Wednesday Reads: Madman and Rocket Man

Hey, I don’t usually like or retweet David Corn…but those two tweets above made me laugh out loud.

Going straight to cartoons, since I’m writing this outside in a very dark and dangerous state park that is surrounded by national forest.

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#GeneralKelly reflects the feelings of most Americans. This was his reaction during Trump's speech at the #UnitedNations this morning.

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Day 243: In which GOP wins are measured by the millions that will lose their insurance. #magaisformorons #healthcareforall #notmypresident #TheDailyDon #dumptrump #dailydrawing

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Please note that many of those cartoons are from the foreign press.

This is an open thread.

https://instagram.com/p/BZPr0G5j7J3/


Here’s an idea: civil rights for everyone!

You know, everyone. Including those everyones who are female.

Rights are the solution to the Todd Akinses of the world, and it would be unspeakably obvious if people could remember that rights matter.

For some reason, even people on the left don’t get it. I had somebody say, when I was carrying on about free speech rights and Pussy Riot, “Fuck theories of speech. Free Pussy Riot.” So, let’s see. “Forget about rights. Give ’em their rights.” Uh huh. That makes a lot of sense. And that’s the “thinking” on the left.

People don’t even get it when it concerns their own rights. There are way too many examples, but here’s just one from Lexia commenting at Reclusive Leftist: “…the woman’s mother, who had worked as a nurse (she had wanted to be a doctor), but mostly as a wife, and so was left at retirement age, divorced, impoverished and living in a trailer with thirty seven leaks….

“The woman’s mother said to me, in response to some remark I made about women’s rights: ‘But that has nothing to do with us.'”

I’m not sure where this reluctance to think about principles comes from, but that’s why we have a problem. That’s why we can’t see that

SOME RIGHTS ARE MORE IMPORTANT THAN OTHERS.

I know we’re not supposed to shout, but, honestly people, what is so hard about that concept?

Take religion, for instance. At this point, it’s enough to say, “But it’s my religion!” to excuse just about anything. The media just stand there, being respectful, when a Todd Akin says “Women don’t count. I’ll tell ’em when they’ve been raped. I’ll tell those uterine incubators what to do. It’s my religion.” The Left mostly nodded along when Obama quite agreed that Catholic bishops shouldn’t have to put up with anything so anti-religious as female citizens making their own medical decisions. (But because he’s such a nice guy, it won’t be as bad as if that horrible Other Party was giving the bishops their wishes).

May I make a suggestion? I think we need a Church of Savage Death to all Godbags. They’re interfering with my religion, which is that we all leave each other in peace.

Yeah, I know. That’s about as logically consistent as destroying women while Allah is said to be Merciful and God is said to be Love.

It always takes only about one step to fall into complete logical absurdity if religion is put above civil rights.

It’s obvious if you think about it at all. No other right means anything if you are not, as the old language had it, secure in your own person. If you can be imprisoned until you agree with me, you have no freedom of thought. If I can requisition a kidney from you (because I’m dying and my life is at stake and you’re a perfect match and my religion is pro-life), you’re nothing but ambulatory organ storage.

If all that drivel was understood in the context of rights, the Todd Akinses and their spiritual cousins, on up to the mild-mannered and socially acceptable versions in the White House, would all be obvious for the antidemocratic throwbacks they are. They’d never get near the teevee. Because the media are dimly aware that no religion is so important that it can demand human sacrifices. Not even female ones.

Crossposted from Acid Test


SDB Evening News Reads: SOTU or STFU? Preview of Change and Hope…

That sounds like some kind of Star Wars movie title…

Good Evening!

Tonight is the State of the Union, and I haven’t actually seen one since George W Bush back in 2002. I’ve read them after the fact, I just can’t sit through all the clapping and other showmanship tricks that make the evening much longer than it should be.

Tonight, I just have one hope…and it is a far-fetched one, it is that Obama gets mic checked just as he starts talking!

It would be magnificent.

It would be glorious.

It would be just what he deserves, a reminder of who he is giving that speech to, and what we need to hear. But it isn’t just words that need to be spoken, there has to be an action…blah, blah, blah…I know I am preaching to the choir. So, let’s get on with the nights evening news reads.

For a few preview articles on tonight’s SOTU speech:

State of the Union? More Like State of the Campaign – NYTimes.com

Republicans have good reason to believe that when President Obama delivers the State of the Union address on Tuesday night, his goals are more partisan than presidential.

Cough…cough…more partisan?

Mr. Obama has shifted into full-bore campaigning. He expects little from Congress this year beyond the extension of existing payroll tax cuts. His highest-profile initiatives are designed to enhance his re-election prospects.

Where Republicans stand on shakier ground is in their assessment of Mr. Obama’s ultimate destination. On the principal conflict between the two parties this past year — over paring long-term debt and deficits — the president can still stake a stronger claim to the political center than his Republican antagonists.

Polls show that Mr. Obama’s budget positions are closer to those of most voters than the Republican positions are. His ultimate goal, advisers say, remains a bipartisan deficit deal along the lines of the one he nearly negotiated with Speaker John A. Boehner.

The article continues with statements about Obama being in “full re-election mode.”  More of the usual discussion…please give it a look if you like.

Obama to focus on tax inequality in State of the Union | Reuters

President Barack Obama will frame an election-year State of the Union address on Tuesday in starkly populist terms by calling for tax reform to get rid of inequalities that allow the wealthy to pay a lower rate than middle-class Americans.

His message follows the release of tax records by Mitt Romney, a potential Republican rival and one of the wealthiest men to ever run for the White House. With income mostly from investments, Romney pays an effective tax rate that is much lower than the top tax rates on wages.

“Millions of Americans who work hard and play by the rules every day deserve a government and a financial system that does the same,” Obama said in advance excerpts for his 9 p.m. EST (0200 GMT Wednesday) speech to Congress.

“It’s time to apply the same rules from top to bottom: No bailouts, no handouts, and no copouts.”

