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Updated: 2 hours 31 min ago

Wall Street Journal reporters stage ‘walk-out.’

Thu, 2007-06-28 09:49

WSJ reporters “across the country chose not to show up to work this morning” to protest the potential sale of Dow Jones to Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation. The paper’s “long tradition of independence…is threatened today,” a press release states.

UPDATE: Eat the Press has more.

FLASHBACK: Bush Awards Iraqis Their Sovereignty — ‘Let Freedom Reign!’

Thu, 2007-06-28 09:01

Three years ago today, the U.S. officially transfered sovereignty to Iraq in a “secretive ceremony” that was moved up two days “to thwart insurgents’ attempts at undermining the transfer.” The AP wrote at the time, “U.S. occupiers…wished them prosperity and handed them a staggering slate of problems — including a lethal insurgency the Americans admit they underestimated.”

Other notable moments from memory lane:

“The Iraqi people have their country back,” President Bush said at a NATO summit in Istanbul, Turkey. […]

Bush, whose Iraq policy has drawn criticism abroad and, more recently, at home, was passed a note from National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice that put it this way: “Mr. President, Iraq is sovereign.”

Bush wrote “Let freedom reign!” on the note and passed it back, according to White House spokesman Scott McClellan.

A few hours later, U.S. viceroy Paul Bremer, who had ruled the country for 14 months, “snuck out of the country” with a goodbye wave. Bremer had reporters photograph him entering the Air Force C-130 pictured above for the ceremony, “but after the Iraqis leave, because of security concerns, [he] gets out of that plane and moves to, I think it was a Gulfstream IV that then flies him out.”

858 U.S. soldiers had been killed in Iraq at that point. As of today, the number is 3,570.

UPDATE: A copy of Rice’s note:

You can see this photo and much more in our updated timeline of the Iraq war.

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Bush hypocritically loads up on earmarks.

Thu, 2007-06-28 09:00

President Bush has repeatedly attacked Congress for its earmarks and pork barrel projects. Yet a new House Appropriations Committee report accompanying legislation funding the Department of the Interior “shows that Bush requested 93 of the 321 earmarks in the bill. A panel report for the financial services and general government spending bill showed that Bush requested 17 special projects worth $947 million, more than any single member of Congress.”

Key cloture vote on Senate immigration bill

Thu, 2007-06-28 08:32

has failed. Only 46 senators voted to continue with debate on the legislation, short of the 60 needed.

UPDATE: Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA): “It is now clear that we are not going to complete our work on immigration reform. That is enormously disappointing for Congress and for the country.”

BREAKING: Supreme Court Strikes Down Public School Desegregation Law

Thu, 2007-06-28 07:29

In the “biggest school desegregation ruling in more than a decade,” the Supreme Court today ruled 5-4 to reject public school assignment plans “that take account of students’ race.” The AP reports:

The decision in cases affecting schools in Louisville, Ky., and Seattle could imperil similar plans in hundreds of districts nationwide, and it leaves public school systems with a limited arsenal to maintain racial diversity. …

[The case] was led by parents challenging the way race is used to assign students to schools for the purpose of integration.

Like the multiple cases decided in favor of the Bush administration and corporations earlier this week, the majority was formed by Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Scalia, Thomas, Alito, and Kennedy.

UPDATE: Read the decision HERE.

UPDATE II: Chief Justice Roberts, who authored the majority opinion, wrote, “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.” In fact, a key study by University of Wisconsin professor Douglas Harris, using empirical data gathered from No Child Left Behind, shows that desegregation remains the most effective way of closing this gap:

African Americans and Hispanics learn more in integrated schools. Minorities attending integrated schools also perform better in college attendance and employment.
– Controlled choice and other forms of desegregation benefit minority students.
– Racial integration is a rare case where an educational policy appears to improve educational equity at little financial cost.

UPDATE III: In his dissent, Justice Stephen Breyer writes:

Finally, what of the hope and promise of Brown? For much of this Nation’s history, the races remained divided. It was not long ago that people of different races drank from separate fountains, rode on separate buses, and studied in separate schools. In this Court’s finest hour, Brown v. Board of Education challenged this history and helped to change it. For Brown held out a promise. … It sought one law, one Nation, one people, not simply as a matter of legal principle but in terms of how we actually live. […]

Many parents, white and black alike, want their children to attend schools with children of different races. Indeed, the very school districts that once spurned integration now strive for it. … The plurality would decline their modest request.

The plurality is wrong to do so. The last half-century has witnessed great strides toward racial equality, but we have not yet realized the promise of Brown. To invalidate the plans under review is to threaten the promise of Brown. The plurality’s position, I fear, would break that promise. This is a decision that the Court and the Nation will come to regret.

