Saturday, January 31, 2009

Frank Rich wonders when the Party of Hoover

Went from being a viable political party to a bunch of whining, petulant children taking their orders from a fat, baby raping junkie.
Obama no doubt finds Limbaugh’s grandiosity more amusing than frightening, but G.O.P. politicians are shaking like Jell-O. When asked by Andrea Mitchell of NBC News on Wednesday if he shared Limbaugh’s hope that Obama fails, Eric Cantor spun like a top before running off, as it happened, to appear on Limbaugh’s radio show. Mike Pence of Indiana, No. 3 in the Republican House leadership, similarly squirmed when asked if he agreed with Limbaugh. Though the Republicans’ official, poll-driven line is that they want Obama to succeed, they’d rather abandon that disingenuous nicety than cross Rush.

Most pathetic of all was Phil Gingrey, a right-wing Republican congressman from Georgia, who mildly criticized both Limbaugh and Sean Hannity to Politico because they “stand back and throw bricks” while lawmakers labor in the trenches. So many called Gingrey’s office to complain that the poor congressman begged Limbaugh to bring him on air to publicly recant on Wednesday. As Gingrey abjectly apologized to talk radio’s commandant for his “stupid comments” and “foot-in-mouth disease,” he sounded like the inmate in a B-prison-movie cowering before the warden after a failed jailbreak.

“It’s up to me to hijack the Obama honeymoon,” Limbaugh soon gloated, “and I’ve done it.” In his dreams. He has hijacked what’s left of the Republican Party; the Obama honeymoon remains intact. The nightmare is that we have so irrelevant, clownish and childish an opposition party at a moment when America is in an all-hands-on-deck emergency that’s as trying as war. To paraphrase a dictum that has been variously attributed to two of our most storied leaders in times of great challenge, Thomas Paine and George Patton, the Republicans should either lead, follow or get out of the grown-ups’ way.
The Party of Hoover has become pathetic.

Bookmark this website!!

Alas, not my humble blog, but the site for The Leadership Conference for Guaranteed Health Care. They are the national alliance for single payer healthcare reform – publicly funded, privately delivered healthcare for all. The website is to provide resources and coordination for those who want the least expensive and most comprehensive healthcare plan for all of us. One resource they have is a favorite of all Americans, a Top 10 List!

1. Everybody In, Nobody Out. Universal means access to health care for everyone, period.

2. Portability. If you are unemployed, or lose or change jobs, your health coverage stays with you.

3. Uniform Benefits. No Cadillac plans for the wealthy and Pinto plans for everyone else, with high deductibles, limited services, caps on payments for care, and no protection in the event of a catastrophe. One level of comprehensive care for everyone, regardless of the size of your wallet.

4. Prevention. By removing financial roadblocks, a universal health system encourages preventive care that lowers an individual's ultimate cost and pain and suffering when problems are neglected and societal cost in the over-utilization of emergency rooms or the spread of communicable diseases.

5. Choice. Most private insurance restricts your choice of providers and hospitals. Under the U.S. National Health Insurance Act, patients have a choice, and the provider is assured a fair payment.

6. No Interference with Care. Caregivers and patients regain their autonomy to decide what's best for a patient's health, not what's dictated by the billing department. No denial of coverage for pre-existing conditions or cancellation of policies for "unreported" minor health problems.

7. Reducing Waste. One third of every private health insurance dollar goes for paperwork and profits, compared to about 3% under Medicare, the federal government's universal system for senior citizen healthcare.

8. Cost Savings. A guaranteed health care system can produce the cost savings needed to cover everyone, largely by using existing resources without the waste. Taiwan, shifting from a U.S. private health care model, adopted a similar system in 1995, boosting health coverage from 57% to 97% with little increase in overall health care spending.

9. Common Sense Budgeting. The public system sets fair reimbursements applied equally to all providers, private and public, while assuring that appropriate health care is delivered, and uses its clout to negotiate volume discounts for prescription drugs and medical equipment.

10. Public Oversight. The public sets the policies and administers the system, not high priced CEOs meeting in private and making decisions based on their company's stock performance needs.

Be sure to share points 5,6 & 7 with any friends who keep spouting about socialism. And take a look to see if your Congressman is a co-sponsor of HR 676.

Joe Galloway is watching a bank robbery

And in a very populist voice is calling for the gang to be rounded up from their lairs on Wall St and thrown into Rikers Island's "best" accommodations.
Since we're already in considerable pain and in for much more of the same, how about we just let these bastards go belly up? Or better yet, earmark about $200 billion to buy all 10 of the biggest American bank companies, fire all their executives without severance and install new management teams composed of people who've run successful businesses. Who know how to meet a payroll and balance a checkbook; who know what bullshit looks like and smells like?

As it stands now, we couldn't be any worse off if we appointed Bernie Madoff as the banking czar.

In the movies, bank robbers always meet a bad end. John Dillinger and Bonnie and Clyde died in hails of gunfire. Willie Sutton and Alvin (Creepy) Karpis spent half their lives in prison.

What are we to do with the new generation of bank robbers? Close our eyes and let them ride off into the sunset at the head of wagon trains stuffed full of our money? Or turn them over to some new mad dog New York prosecutor out to make a name and a rep and prepared to let them rot on Rikers Island while he investigates?
We heartily approve of his idea.

President Obama may want to move forward

But at some point, soon hopefully, the vile iniquities of the Bushoviks needs to be addressed and remedied. Probably the most shameless violation of the Constitution was perpetrated on Jose Padilla.
Attorneys for US citizen Jose Padilla -- who was convicted of material support for terrorist activities in 2007 -- say that high-level Bush Administration officials knew their client was being tortured during the time he was held an enemy combatant in a South Carolina brig, because of the command structure and that then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld employed in approving harsh interrogation tactics.

Rumsfeld approved the harsh interrogation techniques early in Bush's presidency. In Iraq, a cheat sheet titled "Interrogation Rules of Engagement," revealed that some of them required the Iraq commanding general's approval.

Among those requiring approval are tactics Padilla's mother and lawyer say he was the victim of: "Sleep adjustment," "Sleep management, "Sensory deprivation," "isolation lasting longer than thirty days" and "stress" positions." It wouldn't be a shock if military guards went beyond the traditional treatment of a US prisoner, given Rumsfeld's approved techniques and that Padilla was is legal limbo as an enemy combatant and eligible to be held for years without charge.
Even without the torture involved, the last line alone should be sufficient to annul any illegal government action against Mr Padilla. The 6th Amendment is quite explicit.
Amendment VI

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.
No amount of Kool-Aid can wash away the fact that 5 years in solitary without ever seeing an attorney is a total violation of this amendment, which provides for no exceptions.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Sen. Claire McCaskill is on our side

And she is mad as hell and isn't going to take it anymore.
An angry U.S. senator introduced legislation Friday to cap compensation for employees of any company that accepts federal bailout money.

Under the terms of a bill introduced by Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, no employee would be allowed to make more than the president of the United States.

Obama's current annual salary is $400,000.

"We have a bunch of idiots on Wall Street that are kicking sand in the face of the American taxpayer," an enraged McCaskill said on the floor of the Senate. "They don't get it. These people are idiots. You can't use taxpayer money to pay out $18 billion in bonuses." Video Watch McCaskill's heated words »

McCaskill's proposed compensation limit would cover salaries, bonuses and stock options.
Right on, Sister!

