Monday, August 10, 2009

What has John Corzine done for you?

Corruption Corzine Ad

Jon Corzine: The Tax Man

Obama's Raid on Medicare...

Dear Friend,

Amnesty for millions of illegal aliens is on the horizon. Many justify illegal immigration as necessary for a growing economy but while immigration is important to America's growth, there are those of us who believe legal immigration that controls, balances, guarantees security and builds, rather than destroys, our nation’s prosperity is essential. The great free market economist Milton Friedman hit the nail on the head when he stated: "you cannot have open borders and open welfare."

Now, with amnesty for millions looming, President Obama’s Health Care "reform" is no coincidence. Every single undocumented worker provided amnesty will receive health insurance under the plan now heading to Congress. But because the nation does not have unlimited resources to provide either health insurance or unlimited care, existing resources will have to be distributed to all the new folks to be covered by Obama’s plan. This means rationing, increased taxes, and a massive powerful group of new citizens beholden to Barack Obama and the socialist movement. Millions with their hands in your pockets.

Union organizers should wake up; it’s your jobs on the line. These new citizens will be clamoring for union jobs - and they have the organizational skills (ala ACORN), the political clout and sheer desire to take control of all the major unions.

Obama’s Health Care destroying scheme is far more than a massive tax increase and more pervasive than the government interference in our personal health. This is a radical alteration in the structure of America’s society. Within a couple of years we will find ourselves with millions of individuals who do not know, nor respect, our Constitution and our roots. These individuals will wield massive political power while sapping our individual wealth through this massive income redistribution scheme. And, as Medicare resources shift to the new generation of entitlement recipients, our older generation of those who built this country will be phased out and replaced.

Here are some key points to have when calling or questioning your congressmen:
At a time of rising unemployment, the government would raise the cost of hiring workers by requiring employers to provide health insurance to their workers or pay a fee (tax) to subsidize government coverage.

Every American would be required to buy an insurance policy that meets certain government requirements. Even individuals who are currently insured — and happy with their insurance — will have to switch to insurance that meets the government's definition of "acceptable insurance." Those who cannot afford the required insurance will be subsidized by guess who? You.

A government-run plan similar to Medicare would be set up in competition with private insurance, with people able to choose either private insurance or the taxpayer-subsidized public plan. Subsidies and cost-shifting would encourage Americans to shift to the government plan. The inevitable outcome is a total takeover of health care by the same people who manage the EPA, the Federal Department of Education, The Department of Energy and all the other massive bureaucracies that did not exist a few years ago.

The government would undertake comparative-effectiveness research and cost-effectiveness research, and use the results of that research to impose practice guidelines on providers — initially, in government programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, but inevitably extending such rationing to private insurance plans. Included in this are proposals for “end of life” counseling as a way to “control costs” by denying health care to the old and infirm.

Private insurance would face a host of new regulations, including a requirement to insure all applicants and a prohibition on pricing premiums on the basis of risk.
Finally, the government would subsidize and manage the development of a national system of electronic medical records. A system that gives government the ability to access and transfer funds from private bank accounts to cover medical bills.
Taken individually, each of these proposals would be a bad idea Collectively, they will transform the American health care system dramatically in a way that would harm taxpayers, health care providers, and — most importantly — the quality and range of care given to patients. It’s totalitarian control of our nation’s medical industry resources and invasion into every single individual American’s freedom.

I urge you to get on the phone to your Congressman and two U.S. Senators and attend any Town Hall meeting you can find. Together, you and I will stop this dangerous and destructive plan that will destroy our nation and our health care.

On to Victory,

The Pentagon and global warming

An unremarkable and needed evolution.

All of the regions where we fear the impact of climate change are basically inside the Gap, so we're talking about all the same places where we've been intervening for two decades now.

All the stuff we'll need to do sit on the SysAdmin side of the house, meaning we drive more resources to that side of the ledger and build up capacity there.

