Friday, November 30, 2007

Glenn Greenwald: The NYT's Michael Cooper demonstrates what real reporting is

Giuliani's claims are not merely reported, but subjected to scrutiny and determined to be factually false.

Glenn Greenwald

Nov. 30, 2007 | (updated below - Update II - Update III)

In an online chat yesterday, The Washington Post's Lois Romano defended her newspaper's neutral stenographic coverage of the factually false right-wing smear campaign against Barack Obama, a whispering campaign alleging that Obama "is a Muslim, 'a 'Muslim plant' in a conspiracy against America, and that, if elected president, he would take the oath of office using a Koran". Romano's defense:

We are getting many questions of our story on Obama today. I'll try to address this as best I can. These are always very difficult decisions -- how to address something that people are talking about, that has clearly become a factor in the race, without taking a position. Part of our job is to acknowledge that there is a discussion going on and to fact check and lay out the facts. The Internet has complicated this responsibility because there is so much garbage and falsehoods out there.

Tritium hazard rating 'should be doubled'

Tritium hazard rating 'should be doubled'

17:47 29 November 2007 news service
Rob Edwards

Radioactive tritium, commonly discharged in large amounts by civil and military nuclear plants around the world, may be more dangerous than previously thought.

The cancer risk for people exposed to tritium could be twice as high as previously assumed, an expert report for the UK government's Health Protection Agency (HPA) concludes.

Dodd's spent lifetime in politics, thinks he's due to step up

David Lightman | McClatchy Newspapers
last updated: November 24, 2007 12:12:41 AM

WASHINGTON — Christopher Dodd, then a rookie U.S. senator, eagerly opposed Dr. C. Everett Koop's nomination to be surgeon general in 1981, arguing that "his personal beliefs would keep him from impartial judgments."

Koop, whom the news media described as "a noted anti-abortionist" at the time, won confirmation easily and turned out to be a popular, articulate health-care spokesman. A few months later, a chastened Dodd sent him a note, apologizing.

"I voted against him, and I regret it," Dodd would say, "because he turned out to be one fine surgeon general."

New study shows low-income families face 3 barriers to health care

PORTLAND, Ore. - There are so many problems in our health care delivery system and its financing structure that even families who have health insurance are having problems getting care as well as paying for it, according to a recent study by an Oregon Health & Science University family physician. The study, "Insurance Plus Access Does Not Equal Health Care: Typology of Barriers to Health Care Access for Low Income Families," recently was published in the journal Annals of Family Medicine.

"Incremental health insurance reforms alone are not going to solve these problems. A more comprehensive approach is desperately needed," said Jennifer DeVoe, M.D., D.Phil., research assistant professor of family medicine, OHSU School of Medicine.

Recipe for a storm: The ingredients for more powerful Atlantic hurricanes

MADISON - As the world warms, the interaction between the Atlantic Ocean and atmosphere may be the recipe for stronger, more frequent hurricanes.

University of Wisconsin-Madison scientists have found that the Atlantic organizes the ingredients for a powerful hurricane season to create a situation where either everything is conducive to hurricane activity or nothing is-potentially making the Atlantic more vulnerable to climate change than the world's other hurricane hot spots.

World economy heading for 'perfect storm'

One of the world's leading financial experts has warned that a 'perfect storm' could be about to hit Western economies.

There is rising concern that the US economy will slip into recession next year dragging many economies - including Britain - down with it as the global credit crisis worsens.

Paul Krugman: Mandates and Mudslinging

From the beginning, advocates of universal health care were troubled by the incompleteness of Barack Obama’s plan, which unlike those of his Democratic rivals wouldn’t cover everyone. But they were willing to cut Mr. Obama slack on the issue, assuming that in the end he would do the right thing.

Now, however, Mr. Obama is claiming that his plan’s weakness is actually a strength. What’s more, he’s doing the same thing in the health care debate he did when claiming that Social Security faces a “crisis” — attacking his rivals by echoing right-wing talking points.

Tomgram: Michael Schwartz, Why Bush Won't Leave Iraq

Whoa, let's hold those surging horses in check a moment. Violence has lessened in Iraq. That seems to be a fact of the last two months -- and, for the Iraqis, a positive one, obviously. What to make of the "good news" from Iraq is another matter entirely, one made harder to assess by the chorus of self-congratulation from war supporters and Bush administration officials and allies, as well as by the heavy spin being put on events -- and reported in the media, relatively uncritically.

Study: One-quarter of U.S. bird species at risk

Almost all of Hawaii's non-migratory native birds are on a new watch list of the USA's most imperiled bird species.

The list, released Wednesday by the National Audubon Society and American Bird Conservancy, includes about one-quarter of the more than 700 species that breed in the USA.

The Portland blog that might know why Trent Lott really resigned.

On Monday, Senator Trent Lott (R-MS) announced his resignation, shocking the political world. After all, he'd just been re-elected last year - and he'd recently regained a leadership post.

Why did Lott resign? Was he bailing out, like so many Republicans, frustrated at their new minority status that doesn't show any sign of changing? Did he resign abruptly because of the impending arrival of new revolving-door regulations that would have delayed a career as a lobbyist?

The Grown-Ups Never Showed Up

Posted on Nov 28, 2007

By Joe Conason

To the Washington establishment, George W. Bush’s arrival in the White House marked the “return of the grown-ups” to the running of American foreign policy. While that judgment upon President Bill Clinton was unfair, the implied endorsement of the first Bush administration was based on real achievement in the management of the Gulf War and the 1991 Madrid peace conference. But the second Bush White House has never come under adult supervision.

The president has rejected advice from the wise old heads who counseled his father and who repeatedly pleaded with this president for seriousness and maturity in dealing with Iraq, Iran, Syria, Israel and Palestine. Instead, as the Annapolis meeting suggests, his approach to those issues has been both ideological and inconsistent, with a vacillating quality that seems unlikely to encourage progress.

Conservative, Or Just Plain Corrupt?

Through their ethics scandals, Republicans in Washington long ago began making the word "conservative" synonymous with the term "corrupt." Surprisingly, though, it is a group of Democrats that is cementing this definitional conversion for good.

In the midst of the housing crisis, a cadre of self-described "conservative" Democrats called the Blue Dog Coalition is demanding congressional leaders delay legislation designed to help people trapped in high-interest loans stay in their homes and avoid foreclosure. The bill, House Resolution 3609, allows judges to ameliorate the terms of abusive "subprime" mortgages. Rep. Brad Miller, D-N.C., is championing it — a gutsy move for a lawmaker whose state domiciles major lenders.

Thursday, November 29, 2007



According to Ari Berman writing here in The Nation the anti-war Democrats in Iowa are unhappy, and for good reason, as the coverage of the "surge" seems to be taking the war off the agenda and the candidates are giving unsatisfactory answers about their plans to end the war.

Debatable Tactics

I watched the debate last night with my usual mixture of shock and awe at the bloodthirsty, inane and irrelevant spew that emits from this cycle's Republican presidential candidates and it did not disappoint. As Gail Collins wrote in her column today: "It was suspenseful, waiting for the next shoe to drop, for the next candidate to go whacky."

Codpiece Redux

Reporters say Baghdad too dangerous despite surge
Nearly 90 percent of U.S. journalists in Iraq say much of Baghdad is still too dangerous to visit, despite a recent drop in violence attributed to the build-up of U.S. forces, a poll released on Wednesday said.

Pssst. Pass It On

It doesn't matter if it's true or not. It's "out there":
Foes Use Obama's Muslim Ties to Fuel Rumors About Him

In his speeches and often on the Internet, the part of Sen. Barack Obama's biography that gets the most attention is not his race but his connections to the Muslim world.

Having the climate cake and eating it, too

Is it possible to solve climate change, reduce poverty and save biodiversity at a single stroke" It might seem like a dream, but this is exactly the issue that is being discussed at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (UNFCCC) in Bali 3-14 December 2007. The key is to include reduced emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD) in the Kyoto Protocol so that developing countries can be compensated for saving their forests and woodlands.

Asbestos turns up in toys, children's clay

DIYers who use duct tape, spackle, roof sealer also at risk of exposure


Asbestos has been found in a variety of consumer products, including one of this season's biggest-selling Christmas toys, according to the nation's largest asbestos victims organizations.

The CSI Fingerprint Examination Kit, two brands of children's play clay, powdered cleanser, roof sealers, duct tapes, window glazing, spackling paste and small appliances were among the products in which asbestos was found by at least two of three labs hired by the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization.

