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EPA Mining Decisions Favor Coal Industry

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Hundreds of Miles of Streams & Rivers at Risk of Ruin

By Mike Lillis
The Washington Monthly

Despite renewed vows to protect Appalachian waterways from the ravages of mountaintop coal mining, the Environmental Protection Agency has recently authorized a number of pending mountaintop permits that will bury dozens of streams in the nation’s oldest mountain range. The move has left mining supporters cheering the federal endorsement of a popular extraction method, environmentalists wondering if the Obama administration truly intends to prioritize water quality concerns above those of the powerful coal industry, and both sides unsure what to expect of mountaintop permitting in the future.

After reviewing 48 pending Appalachian mining applications in recent weeks, the EPA has rejected just six over concerns that the projects would harm local water supplies. Most of the approved projects, EPA says, are surface mines, including some mountaintop removal projects. Combined, EPA concedes, the operations will fill scores of Appalachian valleys with mining waste — a process that will bury miles (some say hundreds of miles) of seasonal mountain streams with debris and sludge known to carry heavy metals and other toxins likely to wash to communities below. The news has caused many strip-mining opponents to worry that the agency has backtracked on earlier vows to put science and the health of ecosystems at the forefront of its permitting decisions.

“A wave of new mountaintop removal coal mines would represent a leap in the wrong direction,” Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope said in a statement. “With the bulldozers and explosives standing by in Appalachia, the Obama administration should take bold action to protect communities, streams and mountains before it’s too late.”

The process of mountaintop mining occurs when companies blast away the tops of mountains to get at the thin coal seams nestled inside. The unwanted rock and soil is pushed into adjacent valleys, many of which are home to tiny streams — the headwaters of larger bodies of water below. The strategy is popular for its efficiency: Not only does it allow the companies to scrape away more coal, but it also requires fewer workers to get the job done. The process places greater reliance on the productivities of dynamite and heavy machinery. Opponents argue that it comes at too high a price, ruining water supplies and causing flooding that threatens the communities nearby....(Click for remainder.)


Rachel Maddow vs. Newt Gingrich & CIA Controversy


O'Reilly: It's Anti-American Not To Support Racial Profiling Because Most Criminals Are Black

By Ellen
News Hounds

“Hating America” was the subject of Bill O'Reilly's Tuesday (May 19, 2009) Talking Points Memo. Now let's play a little game here. Who are O'Reilly's haters tonight? I'm voting for ACORN. Okay, guy over there voting for GE/NBC News. Lady in the back going for Janeane Garofalo. Damn, we all lost. ACLU wins. Again.

Yeah, the ACLU (that “vile organization”) hates America because it wants the torture photos released blah, blah, blah. Oh wait, here's a new wrinkle. It's not about torture tonight. It's about the ACLU's America-hating attacks on something “right here in New York City.” All because the ACLU objects to the use of racial profiling by the New York City Police Department. With video.

“Once riddled with violent crime,” O'Reilly trimphantly declared, “New York is now largely safe thanks to aggressive policing instituted by Bill Bratton and Rudy Giuliani . . . the cops here are proactive, they try to stop crime before it happens by keeping close tabs on the bad guys. From the jump, the ACLU opposed that.”

Well, yeah, Bill, cops randomly stopping people on the streets who the cops think look a little shifty-eyed strikes me as a little violative of that whole civil rights thingie. What bizarro world do you live in where standing up for the Bill of Rights equals hating America?

According to O'Reilly, a study by the Rand Corporation concluded that 69% of New York City's violent crime victims “describe their assailants as black . . . 5% are described by the victim as white.”

“Recently the New York Chapter of the ACLU filed a complaint against the police charging they were stopping black people more than white people for questioning. The ACLU says that's bias, their usual charge,” O'Reilly brayed....(Click for remainder.)


The Media Loves it's (Manufactured) Showdowns

By Steve Benen
Washington Monthly

Dick Cheney, as you may have heard, will give a speech this morning about how great his approach to national security was and is. If you're interested in watching, don't worry, you'll have plenty of chances to see it.
Looks like Dick Cheney's big national security speech at the American Enterprise Institute ... is going to get wall-to-wall cable coverage -- giving a major assist to those who hope that his speech will be seen as "dueling" with the one that Obama is planning to give on the same topic tomorrow.

Both CNN and MSNBC will be carrying Cheney's speech live tomorrow, in addition to carrying Obama's, spokespeople for both networks confirm to me, barring the intrusion of some major news event.

I haven't seen official word from Fox News about its plans, but I'm going to assume the network will air the speech live, just as soon as its reporters finish feeding Cheney grapes while he lounges in the AEI green-room.

Because President Obama will be delivering an important speech on national security policy this morning -- not to be confused with Cheney's efforts -- news outlets are excited about the notion of a "duel" or a "boxing match" between the two. CNN's Wolf Blitzer sees today as a confrontation between two powerful opposing forces.

This is no doubt exactly the frame Republicans are desperate to see the media embrace, but that doesn't change the fact that it's terribly misguided. As Katia Bachko explained very well yesterday, "[I]t's completely unreasonable to frame these two speeches as an actual debate between two equals. We have a democratically elected president, and an unpopular former politician who are not directly engaging with one another. The question of national security is too important to important to sidestep in favor of a falsely construed schoolyard fight between a bully and the class president. What's more, to set up these speeches as a contest presupposes that there might be an actual winner. But this sort of shallow, politics-as-a-game coverage only makes losers -- of the press and of the public."...(Click for remainder.)


Detained by the Past

Try as he might, Obama can't avoid a debate on Bush-era security decisions.

By E.J. Dionne, Jr.
The New Republic

WASHINGTON -- President Obama's lieutenants would love it if all the television networks ran a crawl line at the bottom of the screen during news broadcasts that would keep repeating the words: "The economy, health care, energy, education. The economy, health care..."

Then there's reality. Over the last two weeks, the past has ensnared the present, deflecting attention from Obama's domestic priorities and raising issues that divide his coalition. We're talking about torture as much as health care, military commissions as much as green energy, and Nancy Pelosi as much as Barack Obama.

In principle, the administration is philosophical about all of this. "Presidents can't only deal with what they want to," said David Axelrod, Obama's senior adviser. "They have to deal with what comes and what they have to."

But Axelrod made clear that Obama truly wishes that some issues could be dispensed with. "The balance he wants to strike," Axelrod said in an interview, "is to solve the mess we found in ways that don't trigger endless, backward-looking partisan battles that inhibit our efforts to get other things done."

This is reasonable, but Obama is caught between two powerful forces and two conflicting ideas.

Republicans want to change the subject from their own party's failures and distract from the progress Obama and Democrats in Congress are making on health care and cap-and-trade legislation. Their slogan might be: Bring on the past!...(Click for remainder.)


Ask Your Sons

By Gideon Levy

It is behavior well known to every police investigator: First the suspect denies everything, then attacks his interrogators, then admits to a small portion of the accusations (saying he merely did what everyone does), and finally breaks down and confesses.

