Friday, September 22, 2006

Torture, Politics of Fear, Billionaires, Cutting Education and Healthcare, V.A. Screwed, Buddy Deals, Voter IDs, Semi-Clean Air, AIDS Tests and Crooks

In an attempt to cover the butts of the Bush Administration against war crime charges and in the name of party unity for the upcoming mid-term elections, McCain, Warner and Graham have joined the other Senate Republicans to take this country to the gutter and condone torture.

It's a sad day for our once great country.

The White House has pressed for the legislation partly to obtain immunity
from prosecution for government officials, including CIA interrogators, for past
acts that degraded and humiliated detainees. Its impetus was a Supreme Court
ruling in June, in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld , that declared some aspects of the
administration's past interrogation and trial policies illegal.

Officials' anxieties were provoked by a 10-year-old U.S. law, the War
Crimes Act, that makes violations of the Geneva Conventions' prohibitions on
degrading and humiliating detainees, as well as actions that amount to "outrages
upon personal dignity," subject to felony prosecution. Senior military officials
have told Congress those prohibitions were violated.

The agreement coalesced around two crucial issues: the GOP senators'
insistence that Bush not be allowed to reinterpret the meaning of the Geneva
Conventions, and the White House's insistence that CIA agents not be subject to
prosecution for aggressive interrogation techniques -- tactics that did not
constitute torture but were more aggressive than "simple assault."

The biggest hurdle, Senate sources said, was convincing administration
officials that lawmakers would never accept language that allowed Bush to appear
to be reinterpreting the Geneva Conventions. Once that was settled, they said,
the White House poured most of its energy into defining "cruel or inhuman
treatment" that would constitute a crime under the War Crimes Act. The
administration wanted the term to describe techniques resulting in "severe"
physical or mental pain, but the senators insisted on the word "serious."

The ramping up of the Republican terrorist fear-mongering campaign and their make believe "war on terror" is starting to show results in convincing Americans that the Republicans can protect the sheep better than anyone else. It also has the added benefit of taking American minds off all of their other failed policies. Iraq, Afghanistan, the economy, etc.

In this skirmish, Republicans can chalk up modest but real gains. The Pew
Research Center found that the proportion of voters who listed terrorism as the
most important problem facing the country increased from 5 percent in May to 15
percent this month. Significantly, the share of independents who listed
terrorism as the key issue rose from 5 percent to 13 percent.

The proportion of all voters listing Iraq as the most important problem
went up, too, from 18 percent to 26 percent. Much of the increase was among
Democrats -- 36 percent of them said Iraq was the central question. But among
independents, there was virtually no change in the importance of Iraq, and the
findings were similar for self-described moderates. The relative balance between
terrorism and Iraq among less partisan and ideological voters has shifted in the
Republicans' direction.

While worrying about imminent terrorist attacks, most Americans might not notice that the super rich are getting super richer. With a finite amount of wealth in this country, it means that if the rich are getting richer, that money has to come from somewhere. And guess who's losing out in this equation.

For the first time, all 400 Gotbucks on the Forbes tally are billionaires, from
Gates (worth $53 billion) down to the bottom, Los Angeles semiconductor magnate
Sehat Sutardja ($1 billion).

"I think it's very bad," said Dean Baker, a macroeconomist at the Center
for Economic and Policy Research in Washington. "If the U.S. had experienced
really extraordinary growth, then maybe that would be the reason" for all the
billionaires. Baker pointed out that U.S. economic growth in the past 25 years
-- the period that hatched this crop of billionaires -- is actually slower than
in the preceding quarter-century, which produced only 13 billionaires.

"If these people pull away so much wealth," he said, "that means
everyone else has less."

The growth in the number of billionaires has been significantly aided by
cuts in U.S. tax rates that allow the wealthy to keep more of their money, said
Harvard University economics professor Larry Katz. Today's marginal tax rate for
the richest Americans is 35 percent, down from more than 60 percent 25 years

And guess whose kids and grandkids will be paying off the deficit that we have created for the benefit of these billionaires?

But the Bush Administration will help by cutting government spending, on education and healthcare.

PBS newsmagazine NOW this week plans to target what producers are calling,
"a stealth campaign for deep cuts in social services," RAW STORY has learned.

The program is to examine ballot initiatives across the nation that it
will characterize as deceptively-titled attempts to slash funding in health care
and education. "Initiatives with titles like 'Taxpayers' Bill of Rights' and
'SOS - Stop Over Spending'" will be the focus of the segment.

Another way the Bush Administration is cutting government spending is by underestimating agency budgets. Bush has really screwed up the Veterans Administration.

WASHINGTON - The government used prewar data to estimate the cost of caring
for veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan, contributing to a $3 billion budget
shortfall at the Veterans Affairs Department since 2005, congressional
investigators say.

Department officials said they agreed with the
findings and were working to improve. Secretary Jim Nicholson said in a
statement that the VA uses "highly reliable actuarial projections of health care
demand" but that the agency continues to "refine" its modeling.

"The bottom line is to provide the leading-edge health care and
benefits that our veterans deserve," he said.

Another Bush apointee double talking to cover his incompetence.

While everything around you may be going to Hell, as long as you're a friend of Bush, you'll be OK.

