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Times Confirms Democrat Tried to Stop Wiretapping Story, Possibly Before 2004 Election

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

By John Byrne
The Raw Story


The New York Times confirmed late Monday that a top Democratic congresswoman called the paper in 2004 and tried to keep it from publishing an article exposing the Bush Administration’s warrantless wiretapping program — possibly helping to sway the balance in the 2004 presidential election.

The New York Times exposed the warrantless wiretapping program in 2005, revealing that the National Security Agency had engaged in the interception of thousands of American and foreign calls without a warrant as part of a program intended to disrupt terrorist plots. Upon running the story, they also admitted that they had withheld the article for a year at the urging of Bush Administration officials.

But buried in a Times article published Tuesday is the revelation that the top Democratic congresswoman on the House Intelligence Committee, Jane Harman (D-CA), called the paper’s Washington, D.C. editor in “October or November” of 2004 in an effort to quash the story.

“Bill Keller, the executive editor of The Times, said in a statement Monday that Ms. Harman called Philip Taubman, then the Washington bureau chief of The Times, in October or November of 2004,” the Times writes. “Mr. Keller said she spoke to Mr. Taubman — apparently at the request of Gen. Michael V. Hayden, then the N.S.A. director — and urged that The Times not publish the article.”

“She did not speak to me,” Keller said in a statement, “and I don’t remember her being a significant factor in my decision.”...(Click for remainder.)

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Why is the Religious Right So Concerned About Protecting Its Right to Kill

By John Aravosis
AMERICAblog


I went to church this weekend. I don't go very often, but it was Greek Easter, and mom learned long ago how to successfully yank my chain (I believe, regarding going to church, she pulled the "do you want your mother to die thinking your soul is going to hell?") She's good. Anyway, despite our church's conservatism, anti-gay attitudes, and backwards thinking regarding the rights of women, one thing you'll never hear in a Greek church is bigotry and hatred. Church is about loving thy neighbor and doing what's right. It's not about voting against the stimulus package and stopping the gays.

That's my church. Unfortunately it's not the same church - nor the same God, I fear - that the religious right worships.

I've been following the radical right for about 15 years now, and they still never cease to amaze me. Perhaps it's because, at my core, I'm still a good Christian boy who wants to believe that even bad people contain a kernel of good.

Yeah, not so much.

To wit: The religious right's newest argument for opposing granting equal civil rights to gay Americans. If we grant gays equal rights, Baptists and Mormons may no longer be able to incite violence against gay Americans.

Seriously, that's their pitch....(Click for remainder.)

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Are the Republicans Going Galt?

By Nate Silver
FiveThirtyEight.com


Are Republicans turning into libertarians?

Last week's Tea Party protests had their origins in the libertarian movement. Although many conservative groups were eager to co-opt their purpose, the core of the message -- anti-tax, anti-big government -- was about as libertarian as it gets. Participation in the rallies was also proportionately quite high in areas like New Hampshire and the Interior West, which are traditionally more sympathetic toward libertarian concerns.

We can argue about the significance of the tea paries and we can argue about whether they represent the way forward for Republicans. But they are just one manifesation of what seems like an increasing drift toward libertariansim within the party. Consdier also:

-- A new Gallup survey suggests that 80 percent of Republicans think that big government is a bigger threat to the government than big business, versus just 10 percent who think the opposite. This represents an enormous partisan split from Democrats, among whom a majority think that big business is the greater threat. Moreover, the partisan split has grown significantly since 2006; it has now become almost a definitional issue for Republicans....(Click for remainder.)

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Gavin Newsom Officially Announces for Governor of California

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The Daily Left -- It's Official: No Prosecutions for Bush

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The Wall Street Whine: Goldman Sachs Edition

By Dean Baker
truthout


Lloyd Blankfein, the CEO of Goldman Sachs, is very upset with the TARP. Last fall, Mr. Blankfein borrowed $10 billion through the TARP at below market interest rates. Now, the government is starting to tie some real condition to this money, for example, by limiting what Goldman can pay its executives. Mr. Blankfein argues that such conditions are making it impossible to run his business and is now anxious to return the TARP money.

It is great to see that Goldman is finally prepared to go forward into the market without its government training wheels of TARP aid, but, unfortunately, Mr. Blankfein isn't yet confident enough in his business acumen to actually forego government assistance. Goldman Sachs has benefited and continues to benefit enormously from other forms of government aid.

