Tuesday, January 31, 2006

MANDATE: 52 percent say Bush's presidency a failure

WASHINGTON, Jan. 31 (UPI) -- More than half of the people asked in a recent poll said the term of U.S. President George W. Bush has been a failure.

During his State of the Union address, Bush needs to be convincing about his plans for Iraq, the economy, healthcare, immigration and corruption while staying the course on terrorism, The Gallup Organization said of its phone survey of 1,006 U.S. adults.

The 52 percent who consider Bush's presidency a failure contrasts to the more than 80 percent approval rating former President Bill Clinton received in January 1999 despite already being impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives.

Gonzales Is Challenged on Wiretaps

Feingold Says Attorney General Misled Senators in Hearings


Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.) charged yesterday that Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales misled the Senate during his confirmation hearing a year ago when he appeared to try to avoid answering a question about whether the president could authorize warrantless wiretapping of U.S. citizens.

In a letter to the attorney general yesterday, Feingold demanded to know why Gonzales dismissed the senator's question about warrantless eavesdropping as a "hypothetical situation" during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in January 2005. At the hearing, Feingold asked Gonzales where the president's authority ends and whether Gonzales believed the president could, for example, act in contravention of existing criminal laws and spy on U.S. citizens without a warrant.

Gonzales said that it was impossible to answer such a hypothetical question but that it was "not the policy or the agenda of this president" to authorize actions that conflict with existing law. He added that he would hope to alert Congress if the president ever chose to authorize warrantless surveillance, according to a transcript of the hearing.

In fact, the president did secretly authorize the National Security Agency to begin warrantless monitoring of calls and e-mails between the United States and other nations soon after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The program, publicly revealed in media reports last month, was unknown to Feingold and his staff at the time Feingold questioned Gonzales, according to a staff member. Feingold's aides developed the 2005 questions based on privacy advocates' concerns about broad interpretations of executive power.


"It now appears that the Attorney General was not being straight with the Judiciary Committee and he has some explaining to do," Feingold said in a statement yesterday.

Nearly half of Iraqis support attacks on U.S. troops

WASHINGTON - A new poll found that nearly half of Iraqis approve of attacks on U.S.-led forces, and most favor setting a timetable for American troops to leave.

The poll also found that 80 percent of Iraqis think the United States plans to maintain permanent bases in the country even if the newly elected Iraqi government asks American forces to leave. Researchers found a link between support for attacks and the belief among Iraqis that the United States intends to keep a permanent military presence in the country.

At the same time, the poll found that many Iraqis think that some outside military forces are required to keep Iraq stable until the new government can field adequate security forces on its own. Only 39 percent of Iraqis surveyed thought that Iraqi police and army forces were strong enough to deal with the security challenges on their own, while 59 percent thought Iraq still needed the help of military forces from other countries.

Seventy percent of Iraqis favor setting a timetable for U.S. forces to withdraw, with half of those favoring a withdrawal within six months and the other half favoring a withdrawal over two years.
"Iraqis are demanding a timetable for U.S. withdrawal, and most believe that the U.S. has no plans to leave even if the new government asks them to," said Steven Kull, the director of the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland, which conducted the poll. "This appears to be leading some to even support attacks on U.S.-led troops, even though many feel they also continue to need the presence of U.S. troops awhile longer."

"If you put it all together, it's clear there is a center of gravity, not towards immediate withdrawal, but for the U.S. to be there in a way that affirms their intent to withdraw eventually," he said. "There is real consensus on that point."

Why Do They Keep Electing Lunatics?

In NY Post book review, McCarthy falsely suggested Clinton administration responsible for upholding Miranda requirement

In a New York Post book review, Andrew C. McCarthy falsely suggested that the Clinton administration was responsible for the Supreme Court's ruling that the requirement that law enforcement officials give suspects Miranda warnings for confessions to be admissible in court is embedded in the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution. Read more

In NY Times op-ed, Bobbitt suggested FISA to blame for failure to identify 9-11 hijackers; 9-11 Commission report concluded otherwise

In a New York Times op-ed, former National Security Council senior director Philip Bobbitt appeared to contradict the 9-11 Commission by suggesting that restrictions on electronic surveillance under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) prevented the U.S. from identifying the hijackers who later committed the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Read more

Kristol falsely claimed that Dean alleged NSA program being used to spy on "political enemies"

On Fox News Sunday, Weekly Standard editor William Kristol distorted Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean's criticism of the Bush administration's warrantless domestic surveillance program, claiming that Dean had said that the program was "probably some kind of domestic spying on political enemies." In fact, Dean made no such allegation. Read more

On TV and in print, Time claimed, despite contradictory evidence, that Bush has "put the NSA story to bed"

Offering little evidence, while ignoring mounting evidence of dissent within the Bush administration as well as its contradictory attempts to explain President Bush's warrantless domestic spying program, Time's Michael Duffy and Mike Allen both claimed that, in Duffy's words, Bush has "put ... to bed" the controversy. Read more

Monday, January 30, 2006

Harness Racing Results for 01-30-06

Record since 04-26-05

Win (325)

Place (87)

Show (25)

Out of the Money (80)



Race # 3


Post Position: # 4

Hamas drops call for Destruction of Israel from its Manifesto


Hamas has dropped its call for the destruction of Israel from its manifesto for the Palestinian parliamentary election in a fortnight, a move that brings the group closer to the mainstream Palestinian position of building a state within the boundaries of the occupied territories.

The Islamist faction, responsible for a long campaign of suicide bombings and other attacks on Israelis, still calls for the maintenance of the armed struggle against occupation. But it steps back from Hamas's 1988 charter demanding Israel's eradication and the establishment of a Palestinian state in its place.

The manifesto makes no mention of the destruction of the Jewish state and instead takes a more ambiguous position by saying that Hamas had decided to compete in the elections because it would contribute to "the establishment of an independent state whose capital is Jerusalem".

The shift in emphasis comes as Hamas finds itself under pressure from the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, and from foreign governments to accept Israel's right to exist and to end its violence if it wants to be accepted as a political partner in a future administration.

This Scum Was in Everything: Abramoff Tied to South African Apartheid-Era Assassin

Democracy Now

The scandal is also making news in South Africa. That's because in the mid-1980s Jack Abramoff helped launch the pro-aparthed International Freedom Foundation. According to the South African Mail & Guardian, the IFF was promoted as an independent think tank but it was actually part of an elaborate South African military intelligence operation set up to combat sanctions and undermine Nelson Mandela's African National Congress. While Abramoff headed the IFF in Washington, in South Africa it was run in part by Craig Williamson, a notorious military intelligence officer known for carrying out a series of bombings and assassinations.

The South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission granted Williamson amnesty for his role in the 1982 bombing of the ANC's office in London and for ordering the assassination of at least two anti-apartheid campaigners. Abramoff first visited South Africa in 1983 at a time when he was head of the College Republicans National Committee.

Two years later Abramoff helped organize an international conference of right wing groups uniting the U.S.-backed Angolan rebel leader Jonas Savimbi, leaders of the Afghan mujahedin, Nicaraguan contras and Laotian guerrillas. As part of Abramoff's work with South Africa, he also made the film Red Scorpion that was filmed in occupied Namibia and reportedly funded by the South African military.

Ballot-box win boosts Iraqi radical

The Christian Science Monitor

The crowd of Moqtada al-Sadr's followers stretched 10 blocks, blanketing a sprawling boulevard in Sadr City, the Baghdad slum. Loudspeakers rattled as a cleric railed against the US occupation.

Off to the side, Abbas Rubaie, Mr. Sadr's chief political tactician, looked out over the sea of the radical Shiite cleric's supporters who gathered Friday. "The Shiite alliance is the biggest party in parliament and the Sadrists are the biggest bloc in the Shiite alliance," he says. "We cannot be ignored."

When Iraq's election results are certified this week, Sadr is expected to increase his numbers in parliament by 50 percent. That rise will give significant power to the most rigid and anti-US wing of the Shiite bloc, further complicating efforts for the US to maintain influence in Iraq's emerging government.....

Pentagon investigation of Iraq hawk stalling Senate inquiry into pre-war Iraq intelligence

The second part of the Senate investigation into bungled pre-war Iraq intelligence is still being held up by an internal Pentagon investigation of Douglas Feith, one of the war's leading architects, RAW STORY has learned.

As previously reported by Raw Story, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) inquiry -- titled Phase II -- is waiting on a report from the Pentagon inspector general as to Feith's alleged role in manipulating pre-war intelligence to support a case for war. Feith, who is also being probed by the FBI for his role in an Israeli spy case, resigned in January 2005.

