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The Culture Warriors Get Laid Off

Monday, March 16, 2009

By Frank Rich
The New York Times

SOMEDAY we’ll learn the whole story of why George W. Bush brushed off that intelligence briefing of Aug. 6, 2001, “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.” But surely a big distraction was the major speech he was readying for delivery on Aug. 9, his first prime-time address to the nation. The subject — which Bush hyped as “one of the most profound of our time” — was stem cells. For a presidency in thrall to a thriving religious right (and a presidency incapable of multi-tasking), nothing, not even terrorism, could be more urgent.

When Barack Obama ended the Bush stem-cell policy last week, there were no such overheated theatrics. No oversold prime-time address. No hysteria from politicians, the news media or the public. The family-values dinosaurs that once stalked the earth — Falwell, Robertson, Dobson and Reed — are now either dead, retired or disgraced. Their less-famous successors pumped out their pro forma e-mail blasts, but to little avail. The Republican National Committee said nothing whatsoever about Obama’s reversal of Bush stem-cell policy. That’s quite a contrast to 2006, when the party’s wild and crazy (and perhaps transitory) new chairman, Michael Steele, likened embryonic stem-cell research to Nazi medical experiments during his failed Senate campaign.

What has happened between 2001 and 2009 to so radically change the cultural climate? Here, at last, is one piece of good news in our global economic meltdown: Americans have less and less patience for the intrusive and divisive moral scolds who thrived in the bubbles of the Clinton and Bush years. Culture wars are a luxury the country — the G.O.P. included — can no longer afford....(Click for remainder).


West Virginia Senate OKs Gay-Rights Bill

By Alison Knezevich
The Charleston Gazette

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginians would be protected from discrimination based on their sexual orientation under a bill passed Friday by state senators.

Last year, the Senate unanimously passed similar legislation, which adds sexual orientation to West Virginia's existing civil rights laws, but on Friday, seven Republicans and three Democrats opposed it.

The bill (SB238) would protect people from being fired or denied housing because of their orientation. Speaking in support of the legislation, Senate Judiciary Chairman Jeff Kessler asked his colleagues to remember the Biblical command to "love thy neighbor as thyself."

"That Golden Rule is nothing more than treating people with dignity, fairness and respect," Kessler said. "Nothing more, nothing less."

The Marshall County Democrat described his regret about not standing up for a bullied classmate when he was a child.

Years later, "he looked at me and said, 'Why didn't you make [the bully] stop? Why didn't you help?'" Kessler said. "I didn't have the courage."

Sen. Erik Wells, D-Kanawha, pointed out that the Senate unanimously passed "a stronger version of this bill" last session. This year's version exempts religious institutions.

Others characterized the issue as an economic one.

Sen. Brooks McCabe, D-Kanawha, said many corporations - including Toyota, Verizon and Dow Chemical Co. - have policies barring discrimination based on sexual orientation....(Click for remainder).


Lawmaker Launches Assault on Science Ed

By Texas Freedom Network

UPDATE: Don’t just stew in frustration. Do something about it.
As we have battled anti-evolution extremists on the Texas State Board of Education over the past year, we knew that a legislative assault on science was inevitable. On Friday, the last day for filing legislation at the Texas Capitol, a far-right lawmaker from East Texas filed the bill we’ve been expecting.

House Bill 4224 by state Rep. Wayne Christian, R-Center, is a full frontal assault on science education in Texas. The bill would open the door to teaching public school students almost any cockamamie concept that any crackpot wants to portray as “science,” regardless of what mainstream scientists and school administrators have to say about it.

The bill inserts directly into the Texas Education Code a requirement that students learn “strengths and weaknesses” of scientific theories. It also forbids any governmental entity from stopping a teacher who offers just about any argument he or she wants against a scientific theory so long as the teacher portrays it as based on “scientific evidence and information.”

The bill doesn’t mention evolution specifically, but that hardly matters — creationists have been trying for years to use such a requirement to force public schools to teach pseudoscientific “weaknesses” of evolution. The anti-evolution Discovery Institute specializes in promoting such arguments, even though mainstream scientists long ago debunked them.

