Saturday, November 25, 2006


Rumsfeld okayed abuses says former U.S. general

MADRID (Reuters) - Outgoing Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld authorized the mistreatment of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, the prison's former U.S. commander said in an interview on Saturday.

Former U.S. Army Brigadier General Janis Karpinski told Spain's El Pais newspaper she had seen a letter apparently signed by Rumsfeld which allowed civilian contractors to use techniques such as sleep deprivation during interrogation.

Karpinski, who ran the prison until early 2004, said she saw a memorandum signed by Rumsfeld detailing the use of harsh interrogation methods.

"The handwritten signature was above his printed name and in the same handwriting in the margin was written: "Make sure this is accomplished"," she told Saturday's El Pais.

"The methods consisted of making prisoners stand for long periods, sleep deprivation ... playing music at full volume, having to sit in uncomfortably ... Rumsfeld authorized these specific techniques."

The Geneva Convention says prisoners of war should suffer "no physical or mental torture, nor any other form of coercion" to secure information.

"Prisoners of war who refuse to answer may not be threatened, insulted, or exposed to any unpleasant or disadvantageous treatment of any kind," the document states.

A spokesman for the Pentagon declined to comment on Karpinski's accusations, while U.S. army in Iraq could not immediately be reached for comment.

Karpinski was withdrawn from Iraq in early 2004, shortly after photographs showing American troops abusing detainees at the prison were flashed around the world. She was subsequently removed from active duty and then demoted to the rank of colonel on unrelated charges.

Karpinski insists she knew nothing about the abuse of prisoners until she saw the photos, as interrogation was carried out in a prison wing run by U.S. military intelligence.

Rumsfeld also authorized the army to break the Geneva Conventions by not registering all prisoners, Karpinski said, explaining how she raised the case of one unregistered inmate with an aide to former U.S. commander Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez.

"We received a message from the Pentagon, from the Defense Secretary, ordering us to hold the prisoner without registering him. I now know this happened on various occasions."

Karpinski said last week she was ready to testify against Rumsfeld, if a suit filed by civil rights groups in Germany over Abu Ghraib led to a full investigation.

President Bush announced Rumsfeld's resignation after Democrats wrested power from the Republicans in midterm elections earlier this month, partly due to public criticism over the Iraq war.

(Additional reporting by Diane Bartz in Washington)

Friday, November 24, 2006


Senate Democrats Revive Demand for Classified Data

WASHINGTON, Nov. 23 — Seeking information about detention of terrorism suspects, abuse of detainees and government secrecy, Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee are reviving dozens of demands for classified documents that until now have been rebuffed or ignored by the Justice Department and other agencies.

“I expect real answers, or we’ll have testimony under oath until we get them,” Senator Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, who will head the committee beginning in January, said in an interview this week. “We’re entitled to know these answers, and in many instances we don’t get them because people are hiding their mistakes. And that’s no excuse.”

Mr. Leahy, who has said little about his plans for the committee, expressed hope for greater cooperation from the Bush administration, which he described as having been “obsessively secretive.” His aides have identified more than 65 requests he has made to the Justice Department or other agencies in recent years that have been rejected or permitted to languish without reply.

Now that they are about to control Congress, what he and other Democrats regard as a record of unresponsiveness has energized their renewal of longstanding requests for information about some of the administration’s most hidden and fiercely debated operations. In addition, other such requests by committee members deal with subjects like voter fraud, immigration and background inquiries on Supreme Court nominees.

With little more than two weeks gone since the elections that gave his party a majority in both houses, Mr. Leahy has already begun pressing the Justice Department for greater openness. In a letter last Friday, he asked Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales to release two documents whose existence the Central Intelligence Agency, in response to a suit by the American Civil Liberties Union, recently acknowledged for the first time. Although their details are not known, the documents appear to have provided a legal basis for the agency’s detention and harsh interrogation of high-level terrorism suspects.

One document is a directive, signed by President Bush shortly after the September 2001 attacks, that granted the C.I.A. authority to set up detention centers outside the United States and outlined allowable interrogation procedures.

The second is a memorandum, written by the Office of Legal Counsel at the Justice Department in 2002, that is thought to have given the C.I.A. specific legal advice about interrogation methods that would not violate a federal statute on torture.

With Democrats in control, it will be harder for executive branch agencies to sidestep requests for documents. Behind each request will be the possibility of Democrats’ voting to issue subpoenas that would compel documents or testimony, although Senate aides said they hoped to avoid conflict.

So far, few signs have emerged that the administration is preparing to be more responsive, even in the absence of a Republican majority’s protection. Mr. Bush has promised to work with Democrats, but there appears to be little change in the reluctance of the Justice Department’s officials to start opening its files to Mr. Leahy’s committee.

