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Archive for June 13th, 2009

Ahmadinejad Wins Dubious Election

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 13th, 2009 4:43 am by HL

Ahmadinejad Wins Dubious Election

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been reelected president of Iran by a surprisingly wide majority, according to the country’s electoral commission. His main rival also claimed victory and said “I will not surrender to this dangerous charade.” The BBC reports that official figures show Ahmadinejad winning even in his rival’s territory and among reformist voters.

BBC:

The BBC’s Jon Leyne, in Tehran, says the result has been greeted with surprise and with deep scepticism by many Iranians.

The figures, if they are to be believed, show Mr Ahmedinejad winning strongly even in the heartland of Mr Mousavi, the main opposition contender.

The scale of Mr Ahmadinejad’s win means that many people who voted for a reformist candidate in the previous presidential election four years ago have apparently switched their votes to Mr Ahmadinejad, he adds.

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Congress OKs Anti-Smoking Bill

Butts

Congress gave final approval to a bill that gives the federal government far-reaching power to try to decrease smoking in the U.S. Positioned to be much more effective than those stupid tobacco company-sponsored “Truth” commercials, the bill would limit nicotine levels and use of words like mild and light.

Updated

The Wall Street Journal:

A bill allowing the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to regulate tobacco is on the way to the White House for President Barack Obama’s signature.

A day after the U.S. Senate overwhelmingly approved the measure, the House passed it Friday on a 307-97 vote.

Obama supports the bill. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Thursday that her agency looked forward to implementing it.

The FDA now will take on an unprecedented role overseeing the production and marketing of cigarettes.

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Jonathan Alter: The Blackberry: Destroyer of Worlds — And the New York Senate

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 13th, 2009 4:41 am by HL

Jonathan Alter: The Blackberry: Destroyer of Worlds — And the New York Senate
I finally understood this week that my wife was right — that the Blackberry is the tool of Satan. Please ponder the case of one Malcolm Smith, who until a few days ago was the majority leader of the New York State Senate.

AKMuckraker: Palin, Letterman, and the Double Standard About Double Standards.
We all heard it. Sarah Palin on The Today Show with Matt Lauer… After a brief discussion of the gas line that glossed over Alaska’s…

Leah McElrath Renna: Obama and the Gays: Where’s the Leadership?
In the wake of the tragic murders of reproductive rights activist, Dr. George Tiller, and the Holocaust Museum security guard, Steven Johns, I know I…

Donald Remy, Obama’s Nominee To Be Army’s Top Lawyer, Withdraws
President Obama’s choice to be general counsel of the Army, Donald M. Remy, withdrew his nomination late Friday….

Obama To Propose $300 Billion In New Cuts To Health-Care Spending
President Barack Obama is set to propose $300 billion in new cuts to government health-care spending over 10 years, as he hunts for dollars to…


Nets ignore substance of health care town hall

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 13th, 2009 4:41 am by HL

Nets ignore substance of health care town hall

In their June 11 evening broadcasts, all three major broadcast networks — ABC, CBS, and NBC — reported on President Obama’s town hall meeting earlier that day, but none of the three reported on the substance of his remarks, rather limiting their coverage to a note Obama wrote on behalf of a 10-year-old girl who was missing school. None of the reports mentioned that Obama spoke at length about a public insurance option as a key component of health care reform. By contrast, guest host Steve Inskeep noted during the June 12 edition of NPR’s Morning Edition that the public option is the “single issue” that “dominates the vast and complicated debate over health care.” Moreover, a June 12 New York Times article reported that Obama’s comments were “the first time Mr. Obama had used his presidential platform to defend the idea at length.”

From the June 12 edition of NPR’s Morning Edition:

INSKEEP: A single issue now dominates the vast and complicated debate over heath care. It’s whether the government should offer to sell you health insurance. Private insurance companies, health-care lobbyists and lawmakers on all sides have shown intense interest. So we’re going to spend some time this morning asking how it matters to you and your health care. We start in Green Bay, Wisconsin. That’s where the issue came up when President Obama held a town hall meeting.

A June 11 CBS.com article about the town hall also called the public plan “one of the most contentious issues in the current health care debate” and quoted Obama as saying, “One of the options … should be a public insurance option. … The reason is not because we want a government takeover of health care.” Indeed, Obama also said during the town hall that “if you’ve got a private plan that works for you, that’s great. But we want some competition. If the private insurance companies have to compete with a public option, it’ll keep them honest and it’ll help keep their prices down.”

