May 20th, 2009


Joe Barton, GOP Congressman, Explains Why CO2 Is Harmless: "It's In Your Coca-Cola" (VIDEO)

Joe Barton, GOP Congressman, Explains Why CO2 Is Harmless: "It's In Your Coca-Cola" (VIDEO)

Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) has long been one of the most outspoken global warming skeptics in the Congress.
This morning, on C-SPAN, he denounced the pending cap-and-trade legislation by stating that "the stupidest thing that Congress could do this year is pass Waxman-Markey."

Barton, who has resisted proposals to reduce the country's oil dependence, explained that there shouldn't be any concern about carbon-dioxide emissions because CO2 is relatively harmless:
I'm creating it as I talk to you. It's in your Coca-Cola. your Dr. Pepper and your Perrier water. It's necessary for human life. It's odorless, colorless, tasteless, doesn't cause cancer, doesn't cause asthma. There's nobody that's ever been admitted to a hospital because of CO2 poisoning.


Opposing Gay Marriage, GOP Counsel Cited Pedophilia

Opposing Gay Marriage, GOP Counsel Cited Pedophilia

The new chief Republican counsel for the Senate Judiciary Committee wrote a blog post last month in which he linked same-sex marriage to pedophilia, according to a Web site that has since been taken down.

The post by William Smith responded to a recent speech by Steve Schmidt, a Republican campaign consultant who advised Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign. Speaking in Washington to the Log Cabin Republicans, a gay rights group, Schmidt had urged Republicans to support same-sex marriage.

“I wonder if next week Schmidt will take his close minded stump speech to a NAMBLA meeting. For those unfamiliar with NAMBLA, the acronym is for North American Man Boy Love Association,” Smith responded on in a post dated April 20.

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) announced Smith as chief counsel May 13, after Sessions replaced Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania as the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee. Sessions named three other lawyers to top positions as part of a sweep of Specter’s former committee staff.

Smith’s Web site is no longer visible, though Google has kept a “cached,” or archived, version of the site. It was visible earlier this month. The mailing address, e-mail address, and phone number on the Web site’s domain name registration match the address and phone number on Smith’s Alabama bar registration.

Other commentators — including California preacher Rick Warren — have been criticized for making a similar comparison between homosexuality and pedophilia. Smith did not respond to an interview request. Two spokespeople for Sessions also did not respond.

Smith’s post continued:

Schmidt would quickly tell you that he is not advocating that we support 60 year old men in their desire to rape 8 year old boys, but he would not classify his opposition as narrow minded. No! This is a principled position; there is some logic behind it, Schmidt would say.
Is Schmidt then going to take his close minded stump speech to the Bestiality Club? Again, his answer would be no, although there are a group of people who embrace this lifestyle.
Schmidt and other gay lifestyle proponents would say that my opposition is based on the slippery slope approach. I say that it is based on principle and that it is no more close minded than their position for gay unions. The difference between me and Schmidt is that I’m not a maverick. I’m guided by something called Christian principles. And I don’t need people in California, New York and Washington to tell me what the principles should be.

Smith worked for Sessions from 2001 to 2006. He was Sessions’ chief counsel on a Senate Judiciary subcommittee when he left. Most recently, Smith served as executive director of congressional relations at Americans for Limited Government, according to a Sessions news release.

In an interview last week for C-SPAN, Sessions praised his new staff. He said they would be more likely than Specter’s staff to advance a core Republican agenda, which usually includes opposition to same-sex marriage. Specter has supported civil unions for gays and lesbians.

“They’ll be a principled staff that [is] probably more uniformly in accord with the basic Republican view of the Constitution and law. And I think that’s healthy,” Sessions said. “The ranking member should — normally, you would expect them to have a staff that supports a majority of the [Republicans on the] committee. Sometimes, [under] Senator Specter, one member was taking our staff and promoting other agendas. So I think we’ll be more in harmony with the basic group of Republican senators.”


Graham Vs Graham: Lindsey Graham Debates Himself on Detainee Torture (VIDEO)

Lindsey Graham Debates Himself on Detainee Torture (VIDEO)

The issue of detainee abuse and torture has tied more than one public official into rhetorical knots. Rep. Nancy Pelosi's continuing verbal gyrations regarding her knowledge of enhanced interrogation techniques is one example; press secretary Robert Gibbs explaining President Obama's decision to reverse policy and block the release of detainee photos is another.

