Thursday, April 30, 2009
Music from my formative years
Freshman year in college
Of course it could have been the hash, too.
The value of Amtrak
The vice president’s devotion to taking the train home to Wilmington, Del., is legend. It turns out that besides reinforcing his commitment to mass transit, Biden’s commute also gave him hours and hours of uninterrupted quality time with the senator from Pennsylvania.No wonder the Republicans want to kill Amtrak.
Which he used to urge Specter to ditch the Republicans.
“We have talked over every problem under the sun and under the moon,” said Specter, at a welcome-to-the-Democratic-Party press conference with Biden and President Obama.
Biden, Washington’s most compulsive talker, and Specter, one of the Senate’s most self-absorbed egos, rode the rails, sharing their every thought. Probably not in the quiet car. You’d think that by the time one of them paused to take a breath they’d be in Montreal.
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Can the once proud Chairman of the Board
The vote was 50.3 percent for adding an independent chairman, with 49.7 percent opposed. While Lewis, 62, and the board opposed the resolution, spokesman James Mahoney said earlier the bank would abide by results of the balloting.Charlotte residents are advised to look up before walking around the base of Bank of America headquarters.
Over at TPM, an astute fellow with the moniker Super Bowl rips "Judge Dredd" Bybee a new one as he demolishes the judge's sophistry.
And the AP informs us that Judge Baltasar Garzon, Spain's most prominent investigative magistrate has opened a probe of the systematic use of torture by the Bushoviks. How could he refuse to do so? If Ken Starr had as much evidence during the impeachment trial of Bill Clinton, the Senate floor would have been knee deep in Republican splooge.
Boss Limbaugh says GOP isn't pure yet
"A lot of people say, 'Well, Specter, take [Sen. John] McCain with you. And his daughter [Meghan]. Take McCain and his daughter with you if you're gonna…" he told listeners, dissolving in laughter.Your move John, but remember, what Boss wants, Boss gets.
"…..It's ultimately good. You're weeding out people who aren't really Republicans," he said.
Two on Torture
The Hannity Olbermann Waterboard Challenge
The debate over torture is getting personal for two of cable TV's prime-time hosts.Is Sean Hannity the man he says he is or the pussy we all think he is?
After Fox News Channel's Sean Hannity made a seemingly impromptu offer last week to undergo waterboarding as a benefit for charity, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann leapt at it. He offered $1,000 to the families of U.S. troops for every second Hannity withstood the technique.
Olbermann repeated the offer on Monday's show and said in an interview Tuesday that he's heard no response. He said he'll continue to pursue it.
''I don't think he has the courage to even respond to this -- let alone do it,'' Olbermann said.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Congratulations to new Secretary of Health and Human Services
Arlen Specter is now a Democrat
we don't need no steenking public health
7 letters, 2 syllables, 1 crime
We are saving the wrong people
The growing legions of the unemployed can be forgiven for not shouting hallelujah. It’s a little like watching the drunken driver who plowed into your family car and caused untold havoc and heartache, suddenly pulling up one morning, no worse for the wear, in a sparkling new vehicle.When we can take Tiny Tim Geithner to lunch at Four Seasons, then will we no longer be beneath notice?
The folks who led the nation to this financial abyss are the ones being made whole on the taxpayers’ dime. We can look after them, all right. But we can’t seem to get credit flowing in any normal way again; we can’t stanch the terrible flow of home foreclosures; and we’re not doing nearly enough to address the most critical need of all: putting people back to work.
While Wall Street is breaking out the Champagne yet again, the rest of the economy is beyond terrible, and will be for the foreseeable future.
Monday, April 27, 2009
The well-sourced Hollywood blogger Nikki Finke reported Friday that Kevin Spacey and director George Hickenlooper were visiting the disgraced former lobbyist in prison -- as part of their research for Casino Jack, which will start filming next month, with the man who once played Keyser Soze in the lead role. (Variety had reported last August on plans for the project, then known as Bagman.)Could be a fun pic if the writing is any good.
Thick as thieves
Even as banks complain that the government has attached too many intrusive strings to its financial assistance, a range of critics — lawmakers, economists and even former Federal Reserve colleagues — say that the bailout Mr. Geithner has played such a central role in fashioning is overly generous to the financial industry at taxpayer expense.It's hard to maintain an arms length relationship when you are slapping backs.
An examination of Mr. Geithner’s five years as president of the New York Fed, an era of unbridled and ultimately disastrous risk-taking by the financial industry, shows that he forged unusually close relationships with executives of Wall Street’s giant financial institutions.
His actions, as a regulator and later a bailout king, often aligned with the industry’s interests and desires, according to interviews with financiers, regulators and analysts and a review of Federal Reserve records.
One can argue that it’s necessary to rescue Wall Street to protect the economy as a whole — and in fact I agree. But given all that taxpayer money on the line, financial firms should be acting like public utilities, not returning to the practices and paychecks of 2007.Their next failure will cost us twice as much.
Furthermore, paying vast sums to wheeler-dealers isn’t just outrageous; it’s dangerous. Why, after all, did bankers take such huge risks? Because success — or even the temporary appearance of success — offered such gigantic rewards: even executives who blew up their companies could and did walk away with hundreds of millions. Now we’re seeing similar rewards offered to people who can play their risky games with federal backing.
Monday Music Blogging
And don't whine about the digital remastering or I will make you listen to Andrea Bocelli
Sunday, April 26, 2009
..a chance to regain the moral high ground..
