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Lopsided Fight Over High Court Shapes Up

Friday, May 08, 2009

Conservatives Prepare for Underdog Fight

By Dan Eggen
The Washington Post


When John G. Roberts Jr. was nominated to the Supreme Court as chief justice, a pro-Republican group called Progress for America had $18 million in the bank.

Run by a lobbying firm with close ties to the Bush White House, the well-organized group had snatched up Internet domain names for dozens of potential court candidates, allowing it to launch a targeted Web site within minutes of the announcement. It went on to play a central role in winning confirmations for Roberts in 2005 and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. in early 2006.

But Progress for America is now defunct and Republicans are in the political wilderness, leaving a smattering of opposition groups to make the conservative case against whomever President Obama chooses to replace retiring Justice David H. Souter.

Conservative groups concede that they have little chance of derailing Obama's choice, barring a scandal. But Supreme Court nominations have long been a rallying point and a fundraising opportunity for interest groups, particularly on the right. And now, at a time of ideological drift among Republicans, a loose coalition of conservative organizations has begun mapping strategies.

The goal, they say, is to fire up supporters and shake up the debate in the Democratic-controlled Senate, in part as preparation for other court fights to come....(
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NOM: Do As We Say, Not As We Do

By Kyle
Right Wing Watch


The New York Times reports that Equality California is laying the groundwork for a campaign to overturn Proposition 8 if the court challenge is not successful. Not surprisingly, the National Organization for Marriage does not approve:

Opponents of same-sex marriage said a second campaign would be a mistake. “The fact is that the people of California have already spoken,” said Brian S. Brown, the executive director in National Organization for Marriage, in Princeton, N.J. “And they don’t like being told they were wrong the first time.”
Interesting ... especially considering that NOM itself was founded in response to the failed effort to pass a marriage amendment in Arizona in 2006:
After spending 15 years as the director of the marriage program at the Institute for American Values, [Maggie Gallagher] said, in 2003 she became aware that gay marriage was about to become a major political issue. She founded the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy as a think tank that would focus on the issue, using a $10,000 check from a Protestant group as seed money.
"I felt very strongly that the people who cared about marriage were not sufficiently involved in this debate," she said.

After an anti-gay marriage initiative went down in 2006 in Arizona, she said, she wanted to create a group that could be more directly involved politically. In the summer of 2007, she worked with Robbie George, a Princeton professor and current board member of NOM, to create the group. This time they started out with $100,000 from a Catholic group and $125,000 from a Protestant one.
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Stop "Hillary-Care" Now!

Single-payer "socialist" healthcare is popular with voters, but that doesn't keep the GOP from its pathetic attempts to demonize it.

By Joe Conason
Salon.com


May 8, 2009 | When Frank Luntz intervenes in the debate over healthcare, as he did this week with a strongly worded memorandum addressed to Republicans on Capitol Hill, it is time to prepare for yet another verbal barrage from the right against "Washington," "government," "politicians" and "federal bureaucrats," as well as a few soft words designed to "personalize" and "humanize" the usual right-wing propaganda. In that memo, first reported by Politico, the wily pollster employed the same linguistic patterns, based on the same survey techniques, that he was using several years ago, when he was last seen advising GOP leaders on how to market their campaign for privatizing Social Security.

That didn't work out too well, of course. But dismantling the most successful and popular federal program was far more challenging than blocking any reform of healthcare, a dubious achievement that Republicans and conservatives have maintained for well over half a century. Even so, the content and tone of the latest Luntz memo suggest that preserving the current system will not be nearly as easy as defeating the Clinton reform plan in 1994.

"You simply MUST be vocally and passionately on the side of REFORM," he counsels the Republican caucus, whose members he also lectured in a closed meeting on Wednesday. "The status quo is no longer acceptable. If the dynamic becomes 'President Obama is on the side of reform and Republicans are against it,' then the battle is lost and every word in this document is useless....(Click for remainder.)

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Obama's Budget Eliminates Funding for Abstinence Only Education Programs

By Satyam Khanna
Think Progress


Keeping with a campaign pledge “not continue to fund abstinence-only programs,” President Obama’s 2010 budget — further details of which were released today — cuts funding for “Community-Based Abstinence Education” and several other abstinence-education programs (p. 491):



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Asshat #1, Sean Hannity, Tries an Insult: "You went to public school, didn't you?"

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A Bullet or a Baseball Bat for Scott Lively

I'll give anyone a brand new shinny quarter if they put a bullet in this asshat's head.  Well maybe a quarter is more than this fuck is worth, so never mind.  I would just like someone to tell me where he lives, as I've got a 32" Louisville Slugger with his name all over it.  This pathetic piece of shit doesn't deserve to breath the same air as those of us who live in the real world.  God, I HATE THESE PEOPLE!


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The Christian Right's Worldwide Anti-Gay Crusade

By Bill Berkowitz
The Smirking Chimp


Scott Lively, the founder of Abiding Truth Ministries and the author of the Holocaust revisionist anti-gay book, 'The Pink Swastika,' is taking his anti-gay crusade overseas and declaring war against the Southern Poverty Law Center.

In between battling the homosexual menace in the U.S., hawking his notorious holocaust revisionist book "The Pink Swastika: Homosexuality in the Nazi Party," and declaring war against the Southern Poverty Law Center for refusing to remove his Abiding Truth Ministries (http://www.abidingtruth.com) from its list of hate groups, Scott Lively president of "Defend the Family" -- a service of Abiding Truth Ministries - has again taken his anti-gay crusade on the road.

Earlier this year, UGPulse.com reported that the Family Life Network "has organized a training seminar to equip Ugandans with information and skills to fight what it calls spiraling promotion of homosexuality in the country." Stephen Langa (http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com/2009/02/24/9098), the executive director of Family Life Network "says that Uganda is now under extreme pressure from homosexual groups to de-criminalize homosexuality," UGPulse.com noted. "He says homosexuals in the country were boosted by a December 2008 Court victory which declared that it is unconstitutional to discriminate against homosexuals and that they should enjoy the same rights as enjoyed by other Ugandans."

Lively, who has spoken at previous African events organized by Langa, was joined in early March at the Hotel Triangle in Kampala by Don Schmierer from International Healing Ministries and a board member of Exodus International, and Caleb Lee Brundidge, who works with a ministry that "rehabilitates homosexuals and lesbians."...(Click for remainder.)

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Religion, Agnostics, and the Cure for Baldness

By Matt Taibbi
True/Slant

"And as for the vaunted triumph of liberalism, what about “the misery wreaked by racism and sexism, the sordid history of colonialism and imperialism, the generation of poverty and famine”? Only by ignoring all this and much more can the claim of human progress at the end of history be maintained: “If ever there was a pious myth and a piece of credulous superstition, it is the liberal-rationalist belief that, a few hiccups apart, we are all steadily en route to a finer world.”

via God Talk - Stanley Fish Blog - NYTimes.com.

