Thursday, December 31, 2009

On Politicizing An Attack

The Republican response to the underpants bomber attack has been nothing short of obscene.  Rachel Maddow put together a wonderful presentation on this.  Although I covered a mot of this Tuesday and Yesterday, she does such a wonderful job of connecting the dots that it’s well worth the time to watch


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In addition, Rachel also called out Democratic leaders for their failure to challenge these GOP lies.


Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

On a more positive note, she must have prepared the second piece, before the White House released this statement:

WhiteHouse There has been a lot of discussion online and in the mainstream media about our response to various critics of the President, specifically former Vice President Cheney, who have been coming out of the woodwork since the incident on Christmas Day.  I think we all agree that there should be honest debate about these issues, but it is telling that Vice President Cheney and others seem to be more focused on criticizing the Administration than condemning the attackers. Unfortunately too many are engaged in the typical Washington game of pointing fingers and making political hay, instead of working together to find solutions to make our country safer.

First, it’s important that the substantive context be clear: for seven years after 9/11, while our national security was overwhelmingly focused on Iraq – a country that had no al Qaeda presence before our invasion – Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda's leadership was able to set up camp in the border region of Pakistan and Afghanistan, where they continued to plot attacks against the United States. Meanwhile, al Qaeda also regenerated in places like Yemen and Somalia, establishing new safe-havens that have grown over a period of years. It was President Obama who finally implemented a strategy of winding down the war in Iraq, and actually focusing our resources on the war against al Qaeda – more than doubling our troops in Afghanistan, and building partnerships to target al Qaeda’s safe-havens in Yemen and Somalia.  And in less than one year, we have already seen many al Qaeda leaders taken out, our alliances strengthened, and the pressure on al Qaeda increased worldwide.

To put it simply: this President is not interested in bellicose rhetoric, he is focused on action. Seven years of bellicose rhetoric failed to reduce the threat from al Qaeda and succeeded in dividing this country. And it seems strangely off-key now, at a time when our country is under attack, for the architect of those policies to be attacking the President.

Second, the former Vice President makes the clearly untrue claim that the President – who is this nation’s Commander-in-Chief – needs to realize we are at War. I don’t think anyone realizes this very hard reality more than President Obama. In his inaugural, the President said “our nation is at war against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred.” In a recent speech, Assistant to the President for Terrorism and Homeland Security John Brennan said “Instead, as the president has made clear, we are at war with al-Qaida, which attacked us on 9/11 and killed 3,000 people. We are at war with its violent extremist allies who seek to carry on al-Qaida’s murderous agenda. These are the terrorists we will destroy; these are the extremists we will defeat.” At West Point, the President told the nation why it was “in our vital national interest” to send an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to fight the war in Afghanistan, adding that as Commander in Chief, “I see firsthand the terrible wages of war.” And at Oslo, in accepting the Nobel Peace Prize, the President said, “We are at war, and I am responsible for the deployment of thousands of young Americans to battle in a distant land.”

There are numerous other such public statements that explicitly state we are at war. The difference is this: President Obama doesn’t need to beat his chest to prove it, and – unlike the last Administration – we are not at war with a tactic (“terrorism”), we at war with something that is tangible: al Qaeda and its violent extremist allies. And we will prosecute that war as long as the American people are endangered.

Dan Pfeiffer is White House Communications Director [emphasis added]

Inserted from <The White House>

Normally, this is where I run off at the mouth, but I have nothing else to say, except that’s it’s about time the Obama administration started to fight back against these horrid Republicans.

Obama Signals Progress on Openness

President Barack Obama took a significant step yesterday toward lifting the veil of secrecy imposed by Crawford Caligula and his GOP minions.

top-secret Yesterday, President Obama issued an executive order on classified national security information that declared that “No information may remain classified indefinitely.” The order is “part of a sweeping overhaul of the executive branch’s system for protecting classified national security information,” which includes overturning a rule put in place by Obama’s predecessor, President George W. Bush, that made it easier for documents to remain classified:

Moreover, Mr. Obama eliminated a rule put in place by former President George W. Bush in 2003 that allowed the leader of the intelligence community to veto decisions by an interagency panel to declassify information. Instead, spy agencies who object to such a decision will have to appeal to the president.

Steven Aftergood, the director of the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists, was cautiously optimistic about Obama’s move, saying that while it depended on the implementation, “there are some real innovations here” that represent “a major step forward” towards rolling back government secrecy... [emphasis original]

Inserted from <Think Progress>

Like Aftergood, I think this order has te potential to be a real step forward.  If it works in practice as well at it appears, this is clearly a move in the right direction.  Time will tell.

No Freedom for Israeli Whistleblower

Nobody has questioned that Israel has nuclear weapons for decades, making the following article particularly offensive.

mordechai-vanunu Mordechai Vanunu, who served 18 years in prison after he revealed Israel's secret nuclear program, has been placed under house arrest pending criminal charges for allegedly breaching the terms of his 2004 release, which includes a ban on contacts with foreigners.

A police spokesman, Micky Rosenfeld, said Vanunu was accused of meeting with "a number of foreigners". The spokesman, however, did not specify who the foreigners were or where they came from.Vanunu's lawyer, Avigdor Feldman, said his client had been arrested because his romantic attachment to an unnamed Norwegian woman had come to the attention of the authorities.

"Vanunu was arrested [for] a relationship between a man and a woman, with a Norwegian citizen," he told Reuters. "He is not being accused of giving any secrets. She is not interested in nuclear business - she's interested in Mordechai Vanunu [and he] is probably interested in her."

The woman has reportedly been interrogated by police but has not been charged with any offence.

Vanunu has fallen foul of the no-foreigners rule before. In 2007, he was sentenced to six months in jail for talking to non-Israelis.

Vanunu, a former technician at Israel's Dimona nuclear plant, was first jailed in 1986 after he passed on information about Israel's nuclear program to the Sunday Times. The Israeli authorities argue that he may have kept back some information which could still be of use to a hostile foreign power.

His dilemma is compounded by the fact that most Israelis do not approve of his actions and want no contact with him. Vanunu says the feeling is mutual and he would prefer to live abroad, but is banned from doing so...

