Government of the people, by the elected officials and appointed bureaucrats, for the elected officials, appointed bureaucrats and special interest groups that helped them get into power – Michael KaeryYea we will have elected a new Emperor and the evil Emperor George W. Bush is history. But in reality nothing will have changed and government after the election will be just the same as government before the election.
John McSame is often used to say McCain is the same as Bush. But there isn’t a dimes difference between John McSame and Obama. After all John McCain and Barack Obama both voted to give the rich Wall Street brokers and bankers a $700 billion hand out of corporate welfare. John and Barack both voted to steal $2,333 from every man, woman and child in the USA and give it to rich Wall Street brokers and bankers. Since children don’t pay taxes John McCain and Barack Obama both voted to steal about $5,000 from every adult in America and give it to rich Wall Street brokers and bankers.
Obama and McCain both talk about bring change to America. The only change they will bring to America is the change in your bank account when they loot it and give it to the special interest groups that helped get them elected.
The only other change will be an already shredded Bill of Rights will trashed as your rights are destroyed so they can hire more Homeland Security thugs to protect you from imaginary terrorists.
Of course if Thomas Jefferson and his buddies were around today they would not be voting the election, they would be out with their guns hunting down and killing the enemy just like they did to King George!
Yea, new election, new Emperor, but nothing has change.
Hmmm... So the media is starting to call Obama what he is - a clone of Bush, well a clone of Bush that gives very pretty speaches.
Obama flip-flops pay tribute to Bush anti-terror war
May. 24, 2009 12:00 AM
If hypocrisy is the homage that vice pays to virtue, then the flip-flops on previously denounced anti-terror measures are the homage that Barack Obama pays to George Bush. Within 125 days, Obama has adopted with only minor modifications huge swaths of the entire, allegedly lawless Bush program.
The latest flip-flop is the restoration of military tribunals. During the 2008 campaign, Obama denounced them repeatedly, calling them an "enormous failure." Obama suspended them upon his swearing in. Now, they're back. Of course, Obama will never admit in word what he's doing in deed. As in his rhetorically brilliant national-security speech on Thursday claiming to have undone Bush's moral travesties, the military commissions flip-flop is accompanied by the usual Obama three-step: (1) excoriate the Bush policy, (2) ostentatiously unveil cosmetic changes, (3) adopt the Bush policy.
Cosmetic changes such as Obama's declaration that "we will give detainees greater latitude in selecting their own counsel." Laughable. High-toned liberal law firms are climbing over each other for the frisson of representing these miscreants in court.
What about disallowing evidence received under coercive interrogation? Hardly new, notes former prosecutor Andrew McCarthy. Under the existing rules, military judges have that authority, and they exercised it under the Bush administration to dismiss charges against al-Qaida operative Mohammed al-Qahtani on precisely those grounds.
On Guantanamo, it's Obama's fellow Democrats who have suddenly discovered the wisdom of Bush's choice. In open rebellion against Obama's pledge to shut it down, the Senate voted 90-6 to reject appropriating a single penny until the president explains where he intends to put the inmates.
Sen. James Webb, the de facto Democratic authority on national defense, wants the closing to be put on hold. And on Tuesday, Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said there will be no Gitmo inmates on American soil - not even in American prisons.
That doesn't leave a lot of places. The home countries won't take them. Europe is recalcitrant. Saint Helena needs refurbishing. Elba didn't work out too well the first time. And Devil's Island is now a tourist destination. Gitmo is starting to look good again.
Observers of all political stripes are stunned by how much of the Bush national-security agenda is being adopted by this new Democratic government. Victor Davis Hanson (National Review) offers a partial list: "The Patriot Act, wiretaps, e-mail intercepts, military tribunals, Predator drone attacks, Iraq (slowing the withdrawal), Afghanistan (the surge) - and now Guantanamo."
Jack Goldsmith (New Republic) adds: rendition - turning over terrorists seized abroad to foreign countries; state secrets - claiming them in court to quash legal proceedings on rendition and other erstwhile barbarisms; and the denial of habeas corpus - to detainees in Afghanistan's Bagram prison, indistinguishable logically and morally from Guantanamo. What does it all mean? Democratic hypocrisy and demagoguery? Sure, but in Washington, opportunism is hardly news.
There is something much larger at play - an undeniable, irresistible national interest that, in the end, beyond the cheap politics, asserts itself. The urgencies and necessities of the actual post-9/11 world, as opposed to the fanciful world of the opposition politician, present a rather narrow range of acceptable alternatives.
Among them: reviving the tradition of military tribunals, used historically by George Washington, Andrew Jackson, Winfield Scott, Abraham Lincoln, Arthur MacArthur and Franklin Roosevelt. And inventing Guantanamo - accessible, secure, offshore and nicely symbolic (the tradition of island exile for those outside the pale of civilization is a venerable one) - a quite brilliant choice for the placement of terrorists, some of whom, the Bush administration immediately understood, would have to be detained without trial in a war that could be endless.
The genius of democracy is that the rotation of power forces the opposition to come to its senses when it takes over. When the new guys, brought to power by popular will, then adopt the policies of the old guys, a national consensus is forged and a new legitimacy established. That's happening before our eyes. The Bush policies in the war on terror won't have to await vindication by historians. Obama is doing it day by day.
Reach Krauthammer at email@example.com.
Looks like Obama lied about getting us out of the Iraq war in 18 months. Now his to General George Casey says to be ready for 10 years in Iraq!
Army chief: U.S. ready for 10-year stay in Iraq
May. 27, 2009 12:00 AM
WASHINGTON - The Pentagon is prepared to leave fighting forces in Iraq for as long as a decade despite an agreement between the United States and Iraq that would bring all American troops home by 2012, the top U.S. Army officer said Tuesday.
Gen. George Casey, the Army chief of staff, said the world remains dangerous and unpredictable, and the Pentagon must plan for extended U.S. combat and stability operations in two wars.
"Global trends are pushing in the wrong direction," Casey said. "They fundamentally will change how the Army works." He spoke at an invitation-only briefing to a dozen journalists and policy analysts from Washington-based think tanks. He said his planning envisions combat troops in Iraq and Afghanistan for a decade as part of a sustained U.S. commitment to fighting extremism and terrorism in the Middle East.
President Barack Obama plans to bring U.S. combat forces home from Iraq in 2010, and the United States and Iraq have agreed that all American forces would leave by 2012.
As recently as February, Defense Secretary Robert Gates reiterated the U.S. commitment to the agreement.
HOW DO YOU SPELL FLIP FLOP - FLIP FLOP
Justice Dept. asks judges to block abuse photos
May. 28, 2009 02:25 PM
WASHINGTON - The Obama administration asked a federal appeals court Thursday to halt the release of disturbing images of detainee abuse, saying the photos could incite violence in Pakistan as well as in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The court papers filed in New York cite two partially secret statements from two top U.S. generals, David Petraeus and Ray Odierno.
Such arguments failed to sway the court in the past. In the new filings, Petraeus, who oversees U.S. military operations in the Middle East and Central Asia, said the images could also lead to more violence in Pakistan because it deals with Taliban attacks. The filings underscore just how worried U.S. officials are about the increasing violence in Pakistan. While past arguments about the photos referred generally to the Middle East, Petraeus' statement spends several pages discussing Pakistan's recent struggles against terrorism.
The administration had planned to release the photos until President Barack Obama reversed the decision this month, saying their release would endanger U.S. troops serving in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Disseminating the photos poses “a clear and grave risk of inciting violence and riots against American and coalition forces, as well as civilian personnel, serving in Iraq and Afghanistan,” according to the motion filed with the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court.
The photos were ordered released as part of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union.
The Bush administration had also fought their release, and lost.
ACLU lawyer Amrit Singh said the new filing by the Obama administration “has no new arguments” and will be opposed. She also criticized the Obama administration for redacting parts of the generals' arguments about the safety threats posed by the photos.
“It's troubling to us that not only is the government withholding the photographs, but it's also withholding its arguments for withholding the photographs,” said Singh.
The court ruled in September 2008 that general concerns about public safety were not specific enough to merit blocking the release of the photos.
The motion filed Thursday also notes that the government plans to appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court.
Congress is also considering stepping in to block the photos' release.
Odierno, who commands the troops in Iraq, said in his statement to the court that the 2004 release of photos of detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib prison “likely contributed to a spike in violence in Iraq” that year. He also said he has been told by senior political officials in Iraq that release of the photos would upset the democratic process in Iraq before national elections.
The pleas by Odierno and Petraeus echo those in 2005 by Gen. Richard Myers, then the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Separately, the Defense Department on Thursday denied a British newspaper report that some of the images showed U.S. personnel sexually assaulting detainees.
Shoveling the BS about kicking North Korea's butt!
In Washington, the Army's top officer, Gen. George Casey, expressed confidence that the U.S. could fight a conventional war against North Korea if necessary, despite continuing conflicts elsewhere. [How deep can you shovel the BS! The mighty American Empire can't even win its war with 2 third world countries in the middle east and we claim we can also fight a war with North Korea on a third front]
North Korea defiantly test-fires another short-range missile
by Siyoung Lee - May. 29, 2009 05:56 AM
YEONPYEONG, South Korea - North Korea defiantly test-fired another short-range missile Friday and warned it would act in "self-defense" if provoked by the U.N. Security Council, which is considering tough sanctions against the communist regime for conducting a nuclear test.
The North fired the missile from its Musudan-ni launch site on the east coast, a South Korean government official said. He spoke on condition of anonymity, citing the sensitivity of the matter. It is the sixth short-range missile North Korea has test-fired since Monday's nuclear test.
The official did not provide further details. But the Yonhap news agency cited an unidentified South Korean government official as saying the missile is a new type of ground-to-air missile estimated to have a range of up to 160 miles. With tensions high on the Korean peninsula, Chinese fishing boats left the region, possibly to avoid any maritime skirmishes between the two Koreas. But U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said the situation was not a crisis and no additional U.S. troops would be sent to the region.
North Korea, meanwhile, warned it would retaliate if provoked.
"If the U.N. Security Council makes a further provocation, it will be inevitable for us to take further self-defense measures," the North's Foreign Ministry said in a statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency.
North Korea also accused the Security Council of hypocrisy.
"There is a limit to our patience," the statement said. "The nuclear test conducted in our nation this time is the Earth's 2,054th nuclear test. The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council have conducted 99.99 percent of the total nuclear tests."
The North has been strident since its test - which it has also called a self-defensive measure. It did not specify what further action it was considering in response to U.N. resolutions, or what it would consider a provocation.
Fears have increased of military skirmishes, particularly in disputed waters off the western coast, after North Korea conducted the nuclear test on Monday and then renounced the truce that has kept peace between the Koreas since the Korean War ended in 1953.
The waters were the site of two deadly clashes in 1999 and 2002.
From Yeonpyeong, the South Korean island closest to North Korea, about a dozen Chinese ships could be seen pulling out of port in the North and heading elsewhere. South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported that more than 280 Chinese vessels were fishing in the area earlier this week, but the number has dropped to about 140.
It was not clear if the Chinese vessels, in the area for the crabbing season, were told by the North to leave or if they were leaving on their own for fear of clashes at sea.
"For now, it seems quiet," said local construction worker Lee Hae-un, 43. "But if North Korea provokes us with military power, I think our government should actively and firmly counteract it."
South Korean and U.S. troops facing North Korea raised their surveillance on Thursday to its highest level since 2006, when North Korea tested its first nuclear device. About 28,000 American troops are stationed across the South.
North Korea, whose 1.2-million strong military is one of the world's largest, says it is merely preparing to defend itself against what it says are plans by the United States to launch a pre-emptive strike to overthrow its communist government.
The United States has repeatedly denied any intention to attack North Korea.
In Washington, the Army's top officer, Gen. George Casey, expressed confidence that the U.S. could fight a conventional war against North Korea if necessary, despite continuing conflicts elsewhere.
But Gates, en route to Singapore for regional defense talks, tried to lower the temperature.
"I don't think that anybody in the (Obama) administration thinks there is a crisis," Gates told reporters aboard his military jet early Friday.
Meanwhile, talks at the U.N. Security Council over possible sanctions for the nuclear test were moving forward slowly.
Russia's U.N. ambassador said Thursday there was wide agreement among key world powers on what a new U.N. resolution should include, but said putting the elements together will take time because the issues are "complicated."
A list of proposals was sent Wednesday to the five permanent veto-wielding council members - the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France - and the two countries most closely affected by the nuclear test, Japan and South Korea.
Diplomats said a draft of the proposed resolution is not expected to be circulated until next week.
The two Koreas technically remain at war because they signed a truce, not a peace treaty, in 1953. North Korea disputes the U.N.-drawn maritime border off their west coast and has positioned artillery guns along the west coast on its side of the border, Yonhap said.
Traffic at the border between the Koreas appeared to be normal. Yonhap said more than 340 South Korean workers crossed to a joint industrial complex in the North.
The two Koreas are also maintaining a communication line to exchange information on commercial vessels passing through each other's waters, Unification Ministry spokeswoman Lee Jong-joo said.
I think we should call him King Obama.
Screw what the Constitution says - "a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life." - knows much better how government should operate!
Obama: Efforts to undermine Sotomayor for court will fail
by Liz Sidoti - May. 30, 2009 08:05 AM
WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama expressed confidence Saturday that efforts to scuttle Sonia Sotomayor's nomination to the Supreme Court will fail despite intensified scrutiny of her judicial career. He said senators should work quickly to elevate the federal appeals judge.
"I am certain that she is the right choice," the president said in his weekly radio and Internet address in which he scolded critics who he said were trying to distort her record and past statements. Those include her 2001 comment that a female Hispanic judge would often reach a better decision than a white male judge.
With the Senate returning this coming week from its holiday break, Obama said he hopes it begins the confirmation process without delay. He said he expects his nominee to be on the bench when the Supreme Court begins its new term in October.
In the interim, Obama said he expects "rigorous evaluation" of his nominee but added: "What I hope is that we can avoid the political posturing and ideological brinksmanship that has bogged down this process, and Congress, in the past."
He derided "some in Washington who are attempting to draw old battle lines and playing the usual political games, pulling a few comments out of context to paint a distorted picture of Judge Sotomayor's record."
"But I am confident that these efforts will fail," Obama added, "because Judge Sotomayor's 17-year record on the bench - hundreds of judicial decisions that every American can read for him or herself - speak far louder than any attack; her record makes clear that she is fair, unbiased and dedicated to the rule of law."
On Friday, Obama personally sought to deflect criticism about Sotomayor's comment in a 2001 lecture that "I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life."
The quote in question from Sotomayor has emerged as a rallying call for conservative critics who fear she will offer opinions from the bench based less on the rule of law and more on her life experience, ethnicity and gender. That issue is likely to play a central role in her Senate confirmation process.
"I'm sure she would have restated it," Obama told NBC News, without indicating how he knew that.
Obama also defended his nominee, saying her message was on target even if her exact wording was not.
"I think that when she's appearing before the Senate committee, in her confirmation process, I think all this nonsense that is being spewed out will be revealed for what it is," Obama said in the broadcast interview, clearly aware of how ethnicity and gender issues are taking hold in the debate.
A veteran federal judge, Sotomayor is poised to be the first Hispanic, and the third woman, to serve on the Supreme Court She appears headed for confirmation, needing a majority vote in a Senate, where Democrats have 59 votes. But White House officials also want a smooth confirmation, not one that bogs down them or their nominee.
As a senator, Obama supported a failed attempt by Democrats to stall President George W. Bush's nomination of Samuel Alito to the high court.
Obama court pick puts spotlight on Sen. Sessions
by Ben Evans - May. 30, 2009 08:39 AM
WASHINGTON - Sen. Jeff Sessions has made a career of speaking out and voting against anyone he considers an activist liberal judge. Sonia Sotomayor was no exception the last time they crossed paths.
In 1997, she was nominated to the federal appeals court. Session, R-Ala., was a backbench senator demanding to know whether she had refused to join in a standing ovation for conservative Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. She said she had.
Sessions voted against her anyway. More than a decade later, the stakes are considerably higher. Sotomayor is President Barack Obama's choice to become the first Hispanic justice. Sessions has his party's lead role at her hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
No one expects Sessions to alter his views of who should and shouldn't sit on the Supreme Court. But his own experience more than two decades ago as a judicial nominee denied a federal court seat by the Senate could confound conservatives expecting a bare-knuckled attack, as well as liberals hoping he'll come off as a bullying, out-of-touch Southerner.
"Some people are quick to caricature different members, whether it's the right caricaturing someone like Sen. (Edward) Kennedy or the left caricaturing someone like Sen. Sessions," said Michael O'Neill, a George Mason University law professor who was the committee's top GOP staffer when Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter was the senior Republican. "I don't think you'll see Sessions personalize this ... and in some respects it might be less heated."
Sessions, the son of a country store owner in rural Alabama, is stepping into his new role at a moment of weakness for his party. The circumstances, he acknowledges, require him to work more cooperatively with majority Democrats.
He knows he must balance pressure from the right to scrutinize Sotomayor against the risks of portraying Republicans as obstructionists, particularly with the first Hispanic nominee to the high court.
But Sessions also has a unique personal sympathy for judges in the confirmation hot seat. It was 23 years ago when the same committee blocked his appointment over allegations that cast him as a racist. He says he feels an overriding "internal pressure" to handle nominations fairly.
No one would have guessed that Sessions would be in this position in 1986, when the committee killed his nomination by President Ronald Reagan to be a federal district court judge.
Sessions, then 39, denied charges he made racist comments and targeted black civil rights leaders as a federal prosecutor in Alabama. He did acknowledge making some off-color "jokes," such as calling civil rights groups like the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People "un-American."
Kennedy, D-Mass., back then said Sessions was a "throwback to a shameful era." Two Republicans, including Specter, joined Democrats led by then-Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., to defeat the nomination.
Sessions revived his career in Alabama, was elected the state's attorney general in 1994 and won his Senate seat two years later. He is known mostly as a conservative crusader, opposing legislation to give illegal immigrants a path to citizenship when former President George W. Bush proposed it two years ago, and backing causes such as displaying the Ten Commandments in public buildings.
At home in Alabama, his rise on the Judiciary Committee could push him out of the long shadow of the state's senior senator, Democratic-turned-Republican Richard Shelby, who has buildings named for him across the state.
Nationally, the move puts Sessions under intense pressure to carry the conservative banner, and squarely in the cross-hairs of liberals hoping to paint him as a far-right extremist with a penchant for provocative statements.
In remarks that may have gone unnoticed before, for example, Sessions was criticized this month for suggesting that Guantanamo Bay prisoners were lucky to be held at such a "beautiful" site with "tropic breezes."
Rehashing the allegations that doomed his judgeship, some commentators have begun referring to him by his full name: Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, a family name incorporating Jefferson Davis, the former president of the Confederacy, and General P.G.T. Beauregard, who fired on South Carolina's Fort Sumter in 1861 to open the Civil War.
Sessions insists he doesn't pay attention to the criticism and has moved past his failed judicial nomination. He has long since become friends with his former Senate detractors, and he smiles when asked about his rise to the top of the committee that turned him away.
"It is ironic," he said of succeeding Specter in the GOP post after Specter left the GOP to become a Democrat last month.
"I was a prosecutor for 17 years and I used to be frustrated by the judicial decisions that I thought didn't make sense," he added. "Now I'm in a position to get good judges ... and to me that's really an awesome responsibility."
Sessions has so far taken a conciliatory approach, playing down chances that Republicans would try to filibuster Sotomayor's nomination and saying he could support a judge who is gay or who backs abortion rights.
At a hearing this month for one of President Barack Obama's lower court nominees, Sessions said he may have been wrong on a few of President Bill Clinton's appointments, and he has left open the possibility that he could even support Sotomayor.
But he says she first must explain "serious problems," such as comments she made at a law seminar that federal appellate courts "make policy." He also is insisting that Republicans have plenty of time to examine her record.
"It's my view that we can do better with nominations than we have in the past," he said.
When it comes to creating a police state it looks like Barack Obama is just as good at it as past president George W. Hitler. Heil Obama! Viva the Police State!
Obama creates a cyber czar post
He says computer networks are national-security priority
by Lolita C. Baldor - May. 30, 2009 12:00 AM
WASHINGTON - America has failed for too long to protect the security of its computer networks, President Barack Obama said Friday, announcing that he will name a new cyber czar to press for action.
Surrounded by a slew of government officials, aides and corporate executives, Obama said the U.S. has reached a "transformational moment," when computer networks are probed and attacked millions of times a day.
"It's now clear this cyberthreat is one of the most serious economic and national-security challenges we face as a nation," Obama said, adding, "We're not as prepared as we should be, as a government or as a country." He said he will soon pick the person he wants to head a new White House Office of Cybersecurity, and that person will report to the National Security Council and the National Economic Council, a nod to his contention that the country's economic prosperity depends on cybersecurity.
Although the coordinator's exact title has not yet been decided, Obama addressed concerns that the person might not have the budgetary and policymaking authority needed to force change. The coordinator, he said, will have "regular access to me."
As many as a half-dozen candidates, from the public and private sector, are being considered for the job, according to officials familiar with the discussions.
Obama's announcement comes as the Pentagon is poised to create a cybercommand to improve protection of military networks and coordinate its offensive and defensive cybermissions.
Government officials have grown increasingly alarmed as U.S. computer networks are repeatedly assailed by attacks and scams, ranging from nuisance hacking to more nefarious probes and attacks, including suspicions of cyberespionage by other nations, such as China. Officials earlier this year revealed that there was an attack against the electrical grid, and computers at the Pentagon were infected by a virus.
Even the president was a victim.
Obama said his presidential campaign's computer system was attacked last year, and hackers gained access to e-mails and files but not to contributors or financial information.
"It was a powerful reminder: In this Information Age, one of your greatest strengths - in our case, our ability to communicate to a wide range of supporters through the Internet - could also be one of your greatest vulnerabilities," Obama said.
Laying out a broad five-point plan, the president said the U.S. must provide the education required to keep pace with technology and attract and retain a cybersavvy workforce. He called for a new education campaign to raise public awareness of the challenges.
The newly interconnected world offers great promise, but it also presents significant peril, the president said, declaring: "Cyberspace is real, and so are the risks that come with it."
He assured the business community, however, that the government will not dictate how private industry should tighten digital defenses. And he made it clear that the new cybersecurity effort will not involve monitoring of private networks or individual e-mail accounts.
The Internet, he said, should remain open and free.
Corporate leaders and cyberexperts, however, say they are concerned that the new coordinator will not wield enough power to force reluctant government agencies to put aside turf wars or dictate how they spend the millions of dollars the U.S. pours into its digital budgets.
"Placing a strategy czar in the White House will hinder Congress' ability to effectively oversee federal cybersecurity activities and will do little to resolve the bureaucratic conflicts, turf battles and confusing lines of authority that have undermined past cybersecurity efforts," said Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, the top Republican on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
Experts expressed similar reservations. "I expect that a position that has a lesser role, that doesn't have budget authority, that is reporting up through the NEC, would probably not result in the kinds of changes that really need to be made," said Gene Spafford, computer-security expert and professor at Purdue University, where candidate Obama first pledged last year to make cyber a priority.
Obama said the coordinator will work with the Office of Management and Budget to ensure that agencies reflect the spending priorities needed.
Overall, computer-company executives and members of Congress hailed Obama's announcement as a good first step, while warning that there is much hard work still to be done.
"Because the private sector owns and operates the vast majority of our nation's critical infrastructure, government and business have a shared responsibility to defend our networks," said Ann Beauchesne, vice president of national security at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Its a jobs program for the Secret Service of making mountains out of molehills.
Pa. newspaper ad calls for Obama assassination
May. 29, 2009 02:07 PM
WARREN, Pa. - A northwestern Pennsylvania newspaper is apologizing for running a classified advertisement calling for the assassination of President Barack Obama.
John Elchert, publisher of the Warren Times Observer, says the ad appeared Thursday. It read, "May Obama follow in the steps of Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley and Kennedy!" The four presidents were all assassinated.
Elchert tells The Associated Press that the newspaper's advertising staff didn't make the historical connection.
He says the newspaper turned information over to police and that the Secret Service is investigating the person who placed the ad.
King Barack Obama has a nice ring to it. Sounds better then Emperor Barack Obama! On the other hand Emperor Barak Obama sounds much more powerful. After all King Abdullah would not be able to invade Iraq and Afghanistan and get away with it like Emperor George W. Bush did.
To open a Muslim dialogue, Obama visits Saudi king
Jun. 3, 2009 06:29 AM
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia - President Barack Obama began his latest bid to open a dialogue with the Muslim world by paying a call Wednesday on King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, home to Islam's two holiest sites in Mecca and Medina.
Saudi Arabia's monarch greeted Obama at Riyadh's main airport with a ceremony when the new U.S. president arrived after an overnight flight from Washington. A band played each country's national anthem, the Saudi national guard was on hand and there was a 21-gun salute.
Obama and Abdullah then sat together in gilded chairs, sipped cardamom-flavored Arabic coffee from small cups and chatted briefly in public before retreating to hold private talks on a range of issues at the king's desert horse farm. There, guards on horseback flanked the long driveway, carrying swords and flags of the two countries as the king and his guest arrived.
Saudi Arabia is a stopover en route to Cairo, where Obama is set to deliver a speech that he's been promising since last year's election campaign - aiming to set a new tone in America's often-strained dealings with the world's 1.5 billion Muslims.
"What we want to do is open a dialogue," Obama said in a pre-trip interview with the BBC. "You know, there are misapprehensions about the West, on the part of the Muslim world. And, obviously, there are some big misapprehensions about the Muslim world when it comes to those of us in the West."
Many of those Muslims still smolder over Iraq, Guantanamo and unflinching U.S. support of Israel, but they are hoping the son of a Kenyan Muslim who lived part of his childhood in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country, can help chart a new course.
"You know, there are misapprehensions about the West, on the part of the Muslim world," Obama said in a pretrip interview with the BBC. "And, obviously, there are some big misapprehensions about the Muslim world when it comes to those of us in the West."
Aides cautioned that Obama was not out to break new policy ground in his Cairo speech, which follows visits to Turkey and Iraq in April and a series of outreach efforts including a Persian New Year video and a student town hall in Istanbul. And they said the president is not expecting quick results, even though the speech will be distributed as widely as possible.
"We don't expect that everything will change after one speech," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Tuesday. "I think it will take a sustained effort and that's what the president is in for."
Officials said Obama also wouldn't flinch from difficult topics, whether it's the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, the goal of a Palestinian state or democracy and human rights. Obama has been criticized for setting the address in Egypt, where President Hosni Mubarak has jailed dissidents and clung to power for nearly three decades.
In Riyadh, the president was talking to Abdullah about a host of thorny problems, from Arab-Israeli peace efforts to Iran's nuclear program. The Saudis have voiced growing concern in private that an Iranian bomb could unleash a nuclear arms race in the region.
The surge in oil prices also was on the agenda. Crude topped $68 a barrel this week, sparking fears that a fresh jump in energy costs could snuff out early sparks of a recovery from a deep global slump.
Obama likely will be looking for help from Saudi Arabia on what to do with some 100 Yemeni detainees locked up in the Guantanamo Bay prison. Discussions over where to send the Yemeni detainees have complicated Obama's plan to close the prison. The U.S. has been hesitant to send them home because of Yemen's history of either releasing extremists or allowing them to escape from prison.
Instead, the Obama administration has been negotiating with Saudi Arabia and Yemen for months to send them to Saudi terrorist rehabilitation centers.
The president was to stay overnight at the king's farm outside Riyadh. Abdullah, who hosted then-President George W. Bush at the ranch in January of last year, keeps some 260 Arabian horses on its sprawling grounds in air-conditioned comfort.
In any effort to court Muslims, the Saudis will be key - not just for their oil wealth, but by virtue of the authority they wield at the center of Arab history and culture.
Obama's meeting with the 84-year-old Abdullah was his second in three months. The two saw each other at the G-20 summit in London, a meeting both sides called friendly and productive. Perhaps a bit too friendly: Critics accused Obama of bowing to the Saudi monarch during a photo-op. The White House maintained he was merely bending to shake hands with a shorter man.
"This in many ways will be one of the pivotal relationships President Obama can develop," said Robin Wright, a scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center. "Saudi Arabia is important not just in terms of the Gulf and oil prices. It sets the tenor. It's one of the most conservative regimes. It's also important because King Abdullah is, among the various royals, more open-minded than others. These are two men who might actually deal well with each other."
Obama's backing down on his promise to close Gitmo because he is afraid he will lose a few warmonger votes! Which means he lied to the anti-war people that got him elected!
Poll: US divided over torture, closing Guantanamo
Jun. 3, 2009 12:00 AM
WASHINGTON - Just over half of Americans say torture is at least sometimes justified to thwart terrorist attacks and are evenly divided over whether to close the Guantanamo Bay prison, according to a poll that underscores the challenges President Barack Obama faces in selling his terror-fighting policies.
Even so, the latest Associated Press-GfK survey also shows that Obama enjoys broad confidence that he can effectively handle terrorism in an era when many people say they still fear becoming a victim of it and when a swath of the public shares the views of Obama's Republican predecessor, George W. Bush.
At the same time, Obama hasn't lost support - he has a strong 64 percent job-approval rating - and nearly half of Americans still think the country's headed in the right direction. That's despite bipartisan rebukes of the new president's ordered closure of the Cuban island facility and former Vice President Dick Cheney's sustained criticism of Obama's approach to terrorism.
Terrorism and Guantanamo emerged in the poll as intensely partisan issues, with viewpoints largely split along ideological lines.
"To uphold the integrity of our Constitution for ourselves and for the world, it is important" that the U.S. close the Guantanamo prison, said Diana Jones, 68, a Democrat from Timonium, Md., who has faith in Obama's terror-battling abilities. "We need to treat other counties as we would want them to treat us." Plus, she added, keeping the prison open puts U.S. troops overseas at risk.
Countered Steve Marsh, 50, a Republican from Guntersville, Ala., who doesn't think Obama is strong enough on terrorism: "I'd just rather see them there than see them here on our soil. ... They don't, in my opinion, deserve to be treated as part of our prison system here. They need to be kept separate."
Such issues have dominated Obama's agenda in recent weeks as he has wrestled with the fallout of Bush-era policies and the legal questions surrounding them, while trying to fend off criticism from friends and foes alike.
Obama ordered the prison's closure and emphatically stated "we don't torture" just days after taking office as he sought to improve a sullied world image. But since then, he has found that making good on those campaign promises has, perhaps, been more difficult than anticipated.
The Democratic-controlled Senate demanded more details of Obama's plan when lawmakers voted 90-6 to refuse to give him $80 billion he requested to shutter the Bush-created prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, by early 2010. Republicans also spoke out vigorously against the notion that dangerous terrorism suspects could end up confined on U.S. soil. And foreign allies balked at accepting the transfer of prisoners from the Navy-run facility when the United States didn't appear willing to do the same.
All that prompted Obama to deliver a speech in which he denounced "fear-mongering" by political opponents and insisted that U.S. maximum-security prisons can safely house the prisoners. He also argued anew that closing the prison, which has held hundreds of detainees for years without charges or trials, could make the U.S. safer because the prison would no longer motivate enemies overseas.
A novice commander in chief, Obama risks further defeat of his policies in Congress and disapproval of them abroad if he can't get the public on board. Thus, he's making a tough sell.
For now at least, the AP-GfK poll shows most Americans have faith in him, with 70 percent saying they are confident of Obama's ability to address terrorism. That's divided along party lines, with nearly all Democrats, two-thirds of independents and just over a third of Republicans expressing confidence.
Nearly eight years after terrorists struck on U.S. soil, more than a third of Americans say they worry about the chance that they or their relatives might fall victim to a terrorist attack - essentially unchanged from 35 percent five years ago.
All that said, the poll also shows potential areas of political vulnerability for Obama and indicates he must walk a fine line as he seeks to both protect the country and turn the page on Bush's national security policies.
Some 52 percent of people say torture can be at least sometimes justified to obtain information about terrorist activities from suspects, an increase from 38 percent in 2005 when the AP last asked the question. More than two-thirds of Republicans say torture can be justified compared with just over a third of Democrats.
On Obama's plan to close the Guantanamo prison, 47 percent approve, while 47 percent disapprove. Again, the country is divided on partisan lines, with most Republicans disapproving and most Democrats approving. Independents are evenly divided.
Despite the president's safety assurances, more than half of Americans say they would be worried about the chance of terrorism suspects escaping from U.S. high-security prisons. Yet again, more Republicans express concern than Democrats. Still, the figures indicate that the GOP-fueled fear may be resonating.
Leading the charge by Republicans against Obama's policies is Cheney, who the poll shows may be benefiting from his outspokenness since leaving office. Nearly a quarter had a favorable opinion of the former vice president, a measure that's risen steadily from a low of 13 percent in one 2007 poll.
For all the out-of-power GOP's angst, the poll found one bright spot for it: More people identified themselves as Republican than did last month, 23 percent to 18 percent.
The AP-GfK Poll was conducted May 28 to June 1 by GfK Roper Public Affairs & Media. It involved landline and cell phone interviews with 1,000 adults nationwide and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.
Source: US broke bombing rules in Afghanistan
Jun. 3, 2009 03:41 PM
WASHINGTON - American troops made substantial errors and did not strictly follow rules for avoiding casualties during an air assault on Taliban fighters last month, a U.S. defense official said, underscoring a central quandary for President Barack Obama's new Afghan counterinsurgency campaign.
The defense official said Wednesday that a military investigation faulted some of the actions of American troops in air strikes May 4 that killed dozens of Afghan civilians in Farah province.
"Errors were made" in the attack, the official acknowledged on condition of anonymity, discussing one of the preliminary findings on an incident that has strained relations between Washington and Kabul and bred deep resentment among the Afghan people. Civilian deaths in Afghanistan have also enraged Muslims worldwide. Though the probe looked into the events in early May, commanders for well over a year have focused considerable attention on the problem. It looms as large as ever as the Obama administration streams 21,000 troops into Afghanistan to try to regain momentum in the faltering war.
The new U.S. commander in eastern Afghanistan was asked about the issue at a news conference on his first day Wednesday, when he only took two questions. Maj. Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, responded that he planned to use close air support for troops only when needed to protect them and to complete the mission. And he said air strikes would be used carefully.
The nominee for top commander in Afghanistan was asked about it at his confirmation hearing Tuesday on Capitol Hill. Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal told senators: "This is a critical point. It may be the critical point. This is a struggle for the support of the Afghan people."
A report Wednesday by analysts at the think tank Center for a New American Security said that in order to turn around the Afghanistan/Pakistan problem, the United States must "rapidly triage" its priorities. "Protecting the population must take precedence over all other considerations," the report said.
McChrystal said that if confirmed, he will review all existing rules of engagement and all tactical directives. But American military commanders on a number of occasions already have reviewed and rewritten the rules - including those on bombing missions and on how special forces operate - in an effort to avoid Afghan casualties.
Rules tightened in a review last year may not have been followed by troops on May 4, said the official who spoke about the investigation.
One example cited by the investigators, the official said, involved a U.S. warplane that got permission to launch an attack against a suspected Taliban site. For some reason, the plane circled back and didn't reconfirm the target before dropping the bomb. The official said that left the possibility that civilians had entered the area or that the Taliban had left in the interim.
Officials have insisted they go to great lengths to avoid civilian casualties.
Maj. Gen. William Rew, the Air Force's director of operational planning, policy and strategy, said during a meeting with reporters earlier this year that "thousands" of attacks have been called off at the last minute when live video feeds from unmanned aerial vehicles showed civilians in the area of a planned strike.
Afghans say 140 civilians died on May 4, while American commanders say video evidence recorded by fighter jets and the account of the ground commander suggest no more than 30 civilians were killed, as well as 60 to 65 Taliban.
The International Committee of the Red Cross said a team that it sent to the area saw "dozens of bodies in each of the two locations," including women and children.
In Geneva, U.N. human rights investigator Philip Alston said Wednesday that about two-thirds of those killed appeared to be civilians, citing studies by the United Nations, the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission and other monitors. He said he expected more information to come out in the coming days, and said U.S. reports "have become more and more detailed."