For example, last fall Mr. Blankfein also took advantage of the opportunity to borrow $25 billion with an FDIC guarantee to his creditors. If this government guarantee reduced his borrowing costs by two percentage points, then it means that the taxpayers handed Goldman $500 million a year in lower interest costs.

Goldman Sachs also has the opportunity to borrow at several of the Federal Reserve Board's special lending facilities at below market interest rates. We don't know how much taxpayers have given Mr. Blankfein through this channel because the Fed won't tell us. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke's position is that when the Fed gives out money, the taxpayers just get to write the checks; taxpayers don't get to know where they went....(Click for remainder.)

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Der Radio 'Führer' G Gordon Liddy's Sexist Attack on Joan Walsh of Salon

By Jeremy Scahill
Rebel Reports


Right-wing radio host G Gordon Liddy of Watergate fame, who once advised people to “Go for a head shot” when shooting at agents from the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms because “they’re going to be wearing bulletproof vests,” is obviously a big criminal and idiot. But the latest manifestation of this idiocy is pretty priceless. Last week on CNN, Liddy debated Joan Walsh, the Editor in Chief of Salon.com, on the release of the Bush torture memos, which of course Liddy was against making public.

On his radio show on Monday, Liddy attacked Walsh in a disgusting, ignorant sexist rant in which he attributed her views on the issue and Liddy personally to it being “that time of the month.”

You really have to listen to the full clip, a link to which Liddy proudly posted on his Twitter account. By the way, it is hilarious that this clown even has a Twitter account given that he can’t seem to figure out what a “Salon” is on “teh Internets” and googles.

Liddy is totally perplexed who Walsh even is, saying “I’d guess you’d call her a blogger for Salon magazine.” He then asks his “internet expert” what Salon is, asking, “this is sort of a glorified blog?” The conversation that transpires is like listening to two Martians landing on earth for the first time and attempting to figure out what a tree is.

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The Torture Memos: Berlin, 1937 Edition

By Shayana Kadidal
The Huffington Post


The problem: The nation has been on a war footing for years. Elected leaders believe it is full of sleeper cells of subversives. Officials in the capital decide that torture should be applied to detained subversives (whether to spread terror among their fellows, extract intelligence, or produce confessions is unclear). But law enforcement officers are uneasy about applying "more rigorous interrogation" techniques. Although the judicial system doesn't seem to mind that defendants show up in court bearing obvious signs of torture, the officers are bureaucrats in a legal and political culture that has always esteemed the Rule of Law. (Indeed, the political party in charge was elected on a law-and-order platform.) What to do?

The solution: a confidential memorandum, the joint product of the highest officials in the intelligence and justice departments, setting forth in extraordinary detail when certain techniques could be applied, the specific equipment to be used in such interrogations, the number of times certain techniques could be used on certain categories of detainees, and so forth - and specifically promising immunity from prosecution when the rules are followed scrupulously.

The place: Not Washington, DC circa 2002-2005, but rather Nazi Germany, June 4, 1937....(Click for remainder.)

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Neocon Fantasies of Empire Crushed: the New Global Reality

Two disastrous wars and the economic meltdown have shaken America's superpower status. What can Obama do to help shape a sustainable global order?

By Mark Engler
Foreign Policy in Focus via AlterNet


Not long ago, excitement over American imperialism reached levels not seen in a century. "People are coming out of the closet on the word ‘empire,’" the right-wing columnist Charles Krauthammer told The New York Times in early 2002. Neoconservatives were on the rise in Washington, and their leading propagandists were not shy in making the case for aggressive expansionism.

Wall Street Journal editor Max Boot, for instance, took issue with Pat Buchanan’s belief that the United States should be a "republic, not an empire." "This analysis is exactly backward," Boot wrote. "[T]he Sept. 11 attack was a result of insufficient American involvement and ambition; the solution is to be more expansive in our goals and more assertive in their implementation." He added, "troubled lands today cry out for the sort of enlightened foreign administration once provided by self-confident Englishmen in jodphurs and pith helmets.”

It is hard to believe that those sentiments, hallmarks of George W. Bush’s first term, were features of our very recent history. The debate they were a part of now seems distinctly strange and foreign. Since then, the world has experienced a catastrophic occupation in Iraq, and voters have ousted the Republican vanguard of the "War on Terror." Overt defenders of imperialism have found good reason to creep back into their wardrobes.

And that, of course, is to say nothing of the bursting of the housing bubble, the fall of Lehman, and the end of the hedge fund era. With unemployment rising and Wall Street shamed, we have entered a period of economic downturn acute enough to raise serious questions about the viability of U.S. power. The pressing issue today is: How will the economic crisis affect our country’s role in the world? Or, more bluntly: Is America’s empire facing foreclosure?...(Click for remainder.)

