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Congressional Duck and Cover

Sunday, May 24, 2009

By Stanley Kutler
TruthDig


Congress is broken. The framers of the Constitution, building on nearly six centuries of parliamentary experience, situated Congress at the heart of the American constitutional system. Representative government was believed to be the purest, and yet workable, means of self-government. For the past twenty-five years, however, Congress has made a joke of that system, as it has trivialized and mocked any meaningful representation in the sense that the makers of the Constitution framed it.

That sense was best captured by Edmund Burke (1729-1797), the great English parliamentarian and statesman, whose work became the lodestar for the rising intellectual conservative movement fifty years ago. Burke was a contemporary of the founding fathers and a keen observer of the American scene. Today, however, he is not in fashion; in particular, when neo-conservatives and neo-liberals alike celebrate the historical expansion and maintenance of the American empire, they ignore Burke’s warning that “great empires and small minds go ill together.”

Burke had much to say about the role of peoples’ representatives. He acknowledged that representatives owed the “strictest union . . . and the most unreserved communication” to their constituents, yet he insisted that representatives possess “independent judgment and enlightened conscience.” A representative must strike a delicate balance, offering constituents “his judgment,” said Burke, while bearing in mind that “he betrays, instead of serving [them], if he sacrifices it to [their] opinion.” Burke recognized it is easy to “run into the perilous extremes of servile compliance or wild popularity.” Instead, the interest of the whole community must be pursued, not some local, individual interest, or a “momentary enthusiasm.”

In The Federalist No. 10, James Madison saw the danger of representatives pandering to “factions,” or groups “actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest adverse to . . . the permanent and aggregate interest of the community.” Burke and Madison alike would be appalled by Congress’s ready acquiescence to executive power....(Click for remainder.)

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Jon Stewart: Auto-Neurotic Gas Fixation

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart M - Th 11p / 10c
Auto-Neurotic Gas Fixation
thedailyshow.com
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Economic Crisis Political Humor

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They May Not Want the Bomb: Everything You 'Know' About Iran is Wrong



By Fareed Zakaria
Newsweek


Everything you know about Iran is wrong, or at least more complicated than you think. Take the bomb. The regime wants to be a nuclear power but could well be happy with a peaceful civilian program (which could make the challenge it poses more complex). What's the evidence? Well, over the last five years, senior Iranian officials at every level have repeatedly asserted that they do not intend to build nuclear weapons. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has quoted the regime's founding father, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who asserted that such weapons were "un-Islamic." The country's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, issued a fatwa in 2004 describing the use of nuclear weapons as immoral. In a subsequent sermon, he declared that "developing, producing or stockpiling nuclear weapons is forbidden under Islam." Last year Khamenei reiterated all these points after meeting with the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei. Now, of course, they could all be lying. But it seems odd for a regime that derives its legitimacy from its fidelity to Islam to declare constantly that these weapons are un-Islamic if it intends to develop them. It would be far shrewder to stop reminding people of Khomeini's statements and stop issuing new fatwas against nukes.

Following a civilian nuclear strategy has big benefits. The country would remain within international law, simply asserting its rights under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, a position that has much support across the world. That would make comprehensive sanctions against Iran impossible. And if Tehran's aim is to expand its regional influence, it doesn't need a bomb to do so. Simply having a clear "breakout" capacity—the ability to weaponize within a few months—would allow it to operate with much greater latitude and impunity in the Middle East and Central Asia.

Iranians aren't suicidal. In an interview last week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described the Iranian regime as "a messianic, apocalyptic cult." In fact, Iran has tended to behave in a shrewd, calculating manner, advancing its interests when possible, retreating when necessary. The Iranians allied with the United States and against the Taliban in 2001, assisting in the creation of the Karzai government. They worked against the United States in Iraq, where they feared the creation of a pro-U.S. puppet on their border. Earlier this year, during the Gaza war, Israel warned Hizbullah not to launch rockets against it, and there is much evidence that Iran played a role in reining in their proxies. Iran's ruling elite is obsessed with gathering wealth and maintaining power. The argument made by those—including many Israelis for coercive sanctions against Iran is that many in the regime have been squirreling away money into bank accounts in Dubai and Switzerland for their children and grandchildren. These are not actions associated with people who believe that the world is going to end soon....(Click for remainder.)

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GOP Rep. Rips 'Reprehensible' Video

By Andie Coller
Politico


At least one Republican doesn't think it's OK to compare Nancy Pelosi to Pussy Galore.

