Saturday, March 07, 2009

Focus on U.S. Russian relations

By Carol Gee

"What to look for?" In U.S. and Russian foreign relations small gains could make a difference. A small missed translation could have helped break the ice during Secretary of State Clinton's visit to Geneva where she met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Russian media teased our Secretary because of her gift to Lavrov. According to the BBC News article,

Hillary Clinton gave Sergei Lavrov a mock "reset" button, symbolising US hopes to mend frayed ties with Moscow.

But he said the word the Americans chose, "peregruzka", meant "overloaded" or "overcharged", rather than "reset". Daily newspaper Kommersant declared on its front page: "Sergei Lavrov and Hillary Clinton push the wrong button."

. . . Despite the embarrassment, the two made light of the moment in front of the cameras and pushed the button together to signify a shared hope for better relations. At a joint news conference after two hours of talks, both joked about the error.

"We reached an agreement on how 'reset' is spelled in both Russian and English - we have no differences between us any more," Mr Lavrov said through an interpreter.

Mrs Clinton put it this way: "The minister corrected our word choice. But in a way, the word that was on the button turns out to be also true. We are resetting, and because we are resetting, the minister and I have an 'overload' of work."

"Necessity pushed U.S. and Russia Closer," is another BBC headline. The story is a good analysis of why it is in both countries' interests to get along better. Reasons include the fact that the Obama administration wants things to be better. We need the railroad supply route through Russia to Afghanistan. Russia does not want a U.S. failure in Afghanistan. (Russia and Germany are discussing using the supply route, as well, according to RIA Novosti). And Russia wants the U.S. to scrap its planned missile defense system in Central Europe, and may be willing to apply pressure to Iran to scrap its long range missile program. In addition the economic recession had hit the Eurozone and Russia very hard, so they have a lot on their plate, just a we do.

The Russian paper, Pravda, reported on March 4 that "USA may keep its airbase in Kyrgyzstan after Obama's letter to Russia's Medvedev." To quote:

Media outlets published numerous reports about the secret letter, which President Obama supposedly sent to his Russian counterpart. In the letter (if the reports are true, of course), Obama particularly set out a hope that Moscow would not encourage the exclusion of US servicemen from Kyrgyzstan. The US administration tends to believe that the former Soviet republic made the decision under the pressure of the Kremlin, although the latter repeatedly affirmed that it was a sovereign decision of Kyrgyzstan.

If Obama sent the secret letter to Medvedev indeed, it may mean that Russia (and Kyrgyzstan) took US hopes into consideration.

RIA Novosti (3/3/09) also reported that President Medvedev denied an Iran-Missile shield tradeoff with the U.S. And The Asia Times published a very interesting analysis of Russia's rejuvenation of its sphere of influence in Central Asia, headlined, "Russia's 'virtual cold war' in Central Asia." It regards the Feb. 3 meeting in Moscow of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) forming a CSTO rapid reaction force the,

Russian President Dimitri Medvedev claimed will not be less capable than its NATO counterpart.

It seems clear that there is much to gain for both nations by cooperating. All it will take is toughness, intelligent strategy and being able to reach out. The Obama administration has shown the capacity to do that in other areas. Why not with Russia?

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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The stimulus was too small

By Creature

That's the conclusion reached today on the front page of the Washington Post. Meanwhile, when the only hope of getting out of this recession is to spend more, House Republicans are calling for a spending freeze. Unfuckinbelievable. I don't blame Republicans for proposing this (after all, they don't want to solve anything, they just like to throw red meat), I blame the media for giving them a platform that doesn't include a Comedy Central logo plastered across the screen.

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Stem-cell research and the return of science under Obama

By Michael J.W. Stickings


President Obama's decision to lift restrictions on federal funding of human embryonic stem cell research, scheduled to be announced Monday, is expected to provide a major boost to one of the most promising but controversial fields of biomedical research in generations.

The signing of an executive order voiding the restrictions will allow thousands of scientists to study hundreds of lines of cells that have been developed since the limitations were in put in place eight years ago. It will also allow them to dismantle cumbersome bureaucracies constructed to work around the constraints and let them exchange scientific ideas more easily.

Because stem cells obtained from very early embryos are believed to be capable of morphing into any tissue in the body, scientists think that they will yield fundamental insights into the underlying causes of many diseases and that they could be used to repair damage caused by diabetes, Parkinson's disease, spinal cord injuries and other conditions.

Aside from all the benefits that could come from renewed stem-cell research, isn't it just nice to see science emerge from eight years in the theocratic wilderness of the Bush presidency?

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Quote of the Day: Tim Pawlenty on the GOP

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Here's what the Minnesota governor told Politico's Ben Smith yesterday:

It's kind of like asking whether the stock market has bottomed out. I think it has bottomed out – in terms of it getting worse, at least, but we have a lot of work to do.

There is indeed a lot of work to be done, but I suspect that Pawlenty has sold his party short. It is capable of so, so much worse.

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Friday, March 06, 2009

The Reaction in Review (March 6. 2009)

A week's Reactions that deserve a second look:
. . . guests in the house this week.


By Michael J.W. Stickings: "Why the right is to blame for for the Dow's decline" -- Michael spotlights a Robert Reich argument that makes perfect sense.

By Capt. Fogg: "Twinkle, twinkle, evil Starr" -- Fogg explores the career of Ken Starr, including his latest appearance before the California Supreme Court in the Prop 8 case.

By Jim Arkedis: "Iran and al Qaeda: Both clueless how to handle Obama" -- Guest author, from the Truman Project, writes this insightful explanation: "
The fact that Obama doesn't fall into prototypically neat American presidential stereotypes notwithstanding, Iran and AQ are hoping to orient their "bases" against Obama, so his "extended hand" will have to make more concessions in any diplomatic effort, whether public or private. "


By Carol Gee: "Middle East Featured" -- Catching up with the latest news from the Middle East, highlighting the trip by Sec'y of State Clinton.

By Carl: "The Rush to cluelessness" -- Carl knows how to hurl a beautifully crafted insult, this time to the most deserving of these, Rush Limbaugh, leader of his party.

By Michael J.W. Stickings: "Yes, my friends, Rush Limbaugh is indeed a leader of the Republican Party" -- Michael investigates a Rasmussen poll asking respondents about whether Limbaugh is the leader of the Republican party.


By Ted Leibowitz: "Maureen Dowd must go" --
In a wonderfully written piece, Creature's guest discusses the destructiveness of Dowd's columns, comparing her to Ann Coulter.