“The department will continue to work closely with the Congress as they exercise their oversight functions, and we will appropriately respond to all requests in the spirit of that longstanding relationship,” said a department spokesman, Brian Roehrkasse. “When making those decisions, it is vital to protect national security information, particularly when they relate to sensitive intelligence programs that are the subject of oversight by the Intelligence Committees. We also must give appropriate weight to the confidentiality of internal executive branch deliberations.”

C.I.A. lawyers have sought in the past to avoid any discussion of whether the agency has documents related to its detention and interrogation of leading members of Al Qaeda in secret prisons overseas. The lawyers have said national security would be endangered if the agency was forced to tell in any way of its involvement in such operations.

But in September, the president said 14 high-level terrorism suspects had been transferred from secret locations abroad to the detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. That effectively confirmed the existence of the prisons, as long reported.

The two documents requested by Mr. Leahy in his letter of last Friday are among what Congressional aides maintain are perhaps hundreds, crucial to shaping the government’s counterterrorism policies, that have never been released or publicly acknowledged.

Justice Department officials have long said they will resist efforts to require disclosure of classified documents that provide legal advice to other agencies. But in the interview this week, Mr. Leahy signaled that he expected the department to provide a fuller documentary history on issues like detention.

The senator’s letter to Mr. Gonzales requested “all directives, memoranda, and/or orders including any and all attachments to such documents, regarding C.I.A. interrogation methods or policies for the treatment of detainees.” It also sought an index of all documents related to Justice Department inquiries into detainee abuse by “U.S. military or civilian personnel in Guantánamo Bay, Abu Ghraib prison or elsewhere.”

It is not known whether the material sought would clarify the origin and evolution of policies on issues like national security wiretaps, detention and interrogation. But there are wide gaps in what is publicly known about these policies, who authorized them and what exactly has been authorized by administration directives and legal advisories.

“The American people,” Mr. Leahy’s letter said, “deserve to have detailed and accurate information about the role of the Bush administration in developing the interrogation policies and practices that have engendered such deep criticism around the world.”

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


Playing Doctor

by McJoan

Jessica at Feministing highlights this find from a WaPo article profiling controversial HHS nominee, Eric Keroack:

Pearson also acknowledged yesterday that Keroack is not currently certified as an obstetrician-gynecologist. That is not a requirement for the job, but HHS officials had cited Keroack's expertise in defending his selection.

Yeah, they did kind of pump up that "expertise" in selling this abstinence-only quack, as Jessica points out:

The Washington Post, 11/21/2006:

"An HHS spokeswoman said Keroack is a skilled doctor and a nationally recognized expert on preventing teenage pregnancy. 'We have confidence that he'll perform his duties effectively and in accordance with the law,' HHS spokeswoman Christina Pearson said by e-mail."

The Washington Post, 11/17/2006:

"John O. Agwunobi, assistant secretary for health, said Keroack 'is highly qualified and a well-respected physician . . . working primarily with women and girls in crisis.'"

A highly qualified health professional who doesn't bother to keep track of when his board certification expires. Keroack's nomination is a joke, and an offensive one at that. HHS's Office of Population Affairs, the unit he began overseeing on Monday, funds contraceptive programs, pregnancy testing, and STD screening and counseling. Having the former medical director of a crisis pregnancy center which provides no contraceptive services or counseling and which continues to push the fiction that abortion is linked to breast cancer, and who advocates abstinence until marriage over contraception and STD prevention in charge of these programs would be laughable if it wasn't so dangerous to the health of women.

House and Senate Democrats have reacted to the appointment, asking that HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt withdraw his nomination. From the Senate letter circulated by Barbara Boxer:

"Unfortunately, this appointment is another example of the administration allowing ideology to trump science, and it could jeopardize vital services on which large numbers of women and families depend," the letter said. Signers included incoming Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), who will be chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

The House letter, spearheaded by Henry Waxman, pulls no punches in it's conclusion:

Someone who oversees the provision of inaccurate medical information about an issue has crucial to women's health as breast cancer should not be responsible for overseeing the federal program that provides health services, including breast cancer detection services, for 5 million women a year. The medical director of a network whose policy was not to provide contraception or referrals for contraception--even to married couples--is not the appropriate person to administer a federal program designed to provide birth control and other reproductive services to American women.

We urge you to rescind this appointment and appoint a professional who is committed to medical accuracy and access to safe and effective contraception.

Yeah, what Henry said.


