Monday, April 20, 2009

Children in Peril
With so much attention focused on the banking system and arguments over bailouts, the plight of America’s children in this severe economic downturn is getting short shrift.

Official statistics are not yet readily available, but there is little doubt that poverty and family homelessness are rising, that the quality of public education in many communities is deteriorating and that legions of children are losing access to health care as their parents join the vastly expanding ranks of the unemployed.

This is a toxic mix for children, a demoralizing convergence of factors that have long been known to impede the ability of young people to flourish.

“It’s actually quite frightening,” said Dr. Irwin Redlener, president of the Children’s Health Fund in New York. “We’re seeing very unsettling reports of increased numbers of children in poverty. Those numbers may rise from about 12.5 million before the recession to nearly 17 million by the end of this year.”

Dr. Redlener is a pediatrician who also is a professor at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. He co-founded the Children’s Health Fund with the singer Paul Simon back in 1987 in response to a homeless crisis in New York City that saw families with small children wallowing tragically in squalid welfare hotels.

Dr. Redlener and Mr. Simon raised enough money to purchase a medically equipped van that traveled the city to bring free health care to homeless kids.

What is happening now, nationally, is overwhelming compared with the problems in New York City in the mid-1980s. “We are seeing the emergence of what amounts to a ‘recession generation,’ ” said Dr. Redlener. “This includes the children who were already living in poverty, but also millions more whose families had a reasonable chance of making it. Two years ago, they saw themselves as working class and middle class, but now many are unemployed or underemployed, and one of the results is that we’re seeing growing numbers of children depending on emergency rooms for health care or going without care.”

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has noted that changes in food stamp enrollment closely track changes in poverty. Since the start of the recession, the number of people receiving food stamps has increased by 4.6 million, nearly 17 percent. According to the center, that’s an indication of a substantial increase in poverty over the same period. And that’s bad news for children.

Similarly grim evidence is mounting with regard to homelessness. Surges in the number of families living in shelters are being reported by officials in communities across the country.

“This spike in homelessness,” the center said, “is worsening what was already a large and persistent problem. Even before the current recession, an estimated 1.6 million people, including 340,000 children, were homeless and living in emergency shelters or transitional housing over the course of a year. Many more adults and children were living on the street, in shelters for victims of domestic violence, or temporarily in the homes of friends and relations.”

With unemployment expected to continue to rise for the foreseeable future, and with state and local governments staggering beneath the weight of budget deficits, there is no reason to believe that these problems — and their profound negative impact on children — will do anything but worsen.

States from coast to coast are cutting social service programs. Arizona’s child protection agency, for example, has cut back on its investigations of abuse and neglect reports. Similar cutbacks in socially beneficial and even life-saving programs for children are in the works in many states.

Dr. Redlener described what is occurring as “a quiet disaster.”

The number of state-of-the-art mobile medical units operated by the Children’s Health Fund has grown from one in 1987 to 37. In an effort to bring health care to some of the children most in need right now — while at the same time drawing attention to the plight of children in general in these tough economic times — Dr. Redlener is planning to deploy the distinctive blue vans to some of the communities hardest hit by the recession.

The first stop will be Detroit this coming weekend.

“We’re going to take them to various parts of the country where there have been significant cutbacks in services,” he said, “and for a weekend we’ll provide free health and dental care to children whose parents cannot afford to pay for care. We’ll also refer every child that we see to an ongoing source of care in their community, if we can find one.”

The goal, he said, in addition to helping as many children as possible, is to spark additional help for children from all quarters, government and private. “Kids can’t wait for the economic recovery to have their immediate needs cared for,” he said.
Pressure Grows to Investigate Interrogations

WASHINGTON — Pressure mounted on President Obama on Monday for more thorough investigation into harsh interrogations of terrorism suspects under the Bush administration, even as he tried to reassure the Central Intelligence Agency that it would not be blamed for following legal advice.

Mr. Obama said it was time to admit “mistakes” and “move forward.” But there were signs that he might not be able to avoid a protracted inquiry into the use of interrogation techniques that the president’s top aides and many critics say crossed the line into torture.

And while Mr. Obama vowed not to prosecute C.I.A. officers for acting on legal advice, on Monday aides did not rule out legal sanctions for the Bush lawyers who developed the legal basis for the use of the techniques.

The president’s decision last week to release secret memorandums detailing the harsh tactics employed by the C.I.A. under his predecessor provoked a furor that continued to grow on Monday as critics on various fronts assailed his position. Among other things, the memos revealed that two captured Qaeda operatives were subjected to a form of near-drowning known as waterboarding a total of 266 times.

Some Bush administration officials, including former Vice President Dick Cheney, accused the administration of endangering the country by disclosing national secrets. Mr. Cheney went on the Fox News Channel to announce that he had asked the C.I.A. to declassify reports documenting the intelligence gained from the interrogations. Gen. Michael V. Hayden, the former C.I.A. director, has also condemned the release of the memorandums and said the harsh questioning had value.

