Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Headlines - Tuesday March 22

Christopher Calkins: Pondering Progress
Will Durst: Pitchforks and Rainbows
He'll text you if anything gets annexed, kthanks, bye.
President Obama has been traveling around South America or wherever the past few days, taking in some sun and minor diplomacy while he sits on the beach plays around with whatever video game controller the military provides him to go bomb places. Yesterday afternoon, he decided he would let Congress know the U.S. had been engaged in a war with a country in Africa for days, in case they were wondering. Wait, isn't Congress supposed to be the ones to declare war? Well, they haven't really had to do that since Harry Truman decided he wanted to go bomb Korea and nobody arrested him for it.
Col. Obama:

The United States has not deployed ground forces into Libya. United States forces are conducting a limited and well-defined mission in support of international efforts to protect civilians and prevent a humanitarian disaster. [...]

For these purposes, I have directed these actions, which are in the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States, pursuant to my constitutional authority to conduct U.S. foreign relations and as Commander in Chief and Chief Executive.

"I can bomb shit whenever I want to, but I thought you might like to know, because it's pretty cool."

The tribes that compose these rebel groups are going to be completely independent from U.S. aid and very democratic and will be our best friends forever. The end. No need to check up on this latter, Congress. Everything's going to be just fine. [ABC News]

Update: Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) says Obama's decision to attack Libya without approval from Congress is an impeachable offense.  

Bob Cesca: The High Water Mark

After Gaddafi began killing his own citizens last month, most celebrities and entertainers who had performed for him and his family in the past either returned the money to Gaddafi or donated the money to charity.

Donald Trump would not be one of those celebrities though, because today he is not only boasting about taking Gaddafi's money, but also his ability to screw people in real estate deals. And as is usually the case with wingnuts, the jokes write themselves.

Speaking to Fox News this morning, the likely 2012 GOP candidate said that he had more foreign policy experience than other Republican contenders because he once "screwed" Gaddafi on a land deal.

"I think I probably have more experience of anybody, whether I sell them real estate for tremendous amounts of money," he said. "I mean, I've dealt with everybody."

"And by the way, I can tell you something else," the billionaire added. "I dealt with Gaddafi. I rented him a piece of land. He paid me more for one night than the land was worth for two years, and then I didn't let him use the land."

I would like to thank Donald Trump for basically saying that the high water mark of foreign policy experience in the pool of Republican candidates for president is the ability to punk a foreign dictator with a fraudulent real estate scam. You could even turn that into a campaign commercial in favor of Democrats.

Granted, the person being punked in this case is a dictator, but is it really wise to campaign on real estate fraud in an economy that was wrecked by -- real estate fraud?


Mike Pence really is one of, if not the, biggest jackoff in congress. After months of campaigning to defund Planned Parenthood, Pence is now walking-back his rhetoric and claiming that he never intended to defund critical health services for women. Of course the problem for him is that federal funds were never used for abortion anyway.

WASHINGTON – Republican-led efforts to defund Planned Parenthood over its abortion services are complicated by an awkward fact: The bill's chief sponsor admits that Title X funding provides "important" aid to poor women and children.

Yet Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) pushed through a measure in the House to cut off all $317 million in Title X funding to Planned Parenthood and all abortion providers, even though the money by law must be used on services other than abortion. Supporters argue that money is fungible, and therefore any federal funds for such groups are effectively abetting abortion care.

"I've never advocated reducing funding for Title X," Pence said Monday in a radio interview with WYPR. "Title X clinics do important work in our inner cities. They provide health services for women and children that might not otherwise have access to them."

Oh, did your hand get caught in the cookie jar? Too late now. You've been exposed as a misogynist douche.

Marc Perkel: Letter to the Editor

Last summer we had the Gulf oil spill that reminded us that that with oil there's a price to pay. They said that drilling was safe – but it wasn't. Now we are looking at nuclear meltdown and it's not just one reactor – it's 4 of them. I don't see any way they are going to explain that away.

