Friday, February 29, 2008

Why Health Insurance Doesn't Work

It is actually against their interest for insurers to compete on giving us the best care. It's not simply that they're not doing it, but given the structure of the marketplace, they shouldn't do it.

Ezra Klein | February 27, 2008

'The state's largest for-profit health insurer is asking California physicians to look for conditions it can use to cancel their new patients' medical coverage," said the first line of an expose in the Los Angeles Times earlier this month. The subject was Blue Cross' practice of enlisting doctors to help them deny the claims of sick individuals.

What's strange, however, is that everyone acted like the insurer was doing something wrong. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger accused them of asking doctors to "rat out the patients." Hillary Clinton gave the company a similar lashing, in the same tone of moral outrage used by most of those quoted in the article. Within a few days, the policy was ended.

Afghanistan mission close to failing - US

After six years of US-led military support and billions of pounds in aid, security in Afghanistan is "deteriorating" and President Hamid Karzai's government controls less than a third of the country, America's top intelligence official has admitted.

Mike McConnell testified in Washington that Karzai controls about 30% of Afghanistan and the Taliban 10%, and the remainder is under tribal control.

The Afghan government angrily denied the US director of national intelligence's assessment yesterday, insisting it controlled "over 360" of the country's 365 districts. "This is far from the facts and we completely deny it," said the defence ministry.

Is Bush to Blame for the Economy?

In fairness, Bush, like all presidents, does not deserve all the blame (or credit) for the economy's performance under his watch. But he turned a blind eye to the mounting evidence of an economic crisis.

Dean Baker | February 25, 2008

Last summer, President Bush told the American people that "the American economy is the envy of the world." He continued, "The fundamentals of our economy are strong. ... Job creation is strong. Real after-tax wages are on the rise. Inflation is low." None of this was exactly true then, but it is certainly not true now. When President Bush signed the stimulus package he finally acknowledged what the rest of us already knew: The economy is in real trouble. The collapse of the housing bubble is throwing the economy into a recession, and quite possibly a very severe recession. For most workers this means that the economic situation is about to go from bad to worse.

Comcast Blocks Access To Net Neutrality Meeting

Tue Feb 26, 2008 at 12:38:04 PM PST

[Thanks to everyone who rec'd this diary, especially since it really wasn't too much related to me. Boing Boing deserves the credit for it, but I'm happy to take the rec! Please also visit the great state blog Blue Jersey where I also post.]

Ever wondered before if big providers would block access to certain content on the Internet if there were no forced neutrality? Well, Comcast answered the question themselves by blocking access to a Net Neutrality meeting at Harvard. (via BoingBoing)

Thursday, February 28, 2008

ACLU calls out US over 'absurd bloating' of terror watch list

More that 900,000 people are currently listed as suspected terrorists on the US government's "do not fly" list, and that number will grow to beyond 1 million by summer, says the American Civil Liberties Union.

"If there were a million terrorists in this country, our cities would be in ruins," Barry Steinhardt, director of the ACLU's Technology and Liberty Program, stated in a press release from the group. "The absurd bloating of the terrorist watch lists is yet another example of how incompetence by our security apparatus threatens our rights without offering any real security."

'Bipartisan' Think Tank Attacks Democrats

By Spencer Ackerman 02/26/2008

A neo-conservative but ostensibly bipartisan counterterrorism think tank has lost all its Democratic board members by running an attack ad in Democratic congressional districts through an affiliated enterprise.

The think tank, called the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, is a 501(c )3—meaning it was incorporated as a non-profit and non-partisan organization, barred from political activity. Last week, it established Defense of Democracies, a 501(c )4 "non-profit, non-partisan advocacy organization," that ran an advertisement urging the House of Representatives to pass the Senate’s version of a bill providing retroactive legal immunity to telecommunications companies that collaborated with the Bush administration’s constellation of warrantless surveillance programs. The arrangement is probably legal, experts say, but the parent think tank receives several grants from the State Department—at least one is worth $487,000—for democracy-promotion programs, making its political activities questionable.

The $3 Trillion War

After wildly lowballing the cost of the Iraq conflict at a mere $50 to $60 billion, the Bush administration has been concealing the full economic toll. The spending on military operations is merely the tip of a vast fiscal iceberg. In an excerpt from their new book, the authors calculate the grim bottom line.

by Joseph E. Stiglitz and Linda J. Bilmes April 2008

In March 19, 2008, the U.S. will have been in Iraq for five years. The Bush administration was wrong about the need for the Iraq war and about the benefits the war would bring to Iraq, to the region, and to America. It has also been wrong about the full cost of the war, and it continues to take steps to conceal that cost.

John McCain's Bizarre 'Conservative Problem'

By Matt Taibbi,
Posted on February 28, 2008, Printed on February 28, 2008

It's the day before the Virginia primary, and darkness has fallen outside the Aviation Museum in Richmond. Inside, presumptive Republican nominee John McCain stands proudly before a museum-exhibit version of his own A-4 Navy jet fighter, plowing through the Poconos-stand-up portion of his stump speech.

I've heard this shtick so many times by now that a kind of campaign echolalia has kicked in -- I find myself involuntarily blurting out McCain's punch lines before he even starts a joke. At present, we're about two minutes shy of a prison joke that ends with The food was a lot better in here when you were governor!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Global warming twice as lethal as previously assumed

Increased air pollution could make global warming an even bigger killer.

A new study reveals that air pollution associated with elevated carbon dioxide levels is already responsible for around 22,000 deaths every year. When these are added to casualties from extreme weather events, it doubles the number of fatalities that can be linked to global warming.

Consumers fight rising use of hidden fees

Tony Pugh | McClatchy Newspapers
last updated: February 27, 2008 06:58:46 PM

WASHINGTON — Hidden fees and surcharges that drive up the cost of everything from phone service to concert tickets are spreading like wildfire, creating a nuisance for U.S. consumers and making truth in billing little more than a hollow promise.

Some hotels impose automatic towel, bellman and grounds-keeping fees. Airlines charge up to $25 to check an extra bag. Want to terminate your cell phone service? Don't be surprised by a $200 cancellation fee.

Many of the charges are undisclosed, buried in contract fine print or listed as an unclear line item on a bill.

Producer-price leap was highest in 3 decades

Kevin G. Hall | McClatchy Newspapers
last updated: February 27, 2008 07:49:32 AM

WASHINGTON — A sharp jump in wholesale inflation and $100-a-barrel oil prices combined Tuesday to heighten fears that inflationary pressures will drive up mortgage rates and deepen problems in a housing sector that's dragging down the economy.

Wholesale inflation as measured by the producer price index jumped 1 percent in January, according to the Labor Department. Overall producer prices rose 7.4 percent over the past 12 months, the fastest clip since 1981.

The rise in producer prices was driven by higher prices for food, energy and medicine and was more than double the 0.4 percent rise that most mainstream economists forecast.

Meat Wagon: Cow-feed misdeeds

More trouble with ethanol waste as cow chow

Posted by Tom Philpott at 4:03 PM on 25 Feb 2008

In Meat Wagon, we round up the latest outrages from the meat industry.

Remember the good old days, when gigantic meat and dairy producers stuffed cows into feedlots and fed them corn? Sure, cows evolved to eat grass, and corn wears out their livers (and makes their digestive tracts friendly to E. coli 0157, a strain harmless to cows but deadly to humans).

Yet we may soon look back fondly on those days. The government-mandated spike in ethanol production has made corn a pricey luxury for feedlot operators. To cut costs, they're scrambling to substitute scarce corn for abundant distillers grains -- the mush that's left over from corn after the ethanol process.

Ben Bernanke's high-wire act

Fed chief, in first of two days of testimony on Capitol Hill, acknowledges troubling signs about economic growth but also raises concerns about inflation.

By David Ellis, staff writer
February 27 2008: 5:07 PM EST

WASHINGTON ( -- For Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, running the central bank has become an increasingly challenging high-wire balancing act.

All of Wall Street was watching the Fed chairman on Wednesday when he headed to Capitol Hill to outline the trio of challenges facing the Fed: an economy at risk of falling into a recession, topsy-turvy financial markets and the rising risk of inflation.

The world's insurance policy

So the first batch of the world's crop seeds is now packed away deep in the cold Svalbard mountainside, and the vault's doors, for the time being, are once again sealed. In total, more than 100 million seeds, representing some 250,000 individual strains of almost 100 major crops, from sorghum to sunflowers, have been loaded up in vault number 2 (I'm not sure why they started with vault no. 2 - although it may have been something to do with the fact that during the opening, vault no. 1 was playing host to 150 delegates and about a dozen live musical performers). Over 11 tonnes of seeds, in an impressive 656 boxes, were loaded up and locked away in little more than an hour.

