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Grand Theft Auto: How Stevie the Rat bankrupted GM

Monday, June 01, 2009

By Greg Palast

Monday, June 1, 2009

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Screw the autoworkers.

They may be crying about General Motors' bankruptcy today. But dumping 40,000 of the last 60,000 union jobs into a mass grave won't spoil Jamie Dimon's day.

Dimon is the CEO of JP Morgan Chase bank. While GM workers are losing their retirement health benefits, their jobs, their life savings; while shareholders are getting zilch and many creditors getting hosed, a few privileged GM lenders - led by Morgan and Citibank - expect to get back 100% of their loans to GM, a stunning $6 billion.

The way these banks are getting their $6 billion bonanza is stone cold illegal.

I smell a rat.

Stevie the Rat, to be precise. Steven Rattner, Barack Obama's 'Car Czar' - the man who essentially ordered GM into bankruptcy this morning.

When a company goes bankrupt, everyone takes a hit: fair or not, workers lose some contract wages, stockholders get wiped out and creditors get fragments of what's left. That's the law. What workers don't lose are their pensions (including old-age health funds) already taken from their wages and held in their name.

But not this time. Stevie the Rat has a different plan for GM: grab the pension funds to pay off Morgan and Citi.

Here's the scheme: Rattner is demanding the bankruptcy court simply wipe away the money GM owes workers for their retirement health insurance. Cash in the insurance fund would be replace by GM stock. The percentage may be 17% of GM's stock - or 25%. Whatever, 17% or 25% is worth, well ... just try paying for your dialysis with 50 shares of bankrupt auto stock.

Yet Citibank and Morgan, says Rattner, should get their whole enchilada - $6 billion right now and in cash - from a company that can't pay for auto parts or worker eye exams.

Preventive Detention for Pensions

So what's wrong with seizing workers' pension fund money in a bankruptcy? The answer, Mr. Obama, Mr. Law Professor, is that it's illegal.

In 1974, after a series of scandalous take-downs of pension and retirement funds during the Nixon era, Congress passed the Employee Retirement Income Security Act. ERISA says you can't seize workers' pension funds (whether monthly payments or health insurance) any more than you can seize their private bank accounts. And that's because they are the same thing: workers give up wages in return for retirement benefits.

The law is darn explicit that grabbing pension money is a no-no. Company executives must hold these retirement funds as "fiduciaries." Here's the law, Professor Obama, as described on the government's own web site under the heading, "Health Plans and Benefits."

"The primary responsibility of fiduciaries is to run the plan solely in the interest of participants and beneficiaries and for the exclusive purpose of providing benefits."

Every business in America that runs short of cash would love to dip into retirement kitties, but it's not their money any more than a banker can seize your account when the bank's a little short. A plan's assets are for the plan's members only, not for Mr. Dimon nor Mr. Rubin.

Yet, in effect, the Obama Administration is demanding that money for an elderly auto worker's spleen should be siphoned off to feed the TARP babies. Workers go without lung transplants so Dimon and Rubin can pimp out their ride. This is another "Guantanamo" moment for the Obama Administration - channeling Nixon to endorse the preventive detention of retiree health insurance.

Filching GM's pension assets doesn't become legal because the cash due the fund is replaced with GM stock. Congress saw through that switch-a-roo by requiring that companies, as fiduciaries, must

"...act prudently and must diversify the plan's investments in order to minimize the risk of large losses."

By "diversify" for safety, the law does not mean put 100% of worker funds into a single busted company's stock.

This is dangerous business: The Rattner plan opens the floodgate to every politically-connected or down-on-their-luck company seeking to drain health care retirement funds.

House of Rubin

Pensions are wiped away and two connected banks don't even get a haircut? How come Citi and Morgan aren't asked, like workers and other creditors, to take stock in GM?

As Butch said to Sundance, who ARE these guys? You remember Morgan and Citi. These are the corporate Welfare Queens who've already sucked up over a third of a trillion dollars in aid from the US Treasury and Federal Reserve. Not coincidentally, Citi, the big winner, has paid over $100 million to Robert Rubin, the former US Treasury Secretary. Rubin was Obama's point-man in winning banks' endorsement and campaign donations (by far, his largest source of his corporate funding).

With GM's last dying dimes about to fall into one pocket, and the Obama Treasury in his other pocket, Morgan's Jamie Dimon is correct in saying that the last twelve months will prove to be the bank's "finest year ever."

Which leaves us to ask the question: is the forced bankruptcy of GM, the elimination of tens of thousands of jobs, just a collection action for favored financiers?

And it's been a good year for Señor Rattner. While the Obama Administration made a big deal out of Rattner's youth spent working for the Steelworkers Union, they tried to sweep under the chassis that Rattner was one of the privileged, select group of investors in Cerberus Capital, the owners of Chrysler. "Owning" is a loose term. Cerberus "owned" Chrysler the way a cannibal "hosts" you for dinner. Cerberus paid nothing for Chrysler - indeed, they were paid billions by Germany's Daimler Corporation to haul it away. Cerberus kept the cash, then dumped Chrysler's bankrupt corpse on the US taxpayer.

("Cerberus," by the way, named itself after the Roman's mythical three-headed dog guarding the gates Hell. Subtle these guys are not.)

While Stevie the Rat sold his interest in the Dog from Hell when he became Car Czar, he never relinquished his post at the shop of vultures called Quadrangle Hedge Fund. Rattner's personal net worth stands at roughly half a billion dollars. This is Obama's working class hero.

If you ran a business and played fast and loose with your workers' funds, you could land in prison. Stevie the Rat's plan is nothing less than Grand Theft Auto Pension.

It doesn't make it any less of a crime if the President drives the getaway car.

