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Friday, June 29, 2007

Dems sound off on nut court school ruling

By NEDRA PICKLER, Associated Press Writer A historically diverse field of Democratic presidential candidates — a woman, a black, an Hispanic and five whites — denounced an hours-old Supreme Court affirmative action ruling Thursday night and said the nation's slow march to racial unity is far from over. "We have made enormous progress, but the progress we have made is not good enough," said Sen. Barack Obama, the son of a man from Kenya and a woman from Kansas. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, the first female candidate with a serious shot at the presidency, drew the night's largest cheer when she suggested there was a hint of racism in the way AIDS is addressed in this country. "Let me just put this in perspective: If HIV-AIDS were the leading cause of death of white women between the ages of 25 and 34 there would be an outraged, outcry in this country," said the New York senator. In their third primary debate, the two leading candidates and their fellow Democrats played to the emotions of a predominantly black audience, fighting for a voting bloc that is crucial in the party's nomination process. One issue not raised by questioners, the war in Iraq, dominated the past two debates. Queries about AIDS, criminal justice, education, taxes, outsourcing jobs, poverty and the Bush administration's response to Hurricane Katrina all led to the same point: The racial divide still exists. "There is so much left to be done," Clinton said, "and for anyone to assert that race is not a problem in America is to deny the reality in front of our very eyes." While the first two debates focused on their narrow differences on Iraq, moderator Tavis Smiley promised to steer the candidates to other issues that matter to black America. In turn, the candidates said those issues mattered to them. "This issue of poverty in America is the cause of my life," said John Edwards, the 2004 vice presidential nominee. Said Obama: "It starts from birth." Obama criticized President Bush's No Child Left Behind program. "You can't leave money behind ... and unfortunately that's what's been done," he said. Clinton spoke of her efforts in Arkansas to raise school standards, "most especially for minority children." Delaware Sen. Joe Biden urged people to be tested for the AIDS virus, noting that he and Obama had done so. Cracked the Illinois senator: "I just want to make clear I got tested with Michelle," his wife, Obama said drawing laughter from the predominantly black audience. The debate was held at Howard University, a historically black college in the nation's capital. Black voters are a large and critical part of the Democratic primary electorate, making the debate a must-attend for candidates seeking the party's presidential nomination. A half century of desegregation law — and racial tension — was laid bare for the Democrats hours before they met. In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court clamped historic new limits on school desegregation plans. Clinton said the decision "turned the clock back" on history, and her competitors agreed. The conservative majority cited the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case to bolster its precedent-shattering decision, an act termed a "cruel irony" by Justice John Paul Stevens in his dissent. The 1954 ruling led to the end of state-sponsored school segregation in the United States. Obama, the only black candidate in the eight-person field, spoke of civil rights leaders who fought for Brown v. Board of Education and other precedents curbed by the high court. "If it were not for them," he said, "I would not be standing here." Biden noted that he voted against confirmation of Chief Justice John Roberts, who wrote the majority opinion. He said he was tough on Roberts. "The problem is the rest of us were not tough enough," he said, seeming to take a jab at fellow Democrats. "They have turned the court upside down." All the Democratic candidates in the Senate opposed the confirmation of conservative Justice Samuel Alito, another of President Bush's nominees. Clinton, Biden and Obama voted against Roberts; Sen. Chris Dodd voted for his nomination. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, the first major Hispanic candidate, said race is about more than passing new laws and appointing new justices. "The next president is going to have to lead," he said, vowing to do so. Dodd said "the shame of resegregation in our country has been occurring for years." The nomination fight begins in Iowa and New Hampshire, two states with relatively few minorities. But blacks and other minority voters become critical in Nevada, South Carolina and Florida before the campaign turns to a multi-state primary on Feb. 5. About one in 10 voters in the 2004 election were black, according to exit polls, and they voted 9-to-1 for Democrat John Kerry. In some states, blacks make up a bigger share of the voters. In South Carolina, for example, blacks made up about 30 percent of the electorate in 2004, but were more than half of the voters in the state's Democratic primary. Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, the country's only black governor, introduced the candidates with a warning that a dispirited GOP "is not enough to elect a Democratic president nor should it be. We need to offer a more positive and hopeful vision ... to run on what we are for and not just what we are against." Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich and former Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel also debated. Sidebar: Conservatives scream about how they hate judges view the law from their ideological world view unless it's the conservative world they don't mind that as long judges overturn laws they don't like. The cons want to take this country back decades where there was no civil rights, the rich could do whatever they want to the majority but the most ironic thing about it the judge that voted along with the majority of the nut job court benefited from these programs...

The Surge is not the word, Insurgents kill five more US soldiers

Filed by RAW STORY Insurgents killed five US soldiers in an ambush in Baghdad as the military said it had detained dozens of suspected Al-Qaeda linked militants in raids across Iraq on Friday. The soldiers were killed, and seven more wounded, in southern Baghdad on Thursday when their attackers detonated a roadside bomb against their patrol and then opened fire on it, the military said on Friday. One of the wounded soldiers had returned to duty but six more were still receiving treatment, the military said. The latest fatalities took US losses in Iraq to 82 this month alone and to 3,559 since the March 2003 invasion, according to an AFP count based on Pentagon figures. In May, 121 US soldiers were killed, making that month the deadliest since November 2004, when US marines stormed the former rebel town of Fallujah. "The toll for the past three months - 329 - made it the deadliest quarter for U.S. troops in Iraq since the war began in March 2003," the Associated Press reports. Meanwhile the US military said it killed three Al-Qaeda linked militants and detained dozens of other suspects in the Friday raids. One of those killed was wearing a suicide vest and was shot near Fallujah in the western Sunni Anbar province. In the same raid, troops detained 16 suspects for their alleged ties to a "top Al-Qaeda in Iraq leader". US and Iraqi forces arrested another four people in the nearby town of Karmah, while several more suspects were seized in other operations, the military said. Insurgents, for their part, bombed an oil pipeline south of Baghdad and set it ablaze on Friday, a local police officer told AFP. Police Lieutenant Mohammed Hussaini said the bomb was placed under the pipeline in an area called Mowelha, near the town of Iskandiriyah, 50 kilometres (30 miles) south of the Iraqi capital. "The explosion has caused a huge fire and firemen are currently battling to quell the blaze," he said. The pipeline transports crude oil to Baghdad's Dura electricity plant and to a power station in the town of Musayyib, south of the capital, he added. Radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, meanwhile, postponed a march by his followers to the northern Sunni town of Samarra to protest at the destruction of a revered shrine there, a top aide said during Friday prayers. Assad al-Nasiri, a Shiite imam and Sadr loyalist speaking from Sadr's pulpit in the town of Kufa, said that the government's refusal to secure the route to Samarra was one of the reasons for the postponement. "Sayyid Sadr has decided to postpone a visit to Samarra and to hold off for several reasons, firstly because the government has gone back on its promises, including the commitment to protect the road to Samarra," he said. Nasiri added that Sadr had received several appeals from various political leaders asking that he postpone the march through staunchly Sunni territory, which many fear could lead to sectarian violence. The Al-Askari Shrine of Samarra, one of the holiest sites in Shiite Islam, was bombed in February 2006 and then again on June 13. Sadr has blamed the Iraqi government for not securing the site and for failing to rebuild it. After the first attack in which the shrine's golden dome was destroyed, a rampage of Shiite and Sunni killings broke out across Iraq, one which continues to this day and has caused tens of thousands of deaths. (with wire reports)