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One Man's Pirate

By Mr. Fish


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Brussels: A City Divided Into Rich and Poor

Many immigrants cannot speak the multitude of languages required for many jobs in Brussels.

By Paul Ames
Global Post


BRUSSELS — The city that claims to be the capital of Europe may lack the romance of Paris or the glamour of Rome, but to most international visitors Brussels appears to be a prosperous, comfortable place, famed for its cozy bars and gourmet chocolate.

With its economy boosted by 30,000 well-paid European Union officials and an attendant army of lobbyists, campaigners, journalists and company executives, it’s no surprise that Brussels is one of the European Union’s richest regions.

Only inner London and Luxembourg are better off, according to data released in February by the EU’s statistics agency.

However, figures published just days before by the Eurostat hinted at a starkly different Brussels. The city has the highest unemployment rate in western Europe, at over 17 percent.

Within the EU, jobless lines are longer only in the overseas outposts of France and Spain and parts of the former East Germany.

“Brussels is a paradox, a rich city with a poor population, with neighborhoods where the inhabitants are for the most part unemployed,” explained Jean Faniel, an expert at Belgium’s Center for Socio-Political Research and Information.

“It’s a city divided,” Faniel told GlobalPost.

The Saint-Josse-ten-Noode neighborhood is a couple of blocks walk from the steel and glass monoliths that make up the EU headquarters, but it’s world away from the leafy suburbs to the south and east where most Eurocrats make their homes....(Click for remainder.)

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Limbaugh: Left-Wing Blogs Accused Me of Teabaggery

By Jed Lewison
Daily Kos


Is somebody developing a serious case of Glenn Beck-envy?

On this clip captured by Media Matters, a caller accuses Limbaugh, Fox News, and other radio hosts of hyping last week’s tea bag parties.

Limbaugh’s retort? That the caller was simple “regurgitating the drivel I have read on left-wing blogs” calling tea bag parties “nothing but a bunch of mind-numbed robots who were led there by svengalis and pied pipers like me. I had nothing to do with a single tea party.”

Actually, Rush, most of us left-wing bloggers completely ignored you last week. Are you getting jealous?




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TINFOIL HAT MOMENT -- Rove: Constitution, Christianity “one generation from going way”

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The Torture Debate--It's About Time

By Harry Shearer
The Huffington Post


Several years too late, we've been dragged kicking and screaming into what a democratic republic should be engaged in: a public debate on whether such a nation is ever well-advised to engage in the torture of captives. Of course, the motives adduced are always the best--we've been attacked, the government has to protect the country--but it's not the proclaimed motives that separate the most admirable countries in the world from the most despised, but the behavior in pursuit of those motives.

Buried in the rhetoric pro and con are a couple of facts which deserve wider exposure. First, as the New York Times reported, waterboarding was performed on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed 183 times in one month, and 83 times on Abu Zubaydah. Put aside the question about whether the CIA is hung up on the number 83. This technique, which the United States has prosecuted (as a war crime) both Japanese and American soldiers for using, is reputed to be so wickedly effective that only 35 seconds of it had Abu Zubaydah willing to tell interrogators everything he knew. We'll get to what he knew in a moment. But, if it's so instantly effective, why in the world would it need to be administered almost two-hundred times within a one-month period? It's either not as effective as advertised, or the practitioners had another reason for persisting....(Click for remainder.)

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Judge to Rule on Domestic Spying

By David Kravets
Threat Level @ Wired.com


A federal judge will rule on the merits of a legal challenge weighing whether a U.S. president may bypass Congress, as President George W. Bush did, and establish a program of eavesdropping on Americans without warrants.

U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker ruled similarly in January and February, but entertained and rejected (.pdf) a second Obama administration challenge late Friday that the case was barred by the state secrets doctrine. The government said the case threatened to harm national security.

Absent intervention from the U.S. Supreme Court, the case is the only lawsuit likely to litigate the merits of a challenge to Bush's secret eavesdropping program adopted in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terror attacks. A federal appeals court already rejected the Obama and Bush administration's bid to dismiss the case, despite government assertions the lawsuit might expose government secrets.

The Obama administration had threatened that it might disobey Walker's orders. However, Walker said the case would be litigated, even though the government said Walker had no authority to see the case through. The judge, in announcing he would decide the "merits" of the litigation, ruled the government must share classified data with opposing lawyers, who are gagged from disclosing its contents to the public....(Click for remainder.)

