Thursday, April 30, 2009

Bush Appointee Escapes Justice

Just great. Another former Bush official breaks the rules and gets off scot free.
A former Justice Department grant-making administrator violated federal ethics and procurement rules in awarding hundreds of thousands of dollars in sole source contracts to ideologically favored companies and individuals, the department's inspector general concluded today.

The administrator, J. Robert Flores, was a political appointee during former president George Bush's administration who left his post after the inauguration in January. The department's public integrity section declined to pursue civil or criminal charges against Flores after ethics watchdogs forwarded their findings, investigators said.
A two year investigation and the department says it doesn't have enough documentation to prove intent in the awarding of sole source contracts like this:
Among the organizations that received awards from OJJDP that year were the World Golf Foundation's First Tee Initiative, whose honorary chair is former president George H.W. Bush; the Best Friends Foundation led by Elayne Bennett, the wife of conservative commentator William Bennett; and Victory Outreach, which had hired a former Bush White House official.
Just sick. You have to ask why they bother to have rules and investigations if nobody is ever held accountable?

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The revolving door to K Street

The Senate shot down the bankruptcy reform bill today. Not surprising. In a recent interviewDick Durbin pointed out, "And the banks -- hard to believe in a time when we're facing a banking crisis that many of the banks created -- are still the most powerful lobby on Capitol Hill. And they frankly own the place." The banksters didn't want to provide any relief for homeowners so the Senate is not going to give them any.

Read Glenzilla's whole post at the link that traces the revolving door between the banksters and the Hill. That door spins so fast you can get whiplash just from watching it. Also, as Glen points out, this sort of admission by Durbin should be a big story but it won't be. The privileged media are on the banksters side. They'll just be obsessing about some stray remark that Obama made somewhere. Or about one of the 200 daily polls. Or maybe the dog. Haven't done an in depth piece on Bo in a couple of weeks. Damn depressing.

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Quote of the Day

My friend's last Facebook update:

F. Alex Johnson can't help wondering if swine flu is the past tense of what happens when pigs fly.

Wish I had said that first.


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A million little Madoffs

Okay, I exaggerated the title of this post. There's only one in this article, but for all we know there could be a million just like him.
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission secured an emergency court order on Monday freezing the assets of California financier Danny Pang and two of his firms, accusing the Newport Beach resident of defrauding Asia-based investors of hundreds of millions of dollars.
Small fraud compared to Madoff, but "U.S. securities regulators are now running about 150 active hedge fund investigations and another 50 probes involving credit default swaps and other derivatives." If they have 200 active investigations going, it's not unreasonable to imagine there are many more they just haven't discovered yet. [h/t mikevotes]

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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

100 day presser

I missed the first 20 minutes but the rest of President Obama's press conference tonight impressed me. I like having a wonk instead of a frat boy for president. I like a leader that talks up to me. Even when I don't like the answers, I like the obvious competency. I love being able to listen to a whole presser without wanting to throw a brick through the teevee screen. I find it inexplicably reassuring.

Obama is growing into this job. He's clearly paying attention. And maybe it's just me, but I detected a new note of respect among most of the privileged media. Zeleny and Weisman being notable exceptions and he dispatched them really well. In many ways, it's a whole new world.


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New head shot

Too funny. They're apparently working on the website at DetNews and somehow all our headshots and bylines have been replaced with a different blog, but our posts are still there. I have to say, my headshot has never looked better. I want to keep it.


(Click to embiggen.) What do you think? Maybe I can trade with this guy.

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Not far right enough

Comment from my regular critic, Constitutionally Speaking in response to my post on Specter.
Extreme right is nonsense

The Republican Party today is left of where John Kennedy was when he was President.

The Republican party of recent years - ever since Bush has drifted LEFTWARD.

That is why it has lost it's base.
Not clear what they have to do get him back into the tent. GOP - you have a problem...

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Cock-eyed poppy policy

Sigh. Yet another 'new strategy' to fight poppies in Afghanistan. Looks pretty much like the old plan to me. They're going to send in a bunch of troops to the poppy growing provinces to "provide security" to the locals against the Taliban. What this means in practical terms is our soldiers will be tramping through the fields exchanging gunfire and dropping bombs to attempt to dislodge the Taliban from the region. It's not going to work.

They seem to think the locals are living in terror of the Taliban. I've been following the situation there for years and that's just not the way it plays out. The locals grow poppies for one reason. Money. It's the only cash crop that provides enough income to barely feed their families. It's my understanding the Taliban provide the seeds and upfront money for cultivation. The Taliban already provide security to protect their investment in the crops. If we march in there and destroy the fields with military missions, the farmers have no way to pay back the loans and end up selling their daughters to the Taliban to settle the debts. Not going to win them over that way.

To be fair, there is a component to this plan to foster alternate agriculture but they have a long way to go before growing wheat is going to offer a comparable income. As I've said too many times to count, the simplest solution would be to buy the poppy crops outright and either use them for supplying the legitimate market for morphine or just destroy them. Either way, the farmer could pay back the loan and the Taliban wouldn't get the product which provides their big funding. Then, until they can develop this imagined alternative economy, it would be cheaper to just pay the locals not to grow poppies, just as we subsidize our own farmers, instead of spending billions on trying to destroy their livelihood.

I read an article in 2003 and this quote stuck with me. "You can't buy an Afghani, but you can rent one." The locals will give their allegiance to whoever can provide enough income to keep them from starving. Bread is a lot cheaper than bullets and bombs. And if we are building something instead of destroying it, I suspect the locals would be willing to sign up for a long term lease on their loyalty.

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Swine Flu Pan(ic)demonium

The first US death has been confirmed from the swine flu. Sadly, it's a young tot but this is still not a cause for panic over the pandemic. CNN tones down the media hype for a moment to remind us that the regular flu has killed more than 13,000 here since January at an average of 800 deaths a week. In fact on any given year, about 36,000 Americans die of flu related causes. We've got a way to go before this is any more serious a threat than usual.

In the meantime, see my last post for tips on how to prevent the swine flu and what to do if you think you've come down with it.

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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

State secrets shot down

The Obama administration's DOJ has been a bitter disappointment so far. I did a post earlier today at DetNews on their amicus brief seeking to overturn the Sixth Amendment protections established in Michigan v Jackson. That case established the rule that police may not question suspects who have requested an attorney, or already have counsel.

Now Glenzilla tells us that the 9th Circuit didn't buy their wholesale embrace of the state's secret defense in the case brought by five victims of the CIA's rendition and torture program. That's good news.

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Shrunken Republicans

As I said below, I don't think Specter's shift is going to make any appreciable difference in the power structure of the Senate, but Steve Benen makes a good point on the larger message it conveys about the GOP generally. Their power base is now limited to the far right extremists who call for blood at the slightest hint of nuance. A point also underscored by Olympia Snowe.
“On the national level of the Republican Party, we haven’t certainly heard warm, encouraging words about how they view moderates, either you are with us or against us,” Ms. Snowe said. She said national Republican leaders were not grasping that “political diversity makes a party stronger and ultimately we are heading to having the smallest political tent in history for any political party the way things are unfolding.”
Really. At this rate, they won't need anything larger than a pup tent to hold the faithful. Much, much, much more at Memeorandum.