...After talking to the Sunday Times, Vanunu was tracked down in Rome where he was kidnapped by Israeli intelligence agents and brought back to Israel to stand trial.

Israel has never publicly acknowledged its nuclear weapons arsenal… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <Common Dreams>

At the time of Vannu spilled the beans on Israel’s nuclear weapons program, nobody credible had doubted it's existence for several years.  While Vannu did break the law, he did so as an act of civil disobedience, occasioned by Israel’s lack of integrity by continuing to deny what we already knew.  For Israel, letting Vannu go now would prove far less damaging than continuing to expose their own hypocrisy through vengeance.  It is also an embarrassment for the US.  How can Muslim nations take us seriously when we tout nuclear nonproliferation, while winking at Israel’s nukes?

Open Thread – 12/31/2009

Here we are on the last day of the year.  I have no doubt that the 09 habit will die hard and I will commit several date related typos early next month… and year.  Yesterday I replied to comments here and visited several blog.  Then I spent over two hours on the phone with Clear tech support.  A couple days ago I lost my download speed.  After going through all the possibilities I had tried and a few that I had now, they are kicking it up to their engineering dept, as they figure the problem is in one of their towers.

Today’s Jig Zone puzzle took me 5:07.  To do it, Click Here.  How did you do?

Here’s your cartoon:

Are you partying tonight?

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Action Alert: Repo the Dough!

There’s a good petition for you to sign, but first some bankster news.

repo1 Health care reform suffered the torments of partisan obstruction. Now gird yourself for financial reform and the perils of bipartisan blight.

In health care, lockstep Republican opposition caused months of delay, and empowered the likes of Connecticut's embittered Senator Joe Lieberman and Nebraska's compromised Ben Nelson to exact cankerous concessions to forge a super-majority.

So Washington pundits rail against bitter partisanship. Republican Senator John McCain charges that Obama is to blame for the partisan divide, even though the President wasted months while Max Baucus courted coy Republicans. Senator John Cornyn, the most rabid of Republican obstructionists, damns the partisan process as a reason to oppose the health care bill. This is akin to a gang of thieves lamenting crime in the streets.

Next year, assuming that this health care bill, like a large kidney stone, must eventually be passed, the Congress will turn to financial reform. In the House, Republicans remain in lockstep opposition, providing not one vote for a measure that would take the first steps towards limiting the ability of banks to fleece us again. But in the Senate, we may well witness not the price of partisan rancor, but the blight of bipartisan cooperation.

Senate Banking Committee Chair Chris Dodd put forth a strong legislative proposal, one far better than the administration's plan. When the Committee's senior Republican, Alabama's Richard Shelby, scorned that in an extended rant, Dodd decided to pair up Democrats and Republicans on the committee to come up with bipartisan solutions. And now reports suggest that a bipartisan plan may well be unveiled in January, with Dodd pushing for an early vote.

Hold onto your wallets. We don't yet know what is in the bipartisan bill, but we do know what has been kicked to the curb. Shelby announced one price for his cooperation: no new agency to protect consumers from financial fraud or abuse. Want Republican cooperation? Then the proposed Consumer Financial Protection Agency - with a mandate to police everything from mortgage fraud to preposterous bank overdraft charges - is verboten. Grateful banking lobbyists will insure him a lucrative retirement.

We continue to suffer a pandemic of bank fraud and abuse. In the housing bubble, mortgage companies rewarded brokers for peddling exotic mortgages to customers that the brokers knew couldn't afford them and didn't understand them. Now, banks are raking in record sums from overdraft charges, credit card fees, and preposterous ATM charges. Payday lenders are pocketing the equivalent of 1000% interest from the poorest working people.

The White House has sensibly championed a new agency devoted not to the health of the banks but to the protection of consumers. Already the banking lobby succeeded in weakening the proposal in the partisan House, exempting auto dealers - hell, we know they are honest, right? - and over 90% of all lending institutions, and eliminating the mandate to offer "wonder bread" or plain vanilla loans along with the exotica banks prefer to peddle.

But that was with House Republicans in opposition. In the Senate, the price of bipartisanship is to trash the whole concept. Caveat emptor, baby… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <Huffington Post>

There’s a black sheep in every family.  Cousin FatCat, pictured above, is thrilled that his bankster owner will be able to keep him on a generous diet of 100% caviar, because the Repuglicans know only one definition for bipartisan: Democratic cave-in.  I’m sure there will be a petition circulating on this bill, and when it surfaces, I will put it up for you.  In the meantime, here’s one to tax Wall-Street speculation:

repo2 …Reckless Wall Street gambling collapsed the economy. The big bankers, like Mr. Potter, got theirs – an unbelievable $3 trillion in government help! It worked so well that Wall Street will pay out some $140 billion in bonuses this year.

But what about George Bailey and the rest of us? Where is the help for the 16 million Americans who are now out of work? The millions of unemployed facing foreclosure? The millions more teetering on the brink of personal bankruptcy?

The banks were aided on the condition that they free up credit, modify mortgages and help put America back to work. They have not kept the bargain. Tell Congress, it’s time to take some of the big bailout bucks back and pass a small transaction tax on stock market speculation to pay for new job creation. Leftover bailout funds should also be put to work creating jobs.

Please sign our New Year's petition calling on Congress and the President to "Repo the Dough" by taxing speculation and putting Wall Street to work rebuilding Main Street! And, please ask your friends to join in this petition from and CMD, by sharing this link:

Lisa Graves is the Executive Director of the Center for Media and Democracy based in Madison, Wisconsin.

Inserted from <Center for Media and Democracy>

To sign just click the link above.

Just Say No!

The GOP Regime,  with DINO help, has manages to sneak abstinence only funding into the Senate version of the Health Care bill.

NoAbstinence ABSTAINING FROM MAKING SENSE.... If there's one thing conservatives claim to hate, it's wasteful federal spending on programs that have been proven not to work.

Unless we're talking about funding for abstinence programs, in which case conservatives love wasteful federal spending on programs that have been proven not to work.

Proponents of sex education classes that focus on encouraging teenagers to remain virgins until marriage are hoping that the rescue plan for the nation's health-care system will also save their programs, which are facing extinction because of a cutoff of federal funding.

