(Descending into) March Madness – Week One Gnus

Let’s start with some bad news, hopefully I’ll come up with some good news later.

First, to get it out of the way, the first Manafort sentence – WTF was the judge in the VA Manafort trial thinking, 47 MONTHS? “…an otherwise blameless life…”? This is the guy whose lobbying firm partners were Roger “Nixon Tattoo” Stone and Lee “Evil Incarnate” Atwater, the slimiest trio of political operatives in several decades. Not to mention all of his foreign entanglements with vicious dictators. “Blameless?!” And poor, poor Manafort, so “humiliated and shamed” during the court proceedings. Not “humbled and ashamed”, of course. No, he was “humiliated and shamed” because he had to be seen, even if just in court drawings, in jumpsuit and chains with graying hair, instead of his usual natty expensive suits and jet-black coif. Oh, and there’s the gout, can’t forget the gout- that’s what the wheelchair is for, to remind everyone. Funny how that gout hit him once he was jailed, because in all of the videos we see of Manafort going into and out of courtrooms, he seemed to be walking just fine.

That nominal sentence is a goddamn outrage. A slap on the wrist for an unremorseful lifelong thug, and (another) slap in the face to justice in these United States. I’d go on a good rant, but I’m concerned about my blood pressure. And sanity. 😦

Moving on…

For some reason which I don’t currently remember, I’ve been getting these ‘breaking news’ emails from “Christian Headlines”. Regardless…I got one this afternoon and the title of the article is pretty frightening: “Judge Lets Father Represent Aborted Baby in Wrongful-Death Suit.” Yeah, here we go down an extremely slippery slope, deliberately greased by religious fanatics and misogynistic politicians. This “personhood” nonsense is unconstitutional and dangerous.

According to the article by Michael Foust:

“An Alabama judge has let a wrongful death lawsuit proceed in which a father is suing an abortion clinic on behalf of his aborted unborn child…The lawsuit references a constitutional amendment passed by Alabama voters last year stating “it is the public policy of this state to recognize and support the sanctity of unborn life and the rights of unborn children.”

“The case in Alabama is chilling because it represents the real-life consequences of anti-choice ‘personhood’ policies, which, by design, seek to demote the fundamental rights of women, and are a stepping stone in the anti-choice movement’s ultimate goal of criminalizing abortion and punishing women,” Kimmell [Adrienne Kimmell, V.P of NARAL Pro-Choice America] said. “To see it playing out in this case in Alabama should serve as a grave warning sign.”

(But the good news from Christian Headlines is that you can have “free devotions from Dr. Charles Stanley sent right to your door!” Okay, I was a Roman Catholic, so I have no idea what that means.)

Next…

We all remember what a mendacious git Judge Andrew Napolitano has been in the past. So he continues to surprise me in his appearances on Fox by his relative frankness regarding trump’s myriad legal troubles and appearance of guilt. I wish that Napolitano would apprise his Fox viewers of his opinion as published in yesterday’s Washington Times. Yes, sorry it’s the WT, but it’s actually worth the read. And while I take issue with a few things, i.e., his reference to trump’s “tormenters”; and his interpretation of the Republican-destroyed rule that “politics ends where the water’s edge begins” (that doesn’t mean that the House can’t hold hearings while trump is out “negotiating” with a murderous dictator), Napolitano did clarify some things about which I, at least, had been curious. Just one excerpt:

“Can a lawyer testify against his own client? What has become of the attorney-client privilege? These are sound questions that were not asked last week because of something called the crime-fraud exception. Normally, all communications between a client and his lawyer are privileged from revelation. The exception comes when the lawyer can demonstrate that he and the client were together engaged in criminal or fraudulent acts.”

You’ll have to read the rest, for some reason I can’t copy-and-paste from the Washington Times article.

Let’s get to some cheerier stuff…

Like the penguins in this snippet on Twitter – play it with the sound on, and watch all the way ’til the end. Enjoy!

Also, too…

April the Giraffe is due to give birth any moment, and you can watch her here.** April may have calved by the time I post this, but in that case the morning might bring us a little cutie like this:

UPDATE:  March 13th, 12:26am ET, still no baby giraffe.  I’ve heard that April was more than a month late with her last calf, so…watch this space!

**UPDATE!:  Baby BOY giraffe born approximately 12:42pm ET on Saturday, March 16th.  5′-11″ (taller than our own Zookeeper!) and 139 lbs.  Baby to be named in some sort of contest in the near future.  In the meantime, you can watch mom April and the little guy (with dad Oliver in the far pen) live, almost 24/7, here (The link is a new one, the one above has been taken down for archiving.)

Lastly…

Doesn’t everyone need a hug?

This is our Open Thread – batten down the hatches, ’cause we’re in for some rough political weather!

The Watering Hole, Monday, February 6th, 2017: Don’t Forget RUSSIA

Two recent articles to remind us that at least Senator Ron Wyden has our back when it comes to investigating Vlad the Imputin’s Russians having hacked our election for trump.

First, an excerpt from David Corn’s article at Mother Jones:

Since Trump has moved into the White House, there has been less public chatter in political and media quarters about the Russian hacking that, according to the US intelligence community, was mounted by Putin’s spies as part of an extensive clandestine operation to undermine the US presidential campaign in order to benefit Trump. The same goes for allegations that Trump or his associates interacted with Russian officials or intermediaries during the campaign. After the election, Russia’s deputy foreign minister said “there were contacts” between Trump’s team and Russian officials, and various news reports have noted that the FBI has examined connections between Trump associates and Putin-allied Russians—without offering much detail about these FBI inquiries. Yet in the first, chaos-filled weeks of the Trump presidency, the story of Russian meddling in the election—after blowing up with the disclosure that President Barack Obama and Trump were briefed about private intelligence memos alleging Russia had run a yearslong secret program to cultivate Trump and gather compromising intelligence on him—has seemed to move off the center stage.

