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Spain Opens Inquiry on Guantánamo

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

By The Associated Press
The New York Times


MADRID (AP) -- Spain's top investigative magistrate opened an investigation into the Bush administration Wednesday over alleged torture of terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay.

Judge Baltasar Garzon said documents declassified by the new U.S. government suggest the practice was systematic.

Garzon said he was acting under Spain's observance of the principle of universal justice, which allows crimes allegedly committed in other countries to be prosecuted in Spain.

Garzon's move is separate from a complaint by human rights lawyers that seeks charges against six specific Bush administration officials they accuse of creating a legal framework to permit torture of suspects at Guantanamo Bay and other U.S. detention facilities.

Spanish prosecutors on April 17 said any such probe should be carried out by the U.S. and recommended against it being launched in Spain. Garzon originally had that case, but ultimately it was transferred to another judge....(Click for remainder.)

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Four Times Married, Drunk Driving, Drug Addicted, Tax Evading, Ex-Con Marion Berry Calls Gay Marriage Immoral

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Dose of Reality: Maddow Mocks Texas Governor's Anti-Flu Requests

By David Edwards and Muriel Kane
The Raw Story


Texas Governor Rick Perry’s request for the federal government to provide his state with 37,430 courses of anti-flu medication from the national stockpile has come under fire in light of his earlier resistance to accepting federal stimulus money.

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom was particularly scathing in an interview Monday with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow about Perry’s urgency over a handful of swine flu cases in his state compared with his lack of concern for the far larger number of unemployed.

“Give me everything but unemployment insurance!” Newsom mocked. “Everything else, but not the thing that my constituencies need the most!”

“Do you feel like where the Republican Party is at ideologically hurts their leaders’ ability to do good, practical governance?” Maddow asked.

“I think it’s self-evident,” Newsome replied. “Republican registration [in California] is way down. We have a governor that, candidly, is acting more like a Democrat each and every day.”

“What’s frustrating with Perry and some others,” Newsom continued, “is I don’t think they’re dealing with the reality of the needs and the desires and the frustrations of real people ”

One conservative blogger, however, defended Perry’s request for anti-flu medications, writing that “requesting part of Texas allotment of vaccine units is sort of like asking the dry cleaners for your clothes back after a week. The clothes are yours. You’ve already paid. Now you’re just picking them up. Texas is just picking up the dry cleaning in this case, not begging for the feds to save us.”...(Click for remainder.)


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Fatuous Gasbag Limbaugh on Specter Leaving GOP: "A Lot of People--Specter, Take McCain With You"

By Media Matters



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UAW Union May Take Over Chrysler



Chrysler may give union 55% stake instead of $10.6bn to provide healthcare after Obama administration piles pressure on carmaker.


By Andrew Clark
The Guardian


Chrysler's largest trade union could end up owning 55% of the ailing carmaker under a tentative deal intended to save the cash-strapped 84-year-old company from bankruptcy and possible liquidation.

With just 48 hours to go before a deadline set by the Obama administration to prove its viability, the third largest US motor manufacturer yesterday agreed the outlines of an arrangement to carve itself up between the union, the US government, lenders and its likely technology-sharing partner, Fiat.

Under the pact, the United Auto Workers Union would take a majority share in the company and would get a seat on the board – an unprecedented arrangement which would turn the firm effectively into an owner-operated enterprise.

In return for shares in Chrysler, the UAW will allow the company to cut by half the $10.6bn it is supposed to be investing in a union-run trust to provide healthcare for retired workers.

In a letter made public last night, the UAW's leadership asked members to accept changes to bonuses, overtime, job security agreements and health benefits. It warned that unless workers agreed, the US government would withdraw financial support and Chrysler faced "immediate liquidation".

"These modifications to our contract and to the [healthcare] trust are essential to securing federal loans to keep Chrysler in business so that we can keep manufacturing jobs here in the United States and, more importantly, live to fight another day," wrote the UAW's president, Ron Gettelfinger, and vice-president, General Holiefield....(Click for remainder.)

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100 Days of Disquietude

Obama's first few months weren't as frenzied as Roosevelt's--but they might have been more productive.

By Alan Brinkley
The New Republic


There is no very good reason to judge a new president by his first 100 days. Some of our greatest presidents accomplished little in their first months. Some of our least successful had impressive beginnings. But ever since the New Deal trumpeted the successes of its own first 100 days, it has been common to take note of what subsequent presidents have done in the same period. President Obama is aware of the history. He read books about Roosevelt's first 100 days before he took office, and some members of his team have referred often to what they hoped to accomplish in their first months. So it makes more than usual sense to consider what the new administration has accomplished in this short but significant period--one that has been less frenetic than Franklin Roosevelt's, but in some ways more productive. (For photographs from Obama's first 100 days, click here.)

Franklin Roosevelt was a dynamo of energy in his first 100 days, and the frenzy of activity that he created was itself important in building confidence and optimism in the face of growing panic. Roosevelt's inaugural address promised "action, and action now." He made liberal use of radio, the first president to have done so, to make sure that Americans were aware of what he was doing. But most of all, he passed legislation--lots of it, and not all of it good.

One of his first bills, the Economy Act, reduced government spending in such areas as veteran benefits and the salaries of federal employees--and it actually exacerbated the nation's greatest problem, deflation. The National Industrial Recovery Act, the most popular legislative achievement of Roosevelt's first 100 days, created a corporatist behemoth that also promoted deflation by artificially increasing prices without increasing incomes. Its failure was visible well before the Supreme Court struck it down in 1935.

But in those early days, Roosevelt did more good than harm. He saved the financial system from collapse, almost certainly the most important event in the first 100 days, and perhaps in the first two years, of the administration. The "banking holiday" he declared immediately after his inauguration, the passage of the Glass-Steagall Act (which created the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, and whose repeal in 1999 is often blamed for much of our own present crisis), and the birth of the Securities and Exchange Commission (the undermining of which in recent years contributed to the financial collapse)--together, these measures helped the nation's financial institutions to survive, even if they did not immediately flourish. Other New Deal measures in these first months helped create a significant public works program, jobs for the unemployed, relief for people in need, and aid to the staggering farm economy....(Click for remainder.)

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We Didn't Have to Lose Arlen Specter



By Sen. Olympia Snowe
Op-Ed The New York Times


IT is disheartening and disconcerting, at the very least, that here we are today — almost exactly eight years after Senator Jim Jeffords left the Republican Party — witnessing the departure of my good friend and fellow moderate Republican, Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, for the Democratic Party. And the announcement of his switch was all the more painful because I believe it didn’t have to be this way.

When Senator Jeffords became an independent in 2001, I said it was a sad day for the Republicans, but it would be even sadder if we failed to confront and learn from the devaluation of diversity within the party that contributed to his defection. I also noted that we were far from the heady days of 1998, when Republicans were envisioning the possibility of a filibuster-proof 60-vote margin. (Recall that in the 2000 election, most pundits were shocked when Republicans lost five seats, resulting in a 50-50 Senate.)