On the other side of the spectrum, human rights activists, Congressional Democrats and international officials pressed for a fuller accounting of what happened. Senator Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat and chairwoman of the Intelligence Committee, wrote Mr. Obama asking him not to rule out prosecutions until her panel completed an investigation over the next six to eight months.

Mr. Obama tried to calm the situation with his first visit to C.I.A. headquarters since taking office. Concerned about alienating the agency, Mr. Obama went out of his way to lavish praise on intelligence officers, using words like “indispensable,” “courage” and “remarkable” and promising his “support and appreciation.”

“Don’t be discouraged by what’s happened in the last few weeks,” he told employees. “Don’t be discouraged that we have to acknowledge potentially we’ve made some mistakes. That’s how we learn. But the fact that we are willing to acknowledge them and then move forward, that is precisely why I am proud to be president of the United States and that’s why you should be proud to be members of the C.I.A.”

Aides said Mr. Obama struggled for four weeks about whether to release the memos in response to a lawsuit filed under the Freedom of Information Act, consulting with advisers, experts and intelligence professionals. It was on his mind so much, they said, that he talked about it with aides late at night in his hotel room during stops on his recent European trip.

In meetings, they said, he served as “the interrogator,” as one put it, challenging people to defend their views. Advisers diverged, with some like Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. favoring the release of more information and others like Leon E. Panetta, the new C.I.A. director, urging that more be withheld. Aides said Mr. Obama worried about damaging morale at the C.I.A. and his own relationship with the agency.

In the end, aides said, Mr. Obama opted to disclose the memos because his lawyers worried that they had a weak case for withholding them and because much of the information had already been made public in The New York Review of Books, in a memoir by George J. Tenet, the former C.I.A. director, and even in a 2006 speech by President George W. Bush.

The decision to promise no prosecution of those who followed the legal advice of the Bush administration lawyers was easier, aides said, because it would be hard to charge someone for doing something the administration had determined was legal. The lawyers, however, are another story.

On Sunday, Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff, said on the ABC News program “This Week” that “those who devised policy” also “should not be prosecuted.” But administration officials said Monday that Mr. Emanuel had meant the officials who ordered the policies carried out, not the lawyers who provided the legal rationale.

Three Bush administration lawyers who signed memos, John C. Yoo, Jay S. Bybee and Steven G. Bradbury, are the subjects of a coming report by the Justice Department’s ethics office that officials say is sharply critical of their work. The ethics office has the power to recommend disbarment or other professional penalties or, less likely, to refer cases for criminal prosecution.

The administration has also not ruled out prosecuting anyone who exceeded the legal guidelines, and officials have discussed appointing a special prosecutor. One option might be giving the job to John H. Durham, a federal prosecutor who has spent 15 months investigating the C.I.A.’s destruction of videotapes of harsh interrogations.

As the debate escalated, Mr. Cheney weighed in, saying that if the country is to judge the methods used in the interrogations, it should have information about what was obtained from the tough tactics.

“I find it a little bit disturbing” that “they didn’t put out the memos that showed the success of the effort,” Mr. Cheney said on Fox News. “There are reports that show specifically what we gained as a result of this activity.”

Other investigations promise to keep the issue alive. The Senate Armed Services Committee plans to release its own report after two years of looking at the military’s use of harsh interrogation methods. And the Democratic chairmen of the Senate and House Judiciary Committees are pushing for a commission to look into the matter. At the same time, the administration faces pressure from abroad. Manfred Nowak, the United Nations’ chief official on torture, told an Austrian newspaper that as a party to the international Convention against Torture, the United States was required to investigate credible accusations of torture.

Others pushing for more investigation included Philip D. Zelikow, the former State Department counselor in the Bush administration. On his blog for Foreign Policy magazine and in an interview, Mr. Zelikow said it was not up to a president to rule out an inquiry into possible criminal activity. “If a Republican president tried to do this, people would be apoplectic,” he said.

Frederick A. O. Schwarz Jr., who was chief counsel to the Church Committee, the Senate panel that investigated C.I.A. abuses in the 1970s, said Mr. Obama was “courageous” to rule out prosecutions for those who followed legal advice. But he said “it’s absolutely necessary” to investigate further, “not for the purpose of setting blame but to understand how it happened.”

US MILITARY DEAD 4,274 in Iraq (if you r counting)

Plus we don't count IRAQIs!
Likey over 500,000
PLUS over 1,5000 USA civilians
who where just earning a living!
FOOD for thought from Hk
Recent poll on health care in Canada.

When it came to health care, 45 per cent of Americans felt Canada had a superior system, while 42 per cent thought the United States should stick with its own.
Meanwhile, the vast majority of Canadians, 91 per cent, felt that Canada's health care system was better than the United States.

