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American Split on Torture as Polls Approve of Obama's First 100 Days

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Narrow majority back president's decision to release Bush administration torture memos amid high approval ratings.

By Chris McGreal
The Guardian


A narrow majority of Americans back President Barack Obama's decision to release details of the torture of suspected terrorists and want a legal investigation into whether any laws were broken, according to an opinion poll released to mark the new administration's 100th day in power.

The issue divides the country, with almost half saying that torture is justified in certain circumstances. Another poll shows a similar number believe torture has already led to the collection of valuable intelligence.

Overall, support for Obama has crept up since he took office in January. A poll published in Sunday's Washington Post showed 69% of voters approve of the way he is handling the country. Unsurprisingly, he has the support of nine out of ten Democrats, but 36% of Republicans also approve. George Bush had an overall approval rating of just 37% when he left office.

A poll by the Pew Research Centre showed that 73% of voters - and as many as 46% of Republicans - held a favourable view of Obama as a person even if they disagree with some of his policies....(Click for remainder.)

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Neocarbon

By Phil Plait
Bad Astronomy @ Discovery.com


There has been a spate of far-right insanity about carbon over the past week or so; it’s like a handful of Congresscritters on that side of the aisle has taken crazy pills. Or more pills than usual.

I already showed you Texas goofball Representative Joe Barton, who thought he had a Nobel Laureate on the ropes with his oh-so-probing questions about gas and oil that revealed Barton has a second grade understanding of science.

But now House Minority Leader (!) John Boehner reveals he can out-Barton Barton in an exchange with Geroge Stephanopoulos that, well, has to be read to be believed.
STEPHANOPOULOS: […] What is the Republican plan to deal with carbon emissions, which every major scientific organization has said is contributing to climate change?

BOEHNER: George, the idea that carbon dioxide is a carcinogen that is harmful to our environment is almost comical. Every time we exhale, we exhale carbon dioxide. Every cow in the world, you know, when they do what they do, you’ve got more carbon dioxide. And so I think it’s clear…
Um. CO2 a carcinogen? Who would say something as dumb as that? Oh — he must’ve heard it from Barton.

And Congressman? Methane is what comes out of cows. Not CO2, methane. Well, some CO2 comes from cows — they breathe, after all– but in context he obviously meant methane. You’d think with his severe case of rectal-cranial inversion Boehner’d know the difference....(Click for remainder.)

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Obama Repeatedly Reminds House GOP Of Their Zero Stimulus Votes

By Ryan Grim
The Huffington Post


In a meeting with House Republicans at the White House Thursday, President Obama reminded the minority that the last time he reached out to them, they reacted with zero votes -- twice -- for his stimulus package. And then he reminded them again. And again. And again.

A GOP source familiar with the meeting said that the president was extremely sensitive -- even "thin-skinned" -- to the fact that the stimulus bill received no GOP votes in the House. He continually brought it up throughout the meeting.

Obama also offered payback for that goose egg. A major overhaul of the health care system, he told the Republican leadership, would be done using a legislative process known as reconciliation, meaning that the GOP won't be able to filibuster it.

Congress has until October 15 to pass health care or student lending reform under the normal process. If it doesn't, reconciliation can be used to eliminate the 60-vote requirement.

Democratic aides said that Obama made clear to the GOP leadership that he would continue to work in a bipartisan way, but that they didn't have veto power over health care policy. GOP aides, however, said that Obama was pretty clear that reconciliation would be used. "From what was told me, it sounded more like he would almost definitely use reconciliation for healthcare. I don't think he hedged much," said one.

Another GOP aide said that Obama and House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) had a back-and-forth about the zero votes. Obama argued that House Republicans had made a "strategic decision" to oppose the stimulus, while Boehner countered that Obama hadn't accepted House Republican input on the bill....(Click for remainder.)

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Democratic Complicity and What "Politicizing Justice" Really Means

By Glenn Greenwald
Salon.com


Bush-defending opponents of investigations and prosecutions think they've discovered a trump card:  the claim that Democratic leaders such as Nancy Pelosi, Jay Rockefeller and Jane Harman were briefed on the torture programs and assented to them.  The core assumption here -- shared by most establishment pundits -- is that the call for criminal investigations is nothing more than a partisan-driven desire to harm Republicans and Bush officials ("retribution"), and if they can show that some Democratic officials might be swept up in the inquiry, then, they assume, that will motivate investigation proponents to think twice.

Those who make that argument are clearly projecting.  They view everything in partisan and political terms -- it's why virtually all media discussions are about what David Gregory calls "the politics of the torture debate" rather than the substantive issues surrounding these serious crimes -- and they are thus incapable of understanding that not everyone is burdened by the same sad affliction that plagues them. 