I’m always on the lookout for religion’s latest counter-arguments, the new rhetorical approaches that God People are constantly fine-tuning for use in pimping the righteousness of faith (and for demonstrating the moral dissoluteness of agnostics like myself). There isn’t an inherently irresolvable metaphysical challenge that comes close to wasting as much of the world’s time and energy as this particular one. It’s the intellectual equivalent of the eternal R&D quest for a baldness cure: you just never stop being surprised at how many different ways men can find to fail at growing hair.

This latest salvo is fired by author/professor Stanley Fish, a prominent religion-peddler of the pointy-headed, turtlenecked genus, who made his case in his blog at the New York Times. Fish was mostly riffing on a recent book written by the windily pompous University of Manchester professor Terry Eagleton, a pudgily superior type, physically resembling a giant runny nose, who seems to have been raised by indulgent aunts who gave him sweets every time he corrected the grammar of other children. The esteemed professor’s new book is called Reason, Faith and Revolution, and it’s sort of an answer to the popular atheist literature of people like Richard Dawkins and Chris Hitchens. If you ever want to give yourself a really good, throbbing headache, go online and check out Eagleton’s lectures at Yale, upon which the book was based, in which one may listen to this soft-soaping old toady do his verbose best to stick his tongue as far as he can up the anus of the next generation of the American upper class....(Click for remainder.)

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Schultz Highlight's Hannity's Dijon Fetish

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Schultz Discusses "Extreme, Hateful, Paranoid" Savage's UK Banning, Autism Comments

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Entropy and Evolution

By P.Z. Meyers
Pharyngula


One of the oldest canards in the creationists' book is the claim that evolution must be false because it violates the second law of thermodynamics, or the principle that, as they put it, everything must go from order to disorder. One of the more persistent perpetrators of this kind of sloppy thinking is Henry Morris, and few creationists today seem able to get beyond this error.
Remember this tendency from order to disorder applies to all real processes. Real processes include, of course, biological and geological processes, as well as chemical and physical processes. The interesting question is: "How does a real biological process, which goes from order to disorder, result in evolution. which goes from disorder to order?" Perhaps the evolutionist can ultimately find an answer to this question, but he at least should not ignore it, as most evolutionists do.

Especially is such a question vital, when we are thinking of evolution as a growth process on the grand scale from atom to Adam and from particle to people. This represents in absolutely gigantic increase in order and complexity, and is clearly out of place altogether in the context of the Second Law.
As most biologists get a fair amount of training in chemistry, I'm afraid he's wrong on one bit of slander there: we do not ignore entropy, and are in fact better informed on it than most creationists, as is clearly shown by their continued use of this bad argument. I usually rebut this claim about the second law in a qualitative way, and by example — it's obvious that the second law does not state that nothing can ever increase in order, but only that an decrease in one part must be accompanied by a greater increase in entropy in another. Two gametes, for instance, can fuse and begin a complicated process in development that represents a long-term local decrease in entropy, but at the same time that embryo is pumping heat out into its environment and increasing the entropy of the surrounding bit of the world....(Click for remainder.)

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The (Growing) Case Against "The Case Against Sotomayor"

By Marcia Kuntz
Media Matters


Jeffrey Rosen has responded to the criticism highlighted by American University law professor Darren Hutchinson  and then by Media Matters that he misrepresented a footnote by one of Judge Sotomayor's colleagues. In his original article, Rosen claimed that in the footnote Judge Ralph Winter "suggest[ed] that an earlier opinion by Sotomayor might have inadvertently misrepresented the law in a way that misled litigants." As Prof. Hutchinson and Media Matters pointed out, Judge Winter's footnote did not say or suggest any such thing. Rather, as we wrote:
Winter's footnote in the case says that a litigant in a third case has read Sotomayor's Samaria opinion in a way that "would attribute to it the overruling of a long-standing line of cases in this circuit." Winter makes it clear that Sotomayor's opinion provided no actual basis for the litigant's erroneous interpretation: "Samaria does not purport to address the validity of those cases in any way." As Hutchinson wrote, "Rosen has completely misrepresented Winter's footnote in order to question Sotomayor's competence as a judge, when the footnote actually criticizes the attorney's misplaced reliance upon the opinion she authored."
In a post with the headline "More Sotomayor," following his original article headlined "The Case Against Sotomayor" (a headline that Rosen says he regrets and says he "hadn't seen in advance"), Rosen writes:
Some readers have questioned my account of how "a conservative colleague, Ralph Winter, included an unusual footnote in a case suggesting that an earlier opinion by Sotomayor [United States v. Samaria] might have inadvertently misstated the law in a way that misled litigants." Indeed, the footnote is hardly a model of clarity-and I can see why readers might not come to the same conclusion I reached. But the careful observers of the Second Circuit I talked to, who were familiar with the case, said Winter was widely assumed to be making an effort to be polite, avoiding direct criticism of his colleague while trying to distinguish Sotomayor's holding in Samaria from some loosely written dicta. In their view, Sotomayor's dicta in Samaria could indeed be read to call the earlier cases into question, just as the litigants suggested, and they believe Winter was trying to contain the damage to avoid embarrassing his colleague.
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Will The Right, Unwilling to be Turned Aside, Turn to Huckabee?

By Kyle
Right Wing Watch


Last week Steve Benen wrote a post about the National Council for a New America and its agenda for re-branding the Republican Party.  As he noted, the agenda covered issues like tax cuts, healthcare, energy, and national security while social issues were noticeably missing”

[W]hat may be the most interesting thing about this new group's "policy framework" is what it doesn't say. There's no mention of gays, abortion, state-sponsored religion, guns, or immigration. It's almost as if Republicans don't feel like fighting a culture war anymore.

Hey, activists in the GOP base, is sounds like the Republican Party is trying to throw you under the bus. Are you going to take this lying down?
As it turns out, the Religious Right isn’t about that take this lying down, judging by this Washington Update from the Family Research Council:
In another step away from its conservative roots, Republican members of the House unveiled The National Council for a New America in hopes of recasting the Party's ailing identity. The effort only underscores the Republicans' present identity crisis, as the GOP leadership kicked off the campaign devoid of the values that once caused voters to identify with the party.

The group's priorities, which were unveiled at a pizza parlor press conference, include the economy, health care, education, energy, and national security. Notice anything conspicuously absent? Former Gov. Jeb Bush explained the values void by saying it was time for the GOP to give up its "nostalgia" for Reagan-era ideas and look forward to new "relevant" ideas. (Yes, because that worked so well for Republicans in 2006 and 2008!) Bush ignored the fact that abandoning the array of principles that Reagan espoused is exactly what got the GOP into this mess. No one is suggesting that we try living in the past, but President Reagan's principles are the ones that guided our nation from its very inception. Turning away from those fundamental truths would be a death knell for the GOP as little would be left to distinguish the Republicans from the Democrats.
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The Secret Right-Wing Strategy on Healthcare--Exposed!