Thank goodness there's a name for this disorder.
Somehow I feel better, even though I have it !

Recently, I was diagnosed with A.A.A.D.D. -
Age Activated Attention Deficit Disorder.
This is how it manifests:

I decide to water my garden.
As I turn on the hose in the driveway,
I look over at my car and decide it needs washing.

As I start toward the garage,
I notice mail on the porch table that
I brought up from the mail box earlier.

I decide to go through the mail before I wash the car.

I lay my car keys on the table,
put the junk mail in the garbage can under the table,
and notice that the can is full.

So, I decide to put the bills back
on the table and take out the garbage first.
But then I think,
since I'm going to be near the mailbox
when I take out the garbage anyway,
I may as well pay the bills first.

I take my check book off the table,
and see that there is only one check left.

My extra checks are in my desk in the study,
so I go inside the house to my desk where
I find the can of Coke I'd been drinking.

I'm going to look for my checks,
but first I need to push the Coke aside
so that I don't accidentally knock it over.

The Coke is getting warm,
and I decide to put it in the refrigerator to keep it cold.

As I head toward the kitchen with the Coke,
a vase of flowers on the counter
catches my eye--they need water.

I put the Coke on the counter and
discover my reading glasses that
I've been searching for all morning..

I decide I better put them back on my desk,
but first I'm going to water the flowers.

I set the glasses back down on the counter,
fill a container with water and suddenly spot the TV remote.
Someone left it on the kitchen table.

I realize that tonight when we go to watch TV,
I'll be looking for the remote,
but I won't remember that it's on the kitchen table,
so I decide to put it back in the den where it belongs,
but first I'll water the flowers.

I pour some water in the flowers,
but quite a bit of it spills on the floor.

So, I set the remote back on the table,
get some towels and wipe up the spill.

Then, I head down the hall trying to
remember what I was planning to do.

At the end of the day:

the car isn't washed

the bills aren't paid

there is a warm can of Coke sitting on the counter

the flowers don't have enough water,

there is still only 1 check in my check book,

I can't find the remote,

I can't find my glasses,

and I don't remember what I did with the car keys.

Then, when I try to figure out why nothing got done today,
I'm really baffled because I know I was busy all day,
and I'm really tired.

I realize this is a serious problem,
and I'll try to get some help for it,
but first I'll check my e-mail....

Do me a favor.
Forward this message to everyone you know,
because I don't remember who I've sent it to.

Don't laugh -- if this isn't you yet, your day is coming!!


Thanks to my friend George for sending this to me. hk

By The AP
Analysis: Obama Gores Foreign Policy Ox

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama has gone abroad and gored an ox -- the deeply held belief that the United States does not make mistakes in dealings with either friends or foes.

And in the process, he's taking a huge gamble both at home and abroad, for a payoff that could be a long time coming, if ever.

By way of explanation, senior adviser David Axelrod describes the president's tactics this way:

''You plant, you cultivate, you harvest. Over time, the seeds that were planted here are going to be very, very valuable.''

While historic analogies are never perfect, Obama's stark efforts to change the U.S. image abroad are reminiscent of the stunning realignments sought by former Soviet leader Michael Gorbachev. During his short -- by Soviet standards -- tenure, he scrambled incessantly to shed the ideological entanglements that were leading the communist empire toward ruin.

But Obama is outpacing even Gorbachev. After just three months in power, the new American leader has, among many other things:

-- Admitted to Europeans that America deserves at least part of the blame for the world's financial crisis because it did not regulate high-flying and greedy Wall Street gamblers.

-- Told the Russians he wants to reset relations that fell to Cold War-style levels under his predecessor, George W. Bush.

-- Asked NATO for more help in the fight in Afghanistan, and, not getting much, did not castigate alliance partners.

-- Lifted some restrictions on Cuban Americans' travel to their communist homeland and eased rules on sending wages back to families there.

-- Shook hands with, more than once, and accepted a book from Hugo Chavez, the virulently anti-American leader of oil-rich Venezuela.

-- Said America's appetite for illegal drugs and its lax control of the flow of guns and cash to Mexico were partly to blame for the drug-lord-inspired violence that is rattling the southern U.S. neighbor.

-- Said that ''if our only interaction with many of these countries is drug interdiction, if our only interaction is military, then we may not be developing the connections that can, over time, increase our influence'' -- neglecting to mention U.S. health care, education and humanitarian relief efforts in Latin America.

At a news conference ending the three-day Summit of the Americas on Sunday, Obama was asked to explain what a reporter called this emerging ''Obama Doctrine.''

He said that first, he remains intent on telling the world that the United States is a powerful and wealthy nation that realizes it is just one country among many. Obama said he believes that other countries have ''good ideas'' and interests that cannot be ignored.