Dems call out the Smirking chimp on subpoenas

By LAURIE KELLMAN, Associated Press Writer Democrats took the first steps Friday in what could be a long march to court in a tug-of-war between the White House and Congress over subpoenas and executive and legislative branch powers. In a letter to White House counsel Fred Fielding, the heads of the Senate and House Judiciary committees demanded an explanation in 10 days of why the White House claimed executive privilege on subpoenaed documents and vowed to invoke "the full force of law." The White House — echoing the senior Republican on the Senate panel — urged the chairmen to accept the administration's earlier offer to allow private, off-the-record interviews with current and former aides to President Bush. "If the committees just want the facts, then they should withdraw the subpoenas and accept the president's offer, instead of this continued pattern of gross-over reach and confrontation," said White House spokesman Tony Fratto. The fight centers on an investigation that Democrats initially undertook into the firings of several U.S. attorneys, but which has since branched out to scrutiny of the administration's terrorism-era warrantless wiretapping and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' stewardship of the Justice Department. "The veil of secrecy you have attempted to pull over the White House by withholding documents and witnesses is unprecedented and damaging to the tradition of open government by and for the people that has been a hallmark of the republic," Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., and Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., told Fielding. They gave the White House until July 9 to furnish the factual and legal bases for the executive privilege claim and documentation that President Bush personally signed off on it. Whether or not the White House meets the deadline, "we will take the necessary steps to rule on your privilege claims and appropriately enforce our subpoenas backed by the full force of law," Leahy and Conyers wrote. At issue is Congress' investigation of whether the White House improperly ordered the dismissals of U.S. attorneys — and the committees' demands for internal Bush administration documents. Without an agreement on the subpoenaed documents, the dispute proceeded in slow motion toward contempt citations and, possibly, a constitutional showdown in federal court. The White House did not immediately respond to the tough talk of the chairmen, but Fielding made clear a day earlier that he believes all of the subpoenaed documents are protected by executive privilege. The very phrase amounts to fighting words. Throughout the nation's history, presidents have repeatedly asserted executive privilege to keep secrets from the courts, the Congress and most anyone else. Over the years, Congress and the White House have avoided a full-blown court test about the constitutional balance of power and whether the president can refuse demands from Congress. Lawmakers could vote to cite witnesses for contempt and refer the matter to the local U.S. attorney to bring before a grand jury. Since 1975, 10 senior administration officials have been cited, but the disputes were all resolved before getting to court. Fielding on Thursday explained Bush's position on executive privilege this way: "For the president to perform his constitutional duties, it is imperative that he receive candid and unfettered advice and that free and open discussions and deliberations occur among his advisers and between those advisers and others within and outside the Executive Branch." This "bedrock presidential prerogative" exists, in part, to protect the president from being compelled to disclose such communications to Congress, Fielding argued. Democrats - and some Republicans - responded with a rhetorical lashing of the administration's "Nixonian" conduct. "We urge the president to reconsider this step and withdraw his privilege claim so the American people can learn the truth about these firings," the Conyers and Leahy wrote. Those facts might have come out had the chairmen accepted Fielding's original offer to allow administration officials to testify in private, without a transcript, the president's lawyer pointed out Thursday. Lawmakers rejected that offer, however, demanding that a record be made of the interviews. Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., urged a pragmatic response to Fielding's claim of privilege, saying that if the committee accepted the private-interview offer it could always issue subpoenas later.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Wing nut court overturns race based admission

Filed by Nick Juliano In a narrowly divided opinion handed down Thursday, the Supreme Court overturned school district policies that made race a factor in The 5-4 decision backed parents in Seattle and Louisville who argued that their children were unfairly denied positions in "magnet" public schools because of their race. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the majority opinion, which found the school districts failed to show that classifying students on the basis of race was the only way to maintain racial diversity. "The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race," Roberts wrote, according to SCOTUSblog. The decision could affect racial integration plans in hundreds of school districts, according to the Associated Press. In another 5-4 decision released Thursday, the court ruled Texas cannot execute a mentally ill prisoner. Scott Panetti was convicted of murdering his in-laws 15 years ago, but his lawyers argued he should not face the death penalty because he does not understand why he is facing that punishment. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion in that case. Justices found the Eighth Amendment prohibited putting to death a person who "is so lacking in rational understanding that he cannot comprehend that he is being put to death because of the crime he was convicted of committing," according to the Associated Press. Thursday's decisions represented the extent to which Kennedy remains a pivot-point on the court. In the death penalty case, he sided with the court's liberal wing -- Justices Ruth Bader Ginsberg, David Souter, John Paul Stevens and Stephen Bryer. In the school decision he wrote a concurring opinion joining with conservative Justices Roberts, Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito. Although Kennedy upheld the majority decision that the Seattle and Louisville school districts went too far in using race as a factor, he did not eliminate all possibilities it could be a factor in the future. Sidebar: Too bad conservatives can't work this hard to end wealth based admission to schools.

The Smirk says no about subpoenaed documents

By TERENCE HUNT, AP White House Correspondent President Bush, moving toward a constitutional showdown with Congress, asserted executive privilege Thursday and rejected lawmakers' demands for documents that could shed light on the firings of federal prosecutors. Bush's attorney told Congress the White House would not turn over subpoenaed documents from former presidential counsel Harriet Miers and former political director Sara Taylor. Congressional panels want the documents for their investigations of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' stewardship of the Justice Department, including complaints of undue political influence. The Democratic chairmen of the two committees seeking the documents accused Bush of stonewalling and disdain for the law, and said they would press forward with enforcing the subpoenas. "With respect, it is with much regret that we are forced down this unfortunate path which we sought to avoid by finding grounds for mutual accommodation," White House counsel Fred Fielding said in a letter to the chairmen of the Senate and House Judiciary Committees. "We had hoped this matter could conclude with your committees receiving information in lieu of having to invoke executive privilege. Instead, we are at this conclusion." Thursday was the deadline for surrendering the documents. The White House also made clear that Miers and Taylor would not testify next month, as directed by the subpoenas, which were issued June 13. The stalemate could end up with House and Senate contempt citations and a battle in federal court over separation of powers. "Increasingly, the president and vice president feel they are above the law," said Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. He portrayed the president's actions as "Nixonian stonewalling." His House counterpart, Judiciary Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., said Bush's assertion of executive privilege was "unprecedented in its breadth and scope" and displayed "an appalling disregard for the right of the people to know what is going on in their government." In his letter, Fielding said Bush had "attempted to chart a course of cooperation" by releasing more than 8,500 pages of documents and sending Gonzales and other senior officials to testify before Congress. The White House also had offered a compromise in which Miers, Taylor, White House political strategist Karl Rove and their deputies would be interviewed by Judiciary Committee aides in closed-door sessions, without transcripts. Leahy and Conyers rejected that offer. Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, a member of the Judiciary Committee, said the Democrats should have accepted it. "We would be much farther ahead in finding out whether there's any real impropriety here or not," said Hatch, a former chairman of the committee. He also said presidents have legitimate reasons to protect the confidentiality of the advice they get. In his letter, Fielding explained Bush's position on executive privilege this way: "For the President to perform his constitutional duties, it is imperative that he receive candid and unfettered advice and that free and open discussions and deliberations occur among his advisors and between those advisors and others within and outside the Executive Branch." This "bedrock presidential prerogative" exists, in part, to protect the president from being compelled to disclose such communications to Congress, Fielding argued. And he questioned whether the documents and testimony the committees seeking are critically important to their investigations. It was the second time in his administration that Bush has exerted executive privilege, said White House deputy press secretary Tony Fratto. The first instance was in December, 2001, to rebuff Congress' demands for Clinton administration documents. Tensions between the administration and the Democratic-run Congress have been building for months as the House and Senate Judiciary panels have sought to probe the firings of eight federal prosecutors and the administration's program of warrantless eavesdropping. The investigations are part of the Democrats' efforts to hold the administration to account for the way it has conducted the war on terrorism since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Democrats say the firings of the prosecutors over the winter was an example of improper political influence. The White House says U.S. attorneys are political appointees who can be hired and fired for almost any reason. Democrats and even some key Republicans have said that Gonzales should resign over the U.S. attorney dismissals, but he has steadfastly held his ground and Bush has backed him. Just Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee subpoenaed the White House and Vice President Dick Cheney's office, demanding documents pertaining to terrorism-era warrant-free eavesdropping. "It's an outrageous request," White House press secretary Tony Snow said. "It's pretty clear that again members of Congress are engaged in an attempt ... to try to do what they can to make life more difficult for the White House," Snow said. "It also explains why this is the least popular Congress in decades, because you do have what appears to be a strategy of destruction rather than cooperation." Separately, the Senate Judiciary Committee also is summoning Gonzales to discuss the program and an array of other matters — including the prosecutor firings — that have cost a half-dozen top Justice Department officials their jobs. The Judiciary panels also subpoenaed the National Security Council. Leahy said that, like Conyers, he would consider pursuing contempt citations against those who refuse. Sidebar:Could you image what would Fox Noise would have done if the Clinton White House pulled this crap? I guaranteed Fox will have graphics of Bill Clinton putting the constitution in a shredder or have him marking it out with a black sharpie marker. And Hannity would be screaming at door mat saying see you guys hate the constitution.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Elizabeth Edwards catch media slut Ann Coulter off guard

From MSNBC: Elizabeth Edwards, wife of Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards called into to MSNBC"s "Hardball" to give columnist Ann Coulter a piece of her mind. Host Chris Mathews allowed Coulter and Edwards to engage in debate for about three minutes. Edwards asked Coulter numerous times to "stop making political attacks," especially personal ones that have targeted her husband and her deceased son Wade. In response, Coulter told Edwards to "stop raising money on the web page." Watch the video below: Sidebar: I've been sick and tired of this two bit transsexual whore posing as a journalist for a while now but his latest slime attack on John Edwards show the right has a double standard when Ann Coulter says something that's slime anyone on the left the right scream freedom of speech or they say "she's" only joking. Now go to Rosie or anyone the right hates so that would be anyone that tells the truth they have no problem going after that person either trying to get them to lose their job or greatly effect that person business.