It's time to get real. If we invested just the cost of one war for oil we could develop solar, wind, and clean fuels and not have to evacuate areas of the planet for hundreds or thousands of years or go to war to protect a limited and shrinking supply of oil. We need to look at what will actually work and fully evaluate the risks and consequence based on science. Bad choices have consequences and if we are going to survive we have to stop making these kinds of serious mistakes. The penalty for poor judgment is extinction. I urge everyone to choose existence!

Awful Photos That Pretty Much Mean the Same Thing as Something Else Just Awful:

The picture is from the destroyed city of Ishinomaki, Japan. The Rude Pundit figures that the image of Lady Liberty among the lifeless ruins is more of a metaphorical way of showing the recently revealed photos of American soldiers posing with corpses of Afghan civilians that they murdered "for sport."

'Cause when you're nearly a decade into a war that was probably worthless at least five or six years ago, what the hell else is your army "kill team" gonna do? Win hearts and minds? That's pussy shit and it ain't what the 5th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division was about. Since there's not enough Taliban or al-Qaeda to justify tens of thousands of soldiers, well, these motherf**kin' M14s are just going to waste. Let's improvise, man.

Yes, a dozen of the soldiers have been
arrested and are on trial. And, yes, the United States has apologized (now that it's become public). And there's even bonus points, since one of the accused killers is from Sarah Palin's precious Wasilla, Alaska, where apparently the town's name is Inuit for "fucktard."

When someone wants to argue with the Rude Pundit about our current intervention in Libya, in addition to the money spent, in addition to issues regarding our loss of moral authority (such as it was pre-Bush), in addition to the terrible toll on civilians, he thinks about the soldiers, sent to fight for vague goals that have little to nothing to do with defending the nation. If we were the nation we once were, sometime ago, if we had truly restored our standing in the world, then this Libya venture might seem noble. Instead...well, just refer back to the picture.

(Note: here's
three of the photos. You don't want to look at them, but since few sources have linked to them, the Rude Pundit supposes he will. But don't click. It will not make your life better one little bit.)

Radiation leaked into the sea from Japan's crippled nuclear plant, contaminating the water and raising concern that fish and vegetables may become tainted.

Five kinds of radioactive materials released by damaged fuel rods were detected in the sea, Tokyo Electric Power Co., the plant's operator, said on its web site. Levels of one, Iodine-131, which increases the risk of thyroid cancer, were 127 times higher than normal in a sample taken at 2:30 p.m. yesterday, it said.

Screening food and dairy products for radiation is being stepped up as Japan seeks to calm a population that eats more seafood than any country other than China. The government, which says it hasn't detected radiation readings in food that might be harmful to health, dispatched a ship to the site as part of increased monitoring.

How long before Nic Robertson is forced to spend more time with his family?

We've gone, in less than a week, from wondering whether to enact a no-fly zone or not to a UN resolution and a full on ground attack operation. Now, I can understand taking out anti-air installations and cratering runways in the guise of a no fly edict, but how come we're hitting tank formations? How come we're hitting supply convoys? How come we're hitting government compounds in Tripoli? Last time I checked, tanks don't fly and neither do semi-trucks (unless you kick 'em out the back of a C-130 on a pallet during a low level cargo offload).

To me, it looks like "regime change" revisited. Nobody's mentioning what they'll do if Gadhafy manages to weather all this. Judging from the "
rebels" organization, that's a genuine possibility. So what are we prepared to do about that? Are we planning to send "advisory" teams in, a la the Northern Alliance operation at the beginning of the Afghan fiasco? Or are we prepared to put up with a wounded and dangerous Gadhafy? Seems to me we're determined to get him out regardless.

I'll give George Bush (well, really his "handlers" because he couldn't have pulled it off) credit for one thing. They actually had a plan (not saying it was good) when they decided to remove Saddam Hussein. They prepared for it before Bush was even elected. This Libyan adventure looks like
the most poorly planned military operation of our time.

