Saturday, April 10, 2010

Saturday AM Stuff

This is actually about a week and a half old, but I was reminded of it when reading an Inky Op-Ed today, proving that, if nothing else, Philadelphia's conservative newspaper of record is good for steering people to content elsewhere (God, renaming the Jersey rest stops? Hey, you'd better leave "Joyce Kilmer" alone, Mr. James Simpson - "I think that I shall never see a place where I can go to pee.")...

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...and yeah, I think this is a catchy little number also (six months early, though, I suppose).

Update: And by the way, our condolences go out to the families and friends of the four missing miners whose bodies have now been discovered (here); this report from Rachel Maddow aired earlier this week (and the ACORN video Rachel refers to is here).

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Friday, April 09, 2010

Friday Stuff

Yep, if you're looking for intelligent news analysis on the vital issues of the day - that means it's time to turn to Jon Stewart...

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
The Big Bang Treaty
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

...and Obama and CFPA advocate Elizabeth Warren appear in this ad (more here)...

..."Worst Persons" (News director Steve Hyvonen not only calls a Saturday meeting for employees, but comes up with some disgusting ploy to get them to dime each other out...what, is he trying to sell a pilot of "Survivor: Orlando, FL Newsroom" or something?; Stuart Varney takes digs at those damn European socialists, or something, but I think he needs to check his curriculum vitae again...cheerio, and 'ave some fish and chips while you watch the "telly," mate; but the perpetually angry L. Brent Bozell gets it for alleging, on Twitter no less, some Obama plot to get rid of Bart Stupak, when in fact, Fix Noise reported that Obama called Stupak personally to try and get him to stay on)...

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...and RIP Malcolm McLaren - I can think of no better tribute (with Glen Matlock on bass, by the way).

Friday Mashup Part Two (4/9/10)

(Part One is over here.)

1) Both Stu Bykofsky and Christine Flowers have been waxing indignant in the Philadelphia Daily News (yesterday and today) on the decision by Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams to downgrade possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana from a misdemeanor to a summary offense…

From Flowers…

How nice. How tolerant. How reassuring to the rest of us who actually respect the federal Controlled Substances Act and its state counterpart.

Williams was quoted in an Inquirer article as saying, "We have to be smart on crime. . . we can't declare a war on drugs by going after the kid who's smoking a joint on 55th Street. We have to go after the large traffickers."

Well, the reason that the large traffickers are in business, counselor, is in part because that kid on 55th Street is part of a willing market.

The fact that you only catch him smoking weed on Monday doesn't mean he doesn't have a stash at home for the six other days of the week.

You get the idea.

Well, I’ll bet you didn’t know about HB 1393, a bill to legalize the medical use of cannabis by authorized patients in PA. This is the very first time our beloved Commonwealth has considered a modern medical cannabis law (more info is here, including information on what we can do to try and enact this into law).

Wikipedia (or something) tells us that 14 states have laws allowing the medical use of marijuana (here).(cannot provide a link at the moment due to my “Big Brother” ISP – I’ll try to do so later). And while someone will have to persuade me that pot should be legalized (at least as tall an order as trying to get HR 1393 passed), speaking only for myself, I am certainly in favor of decriminalization and use for medically-related relief under a doctor’s supervision.

2) And moving from drugs to what others have called the “opiate of the masses” (or, the idiot box, whichever you prefer), former FCC chairman Michael Powell weighs in here on the recent, unfortunate court ruling against Net Neutrality…

Rather than continue to try and force round pegs into square holes, the FCC should seek legal clarity from Congress as to the proper bounds of its authority," Powell wrote in a blog post for Broadband for America, a collection of telecommunication groups. 

A federal court ruled Tuesday that the FCC was wrong to order Comcast to stop blocking users' access to BitTorrent, a file-sharing service. Comcast said at the time it needed to limit access to ensure its broadband network was not overburdened by users who consume too much content.

However, the decision is widely regarded as an obstacle that chiefly prevents FCC from implementing rules on net neutrality long advocated by the Obama administration.

Ultimately, Powell's take is not a surprise: It was in part under his direction that the commission began classifying Internet as a Title I service, which a D.C. Court of Appeals ruled unanimously was out of the FCC's legal reach.

As the story tells us, fortunately, current FCC Chair Julius Genachowski disagrees with “Colin Powell, Jr.” (more on Powell in a minute, by the way).

And Mother Jones tells us the following (here)…

For years, giant Internet service providers like Comcast and Verizon have wanted to erect "fast lanes" and "slow lanes" on the web. They say this is necessary to prevent file-sharers and heavy bandwidth users from slowing down the Internet for everyone else. But without strict net neutrality rules requiring ISPs to treat all content equally, there's nothing to stop them from radically reordering how the internet works. Comcast and other providers could speed up some sites and services and slow down others—a practice known as "throttling"—unless the hosts or ISP customers cough up more money. 

