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U.S.-backed Iraqi police get just 8 days of training.

Thu, 2007-06-21 09:30

U.S. officials have stepped up training of Iraqi police militias in Anbar province to support U.S. forces. The militias are frequently “unreliable and operate with their own agendas,” critics say, and some have been implicated in attacks on U.S. forces and Iraqis. But that should come as little surprise. NPR reports that the forces “get only eight days of training and at the end of it, they get to keep their gun and their uniform.”

UPDATE: John Aravosis notes that it takes seven days of training to serve as a Starbucks barista.

Report: Cheney Exempted His Office From Executive Order Protecting Classified Information

Thu, 2007-06-21 08:38

House investigators have learned that over the objections of the National Archives, Vice President Cheney exempted his office from a presidential executive order designed to safeguard classified national security information.

According to a letter from House oversight chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA):

– Since 2003, Cheney’s office has failed to provide data on its classification and declassification activities as required by Executive Order 12958, which President Bush has amended and endorsed.

– In 2004, Cheney’s office specifically intervened to block an on-site inspection by the Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO), which is a requirement of the executive order.

The Office of the Vice President has asserted that it is not an “entity within the executive branch” and hence is not subject to presidential executive orders. Waxman writes, “To my knowledge, this was the first time in the nearly 30-year history of the Information Security Oversight Office that a request for access to conduct a security inspection was denied by a White House office.”

To resolve the matter, the ISOO wrote Cheney’s chief of staff David Addington on two separate occasions in summer 2006, disputing the claims made by Cheney’s office and requesting that the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel settle the matter. Cheney’s office ignored both letters. Finally, in January 2007, the ISOO directly asked Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to resolve whether the executive order applies to Cheney’s office.

In response, Cheney’s office has retaliated. It has requested changes in the executive order that would abolish the ISOO and eliminate the ability of the National Archives to appeal disputes to the Attorney General.

In his letter to Cheney, Waxman writes, “I question both the legality and the wisdom of your actions.” Specifically citing reports that Cheney personally instructed Scooter Libby to disclose classified national security information to former New York Times reporter Judith Miller, Waxman says it would be “particularly irresponsible” to give an office “with your history of security breaches” an exemption.

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Fox’s O’Reilly:

Thu, 2007-06-21 08:35

NBC News “jazzed” over “[d]ead Afghan kids killed in an American air strike.”

Paulose endures an ‘awkward moment.’

Thu, 2007-06-21 08:25

The Minnesota Monitor reports that Rachel Paulose, the embattled U.S. attorney in Minnesota and former Gonzales assistant, had to endure an “awkward moment” earlier in the week at an office party when members of her office cheered her critics:

On Tuesday afternoon, about 70 employees of the U.S. attorney’s office and other guests gathered in a big conference room to recognize the departure of Assistant U.S. Attorney Perry Sekus. Sekus is leaving to join the legal staff of UnitedHealth. Paulose was present. […]

When it was his turn to address the group, Sekus deflected the compliments that had been sent his way and said that those who deserved the praise were the former supervisors who had resigned their posts, because their actions had required courage.

At that, the room erupted with loud, sustained applause that could not be taken as anything other than solidarity with Paulose’s internal critics and appreciation for the sacrifice they had made to protest against her — clearly a spontaneous release of the tensions within the office. According to a witness, the ovation was so loud that it had to represent the applause of 90 percent or more of those in the room.

Giuliani Skipped ISG Meetings For Motivational Events Featuring ‘Christianity’ And ‘Pumping Music’

Thu, 2007-06-21 07:26

Newsday reported this week that former mayor Rudy Giuliani stepped down from the Iraq Study Group after chairman James Baker gave “him a stark choice: either attend the meetings or quit.” Baker was upset that despite serving on the panel for two months, Giuliani had failed to attend a single official meeting of the group.

According to his recently released financial disclosure forms, Giuliani made eight paid speeches, each on a different day, during the 23 days the Iraq Study Group met. What hasn’t been noted is that two of the eight speeches were for an organization called Life Win, Inc. (Get Motivated Seminars).

What is a “Get Motivated” seminar? According to a 2003 report in the St. Petersburg Times, a Get Motivated seminar is:

A daylong program infused with Christianity, patriotism and pumping music suitable for aerobics. Many among the roster of speakers urged the audience of about 25,000 to find their inner power — and to sign up for more seminars and books.

