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Undernews For May 12, 2008

Undernews For May 12, 2008

Washington's Most Unofficial Source
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Editor: Sam Smith

12 MAY 2008


I don't like money very much, but it calms my nerves. - Joe Louis




This is the second advisor Obama has dumped for being sensible on Mid East policy. It's a disturbing sign for the future, especially since Hamas was actually elected to lead the Palestinian people.

CHICAGO SUN TIMES Rob Malley, a Middle East policy adviser to likely Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama, resigned after news surfaced that he had been meeting with Hamas - something Obama pledged he himself would never do.

Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt said Saturday Malley called the Obama campaign on Friday to sever ties with the candidate after learning the Times of London was publishing a story about his contacts with the terrorist group.

Malley is an analyst at the Washington, D.C.-based International Crisis Group, specializing in the Israeli-Arab conflict. He told NBC News that his job "is to meet with all sorts of savory and unsavory people and report on what they say. I've never denied whom I meet with; that's what I do."

LaBolt said, "Sen. Obama strongly opposes talking to Hamas, a terrorist group committed to Israel's destruction. As president, he will work to isolate Hamas and target its resources, and rejects any dialogue until Hamas recognizes Israel, renounces terrorism, and abides by previous agreements."

JIMMY CARTER, NY TIMES We met with Hamas leaders from Gaza, the West Bank and Syria, and after two days of intense discussions with one another they gave these official responses to our suggestions, intended to enhance prospects for peace:
• Hamas will accept any agreement negotiated by Mr. Abbas and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel provided it is approved either in a Palestinian referendum or by an elected government. Hamas's leader, Khaled Meshal, has reconfirmed this, although some subordinates have denied it to the press.
• When the time comes, Hamas will accept the possibility of forming a nonpartisan professional government of technocrats to govern until the next elections can be held.
• Hamas will also disband its militia in Gaza if a nonpartisan professional security force can be formed.
• Hamas will accept a mutual cease-fire in Gaza, with the expectation (not requirement) that this would later include the West Bank.
LEONARD DOYLE, INDEPENDENT, UK On Israel's 60th anniversary his target audience were America's Jewish voters, some of whom have been a bit cool to him, in comparison to Hillary or McCain. It was no surprise then to hear Obama tell CNN's Wolf Blitzer [formerly employed by AIPAC - Ed] that when he is president America will stay glued to Israel, "not just for 60 years but for 600 years." Here's the money quote: "What I love about Israel is that it is a robust democracy, and that they are committed to principles like rule of law and civil rights and civil liberties." Perhaps as president Obama will encourage Israel to put those much admired principles into practice more often when it comes to the Palestinians.

ON MARCH 2, 2007 Obama gave a speech at AIPAC, America's pro-Israeli government lobby, wherein he disavowed his previous support for the plight of the Palestinians. . .

OBAMA STATED THE FOLLOWING in answer to a question about his statement in Iowa that "nobody is suffering more than the Palestine people": "Well, keep in mind what the remark actually, if you had the whole thing, said. And what I said is nobody has suffered more than the Palestinian people from the failure of the Palestinian leadership to recognize Israel, to renounce violence, and to get serious about negotiating peace and security for the region."

Which sounds good until you read an actual account of the incident by Thomas Beaumont of the Des Moines Register. Either Obama is lying or Beaumont did a lousy job of reporting. Based on the past record of Obama and the Des Moines Register, we're going to trust the paper until a contrary video shows up. Obama appears to have brazenly rewritten the story in a major way.

THOMAS BEAUMONT, DES MOINES REGISTER - Obama told the Muscatine-area party activists that he supports relaxing restrictions on aid to the Palestinian people. He said they have suffered the most as a result of stalled peace efforts with Israel. "Nobody is suffering more than the Palestinian people," Obama said while on the final leg of his weekend trip to eastern Iowa. "If we could get some movement among Palestinian leadership, what I'd like to see is a loosening up of some of the restrictions on providing aid directly to the Palestinian people," he added.


PROGRESS REPORT The Office of Special Counsel is an independent federal investigative and prosecutorial agency meant to protect federal employees from "prohibited personnel practices." Since President Bush's nominee Scott Bloch took over in 2004, however, this refuge has become a nightmare for government workers. LGBT employees have to fight an anti-gay bias, workers who disagree with Bloch's policies face retaliation, and politically-sensitive whistleblower cases are dismissed. The Office of Personnel Management's Inspector General has been investigating these allegations against Bloch. On May 6, FBI agents raided Bloch's home and office, focusing on whether he obstructed the federal investigation against him by erasing computer files in 2006. NPR reports that a grand jury in Washington issued 17 subpoenas overall, including for several other OSC staffers.

In February 2005, critics accused OSC of "improperly dismissing hundreds of whistleblower cases that had been pending when Bloch took over," in order to simply decrease the backlog. At other times, Bloch seems to have gone after cases for political gain. In April 2005, government watchdogs complained that he allowed his office to "sit on" a complaint that Condoleezza Rice, then-National Security Adviser, had "used government funds to travel in support of President Bush's re-election bid." By contrast, Bloch had ordered an immediate investigation into whether Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) had "improperly campaigned in a government workplace," even though the complaints had been filed around the same time. Last September, career OSC investigators began looking into whether partisan politics were a factor in the prosecution of former Democratic Alabama governor Don Siegelman. But on Oct. 11, Bloch " ordered the case file be closed immediately, saying that he had not authorized it." Bloch also stopped career investigators from opening a broad probe into whether Justice Department officials "considered political affiliation in their hiring and promotion decisions."