Money has ruined the conservative movement
In any other context but the American Right, Kristol would be buried in obscurity. Since he’s a white man with a college education one assumes he would rise to a middle management position somewhere, in spite of his obvious handicaps. However, in a true meritocracy he’d be put to work doing something that involved simple, repetitive motions but no sharp objects.One way to cover up the idiot child is to pretend he is a genius not yet recognized. And in the case of the latest movement conservatives, they never will be, but at least they will be smarter than those who will follow.
Yes, Kristol graduated Harvard magna cum laude in three years and has a Ph.D., his biography says. But, folks, stupid is as stupid thinks. Either Kristol was dropped on his head post-Ph.D. or Kristol’s professors were paid off. There are no other explanations.
But then there’s Jonah Goldberg, both badly educated and intellectually incoherent. His silly cognitive misfirings are published in the Los Angeles Times and by Doubleday. And if Michele Bachmann belonged to any other party but the GOP, party leaders would keep her locked in the attic and out of public view. I could go on, but I’m sure you get the drift.
Latest David Broder
A Quote for All Times
Should any American soldier be so base and infamous as to injure any [prisoner]. . . I do most earnestly enjoin you to bring him to such severe and exemplary punishment as the enormity of the crime may require. Should it extend to death itself, it will not be disproportional to its guilt at such a time and in such a cause… for by such conduct they bring shame, disgrace and ruin to themselves and their country.George Washington, borrowed from Firedoglake commenter perris
Swiss vote to not scare the livestock
Voters in the heart of the Swiss Alps on Sunday passed legislation banning naked hiking after dozens of mostly German nudists started rambling through their picturesque region.Naked Germans (shudder). Need a quart of brain bleach after that image.
They can't even wait for a recovery
Workers at the largest financial institutions are on track to earn as much money this year as they did before the financial crisis began, because of the strong start of the year for bank profits.To paraphrase Gordon Gecko, "Sin is good", at least if you are a sinner.
Even as the industry’s compensation has been put in the spotlight for being so high at a time when many banks have received taxpayer help, six of the biggest banks set aside over $36 billion in the first quarter to pay their employees, according to a review of financial statements.
If that pace continues all year, the money set aside for compensation suggests that workers at many banks will see their pay — much of it in bonuses — recover from the lows of last year.
“I just haven’t seen huge changes in the way people are talking about compensation,” said Sandy Gross, managing partner of Pinetum Partners, a financial recruiting firm. “Wall Street is being realistic. You have to retain your human capital.”
Brad Hintz, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein, was more critical. “Like everything on Wall Street, they’re starting to sin again,”
Why Obama needs to appoint lots and lots of judges
In a suit brought by British men imprisoned for two years at Guantanamo, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals today reaffirmed its previous ruling that Guantanamo detainees lack the fundamental constitutional right not to be tortured and are not “persons”That's about as raw as you can get.
Ship's second officer has a message for Rush Blimpdough
Carl Levin supports law enforcement
A top Democratic senator wants independent investigators to determine whether any Bush administration officials should be prosecuted for authorizing harsh interrogation techniques of suspected terrorists.And more to the point.
Michigan Sen. Carl Levin says no politicians should be involved in making decisions about prosecutions.'Cause we all know how they like to cut their own a whole lot of slack.
Saturday, April 25, 2009
Put your drink down before watching
h/t to Kiss My Big Blue Butt
Having chased the conservative government from power
Olivier Morin/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Photographs of bankers who left Iceland after the financial crisis have a new use in the restroom of a bar in Reykjavik, the capital.
24 it wasn't
And that leads to the one conclusion that the current administration has yet to look in the eye.
In other words, the ticking time bomb was not another potential Qaeda attack on America but the Bush administration’s ticking timetable for selling a war in Iraq; it wanted to pressure Congress to pass a war resolution before the 2002 midterm elections. Bybee’s memo was written the week after the then-secret (and subsequently leaked) “Downing Street memo,” in which the head of British intelligence informed Tony Blair that the Bush White House was so determined to go to war in Iraq that “the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.” A month after Bybee’s memo, on Sept. 8, 2002, Cheney would make his infamous appearance on “Meet the Press,” hyping both Saddam’s W.M.D.s and the “number of contacts over the years” between Al Qaeda and Iraq. If only 9/11 could somehow be pinned on Iraq, the case for war would be a slamdunk.But there were no links between 9/11 and Iraq, and the White House knew it. Torture may have been the last hope for coercing such bogus “intelligence” from detainees who would be tempted to say anything to stop the waterboarding.
President Obama can talk all he wants about not looking back, but this grotesque past is bigger than even he is. It won’t vanish into a memory hole any more than Andersonville, World War II internment camps or My Lai. The White House, Congress and politicians of both parties should get out of the way. We don’t need another commission. We don’t need any Capitol Hill witch hunts. What we must have are fair trials that at long last uphold and reclaim our nation’s commitment to the rule of law.Anything less will have the ghost of old Joe Stalin, that past master of the tortured confession, guffawing with laughter at what we have become.
Are you rich and successful?
R.I.P Beatrice Arthur
A not so merry minuet
There they go again, those folks in Washington, D.C. Everyone wants the power; nobody wants the responsibility.But it is the answer to that question and the consequences that derive from it that this country, and the world, needs to know.
We're back to the question of which Bush administration officials ordered Justice Department lawyers to concoct some legal way to use illegal torture methods on the prisoners we were taking in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and elsewhere.
It appears that no one in power or recently out of power wants to know the answer to that question.
