J's Political Thoughts

Four more years of W means I'll have a lot to complain about.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

I hate irresponsibility

The damage has been done by the mini-series and millions of people are now going to think this is how it actually happened.

CNN.com
American Airlines calls 9/11 miniseries 'inaccurate and irresponsible'

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- American Airlines on Monday blasted ABC's docudrama on the history of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington, calling scenes involving lead hijacker Mohammed Atta "inaccurate and irresponsible."

The first half of of the film, "The Path to 9/11," aired Sunday night. Its opening scenes depicted American ticket agents at Boston's Logan International Airport issuing a boarding pass to Atta despite a warning that pops up on their computer, which would have required them only to hold his bags until he boarded the aircraft.

Atta actually cleared security in Portland, Maine, and boarded a US Airways flight to Boston before transferring to American Flight 11, the first of two jets that slammed into the World Trade Center, the independent commission that investigated the attacks concluded. (Posted 5:28 p.m.)

Friday, September 08, 2006

Help me with this one

Judge halts Bible giveaway at Mo. school

By JEFF DOUGLAS, Associated Press Writer Thu Sep 7, 7:56 PM ET

ST. LOUIS - A federal judge ordered a small-town school to suspend a program that gives free Bibles to students, saying it improperly promotes Christianity.
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U.S. District Court Judge Catherine Perry also scolded school officials for continuing the program after warnings that it violated the Constitution.

South Iron Elementary in Annapolis, a town of 300 in southeastern Missouri, has quietly allowed Gideons International to hand out Bibles to fifth-graders for years. After concerns were raised last year, the then-superintendent consulted with the district's attorneys and insurance company and recommended that the handouts stop, but the school board voted to continue them.

Acting on behalf of two sets of parents from the district, the
American Civil Liberties Union sued in February in federal court in St. Louis.

"The defendants were repeatedly told that their actions violated the Constitution, but they chose not to heed those cautions," Perry wrote in the preliminary injunction issued Wednesday.

A final ruling is not expected for months.

Eastern Missouri ACLU legal director Anthony Rothert said the injunction was "a victory for parents who want to direct the religious upbringing of their children without interference from public schools."

Erik Stanley — an attorney for Liberty Counsel, part of Jerry Falwell's Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., which represented the school district — called the ruling unconstitutional and said it would continue to fight the case.

Gideons, based in Nashville, Tenn., distributes more than 63 million pocket-sized Bibles each year in hotels, prisons, hospitals and schools worldwide, according to the organization's Web site. A spokesman for the organization declined to comment.
So, a judge stops something that is unconstitutional (seperation of church and state) and now people are going to sue saying that it's unconstitional to stop something unconstitional? Or have I missed something?

Thursday, September 07, 2006

More proof

that there should be some kind of intellegence test in order to be a registered voter:
"There are some people, and I'm one of them, that believe George Bush was placed where he is by the Lord," Tomanio said. "I don't care how he governs, I will support him. I'm a Republican through and through."
Yahoo News

Well blow me down!

They actually admitted to the secret CIA prisons they had been saying didn't exist.

Yahoo News

Bush admits the CIA runs secret prisons

By DEB RIECHMANN, Associated Press Writer 5

President Bush on Wednesday acknowledged for the first time that the CIA runs secret prisons overseas and said tough interrogation forced terrorist leaders to reveal plots to attack the United States and its allies.

Bush said 14 suspects — including the mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks and architects of the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole and the U.S. Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania — had been turned over to the Defense Department and moved to the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for trial.

"This program has been, and remains, one of the most vital tools in our war against the terrorists," Bush said.

"Were it not for this program, our intelligence community believes that al-Qaida and its allies would have succeeded in launching another attack against the American homeland."

Releasing information declassified just hours earlier, Bush said the capture of one terrorist just months after the Sept. 11 attacks had led to the capture of another and then another, and had revealed planning for attacks using airplanes, car bombs and anthrax.

Nearing the fifth anniversary of Sept. 11, Bush pressed Congress to quickly pass administration-drafted legislation authorizing the use of military commissions for trials of terror suspects. Legislation is needed because the Supreme Court in June said the administration's plan for trying detainees in military tribunals violated U.S. and international law.