After viewing an RNC video that juxtaposed the speaker with the James Bond villainess, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) told POLITICO Saturday:

"I thought it was reprehensible, irresponsible and unpersuasive. If we're going to regain the credibility of the American people, we're going to have to stop with silly antics like that. It may get a snide chuckle inside the Beltway, but it offends most people. We have to get away from the politics of personal destruction," he said of the video.

The RNC declined repeatedly to explain the Pelosi/Galore connection, saying only that the video was about the speaker's "lack of leadership." Chaffetz is the only Republican thus far who has been willing to comment on the video.

"Policy and public comments are fair game, and there are creative ways to amplify it, but I despise it when Democrats and organizations like MoveOn.org use these types of tactics," Chaffetz said. "I would like our party to be more consistent in calling out inappropriate behavior like this. We've got to show some leadership and get serious about the issues at hand. It just bothers me that we have someone in the bowels of the organization on payroll working on stuff like this."...(Click for remainder.)

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UNESCO: The Shame of a Disaster Foretold

By Bernard-Henri Lévy
The Huffington Post


Here is an open letter I have co-signed along with Elie Wiesel and Claude Lanzmann:

Who declared in April 2001: "Israel has never contributed to Civilization in any era, for it has only ever appropriated the contributions of others" -- and added almost two months later: "the Israeli culture is an inhumane culture; it is an aggressive, racist, pretentious culture based on one simple principle: steal what does not belong to in order to then claim its appropriation"?

Who explained in 1997, and has repeated it since in every way possible, that he was the "archenemy" of all attempts to normalize his country's relations with Israel?

Or who, as recently as 2008, responded to a deputy of the Egyptian parliament who was alarmed that Israeli books could be introduced into the Alexandria Library: "Burn these books; if there are any there, I will myself burn them in front of you"?

Who said in 2001 in the newspaper Ruz-al-Yusuf that Israel was "aided" in its dark intrigues by "the infiltration of Jews into the international media" and by their diabolical ability to "spread lies"?

To whom do we owe these insane declarations, this anthology of hate and error, and this frenzy of conspiracy theories?

To Farouk Hosny, the Egyptian Minister of Culture for the past fifteen years and undoubtedly the next Director General of UNESCO if nothing is done before the May 30 deadline for nominating candidates to stop his apparently unstoppable march to one of the most important posts of cultural responsibility on the planet.

Even worse: the words that we just cited are only a few -- and not even the most nauseating -- of the innumerable declarations of the same tenor that punctuate the career of Mr. Farouk Hosny over the past fifteen years and that, consequently, precede him as he aspires, even today, to a role on a worldwide scale....(Click for remainder.)

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The "Lying Sack of Dog Mess" and Oxy-Moron 'Slam' President Obama on Fox

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Cheney Intervened in CIA Inspector General's Torture Probe

By Jason Leopold
TruthOut


Former Vice President Dick Cheney intervened in CIA Inspector General John Helgerson's investigation into the agency's use of torture against "high-value" detainees, but the watchdog was still able to prepare a report that concluded the interrogation program violated some provisions of the International Convention Against Torture.

The report, which the Obama administration may soon declassify, was completed in May 2004 and implicated CIA interrogators in at least three detainee deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq and referred eight criminal cases of alleged homicide, abuse and misconduct to the Justice Department for further investigation, reporter Jane Mayer wrote in her book, "The Dark Side," and in an investigative report published in The New Yorker in November 2005.

In "The Dark Side," Mayer described the report as being "as thick as two Manhattan phone books" and contained information, according to an unnamed source, "that was simply sickening."

"The behavior it described, another knowledgeable source said, raised concerns not just about the detainees but also about the Americans who had inflicted the abuse, one of whom seemed to have become frighteningly dehumanized," Mayer wrote. "The source said, 'You couldn't read the documents without wondering, "Why didn't someone say, 'Stop!'""

Mayer added that Cheney routinely "summoned" Inspector General Helgerson to meet with him privately about his investigation, launched in 2003, and soon thereafter the probe "was stopped in its tracks." Mayer characterized Cheney's interaction with Helgerson as highly unusual....(Click for remainder.)

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O'Reilly Guest Host Ingraham Omits Facts to Slam Obama and...Cheney Rules!

By Julie
News Hounds


Bill, please quit doing this to us. Let Dennis Miller host. I'll listen to his jokes, I'll even pretend to find him funny and laugh once in a while. I promise. Just please, keep Laura Ingraham off your show.