The plain fact is that waterboarding is illegal under U.S. law. It's illegal under international laws and treaties that we helped negotiate, we approved and we adhered to until President Bush and his men and women decided that we wouldn't.Torture is not just the elephant in the room, it is also the 100 pound pile of shit he left on the carpet.
What's truly disheartening is to watch all the ducking, bobbing and weaving in the nation's capital - like so many powder-haired dandies prancing a minuet.
Yes, it's an ugly chapter in the life of a nation that prides itself on its freedoms and its rule of law. But it's more than that: It's a splendid opportunity for a bunch of politicians from both parties to find their spines, or borrow some, and get to work cleaning out the dark corners in the White House and emptying the closets of skeletons.
A picture is worth a 1000 words
Bill Maher gives some advice to the GOP
If conservatives don't want to be seen as bitter people who cling to their guns and religion and anti-immigrant sentiments, they should stop being bitter and clinging to their guns, religion and anti-immigrant sentiments.Nice try, Bill, but we will all be better of if they are allowed to wither away to their much deserved end.
Look, I get it, "real America." After an eight-year run of controlling the White House, Congress and the Supreme Court, this latest election has you feeling like a rejected husband. You've come home to find your things out on the front lawn -- or at least more things than you usually keep out on the front lawn. You're not ready to let go, but the country you love is moving on. And now you want to call it a whore and key its car.
That's what you are, the bitter divorced guy whose country has left him -- obsessing over it, haranguing it, blubbering one minute about how much you love it and vowing the next that if you cannot have it, nobody will.
But it's been almost 100 days, and your country is not coming back to you. She's found somebody new. And it's a black guy.
The healthy thing to do is to just get past it and learn to cherish the memories. You'll always have New Orleans and Abu Ghraib.
Friday, April 24, 2009
I like this guy Ed
h/t to AmericaBlog
Congratulations to Scott Murphy
Waterboarding is torture, torture is illegal
He starts out agreeable
And there are indeed immense challenges out there: an economic crisis, a health care crisis, an environmental crisis. Isn’t revisiting the abuses of the last eight years, no matter how bad they were, a luxury we can’t afford?As I said, give them a fair trial, then hang them.
No, it isn’t, because America is more than a collection of policies. We are, or at least we used to be, a nation of moral ideals. In the past, our government has sometimes done an imperfect job of upholding those ideals. But never before have our leaders so utterly betrayed everything our nation stands for. “This government does not torture people,” declared former President Bush, but it did, and all the world knows it.
And the only way we can regain our moral compass, not just for the sake of our position in the world, but for the sake of our own national conscience, is to investigate how that happened, and, if necessary, to prosecute those responsible.
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.
Like a hot knife through butter
|The Colbert Report||Mon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c|
|The Word - Stressed Position|
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||M - Th 11p / 10c|
Thursday, April 23, 2009
Bury them in a blizzard of your messages
Voters for Peace has their letter here
And the parade continues
The chief justice of the British High Court on Wednesday gave the British government one week to obtain the U.S. release of classified information about the alleged torture of a British resident who'd been detained at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.How do we keep them out when we have let everybody else in?
The court indicated that it would issue its own order if the government doesn't respond or justify why continued secrecy is warranted.
Noting that President Barack Obama had released highly sensitive documents tracing the decisions on torture during the Bush administration's war on terror, the high court judges voiced exasperation that the British government hasn't acted in what they said was the British public interest in being similarly open.
The hearing illustrated how Obama's decision to be more transparent about his predecessor's detainee policies is having ripple effects abroad, but it also threw the ball back to the Obama administration to approve release of the contested information.
Rachel reaches for clarity
And the NY Times is still pushing Cheney's Big Lie, that torture was effective
What about Rummy's "few bad apples"
Read more from Gen Karpinski
Normally it doesn't take much
Thomas E. Stringer spent more than three decades quietly building his legal career in Florida. He was the first black graduate of his law school. He worked his way onto an appeals court in the Tampa Bay area.Given the lack of movement from Mr. Bybee, one can assume that torture does not rise to the level of strippers in the code of judicial conduct. Or maybe Bybee is proud of his earlier work.
Then last spring, the well-respected, married judge suddenly found his face splashed beside that of a troubled exotic dancer in a kimono.
She went on TV to claim they'd been romantically involved, and that he helped her hide money from creditors, even putting a rent-controlled New York City apartment under his name for her.
Newspaper columns were written. Jokes were made. Stringer's 35-year legal career was tarnished.
"It is axiomatic that 'Judge' and 'Stripper' showing up in a headline is never a good thing, especially if you happen to be the 'Judge,'" then Tampa Tribune columnist Daniel Ruth wrote after the story broke.
Criminal charges are possible, though the FBI declined to comment. The state agency that oversees judges dropped misconduct charges after Stringer, who stepped down in February and draws monthly retirement benefits of $8,069, agreed never to be a judge again.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Now it all makes sense
The Bush administration applied relentless pressure on interrogators to use harsh methods on detainees in part to find evidence of cooperation between al Qaida and the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's regime, according to a former senior U.S. intelligence official and a former Army psychiatrist.To give them a public confession of the link between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. Waterboarding up to six times a day or more and they still couldn't get it to work. And they didn't need to do it because of their most effective "shuck and jive" that totally snowballed otherwise intelligent people into believing we needed to attack a toothless old lion who was no longer useful to the evil bastards. We believed their lies, they did not need the confessions they never got. But they kept on torturing anyway.
