Monday, March 31, 2008

Census, Catholic-Style


VATICAN CITY - Islam has surpassed Roman Catholicism as the world's largest religion, the Vatican newspaper said Sunday.

"For the first time in history, we are no longer at the top: Muslims have overtaken us," Monsignor Vittorio Formenti said in an interview with the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano. Formenti compiles the Vatican's yearbook.

He said that Catholics accounted for 17.4 percent of the world population — a stable percentage — while Muslims were at 19.2 percent.

But before people start going into a frenzied "Muslims are everywhere!" mode, understand that:

When considering all Christians and not just Catholics, Christians make up 33 percent of the world population, Formenti said.

I don't know about anyone else, but wouldn't a better comparison been between two different sects or denominations? Y'know, like the percentage of Catholics versus the percentage of Shia? Or am I completely off-base here?

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When Life Gives You Lemons, Mix it With Your Vodka.

Yeah the economy is going in the tank, but why can't we have a little fun with it?

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No Main Topic

  1. Less Jobs = More Food Stamps.

  2. Gilbert Arenas is willing to take a potential pay cut if that means the Wizards can keep Antwan Jamison.

  3. Temporary Truce Time in Iraq.

  4. According to Chris Brown, he and Rihanna are not gettin' it on.

  5. A sad conclusion for a missing soldier. R.I.P.


Hard Loss for the Wizards (or Maybe Just Me)

There are blowouts, where you just have to acknowledge that the opposition is better than a light year.

There are buzzer-beaters, which can come down to a missed defensive assignment, a superior one-on-one opponent, or just plain luck.

Then there games like last night, where you're watching and hoping that your team can deliver the knock-out punch...but it just doesn't happen. Your team's punch aren't hard enough, and the opposition doesn't have a glass jaw. While everyone else was falling in love with the New Look Lakers, I was trying to figure out why people were swooning over a jump-shooting team that just happens to have Kobe Bryant. I mean, these guys run the Triangle Offense about half as often as they did during the Kobe & Shaq Era, and that's saying something considering one year they had Karl Malone and Gary Payton on the roster.

The difference, of course, is that these guys don't have a glass jaw, meaning that the typical reasons a good team cracks (key player who routinely chokes, crappy bench, too many old/young guys, brainless coach) don't apply to this particular squad. They are just good enough to coast if Kobe misses a game or three, but just mediocre enough to acquiesce to him when he's hot (or when he's in Give-Me-The-Damn-Ball Phase). They even have the best kind of fan base: the type who cheer like they're watching gladiators duel win you're wining, and then just don't show up (as opposed to coming there and booing) when you're losing.

Their biggest weakness is Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol; neither have been Big Game Guys. So it's safe to say that while the Lakers don't have a glass jaw, they may have a ceramic one. But with Phil Jackson, Kobe, and a good mix of youth and experience, that ceramic is pretty damn tough (and at the same time, sorta humble).

It also helps that Sasha Vujacic was open like a Vegas casino all night, but I digress...

I hope the Wizards were taking notes, because these are the types of games real playoff-caliber teams win.

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Saturday, March 29, 2008

How Has the GOP Injected Themselves Into The Democratic Primary?

McCamy Taylor from Democratic Underground can think of at least ten.

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No Main Topic

Rare Saturday Edition:

  1. Celtics take down the Hornets.

  2. Madonna speaks up for her "protege."

  3. Somalia is in big trouble.

  4. Rep. John Murtha comes to Sen. Clinton's rescue.


Friday, March 28, 2008

Bush Tries To Clean Up the Mess He and His Business Buddies Created

It's a start, I guess.

WASHINGTON — The Treasury Department will propose on Monday that Congress give the Federal Reserve broad new authority to oversee financial market stability, in effect allowing it to send SWAT teams into any corner of the industry or any institution that might pose a risk to the overall system.

The proposal is part of a sweeping blueprint to overhaul the nation’s hodgepodge of financial regulatory agencies, which many experts say failed to recognize rampant excesses in mortgage lending until after they set off what is now the worst financial calamity in decades.

Democratic lawmakers are all but certain to say the proposal does not go far enough in restricting the kinds of practices that caused the financial crisis. Many of the proposals, like those that would consolidate regulatory agencies, have nothing to do with the turmoil in financial markets. And some of the proposals could actually reduce regulation.

Can't say I'm surprised; since Reagan, reducing regulation has been the GOP's M.O. (along with lowering taxes regardless of the economic climate).

While the plan could expose Wall Street investment banks and hedge funds to greater scrutiny, it carefully avoids a call for tighter regulation.

The plan would not rein in practices that have been linked to the housing and mortgage crisis, like packaging risky subprime mortgages into securities carrying the highest ratings.

The plan would give the Fed some authority over Wall Street firms, but only when an investment bank’s practices threatened the entire financial system.

And the plan does not recommend tighter rules over the vast and largely unregulated markets for risk sharing and hedging, like credit default swaps, which are supposed to insure lenders against loss but became a speculative instrument themselves and gave many institutions a false sense of security.

On the surface most of this sounds nice, but when you realize that without "written in stone" regulation, it will be up to the Fed to keep things under control. What happens when a future president appoints the "Brownie" of finance to this post? I shudder to think.

Also, there's this:

Under the Treasury proposal, Fed officials would be allowed to examine the practices and even the internal bookkeeping of brokerage firms, hedge funds, commodity-trading exchanges and any other institution that might pose a risk to the overall financial system.

That would be a significant expansion of the central bank’s regulatory mission, which has been limited primarily to supervising commercial banks.

Since I like pointing out irony, isn't it funny that a conservative Republican White House is proposing that the "government" needs to be able to sneak a peek into "the internal bookkeeping of brokerage firms, hedge funds, commodity-trading exchanges and any other institution" just because they "might pose a risk to the overall financial system?" If Sen. Obama and/or Sen. Clinton had proposed this, conservatives (and a few libertarians) would be calling for their head(s).

But Barney Frank and Chuck Schumer (neither a big fan of the Bush Administration) seem warm to the proposal; so how bad can it be?

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It Just Dawned On Me...

...between catching up on episodes of The Office and watching Blades of Glory, I've realized that Jenna Fischer is a younger, cuter, Jennifer Aniston.

So, if in like ten years her beau leaves her for Megan Fox (oh c'mon; you know who she looks like) don't act surprised.

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Cash Rules Everything Around Me

C.R.E.A.M. get the money; dollar-dollar bill, y'all!

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Way to Go, Michael Moore!

Another trial, another victory. When will these people realize that the guy who does documentaries can also be smart, passionate and political? So many people focus on that third trait, learn that he leans left, and think that everything he makes will be a pack a lies to promote his agenda.

If that was true, he would have spared Hillary Clinton in SiCKO. He didn't. And as far as health care is concerned, he's chastised Barack Obama as well.

And this, the fact that he holds all politicians accountable -even when he agrees with them 90% of the time- is one reason why he can claim an undefeated record.

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GOP: So The Dems Want to Run a Black Guy or a White Woman, Eh?

Del Toro + McKellen + Jackson = AWESOME

Forget that new Indiana Jones movie. The guy behind Pan's Labyrinth and Blade II may bring back "Magneto" to do a prequel to the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. And the director of that movie is producing.

Again: awesome.