It was not to be. On Thursday, May 21, 2009 Ingraham hosted The O'Reilly Factor, to misquote President Obama's speech, present half the facts, crow about Cheney's rebuttal, and, in her bitterness against President Obama, generally act like a jilted prom date. With video.

Ingraham began, “. . . President Obama tried today to quell the growing resistance to closing down Gitmo and relocating the terrorists that are held there. And rather than specifically spelling out how his policies have made us safer, the President devoted a big chunk of his speech to blaming the Bush Administration for what he called the 'mess' at Gitmo . . . he assailed the enhanced interrogation techniques that were used on three – count 'em, three – detainees.”

First of all, if I'm not mistaken, Ingraham's a lawyer. Even if it were only “three – count 'em, three,” what part of “broke the law three times” does she not get? And, in her zeal to paint President Obama as a petty blame-placer, Ingraham failed to mention that the President devoted about a third of his speech to outlining five clear steps to addressing the Gitmo detainees (beginning on page two of the 7-page transcript provided by Politico, and continuing through page four). In addition, although President Obama did indeed, appropriately, identify the ways in which our country veered off course in the past (the past being the Bush-Cheney Administration), his comments were simply a firm point of reference to highlight the new path going forward, not unnecessary attacks for vengeance's sake.

Cut to President Obama: “They [torture policies] alienate us in the world. They serve as a recruitment tool for terrorists and increase the will of our enemies to fight us. In short, they did not advance our war and counter-terrorism methods, they undermined them, and that is why I ended them once and for all.”...(Click for remainder.)

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There are Reasons Alan Grayson Inspires Absolute Rage on the Part of Anti-American Right-Wingers

By Howie Klein
Firedoglake




Blue America has helped channel nearly two million dollars into congressional campaigns. And, of course, the results have been mixed. We lost some and we won some. The National Journal measured the effectiveness of the Inside the Beltway political action committees and didn't include us because, proudly, we're 100% Outside the Beltway. However we helped People For the American Way put together their own endorsement list and we joint fundraised for the candidates. The primary difference was that they included some a few candidates on their list that they have special relationships with. None of those candidates won. And People For the American Way came in #1 in the National Journal survey.



If you read that paragraph carefully, you realize that Blue America outperformed-- in terms of picking winning candidates-- every single Inside the Beltway PAC. But, like I said, our results were mixed. We lost some important races-- like Darcy Burner's, John Laesch's, Charlie Brown's and Dennis Shulman's-- as well as helping 26 men and women win House and Senate seats. A few of the ones we helped have been disappointing and a few even went over to the reactionary Blue Dogs. Only one, though, Chris Carney (Blue Dog-PA), was a disaster. Most, on the other hand, have been excellent members of Congress, from Donna Edwards (D-MD), Gary Peters (D-MI), Jared Polis (D-CO) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) to Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH), Steve Cohen (D-TN) and Ben Cardin (D-MD)....(Click for remainder.)

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Cheney's Dirty Little Secret Finally Revealed

By David Latt
The Huffington Post


For months now pundits have put a spotlight on ex-VP Dick Cheney as he hopped from fireplace-chat to podium accusing President Obama of failing to protect the American people from terrorists. To make his case, he used sweeping generalizations and, according to some, gross exaggerations and misrepresentations of the facts.

As Jon Stewart ("American Idealogues") joked this week, his attacks got media attention because Cable News loves drama. With the ex-VP's screeds, they struck a rich vein even though they rarely scrutinize his statements. He yells "FIRE!" but cable news doesn't bother to fact-check his claims.

But why is he being so vocal?

Let's remember, he started giving these interviews while he was still in office. To some, myself included, he appeared to be urging then-President Bush to pardon those in the administration who were responsible for "abuses of power," which included approving torture and violating federal wiretap laws.

Immediately after Obama's inauguration, ex-President Bush waved goodbye and disappeared into the Dallas suburbs. At first ex-VP Cheney was silent as well, but it turns out he had only gone into stealth mode. Now the man who was once famously "in an undisclosed location," can easily be seen, heard, and read just about everywhere.

It can't be that he's trying to get a presidential pardon any longer. No, he says he's speaking out because he's afraid for America.

He presents himself as a Defender of the American People, warning of terrible calamities unless the policies championed by the Bush Administration are kept in place. A few analysts have noted that the policies he advocates are ones Bush himself rejected during his second term....(Click for remainder.)

