Filtered news 3/12

Leaving America for dead? Time’s Karen Tumulty comments on Halliburton’s plan to : “Is this about tax breaks? Getting beyond the reach of congressional subpoenas? And what about all that sensitive information that Halliburton has had access to? At a minimum, reincorporating in Dubai would mean that Halliburton will be paying less taxes to the U.S. Treasury, even as it collects billions from government contracts.” She also reports, “Henry Waxman is , an aide tells me.”

But of course : Former White House official says the Vice President's office was "out of control," but Scooter Libby is likely to be pardoned after 2008 election.

The wages of sin The Army was pressured by the White House to hire a Halliburton subsidiary to take over patient care at Walter Reed.

The dog ate the homework? Jose Padilla, a U.S. citizen, was detained for four years without formal charges, much of it in solitary confinement. An independent medical expert say his repeated interrogations have made him . Now, the judge in Padilla’s case has ordered the administration to turn over all tapes made of his interrogations, specifically a session from March 2004 while he was still held as an “enemy combatant.” But the administration says it .

U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke was incredulous that anything connected to such a high-profile defendant could be lost. “Do you understand how it might be difficult for me to understand that a tape related to this particular individual just got mislaid?” Cooke told prosecutors at a hearing last month.

Glenn Greenwald has .

A ugly sign of our times The criminalization of mental illness

Saying what we all know Jack Cafferty weighs in on the that outlines how the FBI was abusing the Patriot Act and severely underreporting the number of National Security Letters issued. | | "This is the kind of stuff that happens when the war on terror is used as an excuse to circumvent our civil liberties, which has become the hallmark of the Bush administration." Why I Hate Sean Hannity Reason # 593: Glenn Greenwald has much more: -15148">(Read the rest of this story…)

Friday night on , Bill Maher interviewed retired Army Major General who was the original Commander in charge of training Iraqi troops. Maher tries to get a laugh out of him but as you'll see, Eaton is a straightforward man who — if he says it, he means it. He for the majority of the failures in Iraq (including the current problems at Walter Reed), thanks God for the new Democratic majority and lays down some truth: | | "We've got this thing that so many military believe that Republican administrations are good for the military. That is rarely the case. And, we have to get a message through to every soldier, every family member, every friend of soldiers that the Republican party, the Republican dominated Congress has absolutely been the worst thing that's happened to the United States Army and the United States Marine Corps." Bush has always contended that he "", but we know that's a lie. It's obvious that he or anyone who doesn't tell him what he wants to hear. After listening to Eaton rip him and his administration to shreds, I can see why.

Greenspan authored our current pain The collapse of the home mortgage market, especially among subprime lenders who (until recently) have been eagerly offering risky variable-rate mortgages to questionable applicants, "Help me, readers, find that quote where Dr. Greenspan recommended that everyone take more risks in the mortgages they assumed."

Ask and ye shall receive.

Indeed, recent research within the Federal Reserve suggests that many homeowners might have saved tens of thousands of dollars had they held adjustable-rate mortgages rather than fixed-rate mortgages during the past decade....American consumers might benefit if lenders provided greater mortgage product alternatives to the traditional fixed-rate mortgage. To the degree that households are driven by fears of payment shocks but are willing to manage their own interest rate risks, the traditional fixed-rate mortgage may be an expensive method of financing a home.

Oops. But the bigger question is, why did Greenspan make such an odd pronouncement? It's not as if he wasn't aware of the dangers of irrationally exuberant bubbles driven by over-optimistic lending practices.

Ben Wallace-Wells provided the likely answer in in our April 2004 edition. Writing at the height of the refi boom, he put it this way: "Quite simply, Greenspan is trying to keep a wobbly and fragile recovery alive -- and using mortgage refinancing to do it." In other words, he was desperate and didn't have any other choice. Read the whole thing for a prescient look at the home mortgage market and what happens when bubble-icious financing schemes finally come crashing down. For more, check out the New York Times and the LA Times It ain't pretty. Here's an Inexplicably, a year's reflection apparently made him even more bullish on subprime lending.