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Say hello

It's been a while since I've added to the blogroll, so here's three more additions. New to the Atriots is racymind who is always thinking. Not sure how I missed her for so long.

Also new on the Center blogger list are the Musings of James and Open Minded Republican, both of whom are thoughtful bloggers who comment here regularly. We don't agree on everything but they always have something worthwhile to contribute to the conversation. Check them all out.

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Specter switches party

So Arlen Specter just announced he's going to join the Democratic party. Pardon my cynicism but -- so what. It's not going to change a thing. He'll probably join Bayh's gang of 'centrists' immediately on arrival. It's clear the only reason he did this was because Pat Toomey is kicking his butt in the polling in PA on the GOP side. He doesn't stand a chance on keeping his cozy spot in the club unless he gets the Dems to back his candidacy.

No doubt Harry Reid will welcome his good old boy into the fold and use him to keep out any more progressive challengers. Specter after all, already knows and follows the "club rules" of Senate back room deal making. Personally I'd like to get rid of both of them.

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Who's to blame for torture

Mark Danner had a weighty piece on torture this week that leaves me reassessing my position. I don't really believe that the last time the Bush administration used torture techniques was in 2003, but that aside, it's a good point that the blame for allowing this to happen doesn't rest solely on the Bush White House.

He makes a strong argument for an investigation but against immediate prosecution.
Like most mystiques built on secrecy, the mystique of torture will only disappear once a cold hard light has been shone on it by trustworthy people who can examine all the evidence and speak to the country with authority. We need an investigation that will ruthlessly analyze the controversial and persistent assertions that torture averted attacks and will place alongside them the evidence that it has done great harm to the United States, not only to the country's reputation for following and upholding the law but also to its ability to render justice. In torturing Khalid Sheik Mohammed and his fellows we have created a class of permanent martyrs, unjustly imprisoned in the eyes of the world because they cannot be legitimately tried and punished. We have let torture destroy justice.

Those who break the law should be punished. This includes those who torture no less than those who kill. But prosecutions of those who tortured, if they come before a public investigation, will not end the argument. On the contrary, they will appear to much of the country as yet another partisan turn in the bitter politics of national security, launched to persecute those who only did what was necessary to protect the country. They will encourage those who defend torture to espouse even more bitterly a corrosive counter-narrative according to which only those who torture can be trusted to protect Americans.
I've been thinking the opposite until now. By that I mean, I don't have much faith in government investigations and thought taking it straight to court would be more efficient. But I think he's right that going that route would only solidify the opposition. How to assemble a respected group of investigators however, is another question. I wonder if anyone would be credible to those who believe the only way to keep us safe is to take on the tactics of those we fight against.

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Monday, April 27, 2009

How to protect yourself against the swine flu - Updated

So far there's more media hype than real information so first of all don't panic. Stay calm until the health agencies sort this out. That being said, of course it's wise to take the usual sensible precautions because getting the flu is not fun no matter what strain it is. For instance, try to avoid crowds and wash your hands often. And whatever you do, don't do this:


[Via 1Watt Hermit]

Update: For those of you arriving by search engines looking for real advice, The Center for Disease Control has the best info. Adding to the advice above, I'm told you should avoid touching your face and picking your nose. Obviously, kissing people, even on the cheek isn't advised and you want to avoid physical contact generally.

Also, Rocky checks into comments with good suggestions if you think you're getting the flu. Call your doctor if you have symptoms. If you do get the flu, stay home. Get plenty of rest, drink lots of fluids. It's also useful to remember that medicine has advanced greatly since the great pandemic of 1918 and the containment measures being taken by health authorities are likely to help.

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Media malfeasance: missing context edition

In reading this WSJ piece on BOA being forced into the Merrill Lynch merger, you'll notice the glaring omission of two very important words. Those being, "Bush administration." The article is careful to make the villian here "the government" and fails to add the significant context that this occurred under the 'leadership' of George W. Bush.

Interestingly, I just posted on this very subject yesterday at DetNews and the NYT article I linked to also failed to mention the Paulson was Bush's man. How subtly their framing designed to undermine Obama's agenda does manifest.

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GOP killed pandemic preparedness

It looks like the GOP's obstructionism is going to come back to bite them in the butt. They thought they were being so clever when they forced all the concessions on the stimulus bill and then voted it against it anyway. But John Nichols points out they quashed David Obey's $900 million request for pandemic preparedness as part of those 'negotiations.' That won't sit well with the public if this turns out to be a serious pandemic.

And it would be good to remind Americans that the GOP wasn't always so complacent about emergency flu funding. When they were in control in 2005, they pulled out all the stops to 'combat' avian flu. That July, "the Pentagon ordered $58 million worth of the treatment for U.S. troops around the world, and Congress is considering a multi-billion dollar purchase. Roche expects 2005 sales for Tamiflu to be about $1 billion, compared with $258 million in 2004."

You may also recall that Rumsfeld, George Shultz and former CA governor Pete Wilson all had holdings in that corporation and made some significant money on that scheme to combat a flu that didn't pan out as a pandemic.

And on a related note, in an eerily prescient move in March, a Texas county scheduled a pandemic simulation for May 2. [via][graphic]

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Corporate welfare

Krugman points out banksters are the new welfare queens.

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Sunday, April 26, 2009

Poetic justice

Goddess forgive me for taking pleasure in other's misfortune, but I find it more than a little amusing that former US Ku Klux Klan chief David Duke was arrested in Prague. He was there to speak before a far right Czech group but apparently never made it to the gig.
He was arrested Friday afternoon in the Black Eagle restaurant in Prague's old town and questioned for several hours on suspicion of promoting movements seeking the suppression of human rights, police said.

His book contains passages denying the Holocaust, a crime punishable by up to three years in prison in the Czech republic, police spokesman Jan Mikulovsky said.
I have a feeling all the neo-cons and and other assorted wingnuts are going to be finding it's not as easy to travel out of the US as it used to be. Fortunately for Duke, they let him leave the country instead of throwing him in prison. He of course intends to sue.

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Smart on drugs

While the Obama administration appears to be content with continuing the same failed drug policies of the past, the public discourse is shifting all around them. This week Time magazine looks at Glenn Greenwald's recent study about the results of a new policy in Portugal and notes their success with decriminalization. It explodes the biggest myth that has upheld the prohibition approach for all these decades. That being that decrim or legalization would lead to an explosion of new drug use.
The paper, published by Cato in April, found that in the five years after personal possession was decriminalized, illegal drug use among teens in Portugal declined and rates of new HIV infections caused by sharing of dirty needles dropped, while the number of people seeking treatment for drug addiction more than doubled.
This echoes the results in Switzerland where heroin was legalized and doesn't even address the decrease in property crime that was seen there once they got addicts off the streets and into clinical settings.