Of course, the big-war types will want to stick in "resource wars" with China as part of this package, but this is a weak argument, given we're talking about failed states unable to cope. China won't want to get sucked into that sort of stuff, and yet it must, and therein lies new opportunities for cooperation.

But I guarantee you, so long as we rush in and hog all control, the Chinese will be more than happy to see us to do so, so long as their access to desired resources continue, and since we'll need to exploit that Chinese demand in order to attract FDI that we ourselves will be unwilling to supply (see Afghanistan as an example), we'll learn to live with that dynamic in certain situations.

But ultimately, we'll want China to pull its own share of the security duty.

In sum, there is no additive danger or threat in the Pentagon simply realizing that it's still stuck with the Gap and that the biggest environmental change there in coming decades will be global warming. The environment in most of these places was bad before, so we're talking differences in degree, not kind.

But you know our system: it needs to freak out and get all jacked to make any sort of shift, so we all need to get "very afraid!" of global warming to get it on the planning agenda.

And then we calm down and simply deal with the reality as it slowly unfolds.

Black Farmer in Russia Aims for Political Office

Says Obama’s Election Inspired Him

In this photo taken on July 31, Joaquim Crima, 37, gives a thumbs up as he walks up a street in the village of Srednyaya Akhtuba, outside Volgograd, 900 kilometers (550 miles) southeast of Moscow, Russia. The African-born farmer is making an improbable run for office in Russia, inspired by President Barack Obama and undaunted by racial attitudes that have changed little in decades.

An African farmer in southern Russia, inspired by President Obama’s election, is poised for an improbable run for political office, according to The Associated Press.

In Russia, a country known for racism, it is highly unsual for a Black man to toss his hat in the political arena. However, for his efforts Joaquim Crima, a 37-year-old native of Guinea Bissau, is being called the "Russian Obama."

Crima said he likes Obama both as a person and as a politician and believes he can learn from the United States president. "Because he proved to the world what everyone thought was impossible," he explained."I think I can learn some things from him."

Crima, who has earned his citizenship, speaks fluent Russian and describes Russia as a "great power," has also expressed admiration for Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

The married father of a young son lives in a town of 11,000 people that includes an extended clan of ethnic Armenian relatives. Overall, some 55,000 people live in the district's 18 villages and towns. Although Crima gets along well with his townspeople, he is often accompanied by a muscular relative who serves as a body guard.

Crima settled in Russia in 1989 after earning a degree there and is promising to battle corruption and bring development to his district on the Volga River.

But the AP reports that Crima's quest for election this fall is highly unlikely – not that he could not raise financial backing and other resources – largely because of the stark reality that he is a Black man in a country where racism and accompanying stereotypes are deeply rooted.

According to the AP, last December, a Black American exchange student was stabbed and badly wounded in Volgograd, the nearest large city, in what was believed to be a racially motivated attack.

Crima believes he has what it takes to fix problems in his district, where some residents still lack potable water and use outhouses. The town’s unpaved streets, which turn to mud after a rain, are also used for goats to graze. "The current district head has been in power for 10 years, but he hasn't done anything for people here," said Crima. "There are young families that need housing, who need opportunities. This town and Russia are ready for a change."

Although Crima farms 50 acres of land where he grows watermelons and other foods to sell along the town's main road, and employs about 20 people to help out, many of his neighbors have been critical of him, according to the AP. "He hasn't lived all of our issues and he d idn't grow up around us; he's not a kolkhoznik," said a produce vendor. "If I need help building a house, he can't help me get the required permits because he hasn't gone through it himself."

Nevertheless, many among the townspeople admire Crima's bold demeanor. When he walks down the street in a crisp white shirt and tie, residents shake his hand and congratulate him on his decision to run. "I haven't heard his platform, but he's a nice person," said Dennis Duma, 27. "I would change my party affiliation for him."

Privately, however, some laugh at what they see as Crima's naivety. While a department store saleswoman, who declined identity, said she would not vote for him because she doesn't want to "live in Africa," another said she would not vote for a Black person.

