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Ronald Reagan: Worst President Ever?

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

By Robert Parry
The Smirking Chimp


There’s been talk that George W. Bush was so inept that he should trademark the phrase “Worst President Ever,” though some historians would bestow that title on pre-Civil War President James Buchanan. Still, a case could be made for putting Ronald Reagan in the competition.

Granted, the very idea of rating Reagan as one of the worst presidents ever will infuriate his many right-wing acolytes and offend Washington insiders who have made a cottage industry out of buying some protection from Republicans by lauding the 40th President.

But there’s a growing realization that the starting point for many of the catastrophes confronting the United States today can be traced to Reagan’s presidency. There’s also a grudging reassessment that the “failed” presidents of the 1970s – Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter – may deserve more credit for trying to grapple with the problems that now beset the country.

Nixon, Ford and Carter won scant praise for addressing the systemic challenges of America’s oil dependence, environmental degradation, the arms race, and nuclear proliferation – all issues that Reagan essentially ignored and that now threaten the America’s future.

Nixon helped create the Environmental Protection Agency; he imposed energy-conservation measures; he opened the diplomatic door to communist China. Nixon’s administration also detected the growing weakness in the Soviet Union and advocated a policy of détente (a plan for bringing the Cold War to an end or at least curbing its most dangerous excesses)....(Click for remainder.)

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Media Figures Falsely Claim Anti-Obama Hit Piece Produced by Newspaper Pravda

By Media Matters

On June 1, several media figures falsely claimed that an April 27 opinion piece attacking President Obama for instigating an "American decent [sic] into Marxism" was the product of the Russian newspaper Pravda. In fact, the piece, written by blogger Stanislav Mishin, was published on the Russian website PRAVDA On-line, a separate media outlet that routinely features sensationalistic stories.

The piece was originally published on April 1 as a post on Mishin's blog, Mat Rodina.

CNN's Jack Cafferty claimed that the piece was published by "the online edition of the Russian news agency Pravda," while Rush Limbaugh stated that it was the product of the "English-language version of Pravda, the state-run media in the old Soviet Union." In fact, as its website itself makes clear, PRAVDA On-line is not affiliated with either the current newspaper Pravda or the version published "in the old Soviet Union." Rather, PRAVDA On-line's "About" page states that the original newspaper Pravda was "a publication of the Communist Party, and, as such, it became a state-owned newspaper" until it was shut down by the government in 1991. Subsequently, two separate news agencies, "[t]he newspaper Pravda" and "PRAVDA On-line" were formed:
At that time, a very serious split occurred in the editorial office. Over 90 percent of the journalists who had been working for Pravda until the coup d'etat of 1991 quit their jobs. They established their own version of the newspaper, which was then closed under government pressure.

These journalists had to take their fight to cyberspace, and the Internet newspaper PRAVDA On-Line was launched in January of 1999, the first Russian newspaper of its kind. We think that both the newly registered newspaper and PRAVDA On-Line (you are now on its server) have an equal moral right to continue the history of the newspaper that was closed by then-President Boris Yeltsin in August of 1991. The number of journalists that work in the head offices of both publications is comparable with the number of journalists who worked for Pravda at the time it was closed.

In spite of the fact that the journalists of both these publications are still in touch with each other, we have different conceptions about news about Russia and the world. The newspaper Pravda analyzes events from the point of view of the Party's interests, whereas PRAVDA On-line takes a pro-Russian approach to forming its policy.

While the website states that "PRAVDA On-line takes a pro-Russian approach to forming its policy," the site also frequently highlights sensationalistic stories. From the website's front page, retrieved on June 2:


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Fox Nation: The Seedy Underbelly of Rupert Murdoch's Evil Empire?

By Karl Frisch
Media Matters


He's called former Vice President Al Gore an "evil enabler" for speaking at Netroots Nation -- an annual conference that draws thousands of progressive blog enthusiasts. He's likened Markos Moulitsas, founder of the progressive blog powerhouse Daily Kos, to white supremacist David Duke. He's even accused The Huffington Post of using the "same exact tactics that the Nazis used."

To say that Fox News golden boy Bill O'Reilly is no fan of progressive blogs is an understatement akin to claiming the Hatfields and McCoys were mildly displeased with each other.

In fact, just last week, O'Reilly hosted a panel of lawyers who attempted, in vain, to explain that the conservative host's "rights" aren't violated by private criticism.

Back in March, while promoting its newly launched website TheFoxNation.com, Fox News ran advertisements telling viewers that it was "time to say 'no' to biased media and 'yes' to fair play and free speech."

In short, Fox News was jumping headfirst into the blogging world with just the snake oil necessary to cure what ailed O'Reilly -- a fair, honest, bias-free version of what he sees the left serving up.