******

Economist and journalist Greg Palast, a former trade union contract negotiator, is author of the New York Times bestsellers The Best Democracy Money Can Buy and Armed Madhouse. He is a GM bondholder and card-carrying member of United Automobile Workers Local 1981.

Palast's latest reports for BBC Television and Democracy Now! are collected on the newly released DVD, "Palast Investigates: from 8-Mile to the Amazon - on the trail of the financial marauders." Watch the trailer here.

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Should We Waterboard the Domestic Terrorist Who Shot Dr. Tiller?

By Cenk Uygur
The Huffington Post


I think we can all agree that the man who shot Dr. George Tiller is a domestic terrorist. I know what Republicans think we should do with accused terrorists -- waterboard them. So, let's get it on.

Initial reports are that the suspect is an anti-abortion activist named Scott Roeder. Good enough. Let's torture the son of a bitch. Remember the people in Guantanamo Bay were just detainees, they were not convicted of anything before we started the "enhanced interrogation" techniques. Most of them didn't even have the verifiable criminal and terroristic history of Roeder who was previously arrested with bomb making material and has called murder of doctors "justifiable homicide" before. So, if you can't waterboard Roeder, then who can you waterboard? He is the perfect candidate.

Also, in this case, there might literally be a ticking time bomb. He's been arrested for having bomb making material before! And he's a god-damned terrorist who just killed someone. What more do we need? We can't afford to wait while there might be another ticking time bomb out there.

We should start with waterboarding him and work our way up to even more enhanced interrogation. Now, some squeamish liberals who are soft on terrorism might disagree, but I'm sure all of my conservative friends agree, right? Sean Hannity? Rush Limbaugh? Bill O'Reilly? You're all on board for torturing this terrorist detainee, right?...(Click for remainder.)

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Bill Orally's Jihad Against Dr. George Tiller

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Bill Orally and LSDM Call for Gov. Piyush Jindal's Assistance with ACORN Witch-Hunt

By Julie
News Hounds


On Friday, May 29, 2009, one day after Bill O'Reilly's wuss-y interview with the ACORN folks (see my post here), Glenn Beck appeared on The O'Reilly Factor to discuss spin the interview and demonize ACORN further, this time when the other side wasn't there to defend itself. But O'Reilly and Beck took it a step further this time, deciding that they'd call on Gov. Jindahl and the FBI to help with their investiation witch-hunt. With video.

Beck and O'Reilly have, for some unfathomable reason, decided ACORN is a front for some Moonie-like Ponzi scheme, and apparently have a lot of dead time to fill on their respective shows, because ACORN has been getting quite a bit of airtime.

“ The secret here is,” Beck said ominously, “ACORN is, it's a shell game . . . .”

“It's absolutely a shell game,” O'Reilly agreed.

“ . . . they'll close down ACORN, ACORN will be discredited, and you watch, all the people will move someplace else.” Gosh, guys, ACORN has offices in 110 cities in 42 states. Seems like they already are “someplace else.”...(Click for remainder.)

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General Ricardo Sanchez Calls for War Crimes Truth Commission

By Jack Hidary
The Huffington Post


In front of a packed audience tonight at the Times Center in New York City, General Ricardo Sanchez, the former commander of all coalition forces in Iraq, called for a truth commission to investigate the abuses and torture which occurred there.

The General described the failures at all levels of civilian and military command that led to the abuses in Iraq, "and that is why I support the formation of a truth commission."

The General went on to say that, "during my time in Iraq there was not one instance of actionable intelligence that came out of these interrogation techniques."

I interviewed General Sanchez after the event and asked him to elaborate on why he felt the US needed such a commission. "For the American people to really know what happened, " he replied, "...this was an institutional failure, a personal failure on the part of many...."

"If we do not find out what happened," continued the General, "then we are doomed to repeat it."

The event tonight was moderated by Rachel Maddow and featured General Sanchez, Vince Warren, exec director of the Center for Constitutional Rights and Ron Suskind, the author and reporter. The event also featured Liev Schreiber, John Leguizamo and other actors who portrayed various characters from the topics at hand.

During the panel, Ron Suskind made an impassioned plea for the restoration of "American's moral energy...It is this alone which can protect us in the future," he said. Suskind called Bush "the ultimate confidence man" who yearned for certainty over the nuanced feeling about of real life....(Click for remainder.)

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The Mystery of the Right

The right's abrupt decline is one of the most puzzling questions in political history.

By Mark Schmitt
The American Prospect


One of the greatest accomplishments of the first several months of Barack Obama's presidency has been the near-total marginalization of the Republican right. Rather than developing a coherent alternative to the president's agenda, the right has descended to frantic, tone-deaf cries of "socialism," has allowed some of the least popular figures in public life -- Dick Cheney, Newt Gingrich -- to be their spokespeople, and most recently, seems to have staked everything on a defense of the previous administration's most disgraceful (and, incidentally, unpopular) conduct.

Even moderate Republicans, such as Rep. Mark Kirk of Illinois, seem to have waded deep into the crazy swamp. Kirk, a Senate hopeful who once bragged to me that he had worked for George Soros on a humanitarian project in the Balkans, recently denounced a proposal to increase a state tax by 1.5 percentage points: "The people of Illinois are ready to shoot anyone who is going to raise taxes by that degree." Mistaking the small rallies called "tea parties" for actual backlash, one Republican bragged to Politico that opposing a yet-unnamed Supreme Court nominee would bring them back to power, "just as we helped ourselves by opposing the [economic] stimulus."

But as the right has taken its rhetoric and self-delusion to 11, its popularity, credibility, and congressional power have sunk to unprecedented lows. (There have been fewer Republicans in Congress before, but that was back when Southern conservatives were still Democrats.)