The Israel Defense Forces returned from Operation Cast Lead and, of course, denied everything. The people applauded it for its bogus victory and no one paid much attention to the awful price paid by the Palestinians. But after the smoke (in this case, white phosphorus) cleared a bit, the blood began crying out from the ground. Foreign journalists and human rights groups investigated and reported their findings. The United Nations said the IDF intentionally targeted its facilities, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International accused the army of illegally using phosphorous bombs, the International Red Cross reported on the injured being denied medical attention and strikes on medical crews, officers at a premilitary course spoke of civilians killed, and Amira Hass wrote for Haaretz about the killing of people flying white flags, the use of flechette shells and the annihilation of entire families.

The ground began trembling beneath Israel's feet when it started attacking the emissaries of these organizations. The country's gates were closed to the UN fact-finding mission headed by Jewish South African Richard Goldstone, as if it were Zimbabwe or North Korea, as if it had much to hide. The president brusquely rebuked the UN's Ban Ki-moon and suggested he visits Auschwitz, until eventually the secretary general was forced to shrink from supporting his organization's damning report.

Anyone who dared investigate and report was branded anti-Semitic. Little has changed since the early-1970s report by a group of American lawyers on the Shin Bet security service's alleged torture methods. These attorneys were immediately labeled anti-Semites. We deny, repress, lie, attack and compare ourselves to others, and our conscience remains clear. Even when the IDF admits to killing 300 civilians - 90 of them children, 50 women and 160 whose identities the army says is unclear - our story remains the same: the most moral army in the world. Not the third most, not the second - the most. After all, Yedioth Ahronoth gave that view its seal of approval in a special propaganda supplement entitled "The most moral in the world....(Click for remainder.)


Belgium's €1bn Diamond Bail-Out

By Stanley Pignal
The Financial Times

The diamond industry is set to be the latest to be bailed out by the Belgian authorities as a group of banks agreed to fund a €1bn credit facility for gem dealers.

The banks have agreed to take diamonds as collateral if the government alters lending rules to allow them to take the gems on to their books.

The money, part of a package to encourage banks to resume lending to the sector, is needed "to restore confidence in the diamond trade", said Freddy Hanard, head of the Antwerp gem association.

The Belgian capital's gem industry has asked the Flemish regional government for a €200m ($275m, £176m) temporary guarantee to underwrite the scheme. The city's 1,800 diamond dealers are struggling amid a 30 per cent slump in sales volumes and a decline in prices, in spite of moves from mining groups to limit production.

Many dealers are facing liquidity problems because they are unwilling to sell at a loss gems bought at the height of the market in 2008. They have seen their credit lines withdrawn after banks questioned the value of the unpaid invoices they usually use as security against loans. Using gems as collateral would give Antwerp's dealers an entirely new source of credit....(Click for remainder.)


"V" - The Right's New Favorite TV Show, Or Inadvertent Proof of The Ubiquity of The Right's Fables?

By David Sirota
Open Left

I've heard that Battlestar Galactica is a favorite of neoconservatives for its supposedly metaphorical allusions to Bush foreign policy. I've never seen that show, but I am planning to watch ABC's remake of "V" - and by the looks of the preview, it's possible that show may become conservatives' new favorite TV show:

Am I crazy or does this preview make the show seem like a not-so-subtle fringe-right-wing criticism of Obama and Obama followers?

In question Obama's citizenship and heritage, conservatives have always portrayed Obama as an alien visitor. They've also constantly implied that behind Obama's friendly veneer are sinister motives - and they seem to believe that while most of the public are gullible fools believing in Obama as a savior, they and their tea-party protestors see the "real truth" of those motives.

Now, didn't I basically just describe that preview? I think I did - in fact, I took notes on the preview. Check this out:
1:00 "The world's in bad shape - who wouldn't welcome a savior?"

1:10 - "Thousands are flocking to see the mothership in person"

1:20 - "We're all so quick to jump on the bandwagon, but before we get on let's at least examine..."

1:40 - "Gratitude can morph into worship"..."You two are obsessed with the V's"..."You know what the V's - they call it spreading hope"

2:15 - "If you could speak to the protestors, what would you say? That embracing change is never easy, but the reward for doing so can be far greater than anything you can imagine"..."They gain trust when all they are really doing is positioning themselves as the saviors of mankind"

2:40 - "They are arming themselves with the most powerful weapon out there: devotion."
(Click for remainder.)


Obama, Democrats, Republicans Support Credit Card Rip-Offs and Rate Hikes

By Brent Budowsky
The Smirking Chimp

Now the Senate has passed a bill that would allow credit card abuses, rip-offs, interest rate hikes and fee increases to continue for nine more months.

The president didn't tell you this in his town meeting or radio address. Democrats who passed this don’t want you to know this either, but it is true. The effective date of this travesty of a bill is nine months from the date of enactment. Until then, all abuses continue and probably accelerate.

When I refer to abuses, rip-offs, interest rate hikes and fee increases, I am merely using the words the president uses, and the words that Democratic and Republican supporters of this bill use.

Remember that victim the president said he wanted to help personally? Remember the horror stories of abuse told by members, one after another, on the floor of the House and Senate?

Every one of those abuses, to them, and you, and me, will continue under this bill for nine more months from the date of enactment. If the president signs it by Memorial Day, these abuses will continue in June.

These abuses will continue in July.

And August.

And September.

These abuses will continue in October.

And November.

And December....(Click for remainder.)


Is Homophobia the New Anti-Semitism?

At a march commemorating the International Day Against Homophobia, a gay-rights activist is taken away by riot police officers in Moscow, Russia. (AP Photo/Mikhail Metzel)
As the gay-rights movement has been globalized, so has religious and political opposition to homosexuality.

By Michelle Goldberg
The American Prospect

On May 17, 1990, the World Health Organization removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders. That's why gay-rights activists chose May 17 for the International Day Against Homophobia, a worldwide series of events, now in its fourth year, designed to spotlight the terrible abuses gay and lesbian people face in much of the world. (In what might be seen as a prescient tribute to Larry Craig, it goes by the acronym IDAHO.) Even before this year's IDAHO began on Sunday, events in Moscow offered a lurid demonstration of why global homophobia needs our attention.

Moscow gay-rights activists had planned a march to coincide with the finale of the ultra-campy Eurovision Song Contest on Saturday. It was a brave and risky undertaking -- in the past, gay-rights demonstrators in Russia have been met with violence from both police and right-wing thugs. Moscow's mayor has called gay-rights marches "satanic," and his spokesperson told journalists that the activists threatened "not only to destroy the moral pillars of our society but also to deliberately provoke disorder, which would threaten the lives and security of Muscovites and guests of the city." The Independent reported that organizers hid out in a country house to avoid arrest in the days leading up to the march, then dodged police roadblocks to make it into the city.