Such information would've provided a foundation for one of former President George W. Bush's main arguments for invading Iraq in 2003. In fact, no evidence has ever been found of operational ties between Osama bin Laden's terrorist network and Saddam's regime.
The use of abusive interrogation — widely considered torture — as part of Bush's quest for a rationale to invade Iraq came to light as the Senate issued a major report tracing the origin of the abuses and President Barack Obama opened the door to prosecuting former U.S. officials for approving them.
Former Vice President Dick Cheney and others who advocated the use of sleep deprivation, isolation and stress positions and waterboarding, which simulates drowning, insist that they were legal.
A former senior U.S. intelligence official familiar with the interrogation issue said that Cheney and former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld demanded that the interrogators find evidence of al Qaida-Iraq collaboration.
"There were two reasons why these interrogations were so persistent, and why extreme methods were used," the former senior intelligence official said on condition of anonymity because of the issue's sensitivity.
"The main one is that everyone was worried about some kind of follow-up attack (after 9/11). But for most of 2002 and into 2003, Cheney and Rumsfeld, especially, were also demanding proof of the links between al Qaida and Iraq that (former Iraqi exile leader Ahmed) Chalabi and others had told them were there."
It was during this period that CIA interrogators waterboarded two alleged top al Qaida detainees repeatedly — Abu Zubaydah at least 83 times in August 2002 and Khalid Sheik Muhammed 183 times in March 2003 — according to a newly released Justice Department document.
After World War II we hung people for a lot less.
These people aren't leaders
The program began with Central Intelligence Agency leaders in the grip of an alluring idea: They could get tough in terrorist interrogations without risking legal trouble by adopting a set of methods used on Americans during military training. How could that be torture?No wonder they didn't know what Osama was planning for 9/11.
In a series of high-level meetings in 2002, without a single dissent from cabinet members or lawmakers, the United States for the first time officially embraced the brutal methods of interrogation it had always condemned.
This extraordinary consensus was possible, an examination by The New York Times shows, largely because no one involved — not the top two C.I.A. officials who were pushing the program, not the senior aides to President George W. Bush, not the leaders of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees — investigated the gruesome origins of the techniques they were approving with little debate.
According to several former top officials involved in the discussions seven years ago, they did not know that the military training program, called SERE, for Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape, had been created decades earlier to give American pilots and soldiers a sample of the torture methods used by Communists in the Korean War, methods that had wrung false confessions from Americans.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
How can you drive a car without one?
As recently as 1985, more than 50 percent of male car buyers said they wanted a stick shift. Last year, only 11 percent did, according to market researchers, and sales totaled 7 percent of the new car market.Damn Right! Nothing has come even close.
One reason is that most women prefer automatics. "I tried a stick shift once, and then I faced a hill, and I never tried again," said Danielle Wilt, 20, a junior at York College in York, Pa.
Other reasons: Couples in which only one can drive a manual transmission, competition from sporty automatics and an insufficient number of hands.
Among drivers who like driving, however, "Nothing has been a perfect replacement for the stick shift yet,"
Several experts theorized that people who consider driving a chore favor automatics because they make the job easier. By contrast, stick shifts "force you to be involved in the driving process," and enthusiastic drivers love that, said John Nielsen, AAA's national director of auto repair and buying.Or to put it another way, how can you put on your makeup, drink your coffee, jack your jaw on a frivolous phone call and change the kids diaper before dropping him off at day care while doing 50 MPH if you have to shift, too?
Waterboarding still sucks, even if you know it's coming."
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||M - Th 11p / 10c|
|We Don't Torture|
His Fatness, The Supreme Head of the Republican Party, Rush Blimpdough wins again
According to the Wichita Eagle (via Kansas Jackass), Tiahrt's office is now also rushing to apologize:Is the entire Republican Party in danger of Rushbag's now famous "anal poisoning"? Very, very likely it is so.
Asked about the episode and resulting Web buzz, Tiahrt spokesman Sam Sackett said Tiahrt was not speaking negatively about Limbaugh but was trying to defend him against the suggestion that Limbaugh could be blamed for the GOP’s woes. "The congressman believes Rush is a great leader of the conservative movement in America -- not a party leader responsible for election losses," Sackett told The Eagle editorial board. "Nothing the congressman said diminished the role Rush has played and continues to play in the conservative movement."
Impeach Bybee Now
20 so far
The cases represent only the first wave of investigations, and the total fraud could ultimately reach into the tens of billions of dollars, according to Neil Barofsky, the special inspector general overseeing the bailout program.There will be more, because any bankster worth his salt will choose fraud over missing his numbers for the month or quarter.
The disclosures reinforce fears that the hastily designed and rapidly changing bailout program run by the Treasury Department and Federal Reserve is going to carry a heavy price of fraud against taxpayers -- even as questions grow about its ability to stabilize the nation's financial system.
Barofsky said the complex nature of the bailout program makes it "inherently vulnerable to fraud, waste and abuse, including significant issues relating to conflicts of interest facing fund managers, collusion between participants, and vulnerabilities to money laundering."
Toons for Twosday
Six times a day
Sign a petition to impeach Jay Bybee
Another sign of hard times
Ohio police say a 52-year-old woman was attacked on her first day as an exotic dancer by a jealous co-worker wielding a stiletto heel.She will settle this later.
Akron police Lt. Rick Edwards says the woman was assailed Friday night by a co-worker who didn't think the club needed more dancers. Police say one of the dancers took her stiletto and repeatedly struck the woman in the face as she walked into the basement dressing room.
The woman was treated at a hospital and received seven staples. She has declined to press charges against her assailant.
