Tuesday Reads: Drink More Coffee–It’s Good for You!* And Other News

winter coffee book

Good Morning!!

There’s a supposedly huge drama being carried on in Washington DC, but I just can’t get excited about it. Republicans are holding funding for the Department of Homeland Security hostage in an effort to block President Obama’s executive order on immigration.

I really haven’t been following this story, not only because I assumed it would end like all the other idiotic Republican efforts to shut down the government–a huge bluff that ends one side caving–but also because I don’t particularly care about the Department of Homeland Security.

I don’t want ordinary workers there to lose their jobs, but “homeland security” gives me the creeps. Isn’t it mostly about investigating Americans and harassing them in airports and other public places? I read the list of DHS activities at their website (see previous link) and I could find anything that I could get worked up about–maybe disaster preparedness.

Boston is going through a horrendous slow-moving disaster right now, and there’s been no help coming from DHS as far as I know. I’m sure elderly people must be going hungry because they can’t get out of their homes and poor people are probably freezing because they can’t afford to pay for heat. I don’t know for sure, because the media doesn’t seem to be asking questions about these marginalized people.

I do know that working people here are losing their jobs and may eventually lose their homes because they can’t get to work. In addition to the problem of getting out of your house and getting around with after more than 100 inches of snow have been dumped on us, Boston’s public transportation system is crippled. This morning when I woke up it was -11 degrees outside, and more snow is expected tonight.

winter-coffee

But getting back to the Homeland Security/Immigration fight, the truth is that it’s really a Republican thing. Semi-normal Republicans think DHS is really important and other, completely insane Republicans are more obsessed with keeping any more brown people from becoming U.S. citizens. At Forbes, Stan Collender writes:

Up to now I’ve been relatively convinced that House and Senate Republicans somehow would find a way to avoid shutting down the Department of Homeland Securitywhen its current appropriation expires in four days.

But it has become increasingly obvious over the past week that the reason for the stalemate between House and Senate Republicans over the DHS appropriation (as I said in this post, this is an almost purely GOP vs. GOP fight) has less to do with the publicly stated reason – stopping the president’s executive orders on immigration – and far more to do with the 2016 congressional election.

That makes coming up with a solution that will satisfy the House and Senate Republican majorities AND can pass each house of Congress far more difficult and makes a DHS shutdown more likely.

The militant wing of the House Republican caucus doesn’t fear a potentially negative impact on the coming election. To the contrary, it sees shutting down the Department of Homeland Security as a boon to their reelection chances. A shutdown will demonstrate a take-no-prisoners attitude to the militantly conservative, very anti-Democrat and overwhelmingly anti-Obama constituents who vote in the primary or whose support will make a primary unnecessary. To these GOP House members, a shutdown is not something to be avoided; it’s one of the first scheduled events in their 2016 reelection campaigns.

By contrast, the 24 Senate Republicans up for reelection in 2016 not only have to pay attention to a larger and (relatively at least) more moderate base, they also have to consider the Democrats in their state who will be voting. And given that 10-12 of the 24 Republican senators who will be up for reelection next year are from blue states, they cannot afford to ignore or even give short shrift to the political impact of a shutdown on their Democratic voters.

Coffee books snow

Good. Let the Republican assholes fight it out. Mitch McConnell has a new plan to separate the immigration fight from the DHS funding, but it’s hard to see how that will work because it will take away the wingnuts’ leverage. USA Today reports:

McConnell, R-Ky., announced that he is essentially breaking off controversial immigration amendments from the bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security. Those amendments have been at the center of the impasse over a $40 billion spending bill for the agency.

McConnell is offering a bill that would bar federal funds from being used to carry out President Obama’s executive actions to protect about 4 million undocumented immigrants from deportation and allow them to work legally in the USA.

That move should allow a separate DHS funding bill to move forward without the immigration provisions that have caused a stalemate in Congress and led to the looming shutdown at the agency.

{{yawn…}} I doubt if this will work, but we’ll see . . . . What I don’t get is, since a judge has already stopped Obama’s immigration plan for the moment, what is the GOP fight really about? If anyone can explain it to me, please do.

coffee books snow2

Meanwhile, various Republican state legislators continue to demonstrate their ignorance about female bodies. The latest example comes from Idaho state Rep. Vito Barbieri. From the Minneapolis Star-Tribune: Idaho lawmaker asks if woman can swallow camera for gynecological exam before medical abortion.

BOISE, Idaho — An Idaho lawmaker received a brief lesson on female anatomy after asking if a woman can swallow a small camera for doctors to conduct a remote gynecological exam.

The question Monday from Republican state Rep. Vito Barbieri came as the House State Affairs Committee heard nearly three hours of testimony on a bill that would ban doctors from prescribing abortion-inducing medication through telemedicine….

Dr. Julie Madsen, a physician who said she has provided various telemedicine services in Idaho, was testifying in opposition to the bill. She said some colonoscopy patients may swallow a small device to give doctors a closer look at parts of their colon.

“Can this same procedure then be done in a pregnancy? Swallowing a camera and helping the doctor determine what the situation is?” Barbieri asked.

Madsen replied that would be impossible because swallowed pills do not end up in the vagina.

“Fascinating. That makes sense,” Barbieri said, amid the crowd’s laughter.

Barbieri later claimed he was just “trying to make a point.” What that point was is unclear. Here’s what he told the press:

I was being rhetorical, because I was trying to make the point that equalizing a colonoscopy to this particular procedure was apples and oranges,” he said. “So I was asking a rhetorical question that was designed to make her say that they weren’t the same thing, and she did so. It was the response I wanted.”