So what now for the Global Seed Vault? Eventually, the collection will grow until it includes almost every crop strain in existence - as many as 1.5 million different seed types. Assembling this collection will mean taking delivery of millions upon millions of seeds, all carefully selected by the local and national seed banks that own them.

Sumatran deforestation driving climate change and species extinction, report warns

The destruction of Sumatra's natural forests is accelerating global climate change and pushing endangered species closer to extinction, a new report warned today.

A study from WWF claims that converting the forests and peat swamps of just one Sumatran province into plantations for pulpwood and palm oil is generating more annual greenhouse gas emissions than the Netherlands, and is endangering local elephant and tiger populations.

Dave Lindorff: The Welch Whitewash: We Still Don't Know What That Aug. 30 Nuke Incident Was About

A new report on the August 30 incident in which six nuclear-armed advanced cruise missiles were effectively "lost" for 36 hours, during which time they were, against all regulations, flown in launch position mounted on a pylon on the wing of a B-52H Stratofortress, from Minot AFB in North Dakota across the continental U.S. to Barksdale AFB in Louisiana, has left unanswered some critical questions about the event.

McCain Withheld Controversial Abramoff Email

On the stump, Sen. John McCain often cites his work tackling the excesses of disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff as evidence of his sturdy ethical compass.

A little-known document, however, shows that McCain may have taken steps to protect his Republican colleagues from the scope of his investigation.

In the 2006 Senate report concerning Abramoff's activities, which McCain spearheaded, the Arizona Republican conspicuously left out information detailing how Alabama Gov. Bob Riley was targeted by Abramoff's influence peddling scheme. Riley, a Republican, won election in November 2002, and was reelected in 2006.

As Inflation Rises, Home Values Slump, Data Show

Two worrisome trends for the economy — falling house prices and the rising cost of everything else — picked up speed in data reported on Tuesday, putting policy makers in an increasingly tough position.

If they move too aggressively to cut interest rates and stimulate the economy, they might stoke inflation at a time when consumers are already squeezed by higher prices for food, energy, clothing and other goods. But if they chose more austere measures, the economy may weaken substantially faster.

Bush: Clueless and Happy

By Dan Froomkin
Special to
Tuesday, February 26, 2008; 1:16 PM

President Bush last night delivered a buoyant campaign-style address to the 2008 Republican Governors Association Gala, once again raising the question of whether he has any idea what a drag he'll be on the Republican ticket.

Bush told big party donors that he is optimistic about the GOP's prospects -- as well as the verdict of history. "I don't know about you," he said, "but I'm confident we'll hold the White House in 2008. . .

"Our ideas are those embraced by the American people. American people want strong national defense and they want the government to protect the people from further attack, and that's precisely what Republicans will give them. Americans want lower taxes and less government, and it's precisely what Republicans will give them. Americans want strong, principled leadership, and that is precisely what Republicans will give them.

Panetta's Lament: They Had No Plan

The argument that the constant carping about Hillary Clinton’s campaign has been a function of an Obama-friendly, process-obsessed media is well and good. But how, then, to explain the deeply held dissatisfaction of an old Clinton loyalist like Leon Panetta?

In an interview with The Observer, Mr. Panetta compared Mrs. Clinton’s top strategist, Mark Penn, to Karl Rove, suggested that the Clinton campaign had totally underestimated Barack Obama’s appeal, and complained about the overall lack of planning that he said had characterized the former First Lady’s bid to return to the White House.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Banks Lose to Deadbeat Homeowners as Loans Sold in Bonds Vanish

Feb. 22 (Bloomberg) -- Joe Lents hasn't made a payment on his $1.5 million mortgage since 2002.

That's when Washington Mutual Inc. first tried to foreclose on his home in Boca Raton, Florida. The Seattle-based lender failed to prove that it owned Lents's mortgage note and dropped attempts to take his house. Subsequent efforts to foreclose have stalled because no one has produced the paperwork.

Confidence plunges, inflation rate soars

Tue Feb 26, 3:59 PM ET

In more bad economic news, consumer confidence and home prices posted sharp declines while higher costs for such basics as food and energy left wholesale inflation rising at the fastest pace in a quarter-century.

The new reports Tuesday raised the threat of a return of "stagflation," the economic curse of the 1970s in which economic growth stagnates at the same time that inflation continues racing ahead.

The 1 percent January jump in wholesale prices was led by a surge in the prices of energy, food and prescription drugs and followed a report last week that consumer prices had risen by a bigger-than-expected 0.4 percent because of price pressures in the same areas.

US foreclosures up 57% in January

The number of homes facing foreclosure in the US rose 57% in January compared with the same month of 2007.

Exactly 233,001 homes received at least one notice about overdue payments last month, compared with 148,425 in January 2007, US property site RealtyTrac said.

There was a 90% increase in the number of houses being repossessed by banks compared with January 2007.

Afghanistan: The Brutal and Unnecessary War the Media Aren't Telling You About

By Joshua Holland, AlterNet
Posted on February 26, 2008, Printed on February 26, 2008

They say journalists provide the first draft of history. With the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan, that draft led to an almost universal consensus, at least among Americans, that the attack was a justifiable act of self-defense. The Afghanistan action is commonly viewed as a "clean" conflict as well -- a war prosecuted with minimal loss of life, and one that didn't bring the kind of international opprobrium onto the United States that the invasion of Iraq would lead to a year later.

Those views are also held by many Americans who are critical of the excesses of the Bush administration's "War on Terror." But there's a disconnect there. Everything that followed -- secret detentions, torture, the invasion of Iraq, the assault on domestic dissent -- flowed inevitably from the failure to challenge Bush's claim that an act of terror required a military response. The United States has a rich history of abandoning its purported liberal values during times of war, and it was our acceptance of Bush's war narrative that led to the abuses that have shattered America's moral standing before the world.

Monday, February 25, 2008

US in Recession, Set to Worsen, Says Investor Rogers

The United States economy is already in recession and is set for a further slowdown with the dollar expected to remain under pressure, investment guru Jim Rogers said on Monday.

Last week the U.S. central bank sharply lowered its forecast for U.S. economic growth in 2008 and said it was worried the economy could face further setbacks even after a series of aggressive interest rate cuts.

"The U.S. is in recession," Rogers told reporters on a visit to Dublin. "It is going to get worse."

Texas School Board Showdown

The religious right has long coveted control of the Texas State Board of Education. There are many reasons, but one of them is the disproportionate influence of Texas in purchasing textbooks. For decades, Texas-based religious right activists have wielded national influence in because of the sheer purchasing power of the Texas schools. The state board has say over what books will be approved for use in the state's public schools, and the religious right has been a powerful lobby. Now, however, the religious right is within striking distance of outright control of the 15 member board.

The Scandal That Nearly Destroyed John McCain

By Stephen Pizzo, News for Real
Posted on February 25, 2008, Printed on February 25, 2008

Way back in 1988 my co-authors and I were putting the final touches to our book, Inside Job: The Looting of America's Savings and Loans when someone slipped us a plain brown envelop. Inside was a transcript of a meeting between thrift regulators and five US senators who had interceded on behalf of Arizona S&L owner Charles Keating. At the time the regulators were warning that Keating's thrift, Lincoln Savings and Loan, was dangerously insolvent and that Keating and his cohorts -- including then junk bond king, Mike Milken, were robbing the federally-insured thrift blind -- or, more precisely, robbing the US taxpayers blind.

Keating had been generous in sharing his new-found wealth with the five senators, particularly his two Arizona senators, John McCain and Dennis DeConcini. They became known as "The Keating Five."

The Three Trillion Dollar War

By Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes, The Times of London UK
Posted on February 25, 2008, Printed on February 25, 2008

The Bush Administration was wrong about the benefits of the war and it was wrong about the costs of the war. The president and his advisers expected a quick, inexpensive conflict. Instead, we have a war that is costing more than anyone could have imagined.

The cost of direct US military operations -- not even including long-term costs such as taking care of wounded veterans -- already exceeds the cost of the 12-year war in Vietnam and is more than double the cost of the Korean War.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Greenway: Echoes of 'Nam

Forty years ago this week, as twilight fell over the Republic of South Vietnam, I was lying on a stretcher in the rain outside a military hospital on a base near Hue. There were so many casualties that day that we had to wait our turn for overworked and overwhelmed doctors to attend to us.

The surgeon who eventually operated on me was furious - furious that he had been told to treat Americans first, leaving our South Vietnamese allies out in the rain.

It was the Tet Offensive, the turning point in the war. For it was Tet that brought the United States to sue for peace, and President Lyndon B. Johnson to give up running for another term. Negotiations dragged on and on, and seven years later it was all over.

Frank Rich: The Audacity of Hopelessness

WHEN people one day look back at the remarkable implosion of the Hillary Clinton campaign, they may notice that it both began and ended in the long dark shadow of Iraq.