Forget the prayer, we will have the wings

Despite the fearmongering of people like Mr Colbert (see below) our nation will have enough wings this Super Bowl Sunday. Here in the birthplace of Buffalo wings all the experts agree, no shortage here. For all you lovers of those dainty bits of Mama's Revenge disguised as maternal love, rest assured your 3 dozen suicide wings are on the way.

Krugman says, Health Care Now!

Not only would it help bring the US back into the ranks of first world nations, but it would be a valuable part of the stimulus efforts on which we are spending so much time and money.
One more thing. There’s a populist rage building in this country, as Americans see bankers getting huge bailouts while ordinary citizens suffer.

I agree with administration officials who argue that these financial bailouts are necessary (though I have problems with the specifics). But I also agree with Barney Frank, the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, who argues that — as a matter of political necessity as well as social justice — aid to bankers has to be linked to a strengthening of the social safety net, so that Americans can see that the government is ready to help everyone, not just the rich and powerful.

The bottom line, then, is that this is no time to let campaign promises of guaranteed health care be quietly forgotten. It is, instead, a time to put the push for universal care front and center. Health care now!
What do we want? Health Care! When do we want it? NOW!

Another reason John Yoo should be deported

Back to the North Korean hellhole that spawned him. Writing in the Wall St Journal, naturally, the Yoo bastard writes that the use of torture was simply to remove a cornerstone of Anglo-American jurisprudence, the right to remain silent.
"The first thing any lawyer will do is tell his clients to shut up," writes Yoo. "The [Khalid Sheikh Mohammeds] or Abu Zubaydahs of the future will respond to no verbal questioning or trickery -- which is precisely why the Bush administration felt compelled to use more coercive measures in the first place."
He then opens up to show his contempt for the world of law, that he is a part of.
Relying on the civilian justice system not only robs us of the most effective intelligence tool to avert future attacks, it provides an opportunity for our enemies to obtain intelligence on us," continued Yoo.
One can almost believe that the Yoo bastard wished Li'l Georgie was more like Kim Jong-Il. He and others are definitely daring the Obama administration to take them to court. To which I can only say, Hear Ye, Hear Ye....

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Thursday is a good day for some texas road house music

stevie ray vaughan and lou ann barton jackie newhouse

A statue unveiled

Over in Tikrit the local orphanage, set up to raise children orphaned by Bush War II, helped a sculptor build a statue to an Iraqi hero.
A huge sculpture of the footwear hurled at President Bush last year during a trip to Iraq has been unveiled at the Tikrit Orphanage complex during a ceremony.

Assisted by kids at the home, sculptor Laith al-Amiri erected a brown replica of one of the shoes hurled last month by journalist Muntadhir al-Zaidi during a press conference in Baghdad at Bush and Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

Al-Zaidi was jailed for his actions, and a trial is pending. But his angry gesture touched a defiant nerve throughout the Arab and Muslim world. He is regarded by many people as a hero and demonstrators last month took to the streets in the Arab world and called for his release.

The tree is a nice touch.

Made of fiberglass and coated with copper, the monument consists of the shoe sitting on a concrete base. The entire monument is 3.5 meters high. The shoe is 2.5 meters long and 1.5 meters wide.

A damn good idea whose time has come.

The entire world financial structure is currently at risk because of what may or may not be $28 Trillion in credit default swaps. The scary part is that many of those involved in the CDS' have no direct interest in the event that would trigger a default. Finally someone in Congress is proposing a bill that requires you to have a horse in the race if you want to gamble at that casino.
House of Representatives Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson of Minnesota circulated an updated draft bill yesterday that would ban credit-default swap trading unless investors owned the underlying bonds. The draft, distributed by e-mail from the committee, would also force U.S. trades in the $684 trillion over-the-counter derivatives markets to be processed by a clearinghouse. Hearings on the draft will be held next week.

U.S. regulators and politicians are stepping up pressure on banks to use clearinghouses and agree to increased oversight of the markets to improve transparency amid a credit crisis that began in 2007. Bad bets on credit-default swaps led to the collapse and government rescue of American International Group Inc. in September.
And all the gamblers and bookmakers in the Wall St casino are furious at this attempt to bring reality to their fun.
The proposal “would radically shrink” the market, said Scott MacDonald, head of research at Aladdin Capital Management in Stamford, Connecticut, which oversees $16.5 billion in assets. “While it’s important that there’s a drive to return to some degree of plain-vanilla in financial products, this would be considerable overkill.”
Pure piffle.

From the pen of Pat Oliphant

Click pic to big

On the question of bonuses

Every job should have some form of incentive, bonuses are one form that has been practiced heavily on Wall St. When a situation like this occurs
Some bankers took home millions last year even as their employers lost billions.
The whole structure of bonuses should be seriously reworked.

This would be ridiculous

If it were not simply scandalous.
"A federal judge says being a cook for the Taliban is reason enough for the U.S. military to hold a Yemen man as an enemy combatant at Guantanamo Bay," the Associated Press reports.

"U.S. District Judge Richard Leon on Wednesday denied Ghaleb Nassar Al Bihani's request to be released from the military prison," the story continues. "Al Bihani, a citizen of Yemen, has been held for more than seven years. He says he never fired a weapon while serving with Taliban forces in Afghanistan and worked as an assistant in the kitchen."

The AP adds, "Leon said that Al Bihani's work supported the Taliban, nevertheless, and that the U.S. government has appropriately classified him as an enemy combatant. In his ruling, Leon quoted Napoleon as saying: 'An army marches on its stomach.'"
If the judge were really interested in justice, he would have sampled some of the fellow's cooking to see which side he was really on.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

I heard this on the radio today

And felt like posting it.

I'd Like To Teach The World To Sing-The New Seekers

Republican congressman kisses the ass of baby raping junkie.

And while he did so, he was truly in fear of losing his safe Republican seat in Georgia.
Following statements made to Politico yesterday telling Rush Limbaugh to "back off," Republican congressman Phil Gingrey now has his tail between his legs. In a groveling call to Limbaugh's conservative radio program this afternoon, Gingrey offered a humble apology and described Limbaugh as a "conservative giant" who plays an integral role in maintaining the ever-decreasing Republican base.
He had to kiss his ass because Rush only lets very important people and underage hookers suck his teeny winkie.

Quote of the Day

Rush Limbaugh is a has-been hypocrite loser, who craves attention. His right-wing lunacy sounds like Mikhail Gorbachev, extolling the virtues of communism. Limbaugh actually was more lucid when he was a drug addict. If America ever did 1% of what he wanted us to do, then we'd all need pain killers.
Rep. Alan Greyson, D-FL stating the obvious.

MoDo is in high dudgeon

And wants the Obama administration to get medieval on the spoiled boys of the boardroom.
The “Citiboobs” — as The New York Post, which broke the news, calls them — watched as the car chieftains got in trouble for flying their private jets to Washington to ask for bailouts, and the A.I.G. moguls got dragged before Congress for spending their bailout on California spa treatments. But the boobs still didn’t get the message.

The former masters of the universe don’t seem to fully comprehend that their universe has crumbled and, thanks to them, so has ours. Real people are losing real jobs at Caterpillar, Home Depot and Sprint Nextel; these and other companies announced on Monday that they would cut more than 75,000 jobs in the U.S. and around the world, as consumer confidence and home prices swan-dived.
And how many times have we heard this mantra as they troop to oblivion.
In an interview with Maria Bartiromo on CNBC, Thain used the specious, contemptible reasoning that other executives use to rationalize why they’re keeping their bonuses as profits are plunging.