Taxes are the most important thing according to the article…

Taxes are the most divisive issue at the heart of this year’s election campaign. Obama, seeking a second term despite a slow economic recovery and a high jobless rate, hopes to tap into middle-class voters’ resentment against Wall Street while their families are hurting.

What? Have we just given up on getting people jobs?

That is exactly what it seems like.

The GOP’s unemployment trap – F**ked – Salon.com

Romney and Gingrich aren’t talking about unemployment for a reason: Because they don’t have any solutions

No kidding!

The unemployment rate is gradually trending down. That’s the good news. The bad news is that by any civilized standard, the current state of the labor market in the United States is an ongoing atrocity.

As of December 2011, there were 13.1 million unemployed workers in the United States, an increase of more than 5 million since the Great Recession officially began in December 2007. Even worse, 5.6 million of those workers (42.5 percent) fall under the category of “long-term unemployed” — they’ve been jobless for 27 weeks or more. Since the end of World War II, we’ve never seen anything close to such a disaster; the previous high, in the aftermath of the 1981 recession, was only 25 percent.

This link to Salon is a new series they have started on long-term unemployment…it is called F**ked: The United States of Unemployment. Check it out.

The real story of America’s unemployed – F**ked – Salon.com

yvonne_fitzner

In “F**ked: The United States of Unemployment” — a new Salon series that will chronicle this important yet largely untold story — Academy Award-nominated director Immy Humes traces the birth and evolution of the 99ers movement. Over the course of the series, Humes will explore her personal struggle with long-term unemployment, the struggles of her fellow 99ers, and confront the stigma of what it’s like to be jobless in America today.

Love that picture. Only I probably would have written it on the backs of my hands and have the picture taken with me giving the double “bird” salute.

Now a couple of links about the other side, Gingrich was being a spoiled baby today, complaining about the lack of applause at last nights debate.

Well…CNN is giving in to the asshole from Georgia. Gingrich wants to hear his debate fans roar | Reuters

Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, coming off one of his most subdued debate performances of the campaign, signaled on Tuesday he may skip future debates unless his supporters are given full license to clap, cheer and roar.

Gingrich complained that NBC News moderator Brian Williams had told the crowd to be silent before Monday’s debate in Tampa in an effort to stifle free speech and prevent the audience from turning on the media.

Free speech my ass…

The next debate is scheduled for Thursday in Jacksonville, Florida, and host CNN said it would not instruct the crowd to be silent before the it begins.

“As we have done in the past, CNN will ask the audience to be respectful of the candidates,” the network said in a statement. “We have always said that if audience reaction such as shouting or booing interferes with the debate or with the candidates’ answers, we will ask the audience to refrain.”

However, as we all know: Gingrich: ‘Wrong’ for NBC to Prohibit Audience Clapping at Debate – By Katrina Trinko – The Corner – National Review Online

UPDATE: I called up the Commission on Presidential Debates, which handles the general election debates, and they confirmed that audience participation has not been allowed in the past in debates, and will not be allowed this cycle either. So, if Gingrich is the GOP nominee, he’ll have to face a silent audience during his debates with the President unless the rules are changed.

UPDATE II: Asked if the Gingrich campaign would ask the Commission to change the rule requiring the audience to be silent if Gingrich became the nominee, Gingrich spokesman R.C. Hammond e-mails NRO, “Yes, we would.  If we have learned one thing it is [that] people, not the media-moderators, pick the winner.”

God, I hope the Commission doesn’t give in to him like CNN, and the other moderators did. Last nights subdued audience was nice to see. I have gotten so sick of the “Roman Gladiator Venue” like behavior that we have seen in all the other debates.

And one last link, this was sent to me by Boston Boomer, it seems a bit of a surprise. Mitt Romney’s Father Palled Around With Saul Alinsky

The radical pioneer Saul Alinsky, who helped invent the practice of bottom-up politics through “community organizing” in the middle of the 20th century, has become a key bogeyman for Republican in the Obama era. Obama worked for Alinsky acolytes early in his career, and even contributed to an anthology titled “After Alinsky.”

“Saul Alinsky radicalism is at the heart of Obama,” Gingrich told CNN Sunday.

But Obama isn’t the only candidate with one-degree-of-separation ties to Alinsky. In his biography of Romney’s father, Michigan Governor George Romney, T. George Harris wrote in his book “Romney’s Way” that the elder Romney and Alinsky met after the Detroit riots of 1967:

When slum organizer Saul Alinsky, with the West Side Organization’s militant Negroes and clerics, wanted to meet with the white Detroit rulers, Romney indirectly arranged the meeting, and attended. Democratic Mayor Jerome Cavanaugh avoided the rough company.

“I think you ought to listen to Alinsky,” Romney told his reluctant white friends. ‘It seems to me that we are always talking to the same people. Maybe the time has come to hear new voices.” Said an Episcopal bishop, ‘He made Alinsky sound like a Republican.

And that is what I’ve got for you tonight…see you later on, Dakinikat will be live blogging the State of the Union for us, which is scheduled to start at 9pm EST.


Doublespeak, the Devil’s Advocate and Diogenes’ Endless Quest

Just when you think current events and various public utterances cannot get any more ridiculous, they do.  Often, much of what we hear and are expected to take seriously is wrapped in doublespeak, deliberately vague, obscure language to hide the speaker/writer’s true intent.

We’ve had examples galore as the 2012 election looms over DC, political candidates twisting themselves into pretzels to find the right combination of words to seduce voters.  Newt Gingrich, for instance, referred to his lobbying involvement with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac [for which he was paid handsomely] as providing advice as an ‘historian.’  John Boehner has taken a page out of Frank Luntz’s cannon, repeating the phrase ‘job creators’ as if it were a magical incantation.  Democrats are certainly not immune to this form of prevarication.  Every time I recall Nancy Pelosi’s infamous statement about the Healthcare Reform Bill, I wince: We have to pass the bill before we know what’s in it.

That being said, there’s a special spot in Doublespeak Heaven or Hell for John Yoo, who often writes for the American Enterprise Institute.

