Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Rating Doctors Like Restaurants

Count us among those who would like to read a Zagat-like review of our doctors. We regularly check the company’s popular guide to New York City restaurants for hints as to whether the food is good or the service is lousy — at least in the opinion of others who have dined there. So why not get some guidance as to how patients view their encounters with various doctors?

As Milt Freudenheim reported in The Times on Monday, WellPoint, a big insurance company, has teamed with Zagat to survey the attitudes of its subscribers toward the doctors they have used. The patients rate their doctors in four broad categories, indicate whether they would recommend the doctor to someone else and can add comments if they wish. The end result, once enough ratings come in, will be a composite score for individual physicians indicating where they rank on a scale from poor to extraordinary.

The idea of patient-based ratings has some doctors in a tizzy. They insist that patients are in no position to judge which doctors are best and that some patients may respond to glib charm rather than professional competence. That sounds much like the complaints we heard when students started rating their professors, yet many universities now factor student judgments into their evaluations of the faculty. The Commonwealth Fund, a pioneer in evaluating health care systems around the world, relies in part on surveys of patients’ experiences.

And it makes us suspect that the doctors complaining aren’t the ones who welcome their own patients’ constructive complaints.

Who knows better than patients whether they have confidence in a doctor? Whether they like his or her bedside manner? Or find it easy or hard to make appointments? Or are dealt with on time or kept waiting for hours? Or find the staff helpful? These are the kinds of items covered in the Zagat/WellPoint survey, not anything to do with the quality of medical care provided.

A missing ingredient is Zagat’s pithy and witty summaries of the comments, a hallmark of its restaurant reviews. WellPoint subscribers, the only ones who can view the comments, are not apt to learn that a doctor’s “icy hands” and “crowded waiting room” made the examination “a downer.” WellPoint will simply publish subscriber comments in full.

Original here

Personal Rights vs. Property Rights

by Daniel White

There is often a struggle to maintain a balance between personal rights and property rights. Neither one is absolute, and both tend to be handled differently in various states.

In general, property owners have a lot of leeway regarding who is allowed onto their property. It becomes a little more clouded when it comes to property that is generally open to the public, such as private businesses. A private business can, for example, disallow people from coming on their property if they are handing out fliers for the competition and can decide their employees are not allowed to wear t-shirts to work. They can't, however, make rules restricting race, religion, age, sex, etc.

Where is gets fuzzier is when it comes to gun rights. In Ohio, any business can put up a sign prohibiting people from bringing guns into their business. They can put up a sign for the parking lot, but there is no criminal penalty for violating a parking lot prohibition, unless you are asked to leave and you refuse. But, employers can still prohibit employees from having firearms in their personal vehicles while on company property.

The main issue at hand is that not only are employees being disarmed while at work, but the employee's Constitutional right to self defense are also denied to and from work, unless they're able to find a place to park off company property. It can even force a change in plans affecting their private life. For example, a person planning on going hunting or to the range on their way home from work is unable to do so.

The flippant answer to the issue is to say if they don't like it, they can always find another job. Of course, in this economy, that's easier said than done in many cases. Plus, we're not talking about banning chewing gum. The right to self defense is guaranteed by the Ohio Constitution. So, people are forced to choose between their lives and their livelihood, a decision they shouldn't have to make.

Numerous states, such as Florida, do not allow employers to put such restrictions on an employees personal, private vehicle. Ohio should follow suit. For that reason, this is one of the reforms being sought in 2009 by Ohioans For Concealed Carry.

While workplace violence is a very real issue, treating every gun owner as a potential mass murderer makes no more sense than treating everyone who has a prescription as a drug abuser. Not to mention that a person who decides to commit workplace violence isn't going to change his mind because guns aren't allowed on the property. Last I checked, violence isn't allowed either.

Property owners should have discretion over their property, but their property rights end where your right to life begins. If they do not want to assume responsibility for and protect you on your way to and from work, they should not be permitted to take away your ability to defend yourself during those times.

Original here

The myth of the 'gun show loophole'

by Kurt Hofmann

I have stated before that the top firearm banning priority of the forcible citizen disarmament lobby will be so-called "assault weapons," with their second favorite target being .50 caliber rifles. I stand by that assessment, but I predict that even before they make a concerted effort to ban any guns, they'll go after gun sales--specifically, private sales at gun shows, and the mythical "loophole" such sales supposedly represent.

This goes beyond the fact that closing the "gun show loophole" is mentioned as an "urban policy" priority on the Obama administration's website, and that closing the "loophole" is a longtime priority of our new attorney general, who has stated that in his opinion, the Supreme Court's Heller decision poses no obstacle to such a measure. The myth of the so-called "gun show loophole" has become so pervasive that in our last presidential election, even the supposedly "pro-gun" (according to the NRA), Republican candidate has long taken a widely publicized stance in favor of banning private sales at gun shows.

"But," you might ask, "is that such a bad thing--aren't gun shows 'arms bazaars for criminals and terrorists'?" Well . . . no, actually.
A Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) report on “Firearms Use by Offenders” found that fewer than 1% of U.S. “crime guns” came from gun shows, with repeat offenders even less likely than first-timers to buy guns from any retail source.

Licensed gun dealers are required by federal law to jump through all the hoops--background checks, sales records, etc.--at gun shows that they do in their shops. The "problem," according to the forcible citizen disarmament lobby, is the private sellers, who can sell guns from their personal collections without all the red tape. According to the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV), these "unlicensed sellers" constitute 25-50% of the retailers at gun shows. This conveniently ignores the fact that a great many of the retailers at gun shows don't sell guns--they sell t-shirts, books, war memorabilia, etc.

Worse yet, ending private sales at gun shows isn't going to satisfy these people. After all, a private sale at a gun show is no different in principle from a private sale anywhere else. The Brady Campaign, in fact, no longer even bothers to hide the fact that the goal is a ban on all private gun sales, anywhere-"No background check, no sale, no excuses," as they endlessly spout.

They'll undoubtedly argue that they're not trying to ban private sales--they just want to require federal background checks. The problem with that "logic," of course, is that there is nothing private about a sale that can only proceed with government monitoring and approval, just as a phone conversation with one's spouse can hardly be considered private if the NSA is listening to it, in order to make sure that terrorist plots are not being hatched.

No free society can accept that standard of "privacy."

Original here

New York Post Chimp Cartoon Compares Stimulus Author To Dead Primate

Sam Stein

A cartoon likening the author of the stimulus bill, perhaps President Barack Obama, with a rabid chimpanzee graced the pages of the New York Post on Wednesday.

