Thursday, April 30, 2009

Swine, Flu & Pooh

Sometimes a Good Laugh Really Helps...


Quote of the Day

Not so very long ago we were all told that a black man would be President when pigs fly.

On the 100th day of Barack Obama's Presidency...swine flu!

Cable News Hyperventilating

Today members of Congress as well as members of the media are spreading lies and innuendo. They are starting to label anyone in disagreement with them as "socialist."

It was just over 50 years ago, in 1950, that Sen Joseph McCarthy (R-WI) stated that he had a list of employees of the State Department who were "members of the Communist Party and members of a spy ring." Although his allegations were never substantiated, he attacked politicians and other individuals as being "communists."

In 1953, Sen McCarthy began holding extensive investigations of "Communists" in and out of the government.

On March 9, 1954, Edward R. Murrow hosted an episode of See It Now. The subject was Sen McCarthy. At the end of the program, here is what Murrow said of McCarthy:
His primary achievement has been in confusing the public mind, as between the internal and the external threats of Communism. We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. We must remember always that accusation is not proof and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law. We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men.


We proclaim ourselves, as indeed we are, the defenders of freedom, wherever it continues to exist in the world, but we cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home. The actions of the junior Senator from Wisconsin have caused alarm and dismay amongst our allies abroad, and given considerable comfort to our enemies. And whose fault is that? Not really his. He didn't create this situation of fear; he merely exploited it -- and rather successfully.
The following article by Timothy Karr is important to read. It shows how today members of the Congress and members of the cable news network are once again provoking fear through baseless rhetoric.
Fox News Continues to Hallucinate About a Socialist/Fascist Menace -- And It's Causing Real Damage
Last week, conservative factions within the Republican National Committee circulated an e-mail urging party leadership to brand as a "socialist" anyone who advocates even moderate changes to the government's role in society.

It's clear that the overlords at Fox News Channel already got that memo and decided to ratchet the volume up a notch -- to 11.

According to Politico, RNC member James Bopp Jr. proposed a resolution that would acknowledge that President Obama wants "to restructure American society along socialist ideals" and call upon the Democratic Party to rename itself the "Democrat Socialist Party."

"Just as President Reagan's identification of the Soviet Union as the 'evil empire' galvanized opposition to communism," Bopp wrote, "we hope that the accurate depiction of the Democrats as a Socialist Party will galvanize opposition to their march to socialism."

Red-Baiting Redux

And indeed, this has been a season of red-baiting the likes of which we haven't seen since the reign of a certain senator from Wisconsin. The week before Bopp's memo, Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.) insisted that "some of the men and women I work with in Congress are socialists." Bachus says he has already counted 17 of them but that there may be more.

Also keeping a list is Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), who in the final days of the 2008 election season questioned then-candidate Obama's patriotism and called for an investigation of Democratic members of Congress for "anti-American views."

Bachmann didn't rest there. During an appearance late last month with Fox News Channel's Sean Hannity, she reiterated her call for a revolution against the tyranny of President Obama and congressional leadership.

"This is economic Marxism," Bachmann said of their economic stimulus plan. "[Obama] is moving the United States away from free-market capitalism and instead he's imprinting socialism deep into our centralized economic planning."

Like most of Bachmann's ranting in the media and on the Hill, these allegations make zero sense. But reality hasn't stopped her from assembling a political career out of comments that fan the flames of fear among the most militantly conservative.

When Socialism Isn't Bad Enough

Bachmann is by no means America's sole demagogue. That she's been given a national stage to insult our collective intelligence, though, is cause for notice.

Bopp, Bachus and Bachmann's rhetoric has been taken up by the tele-pundits of the right -- especially those prophets of doom who have made Fox News Channel their base of operations. But these knuckle-draggers aren't satisfied with fighting mere socialism.

"We're into socialism now. That's not our final destination," Fox News Channel's Glenn Beck said during his radio broadcast. "Our final destination is happy-faced fascism." In another segment on his cable program, Beck repeated this charge over a video backdrop of marching Nazis.

The 'Fox Effect'

This Beck-Hannity obsession has triggered the "Fox Effect," a media phenomenon whereby the repetitive news framing of one 24-hour cable network seeps into the coverage of other outlets -- and, frighteningly, into the political discourse of society as a whole.

Before long, the cable talent at CNN, CNBC and MSNBC had fallen into step, booking right-wing guests intent on pressing the Marxist fear button.

On MSNBC's "Morning Joe," host Joe Scarborough has suggested that the Obama administration favors "European-styled socialism." CNBC's Larry Kudlow has made our "march to socialism" a centerpiece of several interviews on his evening program.

For its part, CNN dedicated several news shows to sage analysis of America's political shift, including a segment in which Quinn Hillyer, the editor and columnist of the conservative Washington Examiner and American Spectator, compared Obama's actions in his first hundred days to those of Mussolini in fascist Italy.

Missing from all the crowing is any meaningful reporting that provides context for our current economic situation, or analysis of changing public attitudes about increased government oversight of businesses like the banking sector.

Journalism: the Cause or the Cure?

All of this cable news hyperventilating comes at a moment when journalism is in deep crisis. The migration of news audiences to a free-flowing Internet has led to declines in circulation, subscription and advertising revenues for traditional media.

Falling revenues translate directly into budget cuts, which in turn mean more layoffs. More layoffs mean fewer journalists, and a lower-quality product as evidenced by the torrent of fear-mongering above.

Newsgathering institutions may die off or evolve over time, but one thing must endure: We need to sustain a corps of qualified working reporters who can earn a living delivering the real news and information that is the lifeblood of a healthy American democracy.

