Sunday, January 31, 2010
The U.S. - "the beacon of hope and freedom" - is the #1 seller of weapons in the world. It is truly one of the few industries we have left. We'll sell weapons to both sides of a military conflict, if the money is good.
It's no surprise that China is pissed about the Taiwan sale. Tell me how selling arms to Taiwan is in the U.S. national security interest, unless by national security interest we mean, "Hey, it's the only industry we have LEFT, people!" It seems to me that we should not rattle China's cage very much. After all, they hold a couple of trillion dollars of our debt. They could probably foreclose on us in a heartbeat, but then we wouldn't be able to buy their cheap, lead-laden goods. Oh wait, we don't have any money left anyway! Oy, what a mess.
U.S. Arms for Taiwan Send Beijing a Message
By HELENE COOPER
Published: January 31, 2010
WASHINGTON — For the past year, China has adopted an increasingly muscular position toward the United States, berating American officials for the global economic crisis, stage-managing President Obama’s visit to China in November, refusing to back a tougher climate change agreement in Copenhagen and standing fast against American demands for tough new Security Council sanctions against Iran.
Now, the Obama administration has started to push back. In announcing an arms sales package to Taiwan worth $6 billion on Friday, the United States leveled a direct strike at the heart of the most sensitive diplomatic issue between the two countries since America affirmed the “one China” policy in 1972.
The arms package was doubly infuriating to Beijing coming so soon after the Bush administration announced a similar arms package for Taiwan in 2008, and right as tensions were easing somewhat in Beijing and Taipei’s own relations. China’s immediate, and outraged, reaction — cancellation of some military exchanges and announcement of punitive sanctions against American companies — demonstrates, China experts said, that Beijing is feeling a little burned, particularly because the Taiwan arms announcement came on the same day that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton publicly berated China for not taking a stronger position on holding Iran accountable for its nuclear program.
While administration officials sounded a uniform public note, cautioning Beijing not to allow this latest tiff to damage overall relations, some administration officials suggested privately that the timing of the arms sales and the tougher language on Iran was calculated to send a message to Beijing to avoid assumptions that President Obama would be deferential to China over American security concerns and existing agreements.
“This was a case of making sure that there was no misunderstanding that we will act in our own national security interests,” one senior administration official said. A second Obama administration official, also speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said pointedly: “Unlike the previous administration, we did not wait until the end of our administration to go ahead with the arms sales to Taiwan. We did it early.”
But larger questions remain about where the Obama administration is heading on China policy, and whether the new toughness signals a fundamentally new direction and will yield results that last year’s softer approach did not.
Beyond the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, management of the American relationship with China is one of Mr. Obama’s biggest foreign policy challenges. Flush with cash, China’s economy is growing mightily, and China has become one of the biggest foreign lenders to the United States. China also is an increasingly critical American trading partner and a global rival in influence and economic power.
“The president’s view is that obviously we have to have a mature enough relationship with China that we can be candid and firm where we disagree and cooperate forcefully when we agree,” a senior administration official said. He insisted that the timing of the arms package and Mrs. Clinton’s tough words were “not designed to send a gratuitous message to China, but to demonstrate the firmness of our position.”
China has a history of getting off to a tough start with American administrations. President Bill Clinton alienated Beijing with tough talk on human rights, even signing an executive order that made renewal of trade privileges for China dependent on progress on human rights. But Mr. Clinton reversed himself in 1994, saying that the United States and China would move forward faster on issues of mutual concern if Beijing was not isolated.
Similarly, President George W. Bush’s first dealings with the Chinese were also fractious, including an effort to recover American airmen whose spy plane was forced down off the Chinese coast.
“The Obama administration came in exactly the opposite,” said Steven Clemons, director of foreign policy programs at the New America Foundation. “They needed China on economic issues, climate change, Iran, North Korea. So they came in wanting to do this lovely dance with China, but that didn’t work.”
Instead, China pushed back hard, including at the Copenhagen climate change summit meeting in December, when Beijing balked at American and European demands that China agree to an international monitoring system for emissions targets. Twice, the Chinese prime minister, Wen Jiabao, sent an underling to represent him at meetings with Mr. Obama, in what diplomats said was an intentional snub. Mr. Obama later had to track down Mr. Wen, surprising him and appearing at the doorway of a conference room where Mr. Wen was meeting with the leaders of South Africa, Brazil and India.
The United States and China eventually reached a compromise on the monitoring agreement, but the whole incident left a bad taste in the mouths of many Obama administration officials, who believed China had deliberately set out to belittle Mr. Obama, and who were determined to push back and reassert American authority.
“The Chinese,” said James J. Shinn, who was assistant secretary of defense for Asia during the Bush administration, “now seem to have a palpable sense of confidence that they’re more in the driver’s seat than two years ago, across a whole range of issues.”
For Mr. Obama, the arms sale to Taiwan, which China considers a breakaway province, may be only the first of many instances this year in which he will run afoul of Beijing.
Some foreign policy experts said that the administration now seemed intent on poking at the sovereignty issues that have long been China’s Achilles’ heel. Mrs. Clinton noted on Friday that Mr. Obama would soon be meeting with the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama — a meeting that White House officials put off last summer to avoid alienating Beijing in advance of Mr. Obama’s China trip. China regards the Dalai Lama as an advocate of Tibetan independence.
“China is feeling very confident these days, but the one thing that the Chinese freak out about consistently are sovereignty issues,” said Mr. Clemons of the New America Foundation. “So anything related to Taiwan or Tibet will get them going.”