Said Alston: "The most important point is simply that there's no disagreement that a very significant number of civilians were killed."
According to the U.S. military, the battle in Farah began a day after Taliban fighters entered two villages, demanded money from civilians and killed three former government employees. An Afghan force rushed in, only to be ambushed by as many as 300 insurgents.
The provincial governor asked for U.S. military help, and American ground troops joined the battle, the U.S. says.
Before the battle was over, troops called in F-18 fighter jet airstrikes as well as help from a B-1 bomber, coordinating with the ground commander to strike a half-dozen targets including buildings and a tree grove insurgents were firing from or massing in, the U.S. has said.
Judge says you can't sue a private sector company that helps the government violate your civil rights!
Judge tosses cases against warrantless wiretaps
Jun. 3, 2009 02:25 PM
SAN FRANCISCO - A federal judge on Wednesday tossed out more than three dozen lawsuits filed against the nation's telecommunications companies for allegedly taking part in the government's e-mail and telephone eavesdropping program that was done without court approval.
In addition, he ordered officials in Maine, New Jersey, Connecticut, Vermont and Missouri to halt their investigations of the telecommunication companies for their alleged participation in the once-secret surveillance programs.
The judge's actions were widely expected after Congress in July agreed on new surveillance rules that included protection from legal liability for telecommunications companies that allegedly helped the U.S. spy on Americans without warrants. U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker upheld the constitutionality of the new surveillance rules.
Walker said congressional actions didn't prohibit telephone and e-mail customers who believe they were targets of warrantless wiretaps from suing federal government officials, who the judge called "the primary actors in the alleged wiretapping activities."
The judge noted that several lawsuits that directly accuse the government, rather than the companies, of wrongdoing are still pending.
Later Wednesday, the judge is to hear arguments in one of those cases. He has threatened to punish the federal government for its continued refusal to turn over a top-secret document that the U.S.-based arm of an Islamic charity says shows it was the subject of warrantless wiretaps.
The Obama administration insists in court filings that release of the document will create "intolerable risks" to national security, the same stance taken by the Bush administration.
The now defunct Ashland, Ore. chapter of the Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation sued the government after the Treasury Department accidentally turned over in 2004 a document civil rights lawyers say was a call log showing telephone conversations were monitored. The Treasury Department shut down the Ashland branch in 2004 and designated it a supporter of terrorism.
Al-Haramain's lawyers returned the document when officials discovered the error and a federal judge in Oregon initially barred the charity from using the document to support its lawsuit.
The case was transferred to Walker in San Francisco and he ruled that that Al-Haramain's lawyers can now access the document since they have provided enough public government disclosures to support their eavesdropping claims.
The Al-Haramain case has been a focal point for civil liberties groups questioning the legality of the warrantless wiretapping program, and has become one of several instances where the current administration has taken its cue from the Bush administration in citing national security as justification for keeping secrets.
Attorney General Eric Holder has ordered a review of all state secrets used by the Bush administration to protect anti-terrorism programs from lawsuits. But the Obama administration is also fighting the court-ordered release of prisoner-abuse photos and is reviving, in a revised form, military tribunals where suspected terrorists have limited access to information.
Looks like Obama lied about getting us out of that Iraq war! Obama is a war monger just like George W. Bush!
Demand for elite forces outpaces growth
Jun. 4, 2009 06:59 AM
WASHINGTON - Elite special operations forces can't grow fast enough to meet increasing global demands, so the Pentagon is depending more heavily on support that is not always available from regular forces, according to the military's top special operations commander.
Adm. Eric T. Olson, head of U.S. Special Operations Command, says he needs the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines to provide more logistics, intelligence, communications and air transportation support for his troops overseas.
"We are and will be dependent upon our service partners for key force enablers," said Olson in remarks prepared for a congressional hearing and obtained by The Associated Press. "The non-availability of these force enablers has become our most vexing issue in the operational environment." Olson, who is scheduled to testify Thursday before the House Armed Services terrorism subcommittee, says his force can only grow by 3 percent to 5 percent a year. But, he said, the need for special operations units to deploy in hot spots around the globe is outpacing that growth.
The more mobile, specially trained warriors carry out more secretive anti-terror missions, and in a number of countries they are used to train foreign forces.
In most cases, however, they rely on their brethren in larger, conventional military units to fuel their helicopters, fix their trucks, transport their troops and provide surveillance and other information.
Olson said there is still a shortage of manned and unmanned surveillance aircraft and systems, which are critical for his forces on the warfront.
Another challenge, he said, will be to ensure that special operations units serving in dangerous areas of Iraq get the support they need as the larger, conventional units leave the country.
There are 135,000 U.S. forces in Iraq, and they are scheduled to leave the cities by June. President Barack Obama has said that all combat forces will be out of the country by the end of August 2010, and all forces will be out of Iraq by the end of 2011.
Olson said his forces have made progress in one key area - the recruitment of non-U.S. citizens with foreign language and cultural expertise. He said more than 100 of the legal, non-permanent residents have joined the Army under a pilot program and some will be serving in special operations units.
Special operations forces are deployed around the world, including as many as 8,000 in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Pentagon is increasing the number of elite forces from about 45,000 in 2001 to about 62,000 by 2015. The elite warriors include Army Rangers and Green Berets, Navy SEALS, and Air Force and Marine special operations forces.
On the Net:
Defense Department: www.defenselink.mil
Looks like Obama is planning on a LONG, LONG, war in Afghanistan. And of course he broke his promise to pull out of the Iraq war. After 2 years he plans to leave a third of the troops in Iraq forever.
War in Afghanistan winnable, but not easily, general says
by Robert Burns - Jun. 3, 2009 12:00 AM
WASHINGTON - The general picked by President Barack Obama to turn around the worsening war in Afghanistan told Congress on Tuesday that winning will require spending more U.S. resources and killing fewer Afghan civilians.
Army Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal warned that failure would probably mean all-out civil war and a firmer foothold for al-Qaida terrorists.
McChrystal said that with a proper counterinsurgency campaign, including a more prominent role for civilian experts, Afghanistan can be stabilized and its Taliban opposition marginalized. Progress must be shown within 18 to 24 months to sustain public support for the war, the general said.
"I believe it is winnable, but I don't think it will be easily winnable," he told the Senate Armed Services Committee in a hearing that suggested he is likely to win confirmation by the full Senate amid lingering questions about his role in the handling of the 2004 accidental shooting death of Army Ranger Pat Tillman in Afghanistan.
If confirmed, he would receive a fourth star, capping a rapid rise through the officer ranks.
McChrystal would replace Gen. David McKiernan, who was fired May 11 in an unusual wartime shake-up. McKiernan has said that the conflict is "stalemated, at best" in southern Afghanistan, where the Taliban is strongest and where thousands of additional American troops are headed this summer.
In an exchange with Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., McChrystal said mistakes were made in the military's handling of the accidental shooting death of Tillman - a former Arizona State University and Arizona Cardinals football player - in Afghanistan in April 2004. At the time, McChrystal commanded U.S. special operations forces in Afghanistan, including Army Rangers.
An investigation at the time found that McChrystal was "accountable for the inaccurate and misleading assertions" contained in internal military papers recommending that Tillman receive a Silver Star award for valor.
McChrystal told McCain that the award paperwork was "not well written." He added that this "produced confusion at a tragic time. I'm very sorry for that." He added that in retrospect, he would have done things differently, including taking more time to ensure that the award citation was accurate.
Obama creating a bigger better police state - just like George W. Bush. Ain't a dimes worth of difference between Obama and Bush. Well Obama talks a better line, but they both are turning American into a police state. The NORML people hoped Obama would legalize or decriminalize pot, but Obama did a flip flop on that.
Secretary Napolitano touts new anti-drug plan
by Arthur H. Rotstein - Jun. 5, 2009 12:00 AM
TUCSON - Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano promised Thursday that a new Obama Administration border drug-fighting strategy won't just focus on smugglers.
She said the counternarcotics plan also will set its sights on reducing demand from drug users. Napolitano will unveil it Friday with Attorney General Eric Holder and drug czar Gil Kerlikowske (kur-lih-KOW'-skee) in Albuquerque, N.M.
"This is not just about slowing or impeding the flow of drugs from Mexico and Central America into the United States, it's also about reducing the demand for those drugs," she said. Napolitano wouldn't elaborate on details during an appearance here Thursday in which she announced grants of about $59 million for local law enforcement efforts to combat crime along the southwestern border.
But she said the lack of permanent leadership in three key federal agencies won't hinder the effort.
Currently, interim directors are running Customs and Border Protection, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Napolitano said all three are career professionals "highly expert" in their areas.
The new drug program, the law enforcement grants under an existing program called Operation Stonegarden and other resources the federal government is adding along the Mexican border are part of the administration's integrated effort to combat cartel-related violence in Mexico, Napolitano said.
The former Arizona's governor said the effort is intended to keep the violence from pouring across the border.
She also cited additional resources that the federal government is adding along the Mexican border, including new license plate readers and explosives detection equipment and funding for greater criminal alien removal projects.
"The drug cartel violence is in Mexico, and this change is to integrate with our federal efforts to assist Mexico and to make sure that spillover violence doesn't occur within the United States," she said.
She also said federal officials are working with their Mexican counterparts to try to make certain that gains Mexico has made in reducing cartel-related violence around Juarez are maintained.
That reduction has been credited largely to a heavy military presence around Juarez, across the border from El Paso, Texas.
"We're very cognizant of the fact that at some point you're not going to have 5,000 or 6,000 active-duty military in Juarez," she said.
"So the challenge is moving in of other, civilian law enforcement so that you can maintain the progress that was made in the last months with the military there. We're working with Mexican law enforcement to ensure that that happens."
In April, the city of Ciudad Juarez and the Mexican federal government signed an agreement to train, recruit and equip sufficient city police officers to take over security patrols being performed by 5,000 army troops.
The city's mayor said the army presence starting in March had cut homicides by 95 percent, from an average of 10 per day to about four a week. Eight people were killed there this week.
Later Thursday, in Albuquerque, N.M., Napolitano also announced members of the Homeland Security Advisory Council Southwest Border Task Force, which held its first meeting at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque.
The task force - made up of law enforcement officers, elected officials and national security experts - is charged with studying the Homeland Security Department's efforts along the border and giving advice directly to the secretary.
Napolitano said she has asked the 20-member group to focus on ensuring rigorous inspection processes at ports of entry while allowing commerce to continue and assessing the practical consequences of border violence.
The task force is chaired by former CIA and FBI Director William Webster. Other members include former ambassador to Mexico Jim Jones, San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders, New Mexico National Guard Maj. Gen. Kenny Montoya and Sheriff Raymond Cobos of Luna County, N.M.
Translation from government double speak "Sonia Sotomayor is an *sshole who yells and screams at people"
Sotomayor's courtroom manner a confirmation issue
By LARRY NEUMEISTER, Associated Press Writer Larry Neumeister, Associated Press Writer – Sat Jun 6, 2:43 pm ET
NEW YORK – Sonia Sotomayor was in her 30s and not yet a judge when she noticed that a paralegal at the law firm where she worked broke out in hives whenever she entered Sotomayor's office. After six months, they laughed about it.
"'I don't know what was wrong with me, but it took me six months to realize that you don't bite,'" Sotomayor recalled the paralegal telling her.
"But her reaction was not uncommon and it is unfortunately the reaction of many people who don't get to know me immediately in a social setting. But they can get over it, fortunately," Sotomayor acknowledged.
The encounter offered clues to the complex temperament of the Supreme Court justice-in-waiting.
Smiling lawmakers who meet with Sotomayor and will vote on her Supreme Court nomination see the smiling, engaging and charming judge, someone quite different from the person several lawyers anonymously criticized in the Almanac of the Federal Judiciary as sometimes abrupt and even abusive.
In a 1998 interview with The Associated Press, Sotomayor acknowledged her personality can intimidate those who misunderstand her.
"When I'm working in particular, I'm extraordinarily focused and people get intimidated by that focus and intensity I bring to the interaction," she said. "And it takes people a little bit of time to realize that I'm not forbidding, that I actually am fun-loving, very open and very human."
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told reporters in Washington this past week that he wants to know "is this temperament problem overstated, overblown or is it fundamental to who she is?"
Sotomayor's intensity has been on display for the decade she has sat on the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan, where she would often lean forward and stare at the lawyer she was questioning.
If the lawyer evaded her question or gave a weak response, she would repeat the question and push for clarity, sometimes to the point of sounding exasperated. But her tone was not belligerent and appeared directed at getting an answer.
Long before Sotomayor was elevated to the appeals court in 1998, the 2nd Circuit was regarded as a "hot bench" because its judges frequently interrupt lawyers with a volley of questions, sometimes letting them say only a few sentences of their prepared remarks.
Sotomayor was one of the more aggressive judges on the three-judge panels that rotate throughout the year.
She bluntly swept aside arguments by a government lawyer in December who tried to support his reasoning by noting that at least four judges had found it proper to toss out a lawsuit brought by a Canadian man who said the United States sent him to Syria to be tortured.
"But that doesn't mean they're right, counsel. Let's go back to my question," she told the government lawyer.
Fellow 2nd Circuit Judge Guido Calabresi, a former Yale Law School dean who taught Sotomayor when she was a student there, said Sotomayor "questions fiercely."
"Good lawyers love it when you say, `Here's my problem, now answer it,'" Calabresi said. "A bad lawyer goes into a panic."
Judge Jon Newman, another 2nd Circuit colleague, described Sotomayor as a "vigorous participant" in the courtroom, not much different from "a dozen outstanding judges I can name."
"Like many of us, she is engaged in the questioning," Newman said. "We regard oral argument as an important opportunity to engage counsel and probe the issues. She does it with skill and balance and she comes to the bench thoroughly prepared."
Several lawyers who have argued before her say they pity the lawyer who is unprepared.
"You better be prepared when you go in front of her. You can't just walk in and wing it," said lawyer Robert D. Arenstein.
Jacob Buckdahl, a commercial litigation lawyer in private practice who argued before Sotomayor when he was a federal prosecutor, said he likes Sotomayor's approach.
"I always appreciate as a litigant getting a hot bench and more challenging questions than when a panel sits there stone-faced," he said. "When a judge asks you questions, you know what's important to that judge and can tailor your argument to what matters to that judge."
Lawyer Floyd Abrams, a widely recognized First Amendment authority, recalled some challenging exchanges with Sotomayor. "One case she was very tough on me and she was asking hard questions and I didn't persuade her. You can't win them all," he said.
In another case, Abrams said Sotomayor engaged him in a "lengthy and vigorous" exchange over whether the press had an absolute right to information disclosed publicly in court.
Alan Milstein, who represented former Ohio State running back Maurice Clarett in his effort to enter the National Football League draft as a 19-year-old, remembered "very tough, very tough" questioning by Sotomayer. The appeals court overturned a lower-court judge who was going to let Clarett be drafted.
"It was obvious to me that she and the other panel members had made up their minds about this issue without looking at the briefs or even hearing the arguments," Milstein said. "I don't think she wanted to hear anything I had to say."
Milstein described the appeals court's decision as a heartbreaking denial of opportunity for his client to escape the poor, gang-infested community where he grew up. Still, Milstein said he believes Sotomayor "will make a great justice."
Rep. Nydia M. Velazquez, D-N.Y., a friend of Sotomayor and a fellow Puerto Rican, said Sotomayor's gender may be clouding the views of some critics.
"She has the responsibility as a judge to question and to challenge. If it's a man, that is `tough' — it's OK — if it's a woman then somehow she is a bully or has a bad tamper," Velazquez said.
Its not the War in Iraq, its the corporate welfare program in Iraq.
Its not the War in Iraq, its the corporate welfare program in Iraq. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are not to defend the USA, but to provide welfare programs for corporations that give loot to their Congressmen and Senators.
APNewsBreak: Major problems found in war spending
Posted 6/7/2009 5:59 PM ET
By Richard Lardner, Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON — This is one Christmas gift U.S. taxpayers don't need. Construction of a $30 million dining facility at a U.S. base in Iraq is scheduled to be completed Dec. 25. But the decision to build it was based on bad planning and botched paperwork. The project is too far along to stop, making the mess hall a future monument to the waste and inefficiency plaguing the war effort, according to an independent panel investigating contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In its first report to Congress, the Wartime Contracting Commission presents a bleak assessment of how tens of billions of dollars have been spent since 2001. The 111-page report, obtained by The Associated Press, documents poor management, weak oversight, and a failure to learn from past mistakes as recurring themes in wartime contracting.
The report is scheduled to be made public Wednesday at a hearing held by the House Oversight and Government Reform's national security subcommittee.
U.S. reliance on contractors has grown to "unprecedented proportions," says the bipartisan commission, established by Congress last year. More than 240,000 private sector employees are supporting military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Thousands more work for the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development.
But the government has no central data base of who all these contractors are, what services they provide, and how much they're paid. The Pentagon has failed to provide enough trained staff to watch over them, creating conditions for waste and corruption, the commission says.
In Iraq, the panel worries that as U.S. troops depart in larger numbers, there will be too few government eyes on the contractors left to oversee the closing of hundreds of bases and disposal of mountains of federal property.
At Rustamiyah, a seven-acre forward operating base turned over to the Iraqis in March, the military population plunged from 1,490 to 62 in just three months. During the same period, the contractor population dropped from 928 to 338, leaving more than five contractors for every service member.
In Afghanistan, where President Barack Obama has ordered a large increase of U.S. troops, existing bases will have to expand and new ones will be built -- without proper oversight unless the Pentagon rapidly changes course.
One commander in Afghanistan told the commission he had no idea how many contractors were on and off his base on a daily basis. Another officer said he had property all over his installation but didn't know who owned it or what kind of shape it was in.
There are questionable construction projects in Afghanistan, too. The commission visited the New Kabul Compound, a building intended to serve as headquarters for U.S. forces in Afghanistan. But members saw cracks in the structure, broken and leaking pipes, sinking sidewalks and other defects.
"The Army should not have accepted a building in such condition," the report says.
The commission cites concerns with a massive support contract known as "LOGCAP" that provides troops with essential services, including housing, meals, mail delivery and laundry.
Despite the huge size and importance of the contract, the main program office managing the work for both Afghanistan and Iraq has only 13 government employees. For administrative help, it must rely on a contractor.
KBR Inc., the primary LOGCAP contractor in Iraq, has been paid nearly $32 billion since 2001. The commission says billions of dollars of that amount ended up wasted due to poorly defined work orders, inadequate oversight and contractor inefficiencies.
In one example, defense auditors challenged KBR after it billed the government for $100 million in costs for private security even though the contract prohibited the use of for-hire guards.
KBR has defended its performance and criticized the commission for making "biased" statements against the company.
"As we look back on what we've done, we're real proud of being able to go into a war theater like that as a private contractor and support 200,000 troops," William P. Utt, chairman of the Houston-based KBR, said in May interview with AP reporters and editors.
KBR is also linked to the dining hall construction snafu, although the commission faults the military's planning and not the contractor. With American forces scheduled to be out of Iraq by the end of 2011, the U.S. will use the new facility for two years at most.
In July 2008, the Army said a new dining facility was badly needed at the Camp Delta forward operating base because the existing one was too small, had a saggy ceiling, poor lighting and an unsanitary wooden floor.
KBR was awarded a contract in September. Work began in late October as American and Iraqi officials were negotiating the agreement setting the dates for the U.S. troop withdrawal
But during an April visit to Camp Delta, the commission learned that the existing mess hall had just been renovated. The $3.36 million job was done by KBR and completed in June 2008. Commission staff toured the renovated hall "without seeing or hearing of any problems or shortfalls," the report says.
The decision to push ahead with the new hall was based on paperwork that was never updated and a failure to review the need for the project after the security agreement was signed. Most of the materials have been ordered and construction is well under way. That means canceling the project would save little money because KBR would have a legitimate claim for payment based on the investment it has already made.
The commission urges commanders in Iraq to review thoroughly all ongoing construction and improvement projects and only continue those essential to the life, health and safety of U.S. troops.
The job estimate is so murky, it can never be verified
The administration admitted the economic forecasts it used to sell the stimulus were overly optimistic.
Analysts believe the White House is still not being realistic, that Obama will be lucky if any real job creation is seen by the end of the year.
Obama repackages stimulus plans with old promises
By BRETT J. BLACKLEDGE and MATT APUZZO, Associated Press Writers Brett J. Blackledge And Matt Apuzzo, Associated Press Writers – 9 mins ago
WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama assured the nation his recovery plan was on track Monday, scrambling to calm Americans unnerved by unemployment rates still persistently rising nearly four months after he signed the biggest economic stimulus in history.
Obama admitted his own dissatisfaction with the progress but said his administration would ramp up stimulus spending in the coming months. The White House acknowledged it has spent only $44 billion, or 5 percent, of the $787 billion stimulus, but that total has always been expected to rise sharply this summer.
"Now we're in a position to really accelerate," Obama said.
He also repeated an earlier promise to create or save 600,000 jobs by the end of the summer.
Neither the acceleration nor the jobs goal are new. Both represent a White House repackaging of promises and projects to blunt criticism that the effects haven't been worth the historic price tag. And the job estimate is so murky, it can never be verified.
The economy has shed 1.6 million jobs since the stimulus measure was signed in February, far overshadowing White House announcements estimating the effort has saved 150,000 jobs. Public opinion of Obama's handling of the economy has declined along with the jobs data.
For the first time, the administration admitted the economic forecasts it used to sell the stimulus were overly optimistic.
"At the time, our forecast seemed reasonable," Vice President Joe Biden's top economic adviser, Jared Bernstein, said Monday, explaining that the White House underestimated the scope of the recession. "Now, looking back, it was clearly too optimistic."
By now, according to earlier White House economic models, the nation's unemployment rate should be on the decline. The forecasts used to drum up support for the plan projected today's unemployment would be about 8 percent. Instead, it sits at 9.4 percent, the highest in more than 25 years.
Some analysts believe the White House is still not being realistic, that Obama will be lucky if any real job creation from his recovery effort is seen by the end of the year, let alone the employment explosion he predicts.
"I think these estimates are overly optimistic," said Arpitha Bykere, a senior analyst with RGE Monitor.
Obama spoke Monday about "modest progress" in the economy, citing fewer jobs lost last month than expected. He said he hopes to build on that in the months ahead with stimulus programs.
"We've done more than ever, faster than ever, more responsibly than ever, to get the gears of the economy moving again," he said.
But he acknowledged, "I'm not satisfied. We've got more work to do."
Americans apparently agree. Obama's disapproval rating on the economy has risen from 30 percent in February to 42 percent, according to a Gallup poll completed May 31. Sensing weakness on a signature issue of Obama's presidency, congressional Republicans are renewing their criticisms that the stimulus plan has not shown results, only mounting debt.
"This is President Obama's economy, and his administration must provide results and specifics rather than vague descriptions of success that seem to change by the week," House Republican Whip Eric Cantor of Virginia said. "The administration looks dramatically out of touch as they highlight the creation of temporary summer employment in the face of job losses unseen in decades, record unemployment and massive deficits."
By any measure, spending $44 billion in less than four months — and with unprecedented openness — is an uncharacteristic feat in Washington. But the expectations have been even higher.
Several economists said Monday the economy is unlikely to see much boost from the stimulus before next year.
"It takes time to organize projects, to get the bids in, the funds out and the work started," said Nigel Gault, chief U.S. economist at IHS Global Insight.
Obama answered his critics Monday by announcing a list of stimulus projects, including many already previously outlined, saying the work will have a huge affect on the economy this summer.
There is money for expanded health services in local clinics; improvements in national parks and medical centers for veterans; money for police and school jobs; and more than 1,800 public works projects.
Without naming names, Obama shot back at skeptics during the Cabinet meeting.
"Now, I know that there's some who, despite all evidence to the contrary, still don't believe in the necessity and promise of this recovery act."
"And I would suggest to them that they talk to the companies who, because of this plan, scrapped the idea of laying off employees and, in fact, decided to hire employees. Tell that to the Americans who received that unexpected call saying, 'Come back to work.'"
Obama promised to end the war, but he is jacking up the Afghan war! Obama will say anything to get elected President!
Afghan surge changes game, commander says
Jun. 9, 2009 07:21 AM
CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan - The surge of U.S. troops into southern Afghanistan will be a major "game changer" in the largely Taliban-controlled region as American forces target insurgent transportation routes between Afghanistan and Pakistan, an American commander said Tuesday.
President Barack Obama has ordered 21,000 troops to Afghanistan this summer to beat back a resurgent Taliban eight years after the U.S.-led invasion and create the conditions needed for the Afghan government to extend its influence.
Over the last six weeks, a 10,000-strong Marine brigade has poured into Helmand province, the most dangerous region in Afghanistan and one largely under the Taliban's sway. But some critics have predicted the surge may be too small and too late to defeat an insurgency that has thrived despite the presence of several thousand British troops. "It is a very big game changer to have this many Marines in an area this size," Col. George Amland, the deputy commander of the Marine brigade in Helmand, told embedded journalists. "It is an appreciable investment."
He declined to predict when the influx would begin to improve security in the region, which is also home to the world's largest opium-poppy growing industry.
Helmand borders Pakistan, where U.S. and European commanders say the insurgents have enjoyed a safe haven. Washington has targeted insurgents there with missiles fired from unmanned drones and is trying to get Islamabad to take firmer action.
Amland said that U.S. forces were not currently deployed along the border but that in the future they and NATO forces "would address those traffic lines between Afghanistan and Pakistan."
The United States and its allies invaded Afghanistan in late 2001 because the country's extremist Taliban leaders were sheltering Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida, the Islamic terrorist group behind the Sept. 11 attacks.
The forces quickly defeated the Taliban, pushing the militants out of Kabul and their southern base in Kandahar. But a guerrilla war, which turned dangerously violent in 2006, has bedeviled the international coalition and Afghan government.
While the insurgency is active across much of the country, its stronghold remains in Helmand.
Amland said that the insurgency was in many cases intertwined with the criminals who control the opium and heroin industry there and that officers were trying to work out exactly who to target.
"I wish it were as simple as looking at alleged Taliban leaders," he said. "We are going to have to assess what is really Taliban influence and what is a spin-off of the narco-industry and how these forces interact."
The U.S. surge will bring American troop levels from about 55,000 to more than 68,000 by the end of 2009 - about half of the nearly 140,000 U.S. troops currently in Iraq.
The buildup has led to comparisons with Iraq, where an influx of troops in 2007 is credited with helping to reduce violence. But unlike Iraq, where the U.S. plans to phase out its role by 2012, the military envisions a long-term presence in Afghanistan.
Obama seems to be using the God line to get relected, and does mix government and religion.
Obama invokes Jesus more than Bush
KENS 5 - TV San Antonio Eamon Javers Eamon Javers – Tue Jun 9, 5:09 am ET
He’s done it while talking about abortion and the Middle East, even the economy. The references serve at once as an affirmation of his faith and a rebuke against a rumor that persists for some to this day.
As president, Barack Obama has mentioned Jesus Christ in a number of high-profile public speeches — something his predecessor George W. Bush rarely did in such settings, even though Bush’s Christian faith was at the core of his political identity.
In his speech Thursday in Cairo, Obama told the crowd that he is a Christian and mentioned the Islamic story of Isra, in which Moses, Jesus and Mohammed joined in prayer.
At the University of Notre Dame on May 17, Obama talked about the good works he’d seen done by Christian community groups in Chicago. “I found myself drawn — not just to work with the church but to be in the church,” Obama said. “It was through this service that I was brought to Christ.”
And a month before that, Obama mentioned Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount at Georgetown University to make the case for his economic policies. Obama retold the story of two men, one who built his house on a pile of sand and the other who built his on a rock: “We cannot rebuild this economy on the same pile of sand,” Obama said. “We must build our house upon a rock.”
More than four months into the Obama presidency, a picture is emerging of a chief executive who is comfortable with public displays of his religion — although he has also paid tribute to other faiths and those he called “nonbelievers” during his inaugural address.
Obama’s invocation of the Christian Messiah is more overt than Americans heard in the public rhetoric of Bush in his time in the White House — even though Bush’s victories were powered in part by evangelical voters.
“I don’t recall a single example of Bush as president ever saying, ‘Jesus’ or ‘Christ,’” said Tony Perkins, president of the conservative Christian group Family Research Council. “This is different.”
To Perkins, Obama’s overtly Christian rhetoric is a welcome development from an administration that he largely disagrees with on the issues, though Perkins sees a political motive behind it, as well.
“I applaud that. It gives people a sense of comfort,” Perkins said. “But I think it’s a veneer, a facade that covers over a lot of policies that are anti-Christian.” That includes, in his view, Obama’s stance in favor of abortion rights.
The Rev. Barry Lynn, the executive director of the group Americans United for Separation of Church and State, doesn’t like the trend with Obama: “I don’t need to hear politicians tell me how religious they are,” Lynn said. “Obama in a very overt way does what Bush tended to do in a more covert way.”
Obama’s public embrace of his Christianity so far has not included choosing a church in the capital, and he has attended Sunday services only once since his election, on Easter Sunday. The White House said at the time the family was still looking for a spiritual home in Washington.
But inside his White House, Obama has placed his Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships — run by a 26-year old Pentecostal minister named Josh DuBois — under the White House’s Domestic Policy Council. That was widely seen as an effort to involve a religious perspective in the administration’s policy decisions.
Also, religious leaders meet with White House policymakers on a regular basis — and help to shape decisions on matters large and small. A White House speechwriter working on Obama’s Egypt speech called several faith leaders to get their thoughts. After the White House unveiled its budget in April, officials convened a two-hour conference call with religious leaders to discuss how the spending plan would help the poor.
“President Obama is a committed Christian, and he’s being true to who he is,” DuBois told POLITICO. “There’s an appropriate role for faith in public life, and his remarks reflect that. And they also reflect a spirit of inclusivity that recognizes that we are a nation with a range of different religious backgrounds and traditions.”
Still, it is ironic that Obama, who rode a wave of young, Internet-savvy and more secular voters to the White House, would more freely invoke the name of Jesus Christ than did Bush.
In his first year as president, Bush mentioned “Jesus” or “Christ” a handful of times — but only in innocuous contexts, such as his Easter proclamation, a Christmas message and a proclamation on “Salvation Army Week.”
To be sure, Bush talked openly about his faith. On the day of his second inauguration as governor of Texas, Bush reportedly told Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention, “I believe that God wants me to be president.” As a Texas governor running for president, Bush declared in a presidential debate that the philosopher he most identified with was Jesus.
And in an interview for Bob Woodward’s 2004 book “Plan of Attack,” Bush was asked whether he’d talked to his father, the President George H.W. Bush, about the decision to invade Iraq.
“There is a higher father that I appeal to,” Bush said.
But there are different political imperatives driving the two presidents. Obama has every incentive to broadcast his Christianity, while Bush, for other reasons, chose to narrowcast his religious references to a targeted audience.
For Obama, Christian rhetoric offers an opportunity to connect with a broader base of supporters in a nation in which 83 percent of Americans believe in God. What’s more, regularly invoking Jesus helps Obama minimize the number of American who believe he is a Muslim — a linkage that can be politically damaging. According to a Pew Research Center study, 11 percent of Americans believe, incorrectly, that Obama is a Muslim; it’s a number that is virtually unchanged from the 2008 presidential campaign.
Yet Obama has targeted his messages, too. He used speeches in Turkey and last week in Egypt to highlight the Muslim relatives in his past as a way to draw a connection with his Muslim audiences — something he shied away from during his presidential campaign.
For Bush, invoking Jesus publicly was fraught with political risk. He was so closely politically identified with the Christian right that overt talk of Christ from the White House risked alienating mainstream and secular voters. Bush instead quoted passages from scripture or Christian hymns, as he did in his 2003 State of the Union Address when he used the phrase “wonder-working power.” That sort of oblique reference resonated deeply with evangelical Christians but sailed largely unnoticed past secular voters.
To some, the difference between the two presidents goes beyond rhetoric. David Kuo, a former official in Bush’s faith-based office who later became disillusioned with the president he served, worries that both men have exploited religious phraseology for political gain. “From a spiritual perspective, that’s a great and grave danger,” he said. “When God becomes identified with a political agenda, God gets screwed.”
And he suspects that Obama has an even larger goal: the resurrection of the largely dormant Christian Left, a tradition that encompasses Martin Luther King’s civil rights leadership and dates back as far as Dorothy Day, the liberal activist who co-founded the Catholic Worker movement in the 1930s.
Recast in 21st Century terms, that long-dormant stream of American political life could become a powerful political force. A Pew survey released May 21 found that even as Americans remain highly religious, there has there been a slow decline in the number of Americans with socially conservative values – especially among young voters. That creates an opening for Obama, especially at a time when some conservative evangelicals are telling pollsters they are frustrated and disillusioned with politics.
“In the long term, this could be huge,” said Stephen Schneck, director of the Life Cycle Institute at The Catholic University of America, who is active in left-leaning political efforts. “There are swing Catholics and swing Protestants even within the evangelicals. To the extent Obama can mobilize those people as part of a new Democratic coalition, that marginalizes Republicans even further.”
Obama' plan is all talk and will never be acted on. Or better said Obama's plan is him shoveling the BS to make it look like he supports the man on the street, instead of his actual postition of supporting more big government.
The current $11 trillion National Debt is about $36,666 for each and every one of the 300 million people in the USA, or $73,333 for each and every adult in the USA, or $146,666 for that adverage mythical family of four in the USA. The National Debt will never be paid off, it is too high.
Last but not least the $11 trillion National Debt really isn't the National Debt, it is a sham to allow Congress to print money instead of raising taxes to pay it's bill.
The sham works like this, Congress needs $500 billion to pay for pork projects so it votes to raise the National Debut by $500 billion.
Then Congress prints up $500 billion worth of IOUs called T-bills. Congress then gives a call to the Federal Reserve and tells them to print up $500 billion in new money.
Congress then gives the Federal Reserve Board the $500 billion in IOUs for the freshly print $500 billion in cash and pretends it was a loan, and adds it to the National Debt.
Obama pitches pay-as-you-go plan for Congress
By BEN FELLER, Associated Press Writer Ben Feller, Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama on Tuesday challenged Congress to force itself to pay for new spending as it goes rather than sink the nation deeper into a debt, calling it a matter of public responsibility. Republicans lashed back that Obama is no voice of fiscal restraint as the deficit soars.
The president's plan would require Congress to pay for new increases to federal benefit programs such as health care by raising taxes or coming up with budget cuts — a "pay-as-you-go" system that would have the force of law. Under the proposal, if new spending or tax reductions are not offset, there would be automatic cuts in so-called mandatory programs — although Social Security payments and some other programs would be exempt.
Not noted by the president: Tuesday's plan is a watered-down version of the so-called "PAYGO" rules proposed just last month in his own budget plan.
That version would have required, on average, all affected legislation to be paid for in the very first year. The new plan only requires such legislation to be financed over the coming decade. That mirrors congressional rules and reflects the likelihood that health care reform will add to the deficit in the early years.
Obama said the principle is simple: Congress can only spend a dollar if it saves a dollar somewhere else.
"It is no coincidence that this rule was in place when we moved from record deficits to record surpluses in the 1990s — and that when this rule was abandoned, we returned to record deficits that doubled the national debt," Obama said, flanked at the White House by supportive Democratic lawmakers.
"Entitlement increases and tax cuts need to be paid for," he said. "They're not free, and borrowing to finance them is not a sustainable long-term policy."
Republican leaders, critical of the Obama-championed $787 billion stimulus package and other deficit spending, called the president disingenuous.
"It's as if the administration and these Democrat leaders are living in an alternate universe," said House Republican Whip Eric Cantor of Virginia. "The quickest way to save money is to stop recklessly spending it."
Obama's call for binding legislation comes as a reward to moderate-to-conservative "Blue Dog" Democrats who are big believers in pay-as-you go. Their votes were crucial to passing a congressional budget blueprint that generally follows Obama's budget.
The House and Senate already have their own PAYGO rules, but have routinely found ways around them. For example, a bill to effectively double GI Bill education benefits was enacted last year because of a loophole in congressional rules.
Obama's "PAYGO" plan would also require future tax cuts to be financed by tax increases elsewhere in the code, though exceptions are made for extending President George W. Bush's 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, as well as other tax cuts that are scheduled to expire.
