Saturday, November 17, 2007

Today's Edition Of Rudy For Dummies


With this 9/11 thing continuing to work for former mayor Rudy Giuliani, we can't help wondering how President Giuliani might handle a crisis before the arrayed minions of the White House press corps. Of course, the answer is simple: You only have to go back and look at his record as mayor.

Let's face it: If the subject was controversial, Rudy was testy, whether he was talking to reporters in the blue room at City Hall or to ordinary New Yorkers on his radio show. The question is: Do we really want a president like that?

Who could forget his response after police officers shot and killed the mentally unbalanced, hammer-wielding Gideon Busch in 1999?

A reporter inquired whether the mayor was concerned about the shooting because Busch had been armed with only a hand tool.

"Ha—you gotta be unreal," the mayor replied, according to The New York Observer. "Really just a hammer? A hammer is a deadly weapon. Would you like to have a hammer inserted in your brain?"

Later, of course, it emerged that the hammer was small, and that the officers were a good distance away from Busch when they opened fire. Moreover, Busch never actually struck anyone with the hammer, and it's doubtful that the officers were ever in imminent danger.

When reporters raised questions about the NYPD's account of the Busch shooting, Rudy said it was "about the cheapest shot you guys have taken at the Police Department."

Or what about the time he used a press conference to release the sealed juvenile record of Patrick Dorismond, an unarmed man shot by police officers?

Rudy described Dorismond as "no altar boy." In fact, earlier in his life, Dorismond was an altar boy—and he'd attended the same Catholic school that Rudy had. The city settled that case for $2.25 million.

After cops shot and wounded 16-year-old Michael Jones, who was riding his bicycle with a toy gun in hand, Rudy blamed the teen's parents, as this newspaper's Wayne Barrett reported in 1999. "Adult supervision would have prevented the gun," he said. "It would also have prevented being out at 2:30 in the morning for whatever purpose, and I don't think the purpose for which he was out was a salutary one."

Giuliani, ABC News reported, once told the mother of a robbery suspect killed by police: "Maybe you should ask yourself some questions about the way he was brought up and the things that happened to him. Trying to displace the responsibility for the criminal acts of your son onto these police officers is really unfair."

How would a President Giuliani handle a visit to the U.S. by a controversial international figure? Well, as mayor, Giuliani once had the late Yasir Arafat ejected from a concert at Lincoln Center. The White House and the United Nations condemned him, but Rudy wouldn't apologize. "I would not invite Yasir Arafat to anything, anywhere, anytime, anyplace," he told reporters. "I don't forget."

Sometimes Rudy used anger to avoid tough questions, as in his response to Newsday 's then City Hall bureau chief, Paul Moses, in 1996. When Moses asked a pertinent question about the declining number of police officers assigned to city neighborhoods, Rudy quickly detonated.

"The level, sometimes, of questions is at the point of idiocy," he blustered. "Patrol strength is not as important by any means as the amount of crime that goes on in a city.''

Moses, now a journalism professor at Brooklyn College, says he remembers the exchange quite well. "It was a very polite question, and he blew up," he says. "About 300 of his top people were in the room. The people who worked for him were mortified. One aide said to me, 'I don't know where that came from.' "

Then there was the time in June 2001 that Rudy lambasted union boss Larry Hanley during a town-hall meeting in Staten Island. Hanley had had the gall to ask Giuliani why his picture was plastered all over buses owned by a company that did business with the city.

"That is total, ridiculous nonsense," Rudy stormed, even as his words were being captured on tape. "My picture is on thousands of buses, and I find people who make false and irresponsible charges of corruption to be reprehensible. That's it. Take the microphone away. End of the conversation. Sorry, Mr. Hanley, that's the end of the conversation. That's the end of the conversation. . . "

When Hanley and some of his members began booing the mayor, Rudy responded: "Oh, you came here to cause trouble, and you're a bunch of idiots."

When mere citizens pissed him off, Rudy often called them crazy. Like the time he told a man suffering from Parkinson's disease: "There's something really wrong with you, John—I mean, there really is. I can hear it in your voice. Why don't you stay on the line, we'll take your name and your number, and we'll send you psychiatric help, 'cause you seriously need it."

And who can forget the immortal "ferret call," when Rudy told an advocate for the furry rodents: "There is something really, really very sad about you. You need help. You need somebody to help you. This excessive concern with little weasels is a sickness."

He also invoked mental illness in this broadside against the Brooklyn Museum's "Sensation!" show: "Public funds should not be used to support sick demonstrations by people, even if they call themselves artists."

But what about Rudy's maxims? After all, a president has to have some moral touchstones for political action. Here's one of Rudy's: "Freedom is about authority. Freedom is about the willingness of every single human being to cede to lawful authority a great deal of discretion about what you do and how you do it."

George W. Bush has shrewdly given fewer press conferences than any other modern president—after all, why ask for trouble? But given Rudy's mayoral record of explosions, if he becomes president, it might be a good idea for his aides to eliminate them entirely.
Link.

Not A Parody: Words Put Into Beloved Leader's Mouth

And that last anecdote is breathtakingly full of shit.... (Which is most understandable as it comes from Clarence Thomas.)

But first, I'm reminded of a joke I first heard in referncing the first president Bush:

How do you know the president is lying?

His mouth is open.

Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States:
In just a quarter century, the Federalist Society has transformed itself from a student organization into a vital national institution. You've earned a reputation across the ideological spectrum for open debate and intellectual rigor. Members of the Federalist Society believe in a simple proposition: Our written Constitution means what it says. (Applause.) One would not call that a radical statement -- I certainly don't see how holding such a common-sense view can be considered controversial. I share your devotion to the Constitution -- and I'm proud to be standing with you tonight. (Applause.)

I was also proud to stand yesterday at the Department of Justice with America's new Attorney General -- Michael Mukasey. (Applause.) Attorney General Mukasey is a decent man, an outstanding lawyer, and a strong leader -- and he needs a strong team to support him at the Department of Justice. So in consultation with the Attorney General, earlier today I announced the individuals I will nominate to serve in five senior posts. And I look forward to working with the United States Senate to fill these positions as quickly as possible. (Applause.)

I'm proud to be in such distinguished company as Justice Antonin Scalia. (Applause.) And of course, Maureen. (Applause.) I'm proud to be here with Justice Clarence Thomas, and his wife Ginni. (Applause.) Justice Sam Alito, and Martha. (Applause.) I'm fortunate to have been able to pick two members of the U.S. Supreme Court, and I'm very proud of the service rendered by Justice John Roberts and Justice Sam Alito. (Applause.)

I appreciate the Secretary of Labor, Elaine Chao, joining us. And she kindly brought her husband, Senator Mitch McConnell. (Applause.) From the great state of Alabama, Senator Jeff Sessions. (Applause.)

I appreciate the attendance of former Attorney General Ed Meese. (Applause.) Former Attorney General Bill Barr. (Applause.) How about your Master of Ceremonies, my good friend, Ted Olson. (Applause.) I thank Gene Meyer and Leonard Leo. (Applause.)

When the Founders drafted the Constitution, they had a clear understanding of tyranny. They also had a clear idea about how to prevent it from ever taking root in America. Their solution was to separate the government's powers into three co-equal branches: the executive, the legislature, and the judiciary. Each of these branches plays a vital role in our free society. Each serves as a check on the others. And to preserve our liberty, each must meet its responsibilities -- and resist the temptation to encroach on the powers the Constitution accords to others. (Applause.)

For the judiciary, resisting this temptation is particularly important, because it's the only branch that is unelected and whose officers serve for life. Unfortunately, some judges give in to temptation and make law instead of interpreting. Such judicial lawlessness is a threat to our democracy -- and it needs to stop. (Applause.)

Tonight I will discuss a judicial philosophy that is based on what our Founders intended. I'm going to talk about the importance of having good judges who adhere to this philosophy. And I will explain the need to reform a confirmation process that is making it more difficult to persuade decent and intelligence [sic] people to accept the call to public service.

The President's oath of office commits him to do his best to "preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States." I take these words seriously. I believe these words mean what they say. And I ask my nominees to the federal bench to take seriously their own oath to uphold the Constitution -- and that is because I strongly believe our freedom depends on the willingness of judges to be bound by the Constitution and the law. (Applause.)

Others take a different view. Advocates of a more active role for judges sometimes talk of a "living Constitution." In practice, a living Constitution means whatever these activists want it to mean. They forgot that our Constitution lives because we respect it enough to adhere to its words. (Applause.) Ours is the oldest written Constitution in the world. It is the foundation of America's experiment in self-government. And it will continue to live only so long as we continue to recognize its wisdom and division of authority.

In his confirmation hearings before the Senate, one judge I nominated to the bench used the analogy of a baseball umpire. He said, "Umpires don't make the rules, they apply them. The role of an umpire and a judge is critical. They make sure everybody plays by the rules." But when people see the umpire rooting for one team, public confidence in our courts is eroded, the sense of unfairness is heightened and our political debates are poisoned. So we will insist on legislatures that legislate, on courts that adjudicate, and on judges who call the game fairly. (Applause.)