That's right, I said "American democracy."

If the so-called journalists of cable news really want to protect us against totalitarianism, real or imagined, they'd do well to follow the examples of better reporting that are a part of our long history of newsgathering -- instead of simply aping the latest scare tactics at Fox News Channel.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Prosecution Over Truth Commission

Michael Ratner: Calls For a 'Truth Commission' Will Lead to a Whitewash: We Must Keep Pressing for Prosecutions
So at this moment, instead of human rights groups getting together and calling for a special prosecutor what do they do? Call for a commission. What this call does and it must be said strongly is take the pressure off what is the growing public push for prosecutions and deflects it into a commission. Outrage that could actually lead to prosecutions is now focused away and into a commission.

If we are to stop torture in the future we need to send the clear message that if an official tortures, prosecutions will follow.
Jeremy Scahill: What if Instead of the Nuremberg Trials There Was Only a Truth Commission?
Representatives John Conyers and Jerrold Nadler are officially asking Attorney General Eric Holder to appoint an independent Special Prosecutor to investigate the Bush-era US torture system. But, as Politico reports, “Holder is likely to reject that request – his boss, the president, has indicated he doesn’t see the need for such a prosecutor.” The Democratic Leadership, particularly Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Sen. Diane Feinstein have pushed for secret, closed-door hearings in the Senate Intelligence Committee. Other Democrats, like Patrick Leahy, advocate establishing a Truth Commission, though that is not gaining any momentum. The fact remains that some powerful Democrats knew that the torture was happening and didn’t make a public peep in opposition.

This week, Lawrence Wilkerson, the former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell came out in favor of prosecutions of “the decision-makers and their closest advisors...

This week it is Mother Jones Washington editor David Corn, who comes out in favor of a congressional investigation “that placed a premium on public disclosure” or “an independent commission.” This week it is Mother Jones Washington editor David Corn, who comes out in favor of a congressional investigation “that placed a premium on public disclosure” or “an independent commission.”
The bottom line: Anyone who wants the full truth to come out about the Bush-Cheney administration’s use of these interrogation practices cannot count on a special prosecutor.
Perhaps the most passionate advocate for the appointment of an independent Special Prosecutor right now is Michael Ratner, the president of the Center for Constitutional Rights.“To argue that we should not have prosecutions because it won’t bring out all the facts when taken to its logical conclusion would mean never prosecuting any official no matter the seriousness of the crimes,” Ratner told me. “Right now is not the time to be backing off on prosecutions.

Constitutional Law expert Scott Horton says that the problems with a Special Prosecutor Corn lays out are “correct, but he makes the latent assumption that it’s either/or. That’s absurd. Obviously it should be both a commission and one or more prosecutors as crimes are identified.”

Jameel Jaffer, one of the leading ACLU attorneys responsible for getting the torture memos released by the Obama administration agrees with Horton. “I don’t think we should have to choose between a criminal investigation and a congressional inquiry,” Jaffer told me. “A congressional committee could examine the roots of the torture program and recommend legislative reform to prevent gross human rights abuses by future administrations. At the same time, a Justice Department investigation could investigate issues of criminal responsibility. One shouldn’t foreclose the other.” [...]

The bottom line, Ratner argues, is that “prosecutions will bring out facts.” He cites the example of the Nuremberg Tribunals:

What if we had had a truth commission and no prosecutions? ...This is not a time to hold back on the demand that is required by law and fact: appoint a special prosecutor.

Specter's Move/Not

Here is the buzz about Sen. Arlen Specter moving from the Republican side of the Senate over to the Democratic side. Some view it as a direct line to 60 votes, once Al Franken is confirmed in Minnesota. Some view it as an indicator of the problems confronting the GOP. There are some who don't see any change at all.

William Rivers Pitt says, "It just doesn't matter!"
"I now find my political philosophy more in line with Democrats than Republicans," claimed Specter, but that's a lot of hooey; as a Republican, Specter consistently supported several of the most extreme right-wing pieces of legislation ever presented before the Senate.

"While the move would create what is likely to be the Senate's 60th Democratic vote, potentially enough to withstand Republican filibusters," reported The Boston Globe on Wednesday, "it would not necessarily change the chamber's legislative dynamics. Democratic successes at expanding their caucus have made it less unified ideologically, and Specter - one of only three Republicans in Congress to back Obama's $787 billion economic stimulus bill - said he expected to defy his new party as readily as he did his old one." Thus, the idea that Democrats have achieved some lofty threshold of power is almost entirely chimerical; Specter is no more likely to caucus with the Democrats just because he is one than he was likely to caucus with the GOP back when he had an "R" after his last name.

Senators Bayh, McCaskill, Nelson, Lieberman and now Specter represent a core problem within the ranks of the Democratic majority in the Senate. These individuals amount to a cadre of faux-"centrists" who have been, and likely will continue to be, the main line of resistance against Obama's legislative agenda and the improved welfare of the American people. They are the ones most empowered when everyone inaccurately believes the Democrats need 60 votes to pass anything. The annihilation of this fiction will go a long way toward removing these obstacles from the path of progress. Let them vote their consciences, if they have such a thing, without allowing them to hold the entire process hostage.
According to Glenn Greenwald, "The idea that Specter is a "liberal" Republican or even a "moderate" reflects how far to the Right both the GOP and our overall political spectrum has shifted."
Consider Specter’s most significant votes over the last eight years, ones cast in favor of such definitive right-wing measures as: the war on Iraq, the Military Commissions Act, Patriot Act renewal, confirmation of virtually every controversial Bush appointee, retroactive telecom immunity, warrantless eavesdropping expansions, and Bush tax cuts (several times). Time and again during the Bush era, Specter stood with Republicans on the most controversial and consequential issues. [...]