Police say the woman took the job because she needed the extra money. She has refused to talk to police about what happened.
Monday, April 20, 2009
An enraged ferret
Monday Music Blogging
Sunday, April 19, 2009
Help impeach Jay Bybee
This won't change the world
Jeannie Norris knows. The employee of the N.C. State University Alumni Association recently spent time at Raleigh's Rex Hospital for a burst appendix.Restoring a patients dignity is a positive step to healing. I hope they have great success in this endeavor.
"When you are in the hospital and had surgery, you really feel bad," said Norris, 44. "You don't pay a lot of attention to what's hooked and what's not. You find out after the fact that you've been walking around flashing people."
N.C. State is taking up the challenge of improving a gown design that has gone unchanged even as everything else in medicine has advanced rapidly.
Traci Lamar, a textile design professor at N.C. State, is leading a team that is working to create a more comfortable, less revealing hospital garment.
"They are really not only undignified and immodest, but it is influencing some behavior and some attitudes," Lamar said. "One patient literally used the word 'mortified': 'I was mortified at the thought of getting out of the bed.'"
The New York Times gets it right
At least Mr. Obama is not following Mr. Bush’s example of showy trials for the small fry — like Lynndie England of Abu Ghraib notoriety. But he has an obligation to pursue what is clear evidence of a government policy sanctioning the torture and abuse of prisoners — in violation of international law and the Constitution.Handle it, hell! We want to see them crushed and driven before us and hear the lamentation of their women.
That investigation should start with the lawyers who wrote these sickening memos, including John Yoo, who now teaches law in California; Steven Bradbury, who was job-hunting when we last heard; and Mr. Bybee, who holds the lifetime seat on the federal appeals court that Mr. Bush rewarded him with.
These memos make it clear that Mr. Bybee is unfit for a job that requires legal judgment and a respect for the Constitution. Congress should impeach him. And if the administration will not conduct a thorough investigation of these issues, then Congress has a constitutional duty to hold the executive branch accountable. If that means putting Donald Rumsfeld and Alberto Gonzales on the stand, even Dick Cheney, we are sure Americans can handle it.
The results are in and are official
AIG is an insurance company
Insurance giant AIG is already in trouble with the taxpayers from whom it has received billions in bailout money. Now an investigation by ABC News, the Los Angeles Times, and the non-profit Pro Publica has found that AIG has been ripping off its own insurance customers as well.When you have to offset a huge amount of high stakes gambling losses in the derivatives market, you get your money where you can. And they are neither the first nor the last insurance company to run this scam on their policy holders. They just happen to be the first on owned by the taxpayers.
According to ABC’s Brian Ross, “AIG covers about 90% of the people who get hurt working overseas for American defense contractors.” Pro Publica analyzed 30,000 of those cases and found that, although minor injuries were covered without question, AIG had challenged an astonishing 43% of the more serious claims.
ABC reported on several of the most outrageous cases, including that of a blind amputee for whom AIG has refused to buy a new artificial leg. John Woodson, who was formerly a truck driver with Halliburton spin-off KBR, complained bitterly, “You have to ask a second time, a third time, a fourth time, and you’re still not getting it.”
AIG has refused to divulge how much it is making on insuring private defense contractors at the expense of US taxpayers, but according to Pro Publica, it is the major player in a system which Congressional investigators found has earned nearly $600 million in profits out of $1.5 billion in premiums. A military audit described AIG’s premiums as “unreasonably high.”
Quote of the Day
Like all other contracting states to the UN convention against torture, the US has committed to conduct criminal investigations of torture and to bring all persons to court against whom there is sound evidence,Manfred Nowak, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on torture, making clear the US responsibility that our country accepted when it ratified the UN Convention on Torture.
N. Gregory Mankiw is a professor of economics at Harvard
Imagine that the Fed were to announce that, a year from today, it would pick a digit from zero to 9 out of a hat. All currency with a serial number ending in that digit would no longer be legal tender. Suddenly, the expected return to holding currency would become negative 10 percent.Since most of us have our money in accounts of some kind and not in currency, we would suffer no loss. What this would do is rip the last vestiges of wealth from the poorest elements of society who do tend to keep such assets as they have in currency.
That move would free the Fed to cut interest rates below zero. People would be delighted to lend money at negative 3 percent, since losing 3 percent is better than losing 10.
And the other thing about Mr. Mankiw you should know. He was an adviser to President George W. Bush.
Saturday, April 18, 2009
Frank Rich wonders
As the case against equal rights for gay families gets harder and harder to argue on any nonreligious or legal grounds, no wonder so many conservatives are dropping the cause. And if Fox News and Rick Warren won’t lead the charge on same-sex marriage, who on the national stage will take their place? The only enthusiastic contenders seem to be Republicans contemplating presidential runs in 2012. As Rich Tafel, the former president of the gay Log Cabin Republicans, pointed out to me last week, what Iowa giveth to the Democrats, Iowa taketh away from his own party. As the first stop in the primary process, the Iowa caucuses provided a crucial boost to Barack Obama’s victorious and inclusive Democratic campaign in 2008. But on the G.O.P. side, the caucuses tilt toward the exclusionary hard right.Heh indeed! To see the party founded on the principle of civil rights destroy itself trying to deny civil rights.