By Bernie Horn
Campaign for America's Future


Conservative pollster Frank Luntz recently provided right wingers on Capitol Hill a secret 28-page memo entitled The Language of Healthcare 2009—which has leaked! The memo was intended to offer a message framing strategy to defeat President Obama’s plan to provide health care for all. But the document is more useful to progressives than conservatives.

Dr. Frank Luntz is a right-wing spinmeister who won broad influence by acting as pollster for Newt Gingrich, helping to frame the 1994 Republican Contract with America. Over the last dozen years, corporations and conservative ideologues have paid Luntz tens of millions of dollars to craft their messages, and his research has included “hundreds of thousands of telephone interviews, hundreds of dial sessions and focus groups, and literally a million research hours.” In short, he knows what he’s talking about.

Luntz briefed House Republicans about his findings at a closed-door session yesterday (where he was very angry that his memo had been leaked). The memo is based on polling and dial sessions conducted within the last few weeks. If you want all the gory details, you can read the entire memo here. The substance can be grouped into three overall lessons for progressives.

First, progressive pollsters have been entirely right about health care. Conservatives who oppose reform have very little public support.

Progressives have conducted a great deal of survey research on health care over the past two years, much of it by top pollster Celinda Lake working with the Herndon Alliance, FamiliesUSA, AFL-CIO, and Health Care for America Now....(Click for remainder.)

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John "Mustache of Death" Bolton's Spanish Delusions

By Scott Horton
Harper's Magazine


In an op-ed published yesterday in the Washington Post, John R. Bolton—the man that a Republican Senate refused to confirm as Bush’s U.N. ambassador—discusses the pending criminal proceedings in Spain concerning the Bush torture policies. The piece provides evidence once more that Post op-eds are not fact-checked. Let’s take a look at Bolton’s misfires:

  • “Although he immunized intelligence operatives who conducted the interrogations, morale at the CIA is at record lows.” That perfectly explains the rock-star reception that Obama received when he went to Langley to address the agency. Take a second to watch it and form your own conclusion about how demoralized CIA agents are by their new president.

  • “Spanish Magistrate Baltasar Garzón opened a formal investigation last week of six Bush Administration lawyers for their roles in advising on interrogation techniques.” Not quite. In fact, Garzón opened an investigation into unidentified persons who were the “intellectual authors” of the Bush torture policies. My bet would be that the Bush Six are in there, but it’s still too early to say definitively. What Bolton neglects to tell the readers is that the probe focuses on two or more Spanish subjects who were tortured while in U.S. custody at Guantanamo—as the Spanish Supreme Court found in a judgment of June 2006. There is a criminal complaint involving the Bush Six, pending before Judge Eloy Velasco, who has not opened a formal investigation into it, yet. He did, however, just formally inquire whether the U.S. was investigating the same matter, and it is clear that the Spaniards will suspend their investigations if the Americans open one. But that’s just the outcome that has Bolton all worked up. He’s not really concerned about what will happen in Spain; he’s concerned about a U.S. prosecutor—or at least he should be.
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'Club For Growth'

By R.J. Matson
The New York Observer



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Fox & Friends Interview "Intelligent Design" Spokesdork To Critique Textbook Treatment of Evolution

Really, all I can say is wow!  I still can't believe that there are people out there that are this stupid and ignorant.

By Priscilla
News Hounds


It is a sad testament to the state of American education that only 39% of Americans believe in evolution. So it came as no surprise that Fox&Friends devoted their weekly “Trouble with Textbooks” (“Trouble” being “liberal bias”) to textbook “problems” with evolution; as the culturally conservative content of Fox&Friends would seem to indicate that their audience might not have a problem with the idea of dinosaurs and cavemen cavorting together. The title of the segment, “Evolution vs. Creationism, Debate Still Rages in U.S. Classrooms,” suggested that the heated controversy of the Scopes Trial is still “raging” – despite the preponderance of recent court and school board decisions which have been against the teaching of creationism in our public school system. But in an effort to repackage creationism, the Christian right is still pushing “Intelligent Design,” so it was no surprise that Fox&Friends had, as their guest, one of the current grand poobahs of Intelligent Design (ID), Casey Luskin, who claimed that evolution is not being taught correctly.

MENSA member Steve Doocy introduced the segment by commenting that “when the Texas Board of Education approved objections to evolution…the fight about how to teach evolution should have been over but the textbooks are still getting it wrong.” He then asked whether the power of the board to select textbooks should be stripped. He introduced his one and only guest (fair and balanced, as usual) Casey Luskin, of the Discovery Institutute whose organization, according to Doocy, was “heavily involved in the Texas case.” What Doocy didn’t say is that the Discovery Institute is the flagship for the “Intelligent Design” movment which pushes “ID” curriculums as an “alternative” to evolution. The Texas case, which Doocy didn’t explain, was an effort, on the part of social conservatives, to require teachers and textbooks to cover the “weaknesses” of evolution. While the creationists didn’t get all that they wanted, they did get compromise language requiring students to learn “all sides of scientific evidence.” Doocy said that the fight between creationism and Darwinism is “white hot” (Really, Steve and in what regressive area is that happening in?) and asked Luskin if it were correct that his (Luskin’s) “main problem” was that textbooks had just a “one sided look” at evolution. Luskin then made the unsubstantiated assertion, sure to get the pitchfork crowd riled up, that today’s textbooks “censor anything that challenges Darwin” and that “this isn’t about Creationism; but allowing the students to hear evidence that challenges evolution as well as that which supports it.” While Luskin discussed how textbooks are still using the flawed “Haekels Embroys,” the screen had an drawing of a blackboard with “Weird Science – most common and unchallenged errors” written over a short definition of the embroyos. Luskin then proceeded to tell us what’s wrong with this evolutionary theory that, according to Luskin, erroneously posits a common ancestor (oh, no!!!). Doocy said that during the break, Luskin told him that 100% of the science books get this wrong. Debunking of the ID Haekel’s argument found here and here. Doocy then claimed that there are “holes” in the Darwin “Tree of Life.” The blackboard, under “Weird Science,” had the statement that the Darwin “Tree of Life” claims that all living species are connected to a parent species” (OH, NO!!!). Luskin went on to debunk this “tree” and claimed that a recent article in New Scientist annihiliated the “Tree of Life” and that the texts present the “tree” as unadulterated fact. Luskin either misread the article or is misrepresenting it because the conclusion is that the Darwin’s simple tree is actually much more complex and still a basis for evolutionary theory. In summing it up, Doocy said to Luskin “you’re not taking a side” (ROFL!) …but you’re saying that if the textbooks are going to be teaching, get it right because everybody is getting it wrong.”...(Click for remainder.)


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Buying Brand Obama

By Chris Hedges
TruthDig


Barack Obama is a brand. And the Obama brand is designed to make us feel good about our government while corporate overlords loot the Treasury, our elected officials continue to have their palms greased by armies of corporate lobbyists, our corporate media diverts us with gossip and trivia and our imperial wars expand in the Middle East. Brand Obama is about being happy consumers. We are entertained. We feel hopeful. We like our president. We believe he is like us. But like all branded products spun out from the manipulative world of corporate advertising, we are being duped into doing and supporting a lot of things that are not in our interest.