BTW, doctors in Idaho do not prescribe morning after pills through telemedicine, so it’s also unclear why the bill is deemed necessary by Idaho wingnut Republicans.

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Remember James O’Keefe? He’s baaaaaack. On Sunday, a right-wing website that I won’t link to (you can find the link at Memeorandum) reported that O’Keefe had tweeted that he has a new blockbuster video coming out and he “fears for [his] life” after it goes public. This morning, the big scoop was revealed in the New York Post. O’Keefe is targeting Al Sharpton with claims that he doesn’t really care about the families of victims like Trayvon Martin and Eric Garner.

Al Sharpton is all about the Benjamins, a daughter of police chokehold victim Eric Garner claims in a bombshell videotape.

Erica Snipes tees off on the reverend as interested primarily in money during a conversation secretly recorded by controversial conservative activist James O’Keefe’s group, Project Veritas.

One of O’Keefe’s investigators with a hidden camera posed as a Garner supporter during a protest last month at the St. George Ferry Terminal on Staten Island.

“You think Al Sharpton is kind of like a crook in a sense?” the investigator is heard asking Garner’s oldest daughter.

“He’s about this,” Snipes replies, rubbing her fingers together.

“He’s about money with you?” the undercover asks.

“Yeah,” Snipes responds.

You can watch the video at the NY Post link.

Joseph Cannon is all over this story, and I hope he’ll write more about it. For now, he has a post up with plenty of background on James O’Keefe.

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O’Keefe’s story isn’t likely to get much mainstream attention, because the media is already wallowing a scandal in Obama’s cabinet. From Huffington Post yesterday: VA Secretary Robert McDonald Falsely Claimed He Served In Special Forces.

Robert McDonald, the secretary of veterans affairs, wrongly claimed in a videotaped comment earlier this year that he served in special operations forces, the most elite units in the armed forces, when his military service of five years was spent almost entirely with the 82nd Airborne Division during the late 1970s….

McDonald, a retired corporate executive who took over the VA last June as the agency was sinking in scandal, made the claim in late January as he was touring a rundown Los Angeles neighborhood during a nationwide count of homeless veterans. He was accompanied by a CBS-TV news crew, which recorded an exchange between McDonald and a homeless man who told McDonald he had served in special forces.

“Special forces? What years? I was in special forces!” McDonald told the homeless man. That exchange was broadcast in a Jan. 30 CBS News story about the VA’s efforts to find and house homeless veterans.

In fact, McDonald never served in special forces. He graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1975, completed Army Ranger training and took courses in jungle, arctic and desert warfare. He qualified as a senior parachutist and airborne jumpmaster, and was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division until he retired from military service in 1980. While he earned a Ranger tab designating him as a graduate of Ranger School, he never served in a Ranger battalion or any other special operations unit.

“I have no excuse,” McDonald told The Huffington Post, when contacted to explain his claim. “I was not in special forces.”

Today the story is at the top of Google News. There’s no way this guy is going to be able to continue in his job. Should we form a pool and guess how long it will take for him to “resign” in disgrace. Why do people do this? Spending five years in the 82 Airborne Division and graduating from Ranger School should have been enough. the Ranger training is what he must have been referring to in the video, but it doesn’t matter. He’s gone.

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Here’s a fascinating piece about a fake story that went viral last week. I looked for local reports about this a couple of days ago and couldn’t find anything; so I figured the story couldn’t be true, since it was reported to have happened in Boston.

From Digg: Anatomy Of A Fake, Viral Story: The Priest Who Met A Female God In His Near-Death Experience.

On February 4 World News Daily Report published a story about a Massachusetts priest who made a miraculous medical recovery, and discovery:

A Catholic priest from Massachussetts [sic] was officially dead for more than 48 minutes before medics were able to miraculously re-start his heart. During that time, Father John Micheal O’neal claims he went to heaven and met God, which he describes as a warm and comforting motherly figure.

The story reported that Boston Archbishop Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley explained away O’Neal’s revelation as nothing more than “hallucinations linked to a near-death experience,” and added that “God clearly isn’t a female.”

This remarkable report of a Catholic priest claiming that the Holy Father is in fact a mother went unnoticed by other media until a newspaper in Uganda, the Daily Monitor, picked it up word-for-word. That set off a cascade of articles on other websites around the world, which together have racked up tens of thousands of shares and social interactions, primarily on Facebook.

The Daily Monitor’s motto is “Truth Everyday,” but in this case its plagiarism helped propagate a hoax. World News Daily Report looks and reads like a real news website, but everything it publishes is completely fake. It’s one of several fake news websites that pump out hoax content with the goal of generating shares and links that they can monetize with ads.

Many of these sites have legitimate sounding names, such as The Daily Currant or National Report. They not only monetize peoples’ gullibility, but also their hopes and fears, their political and religious beliefs.

Read much more about these fake news sites and how their stories go viral at the link.

* Finally, here’s a story that sounds fake, but it actually isn’t.  And it’s way more interesting to me than the DHS funding fight.

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From the Washington Post’s Wonkblog: It’s official: Americans should drink more coffee.

When the nation’s top nutrition panel released its latest dietary recommendations on Thursday, the group did something it had never done before: weigh in on whether people should be drinking coffee. What it had to say is pretty surprising.

Not only can people stop worrying about whether drinking coffee is bad for them, according to the panel, they might even want to consider drinking a bit more.

The panel cited minimal health risks associated with drinking between three and five cups per day. It also said that consuming as many as five cups of coffee each day (400 mg) is tied to several health benefits, including a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.

“We saw that coffee has a lot of health benefits,” said Miriam Nelson, a professor at Tufts University and one of the committee’s members. “Specifically when you’re drinking more than a couple cups per day.”

health-benefits-of-coffee

And from Bloomberg Business: Coffee’s Great, U.S. Panel Says in Official Diet Recommendations.