Obama Pot Poster Angers Photographer

With buzz about the Obama Joker poster still in the air, another reworking of the president's image is causing a stir.

The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws has produced a psychedelic, '60s-style poster featuring a photo of college freshman "Barry" Obama smoking. Above his super-bad Panama hat is the slogan: Yes We Cannabis.

Artist Sonia Sanchez created the poster for NORML's annual conference using a picture taken at Occidental College in 1980 by the future president's classmate Lisa Jack. In the original photo, Obama is holding a real cigarette to his lips. Sanchez tweaked the smoking material to fit her theme, but otherwise the image is unchanged.

The pro-pot group never sought Jack's permission, even though it is selling the poster as well as giving it away to conference-goers, NORML Executive Director Allen St. Pierre acknowledged in an interview with The Washington Post.

Jack told the Post she's "very irritated" and does not want her work, which is on display at a Los Angeles gallery, used in this way.

NORML believes it's protected by "fair use" rules, but it's far from a clear-cut case. Ashby Jones writes on The Wall Street Journal's Law Blog it "just might take the cake as Best Fair-Use Smackdown Ever."

In this case, all the players are known. The Obama Joker poster that has gone viral on the Internet in recent days is more mysterious. No one seems to know who created the image, in which Obama's face is painted like Heath Ledger's character in 'The Dark Knight.' The original photo was taken from a TIME magazine cover. The posters first appeared in Los Angeles.

"The Obama-as-Joker picture can be viewed as the evil twin" of Shepard Fairey's famous 'Hope' poster, David Ng observes in the Los Angeles Times Culture Monster blog.

Fairey, a Los Angeles artist, based his iconic red, white and blue image on an Associated Press photo. The AP is suing Fairey, accusing him of violating its copyright. Fairey is countersuing, claiming he changed the original picture enough to be covered under "fair use" as a work of art.

DNA Frees Another Innocent Man In Texas

HOUSTON — A man who spent 23 years in prison for a kidnapping and rape that DNA tests show he may not have committed was released on bond Friday to his joyful family.

APState district Judge Michael McSpadden asked for an expedited release for Ernest Sonnier, 46, who was convicted of a 1985 sexual assault and sentenced to life in prison. The Innocence Project, a national organization working to exonerate wrongfully convicted people, began conducting new tests last year that cast doubt on his guilt, attorneys said.

Sonnier was released on his own recognizance. He will wear a GPS monitoring device and be supervised as a condition of his release while attorneys move to have him officially exonerated.

As Sonnier walked through the elevator doors, family members who had earlier filled the courtroom rushed to hug and kiss the man some had only seen behind bars. With his mother and aunt at his side, Sonnier said he worried that he would never see his mother again.

"In jail everyone tells the same story but I told everyone I was innocent," he said. "The evidence was on the table that I wasn't the guy."

Summing up the family's thoughts was Sonnier's mother, Altha Davis: "I'm just so happy," she said.

Sonnier will become the sixth man to be released from prison after challenging results from the Houston Police Department crime lab. Inaccuracies and impropriety at the lab has cast doubts on hundreds of convictions, and the Harris County District Attorney's office has appointed a team to re-investigate more than 160 cases.

"This is yet another example that the criminal justice system is flawed," said attorney Alba Morales of the Innocence Project. "This case had all the hallmarks of wrongful conviction."

Barry Scheck, co-director of the Innocence Project, said this week that misleading testimony from a crime lab analyst that favored the prosecution and unreliable eyewitness identification put Sonnier behind bars.

The victim of the 1985 attack identified Sonnier, who was 23 at the time, nearly six months afterward. But Scheck said tests showed that semen stains on the woman's jeans were blood type O, while Sonnier's blood type is B.

Sonnier's case piqued the interest of Innocence Project attorneys who knew other cases at the Houston lab had come into question. After their 18-month investigation, his attorneys said subsequent DNA tests connected two convicted felons to the rape, potentially clearing Sonnier.