The president's speech, his third in a recent series about the war on terror, gave him an opportunity to shore up his administration's credentials on national security two months before congressional elections at a time when Americans are growing weary of the war in Iraq.

Democrats, hoping to make the elections a referendum on Bush's policies in Iraq and the war on terror, urged anew that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld be made to step down. They argued that the White House has mishandled the war, mismanaged the detainee system and failed to prosecute terrorists.

"For five years, Democrats have stood ready to work with the president and the Republican Congress to establish sound procedures to bring terrorists to justice," said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. "Unfortunately, President Bush ignored the advice of our uniformed military and set up a flawed system that failed to prosecute a single terrorist and was ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court."

With the transfer of the 14 men to Guantanamo, there currently are no detainees being held by the CIA, Bush said. A senior administration official said the CIA had detained fewer than 100 suspected terrorists in the history of the program.

Still, Bush said that "having a CIA program for questioning terrorists will continue to be crucial to getting lifesaving information."

Earlier this year, an anti-torture panel at the United Nations recommended the closure of Guantanamo and criticized alleged U.S. use of secret prisons and suspected delivery of prisoners to foreign countries for questioning. Some Democrats and human rights groups argued that the CIA's secret prison system did not allow monitoring for abuses and they hoped that it would be shut down.

"He finally acknowledged the elephant in the room that everybody had always been talking about," said Jumana Musa, advocacy director for Amnesty International USA.

"I think what surprised me is he seemed to be asking Congress to legalize it through statutes, essentially allowing him to continue to detain people in secret by sort of putting forth all this information that they got from these folks and somehow using that to justify what has been recognized by U.N. committees as an unlawful act and contrary to our treaty obligations."

The president declined to disclose the location or details of the detainees' confinement or the interrogation techniques.

"I cannot describe the specific methods used — I think you understand why," Bush said in the East Room, where families of some of those who died in the Sept. 11 attacks heartily applauded him when he promised to finally bring the perpetrators to justice.

"If I did, it would help the terrorists learn how to resist questioning and to keep information from us that we need to prevent new attacks on our country. But I can say the procedures were tough, and they were safe and lawful and necessary."

Bush insisted that the detainees were not tortured.

"I want to be absolutely clear with our people, and the world: The United States does not torture," Bush said. "It's against our laws, and it's against our values. I have not authorized it, and I will not authorize it."

Bush said the information from terrorists in CIA custody has played a role in the capture or questioning of nearly every senior al-Qaida member or associate detained by the U.S. and its allies since the program began.

He said they include Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the accused Sept. 11 mastermind, as well as Ramzi Binalshibh, an alleged would-be 9/11 hijacker, and Abu Zubaydah, who was believed to be a link between Osama bin Laden and many al-Qaida cells.

He said interrogators have succeeded in getting information that has helped make photo identifications, pinpoint terrorist hiding places, provide ways to make sense of documents, identify voice recordings and understand the meaning of terrorist communications, al-Qaida's travel routes and hiding places,

The administration had refused until now to acknowledge the existence of CIA prisons. Bush said he was going public because the United States has largely completed questioning the suspects, and also because the CIA program had been jeopardized by the Supreme Court ruling.

The Supreme Court ruled that prisoner protections spelled out by the Geneva Conventions should extend to members of al-Qaida. In addition to torture and cruel treatment, the treaties ban "outrages against personal dignity" and "humiliating and degrading treatment."

Administration officials said they were concerned the ruling left U.S. personnel vulnerable to be prosecuted under the War Crimes Act because the language under the Geneva Conventions was so vague.

The Supreme Court ruling put a damper on the CIA's program, virtually putting the interrogation of detainees on hold until such prohibitions like "outrages against personal dignity" could be defined by law.

"We're not interrogating now because CIA officials feel like the rules are so vague that they cannot interrogate without being tried as war criminals, and that's irresponsible," Bush said in an interview with "CBS Evening News."

The administration-drafted legislation would authorize the defense secretary to convene a military commission with five members, plus a judge to preside. It would guarantee a detainee's access to military counsel but eliminate other rights common in military and civilian courts. The bill would allow reliable hearsay and potentially coerced testimony to be used as evidence in court, as well as the submission of classified evidence "outside the presence of the accused."