To be a good judge takes a special kind of person. A judge needs to be someone who is learned, someone who has common sense, and someone who has a healthy respect for precedent and the law. In addition, a judge must be independent enough to resist the temptations of politics or favorable treatment in the media -- (applause) -- and a judge must be modest enough to appreciate the limited role he plays under the Constitution. This combination of learnedness and independence and modesty is not always easy to find -- especially here in Washington, D.C. (Laughter.) But it is absolutely essential for a judge.

These are the qualities you'll find in my nominees to our 13 federal appeals courts. These appellate courts play a vital role in our legal system. While the Supreme Court may decide fewer than a hundred cases in a year, the federal appellate courts decide more than 30,000. That means that for most criminal appeals, for most civil appeals, and on most constitutional issues, the decisions of the appellate courts will be the law of the land. As President, I've nominated many fine Americans to these courts. They understand that their role is to be the servant of the law, not its sovereign. I'm proud of the kind of men and women we now have sitting on these courts -- judges such as Priscilla Owens [sic], Janice Rogers Brown -- (applause) -- Bill Pryor -- judges like Brett Kavanaugh -- (applause) -- and Leslie Southwick. (Applause.)

Today I announced seven more outstanding judicial nominees for the district and circuit courts. And I look forward to working with the United States Senate to confirm these good men and women as soon as possible. (Applause.)

Unfortunately, the Senate has failed to act on many of my other nominees. At times it has imposed a new and extra-constitutional standard, where nominees who have the support of the majority of the Senate can be blocked by a minority of obstructionists. As a result, some judgeships go unfulfilled for years. This leads to what are called "judicial emergencies" -- vacancies that cause justice to be degraded or delayed. When Americans goes to court, they deserve swift and fair answers -- and the United States Senate should not stand in their way. (Applause.)

Three of my nominees to the Courts of Appeals have been waiting for a vote for more than a year. They include one of this organization's founders -- one of this organization's founders, a man who served our nation nobly as the Acting Attorney General, Peter Keisler. (Applause.) These delays are wrong. It is an abdication of the Senate's responsibilities under our Constitution. And I call on Senate leaders to give these nominees, and all my nominees, the up and down vote they deserve on the floor of the United States Senate. (Applause.)

Senate confirmation is a part of the Constitution's systems of checks and balances. But it was never intended to be a license to ruin the good name that a nominee has worked a lifetime to build. Today, good men and women nominated to the federal bench are finding that inside the Beltway, too many interpret "advise and consent" to mean "search and destroy." (Applause.)

As a result, the Senate is no longer asking the right question -- whether a nominee is someone who will uphold our Constitution and laws. Instead, nominees are asked to guarantee specific outcomes of cases that might come before the court. If they refuse -- as they should -- they often find their nomination ends up in limbo instead of on the Senate floor. This is a terrible way to treat people who have agreed to serve their nation. It's a sad commentary on the United States Senate. And every time it happens, we lose something as a constitutional democracy. (Applause.)

Our Constitution prohibits a religious test for any federal office, yet when people imply that a nominee is unfit for the bench because of the church where he worships, we lose something. (Applause.)

When a bar association issues what it claims are objective ratings about a nominee's professional qualifications, yet suddenly and without explanation, lowers the rating of a nominee on the eve of his confirmation hearing, we lose something. (Applause.)

When government officials do their jobs and make difficult legal decisions, only to find their decisions later become the source of outrageous partisan allegations, we lose something. (Applause.)

And when the wife of a distinguished jurist proudly attends his hearing and is brought to tears by ugly and unfounded insinuations that her husband is secretly a bigot, we lose something. (Applause.)

Everyone in this room has watched a good person who has had his or her name unfairly tarnished by the confirmation process. What you do not see are the good men and women who never make it to the confirmation process. Lawyers approached about being nominated will politely decline because of the ugliness, uncertainty, and delay that now characterizes the confirmation process. Some cannot risk putting their law practices -- their livelihoods -- on hold for long months or years while the Senate delays action on their nominations. Some worry about the impact a nomination might have on their children, who would hear dad or mom's name unfairly dragged through the mud. So they decide to remove themselves from consideration. When people like this decline to be nominated, they miss out on a great calling. But America is deprived of something far more important: the service of fair and impartial judges. (Applause.)

This is bad news. There's also good news -- and it's here in this room. Thanks in part to your efforts, a new generation of lawyers is rising. A new culture is taking root in our legal community. And principled men and women who understand the Constitution and are able to defend it are finding their way to our nation's law schools and law faculties and law firms -- and even to the corridors of power here in Washington, DC.

One of these good men is someone you know well. He was nominated by my father, and his confirmation process is a tale of all that is nasty and unkind in Washington. It is also a tale of perseverance and triumph. On the day this good man was to be sworn in as a justice on our Supreme Court, he was driving to the White House with his wife. As they waited at an intersection to make a turn, an 18-wheeler came barreling up beside their car and came to an abrupt stop. After a few seconds of trepidation, husband and wife watched as the truck driver rolled down his window, broke into a smile -- and gave them a big thumbs up. In the fine memoir he recently published, Justice Clarence Thomas describes the moment this way: "Virginia and I looked at each other in astonishment, and then thanked God for the good people of this country." (Applause.)
Link.

Reality check -- that, the facts -- is here.

Did Rudy Lie About His Successes Fighting Crime In NYC??

The odds are he did. He is truthful approximately never.

And I lived and/or worked in NYC during the Rudy years.

As for crime, it was already decreasing because of what you could call macro-factures that had nothing to do with anything Rudy (or his people) did: The end of the crack epidemic; a growing economy (less poverty=less crime); and the influx of wealth into the city.

But that's just my opinion; let's see what a pro has to say....
Did crime decrease rapidly during the years after Giuliani entered City Hall on Jan. 1, 1993? As is well known, the number of homicides and other serious crimes fell throughout the decade, and continued to decline after he left office in 2002. Less well known is the indisputable fact that New York's crime rate started to fall almost three years before Giuliani took office.

Why crime suddenly dropped in New York as well as other cities across the country around 1991, and continued to fall, remains a hotly disputed question among police experts and academics. As economist and "Freakonomics" coauthor Steven Levitt pointed out in a lucid paper on urban crime rates, every large city in America enjoyed decreases in homicides and other major crimes almost simultaneously. While New York topped the list for some indicators, other cities like San Diego, Seattle and Austin, Texas, ranked close behind, and by some measures surpassed New York. (For an exhaustive assessment of Giuliani's claims read Wayne Barrett's 2000 forensic tour de force "Rudy! An Investigative Biography.")

Many believe that one of the most important factors in New York's crime drop was the addition of thousands of new officers to the NYPD -- a policy decision costing a billion dollars that was made by David Dinkins, the predecessor whose mayoral record Giuliani often derides. While Giuliani kept hiring more cops, nearly half of those added to the force during his first term were financed by a tax surcharge that Dinkins demanded and won. But the city's first African-American mayor is usually blamed for a crime wave that rose well before he took office and rarely wins any plaudits for his role in stemming the criminal tide.

If Giuliani doesn't deserve sole credit for hiring more police officers, doesn't he at least win points for implementing the brilliant policing strategies he mentions so often? These days, he often talks about "Compstat," the computerized statistical tracking system that his administration used to force improvements in police performance at the borough, division and precinct levels. The claimed achievements of that strategy and others, such as community policing and suppressing minor crimes like fare beating, remain controversial. Levitt is not the only economist who has examined the statistics and come away unconvinced.

Yet the improvements in police management that undoubtedly occurred on Giuliani's watch had little to do with him. Those innovations were created by the late Jack Maple, a former transit cop, and implemented by William Bratton, who now serves as the police commissioner of Los Angeles. Unfortunately Bratton barely had time to establish Compstat or any other reforms because Giuliani drove him out of office within three years after appointing him. "I observed the slow strangulation of my ability to run the organization," the commissioner explained after he left. The mayor, he said, "created a situation in which I had no choice but to resign."

Bratton's strange departure was extraordinary for a public official who had become a subject of veneration not only in New York newspapers and magazines but in the national media, too. He signed a lucrative book contract and in January 1996 appeared in a trench coat on the cover of Time magazine. The notoriety surrounding his police commissioner infuriated Giuliani, especially because polls showed that an overwhelming majority of New Yorkers regarded the police commissioner, not the mayor, as responsible for making the city safer.

So Bratton had to go. There simply wasn't room for more than one hero in Rudy's city. The next police commissioner was a longtime Giuliani pal named Howard Safir, who was eventually succeeded by that ultimate loyalist, Bernard Kerik.