What, for all our faith and hope, has the Obama brand given us? His administration has spent, lent or guaranteed $12.8 trillion in taxpayer dollars to Wall Street and insolvent banks in a doomed effort to reinflate the bubble economy, a tactic that at best forestalls catastrophe and will leave us broke in a time of profound crisis. Brand Obama has allocated nearly $1 trillion in defense-related spending and the continuation of our doomed imperial projects in Iraq, where military planners now estimate that 70,000 troops will remain for the next 15 to 20 years. Brand Obama has expanded the war in Afghanistan, including the use of drones sent on cross-border bombing runs into Pakistan that have doubled the number of civilians killed over the past three months. Brand Obama has refused to ease restrictions so workers can organize and will not consider single-payer, not-for-profit health care for all Americans. And Brand Obama will not prosecute the Bush administration for war crimes, including the use of torture, and has refused to dismantle Bush’s secrecy laws or restore habeas corpus.

Brand Obama offers us an image that appears radically individualistic and new. It inoculates us from seeing that the old engines of corporate power and the vast military-industrial complex continue to plunder the country. Corporations, which control our politics, no longer produce products that are essentially different, but brands that are different. Brand Obama does not threaten the core of the corporate state any more than did Brand George W. Bush. The Bush brand collapsed. We became immune to its studied folksiness. We saw through its artifice. This is a common deflation in the world of advertising. So we have been given a new Obama brand with an exciting and faintly erotic appeal. Benetton and Calvin Klein were the precursors to the Obama brand, using ads to associate themselves with risqué art and progressive politics. It gave their products an edge. But the goal, as with all brands, was to make passive consumers mistake a brand with an experience....(Click for remainder.)

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Two New Healthcare Ads

From MoveOn.org




From Healthcare for America Now



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'The Code Breaker'

By Tim Eagan
Deep Cover



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'Blue Dog' Democrats Ask for Billions in Spending

By Christopher Stern
Bloomberg


May 6 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. Representative Jim Marshall is a Georgia Democrat and a member of his party’s Blue Dog Coalition, a group of lawmakers bound by a desire to restrain federal spending. The Blue Dogs have something else in common: a fondness for funding pet projects.

Marshall alone requested more than $12 billion worth of the so-called earmarks in the 2010 federal budget. His proposals range from $388,850 to aid 14 local farmers’ markets to $4.2 billion to purchase C-17 heavy-lift transport aircraft.

Overall, Blue Dogs submitted more than 2,500 individual earmarks totaling some $20 billion. That underscores the conflict between their eagerness to bring federal money home and the coalition’s criticism of the budget as laden with pork.

“It’s really hard to smack government’s wrists with the one hand while the other hand is looking for as much earmark cash as you can grab and bring home to your district,” said Steve Ellis, vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, a Washington-based public-interest group.

Lawmakers insert earmarks in spending bills to fund specific projects or programs, usually without debate and, until recently, anonymously. The normal appropriations process calls for federal agencies to decide how to spend the money Congress allocates. Earmarks allow the lawmakers themselves to mandate where the funds go.

Not Missing Out...(Click for remainder.)

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Judge Bybee and the Challenge of Removing a Stain on the Legal System

By Dave Lindorff
Democrats.com


In December 2001, an appellate judicial panel in the state of New York ruled that Yonkers City Court Judge Edmund G. Fitzgerald had to step down from his bench and leave his position following his disbarment for allegedly “misusing” $9000 in a client’s account prior to his election as a judge. In 2007, the North Carolina courts faced something of a dilemma when state judge James Ethridge, who had been disbarred the prior October by the North Carolina State Bar for “swindling an older woman of her house and savings” as an attorney six years earlier, refused to quit his judicial position. Under state law in North Carolina, judges are required to be licensed lawyers, so Judge Ethridge was barred from holding court or signing court orders, but he continued to collect his salary. Only the state’s Judicial Standards Commission, or the state legislature, through an impeachment, could remove him from his job.

Judge Bybee, who sits on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in Nevada, could eventually present the federal judicial system with a similar dilemma. Bybee, prior to his short tenure as an Appellate Judge which began in 2003, was assistant attorney general in the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel, where he wrote a lengthy memo for the White House justifying the use of torture techniques such as waterboarding, sleep deprivation, body slamming and other measures on captives in the Bush/Cheney so-called “War” on Terror.

It is now being reported that the Justice Department is about to release a review the department’s ethics unit, the Office of Professional Responsibility, which will report on that memo, as well as other memos written by Bybee’s then colleagues in the Office of Legal Counsel, John Yoo, now a professor of law at Berkeley University’s law school, and Steven Bradbury, and that the report will recommend disbarment for the three men. That would put the matter in the hands of the states where each man is licensed to practice law—in Bybee’s case, the state of Nevada. According to the New York Times, the 220-page internal review of Bybee’s, Yoo’s and Bradbury’s actions as counsel to the White House amounted to “serious lapses of judgment” that could warrant reprimands or disbarment....(Click for remainder.)

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GOP Recruiting Fail: Tom Ridge Says No to Senate Run

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GOP Threatens Investigation of Clinton Administration

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Prayer or Reason: Which Hallmark Holiday Will You Celebrate Today



By Meg White
Buzzflash


Americans are faced with a difficult choice today. More difficult even, than deciding what kind of mustard will best illustrate their commitment to this nation.

It is the first Thursday in May: Will you be celebrating prayer or reason?

Signed into law by President Harry Truman in 1952 after an all-out crusade by evangelist Billy Graham, the National Day of Prayer was officially established as an annual celebration for the first Thursday in May by President Ronald Reagan in 1988. Apparently this was part of Reagan's lesser-known "tear down this wall" goal, designed to destroy barriers between church and state.

Eschewing the attention afforded to the Christian right on this day for the past eight years, President Obama will not attend a public event commemorating the day. Obama has been commended by several groups that promote separation of church and state for this choice.

But the National Prayer Day Task Force, led by the wife of Focus on the Family founder and fundamentalist James Dobson, is clearly miffed. From the Chicago Tribune:
"We are disappointed in the lack of participation by the Obama administration," said Shirley Dobson, chairwoman of the National Day of Prayer Task Force, who for the past eight years has attended a White House ceremony with her husband, Focus on the Family founder James Dobson. "At this time in our country’s history, we would hope our president would recognize more fully the importance of prayer."
Not that they really have reason to be. As Alan Colmes points out, many presidents have not attended the special service and Obama would not have been allowed to speak at the event anyway, since he is pro-choice.

Still, the president will sign a proclamation today that honors the holiday. So think of how organizers of the National Day of Reason, created in opposition to National Prayer Day in 2003, feel with their own proclamation gaining no ground at all. Perhaps they hope the president would recognize more fully the importance of reason?...(Click for remainder.)