Whitewashing Iraq on the Washington Post Op-Ed Page

by Glenn Greenwald

Robert Kaplan, the national security correspondent for The Atlantic Monthly, is one of our country's anointed foreign policy geniuses. In November, 2001, he attended a secret meeting (along with Newsweek's Fareed Zakaria), organized by Paul Wolfowitz, for the purpose of producing a report for President Bush on Middle East policy which, among other things, outlined all the great reasons why we should invade Iraq.

Thereafter, both Kaplan and Zakaria became two of the country's most enthusiastic pundit-advocates for invading Iraq, without ever revealing their participation in Wolfowitz's meeting (they signed confidentiality agreements not to disclose anything that was discussed). It is obviously an extremely odd situation for a "reporter" to participate with government officials in the preparation of such a report, but Kaplan told his Atlantic Monthly editors in advance and "was given approval to attend because 'everybody was in a patriotic fervor.'" None of that has impeded Kaplan's career or journalistic credibility any.

Today, this wise foreign policy analyst has an Op-Ed in The Washington Post in which he argues that the failure of the war he wanted so badly in Iraq won't fundamentally change U.S. foreign policy, but instead will lead merely to "an adjustment, not a flip-flop." Kaplan specifically claims that preemptive war on Iraq was not at all a deviation from our prior foreign policy because it was nothing more than an extension of our post-Cold War "idealistic" military interventions -- devoted towards the spreading of Good in the world -- which began with the Persian Gulf War, continued with our benevolent intervention in Yugoslavia, and merely culminated with our desire to do Good by overthrowing Saddam:

To be sure, the recent evidence that our democratic system cannot be violently exported will temper our Wilsonian principles, but it will not bury them. . . . Iraq will merely close a post-Cold War chapter in American foreign policy, one that began with the Persian Gulf War -- and with Bosnia. After the collapse of communism in 1989, idealism, the export of democracy and humanitarian interventionism were all the rage among journalists and intellectuals -- much as realism, restraint and benign dictatorship are now. . . .

The Balkan interventions, because they paid strategic dividends, appeared to justify the idealistic missionary approach to foreign policy. . . . Neoconservatives and others who had supported our actions in Bosnia and Kosovo then carried the spirit of this policy to its limits in Iraq.

See, all we were ever trying to do in Iraq was help the Iraqi people make a better life for themselves and to end oppression, so the only lesson we need to draw from all of this is that the overflowing Goodness of neoconservatives and their desire to help people just needs to be tempered a little bit by the harsh realities of a bad world. That's all: "In this decade idealists went too far; in the previous one, it was realists who did not go far enough."

This is rank historical revisionism of the most deliberately dishonest strain, designed to cleanse the sins of neoconservatives and other Iraq war advocates, and it is spreading everywhere. It is vital to preserve the truth that the invasion of Iraq was not some slightly excessive extension of our long-standing idealistic desire to help the world's oppressed people. The opposite was true.

The invasion of Iraq constituted a radical departure from decades-long American foreign policy doctrine governing what constitutes a justifiable war against another country. To justify the war which Kaplan wanted so eagerly, the Bush administration issued a National Security Strategy in 2002 (.pdf) which "shifted U.S. foreign policy away from decades of deterrence and containment toward a more aggressive stance of attacking enemies before they attack the United States." That militaristic hubris is the doctrine which drove our invasion (and it is still in place, as the Bush administration re-affirmed it earlier this year).

What makes Kaplan's revisionism all the more reprehensible is that it distorts not only the administration's justification for the Iraq invasion but also Kaplan's own rationale in favor of it. In a lengthy Atlantic Monthly article in November, 2002, devoted to all the great benefits we would reap from invading Iraq, Kaplan does not at all rely upon the magnanimous idealism that he now dishonestly claims animated support for the war. Again, the opposite is true.

In that war-advocating article, Kaplan argued that we have to move our military bases out of Saudi Arabia and an invasion of Iraq would allow "the relocation of our bases to Iraq." And Kaplan expressly wanted to replace Saddam with a pro-U.S. dictatorship which may -- or may not -- some day in the distant future foster democracy: "Our goal in Iraq should be a transitional secular dictatorship that unites the merchant classes across sectarian lines and may in time, after the rebuilding of institutions and the economy, lead to a democratic alternative."

Most of all, Kaplan -- like all neocons who are pathologically obsessed with matters of dominance and submission -- justified the war based on the "need" to show those Muslims that we are the mighty and powerful ones, just like we did when we shot down an Iranian civilian passenger jet in the 1980s and showed Iran who the boss is:

Keep in mind that the Middle East is a laboratory of pure power politics. For example, nothing impressed the Iranians so much as our accidental shooting down of an Iranian civilian airliner in 1988, which they believed was not an accident. Iran's subsequent cease-fire with Iraq was partly the result of that belief. Our dismantling the Iraqi regime would concentrate the minds of Iran's leaders as little else could.

