Sunday, April 27, 2008

Bush Letter to Congress: I Can Torture If I Want to

Spoken like a true Fascist:

CIA interrogation techniques otherwise prohibited by international law might be legal in the face of an impending terrorist attack, the Justice Department says in newly disclosed letters to Capitol Hill.

The letters show that the Bush administration is taking the position that it has latitude in dealing with restrictions from the Supreme Court and Congress designed to limit how far interrogators in the U.S. intelligence community can go.

Among the issues is a Geneva Conventions ban on outrages upon personal dignity, a provision the Supreme Court ruled in 2006 applies to prisoners in American captivity.

"The fact that an act is undertaken to prevent a threatened terrorist attack, rather than for the purpose of humiliation and abuse, would be relevant to a reasonable observer in measuring the outrageousness of the act," said a Justice Department letter dated March 6.

The Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 prohibits cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.

The detainee act requires an exact analysis of the circumstances in determining whether it has been violated, the department said in a separate letter.

Actions which may in one setting constitute a denial of fundamental fairness may in other circumstances fall short of a denial, said one of the Justice Department letters that relied on a decade-old Supreme Court decision.

Did I mention Bush is a lousy commander-in-chief:
Millions of dollars of lucrative Iraq reconstruction contracts were never finished because of excessive delays, poor performance or other factors, including failed projects that are being falsely described by the U.S. government as complete, federal investigators say.

The audit released Sunday by Stuart Bowen Jr., the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, provides the latest snapshot of an uneven reconstruction effort that has cost U.S. taxpayers more than $100 billion. It also comes as several lawmakers have said they want the Iraqis to pick up more of the cost of reconstruction.

The special IG's review of 47,321 reconstruction projects worth billions of dollars found that at least 855 contracts were terminated by U.S. officials before their completion, primarily because of unforeseen factors such as violence and excessive costs. About 112 of those agreements were ended specifically because of the contractors' actual or anticipated poor performance.

In addition, the audit said many reconstruction projects were being described as complete or otherwise successful when they were not. In one case, the U.S. Agency for International Development contracted with Bechtel Corp. in 2004 to construct a $50 million children's hospital in Basra, only to "essentially terminate" the project in 2006 because of monthslong delays.

Transcript: DNC Chairman Dean on Meet The Press 4-27-08

Here are some excerpts or read the complete transcript:

MR. RUSSERT: Let's look at the latest number. These are elected delegates. Barack Obama has 1491, Hillary Clinton has 1334. You need 2,025. Upcoming Democratic contests: Guam, Indiana, North Carolina, West Virginia, Kentucky, Oregon, Puerto Rico; ending on June 3rd, Montana and South Dakota. Four hundred eight delegates available with all those contests. Lastly, the so-called superdelegates, Clinton has 263, Obama has 240, and 292 remain uncommitted.

When you look at all that, how and when is this nomination fight going to end?

DR. DEAN: Well, I'm hoping it'll be over by the end of the month of June. We've made great progress in the last few weeks that I think about 50 or 60 unpledged delegates have said who they're going to be for. And, you know, it'd be a lot of fun for you if we had a divided convention with 104 ballots; it'd break the record. But the truth is we need to figure this out before the convention. We need time to heal. And actually, I'm not the most important person in terms of bringing the party together. The most important person is the, is the person who doesn't win the nomination. Because I can remember when, I can remember when I lost to John Kerry, I had to go out and convince my supporters--it took me about three months--that they needed to support Senator Kerry. I endorsed him, I campaigned for him, I went all--to all the college campuses. And that's what the person who doesn't win this, with 49 percent of the delegates, is going to have to do in order to keep the party together.

Dean puts cold water on the Clinton argument:
GOV. ED RENDELL (D-PA): The popular vote is, to me, a much fairer indicia than the pledged delegates because the pledged delegates are elected in a very undemocratic way.

(End audiotape)

MR. RUSSERT: Do you agree with that?

DR. DEAN: Well, no, I don't. First of all, I don't agree with it. And secondly, look, we have a set of rules. My job here is not to side with one candidate or the other and talk about pledged delegates or superdelegates or any of that stuff. My job is to take the rules that everybody started with and enforce the rules without fear or favor of any candidate. The--somebody's going to lose this with 49 percent of the delegates in Denver, and that person has to believe that they were treated fairly if--otherwise, we can't win. Look, John McCain is a weak candidate. He's wrong on Iraq, as far as the American people are concerned. We don't want to stay there for a hundred years. He's wrong on the economy; it wasn't the mortgage holders that, that, whose fault this was. He's wrong on healthcare. We should have health insurance for all our kids. He is not a strong candidate.