The drawing, from famed cartoonist Sean Delonas, is rife with violent imagery and racial undertones. In it, two befuddled-looking police officers holding guns look over the dead and bleeding chimpanzee that attacked a woman in Stamford, Connecticut.

"They'll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill," reads the caption.

An email to Delonas and a call to the New York Post went unreturned. The cartoon appears both on the New York Post website and page 12 of the Wednesday paper.

At its most benign, the cartoon suggests that the stimulus bill was so bad, monkeys may as well have written it. Others believe it compares the president to a rabid chimp. Either way, the incorporation of violence and (on a darker level) race into politics is bound to be controversial. Perhaps that's what Delonas wanted.


UPDATE: Rev. Al Sharpton has weighed in on the cartoon in a statement:

"The cartoon in today's New York Post is troubling at best given the historic racist attacks of African-Americans as being synonymous with monkeys. One has to question whether the cartoonist is making a less than casual reference to this when in the cartoon they have police saying after shooting a chimpanzee that "Now they will have to find someone else to write the stimulus bill."

"Being that the stimulus bill has been the first legislative victory of President Barack Obama (the first African American president) and has become synonymous with him it is not a reach to wonder are they inferring that a monkey wrote the last bill?"

Original here

Obama unveils $75B mortgage relief plan

“All of us are paying a price for this home mortgage crisis,” President Obama said in remarks prepared for delivery at a ceremony announcing the program at a Phoenix area high school.

PHOENIX - Seeking to tackle “a crisis unlike any we’ve ever known,” President Barack Obama unveiled an ambitious $75 billion plan Wednesday to keep as many as 9 million Americans from losing their homes to foreclosure.

Announcing the plan in Arizona — a state especially hard hit by the housing crunch — Obama said that turning around the battered economy requires stemming the continuing tide of foreclosures. The housing crisis that began last year set many other factors in motion and helped lead to the current, widening recession.

“In the end, all of us are paying a price for this home mortgage crisis,” Obama said at a high school outside Phoenix. “And all of us will pay an even steeper price if we allow this crisis to deepen.”

But while talking in broad strokes about the importance of the issue to the economy as a whole, the president took care not to miss the pain that the housing problems are causing in individual families

“The American Dream is being tested by a home mortgage crisis that not only threatens the stability of our economy but also the stability of families and neighborhoods,” he said. “While this crisis is vast, it begins just one house and one family at a time.”

More expensive than expected, Obama’s plan aims to keep between 7 million and 9 million people from foreclosure. Of the nearly 52 million U.S. homeowners with a mortgage, about 13.8 million, or nearly 27 percent, owe more on their mortgage than their house is now worth, according to Moody’s

Headlining Obama’s plan is a $75 billion Homeowner Stability Initiative, which would provide a set of incentives to mortgage lenders in an effort to convince them to help up to 4 million borrowers on the verge of foreclosure. The goal: cut monthly mortgage payments to sustainable levels, defined as no more than 31 percent of a homeowners income. Funding would come from the $700 billion financial industry bailout passed by Congress last fall.

Details of Obama’s plan
Details of President Barack Obama’s $75 billion plan to help up to 9 million families restructure or refinance their mortgages to avoid losing their homes to foreclosure.
Remove restrictions
Remove restrictions on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that prohibit the institutions, both taken over by the government last year, from refinancing mortgages they own or have guaranteed when more is owed on a home than it is worth. The White House says this could reduce monthly payments for up to 5 million homeowners.
Source: Associated PressPrint this

Another key component would specifically help those said to be “under water” — with dwellings whose market value have sunk below the principal still owed on the mortgages. Such mortgages have traditionally been almost impossible to refinance. But the White House said its program will help 4 million to 5 million families do just that — if their mortgages are owned or guaranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.

Housing Secretary Shaun Donovan stressed that homeowners don’t need to be delinquent in order to get help.

“This is necessary policy. It’s smart economics. And it’s just and fair,” Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner told reporters.

Asked why the cost had jumped to $75 billion from initial talk of a $50 billion effort, Geithner said, “We think that’s necessary to make a program like this work.”

And he said relief would be almost instantaneous, basically as soon as rules are published March 4. “You’ll start to see the effects quite quickly”, Geithner said.

Sheila Bair, chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, said previous efforts had largely flopped. “We’ve not attacked the problem at the core,” she told reporters. “We are woefully behind the curve.”

The biggest players in the mortgage industry already had halted foreclosures pending Obama’s announcement.

“The plan I’m announcing focuses on rescuing families who have played by the rules and acted responsibly,” Obama said. “It will not rescue the unscrupulous or irresponsible by throwing good taxpayer money after bad loans.”

He issued a warning as well: “All of us must learn to live within our means again.”

He said the plan will not help those who took risky bets by buying homes to sell them, not live in them, or dishonest lenders who distorted facts for naive buyers, or buyers who signed on for loans they knew they could not afford.

“This plan will not save every home,” Obama said.

In tandem with the foreclosure plan, the Treasury Department announced it would double the size of its lifeline to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, seeking to bolster confidence in the mortgage giants effectively taken over by the government last fall. The government said it would absorb up to $200 billion in losses at each company, by using money Congress set aside last year, and will continue purchasing mortgage-backed securities from them.

The Treasury said the increased support for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac didn’t reflect projected losses at the two companies. The two companies are currently projected to need a combined government subsidy of about $66 billion, well short of the new promise of up to $400 billion.

Asked about the doubling of the guarantees for Fannie and Freddie, Geithner said: “This is not a judgment about the expected losses ahead. It underscores commitment, and that is very important to help keep mortgage rates low.” Geithner said most not all of the money would come the financial bailout fund.

The president’s announcement came a day after he signed into law a $787 billion economic stimulus plan he hopes will spark an economic turnaround and create or save 3.5 million jobs.

At the same time, the administration was grappling with the darkening prospects for the U.S. auto industry.

Even as Detroit carmakers submitted restructuring plans to qualify for continued government loans, General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC asked for another $14 billion in bailout cash.

© 2009 The Associated Press.

Original here

GOP Fighting For Money From Stimulus They Opposed

Ryan Grim

House Republicans, as a group, may take great pride in the goose egg they offered President Obama's stimulus package. But now the unanimous opposition is struggling to bring that money home.

Republicans will be working hard to make sure the money they opposed ends up benefiting their home districts, highlighting the political tightrope they walk in this economic crisis. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is watching House Republicans -- and reading local media -- closely and is only too happy to highlight any happy talk about a stimulus Republicans voted against.

