Monday, March 31, 2008

Obama goes bowling...

From AP via :

Obama's Penn State Rally Draws 20,000
By Devlin Barrett
The Associated Press
Sunday 30 March 2008

University Park, Pennsylvania - Shivering in blankets of Penn State's colors, some 20,000 people filled a campus lawn Sunday to hear Barack Obama say he can win the Democratic nomination even if rival Hillary Rodham Clinton stays in the race.

Supporters stood in long lines for hours to hear Obama ahead of the April 22 Pennsylvania primary.

On a sunny day with temperatures in the low 40's, most bundled up for the type of large-scale rally that has become the candidate's trademark.

"It's been a while, and it's a little cold, but we really like Barack. He's inspiring," said 19-year-old Caitlin McDonnell, wrapped in a blue Nittany Lions blanket.

Pennsylvania's primary is the next contest in the Obama-Clinton fight for the Democratic presidential nomination. The Keystone State, which will allocate 158 delegates, is the biggest single delegate prize remaining in the Democratic primaries.

Some Democrats, particularly Obama's supporters, have voiced concern that the hard-fought, drawn-out race is already hurting the party's chances to win in November.

The Illinois senator told the crowd not to worry.

"As this primary has gone on a little bit long, there have been people who've been voicing some frustration," Obama said.

"I want everybody to understand that this has been a great contest, great for America. It's engaged and involved people like never before. I think it's terrific that Senator Clinton's supporters have been as passionate as my supporters have been because that makes the people invested and engaged in this process, and I am absolutely confident that when this primary season is over Democrats will be united."

Clinton's husband, the former president, said Sunday that those voicing concern about the duration of the nomination fight should just "chill out" and let the race run its course.

Obama's rally drew an estimated 20,000 to 22,000 people, according to university official Richard DiEugenio - by far the biggest in a weekend of smaller, face-to-face campaign stops since Obama launched a six-day bus tour through the state on Friday.

From Penn State, he traveled to the state capital of Harrisburg, where he delivered the same call for party unity. He also took aim at Republican nominee-to-be John McCain, saying the Arizona senator undercut his own credibility by supporting the lengthening of Bush administration tax cuts he previously opposed.

"The wheels on the Straight Talk Express came off," Obama said, referring to the nickname for McCain's campaign vehicle. "He wants to extend those same tax cuts that he said were irresponsible."

Earlier in the day, he visited a university-run dairy farm and fed a slurping one-month calf, laughing as the calf sucked hard on the nipple of the bottle, eventually draining it. "She chowed that sucker down," Obama said.

His weekend of campaigning also included a comical trip to the lanes at a bowling alley in Altoona, where he was, by his own admission, terrible.

"My economic plan is better than my bowling," Obama told fellow bowlers Saturday evening at the Pleasant Valley Recreation Center.

"It has to be," one man called out.

As he laced up his bowling shoes, Obama let everyone know he hadn't bowled since Jimmy Carter was president.

He shared a lane with Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey Jr., who endorsed him Friday and joined him on the bus tour, and local homemaker Roxanne Hart. As the game went on, several small children bowled with Obama as well.

Obama's first ball flew well off his hand but ended up in the gutter. On his second try, he knocked down four pins.

About five lanes over, a young man in a T-shirt that said "Beer Hunter" fell on his backside while bowling and still recorded a strike.

The crowd of regulars pressed in to take pictures, get autographs and rib him on his poor skills.

Obama did improve, nearly getting a strike in one frame, and in the seventh, picking up a spare, giving him a score of 37. Casey had a score of 71 after getting a strike, and Hart, with one less frame, racked up a score of 82.

"I was terrible," Obama laughed as he shook hands with people in a crowd that gathered outside once word spread he was there.

Asked about his game, Hart sounded like a politician, saying: "He has potential."


Housing Sec resigns * Duvall will play Cheney in film...

From American Progress:

Think Fast...

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Housing and Urban Development Secretary Alphonso Jackson -- who has come under widespread criticism for cronyism and corruption within his department -- "is expected to announce his resignation Monday." "The exact reasons for Mr. Jackson's decision couldn't be learned."

Former Housing and Urban Development secretary and current Senator Mel Martinez (R-FL) told CNN yesterday that he'd give John McCain an "incomplete" for saying that it's "not the duty of government to bail out and reward those who act irresponsibly whether they're big banks or small borrowers."

After days of violence in oil-rich Basra, Iraqi lawmakers said that "Iranian officials helped broker a cease-fire agreement Sunday between Iraq's government and radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr." Despite the truce, violence continued in Baghdad today as the city's fortified Green Zone came under mortar and rocket attack.

Washington Post ombudsman Deborah Howell said the paper erred in not reporting the sexual orientation of fallen soldier Maj. Alan Rogers, who died in Iraq on March 14. The Post did not report Rogers was gay in its story last week. Howell said the Post's story "would have been richer" had the paper reported Rogers's feelings about "don't ask, don't tell," which he opposed.

Campaign reform advocates are questioning why Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has "retreated from his longtime commitment to public financing of campaigns." After supporting full public financing, he now opposes the idea at the federal level. David Donnelly of the Public Campaign Action Fund said, "It's a legitimate question to ask the reformer, John McCain, why hasn't he made public financing the policy he will pursue if he becomes president?"

"Average gasoline prices hit another all-time high, according to a survey conducted for motorist organization AAA. The average price of regular rose to $3.287 a gallon, up from $3.286 the previous day, according to the AAA Web site. The price averaged $3.165 a month ago. A year ago, American drivers were paying $2.673."

"The number of Americans receiving food stamps is projected to reach 28 million in the coming year, the highest level since the aid program began in the 1960s." The economic slowdown caused the "recent rises in many states," say officials and experts. At the same time, after rising by 100,000 for the second month in a row, the number of Americans working part time jobs out of economic necessity reached the highest level since 1993.

And finally: Director Oliver Stone currently casting his next film, Bush: The Movie. "Word from Hollywood is that he's negotiating with Elizabeth Banks (the nutty sexaholic in The 40 Year-Old Virgin) for the role of Laura Bush. Josh Brolin (No Country for Old Men) will play the prez." And Robert Duvall is being rumored to play Dick Cheney.

Wrap...PS: Hard disk crashed this past Thursday. Fixed yesterday aft. Gawd, what a session!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Keeping the candidates alive...

From :

The U.S. Election Season: Security Challenges and Conventional Wisdom
Stratfor Today »-->March 26, 2008
By Fred Burton and Scott Stewart

As the struggle grinds on in the United States for the Democratic presidential nomination, it appears there will be no clear winner before the Democratic National Convention begins Aug. 25 in Denver, Colo. This contest of firsts — the first female presidential candidate in Hillary Clinton and the first African-American candidate to win so many primaries and delegates in Barack Obama — has been hard-fought, and likely will become even more heated between now and the convention.

The Obama campaign has leveled claims of racism over remarks made by former President Bill Clinton before the January South Carolina primary, and more recently over the widely publicized comments by Geraldine Ferraro, who was forced to resign from the Clinton campaign. The Obama campaign also has had to face racism charges over controversial comments made from the pulpit by Obama’s longtime friend and pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, who until February was pastor of the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago.

From a security perspective, each election cycle brings huge challenges. The task of protecting presidential candidates has become ever larger and longer as campaigns and primary elections have been pushed ever earlier. In fact, when Obama received U.S. Secret Service (USSS) protection in May 2007, he made history by being the candidate to receive USSS protection the earliest. Much of the rationale behind the decision to provide Obama with protection so early was based on the conventional wisdom that radical white racists would seek to harm him. A review of several radical white racist Web sites, however, shows that many radical white racists would prefer that Obama be elected, rather than Clinton or Republican candidate John McCain, both of whom they consider to be controlled by Jewish interest groups. Perhaps the greatest threat to all three of the candidates — as is nearly always the case — would be a mentally disturbed lone gunman, and such a person could choose to target any of the candidates for any number of reasons.