The federal deficit is on pace to explode past $1.8 trillion this year, more than four times last year's all-time high.
The deficit figures flow from the deep recession, the Wall Street bailout and the cost of the economic stimulus bill. Obama has defended the massive stimulus plan as essential to helping pump some life back in the economy, one that is still shedding jobs but showing more signs of life in recent weeks.
"The fact is, there are few who aren't distressed by deficits," Obama said. He said restoring a pay-as-you-go method under law would force lawmakers to deal not just with the politics and crises of the day, but also remain fixed on the nation's long-term financial health.
Associated Press writer Andrew Taylor contributed to this story
Trust us, were from the government. We won't screw you!
US-Mex border fence completion eludes government
By CHRISTOPHER SHERMAN, Associated Press Writer Christopher Sherman, Associated Press
BROWNSVILLE, Texas – Nearly six months after the U.S.-Mexico border fence ordered by the Bush administration was supposed to be finished, its completion is in limbo while a judge waits answers to questions about private property in the fence's path.
About 630 miles of the promised 670-mile-long vehicle and pedestrian barrier is complete, with the unfinished portion in deep south Texas where opposition is fierce and the government has struggled to get the land it needs.
The biggest unfinished segment is a 13-mile stretch that runs east of Brownsville through rich farmland toward the Gulf of Mexico.
While the government has taken steps to smooth the project's path — such as paying to relocate 300 native palm trees from a section near Brownsville — some of its promises are coming under intense scrutiny.
Government possession of several pieces of farmland needed for that final stretch was suspended last month by the judge.
Government lawyers are now scrambling to meet the judge's orders and provide written answers to landowners' most basic questions: What precisely is the government taking, and how will property owners access the thousands of acres of land stranded between the border fence and the Rio Grande?
The answers to those questions could have implications for the dozens of cases scheduled for trial next year to determine how much the government will pay landowners.
U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen had, until recently, assumed — as did many landowners — that gates the government planned in the fence would always be there to provide access to property on the other side. The Rio Grande's sharp curves and the border fence's relatively straight path leave large swaths of farmland isolated between the river and the fence.
But lawyers for several landowners suggested that the government could someday close or remove the gates. The potential loss of access begged the question of whether the government should pay for not only the land under the fence but also the land stuck between the fence and river that would become worthless.
Hanen asked Justice Department lawyers to lay out the physical land they're taking as well as access to other land.
"Because if I can't get through it (the gate) or I can't get to it without driving 10 miles down the road, I mean, you've taken the back 40," Hanen said during a hearing last month. "If there's not going to be a gate, then that changes the rules."
In that case, Hanen said, every landowner would argue to a jury that the government was taking all of their land down to the riverbank.
"We felt absolutely compelled to raise these issues with the court and every landowner out there whose property is being taken by the government should do the same," Kimberli Loessin, attorney for several property owners covered by the judge's order, said in an e-mail Wednesday. "Otherwise, lawsuits move forward, fence gets built, and compensation gets determined without the government ever admitting to what it is really taking away from landowners."
Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Hu told Hanen last month that a delay could cost the government $10,000 to $15,000 per day because the construction contract was already awarded and crews were set to begin work. However, the government has itself now asked for an extension until June 19.
Back before the Presidential election when both McCain and Obama asked Congress to create an almost $1 trillion pork program and Congress create the program. Of course they didn't define who got the money in the program. And now they are handing the goodies out.
Of course when people complain that the money is being spent on "bad things" the congressmen who voted for the bill will say, "I only voted for the bill, I didn't vote for those bad things".
On the other hand when the same congressmen talk to people who got the money they will say "Vote for me again, I gave you that pork". And of course Tempe Congressman Harry Mitchell is doing that in this article.
Mitchell: Feds OK stimulus funding for Arizona
Jun. 10, 2009 02:00 PM
The federal government is sending more stimulus money to Arizona.
U.S. Rep. Harry Mitchell announced Wednesday that the U.S. Education Department has approved Gov. Jan Brewer's initial application for education stimulus funding for the state.
According to Mitchell's office, the Education Department approved $681 million for the state. Arizona can apply for an additional $335.5 million in the fall.
Brewer submitted the initial application for education money on May 22. She said she intends to use most of it to prop up state education spending at risk because of the state's budget crisis.
First Obama and the gang of theives in Washington DC said that the corporate welfare bailouts would not give the rich CEO's of the companies fist fulls of money. Opps that is changing. A Congressman can't get a special intrest group run by a rich CEO to give the Congressman a handout unless the CEO gets a handout.
Of course that is how the Congressmen wanted it all along, because when they passed the almost $1 trillion hand out bill before the Presidential election they didn't set any rules in it.
Obama does another flip flop!
Administration seeks ways to tame corporate pay
By JIM KUHNHENN, Associated Press Writer Jim Kuhnhenn, Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON – Talking tough but stepping gently, the Obama administration rejected direct intervention in corporate pay decisions Wednesday even as officials argued that excessive compensation in the private sector contributed to the nation's financial crisis.
Instead, the administration plans to seek legislation that would try to tame compensation at publicly traded companies through shareholder pressure and less management influence on pay decisions.
At the same time, the administration drew a sharp line between the overall corporate world and those institutions that have tapped the government's $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program.
The administration issued new regulations Wednesday that set pay limits on companies that receive TARP assistance, with the toughest restrictions aimed at seven recipients of "exceptional assistance." Those firms are Citigroup Inc., Bank of America corp, General Motors Corp, Chrysler, American International Group Inc., GMAC LLC and Chrysler Financial.
The regulations limit top executives of companies that receive TARP funds to bonuses of no more than one-third of their annual salaries.
But in a significant expansion of authority, the regulations call for a special compensation overseer who will burrow into the pay practices of some of the country's biggest enterprises.
The administration named Kenneth Feinberg, a lawyer who oversaw payments to families of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, as a "special master" with power to reject pay plans he deems excessive at the seven companies with the biggest injections of public money. Feinberg also would have authority to review compensation for the top 100 salaried employees at those firms.
The tempered broader approach to executive pay wasn't immediately embraced on Capitol Hill, where a leading Democrat said he wants to go farther.
In a lengthy statement released after the White House announcement, House Financial Services Committee Chairman Rep. Barney Frank said he wants legislation that would instruct the Securities Exchange Commission to ban company boards from rewarding excessive risk taking.
"It is not the government's business to discourage risk taking," said Frank, D-Mass. "But neither should we allow systems which have existed up until now whereby decision-makers are handsomely rewarded if they take big risks that pay off, but suffer no penalty whatsoever if those risks result in losses to the company."
With one set of policies for taxpayer-assisted firms and a more hands-off approach to the rest of the corporate sector, Obama is straddling what has been an explosive issue with the public and in Congress. Executive pay burst as an issue earlier this year amid disclosures that AIG, the insurance conglomerate, had paid bonuses of $165 million even as it accepted billions from the government.
AIG is among the companies whose pay schemes the government will now oversee. But outside in the broader private sector, the administration chose to use public pressure and the potential for embarrassment, rather than direct pay restrictions.
"We do not believe it's appropriate for the government to set caps in compensation," Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said. "We're not going to prescribe detailed prescriptive rules for compensation. All those things would be ineffective, could be counterproductive in some ways."
Geithner said the administration will ask Congress to give shareholders a nonbinding voice on executive pay and to require corporate compensation committees to be independent from company management. That second provision would give the SEC authority to strengthen the independence of panels that set executive pay.
"We'd like to see better transparency and accountability, frankly," of executive pay practices, Geithner said.
Geithner said the administration's legislative proposals would reinforce administration compensation guidelines that encourage corporate boards to adopt pay packages that reward long-term performance rather than short-term gains and to better manage the relationship between risk and incentive. Those guidelines, or principles, are not enforceable but are meant as a message to corporate boards and to shareholders.
With that policy, the administration appeared to be heeding the concerns of the financial sector.
"There is recognition that if you accept government money, you should be subject to restrictions," said Scott Talbott, the senior lobbyist for the Financial Services Roundtable, an industry group. "Our concern is the government should not set specific dollar amounts and should stick to principles and guidelines, which I believe they will."
So-called shareholder "say on pay" legislation cleared the House in April 2007 by a 2-to-1 margin but went nowhere in the Senate. It was opposed by the Bush White House and most Republicans.
Investor advocates, union pension funds and shareholder groups have pushed for the legislation. Critics, such as the Center on Executive Compensation, argue that "say on pay" would trivialize corporate governance and would give shareholders a voice even though they are not privy to information before the board of directors.
As a senator in 2007, President Barack Obama introduced a bill to require companies to allow nonbinding shareholder votes on executive compensation packages, though his proposal wouldn't have limited CEO pay.
During the presidential campaign, Hillary Rodham Clinton also proposed a measure to give shareholders a nonbinding vote on executives' pay packages. In addition, her bill would have required top executives who collect large performance-based pay packages to return the money if financial irregularities are discovered and companies are forced to restate their earnings. It also would have capped the amount that top executives could earn tax-free through deferred compensation.
AP Economics writers Martin Crutsinger and Marcy Gordon, AP Writer Anne Flaherty in Washington and AP Business Writer Sara Lepro in New York contributed to this report.
Hmmmm.... Doesn't look like there is a dimes worth of difference between the George W. Hitler White House and the Obama White House
White House: US may confront ships near NKorea
By CHARLES BABINGTON, Associated Press Writer Charles Babington, Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON – The Obama administration said Friday it is prepared to confront ships believed to be carrying contraband materials to North Korea but will not try to forcibly board them, in accordance with new U.N. sanctions.
White House officials said they expect North Korea to act "irresponsibly" to the sanctions, imposed Friday by the U.N. Security Council in response to the communist nation's recent nuclear tests. The sanctions include expanding an arms embargo and authorizing searches of ships thought to be carrying banned items to North Korea, such as materials that could be used in weapons.
Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said U.S. officials would seek permission to board such ships to inspect them. If they refuse, she said, the United States will try to work with the ship's home nation "and others to direct that vessel to an appropriate port for the mandatory inspection" outlined in the U.N. sanctions.
If a ship refuses to be diverted, Rice said, U.S. officials "will take all necessary action" to publicize its ownership, what it is thought to be carrying and other information. The goal, she said, it "to shine a spotlight on it" and make it more difficult for others to help the ship complete its journey, such as refueling it.
Rice also said the United States will "ramp up and intensify" its efforts to gather and disseminate information about suspect ships. Other nations, she said, must "uphold their obligations to inspect in their territorial waters."
Rice said she would not be surprised if North Korea reacted to the sanctions with "further provocation."
"There's reason to believe they may respond in an irresponsible fashion to this," she said. But she said she expects the sanctions to have significant impact on North Korea's financing of its weapons and missile systems.
Rice said the administration was "very pleased" with the sanctions. She called the new resolution, which was supported by China and Russia, an "unprecedented" position by the Security Council.
The United States and many other nations, including China and Russia, have condemned North Korea for its underground nuclear test on May 25 and a series of ground-to-air missile test firings.
Rice said that Iran — another nation at deep odds with the United States about a disputed nuclear program — should take a message from how the U.N. responded to North Korea's actions.
"I imagine that they have been following this closely," Rice said of Iran's leaders. She said Iran should see that "the response from the international community has been very clear, very firm and very meaningful."
My gosh Obama is going to give us universal health care for almost free!!!! Wow!! Do you beleive that? Well if your'e like me you know Obama's lying to us. Hell there is nothing more expensive then "free" health care from the government!
Obama plan to pay for health reform
Josh Gerstein Josh Gerstein – Sat Jun 13, 7:06 am ET
President Barack Obama says he's now found savings that will pay almost all the costs of a massive overhaul of America's health care system.
Obama on Saturday is announcing an additional $313 billion in new proposed savings that he says would bring the total funding available for his top-priority health insurance reform to nearly $950 billion over 10 years.
White House officials insisted the new savings were rock-solid, but also acknowledged they had yet to settle on a specific mechanism to achieve lower prescription drug costs that make up nearly one-quarter of the new savings.
“Any honest accounting must prepare for the fact that health care reform will require additional costs in the short term in order to reduce spending in the long term,” Obama says in his weekly radio and Internet address. “Today, I am announcing an additional $313 billion in savings that will rein in unnecessary spending, and increase efficiency and the quality of care.”
The new proposals from Obama came as the drive for health care reform reaches a pivotal juncture in Congress. On Monday, the Senate Finance Committee is scheduled to receive Congressional Budget Office estimates on a slew of health-care options. On Wednesday, the committee is expected to unveil proposed legislation.
In advance of those milestones, the White House was moving aggressively to counter public criticism that funding plans for the health reform effort are unrealistic, particularly in the face of an expected 10-year pricetag of $1 trillion or more. Some analysts have faulted the White House for being overly optimistic about savings and tone-deaf to which tax-raising proposals are likely to fly in Congress.
In his address Saturday, Obama refers to a 10-year total of more than $600 billion in “savings” for health care. However, he does not explain in his latest comments that, under his revised budget released last month, $326 billion of that amount would come from tax hikes on Americans making over $250,000 a year, “loophole closers,” and higher fees for some government services.
In a conference call with reporters Friday, Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag said the latest announcement signaled that the White House had met its obligation to identify funding sources for a broad-based effort to make health insurance more affordable and more widely available.
“We are making good on this promise to fully finance health care reform over the next decade,” Orszag declared.
The bulk of the new $313 billion in savings would come from cutting or reducing the growth of payments to hospitals, medical equipment manufacturers and laboratories — though the major cuts don't target doctors, Orszag said.
Over the next decade, $110 billion is slated to come from reducing reimbursements to take account of what Orszag described as the ability of providers to improve their efficiency. “Health care services should be able to achieve and do achieve productivity improvements over time,” he said. According to a fact sheet released by the White House, future increases in such Medicare payments would be reduced based on an assumption that health care providers achieve half the productivity increases seen elsewhere in the economy. The budget official said the reductions would take place even if providers failed to garner the projected efficiencies.
Another $106 billion would come from cuts in so-called disproportionate share payments the federal government makes to hospitals with large numbers of uninsured patients. “As the ranks of uninsured decline under health reform, those payments become less necessary,” Orszag said.
About $75 billion is slated to come from lower payments for prescription drugs. However, Orszag said the White House was “in discussions with stakeholders over the best way of achieving that $75 billion.”
Notwithstanding that ambiguity, Orszag asserted that the White House had put forward $950 billion in budgetary offsets that could be use to fund health reform. He called the proposals "hard" and "scoreable," meaning that they were sufficiently certain and specific to pass muster with CBO officials who formally tally the cost of budget items.
Asked about the discrepancy, Orszag said, “There’s been continuous skepticism that we will come forward with detail….The detail on the $75 billion for prescription drugs will be forthcoming in the very near future and I will rest my reputation as a former CBO director on the fact that there are multiple ways in which those savings can be achieved and we are committed to achieving that level of savings in this package.”
There were signs that the announcement of the additional $313 billion of savings may have been rushed. In addition to the vagueness about the $75 billion in lower drug costs, the White House’s health care reform coordinator, Nancy-Ann DeParle, did not join a conference call with reporters to announce the new proposals. Her presence had been advertised in advance, but a spokesman said she was in another meeting and could not participate.
The cuts and savings are likely to engender warnings from providers that de-facto rationing will occur as patients in some areas find themselves unable to find providers willing to perform lab tests, X-rays and the like, due to the lower reimbursement rates.
Hospitals are also likely to protest that the disproportionate share payments, which are targeted for cuts of 75 percent, are vital to maintaining hospitals in costly urban centers, and to keeping teaching hospitals viable.
“It is unlikely to be an exact match on a hospital-by-hospital basis but what we believe will occur is that the remaining DSH payments that will still exist can be better targeted to the hospitals most in need,” Orszag said.
Obama asks doctors to support his socialized medical plan. Will they support him? Only if it means more money into their wallets! And a lot of doctors are not sure Obama's plan will shovel the money into their pocket books. Remember there is nothing more expensive then "free" medical care.
Obama urges doctors to back his health care plans
by Charles Babington - Jun. 15, 2009 02:56 AM
WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama, continuing to barnstorm for his health care proposals, will urge doctors gathered in Chicago to support wider insurance coverage and targeted federal spending cuts.
Obama planned to tell the American Medical Association's annual meeting in his hometown on Monday that overhaul cannot wait and that bringing down costs is the most important thing he can do to ensure the country's long-term fiscal health, a senior administration official said.
The official spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the president's remarks before they were delivered.
The nation's doctors, like many other groups, are divided over the president's proposals to reshape the health care delivery system. The White House anticipates heavy spending to cover the almost 50 million Americans who lack health insurance and has taken steps in recent days to outline just where that money could be found.
For instance, Obama wants to cut federal payments to hospitals by about $200 billion and cut $313 billion from Medicare and Medicaid. He also is proposing a $635 billion "down payment" in tax increases and spending cuts in the health care system.
To an audience of doctors Obama plans to say the United States spends too much on health care and gets too little in return. He says the health industry is crushing businesses and families and is leading to millions of Americans losing coverage, the administration official said.
Obama's turn before the 250,000-physician group in his latest effort to persuade skeptics that his goal to provide health care to all Americans is worth the $1 trillion price tag it is expected to run during its first decade.
The president plans to acknowledge the costs. But he also will tell the doctors it is not acceptable for the nation to leave so many without insurance, the official said.
Unified Republicans and some fiscally conservative Democrats on Capitol Hill have said they are nervous about how the administration plans to pay for Obama's ideas.
The New York Times reported Monday that Obama has been quietly making a case for reducing malpractice lawsuits to help control costs, long a goal of the AMA and Republicans. Obama has not endorsed capping jury awards
Obama has been speaking privately with lawmakers about his ideas and publicly with audiences, such as a town hall style meeting last week in Green Bay, Wis. Obama and his administration officials have blanketed the nation in support of his broad ideas, and Vice President Joe Biden on Sunday said it's up to Congress to pin down the details on how to pay for them.
"They're either going to have to agree with us, come up with an alternative or we're not going to have health care," Biden told NBC's "Meet the Press."
"And we're going to get health care."
In Chicago, the president's remarks are likely to focus on how his ideas might affect the medical profession.
His proposed cuts in federal payments would hit hospitals more directly than doctors, but physicians will be affected by virtually every change that Congress eventually agrees to. Many medical professionals are not yet convinced Obama's overhaul is the best for their care or their pocketbooks.
Broadly, the AMA supports a health care "reform" - a term that changes its definition based on who is speaking - although the specifics remain unclear.
In a statement welcoming Obama, AMA president Dr. Nancy Nielsen said the medical profession wants to "reduce unnecessary costs by focusing on quality improvements, such as developing best practices for care and improving medication reconciliation."
She also said doctors need greater protection from malpractice lawsuits and antitrust restrictions.
Many congressional Republicans, insurance groups and others oppose Obama's bid for a government-run health insurance program that would compete with private companies. On Sunday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., described a government plan as a "nonstarter."
"There are a whole lot of other things we can agree to do on a bipartisan basis that will dramatically improve our system," he said.
To that end, lawmakers were considering a possible compromise that involved a cooperative program that would enjoy taxpayer support without direct governmental control. The concessions could be the smoothest way to deliver the bipartisan health care legislation the administration seeks by its self-imposed August deadline, officials said.
"There is no one-size-fits-all idea," Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told CNN's "State of the Union" on Sunday.
"The president has said, These are the kinds of goals I'm after: lowering costs, covering all Americans, higher-quality care.' And around those goals, there are lots of ways to get there."
Momentum might be on Obama's side. Aaron Carroll, an Indiana University medical professor who has surveyed doctors' views on U.S. health care delivery, said 59 percent "favor government legislation to establish national health insurance," an increase over a previous poll's finding.
He noted that many doctors are not AMA members, and therefore the association's views should not be overrated.
US Gen. McChrystal shovels the BS on the Afghanistan war. Wow! He makes it sound like an exciting theme park! Of course Obama will lose this war just like Bush lost it, and like the Soviets lost it.
US Gen. McChrystal takes command in Afghanistan
Jun. 15, 2009 06:52 AM
KABUL - Gen. Stanley McChrystal, a four-star American general with a long history in elite special operations, took charge of U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan on Monday, a change the Pentagon hopes will turn the tide in an increasingly violent eight-year war.
McChrystal took command during a low-key ceremony at the heavily fortified headquarters of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in central Kabul. His predecessor, Gen. David McKiernan, was fired last month by U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates one year into a two-year assignment, and McKiernan quietly left the country earlier this month.
McChrystal is expected to take a more unconventional approach to the increasingly violent campaign in Afghanistan, utilizing decades of experience in special operations - elite military units that typically carry out dangerous and secretive missions. He was deployed to Afghanistan in 2002 as a one-star general and later was named commanding general of the Joint Special Operations Command based at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He is seen as well-suited to oversee the special missions in Afghanistan that target insurgent leaders.
Speaking before a crowd of several hundred troops and dignitaries at a ceremony filled with colorful flags and a military band, McChrystal said that the international mission "must recapture the excitement and inspiration that ignited this country" after the 2001 fall of the Taliban regime.
He addressed one of the most contentious issues facing the U.S. and NATO: the deaths of Afghan civilians during military operations, an issue President Hamid Karzai warned the general about when the two met Sunday.
"The Afghan people are at the center of our mission. In reality, they are the mission. We must protect them from violence, whatever its nature," McChrystal said. "But while operating with care, we will not be timid."
McChrystal will command the largest international force ever in Afghanistan. A record 56,000 U.S. troops are in the country, alongside 32,000 forces from 41 other countries.
President Barack Obama has increased the U.S. focus on Afghanistan this year, ordering 21,000 new troops to the country even as the U.S. begins to pull troops out of Iraq.
American Marines have poured into Helmand province the last several weeks in an effort to stamp out an insurgency that has a strong hold in the world's largest opium-poppy growing region.
Militant attacks have risen steadily in the last three years and have reached a new high. U.S. Gen. David Petraeus said Afghanistan saw 400 insurgent attacks during the first week of June. In comparison, there were less than 50 attacks per week in January 2004.
On Sunday, Karzai warned McChrystal that the "most important element of the mission" is to protect Afghan civilians.
Civilian casualties during military operations have long been a point of friction between Karzai and the U.S. The most contentious civilian deaths in U.S. military operations in recent years have involved U.S. Special Operations Forces, which McChrystal commanded from 2006 to mid-2008.
In early May, dozens of civilians were killed when U.S. and Afghan troops backed by U.S. fighter aircraft battled militants in southwestern Farah province. The Afghan government says 140 civilians died, while an Afghan human rights group says around 100 were killed. The U.S., however, says no more than 30 civilians were killed in addition to 60 to 65 militants.
McChrystal has already pledged to reduce the number of Afghan villagers killed in fighting, saying he intends to review U.S. and allied operating procedures with an eye to minimizing civilian deaths.
"Although I expect stiff fighting ahead, the measure of effectiveness will not be enemy killed. It will be the number of Afghans shielded from violence," he told Congress this month.
He also said that if he could obtain more intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft, it would sharpen the precision of allied attacks, thereby avoiding unwanted casualties.
McChrystal most recently served as the director of the Joint Staff at the Pentagon, where he was a three-star general. His promotion to commander in Afghanistan was backed by Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and approved by Obama.
Britain to examine Iraq war errors in inquiry
Posted 6/15/2009 12:20 PM ET
By David Stringer, Associated Press Writer
LONDON — British Prime Minister Gordon Brown authorized a long-awaited inquiry into the Iraq war on Monday that aimed to examine mistakes made during and after the 2003 U.S-led invasion.
Lawmakers and anti-war protesters have repeatedly demanded that an independent panel scrutinize what they say are a range of errors made by Britain, the United States and other allies in prewar intelligence and postwar planning.
Brown's spokesman Michael Ellam said the prime minister would tell Parliament later on Monday how the inquiry will be conducted, and would not comment on whether the inquiry would be held in public or private.
Britain's remaining 4,000 troops ended their six-year operation in Iraq in April, a mission that cost the lives of 179 service personnel and was deeply unpopular with the public.
Troops expect to complete a withdrawal from the southern Iraqi city of Basra, where British personnel were mainly based, by the end of July.
Opponents of the Iraq war have urged Brown to allow the inquiry to investigate prewar discussions between former U.S. President George W. Bush and then-British Prime Minister Tony Blair in 2002.
"There needs to be a full public inquiry to find out exactly why we were taken to war and to investigate the discussions between Tony Blair and George Bush in 2002," said Lindsey German, of Britain's Stop The War Coalition.
Britain has previously held two inquiries into aspects of the decision to join the U.S.-led war.
One cleared the government of blame for the death of David Kelly, a government weapons scientist who killed himself in 2003 after he was exposed as the source of a British Broadcasting Corp. report that accused Blair's office of "sexing up" prewar intelligence.
A separate 2004 inquiry into intelligence on Iraq also cleared Blair's government, but criticized intelligence officials for relying on seriously flawed or unreliable sources.
British Foreign Secretary David Miliband has said previously the inquiry is likely to be held in private to preserve confidentiality for troops, citing as a possible model the behind-closed doors inquiry that followed the 1982 Falklands War.
Hmmm ... GM didn't go out of business because they made junky over priced cars nobody wants? Obams - "what led General Motors and Chrysler into trouble were the huge costs they racked up providing health care for their workers — costs that made them less profitable"
And last but not least Obama is against socialized medicine and doesn't use fear mongering to sell his ideas - 'he does not favor socialized medicine and cautioned people to beware of "scare tactics and fear-mongering"' - you mean the followin article is not for socialized medicine and doesn't use fear mongering?
Obama pleads for support of health system overhaul
By CHARLES BABINGTON, Associated Press Writer Charles Babington, Associated Press Writer
CHICAGO – President Barack Obama pushed hard Monday for a health care overhaul, saying the system is "a ticking bomb" for the budget that could force America to "go the way of GM" without a legislative fix.
Obama went before the American Medical Association in Chicago to declare anew that the existing system leaves too many uninsured and forces "excessive defensive medicine" by doctors worried about malpractice suits. He also declared once again that he does not favor socialized medicine and cautioned people to beware of "scare tactics and fear-mongering" by critics who make this claim.
Obama did tell his audience of physicians and health care professionals that he's "open" to requiring all Americans to have health insurance, while stressing that the plan would permit continuing assistance for those who cannot afford it on their own.
Obama said that a "health care exchange" would be set up to provide additional options for the uninsured.
"A big part of what led General Motors and Chrysler into trouble," he said, "were the huge costs they racked up providing health care for their workers — costs that made them less profitable and less competitive with automakers around the world."
"If we do not fix our health care system," Obama said, "America may go the way of GM — paying more, getting less, and going broke."
Obama also said the nation must explore ways to reduce the number of unnecessary medical tests or procedures that sometimes are conducted to stave off possible malpractice lawsuits.
And Obama said that placing caaps on malpractice awards, which many doctors want, would be unfair to patients, a statement that produced a loud boo from the audience.
However, he said, "we need to explore a range of ideas about how to put patient safety first, let doctors focus on practicing medicine, and encourage broader use of evidence-based guidelines. That's how we can scale back the excessive defensive medicine reinforcing our current system of more treatment rather than better care."
Ain't a dimes difference between Bush and Obama! Well Obama talks prettier, but he is the same warmonger police state thug Bush is.
Lawsuit: White House won't release visitor records
Jun. 16, 2009 12:05 PM
WASHINGTON - The Obama administration is declining to release documents that would identify visitors to the White House, embracing a legal position taken by the Bush administration, according to a watchdog group that filed a federal lawsuit over access to the records.
The group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, filed its lawsuit after being denied access to Secret Service records, including White House entry and exit logs, that would identify coal and energy industry visitors.
The government's refusal to release the records contrasts with President Barack Obama's pledge of transparency.
The Secret Service also turned aside a request by msnbc.com for the names of all White House visitors since Jan. 20.
In a letter, the Homeland Security Department told CREW that most of the records the group seeks are not agency records subject to disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act. Instead, DHS said the records are governed by the Presidential Records Act and not subject to disclosure under the FOIA.
DHS said it had been advised by the Justice Department — it generally defends U.S. government agencies in FOIA cases — that releasing the requested records could reveal information protected by the presidential communications privilege.
The Bush administration fought on the same legal ground for several years in a case that is now before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said that, because of CREW's lawsuit, the counsel's office is leading a review into whether to uphold the previous administration's policy of not releasing the logs. He did not have a timeframe for when that review would be done.
Gibbs said the goal is “to uphold the principle of open government” and increased transparency that Obama campaigned on. But he also said that the issue of upholding precedent from previous presidents is a consideration.
At the same time, Gibbs defended the president's right to hold meetings at the White House with undisclosed participants.
“I think there are obviously occasions in which the president is going to meet privately with advisers on topics that are of great national importance, yes,” he said.
A week and a half before Obama took office, U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth brushed aside the Bush administration's argument that revealing Secret Service logs would impede the president's ability to perform his constitutional duties. The court said that the likelihood of harm is not great enough to justify curtailing the public disclosure goals of the FOIA.
The long-running controversy over shielding the identities of visitors to the White House and to the personal residence of the vice president is wrapped up in the influencing peddling scandal involving now-imprisoned lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
In the spring of 2006 when various groups were trying to find out the dates of Abramoff's White House visits, the White House and the Secret Service quietly signed an agreement declaring the Secret Service logs identifying visitors to the White House are not open to the public.
Four months later, Vice President Dick Cheney's office told the Secret Service in a letter that visitor records for the vice president's personal residence “are and shall remain subject to the exclusive ownership, custody and control” of the Office of the Vice President. The controversy over Cheney involved visits by a number of conservative religious leaders to the vice president's residence.
CREW's lawsuit is before U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan, a Clinton-era appointee.
Obama flip flopped on the Gay issue. OK Obama lied about what he would do to help gays.
So what should gays do? Vote Republican? Hell no Republicans won't reat gays any better then Obama.
If gays want true freedom they should read the Libertarian Party platform. The ONLY party that supports 100% gay rights is the Libertarian Party.
Obama tries to fend off criticism from gay supporters
Jun. 17, 2009 02:20 PM
WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama signaled to gay rights activists Wednesday that he's listening to their priorities by extending some benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees. But he didn't give them even close to everything they want, bringing growing anger against the president to the surface.
Obama aides urged gays and lesbians to have patience with the new White House's slow-and-steady approach to the politically charged topic. But his critics - and there were many - saw Wednesday's incremental move to expand gay rights as little more than pandering to a reliably Democratic voting bloc, with the primary aim not of making policy more fair but of cutting short a fundraising boycott.
"When a president tells you he's going to be different, you believe him," said John Aravosis, a Washington-based gay activist. "It's not that he didn't follow through on his promises, he stabbed us in the back." Obama has refused to take any concrete steps toward a repeal of a policy that bans gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military, even though as a candidate he pledged to scrap the Clinton-era rules. He similarly has refused to step in and block the dismissal of gays and lesbians who face courts martial for disclosing their sexual orientation.
"People feel they're owed an apology," said Richard Socarides, a New York lawyer who advised President Bill Clinton on gay issues. "People in the gay community feel he over-promised and under-delivered. Now, with over 250 discharges from the military on his watch ... the grace period is over."
Trying to quell that anger, Obama was set on Wednesday to sign small changes in benefits available to same-sex couples. For instance, employees' domestic partners to be added to a government insurance program that pays for long-term conditions, such as Alzheimer's disease. They also would be allowed to take sick leave to care for a sick partner or non-biological child.
"This is a matter of fairness," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said.
Partners, however, would not have access to primary health insurance or to pensions. Such a move would require action from Congress.
"If you really parse it, it seems to say the president directed some federal agencies to give some federal employees some federal benefits at some undisclosed time in the future," Aravosis said.
Several powerful gay fundraisers withdrew their support from a Democratic National Committee event scheduled for June 25 where Vice President Joe Biden is expected to speak. Their withdrawal comes after a handful of public missteps that White House officials concede were not handled with the best eye on public relations.
The breaking point came last week, when the administration defended the Defense of Marriage Act, which allows states to reject another state's legalized gay marriages and blocks federal Washington from recognizing those state-based unions. Overturning it is a top legislative target for gay activists. But Justice Department lawyers used incest as a reason to support the law.
Gibbs argued that the administration had no choice but to defend existing laws and said Obama still believes it should be repealed. But he also would give no specific timeframe for doing that, or for overturning the military's "don't ask don't tell" policy in effect since 1993.
"We are working on a large amount of things," Gibbs said. "Of course I can understand their frustrations. ... But it is a priority of the president to get done."
Critics saw the Justice memo as evidence of Obama saying one thing and doing another.
"I was profoundly disappointed by this action, particularly coming from this administration," said Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., the first openly gay non-incumbent to win election to Congress. "I still take President Obama at his word that he is committed to the repeal ... I also recognize that he cannot do it alone."
Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., defended Obama against criticism that he has been slow to deliver on his campaign promises.
"The notion that if someone doesn't agree with you 100 percent, then you shouldn't be supportive of him - versus someone who disagrees with you 100 percent - is very bad politics," said Frank, who was the first openly gay man re-elected to Congress.
John Berry, head of the Office of Personnel Management and the highest-ranking gay official in the administration, said the president is doing the best he can while waiting for Congress to act.
"This is a first step," said Berry, who acknowledged that some of the benefits being put into place by the presidential memorandum already exist at some agencies. "Not a final step."
Hmmm... Some criminals are too dangerous to prosecute or release.
AP sources: Indefinite prison time for detainees?
Posted 6/27/2009 1:28 PM ET
By Lara Jakes And Pamela Hess, Associated Press Writers
WASHINGTON — The White House is considering whether to issue an executive order to indefinitely imprison a small number of Guantanamo Bay detainees, concerned that Congress might otherwise stymie its plans to quickly close the naval prison in Cuba. Under the proposal, detainees considered too dangerous to prosecute or release would be kept in confinement in the U.S. or possibly overseas, two administration officials said Friday. Otherwise, the White House could get bogged down for months seeking agreement with Congress on a new legal detention system.
No final decisions have been made about the order, which would be the fourth major mandate by President Barack Obama to deal with how the United States treats and prosecutes terror suspects and foreign fighters.
One of the officials said the order, if issued, would not take effect until after the Oct. 1 start of the 2010 budget year. Already, Congress has blocked the administration from spending any money this year to imprison the detainees in the United States -- which in turn could slow or even halt Obama's pledge to close the prison by Jan. 21.
The administration also is considering asking Congress to pass new laws that would allow the indefinite detentions, the official said.
Both the officials spoke Friday on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the still-tentative issue publicly. The possibility of an executive order was first reported by the investigative group ProPublica and The Washington Post.
Christopher Anders, senior legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union's Washington office, said the organization opposes any plans for indefinite detention of prisoners.
"We're saying it shouldn't be done at all," he said Friday.
Without legislative backing, an executive order is the only route Obama has to get the needed authority.
In a statement Friday night, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky cast doubt that Congress would approve funding for transferring or imprisoning detainees in the U.S. without detailed plans on how it would work.
Lawmakers this month blocked $80 million the administration had requested for transferring the detainees. Without the money, Obama's order can't be carried out.
"Bipartisan majorities of Congress and the American people oppose closing Guantanamo without a plan, and several important questions remain unanswered," McConnell said. He said Obama demanded the transfers "before the administration even has a place to put the detainees who are housed there, any plan for military commissions, or any articulated plan for indefinite detention."
Obama's order would apply only to current detainees at Guantanamo.
There are 229 detainees currently being held at Guantanamo. So far, 11 are expected to be tried in military tribunals, and at least one -- Ahmed Ghailani, a Tanzanian accused in two American embassy bombings a decade ago -- has been transferred to United States for prosecution by a civilian federal court in Manhattan.
Still others, including four Chinese Muslims known as Uighurs who were transferred to Bermuda this month, have been sent to foreign nations. The Obama administration is trying to relocate as many as 100 Yemeni detainees to Saudi Arabia for rehabilitation.
Obama said last month he was looking at continued imprisonment for a small number of Guantanamo detainees whom he described as too dangerous to release. He called it "the toughest issue we will face."
