Sunday, February 28, 2010
Sunday, February 21, 2010
Obama: Social Security fix would be simple
HENDERSON, Nev. – President Barack Obama says is slowly running out of money but that it can exist well into the future with a slight fix.
The system is funded with a tax on earnings, up to $109,000 a year. Obama says lifting that cap to tax a larger share of income would be one way to extend the system of monthly payments for retirees. It also would be unpopular with some. (a very small, powerful minority. boo hoo)
Without an adjustment, Obama said Social Security will start to run out of money in about 20 years as more people begin collecting benefits.
Obama spoke Friday at a town-hall meeting in Henderson, Nev., the home state of . Republicans are targeting Reid for defeat in November's midterm elections.The original is here. I understand that if we increased income taxes by 5% ONLY ON INCOMES OVER $1,000,000 that we could generate $300 billion/year.
The commercial wasn't there for the first few viewings of the song, but then it magically appeared before the video would play. The advertising execs (and webmasters) are evil geniuses, figuring out how to put advertisements EVERYwhere.
Still...if I have to post an ad to have free access to content I want, maybe it's worth it....
Maybe...or maybe I'll take it down.
As if we needed more proof...
"Three Cups of Tea is one of the most remarkable adventure stories of our time. Greg Mortenson’s dangerous and difficult quest to build schools in the wildest parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan is not only a thrilling read, it’s proof that one ordinary person, with the right combination of character and determination, really can change the world." -Tom Brokaw
Which reminds me of Margaret Mead
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. -Margaret Mead, US anthropologist & popularizer of anthropology (1901 - 1978)
And how about his Central Asia Institute?
And check out Pennies for Peace.
A toast to my new hero, Greg Mortenson. May we all try to do as good, and in a POSITIVE way. Yeah, I'm talkin' to you, Dick Cheney.
Nickelback - "If Everyone Cared" Video by NICKELBACK - More related videos from Asterpix
Saturday, February 20, 2010
The HBO site is here.
EDIT: As I expected, HBO took down the video, so I have the transcript...
New Rule: Restaurants have to finish making the salad. When I order a salad, don't bring me this (picture mixings of a salad). This isn't a salad, it's the ingredients for a salad. But it doesn't become one until it's mixed together into something we call... 'a salad'. Who do I have to pay around here to get someone to 'toss my salad'?
New Rule: Just because you 'can' get pregnant doesn't mean you 'must' get pregnant. The pregnant man is pregnant for a 3rd time. You know, if you have a beard and a mustache and you have a baby every 10 months, you're not a pregnant man, you're an Italian woman.
New Rule: Catholics can't make fun of mormons or snake handlers or any other religion until they admit Ash Wednesday is really creepy. On the other hand, it's nice when a Catholic priest smears something on your kid's face... and it's just ash.
New Rule: Just because the Scottish eat it - it doesn't make it 'food'.
The Obama Administration has finally lifted the ban on imported haggis - a Scottish dish made from sheep heart, liver & lungs, and simmered in the sheep's intestines. mmmm... but we already have that here - it's called a hot dog. PLUS, their version looks disgusting while OURS is neatly pressed into the shape of a dog's hard on.
What I'm trying to say is 'buy American'.
Nope, the only person who ever missed you was the Iraqi guy who threw the shoe!
And finally -
New Rule: Stop calling the Tea Party phenomenon a 'movement'. To be a real political 'movement' you have to.., well, 'move' -- towards some specific legislative goal. The Suffrage Movement, for example, gained voting rights for women. The Civil Rights Movement outlawed discrimination against Blacks. And the Gay Rights Movement brought us the Winter Olympics.
But the Tea Baggers, they're not a 'movement'. They're a cult. And I'm going to prove it . . .
- - -
Now, uh, during the break, I took my usual cross-country roadtrip with Nadya and the octuplets - and everywhere we stopped along the way - diners, truck-stops, medical marijuana dispensaries. People wanted to talk about the Tea Baggers and know some basic things about them, like - Who's their dentist? and Why do they wear flannel in the summer?
But if you look at any cult, whether it be the Hale-bop Comet People, the Scientologists, or Oprah's Book Club - you'll find several common elements, the primary one being - cult members are taught to quickly withdraw into the group and distrust the outside world. Tea Baggers distrust everything. They think everyone's coming for their guns and they shouldn't pay taxes. They're like Wesley Snipes crossed with a fat old white guy who runs a landfill.
Folks. No one is coming for your guns, your Bibles or your fishing poles. And that's not a monster under your bed, it's the Ab Lounger you bought last year and never used.
Cults are also always driven by some ridiculous, unobtainable goal. Like a fiery apocalypse ringing-in 'Paradise' .... or deficit-reduction by way of giant tax cuts.
- - -
Now, you know someone has fallen into a cult if you see these signs:
1. Cults have their own vocabulary. Now, I don't speak Shit-Kicker... but I know in their world that 'freedom' means 'guns'... 'diplomacy' means 'weakness'.... 'elitist' means 'reader'... and 'socialist' means 'black'.
2. Cults tend to populate from within, encouraging members to have huge broods of children and to give them strange names like 'Moonbeam' and 'Trig'.
3. Cult members attribute all of their problems to one simple explanation. (picture of Obama - with Hitler mustache)
Now, here's an amazing statistic. In a recent poll almost ninety percent of Tea Baggers said that they thought taxes had either gone up or stayed the same under Obama. Only two percent thought they went down. But the reality is taxes have gone down... for ninety five percent of working families, taxes went down.