“If you don’t pay your best people, you will destroy your franchise” and they’ll go elsewhere, he said.

Hello? They destroyed the franchise. Let’s call their bluff. Let’s see what a great job market it is for the geniuses of capitalism who lost $15 billion in three months and helped usher in socialism.
Makes you wonder what skills are needed to reach the top.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Leonard Pitts has had his fill of pus balls like Limbaugh

And he says so in his latest column.
"I hope he fails."

Do you ever say that about your president if you are an American who loves your country? Would you say it about George W. Bush, who was disastrous; about Bill Clinton, who was slimy; about Jimmy Carter, who was inept; about Richard Nixon, who was crooked? You may think he's going to fail, yes. You may warn he's going to fail, yes.

But do you ever hope he fails? Knowing his failure is the country's failure? Isn't that, well . . . disloyal?

The irony is that Limbaugh and the other clowns would have you believe they are bedrock defenders of this country, that they love it more than the rest of us, more than anything.

That's a lie. Limbaugh just told us so, emphatically.
And along the way Mr Pitts stumbles upon the reality of conservative Republicans, the real reason why they are the Party of Hoover.
The country doesn't matter. The "side" does. And Limbaugh's side seems angry in power and angry out. It's as if anger is all they really have.
Anger is all they ever had and it blinds them to anything positive in this world.

Two for Tuesday

Pat Oliphant

Tom Toles

Click pic to big

To go where no jug of ashes has ever gone before

The creator of ''Star Trek'' and his wife will spend eternity together in space. Celestis Inc., a company that specializes in ''memorial spaceflights,'' said Monday that it will ship the remains of Gene Roddenberry and Majel Barrett Roddenberry into space next year.

The couple's cremated remains will be sealed into specially made capsules designed to withstand the rigors of space travel. A rocket-launched spacecraft will carry the capsules, along with digitized tributes from fans. The Roddenberrys' remains -- and the spacecraft -- will travel ever deeper into space and will not return to earth, company spokeswoman Susan Schonfeld said.
To spend eternity in the infinite.

Bob Herbert wonders why

After their string of unmitigated disasters, anybody listens to the Party of Hoover anymore.
The question that I would like answered is why anyone listens to this crowd anymore. G.O.P. policies have been an absolute backbreaker for the middle class. (Forget the poor. Nobody talks about them anymore, not even the Democrats.) The G.O.P. has successfully engineered a wholesale redistribution of wealth to those already at the top of the income ladder and then, in a remarkable display of chutzpah, dared anyone to talk about class warfare.
He took the words right out of my mouth.

The UN curtails Rummy's travel plans

Purely domestic travel for everybodys favorite evil old fart. It seems that the UN has sufficient evidence for civilized nations to arrest and prosecute him for ordering torture.
Monday, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture Manfred Nowak told CNN's Rick Sanchez that the US has an "obligation" to investigate whether Bush administration officials ordered torture, adding that he believes that there is already enough evidence to prosecute former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

"We have clear evidence," he said. "In our report that we sent to the United Nations, we made it clear that former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld clearly authorized torture methods and he was told at that time by Alberto Mora, the legal council of the Navy, 'Mr. Secretary, what you are actual ordering here amounts to torture.' So, there we have the clear evidence that Mr. Rumsfeld knew what he was doing but, nevertheless, he ordered torture."
If it would help Mr. Nowak, I would gladly buy Rummy a plane ticket.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Quote of the Day

Please do not try to put Afghanistan aright with the U.S. military. To send our troops out of Iraq and into Afghanistan would be a near-perfect example of going from the frying pan into the fire
George McGovern, writing in the Washington Post.

Gonzo was just following orders

In an interview the despicable little shit was asked if he was afraid of prosecution for torture by the Obama DoJ.His answer:
"I don't think that there's going to be a prosecution, quite frankly.'' Gonzales said. "Because again, these activities.... They were authorized, they were supported by legal opinions at the Department of Justice.''
The little pus ball is too young to remember when we hung people who used that defense.

With 43 Shoe Shows on the way

The Road to the Super Bowl may be hard but its not all work. It will also be expensive.
There's Lip Stixx and Centerfolds and the Bliss Cabaret. There's Diamond Dolls and Bare Assets and the Wild Gentlemen's Club. In fact, there are, by one count, 43 strip clubs in the Tampa metropolitan area - one for each Super Bowl. And the week of Super Bowl XLIII is to Tampa's naughty nightlife what Black Friday is to America's shopping malls.

All the exotic dancing joints have earned Tampa a bawdy reputation - the lads' magazine Maxim even put it on its top 10 list of best U.S. party cities a couple years ago, based mostly on the two score and more night spots to see naked or nearly naked women.
Not everyone will be interested in the offerings, but it is expected that there will sufficient visiting Baptists to fill the house.

Tax sex on a per boink basis

The legal sex industry in Nevada is asking to pay their fair share but for some reason the state doesn't want to have anything to do with it. I guess the pols don't want to legitimize the competition

Dr Paul debunks the Party of Hoover bunkum

Because the Hooverites are throwing a lot of bullshit around about the stimulus, the good Dr. takes the time to explain that a pile of manure by any other name is still manure.
First, there’s the bogus talking point that the Obama plan will cost $275,000 per job created. Why is it bogus? Because it involves taking the cost of a plan that will extend over several years, creating millions of jobs each year, and dividing it by the jobs created in just one of those years.

It’s as if an opponent of the school lunch program were to take an estimate of the cost of that program over the next five years, then divide it by the number of lunches provided in just one of those years, and assert that the program was hugely wasteful, because it cost $13 per lunch. (The actual cost of a free school lunch, by the way, is $2.57.)

The true cost per job of the Obama plan will probably be closer to $100,000 than $275,000 — and the net cost will be as little as $60,000 once you take into account the fact that a stronger economy means higher tax receipts.
This is a good example because it displays the false number juggling that the Hooverites love so much.

The insurance lobby hates universal health care

And they are gearing up their lobbyists to stop it. In the course of a program on the abysmal state of health care in the US, the BBC shows one insurance lobbyist explaining how they plan to stop any effort by President Obama to reform and expand the system.
"We plan on mounting a national campaign," warned health insurance industry lobbyist Angela Hunter, "and what we hope to do is to, number one, get some articles in the newspaper explaining what the problems are that we see with the plan. Two: Educate lawmakers, people who are members of our organizations, their clients--to go and lobby members of Congress--call them on the phone, visit them in their offices, and to just do everything that we can possibly do to preserve the freedom of choice for individuals in health care in America."to preserve the freedom of choice for individuals".
Notice the big lie they slip in at the end, guaranteed to excite non thinking Americans everywhere. They don't yet know what the plan will be but they will try to stop it. And for what? To preserve this health care system?
The documentary opens in rural Kentucky, where people have driven within a 200-mile radius to wait in line in the early morning for a spot in line to see a volunteer doctor thanks to the efforts of Remote Access Medical, who originally set out to help people in the Amazon jungle, but now focus 60% of their time on Americans.

Monday Music Blogging

One of the best Canadian jazz singers.