Sonnier's father, Herman Davis, said the day his son went to prison brought "a lot of pain, hurt, and agony," he said. Davis plans to serve smothered chicken and rice, the meal that used to be his son's favorite.

"We will be comfortable and at ease for the first time in a long time," the retired truck driver said.

Nortel CEO Mike Zafirovski leaves, board reduced to three directors

Insolvent technology giant Nortel Networks Corp. announced a US$274 million loss, a 25 per cent drop in revenues in the April-June quarter and the sudden departure of its top executive and several directors on Monday.

Mike Zafirovski, a former senior executive of Motorola Corp. who was brought to Nortel in 2005 amid much fanfare and hopes of revitalizing the telecom technology company, is leaving immediately as president and CEO.

Zafirovski said in a release Monday that he believes the company is stabilizing its business, while also recently completing the sale of its wireless division, and scheduling other asset sales under bankruptcy protection.

"The direction has been set and we are now at a natural transition point as we continue to service customers, maximize value through sales and continue restructuring activities," Zafirovski said.

Nortel's board will be reduced to three members, down from nine. Among the departing directors is Harry Pearce, who has been Nortel's chairman and who was instrumental in bringing in Zafirovski.

The company hasn't named another chief executive officer. Instead it will ask for a court-appointed monitor to be given greater responsibility.

It also says a team of executives, including chief restructuring officer Pavi Binning and chief strategy officer George Riedel, will oversee operations and report to the board of directors and monitor.

The company is also proposing to have a what Nortel is calling a "principal officer" for its U.S. operations, which are under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

"There is still much work to be done," said David Richardson, Nortel's new chairman.

"We have the right team and the right structure in place to ensure continuity in our efforts to maximize the value of the businesses, while preserving Nortel's innovative technology platforms and employment to the greatest extent possible."

Nortel also announced it lost US$274 million, or 55 cents per share, partly on reorganization costs of $130 million. That compared to a loss of $113 million, or 23 cents per share, a year earlier.

Revenues slid 25 per cent to $1.97 billion.

Nortel has been operating under bankruptcy protection under Chapter 11 in the United States and Canada's Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act since January.

Originally, Zafirovski said Nortel was aiming to keep its core operations and continue as a smaller technology vendor. However, it has since changed course and is in the process of selling its various business units and assets in a series of transactions.

Another Michael Jackson tribute… from Prince?

For almost three decades, Prince and Michael Jackson held a competitive grasp on the pop music charts. And considering the obvious similarities between the King of Pop and the Purple one — quirky behavior, elaborate costumes, and a similar fusion of genres — it’s no wonder the two held such an intense rivalry for one another since their peak back in the 1980’s. However, Michael Jackson’s recent and tragic passing has sparked an opportunity for his former foe to pay tribute to the King of Pop in the one arena which they both knew so well: the stage.

Sure, this isn’t the first time Prince has shown a liking to Michael Jackson, but a musical tribute is still quite a shock coming from the Purple one. Word has it that Prince will take the stage for a tribute performance at the World Music Award Ceremony, where Janet Jackson will accept an award on her brother’s behalf. The ceremony will take place this coming fall in Monaco; where Prince is conveniently already scheduled to perform at the Monaco Opera House sometime next week.

Obama to build more prisons for illegals

But “nicer” ones. Is there ANYTHING this guy cannot find money for? He must have a money tree

Pledging more oversight and accountability, the Obama administration will overhaul the nation’s Immigration detention system and transform it from one reliant on scattered local jails and private prisons to a centralized one specifically for civil detainees, officials announced Thursday.

The reforms are aimed at greater control over a system that houses 33,000 detainees a day and has been criticized for inhumane conditions and for failing to provide health care that may have prevented many of the 90 deaths that have occurred since 2003.