But perhaps no one personifies the dilemma facing elected officials better than Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

Even TPM's Josh Marshall has written glowingly of Graham in the past (and I quote):

Graham has become some mix of the star and the conscience of these proceedings because of his specialized knowledge as an Air Force JAG and his ability to see that this goes beyond partisan politics, threatening as it does not only America's honor but also her power.

I had a similar impression of Senator Graham's role during the Armed Services Committee hearings on interrogation this past summer. In those lame-duck days, the aim of Republicans up for election was to put as much distance as possible between themselves and George W. Bush. This group included not only Sen. Graham but his close friend, torture victim, and presidential candidate John McCain. Graham at that time was a passionate critic of the Bush Administration attorneys who provided the legal cover for American abuse of detainees.

Lately, however, Graham seems to have had second thoughts on the matter. At a recent Judiciary subcommittee hearing investigating detainee abuse, Graham spent his time mounting a feisty defense of torture memo authors Jay Bybee, John Yoo and Steven Bradbury.

Graham's performance sent ANP producer Mike Fritz back to our archives to confirm that this was indeed the same Lindsey Graham we remembered from the summer, and sure enough, it was. As this video reveals, same guy - different message.


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Rachel Maddow Finds Flaw In GOP's Pelosi Gambit. Truth Commission is Back!!

Rachel Maddow Finds Flaw In GOP's Pelosi Gambit (VIDEO)

One of the particularly nonsensical and yet dearly held ideas that the Bush administration promoted, and the media cheerfully accepted, is that no matter how lawless the policy sounded -- waterboarding, warrantless wiretapping, etc -- briefing the Democrats immunized all parties and magically transformed these policies into perfectly legal activities. Of course, I was raised to understand that bringing multiple parties into the commission of a crime was indicative of an expanding criminal conspiracy, not a legalizing trump card.

But all of this has been placed into stark relief now that Nancy Pelosi has become the face of those Democrats briefed on torture, and last night, Rachel Maddow and Greg Sargent did an excellent job decoding the political gamesmanship at the center of a drive to revive Pelosi as a fundraising, base-rallying target without crossing the line into genuinely supporting an actual Truth Commission. Along the way, Sargent highlights that even as Pete Hoekstra has been "pursuing the notes and memos that supposedly will prove that Pelosi was briefed on torture," he's actually added to the murk. "He said clearly on Fox that he had looked at those and they wouldn't provide a clear picture of what actually happened," Sargent said, pointing out that this actually dovetails with Pelosi's self-defense, former Senator Bob Graham's remarks, and the CIA's own admission that their own reports aren't based on anything verifiable.

Since then, Steele has "walked back support" for a Truth Commission, something Pelosi has yet to do. What is meant by "walked back support?" Just ask Steele's spokeswoman:

Steele's spokesperson gets in touch to say that this isn't a walk-back of Steele's position, merely a clarification of it. She says that Steele didn't mean to say on Meet the Press that many Republicans endorsed the idea of a "truth commission," but merely that they supported the idea of an "investigation" into what Pelosi and other Dems knew and when.

And here I thought I might need to actually decode the GOPs intentions, but there you go: they support an investigation into the issues of torture so long as it starts and ends with what Pelosi knew about it and when, and allows only a brief window for outrage before they all go back to describing torture as a totally okay thing that Americans should be allowed to do to people, the end.

New Noam Chomsky piece on torture & Guantanamo

Damn, this piece is a must-read. TomDispatch calls it a "tour de force," and it is.

GODWIN'S LAW!!!!1!1!

Why We Can't See the Trees or the Forest
The Torture Memos and Historical Amnesia

By Noam Chomsky

The torture memos released by the White House elicited shock, indignation, and surprise. The shock and indignation are understandable. The surprise, less so.

For one thing, even without inquiry, it was reasonable to suppose that Guantanamo was a torture chamber. Why else send prisoners where they would be beyond the reach of the law -- a place, incidentally, that Washington is using in violation of a treaty forced on Cuba at the point of a gun?

