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Sunday, November 29

But will this make news in the US?

Well what do you know... it is now official that Osama bin Laden was allowed to walk free from Tora Bora into Pakistan in December of 2001.
Al-Qaeda head Osama Bin Laden was 'within grasp' of US

US forces had Osama Bin Laden "within their grasp" in Afghanistan in late 2001, a US Senate report says.

It says calls for US reinforcements were rejected, allowing the al-Qaeda leader to "walk unmolested" into Pakistan's unregulated tribal areas.

The report was prepared by the Foreign Relations Committee Democratic staff.

It says the failure to kill or capture Bin Laden had far-reaching consequences and laid the foundation for the protracted Afghan insurgency.

Thursday, November 26

What?

The Secret Service has been faced with a vast increase in the number of death threats directed against President Obama, so much so that they've had to pull people off Treasury enforcement.

So you'd think, with the number of kooks making threatening MySpace pages, LiveJournal and YouTube entries, and dredging up bits of the Bible to actively pray for the death of a legitimately elected leader, security would be fairly tight at a state dinner held in the White House, right?

Wrong.

In yet another display of ineptitude, the Secret Service allowed a couple to get past the gate, past the door and into the very fucking room at the Executive Mansion. They weren't invited, and just sailed on through. Even had pictures taken with some of the dignitaries.

Talk about embarrassing. What if something had happened? Would the Secret Service simply say, "Oops, our bad?"

The SS is already allowing heavily armed nutcases to get within shouting distance of the President, and allowed Bill O'Reilly to get within ten feet of Obama when he was a candidate. If security is this shoddy, what's to stop a Leon Czolgosz from getting close enough?

Tuesday, November 24

RI Governor Carcieri is a Hateful Flaming Bigot

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- An opponent of same-sex marriage, Governor Carcieri has vetoed bill that would have added "domestic partners'' to the list of people authorized by law to make funeral arrangements for each other.

In his veto message, Republican Carcieri said: "This bill represents a disturbing trend over the past few years of the incremental erosion of the principles surrounding traditional marriage, which is not the preferred way to approach this issue.

Who does he think he is- King Solomon of Rhode Island? He's the governor, not the moral police.

The legislation defines a domestic partner as someone who was in an "exclusive, intimate and committed relationship" with the deceased and had lived with him or her for at least a year prior to the death; is at least 18, not married to anyone else, not related by blood and who was financially "interdependent'' with the deceased as evidenced, for example, by a joint mortgage, shared credit card or domestic partnership contract.

According to its sponsors, the legislation is designed to provide rights to domestic partners regardless of whether they are of the same or opposite sexes.

Carcieri cited at least two other reasons for his veto.

As written, he said the bill would allow the decisions of a "partner'' of a year to take precedence over "traditional family members,'' and he believes a "one year time period is not a sufficient duration to establish a serious bond between two individuals...[relative to] sensitive personal traditions and issues regarding funeral arrangements, burial rights and disposal of human remains.''
More at the link... a sad story of how a partner in a same sex couple went through such an ordeal to bury his partner of 17 years.

This, fellow travelers, is why we have to speak out and speak up when politicians bring their religious opinions into our lives. This is a secular country whether they like it or not. It was founded because people wanted religious freedom. There should be room for people to live out what they believe in without infringing on the rights of others... at least that is what I always thought it was all about.

Monday, November 23

Musical Interlude

Wow. Check out Antony and the Johnsons




Hope there's someone
Who'll take care of me
When I die, will I go

Hope there's someone
Who'll set my heart free
Nice to hold when I'm tired

There's a ghost on the horizon
When I go to bed
How can I fall asleep at night
How will I rest my head

Oh I'm scared of the middle place
Between light and nowhere
I don't want to be the one
Left in there, left in there

There's a man on the horizon
Wish that I'd go to bed
If I fall to his feet tonight
Will allow rest my head

So here's hoping I will not drown
Or paralyze in light
And godsend I don't want to go
To the seal's watershed

Hope there's someone
Who'll take care of me
When I die, Will I go

Hope there's someone
Who'll set my heart free
Nice to hold when I'm tired

I used to think this was a secular country

Today's reading is from the Examiner: Give churches a choice: give up tax exempt status or give up lobbying

Excerpt:
Exempting religious organizations from taxes on contributions and donations is one thing. Exempting them from capital gains taxes on secular stock investments is another. But the church as do other religious institutions, claim tax exempt status based on the doctrine behind the First Amendment establishment clause.

Yet Catholic dioceses all over the country are filing for bankruptcy protection because of tens of billions of dollars in jury awards against the church for the serial child sexual molestation that went on for decades with the church's knowledge, (which is why they were held liable). In those cases the church asks to be subject to secular bankruptcy laws to protect them from having to pay the billions in jury awards but, claim exemption from tax laws based on the establishment clause.

Adding to the hypocrisy, The Catholic Conference of Bishops has a well funded lobbying effort in Washington, staffed by 350 people whose sole job is the same any other lobbyist -- to influence and even write legislation that gets inserted in bills. In the case of the church, or any religious instituion it is a clear violation of the separation of church and state and a breaking down of the "wall" between religion and the affairs of state that Jefferson and the Founders said the amendment was designed to create.

This is not to say that the church doesn't have freedom of speech, to speak out about issues that matter to them, to support candidates who support those issues and to exercise their right of free speech to influence elections. But influencing elections is one thing -- influencing, lobbying and writing legislation is another.

Sunday, November 22

Religious Belief and Public Policy

In light of a RC Bishop excommunicating Rep Patrick Kennedy for supporting a woman's right to choose (see Walt's post below, Time to Trim the Fat), I would like people to read Gov Mario Cuomo's brilliant speech in 1984 at the University of Notre Dame. Religious Belief and Public Morality: A Catholic Governor’s Perspective

excerpt:
I am free to argue for a governmental policy for a nuclear freeze not just to avoid sin but because I think my democracy should regard it as a desirable goal.