Back in his home district, Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO) found some nice things to say about the plan.

"Within the stimulus package there is some Pell Grant money, which is a good thing. It helps students be able to pay for their education and that's kind of a long term stimulus effect there. I mean obviously that's not gonna provide a job in the next 120, 180 days, but the ability of someone to get an education is an economic development tool," Luetkemeyer said at a local college. He was there, in another inside-outside Washington twist, to celebrate an earmark for a college building.

He lamented that there would be far fewer such earmarks in the future. "If they go back to the rules, it will make it very difficult to get earmarks through the next two years because number one we don't have any more money, we just blew it all on this stimulus package. Although, we're gonna have to print some more in order to be able to bail out the financial institutes and the automobile manufacturers," said Luetkemeyer.

Ken Spain, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, said that the quotes aren't hypocritical, but rather demonstrate that Republicans did support a stimulus in general, just not the one Democrats presented to them.

"We would like to thank the DCCC for circulating these comments. They are proof-positive that Republicans stood willing and ready to support commonsense measures in the stimulus package until Nancy Pelosi unfortunately chose to undercut President Obama's message of bipartisanship by including absurd pork-barrel spending projects such as millions to protect a mouse in the San Francisco Bay, golf carts for government bureaucrats, and STD prevention funds. Republicans said 'yes' to a true stimulus package, but unanimously said 'no' to putting the politics of pork before the needs of the middle class," said Spain.

Rep. Don Young (R-AK) put out a press release saying that he "won a victory for the Alaska Native contracting program and other Alaska small business owners last night in H.R. 1, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act."

In California's Inland Empire, battered by the economic downturn, the mostly Republican delegation is happy the stimulus passed, too, according to local news reports.

"Even the Republican lawmakers who oppose the bill say such projects are needed in the region," the local paper reports.

"All along he has believed infrastructure spending, in particular, should provide a boost to the Inland Empire's economy," a spokesman to Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA) said.

"While we philosophically have different opinions, we're obligated to make sure this money is spent properly," said Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA). "All of us in the Inland Empire will do what we can to direct as much money as we can."

UPDATE: Think Progress finds a press release from Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.) along the same lines:

Last week, Bond led a bipartisan group of Senators in introducing an amendment to help provide needy families affordable housing. Bond's amendment provides $2 billion to fund low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC) projects that have been stalled by the financial credit crisis. As part of the Democrats' spending bill now signed into law, the Senate unanimously accepted Bond's provision. [...]

This provision will have a real impact in Missouri, especially for low-income, working families in need of safe and affordable housing. ... Bond's amendment will save more than 700 housing units and create 3,000 new jobs in Missouri.

Original here

Senate Ethics may investigate Burris

Embattled Sen. Roland W. Burris' legal and political problems deepened Tuesday as Democrats in Washington and Illinois signaled that they would support an investigation into whether the senator lied under oath about his appointment to the Illinois Senate seat.

Illinois Democrats are now backing GOP calls for a perjury investigation, while the Democratic chairwoman of the Senate Ethics Committee suggested that the panel would open a preliminary inquiry, which could ultimately lead to Burris’ expulsion from the full Senate.

"Whenever allegations of improper conduct are brought to the attention of the Senate Ethics Committee, we open a preliminary inquiry," said Natalie Ravitz, spokeswoman for Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the panel.

After saying he never raised funds for Blagojevich, Burris admitted to reporters Monday night that he did in fact try to raise funds after a solicitation request was made by the former governor's brother, Rob. And while Burris contends he failed to disclose the extent of his contacts with Blagojevich because he simply wasn’t asked about them, a review of transcripts shows Burris repeatedly dodged questions when the issue was raised by a second state legislator when he testified under oath.

On Tuesday, Burris was in full damage control mode, saying he did nothing wrong and is open to a state and federal inquiry into his statements about the appointment.

"I have made an effort to be as transparent as I can, and I'm willing to take a further step as I have nothing to hide," Burris said to reporters assembled in Peoria on Tuesday. "I welcome the opportunity to go before any and all investigative bodies, including those referred by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and the Senate Ethics Committee to answer any questions they have."

Meanwhile, Democrats in Springfield have become increasingly critical of Burris, and Illinois Republicans have called for a perjury investigation and demanded his resignation. Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, a Democrat, submitted documents Tuesday to a state's attorney in Sangamon County to determine whether a perjury inquiry should be launched. Critics say Burris intentionally suppressed the contacts — and potentially lied under oath — in order to avoid the appearance of impropriety so he could be seated in the Senate.

And Democrat Mike Quigley, a candidate for White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel's former congressional seat, is calling on Burris to resign.

"Roland Burris’ failure to be honest and upfront with the people of Illinois should disqualify him from service in the United States Senate," Quigley said in a Tuesday evening statement. "He should resign, immediately. The Illinois legislature should work with Governor Quinn to pass legislation immediately setting up a special election empowering the people of Illinois to have a voice in this matter and allowing us all to finally turn the page on this sad chapter in Illinois’ politics.”

For Democrats nationwide, Burris was an unwelcome distraction on the same day President Obama signed into law the $787 billion economic stimulus measure, and many believe Burris has squandered the goodwill with party leaders who reluctantly agreed to seat him last month. The revelations could put new pressure on Burris to announce he's not running in the 2010 Senate election, or add impetus on the Senate to weigh in on the matter rather than seeing it play out in Illinois.

Burris has largely been isolated in his fight to clear his name, as Democratic leaders have yet to offer any public backing despite the senator’s assurances.

Reid, speaking to reporters in Nevada, said it was an open question on whether Burris was being honest with state legislators.

"He went before the state Legislature and he obviously convinced them, but we'll have to see… I hope he didn't try to avoid or mislead anyone but that's what the investigation (in Springfield) is all about," Reid said, according to press reports.

And a top aide said that Reid would support a Senate inquiry as well.

“Sen. Reid supports Sen. Burris’ decision to cooperate with all appropriate officials who may review this matter, including state agencies and the Senate Ethics Committee,” said Jim Manley, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

The Ethics Committee in the past has declined to review matters if they occurred before a senator was sworn into office, but it could decide to review a matter if a sitting senator’s conduct reflects poorly on the institution, several ethics law experts say.

But what may complicate a separate probe by the ethics panel is the ongoing federal investigation into Blagojevich — and a possible state probe into whether Burris lied. The committee in the past has often stayed away from investigating matters that may collide with ongoing criminal investigations.

