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Archive for February 9th, 2009

Biden Cautious, Conciliatory in Message to Russia

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on February 9th, 2009 5:41 am by HL

Biden Cautious, Conciliatory in Message to Russia

Kremlin

Will the Obama administration take a different tack than the Bush team did when it comes to relations with the Kremlin? It’s hard to say at this stage, but Vice President Joe Biden has suggested that it’s “time to press the reset button and to revisit the many areas where we can and should be working together with Russia.” He made the comment Saturday in a speech at a security conference in Germany.


The New Tork Times:

The highly anticipated speech, seen as the first major outline of the new administration’s relations with the world, came just days after Kyrgyzstan’s president announced a decision to close a United States base there that is crucial to the war in Afghanistan, which President Obama has made his top foreign policy priority. That announcement was made in Moscow, and many American officials concluded that the Russians had pressured Kyrgyzstan as part of their campaign to reassert control over former Soviet republics.

Some Western diplomats had expected Mr. Biden to announce a strategic review of the planned missile defense system as a way to defuse tensions between Washington and Moscow. Although Mr. Biden did not go that far, he did leave room in both the speech — and an interview afterward — for unspecified changes in the plan put forward by the Bush administration.

“We will continue to develop missile defenses to counter a growing Iranian capability, provided the technology is proven and it is cost-effective,” Mr. Biden said during the speech.

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Daniel Cubias: Just Who Are All These Hispanics Anyway?

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on February 9th, 2009 5:40 am by HL

Daniel Cubias: Just Who Are All These Hispanics Anyway?
Do Spaniards count as Hispanics? Are Brazilians really Latino? Can Jamaicans sneak in there? Do third-generation Chicanos in interracial marriages remain part of the tribe?

Raymond J. Learsy: “My Way Or The Highway”-Nancy Pelosi. The George W. Bush Of The Democratic Party
George Bush has finally gone away. Well not really. As a goodbye gift he left his legacy behind, for once reaching across the aisle…

Geoffrey Dunn: Palin’s Facebook Page: Opposes Obama’s Stimulus Plan
We learn on Facebook that Palin has “serious concerns” with Obama’s stimulus package. Say what?

Howie Klein: A Woman’s Place Is In The House
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the lot of women in our political system — when I look at the ten most progressive members of Congress, six of them are women.

Meg Whitman, Former eBay CEO, To Run For Governor Of California
Meg Whitman will announce on Monday that she intends to run for governor of California. The announcement will be made on her web site. Deborah…


Fox promotes falsehood that provision in recovery bill would prohibit any religious activity in facilities receiving money

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on February 9th, 2009 5:39 am by HL

Fox promotes falsehood that provision in recovery bill would prohibit any religious activity in facilities receiving money

In articles on its website and on the February 5 broadcast of Your World, Fox News has promoted the misrepresentation of a provision in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 to make false claims about restrictions on spending in the bill for religious activities in schools. In fact, the provision is nearly identical to provisions included in numerous other bills passed by Congress, including those passed when the Republicans were in the majority.

A February 5 FoxNews.com article by reporter Cristina Corbin claimed the bill would “prohibit[] renovation money for schools that allow religious groups to meet on campus.” In fact, the section in question, Section 9302, provides funding to “higher education facilities that are primarily used for instruction, research, or student housing.” Neither that section nor the bill as a whole contains a provision that would ban money from going to “schools that allow religious groups to meet on campus” — a prohibition that, if it were actually part of the bill — would essentially bar all U.S. schools from receiving renovation money.

In a separate February 4 article headlined, “Conservative Groups Declare Obama’s Stimulus Bill a War on Prayer,” Corbin claimed that “[t]he provision bans money designated for school renovation from being spent on facilities that allow ‘religious worship.’ ” Further, on the February 5 edition of Your World, host Neil Cavuto allowed Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) to falsely claim that the bill “would prohibit any religious activity in any college or university facility that uses any of these funds for modernization or renovation.” Cavuto also allowed DeMint to falsely claim that “if they [colleges or universities] use these funds to be modernized or renovated, then there can be no prayers, religious activities, no teaching of religious history. So, it discriminates against anyone of faith and would affect the things that are going on now. Just normal meetings by religious groups can no longer be held in a student center, which the Supreme Court has given them that right. But if these funds are used on that student center for renovation, it can’t be used.” Cavuto subsequently commented: “That doesn’t even sound legal.”

