Friday, June 30, 2006

U.S. Newswire: Is Era of Right-Wing Site Popularity Over?

WASHINGTON -- An odd thing seems to have happened to the mighty right-wing talking head juggernaut. They are still talking, but fewer people seem to be listening -- at least on the Internet. -- -- which is owned and operated by, tracks on-line usage for all Web sites, large and small. At, you can check a site's activity up to the minute, or follow its trail back for many years.

A U.S. Politics Today, we thought it might be interesting to see how the right-wing media machine was doing. Not well, it turns out.

During the past three months, for instance, traffic has declined 18 percent. He still huffs and puffs away on the radio, but advertisers might want to double check the size of his audience. If the bottom has dropped out on him online, it likely has had a similar trend line with his radio show.Even Fox News, that gold standard of right-wing media, is down 13 percent.

Here are the numbers:

(More: Ann Coulter's site down 10%, Bill O'Reilly's down 40% in three months, down 24%,Washing Times web site down 27%, and poor old Matt Drudge's site down 21%.)

Fox's Kendall adopted misleading Bush administration talking point on signing statements

Fox News' Megyn Kendall adopted the Bush administration's misleading defense of its controversial and frequent use of "signing statements" to challenge newly passed laws -- that throughout history, "presidents have often issued signing statements when they sign a bill into law." But Kendall failed to mention that Bush has, in his signing statements, challenged more individual statutes than all other previous presidents combined, and Bush has far more frequently used signing statements "to waive his obligation to follow" even clear provisions in the law he just signed. Read more

Fox and Friends co-host Kilmeade advocates "Office of Censorship" in wake of NY Times banking surveillance story

On June 29, several Fox News media figures suggested that the U.S. government should "put up the Office of Censorship" to screen news reports to determine whether they "hurt the country" or are of "news value," in the wake of a New York Times article disclosing a Treasury Department program designed to monitor international financial transactions. Read more

Several conservative media figures have issued corrections for reporting Murtha misquote; what about all the others?

After attacking Rep. John P. Murtha over a statement by him that was misreported and subsequently corrected by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, some conservative media figures have not issued corrections for their repetition of the error. Read more

O'Reilly falsely claimed he's only "called for one boycott ... and that's been France"

Explaining his decision not to call for a boycott of The New York Times, Bill O'Reilly falsely claimed that "I've called for one boycott in my 10 years on the air, and that's been France." Just one week earlier on his radio show, O'Reilly called for boycotts of a number of other organizations of which he has been critical, including The New York Times. Read more

Olbermann named Beck third "Worst Person" for Nazi/NY Times comparison; Bozell took top honor for touting debunked WMD discovery

On Countdown, Keith Olbermann honored Brent Bozell and Glenn Beck with first and third-place honors, respectively, in his nightly "Worst Person" award segment: Bozell for repeating the Republican assertion that a recently declassified report found there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq prior to the U.S.-led invasion, and Beck for comparing The New York Times' report on a Treasury Department program designed to track terrorists' international financial transactions to condoning the genocide committed by the Nazis during the Holocaust. Read more

Frequent MSNBC guest Melanie Morgan: If NYT's Keller convicted of treason, "I would have no problem with him being sent to the gas chamber"

If New York Times executive editor Bill Keller "were to be tried and convicted of treason" for the publication of an article about a Treasury Department program designed to monitor international financial transactions for terrorist activity, radio talk show host Melanie Morgan said that she "would have no problem with him being sent to the gas chamber," according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Read more

US investigates new Iraq killings


The US military has opened a criminal investigation into the alleged killing of an Iraqi family in their home by US soldiers, the US military says.
The investigation began on Saturday and follows an initial military inquiry.

An unnamed official told AP news agency one of the four victims, a woman, was raped before being killed, and that five soldiers were under investigation.

The probe is the latest in a series of inquiries into alleged abuse of Iraqis by US troops.

The US Army's Criminal Investigation Command was asked to look into the incident, which took place in the area of Mahmudiya, south of Baghdad, after a preliminary military inquiry found reason to open a criminal probe, the military said.

A Victory for the Rule of Law

NYT Editorial

The Supreme Court's decision striking down the military tribunals set up to try the detainees being held in Guantánamo Bay is far more than a narrow ruling on the issue of military courts. It is an important and welcome reaffirmation that even in times of war, the law is what the Constitution, the statute books and the Geneva Conventions say it is — not what the president wants it to be.

Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a Yemeni being held in Guantánamo, has been charged with conspiring to help Al Qaeda. The Bush administration has contended that he and the other prisoners there are not covered either by Congressional laws governing military trials or by the Geneva Conventions on treatment of prisoners of war. Instead, Mr. Hamdan was put on trial before a military tribunal where defendants can be excluded from the proceedings and convicted based on evidence kept secret from them and their lawyers. Prosecutors can also rely on hearsay, coerced testimony and unsworn statements.

The Supreme Court held that these rules violate the standards Congress set in the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which requires tribunals to offer the same protections, whenever practicable, as other military trials. It also ruled that the tribunals fall short of the kind of trial required by the Geneva Conventions. It rejected the administration's claim that these venerable international standards cannot be invoked in an American court.

The Bush administration could go to Congress and ask for a special law that allowed it to create a unique system of justice for Guantánamo detainees. That is an argument for another day. The message of this ruling is that the executive branch cannot continue in its remarkable insistence that because there is a war on terror, it no longer needs to follow established procedures that would subject it to scrutiny by another branch of government. The justices rejected the administration's constant refrain — made in everything from its "enemy combatant" policies to its defense of the National Security Agency's domestic spying — that the authority Congress granted the president to use force after Sept. 11, the exigencies of wartime, or simply the inherent powers of the presidency allow President Bush to trample on existing laws as he sees fit.

The key to the decision was the court's swing justice, Anthony Kennedy. He provided the fifth vote for the majority, and wrote a separate opinion that eloquently distilled the key principles: that "respect for laws" duly passed by Congress and signed into law by the president is particularly necessary in times of crisis, and that "the Constitution is best preserved by reliance on standards tested over time and insulated from the pressures of the moment."

This is the latest in a series of rebukes to the Bush administration. The court has already rejected its claim that the Guantánamo detainees have no right to be heard in American courts, and that an American citizen designated an enemy combatant can be held indefinitely without being brought before a judge.

The current conservative court is not hostile to law enforcement or presidential power. But it is proving to be admirably protective of individual freedom and the rule of law. Rather than continue having his policies struck down, President Bush should find a way to prosecute the war on terror within the bounds of the law.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Former Bush aide in talks with prosecutors over theft charges

ROCKVILLE, Md. (AP) Former White House adviser Claude Allen is negotiating with prosecutors in hopes of avoiding a trial on theft charges, according to his attorney.

Allen was to go on trial Friday for allegedly trying to make fraudulent returns worth at least $5,000 at Target and other stores.

But Montgomery County prosecutors and Allen's attorneys have agreed to postpone the trial while negotiations continue, according to Allen lawyer Gregory Craig. He would not elaborate on the talks.

Allen, 45, was one of President Bush's top domestic policy advisers in a $161,000-a-year job until he resigned in February, a month after he was arrested at a Target store in Gaithersburg.

Stephen Colbert: Superman Is “A Pretend Journalist...Like Brit Hume”...

Colbert On 'NYT' Controversy: Superman to the Rescue?

NEW YORK It was only a matter of time, after so many other lesser pundits had spoken, that Stephen Colbert of Comedy Central's "Colbert Report" would weigh in on the current controversy surrounding The New York Times publishing its scoop on the secret banking records surveillance.

On Wednesday night's show, Colbert suggested that the Times could learn a thing or two from Superman (now appearing in yet another movie sequel) about keeping a secret.

Superman, he said, went so far as to hide his identity "by disguising himself as the farthest thing from a hero -- a newspaper reporter." He could have broken the story of his own identity at any time, won headlines and maybe a Pulitzer, but no, he wanted to save his friends Jimmy and Lois from the terror of Lex Luthor.

So Superman, Colbert added, courageously continued to be "a pretend journalist"-- with a title card on the screen next to Colbert commenting "like Brit Hume."

Earlier, Colbert had said the Times was wrong in opposing the "temporary" restrictions on liberties in the "neverending" war on terror. He also showed a clip of Hume on Fox News declaring that even if the Times could reveal secret programs that doesn't mean it "should." He offered as another example showing pictures of naked female breasts.

US surprised at reports Romania wants to leave Iraq

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The United States said it was surprised by reports that Romania planned to withdraw its troops from Iraq, and said it would ask for clarification.

State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli said Washington had not been informed of any plans to pull out the 890-strong Romanian force, which he said had performed ably and courageously.

Earlier, Romanian Prime Minister Calin Tariceanu had said he would ask Romania's Supreme Defence Council (CSAT) to withdraw the soldiers because of the human and financial cost of staying in Iraq.