By Mustang Bobby: "Those Secret memos" -- Bobby's great post describes what was so wrong about the Fourth Amendment-gutting secret memos by the OLC neocons of the previous administration.

By LindaBeth: "Interesting Pearlstein editorial today" -- LindaBeth notices as Pearlstein tries to make sense of our crazy economic roller coaster ride.


By J. Thomas Duffy: "Steele singing 'To RushWith Love' " -- Duffy does one of his great send-ups about the flack between Rush Limbaugh and Michael Steele that is all the rage this week.

By Sarah Holewinski: "Assessing the human cost of the war in Afghanistan" -- Guest author of CIVIC advocates for the people of Afghanistan illuminating the organization's "incredible work [is] being done here to address the all-too-neglected human costs of war," as MJWS explains.

By Michael J.W. Stickings: "George W. Bush v. The Constitution of the United Sates of America" -- Michael writes a very fine insightful post on the blockbuster secret Bush memos just made public.


By Michael J.W. Stickings: "Roland Burris and his massive ego" -- Michael reveals the latest in the saga of Senator Burris, namely his plans for a next campaign and a new website.

By Capt. Fogg: "Don't Rush me" -- Fogg fiercely takes on Rush and the Republicans, suggesting a change in direction modeled by Ron Paul, eliciting a lot of comments.

By Carl: "Dog bites man" -- Carl's post is a truly thoughtful, errrr, expose regarding conservatives, pornography, sex and sex education.

Bonus Creature Feature: "Just Look at the Numbers" -- "86.7" = millions going without health care in last 2 years; "Two spotlights are better than one;" "61.7" = $ billions lost in 4th quarter of '08.

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Why the right is to blame for the Dow's decline

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Predictably, the right has been blaming the decline of the Dow, as well as of the markets generally, on Obama and his supposedly "socialist" policies.

As usual, the right is dumbfoundingly wrong. Here's Robert Reich at Salon:

The argument that Obama is somehow responsible for the collapse of Wall Street is absurd. First, every major policy that led to this collapse occurred under George W.'s watch (or, more accurately, his failure to watch). The housing and financial bubbles were created under Bush and exploded under Bush. The stock market began to collapse under Bush.

Second, it's inevitable that stocks, led by the bloated financial sector, would lose their remaining hot air as the new administration begins "stress-testing" the big banks, many of which are technically insolvent. After all, their share prices were built on a tissue of lies and dreams. Other sectors whose values were similarly distorted and distended by years of financial deception and regulatory disregard, such as housing and insurance, will also have to return to the real world before they can recover. Which could mean more stock losses.

Finally, none of the financial wizards who are now charging Obama with leading America into the abyss have offered an alternative plan for getting us out of the mess that, not incidentally, many of these same wizards happily led us into. For years, the Wall Street Journal editorial page and the financial gurus of cable news cheered as Wall Street leveraged its way into oblivion.



If you haven't seen it already, make sure to watch Jon Stewart's awesome takedown of CNBC from the other night. Creature posted it here.

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Twinkle, twinkle, evil Starr

By Capt. Fogg

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Ken Starr, the man who thought you should go to jail for using the word "breast" on the internet even in conjunction with words like cancer and mammography, yet led the taxpayer funded multi-million dollar investigation into the President's sex life and published it on the internet in lurid and pornographic detail, is still alive. Yes, it's amazing, but some reptiles do live a long time.

Starr, the sex-obsessed fighter against dirty pictures and swear words, hasn't changed much, he's just picking on another obsession of his - homosexuals. Ken somehow obtained a law degree and was admitted into the bar somewhere, but really he's a preacher of a puritanical bent and of the sort our founding fathers loathed so much that they eloquently and passionately expressed that loathing in word and deed. One of those deeds and words was the the declaration of independence; that manifesto of the natural and inalienable nature of human rights.

Ken Starr will have none of it. We have no rights but what the government allows and what the government allows, the government can disallow. That may have been a bit much even for George III, but in any event it's at odds with the entire philosophy from which the United States grew and a worldwide quest for freedom from religious and secular tyranny emerged.

Kenn Starr will have none of it. Ken, whose resemblance to a circumcised penis is striking, has the ill nature to go along with his appearance and so is arguing to uphold California's outrageous proposition 8. A majority he says, can simply remove the rights of a minority and so there's no real reason we couldn't restore slavery, expulsion of Chinese citizens and remove the voting rights of women and non white males.

Did I mention that Ken is a Republican? When we put the puzzle piece that is Ken Starr together with other pieces from the Bush Justice Department, we start to see a picture of America that resembles the great tyrannies of the past and present; and America that has been tricked into going not only back to the nations under God we broke from, where the ruler's right came from God and yours, if you had any, were at the grace and whim of that ruler.

How close we are to the precipice -- it's no wonder that we hear such bellowing and howling from the greedy devils. We have come so close, they have made a tower of slime almost tall enough to reach our liberty. They can almost taste our soul.

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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Obama administration needing help

By Carol Gee

President Obama gathered a crowd of over 120 potential helpers at the White House on Thursday for the Forum on Health Reform. In what is being called the Health Care Summit, President Obama is starting the big push for health care overhaul, as NPR headlined. The President said,

"In this effort, every voice must be heard. Every idea must be considered. Every option must be on the table. There will be no sacred cows in this discussion," Obama said as he opened his White House forum on what he calls the greatest threat to the foundation of the U.S. economy.

. . . people from all sectors — and with a wide range of viewpoints — were taking part in the program. They included longtime health reform heavyweights, including the cancer-battling Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, and some people who helped kill Clinton's overhaul in the 1990s.

Also unlike Clinton, Obama is planning to send only broad principles to Congress of what he wants to see in the bill, such as increased coverage and controlled costs. The House and Senate will be left to do the heavy lifting.

President Obama needs help to stay "outside the bubble" that insulates him from the outside world. He fought successfully to keep his Blackberry, though limits were installed. The President mentioned yesterday, as he was answering questions at the Health Care Summit, that he reads ten letters a day sent to him by the public. The Washington Post had a great article on how this works a few weeks ago. To quote:

Each morning when he arrives at the Oval Office, President Obama asks his staff to deliver him a package containing 10 letters. It is a mere sampling of the 40,000 or so that Americans send to the White House every day . . .