In the end, the protest was quashed before it could begin. "The demonstration lasted for about a minute before the police set upon them from all sides, clambering through the shrubs and knocking news cameramen out of the way to seize the demonstrators, pin their arms behind their backs and drag them off into waiting buses and patrol wagons," reported the Los Angeles Times. Added The Telegraph, "Some activists were detained for doing little more than talking to reporters, including a female campaigner who had her glasses and shoes torn off and her dress pulled up above her waist as she was carried screaming into a bus." Far-right anti-gay demonstrators were allowed to have their own event elsewhere in the city....(Click for remainder.)


It Is Time To Speak Up For Full Civil Rights For All!

By Something The Dog Said
Square State

Those that read the Dog on a regular basis (yeah all six of you) know that he is an implacable torture accountability advocate. This should not and does not mean there aren't issues which the Dog feels need attention. It is time to get serious about full civil rights for all citizens. Right now, the area where we lag the most is with our GLBT citizens.

The ancient question goes "What is the measure of a Man?" the Dog would change that to person (yeah, the Dog will own the description of "PC") in order to answer it. There is a man named Victor Fehrenbach. He is many things, least among them is he is a gay man. This is a man who has been decorated for heroism by the Air Force. He is also being drummed out after 18 years of service because he is gay.

The Dog would like to talk for a minute about how Lt. Col. Fehrenbach got his Air Medal for Heroism. In 2003 during the push to Baghdad Col. Fehrenbach and his wing man were providing air support in their F-15 fighters. They noticed an Iraqi ambush team ready to hit the front lines of the American advance to the airport. They moved to engage and the wingman's weapons targeting systems failed. Instead of pulling back, over the next 15 minutes the Colonel and his wing man delivered the entire ordinance each had. First they used the Colonels systems to attack with his munitions then they used the Colonels systems to target his wingman's weapons.

This required multiple passes on the targets. All that would be brave enough, but during this entire time they were under Automatic Anti-Aircraft gun fire. They had to fly into the teeth of 40 or 50mm machine gun fire to make their attack runs. Add to this the nine times they were attacked by ground to air missiles and you can see how a medal for heroism was deserved.

The Dog is not one to make the warrior characteristics a primary one to judge people by. However if that person has volunteered to be a solider it is important to recognize when they do the utmost to live up to it. That Col. Fehrenbach was willing to put his life at risk to do the job he was trained to do, to support the mission he was given and the larger mission of the invasion of Iraq is something which defines him. Compared to that his sexual orientation is a trivial thing, beneath scrutiny....(Click for remainder.)


Gretchen Carlson Whines About Poor Persecuted Christians – Again!

By Priscilla
News Hounds

Fox's Gretchen Carlson needs to don some body armor; because her protestations about how Christians are being persecuted make her into a crusader queen who is leading the armies of Fox News in the fight against godless "PC" liberals. Yesterday (May 18th) she took up the cause of those who are just so offended because the Christian Children's Fund has changed their name and (ohmagawd) taken out the word Christian. That's certainly enough to get crusader Gretchen suited up and ready to smite the persecutors of those who seem to revel in constant martyrdom. Pope Clement said that "God wills it" when he urged his followers on to crusade. Now the clarion call is Fox wills it!!!

The topic of the name change (now Child Fund International) was briefly brought up in last week's Bill O'Reilly's culture war segment where it was decided that it was just another instance of political correctness. Carlson, filling in for Monica Crowley, was slightly indignant. So not surprisingly she began the segment by saying, while looking indignant, that "this story might steam a lot of you." She said that according to the organization, the change was for marketing purposes; but "guess what word they're removing." Not surprisingly she interviewed a gal, Liz Forman, who will be stopping her donations to the group because of the name change. When Forman said "it's a shame that the Christian Children's Fund has become part of the culture," Carlson noted "the PC culture that we talk about." Ms. Forman sent a letter to the organization which, posted on a "traditional Anglican" website, to which the Child Fund responded with their explanation that the new name more accurately reflected their mission. Good Christian Carlson would have none of that. She noted that while people will say that the organization still serves children, "what is going to happen down the road" as a result of "caving to PC pressure" (Ah, the old "slippery slope!) Indignately, St. Gretchen asked if Christian won't be "in the name of anything." Forman predicted that Christian aid groups will grow because they feed the children spiritually and that folks will rise up out of their pews and say that they're not going to let Christianity become cultural road kill." Carlson, indignately, said that she would have like to have been in the board meeting when they took "Christian" out of the title and asked how other donors felt about what she obviously considers an outrage....(Click for remainder.)


GOP's View of the World

By Sandy Huffaker


Carbon Taxes v. Cap and Trade

By Robert Frank

In yesterday’s post I argued that the easiest path to deficit reduction is to impose new taxes on activities that cause harm to others—Pigouvian taxes on negative externalities, in the economist’s parlance.  Probably no negative externality has commanded more attention in recent years than the emission of CO2 and other greenhouse gases.
One of the central weapons in President Obama’s proposed attack on global warming is a carbon cap and trade system.  Under cap and trade, the government first sets a limit on how much total carbon can be released into the atmosphere each year (the “cap”).  Companies can still employ production processes or sell products that release carbon into the atmosphere, but only if they first purchase a permit for each unit of carbon released (the “trade”). For example, if the cap were set at 5 trillion tons per year, the government would auction off that many tons of annual carbon permits to the highest bidders.
When economists first proposed a similar system of pollution permits for attacking the problem of acid rain during the late 1960s, critics complained that it would “let rich firms pollute to their hearts’ content.” Such statement betrayed a comically naive understanding of the forces that guide corporate behavior....(Click for remainder.)


Obama v. Darth Cheney

By Bob Fertik

On Thursday, Dick Cheney will give a major speech at Neocon Central, a.k.a. the American Enterprise Institute. One hour later, President Obama will give a major speech on foreign policy at an as-yet unknown location.

Coincidence? Absolutely not, and Robert Gibbs is lying when he says it is. The White House saw Cheney's speech on its radar, decided the President needed to respond in real time, and quickly scheduled a speech.

What will Cheney say? Exactly what he's been saying for months years: "Torture saved America. Ending torture endangers America."

What will Obama say? Exactly what he's been saying for weeks: "Whatever Torture accomplished, we can accomplish without Torture."

Unfortunately these positions are nothing more than bumper sticker slogans. After years of debate, when will the American people get the hard facts so they can come to their own conclusions?

While we haven't seen all the documents - especially IG John Helgerson's 2004 report - all available documents indicate Cheney is lying. Torture didn't save a single American life, and actually cost the lives of more than half of the U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq....(Click for remainder.)


The Health Care Cave-In

By Robert Reich
Robert Reich's Blog

"Don't make the perfect the enemy of the better" is a favorite slogan in Washington because compromise is necessary to get anything done. But the way things are going with health care, a better admonition would be: "Don't give away the store."

Many experts have long agreed that a so-called "single-payer" plan is the ideal, because competition among private insurers who pay health-care bills inevitably causes them to spend big bucks trying to find and market policies to healthy and younger people at relatively low risk of health problems while avoiding sicker and older people with higher risks (and rejecting those with pre-existing conditions altogether), and also contesting and litigating many claims. A single payer saves all this money and focuses on caring for sick people and preventing the healthy from becoming sick. The other advantage of a single payer is it can use its vast bargaining power to negotiate lower prices from pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, and suppliers.