Adding to the confusion, amid signs of political dischord in Romania, the pro-US President Traian Basescu said later there must be a proper national debate before withdrawing the troops.

"These latest reports from Romania are, frankly, a surprise," Ereli told reporters.

"We hadn't been informed about them. They're certainly not consistent with what we've heard from senior Romanian leadership, and I think we'll be looking for clarification."

Conservatives claimed NY Times alerted terrorists, ignored Bush administration's prior promotion of its bank-tracking efforts

Numerous conservative commentators joined the Bush administration in arguing that, in detailing a secret Treasury Department program designed to monitor terrorists' international financial transactions, a June 23 New York Times article tipped off terrorists to the U.S. government's ability to track their financial activities -- some going so far as to accuse the newspaper of treason. But the Times report was hardly the first indication of U.S. efforts to monitor terrorists' financial transactions: President Bush himself repeatedly touted the government's capability to track and shut down terrorists' international financial networks. Read more

O'Reilly: "Palm Beach authorities" are "trying to ruin Rush Limbaugh"

Fox News host Bill O'Reilly claimed that U.S. Customs agents and Palm Beach County sheriffs were engaged in "political persecution" of radio host Rush Limbaugh, who was detained at the Palm Beach, Florida, international airport for possessing a bottle of Viagra that was reportedly not prescribed to him. O'Reilly stated that he "believe[d] powerful people in" Limbaugh's "home county are trying to unjustly harm him," asserting repeatedly that Limbaugh engaged in "no wrongdoing" Read more

O'Reilly attributed MSNBC's ratings drop to "karma" and "bad guys [getting] theirs," ignored sinking ratings for Fox News programs, including his own

Bill O'Reilly attributed Gary Krantz's recent move to step down as president of Air America Radio and Rick Kaplan's decision to leave MSNBC to "karma" and "two bad guys [getting] theirs," saying, "Do bad things, you'll get yours eventually. Do good things, you'll get rewarded." Read more

Bob Herbert: Fighting Terror

After all the sound and fury of the past few years, how is the U.S. doing in its fight against terrorism?

Not too well, according to a recent survey of more than 100 highly respected foreign policy and national security experts.

The survey, dubbed the "Terrorism Index," was conducted by the Center for American Progress and Foreign Policy magazine. The respondents included Republicans and Democrats, moderates, liberals and conservatives.

The survey's findings were striking. A strong, bipartisan consensus emerged on two crucial points: 84 percent of the respondents said the United States was not winning the war on terror, and 86 percent said the world was becoming more — not less — dangerous for Americans.

The sound and fury since Sept. 11, 2001 — the chest-thumping and muscle-flexing, the freedom fries, the Patriot Act, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the breathtaking expansion of presidential power, Guantánamo, rendition, the expenditure of hundreds of billions of dollars — seems to have signified very little.

An article on the survey, in the July/August edition of Foreign Policy, said of the respondents, "They see a national security apparatus in disrepair and a government that is failing to protect the public from the next attack." More than 8 in 10 of the respondents said they believed an attack in the U.S. on the scale of Sept. 11 was likely within the next five years.

Many of the respondents played important national security roles in the government over the past few decades.

They included Lawrence Eagleburger, who served as secretary of state under George H. W. Bush; Anthony Lake, a national security adviser to Bill Clinton; James Woolsey, a former director of the Central Intelligence Agency; Richard Clarke, who served as counterterrorism czar in the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations and was in that post on Sept. 11th; and Lawrence Korb, an assistant secretary of defense under Ronald Reagan.

Noted academics and writers who specialized in foreign policy and national security matters also participated in the survey.

"Respondents," according to a report that accompanied the survey, "sharply criticized U.S. efforts in a number of key areas of national security, including public diplomacy, intelligence and homeland security. Nearly all of the departments and agencies responsible for fighting the war on terror received poor marks.

"The experts also said that recent reforms of the national security apparatus have done little to make Americans safer.

Asked about recent efforts to reform America's intelligence community, for instance, more than half of the index's experts said that creating the office of the director of national intelligence has had no positive impact in the war against terror."

The respondents seemed, essentially, to be saying that the U.S. needs to be smarter (less like a bull in a china shop) in its efforts to combat terrorism.

"Foreign policy experts have never been in so much agreement about an administration's performance abroad," said Leslie Gelb, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations and a participant in the survey.

"The reason is that it's clear to nearly all that Bush and his team have had a totally unrealistic view of what they can accomplish with military force and threats of force."

The respondents stressed the importance of ending America's dependence on foreign oil, saying that could prove to be "the single most pressing priority in winning the war on terror."

Eighty-two percent of the respondents said that ending the dependence on foreign oil should have a higher priority, and nearly two-thirds said the country's current energy policies were making matters worse, not better.

"We borrow a billion dollars every working day to import oil, an increasing share of it coming from the Middle East," said Mr. Woolsey, the former C.I.A. director.

The respondents also said it was crucially important for the U.S. to engage in a battle of ideas as part of a sustained effort to bring about a rejection of radical ideologies in the Islamic world. That kind of battle requires more of a reliance on diplomacy and other nonmilitary tools.

If the respondents to this survey are correct, the U.S. needs to be moving in an entirely different direction.

The war against terror cannot be won by bombing the enemy into submission. The bull in the china shop may be frightening at first, but after a while it's just enraging. We need a better, smarter way.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006


There he goes again. The Leaker in Chief shooting his mouth off and compromising a national security asset in order to win domestic political advantage. Remember when U.S. military forces whacked the terrorist Zarqawi? Well, the President, eager to burnish his image with the American people, rushed to the microphones where he spilled Top Secret beans by identifying the head of the top secret terrorist unit at Fort Bragg. According to a recent article in Newsweek:

*** No one would have mentioned his name at all if President George W. Bush hadn't singled him out in public. Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, West Point '76, is not someone the Army likes to talk about. He isn't even listed in the directory at Fort Bragg, N.C., his home base. That's not because McChrystal has done anything wrong—quite the contrary, he's one of the Army's rising stars—but because he runs the most secretive force in the U.S. military. That is the Joint Special Operations Command, the snake-eating, slit-their-throats "black ops" guys who captured Saddam Hussein and targeted Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi. . . .

After the Zarqawi strike, multinational forces spokesman Gen. Bill Caldwell refused to comment on JSOC's role, saying, "We don't talk about when special operating forces are involved." But when Bush revealed to reporters that it was McChrystal's Special Ops teams that had found Zarqawi, Caldwell had to gulp and say (to laughter), "If the president of the United States said it was, then I'm sure it was." ***


A Loss for Competitive Elections

NYT Editorial

The Supreme Court, in a badly fractured decision yesterday, largely upheld Tom DeLay's gerrymandering of the Texas Congressional districts. Instead of standing up for a fair electoral landscape, the court produced a ruling that did little to ensure the vibrancy of American democracy, and that itself had an unfortunate whiff of partisanship.

Given the strong negative feelings that voters have about Congress — in a recent Times poll, just 23 percent of those surveyed approved of the job lawmakers were doing — it is startling how few races are expected to be competitive this fall. This is largely because of increasingly sophisticated partisan gerrymandering that uses high-powered computers to draw lines that in many cases make voters all but irrelevant.

Texas' 2003 redistricting was an extreme case. Mr. DeLay, who was then the House majority leader, led a fierce and successful campaign to capture Texas' Legislature for the Republicans. (He is facing criminal charges of using illegal corporate campaign contributions to do it.) Then, even though Texas had already redistricted after the 2000 census, the Legislature took the rare step of redistricting again. The new lines were drawn in such a partisan way that Republicans ended up with nearly two-thirds of the state's Congressional delegation.

The Supreme Court has indicated in the past that gerrymandering can be so egregious that it violates the Constitution's equal protection clause. But the court has never set out a test to determine what constitutes such a violation, and it failed to do so again yesterday. The court has proved itself capable of thinking up elaborate tests when it wants to — it has made up standards virtually out of whole cloth, for example, to decide when Congress has infringed on states' rights. It is disappointing that the court is not as resourceful when it comes to protecting voters' rights. The court rightly struck down one Congressional district yesterday, citing the Voting Rights Act, but that did not begin to address the serious problems with the 2003 redistricting.

In this post-Bush-vs.-Gore era, the court's critics will note that it again split on partisan lines, with the most conservative justices most approving of the Texas lines. That was also true in a 2004 case in which it upheld, by a 5-to-4 vote, a pro-Republican redistricting in Pennsylvania. But that same year the court, disturbingly, affirmed a lower court's ruling striking down a pro-Democratic redistricting in Georgia as unconstitutional. It is disappointing that it could not have come up with a decision yesterday that had a greater appearance of fairness.

Evangelical leaders meet to HASTEN END OF THE WORLD

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

By Louis Sahagun

Los Angeles Times

For thousands of years, prophets have predicted the end of the world. Today, various religious groups, using the latest technology, are trying to hasten it.

Their end game is to speed the promised arrival of a messiah.