But this bill’s potential consequences go far beyond what students could learn about evolution. What if, for example, a teacher decides to teach students that there is scientific evidence that Earth really doesn’t revolve around the sun after all? The teacher could point to a Web site — — that makes that very argument. He or she could also point to state Rep. Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, who in 2007 endorsed and circulated a memo to fellow Texas lawmakers that promoted the Web site. Rep. Christian’s bill, if it passes, would prevent school district administrators from doing anything about the teacher and the nonsense he or she would be teaching....(Click for remainder).


Obama Takes On Market-Based Government

The GOP fetish for outsourcing deserved to be repudiated.

By Thomas Frank
The Tilting Yard @ The Wall Street Journal

In a little-noted passage of a mostly ignored speech, President Barack Obama said last week that the government faced "a real choice between investments that are designed to keep the American people safe and those that are designed to make a defense contractor rich."

It was notice, amid all the caterwauling over Mr. Obama's stimulus package, that the president meant to put the kibosh on the GOP's favorite method for spreading the wealth around. A prize ox of the conservative ascendancy was about to be gored.

Under the administration of George W. Bush, you will recall, federal spending grew pretty significantly. At the same time, the number of people directly employed by the federal government shrank. One of the factors that explained the difference was contracting. Guided by Mr. Bush's dictum that "government should be market-based," federal operations under his administration were encouraged to outsource wherever they could.

Indeed, agencies were graded on how many of their duties they opened to private-sector competition. By 2005, according numbers published by Paul C. Light of New York University, contractor employees outnumbered federal workers four to one.

The new system was supposed to save money; it almost certainly hasn't. It was supposed to deliver quality; instead we witnessed the most spectacular government failures in years.

Politically, though, it did its job. For government workers, a class of citizens despised above all others in conservative mythology, the results were predictably dispiriting. For favored contractors and their lobbyists, on the other hand, the Bush years were a boom time like no other. Certain branches of the government, as per Mr. Obama's description, seemed designed merely to shovel money into contractors' pockets, and the revolving door between government and the companies that did its work spun like a giant roulette wheel....(Click for remainder).


Cheney’s Tortured Logic

By Daphne Eviatar
The Washington Independent

I don’t know if former Vice President Dick Cheney just misses being in the spotlight, or if he actually believes the stuff he spews on television these days, but he conveniently skipped over at least one important problem when he told CNN’s “State of the Union” today that President Obama’s changes to the Bush administration’s anti-terrorism policies has made Americans “less safe”: we now can’t prosecute all those terrorists tortured with Cheney’s approval.

I know Cheney isn’t a lawyer, and neither was President George W. Bush, which is maybe why they leaned so heavily and easily on the more bizarre opinions from former Office Of Legal Counsel lawyer John Yoo and his colleagues to justify what Cheney today called “alternative” interrogation tactics — such as vicious beatings, sleep deprivation, simulated drowning, hanging, temperature extremes, food deprivation, threats against prisoners’ families, and blaring rap music 24 hours a day.

But it’s a pretty big omission to forget that when you torture people, you have a really hard time holding them accountable for anything later on. That’s true even if you create your own special court — like the U.S. military commission implemented by the Bush administration.

Remember Mohammed al-Qahtani, the alleged 20th hijacker on Sept. 11? Susan Crawford, the Pentagon official responsible for charging terror suspects on behalf of the military commissions, had to withdraw the charges against him, even before he faced a military commission, because he’d been tortured — in accordance with Cheney’s policies. His confession was therefore inherently unreliable, Crawford ruled. Apparently, the government had also failed to get any other usable evidence against him....(Click for remainder).


DARPA to Explore Geoengineering

By Eli Kintisch
AAAS Science Magazine

An official advisory group to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is convening an unclassified meeting next week to discuss geoengineering, ScienceInsider has learned. DARPA is the latest in a number of official science funding agencies or top scientific societies that are exploring the controversial idea. But one leading advocate of the work opposes the military developing geoengineering techniques.

The 1-day meeting, to be held Wednesday at Stanford University, will be led by University of Illinois Urbana-Champlaign engineering professor Bill King under the auspices of the Defense Sciences Research Council, which advises DARPA. An agenda for the unpublicized event viewed by ScienceInsider listed top researchers who have studied geoengineering as speakers, including geochemist Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie Institution for Science and astrophysicist Gregory Benford of University of California-Irvine.