Not surprisingly, insurance and drug companies have been dead-set against a single payer for years. And they've so frightened the public into thinking that "single payer" means loss of choice of doctor (that's wrong -- many single payer plans in other nations allow choices of medical deliverers) that politicians no longer even mention it.

On the campaign trail, Barack Obama pushed a compromise -- a universal health plan that would include a "public insurance option" resembling Medicare, which individual members of the public and their families could choose if they wished. This Medicare-like option would at least be able to negotiate low rates and impose some discipline on private insurers....(Click for remainder.)


Jingo O'Reilly Says ACLU Hates America

By David Neiwert
Crooks and Liars

Bill O'Reilly unleashed one of his patented vicious attacks last night on the ACLU, blaming them for fighting to have photos of detainees being abused by American soldiers released to the public:
O'Reilly: Now, last night we told you that the New York Times and other committed-left media want the pictures out so they can blame them on President Bush and the Republican Party. It is a pure political play. But the ACLU is a different story. That vile organization believes the USA is a bad place, desperately in need of an overhaul. The ACLU sympathizes with the New York Times but takes the situation much farther.


I believe the ACLU is the most dangerous anti-American organization in the country. And if clear-thinking Americans do not confront this group, and their members, and their support system in the media, people will die.
Gee, this all has a familiar ring to it. Back when the ACLU was the only organization to take up the legal cause of the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, the jingoistic Bill O'Reillys of the day similarly attacked them for ostensibly hating America and siding with the enemy....(Click for remainder.)


Olbermann's WTF!?!: GOP Senator Says Gitmo Prisoners Have it Good?


Countdown: CIA Torture Briefings Incorrect


Boehner Admits CIA Has Lied to Congress


NH Gov. John Lynch, Profile in Cowardice, Kills Marriage Equality

By Dana Houle
Daily Kos

Last week New Hampshire's Democratic governor John Lynch refused to sign a marriage equality bill that had passed both chambers of the NH legislature. Sure, he couched it in bullshit weasel words about how it was important to protect "religious marriage," but the reality was that the legislature had already bent over backward in making it clear that no religious body would be required to honor or perform a same-sex marriage.

Instead of signing the bill, he sent it back to the legislature with a requirement that they change the language.  And guess what?  The NH House just voted against the changes Lynch demanded in order to sign the bill

Folks are still trying to figure out what happened, but it's quite possible that now the bill is dead for the rest of this legislative session. 

Is it a matter of principle that the House didn't sign on to the unnecessary changes? Did Lynch cut a back-room deal with some House members to kill the bill so he wouldn't have to sign it? It's certainly plausible that Lynch pulled a bullshit move with some allies in the legislature; after all, as the Concord Monitor reported in 2008, the NH Senate Democratic campaign fund had by that point paid Lynch $109,000 in consulting fees.

That's right, the Democratic campaign fund for the one of the legislative bodies was paying consulting fees to the sitting head of the executive branch....(Click for remainder.)


Sanford Calls Beck's Latest Paranoia a "Conspiracy Theory"

By Jed Lewison
Daily Kos

Now Glenn Beck is claiming that the federal government has a secret plan to strip state governments of their authority to levy taxes, a notion so ridiculous that even South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford calls it a "conspiracy theory."

The source of Beck's latest craziness seems to be his belief that the federal government will bail out California to keep the state from going bankrupt.

How he makes the synaptic leap to his conspiracy theory is anybody's guess, but it's worth noting that while Beck sees California as a leech on states like South Carolina, California only receives $0.78 for every dollar it pays in federal taxes, while South Carolina receives $1.35.

So whose leeching off who? We report. You decide....(Click for remainder.)


Who to Trust -- Pelosi or the CIA?

By Jason Leopold
Consortium News

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is under fire for complaining that the CIA misled her in classified briefings about the Bush administration’s abusive treatment of “war on terror” detainees.  Republicans and many media pundits have accused Pelosi of scapegoating the CIA for her failure to protest those techniques in a timely fashion.

But the history of the CIA is replete with examples of agency officials obscuring key details when telling members of Congress about controversial programs. In the 1980s, CIA Director William Casey was famous for mumbling over such points and gruffly reacting when asked to repeat himself.

Other times, the CIA’s official briefing records have clashed with the contemporaneous notes of congressional participants. For instance, former Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Bob Graham, D-Florida, says an intelligence document, which claimed he was briefed about the Bush administration’s domestic surveillance program on two dates in 2001 and 2002, was contradicted by his own schedule, which showed that no such briefings took place.

Graham also said that during briefings he did attend, he was never told that the Bush administration planned to spy on American citizens.

In an interview with ABC’s “Nightline” on Dec. 15, 2005 – after the New York Times disclosed the existence of the warrantless wiretapping program – Graham said he attended meetings in Vice President Dick Cheney’s office and discussed surveillance activities, but added that neither Cheney nor then-National Security Agency Director Michael Hayden spoke about a plan to spy on Americans. (CIA Director George Tenet also took part in the meeting.)...(Click for remainder.)


French Anti-Homophobia Video


Dick and Liz Cheney: Daddy’s Little Draft Deferment Slams Vietnam Vet

By Karen Webb

Cheney draft deferment # 5 on Sunday momentarily stopped defending the office of the Vice President to say "Col Wilkerson gets coverage because of his associations with Gen. Powell (you hear her questioner say he was Powell's chief of staff) and has made a cottage industry out of; you know, fantasies about the Vice Presidency." Last week her father went after Colin Powell and said he preferred Rush Limbaugh, the guy with the large boil on his butt that prevented him from being drafted and he flunked out of everything.

Maybe #5 wants to forget who the Vice President in question is or maybe she wants us to forget that she might be just a bit partial because he is her FATHER. I am not surprised that she wants to defend her FATHER and I don't really condemn her FATHER for not wanting to go to Vietnam. I knew a lot of people who didn't want to go, but didn't get 5 deferments. I know a lot of guys who were forced to go even when they didn't support the effort.

I just have a problem with a guy who wasn't willing to serve starting wars for other people's children to fight. By the way, Wilkerson's son is an Air Force navigator and his daughter has already served. Miss Draft Deferment Cheney has not served, but she did write her thesis, in 1988 on "The Evolution of Presidential War Powers." Life father, like daughter, there is nothing like imperial Presidential Powers, but you have to have a war.

During her FATHER's confirmation hearings to be Secretary of Defense he said "I had other priorities than military service in the 60s." Of course, neither Wilkerson nor Powell waited to be called. There are the names of over 50,000 men without other priorities on a big wall in DC, including a cousin of mine and a friend from college, both medics.

Here we go with just a snap comparison of the 3 men's dedication. I need to say that I am not really pleased with some of Powell's Vietnam record, but he was there.

1955- Powell registered for the draft.

1959- Cheney registers for the draft.

1962- Powell is an advisor in Vietnam.