At the seminars, Rudy would take the stage to Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” with red, white and blue confetti swirling around his head. He would then launch into a speech using the attack and the aftermath of 9/11 to illustrate his “six principles of leadership.” For his two appearances during the Iraq Study Group meetings alone, Giuliani pulled in a combined gross fee of $200,000.

Giuliani’s camp has falsely claimed that he left the ISG because he “didn’t want the group’s work to become a political football” for his nascent presidential campaign. In reality it appears he just didn’t want to turn down more opportunities for profit.

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ThinkFast: June 21, 2007

Thu, 2007-06-21 06:10

Revealing further details about the efforts of then acting Assistant Attorney General Bradley Schlozman to politicize the Justice Department’s civil rights division, the Washington Post reports Schlozman “asked a supervisor if a career lawyer who had voted for Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), a onetime political rival of President Bush, could still be trusted.”

Former U.S. Attorney Tom Heffelfinger will testify today before the Senate Indian Affairs committee in Washington, “where he has become embroiled” in the scandal over the attorney firings. Reports suggest Heffelfinger may have been targeted for removal by the Justice Department because of his role in protecting the rights of Native American voters.

1 in 8: Number of U.S. veterans under the age of 65 who “lack even basic health insurance or access to care at Veterans Affairs hospitals. … The ranks of uninsured veterans have increased by 290,000 since 2000.”

Congress yesterday “moved to block President George W. Bush from developing a new generation of atomic warheads,” because “the administration had not developed an adequate post-Cold War nuclear strategy.” Bush has promised to veto the bill, which denies him the $89 billion he requested for the program.

Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani yesterday said that joining the Iraq Study Group was a “mistake.” “I thought it would work, but then after a month or two I realized the idea that I was possibly going to run for president would be inconsistent with that,” he said, failing to mention that he initially missed several of the group’s meetings in order to attend fundraising events. (more…)

Reopen the investigation of Abu Ghraib.

Wed, 2007-06-20 17:37

McClatchy’s military analyst Joseph Galloway writes:

The president and his men, and Rumsfeld and his, happily put Abu Ghraib behind them and went merrily along knowing that the network of secret CIA prisons where high-value prisoners were subjected to extreme interrogation techniques was still secret.

The examples made of Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric K. Shinseki and Gen. Taguba weren’t lost on military commanders in the field or at home: If you dare speak truth to power in this administration, your career is toast, and any hopes you have of landing a cushy job in one of the defense industry behemoths are finished.

It’s long past time for Congress to reopen the matter of who’s really responsible for Abu Ghraib and let the chips fall where they may - even if that means they pile up around the retirement home of a former secretary of defense or the gates of the White House itself.

Order nixing habeas rights goes into effect.

Wed, 2007-06-20 17:03

“The D.C. Circuit Court on Wednesday, after pondering the issue for more than two months, on Wednesday refused to delay any longer putting into effect its decision that Guantanamo Bay detainees have lost all rights to pursue habeas challenges to their prolonged imprisonment. In a brief order, the panel that ruled against the detainees on Feb. 20 formally denied a request filed in April by detainees’ lawyers not to issue the mandate and to hold the cases on its docket for several more months.”

[T]he Justice Department appears likely to act quickly to get 12 District Court judges in Washington to dismiss habeas challenges by scores of detainees, and also to wipe out so-called “protective orders” that assure the detainees’ lawyers access to their clients at Guantanamo and access to information the military may use to justify continuing to hold them.

Snow On Stem Cell Veto: ‘This Is The President Putting Science Before Ideology’

Wed, 2007-06-20 15:19

Today, President Bush issued the third veto of his presidency on legislation expanding funding for embryonic stem cell research, which recently passed Congress with a bipartisan, overwhelming majority.

Faced with the opposition of nearly two-thirds of Americans, White House spokesperson Tony Snow today attempted to spin the veto as a positive development. Snow claimed that Bush has a “unique and unprecedented role” in supporting stem cell research, and attacked critics for “misstating” the administration’s policies, claiming that Bush was in fact “putting science before ideology.”

In an attempt to drum up support for less potent alternatives to embryonic stem cell research, Snow falsely characterized the science behind stem cell research, claiming scientists “are not even entirely sure about what the possible benefits of embryonic stem cells [are].” Watch it:

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Snow’s claim doesn’t pass the laugh test. Contrary to what Snow says, Bush has held a backwards and overly ideological perspective on scientific research. In 2001, Bush neutered the ability of scientists to engage in stem cell research by curbing funding for new embryonic lines. In 2006, he vetoed legislation lifting those restrictions. Even Bush’s top scientists have criticized him for these actions.