“With these reforms, ICE will move away from our present decentralized, jail-oriented approach to a system that is wholly designed for and based on our civil detention needs,” U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Assistant Secretary John Morton said. “The population that we detain is different than the traditional population that is detained in a prison or a jail setting.”

The federal Immigration agency plans to review the use of 350 local jails, state prisons and private facilities. Within five years, officials said, detainees without criminal records likely would be held in fewer, less restrictive locations.

Morton also announced that the agency will stop sending families to the controversial T. Don Hutto Residential Center in Texas and instead hold them in a facility in Pennsylvania. The Texas facility, which will still house women, opened in 2006 and faced lawsuits over substandard living conditions. A settlement resulted in changes to how children are treated.

Immigrant rights advocates welcomed the changes but said there is still no clear policy on how detention facilities will be penalized when problems are found.

“We are encouraged that the administration is taking a hard look at what has traditionally been a dark spot in our Immigration system,” said Karen Tumlin, an attorney at the National Immigration Law Center. “However, only time will tell if the reforms announced today amount to lasting change or simply creative repackaging of prior policies.”

Pepsi, Coke and their strategic manuevers

PepsiCo Inc. (NYSE:PEP) made news this week with its $7.8 billion cash-and-stock deal to consolidate its two largest bottling companies, marking an end to the drawn-out price battle with its bottlers.

The deal caps an interesting several months for Pepsi, as well as rival Coca-Cola Co. (NYSE:KO), whose bid for China Huiyuan Juice Group Ltd. was rejected by the Chinese government earlier this year.

With the sector bubbling with activity, it seemed a good time to point readers to our Bottlers: Pepsi, Coke and more Dealwatch, an online feature that aggregates all of The Deal's reporting on the topic.

Follow the entire story of PepsiCo and Coca-Cola's long and complicated relationship with their distribution channels and each other, legal battles as well as strategic highlights. - Sara Behunek

Breaking news? Hundreds missing in Taiwan landslides after Typhoon Morakot?

The Taiwan Government's news agency is reporting that hundreds of people may be missing after mudslides triggered by Typhoon Morakot:

"An estimated 500 to 600 people remain unaccounted for Monday after mudslides triggered by Typhoon Morakot hit an isolated mountain village in southern Taiwan's Kaohsiung County, according to rescued villagers."

This story has been expanded by Taiwan News:

"An estimated 500 to 600 people remain unaccounted for Monay after mudslides triggered by Typhoon Morakot hit an isolated mountain village in southern Taiwan's Kaohsiung County, according to rescued villagers. "Only 44 residents of Siaolin managed to avoid the mudslides, and the remaining 500 to 600 residents are unaccounted for, " said a family member of residents believed to be trapped in the village and possible buried alive. The weeping family member urged the government to not waste even a second in launching an operation to rescue the trapped villagers."

I will post again when further details are available. Hopefully the villagers found a safe place to shelter.

What are eight private jets when you’re a trillionaire?

Every so often the trillionaires in Congress do something that, even by their own standards, is unexplainably idiotic. This is one of those times.

Bipartisan opposition is emerging in the Senate to a plan by House lawmakers to spend $550 million for additional passenger jets for senior government officials.

The resistance to buying eight Gulfstream and Boeing planes comes as members of both chambers of Congress embark on the busiest month of the year for official overseas travel. The plan to upgrade the fleet of government jets, which was included in a broader defense-funding bill, has also sparked criticism from the Pentagon, which has said it doesn’t need half of the new jets. – Wall Street Journal

The real kicker here is that when the story first broke a couple weeks ago, the jet order was for four new Gulfstreams. Apparently this was viewed as such a great idea by House leadership that they just went ahead and doubled the order. Was there really no one in the room when this decision was made who thought, ‘gee, maybe buying eight private jets with taxpayer money during a recession will make us look elitist and out of touch. Nah.’

These are the issues that kill you. It’s not the money, Congress is considering a budget with a $1.75 trillion deficit and a $1 trillion health care plan as a following act to a $787 billion stimulus bill and a $500 billion earmark-riddled appropriations bill. I’m not losing any sleep over $550 million in private jets. It’s the best deal that taxpayers got all year.