For some Christians, this means laying the groundwork for Armageddon.

With that goal in mind, mega-church pastors recently met in Inglewood, Calif., to polish strategies for using global communications and aircraft to transport missionaries to fulfill the Great Commission — to make every person on Earth aware of Jesus' message.

Doing so, they believe, will bring about the end, perhaps within two decades....


HAHAHAHA...... Rep. Curt Weldon (R-PA) planned a personal WMD hunt in Iraq

Rep. Curt Weldon (R-PA) planned a personal WMD hunt in Iraq with Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-MI). The “congressmen planned to persuade the U.S. military commander to lend them the equipment and men to go digging by the Euphrates” for a cache of WMD believed to be there.


Culture of Corruption: Another Abramoff Associate to Plead Guilty

Legal Times

Roger Stillwell, the desk officer for the Mariana Islands at the U.S. Department of the Interior who dealt closely with disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, is expected to plead guilty to a misdemeanor count of false certification, his attorney confirmed Wednesday.

Department of Justice officials charged Stillwell, 65, with filing a financial-disclosure report for fiscal year 2003 that “falsely certified that he did not receive reportable gifts from a prohibited source,” according to a document filed June 27 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

The charges against Stillwell are the first connected to the Abramoff scandal to touch the Interior Department, and they mark an expansion of the government’s ongoing investigation into public corruption involving the convicted lobbyist. So far five people — Abramoff and former associates Michael Scanlon, Tony Rudy, Neil Volz, and Adam Kidan — have pleaded guilty. Earlier this month, David Safavian, the former top procurement officer at the Office of Management and Budget, was convicted on four charges of making false statements and obstructing justice stemming from his dealings with Abramoff.

Culture of Corruption: 4 Plead No Contest in Ohio Ethics Case


In a scandal that has shaken the state's Republican-dominated government, four Ohio politicians pleaded no contest Wednesday to ethics violations.

Lucas County Commissioner Maggie Thurber, Toledo City Councilwoman Betty Shultz, former Toledo Mayor Donna Owens and former state Rep. Sally Perz were fined $1,000 each on misdemeanor charges of failing to report gifts worth more than $75.

They were accused of receiving money from prominent GOP donor Tom Noe, then contributing it to President Bush's re-election campaign in their own names in an alleged scheme by Noe to skirt laws limiting individual contributions to $2,000.

The four bring to 14 the number of people charged in the scandal centered on Noe, who was hired by the Ohio Workers' Compensation Bureau to manage a $50 million investment in rare coins.

GOP Planning a New Floor Stunt Tomorrow

CNN’s Ed Henry reporting on GOP vs NYT. Don’t these people ever deviate from the script Mr. Rove sends ‘em? No mention at all of the public mentions/domain of SWIFT long before the NYT article. Where’s the context????


House Republicans plan to take to the floor tomorrow to excoriate the New York Times and other newspapers who recently reported on the government's monitoring of international financial transactions, part of the Bush Administration's approach to the war on terror. Republican members of no fewer than five House committees are currently drafting a "sense of the Congress" resolution, which will be non-binding but which will provide them with the opportunity to formally "condemn" both the reporting of what many on the Hill consider to be vital national security secrets, as well as the leakers themselves, according to a top House Republican speaking on background.

Paper Retracts Report that Murtha Called U.S. the Greatest Threat to World Peace

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel has retracted its false report that Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) called the United States the greatest threat to world peace:

Correction: An article in Sunday’s editions misinterpreted a comment from U.S. Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., at a town hall meeting in North Miami on Saturday. In his speech, Murtha said U.S. credibility was suffering because of continued U.S. military presence in Iraq ,and the perception that the U.S. is an occupying force. Murtha was citing a recent poll, by the Pew Global Attitudes Project, that indicates a greater percentage of people in 10 of 14 foreign countries consider the U.S. in Iraq a greater danger to world peace than any threats posed by Iran or North Korea.

The purported quote was seized upon by right-wing pundits, who claimed that Murtha had put “all Americans in danger” and was “in the thrall” of anti-American activists......


Sensenbrenner Breaks House Rules-Closes Meeting After Losing Vote


Chairman of the House Judiciary Committe F. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) has broken House rules to adjourn a meeting after losing a vote to Democrats, Democratic sources tell RAW STORY.

The vote was on an item from the Republican's "American Values Agenda," which the party says will codify "the American character." Specifically, it aims to bar any court--including the United States Supreme Court--from hearing any legal challenge to the pledge of allegiance.

Sensenbrenner, according to sources, hopes to roll back the vote when the committee reconvenes this afternoon. Democrats on the committee, save ranking member John Conyers (D-MI) planned a boycott.

Deal for Cybersecurity Chief Questioned

WASHINGTON - The Bush administration's cybersecurity chief is being paid $577,000 under a two-year agreement with the university that employs him and also does extensive business with the federal office he manages.

Donald "Andy" Purdy Jr. has been acting director of the Homeland Security Department's National Cyber Security Division for 21 months. His contract, which has drawn attention from members of Congress, is paying him more than the $175,000 annual salary that Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff earns.

Purdy is employed by Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, which has loaned him to the Homeland Security Department in exchange for the government paying nearly all of his salary. Meanwhile, Purdy's cybersecurity division has paid Carnegie Mellon $19 million in contracts this year, almost one-fifth the unit's total budget.

Purdy said he has not been involved in discussions over his office's business deals with the school.

Some lawmakers who oversee the Homeland Security Department questioned the decision to hire Purdy as acting cybersecurity director. They noted enduring criticism by industry experts and congressional investigators over the department's performance on cybersecurity matters.

Purdy's contract "raises questions about whether the American people are getting their money's worth," Democratic Reps. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi and Loretta Sanchez and Zoe Lofgren, both of California, wrote in a letter to Republicans.

Purdy, a longtime attorney who has held a number of state and federal legal and managerial jobs, has no formal, technical background in computer security.

Iraq insurgents want U.S. out within 2 years

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Insurgents are demanding the withdrawal of all U.S. and British forces from Iraq within two years as a condition for joining reconciliation talks, a senior Iraqi government official said Wednesday.


Iraqi government officials involved with the contacts with insurgents told The Associated Press that several militant groups sent delegates from their regions and tribes to speak on their behalf.

The official said the insurgents have demanded a two-year "timetable for withdrawal" in return for joining Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki‘s bid for national reconciliation.


Key Iraqi lawmakers have said that seven insurgent groups — not including al-Qaida or Islamic terror groups but mostly made up of former members or backers of Saddam Hussein ‘s ousted regime — had offered the government a conditional truce.

Economic Record: Federal minimum wage set to break two records

Economic Report:

The federal minimum wage is gearing up to celebrate two new records. According to the Economic Policy Institute the minimum wage when adjusted for inflation is at its lowest level since 1955. The wage now stands 31 percent of the average hourly wage of nonsupervisory workers and has lost 25 percent of its value since 1997. With Congress voting down an increase last week, it looks like another record will be set when 2006 comes to an end - it will mark 10 years - the longest time the minimum has gone without an increase.

O'Reilly continued to discuss benefits of Saddam's methods: "If we wage the war the way Saddam handled Iraq, then we would have already won"

On the June 27 edition of his nationally syndicated radio show, Fox News host Bill O'Reilly continued to suggest that using former dictator Saddam Hussein's methods would be an effective way to run Iraq: "If we wage the war the way Saddam handled Iraq, then we would have already won." Specifically, O'Reilly mentioned "martial law, torture, murder, kicking in doors" as tactics employed by Saddam. O'Reilly continued: "[W]e could do it. But as soon as you look at one of these guys cross-eyed, the ACLU's [American Civil Liberties Union] got you sued." Read more

US Rep. Katherine Harris needs to sell whatever it is she's taking .... best drugs ever.

EAST PALATKA -- U.S. Rep. Katherine Harris said she is getting support in strange places in her fall bid for the U.S. Senate.

Harris, the Republican who represents Florida’s 13th District, spoke at a Lincoln Day dinner held by the Putnam County Republican Executive Committee on Saturday night, saying House Democrats have told her they want her to beat incumbent Democrat Sen. Bill Nelson in their race for the U.S. Senate this November.

“I’ve had Democrats in the House of Representatives come to me and say ‘You know, we’d really like to take the majority in the U.S. Senate’ — these are Florida Democrats in the U.S. Congress — ‘but you’ll do so much more for us if you’re there. We hope you win,’” Harris told a crowd gathered at the Putnam County Shrine Club.

US military admits killing "non-combatant" in Iraq

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - The U.S. military, in the spotlight over murder charges against its troops accused of killing Iraqis, said it had killed a "non-combatant" during a raid in which an al Qaeda militant was detained on Wednesday.

A statement said U.S.-led forces killed the civilian near the violence-racked city of Baquba, 65 km (40 miles) northeast of Baghdad, as troops were securing the house of the alleged militant.