Major presidential candidates have been afforded USSS protection since the 1968 assassination of Robert Kennedy at the site of a campaign event. Presidential elections give the USSS and other security personnel headaches for a number of reasons. Foremost among these is the fact that campaigns are, by their very nature, fast, furious and geographically diverse. In the run-up to an important primary — or on a day like Super Tuesday, when there are multiple primaries — candidates can hopscotch across a state or even across the country. Candidates’ schedules often are packed with events that start before sunrise and last until long after dark, and each of the events on that very full schedule requires a great deal of security planning and preparation.

Each site on the candidate’s itinerary must first be visited by a security advance team or agent, who will survey the site, gather all the details of the event and then create a plan, called a security survey, for the measures to be put in place for the event. In the case of a 10-minute stop at a diner, for example, the plan can simply outline which entrance should be used and how the agents should be deployed, as well as provide emergency evacuation procedures.

Such small events often can be handled by the security detail itself, as are most of the impromptu stops and events. In general, the threat is smaller at an impromptu stop than it is at a planned event, because the spontaneous nature of the impromptu stop does not give potential malefactors the opportunity to make attack plans. Large, well-publicized events, on the other hand, can provide ample opportunity to plan, and because of this they require additional security measures.

In the case of a large planned function, security measures can be expanded to include bomb sweeps, access control and screening, countersniper coverage, sweeps for hazardous materials, etc. Any event that is swept for bombs by an explosive ordinance disposal (EOD) team must then be watched, or “posted,” for the entire period between the sweep and the event.

Advance work, pre-posting, close protection, protective intelligence, liaison with local and state police agencies and access control all require bodies. Consider the manpower required to secure one such event, multiply that by several similar events daily and by the number of candidates being protected — and then spread it over a period of many months — and it becomes apparent why the USSS, with its 3,200 special agents and 1,200 uniformed officers, is hard-pressed during an election season.

Add to all of that the fact that the USSS is required to maintain its normal protective coverage of the s itting president and vice president, first lady, former presidents and first ladies, and visiting heads of state. In fact, the USSS frequently lacks the manpower for all of these functions and often will borrow special agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and

Explosives and the Internal Revenue Service, or deputies from the U.S. Marshals Service.

Another challenge during election season is the fact that candidates are compelled to meet and greet supporters, kiss babies and press the flesh. This means they need to enter crowds. This is the aspect of the job that protection agents most abhor, because danger can lurk in a crowd. The compact nature of a crowd makes it very difficult for agents to see bulges and bumps that can indicate that a person is armed. Moreover, the sheer number of people makes it difficult for agents to spot individuals who are behaving abnormally. That said, U.S. protective agencies such as the USSS and the Diplomatic Security Service spend much time and effort training their special agents to “work the crowd.” They are the best in the world at it, but that does not mean it is an easy task or one the agents enjoy.

As we have discussed in relation to the two assassination attempts against Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto, crowds are a security nightmare. This is true anywhere in the world. Indeed, a number of assassins and would-be assassins in the United States have struck from crowds.

President William McKinley was greeting a crowd at an exposition in Buffalo, N.Y., in 1901, when he was shot by anarchist Leon Frank Czolgosz, who had concealed a revolver in a handkerchief. Presidential candidate George Wallace was shot in 1972 by Arthur Bremer, who emerged from a crowd during a campaign stop in Laurel, Md. Wallace survived the attempt, but the attack left him disabled for life. Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme and Sarah Jane Moore both attempted to assassinate President Gerald Ford from crowds in September 1975. John Hinckley also used a crowd of reporters (an area known as t he press pen) as camouflage in his 1981 assassination attempt against President Ronald Reagan.

n the past, one radical group threatened to stab politicians working the crowds with HIV-infected needles, and other groups have plotted to attack prominent politicians with toxins such as ricin.

Conventional Wisdom

At present, the conventional wisdom holds that Obama, as an African-American, is under a greater threat than either Clinton or McCain. However, a close look at the rhetoric on many radical white racist Web sites reveals a couple of things that appear to contradict the conventional wisdom. In fact, the rhetoric seems to indicate that all three remaining candidates are at risk.

First, many people who post comments on these types of sites believe the real problem is not African-Americans, but Jews, whom they believe are using African-Americans as a tool to oppress white Americans. In other words, they see African-Americans as a symptom of a larger Jewish problem. They believe that a cabal of Jews — an entity they call the Zionist Occupation Government (ZOG) — secretly controls the U.S. government. They further believe that both McCain and Clinton are totally controlled by the ZOG, and that the ZOG will oppose Obama because he is not toeing the line. Using the logic that an Obama victory would be bad for the ZOG, these racists would rather see Obama get elected than either the “ZOG-controlled” Clinton or McCain.

Many of these same radical white racists also believe that Obama is a godsend to them. First, they believe that if he is defeated in either the primaries or the general election, it will spark huge riots in inner cities across the United States — riots that, they say, will demonstrate the “true nature” of African-Americans. Even if Obama is elected, many white racists believe he will behave in a manner that will inflame racial tensions, causing a polarization that will assist them in their recruiting efforts and ultimately in their fight to wrest control of the United States from the ZOG. Of course, some white racists also say they hope a lone wolf will assassinate Obama in an effort to spark a race war. This is the reason he is under USSS protection.

But Obama is not the only candidate at risk from right-wing extremists. In addition to the white racists who believe McCain and Clinton are Jewish puppets, there are other right-wing radicals who are unhappy with both McCain and Clinton over their respective stances on immigration. Right-wing radicals also were not fond of the Bill Clinton presidency. When they discuss the prospects of a Hillary Clinton presidency, they frequently refer to people such as former Attorney General Janet Reno and incidents such as the Waco siege and the air campaign against Serbia.

All of the presidential candidates also face the threat of a mentally disturbed lone wolf, like Hinckley or Bremer. Such individuals have long posed one of the most severe threats to prominent individuals in the United States.

McCain also has the additional threats of radical leftists who oppose his stance on the war in Iraq, though frankly they are more likely to embarrass him than seriously harm him. More concerning is the real threat posed by radical Islamists, of both the jihadist and Hezbollah variety, who see McCain’s stance on the war in Iraq, his unequivocal support of Israel and his tough rhetoric toward Iran as threatening.

Any election season poses difficult security challenges for the USSS, but the unique circumstances of this year’s election are making the job especially tough on the already overtaxed protection service.

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Pentagon disappears American soldiers....

From AlterNet via

Penny Coleman Pentagon Holds Thousands of Americans "Prisoners of War"

Penny Coleman, writing for AlterNet, says the Pentagon holds thousands of Americans "prisoners of war." She says: "There are at least 60,000 of them, but they're not on the DOD's list of soldiers missing in action."

[Use link above to continue reading]


Homeland Security...What, where, why, how?

From Secrecy News:


The Homeland Security Council (HSC), a White House agency that advises the President on homeland security policy, has become one of the darkest corners of the U.S. Government. The Council was established by President Bush shortly after September 11, 2001 and it was chartered as an agency within the Executive Office of the President in the Homeland Security Act of 2002.

"Thereafter, the HSC disappeared from the public record," a new report from the Congressional Research Service noticed. In particular, according to CRS: The Homeland Security Council "does not appear to have complied with requirements for Federal Register publication of such basic information as descriptions of its central organization." It has never disclosed "where, from whom, and how the public may obtain information about it."

Nor has it published the required "rules of procedure, substantive rules of general applicability, and statements of general policy."

Moreover, "No profile of, or descriptive information regarding, the HSC or its members and staff has appeared, to date, in the annual editions of the United States Government Manual.

"This peculiar state of affairs was described by Harold C. Relyea of the Congressional Research Service in "Organizing for Homeland Security: TheHomeland Security Council Reconsidered," March 19, 2008:

Last week, President Bush appointed assistant attorney general Kenneth L. Wainstein to be homeland security adviser and chair of the Homeland Security Council, succeeding Frances F. Townsend.


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The lowdown on the start of Iraq "war"....

From Information Clearing House:

Bush's War: Frontline. PBS Video:

How the war began and how it has been fought, both on the ground and deep within the government


Guard the nukes!!!!