Second, a diary by Mark Sumner at Daily Kos adds commentary to the above Mother Jones story:

“Now that the intelligence committees are supposedly on the case—and with the FBI not discussing whatever inquiries it may be holding on this front—the controversy (or scandal!) has been nudged to the back burner. This often happens in Washington: a secret investigation is launched, the story goes dark.”

“Helping cast those shadows is a press that seems to have instant amnesia about anything Russia related, to the extent that Russian forces attacking towns in Ukraine just one day after Trump and Putin had their contents unknown chat, wasn’t enough to push aside Trump’s latest tweets on television ratings. The connections between Putin and Trump, Manafort, Flynn, Page, and others in the regime seldom merits a mention.”

We HAVE to keep this investigation front and center, and demand that our Congresscritters and Senators not only support the search for the truth, but inform we, the people, of that truth, no matter the cost. This is OUR country, OUR democracy, and OUR freedom at stake. We cannot let this issue fade into the background, despite all of the distracting crap continuously popping up in the foreground. There are many fights to fight in this travesty of a presidency, but said presidency’s legitimacy is the biggest fight that we all face.

This is our Open Thread–say whatever you want.

The Watering Hole, Wednesday, April 6th, 2016: HUMP DAY

Mini-rant:  One of these Hump Days, when somebody cheerily tells me, “At least it’s Hump Day!”, I’m going to snap. EVERY day is Hump Day, just another work day to get through much like any other work day when you’ve been grinding away without hope for too many years. It’s like Office Space’s “Sounds like somebody’s got a case of the ‘Mondays!'” every single goddam day. But enough about me…

Here’s one of those “Your Tax Dollars At Work” stories: From Joe Davidson at The Washington Post, last week’s “boondoggle of the week” goes to the DEA and DOD, who, back in 2008, together bought a plane to be modified for drug-fighting in Afghanistan. They paid $8.6 million. As of last week, they’ve now spent at least 10 times that much, without the plane having ever gotten off the ground.

And a couple of pieces about Monday’s Supreme Court’s ruling in the Evenwel vs Abbott ‘one-man/one-vote’ case. [And no, not Terry Pratchett’s version: “the one man was the Patrician, and he had the vote.”]

First, Ian Millhiser’s initial thread at ThinkProgress on Monday discussing the SCOTUS opinion, authored by Justice “Notorious RBG” Ginsburg. While the 8-0 ruling upheld the traditional “one-person/one-vote” apportioning of districts, some of the language seems to leave disquieting loopholes for the States.

Next, from billmoyers.com, an interesting article by Janai Nelson, Associate Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. A couple of excerpts:

“The suit was brought by two white voters from rural districts in Texas to challenge the state’s use of total population when drawing its state legislative districts. The use of total population in state redistricting has been a nearly universal practice not only in Texas but in all 50 states and countless local jurisdictions across the country for well over 50 years. The challengers here sought to change that practice and replace it with a count of eligible voters, meaning only persons eligible to cast ballots would be counted for purposes of redistricting.”

~~~~~~~

“Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito — who each wrote a separate concurrence but also roundly embraced the ultimate conclusion of the Court that the Constitution permits total population count. Justice Alito, while disagreeing with some of the majority’s historical interpretation, even went so far as to acknowledge the perils of using alternative counting methods: “These [total population] statistics are more reliable and less subject to manipulation and dispute that statistics concerning eligible voters.”

And what was Justice Thomas’s “separate concurrence” about? Well, according to Ian Millheiser’s second piece on the subject at ThinkProgress, Thomas sounds more as if he disagrees with “one-person/one-vote.” A few excerpts:

“Thomas, however, rejected the plaintiffs’ arguments in Evenwel because he believed that states should have much broader power to draw legislative lines as they choose, even if doing so would produce grossly undemocratic results. He begins by claiming that “this Court has never provided a sound basis for the one-person, one-vote principle…”

~~~~~~~

“The justice criticizes the one person/one vote doctrine because he believes that it is “driven by the belief that there is a single, correct answer to the question of how much voting strength an individual citizen should have.” Such an assertion, Thomas claims, “overlook[s] that, to control factions that would legislate against the common good, individual voting strength must sometimes yield to counter majoritarian checks.”

As a sign of what sort of factions Thomas finds needing of control, and which “counter majoritarian checks” he deems necessary, Thomas offers a theory of the Constitution that closely resembles a theory a libertarian group funded by the billionaire Koch brothers tried to teach to school children. “Of particular concern for the Framers was the majority of people violating the property rights of the minority,” Thomas writes. Elsewhere in his opinion, he suggests that states may want to set redistricting rules that give an advantage to one side in disputes that “pit urban areas versus rural, manufacturing versus agriculture, or those with property versus those without.”

In case there are any doubts where Thomas’ sympathies lay, he closes his opinion with a flourish. “The Constitution,” Thomas claims, “did not make this Court ‘a centralized politburo appointed for life to dictate to the provinces the ‘correct’ theories of democratic representation, [or] the ‘best’ electoral systems for securing truly ‘representative’ government.””