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Around the Internets

  1. Author Alice Walker explains her support for Sen. Obama.

  2. has a Sen. Clinton "deathwatch." Don't forget the power of the superdelegates, guys.

  3. Via ThinkProgress: Ex-Gov. Don Siegelman will be released from prison.

  4. The Washington Wizards will be in Europe for a preseason game next year.

  5. If you ever get these error messages, well, more power to you.


Working Towards a Coward-Proof Majority

In regards to dealing with the occupation: about damn time.

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Everybody In the Club's Getting Tipsy

Sometimes I wonder how America got into the mess we call the Iraqi Occupation. Of course we know a big chunk of it deals with the election George W. Bush "won" (he did push for it), but what about the military? What was going through the minds of the top-notch generals while the Bush Administration was saber-rattling?

The answer: alcohol.

As for the human factor figuring into war planning, try retired Marine Lt. Gen. Michael DeLong's explanation of how he and Army Gen. Tommy Franks decided to endorse the bid by Rumsfeld and Cheney to convince Bush to order an invasion.

"Gen. Franks likes margaritas," DeLong said, "and I've got a margarita recipe -- of course, I'm a tequila connoisseur. And so we sat down and had some margaritas and tequila and walked through 'Is this the right thing to do for us, for the country? Can we look our troops in the eyes and say, 'You're going to die tomorrow and here's why?' And the answer was yes."

I've heard of "drunk driving" and "drunk dialing" and even, yes, "drunk sex." But "drunk warring?" Please tell me DeLong was kidding when he said this.

On the other hand: if he was kidding about how we got into a war that cost 4000+ dead, I probably don't want to know. Jesus.

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No Main Topic

  1. Sen. Obama and Sen. Clinton get economical.

  2. Iraqi leader, upon discovering that factions haven't stopped fighting yet, gives them more time to stop fighting.

  3. It's hard out there for a Monk.

  4. Mom shoots kids to death, goes to class.

  5. Howard Dean to Democrats: I don't want to have to stop this car and come back there!


Thursday, March 27, 2008

An Actor's Death Hasn't Always Been a Movie Curse...

Around the Internets

  1. Via Daily Kos: Sen. Clinton has alot of rich elite Democrats backing her; can she really claim to be a candidate of the People? Oliver Willis doesn't think so.

  2. JP goes over the..."foreign policy differences" between Sen. Clinton and Sen. McCain.

  3. Easy Like Sunday Morning...or not, if you've got clay in your ears like Sen. Graham.

  4. Once again, the classical media wants to make "liberal" equate to "dangerous."

  5. Six stereotypes that Hollywood insists on using again and again.

  6. How did Tyler Perry make conservative black evangelicalism so popular?

  7. Will President Bush ever truly define what "victory" means?

  8. Bill Simmons on the future of sports movies.


Iran's Influence on Iraq

CNN reports:

The fighting among Shiite militias and government troops in Basra is a glimpse of Iraq's future, and pivotal cleric Muqtada al-Sadr is in deep trouble, according to two CNN correspondents and a CNN military analyst.

The fiery religious leader has a loyal following in Baghdad's Sadr City neighborhood and other enclaves thanks to generous social programs, but his political movement, his Mehdi Army militia and the cease-fire al-Sadr recently extended are no match for Iranian intrigue, according to CNN's experts.

"Al-Sadr is involved in a very complicated relationship with the Iranians," said CNN Baghdad correspondent Michael Ware. "The Iranians do provide funding and support for his militia, yet at the same time they're trying to rein him in and get him to adopt a certain political agenda, which from time to time he resists."

Ware said Iran wants to use al-Sadr's populist base to advance its agenda in Iraq. "However, they don't want to see him get too big for his boots or to rise to a position where they can no longer have sway over him."

Iran has weakened al-Sadr by encouraging dissension within his Mehdi Army and backing hardliners -- known as the Special Groups -- who break away and keep up the fight against the U.S. occupation, Ware said.

"Iran's very good at putting pressure on you, forcing you to split, and anything that squeezes out the side, Iran picks up and turns into hardline factions," Ware said. "That's exactly what's happened to Muqtada. He's had purge after purge after purge of belligerent commanders, and they've all been swept up by Iran."

Of course, if America adopts the Bush/Cheney/McCain plan and attacks Iran, there won't be a nation around that's stable and strong enough to keep loonies like Al-Sadr running around and trying to keep his house in order. And then there's also the chance that bin Laden Inc. will set up an office in Iran (Al-Qaeda in Iran: coming soon to a neo-con talking point near you!) making that country as FUBAR'd as Iraq is now.

I know this sounds crazy, but maybe the US should actually be working with Iran to clean up the Iraq mess. Sure, Iran will want something in return, but as long as that something isn't "oil," "weapons" or "slaves," we should be willing to deal.

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Overweight = Dementia?

Having a large gut in midlife increases the chance of dementia in old age, according to new research published Wednesday that suggests that abdominal fat is a bigger risk factor than even family history.

The study of 6,583 adults found that people with the highest amount of abdominal fat between the ages of 40 and 45 were about three times more likely to develop dementia than those with the lowest amount...

..."This ought to be a wake-up call to baby boomers in terms of diet and exercise," said Dr. Sam Gandy, a spokesman for the Alzheimer's Assn. who was not involved in the study. "If they are not frightened enough about heart disease, maybe they will worry about losing their mental function."

Dementia is an age-related condition that involves the loss of memory and other cognitive functions. It affects 5.7 million Americans, or about 1 in 10 people over age 65. Alzheimer's is the most common form of dementia, accounting for 60% to 80% of cases.

Being overweight has also become a significant health problem in the U.S. About 50% of the nation's adults have an unhealthy amount of belly fat, according to the latest report.

Of course, if you are overweight, odds are you've forgotten everything you've just read.

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White Preachers Have Rev. Wright's Back

Can we finally squash this non-issue now?

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No Main Topic

  1. John McCain's foreign policy speech contains a "lets get along" message, but it looks like he's said these things before. Maybe people are better off reading his daughter's blog.

  2. How badly did the Bobcats beat the Lakers? Coach Phil Jackson: "Well, I may look like I'm here to explain something, but I have nothing to explain. I can't explain it, so don't ask me any questions."

  3. D.C. School Chancellor Michelle Rhee's plans are being blamed for the planned retirement of several hundred veteran teachers.

  4. Shaq's comments made Pat Riley sad. I'm sure when Pat Riley stabbed Stan Van Gundy in the back and stole the Heat from him made him sad too.

  5. First the housing market, then the home equity loans.

  6. In Hyattsville, MD: Two have been killed and two are injured in a shooting.

  7. Dr. Pepper really wants that new Guns 'N Roses album.

  8. The longer the Democratic Primary goes on, the more absolutist each camp gets...and the better Sen. McCain's chances get.


Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Why Did Chelsea Get Pissed at a Fellow Clinton Supporter?

Because of his question:

Campaigning in Indianapolis for her mother, Chelsea Clinton had a quick retort when asked a question she had never had before. When a male student asked her if her mother's credibility had been hurt during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, Clinton quickly responded.

"Wow, you're the first person actually that's ever asked me that question, in the, maybe 70 college campuses that I've been to," Clinton bitterly said at Butler University. "And I don't think that's any of your business."