“Coffee’s good stuff,” Tom Brenna, a member of the committee and a nutritionist at Cornell University, said in a telephone interview. “I don’t want to get into implying coffee cures cancer — nobody thinks that,” he said. “But there is no evidence for increased risk, if anything, the other way around.”

The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, a nonpartisan panel of academics and scientists, gives suggestions to U.S. agencies including the Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Agriculture. Subsequent government guidelines influence federal food programs and local issues such as school lunches. Previous guidelines have not addressed caffeine’s health effects….

Research since the advisory body last met in 2010 was critical to the decision on coffee, Brenna said. “There’s been a heck of a lot of work on coffee.”

coffee-health-body

 

So . . . what stories are you following today? Let us know in the comment thread and have a great Tuesday!


Muck Mills and teh Derp

barnumI came of age during the Watergate hearings and the fall of Saigon.  I’d like to say that the constant bombardment of  news surrounding incredible levels of deception during my status of adult-in-process gave me a jaded eye and sensibility.  I have to admit that I haven’t trusted much of anything coming from self-appointed authority figures since I figured out the Santa/Easter Bunny scam some where around nursery school.  I’ve since extrapolated those lessons to any concept of a ‘supreme’ being and a noble fourth estate.  I might as well worship and read the World According to the Great Pumpkin.

The entire Clinton penis obsession in the 1990s sewed up a lot of my earlier hypotheses.  Recent events have caused me to consider them good theory.  There is way too much evidence now.   We even know now that Woodard of Woodard and Bernstein might as well sport a set of fluffy ears and hop on down that bunny trail. I seem to have a friend in Charles Pierce.  There are no more Studs Terkels or Jack Andersons and we might as retire the term muckraker  and create a new one, say, Muck Mill.

Derp.

Pierce writes about the Conservative News Media–e.g. Muck Mills–that exist to Donald Segretti our policy conversations, news, and current events. As always, his blog post is glib and biting.  It is also a disconcerting reminder of the power, audacity, and hubris of Muck Mills like Fox “News” and what ever it is that republican court eunuch Tucker Carlson has created in his out-of-the-mainstream media reincarnation. Carlson’s lack of genitals and gray matter has been out on display all week.

Pierce believes the Muck Mills are imploding. Afterall, Limbaugh has lost many patrons after attacking a young law student who argued that all insurance policies should include access to birth control, Rove is trying to remain relevant since his meltdown last election season, and Snowflake Snookie can only get a gig at CPAC now.  Some of these things do carry the frankincense whiff of the beautiful hands of a divine and just goddess. However, I prefer the wisdom of the great American Saint  P.T. Barnum and the catechism of “There’s a sucker born every minute.”  Wherever there are suckers, there will be religious viewers of Fox News and readers of Red State.

First, there was the embarrassing revelation that a host of rightwing bloggers — and one from the port side, Jerome Armstrong —  were on the fiddle with the Malaysian government to the tune of almost 400 large. (One of them, Ben Domenech, was a recidivist embarrassment, having previously lost a sweet gig with the endlessly credulous Washington Post because he was a proven thief of other people’s work.) Then, last night, it was revealed that Tucker Carlson’s vanity project, The Daily Caller, appears to have been caught trying to sucker its audience regarding the tale of New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez’s patronizing of prostitutes. (TDC is standing by its reporting for the moment, although its explanation is rather heavy with the squid ink.) This is hardly the way you want to celebrate Holy Week commemorating The Passion Of Andrew Breitbart. On the other hand, maybe it is.

This has been coming for some time. The conservative media establishment is so self-contained as to be positively incestuous, so it can’t be any surprise that, sooner or later, there are some two-headed cousins gamboling over the public landscape. There is no internal governor to its enthusiasms; there are only wealthy sugar-daddies pushing the boundaries gleefully outward. There is the very strange and self-fulfilling sense of both victimhood and outlawry, that the people who cash checks from the Koch brothers, or from some shadowy Malaysian fixer, are the true revolutionaries. There has been no accounting because there has been nobody to call them to account, and that is not entirely the fault of the conservative movement. Actual journalists have taken a dive as well.

There’s been a little crowing in the establishment media over the accumulated comeuppance. On the liberal MSNBC last night, Lawrence O’Donnell went to dinner on the Menendez material. But return with us now, if you will, to those thrilling days of yesteryear — to the 1990s, to be precise, because that’s where it all began, and it began with the complicity, and the active participation, of the respectable press. This is one of those moments in which Bill Clinton must chuckle ruefully to himself before he gets on with his day.

The pursuit of the Clintons — which morphed into the pursuit of the president’s penis — is where it all began.

I guess I don’t quite feel the white hot cleansing heat of the implosion quite yet.  Let me offer up a few chomps and bits just from searching around the headlines today.  For example, Pierce offers up the the clown car side of the Muck Mills. This is James O’Keefe who has to be the posterboy for the DSM of Mental Disorder’s entry on pathological narcissism and lying. He’s the edit happy pimp court enuch of ACORN fame. Now, we all know that ACORN disappeared from the face of their flat earth after the Muck Mill Meme production spit out a lot of its usual lies and outrage.  Why on earth should poor people be allowed to vote or have an advocacy group? However, sucker exhibit one is this weird item: ACORN, In New GOP Budget Bill, Would Be Defunded Again, Even Though It No Longer Exists.   One can only reason that defunding of the Friends Of Hamas and the Junior League of Al Quaida is next.

