Saturday, January 14, 2006

'Faith' Based Iniatiave Shoved Back Into Bu$h's Face

Yahoo! News:

"MADISON, Wis. - A group can sue the federal government over claims that President Bush's faith-based initiative is an unconstitutional endorsement of religion, a federal appeals court ruled. "

A three-judge panel of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday reinstated the lawsuit brought by the Freedom From Religion Foundation. The group claims Bush's program, which helps religious organizations get government funding to provide social services, violates the separation of church and state.

"Bush says this is constitutional, but it's never been tried by the courts. So we're pleased," said Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the foundation, said Saturday.

Bush sidestepped Congress by issuing executive orders to create the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives and similar centers in 10 federal agencies during his first term. He said the goal was to help religious and community groups compete for federal funding to fight poverty, substance abuse and other social problems.

The Madison-based foundation filed suit against the administration in 2004. A federal district judge dismissed the case, ruling that taxpayers have no standing to challenge funding appropriations made by the executive branch, only those earmarked for specific purposes by Congress.

But the appeals panel, based in Chicago, said taxpayers can challenge executive-branch programs that allegedly promote religion using taxpayer funds.

George Washington University law professor Ira C. Lupu said the case is the broadest national challenge to Bush's initiative, but the group faces an uphill battle proving it is unconstitutional.

Messages left at the White House's faith-based office and the U.S. Attorney's office in Madison were not immediately returned Saturday. The government could ask the full appeals court to rehear the case or appeal the ruling to the
U.S. Supreme Court

Alito's America

Alito's America President Bush has nominated Samuel Alito, a judge with a long record of judicial extremism, to replace Sandra Day O'Connor, who has been the crucial moderate voice and swing vote on the Supreme Court. If Judge Alito is confirmed, his extreme right-wing ideology would endanger our basic freedoms.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Saddam trial judge plans to quit

Yahoo! News: "SULAIMANIYA, Iraq (Reuters) - The chief judge in the trial of Saddam Hussein plans to step down, a source close to the judge told Reuters on Friday, in a development that could throw an already turbulent process into further disarray. "

Thursday, January 12, 2006

General Asserts Right On Self-Incrimination In Iraq Abuse Cases

General Asserts Right On Self-Incrimination In Iraq Abuse Cases: "Maj. Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller, a central figure in the U.S. detainee-abuse scandal, this week invoked his right not to incriminate himself in court-martial proceedings against two soldiers accused of using dogs to intimidate captives at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, according to lawyers involved in the case."

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Spurious attempt to tie Iran, Iraq to nuclear arms plot bypassed U.S. intelligence channels

The Raw Story: "Several U.S. and foreign intelligence sources, along with investigators, say an Iranian exile with ties to Iran-Contra peddled a bizarre tale of stolen uranium to governments on both sides of the Atlantic in the spring and summer of 2003."

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

23 Administration Officials Involved In Plame Leak

Think Progress 23 Administration Officials Involved In Plame Leak:

The cast of administration characters with known connections to the outing of an undercover CIA agent:

Karl Rove
I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby
Condoleezza Rice
Stephen Hadley
Andrew Card
Alberto Gonzales
Mary Matalin
Ari Fleischer
Susan Ralston
Israel Hernandez
John Hannah
Scott McClellan
Dan Bartlett
Claire Buchan
Catherine Martin
Jennifer Millerwise
David Wurmser
Colin Powell
Karen Hughes
Adam Levine
Bob Joseph
Vice President Dick Cheney
President George W. Bush

Rescue crews called to Ky. mine collapse

Rescue crews called to Ky. mine collapse
PIKEVILLE, Ky. -- Rescue crews were called to a coal mine in eastern Kentucky after a roof collapsed Tuesday, possibly trapping one miner, a state official said.

The rock fall occurred about 900 feet inside the Maverick Mining Co. LLC mine in Pikeville, near the Virginia line, said Chuck Wolfe, spokesman for the Kentucky Office of Mine Safety and Licensing.

"One individual is thought to be involved, but we don't know the nature of that involvement ... and don't really want to speculate on anything," he said.

Just 4 Days Ago

KRT Wire | 01/06/2006 | Enforcement of mine safety seen slipping under Bush: "David Gooch, president of Coal Operators and Associates in Pikeville, Ky., which has 200 members, said the size of the fines have nothing to do with who's in power in Washington.'It doesn't have anything to do with who's the president because, actually, the people who are doing those fines are apolitical,' Gooch said. 'They're employees that are covered by the federal civil service, and their own union, by the way, so they compute the fines the way they come out.'Mining industry officials defended the Bush administration and pointed to recent years of record low deaths and injuries in mining as the most important numbers."