I can, if I wish, argue that the State should not fund the use of contraceptive devices not because the Pope demands it but because I think that the whole community – for the good of the whole community – should not sever sex from an openness to the creation of life.

And surely, I can, if so inclined, demand some kind of law against abortion not because my Bishops say it is wrong but because I think that the whole community, regardless of its religious beliefs, should agree on the importance of protecting life – including life in the womb, which is at the very least potentially human and should not be extinguished casually.

No law prevents us from advocating any of these things: I am free to do so.

So are the Bishops. And so is Reverend Falwell.

In fact, the Constitution guarantees my right to try. And theirs. And his.

But should I? Is it helpful? Is it essential to human dignity? Does it promote harmony and understanding? Or does it divide us so fundamentally that it threatens our ability to function as a pluralistic community?

When should I argue to make my religious value your morality? My rule of conduct your limitation?

What are the rules and policies that should influence the exercise of this right to argue and promote?

I believe I have a salvific mission as a Catholic. Does that mean I am in conscience required to do everything I can as Governor to translate all my religious values into the laws and regulations of the State of New York or the United States? Or be branded a hypocrite if I don't?

As a Catholic, I respect the teaching authority of the bishops.

But must I agree with everything in the bishops' pastoral letter on peace and fight to include it in party platforms?

And will I have to do the same for the forthcoming pastoral on economics even if I am an unrepentant supply sider?

Must I, having heard the Pope renew the Church's ban on birth control devices, veto the funding of contraceptive programs for non-Catholics or dissenting Catholics in my State? I accept the Church's teaching on abortion. Must I insist you do? By law? By denying you Medicaid funding? By a constitutional amendment? If so, which one? Would that be the best way to avoid abortions or to prevent them?

These are only some of the questions for Catholics. People with other religious beliefs face similar problems.


Palin/Beck 2012 Disaster Movie Trailer

Gotta Watch This Video: Hilarious!


A Bit of Balance

I had occasion to sit in on a recent chat session between two of my collaborators. These two gents are conservatives, whereas I seem to have grown more liberal the older I've become (quite odd, considering - I expect I'll be a rather uncompromising Marxist by the time I die).

Anyway, a few of the salient points stood out and I realized with a sigh that, while everyone is entitled to their opinion, their opinions are actually quite close to mine.

1. Regarding the health care vote, they both were resigned to the recent vote to begin debate on the Senate bill, but were both wholeheartedly against it. I find that odd, as both have health issues (for the record, so do I).

2. One inveighed against the various states, saying that three Senators were in place because of 'finagling' - Burris of Illinois, Franken of Minnesota, and whoever is in Massachusetts now. Apparently it's a grand conspiracy consisting of SEIU, ACORN, unions and so on. Now, to be certain, I have frequently suggested that it was a shadowy cabal of GOP apparatchiki, Halliburton, Diebold and the Trotskyite neocons that put The Mule into office back in 2000, so they can spin what conspiracy theories they wish.

3. Another collaborator suggested that after a few Congresscritters get Something Unfortunate happening to them (something about ropes and lamp-posts), I recognized eliminationist rhetoric. Not surprising, and I've said much the same things (sometimes on this blog).

All in all, I find that we're not as far apart ideologically as I thought.

Or am I wrong?

Time to Trim the Fat

Congresscritter Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) has a minor problem.

His local Bishop, Thomas Tobin, has reportedly banned him from receiving Communion because of Rep. Kennedy's support for abortion rights.

Okay.

What's next?

Excommunication?

Oooh, I am sooooo scared.

Leaving aside the stupidity of a medieval, celibate organization that spent decades concealing pedophile members of its hierarchy daring to dictate to anyone anything about a woman's right of reproductive choice (abortion, for those of you who haven't gotten the memo yet, is LEGAL in the United States of America, fancy that), does Bishop Tobin really want to cross swords with a Kennedy?

Yes, he's one of those Kennedys.

I think that this is a sterling example of why there has been an historically anti-Catholic bias in this nation ever since it was colonized.

And, since Bishop Tobin wants to poke his crozier into a political discussion, it's time to trim the fat off the Church.

Bishop Tobin, you want to play the game? Then you need to pay the entrance fee.

I would strongly support Rep. Kennedy submitting a bill before Congress to strip the Roman Catholic Church of its tax exempt status. It's only fair. Now, Rep. Kennedy isn't from my district (sadly, I am represented by the collared slave known as Adam Putnam), but he has the right to worship wherever he wants.

And if any religious fat cat sticks his nose into political business, well, it's time he went on a diet.

Saturday, November 21

The US Army is Inhumane

For god's sake, why they can't find something for U.S. Army Specialist Alexis Hutchinson, a single mother, to do here in the states so she can care for her 11 month old son? They put the baby in foster care and her in jail for not arriving on time to deploy to Afghanistan. I mean, really, come on.... The US Army is just being mean. Yes, I know there are all sorts of arguments on both sides... but still....

Army Sends Mom to Afghanistan, Infant to Protective Services
By Dahr Jamail, AlterNet. Posted November 21, 2009.

Friday, November 20

Joe Bageant is da man!

This is all you need to read today.....


Shoot the fat guys, hang the smokers

Dear Joe,

I smoke cigarettes. This is my 49th or 50th year -- don't know which.

When this war on smokers really heated up, in the late 90's, I wrote to a friend in San Francisco, and asked her what was going on. "Is this some kind of grassroots movement?," I asked, in caps. She said she didn't know what it was, exactly, but that it couldn't be a grassroots deal, because they were very, very rich, and very powerful, and they had the full support of governments, corporations, and all of the media, without exception. They were getting lots of tax money, she said -- hundreds of millions -- and there were rumors that the big pharmaceutical companies were involved in funding and planning operations. "After all," she added: "They want to sell nicotine patches, nicotine gum, and a shitload of tranquilizers to the masses who quit as they get the piss pounded out of them." She said that a mutual friend had remarked that it was sure to become the largest social engineering project in the history of the world, and that, though he didn't smoke -- he found it frightening.



and....