The court fight started last year, when the FCC discovered that one of the biggest Internet providers, Comcast, was slowing down traffic to the file-sharing service BitTorrent. The agency ordered Comcast to stop, ruling that the company couldn't discriminate against specific types of information. Comcast sued, saying that the FCC didn't have the authority to enforce net neutrality. On Tuesday, Comcast won: a federal appeals court threw out the FCC's order. Marvin Ammori, a lawyer and law professor who argued against Comcast, compares the ruling to the massively unpopular Citizens United decision that opened up political campaigns to unlimited corporate spending. The bottom line, he says, is that "the FCC no longer has the power to regulate or protect consumers in the basic medium of our privacy and speech."

The ruling doesn’t just affect the ISPs’ ability to control load times. It could also allow them to restrict what information you get for your monthly broadband payment. In the worst-case scenario, Internet providers could require you to buy access to websites in "packages"—a social networking "package" with Facebook and MySpace, a sports package with and, or a music package with and Pandora. Instead of today's "Wild West,” the future Internet might look more like cable television.

If the FCC wants to avoid that, it has three options. It could appeal Tuesday’s ruling to the Supreme Court. But Comcast has already won once, and the litigation could take years. The agency could ask Congress to give it more power to enforce net neutrality. That's what a bill proposed by Reps. Ed Markey (D-Mass), Anna Eshoo (D-Calif), and Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) would do. But the telecoms have enormous influence on both parties—since 1989, AT&T has spent more on national politics than any other company, union, or special interest. Even if the legislation cleared the House, it would likely stall in the Senate.

Gosh, you mean the worlds greatest deliberative body would fall on its collective face once more due to Repug obstruction and Dem hesitancy?

(Ok, its Friday I know Ill be nice)

The third option discussed in the story is “reclassification”; basically, the FCC “has limited power to regulate information services. But it has broad powers to regulate telecommunications networks,” as stated in the story. And if it reclassified the Internet as a telecommunications network, which it most certainly is, then the FCC could implement net neutrality rules.

And oh yeah, this tells us the following about Michael Powell by way of a reminder (file this under “consolidating the corporate voice”)…

In June 2003, Michael Powell and the two other Republicans on the FCC pushed through new media ownership rules that would have allowed the television networks to own a few more stations, tightened national radio ownership rules, and let one company own the biggest newspaper and television station in almost every city. During the run-up to the FCC vote, more than two million letters, emails and faxes were sent to the FCC. Almost all of them opposed the weakening of the nation’s media ownership regulations. The rules were later overturned by a court that said the commission had failed to justify the ruling.

And Powell was responsible for raising the fines for language and content across our airwaves, which remain ridiculously excessive (I’m a lot more concerned about the young one’s exposure to violence on the tube than I ever will be about an accidental naked female body part or a “fleeting expletive”).

3) Finally, I have a bit of a two-fer here; first, we learn from here that, besides the matters of terrorism and health care reform, former Bushco flunky Marc Thiessen doesn’t know anything about the financial management (or lack thereof) of The Sainted Ronnie R when he occupied An Oval Office…

TAX CUTS. Bush enacted the largest tax cuts in history -- and unlike my personal hero, Ronald Reagan, he never signed a major tax increase into law.

Yes, Thiessen actually wrote that – in response, I give you Will Bunch (from here; I suspect Bunch has forgotten more about Reagan than Thiessen will ever know)…

As for the tax cuts, it was clear in a matter of months that the initial Reagan plan (in 1981) went too far. How far? Less than one year later, Congress passed – and Reagan signed – what at the time was the largest peacetime tax increase in American history, a revenue booster with the Orwellian name of the Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1982. That wasn’t all: Reagan signed further tax increases in 1983 and 1984, and in 1986, enacting a broad tax reform plan that is also a major part of his legacy, he ceded a leading role to the Democrats who were reasserting their authority on Capitol Hill. Given the nation’s skyrocketing debt, it’s easy to understand why Reagan lost much of his influence in this area.

Also, former Bushco word guru and Op-Ed columnist Michael Gerson whines here about the general incivility in our political discourse (I’m not going to waste both my time and yours demonstrating yet again how bogus Gerson’s false equivalency is here).

I have only this to say about Gerson; you remember the warnings from Former President Highest Disapproval Rating In Gallup Poll History about “the smoking gun turning into a mushroom cloud” on Iraq? And do you remember the variations we heard on that from members of our prior ruling cabal?

And as noted here, do you remember how the warnings about Iraq and nukes turned out to be total fiction?