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Superheroes Can't Save California

California's budget crisis isn't Arnold Schwarzenegger's fault. We are the villains in the comic mess the state has become.

By Bill Maher
The Guardian


Stop believing you can solve your problems by electing a superhero. The skills they bring to problem-solving are different.

For example, when Spider-Man catches someone robbing a bank, he knocks the guy through an armoured car. Whereas President Obama writes them a cheque.

Here in California, we experimented with making an action hero our leader. He was going to build roads and schools, cut taxes and balance the budget. How? Simple. Because he was a hulking man-monster who could bend lampposts and have sex with a Kennedy and live.

Five years ago, Arnold Schwarzenegger was handsome, smiling Governor Arnold.

Now, it's Arnold as the Terminator with half a face.

Is the fiscal crisis here in California Arnold's fault? Absolutely not. This is a man who came to America with nothing but a jar of protein powder and a nice pair of 36D-cup breasts and became the biggest star in Hollywood despite never learning to speak English.

It's not Arnold's fault that California has a worse credit rating than Louisiana, a state that's half underwater and half in the bag.

You see, our state is designed to be ungovernable because we govern by ballot initiative, and we only write two kinds of them: "Spend money on things I like" and "Don't raise my taxes." More money for teachers and firefighters? Check "yes"! High-speed rail? "Cooool!" Drug treatment for former child actors? "Sure, why not?" But don't even think of taxing me for any of it....(Click for remainder.)

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Liz Cheney Accidentally (?) Lets the Truth Fly: Dad is Afraid of Prosecution


By Nicole Belle
Crooks and Liars


Oopsie, I guess we really can't count this as a mark for "out of the mouth of babes", but Liz Cheney, perhaps inadvertently, admitted that part of the reason we've seen Dick Cheney more in the last two months than we did in the eight years of the Bush administration is that he is very nervous that there will be investigations and prosecutions in his future:
(M)any in the media have asked why Cheney — someone who had avoided the media at all costs during his eight years as vice president — would be airing his opinions in such a forceful and public way. Indeed, Cheney himself has answered this question, claiming he is speaking out because he believes that torture and other Bush administration anti-terror policies — many of which Obama is abandoning — were “exactly the right thing to do” and that “there isn’t anybody there on the other side to tell the truth.”

In turn, media figures have answered the question in much the same way. “I think he genuinely believes we are threatened now more because of what Obama is doing,” MSNBC’s Pat Buchanan has said. CNN’s David Gergen said, “I think Dick Cheney almost has a Churchillian view of this, and that is somebody has got to stand up and be the voice in the wilderness.” But while the narrative of Cheney’s motives focuses mainly on the righteous, it has all but ignored the selfish — that Cheney is trying to muddle the public debate with the goal of reducing public support for a criminal inquiry into the torture regime that he authorized.

Last night on CNN, however, Cheney’s daughter Liz revealed that fear of prosecution is indeed a motivating factor in the former vice president’s current media campaign:
L. CHENEY: I don’t think he planned to be doing this, you know, when they left office in January. But I think, as it became clear that President Obama was not only going to be stopping some of these policies, that he was going to be doing things like releasing the — the techniques themselves, so that the terrorists could now train to them, that he was suggesting that perhaps we would even be prosecuting former members of the Bush administration.
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Dick Cheney: Washington Trembles at the Return of 'Darth Vader'

Dick Cheney was a formidable backroom operator during his eight years as vice-president in the Bush administration. Having abandoned his short-lived retirement in Wyoming, he is now leading the Republican charge against Obama from the front. Ewen MacAskill reports from Washington on the political resurrection of the last true believer of the neo-con years.

By Ewen MacAskill
The Guardian


Barack Obama, unlike George Bush who wanted to be in bed before 10pm, likes to work late. But even by his standards Wednesday was out of the ordinary, sitting up in a largely empty White House until 2.30am as he edited a speech an adviser later described as one of the most important of his life.

He was still nervous about it when he rose to deliver it eight hours later. Normally Mr Cool, he fluffed his opening, referring to the defence secretary, Robert Gates, as Bill, the Microsoft founder.

Part of the explanation for the bout of jitters is that Obama is struggling to contain an ever-growing row over the future of Guantánamo Bay and the security apparatus created by the Bush administration as part of its "war on terror". But there is another factor: the return of an opponent the Democrats had thought of as politically dead: Dick Cheney. The sinister, reclusive figure at the heart of the Bush administration, who attracted labels such as Darth Vader and Dr Strangelove, has returned to the heart of Washington and is causing havoc.