Disgustingly, Justice Thomas seems to have suddenly found his voice, and he’s channeling Antonin Scalia.

This is our daily Open Thread – have at it.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, April 11th, 2015: OMG, We’re Missing the Bundy Reunion!

Yes, it’s been a year since the Cliven Bundy Ranch standoff – time flies when your country’s going crazy, doesn’t it?

Since the standoff at the Bundy Ranch, it appears that Cliven has found enough like-minded idiots in the Nevada assembly to have had one Assemblywoman, Michele Fiore (R-duh!) introduce a “Bundy Bill” last month. According to an AP story on the local CBS affiliate Channel 8 NewsNow, KLAS:

“The original proposal would require the federal government to obtain permission to use land within the state’s borders. The proposal also strips the federal government of state water rights and would allow county commissions to parcel out state land for commercial use.”

After wasting time and taxpayer money on an obviously unconstitutional bill, the final version supposedly “…deletes core proposals and instead says local sheriffs can enter into an agreement to patrol federal lands. It also states that sheriffs are the primary law enforcement officers in unincorporated parts of their counties.” Oh, yeah, that’s MUCH better, because everyone knows that Federal law enforcement just LOVES to take orders from the local LEOs. KLAS’s 8NewsNow investigative “I-Team” also provides a brief rundown of the ten other States who are producing similar legislation. Yesterday’s ThinkProgess thread on this topic lists those States as: Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming. TP links to “Keep Our Land American” at www.americanpubliclands.com for more details and a petition.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the Bundy family and their fellow miscreants are celebrating the anniversary with a “Freedom Reunion” aka “Liberty Celebration.” (I guess they couldn’t figure out a way to squeeze both “Freedom” and “Liberty” into the name without sounding redundant – oh, who am I kidding, they don’t know what the word “redundant” means. [“Hey, who ya callin”redundant’? Take it back!”]

Take a look at the actual invitation and its accompanying re-written idealized “history.”

From the Bundy Ranch Facebook page:

THERE ARE PLENTY OF PLACES TO CAMP OR MESQUITE HAS LOTS OF ROOMS TO STAY IN – COME AND ENJOY BUNDY RANCH LIBERTY CELEBRATION

Date: April 10-12, 2015 (Fri, Sat, Sun)
Location: Bundy Ranch – Bunkerville NV 89007 – Exit 112 off of I-15, follow the American flags
Purpose: To gather in celebration of our liberties, agency and stand with God, for our U.S. Constitution, State sovereignty, Property rights and to enjoy access to our lands.
Who is Invited: All people who enjoy freedom
Activities: Camping, Off Roading, Hiking, Playing in the River, Evening BBQ (Bundy Beef), Shooting- Come camp all weekend if you would like.
Stage Activities: Slide/Video Show, Live Band, Cowboy Poetry, Guest Speakers
Program: Friday & Saturday Evening; Stage activities and BBQ
Sunday; Testimony meeting, share your feelings for God and country

Special Invitation: Those who express music, poetry, words, documentaries and other arts. Those who hold political office. The cowboys. Those who supported with prayers and finances. The militia who keep us safe. [emphasis mine] Media outlets both friendly and unfriendly (TV, radio, internet, books, magazines and other). All those who have invited the Bundy family to speak and teach around the world.

*If you would like to be a participant in the stage activities please contact the Bundy family at rancherbundy@gmail.com

Some of the replies/comments:

Janae Hutchins: Wish I wasn’t so far away now. I’d love to come. enjoy the anniversary of your victory against tyranny! God bless America! 🇺🇸

Scott Saragoza: I will be there to stand with all of you for our Liberties…………. Absolutly!!!!!!!! Thank you.

Robert Brooks Bob: God Bless yall from N.W.Ar…Wish we could be there.

Shirley Pitcher: I wish I was heading back to Utah.
I would love too.
Good bless the Bundys

Ray Herrera: This Sounds like a lot of Fun !!! God Bless the Bundy Family !!! They are my Hero’s

William Morgan: Great thing here Mr. Bundy I wish I could be there to support you and Our freedom

Now, c’mon, don’t you wish that you were there?

 

This is our daily open thread – talk about whatever you’d like.

The Watering Hole, Monday, April 7th, 2014: Torture

Over the past month or so, there’s been a lot of talk about the Senate Intelligence Committee’s investigation into the previous administration’s CIA torture program (oh, excuse me, “enhanced interrogation techniques”.) Chair of the Committee Senator Dianne Feinstein has accused the CIA of accessing Congressional computers and deleting memos and other evidence. Last week brought the news that Senator Feinstein is pushing to have the results of the report made public, in order to “ensure that an un-American, brutal program of detention and interrogation will never again be considered or permitted…”

Cue the attacks, specifically on FauxNews: First, former CIA Director Michael Hayden questions Senator Feinstein’s possible “motivation for the report” is “emotional.” An excerpt from the ThinkProgress article:

“Citing specifically Feinstein’s line about not using such techniques again, Hayden told Fox News Sunday host Chis Wallace, “Now that sentence that, motivation for the report, Chris, may show deep emotional feeling on part of the Senator. But I don’t think it leads you to an objective report.”

A surprised Chris Wallace asked,

“…You’re saying you think she was emotional in these conclusions?” Hayden did not respond specifically to Wallace’s question, but rather said simply that only portions of the report had been leaked but it did not tell the whole story.”

