Late Afternoon Open Thread: The Romney Bunch

I can’t work myself up to writing a real post today for some reason. I’m kind of in a holding pattern waiting for the Republican Convention to start. I’m expecting it to be a complete disaster along the lines of the one in 1992 when Pat Buchanan gave his “Culture War Speech” and ended George H.W. Bush’s hopes for a second term.

Which one of the “Romney Bunch” will play the Pat Buchanan role? Will it be Rick Santorum? Will it be Mike Huckabee? Or Will it be Mitt Romney himself, the birther-in-chief?

Here are a few interesting links I’ve found this afternoon.

Think Progress: Seven birthers to speak at Republican Convention.

1. Donald Trump. The famed billionaire/birther king Donald Trump has been the most vociferous — and most closely connected to Romney — person alleging that the President wasn’t born in the United States.

2. Actress Janine Turner. The Northern Exposure star who has her own conservative radio show wrote a long screed titled “Reasoning ‘Kenyan Born.’” In it, she complains that anyone who questions the president’s citizenship is deemed a racist: “If this were a legal case in court, [Obama’s] book bio stating that Obama was ‘born in Kenya’ would be taken into consideration.”

3. Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens. During a town hall captured on video (at 3:5), Olens said, “You know the state of Hawaii says he’s produced a certified birth certificate… so on one hand I have to trust the state of Hawaii follows the laws. On the other hand it would be nice for the President to say, here it is, I have a copy.”

4. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. On one radio appearance during Huckabee’s bid for president, the former governor said, “I would love to know more [about where Obama was born]. What I know is troubling enough.” He later walked back the statement.

5. Florida Gov. Rick Scott. In 2010, the Orlando Sentinel reported than an audience member at one of Scott’s campaign events asked “what he would do about President Obama’s ‘birth certificate’ and whether he could legally appear on the 2012 ballot in Florida.” Scott responded, “I’ll have to look into it.”

6. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA). The Vice-Chairman of the House Republican Conference once told reporters “Oh, I’d like to see the documents.”

7. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. Jindal was willing to sign a “birther” bill into law. It would have required all presidential candidates to release their birth certificate in order to qualify for a spot on the state’s ballot.

TPM: Birthers plan their own convention next month in Arizona.

Some of the best known birthers in the nation are scheduled to take the stage at a star-studded event in Phoenix, where they plan to call for Congress to investigate whether President Obama’s birth certificate is real.

There will be singing. There will be speeches. Drinks will be available for purchase. The only question is whether the venue, which features seating in the round, will activate its spinning stage. Promoters are calling it “A Greater Phoenix Tea Party Patriots Event” but you can call it Birtherpalooza.

The star of the gala is Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the eccentric Arizona lawman and a Republican who is running for his sixth term in office this year. Arpaio has been trying to find his way into next week’s festivities at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., even scheduling an “invitation only” event for Republicans at a nearby zoo. But he will not be part of the convention itself.

Arpaio has positioned himself as one of the leaders of the birther movement. For almost a year, he has been using a combination of taxpayer money and amateur volunteers to try to bolster the conspiracy theory that Obama’s birth records are elaborate forgeries designed to put a foreigner in the White House.

Pat Boone will be there too!

The Economist seems to think Romney should follow his own advice to “run toward the problem,” and release his tax returns as well us let us in on what he really believes in.

Mitt Romney had an interesting article yesterday in the Wall Street Journal entitled “What I Learned at Bain Capital.” In it, he explains how his business experience taught him how to help companies grow—and what to do when trouble arises. “When you see a problem,” Romney says, “run toward it before the problem gets worse.”

After Gawker’s massive release of Bain documents, Various journalists have begun to pore over the material and find instances in which Romney may have played fast and loose with U.S. laws.

Now that the hunt has begun, tax experts have begun to sniff blood. The more adamant that Mr. Romney is that he will not release his returns, the more energetic the search for answers will become.

The political reality is that Mr. Romney’s taxes create a massive distraction for his candidacy and get in the way of serious discussion of the substantive questions facing the country. So why doesn’t Mr. Romney follow his own excellent leadership advice, that he learned so well at Bain Capital, and run towards the problem, not away from it?

From the Post Partisan blog at WaPo: Romney’s Secret Tithe, in which Rachel Manteuffel discusses Romney’s latest excuse for not releasing his taxes–he doesn’t want to reveal how much he gives to his church. Haven’t he and Ann both said frequently that they give 10 percent? So is he afraid the church will find out he’s been holding out on them or what?

Florida Governor Rick Scott has declared a state of emergency. Will the RNC have to be postponed? I hope not.

Scott said the goal was to make sure every local, state and federal agency “has the exact same information” on the storm and preparations in order to make informed decisions. He issued the state of emergency Saturday during a media briefing in Broward County.
The state is also focusing on preparations ahead of the Republican National Convention in Tampa. Scott said delegates were being information on how to remain safe during a storm. Officials in the Tampa area were also being kept informed of issues that may occur due to Isaac, such as storm surge and bridge closures.

Tampa airport remained open Saturday.

More Moments of Zen from the Republican Surreality

Can we please send an army of psychologists into the Republican Party and find out what the heck they’ve been ingesting?