It's not clear how many detainees could fall into that category. Defense and Justice Department officials have privately said at least some could be freed at trial because prosecutors would be reluctant to expose classified evidence against the detainees. Some of that evidence also might be thrown out because of how it was obtained -- potentially by cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.
A Pentagon task force is currently reviewing every case to see which are eligible for transfer or release, which could face trial in civilian U.S. courts, which are best suited to some version of a military commission and which are believed too dangerous to free.
Underscoring the difficulty of where to send the detainees before Guantanamo closes, a senior Defense official said some detainees who were picked up as enemy combatants cannot be charged with war crimes or terrorism even though they are believed to pose a threat. If no country volunteers to take them, traditional law of war authority allows the U.S. government to hold them until the end of hostilities, said the official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity.
Civil rights advocates and constitutional scholars accused Obama of parroting the detention policies of former Republican President George W. Bush.
"Prolonged imprisonment without trial is exactly the Guantanamo system that the president promised to shut down," Shayana Kadidal, a lawyer for the Center for Constitutional Rights, said in a statement Friday.
He added: "If the last eight years have taught us anything, it's that executive overreach, left to continue unchecked for many years, has a tendency to harden into precedent."
Obama - I know how to run your life better then you do, but let's not talk about how I run my life!
On tobacco Obama's tougher - but still a puffer?
As he signs a smoking prevention bill, staff snuff out queries about his own habit.
By Paul Farhi
WASHINGTON - President Obama signed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act into law Monday, hailing it in a Rose Garden ceremony as "an extraordinary accomplishment" that will "save American lives and make Americans healthier."
Well, let's hope so. But doesn't "healthier" start at home? This is, after all, the same President Obama who has admitted to a little tobacco habit of his own.
It's hard to know for sure, because everyone at the White House acts like a kid caught smoking when the subject comes up. But it appears that Obama is the first president in decades to smoke cigarettes while in office. Bill Clinton and George W. Bush fired up the occasional cigar, but you have to go back to Franklin Roosevelt and his signature cigarette holder to find a confirmed smoker in chief. (Dwight Eisenhower, Lyndon Johnson, and Richard Nixon were all the subject of conflicting reports.)
Obama has admitted that he started smoking as a teen-ager and that he has struggled with it for years. When the campaign began, he promised his wife, Michelle, that he'd quit. "I was never really a heavy smoker," he told Men's Health magazine for its November issue. "Probably at my peak I was smoking seven or eight a day. There have been a couple of times during the campaign when I fell off the wagon and bummed one."
Since then, however, Obama and his aides have put up a bit of a smoke screen when the subject is mentioned. He wouldn't give a direct answer when asked by Barbara Walters in a post-election interview in November, saying instead that, as president, "you're not perfect, but hopefully you're trying to set a good example for people, and that starts with my two kids."
Tom Brokaw tried again on Meet the Press in December and got this: "What I would say is, is that I have done a terrific job, under the circumstances, of making myself much healthier, and I think that you will not see any violations of these rules in the White House."
The "in-the-White-House" construction merely thickened the plot. Smoking was banned inside the Executive Mansion during the Clinton administration. But that doesn't rule out all the other places where a president could take a few drags.
The White House offered a little more haze 10 days ago when reporters asked press secretary Robert Gibbs for an update on the does-he-or-doesn't-he question. Gibbs wouldn't say exactly. "I would simply tell you I think struggling with a nicotine addiction is something that happens every day," he replied.
Richard Wolffe, who covered Obama's campaign for Newsweek, recalls several encounters with the candidate in which he smelled strongly of tobacco. Not clear proof of smoking - the odor could have been a result of being in the proverbial smoke-filled rooms - but certainly part of circumstantial evidence for a tobacco habit.
"The thing about [his] smoking is you never had concrete proof," says Wolffe, whose new book about Obama, Renegade: The Making of a President, leaves this vice alone. Obama's handlers, he said, "did an amazing job of making sure that no one had any photographic proof."
Of course, there might be a few reasons why not kicking butts is a good idea. As writer Ron Rosenbaum has pointed out in Slate, do we really want a president who, faced with a nuclear crisis, remains in an irritable mood, with no relief for his nicotine needs? Nicorette gum? Is gum what you reach for in the midst of a Dr. Strangelove moment?
The president was no more specific Monday as he signed a bill that will further regulate the marketing and manufacture of cigarettes, including giving the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) new powers to restrict the amount of tar and nicotine. Noting that one in five teenagers leaves high school as a smoker, Obama said: "I know because I was one of those teenagers. I know how hard it can be to break this habit when it has been with you for a long time."
For a guy with a smoking past and maybe present, Obama's blindingly white smile made reporters wonder whether they should be focused on the cover-up and not the crime. So the question hung in the air for the assembled news types, few of whom are paragons of perfect health and fitness. "Mr. President, how difficult has your struggle with smoking been?" shouted CNN's Dan Lothian from behind the rope line in the Rose Garden.
Obama turned his head toward Lothian, and then returned to shaking hands, without offering a verbal response.
Some of the president's invited guests at Monday's ceremony offered a charitable view.
"Who knows better than a smoker how difficult it is to quit?" asked David Kessler, who headed the FDA under the Clinton administration. "He's struggled with this. It's always difficult."
"He's an adult and knows the dangers," said Rep. Henry Waxman (D., Calif.), a longtime anti-tobacco crusader. Waxman knows how tough quitting can be: He smoked on and off for 15 years. "As the president said, the most important thing we can do now is stop kids from starting. I was a dumb 16-year-old when I started. If you make it to adulthood without smoking, you're not likely to start."
Looks like Obama wants to keep everything secret!
CAPITAL CULTURE: Protecting images of Obama's kids
By DAVID BAUDER, AP Television Writer David Bauder, Ap Television Writer – Tue Jun 30, 12:04 am ET
NEW YORK – President Barack Obama's face brightened as he looked up and saw his 8-year-old daughter Sasha on the White House's Truman Balcony. He gave an exaggerated wave, she waved back and photographers captured a rare, unscripted moment.
It seemed innocent enough, yet White House officials asked news organizations not to distribute the image.
Weeks later, when Obama took his daughters for ice cream the Saturday before Father's Day, photographers were permitted to provide family friendly pictures to cable news networks and newspaper front pages. The popular Parade magazine put a candid shot of the First Family on its cover the same weekend, illustrating an article about fatherhood that the White House had suggested.
The two events reflect both the First Family's insistence on raising their young daughters away from the spotlight of the White House and their penchant for carefully using them to bolster the president's political image.
"He's going to try to have it both ways until and unless people start to question his value system and his sincerity in playing that role," said Gerald Shuster, a political communications expert at the University of Pittsburgh.
There haven't been children this young in the White House since the Kennedys nearly 50 years ago. Pictures of Caroline and John went hand-in-hand with the image of youthful vibrancy that administration was trying to project. There's a reason why politicians from the local dogcatcher to potential presidents like pictures of kids — the young, non-misbehaving kind. They're political gold.
Yet even during the Kennedy administration, first lady Jacqueline didn't like the children being photographed, and a picture taken outside the White House of Caroline and her pet pony infuriated the first couple, said Dennis Brack, former chief of the White House News Photographers Association.
Images are great when they can be controlled. And when it comes to the Obama kids, the White House can be very controlling.
Sasha and her 10-year-old sister Malia have been shielded carefully from the public, but they are by no means invisible.
"If the children are participating in official events with the president and first lady, then they're part of the first family," said White House press secretary Robert Gibbs. "But when the children are alone, or when the president and first lady are in their roles strictly as mother and father, there should be a wide berth of privacy extended to the family."
Protecting the children in their new fishbowl life was a learning process for the Obamas. The girls answered questions, with their parents, during a soft "Access Hollywood" interview last summer. Obama later said he regretted setting that precedent, and they haven't been interviewed since. But the interview came just as Obama was kicking off his general election campaign and the girls no doubt helped cement in the public mind an image of Obama that campaign officials relished.
During NBC's recent "Inside the Obama White House," the family turned down the network's request to film the girls. NBC showed tape of Obama cheering on the sidelines at Sasha's soccer game; photographers complied with a request not to shoot her playing.
The administration asks that no pictures be taken at the White House of the girls unless they're at a public event; the residence and the outside grounds are off limits. Those were the boundaries they were trying to protect with the lawn and balcony photos.
The White House has made available a handful of images of the children online through its own photo service on the FlickR Web site, showing them playing on the new swing set, walking their dog Bo or giggling with dad. It's primarily an attempt to control paparazzi by eliminating their market, Gibbs said.
Gibbs adds an extra layer of control by posting only low-resolution pictures. So if a magazine or other publication wants to use a family photo, they'd have to specifically ask the White House for a better-quality version. Gibbs has refused some of those requests, in effect becoming an editor. The Parade magazine photos, for instance, were all provided by a White House photographer.
It illustrates the fine line politicians dance upon with families, said John Matviko, editor of "The American President in Popular Culture."
Matviko noted last summer how Republicans admonished reporters for prying into Bristol Palin's pregnancy while the family of vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin was prominently on display at the Republican convention. "Either the children are out of bounds, and you don't put them in the photo ops, or you don't complain when somebody wants to talk about them," he said.
There is some discontent among White House photographers about the administration's aggressiveness in putting out their own images while trying to restrict the work of professionals. In the case of the White House lawn photo, some organizations — including The Associated Press — refused the request not to use the picture of Obama's waving daughter.
News photographers may not be happy, but there's likely to be public sympathy for the Obamas' position. It seems the family is giving a lot of attention to how the kids are being raised, said Joe Kelly, co-founder of Dads and Daughters, an organization that promotes father-daughter relationships.
"There is a big demand," Kelly said. "People want to see pictures of the kids. Better to try to sate that demand in some measured way than to allow a horde of photographers to follow them wherever they go."
Hell Obama is just as good at bring us a bigger better police state as Bush was! Who needs Bush? Hiel Hitler, Heil Bush, Heil Obama! Ain't a dimes worth of difference between any of them.
Obama aims to beef up Guard at border
Troops would assist in thwarting Mexico's drug-smuggling cartels
by Dennis Wagner - Jul. 1, 2009 12:00 AM
The Arizona Republic
The number of Arizona National Guard members helping to secure the state's southern border could more than double under plans being discussed in the nation's capital, boosting a permanent military force that has helped civilian authorities combat drug smuggling for decades.
The Obama administration is developing plans to assign 1,500 National Guard volunteers to the entire Southwest border, according to media reports.
In Arizona, 150 Guard personnel are assigned to the Joint Counter Narco-Terrorism Task Force, said Lt. Col. Jill Nelson. About 110 members help law-enforcement officials with intelligence, reconnaissance, air surveillance, logistics and other interdiction-related jobs.
"We strongly feel we could field 250 additional Guard members," she said. "We're ready here. We've been doing it for 20 years."
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano used National Guard troops for border security during her time as governor of Arizona. Gov. Jan Brewer, who succeeded Napolitano, joined the chief executives from other Southwest border states several months ago in a letter asking President Barack Obama to beef up the military presence. The request was submitted amid a firestorm of cartel violence and an escalation of smuggling at the border.
National Guard units are assigned where their specialized skills or technology can help state, local and federal counter-narcotics efforts. They do not act as law officers.
Although the numbers have varied, National Guard soldiers and airmen have been deployed in the fight against drugs in all 50 states since 1989.
President George W. Bush's Operation Jump Start temporarily added 6,000 Guard personnel to border security and fence construction during 2006-07, and 2,400 in 2007-08, said Maj. Paul Aguirre, a public-affairs officer for Arizona's Guard.
Arizona received 40 percent of those soldiers and airmen because the state's two border sectors, Tucson and Yuma, ranked first and second in illegal activities, Aguirre said.
The Obama administration's new program is expected to have a one-year time limit and to deploy volunteers only.
They will undergo security screening and may get special training.
Nelson said she anticipates no problem finding inactive soldiers and airmen who want work during a recession. And many younger soldiers covet positions in counter-narcotics because it is viewed as a stepping-stone to law-enforcement careers.
Obama the hypocrite!!! Sounds a lot like the USA.
“No business wants to invest in a place where the government skims 20 percent off the top, ... where the rule of law gives way to the rule of brutality.
We have a sales tax of 8%, FICA is a total of 12% of your income when you take in your employors share, and income tax is usually 10% or more of your income. Cops are never held responsible for their crimes.
And of course we have two illegal and unconstitional wars going on in Iraq and Afghanistan. America sure doesn't set a good example for the world.
Obama declares to Africa: End tyranny, corruption
Jul. 11, 2009 07:51 AM
ACCRA, Ghana - An American president who has “the blood of Africa within me” praised and scolded the continent of his ancestors Saturday, asserting forces of tyranny and corruption must yield if Africa is to achieve its promise.
“Yes you can,” Barack Obama declared, dusting off his campaign slogan and adapting it for his foreign audience. Speaking to the Ghanaian Parliament, he called upon African societies to seize opportunities for peace, democracy and prosperity.
“This is a new moment of great promise,” he said. “To realize that promise, we must first recognize a fundamental truth that you have given life to in Ghana: Development depends upon good governance. That is the ingredient which has been missing in far too many places, for far too long. That is the change that can unlock Africa's potential.”
The son of a white woman from Kansas and a black goat herder-turned-academic from Kenya, Obama delivered an unsentimental account of squandered opportunities in postcolonial Africa.
America's first black president spoke with a bluntness that perhaps could only come from a member of Africa's extended family.
“No country is going to create wealth if its leaders exploit the economy to enrich themselves, or if police can be bought off by drug traffickers,” he said
“No business wants to invest in a place where the government skims 20 percent off the top, or the head of the Port Authority is corrupt. No person wants to live in a society where the rule of law gives way to the rule of brutality and bribery.
“That is not democracy, that is tyranny, even if occasionally you sprinkle an election in there,” he said, “and now is the time for that style of governance to end.”
He added: “Africa doesn't need strongmen, it needs strong institutions.”
Obama was on a 21-hour visit to the West African nation to highlight that country's democratic tradition and engagement with the West. His visit, his first to sub-Saharan Africa as president, was greeted as a “spiritual reunion” Saturday by Ghanian legislators.
Before the flight home, Obama visited Cape Coast Castle, a seaside fortress converted to the slave trade by the British in the 17th century. In its dungeons, thousands of shackled Africans huddled in squalor before being herded onto ships bound for America.
He, his wife Michelle, their daughters and the first lady's mother toured the grounds as a festive crowd of thousands milled outside, pounding drums and dancing in the streets. Obama smiled and waved, pausing after he exited the motorcade, before disappearing with his family and entourage into the courtyard. Michelle Obama is the great-great granddaughter of slaves.
Earlier, people lined the streets, many waving at every vehicle of Obama's motorcade as it headed toward a meeting at Osu Castle, the storied coastline presidential state house, before his speech to Parliament. “Ghana loves you,” said a billboard.
The Obama administration sought a wide African audience for the president's speech, inviting people to watch it at embassies and cultural centers across the continent.
The 33-minute address was in part a splash of cold water for Africans who blame colonialism for their problems.
Obama spoke of the indignities visited upon Africans from the era of European rule. He said his grandfather, a cook for the British in Kenya, was called “boy” by his employers for much of his life despite his being a respected village elder. He said it was a time of artificial borders and unfair trade.
But he said the West is not to blame “for the destruction of the Zimbabwean economy over the last decade, or wars in which children are enlisted as combatants.” Nor for the corruption that is a daily fact of life for many, he said.
“Africa is not the crude caricature of a continent at perpetual war,” he said. Yet for “far too many Africans, conflict is a part of life, as constant as the sun. There are wars over land and wars over resources. And it is still far too easy for those without conscience to manipulate whole communities into fighting among faiths and tribes.
“These conflicts are a millstone around Africa's neck.”
Obama started his day with typical calm. Wearing a gray T-shirt and gym pants, he walked through the lobby of his hotel almost unnoticed at 7:30 a.m. local time on his way to the downstairs gym for a workout.
A short time later, his motorcade left the hotel, passed under hovering military helicopters and arrived for a delayed welcome ceremony with Ghanaian President John Atta Mills.
“I can say without any fear of contradiction that all Ghanaians want to see you,” Mills said. “I wish it were possible for me to send you to every home in Ghana.”
Before the flight home, Obama planned to tour Cape Coast Castle, a seaside fortress converted to the slave trade by the British in the 17th century. In its dungeons, thousands of shackled Africans huddled in squalor before being herded onto ships bound for America.
The castle visit mirrored ones paid by Clinton and George W. Bush to the slave-trading post of Goree Island, Senegal — with the added impact of Obama's mixed-race background and history-making election.
In Ghana, too, Obama followed in Clinton's footsteps. In 1998, a surging crowd cheered Clinton in Accra's Independence Square and toppled barricades after his speech. Clinton shouted, “Back up! Back up!”, his Secret Service detail clearly frantic.
Bush's reception last year was less tumultuous, but equally warm. At a welcoming banquet, then-President John Kufuor noted huge increases in U.S. development aid and AIDS relief — and named a highway after Bush.
Obama avoided scheduling large public events, wishing to keep emotions in check in a singular moment in African-American diplomacy.
The president pledged America's partnership in Africa's growth. Specifically, he said he would make sure U.S. aid gets to the people who need it most, such as farmers and entrepreneurs, not Western consultants and administrators.
That's why $3.5 billion in food assistance will focus on new methods and technologies for farmers, instead of simply sending U.S. goods to Africa, he said.
Obama flew to Ghana after the G-8 summit in L'Aquila, Italy, approved a new $20 billion food security plan. It aims to help poor nations in Africa and elsewhere to avert mass starvation during the global recession.
He also had a cordial first meeting with Pope Benedict XVI. In their half-hour private audience at the Vatican, the two reviewed Mideast peace and anti-poverty efforts, aides reported. They also discussed abortion and stem cell research at length, subjects of disagreement between them.
That concept we were taught in the government schools that the house and senate make the laws, and the president enforces them and the suprem courts rules on their legality is so old fashioned and screwed up. Lets just dump it and make Bush or now Obama now the Supreme Ruler and we won't have to worry about the President hiding things. Just joking!
Officials: Cheney had CIA hide effort
Dems to probe Bush-era anti-terror program
by Greg Miller - Jul. 12, 2009 12:00 AM
Los Angeles Times
WASHINGTON - The CIA kept a highly classified counterterrorism program secret from Congress for eight years at the direction of former Vice President Dick Cheney, according to sources familiar with an account that agency Director Leon Panetta provided recently to House and Senate committees.
The sources declined to provide any details on the nature of the program, but said that the agency has opened an internal inquiry in recent days into the history of the program and the decisions made by a series of senior officials to withhold information about it from Congress.
Cheney's involvement suggests that the program was considered important enough by the Bush administration that it should be monitored at the highest levels, and that the White House was reluctant to risk disclosure to lawmakers. Panetta killed the program on June 23 after learning of it for the first time four months after he had become director of the CIA. He then called special sessions with the House and Senate intelligence committees.
The CIA's relationship with Congress has become a source of serious controversy in Washington in recent months, after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., accused the agency of lying to members about its use of waterboarding and other interrogation methods in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks.
House Democrats said Saturday that they expect to launch a formal investigation into the secret CIA program
Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee said the inquiry would examine both the nature of the still-secret program and the decisions to keep congressional oversight committees in the dark about its existence.
"This wasn't an oversight," said Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., head of the panel's Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee. "There was an order given to not inform Congress."
The secret counterterrorism program was put in place shortly after those attacks but was never fully operational, sources said. Current and former intelligence and congressional officials have offered different viewpoints on the program's significance.
A senior congressional aide said the magnitude of the program and the decision to keep it secret should not be downplayed.
"Panetta found out about this for the first time and within 24 hours was in the office telling us," the aide said. "If this wasn't a big deal, why would the director of the CIA come sprinting up to the Hill like that?"
An aide to Cheney did not respond to a request for comment. CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano declined to comment Saturday on the program or Cheney's role, which was initially reported by the New York Times on its Web site.
By law, the CIA is required to make sure that congressional committees are "kept fully and currently informed of the intelligence activities of the United States, including any significant anticipated intelligence activity."
But there is latitude in the language for programs and operations deemed extremely sensitive, or those that might be considered routine. Indeed, former U.S. intelligence officials said that Panetta's predecessors, including retired Lt. Gen. Michael V. Hayden, did not feel they were constrained from informing Congress about the program but regarded the activity as falling well short of the threshold for congressional notification.
"We do a lot of foreign intelligence collection we don't run down to the Hill and say, 'How about this,' " said a former U.S. intelligence official familiar with the program, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
More than a year ago, however, Hayden informed subordinates that the intelligence committees would need to be briefed on the program if it crossed certain thresholds, according to ex-officials.
The Washington Post contributed to this article.
Cool! Obama is a war monger just like Bush! Heil Obama, Heil Bush, Heil Hitler! They all love war!
U.S. general: Grow Afghan forces
by Julian E. Barnes - Jul. 12, 2009 12:00 AM
WASHINGTON - The U.S. commander in Afghanistan has told top Pentagon officials that Afghan security forces must expand faster and beyond current target levels to more quickly secure the country, defense officials said.
A dramatically stepped-up training program likely would require additional U.S. troops, but it is not clear how many, if any, extra trainers American commanders in Afghanistan will request.
Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, is set to make a formal report with his recommendations in August. Defense officials emphasized that while McChrystal believes more Afghan security forces are needed, he has not yet made formal recommendations.
But the need for more Afghan security forces is clear - military leaders in Afghanistan have repeatedly said they need more Afghan army soldiers and police officers to help secure cities.
"It isn't any secret that commanders want more Afghan troops," a defense official said. The official and others declined to be quoted by name because McChrystal's recommendations have not been made public.
The Afghan army, generally considered far more skilled than the police, has about 85,000 members and is already scheduled to grow to 134,000.
The Pentagon has accelerated the training schedule and military officials are debating how much faster they can go, as well as how many more American trainers the job would require. A brigade of U.S. troops assigned to the training mission is due to arrive in Afghanistan in August.
"We don't want to put any numbers to it yet, but everyone knows expanding the Afghan national security forces is key to the counterinsurgency campaign," a military official said.
Ain't it great Obama is ending the Bush war in Iraq? Well kind of, and he still has a year and a half to change his mind about it! Sounds like Vietnam all over!
Pentagon eyes plan to increase Army by 30,000
by Lolita C. Baldor - Jul. 16, 2009 02:57 PM
WASHINGTON - The Pentagon is considering a plan to add 30,000 soldiers to the Army to bolster a force depleted by a growing number of wounded, stressed and other soldiers who can't be deployed with their units.
Struggling to wage wars on two fronts, the Army says it needs a temporary increase in order to fill vacancies in units heading to the battlefront.
The 547,000 member active duty force was beefed up by 65,000 in recent years, but military leaders say it hasn't been enough to make up for the roughly 30,000 soldiers who - at any one time - are injured, pregnant, suffering from post-traumatic stress or health problems, or have been assigned to other jobs.
Military leaders have been warning Congress that the problem has been getting worse, as the number of soldiers unable to return to the battlefield has increased by as much as 3,000 in the last several years, according to Gen. Pete Chiarelli, the Army's vice chief of staff.
"It is a stretched and sometimes tired force that is meeting all the requirements, but at the same time it is difficult to get our units up to the operating strength they need to before deployment," Chiarelli said.
According to the Army, 13 percent of the personnel in a typical unit heading to war are not available, compared to 11 percent previously.
Roughly 9,400 soldiers are in so-called "warrior transition units," with either physical or stress-related injuries. Another 10,000 are unavailable because of other less serious injuries, medical screening problems and pregnancy.
In addition, about 10,000 have been tapped for other duties, or have just returned from the battlefront, guaranteed one year at home before they redeploy.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Thursday that he plans to decide as early as next week whether to approve the temporary boost - which would be filled largely from intensified Army recruiting. Senators, however, have already introduced legislation calling for the increase.
A senior defense official said Thursday that if the Army is given the go ahead to increase its ranks, it will be able to do so quickly and in time to make a difference in closing the deficit in the coming year.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because discussions are still preliminary, said a substantial number of Army recruits have signed up but are in the delayed entry program awaiting a training slot and enlistment into the active duty Army.
The buildup in Afghanistan and the shift in Iraq from a combat to a training and assistance force have fueled the problem, by pulling individual soldiers out of their units to fill specialized positions.
Those include the recent Obama administration decisions to create special advisory brigades with extra trainers and other specialists for Iraq, and a new three-star command in Afghanistan headed by Lt. Gen. David Rodriguez.
Also contributing to the problem is the Pentagon's ongoing effort to do away with the unpopular practice of requiring troops to continue to serve beyond their enlistment dates.
Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said the funding question underscores the need for Congress to go along with the administration's push to slash additional funding, citing the legislative fight over more F-22 fighters.
"We cannot afford things we do not need," said Morrell, "because it forces us to take money from something else that we do need."
On the Net:
Defense Department: www.defenselink.mil
Many years ago when I actually beleived in and trusted government I thought landing on the moon was the best and coolest thing any government had ever done. Now I find out the idiots at NASA lost or erased the tapes of the moon landing! It takes government to really screw things up!
NASA: Original moonwalk footage likely lost
Newly-restored tapes of first moon walk released, but the original tapes were likely recorded over.
by Anne Ryman - Jul. 16, 2009 11:56 AM
The Arizona Republic
NASA released restored video from the historic Apollo 11 moonwalk taken from television broadcasts, but officials admitted that the original footage was likely recorded over sometime in the past and is no longer available.
The footage released today shows short portions of four videos that will be familiar to anyone who has ever seen pictures of that momentous even on July 20, 1969.The black-and-white images show astronaut Neil Armstrong coming down the stairs of the lunar module and another of astronaut Buzz Aldrin stepping down from the spacecraft.
The short segments also show the two reading a plaque that they left on the moon, and the historic raising of the American flag. At the time, the goal of Apollo 11 was to land astronauts on the moon and return them safely to Earth.
"Television was something we hoped for," said Richard Nafzger, a NASA engineer who oversaw the television processing and was only 28 at the time.
The new footage was shown for the first time during a televised press conference on Thursday.
He described the live televised event as "frightening" because there was no backup camera, and everything had to go perfectly to have a live transmission.
The newly released tapes are part of a larger restoration project expected to be complete in September at a cost of about $230,000. Lowry Digital, a Hollywood-based digital restoration company that has worked on such film classics as Casablanca and Star Wars is doing the restoration.
NASA had to rely on broadcast video because officials were unable to find the original films.
"We searched for the tapes everywhere," Nafzger said.
It's unclear exactly what happened to the Apollo 11 tapes, but Nafzger said they likely were saved for a few years and then erased and recorded over, something that is not unusual for space missions. As for why someone failed to recognize the historical significance and save the tapes, he didn't have a good anser.
"Boy, do we wish they'd done that," he said.
The missing tapes, coupled with NASA partnering with a Hollywood studio for the restoration, could fuel conspiracy theorists, who believe the moon landing never took place and was staged for political purposes. NASA officials said they are not creating anything new during the restorations. The new images simply are more clear and detailed that what was originally broadcast.
That said, "conspiracy theorists are going to believe what they want to believe," said Mike Inchalik, president of Lowry Digital, Burbank, Calif.
NASA officials said the three Apollo 11 astronauts have not yet seen the restored footage.
The newly restored video can be viewed on NASA television at: www.nasa.gov/ntv. The footage is being shown on the hour until 4 p.m. today and on Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Arizona time.
Reach the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org or 602-444-8072.
Hmmm.... Obama doesn't seem much different then Bush! "A special terror interrogation unit" - Sounds like it came out of the mouth of Bush!
Official: US may create terror interrogation unit
By DEVLIN BARRETT, Associated Press Writer Devlin Barrett, Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON – The Obama administration is considering creating a special unit of professional interrogators to handle key terror suspects, focusing on intelligence-gathering rather than building criminal cases for prosecution, a government official said Saturday.
The recommendation is expected from a presidential task force on interrogation methods that plans to send some findings to the White House on Tuesday.
The official said the panel, which has not completed its work, has concluded that the unit of intelligence and law enforcement agencies should be created. The task force is unsure which agencies should have a role, though the CIA and FBI are expected to be important players, according to the official, who was not authorized to publicly discuss the panel's work and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Ben LaBolt, a White House spokesman, said President Barack Obama has not reviewed the task force's recommendations. The spokesman declined to discuss any findings. The recommendation about the new unit was first reported in Saturday's Wall Street Journal.
The unit's structure would depart significantly from such work under the Bush administration, when the CIA had the lead and sometimes exclusive role in questioning al-Qaida suspects. The task force has not reached a conclusion as to which agency should lead the unit or where it should be based, the official said.
Such a unit would not alter the Obama administration's decision against using harsh interrogation techniques such as waterboarding, which simulates drowning, that were authorized by the Bush administration. The Obama task force is examining what other techniques could be used, the official said.
Obama signed executive orders when he took office in January calling for government task forces to recommend future policies for interrogating and detaining suspected terrorists. The deadline for those recommendations is Tuesday, but the work will take more time than that.
The coming week also marks the halfway mark to Obama's deadline to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center.
More than 90 percent of the detainees held at the U.S. military base in Cuba when he signed that order remain. To its critics, "Gitmo" is a concrete-and-steel symbol of an American gulag; to supporters, it is as a critical safeguard against terrorism.
Guantanamo's detractors and defenders both say the administration's efforts so far suggest that deadline may lapse.
LaBolt said the administration is "making steady progress in reviewing the status of each Guantanamo detainee and in strengthening the military commission system to ensure that the detainees are brought to swift and certain justice."
He noted that Bush administration "succeeded in prosecuting only three detainees in more than seven years."
When Obama became president in January, there were about 245 inmates at the facility. After six months, the U.S. has relocated fewer than 20. Most of those were sent to other countries; one has been brought to U.S. to face trial in a civilian criminal court.
The administration has reviewed more than half of the detainee cases at Guantanamo.
The government hopes to transfer many of the detainees — including up to 100 Yemenis — to other nations for rehabilitation or release. A much smaller number is expected to be brought to trial by the Justice Department, and a separate group will be tried in military commissions.
A final group probably will be held without formal charges, subject to some form of regular judicial review.
The Bush administration created the Guantanamo facility after the Sept. 11 attacks. The intent was to deal with what U.S. officials called "the worst of the worst" among suspected terrorists. But over the years the U.S. released or transferred more than 500 of the inmates once held.
Obama campaigned on a pledge to close Guantanamo. As president, he has seen members of his own party abandon him on the issue when Republicans mounted effective opposition.
Democrats and Republicans alike voted to withhold money for relocating detainees to U.S. soil — marking the first serious legislative setback of the Obama presidency.
"It demonstrates the president's first executive order was a fundamentally flawed judgment," said Rep. Peter King, the senior Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee who recently joined the House Intelligence Committee.
"I have no doubt the average American wants terrorists held in Guantanamo — they want tough policies against terrorism," he said.
Jonathan Hafetz, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union, said the legal issues surrounding Guatanamo too often have been pushed aside by politics.
"There's been an ugly, angry backlash in Congress that's based on a mix of fear-mongering and misunderstanding. Obama has pledged to restore the rule of law and abide by the rule of law, and he needs to act out of principle, not political pressure," said Hafetz.
Hafetz argued the administration is subverting its own cause by pressing ahead with what he calls weak cases against particular prisoners. "That's inconsistent with their stated desire to close the prison within a year," he said.
[ Obama is just playing the I want as many votes as I can get. He figures if he gives lets these criminals that worked for Bush "get out of jail for free cards" he will get votes from Bush supporters. Obama's only goal is to get re-elected. Obama doesn't care about justice. Obama is just as bad as Bush. The only difference between Obama and Bush is when Obama screws you, you want to shake his hand and thank him for screwing you. Obama is just a polite, but evil crook. ]
Doyle McManus: Obama and the Bush years
Despite Obama's reluctance to confront possible misconduct in the Bush administration's war on terror, the outrage just won't go away.
July 19, 2009
Whenever he's asked about the scandals of America's war on terror -- the torture, the wrongful detentions, the legal corners cut -- President Obama has responded with some version of this statement: "We have to focus on getting things right in the future as opposed to looking at what we got wrong in the past."
But that approach can't work. The unanswered questions are too many, the lawsuits too numerous, the fundamental questions of accountability too nagging. We need a public reckoning -- and, much as they might like to avoid the distraction, Obama and his people must know it.
The latest controversy was the disclosure last week that the CIA had launched a program to track down and kill Al Qaeda leaders without informing Congress. The CIA withheld the information, according to Director Leon Panetta, on orders from then-Vice President Dick Cheney.
Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee were outraged: The controversy served to bolster Speaker Nancy Pelosi's contention that the CIA had chronically lied to Congress.
The dust-up over what Congress wasn't told came just as Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. announced that he will take a new look at old cases in which CIA personnel were accused of abusing detainees, to see if any of them merit prosecution.
Obama has said that CIA officers who used "enhanced interrogation techniques" will not be punished if they followed regulations in force at the time. But he has also said that those who employed torture beyond the rules should answer to the law.
And such cases do exist. The CIA's inspector general reportedly sent as many as a dozen "crimes reports" on detainee abuse to the Bush administration Justice Department. Several of the cases concerned detainees who died in custody.
Bush Justice Department lawyers examined every case, officials said, but decided to prosecute only one, a contract interrogator from North Carolina named David Passaro who beat an Afghan detainee to death with a flashlight in 2003. Passaro was convicted of assault and sentenced to eight years in prison.
When Holder reviewed the inspector general's 2004 report on the detainee program, he was taken aback by the cases that weren't prosecuted. And he wasn't the first. When the tough report was delivered five years ago, it caused then-CIA Director George Tenet to suspend the program until new rules could be devised. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who also read the report, said it was "chilling."
Holder told Newsweek that he is leaning toward launching a criminal investigation into the old cases, and his words sent a shock wave through the CIA's clandestine service, which had hoped it was out of the woods. (A former official who spoke to me asked for his identity to be concealed because he expects to be questioned if the cases are reopened.)
Panetta, defending his CIA troops, authorized an unusual on-the-record statement telling the attorney general to back off. "This has all been reviewed and dealt with before," CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano said in a statement. "The Department of Justice knows -- and has known for years -- the details of past interrogation practices. ... Justice decided when to prosecute and when not to prosecute. In some cases, when the department chose not to prosecute, CIA took administrative steps of its own."
At the end of last week, Holder had made no decision. White House officials said publicly that they were leaving the issue to the attorney general -- but in private, some of them winced at the prospect of prosecuting CIA officers and the political firestorms that could ensue.
Obama may prefer to soar above painful questions about what his predecessor's CIA did, but he is unlikely to have that luxury, even if Holder backs off. A series of looming disclosures are likely to keep the debate over accountability alive.
The inspector general's 2004 report is due to be released (with secrets blacked out) by Aug. 31 in response to a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union. The Justice Department's own ethics office is about to release a report judging the department lawyers who drew up the so-called torture memos that offered legal justification for detainee abuse. A federal prosecutor is investigating the CIA's decision in 2005 to destroy 92 videotapes of detainee interrogations, including the repeated waterboarding of Al Qaeda figure Abu Zubaydah. And Feinstein's Senate Intelligence Committee staff is grinding away at a comprehensive report on interrogations that may not be complete before the end of the year.
"All of these strands are converging to create what could be an ugly summer," noted Jeffrey H. Smith, a former CIA general counsel who has informally advised Obama aides on intelligence issues. "The CIA feels once again that they are the ham in the sandwich."
There are two ways to resolve these nagging problems. One is the long and bumpy process of responding passively, letting Congress and the courts do what they will. That's the path Obama has taken until now. Far better, though, for the president to grasp the nettle, deal with problems quickly and put safeguards in place to prevent their recurrence. Only then can he focus fully on "getting things right in the future."
As wars' death toll nears 5,000, Dover shows quiet dignity
By Rick Hampson, USA TODAY
DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. — Tonight, as always, the passengers stop talking when the van makes a sharp left on the tarmac and rolls toward the rear hatch of the C-17 transport. Now they see its cargo: two gleaming, 7-foot-long aluminum cases, each covered with an American flag.
Aaron Fairbairn, 20, and Justin Casillas, 19, who met at Army basic training last year in Georgia and died together this Fourth of July in Afghanistan, rest side by side on a lonely runway under a nearly full moon.
