Friday, October 19, 2007


Government is Good

"An unapologetic defense of a vital institution": Government is Good is a new site with items like A Guide to Rebutting Right-Wing Criticisms of Government.


Dean Wormer's Wife: Oral Roberts University Presidents Wife spent the night with underaged males 9 times in ORU "guesthouse."

Richard Roberts asks ORU board for leave
By JUSTIN JUOZAPAVICIUS, Associated Press Writer
Thu Oct 18, 1:42 AM ET

Oral Roberts University President Richard Roberts asked for and was granted a leave of absence Wednesday amid accusations of lavish spending at donors' expense and illegal involvement in a political campaign.

The 58-year-old son of the evangelist who founded the school said he would continue in his role as chairman and chief executive of Oral Roberts Ministries, and decried what he said were untrue allegations.

"I don't know how long this leave of absence will last, but I fully trust the members of the Board of Regents," Roberts said in a news release issued by the university. "I pray and believe that in God's timing, and when the Board feels that it is appropriate, I will be back at my post as president."

The board said Billy Joe Daugherty, the senior pastor of Victory Christian Center in Tulsa, will temporarily assume the president's duties with help from Oral Roberts, 89, who is chancellor of the 5,700-student university but has left day-to-day operations to his son.

An Oct. 2 lawsuit filed by three former ORU professors says they were wrongfully dismissed and accuses Roberts of misspending at donors' expense, including numerous home remodels and a senior trip to the Bahamas for one daughter on the ministry's dime.

It also accuses Roberts of illegal involvement in a local political campaign, which would jeopardize the university's nonprofit status.

The professors say they were forced out after turning over this information to the ORU Board of Regents.

George Pearsons, the board's chairman, said he will meet Friday with the outside firm charged with investigating the allegations.

"Nothing is being swept under the rug, nothing is being hidden," he said late Wednesday.

The professors' suit was amended last week to include new allegations that documents were shredded and destroyed days after the initial lawsuit was filed, and hours after ORU and Richard Roberts fired the school's comptroller.

The amended complaint also included an internal ministry report, titled "Scandal Vulnerability Assessment," documenting allegations of misconduct by the university and the Roberts family. Only a partial report was included in the Oct. 2 lawsuit.

The more detailed account alleges Richard Roberts' wife, Lindsay, spent the night in the ORU guest house with an underage male "on nine separate occasions," and was photographed 29 times with an underage male in her sports car, among other allegations.

The internal report was prepared by Stephanie Cantees, Richard Roberts' sister-in-law. An ORU spokesman said Cantees would not comment on the report.

An ORU student repairing Cantees' laptop discovered the document and later provided a copy to one of the dismissed professors.

In a statement issued Saturday, Lindsay Roberts said, "I live my life in a morally upright manner and throughout my marriage have never, ever engaged in any sexual behavior with any man outside of my marriage as the accusations imply."

"The last three weeks have taken a serious toll on me and my family," Richard Roberts said in the news release Wednesday. "The untrue allegations have struck a terrible blow in my heart. The untrue allegations of sexual misconduct by my wife have hurt the most."

Gary Richardson, attorney for the dismissed professors, said his clients "stand ready and prepared at the appropriate time to prove the truth of those allegations, and also prove the truth of the fact they were fired after providing the information off Stephanie Cantees' computer to the Board of Regents.

"I want to know why they fired these guys," Richardson said.

Oral Roberts, who lives in California, said last week that the allegations against his family had blindsided him, "but we have been through some tough experiences in building Oral Roberts University in the 1960s, and we have surprised them all and have built a university that we believe is for the glory of God."

The Roberts family ministry grew from Southern tent revivals to one of the most successful evangelical empires in the country, hauling in tens of millions of dollars in contributions a year. The university reported nearly $76 million in revenue in 2005, according to the IRS.

The elder Roberts founded the school, known for its 60-foot-tall bronze sculpture of praying hands, in 1963. He famously told viewers in 1987 that God told him to raise $8 million for the university or he would be "called home."

The week the lawsuit was filed, Richard Roberts said at a chapel service that God told him to deny the allegations. He said God told him: "We live in a litigious society. Anyone can get mad and file a lawsuit against another person whether they have a legitimate case or not. This lawsuit ... is about intimidation, blackmail and extortion."

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Every Sperm is Sacred....

Be sure to check out all the headsup clips. They're brilliant.



Claims of secret CIA jail for terror suspects on British island to be investigated

· Legal charity urges action on Diego Garcia claims
· Prisoners may have been held in ships off coast

Ian Cobain and Richard Norton-Taylor
Friday October 19, 2007


Allegations that the CIA held al-Qaida suspects for interrogation at a secret prison on sovereign British territory are to be investigated by MPs, the Guardian has learned. The all-party foreign affairs committee is to examine long-standing suspicions that the agency has operated one of its so-called "black site" prisons on Diego Garcia, the British overseas territory in the Indian Ocean that is home to a large US military base.

Lawyers from Reprieve, a legal charity that represents a number of detainees at Guantánamo Bay, including several former British residents, are calling on the committee to question US and British officials about the allegations. According to the organisation's submission to the committee, the UK government is "potentially systematically complicit in the most serious crimes against humanity of disappearance, torture and prolonged incommunicado detention".

Clive Stafford Smith, the charity's legal director, said he was "absolutely and categorically certain" that prisoners have been held on the island. "If the foreign affairs committee approaches this thoroughly, they will get to the bottom of it," he said.

Andrew Tyrie, Tory MP for Chichester and a campaigner against the CIA's use of detention without trial, has also urged the committee to investigate. He said: "Time and time again the UK government has relied on US assurances on this issue, refusing to examine the truth of these allegations for themselves. It is high time our government took its head out of the sand and looked into these allegations."

Same response

A member of the foreign affairs committee said the committee would pursue the allegations as part of its inquiry into Britain's overseas territories. Although Diego Garcia is part of the British Indian Ocean Territory, it is unclear whether the British government knows whether the CIA has detained prisoners there or not.

UK officials are known to have questioned their American counterparts about the allegation several times over a period of more than three years, most recently last month. Whenever MPs have attempted to press ministers in the Commons, they have met with the same response: that the US authorities "have repeatedly given us assurances" that no terrorism suspects have been held there.

The existence of the CIA's black site prisons was acknowledged by President George Bush in September last year. He said al-Qaida suspects or members of the Taliban who "withhold information that could save American lives" have been taken "to an environment where they can be held secretly, questioned by experts".

Mr Bush did not disclose the location of any prison, but suspicion that one may have been located on Diego Garcia, some 1,000 miles off Sri Lanka's southern coast, has been building for years. The 2,000 islanders were expelled in the early 1970s after the British government struck a secret deal to lease the 37-mile long island to the US for use as an air and naval base. Any evidence uncovered by the foreign affairs committee pointing to the existence of a secret CIA prison on the island would be hugely embarrassing for ministers.

Barry McCaffrey, a retired four-star US general who is professor of international security studies at the West Point military academy, has twice spoken publicly about the use of Diego Garcia to detain suspects. In May 2004 he said: "We're probably holding around 3,000 people, you know, Bagram air field, Diego Garcia, Guantánamo, 16 camps throughout Iraq." In December last year he repeated the claim: "They're behind bars...we've got them on Diego Garcia, in Bagram air field, in Guantánamo."