Cheney is not doing well at Yale, quits and goes back to Wyoming....(Click for remainder.)


Military Burns Unsolicited Bibles Sent to Afghanistan

By Mike Mount

(CNN) -- Military personnel threw away, and ultimately burned, confiscated Bibles that were printed in the two most common Afghan languages amid concern they would be used to try to convert Afghans, a Defense Department spokesman said Tuesday.

The unsolicited Bibles sent by a church in the United States were confiscated about a year ago at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan because military rules forbid troops of any religion from proselytizing while deployed there, Lt. Col. Mark Wright said.

Such religious outreach can endanger American troops and civilians in the devoutly Muslim nation, Wright said.

"The decision was made that it was a 'force protection' measure to throw them away, because, if they did get out, it could be perceived by Afghans that the U.S. government or the U.S. military was trying to convert Muslims," Wright told CNN on Tuesday.

Troops at posts in war zones are required to burn their trash, Wright said.

The Bibles were written in the languages Pashto and Dari.

This decision came to light recently, after the Al Jazeera English network aired video of a group prayer service and chapel sermon that a reporter said suggested U.S. troops were being encouraged to spread Christianity....(Click for remainder.)


Barack Obama Nominates Jesus for Supreme Court


Michael Steele Threatens to Resign

I say stop threatening and do it you weak-kneed spineless bitch!

By John Aravosis

This is bad for the Republicans. It's evidence of the ongoing civil war we've been writing about, evidence of their intolerance (Steele is, after all, somewhat moderate and black), and evidence more generally of the vacuum of leadership in the party - if Steele were a strong leader, he wouldn't be facing this kind of insurrection.
Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele told FOX News that part of his job is to "manage the money" and suggested that if committee members strip him of that authority he'll step aside.
Also today, the GOP state party chairs will be voting on whether to relabel the Democratic party the "socialist" party. Seriously. Putting aside the humor of it all, it's one more indication of how the party is so beholden to the far right that it's skewing their entire focus. The GOP should be focusing on how to fix the economy, or more generally, how to win back moderates and win elections. Passing resolutions renaming the Democrats "socialists" is the political equivalent of kicking sand and crying "na na na na na." It's childish, to be sure, but it's also bizarre, even disordered, behavior for grown adults.

It's Lord of the Flies time in the GOP. And Piggy is about to get his glasses broken....(Click for original.)


Does the CIA Ever Lie?

Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting

The debate over Bush-era torture tactics like waterboarding has morphed into a full-blown Washington scandal. But the target isn't the Bush administration officials who ordered the torture; instead, the corporate media's focus is on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who claims that she was not fully briefed by the CIA on the use of waterboarding in late 2002. The prevailing assumption in much of the coverage is that the CIA couldn't possibly have misled members of Congress--despite the fact that this has happened repeatedly.

The media reaction has been intense. Right-wing pundits and the Fox News Channel are treating the issue as the most important political story of the moment. Pelosi is "undermining our national security. She's emboldening our enemies," declared host Sean Hannity (5/15/09). MSNBC's Morning Joe has covered the subject repeatedly, with host Joe Scarborough expressing utter disbelief (5/15/09) that the CIA could possibly have misled Pelosi, since Congress could cut off the CIA's funding. "They would never lie to Congress, because they would be crushed," Sen. Kit Bond (R.-Mo.) said on the show.

More centrist pundits tended to focus their criticism on Pelosi's handling of the controversy. MSNBC host Chris Matthews asked (5/15/09): "Just how much damage did House Speaker Nancy Pelosi do to herself yesterday? Her accounts of what she knew about waterboarding and when she knew it are so confusing, so ever-changing and so convoluted that she's made herself an easy target for Republicans and now for the CIA itself."

The Washington Post's Dan Balz wrote (5/15/09) that Pelosi "took the remarkable step of trying to shift the focus of blame to the CIA and the Bush administration, claiming that the CIA accounts represented a diversionary tactic in the real debate over the interrogation policies. That amounted to a virtual declaration of war against the CIA." It's unclear why it's "remarkable" to suggest that the discussion should focus on the agency and the administration that had a secret torture program, rather than on someone who may or may not have been informed about the program....(Click for remainder.)


Progressive Ilan Goldenberg Heads to the Pentagon

By Spencer Ackerman
Attackerman @ Firedoglake

Right as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu finishes his first Washington encounter with the Obama administration, the administration is adding a progressive voice to its Middle East policy team. Ilan Goldenberg, the policy director of the National Security Network, starts next week as a special adviser to Colin Kahl, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for the Middle East. He’ll have responsibilities for Israel, Palestine and Iran — precisely the issues that Netanyahu pressed the Obama administration to see his way.

It’s safe to say that Goldenberg, 31, has his own take, though he declined comment for this post. His writings for the past several years on the liberal security-matters blog Democracy Arsenal indicate that he’ll press both the Israelis and the Palestinians to honor their commitments toward reaching a two-state solution, and he’ll seek creative outreaches to Iran. Here, for instance, Goldenberg endorses a U.S. push for an Israeli-Syrian peace accord as “the type of game-changer that improves America’s image in the region, generates positive Israeli political momentum towards [peace], weakens Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah and in the long-term could potentially improve the likelihood of an Israeli-Palestinian agreement.” Here’s Goldenberg pushing back on the idea that American Jews uniformly backed Israel’s Gaza war. Here’s Goldenberg praising the appointment of “serious heavyweight” peacemaker George Mitchell as the administration’s Arab-Israeli special envoy. And here’s Goldenberg advocating early and urgent engagement with Iran, before the forthcoming Iranian presidential elections, since “there is nothing that makes Iranians more suspicious than the idea that the U.S. has a vested interest in the outcome of their elections.”...(Click for remainder.)


FCC's Warrantless Household Searches Alarm Experts

By Ryan Singel
Threat Level @

You may not know it, but if you have a wireless router, a cordless phone, remote car-door opener, baby monitor or cellphone in your house, the FCC claims the right to enter your home without a warrant at any time of the day or night in order to inspect it.

That’s the upshot of the rules the agency has followed for years to monitor licensed television and radio stations, and to crack down on pirate radio broadcasters. And the commission maintains the same policy applies to any licensed or unlicensed radio-frequency device.

“Anything using RF energy — we have the right to inspect it to make sure it is not causing interference,” says FCC spokesman David Fiske. That includes devices like Wi-Fi routers that use unlicensed spectrum, Fiske says.

The FCC claims it derives its warrantless search power from the Communications Act of 1934, though the constitutionality of the claim has gone untested in the courts. That’s largely because the FCC had little to do with average citizens for most of the last 75 years, when home transmitters were largely reserved to ham-radio operators and CB-radio aficionados. But in 2009, nearly every household in the United States has multiple devices that use radio waves and fall under the FCC’s purview, making the commission’s claimed authority ripe for a court challenge.

“It is a major stretch beyond case law to assert that authority with respect to a private home, which is at the heart of the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable search and seizure,” says Electronic Frontier Foundation lawyer Lee Tien. “When it is a private home and when you are talking about an over-powered Wi-Fi antenna — the idea they could just go in is honestly quite bizarre.”...(Click for remainder.)


