June 2009 Archives

Franken Wins!

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Court declares Franken the winner of Minnesota Senate race

Minnesota's Supreme Court has dismissed former Sen. Norm Coleman's challenge to the state's November election results and declared Democratic challenger Al Franken the winner.

The unanimous opinion ruled that Franken "received the highest number of votes legally cast" and is entitled "to receive the certificate of election as United States senator from the state of Minnesota."

The former "Saturday Night Live" writer and performer had declared victory in the disputed race after a recount ended in January, but Coleman, a Republican who had been seeking a second six-year term, went to court to challenge those results.

Coleman still could attempt to take the challenge to federal courts, but Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a Republican, told CNN on Sunday that he would sign Franken's election certificate if the Supreme Court ordered it.

A good thing.

They're testing me Jesus

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Ya know I was behind this guy right up to the very end where there are detonators in his bag. Not exactly college kid stuff in my day.

Cleared by a jury, man is labeled a terrorist

ARASOTA, Florida (CNN) -- Gary Meringer pulled out of his driveway in his red sedan on a rainy Florida morning. He headed south towards a federal detention center two hours away to visit Youssef Megahed.

Meringer was apprehensive, unsure of what he would say to a man with whom he'd spent a month in the same room, but had never met.

Meringer was the foreman on the jury that set Megahed free.

But, three days after Megahed was acquitted of charges of possessing and transporting explosives, he was arrested again. This time, the U.S. government wants him deported, based on evidence authorities say suggests the Egyptian-born Megahed is a terrorist, in violation of his immigration status.

"We never expected anything like this," said Megahed, reached by phone at the detention center in Moore Haven, Florida.

Neither did his jury foreman.

"I saw the story about the re-arrest, and it literally just took the air right out of my chest," Meringer said. "I could not believe what my eyes were seeing."

Before he left home, Meringer sat in his backyard with his 10-year-old daughter, Rachel. They talked about what he should say when he meets Megahed.

Meringer told the child he hoped to deliver this message: "People care about him and are rooting for him and hope things work out for the best," adding, "Other than that, I don't know what I'm going to say to him."

"Just let him know that there are people out in the world who love him and care about him," Rachel said.

The Muslim community, the jurors and the Megahed family say they believe that Youssef Megahed is a victim of profiling. They hope President Obama will intervene. Earlier in June, in his speech to the Muslim world, Obama called for an end to what he called the "cycle of suspicion."

"This is like a great starting point for the Obama administration to translate their speech and their vision, into some reality here in the U.S.," said Yahia Megahed, Youssef's brother.

Megahed came to the United States from Egypt in 1998 as a legal immigrant when he was 12. His problems started two years ago when, as an engineering student at the University of South Florida, he went on a road trip with a new friend, Ahmed Mohamed.

The men were pulled over on a highway, near Charleston, South Carolina, for speeding.

Police say they searched their vehicle and found PVC pipe with potassium nitrate inside, along with detonator cord inside one of Mohamed's bags.

The government said the materials were "low explosives." Mohamed said they were materials for homemade model rockets.

Youssef Megahed claimed he did not know that the materials were in the car.

A search of Mohamed's laptop computer found research concerning rockets and propellants and how to manufacture them, as well as information about Qassam rockets -- crude rockets used by terrorists in the Middle East, according to prosecutors.

Could've been rockets...what kind?


Why does this figure?


And gays are still being stonewalled.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
The Word - Stonewalling
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorMark Sanford

40 Years Later, Still Second-Class Americans

by Frank Rich

LIKE all students caught up in the civil rights and antiwar movements of the 1960s, I was riveted by the violent confrontations between the police and protestors in Selma, 1965, and Chicago, 1968. But I never heard about the several days of riots that rocked Greenwich Village after the police raided a gay bar called the Stonewall Inn in the wee hours of June 28, 1969 -- 40 years ago today.

Then again, I didn't know a single person, student or teacher, male or female, in my entire Ivy League university who was openly identified as gay. And though my friends and I were obsessed with every iteration of the era's political tumult, we somehow missed the Stonewall story. Not hard to do, really. The Times -- which would not even permit the use of the word gay until 1987 -- covered the riots in tiny, bowdlerized articles, one of them but three paragraphs long, buried successively on pages 33, 22 and 19.

gayamer.jpgBut if we had read them, would we have cared? It was typical of my generation, like others before and after, that the issue of gay civil rights wasn't on our radar screen. Not least because gay people, fearful of harassment, violence and arrest, were often forced into the shadows. As David Carter writes in his book "Stonewall," at the end of the 1960s homosexual sex was still illegal in every state but Illinois. It was a crime punishable by castration in seven states. No laws -- federal, state or local -- protected gay people from being denied jobs or housing. If a homosexual character appeared in a movie, his life ended with either murder or suicide. The younger gay men -- and scattered women -- who acted up at the Stonewall on those early summer nights in 1969 had little in common with their contemporaries in the front-page political movements of the time. They often lived on the streets, having been thrown out of their blue-collar homes by their families before they finished high school. They migrated to the Village because they'd heard it was one American neighborhood where it was safe to be who they were.

Michael Jackson Dead at 50

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Truly sad. One of the greatest artists of the 20th century.


Thank you, Michael.


But is it love chart

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hat tip to AKA Lou Too

Scientology Revealed

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The St Pete Times took Scientologists to task.

The Truth Rundown: mainpage with the video links

The Truth Rundown: Part 1

Death in slow motion: Part 2

Ecclesiastical justice: Part 3

About freaking time there was action on this in credibly serious situation. Enough of the jokes.

States could lose money over prison rapes

WASHINGTON - States receiving federal money for prisons could see their funding cut if they fail to adopt new measures to reduce sexual violence in correctional and detention facilities nationwide, according to a report released Tuesday.

The National Prison Rape Elimination Commission issued an extensive report, five years in making, that found that more than 60,000 inmates are sexually abused every year.

Based on a 2007 survey of tens of thousands of incarcerated people, 4.5 percent of those surveyed reported being sexually abused in the previous 12 months -- and more prisoners claimed abuse by staff than by other inmates.