Corruption watch: The courts as political weapons Paul Krugman's column today is about a Donald Shields and John Cragan, who have taken a look at the partisan breakdown of corruption investigations by the Department of Justice under George Bush. published in 2004, showed that DOJ initiated far more investigations of Democrats than Republicans, and their followup study shows that the pattern continued through 2006. However, the really interesting part came in the breakdown between local cases and national cases.

In statewide and federal cases they found a total of 66 investigations. Here's the breakdown:

  • Democrats: 36

  • Republicans: 30

This is roughly what you'd expect. Democrats are slightly overrepresented compared to their actual numbers, but only by a bit. There's nothing fishy. But the numbers for local cases paint a very different story. They found 309 investigations, broken down as follows:

  • Democrats: 262

  • Republicans: 37

  • Independents: 10

Now isn't that odd? At the local level, even though both parties make up about half of all elected officials, Democrats get hammered and Republicans are left alone.

We believe that this tremendous disparity is politically motivated and it occurs because the local (non-statewide and non-Congressional) investigations occur under the radar of a diligent national press. Each instance is treated by a local beat reporter as an isolated case that is only of local interest....[Conversely] because the investigations of state-wide and federal elected officials and candidates occurred within the radar of the national press, there was little room for nefarious, out-of-line investigations for political purposes on the part of the Bush Justice Department.

And who does these investigations? Why, U.S. Attorneys, the very group that Alberto Gonzales has been busily trying to make even more partisan. Apparently a 262-37 breakdown isn't good enough for him.

Caste system among Vets? “Veterans face serious inequities in compensation for disabilities depending on where they live and whether they were on active duty or were members of the National Guard or the Reserve, an analysis by The New York Times has found. … Those factors determine whether from the Department of Veterans Affairs as others, and collect less money, according to agency figures.”

An offer from the Godfahdah.... One of the purged prosecutors he got a call in December from the Justice Department. The message: keep quiet and the attorney general won't say anything bad about you.

A gay man living in New York writes a to the hometown paper he delivered as a boy imploring that it drop Coulter's column.

Rest assured conservatives, John McCain is no .

That's the ticket! I have to say, I really think more pro-lifers should do blog posts spelling out the between opposition to abortion rights and opposition to contraceptives generally. While I obviously disagree with the "double no" conclusion of Katherine Jean-Lopez and the Pope, I agree with them about the connectedness of these issues and I'm fairly confident that the more people who see the linkage, the less viable pro-life politics will become.

Fox Noose in pictures

You can buy anything on e-bay! Including the on which Ted Haggard cried out to Jesus, offered by Mike Jones himself. Haggard's come-uppance continues to unfold like a practical joke gleefully planned by the Gods of Karma. Blue dress ? What blue dress ? We've got a blue massage table ! Being auctioned on the internet, by Teddy-Boy's former rent-a-stud ! Not only that, Jones will autograph it upon request ! You cannot make up stuff this good.

According to Jones, the "table where it all happened" is "about 10 years old with a few tears but totaly usable." The auction listing goes on to say that proceeds will benefit Project Angel Heart, which "provides people living with HIV/AIDS, cancer and other life-threatening illnesses nutritious home-delivered meals."

That hoary myth of the hooker with a heart of gold seems truly in play here - the current bid is $950, about six times what a similar table costs new. And now that the media and have gotten hold of the story, expect the price to soar before the auction ends March 18 about 6:00 PM.

It's obvious that Jones is a shameless self-promoter, but at least he's honest about it, as well as out of the closet - two things that mark him a better human being than the former mega-church pastor he took down. Jones makes no pretense to the smarmy, false humility that Haggard exuded as his empire crashed around him.

And as long as Ted buys into the false notion that homosexuality is a shameful, chosen sin, he'll never be free of the necessity to lie about his orientation, to himself and others. Maybe he should learn from the former prostitute, and start telling the truth.

Rich bullies hiding You know the story of . What you probably don't know is that someone has picked up the tab to appeal the decision to the Wisconsin Supreme Court and when they lost that decision, to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse the decision.