In fact, Section 9302 prohibits the use of funds for “modernization, renovation, or repair of facilities … used for sectarian instruction, religious worship, or a school or department of divinity … or in which a substantial portion of the functions of the facilities are subsumed in a religious mission. [emphasis added].” Thus, it does not prohibit money being spent on facilities that “allow ‘religious worship’ ” in Corbin’s words.

Moreover, the inclusion of such language in bills is not new or controversial as Salon.com’s Alex Koppelman reported. For instance, a section of the Older Americans Act Amendments of 2006enacted while George W. Bush was president, Republicans controlled both houses of Congress, and sponsored by Republican Rep. Patrick Tiberi (OH) — authorized a grant for “an older American community service employment program,” but excluded “projects involving the construction, operation, or maintenance of any facility used or to be used as a place for sectarian religious instruction or worship.”

From the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (H.R. 1, as passed by the House):

SEC. 9302. HIGHER EDUCATION MODERNIZATION, RENOVATION, AND REPAIR.

(a) Purpose- Grants awarded under this section shall be for the purpose of modernizing, renovating, and repairing institution of higher education facilities that are primarily used for instruction, research, or student housing.

[…]

(d) Use of Subgrants by Institutions of Higher Education-

(1) PERMISSIBLE USES OF FUNDS- An institution of higher education receiving a subgrant under this section shall use such subgrant to modernize, renovate, or repair facilities of the institution that are primarily used for instruction, research, or student housing, which may include any of the following:

(A) Repair, replacement, or installation of roofs, electrical wiring, plumbing systems, sewage systems, or lighting systems.

(B) Repair, replacement, or installation of heating, ventilation, or air conditioning systems (including insulation).

(C) Compliance with fire and safety codes, including —

(i) professional installation of fire or life safety alarms; and

(ii) modernizations, renovations, and repairs that ensure that the institution’s facilities are prepared for emergencies, such as improving building infrastructure to accommodate security measures.

(D) Retrofitting necessary to increase the energy efficiency of the institution’s facilities.

(E) Renovations to the institution’s facilities necessary to comply with accessibility requirements in the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (42 U.S.C. 12101 et seq.) and section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (29 U.S.C. 794).

(F) Abatement or removal of asbestos from the institution’s facilities.

(G) Modernization, renovation, and repair relating to improving science and engineering laboratories, libraries, and instructional facilities.

(H) Upgrading or installation of educational technology infrastructure.

(I) Installation or upgrading of renewable energy generation and heating systems, including solar, photovoltaic, wind, biomass (including wood pellet), or geothermal systems, or components of such systems.

(J) Other modernization, renovation, or repair projects that are primarily for instruction, research, or student housing.

[…]

(3) PROHIBITED USES OF FUNDS- No funds awarded under this section may be used for —

(A) the maintenance of systems, equipment, or facilities, including maintenance associated with any permissible uses of funds described in paragraph (1);

(B) modernization, renovation, or repair of stadiums or other facilities primarily used for athletic contests or exhibitions or other events for which admission is charged to the general public;

(C) modernization, renovation, or repair of facilities —

(i) used for sectarian instruction, religious worship, or a school or department of divinity; or

(ii) in which a substantial portion of the functions of the facilities are subsumed in a religious mission; or

(D) construction of new facilities.

From the February 5 edition of Fox News’ Your World with Neil Cavuto:

CAVUTO: Well, a Senate vote on the stimulus bill could come down tonight; both sides fighting over the spending and the tax cuts. Now there seems to be a battle over something else: religion.

My next guest says that the bill is an attack on people of faith. He’s trying to fix that. The man who has really become like a rock star in this whole process, Jim DeMint, Republican senator from South Carolina. Senator, good to see you.

DeMINT: Neil, I don’t feel like a rock star. I feel like I have been hit by a rock.

CAVUTO: I bet, I bet. It goes back and forth here. But what’s this religion thing about?

DeMINT: Well, this morning, I went to the National Prayer Breakfast. Barack Obama spoke about the importance of faith. Tony Blair spoke about the importance of faith. It was a great experience — over 3,000 people from all over the world.

Then, I get back here, and we’re working on this so-called stimulus bill that would prohibit any religious activity in any college or university facility that uses any of these funds for modernization or renovation.

It is just a phrase that I think the ACLU had stuck in this bill — because they are the real proponents of keeping it in there — that would really take advantage of religious freedom, Bible studies, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, whether it is on a student center, a dorm, an auditorium where prayers might be offered. The Supreme —

CAVUTO: So what does it stop? It doesn’t allow these areas to be upgraded, renovated, expanded? Am I getting that right, or what?