Well, do you want to know who came up with the “mushroom cloud” imagery when trying to sell us the Iraq war?

Michael Gerson, that’s who.

He should be treated as a media pariah for this, but he, along with serial liar Thiessen, are instead both featured prominently on Fred Hiatt’s crayon scribble page (and far be it for the WaPo or any of our other news organizations with initials for names to do this kind of reporting hat tip to Crooks and Liarsand in other Bushco propaganda news, Saddam Husseins statue fell seven years ago today more here).

Yes, I think it’s a good idea to tone down the “hatefulness” in politics also. But dealing with it is a compromise I will gladly make if that’s the only way for the truth to emerge once and for all.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Thursday Stuff

Of course, as far as "breaking the barrier," Gerry Ferraro really did that running with Walter Mondale in '84, but Moon Unit Bachmann has never been one to let stubborn things like facts get in her way (of course, Ferraro was intolerable during the '08 presidential campaign, but that's a whole other story).

Yep, Palin-Bachmann 2012 works for me too. "Plummeting the depths of stupid"...well no, I really don't suppose they'd use that as a campaign slogan either, though they easily could.

But as always when talking about the wingnuts, we lefties shouldn't chortle too loudly; Chris Bowers pointed out earlier that this little party captured on film drew about 10,000 people. And the presidential election campaign for real is still about a year and half away...

...and as K.O. tells us here, Louisiana congressional Repug John Fleming thinks those poor, misunderstood tea partiers are getting a bad rap from we dastardly libs - I swear, I wish these idiots would just secede and be done with it...

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..."Worst Persons" (Gov. Pawlenty of Nothing attended the previously-featured Palin-Bachmann brown shirt rally, of course, and, as Wonkette tells us, bought the domain name for the site and used it to redirect web traffic to his own address - hey, any garden variety Republican hack can cast aspersions about Dems, but it takes a truly crafty sycophant to steal bandwidth at the same time; Sean Inanity indirectly invites a comparison between Obama and Number 43, which, as Keith notes, really isn't a good idea; but Tom Coburn takes it for claiming that it took "courage" to deny unemployment benefits to over 200,000, you sick bastard, what would really show courage from you is YOUR RESIGNATION)...

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...and here's some upbeat Indie stuff submitted for your approval.

Thursday Mashup (4/8/10)

1) I don’t usually venture into the world of sports, but I have a few items here that I need to address from that department.

George Vescey of the New York Times had what I thought was a good column today on Billy Payne, the “grand poobah” of the Masters Golf Tournament in Augusta, GA, which began play today. It seems that Payne just can’t stop himself when it comes to piling on with sanctimony about a certain African American golfer (uh, not many on the PGA tour, I should point out) who has recently experienced marital difficulties.

Which to me begs the question; would Payne and others who believe they hold any influence in professional golf (including Tom Watson) say the same things if we were talking about, say, Jack Nicklaus?

Also, Vescey noted this weird new Nike ad in his column where the voice of Tiger Woods’ father is supposed to be telling Tiger how he let everyone down, or something...WHAAAAA?????

Is this what we’ve come to in this country? The supposed voice of moral authority is a corporation that employs sweatshop workers in Vietnam, China and Indonesia who make only $1.60, $1.75 and $2.46 per day, respectively (approved by Nike CEO Philip Knight, who once lamented what he believed to be the high wages of US shoe industry workers, as noted here)?

Also, the supposed controversy about how Woods would be treated at Augusta is a total joke. It would be wrong for Woods to be heckled anyway, but does anyone SERIOUSLY believe that Payne and others would allow that to happen? As one of my senior correspondents informed me, CBS golf analyst Gary McCord once made a remark about the ball skidding as if the greens of Augusta had been “bikini waxed” and a group of large mounds on one hole reminded him of body bags, and McCord was escorted off the premises soon afterwards.

2) Also, I have news for NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman; there’s really no need for the Washington Capitals and the Boston Bruins to play any more games, since Repug U.S. Senator John Thune of South Dakota believes the teams will play each other in Landover, MD in an opening round of The Stanley Cup Playoffs next Thursday.

I mean, Thune must believe that since, as noted here, those two teams appeared in the notice about Thune’s fundraiser on 4/15.

Well, for now, Thune is correct; at the moment, the NHL standings show the Flyers in 7th place in their conference with 86 points (they would play New Jersey if the season were over), and the Bruins are 8th with 85.

However, the New York Rangers are barely out of it in the ninth spot (only eight teams qualify) with 84 points.

And here are the remaining schedules for all three teams: Boston hosts Buffalo and Carolina before they play Washington this Sunday in Maryland, and the Flyers and the Rangers each have two remaining games with each other (fortuitous for the NHL), tomorrow in New York and Sunday in Philadelphia.

