Saturday, January 12, 2008

saturday reads

U.S. insurance companies systematically overcharge customers and underpay home and auto claims to pad their already-fat bottom lines, a consumer group said Thursday.

A U.S. appeals court ruled on Friday that four former Guantanamo prisoners, all British citizens, have no right to sue top Pentagon officials and military officers for torture, abuse and violations of their religious rights.

Another death by taser.

The Texas Freedom Network has asked the Internal Revenue Service to investigate whether a Houston-based private foundation and its backers improperly funded the Texas Restoration Project's efforts to drag churches into Gov. Rick Perry’s re-election campaign in 2006.

The threatening radio transmission heard at the end of a video showing harassing maneuvers by Iranian patrol boats in the Strait of Hormuz may have come from a locally famous heckler known among ship drivers as the “Filipino Monkey.”

Friday, January 11, 2008

friday reads

In his latest article for the New Statesman, John Pilger describes how the invasion of Afghanistan, which was widely supported in the West as a 'good war' and justifiable response to 9/11, was actually planned months before 9/11 and is the latest instalment of 'a great game'.

FBI Wiretaps Dropped Due to Unpaid Bills

Tomgram: How to Build a Homeland Security Campus in Seven Steps

Kos urges Democrats to vote for Mitt in the Michigan Republican primary.

Kucinich calls for 'recount' of New Hampshire ballots.

Read Jimmy Carter's op-ed in America's Finest News Source.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

thursday reads

A 5-year-old boy was detained as "security risk" because he had the same name of someone on the TSA "No-Fly" list. The TSA had to conduct a full search of their persons and belongings. When his mother went to pick him up and hug him and comfort him during the proceedings, she was told not to touch him because he was a national security risk. They also had to frisk her again to make sure the little Dillinger hadn't passed anything dangerous weapons or materials to his mother when she hugged him.

When the top federal prosecutor in New Jersey needed to find an outside lawyer to monitor a large corporation willing to settle criminal charges out of court last fall, he turned to former Attorney General John Ashcroft, his onetime boss. With no public notice and no bidding, the company awarded Mr. Ashcroft an 18-month contract worth $28 million to $52 million.

In a corrections system known for steady growth for decades, Texas has mothballed parts of a state prison in the Panhandle because there were not enough guards to properly run it. [Grits for Breakfast has much more on this crisis.]

The Buying of the President 2008

Secrets charges against a Foreign Office civil servant were dramatically dropped at the Old Bailey yesterday after it emerged that senior figures within his own department had privately admitted no harm was done by his leaking a series of Whitehall documents

Two years ago, President Bush accused North Korea's communist regime of printing phony U.S. currency. However, a 10-month McClatchy investigation on three continents has found that the evidence to support Bush's charges against North Korea is uncertain at best and that the claims of the North Korean defectors cited in news accounts are dubious and perhaps bogus.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Supreme Court to Hear Arguments in Voter ID Cases

Justice Is Blind, but Can She Vote?

The most revealing indicator of the state of our democracy is not to be found in the snowdrifts of New Hampshire but in the marbled chamber of the U.S. Supreme Court. Soon enough, we will discover whether the court under Chief Justice John Roberts will become a partisan tool in the national Republican drive to place constraints on voting that are targeted at those who tend to support Democrats.

Not since the Supreme Court stopped the Florida presidential election recount in 2000 has a voting case been so significant, or so overflowing with partisan bile.

On Wednesday, the justices will hear a challenge to Indiana’s strict law requiring photo identification in order for a voter to cast a ballot at the polls. The state claims the law is necessary to stop voter fraud. Yet no one—not Indiana officials, not the U.S. Justice Department, which has taken the state’s side in the dispute, nor any commission—has come up with a single case in the state’s history in which an impostor showed up and cast a vote.

Tova Wang reviews state voter identification laws, with a special focus on Indiana. (via ACS Blog)

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

tuesday reads

The Fog of War Crimes: Who’s to blame when ‘just following orders’ means murder?

FDL: Only Telling Half the Story?

Recession in the US 'has arrived'

Speech or Debate Clause: A Protection for Legislators Conducting National Security Oversight

As Congress begins to investigate allegations concerning the destruction of videotapes of detainee interrogations by the C.I.A., there are questions that arise concerning the ability of Congress to engage in effective oversight of executive branch agencies in the area of national security. The Department of Justice has already pushed back and asked Congress to stay its inquiries into the destruction of the tapes, citing potential interference in the concurrent criminal inquiries initiated by the Department.

This well known Kabuki dance between Congress and the Executive branch over the intersection between oversight and criminal law enforcement has played out hundreds of times since the beginning of the Republic, in our lifetimes most notably in Watergate and Iran-Contra. There is an equally insidious way in which these shared investigative powers collide—and that is in the way in which the Executive seeks to control and intimidate Congressional oversight by reliance on the classification system and the veiled, and sometimes direct, threat of prosecution of members of Congress for disclosing classified information in the course of performing their oversight responsibilities.

Scott Horton: Department of Orwellian Excesses

DownWith Tyranny!: Does Barack Obama have a Plan B to fall back on after Plan A--having us all get together and rise above partisanship--doesn't work?

A man has allegedly told police he was instructed by God to kill his girlfriend and cook parts of her body on a stove, in one of the most gruesome murder cases to hit Texas.

Monday, January 07, 2008

For sale: West’s deadly nuclear secrets

Sibel Edmonds talks to The Sunday Times

A WHISTLEBLOWER has made a series of extraordinary claims about how corrupt government officials allowed Pakistan and other states to steal nuclear weapons secrets.

Sibel Edmonds, a 37-year-old former Turkish language translator for the FBI, listened into hundreds of sensitive intercepted conversations while based at the agency’s Washington field office.


She claims that the FBI was also gathering evidence against senior Pentagon officials – including household names – who were aiding foreign agents.

Luke Ryland and The Brad Blog have tons of analysis and background.

Sibel Edmonds' State Secrets Privilege Gallery

monday reads

Defying U.S. Plan, Prison Expands in Afghanistan

But almost a year after the Afghan detention center opened, American officials say it can hold only about half the prisoners they once planned to put there. As a result, the makeshift American site at Bagram will probably continue to operate with hundreds of detainees for the foreseeable future, the officials said.

Meanwhile, the treatment of some prisoners on the Bagram base has prompted a strong complaint to the Pentagon from the International Committee of the Red Cross, the only outside group allowed in the detention center.

In a confidential memorandum last summer, the Red Cross said dozens of prisoners had been held incommunicado for weeks or even months in a previously undisclosed warren of isolation cells at Bagram, two American officials said. The Red Cross said the prisoners were kept from its inspectors and sometimes subjected to cruel treatment in violation of the Geneva Conventions, one of the officials said.

Paul Krugman: From Hype to Fear

Taylor war crimes trial restarts
The trial of the former Liberian president Charles Taylor was reopened today, six months after the dictator boycotted the opening session.

Taylor, the first former African leader to face an international court, is accused of orchestrating war crimes committed by militias during Sierra Leone's civil war.

The 59-year-old faces 11 charges, including murder, rape, enslavement and conscription of child soldiers.

He is also accused of forming a "joint criminal enterprise" by giving Sierra Leonean rebel groups weapons and training in return for access to the country's diamonds.

George McGovern: As we enter the eighth year of the Bush-Cheney administration, I have belatedly and painfully concluded that the only honorable course for me is to urge the impeachment of the president and the vice president.