"While securing the initial target, Coalition forces noticed an individual acting suspiciously at a nearby house. They assessed him as an imminent threat, engaged and killed him. He was later determined to be a non-combatant," it said.

The statement was unusual in drawing attention to the incident. For three years since the U.S. invasion, Iraqis have often complained of civilians being killed by U.S. troops and said those complaints were rarely investigated thoroughly.

Court Nixes Part of Texas Political Map


WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld most of the Texas congressional map engineered by former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay but threw out part, saying some of the new boundaries failed to protect minority voting rights.

The fractured decision was a small victory for Democratic and minority groups who accused Republicans of an unconstitutional power grab in drawing boundaries that booted four Democratic incumbents out of office.

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, writing for the majority, said Hispanics do not have a chance to elect a candidate of their choosing under the plan.

Republicans picked up six Texas congressional seats two years ago, and the court's ruling does not seriously threaten those gains. Lawmakers, however, will have to adjust boundary lines to address the court's concerns.

GOP Texas Political Adviser Convicted of Abuse

EDINBURG, Texas - A political consultant whose company was behind a television ad accusing the Clinton-Gore administration of giving away nuclear technology was convicted of child molestation charges.

A jury deliberated almost two days before convicting Carey Lee Cramer, 44, of aggravated sexual assault of a child, two counts of indecency with a child by contact and one count of indecency with a child by exposure. He was cleared of nine other charges Tuesday.

The sentencing phase of the trial was scheduled to begin Wednesday. Cramer faces up to 149 years in prison.

Cramer, who now lives in Tucson, Ariz., gained national attention during the 2000 presidential election when his company created the ad that accused the administration of giving nuclear technology to China in exchange for campaign contributions.

The spot was modeled after the infamous 1964 "Daisy" nuclear scare commercial and was pulled after a barrage of Democratic criticism.

Cramer, who had been free on bond since his 2005 arrest, was taken into custody on a $4 million appeal bond after the verdict,

Putin orders forces to destroy hostage killers


MOSCOW - President Valdimir Putin has ordered Russian special services to hunt down the killers of four Russian hostages in Iraq, news agencies reported Wednesday.

“The president has ordered the special forces to take all necessary measures to find and destroy the criminals who killed Russian diplomats in Iraq,” news agencies said, citing the Kremlin press service.

The order follows Monday’s confirmation by the Foreign Ministry that four Russians working at the embassy in Iraq had been killed; they were seized in early .

No amnesty for killers of U.S. troops - Iraqi PM

BAGHDAD, June 28 (Reuters) - Insurgents who have killed U.S. troops in Iraq would not be pardoned under the Iraqi government's amnesty plan, American newspapers quoted Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki as saying on Wednesday.

On Sunday, Maliki, a Shi'ite who has pledged to ease violence gripping Iraq, unveiled a "national reconciliation" that included an amnesty for insurgents "who did not take part in criminal and terrorist acts and war crimes".

"The amnesty doesn't include those who have killed Iraqis or even coalition forces because those soldiers came to Iraq under international agreements to help Iraq," Maliki said in an interview with a group of newspapers that included The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post.

The announcement of the vaguely worded plan prompted a bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers to condemn any move that would pardon insurgents who had attacked U.S. soldiers. More than 2,500 American soldiers have died in Iraq since the 2003 invasion.

Maliki has said the plan is aimed at bringing Sunni Arab insurgents into the political process.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Patriotism and the Press

NYT Editorial

Over the last year, The New York Times has twice published reports about secret antiterrorism programs being run by the Bush administration. Both times, critics have claimed that the paper was being unpatriotic or even aiding the terrorists. Some have even suggested that it should be indicted under the Espionage Act. There have been a handful of times in American history when the government has indeed tried to prosecute journalists for publishing things it preferred to keep quiet. None of them turned out well — from the Sedition Act of 1798 to the time when the government tried to enjoin The Times and The Washington Post from publishing the Pentagon Papers.

As most of our readers know, there is a large wall between the news and opinion operations of this paper, and we were not part of the news side's debates about whether to publish the latest story under contention — a report about how the government tracks international financial transfers through a banking consortium known as Swift in an effort to pinpoint terrorists. Bill Keller, the executive editor, spoke for the newsroom very clearly. Our own judgments about the uproar that has ensued would be no different if the other papers that published the story, including The Los Angeles Times and The Wall Street Journal, had acted alone.

The Swift story bears no resemblance to security breaches, like disclosure of troop locations, that would clearly compromise the immediate safety of specific individuals. Terrorist groups would have had to be fairly credulous not to suspect that they would be subject to scrutiny if they moved money around through international wire transfers. In fact, a United Nations group set up to monitor Al Qaeda and the Taliban after Sept. 11 recommended in 2002 that other countries should follow the United States' lead in monitoring suspicious transactions handled by Swift. The report is public and available on the United Nations Web site.

But any argument by the government that a story is too dangerous to publish has to be taken seriously. There have been times in this paper's history when editors have decided not to print something they knew. In some cases, like the Kennedy administration's plans for the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion, it seems in hindsight that the editors were over-cautious. (Certainly President Kennedy thought so.) Most recently, The Times held its reporting about the government's secret antiterror wiretapping program for more than a year while it weighed administration objections.

Our news colleagues work under the assumption that they should let the people know anything important that the reporters learn, unless there is some grave and overriding reason for withholding the information. They try hard not to base those decisions on political calculations, like whether a story would help or hurt the administration. It is certainly unlikely that anyone who wanted to hurt the Bush administration politically would try to do so by writing about the government's extensive efforts to make it difficult for terrorists to wire large sums of money.

From our side of the news-opinion wall, the Swift story looks like part of an alarming pattern. Ever since Sept. 11, the Bush administration has taken the necessity of heightened vigilance against terrorism and turned it into a rationale for an extraordinarily powerful executive branch, exempt from the normal checks and balances of our system of government. It has created powerful new tools of surveillance and refused, almost as a matter of principle, to use normal procedures that would acknowledge that either Congress or the courts have an oversight role.

The Swift program, like the wiretapping program, has been under way for years with no restrictions except those that the executive branch chooses to impose on itself — or, in the case of Swift, that the banks themselves are able to demand. This seems to us very much the sort of thing the other branches of government, and the public, should be nervously aware of. We would have been very happy if Congressman Peter King, the Long Island Republican who has been so vocal in citing the Espionage Act, had been as aggressive in encouraging his colleagues to do the oversight job they were elected to do.

The United States will soon be marking the fifth anniversary of the war on terror. The country is in this for the long haul, and the fight has to be coupled with a commitment to individual liberties that define America's side in the battle. A half-century ago, the country endured a long period of amorphous, global vigilance against an enemy who was suspected of boring from within, and history suggests that under those conditions, it is easy to err on the side of security and secrecy. The free press has a central place in the Constitution because it can provide information the public needs to make things right again. Even if it runs the risk of being labeled unpatriotic in the process.

Palm Beach Post: Time for Limbaugh, Coulter to be model citizens

I feel bad for the Palm Beach County State Attorney's Office.

The way things are going, it might make good sense to create a prosecutorial unit called the Right-Wing Pundit Office of Aggravated Mopery.

Things used to be simpler before national scolds like Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh moved here and began exhibiting their boundless hubris and flexible personal virtues in our midst.

...I'm sure Barry Krischer and his staff of prosecutors would be thrilled if Coulter and Limbaugh would either just sell their homes or try being the model citizens they pretend to be.

--By Frank Cerabino, Palm Beach Post Columnist; Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Democrats vow to block pay raises until minimum wage increased

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- Democrats ratcheted up their election-year push for an increase in the federal minimum wage Tuesday by promising to block a congressional pay hike unless some of the lowest-paid hourly workers get their first raise in nearly a decade.

"Congress is going to have earn its raise by putting American workers first: A raise for workers before a raise for Congress," said Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada.

Reid refused to spell out exactly how he will block a $3,300 pay raise scheduled for January 1 for members of Congress, who currently earn $165,200 annually. He said with 40 Senate Democrats backing the maneuver, "We can stop anything they (Republicans) try to do with a congressional pay raise."

Democrats in the House and Senate want the $5.15-per-hour federal minimum wage, in place since 1997, to rise in 70-cent increments to $7.25 by January 1, 2009.

Bush defends subverting the LAW "signing statements"

WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House today defended President Bush’s prolific use of bill signing statements, saying they help him uphold the Constitution and defend the nation’s security.

“There’s this notion that the president is committing acts of civil disobedience, and he’s not,” said Bush’s press secretary Tony Snow, speaking at the White House. “It’s important for the president at least to express reservations about the constitutionality of certain provisions.”

Snow spoke as Senate Judiciary Committe Chairman Arlen Specter opened hearings on Bush’s use of bill signing statements saying he reserves the right to revise, interpret or disregard a measure on national security and consitutional grounds. Such statements have accompanied some 750 statutes passsed by Congress — including a ban on the torture of detainees and the renewal of the Patriot Act.