This has a distinct possibility (probability even) to descend into a long, low grade insurgency, something I'm certain our military, political (well, the Republicans would like to pin another quagmire on Obama), and economic (the oil companies, both inside the US and out) leaders certainly don't want.

To be completely cynical (which, at this point, is probably being realistic), this op was nothing more than taking advantage of civil unrest to make an oil grab. It's not easy to pump oil and transfer it out to the Med ports (a lot of Libya's oil production is out in the desert) via hundreds of miles of pipelines that are easy targets for an insurgency. The only satisfactory end would be
Gadhafy gone along with his loyalists, and a deal in place with the new government for the oil rights. This requires a strong government, able to keep their boot on the necks of those who sympathize with Gadhafy and would be willing to agitate. Looking at the motley crew of "rebels", I don't see how that's going to happen without "assistance" from the Western coalition (you know the Arab League states are only there for window dressing).

Freedom bombs - not free, after all
No one would pay a penny for her thoughts, because that would be a foolish investment.
If child pornography was hugely profitable .....
..then Republicans would be lining up to defend the kiddie porn industry. They would be blaming child exploitation on "excessive government regulation." And they would be engaging in sustained attacks on those whose sought to combat child pornography.
One of the more surreal moments in the Wisconsin drama that unfolded in the wake of Koch-head  Scott Walker assuming office was when protesters went to the home of state senator Randy Hooper, only to have his wife come outside and inform them that her husband no longer resides with her in the district, but instead had decamped to Madison, where he had himself a 20-something floosie ensconced in an apartment. Then the maid signed the recall petition and the scorned wife offered her support (and later her signature) to the recall effort.

Then the "weird" got turned up to eleven.

A state worker with ties to Sen. Randy Hopper is being paid $11,000 more annually than her predecessor in a position at the department of regulation and licensing.

State officials said the woman, 26,  was hired to a limited term,   communications specialist  position last month,   with a salary equivalent to $42, 328 annually.

State officials Friday said the woman's predecessor left the position in January,   with a salary equivalent to $31,200 annually.   No explanation was given for the new hire's higher pay.

Sources told WKOW27 News the state employee was the same person referred to by Hopper's estranged wife when she publicly stated her husband started an affair in Madison.   Hopper (R-Fond du Lac) and his estranged wife are in the midst of a divorce action.

During an interview with WKOW27 News,  Hopper declined to comment on his relationship with the woman.  

But Hopper told WKOW27 News he played no role in the woman's hiring.

Of course he didn't.

And palm trees grow in Madison.

Huckster must have read a different Bible than we did if he thinks a "biblical worldwview" in leaders would bring about greater equality across all strata of society. It wasn't that long ago, remember, that the bible-bleaters were using it to justify slavery, and are still using it to beat up on homosexuals. So either Huckabee is a blatant, deliberate liar or an ignorant douche. The categories are not mutually exclusive.

History is going to be most unkind to the era we find ourselves living in. This sort of craven, venal asshattery is why. "In 2010, 18 percent of the country - nearly one in five households - reported not having enough money to provide food at some point during the year. Last month, food prices increased by 3.9 percent, in the largest jump since 1974. Vegetable prices increased by nearly 50 percent, driven in part by weather disasters damaging crops in place such as Australia and Russia. ... These trends are occurring at the same time that unemployment has remained unacceptably high, leaving many Americans with nothing but the social safety net standing between them and going hungry. But as National Journal's Tim Fernholz reported, the House Agriculture Committee has called for a reduction in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps) in a letter to House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI). ... The letter's co-authors - House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK) and ranking member Collin Peterson (D-MN) - are correct that, in the face of the Great Recession, food stamp benefits were increased. But those increased benefits have (unfortunately) already been reduced to pay for a jobs bill that Congress passed last year. ... And at the same time they're pointing to food stamps as an area ripe for cuts, Lucas and Peterson say that the tens of billions in annual agriculture subsidies that the U.S. provides should be off-limits for reductions. At the moment, 61 percent of the subsidies that the U.S. provides for agriculture go to just ten percent of recipients. Though some restrictions on rich farmers receiving subsidies were placed into the 2008 farm bill, they were mostly ineffective. And entrenched lawmakers on the agriculture committee help to keep it that way."