UPDATE IV: In his opinion for the majority, Chief Justice John Roberts writes, “Before Brown, schoolchildren were told where they could and could not go to school based on the color of their skin.” But as Justice John Paul Stevens notes in his separate dissent, there is a “cruel irony” in Roberts’s reliance on Brown:

The Chief Justice fails to note that it was only black schoolchildren who were so ordered; indeed, the history books do not tell stories of white children struggling to attend black schools. In this and other ways, the Chief Justice rewrites the history of one of this Court’s most important decisions.

UPDATE V: SCOTUSblog notes that this Supreme Court term has produced a “higher share of 5-4 decisions than any term in the last decade.”

UPDATE VI: According to AP, the Court has previously ruled that “schools have responsibility to desegregate, even in districts where schools had not been segregated by law.”

UPDATE VII: Roberts’s classification of the integration plans as “discrimination on the basis of race” is directly contradicted by well-respected conservative Judge Alex Kozinski, who wrote in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals opinion of the case that:

The plan does not segregate the races; to the contrary, it seeks to promote integration. There is no attempt to give members of particular races political power based on skin color. There is no competition between the races, and no race is given a preference over another. That a student is denied the school of his choice may be disappointing, but it carries no racial stigma and says nothing at all about that individual’s aptitude or ability.

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Vote to defund Cheney this morning.

Thu, 2007-06-28 07:15

Rep. Rahm Emanuel’s (D-IL) amendment to restrict the $4.75 million budget for the Vice President’s Office will be voted on today, with debate beginning around 11:30 AM. (Read the text of the legislation HERE.) In a statement this morning, Emanuel addressed Cheney’s supposed reversal yesterday:

As you know, the Vice President previously claimed he was exempt from an executive order governing classified materials because his office is not an “entity within the executive branch.” Yesterday, the Vice President changed his argument, saying he remained exempt from the order because he is a member of the executive branch.

While the excuses may have changed, the Vice President’s willingness to ignore the rules remains just as strong as ever. Democrats are prepared to hold the Vice President accountable and ensure that no one in our government is above the law.

A graph from Emanuel:

White House refuses to answer subpoenas.

Thu, 2007-06-28 06:42

Today was the deadline for the White House “to turn over documents linked to Harriet E. Miers, the former White House counsel, and Sara M. Taylor, the former White House political director” to Congress. But instead, the White House this morning “asserted executive privilege” and “rejected lawmakers’ demands for documents that could shed light on the firings of federal prosecutors.” White House counsel Fred Fielding’s letter to Congress:

The doctrine of executive privilege exists, at least in part, to protect such communications from compelled disclosure to Congress, especially where, as here, the president’s interests in maintaining confidentiality far outweigh Congress’s interests in obtaining deliberative White House communications.

Further, it remains unclear precisely how and why your committees are unable to fulfill your legislative and oversight interests without the unfettered requests you have made in your subpoenas.

UPDATE: Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) responds: “This is a further shift by the Bush Administration into Nixonian stonewalling and more evidence of their disdain for our system of checks and balances.”

UPDATE II:: House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers (D-MI): “The executive privilege assertion is unprecedented in its breadth and scope, and even includes documents that the Adminstration previously offered to provide as part of their ‘take it or leave it’ proposal.”

UPDATE III: White House Counsel Fred Fielding’s letter asserting executive privilege is HERE.

ThinkFast: June 28, 2007

Thu, 2007-06-28 06:00

Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA) and 36 of his House colleagues called for a hearing into the role Dick Cheney played in the 2002 die-off of about 70,000 salmon near the California-Oregon border. The letter wrote, “Did in fact the vice president of the United States put pressure on midlevel bureaucrats to alter the science and circumvent the law in order to gain political votes for his re-election or the election of other people in Oregon?”

“A massive car bomb exploded at a street-side bus depot during Baghdad’s Thursday morning rush hour, killing at least 22 people and wounding more than 40 others in a tremendous explosion that set fire to scores of vehicles.” Elsewhere, 20 headless bodies were found “on the banks of the Tigris River.”

“U.S. commanders plan a summer of stepped-up offensives against Al Qaeda in Iraq as they tailor strategy to their expectation that Congress soon will impose a timeline for drawing down U.S. forces here.”

In a new Pew poll, people in countries “as diverse as Canada, Peru, Ukraine, China and India” identified environmental problems such as global warming as “the leading threat the world faces…outranking concerns about nuclear weapons, ethnic hatred and AIDS.”