Senate Republican leaders hailed Bush's proposal.

"It's important to remember these defendants are not common criminals," said Senate Majority Whip Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. "Rather, many are terrorists, sworn enemies of the United States."

But Democrats and GOP moderates warned that the plan would set a dangerous precedent, ensuring the legislation would not likely sail through Congress unchanged.

Republican Sens. John Warner, John McCain and Lindsey Graham have drafted a rival proposal. Unlike the administration's plan, the senators' proposal would allow a defendant to access to all evidence used against them. The plan by Warner, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, also would prohibit coerced testimony.

Graham, R-S.C., said withholding evidence from a war criminal sets a dangerous precedent other nations could follow. "Would I be comfortable with (an American service member) going to jail with evidence they never saw? No," Graham said.

Also on Wednesday, the Pentagon put out a new Army field manual that spells out appropriate conduct on issues including prisoner interrogation. The manual applies to all the armed services but not the CIA. It bans torture and degrading treatment of prisoners, for the first time specifically mentioning forced nakedness, hooding and other procedures that have become infamous during the war on terror.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

It's official - we're staying.

Iraq war bill deletes US military base prohibition

By Richard CowanFri Jun 9, 4:59 PM ET
Yahoo News

Congressional Republicans killed a provision in an Iraq war funding bill that would have put the United States on record against the permanent basing of U.S. military facilities in that country, a lawmaker and congressional aides said on Friday.

The $94.5 billion emergency spending bill, which includes $65.8 billion to continue waging wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, is expected to be approved by Congress next week and sent to President George W. Bush for signing into law.

As originally passed by the House of Representatives, the Pentagon would have been prohibited from spending any of the funds for entering into a military basing rights agreement with Iraq.

A similar amendment passed by the Senate said the Pentagon could not use the next round of war funding to "establish permanent United States military bases in Iraq, or to exercise United States control over the oil infrastructure or oil resources of Iraq."

The Bush administration has said it does not want to place any artificial timelines on a U.S. presence in Iraq and that it wants to begin withdrawing troops when Iraqi security forces are better able to protect the country. But it has not ruled out permanent bases in Iraq.

While the Pentagon does not necessarily plan to use any of the emergency funds to establish a permanent military presence in Iraq, congressional Democrats wanted Congress to be on record against such a long-term military arrangement.

Doing so, they argued, could help overcome Middle East fears that the United States intended to control the region militarily, at least in part to oversee foreign oil reserves.

"The perception that the U.S. intends to occupy Iraq indefinitely is fueling the insurgency and making our troops more vulnerable," said Rep. Barbara Lee (news, bio, voting record), a California Democrat who won House approval of her amendment on permanent bases.

"The House and Senate went on record opposing permanent bases, but now the Republicans are trying to sneak them back in the middle of the night," Lee said.

Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware, the senior Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, authored the Senate language.

Senate aides said Republican staffers removed the provisions from the bills before House and Senate negotiators convened this week in a late-night work session to write a compromise spending bill.

Wisconsin Rep. David Obey, the senior Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, tried to reinsert the language, but it was opposed by Rep. Jim Kolbe (news, bio, voting record), the Arizona Republican responsible for foreign affairs portions of the spending bill.

Next week, the House is scheduled to have a wide-ranging debate about the Iraq war at which time Democrats are likely to raise this issue again.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

I don't get this

What they're saying is that legal immigrants that have worked in the US and paid taxes for many years are not eligible for Medicaid because they haven't taken on US citizenship? Have I missed something? If not, then it doesn't sound fair.

Medicaid recipients will need citizenship

By KEVIN FREKING, Associated Press WriterMon Jun 5, 6:13 PM ET
Yahoo News

Tens of millions of low-income Americans will soon have to show their birth certificates or U.S. passports if they want to obtain health care through their state Medicaid programs.

The requirement that beneficiaries provide proof of citizenship goes into effect July 1. It's designed to root out cases of illegal immigrants getting their health care paid for by the government.

Health analysts say they fear the provision could prevent some citizens from getting health care.

Advocacy groups for the homeless and mentally ill have asked the Bush administration to presume that beneficiaries seeking care are eligible for the health insurance program for the poor. Then, they would be given time to get the necessary documents.