Despite whatever Hayden believes the “whole story” to be, the portions that have been leaked seem to be quite detailed and very damning, as discussed in this March 31st article from WaPo.

“Officials said millions of records make clear that the CIA’s ability to obtain the most valuable intelligence against al-Qaeda — including tips that led to the killing of Osama bin Laden in 2011 — had little, if anything, to do with “enhanced interrogation techniques.””

It does not seem possible that Hayden’s “whole story” could in any way mitigate the fact that torture was systematically used, both here and abroad at “black sites”, supposedly in the name of our “security.”

From the Washington Post article on Hayden’s “emotional” characterization:

“Former CIA and National Security Agency director Michael Hayden suggested Sunday that Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) might have compromised the objectivity of a report on CIA interrogation techniques because she personally wants to change them…Hayden suggested Feinstein feels too strongly about the issue on an “emotional” level.”

Feinstein struck back at Hayden’s comments later Sunday by calling her committee’s forthcoming report “objective, based on fact, thoroughly footnoted, and I am certain it will stand on its own merits.”

In a statement, Feinstein noted that the committee’s investigation began in 2009 and the report’s conclusions “came from documents provided by the CIA and the result is a comprehensive history of the CIA program. The only direction I gave staff was to let the facts speak for themselves.”

“I believe last week’s 11-3 vote to declassify the report demonstrates that both sides agree that Americans should see the facts and reach their own conclusions about the program,” she added.

Raw Story tells it slightly differently:

“Yeah,” Hayden replied dismissively, noting that a Washington Post columnist had reported that “Sen. Feinstein wanted a report so scathing that it would ensure that an un-American, brutal program of detention and interrogation would never again be considered or permitted.” [Emphasis mine, in that I have been unable to find to which “Washington Post columnist” Hayden is referring, nor any such reporting that Senator Feinstein had directed how “scathing” the report should be.]

“That motivation for the report may show deep emotional feeling on the part of the senator,” Hayden opined. “But I don’t think it leads you to an objective report.”… ““You’re asking me about a report that I have no idea of its contents,” Hayden admitted.

[The notion that Hayden has “no idea of” the report’s “contents” seems pretty ludicrous; regardless of his professed ignorance, it didn’t stop him from attacking the Senator for one moment.]

Raw Story also provides us with cyborg former Vice-President Cheney’s reaction, which also sparked an invitation from Senator Angus King (I-ME) to have Cheney waterboarded:

“The accusations are not true,” Cheney told college television station ATV last week. “Some people called it torture. It wasn’t torture.”

“If I would have to do it all over again, I would,” he insisted. “The results speak for themselves.”

Sorry, the report’s results do speak for themselves:

“A report that has been completed by the Senate Intelligence Committee, however, has found that the CIA misled the government and misstated the effectiveness of the so-called enhanced interrogation program. The report concluded that the CIA lied when it said it had gotten “otherwise unobtainable intelligence that helped disrupt terrorist plots and save thousands of lives.”

“I was stunned to hear that quote from Vice President Cheney,” Senator King explained. “If he doesn’t think that was torture, I would invite him anywhere in the United States to sit in a waterboard and go through what those people went through, one of them a hundred and plus-odd times.”

And finally Cheney’s spawn, Liz, reliably shouts “Benghazi!” Again from Raw Story:

“Fox News contributor Liz Cheney on Sunday argued that a United States Senate report on Bush-era torture was “political” and that lawmakers should spend more time investigating President Barack Obama’s role in failing to prevent terrorist attacks in Benghazi.

“If you’re going to say that we should not have conducted the enhanced interrogation program, if you’re going to say that we shouldn’t have waterboarded three terrorists, then you’ve got to say that you’re willing to accept the consequences of that,” the former vice president’s daughter said on a Sunday morning Fox News panel. “You’ve got to be willing to say how many American lives would you have been willing to put at risk because you didn’t want to waterboard Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.”

“Fox News political analyst Juan Williams quipped that Liz Cheney was the “good daughter,” but the American people had a right to know what the CIA was doing in their name, and if the techniques were effective.

“I want to start by agreeing with Juan,” Liz Cheney shot back. “That we need more congressional oversight… of Benghazi, for example.”

She added that the Senate did not produce a “fair report” because it was “written entirely by Democratic staffers.”

“The Republicans wouldn’t participate!” Williams replied. “People not only wouldn’t cooperate, [the CIA] tried to spy on the U.S. Senate.”

Liz Cheney concluded by saying that she had “missed Juan” during her absence from Fox News for a failed Senate run in Wyoming.

[Yeah, how’d that work out for ya, Lizzie? Finally found out that no one in your home state likes you?]

A couple of the commentors on that Daily Kos thread could have helped Juan Williams bitch-slap that she-devil:

JW: I got a better idea Liz, why don’t we focus on the 22 embassy attacks that happened under your daddy’s watch.

bplewis24:

[Quoting Liz Cheney] “If you’re going to say that we should not have conducted the enhanced interrogation program, if you’re going to say that we shouldn’t have waterboarded three terrorists, then you’ve got to say that you’re willing to accept the consequences of that,”…Yes. I am fully willing to accept the consequences of that. Reports tend to tell us there are no real consequences of it, but even if there were, that’s the “sacrifice” I’m willing to make in order to live in a civilized world.

I think that I would just go with what Sheppard Smith once blurted out “emotionally”: “THIS IS AMERICA AND WE DON’T FUCKING TORTURE!”