Buddy, can you spare me a lek?
The fact is that America's finest minds and souls have no voice in this chilling new corporate state that has evolved. And if we are not allowed a voice, if our monolithic system ignores us, pretends we do not exist, then for all practical purposes we do not exist. Therefore it does not have to offer us political candidates representing our views or change laws to reflect them. Nevertheless, we are out there -- millions of us.

This morning's mailbox was the usual wonderful variety of letters, mostly responding to the current post, "Shoot the fat guys, hang the smokers." Many offered heartfelt smoking cessation advice, all of it from personal experience, honest and eminently more sensible than anything I've read elsewhere.

Kate & Leopold -- I can't BELIEVE I missed this movie back in 2001

I reserved the couch yesterday, and took the day off. I had to slow down. This frantic pace has really gotten to be too much -- and I don't even work (for money that is) -- I don't know how these working moms do it. I don't think you could pay me enough to do it.

I sat down just in time to catch this movie. It's on one of the starz or encore channels this month. If you don't have cable, or if you've never seen it, I highly recommend you get your hands on it and contemplate this exceptional cinematic experience.



When the movie ended, both my daughter and I agreed that we would give just about anything to go back to those times.....


and then when the credits came on, THE most incredible song followed.... "Until", by Sting. I've NEVER heard a more perfect song that captured the essence of a story

Needing to find the perfect song to compliment "Kate and Leopold's" romantic tale, the filmmakers approached the one artist they knew had the musical and lyrical sensibilities to meet the challenge, Sting.

STING - Singer/Songwriter

You wrote a song specially for "Kate and Leopold?"
I did. It's called "Until."

Did you look at the film first?
They showed me the film and I was very taken by it. I thought it was romantic, and very, very funny. It was just what I needed to watch at the time - there was still all kinds of mayhem going on in the world. So, I thought this film is a perfect antidote and it's very easy to get inspired to write a song in a similar vein.

Is it easier to write a song for a film, than to write a song for an album?
It’s never easy to write a song. It's the most difficult thing I do. It took two weeks, it was difficult to write this song but I was inspired to finish it. Sometimes I’m inspired to start, but I don't finish. This one I really wanted to finish.

Wednesday, November 18

Afghan women are still second class citizens... or worse

Afghan women, in order to escape a life of domestic torture and abuse are burning themselves. Can you imagine being so distraught that you literally set yourself on fire? Some women were forced to get married as early as 7 years old. Domestic violence is still prevalent in Afghanistan despite the Taliban supposedly being overthrown. Women have no rights and it's very hard to get a divorce.


More

How to Make Your Own H1N1 Swine Flu Vaccine

Tuesday, November 17

swine flu, or something else, and quality television viewing

I've been sick since last Thursday night. Today is Tuesday. And I have a good idea what my source of infection was. (Hint: stay away from tour groups with sneezing kids in them).

I don't know if it is THE flu, you know, the CAFO Special, or if it is just some run-of-the-mill seasonal riff-raff influenza. Kaiser won't let me come in to find out what it is. 'Ma'am, I would strongly advise you to just stay home. You could pick something up in the waiting room and get worse.' Not that I was even going to go park my butt in a waiting room full of atomic cooties, mind you, cripes.

My money's on the CAFO Special, because I'm experiencing symptoms I haven't slogged through in a good 20 yrs. Very sore throat, very little congestion breakup even after several days, ears packed with glue, and a squid has taken up residence in my upper sinuses. I even have a couple swollen lymph nodes, oh joy. It's a mucus party up in my head, and I'm invited!

So, I sleep half the day, and stumble thru half the day, downing Sleepytime Tea by the quart, and avoiding decongestant drugs because they tend to make the rebound congestion that much worse. The cats show me their paws and gesture to point out a lack of opposable thumbs, when I mutter can't they open up their own can of food, or clean their own litter box, please.

But hey, there's a light at the end of the tunnel, because Lou "I brake for birthers" Dobbs is finally gone from CNN! But that's almost negated by the fact that they paid him $8 mill to get gone! Holy mackerel.

I watched Matt Lauer do some weird cha-cha shuffle thing around the racist issue with Dobbs this morning on the Today Show, and almost threw my mug of Sleepytime Tea at the television.

It was much more satisfying, by contrast, to watch Rush Limbaugh Karaoke on Jimmy Fallon at 3-something this morning, while I was drinking tea and feeling particularly crappy and congested.

It's the little things.

New Music

Have you seen the band Sonos? Check out this video, I Want You Back (Jackson Five) with a completely new take.

Monday, November 16

How are your local hospitals fairing?

St. Francis Hospital In Hartford Is On Probation For One Year
HARTFORD — - The surgery was supposed to repair the patient's heart, but more than five hours into the procedure, something went wrong — a "catastrophic" failure of the pump meant to keep blood and oxygen flowing through the patient's body. The patient sustained a brain injury and died a month later.

But that wasn't the only thing that went wrong at St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center after the device failed, according to state health officials.

Under federal law and hospital policy, the hospital should have notified the federal government or the device manufacturer of the problem, but that did not happen, according to an investigation report by state regulators. Hospital policy called for the device to be impounded and for the director of clinical engineering to be notified without delay, but he wasn't told for more than two weeks, the report said. And, it stated, the device itself was put back into use within three to four days, even though it had not been examined by the required staff.

........Interviews with the director of clinical engineering indicated that the department was short-staffed and did not ask for resources to keep up with the required preventive maintenance, the report said.


Profit takes Precedence!!

Hidden Mistakes In Hospitals
But even when hospitals notify the state, the health department keeps most of those reports secret.
......That secrecy was written into the law after hospitals balked at the state's original adverse-event legislation, which gave the public broad access to reports of medical errors and accidents.