The health-care reform legislation pending in the Senate includes $50 million for programs that states could use to try to reduce pregnancies and sexually transmitted disease among adolescents by teaching to them to delay when they start having sex.

Under the federal budget signed by President Obama, such programs would no longer have funds targeted for them.

"We're optimistic," said Valerie Huber of the National Abstinence Education Association, which is lobbying to maintain funding for the programs. "Nothing is certain, but we're hopeful."

Bush/Cheney spent about $150 million a year on abstinence programs that failed miserably. Obama's budget directs funds to "teenage pregnancy prevention" for programs that have been "proven effective through rigorous evaluation." The right objected, arguing that limiting funding to effective programs would exclude their preferred initiatives. Obama didn't budge.

But abstinence proponents believe health care reform might offer new opportunities, in large part because Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) pushed a measure to provide $50 million to states to use for abstinence programs. It was approved in committee thanks to the support of a couple of conservative Democrats, and for some reason, the provision ended up as part of the legislation passed by the Senate. (Hatch described himself as being "as surprised as anyone" to see the provision remain in the bill.)

Reality has been stubborn on the question of abstinence effectiveness, and policymakers shaping the final health care bill would be wise to acknowledge it. The nonpartisan National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy found that abstinence programs do not affect teenager sexual behavior. A congressionally-mandated study, which was not only comprehensive but also included long-term follow-up, found the exact same thing. Researchers keep conducting studies, and the results are always the same…

Inserted from <Alternet>

There’s actually more damning evidence.  The following is the ten states with the nation’s highest teenaged pregnancy rates. 

  1. Nevada (113)
  2. Arizona (104)
  3. Mississippi (103)
  4. New Mexico (103)
  5. Texas (101)
  6. Florida (97)
  7. California (96)
  8. Georgia (95)
  9. North Carolina (95)
  10. Arkansas (93)

Inserted from <>

With the exception of parts of Arkansas, California and Nevada, we’re looking at the reddest of the red here, the places where abstinence only is taught most.  While I certainly hope this will be stripped from the final bill in conference, you can visit the Politics Plus poll and make a New Years resolution to give up abstinence.  Just say no! ;-)

What a Stupid Spin!

On the news, I’ve seen Pat Buchanan and several other prominent GOP talking heads rant and rave that the underpants bomber should not be tried in Federal court.  To try to give themselves credibility the GOP Regime trotted out the original Secretary of Homeland Security.

ridge-this big Former Homeland Security Advisor and then DHS Secretary Tom Ridge says that it's some sort of a shande to try Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab in civilian courts. I know a lot of Republicans are making this argument now. But can we at least get some Republicans who didn't oversee doing exactly the same thing on their watch? Just for consistency's sake?

Remember, the AbdulMutallab case is virtually identical to the Richard Reid "Shoe Bomber" case from December 2001 -- to an uncanny degree. Same explosive, (PETN), same MO (blowing up an airliner bound for the US), same failed attempt.

It's really about as close to identical cases and you get. And, of course, Reid was tried in civilian courts and is now serving a life sentence. Seemed to work fine in his case. And unless I'm misremembering, I don't remember anybody criticizing this approach at the time...

Inserted from <TPM>

Nobody was nobody criticizing it, but both Ridge and his ChickenHawk-in-Chief bragged about Reid’s conviction.  So here it is.  Do exactly what the Repuglicans did, in exactly the came circumstances, and according to the Repuglicans, you’re wrong.  What hypocrites!!

Open Thread – December 30, 2009

Yesterday I kept up with comments but only managed to visit a few blogs.  I hope to do better today.

Today’s Jig Zone puzzle took me 5:08.  To do it, Click Here.  How did you do?

Here’s your cartoon:

Happy last hump day of 2009!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Editorial on Detroit Terror Attack

Another day brings more details about what happened and what our country is trying to do about it.  We’re on the wrong track.

Flying has become much more difficult.

airport By now, everyone knows the airport drill, its inconveniences offset by its clarity: take off your shoes, pop your laptop in a tray, have your driver’s license at the ready. But in the three days since the attempted terrorist attack on a Detroit-bound airliner, the beleaguered traveler has once again been beset by a confusing and inconsistent set of rules.

Could you keep your blanket, as on Continental, or would it be snatched at the end of the flight, as it was on Lufthansa? Would security measures be visibly unchanged, as they were at the Houston airport, or would passengers be surprised by a careful swabbing of their hands and purses, like those in South Carolina? Would this week resemble Sunday, when JetBlue’s entertainment system was shut down on international flights, or Monday, when the movies began flowing on that airline once more?

“I just wish they’d have something, a list of rules, and stick to it,” said Sherri Hemmer, who made a point of using the bathroom early on her Monday flight from Phoenix to Pittsburgh and was then annoyed to learn that a prohibition against moving around the cabin in the last hour of flight did not seem to apply to her flight.

The Transportation Security Administration has been deliberately vague — and even a little random — about the security measures it has imposed in the last few days, in part to make certain that potential attackers do not know what to expect. Many passengers welcome this.

“It’s no problem,” said Eleonora Gomarasca, who traveled to New York from Milan on Monday. “It’s more control.”

But that careful unpredictability has made life far more confusing and inconvenient for thousands of travelers. After Sept. 11, 2001, stark fears were met with complicity and acceptance, but now many people seem to feel that the government measures are more about reaction than protection.

“I think the security checks on the ground are the ones that make the most difference for safety,” said Daniel Kim, 36, who arrived at Los Angeles International Airport three hours early for his flight to Frankfurt with his wife, Catherine, and their 20-month-old. “The whole one hour before thing, no getting up, what is that going to help, really? Will it get to a point when we can’t get up at all during the flight, or have to raise our hands to go to the bathroom? Where does it end?”

While the new T.S.A. restrictions seem largely confined to international travelers bound for the United States, confusion, delays and the ensuing angst seemed to spread across the nation in the wake of the thwarted attack on a Northwest Airlines flight on Christmas Day.

The slowdown appeared to be particularly intense on flights coming from Canada. Dianne Duncan’s trip to Los Angeles from Toronto, for one, involved a 10-hour security wait, four lost bags, a missed flight and rerouting, a thorough search of her belongings, and a full-body pat-down of her and her 5-year-old daughter.