Think about that. Only two percent of the people in a "movement" about taxes, named after a tax revolt, have the slightest idea what's going on... with taxes!
So, it would be easy to just mock, except that those who fall under the control of cults aren't necessarily weirdoes, they're victims. And we shouldn't forget that these people are our relatives, our neighbors and the folks at the next table in the restaurant.
Especially if that restaurant is Hooters... and it's Dollar Wing Wednesday.
If you follow the link here, there are over 700 images taken at Carnaval this year. Talk about over the TOP.
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
I hope some other country will take up our torture issue, because our government is certainly unwilling to face the past. I don't think we are unable to. We're just unwilling.
And do you think for one minute that a Republican administration would NOT look into charges of torture conducted under a Democratic administration? Investigation should not be conducted "because THEY would." It should be conducted because torture is ILLEGAL, and if you let people get away with it once, they'll try to get away with it again, or something even worse next time. Obama has to realize that not investigating will only embolden the violators. You send a message that violations of the law will not be tolerated. Oh, but I keep forgetting, this is America, we're above the law.
Good luck, America. We're going to need it.
Cheney Admits to War Crimes, Media Yawns, Obama Turns the Other Cheek
Monday 15 February 2010
by: Jason Leopold, t r u t h o u t News Analysis
Dick Cheney is a sadist.
On Sunday, in an exclusive interview with Jonathan Karl of ABC News' "This Week," Cheney proclaimed his love of torture, derided the Obama administration for outlawing the practice, and admitted that the Bush White House ordered Justice Department attorneys to fix the law around the administration's policy interests.
"I was a big supporter of waterboarding," Cheney told Karl, as if he were issuing a challenge to officials in the current administration, including President Barack Obama, who said flatly last year that waterboarding is torture, to take action against him. "I was a big supporter of the enhanced interrogation techniques..."
The former vice president's declaration closely follows admissions he made in December 2008, about a month before the Bush administration exited the White House, when he said he personally authorized the torture of 33 suspected terrorist detainees and approved the waterboarding of three so-called “high-value” prisoners.
“I signed off on it; others did, as well, too,” Cheney said in an interview with the right-wing Washington Times about the waterboarding, a drowning technique where a person is strapped to a board, his face covered with a cloth and then water is poured over it. It is a torture technique dating back at least to the Spanish Inquisition.
The US has long treated waterboarding as a war crime and has prosecuted Japanese soldiers for using it against US troops during World War II. And Ronald Reagan's Justice Department prosecuted a Texas sheriff and three deputies for using the practice to get confessions.
But Cheney's admissions back then, as well as those he made on Sunday, went unchallenged by Karl and others in the mainstream media. Indeed, the two major national newspapers--The New York Times and The Washington Post--characterized Cheney's interview as a mere spat between the vice president and the Obama administration over the direction of the latter's counterterrorism and national security policies.
The Times and Post did not report that Cheney's comments about waterboarding and his enthusiastic support of torturing detainees amounted to an admission of war crimes given that the president has publicly stated that waterboarding is torture.
Ironically, in March 2003, after Iraqi troops captured several US soldiers and let them be interviewed on Iraqi TV, senior Bush administration officials expressed outrage over this violation of the Geneva Convention.
"If there is somebody captured," President George W. Bush told reporters on March 23, 2003, "I expect those people to be treated humanely. If not, the people who mistreat the prisoners will be treated as war criminals."
Nor did the Times or Post report that the "enhanced interrogation techniques" Cheney backed was, in numerous cases, administered to prisoners detained at Guantanamo and in detention centers in Iraq and Afghanistan who were innocent and simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. The torture methods that Cheney helped implement as official policy was also directly responsible for the deaths of at least 100 detainees.
Renowned human rights attorney and Harper's magazine contributor Scott Horton said, "Section 2340A of the federal criminal code makes it an offense to torture or to conspire to torture. Violators are subject to jail terms or to death in appropriate cases, as where death results from the application of torture techniques."
In addition to Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder said during his confirmation hearing last year that waterboarding is torture.
"Dick Cheney wants to be prosecuted. And prosecutors should give him what he wants," Horton wrote in a Harper's dispatch Monday.
Karl also made no mention of the fact that the CIA's own watchdog concluded in a report declassified last year that the torture of detainees Cheney signed off on did not result in any actionable intelligence nor did it thwart any imminent attacks on the United States. To the contrary, torture led to bogus information, wrongful elevated threat warnings, and undermined the war-crimes charges against Mohammed al-Qahtani, the alleged “20th hijacker” in the 9/11 attacks because the evidence against him was obtained through torture.
Karl also failed to call out Cheney on a statement the former vice president made during his interview in which he suggested the policy of torture was carried out only after the Bush administration told Justice Department attorneys it wanted the legal justification to subject suspected al-Qaeda prisoners to brutal interrogation methods.
Cheney told Karl that he continues to be critical of the Obama administration "because there were some things being said, especially after we left office, about prosecuting CIA personnel that had carried out our counterterrorism policy or disbarring lawyers in the Justice Department who had -- had helped us put those policies together, and I was deeply offended by that, and I thought it was important that some senior person in the administration stand up and defend those people who'd done what we asked them to do."
In an interview with Karl on December 15, 2008, Cheney made a similar comment, which Karl also allowed to go unchallenged, stating that the Bush administration "had the Justice Department issue the requisite opinions in order to know where the bright lines were that you could not cross."
Bush's Key Line of Defense Destroyed
Those statements, both on Sunday and in his December 2008 interview with Karl, destroys a key line in the Bush administration's defense against war crimes charges. For years, Cheney and other Bush administration officials pinned their defense on the fact that they had received legal advice from Justice Department lawyers that the brutal interrogations of “war on terror” detainees did not constitute torture or violate other laws of war.