The sickos on the right are turning their attention to "Sicko"

The Right Sharpens Knives for 'Sicko' By Jay DiamondJune 27, 2007 Editor's Note: With Michael Moore's new documentary, "Sicko," set for nationwide release, the usual suspects on the Right are sharpening their knives for both Moore and the notion that a national health insurance program should cover all Americans. In this guest essay, radio personality Jay Diamond writes that Sean Hannity and other right-wing voices are trying to scare Americans with horror stories about "socialized medicine" while ignoring the valuable services performed by VA hospitals and Medicare:Do a search on "Hannity 'Sicko'" or "Romney 'Sicko''' on any search engine and you will find an assortment of You Tube excerpts of Sean Hannity recycling talking points off the panicked presses of the Heritage Foundation, CEI, AEI, Manhattan Institute, etc., bearing dire warnings of the health care terror Michael Moore and other evil progressives are preparing to inflict on America. But in all their truculent and fear-mongering invocations of the purported evils of "socialized medicine," there is curiously something that Romney, Hannity, and all the other American rightists consistently omit; and in that deliberate omission is an important lesson in the way America's hard right works their deceptions. They never mention that there are more individuals right here in the United States who receive their health coverage on what you call "socialized medicine" than there are people in the entire country of France. Add up all the people on Medicare and the Veterans Administration. Hey Sean, Hey Mitt, Did you forget about those interesting little nuggets....Medicare and the VA ? Or is it that you repeat the brainlessly transparent talking points your handlers stuff in your hands assuming nobody will realize that salient fact? If right-wingers love the troops so much, why do they pick them specifically to be tormented with this horrible "socialized medicine"? Why do rightwingers hate our troops....to punish them in such an evil fashion...putting them at risk of the evil "socialized medicine"? Why, Why? While we're at it, can you tell me something about what kind of health care we inflict on all the ardent rightwingers in Congress and the Senate? Yup, you guessed it. How come all the wonderful, "Freedom" loving dedicated rightwingers in Congress....every last one of 'em...how come they don't give back their "socialized medicine" in indignant protest or at least self-preservation!? How noble they are to suffer so! And, "Mitt", I dare you to answer this....Do we see in the day-to-day reality of the way Medicare works any of the perils you guarantee in your polemics that would afflict the poor victims of public health care? We don't! Medicare works fine and you know that. And the Medicare beneficiaries know that too. Compare it to any for profit HMO! And knowing this, you persistently repeat the lies....purposefully, as a scare tactic, and as rank propaganda. You deliberately set out to mislead people by repeating material falsehoods. Fine work there....very patriotic indeed. The Founders would be so proud of you! Our boys dead in Iraq can rest in peace now knowing they died at age 18 to save grandma from "socialized medicine" and to restore what to you is, no doubt, called "freedom". Moreover, since you're so busy sounding the alarm sirens to "save" us from this "socialized medicine", then how is it you're not writing even one column describing the "horrors" of the already existing Medicare and demanding that the Congress and the President restore "freedom" to Americans by abolishing this blight of Medicare? And why don't I see you, or any of your Republican colleagues scampering for President, also denouncing Medicare even as they inveigh against the godless assault of "socialized medicine"? Why are they....and You....silent in the battle to save America from Medicare and the VA!? How can that be....that you make terror speeches about "socialized medicine" and never even hint at the existence of Medicare and the VA right under our noses!!? I'll tell ya how!! Because you know....and every single Republican in Congress knows it too....as do the other Republicans vying for the '08 nomination, that the minute even one of 'em would be dumb enough to say they were going to "save" the millions of millions of moms and pops and grand-moms and grand-pops all over America from this dastardly Medicare that is stealing their "freedom", that it would be the end of them! Don't believe me ? What happened when Bush tried to play games with Social Security when he was feeling tumescent after his "mandate' which gave him all that "political capital"? Need a reminder? No one....NO ONE !...Not even the hardest line right-winger in Congress would dare to say he was going to abolish grandma's Medicare to save her from socialism! Wanna bet! And guess what....neither would you....because you haven't and you won't! You know better than to make that mistake. You know that if you dare to call Medicare what it is....what Republicans called it back in the mid 1960's when it was being debated....that people would do two things: They would stop the rote association of socialism with everything evil and threatening in life, thereby ending the power over them of individuals like yourself working malignant hidden agendas, and...better still, never fall for that crap again. That is why neither you, nor any Republican will ever associate Medicare or VA health care with the your detested "socialized medicine". Because you know well, that you can scare the spit out of them....trick them....fool them.....hustle them....with your dire invocations of "socialism" right up until the minute that somebody telling the truth shows up to remind them that they already HAVE "socialized medicine", they LOVE their "socialized medicine", and that you want to euchre them out of it! How proud the Founders must be looking down from Joe McCarthy's heaven. And how proud you must be right down here on earth.....or is it earth? It's what we make it Jay Diamond is a radio commentator. He can be reached at JayKDiamond@aol.com. Sidebar: I remember the right when ape shit crazy when Michael Moore dropped F.911 three years ago every right winger from Sean Hannity to rating basement dweller Joe Scarborough whined about the movie (even though most of them admit of never seeing it). Joe spent two weeks and most of the first segment calling Moore a liar. With Sicko coming out man I'm already to hear the shrill noises coming from the right.

White House, Sith Lord office subpoenaed

By LAURIE KELLMAN, Associated Press Writer The Senate subpoenaed the White House and Vice President Dick Cheney's office Wednesday, demanding documents and elevating the confrontation with President Bush over the administration's warrant-free eavesdropping on Americans. Separately, the Senate Judiciary Committee also is summoning Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to discuss the program and an array of other matters that have cost a half-dozen top Justice Department officials their jobs, committee chairman Patrick Leahy announced. Leahy, D-Vt., raised questions about previous testimony by one of Bush's appeals court nominees and said he wouldn't let such matters pass. "If there have been lies told to us, we'll refer it to the Department of Justice and the U.S. attorney for whatever legal action they think is appropriate," Leahy told reporters. He did just that Wednesday, referring questions about testimony by former White House aide Brett Kavanaugh, who now sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. The escalation is part of the Democrats' effort to hold the administration to account for the way it has conducted the war on terrorism since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The White House contends that its search for would-be terrorists is legal, necessary and effective — pointing out frequently that there have been no further attacks on American soil. Administration officials say they have given classified information — such as details about the eavesdropping program, which is now under court supervision — to the intelligence committees of both houses of Congress. Echoing its response to previous congressional subpoenas to former administration officials Harriet Miers and Sara Taylor, the White House gave no indication that it would comply with the new ones. "We're aware of the committee's action and will respond appropriately," White House spokesman Tony Fratto said. "It's unfortunate that congressional Democrats continue to choose the route of confrontation." In fact, the Judiciary Committee's three most senior Republicans — Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, former chairman Orrin Hatch of Utah and Chuck Grassley of Iowa — sided with Democrats on the 13-3 vote last week to give Leahy the power to issue the subpoenas. The showdown between the White House and Congress could land in federal court. Also named in subpoenas signed by Leahy were the Justice Department and the National Security Council. The four parties have until July 18 to comply, Leahy said. He added that, like House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., he would consider pursuing contempt citations against those who refuse. The Judiciary committees have issued the subpoenas as part of a look at how much influence the White House exerts over the Justice Department and its chief, Gonzales. The probe, in its sixth month, began with an investigation into whether administration officials ordered the firings of eight federal prosecutors for political reasons. The Judiciary committees subpoenaed Miers, one-time White House legal counsel, and Taylor, a former political director, though they have yet to testify. Now, with senators of both parties concerned about the constitutionality of the administration's efforts to root out terrorism suspects in the United States, the committee has shifted to the broader question of Gonzales' stewardship of Justice. The issue concerning Kavanaugh, a former White House staff secretary, is whether he misled the Senate panel during his confirmation hearing last year about how much he was involved in crafting the administration's policy on enemy combatants. The Bush administration secretly launched the eavesdropping program, run by the National Security Agency, in 2001 to monitor international phone calls and e-mails to or from the United States involving people the government suspected of having terrorist links. The program, which the administration said did not require investigators to seek warrants before conducting surveillance, was revealed in December 2005. After the program was challenged in court, Bush put it under the supervision of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, established in 1978. The president still claims the power to order warrantless spying. Debate continues over whether the program violates people's civil liberties. The administration has gone to great lengths to keep it running. Interest was raised by vivid testimony last month by former Deputy Attorney General James Comey about the extent of the White House's effort to override the Justice Department's objections to the program in 2004. Comey told the Judiciary Committee that Gonzales, then-White House counsel, tried to persuade Attorney General John Ashcroft to reverse course and recertify the program. At the time, Ashcroft lay in intensive care, recovering form gall bladder surgery. Ashcroft refused, as did Comey, who temporarily held the power of the attorney general's office during his boss' illness. The White House recertified the program unilaterally. Ashcroft, Comey, FBI Director Robert Mueller and their staffs prepared to resign. Bush ultimately relented and made changes the Justice officials had demanded, and the agency eventually recertified it. Fratto defended the surveillance program as "lawful" and "limited." "It's specifically designed to be effective without infringing Americans' civil liberties," Fratto said. "The program is classified for a reason — its purpose is to track down and stop terrorist planning. We remain steadfast in our commitment to keeping Americans safe from an enemy determined to use any means possible — including the latest in technology — to attack us." Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd said the subpoena to Gonzales is under review and that the department recognizes Congress' oversight role. "We must also give appropriate weight to the confidentiality of internal executive branch deliberations," he said. Majority Democrats and some Republicans are skeptical and have sought to find out more details about the program and how it has been administered. The subpoenas themselves seek a wide array of documents on the program from the Sept. 11 attacks to the present. Among them are any documents that include analysis or opinions from Justice, NSA, the Defense Department, the White House, or "any entity within the executive branch" on the legality of the electronic surveillance program. Among the documents sought are any agreements with the nation's telecommunications companies that facilitated the secret surveillance.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Dems target Sith Lord Cheney office funds