More and more prominent climate and energy scientists have expressed support for studies into various geoengineering approaches, such as sequestering carbon in the ocean by growing large swaths of algae.

And in the last 6 months top institutions have launched efforts to study the subject. The U.K. Royal Society has a study due out in the summer; the U.S. National Academies is hosting a workshop in the summer as well. The semi-secret JASONS group will be discussing the topic in a session in the coming months; the British Parliament has a commission examining whether the U.K. government should fund research into the matter....(Click for remainder).


The success of drug decriminalization in Portugal

By Glenn Greenwald

In 2001, Portugal became the only EU-member state to decriminalize drugs, a distinction which continues through to the present. Last year, working with the Cato Institute, I went to that country in order to research the effects of the decriminalization law (which applies to all substances, including cocaine and heroin) and to interview both Portuguese and EU drug policy officials and analysts (the central EU drug policy monitoring agency is, by coincidence, based in Lisbon). Evaluating the policy strictly from an empirical perspective, decriminalization has been an unquestionable success, leading to improvements in virtually every relevant category and enabling Portugal to manage drug-related problems (and drug usage rates) far better than most Western nations that continue to treat adult drug consumption as a criminal offense.

On April 3, at 12:00 noon, at the Cato Institute in Washington, I'll be presenting the 50-page report I wrote for Cato, entitled Drug Decriminalization in Portugal. Following my presentation, a supporter of drug criminalization laws -- Peter Reuter, a Professor in the University of Maryland's Department of Criminology -- will comment on the report (and I'll be able to comment after that), and then there will be a Q-and-A session with the audience. The event is open to the public and free of charge. Details and registration are here at Cato's site, where the event can also be watched live online (and, possibly, on C-SPAN).

There is clearly a growing recognition around the world and even in the U.S. that, strictly on empirical grounds, criminalization approaches to drug usage and, especially, the "War on Drugs," are abject failures, because they worsen the exact problems they are ostensibly intended to address. "Strictly on empirical grounds" means excluding from the assessment: (a) ideological questions regarding the legitimacy of imprisoning adults for consuming drugs they choose to consume; (b) the evisceration of Constitutional and civil liberties wrought by drug criminalization; and (c) the extraordinary sums of money devoted to the War on Drugs both domestically and internationally....(Click for remainder).


Right-Wing Whack-a-Doodle Peterson Outs Obama as a Corrupt Socialist

By Kyle
Right Wing Watch (People for the American Way)

Jesse Lee Peterson of the Brotherhood Organization of a New Destiny (BOND) is one of those right-wing fringe figures who is, in general, taken seriously by absolutely nobody (with the exception of Sean Hannity).

Peterson, who is black, has carved out a niche for himself as an outspoken foe of racism ... or rather, an outspoken foe of black racism which, in his view, is the same thing as being a Democrat, like when he declares that Barack Obama was elected president thanks to the votes of "black racists and white guilty people" and proclaims that black ministers who supported Obama were leading their congregations straight to hell.

Conversely, when it comes to white racism, Peterson tends to serve primarily an apologist for the likes of Michael Richards or Duane “Dog” Chapman.

Today, Peterson announced that he is branching out beyond his niche a bit and will soon set out on a nationwide tour to expose Barack Obama for the socialist and "supremely corrupt individual" that he is:
BOND Action, Inc., has launched the "Stop Obama's Socialist Change" Campaign and Tour to educate and inform the American public about Barack Obama's dangerous socialist agenda. The campaign includes a nationwide speaking tour and web campaign to reach out to colleges, organizations, and individual Americans across the country.

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson, Founder of BOND Action said, "I agree with Rush Limbaugh and I too want Barack Obama to fail in implementing his socialist agenda! With his cold and calculated plan to destroy our free market system, and his corrupt, dangerous appointments -- Obama has come out of the closet! He's launched an all-out assault on capitalism, American values, and the middle class. Our goal is to challenge and expose Obama's dangerous plan and rally the American people," added Rev. Peterson.
(Click for remainder).


The Unwanted Return of Marilyn Musgrave

By Kyle
Right Wing Watch (People for the American Way)

After getting tossed out of office last November, Marilyn Musgrave disappeared from the scene, refusing to congratulate her opponent or even concede defeat and instead went AWOL.