This is our daily open thread–what’s on YOUR mind?

The Watering Hole: Wednesday, June 20, 2012: Does it really Matter?

Ok, so for the next few months, if you’re in a “swing” State, you’ll be inundated with SuperPAC commercials designed to get you to vote against your own best interests. We will also be systematically bombarded with messages from the Mainstream Media designed to influence our thinking.

IT’S ALL A SHOW. IT REALLY DOESN’T MATTER.

If the Powers That Be really want Obama out, all they have to do is raise gas prices to about $5.00/gallon. Instead, gas prices are going down, heading into the summer vacation season. That’s not to say they won’t go up between now and the election – but they are an accurate predictor of where our economy will head. So, pay attention to the pump, not the talking heads.

Ok, that’s my $0.0199 cents. And you?

OPEN THREAD
JUST REMEMBER
EVERYTHING I SAID
DOESN’T REALLY MATTER

 

The Watering Hole: June 30 – The Pied Piper

Earliest Drawing of the Pied Piper - painted in 1592 by Freiherr Augustin von Moersperg

The Pied Piper of Hamelin lead the children after the elders of the city failed to pay his price for getting rid of vermin. Now place this story in a modern setting:

As roles:

  • The Koch brothers take on the role of the Piper because they are trying to take on a perceived problem at a price
  • Republicans represent the town elders because they want to have a problem solved, at a cost.
  • Liberals are the children of the town because they the innocents
  • Teabaggers are those vermin that live off the work of others, and truly believe that they would never be deprived of anything.

Now the story sequence:

  • The Piper makes a pact with the elders to direct the rodents from the town.
  • The Piper leads the rats to what they think is a better place.
  • The Piper tries to exact his price which the elders refuse to pay.
  • The Piper exacts his fee by taking the children.
  • The elders are left with nothing.

The Republicans (elders) have not thought this through to the final step and they will see what is happening only when it is too late.

This is our Open Thread. Please present your thoughts on any topic that comes to mind, rearrange the analogy or come up with another using one of Grimms’ Fairy Tales, Aesop’s Fables or any tale with a moral.

Is Your Drinking Water Safe?

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has failed to notify farmers and other people living in watersheds contaminated with atrazine, a pesticide used heavily in the corn growing industry.

Wonder if Steve Bradbury from the EPA would be willing to drink the water in these contamined watersheds.

Cheney ordered CIA program kept secret (Updated)

According to the New York Times, former Vice President Dick Cheney ordered the CIA to keep a counter-terrorism program secret from Congress — for eight years.  CIA Director Leon Panetta informed the House and Senate Intelligence committees about the program after he learned of it on June 23,

Dick Cheney

Dick Cheney

and shut down the program immediately.  The purpose and activities of the program remain secret.

The law requires the president to make sure the intelligence committees “are kept fully and currently informed of the intelligence activities of the United States, including any significant anticipated intelligence activity.” But the language of the statute, the amended National Security Act of 1947, leaves some leeway for judgment, saying such briefings should be done “to the extent consistent with due regard for the protection from unauthorized disclosure of classified information relating to sensitive intelligence sources and methods or other exceptionally sensitive matters.”

In addition, for covert action programs, a particularly secret category in which the role of the United States is hidden, the law says that briefings can be limited to the so-called Gang of Eight, consisting of the Republican and Democratic leaders of both houses of Congress and of their intelligence committees.

Cheney’s involvement in the secret counter-terrorism program came to light through the inspector general’s report, which featured the former vice president’s primary role in keeping secret the NSA’s eavesdropping activities from all but a small number of government officials.

Intelligence and Congressional officials have said the unidentified program did not involve the C.I.A. interrogation program and did not involve domestic intelligence activities. They have said the program was started by the counterterrorism center at the C.I.A. shortly after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, but never became fully operational, involving planning and some training that took place off and on from 2001 until this year.

The secret program, begun just days after September 11, 2001, was so secret, so closely held to the vest by the Bush administration, that it’s effectiveness was questionable at best.

A report released on Friday by the inspectors general of five agencies about the National Security Agency’s domestic surveillance program makes clear that Mr. Cheney’s legal adviser, David S. Addington, had to approve personally every government official who was told about the program. The report said “the exceptionally compartmented nature of the program” frustrated F.B.I. agents who were assigned to follow up on tips it had turned up.

House Rep Jan Schakowsky has written to the Chair of the House Intelligence Committee. Rep Silvestre Reyes, demanding an investigation, and Rep Pete Hoekstra doesn’t want to be too “harsh” in his judgment of the agency.

In Newsweek, there’s a statement by the CIA spokesman, Paul Gimigliano, regarding the demand of seven House members that Director Panetta correct his previous testimony to the Intelligence Committee, in the light of this newly-discovered secret program:

Paul Gimigliano, a CIA spokesman, said Panetta has nothing to correct: “Director Panetta took the initiative to raise the issue with the Hill. He did so promptly and clearly, as the oversight committees themselves recognize. He stands by his statement that it is neither the policy nor the practice of the CIA to mislead Congress. He believes, as his actions show, in the importance of a candid dialogue with Congress.”  (Emphasis added)

Well, of course it’s not the official policy of the CIA to lie to Congress.  No one is going to put that kind of thing in writing, right?  Continue reading

Bush: The Gift that Keeps on Giving…

if you’re KBR, that is:

In July 2008, the Army said a new dining facility was badly needed at the Camp Delta forward operating base because the existing one was too small, had a saggy ceiling, poor lighting and an unsanitary wooden floor.