It’s not just that her candidacy’s central premise — the priceless value of “experience” — was fatally poisoned from the start by her still ill-explained vote to authorize the fiasco. Senator Clinton then compounded that 2002 misjudgment by pursuing a 2008 campaign strategy that uncannily mimicked the disastrous Bush Iraq war plan. After promising a cakewalk to the nomination — “It will be me,” Mrs. Clinton told Katie Couric in November — she was routed by an insurgency.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Glenn Greenwald: McConnell/Mukasey: Eavesdropping outside of FISA is "illegal"

The White House yesterday escalated its most brazen, Orwellian campaign of the last eight years -- shrilly accusing House Democrats of jeopardizing the nation's security by allowing the Protect America Act to expire even though it's the President and House Republicans who blocked any extensions of that law. As the Associated Press pointed out at the bottom of its story:

McConnell acknowledged last week that the White House's refusal to extend the wiretapping law was meant to pressure Congress to pass the Senate bill.
Ponder what it says about our press corps that the White House knows it can (a) block all attempts to extend the PAA and then (b) spend the next several weeks blaming Democrats for helping the Terrorists by allowing the PAA to expire. I know I've made that point before, but this one is so brazen, so transparent and audacious, that it just hasn't yet ceased to amaze.

Moyers: Political pork and the military-industrial complex

PBS' Bill Moyers Journal profiles Seattle Times investigative reporters David Heath and Hal Bernton in their investigation of congressional earmarks, and their recipients, in the Pacific Northwest.

So far this year, members of Congress have appropriated 12,881 earmarks for "pet projects," some to be conducted by campaign contributors, which would cost taxpayers over $18 billion.

The Real Story Behind Kosovo's Independence

By Jeremy Scahill, AlterNet
Posted on February 23, 2008, Printed on February 23, 2008

News Flash: The Bush administration acknowledges there is a such thing as international law.

But, predictably, it is not being invoked to address the US prison camps at Guantanamo, the wide use of torture, the invasion and occupation of sovereign countries, the extraordinary rendition program. No, it is being thrown out forcefully as a condemnation of the Serbian government in the wake of Thursday's attack by protesters on the US embassy in Belgrade following the Bush administration's swift recognition of the declaration of independence by the southern Serbian province of Kosovo. Some 1,000 protesters broke away from a largely non-violent mass demonstration in downtown Belgrade and targeted the embassy. Some protesters actually made it into the compound, setting a fire and tearing down the American flag.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Michael Kinsley: Defining Victory Downward

No, the surge is not a success.

By Michael Kinsley
Why was President Bush's decision a year ago to send another 30,000 troops to Iraq called the "surge"? I don't know who invented this label, but the word surge evokes images of the sea: a wave that sweeps in, and then sweeps back out again. The second part was crucial. What made the surge different from your ordinary troop deployment was that it was temporary. In fact, the surge was presented as part of a larger plan for troop withdrawal. It was also, implicitly, part of a deal between Bush and the majority of Americans who want out. The deal was: Just let me have a few more soldiers to get Baghdad under control, and then everybody, or almost everybody, can pack up and come home.

In other words: You have to increase the troops in order to reduce them. This is so perverse on its face that it begins to sound zenlike and brilliant, like something out of Sun Tzu's The Art of War. And in Gen. David Petraeus, the administration conjured up its own Sun Tzu, a brilliant military strategist.

Today's Must Read

It still remains to be seen whether yesterday's New York Times piece will be the last word on John McCain's relationship with Vicki Iseman. For now, the Times quoted anonymous aides saying that they'd suspected there was an affair ongoing; McCain denies that there was.

But remember that the Times piece ran under the memorably lame headline, "For McCain, Self-Confidence on Ethics Poses Its Own Risk." There's a broader point there. Set aside the issue of the nature of his relationship with Iseman, and you have the undeniable conflict of McCain, the chest-beating reformer, being so undeniably close to lobbyists. That, many have pointed out, is the real story. The man who's absurdly proclaimed that "I’m the only one the special interests don’t give any money to" is surrounded by lobbyists.

Some inconvenient truths, conveniently locked in a safe

Joseph L. Galloway | McClatchy Newspapers
last updated: February 22, 2008 08:31:51 AM

One of the great strengths of the American Army that was reborn in the wake of the disastrous Vietnam War has been a rigorous After-Action Review and Lessons Learned process that’s conducted after field training exercises and battlefield combat.

Not even two- and three-star generals are exempt from standing up and acknowledging their failures in the Army’s Battle Command Training Program (BCTP), where brigade, division and corps command groups test their skills at planning and conducting major operations in computer war games. A wily opposition force (OpFor) staff does its best to make life miserable for those being tested, much as a real enemy would on the battlefield.

If a general overlooks one or two of his mistakes, an OpFor colonel follows him to the stage and points them out for him.

Tomgram: Karen Greenberg, Barbarism Lite

According to the New Yorker's Paul Kramer, here's what A.F. Miller of the 32nd Volunteer Infantry Regiment wrote in a letter to the Omaha World-Herald in May 1900 from the Philippines about the treatment of a prisoner taken by his unit: "Now, this is the way we give them the water cure. Lay them on their backs, a man standing on each hand and each foot, then put a round stick in the mouth and pour a pail of water in the mouth and nose, and if they don't give up pour in another pail. They swell up like toads. I'll tell you it is a terrible torture."

One American was indeed finally brought to trial for the widespread use of "the water cure" in the Philippines at the turn of the previous century as the Filipino insurgency was suppressed. Captain Edwin Glenn, a judge advocate, supervised such a torture session. For this, he was convicted and sentenced to a "one-month suspension and a fifty-dollar fine." He retired from the Army in 1919 as a brigadier general.

Paul Krugman: Don’t Rerun That ’70s Show

Will the next president be the second coming of Jimmy Carter? Given Thursday’s economic headlines, full of dire warnings about the return of 1970s-style stagflation, you might think so.

Realistically, though, the parallels between the problems facing the U.S. economy now and those of the late-1970s aren’t that strong. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that the economy probably will look similar to, but worse than, the economy that undid the first President Bush. And it’s all too easy to see how the next president could suffer a political fate resembling that of both the elder Mr. Bush and Mr. Carter.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Exclusive: U.S. urges Pakistanis to keep Musharraf, despite election defeat

Jonathan S. Landay and Warren P. Strobel | McClatchy Newspapers
last updated: February 21, 2008 03:02:37 PM

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan _The Bush administration is pressing the opposition leaders who defeated Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf to allow the former general to retain his position, a move that Western diplomats and U.S. officials say could trigger the very turmoil the United States seeks to avoid.

U.S. officials, from President Bush on down, said this week that they think Musharraf, a longtime U.S. ally, should continue to play a role, despite his party's rout in parliamentary elections Monday and his unpopularity in the volatile, nuclear-armed nation.

When Change Is Not Enough

By Sara Robinson

February 20th, 2008 - 6:01pm ET

"Those who make peaceful evolution impossible make violent revolution inevitable."

— John F. Kennedy

There's one thing for sure: 2008 isn't anything like politics as usual.

The corporate media (with their unerring eye for the obvious point) is fixated on the narrative that, for the first time ever, Americans will likely end this year with either a woman or a black man headed for the White House. Bloggers are telling stories from the front lines of primaries and caucuses that look like something from the early 60s — people lining up before dawn to vote in Manoa, Hawaii yesterday; a thousand black college students in Prairie View, Texas marching 10 miles to cast their early votes in the face of a county that tried to disenfranchise them. In recent months, we've also been gobstopped by the sheer passion of the insurgent campaigns of both Barack Obama and Ron Paul, both of whom brought millions of new voters into the conversation — and with them, a sharp critique of the status quo and a new energy that's agitating toward deep structural change.

Fed Sharply Reduces Forecast for Growth

WASHINGTON — The Federal Reserve, for all its power, faces tough new limits on its ability to keep the economy out of a recession this year.

Even as Fed officials ratchet down their forecasts, acknowledging that growth will be almost stagnant in the first six months of this year, investors are pushing up long-term interest rates and mortgage rates out of fears about bad debt and rising inflation.

On Wednesday, the central bank disclosed that Fed policy makers now expect the United States economy to expand between 1.3 percent and 2 percent in 2008. That would be the slowest growth in five years.

Conservative blogs, talk shows attack world-poverty bill — and Obama

Les Blumenthal | McClatchy Newspapers
last updated: February 20, 2008 07:24:40 PM

WASHINGTON — It isn't a high-profile bill, but the Global Poverty Act has lit up the conservative blogosphere, and even Rush Limbaugh has gotten into the act.