Meanwhile, Sen. Jim Webb, as part of an effort to reform prison policy, seeks to form a blue ribbon commission to explore decrim or even complete legalization here. "Nothing should be off the table," he said. As Webb notes when we represent 5% of the world population but house 25% of the world's prisoners, a large percentage of which are non-violent, small time drug offenders, it should be a signal that something is wrong with the current approach. Particularly since we still have some of the highest instances of drug abuse in the world. [graphic]

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The future of Twitter

I still can't quite wrap my head around the Twitter thing. I can see why it might be fun, but for someone like me it's clearly a time suck to be avoided. However, NTodd discovered an application for it that could be a great public service. "Adam Wilson, a doctoral student in biomedical engineering, has developed a way to post messages on Twitter using electrical impulses generated by thought."

As the article points out, "The development could be a lifeline for people with 'locked-in syndrome' -- whose brains function normally but who cannot speak or move because of injury or disease." Incredible really. As NTodd said to us skeptics, "you don't know exactly what you can do with new technologies until you start frittering around with them. The phone wasn't obvious; the radio was scoffed at. And now look..."

I stand corrected.

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Stealing hope in Afghanistan

Phila's Friday Hope Blogging is like a sunny day after weeks of rain. This might possibily be the greatest public service on the internets and this week's post is especially good. Read it all if only to remind yourself that there are still good things that happen even with all the insanity around us lately.

I'm stealing this segment outright on the creation of Afghanistan’s first national park. Band-e-Amir is an undeveloped area "encompassing six sky-blue lakes separated by natural dams." And in a sign of the kind of foreign policy I'm looking for from my government, "key funding for the park was provided by The United States Agency for International Development (USAID)." I have to believe we'll win a whole lot more hearts and minds with this sort of outreach than we ever will with bombs.

[Graphic from here where there are a lot more shots of these beautiful lakes.]

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Saturday, April 25, 2009

Standing on principle

The wingers are using this to flog their hobbyhorse about media bias, but I'm glad to see Founding Bloggers take a stand for different reasons.
Founding Bloggers, the conservative web site that had its video critical of CNN's reporting on a Chicago "tea party" removed by YouTube after the cable network sent a DMCA takedown notice, is not backing down. On Thursday, Founding Bloggers submitted a DMCA counternotice to YouTube, starting the clock ticking toward a possible re-posting by YouTube -- or a lawsuit that could establish important legal precedent regarding the contours of copyright law's fair use doctrine, especially as it applies to use of news video by political bloggers. "We're not going to let this just go away," Andrew Marcus of Founding Bloggers told C&C in an interview earlier today.
I didn't see the original YouTube that was taken down so I don't have an opinion on whether it violated fair use, but the later version at the link doesn't as far as I can see. It's good for everyone that they have the means and the willingness to test this case. I hope they take it to court and win.

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Random right wing idiocy

David Broder is an idiot and I would love to know when the WaPo is going to stop posting his specious arguments and inane projections about "what people think." The guy takes a cab ride and thinks talking to the driver makes him the new Margaret Mead.

I've been posting on torture like a madwoman at DetNews for the last couple of days and hear the same sorry excuses for avoiding investigations in the comment section. What is it about judicial investigations that they don't get? The whole point is to establish whether or not there was wrongdoing. And as these excusers were so fond of saying all the years Bush was trampling our civil rights with things like illegal domestic surveillance, if the authorizers of torture did nothing wrong, then they have nothing to worry about. Let them be either convicted or exonerated as established by the rule of law. Isn't that what we were supposed to be protecting when they "went to war" in the first place?

On a different note, a chart is worth 1000 words. These people could be taking boats to the top of the Empire State Building and still be denying there's a problem.

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Reseeding Holyoke

More Happy Valley doings in the news today. The Atlantic has a charming article on community farming in Holyoke. I love this image:
“During the summer you’ll find a dozen guys sitting on tables and benches,” Ross said, “shelling beans and telling lies about the size of their tomatoes.”
The once thriving city that is just a few miles south of my former home in lovely downtown Northampton is a study in contrasts. On the outer fringes, the mansions of its glory days still exist and wealthy enclaves thrive. On one end, there's malls and mostly white, working class neighborhoods, with well preserved beautiful old Victorian houses now divided into apartments. But the center, where the mill workers once lived, was a very scary place.

Broken down tenements housed the Puerto Rican population where broken glass and drug dealers littered the streets. I used to venture down there sometimes in the afternoon to shop at the big bodega where they had the best selection of seven-day religious candles I've ever seen but I wouldn't dare go there after dark. I'm glad to see the urban farmers reclaiming their ground. I always thought that city had great potential.

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Bode!

I just found out my friend, Mark Bode, son of the legendary 60s comic artist Vaughn Bode and a brilliant artist in his own right, has a licensing contract with Puma sneakers. They just came out with a new line of Bode sneakers featuring Da Lizard to be launched in Boston on May 16 at a store called Bodega that is apparently so underground and exclusive it's hard to get an address.

I also see Mark just signed a deal for a movie with Universal, based on his Cobalt 60 graphic novel. I used to hang out with Mark and his gorgeous wife Molly a lot when we all lived in and around lovely downtown Northampton. I miss those days and I really miss them.

Meanwhile, their daughter Zara is all grown up now and carries on the family's artistic tradition through various music projects, including her band The Sweetback Sisters. If you get a chance to meet any of them, I recommend you take it. They're really cool peeps.

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Friday, April 24, 2009

Single payer health care - Updated

With the amount of lobbying going on by the health insurance industry and Obama's apparent willingness to accommodate them, I don't have a whole lot of hope that Congress is going to deliver a particularly useful health insurance reform package. As far as I'm concerned, the only real solution is to get the insurance companies pretty much out of health care altogether. Single payer would be the most efficient and cost effective.

The good news is, the fight really hasn't even started yet so we still have time to lobby Congress ourselves. Towards that end, taking this one minute video viral would be a big help. It's a good message. A uniquely American solution. Medicare for all - everybody in, nobody out.

I haven't looked at them all yet, but they have a whole series of them that would be worth passing on to spread the word. [via]

Update: Thanks to commenter Time for passing on a link to this series on single payer by Dr. Behzad Mohit at HuffPo. So far he's posted part one and part two. Check for updates here.

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GOP Goes Goofy

It's become almost impossible to tell if you're reading the news or an Onion parody these days, but this is apparently real. The RNC wants to rename the Democratic Party
A conservative faction of the Republican National Committee is urging the GOP to take a harder line against both Democrats and wayward Republicans, drafting a resolution to rename the opposition the “Democrat Socialist Party” and moving to rebuke the three Republican senators who supported the stimulus package.
It seems to me they've already done that unofficially and it's unclear how they intend to force the Democrats to adopt it. As the Kool Tweeps say these days -- laughing and pointing. Meanwhile, on a related note, the GOPers are threatening to go all obstructionist if the Democrats use reconciliation to pass health care reform. Among their threatened tactics:
The GOP might first go after White House nominations. Republicans could require each appointee to get a separate hearing and a separate roll call vote. They could stop attending committee hearings, and decline to provide "unanimous consent" to move forward on even the most benign issues or routine Senate business. Republicans could also demand that the text of bills, which are often hundreds of pages long, be read aloud.
Not sure anyone would notice the difference from what they're doing already and I actually love that last bit. I've been thinking for a long time reading the bills into the record should be required. I hope the Democrats are smart enough to call their bluff and let them go through with it. Guaranteed self-destruction.