But she has now resurfaced, having hooked-up with the Susan B. Anthony List as the face of their new effort that intends to target members of Congress who do not share the group’s anti-choice agenda.

David Brody has the scoop along with an interview with Musgrave in which she proclaims it “a new day in politics for the pro-life movement”:

The new project is called “Votes Have Consequences” and the group has brought former U.S. Congresswoman Marilyn Musgrave on board as the project’s Director and to raise money for it.

"Votes do have consequence and this project is going to make sure we are not always on the defensive. We're going into districts where individuals are vulnerable and we're just going to make sure people know how these individuals have voted and what their record is."

"We're going to be assertive. We're going to be aggressive and this is a new day in politics for the pro-life movement."

The Susan B. Anthony List will be targeting certain members of Congress who are out of step with their district on the life issue. No specific Congressmen have been identified yet but the group plans to launch an aggressive TV, Radio and print campaign against them very soon. They don’t want to wait until 2010. They believe the issue needs to be addressed right away because pro-life groups have all too often taken a back seat approach to getting involved early in congressional races.

(Click for remainder).


Union Official: Don't Assume Specter Is The Only Republican We Have On EFCA

By Sam Stein
The Huffington Post

News that Sen. Arlen Specter will face a primary challenge for the 2010 Senate race has prompted a bit of concern among those hoping that he would serve as a moderate, bi-partisan ally for Democrats in Congress.

On the Employee Free Choice Act in particular, Specter has been labor's highest-profile GOP target, having been the only Republican senator to cross party lines when the legislation was considered in last year's Congress. With the wrath of a primary challenger upon him, the possibility of Specter recanting on his previous position has become a bit firmer.

Alas, labor officials aren't that concerned, saying they may not even need Specter in order to get a 60th vote for cloture. Asked about how a primary campaign in Pennsylvania could affect the future of EFCA, AFL-CIO spokesman Eddie Vale referred the Huffington Post to a recent conference call in which the union's director of government affairs, Bill Samuel, said that people "should not assume" that Specter is the only Republican who might vote for cloture.

Another labor official, when asked to speculate on the matter, offered this: "Business was so busy trying to harass Pryor, Lincoln, and Landrieu, they forgot to tend to their own backyard."

If, in fact, Democrats have the support of another Republican senator on EFCA it would go a long way towards ensuring the legislation's passage. It would also bolster claims - as made by several union officials - that the labor community is very confident that it has the 60 votes needed for cloture.

Who could that second Republican be? The chatter among those following this debate seems centered around Sen. Lisa Murkowski in Alaska and, to a far lesser extent, one of the two moderates in Maine. All of which is not to say that the whip-counters in union shops are writing Specter off....(Click for remainder).


Hoping the GOP Gets Its Act Together

By Alec Baldwin
The Huffington Post

I am an actor and someone employed in the entertainment business. I have my own opinions about how this government should be run and how disgracefully it has been run by both parties. I want to give it as hard as I can to those who willingly seek political roles and disgrace their office and, conversely, commend those who, in my opinion, behave commendably. I express those opinions un-self-consciously while never believing for one minute that they will influence anyone or anything. I do it as an American. For me, it's an American thing.

I am not the head of my Party.

Rush Limbaugh is an uneducated, marginally talented, overbearing, recovering drug addict who was, at least according to Wikipedia, ineligible for the draft because he had cysts on his ass.

I have dear friends of mine who represent real Republicans. Goldwater Republicans. Strong on defense. Tough on immigration. Fiscal conservatives. Not the bullshit Reagan wing of the party which, along with Clinton killing Glass-Steagall, brought us to where we are today.

My friends who are these real Republicans (not hypocritical evangelicals who are too lazy to raise their own children properly so, therefore, insist that all public institutions and policies bend to their will to make that job easier) do not listen to Limbaugh. They don't care what he says. They think he is an amusing entertainer. Like most progressives I know are well aware how hit-and-miss Michael Moore can be and, ultimately view him as an entertainer and don't give a damn what he says....(Click for remainder).