The legislature in 2002 ordered hospitals to disclose all serious patient injuries "associated with medical management." But after the first reports were made public, hospital lobbyists persuaded lawmakers to rewrite the statute in 2004, limiting the types of adverse events that must be divulged and promising to keep reports secret unless they led to an investigation.


Hospital Lobbyists?? Now it's.... LET'S MAKE A DEAL with hospital lobbyists thank you very much Mr. President!

Sunday, November 15

I read the news today. Oh boy.


Liz Cheney suggests Cheney/Palin ticket in 2012

Teh stupid hurts.

Fallujah’s infants suffer from sharp rise in birth defects
Boy, we showed them! God (if there is one) help us.

During House Health Care Debate, Statements By More Than A Dozen Lawmakers 'Were Ghostwritten, In Whole Or In Part, By Washington Lobbyists'
Duh.

Palin Calls Decision To Try 9/11 Defendants In Federal Court ‘Atrocious,’ Wants To ‘Hang ‘Em High’
What country does she think this is?

Remember when 30 Republicans voted AGAINST Sen Franken's rape amendment?
The Republicans are shocked at the public outcry. Pigs.

That's just a few. Fellow travelers, did you ever try to talk to regular folks about current events? It's mind boggling. Where do you start to educate people when they are completely misinformed? How do you undo all the damage done by cable news?

Sunday Sermons via Dandelion Salad

Dandelion Salad -- a terrific site to add to your favorites.

Here's a sampling of their posts --


Exclusive: The Souls of Wealthy Men by Gary Sudborough (EXCELLENT READ!)


Morality vs Material Interests - Myths of Our Time by Paul Craig-Roberts:

For whatever the reason, morality has shown itself to be an impotent force in 21st century America. Americans show no remorse at over one million dead Iraqis and four million displaced Iraqis due entirely to an American invasion based on lies and deception. The lies and deception are now well proven. Yet, there has been no apology for the horrors that Americans inflicted on Iraq.
Afghanistan is another example. Intentional lies conflated the Taliban with al Qaeda and “terrorists.” The diverse peoples in Afghanistan who were first ravaged by Soviet bombs are now ravaged by American bombs. Weddings, funerals, children’s soccer games, people waiting for fuel or food, people asleep in their homes, people attending Mosques have all been murdered and are murdered routinely by US and its NATO puppets.
Each time civilians are murdered, the US denies it, only to be contradicted every time by the evidence.
Why is the president of the United States contemplating sending yet tens of thousands more US troops to kill people in Afghanistan?
The answer is that the United States is an immoral country, with an immoral people and an immoral government. Americans no longer have a moral conscience. They have gone over to the Dark Side.
Humanity has endeavored for millennia to control evil with morality. In the American “superpower,” this effort has collapsed and failed. The United States needs to be censured for its immoral behavior, not have that behavior rationalized as being in its material interests

Do you want Americans fighting and dying for the Karzai regime?


The Missing Link From Killeen to Kabul
By FRANK RICH
Published: November 14, 2009

THE dead at Fort Hood had not even been laid to rest when their massacre became yet another political battle cry for the self-proclaimed patriots of the American right.

Their verdict was unambiguous: Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, an American-born psychiatrist of Palestinian parentage who sent e-mail to a radical imam, was a terrorist. And he did not act alone. His co-conspirators included our military brass, the Defense Department, the F.B.I., the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, the Joint Terrorism Task Force and, of course, the liberal media and the Obama administration. All these institutions had failed to heed the warning signs raised by Hasan’s behavior and activities because they are blinded by political correctness toward Muslims, too eager to portray criminals as sympathetic victims of social injustice, and too cowardly to call out evil when it strikes 42 innocents in cold blood.

The invective aimed at these heinous P.C. pantywaists nearly matched that aimed at Hasan. Joe Lieberman announced hearings to investigate the Army for its dereliction of duty on homeland security. Peter Hoekstra, the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, vowed to unmask cover-ups in the White House and at the C.I.A. The Weekly Standard blog published a broadside damning the F.B.I. for neglecting the “broader terrorist plot” of which Hasan was only one of the connected dots. Jerome Corsi, the major-domo of the successful Swift-boating of John Kerry, unearthed what he said was proof that Hasan had advised President Obama during the transition.

William Bennett excoriated soft military leaders like Gen. George Casey Jr., the Army chief of staff, who had stood up for diversity and fretted openly about a backlash against Muslim soldiers in his ranks. “Blind diversity” that embraces Islam “equals death,” wrote Michelle Malkin. “There is a powerful case to be made that Islamic extremism is not some fringe phenomenon but part of the mainstream of Islamic life around the world,” wrote the columnist Jonah Goldberg. Islam is “not a religion,” declared the irrepressible Pat Robertson, but “a violent political system bent on the overthrow of the governments of the world.”

As a snapshot of where a chunk of the country stands right now, these reactions to the Fort Hood bloodbath could not be more definitive. And it’s quite possible that some of what this crowd says is right — not about Islam in general, but about the systemic failure to stop a homicidal maniac like Hasan in particular. Whether he was an actual terrorist or an unfathomable mass murderer merely dabbling in jihadist ideas, the repeated red flags during his Army career illuminate a pattern of lapses in America’s national security. Whether those indicators were ignored because of political correctness, bureaucratic dysfunction, sheer incompetence or some hybrid thereof is still unclear, but, whichever, the system failed.

Yet the mass murder at Fort Hood didn’t happen in isolation. It unfolded against the backdrop of Obama’s final lap of decision-making about Afghanistan. For all the right’s jeremiads, its own brand of political correctness kept it from connecting two crucial dots: how our failing war against terrorists in Afghanistan might relate to our failure to stop a supposed terrorist attack at home. Most of those who decried the Army’s blindness to Hasan’s threat are strong proponents of sending more troops into our longest war. That they didn’t mention Afghanistan while attacking the entire American intelligence and defense apparatus in charge of that war may be the most telling revelation of this whole debate.