Quietly approved by the House of Representatives last fall with bipartisan support, the bill, sponsored by Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., would require the president to develop and implement a comprehensive strategy to help reduce extreme global poverty.

Conservative critics, including Limbaugh, Tony Perkins — who heads the Family Research Council — and others, claim that the measure would cost U.S. taxpayers $845 billion over the next dozen or so years. They also charge that it would tie the United States to the United Nations Millennium Declaration, which, among others things, calls for banning "small arms and light weapons" and ratifying the Kyoto global-warming treaty, the International Criminal Court Treaty and the Convention on Biological Diversity.

For McCain, Self-Confidence on Ethics Poses Its Own Risk

WASHINGTON — Early in Senator John McCain’s first run for the White House eight years ago, waves of anxiety swept through his small circle of advisers.

A female lobbyist had been turning up with him at fund-raisers, visiting his offices and accompanying him on a client’s corporate jet. Convinced the relationship had become romantic, some of his top advisers intervened to protect the candidate from himself — instructing staff members to block the woman’s access, privately warning her away and repeatedly confronting him, several people involved in the campaign said on the condition of anonymity.

Subprime Is Really SubCRIME: America's Deeper Financial Crisis

By Danny Schechter, AlterNet
Posted on February 21, 2008, Printed on February 21, 2008

At long last, the Democrats are talking about the economy and the need for serious relief and reforms. The reason is simple. The people are feeling the squeeze.

Reports the Baltimore Sun:

"Since January alone, the public's perception about the state of the economy has plummeted -- with just 17 percent calling the nation's economy excellent or good -- down from 26 percent last month. The percentage rating the economy poor has grown from 28 to 45 percent."

Gitmo Trials Rigged from the Start

By Ross Tuttle, The Nation
Posted on February 21, 2008, Printed on February 21, 2008

Secret evidence. Denial of habeas corpus. Evidence obtained by waterboarding. Indefinite detention. The litany of complaints about the legal treatment of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay is long, disturbing and by now familiar. Nonetheless, a new wave of shock and criticism greeted the Pentagon's announcement on February 11 that it was charging six Guantánamo detainees, including alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, with war crimes -- and seeking the death penalty for all of them.

As the murky, quasi-legal staging of the Bush Administration's military commissions unfolds, a key official has told The Nation that the trials are rigged from the start. According to Col. Morris Davis, former chief prosecutor for Guantánamo's military commissions, the process has been manipulated by Administration appointees in an attempt to foreclose the possibility of acquittal.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Digby: Arrogance Express

Back in the 2000 campaign when St John the Flyboy was every journalist's favorite pol, a story emerged about him major sending letters on behalf of a contributor, Paxson Communications, to the FCC.

When The Boston Globe disclosed the Paxson intervention a few weeks after the Claremont summit, McCain handled the disclosure with aplomb, even chutzpah. The chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee argued that he had done nothing wrong and that the suspicion falling on him only reinforced his argument for campaign finance reform.

Greenland's rising air temperatures drive ice loss at surface and beyond

A new NASA study confirms that the surface temperature of Greenland's massive ice sheet has been rising, stoked by warming air temperatures, and fueling loss of the island's ice at the surface and throughout the mass beneath.

Concerns over Economy Push George W. Bush's Overall Job Approval to New Low

George W. Bush's overall job approval rating has dropped to a new low in American Research Group polling as 78% of Americans say that the national economy is getting worse according to the latest survey from the American Research Group.

Among all Americans, 19% approve of the way Bush is handling his job as president and 77% disapprove. When it comes to Bush's handling of the economy, 14% approve and 79% disapprove.

Among Americans registered to vote, 18% approve of the way Bush is handling his job as president and 78% disapprove. When it comes to the way Bush is handling the economy, 15% of registered voters approve of the way Bush is handling the economy and 79% disapprove.

McCain: Weak on Terrorism, Strong on Dictators Who Exploit the U.S.

By Spencer Ackerman 02/20/2008 09:49AM

Juan Cole unpacks McCain’s Pakistan comments from last night over at Informed Comment. As the kids say, read the whole thing. But, really, let’s get into this:

[W]ill we risk the confused leadership of an inexperienced candidate who once suggested invading our ally, Pakistan, and sitting down without pre-conditions or clear purpose with enemies who support terrorists and are intent on destabilizing the world by acquiring nuclear weapons?
Obama said that if he had actionable intelligence about the whereabouts of al-Qaeda’s senior leadership, who are in the tribal areas of Pakistan, he’s wiping them off the face of the earth.

Oil pushes past $101 on Fed view

By JOHN WILEN, AP Business Writer
Wed Feb 20, 5:19 PM ET

Oil futures rallied again Wednesday, pushing briefly past $101 a barrel after the Federal Reserve lowered its forecast for economic growth this year, convincing energy investors that the central bank will slash interest rates further. At the pump, meanwhile, gas prices rose another 2 cents overnight.

The Fed said damage from the housing slump and problems in the credit markets will slow economic growth to between 1.3 percent and 2 percent this year, down from a previous forecast for GDP growth of between 1.8 percent and 2.5 percent.

The Bonus Army

The creeping monetization of military service.

The U.S. Army is having such a hard time recruiting new soldiers that it is about to offer a truly breathtaking incentive to high-school graduates who sign up—a $40,000 signing bonus, to be applied to buying a home or starting a business after their service is complete.

This comes on top of standard-dipping measures that the Army has recently had to take to meet its enlistment targets—accepting more dropouts, more criminals, and more people who score poorly on aptitude tests.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Low unemployment rate hides rise in long-term jobless

Kevin G. Hall | McClatchy Newspapers
last updated: February 19, 2008 12:39:40 PM

WASHINGTON — Bill Clinton's campaign famously defined the 1992 election with the phrase, "It's the economy, stupid." Today, "It's the jobs, stupid."

The latest employment figures, released in late January, showed a 52-month streak of job creation ending with a loss of 17,000 jobs in January. The Bush administration acknowledged the contraction, but pointed to the national unemployment rate of 4.9 percent to say that the labor market wasn't a harbinger of recession.

A closer look at unemployment data by McClatchy, however, found that jobless Americans are spending more time looking for work and that those who can't find work now make up a greater share of the unemployed.

Getting Past the '60s? It's Not Going to Happen.

By Rick Perlstein
Sunday, February 3, 2008; B01

O ne of the most fascinating notions raised by the current presidential campaign is the idea that the United States can and must finally overcome the divisions of the 1960s. It's most often associated with the ascendancy of Sen. Barack Obama, who has been known to entertain it himself. Its most gauzy champion is pundit Andrew Sullivan, who argued in a cover article in the December Atlantic Monthly that, "If you are an American who yearns to finally get beyond the symbolic battles of the Boomer generation and face today's actual problems, Obama may be your man."

No offense to either Obama or Sullivan, but: No he isn't. No one is.

I realized that when I read this e-mail from a friend, a passionate Obama supporter who's a veteran of the anti-Vietnam War movement: "Who are you supporting for prez? You know my feelings -- and my son has been working 16-hr days for him up in NH. Kind of like his 60s . . ."

Researchers link car exhaust fumes to heart attacks

City pollution from car exhausts could be causing heart damage, say scientists, who have also found increasing evidence linking smoke from fires and tobacco to heart attacks, cardiovascular disease and clogged arteries.

Speaking at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting in Boston, researchers argued that more regulation was needed to curb the potential harms of pollution.

US banks quietly borrow massive amounts from Federal Reserve

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Banks in the United States have been quietly borrowing "massive amounts" from the U.S. Federal Reserve in recent weeks, using a new measure the Fed introduced two months ago to help ease the credit crunch, according to a report on the web site of The Financial Times.

The newspaper said the use of the Fed's Term Auction Facility (TAF), which allows banks to borrow at relatively attractive rates against a wide range of their assets, saw borrowing of nearly $50 billion of one-month funds from the Fed by mid-February.

Bush’s IRS Wants to Make Your Tax Returns Public

A new article from the Philadelphia Inquirer has blown open the startling plans of the IRS to allow tax preparers for the first time to sell the tax returns of their customers.

The proposal came in a painfully technical tax regulation, which until now had attracted only a dozen public comments since it was announced in December. The proposal calls itself “not a significant regulatory action.” But the proposal is indeed significant, both for tax privacy and more broadly.

Homeland Security Won't Explain Why the Mexican Border Wall Bypasses the Rich and Connected

By Melissa del Bosque , Texas Observer
Posted on February 19, 2008, Printed on February 19, 2008

As the U.S. Department of Homeland Security marches down the Texas border serving condemnation lawsuits to frightened landowners, Brownsville resident Eloisa Tamez, 72, has one simple question. She would like to know why her land is being targeted for destruction by a border wall, while a nearby golf course and resort remain untouched.