Obama has learned during his first 40 days in the White House that he must fight to preserve such direct connections to the citizens he leads. Obama's life as president is outsourced to about 25 assistants, 25 deputy assistants and 50 special assistants who act as a massive siphon to control the information that reaches his desk and schedule the meetings and public appearances that shape his days. A correspondence staff sorts through his mail and selects the 10 letters that he reads.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner needs some help.
His office is not staffed at the level required, given the workload coming from the current economic crisis. Two nominees have recently withdrawn their names from consideration as political appointees. Annette Nazareth was to be Geightner's deputy and Caroline Atkinson was to be undersecretary of international affairs. Nazareth probably withdrew due to a potentially bruising confirmation process. The reason for Atkinson's quitting is unknown, according to

Julius Genachowski is President Obama's pick to head the Federal Communications Commission, according to NPR. (2/4/09) They have known each other since attending Harvard together. The nominee headed the technology arm of the Obama campaign. He has a history in private industry, as well as working for the FCC under the Clinton administration.

A number of Congressional Democrats find it difficult to help President Obama get the Omnibus spending bill to his desk to sign. After work on the bill is complete. Speaker Nancy Pelosi has vowed to work with the President to reform the earmarking process, according to CQ Politics. However, as Politico's Jonathan Martin reported Thursday, the bill has not yet been passed. To quote,

In the context of the trillions of dollars being thrown around in Washington these days, the renewed fight over earmarks is relatively small potatoes. . . . taunts vividly illustrate some of the pressures from divergent constituencies on the new president — pressures that are proving a good bit harder to reconcile in office than they were on the campaign trail.

Obama can either walk in lockstep with legislative leaders of his own party, people he needs to push his agenda. Or he can keep the good-government credentials that are part of his public image. But it will be tough to do both.

President Obama will continue to need the help of a strong Democratic party apparatus. Governor Tim Kaine is the new head of the Democratic Party, taking over for Governor Howard Dean, who has gone back to Democracy for America. J.P. Green wrote a very interesting essay at The Democratic Strategist, "Needed: More Discussion About Party-Building," (2/27/09). A couple of his points:

Most of the recent debate about the pros and cons of bipartisanship has centered around it's effect on the quality of legislation. But there is also a legitimate concern about how it impacts the growth and development of the Democratic Party . . .

It's a lot to think about. But a broader, ongoing and inclusive discussion of future directions in party-building would help lay a solid foundation for a new era of progressive reform.

Needing help is not a bad thing. The problems are serious and we all have a stake in the solutions. The health care system is broken, and so is the economic system. Though President Obama has high public approval ratings, Congress does not. And bipartisanship if far from a reality. One thing to remember is that we have just come away from an administration that prided itself on not needing help. Foreign alliances disappeared, and so did the rule of law under a president some are now saying was a dictator. Needing help now feels like a good thing, a breath of fresh air.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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It's not the budget, stupid

By Creature

Barack Obama's "proposed" budget is not destroying the Dow. The financial services industry is. Anyone who blames Obama for today's stock market woes is playing politics and should not be engaged. That being said, the lack of staff at Treasury and Tim Geithner's deer-in-headlights, denial based approach to the situation is not helping. But Obama's budget as the root of all evil, sorry, try again.

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Iran and al Qaeda: Both clueless how to handle Obama

By Jim Arkedis

In conjunction with our new relationship with the Truman Project, I am happy to announce that Jim Arkedis, who runs the excellent All Our Might blog at the Progressive Policy Institute, will be a (hopefully frequent) contributor here at The Reaction. Jim is one of the most thoughtful writers I've come across in the blogosphere, with a truly impressive grasp of national security and foreign policy issues. If you don't know it, or haven't done so already, please take the time to acquaint yourself with All Our Might. It should be a frequent read. And please welcome Jim to The Reaction. -- MJWS


Statement by statement, it's becoming clear that those who exploited the Bush administration's world view as a source of power are clearly unsure how to handle the potentially transformational nature of Obama’s presidency:

Even the new American president, who came to office with the slogan of bringing change in the policies of the Bush administration, avows unconditional commitment to Israel’s security... This commitment to Israel's security means the defense of state terrorism, injustice, oppression and a 22-day-long massacre of hundreds of Palestinian men, women and children,

said Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Sound like anyone we know? Here's Al Qaeda #2, Ayman Al-Zawahiri, the day after Obama's election:

America has put on a new face, but its heart full of hate, mind drowning in greed and spirit which spreads evil, murder, repression and despotism continue to be the same as always... You were born to a Muslim father, but you chose to stand in the ranks of the enemies of the Muslims, and pray the prayer of the Jews.

Iran's and AQ's PR aims and intended audiences (the wider Middle East for Iran; funders and potential operatives for AQ) are hardly in perfect alignment, but the same broad theme runs through these statements -- paint Obama just like every other American leader and link him to Israel as much as possible.

The fact that Obama doesn't fall into prototypically neat American presidential stereotypes notwithstanding, Iran and AQ are hoping to orient their "bases" against Obama, so his "extended hand" will have to make more concessions in any diplomatic effort, whether public or private. But that's where the trouble lies: People the world over see with their own two eyes how different Obama is, and they are more likely than ever before to give an American president the benefit of the doubt.

(Cross-posted from All Our Might.)

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Doing too much too fast

By Creature

Maybe Washington's wise men would prefer George Bush be back in power. Health care would not get fixed, but America's brush problem would certainly get priority again.

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Gupta turns down surgeon general post

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Some of you may remember that I opposed CNN celebrity-doctor Sanjay Gupta's never-announced nomination for surgeon general from the very start. Let's just say, I'm not a fan. Here's what I said back in January:

[Gupta] seems to be very much a part of, as well as a defender of, the status quo, namely, the corporatized health care system controlled by Big Pharma and the HMOs.

And here's what I added a couple of days later:

The problem is that Big Pharma and the HMOs control health care in the U.S. -- and many doctors just buy into the marketing machine. Gupta may not be your basic GP -- he is surely more aware of the big picture than most -- but what he is instead is a significant contributor to the problem, a telegenic broadcaster with the credibility that comes from being on television. It would be one thing if he simply reported on the pharmaceutical industry and its products from a perspective of balanced detachment. But he doesn't. He actively tries to sell those products, and, in so doing -- and without being open about his connections to Big Pharma -- he's part of the marketing machine at the core of the problem.