John Yoo.  Name sound familiar?  Mr. Yoo, the infamous legal advisor to the Bush Administration’s inner circle, recently jumped up, expressing considerable distaste for and worry over President Obama’s overreaching his authority, abusing and doing considerable damage to the US Constitution.  A reasonable person might conclude this is in reference to the recent indefinite detention clause in the National Defense Authorization Act, the one POTUS claimed he would not sign.  But then did.

But we’re not talking reasonable.  We’re talking John Yoo, deputy assistant attorney general in the Office of Legal Counsel [OLC], Department of Justice from 2001-2003.

John Yoo helped strangle the English language, managing to transform the word torture into ‘enhanced interrogation,’ a smoke screen phrase that former Vice President Cheney is still defending, so he and his buddies can sleep at night.

Let’s recall the past.

John Yoo spun out legal arguments for wiretapping, warrantless surveillance on all communication coming in or out of the country as well as warrentless surveillance against American citizens; defended the use of torture [excuse me, enhanced interrogation], authoring the infamous ‘torture memo,’ in which he cited permissible techniques, including assault, maiming and drugging on orders of the President as long as they do not result in death, organ failure or impairment of bodily functions.  He also advised the suspension of the Geneva Convention, War Crimes Act, indicating that the US is no longer restrained by International Law in our endless War on Terror; declared that the President is empowered to make war without Congressional permission and, in fact, has the power to order military strikes inside the US.  He defended the President’s right to order rendition without Congressional approval, etc., etc., etc.

That John Yoo.  He was a very busy man while he held tenure as the Devil’s Advocate.

Mr. Yoo now says President Obama has exceeded his powers by his recess appointment of Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.  As you may recall this is the nefarious agency, the wicked brainchild of Elizabeth Warren, to protect American consumers from the labyrinth of confusing language offered in loan and credit agreements.  For example, credit card agreements and home loans.

According to Mr. Yoo, who wrote a piece for the National Review Online, President Obama is making a sweeping claim in the very definition of ‘recess.’

But President Obama is making a far more sweeping claim. Here, as I understand it, the Senate is not officially in adjournment (they have held “pro forma” meetings, where little to no business occurs, to prevent Obama from making exactly such appointments). So there is no question whether the adjournment has become a constitutional “recess.”

And,

This, in my view, is not up to the president, but the Senate. It is up to the Senate to decide when it is in session or not, and whether it feels like conducting any real business or just having senators sitting around on the floor reading the papers. The president cannot decide the legitimacy of the activities of the Senate any more than he could for the other branches, and vice versa.

I find this argument particularly startling coming from Yoo, considering his defense of all things related to the expansion of presidential authority.

But there’s more,

Even with my broad view of executive power, I’ve always thought that each branch has control over its own functions and has the right — if not the duty — to exclude the others as best it can from its own decisions.

Broad view is an understatement because John Yoo is on record, as early as March 1996, declaring that the President has the right to declare war, not Congress.  During his tenure with OLC, he asserted that a President can suspend First Amendment Freedoms in wartime and that the power of the Executive is virtually unlimited in times of war.

You can’t have it both ways.  We’re still engaged in Afghanistan, involved in a seemingly perpetual state of war.

Yoo further states that in view of President Obama’s gross overreach:

Most importantly, private parties outside government can refuse to obey any regulation issued by the new agency. They will be able to defend themselves in court by claiming that the head of the agency is an unconstitutional officer . . .

Now to be clear, I am not a lawyer. I cannot comment on the legalistic merits of the argument.  Others have done that.  But I do think I have a fairly good eye for hypocrisy.  And then there’s this, in reviewing Mr. Yoo’s past declarations, summaries of his memos and advice on matters of war, torture and the suspension of civil rights, this recent charge against President Obama seems out of proportion.

And duplicitous.

It’s okay when neo-cons play with the boundaries and definitions of the Constitution but not when our presumably Democratic President does the same thing.  That’s not to say I agree with either political class redefining, remaking and declaring right and true what is and what is not permissible under the Constitution for very distinct political purposes, merely extending a particular agenda.  But once this questionable threshold is crossed?  The results are what they are.

What neither side refuses to speak to is the considerable danger there is in not accounting for what the next elected Executive is likely to do with ‘expanded’ powers, the establishment of a unitary president. This falls under the heading: Short-Term Goals. It should be noted that redefining the scope of the Executive Office was all the rage during the Bush years, something that Obama vowed to change.

But he did not.

Recalling Mr. Yoo’s penchant for reinterpreting the US Constitution during 2001-2003 [not a pleasant journey], I felt as if I’d literally entered a parallel Universe, one in which language is weaponized.  In this strange, ever-evolving cosmos, white is black, up is down, evil is good and ultimate power [with no accountability] is the Law.

George Orwell is screaming from the Heavens to be named a true prophet.

As for the US Constitution?  It can mean anything you want it to mean. It depends on which side of the political divide you’re standing on.

John Yoo is not a person I would ever turn to for legal advice.  Not for the world I wish to inhabit or wish available to my children and future grandbabies.  In fact, I would think after all the damage Mr. Yoo  [admittedly, he was not alone] did during the early years of the Bush Administration, he’d be reluctant to level charges against anyone ever again.

And yet, a quick check through the archives found that Yoo had weighed in on President Obama’s proposed Executive Order on Federal contractor disclosure.  This proposal would require contractors to provide their political-giving history, any gift over $5000.   The proposal, it is argued, will make the Federal contract system more transparent and accountable to the public.

How radical!

Yet Mr. Yoo suggests the proposal makes some of Richard Nixon’s ‘dirty tricks’ look quaint by comparison.  As an example, he conjures up the humiliating fate of anyone tempted by Presidential overreach, undoing the time-honored, Constitutional right of anonymous political speech [conveniently avoiding the issue of money-giving, as in, swamping our elections in massive amounts of payola].  Namely, the consequence of these sins leads to impeachment.

I’m falling down a rabbit hole.  A really dark rabbit hole.