Obama and Cheney were billed to speak at roughly the same time, though at different Washington venues. The US media described it as the political equivalent of Ali v Frazier.

It was all a long way from 20 January when Cheney had left the White House a seeming broken man ready for retirement. The Republicans were in disarray, still coming to terms with the election losses in November. The policies with which Cheney had been associated, chiefly the invasion of Iraq, had long been discredited. And Cheney himself, as Obama prepared to take over the White House, was in a wheelchair, having put his back out lifting a box in preparation for the removal van....(Click for remainder.)

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Neocon Group Calls for Military Strikes on Media

By Jeremy Scahill
AntiWar.com


In the era of embedded media, independent journalists have become the eyes and ears of the world. Without those un-embedded journalists willing to risk their lives to place themselves on the other side of the barrel of the tank or the gun or under the air strikes, history would be written almost entirely from the vantage point of powerful militaries, or – at the very least – it would be told from the perspective of the troops doing the shooting, rather than the civilians, who always pay the highest price.

In the case of the Iraq invasion and occupation, the journalists who have placed themselves in danger most often are local Iraqi journalists. Some 116 Iraqi journalists and media workers have been killed in the line of duty since March 2003. In all, 189 journalists have been killed in Iraq. At least 16 of these journalists were killed by the U.S. military, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. The network that has most often found itself under U.S. attack is al-Jazeera. As I wrote a few years ago in The Nation:
"The United States bombed its offices in Afghanistan in 2001, shelled the Basra hotel where al-Jazeera journalists were the only guests in April 2003, killed Iraq correspondent Tareq Ayoub a few days later in Baghdad, and imprisoned several al-Jazeera reporters (including at Guantánamo), some of whom say they were tortured. In addition to the military attacks, the U.S.-backed Iraqi government banned the network from reporting in Iraq."
A new report for a leading neoconservative group that pushes a belligerent "Israel first" agenda of conquest in the Middle East suggests that in future wars the U.S. should make censorship of media official policy and advocates "military attacks on the partisan media" (via MuzzleWatch). The report for JINSA, the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, was authored by retired U.S. Army Col. Ralph Peters. It appears in JINSA’s "flagship publication," The Journal of International Security Affairs. "Today, the United States and its allies will never face a lone enemy on the battlefield. There will always be a hostile third party in the fight," Peters writes, calling the media "the killers without guns."...(Click for remainder.)

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Interview With Michael Dukakis

By Michael Bendetson
The Huffington Post


For over three decades, Michael Dukakis dedicated his life to public service. He is most remembered as the Democratic Nominee in the 1988 presidential election. Dukakis would ultimately lose the election to George H.W. Bush in a bitter campaign. However, he will be forever associated with the state of Massachusetts. After several years in state legislature, Dukakis served as governor of the Commonwealth for three terms during the 1980's. He was just the second Greek-American governor in the history of the United States. Currently, Dukakis is a Distinguished Professor of Political Science at Northeastern University and a visiting professor at the School of Public Policy at UCLA.

Michael Bendetson: What propelled you to enter public service? Could you please elaborate on some of the experiences growing up that inspired you to enter the anarchic field of politics?

Michael Dukakis: I cannot tell you why I have always been interested in politics, but I always have. In 1940, when I was just seven and my brother was ten we carefully followed the presidential election in the pre-television era. We put together a chart of the then 48 states and a series of columns to take down the delegate count for both Parties conventions. The following year, I ran for the presidency of Mrs. Ripley's 3rd grade class. Thus was the beginning of my political career. Like a lot of folks who enter politics, I participated in student politics. Part of the reason could be based on ethnicity. My parents were both Greek immigrants. They were not political activists, but they took voting seriously. Growing up, everything had to stop at six o'clock to listen to the CBS World News Roundup with Edward Murrow on the radio. Greeks tend to be quite political and we always had lively conversions about current affairs with our family and friends. Finally, after my time at Swarthmore and my service in Korea, I felt a strong desire to become active in politics....(Click for remainder.)

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Palin's Rejection of Federal Funds a Setback For Alaska's Energy Future

By Rep. Les Gara
The Public Record


Alaska has the highest energy prices in the nation. The solution to the problem isn’t rejecting funds that could (if we choose) be dedicated to build wind, hydro and other renewable energy production.