Cheney's statements, however, would suggest that the lawyers were colluding with administration officials in setting policy, rather than providing objective legal analysis.
In fact, as I reported last year, an investigation by the Department of Justice's Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) determined that DOJ attorneys John Yoo and Jay Bybee blurred the lines between attorneys charged with providing independent legal advice to the White House and policy advocates who were working to advance the administration’s goals, according to legal sources who were privy to an original draft of the OPR report.
That was a conclusion Dawn Johnsen reached. Johnsen was tapped a year ago by Obama to head the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), where Yoo and Bybee worked, but her confirmation has been stuck in limbo.
In a 2006 Indiana Law Journal article, she said the function of OLC should be to “provide an accurate and honest appraisal of applicable law, even if that advice will constrain the administration’s pursuit of desired policies.”
“The advocacy model of lawyering, in which lawyers craft merely plausible legal arguments to support their clients’ desired actions, inadequately promotes the President’s constitutional obligation to ensure the legality of executive action,” said Johnsen, who served in the OLC under President Bill Clinton. "In short, OLC must be prepared to say no to the President.
“For OLC instead to distort its legal analysis to support preferred policy outcomes undermines the rule of law and our democratic system of government. Perhaps most essential to avoiding a culture in which OLC becomes merely an advocate of the Administration's policy preferences is transparency in the specific legal interpretations that inform executive action, as well as in the general governing processes and standards followed in formulating that legal advice.”
In a 2007 UCLA Law Review article, Johnsen said Yoo’s Aug. 1, 2002, torture memo is “unmistakably” an “advocacy piece.”
"OLC abandoned fundamental practices of principled and balanced legal interpretation,” Johnsen wrote. "The Torture Opinion relentlessly seeks to circumvent all legal limits on the CIA’s ability to engage in torture, and it simply ignores arguments to the contrary.
"The Opinion fails, for example, to cite highly relevant precedent, regulations, and even constitutional provisions, and it misuses sources upon which it does rely. Yoo remains almost alone in continuing to assert that the Torture Opinion was ‘entirely accurate’ and not outcome driven."
The original draft of the OPR report concluded that Yoo and Bybee violated professional standards and recommended a referral to state bar associations where they could have faced disciplinary action and have had their law licenses revoked.
The report's findings could have influenced whether George W. Bush, Cheney and other senior officials in that administration were held accountable for torture and other war crimes. But two weeks ago, it was revealed that officials in Obama's Justice Department backed off the earlier recommendation and instead altered the misconduct findings against Yoo and Bybee to "poor judgment," which means neither will face disciplinary action. The report has not yet been released.
For his part, Yoo had already admitted in no uncertain terms that Bush administration officials sought to legalize torture and that he and Bybee fixed the law around the Bush administration’s policy.
As I noted in a report last year, in his book, "War by Other Means: An Insider’s Account on the War On Terror," Yoo described his participation in meetings that helped develop the controversial policies for the treatment of detainees.
For instance, Yoo wrote about a trip he took to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, with other senior administration officials to observe interrogations and to join in discussions about specific interrogation methods. In other words, Yoo was not acting as an independent attorney providing the White House with unbiased legal advice but was more of an advocate for administration policy.
The meetings that Yoo described appear similar to those disclosed by ABC News in April 2008.
“The most senior Bush administration officials repeatedly discussed and approved specific details of exactly how high-value al-Qaeda suspects would be interrogated by the CIA,” ABC News reported at the time, citing unnamed sources.
"The high-level discussions about these ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ were so detailed, these sources said, some of the interrogation sessions were almost choreographed – down to the number of times CIA agents could use a specific tactic.
"These top advisers signed off on how the CIA would interrogate top al-Qaeda suspects – whether they would be slapped, pushed, deprived of sleep or subjected to simulated drowning, called waterboarding," according to unnamed sources quoted by ABC News.
Torture Preceded Legal Advice
If ABC's Karl had a firmer grasp on the issues he queried Cheney about he would have known that as recently as last week, three UK high-court judges released seven paragraphs of a previously classified intelligence document that proved the CIA tortured Binyam Mohamed, a British resident captured in Pakistan in April 2002 who was falsely tied to a dirty bomb plot, months before the Bush administration obtained a memo from John Yoo and Jay Bybee at the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) authorizing specific methods of torture to be used against high-value detainees, further undercutting Cheney's line of defense.
The document stated bluntly that Mohamed's treatment "could readily be contended to be at the very least cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment by the United States authorities."
Obama Turns A Blind Eye to Crimes
Under the United Nations Convention Against Torture, the treatment of Mohamed and the clear record that the Bush administration used waterboarding and other brutal techniques to extract information from detainees should have triggered the United States to conduct a full investigation and to prosecute the offenders. In the case of the US's refusal to do so, other nations would be obligated to act under the principle of universality.
However, instead of living up to that treaty commitment, the Obama administration has time and again resisted calls for government investigations and has gone to court to block lawsuits that demand release of torture evidence or seek civil penalties against officials implicated in the torture.
Though it's true, as Vice President Joe Biden stated Sunday on "Meet the Press," that Cheney is rewriting history and making "factually, substantively wrong" statements about the Obama administration's track record and approach to counterterrorism, it's difficult, if not near impossible, to defend this president from the likes of Cheney because he has steadfastly refused to hold anyone in the Bush administration accountable for the crime of torture.