And then the following day:

I do not oppose Gupta because he lacks experience -- indeed, what is needed in the position is not so much bureaucratic competence as the ability to lead public relations efforts on public health issues, and, in this sense, Gupta, with his extensive experience in broadcasting, could do well -- but rather because of his flacking for the pharmaceutical industry, that is, because he is part of the problem, a celebrity cog in the marketing machine for Big Pharma and the very system that so badly needs to be overhauled or, preferably, replaced.

Well, it looks like Gupta will continue being a cog in the machine, a flack for Big Pharma. According to The Washington Post, he has announced that he will not be accepting Obama's offer. He didn't issue a statement explaining why, but:

[O]ne source close to him said he was very disheartened by Daschle's fate and fearful he was not going to get a prominent role in the health reform process. Gupta has built a lucrative media empire that includes appearances on CBS as well as CNN and book deals. He had expressed concern to friends about the financial impact on his wife and children.

Uh-huh: "a lucrative media empire." It's not just the "appearances" and "book deals," though, it's Big Pharma payola.

As surgeon general, after all, he wouldn't have been able to push drugs through supposedly neutral, professional reporting, profiting off the credibility that comes with being a supposedly trusted, and trustworthy, TV celebrity, presenting himself as an unbiased medical man while neglecting to disclose his pharma-friendly financial interests.

In a way, it's worse that he won't be surgeon general. He'll continue to avoid accountability, and people will buy what he's selling, as they do now, just because he is who he is, because Gupta said so.

Just remember how lucrative his career has become. And then follow the money.

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Craziest Republican of the Day: Zach Wamp

By Michael J.W. Stickings

For saying, in an interview on MSNBC, that health care is a "privilege." When pressed further, he said that "for some people it's a right" but that "for everyone, frankly, it’s not necessarily a right."

Apparently Rep. Wamp of Tennessee believes in feudalism. Otherwise, what the hell did he mean? That health care is a right for people who can afford it, for society's "elect," while for everyone else it's just a privilege?

I realize that there are disagreements among serious people about what constitutes "rights," and that any sort of "right" to health care may not be a right in the way, say, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are rights, but how in a civilized society, in any decent society, in any moral society, can health care be deemed nothing more than a privilege, as if those who have it should thank their lucky stars. Wamp might as well have said that it is a privilege for people to be able to put food in their bellies.

As Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio put it in response to Wamp, "[w]ell my reaction is that it was said by somebody who has a really good health [insurance] plan as a member of the House of Representatives." So true.

Perhaps Wamp thinks he has a right to heath care, perhaps not. Either way, he evidently thinks that he deserves it, and, indeed, that he deserves his position of privilege. And so he attacks health care reform as "class warfare" and "a fast march towards socialism," opposing any government initiative to extend coverage. Who cares about the masses of uninsured?

Seriously, though, half of the uninsured choose not to have coverage? Really? Whatever the real number, that's not the problem -- the problem is that millions of Americans don't have coverage, period, and that the market-driven coverage they do have requires them to go through profit-driven HMOs to beg for treatment, or that even with coverage treatment is simply too expensive for them. A young person who is healthy and who isn't covered isn't the problem. Indeed, such a person wouldn't be a problem even if there were universal health care -- if you only rarely go to a doctor and do not take medication, how much do you cost the system?

All Wamp is doing is trying to deny coverage to those who want and need it by hurling around labels like "class warfare" and "socialism," by shifting the terms of the debate and claiming it's all about "choice," and by spewing ideological extremism from his position of privilege. How easy it is for him to be so patronizing, so dismissive of the wants and needs of regular, ordinary Americans, of those without such glorious privilege. How easy it is for him to be so... Republican.

Watch the madness:

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Thursday, March 05, 2009

"You know, so many people in the hospital here, you know, are sick, anyway ..."

By J. Thomas Duffy

News broke today that former first mother, err, First Lady Barbara Bush underwent heart surgery yesterday.

It was said to repair one part of her aorta, after hardening was found, and she was experiencing shortness of breath.

Hmmmm ...

One could have diagnosed her hard heart back during Hurricane Katrina.

Barbara Bush: Un-compassionate Conservative

And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway so this (she chuckled) – this is working very well for them.

Yeah, I'm sure it was the dream of every resident of New Orleans, to see the city flooded, so they could go live in a giant arena, and get, you know, free stuff, like food, water, blankets, maybe a donated toy, or something.

I wonder if any of the new parts put into her were earmarked, say, from a company owned by the doctors' son?

Barbara Bush's Hurricane Donation Earmarked for Son's Business

Former first lady Barbara Bush gave relief money to a hurricane relief fund on the condition that it be spent to buy educational software from her son Neil's company. The chief of staff of former President George H.W. Bush would not disclose the amount earmarked for purchases from Ignite Learning.

Hey, why waste a good natural disaster, and the opportunity to throw a little business the Dynasty's way, right?

As Joe Pesci said in Casino, "It's the dollars ... It's always the fuckin' dollars ..."

(Cross-posted at The Garlic.)

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By Creature

That's the number, in millions, of Americans who went without health insurance at one point in the last two years. Is it any wonder that 72% of the American people favor the government getting involved in our health care system? At the same time you've got jack-holes running around saying Obama is doing too much. All this change should wait until the economy is back. Well until the cost of health care is addressed there will be no true recovery. We're at critical mass. Now is the time (well, actually, yesterday was the time, but who's keeping track).

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1,000 bigots

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Who cares if "[m]ore than 1,000 people, many from Baptist churches across the state, stood on the ice-covered lawn outside the Legislative Building on Tuesday to demand that state legislators give them a chance to vote on a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage"?

Is it really so hard to rally a thousand bigots in North Carolina -- or anywhere else, for that matter?

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Middle East Featured

By Carol Gee

Iraq pullout -- A week ago House Speaker Nancy Pelosi questioned President Obama's plan for the war in Iraq stating that she wants a 15-20,000 residual force left there, rather than the 50,000 being considered in the plan.

Iraq contracting -- General Ray Odierno has recently (3/4/09) directed that his subordinates systematically reduce the use of civilian contractors and increase the hiring of Iraqis. To quote Spencer Ackerman at Firedoglake,

Odierno's asking his commanders to cut their reliance on contractors -- there are about 150,000 of them in Iraq, according to the Christian Science Monitor's Gordon Lubold, which include 37,000 Iraqis -- by 5 percent each quarter. He apparently made a point in his directive of criticizing the military's reliance on contractors, and candidly told commanders that their troops may need to take up the shortfall.