Urban Alaska is facing a dangerous short-term shortage of natural gas.

Rural Alaska is facing a shortage of affordable, reliable energy. The nation is trying to grapple with an overreliance on foreign oil.

The Governor’s decision doesn’t help the national goal of domestic energy production to minimize our reliance on energy from rogue countries, or countries that are leading to world instability. It doesn’t help the state’s goal of increasing affordable, diversified energy production.

So, obviously, I agree the decision by the Governor was a mistake, and have written to tell her so.

Governor Palin’s decision is as ironic as it is troubling. Ironically, the state is likely to adopt the efficiency measures required by federal law - and just not get the $28 million offered to us for doing so. So - as I've said, what she’s done is as effective as spending your time blowing dandelion seeds into the wind.

I'm confident Alaska will eventually adopt standards for smart, energy efficient construction, and the private sector is already doing this. In that sense, the construction world is passing us by.

It’s hard to stop the world from progressing towards energy efficient construction.  Consumers want it because it saves us money. The nation wants it because it protects our national security.

So far every other state in the nation is complying with the federal request that we decrease our use of oil and gas (to lower our reliance on foreign sources, and conserve what we have here) - and energy efficiency is the cheapest way to do this....(Click for remainder.)

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America's New Green Guru Sparks Anger Over Climate Change U-Turns

President Obama's energy secretary, Nobel prize-winner Steven Chu, arrives in Europe this week to discuss global warming. But his recent policy decisions on coal-fired power stations and hydrogen cars have angered many environmentalists.

By Robin McKie
The Observer


US energy secretary Steven Chu will fly to Europe this week to begin talks that will be crucial in the global battle against climate change. The 61-year-old physicist will hold key discussions with energy ministers from the G8 nations in Rome before travelling to London to take part in a debate with Nobel prize winners on global warming.

The arrival of Chu, himself a physics Nobel laureate, comes as the scientist-turned-politician finds himself attacked by environmentalists over decisions he has made about America's campaign to fight global warming. Green groups have accused him of being "contradictory and illogical" and of failing to demonstrate sufficient dynamism in establishing a new, low-carbon approach to transport and power-generation in the United States.

In recent weeks, Chu - who was appointed energy secretary by Barack Obama in December - has revealed that he is no longer willing to block the construction of new coal-powered electricity plants in the US, despite widespread opposition from green groups and having initially said that he would not permit their construction.

Environmental campaigners object vociferously to coal plants - which atmosphere scientist James Hansen, director of Nasa's Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, recently labelled "factories of death" in an article he wrote for the Observer - because of their high carbon emissions.

In addition, Chu has called for a slowdown in the development of hydrogen-powered vehicles in the US and slashed funding for new projects by 60%. "We asked ourselves: is it likely in the next 10 or 15, or even 20, years that we will convert to a hydrogen car economy?" Chu explained. "The answer, we felt, was no."...(Click for remainder.)

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Gay U.S. Diplomats to Receive Equal Benefits

By Matthew Lee
Associated Press via The Huffington Post


WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will soon announce that gay American diplomats will be given benefits similar to those that their heterosexual counterparts enjoy, U.S. officials said Saturday.

In a notice to be sent soon to State Department employees, Clinton says regulations that denied same-sex couples and their families the same rights and privileges that straight diplomats enjoyed are "unfair and must end," as they harm U.S. diplomacy.

"Providing training, medical care and other benefits to domestic partners promote the cohesiveness, safety and effectiveness of our posts abroad," she says in the message, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press.

"It will also help the department attract and retain personnel in a competitive environment where domestic partner benefits and allowances are increasingly the norm for world-class employers," she says.

"At bottom, the department will provide these benefits for both opposite-sex and same-sex domestic partners because it is the right thing to do," Clinton says.

Among the benefits that will now be granted gay diplomats: the right of domestic partners to hold diplomatic passports, government-paid travel for their partners and families to and from foreign posts, and the use of U.S. medical facilities abroad.

In addition, gay diplomats' families will now be eligible for U.S. government emergency evacuations and training courses at the Foreign Service Institute, the message says.

The announcement, expected this week, was provided to the AP by a State Department official who is a member of the Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies organization. Two department officials not affiliated with the organization confirmed its accuracy....(Click for remainder.)