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Reclaiming our soul

It's obvious to me that the Villagers' insistence on avoiding any investigation of the torture policy is rooted in a desire to cover up their own complicity in allowing to happen. Krugman nails it in a column today.

For the fact is that officials in the Bush administration instituted torture as a policy, misled the nation into a war they wanted to fight and, probably, tortured people in the attempt to extract “confessions” that would justify that war. And during the march to war, most of the political and media establishment looked the other way. [...]

Sorry, but what we really should do for the sake of the country is have investigations both of torture and of the march to war. These investigations should, where appropriate, be followed by prosecutions — not out of vindictiveness, but because this is a nation of laws.

We need to do this for the sake of our future. For this isn’t about looking backward, it’s about looking forward — because it’s about reclaiming America’s soul.
That's exactly it. As I said at the Detroit News, where I'm doing the bulk of my posts on this, either we stand for the rule of law for everyone, or we stand for nothing.

Update: Krugman posts an addendum to this column. The defining moment.

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Bush on torture

I'm getting a late start today because I've decided to move out of town and am starting the house search. I consider moves like this my own private torture. But Mikevotes has the quote of the day on the subject.
"Torture anywhere is an affront to human dignity everywhere... I call on all governments to join with the United States and the community of law-abiding nations in prohibiting, investigating, and prosecuting all acts of torture."

~George W. Bush, June 2003
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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Obama's first 100 days

This really could use an "all of the above" option but vote here for the worst media moment so far. Tough to choose.

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Craig's List killer College Republican

I haven't really followed this story much, but this is the first time I've seen anything other than the usual, "gee, he didn't seem like a killer" comments from acquaintances. Some saw a dark side.

At college, he was a member of the College Republicans and was fairly unremarkable except for the occasional offensive comment, said ex-classmate Joe Coe. "He was someone that had issues with people of color, had issues with women," Coe told CBS.

"He gave off a creepy vibe," said another SUNY classmate.
Make of that what you will. [h/t Jules Siegel]

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Fourth Amendment protections

Scott Morgan notes a recent SCOTUS decision that didn't get much attention relative to car searches. The police routinely search a car "incident to an arrest" under the premise that the officer's safety might be jeopardized by a suspect being in possession of a weapon. In reality, they pretty much search every car when the person is in custody, regardless of any safety concerns.
Well, that's finally going to change. The Supreme Court ruled today in Arizona v. Gant that vehicle searches following an arrest are legal only if the suspect has access to the vehicle or if officers reasonably believe the vehicle contains evidence related to that arrest. In other words, police are now required to have an actual reason to justify the vehicle search, instead of being allowed to do it automatically. This decision restores some much needed logic and common sense to the way many warrantless vehicle searches are analyzed under the 4th Amendment.
I'm not as optimistic as Scott is that this will lead to any significant change in the way police handle traffic arrests but it will have an applicable effect on court challenges to evidence obtained under those searches, so it's still a tiny step forward to restoring our Fourth Amendment rights. And if the challenges succeed to any great degree in suppressing evidence, it may well create a disincentive for LEOs to make fishing expedition arrests in the long run. So there's that.


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Castles made of sand

Song in my head and a bunch of interesting links piling up that don't need much commentary. This first one is fresh from today. On of all places, Fox News, Shepard Smith comes out against torture in no uncertain terms. I didn't think he was allowed to drop the "F" bomb on teevee.

Everybody was loving Hillary yesterday when she dissed Cheney during a Congressional hearing.

Avedon flags a couple of great posts. Digby catches JPMorgan Chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon, in a dirty effin hippie moment, wherein he sends a letter to his shareholders blaming the Bush spending spree on "wars" of choice for our economic problems now and he even admits that Wall Street greed was partly responsible.

Speaking of Wall St greed, this is good news. Pelosi wants to start a congressional investigation into what caused the financial crash of 2008.

Molly passes on a link to a children's book last printed in 1970 about girls and boys. File this one under: My, how times have changed.

Lots of eye candy today. Watertiger loves New York.

And Phila's Friday hope blogs are always a treasure trove of visual pleasures and good news. Like this discovery of a huge bed of rare black coral.

Also, a gallery of matchbox labels. I've always loved the matchboxes you can buy outside of the US. I have a little collection of empty ones myself that I just can't bear to throw away.

And finally a really remarkable set of close-up photos of grains of sand.

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Wednesday night catblogging

My Dad and Mom have been rescuing stray cats for years. Usually they find homes for them, but sometimes they keep one. Here's two out of the three they have now. Phoebe:


And Jack:


More photos at the link.

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Socialists more popular than Republicans

You know how much I hate polls, but this is funny. Of all people, Marc Ambinder sends me to Chris Bowers who finds, "A new CNN poll has found that Venezuela -- an anti-American, socialist-block forming, oil-cartel -- is now more popular than the Republican Party." France, China and legalizing pot, among others, also beat out the GOP in the popularity ratings.

Meanwhile, Ambinder tells us he'll take the GOP seriously again when they're a serious party with serious ideas again. I hope he's not holding his breath while he's waiting.

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The TARP wife's lament

Today's whining one percenter is a bankster's wife. Not sure who it is since it was an anonymous post, but people are taking an educated guess. She lists the top ten reasons it so hard to be "poor" now that her fortunes have tanked along with the rest of us schlubs. Here's 2 of my favorites.
5. "We've picked up new habits, like making donations anonymously and sneaking in late to black-tie galas after society photographer Patrick McMullan has packed up his camera and gone home."

9. "Using the company plane is now out of bounds; we've heard there are reporters staking out the private airports."
Breaking my heart, it is. Complete list at the link.

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Sign against torturers

Today's point and click activism: Petition AG Holder to appoint an special prosecutor to investigate torture. I'm sure you need no further instructions.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Me and my Dad

My Dad and I don't agree on politics. He's very conservative and tends to believe way too many GOP talking points and of course, I'm who I am, a raging bleeding heart liberal who at this point believes just about nothing I hear from any politician. We didn't talk politics much this weekend after he told me he thought Newt Gingrich was making sense and I told him not to believe a word that evil thug spews.

But we totally agreed on one thing. The elite media sucks and you don't get news from them anymore. As he put it, it's all scandal -- all of the time. Our shared disgust was the best bonding moment of the visit.

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Free prescription drugs and other assistance

I had to drop my self-paid health insurance last year when I lost my job and they raised the rates to the point where it was eating up my savings so fast that I wouldn't be able to pay the rent and utilities. Fortunately, my couple of prescriptions are inexpensive, but the cost of seeing the doctor to get them renewed is still prohibitive since I'm still unemployed after all these months. So I was happy to find this information on prescription and health care assistance. I expect even if you still have a job, you probably know someone who has lost theirs, so I hope this list of organizations will be of value to others as well.