First up,  McCain announced that Romney wasn’t chosen for his vp slot because Snowflake Snookie was a “better candidate”.  I’m wondering if he’s decided to help Obama?

Mitt Romney’s tax returns had nothing to do with Sen. John McCain’s decision to choose Sarah Palin as his running mate in 2008, according to the Arizona Republican, saying he chose the former Alaska governor because she was a “better candidate.”

McCain received more than two decades worth of Romney’s tax returns as the former Massachusetts governor was undergoing the vetting process four years ago, far more than Romney has released publicly in the 2012 campaign. Democrats have questioned whether McCain saw something untoward in those tax returns and decided to choose Palin instead.

But on Tuesday, McCain flatly rejected that assertion and grew angry at questions over his decision to choose Palin over Romney.

“Of course not,” McCain told POLITICO when asked if the contents of Romney’s tax returns disqualified him from the selection process. “I don’t know what depths these people won’t reach. Obviously, it’s just outrageous. That’s just outrageous. It shows the – it’s so disgraceful for them to allege something that they have absolutely no knowledge of.”

Asked why he chose not to go with Romney, McCain said: “Oh come on, because we thought that Sarah Palin was the better candidate. Why did we not take [Tim] Pawlenty, why did we not take any of the other 10 other people. Why didn’t I? Because we had a better candidate, the same way with all the others. … Come on, why? That’s a stupid question.”

Then, New Hampshire ickster John Sununu raises the volume to 11 on “the president isn’t a real American” stupidity.

In a brutal campaign conference call Tuesday organized by Mitt Romney’s campaign, several of the candidate’s surrogates went after President Obama with fiery attacks accusing him of socialism, and being un-American.

“I wish this president would learn how to be an American,” said former New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu said toward the beginning of the call. Asked later to explain his comment, Sununu said he was referring to Obama’s economic philosophy, and apologized for not being clearer.

Fox News raised the specter that Obama believed small business people owed everything to the federal government yesterday by mangling an edit. They continue to do anything to prove Obama some how has an anti-business agenda and is a socialist.

The right-wing is desperate to change the subject from Romney’s recent Bain pain—Fox News joined in by selectively editing a speech President Obama gave in Roanoke, VA to make it seem as if he insulted small business owners by saying “If you’ve got a business—you didn’t build that. Somebody else made it happen.” Of course, the conservatives went wild. We’ll show you their deceptive edit AND the clip in context

Rachel Maddow is all over this.

Towards the end of the speech, echoing a sentiment Elizabeth Warren articulated quite well last year, Obama stressed the way in which American society helps people prosper.

“If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.

“The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together…. We say to ourselves, ever since the founding of this country, you know what, there are some things we do better together. That’s how we funded the GI Bill. That’s how we created the middle class. That’s how we built the Golden Gate Bridge or the Hoover Dam. That’s how we invented the Internet. That’s how we sent a man to the moon. We rise or fall together as one nation and as one people, and that’s the reason I’m running for President — because I still believe in that idea. You’re not on your own, we’re in this together.”

Fox News took the quote, carefully edited out the context, and soon after, Republicans decided they had a new talking point on their hands. Paul Ryan, the right-wing chairman of the House Budget Committee, helped lead the way.

A conservative writer ran this item last night.

It was Rep. Paul Ryan’s wife, Janna, who first saw — via Twitter — President Obama’s recent comments about American entrepreneurs, that “if you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.”

And the Wisconsin Republican — thought to be on Mitt Romney’s running-mate short list — couldn’t believe it. He thought someone must “have been putting words in the president’s mouth.”

But Obama said it all.

Well, no, actually he didn’t. Ryan argued that Obama “slipped” and accidentally mentioned his radical leftist ideology, but that only makes sense if you deliberately feign ignorance and ignore the context.

Meanwhile, Bachmann is still seeing secret infiltrating Muslim radicals everywhere.  She’s doubled down on it.   BB covered this some in the morning post but it seems Bachmann won’t back down.  The Muslim Brotherhood is taking over the State Department!!!

Can we get a sane minority party for a change?

Evening News Late Night Thread: Newt, Ablow and Nuts

Good late evening…

Originally I was going to do a light airy post for tonight’s evening news reads, but instead I’m doing a batshit crazy thread.

We heard Rush’s rationalization yesterday, that because Newt asked to cheat, is shows a “mark of character.”  Well, according to Fox News Dr. Ablow…yeah the guy who has a problem with little girls pretending to breast feed their baby dolls, Newt Gingrich’s Three Marriages Mean He Might Make A Strong President

I want to be coldly analytical, not moralize, here. I want to tell you what Mr. Gingrich’s behavior could mean for the country, not for the future of his current marriage. So, here’s what one interested in making America stronger can reasonably conclude—psychologically—from Mr. Gingrich’s behavior during his three marriages:

1) Three women have met Mr. Gingrich and been so moved by his emotional energy and intellect that they decided they wanted to spend the rest of their lives with him.

2) Two of these women felt this way even though Mr. Gingrich was already married.