None of this was inevitable. Self-marginalizing insanity is not an inherent Republican trait. When historians are finished writing countless books in awe of the rise of the right, they will turn to its abrupt decline and find it one of the most puzzling questions in political history.

One answer -- and the reason I called it an "accomplishment" -- is that Obama's approach to partisanship helped marginalize the right. Often seen as a naive assumption of bipartisan cooperation, Obama's invitation to Republicans to join in governing and offer their best ideas was instead a brilliant calling out of a faction that was prepared only to oppose. (Hence the right's gleeful anticipation of a fight over a Supreme Court nomination, which is a pure yes-no choice.) ...(Click for remainder.)

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GM Files for Chapter 11 Protection

By Bernard Simon, John Reed, Tom Braithwaite and Julie MacIntosh
The Financial Times


General Motors filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in New York on Monday morning in a humiliating fall from grace for a symbol of America’s industrial might and the world’s biggest carmaker for much of the 20th century.

Over the next few hours, President Barack Obama and GM’s chief executive Fritz Henderson will seek to reassure workers, suppliers, dealers and car buyers that a leaner, reinvigorated GM will emerge quickly from a court-supervised restructuring.

The government said on Sunday night that it would provide an additional $30.1bn in financing to get the company through bankruptcy. GM would close 11 plants and idle three more as part of a “shared sacrifice” to rescue the failing company.

Agreement from holders of 54 per cent of GM’s $27bn bonds was secured on Saturday evening, boosting hopes of a speedy journey through court. The government-brokered deal gives the bondholders a 10 per cent equity stake in the restructured GM, with warrants for another 15 per cent.

The US and Canadian governments would initially own 72.5 per cent of the new GM, with the remaining 17.5 per cent held by a United Auto Workers union healthcare fund. Existing shareholders would be wiped out.

The bondholders deal agreement is likely to draw strong objections from GM’s dealers and other creditors, who will argue that the plan is illegal, said one person close to the matter....(Click for remainder.)

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Reagan Did It

By Paul Krugman
The New York Times


“This bill is the most important legislation for financial institutions in the last 50 years. It provides a long-term solution for troubled thrift institutions. ... All in all, I think we hit the jackpot.” So declared Ronald Reagan in 1982, as he signed the Garn-St. Germain Depository Institutions Act.

He was, as it happened, wrong about solving the problems of the thrifts. On the contrary, the bill turned the modest-sized troubles of savings-and-loan institutions into an utter catastrophe. But he was right about the legislation’s significance. And as for that jackpot — well, it finally came more than 25 years later, in the form of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

For the more one looks into the origins of the current disaster, the clearer it becomes that the key wrong turn — the turn that made crisis inevitable — took place in the early 1980s, during the Reagan years.

Attacks on Reaganomics usually focus on rising inequality and fiscal irresponsibility. Indeed, Reagan ushered in an era in which a small minority grew vastly rich, while working families saw only meager gains. He also broke with longstanding rules of fiscal prudence.

On the latter point: traditionally, the U.S. government ran significant budget deficits only in times of war or economic emergency. Federal debt as a percentage of G.D.P. fell steadily from the end of World War II until 1980. But indebtedness began rising under Reagan; it fell again in the Clinton years, but resumed its rise under the Bush administration, leaving us ill prepared for the emergency now upon us....(Click for remainder.)

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Abortion Opponents Expect Political Backlash From Tiller's Shooting

By David Klepper
The Kansas City Star


WICHITA — The bullet that killed George Tiller on Sunday did what lawmakers, prosecutors and grassroots activists never could: end the career of the nation's most prominent abortion provider.

But those who long fought against Tiller's work now worry Sunday's act of vigilantism will set back efforts to restrict abortion and will poison the debate — possibly for years.

"I think he (Tiller) was a lawbreaker," said Rep. Scott Schwab, an Olathe Republican who supports more abortion restrictions. "But this is not how you win … you win by winning hearts, not by stopping them from beating."

Until Sunday, Kansas' abortion debate looked to be settling into a staid middle age. Sure, Tiller's clinic was still subject to daily protests. Sure, every year saw new attempts to restrict abortions in the Legislature. But the debate more and more hinged on hypertechnical changes to state statute.

It was a battle waged with news releases and legislative hearings, not bullets or bombs.

That changed Sunday when Tiller's death left both sides looking for answers, and speculating about the future.

Abortion-rights supporters said Sunday's killing shows the danger of heated ideological rhetoric, and the continued need to protect women's right to abortion.

"We're not going to let the terrorists win," said Peter Brownlie, president of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri....(Click for remainder.)

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Aborted Debate

Moral conflict just ain't what it used to be.

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


WASHINGTON--It seems so long ago. In the weeks after the 2004 election, one exit poll finding lit up the political world. The survey showed that "moral values" were the single most important issue in the election, narrowly outstripping even the economy and terrorism.

The moral values voters went 80 percent for George W. Bush, and conservative commentators scolded the dreaded liberal media for missing the central dynamic of the election.

"Elites Out of Touch With America's Heart and Soul," crowed the now-defunct New York Sun. Matthew Spalding, the Heritage Foundation's normally careful scholar on religious questions, was also caught up in the enthusiasm of the moment. The election, he said, showed that "cultural liberalism is increasingly unattractive to a significant and growing segment of the American electorate."

Spalding concluded: "If this trend continues, and continues to solidify, the Democrats will never again be a majority party in the United States."

Put aside that pollsters of various ideological stripes subsequently decided that the exit poll question was flawed. In 2004, so many on all sides just knew that cultural and moral issues were the wave of the future.

But a funny thing happened on the road to the revival tent. The crash of the economy has concentrated the minds of Americans on other things.

Moral conflict just isn't what it used to be....(Click for remainder.)