Seeking to excuse his choice of Kerik, freshly indicted for a variety of alleged offenses, Giuliani now falsely attributes the enormous drop in crime during his mayoralty to the disgraced former commissioner. The true history of crime and policing in Giuliani's New York -- from the exile of Bratton to the elevation of Kerik -- reveals much about the judgment of the former mayor and would-be president.

It just isn't as flattering a story as Rudy would like us to believe.
Link.

Our Forces Show Their Appreciation For Our Leaders' Strong Support


Soldiers strained by six years at war are deserting their posts at the highest rate since 1980, with the number of Army deserters this year showing an 80 percent increase since the United States invaded Iraq in 2003.
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Friday, November 16, 2007

A Reminder Of Our Leaders' "Successes"

Link.

Our Fighting Forces' Tragic Return

Again ('cause I love this snarky little meme): The right lied about liberals mistreating G.I.s returning from Vietnam.

Now, with the wingnuts in control, this is the respect they've wrought. (Again: Nam: wingnut lies; Iraq: fact.)
THE US military is experiencing a "suicide epidemic" with veterans killing themselves at the rate of 120 a week, according to an investigation by US television network CBS.

At least 6256 US veterans committed suicide in 2005 - an average of 17 a day - the network reported, with veterans overall more than twice as likely to take their own lives as the rest of the general population.

***

That figure rose to 22.9 to 31.9 suicides per 100,000 among veterans aged 20 to 24 - almost four times the non-veteran average for the age group.
Link.
A soldier who served two combat tours in Iraq was arrested Wednesday for leaving the Army without permission more than a year ago to seek treatment for post traumatic stress disorder.

At a news conference hours before his arrest, Sgt. Brad Gaskins said he left the base in August 2006 because the Army wasn't providing effective treatment after he was diagnosed with PTSD and severe depression.

"They just don't have the resources to handle it, but that's not my fault," Gaskins said.

Tod Ensign, an attorney with Citizen Soldier, a GI rights group that is representing Gaskins, said the case is part of a "coming tsunami" of mental health problems involving Iraq and Afghanistan vets.

Last month, the Veterans Administration said more than 100,000 soldiers were being treated for mental health problems, and half of those specifically for PTSD.
Link.

Capitalist Fascism In Action

Plaintiffs in litigation over the painkiller Vioxx are supposed to be able to decide whether to enroll in the ├╝bersettlement announced last week or take their cases to court. But due in part to what lawyers say is an unusual provision in the settlement agreement, many plaintiffs in effect may have little choice but to accept the deal.
The provision, agreed to by Merck & Co. and the lead lawyers in the case, requires that if one client of an attorney enrolls in the settlement, then the attorney must recommend the deal to all other clients. If a client decides not to take part in the settlement, then the lawyer, according to the deal, must take "all necessary steps" to withdraw from representing that client. It is relatively rare for a settlement to require lawyers to cut ties with clients, but it appears to be happening more often, lawyers say.

Some find the development problematic. The provision improperly "stacks the choice for the client," says Deborah Rhode, an ethics professor at Stanford Law School. "If the price of exercising what should be their right to reject the settlement means they have to forfeit their representation from the lawyer actually familiar with the case, it's not exactly an uncoerced choice."
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The World's Greatest Healthcare system!

Fox Bidness Journal:
Barbara Calder lives in nearly constant pain. Her limbs dislocate at the slightest movement, even when she turns over in bed at night. She wears her hair short because brushing it hurts too much.

Mrs. Calder suffers from Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder in which the connective tissue that binds the body together gradually falls apart. But, although she began suspecting she had the disease 16 months ago and had health insurance, she spent a year battling numerous roadblocks just to see a specialist who could diagnose her condition. Now Mrs. Calder says she is left wondering whether she's going to die suddenly because she can't get the test that would tell her whether she has the fatal form of the disease.

Mrs. Calder's difficulties mirror those of millions of insured Americans who get lost in the U.S. health-care system's giant maze. For many, the journey is frustrated by coverage limits, denied claims and impersonal service.

Polls show that health care has become Americans' No. 1 domestic concern, thrusting it to the center of the presidential campaign. Every major candidate has introduced a health-care reform plan. But for the most part, these plans focus on providing coverage to the 45 million uninsured or reining in medical costs. They do little to address the myriad hurdles insured patients often encounter when they seek care.

Trying to navigate these obstacles can be especially maddening for patients like Mrs. Calder who have little-known genetic diseases. Matthew Taylor, the geneticist at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center who diagnosed Mrs. Calder, says few physicians know about such diseases, and health insurers' computer programs tend not to recognize them. Insurers, for their part, argue that they are merely fulfilling employers' demand to control medical costs.

Mrs. Calder, a petite 52-year-old with striking blue eyes, is a trained chef. For as long as she can remember, her body has been unusually flexible. She remembers taping her toes as a child to keep them from dislocating all the time.

One morning three years ago, Mrs. Calder woke up and couldn't lift her left arm. Despite undergoing surgery twice on her left shoulder and months of physical therapy, she couldn't regain full use of that arm and had to quit her job as a chef for the University of Colorado.

Barbara Calder suffers Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a genetic disease that causes her joints to dislocate. She also struggles to get diagnosed and treated. WSJ's John Carreyrou reports.

Unaware of the true cause of her symptoms, she applied for Social Security disability benefits in February 2006. Her application was rejected because her disability was deemed not severe enough. Mrs. Calder hired a lawyer to appeal the decision.

In July 2006, her 19-year-old daughter, Ines, collapsed while at work at a Denver salad bar when joints in her hips dislocated. An orthopedic surgeon examined her and told her she very likely had Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. The disease is hereditary, he informed her, so she must have inherited it from one of her parents.

EDS is named after two doctors, Edward Ehlers of Denmark and Henri-Alexandre Danlos of France, who identified it at the turn of the 20th century. Patients with EDS have faulty collagen, a protein that gives strength and elasticity to the tissue that connects muscles, joints and ligaments. There are six types of EDS. The most serious, known as the vascular type, often results in sudden death from the rupture of an organ or vessel. About one in 5,000 people are estimated to have a form of the disease.

Mrs. Calder looked up EDS on the Internet and recognized all her symptoms. Though she had stopped working, she had health insurance through her husband, Bruce, who is also a chef. Mr. Calder was working at Cheyenne Mountain Resort, a luxury hotel run by hotel-management company Benchmark Hospitality International. Benchmark funds its own health plan but uses an employee-benefit manager to administer it.

Mrs. Calder called the plan administrator, Health Administrative Services, about seeing a geneticist to determine whether she indeed had EDS. HAS, which has since renamed itself TriSurant, told her she would first need a referral from a rheumatologist. In August 2006, Mrs. Calder saw a Colorado Springs rheumatologist who referred her to Dr. Taylor, one of the few geneticists in Colorado to focus on adults.

Dr. Taylor was listed on the Benchmark health plan's physician network, but a consultation with him is about $650. Mrs. Calder called HAS again to check whether her plan would cover his services.

The HAS representative had misunderstood Mrs. Calder's request. The term "genetic counseling" often refers to reproductive advice dispensed by counselors who have a master's degree in genetics but not a medical degree. Ernest Mendez, vice president of operations at HAS, says it "wasn't immediately clear" that Mrs. Calder was seeking a consultation with a medically trained geneticist. Her plan covered the latter but not the former, he says.

Frustrated, Mrs. Calder says she showed up unannounced at the office of Donna Frost, Cheyenne Mountain Resort's human-resources director, to plead her case. In a heated conversation, Ms. Frost also told her that seeing a geneticist was a lifestyle choice, Mrs. Calder says. Ms. Frost says she doesn't remember the meeting, but says she wouldn't have been in a position to help because HAS, not Benchmark, had the power to approve or deny employees' medical claims.

Mrs. Calder and her husband had several more phone conversations with HAS representatives and Ali Hardigree, a Benchmark executive in Houston. They told the Calders that Mrs. Calder needed a letter of medical necessity from Dr. Taylor.

On Oct. 12, 2006, Dr. Taylor faxed Ms. Hardigree a letter explaining that Mrs. Calder's symptoms were "highly suggestive" of EDS and seeking to dispel any misunderstanding about the disease. Mrs. Calder "stated that HAS deemed that her problems are related to lifestyle choices. If Mrs. Calder has Ehlers-Danlos syndrome or another connective tissue disorder, this is something she was born with due to a genetic change that she has no control over," he wrote, enclosing a paper from a medical journal about EDS.

Four days later, on Oct. 16, Benchmark laid off Mr. Calder. The Calders wondered whether the dismissal had anything to do with Mrs. Calder's medical issue, recalling that Benchmark had had trouble funding its health plan in the past.

Benchmark says the termination of Mr. Calder, part of a layoff of a dozen employees, had nothing to do with his wife's health issues and was instead part of an effort to cut back on management-level employees. Dennis Blyshak, Benchmark's chief financial officer, says the company's health plan did run out of money in late 2004 and early 2005, but the problem had long been resolved by the fall of 2006.