Most people who have spent the last several years (rather than the last several weeks) vehemently objecting to the Bush administration's rampant criminality have been well aware of, and quite vocal about, the pervasive complicity of many key Democrats in this criminality.  Just to cite two examples, here is my December, 2007 post entitled "Democratic complicity in Bush's torture regime", and here is another from July, 2008, arguing that Democrats have blocked investigations into Bush crimes because of how it would implicate them; quoting The New Yorker's Jane Mayer as saying that "many of those who might ordinarily be counted on to lead the charge are themselves compromised"; and quoting Jonathan Turley as saying (on Keith Olbermann's program) that "the Democrats have been silently trying to kill any effort to hold anyone accountable because that list could very well include some of their own members."...(Click for remainder.)

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Neocon Torture Defense is Melting

By Bob Fertik
Democrats.com


The poor neocons - their torture defense is melting away right in front of our eyes.

1. "America Doesn't Torture." That's what George Bush insisted for four years. Of course the International Committee of the Red Cross said we did. So did the Senate Armed Services Committee. So did Judge Susan Crawford. And we just learned Abu Zubaydah (AZ) and Khalid Sheik Mohammed (KSM) were waterboarded 266 times. Scratch that one.

2. "Waterboarding Isn't Torture." Sure - tell that to the Japanese soldiers we prosecuted for waterboarding after World War II; some were hanged. Or the U.S. soldiers we court-martialed in the Philippines. Or the sherriff we prosecuted in the southwest. Heck, tell that to the Spanish Inquisition. If it isn't torture, why did the CIA destroy every one of the waterboarding tapes? Scratch that one.

3. "Torture Prevented Another 9/11." Bush said that as well in 2006, claiming the torture of KSM in March 2003 prevented a 9/11-style attack on the Library Tower in Los Angeles. But that attack was stopped in February 2002, more than a year before KSM was captured. Scratch that one.

4. "Torture Gave Us Valuable Intelligence." That's Dick Cheney's current defense and his argument for declassifying two memos that allegedly prove his case. But as all Cheney-watchers know, this is simply an exercise in "cherry picking" evidence that he likes while suppressing evidence he doesn't - especially the CIA Inspector General's report concluding torture didn't work. And the evidence that the only valuable intelligence from AZ and KSM was obtained by FBI interrogators without torture, while subsequent CIA torture produced only lies. Scratch that one.

5. "Torture is Legal in an Emergency." Wrong! The Convention Against Torture allows no exceptions. And if it was legal to torture foreigners, it would be legal to torture Americans. In any event, torture doesn't produce reliable information - not after 183 sessions, and certainly not after 1.

6. "The Torture Lawyers Interpreted the Law in Good Faith." That assumes they didn't know waterboarding was torture (see #2). It assumes they didn't know torture doesn't work, but Pentagon experts at JPRA told them it didn't. It assumes there were no lawyers who objected, but every JAG did. State Department lawyer Philip Zelikow objected in a memo, but they destroyed every copy. Scratch that one.

7. "A Torture Investigation Would Paralyze the CIA." Before Bush-Cheney, the CIA was never in the interrogation business - that was the job of skilled interrogators at the FBI and the Defense Department. The CIA's primary job is to recruit willing spies (primarily through bribes), not unwilling prisoners (through torture), because the CIA believes information given willingly is infinitely more reliable than information given unwillingly. (Just ask Tyler Drumheller.) So the CIA is delighted to be out of the torture business. Scratch that one.

8. "A Toture Investigation Will Help The Terrorists." That argument became moot after the Abu Ghraib photos were published. And torture victims don't need the U.S. media to describe their horrific treatment to the Arabic media. The worst information is already known to the world; the only question now is whether the Torturers will face Justice. Scratch that one....(Click for remainder.)

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Hate Crimes Bill Passes Out of Committee, Wingnuts Pass Out With Fright



By David Neiwert

Crooks and Liars


We're finally making progress on passing a federal hate-crimes bill: On Thursday, the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Protection Act passed out of the House Judiciary Committee.

Sure enough, as Kyle at RightWingWatch predicted, the right-wing freakout has begun. Unsurprisingly, Glenn Beck is already leading the way.

He invited on wingnut talk-show host Sandi Rios, who promptly declared hate crimes "thought crimes" (uh-huh, right). She also attacked Debbie Wasserman-Schulz, who was defending the bill from Republican attempts to nullify it by adding categories or victims by claiming:
Rios: Well, she's saying that anybody that's killed or harmed is not a real victim -- unless they're homosexual or gay or Jewish. Then they're real victims. So you can murder more severely if they happen to homosexual or Jewish. It makes no sense.

Beck: Whatever happened to equal protection under the law? If you kill someone, you should go to jail!
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Democrats' 'Battered Wife Syndrome'

By Robert Parry
Consortium News


In recent years, the Washington political dynamic has often resembled an abusive marriage, in which the bullying husband (the Republicans) slaps the wife and kids around, and the battered wife (the Democrats) makes excuses and hides the ugly bruises from outsiders to keep the family together.

 So, when the Republicans are in a position of power, they throw their weight around, break the rules, and taunt: “Whaddya gonna do ‘bout it?”

Then, when the Republicans do the political equivalent of passing out on the couch, the Democrats use their time in control, tiptoeing around, tidying up the house and cringing at every angry grunt from the snoring figure on the couch.