In 2008, 60 percent of Iowa’s Republican caucus voters were evangelical Christians. Mike Huckabee won. That’s the hurdle facing the party’s contenders in 2012, which is why Romney, Palin and Gingrich are now all more vehement anti-same-sex-marriage activists than Rick Warren. Palin even broke with John McCain on the issue during their campaign, supporting the federal marriage amendment that he rejects. This month, even as the father of Palin’s out-of-wedlock grandson challenged her own family values and veracity, she nominated as Alaskan attorney general a man who has called gay people “degenerates.” Such homophobia didn’t even play in Alaska — the State Legislature voted the nominee down — and will doom Republicans like Palin in national elections.
One G.O.P. politician who understands this is the McCain-Palin 2008 campaign strategist, Steve Schmidt, who on Friday urged his party to join him in endorsing same-sex marriage. Another is Jon Huntsman Jr., the governor of Utah, who in February endorsed civil unions for gay couples, a position seemingly indistinguishable from Obama’s. Huntsman is not some left-coast Hollywood Republican. He’s a Mormon presiding over what Gallup ranks as the reddest state in the country.
Grounds for divorce
When you try to avoid doing what must be done
The U.S. Treasury and financial regulators are clashing with each other over how to disclose results from the stress tests of 19 U.S. banks, with some officials concerned at potential damage to weaker institutions.Too little information and the banksters are happy but the market and the public won't be. Too much information and and the banksters are mad at you and receivership is the next stop for somebody.
With a May 4 deadline approaching, there is no set plan for how much information to release, how to categorize the results or who should make the announcements, people familiar with the matter said. While the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and other regulators want few details about the assessments to be publicized, the Treasury is pushing for broader disclosure.
The disarray highlights what threatens to be a lose-lose situation for Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner: If all the banks pass, the tests’ credibility will be questioned, and if some banks get failing grades and are forced to accept more government capital and oversight, they may be punished by investors and customers.
“There are plenty of ways to go wrong here,” said Wayne Abernathy, executive vice president of the American Bankers Association in Washington. “It might have sounded good at the time, but now looking back, it has far more risk than benefit.”
The banks haven’t been consulted on how the information will be released and have raised the issue with the Treasury, three industry officials said on condition of anonymity.
Quote of the Day
Health insurance in a civilized society is a collective moral obligation, not a discretionary consumer good. It’s somewhat analogous to national defense: We strive to safeguard everyone from the unpredictable consequences of an unforeseen tragedy, not just those who can find room in their household budgets to pony up for defense spending.Bruce Barry, professor of management and sociology at Vanderbilt University, in a letter to the New York Times.
Torture brutalizes the torturers, too.
The first use of waterboarding and other rough treatment against a prisoner from Al Qaeda was ordered by senior Central Intelligence Agency officials despite the belief of interrogators that the prisoner had already told them all he knew, according to former intelligence officials and a footnote in a newly released legal memorandum.So counterproductive methods were ordered, based on overblown assumptions, by those who didn't believe the people who knew what they were doing. It would make perfect sense if they were looking for a "true confession" for a show trial. However, based on the laws of the United States, it was a crime. President Obama should start collecting resignations because these people are not protecting our country.
The escalation to especially brutal interrogation tactics against the prisoner, Abu Zubaydah, including confining him in boxes and slamming him against the wall, was ordered by officials at C.I.A. headquarters based on a highly inflated assessment of his importance, interviews and a review of newly released documents show.
Abu Zubaydah had provided much valuable information under less severe treatment, and the harsher handling produced no breakthroughs, according to one former intelligence official with direct knowledge of the case. Instead, watching his torment caused great distress to his captors, the official said.
Even for those who believed that brutal treatment could produce results, the official said, “seeing these depths of human misery and degradation has a traumatic effect.”
Time to root out the evil doers in our midst
Petition to Attorney General Eric Holder: Appoint a Special Prosecutor
Friday, April 17, 2009
Stiglitz gets it
The Obama administration’s bank- rescue efforts will probably fail because the programs have been designed to help Wall Street rather than create a viable financial system, Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz said.And which is Larry the Hutt Summers?
“All the ingredients they have so far are weak, and there are several missing ingredients,” Stiglitz said in an interview yesterday. The people who designed the plans are “either in the pocket of the banks or they’re incompetent.”
The Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, isn’t large enough to recapitalize the banking system, and the administration hasn’t been direct in addressing that shortfall, he said. Stiglitz said there are conflicts of interest at the White House because some of Obama’s advisers have close ties to Wall Street.Oh good, another government guarantee.
“We don’t have enough money, they don’t want to go back to Congress, and they don’t want to do it in an open way and they don’t want to get control” of the banks, a set of constraints that will guarantee failure, Stiglitz said.
Happy Days are here again? Maybe not
History shows that one of the great policy dangers, in the face of a severe economic slump, is premature optimism. F.D.R. responded to signs of recovery by cutting the Works Progress Administration in half and raising taxes; the Great Depression promptly returned in full force. Japan slackened its efforts halfway through its lost decade, ensuring another five years of stagnation.Got that, grasshopper!
The Obama administration’s economists understand this. They say all the right things about staying the course. But there’s a real risk that all the talk of green shoots and glimmers will breed a dangerous complacency.
So here’s my advice, to the public and policy makers alike: Don’t count your recoveries before they’re hatched.
I wish I could say it as well as KO & Rachel
And Rachel with Jonathan Turley does not mince words describing the crimes.
Thursday, April 16, 2009
Obama has really screwed up
One technique authorized for use by the C.I.A. beginning in August 2002 was the use of “insects placed in a confinement box,” presumably to induce fear on the part of a terror suspect...Any ethically and morally stable person would know these methods are torture. Add to that the trained interrogators understanding that these methods are counter productive and wrap them in a defense that was adjudged claptrap sixty years ago and we find the President, his administration and by extension, all of us are now accessories after the fact to the Bush-Cheney crimes. We must question the value of Obama's legal training, if it allowed him to support heinous crimes.