Added to that, the administration has been championing Internet freedom recently, another source of public tension with Beijing. China’s government is embroiled in a fight with Google over that company’s complaints about Internet censorship and hacking attacks it says originated in China.
But the tougher American positions do not change the fact that Mr. Obama needs Chinese cooperation on a host of issues. Beyond his efforts to rein in Iran’s nuclear ambitions, the president is also working with Beijing on similar ambitions in North Korea.
And Mr. Obama announced in his State of the Union address last week that he planned to double American exports in the next five years, an ambitious goal that cannot be met unless he somehow persuades China to let its currency appreciate, making Chinese products more expensive in the United States and American products more affordable in China.
The original is here.
32 planets discovered outside solar system
(CNN) -- Thirty-two planets have been discovered outside Earth's solar system through the use of a high-precision instrument installed at a Chilean telescope, an international team announced Monday.
This artist's rendering shows one of the so-called exoplanets, or planets outside our solar system.
The announcement was made by a consortium of international researchers, headed by the Geneva Observatory, who built the High Accuracy Radial Velocity Planet Searcher, or HARPS. The device can detect slight wobbles of stars as they respond to tugs from exoplanets' gravity. That tactic, known as the radial velocity method, "has been the most prolific method in the search for exoplanets," according to the European Southern Observatory statement.
The instrument detects movements as small as 3.5 km/hr (2.1 mph), a slow walking pace, the observatory said.
With the discovery, the tally of new exoplanets found by HARPS is now at 75, out of about 400 known exoplanets, the organization said, "cementing HARPS's position as the world's foremost exoplanet hunter." The 75 planets are in 30 planetary systems, the European Southern Observatory said.
"HARPS is a unique, extremely high precision instrument that [is] ideal for discovering alien worlds," Stephane Udry of Geneva University, who made the announcement on behalf of the international consortium that built the instrument, said in the observatory statement. "We have now completed our initial five-year program, which has succeeded well beyond our expectations."
"We are on the road," Udry told CNN in a phone call from Portugal. "The end of the road is finding life and other planets like our own, but we have to go step by step."
HARPS has also boosted the discovery of so-called super-Earths -- planets with a mass a few times that of Earth. Of the 28 super-Earths known, HARPS facilitated the discovery of 24, the European Southern Observatory statement said. Most reside in multiplanet systems, with up to five planets per system.
Although only 32 were announced Monday, the team knows of many more exoplanets, although more observation is needed before they are formally announced and papers are written about them. "We have tons of them," Udry said.
In return for building HARPS, the consortium was provided 100 observing nights per year over five years to search for exoplanets, one of the most ambitious searches ever implemented on a global basis, the European Southern Observatory said.
"These observations have given astronomers a great insight into the diversity of planetary system and help us understand how they can form," team member Nuno Santos said in the statement.
The HARPS findings confirm the predictions of those who study planetary formation, Udry said. "Moreover, those models are also predicting even more ... Earth-type planets."
An important find for the study of planet formation was that three exoplanets were around stars that are metal-deficient, Udry said. Metal-deficient stars are thought to be less favorable for planet formation; however, planets the size of several Jupiters were found orbiting such deficient stars, the European Southern Observatory said.
In addition, the discovery gives "a very strong push" to projects attempting to find and study such exoplanets, Udry said.According to its Web site, the European Southern Observatory is the foremost intergovernmental astronomy organization in Europe and describes itself as the "world's most productive astronomical observatory. " It is supported by 14 European countries.
Explore the universe further by clicking here or here.
Alan Grayson's Filibluster
Sick of business as usual, Rep. Alan Grayson is trying something new: saying pretty much whatever he feels like.
— By Nick Baumann
January/February 2010 Issue
Even before he called Dick Cheney a blood-sucking vampire, or a female ex-Enron lobbyist who now works for Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke a "K Street whore," Rep. Alan Grayson stuck out on Capitol Hill. The hulking 6'4" freshman Democrat from central Florida sports garish shirts and ties beneath his dark suits, wears pull-up Italian boots, and approaches his job with the earnestness of an 18-year-old campaign volunteer. Grayson says he wants Americans to pay attention to "what's really at stake" as opposed to "the minutiae" of politics. To that end, he has been trying something new, and perhaps foolhardy: saying pretty much whatever he feels like and not worrying how people react.
Being unapologetically outspoken has earned Grayson a great deal of attention. In a speech on the House floor this past September, he summed up the Republicans' health care plan as "die quickly." Even after spending the final weeks of summer talking about "death panels," conservatives demanded an apology; pundits likened Grayson to Rep. Joe "You Lie!" Wilson, and the National Republican Congressional Committee branded him "DisGrayson."
But instead of backing down, Grayson went all-in, saying that he'd "like to apologize to the dead"—the more than 44,000 Americans who die every year because they have no health insurance. Then he set up a website to honor them. When a reporter asked about accusations that the site was exploitative, Grayson snapped, "Do we always have to let the other side set the agenda?"
All this has earned Grayson comparisons to conservative loudmouths like Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) (see "Capitol Hill's Most Unhinged Republicans"), with the New York Times referring to him as a "wing nut." But when I met Grayson in a squat suburban civic center in Tavares, Florida, two weeks after the "die quickly" flap, he didn't seem the least bit chastened. In fact, it is quickly obvious that Grayson doesn't do chastened—even when it might be politically advantageous for a first-term congressman in a district that twice went for George W. Bush. "I recognize that I'm in a very competitive district," Grayson says. "But I really want to take advantage of the opportunities that are out there to say what's on people's minds, whether this experience goes on for me or not."