We’ll see if Thune turns out to be right (and by the way, I think it’s kind of odd for Thune to be holding this type of a fundraiser in D.C., since Caps’ owner Ted Leonsis is usually a reliable donator to Democrats – good business to play “both sides of the rink,” I suppose).

Update: I forgot about the Montreal Canadiens, who are in the mix also.

3) And staying in the state of Maryland, this post from The Hill voiced some disapproval of the Washington Redskins’ recent trade with the Philadelphia Eagles, in which the ‘Skins acquired former Eagles’ QB Donavan McNabb, lamenting the fact that Washington gave up draft picks for a player whose best days are behind him.

I can basically agree with that (I’d put off saying anything about this until now).

To be fair to McNabb, he rebounded well from injuries and managed to put up some pretty good career numbers for the Eagles. And I think it’s not a coincidence that the only time the team reached the Super Bowl was the year that they had a bona fide running back threat in Brian Westbrook and a receiving threat in Terrell Owens (yes, T.O. was a head case, but there was never anything wrong with his effort on the field, even playing the Patriots in the big game five years ago with a broken foot).

In short, let’s see how McNabb does with a team that, with all its imperfections, pays attention to the running game better than the Eagles have under Andy Reid, and probably ever will.

Still, though, despite the courageous efforts and three-hundred-yards-plus passing games, there were plenty of times that McNabb would go into an inexplicable funk where his throwing aim was so bad that he couldn’t toss the ball into the ocean if you spotted him the water. I can recall a game against Cincinnati in ’08-’09 where the Birds ended up tying against an awful Bengals team, to the point where McNabb was benched the next week and new starting QB Kevin Kolb was sent out as basically a human sacrifice against the Baltimore Ravens the following week; McNabb returned to the starting lineup and played well the rest of the year, and as far as I knew, he wasn’t hurt…and I found myself wondering “why was that necessary?”

Oh, and there were more than a few instances of McNabb copping an attitude with the Philly sports press (which deserves it at times I admit) over some perceived slight or another, and I found myself thinking, “boy, this guy sure is high and mighty considering that he’s barely won anything in the post-season.”

So, that having been said, I wish McNabb luck against everyone except the Eagles, who are prized boneheads for trading McNabb to a team within the division, by the way (and don’t get me started on that comment Flush Limbore made about him – consider the source).

Update: And now, for another point of view, admittedly a caustic one (here).

4) Finally, on a matter totally unrelated to sports, I came across this item from actress Janine Turner at the Fix Noise opinion site (your first clue)…

We the People need to turn around and look back at our Constitution and the Federalist Papers for guidance on how to move our nation forward in this time of crisis. We must join together in a unifying mission to become aware of what is in these great documents. Let's get cracking and do 90 readings in 90 days.

Funny how Fix Noise and their brethren have no problem ridiculing Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon, Sean Penn or Richard Gere if they make speeches about their political opinion, but they provide a forum for their “fellow travelers” in the entertainment biz (yes I know, “water wet, sky blue”…).

It gets better (she’s driving her pickup truck in Texas, see, while Turner conjures up these literary flourishes)…

…maybe a better metaphor is better represented as the driver of a car moving forward toward the results of a horrendous earthquake – an earthquake that has left a deep, uneven division on the land. Thrust upon the divide are the clumps of dry parched land left to bake in the sun – the American Republic, the America loved and cherished by many patriots of yesterday and today.

Gee, you don’t suppose this “horrendous earthquake” was caused by some wealth-redistributing Kenyan Marxist president who can’t produce his Hawaiian birth certificate, do you? ZOMG!!! And the answer is yes; Turner is plugging her web site here, in case you were wondering.

The only reason I’m even paying attention to this at all is because Turner tells us to read “The Federalist Papers,” including Paper #10 which, contrary to what Turner tells us, was in fact written by James Madison (here).

Also, she seems to be a fan of Alexander Hamilton, our country’s first Treasury Secretary who also served with distinction in the Continental Army and was a skilled administrator as well.

And for the longest time, I thought that was pretty much all there was about him, until I read “John Adams” by David McCullough, which tells a very different story about Hamilton, who wanted desperately to follow in the footsteps of George Washington, who, in addition to being our first president, headed the Federalist Party (sort of an early version of the Democrats, favoring a strong central government). Hamilton and John Adams were Federalists also, and Hamilton constantly sought to undermine Adams, both in the presidential election of 1796 (Hamilton failed) and in 1800 (he succeeded, paving the way for Thomas Jefferson, who was a Republican, though I can’t imagine him sharing an allegiance with the party as it is now constituted). However, by splitting the Federalist Party in the 1800 election, Hamilton forever ruined his own chances to be president also.