Molly Johnson - Melody

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Watch what they do, not what they say

Because those lying bastards, commonly referred to as the Party of Hoover, have made all the right noises about bipartisanship but when jerk comes to jerk off they are all followers of Rush "I Want Obama to Fail" Limbaugh.
Leading Republicans Sunday indicated that they would oppose passage of the stimulus package as it is currently written. While there is bi-partisan acknowledgment that some sort of stimulus package needs to be passed to provide a jolt to the economy, Democrats are attaching a sense of urgency to the situation that Republicans do not seem to share.

Senator McCain, who lost the presidential election to Mr. Obama in November, said that he planned to vote no unless the bill were changed.

"We need to make tax cuts permanent, and we need to make a commitment that there'll be no new taxes," Mr. McCain said. "We need to cut payroll taxes. We need to cut business taxes."
Now is a good time for Obama & Biden to work the Senate and hang McCain, McConnell & Boner out to dry.

Another Feast of Lies, Another War of Choice

And like the US war of choice in Iraq, this one also serves no strategic purpose and ultimately benefits no one. Henry Siegman, director of the US Middle East Project in New York writes about the true beginnings of the Gaza Massacre and exposes the lies fed to the western media that were swallowed whole by the "working press".
Middle East peacemaking has been smothered in deceptive euphemisms, so let me state bluntly that each of these claims is a lie. Israel, not Hamas, violated the truce: Hamas undertook to stop firing rockets into Israel; in return, Israel was to ease its throttlehold on Gaza. In fact, during the truce, it tightened it further. This was confirmed not only by every neutral international observer and NGO on the scene but by Brigadier General (Res.) Shmuel Zakai, a former commander of the IDF’s Gaza Division. In an interview in Ha’aretz on 22 December, he accused Israel’s government of having made a ‘central error’ during the tahdiyeh, the six-month period of relative truce, by failing ‘to take advantage of the calm to improve, rather than markedly worsen, the economic plight of the Palestinians of the Strip . . . When you create a tahdiyeh, and the economic pressure on the Strip continues,’ General Zakai said, ‘it is obvious that Hamas will try to reach an improved tahdiyeh, and that their way to achieve this is resumed Qassam fire . . . You cannot just land blows, leave the Palestinians in Gaza in the economic distress they’re in, and expect that Hamas will just sit around and do nothing.’

The truce, which began in June last year and was due for renewal in December, required both parties to refrain from violent action against the other. Hamas had to cease its rocket assaults and prevent the firing of rockets by other groups such as Islamic Jihad (even Israel’s intelligence agencies acknowledged this had been implemented with surprising effectiveness), and Israel had to put a stop to its targeted assassinations and military incursions. This understanding was seriously violated on 4 November, when the IDF entered Gaza and killed six members of Hamas. Hamas responded by launching Qassam rockets and Grad missiles. Even so, it offered to extend the truce, but only on condition that Israel ended its blockade. Israel refused. It could have met its obligation to protect its citizens by agreeing to ease the blockade, but it didn’t even try. It cannot be said that Israel launched its assault to protect its citizens from rockets. It did so to protect its right to continue the strangulation of Gaza’s population.
Even to this day the Israelis maintain their stranglehold on goods into Gaza, which is one reason the Gazans have been so quick to restore the tunnels that allow the people to survive.

The life of a cubicle monkey

Who is the real Bernie Madoff

The NY Times tries to get a handle on what sort of person he really was. In the end, the only thing they can say with certainty is that Bernie made off with $Billions of other peoples money.

Israel, father to Hamas

So the Wall St Journal postulates on a weekend article about the creation of that militant Islamic group.
Surveying the wreckage of a neighbor's bungalow hit by a Palestinian rocket, retired Israeli official Avner Cohen traces the missile's trajectory back to an "enormous, stupid mistake" made 30 years ago.

"Hamas, to my great regret, is Israel's creation," says Mr. Cohen, a Tunisian-born Jew who worked in Gaza for more than two decades. Responsible for religious affairs in the region until 1994, Mr. Cohen watched the Islamist movement take shape, muscle aside secular Palestinian rivals and then morph into what is today Hamas, a militant group that is sworn to Israel's destruction.

Instead of trying to curb Gaza's Islamists from the outset, says Mr. Cohen, Israel for years tolerated and, in some cases, encouraged them as a counterweight to the secular nationalists of the Palestine Liberation Organization and its dominant faction, Yasser Arafat's Fatah. Israel cooperated with a crippled, half-blind cleric named Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, even as he was laying the foundations for what would become Hamas. Sheikh Yassin continues to inspire militants today; during the recent war in Gaza, Hamas fighters confronted Israeli troops with "Yassins," primitive rocket-propelled grenades named in honor of the cleric.
To be fair and balanced, there are many in Israel who blame Iran, though they fail to explain why a militant Sunni group would let itself be guided by a Shiite country. Regardles of who may have been at the "birth", Israel failed to do anything until felt compelled to take military action. And that course has been a short sighted disaster.
Now, one big fear in Israel and elsewhere is that while Hamas has been hammered hard, the war might have boosted the group's popular appeal. Ismail Haniyeh, head of the Hamas administration in Gaza, came out of hiding last Sunday to declare that "God has granted us a great victory."

Most damaged from the war, say many Palestinians, is Fatah, now Israel's principal negotiating partner. "Everyone is praising the resistance and thinks that Fatah is not part of it," says Baker Abu-Baker, a longtime Fatah supporter and author of a book on Hamas.
And now the main Palestinian group is a fanatically religious group whose leaders need the image of resistance to maintain their hold on power. So where do we go from here?

Cheesy Chuck Schumer uses a big word

Chuck seems to be supporting prosecutions of Bushoviks for torture and other crimes, but pay attention to the big word he uses.
Echoing Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi's words one week ago, New York Sen. Charles Schumer said Sunday that he could support prosecution for Bush officials that participated in torture or broke other laws.

"If there are egregious cases, I don't think you can say, blanket, no prosecutions," Schumer told Fox's Chris Wallace Sunday morning. "If there are egregious cases, yes, you have to look at them."
The definition of egregious is "conspicuous ; especially : conspicuously bad : flagrant". In Chuck's world that means evidence so overwhelming that even a notoriously Nelson-eyed crew like the Senate can't ignore it. When Chuck goes beyond lip-service, I will believe him.

No seconds for this stew

The Mexican police have caught a dude who describes himself as a "stewmaker" for one of Mexico's brutal drug lords.
Santiago Meza Lopez was arrested Thursday in Ensenada, Baja California, but it took police 24 hours to identify him. He says he works for drug lord Teodoro Garcia Simental, also known as "el Teo," a powerful drug trafficker.

Meza, who is shown handcuffed and flanked by guards in video released by the government, calls himself "Teo's stewmaker" and says he was paid $600 a week for his macabre duties. The victims, he said, were men who owed Garcia something or had betrayed him.
Just another part of the vicious drug wars going on in Mexico these days. No wonder the Marines put Tijuana off-limits.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

There's a new sheriff in town

And he's planning on taming the financial gunslingers on Wall St. Some of the ideas on the table.
Officials said they want rules to eliminate conflicts of interest at credit rating agencies that gave top investment grades to the exotic and ultimately shaky financial instruments that have been a source of market turmoil. The core problem, they said, is that the agencies are paid by companies to help them structure financial instruments, which the agencies then grade.