I could have hardly imagined then that, in 2009, we would fondly reminisce about the time when we were disappointed to fall short of 60 votes in the Senate. Regrettably, we failed to learn the lessons of Jim Jeffords’s defection in 2001. To the contrary, we overreached in interpreting the results of the presidential election of 2004 as a mandate for the party. This resulted in the disastrous elections of 2006 and 2008, which combined for a total loss of 51 Republicans in the House and 13 in the Senate — with a corresponding shift of the Congressional majority and the White House to the Democrats.

It was as though beginning with Senator Jeffords’s decision, Republicans turned a blind eye to the iceberg under the surface, failing to undertake the re-evaluation of our inclusiveness as a party that could have forestalled many of the losses we have suffered....(Click for remainder.)

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Premiere: "War/No More Trouble" Playing for Change

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President Obama at the FBI

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Right-Wing Gutter Snipe, Michelle Malkin, & Pathetic Snooze-Meister, Michael Savage, Use Swine Flu to Pebble Xenophobia

The right-wing pundits who seized on the swine flu to push their anti-immigrant rhetoric are employing an ancient racist tactic.

By Joshua Holland
AlterNet


In the middle of the 14th century, the plague swept across Europe, leaving death and despair in its wake. A terrified and confused population blamed the Jews -- aliens in their midst -- for bringing the "black death" upon them.

Lacking knowledge of viruses or other microscopic organisms, they accused the Jews, a handy target, of poisoning the wells of Christian villages. The charge contributed to a series of pogroms in which thousands were burned alive. 

During the more than 600 years since, our understanding of disease transmission has advanced by leaps and bounds, but the same primitive tribalism that inspired the lethal xenophobia that raged across Europe then remains on display today.  

With hundreds of cases of swine flu reported in Mexico, and dozens more appearing in the U.S., anti-immigrant hard-liners wasted no time blaming their one-size-fits-all bogeyman for the disease.

They took to the airwaves and scribbled hastily on their blogs about how America's supposed "open-door policy" towards migrants from Mexico was the cause of the outbreak's appearance on this side of the Rio Grande.

According to transcripts provided by the watchdog group Media Matters, blogger and former Fox News personality Michelle Malkin took a triumphal attitude over the handful of cases that have popped up in the U.S., writing: "I've blogged for years about the spread of contagious diseases from around the world into the U.S. as a result of uncontrolled immigration."...(Click for remainder.)

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The Clinton Bubble

By Robert Scheer
TruthDig


Has Timothy Geithner ever had lunch with a non-megamillionaire who has lost his job or home because of the banking meltdown? I ask that question after reading the list of the treasury secretary’s luncheon dates when he was head of the New York Federal Reserve, a list that the government was forced to provide in response to a lawsuit.

During those years when he was supposed to be supervising Wall Street, he supped most often in the top-echelon dining room of some bank or at the home of one of the financial moguls who created the mess that has now bankrupted billions throughout the world. One of his frequent luncheon buddies was Sanford I. Weill, who as chairman of Citigroup lobbied successfully for the reversal of key regulations that dated back to the New Deal era. That change permitted Weill’s oligarchy to become “too big to fail.”

Another preferred dining companion was Robert Rubin, who as Bill Clinton’s treasury secretary pushed through Weill’s favored deregulation—a disastrous “reform” that lies at the heart of the current mess—and who went on to become chairman of Citigroup, where he presided over a downfall of the company that required a $45 billion taxpayer bailout. Geithner had worked for Rubin at the Treasury Department, and it was Rubin who got him his job at the New York Fed and hooked him up with Barack Obama.

Geithner has since pushed the Obama administration to approach the banking crisis not in response to the needs of destitute homeowners but rather from the side of the bankers who are seizing their homes. Instead of keeping people in their homes with a freeze on foreclosures, he has rewarded the unscrupulous lenders who conned ordinary folks....(Click for remainder.)

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Pennsylvania Democrats Reserving Judgment on Specter



By Sean Scully
Time.com


Democrats in Washington were quick to celebrate Republican Senator Arlen Specter's shocking announcement that he was switching parties. But in his home state of Pennsylvania, Specter's news received a much more measured reception from his newfound party colleagues. Perhaps that isn't all that surprising, considering that Specter, a longtime rival, had in one fell swoop effectively won the Democratic nomination for next year's Senate race.

"I would not have predicted what happened today, five years ago, or even five hours ago," said Montgomery County Commissioner Joe Hoeffel, who ran unsuccessfully against Specter in 2004. "It's bigger than Senator Specter's future, it's bigger than the fate of a couple of my friends who wanted to run against him in the Democratic primary who are kind of being rudely shoved aside ... There will certainly be Pennsylvania Democrats who will not be pleased about this, but I think people will see the greater good here," Hoeffel told TIME hours after the announcement. (See a day by day look at the first 100 days of the Obama administration.)

It's true that only a handful of relatively low profile state Democrats had actually filed their candidacies formally, including State Rep. Bill Kortz and Joe Torsella, the former director of the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, who issued a statement Tuesday insisting that he intends to stay in the race. (Read Mark Halperin's report card of Obama's first 100 days in office.)...(Click for remainder.)

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Hannity Waterboard Offer: Olbermann Increases the Pressure

By David Bauder
Associated Press via The Huffington Post


NEW YORK — The debate over torture is getting personal for two of cable TV's prime-time hosts. After Fox News Channel's Sean Hannity made a seemingly impromptu offer last week to undergo waterboarding as a benefit for charity, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann leapt at it. He offered $1,000 to the families of U.S. troops for every second Hannity withstood the technique.

Olbermann repeated the offer on Monday's show and said in an interview Tuesday that he's heard no response. He said he'll continue to pursue it.

"I don't think he has the courage to even respond to this _ let alone do it," Olbermann said.

Fox News Channel representatives did not respond to requests for comment.

The two men are on opposite poles of a debate that has preoccupied the worlds of talk TV and radio. Hannity says waterboarding is a fair and necessary interrogation technique for suspected terrorists; Olbermann calls it torture, says it's ineffective and should not be done by Americans.

Charles Grodin was challenging Hannity on the issue on Fox last week, and asked whether he would consent to be waterboarded.

"Sure," Hannity said. "I'll do it for charity ... I'll do it for the troops' families."

It wasn't exactly clear how serious the conversation was, since Grodin joked, "Are you busy on Sunday?" and Hannity laughed....(Click for remainder.)

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Signs GOP is Rethinking Its Stance on Gay Marriage?

By Kyle
Right Wing Watch


The New York Times' Adam Nagourney has a piece in today's paper claiming that the "the issue of gay marriage may be turning into more of a hindrance than a help" for the Republican Party.

Citing a recent poll showing that 57 percent of those under the age 40 said they support marriage equality, Nagourney says it suggests to "many Republicans that the potency of the gay-marriage question is on the decline." He then quotes three Republicans, the first being Steve Schmidt, John McCain's senior strategist during his presidential campaign.

Schmidt recently came out in favor of marriage equality, so it is no surprise that he thinks the GOP should re-examine its stance on the issue. But, as Timothy Potter of the Family Research Council put it, Steve Schmidt isn’t exactly speaking for the majority of the party these days:
Steve Schmidt isn’t the head of the GOP. But I don’t doubt that there are others in the GOP establishment who think like him, and I don’t care. The GOP should do what it thinks is best for itself. I don’t think abandoning a third of your base is necessarily a good idea.
The article also contains a quote from Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty:
Asked if he thought, given recent events, that Republicans were making a political mistake in emphasizing gay issues, Mr. Pawlenty, who is 48, responded: “I think it’s an important issue for our conservative voters.” But he notably did not dwell on the subject.
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What Kind of Democrat Will Arlen Specter Be?