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Wiretap Recorded Rep. Harman Promising to Intervene for AIPAC

By Jeff Stein
CQ Politics


Rep. Jane Harman , the California Democrat with a longtime involvement in intelligence issues, was overheard on an NSA wiretap telling a suspected Israeli agent that she would lobby the Justice Department reduce espionage-related charges against two officials of the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee, the most powerful pro-Israel organization in Washington.

Harman was recorded saying she would "waddle into" the AIPAC case "if you think it'll make a difference," according to two former senior national security officials familiar with the NSA transcript.

(Join Jeff Stein for live Q&A about his column at 3:30 p.m., or submit a question for Jeff.)

In exchange for Harman's help, the sources said, the suspected Israeli agent pledged to help lobby Nancy Pelosi , D-Calif., then-House minority leader, to appoint Harman chair of the Intelligence Committee after the 2006 elections, which the Democrats were heavily favored to win.

Seemingly wary of what she had just agreed to, according to an official who read the NSA transcript, Harman hung up after saying, "This conversation doesn't exist."

Harman declined to discuss the wiretap allegations, instead issuing an angry denial through a spokesman.

"These claims are an outrageous and recycled canard, and have no basis in fact," Harman said in a prepared statement. "I never engaged in any such activity. Those who are peddling these false accusations should be ashamed of themselves."

It's true that allegations of pro-Israel lobbyists trying to help Harman get the chairmanship of the intelligence panel by lobbying and raising money for Pelosi aren't new.

They were widely reported in 2006, along with allegations that the FBI launched an investigation of Harman that was eventually dropped for a "lack of evidence."

What is new is that Harman is said to have been picked up on a court-approved NSA tap directed at alleged Israel covert action operations in Washington....(Click for remainder.)

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Al Qaeda Continues to Appear Nervous

By Steve Benen
Washington Monthly


A couple of months ago, President Obama noted that terrorist leaders "seem nervous" with the change in U.S. administrations. It seems al Qaeda leaders are intent on proving the president right.

In the latest example, Ayman al-Zawahri has begged Muslims not to like Obama, and tried to convince his audience that Obama is practically identical to George W. Bush.
"America came to us with a new face, with which it is trying to fool us. He is calling for change, but (he aims) to change us so that we abandon our religion and rights," Ayman al-Zawahri said in an audio recording on the website.

Zawahri said Obama's election was an acknowledgement that Bush's policy had failed.

"Obama did not change the image of America among Muslims...America is still killing Muslims," said the Egyptian militant leader.
Zawahri's public-relations panic fits in nicely with the larger trend (indeed, Zawahri was similarly defensive about Obama in early February). Al Qaeda leaders were able to exploit George W. Bush's policies to recruit, expand, and raise money. The terrorist network is now in a much tougher position, not only in light of Bush's departure, but also with Barack Obama's international popularity. The very last thing al Qaeda wanted was a U.S. president who enjoys global admiration -- and that's exactly what they're responding to....(Click for remainder.)

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It's the End of the World As They Know It

The American right appears to be going insane.  And over what?

By Paul Waldman
The American Prospect


Now that you've had an entire week to get over the trauma of filing your tax return, it might be a good time to step back from all the overheated rhetoric and acknowledge a few important facts about being American in these troubled times. No, we don't suffer under a terribly burdensome, confiscatory tax regime. And yes, our taxes actually buyus some pretty important stuff. But you'd never know that, given just how crazy the coming of April 15 makes some people. Depending on who's in the White House, that is.

I speak, of course, about the "tea parties" we saw last week, a happening destined for inclusion in the hall of fame of fabricated political oddities. To retell the story briefly: In February, a CNBC reporter and former commodities trader named Rick Santelli went on an on-air rant against the Obama administration for proposing to bail out homeowners in danger of foreclosure, saying that what was needed was a "Chicago tea party." Sensing the opportunity to harness populist anger, a number of conservative operatives specializing in "Astro Turf" organizing (highly coordinated, corporate-funded campaigns meant to give the impression they arose from the grass roots) began promoting "tea parties" on April 15 to protest, well, whatever anyone didn't like about the Obama administration but mostly our (allegedly) high taxes. Fox News then turned itself into a public-relations machine for the tea parties, engaging in naked political advocacy embarrassing even for them.