Another thing – John Adams wisely prevented our country going to war with France in 1798, which Hamilton devoutly wished, even forming and training an army in Trenton, NJ. Adams’ avoidance of another war angered Hamilton further, even though McCullough makes the case that, by keeping us out of another war so soon after the Revolution, it ended up letting France extend itself too far militarily against only Great Britain to the point where it was easier for President Jefferson to acquire France’s territory in North America through the Louisiana Purchase (McCullough can explain it much better than I can; I recommend reading the book for all the details).

To sum up, if you’re looking for a role model of political and patriotic wisdom, I am not at all sure that you should be looking at Alexander Hamilton.

However, I guess commentary like this from Turner is what you can expect from someone who starred in a TV show where the actors were upstaged by a moose.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Wednesday Stuff

(And I also posted here.)

In not even two minutes, K.O. connects the dots on how a guttural life form like Allen West can be taken seriously even by teabaggers and other particularly delusional wingnuts vis-a-vis what transpired under Bushco to the present day...

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...and West is "a Homo sapien too" as the song goes, but I wouldn't give him enough credit to count for anything more than that (and I suppose I'm overdue for an '80s video also).

"Greenie" Goes For The Gold (In Avoiding Blame, That Is)

(Note: I guess it’s a shame that the Olympics ended about a month ago, or else that post title would have been more timely.)

The New York Times tells us the following (here)…

WASHINGTON — The committee examining the causes of the financial crisis heard a strong defense of the Federal Reserve from its former chairman on Wednesday as the panel began three days of hearings 0n the failure to rein in Citigroup, Fannie Mae and the subprime mortgage market.

In his testimony, an unflinching Alan Greenspan fended off a barrage of questions about the Fed’s failure to crack down on subprime mortgages and other abusive lending practices during his lengthy tenure.

He pointed out that the Fed had warned about subprime lending and low-down-payment mortgages in 1999, and again in 2001. And he argued that if the Fed had tried to slow the housing market amid a “fairly broad consensus” about encouraging homeownership, “the Congress would have clamped down on us.”

He added: “There is a lot of amnesia that’s emerging, apparently.”

If that isn’t a “pot, meet kettle” quote, I don’t know what is.

Oh, and did you know that, according to this live blogging post at HuffPo by Shahien Nasiripoour and Ryan McCarthy, Greenspan, while chastising everyone for the subprime collapse except himself (of course), also cited the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989 as another reason, saying that, as a result “central planning, in one form or another, was discredited and widely displaced by competitive markets.”

I wish I were joking.

And Greenspan also said that the financial markets are “too complex for regulators,” banks have been “undercapitalized for the last 40 or 50 years,” and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, under current Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, failed to conduct the kind of regulation of Citigroup that was "ideal" (probably true, I’ll admit).

Once a “Randian,” always a Randian (no blame, no accountability), huh Greenie?

Now, for the reality point of view, Paul Krugman reminds us here in 2004 that “the wizard” told us we needn’t worry about a national housing bubble, and Greenspan followed that up by saying in 2005 that “complex financial instruments” have created a “resilient” financial system.

Well, I guess that could be true, inasmuch as a house of cards is “resilient” until a stiff wind comes along.

And on Sunday, the Times published an Op-Ed by Michael J. Burry, who ran the hedge fund Scion Capital from 2000 until 2008; Burry also takes issue with Greenspan’s “no one saw this coming” defense (including the following)…

As a nation, we cannot afford to live with Mr. Greenspan’s way of thinking. The truth is, he should have seen what was coming and offered a sober, apolitical warning. Everyone would have listened; when he talked about the economy, the world hung on every single word.

Unfortunately, he did not give good advice. In February 2004, a few months before the Fed formally ended a remarkable streak of interest-rate cuts, Mr. Greenspan told Americans that they would be missing out if they failed to take advantage of cost-saving adjustable-rate mortgages. And he suggested to the banks that “American consumers might benefit if lenders provided greater mortgage product alternatives to the traditional fixed-rate mortgage.”

Within a year lenders made interest-only adjustable-rate mortgages readily available to subprime borrowers. And within 18 months lenders offered subprime borrowers so-called pay-option adjustable-rate mortgages, which allowed borrowers to make partial monthly payments and have the remainder added to the loan balance (much like payments on a credit card).

It did not have to be this way. And at this point there is no reason to reflexively dismiss the analysis of those who foresaw the crisis. Mr. Greenspan should use his substantial intellect and unsurpassed knowledge of government to ascertain and explain exactly how he and other officials missed the boat. If the mistakes were properly outlined, that might both inform Congress’s efforts to improve financial regulation and help keep future Fed chairmen from making the same errors again.