When Bloch took over OSC, he quickly appointed a deputy who had publicly spoken out against the " homosexual agenda." Bloch also "hired young lawyers from Ave Maria Law School, the conservative Catholic school founded by Domino's Pizza billionaire Tom Monaghan." More significantly, Bloch angered employees when, in 2004, he said that it may not be illegal for the government to discriminate against workers based on their sexual orientation. Without notifying other OSC staffers, he also removed all information on the subject from the agency's website and internal documents. The Washington Blade notes, "Information classifying sexual orientation discrimination as a ' prohibited personnel practice' had been included in various OSC documents and brochures since 1995." An embarrassed White House eventually subtly rebuked Bloch by issuing a "statement reaffirming a long-standing federal prohibition against sexual-orientation discrimination, and noting that the president 'expects federal agencies to enforce this policy.'"

Bloch has swiftly punished employees who have criticized him on his choice of cases and discriminatory policies, an example of the Bush administration's disdain for disagreement. "The Bush administration has absolutely not endorsed the concept of whistleblowing - they see it as disloyalty," said one OSC employee. In January 2005, Bloch suddenly issued an order forcing 12 career OSC employees to accept reassignment within 10 days or face dismissal. Lawyers for the employees said that the reassigned were "those perceived to be loyal to his [Bloch's] predecessor, and those seen to have a 'homosexual agenda.'" In addition to this retaliation, the OPM IG is looking into whether Bloch violated federal laws that "guarantee federal employees the right to communicate with Congress." In early 2007, Bloch's deputy "sent staffers a memo asking them to inform OSC higher-ups when investigators contact them. Further, the memo read, employees should meet with investigators in the office, in a special conference room." Some employees raised intimidation questions, "saying the recommendations made them afraid to be interviewed in the probe." In 2006, Bloch also "erased all the files on his office personal computer," potentially as part of a cover-up. To do so, he bypassed the Office of Special Counsel's technicians and phoned Geeks on Call, the mobile PC-help service.


WAYNE MADSEN REPORTS It is definitely fascism when it happens to you. . Yesterday, this editor and his colleague faced the Chertoffian menace at Washington's Reagan National Airport while heading to the gate to board a flight to Houston. It is now clear from a review of the events that unfolded that I was pre-selected for an intensive search and battery of questions even before arriving in line for the security screening. A Transportation Security Administration screener was overheard saying, "the guy with the beard." Since I was the only person in line who also had a beard, it was evident that a red flag had earlier been raised.

What followed, was worse than anything I had previously encountered while leaving Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion Airport, itself a revolting display of ingratitude to citizens of the country that bankrolls Israel, or the Israeli-run screening process at Amsterdam's Schipol Airport.

First, I was instructed to enter a glass isolation chamber and point out my belongings that were exiting the X-ray machine. Anyone with claustrophobia would really enjoy being placed in such a chamber and have to speak to the screener through small holes in the glass.

I was then led to an area where all my carry-on bags were emptied. I was also forced to empty my pockets of everything. A bevy of screeners then proceeded to go through my wallet examining everything: cash, credit cards, VA medical benefits card, National Press Club card, voter's registration card, and driver's license. Then came an examination of my press credentials and related IDs: Investigative Reporters and Editors card, Society of Professional Journalists card, National Archives research card, Library of Congress card, three press credentials, and membership card in Association for Intelligence Officers.

In a blatant violation of the First and Fourth Amendments, my reporter's notebooks, containing names of contacts in Houston and around the world were paged through by the screeners. Another screener asked if I minded being probed in "certain private areas." He then asked if I'd like the examination to be conducted in private. I replied, "no, let everyone see this." He then proceeded to examine my groin area.

Then came the battery of questions.

1. Are you feeling okay?
2. Where are you going today?
3. How long will you be there?
4. Why are you going there?
5. What story are you covering?
6. Who do you write for?
7. When did you move to Washington?
8. Where did you live before that?
9. What did you do for a living before?
10. Who was the most famous person you ever met?
11. What was the most famous event you ever covered?
12. What type of things do you write about?
13. What type of politics do you cover?
14. What is your place of birth?

My colleague, who had successfully passed through screening and was waiting for me, was then asked to step into the holding area so she "could see and hear what was going on." It was a ruse. She was also subjected to a full carry on bag examination, frisking, and a series of personal questions:

1, Are you with him?
2. Where are you going?
3. What is the purpose of your visit?
4. What story are you investigating?
5. How long were you in the US Air Force?
6. Where were you stationed overseas?
7. Why were you not overseas in the military?
8. When are you returning?
9. Who do you work for?
10. What is an independent journalist?
11. How long have you been working with him?
12. Do you find your job fulfilling?
13. What is your place of birth?

After this Gestapo-like of questioning, I was told that a TSA screener was writing details in a notebook for the "paperwork." My colleague was told TSA was going to file an "incident report.". .


John McCain's lifetime voting record, as measured by the League of Conservation Voters, reveals a senator who did not vote consistently for the measures supported by environmental groups. His lifetime score is 24%, compared with 86% for either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton. In 2007, he scored a zero, out of a possible 100, primarily because he missed votes on failing measures that might have passed if he had been on the Senate floor and not out campaigning. This year, he's championed a gas tax holiday that major economists, environmentalists and think-tank analysts have derided, in part because it will encourage more oil consumption at a time when the nation needs to find a way to reduce its dependence on oil. Daily Green


BRUCE DIXON, BLACK AGENDA REPORT Obama has chosen to "reach out" to white and Republican voters while challenging none of their assumptions about America, racism or empire, at the same time, counting on on a deaf and blind black nationalism to shield him from accountability to African Americans. Republicans (and Hillary Clinton) know all they need do to counter him is prove to whites that he is not as conservative as he seems. Obama will thus be forced scramble relentlessly rightward from here on, disowning, denouncing and dishonoring any and all stirrings of black or grassroots militancy to keep white support without telling white America anything it doesn't want to know.