HAS says one of its nurses authorized Mrs. Calder's consultation on Oct. 17, the day after Mr. Calder was let go. But the waiting period for appointments with Dr. Taylor is about eight weeks, and the Calders' insurance was expiring at the end of the month.

Under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, the federal law known as Cobra, the Calders could have prolonged their Benchmark coverage for up to 18 months. But with both husband and wife unemployed, the couple says they couldn't afford the $1,267 a month in premiums.

By December, Mr. Calder had found another cooking job at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center. It came with health insurance from Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, a unit of WellPoint Inc. Anthem told Mrs. Calder it would cover a consultation with Dr. Taylor, but her coverage wouldn't start until April 1 because of a three-month waiting period for new hires.

That coverage gap became problematic as Mrs. Calder prepared for a Social Security appeal hearing scheduled for March. Without an official diagnosis of her condition, she worried that her appeal for disability benefits was unlikely to succeed.

Now uninsured, Mrs. Calder tried to get examined at Peak Vista, a Colorado Springs clinic that provides low-cost care to people without health insurance. No doctor there had heard of EDS. Peak Vista recommended she go to a state genetic clinic in Denver. That clinic told Mrs. Calder it focused only on obesity and diabetes.

Mr. and Mrs. Calder went to her Social Security appeal hearing still lacking an official diagnosis. During the hearing, Mrs. Calder says, a vocational expert for the Social Security Administration argued her joint problems shouldn't preclude her from working because cooking was a "sedentary" profession that didn't require much physical effort. Mr. Calder, who spends most of his working hours standing and lifting heavy pots and pans, says he nearly jumped out of his seat.

Mark Hinkle, a spokesman for the Social Security Administration, says vocational experts aren't Social Security employees but consultants, and this one may have been quoting from an outdated Labor Department manual.

The administrative judge overseeing the hearing sympathized with Mrs. Calder. In June, the Social Security Administration reversed its decision and granted Mrs. Calder $1,167 a month in disability benefits. That started the clock on a two-year waiting period after which Mrs. Calder will become eligible for Medicare.

In the meantime, the Anthem coverage kicked in and Mrs. Calder was finally able to schedule an appointment with Dr. Taylor. On July 16, a year after she began her efforts to get diagnosed, Dr. Taylor examined Mrs. Calder and confirmed she had EDS.

Dr. Taylor prescribed Celebrex, the only painkiller that had provided Mrs. Calder some relief in the past, and recommended she return for a test to determine whether she had the vascular type of EDS. Dr. Taylor was concerned because both Mrs. Calder's mother and maternal grandfather had died young from unclear causes.

Although EDS isn't curable, Dr. Taylor felt Mrs. Calder could prolong her life by wearing a medical bracelet and undergoing regular monitoring if it turned out she did have the vascular type of the disease. In a letter to her primary-care physician, he suggested a skin biopsy, a simple method of determining what form of EDS a sufferer has.


Mrs. Calder tried to get her Celebrex prescription filled at a local drugstore. Anthem refused to cover the drug, telling the pharmacist she needed to try over-the-counter painkillers first. When Mrs. Calder called the insurer to protest that she had tried other painkillers, an Anthem representative told her that only her doctor could get the drug approved by calling the insurer on her behalf.

An Anthem spokesman, James Kappel, says it considers Celebrex a "step-therapy" drug and doesn't cover it unless other, cheaper treatments have been tried first.

Mrs. Calder says she called Anthem back a week later to inquire whether her policy covered genetic tests. And once again she was stymied by a misunderstanding.

Mrs. Calder says a representative told her that Anthem doesn't usually cover tests for diseases that aren't treatable. Mr. Kappel says Anthem has no record of that call and that skin biopsies were in fact covered by Mrs. Calder's plan. "If we had received a call about a skin biopsy, we would have approved it," he says.

Mrs. Calder says she didn't know to use the term "skin biopsy" because Dr. Taylor had just described it as a test to her.

In August, Mrs. Calder's husband changed jobs to take a better-paying position making meals for students and faculty at Colorado College. The new job came with health insurance from Kaiser Permanente, but there is another three-month waiting period before that coverage starts.

The Calders again had the option of extending their existing coverage under Cobra. But they felt the high cost wasn't worth it, because Anthem refused to cover the one drug that gave Mrs. Calder pain relief, and they were under the mistaken impression the insurer wouldn't cover the test she needed.

Mrs. Calder is uninsured again until Dec. 1, when the Kaiser coverage begins. Her health is slowly deteriorating. She says her kidneys bleed, and her hips have trouble supporting her slight frame. Her arms dislocate whenever she carries anything heavier than five pounds. "I'm a pretzel person," she says.

She still doesn't know whether she has the vascular type of EDS. She worries that if she does, then her daughter and her eldest son, who is 21 and also has joint problems, probably have it, too, putting them at risk of dying young. Even though both have health insurance through their jobs as hotel employees, neither has sought a firm diagnosis from a geneticist. They fear that having a pre-existing condition on their medical record would make it hard to get individual insurance policies if they are laid off.

In recent weeks, Mrs. Calder has been lobbying Mr. Calder and her children to move to Belgium, where she once lived with her ex-husband, arguing that they could get good care there cheaply through the country's universal health-care system. One of the leading researchers of EDS is a Belgian geneticist who works at the University of Ghent.

Mr. Calder, whose father was a doctor and mother was a nurse, grew up believing the U.S. health-care system was the best in the world. But he says his wife's struggle has eroded that faith. "I've actually turned around to where I'm thinking, 'Yeah, Europe may not be a bad thing.' "

How Are Leaders Succeed At Making America Less Secure

Release of the GAO report follows a hearing Wednesday in which Hawley vehemently denied that screeners had been tipped off about covert security tests, even as lawmakers brandished an e-mail from TSA headquarters that not only warned employees of testing, but described the methods and appearance of those conducting the probes.

"There was no intent to tip off, there was no cheating," Hawley insisted. He said that the e-mail was sent not to tip off screeners, but because a TSA official thought the tests might really be an Al Qaeda operation.
Link and a lot more.

What The WGA Strike Is About, Why The Producers Are Full Of Smelly, Stinky, Brown Stuff



Link.

How India Enters The 21st Century And Embraces The West

A complete idiot I once worked with, a pathological chap, actually, once opined that India will overtake China.

On one hand, China has a significant lead in population and (of course at risk of over-generalization) are hardwired mercantilists. Just look at East Asia and see who the hustlers are.

Then there's India. Smaller population and a culture that embraces servility. (Okay, and Our Leaders are encouraging them to develope nuclear arms).

And this:



Link.



Link.

And if you're too lazy to watch videos, more stories than you'll want to read are here and here.

Faus News Porn!!

Not only do they try to pass partisan bullshit as news, but they use "news" as an excuse to show porn and smut.



Link.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Incest, GOP-Style

During today’s House Oversight Committee hearing on the performance of State Department Inspector General Howard Krongard, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) revealed that Krongard’s brother — former CIA Executive Director A.B. “Buzzy” Krongard — sits on Blackwater USA’s board. Krongard vehemently denied the allegation, calling it an “ugly rumor”:

KRONGARD: I can tell you very frankly, I am not aware of any financial interest or position he has with respect to Blackwater. It couldn’t possibly have affected anything I’ve done, because I don’t believe it. And when these ugly rumors started recently, I specifically asked him. I do not believe it is true that he is a member of the advisory board, as you stated, and that is something I think I need to say.

During a break in today’s hearing, Krongard called his brother and confirmed that the “ugly rumor” was in fact true, and promised to recuse himself from any Blackwater investigations:

KRONGARD: This is in response to something I think you found important. During the break I did contact my brother. I reached him at home — he is not at the hotel. But I learned that he had been at the advisory board meeting yesterday. I had not been aware of that, and I want to state on the record right now that I hereby recuse myself from any matters having to do with Blackwater.

WAXMAN: I see. You indicated you had called your brother to ask him earlier whether he was on the board. He told you he wasn’t.

KRONGARD: Well that was about six weeks ago, and I was not aware — and this board meeting happened yesterday, and I found out just during the break that he had in fact attended yesterday.
Link.

And Jeremy Scahill, who owns this story, opines here. Another opinion is here.

And the Times provides the NatLamp version (from page 1!) here.

Read This And Weep

The last honest conservative speaks.

Puzzle For The Day

From the New York Law Journal (sub. reqd.).

Guess what GOP frontrunner's name is not mentioned in this article about how he first got notice or fame or notoriety or whatever.
Lawyers practicing white-collar criminal law may not be aware that the U.S. Department of Justice's policy on publicly identifying individuals suspected - but not accused - of criminal wrongdoing depends entirely on which part of the department is handling a particular criminal case.