Jesse Ventura: Pelosi a "Smokescreen" on Torture, Coleman Should Concede and More


Obama Picks Financial Backer for UK Ambassador Post

Winfield House: the residence of the US Ambassador to the UK

Chicago friend Louis Susman chosen for plum posting despite president's promise to end cronyism in Washington.

By Ewen MacAskill
The Guardian

A little bit of Chicago's ruthless and combative political machine is soon to descend on the decorous calm of the Court of St James. Despite promising to end cronyism in Washington, Barack Obama is about to appoint one of his home town friends and financial backers to the plum posting of US ambassador to London.

The next ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary will be Louis Susman, a lawyer and financier with little experience of foreign affairs.

The appointment will end months of speculation. Susman's name first surfaced in a diary column in the Washington Post in February, but Caroline Kennedy was also mentioned, as was Oprah Winfrey, another of Obama's Chicago supporters.

There was no official confirmation of Susman's nomination today, but the Guardian has learned that the paperwork has been completed. Buckingham Palace approved the appointment this month and Obama will announce it shortly.

London has become a retirement posting for many backers of US presidents, offering a comfortable home in one of the best mansions in the city, Winfield House in Regent's Park.

Recent ambassadors have been political appointees more interested in country walks than Iraq or nuclear non-proliferation. Most of the work is left to the number twos at the embassy, career diplomats.

Susman, 71, a vice-president of Citigroup until he retired in February, has long been a backer of the Democrats, nicknamed the Vacuum Cleaner by the Chicago Tribune for his ability to hoover up campaign funding. "I don't think anyone enjoys raising money, but for some reason I seem to have a knack," he told the paper. Susman, who lives in an expensive neighbourhood of Chicago overlooking Lake Michigan, raised at least $500,000 (£320,000) for Obama's campaign and a further $300,000 for his inauguration....(Click for remainder.)


Ex-Banker Expected to be Named U.S. Ambassador to Germany

By Gregor Peter Schmitz and Gabor Steingart

He collected millions of dollars for the presidential election campaigns of Clinton, Gore and Obama. Now former Goldman Sachs banker Phil Murphy is considered the favorite for the prestigious post of US Ambassador to Germany.

The poker game for the highly desired US ambassador postings in Europe has reached a decisive phase in Washington. For months, the State Department and White House have been holding secret talks with prospective candidates, and Phil Murphy has emerged as the likely pick for the US Embassy in Berlin.

A former top executive at New York-based investment bank Goldman Sachs, Murphy later served as the Democratic Party's national finance chairman. He now stands a great chance of being appointed to the post in the imposing US Embassy on Berlin's Pariser Platz square, the city's historical center and site of the Brandenburg Gate.
In April, Murphy rejected invitations to give speeches in Berlin that had been sent to him earlier. His explanation to the organizer: "I have been advised not to leave America." The reason is that talks for the posting had intensified.

President Barack Obama is hoping to name his ambassadors to Europe prior to his upcoming visit to Germany and France on June 5-6. "The White House is working on a blanket solution and wants to announce the posts in Brussels, London, Paris and Berlin on a single day, also for symbolic reasons," a German source with confidential information about the discussions said....(Click for remainder.)


German Authorities Warn of Rise of 'Anarchist' Neo-Nazis

By Spiegel Online

New figures from Germany's domestic intelligence agency show that the number of far-right crimes in Germany increased by 16 percent in 2008. Officials warn of the rise of Black Bloc-style "anarchist" neo-Nazis who actively seek violence at demonstrations.

Authorities in Germany have warned of a worrying new tendency within the far-right scene -- the rise of violent "anarchist" neo-Nazis.

Heinz Fromm, the president of Germany's domestic intelligence agency, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, warned Tuesday of a "new phenomenon" within the far-right scene. Presenting the agency's 2008 report in Berlin, he said that over the last two years a scene had emerged of "anarchist" neo-Nazis who dress similarly to the so-called Black Bloc of far-left anarchists and who deliberately seek violence at demonstrations. He put the number of so-called "right-wing anarchists" at between 400 and 500 people.

The report also reveals there were 19,894 far-right crimes reported in Germany in 2008, an increase of almost 16 percent over the previous year. Of those, 1,042 were acts of politically motivated violence, an increase of 6.3 percent over 2007. Most of the other crimes were propaganda offenses.

The number of people with extreme far-right views in Germany is estimated by the agency to be around 30,000 in 2008, a slight decline over 2007, when it was around 31,000. Of that number, around 9,500 are thought to be prepared to use violence. However the number of active neo-Nazis in Germany increased significantly in 2008, from 4,400 to 4,800....(Click for remainder.)


Democratic Socialist? You Bet!

By Matthew Rothschild
The Progressive

Some in the Republican Party are trying to re-dub the Democratic Party as the Democrat Socialist Party.

Nothing like getting out the old encrusted red paintbrush.

But I hope some Democrats don’t run from this label.

Running doesn’t get you anywhere.

Democrats have been running from the label “liberal” since the days of Michael Dukakis, and that hasn’t helped them.

And for those who, like me, are actually Democratic Socialists, it’s time to come out and say so.

Democratic socialism has brought a much better quality of life to the people in Scandinavia and France and Germany and Britain, and it has not erased one iota of the political freedoms we cherish in this country.

We need to move this country in the direction of democratic socialism.

We need a much sturdier social safety net.

It’s a sin that in this country, 35 million people do not have enough food to eat during at least part of the year.

It’s a sin that 47 million Americans are without health insurance.

It’s a sin that of the top 18 industrialized countries, the United States ranks last in the percentage of children (11.8 percent) who are not likely to live to age 60, and last in the percentage of people (17 percent) living on less than 50% of the national median income, according to the United Nations Development Program....(Click for remainder.)


The White House: A Culture Change on Climate Change


Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release                                May 19, 2009


Rose Garden

12:22 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.  Thank you.  Please, everybody have a seat -- have a seat.  What an extraordinary day.  The sun is out because good things are happening.  Before I get started, just some preliminary introductions -- I'll probably repeat them in my formal remarks, but I want to make sure that I acknowledge some people who have been critical to this effort and critical to so many efforts at the state and federal levels.

First of all, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has just been cracking the whip and, you know, making Congress so productive over these last several days.  We are grateful for her.  My wonderful Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood, is in the house.  Lisa Jackson, the outstanding administrator of EPA.  Some of the finest governors in the country are here -- let me take them in order of good looks -- sorry, Arnold.  (Laughter.)  Jennifer Granholm of Michigan, Governor Deval Patrick of Massachusetts, and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger of California.  (Applause.)  Barbara Boxer just had to leave -- the head of the Environment Committee in the Senate, who'd done just outstanding work.  And Senators Feinstein, Levin and Stabenow couldn't be here because they're busy voting on credit card legislation that we're going to get done before Memorial Day.