By Nate Silver
FiveThirtyEight.com


My first take on Arlen Specter's defection to the Democratic Party was rather skeptical. Although the move is undoubtedly quite psychologically damaging for the GOP, there is room to question how much it will actually change the way that the sausage gets made in the Congress. If, for example, Arlen Specter is a Ben Nelson kind of Democrat, voting against initiatives like EFCA while driving an extremely hard bargain on health care, it is hard to see how Democrats gain, since there is little to distinguish a Ben Nelson type of Democrat from an Arlen Specter type of Republican.

I've now had the chance to examine the data on party-switching in more detail. When Congressmen have changed parties in the past, this has generally been accompanied by relatively material changes in their voting patterns -- thus, Democrats have ample reason to be pleased. Nevertheless, odds are that Specter will line up squarely in the conservative half of the Democratic caucus and will probably leave room to his left for a primary challenge.

Since 1980, according to Wikipedia, 20 Congressmen (16 Representatives and 4 Senators) have switched from one party to the other. The vast majority of these switches -- 17 of 20 -- were from the Democratic Party to the Republicans, mostly among conservative Southern Democrats in the 1980s and early 90s. Only Specter, Long Island Representative Michael Forbes and Jim Jeffords have gone the other way. I classify these Congressmen, by the way, by which party they caucused with regardless of how cute they tried to get about the label attached to their name. Thus Jeffords is treated as going from Republican to Democrat even though he still called himself an independent, whereas Joe Lieberman is not classified as a party-switcher because he never ceased caucusing with the Democrats....(Click for remainder.)

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Obama's First 100 Days: 10 Achievements You Didn't Know About

By Sam Stein
The Huffington Post


Despite the anticipation that accompanies it, the marking of a president's first 100 days in office is a decidedly predictable affair. The White House, while downplaying the metric, nevertheless goes to great lengths to stress the enormity of its own accomplishments. Critics, not surprisingly, carry a diametrically different message; only this time, terms like socialist and fascist are bandied about.

That said, conservatives and progressives alike do seem to be in agreement on one aspect of the Obama presidency: one hundred days into office and a lot has been done. From new approaches to two wars to more than a trillion dollars of government spending; from pirate attacks to flu epidemics; from controversial cartoons to Senatorial defections; a full news day has not this administration lacked.

The abnormally packed cycle has had its side effects. Stories that once could or would receive front page treatment have faded fast. Indeed, some of the most consequential changes made by the president to date - affecting our nation's health care system, infrastructure, urban and foreign policy - have received modest to little coverage, either discussed but not appreciated, or reported but not in great depth. As Obama gets set to host a press conference marking his first 100 days, the Huffington Post asked administration officials as well as Democrats inside and out of government for their picks of under-appreciated stories during this time period. Here are ten of those stories.

Health Care: The Obama White House cleared an important hurdle in the health care reform debate when it appropriated $19 billion in the stimulus package to help implement an electronic medical record system. The money is paltry compared to the hundreds of billions set aside for an overhaul of the health care system in the budget. But officials inside and out of the White House say it significance is hard to understate

"We need to have health IT so we have a better idea both of what works but also... so people can share information," Zeke Emanuel, Obama's health care adviser told the Huffington Post in mid-March. "We are on our way in a way that we have never committed ourselves before."...(Click for remainder.)

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The Mannity: "100 Days of America Going Down the Drain"

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The Senator's New Clothes

By Johnathan Richards
The Huffington Post



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Specter: "Now I Can Say It: What a Bunch of F*cking A**holes!"

By Andy Borowitz
The Huffington Post


Arlen Specter, the newly minted Democratic Senator from Pennsylvania, let his hair down in a freewheeling press conference at the U.S. Senate today, making this comment about his former Republican colleagues: "Now I can say it: what a bunch of fucking assholes!"

Mr. Specter had a bounce in his step and lilt in his voice as he tore into members of his former party in a press appearance that appeared to set records with its body count.

"This is something I've wanted to say for years: is there a bigger dick on this planet than Mitch McConnell?" he said. "I know he thinks he's doing his job, but please, what a fucking turd."

Observers who are accustomed to the much-ballyhooed collegiality of the Senate were taken aback by the jaw-dropping profanity of Sen. Specter's parting shots, many of which were breathtaking in their anatomical crudeness.

"He must've had a lot of rage bottled up over the years," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). "Suddenly he was talking like a Somali pirate."...(Click for remainder.)

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Right-Wing Douche-Nozzle, William Kristol, Thinks Specter Move is "Good for Republican"

Bwah ha ha ha ha ha!  Stop! You're killing me! Ha Ha Ha Ha!



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Lugar to Support IU Professor's Nomination

First in GOP to back Obama's pick to head internal law office

By Sylvia A Smith
Fort Wayne Journal Gazette


WASHINGTON – Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., said Tuesday he will support the nomination of an Indiana University law professor to head the Obama administration’s internal law office.

He is the first Republican to publicly declare his backing for Dawn Johnsen, whose selection to head the Office of Legal Counsel has grown into a fight about abortion rights and counterterrorism practices.

Some Republicans have promised to try to block Johnsen’s confirmation either because of her support for abortion rights or because she criticized the legal justification used by the Bush administration for the torture of detainees.

Lugar’s support does not guarantee the Senate will confirm Johnsen. Sixty votes are needed to stave off a filibuster, and vote-counters say they are aware of close to 60 "yes" votes for Johnsen, but they are not declaring victory. One Democrat – Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson – has said he will vote against Johnsen.

Advocacy groups have turned Johnsen’s nomination into a high-profile tussle in Washington. On Tuesday morning, a group of 75 Hoosier law professors signed a letter asking Lugar to support Johnsen....(Click for remainder.)

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Steele's Genius Plan to Oust Specter Exposed!

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Liberal Dems Push to Cap Credit Card Rates

By Mike Lillis
The Washington Independent


A group of liberal House Democrats on Tuesday unveiled legislation that would cap credit card rates at 18 percent. This should not to be confused with the push to freeze rates on existing balances, which made headlines last week — the Democrats’ cap would apply to future transactions as well.

The sponsors of the proposal — Reps. Maurice Hinchey (D-N.Y.), Peter Welch (D-Vt.), John Tierney (D-Mass.) and Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) — will offer the measure as an amendment to the Credit Card Holders’ Bill of Rights, which is scheduled for a House vote as early as Thursday.

“This amendment will help end the credit card trap and provide Americans with the comfort of knowing their credit card rates won’t soar to eye-popping levels while still providing credit card companies with large enough margins to enjoy a profit,” Hinchey said in a statement.

But don’t expect the provision to get very far. Though the larger bill has wide bipartisan support in the House — where it passed by a vote of 312 to 112 last September (including support from 84 Republicans) — the addition of a rate cap would likely be a deal-breaker for many lawmakers. Indeed, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), the chief sponsor of the larger bill, has been quick to emphasize the absence of rate caps as a key selling point of her proposal. Critics of such caps maintain that they would prevent the card companies from setting their rates based on the risk posed by the borrower — a change that would result in rate hikes for all card users....(Click for remainder.)