Needy Meds, www.needymeds.org has help for getting more than 4,100 medicines. They also have links to discount drug card and coupon programs and thousands of free or low-cost clinics around the country.

Partnership for Prescription Assistance, www.pparx.org, has links to about 475 programs sponsored by pharmaceutical companies, government programs, health plans and charities.

Patient Advocate Foundation, www.patientadvocate.org, has prescription assistance and also provides help paying for surgery or large copayments for medical care, help with child care and transportation for patients who need treatments. This organization features specialized case managers.

PatientAssistance.com, www.patientassistance.com has links to more than 1,000 prescription programs, and also to free clinics and programs that help cope with costs for treatment of cancer and rare diseases.

Rx Assist, www.rxassist.org, provides links to state-run assistance programs.

Rx Hope, www.rxhope.com had online assistance applications, links to medical group, patient advocate and drug company sites.

State assistance programs, www.ncsl.org/programs/ has information on drug discount cards.

Together Rx Access, www.togetherrxaccess.com offers free cards accepted at most pharmacies that can get you prescription discounts of 25-40 percent.

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Weekend at Dad's

I have a few photos from my visit with my Dad this past weekend. My half sister and her daughter live next door and Linda is a fabulous decorator and gardener. Unfortunately, the front porch which is just terrific, doesn't lend itself well to photos on my cheap camera, but I loved this planter in the front yard.


And at my Dad's house, his dogwood tree was in the absolute peak of bloom and the fragrance was just intoxicating.


A wider shot of the tree and a little childhood memory here.

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Monday, April 20, 2009

Cobra Costs

Via Atrios, if you know anyone who is struggling to cope with COBRA costs, there's a provision in the stimulus bill that offers significant help.
Short-term COBRA subsidy for involuntarily terminated workers. This provides a 65 percent subsidy for COBRA premiums for up to 9 months, which will put a dent in the considerable cost of COBRA health benefits for the unemployed.
There's many more non-health care related provisions at the link that you probably already know about, but this one was new to me.

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Whining One Percenters

NY magazine has a rather mundane piece on the Wall Street wizards who are just shocked and dismayed that anyone thinks they don't deserve their ill-gotten gains. But a couple of points interested me. First, a quibble about the long tribute to famous resignee Jake DeSantis. They fail to mention that Jake didn't actually quit after all. But this bit was striking.
It should come as no surprise that being a banker—indeed, simply being rich—is going to be a lot less fun under an Obama administration. In winter 2007, as the Democratic-primary contest got under way, Obama showed up at a Goldman Sachs client meeting to explain his economic agenda to a conference room full of potential campaign contributors. When he opened up the session to questions from the audience, one attendee lobbed the question that was surely on the mind of everyone in the room. “Are you going to raise my taxes?”

Obama looked out across the millionaires sitting around him. “Yes,” he answered, without a flicker of hesitation, according to a person familiar with the meeting.

During the campaign, Obama was never shy about his promise to undo the Bush tax policies. But it was easy to ignore his occasional lapses into populist rhetoric and focus on his intense intelligence and Ivy League education. Now, in the wake of the crisis, Wall Street’s politics are shifting rightward. “All the rich people I know took George Bush for granted,” says an analyst at a midtown hedge fund. “I’m a Democrat, but I agree with Rush Limbaugh on a lot of this stuff,” rails the wife of a former AIG executive.
I'd guess they figured Obama was one of them, meaning the Ivy League elite, and he would pull the usual bait and switch once he was elected. Obama's been doing a lot of things that I vehemently disagree with, but it strikes me as professional politicians go, he's the closest thing we've seen to an honest one in a very long time and no one really knows quite how to deal with him.

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Harmon wiretap: explosive story or clever distraction?

The big buzz of the day is this CQ story on Rep. Jane Harman and an unnamed AIPAC staffer caught allegedly making some kind of deal via a NSA wiretap. So far there's seems to be more speculation than facts. Glenzilla has the most measured analysis but if you want more, lots of people making guesses on the significance of the events.

My initial take is that the timing of the leak seems somewhat suspect. Since as Glen points out, this wiretap was authorized by the court, I'm thinking it's possibly a Trojan Horse meant to distract from earlier reports that a Congressperson was eavesdropped on under the NSA program. I'm wondering if there isn't another person who was surveilled without a warrant. As they say, this story is still developing.

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Gentleman's handshake

Catching up on the news after a glorious weekend off, I see the wingnut pearl clutcher of the day is over Obama's handshake with Hugo Chavez. Newt Gingrich is struck with horror at such a civilized exchange of social niceties between two world leaders. Zounds! Obama accepted a book from him too.

Newt is sure this is going to destroy our world standing as the powerhouse of the planet. I suppose he would have liked it better if Obama slapped Chavez in the face instead and threw the book on the floor and pissed on it. Then maybe Chavez would have called Obama the Great Devil and thus cemented our status as swaggering thugs which was established by our previous president.

Meanwhile, the AP has a handwringing piece on all the admissions that Obama has made to the world so far, taking some responsibility for how his precedessors screwed things up for everybody. Surely Armaggedon is nigh, because Obama admitted we're not infallible.

It seems to me that the media is so used to Orwellian doublespeak they just don't know how to handle a president who tells the unvarnished truth once in a while.

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Sunday, April 19, 2009

A much needed break

I'm having a wonderful visit with Dad. I don't think we've had this much quality time alone since I was a kid, so I'm not going to spend it on politics. Frankly, it's been nice to get away from the computer for a couple of days. I really needed a break.

Woke up to the riotous clamor of a multitude of birds this morning. The flowers and shrubs are peaking and they're about two weeks behind where I'm living so I get to enjoy the same flowers all over again. I'll take some photos today but won't be able to upload anything till I get home.

Back to regular posting tomorrow.

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Saturday, April 18, 2009

Road trip

Well I'm off for the weekend to see my Dad so it's not clear if I'll be able to post or not. A quick cruise through the news tells me that Obama is making friends with the Latin America leaders. The wingnuts are all ZOMG, he shook hands with Chavez. They just hate diplomacy, don't they?

People are still talking about the tea parties. Me, I'm done with them but I would note that I read somewhere last night that Fox aired a total of 107 promos for the events. Makes the turnout look even weaker.

Meanwhile, it seems that there's a growing trend in certain GOP circles to embrace teh gay. Today it's John McCain who is warning the party to distance itself from the religious base and be nicer to gay people. Not really sure there's anything they can do really to improve their fortunes as this point as long as the angry base continues to define the party and Obama is averaging a 63% approval rating.

Anyway, I have to get out of here, but if I don't get to a computer, Memorandum will have all the buzz while I'm gone.

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Friday, April 17, 2009

The New Gilded Age

According to the latest CBO report the gap in real income reached a record level in 2006, showing a concentration of wealth in the top 1 percent that hasn't been seen since 1929.



Surely there must be some way to blame this on President Obama.

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Saving Pvt. Beauchamp

Of all the stupid and destructive blogmob vendettas that the major wingnut bloggers perpetrated over the Bush years, the Scott Beauchamp imbroglio was always the one that pissed me off the most. The months long vicious attacks against him by those cowardly cretins made me want to vomit daily.