Aides said they would propose new federal standards for mortgage brokers who issued many unsuitable loans and are largely regulated by state officials. They are considering proposals to have the S.E.C. become more involved in supervising the underwriting standards of securities that are backed by mortgages.

The administration is also preparing to require that derivatives like credit default swaps, a type of insurance against loan defaults that were at the center of the financial meltdown last year, be traded through a central clearinghouse and possibly on one or more exchanges. That would make it significantly easier for regulators to supervise their use.
All long overdue. And one more still in the planning stage that should please a lot of people, if it ever happens.
Administration officials have begun to study ways to control executive compensation.
I suspect this one is just a tease. And I didn't see anything about re-regulating the commodity futures.

Cheap chiseling bastards right to the end

Three years after the VA was caught underbudgeting and cutting veterans health care, the GAO has released a report that makes clear the Bushies never did change their ways.
In 2005, the VA stunned Congress by suddenly announcing it faced a $1 billion shortfall after failing to take into account the additional cost of caring for veterans injured in Iraq and Afghanistan. The admission, which came months after the department insisted it was operating within its means and did not need additional money, drew harsh criticism from both parties.

The GAO later determined the VA repeatedly miscalculated — if not deliberately misled taxpayers — with questionable methods used to justify Bush administration cuts to health care amid the burgeoning Iraq war. In Friday’s report, the GAO said it had found similarly unrealistic assumptions and projections in the VA’s more recent budget estimates submitted in August 2007.

According to latest GAO report, the VA is believed to have:

• Undercut its 2009 budget estimate for nursing home care by roughly $112 million. It noted the VA planned for $4 billion in spending, up $108 million from the previous year, based largely on a projected 2.5 percent increase in costs. But previously, the VA had seen an annual cost increase of 5.5 percent.

• Underestimated costs of care in noninstitutional settings such as hospices by up to $144 million. The VA assumed costs would not increase in 2009, even though in recent years the cost of providing a day of noninstitutional care increased by 19 percent.

• Overstated the amount of noninstitutional care. The VA projected a 38 percent increase in patient workload in 2009, partly in response to previous GAO and inspector general reports that found widespread gaps in services and urged greater use of the facilities. But for unknown reasons, veterans served in recent years actually decreased slightly, and the VA offered no explanation as to how it planned to get higher enrollment.
When you start a war and don't take care of your veterans, you are lower than a snake's asshole.

A rose by any other name...

would smell as sweet. This romantic sentiment of The Immortal Bard would hardly apply to a prison and notorious torture center, but that won't stop the Iraqis from trying.
Iraq will reopen the notorious Abu Ghraib prison next month, but it's getting a facelift and a new name, a senior justice official said Saturday.

The heavily fortified compound of gray, stonewalled buildings and watchtowers has come to symbolize American abuse of some prisoners captured in Iraq after photos were released showing U.S. soldiers sexually humiliating inmates at the facility.

The renovated facility will be called Baghdad's Central Prison because the name Abu Ghraib has left a "bitter feeling inside Iraqis' hearts," deputy Justice Minister Busho Ibrahim said.

Abu Ghraib, which was a torture center under Saddam Hussein, has been closed since 2006.

The prison will house 3,500 inmates when it reopens in mid-February and will have a capacity for about 15,000 by the end of this year, Ibrahim told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.
Why waste a perfectly good facility when all you need do is change a few signs and Poofto! all the bad memories disappear. And the expansion is coming just in time, too.
The announcement comes as the U.S. military has begun handing over about 15,000 detainees in its custody to the Iraqis under a new security agreement, prompting concern about Iraq's beleaguered judicial system.
Such good timing.

Beluga whale or filthy lucre

Which do you think is more important to Caribou Barbie? If you sided with the living, breathing, sentient creatures, you lose. Governor Belugaburger has declared that in her world, "money talks, nature walks".
Last week, the state of Alaska announced it plans to mount a legal challenge to the listing of the Cook Inlet beluga whale under the Endangered Species Act. (Placing the belugas on the endangered list requires a review of federally funded or permitted activities that could affect the health of the whales, the establishment of a recovery plan, and the designation of "critical habitat.") This marks the second time in a year that Palin's administration has squared off with the federal government over an ESA listing. Over the summer, her administration sued Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne after his agency conferred threatened status on the polar bear.

In 1994, there were some 650 Cook Inlet belugas living off the coast of Anchorage, but their numbers were nearly halved by 1997. This sharp decline was largely attributed to overharvesting by Native hunters, and by 2005 this already small whale population reached an all-time low of 278, by one government estimate. Presently, scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) estimate the number of Cook Inlet belugas at 375.

In 2000, the whales were protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, but government scientists eventually concluded that this wasn't enough. "In spite of protections already in place, Cook Inlet beluga whales are not recovering,” James Balsiger, the acting assistant administrator for the NOAA’s Fisheries Service, said in October, announcing that the whales had received endangered species protection.

Palin begs to differ. Her administration argues that that the belugas are faring just fine under the protections in place, and the population is even beginning to show signs of recovering. For this reason, the state of Alaska contends that additional regulation is unnecessary. “The State of Alaska has worked cooperatively with the federal government to protect and conserve beluga whales in Cook Inlet,” Palin said last week. “This listing decision didn’t take those efforts into account as required by law.”
Besides, if the whales want to be safe, they shouldn't be so tasty.

Crocodile tears

From Reuters:
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said on Friday that he wept upon hearing a Palestinian father calling for help live on television after his children were killed during Israel's offensive in the Gaza Strip.

"I cried when I saw this. Who didn't? How could you not?," Olmert told the Israeli newspaper Maariv in an interview in which he defended the policy legacy he will leave when he steps down after an election on Feb. 10.
And the other 1281? Eh!

Make up call

A belated birthday greeting to a man who saved the world. On Tuesday Ottis Dewey Whitman, Jr better known as Slim Whitman celebrated his 85th birthday. Happy Birthday Slim, from a grateful Planet Earth.

Slim Whitman - Indian Love Call

Friday, January 23, 2009

For want of $27,653 History will be lost

Delaware County's Darby Free Library, which was founded in 1743 and is believed to be the oldest continuously operating public library in America, will be forced to close its doors at year's end if somebody doesn't write a fat check, the Daily News has learned.

"We're on the chopping block," said Susan Borders, director of the library at 10th and Main streets, near the Southwest Philly border. "We thought we may have had four years left, but after going over our finances, we only have this year."

Founded by 29 Quaker townsmen, the library received its first shipment of 45 volumes from London in November 1743, with the assistance of botanist John Bartram.
One small library in a small town that can not afford it. One small piece of American History that continues to contribute to the betterment of its community life. This is something worth donating to:
Darby Library Company
P.O. Box 164
Darby, PA 19023.
Big or small, all will do good.

Why REpublicans are so keen on marriage

It lets you work both sides of the street while you speak out of both sides of your mouth.
House Republican Whip Eric Cantor [1], a rising star in the Republican party, has been a prominent voice demanding accountability in how the government doles out hundreds of billions for bank bailouts.

"I think most American taxpayers now are sort of scratching their head," Cantor told CNN in December, "wondering when all this bailout stuff is going to end. And probably thinking, 'You know, when is my bailout coming?'"

This Thursday, Cantor cast a high-profile vote opposing release of another $350 billion in bailout funds. Unpublicized until now was a recent development: The Treasury Department used $267 million of taxpayer funds to buy preferred stock in a private banking company that employs Cantor's wife.