“If the conduct at issue is caught up in that scope of that investigation, that’s another reason why the committee may defer action,” said Rob Walker, a former chief counsel and staff director to both the Senate and House ethics committees.

The problems for Burris began Saturday after he disclosed that he submitted a Feb. 5 affidavit to a state legislative committee. The new affidavit shows that Burris spoke with six Blagojevich associates, which contradicts both his previous affidavit to state legislators and his own testimony about his Senate appointment.

But Burris has maintained that his latest affidavit merely meant to clarify his previous statements, arguing it was entirely consistent with his Jan. 8 testimony before a state panel investigating whether to impeach the then-governor.

"But I just wish that the reporters would look into this, look at the action that is taken and look at the steps in the process," Burris told reporters in Illinois Monday night, according to a transcript on the Chicago Tribune's website. "I mean, I have not done anything wrong."

But for the first time Monday night, Burris acknowledging trying — and failing — to raise money for the governor.

“So when the [governor's] brother called me back, I said, 'Well, look Rob ... I can't raise any money from my friends.' I said, 'Maybe my partner and I, you can talk this over and see, could we go to some other people that we might be able to talk to that would help us out if we give — because we give a fundraiser in the law office, nobody going to show up. We'll probably have $1,000 for you' or something to that effect," Burris said.

In a contentious news conference Sunday, Burris told reporters that had state Rep. Jim Durkin followed up with questions during January testimony about the extent of his contacts with Blagojevich's associates, he would have fully explained them to the committee.

But Burris failed to mention to reporters that he did not disclose five of six contacts during questioning by state Rep. Jil Tracy, who pressed Burris repeatedly during the Jan. 8 hearing about which Blagojevich associates he spoke with about the appointment.

According to a transcript of the proceedings, Tracy asked Burris to explain his outreach to Blagojevich associates, and Burris said he would contact the governor's friends "after the election." He said he had let his desire to be seated known through a press conference held in December 2008.

Tracy asked Burris if Lon Monk — a former top Blagojevich aide and the only contact Burris mentioned — was the "extent" of his contacts.

Burris dodged the question and said that he mentioned his interest in the Senate seat to Monk in passing. "And that was the extent of it," Burris testified.

"So you don't recall that there was anybody else besides Lon Monk that you expressed that interest to at that point?" the legislator asked.

Burris replied: "No, I can't recall."

But Burris on Sunday said he never had a chance to offer up other names, saying that Durkin had taken his line of questioning in another direction.

In his questioning, Durkin asked Burris if he spoke with several people close to Blagojevich, including five of whom Burris admitted to speaking to in his Feb. 5 affidavit.

After conferring with his lawyer at the hearing, Burris hedged, "I talked to some friends about my desire to be appointed, yes."

Durkin followed: "I guess the point I was trying to ask: Did you speak to anybody who was on the governor's staff prior to the governor's arrest or anybody, any of those individuals or anybody who is closely related to the governor?"

Burris said: "I recall having a meeting with Lon Monk about my partner and I trying to get continued business, and I did bring it up — it must have been in September or maybe it was in July of '08 that, you know, you're close to the governor, let him know that I am certainly interested in the seat."

Original here

Pat Robertson Denounces Rush Limbaugh For Hoping Obama Fails

In an interview with U.S. News & World Report, conservative Christian leader Pat Robertson denounced talk show host Rush Limbaugh for saying he wants President Obama to fail.

"So you don't subscribe to Rush Limbaugh's "I hope he fails" school of thought?" asked interviewer Dan Gilgoff.

"That was a terrible thing to say," Robertson responded. "I mean, he's the president of all the country. If he succeeds, the country succeeds. And if he doesn't, it hurts us all. Anybody who would pull against our president is not exactly thinking rationally."

After the election, Robertson pronounced himself "remarkably pleased" with Obama and not so happy with President Bush. Robertson told Gilgoff that Obama hasn't been "as skillful" since taking office but that he wants "to give him the benefit of every doubt, and I definitely hope he succeeds."

Limbaugh has repeatedly expressed his desire to Obama -- and the stimulus package -- to fail. Listen:

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush appeared to implicitly criticize Limbaugh in a recent interview, saying use of "personal partisan attacks" is "not right for our country, it's not going to help us, and it's not going to help Republicans."

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Barack of Afpakia

The regents are on the ground and commanders are crafting new battle plans: President Obama is girding for a war surge in Afghanistan. Let's hope he's willing to see it through when his most stalwart supporters start to doubt the effort and rue the cost.

[Review & Outlook]

As a statement of principle, the new Administration's preoccupation with Afghanistan signals a welcome commitment to what has been known by that out-of-favor phrase "global war on terror." The Taliban claimed responsibility last week for coordinated suicide attacks in Kabul, which killed 28 people and reinforced perceptions that security is eroding. America's recent success in Iraq showed that the key to victory lies in shifting those perceptions. That means improving security.

More U.S. troops will likely be needed, and Central Command General David Petraeus is undertaking a review of goals and the resources to meet them. Mr. Obama has talked about doubling forces by another 30,000, and we hope he's willing to give his Afghan commander, General David McKiernan, the number he needs to clear and hold areas and protect the population. However, size of force matters less than having the proper counterinsurgency strategy for a conflict that is different than Iraq.

Among other useful things, Mr. Obama's surge may help to educate his friends on the political left about Islamist terror. The National Security Network, an outfit that never missed an opportunity to bash President Bush, has quickly come into line behind the new President. The group says Mr. Obama's strategy must be focused "first and foremost on preventing the Afghanistan-Pakistan region from becoming a staging ground for terrorist attacks against the U.S. and other nations or a source for instability that could throw Pakistan into chaos."

Sounds good to us -- and sounds a lot like the Bush strategy. America's goal isn't to turn a backward Central Asian country into the next Switzerland, but to keep al Qaeda and its Taliban allies from using it as a safe haven. Toward that end, the U.S. and its allies can help build Afghanistan's institutions and army and help a weak Pakistan government flush out the terrorists in its wild west.

No doubt the strategy can be tweaked. That started well before Mr. Obama's election, as America took back ownership of the Afghan mission from an unwieldy NATO command. Though Britain and Canada pull their weight, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has learned that Americans can't count on Europe to fill the troop and equipment gaps, so the U.S. did.