The commission recommended that jails and prisons take steps to reduce rapes behind bars, including adoption of zero tolerance policies, better staff training, and improved screening to identify prisoners vulnerable to abuse.

"Individuals who are incarcerated have basic human rights," said U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton, chairman of the commission. "Just because they've committed a crime and they're incarcerated does not mean that their human dignity can be abused."

The proposed standards are being sent to Attorney General Eric Holder, who has a year to write new national standards. States will be notified of the finalized standards and then have a year to adopt them and begin complying. If they don't, they risk losing 5 percent of any federal prison grant money.

Among the commission's key findings:

  • Inmates who were short, young, gay, or female were more likely to be victimized than other inmates.
  • Inmates in jails reported fewer instances of rape than in prisons.
  • Who gets abused depends a great deal on where they are incarcerated. Ten facilities studied had high rates, between 9 percent and almost 16 percent, whereas six facilities reported no abuse at all for the past year. The facilities or locations were not named.

The commission said prison management must show leadership in stopping such abuse. The panel's report also recommended that prison authorities adopt more internal monitoring, such as video cameras, as well as external oversight by review boards.

Bible Thumping Soldiers

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This crap needs to be eradicated from the services.

Christian Soldiers

By Kathryn Joyce

Ever since former president George W. Bushreferred to the war on terror as a "crusade" in the days after the September 11 attacks, many have charged that the United States was conducting a holy war, pitting a Christian America against the Muslim world. That perception grew as prominent military leaders such as Lt. Gen. William Boykin described the wars in evangelical terms, casting the U.S. military as the "army of God." Although President Obama addressed the Muslim world this month in an attempt to undo the Bush administration's legacy of militant Christian rhetoric that often antagonized Muslim countries, several recent stories have framed the issue as a wider problem of an evangelical military culture that sees spreading Christianity as part of its mission.

A May article in Harper's by Jeff Sharlet illustrated a military engaged in an internal battle over religious practice. Then came news about former Defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld's Scripture-themed briefings to President Bush that paired war scenes with Bible verses. (In an e-mail published on Politico, Rumsfeld aide Keith Urbahn denied that the former Defense secretary had created or even seen many of the briefings.) Later in May, Al-Jazeera broadcast clips filmed in 2008 showing stacks of Bibles translated into Pashto and Dari at the U.S. air base in Bagram and featuring the chief of U.S. military chaplains in Afghanistan, Lt. Col. Gary Hensley, telling soldiers to "hunt people for Jesus."

In the aftermath of that report, the Pentagon responded that it had confiscated and destroyed the Bibles and said there was no effort to convert Afghans. But while the military dismissed the Bagram Bibles as an isolated incident, a civil-rights watchdog group, Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), says this is not the case. According to the group's president, Mikey Weinstein, a cadre of 40 U.S. chaplains took part in a 2003 project to distribute 2.4 million Arabic-language Bibles in Iraq. This would be a serious violation of U.S. military Central Command's General Order Number One forbidding active-duty troops from trying to convert people to any religion. A Defense Department spokeswoman, in an e-mail to NEWSWEEK, denies any knowledge of this project.

Single payer unlikely unless

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Obama is caving to vested interests when it comes to health care. Its the same old same old. As a politician he has been counseled and likely personally measured up the possible fight with the lobby powers and sees failure if he tries to take them on directly. Its likely, without a massive public outcry, that the closest we will get to a single payer system is his "government plan" alternative. Its a good ruse and wedge for later consolidation to a single payer system, but its still not the right thing to do. The right thing to do is to eliminate the corporate middle man expense at all once as most other countries have already done.

Here's the thing - no matter what the propaganda from the health care lobby try to SELL you about the evils of "socialized" medicine, (which is what Medicare is), the only practical difference between our present system and a single payer system is that single payer is way cheaper and more efficient because the massive profits and expensive bureaucracy of the middle man insurance companies are taken out of the picture.

The other major expense of the present healthcare system is drugs costs, which are often more than double in the US what is paid in Canada for exactly the same drug from exactly the same company.

Why? Because Canada's single payer system allows it to act as a bulk buyer (like Walmart) that can demand cheaper prices on drugs from the pharmaceutical companies...something that the big Pharamco lobby got made illegal in the US by having it specifically written into the medical legislation passed not long ago by the Republican congress and the Bush administration.

The really sad thing is that the single payer system that most people want (including health care professionals) is not even on the table, is because the health care industry lobbies have taken control of both houses of congress.

The situation literally is that the democratic will of the people is going to be ignored over the profits of corporations. Congress does not represent the people, it represents business interests...period.

Think about that.

Also think about this, in Canada and the rest of the western world, citizens regard health as a right rather than a privilege of those who can afford it .

They also believe that its morally wrong for an huge industry to profit massively from people's illnesses. Why do we allow a system that profits from and bankrupts entire families on the simple basis that a family member got a life threatening disease? They know they have us over the proverbial barrel; are you going to let your parent or your child die, or are you going to sell the house and whatever else its takes to keep them alive? Why do we allow a system like that?

But none of it will change if we the people do not demand a single payer system. We've got to speak up to our representatives and push Obama and his administration to do the right thing by giving the people the health care system we want rather than bending to the will of the corporations.

The first step is to learn the truth about single payer health care and not be bamboozled by the people who profit from your ignorance maintained by their constant and expensive propaganda. Think of them all as seedy car salesmen, because they don't give a damn about you or your family. They're entirely it for the money and nothing else and that's a fact.


Happy Thoughts

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Good bye to the Greenback as the world's currency reserve. Eurasia is about to go their own way on monetary policy at a conference being held in Russia today and tomorrow. The US asked for a seat at the party and was denied entry. Think about that.

The American Empire Is Bankrupt

Chris Hedges

This week marks the end of the dollar's reign as the world's reserve currency. It marks the start of a terrible period of economic and political decline in the United States. And it signals the last gasp of the American imperium. That's over. It is not coming back. And what is to come will be very, very painful.