Second, while the United States best represents itself by living up to its universal values and ideas, Obama said it must also respect the variety of cultures and perspectives that guide both American foes and friends.

''I firmly believe that if we're willing to break free from the arguments and ideologies of an earlier era and continue to act, as we have at this summit, with a sense of mutual responsibility and mutual respect and mutual interest, then each of our nations can come out of this challenging period stronger and more prosperous, and we can advance opportunity, equality, and security across the Americas,'' the president said.

Critics, especially those deeply attached to the foreign policy course of the past 50-plus years, see a president whose lofty ideals expose the country to a dangerous probing of U.S. weakness, of an unseemly readiness to admit past mistakes, of a willingness to talk with unpleasant opponents.

''I think it was irresponsible for the president to be seen kind of laughing and joking with Hugo Chavez,'' said Sen. John Ensign, a Nevada Republican. ''This is a person along the lines with Fidel Castro and the types of dictatorship that he has down there in Venezuela and the anti-Americanism that he has been spreading around the world is not somebody the president of the United States should be seen as having, you know, kind of friendly relations with.''

At his news conference Obama said he didn't think he did much damage to U.S. security or interests by shaking the hand of Chavez, whose country has a defense budget about one-six hundredth the size of the United States, and depends upon it's oil reserves for solvency.

But beyond specific attacks on his new foreign policy are the deeper philosophical challenges emerging from the still powerful, if diminished, conservative political structure in the United States. Such opponents can play havoc with Obama's attempts to change domestic policy and will work to weaken his 60-plus percent approval among Americans.

Obama brushes that aside:

''One of the benefits of my campaign and how I've been trying to operate as president is I don't worry about the politics -- I try to figure out what's right in terms of American interests, and on this one I think I'm right.''

So thought Gorbachev. But being right is not always politically healthy.

SAN FRANCISCO — On Monday, somewhere in New York City, 420 people will gather for High Times magazine’s annual beauty pageant, a secretly located and sold-out event that its sponsor says will “turn the Big Apple into the Baked Apple and help us usher in a new era of marijuana freedom in America.”

They will not be the only ones partaking: April 20 has long been an unofficial day of celebration for marijuana fans, an occasion for campus smoke-outs, concerts and cannabis festivals. But some advocates of legal marijuana say this year’s “high holiday” carries extra significance as they sense increasing momentum toward acceptance of the drug, either as medicine or entertainment.

“It is the biggest moment yet,” said Ethan Nadelmann, the founder and executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance in Washington, who cited several national polls showing growing support for legalization. “There’s a sense that the notion of legalizing marijuana is starting to cross the fringes into mainstream debate.”

For Mr. Nadelmann and others like him, the signs of change are everywhere, from the nation’s statehouses — where more than a dozen legislatures have taken up measures to allow some medical use of marijuana or some easing of penalties for recreational use — to its swimming pools, where an admission of marijuana use by the Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps was largely forgiven with a shrug.

Long stigmatized as political poison, the marijuana movement has found new allies in prominent politicians, including Representatives Barney Frank, Democrat of Massachusetts, and Ron Paul, Republican of Texas, who co-wrote a bill last year to decrease federal penalties for possession and to give medical users new protections.

The bill failed, but with the recession prompting bulging budget deficits, some legislators in California and Massachusetts have gone further, suggesting that the drug could be legalized and taxed, a concept that has intrigued even such ideologically opposed pundits as Glenn Beck of Fox News and Jack Cafferty of CNN.

“Look, I’m a libertarian,” Mr. Beck said on his Feb. 26 program. “You want to legalize marijuana, you want to legalize drugs — that’s fine.”

All of which has longtime proponents of the drug feeling oddly optimistic and even overexposed.

“We’ve been on national cable news more in the first three months than we typically are in an entire year,” said Bruce Mirken, the director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project, a reform group based in Washington. “And any time you’ve got Glenn Beck and Barney Frank agreeing on something, it’s either a sign that change is impending or that the end times are here.”

Beneficiaries of the moment include Norml, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, which advocates legalization, and other groups like it. Norml says that its Web traffic and donations (sometimes in $4.20 increments) have surged, and that it will begin a television advertising campaign on Monday, which concludes with a plea, and an homage, to President Obama.

“Legalization,” the advertisement says, “yes we can!”

That seems unlikely anytime soon. In a visit last week to Mexico, where drug violence has claimed thousands of lives and threatened to spill across the border, Mr. Obama said the United States must work to curb demand for drugs.

Still, pro-marijuana groups have applauded recent remarks by Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., who suggested that federal law enforcement resources would not be used to pursue legitimate medical marijuana users and outlets in California and a dozen other states that allow medical use of the drug. Court battles are also percolating. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit heard arguments last Tuesday in San Francisco in a 2007 lawsuit challenging the government’s official skepticism about medical uses of the drug.