Iraq scandal -- According to the New York Times, via Memeorandum, "An inquiry on graft in Iraq focuses on U.S. officers." To quote:

Federal authorities examining the early, chaotic days of the $125 billion American-led effort to rebuild Iraq have significantly broadened their inquiry to include senior American military officers who oversaw the program …

Afghanistan elections -- On Feb. 28 President Hamid Karzai ordered that presidential elections be moved forward to April or May, rather than a recently set date in August. Karzai was supposed to step down on May 21. The New York Times asserts that it could "be an attempt to avert constitutional challenges to his legitimacy." Moving it up would be a huge logistical challenge. Western officials had supported a delay.

Pakistan's border central -- According to Jeff Stein, who writes "Spy Talk" (2/24/09), some 70 military advisers (Special Forces) are in Pakistan providing training for Pakistani troops, as well as intelligence and advise on combat tactics. Stein continues,

Make no mistake about it: Pakistan hangs in the balance.

President Obama suggested as much in his speech to Congress Wednesday night, when he said, "We will forge a new and comprehensive strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan to defeat al Qaeda and combat extremism. Because I will not allow terrorists to plot against the American people from safe havens half a world away."

Mid-East regional diplomacy -- It is very heartening to learn about Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's trip to the Middle East to attend an aid conference in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. It seems that she and the administration have no illusions about better relations with Iran, though both parties remain publicly hopeful. Politico reported that The Secretary met with the foreign minister of the UAE at the conference, as well as shaking hands and briefly speaking with the Syrian foreign minister. Clinton later flew to Israel for talks and also met with the Palestinians in the West Bank.

Israel and the Palestinian territories -- The challenge is great for U.S. diplomatic efforts in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Clinton critics took on the question of pressing Israel to let more aid into Gaza, claiming that it would strengthen Hamas. Secretary Clinton continues to work for a reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah to form a unified Palestinian Authority. Even the U.S. House of Representatives has weighed in with advice to Secretary Clinton, advice with which Siun at Firedoglake agrees.

Regarding the defense budget Glenn Greenwald put up an outstanding post a month ago that focused on "The defense cut" falsehood from the Washington Post and Robert Kagan," at (2/3/09). He takes apart the neocon arguments, point by point, fact by fact, chart by chart.

"More than meets the eye" -- After the release of 9 official Bush terror policy memos from the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, there is a renewed push for a so-called independent "truth commission" to look into the people involved, what happened and why. Yesterday The Senate Judiciary committee held a hearing on "Getting the Truth through a Non-Partisan Commission." According to ProPublica, at least 35 other memos remain buried in DOJ files. A separate investigation has been going on for years in the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility regarding the genesis and quality of the legal opinions. [More on this in Sunday's upcoming post]

References --national security

  1. From CQ Homeland Security's "Behind the Lines" Newsletter of March 4, 2009, are a couple of excerpts by David C. Morrison. To quote:

    Follow the money: . . . “Afghanistan now supplies over 93 percent of the global opiate market [creating a] narco-economy strengthening the power of tribal warlords, the Taliban and al Qaeda,” a Forbes commentary spotlights. . .

    Pakghanistan: Pakistan’s foreign minister has vowed no tolerance for al Qaeda in the Swat Valley despite accepting a peace deal that includes imposition of sharia law, Agence France-Presse reports “If Pakistan collapses or is taken over by Islamic extremists—you face the prospect of Islamic extremists having nuclear weapons. . . That’s why Pakistan is Obama’s potential Vietnam,” Thomas Ricks tells Newsweek. Pakistan’s opposition leader warns AP, relatedly, that political chaos could embolden Islamist militants threatening nuclear-armed Pakistan. In the good news column, Pakistani forces have defeated Islamist militants in a strategically important region on the Afghan border and expect to clear other areas by the end of the year, Reuters quotes officials Saturday. An allegedly U.S. missile attack on a target in a border region of Pakistan dominated by a Taliban leader killed eight people yesterday, the Los Angeles Times tells.

  2. Tracking's new Iraq page -- March 3, 2009: The all-seeing eye of ChangeTracker [1], our handy tool that watches for changes on White House Web sites, spotted a total rewrite of the Iraq agenda [2] over the weekend. The changes reflect the new policy presented by President Obama on Friday at Camp Lejeune, N.C.

See also Behind the Links, for further info on this subject.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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The Rush to cluelessness

By Carl

Lord, I rarely pray for anything for myself, but please, PLEASE,
let this come to pass:
Limbaugh, clearly enjoying the attention, upped the ante Wednesday by challenging Obama to a debate on his radio show - while conceding that, yes, he is the GOP's "last man standing." The White House declined to comment.

"If you can wipe me out in a debate ... do you realize you will own the United States of America?" Limbaugh said on-air. "You will have no opposition."

The schadenfreude would be so tasty.

Indeed, I endorse Limbaugh's boast, and second his recommendation.

Rush, since I know you read this blog from time to time, I have the following strategy outlined for you. Now, this is off the top of my head so please pardon the napkin.

OK, so, first, announce your candidacy for the Republican nomination for President of the United States in 2012. This is the only way you'll ever get to debate Barack Obama is if he views you as his equal, because Presidents can't be bothered debating the common private citizen. It might take away from unimportant things like, say, running the country or fixing the mess Bush left behind.

You'll have to resign your radio post, naturally, in order to devote as much time as possible to campaigning, but a rich man like yourself can afford to do this, even if you'll have to cut corners here and there.

Next, it seems your image will require a make-over. Only 11% of Republicans believe you speak for the party and a similar percentage of voters under 30 think you have any relevance in politics.

See, if you don't resign your radio post, other Republican candidates would be entitled to equal air time, plus your radio network would be socked with FEC penalties, since it would be donating to your campaign on a daily basis to the extent of any advertising revenue they share with the stations they give the program to.

That's right: Rush's program is given away to stations, in exchange for a percentage of the ad revenues those stations enjoy. This is common for right wing radions.

So you're not really losing any income, since the radio program per se makes no income on its own merit.

Too, all those advertisers would be forced to stop paying their fees, since those too would be construed as campaign contributions, and while they'll happy pony up ad money to get your listeners' ears, based on that whole "11%" number up there, they sure as heck would run, not walk, away from being seen as endorsing you.

Well, maybe some of the male enhancement products you shill might stick around. After all, three divorces with a fat tub of goo body and a nasty ugly mouth and mind to match, you must have something going on in those trousers.

Like your wallet. I hope you don't think any of your wives actually loved you. Or your mommy, for that matter.