More broadly, a RAW STORY investigation has found that Feith's access to classified information and his alleged wrongdoing can likely be laid at the feet of more senior officials in the Bush Administration -- namely Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld -- who would have had to have overruled Pentagon background checks to reissue Feith's clearances after he was booted from the National Security Council for allegations of espionage in the mid 1980s.

Senate and intelligence sources say that although the Phase II investigation into Iraq pre-war intelligence is stalled, the real issue is a "revolving door" policy which allowed a coterie of Iraq war hawks to shuttle in and out of the Pentagon despite their involvement in myriad intelligence-related scandals.

At the heart of the Senate Intelligence Committee's delay is the fact that Feith and the Defense Department refuse to provide documents and witnesses to the Committee. Senate sources say that Feith and the Pentagon have made the case that they will not share any information until the Senate provides them with full documentation of what the investigation is looking into, documentary evidence that Senate staff have acquired, and any other key findings that Feith's lawyers believe should be made available to them.

Savings Rate at Lowest Level Since 1933

WASHINGTON - Consumer spending rose at a rapid pace in December, far outpacing income growth, a development that helped to push the savings' rate for the year down to the lowest level since the Great Depression.

The Commerce Department said Monday that consumer spending rose by 0.9 percent in December, more than double the 0.4 percent rise in incomes.

To finance the increased spending, Americans dipped further into their savings, pushing the savings rate for all of 2005 into negative territory at minus 0.5 percent. That was the lowest annual savings rate since a decline of 1.5 percent in 1933, a year in which the country was struggling to cope with the Great Depression.

Harness Racing Picks for 01-30-06

Record since 04-26-05

Win (324)

Place (87)

Show (25)

Out of the Money (80)



Race # 3


Post Position: # 4


The times — as a fellow named Dylan sang more than 40 years ago — they are a-changin'.

This time it's not the emergence of the tie-dyed 60's and the flowering of the boomer generation. But the changes are at least as fundamental.

A generation from now non-Hispanic whites will make up less than 60 percent of the U.S. population, and by 2050 they will be just half.

Nine out of 10 American students currently attend public schools. It is likely that within a decade fewer than half of the public school students will be white.

The dramatic changes in public school enrollment will not be a result of white flight, according to a new study by the Civil Rights Project at Harvard University:

"It is because of a changing population structure created by differential birth rates and age structures and a largely nonwhite international flow of millions of immigrants.

"Since whites are older, marry at later ages, have smaller families and account for a small fraction of immigrants, these changes are almost certain to continue."

So, with these changes in mind, what's happening with the black and Latino students who already account for more than a third of the public school population, and who should be expected to play an increasingly important role in shaping American society?

Not much that is good.

When Bob Dylan first came on the scene, it was very possible for a young man or woman with energy and a dream and a high school diploma (or less) to actually build a decent life. That's pretty much over.

We are now in a time when a college education is a virtual prerequisite for achieving or maintaining a middle-class lifestyle.

"Only the kids who get a postsecondary education are even keeping even in terms of income in their lives, and so forth," said Gary Orfield, a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and director of the Civil Rights Project.

"The rest are falling behind, year by year. Only about a twelfth of the Latino kids and maybe a sixth of the black kids are getting college degrees. The rest of them aren't getting ready for anything that's going to have much of a future in the American economy."

One of the weirder things occurring in American education is the disappearance of kids — especially black and Hispanic kids — from high school.

The San Antonio Express-News, reporting last March on a study by a local research association, said that "more than a third of Texas high school freshman students are disappearing from the system or otherwise failing to obtain a high school diploma in four years."

The Los Angeles Times, for a feature article that same month, interviewed a 17-year-old named Nancy Meza who had quickly made friends with dozens of classmates when she arrived at the Boyle Heights campus of Roosevelt High School.

Four years later, as her senior class gathered for its graduation photo, only four of her friends were there. Nearly all of the others had dropped out.

"It really struck me today," said Nancy. "All of my friends are gone."

This is an underrecognized, underreported crisis in American life. Far from preparing kids for college, big-city high schools in neighborhoods with large numbers of poor, black and Latino youngsters are just hemorrhaging students.

The kids are vanishing into a wilderness of ignorance. If the dropout rate were somehow reversed in a city like Los Angeles, there wouldn't be enough schools to accommodate the kids.

"The high dropout rate has been built into the regular order of school facilities in our big cities," said Professor Orfield. "They expect that the classes will just shrivel as the kids go through the grades."

Nationally, just two-thirds of all students — and only half of all blacks and Latinos — who enter ninth grade actually graduate with regular diplomas four years later.

This state of affairs in so many of the nation's high schools is potentially calamitous, not just for the students but for society as a whole. "It's really very sad what's going on," said Professor Orfield. "And there's been very little effort to reform it."

Youngsters who drop out of high school are much less likely to be regularly employed, or to escape poverty, even if they work full time.

They are less likely to be married and less likely to have a decent home and a decent school for their kids.

Their chances of ending up in prison — especially for the African-American and Latino boys — are much higher.

These kids will not be part of the cadre of new leadership for America in the 21st century. They will have a hard enough time just surviving.


"How does one report the facts," asked Rob Corddry on "The Daily Show," "when the facts themselves are biased?" He explained to Jon Stewart, who played straight man, that "facts in Iraq have an anti-Bush agenda," and therefore can't be reported.

Mr. Corddry's parody of journalists who believe they must be "balanced" even when the truth isn't balanced continues, alas, to ring true. The most recent example is the peculiar determination of some news organizations to cast the scandal surrounding Jack Abramoff as "bipartisan."

Let's review who Mr. Abramoff is and what he did.

Here's how a 2004 Washington Post article described Mr. Abramoff's background: "Abramoff's conservative-movement credentials date back more than two decades to his days as a national leader of the College Republicans."

In the 1990's, reports the article, he found his "niche" as a lobbyist "with entree to the conservatives who were taking control of Congress. He enjoys a close bond with [Tom] DeLay."

Mr. Abramoff hit the jackpot after Republicans took control of the White House as well as Congress. He persuaded several Indian tribes with gambling interests that they needed to pay vast sums for his services and those of Michael Scanlon, a former DeLay aide.

From the same Washington Post article: "Under Abramoff's guidance, the four tribes ... have also become major political donors. They have loosened their traditional ties to the Democratic Party, giving Republicans two-thirds of the $2.9 million they have donated to federal candidates since 2001, records show."

So Mr. Abramoff is a movement conservative whose lobbying career was based on his connections with other movement conservatives. His big coup was persuading gullible Indian tribes to hire him as an adviser; his advice was to give less money to Democrats and more to Republicans. There's nothing bipartisan about this tale, which is all about the use and abuse of Republican connections.

Yet over the past few weeks a number of journalists, ranging from The Washington Post's ombudsman to the "Today" show's Katie Couric, have declared that Mr. Abramoff gave money to both parties.

In each case the journalists or their news organization, when challenged, grudgingly conceded that Mr. Abramoff himself hasn't given a penny to Democrats.

But in each case they claimed that this is only a technical point, because Mr. Abramoff's clients — those Indian tribes — gave money to Democrats as well as Republicans, money the news organizations say he "directed" to Democrats.

But the tribes were already giving money to Democrats before Mr. Abramoff entered the picture; he persuaded them to reduce those Democratic donations, while giving much more money to Republicans.

A study commissioned by The American Prospect shows that the tribes' donations to Democrats fell by 9 percent after they hired Mr. Abramoff, while their contributions to Republicans more than doubled. So in any normal sense of the word "directed," Mr. Abramoff directed funds away from Democrats, not toward them.

True, some Democrats who received tribal donations before Mr. Abramoff's entrance continued to receive donations after his arrival. How, exactly, does this implicate them in Mr. Abramoff's machinations?

Bear in mind that no Democrat has been indicted or is rumored to be facing indictment in the Abramoff scandal, nor has any Democrat been credibly accused of doing Mr. Abramoff questionable favors.

There have been both bipartisan and purely Democratic scandals in the past. Based on everything we know so far, however, the Abramoff affair is a purely Republican scandal.

Why does the insistence of some journalists on calling this one-party scandal bipartisan matter? For one thing, the public is led to believe that the Abramoff affair is just Washington business as usual, which it isn't. The scale of the scandals now coming to light, of which the Abramoff affair is just a part, dwarfs anything in living memory.

More important, this kind of misreporting makes the public feel helpless. Voters who are told, falsely, that both parties were drawn into Mr. Abramoff's web are likely to become passive and shrug their shoulders instead of demanding reform.