“It was extremely strict,” said Ms. Duncan, who arrived at the Toronto airport at 9:30 a.m. Sunday morning and did not reach the screening area until nearly seven hours later.

“Take note: there was no toilet, no water and no food for purchase,” she said. “There was one man to screen the men, and one woman to screen the women. There was a full pat-down. It was as if they were specifically searching for something.”...

Inserted from <NY Times>

While it is clear that our transportation safety procedures leak like a sieve, banning passengers from relieving themselves for the last hour of flights is ludicrous.  Anyone wishing to avoid that can go to the can to bomb-up ninety minutes before the flight lands.  I’m not saying that we should not make flights as safe as possible, but no matter what we do, those who wish to circumvent our security will simply adapt their tactics to take advantage of whatever we don’t do.  The way to stop this attack was quite simple.  Abdulmutallab should never have been allowed on the plane.  The Bush/GOP system still in use was designed more to create the illusion of security for propaganda purposes than to provide actual security.  The focus for in flight security needs to shift from dealing with terrorists on planes to keeping them from getting on planes in the first place.  It might help to have an executive in charge of the TSA, but we do not.  Obama’s appointee, Erroll Summers, has not been approved, because GOP Senator DeMint has placed a hold on him.  Perhaps DeMint considers unions a greater terrorist threat than Al Qaeda, because DeMint claims that he fears Summers would allow baggage handlers to unionize.

I’ve been listening to pundits debate Afghanistan/Pakistan/Somalia/Yemen center of terrorism.  The GOP seems to want to attack Yemen.  How absurd!  Yemen’s government is cooperating with the US, bit they have no control over large swaths of their own territory, much like Afghanistan.  We lack the troops to invade and occupy the country.  Our last reserves, the Brownie Scouts, are already committed to defense against Iran.  Here’s the problem.  We’re fighting a 21st century conflict using 20th century tactics.  If we could actually take control of Afghanistan, Al Qaeda would move (as they have) to Pakistan.  If the Pakistanis get control of their territory, they will move to Yemen.  If we occupy Yemen, they will move to Somalia, or Indonesia, or anywhere that we have not conquered.  And we aren’t even talking about the center of Wahhabism, the extreme right wing beliefs AQ uses to justify their existence, Saudi Arabia.  To defeat AQ using conventional means, we need to conquer the entire world.  Going after the leadership won’t work.  AQ is not organized top-down.  They are cellular.  They are not a snake we can decapitate.  They are a hydra.  The only way we will defeat them is to compromise their ability to recruit.  At present we are enhancing it every time a drone takes out innocent civilians with or without the targeted AQ operative.  We enhance their ability to recruit even more in this manner:

gaza-destroyed I don't know what to say. The United States not only permits this, we subsidize it - at great personal cost to our country. After all, why were we an Al Qaeda target in the first place?

Yes, we'll tie ourselves in knots to keep a taxpayer dollar from getting anywhere near an abortion, yet we continue to fund the slow starvation of the Palestinians.

Very sad:

One year after Israel launched its three-week offensive in Gaza that killed more than 1,300 Palestinians and damaged or destroyed over 50,000 homes in a campaign aimed at stopping Hamas rocket fire, the survivors are still living in rubble. And it is not for want of money that thousands of residents of the coastal enclave remain homeless this winter: Moved by the plight of Gaza's 1.5 million Palestinians who were already reeling from a two-and-a-half year economic siege imposed by Israel with help from Egypt and the U.S. even before Israel's air and ground assault had begun, international donors earlier this year pledged over $4.5 billion to repair war damages. But that aid has failed to reach Gaza, according to Palestinians and relief agencies who accuse Israel of imposing Kafkaesque rules that bar entry to vital reconstruction materials and items as bizarre as glass, most schoolbooks, honey and family-sized tubs of margarine.

Says Chris Gunness, spokesman for the United Nations' Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), "Because the Israelis are not allowing in any reconstruction material, that $4.5 billion is just a paper figure." With over 80% of Gazans now surviving on humanitarian handouts from UNRWA, Gunness adds, "Palestinians are becoming more desperate and more extreme."

Relief officials estimate that Gaza needs 40,000 tons of cement and 25,000 tons of iron to start repairing the homes, hospitals, schools and shops destroyed during Israel's offensive. But so far, according to GISHA, an Israeli legal rights group, the Israelis have allowed only 19 trucks carrying construction material into Gaza since the war ended last January. "You could say that Israel has bombed Gaza back into the mud age," says UNRWA's Gunness, "because that's what they're building their houses out of now — mud."

Without parts to replace machinery damaged in the war, 97% of Gaza's factories have shut down, raising unemployment to over 43%. With scarce sources of income, many Gazans would probably starve if not for food handouts from the U.N. and other agencies. Over 40,000 Gazans have no electricity, 10,000 have no running water in their homes, and because Israel bans entry of the spare parts needed to run its sewage treatment plant, every day 87 million liters of sewage is dumped into the Mediterranean (which washes up on Israel's beaches, too.)

Although the international community occasionally protests Gaza's ongoing tragedy, so far no real pressure has been applied on Israel to loosen its stranglehold... [emphasis original]

Inserted from <Crooks and Liars>

As long as the US remains a party to Israeli atrocities in the region, Muslims will have just cause to believe that the US is conducting a War on Islam.  As long as the US kills innocent civilians while attacking terrorists, Muslims will have just cause to believe that the US is conducting a war on Islam.  As long as the US attacks and occupies Muslim countries, attempting to control their energy resources, Muslims will have just cause to believe that the US is conducting a war on Islam.  As long as Republicans keep spewing hate speech, Muslims will have just cause to believe that the US is conducting a war on Islam.

Are we?  In my opinion we are not, but we were while the Bush/GOP regime was in power.  However, as long as our strategy appears unchanged, how are Muslims to tell the difference?  Until we can convince Muslims by our actions that we are not still conducting the Bush/GOP war on Islam, they will be able to recruit Muslim teabagger types to become terrorists.

Denying the Trough Where They Feed

I never could understand Republican logic.  At the same time that they claim that ‘the stimulus’ is a failure, they not only grovel for stimulus money, but also take credit for what they opposed.