But I digress. Back to campaign advice.

OK, so to make you relevant again, here's what I propose: a sex scandal, preferably one involving illegal drugs. After all, if Barack Obama could win a landslide election after admitting cocaine use in his autobiography, it ought to be a slamdunk for you to abuse, say, Oxycontin with illegal prescriptions.

Or maybe Viagra. Bob Dole uses it, and look what it's done for his political career!

So that takes care of the drug end, but to make doubly sure to make you "hip" we need to get you to put "sexay" back into that swagger. I'm thinking a series of affairs with women young enough to be your grandkids.

Now, I know, in America this would be illegal, and possibly get you married for a fourth time to a kid in a Miley Cyrus T-shirt, so we probably want to import these girls.

Or boys! All the kids experiment with their sexuality, and certainly Larry Craig and Mark Foley weren't tarnished at all by their dalliances in public.

So. Now. Having made you relevant to the kids...we need to find a way to make you stand out from the other candidates. As you've so often pointed out, Barack Obama stood out from the other candidates by the colour of his skin, and I'm thinking that's the way to go here.

I propose we make you the anti-Barack. We paint your skin, I mean even whiter than it is now. Mime white. And to highlight your porcine eyes, so that people won't think you're squinting, we find a good make up artist to put eyeshadow and mascara on you.

Also, blush. There are already rampant rumours after your speech at CPAC that you're dying, and painting you really white will make people think you have lung cancer or something. We need to put some of those rosy cheeks back on you! Also, since pure white tends to flatten and distort contours, I suggest perhaps a fake nose, one that stands out a bit. Maybe round. And red! Yes, that's it!

OK, I see you have the baggy pants thing down. Good. We don't want to frighten women out there with the size of your wallet, or frankly, the dust on it (I hear things). Keep them baggy. In fact, you can go even baggier. There's no such thing as too baggy, you should know.

Your feet, though. Those seem freakishly small and if there's one thing Americans can't stand, it's someone who can't fill the shoes of the man preceding him, and Obama has some big-ass shoes you'd have to fill.

In order to distract people from this, I suggest you wear shoes a few sizes too big. In fact, you could go way over the top here to demonstrate your ability to fill anybody's shoes, and wear like a size thirty.

We'll want to call attention to this outrageous shoe size of know what they say, big shoes big the shoes should be really red and make a honking noise or something.

Now, your shirts are usually pretty nice altho I think you want to draw attention away from the fact that your throat usually oozes out of the neckline. I suggest a really broad collar.

I know you have your own line of ties, and I've seen them. I think they are perfect for what we are trying to accomplish here. They attract attention, they are bright, and they really put your torso into perspective. Keep those.

Now, it troubles me to go here, but...your hair.

I think you might have too much for a white man to run for President these days. It reminds people that Bush had hair, and the last person you want to be compared with is George Bush, at least until history has its say.

I think you need to go balder. OK, you don't have to shave. Maybe a bald wig, or at least a balding wig. With fringes of hair around the side. Yea, that ought to do it. And so that people notice you've lost your hair, I suggest a change from the mousy brown to something bold. After all, you're all about bold, so how about neon yellow or bright orange?

Now I think you're ready to run for President. You'll stand out and truly, you will represent that 11% of a 28% minority of this nation that you claim as your followers!

(crossposted to
Simply Left Behind)


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Jon Stewart nails CNBC

By Creature

I'm thinking, this morning, the big wigs over at CNBC are regretting their decision to pull ranting Rick Santelli from The Daily Show last night. Now, if only they regretted destroying the economy, then I'd say progress was being made.

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No moderates allowed

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Not in the GOP, that's for sure: "Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele on Wednesday refused to retreat on his pledge to back primary challengers against the three GOP senators who voted in favor of President Barack Obama's $787 billion stimulus."

"I'm not backing down from that," said Steele.

No, I'm sure he's not, not that he's now kowtowed before Dear Leader Rush. Stressing his own right-wing bona fides, whatever his hip-hop hopes for the unhippest party around, he's presiding over a party of extremism, ever more extremism, one in which difference, let alone dissent, is simply verboten.

The Republican Party, where ideological purges happen. Good times.

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Prop 8 goes back to court

By Mustang Bobby.

The Supreme Court of California is bracing for arguments today about the passage of Prop 8 last November and the future of the same-sex marriages that were legally performed during the time between the court ruled in favor of them and the passage of the constitutional amendment.
A year after the state Supreme Court entertained arguments on extending marriage to gay couples, many of the same lawyers will be back before the same justices this week arguing why California's voter-appproved ban on same-sex marriage should stand or fall.

The passage of Proposition 8 last November changed the state constitution to prohibit gay marriage and trumped the high court's decision as few months earlier to legalize it. But the ballot measure was appealed and the justices on Thursday are getting the final word on whether marriage is an institution that must accommodate two women or two men.

The debate will be framed by not only the gay and lesbian couples who see their struggle as the modern equivalent of prohibitions on interracial marriage, but the 7 million citizens who rejected that comparison in an $83 million election.

The stakes are high - for the 18,000 couples who married while same-sex weddings were legal, for gay marriage opponents who object on religious grounds and for others who are deeply divided on the issue. And whatever the court decides is likely to have ramifications not only for millions of Californians but also for other states grappling over gay marriage.

Amendment 2 here in Florida, passed at the same time and having the same intent of depriving gays and lesbians the equal right to marry as straight couples, is in no danger since there is no clause in the Florida referendum laws that provide for the caveat of disallowing an amendment that substantially revises the state Constitution itself, such as they have in California. But, as the article says, it will be important to see how this court rules because it provokes a dilemma for the defenders of the status quo: if same-sex marriage is such a threat to the fabric of our society that they claim it is, how can they then argue that Prop 8 does not substantially revise the California state constitution? You can't have it both ways. Either depriving an entire class of people of the right of equal protection under the law is a substantial revision, or it's not. Unless, of course, you believe that gay and lesbian citizens aren't worthy of equal protection in the first place. If that's the case, we have a whole new ball game.

The court will also decide whether or not the same-sex marriages performed when they were legal are still valid. I'm not a lawyer, but I think the concept of applying a law retroactively is contrary both to the letter and the spirit of our laws and Constitution. If the marriages were once legal and performed legally with all the proper forms filled out, the state shouldn't be able to declare them invalid. It would be like passing an assault weapons ban and then trying to enforce it by going house to house and seizing any weapons that were purchased before the ban took effect. Let's see how long the NRA and the gun-owners would stand for that.