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Conyers and Nadler to Attorney General: Appoint Special Counsel to Investigate Torture

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Jerrold Nadler (NY-08), Chair of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, Congressman John Conyers (MI-14), Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, and their Judiciary colleagues wrote to Attorney General Eric Holder requesting the appointment of a Special Counsel to investigate and, where appropriate, prosecute torture committed against detainees during the Bush administration. Similar letters were also sent to previous Attorneys General Gonzalez and Mukasey.

“This letter makes official our views on the necessary procedure in investigating those U.S. officials who allowed or actively instructed others to commit torture,” said Rep. Nadler. “Because the United States is bound by its own laws and by international treaty, we are obligated to investigate and, where necessary, to prosecute those who have violated the laws against committing torture – whether by ordering it or committing it directly. We have no choice if we are to remain a just and principled nation of laws.

“A Special Counsel is the most appropriate way to handle this matter. It would remove from the process any question that the investigation was subject to political pressure, and it would preempt any perceptions of conflict of interest within the Justice Department, which produced the torture memos. President Obama has honorably shown his commitment to the rule of law and placed this process into the hands of his able Attorney General, where it belongs. I look forward to working with Attorney General Holder on this, and with Chairman Conyers as the Judiciary Committee continues its oversight investigations.”

Text of the letter, sent today, is below.

April 28, 2009

The Honorable Eric Holder
Attorney General of the United States
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530

Dear Mr. Attorney General:

We write to request that you appoint a special counsel for the investigation and possible prosecution of any violations of federal criminal laws related to the interrogation of detainees in the effective custody or control of the United States in connection with counter-terrorism operations or armed conflicts in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States. Many of us previously asked your predecessor, Attorney General Mukasey, to do so, expressing our desire to ensure an independent investigation into serious allegations that high-ranking officials, including lawyers and others from the Department of Justice itself, approved the use of enhanced interrogation techniques that amounted to torture.

Recent events highlight the need for such an appointment. The OLC memos formally released last week provide additional details regarding the purported legal justifications provided by DOJ lawyers for various interrogation techniques, including the slamming of detainees into walls, the use of stress positions, confinement in boxes, sleep deprivation, and waterboarding. The Senate Armed Services Inquiry into the Treatment of Detainees in U.S. Custody, declassified and released on April 21, confirms that these interrogation practices were developed at the request of and authorized by high-ranking administration officials, and that the abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere can be linked to these policy decisions.1 Top Bush Administration officials previously testified that at least three detainees were subjected to waterboarding,2 and the recently released OLC memos reveal that one detainee was subjected to waterboarding 183 times in a one month period while another was subjected to waterboarding 83 times in one month.3

During your confirmation hearings, you testified that waterboarding is torture, and the International Committee of the Red Cross, which had been denied access to detainees held at CIA secret prisons for several years, has concluded that the treatment alleged by fourteen of these detainees constituted torture.4 Earlier this year, the Bush Administration’s top official in charge of military commissions concluded that the U.S. military’s treatment of Mohammed al-Qahtani “met the legal definition of torture.”5

As you are aware, Justice Department regulations provide for the Attorney General to appoint an outside special counsel when: 1) a “criminal investigation of a person or matter is warranted,” (2) the “investigation or prosecution of that person or matter by a United States Attorney’s Office or litigating Division of the Department of Justice would present a conflict of interest for the Department,” and 3) “it would be in the public interest to appoint an outside Special Counsel to assume responsibility for the matter.”6 Such counsel is to be appointed from outside the government and should have the authority to secure resources for the investigation and prosecution and have full investigatory and prosecutorial powers.7

We believe that these three criteria have been met and warrant the appointment of a special counsel to investigate whether federal criminal laws were violated by individuals who authorized or participated in the interrogation of detainees. First, as noted above, there is abundant, credible evidence of torture and the cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment of detainees, and criminal investigation is not only warranted, it is also required. The Geneva Conventions obligate High Contracting Parties like the United States to investigate and bring before our courts those individuals “alleged to have committed, or to have ordered to be committed” grave breaches of those Conventions.8 The war crimes act, 18 U.S.C. § 2441, creates jurisdiction in the U.S. courts whenever the victim or alleged offender is a U.S. national or member of the Armed Forces, and specifically identifies torture and cruel or inhuman treatment, as well as the conspiracy to commit those acts, as punishable war crimes. The Convention Against Torture (CAT) – signed by President Reagan in 1988 and ratified by the U.S. Senate in 1994 – also obligates the U.S. to conduct a “prompt and impartial investigation” and “submit the case to [our] competent authorities for the purpose of prosecution” whenever there are reasonable grounds to believe that torture has been committed in a territory under our jurisdiction or by U.S. nationals.9 The federal anti-torture statute, 18 USC § 2340A, criminalizes torture and the conspiracy to commit torture and creates jurisdiction in the U.S. courts whenever the “alleged offender is a national of the United States” or “is present in the United States.”

Second, a conflict of interest would be presented in having the Department investigate allegations that high-ranking Justice Department officials and lawyers provided legal guidance on and may have been involved in developing interrogation policy. For example, the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel and former Attorney General and White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales advised the Administration and President to deny detainees the legal protection of the Geneva Conventions, and OLC lawyers wrote extensive legal memos that authorized specific interrogation techniques that likely amounted to torture. While some key individuals are no longer with the Department or Executive Branch, it is impossible to determine at this stage and before conclusion of the necessary investigation whether additional conflicts of interest might exist or arise. When Department lawyers are alleged to have been involved, we believe the Attorney General should turn to a special counsel.

Finally, there can be little doubt that the public interest will be served by appointment of a special counsel. The authorization and use of interrogation techniques that likely amounted to torture has generated tremendous concern and outrage in this country, and has harmed our legal and moral standing in the world. As a country committed to the rule of law, we must investigate and demand accountability for acts of torture committed by or on our behalf. Appointing a special counsel to undertake this task would serve the interests of the Department and of the public in ensuring that the necessary investigation is thorough and impartial, and that the United States fairly investigates serious and credible accusations of misconduct, even where high-ranking government officials may be involved.
We applaud President Obama’s efforts to assure America and the rest of the world that this Department’s investigative and prosecutorial decisions will be free from political considerations. We are confident that you and the President will uphold this critical guarantee, and will restore the Department’s independence and integrity. Yet, as you undoubtedly are aware, Americans on both sides of the political aisle worry that this issue already is mired in politics, with those who oppose investigation characterizing that possibility as a political witch hunt and those who, like us, support accountability expressing concern that the rule of law must be upheld. Given these factors, any decisions that you make regarding prosecutions will be perceived by some as political. Appointment of a special counsel insulates you and the Department from such claims, and instills confidence that the outcome of the investigation could not possibly have been predetermined or otherwise improperly influenced.

The special counsel rules provide for both accountability and transparency. An appointed special counsel would be subject to Department ethics rules and to oversight by you to prevent undue expansion of the investigation. The special counsel would report to you about any decision to prosecute or not to prosecute; you could provide that report to Congress and the public, and would have to report to Congress if the special counsel is fired or the investigation halted. Appointing a special counsel balances the need, recognized after Watergate, to ensure independent investigation of high-ranking officials with the need to avoid prosecutors with unchecked power.

