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And, yes, I DO take it personally: 07/19/2009 - 07/26/2009
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And, yes, I DO take it personally

Saturday, July 25, 2009

The real reason Eliot Spitzer got taken down - he's telling the truth about the Federal Reserve

spitzer's got a real pair to be speaking out like this after our super-rich elites tried to shut him up through abject humiliation...

from msnbc via raw story...

The Federal Reserve — the quasi-autonomous body that controls the US’s money supply — is a “Ponzi scheme” that created “bubble after bubble” in the US economy and needs to be held accountable for its actions, says Eliot Spitzer, the former governor and attorney-general of New York.

In a wide-ranging discussion of the bank bailouts on MSNBC’s Morning Meeting, host Dylan Ratigan described the process by which the Federal Reserve exchanged $13.9 trillion of bad bank debt for cash that it gave to the struggling banks.

Spitzer — who built a reputation as “the Sheriff of Wall Street” for his zealous prosecutions of corporate crime as New York’s attorney-general and then resigned as the state’s governor over revelations he had paid for prostitutes — seemed to agree with Ratigan that the bank bailout amounts to “America’s greatest theft and cover-up ever.”

Advocating in favor of a House bill to audit the Federal Reserve, Spitzer said: “The Federal Reserve has benefited for decades from the notion that it is quasi-autonomous, it’s supposed to be independent. Let me tell you a dirty secret: The Fed has done an absolutely disastrous job since [former Fed Chairman] Paul Volcker left.

“The reality is the Fed has blown it. Time and time again, they blew it. Bubble after bubble, they failed to understand what they were doing to the economy.

The most poignant example for me is the AIG bailout, where they gave tens of billions of dollars that went right through — conduit payments — to the investment banks that are now solvent. We [taxpayers] didn’t get stock in those banks, they didn’t ask what was going on — this begs and cries out for hard, tough examination.

“You look at the governing structure of the New York [Federal Reserve], it was run by the very banks that got the money. This is a Ponzi scheme, an inside job. It is outrageous, it is time for Congress to say enough of this. And to give them more power now is crazy.

watch it...

when are the crooks that are running this show going to face some accountability...? i'm really, REALLY tired of waiting...

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Friday, July 24, 2009

And the hits just keep on comin' - another Friday night news dump

i'm beginning to sound like a broken record, but anyone who's been paying the slightest bit of attention won't find this to be the least bit surprising...
Bush Administration Debated Using Military in Terrorism Arrests

[in the U.S.]

Top Bush administration officials in 2002 debated testing the
Constitution by sending American troops into the suburbs of
Buffalo to arrest a group of men suspected of plotting with
Al Qaeda, according to former administration officials.

Some of the advisers to President George W. Bush, including
Vice President Dick Cheney, argued that a president had the
power to use the military on domestic soil to sweep up the
terrorism suspects, who came to be known as the Lackawanna
Six, and declare them enemy combatants. Mr. Bush ultimately
decided against the proposal to use military force.

headline augmentation by yours truly...

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Jordan's Queen Rania speaks out on Gaza

during four trips to jordan over the past nine months, i learned a lot about a country i didn't really know at all...

among the things i learned is that the jordanian people are some of the most hospitable, likable people imaginable... i also learned that king abdullah, like his father, king hussein, is a smart, decent, visionary leader who presides over an islamic country that takes great pride in its tolerance, solidity, prosperity, many generations of relative peace, and the respect it has gained for its leadership in the middle east and the arabic and islamic worlds...

queen rania, king abdullah's beautiful wife, is no slouch either, leading the way for human rights, the alleviation of poverty, equality for women, and, last but far from least, championing an end to the on-going, unconscionable genocide being inflicted on the palestinians by israel, in particular the nightmare that israel has created in gaza...

queen rania tells it like it is...

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David Sirota makes an excellent point - it's our own "gilded liberals" who are killing health care

hard on the heels of the previous post...

david sirota in truthdig...

To review: With 22,000 Americans dying each year because they lack health insurance, Congress is considering universal health care legislation financed by a surcharge on income above $280,000—that is, a levy almost exclusively on 1-percenters. This surtax would graze just 5 percent of small businesses and would recoup only part of the $700 billion the 1-percenters received from the Bush tax cuts. In fact, it is so minuscule, those making $1 million annually would pay just $9,000 more in taxes every year—or nine-tenths of 1 percent of their 12-month haul.

Nonetheless, the 1-percenters have deployed an army to destroy the initiative before it makes progress.

The foot soldiers are the Land Rover Liberals. These Democratic lawmakers secure their lefty labels by wearing pink-ribbon lapel pins and supporting good causes like abortion rights. However, being affluent and/or from affluent districts, they routinely drive their luxury cars over middle-class economic interests. Hence, this week’s letter from Boulder, Colo., dot-com tycoon Rep. Jared Polis, D, and other Land Rover Liberals calling for the surtax’s death.

Echoing that demand are the Corrupt Cowboys—those like Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., who come from the heartland’s culturally conservative and economically impoverished locales. These cavalrymen in both parties quietly build insurmountable campaign war chests as the biggest corporate fundraisers in Congress. At the same time, they publicly preen as jes’ folks, make twangy references to “voters back home,” and now promise to kill the health care surtax because they say that’s what their communities want. Cash payoffs made, re-elections purchased, the absurd story somehow goes that because blue-collar constituents in Flyover America like guns and love Jesus, they must also reflexively adore politicians who defend 1-percenters’ bounty.

