], September 4, 2008 [8], and July 5, 2007 [9]. You can see a list of all previous nominees here [10].

Source URL: http://blog.buzzflash.com/honors/176
[1] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/06/01/bill-oreilly-crusaded-aga_n_209665.html
[2] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/06/03/oreilly-suddenly-distanci_n_210744.html
[3] http://thinkprogress.org/2009/06/01/oreilly-tiller-respond/
[4] http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/jun/01/us-abortion-doctor-shooting-murder
[5] http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2009/05/31/tiller/
[6] http://blog.buzzflash.com/honors/146
[7] http://blog.buzzflash.com/articles/honors/128
[8] http://mediaputz.com/08/09/putz0904.html
[9] http://mediaputz.com/07/07/putz0705.html
[10] http://www.mediaputz.com/honorees.html
[11] http://technorati.com/tag/BuzzFlash Honors
[12] http://technorati.com/tag/Media Putz
[13] http://technorati.com/tag/Bill O'Reilly
[14] http://technorati.com/tag/George Tiller
[15] http://technorati.com/tag/Tiller the Baby Killer
[16] http://technorati.com/tag/Fox News Channel

. . . . . . .

Saundra Hummer
June 5th, 2009, 05:51 PM
. . . . .

Greetings, Good People –

I hope this message finds you well, happy and productive!

So Messrs. Limbaugh and Gingrich think that Sonia Sotomayor is a racist, eh? Since when was that ever a problem for them? Judging from the history of racial politics on the right, I was wondering when I first heard them say that if they were actually endorsing her! Do these guys ever stop being jerks? Probably not. But it makes for good fodder, that’s for sure. Read all about it in:

What’s Wrong With Sotomayor Being Racist?


Check it out. And while you're there, be sure to also have a look at these regular features: The Regressive Watch and Quote For The Week.

Till next time, be well!

Cheers -


It's a regressive world out there. Sign-up here for your Weekly Antidote.Keep your eyes on the lies.

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What's wrong with Sotomayor Being Racist?

When I hear big old fat white male bloviators like Newt Gingrich or Rush Limbaugh calling Sonia Sotomayor “racist”, just one thought comes to mind: Why are these regressives endorsing her to be the next associate justice of the Supreme Court?

I mean, since when did racism become a problem in their circles?

Since when wasn’t it perfectly acceptable?

Indeed, since when was it not a political tool of choice for winning power, if not a preferred lifestyle?

Do you remember the lovely Limbaugh leading the charge for civil rights, back in the Sixties? Remember how he stood side-by-side with Martin Luther King, getting fire-hosed, going to jail, and marching until he had blisters on his blisters, all for the cause of fighting racism in America?

You don’t? Funny, neither do I.

I do remember, however, that he once said this: “You know who deserves a posthumous Medal of Honor? James Earl Ray [the confessed assassin of Martin Luther King]. We miss you, James. Godspeed.”

Or this: “I mean, let’s face it, we didn’t have slavery in this country for over 100 years because it was a bad thing. Quite the opposite: slavery built the South. I’m not saying we should bring it back; I’m just saying it had its merits. For one thing, the streets were safer after dark.”

Or this, to a black woman who called his show: “Take that bone out of your nose and call me back”.

Or that he has repeatedly played the happy little tune, “Barack the Magic Negro”, on his show.

So, silly me, I kinda had the impression that Limbaugh thought racism was a good thing!

And how about Gingrich? Wasn’t he historically a great champion of civil rights, always on the front lines, always fighting the good fight, from the suburbs of Atlanta to the halls of Congress? I must be getting kinda senile, ‘cause I don’t recollect that one either. But I do remember his tireless efforts at killing welfare programs and affirmative action and at prosecuting the war on drugs, all of which actions are loaded with racist implications and cater to racist mentalities in the public.

So when I heard these clowns criticizing Sonia Sotomayor for being a supposed racist, I couldn’t help but wonder if they weren’t supporting her.

After all, conservatives seem to love racism.

Remember William F. Buckley, who, during the crucible of the contemporary struggle for equality in America wrote that it is right and proper for whites to rule America, because they are the naturally dominant race? That guy was the intellectual founder of modern conservatism (pardon the double oxymoron). But let’s give credit where it is due. When it came to the question of whether whites should employ violence or not in enforcing their racist regime, Buckley admitted that he wasn’t sure on that particular question. How generous. Did I mention that Buckley was himself white?

Remember Richard M. Nixon – one of America’s most notable presidents for so many other reasons – who famously seized the presidency by means of the “Southern Strategy”? What was that? Nothing short of takin