But Allen F. St. Pierre, the executive director of Norml, said he had cautioned supporters that any legal changes that might occur would probably be incremental.

“The balancing act this year is trying to get our most active, most vocal supporters to be more realistic in their expectations in what the Obama administration is going to do,” Mr. St. Pierre said.

For fans of the drug, perhaps the biggest indicator of changing attitudes is how widespread the observance of April 20 has become, including its use in marketing campaigns for stoner-movie openings (like last year’s “Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantánamo Bay”) and as a peg for marijuana-related television programming (like the G4 network’s prime-time double bill Monday of “Super High Me” and “Half Baked”).

Events tied to April 20 have “reached the tipping point in the last few years after being a completely underground phenomenon for a long time,” said Steven Hager, the creative director and former editor of High Times. “And I think that’s symptomatic of the fact that people’s perception of marijuana is reaching a tipping point.”

Mr. Hager said the significance of April 20 dates to a ritual begun in the early 1970s in which a group of Northern California teenagers smoked marijuana every day at 4:20 p.m. Word of the ritual spread and expanded to a yearly event in various places. Soon, marijuana aficionados were using “420” as a code for smoking and using it as a sign-off on fliers for concerts where the drug would be plentiful.

In recent years, the April 20 events have become so widespread that several colleges have urged students to just say no. At the University of Colorado, Boulder, where thousands of students regularly use the day to light up in the quad, administrators sent an e-mail message this month pleading with students not to “participate in unlawful activity that debases the reputation of your university and degree.”

A similar warning was sent to students at the University of California, Santa Cruz — home of the Grateful Dead archives — which banned overnight guests at residence halls leading up to April 20.

None of which, of course, is expected to discourage the dozens of parties — large and small — planned for Monday, including the top-secret crowning of Ms. High Times.

In San Francisco, meanwhile, where a city supervisor, Ross Mirkarimi, suggested last week that the city should consider getting into the medical marijuana business as a provider, big crowds are expected to turn out at places like Hippie Hill, a drum-happy glade in Golden Gate Park.

A cloud of pungent smoke is also expected to be thick at concerts like one planned at the Fillmore rock club, where the outspoken pro-marijuana hip-hop group Cypress Hill is expected to take the stage at 4:20 p.m.

“You can see twice the amount of smoke as you do at a regular show,” said B-Real, a rapper in the group. “And it’s a great fragrance.”

The President got a huge welcome at a visit to CIA headquarters,
this after the GOP has been knocking him for saying GWB tortured but Americans no longer will do so.

Real people in the USA understand what a true America value is!

Please GOP, keep saying NO and being WRONG on issues about which people care!

GOOD LUCK in 2010 & 2012.

Hk 4-20-09 12:30pdt

Obama Thanks CIA for Work Against America's Foes

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama is telling CIA employees that they must do their work scrupulously because they are standing as a security barrier for Americans who face attack from people who have no scruples.

Obama visited the Central Intelligence Agency on Monday, his first trip there since he released the so-called torture memos written by the Bush administration's Justice Department.

Obama said he understands that intelligence officials must sometimes feel that they are working with one hand tied behind their backs.

The president added that upholding American values and ideals in the face of such enemies is, as he put it, ''what makes the United States special and what makes you special.''

Obama has said he will not seek charges against CIA officers who took part in such tactics as waterboarding.

Media Review by KURTZ

Howard Kurtz - Washington Post

Anonymous Sniping

There's a big blogosphere debate brewing over an anonymous source quoted by Politico in a piece about the president's decision to release those torture memos. The story, by Mike Allen, begins with an on-the-record David Axelrod describing the reasoning behind the decision. Then comes this:
"A former top official in the administration of President George W. Bush called the publication of the memos 'unbelievable.' " 'It's damaging because these are techniques that work, and by Obama's action today, we are telling the terrorists what they are,' the official said. 'We have laid it all out for our enemies. This is totally unnecessary . . . Publicizing the techniques does grave damage to our national security by ensuring they can never be used again -- even in a ticking-time-bomb scenario where thousands or even millions of American lives are at stake.'
" 'I don't believe Obama would intentionally endanger the nation, so it must be that he thinks either 1. the previous administration, including the CIA professionals who have defended this program, is lying about its importance and effectiveness, or 2. he believes we are no longer really at war and no longer face the kind of grave threat to our national security this program has protected against.' "
I'm critical of this practice for two reasons. One, this guy is being allowed to take hard shots at the president from behind a curtain of anonymity. Second, it's not like there aren't ex-Bushies out there who'd be willing to go on the record.
Andrew Sullivan goes further, calling Allen a Bush "mouthpiece":
"Allen is allowing a member of the administration that broke the Geneva Conventions and commited war crimes to attack the current president and claim, without any substantiation, that the torture worked. He then allows that 'top official' to proclaim things that are at the very least highly questionable. What journalistic standard is Allen following in allowing such a person to speak anonymously?"
Mike Allen responds on Politico that while he was writing the story, "a very well-known former Bush administration official e-mailed some caustic criticism of Obama's decision to release the memos. I asked the former official to be quoted by name, but this person refused, e-mailing: 'Please use only on background.'
"I wasn't surprised: While Karl Rove and former Vice President Dick Cheney have certainly let loose in public comments, most top Bush officials have been reluctant to go on the record criticizing Obama. They have new careers, and they know it's a fight they'll never win. He's popular; they're not -- they get it.
"I figured that readers could decide whether the former Bush official's comments sounded defensive or vindictive. And POLITICO readers aren't so delicate that we have to deceptively pretend there's no other side to a major issue."