There is a lot on Grayson's mind. In a short interview, he quotes Polonius, describes conditions in Somalia, which he's visited ("a hellhole"), and cites ancient Rome's fire department as a cautionary tale on how outsourcing government to private contractors is a bad idea. He chokes up while explaining how he tries to emulate the "strong moral sense" and "toughness" of Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King. Grayson speaks with a conspiratorial intensity, as though he's always passing along a big secret. He has an opinion about almost everything, from Joni Mitchell to monetary policy, and his opinions are nothing if not passionate.
Grayson grew up in a Bronx tenement, holds degrees in law and public policy from Harvard, and lives in a 12-room Orlando house with his wife and five children. Politics is something like his fifth career. He worked his way through college as a night watchman and a janitor, became an economist, and then a lawyer. In the early 1990s he briefly left law to become the president of a telecom firm. (Selling his stake and investing the proceeds helped make him the 12th-richest member of Congress.) Between the beginning of the Iraq War and his election to Congress, he drew attention for suing military contractors who perpetrated what he calls "the crime of the century" by massively overcharging the government for their services in Iraq. In 2006, he ran for Congress and lost in the Democratic primary. Two years later, he beat a four-term Republican incumbent who broke a pledge to not run again.
Besides his big mouth, Grayson has become known for his relentless pursuit of the Federal Reserve. In March, he signed on to Rep. Ron Paul's decades-old bill to audit the Fed, a proposal he considers "a model of bipartisanship." He takes credit for bringing on about 100 Democratic cosponsors—the bill now has more than 300 in all and looks likely to pass in the House. Grayson says he doubts that having a powerful central banker like Fed chief Bernanke is "a prudent economic model." The Fed, he contends, is incompetent and, even worse, unaccountable.
In a series of hearings before the House financial services committee last year, Grayson grilled a procession of Fed officials, including Bernanke, like a lawyer cross-examining hostile witnesses. In one session, he asked Scott Alvarez, the general counsel, whether the Fed could legally "manipulate the stock market." Alvarez looked pale and uncomfortable; Grayson looked like he was enjoying a great steak. A five-minute video of Grayson interrogating an increasingly squirmy Elizabeth Coleman, the Fed's inspector general, about the whereabouts of more than $1 trillion in bailout money has racked up more than 3 million views on YouTube.
Grayson's attacks on the Fed have earned him some strange bedfellows. In August, he appeared at the Florida convention of Ron Paul's Campaign for Liberty. He made the "K Street whore" comment as a guest on the radio show of big-government conspiracy theorist and 9/11 Truther Alex Jones.
Grayson has consciously decided to court controversy. He points to Texas populist and radio host Jim Hightower's book, There's Nothing in the Middle of the Road but Yellow Stripes and Dead Armadillos. Hightower's adage is "a rich and important observation," Grayson says: As Republicans discovered decades ago, energizing your base is a good way to win elections.
That idea has little currency within the Democratic establishment, but it's big in the lefty blogosphere, where Grayson has become a major celebrity. A one-day online "money bomb" fundraiser in November brought in more than $500,000. One of Grayson's first hires was Matt Stoller, the fiery cofounder of the progressive website OpenLeft. As senior policy adviser, Stoller is deeply involved in charting a strategy "on the basis of what will do the most good," Grayson says.
Besides, Grayson argues, moderates don't do very much. Too many members of Congress just "take up space, and over time you wonder what they've accomplished," he says. No one outside of Washington cares whether the health care bill is written to please moderates like Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), he says. "Nobody thinks that way. Olympia Snowe's own mother is saying, 'I want health care, and I want it now.'" Nor, he says, does anyone outside DC care about the punditry's idea of political decorum. "If you get bogged down in the sense that you have to be nice about it, you're completely misreading the public mood."
Grayson thinks voters want politics to be less about manners and more like a Dylan song (another favorite reference). "One interesting thing about Bob Dylan is that he understood that people actually want to talk about something," he says. "They want their music to be about something, and they want their politics also to be about something. They don't want it to seem like Democrat and Republican are just some clubs that you belong to, like the Lions Club or the Kiwanis Club. They want to be part of something bigger than themselves."
That may be true, but can it help him get reelected? One poll put Grayson's home-district approval rating at around 32 percent, and according to the Federal Election Commission, seven Republicans are registered to run against him. "I don't know anybody else who's done things the way we're doing them now," Grayson says. If he can keep running his mouth and still survive through November, he might not be alone much longer.
UPDATE: Grayson calls the US Supreme Court decision on campaign finance reform its "worst since Dredd Scott."
Read more at Mother Jones here.
Saturday, January 30, 2010
Thursday, January 21, 2010
By Greg Palast | Updated from the original report for AlterNet
Thursday, January 21, 2010
In today's Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the Court ruled that corporations should be treated the same as "natural persons", i.e. humans. Well, in that case, expect the Supreme Court to next rule that Wal-Mart can run for President.
The ruling, which junks federal laws that now bar corporations from stuffing campaign coffers, will not, as progressives fear, cause an avalanche of corporate cash into politics. Sadly, that's already happened: we have been snowed under by tens of millions of dollars given through corporate PACs and "bundling" of individual contributions from corporate pay-rollers.