Also like the Bush Administration, Team Obama recognizes the Pakistan dimension to the Afghan problem -- even calling the place "Afpak." The Taliban came back in the past three years only after finding sanctuary around Quetta, in southern Pakistan, and in the country's northwest tribal regions. The U.S. has also won Islamabad's sotto voce cooperation to strike terror leaders, though more should be done around Quetta.

Mr. Obama's special envoy, Richard Holbrooke, has been in Afpak for a week's fact-finding. Before arriving, he said, "In my view it's going to be much tougher than Iraq." Even by Holbrookeian standards, that's hyperbole. The government in Kabul isn't in danger of collapsing, the Taliban isn't popular where it has ruled, and the insurgents are no match for the U.S.-led force on the battlefield.

Ultimately, as in Iraq, the Afghans will need to stand up more for themselves. That may take a while. But start with expanding the increasingly able Afghan army, a bright spot. The force of 80,000 is too small for a country the size of Texas and bordered by enemies. The police are a shambles, alas. Corruption, narco-trafficking, a weak central government: Afghanistan shares vices with other Western protectorates like Bosnia, and could improve on all counts.

However, notwithstanding President Obama's swipe last Monday that "the national government seems very detached from what's going on in the surrounding community," the rulers in Kabul are legitimate. Hamid Karzai has tolerated too much corruption, but any change of leadership should come from an Afghan challenge, not a U.S. desire to play kingmaker. Mr. Obama and Vice President Joe Biden -- who stormed out of a meeting with Mr. Karzai last year -- need to avoid JFK's mistake of toppling South Vietnam ally Ngo Dinh Diem.

The Obama team wants to play up Afghanistan's troubles so it can look good by comparison a year from now. But soon enough Mr. Obama will own those troubles, and talking down Afghanistan carries risks. Our allies and the American people may come to doubt that the conflict is winnable, or worth the cost.

Already, canaries on the left are asking a la columnist Richard Reeves, "Why are we in Afghanistan?" The President's friends at Newsweek are helpfully referring to "Obama's Vietnam." Mr. Obama may find himself relying on some surprising people for wartime support -- to wit, Bush Republicans and neocons.

Original here

News from the weekend illustrates futility of gun control schemes

by Daniel White

There are a couple of interesting tidbits from the news this past weekend.

On Friday, a power outage near Cincinnati facilitated a burglary at Arcade Antiques & Guns where thieves stole $19,000 worth of firearms. This highlights, once again, that the bad guys don't get their guns through legal means and that one gun a month laws, closing nonexistant gun show "loopholes", fingerprinting, waiting periods, ballistic "fingerprinting", etc. don't stop them from obtaining guns. Similarly, police broke up a burglary ring in Parma Heights where crooks were allegedly targeting guns in homes.

Now, some will argue that if all guns were banned and gun shop weren't in business that this wouldn't happen. Of course, that's like trying to stop drunk driving accidents by banning cars. Not to mention the fact that drugs are illegal, yet criminals have easy access.

Take Antonil Whitaker, for example. He's currently wanted by the U.S. Marshals for armed robbery and home invasion. With an extensive criminal history, including drug trafficking, Whitaker could never pass a background check at a gun shop. He cannot acquire firearms legally, yet he still has them. Gun laws don't disarm the bad guys, just the good guys.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about my belief that gun safety training should be taught in schools.

Friday afternoon, an Elyria woman was walking with her kids when she came across what she thought was a toy gun. When she picked it up, it discharged. Fortunately, nobody was injured. Perhaps if she had received firearms safety training, she would have known to keep her finger off the trigger and would not have unintentionally fired the gun.

Also in Elyria, a fight erupted outside a bar Saturday night that ended with shots being fired. Too bad guns aren't banned in bars, or that wouldn't have happened. Oh wait, they are. Huh, it's almost as if laws have no effect on criminals.

Elyria was busy, because there was also an incident with shots fired in front of First Merit bank. First Merit prohibits guns, so it obviosly didn't have anything to do with bank transactions. Police found shell casings, which those in favor of "ballistic fingerprinting" will point to and say if we just enacted their insipid idea that police would be able to find the shooter. Except that this would only lead back to the last legal owner, not the person who stole the gun and subsequently sold it on the black market where it passed through any number of thugs.

Late Thursday night, an attempted car jacking in Akron resulted in the car owner being shot several times in the parking lot of Corky's Thomastown Cafe after he refused to give up his vehicle. Another woman died early Monday morning after an attack in a Columbus Wal-Mart parking lot.

These incidents illustrate why gun owners are so opposed to criminal protections zones. If a victim has a concealed handgun license and is forced to disarm by a business posting a "no guns" sign, that firearm would be unavailable to him or her if confronted to or from the business. Rendering people defenseless does not reduce crime and only leads to tragedy.

The NRA released a statement Friday that rumors of anti-gun provisions being hidden in the federal economic stimulus bill are false. That's good to know.

Once again, the protesters are out in opposition of deer culling, this time in the Cleveland Metroparks. They want non-lethal methods employed to control population levels, even though such methods have failed to be effective in trials. The other option is to let the herds grow unchecked, causing property damage and human deaths due to vehicular collisions. Personally, I'd rather trained and tested hunters were utilized threw a pay-to-enter lottery than professional hunters be employed. Note to the antis: deer are food, not friends.

In New Philadelphia, an enterprising individual used a fake bomb to rob a check cashing store Saturday. If only they had a "no bombs allowed" sign on the door, this wouldn't have happened...

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Time for incorporation of the Second Amendment

by Kurt Hofmann

The Second Amendment, to the extent it is honored at all, has only been seen as a restraint on the federal government from enacting draconian firearm laws. State and local governments have not needed to so much as pay lip service to the Second Amendment.

That, of course, was the original idea--the Bill of Rights was intended to act as a brake on federal power. With the Reconstruction Era advent of the Fourteenth Amendment, though, much of the rest of the Bill of Rights has been applied to the people's dealings with state and local governments, as well. This incorporation of the Bill of Rights was found necessary to protect the rights of newly emancipated slaves in the post-war South, but has never been applied to the Second Amendment.