“[A] look at emergency rooms around the nation shows that wait times — and their health consequences — are increasing everywhere. The problem isn’t confined to hospitals that serve mostly the uninsured.” Affluent areas are “seeing the same problems they’re seeing in the urban areas,” one doctor said. (more…)

Gonzales ‘overzealous’ about death penalty.

Wed, 2007-06-27 21:09

“Paul K. Charlton, one of nine U.S. attorneys fired last year, told members of Congress yesterday that Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales has been overzealous in ordering federal prosecutors to seek the death penalty, including in an Arizona murder case in which no body had been recovered.”

Justice Department officials had branded Charlton, the former U.S. attorney in Phoenix, disloyal because he opposed the death penalty in that case. But Charlton testified yesterday that Gonzales has been so eager to expand the use of capital punishment that the attorney general has been inattentive to the quality of evidence in some cases — or the views of the prosecutors most familiar with them.

“No decision is more important for a prosecutor than whether or not to . . . deliberately and methodically take a life,” Charlton said. “And that holds true for the attorney general.”

Bush’s domestic surveillance targets remain unknown.

Wed, 2007-06-27 18:59

Glenn Greenwald responds to the New York Times’ assertion this morning that President Bush’s domestic surveillance activities “appear so far to have been aimed at mostly people believed to pose a terrorist threat, not a political threat.”

This passage…is simply misleading. There is no basis whatsoever for claiming that Bush’s NSA warrantless (and illegal) eavesdropping activities were “aimed at mostly people believed to pose a terrorist threat, not a political threat.” It is true — as [reporter Scott] Shane writes — that “there is no evidence” that the administration used its eavesdropping powers against, say, political opponents, but that fact is not exculpatory, because there is “no evidence” at all, one way or the other, regarding how the administration eavesdropped.

There has been no disclosure by the administration of any kind — not to Congress, nor to courts, nor to anyone else — of information revealing who was subjected to the administration’s warrantless eavesdropping program, a program which (by its terms and by design) was conducted in complete secrecy.

Read Greenwald’s full essay.

Ret. Gen. John Batiste:

Wed, 2007-06-27 18:48

Leahy demands DoJ investigation of Kavanaugh.

Wed, 2007-06-27 17:50

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) wrote a letter to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales today asking for an investigation concerning the apparently false testimony to Congress by Judge Brett Kavanaugh, a former White House lawyer, about his role in forming the Bush administration’s detainee policy. At his confirmation hearing last year, Kavanaugh claimed he was “not aware” of the administration’s legal arguments, but a recent Washington Post article revealed he was involved in the internal debates.

CNN covers CNN covering Paris Hilton.

Wed, 2007-06-27 16:52

“Talk about milking the story,” HuffPost’s Rachel Sklar writes. “CNN covered Paris Hilton arriving at CNN studios for her interview with Larry King.”

Wolf Blitzer cut his interview with Bill Cosby about inner city poverty to throw over to Carol Costello who was ‘watching another story’ — the story being the live shot of Paris Hilton getting out of her car.

As Costello voice-overed (”Paris Hilton is just arriving at the CNN studios…She’s arriving for an exclusive interview with our own Larry King”), the chyron similarly announced that “Paris Hilton Arrives For Post-Jail Interview With CNN’s Larry King” (a glorious event which was apparently “Happening Now”). How many “The Most Trusted Name In News” jokes can you make before it just makes you sad?

New Post-Katrina Investigations Reveal More Federal Waste And Incompetence

Wed, 2007-06-27 16:29

Three new investigations shed further light on how the Bush administration betrayed Gulf Coast residents during Hurricane Katrina, and how New Orleans and other affected areas are still suffering from federal waste and incompetence.

Some key highlights of the reports:

EPA allowed toxic chemicals to harm poor Katrina victims: A GAO report revealed that EPA publicly downplayed the risk of asbestos inhalation, which is often released during home demolition, to city residents and failed to deploy air monitors in predominantly African-American neighborhoods. Furthermore, EPA waited nearly eight months to inform residents that short-term visits could expose them to dangerous levels of asbestos and mold.

FEMA ignored its own hurricane plan: Prior to Katrina, FEMA created a “Southeast Louisiana Hurricane Backup Plan” which forecasted specific consequences and action-plans in the event of a hurricane. But “post-Katrina FEMA documents demonstrate that that the plan was never implemented.” The day before Katrina hit, FEMA Deputy Director Patrick Rhode sent an e-mail to Michael Brown’s assistant with the subject line, “copy of New Orleans cat plan,” stating, “I never got one — I think Brown got my copy — did you get one?”