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i want joe biden i need joe biden

Huntsman, Interrupted (in which our boyfriend explains his new ambassadorship)

During our conversations last month in Utah, Huntsman had already begun to realize that perhaps the Republican Party was not ready for him. "You cannot have a successful party based upon a very narrow band, demographically," he tells me. "You've gotta broaden it to include more young people, more people of color, more people who are urban-dwellers, more who are the intelligentsia in America, many who have jettisoned the party. ... And that's ultimately I think how it's going to play out. We're just not there yet." Two years was probably not enough time for the party to change. "He realized he'd just be beating his head against the wall with these guys, which made him open to the phone call [from Obama]," says another source close to Huntsman. "If he thought he had a real chance to be the standard-bearer and savior of the party, obviously he would have said no."


This is just a blurb from the (incredibly well-done) piece in The New Republic, which can be found HERE. It's four pages long, so sit back next to the fire with a mug of tea while Jon Huntsman seduces you with his intelligence and reasoning and dashing good looks.

(no subject)

ACLU Wins Another One: CA Student Gets $25K For Anti-Gay Harassment

A 16 year-old California lesbian has won a $25K settlement from her school district after the ACLU threatened a lawsuit for the way she was harassed by teachers and school employees.
The agreement between the Vallejo City Unified School District and the American Civil Liberties Union was reached without litigation, said ACLU attorney Elizabeth Gill. In agreeing to the settlement, the district is not admitting liability, Gill and district Superintendent Mary Bull said. The student, Rochelle Hamilton, now 16, was a sophomore at Jesse Bethel High School in the fall of 2007, when teachers allegedly verbally harassed her and forced her to attend a counseling session for gay students. Gill said the counselor tried to discourage Hamilton and other students in the session from being gay.

The alleged harassment included a staff member telling Hamilton she was "ungodly" and "going to hell" as she embraced her then-girlfriend. The alleged comments transformed the "social butterfly" into a teenager on the verge of suicide, Hamilton's mother Cheri said Monday. Rochelle Hamilton, who came out as a lesbian when she was 13, said Monday she became depressed because of daily negative comments from teachers and staff about her sexual orientation and her appearance. Her standard dress is stereotypically male, with baggy jeans. The teen said a teacher held a girls' locker room door closed and would not let her in, but then let in other girls who had on more stereotypically feminine attire.
As part of the settlement the school district has agreed to rewrite its anti-discrimination policies.

colbert by jems

"This change is being delivered in a teabag... and that's a wonderful thing"

The subject line is an exact quote from Michael Steele's speech to the Republican National Committee, and Rachel Maddow has as much fun with this as you would expect. The clip also features other nuggets from Steele's speech, in which he vows to forget Nancy Pelosi and then mentions her less than five minutes later, and states they should only look forward, then brings up Reagan.

If it doesn't embed properly, go here to watch "Circle of Steele" on MSNBC.

Republican Health Care Plan Unveiled

Republican Health Care Plan Unveiled

Republicans in Congress are slated to unveil their health care reform plan on Wednesday, a proposal that relies heavily on private mechanisms, contains no individual mandate, and offers tax incentives for families and individuals to help pay for coverage.

Tilted "The Patients' Choice Act of 2009," the plan will be introduced by U.S. Senators Tom Coburn, (R-OK) and Richard Burr (R-NC) and U.S. Representatives Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Devin Nunes (R-CA) at 11 a.m. The focus of the proposal -- an advanced copy of which was obtained by the Huffington Post -- is to push for a "guaranteed choice of coverage" in the private market through federal-state partnerships know as State Health Insurance Exchanges.

Individuals, the authors write, will have a "one-stop marketplace" to choose plans in the exchange, including the option of keeping their employer coverage and/or existing insurer. "Participating insurers," meanwhile, would be required to "offer coverage to any individual -- regardless of patient age or health history" though there is no mandate for an individual to purchase that insurance.
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PCA summary

Catholic church failed to stop 'endemic' sex abuse

Nine-year inquiry finds Irish priests and nuns terrorised thousands of boys and girls


Beatings and humiliation by nuns and priests were common at institutions that held up to 30,000 children, Ryan report states

Rape and sexual molestation were "endemic" in Irish Catholic church-run industrial schools and orphanages, a report revealed today.

The nine-year investigation found that Catholic priests and nuns for decades terrorised thousands of boys and girls in the Irish Republic, while government inspectors failed to stop the chronic beatings, rape and humiliation.