I'll leave it to the legal observers and experts to predict what will happen in the California Supreme Court. My own take is that the fight for Prop 8 and Amendment 2 should have been fought and won before the ballots were cast. While I understand and feel the same outrage and disappointment that the people of California and Florida would vote for inequality in this day and age, some of us -- myself included -- took it for granted that bigotry and religious dogma wouldn't hold sway. I hope the next time we won't be so cavalier. My biggest disappointment, however, is that there will be a lot more "next times."

(Cross-posted from Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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Yes, my friends, Rush Limbaugh is indeed a leader of the Republican Party

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Okay, this is just plain stupid:

Despite efforts by the Obama political team and its surrogates to link Rush Limbaugh to the Republican Party, just 11% of GOP voters say the conservative radio commentator is the party's leader.

That's from Rasmussen, reporting on a new poll that asked respondents whether they agreed or disagreed with the following statement: "Rush Limbaugh is the leader of the Republican Party. He says jump, and they say how high."

Why is it stupid? Here goes:

First, although the statement comes from a liberal, it's far too loaded for what is supposed to be a neutral poll. It is meant to provoke a visceral reaction from respondents, not a considered assessment.

Second, Rasmussen's lede is self-contradictory. While it is true that there has been an effort to link Limbaugh to the GOP, being linked to the party is not the same as being the leader of it. The effort is intended to show that he is a major player in the party, as well as in the conservative movement that supports it. While some no doubt are suggesting that he is indeed the party's leader, it is grossly misleading to suggest that the efforts succeeds or fails based on whether or people see him as such or not.

Third, the effort is not meant, or at least not meant solely, to persuade Republicans that Limbaugh is the leader of their party. While the effort may be aimed at some Republicans -- say, moderates like Sens. Collins, Snowe, and Specter -- it is really being aimed at independents, including former and soft Republicans who are uncomfortable with the direction the GOP has taken, its shift to the far right.

Fourth, it is not clear what "leader" means. The poll suggests that Democrats are split, but it is possible that some respondents on both sides disagreed with the statement because they took "leader" to mean an office-holder in a leadership position, like John Boehner or Mitch McConnell, or perhaps even Michael Steele, the new head of the RNC.

Fifth, as Greg Sargent points out, it is "a grotesque exaggeration" to suggest, as Rasmussen does, that the effort has been "[a] secret plot hatched solely by the White House." Rather, the "strategy" began "outside the White House," with James Carville and Stan Greenberg, and then groups like the Center for American Progress and Americans United for Change. The White House may be involved with it somehow, and may be promoting and encouraging it, but it developed "organically," as Paul Begala put it, and was not masterminded by Obama. Yes, Obama's surrogates have been involved, but Rasmussen's claim is still grossly misleading.

Simply put, the poll results do not really show anything, and certainly not that the effort has failed. And, of course, Rasmussen does not look beyond the results to examine whether or not the claim that Limbaugh is a major player in the GOP is true or not. This requires far more nuance that tossing around the term leader.

What Rahm Emanuel has said is not that Limbaugh is the leader of the GOP but rather that he is "the voice and the intellectual force and energy behind the Republican Party. Similarly, Robert Gibbs has said that Limbaugh is "a national spokesperson for conservative views and many in the Republican Party." Leader may or may not be right, but are those two statements not true? After all, Limbaugh presents himself as the voice of conservatism, a key figure in the GOP.

Whatever Rasmussen's poll respondents may say, however they may interpret a loaded statement like the one they were presented with, the fact remains that the Obama-led "effort" has largely succeeded -- consider all the attention Limbaugh has receiving of late, and not just because of his much-ballyhooed appearance at CPAC this past weekend, an appearance that received rousing applause from the assembled faithful. And it has succeeded largely because it is right. No less an authority than Dear Leader Rush himself knows it.

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Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Maureen Dowd must go

By Ted Leibowitz

Maureen Dowd spent a good chunk of the 1990s ripping the Clintons for just about anything she could. Her snarky op-ed columns in the New York Times were sometimes entertaining, but rarely served much purpose beyond displaying just how cruel and snarky she could be.

To make matters worse, her targets often did not deserve of her wrath, and her reliance on rumor and innuendo often resulted in her victims being vindicated by other sources.

It didn't dawn on me until Dubyah almost beat Al Gore in the 2000 election (before losing to him in the selection) that, gee, perhaps a good number of NY Times-reading voters were swayed by this woman's churlish character assasinations. Maybe not enough to vote for the boob the Republicans were running, but perhaps enough to indignantly stay home on election day.

Dowd is an angry, mean, destructive force. Maybe not quite the red-haired Ann Coulter, but certainly worthy of being mentioned in the same sentence.

The New York Times should be better than that.

Dowd is at it again, slashing President Obama both unfairly and unnecessarily from her over-sized podium at the Times. She's on the new president's back because there is (gasp!) wasteful spending in his administration's first budget even though he vowed to cut pork.

Guess what, Ms. Dowd? There is always going to be pork in trillion dollar budgets. That's just a fact of life in the way our government works. Can it be controlled and decreased? Sure. Is now the time to belittle the fledgling administration over this?

This budget bus has been speeding along carrying all of this pork for decades, dontcha think that pulling a complete u-turn at speed might be a bit irresponsible?

In her pork-bashing column she mentions that Iraq was leftover from last year, "and the president’s trying to end that." Yes, and I expect the new president and his administration cut quite a sizeable hunk of last year's bacon out of the budget, too.

Can we be a little realistic here? The Obama administration has a massive clusterfuck to fix and has been on the job for 6 weeks.

A little slack for Mr. Obama, please.

And a pink slip for Ms. Coulter. Er, I mean Dowd.

What do you think? Please take the poll above.

PS-I hear Keith Olbermann is looking for a column...

(Cross-posted at State of the day)

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By Carl

Twitter is for twits.

I'm not basing this on Jon Stewart's breathtaking analysis of the phenomenon. I'm judging this solely on the seat-of-the-pants reaction I have to a) the concept and b) the fact that the Republicans are treating it as the end-all and be-all of the next wave of politics.

The idiotic concept:

Jack Dorsey had grown interested in the simple idea of being able to know what his friends were doing. Specifically, Jack wondered if there might be an opportunity to build something compelling around this simple status concept. When he brought the idea up to his colleagues, it was decided that a prototype should be built.