The reason they didn’t is obvious enough. Their screeds about the Hasan case are completely at odds with both the Afghanistan policy they endorse and the leadership that must execute that policy, including Gen. Stanley McChrystal. These hawks, all demanding that Obama act on McChrystal’s proposals immediately, do not seem to have read his strategy assessment for Afghanistan or the many press interviews he gave as it leaked out. If they had, they’d discover that the whole thrust of his counterinsurgency pitch is to befriend and win the support of the Afghan population — i.e., Muslims. The “key to success,” the general wrote in his brief to the president, will be “strong personal relationships forged between security forces and local populations.”

McChrystal thinks we might even jolly up those Muslims who historically and openly hate America. “I don’t think much of the Taliban are ideologically driven,” he told Dexter Filkins of The Times. “In my view their past is not important. Some people say, ‘Well, they have blood on their hands.’ I’d say, ‘So do a lot of people.’ I think we focus on future behavior.”

Whether we could win those hearts and minds is, arguably, an open question — though it’s an objective that would require a partner other than Hamid Karzai and many more troops than even McChrystal is asking for (or America presently has). But to say that McChrystal’s optimistic — dare one say politically correct? — view of Muslim pliability doesn’t square with that of America’s hawks is the understatement of the decade.

As their Fort Hood rhetoric made clear, McChrystal’s most vehement partisans don’t trust American Muslims, let alone those of the Taliban, no matter how earnestly the general may argue that they can be won over by our troops’ friendliness (or bribes). If, as the right has it, our Army cannot be trusted to recognize a Hasan in its own ranks, then how will it figure out who the “good” Muslims will be as we try to build a “stable” state (whatever “stable” means) in a country that has never had a functioning central government? If our troops can’t be protected from seemingly friendly Muslim American brethren in Killeen, Tex., what are the odds of survival for the 40,000 more troops the hawks want to deploy to Kabul and sinkholes beyond?

About the only prominent voice among the liberal-bashing, Obama-loathing right who has noted this gaping contradiction is Mark Steyn of National Review. “Members of the best trained, best equipped fighting force on the planet” were “gunned down by a guy who said a few goofy things no one took seriously,” he wrote. “And that’s the problem: America has the best troops and fiercest firepower, but no strategy for throttling the ideology that drives the enemy — in Afghanistan and in Texas.” You have to applaud Steyn’s rare intellectual consistency within his camp. One imagines that he does not buy the notion that our Army, however brilliant, has a shot at building “strong personal relationships” with a population that often regards us as occupiers and infidels.

In a week of horrific news, it was good to hear at the end of it that Obama is dissatisfied with the four Afghanistan options he has been weighing so far. The more time he deliberates, the more he is learning that he’s on a fool’s errand with no exit. After Karzai was spared a runoff last month and declared the winner of the fraud-infested August “election,” Obama demanded that he address his government’s corruption as a price for American support. Only days later the Afghan president mocked the American president by parading his most tainted cronies on camera and granting an interview to PBS’s “NewsHour” devoted to spewing his contempt for his American benefactors.

Matthew Hoh, a former Marine and, until recently, a State Department official in Afghanistan, could be found on MSNBC on Thursday once again asking the question no war advocate can answer, “Do you want Americans fighting and dying for the Karzai regime?” Hoh quit his post on principle in September despite the urging of colleagues, including our ambassador there, Karl W. Eikenberry, that he stay and fight over war policy from the inside. But Hoh had lost confidence in our strategy and would not retract his resignation. Now he has been implicitly seconded by Eikenberry himself. Last week we learned that the ambassador, a retired general who had been the top American military commander in Afghanistan as recently as 2007, had sent two cables to Obama urging caution about sending more troops.

We don’t know everything in those cables. What we do know is that American intelligence continues to say that fewer than 100 Qaeda operatives can still be found in Afghanistan. We also know that the Taliban, which are currently estimated to number in the tens of thousands, can’t be eliminated. As McChrystal put it to Filkins, there is no “finite number” of Taliban, so there’s no way to vanquish them. Hence his counterinsurgency alternative, which could take decades, costing untold billions and countless lives.

Perhaps those on the right are correct about Hasan, and he is just one cog in an apocalyptic jihadist plot that has infiltrated our armed forces. If so, then they have an obligation to explain how pouring more troops into Afghanistan would have stopped Hasan from plotting in Killeen. Don’t hold your breath. If we have learned anything concrete so far from the massacre at Fort Hood, it’s that our hawks, for all their certitude, are as utterly confused as the rest of us about who it is we’re fighting in Afghanistan and to what end.

Saturday, November 14

10/27/07 Obama Promises To End War

"I will promise you this, that if we have not gotten our troops out by the time I am president, it is the first thing I will do. I will get our troops home. We will bring an end to this war.... you can take that to the bank."

Thursday, November 12

300,000 Starlings in Spring Ballet

from huffpo:

Have you ever seen 300,000 birds move at once? Buzzfeed posted this video of a massive flock of starlings swarming together over an unspecified area in Denmark, forming a dark, shape-shifting cloud. For all the Harry Potter fans out there, it bears a frightening resemblance to a Dementor.

WATCH:




(A little birdie told me they emigrated from the US. Smart birds!)

USA Paying the Taliban

Did you know that we're paying the insurgents who shooting at us in Afghanistan?

According to a recent investigative article in The Nation, the process goes like this: we, the US taxpayers, give money to the Department of Defense. The DOD gives money to the private contractors who ship supplies to our troops all over Afghanistan. The contractors in turn give money to "private security firms" - local leaders, local warlords and the Taliban - in order to make sure that the supplies get through with as few bullet holes as possible.

A neat arrangement. Of course, what the "private security firms" do with the money they indirectly receive from us (probably augmented from drug operations) is their business. The recent discovery of 250 tons of explosives and bomb-making parts in the Afghan city of Kandahar is a hint, though.

This will only get worse. People on the receiving end of a protection racket will tell you that the amount of money never goes down.