Palin's Problems
As Sarah Palin struggles with Alaska politics, she can't seem to buy a good headline. In the Daily Beast, Reihan Salam says Palin has turned him off:
"Levi Johnston, a 19-year-old with a perhaps undeserved reputation as a backwoods simpleton, has done what Barack Obama and Joe Biden and sneering liberals and cringing conservatives couldn't: He has killed off Sarah Palin as a serious contender for the next Republican presidential nomination. And I have to say, this depresses the hell out of me . . .
"This is only the latest indignity in the long, slow downward spiral that's been Palin's brief career as a national figure, as everything clever and distinctive about her has been replaced by an unrecognizable Reaganite fembot caricature. Months before Palin was selected as McCain's running mate, I told anyone who'd listen that she'd be the shrewdest pick. When she addressed the Republican National Convention in Saint Paul, I was utterly electrified. But during the latter days of the campaign, I started hearing rumors about how top-level McCain backers were shuttling back-and-forth to Alaska to put out various fires, and of course there has been a steady drumbeat of stories about Palin's low-level abuse of power. Then there is the fact that the national Republican Party has destroyed much of what was great about Sarah Palin, and she let them do it . . .
"Palin's campaign antics can be forgiven. What can't be forgiven is the ham-handed way she's tried to build her national profile since she returned to Alaska. She's abandoned the bold right-left populism that won over Alaska voters -- and me -- in the first place in favor of an increasingly defensive and harsh partisanship. After making her name as a determined enemy of Alaska's corrupt Republican establishment, she recently called for Democratic Sen. Mark Begich to step down so the hilariously crooked Ted Stevens could get another crack at the seat. She loudly promised to leave federal stimulus money on the table before clawing that promise back with a whimper. One can't help but get the impression that Palin is a clownish, vindictive amateur."


Editor note: KURTZ does one of the best media shows on TV Sundays on CNN 7am pdt.
Howard is a very good journalist covering the media.

A U.S. Attorney's Story 're-doing GWB'


Dan Bogden, who served as the United States attorney from Nevada until he was abruptly dismissed from his job during the infamous wave of firings of U.S. attorneys in late 2006, hoped to someday learn why he was let go. By most accounts, Bogden had served his community and the Department of Justice with distinction: former Deputy Attorney General James Comey, who had once directly supervised Comey, would later testify before Congress that Bogden was one of his best prosecutors, and that he could not understand why anyone would want to fire him.

But more than two years later, Bogden still has no official explanation as to why he was fired, or even who made the decision.

Two Justice Department watchdog units, the Office of Inspector General and the Office of Professional Responsibility, studied the matter. For 17 months, from March 2007 to September 2008, lawyers there investigated the firings of nine U.S. attorneys by the Bush administration. Last September, they released a 358-page report detailing their findings. The investigators talked to as many people involved in the firings as possible and exhaustively gathered information, but senior officials from the Bush White House declined to answer their questions and the Bush White House refused to turn over relevant documents and emails. Even so, the final DOJ report contained enough information that most of the fired prosecutors were able to learn key details about why they were dismissed and who was responsible.

Dan Bogden got no such closure. An entire chapter of the report was devoted to his firing, but it concluded only that investigators “could not determine who was responsible for Bogden’s name being placed on the U.S. Attorney removal list.” His firing, if the accounts of senior DOJ officials responsible for terminating him are to be believed, was one of Immaculate Conception.

At the time of the firings, Alberto Gonzalez was attorney general. His chief of staff, D. Kyle Sampson, was in charge of compiling the list of names of U.S. attorneys to be fired – allegedly for poor performance (though those involved later admitted the firings were in fact made for political reasons). In interviews with investigators, according to the Justice Department report, Sampson “acknowledged that he must have physically placed Bogden’s name on the list.” But Sampson “denied that he made the decision to add Bogden to the list,” and asserted that “he did not remember who made the recommendation.”

Deputy attorney general Paul McNulty, who was the second highest-ranking official in the Department at the time, told investigators that he too "did not know why Bogden’s name was on the list of U.S. Attorneys to be removed.”