GOPigs-stimulus Every Republican in the House and nearly every Republican Senator voted against the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (also known as the stimulus). Although the Congressional Budget Office has credited the stimulus with creating up to 1.6 million jobs, the same GOP politicians who opposed the stimulus have attempted to justify their opposition to the policy by smearing it as a failure. But as ThinkProgress has documented, the same politicians are returning to their districts to take credit for the economic success of the stimulus.

In the past month, several more GOP lawmakers went home to their district to praise and claim credit for successful stimulus programs:

– Earlier this month, Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO) called the stimulus a “large-scale failure,”  [GOPig delinked] but last week hailed a stimulus program in Frankford, Missouri as “critical.” Referring to a $330,000 loan and $313,900 grant authorized by the stimulus, Luetkemeyer said, “Clearly, the 328 residents of Frankford will benefit from this grant and I appreciate the USDA’s willingness to help this community.” In September, Luetkemeyer requested $100 million from the stimulus for a road project in Missouri.

– On his campaign website, Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX) features his opposition to the “pork-filled”[GOPig Delinked]  stimulus. However, on his congressional website, McCaul features a story from earlier this month about a largely stimulus-funded project to expand Highway 36 in Texas. In the story, he is thanked for “taking this project to the next phase of reality.”[GOPig Delinked] Noting its importance, McCaul says the highway expansion will “cut down on fatal crashes and ensure commerce can continue to move efficiently through Austin County and the rest of this important region.”

– On December 16th, Rep. Geoff Davis (R-KY) sent out a press release hailing $1,044,140 in stimulus money Carroll County school system, while crediting himself for securing the money. “I am pleased that our office was able to assist them in obtaining these funds,” noted Davis in the release. On the same day, Davis blasted a separate release claiming that the stimulus had “failed.”

Of course, Luetkemeyer, McCaul, and Davis voted against the stimulus. Congressional Republican leadership, who helped corral partisan opposition to the Recovery Act, are also shamelessly attacking the stimulus while requesting stimulus money… [emphasis original]

Inserted from <Think Progress>

This isn’t the first time and this isn’t the last.  You folks who live in districts with a GOP Rep. should consider keeping track of stimulus money going to your district and publicly exposing your pig every time he or she tries to take credit for it.

The Forbidden 'Love' Of Pete Sessions And Allen Stanford

It looks like another Repuglican had his fingers in the till.

sessions-stanfordjunket5 Intrigue. Deceit. And forbidden love on a sun-kissed tropical island -- with billions of dollars on the line.

No, this isn't a Danielle Steel bodice-ripper. Or Mark Sanford's latest confession about crossing "the ultimate line". Instead, it's the story of the tangled, high-stakes relationship between Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) and accused Ponzi schemer Allen Stanford.

Back in February, Stanford was charged by the SEC with an $8 billion swindle. And Sessions, the chair of the National Republican Campaign Committee, had received over $44,000 from Stanford and his staff. In response, Sessions coldly denied through a spokeswoman that he even knew the disgraced banker at all.

We knew at the time that wasn't true -- and quickly published the pictures to prove it, which show Sessions and House colleagues like Rep. Donald Payne (D-NJ) hobnobbing with Stanford in Antigua, one of several lavish Caribbean trips the billionaire laid on for lawmakers in recent years.


In response, the Sessions spokeswoman, Emily Davis, at first told us "no comment." A week or so later, Sessions himself acknowledged to the Dallas Morning News that he did know Stanford, though only as a public-spirited advocate for the Caribbean region where his banking operation was headquartered. "I have never been asked by Allen to do anything that really wasn't on behalf of the entire Caribbean basin," said Sessions (via Nexis). "Allen is a person who advocated on behalf of the islands that were down there. I am shocked, and hopeful that the investigation ... will tell us what actually happened."

The paper reported that the relationship had first been sparked in 2004, when Sessions faced a tough re-election fight against Democrat Martin Frost. Stanford played the knight in shining armor, with his firm pouring over $35,000 into Sessions's campaign coffers to help him pull it out. We also knew that two years later, Stanford had asked Sessions to become a member of the Stanford-backed "Caribbean Caucus" of lawmakers, almost all of whom, including Sessions, appear to have taken lavish trips to the region funded indirectly by the banker.

But here's what we didn't know until now. The Sessions-Stanford connection wasn't just a one-time fling, that blazed in the heat of the Caribbean sun, then burned out in the cold hard light of the Washington daily grind. Sessions isn't that type. Last night McClatchy published a heart-rending email, which it reports, without sourcing, was sent by Sessions to Stanford hours after the SEC filed charges against the banker.

In the email, sent on the morning of February 17, Sessions promised to stand by his controversial ally. "I love you and believe in you,'' he wrote. "If you want my ear/voice -- e-mail." He signed the missive, "Pete." Just three days later, Bloomberg would report the denial from Sessions's office that the two men knew each other.

The email is among documents being looked at by Justice Department investigators, who are reportedly probing Stanford's ties to lawmakers… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <TPM>

OK, I’ll be the first to admit that the only thing that is a bipartisan effort between Democrats and Repuglicans is corruption.  However, the Democrats are corrupt the way Repuglicans govern: clueless and ineffectual.  Repuglicans, on the other hand, whore themselves with bold panache.

Open Thread – December 29, 2009

Yesterday I replied to comments here and visited all my blogger friends with new posts.  I hope to keep up today, but I have a few errands to run and my COPD is acting up.

Today’s Jig Zone puzzle took me 4:28.  To do it, Click Here.  How did you do?

As an extra treat today, here’s some marvelous video of Keith picking on Silicone Sweetie over the display of her … GOP family values.


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Monday, December 28, 2009

Follow up on Detroit Plane Attack

If nothing else, this attack should teach us that we have been wrong, if we thought of Afghanistan and Pakistan as the center of terror for Islam’s religious right extremists.

terror-lagos Regardless of whether or not the Nigerian who tried to blow up a US-bound jet on Christmas Day was instructed in Yemen by Al-Qaeda, the White House insists it is not slacking in its anti-terror battle.

"Airline passengers walk into a security checkpoint inside Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington, VA, near Washington, DC. Regardless of whether or not the Nigerian who tried to blow up a US-bound jet on Christmas Day was instructed in Yemen by Al-Qaeda, the White House insists it is not slacking in its anti-terror battle."