Barack Obama, and the criminal class on Wall Street, aided by a corporate media that continues to peddle fatuous gossip and trash talk as news while we endure the greatest economic crisis in our history, may have fooled us, but the rest of the world knows we are bankrupt. And these nations are damned if they are going to continue to prop up an inflated dollar and sustain the massive federal budget deficits, swollen to over $2 trillion, which fund America's imperial expansion in Eurasia and our system of casino capitalism. They have us by the throat. They are about to squeeze.

There are meetings being held Monday and Tuesday in Yekaterinburg, Russia, (formerly Sverdlovsk) among Chinese President Hu Jintao, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and other top officials of the six-nation Shanghai Cooperation Organization. The United States, which asked to attend, was denied admittance. Watch what happens there carefully. The gathering is, in the words of economist Michael Hudson, "the most important meeting of the 21st century so far."

It is the first formal step by our major trading partners to replace the dollar as the world's reserve currency. If they succeed, the dollar will dramatically plummet in value, the cost of imports, including oil, will skyrocket, interest rates will climb and jobs will hemorrhage at a rate that will make the last few months look like boom times. State and federal services will be reduced or shut down for lack of funds. The United States will begin to resemble the Weimar Republic or Zimbabwe. Obama, endowed by many with the qualities of a savior, will suddenly look pitiful, inept and weak. And the rage that has kindled a handful of shootings and hate crimes in the past few weeks will engulf vast segments of a disenfranchised and bewildered working and middle class. The people of this class will demand vengeance, radical change, order and moral renewal, which an array of proto-fascists, from the Christian right to the goons who disseminate hate talk on Fox News, will assure the country they will impose.

I called Hudson, who has an article in Monday's Financial Times called "The Yekaterinburg Turning Point: De-Dollarization and the Ending of America's Financial-Military Hegemony." "Yekaterinburg," Hudson writes, "may become known not only as the death place of the czars but of the American empire as well." His article is worth reading, along with John Lanchester's disturbing exposé of the world's banking system, titled "It's Finished," which appeared in the May 28 issue of the London Review of Books.

"This means the end of the dollar," Hudson told me. "It means China, Russia, India, Pakistan, Iran are forming an official financial and military area to get America out of Eurasia. The balance-of-payments deficit is mainly military in nature. Half of America's discretionary spending is military. The deficit ends up in the hands of foreign banks, central banks. They don't have any choice but to recycle the money to buy U.S. government debt. The Asian countries have been financing their own military encirclement. They have been forced to accept dollars that have no chance of being repaid. They are paying for America's military aggression against them. They want to get rid of this."

China, as Hudson points out, has already struck bilateral trade deals with Brazil and Malaysia to denominate their trade in China's yuan rather than the dollar, pound or euro. Russia promises to begin trading in the ruble and local currencies. The governor of China's central bank has openly called for the abandonment of the dollar as reserve currency, suggesting in its place the use of the International Monetary Fund's Special Drawing Rights. What the new system will be remains unclear, but the flight from the dollar has clearly begun. The goal, in the words of the Russian president, is to build a "multipolar world order" which will break the economic and, by extension, military domination by the United States. China is frantically spending its dollar reserves to buy factories and property around the globe so it can unload its U.S. currency. China is frantically spending its dollar reserves to buy factories and property around the globe so it can unload its U.S. currency. This is why Aluminum Corp. of China made so many major concessions in the failed attempt to salvage its $19.5 billion alliance with the Rio Tinto mining concern in Australia. It desperately needs to shed its dollars.

Let the insanity flow from this amazing video. Feel the insanity. Feel it deep within your bowels.

This is an interpretation of the shooting that occurred in D.C. at the Holocaust museum. It is the most important piece of video ever to come from Fox News.

From the Teabagging Blog:

Taken from the Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) site


This article, critical of the so-called War on Drugs from Nick Kristof of the NY Times, dovetails nicely with the recent absurd arrests of 142 people for marijuana in Florida. US drug policy is an abject failure, a massive waste of resources and an unbelievable mechanism of social destruction. Nothing at all good has come from the policy and it desperately needs changing, but politicians are cowards when it comes to this topic and are years behind the public at large; no changes will occur unless we the people speak up. Writing your congressional representatives is a cliche, I know, but it works.

Drugs Won the War

Nicholas Kristof

This year marks the 40th anniversary of President Richard Nixon's start of the war on drugs, and it now appears that drugs have won.

"We've spent a trillion dollars prosecuting the war on drugs," Norm Stamper, a former police chief of Seattle, told me. "What do we have to show for it? Drugs are more readily available, at lower prices and higher levels of potency. It's a dismal failure."

For that reason, he favors legalization of drugs, perhaps by the equivalent of state liquor stores or registered pharmacists. Other experts favor keeping drug production and sales illegal but decriminalizing possession, as some foreign countries have done.

Here in the United States, four decades of drug war have had three consequences:

Happiness is a warm gun

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Frank Rich weighs in on the culpability of the producers of hate speech of late and plumbs the reasons for the boiling kettle that is right wing America.

The Obama Haters' Silent Enablers

Frank Rich

When a Fox News anchor, reacting to his own network's surging e-mail traffic, warns urgently on-camera of a rise in hate-filled, "amped up" Americans who are "taking the extra step and getting the gun out," maybe we should listen. He has better sources in that underground than most.

The anchor was Shepard Smith, speaking after Wednesday's mayhem at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. Unlike the bloviators at his network and elsewhere on cable, Smith is famous for his highly caffeinated news-reading, not any political agenda. But very occasionally -- notably during Hurricane Katrina -- he hits the Howard Beale mad-as-hell wall. Joining those at Fox who routinely disregard the network's "We report, you decide" mantra, he both reported and decided, loudly.

What he reported was this: his e-mail from viewers had "become more and more frightening" in recent months, dating back to the election season. From Wednesday alone, he "could read a hundred" messages spewing "hate that's not based in fact," much of it about Barack Obama and some of it sharing the museum gunman's canard that the president was not a naturally born citizen. These are Americans "out there in a scary place," Smith said.