And Gonzales himself, who resigned in disgrace in large part over his role in the firings, denied to investigators that he had even wanted Bogden fired. Gonzales told federal investigators that he “did not have an independent basis for understanding why Bogden was to be removed.”

At least a half dozen lesser ranking Justice Department officials involved in the firings also were questioned, but they too said they had not recommended Bogden be fired, nor did they know why he made the list.

But if Dan Bogden was unable to learn from the report why he was fired, he was able to find out something else about the circumstances of his firing: If he had had a wife and kids at home, he might not have lost his job at all.

As it turns out, McNulty had expressed qualms to other Justice Department officials about getting rid of Bogden, Just prior to Bogden’s firing, according to the DOJ report,McNulty emailed Sampson to say, “I am a little skittish about Bogden. He has been with DOJ since 1990 and at age 50 has never had a job outside government…. I’ll admit [I] haven’t looked at his district’s performance. Sorry to be raising this again/now… It is just on my mind last night and this morning.”

Indeed, Bogden’s entire life had been devoted to public service. Upon graduating from law school in 1982, he had become a member of the United States Air Force Judge Advocate General’s Office, where he remained for five years. Then, from 1987 until 1990, he served as a prosecutor for the Washoe County District Attorney’s Office in Reno, Nevada. In 1990, he became an assistant U.S. attorney in Nevada and, in 2001, he was named to the top job.

Shortly after McNulty conveyed his qualms to Sampson via email, McNulty reiterated the concerns in a meeting. He “came into my office,” Sampson told investigators . “I’m concerned about Bogden,” MCNulty told Sampson and a few other senior DOJ officials in the room. “… he’s 50, hasn’t had a job in [the] private sector, and what about his family.”

According to Sampson’s account, another senior official corrected McNulty: “He’s a bachelor,” the official said, “He’s single.”

As Sampson recalled to investigators, McNulty responded, “Okay never mind.” McNulty, Sampson said, “then got up and left my office.”

When questioned by investigators, McNulty did not disagree with Sampson’s basic version of events. Having learned that Dan Bogden was a bachelor, McNulty recalled, “I guess I don't have any objection [anymore] to going forward.”

In each of the last two years since their firings, the fired U.S. attorneys have held annual reunions—the first hosted by fired U.S. attorney for San Diego, Carol Lam, the second hosted by Bogden at Lake Tahoe, near his home in Reno.

These reunions are, as one participant told me, a “bohemian affair,” the cuisine often no better than pizza or take-out food—with a congenial atmosphere, in which participants engage in a certain amount of commiseration. At one reunion, the group clustered around a laptop and watched a Saturday Night Live skit depicting Alberto Gonzales evading congressional questioning.

It has also become something of a pastime at these gatherings for the former prosecutors to speculate as to why Bogden was terminated. David Iglesias, the ex-U.S. attorney for New Mexico, observed to me: “Most of us have gotten some sense, if not a good sense, as to why we were fired. But unlike the rest of us, Dan has never had that. There has never been any credible allegation or unyielding reason known as to why he was fired.”

Whatever the reason for his firing, Bogden’s fellow ex-U.S. attorneys hold him in high esteem. Paul Charlton, the former U.S. attorney for Arizona described Bogden to me as that rare prosecutor who is motivated to see that justice gets done rather than simply to secure convictions for the sake of winning. “To Dan Bogden,” Charlton said, “nobody had a monopoly on the truth. Not prosecutors, not agents, not targets of investigation, not judges… Dan has dedicated his life to the principles of being the best possible prosecutor.” And David Iglesias told me: “All of us loved being U.S. attorneys. But Dan just had this immense emotional attachment to being a U.S. attorney. If you know him, you can see what the job meant to him.”

Extraordinarily, Bogden might get another chance to demonstrate just what it does mean to him.

Last month, Nevada Democratic Senator Harry Reid, who happens to be the Senate majority leader, asked the White House to consider rehiring Bogden as Nevada’s U.S. attorney. “I just think it is so unfair what happened to him,” Reid told reporters: “It is just not fair to have Bogden with this mark, this scarlet letter, of being a bad U.S. attorney… He was a good guy.” A spokesman for Reid confirmed by phone that Reid has asked that the Obama administration and Justice Department consider reappointing Reid as U.S. attorney.

Nevada’s other Senator, Republican John Ensign, has likewise indicated that he would like to see Bogden reinstated. In 2007, a few months after the firing, he vouched for Bogden, saying “Dan Bogden has a solid performance record at the U.S. Attorney's Office, which is why I urged the Department of Justice to restore his reputation. There should be no doubt that he demonstrated leadership and performed well as Nevada's United States Attorney."

On March 9 of this year, as the news broke about Reid’s request to the White House, Ensign released a new statement, saying, “Dan Bogden continues to be a highly respected professional, litigator and manager. I am confident in his ability to once again lead our U.S. Attorney’s office.”