MPs on the committee may inquire into a Gulfstream executive jet which has been linked by its registration number to several CIA prisoner operations - known as extraordinary renditions - and which flew from Washington to Diego Garcia, via Athens, on September 11 2002, soon after the capture of Ramzi Binalshibh, a suspected planner of the September 11 attacks the previous year.

A prison of some sort is known to exist on Diego Garcia: in 1984, a review by the US government's general accounting office of construction work on the island reported that a "detention facility" had been completed the previous December. British ministers have also disclosed that a building on the island was redesignated as a prison after the September 11 attacks.


Last June Dick Marty, a Swiss senator who investigated the CIA's use of European territory and air space during prisoner operations, concluded in a report to the Council of Europe that prisoners had been held on the island.

Mr Marty, who later told the European parliament that he had received help from senior CIA officers, reported: "We have received concurring confirmations that United States agencies have used Diego Garcia, which is the international legal responsibility of the UK, in the 'processing' of high-value detainees."

One possibility which the foreign affairs committee may explore is that suspects have been held on a prison ship off the coast of Diego Garcia. The UN special rapporteur on torture, Manfred Nowak, has said that he has heard from reliable sources that the US has held prisoners on ships in the Indian Ocean. There have also been second-hand accounts from detainees at Guantánamo of prisoners being held on US naval vessels.

One detainee told a researcher from Reprieve: "One of my fellow prisoners in Guantánamo was at sea on an American ship with about 50 others before coming to Guantánamo. He told me that there were about 50 other people on the ship; they were all closed off in the bottom. The people detained on the ship were beaten even more severely than in Guantánamo."

At a glance

· Diego Garcia is a 37-mile-long coral island surrounding a lagoon in the Indian Ocean, the largest such atoll in the Chagos archipelago. Discovered by the Portuguese in the 16th century, it remained uninhabited until French coconut planters shipped in slave labour 200 years later.

· Ceded to Britain after the Napoleonic wars, the archipelago was a dependency of Mauritius until 1965, when it was detached, later becoming the British Indian Ocean Territories, sovereign British territory.

· Over the next eight years the 2,000 inhabitants were forcibly removed, first to the Seychelles and then to Mauritius, where many remain economically marginalised. The atoll was leased to the US military and it later emerged that Washington made a series of secret payments, including a reported £14m discount on the Polaris nuclear missile system.

· A 50-strong group of UK military personnel act as customs officers, police and wildlife guardians, and their commanding officer is coroner. But this group is dwarfed by around 3,200 Americans.

· The Chagos islanders won a battle in their campaign to return when the appeal court ruled last May that the right to go home was "one of the most fundamental liberties known to human beings".


Nobody for Attorney General

by Kagro X

Michael Mukasey is certainly qualified to be Attorney General of the United States, if Alberto Gonzales sets any precedent.

And while that may be the least convincing recommendation anyone can ever be given for the job, consider that Mukasey yesterday gave perhaps the least convincing answer to one of the most important questions asked of him -- by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)-- in his confirmation hearing:

WHITEHOUSE: Is waterboarding constitutional?

MUKASEY: I don’t know what is involved in the technique. If waterboarding is torture, torture is not constitutional.

WHITEHOUSE: "If waterboarding is constitutional" is a massive hedge.

MUKASEY: No, I said, "If it's torture." I'm sorry. I said, "If it's torture."

WHITEHOUSE: "If it's torture." That's a massive hedge. I mean, it either is or it isn’t. Do you have an opinion on whether waterboarding, which is the practice of putting somebody in a reclining position, strapping them down, putting cloth over their faces, and pouring water over the cloth to simulate the feeling of drowning. Is that constitutional?

MUKASEY: If it amounts to torture, it is not constitutional.

WHITEHOUSE: I'm very disappointed in that answer — I think it is purely semantic.

MUKASEY: I’m sorry.

And Whitehouse is right, of course. To say torture is not constitutional is -- or should be, in a sane world -- to say nothing at all. That is the response one might expect from a junior high school civics student, not a nominee for Attorney General.

But Mukasey, and his putative boss, George W. Bush, have a much bigger problem than being able to get away with massive hedges. The problem is that Bush's policies have made it impossible for any nominee for Attorney General who hopes to retain any amount of faith with this "administration" to answer these threshold questions with any amount of honesty.

It is simply bedrock truth that no one can answer the torture questions honestly without exposing the fact that the "administration" hinges its entire detainee policy on semantics.

It is similarly unfathomable -- or once was unfathomable in America -- that a nominee for Attorney General of the United States would ever have to say anything other than "no" to the question of "Is waterboarding constitutional?"

George W. Bush's detainee policies have, quite simply, rendered honest and conscientious service as an Attorney General impossible. One simply cannot serve both this president and the law faithfully. It is a paradox and an impossibility, because this president does not serve the law faithfully. And what it means, at bottom, is that George W. Bush's "administration" is an enemy of the rule of law, and has so diminished our capacity to live by it that no honest Senator should permit him the charade of attending to it with the window dressing of confirming an Attorney General.

Anyone who would hold that job in this "administration" will by definition be reduced to serving as a placeholder only -- a mere figurehead to whom everyone will, out of pure habit only, refer to as the "Attorney General," but who will at the end of the day be prevented from administering the law he will have sworn to uphold.

Thursday, October 18, 2007


Bush Administration Carries Out Politically-Motivated Immigration Raid

Twenty-four year old Tam Tran is the daughter of Vietnamese immigrants and has consistently spoken out on U.S. immigration reform. On May 17, she appeared before the House Immigration Subcommittee to speak in support of the DREAM Act, which would have granted legal status to children of immigrants who complete at least two years of college.

More recently, a USA Today article on Oct. 8 featured Tran in an article on “children caught in the immigration crossfire”:

Without the DREAM Act, Tam Tran, 24, is a person without a country. The daughter of Vietnamese boat people, Tran was born in Germany, where her parents ended up after the German Navy plucked them out of the sea. The family moved to the USA when Tran was 6. … For now, Tran is permitted to stay — only because the United States has no repatriation treaty with Vietnam. Tran, who has never been to Vietnam, says that “I consider myself a Southern Californian.

Just three days after the article appeared, federal officers entered her home in the middle of the night and forcibly arrested her family. Tran’s family was detained on a “years-old deportation order,” even though they have been in regular communication with immigration officials for almost 20 years since arriving in the United States.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), chair of the immigration subcommitee, equated the family’s arrest to “witness intimidation” and accused Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials of targeting the Tran family because Tam “testified before Lofgren’s panel earlier this spring.” Earlier this week, USA Today spoke with Lofgren about the Tran family’s arrest:

Would she and her family have been arrested if she hadn’t spoken out?” Lofgren said of Tran, who was not at home for the raid but has been asked to report to Immigration and Customs officials next week. “I don’t think so.

Since Bush crony Julie Myers took over ICE, the agency has increasingly become known for its willingness to retaliate against immigrants who publicly discuss their situation in the United States. Arrests have been made after individuals spoke out on everything from immigration reform, to workplace rights, to the right to fair wages, to the right to report crimes without fear of retaliation.

UPDATE: More on the DREAM Act from Migra Matters.


Bush Appoints Another Hack to Family Planning at DHHS. Jesus the Republican Party is Fucking Pathetic.


Bush Family Planning Appointee Called Contraceptives Part Of The ‘Culture Of Death’

susanorr.gif On Monday, President Bush appointed Susan Orr to oversee federal family planning programs at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Orr, who is currently directing HHS child welfare programs, was touted by the administration as “highly qualified.”