Rogers’ bill also explicitly bars the use of the funds it appropriates for computer networks that do not block the viewing and exchange of pornography. It further bans the transportation of detainees from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to facilities in the United States, even though the Obama administration has not transferred any detainees from Guantanamo since 2009 and has announced no plans to do so.

What can you say to the ongoing placement of conspiracy theories into US Law by crazed Republican Congresscritters?  Derp.

Meanwhile, we continue to watch The Daily Caller try to weasel its way out of the Menendez Prostitute Fantasy.  If only they were around to actually chase David Vitter who really did have a series of paid liaisons to investigate and likely use of public funds or assets supporting his diaper fetish.  Vitter has gubernatorial ambitions now while Elliot Spitzer still can’t get a real job. Derp.

Then, there’s the current Pressketeer Anything can Happen Day where MSNBC declares Joe Scarborough an obvious winner of a Charlie Rose finagled debate between Dr. Paul Krugman, acclaimed economics professor and said morning hack.   Yes, Joe clearly won because he can interrupt folks with gusto and read decades old news and declare them Bazinga!  worthy.  This quote is an example of Joe’s debating skills? Derp.

Krugman: If it wasn’t for me and a few people who are loudly saying, ‘the deficit is not a problem’ without first qualifying it with three paragraphs of–’well, you know, longer term it is a problem.’  I don’t think this message that spending cuts are hurting the economy would be getting across at all.

Scarborough (laughing): By the way, Paul, it’s very important to note:  Paul just agreed that only three people agree with him and are saying this.

Krugman: No, no, only three people–I said only three people are saying it without prefacing it with the obligatory three paragraphs. On the substance–Ben Bernanke gave a speech last week that was, for all practical purposes, saying the same thing I’m saying.  He said–you know, the deficit–the outlook looks relatively okay for the next ten years.  Now, we would like it to be lower, but it’s relatively okay.  But spending cuts right now are a really bad thing.

Yes. It some point we had real intellectuals writing and editing newspapers.  Ben Franklin comes to mind.  Now, we are regaled by the random Muck Mill-inspired propaganda of news readers–like Tom Brokaw–who would prefer they were the only ones with serious answers.  Yes, even when those serious answers are clearly made-up, invented, woven from thin air, and against all data, evidence, and reality.  I’m sticking to my atheist, science-based, jaded sensibilities. Here, there be Muck Mills.

Derp.


Friday Reads

Good Morning!!

The karma continues to unfold at the Komen foundation.  Their original decision to defund planned parenthood under pressure from right wing extremists has left the foundation short on staff and worried about funds.

The chief executives of the Greater New York and Oregon affiliates, among the most outspoken in their criticism of Komen’s unsuccessful attempt to defund Planned Parenthood, are leaving. Three officials at the Dallas headquarters have left or announced their resignations, a spokeswoman said.

Meanwhile, questions are being raised about the breast cancer charity’s ability to raise money after the public relations fiasco. The New York affiliate postponed two events, including its annual awards gala, “because we were not certain about our ability to fundraise in the near term,” spokesman Vern Calhoun said Wednesday.

Komen is asking staff members at headquarters to review budgets for the fiscal year beginning April 1 because of anticipated drops in revenue, according to a source familiar with the process who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation. Budgeting for the coming year was basically completed before the Planned Parenthood controversy erupted.

Komen spokeswoman Leslie Aun declined to comment on the internal budget process. But she added: “It goes without saying that you can’t budget for things you don’t know are going to happen.”

Truth Dig’s Bill Boyarksy calls the Paul Ryan Budget Reverse Robin Hood on steroids. The article focuses on the extreme changes to Medicare suggested by Ryan and given the thumbs up by Romney.

The plan was conceived by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and is backed by Romney, who is favored to win the Republican presidential nomination after his victory Tuesday in the Illinois primary. If he defeats President Obama and the Republicans win the Senate along with holding the House, consider it a blueprint for 2013.

The Ryan-Romney plan would cut taxes to the affluent and corporations, increase arms spending and cut expenditures for almost everything else, including environmental programs, child care, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, aid to college students and funding for transportation, which includes air traffic control. Medicare would be cut, the health care reform law repealed. If you think the health reform law is too kind to insurance companies, you’ll be amazed at the way Ryan-Romney lets big insurance really run things.

“In essence, this budget is Robin Hood in reverse—on steroids,” said Robert Greenstein, president of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. “It would likely produce the largest redistribution of income from the bottom to the top in modern U.S. history and likely increase poverty and inequality more than any other budget in recent times and possibly in the nation’s history.

“Chairman Ryan says these changes in domestic programs are necessary due to the nation’s severe fiscal straits. The nation’s fiscal straits, however, surely do not justify massive new tax cuts for its wealthiest people alongside budget cuts that would cast tens of millions of less fortunate Americans into the ranks of the uninsured, take food from poor children, make it harder for low-income students to get a college degree and squeeze funding for research, education and infrastructure. Under Chairman Ryan’s budget, our nation would be a very different one—less fair and less generous, with an even wider gap between the very well-off and everyone else … and our society would be a coarser one.”

State austerity budgets have created a need for PTA fundraising.  What’s that old saying about the navy should do the bake sales for battleships instead?

While the National Parent Teacher Association doesn’t keep track of how much money its 5 million members raise, interviews with dozens of schools and state PTAs confirm that as states have slashed school funding, parent contributions to public schools have soared. It’s no longer unusual for families at well-heeled schools to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars a year – even a million – for copy machines, paper, finger paints and other school supplies along with gym, art and music programs.

PTA funds also are used for much-needed building maintenance, classroom aides and essential staff like school nurses, but critics fear that these voluntary funds inadvertently let states off the hook and widen the gap between rich schools and poor, which can’t raise that kind of cash.