Fresh Nixon Papers

November 28, 2007 4:45 PM

Senior Washington Correspondent John Cochran blogs:

Just when we think we know all there is to know about the Nixon years, another batch of papers or audiotapes emerges with more chewy morsels.

As a reporter who occasionally covered Richard Nixon's presidency, I was fascinated to see the latest "dump" of Nixon documents released Wednesday by the National Archives.

Golden Rule is different in D.C.

Gene Lyons

Posted on Wednesday, November 28, 2007

If there were a Golden Rule of Washington politics, it would have to be phrased rather differently from the biblical injunction. The prevailing ethos of our nation’s capital appears to be “Do unto others before they get a chance to do unto you.” Most Americans say they’re sickened by excess partisanship and dirty tricks, but it’s not clear that they really mean it. With respect to political scandals, many appear unwilling or unable to perform the simplest thought experiment: to wit, turn a story inside-out. What would you be saying if the opposite party got caught using the same underhanded tactics?

Global Warming Is Reversible


[posted online on November 27, 2007]

Scientists now tell us that the crisis of global warming is even worse than their earlier projections. Daily front-page headlines of environmental disasters give an inkling of what we can expect in the future, multiplied many times over: droughts, floods, severe weather disturbances, loss of drinking water and farmland and conflicts over declining natural resources.

Yet the situation is by no means hopeless. Major advances and technological breakthroughs are being made in the United States and throughout the world that are giving us the tools to cut carbon emissions dramatically, break our dependency on fossil fuels and move to energy efficiency and sustainable energy. In fact, the truth rarely uttered in Washington is that with strong governmental leadership the crisis of global warming is not only solvable; it can be done while improving the standard of living of the people of this country and others around the world. And it can be done with the knowledge and technology that we have today; future advances will only make the task easier.

Glenn Greenwald: Bad stenographers

Referring to our establishment press corps as "stenographers" has become somewhat of a cliche, though it still provokes righteous outrage from "journalists." ABC News' Martha Raddatz recently learned this when she used that term to describe what most White House correspondents actually are.

But in light of Time's "correction" to Joe Klein's factually false claims about the House Democrats' FISA bill, how can any rational person object?

WaPo Edit Page Says White House Outreach To Syria Might Work -- After Blasting Pelosi For Same Thing

November 28, 2007 -- 5:27 PM EST // //

This is pretty striking, even by Fred Hiatt's ever plummeting standards.

As you may recall, when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad last spring, The Washington Post editorial page was the leading institutional editorial voice against it. The paper published a widely discussed editorial, called "Pratfall in Damascus," that helped set the tone for much mainstream criticism.

The editorial blasted Pelosi for thinking that anything good could come of talking to Syria, calling the idea "ludicrous" and opining: "As any diplomat with knowledge of the region could have told Ms. Pelosi, Mr. Assad is a corrupt thug whose overriding priority at the moment is not peace..."

Rudy's Ties to a Terror Sheikh

Giuliani's business contracts tie him to the man who let 9/11's mastermind escape the FBI

by Wayne Barrett
November 27th, 2007 3:39 PM

Three weeks after 9/11, when the roar of fighter jets still haunted the city's skyline, the emir of gas-rich Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifah al-Thani, toured Ground Zero. Although a member of the emir's own royal family had harbored the man who would later be identified as the mastermind of the attack—a man named Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, often referred to in intelligence circles by his initials, KSM—al-Thani rushed to New York in its aftermath, offering to make a $3 million donation, principally to the families of its victims. Rudy Giuliani, apparently unaware of what the FBI and CIA had long known about Qatari links to Al Qaeda, appeared on CNN with al-Thani that night and vouched for the emir when Larry King asked the mayor: "You are a friend of his, are you not?"

Washington Post Recycles False Obama Muslim Rumors On Front Page

November 29, 2007 -- 10:10 AM EST // // Updated below.

Digby and BarbinMD have already dealt heavy blows to today's reprehensible Washington Post piece that recycles the rumors that Obama is a Muslim on the paper's front page.

But I wanted to add a couple more points about the story, because it really is a top contender for the title of Worst Hit Piece of Campaign 2008.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


Rudy's Got Secret(s)

Most of you have probably already read about Rudy charging the taxpayers for his booty calls when he was mayor of New York, which should get a lot of play if the kewl kidz can get their noses out of Bill and Hillary's dirty laundry basket.

Don't Call Colin

No, No, No. This is a horrible idea. I assume that Clinton thinks this would signal a return to "The Powell Doctrine" but even if it's decided that's a good idea, Powell himself should never be allowed anywhere near government again.

Today's Tweety Moment
Matthews: Let's go back to women with needs. Women with needs are Hillary's great strength. Women who don't have a college degree, women who don't have a lot of things going for them. May not have a husband, may have kids, have all kinds of needs with day care, education, minimum wage. Will Oprah help with them to move to Barack Obama?

Hide The Bunnies

Radar Online interviewed former Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee

Do you know any of the presidential candidates?
I don't know them that well—I know "how do you do." I know Romney—"how do you do." I know Hillary.

What do you think of Hillary?
Well, I'm not as against her as some other people under my roof. Sally [Quinn, his wife]—I find the women are really very, very strongly against her.

You And What Army?

Huckleberry Graham and Saxby Chambliss give fair warning that their surging surge will be respected --- or else:
Two Republican senators said Monday that unless Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki makes more political progress by January, the U.S. should consider pulling political or financial support for his government.

Time After Time

The blogosphere is steaming over Joe Klein's infamous error-filled column this week about the pending FISA legislation. Jane Hamsher took it to Klein's editor at TIME magazine this morning, who said there were no errors and hung up on her.

2 out of 3 middle class American families on shaky financial ground, according to new report

Landmark study based on new 'Middle Class Security Index' developed by Demos and Brandeis University

Waltham, MA—Fewer than one in three middle-class families in America is financially secure, and the remaining majority are either borderline or at high risk of falling out of the middle class altogether, according to a new study published this week by Demos and the Institute for Assets and Social Policy (IASP) at Brandeis University.

By a Thread: The New Experience of America’s Middle Class is the first comprehensive report to measure economic stability across the American middle class. Based on national government data, By a Thread is the first in a series of reports and briefing papers that will utilize the new “Middle Class Security Index” developed by the non-partisan policy center Demos and IASP/Brandeis.

Democrats' health plans echo Nixon's failed GOP proposal

Kevin G. Hall | McClatchy Newspapers

last updated: November 28, 2007 07:34:19 AM

WASHINGTON — Even before Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton unveiled her new health-care plan, Republicans attacked it as socialized medicine. They neglected to mention, however, that her plan bears a striking resemblance to changes that were proposed in 1974 — by the late President Richard M. Nixon.

"It was an extremely extensive plan, as I remember, that would have given universal coverage" for health care, recalled Rudolph Penner, a former director of the Congressional Budget Office and economic official in the Ford administration.

Conservatives Can't Count

Counting is important: anyone who grew up watching Sesame Street knows that. Our friends in the Bush administration must have missed that part of the lesson. They hate to count. Especially when the results might make them look bad.

Some of Paul Krugman's most eye-opening columns in his collection The Great Unraveling—they're in section two, entitled "Fuzzy Math"—concern the way, once Bush became president, the government stopped counting certain things, or changed the methods of tabulation in order to score public relations points.

Psst! What About the Damn Economy?

Do we have to wait for soup lines in Shaker Heights before we have a serious debate on the economy? In the last two Democratic debates, not one question was directed at what to do about the economy. Iraq, health care, the politics of parsing, pearls or diamonds — all got attention. But the economy — growth, jobs, wages, inflation — the basic stuff has been missing in action. Now, with Republicans headed into the YouTube debate on Wednesday night, it's time for the unctuous moderators to cut to the chase.

The candidates haven't done much better than their interrogators. Republicans, for the most part, have been content to praise the Bush economy — "the greatest story never told" in Fred Thompson's favorite mantra. Economic policy is just another ideological litmus test — prove your conservative credentials by promising to defend the Bush tax cuts and sprinkle on a couple more, while pledging to slash domestic spending. But cutting spending (and jobs) as the economy is headed into a recession is akin to using kerosene to douse a fire.

Official probing Rove now under investigation himself

The federal official helming a probe into potentially illegal partisan political activities conducted by Karl Rove and other White House officials is himself the focus of a federal investigation.

Scott Bloch, the Bush-appointed head of the US Office of Special Counsel, is under investigation for the alleged improper deletion of emails on office computers, The Wall Street Journal's John R. Wilke reports.