Given the importance of this issue, we look forward to a response to our request at your earliest convenience.


1. Senate Armed Services Committee Inquiry Into the Treatment of Detainees in U.S. Custody, http://levin.senate.gov/newsroom/supporting/2009/SASC.DetaineeReport.042209.pdf.

2. Three were waterboarded, CIA chief confirms, LA Times, Feb. 6, 2008.

3. Scott Shane, Waterboarding Used 266 Times on 2 Suspects, NY Times, April 20, 2009.

4. ICRC Report on the Treatment of fourteen “High Value Detainees” in CIA Custody, Feb. 2007, available at http://www.nybooks.com/icrc-report.pdf.

5. Bob Woodward, Detainee Tortured, Says U.S. Official, Washington Post, January 14, 2009, A01.

6. 28 C.F.R. 600.1.

7. Id. at 600.3-600.6.

8. Geneva Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and the Sick in Armed Forces in the Field, Aug. 12, 1949, entered into force Oct. 21, 1950, 6 U.S.T. 3217, 75 U.N.T.S. 31, Art. 49http://www.icrc.org/ihl.nsf/7c4d08d9b287a42141256739003e636b/fe20c3d903ce27e3c125641e004a92f3; Geneva Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of Wounded, Sick, and Shipwrecked Members of Armed Forces at Sea, Aug. 12, 1949, entered into force Oct. 21, 1950, 6 U.S.T. 3217, 75 U.N.T.S. 85, Art. 50 ; Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, Aug. 12, 1949, entered into force Oct. 21, 1950. 6 U.S.T. 3316, 75 U.N.T.S. 135, Art. 129; Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Times of War, Aug. 12, 1949, entered into force Oct. 21, 1950, 6 U.S.T. 3516, 75 U.N.T.S. 287, Art. 146.

9. Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (1984), Arts. 7(1), 12. 

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The Hill Reported Ryan and Gregg's Reconciliation Criticism, Omitted Their Prior Support

By Media Matters

In an April 27 Hill article on congressional Democrats' reported decision to use the budget reconciliation process to advance health care reform and education initiatives, reporter Walter Alarkon quoted Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH) referring to this use of the reconciliation process as "an unprecedented power grab," and the "politics" of Hugo Chavez, respectively. However, Alarkon failed to note that Republicans, including both Ryan and Gregg, repeatedly supported using the budget reconciliation process to pass major Bush administration initiatives. Media Matters for America has documented a pattern of journalists uncritically quoting Republican congressmen criticizing the decision to use reconciliation as overly partisan, without noting that the congressmen they are quoting -- including Gregg, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and Sens. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) -- voted to allow the use of the budget reconciliation process to pass legislation during the Bush administration.

In his article, Alarkon reported that Ryan "said that a reconciliation bill to overhaul the healthcare system would be 'an unprecedented power grab' by Democrats" but did not note that Ryan repeatedly voted to allow the use of reconciliation to pass tax cut bills during the Bush administration. In March 2001, Ryan voted for a budget resolution which included language that allowed for the consideration of President Bush's 2001 tax cuts through the reconciliation process, and voted again in May to approve the final version. Additionally, in 2003, Ryan voted for the House version of the fiscal 2004 budget resolution that called for additional tax cuts to be considered under reconciliation, and also approved the final version of the 2004 budget resolution. In 2005, Ryan voted for the initial House version of the fiscal 2006 budget resolution, which also called for tax cuts through reconciliation, and again voted for the final version. Ryan subsequently voted in favor of all three tax cut bills passed under the reconciliation process themselves....(Click for remainder.)

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Judd Gregg Needs a History Lesson

By Steve Benen
Washington Monthly


The Obama administration's proposed reforms of the student-loan system are a no-brainer -- they streamline the process, save money, and help more people go to college. Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), however, remains staunchly opposed, on purely ideological grounds. (via Tim Fernholz)
The Democrats, he says, pulled the same public-private switcheroo before with student loans for college. Back in the late 1990s, "there was a huge debate in the committee . . . between myself and [Senator Ted] Kennedy over a private plan versus a public plan." In the end, they compromised -- the government would offer loans directly to students, but that program would have to compete with private-sector lenders. "And the agreement was very formal, and the record shows this very clearly. We agreed to level the playing field, put both plans on the playing field at an equal status and see who won. Well, private plans won. Big time."

Given the choice, most borrowers went to the private sector for their loans.
I know a lot of political reporters tend to think of Gregg as one of the more serious Republican lawmakers when it comes to reality, but the guy simply doesn't know what he's talking about.

When Clinton compromised in the '90s and created a level playing field, colleges were allowed to choose between direct loans and guaranteed loans. Private plans lost, big time, for quite a while. Eventually, however, the tide turned, and colleges shifted away from the public plan.

Was it because the private sector was superior? No, it was because the private sector was bribing college-loan administrators....(Click for remainder.)

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Anti-Choice Wing-Nuts Angry Over GOP Support for Sebelius



Sen. Sam Brownback Taking Heat for Sticking By HHS Secretary-Designate


By David Weigel
The Washington Independent


The battle against Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D-Kans.), President Obama’s nominee to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, has gone better than many pro-life activists had hoped. Yes, it’s true that Sebelius is expected to be confirmed after an eight-hour debate and cloture vote are held in the Senate today. It’s also true that activists have not managed to dislodge the support of Sebelius’s home state senators, Sam Brownback and Pat Roberts, both Republicans — an embarrassing setback that has prevented the Sebelius nomination from becoming quite the abortion rights showdown that they had hoped for. But they can count some small victories.

“Going into this, there didn’t seem to be any opposition,” said Wendy Wright, the president of Conservative Women for America. “I was at her hearing, and that morning, I was reading news reports about how she was going to ’sail through’ the Senate. Now I’m reading reports about the ‘controversy’ around Kathleen Sebelius. You can attribute that to what the grassroots have done here.”

After two months of pounding from pro-life groups, and two self-inflicted wounds by the nominee, opponents of Sebelius believe that they took a safe nomination and turned it into a controversial one. They have elevated Dr. George Tiller, an abortion doctor who is notorious in Kansas for performing late-term operations, into a figure of national infamy. Sebelius’s payment of $7,000 in back taxes was a minor setback, but misstating how much campaign cash she had received from Tiller turned Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who often defer to presidents on their nominees, from “aye” to “no” on today’s vote to end debate and proceed to a full vote on the nomination.

Before that vote, the anti-Sebelius coalition will hold a press conference on the Hill making the case against her. Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) will make public a letter of opposition to the nomination that, as of press time, eight other conservatives had signed. Still, opponents of the governor have been frustrated by the early and consistent support for Sebelius from Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kans.), a social conservative who is retiring in 2010 to run for governor of Kansas.

“This nomination should be more unpopular than it is,” grumbled one GOP Senate aide. “Brownback’s hesitation and his months of holding off on substantive criticism of Sebelius has basically frozen the ability of pro-life senators to fight as hard as they would like to. It’s tough. It’s very difficult for the pro-life leader in the Senate to mobilize his allies when he’s moving in the other direction.”...(Click for remainder.)