Then he brought up another recent gunman: "If you're one who believes that abortion is murder, at what point do you go out and kill someone who's performing abortions?" An answer, he said, was provided by Dr. George Tiller's killer. He went on: "If you are one who believes these sorts of things about the president of the United States ..." He left the rest of that chilling sentence unsaid.

These are extraordinary words to hear on Fox. The network's highest-rated star, Bill O'Reilly, had assailed Tiller, calling him "Tiller the baby killer" and likening him to the Nazis, on 29 of his shows before the doctor was murdered at his church in Kansas. O'Reilly was unrepentant, stating that only "pro-abortion zealots and Fox News haters" would link him to the crime. But now another Fox star, while stopping short of blaming O'Reilly, was breaching his network's brand of political correctness: he tied the far-right loners who had gotten their guns out in Wichita and Washington to the mounting fury of Obama haters.

What is this fury about?

Yoo can be sued

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This is good news.

Judge: Terrorist can sue over torture memos

First time a government lawyer has been held potentially liable for abuse

SACRAMENTO, Calif.(AP) - A convicted terrorist can sue a former Bush administration lawyer for drafting the legal theories that led to his alleged torture, ruled a federal judge who said he was trying to balance a clash between war and the defense of personal freedoms.

The order by U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White of San Francisco is the first time a government lawyer has been held potentially liable for the abuse of detainees.

White refused to dismiss Jose Padilla's lawsuit against former senior Justice Department official John Yoo on Friday. Yoo wrote memos on interrogation, detention and presidential powers for the department's Office of Legal Counsel from 2001 to 2003.

An Interesting Idea

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Pruning the urban tree? Removing the dead wood to make the tree healthier? my question is what happened the folks that used to live in the homes planned for demolition? Also, keep the hands off New Orleans jazz areas and other national heritage spots.

US cities may have to be bulldozed in order to survive

Dozens of US cities may have entire neighbourhoods bulldozed as part of drastic "shrink to survive" proposals being considered by the Obama administration to tackle economic decline. The government looking at expanding a pioneering scheme in Flint, one of the poorest US cities, which involves razing entire districts and returning the land to nature.

Local politicians believe the city must contract by as much as 40 per cent, concentrating the dwindling population and local services into a more viable area. The radical experiment is the brainchild of Dan Kildee, treasurer of Genesee County, which includes Flint. Having outlined his strategy to Barack Obama during the election campaign, Mr Kildee has now been approached by the US government and a group of charities who want him to apply what he has learnt to the rest of the country.

Mr Kildee said he will concentrate on 50 cities, identified in a recent study by the Brookings Institution, an influential Washington think-tank, as potentially needing to shrink substantially to cope with their declining fortunes.

Most are former industrial cities in the "rust belt" of America's Mid-West and North East. They include Detroit, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Memphis.

In Detroit, shattered by the woes of the US car industry, there are already plans to split it into a collection of small urban centres separated from each other by countryside.

"The real question is not whether these cities shrink - we're all shrinking - but whether we let it happen in a destructive or sustainable way," said Mr Kildee. "Decline is a fact of life in Flint. Resisting it is like resisting gravity."

Karina Pallagst, director of the Shrinking Cities in a Global Perspective programme at the University of California, Berkeley, said there was "both a cultural and political taboo" about admitting decline in America.

"Places like Flint have hit rock bottom. They're at the point where it's better to start knocking a lot of buildings down," she said.

Flint, sixty miles north of Detroit, was the original home of General Motors. The car giant once employed 79,000 local people but that figure has shrunk to around 8,000. Unemployment is now approaching 20 per cent and the total population has almost halved to 110,000. The exodus - particularly of young people - coupled with the consequent collapse in property prices, has left street after street in sections of the city almost entirely abandoned.

Beatboxing a whole band

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Naturally 7

A second piece of work from this amazing a cappela group...these men are astounding. Remember all the instrument sounds are vocally produced, including the percussion.

Sit Back, Relax Your Mind

Hyper talented and a great message:

For Life (and For Shawn)

Hold Your Applause

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Same old empire up to its tricks no matter what Obama wants us to believe?

Do You Really Think Arabs in the Middle East Clapped for Obama's Speech?

Chris Hedges

Did they play Barack Obama's speech to the Muslim world in the prison corridors of Abu Ghraib, Bagram air base, Guantanamo or the dozens of secret sites where we hold thousands of Muslims around the world? Did it echo off the walls of the crowded morgues filled with the mutilated bodies of the Muslim dead in Baghdad or Kabul? Was it broadcast from the tops of minarets in the villages and towns decimated by U.S. iron fragmentation bombs? Was it heard in the squalid refugee camps of Gaza, where 1.5 million Palestinians live in the world's largest ghetto?

hecares3.jpgWhat do words of peace and cooperation mean from us when we torture--yes, we still torture--only Muslims? What do these words mean when we sanction Israel's brutal air assaults on Lebanon and Gaza, assaults that demolished thousands of homes and left hundreds dead and injured? How does it look for Obama to call for democracy and human rights from Egypt, where we lavishly fund and support the despotic regime of Hosni Mubarak, one of the longest-reigning dictators in the Middle East?

We may thrill to Obama's rhetoric, but very few of the 1.3 billion Muslims in the world are as deluded. They grasp that nothing so far has changed for Muslims in the Middle East under the Obama administration. The wars of occupation go on or have been expanded. Israel continues to flout international law, gobbling up more Palestinian land and carrying out egregious war crimes in Gaza. Calcified, repressive regimes in countries such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia are feted in Washington as allies.

hat tip to Ouroboros for the linkage and quote of the day in bold:

Crazy right-wing myths about Obama 2.0

The post-inauguration edition of odd things conservatives believe about Obama.
Hitler Youth! Satan!

June 8, 2009 | During the presidential campaign nutty right-wing rumors about Barack Obama swamped the Internet. Via mass e-mails, fearful conservatives were told that the Democratic nominee was a dangerous radical and a secret Muslim who would take the oath of office with his hand on the Koran. A whole conspiracy cult embraced the belief that Obama was not a natural-born U.S. citizen and was thus ineligible for the presidency. The Obama campaign had to build a Web site just to debunk the viral mythmaking.