Tamez, a nursing director at the University of Texas at Brownsville, is one of the last of the Spanish land grant heirs in Cameron County. Her ancestors once owned 12,000 acres. In the 1930s, the federal government took more than half of her inherited land, without paying a cent, to build flood levees.

Court rejects ACLU challenge to wiretaps

The Supreme Court dealt a setback Tuesday to civil rights and privacy advocates who oppose the Bush administration's warrantless wiretapping program. The justices, without comment, turned down an appeal from the American Civil Liberties Union to let it pursue a lawsuit against the program that began shortly after the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

The action underscored the difficulty of mounting a challenge to the eavesdropping, which remains classified and was confirmed by President Bush only after a newspaper article revealed its existence.

"It's very disturbing that the president's actions will go unremarked upon by the court," said Jameel Jaffer, director of the ACLU's national security project. "In our view, it shouldn't be left to executive branch officials alone to determine the limits."

Monday, February 18, 2008

Paul Krugman: Poverty Is Poison

“Poverty in early childhood poisons the brain.” That was the opening of an article in Saturday’s Financial Times, summarizing research presented last week at the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

As the article explained, neuroscientists have found that “many children growing up in very poor families with low social status experience unhealthy levels of stress hormones, which impair their neural development.” The effect is to impair language development and memory — and hence the ability to escape poverty — for the rest of the child’s life.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Clinton Rules, 2008 edition

- by Dave

We've known for a couple of years that the "Clinton Rules" of journalism would be in full effect this election cycle. What's been amusing has been watching its very practitioners -- the Beltway Village Idiots -- defending those rules by claiming, as they always do, they're perfectly appropriate because the Clintons, you know, really are Awful People.

But don't be fooled. The "Clinton Rules" really don't just apply to the Clintons. Barack Obama and his followers will be discovering this soon enough.

Frank Rich: The Grand Old White Party Confronts Obama

THE curse continues. Regardless of party, it’s hara-kiri for a politician to step into the shadow of even a mediocre speech by Barack Obama.

Senator Obama’s televised victory oration celebrating his Chesapeake primary trifecta on Tuesday night was a mechanical rehash. No matter. When the networks cut from the 17,000-plus Obama fans cheering at a Wisconsin arena to John McCain’s victory tableau before a few hundred spectators in the Old Town district of Alexandria, Va., it was a rerun of what happened to Hillary Clinton the night she lost Iowa. Senator McCain, backed by a collection of sallow-faced old Beltway pols, played the past to Mr. Obama’s here and now. Mr. McCain looked like a loser even though he, unlike Senator Clinton, had actually won.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Why Now?

The timing of the Guantanamo trials is not an accident.

By Charles Swift
Posted Friday, Feb. 15, 2008, at 4:28 PM ET

During the course of my career as a defense lawyer in the military, I've shrugged off many government conspiracy theories. Each time I heard one, I'd smile and say that one should never attribute to a vast government conspiracy acts that can be as readily attributed to mere government incompetence or accident. So, I did not initially assume any concerted plan or purpose behind recent activities at Guantanamo Bay.

But the government's latest moves in the ongoing battle over the legality of its detention policies are anything but incompetent, and they've forced me to reassess my initial conclusion: The decision to try six Guantanamo detainees using military commissions is very clearly part of a concerted effort to use the Guantanamo commissions to subvert the goals of justice and to maintain a veil of secrecy around its questionable interrogation policies.

Study's look at oceans is sobering

Researchers from UNC-CH and elsewhere find that human influences are pervasive and harmful
Despite the oceans' vast expanse across 70 percent of the Earth, their every reach is affected by human activities, a new study by researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and others says.

The study, published today in the journal Science, says that over 40 percent of the world's oceans are suffering from multiple human influences, including overfishing, pollution, climate change and commercial shipping traffic. And no part of the deep blue sea is entirely unaffected, the scientists found.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Jihadis throw a wild bash over the Protect America Act

What can one even say about this quote, included in Carl Hulse's NYT article on the Democrats' refusal yesterday to pass the Senate's FISA bill before expiration of the Protect America Act:

"I think there is probably joy throughout the terrorist cells throughout the world that the United States Congress did not do its duty today," said Representative Ted Poe, Republican of Texas.
This is the kind of pure, unadulterated idiocy -- childish, cartoonish and creepy -- that Democrats for years have been allowing to bully them into submission, govern our country, and dismantle our Constitution.

Parental intervention boosts education of kids at high risk of failure

An eight-week-long intervention program aimed at parents from low socioeconomic backgrounds reaped significant educational benefits in their preschool-aged children, a University of Oregon research fellow reported today at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Can Dean defuse Clinton-Obama delegate feud?

David Lightman | McClatchy Newspapers
last updated: February 15, 2008 11:57:29 AM

WASHINGTON — Howard Dean, at least on paper, should be the power broker best positioned to get the Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama people behind closed doors and resolve their fight over contested delegates from Florida and Michigan, which threatens to rupture the party.

But in this tense time, when Democrats are whispering and wondering about whether there's a wise man or woman out there who could step in and break the presidential candidates' deadlock, the Democratic Party chairman isn't being widely considered as a natural for that role.

Gore warns on 'subprime carbon' industry

Gore Warns Major Investors at UN Forum That 'Subprime Carbon Assets' Will Prove Costly

Feb 14, 2008 18:52 EST

Al Gore advised Wall Street leaders and institutional investors Thursday to ditch businesses too reliant on carbon-intensive energy — or prepare for huge losses down the road.

"You need to really scrub your investment portfolios, because I guarantee you — as my longtime good redneck friends in Tennessee say, I guarandamntee you — that if you really take a fine-tooth comb and go through your portfolios, many of you are going to find them chock-full of subprime carbon assets," the former vice president said.

Paul Krugman: A Crisis of Faith

A decade ago, during the last global financial crisis, the word on everyone’s lips was “contagion.” Troubles that began in a far-away country of which most people knew nothing (Thailand) eventually spread to much bigger countries with no obvious connection to Southeast Asia, like Russia and Brazil.

Today, we’re witnessing another kind of contagion, not so much across countries as across markets. Troubles that began a little over a year ago in an obscure corner of the financial system, BBB-minus subprime-mortgage-backed securities, have spread to corporate bonds, auto loans, credit cards and now — the latest casualty — student loans.

US consumer confidence plummets

Confidence among US consumers has fallen to a 16-year low, as fears grow about a recession and job cuts, a closely-watched survey has found.

The University of Michigan index of consumer sentiment fell to 69.6 in February, from 78.4 in January.

The report said the index had only been this low during past recessions.

Monsanto U: Agribusiness's Takeover of Public Schools

By Nancy Scola, AlterNet
Posted on February 15, 2008, Printed on February 15, 2008

I've startled a bug scientist. "Yeah, now I'm nervous," said Mike Hoffmann, a Cornell University entomologist and crop specialist who spends his days with cucumber beetles and small wasps. But he's also in charge of keeping the research funding flowing at Cornell's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. What have I done to alarm him? I've drawn his attention to the newly released FY 2009 Presidential Budget.

Like more than a hundred public institutions of higher learning, Cornell is what's known as a "land grant." Dotting the United States from Ithaca, N.Y., to Pullman, Wash., such schools were established by a Civil War-era act of Congress to provide universities centered around, "the agriculture and mechanic arts." Congress handed each U.S. state a chunk of federal land to be sold for start-up monies, and for the last 150 years, it has funded ground-breaking research on all things agriculture, from dirt to crops to cattle.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Half-a-Loaf Stimulus


[posted online on February 13, 2008]

The $168 billion stimulus package signed by President Bush today will provide a needed boost to a struggling US economy. The size and timing are right. Unfortunately, however, the Administration and its Congressional allies rejected the consensus opinion of economists and insisted on provisions that make the package about half as effective as it could have been. Those shortcomings should be addressed in a follow-up plan built on sound economic reasoning, rather than political favors and ideology.

First, the good news: the bulk of the money will flow directly to low- and middle-income Americans in the spring or early summer. They will receive checks ranging from a few hundred to several thousand dollars, depending on family size and income. Not all of this money will find its way directly into the economy--as much as half may be socked away in savings or used to pay off debt--but what is spent will help preserve jobs and slow the economy's accelerating downward spiral.