By JIM ABRAMS, Associated Press Writer House Democrats, responding to Vice President Dick Cheney's assertion that his office is exempt from certain national security disclosure requirements, said Tuesday they will try to strip some of his funding. A Cheney spokeswoman said the Democrats were just playing politics. The proposal could come up Thursday as an amendment to an annual spending bill, said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md. Cheney set off protests from Democrats when he declared that his office was exempt from sections of a presidential order that executive branch offices provide data on how much material they classify and declassify. The White House agreed, saying the order was not intended to treat the vice president's office as an executive branch "agency." Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., sponsor of the amendment, noted that five years ago Cheney claimed executive privilege in refusing to release details about his meetings with oil industry executives to discuss energy policy. "Now when we want to know what he's doing as it relates to America's national security in the lead-up to the war in Iraq and after the fact, the vice president has declared he is a member of the legislative branch." Therefore, Emanuel said, "we will no longer fund the executive branch of his office and he can live off the funding for the Senate presidency." The vice president presides as president of the Senate. Emanuel's office said the amendment would restrict money for the vice president's office but did not contain a specific monetary cut. Hoyer, asked if the amendment would pass, said, "I don't know about that." But he said "we shouldn't fund him in both branches. I think there's going to be consideration of an amendment and that will be discussed." Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., speaking Sunday on Fox News Sunday, said Cheney's move was "the height of arrogance." She said it might not be a bad idea that money for Cheney's office be held up until he decides whether or not he's in the executive branch. Megan McGinn(R-liar), a spokeswoman for the vice president's office, said Emanuel "has a choice he can make: either deal with the serious issues facing our country or continue to play partisan politics." Sidebar: Is McGinn serious? Dealing with the issues facing the country that's funny Megan Dick Cheney and the counter terrorist task force barley met during the months leading up to 9.11

Bush's flying monkey now says Iraq plan isn't working

By ANNE FLAHERTY, Associated Press Writer2 hours, 53 minutes ago Sen. Richard Lugar, a senior Republican and a reliable vote for President Bush on the war, said that Bush's Iraq strategy was not working and that the U.S. should downsize the military's role. The unusually blunt assessment Monday deals a political blow to Bush, who has relied heavily on GOP support to stave off anti-war legislation. It also comes as a surprise. Most Republicans have said they were willing to wait until September to see if Bush's recently ordered troop buildup in Iraq was working. "In my judgment, the costs and risks of continuing down the current path outweigh the potential benefits that might be achieved," Lugar, R-Ind., said in a Senate floor speech. "Persisting indefinitely with the surge strategy will delay policy adjustments that have a better chance of protecting our vital interests over the long term." Only a few Republicans have broken ranks and called for a change in course or embraced Democratic proposals ordering troops home by a certain date. As the top Republican and former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Lugar's critique could provide political cover for more Republicans wanting to challenge Bush on the war. Lugar's spokesman Andy Fisher said the senator wanted to express his concerns publicly before Bush reviews his Iraq strategy in September. "They've known his position on this for quite a while," Fisher said of the White House. However, Fisher said the speech does not mean Lugar would switch his vote on the war or embrace Democratic measures setting a deadline for troop withdrawals. In January, Lugar voted against a resolution opposing the troop buildup, contending that the nonbinding measure would have no practical effect. In spring, he voted against a Democratic bill that would have triggered troop withdrawals by Oct. 1 with the goal of completing the pull out in six months. Next month, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., plans to force votes on several anti-war proposals as amendments to a 2008 defense policy bill. Members will decide whether to cut off money for combat, demand troop withdrawals start in four months, restrict the length of combat tours and rescind Congress' 2002 authorization of Iraqi invasion. Expected to fall short of the 60 votes needed in the Senate to pass controversial legislation, the proposals are intended to increase pressure on Bush and play up to voters frustrated with the war. Siderbar: During the Thom Hartman show, Thom floated an idea that the Republicans could be setting up a plan to distance themselves from the war and accuse the Dems of supporting the war. Nevermind the Republicans never provided any over sight in the war which 9 billion dollars was never accounted for. The Democrats have to get in front of this yes what the Dems accomplished this far is great but thanks to the limp dick corporate media and the GOP's echo machine that passes for cable news and AM talk radio they will play it as it was the Republicans stood up to Bush and ended the war. And the outrage towards the Democrats is understandable but do you want to go back the good ole bad days where the GOP had both houses and the special interest had a feild day? But look at like this it was the GOP that held out during the vote to set timelines, it was the GOP that's playing politics with our troops lives their the ones waiting to see where the wind blows on this issue.

Repuglicans block union bill

By JESSE J. HOLLAND, AP Labor Writer1 hour, 26 minutes ago Senate Republicans on Tuesday blocked a bill that would allow labor unions to organize workplaces without a secret ballot election. Democrats were unable to get the 60 votes needed to force consideration of the Employee Free Choice Act, ending organized labor's chance to win its top legislative priority from Congress. The final vote was 51-48. The outcome was not a surprise, with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., saying for months that he would stop the legislation in the Senate. The White House also made clear that if the bill passed Congress it would be vetoed. The House passed the bill in March. Democrats and labor unions pressed for a vote in the Senate in hopes of rallying their voters in the 2008 elections, where they hope to win the White House and increase their majorities in the House and Senate. "We will keep coming back year after year after year," said Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio. The GOP also plans to use the vote for election-year campaigning, with corporations and businesses being the top opponents to the legislation. The National Republican Senatorial Committee sent out a fundraising video last week asking people to contribute in order to help stop the Employee Free Choice Act. "Republicans will remind our constituents about the fact that Democrats proposed to strip workers of their voting rights," McConnell said. The legislation was a litmus test vote for organized labor and businesses, strong supporters of Democrats and Republicans respectively. "Today's vote shows us who is standing with workers and which politicians are in collusion with corporate America to destroy the middle class," Teamsters President Jim Hoffa said. Business associations, like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, also plan to grade lawmakers based on their vote. "The Chamber will include votes on, or in relation to, this issue in our annual 'How They Voted' scorecard," warned R. Bruce Josten, the top U.S. Chamber of Commerce lobbyist, in a letter to Congress. The bill would require employers to recognize unions after being presented union cards signed by a majority of eligible workers on their payrolls. Under current labor law, a company can demand a secret ballot election supervised by the federal government after being presented the union cards. The bill's proponents say years of Republican control of the White House and Congress have given corporations and businesses the upper hand when it comes to union elections. Obstacles to organizing are a major reason union membership has dropped from 20 percent of wage and salary workers in 1983 to 12 percent in 2006, they say. Unions complain that employers have greater access to workers during secret ballot campaigns and claim that corporate threats, intimidation and eventual firings have become common for union activists. By dragging out the election process, companies often succeed in wearing down union enthusiasm, they add. Employers contend that union recognition elections prevent just the reverse from happening. Using only a card check system, they argue, would enable union organizers to use their knowledge of who did and didn't sign cards to intimidate reluctant workers. In the 2004 elections, organized labor gave $53.6 million to Democratic candidates and party committees in a losing effort to capture both the White House and Congress, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. That number rose to $57.5 million in 2006, when Democrats successfully took the House and Senate from the GOP. But businesses, which oppose the Employee Free Choice Act, donate largely to the Republican Party. Business concerns gave $122 million to the Republican Party in 2004 and another $81 million in 2006 for national elections, the Center for Responsive Politics said. Sidebar: Where's the up and down vote on this issue that's all the Republicans screamed when the Dems were trying to stop some of the smirk's maddness.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Waxman sounds off on Cheney security exemption

By DEB RIECHMANN, Associated Press WriterFri Jun 22, 1:08 AM ET House Democrats on Thursday denounced Vice President Dick Cheney's idea of abolishing a government office charged with safeguarding national security information — and criticized him for refusing to cooperate with the agency. Cheney's office — over the objections of the National Archives — has exempted itself from a presidential executive order that seeks to protect national security information generated by the government, according to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Under the order, executive branch offices are required to give the Information Security Oversight Office at the archives data on how much material it has classified and declassified. Cheney's office provided the information in 2001 and 2002, then stopped. Henry Waxman, chairman of the committee, said Cheney's office claims it need not comply with the executive order because it is not an "entity within the executive branch." "Your decision to except your office from the president's order is problematic because it could place national security secrets at risk," Waxman wrote in a letter to Cheney on Thursday. Megan McGinn, a spokeswoman for the vice president, said Cheney's office was not breaking the law, but did not elaborate. "We are confident that we are conducting the office properly under the law," she said. The Information Security Oversight Office has asked Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to resolve the legal dispute over whether the order applies to Cheney's office. So far, the Justice Department has not ruled on the issue. Waxman said J. William Leonard, director of the Information Security Oversight Office, told the panel that after he sought advice from the Justice Department, Cheney's office recommended that the executive order be amended to abolish the ISOO. "I question both the legality and wisdom of your actions," Waxman said. Waxman said Leonard also told the panel that in 2004, Cheney's office blocked the archives from doing an onsite inspection of his office to make sure classified information was being properly protected. "To my knowledge, this was the first time in the nearly 30-year history of the Information Security Oversight Office that a request for access to conduct a security inspection was denied by a White House office," Waxman wrote. The eight-page letter asks Cheney to respond to a series of questions about why he believes his office is exempt, and what steps his office has taken to ensure that national security information is protected.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Bush's Mafia Whacks the Republic