It didn't take long for The Fox Nation to prove those fancy Fox News promos demonstrably inaccurate -- instead, it seems to have said "yes" to biased media and "no" to "fair play" from Day One.

In its first 24 hours, the website labeled Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) and Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) a "[d]angerous duo," linking to an Agence France-Presse article that simply reported that Dodd and Frank "promised President Barack Obama on Monday they would work with the White House to enact a sweeping overhaul of US financial regulatory structures by year's end."...(Click for remainder.)

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*BREAKING NEWS*: The Savage Weiner Tells the Truth!

By Media Matters

Well, for about a third of a sentence, anyway.  Still, it's a start.  Here's Savage, as quoted by the San Francisco Chronicle:
"I'm going to make an allegation that I can't support: these out of context soundbites came from Media Matters, funded by George Soros, whose goal is to wipe out conservative voices in America,'' he told the Chronicle. "If it turns out they're continuing to do this, they're next on my list. I'm not going to tolerate them trying to get me killed.''
What has Savage so upset this time?  He has gotten it into his head that Media Matters is responsible for him being banned from the United Kingdom.

Savage, incidentally, once said of Media Matters: "They have no place in America."  And he once said "If I had the power by executive order, I would round up every member of the ACLU and of the National Lawyers Guild, and I'd put them in a prison in Guantánamo and I'd throw the key away."  So it's a little amusing to see him so upset about his views not being welcome in Britain.

Savage also once reportedly compared Media Matters to HIV.  And he lost his MSNBC television show when he told a caller to "get AIDS and die."  That last one doesn't have much to do with Savage's latest outburst, though it does have to do with him being a world-class jerk....(Click for remainder.)

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Racism, Affirmative Action Charges Fail to Derail Sotomayor Nomination

By Wendy Norris
The Colorado Independent


Vicious personal attacks leveled by conservatives designed to undermine the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court haven’t yet turned the public against the likely first Latina judge appointed to the nation’s highest bench.

A just released AP-GfK poll finds strong public support and high favorability rankings for the federal appellate judge’s fitness for the bench. The survey was conducted while torrents of criticism led by former U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo’s racism charges pounding Sotomayor reached fever pitch this week.

The survey of 1,000 adults reports that 50 percent support Sotomayor’s confirmation and 34 percent had favorable views of her as opposed to 18 percent who had unfavorable opinions and just one-in-five respondents who don’t want her seated on the court.

Still, in the first snapshot of Americans’ verdict on the president’s nominee, there is a bit of room for movement. High numbers of adults haven’t heard enough to form an opinion about her (39 percent) or to say whether Sotomayor should replace Justice David Souter (27 percent).

Whether conservatives can push the undecideds to oppose Sotomayor may be found in the bread crumb trail of recent political identity polls that have GOP operatives scrambling.

A Monday Gallup poll showed the Republican Party is overwhelmingly dominated by white conservatives while Latino voters, the fastest growing electoral bloc, identify as Democrats or unaffiliated by a five-fold margin.

If portions of the white, conservative GOP base are some of the undecideds, it would appear the “Sotomayor as affirmative action pick” boogeyman attacks aren’t having the desired effect. If those who didn’t answer the pollster’s questions are liberal or people of color, good luck advancing that line of thought. Sixty-three percent of AP-GfK survey respondents favor affirmative action for women and 56 percent give the nod to race/ethnicity-based programs....(Click for remainder.)

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Spain's 'World Court' May Be Restricted



By Helene Zuber

Spiegel


Victims of human rights abuses from around the world have turned to Spain's National Court for help from its bold examining magistrates. But now the Spanish government, responding to pressure from abroad, wants to clip the court's wings.

When Spanish justice Baltasar Garzón ordered the arrest of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet in London in October 1998, under an international arrest warrant, the world first took notice of the Audiencia Nacional, the National Court in Madrid. There, in an ugly but functional building near Plaza Colón, a jurist was prepared to dispense justice on a global scale. From then on, no dictator or human-rights abuser, anywhere in the world, could travel to Europe with an easy heart.

Since 1985, Spanish criminal law has allowed the National Court, or Audiencia Nacional, to pursue criminal cases outside Spain. When either foreigners or Spanish nationals are accused of piracy, terrorism, drug trafficking, or human-rights abuses, the National Court has jurisdiction. A general consensus has formed since the Nuremberg Trials after World War II that acts of horror shouldn't go unpunished, especially when they can't be prosecuted in the country where they occurred.

Garzón, nicknamed "The Bulldog" because of his insistent pursuit of Basque terrorists from Eta as well as the Galician cocaine mafia, became a global nemesis. The son of a farmer from Andalucia found himself on the bloody trail of military juntas in Chile and Argentina after Spanish citizens were "disappeared" alongside Chilean and Argentinian political dissidents....(Click for remainder.)