Case in point: last week the Obama administration treated the disclosure by British judicial officials of the former prisoner's torture as a security breach and threatened to cut off an intelligence sharing arrangement with the UK government.
In what can only be described as a stunning response to the revelations contained in the intelligence document, White House spokesman Ben LaBolt said "the [UK} court's judgment will complicate the confidentiality of our intelligence-sharing relationship with the UK, and it will have to factor into our decision-making going forward."
"We're deeply disappointed with the court's judgment today, because we shared this information in confidence and with certain expectations," LaBolt said, making no mention of Mohamed's treatment nor even offering him an apology for the torture he was subjected to by the CIA over the course of several years. Mohamed was released from Guantanamo last year and returned to the UK.
As an aside, as revelatory as the disclosures were, news reports of Mohamed's torture were buried by the mainstream print media and went unreported by the cable news outlets, underscoring how the media's interest in Bush's torture policies has waned.
The Obama administration's decision to ignore the past administration's crimes has alienated civil liberties groups, who he could once count on for support.
Last December, on the day Obama received a Nobel Peace prize, Jameel Jaffer, director of the ACLU’s National Security Project, told reporters "on every front, the [Obama] administration is actively obstructing accountability. This administration is shielding Bush administration officials from civil liability, criminal investigation and even public scrutiny for their role in authorizing torture."
Cheney's Attacks Unfounded
That being the reality is what makes Cheney's claim on Sunday that the Obama administration is attempting to prosecute "CIA personnel that had carried out our counterterrorism policy or disbarring lawyers" laughable.
Holder has expanded the mandate of a special counsel, appointed during the Bush administration, who is investigating the destruction of torture tapes, to conduct a “preliminary review” of less than a dozen torture cases involving CIA contractors and interrogators to determine whether launching an expanded criminal inquiry is warranted. That hardly amounts to a prosecution. It's not even an investigation.
And "disbarring lawyers, a clear reference to Yoo and Bybee, which is beyond the scope of the Justice Department watchdog's authority to begin with, is no longer a possibility given that the OPR report reportedly does not recommend disciplinary action.
In a statement, the ACLU said, "to date, not a single torture victim has had his day in court."
As Jane Mayer reported in a recent issue of the New Yorker, Holder's limited scope authorization to Durham did not go over well with the White House and Obama's Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel made sure Holder knew where the administration stood.
"Emanuel worried that such investigations would alienate the intelligence community..." Mayer wrote. "Emanuel couldn’t complain directly to Holder without violating strictures against political interference in prosecutorial decisions. But he conveyed his unhappiness to Holder indirectly, two sources said. Emanuel demanded, 'Didn’t he get the memo that we’re not re-litigating the past?'"
The original is here.
Monday, February 15, 2010
I went to the Customer Service Desk to inquire about it, and the lady says, "Oh, the works of Robert Ingersoll. Lovely! Those are in the 'Stacks,' the special collection of really old or out-of-print books. I'll have them placed on the regular check-out shelf for you." Ok, no problem.
I went back to the library the next day, and lo and behold, there were TWELVE volumes of the "Works of Robert Ingersoll" waiting for me. Even if I extended my check-out from the initial two weeks to the maximum-allowed six weeks, there is no way I could read all twelve volumes in that time, especially considering that each volume was over 200 pages. I do, after all, have a job and a life that I need to tend to, occasionally.
So I just checked out the first four volumes and gave back the other eight. Within the first few moments of opening the books at home, both the wife and I were in ecstasy. Ingersoll's writing is beautiful and concise. It is an absolute pleasure to read these books. I cannot recommend them highly enough.
It is not all that surprising to me that Ingersoll has been de-emphasized in this American culture, wedded as we are to the absurd ideas of Christianity. Here is Ingersoll's creed:
To love justice, to long for the right, to love mercy, to pity the suffering, to assist the weak, to forget wrongs and remember benefits -- to love the truth, to be sincere, to utter honest words, to love liberty, to wage relentless war against slavery in all its forms, to love wife and child and friend, to make a happy home, to love the beautiful in art, in nature, to cultivate the mind, to be familiar with the mighty thoughts that genius has expressed, the noble deeds of all the world, to cultivate courage and cheerfulness, to make others happy, to fill life with the splendor of generous acts, the warmth of loving words, to discard error, to destroy prejudice, to receive new truths with gladness, to cultivate hope, to see the calm beyond the storm, the dawn beyond the night, to do the best that can be done and then to be resigned -- this is the religion of reason, the creed of science. This satisfies the heart and brain.
A couple of links here and here to the works of Robert Ingersoll. Go. Indulge.
Friday, February 12, 2010
5 Reasons to Have Sex Today!What would Valentine’s Day be without an opportunity to mention the three-letter word that gets everyone so riled up? Yes, you guessed it–I’m talking about at a little S-E-X. So, let’s chat, shall we? Beyond being just one-heck-of-good-time, medical studies report that an active sex life contributes to a longer and more fulfilling life. So come on, everybody’s doing it (or at least the lucky ones), and here are five reasons for you to join in:
1. Sex boosts your immune system. “Honey, I have a headache,” may now be the best reason to have sex! A startling number of physicians are now recognizing how sexual and emotional health affect our entire well being. In other words, how our brain directly impacts our immune system.
“We know that people who enjoy a regular, satisfying sex life (i.e. regular orgasms) are less stressed, less depressed and generally more well physically, mentally and emotionally,” says Wendy Strgar, loveologist and CEO of Good Clean Love. In a recent article, Dr. Paul Pearsall, director of Behavioral Medicine at Detroit’s Beaumont Hospital, concludes that many of his patients had experienced sexual dissatisfaction prior to a heart attack. He also claims that sexual contentment leads to less severe headaches and reduced discomfort from arthritis in both genders. (Read about 6 other weird ways to boost your immunity!)