Aaron's half-brother, Beau Beck, is in the van with other members of the two privates' families. They have traveled across the continent to witness one of war's rawest moments — the return of the fallen to native soil.
Since hearing the news, Beck has half-believed there had been a mistake, that Aaron wasn't really killed in a Taliban attack. But now, seeing the cases, he almost gasps. This was the kid to whom he'd spoken on the phone 72 hours ago.
"At first you don't want to believe it," he said. "You think, 'It's not true, it's not true.' But that sight made it true. It was final."
The nation is approaching a combined total of 5,000 military deaths in Iraq, where the pace of U.S. casualties is declining, and in Afghanistan, where it is rising. All the remains have come through this air base, site of the nation's largest mortuary.
Since April, journalists have been permitted to cover what the military calls "dignified transfers" of bodies from incoming flights to the mortuary. And, in a less-publicized change at the same time, the government began to pay for relatives' travel here for such arrivals.
News organizations' interest or ability to cover routine transfers quickly faded; only the Associated Press regularly assigns a photographer.
But relatives — who previously were not encouraged by the military to attend the arrivals and rarely did — now are coming to more than 70% of them.
On one level, the families' presence has changed nothing.
Each transfer is carried out with the same exacting choreography, regardless of who's watching. But in feel, if not form, their presence changes everything.
His brother's homecoming was the toughest sight of Beau Beck's 32 years, but he's glad he was there.
"There was this overwhelming sense of honor and respect. You didn't have to know those two kids on the flight line to feel that," Beck says.
The blue van pulls up behind the transport plane, 25 feet off the tail. To the left, through the tinted windows, the soldiers' relatives can see a few journalists standing on the tarmac.
Because the families will watch while standing on the other side of the van, the journalists can't see them.
Fairbairn's mother and sister would decline to discuss the transfer, and efforts to reach Casilla's relatives for comment were unsuccessful. Beau Beck later agreed to talk, explaining, "It was terrible, but it was amazing."
'The Dover Test'
During the Vietnam War, images of flag-draped cases arriving at Dover (and Travis Air Force Base in California, until 2001 the military's other domestic mortuary) symbolized the war's terrible cost.
After Vietnam, American leaders contemplating military action began referring to "the Dover Test:" How would Americans react to those grim sights on the air and in print?
During the Gulf War, the first Bush administration prohibited news media coverage of returning casualties, supposedly in the interest of privacy. When the policy continued during the Iraq war, critics cried coverup.In 2004, Joe Biden, then a senator from Delaware, said the fallen "are essentially snuck back into the country under the cover of night, so no one can see that their casket has arrived."
This year the Obama administration re-opened the arrivals to journalists, provided families approve. (About seven in 10 have.)
Defense Secretary Robert Gates had expressed concern that if the news media covered transfers at Dover, relatives would feel compelled to attend — a financial hardship for some who lived far away. So his department decided to pay and help arrange travel, food and lodging for up to three people per family.
Beck was surprised by the offer, which he and his family quickly accepted.
To his right tonight on the tarmac is a white truck, waiting to move the transfer cases to the base mortuary. Beck thinks it looks like a bread truck.
Seven members of an Army ceremonial unit — six bearers and a team leader — march past him and up a ramp into the hold of the huge steel-gray aircraft.
They're joined by a chaplain, an Air Force colonel and an Army brigadier general from the Pentagon, Francis Mahon.
Mahon is director of the Army's Quadrennial Defense Review — a big-picture guy, who works far from the battlefield.
He's there because the Army chief of staff has ordered that a general officer be present for the arrival of every soldier's remains.
"This reminds you there are lives at the end of decisions," Mahon says. "Everything you do affects a soldier."
In 30 years in the Army, Mahon has seen a lot of pomp — 21-gun salutes, Taps, flag presentations. This is different.
It's not a ceremony, in military terminology, but a "dignified transfer."
The remains are not in coffins but "cases." They are escorted not by an honor guard, but a "carry team."
Everything is functional — no speeches, music or dress blues. The carry team wears camouflage fatigues, combat boots, black berets and, in one concession to ceremony, white gloves.
That, Beck thinks, is what makes this so powerful — it's so real.
'America cares deeply'
In the cargo hold, a chaplain, Maj. Klavens Noel, reads a prayer over the bodies of Fairbairn and Casillas, which have come from Afghanistan via Kuwait and Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany.
The families cannot hear but see heads bent in prayer as Noel begins: "Almighty God, we thank you for the freedom we enjoy in our nation as we welcome Privates Casillas and Fairbairn home this evening. We pray that they may rest in peace. We pray for their family members, that they may find comfort in knowing that America cares deeply. We pray for their comrades on the battlefield ..."
Time to move the cases. First is Casillas, a former high school football lineman from Dunnigan, Calif., who always played bigger than his 175 pounds, and played hurt if he had to.
Friends and former teachers recall the teen's patriotism — he hung a flag in his room — and passion for the military.
A month before he left for Afghanistan, he dropped by his high school. His coach, Roy Perkins, said he thought it was good to see someone achieve what he'd always wanted.
Packed with ice, his case weighs about 400 pounds. The team leader calls, "Ready, lift" and the team members, facing each other, grasp the case. On "Ready, up" they straighten, lifting it. On "Ready, face," three soldiers do a left face, the other three a right face. Now all are facing toward the tail and out into the night, toward the bread truck, whose doors are open, waiting.
On "Ready, step" the team moves forward toward the ramp.
On the ground, the colonel says "Present, arms!" His voice is low, crisp. Each military servicemember slowly lifts a right arm in salute — three seconds up — and holds it as the team carries the case 46 steps across the tarmac to the truck.
Their pace is exaggeratedly — almost agonizingly — slow.
The families stand behind a rope line, like outside a nightclub. They've been told not to try to come forward to touch the case. But they never take their eyes off it.
This is the moment in the transfer when knees buckle and hearts flutter, when children wail and mothers scream. Tonight, there are racking sobs — "the sounds that ring in my nights," says David Sparks, a military chaplain standing with the families.
Most of the relatives, he says, arrive on the flight line still in shock: "Someone's come to the door and told them something, but they don't really believe it until they see for themselves." They haven't even begun to grieve, so he doesn't go much beyond a greeting, a hug and, 'I'm so very sorry.' "
As the carry team approaches the truck, they stop, march in place, turn toward each other and, on the command, "Ready, step!" push the case forward into the truck and onto its metal rollers, which make a clanging sound as the case moves forward.
At the command, "Order, arms" salutes are lowered — three seconds down.
The team takes six steps back, does an about face and marches back to the plane for the second case — Aaron's.
'Always with a smile'
Aaron Fairbairn joined the Army because he wanted to make a difference, because he wanted to learn a skill and because he didn't really have any better options.
"He was just a nice kid — hard-working, fun-loving, always with a smile," Beck says. Because he was 12 years older and Aaron's biological father was "out of the picture," Beck says he felt as much like the kid's dad as his brother.
Aaron had drifted a bit after high school, working at a pizza shop and a car dealership. When Aaron told him he planned to enlist, Beck was surprised and unenthusiastic: It was wartime.
"He wasn't gung-ho," Beck recalls. "He was a pretty peaceful kid. He didn't want to fight unless he had to. He just wanted to do his job. ... He'd do what you told him to do, and he wouldn't show a lot of emotion."
Aaron left for Afghanistan in March and wound up at a combat post in the eastern province of Paktika. Except for one mission early on, he told his family that military life consisted mostly of post duty, watching videos they'd sent him and working out. He was never athletic but had bulked up to 155 pounds from his induction weight of 115, and boasted of bench-pressing 275 pounds.
Beck got a call from Aaron late Friday afternoon, July 3. Things were quiet; the action was down south, in Helmand province, where the Marines were on the march. If anything, he was a little bored.
Later that day, the Taliban attacked.
Saturday morning, an Army chaplain and sergeant were on his mother's porch in Aberdeen, Wash. When she saw them standing there, Shelley Masters thought that because it was Independence Day, maybe they were there to raise funds or something.
That night she, Beau and her 21-year-old daughter, Sascha, took the red-eye to Philadelphia.
When the last case is placed in the bread truck, Senior Airman Joseph Holton must close the truck's door — given its symbolism, the most sensitive part of the ritual.
Transfer detail team members are selected by their predecessors, after watching them perform a test drill. Holton and another airman were chosen from a group of 40.
He must make unnaturally slow movements look natural, even though the tendency is to speed up — especially with the families and the news media watching, and his adrenaline pumping.
So as he walks, Holton later explains, he paces himself by counting in his head. He times his steps to his breathing — inhale on heel down, exhale on heel up. He moves so deliberately as to seem to extend time itself.
Without appearing to, Holton must brace for the unforeseen, such as a gust of wind that could blow the door shut.
He tries to block out anything that might distract him from the precise execution of his otherwise workaday task, including the families. Recently, a mother fell to the tarmac, pounding the ground and screaming, "Don't close the doors!"
Holton tries not to look, but he sees the relatives when he does a left face to close the left door and a right face to close the right door.
Finally, the doors are closed. When the driver turns the ignition, the colonel orders, "Present arms" to signal a final salute. The truck rolls forward. At "Order arms" the salutes are lowered.
The truck rolls slowly off to the mortuary, where the bodies will be scanned for explosives, checked for personal effects, positively identified, autopsied, embalmed, dressed in a blue Class A dress uniform bearing the Purple Heart, Bronze Star, Combat Infantry Badge and airborne wings, and placed in a steel casket.
Back on the tarmac, Aaron Fairbairn's mother, brother and sister form a tight circle, hugging and sobbing. Their soldier is home.
Toll of Iraq, Afghanistan wars
Milestones in the combined U.S. death tolls for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan:
I guess Obama lied about getting us out of the ugly little wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Gee they need more troops to fight a bunch of dirt poor freedom fighters in Afghanistan.
Gates announces Army being increased by 22,000
by Pauline Jelinek - Jul. 20, 2009 01:26 PM
WASHINGTON - Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced Monday that the size of the Army will be increased temporarily by 22,000 soldiers to help meet the needs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and other missions around the world.
This is the second time since 2007 that the military has determined it doesn't have a large enough force. Gates had already increased the size of the Army and Marine Corps shortly after taking the Pentagon job.
Gates noted that while progress in Iraq will lead to a reduction in the number of troops there, more troops are needed in Afghanistan because of the worsening violence in that conflict. He said the persistent pace of operations in the two wars over several years has meant a steady increase in the number of troops who are wounded, stressed or otherwise unable to deploy with their units.
Also causing a shortage is the decision earlier this year to stop the unpopular practice of keeping troops beyond their enlistment dates, a practice known as "stop-loss."
"The cumulative effect of these factors is that the army faces a period where its ability to continue to deploy combat units (with enough troops) is at risk," Gates said.
"This is a temporary challenge that will peak in the coming year and abate over the course of the next three years," Gates told a Pentagon press conference.
The Army currently has a total troop strength of 547,000, including 65,000 soldiers who were added in recent years.
Gates said he would not seek additional money for the extra troops in the 2009 and 2010 fiscal year budgets.
"This decision will result in additional tough choices for the department," he said. "However, I'm convinced that this is an important and necessary step to ensure that we continue to properly support the needs of our commanders in the field while providing relief for our current force and their families."
Gates also said it was "not inevitable" that more U.S. troops would be needed in Afghanistan beyond the 68,000 American force expected to be there by the end of the year.
He had said Thursday that there "may be some increase, but not a lot."
Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who took over as commander for all U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan last month, is nearing the end of a 60-day review of the campaign what is needed there. The former U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David McKiernan, had said he needed an additional 10,000 troops, beyond the 68,000. The White House put off that decision until the end of this year.
According to the Army, 13 percent of the personnel in a typical unit heading to war are not available, compared to 11 percent previously.
The Pentagon said roughly 30,000 soldiers can't deploy with their units. About 9,400 soldiers are in so-called "warrior transition units," with either physical or stress-related injuries. Another 10,000 are unavailable because of other less serious injuries, medical screening problems and pregnancy. The other 10,000 have been tapped for other duties, or have just returned from the battlefront and are guaranteed one year at home before they redeploy.
The buildup in Afghanistan and the shift in Iraq from a combat to a training and assistance force added to the problem by pulling individual soldiers out of their units to fill specialized positions, officials have said. That includes the recent Obama administration decisions to create special advisory brigades with extra trainers and other specialists for Iraq.
Ain't pork great! Everybody agrees we don't need the planes, but the Congressmen want the planes because it means pork for their states!
Senate heads toward vote on F-22s
Posted 7/21/2009 12:09 PM ET
By Jim Abrams, Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON — The Senate debated Tuesday whether to spend $1.75 billion on seven additional F-22 jets, a decision that pits the possible loss of thousands of defense jobs against Obama administration assertions that the Pentagon has enough of the fighters and the program should be terminated.
Lawmakers from states that would benefit from manufacturing the jets want the money pumped into the aerospace and defense industries. Defense Secretary Robert Gates counters that the money would be better spent on ensuring that the military has the tools it needs to fight the unconventional wars taking place in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The chamber was expected to vote on the issue Tuesday.
Gates has been calling wavering senators to urge their support for cutting off spending for new F-22s. Vice President Joe Biden and other White House officials have also been calling lawmakers to press the issue and remind Congress that President Barack Obama has threatened what would be the first veto of his presidency if the money isn't removed.
"What I have not heard is substantive reason for adding more aircraft in terms of our strategic needs," Gates said Monday while reiterating his opposition to the purchase.
Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said Tuesday that spending on the stealth fighter would "inhibit our ability to buy things we do need," including Gates' proposal to add 22,000 soldiers to the Army.
The $1.75 billion is currently part of a $680 billion defense spending policy bill.
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., and the top Republican on the panel, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, sponsored the amendment to take out the F-22 money.
"The Senate has heard from the senior leadership of the Defense Department both civilian and military that we should end F-22 production. The recommendation is strong and clear, as strong and clear as I have ever heard," Levin said.
But there's strong resistance, particularly from senators representing states where the plane and its parts are made.
According to Lockheed Martin Corp., the main contractor, 25,000 people are directly employed in building the plane, and another 70,000 have indirect links, particularly in Georgia, Texas and California. Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., a supporter of the program, said there are 1,000 suppliers in 44 states.
Dodd, speaking on the Senate floor last week, questioned why Congress should approve $65 billion to prop up the automobile industry but can't spend $1.75 billion to support an important segment of the aerospace industry.
Supporters of the program also argued that it would undermine the nation's security to terminate the F-22 when China and Russia are both developing fighter jets that can compete with it.
The Senate took up the F-22 issue last week, but then put it aside to deal with two amendments having nothing to do with defense. On Thursday senators voted to adopt a major expansion to hate crimes law, and on Monday they turned to a proposal allowing people with concealed weapons permits in one state to carry their weapons into other states. A vote on the gun law was expected Wednesday.
The House last month approved its version of the defense bill with a $369 million down payment for 12 additional F-22 fighters. The House Appropriations Committee last week endorsed that spending in drawing up its Pentagon budget for next year. It also approved $534 million for an alternate engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, another program that Obama, backed by the Pentagon, says is unwarranted and would subject the entire bill to a veto.
The defense bill authorizes $550 billion for defense programs and $130 billion for military operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and other anti-terrorist operations.
The defense bill is S. 1390.
Here we go again! Ain't a dimes difference between Obama and Bush other then cosmetic things. They are both government tryants who take our money and give it to special intrest groups.
President Obama's transparency faulted
Inspector general: Public should know how bailout is spent
by Tom Hamburger and Peter Nicholas - Jul. 21, 2009 12:00 AM
Los Angeles Times
WASHINGTON - As the watchdog of the government's massive bailout of the financial sector, Neil Barofsky had a simple question: What had the nation's banks done with all their bailout money?
Can't be answered, said the Treasury Department, because of the way banks move money internally. The department declined to put the question to the banks.
And so, Barofsky started asking financial institutions himself, getting answers from more than 300 that had received federal bailout money and learning to what extent they had used the money to increase their lending, buy competitors or build their cash reserves. The banking survey, and the refusal of Treasury officials to conduct it themselves, were revealed as Barofsky issued a stinging report Monday that complained of a lack of transparency in the Obama administration's management of the giant financial-services bailout program.
The report came as critics say the White House has fallen short of its promises to run a more open government. Among other areas, the critics cite the president's conduct of the health-care debate, which has included closed-door White House meetings with powerful interest groups.
"You can't ask the basic questions or have a debate about the fundamental policy questions without information," Barofsky said in an interview. "We fundamentally disagree with the Treasury Department on the importance of transparency."
Increased transparency was a campaign pledge Obama made at every turn during the election campaign. As president, he said, he would invite television cameras into the negotiating sessions over health care. C-SPAN would record every word, Obama said, while he and members of Congress, as well as representatives of the health-care industry, hashed out a plan to overhaul the nation's health-care system.
The discussions have not played out that way. Obama has met repeatedly in the White House with congressional leaders to discuss health-care strategy. No cameras, or reporters, have been allowed to cover the talks. The White House has announced deals and negotiated behind closed doors with hospital and drug-industry executives as part of its push to revamp health care.
"We think the record is mixed on transparency," said Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. "They've promised more than they've delivered, and we've been disappointed. But it's seven months in, it's early, and we hope they can get it right."
A C-SPAN spokesman said Monday that the network has covered an Obama administration health-care forum on March 5 that was open to the entire press corps and another one Monday. That's it.
Linda Douglass, a White House spokeswoman, said the Obama administration is disclosing far more than its predecessors.
"The public has had much more of a window on the process of discussing these things with various interest groups than they've ever had before," Douglass said. "It could be that some meetings have certainly been in a private setting, but I don't know if the president had promised that every single conversation he has everywhere would be Webcast."
Ellen Miller, executive director of the Sunlight Foundation, a non-profit group that focuses on government transparency, credited the Obama administration for making more government data public. The Web site data .gov, for example, represents a genuine attempt to put a wealth of government data on the Internet, she said.
But, at the same time, Miller said, "We don't see any radical changes from what we've seen in the past (in terms of how the government conducts business)."
Advocates for open government have been distressed by Obama's announcement in May that he would block release of photos showing U.S. troops mistreating prisoners in Iraq. They also criticized his efforts to conceal the names of visitors to the White House.
Barofsky, special inspector general for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, said disclosing information to the public is important to the success of the bailout program.
"It's necessary so that taxpayers know what's going on with their money," he said. Without it, he added, government risks encouraging corruption "and an erosion of confidence in the TARP and the Treasury."
Although a lack of transparency was the theme that Barofsky emphasized in his report to Congress, the book-length report also discusses the Treasury's failure to follow other recommendations from his office.
In an interview and in his report, Barofsky expressed particular concern about the public-private partnership to purchase toxic assets from banks.
All told, Barofsky estimated that the government's exposure under the financial-services rescue program, also known as the TARP program, was nearly $24 trillion, a figure that Treasury officials said was exaggerated.
Obama was right that the racist pigs were "Stupid"! But Obama is after votes and doesn't care about whats right so Obama backs down!
Obama says words ill chosen, calls white policeman
By NANCY BENAC, Associated Press Writer Nancy Benac, Associated Press Writer – 14 mins ago
WASHINGTON – Trying to tamp down a national uproar over race, President Barack Obama acknowledged Friday he had used unfortunate words in declaring that Cambridge, Mass., police "acted stupidly" in arresting black scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. "I could've calibrated those words differently," he said.
He stopped short of a public apology. But the president telephoned both Gates and the white officer who had arrested him, hoping to end the rancorous back-and-forth over what had transpired and what Obama had said about it. Trying to lighten the situation, he said he had invited the Harvard professor and police St. James Crowley for "a beer here in the White House."
Hours earlier, a multiracial group of police officers had stood with Crowley in Massachusetts and said the president should apologize.
It was a measure of the nation's keen sensitivities on matters of race that the fallout from a disorderly conduct charge in Massachusetts — and the remarks of America's first black president about it — had mushroomed to such an extent that he felt compelled to make a special appearance at the White House to try to put the matter to rest. The blowup had knocked Obama offstride just as he was trying to marshal public pressure to get Congress to push through health care overhaul legislation — and as polls showed growing doubts about his performance.
"This has been ratcheting up, and I obviously helped to contribute ratcheting it up," Obama said of the racial controversy. "I want to make clear that in my choice of words, I think I unfortunately gave an impression that I was maligning the Cambridge Police Department and Sgt. Crowley specifically. And I could've calibrated those words differently."
The president did not back down from his contention that police had overreacted by arresting Gates for disorderly conduct after coming to his home to investigate a possible break-in. He added, though, that he thought Gates, too, had overreacted to the police who questioned him. The charge has been dropped.
Obama stirred up a hornet's nest when he said at a prime-time news conference this week that the officer, who is white, had "acted stupidly" by arresting Gates, a friend of the president's. Looking back, Obama said he didn't regret stepping into the controversy and hoped the matter would end up being a "teachable moment" for the nation.
"The fact that this has garnered so much attention, I think, is testimony to the fact that these are issues that are still very sensitive here in America," Obama said.
Obama wryly took note of the distraction from his legislative efforts.
"I don't know if you've noticed, but nobody's been paying much attention to health care," the president said.
Obama, who has come under intense criticism from police organizations, said he had called Crowley to clear the air, and said the conversation confirmed his belief that the sergeant is an "outstanding police officer and a good man."
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs refused to say whether Obama had apologized to Crowley.
Asked repeatedly about that, Gibbs said: "If the president doesn't want to characterize it in a conversation that he hates having with you all, I'm not going to get ahead of him."
Obama was lighter in tone in his public remarks about his phone conversation with Crowley.
He said the police officer "wanted to find out if there was a way of getting the press off his lawn."
"I informed him that I can't get the press off my lawn," Obama joked.
In his conversation with Gates, aides said, Obama and the professor had spoken about the president's statement to the press and his conversation with Crowley.
Before Obama's appearance Friday, fellow police officers in Massachusetts said that Obama and the state's governor, Deval Patrick, should apologize for comments on the arrest. Patrick had said Gates' arrest was "every black man's nightmare."
Dennis O'Connor, president of the Cambridge Police Superior Officers Association, said Obama's remarks were "misdirected" and the Cambridge police "deeply resent the implication" that race was a factor in the arrest.
Sgt. Leon Lashley, a black officer who was at Gates' home with Crowley at the time of the arrest, said he supported his fellow officer's action "100 percent."
The incident began when Gates returned home from an overseas trip, found his door jammed, and tried to force it open. Gates went through the back door and was inside the house when police arrived. Police say he flew into a rage when Crowley asked him to show identification to prove he should be in the home. Police say Gates accused Crowley of racial bias, refused to calm down and was arrested.
Gates, 58, maintains he turned over identification when asked to do so. He says Crowley arrested him after the professor followed him to the porch, repeatedly demanding the sergeant's name and badge number because he was unhappy over his treatment.
Obama's take on the situation: "My sense is you've got two good people in a circumstance in which neither of them were able to resolve the incident in a way that it should have been resolved."
Democratic activists around the country were hopeful the president's latest remarks would put the issue to rest.
"Let's concentrate on the business at hand — fixing the economy and health care for everybody," said Florida state Rep. Luis Garcia, a vice chair of the state Democratic Party.
In Michigan, 19-year-old Mitchell Rivard, the president of the Michigan State University College Democrats, expressed hope the controversy would indeed be a learning experience for the country.
"I think it's going to make people talk about race relations around the United States and in their home towns," Rivard said. "This will be something that people are going to talk about across the nation in terms of how we can have better race relations."
Of course Obama will shoot it down because he wants all the Bush votes he can get. - President Barack Obama has expressed reluctance to conduct an inquiry into suspected Bush-era abuses
Criminal probe sought on Bush White House
by Ken Thomas - Jul. 25, 2009 12:00 AM
WASHINGTON - The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee on Friday urged Attorney General Eric Holder to appoint a special counsel to examine potential abuses by former President George W. Bush's administration.
Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., said in a speech to the National Press Club that Holder "must appoint a special counsel to review the Bush administration abuses of power and misconduct. A criminal probe - he's got to do that."
Conyers' committee has sought an investigation of Bush administration actions criticized by Democrats, including its methods of interrogating foreign detainees, use of warrantless wiretaps, suspected retribution against critics, and allegations that officials intentionally misused intelligence.
A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment. Holder is considering whether to appoint a prosecutor to review the Bush administration's methods of interrogating terror suspects.
President Barack Obama has expressed reluctance to conduct an inquiry into suspected Bush-era abuses and resisted an effort by congressional Democrats to establish a "truth commission," saying the nation should be "looking forward and not backwards."
Sounds like Obama wants to keep the body count a secret from the American people. Gee Obama is the same as Bush!
US military stops publicizing Taliban body count
Jul. 27, 2009 07:24 AM
KABUL - The U.S. military in Afghanistan has stopped releasing body counts of insurgents believed killed in operations because the tolls distract from the U.S. objective of protecting Afghans, a spokesman said Monday.
The number of insurgents killed in Afghanistan has provided a bloody scorecard for the deteriorating conflict. Attacks by Taliban fighters have risen steadily the last three years, and militants now control wide swaths of countryside.
Nearly 3,800 insurgents were killed in 2008, based on figures collected by The Associated Press. Some of those numbers came from U.S. military statements; others came from Afghan authorities. So far in 2009, more than 2,310 insurgents have been killed, according to the AP count.
The U.S. military policy on releasing insurgent body counts has changed several times during the eight-year conflict, depending on the commander in charge.
The latest decision to stop releasing body counts was made in mid-June when Gen. Stanley McChrystal took command of all U.S. and NATO troops in the country, said spokesman Col. Greg Julian.
The militant death toll "distracts from the real objectives and isn't necessary to communicate what we're trying to achieve," Julian said. "We want to separate the people from the insurgency by improving their quality of life and opportunities."
Since taking command in Afghanistan, McChrystal has said repeatedly that the military needs to protect Afghan villagers instead of chasing and killing insurgents.
Civilian deaths caused by U.S. and NATO military operations have long been a source of friction between President Hamid Karzai and the international force. Such deaths alienate Afghan villagers, causing a loss of support for the international mission and the U.S.-backed Afghan government.
The U.S. military hopes to focus more on spreading the word about military efforts to help Afghans rebuild their lives by improving access to government and economic resources, Julian said.
In northwestern Afghanistan, meanwhile, the government and a local Taliban commander agreed to a cease-fire that will allow a road construction project to move forward and presidential candidates to open offices ahead of the country's Aug. 20 election, said Seyamak Herawi, a spokesman in Karzai's office.
The agreement covers the Bala Morghab district of northwestern Badghis province, an area where the Afghan government has little or no control. The cease-fire was agreed to on Saturday and was reached with the help of tribal elders, Herawi said.
However, Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi said no such agreement has been made.
"This is all propaganda by the Afghan government," he said. "We will continue our jihad and will not accept the request of the government for negotiations and cease-fire."
U.S. and NATO officials have said they expect negotiations to one day help bring about an end to the Afghan war, but that conditions are not yet right for talks to take place.
AP IMPACT: [Democratic Senators] Dodd, Conrad told deals were sweetened
By LARRY MARGASAK, Associated Press Writer Larry Margasak, Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON – Despite their denials, influential Democratic Sens. Kent Conrad and Chris Dodd were told from the start they were getting VIP mortgage discounts from one of the nation's largest lenders, the official who handled their loans has told Congress in secret testimony.
Both senators have said that at the time the mortgages were being written they didn't know they were getting unique deals from Countrywide Financial Corp., the company that went on to lose billions of dollars on home loans to credit-strapped borrowers. Dodd still maintains he got no preferential treatment.
Dodd got two Countrywide mortgages in 2003, refinancing his home in Connecticut and another residence in Washington. Conrad's two Countrywide mortgages in 2004 were for a beach house in Delaware and an eight-unit apartment building in Bismarck in his home state of North Dakota.
Robert Feinberg, who worked in Countrywide's VIP section, told congressional investigators last month that the two senators were made aware that "who you know is basically how you're coming in here."
"You don't say 'no' to the VIP," Feinberg told Republican investigators for the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, according to a transcript obtained by The Associated Press.
The next day, Feinberg testified before the Senate Ethics Committee, an indication the panel is actively investigating two of the chamber's more powerful members:
• Dodd heads the Banking Committee and is a major player in two big areas: solving the housing foreclosure and financial crises and putting together an overhaul of the U.S. health care system. A five-term senator, he is in a tough fight for re-election in 2010, partly because of the controversy over his mortgages.
• Conrad chairs the Budget Committee. He, too, shares an important role in the health care debate, as well as on legislation to curb global warming.
Both senators were VIP borrowers in the program known as "friends of Angelo." Angelo Mozilo was chief executive of Countrywide, which played a big part in the foreclosure crisis triggered by defaults on subprime loans. The Calabasas, Calif.-based company was bought last July by Bank of America Corp. for about $2.5 billion.
Mozilo has been charged with civil fraud and illegal insider trading by the Securities and Exchange Commission. He denies any wrongdoing.
Asked by a House Oversight investigator if Conrad, the North Dakota senator, "was aware that he was getting preferential treatment?" Feinberg answered: "Yes, he was aware."
Referring to Dodd, the investigator asked:
"And do you know if during the course of your communications" with the senator or his wife "that you ever had an opportunity to share with them if they were getting special VIP treatment?"
"Yes, yes," Feinberg replied.
Bryan DeAngelis, Dodd's spokesman, said Feinberg has repeatedly made allegations of special treatment that were not true.
"As the Dodds have said from the beginning, they did not seek or expect any special rates or terms on their loans and they never received any. They were never offered special or sweetheart deals and if anyone had made such an offer, they would have severed that relationship immediately."
DeAngelis also repeated Dodd's statements from last February that an independent report showed the terms received by the senator and his wife were widely available at the time.
Conrad's spokesman, Chris Gaddie, said Monday that the senator "never asked for, expected or was aware of loans on any preferential terms" and has "worked overtime to set the record straight."
"He went with Countrywide simply because they already had his financial information," Gaddie said. He added that a Countrywide official had told Conrad that "it is not unusual for them to make exceptions for good customers if they could sell the loan in the secondary market. We now know that they did sell the apartment building loan in the secondary market."
The ethics committee determines whether senators violated standards of conduct. The outcome of the investigation could hinge on whether the mortgage violated strict limits on gifts to lawmakers or ran afoul of other Senate rules. The committee typically just issues a report. It could recommend a censure vote by the Senate, but that is rare.
Feinberg could face criminal prosecution if shown to have made false statements. He was questioned closely by three of the ethics committee's six senators: Democratic Chairman Barbara Boxer of California; the panel's senior Republican, Johnny Isakson of Georgia, and Republican Jim Risch of Idaho, according to Elana Goldstein, one of Feinberg's attorneys who accompanied him to both closed-door committee appearances.
The ethics questioning was intense at times, and Boxer asked the bulk of the questions. When Feinberg described a conversation he had with Dodd, she demanded to know how he remembered it. Feinberg said he recalled Dodd saying he had to leave to make a speech.
Boxer asked whether Dodd and Conrad received VIP treatment because they were senators. Feinberg said that was not the case; they received breaks as other influential people in Countrywide's "friends of Angelo" VIP program.
Isakson, a onetime real estate executive, asked more detailed questions about the mortgage agreements' terms.
Countrywide VIPs, Feinberg told the committees, received discounts on rates, fees and points. Dodd received a break when Countrywide counted both his Connecticut and Washington homes as primary owner-occupied residences — a fiction, according to Feinberg. Conrad received a type of commercial loan that he was told Countrywide didn't offer.
"The simple fact that Angelo Mozilo and other high-ranking executives at Countrywide were personally making sure Mr. Feinberg handled their loans right, is proof in itself that the senators knew they were getting sweetheart deals," said Feinberg's principal attorney, Anthony Salerno.
Two internal Countrywide documents in Dodd's case and one in Conrad's appear to contradict their statements about what they knew about their VIP loans.
At his Feb. 2 news conference, Dodd insisted he didn't receive special treatment. The assertion was at odds with two Countrywide documents entitled "Loan Policy Analysis" that Dodd allowed reporters to review the same day.
The documents had separate columns: one showing points "actl chrgd" Dodd — zero; and a second column showing "policy" was to charge .250 points on one loan and .375 points on the other. Another heading on the documents said "reasons for override." A notation under that heading identified a Countrywide section that approved the policy change for Dodd.
Mortgage points, sometimes called loan origination fees, are upfront fees based on a percentage of the loan. Each point is equal to 1 percent of the loan. The higher the points the lower the interest rate.
Dodd said he obtained the Countrywide documents in 2008, to learn details of his mortgages.
In Conrad's case, an e-mail from Feinberg to Mozilo indicates Feinberg informed Conrad that Countrywide had a residential loan limit of a four-unit building. Conrad sought to finance an eight-unit apartment building in Bismarck that he had bought from his brothers.
"I did advise him I would check with you first since our maximum is 4 units," Feinberg said in an April 23, 2004, internal e-mail to Mozilo.
Mozilo responded the same day that Feinberg should speak to another Countrywide executive and "see if he can make an exception due to the fact that the borrower is a senator."
Feinberg said in his deposition with House Oversight investigators last month that exceptions for the type of loan Conrad received were not allowed for borrowers outside the VIP system.
"If there was a regular customer calling, and of course you say, 'No, we're a residential lender. We cannot provide you with that service,'" Feinberg said.
Feinberg also told House investigators that Countrywide counted both of Dodd's homes as primary residences.
"He was allowed to do both of those as owner-occupied, which is not allowed. You can only have one owner-occupied property. You can't live in two properties at the same time," he said.
Normally, Feinberg said, a second home could require more equity and could have a higher mortgage rate.
Rep. Darrell Issa of California, the senior Republican on the House Oversight Committee, had his investigators question Feinberg as part of a broader investigation into Countrywide's VIP program.
Other names that have surfaced as "friends" of Mozilo include James Johnson, a former head of Fannie Mae who later stepped down as an adviser to Barack Obama's presidential campaign, and Franklin Raines, who also headed Fannie Mae. Still other "friends" included retired athletes, a judge, a congressional aide and a newspaper executive.
Conrad initially said in June 2008, "If they did me a favor, they did it without my knowledge and without my requesting it."
The next day, Conrad changed course after reviewing documents showing he got special treatment, and said he was donating $10,500 to charity and refinancing the loan on the apartment building with another lender. He also said then it appeared Countrywide had waived 1 point at closing on the beach house.
Gaddie said Feinberg has previously made statements to the news media that Countrywide waived 1 point without the senator's knowledge.
Feinberg testified that VIPs usually were not told exactly how many points were being waived, but it was made clear to them that they were getting discounts.
Ray Krone the Snaggle tooth killer will tell you Henry Louis Gates did the right thing
Tuesday, July 28, 2009 12:25 PM
Remember Ray Krone, AKA the Snaggle tooth killer? Ray Krone was an innocent man framed by the Phoenix Police who spent 10 years on death row before DNA evidence proved he didn’t commit the murder!
Ray Krone figured that if he cooperated with the cops he would prove he was innocent and they would let him go. Didn’t work out that way. The cops took the words Ray Krone said and twisted them around and used them to convict him, not once, but twice!
When Ray Krone spoke at the Arizona State University College of Law I asked him “If you were arrested again for the same crime would you cooperate with the police and try to prove you were innocent?”
Ray Krone said he would refuse to cooperate with the police. He would take the 5th and refuse to answer any of their questions. Of course the cops would then says that Ray Krone was an uncooperative suspect who was probably guilty and make him look bad. But the cops wouldn’t get a third chance to twist around Ray Krone’s words and use them to falsely convict him of murder again.
So when it comes to Henry Louis Gates, the Harvard University professor falsely arrested by the cops for refusing to cooperate, well gee he did the right thing! Any defense lawyer will tell you to refuse to answer any police questions when you’re the suspect of a crime. And that is what Henry Louis Gates did, at first.
Of course the police branded Henry Louis Gates as an uncooperative criminal who deserved to be arrested. But he did the right thing. And the cops who falsely arrested him probably violated his civil rights. But that’s something that needs to be tried in a court of law, not the media. Obama was right this time. The cops did act stupidly!
I bet Obama will soon weasle out of his promise to get out of Iraq!!!! Ain't a dimes difference between Bush and Obama. OK, maybe some chump change!