Get used to it, Chelsea; if your mom wins you're going to get this question every single day from the Clinton-haters.

Little Known Fact: Chelsea went to the same school as Ken Starr's daughter during the Scandal They Do Not Talk About. So, I'm sure she's used to (and tired of) hearing this crap.

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The Home of Retired Racial Stereotypes Responds to Pat Buchanan

It's Not My Party and I'll Leave If I want to...

Smoking Gun to LA Times: "Don't Believe the Hype."


Los Angeles Times Editor Russ Stanton said today he will launch an internal investigation into the authenticity of documents used in a story last week asserting that the newspaper had uncovered new evidence implicating associates of rap impresario Sean "Diddy" Combs in a bloody 1994 assault on hip-hop superstar Tupac Shakur.

Stanton ordered the review after the editor of the celebrity-centric website, The Smoking Gun, told the newspaper that he had reason to doubt The Times' account and in particular the FBI records that were supposed to buttress the story...


...Although The Times has not identified the source of the purported FBI reports, The Smoking Gun story asserts that they were created by convicted con man James Sabatino, who the website contends was a starry-eyed music fan with a long rap sheet and a history of exaggerating his place in the rap music world.

The purported FBI reports were filed by Sabatino with a federal court in Miami four months ago in connection with a $16-million lawsuit he filed against Combs. Sabatino, who is serving time in prison for fraud, claims he is due the money for a business deal gone bad.

"The Times appears to have been hoaxed by an imprisoned con man and accomplished document forger, an audacious swindler who has created a fantasy world in which he managed hip-hop luminaries," the report on the website says.

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No Main Topic

  1. You wouldn't believe who Sen. Clinton and Sen. Obama are related to.

  2. Money problems hasn't stopped the Mars rover.

  3. Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) talks about being Star Trek's new Scotty.

  4. "Major combat operations" in Iraq.

  5. Brittney Spears 16-year-old pregnant sister gets an engagement ring.

  6. Sen. McCain's fight against Big Tobacco seems to be going up in smoke.


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

What the NBA Needs is a Split

In Michael Lee's musing about NBA COTY, he splits the candidates into the Conferences, East then West. I'm reading these breakdowns and thinking, Why can't the League do awards in this manner?

These NBA awards should be divided between the East and the West, period. Wouldn't it be better to have a Defensive Player, MVP, and Rookie of the Year from each Conference? How many times have we heard critics and fans alike say that "the West is tougher," or "the East is more guard-oriented" or some other qualifier that differentiates the two. I mean, it's not like baseball with different rules for the NL and AL, but there is certainly a different mindset when addressing a team like San Antonio versus a team like Boston.


Around the Internets

  1. I'm...73% confident that this was not a Brokeback Moment.

  2. In trying to address his religious convictions and the words of his pastor, Sen. Obama ended up opening a Pandora's Box of neo-conservative racism.

  3. For right now, Gilbert Arenas has no problem being a sixth man.

  4. Well, we now know how Sen. Clinton fells about other people's pastors; how does she feel about her own?

  5. How does Destiny's Child play into the James-Stevenson mini-feud? Well...

  6. They were crazy, kooky and elected.


Never Trust a Big Butt and a Smile

Do Not Pass Go; Do Not Collect $200.00...

Despite protests, the only two satellite radio companies in existence are merging. Like MSN's Kim Peterson, I'm a wee bit skeptical:

The first thing I thought after seeing the news was that the price of satellite radio will go up. But the DOJ sees it differently. The merged company won't be able to raise prices, according to the DOJ, because doing so would send customers into the arms of traditional radio, HD radio, iPods and the audio content available on cell phones.

OK, I could maybe buy that. The iPod might look an awful lot better to people if their satellite radio bill increases. But the next part of the DOJ's news release is downright silly. XM and Sirius are going to save a "substantial" amount money by merging, the DOJ said, and those savings could be passed on to consumers in the form of lower prices. Uh-huh. OK. Sure.

Yet in the same paragraph, the DOJ said it wasn't possible to estimate how much money would be saved because XM and Sirius wouldn't provide enough evidence. So the DOJ all-but-announces a satellite radio price cut even though it had no financial basis to do so.

Finally, the DOJ said that future technologies will provide enough competition to satellite radio to keep prices down. Wireless networks being developed can stream Internet radio to cell phones and other devices. But it's hard to predict which of these networks will be successful or when they'll become available, the DOJ said.

At any rate, the merger got the green light (it goes to the FCC next) and we'll see if the DOJ's claims turn out to be true. I could see hardware incompatibilities causing some problems, but the DOJ doesn't mention that. Call me a cynic, but I wouldn't be surprised if satellite radio gets a little more expensive.

I don't have satellite radio, and up til now I was feeling like I was missing out. Not anymore.

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No Main Topic

  1. Arab politicians don't think that a McCain Administration will be any different than the Bush Administration.

  2. In Maryland, illegal immigrants aren't feeling the love.

  3. Truckers, who are dependent on (the rising price of diesel) fuel, are calling for a strike.

  4. Even the Resurgent Bostocalypse couldn't stop the Sixers Revolution.

  5. More aftermath of the VA Tech massacre.

  6. President Bush's plan for troop levels: Stay The Course.


Monday, March 24, 2008

Around the Internets

  1. Glenn Greenwald: Its seems that some conservative bloggers have used Sen. Obama's speech on race to legitimize racist statements and sentiments.
  2. Michael Moore: 4,000 dead soldiers, the Founding Fathers and Dick Cheney's "So?"
  3. C&L: What a world we live in when Debbie Wasserman Schutlz protects Republicans, and Chuck Hagel talks like a Democrat.
  4. Think Progress: Chris Matthews gives us a hint as to who he's supporting (You'd think he'd have learned his lesson).
  5. Media Matters: Scratch that; Matthews obviously didn't learn his lesson because he's blaming the Clintons for the deaths of the 4,000 soldiers lost in the Iraq War/Occupation.


New Slavery = Prisons?

One reason why the prison industry is popular.

Story here.

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No Main Topic

  1. New York Times: "New York is accustomed to job losses on Wall Street. They come with just about every economic slump, and their impact is felt throughout the city.
    But now, as the city braces for a big contraction in the financial sector as a result of the credit crisis and the collapse of Bear Stearns,
    the fallout could be worse than in the past."

  2. "A roadside bomb killed four U.S. soldiers in Baghdad on Sunday, the military said, pushing the overall American death toll in the five-year war to at least 4,000."

  3. Washington Post: "A government laptop computer containing sensitive medical information on 2,500 patients enrolled in a National Institutes of Health study was stolen in February, potentially exposing seven years' worth of clinical trial data, including names, medical diagnoses and details of the patients' heart scans. The information was not encrypted, in violation of the government's data-security policy."

  4. Boston Globe: "BRIDGEPORT, Conn. - Game 1 began and ended as expected for the top-seeded University of Connecticut women's basketball team. The points multiplied fast for the Huskies and left No. 16 Cornell outmatched in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at the Arena at Harbor Yard last night.

    UConn showcased its versatile lineup of scorers as it quickly eliminated the Big Red, 89-47, in front of 6,556. The Huskies move on in the Greensboro Regional tomorrow night to face No. 8 Texas (22-12), a 72-55 winner over No. 9 Minnesota last night."