2. Sex burns calories. Oh yeah, forget those fad diets and get busy gettin’ busy. A mere 30-minutes of sex burns 90 calories and while that may not sound impressive, at an average of three times a week, you’re burning 5 pounds in a year! Or, according to Forbes magazine, having sex just twice a week for a year will burn off the equivalent of seven huge spaghetti dinners. Seconds, anyone? (Mere 30-minutes of sex?? MERE??!!)
3. Sex relieves pain. Orgasm is one serious narcotic! Oxytocin, a naturally occurring chemical in the body surges during and after climax while working in conjunction with a few other endorphins to make sure you feel no pain. In his book, How to Treat Arthritis, rheumatologist Carter V. Multz asserts that sex can reduce pain, swelling, and inflammation associated with arthritis, headaches and menstrual cramps.
4. Sex decreases aging. “Use it or lose it” has never been more applicable. Regular sex releases a plethora of “happy” chemicals into your bloodstream, including testosterone. As we age, our testosterone levels decrease. Sex is a wonderful way to build your reserves back up, helping build new bones and muscles while putting a youthful glow on your face. According to a study by Dr. David Weeks, a clinical neuropsychologist at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital in Scotland and co-author of Superyoung, men and women who reported having sex an average of four times per week looked approximately 10 years younger than they really were.
5. Sex is great for depression. “The release from orgasm does much to calm people. It helps with sleep, and that is whether we talk about solo sex or sex with a partner,” says Jennifer Bass, the head of information services at the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction in Bloomington, Ind., in a recent MSNBC article.
Researchers believe that sex helps the brain produce serotonin which, in turn, prompts new neurons to grow. Most chemical, antidepressant medications, like Zoloft, work to increase serotonin levels. These drugs take three to four weeks to begin working–about the same amount of time required for new neurons to form. One reason these drugs could be an effective treatment is because they increase cell growth–just as sex does.
I think they forgot, "Sex feels good," and "Sex is fun," and "Sex is a means of expressing your love for another person," or "Sex will cure acne," or "Sex will get you 'off the hook' for awhile." Maybe? You could probably think of a few more....
But maybe "they" didn't forget, seeing as how this culture demonizes people doing something because it may be intrinsically enjoyable, such as having recreational sex or taking drugs that make you feel good (including alcohol). That's evil, for some reason, so we must have utilitarian purposes instead for sex: sex does all those good things physically and mentally above; taking drugs is for the relief of maladies. (Even made-up maladies!)
I am a little shocked that one of the choices was not, "Sex can lead to having children." After all, according to a large percentage of our population, sex is strictly for procreation ONLY. Thank goodness we got past that silly idea. The authors must be evil heathen to have left that out. They're playing with their naughty bits a little too much?
Oh yeah, got distracted. The original is here.
This one is for Political Animal, published on the Washington Monthly website. Many thanks to my oldest nef for turning me onto it. It's good stuff, and good for your sanity. Well, usually, that is.
For folks who aren't especially familiar with the ins and outs of modern American politics, the existing power structure must seem exasperating. If there's a Democratic Congress working with a Democratic White House, we should be seeing all kinds of progress on a wide variety of fronts. What they don't realize, regrettably, is that Republicans have enough power to make legislating impossible, and the GOP is abusing that power in ways no party ever has in American history.
House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) isn't some random person who lacks familiarity with the political process -- he's a member of the congressional leadership. He knows full well why Congress is dysfunctional, and he knows that it's his party that's responsible.
So today, it was almost nauseating to see the Post Turtle's office issue a press release that read, "Quick question for the Administration: Who controls the process?" It noted that the Democratic Party at least ostensibly has authority in the House, Senate, and White House -- suggesting that Dems should be able to govern as they please, even though intelligent observers know better.
It makes clear the problem we've discussed many times: voters will blame Dems for failing to deliver, and won't blame Republicans for preventing Dems from governing. It's insane, it's exasperating, it turns logic and reason on their head, but it's the truth. Dems are running the show, so they'll get blamed, even if the GOP sabotages the show.
Greg Sargent explains very well that it leaves Democratic leaders with a limited number of options.
[Democrats] can scale way back and find common ground with the GOP. Or they can press forward and continue highlighting GOP obstructionism, in hopes that the public will eventually tune in to the procedural shenanigans and blame everything on Republicans. That's unlikely, however.
Or Dems can try to change the underlying dynamic -- as hard as this might appear -- by challenging, and perhaps changing, the procedural realities that make this dynamic possible.
A fourth possibility -- Dems pursue the agenda they promised voters to work on, and the public pressures Republicans to cooperate -- no longer appears feasible. The GOP is immune to public pressure, and the public isn't engaged.
So, Democrats, what's it going to be? Passing weak and ineffective legislation, passing nothing and blaming the GOP, or working on restoring the legislative process that served the United States well for its first 200 or so years.
There are no other choices. Your majority and legacy are on the line.
Yes, indeed. One of the best opportunities in decades, and the Dems are blowing it. They're doing their best to prove the Republicans meme: that government can't do anything right. Click here.
Thursday, February 11, 2010
This entry looks at bad political ads. Political ads.....especially bad political ads are probably something that we'll see a whole lot more of this next election cycle, now that the Supreme Court has opened the floodgates and allowed corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money in political campaigns. Totally absurd.