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Diverse Opinions

By Jeffrey Toobin
The New Yorker


In making nominations to the Supreme Court, Presidents care about diversity, which is a relatively new term for an idea that is nearly as old as the Court itself. In the early days of the republic, when regional disputes were the foremost conflict of the era, nominees were generally defined by their home turfs. So Presidents came to honor an informal tradition of preserving a New England seat, a Virginia seat, a Pennsylvania seat, and a New York seat on the Court. In the nineteenth century, as a torrent of European immigrants transformed American society, religious differences took on a new significance, and Presidents used Supreme Court appointments to recognize the new arrivals’ growing power. In 1836, Andrew Jackson made Roger B. Taney the first occupant of what became known as the Catholic seat on the Court, and that tradition carried forward intermittently for more than a century, with Edward White, Joseph McKenna, Pierce Butler, Frank Murphy, and William J. Brennan, Jr., occupying the chair. In 1916, Woodrow Wilson nominated Louis D. Brandeis, establishing the Jewish seat, which later went, with brief overlapping periods, to Benjamin N. Cardozo, Felix Frankfurter, and Abe Fortas.

With the distance of history, this evolution looks almost inevitable, but the patterns of Supreme Court nominations reflect larger struggles in American life, and many of the confirmation fights were bitter. Moreover, the Justices themselves had little success in addressing the sources of these tensions. (Regional balance on the Supreme Court didn’t prevent the Civil War, and religious diversity didn’t do much to halt anti-Catholic and anti-Semitic bigotry.) In our own era, when race and gender have defined so much of our politics, it isn’t surprising that the appointment of the first African-American, Thurgood Marshall, in 1967, and the first woman, Sandra Day O’Connor, in 1981, became landmarks in the history of both the Court and the country. Nor is it surprising that these appointments—and President Obama’s choice of Sonia Sotomayor, who if confirmed will be the first Hispanic Justice—illuminate our current ideas about diversity....(Click for remainder.)

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Nevada Legislature Overrides Governor's Veto of Domestic Partnerships

Nevada becomes 17th state to recognize gay relationships.

By Cy Ryan
The Las Vegas Sun


CARSON CITY – In what supporters are calling a historic moment, the Assembly has overridden the veto of Gov. Jim Gibbons on a bill giving legal rights to domestic partners.

Tod Story, a member of the board of the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Southern Nevada, said "Nevadans can stand proud."

Story said Nevada has become the 17th state to recognize the relationship of gay and lesbian couples under state law.

The vote was 28-14, the bare minimum needed to overturn the decision of the governor. It follows the 14-7 vote in the Senate Saturday and puts the bill into law.

Gary Peck, executive director of the ACLU in Nevada, said “this is a proud day in Nevada’s history. With its override, our Legislature has put our state on the right side of a growing movement to honor this country’s promise that every one of us is entitled to equal treatment under the law.”

Assemblywoman Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, who gave the only speech on the floor, called this a “historic vote for equality and justice.”

“This is the most important civil rights legislation we’ve had in all my years here and I am so happy and honored to be a part of it.”

She said she knew it was “a struggle” for many legislators.

She said domestic partners “are not asking us to approve of their lives or how they live but they are asking us for respect. As citizens of this great state, they are asking that their government give them the ability to choose who they will live with and who they will love.”

Senate Bill 283 provides domestic partners the same rights in such things as community property responsibility for debt to third parties and the right to seek financial support if they split up....(Click for remainder.)

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View from the Hill: Obama's Silence

Next month the Obama administration is expected to present a package of pro-LGBT announcements. But on the heels of his silence surrounding Prop. 8, will it be enough to satisfy the masses?


By Kerry Eleveld
The Advocate


I couldn’t help but be reminded this week of Andrew Sullivan’s piece “The Fierce Urgency of Whenever” when President Barack Obama swept into Los Angeles the day after California’s same-sex marriage ban was upheld and failed to address the issue in any way during his speech at the Democratic National Committee fund-raiser he attended.

Yes, he had private discussions. Gay political consultant Chad Griffin, a former staffer for President Bill Clinton, said he prodded President Obama about LGBT rights during a conversation at the event. “I was lucky enough to carry a direct message to the president -- we urged his support for full federal LGBT rights and marriage equality,” Griffin told me, adding that he did not feel comfortable sharing details of the president’s response.

While I appreciate that, at the very least, some behind-the-scenes pushes are being made, sugar plums are not exactly dancing through my head when it hits the pillow at night.

In fact, reading a recent Politico.com piece -- "Inside Obama’s Hispanic Strategy" -- reminded me of just how willfully the administration is avoiding LGBT issues in comparison with other interest groups.

First the article notes that Obama aides brought a syndicated Spanish-language radio talk show host known as “Piolin” into the Oval Office for a sit-down with the president.

“We need to be able to communicate through radio, and obviously you’ve got the biggest listenership, so we’ve got to make sure you’re involved,” Obama said during the interview.

In stark contrast to the administration’s LGBT reticence, the article observes that wooing the Hispanic vote has become “a near-obsession” for Obama chief of staff Rahm Emanuel.

Equally eye-opening is the unbridled pressure that Latino politicians and lobby groups are bringing to bear on Washington. The Hispanic Caucus, for instance, sent a letter to the president urging him to nominate the nation’s first Hispanic Supreme Court justice -- a box that Obama checked off this week with his choice of Judge Sonia Sotomayor....(Click for remainder.)

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RedState.com Hate On the Killing of Dr. Tiller

By John Amato
Crooks and Liars




The hate is already pouring in from the right after it was learned that Dr. Tiller was murdered today. Check out this comment from Red State. I'm not blaming Erick for writing this, but it points out the true feelings of many anti-choice zealots.