Saturday, March 22, 2008

Bush Administration: Worldwide Bully

How did George W. Bush gets his "Coalition of Willing?"

Well, according to one diplomat, it was by emulating The Godfather:

UNITED NATIONS -- In the months leading up to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, the Bush administration threatened trade reprisals against friendly countries who withheld their support, spied on its allies, and pressed for the recall of U.N. envoys that resisted U.S. pressure to endorse the war, according to an upcoming book by a top Chilean diplomat.

The rough-and-tumble diplomatic strategy has generated lasting "bitterness" and "deep mistrust" in Washington's relations with allies in Europe, Latin America and elsewhere, wrote Heraldo Muñoz, Chile's ambassador to the United Nations, in his book "A Solitary War: A Diplomat's Chronicle of the Iraq War and Its Lessons," set for publication next month.

"In the aftermath of the invasion, allies loyal to the United States were rejected, mocked and even punished" for their refusal to back a U.N. resolution authorizing military action against Saddam Hussein's government, Muñoz wrote.

But fortunately, according to this diplomat, this didn't last too long. And why not?

But the tough talk dissipated as the war effort worsened and President Bush came to reach out to many of the same allies that he had spurned. Muñoz's account suggests the U.S. strategy backfired in Latin America, damaging the administration's standing in a region that has long been dubious of U.S. military intervention.

It's really heartbreaking to see the things the Bush Administration had done to get us into Iraq, the things they have done as a result of getting us in Iraq, and the things they are doing to keep us in Iraq.

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Friday, March 21, 2008

Let Me Count the Ways

Dan Balz from the Washington Post gives us five (ways Gov. Richardson's endorsement helps Sen. Obama):

The first is timing. Richardson has ridden to Obama's rescue during what has been the roughest stretch of his candidacy. It comes after the uproar over Obama's spiritual mentor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, which has knocked Obama off stride. It comes after losses in Ohio and Texas, which cost Obama the opportunity to force Clinton out of the race...

...Second, Richardson sends a signal to superdelegates that they too should back Obama. This may be the most significant aspect of his decision to back Obama. Superdelegates will decide the nomination. There is no way either Clinton or Obama can get to the 2,024 votes necessary to win the nomination without the superdelegates...

...Third, Richardson is close to both Clintons. He served as United Nations ambassador and later as Energy secretary in Bill Clinton's administration. He and the former president famously munched their way through the Super Bowl in February in what clearly was an attempt by the Clinton team to woo and win his support. During a number of debates, Richardson leaped to Clinton's defense when she was coming under attack from Obama or John Edwards...

...Fourth, Richardson implicitly helps Obama answer questions about his readiness to be commander in chief. More than any other candidate in the Democratic race, Richardson based his campaign on his foreign policy resume. Along with Joe Biden, he has more experience in that area than any of their rivals. Clinton's ad asking who voters want to answer the White House phone at 3 a.m. clearly hurt Obama, and while a single endorsement from a foreign policy heavyweight won't end questions about Obama's credentials, Richardson's decision to end his neutrality undercuts Clinton's argument that she alone is ready to take on the powers of the presidency...

...Fifth, Richardson's support could help Obama improve his standing with Hispanic voters. Clearly an endorsement would have been more valuable before the Texas primary, where Clinton beat Obama by 2-1 among Hispanics. But better late than never. Obama has struggled throughout the primaries to demonstrate consistent strength among Latinos and only in a few circumstances has he done so. If he is the nominee, he will need all the help he can muster to win the kind of majority among Hispanics any Democrat must have to win the White House. Clinton still will be heavily favored to win the Puerto Rico primary in June, but as the first Hispanic candidate for president, Richardson's endorsement speaks to a weakness in Obama's candidacy...

If I were rank them in order of importance to Sen. Obama's campaign, it would go like this:
  1. Readiness
  2. Superdelegates
  3. Hispanic Vote
  4. Timing
  5. Richardson's Closeness With the Clintons
Richardson's relationship with the Clintons is less a boon to Obama and more a hit in Sen. Clinton's campaign. Considering Obama's speech, that fact that Rev. Wright adopted one of his sermons from the words of a Reagan official, and that both Clinton and Sen. McCain have been associated with less-than-mainstream religious figures, I don't see the timing as being so crucial (but it does help). Obama has been getting the Hispanic vote (although not consistently) but Richardson does put a positive, public face on the "Blacks and Latinos Can Get Along" message. Richardson's hesitation on his endorsement was in part because he didn't want the superdelegates to decide this primary; his decision to make a stance shows that he acknowledges that as noble as that belief may be, the current delegate count demands that the superdelegates have to be a player. As for readiness: one ad with Richardson and Sen. Biden will more than enough to negate any GOP ad quoting Sen. Clinton's "threshold" comments.

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Charles Krauthammer: I Like My Blacks to Not Talk About Race

Shorter Charles Krauthammer: Barack Obama should have slapped Jeremiah Wright in the face the minute the words "damn" and "America" were put in the same sentence together, instead of passing the collection plate around and singing hymns.

Krauthammer proves, much like Michael Gerson, that he doesn't get "the race thing" or "the religion thing."

Obama condemns such statements as wrong and divisive, then frames the next question: "There will no doubt be those for whom my statements of condemnation are not enough. Why associate myself with Reverend Wright in the first place, they may ask? Why not join another church?"

But that is not the question. The question is why didn't he leave that church? Why didn't he leave -- why doesn't he leave even today -- a pastor who thundered not once but three times from the pulpit (on a DVD the church proudly sells) "God damn America"? Obama's 5,000-word speech, fawned over as a great meditation on race, is little more than an elegantly crafted, brilliantly sophistic justification of that scandalous dereliction.

Sigh; here we go again.

Let me say it one more time: Rev. Wright was not the first, nor will he be the last, person of faith to claim that God has damned or smote or punished America. If you read the Old Testament, God did his fair share of punishing and damning nations. In fact, he flooded the entire planet. From this context, Rev. Wright was following a script of "The Fire and Brimstone Preacher" moreso than "The Angry Black Man." Not that I'm surprised; the older generations are still stuck in Put-Every-Black-Person-In-The-Same-Basket-Mode.

And if Krauthammer did any research on Rev. Wright, he'd know that one of his "controversial" sermons was quoting Edward Peck, former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq and deputy director of President Reagan’s terrorism task force.

His defense rests on two central propositions: (a) moral equivalence and (b) white guilt.

Krauthammer argues that Geraldine Ferraro's comments were delivered in a fashion that didn't "incite, enrage and poison others" like Rev. Wright's. I believe that someone who goes on talk shows for a week has a larger viewing audience then someone who gives a sermon in one church on one Sunday (or even four Sundays). Then, Krauthammer shows confusion with Obama's comparison between Wright and his own grandmother; to him a black man saying "God damn America" is obviously more egregious than a white woman calling black people the "N-word." I guess because white racism has been so overt for so long, it's more acceptable than the occasional outburst from a "Frustrated Negro." Oh,'s because what Grandma said was private! I forgot; anything that's said and done in private is a OK in Conservative America! But that's the problem: private feelings become public actions way too often, especially with race.

And then there's this equation: "context = history = white history with racism." Krauthammer must have been watching "Roots" and not the speech, because he's acting like Obama was giving a history lesson. Let's go to the speech and see what he said:

We do not need to recite here the history of racial injustice in this country.