While it is doubtful the court will take the case, it is possible. Who funds these appeals? Well, take a look at the help Rongstad got without wtiting a single check or even a visit to the ATM machine. Here is a list of neocon-nonprofit law firms and organizations asking the Supreme Court to take the case: the Center for Individual Freedom; The Evergreen Freedom Foundation; the Goldwater Institute; the Independence Institute; the Mackinac Center for Public Policy; the Rio Grande Foundation. I list them so you can Google them and do your own research into the rightwing legal action teams. You might also try the .

Where would Julie Lassa or anyone turn for free legal help? Go figure. She is attacked by people without the courage to explain who is funding the attack. If she or he goes to court, neocon legal teams who are funded "by donations from individuals, many of whom wish to not be publicly identified" jump into the battle. More people lacking the courage to identify themselves. Hard to engage people in debate if they run and hide. It was easier in grade school. There they could run but not hide.

Liberal Unpopularity Kevin Drum on the perennial unpopularity of self-identifying as a "liberal" no matter how popular liberal policies may or may not be. I now can't find the link, but I think one of the most telling pieces of data I ever saw on this was something that broke ideological self-identification down by race. Self-identifying as a liberal turned out to be less popular among African-Americans than it is among white Americans. This even though everyone knows that African-Americans are much more likely to vote for Democratic candidates and have more left-wing views than white people on most issues.

Rabid partisanship You know, I really don't begrudge David Broder his Hell, I'd like to see the tone in Washington ratcheted down a notch myself. But perhaps he ought to read his

Hand-wringing over extreme partisanship has become a popular cause among learned analysts. They operate from Olympian heights and strain for evenhandedness by issuing tut-tuts to all sides, Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives.

But the evidence of recent days should settle the case: This administration has operated on the basis of a hyperpartisanship not seen in decades. Worse, the destroy-the-opposition, our-team-vs.-their-team approach has infected large parts of the conservative movement and the Republican Party.

Dionne is a nice guy, so even here he understates the problem. One doesn't want to sound shrill, after all. But it's sound advice nonetheless. Unless you're willing to acknowledge what's actually happening at ground level, your writing isn't evenhanded, it's just out of touch. For more, check out from our June 2004 issue.

Attorneygate The New York Times editorial board calls for the of Alberto Gonzales. Odd. I was thinking more along the lines of prison.... Meanwhile, Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) Alberto Gonzales.

This is too funny in too many ways Bill Maher did a segment on Rudy's penchant for crossdressing | |

You tell him, Nancy. :

President Bush's Iraq policies weaken our military's readiness, dishonor our nation's promises to our veterans, and fail to hold the Iraqi government accountable for overdue reforms.

By threatening to veto the House's , the President is walking away from his promise to the American people. The President has vowed to veto a bill that contains his own reform benchmarks for performance by the Iraqi government, our Defense Department's own standards for troop readiness, and America's promise to our veterans.

With his veto threat, the President offers only an open-ended commitment to a war without end that dangerously ignores the repeated warnings of military leaders, including the commander in Iraq, General Petraeus, who declared in Baghdad this week that the conflict cannot be resolved militarily.

Ready to shed that winter weight? A suggest that if you want to lose the mostest, you might consider ketosis.

Edwards 1, Fox Noose 0 , and classy to come to Obama's defense as well:

You may have heard by now that John Edwards was the first candidate to officially say no to the Fox News debate in Nevada -- and because of the hard work of so many grassroots and netroots Democrats, news is breaking tonight that Fox is out.

Fox has already started striking backat John for saying no. (There's a surprise - Fox attacking a Democrat.) Last night, Roger Ailes - the life-long Republican operative who is now Chairman of Fox News Channel - said that any candidate "who believes he can blacklist any news organization is making a terrible mistake" and "is impeding freedom of speech and free press."

And John's not their only target. Tonight Fox News Vice President David Rhodes is telling news organizations not to get involved in the Nevada Democratic Caucus because of "radical fringe" groups - meaning grassroots Democrats (that would be you) - who objected to Fox's long history of spreading Republican propaganda at the expense of Democratic leaders.

The whole right-wing is getting in on the attack; the Drudge Report is blaring the headline: "War! Dems Pull Out of Fox News Debate."