Why would Democrats want a full-blooded Republican representing them in the blue state of Pennsylvania? Specter is highly likely to reprise the Joe Lieberman role for Democrats: a “Democrat” who leads the way in criticizing and blocking Democratic initiatives, forcing the party still further towards Republican policies. [...]

In his Press Conference, Specter just reiterated that he opposes the nomination of one of Obama's few truly excellent nominees: Dawn Johnsen as OLC Chief. What a great Democrat Specter will be. Specter also just detailed how key Democratic officials promised to support him and raise money for him in the 2010 election if he switched, so now Democrats -- Harry Reid and the rest -- are committed to keeping him in power for another 8 years, committed to keeping the Pennsylvania Senate seat in the hands of Arlen Specter.
Specter has always been a sheep in wolves clothing. What's new?

Media Hype Causing 'Flu-Steria'!

Via Joshua Holland

We’ve all had the flu before. By and large, you feel like crap for a few days and then it passes.

Occasionally, a particularly vir.ulent strain emerges that can pose a real threat. And while it's possible that could end up being the case with this bug (H1N1), there’s little evidence to suggest that we’re facing anything of the sort thus far (all the cases outside of Mexico have been run-of-the-mill bouts of the flu.

That hasn’t prevented media hucksters from dragging everyone into the tent and putting on a massive circus. From CNN to the New York Times, it’s wall-to-wall flu-steria! And it’s totally overblown — flu virus doesn’t do well in warm temperatures, and with a few dozen non-life threatening cases in this country, coming this close to the end of the season, this outbreak of flu should be a page 15 story.
Time will tell if this is "much ado about the swine flu."

Quote of the Day!
We exaggerate misfortune and happiness alike.
We are never as bad off or as happy as we say we are.

Honore de Balzac (1799-1850

FINALLY a HHS Secretary

(CNN) -- Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius was sworn in Tuesday night as secretary of Health and Human Services.

She was sworn in after she was confirmed by the Senate in a 65-31 vote.

Two independents and nine Republicans joined the 54 Democrats voting for her confirmation; three senators didn’t vote at all.

Kathleen Sebelius dives into discussing the swine flu at the White House after being sworn in.
Kathleen Sebelius dives into discussing the swine flu at the White House after being sworn in.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Conservative Reaction to Specter News

Change Has Come...?

Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) will switch his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat. He intends on running in the 2010 election as a Democrat.

According to The Fix:

Specter's decision would give Democrats a 60 seat filibuster proof majority in the Senate assuming Democrat Al Franken is eventually sworn in as the next senator from Minnesota. (Former senator Norm Coleman is appealing Franken's victory in the state Supreme Court.)

"I have decided to run for re-election in 2010 in the Democratic primary," said Specter in a statement. "I am ready, willing and anxious to take on all comers and have my candidacy for re-election determined in a general election."

He added: "Since my election in 1980, as part of the Reagan Big Tent, the Republican Party has moved far to the right. Last year, more than 200,000 Republicans in Pennsylvania changed their registration to become Democrats. I now find my political philosophy more in line with Democrats than Republicans."

The question is will Specter join Evan Bayh's Blue Dog "Conservadems."

Monday, April 27, 2009

The 100 Days Test

BUT He HAS Walked On Water!

Republicans are in a Tizzy over Reconciliation

New York Times:

Republicans are in a tizzy that Democrats are threatening to use the budgetary procedure known as reconciliation — it reconciles policy with fiscal guidelines — to overhaul the health-care system, possibly enact legislation on climate change and rewrite education policy.

They have good reason to fret. If Democrats successfully invoke reconciliation, such major bills could pass by a simple majority vote, denying Republicans the filibuster, their sole remaining weapon to influence federal policy given the Democratic grip on government.

Media Matters:

The Los Angeles Times reported Sen. Mitch McConnell's criticism of Democrats' potential use of the reconciliation process to pass health-care reform without noting that he repeatedly voted in favor of using reconciliation to pass the Bush tax cuts.

Think Progress:
Santorum: What the Democrats have done is to try to short-circuit the process on a major piece of legislation. This has never been done before. We have never seen a major, long-term, policy prescription, whether it's Medicare, or go back throughout history and look at all the major pieces of legislation, none of them have ever been passed using this procedure. ... This is truly an abomination.
Of course, reconciliation has been used nearly 20 times since 1980, when it was first created.

Indeed, Santorum himself was the Senate Republicans' point man in trying to push welfare reform through budget reconciliation in 1995, including it in a budget then-President Clinton opposed.
Senator Judd Gregg (NH-R)
1. “We are using the rules of the Senate here,” Mr. Gregg said in 2005 as he fought off Democratic complaints that reconciliation was wrongly being employed to block filibusters against opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling. “Is there something wrong with majority rules? I don’t think so.”
2. “It is not appropriate to use reconciliation, which cuts off the role of the Senate, on something as broad and extensive as rewriting the health care laws of this country,” said Mr. Gregg in one of his many attempts to explain why he is against reconciliation after he was for it.

Fox Fixes the News Again

Fox News ‘reporter’ Wendell Goler repeatedly aired a video clip of President Obama talking about Universal Health Care. The problem is that the clip was clipped. President Obama was answering a question, but the clip shown seems to have him giving his opinion. He did give his opinion but that wasn't shown.