This pattern, which now appears to be repeating itself with President Barack Obama’s unwillingness to hold ex-President George W. Bush and his subordinates accountable for a host of crimes including torture, may have had its origins 40 years ago in Campaign 1968 when the Vietnam War was raging.

President Lyndon Johnson felt he was on the verge of achieving a negotiated peace settlement when he learned in late October 1968 that operatives working for Republican presidential candidate Richard Nixon were secretly sabotaging the Paris peace talks.

Nixon, who was getting classified briefings on the talks’ progress, feared that an imminent peace accord might catapult Vice President Hubert Humphrey to victory. So, Nixon’s team sent secret messages to South Vietnamese leaders offering them a better deal if they boycotted Johnson’s talks and helped Nixon to victory, which they agreed to do....(Click for remainder.)

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Reconciliation is Rolling. GOP Readying to Pitch Fit.

By David Waldman
Congress Matters


By all reports, the budget conferees are ready to move forward next week with an agreement on a budget resolution that will contain reconciliation instructions, but with an extended time frame for the relevant committees to report their legislation back -- namely, October 15.

That's a little bit unusual, since the normal practice is to have those bills reported back much sooner, like June 15th, but this is apparently meant to be a concession to the negotiating process. The hope (and that's all it is) is that with the backup of being able to use reconciliation (and thereby bypass the filibuster) in October, the Republicans will be motivated to come to a compromise on health care before then that they can move under regular order without resort to the expedited procedures under reconciliation. It's also unusual because October 15th is past the date of the start of fiscal year 2010.

Stepping back for just a moment, for those not quite up to speed on reconciliation procedure (and that would include everyone in the world), the inclusion of reconciliation instructions in the budget resolution is just the first step in this process. What they're doing here is including in the budget some diretions to the committees with jurisdiction over the health care reform issue (probably Ways & Means and Energy & Commerce in the House, and Finance and HELP in the Senate) that they must report back legislation by October 15th that implements whatever these reforms are going to be, and that the budget scoring for their solutions also must meet the targets being set in the budget resolution. In other words, the budget committees are instructing these other committees to get back to them with health care reform proposals that match the numbers the budgeters are setting aside for them to work with. When they do that, the budget committee will package up any tax changes made by Ways & Means/Finance, and any policy changes made by Energy & Commerce/HELP into a single bill (though they can split it up if they want to), and those bills can come to the floor under expedited procedures, meaning no filibusters. That will be the point at which any such reforms would actually become law, if passed. In October....(Click for remainder.)

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Why is Texas So Psycho?

The Governor of Texas is one bad haircut away from Blagojevichian levels of gubernatorial gooberness.

By Jim Hightower
Creators Syndicate via AlterNet


Texas politics has long been a source of great amusement for the people of our state, but it's often a source of bafflement for people beyond our borders. So, sometimes there's a need to explain what's going on here, and this is one of those times. In this case, the explanation is simple: Our governor is a goober.

Texans have known this for some time, but Rick Perry -- whose chief claim to fame had been that he has a spectacular head of hair -- was unknown outside the state, so he was our little secret. Now, however, Perry's gooberness has gone viral. He's a YouTube phenomenon and a new darling of the GOP kingmaker, Rush Limbaugh.

He broke into national consciousness on April 15, when he spoke at one of the many "teabag" rallies that Republican operatives set up around the country to protest Barack Obama's deficit spending. Appearing in Austin before a boisterous crowd of about a thousand people who were fuming about everything from gun control to the Wall Street bailout, the governor opened with this shot: "I'm sure you're not just a bunch of right-wing extremists. But if you are, I'm with you."

Then came the thought that earned him YouTuber-of-the-Day and a favorable mention from Lord Limbaugh: Texas just, By God, might secede from the union if Washington keeps messing with us.

No doubt many people in the other 49 states burst into applause at this notion, but it caused quite a bit of consternation among home folks, who rather like being both Texans and Americans. Was he serious? Apparently so. When reporters asked afterward about the legality of such a rash move, Perry pointed out that Texas had entered the union under a unique agreement that gave us the right "to leave if we decided to do that." Good line, but utterly untrue. No such agreement ever existed....(Click for remainder.)

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Keith Olbermann: Cheney Preparing His Defense?

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Centre-Left Sweeps to Victory in Iceland

By Reuters
Via Financial Times


REYKJAVIK, April 26 – Social Democrat Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir swept to victory in Iceland’s election on Sunday after street protests over an economic meltdown toppled the previous conservative-led government.

Though on course for an outright majority in parliament, her new centre-left coalition government will have to overcome disagreements about entering the EU and on cutting spending and raising revenues to get state finances back in order.

With 81 per cent of votes counted, results broadcast on RUV state television showed the Social Democrat/Left-Green caretaker government, which came in after the old administration fell, would win 34 seats, a majority of 3 in the 63-seat parliament.

The Social Democrats were set to get 20 seats from Saturday’s election and the Left Greens 14.

”I believe this will be our big victory,” Sigurdardottir, 66-year-old leader of the Social Democratic Alliance, told cheering supporters.