Enough is enough. It's time to send a clear message to Fox News and their allies that their right-wing talking points and temper tantrums won't go unchallenged anymore - when it comes to what Democrats should do in the Democratic primary, we'll decide - no matter what they report:

Fox News has already proven they have no intention of providing "fair and balanced" coverage of any Democrat in this election.

In recent weeks they have run blatant lies about Senator Obama's background. And Fox was only too happy to give Ann Coulter a platform to spew more hate a few days after her bigoted attack on Senator Edwards and the gay community.

Now it's time for Democrats to stand together and send a clear message to Roger Ailes, Fox News and all the rest of them: bias isn't balance, but turning tables is fair.

The truth is, Fox News can "report" whatever they want. And when it works for us, we'll deal with them on our terms. But this campaign is about responsibility and accountability, and we need to send the message to Fox that if they want to be the corporate mouthpiece of the Republican Party more than they want to be an impartial news outlet, they shouldn't expect Democrats to play along.

You can send that message by contributing today, and remind Fox News that in this election, Democrats won't take their spin lying down:

Thank you for standing up for what we believe in.

Jonathan Prince
Deputy Campaign Manager
Edwards for President

P.S. If the folks at Fox wonder why nobody thinks they play it straight, they should take a look at what Roger Ailes said about debates in 1988 when he was a top Republican spinmaster for then Vice President Bush: He
told the Washington Post, "I don't know that we need to do more than one [debate]. There's no reason to think we'd need more than one." And he told the New York Times, "I don't think you learn anything about the
issues" from debates. So please send Roger Ailes a message: Hypocrisy isn't fair and it isn't balanced; it's just hypocrisy - and we've had enough of it from you.

Meanwhile, Atrios has the to the threats and demands Fox News is currently throwing out:

Do actual respectable "balanced" news networks issue press releases telling candidates and political parties what they are and aren't supposed to do?

But, but, but ... All Fox News and conservatives everywhere wanted was to help Democrats reach out and attract new voters! Uh..... right.

Further riffing off Atrios' point, check out the Fox News response:

“News organizations will want to think twice before getting involved in the Nevada Democratic Caucus, which appears to be controlled by radical fringe out-of-state interest groups, not the Nevada Democratic Party. In the past, has said they ‘own’ the Democratic Party. While most Democrats don’t agree with that, it’s clearly the case in Nevada.”

A supposed "fair and balanced" network uses the words "radical fringe ... interest groups" to describe mainstream Democratic grassroots groups. Would a truly unbiased outlet call MoveOn "radical fringe"? Nope, those are right-wing GOP talking points. No surprise, but it's funny how even their hissy fit betrays their radical right-wing Ann Coulter agenda.

Bush may have (*gasp*) lied to us about his escalation..shocking, I know. :

President Bush's troop buildup in Baghdad apparently will be bigger and more costly and perhaps last longer than it seemed when he unveiled the plan in January as the centerpiece of a new Iraq strategy.

U.S. officials say it's too early to tell whether the troop reinforcements will succeed in containing the sectarian and insurgent violence, but it looks as though the Pentagon is preparing for an expanded commitment assuming that by summer there are solid signs that the extra effort is yielding significant results.

The Bush plan called for sending 21,500 extra U.S. combat troops to Iraq mainly to Baghdad with the last of five brigades arriving by June. The estimated price tag was $5.6 billion. Officials have refused to say exactly how long it would last, but Defense Secretary Robert Gates had suggested that it could be over by fall.

In recent days a different picture has emerged.

calls it the new math. I've heard some grumblings that Bush is so intent on proving that his "surge" is working, that the military is underreporting incidents in Baghdad. Certainly, there has been. And far worse, now g.

Uh oh, guess whose sticky little fingers were found in another dirty pie? :

The chairman of the New Mexico Republican Party was quoted Saturday as saying he urged presidential adviser Karl Rove and one of his assistants to fire the state's U.S. attorney.

McClatchy Newspapers reported that Allen Weh said he complained in 2005 about then-U.S. Attorney David Iglesias to a White House liaison who worked for Rove, asking that he be removed, and followed up with Rove personally in late 2006 during a visit to the White House.

"Is anything ever going to happen to that guy?" Weh said he asked Rove at a White House holiday event.