Back in 2003, when Obama was a candidate for the US Senate in the Illinois Democratic primary this reporter and Glen Ford challenged him on his affiliation with the Democratic Leadership Council. The right-wing, corporate-funded Trojan Horse inside the Democratic party had fervently embraced his political career, naming him one of its "100 to Watch" for 2003.

DLC endorsement is the gold standard of political reliability for Wall Street, Big Energy, Big Pharma, insurance, the airlines and more. Though candidates normally undergo extensive questioning and interviews before DLC endorsement, Obama insisted the blessing of these corporate special interests had been bestowed on him without these formalities and without his advance knowledge, and formally disassociated himself from the DLC. But like Hillary Clinton, and every front running Democrat since Michale Dukakis in 1988, Barack Obama's campaign has adopted the classic right wing DLC strategy.

In the DLC playbook, the road to winning elections is appealing to Republican-leaning white voters – demographic groups which pollsters and consultants in previous elections called "suburban soccer moms", NASCAR dads," and before that "Reagan Democrats." Candidates do this by decrying excessive partisanship, embracing "free trade" and "conservative" values, and displays of public piety. . .

By contrast, the 1984 and 1988 presidential campaigns of Rev. Jesse Jackson won white support too, but embraced the burden of challenging white American assumptions about the essential goodness of America, about empire, and race and class. If you were organizing against police brutality or farm foreclosures, organizing a union or protesting the illegal war in Central America, the campaign in many cases came to you and augmented your local efforts. The Obama must campaign avoid this kind of activism like Dracula avoids crosses, because its candidate's appeal is based on challenging none of the fake history, none of the racism, injustice and unearned privilege at the heart of American life. . .

If there was an actual mass-based progressive movement in the US, operating on the ground and independent of political parties and campaigns, it might have a prayer of holding Barack Obama accountable. But there isn't.


AS THE MILITARY sends 43,000 troops it defines as medically unfit into battle because it can't keep up with its personnel requirements, it has dumped the equivalent of two to three battle brigades from its rosters because the troops were gay or lesbian. Over a ten year period ending in fiscal 2003, the Pentagon separated nearly 10,000 troops because of its anti-gay policies. This from a 2005 GAO report:

"The estimated training costs for the occupations performed by Navy members separated for homosexual conduct from fiscal year 1994 through fiscal year 2003 was about $48.8 million ($18,000 per member). The comparable Air Force cost estimate was $16.6 million ($7,400 per member). The Army estimated that the training cost of the occupations performed by Army members separated for homosexual conduct over the 10-year period was about $29.7 million ($6,400 per member). The Marine Corps was not able to estimate occupation-related training costs. . .

"The military services separated 9,488 members pursuant to the homosexual conduct policy statute from fiscal year 1994 through fiscal year 2003. . . Seven hundred fifty-seven (about 8 percent) of these separated servicemembers held critical occupations ("voice interceptor," "data processing technician," or "interpreter/translator"), as defined by the services. About 59 percent of the members with critical occupations who were separated for homosexual conduct were separated during their first 2.5 years of service, which is about 1.5 years before the expiration of the initial service contract of most enlistees. Such contracts are typically for 4 years. Also, 322 members (about 3 percent) had some skills in an important foreign language."


KRIS MAHER, WALL STREET JOURNAL Two of the nation's largest labor unions have struck confidential agreements with large employers that give the companies the right to designate which of their locations, and how many workers, the unions can seek to organize.

The agreements are raising questions about union transparency and workers' rights. A summary document put together by the unions says it is critical to the success of the partnership "that we honor the confidentiality and not publicly disclose the existence of these agreements." That includes not disclosing them to union members.

The agreements involve workers who provide food, laundry and housekeeping services on an outsourced basis. The employers are Sodexho Inc. and the Compass Group USA unit of London-based Compass Group PLC. The unions are the 1.7 million-member Service Employees International Union, or SEIU, and Unite Here. The unions say they negotiated a similar agreement with Aramark Corp. but that Aramark broke the deal last year, and they're trying to reach a new one. An Aramark spokesman declined to comment on that.

The unions defend the agreements and their secrecy, saying they've helped workers join unions in growing industries at a time of declining union membership in many sectors. Last year, 7.5% of private-sector workers belonged to unions, compared with 17% 25 years ago. The agreements have "resulted in tens of thousands of workers getting unions" and been a major advance for the labor movement, said the president of Unite Here, Bruce Raynor.

He defended keeping them confidential, saying the companies involved insisted on that for competitive reasons. . .

Labor experts said agreements such as those the SEIU and Unite Here reached open a window on a big debate within organized labor: what kind of tradeoffs to make . . .

A key question in the agreements is determining at which sites a union can organize. Unite Here's Mr. Raynor said specific sites where unions can organize are selected jointly by the companies and the unions.

The unions gave up the right to strike and to post derogatory language about the companies on bulletin boards. With Compass, the unions agreed to these restrictions "anywhere in the world." In exchange, the companies agree not to oppose union organizing at the designated locations.

But limits are also set. "Local unions are not free to engage in organizing activities at any Compass or Sodexho locations unless the sites have been designated," says the confidential summary.


GEOFFREY LEAN, INDEPENDENT, UK It's a classic stand-off between one of the world's best loved animals and one of its most unpopular leaders, between the planet's largest bear and its most powerful man. And it comes to a head this week.

On Thursday, by order of a federal judge, George W Bush must stop stalling on whether to designate the polar bear as a species endangered by global warming. The designation could have huge consequences for his climate-change policies; his administration would, by law, have to avoid doing anything that would "jeopardise the continued existence" of the mammal whose habitat is melting away.

Unsurprisingly, perhaps, the administration has sought to avoid the decision. It has delayed it for months, and was seeking to put it off for months more. . .