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Obama's First 100 Days: Not Bad

By Steve Benson
Arizona Republic



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Sifting Through Specter's New Committee Powers

By Mike Lillis
The Washington Independent


Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) told reporters Tuesday afternoon that he’s worked out an agreement with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) that will allow the Senate’s newest Democrat to be seated on committees as if he’d entered the upper chamber in 1980 as a Democrat rather than a Republican.

“In discussing that issue with Sen. Reid,” Specter said, “the fair approach which we both agreed to was to be where I would be had I been a Democrat coming into the Senate with my election in 1980. So you can take a look at the charts and figure out exactly where I’d be.”

Notwithstanding any arrangements that Specter might have failed to mention, that means that Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who has six years seniority on Specter, would remain at the helm of the Senate Judiciary Committee (where Specter was the senior Republican until today), and would also outrank Specter on the powerful Appropriations Committee.

Asked, however, if he might be in line to take over the chairmanship of the Appropriations Committee’s subpanel on labor, health and education, which is currently chaired by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Specter said only that “we haven’t worked that out yet.”

Harkin, who was first elected to the Senate in 1985, was in the middle of presiding over a swine flu hearing Tuesday afternoon as Specter was making his remarks. You can bet, however, that he’ll be interested to learn that his seat might be up for grabs....(Click for remainder.)

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FOX's Shep Smith on Flue Paranoia: "[E]verybody's Emailing Going 'The Illegals are Bringing it Across the Border.' Relax!"

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Brownback's No-Win Situation

By Kyle
Right Wing Watch


We've written several posts over the last few month about how Sen. Sam Brownback's standing among the Religious Right has fallen due to his support of Katheleen Sebelius' nomination to be Secretary of Health and Human Services, leading many right-wing activists to distance themselves from him.

Today, Dave Weigel has a good piece in The Washington Independent noting how, despite seemingly no help from anyone in the Senate, the Religious Right has managed to make the vote on Sebelius' nomination into a "controversy" all on its own:
The battle against Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D-Kans.), President Obama’s nominee to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, has gone better than many pro-life activists had hoped. Yes, it’s true that Sebelius is expected to be confirmed after an eight-hour debate and cloture vote are held in the Senate today. It’s also true that activists have not managed to dislodge the support of Sebelius’s home state senators, Sam Brownback and Pat Roberts, both Republicans — an embarrassing setback that has prevented the Sebelius nomination from becoming quite the abortion rights showdown that they had hoped for. But they can count some small victories.

“Going into this, there didn’t seem to be any opposition,” said Wendy Wright, the president of Conservative Women for America. “I was at her hearing, and that morning, I was reading news reports about how she was going to ’sail through’ the Senate. Now I’m reading reports about the ‘controversy’ around Kathleen Sebelius. You can attribute that to what the grassroots have done here.”
(Click for remainder.)

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Major Defeat for Bush/Obama Position on Secrecy

By Glenn Greenwald
Salon.com


The first sign that the Obama DOJ would replicate many of the worst and most radical arguments of the Bush DOJ was in the Jeppesen case, a lawsuit brought by five victims of the CIA's rendition and torture program (including Binyam Mohamed).  The Bush administration had argued that the entire "subject matter" raised by the lawsuit (the rendition program) was such a gravely important "state secret" that the court could not consider any lawsuit relating to that issue.  That argument was a by-product of one of the Bush DOJ's most controversial actions:  its radical expansion of the "state secrets" doctrine.  Whereas that privilege was once an evidentiary privilege enabling the Government to declare specific documents too secret to use in litigation, the Bush DOJ converted it into an all-purpose shield allowing them to have entire lawsuits dismissed even where the lawsuit alleged that the President's conduct was illegal. 

The District Court in Jeppesen had accepted the Bush DOJ's argument and dismissed the lawsuit, and on appeal in February, the Obama DOJ -- to the obvious surprise of the judges and in a reversal of everything Democrats claimed they believed during the Bush presidency -- told the Ninth Circuit panel that they embrace the Bush DOJ "state secrets" position in full (a position they've since repeated in other cases).

Today, in a 26-page ruling (.pdf), the appellate court resoundingly rejected the Bush/Obama position, holding that the "state secrets" privilege -- except in extremely rare circumstances not applicable here -- does not entitle the Government to demand dismissal of an entire lawsuit based on the assertion that the "subject matter" of the lawsuit is a state secret.  Instead, the privilege only allows the Government to make specific claims of secrecy with regard to specific documents and other facts -- exactly how the privilege was virtually always used before the Bush and Obama DOJs sought to expand it into a vast weapon of immunity from all lawsuits challenging the legality of any executive branch program relating to national security....(Click for remainder.)

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Chafee: Specter’s Departure Just Latest Sign of a GOP Gone Stale

By Mike Lillis
The Washington Independent


As the GOP loses the Senate seat held by Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.), who announced today that he's switching allegiances to the Democrats, former Republican Sen. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island says the party has no one to blame but itself.

"The ramifications are huge," Chafee said of Specter's exodus Tuesday, "and the main message is that the Republican Party's not changing."

Chafee pointed out that it was the conservative Club for Growth's backing of his primary challenger in 2006 that forced him to rifle through much of his war chest long before he faced Democratic challenger Sheldon Whitehouse, who won the general election by a margin of 53 percent to 47 percent. Similarly, the Club for Growth has backed Specter's more conservative challenger, the Club's former President Pat Toomey — support that's contributed largely to Toomey's lead in the polls, and Specter's decision to flee to the Democrats in an attempt to keep his day job.

Such primary challenges, Chafee said, have divided the GOP and contributed to the enormous Democratic gains of the past two elections. "You look ahead to 2010 and it doesn't look any better," he said. "What's the party doing?"

Chafee, now a visiting scholar at Brown University, also predicted that Specter's flip lends the Democrats enormous advantage — with morale as well as legislation — as party leaders try to move an ambitious legislative agenda this year....(Click for remainder.)

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O'Reilly and His Friends Get Nasty--and Then Tut-Tut Liberal Nastiness



By David Neiwert
Crooks and Liars


There's no blithering un-self-awareness quite like right-wing blithering un-self-awareness.

Especially when Bill O'Reilly's part of the program, as he was during The O'Reilly Factor last night. He opened with a scathing attack on the New York Times for its own scathing cartoon.

Somewhat hilariously, O'Reilly speculates wildly about the effects of the release of the photos of prisoners being tortured, saying it's "beyond question" that American servicemen and women abroad will be harmed because their publication will foment so much resentment -- even though, of course, he can produce no evidence to support that speculation at all.

Nonetheless, it's enough for O'Reilly to call the cartoon an "atrocity" and "garbage" and accuse the Times of "pushing a hateful, far-left agenda," while the heads of the Times, NBC, and other "far left" outfits are "doing an enormous amount of damage to this country" and are "haters."...(Click for remainder.)

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FOX's Cameron Provides Bad Medicine in Health Care Report


By Media Matters

On the April 27 edition of Fox News' Special Report, chief political correspondent Carl Cameron falsely suggested that President Obama has proposed a nationalized health care system similar to those of England and Canada, and uncritically relayed a portion of a Conservatives for Patients' Rights (CPR) ad that falsely suggests that the former head of the Canadian Medical Association said he favors the current American health care system over the Canadian system.

