And oh yeah the White House was ordering Howard Kurtz takes to the fainting couch.[...]
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The nominee for Surgeon General looks very good–
WASHINGTON ? President Barack Obama turned to the Deep South for the next surgeon general, choosing a rural Alabama family physician who made headlines with fierce determination to rebuild her nonprofit medical clinic in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
Dr. Regina Benjamin is known along Alabama’s impoverished Gulf Coast as a country doctor who makes house calls and doesn’t turn away patients who can’t pay ? even as she’s had to find the money to rebuild a clinic repeatedly destroyed by hurricanes and once even fire.
If you can’t recall who the heck was filling the post for the last eight years there’s a reason. A recap of the former Surgeon General’s elusive career is here.
Dr. Carmona wasn’t a hard act to follow, but Dr. Benjamin is facing health care reform, flu season and a recession. We need someone in office, I hope she starts soon.
On Cheney's covert CIA program: MR. GREGORY: Should there be an investigation, do you think? SEN. McCAIN: I don't know if--first of all, I'd like to know the facts of the case before there should be an, "an investigation." MR. GREGORY:[...]
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In the aftermath of last week's G-8 summit in L'Aquila, Italy, there is a debate emerging over whether to expand the group. The most popular proposal would include Brazil, China, Egypt, India, Mexico and South Africa in a G-14.
Not surprisingly, the leaders of the six potential members generally support expanding the organization, while the current G-8 members are mixed. Russia, Germany, and Canada - whose influence stand to diminish from expanding the group - oppose expansion at this time.
The United States supports a more inclusive format. President Obama said "One thing that is absolutely true is that for us to think we can somehow deal with some of these global challenges in the absence of major powers like China, India and Brazil seems to be wrongheaded."
I think the Obama administration is correct to support expanding the club. Updating international institutions to reflect today's power realities is important and long overdue.
It is interesting to note, however, that the G-8 was originally intended as a kind of League of Democracies for the wealthy republics of Europe and North America (and Japan). Indeed, in 2006, Russia's G-8 presidency was considered by many to be an embarrassment because of Russia's increasingly authoritarian political system.
The debate surrounding "the issue of the Gs" reflects an acknowledgment that the G-8 will not have the capacity to make global policy if it does not expand to include non-democratic countries.
-- Ben Katcher
Photos of the last leg of the President's foreign trip.[...]
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Hillary Clinton blazed the trail for how high-profile freshman senators can succeed in the Senate: keep your head down, immodestly and constantly proclaim your humility, and focus on your constituents. Sen. Al Franken's opening statement in today's[...]
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On the July 13 edition of ABC's Good Morning America, correspondent Jan Crawford Greenburg uncritically reported what she said Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) told her about the confirmation hearings of Judge Sonia Sotomayor, saying that Sessions "wants to make these hearings a teaching moment, in a way contrasting her approach to the law with that of conservatives who think the court should take a more limited role." However, by uncritically repeating Sessions' comments, Greenburg advanced the myth that conservative judges are proponents of judicial restraint while liberal judges practice judicial activism. Moreover, in her report, the only case Greenburg referred to was Ricci v. DeStefano, but the conservative majority's decision in that case wasn't an example of the Supreme Court "tak[ing] a more limited role"; the five-justice majority reversed the determination of the city of New Haven.
As NBC News chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd noted of the Ricci decision: "[T]he majority, actually -- well, to put it bluntly -- legislated from the bench." He further explained: "They put a new rule on instances like this when they said, well, you know, you can't -- you gotta prove that you could lose a lawsuit, not just be sued in order to decide to throw out a test like this," adding that "the irony is that the conservatives criticize this legislating from the bench. Well, it was the conservative majority here that did institute a new rule."
Moreover, not only did conservative Justice Antonin Scalia vote to reverse the city's decision in Ricci; in his concurring statement, he suggested that parts of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 need to be changed. Scalia wrote that the court's decision in Ricci "merely postpones the evil day on which the Court will have to confront the question: Whether, or to what extent, are the disparate-impact provisions of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 consistent with the Constitution's guarantee of equal protection?" He later wrote: "But the war between disparate impact and equal protection will be waged sooner or later, and it behooves us to begin thinking about how -- and on what terms -- to make peace between them."
As Media Matters for America has previously noted, at least two studies -- looking at two different sets of criteria -- have found that the most "conservative" Supreme Court justices have been among the biggest judicial activists. A 2005 study by Yale University law professor Paul Gewirtz and Yale Law School graduate Chad Golder indicated that among Supreme Court justices at that time, those most frequently labeled "conservative" were among the most frequent practitioners of at least one brand of judicial activism -- the tendency to strike down statutes passed by Congress. Indeed, Gewirtz and Golder found that Thomas "was the most inclined" to do so, "voting to invalidate 65.63 percent of those laws." Another recently published study by Cass R. Sunstein (who has been nominated by President Obama to head the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs) and University of Chicago law professor Thomas Miles used a different measurement of judicial activism -- the tendency of judges to strike down decisions by federal regulatory agencies. Sunstein and Miles found that by this definition, the Supreme Court's "conservative" justices were more likely to engage in "judicial activism," while the "liberal" justices were more likely to exercise "judicial restraint."
Further, the Congressional Research Service recently found that "the most consistent characteristic of Judge Sotomayor's approach as an appellate judge has been an adherence to the doctrine of stare decisis, i.e., the upholding of past judicial precedents." The June 19 CRS analysis of Sotomayor's selected opinions further stated: "Other characteristics appear to include what many would describe as a careful application of particular facts at issue in a case and a dislike for situations in which the court might be seen as oversteping its judicial role." And according to the Politico's Jeanne Cummings, "Sotomayor's history suggests the very sort of judicial restraint that conservatives clamor for in a nominee."