That was Kaplan and the neocons' vision for Iraq -- permanent military bases, the installation of a pro-U.S. secular dictator (gee, who might he have had in mind?), and a display of raw power to keep the Arabs and Persians in line ("concentrate their minds"), just like that awesome occasion when we shot down their passenger plane (the invasion would also give us "a position of newfound strength" and thus President Bush, in his second term, could -- and, Kaplan assured us, would --"pressure the Israelis into a staged withdrawal from the occupied territories"). And all of that was justified by a militaristic new theory that the U.S. could invade whatever countries it wanted to invade based upon the suspicion that the country might some day pose a threat to the U.S.

The invasion of Iraq and those who advocated it, such as Kaplan, were anything but "idealistic." They were and are nothing other than malicious warmongers who invented new "theories" to "justify" waging war on countries that didn't attack us and posed no real threat to us.

What the failure of Iraq demonstrates is not -- as Kaplan so earnestly suggests today -- that the rosy-eyed, slightly naive but well-intentioned neonconservative idealists just need to be a little more restrained in their desire to do Good in the world. It demonstrates that they are deceitful, radical and untrustworthy warmongers who led this country into the worst strategic disaster in its history and should never be trusted with anything ever again. And it equally demonstrates that starting wars with no justification and with no notion of self-defense is an idea that is as destructive as it is unjust.

There is really no limit to the willingness of neonconservatives and the pro-war foreign policy geniuses who enabled them to spew untruths in an attempt to rehabilitate themselves and their militarism. Here Kaplan is making claims that are the exact opposite -- literally -- of what actually happened that led to the war and what those, like him, argued to justify that war. That they are still given space to do this by The Washington Post, and treated as "serious" foreign policy scholars, remains one of the most perplexing and dangerous outcomes of this war.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006



from Atrios

I know we're supposed to get upset about this stuff because of civil liberties issues, but frankly I get more upset about it because of the absurdity and what it suggests about the intelligence of our rulers:

WASHINGTON, Nov. 20 — An antiterrorist database used by the Defense Department in an effort to prevent attacks against military installations included intelligence tips about antiwar planning meetings held at churches, libraries, college campuses and other locations, newly disclosed documents show.

One tip in the database in February 2005, for instance, noted that “a church service for peace” would be held in the New York City area the next month. Another entry noted that antiwar protesters would be holding “nonviolence training” sessions at unidentified churches in Brooklyn and Manhattan.

The Defense Department tightened its procedures earlier this year to ensure that only material related to actual terrorist threats — and not peaceable First Amendment activity — was included in the database.


Arab Winter

The failure of last year's so-called Arab Spring underscores the broader failure of U.S. policy in the Mid-East.

By Matthew Yglesias

Remember the Arab Spring?

"Just recently we have had the Lebanese revolution, the Egyptian announcement about electoral changes, the Iraqi elections, the Afghan elections," wrote Charles Krauthammer in the spring of 2005. "Kuwait has just extended suffrage to women, and Syria has announced, however disingenuously, that they are moving toward legalizing political parties, purging the ruling Baath Party, sponsoring free municipal elections in 2007, and formally endorsing a market economy." He concluded: "What we have seen in the last six months has been simply astonishing -- well, astonishing to the critics."

Now, to be clear, Krauthammer is very possibly the worst journalist working in America today, a relentlessly pernicious force, never right about anything, who feels his commentary should not be shackled by the small-minded bonds of accuracy or logic. He was, however, hardly alone in his unabashed enthusiasm for Bush's Arab Spring. "There is a pathology, a historical pathology," explained New Republic editor in chief Martin Peretz, "that [Bush] has attacked with unprecedented vigor and with unprecedented success." That pathology was "the political culture of the Middle East, which the president may actually have changed."

And, indeed, things have changed. As Sabrina Tavernise reported in Monday's New York Times about the centerpiece of the U.S.-orchestrated Mid-East transformation, "after months of apparently random sectarian violence the pattern has become one of attack and counterattack, with Sunni militants staging what commanders call 'spectacular' strikes and Shiite militias retaliating with abductions and murders of Sunnis."

Welcome to the long, dark Arab winter.