The Court's decision is far, far more dangerous to U.S. democracy. Think: Manchurian candidates.
I'm losing sleep over the millions — or billions — of dollars that could flood into our elections from ARAMCO, the Saudi Oil corporation's U.S. unit; or from the maker of "New Order" fashions, the Chinese People's Liberation Army. Or from Bin Laden Construction corporation. Or Bin Laden Destruction Corporation.
Right now, corporations can give loads of loot through PACs. While this money stinks (Barack Obama took none of it), anyone can go through a PAC's federal disclosure filing and see the name of every individual who put money into it. And every contributor must be a citizen of the USA.
But under today's Supreme Court ruling that corporations can support candidates without limit, there is nothing that stops, say, a Delaware-incorporated handmaiden of the Burmese junta from picking a Congressman or two with a cache of loot masked by a corporate alias.
Candidate Barack Obama was one sharp speaker, but he would not have been heard, and certainly would not have won, without the astonishing outpouring of donations from two million Americans. It was an unprecedented uprising-by-PayPal, overwhelming the old fat-cat sources of funding.
Well, kiss that small-donor revolution goodbye. Under the Court's new rules, progressive list serves won't stand a chance against the resources of new "citizens" such as CNOOC, the China National Offshore Oil Corporation. Maybe UBS (United Bank of Switzerland), which faces U.S. criminal prosecution and a billion-dollar fine for fraud, might be tempted to invest in a few Senate seats. As would XYZ Corporation, whose owners remain hidden by "street names."
George Bush's former Solicitor General Ted Olson argued the case to the court on behalf of Citizens United, a corporate front that funded an attack on Hillary Clinton during the 2008 primary. Olson's wife died on September 11, 2001 on the hijacked airliner that hit the Pentagon. Maybe it was a bit crude of me, but I contacted Olson's office to ask how much "Al Qaeda, Inc." should be allowed to donate to support the election of his local congressman.
Olson has not responded.
The danger of foreign loot loading into U.S. campaigns, not much noted in the media chat about the Citizens case, was the first concern raised by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who asked about opening the door to "mega-corporations" owned by foreign governments. Olson offered Ginsburg a fudge, that Congress might be able to prohibit foreign corporations from making donations, though Olson made clear he thought any such restriction a bad idea.
Tara Malloy, attorney with the Campaign Legal Center of Washington D.C. says corporations will now have more rights than people. Only United States citizens may donate or influence campaigns, but a foreign government can, veiled behind a corporate treasury, dump money into ballot battles.
Malloy also noted that under the law today, human-people, as opposed to corporate-people, may only give $2,300 to a presidential campaign. But hedge fund billionaires, for example, who typically operate through dozens of corporate vessels, may now give unlimited sums through each of these "unnatural" creatures.
And once the Taliban incorporates in Delaware, they could ante up for the best democracy money can buy.
In July, the Chinese government, in preparation for President Obama's visit, held diplomatic discussions in which they skirted issues of human rights and Tibet. Notably, the Chinese, who hold a $2 trillion mortgage on our Treasury, raised concerns about the cost of Obama's health care reform bill. Would our nervous Chinese landlords have an interest in buying the White House for an opponent of government spending such as Gov. Palin? Ya betcha!
The potential for foreign infiltration of what remains of our democracy is an adjunct of the fact that the source and control money from corporate treasuries (unlike registered PACs), is necessarily hidden. Who the heck are the real stockholders? Or as Butch asked Sundance, "Who are these guys?"
We'll never know.
Hidden money funding, whether foreign or domestic, is the new venom that the Court has injected into the system by its expansive decision in Citizens United.
We've been there. The 1994 election brought Newt Gingrich to power in a GOP takeover of the Congress funded by a very strange source.
Congressional investigators found that in crucial swing races, Democrats had fallen victim to a flood of last-minute attack ads funded by a group called, "Coalition for Our Children's Future." The $25 million that paid for those ads came, not from concerned parents, but from a corporation called "Triad Inc."
Evidence suggests Triad Inc. was the front for the ultra-right-wing billionaire Koch Brothers and their private petroleum company, Koch Industries. Had the corporate connection been proven, the Kochs and their corporation could have faced indictment under federal election law. As of today, such money-poisoned politicking has become legit.
So it's not just un-Americans we need to fear but the Polluter-Americans, Pharma-mericans, Bank-Americans and Hedge-Americans that could manipulate campaigns while hidden behind corporate veils. And if so, our future elections, while nominally a contest between Republicans and Democrats, may in fact come down to a three-way battle between China, Saudi Arabia and Goldman Sachs.
Now go here.
What's it going to take to get our government off its ass and doing something to fix our problems? Jobs. The economy. Health care. The environment. Moving to alternative/renewable fuels. Trillions in deficits. Busted bridges and roads. Decaying infrastructure.
Are the Republicans so pissed at the left's vilification of Bush, Jr. that they are going to obstruct anything and everything Obama wants to do? Or would they obstruct anyway? Their opposition is knee-jerk and mindless.
We - I - may have strongly disliked and ridiculed Bush Jr while he was in office, but it had real grounds: Bush started torturing people against the Geneva Conventions; he took steps to spy on everyday Americans with illegal wiretapping; he spent money like mad in Iraq on a war he lied us into; he gave away billions in tax cuts to the rich, without having any plan to pay for all of it. He was wild and reckless, black-and-white, good vs evil, alienating the rest of the world and polarizing our people. AND he had some Democrats that were more or less on his side. Part of that reason is surely because Bush and the Republicans would accuse any opposition of being un-American or "for" the terrorists. Ridiculous, but effective. You don't get that kind of vitriol from the left.