The bailout for New York Private Bank and Trust (NYPBT) [2] came earlier this month as part of a Treasury Department program to boost "healthy banks" with extra capital. NYPBT is the holding company for Emigrant Bank [3], a savings bank with 35 branches in and around New York City. Diana Cantor runs the Virginia branch of Emigrant's wealth-management division, called Virginia Private Bank & Trust, which targets an ultra-rich clientele...

...The Virginia Private Bank & Trust, a satellite opened this spring, is still getting off the ground. On Thursday, when ProPublica visited its small Richmond office in an office park not far from the Cantors' home, a sheet of white paper taped to the door served as its sign. One of the two employees there said the office had yet to serve a client since it opened last spring. She referred further queries to the bank's main office.
How curious, they have not yet found anyone, in Northern Virginia,with $50 Million to invest in a bank employing the wife of an influential Republican congressman. Why was she hired and why is she still on the payroll?

The end is celebrated in many ways

From Lululemon

Krugman is not happy

But I think he was looking for details best presented in the State of the Union.

This is so wrong

As the nation slips into the darkest part of the Bush Depression when all the states will desperately need federal assistance to keep from collapsing, the governor of New York is going to appoint a Blue Dog as senator. The last thing we need is another senator who thinks that federal stimulus and assistance is a bad idea.

According to one source, Cheesy Chuck Schumer was pushing Gillibrand because he was tired of sharing the limelight with a political star like Hillary and didn't want another like Cuomo. I think he will regret his choice.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Thursday Music Blogging

What he says.

Phil Ochs - Power & Glory

But at least we know what it was.

Following an investigation
A U.S. Army Criminal Investigations Division investigator has recommended changing the official manner of death for a soldier electrocuted while showering at his base in Iraq from "accidental" to "negligent homicide," according to an e-mail from the investigator obtained by CNN.

The investigator blames KBR, the largest U.S. contractor in Iraq, and two KBR supervisors for the incident, saying there is "credible information ... they failed to ensure that work was being done by qualified electricians and plumbers, and to inspect the work that was being conducted."

The e-mail, written late last year, says the investigation report was being reviewed by CID headquarters for a legal opinion to determine probable cause before the case could be referred to the military court system or the Department of Justice for possible action. No charges have been filed.
So 2 low level supervisors will get screwed, KBR probably will pay an easily affordable fine and the guys at the top who profited greatly by the shoddy work of KBR get to keep their bonuses from all those badly managed contracts. And a good man remains dead because of their crap work.

Dickwahd says his puppet should have pardoned Irv Libby

But Dickwahd knows that his only protection is Irv's silence and a pardon would have nullified his right to silence. So Dickwahd was just kidding when he said that.

To keep the wingnuts at bay

The President and the Dread Chief Justice Roberts took a mulligan on the oath.
"We decided it was so much fun . . .," Obama joked while sitting on a couch in the Map Room. Obama stood and walked over to make small talk with pool reporters as Roberts donned his black robe.

"Are you ready to take the oath?" Roberts asked.

"I am, and we're going to do it very slowly," Obama replied.

After a flawless recitation that included no Bible and took 25 seconds, Roberts smiled and said, "Congratulations, again."

Obama said, "Thank you, sir," and then added: "All right. The bad news for the [reporters] is there's 12 more balls."
How soon before someone claims this is now Obama's second and final term because he took the oath twice?

Iraq is not the only place we should leave

From the NY Times:
The Taliban are everywhere the soldiers are not, the saying goes in the southern part of the country.

And that is a lot of places.

For starters, there is the 550 miles of border with Pakistan, where the Taliban’s busiest infiltration routes lie.

“We’re not there,” said Brig. Gen. John W. Nicholson, the deputy commander of NATO forces in southern Afghanistan. “The borders are wide open.”

Then there is the 100-mile stretch of Helmand River running south from the town of Garmser, where the Taliban and their money crop, poppy, bloom in isolation.

“No one,” General Nicholson said, pointing to the area on the map.

Then there is Nimroz Province, all of it, which borders Iran. No troops there. And the Ghorak district northwest of Kandahar, which officers refer to as the “jet stream” for the Taliban fighters who flow through.

Ditto the districts of Shah Wali Kot, Kharkrez and Nesh, where the presence of NATO troops is minimal or nil.

“We don’t have enough forces to secure the population,” General Nicholson said.
How tempting it is to say, "with just a few more troops". But if you say it more than once, your foot is sliding down the slope to ruin.

If I'm paranoid, why are they listening?

Might as well delete the word privacy from the dictionary.

Mysterious white powder mailed to Wall St Journal

Shortly afterwards, Larry Kudlow arrived to ask if they had any mail for him.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Hillary is confirmed

By a vote 94-2, and yes one of the two is "Sen. Hooker" a/k/a Diaper Dave Vitter of Louisiana.

But, in an attempt to keep the fun going, the "Texas Twit" John Cornyn is making rumblings about Eric Holder. It seems that the man from Texas, who made a name for himself prosecuting the poor and the helpless, has trouble understanding what Mr Holder means in his remarks about torture & prosecutions. It's about time for Harry Reid to just ignore that great bozo.

George of a Thousand Days

Plus 20 extra for decompression, no doubt. That is the number of vacation days Our Dear Former Leader took in his 2992 days in office. Mark Knoller of CBS News, by way of Froomkin, totes up the numbers of George's days.
"U.S. Military Deaths In Iraq: 4,228.

"U.S. Military Deaths In Afghanistan: 634.

"Number Of Visits To Camp David: 149, totaling all or part of 487 days.

"Number Of Visits To His Texas Ranch: 77, totaling all or part of 490 days.

"Number Of Visits To His Parents' Home In Kennebunkport, Maine: 11, totaling all or part of 43 days."

And yes, that totals 1,020 days -- or just over 34 percent of his 2,992-day presidency. Ronald Reagan, the previously most-vacationing president ever, clocked a mere 866 days during his two terms.
Nice work, if you can get it. There are more, but History allows one the luxury to study it at one's leisure.

MoDo does the Inauguration

And notes all the points of interest we all saw and highlights one thing she has not seen before.
I’ve seen many presidents come and go, but I’ve never watched a tableau like the one Tuesday, when four million eyes turned heavenward, following the helicopter’s path out of town. Everyone, it seemed, was waving goodbye, with one or two hands, a wave that moved westward down the Mall toward the Lincoln Memorial, and keeping their eyes fixed unwaveringly on that green bird.

They wanted to make absolutely, positively certain that W. was gone. It was like a physical burden being lifted, like a sigh went up of “Thank God. Has Cheney’s wheelchair left the building, too?”
About the only time Li'l Georgie had a positive effect on people.

Another day, another Ponzi scheme

With people unwilling to invest, the schemes can not attract new money to pay the old investors and it all comes tumbling down.
Philadelphia-area fund manager Joseph Forte was charged by U.S. prosecutors with mail fraud over allegations that he ran a $50 million Ponzi scheme that bilked investors including a charity, church and private school.