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Preview - Court Ruling on Prop 8 Outlawing Same Sex Marriage Coming Next Week

Image by Getty Images via Daylife.
By Rick Ungar
True/Slant


On Tuesday, May 26, 2009, the California Supreme Court will hand down it’s anxiously awaited ruling on the controversial California Proposition 8, the ballot measure whereby the people of California outlawed same sex marriage.

There are three issues that court will rule on in their decision.

So that you are better prepared to understand what they are talking about when the ruling comes, I thought I’d provide something of a legal primer to help you out, along with what the handicappers believe is likely to happen.

ISSUE ONE

The heart of the Gay Rights argument before the court is that Prop. 8 destroyed a fundamental right for a protected minority that has suffered discrimination. If the Gay Rights attorneys are correct, Prop. 8 would represent a fundamental revision to the California State Constitution rather than the simple amendment to the Constitution Prop. 8 purports to be.

If the court finds that the law is a revision to the Constitution, the court would be obligated to strike down the law as the proper procedure to vote on a fundamental revision to the Constitution would not have been followed. To make a fundamental change, two-thirds of the State Legislature must vote to put such a measure on the ballot or the change must come out of a Constitutional Convention. There was never any such vote nor was there a Constitutional Convention. Prop. 8 was placed on the ballot by citizen action purporting to be offering up a Constitutional amendment which requires no such vote by the Legislature....(Click for remainder.)

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GI Suicide Rate Higher Than Civilians

By Press TV

US servicemen have been proven more suicidal than the public at large over the past six years, a major American newspaper reports.

Since 2003, the army has witnessed a 60 percent rise in suicide rates -- a figure which exceeded that of the general American population, The Washington Post said on Friday.

The alarming figure and last year's unprecedented 140 cases of suicide have prompted the army to consider taking on more mental health and substance abuse counselors.

Military chiefs, directing overseas operations, have started holding gatherings to look into the causes.

Multiple secondments, long hours on combat duty, blundering health monitors, irresponsible prescriptions and dated questionnaires on the soldiers' health problems have been singled out so far as the chief reasons behind the increase.

"We probably don't know how many mental health care providers we need after eight years of war and three and four deployments," Chiarelli said briefing the Pentagon on the calamity....(Click for original.)

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La Cage aux Democrats

By Frank Rich
The New York Times


THE most potent word in our new president’s lexicon — change — has been heard much less since his inspiring campaign gave way to the hard realities of governing. But on Tuesday night, the irresistible Obama brand made an unexpected and pointed cameo appearance on America’s most popular television show, “American Idol.” In the talent competition’s climactic faceoff, the song picked for one of the two finalists, Adam Lambert, was Sam Cooke’s soul classic, “A Change Is Gonna Come.”

Cooke recorded it in January 1964. Some four months earlier he had been arrested when trying to check into a whites-only motel in Shreveport, La. “It’s been a long, long time coming,” goes the lyric. “But I know a change is gonna come, oh yes it will.” Cooke, who was killed later that same year in a shooting at another motel, in Los Angeles, didn’t live to see his song turn into a civil rights anthem. He could not have imagined how many changes were gonna come, including the election of an African-American president who ran on change some 44 years later.

Cooke might also have been baffled to see his song covered by Lambert, a 27-year-old white guy from San Diego, on Fox last week. But the producers of “American Idol” knew what they were doing. With his dyed black hair, eyeliner and black nail polish — and an Internet photographic trail of same-sex canoodling — Lambert was “widely assumed to be gay” (Entertainment Weekly), “seemingly gay” (The Times) and “flam-bam-boyantly queeny” (Rolling Stone). Another civil rights movement was in the house even if Lambert himself stopped just short of coming out (as of my deadline, anyway) in the ritualistic Ellen DeGeneres/Clay Aiken show-biz manner.

In the end, Lambert was runner-up to his friendly and blander opponent, Kris Allen, an evangelical Christian from Arkansas. That verdict, dominated by the votes of texting tween girls, was in all likelihood a referendum on musical and cultural habits, not red/blue politics or sexual orientation. As the pop critic Ann Powers wrote in The Los Angeles Times, the victorious Allen also has a gay fan base, much as Lambert has vocal Christian admirers....(Click for remainder.)

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FOX's LSDM, Glenn Beck, "California's Prop 8 About to be Overturned"

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FOX's LSDM (Lying Sack of Dog Mess) [According to "Reports"] "California's Prop 8 [Gay Marriage] About To Be Overturned"... What 'Reports' Glenn?



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