There's a suspect in custody now.
Tiller was serving as an usher at the church, one of six ushers listed in the church bulletin. He was handing out bulletins to people going into the sanctuary minutes before being shot.

A church member who did not want to be identified said the gunman threatened another person at the church after the shooting.

Tiller's family issued a statement through Wichita attorneys Dan Monnat and Lee Thompson. "Today we mourn the loss of our husband, father and grandfather. Today's event is an unspeakable tragedy for all of us and for George's friends and patients.

"This is particularly heart wrenching because George was shot down in his house of worship, a place of peace."

Ian Welsh writes: One Third of All Late Term Abortion Doctors Killed Today...(Click for remainder.)

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Live Your Best Life Ever! Oprah Perputrates a Fraud

Wish Away Cancer! Get A Lunchtime Face-Lift! Eradicate Autism! Turn Back The Clock! Thin Your Thighs! Cure Menopause! Harness Positive Energy! Erase Wrinkles! Banish Obesity! Live Your Best Life Ever!

By Weston Kosova and Pat Wingert
Newsweek


In January, Oprah Winfrey invited Suzanne Somers on her show to share her unusual secrets to staying young. Each morning, the 62-year-old actress and self-help author rubs a potent estrogen cream into the skin on her arm. She smears progesterone on her other arm two weeks a month. And once a day, she uses a syringe to inject estrogen directly into her vagina. The idea is to use these unregulated "bio-identical" hormones to restore her levels back to what they were when she was in her 30s, thus fooling her body into thinking she's a younger woman. According to Somers, the hormones, which are synthesized from plants instead of the usual mare's urine (disgusting but true), are all natural and, unlike conventional hormones, virtually risk-free (not even close to true, but we'll get to that in a minute).

Next come the pills. She swallows 60 vitamins and other preparations every day. "I take about 40 supplements in the morning," she told Oprah, "and then, before I go to bed, I try to remember … to start taking the last 20." She didn't go into it on the show, but in her books she says that she also starts each day by giving herself injections of human growth hormone, vitamin B12 and vitamin B complex. In addition, she wears "nanotechnology patches" to help her sleep, lose weight and promote "overall detoxification." If she drinks wine, she goes to her doctor to rejuvenate her liver with an intravenous drip of vitamin C. If she's exposed to cigarette smoke, she has her blood chemically cleaned with chelation therapy. In the time that's left over, she eats right and exercises, and relieves stress by standing on her head. Somers makes astounding claims about the ability of hormones to treat almost anything that ails the female body. She believes they block disease and will double her life span. "I know I look like some kind of freak and fanatic," she said. "But I want to be there until I'm 110, and I'm going to do what I have to do to get there."

That was apparently good enough for Oprah. "Many people write Suzanne off as a quackadoo," she said. "But she just might be a pioneer." Oprah acknowledged that Somers's claims "have been met with relentless criticism" from doctors. Several times during the show she gave physicians an opportunity to dispute what Somers was saying. But it wasn't quite a fair fight. The doctors who raised these concerns were seated down in the audience and had to wait to be called on. Somers sat onstage next to Oprah, who defended her from attack. "Suzanne swears by bioidenticals and refuses to keep quiet. She'll take on anyone, including any doctor who questions her."

That would be a lot of doctors. Outside Oprah's world, there isn't a raging debate about replacing hormones. Somers "is simply repackaging the old, discredited idea that menopause is some kind of hormone-deficiency disease, and that restoring them will bring back youth," says Dr. Nanette Santoro, director of reproductive endocrinology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Older women aren't missing hormones. They just don't need as much once they get past their childbearing years. Unless a woman has significant discomfort from hot flashes—and most women don't—there is little reason to prescribe them. Most women never use them. Hormone therapy can increase a woman's risk of heart attacks, strokes, blood clots and cancer. And despite Somers's claim that her specially made, non-FDA-approved bioidenticals are "natural" and safer, they are actually synthetic, just like conventional hormones and FDA-approved bioidenticals from pharmacies—and there are no conclusive clinical studies showing they are less risky. That's why endocrinologists advise that women take the smallest dose that alleviates symptoms, and use them only as long as they're needed....(Click for remainder.)

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Death of a Word

By John Sherffius
Boulder Daily Camera



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The Return of Resistance

By Dahr Jamail
t r u t h o u t


At least 20 US soldiers have been killed in Iraq in May, the most since last September, along with more than 50 wounded. Iraqi casualties are, as usual - and in both categories - at least ten times that number.

Attacks against US forces are once again on the rise in places like Baghdad and Fallujah, where the Iraqi resistance was fiercest before so many of them joined the Sahwa (Sons of Iraq, also referred to as Awakening Councils), and began taking payments from the US military in exchange for halting attacks against the occupiers and agreeing to join the fight against al-Qaeda in Iraq. In early April I wrote a column for this website that illustrated how ongoing Iraqi government and US military attacks against the Sahwa, coupled with broken promises of the Sahwa being incorporated into the government security apparatus or given civilian jobs, would likely lead to an exodus from the Sahwa and a return to the resistance.

Slowly, but surely, we are seeing that occur. While US liaison Col. Jeffrey Kulmayer has called this idea, along with the ongoing controversy from the Iraqi government - led by US-pawn Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki - not paying most of the Sahwa members, while continuing government arrests of and attacks on Sahwa members "overblown," this does not change reality. Let us recall the telling words of the reporter Caud Cockburn, father of journalist Patrick Cockburn, "Never believe anything until it's officially denied."...(Click for remainder.)

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9/11 Trauma Defense—It's a Lie...

By Larisa Alexandrovna
The Raw Story


Richard Clarke, the former counter-terrorism "czar" under Presidents Clinton and Bush is fed up with Bush administration officials using the attacks of September 11, 2001 as justification for their various policies.