Mr. Blackwell and The Hammer

Two rejected Republican politicians form new "grassroots" organization aiming to challenge Democrats and regain control of Congress

When he was not out bashing the leadership of the Republican Party, expressing a desire to "bitch-slap" New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, attending David Horowitz's annual Restoration Weekend, promoting his book "No Retreat, No Surrender," or claiming he no longer is interested in holding public office, Tom DeLay made time to meet up with Ken Blackwell and found a new "grassroots" organization aimed at retaking congress in next year's elections.

Brooks Pushes Nonsense on Trade

David Brooks' column is full of nonsense on trade this morning. The point is to propagandize on behalf of current trade policy, which is taking a beating in popular opinion as of late. Brooks includes a wide range of factors which are somehow supposed to imply that the current trade policy is good.

Just to to take a couple of my favorites, Brooks points out from 1991 to 2007 the trade deficit grew to $818 billion from $31 billion. "Yet, .... during that time the U.S. created 28 million jobs and the unemployment rate dipped to 4.6 percent from 6.8 percent."

Brooks Pushes Nonsense on Trade

David Brooks' column is full of nonsense on trade this morning. The point is to propagandize on behalf of current trade policy, which is taking a beating in popular opinion as of late. Brooks includes a wide range of factors which are somehow supposed to imply that the current trade policy is good.

Just to to take a couple of my favorites, Brooks points out from 1991 to 2007 the trade deficit grew to $818 billion from $31 billion. "Yet, .... during that time the U.S. created 28 million jobs and the unemployment rate dipped to 4.6 percent from 6.8 percent."

Gloria R. Lalumia's World Media Watch for November 28, 2007

Gloria R. Lalumia


Summaries are excerpted from the source articles; the featured article follows the summary section.

1//Asia Times Online, Hong Kong

The United States-led war in Iraq has hardly affected the residents of Sidikan, a small Kurdish town nestled in the mountains where the borders of Iraq, Iran and Turkey converge, but the surrounding area has fast become the frontline of another conflict.


2/Azzaman in English, Iraq

A split in the ranks of the Islamic Army of Iraq is certain to reverse the successes U.S. occupation troops allege to have made in the country in the past few months.

FACT CHECK: U.S. Health Care Resources Not Burdened By Undocumented Immigrants

A new study by the University of California’s School of Public Health finds that illegal immigrants do not pose as significant a burden on U.S. Health Care resources as is often claimed. Undocumented immigrants are less likely to have insurance, but seek out health care in much lower numbers:
“Low rates of use of health-care services by Mexican immigrants and similar trends among other Latinos do not support public concern about immigrants’ overuse of the health care system,” the researchers wrote.

One in Ten Americans Went Hungry Last Year

By Abid Aslam, IPS News
Posted on November 28, 2007, Printed on November 28, 2007

More than one in 10 people in the United States go hungry, according to new official figures that suggest government food programs are falling short in the world's wealthiest country.

More than 35 million people in a country of some 294 million went hungry last year, 390,000 more than in 2005, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's latest Household Food Security report.

Existing Home Sales Fall Again

Wednesday November 28, 6:15 pm ET
By Martin Crutsinger, AP Economics Writer

Existing Home Sales Fall for Eighth Straight Month in October

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Hit by a severe credit crunch, existing home sales fell for the eighth straight month with median home prices dropping by a record amount.

The National Association of Realtors reported Wednesday that sales of existing homes dropped by 1.2 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.97 million units. That represented the slowest sales pace on record going back to 1999 and was 20.7 percent below activity a year ago.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Undoing The Damage Done

Of all the unqualified political hacks that the Bush Administration has placed in government positions, Julie MacDonald, the former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks at the Interior Department, has always held a special place in my heart.

While in her position, where she was charged with overseeing policy decisions on endangered species and other wildlife, MacDonald did what she could to make industry lobbyists happy.

David Neiwert: Where We Stand

My concluding post in the five-part series at The Big Con, "The Politics of the Personal: Where We Stand," is now up for public consumption. The opening:
How is any kind of normative political discourse possible in the environment created by right-wing eliminationist rhetoric? How is it possible to be civil to people who constantly are placing you under threat of assault, verbal and otherwise? How can there be dialogue when the normative rules of give and take and fair play have not only been flushed down the drain, but chopped into bits and swept out with the tide? Do the advocates of civility place any onus on the nonstop verbal abuse, and absolutely ruthless, win-at-all-costs politics emanating from the conservative quadrant? And do they really expect liberals to refuse to defend themselves, even realizing that doing so gets them accused of further incivility?

Digby: Misdirection

I've been observing discussions here and elsewhere about the immigration debate with increasing anxiety that the Republicans are going to get away with yet another misdirection perfectly designed to derail progressive hopes and dreams by stroking America's lizard brain. The election feels eerily reminiscent of 1992, when so-called reasonable centrists stoked the crazy man Ross Perot's campaign by backing his obsessive concern for "the deficit" which was nothing more than a weird abstraction into which misinformed discontented voters could pour their economic fears.

Digby: Keeping Them Viable

Far be it for me to be suspicious of the Kewl Kidz of Village High, but I have noticed an odd phenomenon in the past week or so that makes me wonder if those clever kids aren't doing a little GOP prep work for the general election.

Isn't it a little bit weird that we are suddenly seeing a bunch of articles about the liberal records of Republican candidates in the mainstream press?

For Obama, a tale of 2 speeches

Margaret Talev | McClatchy Newspapers

last updated: November 21, 2007 12:12:41 AM

WASHINGTON — In February 1981, at the small, mostly white college he was attending in Los Angeles, 19-year-old Barack Obama tried something that shaped the course of his life.

He gave a speech.

Like many students of that era, the sophomore was drawn to the South African divestment movement, which demanded that college trustees drop institutional investments that supported the racial segregation system known as apartheid. Obama's role at the Occidental College rally that warm winter day was to grab the crowd's attention, then be whisked off by students in paramilitary costumes.

Smarter energy storage for solar and wind power

Development of the first hybrid battery suitable for storing electricity from renewable energy sources such as solar and wind is now a step closer.

26 November 2007

CSIRO and Cleantech Ventures have invested in technology start-up Smart Storage Pty Ltd to develop and commercialise battery-based storage solutions.

Director of the CSIRO Energy Transformed National Research Flagship Dr John Wright said the Smart Storage battery technology aims to deliver a low cost, high performance, high power stationary energy storage solution suitable for grid-connected and remote applications.

Paul Krugman: Fear creeps in

More about the developing liquidity crisis, again from the Financial Times:

Investors fear the financial system is moving into new credit turmoil, which could create further losses for financial institutions – and potentially hurt sentiment in the “real” economy.

Robert Fisk: Darkness falls on the Middle East

In Beirut, people are moving out of their homes, just as they have in Baghdad

Published: 24 November 2007

So where do we go from here? I am talking into blackness because there is no electricity in Beirut. And everyone, of course, is frightened. A president was supposed to be elected today. He was not elected. The corniche outside my home is empty. No one wants to walk beside the sea.

When I went to get my usual breakfast cheese manouche there were no other guests in the café. We are all afraid. My driver, Abed, who has loyally travelled with me across all the war zones of Lebanon, is frightened to drive by night. I was supposed to go to Rome yesterday. I spared him the journey to the airport.

Supreme Court Allows Warrantless Searches of Welfare Applicants' Homes

By Richard Blair, The All Spin Zone
Posted on November 27, 2007, Printed on November 27, 2007

This post, written by Richard Blair, originally appeared on The All Spin Zone

With their refusal to hear a San Diego County case yesterday regarding unannounced searching of homes of public assistance applicants, the Supreme Court once again turned noted English jurist William Blackstone on his head. In the view of the Roberts court, it is better that ten truly needy people suffer than one potential fraudster escape.

Back in the mid-1980's, when big companies started requiring employees to submit to random drug and alcohol screenings, it was quite apparent that privacy and fourth amendment constitutional protections were under serious attack. There were two lines of reasoning that courts eventually approved of the screenings -- workplace safety and, hey, if someone didn't want to submit to the testing, they were free to quit the job.

Monday, November 26, 2007

David Neiwert: Who's the nutcase?

It seems Michelle Malkin (along with the New York Post) is all atwitter about the results of polls showing that the American public doesn't believe the same as evidently proper-thinking Americans should.

The most significant evidence? The polls showing that "62% believe the feds ignored specific warnings about 9/11," or as the Post described it:
Nearly two-thirds of Americans believe the federal government had warnings about 9/11 but decided to ignore them, a national survey found.

And that’s not the only conspiracy theory with a huge number of true believers in the United States.