DNC: GoP Playing Politics in South Carolina


Democratic Bill Would Crack Down On Voter Caging

By Zachary Roth
TPM Muckraker

The 2008 election may be over, but the voter suppression wars that went along with it certainly aren't.

Eleven Democratic senators led by Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island today introduced a bill designed to make GOP operatives think twice about launching indiscriminate challenges on people's right to vote. The bill would outlaw challenges to voting eligibility that are based on unreliable information.

The bill appears targeted at the GOP's "caging" tactic -- in one manifestation of which, Republicans in Michigan and other states considered challenging the eligibility of voters who were on a list of people whose homes were subject to foreclosure.

It would also appear to cover the GOP effort we reported on in New Mexico last fall, in which the state party publicly announced its intention to challenge 28 mostly Hispanic voters, based on a grab-bag of suspicions. All of those voters were later shown to be valid.

Whitehouse said of the bill:
Last year's historic election proved that the right of an eligible voter to cast his or her vote is essential to our democracy.
The full press release, featuring quotes from many of the other senators, follows after the jump ... (Click for remainder).


Dateline Follows Police Evicting Families From Their Homes

From Dateline NCB and Chris Hansen. Extremely emotional.



Will President Obama's Economic Team Lead Him Off a Cliff?

By Robert Kuttner
The Huffington Post

In the past two weeks, political support for the Tim Geithner/Larry Summers approach to solving the banking crisis has been unraveling in Congress, with blistering criticism from legislators of both parties.

The financial danger is that the Treasury will burn through the money approved by Congress without fixing the system. The political danger is that Republicans will posture as the populists, expressing faux-indignation that so much taxpayer money has gone to Wall Street. The overarching risk to Obama's presidency is that the plan won't work, and his political capital will evaporate along with the financial capital.

There is a whole other path to repairing the banking system, and a whole other set of experts, equally brilliant and better in touch with financial realities. But their unfiltered views are not reaching the president. This loyal opposition, of which more shortly, is not limited to lefties; it spans the ideological spectrum.

Though the details are numbingly technical (and deliberately mystified both by the investment bankers and their allies at the Treasury), the basics of what's wrong with the banking system and how to fix it are, at bottom, very simple.

After all, what do banks do? They take in deposits and they put out loans and make other investments.

In the past decade, far too many of the banks' investments were far too speculative. They lost vast sums, which now exceed the value of their capital. In plain English, they are insolvent....(Click for remainder).


New Mexico legislature votes to repeal the death penalty

New Mexico could be the 15th US state to outlaw capital punishment if the governor signs the bill into law

By Associated Press
via The Guardian UK

The state legislature voted today to repeal the death penalty, meaning New Mexico could become the 15th US state not to have capital punishment if the governor signs the bill into law.

Governor Bill Richardson has opposed a repeal in the past, but now says he would consider signing it. "I haven't made a final decision," the governor said this week.

The state senate voted 24-18 today in favour of the bill, which replaces capital punishment with a sentence of life without parole. The house approved it a month ago.

New Mexico, one of 36 states with capital punishment, has two men on death row whose sentences would not be affected by repeal.

The state has executed one man since 1960, convicted child killer Terry Clark in 2001.

New Jersey banned executions in 2007, the first state to do so since the US supreme court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.

Opponents of the death penalty said it does not deter murder and is administered unfairly, and that there's a risk of executing innocent people.

"As beautiful as our justice system is ... it is still a justice system of human beings, and human beings make mistakes," state senator Cisco McSorley, a Democrat from Albuquerque, said during nearly three hours of debate.

Death penalty supporters objected that murderers sentenced to life without parole could end up in the general prison population, and argued that locking up murderers for life could imperil corrections officers....(Click for remainder).


It Didn't Work Last Time

By Steve Benen
Washington Monthly

In a couple of months, "Angels and Demons" will make its way from best-selling novel to big summer movie. The story is a little convoluted, but it's basically the story of a Harvard symbologist, played by Tom Hanks, running around Rome in a face off against the Illuminati. "Angels and Demons" is a prequel of sorts to "The Da Vinci Code," and I'm sure plenty of people will go see it.

For Bill Donohue and the Catholic League, that's the problem.
The Catholic League plans to do battle with the Ron Howard pic "Angels and Demons" -- even though the org's crusade against Sony's 2006 "The Da Vinci Code" may have actually helped that film earn a huge $758 million worldwide.