“It’s one thing to raise $300 for a teacher to buy school supplies, but it’s another thing to say $1 million,” says Arnold Fege, director of public engagement and advocacy at the Public Education Network in Washington, a network of community-based school reform organizations.

“This really moves us in the wrong direction,” he adds. “When we should be looking at adequacy, we’re assuring a system where there are winners and losers.”

Indeed, 37 states now provide less funding to elementary and high schools than they did last year, and 30 states spend less than they did four years ago, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a non-partisan research and policy institute in Washington.

But in an age of helicopter dads and tiger moms, parents are eager to maintain class sizes and popular enrichment programs. Parent associations feel the pressure to raise money to fill the gap.

Nasty  right wing hit film man James O’Keefe is in more trouble.  One of his former colleagues is blogging and telling all. I have to wonder if this will impact his parole since one of the charges is that he maintains a “rape barn”.

It’s a right-wing rabble-rouser showdown! Jazz-handed pimp impersonator James O’Keefe is at “#WAR” with a former Project Veritas colleague who is now blogging an O’Keefe tell-all involving stolen panties, drugged beers, a “rape barn,” “taped intimate moments,” a $20K pay-off, and barbs about “black welfare queens.” James O’Keefe has graduated from creepy seductions to a full-blown sex scandal.

Harvard grad student Nadia Naffe recently filed a criminal harassment complaint against James. Citing insufficient evidence, a judge dismissed the case. Now Nadia is on a scorched earth cyber rampage. “If he wants a fight, bring it on. This is #WAR,” she tweeted last night, after retweeting outraged utterances from an unofficial Rubio4President account about James’ “rape barn.” On her personal blog, she is currently on part two of a sprawling anti-O’Keefe opus.

Nadia says she worked with James on his painful “To Catch a Journalist” series, during which he made racially charged romantic overtures. Weeks later, she agreed to stay in a “renovated barn” on his parents’ property while working on another project. She then republishes a 1500-word email she apparently sent to James and the Project Veritas board after the rape barn weekend:

You can read Nadia Naffe’s blog here.

The Economist focuses on Hillary Clinton’s record as Secretary and State and has some ideas on her future plans.

On that first of more than half a dozen Asian trips, Jeffrey Bader, the White House’s director for East Asia until leaving last year, was struck by the shrieks of approval Mrs Clinton elicited along her motorcade route or in hotel lobbies. At a university in South Korea, he says, thousands of star-struck girls greeted her as “the ultimate woman’s role model”.

Certainly no previous secretary has enjoyed Mrs Clinton’s advantages in the second part of her job, as America’s ambassador. Already a celebrity, she knew many of the world’s leaders before starting out. It may help, too, that she is not a lawyer, general or professor, like previous secretaries of state, but a politician who has seen at first hand the high politics of the White House and the low politics of the Senate and the campaign trail. At a time when people everywhere are demanding a say in how they are governed, she thinks it is an advantage to be able to say to nervous leaders in fledgling democracies: “Mr President, I’ve won elections and I’ve lost elections; I do know how you feel.”

Not only has Clinton travelled to 95 countries.  She’s reformed the State Department.

Borrowing an idea from the Pentagon, she launched its first quadrennial strategy review. The aim, she said in an article for Foreign Affairs, was to develop “a more holistic approach to civilian power”.

America’s ambassadors were instructed that diplomacy was no longer a matter of talking only to other governments: they were to see themselves as CEOs of multi-agency missions, reaching out to the whole of society. In the 21st century, she said, “a diplomat is as likely to meet with a tribal elder in a rural village as a counterpart in a foreign ministry, and is as likely to wear cargo pants as a pinstriped suit.” In umpteen meetings with “civil society” around the world, she has led by example.

Also new is an emphasis on “economic statecraft”, an attempt to co-ordinate everything from pushing China on its exchange rate, to promoting free trade, to defending intellectual property, to luring inward investment and helping American firms find markets and opportunities overseas. She has appointed the department’s first chief economist. These, however, are areas where the Treasury, Commerce Department and White House are already active—and likely to stay dominant.

Running the department has also given Mrs Clinton an instrument to promote the welfare of women, a cause she made her own as first lady in 1995 when a speech on women’s rights at a conference in Beijing made a global splash. She has installed Melanne Verveer, her former White House chief of staff, as ambassador for women, reporting directly to her, and another longtime aide, Kris Balderston, “special representative for global partnerships”. One of his projects has been to create a coalition of governments, corporations and non-profits to develop cheap, hygienic cooking stoves for the millions of women around the world who have to forage for fuel to feed their families.

It’s a nice long article with a list of some of her bigger accomplishments.  Make some time to read it !

So, what else is on your reading and blogging list today?


Thursday Reads

Good Morning! It has been dark and dreary here for weeks it seems. I know the sun has come out a few times, but most of the time it has been either raining or about to rain. I think I’m beginning to suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Or maybe it’s just watching the 2012 presidential campaign. Either way, we’re talking dark and depressing.

On Tuesday Newt Gingrich told Larry Kudlow (yeah, I know) of CNBC that Obama is the “food stamp president,” and he (Gingrich) will be running against him as the “candidate of paychecks.”

“We are going to have the candidate of food stamps, the finest food stamp president in the American history in Barack Obama and we are going to have a candidate of paychecks.”

The former House Speaker went on to say Obama represents a hard-left radicalism. He, on the other hand, wants big tax cuts and big cuts in the federal government.

LOL! Obama is the furthest thing from a radical, and I doubt if he gives a damn about food stamps. I don’t know how Gingrich gets away with this stuff. Oh yeah, the media sucks. He spewed more lies too:

Gingrich also reiterated his claim that he is not a lobbyist. While he’s been steadily rising in the polls, he’s also been under scrutiny for his consulting work with mortgage giant Freddie Mac.