From Media Matters:
Fox News' Wendell Goler cropped a comment by President Obama and took it out of context to falsely suggest that he supports creating a health care system "like the European countries." In fact, Obama was paraphrasing the town hall question he had been asked before explaining why he opposed such a system.
The following video first shows what President Obma actually said then shows how the Fox News 'fixed the news':

Read more from the transcript of the town hall meeting.

Simply Unacceptable!!!

Republican politicking continues to put the whole nation at risk.

Despite being nominated nearly two months ago, the confirmation of Gov. Kathleen Sebelius for HHS Secretary has been blocked by Republican Senators seeking to curry favor with extremist outside groups.

Her nomination is being held up at the behest of pro-life organizations who want to paint her as the "Abortion Queen." The hold up is pointless - merely delaying the inevitable for "another week." Maybe the swine flu would be good enough to wait!

This is simply unacceptable.

Who in the GOP Fought Pandemic Preparedness

When the stimulus bill was begin honed down and chipped away by the GOP, a focus for their revisions was on money for pandemic preparation. John Nichols has the story:

When House Appropriations Committee chairman David Obey, the Wisconsin Democrat who has long championed investment in pandemic preparation, included roughly $900 million for that purpose in this year's emergency stimulus bill, he was ridiculed by conservative operatives and congressional Republicans.

Obey and other advocates for the spending argued, correctly, that a pandemic hitting in the midst of an economic downturn could turn a recession into something far worse -- with workers ordered to remain in their homes, workplaces shuttered to avoid the spread of disease, transportation systems grinding to a halt and demand for emergency services and public health interventions skyrocketing. Indeed, they suggested, pandemic preparation was essential to any responsible plan for renewing the U.S. economy.

Bad Players!

But former White House political czar Karl Rove and key congressional Republicans -- led by Maine Senator Susan Collins -- aggressively attacked the notion that there was a connection between pandemic preparation and economic recovery.

Now, as the World Health Organization says a deadly swine flu outbreak that apparently began in Mexico but has spread to the United States has the potential to develop into a pandemic, Obey's attempt to secure the money seems eerily prescient.[...]

Famously, Maine Senator Collins, the supposedly moderate Republican who demanded cuts in health care spending in exchange for her support of a watered-down version of the stimulus, fumed about the pandemic funding: "Does it belong in this bill? Should we have $870 million in this bill No, we should not."

Even now, Collins continues to use her official website to highlight the fact that she led the fight to strip the pandemic preparedness money out of the Senate's version of the stimulus measure.

Any Good Players?

Collins played politics with public health, and the economic recovery. That makes her about as bad a player as you will find in a town full of bad players.

But Senate Democrats bent to her demands. That makes them, at the very least, complicit in the weakening of what needed to be a muscular plan.

The bottom line is that there were no heroes in either party on the Senate side of the ugly process that ridiculed and then eliminated pandemic preparedness funding.

There is, however, a hero on the House side. Throughout the process, David Obey battled to get Congress to recognize that a pandemic would threaten not just public health but a fragile economic recovery.

The Obama administration and the Democrats should be sorry now for even trying to negotiate with Republicans who value there own politic gain over the health, welfare and safety of their constituents. Shame on the Democrats who bought into their arguments.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Torture Before the War

President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney used torture to sell the war in Iraq. Steve Weissman addresses this issue in his article How Torture Worked to Sell the Iraq War.
it is clear that he and Mr. Bush succeeded in using torture, not primarily to secure needed intelligence, but to create the propaganda they used to sell their invasion of Iraq.

The evidence comes from a variety of sources, including the report on the military's treatment of detainees, which Sen. Carl Levin's Armed Services Committee has just released. The report revealed that Pentagon officials began preparing to use torture - or "abusive interrogation techniques" - as early as December 2001. This was less than two months after the start of the war in Afghanistan and eight months before the Department of Justice gave legal authorization in two memos dated August 1, 2002, and signed by Jay Bybee, then-assistant attorney general for the Office of Legal Counsel. The first memo redefined physical and mental torture and suggested that the president, acting pursuant to his constitutional powers as commander-in-chief, could override the federal anti-torture statute. The second analyzed and approved specific interrogation tactics, including isolation, prolonged sleep deprivation, stress positions and waterboarding, which makes the victim feel that he is drowning.

If not the Justice Department lawyers, who gave the earlier go-ahead? The Senate report puts the onus directly on the decider-in-chief, President George W. Bush. He issued a written determination on February 7, 2002, "that Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, which would have afforded minimum standards for humane treatment, did not apply to al-Qaeda or Taliban detainees."[...]

Why so much attention from the top? McClatchy news has provided the obvious answer. According to a former senior US intelligence official and a former Army psychiatrist, the Bush administration wanted "to find evidence of cooperation between al-Qaeda and the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's regime."[...]

In part to get that smoking gun, the CIA waterboarded Khalid Sheikh Mohammed 183 times and Abu Zubaydah 83 times. But neither man told the interrogators what Bush and Cheney wanted to hear about Iraq and al-Qaeda. That came from Ibn al Sheikh al Libi, whom the Bush administration sent to Egypt for what CIA Director George Tenet called "further debriefing." As PBS Frontline reported back in November 2007, al Libi "confessed" - after being beaten repeatedly and locked in a small box for some 17 hours - that Saddam Hussein had trained al-Qaeda in chemical weapons. Al Libi later retracted his statement and the CIA later rejected it as reliable intelligence. But the torture of al Libi worked to sell the war in Iraq, providing the "evidence" that Secretary of State Colin Powell used when he spoke before the United Nations Security Council in February 2003.