”I am touched, proud and humble at this moment when we are experiencing this great, historic victory of the social democratic movement,” she said, adding that voters had also backed her idea of starting talks to enter the European Union.

Sigurdardottir said the vote would mark the first time since the Icelandic Republic was founded in 1944 that left-of-centre parties had won a majority.

The election showed the depth of anger at the long-ruling Independence Party, which oversaw Iceland’s boom years but was blamed for the economic crisis that erupted last year when banks collapsed under a weight of vast debts....(Click for remainder.)

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Flu Has "Pandemic Potential," WHO Official Warns

People wear masks as they pray in Mexico City's Metropolitan Cathedral April 25, 2009. (Eliana Aponte/Reuters)

Fear and panic spread through Mexico as the number of flu deaths rises.


By Ioan Grillo
GlobalPost


MEXICO CITY — One Mexico City resident believed the government was locking flu victims up in prison. Another alleged the government itself was actually inventing the whole outbreak. A third thought it could be some kind of biological warfare by drug cartels.

With up to 68 people dead from a new lethal strain of swine flu hitting Mexico, fear, panic and downright paranoia are spreading through the streets of the Mexican capital as fast as the disease itself.

The horror stories only got bigger as the World Health Organization said Saturday that those who perished in Mexico’s hospitals could be the first victims of a global pandemic with the potential to wipe out millions.

"It has pandemic potential because it is infecting people (instead of pigs)," WHO Director General Margaret Chan said at an emergency meeting in Geneva. “We are seriously concerned.”

Notorious pandemics such as the Spanish Flu — which wiped out about 50 million people worldwide between 1918 and 1919 — started when viruses jumped from animals to humans, creating a new mutant strain which no one was resistant to....(Click for remainder.)

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The Banality of Bush White House Evil

By Frank Rich
The New York Times


WE don’t like our evil to be banal. Ten years after Columbine, it only now may be sinking in that the psychopathic killers were not jock-hating dorks from a “Trench Coat Mafia,” or, as ABC News maintained at the time, “part of a dark, underground national phenomenon known as the Gothic movement.” In the new best seller “Columbine,” the journalist Dave Cullen reaffirms that Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris were instead ordinary American teenagers who worked at the local pizza joint, loved their parents and were popular among their classmates.

On Tuesday, it will be five years since Americans first confronted the photographs from Abu Ghraib on “60 Minutes II.” Here, too, we want to cling to myths that quarantine the evil. If our country committed torture, surely it did so to prevent Armageddon, in a patriotic ticking-time-bomb scenario out of “24.” If anyone deserves blame, it was only those identified by President Bush as “a few American troops who dishonored our country and disregarded our values”: promiscuous, sinister-looking lowlifes like Lynddie England, Charles Graner and the other grunts who were held accountable while the top command got a pass.

We’ve learned much, much more about America and torture in the past five years. But as Mark Danner recently wrote in The New York Review of Books, for all the revelations, one essential fact remains unchanged: “By no later than the summer of 2004, the American people had before them the basic narrative of how the elected and appointed officials of their government decided to torture prisoners and how they went about it.” When the Obama administration said it declassified four new torture memos 10 days ago in part because their contents were already largely public, it was right....(Click for remainder.)

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Money Talks: Can Peter Orszag keep the President’s political goals economically viable?

By Ryan Lizza
The New Yorker


A  few weeks ago, Peter Orszag, President Obama's trim, apple-cheeked budget director, stretched out in the green room of what has become, in recent years, the locus of reliably liberal sensibility in this country—the midtown studios where Jon Stewart tapes "The Daily Show." Orszag's day had been a reflection of the Obama Administration's frenetic attempts to stave off worldwide economic disaster—urgent phone calls, BlackBerry messages, meetings with the editorial boards of the Times and the Wall Street Journal, lunch with Mayor Bloomberg, constant communications about wavering members of Congress preparing to vote for (or against) Obama's budget—yet Orszag remained well pressed, in a dark pin-striped suit and black cowboy boots. After a while, he spotted a gift bag on the coffee table nearby. Orszag's girlfriend, Claire Milonas, and his communications director, Kenneth Baer, joked about whether the free hat and Irish liqueur inside complied with White House ethics rules banning gifts that cost more than twenty dollars. "I bet this only retails for twelve," Baer said, pointing to a "Daily Show" T-shirt.

Stewart appeared in the doorway, and Orszag sprang from his chair to greet him. Stewart had been reviewing his guest's bulletproof résumé: Exeter, Princeton, the London School of Economics, the Clinton White House, the Congressional Budget Office, Obama's Cabinet. He craned his neck as if searching for hawks in a redwood. Orszag is six-two. Stewart is not.

"You're way taller than you're supposed to be," Stewart said. "I've been reading all these articles about you. They're making me feel like shit. The doctorate in economics, and the jogging, and you're six years younger than me, and now you're fucking taller, too. I don't care for this. It is not right."

Orszag is also way younger than he should be. He turned forty in December—making him the youngest member of a young Cabinet. As director of the Office of Management and Budget, he is occupied with conceiving, drafting, selling, and passing the President's budget. And he is doing this while his colleagues Timothy Geithner and Lawrence Summers, the Treasury Secretary and the director of the National Economic Council, are charged with rescuing the national banking system and the automobile industry....(Click for remainder.)