When the tea parties actually happened, though, there was something profoundly strange about them. Yes, somewhere around300,000 Americans attended one of the protests -- more people than could fit in my living room, perhaps, but pretty small considering there were hundreds of them all over the country, and they were vigorously promoted by a cable network and innumerable conservative talk-radio hosts. It wasn't just that the protests became a grab bag of conservative causes -- that certainly happens to the left at its protests But when it comes to the left, there's usually something specific at the heart of the event. You'll see some signs about racism and abortion at an anti-war rally, but everyone understands that the anti-war rally is about ending the war....(Click for remainder.)

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Obama and Chavez: What's Wrong With This Picture?



By Andy Ostroy
The Huffington Post


Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Let me repeat that one more time for our Chicken Little Republican friends. There is nothing wrong with this picture. And more importanly, the sky is not falling.

It's the handshake heard 'round the world. The infamous image of a smiling President Barack Obama greeting Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez last week at the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago. The handshake that sent conservatives into hissyfit high-gear.

Republican Sen. John Ensign (NV) said Sunday that it was "irresponsible" for Obama to be seen "laughing and joking" with the Venezuelan president. And former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said "This does look a lot like Jimmy Carter. Carter tried weakness and the world got tougher and tougher because the predators, the aggressors, the anti-Americans, the dictators, when they sense weakness, they all start pushing ahead."

In dismissing this irresponsible rhetoric Obama pointed to his victory in November which signaled that Americans wanted change; change from eight years of the Bush administration's reckless foreign policy. He said voters elected him to enjoin both friends and enemies alike into the peace process.

In discounting the "weakness" claims, Obama said "The American people didn't buy it. And there's a good reason the American people didn't buy it, because it doesn't make sense....It's unlikely that as a consequence of me shaking hands or having a polite conversation with Mr. Chavez that we are endangering the strategic interest of the United States."...(Click for remainder.)

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Republicans are More Popular than Cuba, Less Popular than Venezuela

By Matthew Yglesias
Think Progress


Chris Bowers has an interesting post that helps put the current right-wing freakout over shaking hands with Hugo Chavez in perspective. If you compare the favorable/unfavorable numbers on the GOP in the latest CNN poll and compare them to CNN’s recent survey of what Americans think about foreign countries you’ll see that there are more Venezuela fans in the United States than people who like the GOP:


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New Yorkers Support Same Sex Marriage

By DemFromCT
Daily Kos


Over the weekend, we looked at the developing narrative about same sex marriage (Republicans And Conservatives Torn On Gay Marriage.) It turns out that in NY State, a majority want Senate to pass a bill legalizing same sex marriages, and this is supported by a solid third of Republicans. The most supportive are the independents. From the Siena College poll:
By a 53-39 percent margin, voters support the Senate passing a bill to legalize same sex marriages that would virtually ensure its becoming law. Democrats, independent and young voters, and women strongly support Senate passage. Republicans strongly oppose passage, with men, older voters, African Americans, and Protestants also opposed. Support is strongest in New York City. Every region of the state supports passage.

"By a fairly significant margin, voters would like to see New York join with Vermont, Massachusetts, Iowa, and other states in allowing same sex couples to marry here," Greenberg said. "For women and young voters it‟s a resounding "yes.‟ Men and older voters are more closely divided and more likely to say "no."
Details from Buffalo's Outcome (check out the 18-34 year olds, who are 71% in favor):



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Nadler: Impeach Torture Memo Author

By Ryan Grim
The Huffington Post


Rep. Jerry Nadler, a senior Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, called Monday for the impeachment of federal judge Jay Bybee, one of the principal authors of the torture memos released last week by the Obama administration.

"He ought to be impeached," Nadler said in an interview with the Huffington Post. "It was not an honest legal memo. It was an instruction manual on how to break the law."

Nadler, a New York congressman, is chairman of Judiciary's Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties Subcommittee. Bybee is currently serving a lifetime term on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, appointed in 2003 and confirmed before it was publicly known that he had authorized the torture of detainees.

Nadler is meeting with Attorney General Eric Holder on Tuesday to argue that the release of the torture memos further buttresses a call he had made earlier for a special prosecutor on torture.

"Any special prosecutor on torture would have to look at the authors of those torture memos," said Nadler. "And certainly you have real grounds to impeach him once the special prosecutor took a good look at that. I think there ought to be an impeachment inquiry looked at in any event. Which should happen first, I'm not sure."

On Sunday, the New York Times called for Bybee's impeachment in an editorial. Impeachment hearings would begin in the judiciary committee....(Click for remainder.)