After winning the election, President Obama, who was born in Hawaii (see his birth certificate here) was sworn in on Abraham Lincoln's Bible. He went to church on Easter Sunday. The supposed Manchurian candidate can't even get Gitmo closed properly, much less lead the Senate in a chorus of "The Internationale."

But the mythmaking has not stopped. The wheels of rumor grind fast, but they grind exceedingly dumb. Marooned on a grassy knoll of the mind, the right has spun new and scarier fantasies about the president, tales that would send any patriotic, gun-toting Christian fleeing across the border to Canada, if only the Canadians weren't so damn socialist. We present for your inspection, and then debunk, or paw at in desultory fashion, a dozen of the choicest conspiracy theories to gain traction since Jan. 20. We could print more, but we grow weary. (And by the way, Obama is still a Muslim foreigner.)

I'm against capital punishment for many reasons. Here's some I agree with:

Federal Appeals Judge: Capital Punishment System Broken Beyond Repair

by Ron Chapman

       In the case of Wiles v. Bagley, Boyce F. Martin, Jr., a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, stated that "capital punishment in this country remains 'arbitrary, biased, and so fundamentally flawed at its very core that it is beyond repair."
        In this particular case, Mark Wiles was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death.  After his appeals in state court in Ohio were denied, he filed a writ of habeas corpus in federal court in which he argued that his trial lawyer provided him with ineffective assistance of counsel.  A panel of judges on the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed and affirmed Wiles's conviction.
           However, one of those judges, Boyce F. Martin, Jr., wrote a concurring opinion in which he expressed the opinion that the death penalty is not worth what it costs society to maintain it.  Judge Martin wrote that an evaluation of the capital punishment system that currently exists in the U.S. "is particularly appropriate at a time when public funds are scarce and our state and federal governments are having to re-evaluate their fiscal priorities."
Judge Martin is undoubtedly correct when he highlights the issue of the scarcity of public funding.  To cite just one example, the Florida Bar published an article on its website earlier this month entitled Funding Florida Courts which begins with the sobering words:  "Florida state courts are in crisis.  Two years of budget cuts have undermined adequate and equitable funding of the court system, forcing layoffs and hiring freezes."
          Judge Martin continues, "Make no mistake:  the choice to pay for the death penalty is a choice not to pay for other public goods like roads, schools, parks, public works, emergency services, public transportation, and law enforcement. . . .  [T]he evidence indicates that, on average, every phase of a capital case is more expensive than in a non-capital case, and that the lifetime cost of a capital case is substantially more than the cost of incarcerating an inmate for life without parole.  Surprising as that may seem, the reason for it is simple:  'lawyers are more expensive than prison guards.' "
         Some, such as Ohio's Attorney General Richard Cordray, believe that the appeals process in capital cases is sometimes too long.  Not so, says Judge Martin.  "[E]xperience has shown that every stage of review is needed to guard against wrongful convictions and correct the unusually high rate of error that plagues capital cases."  In support of his contention, Martin cites to a study which demonstrates that between 1973 and 1995 the error rate in capital cases was 68% compared just 15% in non-capital cases.

          Citing the fact that in 2008 only nine of the thirty-six states which have capital punishment actually executed anyone, Martin observes that "given the death penalty's exorbitant costs and many basic flaws, it is clear to me that our scarce public resources can be put to better use.  This is especially so given what the public is getting for its money--little more than the time of lawyers and judges and the 'illusion' of capital punishment.  Moral objections aside, the death penalty simply does not justify its expense."
          When individuals such as college professors and journalists speak out against the death penalty, their opinions are frequently dismissed as being those of bleeding-heart liberals.  But when a judge who has carefully examined numerous death penalty cases over the last thirty years--a judge such as Judge Martin--speaks out against the existing system of capital punishment in the United States, we would be wise to listen carefully to what he says.

Gay Bumpersticker

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USO Colbert

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In Iraq, Colbert gets military haircut to show his solidarity

CAMP VICTORY, Iraq -- Stephen Colbert left no doubt about his solidarity with American troops when he taped the first of four Comedy Central shows he'll produce in Iraq this week.

Colbert, wearing a business suit made of the same camouflaged material used for soldiers' desert uniforms, submitted to a regulation military haircut as hundreds of U.S. troops cheered wildly Sunday.

The comedian, who satirizes conservative TV pundits on his "Colbert Report," began his "Operation Iraqi Stephen: Going Commando" USO tour Sunday in the Baghdad headquarters of the U.S.-led military coalition in Iraq.

"It must be nice in Iraq, because some of you keep coming back again and again," Colbert said, joking about the multiple tour many troops have had in Iraq since the 2003 invasion. Some troops had accumulated enough frequent flyer miles to earn them a free ticket to Afghanistan, he joked.

Colbert told his guest, Gen. Ray Odierno, he felt "a little intimidated" by him, not because he was he top U.S. commander in Iraq, but because it felt like he was "interviewing Shrek." Odierno is an imposing bald figure at 6-feet, 5-inches tall.

Odierno said the military is "not yet ready to declare victory" in Iraq and that there was a little more work to be done for long-term stability.

"I, Stephen Colbert, by the power invested in me by basic cable, officially declare we won the Iraq war," Colbert said, as his audience broke out into applause.

The interview was interrupted when President Obama appeared on large television screens. The commander-in-chief told his general it was time to "cut that man's hair."

colbert.uso.jpgWith white electric hair clippers in his hand, Ordierno stood up and began shaving Colbert's trademark thick dark hair. The troops stood and cheered as a female member of Colbert's staff finished the job. After the haircut, Colbert ran through the audience, high-fiving the troops as he showed off his new military look.

One Army major said that "shaving of the hair is an amazing show of support" that was "very touching."

Former Republican presidential nominee John McCain also made a pre-taped appearance on the show, jokingly reminding the troops to "take time to clean your muskets."