From International Herald Tribune:

U.S. mistakenly shipped ballistic missile parts to Taiwan
By Thom Shanker
Published: March 25, 2008

WASHINGTON: Instead of sending helicopter batteries, the United States shipped four electrical fuses for Minuteman nuclear missile warheads to Taiwan, a mistake that was discovered only last week - a year and a half after the shipment, Pentagon officials disclosed Tuesday.

Officials said the nose-cone fuses contained no nuclear material and were similar in function to the ones used for conventional munitions, though these were designed specifically to send an electrical signal to the trigger of the MK-12 nuclear warhead as it was approaching the ground.
Even so, the incident is another embarrassment for America's nuclear weapons establishment, in particular the air force, which previously disclosed that a B-52 bomber mistakenly carried six nuclear cruise missiles on a flight from North Dakota to Louisiana last year.

The U.S. government is one of the most relentless advocates of halting the proliferation of nuclear weapons, their components and the ballistic missiles to carry them, and has made public cases against potential adversaries like North Korea and Iran. It has also criticized Russia for not sufficiently safeguarding its stockpile of weapons.

By losing control of the four missile nose-cone fuses that fit atop a nuclear warhead, the United States risks significant diplomatic criticism from China, which has complained about American weapons sales to Taiwan, an island that Beijing considers a renegade province.

"Though this will likely be chalked up to a bureaucratic snafu, the Chinese will view this through the prism of their own suspicions about U.S. intentions," said Robert Litwak, an expert on proliferation at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington.

President George W. Bush and Defense Secretary Robert Gates were informed of the discovery Friday, and Gates immediately ordered an investigation. "The department has initiated a complete physical inventory of all of these devices," said Ryan Henry, principal under secretary of defense for policy.

He said Gates told the air force and navy secretaries "to conduct a comprehensive review of all policies, procedures as well as a physical site inventory of all nuclear and nuclear-associated material or equipment across their respective programs."

Meanwhile, officials said, the fuses have been returned to U.S. custody.

Admiral Kirkland Donald, the director of Navy Nuclear Propulsion, will lead an investigation into how the nose-cone fuses came to be sent to Taiwan.

Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne said the four nose-cone assemblies were shipped in March 2005 from F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming for storage at a Defense Logistics Agency warehouse at Hill Air Force Base in Utah.

Then, in the autumn of 2006, the four fuses, stored in canisters, were shipped to Taiwan to fill an order for helicopter batteries. It remained unclear, Wynne said, at which of the two American bases the canisters were misidentified as batteries.

The nose cone fuses are just under two feet long, and the authorities in Taiwan have assured the Pentagon that the canisters have remained unopened and in storage the entire time Taiwan had them, officials said.

Even so, part of the investigation will include intelligence and technical analysis to determine whether the fuses were examined or otherwise tampered with.

Officials said the error came to light last week when Taiwanese officials alerted the United States.

Henry said the United States Government was assessing whether the incident violated any domestic laws or treaty obligations.

"If there was something that was amiss, it clearly was not intentional," he said. "The United States stands up to its treaty obligations. And we're dealing with this in the most straightforward manner we can."

Henry said the United States had spoken to the government of China and that "we will continue to have dialogue with them."

Officials could not explain how the absence of the fuses was not discovered during the standard inventory reviews carried out four times a year.


PZ Meyers & Michael Reagan Show

Driving home tonight, happened to tune into Mike Reagan's talk show on 1700AM here in San Diego....just in time to hear PZ get raked over the coals regarding the meeting he was barred from, by both Reagan and a religious film producer. PZ has been writing about that event on his blog:


An Extravagant Mix of Books.....

From Publishers Lunch Weekly:


Shawna Yang Ryan's LOCKE 1928, which weaves history and mythology around a community of Chinese immigrants in a small California town in 1928, exploring the lives of a beautiful young prostitute in love with the preacher's daughter; a husband and wife mysteriously reunited after ten years; a lovesick brothel owner who can see into the past and the future, and the ghosts haunting them all, to Jane Fleming at Penguin Press, at auction, by Daniel Lazar at Writers House (NA).


John Parker, Jr.'s ONCE A RUNNER, the story of a college senior who gives up everything in his life and submits to a brutal training regimen in a quest to become a world champion, originally published in 1978 andBookfinder's most in demand out of print book last year, to Brant Rumbleat Scribner, by Byrd Leavell at the Waxman Literary Agency (NA).

J. Robert Lennon's CASTLE, in which a military veteran returns to his home town to repair an old house and discovers a mysterious structure in the nearby woods, and PIECES FOR THE LEFT HAND, a story collection, to Ethan Nosowsky at Graywolf, for publication in Spring 2009, by Jim Rutman at Sterling Lord Literistic (NA).

YOUR BODY IS CHANGING and AWESOME author Jack Pendarvis's SHUT UP, UGLY, an accidental detective story, relating the adventures of a would-be adulterer who, while hiding from a psychopathic husband in a dubious bed-and-breakfast, is mistaken for a private eye and eagerly fakes his way into an exciting and dangerous new life, again to MacAdam/Cage, with David Adams editing, for publication in 2009, by Paul Bresnick at Paul Bresnick Agency (world).

Celebutantes authors Amanda Goldberg and Ruthanna Khalighi Hopper's CELEBUTANTES: Take Deux, which takes the trio of Hollywood insiders to the Cannes Film Festival, to Jennifer Weis at St. Martin's, by Deborah Schneider at Gelfman Schneider (NA).UK rights to Susan Lamb at Orion.

WE ARE ALL FINE HERE author Mary Guterson's I HOPE YOU'RE VERY HAPPY, about a young woman recovering from a breakup with the "help" of her meddling mother, her clueless father, and a golden retriever she's dognapped from her ex-boyfriend, to Hilary Rubin Teeman at St. Martin's, by Sarah Burnes at The Gernert Company (NA).

T. Greenwood's TWO RIVERS, about a good man who has done a terrible thing, to Peter Senftleben at Kensington, in a nice deal, in a two-book deal, for publication in February 2009, by Henry Dunow at Dunow, Carlson & Lerner (World).


Sarwat Chadda's THE DEVIL'S KISS, the story of a fifteen-year-old girl conscripted into the modern-day remnant of the Knights Templar, to Donna Bray at Hyperion, in a major deal, for publication in Fall 2009, and to Lindsey Heaven at Puffin, in a very nice deal, sold simultaneously, at auction, in a two-book deal, for publication Spring 2009, by former Macmillan UK children's publishing director Sarah Davies in her first deal at her Greenhouse Literary Agency. Foreign:


The Last Tycoons author William Cohan's MELTDOWN, examining the collapse of Bear Stearns in the broader context of the present financial crisis, using it as a canvas to explore why we are yet again facing a disastrous financial bust after a heady financial boom" and what, if anything, should be done to prevent a recurrence, to Bill Thomas at Doubleday, by Joy Harris of the Joy Harris Agency (world English).


Pulitzer Prize-winner, Philadelphia Daily News writer, and writer of the blog Attytood's Will Bunch's THE REAGAN MYTH MACHINE: The Legend of Ronald Reagan and the Threat to the American Presidency, a breakdown of the key myths about the 40th president and his record, identifying the intentional creation of a cult of personality in the 1990s and the 2000s and, most notably, their use in the 2008 presidential race, to Martin Beiser at Free Press, for publication in early 2009, by Will Lippincottat Lippincott Massie McQuilkin (World).


Oonagh O'Hagan's I LICK MY CHEESE, the humorous guide for roommates, in all their weirdness, told through the notes they leave each other, to David Cashion of Abrams Image, at auction, by Peter McGuigan of Foundry Literary + Media, on behalf of Gordon Wise of Curtis Brown.


Nine-time Grand Slam tennis winner and current contestant on 'Dancing with the Stars' Monica Seles's memoir, exploring her journey of brilliant tennis, fame, tragedy, loss and self-discovery, to Megan Newman at Avery, at auction, for publication in March 2009, by Dana Beckat Bill Adler Books.