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Weekly Address: President Obama Announces Steps to Reform Government and Promote Fiscal Discipline


THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the Press Secretary
__________________________________________________________________________________
EMBARGOED UNTIL 6:00 AM ET,                                    SATURDAY, April 25, 2009

WEEKLY ADDRESS: President Obama Announces Steps to Reform Government and Promote Fiscal Discipline



WASHINGTON – In his weekly address, President Barack Obama reiterated his call for fiscal discipline and outlined the steps his administration will take to eliminate waste and increase efficiency. First, the President called on Congress to pass PAYGO legislation.  Next, the administration will create incentives for agencies to cut costs and identify savings.  Third, the administration will establish a process for every government employee to submit their ideas on how their agency can save money and perform better.  Finally, the administration will reach outside of Washington for ideas by convening a forum on reforming government for the 21st century later this year.

The audio and video will be available at 6:00am Saturday, April 25, 2009 at www.whitehouse.gov.
 

Prepared Remarks of President Barack Obama
Weekly Address
April 25, 2009


Good morning. Over the last three months, my Administration has taken aggressive action to confront an historic economic crisis. As we do everything that we can to create jobs and get our economy moving, we’re also building a new foundation for lasting prosperity – a foundation that invests in quality education, lowers health care costs, and develops new sources of energy powered by new jobs and industries.

One of the pillars of that foundation must be fiscal discipline. We came into office facing a budget deficit of $1.3 trillion for this year alone, and the cost of confronting our economic crisis is high. But we cannot settle for a future of rising deficits and debts that our children cannot pay.

All across America, families are tightening their belts and making hard choices. Now, Washington must show that same sense of responsibility. That is why we have identified two trillion dollars in deficit-reductions over the next decade, while taking on the special interest spending that doesn’t advance the peoples’ interests.

But we must also recognize that we cannot meet the challenges of today with old habits and stale thinking. So much of our government was built to deal with different challenges from a different era. Too often, the result is wasteful spending, bloated programs, and inefficient results.

It’s time to fundamentally change the way that we do business in Washington. To help build a new foundation for the 21st century, we need to reform our government so that it is more efficient, more transparent, and more creative. That will demand new thinking and a new sense of responsibility for every dollar that is spent.

Earlier this week, I held my first Cabinet meeting and sent a clear message: cut what doesn’t work. Already, we’ve identified substantial savings. And in the days and weeks ahead, we will continue going through the budget line by line, and we’ll identify more than 100 programs that will be cut or eliminated.

But we can’t stop there. We need to go further, and we need an all-hands-on-deck approach to reforming government. That’s why I’m announcing several steps that my Administration will take in the weeks ahead to restore fiscal discipline while making our government work better.

First, we need to adhere to the basic principle that new tax or entitlement policies should be paid for. This principle – known as PAYGO – helped transform large deficits into surpluses in the 1990s. Now, we must restore that sense of fiscal discipline. That’s why I’m calling on Congress to pass PAYGO legislation like a bill that will be introduced by Congressman Baron Hill, so that government acts the same way any responsible family does in setting its budget.

Second, we’ll create new incentives to reduce wasteful spending and to invest in what works. We don’t want agencies to protect bloated budgets – we want them to promote effective programs. So the idea is simple: agencies that identify savings will get to keep a portion of those savings to invest in programs that work. The result will be a smaller budget, and a more effective government.

Third, we’ll look for ideas from the bottom up. After all, Americans across the country know that the best ideas often come from workers – not just management. That’s why we’ll establish a process through which every government worker can submit their ideas for how their agency can save money and perform better. We’ll put the suggestions that work into practice. And later this year, I will meet with those who come up with the best ideas to hear firsthand about how they would make your government more efficient and effective.

And finally, we will reach beyond the halls of government. Many businesses have innovative ways of using technology to save money, and many experts have new ideas to make government work more efficiently. Government can – and must – learn from them. So later this year, we will host a forum on reforming government for the 21st century, so that we’re also guided by voices that come from outside of Washington.

We cannot sustain deficits that mortgage our children’s future, nor tolerate wasteful inefficiency. Government has a responsibility to spend the peoples’ money wisely, and to serve the people effectively. I will work every single day that I am President to live up to that responsibility, and to transform our government so that is held to a higher standard of performance on behalf of the American people.

Thank you.

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Obama to Nelson: We're Going Around You

By Ryan Grim
The Huffington Post


It might not be the most glamorous hill, but it's the one that Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) has vowed to die on. President Obama, however, isn't going to give him that chance.

Nelson is perhaps the Senate's fiercest protector of subsidies for student lending institutions, which, not coincidentally, are an engine of job growth in Nebraska. He has vowed to block any effort to reduce those subsidies. And given that Democrats have 58 members and generally need 60 to break a GOP filibuster, he can enforce his will on his colleagues.