From the July 13 edition of ABC's Good Morning America:
KATE SNOW (co-anchor): OK, Chris, now to Washington, where Senate confirmation hearings begin today for Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor. President Obama called the nominee on Sunday to wish her luck, which she may need. She'll be facing some tough critics. ABC's Jan Crawford Greenburg joins us now from Washington with more.
Good morning, Jan.
GREENBURG: Kate, she's met with 89 senators, spent six weeks studying constitutional law and sat through countless prep sessions, and, today, Sonia Sotomayor is going to take that witness stand for the hearings that will determine whether she gets a Supreme Court appointment for life.
[begin video clip]
GREENBURG: Judge Sotomayor's seat at the witness table will be ground zero in the latest battle over the Supreme Court, and Republicans and Democrats are spoiling for a fight.
SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D-VT): She's had more experience than any other nominee in nearly 100 years.
SESSIONS: I'm going to try to give her a fair hearing, but I am troubled.
GREENBURG: In the hearings, Republican senators will sharply question Sotomayor on race and affirmative action, especially her comments that a "wise Latina woman ... would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male."
The Supreme Court also delivered a recent blow when it reversed one of her decisions in a discrimination case. Sotomayor had ruled against a group of white and Hispanic firefighters who claimed the city of New Haven, Connecticut, was giving preferential treatment to blacks.
WENDY LONG (chief counsel for the Judicial Confirmation Network): Republican senators are concerned, and all Americans should be concerned, when a judge decides cases based on their own personal views and political agenda.
GREENBURG: Sotomayor is an historic pick. She would be the first Hispanic on the court. She grew up in the Bronx, raised by her mother, and went on to elite schools, Princeton and Yale Law. And it was a Republican president, George H.W. Bush, who nominated her to be a district court judge. Her compelling life story and the lack of a so-called smoking gun have softened Republican opposition. With a decisive majority in the Senate, Democrat Leahy is confident.
LEAHY: She will be confirmed.
[end video clip]
GREENBURG: And short of a major misstep or revelation, Republicans know they just don't have the votes to defeat Sotomayor. Senator Sessions told me he wants to make these hearings a teaching moment, in a way contrasting her approach to the law with that of conservatives who think the court should take a more limited role -- Kate.
The world’s largest solar park ... in Washington state? Why yes, says Howard Trott, the managing director of the project. Contrary to popular belief, this area of the state (about 80 miles southeast of Seattle’s notorious gray skies) enjoys over 300 days of sunshine a year—plenty enough to move Washington state into position as the second largest solar producer by megawatt in the U.S., behind California.
Former VP Dick Cheney is linked to the secrecy of a mysterious CIA program, reports the LA Times on a story broken over the weekend by the NY Times. "The CIA kept a highly classified counter-terrorism program secret from Congress for eight years at the[...]
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Earlier today, we raised a few questions about the notion that the secret CIA program that Dick Cheney reportedly withheld from Congress concerned an effort to kill or capture al Qaeda leaders. And now a top counter-terror expert is doing the same.
Vince Cannistraro, a former CIA counterterrorism chief, told TPMmuckraker that because we've been in a state of war against al Qaeda since just after September 11, there would have been no need for a secret CIA program that received special legal authorization.
Since the war on terror began, said Cannistraro, the CIA has routinely conducted operations targeting top Qaeda leaders. "The CIA runs drones and targets al Qaeda safe houses all the time," said Cannistraro, explaining that there's no important difference between those kinds of attacks and "assassinations" with a gun or a knife.
Cannistraro said the Defense Department has also conducted such targeted efforts, under an initiative that New Yorker reporter Seymour Hersh has written about.
In January 2005, Hersh reported:
Under Rumsfeld's new approach, I was told, U.S. military operatives would be permitted to pose abroad as corrupt foreign businessmen seeking to buy contraband items that could be used in nuclear-weapons systems. In some cases, according to the Pentagon advisers, local citizens could be recruited and asked to join up with guerrillas or terrorists. This could potentially involve organizing and carrying out combat operations, or even terrorist activities. Some operations will likely take place in nations in which there is an American diplomatic mission, with an Ambassador and a C.I.A. station chief, the Pentagon consultant said. The Ambassador and the station chief would not necessarily have a need to know, under the Pentagon's current interpretation of its reporting requirement.
The new rules will enable the Special Forces community to set up what it calls "action teams" in the target countries overseas which can be used to find and eliminate terrorist organizations. "Do you remember the right-wing execution squads in El Salvador?" the former high-level intelligence official asked me, referring to the military-led gangs that committed atrocities in the early nineteen-eighties. "We founded them and we financed them," he said. "The objective now is to recruit locals in any area we want. And we aren't going to tell Congress about it." A former military officer, who has knowledge of the Pentagon's commando capabilities, said, "We're going to be riding with the bad boys."
The Rumsfeld initiative seems to be the subject of this report from a few hours ago in The Guardian.
But Cannistraro cautioned that that DOD program has nothing to do with the secret, unidentified CIA program which Cheney is said to have hid from Congress, and which CIA director Leon Panetta ended last month.
As for what the program did involve, Cannistraro suggested that it involved Americans as targets, and that it went beyond surveillance, but declined to elaborate. He added that, though Cheney may have directly ordered the CIA to keep Congress in the dark, the veep wasn't acting alone. "The approval was from the president," said Cannistraro.