US defense chief sees new US advisory unit in Iraq
By ANNE GEARAN, AP National Security Writer Anne Gearan, Ap National Security Writer
BAGHDAD – U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates toured a base in southern Iraq Tuesday where U.S. and Iraqi troops sit side-by-side but he later sidestepped questions about whether American forces might stay beyond their 2012 departure date.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki suggested last week that if Iraq needs more security help it might ask for an extension of the U.S. military's commitment.
"What happens beyond 2011 is a subject best left to the end of 2010 or 2011 itself," said Gates, who met with al-Maliki.
Gates congratulated Iraqi security forces on the handover of security from U.S. to the Iraqis last month, a milestone in the U.S. plan to draw down troops and leave Iraq entirely by 2012. The two countries agreed on the timetable in lengthy and sometimes difficult negotiations last year.
Gates got a firsthand look at what he called the future of the U.S. military mission in Iraq on an earlier visit to the southern Iraqi base at Talil.
U.S. and Iraqi soldiers operate together at the southern Iraq city of Talil, a prototype for U.S. forces as they shift from front-line combat to support roles.
At the command post Gates asked for a status report from U.S. and Iraqi officers who have patrolling together since July 15. A typical convoy was lined up before him in the hot sun: A beat-up Iraqi pickup truck in the lead, with American armored vehicles lined up behind.
Since the United States handed over control of Iraqi cities to Iraqi officers last month, U.S. soldiers need an Iraqi escort when they leave their own base.
"What you are doing here is the next phase of our progress in Iraq," Gates told U.S. troops.
Gates told reporters he was impressed by an artillery brigade that had come to Iraq in spring thinking it would be on the front lines but quickly adapted to its advisory role. "This is a symbol of how flexible our forces are," he said.
Iraqi and U.S. officials are still working out the kinks, but the Americans said they are pleased with the new arrangement, and Iraqi police officers sounded confident.
"If we need any support, we can ask," Lt. Anwar Gani said through an interpreter.
Later in Baghdad, Gates made a point of saying that the United States is "ready to help resolve disputes over boundaries and hydrocarbons, " a reference to widening tensions between Arabs and Kurds.
Gates is expected to visit Iraq's restive Kurdish region, where challengers made a surprisingly strong showing in regional elections over the weekend.
Kurds were united in disputes with Iraq's Arabs over oil-rich territory, which threaten to erupt into new violence even as the U.S. military prepares to withdraw its forces by the end of 2011.
Official results from Saturday's vote for a regional president and 111-seat parliament were not expected until later this week. But the opposition group called Gorran — Kurdish for "Change" — said early projections showed it had made major inroads in the parliament with a win in the city of Sulaimaniyah.
Last week, al-Maliki met in Washington with President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and senior lawmakers. Obama pressed al-Maliki to make room in his government and security forces for all ethnic and religious groups.
U.S. officials, while praising improvement in Iraqi security forces, remain deeply concerned that al-Maliki's Shiite Muslim-dominated government has been unable or unwilling to reconcile with the country's minority Sunni Muslims and Kurds. The Sunnis had run Iraq until the U.S. ouster of Saddam Hussein in 2003 and are still smarting over their loss of power in politics, the economy and military.
Hey Obama and Bush! I thought you guys were going to turn Iraq into a democracy that would be admired by the rest of the world? It sounds like Iraq is just another 3rd world police state theocrocy. With the puppet government being run by Washington DC.
Militias target some Iraqis for being gay
By Paul Wiseman and Nadeem Majeed, USA TODAY
BAGHDAD — The young man turns to the camera and "I'm not a terrorist," he tells the Iraqi police who surround him. "I want you to know I am different. But I am not a terrorist."
To some fundamentalist Iraqi Muslims, Ahmed Sadoun Saleh was worse than a terrorist.
He was gay. He wore his hair long and took female hormones to grow breasts. Amused by his appearance, Iraqi police officers stopped him in December at a checkpoint in a southern Baghdad neighborhood dominated by radical Shiite militias. They groped Saleh and ridiculed him.
The assault was captured on video and circulated on cellphones throughout Baghdad, says Ali Hili, founder of London-based Iraqi LGBT, a group dedicated to protecting Iraq's gays and lesbians. Shortly after the video was made public, Hili says Saleh contacted him, fearing for his life, and asked for his help to flee Iraq.
FIND MORE STORIES IN: Iraq | London | Baghdad | al-Qaeda | Saddam Hussein | Muqtada al-Sadr | Muhammad | Adolf Hitler | Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani | Glock | Rent | Ali "Unfortunately, it was too late," Hili says. Saleh turned up dead two months later, he says.
At least 82 gay men have been killed in Iraq since December, according to Iraqi LGBT. The violence has raised questions about the Iraqi government's ability to protect a diverse range of vulnerable minority groups that also includes Christians and Kurds, especially following the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Iraqi cities last month.
Mithal al-Alusi, a secular, liberal Sunni legislator, is among those who blame the killings on armed militant groups such as al-Qaeda and the Mahdi Army militia.
By targeting one of the most vulnerable groups in a conservative Muslim society — people whose sexual orientation is banned by Iraqi law — the militias essentially are serving notice that they remain powerful despite the U.S. and Iraqi militaries' efforts to curtail them, al-Alusi says.
The militants "want to educate the society to accept killers on the street," al-Alusi says in an interview. "Why did Hitler start with gays? They are weak. They have no political cover. They have no legal cover."
The attacks have terrified a gay community that, for a brief time after the U.S. troop surge in 2007-08, tentatively enjoyed greater freedom and security.
"I am worried about my life," says a middle-age gay man in Baghdad who asked to be identified by the pseudonym Hassan. He declined to be identified by his real name because the recent violence has made him fear for his life. "I don't know what to do," he says.
Hili and other gay rights activists believe the killers operate with the complicity and sometimes the direct involvement of Iraqi security forces.
As part of a drive to stop the sectarian violence that peaked in Iraq in 2006-07, those forces have taken into their ranks numerous former militia members from the Mahdi Army (loyal to radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr) and the pro-Iranian Badr Brigade.
"The Ministry of Interior in Iraq is behind this campaign of terror," Hili says in an e-mail.He says witnesses have told him that police harass and beat suspected gays at checkpoints and sometimes turn them over to militias for execution.
Interior Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Abdul Karim Khalaf disputes such allegations. He says the ministry has assigned a special bureau to investigate the killings of gays; he says he knows of six gays who had been executed as of May.
Homosexuality, Khalaf says, is against the law and "is rejected by the customs of our society." He adds, however, that offenders should be handled by the courts, not dispatched by vigilante groups.
The killers aren't just executing their gay victims. They are "mutilating their bodies and torturing them," says fundamentalist Sunni cleric Sheik Mohammed al-Ghreri, who has criticized the violence.
Hili says the militias have come up with a particularly cruel way to inflict pain: sealing victims' anuses with glue, then force-feeding them laxatives. Hili says he has spoken to several victims who survived the ordeal.
'You can just be crushed'
Besides targeting gays, Sadr City militias also are harassing and sometimes killing straight young men who violate fundamentalist fashion and decorum by wearing low-riding pants and other Western-style clothing, slicking back their hair or making it spiky, hanging out in cafes or pool halls or flirting with girls, says human rights activist Mohammed Jasim, 28.
"The campaign is against gays and anybody who looks gay" in the eyes of militiamen indoctrinated to believe immodest dress is an affront to God, Jasim says.
"Young people felt their city had been liberated," says Jasim's friend Wisam Mizban, 32.
"They thought they could wear what they wanted. The militias felt threatened and started killing them. They are doing their crimes under the cover of the government. … Most young people want a civilized life. The militias and the government are putting pressure on them again."
The campaign has had a chilling effect on Baghdad's nightlife.
Entrepreneur Ali al-Ali opened the Shisha coffee shop in an upstairs storefront overlooking a bustling street in the upscale Karrada neighborhood. The place quickly became a hangout for young gay men, who'd sit and talk and drink lattes, and smoke flavored tobacco from the water pipes that gave the cafe its name.
But as the militias started killing gay men, Ali discouraged gays from congregating at his cafe. "If (militias) see gays coming here, maybe they will target me outside Karrada," al-Ali says.
His sentiments were echoed by Hussam Abdullah, whose tea shop also used to be a hangout for gay men — until militias warned Abdullah there would be trouble if he didn't send them away. So he did.
The militias usually send out warnings before they attack. Posters go up in Sadr City listing the offenders — gay and flashy straight men — by name and neighborhood. "If you don't give up what you are doing," said a recent one seen by a USA TODAY reporter, "death will be your fate. And this warning will come true, and the punishment will be worse and worse."
The poster referred to the offenders as "puppies," the fundamentalist epithet for gays here. "In Arabic culture, if you want to insult someone you call them a dog," human rights activist Yanar Mohammed says. "If you're a small dog, you can just be crushed."
Among those listed was a young man named Allawi Hawar, a local soccer star who incurred the wrath of the militias by wearing his hair long and partying with his friends in Sadr City cafes.
Hawar was playing pool one day last month when two masked men drove up on a motor scooter. One climbed off and made his way inside the cafe, clutching a pistol.
"We have something to deal with," he announced to startled patrons, according to witness Emad Saad, 25.
The gunman grabbed Hawar and dragged him outside. Then he shot the young athlete in the leg. After Hawar crumpled to the ground, bleeding, the gunman shot him again and killed him, Saad says.
The militiamen pick their targets by entering cafes and looking for men who appear feminine or too showy, Saad says. Then they ask around to get the offenders' names, and later put them on the death lists distributed around town.
Saad himself likes to wear Western jeans and slicked-back hair. He has taken to carrying a Glock pistol, awaiting his showdown with the militias.
"Some people are afraid, but I am not," he says. "I have done nothing wrong."
The Sadr City warning posters do not appear to be the work of educated theologians. A recent one was filled with Arabic misspellings, including a faulty rendering of "compassionate" — part of one of the 99 names for God.
But Ali Hili, the London activist, and others believe high-level clerics have ordered the killings. Iraq's Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani several years ago decreed that the punishment for homosexuality is death "if it is proven before the religious judge."
An Iraqi TV channel, Alsumaria, reported that Sunni cleric al-Ghreri has called for the execution of gays. Al-Ghreri denies issuing such a statement, but concedes that some "stubborn" clerics might support the death penalty for gays.
He says homosexuality is "abnormal" and that gays should know that "freedom has limits." First, he says, gays should be warned to change their offensive behavior.
If that fails, he says, they should be jailed. If detentions don't work, they should endure 100 lashes for engaging in gay sex. And if four separate lashings fail and if witnesses testify against the suspects, he says, then they should be executed.
Exactly what unleashed the recent wave of violence is unclear.
Some — including Hassan, the middle-age gay man — trace the terror to a birthday party around New Year's at a cafe on Palestine Street in eastern Baghdad.
The party attracted about 20 gay men who cut loose on the dance floor, celebrating what they thought was their freedom in a more peaceful, stable Iraq. A video of the revelry was entitled Gay Scandal and distributed around the city.
"This was the start of it," Hassan says. "It made the ministry people crazy."
In London, activist Hili calls the party "a foolish action from members of our community who let their guard down."
However, he doesn't believe the party "was the spark that ignited all the flames."
Hili says the violence started earlier, with clerical fatwas against gays and police raids in December in Najaf, Karbala and Kut.
The search for safety
Unable to trust the authorities — and in some cases shunned by their own families — many Iraqi gays have gone into hiding. Hassan and some gay friends say they had found refuge in a house in Karrada. But as the threat against them increased, they became afraid the police would find them. So they scattered.
Hassan says he sometimes stays at home with his brothers — their parents are dead — but he's afraid even of them, afraid they will kill him because he has brought shame to the family.
He says he wanted to move in with his sister, who lives in Abu Dhabi. She turned him away, saying she didn't want her children to know they have a gay uncle.
Unwilling to trust the police, Iraqi LGBT has set up its own safe houses for gays in Iraq. The group has struggled to raise money and had to close three safe houses in the past couple of months, leaving just one open.
Hili says five safe houses are needed, each of them housing 10 to 12 gay refugees. Rent for a 2,150-square-foot safe house is usually $600 a month. Yet other expenses pile up: security guards, food, fuel, medical bills, pots and pans, bedding.
"We desperately need to add more because we have so many urgent cases," Hili says. "We receive requests for shelter every day, but are not able to help."
Things were better for gays, Hassan says, under the dictatorial rule of Saddam Hussein.
"In the Saddam era, it wasn't like this," he says. Saddam's security forces, offended by Hassan's openly gay lifestyle, once arrested him and hauled him to court. The judge let him go, ruling that he had done nothing wrong.
"Now, you don't know who to be afraid of," he says. "Forget about freedom or democracy. We just want our safety."
Looks like Obama's stimulus is turning America into a bigger better police state!
Ariz. police get $12.6 million from stimulus
13 agencies receive funding but 69 are shut out for now
by Dustin Gardiner - Jul. 29, 2009 12:00 AM
The Arizona Republic
Economic-stimulus funds are helping put 56 Arizona police officers on the streets, but only a sliver of the state's cities and agencies that applied for the grants is seeing any money.
The White House announced Tuesday that Arizona police departments will receive $12.6 million in federal funding to hire officers or replace those who had been laid off.
The money comes from the Department of Justice's Community Oriented Policing Services Program, and covers the officers' salaries and benefits for three years. As part of the Obama administration's economic-recovery plan, the grants are meant to prevent police officers from being laid off and to create jobs while helping financially distressed cities and agencies.
Although the money will save some cash-strapped departments, such as Mesa, from losing officers, many agencies were disappointed.
Of the state's 82 departments and cities that applied for funding, only 13 were selected to receive money this go-around, said Gilbert Moore, a spokesman for the Department of Justice.
Phoenix got nothing and Scottsdale did not participate in the program. Mesa will be able to hire 25 officers, and the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community will be able to hire six.
Arizona cities that applied for and did not receive funding may still get money. They are on a list of pending applications that could be funded if more stimulus money becomes available.
Moore said it was not clear if more money would be granted, and criteria for future grants may be different.
Cities with the highest degree of fiscal distress and the highest crime rates were given preference in the selection process, he said.
Mesa got $5.9 million - almost half of Arizona's allotment. In return, the city must equip officers with cars, weapons and other gear, and must cover their salaries once the grant runs out in three years.
"This is an affirmation that we're following at the Mesa police department an example of what should be done," Mesa Mayor Scott Smith said. "Frankly, we thought that we would get less than that."
Vicki Myers, interim Mesa police chief, said the city likely fared well because of the reputation of former Chief George Gascón, who left last week to lead San Francisco's police department.
"Chief Gascón is very well-connected," she said. "He has a national reputation of doing the right thing."
A handful of other Valley cities were selected to receive funding, including Buckeye, Tolleson and Avondale, though many received less than they applied for.
Phoenix probably did not qualify because the Department of Justice focused on cities that have laid off police officers, said Ed Zuercher, deputy Phoenix city manager.
The Phoenix Police Department, the largest in Arizona, was allocated $5.4 million earlier this year through the Justice Assistance Grant portion of the stimulus package.
Phoenix is scheduled to add as many as 160 additional officers through Proposition 1, the sales-tax increase passed by voters in 2007, after a citywide hiring freeze is lifted. The proposition will ultimately pay for 500 new police positions.
Tuesday's announcement was particularly disappointing for departments that are understaffed.
In Pinal County, the Sheriff's Office asked for more than $3 million to cover salaries for 10 full-time deputies for three years and to allow the department to retain five deputies funded through another grant that will expire Oct. 1.
Sheriff Paul Babeu has said his ranks are understaffed at just more than 210 sworn personnel, or 1.2 deputies per 1,000 residents. The average for similar-sized counties in the Pacific region is two deputies per 1,000, he said. Babeu said Tuesday that his office is working with U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, D-Ariz., to obtain funds in the next round of grants.
Tempe had hoped to use the stimulus money for 24 police officer positions that are funded through June 30.
Tempe City Manager Charlie Meyer said the city had requested $7.2 million and was studying the impact of the denial.
Tempe will review financial alternatives such as using savings from the "sufficient vacancies" produced as a result of a recent retirement-and-resignation-incentive program or using about half a million dollars recently received through a separate grant to fund the 24 positions past June.
Glendale's request to hire an additional five officers for $1.3 million was denied, but officials are optimistic about future prospects.
"Obviously, we're disappointed that we didn't get anything, but this is only the first round of disbursement of these funds," said Sgt. Jim Cunningham, a Glendale police spokesman. "We're just hopeful that we'll be considered and that there's still a possibility."
Nationally, 12 percent of the thousands of cities and agencies that applied were selected to receive a piece of the $1 billion allocated Tuesday.
"The tremendous demand for these grants is indicative of both the tough times our states, cities and tribes are facing, and the unyielding commitment by law enforcement to making our communities safer," said Attorney General Eric Holder while announcing the grants alongside Vice President Joe Biden in Philadelphia.
Reporters Lisa Halverstadt, Lindsey Collom, Dianna Nañez, Michael Ferraresi and Ofelia Madrid contributed to this article.
How do you spell Vietnam in Obamaese - Afghanistan
US general may ask for more troops for Afghan war
Jul. 31, 2009 07:00 AM
WASHINGTON - The U.S. general in charge of turning around the war in Afghanistan is likely to recommend significant changes to U.S. and NATO operations, military officials and others familiar with his forthcoming report said. Those changes could include additional U.S. troops despite political headwind against further expansion of the war.
As Gen. Stanley McChrystal readies his assessment of the war, due next month, numerous U.S. officials and outsiders apprised of his thinking suggest McChrystal will request that more American troops, probably including Marines, be added next year.
Officials and advisers spoke on condition of anonymity because the report is not complete, and because the number of forces to be requested is in flux. Several people familiar with the report cautioned that McChrystal could opt not to ask for an increase at all. Any request for additional U.S. forces would require touchy discussions with the White House and lawmakers. President Barack Obama approved a surprise addition of 4,000 U.S. trainers in the spring, after his larger announcement of 17,000 more combat troops, and administration and military officials had been signaling that further additions were unlikely for now.
McChrystal's report contains a list of recommendations that have not been released, but military and defense officials have suggested that it will identify shortfalls in the size and skills of Afghan forces and recommend additional U.S. trainers or others to help.
A senior U.S. official said the rationale for needing more forces is tied to an altered strategy to clear and hold provinces where Taliban insurgents are fleeing as they are pushed out elsewhere.
McChrystal is also likely to recommend rearranging some U.S. and NATO forces to better meet a narrowed mission of protecting Afghan civilians and starve the insurgents of vital support.
The report was commissioned by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who hand-picked McChrystal to take the helm of combat operations against Taliban insurgents that top defense officials have conceded are stalemated.
Two of McChrystal's civilian advisers, Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies and Stephen Biddle of the Council on Foreign Relations, said this week they expect some expansion of troops. Neither adviser would quantify those numbers.
Biddle said Thursday he thinks the total number of troops in Afghanistan should number 300,000 to 600,000, including U.S., NATO and Afghan forces.
Current forces include 62,000 U.S. troops and 39,000 allied troops, plus about 175,000 Afghan Army and police. Some of the allies plan to pull their troops home in the next couple of years.
Several of the specific recommendations are undergoing what the Pentagon calls a "troops to task" analysis, to identify whether there are sufficient troops available or suited to the job. McChrystal is expected to discuss that review and his larger appraisal with Gates in the next two weeks.
Estimates of the additional forces McChrystal may request have ranged from a few thousand, such as a brigade numbering 4,000 to 5,000 and assigned to train the fledgling Afghan armed forces, up to 20,000 or more.
Obama's additions will bring the U.S. presence to about 68,000 by the end of this year. That is roughly double the size of the U.S. force when Obama took office, and although Afghanistan is now considered the nation's top military priority, the White House is deeply reluctant to keep adding troops, or to fight a skeptical Congress over the increase.
McChrystal's predecessor left behind an unfilled request for an addition of approximately 10,000 U.S. forces, and Obama had been expected to review that request near the end of the year.
McChrystal was encouraged by superiors to assess the war bluntly and not to hold back in asking for troops, money, or equipment, and he knows he probably only has a short period to do so, defense officials and others in Washington and Afghanistan said.
To prepare the report, McChrystal gathered about a dozen military and outside civilian analysts six weeks ago and sent them on an intensive reporting trip through Afghanistan. The group finished work last week.
One of the report's authors said the group identified some basic organizational problems with the way the fight is divided among U.S., NATO and Afghan forces.
"One of the real challenges Gen. McChrystal is going to have is that up to this point the war is being fought as four separate fights: north, east, west and south," said Andrew Exum, a counterinsurgency specialist and blogger at the Center for a New American Security. "We are trying to think more holistically."
The report, is "designed to outline the situation on the ground as we saw it, talk about the mission, what it would mean to accomplish the mission and then a little bit about resources and risks," Exum said.
Speaking for himself, Exum said McChrystal faces a much wider challenge than coming up with enough troops and resources. The "operational culture" of the war has to change, he said, meaning a shift away from traditional military operation and procedures.
"Our efforts in this war will succeed or fail based upon relationships we're able to build with our Afghan partners at every level," Exum said
"It's very difficult to build those partnerships from behind an MRAP," he said, referring to the tank-like troop carriers that help protect U.S. soldiers from roadside bombs. "There's going to have to be a real assumption of risk that U.S. and other allied forces might not feel comfortable with."
UN: Civilian deaths up 24 percent in Afghanistan
Posted 7/31/2009 12:13 PM ET
By Bradley S. Klapper, Associated Press Writer
GENEVA — The United Nations said Friday the number of civilians killed in conflict in Afghanistan has jumped 24 percent so far this year, with bombings by insurgent and airstrikes by international forces the biggest single killers. In a grim assessment of the first half of 2009, the U.N. assistance mission in Afghanistan said the Taliban and other anti-government militants have become more deadly by shifting from ambush attacks to suicide bombings, roadside explosives and targeted assassinations.
It warned that more civilians would likely be killed as insurgents try to battle a troop increase by the administration of President Barack Obama, and seek to destabilize the country before presidential and Provincial Council elections on Aug. 20. The summer is also typically the worst for fighting in Afghanistan.
Insurgent attacks are "frequently undertaken regardless of the impact on civilians in terms of deaths and injuries, or destruction of civilian infrastructure," the 21-page report said, ascribing 595 civilian deaths to the Taliban and other "anti-government elements" over the first six months.
Many of those died in suicide attacks or roadside bombs near "civilian traffic, residential compounds and marketplaces."
The United States and Western powers have become more deadly, too, partly because insurgent groups are taking cover in residential areas or luring U.S.-led forces into unintentionally killing civilians, the U.N. said.
The Taliban and others are "basing themselves in civilian areas so as to deliberately blur the distinction between combatants and civilians, and as part of what appears to be an active policy aimed at drawing a military response to areas where there is a high likelihood that civilians will be killed or injured."
The report said international forces have given high priority to minimizing civilian casualties, but along with Afghan forces have killed 310 civilians. Of those, 200 were killed in 40 airstrikes. The total death toll -- including those which couldn't be attributed to either side -- of 1,013 civilians is 24 percent higher than in the same period in 2008, and 48 percent higher than in 2007.
The U.N. tally is higher than an Associated Press count of civilian deaths based on reports from Afghan and international officials showing that 453 civilians have been killed in insurgent attacks this year, and 199 civilians died from attacks by Afghan or international forces. An Afghan human rights group says an additional 69 civilians died during a U.S. attack in Farah province in May, but the U.S. disputes those deaths.
Along with insurgents and Western nations, the government of Afghanistan shares responsibility "for a rising toll in terms of civilian deaths and injuries and destruction of infrastructure, including homes and assets, which are essential for survival and the maintenance of livelihoods."
The report said civilian deaths rose every month this year as compared with 2008 except February, as insurgent forces sustained attacks throughout the winter in a break from previous years when there was a lull in fighting. Other factors were the increased fighting in urban areas, more complex Taliban attacks and the return of militants fleeing warfare across the border in Pakistan. The intensified operations by U.S. forces was also cited.
May was the deadliest month, with 261 civilians killed. The Taliban and other insurgents were responsible for most of the deaths, but 81 were killed by government or international forces, the U.N. said.
The South has been the worst region as a result of instability in Pakistan and the increase in U.S. activity. Only six civilians were killed in the West of the country in April, but that figure soared in May as a result of airstrikes in Bala Baluk, Farah Province, that killed at least 63 women and children, according to the report.
The U.S. estimated that 60-65 Taliban and 20-30 civilians were killed in the battle.
The U.N. also noted what it called a "new trend" in insurgent attacks. Since May, they have attached magnetic explosive devices to vehicles to target civilians who have worked with government or international military forces. Examples were the killing of a Provincial Council candidate May 29 in Khost and, a month later in separate attacks, of a translator and another individual working for the international forces.
Insurgents have become increasingly sophisticated as well. The report said there has been a rise in coordinated attacks using explosive devices and suicide bombers to target government ministries and offices, "with the intention of incurring the largest amount of casualties." In those attacks, civilian government workers were deliberated singled out and shot, despite clearly being noncombatants, it said.
Music shops and other places selling "immoral" goods such as DVDs have been targeted. In an April attack, a young boy was killed when a bomb placed in his wheelbarrow exploded prematurely 15 meters from a government building in Aybak city. The boy had no knowledge of the bomb, the report said.
On the other side, the report said that two-thirds of the deaths caused by the Afghan government forces or its international allies came in airstrikes. Most casualties resulted from the use of close air support when troops met insurgents in villages or when armed fighters took up positions in residential areas.
The report said civilians in insurgent-dominated areas can rarely refuse shelter to a militant commander or his men, because of intimidation or traditional codes of hospitality. The Taliban and others take advantage of these factors to use civilian homes as cover and deter attacks, or to lead the government or international forces into killing civilians.
International forces have been more forthcoming about acknowledging civilian casualties, but the report expressed continued concern about their "capacity or willingness to provide information" about some incidents.
The U.N. said the report was compiled by its Afghan mission's human rights unit, and drew on independent monitoring and investigation of incidents where civilians were killed in conflict zones. It is the third year the global body has conducted such analysis in Afghanistan.
U.N. human rights chief Navi Pillay called on the Afghan government, international forces and insurgents to do more to spare civilians and to "ensure the independent investigation of all civilian casualties."
Police: 29 killed in bombings near Baghdad mosques
Posted 7/31/2009 12:03 PM ET
By Chelsea J. Carter, Associated Press Writer
BAGHDAD — Bombs exploded near five Shiite mosques in Baghdad, killing at least 29 people, in an apparent coordinated attack that targeted worshippers leaving Friday prayers, Iraqi police and hospital officials said. The bombings shattered a period of relative calm in the Iraqi capital, raising to at least 306 the number of Iraqis killed in what has been one of the least deadly months for both Iraqi civilians and U.S. troops since the war began. Seven American troops have been killed -- the lowest monthly total since the war started in March 2003, according to an AP tally.
The attack also underscores concerns about the abilities of Iraqi security forces to maintain security gains now that U.S. troops have withdrawn from major urban areas. Some Sunni insurgents still seek to re-ignite sectarian violence with the majority Shiites and reverse Iraq's security gains in the past two years.
The deadliest attack Friday came when a car bomb exploded near a Shiite mosque in the northern Baghdad neighborhood of Shaab, killing at least 24 people and wounding 17 others, said two Iraqi police officials and a medical official.
At about the same time, almost simultaneous explosions struck near the al-Rasoul mosque near the Jisr Diyala bridge, in southern Baghdad, killing four worshippers and wounding 17 others, the two police officials said.
A roadside bomb exploded near al-Hakim mosque in Kamaliyah area in eastern Baghdad, wounding six worshippers. A bomb near Imam al-Sadiq mosque in the religiously mixed neighborhood of Ilam in southwestern Baghdad wounded 4, while a bomb near the al-Sadrain mosque in the Zafaraniyah area in southeastern Baghdad killed one and wounded seven worshippers.
The officials giving the toll all spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information.
Only three other months this year saw fewer Iraqis killed since the AP began tracking war-related fatalities in May 2005. There were 242 deaths in January, 288 in February and 225 in May.
But U.S. commanders say security gains are fragile and reversible, and the Iraqi government needs years of further assistance.
U.S. commanders have also warned attacks could escalate ahead of national elections next year. The United States has about 130,000 forces in Iraq, with current plans calling for most combat forces to remain in the country until after the Jan. 16 vote.
Then, under a timeline set by President Barack Obama, all combat troops will withdraw from Iraq by August 2010.
American troops, though, continue to be targeted by insurgents. On Friday, rockets struck a U.S. base outside Iraq's second largest city of Basra, but there were no reports of casualties. Three U.S. soldiers were killed earlier this month in a similar attack at the base.
Questions about the Iraqi security forces were heightened earlier this week, when they clashed violently with residents of a camp north of Baghdad for exiled Iranians. Iraqi officials confirm at least seven people were killed and spokesmen for the exiles say 12 were killed and hundreds more injured in two days of intense skirmishes.
On Friday, an American military medical team went to Camp Ashraf and evacuated some of the camp's residents who were wounded in the clashes, which began Tuesday when the Iraqis tried to enter the camp to establish a police station inside its fences.
The U.S. military and embassy officials did not immediately respond to questions about how many the medical team evacuated from the camp or where they were taken.
The violence at the camp, which was until earlier this year guarded by the U.S. military, has raised human rights issues and questions about how Iraq will balance its relations with the U.S., which has called for restraint, and neighboring Iran, which wants the exiles sent back.
About 3,500 ex-Iranian fighters and their relatives live in the camp, first set up in 1986 when they helped Saddam Hussein in the Iraq-Iran war. After the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, American troops disarmed the fighters and confined them to the camp. The Americans handed over responsibility for the camp to the Iraqis on Jan. 1, but maintain a force nearby.
Iraq has said it wants to close the camp, but human rights groups fear the Iranians could be subjected to punishment or even death if they are sent back to Iran.
A camp resident, Hossein Madani, 49, said U.S. military medics entered the camp Thursday night and left Friday morning, taking with them a handful of injured residents.
"There were thousands of American forces here before. They should come back and take control of the situation," said Madani, who has lived with his wife in the camp for seven years.
Meanwhile, Iraqi police Friday announced they had recovered millions of dollars stolen from a state-run bank in a robbery that left eight guards dead.
Interior ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Abdul-Karim Khalaf said all the money was recovered and added that police have detained some of the robbers.
He did not provide further details.
Gunmen killed eight security guards at the Rafidain Bank, making off with nearly $7 million. Police said the robberies appeared to be the work of militants seeking money for operations after their funding was severely curtailed in U.S.-Iraqi military crackdowns.
Police found the money Thursday when they raided the house of an Iraqi soldier, said an interior ministry official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information.
Associated Press writers Bushra Juhi and Hadeel al-Shalchi contributed to this report.
Dictator and President Pervez Musharraf is a lacky of the US government who enslaves his people in exchange for US aid. Long live the American Empire! I am sure President Pervez Musharraf isn't a worse criminal then Saddam or any of the other dictators of third world countrys that are supported by the good old USA!
Media: Musharraf's 2007 actions ruled illegal
Posted 7/31/2009 12:18 PM ET
By Asif Shahzad, Associated Press Writer
ISLAMABAD — Pakistan's Supreme Court ruled Friday that former President Pervez Musharraf's imposition of emergency rule in 2007 was unconstitutional, state and private media outlets reported.
Details were still coming to light, but the ruling could invalidate the appointments of judges made by Musharraf in the six weeks after he suspended the constitution on Nov. 3, 2007.
It also may strengthen the case for bringing treason charges against the former military ruler, further jolting Pakistan's political establishment at a time when the U.S. wants it to focus on battling a Taliban insurgency.
The 14-member bench that delivered the ruling was headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry, whose attempted ouster by Musharraf spurred much of the political turmoil that ultimately led to the former army chief's downfall.
Musharraf, a longtime U.S. ally, declared the emergency when it appeared the Supreme Court might challenge his eligibility for office. The emergency -- which was accompanied by mass detentions and harsh media restrictions -- enraged an already emboldened opposition. It was lifted after six weeks.
Eventually, under domestic and international pressure, Musharraf allowed elections that brought his foes to power in February 2008. Under threat of impeachment, he stepped down in August 2008.
Ever since, many opponents have demanded he be held accountable.
Musharraf, who is staying in London, ignored a summons to appear before the court or send a lawyer this week to explain his actions. In the past, he has defended the moves as being in the interest of the country.
The court's announcement Friday was eagerly awaited by many Pakistanis, especially lawyers who led a movement that helped push Musharraf out of office. Many gathered at various locations across the country to await news of the ruling. Afterward, they danced in the streets and cheered.
Musharraf seized power in a 1999 military coup and became a key ally in the U.S.-led war against al-Qaida following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that sparked the American-led invasion of neighboring Afghanistan.
In early 2007, Musharraf dismissed Chaudhry as chief justice. That triggered mass protests led by lawyers that damaged Musharraf's popularity.
The court managed to bring Chaudhry back, but -- faced with growing rancor and fearing he could be ousted -- Musharraf declared the emergency, tossing out Chaudhry and around 60 other judges. That only deepened popular anger against the military ruler.
Under domestic pressure, and prodding from the U.S., Musharraf lifted the emergency, stepped down as army chief and allowed parliamentary elections to take place the following February.
The elections brought his political foes to power, but even after Musharraf's resignation, the fate of the judges, especially that of Chaudhry, caused fissures among those who came to power.
A coalition government consisting of Asif Ali Zardari's Pakistan People's Party and Nawaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League-N fell apart over the slow pace of reinstating the ousted jurists.
Ultimately, facing escalating lawyer-led protests reminiscent of Musharraf's era, now-President Zardari agreed to reinstate Chaudhry -- whom he'd viewed as too political a figure -- in March.
Ever since, there have been rumblings in some corners about whether Musharraf would have to answer in court for his actions, and court petitions were filed over the issue.
Some argue that holding Musharraf accountable would deter military strongmen from trying to seize power in the future and give a chance for democratic institutions to grow in a country that has spent about half its existence under army rule.
The flip side is that pursuing Musharraf could shake the political establishment and reopen old wounds at a time when Pakistan faces huge tasks in battling Taliban insurgents and reviving its economy.
It sounds like war is great for government rulers who don't have to fight it. If they create soldiers who are heros it makes the government rulers look good! Isn't their a quote that says something like "War is good for the state"?
Too few Medals of Honor for Iraq, Afghan valor?
By Kevin Freking, Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON — Eight years of war in Afghanistan and Iraq. About 4,000 members of the U.S. military killed in action. More than 34,000 wounded. Just six considered worthy of America's highest military award for battlefield valor. For some veterans and members of Congress, that last number doesn't add up.
They question how so few Medals of Honor -- all awarded posthumously -- could be bestowed for wars of such magnitude and duration.
Pentagon officials say the nature of war has changed. Laser-guided missiles destroy enemy positions without putting soldiers in harm's way. Insurgents deploy roadside bombs rather than engage in firefights they're certain to lose.
Those explanations don't tell the whole story, said Rep. Duncan Hunter, a first-term lawmaker who served combat tours as a Marine in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has sponsored legislation that directs the defense secretary to review current trends in awarding the Medal of Honor to determine what's behind the low count.
The bill passed the House. If Senate negotiators go along, Secretary Robert Gates would have to report back by March 31.
"It seems like our collective standard for who gets the Medal of Honor has been raised," said Hunter, R-Calif.
"The basis of warfare is you've got to take ground and then you've got to hold it. That takes people walking into houses, running up hills, killing bad guys and then staying there and rebuffing counterattacks," he said. "That's how warfare has always been no matter how many bombs you drop and how many predators you have flying around."
Military officials said they welcome the opportunity to conduct an in-depth review of the award process. Still, they dispute Hunter's theory.
"Nominations go through no more or less scrutiny than in the past," said Eileen Lainez, a Pentagon spokeswoman. "The standard for the Medal of Honor is high, as one would expect for our nation's most prestigious military decoration."
AMVETS, a veterans' advocacy group, said it supports Hunter's efforts. It held a banquet for Medal of Honors in January, and the low number of medals was a big topic of discussion, said Jay Agg, the group's communications director.