Referring to the debate over Obama's health care plan, Cameron stated: "The battle is already one of this year's most polarizing and partisan. Conservatives for Patients' Rights launched a new ad with British and Canadian doctors warning Americans about the perils of nationalized health care." Cameron did not note, however, that Obama has explicitly rejected adopting the British and Canadian models, nor did he mention that the public option supported by the White House is fundamentally different from the health care systems provided in Canada and the United Kingdom. According to the Health Care agenda detailed on the White House website, the administration has proposed to "[e]stablish a National Health Insurance Exchange with a range of private insurance options as well as a new public plan based on benefits available to members of Congress that will allow individuals and small businesses to buy affordable health coverage" [emphasis added]. Indeed, when asked during a March 26 online town hall discussion, "Why can we not have a universal health care system, like many European countries, where people are treated based on needs rather than financial resources," Obama replied that instead of adopting a "single-payer system" like England and Canada, "what I think we should do is to build on the system that we have and fill some of these gaps."...(Click for remainder.)

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The Republican Spiral, Down, Down, Down

By Something The Dog Said
Square State


There has been talk of the Republican Party becoming a regional party without much in the way of influence in the national debate, but until recently the Dog did not take this very seriously. After all, ours is a two party system. The few times where a third party has popped to anything like viability in the last 100 years it is has coalesced around a single presidential candidate (the Bull Moss with TR and Ross Perot with the Reform Party being the best examples) they have never managed to gain significant numbers of elected officials in State Houses or Congress.

All this lead the Dog to assume while the Republican Party might have to suffer some defeats, sooner or later it would return to something approaching electoral parity with the Democrats. In the end where else would those who were of a more conservative bent, go? Recent polls and actions by the Republican Party have the Dog rethinking this position. It seems more and more likely the GOP will not be able to return from ignominy and become a force in the nation again.

The Dog thinks it is pretty clear how the Democrats managed to gain control of both Houses of Congress and the White House. The country got a very good look at what the Republicans would do, if they were allowed to have it all there way for 8 years. In short, it was a disaster from top to bottom. The government was neutered, both in the agencies and the courts. Wars started, deficits soared, citizens were spied on, torture was used on prisoners, etc, etc, etc.

The Dog does not need to list it all, you were there, and you lived through it. The thing is as all this was happening there was a small hard core of the nation who supported the Worst President Ever, no matter what. They became habituated to defending the indefensible. Some of them had economic reasons for doing so or single issue reasons for staying the course with a failing Presidency and Party. This is not uncommon, but what was is the level to which the popularity of the President fell, and the level of absolute loyalty his base provided him.

This lead to the very messy Republican primary season and the selection of Sen. McCain, not as the candidate the Party wanted, but as the last man standing. When the inevitable defeat of Sen. McCain came, the Republican Party did not learn the right lesson. Their base, who were happier with the VP Candidate than the Presidential one, decided that the reason they lost was not that they had alienated many Independents and moderates with the "Drill, baby, Drill" and support of the wars and other obviously failed policies, but because they did not hit the culture war wedges hard enough....(Click for remainder.)

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What Does Specter's Switch Mean For The Committees?

By Brian Beutler
Talking Points Memo


Answer: Still unclear. Everyone on the Hill is referring such questions to the Majority Leader's office, and the Majority Leader's office isn't saying much. The Democrats (including Harry Reid himself) are wrapping up their weekly caucus lunch and Reid has scheduled a press conference for 2:45. We'll keep our eye on it.

There are at least two important questions that still need to be answered. First, what will Specter's committee assignments be now that he's a Democrat. And second, who will replace him on his current committees now that he's switching over. He was, of course, ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee, and, for good measure, ranking member on subcommittees in the Environment and Public Works Committee and the Appropriations Committee. Those positions will now have to be handed down to other Republicas.

More on all that later. But for now, keep in mind that the next most senior minority member of the Senate Judiciary Committee is Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT). He used to chair that committee, and there may be term limit rules that prevent him from taking Specter's place. Behind Hatch are Iowa's Chuck Grassley (ranking member on Senate Finance) and Arizona's Jon Kyl (the minority whip). If they don't swap out those coveted positions for Specter's slot on Judiciary, next in line would be...Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL)....(Click for original.)

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President Obama Wants Gov't to be Primary Financier of Student Loans

By Kenneth R. Bazinet
The New York Daily News


WASHINGTON - President Obama said Friday he wants to end a federally subsidized student loan program using private lenders and restore the government's role as the primary financier for college educations.

"This is not about growing the size of government or relying on the free market - because it's not a free market when we have a student loan system that's rigged to reward private lenders without any risk," Obama said.

"It's about whether we want to give tens of billions of tax dollars to special interests or whether we want to make college more affordable for 8-1/2 million more students," he said.

Obama wants to end the private Federal Family Education Loan program, which charges flexible, but often high interest rates. He maintained that taxpayers could save $4billion a year if the government is again the biggest direct lender and backer of such loans.

The federal government became the biggest lender for students in the 1970s, but that shifted toward private lenders during the Bush era.

About 76% of all student loans the past two years were provided by private lenders, according to industry statistics. And about 30% of college students depend on student loans, Education Department data shows.

Obama also favors a $500 annual increase in Pell Grants for each economically eligible student, bringing to $5,500 the total a recipient can receive each year....(Click for remainder.)

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The Daily Left: Sarah Palin Faces ANOTHER Ethics Violation

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Beck Claims "the Global Warming Movement...is About Population Control"

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Margaret Carlson: The Right-Wing Talking Heads are Stoking Xenophobic Riots

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Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Rejects State Secrets Overreach

By mcjoan
Daily Kos


In February, the Obama Justice Department dismayed the entire civil and human rights community by reiterating the Bush administration's arguments that victims of “extraordinary rendition” and torture should not be allowed to bring their claims in federal court because doing so would reveal “state secrets” and harm national security. The case is Mohamed v. Jeppesen Dataplan, on behalf of five five individuals who allege that they were illegally rendered to secret prisons and detention sites where they were tortured. Jeppesen Dataplan is the aviation company which provided aircraft, pilots, and logistical support for the CIA rendition flights responsible for transporting detainees to torture.

The Bush administration succeeded in getting the case dismissed by arguing that the rendition program was a state secret, regardless of how many times President Bush and various CIA directors had talked publicly about it. The Obama administration reiterated that claim before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in February, and today the Court ruled against the government, and reinstated the case.
The three judge panel reversed the lower court’s decision, which had accepted the government’s argument (then made by the Bush administration) that allowing it to move forward would endanger national security.

The logic of the state secrets privilege, the appeals court panel writes (pdf), “simply cannot stretch to encompass cases brought by third-party plaintiffs against alleged government contractors for the contractors’ alleged involvement in tortious intelligence activities. Nothing the plaintiffs have done supports a conclusion that their ‘lips [are] to be for ever sealed respecting’ the claim on which they sue, such that filing this lawsuit would in itself defeat recovery.”

In other words, as the the American Civil Liberties Union had argued on behalf of the five victims, there is no reason to prevent the victims from having their day in court against a government contractor that they claim knowingly assisted in their torture. Pursuing those claims don’t have to reveal any secret evidence about the CIA program that could be dangerous to disclose.
(Click for remainder.)