By Robert Parry June 20, 2007 In years to come, historians may look back on U.S. press coverage of George W. Bush’s presidency and wonder why there was not a single front-page story announcing one of the most monumental events of mankind’s modern era – the death of the American Republic and the elimination of the “unalienable rights” pledged to “posterity” by the Founders. The historians will, of course, find stories about elements of this extraordinary event – Bush’s denial of habeas corpus rights to a fair trial, his secret prisons, his tolerance of torture, his violation of Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches, his “signing statements” overriding laws, the erosion of constitutional checks and balances. But the historians will scroll through front pages of the New York Times, the Washington Post and every other major newspaper – as well as scan the national network news and the 24-hour cable channels – and find not a single story connecting the dots, explaining the larger picture: the end of a remarkable democratic experiment which started in 1776 and which was phased out sometime in the early 21st century. How, these historians may ask, did the U.S. press corps miss one of history’s most important developments? Was it a case like the proverbial frog that would have jumped to safety if tossed into boiling water but was slowly cooked to death when the water was brought to a slow boil? Or was it that journalists and politicians intuitively knew that identifying too clearly what was happening in the United States would have compelled them to action, and that action would have meant losing their jobs and livelihoods? Perhaps, too, they understood that there was little they could do to change the larger reality, so why bother? As for the broader public, did the fear and anger generated by the 9/11 attacks so overwhelm the judgment of Americans that they didn’t care that President Bush had offered them a deal with the devil, he would promise them a tad more safety in exchange for their liberties? And what happened to the brave souls who did challenge Bush’s establishment of an authoritarian state? Why, the historians may wonder, did the American people and their representatives not rise up as Bush systematically removed honorable public servants who did their best to uphold the nation’s laws and principles? One could go down a long list of government officials who were purged or punished for speaking up, the likes of Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill, Army Gen. Eric Shinseki, counterterrorism adviser Richard Clarke, former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson and Deputy Attorney General James Comey. The Taguba Purge Yet possibly the most troubling case was revealed in mid-June by The New Yorker’s investigative reporter Seymour M. Hersh, the case of Army Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba, who investigated the abuses of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison and issued a tough report that prevented the scandal from being swept entirely under the rug. Rather than thank Taguba for upholding the honor of the U.S. military, the Bush administration singled out this hard-working, low-key general for ridicule, retribution and forced retirement in early 2007. In an interview with Hersh, Taguba described a chilling conversation he had with Gen. John Abizaid, head of Central Command, a few weeks after Taguba’s report became public in 2004. Sitting in the back of Abizaid’s Mercedes sedan in Kuwait, Abizaid quietly told Taguba, “You and your report will be investigated.” “I’d been in the Army 32 years by then,” Taguba told Hersh, “and it was the first time that I thought I was in the Mafia.” It was also an early indication that Taguba’s military career was nearing its end. In January 2006, Gen. Richard Cody, the Army’s Vice-Chief of Staff, called Taguba and without pleasantries or explanation told Taguba, “I need you to retire by January 2007.” So, the general who had violated the omerta code of silence was banished from Bush’s Mafia. Hersh wrote that the sensitivity over Taguba’s report went beyond its graphic account of physical and sexual abuse of Iraqis detained at Abu Ghraib; it also brought unwanted attention to a wider pattern of criminal acts committed with the approval of President Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. “The administration feared that the publicity would expose more secret operations and practices,” including a special military task forces or Special Access Programs set up to roam the world and assassinate suspected terrorists, Hersh wrote. Hersh quoted a recently retired CIA officer as saying the task-force teams “had full authority to whack – to go in and conduct ‘executive action,’” a phrase meaning assassination. “It was surrealistic what these guys were doing,” the ex-officer told Hersh. “They were running around the world without clearing their operations with the ambassador or the [CIA] chief of station.” [New Yorker, June 25, 2007, edition] In other words, President Bush not only had arrogated to himself the right to snatch people off the street and lock them up indefinitely without trial but he had dispatched assassins around the world to eliminate alleged “bad guys.” The bigger picture – the stark and grim image of what had transpired over the past half dozen years in the name of the American people – was that the United States could no longer claim to be a nation of laws and liberties. It had become a country governed by a criminal mob deploying an unsavory collection of capos, consiglieres and hit men. In this view, George W. Bush was no longer President of a Republic but Godfather of the world’s most intimidating crime syndicate. But that was a reality that the U.S. news media could not afford to acknowledge in real time, though it might become the unavoidable conclusion of future historians.

Only 1% of workers in the US embassy in Iraq speak Arabic

Jonathan Karl and Maddy Sauer Report: Of the 1,000 U.S. employees at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, only 10 have a working knowledge of Arabic, according to the State Department. That is still a slight improvement from last year when, according to the Iraq Study Group, six people in the embassy spoke Arabic. A 2006 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report noted the shortage of speakers of Arabic, which the State Department classifies as "superhard," is acute at U.S. embassies in the Muslim world. The report found that more than one-third of public policy diplomacy positions at Arabic language posts were filled by people who did not speak the language at the designated level. In April, the director of the International Affairs Office at the GAO said the State Department had started taking action to correct the problems from last year's report. "State has begun to address these language deficiencies by increasing its overall amount of language training and providing supplemental training for more difficult languages at overseas locations," Jess Ford told the House Committee of Foreign Affairs. The State Department grades language proficiency on a five-point scale, from elementary knowledge (S-1) to native or bilingual proficiency (S-5). On this scale, 10 employees at the Baghdad embassy have an S-3 rating for reading and speaking, which means they can speak or write the language with "reasonable ease." An additional five personnel tested at or above the S-3 level in speaking only.

The "pro"life president veto life saving funding for stem cells

By DEB RIECHMANN, Associated Press Writer 5 minutes ago Pushing back against the Democratic-led Congress, President Bush vetoed a bill Wednesday that would have eased restraints on federally funded embryonic stem cell research. "Our innovative spirit is making possible incredible advances in medicine that can save lives and cure diseases," the president told an invited audience in the East Room. "America is also a nation founded on the principle that all human life is sacred. And our conscience calls us to pursue the possibilities of science in a manner that respects human dignity and upholds our moral values." Democrats, who had made the stem cell legislation a top priority when they took control of the House and Senate in January, were quick to denounce the president's decision. "This is just one example of how the president puts ideology before science, politics before the needs of our families, just one more example of how out of touch with reality he and his party have become," Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, told the Take Back America conference of liberal activists Wednesday. Sen. Barak Obama, another Democratic presidential hopeful, said Bush was "deferring the hopes of millions of Americans who do not have the time to keep waiting for the cure that may save or extend lives." To blunt criticism, Bush issued an executive order directing the Health and Human Services Department to promote research into cells that — like human embryonic stem cells — also hold the potential of regenerating into different types of cells that might be used to battle disease. If the measure Bush vetoed would have become law, the White House said it would have compelled taxpayers for the first time in our history — to support the deliberate destruction of human embryos. Spokesman Tony Snow said Bush's executive order encouraged scientists to work with the government to add research on new stem cell lines — that does not involve the creation, harming or destruction of human embryos — to the list of projects eligible for federal funding. "The president does not believe it's appropriate to put an end to human life for research purposes," Snow said. "That's a line he will not cross." Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is expected to schedule an override vote, but the date has not been set. Democrats, however, currently do not have enough votes to override Bush's veto. Scientists were first able to conduct research with embryonic stem cells in 1998, the NIH says. There were no federal funds for the work until Bush announced on Aug. 9, 2001, that his administration would make the funds available for lines of cells that already were in existence. Currently, states and private organizations are permitted to fund embryonic stem cell research, but federal support is limited to cells that existed as of Aug. 9, 2001. The latest bill was aimed at lifting that restriction. The science aside, the issue has weighty political and ethical implications. Public opinion polls show strong support for the research, and it could return as an issue in the 2008 elections. Opponents of the latest stem cell measure insisted that the use of embryonic stem cells was the wrong approach on moral grounds — and possibly not even the most promising one scientifically. These opponents, who applaud Bush's veto, cite breakthroughs involving medical research conducted with adult stem cells, umbilical cord blood and amniotic fluid, none of which involve the destruction of a human embryo. This was the third veto of Bush's presidency. His first occurred last year when he rejected legislation to allow funding of additional lines of embryonic stem cells — a measure that passed over the objections of Republicans then in control. The second legislation he vetoed would have set timetables for U.S. troop withdrawals from Iraq. MLC sidebar: Let me get this right, the smirking half wit is veto a funding bill that could save thousands of lives citing he's a fan of life, yet the tool lie has killed thousands of American troops and god knows how many Iraqis yet he claims he's pro life with a straight face.