It's hard to believe that so recently, the American mainstream's enthusiasm for the "successes" of Bush's democracy-promotion endeavor was so intense that liberals were overwhelmingly cowed into silence. What the successes were, exactly, was always hard to say. Iraq was, at the time, already being torn asunder by violent sectarian divisions that were merely re-inscribed by an election in which everyone voted for a sectarian party. Lebanon's "Cedar Revolution," meanwhile, didn't actually change the country's electoral system at all. Reforms in the pro-American Arab states proved to be chimerical -- Kuwait let women as well as men vote in elections for powerless offices, Saudi Arabia let people vote for powerless offices, and Mubarak promised to hold a fair election but then didn't, you know, hold one. Cruelest of all, however, was the treatment of the long-suffering Palestinians. For years, Bush had informed them that no pressure would be brought to bear on their Israeli occupiers to settle the territorial issue until the Palestinian Authority reformed its internal procedures and ended the corrupt and authoritarian rule of the Fatah Movement. Eventually, Yasser Arafat died, elections were held, and the main Palestinian opposition movement, Hamas, won. Palestinians were then informed that there would be no negotiations. Having been ordered to vote, you see, they voted for the wrong party.

Then last summer, Lebanese Arabs found that the United States' enthusiasm for their new government didn't extend to protecting it from wide-ranging Israeli military strikes on their civilian infrastructure or efforts to strangle their economy. Lebanon, it seems, faced a mandate not only to restore democracy, but to initiate a new round of civil war by somehow disarming Hezbollah. Meanwhile, about Iraq itself, of course, in many ways the less said the better.

But still, something must be said. Indeed, the editors of The New Republic have convened a "special issue" dedicated to pondering that sad country. It features, among other things, an unsigned editorial observing that "at this point, it seems almost beside the point to say this: The New Republic deeply regrets its early support for this war." And, well, so do I regret my support for it. But what is one to do to make up for it? Mostly, nothing can be done. At least, however, when surveying a fiasco one can attempt to learn something about what went wrong and change one's thinking in the future. Such a change in thinking is precisely why I, at least, having fallen for the Iraq boondoggle one time, was not seduced by the siren song of the Arab Spring. Those of us who chose not to get fooled again were, of course, heartily condemned by a March 2005 TNR editorial that espied a "certain grudging quality" to liberal takes on events in Lebanon. "So far," they sniffed, Daily Kos "has featured only two short posts on Lebanon's equally stirring Cedar Revolution -- and both were notable mostly for their pessimism." This was, perhaps, the measured version of the April 11, 2005, take offered by the magazine's owner and editor-in-chief, Martin Peretz. He analyzed "The Politics of Churlishness" in a cover story dedicated to the proposition that "if George W. Bush were to discover a cure for cancer, his critics would denounce him for having done it unilaterally, without adequate consultation, with a crude disregard for the sensibilities of others." And, about sixteen months later, of course, these voices so eager to condemn liberals for not celebrating the new freedom of the Lebanese were the loudest in clamoring for Lebanese blood.

"As we pore over the lessons of this misadventure" in Iraq, explained the magazine in last week's reassessment, "we do not conclude that our past misjudgments warrant a rush into the cold arms of 'realism.'" Given what else is said in the editorial and in the special issue, it's fair to interpret this as meaning that, in surveying the scene, they conclude nothing in particular. For my part, at a minimum I've concluded that it's a mistake to entrust the cause of American idealism and Arab reform to a movement led by people who plainly loathe Arabs (Palestinians "behave like lemmings" wrote Peretz two weeks ago before observing last week that Iraqis now lack "even the bare rudiments of civilizations") and couldn't care less about their well-being except insofar as pretense to caring is a useful club with which to batter domestic political opponents.

As an approach to intra-punditocracy one-upsmanship this seems to work out okay, but as an approach to foreign policy it's moronic. In that realm, what actual foreigners actually think actually does matter, whether or not you care about them or agree with their opinions. And what Muslims think about the United States is that we don't give a damn about their interests or welfare. They are, therefore, very skeptical of schemes that involve giving the United States more control over the fate of the Muslims -- be it conquering Iraq, strong-arming Arab regimes with economic pressure, or efforts to maintain the principle that the Non-Proliferation Treaty is sacrosanct when Iran wants to break it but not when the United States or Israel or India wants to.

Under these circumstances, democratization -- the shared passion of many Republicans and Democrats alike -- is doomed to fail. Any political opening will only bring to power forces we don't like and will try to bat down, further increasing resentment of the United States and only ensuring things will be even worse the next time around. This is not to say that we should be blithely unconcerned with internal political developments elsewhere. Rather, the point is that, whatever we hope to accomplish, the only way we can do anything constructive is to begin draining from the American approach to the Middle East the overwhelming stench of imperialism that's surrounded it for decades. We need to operate through legitimate mechanisms, establish rules of the road that we and our allies will actually follow and, most of all, operate with a sensitivity to the actual desires and priorities of people who live in the region. Faced with a disaster the scale of our current policies, saying "sorry" and then trying the same thing over again isn't good enough.