So the reluctance of some journalists to report facts that, in this case, happen to have an anti-Republican agenda is a serious matter. It's not a stretch to say that these journalists are acting as enablers for the rampant corruption that has emerged in Washington over the last decade.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

The Top 10 Conservative Idiots (No. 230)

January 30, 2006 · Perfect Storm EditionIt's rough sailing on Our Great Leader's sea of lies and deception these days. The Bush Administration is impeding the Hurricane Katrina investigation, while a recent report belies the claim that things are going well in Iraq.

Harness Racing Results for 01-29-06

Record since 04-26-05

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Place (87)

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Out of the Money (80)


Windsor Raceway

Race # 3

Horse: LA ROCK (Won)

Post Position: # 5

Culture of Corruption: Papers Link GOP Lawmaker, Abramoff Clients

WASHINGTON (AP) - A California congressman who accepted campaign cash from disgraced ex-lobbyist Jack Abramoff and used his sports box for a fundraiser interceded on behalf of two American Indian tribes that were represented by Abramoff's firm, documents show.

GOP Rep. John Doolittle wrote Interior Secretary Gale Norton in June 2003 criticizing the Bush administration's response to a tribal government dispute involving the Sac & Fox Tribe of the Mississippi in Iowa. In October 2003, Doolittle appealed in a letter to the secretary for quicker action for a Massachusetts tribe, the Mashpee Wampanoag, that was seeking federal recognition.

Both tribes signed on with Abramoff's lobbying firm, Greenberg Traurig, that year. Sac & Fox hired the firm in May, the Wampanoags in November. Neither tribe appears tied to Doolittle's rural Northern California district, and Doolittle is not on the House committee that handles Indian issues.

The letters were obtained by The Associated Press under a Freedom of Information Act request.

VIDEO- Senator Hagel on the Rove's Pre-911 Campaign Platform


Great News for Republicans: Crude may rise on Iran fears: survey

NEW YORK: Crude oil, $4 from a record $70.85 a barrel, may rise in New York next week on concern Iran’s resumption of nuclear research will lead to sanctions and cut off supply, a Bloomberg News survey shows.

Thirty-one of 53 analysts surveyed, or 58%, said prices will rise next week. Nine forecast prices will decline and 13 expected little change. Last week, 53% said prices will increase.

Germany, France and Britain called for the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, to rule against Iran, the world’s fourth-biggest oil producer, and refer the issue to the Security Council for possible sanctions.
The IAEA will discuss the matter on February 2 and 3.

“The Iran affair will come to the fore as a result of the IAEA meeting,’’ said John Kilduff, vice president of risk management at Fimat USA in New York. “We could be squarely on the road to curtailed Iranian oil production as a result, pushing prices up.’’

London police 'faked evidence' on shot Brazilian: report

Undercover London police officers faked vital evidence to cover up their fatal role in the shooting of innocent Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes, mistaken for a suicide bomber, a newspaper has alleged.

Special Branch officers from London's Metropolitan Police tried to change a surveillance log detailing the electrician's movements to hide the fact that they had wrongly identified him, the News of the World weekly claimed.


He was killed on July 22 last year, the day after an alleged attempt to replicate the July 7 attacks by four suspected suicide bombers which killed 52 innocent Underground and bus commuters.

The alleged cover-up meant the blame for the tragedy would have been pinned on senior Met Police commanders or the armed police who fired the bullets -- leaving them open to murder charges, the newspaper said.


Lawmakers Push Bush on Abramoff Contacts

WASHINGTON (AP) - Republican lawmakers said Sunday that President Bush should publicly disclose White House contacts with Jack Abramoff, the lobbyist who has pleaded guilty to felony charges in an influence-peddling case.

Releasing the records would help eliminate suspicions that Abramoff, a top fundraiser for Bush's re-election campaign, had undue influence on the White House, the Republicans said.

``I'm one who believes that more is better, in terms of disclosure and transparency,'' said Sen. John Thune, R-S.D. ``And so I'd be a big advocate for making records that are out there available.''

The president has refused to reveal how much access Abramoff had to the White House, but has said he does not know Abramoff personally. Bush has said federal prosecutors are welcome to see the records of Abramoff's contacts if they suspect something inappropriate, but he has not released them publicly.

Hagel: Bush “Can’t Unilaterally Decide That A 1978 Law Is Out of Date"

From Today's ABC Sunday Talk Show

Hagel: Bush “Can’t Unilaterally Decide That A 1978 Law Is Out of Date…And He Will Violate The Law.”

Karl Rove wants the American public to believe only one political party disagrees with Bush’s warrantless domestic spying program. But Hagel added his name to the bipartisan list of senators who question Bush’s authority to conduct the program:

HAGEL: I don’t believe, from what I’ve heard, but I’m going to give the administration an opportunity to explain it, that he has the authority now to do what he’s doing. Now, maybe he can convince me otherwise, but that’s OK.


HAGEL: Not yet. But that’s OK. If he needs more authority, he just can’t unilaterally decide that that 1978 law is out of date and he will be the guardian of America and he will violate that law. He needs to come back, work with us, work with the courts if he has to, and we will do what we need to do to protect the civil liberties of this country and the national security of this country.

Scientists Debate Issue of Climate's Irreparable Change, Some Experts on Global Warming Foresee 'Tipping Point' When It Is Too Late to Act


Now that most scientists agree human activity is causing Earth to warm, the central debate has shifted to whether climate change is progressing so rapidly that, within decades, humans may be helpless to slow or reverse the trend.

This "tipping point" scenario has begun to consume many prominent researchers in the United States and abroad, because the answer could determine how drastically countries need to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions in the coming years. While scientists remain uncertain when such a point might occur, many say it is urgent that policymakers cut global carbon dioxide emissions in half over the next 50 years or risk the triggering of changes that would be irreversible.

There are three specific events that these scientists describe as especially worrisome and potentially imminent, although the time frames are a matter of dispute: widespread coral bleaching that could damage the world's fisheries within three decades; dramatic sea level rise by the end of the century that would take tens of thousands of years to reverse; and, within 200 years, a shutdown of the ocean current that moderates temperatures in northern Europe.

The debate has been intensifying because Earth is warming much faster than some researchers had predicted. James E. Hansen, who directs NASA's Goddard Institute of Space Studies, last week confirmed that 2005 was the warmest year on record, surpassing 1998. Earth's average temperature has risen nearly 1 degree Fahrenheit over the past 30 years, he noted, and another increase of about 4 degrees over the next century would "imply changes that constitute practically a different planet."

"It's not something you can adapt to," Hansen said in an interview. "We can't let it go on another 10 years like this. We've got to do something."

US Army forces 50,000 soldiers into extended duty


The U.S. Army has forced about 50,000 soldiers to continue serving after their voluntary stints ended under a policy called "stop-loss," but while some dispute its fairness, court challenges have fallen flat. The policy applies to soldiers in units due to deploy for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The Army said stop-loss is vital to maintain units that are cohesive and ready to fight. But some experts said it shows how badly the Army is stretched and could further complicate efforts to attract new recruits.

"As the war in Iraq drags on, the Army is accumulating a collection of problems that cumulatively could call into question the viability of an all-volunteer force," said defence analyst Loren Thompson of the Lexington Institute think tank. "When a service has to repeatedly resort to compelling the retention of people who want to leave, you're edging away from the whole notion of volunteerism."

When soldiers enlist, they sign a contract to serve for a certain number of years, and know precisely when their service obligation ends so they can return to civilian life. But stop-loss allows the Army, mindful of having fully manned units, to keep soldiers on the verge of leaving the military.

Under the policy, soldiers who normally would leave when their commitments expire must remain in the Army, starting 90 days before their unit is scheduled to depart, through the end of their deployment and up to another 90 days after returning to their home base. With yearlong tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, some soldiers can be forced to stay in the Army an extra 18 months.

Shell and Exxon to Smash Transatlantic Profit Records

The Sunday Times

OIL companies on both sides of the Atlantic will gush record profits this week, with America’s Exxon Mobil posting the world’s biggest-ever profit, and Shell setting a new record for British companies.
Exxon is tomorrow expected to unveil a profit of about $32 billion (£18 billion) for 2005, according to Thomson Financial. It will be the largest single profit in the history of corporate America.

It shatters last year’s previous record for a company of $25 billion, set by Texas-based Exxon, the world’s largest listed oil company, and easily trumps the benchmark $22.1 billion made by Ford in 1998.