The political downside for Democrats is inescapable. These are the issues that draw attention to the bigger ones I just mentioned. The frivelous purchase of eight private jets reframes the spenders of everything else as out of touch and pollutes Democrat’s message that we “needed” to spend trillions on those other things just like we “need” to spend millions on private jets. It’s devastating to their credibility.

This issue probably won’t help get Democrat Congressman, currently on the lam from angry voters and taxpayers, out of hiding for the rest of the August recess. But at least they can make a quick getaway in their new G5.

Gingrich backs Palin on "death panel" lie

By Michael J.W. Stickings

As Steve Benen notes, some on the right, like David Brooks (who is known to have a sane moment every now and then), have been critical of Sarah Palin's claim that Obama's proposed health-care system -- "Obamacare," as it has been misleadingly dubbed -- would subject Americans (and specifically the elderly and the disabled) to "death panels," panels of bureaucrats that would supposedly make life-or-death decisions like Roman emperors at some gladiatorial extravaganza.

The facts are the facts, the truth is the truth, and Palin was just lying, spinning fear, like many others on the right. Brooks himself called the claim "crazy." "Maybe, just maybe," Benen writes, "[Palin's] 'death panel' message on Facebook -- complete with lies, poor writing, policy confusion, and family exploitation -- will be enough to convince the skeptical that Palin really is that far gone?" Personally, I doubt it. And I doubt it because Palin isn't alone. There are many who think like her and lie like her, and many more still who credulously accept whatever she and her ilk offer as the truth and nothing but, so "far gone" are they. Besides, Palin's already done more than enough to convince us that she's "that far gone." Those who remain skeptical are the bitter residue of irrationality, and they aren't about to be convinced.

And, indeed, Palin's various backers on the "death panel" lie include not just the usual suspects on Fox News and mobocratic talk radio, as well as in the right-wing blogosphere but a leading Republican and media darling: Newt Gingrich, who, yesterday on ABC's This Week, actually supported Palin's claim. It's hardly news that he's as "far gone" as Palin, and he's long been a leading GOP spinner and propagandist, a partisan who says whatever needs to be said in support of narrow Republican interests regardless of the truth, but it's good to have him confirm like this his place in the Palin wing of the right-wing insanitarium.

It's funny, though. He's a media darling not just because of his past electoral success but because he's convinced enough people, media people, that he's a smart guy, an intellectual conservative, in other words, a rarity that sets him apart. And he often talks a good talk -- consider that he's been a frequent guest on Jon Stewart. And yet his record is quite different than the manufactured image. It's a record of rhetorical insanity suggesting not just a deep reservoir of partisanship -- party before country, party before truth -- but core convictions that are just as insane. This latest foray into the wilderness of delusion and deception only proves the point.

Secret Service Tipped Off Philly Police About Officer Running Criminal Check on Pres. Obama

By Allan Lengel

The U.S. Secret Service has triggered a Philadelphia Police Department probe into why one of its officers used his police car computer on Wednesday to run a criminal background check on President Obama, the Associated Press reported.
The Secret Service notified the police department after learning of the breach from the National Crime Information Center, the wire service reported.
Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey said the department is investigating the matter and the officer faces possible discipline.
Last month, two DeKalb County police officers in Georgia were accused of doing the same thing, the AP reported. They were put on paid administrative leave.

The Growing Problem: U.S. Border Agents For Sale

The drug trade along the Mexican border continues to show disturbing signs of corruption and death. Apparently some U.S. Border agents can be bought. That is very very dangerous.

By The Associated Press
McALLEN, Texas – Corruption along the U.S.-Mexican border takes many forms.
It can start as simply as a smuggler’s $50 gift to the child of a reluctant federal agent, quickly escalating to out-and-out bribes.