And what has Obama done in office? Try to forge bipartisanship? Pass a stimulus plan to get our economy moving again? Cut taxes on practically everyone? Try to cover more Americans with health care? Oooo. Isn't that just awful?! Socialist! Communist!!
What response do we get from the right? Non-stop lies and distortion on FOX, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and foot soldiers like James O'Keefe.
One big difference in the public reaction to Bush vs Obama is that, during Bush's years, we had no unified opposition voice to Bush. Certainly we had no organized opposition similar to FOX News and NewsCorp. The so-called "liberal media" was harsher to Democrats in many cases than they were to Bush. You just rarely see any criticism of any Republicans on FOX.
We had a few organizations opposing Bush, but with limited funds and limited reach. Compare MoveOn to NewsCorp. There is no comparison.
We'd better end the gridlock of our government. This country is deteriorating right before our eyes.
We're running out of oil but stubbornly resisting a move to alternative, renewable energy.
We've got a yawning, growing gap between the super-rich and everyone else, and yet labor unions keep getting slammed and dismantled.
We manufacture very little in this country except for military hardware.
We ship decent paying jobs overseas in the never-ending search for more profits and replace them with what? If anything, low-wage jobs.
Years ago, in the early days of industrialization, Henry Ford paid his automobile workers very good wages, because he realized that people needed to have enough money to buy the products that he was making. Now, since we don't make anything any longer in this country, I guess people don't need to have any jobs or decent wages.
Friday, January 29, 2010
The Week's Best Late-Night Jokes
"Tomorrow night, President Obama will give his State of the Union address. The White House says the speech will focus on American jobs. So, I guess he's going to talk a lot about India." -Jay Leno
"Well, tonight in Washington, President Barack Obama gave his State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress. Joint session sounds like more fun than it is." -Jimmy Kimmel
"There are rumors that there is a John Edwards sex tape. People say it's twenty minutes of Edwards caressing and stroking...And that's just the part where he fixes his hair." - Craig Ferguson
"Actually, John Edwards said today he's going to help raise the little girl. He said he's looking forward to teaching his daughter everything he knows about hair care products." -Jay Leno
"As I'm sure you know, John Edwards has finally admitted he's the father of Rielle Hunter's baby. There's a shock. Who saw that coming? Given how long it took him to admit it, the kid is now old enough not to vote for him." -Jay Leno
"And learning more and more about the new Massachusetts senator, Scott Brown. Well, you probably know this. Back in 1982, he posed naked for Cosmo. Yeah, isn't that amazing? He's got it backwards. First you get elected to the Senate, then you get caught with your pants down. It's the other way. He seems to be very confused." -Jay Leno
"John McCain's wife and her daughter, Meghan, have posed for pictures endorsing gay marriage here in California, although Senator McCain -- well, he's still very traditional. He believes marriage should be between an older man and a really hot-looking younger woman." -Jay Leno
"Congratulations to the Indianapolis Colts and the New Orleans Saints. They're going to the Super Bowl. The Saints beat the Vikings. Former President George Bush Sr., he was at the game. Now, his son George W. was invited. But you know him, when it comes to New Orleans, he's always, like, two weeks late." -Jay Leno
"Yesterday, President Obama met with a group of mayors at the White House. He told them that he was glad not to be running a city during this recession. It's part of Obama's new campaign slogan, "Sucks to be you." - Jimmy Fallon
"A year into Obama's first term in office, unemployment is higher, the national debt is higher and there are more soldiers serving in Afghanistan. When asked about it, Obama was like, "Well, technically that is change." - Jimmy Fallon
"Wal-Mart announced it's cutting over 11,000 jobs. Wal-Mart said it's cheaper to fire people in bulk." -Jay Leno
"The late night wars are finally over. I'm kind of amazed I'm still here, too. Jay Leno said he's going to go on the Oprah Winfrey show and tell his side of the story. I never thought I'd say this, but watch your back, Oprah." -Craig Ferguson
Unhinged Beck lashes out in response to Obama's SOTU with attacks, conspiracy theories
Responding to President Obama's January 27 State of the Union speech on his radio show the following day, Glenn Beck offered a series of harsh and bizarre comments, ranging from ad hominem attacks on Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Vice President Joe Biden to baseless conspiracy theories. Beck claimed that Obama detailed his "enemies' list" during the speech -- a list he compared to similar lists from "radicals" including Lenin and Stalin -- and warned his audience that we may be witnessing "the beginning" of a "dictorial [sic] kind of state" and that Obama will "pick us off to send you a message."
Beck attacks: Obama an arrogant liar, "punk," like a husband cheating on a "meaningless wife"
Beck jumps on conservative bandwagon: responds to State of the Union by calling Obama arrogant and a liar. Beck attacked Obama by saying "there's no humility there," and cited the "the arrogance from the moment this guy walked in" and the "arrogance of the lies that he told last night." Media Matters previously documented other conservatives responding to the speech by claiming Obama was arrogant or that he lied.