On Thursday Shell will top record-setting results with an estimated profit of $23 billion for 2005. This is up nearly a third from 2004, when its profits were $17.6 billion, at the time the biggest by a British company.

U.S. Troops Killed Three Suspected Insurgents Disguised as Policemen

BAGHDAD, Iraq - U.S. troops killed three suspected insurgents wearing Iraqi police uniforms Sunday in the northern city of Kirkuk, the military said.

The U.S. military also announced the death of an American soldier in roadside blast in Baghdad.

U.S. spokesman Maj. Jeff Allen said a gun battle broke out at a checkpoint in Kirkuk, 180 miles north of Baghdad, and three men wearing Iraqi police uniforms inside a car were shot dead.

American troops captured a fourth man in the car, but found no police identity documents on the men. Iraqi police Brig. Serhad Qadir said the four were suspected insurgents disguised as policemen. The U.S. military was investigating the situation.

Documents Show Army Seized Wives As Tactic


The U.S. Army in Iraq has at least twice seized and jailed the wives of suspected insurgents in hopes of "leveraging" their husbands into surrender, U.S. military documents show.

In one case, a secretive task force locked up the young mother of a nursing baby, a U.S. intelligence officer reported. In the case of a second detainee, one American colonel suggested to another that they catch her husband by tacking a note to the family's door telling him "to come get his wife."

Iraqi human rights activist Hind al-Salehi contends that U.S. anti-insurgent units, coming up empty-handed in raids on suspects' houses, have at times detained wives to pressure men into turning themselves in.

Harness Racing Picks for 01-29-06

Record since 04-26-05

Win (323)

Place (87)

Show (25)

Out of the Money (80)


Windsor Raceway

Race # 3

Horse: LA ROCK

Post Position: # 5

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Harness Racing Results for 01-28-06

Record since 04-26-05

Win (323)

Place (87)

Show (25)

Out of the Money (80)

Freehold Raceway

Race # 2


Post Position: # 1


Windsor Raceway

Race # 7


Post Position: # 1

Top 25 Censored Stories of 2006


Twice now, Bush has removed the prosecutor in the Abramoff case.

From the LA Times, Aug 8, 2005

WASHINGTON — A US grand jury in Guam opened an investigation of controversial lobbyist Jack Abramoff more than two years ago, but President Bush removed the supervising federal prosecutor, and the probe ended soon after.


SF Chronicle, Jan 27, 2006:

The investigation into Jack Abramoff, the disgraced Republican lobbyist, took a provocative new turn Thursday when the Justice Department said the chief prosecutor in the inquiry would step down next week because he had been nominated to a federal judgeship by President Bush.

Schieffer reported Rumsfeld's rejection of Democratic study on military strain, omitted Pentagon-funded study with similar conclusion

CBS anchor Bob Schieffer reported that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld rejected a Democratic study that showed that the military has been strained by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but Schieffer did not note that Rumsfeld also rejected a Pentagon-funded report that came to a similar conclusion. Read more

Matthews: Hard-working Latino immigrants are "natural Republicans"

MSNBC's Chris Matthews asserted that Spanish-speaking immigrants "sound like ... natural Republicans to me." Matthews also claimed that "everybody knows" that Puerto Rican, Cuban and Mexican immigrants "don't want a big social democracy" and that "[t]hey want free enterprise and entrepreneurialism," citing examples of opening a flower shop or "a bodega." Read more

Roberts selectively cited new CBS poll to falsely suggest that Americans approve of warrantless domestic surveillance

CBS' John Roberts selectively cited the results of a poll to claim that Americans support President Bush's warrantless domestic surveillance program, but the full poll results show that the public's view of the program is more evenly divided. Read more

Today issued non-correction to Couric falsehood

One day after NBC's Katie Couric chided Howard Dean for saying that Democratic lawmakers received no campaign contributions from Jack Abramoff, Matt Lauer said that "technically speaking, Howard Dean may be correct." In fact, Dean was correct and Couric was wrong. Read more

Echoing Couric, O'Reilly attacked Dean, falsely claiming Abramoff was "charged with giving [Democrats] other people's money"

Bill O'Reilly attacked Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean, falsely claiming that disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff was "charged with giving [Democrats] other people's money." In fact, none of the charges to which Abramoff has pleaded guilty regard contributions his clients made to Democrats. Read more

CNN: Filibuster comments from Switzerland made Kerry -- but not Chambliss -- seem "elitist"

CNN's Ed Henry said that Sen. John Kerry's call for a filibuster of Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr.'s nomination to the Supreme Court reinforced the "elitist" label given to Kerry by the GOP during the 2004 presidential campaign because he made the statement from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. However, when CNN later interviewed Sen. Saxby Chambliss about the potential filibuster, there were no "elitist" comments to be found, even though Chambliss was also commenting from Davos. Read more

Media left unchallenged Bush's claim that NSA wiretapping program has backing of Supreme Court

In a January 23 speech defending his warrantless domestic surveillance program, President Bush claimed that Congress' 2001 authorization of force, upheld by the Supreme Court in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, establishes his authority to conduct the program. But numerous legal authorities have objected to Bush's claim that the high court affirmed his authority to wiretap U.S. residents without a warrant. Despite these objections, several news outlets repeated Bush's claim without challenge. Read more

Mitchell mischaracterized NSA surveillance program, polling

NBC's Andrea Mitchell claimed that recent polls on President Bush's authorization of warrantless wiretapping showed "little public outcry over the program, especially when [the administration] tell[s] people it is limited only to those who talk to Al Qaeda." What Mitchell did not note is that the administration's characterization of the program understates its scope. Moreover, recent polling shows that support for the program is at best split. Read more

North Korea Warns of Nuclear War

SEOUL, South Korea - North Korea warned of nuclear war Saturday and vowed to strengthen its deterrent forces as it demanded that Washington show evidence backing its allegation that the communist regime is counterfeiting U.S. money.

"Dark clouds of a nuclear war are hanging low over the Korean Peninsula," the North's official Rodong Sinmun newspaper said in a commentary carried by state-run Korean Central News Agency.

The North's comments Saturday follow a South Korea-U.S. agreement this month giving American troops more flexibility in the South.

The North said the pact was aimed at preparing for war.

Katrina Investigation Reveals Administration’s Inability to Keep Americans Safe

President Bush claimed earlier this month that “the American people can be rest assured this administration understands the task, and understands the challenges, and understands our obligation to protect you, to protect the American people.”

The administration’s failed response to Katrina proved this to be false. In the face of one of the worst natural disasters in U.S. history, the White House did not appreciate the gravity of the situation, did not show leadership in a crisis, and demonstrated how incompetent they would handle future emergencies unless dramatic changes are made.

Congressional investigations into Katrina are bringing to light how incapable the White House is.......


Culture of Corruption: FEMA Workers Accused of Bribery


Two FEMA disaster assistance employees working in New Orleans were arrested yesterday on federal bribery charges, accused of accepting $10,000 each in exchange for letting a contractor submit inflated reports on the number of meals it was serving at a Hurricane Katrina relief base camp there.

The charges against Andrew Rose and Loyd Hollman, both of Colorado, came after they told a contractor hired on a $1 million deal to provide meals in Algiers, La., that he could submit falsified invoices for extra meals, a Justice Department statement said.

The two were arrested hours after accepting envelopes containing $10,000 apiece. These were supposed to be down payments in what the two had said should be a $2,500 weekly bribe for each, officials said.

"No one - whether citizen or public official - will be permitted to illegally profit at the expense of the communities and citizens who so desperately need FEMA funds and assistance in the wake of this region's terrible disaster," said Jim Letten, the United States attorney.

Since the storm, dozens of would-be Hurricane Katrina victims who inappropriately applied for assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency have been arrested on charges of making fraudulent claims. A group of contract workers at the American Red Cross in Bakersfield, Calif., were arrested late last year, accused of creating fictitious victims and then cashing benefits the group provided.

A FEMA spokeswoman, Natalie Rule, said yesterday that the two were hired in September for its so-called disaster reservists team.

"We want to see anyone guilty of fraud prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," she said.

MORE ON: Police Storm (Palestinian) Parliament

NABLUS, West Bank - Thousands of angry activists from the defeated Fatah Party demanded their leaders' resignations, Palestinian police stormed a parliament building in Gaza and other security forces clashed with Hamas gunmen — signs of growing instability following Hamas' victory in parliamentary election.