Smirk to veto stem cell

Bush to veto stem cell bill By DEB RIECHMANN, Associated Press Writer Pushing back against the Democratic-led Congress, President Bush intends to veto a bill Wednesday that would have eased restraints on federally funded embryonic stem cell research — work that supporters say holds promise for fighting disease. At the same time, Bush will issue an executive order directing the Health and Human Services Department to promote research into cells that, like human embryonic stem cells, also hold the potential of regenerating into different types of cells that could help treat illness. White House spokesman Tony Fratto said Tuesday that Bush would outline an initiative that could make federal funding available for research on additional "pluripotent" stem cells — ones that can give rise to any kind of cell in the body except those required to develop a fetus. The president has accused majority Democrats of recycling an old measure that he already vetoed and argued that the bill would mean American taxpayers would — for the first time — be compelled to support the deliberate destruction of human embryos. "The president supports and encourages stem cell research — including using embryonic lines — as long as it does not involve creating, harming or destroying embryos," Fratto said. "That is an ethical line that should not be crossed." Democrats made the legislation a top priority when they took control of the House and Senate in January, but they don't have enough votes to override Bush's decision. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid appealed to Bush on Tuesday not to veto the bill. He said the measure acknowledges the ethical issues at stake and offers even stronger research guidelines than exist under the president's current policy. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi used Bush's veto threat as a reason to send out an e-mail letter soliciting contributions to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to help elect more Democrats. "By vetoing a bill that expands stem cell research, the president will say `no' to the more than 70 percent of Americans who support it, `no' to our Democratic Congress' fight for progress, and `no' to saving lives and to potential cures for diseases such as diabetes and Parkinson's," Pelosi wrote. "He will say `no' to hope." In light of the veto, Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., who planned to be at the White House event, sought support for a stem cell bill he is sponsoring. It has passed the Senate but has not yet been taken up by the House. "My stem cell bill, which passed the Senate with broad bipartisan support, offers a clear alternative for our colleagues in the House to significantly expand federally funded stem cell research, while ensuring no taxpayer dollars are used for the destruction of human embryos," Coleman said. Coleman urged Democrats who favored the bill Bush was to veto to get behind his legislation. "Those who support the stem cell research bill ... are at a definitive crossroads," he said. "Do they seek to advance lifesaving research for millions of Americans suffering from serious disease or do they, in fact, prefer to keep stem cell research at a political stalemate? " This will be the third veto of Bush's presidency. His first occurred last year when he rejected legislation to allow funding of additional lines of embryonic stem cells — a measure that passed over the objections of Republicans then in control. Earlier this year, he vetoed legislation that would have set timetables for U.S. troop withdrawals from Iraq. Opponents of the latest stem cell measure insisted that the use of embryonic stem cells was the wrong approach on moral grounds — and possibly not even the most promising one scientifically. They cite breakthroughs involving medical research conducted with adult stem cells, umbilical cord blood and amniotic fluid, none of which involve the destruction of a human embryo. The science aside, the issue has weighty political implications. Public opinion polls show strong support for the research, and it could return as an issue in the 2008 elections. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton appeared in Hanover, N.H., this week with a child who has diabetes and a paralyzed 23-year-old to urge Bush not to veto the bill. Last month, the issue was a topic at a debate with Republican presidential hopefuls in California. The bill Bush is vetoing passed Congress on June 7, drawing the support of 210 House Democrats and 37 Republicans. That was 35 votes fewer than needed to override a veto. The Senate cleared the bill earlier by a margin that was one vote shy of the two-thirds needed to overcome Bush's objections. According to the National Institutes of Health Web site, scientists were first able to conduct research with embryonic stem cells in 1998. There were no federal funds for the work until Bush announced on Aug. 9, 2001, that his administration would make the funds available for lines of cells that already were in existence.

Bloomy leaves GOP.

NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg leaves GOP By SARA KUGLER, Associated Press Writer 58 minutes ago New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Tuesday switched his party status from Republican to unaffiliated, a stunning move certain to be seen as a prelude to an independent presidential bid that would upend the 2008 race. The billionaire former CEO, who was a lifelong Democrat before he switched to the GOP for his first mayoral run, said the change in voter registration does not mean he is running for president. "Although my plans for the future haven't changed, I believe this brings my affiliation into alignment with how I have led and will continue to lead our city," he said in a statement. Despite his coyness about his aspirations, the mayor's decision to switch stokes speculation that he will pursue the White House, challenging the Democratic and Republican nominees with a legitimate and well-financed third-party bid. Bloomberg has an estimated worth of more than $5 billion and easily could underwrite a White House run, much like Texas businessman Ross Perot in 1992. Bloomberg spent more than $155 million for his two mayoral campaigns, including $85 million when he won his second term in 2005. The 65-year-old mayor has fueled the presidential buzz with increasing out-of-state travel, including New Hampshire last weekend; a greater focus on national issues and repeated criticism of the partisan politics that dominate Washington. "The politics of partisanship and the resulting inaction and excuses have paralyzed decision-making, primarily at the federal level, and the big issues of the day are not being addressed, leaving our future in jeopardy," he said in a speech Monday at the start of a University of Southern California conference about the advantages of nonpartisan governing. A Bloomberg entry would roil the already volatile and wide-open race to succeed President Bush. "If he runs, this guarantees a Republican will be the next president of the United States. The Democrats have to be shaking in their boots," said Greg Strimple, a Republican strategist in New York who is unaligned in the race. The belief among some operatives is that Bloomberg's moderate positions would siphon votes from the Democratic nominee. Others say it's not clear and his impact would depend on the nominees. Former Democratic Party Chairman Donald Fowler said Bloomberg would be "a disturbing factor to both parties," but the mayor would probably draw more Republican votes simply because "Republicans are more disenchanted than Democrats." He called Bloomberg "an exceptionally capable guy" who is "hard-nosed and accomplished," but argued that the obstacles for a third-party candidate are so daunting that it would be nearly impossible for Bloomberg to win. In 1992, Perot captured 19 percent of the popular vote as Democrat Bill Clinton seized the presidency from incumbent Republican President George H.W. Bush. Independent Ralph Nader played the spoiler in the 2000 race, taking votes from Democrat Al Gore in a disputed election won by President George W. Bush. Strategists say he could mount a third-party campaign by stressing that he is a two-term mayor in a Democratic city and that he built his reputation as a political independent, social moderate and fiscal conservative. Throughout his 5 1/2 years as mayor, Bloomberg has often been at odds with his party and Bush. He supports gay marriage, abortion rights, gun control and stem cell research, and raised property taxes to help solve a fiscal crisis after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. But he never seemed willing to part with the GOP completely, raising money for the 2004 presidential convention and contributing to Bush and other Republican candidates. Just last year, he told a group of Manhattan Republicans about his run for mayor: "I couldn't be prouder to run on the Republican ticket and be a Republican." On most occasions, Bloomberg has rolled his eyes at the suggestion that he might one day be a presidential contestant. But during a holiday party with City Hall staffers last December he performed a Bruce Springsteen rendition of "Born to Run." Appearing Monday at Google Inc.'s California campus, Bloomberg teased questioners about a presidential bid, refusing to rule out the prospect but repeating that he plans to serve out his term through 2009. And he didn't debunk a report that he talked about an independent presidential bid with former Sen. David Boren, D-Okla. Asked about a hypothetical independent candidate entering the race, Bloomberg launched a broad critique of the Bush administration and Congress and lamented the presidential debates to date. "I think the country is in trouble," Bloomberg said, citing the war in Iraq and America's declining standing globally. "Our reputation has been hurt very badly in the last few years," he said. "We've had a go-it-alone mentality in a world where, because of communications and transportation, you should be going exactly in the other direction." But Bloomberg on Tuesday in California restated that he was not planning a presidential run. "I have no plans to announce a candidacy because I plan to be mayor for the next 926 days," he said. His entry into the campaign would give the presidential contest a decidedly New York flavor, with Hillary Rodham Clinton, the New York senator on the Democratic side, and former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani on the Republican.