NYT bestselling author Charles Brandt and Special Agent Lin DeVecchio's WE'RE GOING TO WIN THIS THING, a true account of DeVecchio's life inside the organized crime world and his groundbreaking acquittal, to Denise Silvestro at Penguin, by Frank Weimann at The Literary Group.
[NOTE: Weimann runs an excellent agency]


Leading Boston divorce attorney Gerald Nissenbaum's MONEY TO BURN, an insider's perspective on the world of divorce among the extravagantly wealthy, co-written with IN MY BLOOD author John Sedgwick, to Luke Dempsey at Hudson Street Press, in a pre-empt, by Dan Conaway at Writers House (NA).


Jason Zinoman's SHOCK VALUE, based on his recent Vanity Fair article, offering a definitive look at the golden age of the modern horror movie by examining the infamous directors who revolutionized the business, exploded taboos, and brought a new brand of intellectualism and politics to the genre, to Jane Fleming at Penguin Press, by Farley Chase at the Waxman Literary Agency (NA).


Monday, March 24, 2008

What the DIA's purpose is....

From Secrecy News:


The functions and responsibilities of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) are detailed in a 27-page directive that has been newly re-issued by the Department of Defense.

"DIA shall satisfy the military and military-related intelligence requirements of the Secretary and Deputy Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the DNI, and provide the military intelligence contribution to national foreign intelligence and counterintelligence."

See "Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA)," DoD Directive 5105.21, March18, 2008:


From 36% to Spitzer effect on the Mayflower Hotel...

From American Progress:

Think Fast...

According to Merrill Lynch, at the end of 2007, "36 percent of consumers’ disposable income went to food, energy and medical care, a bigger chunk of income than at any time since records were first kept in 1960."

Health-care costs are "whacking away" at the wages of working class Americans. Premiums for family health coverage have increased 78 percent since 2001. "Even though workers are producing more, inflation-adjusted median family income has dipped 2.6 percent — or nearly $1,000 annually since 2000."

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has consistently "condemned the influence of ’special interest lobbyists.'" Yet of "the 66 current or former lobbyists working for the Arizona senator or raising money for his presidential campaign, 23 have lobbied for telecommunications companies in the past decade." McCain has received $765,000 in donations from these individuals and their spouses, co-workers, and clients.

"[E]vidence from nonprofit credit and mortgage counselors suggests that the number of people using these so-called ‘pay day loans’ is growing…a negative sign for economic recovery." A pay day loan "is typically for a few hundred dollars, with a term of two weeks, and an interest rate as high as 800 percent."

In addition to U.S. troop deaths reaching 4,000 in Iraq, "American forces have just experienced the most violent two-week period in Iraq since September 2007." Between March 10 and 23, twenty-five soldiers were killed in Iraq.

The average price of gasoline has hit a record $3.26 a gallon, with diesel at a record $4.06. The average coast of gasoline jumped nearly 7 cents from two weeks earlier.

Young Army and Marine captains "have extensive combat experience and are regarded as the military’s future leaders." But "the hardships of repeated tours are taking their toll," sending these individuals back to "civilian life." Capt. Kirkner Bailey of the Third Armored Cavalry Regiment in Mosul said that "8 of my 10 friends who are captains are leaving the army."

In talks Sunday night, JPMorgan Chase discussed offering Bear Stearns $10 a share, instead of its initial offering of $2, "in an effort to pacify angry Bear shareholders." The New York Times reported that the Fed "was balking at the new offer price," making it "possible" that the new deal could "collapse entirely."

And finally: Since former New York state governor Eliot Spitzer's "tête-à-tête with a call girl at the famous Mayflower Hotel," business has been flourishing. The hotel's gift shop "has been booming with people picking up Mayflower coffee mugs and post cards" and the venue's bar "is busier than normal."


Say What?!!! A Mini-Convention?

From McClatchy Newspapers via :

Dems Consider Mini-Convention to Pick Nominee

Dave Helling of McClatchy Newspapers reports: "Democrats, looking for a way out, are pondering a new idea: an unprecedented 'mini-convention' to bring their punishing presidential season to an early close."

[Use link above to continue reading]


Sen Clinton's speech on Iraq...

From NY Times via :

Frank Rich The Republican Resurrection

Frank Rich, writing for The New York Times, asks: "The day before Barack Obama gave The Speech, Hillary Clinton gave a big speech of her own, billed by her campaign as a 'major policy address on the war in Iraq.'

What, you didn't hear about it?"

[Use link above to continue reading]


Some things just aggravate me...

For instance:

The too often shown lack of respect for Hillary Clinton's formal position. She is Senator Clinton, and deserves to be addressed that are Senator McCain and Senator Obama. I've seen and heard many, many times in the media phrases such as "Sen. Obama said...", "Sen McCain thinks...", and "Hillary feels...". Additionally, it might be the last names: "Obama said...", McCain thinks..." but again, "Hillary feels..." Overly familar. Overly careless. And definitely not respectful. Sheesh!

That's not right.

And I'm getting mighty weary of all the hell raising over whose pastor is more of an asshole....Obama's or McCain's. Here's where I think those two are getting unfair treatment when it comes to religion...which has no place in political life to begin with...not one word about Sen Clinton's religion other than that she's a strong believer. Okay. That's fine. Apparently, they're all strong believers. But then, I came across this article about Sen. Clinton written originally for Mother Jones mag and recently reprinted in The Nation:

The writer is the author of the investigative book, "Nickeled and Dimed", and she's known for her good research. It's a shocking piece of work and has to do with the Weekly Prayer Breakfast in Congress. Yeah. Congressional people. Which is why I do think that the connection with our elected representatives has caused people to back of and fall silent on the matter.

Perhaps I'll have to google and see what I find.


Saturday, March 22, 2008

Clinton lost after Iowa...

From Buzzflash. com ;

Hillary Clinton and Her Self-Constructed Temple of Doom
Submitted by pmcarpenter on Sat, 03/22/2008 - 7:07am.

by P.M. Carpenter

Political reporters Jim Vandehei and Mike Allen of The Politico have finally said with prodigious, black-and-white clarity what so many others in the mainstream press have been fudging and dancing around: "One big fact has largely been lost in the recent coverage of the Democratic presidential race: Hillary Rodham Clinton has virtually no chance of winning."

Thank you.

That wasn't so hard, was it?

In all immodesty, however, I said much the same on Iowa's morning after, although for more ecumenical reasons (which we'll get back to shortly) than those delineated yesterday by Vandehei and Allen.

For them, now, as it has been for the realistically grounded for some time, it is all about -- yep -- the math. You can cut, slice, rearrange and bounce the pledged-delegate and popular-vote numbers any which way you want, but they always come back to one inalterable conclusion: Barack Obama wins.

Ah, but there are those superdelegates, you say, who are beholden to nothing and nobody but their own consciences and political futures. One never knows which way those winds may be blowing down the road, so there's still a chance. To which, with butcher knives in hand, Vandehei and Allen had this to say:

"The only way she wins [with] Democratic superdelegates [is if they're] ready to risk a backlash of historic proportions from the party’s most reliable constituency." Then, the two journalists' death blow to such fantastical musings: "People who think that scenario is even remotely likely are living on another planet."

In effect, Vandehei and Allen continue, the mainstream press and broadcast media have been playing mind games with the electorate -- and especially Hillary's supporters. "Journalists have become partners with the Clinton campaign in pretending that the contest is closer than it really is," and mostly, almost exclusively, because journalists love a good horse race and didn't want to see this one at the finish line.

Virtual and honestly reported fait accomplis don't sell newspapers or ramp up ratings. Can you hear it? Tune in again tomorrow, folks, when we'll remind you, again, that it's seven long months to the next major showdown.

Click. This far out, covering Betty Crocker Bake-offs would hold more news-consumer appeal.
So those journalistic partners with the Clinton campaign perpetuated "the myth," as the Politico titled its story, of Hillary's fighting viability. Oh, the drama of it all.