The high court judge Sean Ryan today unveiled the 2,600-page final report of Ireland's commission into child abuse, which drew on testimony from thousands of former inmates and officials from more than 250 church-run institutions. Police were called to the news conference amid angry scenes as victims were Collapse )


more articles at source
Murasaki Shikibu

Steele: GOP must confront Obama's celebrity appeal

Steele: GOP must confront Obama's celebrity appeal

WASHINGTON – Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele likened President Barack Obama's popularity to that of a celebrity and said Republicans can't be afraid of criticizing him head-on if they want to regain their relevance.

"He's young. He's cool. He's hip ... he's got all the qualities America likes in a celebrity, so of course he's going to be popular," Steele told state party chairmen Tuesday. But "this is not American Idol. This is serious ... and we are going to take them on."

Steele said the GOP has owned up to the mistakes that caused its fall from power and is embarking on a renaissance.

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Steele, I have the same thing to say I have every time I see you've opened your mouth.


Google got goats [This reminds me of an old Disney cartoon, but I can't remember which!]

Google got goats

Goats gain popularity as green lawnmowers, with Los Angeles, Arizona and now Google seeking the creatures' low-carbon services.

Wed, May 06 2009 at 12:59 AM EST

As environmentalism hits the mainstream, gas-guzzling lawnmowers are giving way to -- goats. The latest goat-getter is Google, which decided to rent some goats from California Grazing to mow the fields at its Mountain View headquarters (via Treehugger). Dan Hoffman, director of Real Estate and Workplace Services, explains how the process works on the Official Google Blog:

A herder brings about 200 goats and they spend roughly a week with us at Google, eating the grass and fertilizing at the same time. The goats are herded with the help of Jen, a border collie. It costs us about the same as mowing, and goats are a lot cuter to watch than lawn mowers.

In fact, goats can serve as unusual live entertainment in urban areas. Last September, the Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency brought in goats to clean up a steep downtown area -- prompting passersby to stop and watch. "Some wondered whether the goats were part of a movie scene or some kind of performance art, while others made jokes about the approaching lunch hour and goat barbecue," reported the L.A. Times, which also noted that the goats' services were several thousand dollars cheaper -- and a lot more eco-friendly -- than a weed whacking crew.

Mesa, Ariz., also had goats clean up 30 acres earlier this year. In addition to saving money, the goats also just do a better job than polluting machines, according to the City of Mesa's website:

Goats possess a unique characteristic that separates them from almost all other types of livestock; they will eat just about anything resembling a plant. They can clear vegetation from hard-to-reach places, and they'll eat the seeds that pesticides and mowing leave behind, preventing vegetation from coming back next year.

Efficient! Got goats in your neighborhood?

From Siel Ju's blog

.... this counts as ontd_political, I think? Mods, does this need a cut?
Reese Witherspoon

The Rise of the Black Hipster

Music, fashion and art are already complicating our ideas of youth, sex and identity. So what happens when the hybrid hipster culture hits black America?

Kanye West with Don C, Taz Arnold, and Fonzworth Bentley, among others, outside the Comme des Garçons Fashion Show.

Hipsters. They’re everywhere. You’ve seen them on skateboards, in the mall and at the club. You’ve seen them shrugging dismissively in Oakland, Calif., Willamsburg, Brooklyn and Austin, Tx. And, suddenly, in Barack Obama’s Washington, too. Recently, I encountered Hector, a teenager skateboarding with friends outside a McDonald’s in downtown D.C. He’s wearing a neon T-shirt, impossibly skinny jeans, and a bored expression. So, are you a hipster or what? “Man, no,” he says. He does not care much for labels. Can he have a cigarette?

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calls Obama's idea "childish and stupid"

Netanyahu Clashed With Obama, Congress On Trip

Media focus on the idea of a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, favored by President Barack Obama, is "childish and stupid," said an aide to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Wednesday.

The aide's statement reflected efforts by Netanyahu to deflect attention away from the issue during his just-completed trip to Washington. The Prime Minister clashed with both Obama and members of Congress in his attempts to avoid discussing the peace process in favor of Iran.

President Barack Obama made it clear that the U.S. backs creation of a Palestinian state, but Netanyahu has not endorsed the concept.
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Jesus Christ nominated for Supreme Court; GOP Objects: bootlegger, whore consorter, & socialist

Jesus Christ Nominated To Supreme Court; Republicans Oppose Candidacy On Principle (VIDEO)

A recent post (about Jesus' nomination to the highest court in the land and his subsequent defaming by the Republicans) on the Daily Kos inspired satirist Andy Cobb to make the following video.