Polar bears depend on the sea ice for hunting, mating and moving around. Last summer, 200,000 square miles of ice – more than twice the size of Britain – melted for the first time, shrinking the frozen sea to an extent that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicted would not occur until 2050. More and more scientists believe the Arctic could be ice-free in summer in little more than 20 years.


POLITICO The PR executive John McCain just tapped to help run the GOP convention quit today after a report that his firm once represented the Burmese junta that is now doing little to relieve its people from the devastation incurred by this week’s cyclone. Doug Goodyear, CEO of the DCI Group, said in a statement issued by the convention committee that he was resigning "so as not to become a distraction in this campaign."

EARLIER NEWSWEEK STORY Some allies worry that Goodyear's selection could fuel perceptions that McCain-who has portrayed himself as a crusader against special interests-is surrounded by lobbyists. Goodyear is CEO of DCI Group, a consulting firm that earned $3 million last year lobbying for ExxonMobil, General Motors and other clients.

Potentially more problematic: the firm was paid $348,000 in 2002 to represent Burma's military junta, which had been strongly condemned by the State Department for its human-rights record and remains in power today. Justice Department lobbying records show DCI pushed to "begin a dialogue of political reconciliation" with the regime. It also led a PR campaign to burnish the junta's image, drafting releases praising Burma's efforts to curb the drug trade and denouncing "falsehoods" by the Bush administration that the regime engaged in rape and other abuses. . .

Another issue: DCI has been a pioneer in running "independent" expenditure campaigns by so–called 527 groups, precisely the kind of operations that McCain, in his battle for campaign-finance reform, has denounced. . .

Ironically, Goodyear was chosen for the post after the McCain campaign nixed another candidate, Paul Manafort, who runs a lobbying firm with McCain's campaign manager, Rick Davis. The prospect of choosing Manafort created anxiety in the campaign because of his long history of representing controversial foreign clients, including Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos. More recently, he served as chief political consultant to Viktor Yanukovich, the former Ukrainian prime minister who has been widely criticized for alleged corruption and for his close ties to Russia's Vladimir Putin-a potential embarrassment for McCain, who in 2007 called Putin a "totalitarian dictator."


SENATOR RUSS FEINGOLD, LA TIMES - The Bush administration recently announced it will allow select members of Congress to read Justice Department legal opinions about the CIA's controversial detainee interrogation program that have been hidden from Congress until now. But as the administration allows a glimpse of this secret law - and it is law - we are left wondering what other laws it is still keeping under lock and key.

It's a given in our democracy that laws should be a matter of public record. But the law in this country includes not just statutes and regulations, which the public can readily access. It also includes binding legal interpretations made by courts and the executive branch. These interpretations are increasingly being withheld from the public and Congress.

Perhaps the most notorious example is the recently released 2003 Justice Department memorandum on torture written by John Yoo. The memorandum was, for a nine-month period in 2003, the law that the administration followed when it came to matters of torture. And that law was essentially a declaration that the administration could ignore the laws passed by Congress.

The content of the memo was deeply troubling, but just as troubling was the fact that this legal opinion was classified and its content kept secret for years. As we now know, the memo should never have been classified because it contains no information that could compromise national security if released. In a Senate hearing that I chaired April 30, the top official in charge of classification policy from 2002 to 2007 testified that classification of this memo showed "either profound ignorance of or deep contempt for" the standards for classification.

The memos on torture policy that have been released or leaked hint at a much bigger body of law about which we know virtually nothing. The Yoo memo was filled with references to other Justice Department memos that have yet to see the light of day, on subjects including the government's ability to detain U.S. citizens without congressional authorization and the government's ability to bypass the 4th Amendment in domestic military operations.

Another body of secret law involves the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. In 1978, Congress created the special FISA court to review the government's requests for wiretaps in intelligence investigations, which is - and should be - done behind closed doors. But with changes in technology and with this administration's efforts to expand its surveillance powers, the court today is doing more than just reviewing warrant applications. It is issuing important interpretations of FISA that have effectively made new law.

These interpretations deeply affect Americans' privacy rights, and yet Americans don't know about them because they are not allowed to see them. Very few members of Congress have been allowed to see them either. When the Senate recently approved some broad and controversial changes to FISA, almost none of the senators voting on the bill could know what the law currently is.

The code of secrecy also extends to yet another body of law: changes to executive orders. The administration takes the position that a president can "waive" or "modify" a published executive order without any public notice - simply by not following it. It's every president's prerogative to change an executive order, but doing so without public notice works a secret change in the law. And, because the published order stays on the books, Congress and the public have no idea that it's no longer in effect. We don't know how many of these covert changes have been made by this administration or, for that matter, by past administrations.

No one questions the need for the government to protect information about intelligence sources and methods, troop movements or weapons systems. But there's a big difference between withholding information about military or intelligence operations from the public and withholding the law that governs the executive branch. Keeping the law secret doesn't enhance national security, but it does give the government free rein to operate without oversight or accountability. Even the congressional intelligence committees, which are supposed to oversee the intelligence community, have been denied access to some of these legal opinions.

Congress should pass legislation to require the administration to alert Congress when the law created by Justice Department opinions ignores or even violates the laws passed by Congress, and to require public notice when it is waiving or modifying a published executive order. Congress and the public shouldn't have to wonder whether the executive branch is following the laws that are on the books or some other, secret law.


DAVID JOHNSTON, NY TIMES Secret Service supervisors shared crude sexual jokes and engaged in racially derogatory banter about blacks, and passed around an anecdote about a possible assassination of the Rev. Jesse Jackson, according to internal e-mail disclosed in a federal court filing by lawyers for black Secret Service agents.