Monday, June 11, 2007

LIEberman: US should attack Iran

Lieberman: U.S. should weigh Iran attack - Yahoo! News Lieberman: U.S. should weigh Iran attack Sun Jun 10, 6:18 PM ET Sen. Joseph Lieberman (R-Republican wanna be) said Sunday the United States should consider a military strike against Iran because of Tehran's involvement in Iraq. "I think we've got to be prepared to take aggressive military action against the Iranians to stop them from killing Americans in Iraq," Lieberman said. "And to me, that would include a strike over the border into Iran, where we have good evidence that they have a base at which they are training these people coming back into Iraq to kill our soldiers." The U.S. accuses Iran of fostering terrorism and Tehran's nuclear ambitions have brought about international reproach. Lieberman, the Democratic nominee for vice president in 2000 who now represents Connecticut as an independent, spoke of Iranians' role in the continued violence in Iraq. "We've said so publicly that the Iranians have a base in Iran at which they are training Iraqis who are coming in and killing Americans. By some estimates, they have killed as many as 200 American soldiers," Lieberman said. "Well, we can tell them we want them to stop that. But if there's any hope of the Iranians living according to the international rule of law and stopping, for instance, their nuclear weapons development, we can't just talk to them." He added, "If they don't play by the rules, we've got to use our force, and to me, that would include taking military action to stop them from doing what they're doing." Lieberman said much of the action could probably be done by air, although he would leave the strategy to the generals in charge. "I want to make clear I'm not talking about a massive ground invasion of Iran," Lieberman said. "They can't believe that they have immunity for training and equipping people to come in and kill Americans," he said. "We cannot let them get away with it. If we do, they'll take that as a sign of weakness on our part and we will pay for it in Iraq and throughout the region and ultimately right here at home." To deal with Iran's nuclear ambitions, Democratic presidential hopeful Bill Richardson said tough negotiation is called for. "I would talk to them, but I would build an international coalition that would promote and push economic sanctions on them," Richardson said. "Sanctions would work on Iran. They are susceptible to disinvestment policy. They are susceptible to cuts, economic sanctions in commodities." On Friday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Iran's detention of at least four Americans is unwarranted but will not stop Washington from trying to engage Iran on other matters, including its disputed nuclear program and alleged support of insurgents in Iraq. In an Associated Press interview, Rice also appeared to cast doubt on whether the U.S. would take its tentative diplomatic outreach to Iran any further for now. The U.S. and Iranian ambassadors in Iraq met last month for the first public, substantive high-level discussions the two countries have held in nearly three decades. Although limited to the topic of violence and instability in Iraq, the talks have been seen as a possible window to better relations. Immediately after the meeting in Baghdad, Iran announced plans for another. But U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker said Washington would decide only after the Iraqi government issued an invitation. U.S. officials also said they wanted to see Iran follow up on U.S. complaints that it is equipping and helping insurgents who attack American forces. Lieberman spoke on "Face the Nation" on CBS. Richardson was on "Late Edition" on CNN.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Commander dude loses his crap in front of friends

The Top 10 Conservative Idiots - The Top 10 Conservative Idiots, No. 293 for whole story click on the link: The White House sees terrorists as born, not created by history, bearing the mark of Cain, not the mark of circumstance. There is a scarlet "T" written on their foreheads at birth and the only answer is to destroy them. This kind of thinking, of course, relieves the thinker of any responsibility for the presence of the insurgent-terrorist-whatever in our innocent midst.What's more, there is not much real give in the administration's policies. True, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and other American diplomats met Memorial Day weekend with the Iranians in Baghdad (a good first move but limited, since the Iranians have most of the power because of our incredible stupidity in Iraq). But by all reports, President Bush is more convinced than ever of his righteousness.Friends of his from Texas were shocked recently to find him nearly wild-eyed, thumping himself on the chest three times while he repeated "I am the president!"