But to get back to what I promised, the real and determining drama of the Obama-Clinton race came decisively on the evening of January 3. The following morning I opened a column with, "Barack Obama can start taking drape measurements at the White House," for "it's hard to see how, and by whom, he can be stopped now." I closed it with this: "You may pre-order your Obama Inaugural Ball tickets today."

I wasn't riding some personal wave of Obamamania when I wrote that. In fact, in a moment of mistaken objectivity I had largely written off Obama's chances in an earlier piece. It was, merely, that Iowa delivered a crushing confirmation of what most voters were screaming for -- "change."

Abrupt, incontrovertible, unmistakable change. That hung in the air, voters would not be denied, and it didn't take many tea leaves to read the immediate electoral future. That was the new objectivity, only this time there was proof.

And that was the wave on which Hillary tumbled -- early, decisively and irreversibly. She and her staff of old-politics, 45-percent-coalition advisers immeasurably misread the national mood.
After seven years of vastly experienced presidential lying, conniving, weaseling, obfuscating, twisting, manipulating and swindling, the last thing most voters wanted was more Washington experience. But what did Hillary give them? Thirty-five bloody years of it. Reams of it. Mountains of it. Endless lectures and tutorials about it.

For a candidate known for her slyly calculating nature, it was one of the most colossal miscalculations in American political history. And that, I'm sure, is how future political historians will write her political obituary of 2008, just after noting another colossal and preceding miscalculation -- her 2002 Iraq war vote.

So again, thank you, Messrs. Vandehei and Allen, for finally writing what other journalists already knew but shied away from saying with such piercing clarity at point-blank range. Once the striking reality of it dawns on Hillary's base, perhaps a new day of progressive unity will dawn as well. Or at least begin dawning.

It's about time. Because this race was over as of January 4. It just took a while for journalists to get around to reporting it.
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Friday, March 21, 2008

Dems may vote for McCain?!!!

From Levine Breaking News:


The lengthy Democratic primary contest bodes well for Republican chances of holding the White House, a new poll suggests.

As Democratic Senators Barack Obama of Illinois and Hillary Clinton of New York slug it out for the nomination, many of their supporters -- at least in Pennsylvania, site of the next major primary -- aren't committed to the party's ticket in November, according to a Franklin & Marshall College Poll.


Thursday, March 20, 2008

What's in Iraqi Documents?

From Secrecy News:


A Defense Department-sponsored report that examined captured Iraqi documents for indications of links between Saddam Hussein and terrorist organizations is now available online.

The five-volume report affirmed that there was "no 'smoking gun' (i.e., direct connection) between Saddam's Iraq and al Qaeda." But it also said there was "strong evidence that links the regime of Saddam Hussein to regional and global terrorism."

Although the report was publicly released on March 13, the Department of Defense declined to publish it online, offering instead to provide copies on disk. The full five-volume study has now been posted on the Federation of American Scientists web site.

See "Iraqi Perspectives Project: Saddam and Terrorism: Emerging Insights from Captured Iraqi Documents," Institute for Defense Analyses, November 2007, redacted and released March 2008:

The study was first reported prior to release by Warren P. Strobel of McClatchy Newspapers. The first of the five volumes was previously posted on the ABC News web site. The latter volumes include hundreds of pages of captured Iraqi documents, declassified and translated into English.

The Defense Intelligence Agency "made every effort to balance national security concerns, requirements of law, and the needs of an informed democracy and focused the redactions to the necessary minimum," the report states.

The Iraqi documents themselves are an eclectic, uneven bunch. One of them, a fifty-page Iraqi "intelligence" analysis, disparages the austerely conservative Wahhabi school of Islam by claiming that its eighteenth century founder, Ibn 'Abd al Wahhab, had ancestors who were Jews.

In what must be the only laugh-out-loud line in the generally dismal five-volume report, the Iraqi analysis states that Ibn 'Abd al Wahhab's grandfather's true name was not "Sulayman" but "Shulman."

"Tawran confirms that Sulayman, the grandfather of the sheikh, is (Shulman); he is Jew from the merchants of the city of Burstah in Turkey, he had left it and settled in Damascus, grew his beard, and wore the Muslim turban, but was thrown out for being voodoo" (at page 20 of 56).

The analysis, produced by the Air Defense Security System of Iraq's General Military Intelligence Directorate, is not a very reliable guide to Islamic or Jewish history, though it may explain something about Iraq's air defenses.

"The Birth of Al-Wahabi Movement and Its Historic Roots" appears in volume 5 of the Defense Department report and is also available in this extract (13 MB PDF):


From McCain to Oscar, the Grouch....

From American Progress:

Think Fast...

"As the economy sours, voters are increasingly demanding immediate government relief," which is a problem for Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), "whose focus has been on longer-term solutions such as tax and spending cuts and free trade." "The notion of 'the market will straighten things out, be patient' -- that has photos of Herbert Hoover juxtaposed with it," said pollster John Zogby.

Rep. Tom Reynolds (R-NY), a key player in covering up the Mark Foley page scandal, will reportedly announce his retirement today. Reynolds was recently the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, which has come "under fire after millions of dollars went missing in an accounting scandal during Reynold's leadership."

The LA Times reports that "turmoil over the war has increased" inside the Pentagon, with some commanders, including Gen. Davis Petraeus, advocating continued high troop levels in Iraq. On the other side "are the military service chiefs who fear that long tours and high troop levels" will leave "the Army and Marine Corps hollowed out and weakened."

Five years after the invasion of Iraq, military recruiters acknowledge that much of the Middle Eastern immigrant community "remains deeply suspicious of the Army." The military "has met recruitment goals for its translator program since 2006 after falling short in the first three years of the war." In 2006, it recruited 277 translators, but dropped to 250 in 2007.

Former U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix writes that "responsibility for the war must rest...on what those launching it knew by March 2003." At the time, "Unmovic inspectors had carried out some 700 inspections at 500 sites without finding prohibited weapons. The contract that George Bush held up before Congress to show that Iraq was purchasing uranium oxide was proved to be a forgery."

A senior Bush administration official told the Politico that confusion over a long-term agreement with Iraq resulted from a sloppy Arabic translation. But, as Jonathan Schwarz reports, Arabic experts say "the available Arabic versions of the Declaration of Principles are almost exactly the same as the official English version, and are likely direct translations from it."

U.S. and European intelligence officials said that throughout the last ten years, "U.S. spy agencies have had little luck recruiting well-placed informants" within Al-Qaeda "and are finding the upper reaches of the network tougher to penetrate than the Kremlin during the Cold War."

Vice President Dick Cheney visited Afghanistan today, meeting with President Hamid Karzai ahead of a NATO summit in April "where Washington will urge its allies to send more troops to the war-torn country." At the same time, Cheney declared that there had been "remarkable progress" in the country, even though 2007 was its "most violent year since 2001."

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said yesterday "that climate change and pandemic disease threaten international security as much as terrorism and that Britain must radically improve its defenses." Brown met with Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) in London today.

And finally: Tuesday was a "historic day at the Supreme Court" -- it marked the first time "Oscar the Grouch entered the annals of Supreme Court jurisprudence." Justice Antonin Scalia mentioned the character in a "tart rebuke aimed at Chief Justice John Roberts." Scalia compared Washington state's primary system to "allowing 'Oscar the Grouch (Sesame Street's famed bad-taste resident of a garbage can)' to endorse Campbell's soup repeatedly, without allowing the soup company to disavow his statement."


Women's health care being undermined...

From Campus Progress via :

Campus Progress

White House Chips Away Women's Right to Health Care

Campus Progress writes, "Women of America, take note - a letter veeeerry quietly sent by the director of Health and Human Services last week may make it harder for you to get a doctor's care."

[Click link above to continue reading]


Most amazing blog I've seen in a long time...

From Anuj Agarwal :

I thought I should let you know about my new blog "Slideshows for your website and Blogs"

link :

My blog basically consists of slideshows which fall in 12 different categories.If you like any of the slideshows, you are welcome to embed it in your own blog.



Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Morris: Obama can't be beat...