That is unfortunate, because many of the most draconian gun laws exist at the state and local levels. It would also seem to be in defiance of the intent of the Fourteenth Amendment. From Stephen Halbrook's That Every Man Be Armed: The Evolution of a Constitutional Right, quoting Representative John A. Bingham (R-OH)--who drafted the 14th Amendment--during debate over anti-KKK legislation enacted in 1871:
Mr. Speaker, that the scope and meaning of the limitations imposed by the first section, fourteenth amendment of the Constitution may be more fully understood, permit me to say that the privileges and immunities of citizens of a State, are chiefly defined in the first eight amendments to the Constitution of the United States. These eight amendments are as follows:

[Reads the first eight amendments of the Bill of Rights]

These eight articles I have shown never were limitation upon the power of the States, until made so by the fourteenth amendment. The words of that amendment, "no State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States," are an express prohibition upon every State of the Union. . . .
Although actual application of the incorporation doctrine eventually rested on the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, rather than the privileges and immunities clause cited by Representative Bingham, the idea still holds--the Fourteenth Amendment was at the time intended to apply to all of the first eight amendments of the Bill of Rights.

The time may at last be at hand for states to be forced to recognize the Second Amendment. In a lawsuit challenging Chicago's draconian handgun ban, Alan Gura (lead attorney in the Heller case) is systematically laying the foundation for incorporation of the Second Amendment, and I'm cautiously optimistic that the case he's building will be unbeatable.

It's about time. After all, an unalienable right that can be denied by state or local government isn't really . . . unalienable, is it?

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DC Journalists Love GOP Obstructionists, But Americans Don't

Jane Hamsher

Jane Hamsher

There appears to be a pretty big gap between what DC journalists think Americans think, and what Americans actually think. No better example of this can be found than the "winners" and "losers" that DC media are proclaiming in the wake of the passage of the stimulus bill, and what DailyKos/Research 2000 polling on the subject indicates.

DC opinion: It's good for the Republicans!

  • MSNBC's First Read lists among its winners "the Republican Party (which demonstrated unity after its big losses in November), and No.2 House Republican Eric Cantor (who raised his profile during the debate)." Reid gets a win, Pelosi gets a loss.
  • Chris Cillizza also declares Eric Cantor a victor for maintaining party discipline (although he tags him a loser too for the AFSME ad). Reid gets a "win" here too, and House Democrats are deemed losers, because "it appeared as though this was a Senate-run production."
  • Fox News unsurprisingly says "Republican lawmakers may turn out to be winners. Most of them voted against the package, and in their largely unified opposition, they found an issue to galvanize the party after two consecutive dispiriting electoral defeats." Reid and Pelosi don't exist.
  • Liz Sidoti also says the Republicans win: "Adrift after back-to-back electoral losses, they found their voice against a Democratic speaker and an expanded majority. They held to the GOP's cornerstone of fiscal conservatism as they led the effort to define the package as too costly and too quick." Likewise, Jon Boehner: "He strengthened his hold on his job, keeping his rank-and-file united against the House version." Again, Reid gets a win. She gives Pelosi and Mitch McConnell losses.
The Rest of America: "Thanks For the Help"

According to Daily Kos polling, however, the change in public opinion from a poll taken from Feb. 2-5 to the latest one taken from Feb. 9-12 indicates that Pelosi, Reid and the Democratic Party have actually gone up in public approval -- all had a net change of +2 points, while the Congressional Dems scored a +3. Conversely, Republicans went down -- the Republican Party had a net change of -2, while McConnell, Boehner and Congressional Republicans all had a loss of -3.


And if you go back to the beginning of the year and track how the public is viewing the political situation in Washington DC, the changes are even more dramatic:


Pelosi and the Democratic Party are the big winners, scoring a +5. Congressional Dems score a +3, and Reid has actually lost two points.

But contrary to beltway opinion, the Republicans are getting hammered. While the Republican Party has only had a net change of -2, those directly involved in the stimulus battle are taking huge hits: McConnell and Boehner at -11, and the Congressional Republicans who are getting such applause from the beltway denizens score a -10.

As Markos notes:

The supposedly hated "San Francisco Liberal" Nancy Pelosi not only has the only net-positive favorability rating of the bunch, but she has a net favorability advantage of 40 points over her hapless and clueless Republican counterpart. The 18-point gap in the net favorability ratings in the Senate leadership is less dramatic, but still significant. Especially since Democrats are stuck with the ineffective Harry Reid as their leader.

The "Reid wins, Pelosi loses" narrative only seems to stick with people who believe what Joe Lieberman thinks matters.

And what about those cherished "independents" that Davids Brooks and Broder always claim to speak for? Congressional Republicans have only a 15% favorability rating, with a 70% disapproval rating. (You can find the crosstabs here.) I eagerly await columns from both reflecting this irrefutable consensus that by anyone's measure falls well outside the margin of error.

DC lives in an economic bubble and remains largely insulated from the troubles hitting the rest of the country. No matter who is in power, no matter who is on the receiving end of taxpayer largesse, the money finds its way there. Fairfax and Loudoun Counties in VA and Howard County MD (where lobbyists and contractor beneficiaries of the defense/homeland security boon of the past 8 years live) are the top three wealthiest counties in the country, and seven more DC suburbs chart in the top 20.

The people who live in DC, who pretend to speak for the rest of the country, have no direct experience with what is happening there -- and their attempts to handicap DC politics have more to do with the inside baseball games that seek to protect their own interests above all else. The fact that three and a half million Americans will have jobs as a result of the passage of this bill, or that people who are unemployed or living on food stamps will continue to be able to eat, doesn't seem to graze their analyses.

The American public looked at DC, they saw the Democrats trying to do something, and they liked what they saw. People who are deeply worried about staying employed and taking care of their families do not seem to have the universal high regard for House Republicans who stood together to oppose helping them out that the DC establishment do.

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Could 'Fairness Doctrine' Be Used to Police the Internet?

A report in The American Spectator says Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., is looking into ways to exert more oversight on the Internet. His office denies the report.

Vote fraud at issue in YR race

Here's an interesting entry in the long-running, partisan battle over (usually, Republican) allegations of widespread (Democratic) voter fraud:

A leading candidate to head the Young Republican National Federation is also one of the few people actually charged and convicted for voting shenanigans in recent years.

The candidate, Rachel Hoff, pled guilty to the misdemeanor of notarizing absentee ballot signatures without actually witnessing them during the 2004 South Dakota Senate race, when she was working for the state Republican Party on behalf of John Thune, who went on to beat Tom Daschle.

Local authorities charged six Republicans with violating the rules, and the State Attorney General, Larry Long, explained the rare decision to prosecute notary violations on the grounds that they had invalidated the ballots of students who intended to vote.

Long said at the time that "there's no indication that any unqualified voter tried to cast an absentee ballot," the Argus Leader reported.

The lack of indication of actual fraudulent voting didn't get in the way of a large-scale GOP effort to claim voting fraud in the run-up to last year's election, but Hoff said in an interview that she didn't see a connection.