3 ) One of them felt this way even though Mr. Gingrich was already married for the second time, was not exactly her equal in the looks department and had a wife (Marianne) who wanted to make his life without her as painful as possible.

Conclusion: When three women want to sign on for life with a man who is now running for president, I worry more about whether we’ll be clamoring for a third Gingrich term, not whether we’ll want to let him go after one.

4) Two women—Mr. Gingrich’s first two wives—have sat down with him while he delivered to them incredibly painful truths: that he no longer loved them as he did before, that he had fallen in love with other women and that he needed to follow his heart, despite the great price he would pay financially and the risk he would be taking with his reputation.

Conclusion: I can only hope Mr. Gingrich will be as direct and unsparing with the Congress, the American people and our allies. If this nation must now move with conviction in the direction of its heart, Newt Gingrich is obviously no stranger to that journey.

5) Mr. Gingrich’s daughters from his first marriage are among his most vigorous supporters. They obviously adore him and respect him and feel grateful for the kind of father he was.

When I want to know who in a marriage (or, for that matter, a series of marriages) is the one who actually was aligned with their best interests, I never dismiss evidence of who the children gravitate toward and admire. In this case, they have judged the father who left their family, then remarried twice. And they judge him 10 out of 10. I only hope my own children love me and respect me as much when they are adults.

So, as far as I can tell, judging from the psychological data, we have only one real risk to America from his marital history if Newt Gingrich were to become president: We would need to worry that another nation, perhaps a little younger than ours, would be so taken by Mr. Gingrich that it would seduce him into marrying it and becoming its president. And I think that is exceedingly unlikely.

Oh, giggle…giggle…that Dr. Ablow is such a cheeky bastard. Believe me, if there was a country out there with appealing tits and a nice ass, I can guarantee Newt would be all over it.

Another bit of crazy from Fox News: Neil Cavuto Gives John King A Strong Pat On The Back For ‘Open Marriage’ Question | Mediaite

Fox News’ Neil Cavuto defended CNN’s John King for opening Thursday’s debate by asking Newt Gingrich a question about his alleged “open marriage.” “Enough! Enough with making a big deal out of a question that was fair and an issue that was and is germane. Enough with making CNN’s reporter a villain and Newt Gingrich a hero for dodging it. He was perfectly in his rights trying to make him the issue, for even discussing the comments, but the reporter would have been derelict if he did not raise this. I respect Speaker Gingrich for the energy and intelligence that he brings to this race, but, frankly, his pile on the questioner because you do not like the question, is getting a little long in the debate tooth in this race,” Cavuto scolded.

RELATED: Chris Wallace: I Also Would’ve Asked The ‘Open Marriage’ Question First

“The reporter is an excellent journalist — Newt Gingrich is an excellent politician. The excellent politician swats away an embarrassing question by trying to embarrass the guy who asked it. That is to be expected. The excellent journalist nevertheless asked knowing full well a crowd and a big one will frown on him because he did ask it. That, too, is to be expected. That doesn’t make him bad for raising an issue that has become the elephant in the room,” Cavuto continued. “Fair is fair! Now, argue all you want, that the media is unfair to Republicans on this kind of issue but if memory serves me right, when this stuff happens for pure ratings, they love this kind of issue. Gingrich is free to swat it away and say he has made peace with god for past transgressions but save the piety.”

One more 2012 Primary link for you tonight, Colbert and Cain: Absurdist Politics in South Carolina – Josh Kraushaar –

How about this as a sign of how strange things have become in the Republican presidential race?

Newt Gingrich, the candidate with all of the momentum in the South Carolina primary, canceled a morning appearance on Friday because of concerns about sparse attendance. But just a few blocks away and a few hours later, comedian Stephen Colbert packed a crowd of more than 3,400 students into the College of Charleston quad – with another thousand or so waiting outside the perimeter — to see his mock campaign rally with Herman Cain, who suspended his actual campaign in December.

“Mr. Colbert could not get on the ballot,” Cain joked. “I could not get off the ballot.”

In the days before Saturday’s primary here, the GOP race has taken on a circus-like aura. Gingrich’s second ex-wife aired her grievances about his affairs on late-night television, as her husband thundered against the media for asking about her comments at Thursday night’s debate. Cain reappeared on the campaign trail to make a much-anticipated endorsement -– not of a candidate, but of “We, the people!” Sarah Palin, the original politician-turned-celebrity, emerged from the political diaspora, on television, to say she would support Gingrich — just to extend the primary. And on Friday, macho actor Chuck Norris endorsed Gingrich.

Welcome to the freak show.

Welcome? No…No my friend, this years GOP primary season was a freak show from the very beginning.

And since we are on the subject of freaks, check this out: Ga. judge orders president to appear at hearing –

Yup, one of “them thar birthers” (my best redneck accent) has actually got a feather in his cap now…

A judge has ordered President Barack Obama to appear in court in Atlanta for a hearing on a complaint that says Obama isn’t a natural-born citizen and can’t be president.

It’s one of many such lawsuits that have been filed across the country, so far without success. A Georgia resident made the complaint, which is intended to keep Obama’s name off the state’s ballot in the March presidential primary.

An Obama campaign aide says any attempt to involve the president personally will fail and such complaints around the country have no merit.