”Everyone does it,” the agent, now in prison, recalls telling himself. Other times, county sheriffs greedily grab thousands from drug dealers. In a few instances, traffickers even place members in the applicant pool for sensitive border protection jobs.

An Associated Press investigation has found U.S. law officers who work the border are being charged with criminal corruption in numbers not seen before, as drug and immigrant smugglers use money and sometimes sex to buy protection, and internal investigators crack down.

Next N.Y. U.S. Atty. Preet Bharara Praised for Being Apolitical

It’s heartening to hear that Preet Bharara has a reputation for being apolitical when it comes to doing his job. Then again, we should assume that’s how all U.S. Attorneys will operate.

NEW YORK -- He worked for one of the most partisan Democratic senators in Washington, and a few years ago helped to uncover political maneuverings by the Justice Department in the administration of President George W. Bush.
But perhaps the most telling aspect about Preet Bharara, the next United States attorney in Manhattan, may be how he managed to win the trust and respect of even those who might have been his natural opponents.

Mr. Bharara, who served as the chief counsel to Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, played a major role in the Senate Judiciary Committee’s investigation into the firings of United States attorneys around the country.

As he took sworn testimony from witnesses, handled the issuance of subpoenas and negotiated with administration officials over the production of documents and other materials, he drew praise for his evenhanded approach.

He even won over one fired prosecutor, David C. Iglesias of New Mexico, a Republican who said he had wavered over whether to testify voluntarily before the panel, fearing that it would degenerate into a “partisan circus.”

Ex-Atty. Gen. Gonzales Tells N.Y. Times He Hasn’t Spoken To Bush Since Pres Left Office or Gotten a Job Offer From Law Firm

By Allan Lengel

WASHINGTON — Sadly, Alberto Gonzales was one of the worst U.S. Attorney General’s this country has ever had.

Gonzales, who has taken a teaching job at Texas Tech, told the New York Times that he has not been offered a job at any law firms since leaving his post, and he has not spoken to President Bush since the Bush left office.

Here are some questions and answers from an interview with the New York Times’ Deborah Solomon.

Isn’t there still an ongoing investigation by a special prosecutor who was appointed last year to look into the removal of the attorneys?
I wish I could comment on that, but because it’s an ongoing investigation, I cannot.
Would you agree that your reputation was damaged by your service as attorney general?
It has had an effect, a negative effect, no question about it, and at times it makes me angry because it is undeserved. But I don’t want to sound like I am whining. At the end of the day, I’ve been the attorney general of the United States. It’s a remarkable privilege, and I stand behind my service.

Has any law firm offered you a job since you left the White House?
Listen, I’ve had some interest and I’ve had some discussions, but there has been no offer made. In a tough economic climate, I can understand why a company or a firm would want to make sure that the investigations are complete and there is no finding of wrongdoing before they make a hiring decision.

Do you still talk to President Bush?
I have not spoken with the president since he left office.
Have you ever been tempted to pick up the phone and say hi to him?
I do, of course, think about our time together, and there are times when I think about doing that. But listen, I know that he has his life to live. I’ve got challenges and my life to live as well.

Holder Inching Closer to Torture Probe

Attorney General Eric Holder is reportedly getting closer to appointing an independent prosecutor to investigate torture under the Bush administration. That’s making some CIA employees nervous.

Greg Miller and Josh Meyer of The Los Angeles Times on Sunday confirmed earlier reports that Holder has reluctantly come around to thinking that he can’t avoid the fact that torture occurred at the hands of U.S. officials, and that U.S. and international law requires an investigation. Holder is reportedly only considering cases where CIA interrogators went beyond the rules established by the Bush administration’s lawyers, rather than investigating the legality of those rules themselves. But as I’ve written before, it’s not clear where such an inquiry would logically end. Investigating CIA functionaries low on the totem pole — which would involve re-opening cases previously dismissed by the Bush administration — would ultimately require looking into the orders they received from their superiors.