Commentary: `American Dream' turning into a nightmare


What is, surely, something of a big deal is that according to Corporate Library in Washington, the chief executives of the 11 largest companies in the United States earned a combined $865 million over the past two years at the same time as their shareholders lost $640 million.


Famously, Americans believe in the "American Dream." This is that any American can start at the bottom and make it to the top.

Factually, this happens to be untrue. Americans who make it to the top tend to start well above halfway up.

Recent studies show about half of all the income disparities in one generation of Americans mirror the disparities that existed in the previous generation. In most of Europe and in Canada, the proportion is only about one-fifth.

The American Dream keeps Americans pacified. But they may soon start to wake up.

In a complete break with history, those workers who are now doing the worst — comparatively — are those in the middle, rather than those at the bottom.


Bush announced bank tracking plan in Nov 2001

President Announces Crackdown on Terrorist Financial Network

THE PRESIDENT: The United States is pressing the war against terror on every front. From the mountains of Afghanistan to the bank accounts of terrorist organizations. The first strike in the war against terror targeted the terrorists' financial support. We put the world's financial institutions on notice: if you do business with terrorists, if you support them or sponsor them, you will not do business with the United States of America.

Today, we are taking another step in our fight against evil. We are setting down two major elements of the terrorists international financial network, both at home and abroad. Ours is not a war just of soldiers and aircraft. It's a war fought with diplomacy, by the investigations of law enforcement, by gathering intelligence and by cutting off the terrorists' money.

Judge says DeLay 'withdrew' ... Statement may spell trouble for GOP, but 22nd District issue still awaits ruling

Houston Chronicle

AUSTIN - A federal judge hearing a ballot dispute Monday involving former U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay said he thinks that DeLay withdrew from the November election, indicating potential trouble for Republicans who want to name a replacement candidate.

"He is not going to participate in the election and he withdrew," said U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks, who did not issue an official ruling after a daylong trial regarding DeLay's status as the GOP nominee for the 22nd Congressional District.

Jim Bopp, a lawyer for the Republican Party of Texas, disagreed, telling Sparks "there's been no withdrawal." Bopp said that instead, DeLay moved to Virginia, making him ineligible and triggering a state law that allows the party to select a new nominee.

Sparks also said that if political parties are allowed to replace primary election winners with more popular candidates, "the abuse would be incredible."

Europe body to debate CIA flights


Europe's human rights body is to debate a report accusing 14 European states of colluding with the CIA on secret flights transferring terror suspects.
The report said some countries had provided staging posts for unlawful CIA flights, while others had let the US abduct suspects from their soil.

The Council of Europe is due to view video testimony supporting the charges.

Under the CIA policy of rendition, prisoners are moved to third countries for interrogation.

The US admits to picking up terrorism suspects but denies sending them to nations to face torture.

The report by Swiss Senator Dick Marty follows a seven-month inquiry that began in November amid a political outcry over media allegations of the existence of CIA detention centres in eastern Europe.

Analyst Says He Warned of Iraqi Resistance Danger Was Clear Early, White Said


Days after the United States invaded Iraq, senior U.S. officials were warned that Iraqi Sunnis would strongly resist American troops' occupation efforts, according to testimony given yesterday before Senate Democrats.

Wayne White, a former deputy director in the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research, told senators that when British soldiers were forced to repeatedly take the port city of Umm Qasr from Iraqi guerrillas, "I knew then and there that we would have a serious problem on our hands."

"I quickly warned, around the first week or 10 days of the war . . . that this spelled danger as we moved farther north, especially into Iraq's Sunni Arab heartland," White told the Senate Democratic Policy Committee.


They also predicted that the occupying forces would become targets and that "war and occupation would boost political Islam, increase sympathy for terrorist objectives and make Iraq a magnet for extremists from elsewhere in the Middle East," Pillar said.

White's and Pillar's testimony marked the first time intelligence assessments on postwar Iraq have been specifically discussed in a congressional session.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Norquist: McCain's a Liar, Delusional

Norquist found the time to talk with conservative news site about the recently-released McCain Report, which highlighted numerous transactions between Jack Abramoff, Norquist's nonprofit, and various recipients, including organizations tied to former Christian Coalition director Ralph Reed.

"When McCain claims this was something other than an annual contribution, he is lying," Norquist said of the report, which found that ATR frequently pocketed several thousand dollars off the top of the "pass-through" amounts Abramoff funneled through ATR to needy Republican causes:

"McCain has misused his chairmanship of the Indian Affairs committee for two years to attack me and Ralph Reed because he thinks we beat him in South Carolina," Norquist said, referring to McCain's primary battle for the presidency. "He has told people I personally spent $12 million to defeat him in South Carolina. He is delusional......


Another RW MoonBat Fallacy ..... Squelched . Report: Boutique fuels do not raise gas prices

The Hill

A draft Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report contradicts President Bush’s suggestion that boutique fuels, designed to cut pollution from cars and trucks, have contributed to higher gasoline prices.

While they could complicate gasoline distribution when a hurricane or pipeline rupture disrupts supplies, the various fuel types used by states have provided “significant, cost-effective air-quality improvements,” the report states.

The report was written by state and federal officials who were brought together at the direction of the president as he searched for solutions to high gasoline prices, which spiked to over $3 a gallon in the spring.

It was in that context that Bush gave a speech to the Renewable Fuels Association in which he said boutique fuels were one reason for the price increases.

“When you have an uncoordinated, overly complex set of fuel rules, it tends to cause prices to go up,” Bush said. The president also called for wider use of alternative fuels and for high mileage standards for cars.

House Republicans also pointed to boutique fuels as a contributor to supply problems. Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Joe Barton (Texas) introduced a bill to limit the number of boutique fuels, but he backed off after industry and government officials expressed doubts that the fuel types were a major contributor to the price increase.

“[The bill] went from something I was ready to mark up the next week to wait and see,” Barton said after the hearing....

Bush creates an "out" before signing bill banning torture

Sen. John McCain thought he had a deal when President Bush, faced with a veto-proof margin in Congress, agreed to sign a bill banning the torture of detainees.

Not quite.

While Bush signed the new law, he also quietly approved another document: a signing statement reserving his right to ignore the law. McCain was furious, and so were other lawmakers.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is opening hearings this week into what has become the White House's favorite tool for overriding Congress in the name of wartime national security.

"It's a challenge to the plain language of the Constitution," the committee's chairman, Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa, said in an interview with The Associated Press. "I'm interested to hear from the administration just what research they've done to lead them to the conclusion that they can cherry-pick."


Bombings and kidnappings beseige Iraq after Maliki peace plan

BAGHDAD (AFP) - At least 57 people were killed in attacks and 10 students were kidnapped from their hostel in Baghdad, one day after the prime minister unveiled a peace plan aimed at easing the violence.

Moscow meanwhile confirmed the killing of four of its Baghdad embassy employees following an Internet statement by their kidnappers, an Al-Qaeda-led insurgent grouping, that they had been executed.

Sectarian violence reared its head again in Iraq when at least 25 people were killed and scores wounded in two separate bombings targeting the country's majority Shiite community.

The first attack happened near Baquba in the village of Khairnabat, northeast of Baghdad, when a booby-trapped motorbike exploded in a marketplace killing at least 18 and wounding 20, a defense ministry source said.

Former Bush intel official: Don't 'accept the crap we give you'


Appearing before the The Senate Democratic Policy Committee, former Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research Carl Ford called upon policy makers to accept part of the blame for intelligence failures, telling them to 'not accept the crap we give you.'

The proceedings are chaired by Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND) and are hearing testimony regarding pre-way intelligence in Iraq.

Video at link

Sunnis, Shi'ites find fault with Iraq peace plan

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - The Iraqi prime minister's plan for national reconciliation came in for criticism from both sides of the sectarian divide on Monday, a day after parliament accepted a compromise strategy that is short on crucial detail.

Iraq's most senior Sunni Arab politician, Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, complained that the plan set no withdrawal date for U.S. occupying forces.

He also said Shi'ite Islamist Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki was wrong to rule out peace negotiations with hardline followers of Sunni former leader Saddam Hussein.

"Leaving the issue of a timetable (for U.S. withdrawal) vague," Hashemi told Reuters, "is telling the resistance: 'continue your fighting to liberate Iraq'."

Murtha's a star on the campaign trail

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Eight months ago, Rep. John Murtha (D-Pennsylvania) choked back tears when he called for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq saying the "military has accomplished its mission and done its duty."


His willingness to lock horns with President Bush and his top political advisor Rove on the issue of Iraq has made Murtha a political star on the campaign trail. Today, he attends a fundraiser in Pittsburgh for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. This event follows on the heels of Murtha's keynote speech at the Palm Beach County Jefferson-Jackson Dinner Saturday night in West Palm Beach, Florida. He heads to New Hampshire in late July to attend the Hampton Democratic Town Committee's annual picnic.