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Republicans: The Lost Party

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart M - Th 11p / 10c
Republicans: The Lost Party
thedailyshow.com
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Economic Crisis Political Humor

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Top Religious Right Group Has No Problems With a Gay Supreme Court Justice

By John Aravosis
AMERICAblog


They're lying. But this is still huge.
In a move that will surprise gay activists and liberals, a spokesperson for Focus on the Family, a top religious right groups, tells me that his organization has no problem with GOP Senator Jeff Sessions’ claim today that he’s open to a Supreme Court nominee with “gay tendencies.”

The spokesperson confirms the group won’t oppose a gay SCOTUS nominee over sexual orientation.

“We agree with Senator Sessions,” Bruce Hausknecht, a spokesperson for Focus on the Family, which is headed by James Dobson, told me a few minutes ago. “The issue is not their sexual orientation. It’s whether they are a good judge or not.”

Their sexual orientation “should never come up,” he continued. “It’s not even pertinent to the equation.”
Yeah right. This from the group whose leader said only six months ago that gays have a "disorder." Now we're fit to be on the Supreme Court?

This is a huge sign of the times, when the lead religious right group - this is James Dobson's group - is afraid to be openly homophobic. And earlier today, I noted how Tony Perkins over at the Family Research Council left gays out of his demand that the "new" GOP focus on social issues. The religious right may actually be - at least publicly - backing away from its over hostility to gays....(Click for remainder.)

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Rupert Murdoch's Online Folly

The media mogul has pronounced that 'the current days of the internet will soon be over'. He couldn't be more wrong.

By Jenna McWilliams
The Guardian


In further proof of why old people should not be allowed to run media conglomerates, media magnate Rupert Murdoch has announced that News Corporation's newspaper websites will begin charging for access within a year.

The move to charge for accessing online content is an effort to keep newspapers profitable amid declining subscriptions and ad revenues. Murdoch called the current model, in which newspaper websites offer their content for free, a "malfunctioning" model, and one that's unsustainable.

Murdoch also opposed the recent decision by the New York Times, Boston Globe and Washington Post to work with Amazon to develop a version of the Kindle e-reader tailored for reading newspapers, magazines, and other periodicals.

The issue here is not whether the current model of offering free content to all is financially viable - clearly, it's not. The issue is the odious assumption implicit in Murdoch's stance: that centralised control of information flow is somehow better than the decentralized model embraced by the public. As he pronounced last night: "The current days of the internet will soon be over."...(Click for remainder.)

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Lawmaker Defends Imprisoning Hostile Bloggers



By David Kravets
Threat Level @ Wired.com


Rep. Linda Sanchez responded Wednesday to Threat Level’s tirade against her proposed legislation outlawing hostile electronic speech. Her answer: “Congress has no interest in censoring.”

Sanchez, with the introduction of the Megan Meier Cyberbullying Prevention Act, clearly has a great interest in censoring.

Still, the Democrat from Los Angeles makes several valid points that cyberbullying has lasting consequences on our nation’s youth. The 13-year-old Meier’s suicide is clearly a tragedy. But how she characterizes the measure is simply untrue.

“Put simply, this legislation would be used as a tool for a judge and jury to determine whether there is significant evidence to prove that a person ‘cyberbullied’ another,” she wrote in the Huffington Post. “That is: did they have the required intent, did they use electronic means of communication, and was the communication severe, hostile, and repeated? So — bloggers, e-mailers, texters, spiteful exes and those who have blogged against this bill have no fear — your words are still protected under the same American values.”

But that’s not what the proposal says. It goes way beyond youth cyberbullying. As we said the other day, the measure seemingly outlaws logging onto the internet.

But don’t take our word for it. Here’s what H.R. 1966 says:
(a) Whoever transmits in interstate or foreign commerce any communication, with the intent to coerce, intimidate, harass or cause substantial emotional distress to a person, using electronic means to support severe, repeated and hostile behavior, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.

(b) As used in this section —

(1) the term ‘communication’ means the electronic transmission, between or among points specified by the user, of information of the user’s choosing, without change in the form or content of the information as sent and received; and

(2) the term ‘electronic means’ means any equipment dependent on electrical power to access an information service, including e-mail, instant messaging, blogs, websites, telephones and text messages.
This measure and Sanchez’s electronic defense of it are so emotionally distressing to us that, if adopted, perhaps Sanchez should be the first to be prosecuted under the statute....(Click for remainder.)

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Senate Passes Overhaul of Defense Procurement

By Shailagh Murray and R. Jeffrey Smith
The Washington Post


The Senate unanimously approved legislation yesterday to overhaul Pentagon procurement practices in an effort to prevent billions of dollars in cost overruns and block misspending on weapons that do not meet pressing military needs.

The 93 to 0 vote was a rare show of unity among lawmakers, provoked partly by voter worries about deficit spending and by a compromise between lawmakers and Obama administration officials on some parts of the legislation.

"Our cost overruns . . . are draining our defense dollars and taking them away from other needed purposes," said Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.). "And so, on a bipartisan basis, we were able to adopt this major reform bill."

Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), the committee's senior Republican, noted after the Senate vote that "this is really a situation of near-crisis proportions. . . . We just cannot have the kinds of cost overruns that are associated . . . with one or two exceptions, literally every new weapon system that the Department of Defense acquires."

The House version of the legislation, which is moving at a slower pace, is somewhat different. In particular, it would not place a Pentagon cost-analysis office under a new presidentially appointed director of independent cost assessment, as the Senate bill would. The Obama administration has resisted the Senate provision, arguing that the office should remain under the control of the Defense Department's program analysis and evaluation office....(Click for remainder.)

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The Circular Dangers of John Hagee, AIPAC and Netanyahu

By Marji Mendelsohn
The Public Record


This week, in his May 4, 2009 Christians United for Israel (CUFI) newsletter, John Hagee continues to invoke his brand of Christian foreign policy:
“God makes it clear that He will bring into judgment any nation, America included, that forces the division of the land of Israel. That also includes the division of Jerusalem.”
What he says should no longer matter but sadly, that is not the case. Residing at the very core of the intractability in the Israel/Palestine crisis are the circular relationships that exist between Hagee, CUFI, the Netanyahu administration and AIPAC.

It doesn’t take a trained psychologist to understand why Jews operate on a constant hair-trigger. Thousands of years of persecution will do that to a people. It is why Israelis recently voted in right winger Binyamin Netanyahu and why he, in turn, was compelled to name avowed racist Avigdor Lieberman, founder of far-right Yisrael Beitenu  (Israel Our Home party, whose electoral base are the immigrants from the former Soviet Union) as Minister of Foreign Affairs and Deputy Prime Minister of Israel.

With Israelis constantly being warned that their country faces the greatest of all existential threats from Iran, and by proxy, from Palestine, it is understandable that their psychological warning systems flash code red, while they hold their collective noses and accept John Hagee’s help, all the while adhering to the standard meme, “We need all the friends we can get.” Forget Faust and his sinister bargain. He’s practically a piker next to Hagee, a man who quivers with excitement in hope of the end of the world.