The hearing is set for Thursday before an administrative judge. Deputy Chief Judge Michael Malihi on Friday denied a motion by the president’s lawyer to quash a subpoena that requires Obama to show up.


And finally, this last link is more news worthy than all the other crap I posted up top, h/t Maddow Blog: How much energy would the Death Star require to destroy Earth?

As iconic as the spherical death-bringer is, the inner tinkerings of the Death Star still remain a great mystery. For example, if the Death Star suddenly materialized in the Solar System, how much energy would the vessel require to pulverize the Earth into bloody gravel?

A group of physics students at the University of Leicester took it upon themselves to divine the Death Star’s energy requirements (using many an admittedly radical assumption). From the paper titled “That’s No Moon”:

This planet is going to be modelled after earth with the exception that it is a solid planet. It is then possible to use the gravitational binding energy of the target planet to estimate the amount of energy required to be supplied to the Death Star’s laser beam in order to destroy it […] The energy required to destroy the planet in question is 2.25 ⨉ 10^32 J. However, the destruction of large planets such as Jupiter can require much larger energy demands […] we can estimate this energy to be 2 ⨉ 10^36 J […]

Since the Death Star outputs energy equal to several main-sequence stars, even if the actual composition of Earth is used in equation, the value yielded is only a few orders of magnitudes larger and the Death Star can still easily afford to output that energy due to its tremendous power source. However as mentioned above Jupiter requires much greater energy demands which would put considerable strain on the Death Star. To destroy a planet like Jupiter it would probably have to divert all remaining power from all essential systems and life support, which is not necessarily possible.

I think with Newt’s fondness for space, and those grandiose ideas of his, this information would be key to his diabolical plan to give Obama more than a bloody nose!

Well, that is it for me, have a great Friday night!

Obama and the Right Wing Rage Machine

President Obama reiterated the same US stance to Israel that we’ve always had today at a meeting of the powerful pro-Israeli lobby AIPAC, just as he did in his speech last week.  For some reason, the speech at the State Department last week was mislabeled by Mittens Romney and others as  “throwing Israel under the bus.”   Here’s what the President said today.

[S]ince my position has been misrepresented several times, let me reaffirm what “1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps” means.

By definition, it means that the parties themselves – Israelis and Palestinians – will negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967. It is a well known formula to all who have worked on this issue for a generation. It allows the parties themselves to account for the changes that have taken place over the last forty-four years, including the new demographic realities on the ground and the needs of both sides. The ultimate goal is two states for two peoples. Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland for the Jewish people, and the state of Palestine as the homeland for the Palestinian people; each state enjoying self-determination, mutual recognition, and peace.

If there’s a controversy, then, it’s not based in substance. What I did on Thursday was to say publicly what has long been acknowledged privately. I have done so because we cannot afford to wait another decade, or another two decades, or another three decades, to achieve peace. The world is moving too fast. The extraordinary challenges facing Israel would only grow. Delay will undermine Israel’s security and the peace that the Israeli people deserve.

Why the outcry over the past few days to Obama’s maintaining the status quo? Here’s some quotes from SOS Clinton and Ex-prez Dubya that demonstrate this was nothing but manufactured rage on the part of the right wing noise machine.

Even the NY Times is getting into the act. In one sentence they claim that “using the 1967 boundaries as the baseline for a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute” is a first by an American president, and just two paragraphs later quote President George W. Bush using the phrase: “it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949,” another way of describing the 1967 boundaries. Those two statements, by Obama and Bush, convey the same concept.

In 2009 Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said:

We believe that through good-faith negotiations the parties can mutually agree on an outcome which ends the conflict and reconciles the Palestinian goal of an independent and viable state based on the 1967 lines, with agreed swaps, and the Israeli goal of a Jewish state with secure and recognized borders that reflect subsequent developments and meet Israeli security requirements.

Where was the manufactured outrage then?

In 2008 President George W. Bush, on a middle east trip, said:

I believe that any peace agreement between them will require mutually agreed adjustments to the armistice lines of 1949 to reflect current realities and to ensure that the Palestinian state is viable and contiguous.

In 2005 President George W. Bush, at a White House meeting, said:

Any final status agreement must be reached between the two parties, and changes to the 1949 Armistice lines must be mutually agreed to.

President Obama is following the same policies put forth by George W. Bush. To claim that Obama’s speech represents some departure from previous U.S. policy is absurd.

When not manufacturing right wing rage, Republican Presidential contenders are demonstrating their foreign policy ignorance.  Thank goodness we have some one who knows foreign policy at the State Department!  Here’s pizza king and right wing talk show host Herman Cain demonstrating his foreign policy ignorance.

Despite his shallow understanding of foreign policy issues, Cain is still trying to go on the attack against Obama and create a partisan divide on Israel. He said last week that an “arrogant” Obama “threw Israel under the bus” in his recent speech on the Middle East. Trying to sound a hawkish note, Cain said his “Cain doctrine” is “You mess with Israel, you are messing with the United States of America.”
But this morning on Fox News Sunday, Cain showed just how limited his understanding is of the Middle East peace process. Asked by host Chris Wallace what he would be prepared to offer Palestinians as part of a deal, Cain responded, “Nothing.” Just moments later, Cain was dazed and confused when Wallace referenced the issue of “right of return” of Palestinian refugees:

WALLACE: Where do you stand on the right of return?