The filing includes 10 e-mail messages that were among documents the agency recently turned over to lawyers for the black agents as part of an increasingly bitter discrimination lawsuit. The messages were written mainly from 2003 through 2005, and were sent to and from e-mail accounts of at least 20 Secret Service supervisors. . .

In some of the court documents, the senders of the e-mail messages are identified only by the jobs they currently occupy and the rank they held when the messages were sent. For example, an Oct. 9, 2003, message referring to a "Harlem Spelling Bee," ridiculing black slang, was sent by Thomas Grupski, then assistant director for protective operations, who, according to the filing, now heads the Office of Government Liaison and Public Affairs.

A March 3, 2003, message describing Mr. Jackson as the "Righteous Reverend" was passed among several Secret Service supervisors. The message, about a missile striking an airplane in which Mr. Jackson and his wife were traveling, concludes, it "certainly wouldn’t be a great loss and it probably wouldn’t be an accident either." . . .

The lawsuit, which has dragged on through years of litigation, was filed in 2000 by 10 black agents who charged that they were unfairly denied promotions. The agency employs about 3,200 agents, about 10 percent of whom are black.



INLAND DAILY BULLETIN, CA Councilwoman Cristina Carrizosa isn't opposed to police checkpoints, but she does have problems with a May 3 checkpoint at Mission Boulevard and San Antonio Avenue of which vehicles were stopped by officers in all four directions. The matter exploded on yet another level at Monday's City Council meeting when she described police efforts at the checkpoint as reminding her of the Gestapo.
"There was an excess of personnel, an excess of equipment, an excess of outside police forces and an excess of hours," Carrizosa said. . . In her comments Carrizosa said: ". . . the situation that I saw that frankly reminded me of what I had seen (and) what I have watched in movies that were portraying the situations during the occupation of European countries by the Gestapo and from military or paramilitary organizations."




Nostalgic moments from the Clinton years

DAVID SCHIPPERS, FORMER LEAD COUNSEL, CLINTON IMPEACHMENT TRIAL: I am convinced that one of the reasons we weren't able to get our trial in the Senate was because some of the material in Filegate was used to, shall we say, coerce some of the members. . . I will tell anybody who will listen that I think we reaped the whirlwind of Filegate in the Senate and in the attitude of some of the leaders and some of the people in the Senate. People that we thought we could rely upon just sat on their hands and I don't know what was in those files but I could guess. .

Filegate refers to the acquisition and use by the Clinton White House of 400-700 FBI files on people such as James Baker, Brent Scowcroft and Marlin Fitzwater. The files were handled by Craig Livingstone, whose total previous experience in security was as a bar bouncer. The Clinton administration refused to explain how Livingstone obtained such as important security job. Some believed he was hired by, and reported to, Hillary Clinton although this was never proven.

RICHARD FRANKLIN - At the crime scene, Park Police officer John Rolla searched [Vince] Foster's pockets for personal effects. Officers Cheryl Braun and Christine Hodakievic watched while Rolla carefully searched Foster's front and back pockets. Rolla found nothing. Foster's wallet and credit cards were found in his Honda, but his car keys were missing. One of the most remarkable aspects of the crime-scene investigation is that the absence of the car keys never dampened the operative suicide conclusion.
Later that evening, Braun and Rolla went to the morgue to search Foster's pockets a second time. Presumably they were ordered to so. Upon arriving, Braun immediately found two key rings in Foster's right front pocket. One ring had four keys. How did Rolla miss them the first time? Two key rings with six keys inside a front pocket should have presented a bulky outline. Even a simple police "pat down" should have been enough to discover the keys. Who ordered Braun and Rolla to the morgue to look for the keys a second time? Why was this order given?

PROGRESSIVE REVIEW Mr. Foster's body was found at Fort Marcy Park with his car but without any car keys. Later that evening William Kennedy and Craig Livingstone showed up at the morgue and so did Mr. Foster's car keys. There are conflicting reports in the record about when Kennedy and Livingstone and the U.S. Park Police arrived at the morgue.



CHICAGO TRIBUNE - Days after their pastor was arrested in an undercover prostitution sting, members of his Hinsdale church gathered Sunday to pray and begin planning a new future for the congregation that Rev. Phillip Haltom helped create. The sermon at Trinity Presbyterian Church focused on forgiveness, an act that several church members said now had renewed, real-life meaning. Many of the congregation's 125 members brought food and home-baked goods to Haltom and his family, church leaders said. And while Haltom's missteps were not mentioned directly and he was not there, the themes of sin, repentance and atonement rang through the service. "People are reeling and people are hurt. But at the same time, there's a real sense of concern. . . . Everybody loves him," said Rev. Ted Powers, who led the weekly service in Haltom's stead. Haltom, 52, of the 900 block of Oakwood Terrace in Hinsdale was one of five men snared in an online prostitution bust last week. An undercover female officer posted an ad offering sex on the Craigslist Web site last month. Haltom allegedly responded, and when he arrived at the agreed location, he was arrested without incident, according to police in St. Charles, where the arrests occurred.