A case in point, Mr. Yoo ties his concern for poor, vulnerable corporations to MoveOn’s boycott of the retail operation, Target, in Minnesota.  The boycott and subsequent bad press disclosed that Target had made a contribution to a conservative group supporting a gubernatorial candidate opposed to gay marriage.  Yet Target had repeatedly proclaimed itself a gay-friendly corporation.

Ian Millhiser at Think Progress summarizes Yoo’s analysis this way:

In other words, Target misled the public by calling itself a gay-friendly corporation, when it actually was secretly funding an anti-gay effort. Yet, because of disclosure, it was no longer able to maintain this charade and forced to end its two-faced practices. In Yoo’s twisted understanding of the world, this is a great tragedy and not a compelling argument for why disclosure laws are necessary.

I would like to think there’s a place in the Universe where bad actors are rehabilitated, where they reconsider bad decisions, damaging policies that serve only to injure the weak and/or take advantage of human vulnerabilities. Yet reviewing the twisted logic of John Yoo has given me real pause.  If fact, all these political players give me great pause.

This is particularly true with a primary season trudging along, Republican candidates making whacko statements and mean-spirited declarations. We’ve witnessed:

Michelle Bachmann’s delusions, the Eye of the Newt’s vindictive nature, Romney’s spinning positions, Santorum’s woman and gay problem, Perry’s aphasia, Jon Huntsman’s [sadly] invisible campaign and the cuddly libertarian Ron Paul, who yearns to return to the good ole days of 1900. We have not had the benefit of listening to the likes of Buddy Roemer, a voice that should be heard. But now add John Yoo to the brigade of howling voices, then mix a large measure of contradiction, deception and slick language games.

President Obama [who certainly has employed doublespeak with flair, spun numerous fantastic tales of his own] begins to look grounded, normal.

Which means, of course, I’ve definitely entered an alternate Universe.  Maybe this one:

The crazy season just goes on and on and on.  Which makes me think of Diogenes, wandering ancient Greece with lantern in hand, searching for that one honest man.

That was nearly 2500 years ago.  We haven’t learned much.


Aloha and thanks for all the Fish

Talk about your naughty list!

When President Obama signed a budget bill on Friday, he issued a signing statement claiming a right to bypass dozens of provisions that placed requirements or restrictions on the executive branch, saying he had “well-founded constitutional objections” to the new statutes.

Among them, he singled out two sections barring the use of money to transfer prisoners from the naval base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, into the United States and limiting the ability of the government to transfer them to the custody or control of foreign countries. Mr. Obama said he would apply them in a way that avoided infringing on his powers, without any specific explanation of what that meant.

The signing statement includes all kinds of things.

President Obama said Friday he will not be bound by at least 20 policy riders in the 2012 omnibus funding the government, including provisions pertaining to Guantanamo Bay and gun control.

After he signed the omnibus into law Friday, the White House released a concurrent signing statement saying Obama will object to portions of the legislation on constitutional grounds.

Signing statements are highly controversial, and their legality is disputed.

“I have advised the Congress that I will not construe these provisions as preventing me from fulfilling my constitutional responsibility to recommend to the Congress’s consideration such measures as I shall judge necessary and expedient,” Obama said in a statement as he signed the bill into law.

The signing statement says that on the issue of accused terrorist detainees, Obama will interpret and apply provisions that bar the transfer of detainees from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, “in a manner that avoids constitutional conflicts.”

Obama also objected to Defense provisions in the bill that limit the president’s ability to put troops under foreign command and require 30 days advance notice to Congress for any use of the military which would involve more than $100,000 in construction costs.

The president also objected to a section aimed at blocking health, climate, auto policy and urban affairs “czars” from being employed by the White House and a provision that bars health officials from advocating for gun control. The signing statement also objects to a portion of the omnibus that limits funding for the Copyright Office.

He also singled out 14 provisions that he said infringed upon his power to conduct foreign affairs. One, for example, cut off certain aid to Afghanistan unless it was making progress in reducing corruption and allowed women to consult on projects.

“I have advised the Congress that I will not treat these provisions as limiting my constitutional authorities in the area of foreign relations,” Mr. Obama wrote.

Signing statements were once obscure, but they became controversial under President George W. Bush, who used them to advance sweeping theories of his own powers and challenged more provisions, including a torture ban, than all previous presidents combined.

The right wing is screaming about the czars provisions but some of the other ones look more worrisome to me. But then, I’m not an adjunct constitutional law instructor. I’m hoping some of our lawyers will translate this for us.


SDB Evening News Reads for 092611: Baby, Baby, Baby…

Good evening!

I have a basket full of links for you today, with so much discussion going on, it seems fitting to catch you up on things.

There is still a protest going on in the Financial District of Manhattan. I especially like the image that is used on this post from FDL.

Obama’s speech to the CBC is getting plenty notice in the left leaning blogosphere. Blue Texan has a little round up on what is being said here.

Over at C&L, Susie Madrak points out that a recent Washington Post/ABC News Poll shows Obama’s numbers of approval are dropping among the black community.  Perhaps the tone of his speech on Saturday was the wrong tack to take?

And as for the questions of racism, this is what Madrak has to say:

Once again, a member of the media/academic Village misses the obvious: We didn’t have all these people struggling to find work during the Clinton administration. In fact, unemployment was at 4.7 percent – not like the double-digit, long-term unemployment we have now. Not this sense of hopelessness.

It’s still the economy. Racism didn’t magically disappear, but the economy still matters more than anything else.

Also on C&L, this from Jon Perr: Cherry-Picked Patriotism or Only Hating the Wrong Kind of Americans 

Liberals, as the tired conservative slander goes, hate America. This, of course, is nonsense. Liberals simply want to deliver on the national promise of a more perfect union, to shorten the distance, as Bruce Springsteen aptly put it, “between American ideals and American reality.”

But if the past three Republican presidential debates are any indicator, it would appear that conservatives hate Americans. Or more precisely, some Americans. As audiences of the faithful booed an active duty U.S. soldier because he is gay and cheered the deaths of executed prisoners and the uninsured alike, the GOP White House hopefuls on stage remained silent. All because, it seems, they had to. Sadly, that complicity is apparently now a requirement to lead a Republican Party in which demonizing gays, minorities, immigrants and Muslims – that is, hating Americans – is increasingly a centerpiece of its politics.