"They may not have kept the best records, particularly those with serious mental health disorders," said Kirsten Beronio, senior director of government affairs for the National Mental Health Association. "For them, there needs to be some accommodations made that other types of records could be used."

Mark McClellan, administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said he was sensitive to the concerns cited by various consumer groups. He said the agency was crafting a process for exceptions.

"We want to provide a reasonable amount of leeway," McClellan said. "Not everyone, at least in a timely way, can produce one of the statutory documents. We do expect that the vast majority of people will have little difficulty given enough time. We want to make sure we have processes that can work for others."

He did not provide specifics about how much time beneficiaries may be given to gather documents, or what other types of documents might be allowed. He said such guidance will be issued to the states soon.

"The challenge in the Medicaid program is making sure the dollars go where they're intended to go without imposing any undue burdens on states and beneficiaries," McClellan said. "That's what we're looking for here."

The citizenship requirement was attached to a bill that President Bush signed into law in February spelling out $35 billion in spending cuts over a five-year period. Much of the focus was on slowing the growth in Medicaid.

The provision will save federal taxpayers an estimated $220 million over the next five years, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Last year, the inspector general for the Department of Health and Human Services found that a majority of states don't verify claims of U.S. citizenship by those seeking Medicaid. The practice creates the potential for illegal immigrants to access the health care program.

The inspector general's report did not address to what extent there is a problem with illegal immigrants accessing Medicaid, only that the potential exists.

Federal law says a person must be a citizen to receive Medicaid benefits. However, emergency care cannot be denied.

States now can accept a signed declaration as proof of U.S. citizenship. Forty-six states do.

Only Montana, New York, New Hampshire and Texas require applicants to submit documents verifying citizenship.

The bill required that Medicaid applicants show a birth certificate or U.S. passport but gives the administration leeway in saying other documents could be acceptable. An example might be a sworn affidavit that describes why documentary evidence does not exist or cannot be obtained.

Directors of community health centers, which specialize in helping the poor access health care, have asked the administration to accept as proof of citizenship report cards, voter registration cards, tribal documents and military ID cards.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal think tank, said disaster victims and elderly African-Americans may have difficulty accessing records such as birth certificates. Several black lawmakers have signed onto bills that would repeal the proof of citizenship requirement for participating in Medicaid.

The group said many elderly blacks were born in a time when racial discrimination in hospital admissions kept their mothers from giving birth at hospitals, so their births often were not officially registered. The center conducted a survey showing 9 percent of black adults reported they lack a passport or birth certificate, compared to 5.7 percent of all adults surveyed.

The new requirement will apply to all Medicaid applications submitted after July 1, as well as all applications to renew Medicaid coverage.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Is there anything they haven't denied?

White House Denies Bush Lost Faith in Goss

Yahoo News

By KATHERINE SHRADER, Associated Press Writer

The White House on Saturday denied that President Bush had lost confidence in just-resigned CIA Director Porter Goss, saying there was a "collective agreement" the agency needed a new leader now.

Bush planned to act quickly, perhaps as early as Monday, to nominate Goss' successor. The leading candidate was Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden, the top deputy to National Intelligence Director John Negroponte, a senior administration official said.

Goss played an important role in the fight against terrorism and "helped transform the agency to meet the challenging times we're living in," White House spokeswoman Dana Perino told reporters Saturday as Bush flew to Oklahoma State University for a commencement address.

She said Goss "made significant steps in order to put all those transitional pieces in place and there was a collective agreement that now would be a time that we could have a new CIA director come in and take the ball and move the agency forward."

Goss, who met with Bush on Friday to tender his resignation, has offered little explanation for quitting after just 19 months. Goss was to deliver a commencement speech Saturday at Ohio's Tiffin University, one of a growing number of schools that offers programs in national security studies.

Negroponte, with the backing of the White House, recently raised with Goss the prospect that he should leave, and the two men talked about that possibility, a senior administration official said. The official spoke on condition of anonymity in order to give a fuller account of events.

"Reports that the president had lost confidence in Porter Goss are categorically untrue," Perino said.

An intelligence official, speaking only on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of his position, said Goss had stood up for the agency when there were differences with Negroponte's office, which was created about a year ago.