In cases brought by the department's criminal division and its 93 U.S. attorney's offices, there is a long-standing prohibition on identifying publicly in charging, plea, or other documents individuals who have not been charged with any crime. For example, uncharged executives in a corporate fraud case would not be identified by name in a plea agreement between the company and the government, regardless of the government's evidence and even if it planned to charge those individuals the very next day.

This prohibition is rooted in basic notions of due process, the requirement of grand jury indictment, and the belief that those accused of a crime should have the opportunity to face their accusers and contest the charges in court. It also has extensive judicial support, and is referenced multiple times in the Department's own U.S. Attorney's Manual, which governs the conduct of most federal prosecutors.

In contrast, the department's antitrust division does not abide by this prohibition. The division, whose docket includes a relatively modest number of criminal cases, has an unwritten but rigidly enforced policy that uncharged individuals not specifically covered by the terms of criminal antitrust plea agreements must be named publicly. Regardless whether they ever will be charged, individuals not covered by corporate plea agreements - those on so-called "carve-out lists" - are specifically identified by name in the agreements, which are made public in both court filings and on the antitrust division's Web site.

For those named, inclusion on a carve-out list can be tantamount to an accusation of criminal conduct against which they may never have an opportunity to defend. It also exposes the named individuals to potential collateral consequences prompted by the accusation, including public humiliation through media exposure, reputational damage and civil litigation. By insisting on publicly identifying the names of the "carve-outs," the department through its antitrust division disregards the very rights that its criminal division strives so carefully to protect.

There is a serious question whether the department's main justifications for naming uncharged individuals on antitrust carve-out lists, to motivate corporate cooperation in complex conspiracy cases and to ensure contractual clarity in plea agreements, warrant the potentially serious damage to the named individuals' due process rights and reputations. This is especially so because there are alternative means, regularly employed by the department's criminal division, to achieve corporate cooperation and contractual clarity without sacrificing constitutional rights.

Criminal Division Policy

The department's written policy on naming uncharged individuals in cases prosecuted by the criminal division and U.S. attorney's offices could not be more clear. "In all public filings and proceedings," it states, "federal prosecutors should remain sensitive to the privacy and reputation interests of uncharged third-parties . . . .[I]n the absence of some significant justification, it is not appropriate to identify . . . a third-party wrongdoer unless that party has been officially charged with the misconduct at issue." U.S. Attorney's Manual 9-27.760.

Thus, uncharged third parties ordinarily may not be identified in indictments, even where the crime alleged is a conspiracy and the unindicted coconspirators' conduct is described in detail. This is so even when the government has sufficient evidence to charge the third party and intends to do so in the future.

Nor is the prohibition limited to charging documents. Like the courts, the department recognizes that equal stigma can attach from association with criminal activity at any stage of a criminal proceeding, including guilty plea hearings, plea agreements and sentencing proceedings. Indeed, the U.S. Attorney's Manual suggests several ways for prosecutors to avoid public reference to uncharged third parties at different stages of a criminal case, such as by sealed pleadings or using generic references in plea allocutions and sentencing proceedings.

The department's policy also reflects awareness that the potentially ruinous injury stemming from publication of the fact that a person is under investigation, even if that person ultimately never is accused in an indictment is the very reason for the secrecy surrounding grand jury proceedings. See, e.g., United States v. Proctor & Gamble, 356 U.S. 677, 682 (U.S. 1958) After all, in addition to its role as formal accuser, the grand jury "serv[es] as a shield for the citizen against baseless charges of crime and from misuse of power . . . ." United States v. Briggs, 514 F.2d at 803.

Thus, the department prohibits disclosure of the identities of those who have been under investigation - even if they remain under inquiry and are certain to be charged in the future.

These prohibitions are grounded in the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment, which guarantees that an individual will not be accused of criminal misconduct absent an official indictment and a forum in which to proclaim his innocence. Courts consistently have held that the government violates due process rights when, short of an indictment, it identifies an individual in a way that implies he participated in a crime. See, e.g., United States v. Briggs, 514 F.2d 794, 803 (5th Cir. 1975). The department's written policy acknowledges the fundamental unfairness of stigmatizing an uncharged individual, and the policy agrees with uniform judicial opinion that "no legitimate governmental interest is served by an official public smear of an individual when that individual has not been provided a forum in which to vindicate his rights." In re Smith, 656 F.2d 1101, 1106 (5th Cir. 1981); U.S. Attorney's Manual 9-27.760 (citing Smith).

Antitrust Division Policy

By contrast, the department's policy in antitrust division matters, which is unwritten, is designed mainly to induce corporate cooperation, is founded on contract rather than constitutional principles and has been subject to scant judicial review.

The antitrust division prides itself on the use of its Corporate Leniency or Amnesty Program in criminal cartel investigations. Under the Amnesty Program, the first company to report an antitrust violation generally receives amnesty from prosecution along with all of its culpable employees. For the remaining companies under investigation, it becomes a race to the division's door. The next or "second-in" company will face prosecution, but may receive some measure of leniency, the "third-in" generally will receive more harsh treatment, and so on. Antitrust Division, U.S. Department of Justice Corporate Leniency Policy (1993).

One "reward" that the antitrust division dangles to induce cooperation by suspected companies is the opportunity to minimize the number of individual employees who remain subject to prosecution following a corporate plea agreement. Generally, the earlier a company cooperates, the fewer of its employees will be "carved-out."

This has obvious benefits to a company that wishes to retain valuable employees even though they may have participated in an antitrust violation. As to who will be included on a carve-out list, the antitrust division has made clear that it "will typically carve out only the highest-level culpable employees as well as any employees who refuse to cooperate [with the division's investigation]." E.g., Address by Scott D. Hammond, Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Criminal Enforcement, Antitrust Division, "Measuring the Value of Second-In Cooperation in Plea Negotiations" (http://www.usdoj.gov/atr/public/speeches/215514.htm).

Once carved out, uncharged individuals are identified by name in two separate provisions of the corporate plea agreement, which is made public at the time of the guilty plea. First, under the section titled "Defendant's Cooperation," the corporate defendant agrees to use its best efforts to secure the cooperation of current and former employees, with the exception of those included in the carve-out list. Second, under the "Government's Agreement" section, the government agrees not to bring criminal charges against any current or former employees for any offense covered by the plea agreement, with the exception of those on the carve-out list. Those individuals are then subject to prosecution, although the antitrust division's track record reflects that some will never face formal charges.

The department justifies its inclusion of carve-out lists in antitrust plea agreements on several grounds. First, that because the plea agreements do not contain allegations of specific wrongdoing by those named, inclusion in a carve-out list is not akin to an accusation of misconduct.

This ignores reality. The antitrust division itself has defined carve-out lists to contain the names of only the most culpable and least cooperative employees. Corporate plea agreements also make plain that the government's agreement not to bring formal charges against company employees does not apply to those on the carve-out list.

Understandably the media and public widely assume that those on carve-out lists are believed by the government to have engaged in criminal misconduct. That the list is filed as part of a pleading in which the named individuals' employer is admitting having engaged in criminal conduct - when a corporation can act only through its employees - also strongly insinuates that the government considers those singled out by the carve-out to be culpable.

The department also justifies the published carve-out list on the ground that it provides contractual clarity, so that a company and its employees are on notice of exactly who is and is not covered by the plea agreement's protections. While this may seem desirable from a pure contract law perspective, equal clarity easily is attainable in a way that does not tread on individual rights.

For example, a plea agreement simply could state that it binds a company and its present and former employees, "except those who have been notified that they are not bound by the agreement." These individuals then could formally be notified of their status by letter. This simple step would accomplish the department's legitimate goal of promoting timely corporate cooperation by offering protection from prosecution for a maximum number of employees, without damaging individual rights and reputations.

Another justification presented by the department, that failure to disclose the identities of individuals not covered by the plea agreement violates the public's and crime victims' right to full, transparent access to court proceedings, is simply wrong. Crime victims do have a statutory right to attend and be apprised of filings in a proceeding once it has been brought. Crime Victims' Rights Act of 2004, 18 U.S.C. 3771. However, neither victims nor the general public have any right of access to investigative information, such as the identities of suspected but uncharged individuals, or of those who refused to cooperate with the government. Indeed, by invoking the rights of crime victims as a justification for publication of names of uncharged individuals, the government undercuts its own position that inclusion in a carve-out list is not tantamount to a public accusation of criminal wrongdoing.

Conclusion

The department's position that in antitrust division cases corporate cooperation and contractual clarity can be achieved only by openly naming specific uncharged individuals as either the "highest-level culpable employees" or employees "who refuse to cooperate" is contrary to sound department policy and practice in all other criminal cases. Nor is the practice necessary to attain the department's stated goal of cooperation in complex conspiracy cases. Companies still would be motivated to obtain the considerable cooperation benefits offered by the Amnesty Program - amnesty for the "first-in" company and all its employees, and the ensuing degrees of leniency for those who followed - even if the practice of publishing carve-out lists were halted.