Israelis plan pre-emptive strike on Iran - The Herald

The Herald: "Israel is updating plans for a pre-emptive strike on Iran's nuclear facilities which could be launched as soon as the end of March, according to military and intelligence sources.
The news comes as Germany yesterday warned Tehran's regime that it would face 'consequences' if it removes UN seals from portions of its atomic programme and resumes enrichment of fuel which could be diverted for military use in breach of international agreements."

Ukraine Parliament Fires Government After Gas Accord Europe: "Jan. 10 (Bloomberg) -- Ukrainian lawmakers voted to fire Prime Minister Yuriy Yekhanurov's government after the cabinet agreed to pay a higher price for Russian gas supplies.
A total of 250 lawmakers in the 450-seat parliament backed the dismissal of Yekhanurov, who was approved as premier by the parliament on Sept. 22. "

Mining industry: Deadbeats When it Comes to Paying Paultry Fines

The nation's coal mines have been required to pay only a fraction of the federal fines imposed after deadly accidents since 1999, a USA TODAY analysis shows.

The Mine Safety and Health Administration has levied $9.1 million in fines in the past seven years against companies cited for safety violations following mine fatalities. About 28% of that amount has been collected, according to data on MSHA's website.

At least $5.2 million in fines has been reduced to $2.5 million on appeal. An additional $2.2 million in fines is being appealed; about $1 million is listed as delinquent. Proposed fines and fines wiped out by bankruptcies account for the remainder.

MSHA oversees the nation's 1,400 coal mines and 75,000 coal miners. An MSHA team is investigating last week's explosion at the Sago Mine in West Virginia that killed 12 miners and sparked scrutiny of the government's monitoring of mine safety.

Since 1999, 206 accidents have killed 234 coal miners. Fines ranged from $113 to a maximum of $60,000.

From 1999 until last week, Sago had no fatal accidents, but it had been cited for 276 safety violations in the last two years and fined $33,600. It paid $23,986. (Related story: CEO: Mine passageway unblocked)

Its largest fines were often reduced by judges or through negotiations between the mine operator and U.S. Labor Department lawyers. That process, critics say, enables mine owners to wriggle out of severe penalties that are in place to keep workers safe.

"It hurts safety immensely," said Dennis O'Dell, head of health and safety for the United Mine Workers of America. He called the system "broken" because coal companies know they can win reductions in fines proposed by mine-safety inspectors.

"If I'm a coal operator and I get $10,000 of fines and I know I can get those reduced to $250, naturally I'm not going to take it as seriously," O'Dell said.

Tim Biddle, a lawyer who defends coal companies, said inspectors overreach in proposing fines. "The government is not able to back up its claim," he said.

Companies take safety "very seriously" to avoid losing miners — and to avoid shutdowns that occur while a fatality is investigated, Biddle said.

Biddle won a victory for Jim Walter Resources Inc. in November when a judge cut a $435,000 fine to $3,000 for a 2001 accident that killed 13 miners in Alabama. The judge said MSHA failed to prove wrongdoing.

Inspectors are required to consider a fine's economic impact on a company, yet fines can be small compared with earnings. Consolidation Coal Co. paid $1,238 after a miner was killed at a Virginia mine in 2004. Its parent company earned $200 million that year.

Challenging Abramoff's "Artificial Aristocracy"

Challenging Abramoff's "Artificial Aristocracy"

by Thom Hartmann

That Jack Abramoff exclusively gave his money to conservative Republicans shouldn't surprise us. While the RNC will try to spin this as "politics" and not as a Republican scandal, much as Bush called his old friend and business associate Ken Lay an "equal opportunity corruptor," the reality is that it's not a corruption that has infected both parties, nor could it be.

To understand why, we have to understand the core conservative governing principle - aristocracy.

In 1760, the conservatives in North America were those who were loyal to the hereditary aristocracy of the British Crown. By the 1780s, as the Constitution was being written, the royalists had left the country for Canada or the UK and the remaining conservatives had shifted their advocacy of aristocracy from one based on genetics to one based on wealth.