Lt. Col. Debra Shoemaker, a native of Colbert's hometown of Charleston, South Carolina, said the show was a "nice break" from the monotony of service in Iraq. USO Senior Vice President John Hanson said the shows are an important diversion for the troops. Colbert's USO tour is unusual because it's the first time it has been a show taped in a combat zone has been edited and aired so quickly. The Sunday show will be televised on the Comedy Central network Monday night.

Wanna Bet?

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A true story:

Stevie Wonder and Tiger Woods are in a bar. Tiger turns to and says, 'How's the singing career going?'

Stevie replies, 'Not too bad. How's the golf?'

Woods replies, 'Not too bad, I've had some problems with my swing, but I think I've got that right, now.'

Stevie says, 'I always find that when my swing goes wrong, I need to stop playing for a while and not think about it. Then, the next time I play, it seems to be all right.'

Tiger says, 'You play GOLF?'

Stevie says, 'Yes, I've been playing for years'.

Tiger says, 'But -- you're blind! How can you play golf if you can't see?'

Stevie Wonder replies, 'Well, I get my caddy to stand in the middle of the fairway and call to me. I listen for the sound of his voice and play the ball towards him. Then, when I get to where the ball lands, the caddy moves to the green or farther down the fairway and again I play the ball towards his voice.'

'But, how do you putt?' asks Tiger

'Well', says Stevie, 'I get my caddy to lean down in front of the hole and call to me with his head on the ground and I just play the ball towards his voice.'

Tiger asks, 'What's your handicap?'

Stevie says, 'Well, actually -- I'm a scratch golfer.'

Woods, incredulous, says to Stevie, 'We've got to play a round sometime.'

Stevie replies, 'Well, people don't take me seriously, so I only play for money, and never play for less than $10,000 a hole. That a problem?'

Woods thinks about it and says, ' I can afford that, OK, I'm game for that. $10,000 a hole is fine with me. When would you like to play?'

Stevie Wonder says, 'Pick a night'

hat tip Ouroboros


Joe gets up at 6 a.m. and fills his coffeepot with water to prepare his morning coffee. The water is clean and good because some tree-hugging liberal fought for minimum water-quality standards. With his first swallow of water, he takes his daily medication. His medications are safe to take because some stupid commie liberal fought to ensure their safety and that they work as advertised.

All but $10 of his medications are paid for by his employer's medical plan because some liberal union workers fought their employers for paid medical insurance -- now Joe gets it, too.

He prepares his morning breakfast: bacon and eggs. Joe's bacon is safe to eat because some girly-man liberal fought for laws to regulate the meat packing industry.

In the morning shower, Joe reaches for his shampoo. His bottle is properly labeled with each ingredient and its amount in the total contents because some crybaby liberal fought for his right to know what he was putting on his body and how much it contained.

Joe dresses, walks outside and takes a deep breath. The air he breathes is clean because some environmentalist wacko liberal fought for the laws to stop industries from polluting our air.

He walks on the government-provided sidewalk to the subway station for his government-subsidized ride to work. It saves him considerable money in parking and transportation fees because some fancy-pants liberal fought for affordable public transportation, which gives everyone the opportunity to be a contributor.

Joe begins his work day. He has a good job with excellent pay, medical benefits, retirement, paid holidays and vacation because some lazy liberal union members fought and died for these working standards. Joe's employer pays these standards because Joe's employer doesn't want his employees to call the union.

If Joe is hurt on the job or becomes unemployed, he'll get a worker compensation or unemployment checks because some stupid liberal didn't think he should lose his home because of his temporary misfortune.

It is noontime and Joe needs to make a bank deposit so he can pay some bills. Joe's deposit is federally insured by the FSLIC because some godless liberal wanted to protect Joe's money from unscrupulous bankers who ruined the banking system before the Great Depression.

Joe has to pay his Fannie Mae-underwritten mortgage and his below-market federal student loan because some elitist liberal decided that Joe and the government would be better off if he was educated and earned more money over his lifetime. Joe also forgets that in addition to his federally subsidized student loans, he attended a state funded university.

Joe is home from work. He plans to visit his father this evening at his farm home in the country. He gets in his car for the drive. His car is among the safest in the world because some America-hating liberal fought for car safety standards to go along with the taxpayer funded roads.

He arrives at his boyhood home. His was the third generation to live in the house financed by Farmers' Home Administration because bankers didn't want to make rural loans.

The house didn't have electricity until some big-government liberal stuck his nose where it didn't belong and demanded rural electrification.

He is happy to see his father, who is now retired. His father lives on Social Security and a union pension because some wine-drinking, cheese-eating liberal made sure he could take care of himself so Joe wouldn't have to.

Joe gets back in his car for the ride home, and turns on a radio talk show. The radio host keeps saying that liberals are bad and conservatives are good. He doesn't mention that the beloved conservatives have fought against every protection and benefit Joe enjoys throughout his day. Joe agrees: "We don't need those big-government liberals ruining our lives! After all, I'm a self-made man who believes everyone should take care of themselves, just like I have."

Killing Tiller Terrorism?

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There's been a lot of denial about the type of violence represented by the assassination of Dr. George Tiller. Some claim it simple murder by one man of another, some call it a terrorist act, some attribute it to a culmination of right wing and radical Christian propaganda.

Here's some more data on the topic which supports the latter concept.

How Racist Hate Groups Joined Up with Abortion Terrorists

By James Ridgeway

Alleged murderer Scott Roeder was once a white separatist before he became an anti-choice zealot -- many others have followed the same deadly path.

The revelation that Scott Roeder, the alleged murderer of Dr. George Tiller, belonged to an anti-government, white separatist group called the Montana Freemen might seem like an unlikely twist. After all, such groups are generally thought of as either indifferent to the issue of abortion or actively enthusiastic about its potential for reducing the nonwhite population. As it turns out, however, the journey from radical racialist to anti-abortionist isn't as unusual as you might think.Roeder's connections to the right-wing fringe began well over a decade ago, according to the Kansas City Star.