Fred Thompson: Tough guy and folksy conservative

Glenn Greenwald Thursday May 31, 2007 06:54 EST Fred Thompson, "tough guy" and "folksy cultural conservative" (updated below - updated again - Update III) Newsweek's Howard Fineman -- last seen expressing admiration for the "reassuring" "male" qualities exuded by the GOP presidential field -- was on Hardball last night heaping praise on Fred Thompson. According to Fineman, Thompson not only is "tough on defense," but he himself is "a tough guy." Fineman also swooned: "He's got a strong record on cultural issues as a cultural conservative from the South." What, in Fineman's mind, makes Thompson "tough on defense" and gives him credibility as "a tough guy"? Fineman obviously means that as a high compliment, but what -- in actuality -- has Thompson ever done that warrants such praise for his alleged "tough-guy-ness"? Here is Thompson's biography -- his own official, endorsed version. He's been a government lawyer, an actor and a Senator. Though Thompson does not mention it, he also has been -- for two decades -- what a 1996 profile in The Washington Monthly described as "a high-paid Washington lobbyist for both foreign and domestic interests." This folksy, down-home, regular guy has spent his entire adult life as a lawyer and lobbyist in Washington, except when he was an actor in Hollywood. And -- like the vast, vast majority of Republican "tough guys" who play-act the role so arousingly for our media stars, from Rudy Giuliani to Newt Gingrich -- Thompson has no military service despite having been of prime fighting age during the Vietnam War (Thompson turned 20 in 1962, Gingrich in 1963, Giuliani in 1964). He was active in Republican politics as early as the mid-1960s, which means he almost certainly supported the war in which he did not fight. So what exactly, in Fineman's eyes, makes Thompson such a "tough guy"? Fineman clone Mark Halperin, in a fawning piece in Time last week -- hailing Thompson's "magnetism" and praising him as "poised and compelling" and exuding "bold self-confidence" -- provides the answer: Even before his Law & Order depiction of district attorney Arthur Branch, Thompson nearly always played variations on the same character -- a straight-talking, tough-minded, wise Southerner -- basically a version of what his supporters say is his true political self. And he is often cast as a person in power -- a military official, the White House chief of staff, the head of the CIA, a Senator or even the President of the U.S. It could be called the Cary Grant approach to politics. As the legendary actor once explained his own style and success, "I pretended to be somebody I wanted to be, and I finally became that person."The only thing that makes Thompson a "tough guy" is that he pretends to be one; he play-acts as one. There is nothing real about it. But in the same way that George Bush's ranch and fighter pilot costumes (along with his war advocacy) sent media stars swooning over his masculinity and "toughness," the Howard Finemans and Mark Halperins, along with the Bush followers in need of a new authoritarian Leader, are so intensely hungry for this faux masculine power that the illusion, the absurd play-acting, is infinitely more valuable to them than any reality, than any genuine attributes of "toughness." Last week, in response to Michael Moore's request that Thompson debate him over health care, Thompson -- showing what a tough guy he really is -- filmed a forty-second You Tube video where he smoked a cigar and told Moore to check into a mental hospital. Chris Matthews had Mark Halperin on his show (who, it is always worth noting, was until recently the Political Director of ABC News and is now at Time) to giggle like sixth-grade boys high-fiving each other after the cool kid they are desperate to be near (played by Thompson) unleashed some adolescent prank on the nerdy kid in the corner: MATTHEWS: Wait till you catch this. . . . Mark Halperin, is Thomas' cigar-chomping chide a sign that he's serious about getting in this race? HALPERIN: Chris, I've got to see your, "Ha ha!" MATTHEWS: I have to tell you, Mark, it's for real. I can't fake it. But let me ask you this... HALPERIN: I agree. MATTHEWS: Is this the kind of winning performance that the avuncular Fred Thompson needs to win this thing? HALPERIN: I echo your "Ha ha." Mega "ha ha" to you, Chris. Because that is exactly what this kind of campaign is going to have to be. He said he has said he's going to run in an unorthodox campaign. That kind of video gets the net roots totally in a lather. They hate Michael Moore. They like the jab. They like the cigar. It's a total winner. MATTHEWS: So there is a right-wing net roots as well as a left-wing net roots? HALPERIN: Look, it shows that this guy has the flair for the dramatic. He understands what the net roots cares about. He was aggressive on immigration. I think right now that this guy is poised to come in and be a key player in this. MATTHEWS: He's also brilliant, because the attack from a defensive position is one of the smartest moves in politics. There you go again. He posed as if he was defending himself against Michael Moore and took his head off.Chewing on a cigar in front of a camera and telling someone to go to a mental hospital is, to them, what makes someone a "tough guy" -- "aggressive" and "avuncular." And the discussion which Fineman and Matthews had about Giuliani last night, in exactly the same way, was so creepy that it bordered on pornographic: FINEMAN: I mean, "commanding daddy" is not the phrase I would use because "daddy" implies some generosity of spirit. MATTHEWS: Yes. FINEMAN: What's appealing about Rudy Giuliani is not the generous side, what's appealing about him is the tough cop side. MATTHEWS: Right. You just wait until daddy gets home. FINEMAN: Yes, that part... MATTHEWS: That Daddy. FINEMAN: ... of the daddy. It's the tough cop side, so... MATTHEWS: Yes. Yes.They are right in one sense. For the authoritarians comprising the Republican base and the faux-masculine-power-worshipping media pundits, what is "appealing" about Giluliani is that he conveys: "You just wait until daddy gets home." Craving a stern "daddy" as a political leader is the root of the authoritarian mind. Yet these are the warped images that not only dominate their psyches, but their political "analysis" as well. The same is true for Fineman's mindless claim that Thompson is "tough on defense." What does that even mean? Marvel at this quote from Thompson, from CNN on March 1, 2003, when he was urging the invasion of Iraq: Can we afford to appease Saddam, kick the can down the road? Thank goodness we have a president with the courage to protect our country. And when people ask what has Saddam done to us, I ask, what had the 9/11 hijackers done to us -- before 9/11?That is quite an incredible mentality, and it has applicability for all sorts of situations. One can easily extend it: THOMPSON: I think we should invade and bomb Uruguay. QUESTION: What has Uruguay done to us? THOMPSON: When people ask what has Uruguay done to us, I ask, what had the 9/11 hijackers done to us -- before 9/11?That mindset can be described by many adjectives, but "tough" is not one of them. "Toughness" can be demonstrated by actually fighting in a war. "Toughness" is demonstrated when a political candidate tells people what they do not want to hear. "Toughness" is not demonstrated by sending other people to war. But people like Fineman (i.e., media purveyors of Beltway conventional wisdom) reflexively, and incoherently, equate blind militarism and warmongering with "toughness" even though it is anything but. This is what Thompson said last month when interviewed by Chris Wallace on Fox News: WALLACE: What would you do now in Iraq? THOMPSON: I would do essentially what the president's doing.Outside of the dwindling band of dead-ender neocons and other assorted Bush followers, the only people who mistake that sort of mindset -- " I would do essentially what the president's doing" -- with "toughness" are Beltway pundits who continue to promote the view that the more wars one urges, the more militarism one embraces, the "tougher" one is. Conversely, the more one wants to avert sending fellow citizens into war, the "weaker" or "softer" one is, or -- to use Fineman's post-debate formulation -- the less "masculine" one is. And then there is Fineman's assurance that Thompson has "a strong record on cultural issues as a cultural conservative from the South." In what way, exactly, is Thompson a "cultural conservative"? Unlike, say, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and John Edwards -- all of whom are still married to their first spouse -- Thompson divorced his wife (and the mother of his two children) after 25 years of marriage and then proceeded to marry a woman 25 years younger than he. And according to The Washington Post's Lloyd Grove in 2002: Fred Thompson and Jeri Kehn met six years ago on the Fourth of July in Nashville. Since then, the Republican senator and the GOP media operative have been romantic, rocky, stormy, passionate, hot and cold, but never lukewarm. "Hollywood Fred" -- as the divorced Thompson was nicknamed because of his successful movie career -- has been linked to a variety of women, including country singer Lorrie Morgan, pundit-pollster Kellyanne Fitzpatrick, Time magazine writer Margaret Carlson, Nathans restaurant owner Carol Joynt and Washington PR executive Sydney Ferguson.Grove continued: Now we're pleased to report that Kehn -- whom we've occasionally imagined strapped to a fighting chair on a metaphoric fishing boat, gripping her metaphoric rod and reel -- landed the big one Saturday. The 35-year-old Kehn and the 59-year-old Thompson were married at the First Congregational Church of Christ in the bride's home town of Naperville, Ill. Yesterday the newlyweds were bound for a week- long honeymoon on the French Riviera.In the very same show where Thompson was hailed as a "cultural conservative," Matthews continued his insatiable obsession with the Clintons' marriage, and one of his guests referred to "the incredible fascination that the American public has . . . on the private lives of the Clintons." Matthews, as he does on a virtually nightly basis, dredged it all up -- Gennifer Flowers; Kathleen Willey; the Weekly Standard cover story this week that "calls the Clintons 'a riveting saga of lust and ambition'"; "the women who want us to know about the relationships with Bill," and -- as Matthews put it -- the "pair of new books [which] exquisitely expose Bill and Hillary Clinton as a couple of soap opera characters." But Fred Thompson? Fineman: "He's got a strong record on cultural issues as a cultural conservative from the South." Matthews: "he fits the need for a Bible Belt candidate." And last week, Matthews provoked this exchange: MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about your party and the cultural right. I noticed that there is no cultural conservative southern Baptist type running this time. The president isn't quite in that category, but people are very comfortable with this president, in terms of his beliefs, his Christian beliefs, his cultural values. Is there a candidate out there now that shares the president's cultural values. KEN BLACKWELL, FMR OHIO SECRETARY OF STATE: It seems as if Fred Thompson, who has yet to declare, is starting to build a momentum among social conservatives. But I will tell you -- MATTHEWS: Well, he's from Tennessee. He's from the buckle of the bible belt. I believe he is Baptist. He fits. He is pro-life. He has been for many years. He fits all of the categories. There's nobody else like him. Beltway pundits are so easily fooled, because they are so eager to be. Their brains and emotional reactions -- and thereafter their political statements -- are dominated by these shallow and inauthentic symbols of masculinity and piety which overwhelm reality. They search so desperately for these attributes that they find two-dimensional cartoon images which are just archetypes -- really caricatures -- deeply satisfying. Thus, parading around in military costumes or excitedly talking about sending people to war is infinitely more important for showing "toughness" than actually doing anything that evinces toughness. Warning in a Southern drawl that God wants marriage to be between a man and a woman is infinitely more important for demonstrating one's "cultural conservatism" than the question of whether one's behavior is actually "culturally conservative." There is nothing in Fred Thompson's life that he has actually done that makes him "a tough guy" in the sense Fineman means it, nor is there anything that makes him a "cultural conservative." If anything, what his life actually is -- his behavior in reality -- seems to negate those characterizations. But the illusion of manliness cliches, tough guy poses, and empty gestures of "cultural conservatism" are what the Republican base seeks, and media simpletons like Fineman, Halperin and Matthews eat it all up just as hungrily. That's how twice-and-thrice-divorced and draft-avoiding individuals like Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh become media symbols of the Christian "values voters" and "tough guy," "tough-on-defense" stalwarts. And it's how a life-long Beltway lobbyist and lawyer who avoided Vietnam, standing next to his twenty-five-years-younger second wife, is held up by our media stars as a Regular-Guy-Baptist symbol of piety and a no-nonsense, tough-guy, super-masculine warrior who will protect us all.UPDATE: Social-Christian conservative Fred Thompson, who believes in traditional marriage (he's "pro-traditional-marriage"), is pictured below with his current wife -- 25 years younger than he, 4 years younger than his own daughter -- after the 2006 White House Correspondent's Dinner: When explaining his profound and solemn opposition to same-sex marriages (he voted (a) for laws prohibiting same-sex marriages and (b) against laws banning discrimination against gays), Thompson said: "Marriage is between a man and a woman, and judges shouldn't be allowed to change that." According to The Politico's Mike Allen, this is what Thompson said earlier this year about his own life: During a question-and-answer session with House members on April 18, Thompson was asked about his colorful dating history from 1985 to 2002, while he was divorced. "I was single for a long time, and, yep, I chased a lot of women," Thompson replied, chuckling, according to an attendee who took notes. "And a lot of women chased me. And those that chased me tended to catch me." The remark drew laughter from men and grins from women, according to witnesses.It's always a great mystery how people who are on their second or third wives with children from each marriage can stand up with a straight face and proclaim themselves to be believers in "traditional marriage" and -- far worse -- to insist that the laws be structured so as to allow and endorse their own highly untraditional and un-Christian marriages while prohibiting other citizens from entering their own. And it's even more of a mystery that individuals such as Thompson are able to spout (though, with vigor, personally contravene in their own conduct) such platitudes and still be taken seriously. Then again, candidates who studiously avoided military service and have done nothing but dressed up in "tough-guy" costumes and smoked cigars in front of a camera can be -- and are -- hailed as "tough guys" by our media elite (while candidates with actual combat experience are derided as cowards and effiminate losers). Within that framework, it is easy to see how individuals like Fred Thompson (or Newt Gingrich, or Rush Limbaugh) are held up as the candidate of Christian piety, the defender of "traditional marriage," and the hero of the "values voters." [Just to be clear, the issue is not that there is anything wrong with second and third marriages or intra-couple large age differences -- I don't think there is -- but rather that such behavior is manifestly inconsistent with the so-called "traditional marriage values" which Thompson wants to exploit for political gain and impose in the form of law].UPDATE II: I will be on the Rachel Maddow Show to discuss this post, today at 6:30 p.m. Eastern. The show can be heard on any Air America station or by live audio streaming here.UPDATE III: Tying this post perfectly to yesterday's concerning the slew of right-wing pundits who emphatically claimed that Valerie Plame was not "covert" only for it now to be revealed how factually false those claims were: here is Fred Thompson, who serves on the Advisory Board of the Lewis Libby Defense Fund, a mere two days ago (h/t Andrew Sullivan): The only problem with this little scenario was that there was no violation of the law, by anyone, and everybody -- the CIA, the Justice Department and the Special Counsel knew it. Ms. Plame was not a "covered person" under the statute and it was obvious from the outset. Furthermore, Justice and the Special Counsel knew who leaked Plames's name and it wasn't Scooter Libby.In the linked post, Mark Kleiman highlights how false both of those assertions are. As I noted previously, yet another glaring contradiction in Fred Thompson is that he parades around bemoaning the erosion of the "rule of law" while demanding that convicted felon Lewis Libby be pardoned immediately.