In early December as he ordered 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan, US President Barack Obama warned of the "violent extremism practiced by Al-Qaeda," and stressed that "this is no idle danger, no hypothetical threat.

"Where Al-Qaeda and its allies attempt to establish a foothold -- whether in Somalia or Yemen or elsewhere -- they must be confronted by growing pressure and strong partnerships," Obama said.

His spokesman Robert Gibbs hit the talkshows Sunday to assure Americans after the latest botched attack that there was no let up against Al-Qaeda, and to counter vehement criticism Obama was a soft touch.

"The president certainly has taken steps in his time in office to reorient our priorities as it comes to fighting that war on terror," Gibbs told NBC.

"We're drawing down in Iraq and focusing... on Pakistan and Afghanistan, the place where the attacks of 9/11 originated and where people sit in caves and in houses today planning more attacks in this country, using all elements of American power in places not just like Pakistan, but throughout the world in places like Yemen and Somalia.

"File photo of Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos. US authorities have charged Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 23, with trying to blow up a Northwest Airlines jet, using explosives and chemicals he sneaked past security checkpoints in Lagos and then Amsterdam."

"And you've seen already leaders from Al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia that have been targeted and eliminated."

Experts and US lawmakers warned that even if no conclusive Al-Qaeda thumbprint is found on Friday's attempt to bring down a plane as it landed in Detroit, the group's radicalized ideology has "metastasized" well beyond traditional safe havens.

US authorities have charged Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 23, with trying to blow up a Northwest Airlines jet, using explosives and chemicals he sneaked past security checkpoints in Lagos and then Amsterdam.

According to US media citing unnamed US officials, Abdulmutallab confessed once in custody that he had received specific training for the attack from an Al-Qaeda bombmaker in Yemen... [emphasis added]

Inserted from <Alternet>

As expected, the US right is trying to blame this incident on Obama.  One ChickenHawk came out of hiding long enough to confirm such an assertion on Faux Noise.

Hoekstra-chickenhawk Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-MI) told Fox News' Chris Wallace Sunday that it is "fair" to hold the Obama administration responsible for the a failure to detect an attempted terror attack. Friday, Hoekstra told the Detroit Free Press that the Obama administration needed to "connect the dots."

"You were quoted in the Detroit Free Press [de-linked] this morning as saying that, you know, the key is to connect the dots and maybe the Obama administration will now realize that. Is it really fair to hold the Obama administration responsible here?" asked Wallace.

"Yeah, I think it really is," replied Hoekstra. "Connecting the dots here is not really on this particular case. It's connecting the dots that we've seen over the last 11 months, over the last eight years."…

Inserted from <Raw Story>

This is pure bull.  It took several years to set up the Department of Homeland Security, under complete Bush/GOP control.  It will take several more years to reorganize it in a manner that will actually provide security, not just GOP propaganda.  If Obama has been a little slow in embarking on that task, we must remember that there is no aspect of American life that Bush and the GOP did not leave in chaotic shambles.  Obama is not at fault because the system left in place by his predecessor failed.

As if this is not bad enough, one Republican Senator (even if he calls himself an independent Democrat) has called for war.

liebernan-warmonger Speaking on Fox News Sunday, Senator Joeseph Lieberman (R-CT) [party affiliation corrected], who leads the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, has a vision of "tomorrow's war."

"Somebody in our government said to me in Sana’a, the capital of Yemen, Iraq was yesterday’s war," Lieberman explained. "Afghanistan is today’s war. If we don’t act preemptively, Yemen will be tomorrow’s war. That’s the danger we face."

Senator Arlen Specter (D-PA), also appearing on the program, seemed to agree, calling an attack against Yemen "something we should consider."

"Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan -- the Army officer who killed 13 people in a shooting rampage at Fort Hood in November -- was linked to Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical Muslim cleric now based in Yemen," The Hill noted.

Unnamed administration officials told US media in the aftermath of the thwarted attack that their suspect had confessed to traveling to Yemen and receiving training by Al-Qaeda…

Inserted from <Raw Story>

Let us not forget that LIEberman campaigned for McConJob and Mooseolini.  He supported their war policy.  That was nothing more than an extension of Bush’s war polity.  Some do not remember it. Most never knew it, because the regime tried to keep it secret.  Those of you who were with me during the previous incarnation of this blog, may remember this video by General Wesley Clark that explains the GOP’s imperialist intent to conquer several nations.  The subsequent attacks did not occur only because the GOP is so incompetent that they botched the first two wars.


Now if you are unhappy with how Obama is handling US security and foreign policy, consider the alternative.  Need I say more?

Mousavi Nephew Killed in Iran Protest

I’ve been watching Iran with concern, because totalitarian regimes tend to strike externally to cover up their internal problems.  The Bush/GOP regime is an excellent example.

Dec13-protests A reformist website said a nephew of Iranian opposition leader Mirhossein Mousavi was killed in clashes between protesters and security forces in Tehran on Sunday.

Earlier, the opposition Jaras website said four people had been killed in a second day of violence in Tehran during a Shi'ite Muslim religious festival. Tehran's police chief denied that report.

The Parlemannews website said Ali Mousavi, 20, was killed in clashes on Sunday and his body had been taken to a hospital.

Jaras said unrest also spread to other parts of Iran, including the holy city of Qom, in reports that could not be independently verified.

The events underlined escalating tension in the Islamic Republic six months after a disputed presidential poll plunged the oil producer into turmoil and exposed widening splits within the clerical and political establishment.

Jaras said police shot dead three protesters in central Tehran. It later said a fourth demonstrator was also killed in clashes in the capital, without giving details.

"Three people were killed and two others were wounded when police opened fire at protesters," the website said.

Any such violent incidents could provoke further opposition protests.

"We will kill those who killed our brothers," Jaras quoted demonstrators as chanting.

These were the first reported killings in street protests since widespread unrest and violence in the immediate aftermath of the June poll in which the opposition says more than 70 people died.

The authorities have estimated the post-vote death toll at about half that number, including pro-government militiamen.

Tehran police chief Azizollah Rajabzadeh, speaking about Sunday's protests, said: "So far there have been no reports of killings and no one has been killed up to now," according to the ISNA news agency. He said some arrests had been made.