This morning Attaturk flagged a story noting that the Sgt. who was instrumental in taking Beauchamp down was just convicted of cold blooded murder in the execution of four bound prisoners. Naturally, I blogged it at DetNews for the benefit of the many commenters there that participated in the attacks. Excerpts of the response:
How about all of the UNJUSTIFIED hate Mr. Beauchamp helped to direct at our troops and our President because of HIS lies????

I dare say far more people were injured and indeed KILLED because of people like him and those who trumpeted his lies all over the globe.

He DESERVES what he got - too bad the people that spread his fabrications did not share in his punishment.

It is a known fact that many of these attempts at undermining our President were used to recruit more terrorists and those terrorists killed my friend.

Moreover, many of those groups that organized the protests and spread these lies actually gave money to support the terrorists.

That is treason and the likes of Medea Benjamin should see a noose.
As I pointed out in comments in reponse, the only ones trumpeting the story were the wingnut bloggers and I agree they should be held responsible. But this is why I so rarely engage these people. I'd like to believe that they could be reasoned with and shown the error of their thinking. But apparently they just aren't able to think in any coherent terms.

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Instant gratification

I didn't get around to posting this earlier but I found a transcript again of Obama's speech on the economy. It's a longish speech and not amenable to soundbytes so it didn't get much attention. Obama lays out what's he doing and why. I certainly don't agree with everything he says or does, but I love the way he speaks to us like adults.

Leaving the wonky stuff aside, this quote from the end speaks to something I've been thinking about lately.
For too long, too many in Washington put off hard decisions for some other time on some other day. There’s been a tendency to score political points instead of rolling up sleeves to solve real problems. There is also an impatience that characterizes this town – an attention span that has only grown shorter with the twenty-four hour news cycle, and insists on instant gratification in the form of immediate results or higher poll numbers. When a crisis hits, there’s all too often a lurch from shock to trance, with everyone responding to the tempest of the moment until the furor has died away and the media coverage has moved on, instead of confronting the major challenges that will shape our future in a sustained and focused way.
It's not just the Village. I think our whole society has drifted towards an expectation of instant gratification and it seems attention spans have shortened the more fixed that expectation becomes. I think these social media like Twitter reinforce that dynamic. I suppose it's an inevitable side effect of technological progress, but I sometimes wonder if it's unhealthy for a civil society.

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Sinfonian Blasts Off

Sinfonian's youtube hit the big time last night. Keith Olberman featured it on Countdown. The video is currently up to 56,000 views. Now Jeff has two things he's famous for, the other being his successful stint on Jeopardy.

Meanwhile, I posted the clip at DetNews and one of my regular far right critics had this to say about it: "That is a great clip you posted. It shows that Conservatives still respect free speech. Did you notice how they allowed him to finish and walk away? Try that at a liberal rally and you would have gotten the mike pulled from your hands while they beat you down. Liberals hate speech that doesn't agree with what they say."

This is why I don't have to watch wingnut pundits. I get all the talking points in my own comment section.

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

The great secession

Obama Derangement Syndrome at its most extreme. It's not just Rick Perry. When you elect a black man to be President, all the crazy crackers want to secede from the Union. Apparently, a lot of them are elected officials. Georgia, Oklahoma and South Dakota are also on board. Wonder if they would be willing to take South Carolina and Alabama with them?

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Random thought

The far right's paranoia is largely rooted in predictions that never come true. They need a much better crystal ball.

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Obama releases torture memos, won't prosecute CIA

After much internal wrangling, the Obama administration decided to release the Bush era legal memos that authorized torture of prisoners. Obama indicated he wasn't interested in prosecuting the CIA agents who conducted the torture during interrogations.

I'm okay with that. The agents were relying on legal opinions from the DOJ. Prosecuting them makes as little sense as having scapegoated the guards at Abu Ghraib for following orders from higher-ups. The people who authorized the torture are the ones that should be prosecuted, though I think it's unlikely they will be. Still, it at least exposes the Bush regime's criminality and explodes the myth that the memos could never be released on national security concerns. It's better than nothing.

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Britain's "American Idol"

If somehow you missed it, this YouTube of Susan Boyle is making the rounds everywhere, including the major media. I haven't really followed the story but I saw a headline somewhere that said she's 48 years old and never been kissed. She's far from beautiful by ordinary shallow metrics but she does have a wonderful voice and I loved her sassy repartee.

However, I didn't find it as astonishing as the buildup would have it. I have a vague recollection of some other guy on that program about a year or so ago that could barely speak in complete sentences and then gave such a virtuoso performance that I got all teary and goosebumpy. Still I like that this program gives ordinary looking people with extraordinary talent a venue. Far better than what little I've seen of the American Idol show here.

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Deep in the heart of Texas

Apparently Gov. Perry is so offended that the federal government wants to give Texas money to assist their unemployed, he's talking about seceding from the Union. Needless to say it was well received by the crowd at the anti-Obama tea party where he was speaking. Most of those folks still have gotten over losing the Civil War, much less the last election.

Of course, not so long ago, Perry was complaining that the feds weren't helping him enough. So I guess his offense level depends on who's getting the help. If the money can be steered to crony contractors instead of poor people, it appears he can't get enough of it.

In any event, I don't think it's such a bad idea. Considering the core cabal of destructive far right politicians and their lobbyist group funders come from there, an amicable divorce works for me, just as long as we still get visiting rights for Austin.

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Strong Tea

My new hero. Sinfonian went to a tea party today. Somehow they made the mistake of giving him the microphone and he KO'ed the crowd. He set them up so perfectly. Just awesome.



Meanwhile, there's a whole new set of links at Memorandum. Everybody's got something to say about teabagging. I wouldn't bother to read Ambinder. He's even more lame than usual. He gravely tells Congress that they must now pay attention to the Teabag Rebellion because they maybe managed to drum up 100,000 deluded wingnuts in total across the whole country. That's some weak tea. As somebody pointed out, more people than that started spontaneously dancing in the streets of Manhattan when Obama won the election.

Update: I did my last post on this at DetNews. Most generous estimate of attendance is 250,000 total. Still less than the NYC anti-war rally.

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Teabags Revolt

Tied up all day with taxes and phone calls so sadly I missed most of the live coverage of the great teabagging of America. Caught a few moments at the beginning of the Boston rally. The protesters were lined up with their signs, just sort of standing there. I heard a passerby ask what they were doing. Her friend said, "I don't know." Then the live feed went dead. From what I've seen since, I have a feeling that pretty sums up the day.

I caught a few minutes of a somewhat deflated Glen Beck in Texas a bit later but at least the crowd loved Ted Nugent's rendition of Star Spangled Banner. It was a pretty good turnout. I'd guess around 5,000 but judging from the overall gloominess in the Strategy room at Fox HQ, I'm thinking the nationwide numbers won't reach much over 100,000. But the funniest party was in New Hampshire. These people were really pissed.