There is already far too much money spent on political campaigns. This ruling will double, triple, increase by a power of ten, the amount of money already spent. We're going to see a plethora of people with more money than brains. More than now, I mean. Definitely more money than taste. But that's an ongoing problem.
Campaign Ads That May Never Be Topped, Although I Hope People Continue to Try
The Huffington Post (among others) has been reporting lately on the fact that the off-year election season is in full swing and it appears that it will be perhaps the most ridiculous one yet.
I know that's saying a lot. But the campaign ads so far are supporting that prediction.
The first of this truly remarkable pair is an attack ad being run by the challenger in the race to be the next coroner of Orleans Parish, Louisiana. (Yes, there is a race to be the next coroner of Orleans Parish, Louisiana, and yes, coroner candidates now run attack ads.) The ad refers to a scandal in the 1990s in which Dr. Frank Minyard, the nine-term incumbent, was sued for allegedly removing bone pieces and corneas from cadavers without permission (from next of kin - not that you need a cadaver's permission to do anything, although it is still polite to ask) and passing them on to transplant centers. According to this report, he was never even accused of selling them - I guess he was just "encouraging" organ donation - and was eventually dropped from the lawsuit altogether. But the ad still depicts him as a "Dr. Frankenstein," complete with a very poorly costumed Igor:
Ironically, according to the same report, Minyard's challenger, Dr. Dwight McKenna, actually has been convicted of something, although it was tax evasion and not body-snatching. He served nine months in jail for that, which Dr. Frankenstein Minyard is likely to mention in any response ad.
Editor's note: Any reference to "Dr. Frankenstein" is generally used by Kevin as an excuse to repeat one of his favorite facts of all time, namely that the president of the California Medical Association during 2008 was one "Dr. Richard S. Frankenstein." That is a true fact, and one that Kevin insists on repeating here although it does not fit the legal-humor theme. In any event, please excuse the interruption.
Note to editor's note: please ignore the fact that Kevin is also the editor of this blog, so that the third-person usage in these notes makes no sense at all. Thank you.
But the clear front-runner in the race for Lunatic Campaign Ad of 2010 involves a much higher-profile office, namely (but not surprisingly) a California seat in the U.S. Senate. This ad seems to be real and seems to have really come from the campaign of Carly Fiorina, a former executive now competing in the GOP primary for the right to lose to Sen. Barbara Boxer. The ad attacks current front-runner Tom Campbell, claiming he is a fiscal conservative "in name only." But it also seems to imply that he is Satan in sheep's clothing. The video is three-and-a-half minutes long, but it is worth it because the Demon Sheep that appears about two-and-a-half minutes in absolutely must be seen to be believed:
Fiorina is not likely to prevail in the primary even with demonic ovine aid, and any GOP challenger would have a difficult time unseating Boxer. But she will not have run in vain, because her legacy will at least include this crazy campaign ad against which all future crazy campaign ads are likely to be measured.
Gee, I wonder how hyper-religious freak Erik Prince (Blackwater CEO) squares paying hookers on the government dime with his extreme religious views? My guess is that he's one of the endless breed of users who don't really believe that religious crap, but recognize that wearing religion on your sleeve, a public adherence to piety and public pronouncements of a religious bent will open doors for you into the world of business and government. Rumor is Prince is a member of The Family. Nuff said?
Why Obama and Hillary Clinton still allow Blackwater ... ahem ... Xe to still be employed by the government, and to compete for a billion-dollar contract to train Afghan police, is beyond me. Train them to what? Steal from their government? How to hide hookers on the payroll? How to kill unarmed civilians and get away with it? All very valuable skills.
Could Obama and Clinton be being blackmailed into it? Are they getting kickbacks? Are they totally tone-deaf?
2 Ex-Workers Accuse Blackwater Security Company of Defrauding the U.S. for Years
By MARK MAZZETTI
Published: February 10, 2010
WASHINGTON — Two former employees of Blackwater Worldwide have accused the private security company of defrauding the government for years by filing bogus receipts, double billing for the same services and charging government agencies for strippers and prostitutes, according to court documents unsealed this week.
In a December 2008 lawsuit, the former employees said top Blackwater officials had engaged in a pattern of deception as they carried out government contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and in Louisiana in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
The lawsuit, filed under the False Claims Act, also asserts that Blackwater officials turned a blind eye to “excessive and unjustified” force against Iraqi civilians by several Blackwater guards.
Blackwater has earned billions of dollars from government agencies in the years since the Sept. 11 attacks, when the company won contracts to protect American diplomats in Iraq and Afghanistan. The former employees who filed the lawsuit, a married couple named Brad and Melan Davis, said there was little financial oversight of the money.
Last year, an audit by the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction and the State Department’s inspector general found that the State Department had overpaid Blackwater $55 million because the company had failed to adequately staff its teams assigned to protect American diplomats in Iraq.
The documents detailing the Davises’ accusations were unsealed after the Justice Department declined to join in the case against Blackwater, which last year changed its name to Xe Services. A Xe spokeswoman did not return a message seeking comment about the case.
In an interview on Wednesday, Ms. Davis said that she and her husband had decided to proceed with the case because “it’s the right thing to do,” and that it was time for “the truth from inside the company” to be made public. If the government is able to recover money from Blackwater as a result of the lawsuit, the Davises could claim a percentage as whistleblowers.
Mr. Davis, a former Marine, performed a number of jobs for the company, including working as a private security guard in Iraq.