I'm wondering how much immunization the several hundred million dollars worth of cruise missiles could have bought. I really should have known the Republicans would go after this next.


Plutocracy of the rich, by the rich, for the rich

Masocchio at Firedoglake explains that our government is incompetent because it does everything for the rich:

The people who run our political economy, the rich and their tools in Congress, have adopted utterly incoherent policies: spending money on things they like and demanding cuts in everything they don't like. The things that matter to the rich are completely different from the things that matter to the middle class and the poor, the only two classes that polite society admits exist. Even millionaires are middle class now, and the discussion in public spaces, like newspapers, television, radio and big internet sites, never points out that the very rich, the top few thousands of wealthy people, constitute a class with identifiable interests.

In September, 2008, they demanded trillions of dollars in direct and indirect bailout subsidies. Millions of Americans lost their jobs in the ensuing crash. When the Tea people began screaming about deficits, the rich explained that "we" had to bail out the economy, and that such deficits were natural. Somehow, the screamers didn't notice that the cause of the problem was the greedy rich whose utter incompetence produced the Great Crash. The rich don't want to pay for their disastrous management of the political economy, and that causes incoherent government policies.


How can we as nation survive this utterly incoherent management of the political economy by the rich?

Read the whole thing.


Is this our Suez Canal?

Libya and the Decline of American Military Power

'Oh yeah, we got to meet up in Kenya someday soon and get crazy.'

It's nice (?) that President Obama is worried enough about the revolution in Libya to start an air war against Tripoli, we guess. But this might be the first time in Modern American History when nobody in America seems to support a military action.

Republicans are against it because a) It costs money to do wars and now the Republicans are suddenly against spending billions of dollars to bomb Muslims somewhere, and b) Obama is black. Sarah Palin was supposed to be dedicated to Supportin' the Troops, but that was only when Bush sent the Troops somewhere to bomb Muslims and get killed. Russia is against it because Putin is a dickwad, the Arab League is against it because Washington was either too slow or too fast or too unilateral or too multilateral or too in love with Israel. U.S. liberals are either lukewarm or actually opposed, because why does this Obama guy have to do every rotten thing Bush Junior or Bush Senior or Reagan ever did, again and again, forever. And we can only assume Obama/Bush Junior's defense secretary, Robert Gates, is against it — after all, didn't Gates just say we've seen the end of the days when the U.S.A. would just launch incredibly expensive, bloody, terrible wars against whatever country momentarily caught the attention of the president?

And some people might wonder, especially those people who've been protesting so long in Wisconsin and those protesting still in Minnesota and Indiana and Tennessee and beyond, "Why is Barack Obama so helpful to Libyan revolutionaries fighting their government, when he doesn't seem to give a damn about the firefighters and teachers and janitors and police fighting for their vanishing rights to make a fair wage for their work, right here in the United States?"

The Los Angeles Times says everybody hates Obama's War:

"The president seems to have angered almost every major group: He's either done too much or too little or he's done it too slowly," said James Lindsay, a former official in the Clinton White House who is now with the Council on Foreign Relations. "There's a very real political risk for Barack Obama in all of this."

Among the critics Monday was Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.), ranking minority member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, a widely respected voice on foreign policy who has often sided with the administration.

"There needs to be a plan about what happens after Kadafi," Lugar said. "Who will be in charge then, and who pays for this all? President Obama, so far, has only expressed vague hopes."

There's that "hope" we were all looking for … thought it was lost, trampled by the crowd walking out of the stadium in Denver, back in August 2008. Hope! [LAT]

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