I thought Dave and Aron had the best photos, but lots more at Memeorandum. I expect Malkin will have a lot but I couldn't bring myself to click in. Meanwhile it appears the death knell has sounded for the tea party movement. Jane catches Instapundit throwing down some bad voodoo.

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Tea, taxes and trivia

I don't know why I always wait until the last day to get the taxes done. Usually I get a little money back but somehow I just can't bring myself to get it done early. So posting will be light until this evening but here's a few links.

Of course everyone will be watching to see how the Fox/Freedom Watch tea parties go. As it turns out Freedomwatch organized these from the start and these will likely go down in history as the first "grassroots uprising" featuring robocalls and cash prizes for attending. Round of applause for Dick Armey's client base for figuring out to put the paid into protest.

Meanwhile, everybody linked to this yesterday but in case you missed it, Shuster's commentary on MSNBC was such brilliant snark that Keith O should be a little worried that his fill-in host will get his job.

And on a totally unrelated note, a gallery of Michael Jackson's estate art that is going up for auction. Get your bids in early to beat the rush.

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RSVP

Today's 10 second activism is to sign this petition at Media Matters.
Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace has repeatedly characterized his network as "fair and balanced," and as one that should be taken seriously. However, several recent actions on Fox News illustrate that the network is contributing to a culture of conservative paranoia and anti-Obama political activism.

Please ask Wallace to publicly denounce Fox News' recent actions. If 25,000 people sign our petition, we'll deliver it to Wallace and Fox News this week.
Fox really crossed a line on this tea party thing. It's an easy sign on, so send them your regrets.

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Reading the tea leaves

Rude Pundit sees the future.
This movement's gonna die a horribly gruesome death. It really is just the last hideous gasps of a kind of right wing populism that's got nothing to do with actual populism and everything to do with a desperate scrabbling to preserve the status quo for the wealthy. It's ideological endgame, motherfuckers, and the checkmate ain't gonna be pretty.
Really, read it all. It's one of his best rants.

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DHS warns of fringe right extremists

The other big story today is the DHS issued a 9 page report to law enforcement officials warning that fringe, far-right extremism could lead to violent confrontations or Oklahoma-bomber style domestic terrorism. This of course has the wingnuts bloggers clutching their pearls and moaning about the "war on conservatives." Funny they should identify with that warning, since they're so well-known for their civility and all.

Meanwhile, Bob Cesca posts a screen grab of a commenter at Glen Beck's website that illustrates exactly what this warning is all about.



As mikevotes sums it up, "The combination of the right wing "talking points" of "fascism," "tyranny," and "socialism," coupled with the overhype on guns, combined with the first black president and the whole "secret muslim"/"consorts with terrorists" thing has laid a very fertile groundwork for crazy." And they really do surround us -- and they own lots of guns. As you know, I've never been thrilled with DHS tactics, but if we're stuck with it, I'd rather have them watching those guys than wasting their time on Quakers.

Update: Glenzilla rounds up some of the better quotes from the leading lights of Wingnutia and reminds them that we did try to warn them when Bush built this domestic surveillance system and was rounding up the all dirty hippies in the name of "homeland security."

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Crazies

I haven't done a blogroll linkfest in a while and lots of good posting going on there so here's some reading while I struggle with my tax return.

I've already covered Glen Beck's craziness, but scroll down here. Cosa looks at the militias in Thailand and sees our future.

SoBeale writes a letter to the GOP and explains why the crazy is going to kill them.

Dan does his usual Week in Tyranny and uncovers all sorts of crazy that you might well have missed.

Watertiger is having way too much fun with anti-gay crazies.

People are still crazed about piracy. Hart has a bit of history about Caesar and the Pirates that's really interesting.

And for a bit of sanity, Mike's pictures of the day are especially good.

E has some nice shots in a sad tribute to Sam.

And JP has a blogful of feline goodness. Just keep scrolling.

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Tea parties and trolls

I'm doing my tea party posts at Detroit News today and the comment section is rocking with mad protests about my evil liberal self. So I'm going to outsource my tea blogging here today to Fogg, who puts the irony so poetically:
Of course the destruction of tea in Boston harbor wasn't about giving the very, very rich a couple of percent more of the burden of fixing the mess the Bush gravy train left on the carpet, it was about being ruled subject to a king by divine right, amongst which was the ability to tax us, control who we could buy from and sell to and make us subject to the domination of a private corporation without having to grant us any representation. It seems that it's impossible for Republicans to understand that "taxation without representation is tyranny" does not in any way mean that taxation is tyranny. We have representation, but the people did not choose the Republican way and so the simpletons seethe and festoon themselves with tea bags from China in defiance of representative democracy while the Republican Fox smiles and licks its lips.
Read it all at the link and then click over and read his ultimate take on the world of internet trolls.

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Monday, April 13, 2009

Brand New Day

It was quite a week. My brother is back to work already after his operation and my mom is out of ICU and looking much better. The news is as irritating as ever but I can't get my outrage on tonight so here's a song I like from a guy I just discovered.



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Tea and Mad-foolery

With Tea-Day at minus two days and counting, the organizers are busily trying to establish their grass-roots creds today. They're trying to draw an analogy between Move-On's support for the anti-war protests and FreedomWatch's exploitation of the gullible GOP base to create a new wedge issue for purely partisan reasons. The obvious difference is that anti-war demonstrators were rallying around a clear cause and the tea parties have no defined purpose other than establishing a false narrative and harassing a Democratic President.

The anti-war movement didn't have a major television station and all its star anchors promoting the rallies for weeks on end, much less guest hosting them. Hell, the media wouldn't even cover them and to the extent they were forced to mention them, repeatedly minimized the number of attendees. Keith Olbermann didn't headline $500 a plate fundraisers for anti-war marches. Glen Beck is doing that and how many *regular folks* can afford to attend that kind of event?

These tea parties look to me like little more than a GOP fundraiser. Even FreedomWatch is cashing in on the tshirt concession. Always a sure-fire moneymaker. The base does love their tshirts. But beyond that, what's the end goal? The anti-war movement wanted to end a war. So what do the teabaggers want? Do they think they will scare the politicians into abolishing taxes altogether? Do they believe they going to destroy socialism, or Marxism, or whatever imaginary demon they're battling?

With all the hyping done by Fox, I expect attendance will be pretty good, so they won't feel so alone but when the party is over, these people will still be in the minority. A majority of Americans trust Obama to deal with the economy. It may make the discontents feel good to wear their snarky t-shirts and wave tea bags around to show that they're mad as hell, about something. But to most of the world, they're going to look -- just mad.

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Tea parties rooted in astroturf

Krugman's column today reminds us that the Republicans have always been this crazy and all that has changed are the memes. For instance, socialist is the new liberal now that the majority of Americans decided last November that liberals weren't so bad after all. But we're talking tea parties here and Krugman also notices the so called spontaneous 'grass roots' uprising is not really organic, but rather decidedly synthetic.

He notes that Freedom Works, funded by the usual right-wing billionaires, has a big hand in promoting the events and of course Fox *News* has become the official sponsor. In fact, Fox is listed as a sponsor on the tea party websites and Glen Beck is headlining a $500 a plate dinner to help fund the events.