The only thing that's going to beat us is if we're not unified. And my, in order to be unified, both the losing candidate and the winning candidate have to feel like the system was fair. So Senator Rendell may say--I mean, Governor Rendell may not like the rules, but the rules are what we started with. Most of them have been in place for the last 25 years. That's what we've got to go by, whether you like the rules or you don't like the rules.

Transcript: Obama on FOXNews 4-27-08

Obama refused to appear on FOX until today. Here are excerpts or Read the entire transcript:

WALLACE: We checked - anyway. Your defeat in Pennsylvania raises new questions about your candidacy and especially about some of the pillars of the Democratic base. Let’s take a look at the numbers. Among white union households, Clinton beats you 72 percent to 28 percent. Among white Catholics, again, same margin, 72 percent to 28 percent.

Senator, why are you having such trouble convincing white, working class voters that you’re their guy?

OBAMA: Keep in mind that Senator Clinton was well-regarded in the state of Pennsylvania. Just as she was well-regarded in the state of Ohio. The fact that they voted for her shouldn’t come as a huge surprise. We started off 20 points down in that race. Just like we started 20 points down in Ohio. And we actually made significant progress there.

And when you look at the polling that’s now being done, post Pennsylvania, about how we match up in a general election, I think Senator Clinton does a couple points better than I do. But it’s not substantial. Most of those voters will vote for me.

But they are more familiar with her. They shared a - she is from a bordering state. On the other hand, in Wisconsin I won those same voters over Senator Clinton. In Virginia I won those voters over Senator Clinton. In Iowa I won those voters over Senator Clinton.

So I think - I am confident that when you come to a general election and we are having a debate about the future of this country, how are we going to lower gas prices? How are we going to deal with job losses? How are we going to focus on energy independence? Those are voters that I will be able to appeal to.

The name "Wright" appears 5 times in the interview, "Iraq" only 7 times. "housing" and "mortage" were not mentioned once:
WALLACE: Senator, you say a lot of good stuff. Reverend Wright (INAUDIBLE) are distractions from the real issues. But especially for someone like you, who’s a newcomer to the national scene, people don’t know a lot about, don’t voters have a legitimate interest in who you are and what your values are?

OBAMA: Absolutely and so the question becomes, how do voters draw conclusions about my values? Do they talk about, do they look at the 20 years in which I’ve devoted my life to community service? Do they about the work I did as a community organizer working with Catholic parishes and churches to bring people together to set up job training programs for the unemployed and the poor. That’s a reflection of my values.

Do they look at how I’ve raised my children and how I speak about my family? That’s a reflection of my values. I don’t think that the issue of Reverend Wright is illegitimate. I just think that the way it was reported was not I think a reflection of both that church that I attend and who I am.

I don’t think - let me just use another example. On flag pins, I have worn flag pins in the past. I will wear flag pins in the future. The fact that I said that some politicians use the flag pin and then aren’t acting in a particularly patriotic way, for that to someone be translated into me being anti-patriotic or anti-flag, I think that is a distraction.

I think that that is not reflective of me or the love that I have for this country. Keep in mind, I think (INAUDIBLE) the scene nationally at the Democratic convention, giving what I would say was about as patriotic a speech about what America means to me and what this country’s about as any speech that we’ve heard in a long time.

We are in a Unprecedented Worldwide Food Crisis

This from the Washington Post:

The globe's worst food crisis in a generation emerged as a blip on the big boards and computer screens of America's great grain exchanges. At first, it seemed like little more than a bout of bad weather.

In Chicago, Minneapolis and Kansas City, traders watched from the pits early last summer as wheat prices spiked amid mediocre harvests in the United States and Europe and signs of prolonged drought in Australia. But within a few weeks, the traders discerned an ominous snowball effect -- one that would eventually bring down a prime minister in Haiti, make more children in Mauritania go to bed hungry, even cause American executives at Sam's Club to restrict sales of large bags of rice.