...“Interrogators may combine water dousing with other techniques, such as stress positions, wall standing, the insult slap, or the abdominal slap,” wrote the official, Stephen G. Bradbury...
...The documents included Justice Department memos from 2002 and 2005 authorizing the C.I.A. to employ a number of aggressive techniques — including sleep deprivation, exposure to extreme temperatures and “waterboarding,” the near-drowning technique.
TPM has the memos here
The National Security Agency intercepted private e-mail messages and phone calls of Americans in recent months on a scale that went beyond the broad legal limits established by Congress last year, government officials said in recent interviews.That's our NSA, always one step ahead of the law.
Several intelligence officials, as well as lawyers briefed about the matter, said the N.S.A. had been engaged in “overcollection” of domestic communications of Americans. They described the practice as significant and systemic, although one official said it was believed to have been unintentional.
A new report from the Southern Poverty Law Center
the SPLC's own report focuses very narrowly on groups which actively preach violence, including neo-Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan, and the "racist skinhead subculture." It also notes the surprising rise of "anti-Semitic black separatists calling for death to Jews on bustling street corners in several East Coast cities."When Walt Kelly penned the words "We have met the enemy and he is us", he could not have had any idea how true that phrase is.
"A key 2008 hate group trend was the increasing militancy of the extremist fringe of the Hebrew Israelite movement," the report states, "whose adherents believe that Jews are creatures of the devil and that whites deserve death or slavery. These radical black supremacists have no love for Barack Obama, calling him a 'house nigger' and a puppet of Israel. They preach to inner-city blacks that evil Jews are solely responsible for the recession."
Dees told Smith, "The political climate, the election of Obama, the immigration issues ... and now, especially, the economy is almost causing a resurgence of what we saw in the days of Timothy McVeigh, almost a militia movement that's being reborn. ... I think that an American person is much more likely to be harmed by a domestic terrorist extremist group than by one from abroad."
Quote of the Day
It's hard to talk when you're teabagging,Anderson Cooper, responding to David Gergen's assertion that the Republicans are searching for their voice.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Matt Taibbi looks at the way we think
After all, the reason the winger crowd can’t find a way to be coherently angry right now is because this country has no healthy avenues for genuine populist outrage. It never has. The setup always goes the other way: when the excesses of business interests and their political proteges in Washington leave the regular guy broke and screwed, the response is always for the lower and middle classes to split down the middle and find reasons to get pissed off not at their greedy bosses but at each other. That’s why even people like Beck’s audience, who I’d wager are mostly lower-income people, can’t imagine themselves protesting against the Wall Street barons who in actuality are the ones who fucked them over. Beck pointedly compared the AIG protesters to Bolsheviks: “[The Communists] basically said ‘Eat the rich, they did this to you, get ‘em, kill ‘em!’” He then said the AIG and G20 protesters were identical: “It’s a different style, but the sentiments are exactly the same: Find ‘em, get ‘em, kill ‘em!’” Beck has an audience that’s been trained that the rich are not appropriate targets for anger, unless of course they’re Hollywood liberals, or George Soros, or in some other way linked to some acceptable class of villain, to liberals, immigrants, atheists, etc. — Ted Turner, say, married to Jane Fonda.How much weirder can it get before someone McVeigh's another federal building?
But actual rich people can’t ever be the target. It’s a classic peasant mentality: going into fits of groveling and bowing whenever the master’s carriage rides by, then fuming against the Turks in Crimea or the Jews in the Pale or whoever after spending fifteen hard hours in the fields. You know you’re a peasant when you worship the very people who are right now, this minute, conning you and taking your shit. Whatever the master does, you’re on board. When you get frisky, he sticks a big cross in the middle of your village, and you spend the rest of your life praying to it with big googly eyes. Or he puts out newspapers full of innuendo about this or that faraway group and you immediately salute and rush off to join the hate squad. A good peasant is loyal, simpleminded, and full of misdirected anger. And that’s what we’ve got now, a lot of misdirected anger searching around for a non-target to mis-punish… can’t be mad at AIG, can’t be mad at Citi or Goldman Sachs. The real villains have to be the anti-AIG protesters! After all, those people earned those bonuses! If ever there was a textbook case of peasant thinking, it’s struggling middle-class Americans burned up in defense of taxpayer-funded bonuses to millionaires. It’s really weird stuff. And bound to get weirder, I imagine, as this crisis gets worse and more complicated.
Stephen Colbert flying high
What do you do when you're NASA and comedian Stephen Colbert wins your contest to name the new wing for the International Space Station? You name an orbital exercise machine after him.
NASA will name an orbital exercise machine after comedian Stephen Colbert.
NASA will name an orbital exercise machine after comedian Stephen Colbert.
The Combined Operational Load Bearing External Resistance Treadmill, or COLBERT, is expected to keep astronauts in shape.
With the help of a legion of fans, Colbert got the most votes in the space agency's online poll soliciting names for Node 3, which will be called Tranquility after the Sea of Tranquility, where Apollo 11 landed on the moon.
Astronaut Sunita "Suni" Williams revealed NASA's decision on "The Colbert Report," which aired on Comedy Central on Tuesday.
"Your name will be in space, in a very important place," Williams said as Colbert reacted in mock disgust to her announcement of the node's new name.