CAIN: The right of return? [pause] The right of return?

WALLACE: The Palestinian right of return.

CAIN: That’s something that should be negotiated. That’s something that should be negotiated.

Wallace then helpfully offered Cain a definition of “right of return” — “Palestinian refugees, the people that were kicked out of the land in 1948, should be able to or should have any right to return to Israeli land.”

Other foreign policy nitwits have  joined the faux outrage ranks. Quitterella even points to the old testament as some kind of geopolitical playbook.  Do you suppose she’s read  stories about the Kraken so she can have an opinion on Greece’s Navy?

I can never figure out why the I/P issue causes people’s heads to blow gaskets. I always hesitate to even offer up any news in the area because it’s caused complete meltdowns on blogs in the past.  There are some people on each side of the issue who simply can’t seem find any middle ground from.  Derailing any peace process appears to be their goal.

I consider the entire topic to be a hell realm. However, this particular kerfuffle reeks of the same kind of derangement we saw during the Clinton years. It’s getting so bad that I’m cracking this particular nut or group of nuts as the case may be.  This is like trying to deal with birthers and those who subscribe to the ‘secret Muslim’ meme.

Obama isn’t my favorite President by any stretch of the imagination, but aren’t there enough things to complain about right now–like the sneaky renewal of the Patriot Act–without manufacturing yet another conspiracy theory? SHEESH!

I can’t see the US selling out Israel anywhere in the near future.  They are obviously a US ally.  Trying to get both Palestinians and Israelis to be reasonable and come back to Peace Talks should be in everyone’s interest.  Don’t they still have their copies of the Oslo Accords or has every one forgotten President Clinton’s work already?

Thursday Reads

Good Morning!! Does anyone have a remedy for the sleepies? I recently finished a semester of teaching, and the last couple of days I’ve been extremely groggy. Yesterday I even slept until 10:30AM! It doesn’t help that we haven’t seen the sun in the Boston area for at least a week–it’s dark, dank, and raw out there. It seems a lot more like November than late May. On top of all that my Spring allergies are the worst I’ve ever experienced. So please forgive me if this post makes no sense. On to the news of the day.

Disgraced IMF honcho Dominque Strauss-Kahn’s accuser testified before a New York grand jury today. Immediately following her testimony, Strauss-Kahn’s attorneys announced their determination to spring their client from his cell at Rikers Island Jail.

His lawyers initially proposed a $1 million bail package that was rejected by the court.

Today a new offer that was said to add a private monitoring firm, an electronic bracelet and a guard to the package was put together. The cash component of the bail package remained at $1 million dollars, but the deal now included a guarantee that Strauss-Kahn would remain confined in New York City and not leave his residence except for visits to his doctor or lawyers. His passports and travel documents have already been taken from him.

According to ABC News, police are testing body fluids found in Strauss-Kahn’s hotel room for DNA.

ABC News has confirmed that police cut a swath of carpet to test for DNA and swabbed one of the suite’s sinks under a black light that indicated there was potential DNA evidence there.

Apparently Strauss-Kahn’s attorneys plan to claim that their client’s sexual encounter with a hotel maid was “consensual,” but there is a serious problem with that theory in addition to the maid’s testimony.

Investigators also say information downloaded from the suite door’s electronic card reader indicates the maid entered the room and never closed the door. The hotel policy requires maids to leave the door open when cleaning. The open door, they say, is proof that the women entered the room to work, not to engage in consensual sex.

I won’t dwell on this sordid story much longer, but I did want to call your attention to this piece in Time Magazine, which details a number of previous accusations against Strauss-Kahn–along with rumors –gossip about his abusive behavior toward women–that were hushed up until now. How predictable these guys are!

Joseph Cannon’s latest post is a must-read, along with the New Yorker article by Jane Mayer on which the Cannon comments. It’s about the domestic spying by the NSA that went on under Bush and the Obama administration’s heavy handed prosecution of whistleblowers while at the same time protecting the Bush administration criminals. (Minkoff Minx also mentioned Mayer’s article in her morning post yesterday.) Here’s an introduction to the piece by Cannon:

This humble blog spent a lot of time talking about NSA overreach during the controversies over Russell Tice and FISA. Meyer’s piece confirms a long-held suspicion that the real problem wasn’t eavesdropping on telephone calls but automated data-mining of all forms of electronic communication.

Two competing computer systems were designed to take us into this brave new world: ThinThread and Trailblazer. (The system in place now is called Turbulence. Someone at NSA has a strange affection for the letter T — which is also the first letter in totalitarian.) Trailblazer turned out to be a costly boondoggle. ThinThread worked. Originally, it had provisions built in to protect the privacy of American citizens; NSA Director Haybed tossed out those barriers.

Meyer focuses on an NSA whistleblower named Thomas Drake, who tried to blow the whistle on the Trailblazer fiasco — and on the abuses of privacy — to a staffer on the House Intelligence Committee. Unfortunately, the Committee was headed, at the time, by Porter Goss — and by Nancy Pelosi. They both seemed deaf to what Drake had to say.