But a look at Orr’s record shows that her strongest qualifications appear to be her right-wing credentials and endorsement of the Bush administration’s failed abstinence-only policies. Before joining HHS, Orr served as senior director for marriage and family care at the conservative Family Research Council and was an adjunct professor at Pat Robertson’s Regent University. Some highlights:

– In a 2001, Orr embraced a Bush administration proposal to “stop requiring all health insurance plans for federal employees” to cover a broad range of birth control. “We’re quite pleased, because fertility is not a disease,” said Orr.

– At the 2001 Conservative Political Action Conference, Orr cheered Bush’s endorsement of Reagan’s “Mexico City Policy,” which required NGOs receiving federal funds to “neither perform nor actively promote abortion as a method of family planning in other nations.” Orr said that it was proof Bush was pro-life “in his heart.”

– In a 2000 Weekly Standard article, Orr railed against requiring health insurance plans to cover contraceptives. “It’s not about choice,” said Orr. “It’s not about health care. It’s about making everyone collaborators with the culture of death.

Orr authored a paper in 2000 titled, “Real Women Stay Married.” In it she wrote that women should “think about focusing our eyes, not upon ourselves, but upon the families we form through marriage.”

As Steve Benen notes, the office of family planning carries tremendous importance. Orr will “oversee HHS’s $283 million reproductive-health program, a $30 million program that encourages abstinence among teenagers, and HHS’s Office of Population Affairs, which funds birth control, pregnancy tests, counseling, and screenings for sexually transmitted diseases and HIV.”

Last year, President Bush appointed Eric Keroack to oversee the office. Keroack had previously worked for a Christian pregnancy counseling group that opposes contraception. He stepped down in March over ethical problems.

Digg It!

UPDATE: Jill at Feministe points out that Orr has also referred to child protection as “the most intrusive arm of social services.”

UDPATE II: Take action opposing Orr’s nomination HERE.

UPDATE III: Statement on Orr from Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA):

This appointment is absurd. Dr. Orr’s support of unproven abstinence-only programs would in itself raise flags about her commitment to comprehensive family planning for low-income girls and women. But in 2000, Dr. Orr said that requiring insurers to cover family planning supplies and services — a policy that promotes access to contraception in many states and the federal employee health program — is “about making everyone collaborators with the culture of death.” This leaves little doubt about where she has stood on contraception access. […]

I’m no longer surprised by this kind of decision — ideology firmly holds the reins over reproductive health in this White House. But this lack of commitment to comprehensive reproductive health, combined with cramped budgets, is an insult and a disservice to the millions of low-income people who rely on Title X for family planning and preventive health services.



Pro-Lifers are Hypocrites. Outlawing Abortion doesn't stop it. Legalizing Abortion and Sex Education Result in the Lowest Abortion Rates on Earth.

The Deafening Silence
Cristina Page
Posted October 18, 2007

It's been a week since The Lancet published the comprehensive Guttmacher Institute study which found that bans on abortion fail to reduce abortion rates. The researchers of the study also discovered that countries where abortion is legal (and the emphasis is on prevention rather than prosecution) experience the most dramatic declines in abortion.

Such news should undoubtedly give pro-lifers reason for pause. What with the endless railing about the immorality of abortion, and now it turns out their way of thinking does nothing to actually reduce abortions. It's only fair to give them a minute to collect themselves. Perhaps some careful (re)consideration is in order.

But there has been nothing but silence from the "anti-abortion" movement. There have been no press releases admitting the (now scientifically proven) error of their ways. Nor have we heard that anti-abortion groups are excited to discover that at least there is an approach that succeeds in reducing the need for abortion. (Doesn't that deserve a 'hallelujah' from the religious right?) Instead, the "anti-abortion" movement is silent about the newly revealed "pro-abortion" effects of their efforts.

I came across a blog about the Guttmacher study on a site called Mirror of Justice (it's "dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory"). It was posted the day the report was released and was written by Professor Eduardo Penalver of Cornell University. He wrote,

"Here's my question. If this study were true, and if it were the case that making abortion illegal would most likely only drive it underground, without having much effect on its actual incidence but making it far more dangerous for women to have an abortion, would that be a reason to rethink the Church's teachings, not on the morality of abortion, but on the tight connection between abortion's (im)morality and its legality? I've tried to get this conversation off the ground a few times at MOJ, but I feel like we often get side-tracked onto the question of abortion's morality or into the empirical question whether studies like this one are actually correct."

Pro-lifers clearly delight in discussing the morality abortion -- all merrily participating in the forced march to the same answer -- but when the discussion turns to prevention they're flat out of ideas. Those who can't do, preach. I wrote to Professor Penalver this morning inquiring about the responses he's so far received on this anti-abortion friendly site. He emailed back promptly to report his "disappointment" over "the general lack of a response." And so the silence increases in volume.

Now, to be fair, some spokespeople have spun. These few brave enough to go public with a reaction to this devastating study are engaged in this strategy: kill the messenger.

Randall O'Bannon, saddled with the oxymoronic title "director of education and research" at National Right to Life, said, "These numbers are not definitive and very susceptible to interpretation according to the agenda of the people who are organizing the data." No doubt Mr. O'Bannon understands how Lancet editors let the researchers' agenda trump their science. After O'Bannon is done questioning the validity of studies published by one of the world's renowned scientific journals he can explain why 5 of 15 "fact sheets" on his organization's website offer no citations and 6 of the remaining 10 use the Guttmacher Institute, the very organization he claims has an "agenda", as a source. (Apparently a source can be both trustworthy and untrustworthy depending on the reader's agenda!)

You'd think genuine pro-lifers would be interested in knowing what results in low abortion rates. The fact that the only reaction that has come from the pro-life establishment is one of disbelief, cynicism and silence indicates that's not the case. Indeed, as we've known for a while, this whole ugly conflict isn't really even about abortion. For the anti-abortionists, the goal is to re-introduce the preventable consequences to sex as a way to scare people into abstinence. If that isn't the point, then why aren't National Right to Life staffers on a plane right now heading to the Netherlands to learn how that country managed to achieve the lowest abortion rates on earth? (Because it's free birth control, comprehensive sex ed, and a universal acceptance of sex for pleasure that did it. All solutions they appear to oppose more than abortion.)

It's worth offering up a comparison. What if a whole movement devoted to curing cancer insisted on only supporting techniques shown time and again to fail? What if they supported the ones that result in the highest cancer rates? Would it even be considered an anti-cancer movement? It's time to clean up the semantics: Is it possible that the "anti-abortion" is really a pro-abortion movement in disguise? (That disguise being obstinacy.)



Iraq: Bush's Chickens Coming Home to Roost.

Michael Schwartz
Is the US About to Be Driven Out of Iraq?
Posted October 18, 2007

A recent article by Asia Times reporter Pepe Escobar, one of the most informed and astute observers of Iraq events, analyzes some potentially momentous developments inside Iraq in the last few weeks, developments that could actually result in making the American occupation militarily and politically untenable.

Basically Escobar says recent meetings among and between Shia and Sunni groups have initiated a set of alliances that could result in a united resistance that will drastically reduce sectarian fighting (by suppressing the Sunni terrorist and the Shia death squads) and move in a coordinated way (using armed attacks and political maneuvering) toward expelling the U.S..