At least once a week, the Pennsylvania Democrat is participating in a campaign event for House Democrats, and he has helped to raise more than $1 million for the DCCC, according to figures provided to the Grind by the campaign organization.

A Murtha spokeswoman said he has received "hundreds of requests" since his November declaration. So many, the spokeswoman said, that "he could not have physically done them all since November."

Bob Herbert: the flaming quicksand of an unwinnable war

If hell didn't exist, we'd have to invent it. We'd need a place to send the public officials who are playing politics with the lives of the men and women sent off to fight George W. Bush's calamitous war in Iraq.
The administration and its allies have been mercilessly bashing Democrats who argued that the U.S. should begin developing a timetable for the withdrawal of American forces.

Republicans stood up on the Senate floor last week, one after another, to chant like cultists from the Karl Rove playbook: We're tough. You're not. Cut-and-run. Nyah-nyah-nyah!

"Withdrawal is not an option," declared the Senate majority leader, Bill Frist, who sounded like an actor trying on personas that ranged from Barry Goldwater to General Patton. "Surrender," said the bellicose Mr. Frist, "is not a solution."

Any talk about bringing home the troops, in the Senate majority leader's view, was "dangerous, reckless and shameless."

But then on Sunday we learned that the president's own point man in Iraq, Gen. George Casey, had fashioned the very thing that ol' blood-and-guts Frist and his C-Span brigade had ranted against: a withdrawal plan.

Are Karl Rove and his liege lord, the bait-and-switch king, trying to have it both ways? You bet. And that ought to be a crime, because there are real lives at stake.

The first significant cut under General Casey's plan, according to an article by Michael Gordon in yesterday's Times, would occur in September. That, of course, would be perfect timing for Republicans campaigning for re-election in November. How's that for a coincidence?

As Mr. Gordon wrote:

"If executed, the plan could have considerable political significance. The first reductions would take place before this fall's Congressional elections, while even bigger cuts might come before the 2008 presidential election."

The general's proposal does not call for a complete withdrawal of American troops, and it makes clear that any withdrawals are contingent on progress in the war (which is going horribly at the moment) and improvements in the quality of the fledgling Iraqi government and its security forces.

The one thing you can be sure of is that the administration will milk as much political advantage as it can from this vague and open-ended proposal.

If the election is looking ugly for the G.O.P., a certain number of troops will find themselves waking up stateside instead of in the desert in September and October.

I wonder whether Americans will ever become fed up with the loathsome politicking, the fear-mongering, the dissembling and the gruesome incompetence of this crowd.

From the Bush-Rove perspective, General Casey's plan is not a serious strategic proposal. It's a straw in the political wind.

How many casualties will be enough?

More than 2,500 American troops who dutifully answered President Bush's call to wage war in Iraq have already perished, and thousands more are struggling in agony with bodies that have been torn or blown apart and psyches that have been permanently wounded.

Has the war been worth their sacrifice?

How many still have to die before we reach a consensus that we've overpaid for Mr. Bush's mad adventure? Will 5,000 American deaths be enough? Ten thousand?

The killing continued unabated last week. Iraq is a sinkhole of destruction, and if Americans could see it close up, the way we saw New Orleans in the immediate aftermath of Katrina, they would be stupefied.

Americans need to understand that Mr. Bush's invasion of Iraq was a strategic blunder of the highest magnitude. It has resulted in mind-boggling levels of bloodshed, chaos and misery in Iraq, and it certainly hasn't made the U.S. any safer.

We've had enough clownish debates on the Senate floor and elsewhere. We've had enough muscle-flexing in the White House and on Capitol Hill by guys who ran and hid when they were young and their country was at war. And it's time to stop using generals and their forces under fire in the field for cheap partisan political purposes.

The question that needs to be answered, honestly and urgently (and without regard to partisan politics), is how best to extricate overstretched American troops — some of them serving their third or fourth tours — from the flaming quicksand of an unwinnable war.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

The Top 10 Conservative Idiots, No. 249

June 26, 2006 - Saddam O'Reilly Edition

This week on the big list: Bill O'Reilly (1) shows he's completely insane; Dennis Hastert (3) gets involved in some shady dealing; and the Bush Administration (4,5) does some election-year fearmongering.

Two U.S. soldiers charged in civilian's death

"The U.S. military has charged two soldiers in the February killing of a civilian near Ramadi, the military said Saturday.

Spec. Nathan B. Lynn was charged with one count of voluntary manslaughter for allegedly shooting an unarmed man on Feb. 15, the military said.

Lynn and Sgt. Milton Ortiz, Jr., both of the 1st Battalion, 109th Infantry (Mechanized) of the Pennsylvania National Guard, were each charged with one count of obstructing justice for allegedly conspiring with another soldier who allegedly put an AK-47 near the body of the man in an attempt to make it look as though he was an insurgent.

Ortiz also was charged with one count of assault and one count of communicating a threat for a separate incident on March 8 when he allegedly placed an unloaded weapon against the head of an Iraqi man and threatened to send him to prison, the military said."



Iraq Slaying Probe Focuses on Pa. Guardsmen

"Two Pennsylvania National Guardsmen are being investigated in the shooting death of an Iraqi civilian earlier this year and have not returned to the United States with the rest of their unit, a Guard spokesman said Friday.

The two soldiers, Spec. Nathan B. Lynn, 21, of South Williamsport, Pa., and Sgt. Milton Ortiz Jr., 36, of Islip, N.Y., were members of a combat team whose members began returning home earlier this month after a one-year deployment.

Lt. Col. Chris Cleaver, spokesman for the Pennsylvania National Guard, said the Army is handling the investigation. He said he could not release other details."

"The allegations surfaced as seven Marines and a Navy medic are facing charges that they killed an Iraqi civilian and covered up the crime in April, and as four Army soldiers are facing murder charges in the shooting deaths of three Iraq civilians in May. Also, a group of Marines are under investigation in the deaths of 24 Iraqi civilians in Haditha last year."

FRANK RICH: The Road From K Street to Yusufiya

The Bush brand of outsourced government is part of the reason American troops are more likely to be slaughtered than greeted with flowers in Iraq.

As the remains of two slaughtered American soldiers, Pfc. Thomas L. Tucker and Pfc. Kristian Menchaca, were discovered near Yusufiya, Iraq, on Tuesday, a former White House official named David Safavian was convicted in Washington on four charges of lying and obstruction of justice.

The three men had something in common: all had enlisted in government service in a time of war. The similarities end there.

The difference between Mr. Safavian's kind of public service and that of the soldiers says everything about the disconnect between the government that has sabotaged this war and the brave men and women who have volunteered in good faith to fight it.

Privates Tucker and Menchaca made the ultimate sacrifice. Their bodies were so mutilated that they could be identified only by DNA.

Mr. Safavian, by contrast, can be readily identified by smell. His idea of wartime sacrifice overseas was to chew over government business with the Jack Abramoff gang while on a golfing junket in Scotland.

But what's most indicative of Mr. Safavian's public service is not his felonies in the Abramoff-Tom DeLay axis of scandal, but his legal activities before his arrest.

In his DNA you get a snapshot of the governmental philosophy that has guided the war effort both in Iraq and at home (that would be the Department of Homeland Security) and doomed it to failure.

Mr. Safavian, a former lobbyist, had a hand in federal spending, first as chief of staff of the General Services Administration and then as the White House's chief procurement officer, overseeing a kitty of some $300 billion (plus $62 billion designated for Katrina relief).

He arrived to help enforce a Bush management initiative called "competitive sourcing." Simply put, this was a plan to outsource as much of government as possible by forcing federal agencies to compete with private contractors and their K Street lobbyists for huge and lucrative assignments.

The initiative's objective, as the C.E.O. administration officially put it, was to deliver "high-quality services to our citizens at the lowest cost."

The result was low-quality services at high cost: the creation of a shadow government of private companies rife with both incompetence and corruption.

Last week Representative Henry Waxman, the California Democrat who commissioned the first comprehensive study of Bush administration contracting, revealed that the federal procurement spending supervised for a time by Mr. Safavian had increased by $175 billion between 2000 and 2005. (Halliburton contracts alone, unsurprisingly, went up more than 600 percent.)

Nearly 40 cents of every dollar in federal discretionary spending now goes to private companies.

In this favor-driven world of fat contracts awarded to the well-connected, Mr. Safavian was only an aspiring consigliere.

He was not powerful enough or in government long enough to do much beyond petty reconnaissance for Mr. Abramoff and his lobbying clients.

But the Bush brand of competitive sourcing, with its get-rich-quick schemes and do-little jobs for administration pals, spread like a cancer throughout the executive branch.

It explains why tens of thousands of displaced victims of Katrina are still living in trailer shantytowns all these months later.

It explains why New York City and Washington just lost 40 percent of their counterterrorism funds.

It helps explain why American troops are more likely to be slaughtered than greeted with flowers more than three years after the American invasion of Iraq.