DeMINT: No. If they are — if they use these funds to be modernized or renovated, then there can be no prayers, religious activities, no teaching of religious history. So, it discriminates against anyone of faith and would affect the things that are going on now. Just normal meetings by religious groups can no longer be held in a student center, which the Supreme Court has given them that right.

But if these funds are used on that student center for renovation, it can’t be used. I mean —

CAVUTO: That doesn’t even sound legal.

DeMINT: — this doesn’t have any place in the stim —

CAVUTO: But — but that doesn’t even sound legal.

DeMINT: No, I don’t think it is constitutional. It’s not. I don’t think it is constitutional. The — the ACLU is arguing that it is, and they’re encouraging all their Democrat friends to vote against my amendment.

But I have an amendment to strip it out. It has nothing to do with jobs; it has nothing to do with our economy. It is just an effort to slip one more thing in with a political agenda, and we are finding these things spread throughout this bill.

CAVUTO: All right, because this one has, like you say, nothing to with costs at all. It seems like a concerted effort to focus on religion.

So, obviously, it — it was one of these sneaky things they’re trying to add in there. What is the prospect of it being sneakily taken out of there, then?

DeMINT: Well, it won’t be sneakily taken out, because I am going to have an amendment on the floor, and I’m going to force a vote, so people around the country can see who is really behind this.

The only opposition to my bill so far that I have seen is from — from the ACLU. But this kind of thing would create an opening for so many lawsuits against colleges and universities, and that is the business that the ACLU is in.

CAVUTO: Senator, all right, crazy stuff. I know a lot of amendments are coming fast and furious. Good seeing you.

DeMINT: Well — well, thank you for helping us keep this process honest.

CAVUTO: Man, oh, man. All right, thank you, sir.

From Corbin’s February 4 FoxNews.com article, “Conservative Groups Declare Obama’s Stimulus Bill a War on Prayer”:

Democrats in Congress have declared war on prayer, say conservative groups who object to a provision in the stimulus bill that was passed by the House of Representatives last week.

The provision bans money designated for school renovation from being spent on facilities that allow “religious worship.” It has ignited a fury among critics who say it violates the First Amendment and is an attempt to prevent religious practice in schools.

According to the bill, which the Democratic-controlled House passed despite unanimous Republican opposition, funds are prohibited from being used for the “modernization, renovation, or repair” of facilities that allow “sectarian instruction, religious worship or a school or department of divinity.”

Critics say that could include public schools that permit religious groups to meet on campus. The House provided $20 billion for the infrastructure improvements, of which $6 billion would go to higher education facilities where the limitations would be applied.

[…]

Civil liberty groups like the Americans United for Separation of Church and State vehemently defend the stimulus bill’s provision, arguing that it in no way violates the Constitution.

“This provision upholds constitutional standards established by the U.S. Supreme Court and in no way affects student groups that meet on public school campuses,” said the Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

The American Civil Liberties Union also defends the constitutionality of the restriction, which they say has been the law since 1972.

From Corbin’s February 5 FoxNews.com article, headlined “Republican Senator Proposes Amendment to Overturn Ban on Cash for Schools Hosting Faith Forums”:

Republican Sen. Jim DeMint proposed an amendment Thursday to kill a provision in the Senate stimulus bill that prohibits renovation money for schools that allow religious groups to meet on campus.

DeMint proposed the amendment after the provision was passed in the Democratic-controlled House despite unanimous Republican opposition. The amendment is expected to be voted on Thursday, an aide to the senator told FOXNews.com.

DeMint and others who object to the provision say Democrats in Congress have declared war against prayer in the stimulus bill, which currently prohibits funds from being used for the “modernization, renovation, or repair” of facilities that allow “sectarian instruction, religious worship or a school or department of divinity.”

[…]

But civil liberty groups like the ACLU defend the stimulus bill’s provision, arguing that it in no way violates the Constitution.

“It’s almost a restatement of what the Constitution requires so there’s nothing novel in what the House did in its restriction,” said Christopher Anders, senior legislative counsel to the ACLU. “For 37 years, the law of the land is that the government can’t pay for buildings that are used for religious purposes.”

And according to some constitutional law experts, any complaint filed against the provision will gain little ground in court.