FEMA guaranteed billions in profits for big companies: Following Katrina, federal agencies “doled out more than $2.4 billion in cost-plus contracts,” which “offer companies no incentive to save money or keep costs from ballooning.” FEMA was responsible for nearly 94 percent of all of the hurricane-related cost-plus contracts, with the remainder being issued primarily by the EPA and U.S. Air Force.

Fortunately, Congress has taken action to address some of these issues. In March, the House voted to limit the use of cost-plus contracts. That bill is currently stalled in the Senate, where it awaits action by Homeland Security Chairman Joe Lieberman (I-CT).

Gonzales to testify again.

Wed, 2007-06-27 15:55

“Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is heading back to Capitol Hill — to testify again. Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) said Gonzales originally agreed to appear before his committee on July 18, but then asked to reschedule. Leahy said he hopes Gonzales will agree to appear on July 26, although no date has been confirmed. Leahy said he’ll now provide the attorney general with some questions in advance of his appearance, ‘so that he won’t dodge 60 or 70 times by saying “I don’t remember,”‘ a clear reference to Gonzales’ evasiveness in his last testimony.”


Wed, 2007-06-27 15:36

Percentage of Americans who believe openly gay people should be allowed to serve in the military, versus 18 percent who do not, according to a new CNN poll. Other notable findings:

– A majority of Americans support either gay marriage (24 percent) or civil unions (27 percent), compared to 43 percent who would not support either.

– 57 percent say gay and lesbian couples should have the legal right to adopt children, versus 40 percent who say they should not.

– 56 percent said they “do not believe sexual orientation can be changed,” up from 45 percent in 2001 and 36 percent in 1998.

Lugar: Plans To End The War Are ‘Very Partisan,’ ‘Will Not Work’

Wed, 2007-06-27 14:40

Earlier this week, Sen. Dick Lugar (R-IN) delivered a major speech on the Senate floor calling “victory” in Iraq, as defined by President Bush, “almost impossible.” Abandoning his unyielding public support for the war, he called on the President to downsize the U.S. military presence in Iraq in order to “strengthen our position in the Middle East, and reduce the prospect of terrorism, regional war, and other calamities.”

Unfortunately, Lugar has no intention of acting on his rhetoric. Speaking this morning with NBC’s Matt Lauer, Lugar said that Congressional measures aimed at curtailing U.S. military involvement in Iraq, including “so-called timetables, benchmarks,” have “no particular legal consequence,” are “very partisan,” and “will not work.”

Watch it:

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While Lugar now decries legislative solutions to Iraq as “partisan” and of no “legal consequence,” Lugar himself voted in favor of cutting funds and setting a timetable for redeployment of U.S. forces out of Somalia in 1993.

Also, several prominent members of Lugar’s own party have already expressed support for a legislative solution in Iraq. Sen. George Voinovich (R-OH) said, “I think that many of us are going to look at legislation that will limit the number of troops” and Sen. John Warner (R-VA) called the administration’s September reporting date “too long to wait to revise U.S. war policy.”

Ryan Powers

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Gonzales pressed on Cheney executive order dispute.

Wed, 2007-06-27 14:30

The Justice Department claims that Vice President Cheney’s exemption from an executive order on classified materials has been “under review” for the last five months. But a June 4 Freedom of Information Act request about the Cheney dispute found “no documents” on the matter, suggesting nothing has been done. Today Reps. Henry Waxman (D-CA), John Conyers (D-MI) and William Lacy Clay (D-MO) wrote Alberto Gonzales demanding answers on the status of the review by July 12. Read their full letter HERE.

Meet The Press Roundtable To Feature Christian Broadcasting Network Blogger

Wed, 2007-06-27 13:38

ThinkProgress has learned that this Sunday’s edition of NBC’s Meet the Press will include a journalist roundtable featuring David Brody, a blogger and news correspondent for the Christian Broadcasting Network. CBN was founded in 1961 by religious right leader Pat Robertson.

NBC analyst Chuck Todd is also booked for the segment, ThinkProgress learned, and other journalists are likely to be added. The problem is not Brody’s appearance on the program per se, but rather that Meet the Press has an established record of featuring more conservative journalists than progressive journalists during its roundtables.

As Media Matters documented in its report, “If It’s Sunday, It’s Still Conservative“:

While overall most journalist guests were centrist or nonpartisan — either centrist columnists like David Broder or neutral reporters for major news organizations — those that had an identifiable ideology were far more likely to be conservative. […]

[D]uring this two-year period, conservatives outnumbered progressives [on Meet the Press] 35 to 25. The other two shows conduct weekly roundtables that consistently favor conservatives.

We’ll be watching to see if a progressive is booked to balance Brody.

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