Tens of thousands of demonstrators had packed the streets of Tehran and clashes also erupted in the cities of Shiraz, Isfahan, Najafabad, Mashhad and Babol, Jaras said.

It said 20 people were detained in Qom and Mashhad and that protests would continue in Tehran on Sunday evening. Shots were heard in northern Tehran after nightfall.

English-language state television reported sporadic clashes in Tehran and said a bank and bus stop were set ablaze, showing pictures of protesters and fires with thick smoke. It said police had fired into the air to disperse demonstrators…

Inserted from <Common Dreams>

I hope the Obama administration ignores the “bomb, bomb Iran” crowd and does not exacerbate the situation there.

The death of a few people so far away barely sparks a media response.  But, if the death of protestors, who are opposing oppression, seems distant, we, especially those of us who were 1960s activists, need to remember how we felt on May 4, 1970:


With that in mind, I extend my condolences to the families and friends of those killed in Iran.

Open Thread – 12/28/2009

Yesterday I replied to early comments here and watched football for the rest of the day.  The Broncos game was a heart breaker.


Although clearly outmatched, the Broncos hung tough and actually tied the game 27-27 in the fourth quarter, but the eagles added a field goal for the win.  I don’t liked that, but the better team won.  Fortunately Baltimore also lost, so the Broncos still have a good shot to make the playoffs.

Today’s Jig Zone puzzle took me 4:15.  To do it, Click Here.  How did you do?

Here’s your cartoon from



Sunday, December 27, 2009

Health Care Reform: Guess Who Is Beating Us?

Every member of the US Congress, political parties not withstanding, should feel shame that they have been bested by Mexico.

clinicmex Which is more apt to achieve the lofty political goal of universal health care coverage?

ObamaCare? Or CalderonCare?

If it's a race, Mexico has a serious head start. Felipe Calderon entered his presidency with an eye on expanding health care, just like someone else we know.

Mexico's version of Kathleen Sebelius visited Kansas City on Friday, signing agreements on research, training and care with Children's Mercy Hospital and the University of Kansas School of Medicine.

Most of us last saw Jose Angel Cordova Villalobos, Mexico's secretary of health, with a blue mask hanging from his neck as he released the latest news about the swine flu outbreak in his country.

But there is different health news from below our border these days. While our Congress struggles over bills that would not take effect for years, Mexico’s goal is comprehensive care for all by 2011.

The goal got pushed back a year, but it’s still a tall order. According to Cordova, before 2004, only half of Mexico’s population was covered either by private insurance or the government. Mexico's poorest had to seek help at public hospitals and were expected to pay.

Seguro Popular was the first step. That insurance now protects more than 10 million families that are not enrolled in other health care programs.

More recently, Healthy Pregnancy care has expanded to 400,000 mothers and their children. With Medical Insurance for a New Generation, coverage has been extended to 2.2 million children and their families.

Mexico's mortality rate for children younger than 5 has been dropping. The admirable focus on its youngest citizens explains Cordova's presence at Children’s Mercy. The hospital has partnerships with a children's hospital in Panama City, Panama, and one in Quanzhou, China, but the deal with Mexico is the first with another country… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <McClatchy DC>

And our wealthy nation can’t beat Mexico?!

I’m sorry that this is all I have for you today.  Yesterday was incredibly slow for news.  I have a couple editorials percolating between my ears, but they aren’t fully formed yet.

Poll Results – 12/27/2009

Here are the results from the GOP Christmas Present Poll.


And here are your comments:

From Jack Jodell on December 19, 2009 at 10:06 am.


They should all get enemas of boiling water!


From Lisa G. in reply to Jack Jodell on December 19, 2009 at 12:18 pm.


I really like this, but, I'm voting for radio active isotopes. Not only would that hurt like hell, but it would eventually make them really sick. Or boiling mercury; I'm sure we can find a way to make that happen.


From Infidel753 in reply to Lisa G. on December 23, 2009 at 4:11 pm.


How about boiling radioactive hydrochloric acid?


From Lisa G. in reply to Infidel753 on December 26, 2009 at 12:39 pm


I like that even better!

From Luckyjoe on December 18, 2009 at 8:20 am


A sweeping victory in 2010 over the progressive/marxists. And though you don't believe in Christianity I will wish you all a very Merry Christmas, but not a Happy New Year as we all know that in 2010 the tea party candidates will be taking out the progressive trash. The stars are no longer aligned for your kind. Too much too fast has spelled your demise. It couldn't have happened to a bigger bunch of idiots.


From Judi P in reply to Luckyjoe on December 19, 2009 at 11:28 am


You've got to be kidding! I see you get your facts from FOX. And if you are an example of a Christian, I'm glad I don't attend the S. Baptist Church any longer. Typical RW response is to resort to name calling, threats and joining a tea party. God have mercy on YOUR soul.


From Diamond, Johnny Diamond in reply to Luckyjoe on December 18, 2009 at 11:01 am


Good job . Couldn't have said it better .

Thank you. And let's hope it's one term for the first muslim born marxist pres.


From Lisa G. in reply to Diamond, Johnny Diamond on December 18, 2009 at 8:45 pm.  


Keep listening to your God Rush Limbaugh and watching Faux News. Your breed will be dying out soon. Merry Christmas!


From Russ M on December 18, 2009 at 12:49 am


Letters from their constituents demanding a public option.


From TomCat on December 17, 2009 at 4:41 am.


Hunting trips with Dead-eye Dick Cheney


From Lisa G. on December 16, 2009 at 5:56 pm


Preferably to a country that they can't return from in Africa. And Lieberman must go with them. I hear Somalia (Mogadishu is supposedly like the Paris of Africa) is really nice this time of year. Merry Christmas assholes.


From Infidel753 on December 16, 2009 at 1:30 pm.


I voted for coal, since these guys love fossil fuel so much.


From Punky Penny on December 16, 2009 at 1:10 pm




From rjs on December 16, 2009 at 12:27 pm


how about givin them lieberman?


From TomCat in reply to rjs on December 17, 2009 at 4:34 am


Don't they already have LIEberman?