It is a rather long piece, so give it a quick once over.

The news from FEMA is not very encouraging: FEMA says disaster fund will run dry on Tuesday or Wednesday 

With the House and Senate at odds over a stopgap spending bill that includes more money for natural disaster relief, the agency that needs the money says it can hold out for a few more days.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has $175 million in its disaster relief fund and the balance could reach zero by Tuesday or Wednesday, an agency spokeswoman said.

The timing is key because the Senate is not expected to vote until late Monday afternoon on an amendment to a House-passed spending bill that includes funding to replenish the FEMA coffers. Republican and Democratic leaders were arguing on Friday about the bill and when exactly the agency will run out of money.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) had warned on Thursday night that FEMA would run dry as early as Monday, but the next morning, he said he talked to the agency’s director and been told that FEMA was not running out that early.

GOP leaders took up the call, however, and on Friday they repeated warnings that the agency’s funding expired on Monday.

“If Congress does allow the balance of the Disaster Relief Fund to reach zero, there are laws that govern federal agency operations in the absence of funding,” FEMA spokeswoman Rachel Racusen said. “Under law, FEMA would be forced to temporarily shut down disaster recovery and assistance operations, including financial assistance to individuals until Congress appropriated more funds.  This would include all past and current FEMA recovery operations.”

To imagine that elected officials will bicker over emergency funding is outrageous. I am completely disgusted with all of them swamp critters.

This from Major Garrett, Congress Is Failing …

Remember the time when being a political junkie meant you had an insatiable curiosity about the twists and turns in the policies, personalities, ideas, debates, and outcomes in Washington?

Now it means you just sift junk.

Today’s daggers-drawn standoff over disaster funding and keeping the government open is but the latest tragic-comedy manifestation of a legislative and political system mired in madness.

By all accounts, the Disaster Relief Fund within the Federal Emergency Management Agency will run out of money as early as Monday. It may stay afloat until Wednesday. That means by the middle of next week, the world’s most powerful economy, sickened and weakened by declining consumer confidence and persistent unemployment, will consciously decide not to help its citizens and businesses recover from natural disasters–thereby prolonging economic and emotional misery in dozens of states. What’s more, this same government appears headed for another shutdown or, at minimum, a period of insecurity about a shutdown that will only intensify economic jitters.

There are, of course, legislative and political reasons behind this stalemate. The question, though, is do they make any sense outside of the 202 area code?

Ah…the idea that any of the idiots in DC actually pay attention to the people back home? It is nice to think so isn’t it?

Does anyone honestly believe a victim of Hurricane Irene floodwaters cares whether or not House and Senate Democrats have found unity in their fight with Republicans over disaster funding? Washington tends toward insularity and always has. It always feels a bit alien and characterized by inordinate navel-gazing, partisan high-fiving, and slow-moving legislative chess matches. But even by these standards, this week’s stalemate appears to have reached a new low of cloakroom craziness–where something that seems justified in the cloakroom (building party unity, scoring legislative points, shielding sacred cows) looks like malpractice to the average taxpayer.

[…]

Everyone is to blame: The administration was slow to move on disaster funding, ignoring House GOP demands to engage on the question as the House drafted and passed in June a Homeland Security spending bill that boosted disaster aid over Obama’s request by $2 billion. Senate Democrats did almost nothing to move a Homeland Security spending bill in response to the House bill. House Republicans chose to offset some of its disaster funding by cutting funding to a program it knew the administration valued–the Advanced Vehicle Manufacturing Loan program that seeks to fund the development of fuel-efficient vehicles. The House GOP didn’t cut any of its favored programs, only one it knew the administration wanted to protect.

[…]

…this debate is no longer about how much money to give the Federal Emergency Management Agency. It’s about the parties wanting to lay down markers about unity, their ability to defend turf, and their willingness to fight over the smallest issues–even if it means threatening for the second time this year a government shutdown and leaving penniless the Disaster Relief Fund and the victims it serves.

That may make sense in the House and Senate cloakrooms. It may make for tight sound-bites at the microphones. But it looks and sounds like a Beltway culture that’s lost sight of the people it is meant to serve and the rudimentary tasks of governing it is obligated to carry out.

I want to move on to some items about woman’s issues now.

First, today the first African woman to win a Nobel Peace Price has died.  Wangari Maathai, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Dies at 71 – NYTimes.com

Wangari Maathai, the Kenyan environmentalist who began a movement to reforest her country by paying poor women a few shillings to plant trees and who went on to become the first African woman to win a Nobel Peace Prize, died here on Sunday. She was 71.

[…]

Dr. Maathai, one of the most widely respected women on the continent, played many roles — environmentalist, feminist, politician, professor, rabble-rouser, human rights advocate and head of the Green Belt Movement, which she founded in 1977. Its mission was to plant trees across Kenya to fight erosion and to create firewood for fuel and jobs for women.

Dr. Maathai was as comfortable in the gritty streets of Nairobi’s slums or the muddy hillsides of central Kenya as she was hobnobbing with heads of state. She won the Peace Prize in 2004 for what the Nobel committee called “her contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace.” It was a moment of immense pride in Kenya and across Africa.

Hillary Clinton had this to say, via the State Department Blog Dipnote: The Passing of Dr. Wangari Maathai | U.S. Department of State Blog

Wangari Maathai on stage at the Nobel Peace Prize Concert in Oslo on December 11, 2004. [AP File Photo]

“I was deeply saddened to learn of the death of Wangari Maathai. The world has lost a powerful force for peace, democracy and women’s rights.

“From early on, Dr. Maathai was a tireless advocate for the environment, for women and for all those in the developing world who are unable to realize their potential. She founded the Green Belt Movement that has planted millions of trees and helped women throughout Africa improve their lives and the futures of their families and their communities. She understood the deep connection between local and global problems, and she helped give ordinary citizens a voice. Her death has left a gaping hole among the ranks of women leaders, but she leaves behind a solid foundation for others to build upon. I was inspired by her story and proud to call her my friend.