Here are the key elements:

First, there is a new nationalist bloc forming from those who have withdrawn from or always opposed the American backed government. It includes leaders of the Sunni resistance (including the groups that are supposed to have made an alliance with the US), Sunni parliamentary leaders (including the vice president of Iraq), Muqtada al Sadr and his Mahdi Army (the most powerful Shia faction which has always opposed the U.S. presence) and the Fadhila (the most powerful Shia group in Basra, which recently withdrew from the government). According to Escobar, Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani, the most powerful Shia cleric, has blessed the new group.

Second, the key goals in the newly developed pact are: united efforts to expel the U.S. from Iraq, including dismantling the bases--with explicit endorsement of armed resistance if the U.S. does not agree to leave; an arms length relationship with Iran; no division of the country into autonomous regions; and no tolerance of jihadist groups that attack Iraqi civilians or death squads, or any armed forces attacking Iraqi civilians.

Third, the various Sunni resistance groups are now negotiating alliances among themselves (with a tentative agreement currently in place among all but one of the most important groups). Included in this new unity is a commitment to demobilize the jihadists who set car bombs in Shia areas (forcefully if necessary) and direct all armed struggle toward expelling the Americans, unless the U.S. agrees to leave.

Fourth, the SIIC, the strongest faction within the Maliki government (though Maliki himself is from another group, the Da'wa), appears to be responding to the pressure created by this new movement. Until now, despite being elected on a platform calling for U.S. withdrawal, SIIC had always said that U.S. troops were absolutely crucial to government survival and had said nothing against the permanent U.S. bases. Then, last week, the temporary leader of SIIC, Ammar al Hakim, called for U.S. withdrawal and for dismantling the bases, a position that is so alarming to the U.S. occupation that there has been a virtual news blackout about this dramatic switch of position. Whether this is an actual change of policy by the SIIC, or simply a rhetorical response to these latest political developments, remains to be seen.

Finally, it appears that recent statements by U.S. occupation authorities calling for "soft partition" of Iraq into three mostly autonomous regions may be a response to this new unity between Shia and Sunni. Realizing that the U.S. probably cannot sustain its presence if this new alliance is consolidated and strengthened, they are looking for a "divide and conquer" strategy that would allow the U.S. to control the three regions separately.

Escobar's article pieces together a bunch of separate developments into a coherent analysis, but it remains speculative. His analysis does, however, make sense of a lot of otherwise confusing developments. We need to see if the trends he identifies are consolidated, or if they are reversed by the strong centripetal forces within Iraq. If the trends do continue, this will mean more resistance to the U.S. presence, particularly in the Shia areas of Baghdad and the Iraqi south; and more focused attacks by Sunni insurgents on American forces and bases in and around Baghdad. With the U.S. already military in a weakened state, such an escalation could be overwhelming. It would mean that another strategy would have to be developed, and perhaps this might finally force the Bush Administration to consider withdrawal.

I think this is a very good framework to use in making sense of the news in the next few weeks.


Bush's Veto of S-Chip Inspires Voters....

Congressional Failure to Override Veto also Inspirational
Voters unhappy with Bush and Congress

Wed Oct 17, 2007 4:32pm EDT

By John Whitesides, Political Correspondent

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Deepening unhappiness with President George W. Bush and the U.S. Congress soured the mood of Americans and sent Bush's approval rating to another record low this month, according to a Reuters/Zogby poll released on Wednesday.

The Reuters/Zogby Index, which measures the mood of the country, also fell from 98.8 to 96 -- the second consecutive month it has dropped. The number of Americans who believe the country is on the wrong track jumped four points to 66 percent.

Bush's job approval rating fell to 24 percent from last month's record low for a Zogby poll of 29 percent. A paltry 11 percent gave Congress a positive grade, tying last month's record low.

"There is a real question among Americans now about how relevant this government is to them," pollster John Zogby said. "They tell us they want action on health care, education, the war and immigration, but they don't believe they are going to get it."

The dismal assessment of the Republican president and the Democratic-controlled Congress follows another month of inconclusive political battles over a future path in Iraq and the recent Bush veto of an expansion of the program providing insurance for poor children.

The bleak mood could present problems for both parties heading into the November 2008 election campaign, Zogby said.

"Voter turnout could still be high next year, but the mood has turned against incumbents and into a 'throw the bums out' mindset," Zogby said.

The national telephone survey of 991 likely voters, conducted October 10 through October 14, found barely one-quarter of Americans, or 26 percent, believe the country is headed in the right direction.

The poll found declining confidence in U.S. economic and foreign policy. About 18 percent gave positive marks to foreign policy, down from 24 percent, and 26 percent rated economic policy positively, down from 30 percent.

A majority of Americans still rate their personal financial situation as excellent or good, although the number dipped slightly this month to 54 percent from 56 percent. In August, 59 percent rated their finances as excellent or good.

"Americans are still feeling good about a number of things in their lives, but not about the government's leadership," Zogby said. "They are giving up on this government."

The Index, which made its debut last month, combines responses to 10 questions on Americans' views about their leaders, the direction of the country and their future. Index polling began in July, and that month's results provide the benchmark score of 100.

A score above 100 indicates the public mood has improved since July. A score below 100 shows the mood has soured, and a falling score like the one recorded this month shows the nation's mood is getting worse.

The RZI is released the third Wednesday of each month.

In the 2008 White House race, Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York tightened her grip on the top spot in the Democratic nomination race with the support of 46 percent, up from 35 percent last month.

Her top rival, Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, was at 25 percent, moving up slightly from last month's 21 percent. Former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina was third with 9 percent, and about 12 percent of Democratic voters were unsure of their choice.

Among Republicans, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani expanded his lead over Fred Thompson, the former senator and Hollywood actor. Giuliani led Thompson 28 percent to 20 percent, compared to last month's 26 percent to 24 percent.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney jumped from 7 percent to 14 percent and moved past Arizona Sen. John McCain into third place. McCain fell from 13 percent last month to 8 percent.

More Republicans, 18 percent, said they had not made up their mind, leaving room for more shifts in the field. "We still have one in five Republicans undecided. That race is really up in the air," Zogby said.

A majority of voters asked about former Vice President Al Gore said he should not run for the White House in 2008 despite winning the Nobel Peace Prize. About 51 percent said he should not enter the race and 40 percent said he should.

The Nobel award on Friday came halfway through the polling period. The Gore question was asked of 485 likely voters with a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percent.

The rest of the national survey had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.2 percentage points.

(To read more about the U.S. political campaign, visit Reuters "Tales from the Trail: 2008" online at


AT&T, other telecoms, buy victory in lawsuits

by Glenn Greenwald

The fact that this was completely predictable does not make it any less reprehensible:

Senate Democrats and Republicans reached agreement with the Bush administration yesterday on the terms of new legislation to control the federal government's domestic surveillance program, which includes a highly controversial grant of legal immunity to telecommunications companies that have assisted the program, according to congressional sources. . . .

The draft Senate bill has the support of the intelligence committee's chairman, John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), and Bush's director of national intelligence, Mike McConnell. It will include full immunity for those companies that can demonstrate to a court that they acted pursuant to a legal directive in helping the government with surveillance in the United States.

Such a demonstration, which the bill says could be made in secret, would wipe out a series of pending lawsuits alleging violations of privacy rights by telecommunications companies that provided telephone records, summaries of e-mail traffic and other information to the government after Sept. 11, 2001, without receiving court warrants. Bush had repeatedly threatened to veto any legislation that lacked this provision.