The Department of Homeland Security, in keeping with the Bush administration's original opposition to it, isn't really a government agency at all so much as an empty shell, a networking boot camp for future private contractors dreaming of big paydays.

Thanks to an investigation by The Times's Eric Lipton, we know that some two-thirds of the top department executives, including Tom Ridge and his principal deputies, have cashed in on their often brief service by becoming executives, consultants or lobbyists for companies that have received billions of dollars in government contracts.

Even John Ashcroft, the first former attorney general in American history known to immediately register as a lobbyist, is selling his Homeland Security connections to interested bidders. "When you got it, flaunt it!" as they say in "The Producers."

To see the impact of such revolving-door cronyism, just look at the Homeland Security process that mandated those cutbacks for New York and Washington.

The official in charge, the assistant secretary for grants and training, is Tracy Henke, an Ashcroft apparatchik from the Justice Department who was best known for trying to politicize the findings of its Bureau of Justice Statistics.

(So much so that the White House installed her in Homeland Security with a recess appointment, to shield her from protracted Senate scrutiny.)

Under Henke math, it follows that St. Louis, in her home state (and Mr. Ashcroft's), has seen its counterterrorism allotment rise by more than 30 percent while that for the cities actually attacked on 9/11 fell.

And guess what: the private contractor hired by Homeland Security to consult on Ms. Henke's handiwork, Booz Allen Hamilton, now just happens to employ Greg Rothwell, who was the department's procurement chief until December. Booz Allen recently nailed a $250 million Homeland Security contract for technology consulting.

The continuing Katrina calamity is another fruit of outsourced government.

As Alan Wolfe details in "Why Conservatives Can't Govern" in the current Washington Monthly, the die was cast long before the storm hit: the Bush cronies installed at FEMA, first Joe Allbaugh and then Michael Brown, had privatized so many of the agency's programs that there was little government left to manage the disaster even if more competent managers than Brownie had been in charge.

But the most lethal impact of competitive sourcing, as measured in human cost, is playing out in Iraq.

In the standard narrative of American failure in the war, the pivotal early error was Donald Rumsfeld's decision to ignore the advice of Gen. Eric Shinseki and others, who warned that several hundred thousand troops would be needed to secure the country once we inherited it.

But equally reckless, we can now see, was the administration's lax privatization of the country's reconstruction, often with pet companies and campaign contributors and without safeguards or accountability to guarantee results.

Washington's promises to rebuild Iraq were worth no more than its promises to rebuild New Orleans.

The government that has stranded a multitude of Americans in flimsy "housing" on the gulf, where they remain prey for any new natural attacks the hurricane season will bring, is of a philosophical and operational piece with the government that has let down the Iraqi people.

Even after we've thrown away some $2 billion of a budgeted $4 billion on improving electricity, many Iraqis have only a few hours of power a day, less than they did under Saddam.

At his Rose Garden press conference of June 14, the first American president with an M.B.A. claimed that yet another new set of "benchmarks" would somehow bring progress even after all his previous benchmarks had failed to impede three years of reconstruction catastrophes.

Of the favored companies put in charge of our supposed good works in Iraq, Halliburton is the most notorious. But it is hardly unique.

As The Los Angeles Times reported in April, it is the Parsons Corporation that is responsible for the "wholesale failure in two of the most crucial areas of the Iraq reconstruction — health and safety — which were supposed to win Iraqi good will and reduce the threat to American soldiers."

Parsons finished only 20 of 150 planned Iraq health clinics, somehow spending $60 million of the budgeted $186 million for its own management and administration.

It failed to build walls around 7 of the 17 security forts it constructed to supposedly stop the flow of terrorists across the Iran border.

Last week, reported James Glanz of The New York Times, the Army Corps of Engineers ordered Parsons to abandon construction on a hopeless $99.1 million prison that was two years behind schedule.

By the calculation of Representative Waxman, some $30 billion in American taxpayers' money has been squandered on these and other Iraq boondoggles botched by a government adhering to the principle of competitive sourcing.

If we had honored our grand promises to the people we were liberating, Dick Cheney's prediction that we would be viewed as liberators might have had a chance of coming true.

Greater loyalty from the civilian population would have helped reduce the threat to American soldiers, who are prey to insurgents in places like Yusufiya.

But what we've wrought instead is a variation on Arthur Miller's post-World War II drama, "All My Sons."

Working from a true story, Miller told the tragedy of a shoddy contractor whose defectively manufactured aircraft parts led directly to the deaths of a score of Army pilots and implicitly to the death of his own son.

Back then such a scandal was a shocking anomaly. Franklin D. Roosevelt's administration, the very model of big government that the current administration vilifies, never would have trusted private contractors to run the show.

Somehow that unwieldy, bloated government took less time to win World War II than George W. Bush's privatized government is taking to blow this one.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

A Threat That Belongs Behind Bars

NYT Op-Ed Contributor, By ERIC POSNER

WITH the recent suicides, reports that detainees have been abused, mounting foreign pressure to close the detention center, and its Gulag-like symbolic resonance, the continued political viability of the Guantánamo Bay camp is increasingly in doubt. President Bush has himself said that he would like to close Guantánamo. But is he putting politics before American security? If Guantánamo is shut down, what will be done with the detainees?

Critics argue that if the United States cannot prove before a court of law that detainees at Guantánamo Bay have committed a crime, then they should be released. This argument rests on the principle that people should be punished only for committing a crime.

The emotional appeal of this notion is undeniable, and the Bush administration has met critics partway by creating military commissions that will try some detainees for war crimes while denying them the full protections of due process available to criminal defendants. But the critics' argument rests on a half-truth, and as we rethink the wisdom of Guantánamo Bay, we should be sure to understand the complicated reality it conceals.

Detention sounds like a punishment, but it is not always considered one by the law. The courts distinguish between civil detention on the one hand and criminal incarceration on the other. A person who commits a crime may be incarcerated after a criminal trial in which he receives the full package of due process protections: a lawyer, a jury, an independent judge and so forth. A person who is merely dangerous cannot be criminally punished for being dangerous; however, he can be detained, and he is not always entitled to the expansive procedural protections granted to the accused criminal.

This principle appears in many places in the law. Mentally ill people who are dangerous to themselves and others may be institutionalized for as long as they remain dangerous. Such detention is not considered a punishment for crimes. Indeed, because the hearing that determines whether a person should be institutionalized is not a criminal trial, it does not entitle the person to criminal trial protections like a jury.

Dangerous undocumented aliens can also be detained. An undocumented alien who commits a serious crime receives a regular criminal trial, but after he has served his time, he is supposed to be deported. Sometimes the home country will not accept him, in which case immigration law authorizes the American government to detain him indefinitely. Recently, the Supreme Court has read the law restrictively in order to avoid constitutional problems with such detentions; but precedent that the Court did not overturn sustains the possibility that a clearer and more narrowly drawn statute would permit indefinite detention, especially in the most serious cases. Again, the detainee is entitled to a civil hearing only, and thus does not benefit from a jury or other criminal trial protections.

Throughout American history, states and the federal government have criminalized speech that advocates the violent overthrow of the United States government and other subversive activities. These laws, which long survived judicial scrutiny, authorized criminal punishment of people who were dangerous but hadn't actually caused harm.

Although in 1969 the Supreme Court held that under the First Amendment governments can ban only speech that would cause "imminent" harm — like incitement to riot — it remains an open question whether this standard is workable in an age of global terrorism exemplified by the Sept. 11 attacks. Less restrictive tests applied in earlier cases could be resurrected if the United States created a similar statute to counter the modern wave of terrorism.

The detention of enemy aliens, especially enemy soldiers, during wartime is a long-established practice. Enemy aliens and soldiers are not detained because they have committed crimes; they are detained because they are dangerous. During World War II, the United States detained hundreds of thousands of enemy soldiers in prison camps on American territory and elsewhere. Because being an enemy soldier is not a crime, these soldiers did not receive trials before their internment.

However, the Bush administration has failed to persuade its allies and many Americans that these wartime rules are applicable to Al Qaeda, possibly because, unlike a conventional war, the war against foreign terrorists is fought on ambiguous territory and has no foreseeable end.

As a result, people are less willing than in previous wars to trust the government's claim that someone found on the battlefield, wherever it may be, is a continuing threat rather than a civilian or a soldier ready to lay down arms for good. But the underlying principle — that dangerous aliens may be detained even if they have not committed crimes — is the same.

Finally, even when deciding the length of ordinary criminal sentences, judges often take account not just of guilt but of a defendant's dangerousness. A sentence, in reflecting dangerousness, may be longer than is justified by the defendant's guilt.

In none of these cases is a person dangerous just because the government calls him dangerous. But the standards vary with the context. To detain a mentally ill person, the government must usually show that he has a mental disorder that prevents him from controlling himself. To detain an enemy soldier, a relatively informal military hearing must establish a connection between him and a battlefield.