From the June 11 town hall:

OBAMA: So what we’re working on is the creation of something called the Health Insurance Exchange, which would allow you to one-stop shop for a health care plan, compare benefits and prices, choose the plan that’s best for you. If you’re happy with your plan, you keep it. None of these plans, though, would be able to deny coverage on the basis of pre-existing conditions. (Applause.)

Every plan should include an affordable, basic benefits package. And if you can’t afford one of these plans, we should provide assistance to make sure that you can. (Applause.) I also strongly believe that one of the options in the Exchange should be a public insurance option. (Applause.) And the reason is not because we want a government takeover of health care — I’ve already said if you’ve got a private plan that works for you, that’s great. But we want some competition. If the private insurance companies have to compete with a public option, it’ll keep them honest and it’ll help keep their prices down. (Applause.)

Discussing the event, CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric reported that Obama “insisted his goal is not, as some critics claim, to nationalize health care,” while ABC World News anchor Charlie Gibson said Obama spoke about the “acute need to pass health care reform this summer.” NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams did not mention the topic of the town hall at all.

From the June 11 New York Times article:

President Obama, taking his case for a health care overhaul directly to the American people, on Thursday vigorously defended his call for a government-sponsored health plan to compete with private insurers. But back in Washington, a leading Senate Democrat seemed to be looking for a compromise that would limit government involvement.

Mr. Obama came to Green Bay, a city he praised for getting “more quality out of fewer health care dollars than many other communities,” as part of an intense push for overhauling health care, his highest legislative priority. But with his insistence on a “public option” generating increased skepticism on Capitol Hill, he defended it as necessary to spur competition in the marketplace.

“If the private insurance companies have to compete with a public option, it will keep them honest and it will help keep their prices down,” Mr. Obama said. Arguing that controlling health costs is crucial to the nation’s economic health, he said Republican criticism of a public plan was unfounded.

[…]

Mr. Obama began the health care debate this year by setting out his goals in broad strokes: he wants to extend health care to the nation’s 45 million uninsured, while preserving consumer choice and cutting health care costs. He said at first he would leave the details to Congress, but over the past week, he has been increasingly involved in the legislative process. In a letter to top Senate Democrats last week, he stated his strong preference for a public plan.

The appearance in a high school gymnasium here on Thursday, however, was the first time Mr. Obama had used his presidential platform to defend the idea at length. He said the public option would “ensure coverage for people where the free market system fails,” adding, “We’ve got to admit that the free market has not worked perfectly when it comes to health care.”

The idea of a public option also has strong support from the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California. At her weekly news conference on Thursday, Ms. Pelosi asserted that a public option would indeed be part of any legislation emanating from the House and said she would be opposed to a co-op proposal offered as a substitute for a public option.

From the June 11 broadcast of the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric:

COURIC: Meanwhile, President Obama is taking his case for health care reform directly to the people. He held a town meeting on it today, and he insisted his goal is not, as some critics claim, to nationalize health care. The audience in Green Bay, Wisconsin, included a man, who, like the president, is the father of a 10-year-old girl.

[begin video clip]

JOHN CORPUS (town hall attendee): I’m fortunate enough to be here with my 10-year-old daughter, who is missing her last day of school for this. I hope she doesn’t get in trouble.

OBAMA: Oh, no.

CORPUS: Yeah.

OBAMA: Do you need me to write a note?

CORPUS: I’ll take you up on that, actually, Mr. President.

[end video clip]

COURIC: And with that, the president wrote a note for the girl and told her he thought she had a, quote, “cool name.” Her name, by the way, is Kennedy.

[begin video clip]

OBAMA: There you go, you got it.

KENNEDY CORPUS: “To Kennedy’s teacher. Please excuse Kennedy’s absence. She’s with me. Barack Obama.”

[end video clip]

COURIC: Pretty cool. And Kennedy is a smart kid. She says she’s going to keep the note and frame it.

Coming up next, the class of 2009, graduating with a degree of uncertainty.

From the June 11 broadcast of NBC’s Nightly News with Brian Williams:

WILLIAMS: Interesting moment at a presidential town meeting today. The scene: Green Bay, Wisconsin. A man who had a question for the president explained he brought his young daughter along, but she had to skip her last day at school to attend the town meeting. The president was worried and offered to help.

[begin video clip]

OBAMA: Do you need me to write a note?

CORPUS: I’ll take you up on that, actually, Mr. President.

OBAMA: All right. Go ahead. I’ll start writing it now. What’s your name?

CORPUS: John Corpus.

OBAMA: No, her.

CORPUS: Oh.

OBAMA: No, no, I’m serious here. What’s your daughter’s name?

CORPUS: Her name —

OBAMA: Huh?

CORPUS: Her name is Kennedy.

OBAMA: Kennedy, all right.

CORPUS: Yes.