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Obama To Take Aim At Credit Card Abuses

By Caren Bohan
Reuters


WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama plans to crack down on deceptive credit-card industry practices that have saddled U.S. consumers with huge debts and soaring interest rates, U.S. officials said on Sunday.

Top White House economic adviser Lawrence Summers said Obama would be "very focused in the very near term on a whole set of issues having to do with credit card abuses."

"We need to do things to stop the marketing of credit in ways that addict people to it," Summers said in an interview on the NBC television talk show "Meet the Press."

Summers, director of the White House National Economic Council, said the administration is concerned about practices that result in consumers being "deceived into paying extraordinarily high rates that they wouldn't have paid if they knew they were getting themselves into."

Summers and other officials are scheduled to meet on Thursday at the White House with top executives of credit card companies.

The meeting comes as lawmakers in the Democratic-led Congress have vented anger that banks with big credit card operations charging high interest rates and fees are the same institutions getting government bailouts from U.S. taxpayers who use these credit cards....(Click for remainder.)

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New Video Shows "Stern" Obama, Apparently Lecturing Hugo Chavez

By John Aravosis
AMERICAblog


I really hate when right-wing lies are exposed. From ABC's Jake Tapper.



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LOON FLASHBACK: Glenn Beck slams Dems who didn’t pray FOR Bush

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Gingrich vs. Gingrich: Like a Slow Motion Car Crash

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Bybee Must Go

By Marie Cocco
TruthDig


George W. Bush and Dick Cheney were allowed to leave office undisturbed by anything but their limited capacities for pangs of conscience over the morally repugnant treatment of terrorism detainees. The other architects of a system that violated the Constitution, the Geneva Conventions and the most basic precepts of human decency also have for the most part left the public sphere.

With one notable exception: Jay Bybee, a Bush Justice Department official who authored some of the memos that stretched the concept of acceptable maltreatment so far as to approve waterboarding—the simulated drowning of a prisoner. He is now a federal judge with lifetime tenure. He deserves to be removed.

Bybee sits on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, whose jurisdiction includes California and eight other Western states. Bybee exercises enormous power to decide the fate of millions of Americans—including those with claims about their treatment at the hands of law enforcement—and others with civil grievances who have no place to turn but the federal courts.

He is expected, in other words, to bring keen judgment and impartial reasoning to ensure that justice is served.

It is astonishing that someone who has proved in his memos to be so lacking in judgment and so ideologically twisted in his reasoning that he laid a blanket of legal immunity over those who wanted to torture now holds one of the most powerful and prestigious seats a lawyer can attain. It is equally remarkable—but entirely expected—that partisans already are lining up to protect Bybee on the grounds that he shouldn’t be removed from the bench for memos he wrote while he was at the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel. That was then, the argument goes. This is now....(Click for remainder.)

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Fredo in the Net?

By Michael Tomasky
The Guardian


Washington is abuzz today about this seemingly solid piece of reporting in Congressional Quarterly by Jeff Stein. Sources told Stein that a senior and well-known congresswoman, Jane Harman of California, was overheard on a federal wiretap promising to help two officials of the biggest Israeli lobby here in town fight espionage charges - maybe get reduced sentences, that sort of thing - if the lobby would in turn help lobby Speaker Nancy Pelosi to make Harman the head of the House intelligence committee.

The conversation allegedly took place in late 2005. Harman denies it vehemently. Two sources tell Stein the voice they listened to was certainly Harman's.

The story of the espionage charges against the two officials of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (Aipac) is a long and convoluted one. Maybe I'll go into soon if circumstances warrant. But what interests me the most about today's revelations have nothing to do with Harman (by the way, the audiophiles among you may be interested to learn that she is married to the guy who runs the company that makes Harman-Kardon stereo equipment; for those of you under a certain age, "stereo equipment" is this stuff people used to have in their living rooms)....(Click for remainder.)

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DoJ Nixed Investigation of Congresswoman to Get Support for NSA Wiretapping

By Kim Zetter
Threat Level @ Wired.com


Those who have long felt there was a suspicious backstory behind Congress's support of the Bush administration's warrantless wiretapping may feel their suspicions are closer to being confirmed this week.

Congressional Quarterly's Jeff Stein has an explosive story about how the Justice Department thwarted a criminal investigation of Representative Jane Harman (D - California) in order to guarantee her support for the NSA's warrantless wiretapping program.

According to CQ, in 2004, Harman had helped lobby the New York Times to kill its NSA warrantless wiretapping story, which the newspaper had originally intended to publish on the eve of the 2004 elections.