Barack Obama's eloquence seems to fade without the aid of a couple of teleprompters. Given a hard question, he muddles around like a lawyer in front of a judge being asked a question he knows he should have researched before trial. - Sam Smith



The 905 reported tornadoes through May 11 is far ahead of the total typically seen by this time of year. It's been late July or even early August by the time this many tornadoes have typically been recorded, according to the Storm Prediction Center. The U.S. has already been hit by 71% of the tornadoes expected in an typical year, when compared to the 10-year average. The year is only about 34% through, and we've only just entered the typical tornado season. 2008 has been unusual because the winter produced so many damaging storms. Daily Green

The once-green Sahara turned to desert over thousands of years rather than in an abrupt shift as previously believed, according to a study that may help understanding of future climate changes. And there are now signs of a tiny shift back towards greener conditions in parts of the Sahara, apparently because of global warming, said the lead author of the report about the desert's history published in the journal Science. . . The findings, about one of the biggest environmental shifts of the past 10,000 years, challenge past belief based on evidence in marine sediments that a far quicker change created the world's biggest hot desert. . . A gradual drying, blamed on shifts in monsoon rains linked to shifts in the power of the sun, meant large amounts of dust started blowing in the region about 4,300 years ago. The Sahara now covers an area the size of the United States. Reuters

With rising oil prices and heightened concern about carbon emissions, riding a bicycle no longer seems quite so silly. The number of [NYC] bicyclists has grown by 75 percent during the past seven years, according to the city's count. Soon an ambitious city plan will make it possible for riders to traverse Manhattan via dedicated bike lanes and circumnavigate the island along the waterfront. Sheltered bicycle parking and thousands of new public bike racks are in place. - Boston Globe



A judge said she's inclined to boost a jury's damages award against the SF Weekly to $15.6 million and order the publication to stop trying to ruin the competing San Francisco Bay Guardian with below-cost ads.
Judge Marla Miller of San Francisco Superior Court said she believes she's required under state law to increase the damages and issue an injunction in light of the jury's March 5 verdict that the SF Weekly, part of a national chain of alternative newspapers, cut its advertising rates below its costs to undermine the locally owned Guardian. . . Both newspapers are distributed for free and depend on advertising for their revenue. Both have suffered declines in annual revenue since 2000, but the Guardian claimed in its lawsuit that the Weekly was using cash infusions from its parent company, Village Voice Media, to stay afloat and subsidize a rate-cutting campaign aimed at bankrupting its rival. San Francisco Chronicle


The battle over voting rights will expand this week as lawmakers in Missouri are expected to support a proposed constitutional amendment to enable election officials to require proof of citizenship from anyone registering to vote. The measure would allow far more rigorous demands than the voter ID requirement recently upheld by the Supreme Court, in which voters had to prove their identity with a government-issued card. Sponsors of the amendment - which requires the approval of voters to go into effect, possibly in an August referendum - say it is part of an effort to prevent illegal immigrants from affecting the political process. Critics say the measure could lead to the disenfranchisement of tens of thousands of legal residents who would find it difficult to prove their citizenship.

Jeff Brown was walking his bicycle - across his own front yard - when he was stopped by a police officer. The cop began to cite him for not having a headlight on the bike, then said, "I smell the presence of alcohol on your breath". Jeff was stunned - and refused to take a breath test. Result: convicted of drunk driving - with four days in jail, a 6-month driver’s license suspension and a criminal record. So Jeff decided to appeal. . . and started looking into why the Ohio Legislature in 2004 had changed the drunk driving laws from driving motor vehicles to include operating such "vehicles" as golf carts, lawn mowers, farm tractors and bicycles – and from driving on public roads to include driving on your own private property. DUI Blog


Hard times and high energy prices have thousands of residential customers owing Bangor Hydro-Electric Co. many millions of dollars. . . "Many of the people who are now coming to us for help faced the choice this past winter of either buying fuel oil for heat or paying their electric bills," said Sister Lucille MacDonald, who oversees the Emmaus Center in Ellsworth, Hancock County's only homeless shelter. "They had to have heat, so they put off paying their electric bills. Now that's catching up with them." Between the first of this year and May 1, Bangor Hydro sent disconnection letters to 32,632 residential customers in Hancock, Penobscot and Washington counties who, on average, owed the company $880. Collectively, those customers' unpaid electric bills totaled just over $7 million. During those same four months, Bangor Hydro mailed to another 13,422 households disconnection notices after previously negotiated payment plans went ignored and were deemed "broken agreements." On May 1, those customers, on average, owed the utility $2,263 and collectively had unpaid electric bills totaling nearly $7.4 million. - Ellsworth American, ME


Al Meyerhoff, Huffington Post - Over the Fourth of July weekend of 1999, I had the good fortune to accompany my then fiancée (and now happily my wife) to the McCain vacation home in Sedona where she was interviewing them for a Home & Garden Television show. The interview itself was entirely apolitical, focusing on fabrics and furnishing in their lovely Oak Creek abode, topics about which I do recall the senator was less than comfortable discussing. . . As McCain flipped burgers, I could not help but ask his views about then candidate George W. Bush. "He's as dumb as a stump," McCain offered. We then went on to discuss other matters (including Vietnam) but that quote remains seared in my memory.

After 20 years of loving Barack like he was a member of his own family, for Jeremiah [Wright] to see Barack saying over and over that he didn’t know about Jeremiah’s views during those years, that he wasn’t familiar with what Jeremiah had said, that he may have missed church on this day or that and didn’t hear what Jeremiah said, this is seen by Jeremiah as nonsense and betrayal," a source with ties to Wright told the Post’s Fredric Dicker. "Jeremiah is trying to defend his congregation and the work of his ministry by saying what he is saying" and "doesn’t care if he derails Obama’s candidacy or not." - NY Post

The Los Angeles Times notes that the worst thing that could happen to Sen. Barack Obama "now is what so many party members are clamoring for: Hillary Rodham Clinton to drop out." "Why? Because with her name still on the ballots, she'd be very likely to win in West Virginia anyway. And maybe Kentucky too, given the demographics in both places. And possibly Puerto Rico as well. How would that look if at the end of the Democratic race the winning candidate with clearly the most delegates and popular votes went down to defeat against a candidate who isn't in the contest anymore?" - Political Wire

We have been urging Greens to spend more time on local races and less on the big ones as a more effective way to build the movement. The opportunities are impressive. Take Arkansas, for example. The Arkansas News Bureau reports: So, before a single state primary vote was cast - early voting began Monday - Democrats were assured a House majority with 51 unopposed candidates, with House Republicans garnering 12 seats the easy way, about half way to at least maintaining the 25 House seats they currently hold. Thirteen of the 18 Senate seats up for election this year were uncontested, giving eight Democrats and five Republicans a clear path to office. Overall, 76 of the 118 seats up for election are uncontested, about 65 percent.