Digby: Deep Thoughts

A couple of months ago I published a memo about the upcoming elections from a friend of mine who is a very sharp, well informed observer and participant in the political scene. I call him Deep Insight.

He's updated his analysis of the presidential election and I thought you might find it interesting:
On some days, it appears George Bush could care less if he drives the GOP over the cliff in 2008. His pursuit of rightwing foreign and domestic policy continues unabated. Iraq will remain a mess for years and millions have already fled the country. Our wonderful ally, the President of Pakistan, declares martial rule while we funnel billions in cash to his military cronies. Meanwhile, the Taliban now controls parts of Northwest Pakistan. Bush’s decision to veto the Children’s health proposal cements a nice brand image for his party as reckless and incompetent on foreign policy and heartless on healthcare for kids.

Secondhand smoke damages lungs, MRIs show

It’s not a smoking gun, but it’s smoking-related, and it’s there in bright medical images: evidence of microscopic structural damage deep in the lungs, caused by secondhand cigarette smoke. For the first time, researchers have identified lung injury to nonsmokers that was long suspected, but not previously detectable with medical imaging tools.

The researchers suggest that their findings may strengthen public health efforts to restrict secondhand smoke.

Don't look now: Here comes the recession

Even with a boost from holiday spending, the U.S. economy looks shaky, thanks to slumping housing prices, Wall Street woes and debt-laden consumers. How bad could it get?

By Colin Barr, senior writer

NEW YORK (Fortune) -- The cash registers were ringing on Black Friday, but make no mistake: American consumers are jittery, and seem all but certain to push the U.S. economy into recession.

After years of living happily beyond their means, Americans are finally facing financial reality. A persistent rise in energy prices will mean bigger heating bills this winter and heftier tabs at the gas pump. Job growth is slowing and wage gains have been anemic. House prices are sliding, diminishing the value of the asset that's the biggest factor in Americans' personal wealth. Even the stock market, which has been resilient for so long in the face of eroding consumer sentiment, has begun pulling back amid signs of deep distress in the financial sector.

Dioxin spot in Mich. could be worst ever

Dioxin Contamination Site Downstream From Mich. Chemical Plant Could Be Worst Ever, EPA Says

AP News

Nov 25, 2007 20:52 EST

A find of dioxin at the bottom of the Saginaw River could be the highest level of such contamination ever discovered in the nation's rivers and lakes, according to a federal scientist involved in cleanup efforts downstream from a Dow Chemical Co. plant.

A crew testing the Saginaw and Tittabawassee rivers discovered the sample, which measured 1.6 million parts of dioxin per trillion of water, The Saginaw News and The Detroit News reported last week. That level is about 20 times higher than any other find recorded in the EPA archives.

Taking Marriage Private

Olympia, Wash.

WHY do people — gay or straight — need the state’s permission to marry? For most of Western history, they didn’t, because marriage was a private contract between two families. The parents’ agreement to the match, not the approval of church or state, was what confirmed its validity.

For 16 centuries, Christianity also defined the validity of a marriage on the basis of a couple’s wishes. If two people claimed they had exchanged marital vows — even out alone by the haystack — the Catholic Church accepted that they were validly married.

Paul Krugman: Winter of Our Discontent

“Americans’ Economic Pessimism Reaches Record High.” That’s the headline on a recent Gallup report, which shows a nation deeply unhappy with the state of the economy. Right now, “27% of Americans rate current economic conditions as either ‘excellent’ or ‘good,’ while 44% say they are ‘only fair’ and 28% say they are poor.” Moreover, “an extraordinary 78% of Americans now say the economy is getting worse, while a scant 13% say it is getting better.”

What’s really remarkable about this dismal outlook is that the economy isn’t (yet?) in recession, and consumers haven’t yet felt the full effects of $98 oil (wait until they see this winter’s heating bills) or the plunging dollar, which will raise the prices of imported goods.

Glenn Greenwald: Time magazine's FISA fiasco shows how Beltway reporters mislead the country

On Wednesday, I documented that Joe Klein's column in this week's Time Magazine contained multiple false statements about the new FISA bill -- The RESTORE Act -- passed by House Democrats last week. The most obvious and harmful inaccuracy was his claim that that bill "would require the surveillance of every foreign-terrorist target's calls to be approved by the FISA court" and that it therefore "would give terrorists the same legal protections as Americans." Based on those outright falsehoods, Klein called the House Democrats' bill "well beyond stupid."

That day, Klein responded on his blog to what I wrote without acknowledging that he was doing so and without even telling his readers what the criticisms were. He insisted that everything he wrote was accurate ("as I reported, [the bill] obliquely gives foreign terrorists the same procedures as American citizens, if not the same rights"). He also said that the RESTORE Act was just "a partisan waste of time, fodder for lawyers and civil liberties extremists."

Senate's No. 2 Republican to resign by end of year

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Sen. Trent Lott, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, intends to resign by the end of the year, the Mississippi Republican announced Monday.

"Trish and I have decided that it's time to do something else," Lott said, referring to his wife.

"Let me be clear: There are no problems," Lott said.

We Face Worldwide Drought with No Contingency Plan

By Tom Engelhardt,
Posted on November 25, 2007, Printed on November 26, 2007

Georgia's on my mind. Atlanta, Georgia. It's a city in trouble in a state in trouble in a region in trouble. Water trouble. Trouble big enough that the state government's moving fast. Just this week, backed up by a choir singing "Amazing Grace," accompanied by three Protestant ministers, and twenty demonstrators from the Atlanta Freethought Society, Sonny Perdue, Georgia's Baptist governor, led a crowd of hundreds in prayers for rain.

"We've come together here," he said, "simply for one reason and one reason only: To very reverently and respectfully pray up a storm." It seems, however, that the Almighty was otherwise occupied and the regional drought continued to threaten Atlanta, a metropolis of 5 million people (and growing fast), with the possibility that it might run out of water in as little as eighty days or as much as a year, if the rains don't come.

The Bush Family Gets Away with Crimes That Would Land Anyone Else in Jail

By Robert Parry, Consortium News
Posted on November 26, 2007, Printed on November 26, 2007

In the history of the American Republic, perhaps no political family has been more protected from scandal than the Bushes.

When the Bushes are involved in dirty deals or even criminal activity, standards of evidence change. Instead of proof "beyond a reasonable doubt" that would lock up an average citizen, the evidence must be perfect.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Scientists Speak

The world’s scientists have done their job. Now it’s time for world leaders, starting with President Bush, to do theirs. That is the urgent message at the core of the latest — and the most powerful — report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a group of 2,500 scientists who collectively constitute the world’s most authoritative voice on global warming.

Released in Spain over the weekend, the report leaves no doubt that man-made emissions from the burning of fossil fuels (and, to a lesser extent, deforestation) have been responsible for the steady rise in atmospheric temperatures.

Digby: More Warrantless Searches

Republicans really, really hate the fourth amendment. It seems to come up in every controversy these days:

...As the details of the Sept. 27 raid spread through this village, where about 17 percent of residents are Hispanic, some citizens began to protest the very premise of the operation — and the participation of local officers.

David Nyce, Greenport’s mayor, said, “The whole gang issue is something to keep the white majority scared about the Latino population, and to come in and bust as many people as they want.”

Did McClellan Accuse Bush of Lying to Federal Prosecutors?

Bush press secretary Scott McClellan unleashed a new storm about the Valerie Plame investigation last week. McClellan’s publisher is about to release his new book, What Happened, and he picked what promised to be the juiciest morsel from the work to attract media attention. McClellan noted that he had “unknowingly passed along false information” that designed to throw investigators off the scent of the Preisdent’s senior political counselor, Karl Rove and Cheney chief of staff Scooter Libby, who were subsequently revealed by the investigation to have been the leakers of the secret identity of a covert CIA agent. McClellan writes that “five of the highest ranking officials in the administration. . . Rove, Libby, Cheney, [Andrew] Card, and the president himself” had been involved in the conspiracy to out the CIA agent as a petty act of reprisal against her husband for authoring a New York Times op-ed which laid bare the intentional misstatements contained in the president’s State of the Union Address concerning a phony plot by Saddam to secure yellowcake uranium from Niger.