Of course, that would have meant that Greenspan would have had to act on his belief that the markets are “too complex for regulators” and not merely accept it as some kind of a free-market truism that very nearly wrecked our economy, creating a mess from which we will be trying to extricate ourselves for years to come.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Tuesday Stuff

(And I also posted here.)

"Worst Persons" (hey, I'm not even going to take a shot at the names of these people in the UK who tried to fly a dead guy out of the country and pretend he was alive to save $$ - "Weekend at Bernie's," heh heh; Just Plain Folks Sarah Palin Dontcha Know was due to give a speech to wine and spirits wholesalers for 75 large - the problem, of course, is that spirits are forbidden by that Pentecostal religion of hers - love it that the pot growers offered her more money to speak at their little soiree; but Repug Gov. Bobby ("Don't Call Me Piyush") Jindal of Louisiana gets it tonight for allegedly telling his AG Dem Buddy Caldwell that there wouldn't be budget cuts to his department if Caldwell decided to join that bogus lawsuit against HCR by 14 of Caldwell's peers, including our own Tom Corbett of PA...mmmm, that cajun blackmail sure has an interesting odor, doesn't it? And that shot at the 2012 Repug presidential nomination continues to drift slowly, slowly away)...

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...and in light of this supposed "story," I dedicate the following to Anne Kornblut of the WaPo (let's see, a supposed controversy about the basketball game with Clark Kellogg, noted earlier, and his opening pitch for the Nats against the Phils...gee, I'm just glad we have A LITERATE, INTELLIGENT ADULT occupying An Oval Office once more, and someone with MASTERY OF THE ISSUES AT HAND ALSO).

"Goin' To The Hoop" With Obama-Rama

(A brief but admittedly tedious setup follows…please bear with me.)

Usually I have no opportunity whatsoever to partake in TV sports for a variety of reasons, though I do have an opportunity to do so from time to time on holidays involving family gatherings. Such an opportunity presented itself on Saturday before Easter, and I had the pleasure of watching the Butler Bulldogs defeat Michigan State to qualify for the Men’s NCAA Basketball championship game; later, we watched much of Duke’s win over West Virginia (it was such a shame that the team’s star player Da’Sean Butler, suffered the ACL injury – we wish him all the best).

(Of course, we now know that Duke defeated Butler last night and ended the Bulldogs’ Cinderella run for the title – congrats to everyone anyway…I should probably dislike “Coach K” and his bunch, but I really don’t.)

Returning to Saturday, though, I should note the following (and yes, I am late with this post, in case you’re wondering). Between the two games, CBS featured a filmed segment with CBS basketball analyst Clark Kellogg playing a game of “H-O-R-S-E” with President Obama (it was renamed “P-O-T-U-S” for the occasion – the requisite conservative ridicule is here). For the benefit of the uninitiated, I should point out that you have to keep making the same type of shot as your competitor. If you miss, you get a letter, and the first player to spell out the five-letter word loses.

(And by the way, though Obama won, I have a very hard time believing that a former player of Kellogg’s ability wouldn’t have beaten him if he weren’t playing the president, but it’s all show-biz anyway of course.)

Now that this setup is out of the way, I should tell you that this got me to thinking of the five “bricks,” or metaphorical bad shots, that this administration has put up over its term (here is my good progressive/liberal disclaimer: I support Obama – every time I wonder too much about him, I just say “Vice President Palin” to myself – but that doesn’t mean I can’t criticize him from time to time when I think he deserves it).

And for the purposes of this post, I’ll revert back to the way the game was originally supposed to be played.

H – As the New York Times told us yesterday (here)…

For more than 20 years, it was settled law, born of bitter experience, that the government may not eavesdrop on people in the United States without a warrant.

Until, that is, after the 9/11 attacks, when President George W. Bush ordered the National Security Agency to ignore the law. When The Times disclosed the spying in late 2005, Mr. Bush argued that the attacks changed everything: Due process and privacy were luxuries the country could no longer afford. Far too many members of Congress bought this argument. Others, afraid of being painted as soft on terror, refused to push back. In 2008, at the White House’s insistence, they expanded the government’s ability to eavesdrop without warrants.

Even that was not enough for the Bush administration, which insisted that targets of the earlier, illegal spying could not sue the government because what happened was “too secret” even to be discussed in court. The Obama administration has embraced the secrecy argument and has used it to block several cases.

Fortunately, it has not completely succeeded.

The chief judge of the Federal District Court in San Francisco, Vaughn Walker, ruled last week that the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act was the law of the land for Mr. Bush and that when the government failed to get a warrant to wiretap, it broke the law. He also said that the government could not evade accountability with absurdly broad claims of state secrets.