“My thoughts and prayers are with her three children, Waweru, Wanjira and Muta, and her granddaughter, Ruth Wangari.”

This next two articles over at RH Reality Check caught my eye, first Give Planned Parenthood Funds To Churches!

We’ve been hearing the argument for months now that Planned Parenthood shouldn’t receive federal funds. Women never need abortions (not that Planned Parenthood could use federal funds for that, anyway), doctors can work out payment plans with patients, “pregnancy centers” can give women all the support they need to give birth, contraception isn’t a necessity anyway, etc.

Normally, the reasons rattled off all lead to “defund reproductive health, give money to crisis pregnancy centers.”  Not this time, though.

Via the Concord Monitor:

I would like to see a budget from Planned Parenthood. How much money goes into the pocket of policy advisers and how much to the abortion provider? How much really goes to the “poor” women?

I find it contradictory that we are in New Hampshire, one with the lowest poverty rate, yet we need $1 million to cover poor women.

In the name of “help” do any people volunteer at Planned Parenthood like Care Net [Pregnancy Center]?

I raised five sons well as a “poor” woman with hard work and budgeting and found Care Net to be there to help with clothing and education. Also, the churches were a wealth of resources. Let’s give them $1 million!

Federally funded churches?  Now, how did no one ever think of that?

And this next one: My How Things Change! President Bush Praises Family Planning… 

If you thought the whole “he was for it before he was against it” thing was an artifact of the John Kerry campaign, think again.  As United States Ambassador to the United Nations under the Nixon Administration, President George H.W. Bush (the first President Bush) wrote a letter to Alan Guttmacher (founder of the Guttmacher Institute) congratulating him on creation of a “family planning” stamp commemorating (gasp!!) Margaret Sanger.

This was in the good ol’ days: Republicans were for it before they were against it.  The Bush family sat on the board of Planned Parenthood and in numerous and sundry other ways supported global efforts to promote access to family planning services.

While women’s rights have always been political, this was before it became fashionable and politically expedient to quite obviously sacrifice both evidence and women’s bodies openly on the altar of electoral gains.

The letter is from March 28, 1972…

This just gets me giggling…how things change.

On to some “progressive” men, and their misogynistic approach to feminist talking points, so succinctly discussed by Historiann.  So-called “progressive” Michael Moore shows how to shut down a feminist critique 

I clicked on this link because RealClearPolitics has it headlined “Jane Harman Calls Out Bill Maher’s Sexism.”  Unfortunately, it’s more effective as an object lesson in how so-called “progressive” men like Maher and Moore maneuver to shut down feminist viewpoints and conversations.  Former Congresswoman Jane Harman gives up on her challenge to Maher’s sexist description of a “blonde twink” on Fox News Channel, and her observation that she’s one of one women invited to last week’s show.  She does this even after noting that the dynamic is identical to that described in “the book of the month” by Ron Suskind, with its description of the gender politics in the Obama White HouseCheck it out, with permission to shut down the conversation about sexism granted by Bill Maher and an assist by John Avlon.

Be sure to play it through to the end, where Moore accuses Maher of being “secretly attracted to” the “blonde twink” referenced earlier in the conversation, and the two joke around about Maher’s horndoggery with conservative women.  Awesome!!!  Of course, sex bias isn’t operative here, because Moore loves his wife, and Maher loves him his “blonde twinks.”  Move along, sweeties, nothing to see here. . .

This weekend, the Saudi King made news by suggesting women will get the right to vote some day in Saudi Arabia…but today, this is the kind of news coming from a Saudi lawyer and rights advocate. Trial of Saudi woman for violating ban on female drivers reveals limits of king’s reform drive 

…authorities will bring a Saudi activist to trial for defying the kingdom’s female driving ban.

The attorney, Waleed Aboul Khair, says Najalaa Harrir was summoned for questioning by the prosecutor general in the port city of Jeddah on Sunday, the same day that Saudi King Abdullah introduced reforms giving women the right to vote and run in local elections four years from now.

Harrir is one of dozens of Saudi female activists behind a campaign called “My Right, My Dignity” that is aimed at ending discrimination against women, including the driving ban, in the ultraconservative Islamic country.

Whoa…that was a few amusing and disturbing items wasn’t it?

I am going to veer away from the heavy stuff and indulge in a few different bits of interest…

The recent changes on Facebook are getting annoying…and now I read this and wonder if the PATRIOT Act is not the only thing stepping all over our privacy rights.  Facebook Cookies are Tracking You Even When You Log Out | Geekosystem

If the frictionless (read: permission-less) sharing involved with the new Facebook Timeline weirds you out a little, blogger Nik Cubrilovic has some more unsettling news for you. As it turns out, Facebook has cookies that will track the website you go to for its own purposes in addition to purposes that could arguably be for “sharing.” If you log out, the cookies are not deleted, but instead modified and will still able to track letting Facebook keep an eye on the websites you visit.

Cubrilovic had been working on a project involving fake Facebook accounts when he was tipped off to the situation. Despite the fact that his fake Facebook accounts were unconnected to his real account and that none of them were ever signed in simultaneously, Facebook started listing his real account as a suggested friend for his fake accounts. Facebook was keeping track of who was logging in and from where.

This isn’t the first time that people have started to get concerned about Facebook’s ability to track user activity, logged in or not. In fact, the German state Schleswig-Holstein outlawed embedded “like” buttons on its state websites for exactly that reason; they send information about the user on the site back to Facebook. The discovery that this behavior does not only apply to sites with Facebook functionality but just sites in general plus browser information is a little worrisome.

[…]

There’s no telling how Facebook will respond to the issue, if it ever does, but in the meantime users are stuck with the choice of letting Facebook see their information or getting in the habit of performing a meticulous clean-up ritual. With any luck, maybe all this will inspire a nice, up-to-date, 3rd party Facebook client with an emphasis on user security. Either way, for now, just be aware that you’re being watched.

(via Sydney Morning Herald)

Ah, being watched by Facebook…creeps me out something fierce!