Daily Kos: How the Republicans Became the Party of Racial Hatred

by Yosef 52
Sat Nov 24, 2007 at 02:31:29 PM PST

When I was a kid, it was the (conservative) Southern Democrats who stood in ferocious opposition to justice for our country's African-American minority. Northern Republicans (such as Everett Dirksen of Illinois) were foursquare for civil rights legislation and used their legislative influence to help make it law. Among the most hateful of the Southern Democrats who opposed equal rights for blacks was the despicable Strom Thurmond, whose opposition to such measures bordered on the pathological. (He wore a diaper so he could conduct a 24 hour filibuster in the Senate against the 1957 Civil Rights Act!) Yes, the deal with the devil the national Democratic Party had made was truly shameful: tolerate the Southern racists as long as those same racists delivered states for Roosevelt or Stevenson on election day.

Resurrecting the Star Chamber

When the Founding Fathers looked for a model that reflected the abuses they objected to—in short what they intended to forbid by their new Constitution and Bill of Rights—they turned to an English institution, the Court of Star Chamber. It was a state security court with ancient roots which flourished under the Tudor and Stuart monarchs. The Star Chamber court operated in secrecy, was not bothered by the picky evidentiary rules that emerged in other courts, and did not believe that those appearing before it on state security charges had many rights—certainly not the right to counsel, nor even the right to conduct a defense. It relied very heavily on torture to extract the evidence it sought to convict, usually a confession—though rarely, of course, a confession with any validity, since the application of the rack would quickly get the subject to say whatever was desired, truthful or not.

Glenn Greenwald: Good riddance to John Howard

There's a tendency in the U.S. to view the elections in other countries based on the self-centered perspective that the result is always some sort of referendum on the U.S. Hence, all sorts of unwarranted conclusions are typically drawn whenever a pro-Bush foreign leader is defeated or re-elected.

Like most foreign elections, the humiliating defeat of Australia's Prime Minister, John Howard, was driven largely by their own domestic concerns, and it had little (though not nothing) to do with the U.S. Still, it is worth celebrating Howard's defeat in light of how pernicious a presence he was, as one of the very few remaining world leaders who loyally supported the worst and most war-loving aspects of the Bush/Cheney foreign policy.

Mortgage Failures Could Create Nightmare

Saturday November 24, 12:02 am ET
By Joe Bel Bruno, AP Business Writer

New Wave of Mortgage Failures Could Create a Nightmare Economic Scenario NEW YORK (AP) -- When Domenico Colombo saw that his monthly mortgage payment was about to balloon by 30 percent, he had a clear picture of how bad it could get.

His payment was scheduled to surge by an extra $1,500 in December. With his daughter headed to college next fall and tuition to be paid, he feared ending up like so many neighbors in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., who defaulted on their mortgages and whose homes are now in foreclosure and sporting "For Sale" signs.

Oil, Politics & Bribes

Big Oil, Big Influence


Lindsay Renick Mayer is the money-in-politics reporter for the Center for Responsive Politics. The nonpartisan Washington-based organization researches money's influence on politics and provided data for this story from its website,

During his first month in office, President George W. Bush appointed Vice President Dick Cheney to head a task force charged with developing the country's energy policy. The group, which conducted its meetings in secret, relied on the recommendations of Big Oil behemoths Exxon Mobil, Conoco, Shell Oil, BP America and Chevron. It would be the first of many moves to come during the Bush administration that would position oil and gas companies well ahead of other energy interests with billions of dollars in subsidies and tax cuts—payback for an industry with strong ties to the administration and plenty of money to contribute to congressional and presidential campaigns.

During the time that Bush and Cheney, both of whom are former oil executives, have been in the White House, the oil and gas industry has spent $393.2 million on lobbying the federal government. This places the industry among the top nine in lobbying expenditures. The industry has also contributed a substantial $82.1 million to federal candidates, parties and political action committees, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. 80 percent of the industry's contributions have gone to Republicans.

U.S. Notes Limited Progress in Afghan War

Strategic Goals Unmet, White House Concludes

Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, November 25, 2007; Page A01

A White House assessment of the war in Afghanistan has concluded that wide-ranging strategic goals that the Bush administration set for 2007 have not been met, even as U.S. and NATO forces have scored significant combat successes against resurgent Taliban fighters, according to U.S. officials.

The evaluation this month by the National Security Council followed an in-depth review in late 2006 that laid out a series of projected improvements for this year, including progress in security, governance and the economy. But the latest assessment concluded that only "the kinetic piece" -- individual battles against Taliban fighters -- has shown substantial progress, while improvements in the other areas continue to lag, a senior administration official said.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Gene Lyons: Blogosphere not as radical as pundits think

It’s no exaggeration to say that the establishment media’s initial response to the blogosphere was panic. The idea of mere citizens talking back to the press was unsettling to Washington media celebrities. Pundits who’d exhibited no qualms about the sordid imaginings of, say, American Spectator or The Wall Street Journal editorial page recoiled in horror at online mockery. It was laugh-out-loud funny to see a Washington Post reporter infamous for treating Kenneth Starr’s backstairs leaks like holy writ make a show of pretending that the now-defunct Web site mediawhoresonline. com had accused her of prostitution. How the system had always worked was this: They dished it out, everybody else had to take it. Now that many print and broadcast outlets feature Web logs—blogs—of their own, it’s no longer common to hear the word “blogger” pronounced with utter disdain. Even so, competition from the groundlings still provokes unease. The latest high-minded worrier is a University of Chicago law professor and sometime politico, Cass R. Sunstein.

Rising Rates to Worsen Subprime Mess

Interest Payments Set To Grow on $362 Billion In Mortgages in 2008

November 24, 2007

The subprime mortgage crisis is poised to get much worse.

Next year, interest rates are set to rise -- or "reset" -- on $362 billion worth of adjustable-rate subprime mortgages, according to data calculated by Bank of America Corp.

While many accounts portray resetting rates as the big factor behind the surge in home-loan defaults and foreclosures this year, that isn't quite the case. Many of the subprime mortgages that have driven up the default rate went bad in their first year or so, well before their interest rate had a chance to go higher. Some of these mortgages went to speculators who planned to flip their houses, others to borrowers who had stretched too far to make their payments, and still others had some element of fraud.

Michael Kinsley: Who Needs Experience?

Saturday, November 24, 2007; Page A17

Hillary Clinton declared the other day -- apropos of whom, she didn't say, or need to -- "We can't afford on-the-job training for our next president." Barack Obama immediately retorted, "My understanding is that she wasn't Treasury secretary in the Clinton administration. I don't know exactly what experience she's claiming." As wit, that round goes to Obama. Clinton was elected to the Senate in 2000, her first experience of public office. Obama was an Illinois state senator for seven years before being elected to the U.S. Senate in 2004. In terms of experience in elective office, this seems to be a wash.

But since she brought it up, how important is experience in a candidate for president? If experience were a matter of offices held, however briefly, the best candidate running would be Bill Richardson, the governor of New Mexico and former so many different things that you can hardly believe this is the same person popping up again. But that is ticket-punching, not experience.

Matt Taibbi on Mike Huckabee, Our Favorite Right-Wing Nut Job

MIKE HUCKABEE, THE LATEST IT GIRL OF THE Republican presidential race, tells a hell of a story. Let your guard down anywhere near the former Arkansas governor and he'll pod you, Body Snatchers-style — you'll wake up drooling, your brain gone, riding a back seat on the bandwagon that suddenly has him charging toward the lead in the GOP race.

It almost happened to me a few months ago at a fund-raiser in Great Falls, Virginia. I'd come to get my first up-close glimpse of the man Arkansans call Huck, about whom I knew very little — beyond the fact that he was far behind in the polls and was said to be very religious. In an impromptu address to a small crowd, Huckabee muttered some stay-the-course nonsense about Iraq and then, when he was finished, sought me out, apparently having been briefed beforehand that Rolling Stone was in the house.

Carbon Capture: Miracle Cure for Global Warming, or Deadly Liability?

By Megan Tady, AlterNet
Posted on November 24, 2007, Printed on November 24, 2007

Technology to siphon off carbon dioxide from power plants and insert it into rock formations has the government, industry and many leading environmental groups wiping their brows and sighing, "phew." They say "carbon capture and storage" could be one of the central keys to unlocking how the world beats back climate change.

But for a growing list of critics, injecting carbon dioxide into the earth is as risky as sticking a Botox needle into a brow -- who really knows what's going on under the skin? And because this climate cure comes with no prescription to radically change the world's energy diet, skeptics say carbon capture and storage (CCS) is a diversion and a false solution.

Friday, November 23, 2007

MIT: Prenatal arsenic exposure detected in newborns

MIT researchers have found that the children of mothers whose water supplies were contaminated with arsenic during their pregnancies harbored gene expression changes that may lead to cancer and other diseases later in life. In addition to establishing the potential harmful effects of these prenatal exposures, the new study also provides a possible method for screening populations to detect signs of arsenic contamination.