The story was published a year later in December 2005, drawing condemnation from the Bush administration, which excoriated the newspaper for putting the lives of Americans at risk by exposing the program. The news launched a national debate about whether the adminsitration had exceeded its authority in authorizing the NSA to conduct warrantless domestic surveillance.

At the time, Harman joined the administration in condemning the Times, calling for prosecution of the newspaper and issuing a statement that said, "I believe it essential to U.S. national security, and that its disclosure has damaged critical intelligence capabilities."...(Click for remainder.)

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Cheney Slams Obama Again, Calls Overseas Trips "Disturbing" (VIDEO)

By Marcus Baram
The Huffington Post


Former Vice President Dick Cheney slammed President Obama again on Monday night during an interview with Fox News' Sean Hannity at Cheney's home in McLean, Virginia.

Cheney pointedly questioned the president's leadership, criticized Obama's overseas trips as "disturbing," said his handshake with Venezuela's Hugo Chavez was "not helpful," and strongly disagreed with the release of the torture memos.

"I've been concerned at the way we've been presented overseas... What I find disturbing is the extent to which he's gone to Europe and seemed to apologize profusely, been to Mexico and seemed to apologize there," said Cheney. "The world out there, both our friends and foes, will be quick to take advantage of that... I don't think we have much to apologize for."

Watch the interview:




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Bye Bye Bybee

By Marty Kaplan
The Huffington Post


It will be the playwrights and screenwriters, not the journalists and historians, who will some day get the torture story right. It will be the poets and novelists, not the philosophers and clergy, who will take us to the heart of that darkness. It will be the artists and satirists, not the law and the lawyers, who will eventually haul this decade to the bar of justice.

It is tempting to read the legalistic redefinition of torture in the top secret memos by Steven G. Bradbury, Jay S. Bybee and John Yoo as a case study of the banality of evil. In this account, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld tasked the Bush Justice Department to reverse-engineer a rationale for doing whatever the White House asked the CIA to do to terrorist suspects, and his supine clerks obligingly generated a preemptive update of the "only following orders" defense.

Alternatively, it is possible to read those memos as shocking evidence of the criminality of their authors and the moral monstrousness of those who commissioned them. The White House, the CIA and the Justice Department knew full well that the law defined waterboarding as torture; that the Geneva Convention outlawed torture; that the US Army Field Manual on Interrogation warned that torture produces only phony confessions and wild goose chases. Seeing the "depths of human misery and degradation" being unnecessarily inflicted on prisoners had -- in the words of a senior American intelligence official quoted in The New York Times -- "a traumatic effect" on their American captors. And yet the Bush administration persisted with these "enhanced interrogation techniques," arguably because the intrinsic satisfactions of vengeance were warrant enough for sadism....(Click for remainder.)

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Angels & Demons: It's A Thriller, Not a Crusade

By Ron Howard
The Huffington Post


William Donohue of the Catholic League is on a mission. Whether it is a "mission from God," as the Blues Brothers would say, only God knows, but the goal of his mission is clear: to paint me and the movie I directed, Angels & Demons, as anti-Catholic.

For a $5 donation to his organization, Mr. Donohue will send you his glossy new booklet (Angels & Demons: More Demonic Than Angelic), in which he writes that I and the people who made this thriller "do not hide their animus against all things Catholic."

He's been making these assertions for years, going back to the theatrical release of The Da Vinci Code. He stepped up his campaign more than a month ago with a series of press releases. And there he goes again, in a Daily News op-ed last Friday, saying that Dan Brown and I "have collaborated in smearing the Catholic Church...."

Let me be clear: neither I nor Angels & Demons are anti-Catholic. And let me be a little controversial: I believe Catholics, including most in the hierarchy of the Church, will enjoy the movie for what it is: an exciting mystery, set in the awe-inspiring beauty of Rome. After all, in Angels & Demons, Professor Robert Langdon teams up with the Catholic Church to thwart a vicious attack against the Vatican. What, exactly, is anti-Catholic about that?...(Click for remainder.)

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Chency Says Torture Was a 'Success,' Wants Memos Released to Prove It

By Jason Leopold
The Public Record


Former Vice President Dick Cheney challenged President Obama Monday to release top-secret CIA memos that allegedly states the torture of prisoners was an intelligence “success.”  Last December, Cheney admitted in numerous interviews before he left office that he personally approved the waterboarding of three “high-value” detainees and the “enhanced interrogation” of 33 other prisoners.