The liberals who dominated the Founders and Framers of this nation, however, disagreed. They thought that if there should be any sort of an "aristoi" it should be based on merit, and change from generation to generation.

John Adams was among those who believed in an aristocracy based on wealth and privilege. His concern was that if "the rabble" were allowed to completely govern the country, they would vote themselves all the wealth in the nation, reduce it to bankruptcy, and collapse the American Experiment. In support of his viewpoint, he often quoted the essentially anti-democracy Greeks like Plato and Aristotle. The conservatives represented by Adams have, since the founding of this nation, argued for an "artificial aristocracy" based on wealth.

Jefferson and the liberal Founders like Madison, Franklin, Washington, and - particularly - Tom Paine, believed, on the other hand, that if the largest portion of the people were given the largest portion of the power of governance, then they would correct errors they themselves made, and correct them quickly because of the impact they'd have on themselves. In their support, they quoted Locke, Rousseau, and the experience of the Iroquois Confederacy. The liberals represented by Jefferson and Paine have, since the founding of this nation, argued for a meritocracy based on "the best and the brightest" rising up from among the people to enter public service.

Early on in the debate, the Adams side won most of the argument. The President would be elected not by the people, but by "wise elders" appointed by the states (the electoral college). The Senators would not be elected by the people, but appointed by the politicians of the states, with the overt and clear purpose of representing the interest of wealth and capital in those states. Only the House of Representatives was to be directly elected. (It wasn't until 1913, with the passage of the 17th Amendment, that we began to directly elect US Senators - the result of the progressive movement that arose as a backlash against the Gilded Age.)

As Jefferson wrote to Adams on October 28th, 1813, when they were both elderly and out of office:

"I agree with you that there is a natural aristocracy among men. The grounds of this are virtue and talents. .

"There is also an artificial aristocracy, founded on wealth and birth, without either virtue or talents..

"The natural aristocracy I consider as the most precious gift of nature, for the instruction, the trusts, and government of society: And indeed, it would have been inconsistent in creation to have formed man for the social state, and not to have provided virtue and wisdom enough to manage the concerns of the society.

"May we not even say, that that form of government is the best, which provides the most effectually for a pure selection of these natural aristoi into the offices of government?

"The artificial aristocracy [based on wealth] is a mischievous ingredient in government, and provision should be made to prevent its ascendancy.

"On the question, what is the best provision, you and I differ; but we differ as rational friends, using the free exercise of our own reason, and mutually indulging its errors.

"You think it best to put the [wealthy] pseudo-aristoi into a separate chamber of legislation [the US Senate], where they may be hindered from doing mischief by their coordinate branches, and where, also, they may be a protection to wealth against the agrarian and plundering enterprises of the majority of the people.

"I think that to give them power in order to prevent them from doing mischief, is arming them for it, and increasing instead of remedying the evil. For if the co-ordinate branches can arrest their action, so may they that of the co-ordinates. Mischief may be done negatively as well as positively. Of this, a cabal in the Senate of the United States has furnished many proofs.

"Nor do I believe them necessary to protect the wealthy; because enough of these will find their way into every branch of the legislation, to protect themselves. From fifteen to twenty legislatures of our own, in action for thirty years past, have proved that no fears of an equalization of property are to be apprehended from them.

"I think the best remedy is exactly that provided by all our constitutions, to leave to the citizens the free election and separation of the aristoi from the pseudo-aristoi, of the wheat from the chaff. In general they will elect the really good and wise. In some instances, wealth may corrupt, and birth blind them; but not in sufficient degree to endanger the society. .

"With respect to aristocracy, we should further consider, that before the establishment of the American States, nothing was known to history but the man of the old world, crowded within limits either small or overcharged, and steeped in the vices which that situation generates. A government adapted to such men would be one thing; but a very different one, that for the man of these States. .

"But even in Europe a change has sensibly taken place in the mind of man. Science had liberated the ideas of those who read and reflect, and the American example had kindled feelings of right in the people. An insurrection has consequently begun, of science, talents, and courage, against rank and birth, which have fallen into contempt. ... Resort may be had to the people of the country, a more governable power from their principles and subordination; and rank, and birth, and tinsel-aristocracy will finally shrink into insignificance, even there. .

"I have thus stated my opinion on a point on which we differ, not with a view to controversy, for we are both too old to change opinions which are the result of a long life of inquiry and reflection; but on the suggestions of a former letter of yours, that we ought not to die before we have explained ourselves to each other."