"It's certainly an issue and it's got to be taken seriously," she said of voting fraud, saying that her goal as chair would be to help "young people make sure they're not cogs in the wheel of an unethical process" as she had been.

She called the misdemeanor, made when she was just 22 and in the process of "cutting corners," a mistake, and said it had taught her a "harsh lesson."

By Ben Smith

Original here

Cantor: People in Glass Houses...

Ira Forman

Ira Forman

At the House GOP retreat this weekend Minority Whip Eric Cantor made the following crack about Health and Human Services designee, Tom Daschle.

"It's easier for the other side to advocate for higher taxes because you know what?"... "They don't pay 'em!"

In 2003, Representative Cantor failed to report or pay for the expense of a fundraiser that then "super lobbyist" Jack Abramoff held for him at his D.C. restaurant. Though it was a clear violation of the federal election law, Cantor's spokesperson referred to his oversight as "a paperwork issue" and referred to the controversy as "chicken droppings."

I guess congressional Democrats could say the following about Cantor:

"It was easy for Representative Cantor to have Jack Abramoff illegally subsidize his federal campaign account because you know what? ... He believes election law violations are just paperwork."

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The Far Right's All Out Offensive Against Medical Research

Howard Dean

Opponents of fixing our broken health care system are at it again, attempting to use their same old scare tactics and falsehoods to kill a common-sense health care provision is the economic recovery package. Fortunately Congressional leaders have recognized these tactics for what they are and have wisely kept this provision in the legislation.

Under attack is a provision that is in the package that will help your doctor be better informed and more effective at the job they signed up to do in the first place - taking care of you and your family.

Comparative Effectiveness Research:

At issue is something called "Comparative Effectiveness Research" which basically means giving your doctor access to the latest research on what treatments and therapies work and which don't. This also helps doctors know which treatments are more expensive than others, and helps both patients and doctors decide if there is a cheaper treatment that is just as effective. As a doctor and the husband of a doctor, I know how important it is to have solid scientific research to make critical decisions for my patients.

This research will help doctors choose the best treatment for their patients' situation and help them make more informed choices rather than risk prescribing less effective or even potentially harmful treatments.

Essentially, in order to control costs and provide patients with better care as we reform health care, the Federal Government will fund and disseminate research that evaluates the effectiveness of different treatments and medicines. This research will give doctors and patients better choices, and most importantly better health care for their money.

This is a common sense idea that should have been put in place a long ago.

When I was practicing medicine, having greater access to scientific evidenced-based research would have been truly helpful in guiding me to make the best medical decisions for my patients.

If an inexpensive pill that has been around a long time works substantially better than a brand new, highly-advertised and thus far more expensive pill - doctors should have that information at hand when we prescribe medications to our patients. When I do something for a patient, I want the scientific research that tells me its the best course for my patient. But the far right, led by people like Rush Limabaugh, hopes to somehow convince Americans that more and better research is a bad thing.

Medicine is and should always be science based - not driven by ideology.

Mr. Limbaugh and his cohorts would have you believe that this research will be used to deny needed care to your great Aunt May and be run by the politburo. But the Bill passed by Congress states right up front that the Government can not make coverage decisions based on this research.

I was surprised to see Senator Coburn (R-Ok) who is also a doctor make a statement against medical research which in part stated "this bill lays the groundwork for a Soviet-style Federal Health Board that will put bureaucrats and politicians in charge of our nation's health care system." Sadly, it seems that Senator Coburn has his political hat on and not his white coat when he relies on Rush Limbaugh to "help" his patients.

This claptrap is really about the far right laying the ground work for a far greater and more sustained attack on the Democrats' attempt to fix our health care system. As we move forward with the American people to finally fulfill the promise of Harry Truman, who over sixty years ago suggested that every American ought to have a reasonable health care plan, we will rely on the voters to remind the right wing that change is what we promised, and change is what we will deliver.

Their opposition is about politics at its worst and their desire to make sure that the new administration and the Congress do not get a "win"

In these rough economic times, we have got to do better than the same old scare tactics and games for political gains. It's time to fix our health care system and it's time for common sense and honesty.

Original here

Michele Bachmann: "We're Running Out Of Rich People In This Country"

In an interview with a conservative talk show host, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) has once again embarrassed herself. Posted by the blog Dump Bachmann and picked up by the MN Progressive Project, the clip has the Minnesota Republican telling KLTK's Chris Baker that she opposes she stimulus because we're "running out of rich people in this country."

Steve Benen organizes some more of the stupidity:

* ACORN is "under federal indictment for voter fraud," but the stimulus bill nevertheless gives ACORN "$5 billion." (In reality, ACORN is not under federal indictment and isn't mentioned in the stimulus bill at all.)

* many members of Congress have "a real aversion to capitalism."

* the stimulus bill includes a measure to create a "rationing board" for health care, and after the bill becomes law, "your doctor will no longer be able to make your healthcare decisions with you."

* the recovery package is part of a Democratic conspiracy to "direct" funding away from Republican districts, so Democratic districts can "suck up" all federal funds. Bachmann doesn't think this will work because, as she put it, "We're running out of rich people in this country."

* the "Community-Organizer-in-Chief" is also orchestrating a conspiracy involving the Census Bureau, which the president will use to redraw congressional lines to keep Democrats in power for up to "40 years." When the host said he was confused, noting that congressional district lines are drawn at the state level, Bachmann said Obama's non-existent plan is an "anti-constitutional move."

Listen to the audio:

Original here

Blago scandal keeps rolling, Burris asked to resign Obama's Senate seat

by John Zorabedian, Boston Top News Examiner

Sen. Roland W. Burris D-IL
Senator Roland Burris, the man tapped by impeached former Gov. Rod Blagojevich of Illinois to fill President Obama's vacant seat, has been asked to resign by a member of the Illinois legislature, under suspicion that Burris perjured himself before the impeachment committee.

Burris this weekend filed an affadavit with the Illinois House committee investigating the deposed governor's impeachment which contradicts statements Burris made last month in front of the committee, AP reported Monday.

According to the AP report, Burris never mentioned contacts he had with Blagojevich's brother during testimony in January when an Illinois House impeachment committee specifically asked if he had ever spoken to Robert Blagojevich or other aides to the governor.

"I can't believe anything that comes out of Mr. Burris at this point," state Rep. Jim Durkin said. "I think it would be in the best interest of the state if he resigned because I don't think the state can stand this anymore."

Durkin and House Republican Leader Tom Cross want an investigation of Burris for possible perjury, AP reports.