As prices rose, major grain producers including Argentina and Ukraine, battling inflation caused in part by soaring oil bills, were moving to bar exports on a range of crops to control costs at home. It meant less supply on world markets even as global demand entered a fundamentally new phase. Already, corn prices had been climbing for months on the back of booming government-subsidized ethanol programs. Soybeans were facing pressure from surging demand in China. But as supplies in the pipelines of global trade shrank, prices for corn, soybeans, wheat, oats, rice and other grains began shooting through the roof.

At the same time, food was becoming the new gold. Investors fleeing Wall Street's mortgage-related strife plowed hundreds of millions of dollars into grain futures, driving prices up even more. By Christmas, a global panic was building. With fewer places to turn, and tempted by the weaker dollar, nations staged a run on the American wheat harvest.

Foreign buyers, who typically seek to purchase one or two months' supply of wheat at a time, suddenly began to stockpile. They put in orders on U.S. grain exchanges two to three times larger than normal as food riots began to erupt worldwide. This led major domestic U.S. mills to jump into the fray with their own massive orders, fearing that there would soon be no wheat left at any price.

"Japan, the Philippines, [South] Korea, Taiwan -- they all came in with huge orders, and no matter how high prices go, they keep on buying," said Jeff Voge, chairman of the Kansas City Board of Trade and also an independent trader. Grains have surged so high, he said, that some traders are walking off the floor for weeks at a time, unable to handle the stress.

"We have never seen anything like this before," Voge said. "Prices are going up more in one day than they have during entire years in the past. But no matter the price, there always seems to be a buyer. . . . This isn't just any commodity. It is food, and people need to eat."

Obama has Electoral Vote Advantage Come November

I plotted the general election electoral for November at the Washington Post website (you can do your own). My estimate shows Obama barely winning; but winning. The issue being Barack has to win either Ohio or Pennsylvania.

<p><strong>><a href=''>Electoral College Prediction Map</a></strong> - Predict the winner of the general election. Use the map to experiment with winning combinations of states. Save your prediction and send it to friends.</p>

Our Troops Endangered by Faulty Rifles?

If it weren't bad enough that our troops in Iraq are dying at the hands of insurgents. Now they face having to fight with guns that don't shoot:

No weapon is more important to tens of thousands of U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan than the carbine rifle. And for well over a decade, the military has relied on one company, Colt Defense of Hartford, to make the M4s they trust with their lives.

Now, as Congress considers spending millions more on the guns, this exclusive arrangement is being criticized as a bad deal for American forces as well as taxpayers, according to interviews and research conducted by the Associated Press.

"What we have is a fat contractor in Colt who's gotten very rich off our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan," said Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.).

The M4, which can shoot hundreds of bullets a minute, is a shorter and lighter version of the company's M16 rifle, first used 40 years ago during the Vietnam War. At about $1,500 apiece, the M4 is overpriced, according to Coburn. It jams too often in sandy environments such as Iraq, he adds, and requires far more maintenance than more durable carbines.

"And if you tend to have the problem at the wrong time, you're putting your life on the line," said Coburn, who began examining the M4's performance last year after receiving complaints from soldiers. "The fact is, the American GI today doesn't have the best weapon. And they ought to."

[...]In 2006, a nonprofit research group surveyed 2,600 soldiers who had served in Iraq and Afghanistan and found 89 percent were satisfied with the M4. Colt and the Army have trumpeted that finding, but detractors point out that the survey also revealed that 19 percent of these soldiers had their weapon jam during a firefight.

Chicago Killings Raise Parents' Fears

What the hell is going on here? Are we seeing the disintegration our society? Then you have a worthless dynasty politician blaming the victims--the mothers:

All day, Chicago was a city on edge, with police gearing up to combat the waves of violence that have hit the city hard over the past few weeks.

Police SWAT teams are saturating the city's South Side, the area where most of the 331 shootings in the city this year have occurred. The teams are out in street patrols, backed up by helicopter surveillance.

It's their response to last weekend's shooting spree, which alone counted for an estimated 36 of those shootings, seven of them deadly.

Jitters Weatherspoon, a South Side native, said the violence in his neighborhood is forcing him and other parents to hold their children hostage in their own homes, for fear of seeing them get shot.

"That's a parent's worst dream is to have to bury their own kid and yes, it's happening. People are burying their kids," he said.

[...]A fired up Mayor Richard Daley held an emergency community meeting on Friday in which he blamed parents for letting the problem spiral out of control.