[Editor: From Clarke's Sunday editorial in The Washington Post:]
Top officials from the Bush administration have hit upon a revealing new theme as they retrospectively justify their national security policies. Call it the White House 9/11 trauma defense.

I remember that morning, too. Shortly after the second World Trade Center tower was hit, I burst in on Rice (then the president's national security adviser) and Cheney in the vice president's office and remember glimpsing horror on his face. Once in the bomb shelter, Cheney assembled his team while the crisis managers on the National Security Council staff coordinated the government response by video conference from the Situation Room. Many of us thought that we might not leave the White House alive. I remember the next day, too, when smoke still rose from the Pentagon as I sat in my office in the White House compound, a gas mask on my desk. The streets of Washington were empty, except for the armored vehicles, and the skies were clear, except for the F-15s on patrol. Every scene from those days is seared into my memory. I understand how it was a defining moment for Cheney, as it was for so many Americans.

Let me also add that I understand the horror Mr. Cheney felt on that tragic morning. I also understand what most Americans felt as their nation was being attacked. But only a few of us can say that we have had the extra horror of having our homes, neighborhoods, and lives destroyed by those attacks. I lived at 25 Broad St., almost at the corner of Wall St. If you look at a map, you will see just how close my home was to that carnage. Yet despite what I saw and continue to see in my dreams, I would never support the kind of crimes carried out by the Bush administration and I will never accept that the 9/11 attacks unhinged them. The fact is that the Bush administration was already planning a way to go to war with Iraq. The attacks of September 11 had nothing to do with that choice and cannot be an excuse for those actions. But I digress as I often do. Here is some more from Clarke's piece:
"Yet listening to Cheney and Rice, it seems that they want to be excused for the measures they authorized after the attacks on the grounds that 9/11 was traumatic. "If you were there in a position of authority and watched Americans drop out of eighty-story buildings because these murderous tyrants went after innocent people," Rice said in her recent comments, "then you were determined to do anything that you could that was legal to prevent that from happening again.'
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God Sent the Shooter

By Hemant Mehta
Friendly Atheist


Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church have their expected reaction to George Tiller’s murder (PDF):
GOD HATES BABY KILLERS. SERIAL MURDERER GEORGE “TILLER THE KILLER” IS DEAD! GOD SENT THE SHOOTER! NOW TILLER GETS TO EXPLAIN HIMSELF TO HIS VICTIMS! WBC TO PICKET “VIGIL TO SUPPORT TILLER’S FAMILY AND FRIENDS”
(ENABLERS!).


Sun., May 31, 2009, 7:15-8:00 pm
Old Town Square, North Mosley & East
Douglas Ave., Wichita, Kansas



Bloody Beast Obama and his vampire-like cabinet member Kathleen Sebelius are to blame for the murder of Dr. George Tiller! They use their power and platform to enable him and others to kill millions of unborn or just-born babies. Tiller has killed some 65,000 babies, and thought he could do that with impunity. He could not have done this without the lying, slimy big mouths of these two evil little horns.

So pro-life Christians with their angry, exaggerated, hateful rhetoric now have this to deal with, too: they have to explain why they are not indirectly to blame for Tiller’s murder while dealing with the crazy Phelps clan hollering in the background.

Have fun with that....(Click for original.)

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Cyber Security

By John Sherffius
Boulder Daily Camera



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Fox Nation Celebrates Tiller Assassination by Christian Terrorists

By Priscilla
News Hounds


I'm not surprised. On the Fox Nation side bar article, "Abortion Doctor George Tiller Reportedly Killed at Church," the disgusting comments have already started. And these are the folks who consider themselves pro-life? All I can say is have they no shame? I will be monitoring the comments to see if these disgusting comments remain because if they do, The Fox/Murdoch Nation truly has no shame!

Contact Information for Fox News:
Fox News Phone Number – 1-888-369-4762
e-mail - yourcomments@foxnews.com

Update: The comments which I selected have been deleted (after having been initially approved?) . The prinicpal concern of Fox Nation, however, is that the murder occurred at a church. If you see offensive comments, you might want to copy them and send them to Bill O'Reilly who, as I have pointed out, had some choice things to say about Dr. Tiller.

Memo to Fox Nation writers - Dr. Tiller was killed. You might want to remove "reportedly" from your headline. You might want to include the fact that a suspect has been arrested.

Update: Randall Terry does not denounce murder. Will Hannity provide validation?




Fox Nation citizens?...(Click for original.)

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Anti-Abortion Terrorist—Voice of a Violent Minority

By Paul Rosenberg
Open Left


The murder of Dr. George Tiller is evidence of the re-emergence of violent rightwing extremism, which many observers expected in the wake of Bush & Cheney's exit from the White House. Indeed, a report released in April, Rightwing Extremism: Current. Economic and Political Climate Fueling. Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment (pdf), was subject to rightwing backlash, precisely because it accurately focused attention on the potential for increased rightwing terrorism at this time. While it didn't focus specifically on anti-abortion activists, it has been ten years since the last abortion provider was murdered. While the numbers of violent rightwing activists can be measured in the thousands, they are representative of a much larger segment of the population, measuring in the millions. However, this still represents only a relatively small political fringe in the total electorate, as can be seen by this chart, showing that total opposition to all abortions encompasses roughly one in 11 Americans, and one in seven Republicans:


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Terrorism and the State: A Lesson, Again, for Right and Left



By Al Giordano
The Field

“…those who today, either out of despair or because they are victims of the propaganda the regime propagates in favour of terrorism as the nec plus ultra of subversion, contemplate artificial terrorism with uncritical admiration, even attempting sometimes to practise it, do not know that they are only competing with the State on its own terrain, and do not know that, on its own terrain, not only is the State the strongest but that it will always have the last word.”
- Gianfranco Sanguinetti
On Terrorism and the State

The assassination this morning of Wichita doctor George Tiller, on his way into a Lutheran church service, was the second attempt on his life, this one successful. The first attempt on the doctor who works in a reproductive health clinic that has long been targeted by Operation Rescue and other anti-choice organizations came on August 19, 1993, when a woman named Stanley Shelley Shannon’s bullets wounded the doctor in both arms. (Shannon served an 11-year sentence for that crime.)