Fatah gunmen climbed on top of the Palestinian parliament building in Ramallah, fired in the air and posted a picture of the late leader Yasser Arafat on the roof to cheers and whistles from hundreds of supporters below. Dozens of armed police officers briefly stormed the building in Gaza City and demanded an immediate trial for Hamas members who killed police in fighting in recent months.

"Everybody should know that we are not going to allow the Interior Ministry to belong to Hamas," the police said, referring to the government body that controls the security forces.

Most of the 58,000 members of the security forces are allied with Fatah and fear for their jobs under a Hamas-led government. Hamas has its own armed force of about 5,000 gunmen in Gaza.

Harness Racing Picks for 01-28-06

Record since 04-26-05

Win (322)

Place (87)

Show (24)

Out of the Money (80)

Freehold Raceway

Race # 2


Post Position: # 1


Windsor Raceway

Race # 7


Post Position: # 1

Police Storm (Palestinian) Parliament

Police have reportedly stormed into the Palestinian parliament compound.

Witnesses also said gunmen had climbed on to the roof of the parliament in Ramallah, which was not in session at the time.


The gunmen are said to be demanding the resignation of leaders of the Fatah movement.

The police are apparently protesting against any transfer of responsibility for security to Hamas.


Coulter: Justice Stevens Should Be Poisoned

January 27,2006 LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- Conservative commentator Ann Coulter, speaking at a traditionally black college, joked that Justice John Paul Stevens should be poisoned.

Coulter had told the Philander Smith College audience Thursday that more conservative justices were needed on the Supreme Court to change the current law on abortion. Stevens is one of the court's most liberal members.

"We need somebody to put rat poisoning in Justice Stevens' creme brulee," Coulter said. "That's just a joke, for you in the media."

Coulter should be thrown off a 40 story building, Just Joking......HAHAHA

Who Will Tell The People?

January 28, 2006 · Mike Malloy is the canary in the political coal mine -- the bane of the Bush administration and of hypocrites of all stripes. He is a liberal gadfly whose light shines so brightly on the truth that even Air America struggles to keep him hidden under its late-night barrel. By Sheila Samples


We should have known the guy was not really a bad-boy, tattooed "It's time to throw down" brawler when he had to bring his mom on the Larry King show to protect him.

On Thursday, the unmasked memoirist's proud mother was replaced by a punitive national matriarch. Watching Oprah flay Frey was riveting. At The Times and at Doubleday, staffers were glued to their TV sets.

It was a huge relief, after our long national slide into untruth and no consequences, into Swift boating and swift bucks, into W.'s delusion and denial, to see the Empress of Empathy icily hold someone accountable for lying and conning — and embarrassing her. (Though she and her producers should have known questions were raised early on about the book.)

In a society obsessed with sin and redemption, this was the superfecta: Oprah admitting her flawed judgment and rescuing her reputation, while carving up James Frey for sinning in his book about sin and redemption.

Oprah interviewed and showed taped clips of her media critics (including me) and credited her turnaround to the essay by The Times's chief book critic, Michiko Kakutani, who wrote: "It is a case about how much value contemporary culture places on the very idea of truth."

When President Bush cut into Oprah's show with a press conference, perhaps he was trying to get the focus off truth. It was truly weird to see the twin live TV moments: A disgraced author, and a commander in chief who keeps writing chapter after chapter of fictionalized propaganda.

After Nan Talese was shamed by Oprah, Doubleday said it would add two notes — one from the publisher and one from the author — before printing any more books. But it's not enough to stick on little disclaimers. The book should be recategorized, just as "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" should have been reclassified as fiction once John Berendt acknowledged all the liberties he took.

"A Million Little Pieces" and "My Friend Leonard" — the Frey "nonfiction" best seller that begins with the now-debunked jail term — should be sold as novels or fictional memoirs, the term Frederick Exley used for the great book "A Fan's Notes."

Will "A Million Little Pieces" move to the fiction category on The Times's best-seller list?

The editors told me that the list was simply in the business of counting the books sold, not checking whether memoirs — from stoned rockers or spinning politicians — were mostly true. But The Times's list will indicate that Mr. Frey has admitted fabricating parts of the book.

The Frey effect chilled publishers and agents, some of whom have encouraged authors to turn novels into hot-selling memoirs.

"The decision to take on a memoir was always based on how good is the writing and how good is the story," said Christy Fletcher, a New York literary agent. "That's not enough any more."

Mr. Frey said in an interview broadcast yesterday on Oxygen that he and his agent had given the book to some publishers as a novel and some as a memoir. In the insular world of publishing, that didn't tip anyone off — because no one really wanted to be tipped off.

There was a bit of a panic among publishers this week. St. Martin's Press hurriedly put a warning sticker on Augusten Burroughs' latest memoir, "Possible Side Effects," due out this spring:

"Author's note: Some of the events described happened as related, others were expanded and changed. Some of the individuals portrayed are composites of more than one person and many names and identifying characteristics have been changed as well."

Ballantine announced it would no longer ship two memoirs by Nasdijj, supposedly an inspiring Native American writer from the Southwest who said that as a child, he was "hungry, raped, beaten, whipped, and forced at every opportunity to work in the fields."

The L.A. Weekly learned that Nasdijj was really Timothy Barrus, a white middle-class man from Michigan who had written gay porn.

Booksellers were also puzzling over how to proceed.

"I think it should definitely not be on the nonfiction best seller list," said Mitchell Kaplan, owner of Books & Books in Coral Gables, Fla.

Roxanne Coady, owner of RJ Julia Booksellers in Madison, Conn., said she'd "probably reclassify it as fiction," and she thinks Doubleday should do the same:

"Either it's a memoir and someone's doing their best honest job to recall things and this is how they remember it, or it's not true and it's not a memoir."

What about a third category? Non-nonfiction? Self-help and self-dramatization? Pure bunk?

Friday, January 27, 2006

Harness Racing Results for 01-27-06

Record since 04-26-05

Win (322)

Place (87)

Show (24)

Out of the Money (80)

Flamboro Downs

Race # 3

Horse: FIELD NOTES (Place)

Post Position: # 4


Northfield Park

Race # 7

Horse: NOBLE LYNETTE (Out of the Money)

Post Position: # 3

Culture Of Corruption: Majority Disapproves of Bush on Ethics in Government


Nearly six in 10 Americans see lobbyist Jack Abramoff's plea deal as a sign of widespread corruption in Washington.

Jan. 27, 2006 — A clear majority of Americans now disapprove of President Bush's handling of ethics in government, and three-quarters say the administration should disclose all contacts between White House officials and disgraced Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

The administration has declined to release records of Abramoff meetings, saying it will not "engage in a fishing expedition." But in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, 76 percent said the White House should produce such a list. Even 65 percent of Republicans said so.

As things stand, the ethics situation in Washington is not working to Bush's advantage. In advance of his 2006 State of the Union address, 56 percent now disapprove of the way the president is handling ethics in government, up from 49 percent in mid-December.

Beyond disapproval of Bush on ethics, there's been some weakening for the Republicans more broadly. Asked which party they trust more to stand up to lobbyists and special interest groups, just 27 percent of Americans picked the Republicans, down from 34 percent last month. More, 46 percent, preferred the Democrats.

Independents — quintessential swing voters — picked the Democrats over the Republicans in trust to handle ethics by 46 percent to 20 percent. But skepticism is considerable; a quarter of all Americans, and about a third of independents, volunteer that they don't trust either party on lobbying, or draw no distinction between them.

There is some belief that Congress in the next year will enact tough new regulations on lobbying, but it's muted: Nearly half, 46 percent, call this likely, while 51 percent think it's unlikely. Just 11 percent see it as "very likely" that such legislation will come to pass; 24 percent, on the other hand, call it very unlikely.

Prosecutor nominated to a federal judgeship by President Bush, Will Step Down From Abramoff Case


WASHINGTON, Jan. 26 — The investigation of Jack Abramoff, the disgraced Republican lobbyist, took a surprising new turn on Thursday when the Justice Department said the chief prosecutor in the inquiry would step down next week because he had been nominated to a federal judgeship by President Bush.

The prosecutor, Noel L. Hillman, is chief of the department's public integrity division, and the move ends his involvement in an inquiry that has reached into the administration as well as the top ranks of the Republican leadership on Capitol Hill.

The administration said that the appointment was routine and that it would not affect the investigation, but Democrats swiftly questioned the timing of the move and called for a special prosecutor.

The announcement came as Mr. Bush faced a barrage of questions about why he would not make public "grip-and-grin" photographs of him with Mr. Abramoff. The photographs apparently show Mr. Bush and Mr. Abramoff smiling at White House Hanukkah parties and Republican fund-raising receptions.