Now, how many people could possibly be so vain that they think the rest of the entire fucking planet gives a rat's ass about what they are doing on a blow-by-blow basis?

People are dying in wars in Africa and Asia. People here at home are hanging onto their homes by their fingernails. We have a budget crisis unlike anything that's ever come before, coupled with an economic disaster the size of the universe and you mean to tell me the most interesting thing you can think of is some friend missed brushing his teeth this morning????

My god, and then you wonder how the hell the Republican party remains relevant to the national dialogue?

The folks at Twitter will tell you this is just another means of "staying connected".

Right. Maybe that's a really bad idea? Maybe the ability of someone to instantly beam that they've just masturbated to your phone or e-mail is invasive, nasty, and just too much information? Maybe the idea that I need to know what my Congresscritter's thoughts on bass fishing is a bad one?

I'm sure, if used properly, Twitter makes sense. Maybe if you are keeping track of some sales agents in the field or something. But here's the thing: we're humans. We don't USE things properly. We alter them, distort them, and customize them to how we see fit.

And so you have enormous amounts of bandwidth wasted on messages that tell the rest of the planet "Hey! I'm eating pasta for dinner!"

My god, how lonely do you have to be to send that? Worse, how lonely do you have to be to read that?

The Republicans have jumped on the Twitter
like flies to shit, and here's why: you can soundbite your way to renown. You don't have to explain, you don't have to detail, you can send messages to your followers, errr, such as they are, without saying a whole lot.

In effect, Twittering is the American Idol of communication. Soft, plump, fluffy, and intrusive and ultimately without any merit or value and likely destructive in the long term. Like a marshmallow Rambo.

If there was no other reason available not to Twitter, the fact that the "Know Nothings" have jumped in with both feet should be enough to give you pause.

Now, I know I've just pissed off a bunch of people who I like and even respect, because I see Twits all over the place. They can consider this an intervention, if they like, a shaking at the shoulders and a slap across the face saying, "Good god, where is your humanity???"

Or if they want to continue in denial, then they can consider this the cranky rant of a crackpot. Either way, it makes no difference. I've got it off my chest, and I could do it in more than 140 characters.

(Cross-posted to
Simply Left Behind.)

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Those secret memos

By Mustang Bobby

The more I hear about those secret memos put out by the Bush administration's Department of Justice, the more creeped out I get:

The opinions reflected a broad interpretation of presidential authority, asserting as well that the president could unilaterally abrogate foreign treaties, ignore any guidance from Congress in dealing with detainees suspected of terrorism, and conduct a program of domestic eavesdropping without warrants.

Some of the positions had previously become known from statements of Bush administration officials in response to court challenges and Congressional inquiries. But taken together, the opinions disclosed Monday were the clearest illustration to date of the broad definition of presidential power approved by government lawyers in the months after the Sept. 11 attacks.


The opinion authorizing the military to operate domestically was dated Oct. 23, 2001, and written by John C. Yoo, at the time a deputy assistant attorney general in the Office of Legal Counsel, and Robert J. Delahunty, a special counsel in the office. It was directed to Alberto R. Gonzales, then the White House counsel, who had asked whether Mr. Bush could use the military to combat terrorist activities inside the United States.

The use of the military envisioned in the Yoo-Delahunty reply appears to transcend by far the stationing of troops to keep watch at streets and airports, a familiar sight in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks. The memorandum discussed the use of military forces to carry out “raids on terrorist cells” and even seize property.

“The law has recognized that force (including deadly force) may be legitimately used in self-defense,” Mr. Yoo and Mr. Delahunty wrote to Mr. Gonzales. Therefore any objections based on the Fourth Amendment’s ban on unreasonable searches are swept away, they said, since any possible privacy offense resulting from such a search is a lesser matter than any injury from deadly force.

The Oct. 23 memorandum also said that “First Amendment speech and press rights may also be subordinated to the overriding need to wage war successfully.” It added that “the current campaign against terrorism may require even broader exercises of federal power domestically.”

I realize that these memos were considered to be just the neo-con musings of people like Mr. Yoo and that every administration has drawn up contingency plans for every circumstance from the tragic -- such as nuclear attacks on Washington, D.C. -- to the farcical -- such as invading Canada. But given the behavior and the cavalier attitude the Bush administration demonstrated against civil rights and freedoms all in the name of fighting "terrorism" -- as if a tactic was the enemy -- makes me feel that there were certain members of the Bush White House who would not object to warrantless arrests and military occupation, and those people weren't just lawyers jerking off to pictures of Jack Bauer on 24; I'm sure Karl Rove and Dick Cheney could defend them without breaking a sweat.

Apparently they had some second thoughts about these paeans to tyranny because a week before the Bush administration left office, one of the lawyers made an attempt to say "never mind" and repudiate them:

In a memorandum dated this Jan. 15, five days before President George W. Bush left office, a top Justice Department official wrote that those opinions had not been relied on since 2003. But the official, Steven G. Bradbury, who headed the Office of Legal Counsel, said it was important to acknowledge in writing “the doubtful nature of these propositions,” and he used the memo to repudiate them formally.

Mr. Bradbury said in his memo that the earlier ones had been a product of lawyers’ confronting “novel and complex questions in a time of great danger and under extraordinary time pressure.”

Somehow that doesn't make me feel any better, and if there is any justice, somebody -- or some body, like the United States Congress -- should look into them.

The neo-cons will say that in the face of nameless, faceless terrorists who hate freedom and want to destroy our way of life, all bets are off. Really? Look in the mirror.

(Cross-posted from Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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Interesting Pearlstein editorial today

By LindaBeth

Today's column by Steven Pearlstein in the WaPo puts the "goodness" and "badness" of government debt in perspective, and it is an interesting read:

Don't get me wrong: The fact that households and businesses and banks are deleveraging and beginning to live within their means is a good thing. But it would be even better if everyone weren't doing it all at the same time, because the effect is to badly undermine consumer and investor confidence and raise the risk that markets will spin out of control and overshoot on the way down just as they overshot on the way up.

And that's where the government comes in. For if the government is increasing its borrowing, its spending and its lending at the very moment that everyone else is cutting back, it has the salutory effect of slowing down and smoothing out the adjustment process, reducing the risk of a vicious downward spiral that leads to a decade-long depression. Let the private sector adjust first and get itself back into balance. Then when the economy begins to grow again, it will be the ideal time for the government to deleverage and put its financial house in order.

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