In my opinion, it's time to leave.

Blackmail

Ever had to put up with a snotty brat of a child?

You tell the child that you're going to do something that the child doesn't want or like, and in retaliation the child says, "I'll stop loving you," or words to that effect.

Ladies and gentlemen, meet the Petulant Child, 2009.

The District of Columbia (our nation's capital) is getting ready to pass a law that allows same-sex marriage, but contains a provision clearly stating that religious organizations will not be required to set aside space or time to conduct ceremonies. No big deal there, as marriage is also a civil rite and American culture allows you to set up whatever ceremony you and your companion feel is appropriate.

But the law also requires organizations to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and to provide the same level of benefits to same-sex couples as it does to married hetero couples.

And that's when the Roman Catholic Church became a petulant child.

The RCC has thrown down an ultimatum that is really quite unconscionable for a 'Christian' organization who includes charity as a basic - they're threatening to shut off charitable services to the District, offering as an excuse that they won't be able to afford it.

We all know the real reason, of course.

One of the things that makes it very hard for me to embrace any religion is the separation between what the religion teaches and how it puts those teachings into practice. The New Testament injunctions against homosexuality do not emanate from Christ, but from Paul, who knew how to hate and has struck many people as a bit of a woman-hater.

Of course, we recall William Durant's judgment that "Fundamentalism is the triumph of Paul over Christ," and that the canon was fixed by a church council over a thousand years ago.

Nice to see that the RCC is keeping up with the times.

Wednesday, November 11

These CEO's are so so SO OUT OF TOUCH with the real world. It is just plain despicable. How much more are we going to take?



WSJ: AIG CEO Robert Benmosche Ready To Quit Over Pay Constraints

After just three months as head of battered insurer American International Group, Robert Benmosche has threatened to leave his post as he struggles to deal with heavy government oversight and restrictions on what the bailed-out company wants to pay employees, according to a published report.


Back in August (while at his luxurious estate in Croatia) he came out of retirement (former MetLife CEO) to work for AIG --
He was very concerned about his children's future. Check out what he said - UFB!


He also hopes that his purchase of vineyards -- including in the well-regarded Dingac region, and another area where he has reintroduced once indigenous Zinfandel grapes -- will eventually yield good income for his family.

"My children worry about how do they reach my level," he said in a wide-ranging conversation over three hours. "I suspect my son has a better chance because he is in real estate. My daughter is going to be a rabbi, so as a rabbi I don't think she will ever make the kind of money CEOs make. But they were worried about how do they afford this."

"So everything I'm doing, whether it is in New York or here, you will see, provides income. I want to make sure the estate I leave behind not only provides value but is a viable business."

As much as he was looking forward to retiring to Croatia for a large part of every year, he said the economic crisis requires executives with experience to return to action.

"Some of us need to come out of retirement -- who have done this before -- to help deal with the crisis," Benmosche said. "If I sit here, I just felt that there are going to be continuing problems. I felt I had some of the skills necessary to fix the problems of AIG in particular and it made sense to come back."



Oh, and you ladies will love this comment from the article, referencing his estate in Croatia (The terraces stretch across 160 or 170 feet of sea front, where he keeps a 135 horsepower boat parked in front.)

"Every bathroom is like a piece of art," he said while showing off his master bathroom with his wife Denise. "Women go wild when they walk in here."



And then we have Lord Blankcheck from God'sman, I mean Goldman Sachs with this comment

Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein: Our Employees Are Among The Most Productive In The World
"I often hear references to higher compensation at Goldman," said Mr Blankfein. "What people fail to mention is that net income generated per head is a multiple of our peer average. The people of Goldman Sachs
are among the most productive in the world."

PRODUCTIVE??? And just what the HELL does Goldman Sachs produce??? (besides Treasury Secretaries)

Remember his comments last week??


I'm just doing "god's work"

At the same time, there does seem to be a strange uptick in religious rhetoric from bankers lately, as they strive to counter an upsurge in anti-banker sentiment. For example, Time Magazine’s Justin Fox writes:

In a discussion about morality and markets at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, Goldman Sachs international vice chairman Brian Griffiths, a former adviser to Margaret Thatcher, described giant paychecks for bankers as an economic necessity. “We have to tolerate the inequality as a way to achieve greater prosperity and opportunity for all,” he said.

And the New York Times recently quoted John Varley, of Barclays, telling an audience at London’s St. Martin-in-the-Fields that ”profit is not satanic.”

Blankfein’s wry comment that he’s “doing god’s work” seems almost to be a veiled jab at this sort of religio-public relations push, which to a serious banker of Blankfein’s stature, must seem somewhat silly.

Blankfein clearly knows who he works for. After all, God couldn’t afford him.

Setting Ground Rules

A Marine Corps reservist in the Tampa area was picking up his dry cleaning when he was accosted by a bearded man who didn't speak English.

So what did he do?

He belabored the bearded man with a tire iron, chased him, then called the cops and claimed that the man was a terrorist and had been speaking Arabic at him.

So now our staunch heroic Marine Corps reservist is in jail - for beating up a Greek Orthodox priest.

In light of the recent tragedy at Fort Hood, it's nice to see people are getting the ground rules set:

Anyone who isn't lily white, wears a beard and doesn't speak English is now fair game, apparently.

We have become the monster, gentle readers.

Tuesday, November 10

Health Care: Stomping On Women's Rights

From Think Progress

HEALTH CARE
Stomping On Women's Rights

On Saturday, one Republican joined 219 Democrats in the House of Representatives to pass sweeping health care reform legislation, a $1 trillion bill that the Congressional Budget Office says would not add to the budget deficit and would expand health insurance to 36 million Americans. However, the bill's passage has come with considerable compromise. Shortly before the final vote, the House passed an amendment sponsored by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) that sharply restricts the availability of coverage for abortions and "goes beyond long-standing prohibitions against public funding for abortions, limiting abortion coverage even for women paying for it without government subsidies." Stupak argued that the amendment would garner more support from conservative Democrats for the overall bill. But of the 64 that voted for his measure, just over 20 ended up voting for bill. Despite Stupak's amendment, the bill contains added benefits for women such as ending discriminatory pre-existing condition clauses -- measures which House Republicans indicated this weekend that they "object."