KBR was awarded a contract in September. Work began in late October as American and Iraqi officials were negotiating the agreement setting the dates for the U.S. troop withdrawal

But during an April visit to Camp Delta, the commission learned that the existing mess hall had just been renovated. The $3.36 million job was done by KBR and completed in June 2008.

This $30 million unneeded dining facility is to be completed on Christmas Day, 2009.

“With American forces scheduled to be out of Iraq by the end of 2011, the U.S. will use the new facility for two years at most.” In other words, in the waning months of the Bush Administration, when the American economy was “cratering,” the Bush Administration gives a $30 million contract to KBR to build an unneeded and unnecessary dining facility.

How many other multi-million dollar projects Bush gave away in his waning days as President has yet to be seen…

Had Enough of This?

I’ve had enough of the Republicans and their lapdog media yapping about  Nancy Pelosi and what and when she was told about torture in 2002.   These Republicans and media pals have memories shorter than a worm’s.  It was Dennis Hastert (R) that was Speaker of the House in 2002 and he led the actions or better yet, led the inactions of Congress during the Bush/Cheney years.  Nancy Pelosi was not in a position of power during the Republican dominated Congress.  There was little that she could do at that time.  It was the responsibility of Dennis Hastert to speak up against torture.  Instead, Hastert and the Republicans in Congress along with their friends in the media turned their backs on the Constitution and the American people and did nothing.

Ultimately, however, the greatest horror of Hastert’s House was not confirmed by its specific failures to serve the American people who most needed a Congress to counter the malignant neglect of the Bush-Cheney administration. Rather, it was defined by the remaking of an essential legislative chamber as nothing more than an extension of the executive branch of the government. The damage to the Congress has been severe, as has been the damage to the Republic.

All this talk about Nancy Pelosi is a diversionary tactic by Republicans that are guilty of negligence.

Hastert’s House was a crude and unworkable place, where members who sought to uphold their oaths to “defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign or domestic” were held up to ridicule and forced to hold hearings on issues involving the most extreme abuses of presidential authority — lying to the Congress and the American people about matters of war and peace — in basement rooms.

So what exactly did Dennis Hastert know about torture?  When did he know it and why didn’t he do something about it?  Nothing more than Republican lies.  I’ve had enough of it.

(cross posted at PennsylvaniaforChange)

Dennis Kucinich: Victory Against Privatization

Common Dreams

DFAS takes away Contract from Lockheed Martin, Government to Perform Services

Following a relentless effort by Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) to challenge the Bush administration’s efforts to privatize Defense Finance and Accounting Services (DFAS) jobs since 2001, DFAS today announced that that it will cancel agreements with Lockheed Martin and employ government workers to perform all areas of retroactive pay and benefits for veterans.

“This is a great day for veterans and a victory for government oversight. This decision will finally end the six-year nightmare of privatization of retired and annuitant pay services that resulted in the degradation of services to veterans and an increased cost to taxpayers. I thank Director McKay and Comptroller Robert Hale for their choice to serve veterans first, rather than perpetuate a lucrative contract with the nation’s largest military contractor,” stated Kucinich

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The Big Takeover

Rolling Stone, by Matt Taibbi

It’s over — we’re officially, royally fucked. No empire can survive being rendered a permanent laughingstock, which is what happened as of a few weeks ago, when the buffoons who have been running things in this country finally went one step too far. It happened when Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner was forced to admit that he was once again going to have to stuff billions of taxpayer dollars into a dying insurance giant called AIG, itself a profound symbol of our national decline — a corporation that got rich insuring the concrete and steel of American industry in the country’s heyday, only to destroy itself chasing phantom fortunes at the Wall Street card tables, like a dissolute nobleman gambling away the family estate in the waning days of the British Empire.

The latest bailout came as AIG admitted to having just posted the largest quarterly loss in American corporate history — some $61.7 billion. In the final three months of last year, the company lost more than $27 million every hour. That’s $465,000 a minute, a yearly income for a median American household every six seconds, roughly $7,750 a second. And all this happened at the end of eight straight years that America devoted to frantically chasing the shadow of a terrorist threat to no avail, eight years spent stopping every citizen at every airport to search every purse, bag, crotch and briefcase for juice boxes and explosive tubes of toothpaste. Yet in the end, our government had no mechanism for searching the balance sheets of companies that held life-or-death power over our society and was unable to spot holes in the national economy the size of Libya (whose entire GDP last year was smaller than AIG’s 2008 losses).

So it’s time to admit it: We’re fools, protagonists in a kind of gruesome comedy about the marriage of greed and stupidity. And the worst part about it is that we’re still in denial — we still think this is some kind of unfortunate accident, not something that was created by the group of psychopaths on Wall Street whom we allowed to gang-rape the American Dream.

It’s no accident.  Wall Street crashed this economy because they could, and now they’re looting the taxpayers of this country for generations to come.

Ronald Reagan started the ball rolling in the 80s when he declared that regulation was BAD.  Why did we buy into that?  Did the average Joe, who was hollering “free market!!!” really think any of the “little people” would get on that gravy boat?  Idiots.

Then along came George W. Bush and his merry band of power-hungry, bloodthirsty money-grubbers to deliver the coup de grace to the American economy, the world economy, and generations of taxpayers.  Oversight?  What the hell is that?  Three to the noggin — bang bang splat!!