Why is Obama so obsessed with prosecuting whistleblowers–even to the point of dusting off the Espionage Act? Jane Mayer writes:

When President Barack Obama took office, in 2009, he championed the cause of government transparency, and spoke admiringly of whistle-blowers, whom he described as “often the best source of information about waste, fraud, and abuse in government.” But the Obama Administration has pursued leak prosecutions with a surprising relentlessness. Including the Drake case, it has been using the Espionage Act to press criminal charges in five alleged instances of national-security leaks—more such prosecutions than have occurred in all previous Administrations combined. The Drake case is one of two that Obama’s Justice Department has carried over from the Bush years.

Gabriel Schoenfeld, a conservative political scientist at the Hudson Institute, who, in his book “Necessary Secrets” (2010), argues for more stringent protection of classified information, says, “Ironically, Obama has presided over the most draconian crackdown on leaks in our history—even more so than Nixon.”

Mayer asked Drake about it:

Sitting at a Formica table at the Tastee Diner, in Bethesda, Drake—who is a registered Republican—groaned and thrust his head into his hands. “I actually had hopes for Obama,” he said. He had not only expected the President to roll back the prosecutions launched by the Bush Administration; he had thought that Bush Administration officials would be investigated for overstepping the law in the “war on terror.”

“But power is incredibly destructive,” Drake said. “It’s a weird, pathological thing. I also think the intelligence community coöpted Obama, because he’s rather naïve about national security. He’s accepted the fear and secrecy. We’re in a scary space in this country.”

Check out her article if you can. She’s one of the best investigative reporters we have.

You may have missed Dakinikat’s late night post on Tuesday–the one about exploding watermelons. I thought this story deserved a little more emphasis, because it shows what can happen when there are no government regulations on agriculture–and industry in general (and that is what the Republicans would love to make happen). From Raw Story:

A bizarre wave of exploding watermelons — possibly due to farmers’ abuse of a growth-boosting chemical — has once again spotlighted safety fears plaguing China’s poorly regulated food sector.

State media has said nearly 50 hectares (120 acres) of watermelon crops in the eastern city of Danyang have been ruined by the phenomenon this month after some growers doused them with the growth accelerator forchlorfenuron.

“On May 7, I came out and counted 80 (exploded watermelons), but by the afternoon it was 100,” farmer Liu Mingsuo told state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) in a report that aired Tuesday. He said he had sprayed them with the chemical just a day before.

Remind me to never buy any food produce in China!!

Have you heard that the Obama campaign is selling T-shirts and coffee cups that mock the “birthers?”

President Obama’s 2012 presidential campaign today started selling “Made in the USA” t-shirts featuring images of both President Obama and the long-form birth certificate he released copies of last month.

Wear your support for this campaign with an official Made in the USA T-shirt,” his website advertises. Donate $25 or more today and we’ll send you your limited-edition shirt.

Coffee-mugs are also available.

“Remember ‘fight the smears’ from the 2008 campaign?” asked campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt. “This is the mobile version of it.”

Quite frankly, I think this is a little bit tacky….but that’s just me. And speaking of tasteless behavior, the Catholic Church is attempting to blame the ’60s counterculture for the behavior pedophile priests. From the Guardian UK:

The investigation commissioned by Catholic bishops said that the peak incidence of sexual abuse by priests in the 1960s and 70s reflected the increased level of other deviant behaviours in American society in the period, including “drug use and crime, as well as social changes, such as an increase in premarital sex and divorce.”

Researchers at John Jay College of Criminal Justice said most of the abusive priests were ordained in the 1940s and 50s and were not properly trained to confront the social upheavals of the 1960s.

David O’Brien, a historian of American Catholicism at the University of Dayton, said the report, Causes and Context of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests in the United States, 1950-2010, was dangerous because it seemed to exonerate bishops.

The study also ignores the long history of sexual abuse of children by the Catholic clergy. Methinks these “researchers” told the Catholic Bishops what they wanted to hear rather than do any serious research.

Finally, President Obama plans to give another “most amazing speech evah” tomorrow. This one is on the Middle East and North Africa. According to Voice of America:

The speech will be broad in scope, as Mr. Obama focuses on the peaceful democratic movements for change that have swept the region, discusses implications for U.S. policy, and offers what administration officials call some concrete policy proposals.

He will give his assessment of the impact of popular uprisings that have led to political changes in Egypt and Tunisia, and which continue in places like Syria, Libya and Yemen.

Senior administration officials say Mr. Obama will speak of a moment of opportunity, after a decade of great tensions and divisions, in which people of the region and U.S. policy can begin to turn the page toward a more positive and hopeful future.

The stalemated Israel-Palestinian peace process will be an important element. However, Mr. Obama is expected to frame it as part of a wider picture and say that leaders on both sides of that conflict should seize an opportunity for peace.

Whatever….I think I’ll arrange to be busy while he’s speechifying. Anyway, what are you reading and blogging about today?

TGIFriday Reads

Good Morning!