It is the manipulation of fear, far too reminiscent of our own recent dance with the unjustified, pre-emptive and wholly catastrophic war with Iraq which poses the true danger to Israel. Realistically speaking, Israel is the fifth most powerful nation on earth when it comes to nuclear weaponry. Ahmadinejad might be a raving lunatic but the Iranian people have no desire to see their country disappear in a blaze of nuclear glory, right- wing ideologues excluded....(Click for remainder.)

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Is Rupert Murdoch Losing It?

Murdoch's plan to charge for access to his newspapers on the internet is a sign he's lost his touch

By Michael Tomasky
The Guardian


I guess there was more important news this morning – Pakistan, the American banks – but it was Rupert Murdoch who caught my attention. I was stunned to read Andy Clark's dispatch in the Guardian this morning about Murdoch planning on charging for access to his properties on the internet.

Look, Rupe usually knows what he's doing. But this really flies in the face of common sense. He argues that the Wall Street Journal's experience proves that one can successfully charge readers for internet access to one's newspapers.

But does it? The Journal and the Financial Times, are kind of sui generis. They're financial newspapers, read by a global financial elite. You can charge global financial elites to read a tailored product of financial news.

But can you do the same with regular readers, to get them to read general-interest news? The universal experience has been that you can't.

The New York Times tried it and got hammered. It charged for so-called "Times Select" content – most prominently the paper's famous opinion columnists like Paul Krugman and David Brooks – for a little while, hoping to crowbar $50 a year out of saps like me.

It worked in my case, but there was a general hue and cry against it (not least from the columnists themselves). The paper quit charging for this premium content, and the whole experiment was chalked up a disaster....(Click for remainder.)

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Rifle, CO Mayor Touts Renewable-Energy Campus to House Beetle-Kill Biomass Plant



By David O. Williams

The Colorado Independent


Rifle Mayor Keith Lambert, in an effort to offset the ups and downs of the fossil fuel industry, is offering free or very cheap city-owned land to renewable energy companies interested in relocating to the Western Slope natural-gas capital.

While natural-gas production in surrounding Garfield County is expected to be off anywhere between 60 and 80 percent by this summer, Lambert and other town officials see Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter’s “New Energy Economy” continuing to expand, especially given the state’s ongoing beetle-kill epidemic and the potential for biomass.

Located on a large chunk of 200 acres of city land west of town, Rifle’s Energy Innovation Center currently houses part of the town’s 2.3-megawatt solar array that powers a wastewater treatment plant and a pumping station. It’s the largest municipal array in the state, but Lambert wants to see private companies locate there as well.

“There are companies we’re in contact with right now who are in the renewable sector who are interested in relocating to the city of Rifle because of what we’re doing and because of what the overall direction of the city is,” Lambert said, specifically mentioning biomass.

“If there are other companies that are interested that fit that criteria and they want to relocate here, we could put some land under them and help to accomplish their goals and at the same time help to accomplish our goals,” he added.

Last month, U.S. Sen. Mark Udall toured the site and lauded local efforts to diversify the energy economy, saying rural America, with high unemployment and therefore a ready-made workforce, will play a key role in remaking the nation’s energy infrastructure....(Click for remainder.)

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Darth Cheney is Freaked By Spanish Investigation

By Abby Livingston
MSNBC


The Dick Cheney post-admin media tour continued this morning on a Fargo radio talk show hosted by local radio personality Scott Hennen. Torture, both in execution and legal theory was a dominant subject throughout the interview, with Cheney again vehemently defending the Bush record.

“There are two documents in particular that I personally have read and know about that are still classified in that National Archives," Cheney said. "But I’ve asked that they be de-classified; I made that request over a month ago on March 31st. What those documents show is the success, especially of the interrogation program in terms of what it produced by way of intelligence that let us track down members of Al-Qaeda and disrupt their plans and plots to strike the United States. It’s all there in black and white…It demonstrates conclusively the worth of those programs. As I say, I’ve asked the administration to de-classify them and so far they have not.”

Hennen reminded Cheney of Obama’s recent statements that waterboarding and other practices were unnecessary and “we could have gotten this information in other ways, in ways that were consistent with our values, in ways that were consistent with who we are.”

Cheney responded, “Well, I don’t believe that’s true. That assumes that we didn’t try other ways, and in fact we did.  We resorted, for example, to waterboarding, which is the source of much of the controversy…with only three individuals. In those cases, it was only after we’d gone through all the other steps of the process. The way the whole program was set up was very careful, to use other methods and only to resort to something like the enhanced techniques in those special circumstances.”

Cheney also aired disturbed feelings about the calls for the prosecutions of Bush administration officials over torture....(Click for remainder.)

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Reducing Pollution Should Not Be a Partisan Issue

By Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR)
The Huffington Post


The Green the Capitol Initiative undertaken last year by Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Chief Administrative Officer Dan Beard has successfully demonstrated how a few common sense steps can reduce energy consumption and improve the quality of our air. Simple programs such as providing locally grown, sustainable food choices to recycling materials and composting food wastes in House cafeterias have already reduced the Capitol's carbon emissions by 72% and saved significant money through greater energy efficiency.

But the biggest step in improving the air in our nation's capitol came with Speaker Pelosi's request that the Capitol Power Plant -- the number one source of air pollution in the District of Columbia -- switch from coal to cleaner burning natural gas. When the Capitol Power Plant begins using natural gas in 2010, we will be able to reduce 95% of the sulfur monoxide and at least 50% of the carbon monoxide emitted by the Plant, making Washington DC a safer, healthier place for all residents, including many members of Congress and their staff.

Sadly, the Republican leadership has opposed, even mocked, the Speaker's determination to improve our air quality and reduce operating expenses. On Tuesday night, members of the minority party went to the House Floor one by one, accusing the Speaker of launching, "an assault on coal." Bizarrely, they chose the policies and the technologies of the past over the health of our citizens and our quality of life. Stranger still, the party that prides itself on fiscal responsibility neglected to mention that switching the Capitol Power Plant to natural gas will eliminate significant costs to transport and store coal, and to clean up coal's fly-ash and waste. Apparently, cost savings don't count if they're associated with measures that help to improve the respiratory health of the District of Columbia's children....(Click for remainder.)

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Officials: Taliban May Have Faked Civilian Slaughter

Keep in mind that this is the US military disputing the claims; an organization not exactly known for it "upfrontedness."

By Noah Schachtman
Danger Room @ Wired.com


Did the Taliban stage a slaughter of dozens, to make U.S. forces in Afghanistan look like butchers? That’s what American military officials are implying in response to claims that coalition airstrikes killed dozens of civilians taking shelter from fighting between Taliban militants and international troops in Afghanistan’s Farah Province.