OBAMA: That’s a cool name.

CORPUS: That’s a very cool name, thank you.

OBAMA: All right, I’m going to write to Kennedy’s teacher.

[end video clip]

WILLIAMS: And he did. The president delivered the note in person to the little girl, who, of course, thought better of it — made a copy for her teacher, and kept the original for herself.

From the June 11 broadcast of ABC’s World News with Charles Gibson:

GIBSON: Finally tonight, President Obama visited Green Bay, Wisconsin, today to talk about what he feels is the acute need to pass health care reform this summer. One father in the audience had let his daughter skip school to attend. That led to this.

[begin video clip]

CORPUS: My name is John Corpus. I’m fortunate enough to be here with my 10-year-old daughter, who is missing her last day of school for this. I hope she doesn’t get into trouble —

OBAMA: Oh, no.

CORPUS: Yeah.

OBAMA: Do you need me to write a note?

CORPUS: I’ll take you up on that, actually, Mr. President.

OBAMA: All right. Go ahead. I’ll start writing it now. What’s your name?

CORPUS: John Corpus.

OBAMA: No, her.

CORPUS: Oh. Well, considering I have some people here from work that are very interested in —

OBAMA: No, no, I’m serious. What’s your daughter’s name?

CORPUS: Her name —

OBAMA: Huh?

CORPUS: Her name is Kennedy.

OBAMA: Kennedy, all right.

CORPUS: Yes.

OBAMA: That’s a cool name.

CORPUS: That’s a very cool name, thank you.

OBAMA: All right, I’m going to write to Kennedy’s teacher. OK, go ahead, I’m listening to your question. … Here you go, Kennedy. There you go. There you go, you got it. All right.

KENNEDY CORPUS: He wrote, “To Kennedy’s teacher, please excuse Kennedy’s absence. She’s with me. Barack Obama.”

[end video clip]

GIBSON: And Kennedy described the whole thing as, like, really awesome.


TPMmuckraker Presents: No Direction Home — One Uighur’s Journey From East Turkistan To Palau, Via Gitmo

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 13th, 2009 4:39 am by HL

TPMmuckraker Presents: No Direction Home — One Uighur’s Journey From East Turkistan To Palau, Via Gitmo
Here at TPMmuckraker, we’ve been thinking about pitching an idea for a screenplay. It’s sort of a Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay meets The Kite Runner meets Borat. You have to put yourself in the shoes of the…





Ex GOP Lawmaker — And Social Security Bamboozler — To Testify For Defense In Jefferson Trial
Finally, some bipartisanship in these polarized times! William Jefferson, the Democratic former congressman who’s facing trial on corruption charges after being found with $90,000 in his freezer, will get help from a Republican fellow ex-lawmaker from Louisiana….


HR 1207 – Bipartisanship, Finally?

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 13th, 2009 4:37 am by HL

HR 1207 – Bipartisanship, Finally?
I have not written anything on the blog for a long time, remaining silent, taking a wait-and-see approach with our new administration. Perhaps it is too early in Obama’s term to make a judgment regarding Obama’s recent economic, foreign and domestic policy decisions. Perhaps I just like checking out RS Janes’ ‘toons. As a progressive, I […]


Rules of Disengagement: What You Can Do End Illegal Wars

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 13th, 2009 4:36 am by HL

Rules of Disengagement: What You Can Do End Illegal Wars
The authors of a new book share the success stories of war resisters and ways soldiers and citizens can use their rights to end the wars of today.

How Faith-Based Labor Movements Plan to Stop Corporate America’s Billion-Dollar Theft
Might the nation's churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples again have a role in rescuing a wayward economy?

Rules of Disengagement: What You Can Do End Illegal Wars
The authors of a new book share the success stories of war resisters and ways soldiers and citizens can use their rights to end the wars of today.

Let’s Get Physical: What’s So Great About Working in a Cubicle?
Author Matthew Crawford publishes a jeremiad against white-collar culture and the educational system designed to populate it.