And we've got two outstanding members of the House of Representatives, John Dingell -- where's John?  Right here.  The Dean of the House who's done so much extraordinary work around these issues, Sandy Levin.  Please give them a round of applause.  (Applause.)

I also want to mention Ron Gettlefinger of the UAW, our president who's just been a great leader during some very trying times in the auto industry, and Carol Browner, who helped to make this all happen today.  Please give Carol Browner a big round of applause.  (Applause.)

Since I'm acknowledging everybody -- I'm in a voluble mood today -- let me go ahead and acknowledge my other members of the Cabinet who are here who are part of our energy green team and do just outstanding work on an ongoing basis.  First of all, my Secretary of Labor, Hilda Solis.  (Applause.)  The guy who's just cleaning up the Department of Interior and doing an extraordinary job, Ken Salazar.  (Applause.)  Our head of HUD, Shaun Donovan.  (Applause.)  And our Commerce Secretary, Gary Locke.  (Applause.)

Now, thank you all for coming to the White House today, and for coming together around what I consider to be a historic agreement to help America break its dependence on oil, reduce harmful pollution, and begin the transition to a clean energy economy.

This is an extraordinary gathering.  Here we have today standing behind me, along with Ron Gettlefinger and leadership of the UAW, we have 10 of the world's largest auto manufacturers, we have environmental advocates, as well as elected officials from all across the country.

And this gathering is all the more extraordinary for what these diverse groups -- despite disparate interests and previous disagreements -- have worked together to achieve.  For the first time in history, we have set in motion a national policy aimed at both increasing gas mileage and decreasing greenhouse gas pollution for all new trucks and cars sold in the United States of America.  (Applause.)  And I want to applaud the leadership of the folks at the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Transportation, and the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change who've worked around the clock on this proposal which has now been embraced by so many.

Now, in the past, an agreement such as this would have been considered impossible.  It's no secret that these are folks who've occasionally been at odds for years, even decades.  In fact, some of the groups here have been embroiled in lawsuits against one another.  So that gives you a sense of how impressive and significant it is that these leaders from across the country are willing to set aside the past for the sake of the future.

For what everyone here believes, even as views differ on many important issues, is that the status quo is no longer acceptable.  While the United States makes up less than 5 percent of the world's population, we create roughly a quarter of the world's demand for oil.  And this appetite comes at a tremendous price -- a price measured by our vulnerability to volatile oil markets, which send gas prices soaring and families scrambling.  It's measured by a trade deficit where as much as 20 percent of what we spend on imports is spent on oil.  It's measured in billions of dollars sent to oil-exporting nations, many that we do not choose to support, if we had a choice.  It's measured in a changing climate, as sea levels rise, and droughts spread, forest burns, and storms rage.

And what is all the more tragic is that we've known about these costs in one way or another since the gas shortages of the 1970s.  And yet all too little has been done.  Calls for action rise and fall with the price of a barrel of oil.  Worn arguments are traded across entrenched divides.  Urgency fades, complacency grows, and time passes.

As a result, we have done little to increase the fuel efficiency of America's cars and trucks for decades.  Think about this.  Consider how much has changed all around us.  Think of how much faster our computers have become.  Think about how much more productive our workers are.  Think about how everything has been transformed by our capacity to see the world as it is, but also to imagine a world as it could be.

That's what's been missing in this debate for too long, and that's why this announcement is so important, for it represents not only a change in policy in Washington but the harbinger of a change in the way business is done in Washington.  No longer will we accept the notion that our politics are too small, our nation too divided, our people too weary of broken promises and lost opportunities to take up a historic calling.  No longer will we accept anything less than a common effort, made in good faith, to solve our toughest problems.

And that is what this agreement seeks to achieve.  Right now, the rules governing fuel economy in this country are inadequate, uncertain, and in flux.  First, there is the standard for fuel economy administered by the Department of Transportation.  On top of that, the Environmental Protection Agency, in response to a decision by the Supreme Court, may have to set limits on greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles -- establishing another standard.  California has sought permission under the Clean Air Act to require that vehicles sold in California meet yet another even stricter emission rule.  And 13 states and the District of Columbia have agreed to adopt California greenhouse gas reductions if the permission -- called a waiver -- is granted.

Car companies might then face three different sets of overlapping requirements, one administered by the Department of Transportation, one administered by the EPA, and still a third administered by California and 13 other states.  This proposed national policy, under the leadership of two agencies -- and bringing together 14 states, 10 companies, as well as auto workers and environmental groups -- changes all that.  The goal is to set one national standard that will rapidly increase fuel efficiency -- without compromising safety -- by an average of 5 percent each year between 2012 and 2016, building on the 2011 standard my administration set shortly after taking office.

A series of major lawsuits will be dropped in support of this new national standard.  The state of California has also agreed to support this standard -- and I want to applaud California and Governor Schwarzenegger and the entire California delegation for their extraordinary leadership.  They have led the way on this as they have in so many other efforts to protect our environment.  In addition, because the Department of Transportation and EPA will adopt the same rule, we will avoid an inefficient and ineffective system of regulations that separately govern the fuel economy of autos and the carbon emissions they produce.

And at a time of historic crisis in our auto industry, when domestic auto manufacturers are making painful choices and restructuring their businesses to be viable in the future, this rule provides the clear certainty that will allow these companies to plan for a future in which they are building the cars of the 21st century.

Yes, it costs money to develop these vehicles, but even as the price to build these cars and trucks goes up, the cost of driving these vehicles will go down, as drivers save money at the pump.  And this is a point I want to emphasize:  If you buy a car, your investment in a more fuel-efficient vehicle as a result of this standard will pay off in just three years.  In three years' time you will have paid off the additional investment required.  So this is a winning proposition for folks looking to buy a car.  In fact, over the life of a vehicle, the typical driver would save about $2,800 by getting better gas mileage.

The fact is, everyone wins:  Consumers pay less for fuel, which means less money going overseas and more money to save or spend here at home.  The economy as a whole runs more efficiently by using less oil and producing less pollution.  And companies like those here today have new incentives to create the technologies and the jobs that will provide smarter ways to power our vehicles.

And that's why, in the next five years, we're seeking to raise fuel-economy standards to an industry average of 35.5 miles per gallon in 2016, an increase of more than eight miles per gallon per vehicle.  That's an unprecedented change, exceeding the demands of Congress and meeting the most stringent requirements sought by many of the environmental advocates represented here today.

As a result, we will save 1.8 billion barrels of oil over the lifetime of the vehicles sold in the next five years.  Just to give you a sense of magnitude, that's more oil than we imported last year from Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Libya, and Nigeria combined.  (Applause.)  Here's another way of looking at it:  This is the projected equivalent of taking 58 million cars off the road for an entire year.

I also want to note that the agreement we have announced today is part of a far larger effort.  In fact, on the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, Henry Waxman is chairing a meeting of the Energy and Commerce Committee, which is working on an equally historic energy bill that will not only help our dependence on foreign oil, prevent the worst consequences of climate change, and build a clean energy economy, but will provide more than $15 billion to help build the cars and trucks of the future right here in America.  (Applause.)