Beck compares Obama's relationship with the American people to a husband cheating on his wife. Beck painted Obama as a cheating husband with "no respect" for his wife -- the American people -- who must be "meaningless" to Obama due to his purported willingness to lie to her:
BECK: If you're cheating on your wife ... and she's got pictures of you doing it with a chick, and you're like, "Honey, no, absolutely not," do you have any respect for your wife? ... But if you're then treating her like an imbecile -- she's got access to the information -- there's no respect. No respect, and no fear. None. She's meaningless to you. That's what we have in the president.
Beck says Obama is a "punk" for calling out an "equal branch of government" during State of the Union. After playing a clip of Obama disagreeing with the Supreme Court's ruling in Citizens United case in his address, Beck said: "This is an equal branch of government, and the president, humiliated -- like a punk -- calls them out last night."
Beck: "Do you know how many children could be fed" with money "in plastic surgery" between Pelosi and Biden? Beck said of Nancy Pelosi's and Joe Biden's appearances at the State of the Union: "Do you know how many children could be fed with just the amount of money in plastic surgery between Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden?" Beck added: "Did you see them sitting behind them -- sitting behind the president last night? Two things came to mind. First of all, I think Nancy Pelosi was just -- she may have a cold or something, she took NyQuil or whatever -- but she just like -- she was staring out in space, a few times I thought she was going to drool. ... I can't even look at her because of the plastic surgery."
Beck producer: Obama "spit in our face" with his State of the Union address. In response to a clip of Obama's speech where he suggests his goal to move forward with health care reform, Beck's producer Stu Bruguiere said: "He spit in our face last night. I mean, that was just spit in your face."
Conspiracy theorist: Obama "made an enemies list," "will pick us off to send you a message," and the "media is complicit" in conspiracy
Beck says Obama "made an enemies list last night," suggests Obama's "TV pundits" comment was about him. After referencing Obama's criticism of "TV pundits" for "reduc[ing] serious debates to silly arguments," Beck suggested that Obama was talking about him, saying "Barack Obama, just mention us by name from here on out." He then concluded that Obama "made an enemies list last night." He later added that "Keith, our phone screener, came in this morning and he said, 'Man, I pray for you every night.' He said, 'Did you see that, what the president did?' And I said, 'Yeah.' And he said, 'The only thing he didn't say is, "Glenn Beck is an instigator." ' And it's -- and I looked at him and said, 'Oh, its coming. It's coming.' "
Beck: Obama's purported "enemies list" like those made by Lenin, Stalin, Chavez. Continuing with his theory that Obama has an "enemies' list" which includes Beck, Beck warned his audience "if you look at the radicals in the past" -- of which Beck named Lenin, Stalin, and Hugo Chavez -- "the enemies list is always the same." According to Beck, the "enemies list" always includes "the capitalists, the greedy industry owners, the banks, those who are speaking out against this movement" and "the dissenters in the media."
Beck says Obama criticism of Congress, SCOTUS is "the beginning" of U.S. possibly becoming a "dictorial [sic] kind of state." In response to Obama's disagreement with a Supreme Court decision and his statement that because the Senate had not passed an amendment that would have established a bipartisan deficit-reduction commission, he planned to create one by executive order, Beck asked: "Do you see what we have been saying, that if you don't respect the balance of power, this could quickly turn into a dictorial [sic] kind of state? You are seeing the beginning of it."
Beck: the "media is complicit" with purported Obama lies and "damn near treasonous." Beck said that Obama will "get away" with his purported lies because Obama "knows the media won't corner him." Beck declared: "The media is complicit. The media is damn near treasonous."
Beck warned that "they" will "pick us off to send you a message," but is "begging" his audience to "pick up the torch." Beck warned his audience that "they" are coming to "shut those people up" who are dissenters, like Beck, and any one who has "a megaphone or a microphone." He added that "they pick somebody out and make an example of them...all they have to do is pick us off to send you a message." Beck went on to say that he was "begging" his audience to "do your homework now" and "know the news, know the constitution" because "there may come a time when there are no people speaking out in the media" and "there may be a time when you are the leader. You're the only voice that people will hear." He concluded: "Please, I beg of you, I beg of you: Pick the torch up, because there may come a time where you are the keeper of the flame, and if you do not pick up that flame when it is handed to you, if you don't pick that torch up, it will go out." From the January 28 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Glenn Beck Program:
BECK: They have to shut those people up who have a megaphone or microphone. They must shut them down. This is why I'm begging you: Please, please -- I've said this now for how many years? From the bottom of my heart, I say this to you. Please, there may come a time when there are no people speaking out in the media. There may come that time. That's why you must do you homework now. You cannot waste another minute. Doing your homework, knowing history, knowing the news, following -- knowing what the Constitution says. There may be a time when you are the leader .You're the only voice that people will hear. Please, I beg of you, I beg of you: Pick the torch up, because there may come a time where you are the keeper of the flame, and if you do not pick up that flame when it is handed to you, if you don't pick that torch up, it will go out.
What did David Axelrod say on ABC? We don't view Fox News as a news organization -- they're not. He followed it with, "And we're not going to treat them that way, and we suggest to you, ABC, that you don't treat them that way, either." They set an example. They pick somebody out and make an example of them, and then fear does the rest. So he is now getting closer and closer to saying that -- I mean, he is -- the TV pundits in the State of the Union. The only thing he has to do is destroy us. They've already -- I mean, the forces arrayed are staggering. I'm an individual, man. Staggering, the forces arrayed against us. It will happen. I don't expect to, you know -- I don't expect to go out in flames. Maybe I do, but I don't expect -- it's gonna end, at some time it will end. Especially expanding the fight to progressives -- that's both sides now. All they have to do is pick us off to send you a message: You see what we did to them? They had a platform, you've got nothing. Sit down and shut up. Don't you do it.