A Justice Department official told me that the idea of hiring Bogden back is in fact a real possibility, and said that the White House counsel’s office has been quietly vetting his background in anticipation of his possible reappointment—not a difficult task, considering that he has been employed by the government for the majority of his adult life.

If Bogden is reappointed as U.S. attorney, his supervisor will be one of the authors of the Justice Department’s report on the U.S. attorney firings that praised Bogden and severely criticized the Bush administration appointees who fired him. Last Thursday, Attorney General Eric Holder reassigned H. Marshall Jarrett, the head of Justice’s Office of Professional Responsibility, to head the executive office of U.S. attorneys, where he will oversee the nation’s 94 U.S. attorneys. By naming Jarrett to his new position, a senior Obama administration official told me, “I think this administration is sending a message that the era of politicization of the Department should be long due over.” The same official told me: “The continued service of Dan Bogden might hopefully send the same message.”

Though Bogden declined to comment for this story, it seems likely that, were he offered the job, he would readily accept. Indeed, after signing off on Bogden’s firing back in 2006, Alberto Gonzales spoke with him by phone three times. During each conversation, Gonzales asked if there was anything he could do for Bogden.

Bogden’s only response was that he wanted to be reinstated as U.S. attorney.

Meghan McCain: 'Old School Republicans' Are 'Scared S**tless' of the Future

Meghan McCain was applauded during a speech to the Log Cabin Republicans, a gay rights group, in Washington, D.C., April 18, 2009.

John McCain's 24-year old daughter told the Log Cabin Republicans on Saturday that "old school Republicans" are "scared s**tless" of the future in a speech calling for a new brand of Republicanism.

"I think we're seeing a war brewing in the Republican Party," said Meghan McCain. "But it is not between us and Democrats. It is not between us and liberals. It is between the future and the past."

She summed up what she learned while campaigning for her father in three points:

"(1) Most of our nation wants our nation to succeed; (2) most people are ready to move on to the future, not live in the past; and (3) most of the old school Republicans are scared shitless of that future."

McCain described her politics as being "faithful to the original core values of the GOP while open to the realities of our changing world."

Without ever explicitly discussing her support for gay marriage, she signaled her affinity with the gay rights group by stating her support for people living "in full equality with each other."

McCain, who recently signed a book deal with Hyperion, told the Log Cabin Republicans that she was proud to join them in "challenging the mold and the notions of what being a Republican means."

To signal her brand of New Age Republicanism, she interspersed references to her tattoo, black clothing, and gay friends in a section of her speech that was otherwise devoted to her political priorities.

"I am concerned about the environment. I love to wear black. I think government is best when it stays out of people's lives and business as much as possible. I love punk rock. I believe in a strong national defense. I have a tattoo. I believe government should always be efficient and accountable. I have lots of gay friends. And yes, I am a Republican," she said to wild applause.

Gingrich raps Obama on Chavez summit greeting

Gingrich raps Obama on Chavez summit greeting
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich charged Monday that President Barack Obama's cordial greeting with Venezuela's Hugo Chavez sends a poor message to enemies of America.

In a nationally broadcast interview on NBC's "Today" show Monday, the Georgia Republican also accused the administration of being too slow to react to North Korea's launching of a rocket test and said it has reached out too much to ease relations with Cuba.

Appearing on Fox News Channel's "Fox & Friends," Gingrich said: "This does look a lot like Jimmy Carter. Carter tried weakness and the world got tougher and tougher because the predators, the aggressors, the anti-Americans, the dictators, when they sense weakness, they all start pushing ahead."

Chavez has been one of the harshest critics of the United States in that part of the world. Obama said at the conclusion of the Latin summit Sunday that he didn't think greeting Chavez would be "endangering the strategic interests of the United States."

Gingrich complained that the simple act of a smiling Obama shaking Chavez's hand caused a book Chavez has written to skyrocket on the best-seller lists in the United States.

"What I find distressing," he said, "is that the administration opposes opening up oil exploration," but yet Obama has "bowed to the king of Saudi Arabia" and now reached out to Chavez, whom Gingrich said has been conducting "a vicious anti-American campaign."

Gingrich, whose name has been mentioned in 2012 presidential speculation, said, "How do you mend relationships with someone who actively hates your country. ... "

"Cuba releases zero prisoners," he said, "yet we make nice with Cuba. I'm for doing things methodically and calmly ... things that will work, but I'm not for deluding myself about smiles and words."


This is another example of child like behavior and old style politics which have no connection with people’s reality!

Gingrich is fooling himself that he is a future President!

He’s too old, voice to irritating and no originally of thought.

He has lived off the public for year’s and I just can’t forget his compassionate heart telling his first wife he was divorcing her on her cancer bed!

Don’t the Republicans have anybody but Grumpy Old People as leaders?