Meanwhile, Insty pops up on the NYPost this morning, (sorry I'm not going to link to it), to assure the rubes it is too a grass roots effort, unlike the "astroturf of anti-war protests." Oh, and by the way, his very own PJTV will be covering the events they've been relentessly promoting in an effort to try to build some relevancy with the base before they run of VC money to keep their operation going.

Maybe PJMedia should be cashing in the tshirt concession instead of trying to sell subscriptions to their videos. That's where the big money is, with reported sales of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Most of the organizers/vendors are claiming to be putting the profits back into organizing the events, paying for venues and covering transportation costs. Eagerly awaiting for them to produce their balance sheets to prove it. I'm betting Eric Odom's expense report will be riveting reading.

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Sunday, April 12, 2009

Bo news is good news

So sue me. I am interested in the new pup at the White House. I think he's a real cutie. The official intro was moved to today because the photos leaked to TMZ. Meanwhile, WaPo has a 3 page spread on how they chose the name Bo. [h/t BHFilly]

If somehow you missed the news that the sea captain was rescued from the pirates today, take your pick of links. There's lots of conflicting reports. I imagine we'll get the facts in a day or two. Glad he's safe.

Atrios explains to the NYT that this is not a brain drain on Wall St., it's rats deserting a sinking ship.

Cernig looks at Easter bloggers and has a pretty good idea why fundies lost the culture war.

Steve Benen walks through the tea parties and notices the right wing *grassroots revolution* feels a whole lot like astroturf. I agree and I'd add that the only movement they seem to be building is a giant tshirt concession.

And idiot wingrage of the day is about Obama ordering a pizza. Really. [h/t Atanarjuat]

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Happy Easter Peeps

For those who celebrate, have a wonderful holiday. I found so many good graphics, I had to share them all.



[More cards here], [credits: Jerub Baal, Cavalier]

Update: Almost forgot WaPo's annual peeps diorama contest. [h/t mikevotes]
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Saturday, April 11, 2009

Waiting on an angel

My friend and former housemate Shawn Hartman was Ben's soundman for a couple of years. He traveled all over the world with him.



We lost track of each other once he went on the road. Wonder what he's doing these days.

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Space station Colbert?

You may recall a couple of weeks ago, I posted about Colbert's viewers flooding NASA's voting for a new name for a room in the space station. "The Colbert Room" won it fair and square, so it's hard to see how NASA could refuse to do so although they hedged a bit when the voting ended.

Looks like it may happen. They're scheduled to announce the winner on Colbert's show. I can't imagine they would do that, unless they intended to name it after him. Should be fun to watch.

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Banksters cry about contracts

NYT finally publishes a well sourced article about the Obama administration's next moves on bailing out the banksters. Judging from the whining coming from the bankster's side, it appears I was probably right last week in thinking the White House wasn't so stupid as to set up obvious third party entities to allow the industry to dodge executive pay limits.

This article, that quotes Obama, suggests it won't quite that easy for the banksters to get around the rules. Not they won't try. It appears those that can, want to pay the TARP funds back early to avoid the pay limit. But of course they don't want to pay the penalities as prescribed by the contract and are whining about usury.
Douglas Leech, the founder and chief executive of Centra Bank, a small West Virginia bank that participated in the capital assistance program but returned the money after the government imposed new conditions, said he complained strongly about the Treasury Department’s decision to demand repayment of the warrants. That effectively raised the interest rate he paid on a $15 million loan to an annual rate of about 60 percent, he said.
Funny, that doesn't sound so different from what my bank did to me when I was one hour late, one time, in paying my credit card bill. Of course, no one knows how this will shake out in the end, but it's gratifying to see the banksters held to some measure of the same contractual standards as us "small enough to fail" folks, even if only temporarily.

[More posts daily at The Detroit News]

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Prosecutorial misconduct reprimanded in drug case

I'm assuming that the US Attorneys that are the subject of the judge's wrath here are holdovers from the Bush administration since I haven't heard of any appointments made by Obama but either way, this is a welcome development that I wouldn't have expected to see under the last administration.
Accusing federal prosecutors of knowingly and repeatedly violating ethical guidelines in a high-profile narcotics trial, a Miami federal judge Thursday reprimanded multiple assistant U.S. attorneys who took part in the case -- and fined the federal government more than $600,000.
The case was against a doctor for allegedly illegally over-prescribing pain medications and arose out of the overdose death of one of his patients. The prosecutorial conduct is flagrant. Not only did the prosecutors enlarge the charges from 26 counts to 141 counts in an effort to intimidate the defense, they effectively set up an illegal sting operation attempting to entrap the defense attorneys with bribery charges by sending in their witnesses with wires and asking for bribes to change their testimony.

The defense didn't bite and the prosecutors failed to disclose the existence of the tapes. The only reason they were caught was because one of their informants inadvertently blurted out the details of the sting during the trial.

The Bush administration's war on pain doctors has been going on for a very long time. The doctors are attractive targets because they keep records and own valuable property that can be seized under the legalized robbery known as forfeiture laws. It's good to see at least a few of the abusers of the judicial process brought to some measure of justice.

[More posts daily at The Detroit News]

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Tell AARP where to get off - Updated

There's been a bit of a blog squall over a post Jane Hamsher wrote the other day about large organizations who bombard big blogs with press releases looking for free exposure -- which they often get -- and then failing to support those blogs with paid advertising. It's a valid point. I think her post was unfairly cast as some kind of threat or demand for quid pro quo. Whatever. AARP is never going to advertise on this blog, so it's not really my fight.

But I see AARP decided to respond publicly as well on their blog with a rather disdainful post by Andrew Nannis, the Director of Media Relations that in short said, "Screw you Jane. We're not going to buy any ads from you now." Nannis also advises that AARP "values the contribution of the millions of Americans who use blogs to share information and to express their views."

I was glad to hear that they value our input. Serendipitiously, AARP was listed as one of the advertisers on Glen Beck's House of Horrors at Fox. I'm thinking what better place to register our disgust with that advertising choice? So I left this comment on their post last night:
I'm not so much concerned about the ad space you don't buy as I am with the space that you're purchasing already. I was told today that you underwrite the Glen Beck program on Fox with your advertising dollars. I hope you're aware of the increasingly incendiary content of his show as he attempts to ratchet up his ratings by instilling fear and outrage in his more gullible viewers via the use of copious misinformation and outrageous stunts.

I'm appalled that you would use your advertising budget to support such dangerously irresponsible programming.
The comments are moderated and so far AARP hasn't "valued my contribution" enough to publish it. Perhaps it's because they don't work on weekends, but I'll be surprised if it ever sees the light of day [see update]. Nonetheless, it strikes me as a good venue to get our complaints directly to the media buyer. If enough people comment, I feel sure they'll notice even if they don't acknowledge it. I'd urge everyone to take a moment today and let them know what you think about their advertising buy on Beck.

Update: Comments are now being published, including mine. So far they're being overrun with right wingers complaining that AARP is a "leftist" organization. Please do take a moment to weigh in for our side.

[More posts daily at The Detroit News]

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