Matthew Yglesias is a Prospect staff writer.


Dick Cheney: The Most Dangerous Man in the World

by Cenk Uygur

Seymour Hersh is reporting in The New Yorker that Dick Cheney is in the middle of advocating a military strike on Iran. This could start a war with no foreseeable end. The US versus the whole Muslim world. Is there anything more dangerous in the world? Osama bin Laden would love to start a war like this, but he doesn't have the capacity. Cheney does.

As Hersh and others point out, this is not a done deal. There are other forces inside the White House who are battling the Vice President over the tiny battleground that is George Bush's mind. But the fact that Cheney is waging this fight and would attack Iran if he had his way clearly makes him the most dangerous man on earth.

Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, the leader of Iran has no intention of attacking the United States. It would be suicide and he has showing nothing to indicate that he would take this step. But we are considering attacking him. If you thought the Iraq War went poorly, wait till you get a load of how badly the Iran War will go.

Dick Cheney is not only a danger to the world, but he is also a tremendous danger to his own party. If we attack Iran without any provocation (or more likely with a flimsy, contrived provocation), we will set the world on fire. Not only will there be disastrous consequences for our troops in Iraq, for our citizens across the world, for the state of our military and our defenses at home, but there will also be enormous economic and political consequences.

Oil prices will go through the roof. If you think oil is expensive now, try to imagine how much it would cost when Iran has trouble producing oil, stops the flow of oil out of Iraq and mines the Strait of Hormuz. Now what do you think that would do to the global economy?

With oil prices skyrocketing, the global and American economies teetering on the edge and yet another unwinnable war in the Middle East and the whole Muslim world inflamed against us, what do you think American voters would conclude about the party in charge? Do you think they would look favorably upon the Republican Party that started this whole mess?

I think there is a chance that the Republican Party would never recover. That is not a hyperbole. The damage from starting a war with Iran would be so grave that it would set back the Republican Party for the foreseeable future.

Who in their right mind would elect another Republican after the Bush administration started two unwarranted, cataclysmic, wars of choice in the Middle East? They might get the can't-wait-for-Armageddon vote, but that's about it. Voters are already seething at the Republican Party and they haven't even begun to destroy the economy yet (though some might argue that they have already begun, but not on the level I'm talking about here).

Imagine how angry they would be if on top of everything, the Republican Party sunk the economy and brought the price of gas to over $5 a gallon? If you thought 2006 was electoral tidal wave, wait till you get a load of 2008 if the Republicans attack Iran.

Dick Cheney is a danger to himself and all around him. He is a cancer on the White House. Whether he succeeds or not in starting the horrific wars he champions, it is a startling fact that he is even trying. The fact that he has any chance at all to succeed and is the second most powerful man in the country easily makes him the most dangerous man in the world.

The Young Turks

Monday, November 20, 2006


Funniest Thing I've Read in Forever

Lamont beat Lieberman in a bitter Democratic primary, which forced the incumbent to use a backup option he’d been preparing for months. The day after the primary, Lieberman handed state election officials more than 7,500 signatures supporting his bid to run as a candidate of the Connecticut for Lieberman party.

At the time, Orman protested that there really was no such party, and that Lieberman was simply manipulating the election system to invalidate the outcome of the Democratic primary. Election officials disagreed and Lieberman said he’d been forced to take that route in order to allow all of Connecticut’s voters the opportunity to vote for him.

Lieberman promised over and over to be an “independent Democrat” if elected to a fourth term. With lots of support from Republican and unaffiliated voters, Lieberman won with 50 percent of the vote.

Orman’s response was to trot down to his local registrar’s office to try to switch his party affiliation from Democrat to Connecticut for Lieberman, which is something no one else has done.

Although that switch isn’t official yet, Orman waggishly proceeded to convene a one-man party organizational meeting and elected himself “chairman.”

Chairman Orman also passed some rules for the party, including one requiring that, “If you run under Connecticut for Lieberman, you must actually join our party.”

Another of his tongue-in-cheek party rules reads as follows: “If any CFL candidate loses our party’s nomination in a primary, that candidate must bolt our party, form a new party and work to defeat our party-endorsed candidate.”

full minutes of the first meeting: here


Pressure at OSHA to alter warning

Author of advisory on asbestos in brakes faces suspension for refusing to revise it
Sun reporter

It took six years to get federal worker safety officials to issue warnings to auto mechanics that the brakes they're working on could contain lethal asbestos fibers. But it took only three weeks after the warnings were posted before a former top federal official with ties to the auto industry reportedly pushed to have them removed.