Goss was taking a stand against "micromanagement," the official said, and wanted the agency to "remain what its name says, the 'Central' Intelligence Agency."

Negroponte, Goss' classmate at Yale University, said in a statement that Goss worked tirelessly during a CIA transition period. "As my friend for almost 50 years, I will miss Porter's day-to-day counsel," he said.

Goss spent 40 years in federal and local government, including 16 years as a congressman and 10 years as a CIA operative in the 1960s and 1970s. While he was CIA chief, the agency struggled to forge a new identity in an era of government overhauls stemming from the Sept. 11 attacks and the flawed prewar intelligence on Iraq.

"CIA remains the gold standard," Goss said in a statement. "When I came to CIA in September of 2004, I wanted to accomplish some very specific things, and we have made great strides on all fronts."

Goss' departure was the White House's third major personnel move in just over a month, aimed at reinvigorating Bush's second term.

Republicans said Friday night that Hayden was thought to top Bush's short list of candidates to replace Goss. Among others mentioned: Bush's homeland security adviser, Frances Fragos Townsend; David Shedd, Negroponte's chief of staff; and Mary Margaret Graham, Negroponte's deputy for intelligence collection.

Hayden was National Security Agency director until becoming the nation's No. 2 intelligence official a year ago. Since December, he has aggressively defended the administration's warrantless surveillance program. He was one of its chief architects.

CIA officials dismissed suggestions that Goss' resignation was tied to controversy surrounding the CIA's executive director, Kyle "Dusty" Foggo. The FBI is investigating whether Foggo's longtime friend, defense contractor Brent Wilkes, provided prostitutes, limousines and hotel suites to a California congressman who pleaded guilty to taking bribes from Wilkes and others in exchange for government contracts.

CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano said Goss' resignation also was not related to the recent firing of a CIA officer that Goss said had unauthorized contacts with the press; the firing that found support within the agency and the White House.

Bush nominated Goss in 2004, in the midst of a re-election campaign that was riddled with accusations about the botched prewar intelligence. Bush said he would rely on the advice of Goss on the sensitive issue of intelligence overhaul.

Goss, the former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, came under fire almost immediately, in part because he brought with him several top aides from Congress who were considered highly political for the CIA. They developed particularly poor relations with segments of the agency's clandestine service.

By December, Congress passed the most sweeping intelligence overhaul in 50 years, relegating the CIA to a crowded second tier of 15 other agencies.

Hayden, the highest-ranking military intelligence officer, has been brought into management challenges before. In 1999, he was tapped to shake up the NSA as the Internet and new communications tools were frustrating the agency's eavesdroppers.

Were Hayden's nominated, Democrats would be sure to seize on his intimate connection to Bush's anti-terrorist surveillance program, which has drawn the ire of even some Republicans.

Bush aides have been looking for ways to rescue his presidency from sagging poll ratings and difficulties with the Iraq war and his agenda in Congress.

The shake-up began with the resignation of Andrew Card as chief of staff and his replacement by Joshua Bolten. Other changes have included the replacement of press secretary Scott McClellan with Fox News commentator Tony Snow.

It wasn't immediately clear what's next for Goss, 67. He was supposed to retire after representing a Republican district on Florida's West Coast for 16 years, but he became CIA director when Bush called in 2004.

Many former directors take consulting positions on corporate boards. Goss and his wife own a central Virginia farm, where they raise cattle, sheep and chickens.

Friday, May 05, 2006

The Patrick Kennedy thing:

Yahoo News

First this
"I simply do not remember getting out of bed, being pulled over by the police, or being cited for three driving infractions," Kennedy said. "That's not how I want to live my life. And that's not how I want to represent the people of Rhode Island."
Then later, this (notice the word 'apparently')
Kennedy had said in a statement Thursday that he had taken a sleeping pill and another drug that can cause drowsiness, but had not been drinking alcohol before the accident. "Apparently, I was disoriented from the medication," Kennedy said.
However, there's no question in his mind about this:
"I never asked for any preferential treatment," Kennedy said to reporters as he left his congressional office Thursday night."
That seems to be the ONLY thing he is sure of.

What a load of shit!