Thursday, January 28, 2010
After being married for 44 years, I took a careful look at my wife one day and said, "Darling, 44 years ago we had a cheap apartment, a cheap car, slept on a and watched a 10-inch black and white tv, but I got to sleep every night with a hot 25-year-old girl.Now I have a $500,000.00 home, a $45,000.00 car, a nice big bed and plasma screen tv, but I'm sleeping with a 65-year-old woman. It seems to me that you're not holding up your side of things."
My wife is a very reasonable woman. She told me to go out and find a hot 25-year-old gal, and she would make sure that I would once again be living in a cheap apartment, driving a cheap car, sleeping on a sofa bed and watching a 10-inch black and white tv.
Aren't older women great? They really know how to solve your mid-life crisis.
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Obama Liquidates Himself
A spending freeze? That’s the brilliant response of the Obama team to their first serious political setback?
It’s appalling on every level.
It’s bad economics, depressing demand when the economy is still suffering from mass unemployment. Jonathan Zasloff writes that Obama seems to have decided to fire Tim Geithner and replace him with “the rotting corpse of Andrew Mellon” (Mellon was Herbert Hoover’s Treasury Secretary, who according to Hoover told him to “liquidate the workers, liquidate the farmers, purge the rottenness”.)
It’s bad long-run fiscal policy, shifting attention away from the essential need to reform health care and focusing on small change instead.
And it’s a betrayal of everything Obama’s supporters thought they were working for. Just like that, Obama has embraced and validated the Republican world-view — and more specifically, he has embraced the policy ideas of the man he defeated in 2008. A correspondent writes, “I feel like an idiot for supporting this guy.” (Amen to that.)
Now, I still cling to a fantasy: maybe, just possibly, Obama is going to tie his spending freeze to something that would actually help the economy, like an employment tax credit. (No, trivial tax breaks don’t count). There has, however, been no hint of anything like that in the reports so far. Right now, this looks like pure disaster.
Krugman's blog is here. I doubt if I will even watch his State of the Union address tonight. More platitudes. No action. Same grating speech patterns. SOS.
Sunday, January 24, 2010
The Conservative Case for Gay Marriage
Why same-sex marriage is an American value.
Together with my good friend and occasional courtroom adversary David Boies, I am attempting to persuade a federal court to invalidate California's Proposition 8—the voter-approved measure that overturned California's constitutional right to marry a person of the same sex.
My involvement in this case has generated a certain degree of consternation among conservatives. How could a politically active, lifelong Republican, a veteran of the Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush administrations, challenge the "traditional" definition of marriage and press for an "activist" interpretation of the Constitution to create another "new" constitutional right?
My answer to this seeming conundrum rests on a lifetime of exposure to persons of different backgrounds, histories, viewpoints, and intrinsic characteristics, and on my rejection of what I see as superficially appealing but ultimately false perceptions about our Constitution and its protection of equality and fundamental rights.
Many of my fellow conservatives have an almost knee-jerk hostility toward gay marriage. This does not make sense, because same-sex unions promote the values conservatives prize. Marriage is one of the basic building blocks of our neighborhoods and our nation. At its best, it is a stable bond between two individuals who work to create a loving household and a social and economic partnership. We encourage couples to marry because the commitments they make to one another provide benefits not only to themselves but also to their families and communities. Marriage requires thinking beyond one's own needs. It transforms two individuals into a union based on shared aspirations, and in doing so establishes a formal investment in the well-being of society. The fact that individuals who happen to be gay want to share in this vital social institution is evidence that conservative ideals enjoy widespread acceptance. Conservatives should celebrate this, rather than lament it.
Legalizing same-sex marriage would also be a recognition of basic American principles, and would represent the culmination of our nation's commitment to equal rights. It is, some have said, the last major civil-rights milestone yet to be surpassed in our two-century struggle to attain the goals we set for this nation at its formation.
This bedrock American principle of equality is central to the political and legal convictions of Republicans, Democrats, liberals, and conservatives alike. The dream that became America began with the revolutionary concept expressed in the Declaration of Independence in words that are among the most noble and elegant ever written: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
Sadly, our nation has taken a long time to live up to the promise of equality. In 1857, the Supreme Court held that an African-American could not be a citizen. During the ensuing Civil War, Abraham Lincoln eloquently reminded the nation of its found-ing principle: "our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal."
At the end of the Civil War, to make the elusive promise of equality a reality, the 14th Amendment to the Constitution added the command that "no State É shall deprive any person of life, liberty or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person É the equal protection of the laws."
Subsequent laws and court decisions have made clear that equality under the law extends to persons of all races, religions, and places of origin. What better way to make this national aspiration complete than to apply the same protection to men and women who differ from others only on the basis of their sexual orientation? I cannot think of a single reason—and have not heard one since I undertook this venture—for continued discrimination against decent, hardworking members of our society on that basis.
Various federal and state laws have accorded certain rights and privileges to gay and lesbian couples, but these protections vary dramatically at the state level, and nearly universally deny true equality to gays and lesbians who wish to marry. The very idea of marriage is basic to recognition as equals in our society; any status short of that is inferior, unjust, and unconstitutional.
Good on you, Ted. Click here to read the rest.