Currently, “not a single scientist who is pursuing research on any kind of cell has said that research involving embryonic stem cells should stop.” And scientists have seen potential treatments from embryonic stem cell research for a variety of ailments.

The only thing stopping federally-funded stem cell research from progressing is the White House’s insistence on putting right-wing ideology ahead of science.

UPDATE: More on the administration’s misinformation here and here.

Transcript: (more…)

‘Write Congress to right justice.’

Wed, 2007-06-20 15:09

House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) today “announced the launch of a new web page, to respond to the growing number of current and former Justice Department career lawyers and other employees raising concerns about politicization in the Department.” The page “provides a secure method for DOJ employees to communicate what they know to Committee investigators.” See the page HERE.

Bush eyes Blair for Mideast peace role.

Wed, 2007-06-20 13:34

“President Bush has talked with British Prime Minister Tony Blair about taking a role as a Middle East peace envoy after he leaves office next week,” the Associated Press reports. On Monday, Blair “strongly defended intervening in Iraq” in a “robust farewell performance” before one of parliament’s top panels.

Laura Bush Falsely Claims That ‘Many’ Iraqi Refugees Have Been Welcomed Into The U.S.

Wed, 2007-06-20 12:48

This morning, during an interview with First Lady Laura Bush, CNN highlighted World Refugee Day and the effect that the war in Iraq has had on the number of refugees around the world. CNN reported Iraqis “who were helping the Americans or even helping their own country” are now targeted and must seek “refuge in other nations, as well as the United States.”

Bush responded saying, “Obviously we’re especially concerned about the Iraqi refugees.” She added, “We welcome many of those refugees, both from Iraq and Afghanistan into the United States.”

Watch it:

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The First Lady is greatly exaggerating the administration’s policy. As the Baltimore Sun notes today, “as of May, only 69 Iraqis had entered the United States” this fiscal year. In total, the United States has “resettled fewer than 500 Iraqi refugees” since the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Meanwhile, the situation in Iraq has become “the world’s fastest-growing refugee crisis.” Syria alone is hosting “1.4 million Iraqi ‘guests’” and Iraqi refugees have become increasingly desperate, some even resorting to prostitution. In total, there are more than two million Iraqi refugees.

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Arkansas senators join call for ‘caging’ investigation.

Wed, 2007-06-20 12:47

On Monday, Sens. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) called for the Justice Department to investigate allegations of “caging” surrounding former U.S. attorney Tim Griffin. Today, both Arkansas Sens. Blanche Lincoln (D) and Mark Pryor (D) said that they support the investigation. “If a citizen’s right to vote is being threatened, I think without a doubt it is a very appropriate thing to investigate,” said Lincoln. “There are enough suggestions out there that lend itself to that.”

REPORT: The Right Wing Domination Of Talk Radio And How To End It

Wed, 2007-06-20 11:08

The Center for American Progress and Free Press today released the first-of-its-kind statistical analysis of the political make-up of talk radio in the United States. It confirms that talk radio, one of the most widely used media formats in America, is dominated almost exclusively by conservatives.

The new report — entitled “The Structural Imbalance of Political Talk Radio” — raises serious questions about whether the companies licensed to broadcast over the public radio airwaves are serving the listening needs of all Americans.

While progressive talk is making inroads on commercial stations, right-wing talk reigns supreme on America’s airwaves. Some key findings:

– In the spring of 2007, of the 257 news/talk stations owned by the top five commercial station owners, 91 percent of the total weekday talk radio programming was conservative, and only 9 percent was progressive.

– Each weekday, 2,570 hours and 15 minutes of conservative talk are broadcast on these stations compared to 254 hours of progressive talk — 10 times as much conservative talk as progressive talk.

76 percent of the news/talk programming in the top 10 radio markets is conservative, while 24 percent is progressive.