"I can trace the story of a senior terrorist operative telling how Iraq provided training in these [chemical and biological] weapons to al-Qaeda," Powell asserted. "Fortunately, this operative is now detained, and he has told his story."

The results of torture...truth or propaganda. What was the Bush Administration really looking for?

Friday, April 24, 2009

Who's Lying Now?

Was Bush Lying When He Said We Don't Torture


COOPER: Do you believe that it did work in this case, as the vice president has -- as Vice President Cheney has indicated?

FLEISCHER: No, again, Anderson, your premise is that it is torture. And I think the only people who can determine that are people from the Department of Justice.

COOPER: But it's interesting, though...

FLEISCHER: If it is torture, if it is torture...


COOPER: ... when the Khmer Rouge did it, when the Khmer Rouge did it at Tuol Sleng prison, and you can go there, and you can see the instruments they used to water-board people, I mean, we labeled it as torture.

FLEISCHER: And, Anderson, that's why I said the only people who are in a position to make an authoritative judgment on it should be career, independent-minded people at the Department of Justice, without anybody at the White House interfering or anybody else interfering.

And then, if they decide it was, then they have got a very careful decision to make about how far and extensive do you prosecute people. Is it the people who did it? Is it the Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill who were briefed on it and didn't object to it? And who in the administration would you have to apply that standard to?

This is where this whole thing can go.

But, going back to the memo, and going back to bipartisanship, you know, it's not just the Bush people who said it was wrong to release that memo. Bill Clinton's head of the CIA said it was wrong to release those memos, because you're teaching al Qaeda operatives exactly what our techniques are.

And why do we want anybody in al Qaeda to know what the limits of our techniques are, Paul?

BEGALA: The techniques that -- the techniques that we no longer use, the techniques that were in "The New York Review of Books" and half of the newspapers and magazines in North America, Ari. I mean, it is...

FLEISCHER: Paul, it was your administration's head of the CIA who objected to the release of those memos.

BEGALA: It doesn't -- it doesn't make...

FLEISCHER: It's a Clinton official who said that.

BEGALA: It doesn't make him right. Torture is always wrong, Ari. We executed...

FLEISCHER: I agree with you that torture is always wrong. BEGALA: Excuse me for talking while you're interrupting.


COOPER: Let Paul finish.

BEGALA: We -- our country executed Japanese soldiers who water- boarded American POWs. We executed them for the same crime that we are now committing ourselves. How do you defend that?

FLEISCHER: Well, again, Paul, I guess you already are the jury, the prosecutor, the judge, and a citizen all rolled into one. You have already pronounced judgment that it is a crime.

So, if it is a crime, my question goes back to. Which Democrat members of Congress who sat in on the briefings, were authorized, were told about it, while -- particularly at a time when the Democrats had the majority in the Senate, would you say need to be prosecuted, Paul?

BEGALA: Here's the thing. Ari, you think it's a political issue. And, so, you say, well, Democrats knew, or George Tenet said this, and he used to be a Democrat. And...


FLEISCHER: Because the only people you want to blame, Paul, are Republicans.

BEGALA: Again, excuse me for trying to make a point here.

FLEISCHER: That's why.

BEGALA: No, no, no.

FLEISCHER: The only people you want to blame are the Bush administration.

BEGALA: I just said a moment ago -- I just said a moment ago, if -- if George Tenet, who was head of the CIA when I was in the White House, if he says this, he's wrong, too.
Nancy Pelosi: We Were Not!
I Repeat NOT EVER TOLD Waterboarding Was Used!

Zero Debt Ctiy

City of Mississauga-Ontario, Canada: WATCH:

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Vote for the Prez!

MSNBC has a poll up about the President's job so far for the first 100 days.

Republicans are flooding it with
"F" votes.

Pass this address on and go to it to

Give President Obama a Grade

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Decision to Prosecute Bush Officials

The media has been focusing on a statement by Rahm Emanuel that President Obama will not pursue criminal charges against former Bush officials for their use of torture on terrorism suspects. Rahm said "this is not the time for retribution or anger."

Today President Obama stated during a press conference with the King of Jordan that he will leave the decision of whether to bring charges against any Bush officials to the Attorney General, Eric Holder.

President Obama said that “With respect to those who formulated those legal decisions, I would say that is going to be more a decision for the attorney general within the parameter of various laws, and I don’t want to prejudge that.”

From College News:

It’s understandable that the President doesn’t want to create major waves that would result from the prosecution of Bush officials. He is correct in stating that the decision should be left up to the Attorney General.

This should not be a political issue; it’s a matter of law and order. Republicans, Democrats, conservatives, liberals, and independents alike should be interested in holding our elected officials and their staffs responsible for their actions.

Hiding behind a wall of bipartisanship is not going to serve our country. Eric Holder needs to do his job and start investigating the Bush administration for its use of torture and illegal wiretapping during the war on terror.

Anyone who has had their head forcibly held underwater in a swimming pool can tell you that waterboarding is torture. There is no excuse for the use these interrogation methods in pursuing our enemies. On the contrary, the more that we violate our own moral code and international laws, it becomes easier for terrorist organizations to recruit fighters for their cause.

It’s not the President’s job to file charges against his predecessors. But it would be reassuring to hear him come out and say that an investigation needs to take place.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Is there A Method to this Madness?