It was an early version of a letter he'd write three years later to Samuel Kerchival on July 12, 1816, in which Jefferson put it bluntly: "I am not among those who fear the people. They, and not the rich, are our dependence for continued freedom."

Thus, we see that Jack Abramoff, George W. Bush, Tom Delay, and the whole bunch who live high, suck up to inherited and corporate wealth, and work for laws that restrict "average person" democracy but strengthen Adams' "artificial aristocracy" are doing nothing new.

Most conservatives still believe Adams' notion that only governance mainly by the wealthy and powerful can provide the stability this nation needs in uncertain times (and what times are not uncertain?). They have their agenda and are not ashamed of it, even though it is so at odds with the founding ideals of this nation. They still distrust "the rabble," and are in awe of wealth, such as that represented and distributed by Jack Abramoff.

Now we can see that the lines of America's future are starkly drawn -- Liberal republican democracy, or conservative wealthy aristocracy.

Democracy is represented largely by the Democratic Party that Jefferson founded, and Greens and independents who respond to Jefferson's call. Aristocracy is represented largely by the Republican Party which grew out of the ashes of the Whigs and the Federalists when both tried to rule this nation by wealth, deceit, and backroom-deals, and continues to use those tactics to maintain power.

In less than a year, We The People will decide into whose hands Congress will pass. We have an obligation to make clear to our fellow Americans the history, the distinctions, and the stakes.

Thom Hartmann [thom (at)] is a Project Censored Award-winning best-selling author and host of a nationally syndicated daily progressive talk show syndicated by Air America Radio. His most recent book is "What Would Jefferson Do?"

U.S. Military Seizes Iraqi Reporter for 'The Guardian'

U.S. Military Seizes Iraqi Reporter for 'The Guardian': "NEW YORK American troops in Baghdad yesterday blasted their way into the home of an Iraqi journalist working for the London daily, The Guardian, and TV's Channel 4, firing bullets into the bedroom where he was sleeping with his wife and children.

Ali Fadhil, who two months ago won the Foreign Press Association young journalist of the year award, was hooded and taken for questioning, the newspaper reports. He was released hours later.

Fadhil is working with and the newspaper and Guardian Films 'on an investigation for Channel 4's Dispatches programme into claims that tens of millions of dollars worth of Iraqi funds held by the Americans and British have been misused or misappropriated,' the paper reports.

'The troops told Dr. Fadhil that they were looking for an Iraqi insurgent and seized video tapes he had shot for the programme. These have not yet been returned.'

The director of the film, Callum Macrae, said yesterday: 'The timing and nature of this raid is extremely disturbing. It is only a few days since we first approached the US authorities and told them Ali was doing this investigation, and asked them then to grant him an interview about our findings."

Monday, January 09, 2006

Byrd wants open hearings into Sago Mine explosion

AP Wire: "CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Officials from the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration will be called before a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing before the end of the month to testify about the agency's response to the Sago Mine disaster, West Virginia Sen. Robert C. Byrd said Monday.
"The families of the Sago miners deserve to know what happened in that mine. Just as importantly, miners and their families across this country want to know that steps are being taken to prevent others from ever experiencing such pain," Byrd said in a statement released by his office.
Spokesman Tom Gavin said Byrd wants to know why it took so long to get a backup rescue team on the ground after an initial team arrived at the mine, and why MSHA was apparently not more involved in the immediate hours after the explosion.
Last week, 12 miners died following an explosion at the International Coal Group Inc.'s Sago Mine near Tallmansville. The surviving miner, Randal McCloy Jr., remains hospitalized in Morgantown.
Byrd, the top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee, is working with Sens. Tom Harkin of Iowa, and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, to set a date for the hearings, Gavin said.
Specter is chairman of the committee's Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies, which has jurisdiction over MSHA. Harkin is the top Democrat on the subcommittee.
Byrd also would support MSHA holding public hearings as it investigates the mine disaster, Gavin said.
The senator believes "that people should have a chance to hear for themselves what the investigation results are," he said."