His ex-wife, Lindsey, said that after a few years of marriage, Roeder became increasingly involved with the Freemen and its anti-government ideology. "The anti-tax stuff came first, and then it grew and grew. He became very anti-abortion...That's all he cared about is anti-abortion.

'The church is this. God is this.' Yadda yadda."

Noting that she vehemently disagreed with her ex-husband's views, Lindsey Roeder told the Star that he moved out in 1994.

"I thought he was over the edge with that stuff," she said. "He started falling apart. I had to protect myself and my son."

In 1996, Roeder was arrested in Topeka after sheriff deputies stopped his car because it had no license plate. Instead, the Star reported, "it bore a tag declaring him a 'sovereign' and immune from state law. In the trunk, deputies found materials that could be assembled into a bomb." Roeder was convicted, sentenced to two years probation, and told to stay away from far-right groups.

A state appeals court subsequently overturned the conviction.Roeder and the Freemen belonged to a little-recognized nativist political movement that began in the early 20th century, flared up periodically, and then ripped through the American heartland during the farm depression of the mid-1980s. This movement was often called "the posse," after a core group named the Posse Comitatus.

Like any political movement, it consisted of a myriad of shifting entities that appeared and disappeared. But even though the names of the groups often changed, they all held tightly to the notion that the true white sovereigns, who had rightfully been given this land by God, were being threatened by race traitors "inferior races" creeping across the borders from Mexico and lands farther south. A favorite posse image was a drawing of a man hanging by the neck from a tree on a hill. Below in the distance stands a group of armed men. A sign is scrawled on the drawing. It says "The posse.

"Over the years, this movement has encompassed various remnants of the Ku Klux Klan, what was left of Lincoln Rockwell's Nazis, the national socialists of William Pierce, and skinheads.

Sometimes, adherents of the Posse ideology operated underground. Sometimes, they attempted to win support via electoral politics, like the white supremacist David Duke, who ran numerous times for statewide and national office. Terry Nichols, who along with Timothy McVeigh carried out the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, dabbled with the concept of sovereign citizenship.

The militia movement, too, was an outgrowth of the posse movement. Daniel Levitas, author of a book about the phenomenon, has described Roeder's group, the Montana Freemen, as "the direct ideological descendants of the Posse Comitatus."The Freemen aimed to rid the nation of "14th Amendment citizens" -- anyone who wasn't a white Anglo Saxon directly descended from God. Nonwhites, or "mud people," weren't really people at all, but God's failed attempts to create Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. A bad Xerox copy, they used to say.

These beliefs derived from a school of thought known as Christian Identity, which holds that Jews, blacks, and other minorities aren't actually people and therefore don't deserve constitutional rights. Instead, those rights are reserved for so-called "white Sovereigns," who aim to take over government and run it through grand juries of the people, with laws enforced by old-time posses.

Dick (Uncut)

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Swine Flu Side Effects

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swine flu.jpg

hat tip to Mr Z.

The bastards...

The .NET Framework 3.5 Service Pack 1, pushed out by Windows Update earlier this year, installs the .NET Framework Assistant extension for Mozilla's Firefox web browser without asking the user for authorisation. The "Microsoft .NET Framework Assistant" add-on uses ClickOnce technology to allow users to install Windows applications by clicking a link in a web page. A number of people have raised concerns over the security of the technology, objected to the fact that the Service Pack installs the extension without asking and complained that once installed, the Uninstall button in the Firefox Add-on panel is greyed-out and the extension cannot easily be uninstalled (although it can be disabled).

Normally, uninstalling a Firefox extension would be a simple task, however, the extension is installed using functionality that allows applications to install extensions by modifying the registry, which makes it difficult to uninstall. Initially, the extension could only be removed by modifying the Windows registry, reseting changes made to the Firefox user agent and removing the .NET Framework extension files. Microsoft has now issued a fix which allows the Uninstall button in the Firefox Add-ons list to function properly.

A recent post by Brian Krebs of The Washington Post sparked discussions about the trust that users place in Microsoft by enabling automatic updates. By installing an extension without asking the user for authorisation, Microsoft risks undermining any confidence that users place in security updates. This leads users to wonder what else Microsoft might install without their knowledge and brings into question how much control users actually have over their own systems, should they allow the automatic updates to run.

Moore Missive

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Goodbye, GM

by Michael Moore

June 1, 2009

I write this on the morning of the end of the once-mighty General Motors. By high noon, the President of the United States will have made it official: General Motors, as we know it, has been totaled.

As I sit here in GM's birthplace, Flint, Michigan, I am surrounded by friends and family who are filled with anxiety about what will happen to them and to the town. Forty percent of the homes and businesses in the city have been abandoned. Imagine what it would be like if you lived in a city where almost every other house is empty. What would be your state of mind?

It is with sad irony that the company which invented "planned obsolescence" -- the decision to build cars that would fall apart after a few years so that the customer would then have to buy a new one -- has now made itself obsolete. It refused to build automobiles that the public wanted, cars that got great gas mileage, were as safe as they could be, and were exceedingly comfortable to drive. Oh -- and that wouldn't start falling apart after two years. GM stubbornly fought environmental and safety regulations. Its executives arrogantly ignored the "inferior" Japanese and German cars, cars which would become the gold standard for automobile buyers. And it was hell-bent on punishing its unionized workforce, lopping off thousands of workers for no good reason other than to "improve" the short-term bottom line of the corporation. Beginning in the 1980s, when GM was posting record profits, it moved countless jobs to Mexico and elsewhere, thus destroying the lives of tens of thousands of hard-working Americans. The glaring stupidity of this policy was that, when they eliminated the income of so many middle class families, who did they think was going to be able to afford to buy their cars? History will record this blunder in the same way it now writes about the French building the Maginot Line or how the Romans cluelessly poisoned their own water system with lethal lead in its pipes.

So here we are at the deathbed of General Motors. The company's body not yet cold, and I find myself filled with -- dare I say it -- joy. It is not the joy of revenge against a corporation that ruined my hometown and brought misery, divorce, alcoholism, homelessness, physical and mental debilitation, and drug addiction to the people I grew up with. Nor do I, obviously, claim any joy in knowing that 21,000 more GM workers will be told that they, too, are without a job.