Forte, 53, duped around 80 investors about his fund’s investment returns between 1996 and 2008, Acting U.S. Attorney Laurie Magid in Philadelphia said in an e-mailed statement today. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, plus restitution to victims.
It will be a few years before the new ones start up.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Obama playlist

Up here on the border, a Canadian radio station was asking listeners to suggest Canadian tunes that would explain Canada to our new President. Here are two of their ideas, the whole list is here

Wondering Where the Lions Are - Bruce Cockburn

Rise Again - The Rankin Family

6 zeros

My Bush countdown clock has stopped at

0 Hrs 0 Min 00.0 Sec

What a beautiful sight!

The Inaugural Speech

My fellow citizens: I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors.

I thank President Bush for his service to our nation as well as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition.

Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath.

The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because We the People have remained faithful to the ideals of our forbearers, and true to our founding documents.

So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Americans.

That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age.

Homes have been lost, jobs shed, businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly, our schools fail too many, and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.

These are the indicators of crisis, subject to data and statistics. Less measurable, but no less profound, is a sapping of confidence across our land; a nagging fear that America's decline is inevitable, that the next generation must lower its sights.

Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real, they are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this America: They will be met.

On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.

On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas that for far too long have strangled our politics.

We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.

In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of shortcuts or settling for less.

It has not been the path for the faint-hearted, for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame.

Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things -- some celebrated, but more often men and women obscure in their labor -- who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.

For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life. For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West, endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth.

For us, they fought and died in places Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sahn.

Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction.

This is the journey we continue today. We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth. Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions -- that time has surely passed.

Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.

For everywhere we look, there is work to be done.

The state of our economy calls for action: bold and swift. And we will act not only to create new jobs but to lay a new foundation for growth.

We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together.

We will restore science to its rightful place and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its costs.

We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age.

All this we can do. All this we will do.

Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions, who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short, for they have forgotten what this country has already done, what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose and necessity to courage.

What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them, that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long, no longer apply.

The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works, whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified.

Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end.

And those of us who manage the public's knowledge will be held to account, to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day, because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.

Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched.

But this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control. The nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous.

The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our gross domestic product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on the ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart -- not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.

Our founding fathers faced with perils that we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations.

Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience's sake.

And so, to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and we are ready to lead once more.

Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with the sturdy alliances and enduring convictions.

They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use. Our security emanates from the justness of our cause; the force of our example; the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

We are the keepers of this legacy, guided by these principles once more, we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort, even greater cooperation and understanding between nations. We'll begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people and forge a hard- earned peace in Afghanistan.

With old friends and former foes, we'll work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat and roll back the specter of a warming planet.

We will not apologize for our way of life nor will we waver in its defense.

And for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that, "Our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken. You cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you."

For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness.

We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, and nonbelievers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth.

And because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect.

To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict or blame their society's ills on the West, know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy.

To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history, but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.

To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds.

And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to the suffering outside our borders, nor can we consume the world's resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it.

As we consider the road that unfolds before us, we remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol far-off deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages.

We honor them not only because they are guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service: a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves.

And yet, at this moment, a moment that will define a generation, it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us all.

For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies.

It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break; the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours.

It is the firefighter's courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent's willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate.

Our challenges may be new, the instruments with which we meet them may be new, but those values upon which our success depends, honesty and hard work, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism -- these things are old.

These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history.

What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility -- a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character than giving our all to a difficult task.

This is the price and the promise of citizenship.

This is the source of our confidence: the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny.

This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed, why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent mall. And why a man whose father less than 60 years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.

So let us mark this day in remembrance of who we are and how far we have traveled.

In the year of America's birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by nine campfires on the shores of an icy river.

The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood.

At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people:

"Let it be told to the future world that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive, that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet it."

America, in the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words; with hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come; let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.

Thank you. God bless you.

And God bless the United States of America.

Nice way to start

When you are following a bunch of ethically challenged peckerwoods into office.
One of President Barack Obama's first acts is to order federal agencies to halt all pending regulations until his administration can review them.

The order went out Tuesday afternoon, shortly after Obama was inaugurated president, in a memorandum signed by new White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel. The notice of the action was contained in the first press release sent out by Obama's White House, and it came from deputy press secretary Bill Burton.
Nice to see Rahm is good for something.

O boy, beeg trouble

At midday a Muslim protestant who was born in the Hawaii district of Kenya was almost sworn in as President of the United States. Fortunately, quick thinking by the Dread Chief Justice Roberts, who flubbed the oath as he administered it prevented this from happening. Now if the FBI can just find where they stashed the real President, everything will be right with the world.

Hail to the Chief #44

America, The Beautiful : Ray Charles

Hundreds join in to shoe out George W Bush

And a curious mix of emotions it was as people gleefully threw away their collected bad feelings in the shoes aimed at either the George Bush blow up doll or the White House itself.
Marching down Connecticut Avenue with handfuls of footwear, the group of about a hundred was on the receiving end of enthusiastic honks, thumbs-up and waves from people in the street.

The reception was almost as warm from the people guarding the White House.

"Don't hit me!" one officer behind the White House fence joked as shoes rained around him.

Tracey Primavera, a shoe-lobber from Provincetown, Massachusetts, shouted at the guard that she had a pump that would look nice on him.

"I tried that. It didn't look good on me," yelled back the officer. Primavera tossed him the pump anyway...

...."Ah! I missed!" yelled Sharon Kerr, in town from Austin, Texas, after chucking wide of her presidential mark. She said that she felt a little like the Iraqi reporter for missing. But she noted in his defense, "He had people blocking him."

Kerr began to leave the circle but stopped. "I'm gonna go one more time. I'm gonna nail him this time," she said before winding up and striking him cleanly in the belt.

Cheryl Upshaw, in from Atlanta and sporting a full-length fur coat, hit the Bush doll high on the shoulder. "I was really trying to aim for his heart," said Upshaw, a registered nurse who owns a home healthcare agency. The throw was cathartic, she said, and it seemed to relieve some of her anger.

"It's not that I hate him," she clarified. "I don't hate him personally. I hate what he has done to this country."
Catharsis is good for the body and the soul.

Dickwahd gets court OK to shred evidence

On his way out the door, Dickwahd al-Cheney gets a green light from the federal district court to be the sole Decider of what records he gets to keep.
A federal district court judge has ruled that outgoing Vice President Dick Cheney, who leaves office on Tuesday with an approval rating of just 13 percent, will be the sole determining authority on the public release of his vice presidential records.

"Congress drastically limited the scope of outside inquiries related to the vice president's handling of his own records during his term in office," wrote U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly in a 63-page opinion, according to a published report.

The ruling cuts out National Archive oversight in the release of Cheney's records.
Uncle Dickwahd always knows best.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Special Comment on Torture and Prosecution

January 19, 2009

A clip of Pete & Bruce from German TV

Fuck HBO

You do that new voodoo the you do so badly in its old form.

Paul Krugman explains the 800 pound fly in the ointment of the financial systems rescue. Even when you understand it, it doesn't work.
Why go through these contortions? The answer seems to be that Washington remains deathly afraid of the N-word — nationalization. The truth is that Gothamgroup and its sister institutions are already wards of the state, utterly dependent on taxpayer support; but nobody wants to recognize that fact and implement the obvious solution: an explicit, though temporary, government takeover. Hence the popularity of the new voodoo, which claims, as I said, that elaborate financial rituals can reanimate dead banks.

Unfortunately, the price of this retreat into superstition may be high. I hope I’m wrong, but I suspect that taxpayers are about to get another raw deal — and that we’re about to get another financial rescue plan that fails to do the job.
Half measures won't work this time.