Tomgram: Jonathan Schwarz, Bill Kristol's Obscure Masterpiece

As Eric Alterman has written, he's the "journalist" of "perpetual wrongness" (as well as an "apparatchik" of the first order and a "right-wing holy warrior"). And for that, he's perpetually hired or published: Fox News, the Washington Post op-ed page, Time Magazine, and most recently, the New York Times where, in his very first column, he made a goof that had to be corrected at the bottom of column two (and where, with his usual perspicacity when it comes to the future, he predicted an Obama victory in the New Hampshire primary). Liberal websites devote time to listing his many mistakes and mis-predictions. In a roiling mass of neocons, right-wingers, and liberal war hawks, he's certainly been in fierce competition for the title of "wrongest" of all when it came to the invasion and occupation of Iraq. ("Iraq's always been very secular…") I hardly have to spell out the name of He Who Strides Amongst Us, the editor of Rupert Murdoch's Weekly Standard. But, okay, for the one person on the planet who doesn't know -- it's Bill Kristol. The notorious Mr. Kristol, the man whose crystal ball never works.

US military accused of harboring fundamentalism

The title doesn't accurately describe the point of the article, in my opinion.--Dictynna

by Roland Lloyd Parry
Thu Feb 14, 9:04 AM ET

Since his last combat deployment in Iraq, Jeremy Hall has had a rough time, getting shoved and threatened by his fellow soldiers. The trouble started there when he would not pray in the mess hall.

"A senior ranking staff sergeant told me to leave and sit somewhere else because I refused to pray," Hall, a 23-year-old US army specialist, told AFP.

Later, Hall was confronted by a major for holding an authorized meeting of "atheists and freethinkers" on his base. The officer threatened to discipline him and block his re-enlistment.

"He said: 'You guys are being a problem and problems can be removed,'" Hall said. "He was yelling at us and stuff and at the very end he says, 'I really love you guys, I want you to see the light.'"

Predatory Lenders' Partner in Crime

How the Bush Administration Stopped the States From Stepping In to Help Consumers

By Eliot Spitzer
Thursday, February 14, 2008; A25

Several years ago, state attorneys general and others involved in consumer protection began to notice a marked increase in a range of predatory lending practices by mortgage lenders. Some were misrepresenting the terms of loans, making loans without regard to consumers' ability to repay, making loans with deceptive "teaser" rates that later ballooned astronomically, packing loans with undisclosed charges and fees, or even paying illegal kickbacks. These and other practices, we noticed, were having a devastating effect on home buyers. In addition, the widespread nature of these practices, if left unchecked, threatened our financial markets.

Even though predatory lending was becoming a national problem, the Bush administration looked the other way and did nothing to protect American homeowners. In fact, the government chose instead to align itself with the banks that were victimizing consumers.

Fed boss warns of weaker economy

Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke has warned that the outlook for the US economy is deteriorating.

He said the housing and credit market turmoil had hit the economy and added that a weak labour market could further undermine consumer spending.

Given the risks facing the economy, Mr Bernanke signalled that additional US interest rate cuts were likely.

How America Can Be a Superpower the World Respects

By Jason Marsh, Greater Good
Posted on February 13, 2008, Printed on February 14, 2008

An interview with foreign policy expert Anne-Marie Slaughter by Jason Marsh.

"World's only superpower" -- that's the title bestowed on the United States for the last two decades. It has a nice ring to it, but what does it mean today?

"Measured by economic statistics and military might, our power is greater than ever," writes foreign policy expert Anne-Marie Slaughter in her recent book, The Idea That Is America. "But measured by the commonsense measure of whether we can get others to do what we want them to do, we have clearly lost ground since the Cold War."

Maude Barlow: The Growing Battle for the Right to Water

By Tara Lohan, AlterNet
Posted on February 14, 2008, Printed on February 14, 2008

From Chile to the Philippines to South Africa to her home country of Canada, Maude Barlow is one of a few people who truly understands the scope of the world's water woes. Her newest book, Blue Covenant: The Global Water Crisis and the Coming Battle for the Right to Water, details her discoveries around the globe about our diminishing water resources, the increasing privatization trend and the grassroots groups that are fighting back against corporate theft, government mismanagement and a changing climate.

Private RU-486 Confounds Anti-Abortionists: Who Can We Harass Now?

By Sara Robinson, Group News Blog
Posted on February 14, 2008, Printed on February 14, 2008

Don't look now, but the front lines of the abortion battle are shifting. Thanks to advances in medical technology and the introduction of the drug mifepristone (aka RU 486), which gives women the option of having safe, early abortions in private locations instead of public clinics, the raving crazies who tape pictures of bloody fetuses to their bodies, stalk Planned Parenthood and howl "murder" at anyone who walks through its doors, may suddenly find themselves all dressed up with nowhere to go -- and no one to terrorize.

Or, at the very least, if this mob of screeching would-be fetus rescuers wants to continue its brand of guerrilla warfare -- a decades-long face-down with abortion providers who have accepted the possibility that they'd be blown up at their desks or taken out by a sniper while sitting at their dinner tables as just another part of the job -- its self-righteous, lunatic members will have to work a lot harder.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

U.S. deficient against Muslim insurgents, study says

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The U.S. military is seriously deficient in meeting "the threat of Islamist insurgencies," says a Pentagon-commissioned study released Monday.

The Rand Corp. report characterizes "U.S. military intervention and occupation in the Muslim world" as "at best inadequate, at worst counter-productive, and, on the whole, infeasible." The Pentagon asked the nonprofit research organization to review strategies to thwart insurgents.

Mythbusting Canadian Healthcare, Part II: Debunking the Free Marketeers


In this follow-up, I'd like to address a few of the larger assumptions that Americans make about health care that are contradicted by the Canadian example. In the process, here is some general thinking, and some talking points, that may be useful in the debates ahead.

American pumps up Third World farmers' income

If there's a limit to what one person can do about Third World poverty, Paul Polak hasn't found it. For 25 years, he's been the Johnny Appleseed of the treadle pump, a simple foot-powered irrigation device that's enabled millions of farmers making $1 a day in places such as Bangladesh and Zambia to produce bigger crops and earn more.

PTSD a medical warning sign for long-term health problems

New Geisinger research finds that post-traumatic stress disorder is an indicator of long-term health problems, similar to biological warning signs such as elevated white blood cell counts. With an in-depth study of Vietnam vets, pioneering PTSD researcher Joseph Boscarino shows that PTSD leaves a distinct biological mark on a person's overall health. Considered a psychological or mental health problem, PTSD should now be viewed as a threat to a person's physical health, Boscarino concludes.

Mortgage Crisis Spreads Past Subprime Loans

The credit crisis is no longer just a subprime mortgage problem.

As home prices fall and banks tighten lending standards, people with good, or prime, credit histories are falling behind on their payments for home loans, auto loans and credit cards at a quickening pace, according to industry data and economists.

The rise in prime delinquencies, while less severe than the one in the subprime market, nonetheless poses a threat to the battered housing market and weakening economy, which some specialists say is in a recession or headed for one.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Carbon Capture Strategy Could Lead to Emission-Free Cars

ATLANTA (February 11, 2008) —Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have developed a strategy to capture, store and eventually recycle carbon from vehicles to prevent the pollutant from finding its way from a car tailpipe into the atmosphere. Georgia Tech researchers envision a zero emission car, and a transportation system completely free of fossil fuels.

Technologies to capture carbon dioxide emissions from large-scale sources such as power plants have recently gained some impressive scientific ground, but nearly two-thirds of global carbon emissions are created by much smaller polluters — automobiles, transportation vehicles and distributed industrial power generation applications (e.g., diesel power generators).

Bush Justice Department Goes After Another Democratic Lawyer (And Why This is Bad News for Yoo and Bradbury)

It’s beginning to sound like a stuck record. Another strike by the Bush Justice Department, keeping the country safe. Who’s the target this time? A crack dealer? An al Qaeda terrorist? No. It’s a wing-tip shoed Miami lawyer, who served as president of the bar association, is held in universally high esteem (outside, of course, of the political hacks who run the Bush Justice Department) and who advised Al Gore in the 2000 Florida recount battle. According to the Justice Department, the lawyer’s involvement with Democratic politics has nothing to do with his being charged. Quite a few of his contemporaries are having problems buying that, and still bigger problems understanding his supposed “crime.”

How the spooks took over the news

In his controversial new book, Nick Davies argues that shadowy intelligence agencies are pumping out black propaganda to manipulate public opinion – and that the media simply swallow it wholesale

The letter argued that al-Qa'ida, which is a Sunni network, should attack the Shia population of Iraq: "It is the only way to prolong the duration of the fight between the infidels and us. If we succeed in dragging them into a sectarian war, this will awaken the sleepy Sunnis."

Later that day, at a regular US press briefing in Baghdad, US General Mark Kimmitt dealt with a string of questions about The New York Times report: "We believe the report and the document is credible, and we take the report seriously... It is clearly a plan on the part of outsiders to come in to this country and spark civil war, create sectarian violence, try to expose fissures in this society." The story went on to news agency wires and, within 24 hours, it was running around the world.