Taibbi’s article is a long one, but read the whole thing.  It will make you fucking sick, but you’ll have a clearer idea of what the hell happened at AIG.

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Sunday News Headlines

Scientists to issue stark warning over dramatic new sea level figures

Rising sea levels pose a far bigger eco threat than previously thought. This week’s climate change conference in Copenhagen will sound an alarm over new floodings – enough to swamp Bangladesh, Florida, the Norfolk Broads and the Thames estuary. Link

Ohio school gets 700 applicants for janitorial job

Evidence of the slumping economy is stacking up at an Ohio school which has nearly 700 applications for one open janitorial job.

Officials at Perry Local Schools near Canton in northeast Ohio say they’ve extended the deadline until Monday to accommodate the overwhelming response to the week-old posting.

The full-time position at Edison Junior High School pays $15 to $16 an hour plus benefits. Link

How computers call the shots for L.A. County children in peril

Social workers feed in data on suspected abuse and neglect, and a decision pops out. Officials say the system eliminates the previous scattershot approach. Critics say the human element is slighted.

The process starts with a tip to Los Angeles County’s child abuse hotline. Over the course of a typical week, the Department of Children and Family Services receives 3,000 calls. Link

Vacancies slow U.N. corruption probes

An unusually high number of vacancies in the U.N. inspector general’s office has left that body significantly understaffed, raising concerns about the world body’s ability to detect fraud and other abuses even as the workload has swelled to include a myriad of procurement contracts.

About 80 jobs – 25 percent of the staff in the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) – have not been filled. The vacancies include several senior investigative posts. Link

For 84-year-old, gift of a memory

What do you get an 84-year-old woman for her birthday? She’s had a few strokes, which robbed her of short-term memories. Lung cancer has claimed much of her strength. But one memory has stuck with her – riding on the back of a boy’s motorcycle in the 1930s. Link

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Why Doesn’t the Army Support the Troops?

As soldiers stream home from Iraq and Afghanistan, the biggest charity inside the U.S. military has been stockpiling tens of millions of dollars meant to help put returning fighters back on their feet, an Associated Press investigation shows.

The Army’s own charity fund has a nest egg of over $300 million dollars.

“AER executives defend their operation, insisting they need to keep sizable reserves to be ready for future catastrophes.”

Right. We’re fighting two wars, with extended and repeated tours of duty, and you’re setting aside charitable donations, donations exacted from the very soldiers you’re supposed to help, for some future catastrophy.

Hopefully someone in Obama’s Administration is going to look into this very quickly and put those donations where they are intended. Not in some bank vault, but in the hands of the soldiers who risk their all for us.

Your thoughts are welcome.

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Madoff reloaded: It can’t get worse? Oh yes it can.

Stanford brings out $20m in a big box at his press conference to announce the ‘Stanford 2020 for 20’ tournament.

(Thanks to nwmuse for researching the story)

While the Republican majority and the Bush administration in line with a number of crooked Democrats were busily creating the Ponzi scheme a.k.a. Bush’s economic policy, the fat cat crooks were equally busy in ripping off investors.

We all have heard about Madoff, of course, but here’s another one. His name is R. Allen Stanford, and he’s a Texas billionaire:

The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) lodged 25 pages of allegations with a court in Detroit yesterday, detailing a $9.2 billion fraud allegedly perpetrated by Mr Stanford and three companies he controls.
(read article)

Full text of complaint by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Eschewing the prospect of a Madoff-style luxury arrest, Stanford decided to split the scene and fly to Antigua, but his credit card was refused. He has disappeared nevertheless. Meanwhile, desperate customers are trying to get their money back.

More than 600 people queued outside two branches of the tycoon’s Bank of Antigua in an attempt to withdraw their cash, even though the bank is not one of the companies involved in the alleged fraud.

Similar panic was reported in Panama, where bank regulators stepped in to take control of the Stanford Bank Panama – also not involved in the fraud allegations – after retail customers began a run on it.
(read more)

There are speculations that the damage done could be well in the vicinity of Madoff’s $ 50 billion fraud.

Stanford invested heavily into getting legislation focused away from money laundering as far back as 2000 and a couple of familiar names crop up in the bipartisan list of his beneficiaries:

Stanford’s [l]obbying disclosure reports in 2000 made it clear that the company had only one interest in federal policy: money-laundering legislation. Former Treasury Department official confirmed, in interviews with Public Citizen, that Stanford Financial vigorously opposed the legislation – along with several other Texas-border banking institutions – in meetings held on Capitol Hill. Between February 2000 and June 2001, Stanford Financial gave Republican party committees $208,000 and Democratic party committees $145,000.

But Stanford didn’t stop there. Stanford Financial and R. Allen Stanford gave another $95,000 to the 527 groups of three influential politicians – Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle ($40,000), House Democratic Caucus Chairman Martin Frost ($50,000), and Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott ($5,000).

In doing so, Stanford became the single largest contributor between July 1, 2000 and June 30, 2001 to the 527 groups of Daschle and Frost. (read more)

The New York Times has more details and the juiciest bit at the end of their story:

The current S.E.C. charges stem from an inquiry opened in October 2006 after a routine exam of Stanford Group, according to Stephen J. Korotash, an associate regional director of enforcement with the agency’s Fort Worth office.

He said the S.E.C. “stood down” on its investigation at the time at the request of another federal agency, which he declined to name, but resumed the inquiry in December 2008.

Another federal agency. Figures.