Well, it’s getting to be the silly season.  Now we have Republicans who were for oil subsidies before they were against them or against them before they were for them.  Evidently, angry town hall participants can’t figure out why oil companies that keep making record profits while gouging at the pump deserve huge tax breaks. So, Republicans are making up their minds as they go along.  Here’s one such example from the Wonk Room:  Paul Ryan Endorses Ending Oil Subsidies, Even Though He Voted For Them

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) agree.d to end subsidies to oil companies during a town hall in Waterford, Wisconsin, this morning, eliciting great applause from an overflow crowd in a very conservative section of his district. “We also want to get rid of corporate welfare,” Ryan insisted. “So we propose to repeal all that”

But Ryan voted twice this year to actually extend subsidies to oil companies, once on a motion to recommit on a shorter-term continuing resolution and again when he supported an amendment to the initial House CR. The Ryan budget, meanwhile, doesn’t specifically target oil subsidies, but only generally promises to end “corporate welfare.”

Earlier this week, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) also indirectly endorsed ending subsidies to the oil industry, before walking back his support.

CBS Reporter Lara Logan is offering up more information on her ‘merciless’ assault  during the Egyptian uprising.  Logan was separated from her colleagues for about 25 minutes.

She declined to go into more detail about the assault but said: “What really struck me was how merciless they were. They really enjoyed my pain and suffering. It incited them to more violence.”

After being rescued by a group of civilians and Egyptian soldiers, she was swiftly flown back to the United States. “She was quite traumatized, as you can imagine, for a period of time,” Mr. Fager said. Ms. Logan said she decided almost immediately that she would speak out about sexual violence both on behalf of other journalists and on behalf of “millions of voiceless women who are subjected to attacks like this and worse.”

It appears the Lake Havusu Arizona Newspaper filed to see Barack Obama Senior’s immigration file.  Their EXCLUSIVE–“Dad’s Immigration File Offers More Evidence Of Obama’s Birthplace” is an interesting read.  Sounds like Harvard couldn’t get rid of this particular Obama soon enough.  This really brings an interesting contrast to the President’s Book “Dreams of my Father”.

The documents also show that the CIS investigated the elder Obama as a polygamist, having a wife in Kenya and a “wife and child in Honolulu.” Dahlim’s memo adds that “Polygamy is not an excludable or deportation charge as Subject is a non-immigrant.”

Documents show that Obama, Sr. was denied an extension on his student visa in July, 1964, in part because Harvard University, where Obama, Sr., was a Ph.D. candidate, sought his removal. Obama Sr. eventually left the United States willingly after becoming an illegal alien for remaining in the country past the expiration of his visa.

An INS investigator, M.F. McKeon, wrote “They (Harvard officials) weren’t very impressed with him and asked us to hold up action on his application until they decided what action they could take in order to get rid of him. They were apparently having difficulty with his financial arrangements and couldn’t seem to figure out how many wives he had.”

Documents show that Harvard officials considered Obama, Sr. to be a “slippery character,” and conspired with the INS to have him deported.

After raising nearly every racist dogwhistle in the play book,  Donald Trump Bristles at Claim He’s a Racist.  Gee, why would anyone think that when the guy questions how the President–a legacy who graduated summa sum laude from Harvard–got into Harvard in the first place.

Trump tells TMZ … “That is a terrible statement for a newscaster to make.  I am the last person that such a thing should be said about.”

Bob Schieffer delivered a scathing statement against Trump Wednesday night on the “CBS Evening News,” reacting to Trump’s insinuation that President Barack Obama may not have had the grades to get into Harvard.

Schieffer said, “That’s just code for saying he got into law school because he’s black.  This is an ugly strain of racism that’s running through this whole thing.”

We asked Trump if he was suggesting Obama got into Harvard Law School through affirmative action.  He said, “Affirmative action is out there.  It’s a program that is available. But I have no idea whether it applies in this case.  I’m not suggesting anything.”

Politically-motivated accusation and innuendo is nothing new–as pointed out by Politico–but does Trump’s birther agenda shift the practice to a new low because it rose to the level of a media feeding frenzy?

Lurid conspiracy theories have followed presidents for as long as the office has existed. Yet even Obama’s most recent predecessors benefited from a widespread consensus that some types of personal allegations had no place in public debate unless or until they received some imprimatur of legitimacy — from an official investigation, for instance, or from a detailed report by a major news organization.

“There are no more arbiters of truth,” said former White House press secretary Robert Gibbs. “So whatever you can prove factually, somebody else can find something else and point to it with enough ferocity to get people to believe it. We’ve crossed some Rubicon into the unknown.”

It’s hard to imagine Bill Clinton coming out to the White House briefing room to present evidence showing why people who thought he helped plot the murder of aide Vincent Foster— never mind official rulings of suicide — were wrong. George W. Bush, likewise, was never tempted to take to the Rose Garden to deny allegations from voices on the liberal fringe who believed that he knew about the Sept. 11 attacks ahead of time and chose to let them happen.

Well, at least it’s Friday!  So, what’s on your reading and blogging list this morning?

Thursday Reads: Birther Madness, Town Hall Uprisings, Tornadoes, and Armadillos

Good Morning!!