The next couple of links are personal in nature, in that they bring about excited anticipation…and one hell of a good laugh.

When I was a kid, I absolutely loved Dark Shadows and the main character Barnabas Collins, played by Jonathan Frid. (Those remakes during the 80’s and 90’s where crap…with a capital CRAP.)  I never saw the show live, but they had syndicated re-runs on the local Tampa station channel 44…the same place to check out the old “Creature Feature’s with Dr. Paul Bearer.”  I used to hold my old tape recorder up to the TV to get the opening sequence theme music…made up goofy lyrics to the song “Betty Davis Eyes” with the obvious changes referring to “Julia Hoffman Eyes.”  That included the stuttering way the great Grayson Hall pronounced B…bbbbbb….b…Barnabas.

Yes, I had pictures of Jonathan Frid hanging up on my wall above my bed, while everyone else was crazy for the big hair bands, Michael Jackson and Tom Cruise…I was nuts for a dark character portrayed by an aging Canadian actor. Even when I was in college, I had a pet cockatiel that could sing that opening theme song I used to record on the old tape recorder perfectly…weird in a pathetic sort of way isn’t it?

So it was so thrilling for me to see this article about the 2012 release of Dark Shadows directed by Tim Burton and starring Johnny Depp:  Johnny Depp’s ‘Dark Shadows’ vampire revealed! | Inside Movies | EW.com

Photo by Leah Gallo

Behold the real visage of Johnny Depp’s vampire from Dark Shadows!

Last week, long-range paparazzi shots of the actor wearing ghostly white makeup, large sunglasses and a pulled down fedora made fans of the original 1966-71 supernatural soap opera bristle nervously, with complaints he looked simply too strange.

Nevermind that he’s playing a 200-year-old vampire, which is strange enough.

As you can see from this cast shot, Depp’s bloodsucking pater familias Barnabas Collins actually borrows heavily from the aged-little boy look of original Dark Shadows star Jonathan Frid — not that anyone would be happy to see this guy show up as your prom date either.

Still, this official First Look may reassure those die-hard fans of the original series, memorably offbeat ABC daytime drama about a vampire whose extended family are bedeviled by ghosts, witches, and other gothic woes.

Depp, who fought for years to make this movie, is one of those fans. “I do remember, very vividly, practically sprinting home from school in the afternoon to see Jonathan Frid play Barnabas Collins,” the actor says. “Even then, at that age, I knew — this has got to be weird.”

Weird certainly sums up this particular family portrait — a shot director Tim Burton, who also obsessed over Dark Shadows as a boy, staged in the early days of production.

“I remember seeing a group photograph of the cast of the original series,” he tells EW. “For me it captured the weird Dark Shadows vibe in a single image. I had a brief window of opportunity to have our cast present at the same time, the day before principle photography began. We decided to stage a similar picture instead of rehearsing, to see if we captured the Dark Shadows feeling.”

Here’s who those family members are, one by one.

Click that link up top to read the little bits of commentary on each character. I can’t wait to see it!

I am going to end with this tribute from South Park to Justin Bieber.  It made me laugh to think of my own Barnabas fantasies, when compared with the young fantasies of today’s tweens.  This clip is hilarious, I hope you enjoy it…

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Well, that is what I have for you this evening.  Catch y’all later in the comments, until then…”Ooooooo Baby, Baby, Baby….Oooooooo!”


All Three Branches of Government are Broken

Over the past 2-1/2 years, we’ve seen how broken the executive and legislative branches of the U.S. government are. We have a president who refused to stand up to the minority party while his party had historic majorities in both houses of Congress. Thanks to this president’s weak-kneed fealty to “bi-partisanship” and his predictable willingness to cave to the Republicans on just about any issue, he no longer has a supermajority in Congress.

Blue Texan at FDL makes a very good case for why Obama and the Democrats lost in 2010.

Democrats lost because they lost independents by 15 points, and independents don’t care what liberals think.

So why did Democrats lose independents?

Because the economy hadn’t improved enough because the stimulus bill was inadequate. It didn’t help matters that the Affordable Care Act was stripped of its most popular feature [a public option] or that HAMP was a total failure or that the Democrats punted on immigration and host of other progressive goals — but it was mostly about the economy.

The lesson, then, is…that Democrats need to deliver — especially when they promised CHANGE YOU CAN BELIEVE IN — and when they don’t, they lose elections.

For the past few weeks, we’ve seen the House Republicans and the White House bicker over cutting the budget when what we really need to do is raise taxes on the richest Americans. If Obama had any guts at all, he would have refused to extend the Bush tax cuts period. But, because he’s a lily livered wimp, he caved.

Today, Nicholas Kristof said the Congresspeople are acting like junior high school children.

It’s unclear where the adults are, but they don’t seem to be in Washington. Beyond the malice of the threat to shut down the federal government, averted only at the last minute on Friday night, it’s painful how vapid the discourse is and how incompetent and cowardly our leaders have proved to be.

Kristof doesn’t specifically chide Obama, but come on. If he weren’t so focused on getting “bipartisan support” for every initiative, he could have accomplished much more and gotten more respect from the Republicans at the same time. He was and is still simply too inexperienced to do the job of POTUS.

Tonight I want to put the spotlight on the third branch of government. Our judicial system is broken too. We have an epidemic of wrongful convictions in our justice system, and we have an ultra-right wing majority in the Supreme Court that refuses to do anything about it.

As of February 4, 2011, 250 wrongly convicted people had been exonerated by DNA testing, according to The Innocence Project,

There have been 268 post-conviction DNA exonerations in United States history. These stories are becoming more familiar as more innocent people gain their freedom through postconviction testing. They are not proof, however, that our system is righting itself.

The common themes that run through these cases — from global problems like poverty and racial issues to criminal justice issues like eyewitness misidentification, invalid or improper forensic science, overzealous police and prosecutors and inept defense counsel — cannot be ignored and continue to plague our criminal justice system.

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, more than 130 people have been released from death row because they were exonerated based on evidence that proved they were innocent. The chart below shows those exonerations state by state. The chart comes from a fact sheet (PDF) produced by the Death Penalty Information Center.