The International Committee of the Red Cross reported dozens of dead, but Gen. David McKiernan, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, suggested that the deaths may not have been caused by airstrikes. McKiernan told reporters in Kabul: “We have some other information that leads us to distinctly different conclusions about the cause of these civilian casualties.” An anonymous defense official took things a bit further, telling the Washington Post’s Greg Jaffe: “the Taliban went to a concerted effort to make it look like the U.S. airstrikes caused this.”

According to the New York Times, forensic investigators are investigating the possibility that Afghan civilians were killed by grenades thrown by Taliban fighters, who then paraded the bodies around a village, claiming the dead were killed by American bombs. And Col. Greg Julian, the main U.S. military spokesman in Kabul, downplayed the total number of casualties, telling The Wall Street Journal he was “pretty sure the high numbers of casualties are not going to prove true.”

This is not the first time the U.S. military has rejected claims of civilian deaths from coalition airstrikes. Last year, coalition officials dismissed claims — backed by the United Nations and the Afghan government — that an airstrike on the village of Azizabad killed dozens of civilians. After a series of follow-on investigations, the U.S. military revised the civilian body count upwards, but also maintained that most of those killed were Taliban militants....(Click for remainder.)

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President Obama's FEC Choice Is Not "Change We Need"

The nomination of John Sullivan by President Obama to a seat on the Federal Election Commission is cause for concern.

By J. Gerald Hebert
Via AlterNet


The nomination of John Sullivan by President Obama to a seat on the FEC is cause for concern. Mr. John Sullivan’s only known statements on campaign finance issues have been made to the FEC on behalf of the union that employs him. While lawyers are of course obligated to represent their clients, the gusto with which Mr. Sullivan has bashed important elements of McCain-Feingold and repeatedly taken radical deregulatory positions does not inspire confidence that he will have different views if confirmed to the Commission. More important is the question of what Mr. Sullivan’s nomination says about President Obama’s promises to change Washington and reform the FEC: certainly this nomination is a strange way to initiate such change. If the White House is serious about improving the FEC, it will need to fill the two other vacancies on the Commission with people who will shake it up, not fit right in to the status quo.

The Campaign Legal Center has long advocated the strengthening of campaign finance law enforcement through replacement of Commissioners who all-too-often express hostility toward the very laws they’re charged with enforcing with Commissioners who, instead, believe in the agency’s mission of enforcing the money-in-politics regulations that Congress has enacted. And lacking faith that any administration would truly bring the change that is needed, we have advocated a total restructuring of the agency by Congress. 

But far from endorsing enforcement of Congress’ campaign finance regulations, President Obama’s nominee for the Commission, labor union lawyer John Sullivan, has over the years encouraged radical deregulation of campaign finance by the FEC. The fact that he has also worked for reform of the voting process is of little help, since that is the province of the Election Administration Commission, not the FEC....(Click for remainder.)

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Is the U.S. Getting a Raw Deal?

A piece of French Roquefort blue cheese is displayed in a shop in Paris January 16, 2009. (Philippe Wojazer/Reuters)

Beef accord will keep prices low on coveted Roquefort cheese, but might not help Americans sell more steak.

By Teri Schultz
GlobalPost


BRUSSELS — The European Union and the United States have agreed to take a breather in a decades-long transatlantic trade tiff. The two sides struck a temporary deal lowering Europe's trade barriers on U.S. beef and America's on some of the EU's most notable exports, such as Roquefort cheese.

The agreement — which will not be finalized until it is formally ratified by the U.S. Congress and the parliaments of all 27 EU states — was reached in a phone call Wednesday between EU Trade Commissioner Catherine Ashton and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk. In a joint statement, they described it as an “understanding that provides a pragmatic way forward” and pledged to work to get it finalized as quickly as possible in all relevant capitals.

The truce has been a long time coming. Since the 1980s, the EU has been blocking meat from U.S. cattle fattened with growth hormones, which EU health authorities say pose health risks and can even cause cancer, in the case of one of the hormone estradiol 17. But a 1998 ruling by the World Trade Organization (WTO) determined the EU ban was not acceptable and gave the U.S. the right to impose sanctions on European products in return. Europe still refused to budge.

After negotiations carried out over two presidential terms failed to produce a breakthrough, the Bush Administration retaliated in its last days, levying tariffs to go into effect May 9 that would have increased import costs on products — from truffles to chewing gum — from every EU nation except Britain. In one headline-grabbing example, duties on France’s Roquefort cheese would have tripled, a dire prospect for French farmers accustomed to selling one-fifth of their output of Roquefort to American consumers....(Click for remainder.)

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Colleagues Mount Quick Defense for DHS Chief Geek Pick

By Noah Shachtman
Danger Room @ Wired.com


Yesterday, biological defense specialist Dr. Tara O’Toole was tapped by the Obama administration to become the Department of Homeland Security’s geek-in-chief — and was instantly blasted by critics as a bioterror Cassandra. Today, her colleagues fought back, praising her as a public health visionary who helped get the country ready to respond to epidemics like the swine flu.

“She got the conversation going: Are we prepared for a major disease outbreak?” Henry Kelly, president of the Federation of American Scientists, tells Danger Room. The result is “the programs now in place for dealing with a flu outbreak like the one we just faced.”

As the director of the Center for Biosecurity of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and former chair of the Federation of American Scientists, Dr. O’Toole (pictured, left) brings a gold-plated resume to the job of DHS under secretary for science and technology.  About 45 percent of the near billion-dollar research portfolio goes towards chemical and biological defense.

What concerns critics is a perceived pattern for overhyping biological threats — in particular, the specter of terrorists with weapons of mass destruction. “Bioterrorism is a whole new terrain of national security that’s going to have the same magnitude of impact as the creation of nuclear weapons,” she told the Los Angeles Times in 2003. “We should increase spending [on bioterrorism] to $10 billion next year.”...(Click for remainder.)

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Nestle Bottled-Water War Heats Up in Arkansas River Valley

By David O. Williams
The Colorado Independent


A water grab by Swiss food and beverage behemoth Nestle is playing out in the county commissioner’s chambers of rural Chaffee County, which is considering issuing a 1041 permit to allow the siphoning of spring water for Nestle’s Arrowhead bottled water.

Enough water to supply about 700 homes would be pulled from springs in the scenic Arkansas River Basin, one of the most heavily rafted and fished rivers in the United States, and trucked up to Denver for bottling for Nestle’s Arrowhead brand.

Officials from the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District have been battling Nestle’s plan because the Swiss company wants to replace the spring water with water it leased from Aurora, but the Front Range city would retain the right to pull the plug on that deal in the event of a drought.

The water war in south-central Colorado is reminiscent of a similar struggle last fall in Michigan covered by the Colorado Independent’s sister Web site, The Michigan Messenger.

In that case, environmentalists challenged Nestle’s siphoning of Michigan ground water bound for the Great Lakes to make Ice Mountain bottled water. Such diversions weren’t prohibited under the Bush administration’s Great Lakes Compact, which exempted private corporations in the case of small diversions under six gallons.