President Obama recently released four secret Bush-era torture memos. In his statement Obama said:
In releasing these memos, it is our intention to assure those who carried out their duties relying in good faith upon legal advice from the Department of Justice that they will not be subject to prosecution. The men and women of our intelligence community serve courageously on the front lines of a dangerous world.
Rahm Emanuel took this immunity stance further while responding to George Stephanopoulos of ABC's This Week. He claimed that not only shouldn't field officers be prosecuted over breaking the law when it comes to torturing prisoners, but that John Yoos, Steven Bradbury and Jay Bybees shouldn't face any consequences for their actions. These are the guys who wrote the memos.
STEPHANOPOULOS: What about those who devised policy?

EMANUEL: Yes, but those who devised policy, he believes that they were -- should not be prosecuted either, and that's not the place that we go -- as he said in that letter, and I would really recommend people look at the full statement -- not the letter, the statement -- in that second paragraph, "this is not a time for retribution." It's time for reflection. It's not a time to use our energy and our time in looking back and any sense of anger and retribution.

We have a lot to do to protect America. What people need to know, this practice and technique, we don't use anymore. He banned it.
There are some who believe that in order to uphold the rule of law a special prosecutor should be appointed immediately. Congressman Jerrold Nadler,(D-NY) is publicly requesting the Attorney General to appoint a special prosecutor. Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) is calling for full investigations into Bush's torture policies.

Could there be a reason that the Obama administration has taken this position of only looking forward and not back?

Elizabeth de la Vega thinks so. She is a former federal prosecutor with more than 20 years of experience. She believes this is not the time to start an investigation or appoint a special prosecutor.

First, the bottom line: From the perspective of anyone who wants Bush and Cheney and their top aides to be held accountable for their crimes, the designation of some sort of independent prosecutor right now would be the worst possible eventuality. It's a move that has so many downsides - and holds so few real benefits - that I would be more inclined to question President Obama's motives if he appointed a special prosecutor than if he did not. There is a reason why former prosecutor Arlen Specter - a Republican senator from Pennsylvania - has voiced support for a special prosecutor, while former prosecutors Patrick Leahy and Sheldon Whitehouse - Democratic senators from Vermont and Rhode Island, respectively - would prefer a public inquiry.

What is it? Well, for starters, there is - under currently available US law - no such thing as a truly independent prosecutor. There has not been since 1999, when the independent counsel statute expired. Accordingly, regardless of the title given this individual - and whether she were tapped from inside or outside the Justice Department - this appointee would, at a minimum, be required to follow internal DOJ policies and her delegated authority could be revoked at any time. (The regulations that authorize appointing a non-DOJ attorney as "special counsel" - found at 28 C.F.R. Part 600 et. seq - actually make possible substantially more attorney general oversight into prosecutorial decisions.)

Under existing federal law, in other words, the notion of a special prosecutor who would be entirely free from political and institutional influence is illusory. Given that fact - and that it is ordinarily an extremely dumb, not to mention unethical, idea to announce investigations - when an administration does announce that it is naming a "special counsel" of any sort, it is largely a public-relations maneuver. The president thereby appears to be committed to the rule of law, but is, in fact, parking an extremely inconvenient problem in a remote and inaccessible lot.

Well, if not now, then, when?
Wouldn't the same interminable process just happen later? Not necessarily. Notwithstanding the public statements that the president and attorney general made in connection with the release of the memos, I find cause for optimism in their actions. No smart lawyer who secretly wanted this entire issue to disappear would have released those torture memos. From a prosecutor's point of view, the release of those memos with their authors' names in full view was pretty much the same as releasing their photographs with bloody knives in hand. The president and the attorney general may not have said much, but what they did was quietly flip the switch on a searing bright light.

Yes, Obama's Chief of Staff, Rahm Emmanuel, has now said flatly that there will be no prosecutions of Bush officials, but the reality is that this story is far from over. As former CIA head Michael Hayden said on April 19, more by way of complaint than promise: "There will be more revelations. There will be more commissions. There will be more investigations," he said.

What should we do?
What we continue to need, in sum, are unwavering spotlights, even more civic education, and, most importantly, an irrefutable and cohesive factual narrative - comprised of direct and circumstantial evidence - that links the highest-level officials and advisers of the Bush administration, ineluctably, to specific instances and victims of torture. What we will surely have, however, if a special prosecutor is named, will be precisely the opposite: The initiation of a federal grand jury investigation right now would be roughly the equivalent of ceremoniously dumping the entire issue of torture into a black hole. There will be nothing to see and we will be listening intently to radio silence, trying to make sense of intermittent static in the form of the occasional unreliable leak. For years. There may never be any charges and we will almost certainly never have the unimpeachable historical narrative that we need.

Caution and complexity don't sell very well on cable, I know. So you might not hear it there, but we can wait a while for a prosecutor and - if we want to succeed - we should: I don't think any of these guys presents a flight risk and we need to keep this road to accountability well-lit and noisy.

Maybe we should just sit back and have faith and hope in Obama.

Impeach Federal Judge Jay Bybee

From Think Progress:

TAKE ACTION: Tell Congress To Hold Impeachment Hearings Against Judge Jay Bybee


Last week, President Obama released four Bush-era legal memos authorizing torture. The earliest one, from 2002, was signed by Jay Bybee, then an Assistant Attorney General and now a federal judge on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. In the memo, Bybee authorized CIA interrogators to, among other techniques:

-- Slam a detainee's head against a wall: "any pain experienced is not of the intensity associated with serious physical injury."

-- Slap a detainee's face: "The facial slap does not produce pain that is difficult to endure."

-- Place a detainee into stress positions: "They simply involve forcing the subject to remain in uncomfortable positions."

-- Waterboard a detainee: "The waterboard...inflicts no pain or actual harm whatsoever."