Claiming the project has an anti-Catholic agenda, the league announced on Monday that it will send several news releases discussing what it says are falsehoods in Dan Brown's book and Howard's pic, which bows on May 15.
Donohue is even selling a "pamphlet" responding to the not-yet-released movie for $5 a pop.

Now, it's generally difficult to know whether Donohue is genuinely concerned about a movie or is looking to generate some publicity for himself. If the Catholic League is sincere about undermining "Angels and Demons," I would have thought the experiences of three years ago would have been more illustrative.

Consider the almost identical scenario in 2006. "The Da Vinci Code," another Dan Brown novel-turned-movie, became the target of considerable religious right ire. Focus on the Family, the Catholic League, assorted conservative bishops and columnists, and all kinds of Christian activists blasted the movie at every available opportunity. The movie proceeded to make three-quarters of a billion dollars worldwide, despite weak reviews. Sure, the book was a best-seller, and was bound to do well at the box office anyway, but the right's constant complaining gave the film added publicity and likely sparked additional interest....(Click for remainder).


Army fired 11 soldiers in Jan. as openly gay

By Anne Flaherty
Associated Press via San Francisco Chronicle

WASHINGTON, (AP) -- The Army fired 11 soldiers in January for violating the military's policy that gay service members must keep their sexuality hidden, according to a Virginia congressman. Democratic Rep. Jim Moran said he has requested monthly updates from the Pentagon on the impact of the policy until it is repealed.

In a statement released on Thursday, Moran said the discharged soldiers included an intelligence collector, a military police officer, four infantry personnel, a health care specialist, a motor-transport operator and a water-treatment specialist.

"How many more good soldiers are we willing to lose due to a bad policy that makes us less safe and secure?" asked Moran, a member of the House panel that oversees military spending.

The Pentagon's "don't ask, don't tell" policy was instituted after President Bill Clinton tried to lift the ban on gay service members in 1993. It refers to the military practice of not asking recruits their sexual orientation. In turn, service members are banned from saying they are gay or bisexual, engaging in homosexual activity or trying to marry a member of the same sex.

The military discharged nearly 10,000 service members under the policy in a 10-year period, from 1997 to 2007. The number fired each year dropped sharply after the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, when forces were stretched thin. Whereas more than 1,200 were dismissed in 2000 and again in 2001 for violating the policy, about half as many — 627 — were fired in 2007....(Click for remainder).


AIG Bonuses Are Unconscionable - Congress Will Examine Legal Options to Recover Taxpayer Funds

By Speaker Nancy Pelosi

While American workers see their wages decline and face record job losses, it is unconscionable that AIG, which is receiving more than $170 billion in government assistance, would permit such extravagant executive compensation practices without any accountability to the taxpayer.

I have asked Chairman Barney Frank of the House Financial Services Committee to examine options that are legally available to recover taxpayer funds of companies that abuse the privilege of taxpayer assistance.

I call upon the executives at AIG to right the wrong they have done to American taxpayers, who are footing the bill for the most expensive government rescue in history. They should renounce the bonuses and refuse the excessive retention pay they previously agreed to.

Congress, working with the Obama Administration, has put in place tough executive compensation and responsibility measures to ensure that taxpayers are protected and we will continue to take all action necessary to ensure transparency and accountability.

(Click for original).


WPost Is a Neocon Propaganda Sheet

For Americans who hear the name Washington Post and still think of “All the President’s Men” – brave journalists and editors facing down a corrupt President – today’s version of the newspaper would be a sad disappointment, a betrayal of a noble past.

By Robert Parry
Consortium News

Over the last three decades, the Post has evolved into a neoconservative propaganda sheet, especially its opinion section which fronted for George W. Bush’s false Iraq-WMD claims, led the long-term bashing of Iraq War critics, and defends whatever actions the Israeli government takes, including the recent war in Gaza and apparently its desire to preemptively bomb Iran.

Rather than a newspaper committed to the truth and favoring a broad debate about important issues, the Washington Post has become an enforcement mechanism for a neocon-dominated Establishment, setting the parameters for permissible points of view and twisting facts for that purpose.