The Medal of Honor has been awarded 3,467 times since the Civil War. Almost half -- 1,522 -- were awarded in that conflict alone. The next highest tally came from World War II -- 464. In the Vietnam War, 244 were awarded.
To earn the medal, at least two eyewitnesses have to view a deed so outstanding that it clearly distinguishes gallantry above and beyond the call of duty. No margin of doubt is allowed. Nominations make their way through military channels until eventually they're approved at the highest levels of the Pentagon and then by the president.
Drew Dix, 64, of Mimbres, N.M., received the medal for actions taken during the Tet Offensive in Vietnam when he risked his life during a 56-hour battle to rescue civilians. He said he didn't feel comfortable judging the current Medal of Honor process.
"We've trusted the military to fight this war," Dix said. "We've got to trust the military in all aspects of it, including the awarding of medals."
Jack Jacobs, 64, received the award for actions taken in Vietnam to rescue wounded soldiers. He said the Pentagon's explanation for the low Medal of Honor count is logical, but he would not rule out other factors because of the subjective nature of the award.
"I'm not a fan of single factor analysis," Jacobs said. "There are lots of reasons why things occur and that is only one of them. Human attitudes also play a great role."
Jacobs, a military analysis at MSNBC, predicted the war in Afghanistan will involve more of the kind of close combat that leads to Medal of Honors being awarded.
It's unclear exactly how many soldiers have been nominated for the award from the two wars.
Seven have made it all the way to the defense secretary, and six were approved. The exception is Sgt. Rafael Peralta of San Diego. Hunter said the Peralta case shows that a higher standard is being used for the medal than in previous wars.
Peralta died on Nov. 15, 2004, during fighting in Fallujah, Iraq. The military's investigation showed he was probably hit by friendly fire from a member of his unit as they engaged insurgents inside a house.
Witnesses said Peralta, a Mexican immigrant who became a U.S. citizen while in the Marines, fell to the ground face first after being shot in the crossfire. A fleeing insurgent threw a hand grenade into the room, which bounced off a couch and landed near Peralta's head.
"Sgt. Peralta grabbed the grenade and pulled it underneath him while we took cover," said an unidentified soldier whose name is blacked out as part of the investigative file the military released publicly.
Peralta's nomination was sent back for further investigation after a preliminary autopsy report stated the head wound would have been immediately incapacitating and "he could not have executed any meaningful motions."
In the end, Lt. General Richard F. Natonski, stuck with his recommendation: "I believe Sergeant Peralta made a conscious, heroic decision to cover the grenade and minimize the effects he knew it would have on the rest of his Marine team."
Gates assemble an independent panel to review the nomination -- something he did not do in the other six cases sent his way. The reviewers included a former commanding general, a Medal of Honor recipient, a neurosurgeon and two pathologists.
"The reviewers each individually concluded that the evidence did not meet the exacting 'no doubt' standard necessary to support award of the MOH," Gates said in a letter to Hunter.
Robert Reynolds, a lance corporal at the time, was about three feet to five feet behind Peralta when the grenade exploded. He has no doubt that Peralta purposefully attempted to place the grenade underneath himself to save others.
"It wasn't just something he barely did. He physically reached out and pulled it into his body," said Reynolds, 31, and now a corrections office and father of two daughters in Ritzville, Wash.
In the end, Peralta received the Navy Cross, the branch's second highest honor. Several California lawmakers have petitioned President Barack Obama to order a review of Peralta's case. AMVETS said all recipients of the second-highest honor for bravery for their branch of the military should have their case reviewed to determine if their actions merit the Medal of Honor.
Ain't that a pity!!! Obama's winnable war in Afganistan ain't going too well. Only two days into the month of Aug and we have 9 NATO deaths. I am sure the Afghanistan freedom fighters will kick the *sses of the American Empire just like the freedom fighters in Vietnam did! Screw the American Empire! I am ashamed to be an American!
3 US troops killed in ambush; 9 NATO deaths in Aug
By JASON STRAZIUSO and FISNIK ABRASHI, Associated Press Writers Jason Straziuso And Fisnik Abrashi, Associated Press Writers – Sun Aug 2, 12:58 pm ET
KABUL – Three American soldiers died in a complex militant ambush in eastern Afghanistan on Sunday, raising NATO's two-day August death toll to nine and continuing the bloodiest period of the eight-year war for U.S. and allied troops.
The U.N.'s representative in Afghanistan, meanwhile, called for peace talks with the Taliban's top leadership, saying deals with local militant commanders as proposed by Britain's foreign secretary would not be enough to end the violence.
Kai Eide's call is another indication that parts of the international community favor reaching out to the top echelons of the radical Islamist movement in their attempts to bring peace, as the conflict widens and Western public opinion wavers in the face of rising death tolls.
Militants in eastern Afghanistan killed the three U.S. troops with gunfire after attacking their convoy with a roadside bomb, the U.S. military said.
The deaths Sunday brought to nine the number of NATO troops killed this month, after six NATO troops died on Saturday. Six of the nine deaths were American. July was the deadliest month for international troops since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion to oust the Taliban government for sheltering al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, with 74 foreign troops, including 43 Americans, killed.
A record 62,000 U.S. troops are now in Afghanistan, more than double the number a year ago. President Barack Obama has increased the U.S. focus on Afghanistan as the Pentagon begins pulling troops out of Iraq. Other NATO countries have about 39,000 troops in Afghanistan.
"We have a lot more troops in country. We have a lot more operations ongoing, and it increases our contact with the enemy, and that unfortunately results in an increase in casualties," said Lt. Cmdr. Christine Sidenstricker, a U.S. military spokeswoman.
Sidenstricker said she could release no more details about Sunday's attack, including the province in eastern Afghanistan in which it occurred. Military officials still had to inform family members of the deaths, she said.
Three American troops, two Canadians and one French soldier died on Saturday.
Roadside bombs have become the militants' weapon of choice in Afghanistan, and the number of such attacks has spiked this year. U.S. troops say militants are now using bombs with little or no metal in them, making them even harder to detect. Militants are also planting multiple bombs on top of one another and planting several bombs in one small area.
U.S. commanders have long predicted a spike in violence in Afghanistan this summer, the country's traditional fighting season, and Taliban militants have promised to disrupt the country's Aug. 20 presidential election.
Eide, the U.N.'s chief in Afghanistan, said only talks with the top tier Taliban have a chance of bringing an end to the conflict.
"If you want relevant results, you have to talk to those who are relevant. If you want important results, you have to talk to those who are important. If you only have a partial reconciliation process, you will have partial results," Eide told reporters.
While the need for talks with the Taliban is recognized across the international community, the conditions attached to such proposals — and the timing of the talks — are a bone of contention.
President Hamid Karzai has repeatedly called for talks with Taliban leaders on condition that the militants accept Afghanistan's constitution and renounce violence. Karzai has even personally guaranteed safe passage for Taliban leader Mullah Omar if he attends such talks.
Omar, who is believed to be hiding in Pakistan, has publicly dismissed the overtures, calling Karzai an American puppet and saying no talks can happen while foreign troops are in the country.
Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, has also said he expects talks to help end the Afghan conflict. But Mullen said the time was not yet right for negotiations.
Behind the public posturing, several Gulf countries are working on sketching out the contours of a political process that could eventually end the expanding conflict.
Eide's remarks follow calls made last week by British Foreign Secretary David Miliband for talks with regular Taliban fighters.
Miliband said that while hard-line fundamentalist commanders committed to a global jihad must be pursued relentlessly, rank-and-file Taliban should be given the opportunity "to leave the path of confrontation with the government."
He said Afghanistan's government must develop "a political strategy for dealing with the insurgency through reintegration and reconciliation" and "effective grass-roots initiatives to offer an alternative to fight or flight to the foot soldiers of the insurgency."
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Washington agrees with the British analysis of the way forward.
Eide said his approach is more comprehensive.
"If you do want a comprehensive peace process, it is not enough to talk to the commanders on the ground," Eide said.
"It is a political process, and I think you also have to approach the more political structures of the insurgency movement," he said, without naming any insurgent leaders.
In America you can be locked up forever if the government doesn't want to risk putting you on trial and having a jury say your innocent and can be released? - "Providing long-term holding cells for a small but still undetermined number of detainees who will not face trial because intelligence and counterterror officials conclude they are too dangerous to risk being freed."
AP sources: Military-civilian terror prison eyed
By LARA JAKES, Associated Press Writer Lara Jakes, Associated Press Writer – 20 mins ago
WASHINGTON – The Obama administration is looking at creating a courtroom-within-a-prison complex in the U.S. to house suspected terrorists, combining military and civilian detention facilities at a single maximum-security prison.
Several senior U.S. officials said the administration is eyeing a soon-to-be-shuttered state maximum security prison in Michigan and the 134-year-old military penitentiary at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., as possible locations for a heavily guarded site to hold the 229 suspected al-Qaida, Taliban and foreign fighters now jailed at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp in Cuba.
The officials outlined the plans — the latest effort to comply with President Barack Obama's order to close the prison camp by Jan. 22, 2010, and satisfy congressional and public fears about incarcerating terror suspects on American soil — on condition of anonymity because the options are under review.
White House spokesman Ben LaBolt said Friday that no decisions have been made about the proposal. But the White House considers the courtroom-prison complex as the best among a series of bad options, an administration official said.
To the House Republican leader, it's an "ill-conceived plan" that would bring terrorists into the U.S. despite opposition by Congress and the American people. "The administration is going to face a severe public backlash unless it shelves this plan and goes back to the drawing board," said Antonia Ferrier, spokeswoman for Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio.
For months, government lawyers and senior officials at the Pentagon, Justice Department and the White House have struggled with how to close the internationally reviled U.S. Navy prison at Guantanamo.
Congress has blocked $80 million intended to bring the detainees to the United States. Lawmakers want the administration to say how it plans to make the moves without putting Americans at risk.
The facility would operate as a hybrid prison system jointly operated by the Justice Department, the military and the Department of Homeland Security.
The administration's plan, according to three government officials, calls for:
_Moving all the Guantanamo detainees to a single U.S. prison. The Justice Department has identified between 60 and 80 who could be prosecuted, either in military or federal criminal courts. The Pentagon would oversee the detainees who would face trial in military tribunals. The Bureau of Prisons, an arm of the Justice Department, would manage defendants in federal courts.
_Building a court facility within the prison site where military or criminal defendants would be tried. Doing so would create a single venue for almost all the criminal defendants, ending the need to transport them elsewhere in the U.S. for trial.
_Providing long-term holding cells for a small but still undetermined number of detainees who will not face trial because intelligence and counterterror officials conclude they are too dangerous to risk being freed.
_Building immigration detention cells for detainees ordered released by courts but still behind bars because countries are unwilling to take them.
Each proposal, according to experts in constitutional and national security law, faces legal and logistics problems.
Scott Silliman, director of Duke University's Center on Law, Ethics and National Security, called the proposal "totally unprecedented" and said he doubts the plan would work without Congress' involvement because new laws probably would be needed. Otherwise, "we gain nothing — all we do is create a Guantanamo in Kansas or wherever," Silliman said.
"You've got very strict jurisdictional issues on venue of a federal court. Why would you bring courts from all over the country to one facility, rather than having them prosecuted in the district where the courts sit?"
Legal experts said civilian trials held inside the prison could face jury-selection dilemmas in rural areas because of the limited number of potential jurors available.
One solution, Silliman said, would be to bring jurors from elsewhere. But that step, one official said, could also compromise security by opening up the prison to outsiders.
It is unclear whether victims — particularly survivors of Sept. 11 victims — would be allowed into the courtroom to watch the trials. Victims and family members have no assumed right under current law to attend military commissions, although the Pentagon does allow them to attend hearings at Guantanamo under a random selection process. That right is automatic in civilian federal courthouses.
"They'll have to sort it out," said Douglas Beloof, a professor at Lewis and Clark Law School in Portland, Ore., and expert on crime victims' rights. He said the new system "could create tension with victims who would protest."
The officials said that another uncertainty remains how many Guantanamo detainees would end up housed in the hybrid prison.
As many as an estimated 170 of the detainees now at Guantanamo are unlikely to be prosecuted. Some are being held indefinitely because government officials do not want to take the chance of seeing them acquitted in a trial. The rest are considered candidates for release, but the U.S. cannot find foreign countries willing to take them. Almost all have yet to be charged with crimes.
Two senior U.S. officials said one option for the proposed hybrid prison would be to use the soon-to-be-shuttered Standish maximum-security state prison in northeast Michigan. The facility already has individual cells and ample security for detainees.
Getting the Standish prison ready for the detainees would be costly. One official estimated it would cost over $100 million for security and other building upgrades.
Several Michigan lawmakers, including Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin and Rep. Bart Stupak, both Democrats, have said they would be open to moving detainees to Michigan as long as there is broad local support.
But the political support is not unanimous. Michigan Rep. Pete Hoekstra, top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee who is seeking the GOP nomination for governor next year, is against the idea.
Administration officials said the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth is under consideration because it is already a hardened high-security facility that could be further protected by the surrounding military base.
It's not clear what would happen to the military's inmates already being held there. Nearly half are members of the U.S. armed forces, and by law, cannot be housed with foreign prisoners.
Kansas' GOP-dominated congressional delegation is dead set against moving Guantanamo detainees to Leavenworth. Residents told Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., at a town hall meeting in May that 95 percent of the local community opposes it.
Administration officials say they are determined to keep to his promise of closing Guantanamo in January as a worldwide example of America's commitment to humane and just treatment of the detainees.
Glenn Sulmasy, an international law professor at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn., said the prison-court complex will "be difficult, but it's logical."
"This is all based on Closing Gitmo by 2010, which seems to be a priority, and if we are going to do it, we have to step up to the plate and find solutions to the conundrum we're facing," said Sulmasy, who agrees with the administration's efforts. "And this seems to be the most pragmatic way ahead."
On the Net:
Fort Leavenworth Disciplinary Barracks: http://tinyurl.com/ln3ef9
Standish, Mich., Maximum Correctional Facility: http://tinyurl.com/len83g
They will say any lie to get elected!!! During his presidential campaign, Obama repeatedly vowed "you will not see any of your taxes increase one single dime." - Yea F* You Obama!
2 Obama officials: No guarantee taxes won't go up
By PHILIP ELLIOTT, Associated Press Writer Philip Elliott, Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama's treasury secretary said Sunday he cannot rule out higher taxes to help tame an exploding budget deficit, and his chief economic adviser would not dismiss raising them on middle-class Americans as part of a health care overhaul.
As the White House sought to balance campaign rhetoric with governing, officials appeared willing to extend unemployment benefits. With former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan saying he is "pretty sure we've already seen the bottom" of the recession, Obama aides sought to defend the economic stimulus and calm a jittery public.
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and National Economic Council Director Larry Summers both sidestepped questions on Obama's intentions about taxes. Geithner said the White House was not ready to rule out a tax hike to lower the federal deficit; Summers said Obama's proposed health care overhaul needs funding from somewhere.
"There is a lot that can happen over time," Summers said, adding that the administration believes "it is never a good idea to absolutely rule things out, no matter what."
During his presidential campaign, Obama repeatedly vowed "you will not see any of your taxes increase one single dime." But the simple reality remains that his ambitious overhaul of how Americans receive health care — promised without increasing the federal deficit — must be paid for.
"If we want an economy that's going to grow in the future, people have to understand we have to bring those deficits down. And it's going to be difficult, hard for us to do. And the path to that is through health care reform," Geithner said. "We're not at the point yet where we're going to make a judgment about what it's going to take."
Selling that proposal, however, has proved tricky.
On Friday, the government released a report that suggested the worst recession in the United States since World War II appears on the verge of ending. The economy dipped only slightly in the second quarter of this year — falling at a 1 percent annual pace, better than expected.
The president cautioned against instant turnaround, though.
"Well, as I've said, I think we maybe are beginning to see the end of the recession, but it's still going to be some time before we are seeing companies hiring again. That's usually the last thing that happens," Obama said in an interview with Univision that aired on Sunday.
"So I think we are still going to have a tough remainder of the year — probably until next year — but, you know, at least what we are seeing — we've pulled back from the possibility of a depression. That's not the danger."
Many analysts think the economy is starting to grow again in the current quarter, setting up a long-awaited recovery.
"Most private forecasters — and let's use their judgment — suggest you're going to see unemployment start to come down maybe beginning in the second half of next year," Geithner said, adding those same economists predict positive growth during the second half of this year.
At the same time, Geithner and other administration officials are contemplating how to ask Congress to extend — again — unemployment benefits for the millions of Americans who have lost their jobs in recent months. The proposal drew measured support from Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., as long as the benefits are drawn from the already approved economic stimulus package.
"We need to take care of those who are unemployed, but we also need to make sure they get jobs," he said.
Those jobs, though, are still elusive. Greenspan said the economy is slowly coming back.
"Collapse, I think, is now off the table. We were teetering for a while," he said.
Greenspan said he doesn't think the Federal Reserve should be considering raising interest rates to ward off inflation, although he added that the Fed will have to rein in credit and raise rates at some point.
Obama's opponent for the presidency, Sen. John McCain, questioned whether the administration's actions will prove beneficial for the country.
"I think it's pretty clear, if you pump trillions of dollars into the economy, you will see some recovery," the Arizona Republican said while giving Obama credit for the improvement. "But the long-term consequences, I think, are going to be, unfortunately, devastating unless we do something about it."
Geithner and Greenspan appeared on ABC's "This Week." Summers appeared on NBC's "Meet the Press" and CBS's "Face the Nation." DeMint was interviewed on "Fox News Sunday." McCain spoke with CNN's "State of the Union."
Honest it's not a quagmire! Honest! Honest! Honest!
Does the U.S. Have an Exit Strategy in Afghanistan?
By TONY KARON Tony Karon – Mon Aug 3, 11:20 am ET
At first glance, the Obama Administration's Afghanistan policy doesn't seem to make sense. It is escalating military involvement in a conflict its own officials freely admit can't be won on the battlefield - and this despite the growing cost in blood and treasure and an awareness of the limited patience of the U.S. public for another open-ended counterinsurgency war. And this at the same time as some of the key diplomats tasked with handling the conflict are speaking openly of the need to integrate most of those fighting for the Taliban into Afghanistan's political order. (See TIME's photos of the new Marine offensive in Afghanistan.)
But while those impulses may appear to be working at cross purposes, they may in fact combine to achieve the war's purpose as defined by President Obama - and thus form the basis of an apparent exit strategy.
July was the deadliest month for U.S.-led coalition forces in Afghanistan since they arrived there at the end of 2001, with 70 foreign troops - including 42 Americans - killed. Six more U.S. soldiers were killed on the first two days of August. The casualty toll is expected to remain high in the months ahead as U.S. troops are deployed to reclaim territory from the Taliban and block the insurgent offensive. In fact, the Washington Post reported July 31 that General Stanley McChrystal, the commander appointed by Obama to try to reverse the Taliban's remarkable comeback in Afghanistan, is likely to request further U.S. reinforcements beyond the extra 21,000 troops the President approved in the spring. McChrystal reportedly also hopes to nearly double the size of the Afghan security forces, although the Afghan government is unlikely for the foreseeable future to be in a position to pay an army of the size he envisions. (See TIME's photos of Afghanistan's dangerous Korengal Valley.)
Despite deepening U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, the Administration is well aware of Americans' limited appetite for another long-term counterinsurgency commitment. As Defense Secretary Gates told the Los Angeles Times two weeks ago, "After the Iraq experience, nobody is prepared to have a long slog where it is not apparent we are making headway." And headway is proving largely elusive. Even those arguing for the efficacy of the clear-hold-build counterinsurgency strategy used in Iraq acknowledge that it will take years to bear fruit in Afghanistan.
Still, Obama is not necessarily stuck in a quagmire. Recognizing the limits of what could be achieved in Afghanistan, the President has scaled back U.S. ambitions from the Bush Administration's lofty objective of turning the country into a modern democracy. "We have a clear and focused goal," he said in a policy speech in March, "to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al-Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and to prevent their return to either country in the future." That goal does not necessarily require the defeat of the Taliban per se - a goal that many analysts have long deemed unrealistic. Many key Taliban leaders have little truck with bin Laden's global vision, seeing their own jihad as entirely local in its scale and objectives. Even in 2001, many were unconvinced that their own fate should be tied to bin Laden's, often resenting the presence of al-Qaeda's Arabs in their midst. Today's Taliban insurgency is diffuse, united mostly by hostility to foreign troops in their country and the often corrupt government they are there to defend. (See TIME's photos of art in war-torn Afghanistan.)
Al-Qaeda is no longer even based in Afghanistan, its leaders now thought to be operating underground in Pakistan's tribal areas. Preventing it from reclaiming an Afghan sanctuary may not require keeping 70,000 or more U.S. troops in the country for years to come - particularly since that deployment in itself is a key driver of the Taliban's insurgency.
The U.S. and its allies have clearly recognized that those now fighting for the Taliban will be in Afghanistan long after Western armies leave. Britain's Foreign Secretary David Miliband, in a speech to NATO July 27, called on the Afghan government "to separate hard-line ideologues, who are essentially irreconcilable and violent and who must be pursued relentlessly, from those who can be drawn into domestic political processes." He was quickly followed by U.S. Afghanistan-Pakistan Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke, who told a BBC interviewer that "there is room in Afghan society for all those fighting with the Taliban who renounce al-Qaeda and its extremist allies, who lay down their arms and who participate in the political life of the country".
The most important obstacle to negotiating an acceptable compromise with the Taliban, however, is the fact that the insurgents - and a substantial part of the population - believe they're winning the war. That gives them no incentive to accept compromises offered by the government and the U.S. The purpose of the current U.S. "mini-surge" in Afghanistan, in fact, is largely to halt the Taliban's momentum, to create conditions, if not for victory, then for a stalemate in which growing numbers of fighters and commanders in the Taliban come to believe that they are unable to win on the battlefield.
The basic assumption of the U.S. political strategy in Afghanistan appears to be that the Taliban cannot be engaged from a position of weakness. Perceptions are exceedingly important in a warlord society with a long-established tradition of local commanders switching sides to back the force deemed most likely to prevail. It was that dynamic that explained the speed of the Taliban's capture of Kabul in a matter of months back in 1996. The same phenomenon saw its regime collapse even more rapidly when the U.S. invaded at the end of 2001. General McChrystal, in a recent interview in New Perspectives Quarterly, explained the offensive in Helmand largely on the basis of the impression it made on the minds of Afghans. "The reason I believe we need to be successful is ... everybody's watching. I don't mean just in the United States or Europe. The Taliban is watching, the people of Afghanistan are watching," said McChrystal. On the basis of the Helmand operation, he added, "the Afghans will judge our resolve to see through the new strategy, our resolve to succeed."
Americans don't want a long war in Afghanistan. But the only way to avoid one may be to convince Afghans that the U.S. isn't going anywhere.
Obama lied about making his administration open as opposed to the secret Bush administration. Ain't a dimes difference between Obama and Bush, other then Obama treats you real nice when he screws you.
Obama administration withholds data on clunkers
By BRETT J. BLACKLEDGE, Associated Press Writer Brett J. Blackledge, Associated Press Writer – 25 mins ago
WASHINGTON – The Obama administration is refusing to quickly release government records on its "cash-for-clunkers" rebate program that would substantiate — or undercut — White House claims of the program's success, even as the president presses the Senate for a quick vote for $2 billion to boost car sales.
The Transportation Department said it will provide the data as soon as possible but did not specify a time frame or promise release of the data before the Senate votes whether to spend $2 billion more on the program.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said Sunday the government would release electronic records about the program, and President Barack Obama has pledged greater transparency for his administration. But the Transportation Department, which has collected details on about 157,000 rebate requests, won't release sales data that dealers provided showing how much U.S. car manufacturers are benefiting from the $1 billion initially pumped into the program.
The Associated Press has sought release of the data since last week. Rae Tyson, spokesman for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, said the agency will provide the data requested as soon as possible.
DOT officials already have received electronic details from car dealers of each trade-in transaction. The agency receives regular analyses of the sales data, producing helpful talking points for LaHood, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs and other officials to use when urging more funding.
LaHood said in an interview Sunday he would make the electronic records available. "I can't think of any reason why we wouldn't do it," he said.
LaHood, the program's chief salesman, has pitched the rebates as good for America, good for car buyers, good for the environment, good for the economy. But it's difficult to determine whether the administration is overselling the claim without seeing what's being sold, what's being traded in and where the cars are being sold.
LaHood, for example, promotes the fact that the Ford Focus so far is at the top of the list of new cars purchased under the program. But the limited information released so far shows most buyers are not picking Ford, Chrysler or General Motors vehicles, and six of the top 10 vehicles purchased are Honda, Toyota and Hyundai.
LaHood has called the popular rebates to car buyers "the lifeline that will bring back the automobile industry in America." He and other advocates are citing program data to promote passage of another $2 billion for the incentives -- claiming dealers sold cars that are 61 percent more fuel efficient than trade-ins.
LaHood also said this week that even if buyers aren't choosing cars made by U.S. automobile manufacturers, many of the Honda, Toyota and Hyundai cars sold were made in those companies' American plants.
But there's no way to verify his claims without access to DOT's data.
Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has argued against quick approval of $2 billion for the program because little is known about the first round of $3,500 and $4,500 rebates.
"We don't have the results of the first $1 billion," McConnell spokesman Don Stewart said. "You don't have them. We don't have them. DOT doesn't have all of it. We'd hate to make a mistake on something like that."
The new OPEN Obama Administration also censors our troops. Yea sure it's about security! It's about keep the militaries dirty laundry out of the eyes of the public!
Pentagon reviews social networking on computers
By PAULINE JELINEK, Associated Press Writer Pauline Jelinek, Associated Press Writer – Tue Aug 4, 11:44 am ET
WASHINGTON – The Pentagon is reviewing the use of Facebook and other social networking sites on its computers with an eye toward setting rules on how to protect against possible security risks.
The Marine Corps on Monday issued an administrative directive saying it was banning the use of Marine network for accessing such sites as Facebook, Twitter and MySpace. The order doesn't affect Marines' private use of such networks on personal computers outside of their jobs.
However, the service's computer network already effectively blocks users from reaching social networks, officials said. Marine officials said part of the reason for the new ban was to set up a special waiver system that govern access for Marines who need to reach the sites as part of their duties.
Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn, meanwhile, ordered a review of both the threats and benefits of using emerging Internet capabilities, which the military has widely used for recruiting, public relations and sharing information with allies and military families, officials said Tuesday.
Lynn noted that the sites and other Web 2.0 capabilities "have rapidly emerged as integral tools in day-to-day operations across" the department.
"However, as with any Internet-based capabilities, there are implementation challenges and operations risks that must be understood and mitigated," Lynn said in a memo issued Friday.
He said he wants the report by the end of the month on the subject and that the Pentagon will issue a policy no later than Sept. 30.
The Marines, in a statement, said the "very nature of social networking sites creates a larger attack and exploitation window, exposes unnecessary information to adversaries and provides an easy conduit for information leakage."
The U.S Strategic Command also last month issued a warning to all services that it was thinking about a ban on Web 2.0 sites.
The various local network administrators, military services and base commanders already may have other systems for blocking certain kinds of use, but officials are trying to come up with a uniform policy for across the department, Lt.Col. Eric Butterbaug, a Pentagon spokesman, said Tuesday.
Obama to help Richard Nixon clone Felipe Calderon turn Mexico into a police state like the USA?
Drug killings soar as Obama heads to Mexico summit
By Julian Cardona Julian Cardona
CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico (Reuters) – Mexican drug gangs are killing rivals in record numbers in a major setback for the government, which will seek more support from U.S. President Barack Obama when he visits the country this weekend.
Severed heads, burned bodies, daylight shootouts and dead children are daily fare from Mexico's Caribbean to its desert border with the United States, even as army generals pour soldiers and elite police onto city streets.
Last month was the deadliest month of President Felipe Calderon's nearly three-year army assault on powerful cartels across Mexico with 850 deaths, according to media tallies.
The death rate so far this year stands at around 4,000, about a third higher than in the same period in 2008 despite a brief lull earlier in the year.
Mexico has managed to disrupt cocaine supplies and make some major arrests but top barons are still at large and more than 13,000 people have died in drug violence since Calderon took office in December 2006.
"We're in a very decisive, very intense phase. There is no quick solution," said Hector Garcia, the top federal prosecutor in Chihuahua state bordering Texas and home to more than a third of killings in Mexico this year.
U.S. anti-drug aid is slow in coming and the drugs war is scaring off foreign investment just as Mexico suffers a deep economic recession.
Police found nine tortured bodies in two blood-smeared SUVs in Ciudad Juarez on Wednesday. Most residents in the city once famed for its night life are too scared to go out and swarms of U.S. tourists no longer cross the border to go to local bars.
"This is an unprecedented situation but I don't believe our operations are a failure," Garcia told Reuters in the city, Mexico's deadliest front in the drug war, where 10,000 troops and police have been unable to stop tit-for-tat killings.
Obama will fly to the western city of Guadalajara for his first North American leaders' summit with Calderon and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Sunday.
Obama pledged full support to Calderon in the drugs war during a visit in April but Mexico complains that U.S. anti-drug equipment and training promised by the Bush administration in a $1.4 billion plan is taking too long.
Calderon is likely to ask Obama about the possible delay of $100 million in the anti-narcotics aid after a senior Democratic senator said this week that Mexico has not met human rights requirements needed for the money to be released.
"There is a commitment on Obama's part to support Calderon because you can't expect these multi-billion dollar cartels to roll back without putting up a fight," said Armand Peschard-Sverdrup at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. "This is about trying to end Mexico's culture of impunity and it comes at a price."
Two main groups, the Gulf cartel from northeastern Mexico and the Sinaloa gang from the Pacific, are battling for control of smuggling routes into the United States. A host of other cartels, including the cult-like "La Familia" (The Family) from Calderon's home state of Michoacan, have joined the fight.
DRUG DEALERS KILLED
In the drug war, rivals target anyone suspected of working for the cartels, increasingly small-time drug peddlers.
In a now familiar scene in Ciudad Juarez across from El Paso, Texas, two hitmen opened fire on a family gathering at the weekend in a poor neighborhood, killing three men.
"There's no law here anymore. You can't trust anyone," said a 40-year-old nurse who witnessed the killings but was too fearful to give her name.
U.S. border officials have intensified their efforts to stop the violence, making big drug seizures, checking cars entering Mexico from the United States for the guns and cash that make cartels so powerful, and sharing intelligence to catch traffickers.
On the Arizona border near Tucson, Border Patrol agents have seized a record 500 tons of marijuana since October.
But Jose Guadalupe Osuna, state governor for the violent border state of Baja California, says Washington is still not doing enough to stop Mexican drug gangs buying weapons in U.S. gun shops and smuggling them across the border.
Efforts to reform corrupt police in cities such as Monterrey, a major manufacturing center, are faltering, according to anti-crime lobby groups.
Money laundering is an area where the drug fight also appears to be weak. An International Monetary Fund report published in January says Mexican authorities have only made 25 convictions for money laundering since 1989.
"We see the soldiers on our streets but there's still so much violence. Calderon and Obama need to realize you can't just sort out this problem with guns," said Jaime Martinez, an insurance salesman buying lunch in Monterrey.
(Additional reporting by Robin Emmott in Monterrey, Tim Gaynor in Phoenix and Lizbeth Diaz in Tijuana; Writing by Robin Emmott; Editing by Kieran Murray)
Wow! I bet the Iraqis want to thank the USA for invading them.
Baghdad's new obstacle: Stoplights
By Aamer Madhani, USA TODAY
BAGHDAD — They've dealt over the years with roadside bombs, military checkpoints and the constant threat of kidnapping. Yet many drivers in Baghdad have been completely overwhelmed by a new challenge — stoplights.
Most traffic signals here ceased to operate shortly after the U.S. invasion in 2003, when electrical blackouts became common and nobody wanted to stop on the street for long in fear of getting killed.
As violence in Baghdad has fallen in recent weeks to its lowest level of the war, the Iraqi capital reactivated seven stoplights. It's part of a campaign to restore a sense of law and order — and show that life is returning to normal in the city of 5.7 million.
"Now that the security situation has improved, we are trying to control the soul of the street," says Maj. Gen. Zuhair Obada, a top traffic officer here.
That's easier said than done, says traffic policeman Hussein Falih, 34. Drivers in Baghdad have become accustomed to the law of the jungle, where the driver with the biggest vehicle — or the strongest heart — ends up with the right-of-way.
After watching a car zip through one of the new blinking red lights in Baghdad's Hurriya Square, Falih stopped the driver, who appeared astonished as Falih warned him to pay attention to such signals.
"The drivers in Baghdad are terrible," Falih said. "No one has paid attention to any rules for so long that it's difficult to get them to start doing it now."
Another reason for the signals: Traffic seems to get worse every day. Hundreds of thousands of new vehicles have come into Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein. Electricity remains spotty, so the new traffic lights work only four to six hours a day. But a few lonely drivers are trying to play by the rules.
Muthanna Abdul Ameer, 35, a physician, said he was the only motorist stopped at a light recently. Two traffic officers did nothing as others breezed through the light. He finally decided to drive on, or risk becoming suspicious to the officers.
"They might start thinking, 'Why is this guy the only one at the traffic light?' " he said.
So this is how America the self-proclaimed protector of freedom and democracy operates! We shoot hellfire missiles at people that might be criminals and later try to verify that the people killed were the criminals we were after. No wonder the world hates America and calls us the Great Satan!
Is Pakistan's Taliban Chief Dead?
By TIME STAFF Time Staff – Fri Aug 7, 8:15 am ET
American and Pakistani officials say it looked more and more likely that Baitullah Mehsud, who had a $5 million bounty on his head, was dead. Pakistan's Foreign Minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, told reporters in Islamabad on Friday Aug. 7 that, "According to my intelligence information, the news is correct. We are trying to get on-the-ground verification to be 100% sure. But according to my information, he has been taken out." Local Pakistani media, citing "tribal sources" in South Waziristan, are reporting that Mehsud's funeral prayers had been held and that the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan's shura, or council, was meeting today to choose Mehsud's successor.
It may be days, or weeks, before confirmation is obtained. Hellfire strikes often obliterate targets, leaving little for investigators to work with. Pakistani officials are reportedly trying to collect material evidence, but U.S. intelligence officials will also be paying close attention to chatter on the Taliban's communication channels. "Taking Mehsud off the battlefield would be a major victory," says a U.S. counterterrorism official. "He has American blood on his hands with attacks on our forces in Afghanistan. This would also affirm the effectiveness of our government's counterterrorism policies."
If confirmed, Mehsud's death would bring to a dramatic end a short but terrifying career. Over the past two years, Mehsud, who is believed to be about 35, emerged from near obscurity to claim a place in a hall of infamy along with the Saudi Osama bin Laden, the Egyptian Ayman al-Zawahiri of al-Qaeda (who are still at large) and the Jordanian Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who was killed while leading the radical insurgency in Iraq. Cagey, dogged and charismatic, Mehsud had a knack for uniting disparate factions around a common cause; he transformed the badlands of South Waziristan into the most important redoubt for the Pakistani Taliban and al-Qaeda. He denied involvement in the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, but he was not unhappy about it: the Pakistani government produced an alleged message from him congratulating the perpetrators: "Fantastic job. Very brave boys, the ones who killed her."
With a reported 20,000 militants at his command, Mehsud was believed to have been the architect of the 2008 bombing of Islamabad's Marriott Hotel, the mastermind behind a terrorist cell uncovered in Barcelona that same year and the dispatcher of numerous suicide bombers in South Asia. Earlier this year, he threatened a massive terrorist attack on Washington that would "amaze everyone in the world." (Read "Islamabad After the Marriott Bombing: The Baghdad Effect.")
An uneducated Pashtun tribesman from a modest clan, Mehsud reportedly came from a family that made their living driving trucks. Though given to boasting about his grand plans for inflicting mass murder, Mehsud was also cautious. He shunned photographers - there are no definitive portraits - traveled in convoys protected by armed guards and hopped between safe houses. Despite his bellicose rhetoric, Mehsud was also described as baby-faced and jocular in person.