In 2006, a voting rights suit against the winner-take-all, at-large voting system for the Amarillo College board of regents had been settled with cumulative voting. Cumulative voting is non-winner-take-all voting method where candidates run in multi-seat districts and voters have as many votes as seats and can allocate their votes however they wish rather than cast only one vote person candidate. It has been used since 2000 for the Amarillo Independent School District, each time resulting in at least one person of color winning after two decades of no racial minority winning with the old winner-take-all system - currently the seven-member board has one African American and one Latina. On May 10, three at-large seats were elected to the college board, using cumulative voting for the first time. One person of color ran - African American incumbent Prenis Williams, who had been appointed in 2006. He comfortably finished first. (Also, Latina incumbent Lilia Escajeda was unopposed in a separate election for board chair). - Rob Richie, Fair Vote

With more than 23,000 Greens in Maine, the state will play a critical role in determining who will represent the party on the ballot in November. Maine is behind only California in the number of delegates it can send to the national convention in July, said Jane Meisenbach, chairwoman of the Maine Green Independent Party board.. . . Jon Olsen of Jefferson, a founding member of the Hawaii Green Party in 1989, said Greens are particularly angry about the war in Iraq and the government's failed response in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. "We see that the present government that we've got, with Democrats and Republicans, has been a total disaster and getting worse, led by this present administration," he said. Olsen said that Greens' frustration with Democrats and Republicans is aimed at Washington politicians, and that Greens work well with the major parties in Maine. Portland Press Herald

For the Democrats, proportional representation, rather than producing chaos, underscored the party’s commitment to inclusion. Democrats are more likely to speak about equality, social justice and fairness in election campaigns than Republicans, and proportional representation is more compatible with those themes than a winner-take-all method. Alan Wolfe, Washington Post





NOTE: You can post your comments on any of the above stories by going to our Undernews site and searching for the headline. Once posted, a copy is immediately mailed to the Review and we pick some of the most interesting to publish here.


--- That was a great article. Very well said. Do you think if lobbying was abolished or banned that things could change?

--- Thanks for reminding us the CEO has no clothes. Great analogy about televangelist as CEO. Corporate communism has persisted far too long we need to return to real sense of capitalism.

--- I am afraid that what you've said sounds accurate to me. I work for a large, iconic American corporation and most of my co-workers and I see this waste every day. We belittle corporate emails, shake our heads when the latest round of reorganizations come or when objectives change, mostly because we have really been hurt by poor higher management but can't really do much (in fact, the official feedback mechanism that would record our concerns has been constructed in such a way that we cannot express concerns about any management decisions other than by our own direct manager). Not only do they not get their hands dirty with actual work, they also refuse to hear when things are going wrong .

--- People - real, living, breathing, greedy, people are responsible for corporaphilia (great word), and things can be done to resist them. We all need to recognize that the ways things have gone is not ordained other than through the will of particular people. The corporate culture did not magic its way into existence. People created it. The trail can be followed.

Be aware of who is responsible. Yes, it's a big team, from bankers to Bill O'Reilly, but not as big as those who are becoming increasingly sick of it all.

Don't cooperate, or if you must, do the absolute minimum to accede to the demands of your superiors. Just one small example: if you are asked to fill in a satisfaction questionnaire, don't, or note on it that you thinks it's b.s. (People do this, you know, or at least the ones who aren't gutless.)

Don't buy into corporatism (unless you're forced to work as part of it); nobody forces you to shop at Wal-Mart, etc. In fact, consumer power is the only realistic option we have now.

Stop watching mainstream news, and reading mainstream media. Why do you need to if you've got people like Sam Smith, etc.?

Don't buy on credit. This is the corporate beast's biggest meal.

See how far you can go without spending money! A day? That's a good start. The loss of a day's income for a fuel company would show them who can really be boss: us.

--- "Detail oriented" is good. "Micromanagement" is bad. They aren't the same. I work for a small business, and the boss will make random technical decisions on low level of different projects. I understand my project much better than he does, and the vast majority of his changes make no sense. "Detail oriented" would mean he follows the projects closely and gives suggestions. "Micromanaging" doesn't imply he follows the projects closely, but does imply that he makes technical decisions instead of lower-level people who potentially understand things better. Micromanaging is antithetical to hiring people smarter than you, or even comparably smart.

--- You insights about fear in our society are spot on. For myself, I seem to walk the fine line between going too far in opposing some our corporate policies, while fearing how to cover my son's student loans if I get myself fired.

Anyway, since you provided a link to some of your music, thought I would provide a link to my wife's music. - Gary Overgard

And fine Celtic harp sound it is. . . .Sam

--- Shockingly-good article, Mr. Smith. I think you pretty much nailed it when you mentioned that even the true believer Christian had been co-opted by corporate culture. This cultural slave then went to justify his own slave master by finding Biblical "proof" of its Heaven-ordained status. Brilliant. Tragic. Sublime. - Greg Pyatt

--- I think the all-hail-the-mighty-dollar philosophy of the last 20 or so years has come about because the amount of funny money floating around in the financial sector has come back from the Asian central banks, into the U.S credit markets and grown exponentially compared with the value that the rest of the economy produces.

This has caused an enormous power shift to public companies and others who can issue endless debt and buy up all sorts of honest little companies and ruining them with armies of B.S. spewing MBAs. These same companies fund the non-profits, etc. who have to beg indirectly at the feet of the all mighty financial sector and its borrowers for money.