Honestly, I’m sure we will be busy writing about similar cases still. Whatever wealth may have been created during the Bush years – and Paul Krugman makes the case that none was – filled the pockets of crooks. Now that figures, too.

UPDATE: It now turns out that the SEC’s fraud charges may be the least of Stanford’s worries. Federal authorities tell ABC News that the FBI and others have been investigating whether Stanford was involved in laundering drug money for Mexico’s notorious Gulf Cartel.

UPDATE 2: Found! Accused Scammer Stanford Turns in Passport in Washington

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Avast Ye Privateers

Arrrgh!

When President George W. Bush wanted to get around the Constitution in order to raise and support his own private army to provide protection for Coalition Provisional Authority chief L. Paul Bremer, Blackwater was there. When the president also wanted his own private army to operate on American soil, one of many disastrous moves by his administration during Hurricane Katrina, Blackwater was there. When seventeen Iraqi civilians were gunned down by foreigners in Nisoor Square, Blackwater was there. And now that pirates are ramping up their operations off the coast of Somalia, it looks like Blackwater will be there, too.

According to Blackwater Worldwide CEO and Founder, Erik Prince,
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Bailing on the Bailout

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The following is a comment by John Smith in response to this article on Bush’s Give Us $700 Billion Dollars Unfettered By Any Oversight Whatsoever Wall Street bailout.

Dear Member of Congress:

You are being asked to assign unprecedented powers to an unelected, and unaccountable former Wall Street banker, under the guise of bringing stability to the markets and solvency to our banking system. With one hastily thrown together vote, you are going to create the most powerful human being in world history – Henry Paulson.

This is being done for the purposes of fixing a “crisis” that has suddenly, in the last hour, been presented to Congressional leaders. This act would remove the constitutionally mandated powers of regulation of the money supply, and the value thereof, from Congress and give it to an unelected member of the President’s cabinet. According to the act, this person would be above judicial review, and be allowed a $700,000,000,000 revolving line of credit to print money on behalf of the United States government. That is more power than anyone has ever had – anyone. Caesar did not have this power.

This should sound eerily familiar.

In March of 1933, after the “crisis” of the Reichstag Fire, newly named Chancellor of Germany, Adolf Hitler, petitioned the German Reichstag to give him plenary powers over the affairs of German government. The Reichstag transferred its power, on an emergency basis, to the Cabinet of Germany for a period of four years, and this was called “The Enabling Act”. This was to deal with the perceived “crisis” of Communists within the German government, when the “crisis” was never fully substantiated. It is believed by most historians that the Reichstag Fire was a deliberate act to coax the Reichstag into giving up its power.

That history did not end well.

You are being goaded into giving Henry Paulson plenary powers over the economy and government spending, money supply, and value of that money. Those powers belong to you, held in trust for the citizens of the United States. Our Founders gave you those powers TO PREVENT THE VERY SCENARIO THAT SECRETARY PAULSON HAS PRESENTED TO YOU.

You are being manipulated.

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Cocaine, Sex and Oil, Oh My!

Following up on a story from yesterday, a story which seems to be getting little media attention,* oil companies cozied up to Interior Department officials and plied them with sex, alcohol, cocaine, and gifts to ensure they would get what they want.  What did they want?  Contracts!  More leased land (of which they already have more than 60 million acres and do nothing with),  Offshore leases for drilling.  Your blood.  In short, what they want is every last cent of your hard-earned income at whatever cost it takes to get it.

Lobbyists?  These are lobbyists on steroids! (Yet, another illegal substance.)

Next time you hear Drill Here! Drill Now! Pay Less! remember that this is brought to you by Big Oil and the Republicans, the same companies who have netted tens of BILLIONS of dollars in profits – on your shoulders, and the same Republican government which has given you less, and less.

* Little media attention?  Virtuallly none.  I checked the New York Times, Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, LA Times, and other smaller major city newspapers online – the only “coverage” was a headline link buried deep down a page.

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Government to Bail Out Tainted Tomato Industry?

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The Wall Street Journal reports that Rep. Tim Mahoney (D-FL) plans to introduce legislation to give tomato growers and shippers $100 million in compensation for their losses due to the recent salmonella outbreak.

The WSJ states that the FDA has listed its ban on the tainted vegetable, while the CDC says that there still may be more cases not yet reported which resulted from tomatoes. More than 1200 people were sickened in this latest produce disaster.

Congress has scheduled several hearings next week concerning the salmonella outbreak and why thee was such a lengthy delay in determining the cause.

The sought-after amount is based on an estimate from Florida growers and includes crops abandoned in the field, products thrown out by retailers and tomatoes forced to be sold as low as $5 a box, compared with as much as $20 in a normal market, said Reggie Brown, executive vice president of the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange, a cooperative of tomato farmers. The Agriculture Department hasn’t released a firm estimate of the cost to farmers or distributors.

Call me crazy, but shouldn’t we try to figure out exactly what happened first, before we opt to shovel $100 million dollars to any industry? Especially one which may be at fault?

Consumer advocates oppose the bill. Sarah Klein, a staff attorney at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, said the food-industry lobby over the years has weakened federal food-safety oversight, and consumers shouldn’t foot the bill now. “We’d like to see the industry focusing on how to prevent these outbreaks for the future to protect consumers and their bottom line,” she said.

Gee, you don’t say?

Oh, and watch those Jalepeno peppers. They’re still hot. The FDA and CDC found a single pepper tainted with the Saintpaul strain of salmonella in Texas.
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