Just two-and-a-half years ago, Dr. Tiller was targeted with the usual vitriol by Fox News talker Bill O’Reilly [a complete and utter moron if there ever was one], who falsely accused the doctor of performing late term abortions – legal to protect the health of the mother – to treat temporary psychological depression of the patient. Tiller denied the charge, and accused the then-attorney general of the state, Phill Kline, as being O’Reilly’s source for the claim. Kline had charged Dr. Tiller, in 2006, with 30 counts of administering abortions to minors and other crimes. The Court dismissed the charges. In 2007, Democratic Attorney General Paul Morrison charged Dr. Tiller on 19 counts. Two months ago, a jury acquitted the doctor on each and every charge.

Just as Situationist Gianfranco Sanguinetti warned the international left, in his 1979 essay, that acts of terrorism always reinforce the powers of the State (his thesis was that State power and terrorism are mutually symbiotic and dependent on each other), the North American religious right is going to suffer great losses as a result of this morning’s terrorist act in Wichita. That, this time, the assassination attempt succeeded, and that it happened in the sanctuary of a church of a mainstream Protestant faith, will provoke a double whammy of shock and revulsion, including among tens of millions of Americans that do not like abortion, but likewise believe that assassination is obviously just as (or more) anti-life....(Click for remainder.)

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John Cornyn Isn't Smart, He's Just Not Stupid

By Matt Hardigree
The Hill's Pundit Blog


It has been interesting to read in the news and on this blog about Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and his surprising defense of Sonia Sotomayor. John Feehery called him a "superstar" and A.B. Stoddard frames it as "Cornyn Throws Down the Gauntlet." Those of us in Texas know a little better.

Other than realizing it's bad politics, he's at least savvy enough to realize you don't champion people who call a smart Latina a racist, even if she is from New York, when you come from a state that's more than 36 percent Hispanic. Sen. Cornyn's views on immigration are far from soft, but taking a swipe at someone on your right saves you from having to move to your left. Is it possible the least intelligent senator from Texas is smarter than the leadership of the Republican Party?

His tone regarding this has been noticeably unequivocal, saying, "I think it's terrible. This is not the kind of tone that any of us want to set when it comes to performing our constitutional responsibilities of advice and consent. Neither one of these men [Rush Limbaugh or Newt Gingrich] are elected Republican officials. I just don't think it's appropriate. I certainly don't endorse it. I think it's wrong."

And this isn't some one-off sort of thing. He's running around Texas telling people this on local television. He told a station in northeast Texas that it was a "rush to judgment" and that their job was not to "impose their perspective because of their ethnicity." This may shock some of the more conservative elements of the Republican Party who don't remember his last opponent was a guy named Rick Noriega....(Click for remainder.)

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Newt Gingrich Reaches His Sell-By Date

By John Nichols
The Nation


It is always difficult to pinpoint the precise moment when a politician reaches his "sell-by" date.

We have seen some remarkable comebacks in America.

Richard Nixon, defeated for president and then governor of California, returned to win the presidency – and then when he was forced from the White House repositioned himself as something of an elder-statesman.

Joe Biden, forced out of the presidential race of 1988 and then defeated decisively in the presidential race of 2008, finally got to the White House in 2009 as the vice president.

So a lot of things are possible.

But it seems safe to say that New Gingrich has nothing left to add to the discussion.

The truth is that Gingrich may have been finished a long time ago.

Forced to resign the speakership of the House in the late 1990s after steering both his party and his personal life on disastrous courses, he has struggled to renew his franchise as the Grand Old Party's big thinker.

There's no question that the party of "no" needs a senior figure who is capable of wrestling with ideas. Unless Republicans plan to nominate Dick Cheney, Rush Limbaugh or Michael Steele for president in 2012 – and even the craziest of the crazies are not that crazy – they are going to need someone with a vision. And even if his vision is flawed, Gingrich's ability to grab forums and to use them for something more than mere grumbling seemed to be getting him back in the running....(Click for remainder.)

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Empathy, Sotomayor, and Democracy: The Conservative Stealth Strategy



By George Lakoff
t r u t h o u t


The Sotomayor nomination has given radical conservatives new life. They have launched an attack that is nominally aimed at Judge Sotomayor. But it is really a coordinated stealth attack - on President Obama's central vision, on progressive thought itself, and on Republicans who might stray from the conservative hard line.

There are several fronts: empathy, feelings, racism, activist judges. Each one has a hidden dimension. And if progressives think conservative attacks are just about Sotomayor, they may wind up helping conservatives regroup.

Conservatives believe that Sotomayor will be confirmed, and so their attacks may seem irrational to Democrats, a last gasp, a grasping at straws, a sign that the party is breaking up.

Actually, something sneakier and possibly dangerous is going on.

Let's start with the attack on empathy. Why empathy? Isn't empathy a good thing?

Empathy is at the heart of progressive thought. It is the capacity to put oneself in the shoes of others - not just individuals, but whole categories of people: one's countrymen, those in other countries, other living beings, especially those who are in some way oppressed, threatened, or harmed. Empathy is the capacity to care, to feel what others feel, to understand what others are facing and what their lives are like. Empathy extends well beyond feeling to understanding, and it extends beyond individuals to groups, communities, peoples, even species. Empathy is at the heart of real rationality, because it goes to the heart of our values, which are the basis of our sense of justice....(Click for remainder.)