"He's gone," Rove said, according to Weh.

"I probably said something close to 'Hallelujah,"' said Weh.

The GOP party leader made clear his dissatisfaction with Iglesias stemmed in part from his failure to indict Democrats in a voter fraud investigation.

Update: in the U.S. attorney firings. “The White House acknowledged on Sunday that presidential adviser Karl Rove about federal prosecutors as House investigators declared their intention to question him about any role he may have played in the firing of eight U.S. attorneys.”

Feds conspired to deny benefits The is looking into allegations that the Federal government conspired to limit benefits to ill and dying nuclear weapons workers. Some 60,000 workers referred to as "", are waiting for help from the people who were supposed to protect them. :

Federal officials secretly schemed to limit payouts for sick and dying nuclear weapons workers, including thousands from the Rocky Flats plant outside Denver, newly released documents show. The officials responsible for helping those workers went behind their boss's back, called on White House officials for help and tried to hide their efforts, according to internal e-mails and memos obtained by a congressional committee and posted on its Web site. They also wanted to get the White House to override scientific decisions granting compensation and pack the program's advisory board with members less sympathetic to workers. Labor officials say the plans were never carried out, and they deny trying to hide them.

Firefighters blast Giuliani Rudy ruffled some firefighting feathers last week when he decided to of a planned appearance at the International Association of Firefighters presidential forum. One of the nation's largest firefighting unions came out swinging, blasting Rudy for his "egregious acts" against the FDNY after 9/11. Just one more example that should shatter the . | | Lest we forget that the Bush administration to change the air quality reports at Ground Zero, resulting in widspread respiratory problems in the FDNY and NYPD. :

In a draft letter, the International Association of Fire Fighters criticize the former New York City mayor for cutting back on the number of firefighters searching the rubble of Ground Zero for the remains of other firefighters.

The letter reads in part: "Many people consider Rudy Giuliani 'America's Mayor,' and many of our members who don't yet know the real story, may also have a positive view of him. This letter is intended to make all of our members aware of the egregious acts Mayor Giuliani committed against our members, our fallen on 9/11, and our New York City union officers following that horrific day."

So what's Rudy to do? If New York City's actual firefighters don't like you -- and they don't -- but you're running for president as the hero of 9/11, what do you do? Answer: tell one of your campaign aides to invent your own group called "Firefighters for Rudy" and then tout it to the media. Will they fall for it? Is the Pope Catholic? Just to give you an idea of how real this group is, check out They, um, don't seem to have made much progress. Oddly, though, if you just type "firefightersforrudy" into your browser's address bar, it redirects you to At least, it does in Firefox.

Religious Reich shows its colors I've been following this with only half an eye, but the battle between the "old guard" evangelicals (Dobson, Weyrich, Bauer, etc.) and the younger crowd is heating up. The latest round is a letter from the dinosaurs asking the National Association of Evangelicals to fire Richard Cizik, ostensibly because he thinks we ought to do something about global warming. When you get to the end of the letter though,

Finally, Cizik's disturbing views seem to be contributing to growing confusion about the very term, "evangelical." As a recent USA Today article notes: "Evangelical was the label of choice of Christians with conservative views on politics, economics and biblical morality. Now the word may be losing its moorings, sliding toward the same linguistic demise that "fundamentalist" met decades ago because it has been misunderstood, misappropriated and maligned." We believe some of that misunderstanding about evangelicalism and its "conservative views on politics, economics and biblical morality" can be laid at Richard Cizik's door.

Well, that's clear enough, isn't it? It's not just that they want to stay focused on abortion and gay marriage, the Dobson crowd's usual hot buttons. Their agenda is far broader: they want to make sure that evangelical Christians stay closely aligned with conservative views on "politics [and] economics." In other words (say it quietly, since the IRS is listening) Republican Party views. Opening up the evangelical agenda to topics such as citizenship for illegal immigrants, universal healthcare, and caps on carbon emissions

The best-known champion of such causes, the Rev. Jim Wallis, this week challenged conservative crusader James C. Dobson, the chairman of Focus on the Family, to a debate on evangelical priorities. "Are the only really 'great moral issues' those concerning abortion, gay marriage and the teaching of sexual abstinence?" Wallis asked in his challenge. "How about the reality of 3 billion of God's children living on less than $2 per day? ... What about pandemics like HIV/AIDS ... [and] disastrous wars like Iraq?"