Two common myths are frequently offered to explain the imbalance of talk radio: 1) the 1987 repeal of the Fairness Doctrine (which required broadcasters to devote airtime to contrasting views), and 2) simple consumer demand. Each of these fails to adequately explain the root cause of the problem. The report explains:

Our conclusion is that the gap between conservative and progressive talk radio is the result of multiple structural problems in the U.S. regulatory system, particularly the complete breakdown of the public trustee concept of broadcast, the elimination of clear public interest requirements for broadcasting, and the relaxation of ownership rules including the requirement of local participation in management. […]

Ultimately, these results suggest that increasing ownership diversity, both in terms of the race/ethnicity and gender of owners, as well as the number of independent local owners, will lead to more diverse programming, more choices for listeners, and more owners who are responsive to their local communities and serve the public interest.

Along with other ideas, the report recommends that national radio ownership not be allowed to exceed 5 percent of the total number of AM and FM broadcast stations, and local ownership should not exceed more than 10 percent of the total commercial radio stations in a given market.

Read the full report here.

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President Bush vetoes stem cell bill.

Wed, 2007-06-20 10:41

For the second time, President Bush has vetoed popular legislation to expand federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. To win some political cover, Bush also will issue an executive order “intended to encourage scientific advances in regenerative medicine.” But as the New York Times notes, “the effort appears largely symbolic — there is no money attached — and some scientists were instantly skeptical.”

NYT delves into Rupert Murdoch empire.

Wed, 2007-06-20 10:21

“The New York Times is currently undertaking a major news investigation, led by managing editor Jill Abramson, into News Corp.’s business dealings throughout the world, according to a source with knowledge of the project.” Abramson told the New York Observer she is leading “an investigative project for the next month” and that it “involves a group of domestic and foreign reporters, but I obviously can’t tell you what it is.”

‘Bomb Iran’ Podhoretz: War Would ‘Unleash A Wave’ Of Global Anti-Americanism

Wed, 2007-06-20 09:44

The current issue of Commentary magazine — “widely regarded as the leading outlet for neoconservative writing” — features a controversial cover story by Norman Podhoretz titled “The Case For Bombing Iran.”

Podhoretz’s article appeals to President Bush, “a man who knows evil when he sees it” and who has been “battered more mercilessly and with less justification than any other in living memory,” to carry out military strikes on Iran’s nuclear facilities. U.S. diplomats are now pointing to the essay to pressure foreign diplomats to increase pressure on Iran.

In a new interview, Podhoretz was asked to comment on the possible fallout of the military strikes he advocates. “Well, if we were to bomb the Iranians as I hope and pray we will,” Podhoretz says, “we’ll unleash a wave of anti-Americanism all over the world that will make the anti-Americanism we’ve experienced so far look like a lovefest.”

Watch it (6:20):

Podhoretz qualified his statement about anti-Americanism, saying it was only a “worst case scenario.” It’s “entirely possible,” he claimed, that “many countries, particularly in the Middle East” would “at least secretly applaud us.”

But even global anti-Americanism is worth it, he argues, to slow Iran’s nuclear program “for five or 10 years or more.” In fact, American Progress senior fellow Joseph Cirincione has argued that such a strike “would not, as is often said, delay the Iranian program. It would almost certainly speed it up. That is what happened when the Israelis struck at the Iraq program in 1981.”

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“Today is World Refugee Day

Wed, 2007-06-20 09:42

and for the first time in years the number of refugees is going up: “the dramatic increase is largely due to the war in Iraq, where an estimated 1.5 million people have been forced to find refuge in neighboring Jordan and Syria.”

‘Fox News All-Stars’ Bash Progressive Bloggers As ‘Pungent,’ ‘Profane,’ ‘A Pox’

Wed, 2007-06-20 08:46

Last night on Special Edition, the “Fox News All-Stars,” used this week’s Take Back America conference as an oppurtunity to bash progressive bloggers.

Describing bloggers as “a pox,” Roll Call editor Mort Kondracke compared them to right-wing talk radio, charging that they are preventing “American problems” from being solved:

KONDRAKE: They are the leftward pressure on the Democratic Party that the right-wing talk show hosts are on the Republican party. And between the two of them they manage to polarize even further an already polarized politics, making it increasingly difficult to get any American problems solved, like health care, or the war in Iraq, or sensible terrorism policy.

NPR’s Mara Liasson also compared bloggers to the Swift Boat Veterans For Truth because “that was on the internet too.”

Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer added that conservative blogs are “more analytical and restrained” while “the more liberal blogs are a lot more pungent and profane.” Watch the entire segment:

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During the Take Back America conference, the progressive blogosphere was given the Paul Wellstone Citizen Leadership Award. Watch video of the presentation, featuring a speech from Digby.

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