Let's just describe very factually and dispassionately what has happened here. Congress -- led by Senators, such as Jay Rockefeller, who have received huge payments from the telecom industry, and by privatized intelligence pioneer Mike McConnell, former Chairman of the secretive intelligence industry association that has been demanding telecom amnesty -- is going to intervene directly in the pending lawsuits against AT&T and other telecoms and declare them the winners on the ground that they did nothing wrong. Because of their vast ties to the telecoms, neither Rockefeller nor McConnell could ever appropriately serve as an actual judge in those lawsuits.

Yet here they are, meeting and reviewing secret documents and deciding amongst themselves to end all pending lawsuits in favor of their benefactors -- AT&T, Verizon and others. Let me quote again from that 1998 Foreign Affairs essay by Thomas Carothers helpfully outlining the steps required to install the "rule of law" in third-world, pre-democracy countries:

Type three reforms aim at the deeper goal of increasing government's compliance with law. A key step is achieving genuine judicial independence. . . . But the most crucial changes lie elsewhere. Above all, government officials must refrain from interfering with judicial decision-making and accept the judiciary as an independent authority.
The question of whether the telecoms acted in "good faith" in allowing warrantless government spying on their customers is already pending before a court of law. In fact, that is one of the central issues in the current lawsuits -- one that AT&T has already lost in a federal court.

Yet that is the issue that Jay Rockefeller and Mike McConnell -- operating in secret -- are taking away from the courts by passing a law declaring the telecoms to have won ("Senators this week began reviewing classified documents . . . and came away from that early review convinced that the companies had 'acted in good faith' in cooperating with what they believed was a legal and presidentially authorized program"). They are directly interfering in these lawsuits and issuing a "ruling" in favor of AT&T and other telecoms that is exactly the opposite of the one an actual court of law has already issued.

Just read what Bush-41-appointed Federal Judge Vaughn Walker -- operating out in the open, in an actual court of law, with both sides present and in accordance with due process -- ruled when rejecting AT&T's argument that they are entitled to have the case dismissed because they operated in "good faith" [Decision (.pdf) at p. 68]:

Just think about what is really happening here. AT&T's customers sued them for violating their privacy in violation of long-standing federal laws and for violating their Fourth Amendment rights. Even with the most expensive armies of lawyers possible, AT&T and other telecoms are losing in a court of law. The federal judge presiding over the case ruled against them -- ruled that the law is so clear they could not possibly have believed that what they did was legal -- and most observers, having heard the Oral Argument on appeal, predicted that they will lose in the Court of Appeals, too.

So AT&T and other telecoms went to Washington and -- led by Bush 41 Attorney General (and now Verizon General Counsel) William Barr, and in cooperation with their former colleague, Mike McConnell -- began paying former government officials such as Dan Coats and Jamie Gorelick to convince political officials to whom they give money, such as Jay Rockefeller, to pass a law declaring them the victors in these lawsuits and be relieved of all liability -- all based on assertions that a court of law has already rejected. They are literally buying a judicial victory in Congress -- just like Carothers warned that third-world countries must avoid if they want to become functioning democracies under the "rule of law" ("Above all, government officials must refrain from interfering with judicial decision-making").

And in the process -- for good measure -- they have ensured that there will never be any judicial ruling as to whether our Government and the telecom industry broke the law in how they spied on us for years without warrants. They have placed what they did literally beyond the reach of any law or judicial determination. And they accomplished all of that by paying enough officials in Washington to obtain those incomparably corrupt gifts. That's just factually, objectively, what has happened here.

To describe this is to illustrate how low we have fallen over the last six years, how illusory the concept of "the rule of law" now is in Washington. As Carothers put it in his solemn lecture to the Third World:

The primary obstacles to such reform are not technical or financial, but political and human. Rule-of-law reform will succeed only if it gets at the fundamental problem of leaders who refuse to be ruled by the law. Respect for the law will not easily take root in systems rife with corruption and cynicism, since entrenched elites cede their traditional impunity and vested interests only under great pressure.
Americans can understand instinctively -- if the argument were really made -- that it is completely corrupt for corporations which break the law and are sued to go to Congress and get a law passed declaring that they did nothing wrong. That is not an option available to most people if they break the law and/or are sued. But our "entrenched elites" defend it by spouting rank, fear-mongering tripe such as this, and thus, the intense erosion of our country's core political principles continues unabated.


McConnell versus truth

Mitch McConnell can't have it both ways.

He can't luxuriate in a reputation for personal caution and political control, yet claim he knew nothing about the role his office tried to play in sliming a Baltimore boy and his family when they came forward in support of the SCHIP health care expansion.

By now you know the story: Twelve-year-old Graeme Frost and his sister, Gemma, suffered severe brain injuries in a 2004 car crash and got help from the SCHIP program -- all within the rules, as it turned out, much to the chagrin of would-be right-wing spoilers.

Graeme spoke out when President Bush vetoed the SCHIP expansion bill, which the Republican minority in the House is expect to kill today.

A McConnell aide, Don Stewart, admits he sicced reporters on the Frosts when "trusted" bloggers began to question their authenticity as an income-qualified CHIP program participant.

But he says he quickly called off the dogs when he decided there wasn't a story there after all, because the family's situation was legitimate. Mr. Stewart told The Courier-Journal he explained all that to his boss on Thursday.

So Sen. McConnell was deliberately untruthful the next day, when he told WHAS-TV's Mark Hebert, "There was no involvement whatsoever." The senator will object to any suggestion of lying, but what else is it when you knowingly misrepresent facts?

It's clear what Mitch McConnell knew and when he knew it. It's clear he deceived the public when he answered Mr. Hebert as he did about the e-mail sent by his press agent.

Mr. McConnell is so used to Washington-style gamesmanship and inside-the-beltway rules that he has forgotten what constituents back in Kentucky want: the simple truth.

They want that every bit as much as they want the bags of tax money he sends home.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


No Insurance, No Sex. We Mean It.

by Sara at Orcinus

Just when you think that the swiftboating of Graeme Frost was as vicious and venal as the right wing could possibly get, Mark Hemingway over at the National Review Online surges ahead, pushing boldly onward toward an even lower all-time low. Here's his (very) conservatively compassionate take on two-year-old Bethany Wilkerson, the second SCHIP poster kid. Hold your nose -- this one's pungent:

While the debate around the Frost family at least initially centered around their relative wealth, the issue really at hand is one of bad behavior....Dara and Brian Wilkerson are real poster children — for irresponsible decisions.

On the conference call, Dara admitted to me that she and Brian had been talking about having children since before they were married. She further admitted that after they were married she voluntarily left a job at a country club that had good health insurance, because the situation was “unmanageable.” From there she took a job at a restaurant with no health insurance, and the couple went on to have a baby anyway, presuming that others would pay for it and certainly long before they knew their daughter would have a heart defect that probably cost the gross national product of Burkina Faso to fix. But not knowing about future health problems is the reason we have insurance in the first place.

Now, pause for a second. Are you reading this at your computer at work, in a job that you don’t particularly care for or even downright detest because you have a spouse and child that depend on you? You wouldn’t be the first or last person to make that choice.

For Dara and Brian Wilkerson, the fact that they don’t have health insurance is less about falling through the cracks than the decisions they’ve made. We know that Dara is at least capable of getting a job with insurance — so why does she not have one now? Even if it is difficult insure her child’s pre-existing condition, what about her and her husband’s health? Perhaps it’s rude to ask that question, but I think it’s rude to accept huge amounts of public assistance and then express gratitude by asking taxpayers to extend a Children’s health program to cover college-age kids who come from households making more than $80,000 a year.

So follow me here.