Paul Krugman: Hate Springs Eternal

In 1956 Adlai Stevenson, running against Dwight Eisenhower, tried to make the political style of his opponent’s vice president, a man by the name of Richard Nixon, an issue. The nation, he warned, was in danger of becoming “a land of slander and scare; the land of sly innuendo, the poison pen, the anonymous phone call and hustling, pushing, shoving; the land of smash and grab and anything to win. This is Nixonland.”

The quote comes from “Nixonland,” a soon-to-be-published political history of the years from 1964 to 1972 written by Rick Perlstein, the author of “Before the Storm.” As Mr. Perlstein shows, Stevenson warned in vain: during those years America did indeed become the land of slander and scare, of the politics of hatred.

AP Scoop: War Veterans Make Up Half of Suicides At Home

Published: February 12, 2008 11:20 AM ET

WASHINGTON National Guard and Reserve troops who have fought in Iraq and Afghanistan make up more than half of veterans who committed suicide after returning home from those wars, according to new government data obtained by The Associated Press.

A Department of Veterans Affairs analysis of ongoing research of deaths among veterans of both wars -- obtained exclusively by The AP -- found that Guard or Reserve members were 53 percent of the veteran suicides from 2001, when the war in Afghanistan began, through the end of 2005.

Senate Protects Telecom Immunity in Spy Bill

By William Branigin and Paul Kane
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, February 12, 2008; 2:53 PM

The Senate voted today to preserve retroactive immunity from lawsuits for telecommunications companies that cooperated with a government eavesdropping program, decisively rejecting an amendment that would have stripped the provision from a bill to modernize an electronic surveillance law.

Senators voted 67 to 31 to shelve the amendment offered by Sens. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.) and Russell Feingold (D-Wis.). A filibuster-proof 60 votes had been needed for the amendment to move forward.

Christian Right's Emerging Deadly Worldview: Kill Muslims to Purify the Earth

By Chris Hedges, Truthdig
Posted on February 12, 2008, Printed on February 12, 2008

Walid Shoebat, Kamal Saleem and Zachariah Anani are the three stooges of the Christian right. These self-described former Muslim terrorists are regularly trotted out at Christian colleges -- a few days ago they were at the Air Force Academy -- to spew racist filth about Islam on behalf of groups such as Focus on the Family. It is a clever tactic. Curly, Larry and Mo, who all say they are born-again Christians, engage in hate speech and assure us it comes from personal experience. They tell their audiences that the only way to deal with one-fifth of the world's population is by converting or eradicating all Muslims. Their cant is broadcast regularly on Fox News, including the Bill O'Reilly and Neil Cavuto shows, as well as on numerous Christian radio and television programs. Shoebat, who has written a book called Why We Want to Kill You, promises in his lectures to explain the numerous similarities between radical Muslims and the Nazis, how "Muslim terrorists" invaded America 30 years ago and how "perseverance, recruitment and hate" have fueled attacks by Muslims.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Frank Rich: Next Up for the Democrats: Civil War

WHAT if a presidential candidate held what she billed as “the largest, most interactive town hall in political history” on national television, and no one noticed?

The untold story in the run-up to Super Tuesday was Hillary Clinton’s elaborate live prime-time special the night before the vote. Presiding from a studio in New York, the candidate took questions from audiences in 21 other cities. She had plugged the event four days earlier in the last gasp of her debate with Barack Obama and paid a small fortune for it: an hour of time on the Hallmark Channel plus satellite TV hookups for the assemblies of supporters stretching from coast to coast.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Job Growth Where Bush Didn’t Want It

IT is not exactly a distinction that he had in mind, but seven years into his presidency, George W. Bush is in line to be the first president since World War II to preside over an economy in which federal government employment rose more rapidly than employment in the private sector.

That is not because federal government jobs have risen at an unusually rapid rate over the last seven years — although the increase did reverse a substantial decline under Mr. Bush’s most recent predecessor, Bill Clinton.

The Chicken Doves

Quietly, while Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have been inspiring Democrats everywhere with their rolling bitchfest, congressional superduo Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi have completed one of the most awesome political collapses since Neville Chamberlain. At long last, the Democratic leaders of Congress have publicly surrendered on the Iraq War, just one year after being swept into power with a firm mandate to end it.

Solidifying his reputation as one of the biggest pussies in U.S. political history, Reid explained his decision to refocus his party's energies on topics other than ending the war by saying he just couldn't fit Iraq into his busy schedule. "We have the presidential election," Reid said recently. "Our time is really squeezed."

Friday, February 8, 2008

Congress passes stimulus package

WASHINGTON — Congress passed an economic stimulus bill Thursday that will give $600 to most individual taxpayers, $1,200 to couples and $300 to more than 20 million low-income seniors and disabled veterans.

President Bush said he'd sign the bill.

"This bill will help to stimulate consumer spending and accelerate needed business investment," Bush said. "This economic growth package is an example of bipartisan cooperation at a time when the American people most expect it."

Carbon burial buried

Energy department pulls the plug on FutureGen project.

The US Department of Energy has pulled out of a flagship project to build the first 'clean' coal-fired power plant in the United States, a move that will kill the project unless supporters can rouse Congress on its behalf.

The FutureGen project was intended to demonstrate technologies for capturing and burying carbon dioxide from coal-fuelled power plants; it was scheduled to begin operating in 2012. But its costs have nearly doubled to $1.8 billion in recent years, and last week the department pulled out of the deal after failing to reach a new funding agreement with its private partner, the FutureGen Industrial Alliance, which consists of more than a dozen energy companies. The energy department had been slated to pick up three-quarters of the bill for the 275-megawatt plant.

Paul Krugman: A Long Story

The economic news has been fairly dire this week. The credit crunch is getting worse, and a widely watched indicator of trends in the service sector — which is most of the economy — has fallen off a cliff. It’s still not a certainty that we’re headed into recession, but the odds are growing greater.

And if past experience is any guide, the troubles will persist for a long time — say, into the middle of 2010.

The problems now facing the U.S. economy look a lot like the problems that caused the last two recessions — but this time in combination.

Gene Lyons: U.S. can’t dominate world by force

Almost regardless of who wins the presidential nomination, there’s small likelihood of serious debate about the most crucial long-term foreign policy question facing the American people: Do we or do we not want to maintain a global empire by force of arms ? Or, to put it another way, what’s in it for us, as individual citizens, for the United States to maintain 800 military bases around the world ? Does the word “superpower” actually mean anything in today’s world ? Hardly anybody in the foreign policy establishment likes having it put that way. It strikes them as vulgar and reductive; hence, anybody who questions, for example, whether the United States really needs to spend almost twice as much on wars and weaponry as the rest of the world combined gets caricatured as a crackpot isolationist, the kind of person who, in the usual formulation, would have ignored Adolf Hitler’s military buildup in the 1930 s. Hence, too, a seemingly infinite procession of miniature “Hitlers” clanking along like targets in a carnival shooting gallery—Gadhafi, Noriega, Saddam, Ahmadinejad, etc. “Endless Enemies,” the late Jonathan Kwitny dubbed them in his 1984 book of that name. Subtitled “The Making of an Unfriendly World,” the onetime Wall Street Journal correspondent’s thesis was that the majority of America’s armed interventions in the Third World constituted a self-fulfilling prophecy guaranteeing more or less constant war.

Congress Votes for a Stimulus of $168 Billion

WASHINGTON — Moving with uncommon speed, Congress gave final approval on Thursday to a $168 billion economic rescue package, including rebates for taxpayers and tax breaks for businesses, that lawmakers and President Bush hope will set off a rush of springtime spending and spark the slowing economy.

A day after the Senate seemed mired in a partisan feud over a more expensive stimulus plan favored by Democrats, lawmakers cast that quarrel aside and approved a plan nearly identical to one the House adopted last week.

Mukasey: No, I Will Not Enforce Citations for Contempt of Congress

Just to complete the theme of the day, Michael Mukasey said today that if Congress passed contempt citations against current and former White House officials based on their refusal to respond to subpoenas, the Justice Department would not enforce them, as federal law instructs.

Rep. Robert Wexler (D-FL) was the one who first popped the question. If Congress passed a citation against White House chief of staff Josh Bolten, who, along with former White House counsel Harriet Miers and Karl Rove, refused to show up when subpoenaed by Congress as part of the U.S. attorneys investigation -- would the DoJ enforce it?

How Deep Will the Recession Go?

By John Miller, Dollars and Sense
Posted on February 8, 2008, Printed on February 8, 2008

It's not only radical economists and cyberspace Cassandras uttering the "r"-word nowadays. Just what are we to make of it when Harvard economists, The Economist magazine, and Morgan Stanley followed by Goldman Sachs and Merrill Lynch say the economy is headed toward, or already in, a recession?