From Levine Breaking News:


Will the Gospel According to Jeremiah Wright sink the Obama candidacy? Not very likely.

Let's start with a basic fact: Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) has already won the Democratic nomination. It's over. Regardless of how the remaining primaries and caucuses go, including Michigan and even Florida, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) can never catch Obama in elected delegates.

His current lead of 170 pledged delegates will not be overcome no matter what happens. Even if Clinton beats him by 10 points in each of these primaries, he will still lead among elected delegates by over 100. The superdelegates will not override the will of the voters unless Obama is in jail. They will not let themselves in for a civil war by overruling a black man who is beloved by the young by going over the heads of the electorate and naming the candidate that lost the primaries as the nominee.

Regardless of how damaged Obama may be by the Wright tapes, it will not provide sufficient cover or cause for them to do so.


Dem SEAL running for Repub Duncan Hunter's seat...

From :

As a former Navy SEAL, I am writing to ask you to support one of my teammates today. Commander Mike Lumpkin, a good friend of mine, is running for Congress in California. And whether or not you normally participate in political campaigns, this is one you cannot sit out. We need SEALs in Congress to ensure that our Special Operations Forces are well represented.

Commander Lumpkin served 21 years as a SEAL. He served 8 operational tours across the world, including the current conflicts overseas, was in charge of all West Coast SEAL Teams, and commanded one of the Teams. He has served his country with honor and now wants to continue to serve in a new theater of operations – the United States Congress. And he needs your help now.

There are two ways you can help:

1) Go to right now and vote for Mike Lumpkin. VoteVets is an organization that exists to help veterans get elected to Congress. Their goal is to help elect veterans who will best represent the interests of the military and military families. If Mike receives the most votes he will receive an additional $4000 from VoteVets to help his campaign win.

2) Go to and make a contribution to Mike’s campaign. Every dollar helps him get his message out and that much closer to representing our values in Congress. Please do these two things right now to support a fellow Frogman.

Thank you.
Mark, Founder


Goodread's book reviews....

From Goodreads:

Movers & shakers
These books rocketed to the top of our charts this month:

A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckhart TolleA book for anyone who wants to make change on a personal or global scale. Goodreads member Elly says, "I can see why Oprah is making such a big deal about it. I've read my share of pop-psychology and spirituality books, but this is nothing like them. This is THE book for a better Earth."

Suite Francaise by Irene NemirovskyWritten as Nazi forces occupied France, this work was left unfinished when the author was deported to Auschwitz. Arwen tells us, "The very air is heavy with waiting and grief and the madness of dealing with a world turned upside down during a beautiful summer, with birds singing and strawberries ripening as if nothing were different."

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa SeeThe closeted world of Chinese women in the 19th century comes to life. Goodreads member Jennifer placed this book on her "strong-female-characters" shelf and quotes one character's reaction to women's lack of power during this time period in Chinese history: "Obey, obey, obey, then do what you want."

People of the Book: A Novel by Geraldine BrooksAn Australian rare-books expert delves into the history of the ancient text Sarajevo Haggadah in this thriller, which was inspired by a true story. Sarah dubs it "the intelligent person's Da Vinci Code" and Kate writes, "I read about this book during the third quarter of the Super Bowl. I was probably the only person more engrossed in the New York Times Book Review than the game, but so much the better for me."

Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace...One School at a Time by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver RelinTrue story from a failed mountain climber who thanked the poor village in Pakistan where he was nursed back to health by promising to return and build a school. Debbi writes, "I wish Goodreads had a 10-star rating for this book. Anyone who has ever feared their own small voice was too small a drop in the bucket to matter MUST read this book."


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Unusual Selection of Coming Books....

From Publishers Lunch Weekly:


LAT Cairo Bureau Chief Jeffrey Fleishman's PROMISED VIRGINS, a novel ofjihad, set in the Kosovo conflict, to Cal Barksdale at Arcade, for publication in Spring 2009, by Sorche Fairbank of Fairbank Literary Representation (World English).

Sang Pak's debut fiction KID TWILIGHT, a creepy coming-of-age story set in a small Southern town, where the protagonist must confront both theviolence around him and the monster within himself, to Sarah Durand at William Morrow, by Yfat Reiss Gendell at Foundry Literary + Media.yrgendell@foundrymedia.comRights:


Wired contributing editor Mathew Honan's BARACK OBAMA IS YOUR NEW BICYCLE, based on the website of the same name, to Patrick Mulligan atGotham, by Joy Tutela at the David Black Literary Agency.


Blogger Jeff Jarvis's WWGD?: What Would Google Do?, examining what any organization or industry, be it a cable company, airlines, or even book publishing, can learn from the fastest-growing company in history, to Ben Loehnen at Collins, by Kate Lee at ICM (world).


Advisor to the last six secretaries of state and author of the The Much Too Promised Land, Aaron David Miller's next work, a road-trip with the reader along the anti-American highway of the Middle East, usinginterviews, anecdote, and analysis to provide an intimate look at four of our biggest challenges in the Arab/Muslim world -- Hamas, Hezbollah,Iran, and Syria -- exploring who they are, what they think, and what they really want, to John Flicker at Bantam Dell, byDeborah Grosvenor at Kneerim & Williams (World).

Journalist Shane Harris's THE WATCHMAN, which chronicles the rise of the American surveillance state over the last twenty-five years, to Eamon Dolan at Penguin Press, by Tina Bennett of Janklow & Nesbit (NA).


Colin Broderick's ORANGUTAN, a memoir of the nineteen years that the author (who studied with Billy Collins and worked in theater with Malachay McCourt) was an alcoholic working construction and trying to forge a life as a writer, to Carrie Thornton at Three Rivers Press, for publication in Summer 2009, by Jane Dystel at Dystel & Goderich LiteraryManagement (World).

Natalie McLennan's THE PRICE: My Life as"Natalia," New York's $2,000 An Hour Escort, the rise, fall, and redemption of a promising youngactress who falls in love with a man with ambitions of building the most exclusive brothel in New York and markets her as the "$2,000 An Hour Woman," to Michael Viner at Phoenix, by Jason Anthony at Zachary Shuster Harmsworth Literary Agency (World).


Steve Eubanks's THE GREATEST OF US ALL: The Birth of the Modern Golf Swing and the Death of Its Legendary Inventor, the story of champion golfer J. Douglas Edgar and his brutal murder in 1921, as well as the brave Atlanta Constitution reporter who battled a subsequent cover-up by city officials, to Mark Tavani at Ballantine, by Dan Ambrosio at Vigliano Associates (World).


Susanna Carson's anthology WHY WE READ JANE AUSTEN about the enduring fascination with the author and her novels, including pieces by MartinAmis, Virginia Wolf, C.S Lewis, and Eudora Welty, plus original essays by popular contemporary writers, with an introduction by Harold Bloom, to Jill Schwartzman at Random House, at auction, by Bonnie Nadell at Frederick Hill Bonnie Nadell Agency (NA).


Bear Stearns employees & Paulson's "heckuva job..."

From American Progress:

Think Fast...

"My life has been flushed down the drain," said one Bear Stearns employee. Bear Stearns had always encouraged its 14,000 employees, "from secretaries to top executives, to be long-term holders in the company's stock, and the employees own over 30 percent of the company."

A New York Times editorial warns that "if the United States government doesn't stabilize the markets, foreign governments increasingly will, in exchange for an ever larger stake in the American financial system." The Fed's unprecedented loans to banks "cannot save defaulting homeowners, transform bad mortgage loans into good ones, or do the same for hundreds of billions of dollars of securities tied to those loans."

Rep. David Dreier (R-CA) "failed to disclose tens of thousands of dollars in profits he made on stock sales on his annual financial disclosure forms for the past several years." Last Thursday, after inquiries by Roll Call, Dreier filed an amendment to "his 2004, 2005 and 2006 disclosure forms" listing previously undisclosed stock sales "totaling between $85,000 and $263,000 in income."

Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell recently delivered a speech that contained a story about an historical radio conversation at sea. "This is true. It's an actual recording," McConnell said. In fact, McConnell's story was "untrue. False. Urban naval legend. Never happened."

"A conference to reconcile Iraq's warring political groups began to unravel even before it got under way on Tuesday, with the main Sunni Muslim Arab bloc pulling out and protesting it had not been properly invited."

Newsweek's Fareed Zakaria writes that the United States is "stuck in the Iraq loop." "We are told that the surge has worked brilliantly and violence is way down. And yet the plan to reduce troop levels -- which was at the heart of the original surge strategy -- must be postponed or all hell will once again break loose."

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has confirmed that his government will "at some point" hold an inquiry into the lessons to be learned from the invasion of Iraq and its aftermath. But, he said that time is not is "not now."

A U.N.-supported report released yesterday conducted by the World Glacier Monitoring Service at the University of Zurich has found that "most of the world's mountain glaciers, many of which feed major rivers and water supplies, are shrinking at an accelerating pace as the climate warms."

Mirroring the results of a new CNN poll, a recent USA Today/Gallup poll has found that 76 percent of Americans think the U.S. economy is in recession. "Not since September 1992, two months before President George H.W. Bush lost re-election, have so many said the economy was in such bad shape."

And finally: Echoing his infamous declaration in 2005 that former FEMA chief Michael "Brownie" Brown was "doing a heckuva job" responding to Hurricane Katrina, President Bush thanked Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson yesterday "for working over the weekend" in response to the long-brewing economic crisis.


Ohio still in trouble for 2006 election...

From Free Press via :

Ohio's Voting Machines Are Now an Official Crime Scene

Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman, reporting for The Free Press, write: "At least 15 touch-screen voting machines that produced improbable numbers in Ohio's 2006 statewide election are now under double-lock in an official crime scene. And the phony 'Homeland Security Alert' used by Republicans to build up George W. Bush's 2004 vote count in a key southwestern Ohio county has come under new scrutiny."

[Use link above to continue reading]


Obama and economics...

From In These Times:

Features > March 10, 2008
An energized constituency could push Obama’s centrist economic plan to the left
By David Moberg

In February, as the battle intensified for the votes of economically anxious blue-collar workers, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) took his campaign to the dwindling number of American factory floors, pledging to fight for good jobs, fair trade and shared prosperity. Speaking to workers at a General Motors assembly plant in Janesville, Wis., Obama said, “A country in which only a few prosper is antithetical to our ideals and our democracy.”

But the economic outlines for a potential Obama administration remain unclear. “Who knows what his economic policies are?” asks one sympathetic economist from a union that has not yet endorsed a candidate. “They seem pretty unformed.”

Obama would certainly shift government priorities to improving job prospects and raising living standards for American workers. He proposes raising the minimum wage to $9.50 an hour, offering refundable $4,000 tax credits for college, expanding the childcare tax credit, reforming bankruptcy laws, rebuilding infrastructure, establishing a new employee savings plan and investing in alternative energy to create “millions of new green jobs.”

Yet even the unions that have endorsed Obama—including most members of Change to Win—have found it hard to differentiate his economic policies from those of Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.)

“I had until recently felt that both Clinton and Obama campaigns were quite economically conservative,” says Thomas Palley, a progressive economic consultant and writer. “But the Obama campaign does seem more a work-in-progress and, therefore, more open to influence.”

Campaigns often fail to foretell presidential policies. Centrist candidate Franklin Roosevelt shifted to the left. Centrist candidate Bill Clinton shifted to the right.

[Use link above to continue reading]


In the matter of the AIPAC trial...

From Secrecy News:


In a blow to Justice Department prosecutors, two former directors of the Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO) are expected to testify for the defense in the controversial trial of two former officials of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) who are charged with unlawful receipt and transmission of classified information.

Steven Garfinkel (ISOO director from 1980-2002) and J. William Leonard (2002-2007) have been the voice of classification authority across three decades and five presidential administrations. They inspected, oversaw and reported to the President on the government's classification and declassification programs.

And last week they were listed among eight proposed expert witnesses for the defense in the AIPAC case, formally known as USA v. Steven J. Rosen and Keith Weissman.

As deeply knowledgeable classification officials, Mr. Garfinkel and Mr.Leonard might have been expected to testify for the government in a case involving classification policy. The fact that they are testifying for the defense is a startling indication that the prosecution's case has strayed far beyond any consensus view regarding the proper protection of classified information.

The surprising participation of these former classification officials was first reported by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency and the New York Sun. See "Key New Witnesses Sign on for the Defense in AIPAC Case" by Josh Gerstein, New York Sun, March 17:

In another sign that the government's case may be unraveling, the lead prosecutor quit last month to take a job in the private sector.

See"Top prosecutor in AIPAC case quits," Jewish Telegraphic Agency, February 28:

Selected case files from the AIPAC prosecution may be found here:


Harvard Law cares about public service...

From Levine Breaking News:


Concerned by the low numbers of law students choosing careers in public service, Harvard Law School plans to waive tuition for third-year students who pledge to spend five years working either for nonprofit organizations or the government. The program, to be announced Tuesday, would save students more than $40,000 in tuition and follows by scant months the announcement of a sharp increase in financial aid to Harvard's undergraduates.

The law school, which already has a loan forgiveness program for students choosing public service, said it knew of no other law school offering such a tuition incentive.

Wrap... voting here for soldiers...

From Alternet via

Veterans Administration Won't Help Soldiers Register to Vote

Steven Rosenfeld reports for AlterNet, "For at least four years, since the 2004 presidential election, when a veteran, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., was the Democratic Party nominee, the Department of Veterans Affairs has blocked efforts to help US soldiers register to vote at its facilities in all 50 states."

[Click link above to continue reading]


Monday, March 17, 2008

A Share for two bucks...& Apple engineer helps Rush...

From American Progress:

Think Fast...

JPMorgan Chase agreed yesterday to buy Bear Stearns for $2 a share, less than one-tenth the firm's market price on Friday. The bank and the Federal Reserve "will guarantee the huge trading obligations" of Bear, "which was driven to the brink of bankruptcy by what amounted to a run on the bank." Bonddad has more analysis.

The current economic crisis "is likely to be judged in retrospect as the most wrenching since the end of the second world war," writes former Chairman of the Federal Reserve Alan Greenspan in the Financial Times. He also argues that "market flexibility and open competition" are "our most reliable and effective safeguards against cumulative economic failure."

Sen. John McCain's (R-AZ) current visit to Iraq is bolstering the belief by the country's politicians that if he is elected president, "the American military would have a large presence in Iraq for a very long time." Jalaladeen Sagheer, a senior member of the leading Shiite Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, described McCain's visit as "an advertisement for the American elections."

Vice President Cheney made a surprise visit to Iraq today, to reaffirm "the unwavering commitment" of the United States to rebuilding Iraq. Cheney told reporters that it was "especially significant" he was in Iraq five years after the March 2003 U.S. invasion. Shortly after his arrival, "two explosions rocked Baghdad."

Five years after the U.S.-led invasion, the Red Cross reports that Iraq faces a major humanitarian crisis. "To avert an even worse crisis, more attention must be paid to the everyday needs of Iraqis," said Beatrice Roggo, the ICRC's head of operations for the Middle East and North Africa. "Everyone should have regular access to health care, electricity, clean water and sanitation."

Harper's Scott Horton reports that an internal Department of Justice investigation into the firing of at least eight U.S. attorneys is approaching its conclusion. The report will likely be released in the spring, and it "will almost certainly be explosive."

Climate change may "turn Ireland’s legendary emerald landscape a dusty tan" according to a new report by the Irish American Climate Project. "[T]he soft rains that people talk about as a blessing...could turn harsh," said the project's director Kevin Sweeney. Additionally, potatoes, Ireland's agricultural staple, "might cease to be a commercial crop under the stress of prolonged summer droughts."

And finally: Right-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh describes himself as "a big Mac guy." Lately, he's been having trouble backing up his e-mail archives, a "problem that was echoed by other users on message boards." So Limbaugh took to the airwaves, making his plea directly to Apple CEO Steve Jobs. Apparently, someone at Apple was listening, and sent over an engineer to help Limbaugh. Two weeks later, the problem was fixed.