"I think a treadmill is better than a node ... because the node is just a box for the treadmill," Colbert deadpanned. "Nobody says, 'Hey, my mom bought me a Nike box.' They want the shoes that are inside."
Two toons today
Like a mother hen
She was setting on a cache of weapons. The NRA will sell anything to those Mexicans
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Norm, ya lost!
After Andy Cuomo broke the ice
The Securities and Exchange Commission is reviewing whether Bank of America broke the law by not telling shareholders about Merrill Lynch’s plan to pay out $3.6bn in bonuses before they voted for a government-backed merger of the two banks.Under the Bushoviks, an SEC investigation was often used to remove the case from the hands of competent investigators and cover up the problem. We can only hope that Summers and Geithner haven't convinced Obama to do the same.
Merrill paid the bonuses in December, days before it was acquired by BofA and a month before bonuses were normally dispensed.
BofA has said it was not required to tell its shareholders about the bonuses.
But Mary Schapiro, chairman of the SEC, wrote in a letter to a Democratic congressman that the regulator was “carefully reviewing the Bank of America disclosure” and had not yet expressed a view on whether the bonus plan should have been revealed.
Federal securities law prohibits institutions from “omitting material facts” in connection to the purchase or sale of securities.
The incident has stirred controversy because Merrill was racking up record losses of $27.5bn for the year when it paid the bonuses, and Ken Lewis, BofA chief executive, eventually asked for $20bn in taxpayers’ money to complete the takeover.
The Dave and Larry Show
And Dave's first 3 minutes are pretty funny.
Drug addled is being too kind
Limbaugh began his Monday show by saying -- every word dripping with extreme sarcasm -- "I want to single out today, Jonah Goldberg at National Review Online for being the first that I saw to have the proper reaction to the rescue of Captain Phillips from the merchant marine organizers, and that was to congratulate President Obama for a job well done. And I think we all must agree, folks, that when Obama does something right, we gotta go out there and we've got to acknowledge it."I know I should be happy that they are trying to eat their own, but Boss Limbaugh really does make Jabba the Hut seem like a decent soul.
Limbaugh's assault might be considered ill-natured, given that Goldberg had defended him just last month -- when Limbaugh came under fire for saying he wanted to see Obama fail -- and had condemned the attacks on Limbaugh as "a tired rehash."
However, Limbaugh apparently felt no need on Monday to reciprocate for Goldberg's earlier support. After going on for a while about how the rescue should be made into a movie starring Will Smith as Barack Obama and himself, Sarah Palin, Eric Cantor, and Bobby Jindal as the pirates, Limbaugh returned to invoking Goldberg's name over and over, each time twisting the knife just a bit deeper.
"We just can't be constant critics," Limbaugh purred. "As Jonah Goldberg has pointed out in National Review today, we must, when we see brilliance in action, decisiveness -- the SEALs? ... SEALs couldn't have done diddly-squat were it not for the decisive, cool under pressure, first test passed President Obama. ... And he deserves praise. Jonah Goldberg at National Review was first to point out, he does the right thing, we gotta say so."
Monday, April 13, 2009
Congratulations to President Obama
Under the new policy, Cuban Americans will now be allowed to travel freely to the island and send as much money as they want to their family members — so long as the money is not going to senior officials of the Cuban government or the Communist Party.The policy drew immediate criticism from the old Moustache Pedros in Miami, but they won't be around for much longer.
Second, the administration will take steps to open up communications to the island by allowing telecommunications companies to engage in licensing agreements that will support cell phones, satellite televisions and computers there.
Third, the president will reverse restrictions on gift packages imposed by his predecessor, former President George W. Bush, in 2004. The new rules will permit Cuban Americans to send clothing, personal hygiene items and fishing equipment to family members on the island — again, so long as the recipients are not government or Communist Party officials.
Marilyn Chambers You opened many doors with what you did behind that green one.
Thieves with taste
It is a common ploy here and elsewhere to have professional decorators “stage” unoccupied homes that are on the market with borrowed furnishings and appointments to help fetch top dollar, especially now that real estate sales have wilted like a week-old flower arrangement.Dear God! I had no idea mauve is out.
But along with fragrant jasmine and wisteria in bloom, there is caution in the air here. The same painstaking efforts to attract buyers have also attracted thieves.
An unusual wave of burglaries has hit unoccupied houses for sale in this affluent 1.8-square-mile bedroom community in the hills east of Oakland, and it is testing the forced cheerfulness of real estate agents who are already reeling. Last weekend, two staged houses were burglarized in nearby Orinda, a wealthy suburb, robbed in the morning hours before planned afternoon open houses.
“It’s brazen,” said D. J. Grubb, the president of the Grubb Company, a real estate agency based in Oakland. “These are highly aesthetic crimes. The thief seems to be someone with very good taste, somebody who knows that mauve is out.”
Still crazy after all these years
Today’s G.O.P. is, after all, very much a minority party. It retains some limited ability to obstruct the Democrats, but has no ability to make or even significantly shape policy.Never turn your back on a Republican.
Beyond that, Republicans have become embarrassing to watch. And it doesn’t feel right to make fun of crazy people. Better, perhaps, to focus on the real policy debates, which are all among Democrats.
But here’s the thing: the G.O.P. looked as crazy 10 or 15 years ago as it does now. That didn’t stop Republicans from taking control of both Congress and the White House. And they could return to power if the Democrats stumble. So it behooves us to look closely at the state of what is, after all, one of our nation’s two great political parties.
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