But we do need to remind ourselves that so many of the disparities that exist between the African-American community and the larger American community today can be traced directly to inequalities passed on from an earlier generation that suffered under the brutal legacy of slavery and Jim Crow.

Segregated schools were, and are, inferior schools. We still haven't fixed them, 50 years after Brown v. Board of Education.

See? "Remind." As in, "a reminder." As in, "let me give you a brief review instead of a history lesson." I don't remember seeing anything about hoses, attack dogs, lynchings, forced breeding, plantation revolts, the Civil War, Reconstruction, the rise of the KKK, the Assassination of MLK and Malcolm X or anything else that's associated with racial injustice. And that's because instead of reciting everything, Obama was simply reminding us.

But Obama was supposed to be new. He flatters himself as a man of the future transcending the anger of the past as represented by his beloved pastor.

Wrong again. Obama said himself that he knows that his campaign won't be the deciding factor in "How America Finally Got Off This Race Kick:"

This is where we are right now. It's a racial stalemate we've been stuck in for years. And contrary to the claims of some of my critics, black and white, I have never been so naive as to believe that we can get beyond our racial divisions in a single election cycle or with a single candidate, particularly...


... particularly a candidacy as imperfect as my own.

D'oh! Next time Krauthammer should read/listen to the whole speech, and not stop and get pissy when someone pokes fun at the Reagan Era or conservatism (which is the real reason these guys are going ape-shit over Obama).

Speaking of noticing things, I see that Krauthammer (and Gerson, BTW) neglected to comment on Obama's "Ashley" story; I'll take that as acknowledgement of how powerful it was.

Krauthammer's pooh-poohing of words may also have to do with the fact that he was Walter Mondale's speechwriter for a time, and we all know how Mondale's career went. But who knows?

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No Main Topic

  1. Man with gun robs a paraplegic for painkillers.

  2. Sex for Green Cards? What the hell?

  3. In MD: Howard Co. judge says porn cannot be used in child abuse case.

  4. Details on the new "90210" show has been leaked.

  5. Gov. (and superdelegate) Bill Richardson endorses Sen. Barack Obama (even though his state went for Sen. Clinton).

  6. Boston becomes the first NBA team since 2001 to beat all three Texas Teams (Dallas, Houston and San Antonio).

  7. NASA may have found something beneath the surface of one of Saturn's moons.


Thursday, March 20, 2008

LOST: Michael's Back!

Wow; interesting stuff tonight, with one of my favorite actors (if not characters) from the show involved. What did we learn?

  1. Michael told Walt about killing Ana-Lucia and Libby. It's just one more thing to add to the "Why Michael is the worst TV dad ever" List.
  2. Tom is gay. Although, from he convo with Kate last season, this was more of a conformation than a revelation.
  3. Widmore was behind the staged crash. Which means that the captain was either lying, or he thought telling Sayid and Desmond a tall tale was more entertaining than the truth. Oh, and if it was Widmore, than he makes Lex Luther look like Team Rocket.
  4. Miles saw through Michael's bullshit. You'd think for a guy who has strange abilities, he'd find a way of making $2.3 million that didn't involve extorting Ben Linus.
  5. Michael's "mission" was to kill everyone, not spy/be a saboteur. It's not like he hasn't killed anyone before as part of a deal with the Others (even though the "murder thing" was technically accidental, but que cera, cera). Lucky for him, just being close to the Island makes everyone coocoo for CoCo Puffs.
  6. Someone wants Alex in the worst way. Why else would go all Lee Harvey Oswald on Karl and the "French Chick," yet not even really try to hit Ben's "daughter?"

Of course, when the teaser said "someone would die," I should have known it's wouldn't have been someone like Sawyer or Claire.


Time to Move...

Not good:

LOS ANGELES - Authorities on Thursday were investigating the apparent suicide of a construction worker found hanged inside a house being built on a piece of property owned by Oscar-winner Mel Gibson.

The victim was found Wednesday morning by the foreman of the job site, located in the Agoura Hills area northwest of Los Angeles, according to Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department detective Eddie Brown, who is conducting the investigation.

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Remember, He's Still Our President

Flashback Time:

There is one story about Bush's particular brand of certainty I am able to piece together and tell for the record.

In the Oval Office in December 2002, the president met with a few ranking senators and members of the House, both Republicans and Democrats. In those days, there were high hopes that the United States-sponsored ''road map'' for the Israelis and Palestinians would be a pathway to peace, and the discussion that wintry day was, in part, about countries providing peacekeeping forces in the region. The problem, everyone agreed, was that a number of European countries, like France and Germany, had armies that were not trusted by either the Israelis or Palestinians. One congressman -- the Hungarian-born Tom Lantos, a Democrat from California and the only Holocaust survivor in Congress -- mentioned that the Scandinavian countries were viewed more positively. Lantos went on to describe for the president how the Swedish Army might be an ideal candidate to anchor a small peacekeeping force on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Sweden has a well-trained force of about 25,000. The president looked at him appraisingly, several people in the room recall.

''I don't know why you're talking about Sweden,'' Bush said. ''They're the neutral one. They don't have an army.''

Lantos paused, a little shocked, and offered a gentlemanly reply: ''Mr. President, you may have thought that I said Switzerland. They're the ones that are historically neutral, without an army.'' Then Lantos mentioned, in a gracious aside, that the Swiss do have a tough national guard to protect the country in the event of invasion.

Bush held to his view. ''No, no, it's Sweden that has no army.''

The room went silent, until someone changed the subject.

A few weeks later, members of Congress and their spouses gathered with administration officials and other dignitaries for the White House Christmas party. The president saw Lantos and grabbed him by the shoulder. ''You were right,'' he said, with bonhomie. ''Sweden does have an army.''

This story was told to me by one of the senators in the Oval Office that December day, Joe Biden. Lantos, a liberal Democrat, would not comment about it. In general, people who meet with Bush will not discuss their encounters. (Lantos, through a spokesman, says it is a longstanding policy of his not to discuss Oval Office meetings.)

This is one key feature of the faith-based presidency: open dialogue, based on facts, is not seen as something of inherent value. It may, in fact, create doubt, which undercuts faith. It could result in a loss of confidence in the decision-maker and, just as important, by the decision-maker. Nothing could be more vital, whether staying on message with the voters or the terrorists or a California congressman in a meeting about one of the world's most nagging problems. As Bush himself has said any number of times on the campaign trail, ''By remaining resolute and firm and strong, this world will be peaceful.''

Think about this the next time you hear the Bush talk about his "faith" or his "gut."

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Whenever Republicans Talk About "Winning" In Iraq...

...I think of the guy in this video. I don't know why, though.

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Around the Internets

  1. mcjoan of Daily Kos: Beware the words of a certain "Blue Dog" Democrat.

  2. Perrspectives: Wrong, wrong, wrong...wrong John McCain.

  3. Glenn Greenwald knows exactly what Obama's campaign is about, as he notes in a post about his speech (Michael Gerson, I'm looking at you): "The entire premise of Barack Obama's candidacy is built upon the opposite assumption -- that Americans are not only able, but eager, to participate in a more elevated and reasoned political discourse, one that moves beyond the boisterous, screeching, simple-minded, ugly, vapid attack-based distractions and patronizing manipulation -- the Drudgian Freak Show -- that has dominated our political debates for the last two decades at least."