These techniques are illegal by U.S. statute and international treaty to which the U.S. is a signatory. Bybee attempted to give legal cover to illegal acts, and thus broke the ethical, professional, and legal standards that should govern lawyers. For this, Judge Jay Bybee should be impeached. Congress needs to assert some accountability for these heinous acts.

ThinkProgress is sending a petition to the members of the House Judiciary Committee -- where impeachment articles are drawn -- imploring them to act now to remove Bybee from public office. Please join our efforts by signing onto our campaign. Here's how it could work:

Step One: Hearings. The House Judiciary Committee holds hearings to examine charges against Bybee.

Step Two: Articles of Impeachment. The House Judiciary Committee draws up the articles of impeachment and presents them to the full House with a simple majority vote.

Step Three: Passes the House. The full House moves to impeach Bybee with a simple majority, and then passes a resolution notifying the Senate

Step Four: Moves to the Senate. The Senate passes a resolution indicating its readiness to receive the House "managers" -- in effect, the prosecutors -- and to hear the full articles of impeachment.

Step Five: Trial. 51 Senators must vote to continue with the impeachment trial, and 67, a full two-thirds majority, are required to convict.

An impeachment hearing would require full answers from Bybee -- and would give the American people the answers they deserve. When Bush nominated Bybee in 2003, Congress had no knowledge of the full scope of Bybee's legalese somersaults to make torture appear legal. When asked, he refused to comment, citing executive privilege. Now we know how integral Bybee was to initiating Bush's years-long torture program.

Today, Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), a senior member on the House Judiciary Committee, endorsed impeaching Bybee. "He ought to be impeached," Nadler told the Huffington Post. "It was not an honest legal memo. It was an instruction manual on how to break the law."

Jay Bybee has neither the legal nor the moral authority to sit in judgment of others.

Please sign our petition.


Update: Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) renewed his call for full investigations into Bush's torture policies today: "It is simply obvious that, if there is no accountability when wrongdoing is exposed, future violations will not be deterred."
Update: Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA), a Judiciary subcommittee chair, said she is "not comfortable with the fact that [Bybee] will be on the federal bench for a lifetime appointment."

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Single-Payer Advocate Quentin Young is Appointed to IL Health Agency

IL Gov Pat Quinn recently named Dr. Quentin Young, an advocate of health-care reform, as chairman of the Illinois Health Facilities Planning Board. This is a state agency that regulates health care facility construction.

Via Chicago Tribune:

The little-known board has been a focus of the far-reaching federal investigation of corruption in state government that eventually led to Blagojevich's arrest in December.

Former health facilities board member Stuart Levine and former Blagojevich fundraiser Antoin "Tony" Rezko are both in prison after scheming to use the board as a way to get political contributions or kickbacks.
Neither the Chicago Tribune nor the Chicago Sun-Times mentioned that Young supported a single-payer health care system. Instead they both highlighted the friendship between Young and Quinn.

Via Daily Kos:
Young is probably the best-known advocate in Illinois for health care reform, and a staunch advocate of single-payer.

He is the national coordinator of
Physicians for a National Health Program ("PNHP"), which supports the "Medicare for all" approach of H.R. 676, the United States National Health Care Act.
The "friend" angle undercuts the significance of the Young appointment, coming as it does on a day when the lead story in Chicago is a nepotism piece about Cook County Board President Todd Stroger firing his cousin.

A Plug-In/Hybrid Electric Car

Extreme Hybrid Showcases Green Technology

CBS News Report: On exhibit at Detroit's International Auto Show was a prototype for an "extreme hybrid" car that runs for 40 miles at 60 m.p.h. on battery power alone.

AFS Trinity's 150 mpg SUV

Tea Parties Equate to Racism, Ignorance and Hate

Janeane Garofalo tells Keith Olbermann that the Tea Parties are about racism not taxes. The organizers are nothing more than “tea-bagging rednecks.” The organizers claimed that the hate was 'bipartisan'.

WATCH - Garofalo comes on at the three-minute mark:

From WowOWow:
Comedienne Janeane Garofalo held nothing back while discussing the “tea parties” with Keith Olbermann last night. Though the parties’ organizers claim they’re protesting taxes, Garofalo insists they’re nothing but “tea-bagging rednecks” who are simply motivated by “hating a black man in the White House.” She went on to say that participants “will believe anything you tell them, as long as it’s not the truth.” The truth, she claims, “confuses them.”

Olbermann basically agreed.

Crooks and Liars quotes Sam Donaldson from his conversation with George Will on This Week's Roundtable discussion about the teabaggers. Sam totally disagreed with George saying the protest wasn't about taxes. He agreed with Janeane that tthe demonstrations where really directed against President Obama.
DONALDSON: Oh, they weren't saying that, George. What they were saying is, we don't like Obama. And this is a proxy way to say that. Because it's true, he's going to lower taxes on 95% of the American public, and the rest are going to have higher taxes. You were quite correct, it's not about the level of taxes. Those rallies were mainly, it seems to me, organized to say, "We don't like Obama" across the board.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Vatican is Going Green

According to TreeHugger:

The tiniest state in the world—that'd be the Vatican—has some big plans for solar power. The Pope, an outspoken proponent of fighting climate change, is moving to build the largest solar power plant in Europe on 740 acres of land near the medieval village of Santa Maria di Galeria.

At $660 million, the project would also be one of the most expensive—but it would eventually turn the small state (the Vatican has around 900 residents) into a major power exporter. The solar station would go online in 2014, and would reportedly initially produce 100 megawatts of power—enough to provide electricity to 40,000 homes in Italy. The energy generated would also provide 9 times the power needed to run the Vatican radio, which reaches 35 countries as far as Asia.