An agreement struck between the president and House and Senate negotiators won't give Nelson that chance. A process known as "reconciliation" allows budgetary measures to be moved through the Senate with a simple majority, rather than 60. Multiple congressional sources say that congressional Democrats have decided to use reconciliation to go after student-lending subsidies, specifically to get around Nelson.

The Nebraska Democrat has become the bane of liberal bloggers and other progressive activists for his insistence on pushing legislation in a more conservative direction. Nelson's critics will no doubt relish the decision to make his threat of a 'no' vote meaningless.

Nelson spokesman Jake Thompson said that Nelson was not the only target of the reconciliation move and that other members of Congress represented constituents who would also be on the losing end of the reform. He noted that NelNet, the Nebraska student lending institution, employs 1,000 people and those jobs would all be at risk of being shipped to Washington, DC....(Click for remainder.)

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Porter Goss Insults Our Intelligence

By Charles Lemos
MyDD


Today in the Washington Post, Porter Goss informs us that he has remained largely silent on the public stage since leaving his post as CIA director almost three years ago, but now feels compelled to speak out because our government has crossed the red line between properly protecting our national security and trying to gain partisan political advantage. In doing so, Porter Goss insults our intelligence for his purposes are rather transparent.
I am speaking out now because I feel our government has crossed the red line between properly protecting our national security and trying to gain partisan political advantage. We can't have a secret intelligence service if we keep giving away all the secrets. Americans have to decide now.
I might inform Mr. Goss the rule of law is the bedrock of our national security. It is because of our commitment to the rule of the law that this felicitous union of the many has so endured and prospered through the ages. Nor is the left trying to secure some partisan political advantage. Should any Democrats, including the Speaker have been complicit in permitting the debasement of The Constitution and the laws that govern our conduct as a nation, then let them too face the wrath of the nation.

What secrets have we given away? We don't torture. That's not a secret unless you broke the law and tortured. In which case, you broke the law. What we can't have is a secret intelligence service that runs covert operations that are contrary to the principles of democratic governance.

It seems clear that Mr. Goss is attempting to cover what ever role he had in this mess by taking a swipe at Speaker Pelosi and Congresswoman Jane Harman, then the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence committee....(Click for remainder.)

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Is Sean Hannity Hoping for Another Terrorist Attack?

By Ellen
News Hounds


As I recently wrote, you have to wonder about Sean Hannity's motives for screeching on national television, night after night, that our country is more vulnerable to attack now. I mean, if you really believe that the release of the torture documents has made us more vulnerable to attack, as Hannity claims, because it lets them know they won't be tortured if they're caught, then why would you further help the enemy by letting them know this is a good time to attack? After watching last night's (4/24/09) edition of Hannity, you now have to wonder whether Hannity isn't actively trying to make that happen. Hannity reiterated many times that our national defenses have been weakened, that President Obama doesn't like America, added that he couldn't believe Obama “made it” to 100 days in office, then “sincerely” hoped the 9/11 Commission was wrong when they said another attack was inevitable – but if so, would Obama be responsible? Hannity was aided in his efforts by Mike Huckabee, a guest with absolutely no professional experience in this area, but who nonetheless opined that waterboarding is “like a carnival ride.” Then, with tortured logic, the two agreed that banning those harsh interrogations carnival rides would embolden our enemies. With video

For a long time now, I've maintained that Hannity's Plan A is to paint Obama as weak on national security (as opposed to Plan B, painting him as a socialist) so that the moment we're hit, he can blame Obama for it. But Hannity seems to be taking it a step further now. After all, this is the guy who last week vehemently supported Texas governor Rick Perry's threat of secession. And if Hannity is so concerned about national security, wouldn't he have chosen to interview someone with real expertise in that area, rather than former Arkansas Governor and pastor Mike Huckabee about whether or not we're in danger?

“How damaging” (not is it damaging) are the release of the memos and photos of torture?” Hannity asked early in the interview.

According to FOX News, Huckabee has no military experience, no national security experience and no foreign affairs experience. But Huckabee (who may be considering another presidential run in 2012) declared with total certainty, “It's very damaging, especially if you ever think about wanting to recruit someone to be in the CIA.” And Huckabee knows this how? It's true that at least one former CIA official has stated his disapproval but Huckabee presented that position as fact. Maybe he is or was some kind of undercover operative, but there's nothing in his public resume to indicate he has any expertise about the CIA either....(Click for remainder.)

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Shane Murphy, Freed Pirate Hostage, Slams "Disgusting" Rush Limbaugh

By Arthur Delaney
The Huffington Post


Shane Murphy, second-in-command aboard the ship seized by Somali pirates this month, is happy to be home. But he's not happy to be sharing turf with land-lubber Rush Limbaugh, who politicized the pirate affair by referring to the pirates as "black teenagers."

"It feels great to be home," said Murphy in an interview with WCBV in Boston. "It feels like everyone around here has my back, with the exception of Rush Limbaugh, who is trying to make this into a race issue...that's disgusting."

Limbaugh made the remark to suggest why President obama might have appeared preoccupied at church on the day of the operation to rescue the ship's captain, who was taken hostage by the pirates until Navy SEAL snipers shot them in a daring rescue effort.