  4. Sadly, No!: What do the "experts" have to say about Sen. Obama's speech?


No Main Topic

  1. More than 200 anti-war protesters have been arrested.

  2. Sen. Barack Obama: too white for Black People, too black for White People. Sigh.

  3. Did we blow our chances to infiltrate al-Qaida? Wouldn't that imply that the Bush Administration wasn't prepared to tackle terrorism (like they claimed)?

  4. 59% of Americans want American troops home within the year.

  5. The Miami Heat scored only 54 points...for the game. The Pat Riley "Rock Fights" are back, baby!

  6. Forget what you thought you knew about coal as an energy source.

  7. The trifecta Sen. Clinton needs to gain the Democratic nomination doesn't look as probable as it used to.


Wednesday, March 19, 2008

What Speech Was Michael Gerson Watching?

It's people like Gerson who make it easy to believe in Thom Hartman's "Theory of Conservatives Vs Liberals;" which is (in a nutshell) that conservatives believe that humanity is bad and that people need to be punished/protected from themselves (by prisons, churches and corporations), and that liberals believe that mankind is basically good and should (on top of being protected by government) be encouraged to fulfill it's potential (that "life, liberty and pursuit of happiness" thing).

I say this because of Gerson's response to Sen. Obama's speech on race in America. Here are some highlights (with my commentary):

Barack Obama has run a campaign based on a simple premise: that words of unity and hope matter to America. Now he has been forced by his charismatic, angry pastor to argue that words of hatred and division don't really matter as much as we thought.

Sorry, but that's not the premise of Obama's campaign, but close. It's that unity and hope matter to America. Words are just a device. And he never said words (hopeful, hateful or otherwise) won't hold weight; don't you remember when he said that his grandmother's racial remarks used to make him cringe?

The problem with Obama's argument is that Wright is not a symbol of the strengths and weaknesses of African Americans. He is a political extremist, holding views that are shocking to many Americans who wonder how any presidential candidate could be so closely associated with an adviser who refers to the "U.S. of KKK-A" and urges God to "damn" our country.

Rev. Wright is a reverend. With books like What Makes You So Strong?: Sermons of Joy and Strength from Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr., and Adam! Where Are You?: Why Most Black Men Don't Go to Church I can see why someone like Gerson would mistake Wright as a "political" extremist. Actually, I don't. What I see is that Gerson's research into Wright consisted of watching loops of Wright's most controversial statements, and then filling the gaps with images I can only assumed he pulled out of his ass. Despite what Gerson believes, Obama said, "The profound mistake of Reverend Wright's sermons is not that he spoke about racism in our society. It's that he spoke as if our society was static." In other words, Rev. Wright was an imperfect mentor, not a "symbol." And while we're on shocking comments, didn't Jerry Falwell say, "I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America. I point the finger in their face and say 'you helped this happen?" Isn't that like saying God had "damned" America? I'm curious.

Yet didn't George Bush and other Republican politicians accept the support of Jerry Falwell, who spouted hate of his own? Yes, but they didn't financially support his ministry and sit directly under his teaching for decades.

Oh goody, he did address it (kinda)! But like his article, he "falls short." Gerson wants people to get the impression that pastors are like cult leaders whose words are to go unquestioned. The truth is that they are spiritual teachers who should be questioned just like academic teachers when they say something off-base. True pastors educate, fraud pastors manipulate. And even assuming that Rev. Wright's plan was to "program" Sen. Obama, I'd say that Obama's speech pretty much revealed that it failed. Conservative religious figures, on the other hand, have gone so far as to threaten to expel members of their church for voting for certain people (as a Catholic church threatened to do in the 2004 election). Oh and notice how Gerson equates the taking/receiving of money to being guilty by association; I thought the issue was words, not money. Well, I have three words in response to this "comparison": Carlyle Capital Corporation. Should we arrest the Bush Family right now for their "connections?"

The better analogy is this: What if a Republican presidential candidate spent years in the pew of a theonomist church -- a fanatical fragment of Protestantism that teaches the modern political validity of ancient Hebrew law? What if the church's pastor attacked the U.S. government as illegitimate and accepted the stoning of homosexuals and recalcitrant children as appropriate legal penalties (which some theonomists see as biblical requirements)? Surely we would conclude, at the very least, that the candidate attending this church lacked judgment and that his donations were subsidizing hatred. And we would be right.

Alot of what Gerson said here has happened to a degree, with the notable exception that religious figures of that nature have not been directly connected with a Republican candidate...unless you count Mike Huckabee (who seemed to agree with what Obama had to say, BTW). Why get a preacher to say what you can say on your own? Of course, Republicans has been notoriously secretive about what they consider "personal affairs" (like George W. Bush and his alcoholism/cocaine use) so in reality I can see them putting this in the same category. But Gerson brings up a good point here without realizing it: why aren't the pastors and reverends of Republicans prominently involved in their campaign? I only ask because the GOP has been traditionally fond of invoking God every occasion. Are these guys going to church or do they just read the Bible on their own on Sundays? Why does the GOP only get backed by the well-known figures in the Religious Right and not the local guys?

Barack Obama is not a man who hates -- but he chose to walk with a man who does.

Nice try. But the truth is the reverse: Rev. Wright has chosen to walk with Sen. Obama. Obama is the one running for president, after all. As Obama said in his speech, Rev. Wright is like family (albeit a family member who's occasionally incorrigible). Lines like this one helps demonstrate how differently Republicans and Democrats handle these issues: for Republicans a little explanation (or none at all) tends to go a long way ("We do not torture," "The Surge is working," "Smoking Gun = Mushroom Cloud"); with Democrats, they get pressured to explain, explain and explain some more until they're so busy talking about what other people have said that the issues connected to that incident gets lost in the shuffle. Using Gerson's logic, we should question why he differs with the Washington Post's Editorial Section's take on the Senator's speech.

UPDATE: Sadly, No! has a rundown of the conservative Mope Squad.

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CNN's Anderson Cooper has skin cancer.

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Around the Internets

  1. Here's some of those "Girls Gone Wild" pics of A. A. Dupree (I'm only calling her this because I wanna see if a trend starts).

  2. Why do I refer to White House Press Secretary Dana Perino as a "Pimbo?" This is why. Seriously, what is she being paid for? It's certainly not for keeping up with what the President says and does on a daily/weekly basis.

  3. Types of men women should be avoiding...but don't.

  4. Sen. Barack Obama is like that clutch athlete; you may doubt if he's gonna do it, but only for a second. Others seem to agree.


The Economic Surge is Working!

Just kidding; it isn't:

A day after an interest rate cut fueled the best stock session in five years, the Dow Jones industrials slid back nearly 300 points on Wednesday and commodity prices plummeted, signs that a sense of unease has yet to disappear from financial markets.

The Dow lost most of its Tuesday gains as a morning rally gave way to afternoon declines, closing down 293 points at 12,099.66. The Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index, the broadest measure of the American stock market, and the Nasdaq composite index both fell back about 2.5 percent.

Though investors had cheered the Federal Reserve’s move on Tuesday to lower interest rates, many remained unsure whether the central bank’s actions would effectively ease the credit crisis that has gripped the market for months.