Whatever marginal inducement to corporate cooperation the threat of publication may provide, it hardly seems adequate to warrant the antitrust division's practice of deviating from established department policy in nearly all other criminal cases.

Faux News' Love For Rudy


Roger Ailes: The head of Fox News, Ailes was a veteran Republican operative long before he was a news executive, having worked as a media consultant in the presidential campaigns of Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and the first President Bush. In 1989, he worked as a media consultant on the unsuccessful first mayoral campaign of a former federal prosecutor named Rudy Giuliani, with whom he had bonded at dinner parties over their shared admiration for Ronald Reagan. Since then, Giuliani and Ailes have remained good friends. Giuliani officiated at Ailes' wedding and brought presents to Ailes' room when Ailes was hospitalized in 1998. The New York Times has reported that aides to the two men say they don't see each other often, but they did sit together at the White House Correspondents' Dinner in April 2007 -- which Giuliani attended as a guest of News Corp. (Ailes has also socialized with Bernie Kerik.)

The Time Warner lawsuit: In 1994, according to the New York Times, Giuliani prepared a speech for a reception honoring Ailes in which he wrote, "Roger has played an important role in my own career." In 1996, Giuliani had an opportunity to repay the favor. Fox News was launching, with Ailes at the helm, and Time Warner, which provided cable service to 12 million homes nationwide, had decided it would not carry Fox News. Time Warner was the dominant cable operator in New York City, meaning that not only would 1.1 million city homes not get Fox, but the fledgling network would go unseen by media powerbrokers in the nation's media capital.

Three days after Murdoch learned of Time Warner's decision, a call from Ailes to Giuliani set in motion a series of unprecedented moves in favor of a cable network by the Giuliani administration. As calls and meetings continued between Fox and city officials, including Giuliani, the Giuliani administration reportedly threatened Time Warner executives with the loss of their cable franchise if the cable provider didn't accept a deal in which the city would give up one of its own government channels so Fox News could take the slot. (Some 30 other cable networks had tried and failed to win channel space on Time Warner.) When Time Warner refused to take the deal, the city announced that it would go ahead with the plan anyway and force the cable provider to carry Fox News. A legal battle ensued.

Ultimately, the two warring parties made peace and Fox won carriage, but not before a judge and an appeals panel both ruled against the city's plan. In granting Time Warner a temporary injunction, a federal district court judge issued a harsh rebuke to the Giuliani administration, saying the city had repeatedly shifted the legal justifications for its stand, indicating that "the City does not believe its own positions." The judge further wrote, "The City's purpose in acting to compel Time Warner to give Fox one of its commercial channels was to reward a friend... The very fact that the City chose Fox News out of all other news programs -- not to mention the significant number of other programs which have been denied space on Time Warner's commercial network -- is by itself substantial evidence that the City chose Fox News based on its content."

Lobbying: Giuliani's connections to News Corp. extend to his law and lobbying firm, Bracewell & Giuliani. Giuliani announced his partnership in the firm previously known as Bracewell & Patterson in March 2005. Beginning the next month, according to congressional lobbying disclosure records, the firm billed News Corp. and DirecTV, which was then a subsidiary of News Corp., for $120,000 in federal lobbying during 2005. The firm represented News Corp. on issues including regulations on violent and indecent programming and the potential re-write of the 1996 Telecommunications Act. In the years prior to Giuliani joining the firm, congressional records do not show any lobbying work performed for News Corp.

Airtime: Earlier this year, a study by the political journal Hotline found that Giuliani had been interviewed on Fox News during the first 196 days of 2007 for a total of 115 minutes, more than any other presidential contender, and 14 minutes more than the runner-up, the then-undeclared Fred Thompson.

Sean Hannity: In Fox's defense, the bulk of the time Giuliani was on the network he was talking to Sean Hannity, the Long Island-bred cohost of "Hannity & Colmes." And no wonder -- though Hannity claims not to be supporting a candidate (a denial he was forced to make when Ariz. Sen. John McCain accused him on-air, albeit obliquely, of supporting Giuliani), he flew to Ohio to introduce the former mayor at a campaign fundraiser in August. When a New York Times reporter asked a Fox spokeswoman about the Hotline figures, she responded that Hannity makes his own booking decisions. Hannity has also handled post-debate anchor duties for all three Fox GOP debates held to date.

Cease-and-desist: In October, Fox lawyers sent a cease and desist letter to John McCain's campaign after he included footage from Fox's October 21 Orlando debate in a TV commercial. The ad featured a McCain quip aimed at Senator Clinton's push for a so-called "Woodstock museum." The letter demanded McCain pull the ad and remove footage of the debate from his Web site, according to Talking Points Memo.

However, similar letters were not sent to two other GOP presidential hopefuls who were also using footage from the Fox debate -- Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney. After initial reports showed that only McCain had been sent such an order, a Fox spokesperson told the New York Times, "Our legal team has been alerted and there will be cease and desist orders." Letters were sent to both the Romney and Giuliani campaigns, but they are apparently not being heeded. Giuliani's Web site still makes liberal use of Fox footage, including one clip added at least a week after the date of the cease and desist letter. Romney's site also continues to feature material from the debate.

Steve Forbes: Himself a former Republican presidential candidate, the magazine magnate is now a national co-chair and senior policy advisor with the Giuliani campaign. He's also, in the words of a Giuliani campaign press release, "a frequent business commentator for Fox News Channel's 'Forbes on Fox.'" Though that show is actually hosted by a Fox News employee, David Asman, its guests come from the editorial staff of Forbes Magazine. Steve Forbes is both the editor-in-chief of Forbes Magazine and the president and CEO of its publisher, Forbes, Inc.
Link.

What I Love About Show People

Even when raising a family, it's still all about them. Can't let a couple of family crises -- or responsibilities -- get in the way of one's career....
Marie Osmond said her 16-year-old son has entered a rehabilitation facility, but she didn't disclose the nature of his problem.

"My son, Michael, is an amazing young man, shown through his courage in facing his issues. As his mother I couldn't be more proud of him," the 48-year-old singer said in a statement issued Wednesday through her publicist, Marleah Leslie.

***

Osmond has eight children. She announced earlier this year that she and her second husband, Brian Blosil, are divorcing.

She has been appearing on ABC's "Dancing With the Stars." She missed last week's show after her father, George Osmond, patriarch to her and her singing brothers, died at his home in Provo, Utah. He was 90.

She had survived the cut this week and remains a contestant on the dance competition.
Osmond fainted on stage following a samba during a live broadcast of the show last month. She quickly recovered and was well enough to continue.
Link.

Rudy: Does He Love New York City Or Hate It?

We report, you decide: Is he running against New York? Of course, it's not like he has anything else (okay, other than 9/1) ofan accomplishment to run on....



Link and more.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Today's Review Of Rudy

Okay, short version: He's a scary, crazy, proto-fascist who is absolutely and completely ruthless in promoting himself.

And I'm scared he will be the next president.

A longer version:
The limitations of the old-fashioned mainstream media prevent it from portraying the true horror of what a Giuliani administration would mean to the United States and the rest of the world.

Such a huge media failure prompted filmmaker and political activist Robert Greenwald to make and distribute powerful, short documentaries built around the theme of the real Rudy Giuliani.

It’s a timely effort. Giuliani has a substantial lead over his Republican competitors in national polls and was endorsed this week by televangelist Pat Robertson, a leader of the Christian right. That may help Giuliani among religious conservatives. They don’t understand that he is really a mean-spirited, dictatorial boss and not a true believer in their hard-line religiosity.

For Giuliani has the dangerous ability to say outrageous things—his defense of torture, for example—in a reasonable tone. Television’s short and superficial interviews permit him to get away with it.

Print does somewhat better. A recent New York Times story on Giuliani’s friend and onetime police commissioner, Bernard Kerik, was a powerful argument against electing the ex-mayor as president. So was “Grand Illusion: The Untold Story of Rudy Giuliani and 9/11,” a book by Wayne Barrett and Dan Collins, which was excerpted in the Village Voice. Kerik has been indicted by a federal grand jury for tax fraud, obstruction of justice and lying to the White House. He pleaded not guilty. But these are exceptions. The story of the real Rudy has a hard time making it to the states where the presidential election is being fought: Iowa, New Hampshire and the big states holding their primaries on Feb. 5.

Today’s news media do not have time or money for reporters to burrow through the labyrinth of New York politics and government to tell the country how Rudy ran New York. Instead, political reporters and pundits yap on “Hardball” and other television shows and confuse readers and viewers with analyses that change with bewildering speed: Hillary is winning. Hillary blew it.

That’s not how Greenwald feels the story should be told. Greenwald dug deeply into his subjects for his documentaries “Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers”; “Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price”; and “Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism.” He wanted to do the same with Giuliani.