New Canadian PM rebuffs US envoy


Canadian Prime Minister-elect Stephen Harper has defended plans to send military ice-breakers to the Arctic in defiance of criticism from Washington.
US ambassador David Wilkins said on Wednesday that Washington opposed the plan and, like most other countries, did not recognise Canada's claims.

Mr Harper said his mandate was from the Canadian people, not Mr Wilkins.

Mr Harper's Conservatives have promised to defend Canada's northern waters from claims by the US, Russia and Denmark.........

Harness Racing Picks for 01-27-06

Record since 04-26-05

Win (322)

Place (86)

Show (24)

Out of the Money (79)

Flamboro Downs

Race # 3


Post Position: # 4


Northfield Park

Race # 7


Post Position: # 3

Culture of Corruption: Majority Believe White House Should Release Abramoff Records


A strong bipartisan majority of the public believes President Bush should release records of meetings between disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff and White House staffers despite administration claims that media requests for details about those contacts amount to a "fishing expedition," according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

The survey found that three in four--76 percent--of all Americans said Bush should disclose contacts between aides and Abramoff while 18 percent disagreed. Two in three Republicans joined with eight in 10 Democrats and political independents in favoring disclosure, according to the poll.

McCains having trouble selling mansion

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., tests the declining real estate market as he tries to sell his recently price-reduced $3.75 million Phoenix mansion.

The 11,000 square foot estate, with its nine bedrooms and eight bathrooms -- and eight surveillance cameras -- has been on the market for three months.

Only six prospective buyers have checked it out, the Arizona Republic says. That led to a half-million-dollar price cut.

A year ago, there were 145 homes priced at $500,000 or more for sale in Phoenix. Now, there are 1,341. Houses were selling in days last year, but now, it's taking an average of six weeks.

Scrutiny on surveillance issue backed, blocking renewal of the Patriot Act.

WASHINGTON - Sen. Chuck Hagel said he's troubled by President Bush's domestic spying program, but he's reserving final judgment until Congress holds hearings.

Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska joins a band of Republicans and most Democrats in blocking renewal of the Patriot Act.

"I'm very concerned by what I do know," Hagel, R-Neb., said Thursday in a conference call with reporters.

The Senate Intelligence Committee, of which Hagel is a member, will conduct its own inquiry, asking the Bush administration to explain why it has conducted domestic wiretapping without seeking federal warrants.

"There are going to be some tough questions asked," Hagel said.

Other Midlands lawmakers separately expressed concern about the surveillance and said they are looking forward to testimony by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who will appear next week before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Using Our Fear AKA "Fucking Cowards"


Once upon a time we had a great wartime president who told Americans they had nothing to fear but fear itself. Now we have George W. Bush, who uses fear as a tool of executive power and as a political weapon against his opponents.

Franklin D. Roosevelt tried his best to allay his nation's fears in the midst of an epic struggle against fascism. Bush, as he leads the country in a war whose nature he is constantly redefining, keeps fear alive because it has been so useful. His political grand vizier, Karl Rove, was perfectly transparent the other day when he emerged from wherever he's been hiding the past few months -- consulting omens, reading entrails -- and gave the Republican National Committee its positioning statement for the fall elections: Vote for us or die.


The thing is, fear works. The administration successfully invoked the fear of "mushroom clouds" to win support, or at least acquiescence, for the invasion of Iraq. By the time it was clear there were no weapons of mass destruction, the fear of losing to terrorists on the "central front" had been given primacy. We stopped hearing the name bin Laden so often -- no need to bring attention to the fact that he remained at large -- until reports emerged of secret CIA prisons, torture and domestic spying.

Bin Laden does remain a threat. He would hit the United States again if he could. We do expect the president to protect us. But a great wartime leader rallies his citizens by informing them and inspiring them. He certainly doesn't use threats to our national security for political gain. He doesn't just point at a map and say "Boo."


American health care is desperately in need of reform. But what form should change take? Are there any useful examples we can turn to for guidance?

Well, I know about a health care system that has been highly successful in containing costs, yet provides excellent care. And the story of this system's success provides a helpful corrective to anti-government ideology. For the government doesn't just pay the bills in this system — it runs the hospitals and clinics.

No, I'm not talking about some faraway country. The system in question is our very own Veterans Health Administration, whose success story is one of the best-kept secrets in the American policy debate.

In the 1980's and early 1990's, says an article in The American Journal of Managed Care, the V.H.A. "had a tarnished reputation of bureaucracy, inefficiency and mediocre care."

But reforms beginning in the mid-1990's transformed the system, and "the V.A.'s success in improving quality, safety and value," the article says, "have allowed it to emerge as an increasingly recognized leader in health care."

Last year customer satisfaction with the veterans' health system, as measured by an annual survey conducted by the National Quality Research Center, exceeded that for private health care for the sixth year in a row.

This high level of quality (which is also verified by objective measures of performance) was achieved without big budget increases. In fact, the veterans' system has managed to avoid much of the huge cost surge that has plagued the rest of U.S. medicine.

How does the V.H.A. do it?

The secret of its success is the fact that it's a universal, integrated system. Because it covers all veterans, the system doesn't need to employ legions of administrative staff to check patients' coverage and demand payment from their insurance companies.

Because it's integrated, providing all forms of medical care, it has been able to take the lead in electronic record-keeping and other innovations that reduce costs, ensure effective treatment and help prevent medical errors.

Moreover, the V.H.A., as Phillip Longman put it in The Washington Monthly, "has nearly a lifetime relationship with its patients."

As a result, it "actually has an incentive to invest in prevention and more effective disease management. When it does so, it isn't just saving money for somebody else. It's maximizing its own resources. ...

"In short, it can do what the rest of the health care sector can't seem to, which is to pursue quality systematically without threatening its own financial viability."

Oh, and one more thing: the veterans health system bargains hard with medical suppliers, and pays far less for drugs than most private insurers.

I don't want to idealize the veterans' system. In fact, there's reason to be concerned about its future: will it be given the resources it needs to cope with the flood of wounded and traumatized veterans from Iraq? But the transformation of the V.H.A. is clearly the most encouraging health policy story of the past decade. So why haven't you heard about it?

The answer, I believe, is that pundits and policy makers don't talk about the veterans' system because they can't handle the cognitive dissonance. (One prominent commentator started yelling at me when I tried to describe the system's successes in a private conversation.)

For the lesson of the V.H.A.'s success story — that a government agency can deliver better care at lower cost than the private sector — runs completely counter to the pro-privatization, anti-government conventional wisdom that dominates today's Washington.

The dissonance between the dominant ideology and the realities of health care is one reason the Medicare drug legislation looks as if someone went down a checklist of things the veterans' system does right, and in each case did the opposite.

For example, the V.H.A. avoids dealing with insurance companies; the drug bill shoehorns insurance companies into the program, even though they serve no real function. The V.H.A. bargains effectively on drug prices; the drug bill forbids Medicare from doing the same.

Still, ideology can't hold out against reality forever. Cries of "socialized medicine" didn't, in the end, succeed in blocking the creation of Medicare. And farsighted thinkers are already suggesting that the Veterans Health Administration, not President Bush's unrealistic vision of a system in which people go "comparative shopping" for medical care the way they do when buying tile, represents the true future of American health care.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Harness Racing Results for 01-26-06

Record since 04-26-05

Win (322)

Place (86)

Show (24)

Out of the Money (79)

Freehold Raceway

Race # 11

Horse: RAID THE BANK (Won)

Post Position: # 1


Flamboro Downs

Race # 4

Horse: ALLS WELL (Show)

Post Position: # 3


Maywood Park

Race # 11


Post Position: # 2


Race # 7


Post Position: # 4

Hands Off My Internet

You think the Internet will always be the great freewheeling information superhighway you've grown to love? Well, think again. Media giants want to privatize our Internet.

Telecommunications companies like AT&T and Verizon are lobbying Congress for the right to control where you go on the Internet, how fast you get there, and how much you pay for the service.

Go here to see what some brazen telecom execs had to say, and to send them a message about how you feel about the Internet. Please forward this message to friends and family. If we generate heat at this stage in the debate, it could really pay off as telecom legislation works its way through Congress.

If successful in Congress, these companies would open the door to violate what techies call "net neutrality." It is the principle that Internet users should be able to access any web content they want, post their own content, and use any applications they choose, without restrictions or limitations imposed by their Internet service providers (ISPs).

Net neutrality is the reason this democratic medium has grown exponentially, fueled innovation and altered how we communicate. We must make certain that for-profit interests do not destroy the democratic culture of the web.