The half-truth that one can be punished only for committing a crime needs to be filled out with the larger truth that the government may detain dangerous people in order to protect the public. The question of whether to close Guantánamo is a question about whether suspected members of Al Qaeda are as dangerous as people made violence-prone by mental illness, enemy soldiers during wartime, undocumented aliens who have committed serious crimes, recidivist violent criminals and traditional subversives during times of emergency.

If they are, the United States government can, without offending American legal traditions, lock up suspected Qaeda members without the protections afforded by a full- blown criminal trial. Whether doing so is wise policy depends on the extent to which Al Qaeda continues to pose a threat to American security, the extent to which traditional criminal law protections hinder necessary security measures, the moral harm that occurs when the government erroneously detains people who are harmless, and the diplomatic constraints imposed by allies. It does not depend on an appeal to general principles.

Eric Posner, a professor at the University of Chicago Law School, is co-author of the forthcoming "Terror in the Balance: Security, Liberty and the Courts."

Who's This 'We,' Non-Soldier Boy?


REPRESENTATIVE Patrick McHenry, a 30-year-old Republican from North Carolina, rose during the recent debate over Iraq in Congress and declared that the struggle against "Islamic extremists" was his generation's great challenge. Unlike the "white flag" crowd on the left, he vowed, he would not shrink from the fight.

That was a little too much for Representative John Murtha, the senior Democrat on the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, an ex-marine and Vietnam vet and also — in the current debate — a leading advocate of a speedy withdrawal of the troops.

"It is easy to stay in an air-conditioned office and say, 'I am going to stay the course,' " he said, angrily, after Mr. McHenry, who never served in the military, was finished. "It is the troops that are doing the fighting, not the members of Congress that are doing the fighting."

Behind that exchange was a demographic reality: The debate, which has consumed the House and the Senate for the last two weeks, was largely conducted by men and women who have not served. Twenty-five percent of the House, and 31 percent of the Senate, are veterans, the lowest proportions since World War II, according to the Military Officers Association of America. ......

Fox's Gibson: "There are tons of differences between" Fox and NY Times, "starting with, we don't make this stuff up, and they have"

On The Big Story, John Gibson criticized The New York Times and its former editor Howell Raines, whose new book Gibson takes aim at during the "My Word" segment of the show. Gibson goes on to say, "There are tons of differences between Fox and The New York Times, starting with, we don't make this stuff up, and they have." Read more

Claiming to "know more about Reagan than" his caller, Hannity misstated Reagan record on economy, foreign policy

Saying that "I know more about Reagan than you do," Sean Hannity attempted to correct a caller to his radio show who criticized former President Ronald Reagan. But Hannity's defense of the Reagan administration included several false or misleading claims. Read more

Clarence Page ignites O'Reilly explosion: "Bull! Bull!"

Fox News host Bill O'Reilly falsely asserted that Notre Dame professor Don Wycliff, in a June 22 Chicago Tribune op-ed that criticized O'Reilly, wrote that "the United States government bears more responsibility ... than the terrorists" for the recent deaths of two U.S. soldiers in Iraq who were also apparently tortured. In fact, Wycliff criticized O'Reilly in the op-ed for attacking "the press or the Democrats or the ACLU or Air America" for the soldiers' deaths rather than blaming the Bush administration officials responsible for conducting the war "for whom you have been a cheerleader." Read more

Claiming he's "seen a hell of a lot more combat" in last 35 years than Kerry, Geraldo Rivera accused Kerry of "aid[ing] and abet[ting] the enemy"

Geraldo Rivera claimed that "in the last 35 years, I've seen a hell of a lot more combat" than Sen. John Kerry, adding that Kerry's Senate amendment to redeploy U.S. troops from Iraq by July 2007 "only aids and abets the enemy." Read more

Fox News hosts and guests touted discredited report that WMDs were found in Iraq

On June 21, hosts and guests on several Fox News programs hyped a false assertion by Sen. Rick Santorum and Rep. Peter Hoekstra that weapons of mass destruction had been found in Iraq, despite the network's own reporting that discredited the claim. Read more

U.S. military bringing equipment home

The U.S. military has begun sending thousands of battered Humvees and other war-torn equipment home as more Iraqi units join the fight against insurgents and American units scheduled for Iraq duty have their orders canceled.

In the last four months, the Army has tagged 7,000 Humvees and 17,000 other pieces of equipment to be shipped to the United States to be rebuilt. They then will be distributed among active and reserve units at home, or possibly returned to equip Iraqi security forces.


Deep inside a depot at Camp Anaconda, about 50 miles north of Baghdad, broken trucks and eight-wheeled Stryker troop carriers are lined up for service by Army mechanics. In the case of the Strykers, manufacturer General Dynamics has set a major repair depot in the Middle East.

Most of what's being returned to the United States are vehicles and aircraft that need total rebuilds from the damage of years of operating the hot and dusty Iraqi environment, O'Connor said. From Humvees, manufactured by AM General, to helicopters to tanks, the equipment will enter a multi-billion-dollar repair program — known as reset — that rebuilds equipment for future wars.


U.S. Releases 14 Saudis From Guantanamo, Bringing the Total of People Who Never Should have Been There to 310

WASHINGTON, (AP) -- Fourteen Saudi Arabians were released on Saturday from the detention center at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and transferred to their home country, the Pentagon said.

One was released because U.S. officials determined the detainee was no longer
an enemy combatant. The other Saudis were released after an administrative
review process determined they could be transferred.

The releases bring to 310 the number of detainees who have departed Guantanamo
to other governments, including Albania, Afghanistan, Australia, Bahrain,
Belgium, Denmark, France, Great Britain, Kuwait, Morocco, Pakistan, Russia,
Saudi Arabia, Spain, Sweden and Uganda.

About 450 detainees remain at Guantanamo, including 120 who are considered
eligible for transfer or release. Decisions in those cases depend on
discussions between the United States and other nations.

As Workers' Pensions Wither, Those for Executives Flourish

Wall Street Journal

This is the pension squeeze companies aren't talking about: Even as many reduce, freeze or eliminate pensions for workers -- complaining of the costs -- their executives are building up ever-bigger pensions, causing the companies' financial obligations for them to balloon.

Companies disclose little about any of this. But a Wall Street Journal analysis of corporate filings reveals that executive benefits are playing a large and hidden role in the declining health of America's pensions. Among the findings:

• Boosted by surging pay and rich formulas, executive pension obligations exceed $1 billion at some companies. Besides GM, they include General Electric Co. (a $3.5 billion liability); AT&T Inc. ($1.8 billion); Exxon Mobil Corp. and International Business Machines Corp. (about $1.3 billion each); and Bank of America Corp. and Pfizer Inc. (about $1.1 billion apiece).

• Benefits for executives now account for a significant share of pension obligations in the U.S., an average of 8% at the companies above. Sometimes a company's obligation for a single executive's pension approaches $100 million.

• These liabilities are largely hidden, because corporations don't distinguish them from overall pension obligations in their federal financial filings.

• As a result, the savings that companies make by curtailing pensions for regular retirees -- which have totaled billions of dollars in recent years -- can mask a rising cost of benefits for executives.

• Executive pensions, even when they won't be paid till years from now, drag down earnings today. And they do so in a way that's disproportionate to their size, because they aren't funded with dedicated assets.

Maliki calls for a timetable for withdrawal of U.S. troops

MSNBC - June 24, 2006

"A timetable for withdrawal of occupation troops from Iraq. Amnesty for all insurgents who attacked U.S. and Iraqi military targets. Release of all security detainees from U.S. and Iraqi prisons. Compensation for victims of coalition military operations.

Those sound like the demands of some of the insurgents themselves, and in fact they are. But they're also key clauses of a national reconciliation plan drafted by new Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who will unveil it Sunday. The provisions will spark sharp debate in Iraq—but the fiercest opposition is likely to come from Washington, which has opposed any talk of timetables, or of amnesty for insurgents who have attacked American soldiers..."

GOP Hopeful blames Satan for His Losing Campaign

Bedeviled: His business deals have been delayed, keeping him from fully funding his campaign

By Robert Gehrke
The Salt Lake Tribune
Salt Lake Tribune

As if beating a five-term congressman wasn't hard enough, John Jacob said he has another foe working against him: the devil.
"There's another force that wants to keep us from going to Washington, D.C.," Jacob said. "It's the devil is what it is. I don't want you to print that, but it feels like that's what it is."
Jacob said Thursday that since he decided to run for Congress against Rep. Chris Cannon, Satan has bollixed his business deals, preventing him from putting as much money into the race as he had hoped.
Numerous business deals he had lined up have been delayed, freezing money he was counting on to finance his race.
"You know, you plan, you organize, you put your budget together and when you have 10 things fall through, not just one, there's some other, something else that is happening," Jacob said.
Asked if he actually believed that "something else" was indeed Satan, Jacob said: "I don't know who else it would be if it wasn't him. Now when that gets out in the paper, I'm going to be one of the screw-loose people."