It's estimated that the plant would spare 91,000 tons of CO2 from entering the atmosphere.

The project is deemed a "wise investment" by the Pope and his advisers. Italy currently offers alternative energy incentives like requiring utility companies to buy solar power for above market prices, according to Bloomberg.

Greenhouse Gas Pollution is a Serious Problem

The Environmental Protection Agency on Friday formally declared carbon dioxide and five other heat-trapping gases to be pollutants that endanger public health and welfare, setting in motion a process that will lead to the regulation of the gases for the first time in the United States.

The E.P.A. said the science supporting the proposed endangerment finding was “compelling and overwhelming.” The ruling initiates a 60-day comment period before any proposals for regulations governing emissions of heat-trapping gases are published.

Although the finding had been expected, supporters and critics said its issuance was a significant moment in the debate on global warming. Many Republicans in Congress and industry spokesmen warned that regulation of carbon dioxide emissions would raise energy costs and kill jobs; Democrats and environmental advocates said the decision was long overdue and would bring long-term social and economic benefits.

The E.P.A. administrator, Lisa P. Jackson, said: “This finding confirms that greenhouse gas pollution is a serious problem now and for future generations. Fortunately, it follows President Obama’s call for a low-carbon economy and strong leadership in Congress on clean energy and climate legislation.”

Fear and Loathing from The New GOP

"Manufacturing a Controversy out of Nothing"

The GOP, the far right and the right wing media do not like Barack Obama or his Administration. During the eight years that George W. Bush was in office their outrage was evident only when they perceived criticism toward the Bush Administration, the War in Iraq or W's policies of wire tapping, torture and expanding executive privilege. They then spewed out their venom against being anti-American and unpatriotic.

Now their anger has become explosive. They have voiced opposition to The
Serve America Act. They feel threatened by gay marriage or civil unions. They are claiming that Obama is raising their taxes and that the administration is a threat to their personal freedoms.

The latest threat that they are complaining about is a new report by the Department of Homeland Security. The DHS report warns about the rise in "right wing extremist activity."
[The report says that] the economic recession, the election of America's first black president and the return of a few disgruntled war veterans could swell the ranks of white-power militias.

A footnote attached to the report by the Homeland Security Office of Intelligence and Analysis defines "right wing extremism in the United States" as including not just racist or hate groups, but also groups that reject federal authority in favor of state or local authority.

"It may include groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single-issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration," the warning says.

Click here to download a PDF of the report.

According to Steve Benen, Republicans do excel in one thing, "manufacturing a controversy out of nothing." One of the best examples is "this week's flap over a DHS report on potentially dangerous right-wing extremists." Benen notes that the DHS had also "prepared a similar report about left-wing radicals (curious that no one seems worked about that one)."

Think Progress also has information about two earlier reports. A DOE report from April 2001 titled “Left-Wing Extremism: The Current Threat.” The DHS prepared a report on January 26, 2009 titled “Leftwing Extremists Likely to Increase Use of Cyber Attacks over the Coming Decade.”

Back then, no one seemed to care.

The Washington Monthly finds that this outrage of the Republicans is not only ill-founded but it hasn't been well thought out.

For one thing, DHS produced a similar report on radical, potentially violent, left-wing extremists. For another, the FBI published a similar report about the far-right fringe and potential security threats in 2008, and no one seemed to raise an eyebrow.

But perhaps most importantly, if the DHS report is evidence of some kind of nefarious White House agenda, it seems Obama's Republican detractors are complaining about the wrong White House.

The report on right wing groups, it turns out, was prepared by the Extremism and Radicalization Branch of DHS' Homeland Environment and Threat Analysis Division. That Division falls under the purview of the Under Secretary For Intelligence & Analysis -- or, in this case, the Acting Under Secretary For Intelligence & Analysis Roger Mackin, who was appointed on September 10, 2008 by noted left wing partisan George W. Bush.

Yep, the report about right-wing extremists that have Republicans worked up was, in fact, requested and prepared by Bush administration officials, an inconvenient fact that might undermine this week's talking points a bit.

But that hasn't stop the far right from asserting the 'F' word...Fascism.

The far right has seen the fresh face of fascism, and it looks like the civic-minded legislative love child of Sens. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., and Orrin Hatch, R-Utah.

Most Americans applauded last month when the Senate voted across party lines to expand national-service opportunities. How could you not? The Serve America Act, which passed easily 78-20, invests $5 billion in volunteer corps focused on education, clean energy, health care and veteran issues. In a symbolic but meaningful gesture, the bill also designates Sept. 11 as a National Day of Service, thus expanding a post-9/11 concept of patriotism previously limited to dying in Iraq and shopping at JC Penny.

The Service Act will help millions of people learn to read, go to college, stay warm and connect with their fellow citizens. Upon passage, it was immediately hailed by 9/11 survivor organizations, literacy advocates, veterans groups and the AARP.

But not everyone feels warm and fuzzy about the bill whose House version was dubbed the GIVE Act. Among readers of WorldNetDaily and other sites that bridge mainstream conservatism and the lunatic fringe, the biggest question was whether President Barack Obama had shape-shifted from Stalin into Hitler, or had morphed into some grotesque dictatorial hybrid unique to history.

Whatever the genus of the beast, it was agreed in these corners that the Service Act heralded the end of the Republic, the end of Liberty, and the end of Boy Scouts helping little old ladies across the street.

There was a time when there was a distinction between the far right and the right wing. Lately, morphing seems to be going further toward the right.