Previous proposals to create commissions to undertake broader inquiries — from Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) — have so far failed to win majority support in Congress.

According to The LA Times, CIA officials are already nervous about Holder’s impending probe, with some even putting off their retirement or plans to leave the agency so they can maintain access to classified information they might need for their defense, or argue that as government officials they’re immune from suit.

“Once you’re out, it gets a lot harder,” a retired CIA official told The Times.

Pelosi, Hoyer: 'Un-American' protests

by Mark Silva

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, insisting at the start of a long and politically heated summer congressional recess that healthcare reform can be achieved this fall, today are calling the disruption of "town-hall'' meetings by vocal protesters "simply un-American.''

"We believe it is healthy for such a historic effort to be subject to so much scrutiny and debate,'' Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Hoyer (D-Md.) write in an Op-ed essay published by USA Today.

"However, it is now evident that an ugly campaign is underway not merely to misrepresent the health insurance reform legislation, but to disrupt public meetings and prevent members of Congress and constituents from conducting a civil dialogue,'' the two leaders write.... "These disruptions are occurring because opponents are afraid not just of differing views -- but of the facts themselves. Drowning out opposing views is simply un-American.''

They point to a series of protests at congressional district hearings held by members of Congress this summer, including one where the likeness of a congressman in Maryland was hanged in effigy, one displaying the tombstone of a congressman in Texas and meetings where protesters have shouted down opponents with "Just say no.''

With Democrats accusing Republicans of orchestrating dramatic protests against the healthcare reform that President Barack Obama and Democratic allies in Congress are promoting, and critics such as Sarah Palin warning of government "death panels,'' Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell suggests that Democrats should be worried.

""Look, I don't think either side ought to be trying to engage in disrupting meetings, either the Democratic side or the Republican side,'' McConnell (R-Ky..) said Sunday in an appearance on FOX News Sunday.

But "to demonize citizens who are -- you know, who are energetic about this -- strikes me as demonstrating a kind of weakness in your position,'' McConnell said. "In other words, you want to... change the subject.....

"Attacking citizens in our country for expressing their opinions about an issue of this magnitude may indicate some weakness in their position on the merits,'' McConnell said. "This is an enormously important subject. Of course American citizens are concerned about it. And many of them are upset about it."

Pelosi and Hoyer, calling the enactment of health insurance reform "a defining moment in our nation's history,'' point to plans that have passed through three House committees. Based on this work, they say, they will "produce one strong piece of legislation that the House will approve in September.''

Senate leaders, in the meantime, are negotiating over competing plans in the Senate Finance Committee, in an attempt to fashion a bipartisan plan that the Senate can embrace. Obama, who initially sought votes this summer, has maintained that legislation can be completed "by the end of the year.''

"As we draw close to finalizing - and passing - real health insurance reform, '' Obama said in his weekly radio and Internet address on Saturday, "the defenders of the status quo and political point-scorers in Washington are growing fiercer in their opposition. In recent days and weeks, some have been using misleading information to defeat what they know is the best chance of reform we have ever had...

"This isn't about politics,'' Obama said. "This about people's lives... That's why we must get this done - and why we will get this done - by the end of this year.

Insisting that reform will offer "more patient choice'' and enable "every American who likes his or her current plan to keep it,'' Pelosi and Hoyer contend in their Op-ed essay that "it will free doctors and patients to make the health decisions that make the most sense, not the most profits for insurance companies.

"Reform will mean stability and peace of mind for the middle class,'' they write. "Never again will medical bills drive Americans into bankruptcy; never again will Americans be in danger of losing coverage if they lose their jobs or if they become sick; never again will insurance companies be allowed to deny patients coverage because of pre-existing conditions.''

They are "confident that our principles of affordable, quality health care will stand up to any and all critics,'' the two leaders write. "Now,'' they conclude, "with Americans strongly supporting health insurance reform, with Congress reaching consensus on a plan, and with a president who ran and won on this specific promise of change -- America is closer than ever to this century-deferred goal. ''