Senator Obama promised repeatedly in the 2008 campaign to reverse Mr. Bush’s many abuses of power. This was one of them. President Obama should read this court ruling with chagrin and eliminate warrantless spying. It is also far past time to stop hiding behind spurious, often ludicrous, claims of national security.

And for a reminder on how we’ve achieved this sorry state, click here.

O – As reported here concerning Afghanistan…

Afghan President Hamid Karzai twice threatened to quit politics and join the Taliban if the West continued to pressure him to enact reforms, legislators said Monday.

Karzai issued the threat during a private meeting with Afghan lawmakers on the weekend. People at the meeting said they thought Karzai's comments were aimed at hardline members of parliament.

The comment is the latest in a string of outbursts that have drawn criticism from foreign backers. Last week, Karzai accused the UN and the international community of carrying out a "vast fraud" as part of a plot to deny him re-election.

White House spokesperson Robert Gibbs called the latest Karzai remarks troubling.

"On behalf of the American people, we're frustrated with the remarks," he told reporters on Monday.

The comments came to light as Karzai paid a visit to the Kandahar City area south of Kabul. It was his first visit to the volatile south in almost 15 months.

If this isn’t a clear message for us to get the hell out of the Afghan narco state and let Karzai sink or swim on his own (to say nothing of saving the lives of our people in the bargain), then I don’t know what is.

R – As TPM tells us here

A long-awaited internal Justice Department report will essentially clear the lawyers who crafted the legal justification for the Bush Administration's torture policies, reversing the tougher findings of a draft version of the report, according to Newsweek.

The draft version of the Office of Professional Responsibility report recommended that John Yoo and Jay Bybee -- who served in the Office of Legal Counsel and are now a law professor at Berkeley and a federal appeals court judge in Nevada, respectively -- be referred to state bar associations for potential discipline for their role in writing memos that concluded torture was justified.

I realize that this came from the Justice Department of Attorney General Eric Holder and senior DoJ attorney David Margolis, but it has the imprimatur of the Obama Administration, so the president must share some measure of responsibility also.

S – As The Daily Kos tells us here

The health care reform legislation that President Obama signed recently isn't only about insurance coverage -- there's also a renewal of $50 million per year for five years for abstinence-focused education.

Programs that receive this funding must "teach that abstinence from sexual activity is the only certain way to avoid out-of-wedlock pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and other associated health problems," according to the Department of Health and Human Services. To qualify, they must also teach that sex before marriage is "likely to have harmful psychological and physical effects." These are part of the "A-H definition," requirements for programs to receive abstinence funding under Title V of the Social Security Act.

After years of warning the Bush administration and social conservatives that abstinence-only education does not stop teens from having sex, nor does it prevent teen pregnancy, a new study by the Guttmacher Institute confirms what many have feared: that deliberately misinforming teens about sex can have serious consequences and that comprehensive sex education, in addition to the availability of contraception, is the best way to reduce teen pregnancy rates.

And why the Obama Administration apparently doesn’t recognize this is utterly beyond me.

E – As noted here

President Barack Obama has made comprehensive energy reform a key issue of his presidency, with massive investments in clean energy, initial efforts to confront climate change, and a commitment to “ending our addiction to foreign oil.” Today, Obama announced a sweeping new offshore drilling policy, opening “vast expanses of water along the Atlantic coastline, the eastern Gulf of Mexico and the north coast of Alaska to oil and natural gas drilling” for the first time. This plan would also restore the ban on drilling in Alaska’s Bristol Bay and the West Coast. White House officials “pitched the changes as ways to reduce U.S. reliance on foreign oil and create jobs,” the Associated Press reports. For years, however, Obama has correctly explained that new offshore drilling would do nothing to “reduce U.S. reliance on foreign oil”

The New York Times, among others, seems to favor this as a compromise of sorts with the “Drill, Baby, Drill” knuckleheads, though this has won Obama absolutely no favor with, say, Repug Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska or “The Orange One” from Ohio (here). And as noted by Daily Kos diarist Cedwyn here, the NIMBY chorus in the affected states is already tuning up.

So please, Mr. President, no more “air balls” when it comes to the big-picture problem resolution we elected you for. Maybe health care reform was a “bank shot off the glass,” if you will, and dropping into the Repug Maryland conference with the camera was a “jam,” to so speak (here). But from now until November 2012 at least, the “inside game” in the paint, as they say, is what matters, and those are the hardest points to score of all.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Monday Stuff

"We Didn't Come Here To Listen To You," huh (here)? No wonder they call it "The Granite State," as in the substance between these peoples' ears (not that we're that much better in PA, again, some of us, as noted below - scenes from a Palin/McBush hatefest in '08)...