“I do no lobbying; I’ve never done any lobbying. It’s written in our contracts that we do not do any lobbying of any kind. I offer strategic advice,” he said. “The advice I offered Freddie Mac was, in fact, aimed at how do you help people get into housing.”

Gingrich also referred to himself in the third person in talking about the sad ending of his career as Speaker of the House.

“The job of the Democrats was to get Newt Gingrich. They couldn’t beat any of our ideas so they decided to try to beat the messenger,” he said. “I think it actually will help people understand what happened in that period and how much of it was partisan.”

Poor Newt. He’s filthy rich, but he can’t stop obsessing about the paltry help poor and unemployed people get from food stamps. Last week he claimed that food stamp use has increased dramatically under Obama and that recipients use their food stamp money to take vacations in Hawaii. According to Politifact as reported in USA Today:

PolitiFact, a fact-checking project of the Tampa Bay Times, noted in May that Bush made “more aggressive efforts to get eligible Americans to apply for benefits,” and new rules took effect to broaden eligibility for the assistance. At the time, PolitiFact said:

Gingrich oversimplifies when he suggests that Obama should be considered “the most successful food stamp president in American history,” because much — though probably not all — of the reason for the increase was a combination of the economic problems Obama inherited and a longstanding upward trend from policy changes. On balance, we rate Gingrich’s statement Half True.

As for Gingrich’s claim that food stamps can be used to go to Hawaii, the federal government has clear rules about the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (or SNAP). Basically, you can buy groceries or the seeds and plants from which you can grow your own food.

Right now Gingrich is the clear front runner for the Republican nomination. According to a new CNN poll, he has double-digit leads in three of the first four primaries, Iowa, South Carolina, and Florida. And he is catching up with Romney in New Hampshire. According to the poll, much of Gingrich’s support is coming from tea party types.

I wonder if these folks realize that when back in the day, when Newt was one of the most powerful people in DC, his fellow Conservatives worked hard to get rid of him? And some of them still don’t want him back in power.

As former House Speaker Newt Gingrich trumpets his leadership skills in his quest for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, a different picture of his stewardship emerges from some GOP lawmakers who served with him during a failed 1997 coup attempt against the controversial speaker.

Twenty disgruntled Republicans in the House of Representatives squeezed into then-Rep. Lindsey Graham’s office in July 1997 and rebelliously vented about Gingrich. They were tired of his chaotic management style, worried that he was caving in to then-President Bill Clinton, and sick of constantly having to defend him publicly on questions about his ethics or his latest bombastic statement.

“Newt Gingrich was a disaster as speaker,” said Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y.

As Gingrich seeks to gain the world’s most powerful office, it’s worth recalling that when he once held great power in Washington, his own conservative Republican lieutenants rebelled against his rule less than four years after he led them to House majority status for the first time in 40 years. And their disaffection evidently helped persuade him to step down as speaker the next year and leave office.

King, for one, still believes that Gingrich’s widely disparaged egotistical complaining about the poor treatment he perceived from then-President Clinton on an Air Force One flight in 1995 is why Republicans suffered blame for federal government shutdowns later that year.

“Everything was self-centered. There was a lack of intellectual discipline,” King said

Karl Rove has an op-ed in today’s Wall Street Journal in which he blasts Gingrich’s pathetic campaign organization.

In the short run, Mr. Gingrich must temper runaway expectations. For example, his lead in the RealClearPolitics average in Iowa is 12 points. But what happens on Jan. 3 if he doesn’t win Iowa, or comes in first with a smaller margin than people expect?

That could happen in part because Mr. Gingrich has little or no campaign organization in Iowa and most other states. He didn’t file a complete slate of New Hampshire delegates and alternates. He is the only candidate who didn’t qualify for the Missouri primary, and on Wednesday he failed to present enough signatures to get on the ballot in Ohio. Redistricting squabbles may lead the legislature to move the primary to a later date and re-open filing, but it’s still embarrassing to be so poorly organized.

That’s because Gingrich had no expectation of doing this well. He just entered the race so he could sell his books and his wife’s films. But it turns out Gingrich will be on the ballot in Ohio after all. As for Missouri, Gingrich claims he didn’t want to be on the ballot there because the primary is non-binding.

In a press conference in New York City today, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich declared that he never intended to qualify for the ballot in Missouri and that failing to meet the deadline was “a conscious decision, not an oversight.”

The primary is non-binding; it is followed a month later by caucuses where Missourians pick their convention delegates. But every other major candidate is participating in the primary, which gives the public an idea of where Show Me State voters stand.

“We have never participated in beauty contests,” Gingrich said when asked about his failure to qualify for the ballot. “We didnt participate in Ames [the Iowa straw poll], we didnt participate in P5 [a Florida straw poll].” ….

But failing to qualify for the ballot was widely seen as a sign of Gingrich’s lack of campaign organization.

Another sign is the papers he filed in New Hampshire. His papers were sloppily written in pen and he fell 13 short of the required 40 delegates.

It’s going to be interesting to see what happens. I think Romney should still win New Hampshire, but the question is how many Southern states he can carry. Of course I’d be enjoying watching the Republican primary mess a lot more if there were a liberal Democratic candidate to vote for.

Oh, Romney did come in first in one poll: the one that counted the number of jokes told about the Republican candidates on late night TV.

OK, I’ll let go of my obsession with Republican nomination campaign for now and give you some other things to read.

Last Friday, Eric Boehlert of Media Matters may have been the intended victim of a right wing James O’Keefe-type scam designed to make him look like hypocrite for writing in support of the Occupy movement.

