Archives for FUBAR

Looking backward, not forward

The Obama administration took office, in the new president's words, determined to look forward, not backward, and as part of that philosophy it was agreed that it would be unfair to prosecute frontline CIA agents for harsh, even unduly harsh, interrogation techniques that they believed were authorized by the Justice department and encouraged by the White House.

In 2004, the CIA's inspector general did an investigation of those interrogations and found much that was "inconsistent with the public policy positions that the United States has taken regarding human rights." Not only inconsistent but also very likely illegal under U.S. and international law.


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How the CIA ran amuck

With just two weeks of training, or about half the time it takes to become a truck driver, the CIA certified its spies as interrogation experts after 9/11 and handed them the keys to the most coercive tactics in the agency's arsenal.

It was a haphazard process, cobbled together in the months following the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington by an agency that had never been in the interrogation business. The result was a patchwork program in which rules kept shifting and the goals often were unclear.

At times, the interrogators went too far, even beyond the wide latitude they were given under the Bush administration's flexible guidelines, according to newly unclassified documents released Monday. Interrogators took the simulated drowning technique of waterboarding beyond what was authorized. Mock executions were held. Family members were threatened. There were hints of rape.
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Health care should be a privilege

Call me a socialist -- and certainly someone will -- but in light of President Barack Obama's diminishing insistence on a public option in the health care reform package that is developing in Congress, it's worth noting that, despite the noisy support for the status quo arising from the right, many Americans would welcome significant change in our health care system, which even some Republicans admit is broken.


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Somebody didn’t get the message

You would like to think that we learned some lessons from the exotic financial products that did so much to push us into recession.

But maybe not.

In a disturbing report, the Associated Press says that financial institutions have begun repackaging old mortgage securities -- some of them good, some of them not so good -- and selling them as top-rated bonds.
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Loons who pack heat at Obama events

If the Secret Service and the White House don't worry about armed-to-the-teeth civilians being in relatively close proximity to Barack Obama, why should we? Certainly no one who might disagree with what is going on inside one of those free-for-all forums on health care could be expected to use his Second Amendment privilege to harm the president or any of the rest of us who might be outside, hoping to get in.

In fact, it is a safe bet that if you asked the fellow chillingly pictured at one of these affairs with a semi-automatic assault rifle slung over his shoulder and a handgun on his hip why he felt the need to come so loaded for bear, he would reply that he was there to protect himself and the rest of us. From what or whom? It is a good thing, too. Obviously the several hundred police officers guarding the outside of the presidential venue couldn't handle the job. Only a National Rifle Association-certified American could be trusted to do that.
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Wall Street reverts to an old con game

Wall Street may have discovered a way out from under the bad debt and risky mortgages that have clogged the financial markets. The would-be solution probably sounds familiar: It's a lot like what got banks in trouble in the first place.

In recent months investment banks have been repackaging old mortgage securities and offering to sell them as new products, a plan that's nearly identical to the complicated investment packages at the heart of the market's collapse.

"There is a little bit of deja vu in this," said Arizona State University economics professor Herbert Kaufman.


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No increases for Social Security checks

Millions of older people face shrinking Social Security checks next year, the first time in a generation that payments would not rise.

The trustees who oversee Social Security are projecting there won't be a cost of living adjustment (COLA) for the next two years. That hasn't happened since automatic increases were adopted in 1975.

By law, Social Security benefits cannot go down. Nevertheless, monthly payments would drop for millions of people in the Medicare prescription drug program because the premiums, which often are deducted from Social Security payments, are scheduled to go up slightly.


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Justice Dept. urged to reopen CIA abuse case

The Justice Department's ethics office has recommended that the attorney general reopen and pursue nearly a dozen CIA prisoner-abuse cases, The New York Times reported Monday.

The move would reverse the policy of the Bush administration, which had closed the cases, and could expose CIA employees and agency contractors to criminal prosecution for the alleged mistreatment of terror suspects in the years after the Sept. 11 attacks.
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Deficit forecast raised to nine trillion

President Barack Obama's administration will raise its 10-year budget deficit forecast to about nine trillion dollars, up about two trillion from the previous forecast, a US official said Friday.

The 2010-2019 projection, due out in a report expected next week, will supercede the previous forecast of about 7.1 trillion dollars, according to an official with the White House's Office of Management and Budget.

The OMB official requested anonymity.

The figures are expected to fuel a fierce political debate over the US deficit and debt, with Obama's Republican critics redoubling their calls for him to abandon his plans to remake US health care and fight climate change.


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While vets suffer, VA staff get big bonuses

Outside the Veterans Affairs Department, severely wounded veterans have faced financial hardship waiting for their first disability payment. Inside, money has been flowing in the form of $24 million in bonuses.

In scathing reports this week, the VA's inspector general said thousands of technology office employees at the VA received the bonuses over a two-year period, some under questionable circumstances. It also detailed abuses ranging from nepotism to an inappropriate relationship between two VA employees.
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