As a teen, Mehsud served as a Taliban fighter against the Soviets in the battle for Afghanistan, but first rose to prominence as a supporter of Abdullah Mehsud (no relation), a one-legged militant imprisoned at the U.S. prison in GuantÁnamo Bay, Cuba, soon after the 9/11 terror attacks. Baitullah Mehsud quickly leapfrogged his boss, and his ascension up the jihadi ladder was made apparent in 2005, when - swathed in a black cloth to shield his face - he negotiated the public signing of a cease-fire agreement with the Pakistani government. (Read "Why Pakistan Balks at the U.S. Afghanistan Offensive.")
Indeed, under the cover afforded by the agreement, Mehsud was once touted by a Pakistani army official as a "good Taliban." He used that goodwill to tighten his grip on Waziristan quickly, converting the rugged region into a haven where militant groups could freely operate camps and training facilities. The assassination of Bhutto and subsequent attacks attributed to Mehsud turned him into a prime target of the Pakistani government. In June 2009, key roads were choked as Pakistani military aircraft began strafing targets from the air. CIA-operated drones also went to work, attacking sites associated with Mehsud. On Wednesday, one of their missiles may have found its mark.
Emperor Obama to make another taxpayer funded campaign trip to Arizona ie: re-elect Emperor Obama in 2012
Obama should pick up some votes at the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Phoenix. He is turning out to be a war monger just like Bush! Heil Emperor Obama, Heil Bush, Heil Hitler!
Obama to make stops at Grand Canyon, Phoenix
by Eric Kelly - Aug. 7, 2009 11:57 AM
Republic Washington Bureau
President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and daughters Malia and Sasha plan to spend the day in Arizona on Sunday, Aug. 16, White House officials said today.
The Obamas will visit the Grand Canyon and Phoenix, said Adam Abrams, western regional press spokesman for the White House. Details of the president's public appearances have not yet been released.
The Arizona visit will be part of a multi-state trip that the president is making to Western states, Abrams said. Although Obama lost the state to Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., in the 2008 presidential election, it is seen as a swing state that is up for grabs in 2012.
While details on the visit are unknown, the trip will coincide with the national convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars at the Phoenix Convention Center, which runs Aug. 15-23. VFW spokesman Jerry Newberry told a Republic reporter earlier this week that the organization had invited the president to speak. President George W. Bush addressed the group in Orlando, Fla., last year.
Obama has visited Arizona three times since becoming president. InMay,Obama spoke at Arizona State University's commencement inTempe. In February, he traveled to Mesa tounveil a planto address the mortgage crisis.
Wow in addition to robbing us and giving the loot to used car salesmen Congressman Harry Mitchell is driving up the cost of used cars and driving up the cost of repairing cars! Destroying the cars will drive up cost of used cars and used car parts.
Disposal of clunkers
To make sure clunkers don't get back on the road, auto dealers are required to kill the engines.
Within a week of a car dealer being paid by the government, mechanics are to drain the oil and pour in a solution of sodium silicate, which fatally damages the engine.
"They'll run the engine about five minutes until it seizes," said John Simonson, general manager of Thorobred Chevrolet.
Then salvage yards will tow the junker away.
"Dealers are supposed to hold (clunkers) under their control until they dispose of them," Simonson said.
Salvage yards will retrieve some parts from the cars, but not the once-profitable, now-dead engines.
- Luci Scott
'Clunkers' has car dealers ringing in sales
'Clunkers' stimulating sales, lots happily fretting about supplies
by Luci Scott - Aug. 7, 2009 10:00 AM
The Arizona Republic
The woman was at Earnhardt Ford-Mazda at Ray Road and Interstate 10 in Chandler, giving a fond farewell to her beloved trade-in, a 1985 Delta 88.
"She had a tear in her eye letting it go," recalled John Nissen, the dealership's general manager.
"She was caressing it as the salesman was taking it away."
Nostalgia aside, financially it was worthless. But she got $4,500 for it toward the purchase of a Ford Fusion, a hot seller under the wildly popular "cash for clunkers" program.
Dealers in Chandler and Tempe were singing the praises of the stimulus program.
"Our sales staff has been here until 1 o'clock in the morning every night since (last) Thursday," said Wally Henkel, general manager of Big Two Toyota-Scion of Chandler.
His sales volume is essentially back up to his high levels when the dealership opened in 2007, but the staff is smaller because of layoffs during the slump.
"It's pushing everybody pretty hard," he said. But he's not complaining, saying he had sold more than 100 cars in the first week of the program.
Shoppers at Big Two Toyota have been snapping up the Scion, Corolla and Camry.
Others have been buying SUVs.
"Some of them are buying larger vehicles, but they'll get better gas mileage than cars 18, 20 years old," Henkel said.
"We've definitely seen a noticeable increase in floor traffic," said Jim Mays, new-car sales manager of Chapman Chevrolet at Baseline and McClintock in Tempe. Shoppers there are buying Malibus, Cobalts and the Colorado, a mid-size pickup.
Mays said many of his customers are well educated in the stimulus program and coming in with the necessary documents showing registration and insurance.
"There's a sense of urgency now," he said. "People are coming in prepared to make a decision."
Cars have been flying off the lots so fast that dealers are worried about a decrease in inventory.
"I'm very, very low on inventory right now," Nissen said.
"My lot is so empty, I've got to turn the lights off at night for fear the planes are going to think it's an airport and start landing," he joked.
Not only does the program help the auto industry, consumers and the environment, it is giving a boost to city and state coffers through increased sales-tax revenue.
Before the economy went sour, two dealerships - Big Two Toyota-Scion of Chandler and Big Two Toyota-Mitsubishi in Mesa - were contributing $1 million in sales tax to the city and state, Henkel said.
"That's been off 50 percent. . . . Imagine what with all the dealerships in the metro area, (Cash for Clunkers) will provide some greatly increased funds (governments) probably weren't expecting."
John Simonson, general manager of Thorobred Chevrolet in Chandler, sees a benefit beyond the financial.
"They're getting some extremely unsafe vehicles off the road," he said.
He has received trade-ins that have no tread on the tires, allowing the cord to show through. And brakes are a problem on some of the clunkers.
"They're just an accident waiting to happen," Simonson said, "not only for the person driving the car but somebody they could run into."
Banks are benefiting as well, by granting a lot more credit, Nissen noted.
"It's good all the way around," Nissen said. "Out of all of Obama's stimulus initiatives, this by far has been the most successful.
"This beats giving (billions) to AIG. At least you can pinpoint where this money went," he said. "They put the money in the hands of consumers rather than an advisory board for a lending institution. "
Looks like Obama is rewriting the Constitution and removing the Second Amendment. Now we will have a gun free police state in America! Or should I say the serfs and civilians in American will no longer have guns and only government thugs will have guns! Heil Obam! Heil Bush! Heil Hitler! He would be proud of Obama!
Sotomayor sworn in, first Latina Supreme Court justice
Aug. 8, 2009 08:10 AM
WASHINGTON - It's Justice Sotomayor now.
Sonia Sotomayor has been sworn in as the Supreme Court's first Hispanic justice. She's only the third female justice in the court's 220-year history.
Sotomayor took the second of two oaths of office Saturday from Chief Justice John Roberts in an ornate conference room at the high court, beneath a portrait of the legendary Chief Justice John Marshall. She swore a first oath in a private ceremony minutes earlier. Sotomayor's mother, brother, other relatives and friends joined her for the occasion.
In one oath, she promised to support and defend the Constitution. In the second, she pledged to “administer justice” fairly and impartially.
Obama is the same as Bush on EPA plans few toxic cleanups - Ain't a dimes worth of difference between Obama and Bush
August 10, 2009 |
Obama's EPA plans few toxic cleanups
by Dina Cappiello - Aug. 10, 2009 12:00 AM
WASHINGTON - For years, the Bush administration was criticized for not cleaning up enough of the nation's most contaminated waste sites. The Obama administration plans to do even less.
Environmental groups and some Democratic lawmakers railed against President George W. Bush's cleanup record. But this time, they're shying away from speaking out against a popular president who's considered an ally in the fight to clean up the environment.
In Obama's first two years in office, the Environmental Protection Agency expects to begin the final phase of cleanup at fewer Superfund sites than in any administration since 1991, according to budget documents and agency records. The EPA estimates it will finish construction to remove the last traces of pollution at 20 sites in 2009 and 22 sites in 2010.
During the eight years of the Bush administration, the agency finished construction at 38 sites on average a year.
"Certainly, we are very disappointed that we can't get our ... numbers up," said Elizabeth Southerland, the acting deputy of the EPA's hazardous-waste cleanup program, known as Superfund.
The explanation by the Obama team is the same one put forward time and time again by Bush officials: The sites on the list have become increasingly complicated, contaminated and costly. That means it takes years for sites to reach the final cleanup stage, and as a result fewer are getting there.
Of the 527 contaminated properties still needing cleanup on the Superfund list, 40 have progressed to the point where all that's left is removing the last piles of contaminated soil, building a treatment plant to strip the groundwater of toxic pollutants, or capping a landfill so contamination does not enter the drinking water or air.
When EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson explained this trend to a Senate committee this year, Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., replied: "That's the same answer the Bush administration gave us and I don't buy it."
Not everyone is so critical of Obama's Superfund numbers.
Environmental groups such as the Sierra Club and some Democratic lawmakers who highlighted how little the Bush administration did on hazardous-waste cleanups now are silent. They say it's because Obama, unlike Bush, wants to address the problem that has plagued Superfund for years - a lack of money.
Supporters point out that the Obama administration has asked for slightly more money in its budget for Superfund - $1.31 billion compared with the $1.29 billion in Bush's last year. There's also an extra $600 million from the economic-stimulus plan for cleanups at 50 sites across the country.
Obama is moving the stupid drug war to Afghanistan and killing drug lords - To be placed on this target list requires two verifiable human sources and "substantial additional evidence"
Wow wonder then those low standards to kill a suspected drug dealer will be moved to the USA?
50 drug barons on US target list in Afghanistan
By JASON STRAZIUSO, Associated Press Writer Jason Straziuso, Associated Press Writer – Mon Aug 10, 12:50 pm ET
KABUL – A U.S. military "kill or capture" list of 367 wanted insurgents in Afghanistan includes 50 major drug traffickers who give money to Taliban militants, U.S. military commanders told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
U.S. and NATO troops are attacking drug warehouses and militant-linked narco dealers in Afghanistan for the first time this year, a new strategy to counter the country's booming opium poppy and heroin trade. NATO defense ministers approved the targeted drug raids late last year, saying the link between Taliban insurgents and the drug trade was clear.
According to a report to be issued by the committee this week, U.S. commanders have no restrictions on the use of force against the targets, "which means they can be killed or captured on the battlefield," the report states.
When the nexus between a drug trafficker and the insurgency is clear enough, the drug trafficker is put on a list of insurgent leaders wanted by U.S. forces, said Rear Adm. Gregory Smith, the top U.S. spokesman in Afghanistan.
"The list of targets are those that are contributing to the insurgency, so the key leadership, and part of that obviously is the link between the narco industry and the militants," Smith said Monday.
To be placed on this target list, formally called the "joint integrated prioritized target list," requires two verifiable human sources and "substantial additional evidence," the report says.
The U.S. military does not conduct operations against narcotics dealers who are not involved in the insurgency, because those individuals are dealt with by law enforcement agencies, according to Capt. Elizabeth Mathias, a U.S. military spokeswoman.
"It's terrorists with links to the drug trade rather than drug traffickers with links to terrorism," said Lt. Col. Todd Vician, another U.S. military spokesman.
The existence of militant-linked drug traffickers on a wanted list of insurgents is a fairly recent development, following that NATO change in policy, though the individuals likely were known to the military before then, Smith said.
The majority of the wanted drug traffickers are in southern Afghanistan, where the drug trade is strongest, though "there are links elsewhere dealing with trafficking," Smith said.
U.S. Marines and Afghan forces have found and destroyed hundreds of tons of poppy seeds, opium and heroin in southern Afghanistan this summer in raids that troops were not allowed to carry out a year ago.
In another major U.S. policy shift, the U.S. announced in June it would no longer support the destruction of individual farmers' poppy plants, and instead would increase attacks on drug warehouses.
For years, the U.S. strategy has centered on training Afghan forces to eradicate farmers' poppy fields by hand. But such efforts never destroyed a significant portion of the crops. Farmers complained that the program targeted small, helpless poppy growers and passed over more powerful land owners, and the forces came under constant attack by militants.
Linking the fight against Taliban or al-Qaida insurgents to people seen driving the country's illegal drugs trade is an issue that has long stirred debate inside NATO.
The top U.S. envoy to Afghanistan, Richard Holbrooke, said last month that the Taliban gets more money from donors in oil-rich Persian Gulf nations than from drugs.
European governments have never shared U.S. enthusiasm to use military power in a counternarcotics strategy, and last fall's decision by NATO to declare war against drug labs and traffickers in Afghanistan has not silenced critics.
"NATO policy is that if there is a direct nexus between drugs and funding the insurgency, then NATO has a role," said NATO spokeswoman Carmen Romero.
Placing drug traffickers on a wanted list of Afghan militants will significantly hurt insurgents, according to Daniel Twining of the German Marshall Fund of the United States.
The Taliban insurgency "is only sustainable thanks to the roughly $300-400 million in drug revenues it earns annually from controlling or taxing the narcotics trade, and from the failures of the Afghan state to connect with the Afghan people, leaving vast and ungoverned swathes of the country subject to parallel administration by the Taliban," Twining said.
However, Fabrice Pothier, head of Brussels-based Carnegie Europe, said the effectiveness of NATO's policy is "highly disputable."
"How can restricted NATO interdiction operations put a dent in a $3.5 billion industry? There is no clear evidence to date that proves that targeting the drugs business will weaken the Taliban insurgency," Pothier said.
Afghanistan's Counter Narcotics Ministry says 98 percent of Afghanistan's poppy crop is grown in five southern insurgency-plagued provinces, where the government has little or no control. That is where U.S., Afghan and British forces have been destroying drug warehouses this summer.
About 4,000 U.S. Marines in July launched their biggest anti-Taliban offensive since 2001 on the southern province of Helmand, the center of the country's opium poppy cultivation.
U.N. officials say Taliban fighters reap hundreds of millions of dollars from the drug trade each year, profits used to fund the insurgency. A New York Times report published Monday cited CIA and Defense Intelligence Agency estimates saying that the Taliban earn $70 million a year from narcotics.
8 years into the Afghanistan war and almost as long in the Iraq war and we still don't have a defination of how the war will be won! About the only thing I can say is that Afghanistan and Iraq are just middle east words that spell Vietnam! Again more proof that there ain't a dimes difference between Obama and Bush, other then Obama is nicer and will shake your hand while he steals from you.
U.S. to create benchmarks for success in Afghan war
White House testing how well strategies are working
by Anne Gearan - Aug. 11, 2009 12:00 AM
WASHINGTON - The Obama administration is preparing a set of about 50 benchmarks for Afghanistan, senior officials said Monday, redefining how to measure success in a war now widely assessed as a stalemate.
The benchmarks will test how well the U.S. military and civilian "surges" ordered by President Barack Obama are working. They cover both Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Separately, the newly installed top U.S. general in Afghanistan is preparing an interim assessment that is expected to be a sober accounting of the difficulties of fighting an entrenched and technically capable insurgency eight years into the war. The new benchmarks, ordered by Congress, are due Sept. 24 amid creeping skepticism among many Democrats about the war's prognosis and costs.
"The deterioration of the security situation in Afghanistan is conspicuous," the Senate Foreign Relations Committee wrote in a report to be released this week. The report notes that a record number of U.S. soldiers and Marines died in Afghanistan last month.
"The coming months will test the administration's deepening involvement, its new strategy on counternarcotics specifically and its counterinsurgency effort in general," the senators wrote. "Some observers fear that the moment for reversing the tide in Afghanistan has passed, and even a narrow victory will remain out of reach, despite the larger American footprint."
The Afghanistan benchmarks will be more detailed than the Iraq war scorecard used by the Bush administration, a senior administration official said Monday. The White House is circulating a classified version among key lawmakers, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe the unreleased document.
The old Iraq yardsticks had an all-or-nothing quality: Either the Iraqi government passed a law governing oil resources or it didn't. Many of those tests remain unmet, even as the war there has subsided and U.S. forces prepare to leave.
In writing the Afghan version, Obama advisers say they want to look more broadly, measuring not only what gets done but how well and on what schedule.
The reports will be submitted quarterly, with three or four due ahead of the unofficial deadline for measurable progress, 12 to 18 months, outlined by Obama and his top defense advisers this summer.
Meanwhile, Gen. Stanley McChrystal's military assessment of the U.S. effort is expected to identify shortfalls that should be filled by more forces, perhaps a mix of Afghan, NATO and American. Any recommendations for more U.S. forces would come through McChrystal's boss, Gen. David Petraeus.
Estimates of the additions McChrystal might recommend range from a few thousand to more than 20,000. McChrystal's predecessor had already asked for an additional 10,000 for next year, but Defense Secretary Robert Gates and other top officials made it known they are skeptical.
"We believe that with the strategy and the assets and the infusion of resources, that we're going to be able to achieve our goals," White House spokesman Bill Burton said Monday.
Burton said the strategy Obama outlined in March is still taking hold.
A day earlier, White House National Security Adviser James Jones did not rule out more American forces. Jones, speaking on Sunday talk shows, also said that he had warned top brass in June that Obama might be startled by a new request so soon after he committed 21,000 additional forces this year.
In an interview published Monday in the Wall Street Journal, McChrystal said Taliban militants are gaining momentum as they move beyond their traditional strongholds in southern Afghanistan to threaten other regions.
"It's a very aggressive enemy right now," he said.
McChrystal said the U.S. will change its strategy and increase the troop presence in heavily populated areas, like the southern city of Kandahar.
Violence has spiked this year, with roadside bombs the militants' weapon of choice. Deaths among U.S. and other NATO troops have soared. With 74 foreign troops killed, including 43 Americans, July was the deadliest month for international forces since the start of the war in 2001.
There are 62,000 U.S. troops and 39,000 allied forced in Afghanistan, on top of about 175,000 Afghan soldiers and police. Some NATO countries plan to withdraw their troops in the next few years.
They will lie and say anything to get elected! Of course this doesn't only apply to the congresscritters in the Arizona House and Senate, it also applys to Congressman Harry Mitchell and President Barak Obama, they both will lie and say anything to get re-elected
38 of Arizona's 90 lawmakers signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge to "oppose and vote against any and all efforts to increase taxes." Gov. Jan Brewer signed it
But ... 21 of those lawmakers, all Republican House members, voted for a bill that refers a sales-tax increase to the ballot.
Tax pledge influenced legislators on budget
GOP paired cuts with sales-tax ballot issue
by Mary Jo Pitzl - Aug. 10, 2009 12:00 AM
The Arizona Republic
If there's a key player in the background of Arizona's long-running budget battle, it's Grover Norquist.
The president of the Washington, D.C.-based Americans for Tax Reform, armed with a 37-word pledge, has exerted an outsize influence over the debate.
Thirty-eight of Arizona's 90 lawmakers signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge to "oppose and vote against any and all efforts to increase taxes." Gov. Jan Brewer signed it, as well. That pledge, and its threat of electoral retribution if violated, helped motivate many of those 38 to oppose Brewer's insistence on a temporary sales-tax increase.
But late last month, 21 of those lawmakers, all Republican House members, voted for a bill that refers a sales-tax increase to the ballot.
And at least 11 GOP senators appear poised to follow suit this week when the budget package is expected to come up for a vote. Lawmakers return to the Capitol today to continue working on the budget.
Tax increases have never been popular in the Arizona Legislature, but the promise from Americans for Tax Reform to work against politicians who violate the pledge only increases the risk of saying "yes" to tax hikes. Since the group was founded in 1985 at the urging of then-President Ronald Reagan, it has set the standard for no-tax-hike promises. Hundreds of politicians have signed it, including every successful GOP presidential candidate. In Arizona, all but 15 of the GOP lawmakers have signed on.
So why would the legislators who took the pledge vote for the tax-hike question now?
Because pairing it with tax cuts apparently changed the game.
Republicans stirred $650 million worth of annual tax cuts into the package. They believe that will outweigh the estimated $2.5 billion collected from three years of a sales-tax hike.
Norquist agreed, absolving lawmakers of any pledge violation. On Friday, lawmakers said they got the Norquist nod on a new plan that would split the tax cuts and sales-tax referral into separate bills, in an effort to win enough budget votes in the Senate.
However, as recently as six weeks ago, Norquist said that referring a tax hike to the voters is as much a violation of the pledge as voting directly for a tax increase.
"We will cheerfully remind everybody who voted for a tax increase," Norquist told The Arizona Republic in mid-June.
Now, thanks to accompanying tax cuts, he sees it differently.
"It was pledge compliance," Norquist said of the Arizona votes, and acknowledging that lawmakers were contacting his office for guidance.
It was a welcome message to many anxious Republicans, who were exchanging text messages with Americans for Tax Reform as details of the latest budget agreement emerged. No Democrats signed the pledge.
Rep. Carl Seel, R-Phoenix, said he spoke with the group's representatives at length before the July 31 budget vote.
"When you combine the elements in the budget, it's a wholesale win for us," Seel said of fiscal conservatives.
Likewise, House Speaker Kirk Adams, R-Mesa, said the tax cuts would more than offset the tax hike over time, creating a net win for a leaner government.
But not every pledge signer is comforted by Norquist's latest position. Rep. Sam Crump, R-Anthem, was one of three Republicans to vote against the budget package, in large part because of the tax component. During the overnight session when the House was voting on the budget, the furious exchange of text messages and e-mails between House Republicans and Americans for Tax Reform got muddied, he said.
"They expressed serious reservations and concerns about any sales taxes whose revenue are earmarked," Crump said. If voters approve the sales-tax hike, the money would go to education, health care and public safety.
Despite the tax group's seeming reversal on the tax-hike question, Crump - who signed the pledge - still voted against the budget package.
"While I'm interested in their opinion, my position on anything is subject to my own conscience," Crump said.
Other Republicans downplay the influence of the pledge, even though they say it's a key check on fiscal policy.
"It doesn't carry much weight with me," said Rep. Rick Murphy, R-Peoria. He signed the pledge but voted for the tax referral.
Democrats say all the scurrying about to get the blessing of Norquist and his group is perplexing.
"Maybe he's their crystal ball," said Kyrsten Sinema, the assistant House minority leader. "That's crazy.
"It's hard for me to even understand it because on the Democratic side, there is nothing like this."
I am against the health plan, but hey if you put us serfs on the same health plan the Congress gets I would agree to that! Of course that would bankrupt the country if everybody got the same royal medical service that our royal rulers do!
Obama: Stop health care 'wild misrepresentations'
By PHILIP ELLIOTT, Associated Press Writer Philip Elliott, Associated Press Writer – 10 mins ago
PORTSMOUTH, N.H. – Hoping to blunt the momentum of critics, President Barack Obama went on the offensive in support of his health care plan, urging the country not to listen to those who seek to "scare and mislead the American people."
"For all the scare tactics out there, what is truly scary is if we do nothing," Obama told a friendly town hall audience.
Retooling his message amid sliding support, Obama poked at critics who he said were trying to "scare the heck out of folks." He said there should be a vigorous debate over health care, but "with each other, not over each other."
"Where we disagree, let's disagree over things that are real, not these wild misrepresentations that don't bear any resemblance to anything that's actually being proposed," Obama said, trying to wrest back control over a debate at the core of his political agenda.
Addressing a town hall in New Hampshire, Obama also flayed the insurance industry in an attempt to attract a vital — and skeptical — audience: the tens of millions of people who already have health insurance and are just fine with the care they get.
He said the overhaul is essential to them, too, contending it is the way to keep control in their hands.
"Your health insurance will be there for you when it counts, not just when you're paying premiums," Obama said to applause at a local high school.
Obama said "after all the chatter and shouting and the noise," Americans will soon have more and cheaper options for health care.
"I don't think government bureaucrats should be meddling. But I also don't think insurance company bureaucrats should be meddling," he said.
Obama's pitch came as angry crowds have put many lawmakers on the defensive as they try to talk about health care with their constituents, leading some to replace public forums with teleconferences or step up security to keep protesters at bay.
The disturbances come at a critical time as lawmakers — mostly Democrats — return home for the August recess and host the meetings to boost support to overhaul the nation's costly health care system.
The president accused critics of creating "boogeymen."
"Spread the facts. Let's get this done," Obama implored the crowd.
The questions Obama faced were straightforward and there were no immediate outbursts.
Winning the good old Afgan war just like we won the Iraq war and Vietnam war!
US, NATO deaths from Afghan bombings spike 6-fold
By JASON STRAZIUSO, Associated Press Writer Jason Straziuso, Associated Press Writer – 11 mins ago
KABUL – U.S. and NATO deaths from roadside and suicide bomb blasts in Afghanistan soared six-fold in July compared with the same month last year, as militants detonated the highest number of bombs of the eight-year war, figures released Tuesday showed.
Three U.S. Marines and a Polish soldier died in the latest attacks, setting August on course to surpass the record 75 deaths U.S. and NATO troops suffered from all causes in July.
U.S. commanders have long predicted that 2009 would be the deadliest of the war, after President Barack Obama ordered an additional 21,000 troops here to try to quell the rising Taliban insurgency. A record 62,000 U.S. troops are now in Afghanistan.
U.S., NATO and Afghan troops are working to protect voting sites around the country so Afghans can take part in the country's second-ever direct presidential election Aug. 20. Taliban militants have vowed to disrupt the elections, and attacks are on the rise around Afghanistan, where roadside bombs are now the cause of the majority of U.S. and NATO deaths.
Last month 49 coalition troops died in bomb attacks, a more than six-fold increase from the eight killed in roadside and suicide bomb attacks in July 2008, according to figures from the U.S.-based Joint IED Defeat Organization.
The number of incidents from IEDs, or improvised explosive devices, soared to 828, the highest level of the war and more than twice as many as in July 2008. Of those 828 incidents, 410 bombs were found and neutralized and 310 were ineffective. But 108 bombs were effective, triple the 36 effective attacks a year ago, an increase that suggests militants are getting better at placing and detonating bombs.
"The major challenge today for us is roadside bombs and suicide attacks," said Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi, spokesman for Afghanistan's Defense Ministry. Azimi said that Taliban militants have figured out that roadside bombs are an efficient and effective method of attack. "They stay safe while the other side suffers."
Though roadside bombs target U.S., NATO and Afghan troops, the blasts have killed a record number of civilians this year as well. Nine Afghans riding in a vehicle died in a bomb blast Tuesday in Kandahar province, said Daud Farhad, a doctor at Kandahar's Mirwais hospital.
"The enemy has moved to increase the use of indiscriminate IEDs against our forces as well as the Afghan people," said U.S. Lt. Col. Todd Vician, a spokesman for the NATO-led force. He said IED attacks are up in part because of increased operations by NATO troops.
Afghan soldier deaths from IEDs are also up sharply, Azimi said, but had no figures. A roadside bomb in Zabul killed two Afghan soldiers Tuesday, said Lt. Gen. Sher Mohammad Zazai.
At least 14 NATO troops, including at least seven Americans, have died in bomb blasts this month.
Some 4,000 U.S. Marines who stormed into southern Helmand province last month were confronted with dozens of bombs buried in Afghanistan's dirt roads. Militants have become more sophisticated at hiding the bombs, and insurgents have begun planting several in small areas, troops say.
British troops operating in Helmand have also suffered greatly from roadside bombs. A record number of British troops — 22 — died in Afghanistan last month, including 12 from explosions, raising an outcry in Britain about a lack of helicopters and other equipment.
More than 230 coalition troops were wounded in bomb attacks last month, more than triple the 67 wounded last July, U.S. figures show. Joint Task Force Paladin, the counter-IED unit at the main U.S. base at Bagram, predicted earlier this year that IED attacks would rise 50 percent in Afghanistan in 2009.
A recent U.N. report said at least 1,013 civilians were killed in the first six months of this year from insurgents bombs, compared with 818 for the same period in 2008 — an increase of 24 percent.
Even as bomb blasts spike in Afghanistan, such attacks have dropped precipitously in Iraq.
No coalition troops died in Iraq last month from bomb attacks, only the second month that's happened since the military began keeping statistics in June 2003. March 2009 was the other month. The number of IED incidents in Iraq fell from 557 in July 2008 to 166 last month. Only nine of those incidents were classified as effective attacks.
The NATO command in Afghanistan said Tuesday that three U.S. troops died in southern Afghanistan in separate "hostile fire incidents." It did not disclose the exact location of the attacks. The first died of wounds suffered in an incident that occurred Saturday, another died Sunday and the third died Monday, a NATO statement said.
At least 27 foreign troops, including 18 Americans, have died in August, a record pace, according to an Associated Press count. July, when 75 troops died, was the deadliest month in Afghanistan for U.S. and NATO forces since the 2001 U.S. invasion. Forty-four Americans died last month.
A Polish soldier and 22 Taliban insurgents also died in the latest violence.
Polish Capt. Daniel Ambrozinski, 32, disappeared Monday after his foot patrol of about 50 Afghan and Polish troops came under fire, Poland's Defense Ministry said. His body was found early Tuesday in Ajristan, in eastern Ghazni province.
Afghan officials said clashes and airstrikes in the south of the country killed nearly two dozen Taliban fighters. Twelve insurgents died in airstrikes and clashes with Afghan and Western forces on the border of Ghazni and Zabul provinces, said Wazir Khan, a local official. The militants were killed late Monday inside a compound, Khan said.
Ten Taliban were killed in Uruzgan Monday night in a fight with Afghan and foreign troops, Zazai said.
Elsewhere in the south, British troops seized a quarter ton of opium and killed seven militants in a major air assault involving 300 troops and 18 U.S., U.K. and Australian helicopters, officials said. The troops found 550 pounds (250 kilograms) of wet opium.
US official gropes to explain Clinton's outburst
WASHINGTON – The State Department struggled Tuesday to explain Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's face-off with a Congolese student and suggested that the questioner's nervousness sparked the outburst with the mention of her husband's name.
Clinton snapped at the university student in Kinshasa on Monday when he asked what her husband, former President Bill Clinton, and Congo native and former NBA star Dikembe Mutombo thought about an international financial matter. Mutombo was appearing with her at the university.
"Wait. You want me to tell you what my husband thinks?" Clinton asked in response. "My husband is not the secretary of state; I am. So you ask my opinion, I will tell you my opinion. I'm not going to be channeling my husband."
State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Tuesday that Clinton reacted that way because of the question.
"As the question was posed to her, it was posed in a way that said, 'I want to get the views of two men, but not you, the secretary of state,'" Crowley said.
The French-speaking student later said he had meant to say President Barack Obama, according to U.S. officials traveling with Clinton. It was unclear whether that meant he misspoke or the translator erred.
"Perhaps he was nervous," Crowley said.
Asked if Clinton had any regrets about losing her cool, Crowley tried to deflect the question, saying she was not available to get her thoughts. At the time, Clinton was en route between stops during her 10-day tour in Africa, and she did not address the outburst to reporters traveling with her in the Congo.
Clinton's trip was overshadowed at the start by her husband's secret diplomatic mission to North Korea, where President Kim Jong Il turned over two U.S. journalists who had been held after straying across the border.
Obama hands out goodies to help him get re-elected!!!
Obama to honor Sandra Day O'Connor, others
Aug. 12, 2009 07:08 AM
WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama will recognize the accomplishments of actors, activists and athletes on Wednesday when he awards the Presidential Medal of Freedom to 16 people.
Film star Sidney Poitier, civil rights icon the Rev. Joseph Lowery and tennis legend Billie Jean King are among those set to receive the medal, the nation's highest civilian honor.
Other recipients include Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., who has been battling brain cancer, former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and retired Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa.
Kennedy will remain on Cape Cod following the death Tuesday of his sister, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, but the senator's spokesman said his children will attend the ceremony and his daughter, Kara, will accept the award on his behalf.
Obama, awarding his first presidential medals, also will make posthumous awards to former Republican Rep. Jack Kemp of New York, the quarterback-turned-politician who died in May, and gay rights activist Harvey Milk, who was assassinated in 1978.
The recipients have diverse backgrounds and achievements in fields ranging from sports and art to science and medicine to politics and public policy. The White House has said the individuals were selected for their work as "agents of change."
President Harry S. Truman established the Medal of Freedom in 1945 to recognize civilians for their efforts during World War II. President John F. Kennedy reinstated the medal in 1963 to honor distinguished service.
The other recipients are:
• Nancy Brinker, founder of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, a leading breast cancer grass-roots organization.
• Dr. Pedro Jose Greer Jr., assistant dean of academic affairs at Florida International University School of Medicine.
• Stephen Hawking, the Cambridge University physicist and mathematician known for his work on black holes and his best-selling 1988 book "A Brief History of Time." He has been almost completely paralyzed for years and communicates through an electronic voice synthesizer.
• Joe Medicine Crow, the last living Plains Indian war chief, who fought in World War II wearing war paint beneath his uniform.
• Chita Rivera, actor, singer, dancer and winner of two Tony Awards.
• Mary Robinson, Ireland's first female president and one-time U.N. high commissioner for human rights.
• Dr. Janet Davison Rowley, professor of medicine at the University of Chicago.
• Muhammad Yunus, the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize laureate for his global, pioneering work extending "micro loans" to poor people who don't have collateral.
Palin says Obama brushes off reform concerns
Aug. 12, 2009 10:24 PM
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin claims President Barack Obama is making light of concerns over what she has called “death panels” determining or denying care in the Democratic health care proposal.
Palin makes the claim in a Facebook posting Wednesday evening.
Obama on Tuesday said the Democratic health care legislation would not create “death panels” to deny care to frail seniors — or “basically pull the plug on grandma because we decided that it's too expensive to let her live anymore,” as the president put it.
Rather, Obama contends the provision that led to such talk would only authorize Medicare to pay doctors for counseling patients about end-of-life care if they want it.
But Palin, the former Republican vice presidential candidate, says the provision reads otherwise and will lead to health care rationing.
Well at least we know who was running the White House now!
Report: Cheney felt Bush stopped taking his advice
Aug. 12, 2009 09:18 PM
WASHINGTON - Former Vice President Dick Cheney believes his old boss, President George W. Bush, gradually turned away from his advice during their second term in the White House, showing a surprising independence as he started taking more flexible positions on a range of issues, The Washington Post reported Wednesday.
Cheney, often described as the most influential vice president in U.S. history, has been discussing his years in office in informal talks with authors, diplomats, policy experts and past colleagues, the Post said, as he works on a memoir due out in 2011 from Simon & Schuster's Threshold Editions.
Robert Barnett, who negotiated Cheney's book contract, passed word to potential publishers that the memoir would be packed with news, said the article published on the Post Web site, and Cheney himself has said, without explanation, that "the statute of limitations has expired" on many of his secrets. The book will cover Cheney's long career from chief of staff under President Gerald Ford to vice president under Bush.
"When the president made decisions that I didn't agree with, I still supported him and didn't go out and undercut him," Cheney said, according to Stephen Hayes, his authorized biographer. "Now we're talking about after we've left office. I have strong feelings about what happened. ... And I don't have any reason not to forthrightly express those views."
According to the author of the Post piece, Barton Gellman, who earlier wrote a book on Cheney called "Angler," the former vice president believes Bush made concessions to public sentiment, something Cheney views as moral weakness. After years of praising Bush as a man of resolve, Cheney now intimates that the former president turned out to be more like an ordinary politician in the end, Gellman says.
"In the second term, he felt Bush was moving away from him," Gellman quoted a participant in the recent gathering, describing Cheney's reply. "He said Bush was shackled by the public reaction and the criticism he took. Bush was more malleable to that. The implication was that Bush had gone soft on him, or rather Bush had hardened against Cheney's advice. He'd showed an independence that Cheney didn't see coming."
The Post quoted John P. Hannah, Cheney's second-term national security adviser, as saying Cheney remains driven, now as before, by the possibility of terrorists obtaining nuclear weapons from a nation hostile to the U.S.
What is new, Hannah said, is Cheney's readiness to acknowledge "doubts about the main channels of American policy during the last few years," a period encompassing most of Bush's second term.
First News Last News
Some more news on that $700 billion corporate welfare program!