“I’m not quite sure people are all that ready to stick with their convictions,” said Bart Melek, a commodity strategist at BMO Capital Markets in Toronto. “We’re not quite sure what other skeletons exist in the financial system, where the problems may be, who is at risk. And until that type of risk is out of there, I think we will see a lot of volatility.”

But don't worry; President Bush is backing John "Don't Know Nothing About Economy" McCain, so I'm sure he plans on continuing this glorious tradition.

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Boondocks takes on BET (about time someone did). Of course, it goes without saying that the episode was banned.

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No Main Topic

  1. New York Times blogs about Baghdad.

  2. No "Girls Gone Wild" cheddar for A.A. Dupree.

  3. More speed cameras in Maryland.

  4. Any excuse I can get to mention Soleil Moon Frye, I'll use it.

  5. Even the record-setting Rockets couldn't stop the Bostocalpse Resurgence.

  6. Title says it all: "More Baby Boomers at Risk for Alzheimer's."


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Around the Internets

  1. LaBron responds to Deshawn Stevenson. Not that it wasn't expected.

  2. Mariah Carey has low self esteem.

  3. Joe Lieberman's takes another step toward emulating Count Dooku.

  4. Just like Sen. Obama, Will Smith (and his wife Jada) finds himself having to clarify his religious beliefs. For the record, he and Jada are Christian.


A New Hope

Sen. Barack Obama is showing the doubters that he's not backing down to the various attacks being lobbed at him.

Text of his speech is here; and Crooks And Liars has a link to the video.

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No Main Topic

  1. The headline speaks for itself: "Economic Quicksand."

  2. R.I.P.: Anthony Minghella.

  3. Bush Administration runs out of ideas on fighting terrorists, decide to dust off the Communist Playbook.


Monday, March 17, 2008

Can't Say I'm Surprised...

...because really, there's always other storylines to these types of businesses:

The mortgage banks - including Washington Mutual, Bear Stearns and JP Morgan Chase - are all named in a lawsuit filed by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

NAACP has recently filed paperwork to speed up the class-action lawsuit, in which it alleges that the banks steered black borrowers into taking predatory sub-prime loans.

Sub-prime loans are at the heart of the current global credit crisis, and were offered to individuals who often could not afford the mortgages they were being signed up to.

NAACP's latest filing is aimed at fast-tracking the lawsuit, which was originally filed in federal court in Los Angeles in June.

It alleges that black people of all income levels were more likely than their white counterparts to end up with sub-prime loans.

So keep this in mind as the Bush Administration continues to bend over backwards to help this company and defend their helping of this company.

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Movies as a News Propaganda Tool

It just dawned on me that whenever Fox Studios produces a movie, they can't help but try to have Fox News people (either local talent or the better know kin from the cable network) do cameos.

I don't see this from other networks. For example, Disney owns ABC but I don't see the people from "Nightline" popping up in "The Incredibles" or "Angels in the Outfield." But on the flip side, movies like "Fantastic Four" and "My Super Ex-Girlfriend" has enough Fox News clips to be noticed by the average viewer.

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The Reason I Have Hope That Hillary Clinton Will Come to Her Senses

Because her camp hasn't floated this picture of Sen. Barack Obama around in another attempt to shore up the Bigot Vote. In a twisted way, it shows that she hasn't completely gone off the deep end.

But even if she did try something stupid like that, it's not like Obama's mad skills wasn't on display before. Check this video of him going all Reggie Miller:

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"Leading to War"

With the Fifth Anniversary of Iraq here, I thought would be very appropriate to mention this site . So much has gone on since the Bush Administration has come to power, and it's very easy to forget how we got to this point.

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I'm Sure He Had a Good Reason...

...but it's kinda odd for Sen. John Kerry too skip being part of this story about our modern day Winter Soldiers.

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Around the Internets

No Main Topic

  1. The Science of Sleep.

  2. President Bush tries to make the public feel better about the crumbling economy, but I have a feeling that people aren't buying it.

  3. Gilbert Arenas looks like he may be coming back soon.

  4. Halle Berry is now a mommy.


Sunday, March 16, 2008

Yet Another Reason to Leave Iraq

You know how in Lost, the character Sayid Jarrah went from an Iraqi communications officer to an outright torturer?


CAMBRIDGE - Liz Jackson's eyes were fixed on a screen showing a live broadcast of anguished testimonies by Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans describing what they had seen and done during their combat tours.

Jeffery Smith recalled how his Army unit beat and humiliated Iraqi prisoners. Former Marine Bryan Casler recounted how fellow Marines urinated and defecated into food and gave it to Iraqi children. Former Marine Matthew Childers talked about how he used to humiliate Iraqi civilians during predawn raids on their homes. When he described turning away an Iraqi father who was asking American troops to help the badly burned baby he carried in his arms, Jackson began to weep silently.

"These soldiers are saying: 'I'm complicit,' " said Jackson, 29, a community organizer from Cambridge. "But every American citizen who saw this happen and isn't out there protesting is complicit. I include myself."

Hundreds of soldiers and Marines from across the country are testifying this weekend in the "Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan" hearings, a four-day event held at the National Labor College in Silver Spring, Md. The event is named after the 1971 Winter Soldier hearings in which Vietnam War veterans testified in a Detroit hotel about war crimes they had participated in or witnessed.

The hearings, which began Thursday and end today, were organized by the Iraq Veterans Against War, a national antiwar organization, and broadcast live in locations across the country. The veterans who testified called for an immediate withdrawal of US troops from Iraq.

I really don't blame the soldiers; they were acting out based on a lie. They were trying to find an outlet for the conflicting emotions they have about this occupation. Sure, there are probably a small number of sadists, but I don't believe those people constitute the majority of the US military, let alone the country.

But it's just another reason these guys need to get out.

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What a Difference a Year Makes

Looks like Sen. McCain won't be buying any rugs on this trip to Iraq (H/T: ThinkProgress).

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Capitalism for the Poor/Middle Class; Socialism for the Rich...

It's amazing how a person can, almost simultaneously, fret about the presumed limitations of government yet justify stretching the role of government with their recent socialistic move:

Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. said today that there are limits to what the government can do to contain the unfolding economic downturn, but he defended the steps taken to stimulate the economy and stabilize the financial markets.

"When there are excesses, excesses we've seen in the housing market, a correction there is inevitable. You're going to see a correction. Can we outlaw the forces of gravity? You know, how much can government do?" Paulson said on "Fox News Sunday. "But this administration has been focused on this."

Paulson stood by the decision last week by the Federal Reserve to help bail out investment bank Bear Stearns. "I think we made the right decision. I think the Federal Reserve made the right decision here," Paulson said.

Paulson added that the financial markets remain strong but that the government "is prepared to do what it takes to maintain the stability of our financial system."

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Saturday, March 15, 2008

Eye Of The Economic Storm

I've heard that if the media has to ask whether or not we're in a recession, than it's already happened. If that's true, than this news must mean that we're in the eye of the storm:

The United States has already slipped into a deep recession that could be the most serious since World War II, said Martin Feldstein, president of the Cambridge group that is considered the official word on economic cycles.

"The situation is bad, it's getting worse, and the risks are that the situation could be very bad," Feldstein said in a speech yesterday at a financial industry conference in Boca Raton, Fla.