350,000 conservatives pledge to block US recovery

That is the number of signers on their pledge to resist President Barack Obama's efforts at national recovery. Just about what you would expect from an organization that hides its financial backers from public view.

While I don't believe he would sign this (for legal reasons probably) Old Rush "The Right's Pimple In The Right Place" Limbaugh does agree with them.
I've been listening to Barack Obama for a year and a half. I know what his politics are. I know what his plans are, as he has stated them. I don't want them to succeed."
As always, Rush First, Country Last.

Monday Music Blogging

An unusual take on the Cole Porter tune by the late and much missed Ms MacColl

Kirsty MacColl - Miss Otis Regrets

Sunday, January 18, 2009

When the shooting stops, you identify the bodies

From the New York Times:
In Twam to the north, thousands dragged belongings away from ruined houses; they were dazed refugees in their own city. In Zeitoun, families clawed at rubble and concrete, trying to dislodge the bodies of relatives who had died weeks before. The death toll kept climbing: 95 bodies were taken from the rubble.

More than 20 of them were from the Samouni family, whose younger members were digging with shovels and hands for relatives stuck in rooms inside. Faris Samouni, 59, sat alone, watching them. He had lost his wife, daughter-in-law, grandson and nephew, and he was heartbroken.

“Twenty-one are down there,” he said, starting to cry. “One is my wife. Her name is Rizka.”

The dead were badly decomposed, and families searched for familiar personal details that would identify them. One woman’s corpse was identified by her gold bracelets. Another by her earrings. And a third by the nightgown she wore. The smell of rotting flesh was suffocating, and as they got closer, the diggers donned masks.

At 10:55 a.m., the body of Rizka Samouni emerged as an Israeli fighter jet roared in the sky. Other corpses followed. Houda, 18. Faris, 14. Hamdi, 21. The smallest corpse that emerged, from a different family, was that of a 4-year-old.

“They killed the elders, the children, the women, the animals, the chickens,” said Subhi, 55, Rizka’s brother. “It’s a nightmare. I never thought I would lose all of them.”

Around noon, a worker from the Red Crescent ran up to the diggers. The Israelis had called, telling people to leave, he said. The families began to run, again.

“We have to go!” a woman shouted. “But where can we go? Where do we go?”

An Israeli military spokesman said the order had been issued because the Red Crescent had not coordinated its movement in advance. Later, permission was granted and the diggers returned to exhume the remaining bodies.
And how well has this worked out for Israel? One man, who supports Fatah, had this to say.
The Israeli actions made the situation more intractable, he said. “How can I convince my neighbors now for the option of peace? I can’t.”

He added: “Israel is breeding extremists.

Everybody has to tighten their belts these days

Consider the plight of poor James Packer. Not exactly poor in the traditional sense, he has been dealt several crushing blows to his lifestyle by the economic downturn.
James Packer, once Australia's richest man, has reportedly put his $50m (£23m) yacht up for sale, postponed delivery of a $60m private jet and left a swimming pool complex at his family property half-built.

Mr Packer, 41, who inherited a fortune from his father, the media tycoon Kerry Packer, has seen the value of his assets halve in the past year, from $6bn to less than $3bn, according to the Sydney Sunday Telegraph. As a result, he is dismantling his playboy lifestyle. A three-level Mayfair apartment is also up for sale.

He launched his Mangusta 165 yacht, the Z Ellerston, in July, after a two-year wait for delivery. The world's largest model of open yacht, at 165ft, it is sold with a complimentary Aston Martin and features nine bedrooms. Mr Packer has also deferred delivery of a Boeing Business Jet to 2010 to release some capital, the paper said. Mr Packer, who has divested himself of his father's media interests and is focusing on creating a global casino empire, was listed as Australia's third richest man last year. That marked the first time in 21 years that he or his father had not sat on top of the rich list.

Since then, the size of his fortune has shrunk further, which may explain why a $3.7m swimming pool and pavilion in the grounds of his sprawling property, Ellerston, in the Hunter Valley, north of Sydney, remains incomplete. Aerial photographs appear to indicate that construction work at the site, which began last year, has stalled.

Mr Packer married a former model, Erica Baxter, 18 months ago. They have a little girl, Indigo. He is said to be overweight and suffering depression as a result of his financial woes, and has not been seen in public for some time. In recent weeks, he has sold his stake in the family's pastoral company, which operates 17 cattle stations in northern Australia, for about $425m.
And pity his poor wife, who will now have to settle for half as many orgasms.

R.I.P. John Mortimer

With your passing, England has lost two of her finest barristers

John Mortimer with Leo McKern as Rumpole

Nobody wants to die

But if your time has come, don't hope to "die in the saddle". According to the latest research, your chances of this occurring are quite low.
While research shows that sex can indeed trigger heart attacks in some people, especially men, the odds of literally succumbing to passion are very low. Sexual activity is a contributing factor in less than 1 percent of heart attacks, according to a 1996 study by Harvard Medical School researchers.

Although heart attacks during sex are rare, no one wants to be among the unlucky few who die while getting lucky. So if you have cardiovascular disease (CVD), or even if it runs in your family, it's important to ask your doctor what type of sexual activity is safe. If you've just had a heart attack, for instance, you should wait three to four weeks before having intercourse, according to current guidelines.
But don't feel too good about this, you don't want to be hit by a bus as you rush home to get some.

The Israeli reality

One man's disaster is another man's good fortune.

The Modesto Bee has a look at residential foreclosures in their market and finds both the bad and the good.
A staggering 10,700 Stanislaus County homes were lost to foreclosure during 2007 and 2008. That's nearly 9 percent of all houses and condos in the county.

Losses have been far greater in some communities. In Patterson, about 1,200 homes - almost one in five - have defaulted mortgages and have been repossessed by lenders.

Modesto also has been overwhelmed with about 5,200 foreclosed homes, more than 8 percent of its total...

..Beyond being eyesores, foreclosed houses have drastically driven down home values for homeowners who remain.

Mark Pensa said he paid $494,000 for a new Patterson home in 2006, and now it's worth less than half that.

"Most of the original (owners) on my street have walked away. But in the last few months, houses have started to sell. That's the problem: $450,000 homes now (sell for) $150,000," Pensa lamented. "What should a person do? I put $100,000 down, got a fixed-rate loan, and I'm now upside down $300,000."
Will he live long enough for real estate values to return to his break even? Who knows, and some folks who are coming to market now probably don't care.
"I found a really good deal," said Goodrich, whose wife, Rose Kapp, gave birth in August to their first child, Owen.

The three-bedroom house with "a gorgeous back yard and long pool" cost $235,000. Now his monthly payments, including mortgage, taxes and insurance, are less than what he used to pay in rent.

"Even when you factor in the cost of gas," Goodrich said, his expenses are lower. The only down side, he said, is commuting 90 minutes each way to work. But Goodrich said it's worth it to live in a home he and his wife love.

Judi Alves hears lots of good news stories like that. The PMZ Real Estate agent in Modesto sold more than 150 bank-owned houses in 2008, and she said there are still great deals and sales remain brisk.

"People are able to buy a lot of square footage for a very good value," Alves said. She listed three foreclosed houses last week, and "we instantly sold all three."
It's all in the timing, but really over the last eight years who could have seen this coming?

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