Update 4/6/10: I think this is called I-R-O-N-Y.

...and even though they came up short against Duke tonight, congratulations to the Butler Bulldogs for an unbelievable year in men's college basketball...this is for them.

Monday Mashup (4/5/10)

  • In addition to being a shameless liar on the matter of Bushco and torture (here), we now know that former Number 43 flak Marc Thiessen is equally clueless on the matter of health care reform (here)…

    …popular anger over the federal funding for abortion in the president’s healthcare bill will be critical to the GOP’s success in 2010—and to the prospects for repealing the legislation.
    It would be easy to dismiss this nonsense as typical wingnuttia if it weren’t for the fact that it is continually allowed to fester unanswered by our corporate stenographers (Media Matters assembled a sorry litany of this stuff here).

    Further, the executive order of President Obama noted here after signage of the bill into law specifies that funds “cannot be spent on abortion or abortion-related services except in cases of rape, incest and when the life of the pregnant woman is at risk.”

    It bears repeating, by the way, just how sorry the status quo is for women in this country even with health care reform now enacted into law (Obama’s order extends the so-called Hyde Amendment named after a serial philandering Republican politician, now dead, which primarily affects abortion funding under Medicaid and is discriminatory on its face; and contrary to what anyone says, Hyde is not “settled law”).

    And just remember that Thiessen is featured prominently on Fred Hiatt’s scribble page at the WaPo, the place where, for the most part, reasoned and informed discourse goes home to die.

  • John Harwood of the New York Times tells us the following here (in addition to financial reform legislation, Congress is now looking at energy legislation as well)…

    Relatively low gas prices have drained away urgency, and the recession has heightened fears of economic dislocation. Republican charges that President Obama favors what they call a “cap and tax” plan that would destroy jobs while limiting carbon emissions have further damaged prospects for comprehensive energy legislation in Congress — just seven months before midterm elections.
    It would have been nice if Harwood had bothered to point out that the Senate bill sponsored by Senators John Kerry and Barbara Boxer would create millions of clean energy jobs, as noted here (more details on that will be welcome). Also, I don’t know where Harwood is getting his information on “relatively low gas prices,” but at the Lukkoil down the street from my humble abode, gas prices have started creeping up as they always do in the spring (about $3 a gallon for regular).

    And to think, Harwood accused humble blogger types such as yours truly of “taking hallucinogenic drugs.” If he thinks we can maintain our oil dependency forever, then he must be loopy and thus has no right to imply that other people aren’t in their right minds.

  • Finally, David Carr of The New York Times is just full of big media love for Sarah Palin, you betcha (here)…

    With its tales of uplift and pluck, “Real American Stories” trades in the kind of easy sentimentality that provokes eye rolls among those of us who work in media while quickening the pulse and patriotic ardor of almost everyone else. At the beginning of the show, Ms. Palin promised that it would “reaffirm our pioneering spirit and unmatched generosity, here and around the world.”

    And so it did, with two million people tuning in. It featured a young man with cerebral palsy who was inspired to walk by the love of a dog, a millionaire who financed the college educations of legions of underprivileged youngsters, and a soldier who died to save his brothers in arms.
    Far be it for me to cast aspersions on the sacrifices of others, so I won’t do so here. Instead, I’ll just link to this post from Jed Lewison at The Daily Kos for “the rest of the story,” as somebody used to say.

    And in conclusion, Carr tells us this…

    During the 2008 campaign, she was accused by the staff of Senator John McCain of running her own show and going off message. Then she took their disregard and made a book title out of it. “Going Rogue” is just one more example of how her inability or unwillingness to connect with the establishment leaders gives her credibility elsewhere. That’s a skill that works every bit as well on television as on the stump.

    Last week, she returned to Senator McCain’s side to help in his re-election bid. As she bounded across the stage in Arizona and Cindy McCain struggled to maintain her frozen smile, even people who can’t stand her politics must have laughed.
    Lord knows I am not a fan of John W. and Mrs. McBush (especially in light of this), and the former Cindy Lou Hensley could buy and sell over a lot of people I know many times over, including me, but it should be noted that she has advocated for people suffering from migraines, since she is afflicted with that herself; as noted here, she has attempted to secure more research funding and generally raised awareness about this condition (you could argue that she might not have done any of this unless the matter were personal to her, but that aside, I think she should receive credit simply for doing the right thing).

    And that, “frozen smile” and all, automatically puts her a peg above Sarah Palin in my book, who has “raised awareness” about herself, her family, and absolutely no one or nothing else.
  • Sunday, April 04, 2010

    Happy Easter 2010

    May you all have a happy and blessed Easter. If you don't observe anything, may you have a happy and blessed long weekend.