And the recovery plan we've put in place, as well as the budget that builds on it, makes historic investments in a clean energy economy:  doubling our capacity to generate renewable energy like wind and solar; investing in new battery technologies for plug-in hybrids; and building a smarter, stronger grid on which the homes, businesses and vehicles of the future will run.  (Applause.)

Too often, lost in the back-and-forth of Washington politics, absent in arguments where the facts opponents use depend on the conclusions they've already reached, absent all that is this:  Ending our dependence on oil, indeed, ending our dependence on fossil fuels, represents perhaps the most difficult challenge we have ever faced -- not as a party, not as a set of separate interests, but as a people.

We have over the course of decades slowly built an economy that runs on oil.  It has given us much of what we have -- for good but also for ill.  It has transformed the way we live and work, but it's also wreaked havoc on our climate.  It has helped create gains in prosperity unprecedented in history, but it also places our future in jeopardy.

Ending this dependence will take time.  It will take an incredible effort.  It will take a historic investment in innovation.  But more than anything, it will take a willingness to look past our differences, to act in good faith, to refuse to continue the failures of the past, and to take on this challenge together -- for the benefit not just of this generation, but generations to come.

All the people who have gathered here today, all the auto executives, all our outstanding elected officials and appointees -- Ron Gettlefinger, members of Congress, governors -- all these folks here today have demonstrated that this kind of common effort is possible.  They've created the template for more progress in the months and years to come.  Everything is possible when we're working together, and we're off to a great start.  So thank you everybody.  I appreciate it.  (Applause.)

By the way, I just want to mention, I think I still have my Ford parked in Chicago.  (Laughter.)  It's a Ford hybrid, it runs great, you guys should take a look.  (Laughter.)  But there are also some outstanding hybrids -- (laughter) -- and energy-independent cars represented up here, so I didn't want to just advertise for one.  (Laughter.)



Obama Urged to Confront China Over Yuan Valuation

Unions and Congress members back bill to threaten Beijing amid claims currency is keeping exports artificially cheap

By Ewen MacAskill
The Guardian

A wide coalition of US trade unions and members of Congress is stepping up pressure on President Barack Obama to confront China over alleged illegal currency manipulation that could have cost millions of American jobs.

The push comes ahead of a visit by the US treasury secretary, Tim Geithner, to Beijing next month to discuss trade issues. Against a background of rising job losses in the US, union leaders and members of Congress are backing a bill that threatens Beijing with punitive duties on its goods unless it changes its currency practices.

The low value of China's currency, the yuan, has been a point of friction between the US and China for more than a decade. Some economists, including Geithner, accuse China of deliberately keeping the value of the yuan low to make its export goods cheaper, undercutting US manufacturing and leading to US job losses.

Pressure on Obama is building in the US, partly because of the recession and partly because the president is viewed as more sympathetic to protectionist measures than his predecessor was.

One of the supporters of the new bill, Tim Ryan, a Democratic congressman, told the Guardian: "The bill is trying to bring some honesty into currency valuation. We are competitors but we want a level playing field. We need to have legal recourse."

Bob Baugh, director of the 10-million strong federation of unions AFL-CIO, who has been organising support of legislation, said: "It is time for China to seriously realign its currency."...(Click for remainder.)


Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach Discharged for Being Gay


Glenn Beck Gets His Ass Handed to Him on The View


Dispelling Myths on Credit Card Legislation

By Bob Sullivan
The Red Tape Chronicles @ MSNBC

The credit card reform bill just passed by Congress includes tough new provisions that will legally ban some of the most egregious behavior by banks. But as in all such laws, the devil is in the details.

There's already some confusion about what the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act does and doesn't require. Here's a true-and-false primer.

The legislation caps interest rates and fees. FALSE.

The banking industry was able to successfully kill provisions that would have capped rates. The bill does address exorbitant fees -- such as a $39 fee for a payment that's one day late -- but it punts questions about rates to the Federal Reserve, which is directed to set up "reasonable" and proportional fee schedules. Those rules might be the most important part of the legislation, as increasingly, credit card fees are a bigger problem for consumers than finance charges. Stay tuned.

It will lower your credit card bills. FALSE.

Some consumers might eventually benefit from fewer penalty interest rate increases and fees. But in general, the law does not affect current rates, balances or fees.

It will raise your rates. TRUE.

Banks have nine months to operate under the old rules. They will likely sneak in as many rate increases as they can before the bill takes effect.

It will make 'good' users pay for bad users. FALSE.

Yesterday, the credit card industry persuaded many journalists to suggest the law dooms perks like frequent-flier miles. Miles are progressively devalued anyway, so that's no great loss. These perks also often seduced consumers into cards with bad terms (miles cards almost always have higher interest rates, for example). Annual fees may reappear, but for many consumers, "free" cards with sneaky fees are more expensive than cards with a predictable annual fee. And in the past six months, “good” credit cardholders have been treated to huge rate increases and credit limit restrictions anyway – not because of federal law, but because of the banks'bad business practices. In general, the credit card industry has made its living through ill-gotten gains earned mainly through deception and confusion. Any business built that way is doomed to fail. Purging the industry of treachery is good in the long run....(Click for remainder.)


A Political Masterstroke

By Dylan Loewe
The Huffington Post

Over the weekend, President Obama named Utah Governor Jon Huntsman as the next Ambassador to China, a masterstroke of political strategy.

Huntsman may be the most important person you've never heard of. He's a moderate Republican governor in one of the most conservative Republican states, where, until the time of his appointment, he enjoyed approval ratings above 80%. A few weeks back, Obama campaign manager David Plouffe unintentionally elevated Huntsman on the national stage by suggesting that he was one of the few Republican politicians that appeared formidable in 2012.

Huntsman is young, exceptionally smart, quick on his feet, amiable and incredibly articulate; when he speaks, he exudes reasonableness, a quality almost entirely void in the modern Republican party. He has the potential to be for the Republican Party what Obama was for the Democrats - a man capable of simultaneously exciting his base while appealing to an ever-more critical group of Independent voters. To hear him speak is to know he's a guy an Independent would love.

In the wake of Plouffe's comments, and a few high profile trips to critical presidential states, Jon Huntsman made his way onto just about every Washington insider's list of possible 2012 Republican contenders. That is, until he joined the Obama administration.

Huntsman made a calculation, one that other qualified Republicans will no doubt make when contemplating a run against Obama. Anyone smart enough, capable enough to compete against Obama is going to be smart enough not to run. When Obama kicks off his re-election campaign, he'll do so with a two million member donor base already in place. He'll do so with over one million volunteers ready to be reactivated. In his first month, he'll likely raise more than $100 million dollars. His re-election will dwarf his first campaign is size and scope, just as his first campaign dwarfed its online fundraising predecessor in Howard Dean. Just with sheer organization, President Obama will be the most difficult presidential incumbent to defeat in American history. Why fall on that sword, Huntsman must have wondered, when Bobby Jindal and Sarah Palin have already eagerly volunteered?...(Click for remainder.)



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