But some big telecommunications executives just don't get it. For them it is all about their bottom lines. They already charge us higher prices for slower connections than their counterparts in other parts of the world.* Now they say that they should get to double-charge for Internet access - collecting fees not just from us, but also from websites like Google and Yahoo.

And what about websites like CommonCause.org or your favorite blog that can't afford to pay up? They might be left in the slow lane of the information superhighway.

Common Cause is ready - with your help - to fight the telcom giants in the halls of Congress. A major rewrite of telecommunications law is on the agenda this spring. We need to push back hard at the telecom lobbyists who want to write Internet freedom out of the law.

Our first step is to send a strong message now to the big industry execs. Tell them that the principle of net neutrality needs to be honored, and that Internet service providers (ISPs) should not play gatekeepers.


Tell-A-Friend to Demand that President Bush Stop Spying on Americans Illegally.

Senator Leahy's Link

Support a Filibuster Against Judge Alito

I fully support a filibuster against Judge Alito's nomination to the Supreme Court.

Judge Alito's nomination does not serve the best interests of our nation; it serves to appease extreme right wing elements of the Republican Party. His nomination is an incredible mistake for America, and only the United States Senate can put a stop to it.

I think it's time that the United States Senate confirmed once and for all that extreme ideology has no place on the highest court in the land. This is a critical fight for the future of our country. That's why I've taken the time to sign this petition. And I hope that's why the Senate will step up to the plate and do the right thing for America: support a filibuster against Samuel Alito.

Your name here


Top U.S. general says Army 'stretched'

DIWANIYAH, Iraq - The top U.S. general in Iraq acknowledged Thursday that American forces in this country are "stretched," but he said he will only recommend withdrawals based on operational needs.

Gen. George Casey told reporters he had discussed the issue with Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker on Wednesday and that the Army chief of staff believes he can still sustain the mission in Iraq.

"The forces are stretched ... and I don't think there's any question of that," Casey said. "But the Army has been for the last several years going through a modernization strategy that will produce more units and more ready units."

He reiterated he would only recommend reductions in the more than 130,000-strong U.S. military presence in Iraq based on the situation on the ground.

K St. counteroffensive

The Hill

Big trade associations — lobbyists — are getting ready to fight the sharp tightening of lobbying regulations.

The board of directors of the American League of Lobbyists (ALL), a trade association representing lobbyists, met Monday to discuss the various reform proposals and to lay plans for a coalition of lobbying heavyweights to work with lawmakers to review them.

“Our big issue right now is that we’re not sure you can say the system is broken,” Paul Miller, ALL’s president, said in an interview. “We’ve got to start with enforcement, and that’s our message to Congress. We want to make sure they find a way to enforce the current rules before they make up any new rules.”

Momentum for reform is building. The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee is scheduled today to consider how to respond to concerns raised by the scandal surrounding lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who has pleaded guilty to federal charges of fraud, conspiracy to bribe and tax evasion.

Miller said a coordination effort is under way among several of the biggest business lobbying groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) and others. A similar coalition was formed in 1995 when Congress last seriously scrutinized lobbying regulations, Miller said.

Some of the groups Miller cites seem leery about joining the effort to influence reform proposals when criticism of lobbyists is so intense both on and off Capitol Hill.........

China backs Iran compromise plan


Plans to enrich uranium in Russia for use in Iran could help break a global stalemate over Tehran's nuclear aims, China's government has said.
Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, called the proposals "useful" after talks in Beijing aimed at heading off US and EU calls for UN action.

China, which could veto any sanctions bid in the UN, has urged greater efforts for a diplomatic solution.

Mr Larijani said China and Iran held "similar views" on the nuclear issue.

"We agreed members of the Non-Proliferation Treaty have [the] right to peaceful nuclear energy," he told reporters.

Iran has consistently denied US-led accusations that it is seeking to develop nuclear weapons, insisting its nuclear programme is for producing electricity.

In Today's "Straight Talk" segment, Lauer didn't challenge McCain's misleading claims

NBC Today co-host Matt Lauer failed to challenge Sen. John McCain's misleading claims that "members of Congress -- including Democrats -- were briefed" on President Bush's warrantless domestic spying program "and there didn't seem to be ... any public outcry until recently." In fact, of the seven Democratic lawmakers known to have been briefed on the domestic spying program prior to its disclosure by The New York Times, three have said they objected privately at the time, and three more have said they weren't given adequate information about the program. Moreover, these lawmakers could not have raised "any public outcry," because the briefings were classified. Read more

Bush's repetition of 9-11 fallacy to justify NSA warrantless spying program presents media with another opportunity to challenge the claim

In his speech before the National Security Agency, President Bush repeated a debunked claim, previously reported uncritically by some in the media, that his warrantless domestic spying program could have identified some of the 9-11 hijackers. Bush's repetition of the claim gives the media another opportunity to examine it critically in their reporting. Read more

Gibson allowed Hoekstra to claim that "Democrats were for" domestic spying "before they were against it"

Fox News' John Gibson allowed Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-MI) to claim that Democrats originally supported President Bush's warrantless domestic spying program but now "they're starting to change their story," even though several Democratic members of Congress have said they expressed concerns about the program at the time and even though Hoekstra himself has agreed that the Bush administration's briefings on the program did not meet legal requirements. Read more

Iraqi Women to Be Freed From U.S. Custody

BAGHDAD, Iraq - The U.S. military said Thursday it would release five Iraqi women detainees, a move demanded by the kidnappers of an American reporter to spare her life.

The women will be freed Thursday and Friday as part of a group of about 420 Iraqis to be released from military custody after reviews of their cases determined there was no reason to keep holding them.

Armed men who abducted Jill Carroll on Jan. 7 in Baghdad have threatened to kill the freelance reporter for the Christian Science Monitor unless all Iraqi women prisoners were freed.

The military confirmed it is holding nine Iraqi women. The fate of the remaining four was not immediately clear.

More Americans favor impeaching Bush, poll says (52%)


WASHINGTON - The word "impeachment" is popping up increasingly these days and not just off the lips of liberal activists spouting predictable bumper-sticker slogans.

After the unfounded claims about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and recent news of domestic spying without warrants, mainstream politicians and ordinary voters are talking openly about the possibility that President Bush could be impeached. So is at least one powerful senator, Arlen Specter, R-Pa., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

So far, it's just talk. With Republicans controlling Congress, and memories still fresh of the bitter fight and national distraction inflamed by former President Clinton's 1998 impeachment, even the launching of an official inquiry is a very long shot.

But a poll released last week by Zogby International showed 52 percent of American adults thought Congress should consider impeaching Bush if he wiretapped U.S. citizens without court approval, including 59 percent of independents and 23 percent of Republicans. (The survey had a margin of error of 2.9 percentage points.)


We should be used to it by now. There are a couple of Congressional committees trying to investigate the tragic Hurricane Katrina debacle, but the Bush administration is refusing to turn over certain documents or allow certain senior White House officials to testify before the committees under oath.

Senator Joseph Lieberman, a Democrat who is by no means unfriendly to the Bush crowd, said this week, "There has been a near-total lack of cooperation that has made it impossible, in my opinion, for us to do the thorough investigation that we have a responsibility to do."

Once again the president has, in effect, flipped the bird at Congress. He's amazing. Forget such fine points as the Constitution and the separation of powers. George W. Bush does what he wants to do.

He won fewer votes than Al Gore in 2000 and then governed as if he'd been elected by acclamation. He dispensed with John Kerry in 2004 by portraying himself — a man who ran and hid from the draft during Vietnam — as more of a warrior than Mr. Kerry, a decorated combat veteran of that war.

Reality has been dealt a stunning blow by Mr. Bush. The administration's high-handedness with the Katrina investigators comes at the same time as disclosures showing that the White House was warned in the hours just before the hurricane hit New Orleans that it might well cause catastrophic flooding and the breaching of the city's levees.

That was early on the morning of last Aug. 29. On Sept. 1, with the city all but completely underwater, the president went on television and blithely declared, "I don't think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees."

This guy is something. Remember his "Top Gun" moment aboard the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln? And his famous taunt — "Bring 'em on" — to the insurgents in Iraq?

His breathtaking arrogance is exceeded only by his incompetence. And that's the real problem. That's where you'll find the mind-boggling destructiveness of this regime, in its incompetence.

Fantasy may be in fashion. Reality may have been shoved into the shadows on Mr. Bush's watch. But the plain truth is that he is the worst president in memory, and one of the worst of all time.