Presented By:

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 13th, 2009 4:35 am by HL

Presented By:

A Scary Account of Working at the Holocaust Museum: From My Daughter
Yesterday, as the fatal shooting at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. unfolded, I couldn’t help recalling that my daughter, Jeni Mitchell, just out of college, worked at the museum during its start-up, in 1992, through its 1993 opening, and…






The Story of Mohammed Al-Qahtani

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 13th, 2009 4:34 am by HL

The Story of Mohammed Al-Qahtani

I’ve mentioned high-value terrorists. I wrote about Abu Zubaydah, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed or Mohammed Al-Qahtani (most of this story comes from Jane Mayer’s book, The Dark Side). In August 2001, prior to September 11, Al-Qahtani arrived at the Orlando airport in Florida. He had $2800 in cash and no luggage. He came here on a one-way ticket from Saudi Arabia and was refused entry into the country. Further detective work, after 9/11, showed that Mohammed Atta was waiting for him in the parking lot. Al Qahtani was captured on the battlefield in Afghanistan in December of 2001. He was in United States custody for almost 7 months before he was fingerprinted and identified as an Al Qaeda operative. He was the 20th hijacker. He was at the famed Malaysia meeting in 2000. (Why we didn’t get better intelligence at the Malaysia meeting is still a mystery to me. Why we allow the Malaysian intelligence agency to take the lead is mind-boggling.)

FBI interrogator Ali Soufan, who interrogated Abu Zubaydah before he was taken away by the CIA, was called into question Al-Qahtani. He got a lot of information in a short period time. He even identified a sleeper cell located in Chicago. This wasn’t enough information for US officials, who “knew” that Al Qahtani was holding out. Tougher measures were needed. My question is why would officials assume that a low-level screw-up who’d been captured twice in less than six months would have a treasure trove of information? I’m just asking. It is clear that there was a lot of outside pressure being placed on US officials. In April of 2002 there was a terrorist attack on a synagogue in Tunisia. The US Consulate in Karachi was attacked in June.

It is clear that towards the end of 2002, the FBI backed out of the picture. There’s a steady stream of information from Washington to Guantánamo and back to Washington. Donald Rumsfeld and the commander of Guantánamo Major General Dunlevy had what was described as “close and constant contact.” By November of 2002, the gloves indeed came off. For 48 of the next 54 days, Al-Qahtani was only allowed to sleep for four hours a day. Besides being stripped naked, he was strip-searched and forced to undergo enemas in front of females. He was intentionally touched by females, making it impossible for him to pray (you can’t pray if you’re unclean and you’re unclean if you’re touched by female). He was forced to stand so long his feet and hands swelled. He needed to have his hands and feet bandaged and elevated to treat the painful swelling. At one point, he was treated like a dog, which included being placed in a leash and forced to jump around. There was more degrading treatment. He became so dehydrated at one point the physician had to start a special IV.

What did we learn from these harsh interrogations of Al-Qahtani? Nothing. The process was slow and time-consuming. I’m forced to scratch my head and ask the question, “Why?” We learned nothing. We should’ve known he knew nothing. Now my question is, how do we try this guy? How do we put him in jail, where he belongs, for the rest of his life?


ThinkFast: June 12, 2009

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 13th, 2009 4:33 am by HL

ThinkFast: June 12, 2009
The Obama administration has “all but abandoned plans to allow Guantanamo Bay detainees who have been cleared for release to live in the United States.” Though an administration official told the Washington Post that “there may yet be ‘a few’ candidates for settlement in the United States among the dozens of Guantanamo detainees who have […]

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The Obama administration has “all but abandoned plans to allow Guantanamo Bay detainees who have been cleared for release to live in the United States.” Though an administration official told the Washington Post that “there may yet be ‘a few’ candidates for settlement in the United States among the dozens of Guantanamo detainees who have been cleared for release.”

The Defense Intelligence Agency reportedly advised against transferring 25 of the 60 Guantanamo Bay detainees deemed eligible for relocation by the Obama administration. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) claimed that DIA’s concerns show that the White House put political considerations ahead of national security.

Former President Bill Clinton believes that President Obama “has a better chance than he did” to enact health care reform. “He’s got a better Congress, a more receptive climate” and “a better — at least more politically saleable — set of proposals,” said Clinton. “I hope they won’t give up on this public option.”

Health care lobbyists are spending increasing amounts to defeat President Obama’s health care plan. “The five largest private insurers and the trade group America’s Health Insurance Plans spent a total of $6.4 million in the first quarter, an increase of more than $1 million from the same quarter last year.”

As Iranians registered an “unprecedented” turnout in today’s elections, some “believe that the unruly democratic energies unleashed over the past few weeks could affect this country’s politics no matter who wins.” Some Iranians believe that Ayatollah Khamenei “may force Mr. Ahmadinejad to steer a more moderate course if he is re-elected.”

President Obama intervened to save the $105.9 billion war spending bill late last night after a conference committee stalled over the potential release of detainee abuse photos. In a letter to the chairmen of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, Obama promised “to take every legal administrative remedy available to me to ensure the DoD detainee photographs are not released.”

The Senate voted yesterday to allow the FDA to “impose potentially strict new controls on the making and marketing” of tobacco products. Not surprisingly, among the 17 senators who voted against the bill are the “top recipients of campaign contributions from the tobacco industry,” including Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who has raked in $419,025.