As Cobb says on his YouTube page:

"Did you ever love something someone had written on a blog so much you wanted to rush out make a video out of it? No? Well, you probably have a 'life.' Me, I was so taken with this bit by one 'Winsmith' that I felt compelled. Of course, there's no guarantee that no matter who Obama nominates, Boehner will pitch a fit, Bachmann will say something cra-zee, and Steele will make an asshat of himself. But, cm'on. What are the odds?"
Cobb added visuals and his own take to WinSmith's fake report for your viewing pleasure.

Congress passes Credit Card Reform Bill- and how it will affect you.

Congress Passes Landmark Credit Card Reform Bill

The House of Representatives passed sweeping credit card reform legislation Wednesday aimed at limiting abusive and deceptive credit card practices. The measure passed with a resounding 361-64 vote and now heads to the president's desk.

Q&A: Credit Card Reform
Bill, May 20, 2009 · Congress passed legislation that will overhaul the credit card industry by placing new restrictions on interest rate hikes and penalty fees that consumers face.

The Senate passed the bill Tuesday, and the House followed suit Wednesday. President Obama has said he'd like to sign it into law before Memorial Day.

Here, a look at how some of these changes will affect consumers.

What impact will this legislation have on credit card interest rates?
The legislation will prevent arbitrary interest rate increases by credit card companies.

Banks will have to wait 60 days before raising the rate on late-paying customers, and they will be required to reinstate the old rate once the cardholder has made payments on time for six months.

The legislation will also prevent companies from raising the interest rate on outstanding credit card debt that consumers have if they are late paying bills for other credit cards they might use. And it will require credit card companies that choose to increase interest rates to periodically review them and to lower rates if the review warrants it.

For new credit card customers, the legislation will also prevent issuers from increasing rates in the first year after the account is opened.

How about the fees that credit card companies charge?
Credit card fees have long been a thorn in the side of consumers. The legislation will prevent issuers from charging a fee to pay off credit card debt by mail, telephone or electronic transfer. It will also require penalty fees to be "reasonable and proportional" to the violation.

What about all the credit card terms and conditions?

The legislation requires credit card holders to receive 45 days' notice for any interest rate, fee or finance charge increases. Issuers will also have to post on the Internet the terms of their credit card agreements.

The 45-day notice and some other parts of the legislation are already scheduled to take effect in July 2010 as part of Federal Reserve regulations. But the legislation will place further limits on fees and on who is eligible to obtain a credit card.

The legislation aims to protect people younger than 21. How will that work?

Young people who are new to the concept of credit cards can quickly find themselves in a pile of debt. The legislation aims to protect people younger than 21 by requiring the signature of a parent or guardian who will take financial responsibility for the debt. Alternatively, those younger than 21 will be required to prove that they have the financial means to repay any balances they might carry on the card.

College students are often lured by the promise of credit cards. The legislation will bolster protection for students against aggressive credit card marketing and provide more clarity about deals that have been made between credit card issuers and universities.

Are there any benefits for people who pay their credit cards on time?

Yes. The legislation will ban double-cycle billing, under which issuers apply interest to a balance that has already been paid.

It will also require that payments made at local bank branches be credited the same day. And it will prohibit late fees when the issuer delayed crediting a payment.

How soon will these changes take effect?

The requirement that the credit card industry notify card holders of interest rate increases will go into effect 90 days after the legislation is enacted. The industry will have nine months to make all of the other changes.

Who will police the credit card companies going forward?

The Federal Reserve Board will be in charge of reviewing the practices of the industry and the terms of credit card agreements they make available to consumers.

How has the financial services industry reacted to this?

Edward Yingling, president of the American Bankers Association, said Tuesday that some of the provisions will "undermine the availability of credit," adding that the legislation will change the "entire business model of credit cards by restricting the ability to price credit for risk."
Banks say consumers can expect more cards with higher annual fees and fewer cards with low competitive rates if this legislation is enacted.

"Credit cards are unsecured loans. There is no collateral backing them up like a home or a car, and so when your risk profile changes, their credit terms change," says Scott Talbott, senior vice president of government affairs for the Financial Services Roundtable, an industry group. "To the extent that you limit that adjustment — the ability to be flexible — then you're going to limit the availability of credit or increase the price."

With reporting by NPR's Joshua Brockman, Audie Cornish and the Associated Press


This is so awesome and long-overdue.