Saturday, January 23, 2010
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When scary Jesus makes the news
Friday, January 8, 2010Will it be drugs? Will it be gays? Will it be an unwieldy sex scandal featuring seedy hotels, bad cologne and grossly detailed text messages you never want to read? How about another "family values"' congressman busted for cruising gay chat rooms or hitting on young male pages in the congressional bathroom? That's always heartwarming.
Or maybe it will be another enchanting case of sexual abuse and pedophilia in the Catholic Church! What, too 2001? Fine, how about six decades of child rape and beatings at the hands of countless nuns and priests in Irish Catholic orphanages? Oh right, that was last year. The pope slamming birth control in Africa? Megachurch pastors shamelessly fleecing their gullible flock for still more millions? Some spectacular combination of the above? So many choices! What's your pleasure, good reader?
Of one thing you can be absolutely certain: whenever self-righteous Christians make the news, it's going to be... embarrassing. Sad. Sickening. Disingenuous. A little dangerous. A lot pitiable.
Homophobic? Frequently. Hypocritical? Invariably. Deeply ignorant of the real teachings of the true, mystical, renegade, anti-authority Jesus, who was about as far from the modern Pentecostal evangelical fundamentalist organized-religion worldview as a vegan from a Kansas slaughterhouse? You already know the answer.
All of which makes it delightful -- in that nauseatingly familiar sort of way -- to read the story about the Northern California evangelicals whose repulsive views on homosexuality and "curing" gay people reportedly helped shape a new, violently anti-gay bill in Uganda.
Did you see? The New York Times piece about how Ugandan officials took the American evangelicals' beliefs about the best ways to punish/reform "evil" gays to its natural conclusion, and decided, if all other forcible rehab options fail, it would be perfectly appropriate to simply exterminate the homosexuals?
I mean, why not? If it's certifiably evil, if you can't "cure" it, if it scares the livestock, transmits disease, preys upon young boys and makes the older men fantasize in dangerous and uneasy ways, if God (not really) said it was an abomination, what's the problem?
Of course, the radical evangelicals in question were -- or at least pretended to be -- horrified at this practical summation of their views, immediately wrote panicky letters to Ugandan officials to correct their unfortunate "misinterpretation," as damn well they should have.
"No, no, no!" they sort of said. "We didn't mean actually kill them. That would be wrong. We simply meant gently, lovingly rehabilitate. You know: drugs, imprisonment, maybe some beatings, public humiliation, brainwashing, genital torture, electroshock therapy like the Mormons used to do.
"Barring that, just do what we do in America: psychological torment in the form of relentless, crushing guilt. This will make the evil gay feel so suicidally depressed about his perfectly natural desires, his body, his emotions, who he is as a living soul on this planet, he's bound to come around. See, like most major religions of the world, we work to shame the sinner so horribly that if he doesn't kill himself, you'll end up with a fine, completely numb soldier of Christ! But don't actually kill them. Heavens!"
Ugandan officials, apparently a bit confused about just how this crazy evangelical thing works, agreed to re-draft the bill and take out the killing stuff. "You extremist Christians are so weird," they seemed to say, rolling their eyes.
It's a story that folds in nicely with the sad little furor regarding tired ol' Brit Hume over at Fox News, a slumpy veteran talking head who recently muttered something gently asinine on the air about Tiger Woods, Buddhism and converting Tiger to the land of happy fuzzy Christ.
Indeed, Hume suggested during a broadcast that Tiger would do well to renounce his sinful ways, pack up his little Temple O' Buddhism and move to Sweet Home Jesuslandia, home of Ted Haggard, Carrie Prejean and thousands of priests who are no longer allowed to touch children -- where all is safe and redemptive and no one has much sex, and if they do it's certainly not very much fun and doesn't last more than 90 seconds in the dark in the congressional bathroom. So thoughtful you are, Brit!
So then. Is the mildly offensive part how Hume tried to convert Tiger on national TV? Is it how he obviously doesn't understand much about Buddhism and how it pre-dates Christianity by hundreds, if not thousands, of years? Or is it how Hume won't apologize and is now claiming Christian persecution as a result of being so pseudo-righteous? All of the above? Does it even matter?
Of course it doesn't. But I have to admit, ever since Dubya so mercifully slumped off the national stage and hauled his fractured, dejected army of Christian fundamentalists with him, the stories about unfortunate imbecility, sexual misadventure and righteous indignation in the name of Christ have slowed to a mere trickle. Which is not a bad thing at all, really.
Oh sure, they're still out there, but the Christian right no longer dominates the national dialogue as it once did. Now the Jesus crusaders have largely been replaced by an even sillier and more fringe bunch -- birthers and teabaggers and such -- citizens who don't even have the excuse of a misinterpreted, fear-based faith to back their biases and anxieties. Now they just have ... Glenn Beck.
No matter. We can all safely assume millions of good, reasonable Christians were just as disgusted as anyone over the fringe evangelical hatred on display in the Uganda story. And most would even agree that Hume was a bit of a jackass for daring to "correct" anyone's faith, especially one of the great, peaceful religions of the world, even on a network as shamelessly right-wing and morally unhinged as Fox News.
In that sense, these two stories point to a broader truth: Never forget to be thankful, humble pilgrim, when you stumble over barbed tales like this, that times have changed, are changing, keep right on changing ... usually for the better. In other words, as dire or inane as these stories may seem, offer a moment of heaping, divine gratitude that it's not like it used to be. And with any luck, it never will be again.
Hell, you can bet even Jesus is grateful for that.
You can find the original by clicking here.
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