John Henshaw, a former head of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, called Aug. 15 for the agency to make changes to its warnings, according to documents obtained by The Sun.

But Ira Wainless, an OSHA scientist who wrote the advisory bulletin about asbestos in brakes, refused, according to agency documents. Wainless cited dozens of studies, including work at his own agency, to show that his presentation of the medical risk to mechanics was solid.

Last week, David Ippolito, an official with OSHA's Directorate of Science, Technology and Medicine, told Wainless that he would be suspended without pay for 10 days if the changes weren't made, according to documents.

Wainless refused again, and the advisory bulletin remains online.

"It is outrageous that OSHA would try to intimidate one of its own scientists for doing his job with integrity," said Ed Stern of Local 12 of the American Federation of Government Employees.

According to the union, OSHA wants the July 26 advisory to include studies, financed by the auto industry, that say that asbestos in brakes does not harm mechanics.

In a six-page letter to Ippolito rebutting the agency's charges against Wainless, Stern wrote: "It becomes clear that you have selected [him] as a scapegoat and whipping boy to justify revising the [warning] in response to big industry. Mr. Wainless, like every other OSHA employee, is supposed to serve the public interest, not industry lobbyists."

The union rebuttal letter noted that former OSHA chief Henshaw worked with two consulting firms run by Dennis Paustenbach, ChemRisk and Exponent. These firms, according to Stern and documents obtained by The Sun, have been paid more than $23 million since 2001 by Ford, General Motors and Daimler-Chrysler to help fight asbestos lawsuits brought against them by former workers.

Neither Paustenbach nor Henshaw responded to a request for comment. OSHA and the Department of Labor also did not respond to phone calls and e-mails seeking comment

Wainless, a 32-year veteran of the agency, declined to be interviewed for this article.

According to OSHA documents, the need for the warnings surfaced in 2000 when the Seattle Post-Intelligencer published an investigative series that documented high levels of asbestos being released as mechanics worked on brakes in garages in Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and five other cities.

The effort to get warnings out to mechanics who wrongly believed that asbestos was banned took six years. Industry lawyers sued to have earlier warnings eliminated; industry-funded research found that there is no harm from the asbestos used in brakes. Car and truck manufacturers also said they had stopped using asbestos in brakes in the 1990s.

The United States is one of the few industrialized nations that hasn't banned the use or importation of most asbestos products.

Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich, an Ohio Democrat who is on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, said the effort to change the warnings is "what the auto industry and brake industry is doing to defend itself against lawsuits from people who died from occupational exposure to asbestos."

"The people that repair our cars and trucks deserve, at a bare minimum, to be warned," Kucinich said. "In the long run, we need to ban asbestos from the U.S. to catch up with much of the rest of the world."

Henshaw and others say the warnings aren't needed because asbestos is no longer used in the United States.

In May, The Sun reported an 83 percent increase in imported brakes with asbestos over the past decade. Most of these are replacement brakes used by garages and backyard mechanics.

Further, an Aug. 31 internal OSHA memo on the brake warnings to agency chief Edwin Foulke Jr. stated: "Some domestic automobile manufacturers continue to use, in certain models, asbestos brake pads and linings."

In the agency's suspension notification to Wainless, it faulted the industrial hygienist, who is an expert on the recognition, evaluation and control of hazardous materials, with failing to have adequate scientific documentation to support the claim of asbestos' danger. Yet the internal memo to Foulke lists 35 studies and reports.

In that memo, OSHA allows that asbestos can cause cancer, asbestosis and mesothelioma, but it plays down the risk to brake mechanics.

Many medical specialists disagree.

"Asbestos causes cancer, whether it is pulled out of a mountain, scraped off a steam pipe or shed from a brake shoe," says Dr. Michael Harbut, who has examined thousands of autoworkers for asbestos disease under a project funded by the Occupational Health Legal Rights Foundation, which is financed by units of the AFL-CIO.

"To withhold these warnings to mechanics who have no knowledge of asbestos or believe it's banned is unconscionable," said Harbut, co-director of the National Center for Vermiculite and Asbestos-Related Cancers at the Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit.

Stern said he and other union officers hope to meet with senior OSHA officials this week to discuss Wainless' suspension.

"Meanwhile, [Wainless] continues to worry about his future because he's being punished for offending the Big Three automakers," Stern said. "There is a real fear that by this action the agency will intimidate other employees from doing what's right for the health and safety of the workers."