"Are you Stupid?"

Jay Mohr calls Michelle Obama 'a big dude'.


Michelle Obama - that is a big dude. When Barack plays pick up games at the White House, you know he picks Michelle as his forward, maybe his [center] depending on who’s in Congress that day.

That has to be like being married to Elton Brand. She is a big dude. I like when she put her arm around the Queen of England and she put her in a headlock and said, “I’ve been waiting 200 years to put my arms around you lady.”

I like how she shaved off her eyebrows, and then drew them back way too high and in an arch, and then way back down, so she always looks super surprised. Michelle Obama kind of looks like the Count on Sesame Street. One - ah ah - One Black President - ah ah.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic" />


originally posted at ohnotheydidnt by wikkidraven 
¶ haters to the (far) right

The best little haircut in Texas

Perry refuses to apologize for his consultant’s remark that Hutchison is making the GOP into a ‘whorehouse.’

On Saturday, the Dallas Morning News published an article about the battle between Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and Gov. Rick Perry for the Republican spot in the Texas gubernatorial election. In the article, a political consultant to Perry said that Hutchison is making the GOP into a “whorehouse":
Hutchison supports embryonic stem cell research and abortion rights, though she backs restrictions on abortion such as a ban on federal funding for organizations that perform abortion and a ban on late-term procedures.

Perry political consultant Dave Carney said the Republican governor agrees the party should welcome new voters.

But that doesn’t mean you take your principles and throw them out the door and become a whorehouse and let anybody in who wants to come in, regardless,” Carney said.
A group of GOP women are now calling on Perry to apologize for Carney’s remark, saying that it is “disheartening when we see people resort to behavior aimed at belittling women.” Perry’s spokesperson simply replied to the Houston Chronicle that Carney “does not speak for the Governor.”


At this point, the GOP is reminding me less of "Bring It On" and more of "Alive".


Specter defends Pelosi, questions CIA's honesty
By Reid Wilson
Posted: 05/20/09 03:10 PM [ET]

Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) took the opportunity Wednesday to defend House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who has come under fire in recent weeks over a controversy surrounding when she was told of the use of enhanced interrogation techniques being used by the CIA.

"The CIA has a very bad record when it comes to — I was about to say 'candid'; that's too mild — to honesty," Specter, a former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said in a lunch address to the American Law Institute. He cited misleading information about the agency's involvement in mining harbors in Nicaragua and the Iran-Contra affair.


"Director [Leon] Panetta says the agency does not make it a habit to misinform Congress. I believe that is true. It is not the policy of the Central Intelligence Agency to misinform Congress," Specter said. "But that doesn't mean that they're all giving out the information."

Because of leaks that have come from Congress, Specter said, he understands the agency's hesitancy to disclose all its information.

"The current controversy involving Speaker Pelosi and the CIA is very unfortunate, in my opinion, because it politicizes the issue and it takes away attention from ... how does the Congress get accurate information from the CIA?" Specter said. "For political gain, people are making headlines."

Specter and Pelosi have worked together on health and human services legislation, and the senator characterized the Speaker as "reliable and very able." He said he agrees with mounting calls that notes about the meetings should be publicly disclosed.

"Speaker Pelosi wants the notes disclosed. I think they ought to be, in the interest of transparency," Specter said. "The Speaker's entitled to have as much light shed on this as possible, and so [is] the public. The public is entitled to know what went on there."


The new Democrat also said Wednesday that he will ask the eventual nominee to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice David Souter what sort of cases he or she would allow to be heard.

"You can't ask the nominee how the nominee is going to decide a case. We all know that. But I think it's a fair question to say, 'What cases will you hear? What cases will you take?' " Specter said.

Four of the nine Supreme Court justices must agree to grant a writ of certiorari to hear a case. Specter said he was troubled by the current court's refusal to hear several cases dealing with executive authority, which he worried has been expanded too greatly since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Specter, who served as the Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee during confirmation hearings for Justices John Roberts and Samuel Alito, has been relegated to the most junior perch on the committee after switching to the Democratic Party.


But as a centrist Democrat, Specter will remain one of the key votes in the Senate as interest groups on both sides pressure him to support or oppose the eventual nominee. Specter has said he will remain an independent voice in the Senate, and in announcing his party switch affirmed that he still will oppose Dawn Johnsen's nomination to head the Office of Legal Counsel.