Anyway, I don't have any special comment here. Just thought I'd let everyone know that there are cracks in the evangelical movement's longtime role as a bought-and-paid-for subsidiary of the Republican Party, and those cracks are getting bigger. The old guys don't like it much, but time may not be on their side.

Any science post that starts out has my mouth watering:

If pubic lice are not the sort of thing you want to be seen reading about, let me give you the opportunity to close your browser window right now. But if you're at all curious about the secret that pubic lice have been keeping for over three million years, the tale of a mysterious liaison between our ancestors and the ancestors of gorillas--read on.

The fox designing the henhouse David Cay Johnston reports today that the IRS is outsourcing its writing of tax rules to the very lawyers and accountants who

John D. Graham, the official appointed by President Bush to streamline the federal rule-making process and give private interests a greater voice, said even he was surprised by the I.R.S. plan.

"Whoever's pen the first draft comes out of has a big advantage," said Dr. Graham, who ran the Office of Regulatory and Information Affairs for the White House before becoming dean last week of the graduate school at RAND, the nonprofit research organization. ....A single word, sometimes one letter, can change the meaning of a rule: "must" or "may"; "and" versus "or"; "could" or "would." ....In recent years there has been a quickening pace of moves to outsource the actual work of regulation, hiring contractors to write the rules. Now the I.R.S. is proposing that outside experts do it at no charge, opening up the possibility that some firms providing the draft would be working on behalf of an individual, business or association seeking to plant a favorable nuance in a rule.

What an outrageous thing to say. I'm sure all these guys are doing this work for free merely out of a sense of pro bono altruism and a desire to make sure our tax rules are clear and consistent. I really don't know where Johnston gets off implying that they might be trying to plant "favorable nuances" that they can later take advantage of. Riiiiiiight.....?

Anyway, the IRS says this is just a pilot project limited to "technical and noncontroversial issues." So I'm sure there's nothing to worry about. And certainly no reason for the Democratic Congress to restore cuts in IRS staffing so that they can once again write their own rules and audit the rich with the same zeal they audit the working poor. Why, that would be tantamount to class warfare, wouldn't it?

On Tuesday, President Bush gave a speech claiming the Iraq escalation is showing “” of progress. But in today’s Washington Post, a senior Bush administration official acknowledges that “” showing the escalation is working.

Moreover, officials say the information Bush presented to back up his rosy claims was skewed or flat-out false. A fact check:

President Bush: “General Petraeus recently arrived in the Iraqi capital, and the plan he is executing is in its early stages. … Yet even at this early hour, there are some encouraging signs.”

FACT: “Sectarian attacks in Baghdad are down at the moment, but the deaths of Iraqi civilians and U.S. troops have . … If violence is down in Baghdad, analysts said, it is likely because the Shiite militias operating there are waiting out the buildup in U.S. troops, nearly all of whom are being deployed in the capital. At the same time, Sunni insurgents have escalated their operations elsewhere.”

President Bush: “Iraq’s Council of Ministers recently agreed on legislation they will submit to their parliament on the development of Iraq’s oil resources and the sharing of revenues.”

FACT: “Though Iraqi leaders have agreed on a new framework law for oil resources, the details of how the oil revenue will be divided among competing Iraqi groups .”

President Bush: “The Iraqi government has completed the deployment of three additional Iraqi Army brigades to the capital. They said they were going to employ three brigades, and they did.”

FACT: “A senior U.S. military official in Baghdad said this week that have arrived in Baghdad.”

President Bush: “Iraqi and U.S. forces have rounded up more than 700 people affiliated with Shia extremists.”

FACT: “Bush’s report…appears to . The number is ‘based on captures…since July 2006,’ the military official said. Bush first reported the same roundup — citing 600 captures — last fall.”

On the same day President Bush gave his speech last week, suicide bombers and gunmen attacked Shiite religious pilgrims, “killing at least 130 people in .”


March 12, 2007 - 9:25am