Permanent vacations was the clear winner here.  This poll was intended to be humorous, and the off the wall responses were tongue-in-cheek, except for the diatribe from a member of the rabid right.


Do you care to discuss your vote.  My vote (already in a comment) was for hunting trips with Dead-eye.  I chose that, because I hoped it would get a laugh.


To finish off the year, there is a new poll on the light side, including a couple answers to please visitors from the GOP.  Enjoy!

Open Thread – 12/27/2009

Yesterday I managed to catch up on replying to comments here and visit my entire blogroll.  I went to dinner with a friend and wrapped myself around the first prime rib I have tasted in over five years.  It was heaven on a plate.  Today is a holy day in the First Church of the Ellipsoid Orb, because the Broncos are on TV here.  The Eagles are a far better team, but that’s the kind of team against which the Broncos do best.  I’ll be attending to… ‘religion’. ;-)

Today’s Jig Zone puzzle took me 4:55.  To do it, Click Here.  How did you do?

The Cagle site had nothing new, so here’s your cartoon from a different source:


Inserted from <>

Have a great Sunday!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Crime Does Pay, for Goldman Sachs Banksters

This morning I found an interesting video at Crooks and Liars, about how Goldman Sachs screwed their customers to profit from the collapse of the housing bubble.


I followed the source and found this article providing far more detail.

Happy Rich Businessman In 2006 and 2007, Goldman Sachs Group peddled more than $40 billion in securities backed by at least 200,000 risky home mortgages, but never told the buyers it was secretly betting that a sharp drop in U.S. housing prices would send the value of those securities plummeting.

Goldman's sales and its clandestine wagers, completed at the brink of the housing market meltdown, enabled the nation's premier investment bank to pass most of its potential losses to others before a flood of mortgage defaults staggered the U.S. and global economies.

Only later did investors discover that what Goldman had promoted as triple-A rated investments were closer to junk.

Now, pension funds, insurance companies, labor unions and foreign financial institutions that bought those dicey mortgage securities are facing large losses, and a five-month McClatchy investigation has found that Goldman's failure to disclose that it made secret, exotic bets on an imminent housing crash may have violated securities laws.

"The Securities and Exchange Commission should be very interested in any financial company that secretly decides a financial product is a loser and then goes out and actively markets that product or very similar products to unsuspecting customers without disclosing its true opinion," said Laurence Kotlikoff, a Boston University economics professor who's proposed a massive overhaul of the nation's banks. "This is fraud and should be prosecuted."

John Coffee, a Columbia University law professor who served on an advisory committee to the New York Stock Exchange, said that investment banks have wide latitude to manage their assets, and so the legality of Goldman's maneuvers depends on what its executives knew at the time.

"It would look much more damaging," Coffee said, "if it appeared that the firm was dumping these investments because it saw them as toxic waste and virtually worthless."

Lloyd Blankfein, Goldman's chairman and chief executive, declined to be interviewed for this article.

A Goldman spokesman, Michael DuVally, said that the firm decided in December 2006 to reduce its mortgage risks and did so by selling off subprime-related securities and making myriad insurance-like bets, called credit-default swaps, to "hedge" against a housing downturn.

DuVally told McClatchy that Goldman "had no obligation to disclose how it was managing its risk, nor would investors have expected us to do so ... other market participants had access to the same information we did."

For the past year, Goldman has been on the defensive over its Washington connections and the billions in federal bailout funds it received. Scant attention has been paid, however, to how it became the only major Wall Street player to extricate itself from the subprime securities market before the housing bubble burst.

Goldman remains, along with Morgan Stanley, one of two venerable Wall Street investment banks still standing. Their grievously wounded peers Bear Stearns and Merrill Lynch fell into the arms of retail banks, while another, Lehman Brothers, folded.

To piece together Goldman's role in the subprime meltdown, McClatchy reviewed hundreds of documents, SEC filings, copies of secret investment circulars, lawsuits and interviewed numerous people familiar with the firm's activities.

McClatchy's inquiry found that Goldman Sachs:

  • Bought and converted into high-yield bonds tens of thousands of mortgages from subprime lenders that became the subjects of FBI investigations into whether they'd misled borrowers or exaggerated applicants' incomes to justify making hefty loans.
  • Used offshore tax havens to shuffle its mortgage-backed securities to institutions worldwide, including European and Asian banks, often in secret deals run through the Cayman Islands, a British territory in the Caribbean that companies use to bypass U.S. disclosure requirements.
  • Has dispatched lawyers across the country to repossess homes from bankrupt or financially struggling individuals, many of whom lacked sufficient credit or income but got subprime mortgages anyway because Wall Street made it easy for them to qualify.
  • Was buoyed last fall by key federal bailout decisions, at least two of which involved then-Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, a former Goldman chief executive whose staff at Treasury included several other Goldman alumni.

The firm benefited when Paulson elected not to save rival Lehman Brothers from collapse, and when he organized a massive rescue of tottering global insurer American International Group while in constant telephone contact with Goldman chief Blankfein. With the Federal Reserve Board's blessing, AIG later used $12.9 billion in taxpayers' dollars to pay off every penny it owed Goldman.

These decisions preserved billions of dollars in value for Goldman's executives and shareholders. For example, Blankfein held 1.6 million shares in the company in September 2008, and he could have lost more than $150 million if his firm had gone bankrupt.

With the help of more than $23 billion in direct and indirect federal aid, Goldman appears to have emerged intact from the economic implosion, limiting its subprime losses to $1.5 billion. By repaying $10 billion in direct federal bailout money — a 23 percent taxpayer return that exceeded federal officials' demand — the firm has escaped tough federal limits on 2009 bonuses to executives of firms that received bailout money.

Goldman announced record earnings in July, and the firm is on course to surpass $50 billion in revenue in 2009 and to pay its employees more than $20 billion in year-end bonuses… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <McClachy DC>

Let me reiterate that  Henry Paulsen is a former Goldman Sachs CEO.  In case you are not aware, Paulsen is also Tim Geithner’s mentor.  Furthermore  Mark Patterson, Geithner’s Chief of Staff at Treasury id a former Goldman Sachs lobbyist.  Therefore I think it’s safe to say that they will get away with these crimes against the American people.  Once again, I encourage you to demand that Obama remove Tim Geithner from his post at DOT.