Dara Wilkerson left a job with insurance -- we're not clear about whether it was before or after she got pregnant -- because it was "unmanageable." Hemingway argues that this was basically candy-assed of her. It doesn't matter to him what the situation was -- but if she was already pregnant, it may very well matter to us. Because there are a lot of reasons that jobs end before pregnancies do. The need to get off your feet, or get extra rest. A doctor worried about pre-eclampsia, or premature labor. Bosses who won't cooperate with changing physical needs. There are a lot of ways a job at a country club could become genuinely "unmanageable," particularly in the back half of a pregnancy. And even if she wasn't pregnant, you can bet nobody leaves a job with decent insurance unless there's a damned good reason -- and most of the best reasons are not the kind of thing most of us would be willing to share with a nosy parker like Mark Hemingway.

(One wonders if Hemingway's ever been around any pregnant women -- or, for that matter, ever been uninsured. One guesses not: he seems to think getting a job with insurance - or getting insurance with a pre-existing condition -- is easy, too. Perhaps on his planet, it is. But on Planet America, I know self-employed families with six-figure incomes who can barely manage the premiums.)

And, having left that job, he's boggled that "the couple went on to have the baby anyway." Yo, Mark: Are you suggesting that Dara should have had (scream, gasp!) a dreaded "abortion of convenience," just because she lost her health insurance? Or that the decision to carry a fetus should be an economic decision, instead of the sacred and unstoppable Gift of God the anti-choice crowd has spent the last 35 years loudly insisting it is?

I hope you didn't have your heart set on a featured speaker slot at the next National Right-To-Life Committee gala. Because if you're saying what I think you're saying...well, it's just not gonna happen, 'K?

Also: Don't look now, but your side has made it virtually impossible to get an abortion in vast stretches of the country -- and is doing its level best to ensure that anything else that stops a sperm from meeting up with an egg is taken off the market, too.

So, assuming the pregnancy was already underway, it's not like putting a stop to the pregnancy was a real option, even if the Wilkersons had wanted to. (And if it wasn't underway, Mark, how do you stand on the government providing free birth control to people like the Wilkersons? I thought so.) Perhaps you should volunteer to "counsel" such misguided couples. Given your obvious insight and sensitivity regarding these matters, I'm sure we can trust you to stop short of coercion.

So, to recap, here's the moral lesson the conservatives want us to take away from the Wilkerson family's public shaming:

-- People without insurance should not have babies.

-- Pregnant people who lose their insurance should abort.

-- Abortion is evil, and should be abolished.

-- Birth control is a personal choice, and should not be publicly subsidized. Let your insurance cover it.

-- If you don't have access to insurance or birth control, don't have sex.

Are you with me so far? OK. Let's take this all the way home now.

Under this New Conservative Order being promoted by NRO and its esteemed colleagues on the right, our society should rightly leave it to employers to decide who gets health insurance. Which, per Hemingway, means that they also have final say over who gets Official Permission to have sex. If you're one of the 47 million people in America whose employers have chosen to withhold this benefit -- which means restricted access to medical birth control, and no coverage for any children that may result -- then the consequences are clear: you need to stop having sex.

Who can argue with this? If you're too stupid and degenerate to get a job with health insurance, you don't deserve to have sex anyway. After all, there's no guaranteed right to sex in the Constitution (and if there was, you can bet we'd be shredding that one, too). No, sex is a privilege that only belongs to those of us who can afford it -- and, ideally, who have submitted to the daily economic supervision of their God-ordained betters. If that's not you, then no fucking, no birth control, no health care, and (especially) no having babies. We mean it.

With wingers, it always comes back to controlling people's sexuality. Always.

Update: Our commenters note several other problems with Hemingway's argument:

Skullhunter points out that there's nothing like taking away people's health insurance to increase their fear quotient. Since fear the way conservatives govern, they've got no incentive to make sure people's kids are covered.

Mary Racine wonders why Hemingway's nosiness doesn't extend to the restaurant owner. Shouldn't we be wondering why he's not providing his workers with health insurance? "Let's look at the owner's house, let's count his cars and how expensive his wife's shoes and purses are..." If the uninsured can be subjected to this kind of scrutiny, then why aren't we doing the same to the people who left them uninsured in the first place?

She also notices some message creep: the mantra "Don't have a baby if you can't afford it" used to be intoned only in the faces of teenage mothers. Now, it's effectively being used to tell the working classes not to breed at all. Feral Liberal points out that Hemingway's modest proposal -- don't breed unless you can afford health insurance -- should logically be extended to people with only catastrophic insurance as well, since a kid with problems like Bethany's would throw many of them onto SCHIP, too. Adding in the underinsured would bring Hemingway's not-qualified-to-breed pool to about 75 million Americans. (Timekiller points out that this would include most of those 10-kid Quiverfull families, too.)

If, under the Hemingway rule, the working class is effectively enjoined from having kids, then we're going to be importing a whole lot more foreign workers in the years ahead to make up for the loss. Which, as Enlightened Layperson notes, would be a demographic disaster -- at least according to racist anti-immigration wackos like Mark Steyn, who thinks we're in some kind of arms race to outbreed the Muslims and the Mexicans. (Apparently, this vital objective in the War On Brown People is critical to our survival as a nation.) The Frosts did their duty by producing a blonde, blue-eyed white baby for the cause -- only to find that is one war function the government is not willing to overpay contractors for.

Though, as Vox Publius observes: Dick Cheney's heart problems are being covered by government insurance -- and nobody thinks this is a problem.

I think we've found our next SCHIP poster boy.


American Corporate Republic: Corporate Welfare Queens Gorge Themselves at the Public Trough.

Food Companies
Face U.S. Probe
Over Iraq Deals

October 17, 2007; Page A1 Wall Street Journal

WASHINGTON -- Prominent American food companies are under scrutiny in a federal probe of possible fraud and corruption in the military's food-supply operations for the Iraq war.

Public Warehousing Co. disclosed the federal investigation in two lawsuits filed in federal courts in Washington earlier this year.
In this complaint the company contended that the Pentagon was blocking its pursuit of further contracts because of the investigation. A PWC executive states his position here. After a Federal Claims Court judge indicated he would side with the company, the Justice Department and Pentagon reached a settlement with the company granting most of its demands.

Investigators from the Justice Department and the Defense Department are looking into deals that Perdue Farms Inc., Sara Lee Corp., ConAgra Foods Inc. and other U.S. companies made to supply the military, according to people involved in the inquiry. The companies made the deals with the help of former U.S. military procurement officials they hired as consultants or executives.

The inquiry is focused on whether the food companies set excessively high prices when they sold their goods to the Army's primary food contractor for the war zone, a Kuwaiti firm called Public Warehousing Co. A related question is whether Public Warehousing improperly pocketed for itself refunds it received from these suppliers. Public Warehousing bought vast amounts of meat, vegetables and bakery items from the food companies, and delivered them to U.S. troops.

Public Warehousing's dealings are the subject of "a very large and active investigation into criminal and civil fraud involving amounts in the hundreds of millions of dollars," Justice Department lawyer Brian Mizoguchi told a judge in Federal Claims Court in Washington, D.C., on June 12. Public Warehousing, which receives more than $1 billion annually to feed troops in Iraq and Kuwait, denies wrongdoing.

Federal investigators are also examining the role Army officials played in picking the food companies that are Public Warehousing's suppliers. Once a "prime vendor" is chosen by the Pentagon to deliver the food -- in this case, Public Warehousing -- that vendor receives guidance from the Army on what should be on the menu. Sometimes the Army demands specific brands of food from specific manufacturers. The prime vendor must then negotiate prices for these menu items with these manufacturers.