You can bet the house, whatever its current value, that hard times are on the way -- more layoffs, fewer new jobs, lower wages, tighter family budgets, more debt, and higher poverty levels. This year will see rising economic hardship even if the U.S. economy scrapes by without sinking into an official recession, usually defined as two straight quarters of declining output.

FBI Deputizes Private Contractors With Extraordinary Powers, Including 'Shoot to Kill'

By Matthew Rothschild, The Progressive
Posted on February 8, 2008, Printed on February 8, 2008

Today, more than 23,000 representatives of private industry are working quietly with the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security. The members of this rapidly growing group, called InfraGard, receive secret warnings of terrorist threats before the public does -- and, at least on one occasion, before elected officials. In return, they provide information to the government, which alarms the ACLU. But there may be more to it than that. One business executive, who showed me his InfraGard card, told me they have permission to "shoot to kill" in the event of martial law. InfraGard is "a child of the FBI," says Michael Hershman, the chairman of the advisory board of the InfraGard National Members Alliance and CEO of the Fairfax Group, an international consulting firm.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Senate GOP Will Not Move on FISA Until Agreement on Stimulus Procedures

By Tim Starks, CQ Staff

Legislation to overhaul the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act remained stalled in the Senate Tuesday, held hostage by a partisan clash over procedures for consideration of an unrelated economic stimulus package.

A frustrated Majority Leader Harry Reid , D-Nev., complained that Republicans were blocking his efforts to schedule votes on proposed amendments to the bill (S 2248). He questioned Minority Leader Mitch McConnell ’s commitment to the legislation, saying Republicans have declined to allow FISA to move forward.

After the Non-Defeats of Super Tuesday, A Long Slog for the Democrats

CHICAGO, IL — By the time that Super Tuesday finally arrived, the mystery was long gone. The day that had loomed for so long had lost its melodramatic make-or-break status for the Democrats. Hours before the vote-counting began, the top strategists for Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were pitching the same line: the results would not be decisive and whoever ended up the winner would walk away with merely a small edge in delegates. And as the vote tallies started to come in, both campaigns declared non-defeat. That is, they each claimed to have done well. "Encouraging results," Mark Penn, Clinton's chief strategist said. "We're having a very strong night," said David Plouffe, Obama's campaign manager. Both were right.

The two campaigns had plenty of data to spin as the results materialized. Clinton triumphed in California (by an overwhelming margin), Massachusetts (where a big turnout in women negated that Kennedy magic), Arizona, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Arkansas. Obama won in Alabama, Alaska, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Delaware, Colorado, Kansas, Minnesota, North Dakota, Utah, Idaho, and Missouri. Last-minute deciders, Penn said, went for Clinton. "Momentum is turning," he insisted. Plouffe noted that Obama was competitive in regions across the nation, that he won the caucus states (showing the campaign's organizational talent), and that he captured states that did not permit independents to vote (Delaware and Connecticut). Clinton was the Queen of California. Obama was the Master of Missouri.

Democracy Now! looks at the real John McCain

Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman speaks to author Matt Welch on the subject of his book, McCain: The Myth of a Maverick. What is so striking is how this myth of being a maverick has continued long into his congressional career and is exhibited in the votes he’s receiving from the anti-war crowd despite being more pro-war than any other GOP candidate.

It’s really interesting that in the primaries so far, if you look at the exit polls, among people who voted in the GOP primaries who consider themselves antiwar, anti-the-Iraq-war, and among voters who consider themselves angry at George Bush—and that’s a quote—and among independents, McCain is beating his opponents by two-to-one. If you actually look at people who describe themselves as just Republicans, McCain has not yet won a single primary. So he is basically winning the GOP primaries on the back of the antiwar vote, when in fact he would be the most explicitly interventionist president since Teddy Roosevelt, and he certainly makes George Bush look gun-shy by comparison.

AP Confirms Secret Camp Inside Gitmo

Wednesday February 6, 2008 10:01 PM


Associated Press Writer

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba (AP) - Somewhere amid the cactus-studded hills on this sprawling Navy base, separate from the cells where hundreds of men suspected of links to al-Qaida and the Taliban have been locked up for years, is a place even more closely guarded - a jailhouse so protected that its very location is top secret.

For the first time, the top commander of detention operations at Guantanamo has confirmed the existence of the mysterious Camp 7. In an interview with The Associated Press, Rear Adm. Mark Buzby also provided a few details about the maximum-security lockup.

G.O.P. Senators Block Democrats’ Stimulus Plan

WASHINGTON — Republicans managed Wednesday evening to block a relatively expansive and expensive economic stimulus package championed by Senate Democrats, who could not muster the 60 votes needed to advance their plan to a final vote.

The Senate vote was 58 to 41 on a motion to curtail debate on the package of tax rebates and business incentives, which would cost $204 billion over two years.

The program that stalled Wednesday evening was some $40 billion more than a program approved overwhelmingly by the House a week ago after President Bush, House Republicans and Speaker Nancy Pelosi reached quick agreement.

Injecting 'Terror' into Campaign 2008

As Campaign 2008 reaches a critical point, George W. Bush’s top intelligence officials are raising new alarms about a revitalized al-Qaeda recruiting Westerners, possibly including Americans, to carry out terror attacks inside the United States.

At a Feb. 5 hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Bush’s Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell said al-Qaeda was refining “the last key aspect of its ability to attack the U.S.” by training Western recruits, who could blend in with American society and carry out attacks on U.S. targets.

In a later interview with the New York Times, an unnamed “senior intelligence official” added that these Westerners – “most likely including American citizens” – were undergoing training at al-Qaeda camps in Pakistan, though the official added there was no evidence that the operatives had yet reached the United States. [NYT, Feb. 6, 2008]

C.I.A. Destroyed Tapes as Judge Sought Interrogation Data

WASHINGTON — At the time that the Central Intelligence Agency destroyed videotapes of the interrogations of operatives of Al Qaeda, a federal judge was still seeking information from Bush administration lawyers about the interrogation of one of those operatives, Abu Zubaydah, according to court documents made public on Wednesday.

The court documents, filed in the case of Zacarias Moussaoui, appear to contradict a statement last December by Gen. Michael V. Hayden, the C.I.A. director, that when the tapes were destroyed in November 2005 they had no relevance to any court proceeding, including Mr. Moussaoui’s criminal trial.

Whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg: Bush Likely to Attack Iran, Impeachment a Must

By Sari Gelzer,
Posted on February 7, 2008, Printed on February 7, 2008

Daniel Ellsberg, perhaps the country's most famous whistleblower, fears that before the Bush administration leaves office, it will try to attack Iran.

Indeed, Ellsberg's argument gained merit as George W. Bush increased his rhetoric against Iran when he delivered his final State of the Union Address. Bush accused Iran of training militia extremists in Iraq and emphasized the United States will confront its enemies.

Immigrants Come Here Because Globalization Took Their Jobs Back There

By Jim Hightower, Hightower Lowdown
Posted on February 7, 2008, Printed on February 7, 2008

The wailing in our country about the "invasion of immigrants" has been long and loud. As one complainant put it, "Few of their children in the country learn English ...The signs in our streets have inscriptions in both languages ... Unless the stream of the importation could be turned they will soon so outnumber us that all the advantages we have will not be able to preserve our language, and even our government will become precarious."

That's not some diatribe from one of today's Republican presidential candidates. It's the anxious cry of none other than Ben Franklin, deploring the wave of Germans pouring into the colony of Pennsylvania in the 1750s. Thus, anti-immigrant eruptions are older than the United States itself, and they've flared up periodically throughout our history, targeting the Irish, French, Italians, Chinese, and others. Even George W's current project to wall off our border is not a new bit of nuttiness -- around the time of the nation's founding, John Jay, who later became the first chief justice of the Supreme Court, proposed "a wall of brass around the country for the exclusion of Catholics."

Pending Home Sales Fall in December

Thursday February 7, 10:00 am ET
By Alan Zibel, AP Business Writer

U.S. Pending Home Sales Fall in December to Second-Worst Number on Record, Industry Data Show WASHINGTON (AP) -- Industry data released Thursday show pending U.S. home sales fell 1.5 percent in December to the second-lowest reading on record, another indication that the housing market is worsening.

The National Association of Realtors said its seasonally adjusted index of pending sales for existing homes fell to a reading of 85.9 from a downwardly revised November index of 87.2. The reading was just short of the record low of 85.5 it hit in August, at the peak of the worldwide credit squeeze.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Digby: Savvy Political Behavior

Here's an interesting analysis from reader Joe:
While the networks focus on demographic explanations (white-black, man-woman), I think there is a case to made now that the regional draw of these two candidates is more deeply rooted in the recent political culture and history of each state. Obama's post-partisan, one America appeal resonates best in the states that have been dominated by Republicans and republican lite candidates (Iowa, SC, GA, AL, DE, CN). Obama is really cutting across the red states.