Sunday, November 19, 2006


McCain Flip-Flops, Supports Immediate Reversal of Roe v. Wade

In 1999, the “moderate” version of John McCain said that overturning Roe v. Wade would be dangerous for women and he would not support it, even in “the long term.” Here’s McCain in the San Francisco Chronicle:

I’d love to see a point where it is irrelevant, and could be repealed because abortion is no longer necessary. But certainly in the short term, or even the long term, I would not support repeal of Roe v. Wade, which would then force X number of women in America to [undergo] illegal and dangerous operations.

This morning on ABC, McCain — now aggressively courting the likes of Jerry Falwell — expressed his unequivocal support for overturning Roe v. Wade.


STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me ask one question about abortion. Then I want to turn to Iraq. You’re for a constitutional amendment banning abortion, with some exceptions for life and rape and incest.

MCCAIN: Rape, incest and the life of the mother. Yes.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So is President Bush, yet that hasn’t advanced in the six years he’s been in office. What are you going to do to advance a constitutional amendment that President Bush hasn’t done?

MCCAIN: I don’t think a constitutional amendment is probably going to take place, but I do believe that it’s very likely or possible that the Supreme Court should — could overturn Roe v. Wade, which would then return these decisions to the states, which I support.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And you’d be for that?

MCCAIN: Yes, because I’m a federalist. Just as I believe that the issue of gay marriage should be decided by the states, so do I believe that we would be better off by having Roe v. Wade return to the states. And I don’t believe the Supreme Court should be legislating in the way that they did on Roe v. Wade.

The "Maverick" has also hired a key Falwell staffer for his 2008 Presidential campaign.


The Dangerous Lame Duck

by Senator Russ Feingold

In January, we will be looking at a new Congress, and with Democratic majorities in the House and Senate, we will be looking at a new national policy agenda. I know that I am looking forward to moving the progressive agenda forward in the next Congress. But Democrats can't just kick back and take it easy for the next few weeks.

It would be a huge mistake to overlook the potential for damage in the lame duck session. A lame duck session doesn't sound like anything to worry about, but this lame duck may be a lot more dangerous than people think. We can expect Republicans to try to jam through as much of their agenda as they can while they have the chance.

Democrats have to stick together and show Republicans - and the country - that we have what it takes to stop them. It's no secret that Democrats haven't always been able to deliver enough votes to fight off the GOP agenda, but now is the time to pull together and stop that agenda from moving forward. If we don't, we cannot expect people to have faith in our ability to lead in the next Congress.

There are a lot of bad bills that the Republicans may try to ram through, but here's the worst of the worst - a bill to legalize the President's warrantless wiretapping program. The White House is desperate to enact this bill, which allows the government to spy on American citizens, on American soil, without a warrant.

Other measures on the White House wish list that are likely to surface during the lame duck session include a number of unfunded tax cuts and questionable trade measures. Democrats have nothing to gain by allowing these measures to pass in the next few weeks, and everything to lose. Everything should wait until the new Congress, when Democrats will have a lot more say about how bills are put together and what gets passed.

Republicans would love to extend a bunch of tax breaks during the lame duck - without paying for them, of course. Unless the Republican Leadership is willing to pay for them, instead of letting those tax breaks pass, and letting the Republicans keep on busting the federal budget, we should force these matters to wait until the next Congress, when we will have more power to shape the debate. In the 110th Congress, we can make sure that tax cuts are justified before enacting them, and we can ensure that they are paid for. Anything is better than letting these policies pass in the lame duck.

Trade policy may not be fixable while the current Administration remains in power. But that doesn't mean that Democrats should simply throw up their hands and allow another flawed trade agreement to be passed during the lame duck session. According to Global Trade Watch, over 3 million U.S. manufacturing jobs have been lost since the early 1990s, with NAFTA directly responsible for the loss of one million of those jobs. Global Trade Watch notes that the job export crisis is now expanding from manufacturing to high-tech and service sector jobs. Trade measures based on the failed NAFTA model should be scrapped in favor of agreements that actually benefit American workers and businesses, and we have a much better chance to do that in the next Congress.

There will be a lot of pressure on the current Democratic congressional leadership to give in to the Republican agenda. And Democratic enablers are well placed to help Republicans advance their agenda, while many other Democrats will just want to go home for the holidays. But too much is at stake for us to let that happen. If we want to show people that we have what it takes to govern, we need to start proving ourselves right now, from day one. Proving ourselves means standing up for Democratic values, and stopping the worn-out Republican agenda that Americans just rejected at the polls.

After the gains we made on November 7, it would be easy to just relax and bask in the victory - but it would also be a big mistake. The lame duck is the Republicans' last chance to pass bills on the White House's wish list, and we shouldn't let them get away with it. It is the Democrats' turn to lead Congress, and we can start strong by rejecting the Republicans' last ditch efforts in the lame duck session.

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