Greenwald had read about Giuliani’s New York reign. His friend, music business executive Danny Goldberg, told Greenwald that it was important to explain how bad it was. So, Greenwald proceeded in a manner designed for the Internet with short documentaries on the theme of “The Real Rudy.”

His Giuliani is not the reasonable candidate from the television interviews. Instead, Greenwald shows a headstrong boss who played favorites, punished dissenters and made decisions damaging to the city.

One of these short documentaries tells the story of how Giuliani put the command post in the World Trade Center complex before Sept. 11, even though the area had been attacked in 1993. It was wiped out on the fatal day.

I found another documentary, “The REAL Rudy: Radios,” especially moving. Firefighters and their spouses who lost family members in the World Trade Center on Sept. 11 told how the police and fire departments could not communicate with each other because the Giuliani administration had given them radios operating on different frequencies. As a result, many firefighters did not receive the order to evacuate. I have seen stories about this, but nothing I’ve read has the impact of the simple words of a mourning father, mother or sister seated in a kitchen or front room.

Many other people had the same reaction, signing petitions urging the New York City Council to investigate the radio situation. The documentary “raised important questions,” said Councilman Eric Gioa, chair of the council’s investigations committee. He said he’d do everything he could to get answers.

Greenwald told me, “We have been able to use all our skills to tell the story and put the spotlight on his [Giuliani’s] running for office where he should be running and hiding in the closet.”

The documentaries are posted on Greenwald’s Brave New Films site and move through the Internet like a virus, via YouTube, blogs and e-mail. A network of progressive organizations spreads the word. Greenwald’s associate, Jim Gilliam, has developed software that allows anyone to easily host a screening. Communications director Leighton Woodhouse spends most of his time pitching the documentaries to bloggers and Web sites.

“In July, September, October, we got more than a million views for our combined videos,” Greenwald said. He’s working on putting the documentaries on cell phones.

“This would not have been possible in the old media landscape. There would have been no way to do the Giuliani piece or to get the bloggers to write about it or to do the investigation.”

When I was a newspaper reporter, we investigated candidates. One, two or maybe more reporters would check out the candidate’s life in a process called a “scrub.” After a time the “scrub” would appear, so detailed and long that readers probably put it aside to read at a later time, which seldom arrived.

Greenwald operates like a tabloid --- bang, bang, bang—firing away with hot information in small doses. It’s a guerrilla operation, raising money for each short documentary, keeping production costs low and using the Internet for distribution and advertising.

Purists will protest that his advocacy isn’t journalism. But it is. He’s a throwback. Greenwald is a crusader demanding attention, just as the old-time muckraking editors did a century ago, except that his message is carried on the Internet rather than by newsboys on street corners. He’s found the best way to tell the story of the real Rudy.
Link.

Big Media's Litany Of Lies About Rudy

Via FAIR:
News stories about Rudy Giuliani's campaign for the Republican nomination for president often refer to his supposed support for abortion rights. To much of the mainstream media, this is evidence of Giuliani's admirable consistency in the face of a largely anti-choice GOP base, and a sign that Republican voters are pragmatic enough to accept a pro-choice nominee.

A November 4 New York Times story, for example, declared that Giuliani "has made no serious effort to shade his positions to appeal to the social conservatives." The same day, a Times analysis of political flip-flopping made the same point, oddly claiming that Giuliani's "refusal to budge from his vocal support for abortion rights has strengthened his image as being steadfast, even as he has shifted in other areas."

But it's wrong to call Giuliani "pro-choice" or a "supporter of abortion rights." Giuliani currently supports parental notification laws and a ban on so-called "partial birth" abortion (the dilation-and-extraction abortion method)--positions that put him sharply at odds with the pro-choice movement. Moreover, as the Times itself reported (2/10/07), "He has talked about how he would appoint 'strict constructionist' judges to the Supreme Court--what abortion rights advocates say is code among conservatives for those who seek to overturn or limit Roe v. Wade, the 1973 court ruling declaring a constitutional right to abortion." Giuliani has suggested (Union Leader, 11/5/07) he would nominate justices similar to Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, John Roberts and Samuel Alito.

And when New York Times political reporters claim that Giuliani has never "shaded" his views on abortion, they're ignoring the ample evidence that he has--some of it reported in their own paper. (The February 10 article cited above was headlined "Giuliani Shifts Abortion Speech Gently to Right.")

In reality, Giuliani's positions on abortion have been all over the map. When Giuliani first began running for New York City mayor in 1989, seeking support of both the Republicans and the minor Conservative Party, conservative leaders reported that "he assured them he was personally opposed to abortion, did not favor government funding or criminal penalties, did favor an exemption in cases of rape or incest, and was in favor of overturning the U.S. Supreme Court's decision legalizing abortion, Roe v. Wade" (New York Newsday, 2/22/89). "Giuliani...is opposed to abortion and even the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion," the New York Times reported (New York Times, 4/6/89).

Later, he pledged that ''I would not take a leadership role, supporting or opposing abortion"; asked what his position was by the New York Times (7/4/89), "Giuliani said he was personally opposed to abortion, did not favor government financing for abortion and had believed that the Roe v. Wade decision should be overturned," though he "would 'preserve, protect and defend all constitutional and legal rights, including a woman's right of choice,'' as long as the state law remained unchanged. But he did not say a woman should have a fundamental right to an abortion."

A month later, with the general election approaching, Giuliani's campaign issued a "clarification" (New York Times, 8/4/89):
As mayor, Rudy Giuliani will uphold a woman's right of choice to have an abortion. Giuliani will fund all city programs which provide abortions to insure that no woman is deprived of her right due to an inability to pay. He will oppose reductions in state funding. He will oppose making abortion illegal. Although Giuliani is personally opposed to abortion, his personal views will not interfere with his responsibilities as mayor.
Giuliani lost the mayoral election in 1989, thanks in part to incumbent David Dinkins' criticisms of his flip-flops on the abortion issue (UPI, 11/4/89). He ran again successfully in 1993 with much the same abortion line that he had at the end of the 1989 campaign (though by '93, he was openly describing himself as "pro-choice"--New York Times, 9/30/93).

Giuliani's actual historical record on the abortion issue would have been useful when reporters were writing about how Giuliani secured the endorsement of conservative evangelist Pat Robertson. (It's worth recalling that after the September 11 attacks, which have been Giuliani's signature issue, Robertson agreed with Jerry Falwell that "abortionists" were part of the reason that the attacks were "probably what we deserve" in part because of "abortionists"--700 Club, 9/13/01.)

Robertson declared when issuing his endorsement that Giuliani's assurances about the judges he would appoint to the Supreme Court were what mattered most (L.A. Times, 11/8/07). This is, by any reasonable measure, what actually matters; how Giuliani feels personally about abortion rights is far less important than what he would do as a president nominating Supreme Court justices. That's a basic political fact that GOP voters seem to understand better than mainstream media political reporters.

Gitmo's Operating Manual

The raw data is here.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Poor Wingnuts! Another Fantasy Dashed By Reality :(

The wingnuts get sad -- no wonder they hate reality, it's done nothing for them...:
After appearing in numerous film and TV programs and even creeping its way into American political discourse, the suitcase nuke, a nuclear bomb small enough to be easily hidden, is unlikely to exist, according to experts. The revelation left the anchors of the Fox News program Fox & Friends more than a little disappointed.

"You mean '24' isn't true," Co-host Page Kelly inquired, referring to Fox's national security-themed prime time hit, starring Kiefer Sutherland as CIA agent Jack Bauer. "'24's my favorite show."

"It is a little bit of a let down," agreed Greg Kelly.

Others likely to be let down by this most-recent reality check on perceived threats to the United States are politicians and political candidates eager to use force on nations they believe would supply such a device to terrorists. "We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud," then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice famously said of Iraq's alleged nuclear program in 2003, also proven not to exist. Though she was not making reference to a specific nuclear device, the suitcase bomb, ever-present in the public mind since 9/11, may have made the idea seem plausible to so many.

The conversation on Fox & Friends then turned to other disappointments, this time at the box office. The group discussed the lackluster ticket sales of Robert Redford's new political thriller, Lions for Lambs, explaining that people "are seeing these kind of [political] talking points from 'Lions for Lambs' done better with Bill O'Reilly and John Gibson and here on this program."
Link.

The reality that did the dashing:
Members of Congress have warned about the dangers of suitcase nuclear weapons. Hollywood has made television shows and movies about them. Even the Federal Emergency Management Agency has alerted Americans to a threat _ information the White House includes on its Web site.

But government experts and intelligence officials say such a threat gets vastly more attention than it deserves. These officials said a true suitcase nuke would be highly complex to produce, require significant upkeep and cost a small fortune.

Counterproliferation authorities do not completely rule out the possibility that these portable devices once existed. But they do not think the threat remains.

"The suitcase nuke is an exciting topic that really lends itself to movies," said Vahid Majidi, the assistant director of the FBI's Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate. "No one has been able to truly identify the existence of these devices."