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We Are Less Safe! Aggh!

By R.J. Matson
The New York Observer



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Attorney General Directs U.S. Marshals to Protect Abortion Clinics, Providers

By Ernest Luning
The Colorado Independent


U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder dispatched the U.S. Marshals Service to protect “appropriate people and facilities around the nation” in the wake of the killing Sunday morning of late-term abortion provider Dr. George Tiller in Wichita, Kan.

Likely top candidate for federal protection: Boulder physician Warren Hern, believed to be the last remaining doctor in the world to provide late-term abortions.

Hern, director of the Boulder Abortion Clinic, told The Colorado Independent that Tiller’s assassination is the “absolutely inevitable consequence” of decades of anti-abortion fanaticism.

“Every doctor that does abortions has been under an assassination threat for decades,” Hern said Sunday afternon. “The anti-abortion movement message is, ‘Do what we tell you to do or we will kill you,’ and they do. This is a fascist movement.”

Here’s the statement Holder issued after Tiller’s assassination:
“The murder of Doctor George Tiller is an abhorrent act of violence, and his family is in our thoughts and prayers at this tragic moment. Federal law enforcement is coordinating with local law enforcement officials in Kansas on the investigation of this crime, and I have directed the United States Marshals Service to offer protection to other appropriate people and facilities around the nation. The Department of Justice will work to bring the perpetrator of this crime to justice. As a precautionary measure, we will also take appropriate steps to help prevent any related acts of violence from occurring.”
My family is terrified,” Hern told the Wall Street Journal after Tiller was gunned down in a Lutheran church. Hern said both he and Tiller have “been targeted by name by anti-abortion activists who call them baby killers and mass murderers.”...(Click for remainder.)

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Boulder, CO Abortion Doctor Decries Tiller Killing: 'This is a Fascist Movement'

By Ernest Luning
The Colorado Independent


Hours after the Sunday morning shooting death of late-term abortion doctor George Tiller in Wichita, Kan., a Boulder physician — who says he could be the only doctor in the world still performing the procedure — said Tiller’s assassination was the “absolutely inevitable consequence” of decades of anti-abortion fanaticism.

“I’m profoundly sad and I’m furious and I think the American people need to understand that we have a fascist movement in this country,” Dr. Warren Hern told The Colorado Independent on Sunday. “We don’t have to invade Iraq to find terrorists. They’re right here killing abortion doctors.”

“Every doctor that does abortions has been under an assassination threat for decades,” Hern said. “The anti-abortion movement message is, ‘Do what we tell you to do or we will kill you,’ and they do. This is a fascist movement.”

Hern laid blame for Tiller’s death at the feet of the anti-abortion movement’s encouragement of violence against abortion providers and the Republican Party’s “exploitation” of the extremist rhetoric.

“Dr. Tiller is dead by an anti-abortion assassin, and this is the absolutely inevitable consequence of 35 years of anti-abortion fanatic rhetoric and intimidation and assassination violence and exploitation by the Republican Party of this movement,” Hern told the Independent....(Click for remainder.)

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House Calls for Closer Watch on Food Supply

By Lyndsey Layton
The Washington Post


The nation's complex food supply chain would become more transparent, inspections of food facilities would become more frequent and manufacturers would be required to take steps aimed at preventing food-borne illnesses under legislation proposed yesterday by key House leaders who have pledged to modernize the food safety system.

The bill, introduced by Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) and Rep. John D. Dingell (D-Mich.), would give the Food and Drug Administration broad new enforcement tools, including the authority to recall tainted food, the ability to "quarantine" suspect food, and the power to impose civil penalties and increased criminal sanctions on violators.

Among other things, the proposal would put greater responsibility on growers, manufacturers and food handlers by requiring them to identify contamination risks, document the steps they take to prevent them and provide those records to federal regulators. The legislation also would allow the FDA to require private laboratories used by food manufacturers to report the detection of pathogens in food products directly to the government.

"This is a major step forward," said Erik Olson, director of food and consumer product safety at the Pew Charitable Trusts. "This has really been needed for decades. We're still operating under a food and drug law signed by Teddy Roosevelt."

Consumers have grown increasingly alarmed by a rash of food safety problems in recent years, such as E. coli in spinach and salmonella in Mexican jalapeño peppers....(Click for remainder.)

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The Sleeping Giant of California

By Steve Benson
Arizona Republic



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Kansas Abortion Doctor Kill at Church by Christian Fundamentalist

By Reuters
Via The Financial Times


KANSAS CITY, Mo., May 31 (Reuters) - A Kansas doctor who was a controversial provider of ”late-term” abortions was shot and killed in the foyer of his Wichita, Kansas, church on Sunday, and police said they captured the man responsible.

Police plan to charge a 51-year-old man on Monday with homicide and two counts of aggravated assault in the death of 67-year-old George Tiller, a longtime target of anti-abortion activists, said Wichita police spokesman Gordon Bassham.

Tiller was shot while serving as an usher at Sunday services at Reformation Lutheran Church. The shooter threatened two other men at the church, police said.

”We feel that this is an act of an isolated individual, however our investigation continues,” said Wichita deputy police chief Tom Stolz.

Bassham said the suspect was captured about 180 miles (290 km) away, near Kansas City. Police said he was a resident of Merriam, Kansas, a suburb of Kansas City.

Tiller’s clinic in Wichita, one of only a few in the United States that perform ”late-term” abortions, has been the site of mass protests by anti-abortion groups and was bombed in 1985. Tiller was shot and wounded by an abortion opponent in 1993.

Abortions are generally considered late-term when they are performed after the 20th week of gestation on fetuses potentially old enough to survive outside the womb....(Click for remainder.)

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