Feldstein, president of the National Bureau of Economic Research and a professor of economics at Harvard University, said the chief causes of the shrinking economy are sinking housing prices, months of job losses, and turmoil in the financial markets.

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Friday, March 14, 2008

Hear Them Roar

Actress Terri Vaughn talks about her film, which deals with black actresses and Hollywood.

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He Must Be Watching the Fox Business Network...

...because President Bush is positively giddy about our crappy economy. I say this because (like Iraq) he believes that we'll come out on top. Of course (like Iraq) he's a little stuck on how we get from a "slowdown" to "having so much cash we're using it for toilet paper" while avoiding "OHMYGODITSTHEECONOMICAPOCALYPSE!!!" But he does know what he doesn't want:

I want to talk to you about a couple of ideas that I strongly reject. First, one bill in Congress would provide $4 billion for state and local governments to buy up abandoned and foreclosed homes. You know, I guess this sounds like a good idea to some, but if your goal is to help Americans keep their homes, it doesn't make any sense to spend billions of dollars buying up homes that are already empty. As a matter of fact, when you buy up empty homes you're only helping the lenders, or the speculators. The purpose of government ought to be to help the individuals, not those who, like -- who speculated in homes. This bill sends the wrong signal to the market.

Secondly, some have suggested we change the bankruptcy courts, the bankruptcy code, to give bankruptcy judges the authority to reduce mortgage debts by judicial decree. I think that sends the wrong message. It would be unfair to millions of homeowners who have made the hard spending choices necessary to pay their mortgages on time. It would further rattle credit markets. It would actually cause interest rates to go up. If banks think that judges might step in and write down the value of home loans, they're going to charge higher interest rates to cover that risk. This idea would make it harder for responsible first-time home buyers to be able to afford a home.

There are some in Washington who say we ought to artificially prop up home prices. You know, it sounds reasonable in a speech -- I guess -- but it's not going to help first-time home buyers, for example. A lot of people have been priced out of the market right now because of decisions made by others. The market is in the process of correcting itself; markets must have time to correct. Delaying that correction would only prolong the problem.

No surprise there. But here's the interesting part, at the end when the President starting taking questions (why does he even bother?):

Q Welcome to New York, Mr. President. And I want to ask you about something you didn't -- an issue you didn't address, which is prices.

THE PRESIDENT: Which is what?

Q Prices. Gasoline is selling for $4 a gallon in some parts of the country, but food prices are also rising very fast -- grain prices, meat prices, health care prices. And the dollar is weak around the world, hitting a record low this week against the Euro. The price of gold is now about $1,000 an ounce. Many observers say, oh, this means that we have an inflation problem. Do you agree with them, and what can be done about it?

THE PRESIDENT: I agree that the Fed needs to be independent and make considered judgments, and balance growth versus inflation. And let me address some of those issues one by one.

We believe in a strong dollar. I recognize economies go up and down, but it's important for us to put policy in place that sends a signal that our economy is going to be strong and open for business, which will -- you know, which supports the strong dollar policy, such as not doing something foolish during this economic period that will cause -- make it harder to grow; such as rejecting -- shutting down capital from coming into this country; such as announcing that, or articulating the belief that making the tax cuts permanent takes uncertainty out of the system.

Energy: Our energy policy has not been very wise. You can't build a refinery in the United States. You can't expand a refinery in the United States. The Congress believes we shouldn't be drilling for oil and gas in a productive part of our country like ANWR because it will destroy the environment, which, in fact, it won't. Technology is such that will enable us to find more oil and gas. And so as a result of us not having, you know, been robust in exploring for oil and gas at home, we're dependent on other countries. That creates an economic issue, obviously, and it creates a national security issue.

And, look, I'm very -- I'm an alternatives fuel guy, I believe that's important. As a matter of fact, we've expanded -- mightily expanded the use of ethanol; a slight consequence if you rely upon corn to grow your hogs, but nevertheless it's a -- it is a policy that basically says that we got to diversify. But diversification does not happen overnight. You know, I firmly believe people in New York City are going to be driving automobiles on battery relatively quickly. And it's not going to be like a golf cart, it will be a regular-sized vehicle that you'll be driving in. (Laughter.) And I think it's coming. I think this technology is on its way.

But there's a transition period, and we, frankly, have got policies that make it harder for us to become less dependent on oil. You talk about the price of oil -- yeah, it's high. It's high because demand is greater than supply, is why it's high. It's high because there's new factors in demand on the international market, namely China and India. It's also high because some nations have not done a very good job of maintaining their oil reserves -- some of it because of bureaucracy, some of it because of state-owned enterprise. And it's a difficult period for our folks at
the pump, and there's no quick fix.

You know, when I was overseas in the Middle East, people said, did you talk to the King of Saudi about oil prices? Of course I did. I reminded him two things: One, you better be careful about affecting markets -- reminding him that oil is fungible; even though we get most of our oil, by the way, from Canada and Mexico, oil is fungible. And secondly, the higher the price of oil, the more capital is going to come into alternative sources of energy. And so we've got a plan that calls for diversification, but it's -- our energy policy hadn't been very wise up to now.

Anyway, I'm going to dodge the rest of your question. (Laughter.) Thank you for your time. (Applause.)

Of course he's going to dodge; not too long ago he didn't think gas prices were going to ever hit $4.00/gallon:

Q If I could get back to the economy. The GDP numbers today show that our economy is increasingly relying on U.S. exports to keep growing. How important is a competitive dollar in keeping U.S. exports strong?

THE PRESIDENT: We believe in a strong dollar policy, and we believe that -- and I believe that our economy has got the fundamentals in place for us to be a -- is to grow and continue growing more robustly, hopefully, than we're growing now. And the dollar, the value of the dollar will be reflected in the ability for our economy to be -- to grow economically. And so we're still for a strong dollar.

Q Can I follow up on that, sir?


Q The --

THE PRESIDENT: I guess you are -- I haven't said yes. (Laughter.)

Q What's your advice to the average American who is hurting now, facing the prospect of $4 a gallon gasoline, a lot of people facing --

THE PRESIDENT: Wait, what did you just say? You're predicting $4 a gallon gasoline?

Q A number of analysts are predicting --


Q -- $4 a gallon gasoline this spring when they reformulate.

THE PRESIDENT: That's interesting. I hadn't heard that.

Q Yes, sir.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes. I know it's high now.

Q And the other economic problems facing people. Beyond your concern that you stated here, and your expectations for these stimulus checks, what kind of hope can you offer to people who are in dire straits?

THE PRESIDENT: Permanent tax -- keep the tax cuts permanent, for starters. There's a lot of economic uncertainty. You just said that. You just said the price of gasoline may be up to $4 a gallon -- or some expert told you that -- and that creates a lot of uncertainty if you're out there wondering whether or not -- you know, what your life is going to be like and you're looking at $4 a gallon, that's uncertain. And when you couple with the idea that taxes may be going up in a couple of years, that's double uncertainty. And therefore one way to deal with uncertainty is for Congress to make the tax cuts permanent.

Ah yeah, that was his answer then, as always: permanent tax cuts. That's the magic wand to cure all of our economic ills. With each passing day, Bush seems to rely more on his time as a cheerleader than his time as a (cough) businessman.

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