But you and I and the rest of America now own a car company! I know, I know -- who on earth wants to run a car company? Who among us wants $50 billion of our tax dollars thrown down the rat hole of still trying to save GM? Let's be clear about this: The only way to save GM is to kill GM. Saving our precious industrial infrastructure, though, is another matter and must be a top priority. If we allow the shutting down and tearing down of our auto plants, we will sorely wish we still had them when we realize that those factories could have built the alternative energy systems we now desperately need. And when we realize that the best way to transport ourselves is on light rail and bullet trains and cleaner buses, how will we do this if we've allowed our industrial capacity and its skilled workforce to disappear?

Thus, as GM is "reorganized" by the federal government and the bankruptcy court, here is the plan I am asking President Obama to implement for the good of the workers, the GM communities, and the nation as a whole. Twenty years ago when I made "Roger & Me," I tried to warn people about what was ahead for General Motors. Had the power structure and the punditocracy listened, maybe much of this could have been avoided. Based on my track record, I request an honest and sincere consideration of the following suggestions:

1. Just as President Roosevelt did after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the President must tell the nation that we are at war and we must immediately convert our auto factories to factories that build mass transit vehicles and alternative energy devices. Within months in Flint in 1942, GM halted all car production and immediately used the assembly lines to build planes, tanks and machine guns. The conversion took no time at all. Everyone pitched in. The fascists were defeated.

We are now in a different kind of war -- a war that we have conducted against the ecosystem and has been conducted by our very own corporate leaders. This current war has two fronts. One is headquartered in Detroit. The products built in the factories of GM, Ford and Chrysler are some of the greatest weapons of mass destruction responsible for global warming and the melting of our polar icecaps. The things we call "cars" may have been fun to drive, but they are like a million daggers into the heart of Mother Nature. To continue to build them would only lead to the ruin of our species and much of the planet.

The other front in this war is being waged by the oil companies against you and me. They are committed to fleecing us whenever they can, and they have been reckless stewards of the finite amount of oil that is located under the surface of the earth. They know they are sucking it bone dry. And like the lumber tycoons of the early 20th century who didn't give a damn about future generations as they tore down every forest they could get their hands on, these oil barons are not telling the public what they know to be true -- that there are only a few more decades of useable oil on this planet. And as the end days of oil approach us, get ready for some very desperate people willing to kill and be killed just to get their hands on a gallon can of gasoline.

President Obama, now that he has taken control of GM, needs to convert the factories to new and needed uses immediately.

2. Don't put another $30 billion into the coffers of GM to build cars. Instead, use that money to keep the current workforce -- and most of those who have been laid off -- employed so that they can build the new modes of 21st century transportation. Let them start the conversion work now.

3. Announce that we will have bullet trains criss-crossing this country in the next five years. Japan is celebrating the 45th anniversary of its first bullet train this year. Now they have dozens of them. Average speed: 165 mph. Average time a train is late: under 30 seconds. They have had these high speed trains for nearly five decades -- and we don't even have one! The fact that the technology already exists for us to go from New York to L.A. in 17 hours by train, and that we haven't used it, is criminal. Let's hire the unemployed to build the new high speed lines all over the country. Chicago to Detroit in less than two hours. Miami to DC in under 7 hours. Denver to Dallas in five and a half. This can be done and done now.

4. Initiate a program to put light rail mass transit lines in all our large and medium-sized cities. Build those trains in the GM factories. And hire local people everywhere to install and run this system.

5. For people in rural areas not served by the train lines, have the GM plants produce energy efficient clean buses.

6. For the time being, have some factories build hybrid or all-electric cars (and batteries). It will take a few years for people to get used to the new ways to transport ourselves, so if we're going to have automobiles, let's have kinder, gentler ones. We can be building these next month (do not believe anyone who tells you it will take years to retool the factories -- that simply isn't true).

7. Transform some of the empty GM factories to facilities that build windmills, solar panels and other means of alternate forms of energy. We need tens of millions of solar panels right now. And there is an eager and skilled workforce who can build them.

8. Provide tax incentives for those who travel by hybrid car or bus or train. Also, credits for those who convert their home to alternative energy.

9. To help pay for this, impose a two-dollar tax on every gallon of gasoline. This will get people to switch to more energy saving cars or to use the new rail lines and rail cars the former autoworkers have built for them.

Well, that's a start. Please, please, please don't save GM so that a smaller version of it will simply do nothing more than build Chevys or Cadillacs. This is not a long-term solution. Don't throw bad money into a company whose tailpipe is malfunctioning, causing a strange odor to fill the car.

100 years ago this year, the founders of General Motors convinced the world to give up their horses and saddles and buggy whips to try a new form of transportation. Now it is time for us to say goodbye to the internal combustion engine. It seemed to serve us well for so long. We enjoyed the car hops at the A&W. We made out in the front -- and the back -- seat. We watched movies on large outdoor screens, went to the races at NASCAR tracks across the country, and saw the Pacific Ocean for the first time through the window down Hwy. 1. And now it's over. It's a new day and a new century. The President -- and the UAW -- must seize this moment and create a big batch of lemonade from this very sour and sad lemon.

Yesterday, the last surviving person from the Titanic disaster passed away. She escaped certain death that night and went on to live another 97 years.

So can we survive our own Titanic in all the Flint Michigans of this country. 60% of GM is ours. I think we can do a better job.

Michael Moore

In these off-the-record interviews, playwright, filmmaker and self-described atheist Jonathan Miller filmed conversations with six of today's leading men of letters and science: the biologist and New York Times best-selling author Richard Dawkins, philosophers Daniel Dennett and Colin McGinn, distinguished playwright Arthur Miller, theologian Denys Turner and Nobel Prize winning physicist Steven Weinberg, who discuss their personal intellectual journeys and offer an illuminating analysis of nontheism from a wide range of perspectives.

Bill Maher: New Rules

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