Sunday, January 08, 2006

LSD inventor laments 'betrayal' of medicinal drug hijacked by hippies
"THE chemist who invented the hallucinogenic drug LSD yesterday accused the hippie movement of betraying him.
Dr Albert Hofmann, whose accidental discovery of LSD 55 years ago sparked a generation of psychedelic music and art, spoke out on the eve of his 100th birthday. "

Swiss may have known about secret CIA prisons�(eng, NZZ Online)

The Swiss intelligence community has allegedly been aware of secret CIA prisons in eastern Europe for nearly two months according to leaked documents.
The intelligence services refuse to comment on the affair, revealed by the Sonntagsblick tabloid, while Swiss senator Dick Marty who is investigating the prison claims for the Council of Europe, remains cautious.
The Sonntagsblick wrote on Sunday that military intelligence intercepted a fax received by the Egyptian embassy in London supposedly confirming the existence of the detention centres.
The message was picked up by the secret service's Onyx satellite listening system on November 10, just three days after the Council of Europe launched an investigation into allegations that the CIA was running secret interrogation centres in Europe.
The non-governmental organisation Human Rights Watch had claimed shortly beforehand that American intelligences services were interrogating suspected members of Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network at these centres.
The NGO also claimed that American planes had carried prisoners from Kabul to Polish and Romanian military facilities on at least two occasions.
The Egyptian fax stated that 23 Iraqi and Afghan citizens had been transferred to a Romanian military base near the port of Constanza for interrogation purposes. It added that similar detention centres had been set up in Ukraine, Kosovo, Macedonia and Bulgaria.
The Sonntagsblick based its story on a document leaked from the Swiss military intelligence. The complete contents of the report are classified "secret."
Defence ministry Jean-Blaise Defago told swissinfo the authorities did not know how the journalists got hold of the document, but refused to comment on its contents. He added that defence minister Samuel Schmid has ordered an inquiry and legal steps were being considered.
The parliament's control committee, which oversees military intelligence, has also been informed of the leak.
Dick Marty, chief investigator for the Council of Europe into the prison allegations, is cautious about the Sonntagsblick's revelations.
"I cannot say whether it is an authentic document or not, and furthermore the fax relays information confirming things we already knew," he told swissinfo.
"But it seems inappropriate to me to talk of absolute proof. It is the kind of scoop I was expecting to see and I'm sure there will be plenty more."
Marty reckons that if the document turns out to be authentic, it will just be another proving that some governments in Europe are not revealing everything they know.
A bigger concern in his view is that a sensitive and secret official report was not only leaked, but that it also raised a few questions.
"How is it that the Swiss intelligence services are intercepting messages between Cairo and the Egyptian embassy in London," he asked. "Or is it another foreign service that passed on the information to Switzerland and then to the Sonntagsblick?"
swissinfo, Scott Capper

Feingold won't rule out Bush impeachment

Feingold won't rule out Bush impeachment:BURLINGTON — If Pres. George Bush broke laws when ordering wiretaps and secret spying on U.S. citizens, a key Senate Democrat said he would not rule out calling for his impeachment.

"I think there is an orderly and dignified way to find out what happened," said Russ Feingold of Wisconsin. "And, if there was a legal violation there needs to be accountability ... you can't put the cart before the horse, but I would not rule out any form of accountability."

That would include impeachment, Feingold told reporters.

Feingold, who is eyeing a run for president in 2008, was in Vermont Saturday to stump for Rep. Bernie Sanders, an independent, who is running for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by retiring Jim Jeffords.

The pair held a morning press conference before making stops throughout Vermont, including Brattleboro, where enthusiastic supporters packed the high school auditorium for what Sanders said was the first formal event of his official Senate campaign. The mid-day meeting drew supporters from New Hampshire and Massachusetts as well as throughout southern Vermont.

The senator, who sits on the Judiciary Committee, said in Brattleboro that committee chairman Arlen Specter has already scheduled hearings on the administration's surveillance activities, which will follow this week's confirmation hearings of Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito.

Asked by a supporter whether there was a way citizens could impeach Bush "here and now," Feingold said he first wants to hear the administration's justification for conducting domestic surveillance before determining what, if any, punishment should occur.

Once that is known he said, there should be accountability. "I'm not going to prejudge what that accountability should be."

The Congressional Research Service, a nonpartisan arm of Congress, released an analysis Friday that said Bush's rationale for eavesdropping on U.S. citizens without warrants rests on questionable legal ground.

"Terrorism is a serious issue in my view, and in the United States we've got to do everything we can to protect the American people," Sanders told supporters to applause. "We can do that without undermining the constitutional rights which have made us a free country. We're not going to let George Bush mistake the fact that he is president with being king; we got rid of a king 200 years ago."

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