"He was worried about the order he had given to wipe out three teenagers on the high seas," Limbaugh said. "Black Muslim teenagers."

"You gotta get with us or against us here, Rush," Murphy said. "The president did the right thing...It's a war.... It's about good versus evil. And what you said is evil. It's hate speech. I won't tolerate it."   (Click for original.)

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Thwarting Attacks -- Or Not

By Steve Benen
Washington Monthly


When rationalizing torture, Bush administration officials and their allies frequently insist that abusing detainees was not only effective in acquiring valuable intelligence, but actually saved American lives by thwarting terrorist attacks. This week, the argument was especially common.

The argument has been around for quite a while, and Bush and Cheney used to repeat it with some regularity while in office. The proof has been thinner than thin -- the right generally relies on the alleged plot against the Library Tower in Los Angeles, and that talking point has already been thoroughly debunked. If that's the best evidence of torture preventing attacks, the right's argument falls apart.

As it turns out, as more information becomes available, the argument is falling apart anyway. (via Atrios)
The CIA inspector general in 2004 found that there was no conclusive proof that waterboarding or other harsh interrogation techniques helped the Bush administration thwart any "specific imminent attacks," according to recently declassified Justice Department memos.

That undercuts assertions by former vice president Dick Cheney and other former Bush administration officials that the use of harsh interrogation tactics including waterboarding, which is widely considered torture, was justified because it headed off terrorist attacks.
This is in line with comments from former FBI Director Robert Mueller, a Bush appointee, who was asked late last year whether the Bush administration's "enhanced" interrogation techniques had actually thwarted any terrorist plots. Mueller replied, "I don't believe that has been the case."...(Click for remainder.)

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Appomattox Again

By William Rivers Pitt
TruthOut


"Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul."

- Timothy McVeigh quoting from "Invictus" by William Ernest Henley

April 9 was a Sunday in 1865, and in the town of Appomattox, Virginia, the sun was shining down on the end of a war. Confederate forces, led by Gen. Robert E. Lee, had finally been brought to bay by Gen. Ulysses Grant after four grueling, blood-sodden years. Lee's surrender at Appomattox was the conclusion of the largest and deadliest armed insurrection in American history.

April 9 was a Thursday in 2009, and there are some lo these 144 years later who would very much like to see another armed insurrection erupt within these United States. The casus belli for today's would-be revolutionaries is not states' rights, slavery or economic independence, but is instead a toxic mix of fundamentalist Christianity, ultra-conservative orthodoxy and, more than anything else, guns.

The existence of armed and angry insurrectionists in America is nothing new. As Robert Kennedy once observed, "One-fifth of the people are against everything all the time." The militia movement, in one form or another, has been a part of our history literally since the founding of the nation itself, and memories of Waco, Ruby Ridge and the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City remain acutely fresh in mind even years later....(Click for remainder.)

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Reagan's Torture Convention Signing Statement: 'Abhorrent Practice', 'Prosecute Torturers or Extradite to Other Countries for Prosecution'

By Brad Friedman
The Brad Blog


Reagan on torture prosecution, via Andrew Sullivan, from the days before George W. Bush decided how to use signing statements for evil, rather than good...
From his signing statement ratifying the UN Convention on Torture from 1984:
"The United States participated actively and effectively in the negotiation of the Convention . It marks a significant step in the development during this century of international measures against torture and other inhuman treatment or punishment. Ratification of the Convention by the United States will clearly express United States opposition to torture, an abhorrent practice unfortunately still prevalent in the world today.

The core provisions of the Convention establish a regime for international cooperation in the criminal prosecution of torturers relying on so-called 'universal jurisdiction.' Each State Party is required either to prosecute torturers who are found in its territory or to extradite them to other countries for prosecution."
My italics. Reagan was admant [sic] about prosecuting torture, but also prosecuting inhuman treatment that some might claim was not full-on torture. Now go read National Review or The Weekly Standard. And look what has happened to conservatism in America.
Reagan was, of course, part of the Blame-America-First crowd. Soft on terror. Friend of the evil-doers. Why did Ronald Reagan hate America?  (Click for original.)

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Drowning in Plastic: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is Twice the Size of France

There are now 46,000 pieces of plastic per square kilometre of the world's oceans, killing a million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals each year. Worse still, there seems to be nothing we can do to clean it up. So how do we turn the tide?

By Richard Grant
The Telegraph


Way out in the Pacific Ocean, in an area once known as the doldrums, an enormous, accidental monument to modern society has formed. Invisible to satellites, poorly understood by scientists and perhaps twice the size of France, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is not a solid mass, as is sometimes imagined, but a kind of marine soup whose main ingredient is floating plastic debris.

It was discovered in 1997 by a Californian sailor, surfer, volunteer environmentalist and early-retired furniture restorer named Charles Moore, who was heading home with his crew from a sailing race in Hawaii, at the helm of a 50ft catamaran that he had built himself.