While the compact does block foreign tankers from filling up with Great Lakes water and sailing back to their drought-stricken homelands, conservationists say the seemingly endless supplies of water in the Great Lakes are in fact being relentlessly drained by countless smaller consumers....(Click for remainder.)

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Sen. Snowe: GOP is 'The Party of Big Business and Big Oil and the Rich.'

I find it quite amazing that "moderate" Republicans are now echoing this sentiment.  This dichotomy is something that the American public has known for quite a while now.  My grandmother used to say "Republicans are for business, and Democrats are for the people."  While this may not be 100% true today, as there are plenty of Democrats in bed with corporate interests, the axiom still holds a lot of truth.

By Ali Frick
Think Progress


In a new Time article on the state of the Republican Party, Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) lamented the GOP’s exclusion of groups like minorities and environmentalists. “Ideological purity is not the ticket to the promised land,” she said, echoing comments her fellow Maine senator Susan Collins (R) made last week. She also complained that, “to the average American,” the GOP is just the party of “Big Oil and the rich":
Snowe recalls that when she proposed fiscally conservative “triggers” to limit Bush’s tax cuts in case of deficits, she was attacked by fellow Republicans. “I don’t know when willy-nilly tax cuts became the essence of who we are,” she says. “To the average American who’s struggling, we’re in some other stratosphere. We’re the party of Big Business and Big Oil and the rich.
Of course, Americans are right to view the GOP as the party of Big Oil, which gave nearly $20 million to the Republican party apparatus during the last election cycle. The securities and investments industry — big banks — donated more than $54 million to the GOP....(Click for original.)

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Debate of Future of U.S. Newspapers Reaches Senate

Industry experts attended Capitol Hill hearing and offered various views on how to preserve news standards

By Daniel Nasaw
The Guardian


The dying American newspaper industry had a sympathetic audience yesterday in a Senate committee that lamented its long decline and expressed scepticism about the online forms that have replaced it.

In a Capitol Hill hearing yesterday, the Senate commerce committee heard from newspaper industry executives, a prominent television producer and former reporter, and others who said the internet has not found a way to replace the journalists thrown out of work by declining revenues. Few panellists were optimistic that a new business model to support quality journalism would soon emerge.

"What happens when our watchdog grows mute and can no longer bark, when newspapers slice their staff and slash their news operations?" asked Democratic West Virginia senator Jay Rockefeller, chairman of the Senate commerce committee. "What happens is that we all suffer."

Senator John Kerry, the Democratic party's 2004 presidential nominee, opened the hearing with a dire recitation of the American news business's troubles: venerable newspapers shuttered, circulation figures, stock values and earnings decimated. He said that paper and ink have become obsolete as a way to transmit media.

"Today, newspapers look like an endangered species," Kerry said....(Click for remainder.)

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CNN Questions Obama's "Gay" Silence

Via Advocate.com

On the heels of a New York Times article calling into question Barack Obama's relative silence on gay issues in his first few months in office, CNN has launched its own investigation.

CNN senior political correspondent Candy Crowley says this has been a sensitive issue for all politicians -- but she suggests Obama is going to face an uphill battle if he wants to distance himself from the mounting debate over marriage equality.




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As Gay Issues Arise, Obama is Pressed to Engage

By Sheryl Gay Stolberg
The New York Times


WASHINGTON — President Obama was noticeably silent last month when the Iowa Supreme Court overturned the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.

 But now Mr. Obama — who has said he opposes same-sex marriage as a Christian but describes himself as a “fierce advocate of equality” for gay men and lesbians — is under pressure to engage on a variety of gay issues that are coming to the fore amid a dizzying pace of social, political, legal and legislative change.

Two of Mr. Obama’s potential Supreme Court nominees are openly gay; some advocates, irked that there are no gay men or lesbians in his cabinet, are mounting a campaign to influence his choice to replace Justice David H. Souter, who is retiring. Same-sex marriage is advancing in states — the latest to allow it is Maine — and a new flare-up in the District of Columbia could ultimately put the controversy in the lap of the president.

Mr. Obama’s new global health initiative has infuriated activists who say he is not financing AIDS programs generously enough. And while the president has urged Congress to pass a hate crimes bill, a high priority for gay groups, he has delayed action on one of his key campaign promises, repealing the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” rule.

Social issues like same-sex marriage bring together deeply held principles and flashpoint politics, and many gay activists, aware that Mr. Obama is also dealing with enormous challenges at home and overseas, have counseled patience....(Click for remainder.)

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Anti-Civil Rights Hate-Merchants Move to Halt Maine's Marriage Law

By 365 Gay

(Augusta, Maine) Opponents of same-sex marriage have wasted no time in moving to block Maine’s new law allowing gay and lesbian couples to wed.

The conservative Maine Marriage Alliance filed a challenge Thursday with Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap. The challenge was filed under the state’s “people’s veto” provision.

It allows for a referendum to overturn laws if opponents can collect enough signatures. The group will need to get the signatures of at least 10 percent of the people who voted in the last governor’s election to force a referendum this November.

The signature-collecting deadline will probably fall in mid-September, Dunlap said.

The marriage bill was signed Wednesday by Gov. John Baldacci minutes after it received final approval in the legislature.

The new law repeals Maine’s 12-year-old so-called Defense of Marriage law, which banned same-sex marriage. The new law states that churches would not be compelled to conduct same-sex weddings if it would be inconsistent with their doctrine. Its passage made Maine the fifth state to allow same-sex marriage.

The Alliance had warned Baldacci that if he signed the bill, it would press for a constitutional amendment. Alliance leader Rev. Bob Emrich said he believes voters will overturn the law....(Click for remainder.)

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Obama Names Science and Technology Director

Tara O'Toole has held numerous senior positions related to biosecurity and biodefense.

By K.C. Jones
InformationWeek


President Barack Obama plans to nominate biosecurity expert Tara O'Toole as undersecretary for the Science and Technology Directorate.

Obama announced the plan to nominate O'Toole, founder, CEO, and director of the Center for Biosecurity at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, on Wednesday.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano praised the choice, saying O'Toole is an expert on environmental protection and biosecurity, and brings "brings critical experience in health, safety, and technology to the Department of Homeland Security."

O'Toole has focused on responses to biological attacks, containment of contagious diseases, and hospital preparedness, Napolitano said. "Throughout her career, she has worked in leadership posts both in government and the private sector," Napolitano said in a statement released Wednesday.

O'Toole was a founding member and director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Civilian Biodefense Strategies. She is co-editor in chief of the journal Biosecurity And Bioterrorism: Biodefense Strategy, Practice And Science. She also led the creation of Dark Winter, a 2001 exercise to handle bioterrorist attacks.

She served as assistant secretary of energy for environment, safety and health, advising the secretary of energy on environmental protection and supervising health and safety for about 100,000 government lab workers. There, she developed the first overall management and safety plan for dealing with waste from the production of nuclear weapons. Before that, she was a senior analyst at the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment....(Click for remainder.)

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