Paul Krugman: A thought about political discourse

A meta-thought inspired by the Social Security craziness:

Faced with a major public issue, such as the future of Social Security, one might think that the crucial thing would be to ascertain the facts. If I say “there is no crisis,” and you think there is, well, produce the evidence that shows that my arithmetic is wrong — not something I once said that you think proves that I’ve changed my mind. Making this a game of gotcha is just childish.

Paul Krugman: Banks Gone Wild

Published: November 23, 2007

“What were they smoking?” asks the cover of the current issue of Fortune magazine. Underneath the headline are photos of recently deposed Wall Street titans, captioned with the staggering sums they managed to lose.

The answer, of course, is that they were high on the usual drug — greed. And they were encouraged to make socially destructive decisions by a system of executive compensation that should have been reformed after the Enron and WorldCom scandals, but wasn’t.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Web fuels hate speech

Thursday, November 15, 2007


Thursday, Nov. 8th was a depressing, cold and drizzly night in Berlin. Fitting weather for the 69th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the government-sanctioned night of terror against Jews in 1938 that was a major step towards the Holocaust.

Earlier that day, almost seven decades after Kristallnacht, human rights experts from around the world gathered in a reconstructed synagogue in Berlin's Mitte district to discuss a resurgence of anti-Semitism and other forms of intolerance. The group observed that the most numerous attacks on Jews and other minorities are now coming in the form of Internet hate speech broadcast worldwide.

Inside the Data Mine

On April 20, 2007, former Qwest telecommunications CEO Joseph Nacchio was found guilty on 19 of 42 counts of insider trading. “For anyone who has ever made a call in Qwest territory, the term ‘convicted felon Joe Nacchio’ has a nice ring to it,” U.S. prosecutor Troy Eid told the press. The mood was fairly universal. One securities lawyer pitched in: “The government has another notch in their belt. They’ve had a tremendous winning streak in these corporate crime cases.”

But it would have been more accurate to qualify the statement by saying that the government has had a tremendous winning streak in the corporate crime cases it chooses to pursue. We now know that the Securities and Exchange Commission has chosen not to pursue charges of insider trading in the case of a Wall Street executive named John J. Mack because of his “political clout.” And while former U.S. Attorney William Leone led the case against Qwest, he was one of the unfortunate attorneys on the Department of Justice’s “purge list,” replaced by none other than Bush-nominated Troy Eid, a former co-worker of Jack Abramoff at the firm Greenberg Traurig.

Pentagon Demands Wounded Soldier Return Re-enlistment Bonus

Just in time for the holidays, there's a special place in Hell just waiting to be filled by some as-yet-unknown Pentagon bureaucrat. Apparently, thousands of wounded soldiers who served in Iraq are being asked to return part of their enlistment bonuses -- because their injuries prevented them from completing their tours.

Paul Krugman: They hate me! They really hate me!

Wow. Early in my tenure at the NYT, I was advised that it’s a bad idea to devote a column to attacking another columnist — not just at the Times, but anywhere. Why? Because it makes you look small — as if you have nothing better to do than snipe at other commentators, rather than trying to deal with real problems.

But I’ve obviously touched a nerve with my recent writing on Social Security. The Beltway crowd loves their Social Security crisis, and they won’t give it up without a fight.

Today's Must Read

Why can't people just trust Rudy Giuliani?

As today's piece in The Chicago Tribune points out, Giuliani is a deviation from the mold of the successful businessman turned politician. Instead, Giuliani went from politics into business, and the success of that business relied in large part on Giuliani's continued prestige and the promise that he would eventually return to politics.

Giuliani Partners (not to be confused with Bracewell & Giuliani, the law firm he joined in 2005), which has been steadily growing since it's formation in 2002, is a consultancy. Which is a fancy way of saying that it does whatever its clients need it to do. Mostly, that seems to have been some form of security consulting -- but it's been nearly impossible to find out, because Giuliani won't say who the firm's clients are or were.

Ruling Will Cripple Probes Of Lawmakers, U.S. Says

Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 21, 2007; Page A03

A little-noticed aspect of an appellate court decision could sharply limit investigations of members of Congress and hamper ongoing corruption probes, the Justice Department said this week in a motion seeking an emergency stay of the ruling.

The decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit was handed down in August in the case of Rep. William J. Jefferson (D-La.), but its effects complicate other investigations, including those stemming from the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal.

The semi-secret world of campaign bundlers

Lisa Zagaroli | McClatchy Newspapers

last updated: November 18, 2007 03:00:49 PM

WASHINGTON — Johnny Taylor Jr. is connected.

The Charlotte businessman has friends all over the country who will hop on a plane and arrive at his house with a check for $2,300. That's the cost of having a chat in a private setting with a presidential candidate.

Taylor, a supporter of Sen. Hillary Clinton to the tune of "hundreds of thousands" of dollars, is at the heart of a growing role in the U.S. political system. He's known as a "bundler," a mega-fundraiser adept at using his network of friends and business associates to help fund a candidate's campaign.

Give peace a chance

Group says wearing their shirts on campus has caused quite a stir


Students at Cocoa Beach Jr./Sr. High are waging a war on peace.

It all started when sophomore Skylar Stains decided to have Peace Shirt Thursdays. Skylar and her friend, Lauren Lorraine, started wearing peace shirts and soon recruited more friends to wear them. Now, the "Peace Shirt Coalition" as they call themselves, has close to 30 students from all grades.

Oil reaches new record above $99

Oil prices kept climbing on Wednesday, as the dollar remained weak, and closed near $100 a barrel.

US light, sweet crude hit a record of $99.29 in Asian trading. London Brent crude rose 50 cents to $95.99 a barrel.

Tight supplies, winter demand and continuing geopolitical concerns have contributed to oil prices climbing by about 45% since August.

Fed Expects Slowdown to Deepen

WASHINGTON, Nov. 20 — The Federal Reserve expects economic growth to slow sharply next year, and policy makers there are worried that even this forecast may prove too optimistic, according to an assessment that the central bank released on Tuesday.

In a new effort to be more open, the Fed released a detailed forecast that summarized the predictions of the Fed governors and regional bank presidents.

How the Neocon-Christian Right Alliance Brought Down the House of Bush

By Amy Goodman, Democracy Now!
Posted on November 21, 2007, Printed on November 21, 2007

AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to investigative journalist Craig Unger in Washington, D.C., here with Democracy Now! He is author of the new book The Fall of the House of Bush: The Untold Story of How a Band of True Believers Seized the Executive Branch, Started the Iraq War, and Still Imperils America's Future. The book examines how neoconservatives secretly forged an alliance with the Christian Right during the Bush presidency and helped make the case for war in Iraq. Craig Unger is the contributing editor at Vanity Fair, also author of the book House of Bush, House of Saud.

Craig, welcome to Democracy Now!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

McClellan Implicates President in Obstruction

by BooMan
Tue Nov 20th, 2007 at 11:51:51 AM EST

From former White House press secretary Scott McClellan's new book:

"The most powerful leader in the world had called upon me to speak on his behalf and help restore credibility he lost amid the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. So I stood at the White house briefing room podium in front of the glare of the klieg lights for the better part of two weeks and publicly exonerated two of the senior-most aides in the White House: Karl Rove and Scooter Libby.

"There was one problem. It was not true.

A Swarm of Swindlers


Like vultures, the mortgage lenders began circling the single-family house with the tiny front lawn on Merrill Avenue.

They knew that the woman who owned the house was old and sick and that her two aging daughters were struggling with illness and poverty as well. That was all to the good as far as the lenders were concerned. The predator’s mission is to home in on the vulnerable.

“The people that wanted to put through the loan called me about a hundred times,” said Rosa Dailey, who is 65 and going blind and needs an oxygen tank at times to help her breathe. “I kept telling them no, because I didn’t think we could afford it. But they kept saying how it was to our advantage. So I finally said: ‘All right, let’s see what we can do.’ ”

Tomgram: John Brown, Invading Washington

Over the last seven years, it's often been said that George W. Bush exists in a bubble. When it comes to the cast of characters in his administration -- and the Washington Consensus generally -- it turns out he isn't alone. The other night I watched Harvard academic Joseph Nye and former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage discuss the crisis in Pakistan with talk-show host Charlie Rose. The two of them had just finished co-chairing a Center for Strategic and International Studies commission that produced a report, clearly meant for the next administration, on wielding American "smart power" in the world.