The New, Improved Iraq

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on February 9th, 2009 5:38 am by HL

The New, Improved Iraq
A new Iraq is emerging from five years of American invasion and occupation, and at first glance it looks distressingly like the old Iraq: Its people are still bound by the barbed wire of suspicion and hatred as much as by any sense of common purpose and history. But the new Iraq is clearly a nation in ways that the old Iraq — long considered by experts as an artificial creation that would fly apart under the pressure of outside intervention — was not. It did not fly apart and has in fact undergone significant, positive mutations as a result of a soon-to-subside U.S. presence. The provincial elections held a week ago were far from perfect, and personal relationships among the country’s Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds still range from malignant to murderous. In Anbar province, disgruntled Sunni sheiks didn’t ask for recounts or fire their political consultants. They unleashed threats of new mayhem unless they were immediately declared the winners. Old habits die hard in Iraq, too.


Thanks To Obama’s Order, Military Drops Charges In Gitmo Trial

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on February 9th, 2009 5:37 am by HL

Thanks To Obama’s Order, Military Drops Charges In Gitmo Trial
In one of his first acts as president, Barack Obama issued an executive order instructing prosecutors in military commissions to seek delays in the proceedings, in order to allow his administration to review the comissions process as a whole. All…

Report: Staffer Who Got Gifts From Team Abramoff Was Gregg Aide
Last week, when Todd Boulanger pleaded guilty to his role in the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal, he cited a Staffer F in his plea. That staffer had received tickets to hockey and baseball games (with champagne and filet mignon provided,…


Daschle’s Demise Is Just the Beginning: Get Ready for a Torrent of Populist Outrage

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on February 9th, 2009 5:34 am by HL

Daschle’s Demise Is Just the Beginning: Get Ready for a Torrent of Populist Outrage
Americans have had just about enough of watching insiders with the right connections living well off the rest of us.

Is Howard Dean Getting Screwed and Why?
He’s been a governor, an inspiring grassroots hero, a reformer of the Democratic Party — will he join Obama’s White House or head back home?

Can Crazy Techno Schemes Actually Save Us from Climate Change?
From blocking out the sun with "space shields" to fertilizing the oceans with carbon-consuming algae, will the magic of science save us?

Guantanamo on the Brink: Death Looms for Inmates Amid Hunger Strikes and Beatings
Dozens of hunger strikes, beatings, instances of forced feeding and other atrocities have reportedly reduced Guantanamo to near chaos.

The Imperialist Propaganda of Hitchens and Friends
So-called ‘liberal’ advocates of empire played a crucial role in selling Bush’s disastrous wars.


TPM Blogger Stopped And Interrogated at Israeli Airport Due To Content of TPM Posts

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on February 9th, 2009 5:33 am by HL

TPM Blogger Stopped And Interrogated at Israeli Airport Due To Content of TPM Posts
Holy Kafka. This is the story of a frequent TPM poster who, after 70 visits to Israel, decided to pick up and move there (make “aliya’). I won’t describe what happens but it’s pretty bizarre. The only good news in…

More Lemon Socialism — And Why The Limits on Wall Street Pay Are For Show
Wall Street and its allies are in a tizzy over the Obama administration’s proposed $500,000 limit on executive pay, saying it will threaten their ability to attract and retain executive talent. I do not mean to deprecate Wall Street executives…


Right-Wing Senators Praised ?Humane? Conditions At Gitmo During 50-Detainee ?Mass Hunger Strike?

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on February 9th, 2009 5:32 am by HL

Right-Wing Senators Praised ?Humane? Conditions At Gitmo During 50-Detainee ?Mass Hunger Strike?
Recently, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) went on a fact-finding mission to Guantanamo Bay to rally opposition to President Obama’s executive order demanding the closure of the prison within one year. Upon his return, Inhofe unsurprisingly argued to keep the prison open. In a Senate floor speech, he specifically praised the conditions at the prison: INHOFE: […]

inhofe.jpgRecently, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) went on a fact-finding mission to Guantanamo Bay to rally opposition to President Obama’s executive order demanding the closure of the prison within one year. Upon his return, Inhofe unsurprisingly argued to keep the prison open. In a Senate floor speech, he specifically praised the conditions at the prison:

INHOFE: The detainee complex at GTMO is the only complex in the world that can safely and humanely hold these individuals who pose such a grave security risk to the US.

Several other of Inhofe’s colleagues have been singing Gitmo’s praises. House Minority John Boehner (R-OH) remarked last month, “I don’t know that there’s a terrorist treated better anywhere in the world than what has happened at Guantanamo.” “Well, I agree that its gotten an image. I don’t know that that’s all completely deserved,” Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) told MSNBC on Jan 22.