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Rep. Jim DeMint Crazy Talk on CNN: "Freedom is the Biggest Tent of All"


By John Amato
Crooks and Liars


CNN's Rick Sanchez played a portion of Arlen Specter's press conference to South Carolina's Jim DeMint and asked him if Republicans are weeding out the moderates from the party -- and isn't that a bad thing?
Sanchez: Republicans are making it very difficult for other Republicans because, and he said this on several times, you tell me what you think of it. You're shrinking the electorate to an extreme, to a point that a regular republican can't win. What do you make of that argument?

DeMint: Oh, that's quite the opposite. We're seeing across the country right now, the biggest tent of all is freedom and what we need to do as Republicans is convince Americans that freedom can work in all areas of their life, for all Americans, whether it's education or health care or creating jobs...

Sanchez: What the hell does that mean? The biggest tent is freedom. FREEDOM, I mean, you gotta do better than that.

DeMint: No, what it means is what has worked in America, free people, free markets for years.
Conservatives always say that there problems aren't really problems at all. It's Freedom baby, Freedom is our Big Tent party! That freaked out Sanchez -- understandably, because DeMint's answer made no sense. See, Specter leaving the Republicans is a good thing because he's free to do what he wants. His defection is just an application of their Freedom principle. I'm surprised DeMint didn't paint his face blue and don a kilt for this performance....(Click for remainder.)

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Obama's First 100 Days and the Politics of Transformation

By Gary Hart
The Huffington Post


Last June I urged then-candidate Barack Obama to use his presidency to transform the country for the 21st century world, not simply to repair the damage to our economy, foreign policy, and defenses done by the Bush administration. By that standard, his first three months have been a remarkable success.

Using stimulus investments, President Obama is repairing an aging infrastructure, investing in education, stimulating new technologies and inventions, and starting us toward the post-carbon economy. Instead of trying to prop up a failing 20th century economy, he is investing in the new model.

Likewise, by his early foreign travel, meetings with traditional allies, openings to former cast-off nations, willingness to listen not dictate, and commitment to the global agenda of the new century, including climate remediation, arms reduction, and poverty, he has restored our standing in the world and, by his very image, transformed the world's idea of America. We will need new alliances in this century and he has launched the effort to create them.

The transformation of our military is hindered by two ongoing, inherited wars. Even as new strategies for those wars are adopted and commitments wound down, President Obama will have the opportunity to accelerate a new agenda started by Secretary Gates. That agenda is to size, shape, and equip our forces for the low-intensity conflicts of the 21st century, not the nation-state wars of the 20th....(Click for remainder.)

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Michele Bachman is a mother*$%@ing Idiot

By David Waldman
Congress Matters


TPM tries to be more... journalistic... about it. But what's true is true:



"I find it interesting that it was back in the 1970s that the swine flu broke out then under another Democrat president Jimmy Carter," said Bachmann. "And I'm not blaming this on President Obama, I just think it's an interesting coincidence."

Here's what I find interesting: Michele is too dumb to breathe unassisted.

Gerald Ford was president during the 1976 swine flu outbreak. And Michele was probably as dumb as a fucking bag of rocks at that time, too.

Imagine either being that damn partisan or that damn idiotic, or both.

I'm sorry, but that's just such horribly stupid bullshit that it can't be treated professionally.

Fuck you, moron. Give me my air back.

(Click for original.)

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Should We Be Happy That Specter is Now a Democrat? The Question Has Two Answers.

By Joe Sudbay
AMERICAblog


One of my friends just sent me this message:
Is it just me, or are you also wondering why in the world all of your democratic friends are also so excited about Specter?
John and I were just talking this subject. We don't like Arlen Specter and don't trust him. Never have. This was a calculated move by a calculating politician. Specter has no scruples and was worried about losing in the GOP primary next April.

Today, we're not celebrating Specter. But, if we look at his move solely through a political prism, this decision is seismic. And, it's just so fun to watch Republicans squirm.

The political optics just couldn't be better. The DC pundits and talking heads love Arlen Specter (kinda the way they love Lieberman.) That crowd believes the hype that Specter is a moderate -- and compared to the rest of the GOP, Specter is definitely more moderate. So, we'll hear endless chatter about how the GOP has become a shrinking party. That means the talking heads will finally get something right....(Click for remainder.)

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Federal Court Permits Landmark ACLU Rendition Case To Go Forward

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: (212) 549-2666; media@aclu.org


NEW YORK – A federal appeals court today ruled that a landmark American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit against Boeing subsidiary Jeppesen DataPlan Inc. for its role in the Bush administration's unlawful extraordinary rendition program can go forward. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed a lower court dismissal of the lawsuit, brought on behalf of five men who were kidnapped, forcibly disappeared and secretly transferred to U.S.-run prisons or foreign intelligence agencies overseas where they were interrogated under torture. The government had intervened, improperly asserting the "state secrets" privilege to have the case thrown out. Today, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled, as the ACLU has argued, that the government must invoke the state secrets privilege with respect to specific evidence, not to dismiss the entire suit.

"This historic decision marks the beginning, not the end, of this litigation," said Ben Wizner, staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project, who argued the case for the plaintiffs. "Our clients, who are among the hundreds of victims of torture under the Bush administration, have waited for years just to get a foot in the courthouse door. Now, at long last, they will have their day in court. Today's ruling demolishes once and for all the legal fiction, advanced by the Bush administration and continued by the Obama administration, that facts known throughout the world could be deemed 'secrets' in a court of law."

In its ruling, the court wrote that "the Executive's national security prerogatives are not the only weighty constitutional values at stake," and quoted the Supreme Court's decision in Boumediene v. Bush that security depends on the "freedom from arbitrary and unlawful restraint and the personal liberty that is secured by adhering to the separation of powers."

"The extraordinary rendition program is well known throughout the world," said Steven Watt, a staff attorney with the ACLU Human Rights Program. "The only place it hasn't been discussed is where it most cries out for examination – in a U.S. court of law. Allowing this case to go forward is an important step toward reaffirming our commitment to domestic and international human rights law and restoring an America we can be proud of. Victims of extraordinary rendition deserve their day in court."

"I am happy to hear this news," said Bisher Al-Rawi, a plaintiff in this case who was released from Guantánamo last year without ever having been charged with a crime. "We have made a huge step forward in our quest for justice."

In recent years, the government has asserted the state secrets claim with increasing regularity in an attempt to throw out lawsuits and justify withholding information from the public not only about the rendition program, but also about illegal wiretapping, torture and other breaches of U.S. and international law.

Mohamed et al. v. Jeppesen was brought on behalf of Al-Rawi, Binyam Mohamed, Abou Elkassim Britel, Ahmed Agiza and Mohamed Farag Ahmad Bashmilah.

In addition to Wizner and Watt, attorneys in the lawsuit are Steven R. Shapiro and Jameel Jaffer of the national ACLU, Ann Brick of the ACLU of Northern California, Paul Hoffman of the law firm Schonbrun DeSimone Seplow Harris & Hoffman LLP and Hope Metcalf of the Yale Law School Lowenstein Clinic. In addition, Margaret L. Satterthwaite and Amna Akbar of the International Human Rights Clinic of New York University School of Law and Clive Stafford-Smith and Zachary Katznelson represent plaintiffs in this case.

More information about the case is available online at: www.aclu.org/jeppesen

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