THE STUPAK AMENDMENT: The so-called Hyde Amendment -- a measure first passed in the late 1970s -- bars the use of federal Medicaid funds for most abortion procedures. Before the introduction of Stupak's amendment, the House bill contained the Capps Amendment, a compromise that maintained the Hyde Amendment restrictions by specifying that subsidy dollars could be used only to end pregnancies that threaten the life of mother or result from rape or incest (Hyde allows for this) Other kinds of abortions would have to be funded with private premiums. But the House passed Stupak's much more restrictive amendment after efforts to arrive at a compromise "fell apart." In fact, the Stupak amendment goes further than any other federal law to restrict a woman's access to abortion. The measure effectively bans public and private health insurance plans in the Exchange from covering abortions by prohibiting public funds from being spent on any plan that covers abortion even if paid for entirely with private premiums. The Center for American Progress Action Fund's Jessica Arons noted that "no plan that covers abortion services can operate in the Exchange unless its subscribers can afford to pay 100% of their premiums with no assistance from government 'affordability credits.'" While the amendment provides only the narrowest exceptions, it also allows for discrimination against abortion providers. "With a single amendment, Congress is making a legal medical procedure potentially unattainable for a huge number of American women," said MSNBC's Rachel Maddow last night. "One in three women will have an abortion in their lifetime," Arons adds. "Eighty-seven percent of employer plans offer abortion coverage. None of that will matter if the Senate takes its cues from the House. In every other way, this bill will expand access to health care. But for millions of women, they are about to lose coverage they currently have and often need," she said.

PRO-CHOICE CAUCUS STRIKES BACK: Reps. Diana DeGette (D-CO) and Louise Slaughter (D-NY), who co-chair the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus, said they have more than 40 signatures -- more than enough to derail final passage of health care reform in the House -- in a letter stating that the Stupak Amendment "represents an unprecedented and unacceptable restriction on women's ability to access the full range of reproductive health services to which they are lawfully entitled." "We will not vote for a conference report that extends abortion restrictions beyond current law. We think that's fair. That's the compromise we reached this summer," DeGette said last night on MSNBC, adding, "We're not going to accept language that vastly restricts a woman's legal right to choose." Seeming to offer his support for DeGette's position, President Obama said yesterday in an interview with ABC News that "there needs to be some more work before we get to the point where we're not changing the status quo." "I want to make sure that the provision that emerges meets that test," he said, "that we are not in some way sneaking in funding for abortions, but, on the other hand, that we're not restricting women's insurance choices." Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) also announced her opposition to the Stupak amendment. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) said yesterday, "I am confident that when it comes back from the conference committee that that language won't be there, and I think we're all going to be working very hard, particularly the pro-choice members, to make sure that's the case."

GOP GONE WILD: On the sidelines of the Stupak amendment debate, Republicans offered their own rhetorical restriction on women's rights on the House floor on Saturday, shouting down members of the Democratic Women's Caucus who were giving statements in support of how the House health care bill would offer added benefits for women. Indeed, one key measure in the House bill provides that insurers in the individual market would no longer treat domestic violence and other issues affecting women as a pre-existing conditions. The Republicans -- led by Rep. Tom Price (GA) -- repeatedly talked over them, screamed, and shouted, "I object, I object, I object, I object, I object!" The moves amounted to "the Republicans' back-of-the-hand treatment to women," Wasserman Schultz said of the GOP's obstructions. Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy (OH), one of the Democrats on the receiving end of the GOP's stall tactics, told The Progress Report that their actions were "sexist." "You heard recently comments -- from the Republican side of the aisle, some of my Republican colleagues over there -- saying Speaker Pelosi should be put in her place, and I think that's what they thought they were doing with the Democratic women. And it's simply outrageous to me to have women being treated like that on the floor of the House," she said.

Monday, November 9

WTF Long Island

Last night though I was talking to someone who lives in the town just south of me and he told me they were fighting to keep black people from the next town over out of their village. He said it was sickening. Oh for god's sake, I thought that we were beyond that crap by now. But nooooooo

Then I read this story this morning and it just blew my mind.
After immigrant killed in NY, others tell of abuse
PATCHOGUE, N.Y. — The high school buddies who trolled the streets looking for Hispanics to attack called it "beaner hopping."

"Jose, Kevin and I started popping and Jose punched him so hard he knocked him out," Anthony Harfford told police.

Harfford said he didn't do it often: "Maybe only once a week."

There had been other high-profile attacks on a growing Hispanic population on eastern Long Island before Ecuadorean immigrant Marcelo Lucero was stabbed to death a year ago Sunday on a street corner.

But it wasn't until the seven teens accused in the killing told police of the attacks — and Hispanic residents who had been long silent about hate crimes came forward to confirm the stories — that officials began to realize what they were dealing with.

Parts of eastern Long Island are pretty red-necky and always have been. It's pretty surprising to read that this sort of hatred is becoming more blatant though. I need to open my eyes more.

On most of Long Island, it is not socially acceptable to be openly racist so I was not really aware that it was so prevalent here (and I suppose that since I mostly associate with liberals and progressives, I didn't see the whole picture.) The island is becoming more and more populated with Central American immigrants, and from my experience thus far, these folks are lovely, hard working people. There are many folks from El Salvador now living in my town and taking the place of the Italian immigrants who were here when I moved in. As far as I know, there haven't been any hate crimes taking place in my area and I pray that we remain tolerant and welcoming to new arrivals to the US... and I think we need to totally kick the butts of the white KKK types and let them know in no uncertain terms that their behavior will not be tolerated.