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Obama Taps Republican Congressman for Army Chief

By Caren Bohan
Reuters


WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday nominated Republican congressman John McHugh as secretary of the Army, the latest move to tap an opposition party member for the Democratic administration's top ranks.

McHugh, 60, the senior Republican on the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee, has been critical of some Obama policies, including proposals to wring savings out of the Pentagon budget.

But the New York lawmaker is known as a moderate in Congress and has been praised by some fellow lawmakers for his collegial approach.

"As secretary of the Army, he will ensure that our soldiers are trained and equipped to meet the full spectrum of challenges and threats of our time -- the conventional and the unconventional, the nation state and the terrorist network. Obama said at the White House with McHugh at his side.

McHugh would join Defense Secretary Robert Gates, whom Obama kept on from the Bush administration, and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, a former congressman, as another Republican in the Democratic administration.

The selection comes as Obama presses ahead with a retooled strategy for Afghanistan, where he has ordered a troop increase, and is seeking to make good on his promise to wind down the war in Iraq....(Click for remainder.)

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DHS Names Key Cybersecurity Staff

No word yet from Obama on White House cybersecurity coordinator.

By Jaikumar Vijayan
ComputerWorld


U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano tapped Philip Reitinger as director of the National Cybersecurity Center (NCSC), replacing Rod Beckstrom, who quit the post earlier this year citing turf battles with other agncies.

Reitinger will be responsible for collecting, analyzing, integrating and sharing cybersecurity information among federal agencies, the DHS said in a statement Monday.

Reitinger, a former Microsoft Corp. cybersecurity executive, will also continue in his current role as deputy undersecretary of the National Protection and Programs Directorate at the DHS.

His appointment was one of three key personnel announcements made by the DHS on the cybersecurity front. Napolitano also picked Greg Schaffer to be assistant secretary for cybersecurity and communications (CS&C), and Bruce McConnell as counselor to the deputy undersecretary at the NPPD.

McConnell will be a senior adviser to Reitinger on "strategic and policy matters" related to the NPPD, the DHS said. The NPPD includes the CS&C, the office of infrastructure protection and the US-VISIT program, which provides visa-issuing posts with biometric identification technology. He was also part of the Obama-Biden transition team and was involved in information policy and technology-related matters.

Schaffer, meanwhile, will be in charge of coordinating cybersecurity efforts across the NPPD and in ensuring that public and private sector organizations and international partners work together to mitigate threats to U.S. interests in cyberspace. He replaces Gregory Garcia who was the first to be appointed as assistant secretary of the CS&C by former DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff in 2006. Schaffer was previously a cybersecurity executive with Altell Communications and PricewaterhouseCoopers....(Click for remainder.)

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Europe is Right-Wing, but...



By Joaquín Estefanía

El Pais


Most governments in EU member states are from the right, but implement Keynesian inspired economic policies. Political forces in the EU must transcend differences and agree on a means to face up to the crisis.

Most of the governments of the European Union’s 27 member countries are conservative, as are the bulk of the European Council and the president of the Commission, José Manuel Barroso. The current European Parliament, which is to be reshuffled within a matter of days, is for the most part centre-right.

Some of the older generation in Spain, who have always associated Europe with the freedoms we lost under Franco and with the creation of the welfare state and who have always equated Europe with a progressive project, seem to forget this ideological reality. The European elections are an opportunity to curb that ideological drift, since more than half the legislative initiatives that affect the day-to-day lives of Europeans hinge on the outcome.

Furthermore, the shared public realm of the EU is afflicted with a severe economic crisis involving a drastic decline in economic activity, soaring unemployment (over 20 million jobless), and zero price growth, which some analysts see as a portent of imminent deflation. Compounding this situation is an adverse structural misfortune factor – the failure of the Lisbon Agenda, which sought to make the EU the most advanced region on the planet – as well as a curious paradox: although most of the governments in the region are conservative, the economic policy they are implementing is Keynesian, designed to increase demand, and in no way resembles the neoliberal model they had been flirting with prior to 2007.

Recalling the nature, depth and momentum of the Great Depression, Europeans (according to private-sector opinion polls and the Eurobarometer) apparently assume a fact that politicians in some EU countries (like Spain, for example) have yet to admit: no political force by itself is capable of pulling its populace out of such a global, systemic economic predicament. So at what point will it be unequivocally clear that we need a failsafe pact to replace the one Social and Christian Democrats signed after World War II, which turned Europe into a global role model of integration, progress and success? The postwar pact gave rise to the Golden Age of Capitalism (the period of the fastest, and longest-lasting, economic growth up to the mid-1970s) and to the creation of the welfare state as the best feasible human utopia.