Profit Margins

In general, many military contracts pay suppliers the cost of the goods they distribute plus a profit margin. In such cases, it is a challenge to ensure that the supplier seeks the lowest price from the maker of the goods. Unless adequate safeguards are in place, the supplier and the maker have an incentive to inflate the cost and share the extra profits among themselves.

Federal law prohibits government contractors from obtaining money through false or fraudulent pretenses.


Details of the Kuwait transactions and the federal probe are spelled out in hundreds of pages of court documents, emails, spreadsheets and military files seen by The Wall Street Journal. Among other things, the records show that Sara Lee paid 5% of the purchase price back to Public Warehousing for meat and bakery orders to feed U.S. troops in Iraq and Kuwait. The agreement was negotiated by a Sara Lee executive in charge of military sales, Paul Simmons, who formerly served as a chief warrant officer for the Army. Mr. Simmons declined to comment.

A key figure in the probe is David Staples, a top procurement official at the Army who formerly worked at Sara Lee's Jimmy Dean sausage unit. Records show Mr. Staples required Army food contractors to purchase products from certain suppliers rather than allowing the contractors to shop around.

In a brief telephone interview, Mr. Staples said it is "not true at all" that he favors specific firms. "We follow standard business practices," he said. A Sara Lee spokesman said: "Sara Lee was subpoenaed, and has cooperated fully with the Department of Defense's investigation." Sara Lee and the other U.S. food companies declined to address specifically whether they overcharged Public Warehousing for their products.

While Army officials deny that they designate vendors for food, an internal spreadsheet that Mr. Staples emailed to a vendor in 2006 names specific vendors for specific products.

In one of the most striking examples of the agency's selectivity, Tyson Foods Inc., one of the world's largest chicken producers, has been virtually shut out in the competition to supply the troops for the Iraq conflict. Much of the chicken supplies for Iraq and Kuwait are provided by Perdue and a ConAgra unit called Pilgrim's Pride Inc. That is in line with a recommended menu on a spreadsheet issued by Mr. Staples's agency. The spreadsheet lists foods and recommended suppliers such as "turkey thigh roast, raw, netted, 8-10 lb avg" next to "Sara Lee."

In an April 3, 2007, letter to the Pentagon, a lawyer for Tyson complained that "elements within the military" were providing sole-source contracts "to certain companies employing former military personnel."

A spokesman for Public Warehousing said it is cooperating with the investigation. The company, which is also called PWC, says it had revenues of more than 1 billion Kuwaiti dinars in 2006, or about $3.6 billion, and employs more than 20,000 people. (The company isn't related to the accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers.) "PWC welcomes a full and impartial review of its work and its performance under these government contracts, and will continue to cooperate fully with all such inquiries," the spokesman said.

[nowides] FIGHT FOR IRAQ
[Iraq map]
See continuing coverage of developments in Iraq, including an interactive map of day-to-day events in Iraq and a tally of military deaths.

Public Warehousing attributes its high food prices to the costs of operating in a war zone. It says all discounts or refunds it receives from food makers after it pays its bills are specifically allowed by its contracts and represent normal practice in the food industry as an incentive for prompt payment. Pentagon officials have repeatedly heaped praise on the firm for its record in making hazardous deliveries to U.S. bases in Iraq.

One internal Public Warehousing email obtained by federal investigators refers to an agreement under which the firm's primary Kuwaiti supplier paid a 10% refund to Public Warehousing on all orders received from the military. In other words, the supplier would return to Public Warehousing 10% of the money the supplier received in exchange for its goods. Company officials confirmed the arrangement but said these large discounts are standard in the Middle East. The supplier, Sultan Center, is owned by a Kuwaiti merchant family that is also among Public Warehousing's largest stockholders. Sultan Center did not respond to requests for comment.

Within the U.S., the investigation is focused on an Army agency in Virginia known as Army Center for Excellence, Subsistence. It plays a key role in determining the Army's favored suppliers. Mr. Staples, a senior official at the center, works closely with sales agents for a handful of U.S. firms including Sara Lee, ConAgra and Quantum Foods Inc., according to emails and people involved in the investigation.

Since 2003, the Army agency has issued guidelines directing that chicken breast, turkey breast, ham and sausage consumed by U.S. forces in Iraq and Kuwait be supplied by Sara Lee.

In its letter of complaint, Tyson asserted: "It appears that the process for specifying brand-named merchandise may have been inappropriate." A spokesman at Fort Lee, the Army base in Virginia where the agency is located, said officials there aren't aware of the investigation.

The agency also has directed that virtually all of the beef purchased for U.S. troops in Iraq and Kuwait -- several tons per month -- come from Quantum Foods, an Illinois meatpacker. Quantum is represented by a former Army employee, Emily Prior. Until 2002, Ms. Prior held Mr. Staples's position at the Army agency.

Asked if she has been contacted by investigators, Ms. Prior replied: "Absolutely not. And I know of no reason why I would be." She declined to answer further questions.

'Potential Witness'

Perdue is also represented by Ms. Prior, while ConAgra is represented by a former Army sergeant, James Kennedy. A ConAgra spokeswoman, Stephanie Childs, said the company is not a target of the probe. "However, as a potential witness, ConAgra Foods' Lamb Weston division did receive a subpoena to provide its PWC sales records, and Mr. James Kennedy gave an interview as a witness in the investigation of PWC," she said.

Julie DeYoung, a spokeswoman for Perdue, said the company hasn't received a subpoena from investigators. She said that Ms. Prior worked as a consultant for Perdue for three years beginning in April 2003, a month after the U.S. invaded Iraq, and signed a new agreement with the company on Sept. 1.

As of Feb. 14, 2005, internal Public Warehousing pricing data show, Quantum was charging Public Warehousing $5.66 a pound for a 42-pound case of frozen and marinated 14-ounce T-bone steaks. Industry insiders say $5.66 per pound would be in the range of typical retail prices for ungraded T-bone steaks, which tend to be tougher than "choice" or "select" grades, but is steep for a wholesale price. In 2006, according to the Army, U.S. forces in the Iraq theater consumed some 24 truckloads of beef a month, costing more than $3 million.

Investigators are exploring whether Public Warehousing might have been willing to accept high prices because of the payment terms it received from its suppliers. In the case of Quantum, Public Warehousing gets 4% back if it pays its bills in 20 days. That means the higher the price from Quantum, the more Public Warehousing gets back for making a prompt payment.

"Quantum Foods is cooperating with the U.S. attorney general in its investigation," company spokesman Kenneth Trantowski said. "This remains an ongoing investigation and Quantum Foods must limit any detailed disclosures."

Write to Glenn R. Simpson at



Last 5 Years Stock Report. Who Likes War? Lockheed, Halliburton, Fluor, Exxon, Chevron, Boeing.


Who Wants To Stay The Course In Iraq? Take a Guess.

Lockheed Martin stock up from $52 to $109 between July 2003 and Now;

Boeing up from $33 to $96;

ExxonMobil up from $36 to $94;

Chevron up from $36 to $92;

Halliburton up from $22 to $40;

Fluor up from $34 to $159



Mitch McConnell's Family Values: Lying to Voters, Discrediting Sick Kids. It's Time to Ditch Mitch in 08 Kentucky.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007
McConnell knew of e-mails about boy
TV interview included denial
By James R. Carroll

The Courier-Journal

WASHINGTON -- Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell knew last week -- at a time when he was denying it -- that his staff had sent e-mails encouraging reporters to look into the background of a 12-year-old boy used by Democrats to support expansion of a health-care program.