For the hell of it, he decided to turn on the engine and take a shortcut across the edge of the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre, a region that seafarers have long avoided. It is a perennial high pressure zone, an immense slowly spiralling vortex of warm equatorial air that pulls in winds and turns them gently until they expire. Several major sea currents also converge in the gyre and bring with them most of the flotsam from the Pacific coasts of Southeast Asia, North America, Canada and Mexico. Fifty years ago nearly all that flotsam was biodegradable. These days it is 90 per cent plastic.

'It took us a week to get across and there was always some plastic thing bobbing by,' says Moore, who speaks in a jaded, sardonic drawl that occasionally flares up into heartfelt oratory. 'Bottle caps, toothbrushes, styrofoam cups, detergent bottles, pieces of polystyrene packaging and plastic bags. Half of it was just little chips that we couldn't identify. It wasn't a revelation so much as a gradual sinking feeling that something was terribly wrong here. Two years later I went back with a fine-mesh net, and that was the real mind-boggling discovery.'

Floating beneath the surface of the water, to a depth of 10 metres, was a multitude of small plastic flecks and particles, in many colours, swirling like snowflakes or fish food. An awful thought occurred to Moore and he started measuring the weight of plastic in the water compared to that of plankton. Plastic won, and it wasn't even close. 'We found six times more plastic than plankton, and this was just colossal,' he says. 'No one had any idea this was happening, or what it might mean for marine ecosystems, or even where all this stuff was coming from.'...(Click for remainder.)

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Condoleezza Rice: Liar, Secretary of State, War Criminal

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Obama Passing New Law to Allow Searching of PCs, Laptops and Media Devices

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RealDVD vs. DVD-CCA: The Duel Begins in Earnest

By Corynne McSherry
Electronic Frontier Foundation


Opening shots were fired Friday in the RealNetworks v. DVD-CCA case. Unfortunately, the public was excluded from key parts of the battle, when the presiding judge, Marilyn Hall Patel, granted DVD-CCA's request to close the courtroom.

Some quick background: In September 2008, the motion picture industry sued RealNetworks over its RealDVD software, which was designed to allow consumers to copy their DVDs to their computers for later playback. Real had obtained a license from DVD-CCA for its Content Scramble System ("CSS") software, following a path blazed by Kaleidescape in an earlier court fight, DVD-CCA v. Kaleidescape, where a California state court rejected the DVD-CCA’s argument that Kaleidescape's licensed digital DVD jukebox violated the DVD-CCA license. Despite this precedent favoring Real, Judge Patel ordered a temporary halt to distribution of RealDVD in October 2008. At issue now is whether that temporary injunction will stay in place until the case is resolved. Such an injunction, Real's attorney told the court Friday, would sound the "death knell" for the product.

On Friday, the first day of what is expected to be a three day hearing, the movie studios claimed that Real deliberately circumvented several layers of technical protections built into DVDs, including not just CSS but also ARccOS, RipGuard, bus encryption and bus authentication.

Anticipating Real's claim that its technology facilitates fair use, the studios also insisted that fair use never excuses digital copying of a DVD, and that they have a right to be paid for every additional copy made. As the attorney for the DVD-CCA put it: "DVD-CCA doesn't license copying." In fact, he argued, the license forbids it. The technical, procedural and general "specifications" that accompany the CSS license describe what an authorized product can do. If the licensee follows the steps laid out in the specifications, he said, it will get an legal player--but not a copier. The DVD-CCA also argued that Real knew the licensing consortium didn't intend to permit copying because of the positions it took in the Kaleidescape case....(Click for remainder.)

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State That Made Obama Gives its Verdict On Him

It was in Iowa that Barack Obama won his first, stunning victory over Hillary Clinton to take a huge step towards the Democratic nomination and the White House. Last week, he returned to the rural, mainly white state to unveil his plan for a greener America - and found that many Iowans like what he has done, but fear for their future.

By Paul Harris
The Observer


Douglas Burns works on a newspaper in the small town of Carroll, Iowa, whose 10,000 souls live near the banks of the Middle Raccoon River amid a wide expanse of quintessential American farmland.

Burns is a columnist on Carroll's Daily Times Herald, a post that would not normally see him command the attention of those who aspire to occupy the White House. Yet Burns has interviewed Barack Obama a staggering six times. "It is remarkable, I suppose," he said. Burns's position of power comes from the unique role Iowa has played in the rise of Obama to the White House.

Throughout 2007, he followed Obama's Iowa's campaign for the Democratic nomination as it criss-crossed the state, stopping in dozens of tiny towns, just like Carroll, gradually building up to Obama's astonishing victory over Hillary Clinton for on 3 January 2008. That night went down as one of the most significant in recent American history. It showed that this farm-dominated, overwhelmingly white, midwestern state could be an unlikely springboard for Obama's journey to the White House.

That victory not only proved that he could beat the Democratic frontrunner - Clinton - but that white voters were more than willing to elect a black man as their commander-in-chief.

To cheering crowds in the state capital Des Moines, Obama delivered one of the most memorable speeches of his generation, which began with the words: "You know, they said this day would never come." When it was over, his supporters partied long into the night....(Click for remainder.)

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