It was the middle of the day on Friday, and Eric Boehlert heard a knock on the door. A senior fellow at Media Matters, a nonprofit watchdog that challenges conservative news outlets, Boehlert works from his Montclair, N.J., home.

A short, bearded man stood outside, holding a clipboard and wearing a Verizon uniform. He asked Boehlert if he’d be willing to take a customer survey. Verizon had, perhaps coincidentally, been at the house a week earlier to handle a downed wire. Boehlert quickly agreed and noted that a Verizon worker had actually failed to show up when he said he would.

But the interview questions got weird and then weirder. The man kept talking about Boehlert being rich and being able to work at home, Boehlert began to smell a ratf*ck.

“After he mentioned my salary and that I work from home, all the bells went off, and this is not who this guy says he is. Therefore, I kind of lost track of the exact wording of the question, but it definitely was like very accusatory of me and I’m a hypocrite and how do I have this supposedly cushy job while I’m writing about real workers and the people of the 99 percent,” said Boehlert.

“So there was this pause, and I said, ‘You work for Verizon?’ And he just sort of looks back at me and [says], ‘Will you answer the question? Will you answer the question?’ And I said, ‘Can I see your Verizon ID?’ And he wouldn’t produce any Verizon ID, and I think he asked me another time to answer the question. And basically I just said, ‘I’m done so you can leave now.'” ….

By now he [Boehlert] had realized that the man was likely pulling a political stunt, and James O’Keefe’s notorious “To Catch a Journalist” project came to mind as a possibility.

“The only sort of comical part was he forget which way he was supposed to run in case I started following. He ended up sort of in the road, and he sort of turned left and then right,” said Boehlert. “The last I saw him he was in a full sprint down my street running away from my house.”

In the Massachusetts Senate race, Elizabeth Warren is ahead of Scott Brown 49% to 42%, her biggest lead so far. But some people are *very concerned* because at a recent candidate’s event Warren was asked if she knew in which recent years the Red Sox had won the World Series, and she answered 2004 and 2008 instead of 2004 and 2007. Horrors! Paul Waldman has a very funny piece about it in The American Prospect.

In today’s election news, a candidate for the World’s Most Deliberative Body is facing an earth-shattering scandal because she said “2008” when she should have said “2007,” demonstrating to all that she is utterly incapable of representing the interests of ordinary people. As the normally even-tempered Taegan Goddard indignantly described it, “Elizabeth Warren (D) and the rest of the Democratic field for U.S. Senate in Massachusetts couldn’t answer a simple question about the Boston Red Sox at a forum yesterday. Apparently, they learned nothing from Martha Coakley’s (D) defeat two years ago…”

Here’s what Waldman had to say about this nonsense:

I don’t think anyone in Massachusetts could in good conscience vote for someone who is unable to identify both the state’s fourth-largest city and its third most commonly spoken language. I mean, what are we supposed to do, send someone to the Senate who doesn’t have a command of all master of state-related trivia? The answer is clearly to amend the Constitution so 12-year-old winners of the state geography bee can become senators.

Reporters, I beg you: If you’re going to discuss this “gaffe” and others like it, do your audience a service and explain why this is supposed to matter. And I don’t mean just by saying, “This reminds people of when Martha Coakley called Curt Schilling a Yankee fan, damaging her candidacy.” I mean explain specifically what exactly misremembering the Sox series victories as 2004 and 2008 instead of 2004 and 2007 tells us about the kind of senator Elizabeth Warren would be. Does it mean that despite all the other evidence to the contrary, she really doesn’t care about ordinary people and will upon taking office immediately introduce legislation to make the purchase of brandy snifters and riding crops tax-deductible? Then what?

Yesterday a got an e-mail from Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) about an attempted Republican takeover of the Detroit city government. Bloomberg had a piece about it yesterday.

Detroit has the highest concentration of blacks among U.S. cities with more than 100,000 residents, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. It will exhaust its cash by April and may run up a deficit topping $200 million by June.

Last week, Governor Rick Snyder, a white Republican, ordered a review that may lead to appointment of an emergency manager, rekindling rancor in a city scarred by race riots in 1967. Detroit lost one-quarter of its population since 2000 — much of it to largely white suburbs.

Four Michigan cities are controlled by emergency managers. All have populations that are mostly black. If Detroit joins them, 49.7 percent of the state’s black residents would live under city governments in which they have little say.

Michigan’s emergency managers have sweeping authority to nullify union contracts, sell assets and fire workers. Snyder has said he doesn’t want one for Detroit, though he called the city’s financial condition severe enough to warrant help.

Michigan citizens are currently collecting signatures to put repeal of the law on the ballot in 2012.

A maintenance man Ryan Brunn, 20,has been charged with the brutal sexual assault and murder of 7-year-old Jorleys Rivera, who disappeared on Friday in Canton, GA.

Keenan said Brunn, who has no known criminal record, had keys to both the empty apartment and the trash compactor bin where Rivera’s body was placed.

“We are confident that Brunn is the killer and that is why he is in custody,” Keenan said, declining to detail what evidence investigators have against him….

Keenan said investigators focused on Brunn after receiving information from the public. Brunn had been under police surveillance since Tuesday night. Keenan said the investigation will continue for several months.

“This is a mammoth case,” Keenan told reporters at a news conference in Canton. “We believe that this horrendous crime was planned and calculated, and we’ve recovered a lot of evidence.”

At least he was caught quickly. But another innocent young child is gone.

Yesterday the Obama administration overruled the decision of the FDA to make Plan B available without a prescription to women of all ages.