The 71-year-old Burris has barely had time to set up his Senate website, where a note indicates that the permanent Web site is "currently under construction."

Burris said Sunday that he did not do any favors for Blagojevich, andclaimed he told the governor's brother he would not raise any money for the governor.

"I did not donate one single dollar nor did I raise any money or promise favors of any kind to the governor," Burris said.

The Blagojevich scandal that exploded after Obama's election in November has tarnished the Democratic Party's clean government image, which helped the party to two successive gains in the elections of 2006 and 2008, after years of Republican corruption in Washington.

Update: Over at, where it appears conservative bloggers get their marching orders for the day, the latest attack on Barack is that he broke his promise for transparency in government with the stimulus bill because it wasn't posted to a website for five days.

The legislation was posted on WhiteHouse.Gov on Friday afternoon (at 2:05pm EST), but was not passed until that night. So, let’s count the days: Saturday-1. Sunday-2. Monday-3. Signing on Tuesday. That’s three days, not five.

And because Obama didn't sign the bill right away (he was in Chicago this weekend for the first time since his inauguration), that means it wasn't "an emergency." You can see this all coming together like clockwork. "President Obama lied! He broke a promise! Cue the tape!" ("He's no friend of the common man!")

On Tuesday, the president will take his turn at the podium. Obama will sign the stimulus bill into law in Denver, the Mile High city where he accepted the Democratic nomination last August. From the Swamp:

The Denver Post reports that Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter is happy about President Barack Obama returning to Denver, scene of the Democratic National Convention that nominated Obama for the presidency, to sign the $787-billion economic stimulus.

Ritter calls the signing tomorrow "a history-making honor.'' /.../ Which may have something to do with the fact that Colorado expects to see $1.97 billion in stimulus funds this year.


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Rumsfeld Knew His Guys Were Torturing People to Death, Which Is a Serious Crime

By Stephen Pizzo, News for Real.

71% of Americans want to see Bush investigated, and it's about time Obama's team hightailed their way over to court to start doing it.

During the Bush years Americans the boogeyman used to keep Americans cowed was the real or imagined threat of imminent terrorist attack.

Now we have a new president – and we have a new boogeyman – the economic meltdown. .

Now don't get me wrong. Anyone who's read this column over the past few years knows I've been Chicken Littling about the financial house of cards for a long time. And, now that it's finally collapsed, it's even worse than I predicted, and getting worse by the day.

Which is why Obama and his team are on the tube night and day talking about nothing else -- as if Americans are concerned about nothing, which isn't true.

71% of Americans are in favor of an investigation into the possible misuse of the Department of Justice by the Bush administration according to a Gallup poll released yesterday. (Full Story)

That's a pretty startling number, even for those of us who've been arguing for investigations for some time now. After all, Obama didn't get 71% of the vote, which means that a lot of folks who voted for McCain also want equal justice applied equally.

One reason for this surprisingly robust groundswell for investigations may be that each day, formerly secret Bush-era documents surface that truly shock the conscience.

Just yesterday the ACLU got it's hands on a truly smoking gun memo written for then Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld. This document informed Rumsfeld that those he'd tasked with beating information out of suspected terrorists had not just tortured them, but tortured some of them, to death. In other words, they murdered them.

No, I'm not kidding. Here read the original document yourself.

If Rumsfeld had been, say, some local police captain in charge of these guys, this document would make him – at very least – accessory-after-the-fact to murder. He not only conspired to keep this evidence secret, but did not report this as the crime it is, nor order the perpetrators arrested, charged and put on trial.

There's a legal name for this crime: “Misprison of a Felony.” Defined here as:
“The failure to perform a public duty...Misprision is a versatile word that can denote a number of offenses. It can refer to the improper performance of an official duty...The most familiar and popular use of the term misprision describes the failure to report a crime....The first Congress passed a misprision of felony statute in 1789. The statute holds, "Whoever, having knowledge of the actual commission of a felony … conceals and does not as soon as possible make known the same to some judge or other person in civil or military authority under the United States" is guilty of misprision of felony and can be punished with up to three years in prison.

Under the federal statute, the prosecution must prove the following elements to obtain a misprision of felony conviction:

(1)another person actually committed a felony;
(2)the defendant knew that the felony was committed;
(3)the defendant did not notify any law enforcement or judicial officer; and
(4)the defendant took affirmative steps to conceal the felony.”

As for Rumsfeld, this document, the crimes it describes, and the available evidence indicate that, were he charged for misprison of a felony, he would be found; guilty on each count.

(An aside: Chances are very good that other high-placed officials in the Bush administration saw this document as well. A prosecutor and grand jury can find out just who else's chestnuts are in this particular fire.)

I am completely sympathetic to the extraordinary economic burden Obama and his team shouldered on January 21. But during the campaign it was Obama himself who posited the notion that a president had to be capable of do “more than one important thing at a time.”

The economic meltdown – likely the worst since the Great Depression – demands immediate and intense attention. But the economy is not the only thing that melted down during the Bush years. Core American values melted down as well, and require equally urgent attention from this new administration.

Because America's strength and moral authority in the world don't flow solely from a robust US economy, but also by an unswerving adherence to a unique and lofty set of moral values. Both the economy and our moral authority need urgent and immediate repair. Obama needs to work night and day to return health and stability to our economy. He also needs to work night and day to restore our moral authority. And that can only be accomplished by holding those who so despoiled our national soul accountable for their (well-documented) crimes.

But so far I've not seen a glimmer that Obama or his Attorney General, Eric Holder, have the stomach for real investigations that could lead to real crimes and real prosecutions. For example, even though Obama has repeatedly promised to lift the many lids of secrecy the Bush administration slammed down on the public's right to know, he hasn't. It's currently just as hard to get information and documents about the Bush years out of the Obama administration as it was to get the same out of the Bush folks themselves. -- For the second time this week, the Obama administration has gone to court in San Francisco to argue for secrecy in defending a terrorism policy crafted under George W. Bush - in this case, wiretapping that President Obama denounced as a candidate. (Full Story)

They need to be told to keep their promise and loosen up, to release the kind of hard evidence we need to fully know what crimes were committed, by whom, where, when and how many.

To help get this message through to them please sign this petition.

The must. Who says so? Just 71% of the people they represent. That's who.

One more thing. Now that the Obama folks have those documents, they also have constructive knowledge of felonies committed. Which means if they don't investigate and prosecute, they may be the next ones found guilty of misprision of a felony. Ya know?

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