In an interview Friday with WHAS-TV reporter Mark Hebert, the Kentucky Republican said his staff had not been involved in trying to push reporters to look into the financial situation of the boy's family.

But McConnell's communications director, Don Stewart, said in an interview Monday with The Courier-Journal that he had told McConnell about the Oct. 8 e-mails sometime around Thursday, the day before the interview with Hebert.

Stewart also said, however, that he had told the senator he had sent follow-up e-mails within a matter of hours warning reporters off of the story because "the family is legit."

McConnell declined to comment on the matter last night.

Stewart's comments to The C-J on Monday were the first detailed explanation of how McConnell's office was involved in the controversy. It came after nearly a week of speculation and claims by some groups that the office had been involved.

The initial e-mails sent by Stewart were aimed at alerting reporters that bloggers were raising questions about the boy, Graeme Frost of Baltimore, and his family's financial circumstances. He backed off that claim in his subsequent e-mails, he said, based on a report from a blogger whom he respected.

Stewart said he informed McConnell of his personal role in the matter around Thursday.

The next day, Friday, Hebert asked McConnell about the e-mails. The exchange was broadcast Sunday night and again last evening.

Hebert asked the senator whether his office was attempting to get reporters to look into Frost's background.

"No," McConnell answered.

The senator was then asked, "What was the deal with the e-mail from your staffer?"

McConnell replied: "There was no involvement whatsoever."

The boy and his family's circumstances became an issue after he was recruited by the Democrats to respond to President Bush's Sept. 29 radio address regarding the expanded health program, which Bush vetoed Oct. 3.

Graeme and his sister, Gemma, suffered severe injuries in a 2004 car crash and were beneficiaries of the insurance program.

Stewart said yesterday that McConnell's office was "not trying to get reporters to dig into this."

He added: "This is what I told McConnell: They said we tried to get this story started with the blogs. We did not. And part two, we spiked the story. Those are the two things I told him. Which is what he responded to. No, we didn't start the story and that we spiked it.

"I told him that we spiked it, so his answer would make sense to him, that no, we didn't try to get reporters to dig into this," Stewart said.

Stewart said the first blogs, questioning whether the Frosts qualified financially for the State Children's Health Insurance Program, appeared Oct. 6, two days before he sent out his first e-mail to reporters.

In that e-mail, Stewart wrote that "bloggers have done a little digging and turned up that the Dad owns his own business (and the building it's in) seems to have some commercial rental income and Graeme and a sister go to a private school that, according to its Web site, costs about $20k a year -- for each kid -- despite the news profiles reporting a family income of only $45k for the Frosts."

"Could the Dems really have done that bad of a job vetting this family?" Stewart asked in the e-mail.

Hours later, he said, he sent two follow-up e-mails waving reporters off.

"Forgive me if I already told you this, but a blogger that I trust (and who hadn't written anything on this issue yet) tells me that after spending a lot of time on this, they now believe there's no story there, that the family is legit," Stewart wrote in one e-mail, according to the text he provided to The Courier-Journal. "So I'm passing that along to the folks I wrote to this morning. Fair is fair."

In the other follow-up e-mail, Stewart wrote, according to the text he provided: "I just heard from a blogger I know who did some research. Says it's not a story, they're the real deal."

McConnell has opposed bipartisan legislation expanding the program, which passed the House and Senate but was vetoed by Bush.

McConnell believes the measure goes beyond the original intent of the program and is a step toward government-run universal health care.

Newspaper columnists, Web sites, bloggers and politicians have been discussing and debating how the Frost family was handled, and Stewart's acknowledgement that McConnell's office sent e-mails fanned the furor on the Internet yesterday.

In a follow-up e-mail last night, Stewart reiterated that McConnell's answer to WHAS that "there was 'no involvement whatsoever' " was accurate."

"The blogs started this story on Oct. 6 -- two days before I pointed it out and spiked it. This story started and ended in the blogs," Stewart wrote. "I told reporters there was 'no story.' I told Sen. McConnell that I spiked the story. That is 100 percent accurate."

Reporter James R. Carroll can be reached at (202) 906-8141.

Monday, October 15, 2007


NY Post Exploits Kidnapped U.S. Troops To Push For Expanded Spying Authority

Last month, Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell told Congress that “a May wiretap that targeted Iraqi insurgents was delayed for 12 hours by attempts to comply with onerous surveillance laws, which slowed an effort to locate three U.S. soldiers who had been captured.”

As Congress works to restore court oversight of the spy program this week, conservatives in Congress have initiated a PR campaign to build support for President Bush’s spying program.

Roll Call reports:
Republicans are planning to use the kidnapping and subsequent murder of three
U.S. soldiers in Iraq earlier this year to put a “human face” on the issue, the
House staffer explained. … Republicans believe using real-world examples of how
a weak FISA has put U.S. troops in danger will help galvanize public support for
their position.

Marcy Wheeler observes that today, the Rupert Murdoch-owned New York Post embraced this campaign, publishing a politically-charged article reiterating the conservatives’ talking points:
U.S. intelligence officials got mired for nearly 10 hours seeking approval to
use wiretaps against al Qaeda terrorists suspected of kidnapping Queens soldier
Alex Jimenez in Iraq earlier this year, The Post has learned. […]

“The intelligence community was forced to abandon our soldiers because of the law,” a senior congressional staffer with access to the classified case told The Post.
In reality, the delay in obtaining the order can largely be traced to the red tape and incompetence within the Bush administration. Here’s why:

1) Gonzales’ DoJ unprepared for battle. Alberto Gonzales’ Justice Department “wrangl[ed]” with intelligence officials on whether there was “probable cause” for surveillance. Filled with inept political cronies, the DoJ said it encountered “novel legal issues” that it hadn’t considered, necessitating a four hour delay.

2) DoJ missing in action. Mired in scandal, Gonzales was speaking
to a group of U.S. attorneys and couldn’t be reached for two hours in order to
sign off. “Deputy AG Paul McNulty had resigned already; Solicitor General Paul
Clement ‘had left the building‘; and the other responsible official, Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Wainstein was not yet authorized to approve the emergency order.”

3) Emergency warrants obtainable in ‘five seconds.’ McConnell claimed an
earlier FISA court ruling requiring warrants for foreign-to-foreign surveillance had
caused the lag time. But to “get an emergency warrant, you just have to believe the facts support the application that someone is an agent of a foreign power,” according to a government source. “That takes approximately five seconds to establish if you’re going after an Iraqi insurgent.”

Competence — not unfettered spying power — is what the Bush administration needs.

Sunday, October 14, 2007


Warrantless wiretapping in place before 9/11

Today, the Washington Post publishes additional details about the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping, noting that the National Security Agency approached Qwest “more than six months before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.” But the Body Politik’s Igor Volsky points out that President Bush has claimed that the program was put in place in response to 9/11:

After September the 11th, I vowed to the American people that our government would do everything within the law to protect them against another terrorist attack. As part of this effort, I authorized the National Security Agency to intercept the international communications of people with known links to al Qaeda and related terrorist organizations. [5/11/06]

Kagro X adds, “If Qwest’s competitors were already abetting this bloodless(?) coup before 9/11, then the ‘administration’s’ domestic spying not only has little if anything to do with response to terrorism, but it also objectively failed to prevent 9/11.”

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