Nye is an exceedingly conventional American internationalist; Armitage is a former "Vulcan" who, in the first years of the Bush administration, though Colin Powell's deputy at the State Department, was close to the neocons of the Pentagon, but may now be repositioning himself for a Democratic administration. They could be said to represent the heartland of the present Washington Consensus.

Rogue bacteria involved in both heart disease and infertility

Researcher uncovers how chlamydia sabotages human immunity

Outside the laboratory, Anthony Azenabor is outgoing and talkative, an extrovert who laughs heartily at his own jokes.

But engrossed in his research, Azenabor is a shrewd and serious investigator who coaxes rogue bacteria to give up deadly secrets of how they cause several human illnesses.

Computational biologists use evolution-tracking method to discover 300 new human genes

Using supercomputers to compare portions of the human genome with those of other mammals, researchers at Cornell have discovered some 300 previously unidentified human genes, and found extensions of several hundred genes already known.

The discovery is based on the idea that as organisms evolve, sections of genetic code that do something useful for the organism change in different ways.

Even minute levels of lead cause brain damage in children

Even very small amounts of lead in children's blood -- amounts well below the current federal standard -- are associated with reduced IQ scores, finds a new, six-year Cornell study.

The study examined the effect of lead exposure on cognitive function in children whose blood-lead levels (BLLs) were below the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) standard of 10 micrograms per deciliter (mcg/dl) -- about 100 parts per billion. The researchers compared children whose BLLs were between 0 and 5 mcg/dl with children in the 5-10 mcg/dl range.

"Even after taking into consideration family and environmental factors known to affect a child's cognitive performance, blood lead played a significant role in predicting nonverbal IQ scores," said Richard Canfield, a senior researcher in Cornell's Division of Nutritional Sciences and senior author of the study in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

Monday, November 19, 2007

David Neiwert: The Urge To Purge

Part 4 of a five-part series. Parts 1, 2, and 3.

The transformation of mainstream movement conservatives into something closer resembling far-right extremists didn’t happen overnight. It came in bits and pieces, drips and drabs, piling up in small events that seemed innocuous enough at the time. Beginning in the mid-1990s, and increasingly so in the years after 9/11, figures on the mainstream right began picking up ideas, talking points, issues, and agendas from its extremist fringes: the xenophobic, conspiracist, fanatical religious right. These ostensibly “mainstream” figures would then repackage these ideas and talking points for general consumption, usually by stripping out the overt references to racism and xenophobic hatred.

These “transmitters” were often leading right-wing media luminaries, all reliably viewed as mainstream conservatives: Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, Ann Coulter, Lou Dobbs, Michelle Malkin, Michael Savage. Some were public officials, like Sen. Trent Lott (whose ties to the segregationist neo-Confederate movement came floating to public attention in 2002), Rep. Tom Tancredo, and Rep. Ron Paul (the latter a 2008 Republican presidential candidate, despite his longtime proclivity for “New World Order” conspiracy theories). And sometimes the transmissions came from people with one foot firmly in the fringe camp who manage for a time to disguise their agendas: for instance, Jared Taylor of the white-supremacist American Renaissance, who is skilled at posing as an academic expert on race relations and is presented on TV as such; or John Tanton, the mastermind of various “immigration reform” groups whose work tends to specialize in demonizing Latinos, who is himself financed by white supremacists.

Digby: Defining Deviancy Down

Democratic Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan wrote a groundbreaking paper back in the 1960s about the alleged weaknesses of often female-headed African-American families. He described a culture of loose morals and indulgent self-destructive behavior which the right successfully demagogued into a decades long, thinly veiled racist attack on government welfare programs. The common wisdom was that welfare institutionalized and rewarded failure leading to an immoral social order. Throughout the period there were sustained conservative attacks on those who defended such programs and participated in the vast cultural transformation of the era, characterizing these behaviors as "moral depravity."

War has historic links to global climate change

Climate change and conflict have gone hand-in-hand for the past 500 years, a study reveals.

It is the first time that a clear link between war and changing global temperatures has been identified in historical data, according to the researchers involved. The results are also significant because some experts predict that current and future climate change may result in widespread global unrest and conflict.

Less is more when fighting crime

Study suggests too much money is wasted on low-risk crime targets>

Both crime and prison populations could be reduced dramatically by focusing on the “power few” criminals who commit the most crime, according to Lawrence Sherman, Director of the Jerry Lee Center of Criminology at the University of Pennsylvania and Professor of Criminology at Cambridge University, UK. His paper will be published online this week in Springer’s Journal of Experimental Criminology.

Using data across a wide range of research, Sherman shows that most crime is committed by a small fraction of all criminals, at a tiny fraction of all locations, against a tiny fraction of all victims, during a few hours a week. By focusing police, probation, parole, rehabilitation, security and prison resources on these “power few” units with the most crime, the study shows how society could stand a far better chance at crime prevention without raising costs.

Rudy Giuliani adds war/disaster profiteer Joe Allbaugh to campaign staff

The former head of FEMA who gave America "Brownie" and helped disembody the agency will be senior advisor on homeland security issues

On October 30, Joseph Allbaugh was named Senior Advisor to Rudy Giuliani's presidential campaign. According to a Giuliani campaign press release, Allbaugh "will advise the campaign on general strategy and homeland security."

"Rudy Giuliani is the only candidate who will keep America on offense in the Terrorists' War on Us," the press release quoted Allbaugh as saying. "The leadership he showed after 9/11 was an inspiration not only to New Yorkers but to the country. He knows what it takes to keep America safe, and as President, he will ensure that our country never goes back on defense in this war."

Ivory tower chills


Many professors keep regular blogs, but few are as widely read, and as controversial, as Juan Cole’s Informed Comment. Cole, a professor of Middle East history at the University of Michigan, is both an example of how an academic may share his expertise with rigour and plain diction—and that such expertise is in demand, judging by the size of the blog’s readership, which Cole says attracts 600,000 to a million visits a month—and, depending on who you ask, an example of how Middle East scholars are too politicized and rather un-American.

Early this month, a group of Middle East historians and academics—including Princeton’s Bernard Lewis and John Hopkins political science professor Fouad Ajami, and others who generally support a robust U.S. foreign policy—started a new group called the Association for the Study of the Middle East and Africa (ASMEA) to counter what they say is the politicization of Middle East studies by academics such as Juan Cole and organizations such as the Middle East Studies Association (MESA), which Cole is a member of and once headed. MESA is holding their annual conference in Montreal this weekend.

Cole disputes such charges, saying ASMEA is “exclusively ideological, for people on the right.” (ASMEA did not return calls from the Mirror). The biggest problem facing Middle East academics, however, is the pressure by off-campus interest groups that disagree with a professor’s stances, he says.

Glenn Greenwald: The Tom Friedman of 2002 has not gone anywhere

For all the self-satisfied talk about how George Bush is incapable of ever admitting mistakes or changing his mind, our elite pundit class is exactly the same way. Tom Friedman single-handedly did more than anyone else to convince liberals and Democrats to support the invasion of Iraq; the only competitors for that ignominious distinction are Colin Powell and Ken Pollack. And while he has spent the last year or so feigning angst over his years of pro-war cheerleading, he has not changed in the slightest.

Freedom's Watch Focus Groups War with Iran

Washington Dispatch: The hawkish advocacy group recently rolled out a multi-million dollar ad blitz in support of the troop surge in Iraq. It's now test marketing language that could be used to sell a war with Iran. November 19, 2007

Laura Sonnenmark is a focus group regular. "I've been asked to talk about orange juice, cell phone service, furniture," the Fairfax County, Virginia-based children's book author and Democratic Party volunteer says. But when she was called by a focus group organizer for a prospective assignment earlier this month, she was told the questions this time would be about something "political."

Glenn Greenwald: Rudy Giuliani's messianic paranoia

The right-wing Federalist Society, architects of many of the most extremist Bush executive power abuses, invited only one candidate to speak at their annual event -- "moderate" Rudy Giuliani. That invitation was, as The Associated Press put it, a "testament to his close ties to [Ted] Olson and other prominent members of the organization," many of whom "are advising his campaign." Giuliani, as he has done many times before, promptly "cited Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito and Chief Justice John Roberts as models for the judges he would appoint."

But far more significant was Giuliani's expressed view of what he thinks his mission will be as President.

Paul Krugman: Republicans and Race

Over the past few weeks there have been a number of commentaries about Ronald Reagan’s legacy, specifically about whether he exploited the white backlash against the civil rights movement.

The controversy unfortunately obscures the larger point, which should be undeniable: the central role of this backlash in the rise of the modern conservative movement.