In a follow-up interview on June 8, investigators confronted her with testimony
from Cathy MacFarlane, who resigned that month as HUD’s assistant secretary for
public affairs. Ms. MacFarlane told investigators that at a senior staff
meeting, Mr. Jackson “made a statement to the effect that it was important to
consider presidential supporters when you are considering the selected
candidates for discretionary contracts.”

It seems like everybody is bending over backwards to help out Bush and the Republicans.

Former Senator Lee Hamilton is co-chair of a committee along with Bush
family consigliere James Baker called The Iraq Study Group. This so-called
"bipartisan, independent" commission is charged with getting to the bottom of
the problem with the U.S. war in Iraq and offering real solutions to the
floundering Bush misadministration. It has already been at work for 6

Lee Hamilton says that the next 3 months are CRITICAL for the survival of
the new "unity" government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, BUT THE IRAQ

Wasn't Lee Hamilton part of the 9-11 Commission? Didn't they delay certain
controversial portions of the 9-11 Commision report "not to politicize the 2004
Presidential elections"? This process always seems to work in George W. Bush's
favor. Now, American are asked to wait until after November 7th elections to
find out just how bad things are in Iraq. I say they are far worse than the
average American has been told or is aware.

It looks like the new Republican voter ID law will fix it so that we will have to pay to exercise our Constitutional right to vote.

In a report released by the National Governors Association, the National
Conference of State Legislatures and the American Association of Motor Vehicle
Administrators, state motor vehicle officials estimated it would cost more than
$11 billion over five years to implement the technology required by the Real ID

That's a lot of money to solve a problem that doesn't exist. But it will be found unconstitutional anyway.

While supporters of H.R. 4844 argue that it will combat voter fraud, the
evidence clearly shows that current anti-fraud laws work. Congress and the
states are already successful at preventing non-citizens from voting and
ensuring that voters are who they claim to be. And there is no evidence that the
type of fraud that this bill seeks to address is anything but an anomaly.

Bush's latest plan for cleaner air is just what you'd expect. A huge amount of PR for very little effort.

"It's discouraging to see the EPA take this approach, but it's not really
surprising," Morris said. "We're trying to make the air cleaner for District
residents against an avalanche of suburban sprawl and upwind factories, and this
decision isn't going to help us at all. It's really a shame."

Public health activists, who noted that 60,000 Americans are estimated
to die prematurely each year because of air pollution, were harsher in their
assessment. According to an EPA analysis, the stricter standards endorsed by the
scientific advisory panel would have reduced air pollution-related deaths in
nine cities by 48 percent; the administration's new rules would cut deaths in
those same cities by 22 percent.

"It is the single worst action the Bush administration has taken on air
pollution," said Frank O'Donnell, president of the advocacy group Clean Air
Watch. "With this decision, the Bush administration has abdicated its
responsibility to protect breathers from dangers in the air."

The CDC wants all Americans to be tested for HIV infection. It makes you wonder just how bad the epidemic is. No doubt, this is probably a good idea.

All adolescents and adults should routinely be tested for HIV infection in
hospitals, clinics and doctors' offices, the federal government said yesterday,
signaling a radical shift in the public health approach to the 25-year-old

Under the new recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention, patients would no longer have to sign a consent form and get
extensive pre-test counseling. But they would have to be told they were being
tested for the AIDS virus, asked if they have any questions and given the
opportunity to "opt out."

Even more good news, Republican Maryland Governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., says the Hell with electronic voting machines, we want paper ballots. Incredibly enlightened position for a Republican.

A week after the primary election was plagued by human error and technical
glitches, Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) called yesterday for the state
to scrap its $106 million electronic voting apparatus and revert to a paper
ballot system for the November election.

And the good news just keeps on coming. The top 20 crooks in the U.S. Congress.

Sen. Conrad Burns (R-MT)
Sen. Bill Frist (R-TN)
Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA)
Rep. Roy Blunt (R-MO)
Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA)
Rep. John Doolittle (R-CA)
Rep. Tom Feeney (R-FL)
Rep. Katherine Harris (R-FL)
Rep. William Jefferson (D-LA)
Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA)
Rep. Gary Miller (R-CA)
Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-WV)
Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R-CO)
Rep. Richard Pombo (R-CA)
Rep. Rick Renzi (R-AZ)
Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX)
Rep. John Sweeney (R-NY)
Rep. Charles Taylor (R-NC)
Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA)
Rep. Curt Weldon (R-PA)

Bush is always saying that things in Iraq are going better than the media reports. But Bush says a lot of things that, in retrospect, are just plain wrong.

GENEVA - Torture in Iraq may be worse now than it was under Saddam Hussein,
with militias, terrorist groups and government forces disregarding rules on the
humane treatment of prisoners, the U.N. anti-torture chief said Thursday.

Manfred Nowak, the U.N. special investigator on torture, made the
remarks as he was presenting a report on detainee conditions at the U.S. prison
in Guantanamo Bay as well as to brief the U.N. Human Rights Council, the global
body’s top rights watchdog, on torture worldwide.

Reports from Iraq indicate that torture “is totally out of hand,” he
said. “The situation is so bad many people say it is worse than it has been in
the times of Saddam Hussein.”

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I did not mean that Conservatives are generally stupid; I meant, that stupid persons are generally Conservative. I believe that to be so obvious and undeniable a fact that I hardly think any hon. Gentleman will question it.

John Stuart Mill (May 20 1806 – May 8 1873)