In a wide-ranging interview with Fox News' Sean Hannity, Cheney defended the Bush administration's torture program and claimed that it saved American lives. He criticized Obama’s decision to release four “torture”memos last week because Obama “didn't put out the memos that showed the success of the effort."

“There are reports that show specifically what we gained as a result of this activity,” Cheney said. “They have not been declassified. I formally asked that they be declassified now.

“I haven't announced this up until now, I haven't talked about it, but I know specifically of reports that I read, that I saw that lay out what we learned through the interrogation process and what the consequences were for the country.

“And I've now formally asked the CIA to take steps to declassify those memos so we can lay them out there and the American people have a chance to see what we obtained and what we learned and how good the intelligence was. If we’re going to have this debate, let’s have an honest debate.”

Neither a spokesman for the White House nor the CIA returned calls for comment....(Click for remainder.)

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Oakland Hires Private Security

By Stephen C. Webster
The Raw Story

The City of Oakland has decided to hire a private security firm to police some of its most violent areas. And they are not alone in considering private firms for security work.

From the Wall Street Journal, which is what brought this development to my attention:
The City Council recently voted to hire International Services Inc., a private security agency, to patrol crime-plagued districts. While a few Oakland retail districts previously have pooled cash to pay for unarmed security services, using public funds to pay for private armed guards would mark a first for the city.

Hiring private guards is less expensive than hiring new officers. Oakland -- facing a record $80 million budget shortfall -- spends about 65% of its budget for police and fire services, including about $250,000 annually, including benefits and salary, on each police officer.

In contrast, for about $200,000 a year the city can contract to hire four private guards to patrol the troubled East Oakland district where four on-duty police officers were killed in March. And the company, not the city, is responsible for insurance for the guards.
Reporter Bobby White adds that similar measures are being considered by city councils in New Orleans and Chicago.

Curious as to the company Oakland has chosen, I checked out the media profile on International Services Inc. Here's what I found....(Click for remainder.)

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Is the American Dream a Nightmare?



Opinion: The hidden menace of homeownership.


By Susan E. Reed
GlobalPost


It was a startling and controversial conclusion. But now it is beginning to make more sense. It turns out that a high rate of homeownership just might be bad for the economy.

Homeownership has been a long nurtured desire of many Americans. Public officials relaxed mortgage requirements 10 years ago because they wanted everyone to live the dream. It seemed to be great for the economy, until the crash last year.

Americans weren’t the only ones who caught the fever. Some Europeans bought even more property and are suffering even greater consequences.

Melanie Bowler, an economist at Moodys.com, has found that the hardest hit property markets in Europe were the ones with highest rates of homeownership.

Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania had a combined homeownership rate of 90 percent, and house prices in the region have fallen an average of 30 percent in the past year. In Britain, where the homeownership rate is nearly 75 percent, prices are down 17.7 percent since last year.

One of the problems with such a high propensity for property is that these economies became more reliant on the housing industry for jobs. In Spain, where homeownership reached a bloated 85 percent and then lost steam, the rate of unemployment among construction workers has doubled in the past year....(Click for remainder.)

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Illiterate Tennessee Couple Gets Screwed With 59% Interest Loan

Kay and Lewis Brown thought they were getting a $2,000 home loan from a Tennessee loan company but ended up with a $5,000 loan at 59 percent interest from an Internet company.
By Rebecca Williams
Knoxville News Sentinel


The Brown family of East Knoxville has learned the hard way that there's no such thing as easy money.

"We needed to come up with more money to make more room, add to the house," says Kay Brown, who in October 2006 wanted to take out a loan of $2,000 to enlarge the small home she lives in with her husband, Lewis Brown, adult son, Daniel Collins, and their 15-month-old grandson, Isaiah, in East Knoxville.

Rather than going to a bank, Brown thought it would be easier to get a loan through CashCall, a company she saw on television. "My husband didn't mind to get it, but he didn't want to run all over everywhere. It was a convenience thing," she says.

Brown called CashCall in October 2006 and asked them to send her an application. However, the salesperson said she would need to apply through the Internet. Neither Brown nor Collins knew how to use a computer.

"I don't know how to operate one, because I can't read or spell," says Brown.

The salesperson at CashCall said Brown could ask a friend to help. So she called her nephew, Johnny Lane of Grainger County.

Brown says the company talked her and Lane through what she thought was just an application process. However, Lane entered Lewis Brown's Social Security and bank account numbers on CashCall's Web site. Then, he unknowingly clicked the buttons to "sign" the loan electronically....(Click for remainder.)

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