Florida Dems give mail-in vote idea up.....

From Associated Press via The New York Times:

Florida Democrats Scrap Mail-In Vote
Published: March 17, 2008
Filed at 8:46 p.m. ET

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- Facing strong opposition, Florida Democrats on Monday abandoned plans to hold a do-over presidential primary with a mail-in vote and threw the delegate dispute into the lap of the national party.

While the decision by Florida Democrats left the state's 210 delegates in limbo, Democrats in Michigan moved closer to holding another contest on June 3. Legislative leaders reviewed a measure Monday that would set up a privately funded, state-administered do-over primary, The Associated Press learned.

In Florida, a frustrated Democratic Party chairwoman Karen L. Thurman sent a letter announcing the decision.
'A party-run primary or caucus has been ruled out, and it's simply not possible for the state to hold another election, even if the party were to pay for it,'' Thurman said. ''... This doesn't mean that Democrats are giving up on Florida voters. It means that a solution will have to come from the DNC Rules & Bylaws Committee, which is scheduled to meet again in April.''

Members of Florida's congressional delegation unanimously opposed the plan, and Barack Obama expressed concern about the security of a mail-in vote organized so quickly. Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign expressed disappointment with Florida's decision.

''Today's announcement brings us no closer to counting the votes of the nearly 1.7 million people who voted in January,'' Clinton spokesman Phil Singer said. ''We hope the Obama campaign shares our belief that Florida's voters must be counted and cannot be disenfranchised.''

Obama's campaign said it looked forward to an agreement on what to do about Florida.
''We hope that all parties can agree on a fair seating of the Florida delegates so that Florida can participate in the Democratic Convention, and we look forward to working with the Florida Democratic Party and competing vigorously in the state so that Barack Obama can put Florida back into the Democratic column in November,'' said Obama spokesman Tommy Vietor.

Florida Democrats Scrap Mail-In Vote
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Published: March 17, 2008
Filed at 8:46 p.m. ET
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- Facing strong opposition, Florida Democrats on Monday abandoned plans to hold a do-over presidential primary with a mail-in vote and threw the delegate dispute into the lap of the national party.
While the decision by Florida Democrats left the state's 210 delegates in limbo, Democrats in Michigan moved closer to holding another contest on June 3. Legislative leaders reviewed a measure Monday that would set up a privately funded, state-administered do-over primary, The Associated Press learned.
In Florida, a frustrated Democratic Party chairwoman Karen L. Thurman sent a letter announcing the decision.
''A party-run primary or caucus has been ruled out, and it's simply not possible for the state to hold another election, even if the party were to pay for it,'' Thurman said. ''... This doesn't mean that Democrats are giving up on Florida voters. It means that a solution will have to come from the DNC Rules & Bylaws Committee, which is scheduled to meet again in April.''
Members of Florida's congressional delegation unanimously opposed the plan, and Barack Obama expressed concern about the security of a mail-in vote organized so quickly. Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign expressed disappointment with Florida's decision.
''Today's announcement brings us no closer to counting the votes of the nearly 1.7 million people who voted in January,'' Clinton spokesman Phil Singer said. ''We hope the Obama campaign shares our belief that Florida's voters must be counted and cannot be disenfranchised.''
Obama's campaign said it looked forward to an agreement on what to do about Florida.
''We hope that all parties can agree on a fair seating of the Florida delegates so that Florida can participate in the Democratic Convention, and we look forward to working with the Florida Democratic Party and competing vigorously in the state so that Barack Obama can put Florida back into the Democratic column in November,'' said Obama spokesman Tommy Vietor

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Repubs voting for Clinton by the thousands...

From The Boston Globe via :

Many Voting for Clinton to Boost GOP

Scott Helman, reporting for The Boston Globe, writes: "For a party that loves to hate the Clintons, Republican voters have cast an awful lot of ballots lately for Senator Hillary Clinton: About 100,000 GOP loyalists voted for her in Ohio, 119,000 in Texas, and about 38,000 in Mississippi, exit polls show. A sudden change of heart? Hardly."

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Friday, March 14, 2008

One disgusting international Katrina...

From AP via :

Katrina Contractor Has Reaped Millions

The Associated Press reports:

"Two and a half years after Hurricane Katrina, tens of thousands of homeowners are still waiting for their government rebuilding checks, and many complain they can't even get their calls returned. But the company that holds the contract to distribute the aid is doing quite well.

ICF International of Fairfax, Va., has posted strong profits, gone public, landed additional multimillion-dollar government contracts -- and recently secured a potentially big raise from the state of Louisiana."

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The Cult of the Suicide Bomber...

From The Independent:

Friday, 14 March 2008

Khaled looked at me with a broad smile. He was almost laughing. At one point, when I told him that he should abandon all thoughts of being a suicide bomber – that he could influence more people in this world by becoming a journalist – he put his head back and shot me a grin, world-weary for a man in his teens. "You have your mission," he said. "And I have mine." His sisters looked at him in awe. He was their hero, their amanuensis and their teacher, their representative and their soon-to-be-martyred brother.

Yes, he was handsome, young – just 18 – he was dressed in a black Giorgio Armani T-shirt, a small, carefully trimmed Spanish conquistador's beard, gelled hair. And he was ready to immolate himself.

A sinister surprise. I had travelled to Khaled's home to speak to his mother. I had already written about his brother Hassan and wanted to introduce a Canadian journalist colleague, Nelofer Pazira, to the family. When Khaled walked on to the porch of the house, Nelofer and I both realised – at the same moment – that he was next, the next to die, the next "martyr". It was his smile. I've come across these young men before, but never one who so obviously declared his calling.

His family sat around us on the porch of their home above the Lebanese city of Sidon, the sitting room adorned with coloured photographs of Hassan, already gone to the paradise – so they assured me – for which Khaled clearly thought he was destined. Hassan had driven his explosives-laden car into an American military convoy at Tal Afar in north-western Iraq, his body (or what was left of it) buried "in situ" – or so his mother was informed.

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From Gen Petraeus to Useless secret sessions...

From American Progress:

Think Fast...

Gen. David Petraeus said yesterday that "Iraqi leaders have failed to take advantage of a reduction in violence to make adequate progress toward resolving their political difference." Petraeus stated that "no one" in the U.S. and Iraqi governments feels Iraq's leaders are making "sufficient progress."

After President Bush "intervened at the 11th hour" to weaken the Environmental Protection Agency's new smog standards, "Solicitor General Paul D. Clement warned administration officials late Tuesday night that the rules contradicted the EPA's past submissions to the Supreme Court. ... As a consequence, administration lawyers hustled to craft new legal justifications for the weakened standard."

Alaska's Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Ted Stevens "introduced legislation Thursday that would allow oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge if the price of oil hits $125 a barrel." Both senators hope "to capitalize on consumer concern" about rising gas prices.

The House and the Senate narrowly passed a $3 trillion spending plan yesterday, which would "increase spending on domestic programs like education, health care, veterans benefits and new energy technology," while allowing President Bush's tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans to expire in two years.

The media continues to repeat the false claim that President Bush sought cooperation from telecommunications companies to conduct domestic spying only after 9/11. In fact, the Bush administration approached telecommunications carriers months before 9/11.

"Anti-Semitism, including government-promoted hatred toward Jews and prejudice couched as criticism of Israel, has risen globally over the last decade, the State Department said on Thursday."

And finally: The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank writes that yesterday, conservatives were acting like "like schoolgirls whispering among themselves in class" as they plotted their "secret" session on wiretapping. "Because of my clearance level, I've seen the secret information and information at other levels as well," bragged Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-MO), who was organizing the meeting. Rep. David Obey (D-WI), however, was not impressed. "I was here for the secret sessions," said Obey. "And given the mumbo jumbo that I heard," he added, the main purpose was "to demonstrate the total uselessness of secret sessions." Laughter erupted.