The centrality of race — and, in particular, of the switch of Southern whites from overwhelming support of Democrats to overwhelming support of Republicans — is obvious from voting data.

Daniel Ellsberg Says Sibel Edmonds Case 'Far More Explosive Than Pentagon Papers'

"I'd say what she has is far more explosive than the Pentagon Papers," Daniel Ellsberg told us in regard to former FBI translator turned whistleblower Sibel Edmonds.

"From what I understand, from what she has to tell, it has a major difference from the Pentagon Papers in that it deals directly with criminal activity and may involve impeachable offenses," Ellsberg explained.

Lobby to Hide Cancer Dangers Has Government's Helping Hand

By Michelle Chen, In These Times
Posted on November 19, 2007, Printed on November 19, 2007

Industry special interests are burying information on cancer-causing chemicals and, according to watchdog groups, the government is helping them do it -- in the name of "data quality."

In a study of the National Institutes of Health's National Toxicology Program, OMB Watch, a DC-based policy-research group, reports that industry is frustrating the work of government researchers with petitions that are light on science but heavy with accusations of anti-business "bias."

Bad Intelligence: America's History of Bungled Spying

By Larry Beinhart, AlterNet
Posted on November 19, 2007, Printed on November 19, 2007

On April 1, 2001, Oklahoma State Trooper C. L. Parkins stopped Nawaf Alhazmi, for speeding.

Alhazmi had a California license. Parkins ran it, as cops always do on a traffic stop. Nothing came back. He wrote Alhazmi two tickets totaling $138 and let him continue on his way.

What makes this event striking is that Alhazmi had been identified by the NSA in 1999 as associated with Al Qaeda. He had also been put on a Saudi terror watch list that year. In January 2000, he was photographed and videotaped at an Al Qaeda meeting in Malaysia. A week later, on Jan, 15, he entered the United States. The CIA knew that he had a valid U.S. visa, and though they missed his arrival, they suspected he was here.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Whither Go Real Wages?

Here’s a graph at which we should all take a close look. It’s just a few data points bouncing around a chart, but it explains a lot, I think, about why so many people are unsettled by developments in the current economy.

The data are the inflation-adjusted, average weekly earnings of a representative group of workers—those who are non-managers in the service sector and blue-collar workers in manufacturing. So we’re talking about the bottom 80% of workforce.

Paul Krugman: Long-run budget math

Some commenters have asked for more about Social Security’s role in the long-run budget problem, and in particular an explanation of my assertion that the Beltway obsession with Social Security reflects ignorance. So here’s a quick, informal explanation.

Start with the current position. Last year, federal spending on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid was 8.5 percent of GDP, equally divided between Social Security and the health care programs. Dismal long-run projections, like those of the GAO, have this total rising by 10 percentage points of GDP by mid-century.

PBS' Moyers on planned media consolidation rule change

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin was heavily criticized by members of the public, along with his colleagues, at the sixth and final public hearing, held on November 9, 2007, on his planned changes to rules on media consolidation.

Input from the public, leading up to the vote, is being accepted until December 11, 2007.

Paul Krugman: Played for a Sucker

Lately, Barack Obama has been saying that major action is needed to avert what he keeps calling a “crisis” in Social Security — most recently in an interview with The National Journal. Progressives who fought hard and successfully against the Bush administration’s attempt to panic America into privatizing the New Deal’s crown jewel are outraged, and rightly so.

But Mr. Obama’s Social Security mistake was, in fact, exactly what you’d expect from a candidate who promises to transcend partisanship in an age when that’s neither possible nor desirable.

To understand the nature of Mr. Obama’s mistake, you need to know something about the special role of Social Security in American political discourse.

'Safe' uranium that left a town contaminated

They were told depleted uranium was not hazardous. Now, 23 years after a US arms plant closed, workers and residents have cancer - and experts say their suffering shows the use of such weapons may be a war crime

David Rose in Colonie, New York
Sunday November 18, 2007
The Observer

It is 50 years since Tony Ciarfello and his friends used the yard of a depleted uranium weapons factory as their playground in Colonie, a suburb of Albany in upstate New York state. 'There wasn't no fence at the back of the plant,' remembers Ciarfello. 'Inside was a big open ground and nobody would chase us away. We used to play baseball and hang by the stream running through it. We even used to fish in it - though we noticed the fish had big pink lumps on them.'

U.S. Secretly Aids Pakistan in Guarding Nuclear Arms

WASHINGTON, Nov. 17 — Over the past six years, the Bush administration has spent almost $100 million on a highly classified program to help Gen. Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan’s president, secure his country’s nuclear weapons, according to current and former senior administration officials.

But with the future of that country’s leadership in doubt, debate is intensifying about whether Washington has done enough to help protect the warheads and laboratories, and whether Pakistan’s reluctance to reveal critical details about its arsenal has undercut the effectiveness of the continuing security effort.

Frank Rich: What 'That Regan Woman' Knows

NEW Yorkers who remember Rudy Giuliani as the bullying New York mayor, not as the terminally cheerful “America’s Mayor” cooing to babies in New Hampshire, have always banked on one certainty: his presidential candidacy was so preposterous it would implode before he got anywhere near the White House.

Surely, we reassured ourselves, the all-powerful Republican values enforcers were so highly principled that they would excommunicate him because of his liberal social views, three wives and estranged children. Or a firewall would be erected by the firefighters who are enraged by his self-aggrandizing rewrite of 9/11 history. Or Judith Giuliani, with her long-hidden first marriage and Louis Vuitton ’tude, would send red-state voters screaming into the night.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Digby: Moving The Ball

The media have been talking up Tom Tancredo's new ad, asking whether it crosses the line. It is a doozy:

There are consequences to open borders beyond the 20 million aliens who have come to take our jobs. Islamic terrorists now freely roam U.S. soil, Jihadists who froth with hate here to do as they have in London, Spain, Russia.

The price we pay for spineless politicians who refuse to defend our borders against those who come to kill.

It is such an extreme ad that you wouldn't think anyone who wanted to make a serious case would create such a thing.

To Know Us Is To Love Us

Slate readers on how to improve America's image in the world.

Last week, in a column inspired in part by Karen Hughes' departure as the State Department's public diplomat and in part by Tom Stoppard's new play, Rock 'n' Roll, I asked readers for ideas on how to improve America's image in the world.

During the Cold War, our freewheeling jazz, rock, and movies appealed to millions of people behind the Iron Curtain. Today, the vast phenomenon of anti-Americanism stems mainly from our government's policies. But if the next president changed some of those policies, is there anything in our culture that might restore our luster, or at least make us less hateful, not just to Arabs and Muslims, but also to the Asians and Europeans who were once our closest friends?

Dew-harvesting 'web' conjures water out of thin air

A portable dew-harvesting kit inspired by a spider's web is being developed by Israeli architects for use in areas where clean and safe water is scarce.

In February 2007, UK engineering firm Arup and charity WaterAid held a competition aimed at finding new technologies to help people gain access to clean water in areas where it is scarce. This is a problem for about 1 billion people worldwide.

Menstrual blood could be rich source of stem cells

The "monthly curse" may be anything but: menstrual blood appears to be a rich and easily accessible source of adult stem cells, claim two competing research groups.

Each month, after a woman’s uterine lining is shed, it has to be rebuilt in preparation for a fertilised egg. This feat involves growing the billions of cells making up the 5 millimetre-thick lining in just seven days.

Senator: U.S. has become haven for war criminals

Renee Schoof | McClatchy Newspapers

last updated: November 14, 2007 07:45:55 PM

WASHINGTON — More than 1,000 people from 85 countries who are accused of such crimes as rape, killings, torture and genocide are living in the United States, according to Department of Homeland Security figures.

America has become a haven for the world's war criminals because it lacks the laws needed to prosecute them, Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., said Wednesday. There's been only one U.S. indictment of someone suspected of a serious human-rights abuse. Durbin said torture was the only serious human-rights violation that was a crime under American law when committed outside the United States by a non-American national.

Living arrangements of low-income children may not play a key role in their well-being

The living arrangements of low-income children do not significantly predict their well-being, regardless of their race or ethnicity. That’s the finding of a new study that has implications for policy and practice.

The study, conducted by researchers at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and the University of Chicago, is published in the November/December 2007 issue of the journal Child Development.

Using data on approximately 2,000 low-income families, the researchers sought to compare the development of children living only with their mothers with children in other arrangements (those living with their biological fathers, in blended families, and in multigenerational households) to determine the effect of living arrangements on the children’s cognitive achievement and emotional adjustment.