Just so everyone will know what’s going on–we are trying out having some ads on the blog so that we can raise a little money for ongoing improvements. We hope no one will be too bothered by this. We are working on blocking ads that we don’t think belong on “the little blog that could.” If you see something offensive, you can let one of us know.

Now for today’s news links. As of late last night, the right wing nuts were still in an uproar about Obama’s birth certificate and whatever else they can think of to try to make him seem illegitimate. I don’t get it. There are so many things to criticize about Obama–why focus on these nutty conspiracy theories? I hate to say it, but it has to be racism and/or xenophobia. Check this out from birther start Orly Taitz:

“Look, I applaud this release. I think it’s a step in the right direction,” so-called “birther queen” Orly Taitz told me in one of her many media interviews this morning. “I credit Donald Trump in pushing this issue.”

But she still has her suspicions. Specifically, Taitz thinks that the birth certificate should peg Obama’s race as “Negro” and not “African.”

“In those years … when they wrote race, they were writing ‘Negro’ not ‘African’,” Taitz says. “In those days nobody wrote African as a race, it just wasn’t one of the options. It sounds like it would be written today, in the age of political correctness, and not in 1961 when they wrote white or Asian or ‘Negro’.”

Taitz says she’s not giving up her fight. She also claims Obama isn’t a “natural born citizen” because she uses a standard that requires both parents to be American citizens — a misreading of the Constitution which if enforced would have rendered several other American Presidents ineligible.

These people are utterly shameless. I wouldn’t dare go look at World Net Daily to see what they’re saying. Oh wait…the Washington Post did it for me.

“It raises far more questions than it answers,” said Joseph Farah, editor in chief of WorldNetDaily and birther extraordinaire, almost breathless between media interviews.

Farah, whose online publication has run hundreds of articles over the past couple of years questioning Obama’s citizenship, professed delight at the latest development. So did real estate tycoon Donald Trump, who has found that raising questions about Obama’s legitimacy is political jet fuel for someone pondering a presidential run.

And across the pond they’re laughing at us.

Has there ever been a more absurdly surreal moment, even in US politics, that unchallengeable theatre of the absurd and the surreal? One moment, we were watching a property magnate, with one eye on the presidency, the other on his reality TV show ratings, and puffed up like a bullfrog, rejoicing on an airport tarmac in New Hampshire that America’s President of two years had finally made public his birth certificate.

The next, America’s TV networks interrupted their schedules to cut to the White House, where that self-same President appeared to confirm the momentous fact: not that Barack Obama had indeed been born, but that the happy event indeed took place, as no sane person has ever doubted, on the unimpeachably American soil of Hawaii, one August evening in 1961.

Of late, however, America has seemed to be taking leave of its senses. A quarter of the population, polls showed, and close on half of Republicans, still refused to believe that unassailable fact.

Sometimes it’s just so embarrassing to live in the same country with these bumpkins.

From Think Progress, historian Douglas Brinkley is calling for NBC to drop Trump’s show (I didn’t know he had one) and for corporate sponsors to pull their ads.

Also from Think Progress, another Republican is schooled by his constituents at a town hall meeting.

Rep. Charlie Gibson (R-NY) felt the heat of that movement last week when constituents responded to his fear mongering about undocumented immigrants not paying taxes by asking him, “You mean like GE?!” Yesterday, at yet another town hall meeting captured on YouTube, his constituents angrily and passionately rejected the GOP’s budget plan and demanded that the rich pay their fair share.

Check out the video:

Yelled out at the end: “Tax the rich!” Keep fighting back America!

Minkoff Minx can update us on the storms hitting the Southern states. From the LA Times this morning: Deadly storms, tornadoes kill more than 170 in South

TUSCALOOSA, Ala.— A wave of tornado-spawning storms strafed the South on Wednesday and early Thursday, splintering buildings across hard-hit Alabama and killing at least 178 people in five states.

At least 128 died in Alabama alone, officials said early Thursday. Among the cities hit hard by a tornado was Tuscaloosa, home to the University of Alabama. The mayor said sections of the city were obliterated and its infrastructure decimated.

“What we faced today was massive damage on a scale we have not seen in Tuscaloosa in quite some time,” Mayor Walter Maddox told reporters Wednesday.

The tornado “paralyzed many city operations that directly respond to events like we experienced today,” he said. “Pray for us.”

Did you know you can get leprosy from an Armadillo?

“A preponderance of evidence shows that people get leprosy from these animals,” said Richard W. Truman, director of microbiology at the National Hansen’s Disease Program in Baton Rouge and lead author of a paper detailing the discovery in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Until now, scientists believed that leprosy was passed only from human to human. Every year, about 100 to 150 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with the malady, which is also known as Hansen’s disease. Though many have traveled to countries where the disease is relatively common, as many as a third don’t know where they picked it up.

Most of those cases are in Texas and Louisiana, where leprosy-infected armadillos live too.

The good news is that leprosy can now be treated with a combination of antibiotics.

I know this news post has been on the lightweight side, but it’s the end of the semester and I’m stressed out and don’t want to deal with anything too heavy. Feel free to do that in the comments though. What are you reading and blogging about today?