Ms. Davis was fired from the company, and she is challenging the legality of her dismissal. Mr. Davis voluntarily resigned from the company.
According to the lawsuit, Ms. Davis raised concerns about the company’s bookkeeping with her bosses in March 2006, when she was handling accounts for the company’s contracts with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Homeland Security. The lawsuit claims she was told to “back off,” and that she “would never win a medal for saving the government money.”
Ms. Davis also asserts that a Filipino prostitute in Afghanistan was put on the Blackwater payroll under the “Morale Welfare Recreation” category, and that the company had billed the prostitute’s plane tickets and monthly salary to the government.
She also said Blackwater management used a subsidiary company, Greystone Ltd., to double bill the government for plane tickets between the United States and Amman, Jordan, which served as a transit point for the company’s employees in Iraq.
The original story is here.
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Sure, the Republicans are opposing anything and everything that Obama proposes. They are obviously more interested in their own party's "success" over anything that might benefit the country, if Obama proposed it. But the Democrats are appearing to be their own worst enemy.
With "Democrats" like this, who needs enemies?
If the Democrats don't pull their heads out of their own stinking asses, they are going to be defeated BIG TIME in elections this fall. And they will DESERVE IT because they don't know how to legislate. It's a miracle they can even find their way to work each day.
Read the absurdity by clicking here.
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
Monday, February 8, 2010
The item below is from The Washington Monthly's Political Animal. I'm constantly amazed that they can inspect the political goings-on much more closely than I can, and they remain somewhat sane! Impressive.
This is from the February 7 page.
PALIN AND HER PEOPLE.... Sarah Palin, the former half-term governor of Alaska, threw plenty of red meat to a ravenous Tea Party audience in Nashville (recently), reminding the political world that she's still a hero to confused, unhinged right-wing activists.
There wasn't anything especially surprising about her 40-minute diatribe -- apparently, she does not hold President Obama in high regard -- but there were a few interesting remarks of note.
But the real entertainment came during the post-speech Q&A, when Palin fielded a few "pre-screened, pre-selected" questions. She was asked what Congress's top three priorities should be, if "conservatives" retake the majorities in both chambers. She said lawmakers' priorities should be to (1) cut federal spending, though she didn't say where, (2) adopt a conservative energy policy, and (3) turn to "our creator." Seriously.
This was the third part of her answer, verbatim: "I think, kind of tougher to, um, put our arms around, but allowing America's spirit to rise again by not being afraid to kind of go back to some of our roots as a God fearing nation where we're not afraid to say, especially in times of potential trouble in the future here, where we're not afraid to say, you know, we don't have all the answers as fallible men and women so it would be wise of us to start seeking some divine intervention again in this country, so that we can be safe and secure and prosperous again. To have people involved in government who aren't afraid to go that route, not so afraid of the political correctness that you know -- they have to be afraid of what the media said about them if they were to proclaim their alliance on our creator."
For those keeping track, the first part of that answer was a 100-word run-on sentence.
Ron Chusid asks, "So, one of the U.S. Congress's top priorities should be ... asking for divine intervention from God?"
The answer, apparently, is yes.
I realize right-wing activists adore the former governor, but her conspicuous unintelligence should be obvious to anyone above the age of 4. There hasn't been a more ridiculous figure to hold American political prominence in a very long time.
She's simply an embarrassment.
(And they just love her!)
Sunday, February 7, 2010
Sarah Palin is quite the tool. No matter how many times her lies are debunked, she comes right back with more. And, sadly, a large number of people seem to swallow them whole. I guess as long as their delivered in a folksy style (with short skirts), people will lap it up.
She's a reverse Pinocchio. The more lies she tells, the shorter her skirts get.
Here's hoping that the Tea Party becomes a full-fledged 3rd party on the national scene. After all, every vote that someone affiliated with the Tea Party gets, that's one less vote for a Republican. And we can quit with this, "the Tea Party draws from all parties" bullshit. No, I have no doubt that the vast majority of people who call themselves Tea Partiers called themselves Republicans not long ago (and KKK members before that). Many Democrats may be fed up with the way Washington works, and disappointed with Obama, but there's no way we're going to join the misguided freaks in the Tea Party.
More lies debunked below. But lies are the rights stock in trade right now, so they will continue, and grow.
Palin's tea party speech full of false and misleading national security claims
During her address before the National Tea Party Convention, Fox News contributor Sarah Palin made numerous false and misleading claims about national security and foreign policy, including suggesting that the Obama administration doesn't use the word "war," that interrogators didn't ask alleged Christmas Day bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab about his training and future al Qaeda plots, and that Abdulmutallab has not provided information since he "lawyered up and invoked our U.S. constitutional right to remain silent."
CLAIM: Abdulmutallab "lawyered up and invoked our U.S. constitutional right to remain silent"
From Palin's February 7 National Tea Party Convention speech:
PALIN: What followed was equally disturbing after he was captured. He was
questioned for only 50 minutes. We have a choice in how to do this. The choice
was only question him for 50 minutes and then read his Miranda rights. The
administration says then there are no downsides or upsides to treating
terrorists like civilian criminal defendants. But a lot of us would beg to
differ. For example, there are questions we would have liked this foreign
terrorist to answer before he lawyered up and invoked our U.S. constitutional
right to remain silent. [CNN Transcripts, 2/6/10]
REALITY: Administration source reportedly says Abdulmutallab currently "cooperating," officials say he provided intelligence after being Mirandized. Responding to Senate Intelligence Committee chairwoman Sen. Diane Feinstein in a February 2 hearing (accessed via the Nexis database), FBI Director Robert Mueller agreed that "Abdulmutallab has provided valuable information" and that "the interrogation continues despite the fact that he has been Mirandized." Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair testified in the same hearing: "There are decisions that have to be made in which you balance the requirement for intelligence with the requirement for a prosecution and the sorts of pressure that you bring onto the people that you arrest in either form. It's got to be a decision made at the time. And I think the balance struck in the Mutallab was a very -- was an understandable balance. We got good intelligence, we're getting more."