But according to a Guantanamo military lawyer, detainees are still being “beaten” and are living in horrific conditions. The Guardian reports today that Lt. Col. Yvonne Bradley is demanding the release of her client, who is “dying” because of his treatment:

But first, Bradley, a US military attorney for 20 years, will reveal that Mohamed, 31, is dying in his Guantánamo cell and that conditions inside the Cuban prison camp have deteriorated badly since Barack Obama took office. Fifty of its 260 detainees are on hunger strike and, say witnesses, are being strapped to chairs and force-fed, with those who resist being beaten. At least 20 are described as being so unhealthy they are on a “critical list”, according to Bradley.

The detainee told Bradley that “he is ‘very scared’ of being attacked by guards, after witnessing a savage beating for a detainee who refused to be strapped down and have a feeding tube forced into his mouth.” “Guantánamo Bay is in the grip of a mass hunger strike and the numbers are growing; things are worsening, she said.

Sens. David Vitter (R-LA), Richard Burr (R-NC), and Pat Roberts (R-KS) were also on Inhofe’s delegation, but none are speaking about these disturbing conditions. In fact, Burr blogged that the conditions are “well thought out and in keeping with our Nation’s highest ideals.” Burr also had this puzzling assessment:

If anyone receives mistreatment at Guantanamo, it is the guard force. They must endure frequent verbal and physical attacks from detainees while maintaining the highest standard of care for those same individuals.

It is unclear how Inhofe and his conservative colleagues failed to see 50 detainees on hunger strike, some near death, while touring the prison. Conveniently, none of the senators alerted the public to these facts upon their return.

GOP Leaders Embrace Rush Limbaugh As Their ?Unofficial Leader?
The Los Angeles Times’ Faye Fiore and Mark Z. Barabak observe that “Rush Limbaugh has his grip on the GOP microphone,” having become “the politically wounded party’s unofficial leader.” Limbaugh — who has declared his sincere hope that Barack Obama will fail — has seen his “prominence and political import” increased. One example of Limbaugh’s influence, […]

The Los Angeles Times’ Faye Fiore and Mark Z. Barabak observe that “Rush Limbaugh has his grip on the GOP microphone,” having become “the politically wounded party’s unofficial leader.” Limbaugh — who has declared his sincere hope that Barack Obama will fail — has seen his “prominence and political import” increased.

One example of Limbaugh’s influence, unmentioned in the article, is the fact that he coined the messaging strategy for stimulus opponents, referring to the economic recovery package as “porkulus.” On his Jan. 23 radio show, Limbaugh said “it’s not a stimulus, it’s a porkulus.” On his Jan. 28 show, Limbaugh introduced the term to Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA):

LIMBAUGH: You could call this the “porkulus.”

CANTOR: Right. (laughing) Let me tell you something. It is porkulus. That’s a great description.

Limbaugh cynically wrote in the Wall Street Journal, “This ‘porkulus’ bill is designed to repair the Democratic Party’s power losses from the 1990s forward, and to cement the party’s majority power for decades.”

Eventually, Limbaugh’s phrase trickled down to Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), who embraced the term. Watch it:

Bloomberg’s Hans Nichols wrote recently, “Every superhero needs an archenemy. President Barack Obama has yet to find one.” Rush Limbaugh is eager to acquire that role. And Obama has helped assign it to him when he made a private comment to conservative lawmakers about the right-wing radio host that quickly leaked out. “You can’t just listen to Rush Limbaugh and get things done,” Obama told top GOP leaders in a White House meeting.


If Spending Is Swift, Oversight May Suffer

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on February 9th, 2009 5:31 am by HL

If Spending Is Swift, Oversight May Suffer
The Obama administration’s economic stimulus plan could end up wasting billions of dollars by attempting to spend money faster than an overburdened government acquisition system can manage and oversee it, according to documents and interviews with contracting specialists.

Obama Confidant Plans To Meet Azerbaijani Leader
David Plouffe, who managed Barack Obama’s presidential campaign and was cited by Obama as the “unsung hero” in his ascendancy to the White House, is expected to meet this week with Azerbaijan’s president, who has been accused of undermining democracy in that oil-rich country.

Bailout Plan Delayed as Stimulus Pitch Absorbs Agenda
Senior Obama administration officials sought to intensify pressure on Congress yesterday to pass a massive stimulus package for the crumbling economy, warning lawmakers of the consequences of delay while rescheduling the unveiling of their financial rescue plan to keep the spotlight on Capitol Hill.

A Military Tactician’s Political Strategy
As Gen. David H. Petraeus flew into Baghdad in February 2007, preparing to take command of U.S. forces in Iraq, Col. Peter R. Mansoor, his executive officer, knelt alongside his seat. “You know, sir,” he said, “the hardest thing for you, if it comes to it, will be to tell the American people and the…