Wednesday, the Department of Health and Human Services upheld their decision to dispense Plan B One-Step—a one-pill emergency contraceptive—to young women only with a doctor’s prescription, overruling an FDA request to make the drug available over the counter to women of all ages. The restriction only applies to women under the age of 17. In a statement on the HHS website, Secretary Kathleen Sebelius outlined the administration’s reasoning: The FDA’s conclusion that the drug is safe, she says, did not contain sufficient data to show that people of all ages “can understand the label and use the product appropriately.” The outliers, she says, are the 10 percent of girls who are physically capable of child-bearing at 11.1 years old, and “have significant cognitive and behavioral differences.” HHS makes no mention of women older than 11 and younger than 17—statistically, those far more likely to be having sex, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
Wednesday, the Department of Health and Human Services upheld their decision to dispense Plan B One-Step—a one-pill emergency contraceptive—to young women only with a doctor’s prescription, overruling an FDA request to make the drug available over the counter to women of all ages. The restriction only applies to women under the age of 17. In a statement on the HHS website, Secretary Kathleen Sebelius outlined the administration’s reasoning: The FDA’s conclusion that the drug is safe, she says, did not contain sufficient data to show that people of all ages “can understand the label and use the product appropriately.” The outliers, she says, are the 10 percent of girls who are physically capable of child-bearing at 11.1 years old, and “have significant cognitive and behavioral differences.” HHS makes no mention of women older than 11 and younger than 17—statistically, those far more likely to be having sex, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

So if you’re under 17 and you’re raped, you’re going to have to figure out how to see a doctor and get a prescription. Isn’t that just ducky?

I’ll end with some better news for women. The FBI has decided to expand the definition of rape.

An October vote by the Advisory Policy Board’s UCR subcommittee recommended the board at-large change the definition of “rape” to “penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.”

Activists said the new definition was needed because the current one does not recognize that men can be raped, women can rape women, inanimate objects can be used to commit rape or that rapes can occur while the victim is unconscious.

Many local law enforcement agencies use a much broader definition of “rape” than the FBI, causing thousands of sex crimes to go unreported in federal statistics.

The FBI had been under pressure by the Feminist Majority Foundation, which launched an email drive urging the agency to update the definition.

Now let’s start doing more to protect women and children from rapists.

That’s all I’ve got. What are you reading and blogging about today?


The Donald Segretti School of Young Republicans

Donald Segretti, professional Republican CREEP circa 1970

One of the things that I’ve  noticed about Republican politics and politicians is that they really haven’t given up the Donald Segretti tactics of the Nixon Years.  If any thing, they’ve adopted a new version that combines the lunacy of JackAss and the immaturity of early Ashton Kutcher.  They film themselves committing cons and use the internet to spread sex, lies, and videotapes.  I’ve definitely seen and experienced the sadistic huckster aspect of the fetus fetishists. They’ll lie, stalk, steal, and shoot and harm people to further their crusades.  This isn’t opposition research.  This is opposition fictional narrative and dirty tricks for dirty Republicans. Anything justifies getting the agenda done.

Now, we have the latest graduate of the Donald Segretti School of Young Republican Morality.  Will this email help undo the right wing extremist reign of Wisconsin’s Governor Scott Walker?  One can only hope against hope that the governor responded as eagerly to this email as he did with the suggestions from the fake David Koch which included sending thugs into peaceful labor protests.  This is from Wisconsin Watch.

An Indiana deputy prosecutor and Republican activist resigned Thursday after the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism uncovered an email to Gov. Scott Walker in which he suggested a fake attack on the governor to discredit union protesters.

Carlos F. Lam submitted his resignation shortly before the Center published a story quoting his Feb. 19 email, which praised Walker for standing up to unions but went on to say that the chaos in Wisconsin presented “a good opportunity for what’s called a ‘false flag’ operation.”

“If you could employ an associate who pretends to be sympathetic to the unions’ cause to physically attack you (or even use a firearm against you), you could discredit the unions,” the email said.

Carlos Lam: Donald Segretti Wannabe

“Currently, the media is painting the union protest as a democratic uprising and failing to mention the role of the DNC and umbrella union organizations in the protest. Employing a false flag operation would assist in undercutting any support that the media may be creating in favor of the unions. God bless, Carlos F. Lam.”

At 5 a.m. Thursday, expecting the story to come out that day, Lam called his boss, Johnson County, Ind., Prosecutor Brad Cooper, and told him he had been up all night thinking about it.

“He wanted to come clean, I guess, and said he is the one who sent that email,” Cooper said.

He came into the office and gave his resignation verbally, Cooper told the Daily Journal in Franklin, Ind. The resignation was announced after the Center’s initial story was published.

James O'Keefe, professional Republican CREEP circa 2010

Lila Rose, Snookie of the Fetus Festishists, also professional Republican CREEP

We’ve seen a number of people like Carlos F. Lam who will pull any thing.   Jame’s O’Keefe is another one of the Segretti wannabes.  His antics down here in Louisiana in Senator Mary Landrieu’s office should’ve netted him serious jail time. He was just barely blocked from sexually harassing a CNN reporter. He managed to fatally damage ACORN and create a right wing angst storm on NPR. Then there is Lilla Rose. She’s obsessed with other women’s pregnancies and Planned Parenthood. These two pull outrageous, punk’d style pranks that provide heavily edited outrage content for right wing blogs and pundits.  They both are modern day flim flam floosies.  The latest evidence of the confidence game is O’Keefe’s fundraising efforts.

We get to now add a third name to the young Republicans gone wild. This crew is the equivalence of the Jersey Show cast. They are over-the-top crazies seeking the spotlight and money doing appalling things.  What I want to know aren’t they in jail for running confidence schemes?