Many thousands of people — men, women and children — have died unnecessarily (and thousands more are suffering) because of his misguided and mishandled policies.

Brent Scowcroft, the national security adviser for George H. W. Bush, counseled against the occupation of Iraq at the end of the first gulf war.

As recounted in a New Yorker article last fall, he said, "At the minimum, we'd be an occupier in a hostile land. Our forces would be sniped at by guerrillas, and, once we were there, how would we get out?"

George W. Bush had no such concerns. In fact, he joked about his failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Like a frat boy making cracks about a bad bet on a football game, Mr. Bush displayed what he felt was a hilarious set of photos during a spoof that he performed at the annual dinner of the Radio and Television Correspondents Association in March 2004.

The photos showed the president peering behind curtains and looking under furniture in the Oval Office for the missing weapons. Mr. Bush offered mock captions for the photos, saying, "Those weapons of mass destruction have got to be somewhere." And, "Nope, no weapons over there, maybe under here."

This week, as the killing of American G.I.'s and innocent Iraqis continued, we learned from a draft report from the office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction that, like the war itself, the Bush plan for rebuilding Iraq has been crippled by incompetence and extreme shortages of personnel. I doubt that this will bother the president any more than any of his other failures. He seems to truly believe that he can do no wrong.

The fiasco in Iraq and the president's response to the Hurricane Katrina catastrophe were Mr. Bush's two most spectacular foul-ups.

There have been many others. The president's new Medicare prescription drug program has been a monumental embarrassment, leaving some of the most vulnerable members of our society without essential medication.

Prominent members of the president's own party are balking at the heavy hand of his No Child Left Behind law, which was supposed to radically upgrade the quality of public education.

The Constitution? Civil liberties? Don't ask.

Just keep in mind, whatever your political beliefs, that incompetence in high places can have devastating consequences.

Harness Racing Picks for 01-26-06

Record since 04-26-05

Win (319)

Place (86)

Show (23)

Out of the Money (79)

Freehold Raceway

Race # 11


Post Position: # 1


Flamboro Downs

Race # 4


Post Position: # 3


Maywood Park

Race # 11


Post Position: # 2


Race # 7


Post Position: # 4

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Iran Welcomes Russia's Offer to Enrich Uranium Jointly; Details Remain


MOSCOW, Jan. 25 —
Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, said here on Wednesday that he welcomed a Russian proposal to defuse the confrontation between Iran and the West over its nuclear programs by establishing a joint venture to enrich uranium in Russia. But he indicated that no agreement had been reached and that significant details remained to be negotiated.

"Our attitude to the proposal is positive," Mr. Larijani, the secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, said after meeting with his Russian counterpart, Igor S. Ivanov, Russian news agencies reported. "We tried to bring the positions of the two sides closer."

At the same time, he warned that Iran would begin enriching uranium on an industrial scale if its nuclear program was referred to the United Nations Security Council. His remarks came a day after Mr. Larijani and Mr. Ivanov said the confrontation should be resolved at the International Atomic Energy Agency, whose governors are scheduled to meet next week.

Harness Racing Results for 01-25-06

Record since 04-26-05

Win (319)

Place (86)

Show (23)

Out of the Money (79)

Pompano Park

Race # 11

Horse: SON O LIGHT (Won)

Post Position: # 3

White House Dismissed '02 Surveillance Proposal

Washington Post

Thursday, January 26, 2006; Page A04

The Bush administration rejected a 2002 Senate proposal that would have made it easier for FBI agents to obtain surveillance warrants in terrorism cases, concluding that the system was working well and that it would likely be unconstitutional to lower the legal standard.

The proposed legislation by Sen. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) would have allowed the FBI to obtain surveillance warrants for non-U.S. citizens if they had a "reasonable suspicion" they were connected to terrorism -- a lower standard than the "probable cause" requirement in the statute that governs the warrants.


Democrats and national security law experts who oppose the NSA program say the Justice Department's opposition to the DeWine legislation seriously undermines arguments by Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and others, who have said the NSA spying is constitutional and that surveillance warrants are often too cumbersome to obtain.

"It's entirely inconsistent with their current position," said Philip B. Heymann, a former deputy attorney general in the Clinton administration who teaches law at Harvard University. "The only reason to do what they've been doing is because they wanted a lower standard than 'probable cause.' A member of Congress offered that to them, but they turned it down."

Katrina: White House Declines to Provide Storm Papers


WASHINGTON, Jan. 24 - The Bush administration, citing the confidentiality of executive branch communications, said Tuesday that it did not plan to turn over certain documents about Hurricane Katrina or make senior White House officials available for sworn testimony before two Congressional committees investigating the storm response.

The White House's stance on storm-related documents, along with slow or incomplete responses by other agencies, threatens to undermine efforts to identify what went wrong, Democrats on the committees said Tuesday.

"There has been a near total lack of cooperation that has made it impossible, in my opinion, for us to do the thorough investigation that we have a responsibility to do," Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, Democrat of Connecticut, said at Tuesday's hearing of the Senate committee investigating the response. His spokeswoman said he would ask for a subpoena for documents and testimony if the White House did not comply.

Uncensored Stories from Iraq: IAVA's TroopNet

Today, IAVA is formally launching the first and only online community exclusively for Troops and Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. IAVA's TroopNet allows these Troops and Veterans to post profiles and pictures, search for fellow vets, link to buddies, and send messages.Even if you're not an Iraq or Afghanistan veteran, you can still visit TroopNet and read these powerful stories, updated daily from Troops and Veterans around the world.

Today hosted O'Reilly again despite smearing war opponents in last appearance

For the third time in just over three months, Bill O'Reilly appeared on NBC's Today despite the fact that, in his previous appearance on the show, he compared those who support withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq to Hitler appeasers. Read more

LA Times continues to publish David Horowitz despite his history of misinformation

The Los Angeles Times printed an op-ed by David Horowitz regarding academic freedom on college campuses despite his history of false statements and unsupported allegations on this very topic. The op-ed marked the 29th time Horowitz has been published in the Times, according to a Nexis search. Read more

Without acknowledging error, O'Reilly modified false Abramoff claim; attacked "organized terror" from "far-left websites"

Bill O'Reilly modified his previous false claim that lobbyist Jack Abramoff donated money to both Republicans and Democrats, saying: "His personal donations were to Republicans." However, O'Reilly made no admission of his previous error, and went on to attack "far-left websites" for "put[ting] out a fatwa" against him and Washington Post ombudsman Deborah Howell, further claiming the websites engage in "organized terror." Read more

CNN's Ensor baselessly reported that Senate wiretapping hearings will focus on changes to FISA

CNN's David Ensor reported that the upcoming Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on President Bush's warrantless domestic surveillance program are being held to determine "whether the law should be changed to require court approval of all domestic surveillance." In fact, the purpose of the hearings, as described by the committee chairman, is to determine whether the president had the constitutional authority to ignore the law. Read more

Will media report facts undermining Bush administration's "reasonable basis" defense of spy program's legality?

Numerous media outlets have cited Gen. Michael V. Hayden's defense of the Bush administration's warrantless domestic surveillance program while ignoring a Justice Department statement from June 2002 that contradicted Hayden's claims. Now that the statement has surfaced, will those media outlets now report the facts undermining Hayden's defense? Read more

ABC, CBS, CNN, NBC failed to challenge Bush's, Bartlett's false assertions that Congress was fully briefed on domestic spying

In coverage of President Bush's January 23 speech at Kansas State University, evening news broadcasts on ABC, CBS, and NBC uncritically reported Bush's assertion that his "briefing Congress" about his authorization of warrantless domestic wiretaps by the National Security Agency shows that he believed the wiretapping program was legal; however, members of Congress from both parties have disputed the claim that they were adequately briefed. Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA) said that the "program in fact goes far beyond the measures to target Al Qaeda about which I was briefed." Read more

Former GOP presidential candidate du Pont falsely suggested "America's judicial system" supported warrantless domestic surveillance

Defending President Bush's domestic spying program in his January 17 column, Pete du Pont claimed that "the federal courts have consistently ruled that the constitution gives the president the authority ... to acquire foreign intelligence without warrants or other approvals." But, contrary to his suggestion, these federal court rulings do not address the legality of Bush's authorization of the National Security Agency to conduct warrantless domestic surveillance. Read more

Media repeated Hayden's unsubstantiated claim that warrantless spy program would have alerted U.S. to 9-11 threat

Many news outlets have uncritically repeated Gen. Michael Hayden's claim that the administration's warrantless spying program would have detected some of the 9-11 attackers. Read more