Only one other Democrat — Sen. Ben Nelson (Neb.) — has taken the same position opposing Johnsen.

Specter has been involved in every Supreme Court nomination fight since being elected to the Senate in 1980. His questioning of Robert Bork is credited with helping take down President Reagan's nominee in 1987, and he played a key role in questioning Anita Hill during Justice Clarence Thomas's confirmation hearings in 1991.

Specter said aggressive questioning at confirmation hearings, which did not become standard procedure until the 1950s, is warranted.

"I'd let the process take its course. I don't think we have strayed too far. But then I participated in the Bork hearings," Specter said. "There are many in the Senate who take the position that there's not a whole lot of deference given to the president."

Since Bork's nomination collapsed, court nominations have become flashpoints between conservatives and liberals, with groups instantly mobilizing when a vacancy comes about.

"When the hearings are politicized, the whole process is political," Specter said. He said nominees, who routinely meet with key senators before their confirmation hearings, campaign aggressively to win their seats on the court.

Redheads do it best.

Barack Obama, Dick Cheney plan dueling speeches

President Barack Obama will attempt to regain control of a boiling debate over anti-terrorism policy with a major speech on Thursday — an address that comes on the same day that former Vice President Dick Cheney will be weighing in with his own speech on the same theme.

The dueling speeches amount to the most direct engagement so far between Obama and his conservative critics in the volatile argument over what tactics are justified in detaining and interrogating suspected enemy combatants.

The national security debate — egged on by frequent charges from Cheney that Obama is leaving the country more vulnerable to attack — is the only subject on which many Republicans believe they have been able to gain traction against a popular president and the Democratic majority that now dominate Washington.

But, as described by administration sources, Obama’s speech is also intended to quiet the ire aimed at him from the political left. Some activists are furious over his recent decisions on continuing military commissions rather than civilian trials for suspected terrorists, and his about-face in deciding to fight a court order releasing photos of detainees undergoing abuse.

Obama advisers are comparing Thursday’s speech to his big-picture Georgetown University speech on the economy last month — not intended necessarily to produce “hard news” but a sustained effort to describe and defend his policies and the political and intellectual assumptions behind them.

A centerpiece of the president’s speech will be his plans for dispersing the detainees at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Senate Democrats, running from the White House as never before this year, moved Tuesday to withhold $80 million he had requested to close the prison by early next year. In response, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs promised “a more detailed plan.”

Cheney will be speaking at 10:45 a.m. on “Keeping America Safe: An Address by Dick Cheney” during a 45-minute appearance at the conservative American Enterprise Institute. Cheney will take questions during his open-press appearance, which was scheduled several weeks ago.

The White House and Democrats have been thrown off balance for three weeks running on a debate Republicans believe has made their opponents look weak and disingenuous on national security policy. The broader terrorism debate has produced the most embarrassing chapter of the reign of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi(D-Calif.), and the more specific one on Gitmo has produced a rare Democratic slap at an Obama policy.


Another Shining Example of Why Motherhood is Just Not for Some...

Arrest ordered for mom of boy, 13, resisting chemo

By AMY FORLITI, Associated Press Writer Amy Forliti, Associated Press Writer 13 mins ago

NEW ULM, Minn. – Authorities nationwide were on the lookout Wednesday for a mother and her 13-year-old cancer-stricken son who fled after refusing the chemotherapy that doctors say could save the boy's life.

Colleen Hauser and her son, Daniel, who has Hodgkin's lymphoma, apparently left their southern Minnesota home sometime after a doctor's appointment and court-ordered X-ray on Monday showed his tumor had grown.

Brown County District Judge John Rodenberg, who had ruled last week that Daniel's parents were medically neglecting him, issued an arrest warrant Tuesday for Colleen Hauser and ruled her in contempt of court. Rodenberg also ordered that Daniel be placed in foster care and immediately evaluated by a cancer specialist for treatment.

The family belongs to a religious group that believes in "natural" healing methods. Daniel has testified he believed chemotherapy would kill him and told the judge that if anyone tried to force him to take it, "I'd fight it. I'd punch them and I'd kick them."

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So, what do you folks think? Is this a private matter or should the kid be forced to undergo chemo. I would say that the kid should have a choice GIVEN the proper information. I recently lost my Grandmother to cancer, and her chemo treatments devastated her body. It aint a pretty thing, but at least let the kid make an informed decision! His mom is just ridiculous!