I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that about 70% of the people who have been exonerated are members of minority groups–mostly African Americans. One of the most frequent causes of false convictions is prosecutorial misconduct. For more information on this problem, see this report (PDF) by the Innocence Project. In late March, the Supreme Court basically gave carte blanche to dishonest prosecutors by deciding that a wrongfully convicted man who had spent 14 years on death row has no right to sue for damages. From the LA Times:

John Thompson

A bitterly divided Supreme Court on Tuesday tossed out a jury verdict won by a New Orleans man who spent 14 years on death row and came within weeks of execution because prosecutors had hidden a blood test and other evidence that would have proven his innocence.

The 5-4 decision delivered by Justice Clarence Thomas shielded the New Orleans district attorney’s office from being held liable for the mistakes of its prosecutors. The evidence of their misconduct did not prove “deliberate indifference” on the part of then-Dist. Atty. Harry Connick Sr., Thomas said.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg emphasized her disapproval by reading her dissent in the courtroom, saying the court was shielding a city and its prosecutors from “flagrant” misconduct that nearly cost an innocent man his life.

“John Thompson spent 14 years isolated on death row before the truth came to light,” she said. He was innocent of the crimes that sent him to prison and prosecutors had “dishonored” their obligation to present the true facts to the jury, she said.

Besides Justice Ginsburg, Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan also dissented from the majority opinion.

The Supreme Court has consistently shielded prosecutors from accountability for misconduct in the past, but Thompson had sued the New Orleans District Attorney’s office, claiming the office had demonstrated a “pattern of wrongdoing” and had failed to ensure that its attorneys obeyed the law. Now the Supremes have eliminated another check against willful misconduct by prosecutors.

Here from NPR is a brief summary of the case against Thompson:

In December of 1984, Raymond Liuzza Jr., the son of a prominent New Orleans business executive, was shot to death in front of his home. Police, acting on a tip, picked up two men, Kevin Freeman and John Thompson.

Thompson denied knowing anything about the shooting, but Freeman, in exchange for a one-year prison sentence, agreed to testify that he saw Thompson commit the crime.

Prosecutors wanted to seek the death penalty, but Thompson had no record of violent felonies. Then, a citizen saw his photo in the newspaper and implicated him in an attempted carjacking — and prosecutors saw a way to solve their problem. John Hollway, who wrote a book about the case, said the solution was to try the carjacking case first.

A conviction in the carjacking case would yield additional benefits in the subsequent murder trial, Hollway observes. It would discredit Thompson if he took the stand in his own defense at the murder trial, so he didn’t. And the carjacking would be used against him during the punishment phase of the murder trial.

It all worked like a charm. Thompson was convicted of both crimes and sentenced to death for murder.

Harry Connick, Sr.

Ten years later, after Thompson’s appeals were exhausted and he was days from be executed, an investigator for his attorneys found that the blood of the perpetrator had been left at the scene of the murder. The lab report showed that Thompson had a different blood type than the person who committed the crime. The DA had deliberately concealed this information from the defense.

At a new trial, more exculpatory evidence that had been suppressed by the DA was presented–10 pieces of evidence in all–and the jury acquitted Thompson in half-an-hour. Thompson then sued and won a $14 million judgment against Connick and the NOLA DA’s office. But, now the right wingers on the Court have nullified that judgement.

On March 31, the editors of The New York Times wrote that a lack of empathy led to this injustice.

The important thing about empathy that gets overlooked is that it bolsters legal analysis. That is clear in the dissent by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Her empathy for Mr. Thompson as a defendant without means or power is affecting. But it is her understanding of the prosecutors’ brazen ambition to win the case, at all costs, that is key.

After detailing the “flagrant indifference” of the prosecutors to Mr. Thompson’s rights, she makes clear how critically they needed training in their duty to turn over evidence and why “the failure to train amounts to deliberate indifference to the rights” of defendants.

The district attorney, Harry Connick Sr., acknowledged the need for this training but said he had long since “stopped reading law books” so he didn’t understand the duty he was supposed to impart. The result, Justice Ginsburg writes, was an office with “one of the worst” records in America for failing to turn over evidence that “never disciplined or fired a single prosecutor” for a violation.

One thing about conservatives, they rarely show any empathy or compassion for anyone who isn’t just like them.

Today John Thompson himself contributed an op-ed to the NYT. Please read the whole thing, but here is just a bit.

I SPENT 18 years in prison for robbery and murder, 14 of them on death row. I’ve been free since 2003, exonerated after evidence covered up by prosecutors surfaced just weeks before my execution date. Those prosecutors were never punished. Last month, the Supreme Court decided 5-4 to overturn a case I’d won against them and the district attorney who oversaw my case, ruling that they were not liable for the failure to turn over that evidence — which included proof that blood at the robbery scene wasn’t mine.

Because of that, prosecutors are free to do the same thing to someone else today.

[….]

The prosecutors involved in my two cases, from the office of the Orleans Parish district attorney, Harry Connick Sr., helped to cover up 10 separate pieces of evidence. And most of them are still able to practice law today.

Why weren’t they punished for what they did? When the hidden evidence first surfaced, Mr. Connick announced that his office would hold a grand jury investigation. But once it became clear how many people had been involved, he called it off.

According to NPR, former DA Harry Connick Sr. “feels vindicated” by the SCOTUS decision.

“I think that he committed … a murder, and I think that obviously we thought we had enough evidence to gain a conviction,” he says. “So I was delighted that the Supreme Court ruled in our favor.”

Never mind the ten pieces of exculpatory evidence that his prosecutor covered up in order to convict Thompson. And, by the way, the prosecutor confessed what he had done to a friend, so it was no accident. Relatives of the murdered man, Ray Liuzza, still believe Thompson is guilty. Liuzza’s sister

Maurine Liuzza said she has reviewed all of the evidence in the case and still believes that Thompson is guilty.

“Just because you are found not guilty does not make you innocent,” she said.

It’s time for radical change in all three branches of our broken government.