Although 55 percent of the American public say they don’t yet know enough about Sonia Sotomayor to have an opinion of her, 54 percent believe the Senate should approve her nomination as Supreme Court justice, according to a new McClatchy-Ipsos poll. Furthermore, a plurality say “they’d feel less favorably toward the Republican Party if Senate Republicans ‘overwhelmingly oppose‘ Sotomayor.”

Paul Krugman writes today that, “[R]ight-wing extremism is being systematically fed by the conservative media and political establishment.” He argues, “Fox News and the RNC…have gone out of their way to provide a platform for conspiracy theories and apocalyptic rhetoric, just as they did the last time a Democrat held the White House.”

And finally: At yesterday’s town hall meeting in Wisconsin, John Corpus stood to ask President Obama a question about health care. However, he also informed Obama that his daughter, Kennedy, was skipping school to be at the event and hopefully wouldn’t get in trouble. “Do you need me to write a note?” Obama said. His note read: “To Kennedy’s teacher: Please excuse Kennedy’s absence. She’s with me. Barack Obama.” Kennedy said that it “was like the best thing ever.”

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Bush DOJ Failed to Enforce Federal Law Protecting Abortion Providers from Anti-Abortion Extremists
In the wake of the murder of Dr. George Tiller by an anti-abortion extremist, the very real problem of extremist violence against abortion providers and clinics has gained a fresh spotlight, even though that violence is not new. After the 1993 murder of an abortion provider, Dr. David Gunn, Congress passed the Freedom of Access […]

President George W. Bush shrugs his shoulders at a presserIn the wake of the murder of Dr. George Tiller by an anti-abortion extremist, the very real problem of extremist violence against abortion providers and clinics has gained a fresh spotlight, even though that violence is not new. After the 1993 murder of an abortion provider, Dr. David Gunn, Congress passed the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, which made any use of “force, threat of force or physical obstruction” against doctors and patients a federal crime. The law was an attempt to put an end to the constant wave of death threats, acts of vandalism, and clinic bombings.

According to the National Abortion Federation, the “FACE law has had a clear impact on the decline in certain types of violence against clinics and providers, specifically clinic blockades.” Under the Bush Administration, however, criminal and civil enforcement of the law by the Department of Justice declined dramatically, the Washington Independent’s Daphne Eviatar reports:

The day after Dr. George Tiller was murdered, TWI obtained data revealing that under the Bush administration, criminal enforcement of the federal law designed to protect abortion providers and clinics had declined by more than 75 percent over the last eight years.

But there’s also a civil component to that federal law, known as the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, or FACE Act. That part of the law allows the attorney general to seek an injunction and compensatory damages for anyone who’s been harmed by any activity that violates the law. And it turns out that the Department of Justice over the last eight years didn’t use that part of the law to protect abortion providers, either.

Eviatar found that, according to DOJ statistics, the Bush Administration “brought only about two criminal prosecutions per year in the entire country under the FACE Act, and never more than four in any single year.” In contrast, under President Clinton the Justice Department “prosecuted 17 defendants for violations of the FACE Act in 1997 alone, and an average of about 10 per year since the law was enacted in 1994.” Evitar reports though that the Bush Justice Department had an even more abysmal record of enforcing the civil component of the FACE Act:

Yet despite these broad powers that Congress granted the attorney general in 1994 to prevent and combat violence against abortion clinics and providers, the Bush administration almost never used them. From 2000 until 2008, during the eight years of the Bush administration, the Justice Department filed only one civil case under the FACE Act. From 1994 until 1999, in contrast, in just five years of the Clinton administration, the Department filed 17 civil cases under the FACE Act — in addition to its much heavier load of criminal cases that we’ve reported before.

Between 2000 and 2008, the National Abortion Federation recorded 3,291 acts of violence against abortion providers and “at least 17 cases of ‘extreme’ violence against abortion providers in the United States, such as arson, stabbing and bomb attacks.” However, the Bush Administration’s Department of Justice “prosecuted only 11 individuals for any acts of violence against abortion clinics or providers.”

Ben Bergmann


Obama’s Friends, Aides Help Shape Stance on Settlements

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 13th, 2009 4:32 am by HL

Obama’s Friends, Aides Help Shape Stance on Settlements
President Obama’s close friends and key advisers have helped him shape the toughest line against the continued expansion of Israeli settlements since the administration of President Jimmy Carter.


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House Passes Tobacco Regulation Bill
By a ratio of 3 to 1, the House of Representatives yesterday approved the Senate version of a bill that gives the federal government sweeping new powers to regulate tobacco.