Felipe González, now presiding over a think tank on Europe’s future, suggests overturning five aspects of that new pact: 1) Consolidation of an anticyclical economic policy to reverse the recessionary trend and proposals for a new financial order to keep us from repeating past mistakes and abuses (more and better regulation). 2) A new strategy to replace the Lisbon Agenda, inseparably tying the economic model to the European welfare state (how to be an economic and technological competitor in the age of globalisation, and how – and how much – social cohesion can be financed to uphold the social model that is a hallmark of European identity). 3) An energy policy to safeguard supply whilst accepting the constraints imposed by the fight against climate change. 4) Common immigration policies involving the cooperation of countries of origin and addressing the root causes of uncontrolled immigration. 5) A security policy targeting not only terrorism but also organized crime....(Click for remainder.)

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The Chemical Industry Desperately Wants to Keep Their Products in Your Shopping Cart

By Sarah Janssen
The Huffington Post


I am a typical mom who makes most of the purchasing decisions in my family. I cut coupons, read labels, shop in bulk, and do my best to purchase healthy products. Because I am concerned about exposure to Bisphenol A (BPA), which is used in food and beverage packaging, I've made a few changes to my shopping list. I bought non-polycarbonate bottles and sippy cups for my daughter, we rarely eat canned food, and I've given up my diet soda habit -- or at least I've cut back. And in the eyes of the chemical industry, I am a prime target in their campaign to improve their image and win back my trust.

The Washington Post reported that just last week a high level meeting took place to devise a strategy for keeping BPA in our food supply. Companies attending the meeting included the Coca-Cola Co. and Del Monte, along with trade groups and other organizations which lobby for the chemical manufacturers such as the North American Metal Packaging Alliance Inc., the Grocery Manufacturers Association, and the American Chemistry Council. These companies are on the defensive because moms like me have demanded alternatives. In response, six of the major baby bottle manufacturers have announced they will stop using BPA, major retailers have stopped selling them, and BPA has now been banned from baby bottles and sippy cups in Suffolk County, NY, Chicago and the entire state of Minnesota. The BPA industry wants to prevent any further bans and held this intensive meeting to discuss a strategy for protecting their market share.

Why am I concerned about BPA?  BPA is a hormone disrupting chemical that acts like estrogen and can interfere with normal development and function of the body. In animal studies, BPA exposure has been linked to prostate cancer, breast cancer, pre-diabetes (insulin resistance), fat metabolism, and changes in the way the brain develops resulting in behavioral abnormalities. Emerging human research has found similar evidence of harm. And all of us are exposed; over 90% of Americans tested by the CDC were found to have residues of BPA in their bodies.

The notes from this meeting were verified in the Post article by one of the industry lobbyists as being accurate....(Click for remainder.)

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In Context, Sotomayor's Remarks on Race and Judging Aren't Controversial

By Kevin Johnson
FindLaw


A graduate of Princeton and Yale Law School, Judge Sonia Sotomayor began her career by serving as a district attorney and a partner at a private law firm. In 1992, she was appointed by a Republican President to the federal district court; later, she was elevated by a Democratic President to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, one of the most prestigious circuit courts in the United States. With 17 years on the bench, Judge Sotomayor has more judicial experience than any nominee for the Supreme Court in many decades has possessed. (By comparison, for example, Chief Justice John Roberts had only two years of experience as a judge before joining the Court.) Her opinions, moreover, reflect the expertise and nuanced reasoning of an intelligent, careful, and thoughtful jurist.

Judge Sotomayor also has an incredible personal story, perhaps only rivaled by President Obama's own life story. A product of the Bronx's housing projects, she made the most of humble beginnings. The icing on the cake is that Judge Sotomayor would be the first Hispanic Justice on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Doesn't this sound like the perfect Supreme Court nominee? Maybe so, but conservatives on radio talk shows, television, and blogs have still been crying foul. In this column, I'll explain why their complaints are misplaced.

The Slim Basis for the Unconvincing Claim that Judge Sotomayor Is a "Reverse Racist"

It is revealing that, rather than focusing on Judge Sotomayor's many opinions as a federal judge in New York City, the opposition has instead jumped on remarks that she made at two academic conferences at elite law schools, UC Berkeley in 2001 and Duke in 2005. At Duke, she suggested -- somewhat in jest, and in an aside to her main comments -- that circuit courts make "policy." I will leave this comment for inquiry by the Senate Judiciary Committee, which almost certainly – and rightly – will question Justice Sotomayor about her judicial philosophy, just as it questions all nominees on this topic. But, in any event, that philosophy would seem to be best judged by reading her opinions over her nearly two-decade career as a judge, as opposed to listening to a brief YouTube sound-bite.

In turn, my focus here is on the criticism of Judge Sotomayor's comments at a scholarly conference at UC Berkeley's law school in 2001, which provoked Rush Limbaugh to proclaim that she is a "reverse racist."...(Click for remainder.)

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