This was on The Daily Show a few months ago and it was just painful to watch (about 2 minutes into the video). Oh god, yes. We have plenty of assholes here.

Sunday, November 8

Health Care Reform- 64 Wimps

From Saturday Night Massacre at A World of Progress by News Writer:

Health care — all of it, including abortion, shouldn’t be a political issue, any more than the civil rights of any of the population. For all the right’s fearmongering that a Democratic health care bill would do things like create death panels and rationing of care, that’s exactly what we have now, and what the right wants to stick with.

Must read this article.

Saturday, November 7

House Health Care Bill Passes

The final vote on HR 3962, the Health Care Reform Bill, in the US House of Reprehensibles was:

220-215 (218 needed for passage)

All but one Republican voted against it, which is no great surprise (the surprise was that one - Joseph Cao of Louisiana - voted for it), but 39 Democrats apparently felt that they don't want their jobs anymore so they voted against it.

Also in the bill is the Stupid - er, sorry, Stupak - Amendment, which will make abortion almost unobtainable by ensuring that only well-to-do women will be able to afford it. 64 Democrats voted for that obscenity, so they apparently want to be challenged in primaries come re-election time.

Still, there is cause to celebrate. This is the closest health care reform has gotten in either house of the Congress since Teddy Roosevelt first suggested it.

Now it goes to the conference stage, where the House and the Senate will thrash together a compromise bill. Then both houses vote on it and the finished product goes to Obama for his signature.

Meet the Vreelands!

Allow me to introduce Samantha (Sam) Vreeland and her husband Max. She's a badger, standing about five feet nine; he's an Island fox, the smallest of the North American vulpine species (and is very happy with that).

Both of them are dressed in the duty uniform of the Rain Island Naval Syndicate, an anarcho-syndicalist military force found in the Spontoon Island universe. She's a captain, he's a commander. The two of them are the stars of the story Kocha Koi, a story about a pirate submarine.

Artwork was commissioned by a young lady named Cherushi, who can be found at FurAffinity.

Friday, November 6

This is Just Too Precious

A bit of setup, first:

Last night on MSNBC's The Ed Show, former Congresscritter and right-wing boob Tom Tancredo was holding forth against government-run health care. His target du jour was the Veteran's Administration, which he stated was despised by veterans.

Unfortunately for "No Habla Espanol" Tancredo, he was debating Markos Moulitsas, blogger, veteran and not one to be trifled with. Let's watch the fireworks:



Knowing your subject: Important
Knowing the deep dark secret of the wingnut chicken-hawk: Essential
Making Tom Tancredo cry and stomp off like a WATB: Frickin' Priceless!

Wednesday, November 4

Sarah, You Suck

It warms the cockles of my heart to see Palin's candidate go down in flames. She lost the seat which would have gone Republican anyway. And what the hell was she doing sleazing around in NY State anyway? Get over yourself, Sarah. You suck. The country is not conservative.


From A World of Progress:
Sarah Palin and Dick Armey combined Tuesday to do what no one has done in 138 years. Their little teabagging bullshit put a Democrat in New York’s 23rd Congressional seat.

Doug Hoffman, the corporate backed teabagger who doesn’t even live in the 23rd district, went down in flames. Bill Owens, endorsed by the Republican candidate, Dede Scozzafava, who withdrew when the right wing whackos went after her with a vengeance, will fill the vacant seat that has gone Republican, until tonight, since 1872.

Way to go, Sarah. Pity you didn’t go campaign for Bob “women have no business in the work place” McDonnell in Virginia or Chris “I am not a crook” Christie in New Jersey.


From Huffington Post the other day (this is what was going on in NY's 23rd District)
So why does everyone keep talking about Sarah Palin? May I draw your attention to Exhibit A, New York's Congressional district 23. Moderate Dem Owens vs. Moderate Republican Scozzafava vs. the "Conservative" candidate Hoffman. This unlikely district, that has voted Republican since the Civil War Era, was all set to support the party-backed Republican candidate. Then a couple well-known conservatives started supporting Hoffman, and then... the long bony finger of Sarah Palin pointed East and declared Hoffman the chosen one. Tens of thousands in campaign contributions started pouring in, and ultimately Scozzafava withdrew from the race with an ambiguously worded statement, realizing that all the attention from Palin (and Pawlenty & Co. who were falling all over themselves to jump on her coattails) would make a win difficult. Dede Scozzafava got ground up in the gears of the Palin machine.

After Scozzafava pulled out, Palin spoke through her Facebook page (which we have come to think of as the Great and Powerful Oz), bestowing her gratitude.
"I want to personally thank Republican Dede Scozzafava for acting so selflessly today in the NY District 23 race. Now it's time to cross the finish line with Doug Hoffman so that he can get to work for District 23 and the rest of America."


Blah, blah, blah. You lose. What really makes this defeat more delicious is this story from C&L yesterday:
Elizabeth Benjamin writes in the NY Daily News:

"It's getting ugly out there.

"I just got off the phone with former state Democratic Chairwoman June O'Neill, who informed me the police had been called to at least two polling sites in St. Lawrence County due to overzealous electioneering (O'Neill called it "voter intimidation") by Doug Hoffman supporters.

""We've gotten reports that people are standing there, covered with Hoffman stickers and yelling anti-choice stuff at voters," said O'Neill, a St. Lawrence native who has been running the party's GOTV effort for Bill Owens in NY-23.

""Apparently, there's some woman claiming to be a commissioner," O'Neill continued. "Commissioner of what, I don't know. She's from Texas, I think, and she won't leave."

""This is not the way we roll in the North Country."'"

Tuesday, November 3

Election Day thoughts

Something to think about this election day: The opinion of 10,000 men is of no value if none of them know anything about the subject. ~Marcus Aurelius

We have local elections today and it's utterly impossible to figure out who to vote for. It's all the same shit as usual... doesn't matter which party... just the usual power grab.

This morning, Cindy Sheehan wrote on Facebook, "Free Dumb ain't Free."