Moreover, a February 2 Reuters article reported "a law enforcement official['s]" comment that "Abdulmutallab is talking and has been talking since last week providing useful, actionable and current intelligence that we've been actively following up on." The New York Times also reported:
Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian man accused of trying to blow up a
jetliner bound for Detroit on Dec. 25, started talking to investigators after
two of his family members arrived in the United States and helped earn his
cooperation, a senior administration official said Tuesday evening.
Mr. Abdulmutallab, 23, began speaking to F.B.I. agents last week in
Detroit and has not stopped, two government officials said. The officials
declined to disclose what information was obtained from him, but said it was
aiding in the investigation of the attempted terrorist attack.
"With the family, the F.B.I. approached the suspect," the senior
administration official said, speaking to reporters at the White House on the
condition of anonymity because of the pending legal case. "He has been
cooperating for days." [New York Times, 2/2/10]+
CLAIM: Abdulmutallab not interrogated about training and future plots+
From Palin's February 7 National Tea Party Convention speech:
PALIN: There are questions that we would have liked answered before he
lawyered up, like where exactly were you trained and by whom. You are bragging
about all these other terrorists just like you, who are they? When and where
will they try to strike next? [CNN Transcripts, 2/6/10]
REALITY: Interrogators reportedly sought and received such information from Abdulmutallab. Appearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on January 20, FBI Director Robert Mueller testified that interrogators interviewed Abdulmutallab "to gain intelligence, intelligence about whether there's another bomb, whether other coconspirators, where'd he get the bomb" (accessed via Nexis). Also, Newsweek's Michael Isikoff reported on his blog:
While at the hospital, he was interrogated for "about an hour" by veteran FBI
agents with the bureau's Joint Terrorist Task Force in Detroit. During that
hour, one official said, the agents learned a wealth of information from
Abdulmutallab about his connections to Al Qaeda; who he met with in Yemen; where
he got the bomb that was sewn into his underwear; and "who trained him in
Yemen." Added another official: "We got a lot of leads."
The Associated Press similarly reported: "Shortly after 3:30 p.m., FBI agents began interviewing the suspect in his hospital room, joined by a CBP officer and an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent. The suspect spoke openly, said one official, talking in detail about what he'd done and the planning that went into the attack. Other counterterrorism officials speaking on condition of anonymity said it was during this questioning that he admitted he had been trained and instructed in the plot by al-Qaida operatives in Yemen."
CLAIM: Obama administration uses "words like 'overseas contingency operation' instead of the word 'war' "
From Palin's February 7 National Tea Party Convention speech:
PALIN: Let me say, too, it's not politicizing our security to discuss our
concerns because Americans deserve to know the truth about the threats that we
face and what the administration is or isn't doing about them. So let's talk
about them. New terms used like "overseas contingency operation" instead of the
word "war." That reflects a world view that is out of touch with the enemy that
we face. We can't spin our way out of this threat. It is one thing to call a pay
raise a job created or saved. It is quite another to call the devastation that a
homicide bomber can inflict a "manmade disaster." I just say, come on,
Washington, if no where else, national security, that is one place where you've
got to call it like it is. [CNN Transcripts, 2/6/10]
REALITY: Obama has repeatedly used the word "war." President Obama used the word "war" at least seven times during his January 27 State of the Union speech. Moreover, following Obama's January 7 remarks on the attempted Christmas Day bombing of a Northwest Airlines flight -- remarks during which Obama stated, "We are at war. We are at war with al Qaeda" -- numerous conservative media figures falsely suggested that prior to that speech, Obama had not characterized the fight against terrorists as a war. In fact, in his inaugural address, Obama stated that "[o]ur nation is at war against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred," and he has repeatedly discussed terrorism as the rationale for U.S. military action abroad.
CLAIM: "Our president spent a year reaching out to hostile regimes, writing personal letters to dangerous dictators"
From Palin's February 7 National Tea Party Convention speech:
PALIN: It's that same kind of misguided thinking that is seen throughout the
administration's foreign policy decisions. Our president spent a year reaching
out to hostile regimes, writing personal letters to dangerous dictators and
apologizing for America, and what do we have to show for that? Here's what we
have to show. North Korea tested nuclear weapons and longer-range ballistic
missiles. [CNN Transcripts, 2/6/10]
REALITY: Bush, Clinton also wrote personal appeals to North Korean leader. A December 6, 2007, Associated Press article reported, "President Bush's personal letter to North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, raising the possibility of normalized relations if he fully discloses his nuclear programs by year's end, is a turnabout for a president who has labeled the communist regime part of an 'axis of evil.' " AP further reported that the letter "reflected how U.S. policy toward the nation has shifted from the days when Bush shunned the dictator." Also, a May 27, 1999, Associated Press article reported, "North Korea's leader, Kim Jong Il, received a letter on Wednesday from President Clinton brought by a special envoy to the isolated Communist country, the official North Korean news agency reported. The envoy, William Perry, delivered the letter through Kim Yong Nam, head of North Korea's legislative Supreme People's Assembly, according to the Korean Central News Agency, which was monitored in Seoul."
You can find the original here.
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