A recent example of this enforcement role was its March 12 lead editorial trashing former U.S. Ambassador Charles “Chas” Freeman for issuing a two-page statement pointing out that his nomination to serve as a top intelligence analyst had been torpedoed by Washington’s powerful Israel Lobby.

To the Post’s editors, however, there apparently is no Israel Lobby; there has been no large-scale organized effort to bend U.S. foreign policy to the interests of Israeli governments over the years. Even the suggestion that such a body exists is a sign of delusion, bigotry and a conspiratorial mindset.

The Post editorial entitled “Blame the ‘Lobby’” declared that “Mr. Freeman issued a two-page screed … in which he described himself as the victim of a shadowy and sinister ‘Lobby’ whose ‘tactics plumb the depths of dishonor and indecency’ and which is ‘intent on enforcing adherence to the policies of a foreign government.’ Yes, Mr. Freeman was referring to Americans who support Israel – and his statement was a grotesque libel.”...(Click for remainder).


The Real Scandal of AIG

By Robert Reich
Robert Reich's Blog

The real scandal of AIG isn't just that American taxpayers have so far committed $170 billion to the giant insurer because it is thought to be too big to fail -- the most money ever funneled to a single company by a government since the dawn of capitalism -- nor even that AIG's notoriously failing executives, at the very unit responsible for the catastrophic credit-default swaps at the very center of the debacle, are planning to give themselves over $100 million in bonuses. The scandal is that even at this late date, even in a new administration dedicated to doing it all differently, Americans still have so little say over what is happening with our money.

The administration is said to have been outraged when it heard of the bonus plan last week. Apparently Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner told AIG's chairman, Edward Liddy (who was installed at the insistence of the Treasury, in the first place) that the bonuses should not be paid. But it turns out that most will be paid anyway, because, according to AIG, the firm is legally obligated to pay them. The bonuses are part of employee contracts negotiated before the bailouts. And, in any event, Liddy explained, AIG needs to be able to retain talent.

AIG's arguments are absurd on their face. Had AIG gone into chapter 11 bankruptcy or been liquidated, as it would have without government aid, no bonuses would ever be paid (they would have had a lower priority under bankruptcy law that AIG's debts to other creditors); indeed, AIG's executives would have long ago been on the street. And any mention of the word "talent" in the same sentence as "AIG" or "credit default swaps" would be laughable if laughing weren't already so expensive....(Click for remainder).


Memo that told Blair aides Saddam Hussein posed no imminent threat

Intelligence experts explicitly warned Tony Blair's aides that Britain was not in "imminent danger of attack" from Saddam Hussein, a confidential memo revealed today.

By Paul Waugh
The Evening Standard UK

The row over claims that the Government "spun" its way into war with Iraq is likely to be reignited after the release of the document by the Cabinet Office.

The memo, released after a long-running Freedom of Information battle, shows Mr Blair's officials knew seven years ago that the threat from Saddam was not immediate.

Despite the warning, the Government's dossier on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction included a claim that Baghdad was ready to launch an attack within "45 minutes".

Lord Hutton cleared the Government in 2004 of the charge that it tried to manipulate intelligence to pave the way for war.

But today Whitehall released a memo from former Cabinet Office defence expert Desmond Bowen, who later won promotion to policy director at the Ministry of Defence, which shows he disagreed Saddam posed an immediate threat.

The September 2002 memo, written to then Joint Intelligence Committee chairman John Scarlett and copied to Alastair Campbell, provides comments on an early draft of the government dossier on Iraq.

Mr Bowen wrote: "The question which we have to have in the back of our mind is 'why now?' I think we have moved away from promoting the idea that we are in imminent danger of attack and therefore intend to act in a pre-emptive self defence."

Another email published today underlines ministers' focus on how to get their message across in the media.

A memo from then Foreign Secretary Jack Straw's office stresses the dossier had to be shown on the Sky News video "wall".

The email from Mr Straw's private secretary Mark Sedwill suggests the dossier needed a "very simple table".

Mr Sedwill wrote: "This should be brief enough to get onto the Sky wall ie no more than 5 bullets."

Another email, apparently from an intelligence official, says a part of the dossier on chemical and biological weapons would be "likely to give a misleading impression"....(Click for remainder).



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