Majidi and other government officials say the real threat is from a terrorist who does not care about the size of his nuclear detonation and is willing to improvise, using a less deadly and sophisticated device assembled from stolen or black-market nuclear material.

Yet Hollywood has seized on the threat. For example, the Fox thriller "24" devoted its entire last season to Jack Bauer's hunt for suitcase nukes in Los Angeles.

Government officials have played up the threat, too.

Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., once said at a hearing that he thought the least likely threat was from an intercontinental ballistic missile. "Perhaps the most likely threat is from a suitcase nuclear weapon in a rusty car on a dock in New York City," he said.

In a FEMA guide on terrorist disasters that is posted in part on the White House's Web site, the agency warns that terrorists' use of a nuclear weapon would "probably be limited to a single smaller 'suitcase' weapon."

"The strength of such a weapon would be in the range of the bombs used during World War II. The nature of the effects would be the same as a weapon delivered by an intercontinental missile, but the area and severity of the effects would be significantly more limited," the paper says.

___

THE GENIE THAT ESCAPED

During the 1960s, intelligence agencies received reports from defectors that Soviet military intelligence officers were carrying portable nuclear devices in suitcases.

The threat was too scary to stay secret, government officials said, and word leaked out. The genie was never put back in the bottle.

But current and former government officials who have not spoken out publicly on the subject acknowledge that no U.S. officials have seen a Soviet-made suitcase nuke.

The idea of portable nuclear devices was not a new one.

In the 1950s and 1960s, the U.S. made the first ones, known as the Special Atomic Demolition Munition. It was a "backpack nuke" that could be used to blow up dams, tunnels or bridges. While one person could lug it on his back, it had to be placed by a two-man team.

These devices never were used and now exist _ minus their explosive components _ only in a museum.

Following the U.S. lead, the Soviets are believed to have made similar nuclear devices.

Suitcase nukes have been a separate problem. They attracted considerable public attention in 1997, thanks to a "60 Minutes" interview and other public statements from retired Gen. Alexander Lebed, once Russia's national security chief.

Lebed said the separatist government in Chechnya had portable nuclear devices, which led him to create a commission to get to the bottom of the Chechen arsenal, according to a Center for Nonproliferation Studies report. He said that when he ran the security service, the commission could find only 48 of 132 devices.

The numbers varied as he changed his story several times _ sometimes he stated that 100 or more were missing. The Russians denied he was ever accurate.

Even more details emerged in the summer of 1998, when former Russian military intelligence officer Stanislav Lunev _ a defector in the U.S. witness protection program _ wrote in his book that Russian agents were hiding suitcase nukes around the U.S. for use in a possible future conflict.

"I had very clear instructions: These dead-drop positions would need to be for all types of weapons, including nuclear weapons," Lunev testified during a congressional hearing in California in 2000, according to a Los Angeles Times account.

Naysayers noted that he was never able to pinpoint any specific location.

In a 2004 interview with the Kremlin's Federal News Service, Colonel-General Viktor Yesin, former head of the Russian strategic rocket troops, said he believes that Lebed's commission may have been misled by mock-ups of special mines used during training.

Yesin believed that a true suitcase nuke would be too expensive for most countries to produce and would not last more than several months because the nuclear core would decompose so quickly. "Nobody at the present stage seeks to develop such devices," he asserted.

Some members of Congress remained convinced that the suitcase nuke problem persists. Perhaps chief among these lawmakers was Curt Weldon, a GOP representative from Pennsylvania who lost his seat in 2006.

Weldon was known for carrying around a mock-up of a suitcase nuke made with a briefcase, foil and a pipe. But it was nowhere near the weight of an actual atomic device.

___

THE SCIENCE

Majidi joined the FBI after leading Los Alamos National Laboratory's prestigious chemistry division. He uses science to make the case that suitcase nukes are not a top concern.

First, he defines what a Hollywood-esque suitcase nuke would look like: a case about 24 inches by 10 inches by 12 inches, weighing less than 50 pounds, that one person could carry. It would contain a device that could cause a devastating blast.

Nuclear devices are either plutonium, which comes from reprocessing the nuclear material from reactors, or uranium, which comes from gradually enriching that naturally found element.

Majidi says it would take about 22 pounds of plutonium or 130 pounds of uranium to create a nuclear detonation. Both would require explosives to set off the blast, but significantly more for the uranium.

Although uranium is considered easier for terrorists to obtain, it would be too heavy for one person to lug around in a suitcase.

Plutonium, he notes, would require the cooperation of a state with a plutonium reprocessing program. It seems highly unlikely that a country would knowingly cooperate with terrorists because the device would bear the chemical fingerprints of that government. "I don't think any nation is willing to participate in this type of activity," Majidi said.

That means the fissile material probably would have to be stolen. "It is very difficult for that much material to walk away," he added.

There is one more wrinkle: Nuclear devices require a lot of maintenance because the material that makes them so deadly also can wreak havoc on their electrical systems.

"The more compact the devices are _ guess what? _ the more frequently they need to be maintained. Everything is compactly designed around that radiation source, which damages everything over a period of time," Majidi said.

___

PROVING A NEGATIVE

A former CIA director, George Tenet, is convinced that al-Qaida wants to change history with the mushroom cloud of a nuclear attack. In 1998, Osama bin Laden issued a statement called "The Nuclear Bomb of Islam."

"It is the duty of Muslims to prepare as much force as possible to terrorize the enemies of God," he said.

Among numerous of avenues of investigation after the Sept. 11 attacks, Tenet said in his memoir that President Bush asked Russian President Vladamir Putin whether he could account for all of Russia's nuclear material. Choosing his words carefully, Tenet said, Putin replied that he could only account for everything under his watch, leaving a void before 2000.

Intelligence officials continued digging deeper, hearing more reports about al-Qaida's efforts to get a weapon; that effort, it is believed, has been to no avail, so far.

But intelligence officials are loath to dismiss a threat until they are absolutely sure they have gotten to the bottom of it.

In the case of suitcase nukes, one official said, U.S. experts do not have 100 percent certainty that they have a handle on the Russian arsenal.

Laura Holgate, a vice president at the Nuclear Threat Initiative, says the U.S. has not appropriately prioritized its responses to the nuclear threat and, as a result, is poorly using its scarce resources.

Much to many people's surprise, she noted, highly enriched uranium _ outside of a weapon _ is so benign that a person can hold it in his hands and not face any ill effects until years later, if at all. It can also slip through U.S. safeguards, she says.

The Homeland Security Department is planning to spend more than $1 billion on radiation detectors at ports of entry. But government auditors found that the devices cannot distinguish between benign radiation sources, such as kitty litter, and potentially dangerous ones, including highly enriched uranium.

Holgate considers the substance the greatest threat because it exists not only at nuclear weapons sites worldwide, but also in more than 100 civilian research facilities in dozens of countries, often with inadequate security.

Her Washington-based nonproliferation organization wants to see the U.S. get a better handle on the material that can be used for bombs _ much of it is in Russia _ and secure it.

The big problem, she said, is not a fancy suitcase nuke, but rather a terrorist cell with nuclear material that has enough knowledge to make an improvised device.

How big would that be? "Like SUV-sized. Way bigger than a suitcase," she said.

Our Leaders Got Their Death Star!

RawStory:
Buried in the 621-page House-Senate conference report on the Defense Department appropriations bill -- and page A19 of Monday's Washington Post, is a $100 million request to enhance space warfare.

As if it didn't already have enough work in Iraq, the Pentagon plans to divert funds from an appropriation to improve submarine-launched Trident missiles to develop a "global strike" program which would allow the US to target and dispatch a "precision-guided" warhead anywhere in the world within two hours.

"The new program, dubbed Falcon, for 'Force Application and Launch from CONUS,' centers on a small-launch-vehicle concept of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency," veteran intelligence reporter Walter Pincus reveals in today's paper. "The agency describes Falcon as a 'a reusable Hypersonic Cruise Vehicle (HCV) capable of delivering 12,000 pounds of payload at a distance of 9,000 nautical miles from [the continental United States] in less than two hours.'"

"The vehicle would be launched into space on a rocket, fly on its own to a target, deliver its payload and return to Earth," he adds. "In the short term, a small launch rocket is being developed as part of Falcon. It eventually would be able to boost the hypersonic vehicle into space. But in the interim, it will be used to launch small satellites within 48 hours' notice at a cost of less than $5 million a shot."

Falcon is part of the $459 billion military bill before Congress.

Pincus says the House and Senate also added $100 million beyond Bush's request for "space situational awareness," legal jargon for protecting US satellites in space and being able to attack "the enemy's satellites."

"Enhancing these capabilities is critical, particularly following the Chinese anti-satellite-weapons demonstration last January," the House-Senate conferees wrote in thereport, referring to a January incident in which the Chinese targeted and destroyed a weather satellite in orbit.