--- Great essay. Spot on. I'm afraid that things will never go back to what they once were. History - and reality in general - cannot be made to enter the bottle once it has escaped. Your corporate structure of culture is here to stay albeit not in the same form. It triumphed because it was stronger in some ways (not necessarily in the long run) but in some crucial ways. I believe it will not survive the dissolving of the nation-state that also is happening in this age. Rather it will in the end compliment it, i.e. large corporations, multinational corporations etc. will adopt some of the ways that signify states (and the citizen relationship the nation retains with its humans). Policing, protection of outside attack, environmental responsibility, taxing etc. will become a conglomerate of private (corporate) and public (nation) responsibility.

- While I agree wholeheartedly with what you say I was saddened to find that your blog only renders correctly in a browser owned by one of the most egregious corporations on the planet - Microsoft - and not in a free browser such as Firefox. That is free as in libre, not free as in 'no charge'.

Open Source software is one of the few effective counters to corporatism in the world of technology. I am happy to see its principles being extended into other areas, for example the biosciences. There is hope that this beast can be defeated, but it is going to take a long time to do it - without a bloody revolution.


--- Is there a reason for posting this news, other than to imply that Ron Paul is a kook, or all Paul supporters are kooks? This gated community called Paulville has nothing to do with Ron Paul and doesn't represent his beliefs. He is working to change the direction the country is going, not to have us isolated. These gated-libertarian people can do what they want, but shouldn't be calling it Paulville.

--- They can call it anything they want; the real point here is that Sam is not engaging in responsible reportage by determining whether or not Paul endorses the use of the name. If he doesn't, then Prorev is yet again guilty of smears by association, a tactic that I've noticed is not (unfortunately) either rare or unusual on this site. It mightily impairs both Sam Smith's and his publication's integrity and credibility to have to resort to it, however.


--- Why do they always make hybrids either weird or ugly?

--- Because not weird or "ugly" equals conventional. And there's not a whole lot you can do with conventional design as far as aerodynamics and rolling resistance goes. Aptera is explicitly trying to minimize drag, hence the shape. In this case I believe they chose to go hybrid simply because it is more efficient than a straight gas engine.


--- So we're good and they're bad? Thanks for straightening that out, Mr. Chait.

--- That was a terrible article. The most conservative populist issue is immigration. There is a much bigger divide between populists and elitists than between Democratic and Republican populists. - wellbasically

-- Both of you seem to need a refresher course in deductive reasoning. Sam posted an article he believed to be of potential interest to his readers without applying any editorial comment or implying one way or another whether Ron Paul himself endorsed it. Too many commenters here attribute beliefs to Sam that are actually the beliefs of the original author of the article.


--- Why is this a problem? Emperor W has been shitting on live troops for years in broad daylight, sneaking their bodies back into the country in the dead of night (out of media eye) and basically acting like a retarded Caligula since the day his appointment began . . . Given the regard W has for the troops (and the American people) we're lucky he doesn't let Halliburton put the bodies in the dissolving tanks and use the resulting mixture as MREs for the other troops in IraqighanistanNam.

--- I'd rather have mine or a loved ones' ashes intermingled with an animal's, any day of the week, than a vast number of humans I could name. .

--- Why should anyone care what happens to an empty shell? - Worf

--- It may be just because I'm not old fashioned, but, really, why is this a big deal? Does anyone remember "ashes to ashes, dust to dust?" Animal dust is just like human dust. Shouldn't people be more worried about not letting the soldiers die in the first place?


- What your needle stuck in a rut? Waterwater? This is penny ante compared to the games of this administration. I hope Geneva gets the lot of them, and tries them all on European TV just like the Nuremburg trials. Hang the lot of them. Whitewater?

- The May 7 essay on the corporate curse is one of the best pieces you have written ever. Thank you so much for it. Marsh Brownfield


- Long Live The Fourth Amendment, The Fourth Amendment Is Dead. The Dems sponsored this? Ralph Nader continues to be right. - robbie


I have a friend serving life without parole for a murder he didn't commit. Were there a national DNA base, it would easy to check the identity of a male, not the defendant, whose blood was found under the
victim's fingernails. So far, twenty years, the State of Maine has taken the position that this fact was not known to the jury was unimportant. A quick check of a national registry here might free an innocent man a lead to the conviction of the actual killer. I have to say, there is a strong case on both sides

--- Few people seem to realize the vast difference between comparing a suspect's (or potential exonoree's) DNA with incriminating DNA where any strain that doesn't match is hard evidence of innocence with comparing a crime scene DNA with a data base wherein the attempt is to find enough of a match to convince a court that guilt is statistically probable. As the size of a data base increases, so does the probability of finding similar DNA. Problems arise when prosecutors present similarities as definite matches.
Aside from cases wherein unrealistic probabilities are provided as fact, think about the FBI's history as Gestapo - Stassi type political police. Do you trust these guys not to fake a match when it suits them? I don't.


Two words: Cherry Marines. Ask any Marine of high rank about the Wesson Oil parties. They'll either clam up, or run from you. . . unless you are in a bathhouse and the water's just too delightful. . . Then you'll hear a story.


--- And Barry Obama is being advised and guided by Zbigniew Brzezinski and Robert Rubin---this election is a sham.

--- I wouldn't call it a sham, I'd call it meet the new boss, same as the old boss. No matter who gets in, it's gonna be more of the same.

--- Anyone who still believes that American politicians make their own decisions based on their personal beliefs is living in a fantasy world. They all act only on the orders they receive from the billionaires that donate to their campaigns. - FoE


--- Oh, great. Gotta wonder if these folks are trying to destroy themselves and all other unions.

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