That fantastical fairly tale, of course, couldn’t exist without the Millionaire Media—the elite journalists and opinion-mongers who represent corporate media conglomerates and/or are themselves extremely wealthy. Ignoring all the data about inequality, they legitimize the assertions of the 1-percenters’ first two battalions, while actually claiming America’s fat cats are unfairly persecuted.

For example, Washington Post editors deride surtax proponents for allegedly believing “the rich alone can fund government.” Likewise, Wall Street Journal correspondent Jonathan Weisman wonders why the surtax “soak(s) the rich” by unduly “lumping all of the problems of the finances of the United States on 1 percent of (its) households?” And most brazenly, NBC’s Meredith Vieira asks President Obama why the surtax is intent on “punishing the rich.”

For his part, Obama has responded with characteristic coolness—and a powerful counterstrike. “No, it’s not punishing the rich,” he said. “If I can afford to do a little bit more so that a whole bunch of families out there have a little more security, when I already have security, that’s part of being a community.”

If any volley can thwart this latest attack of the 1-percenters, it is that simple idea.

the super-rich elites ain't going down without a fight and, from my perspective, it looks like they're winning handily...

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Trillions for the banksters but not a penny for our health

i don't get it... i plain don't get it... throwing trillions of dollars at the banksters, the insurance companies, the automakers, and the giant investment firms was somehow just fine... congress jumped right in, delivered a snappy salute, took the super-rich by the hand and led them right into the money bin... hell, they even provided the dump trucks to haul it away... so, pray tell, what's this big hoo-ha about the cost of health care, fercryinoutloud, a considerably more important deal, imho, than lining the pockets of the already super-rich elites...?
For Public, Obama Didn’t Fill in Health Blanks

Wanting to believe the president’s assurances, many couldn’t see how his health care plan would be paid for.

in time-honored fashion, the nyt spins the story to make it look like it's the american people who are the ones stopping the passage of health care reform rather than the miserable worms in congress who have the nerve to pass themselves off as our concerned, elected representatives... did congress drag its feet on the bailout...? shit, no...! but when it comes to the REAL well-being of their constituents, that's another matter entirely... oh, wait... silly me... the banksters ARE their constituents... never mind...

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A sign of hope for dumping Karzai in the upcoming Afghan election...?


wouldn't it be loverly...?

from the nyt...

When Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, the main election challenger to President Hamid Karzai, arrived here to campaign last weekend, thousands of supporters choked the six-mile drive from the airport. Cars were plastered with his posters. Motorbikes flew blue banners. Young men wearing T-shirts emblazoned with his face leapt aboard his car to embrace him to ecstatic cheers.


Mr. Karzai is still widely considered the front-runner in the campaign for the Aug. 20 presidential election. But Dr. Abdullah, who has the backing of the largest opposition group, the National Front, is the one candidate among the field of 41 who has a chance of forcing Mr. Karzai into a runoff, a contest between the top two vote-getters if no candidate wins more than 50 percent of the votes in the first balloting.

but here's the part that gets my attention...
Dr. Abdullah, with a diplomat and a surgeon as his running mates, is seen as part of a younger generation of Afghans keen to move away from the nation’s reliance on warlords and older mujahedeen leaders and to clean up and recast the practice of governing.

To do that, he advocates the devolution of power from the strong presidency built up under Mr. Karzai to a parliamentary system that he says will be more representative. He is also calling for a system of electing officials for Afghanistan’s 34 provinces and nearly 400 districts as a way to build support for the government.

Those provincial governors are now appointed from Kabul, and many have been criticized for cronyism and corruption. Influential Shiite clerics here in Herat, who supported Mr. Karzai in the last election in 2004, are now so fed up with corrupt appointees that they have said they will back Dr. Abdullah this time.

Re-engaging the people is essential to reverse the lawlessness and insecurity that have reached a critical point in much of the country, Dr. Abdullah said. “They have managed to lose the people,” he said of the current government. “In fighting an insurgency, you lose the people and you lose the war.”

as the plane was on final approach to the kabul airport for my second visit to afghanistan last november, i looked out on the grim scene of mud houses, pollution and dreadful poverty and had an astonishing revelation... i had developed a real soft spot in my heart for afghanistan... "what's wrong with this picture?" i remember thinking but then had to admit that i had developed a great deal of affection for the afghans i had met and become friends with on my first visit... the people and their country had come to mean a great deal to me and that emotional attachment has only been strengthened over two more visits and will no doubt become even stronger on the fifth one coming up...

the afghans are just like people everywhere else around the world... they only want what we all want - a little peace and quiet, food for their families, a roof over their heads, clothes for themselves and their kids, a chance to earn a living - none of it that wouldn't be recognized and heartily supported by any one of us... maybe they've got a shot at heading there if the upcoming election lets them turn the corner... and, oh yeah, btw, isn't that what we all said about obama...? sigh...

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Let's hear it for a little fun in the midst of misery


god bless the children... i've seen children in kabul having fun no matter what the weather, no matter how abject their poverty and no matter how tough the security situation... a little skateboarding sounds like just the ticket...

from the la times...

A white van pulled up to a concrete fountain on a leafy side street in downtown Kabul, trailed by shrieking Afghan children.

"Ollie! Ollie!" they shouted, pounding on the vehicle.

Oliver Percovich, a lanky Australian in a black T-shirt, emerged from the van with a load of banged-up skateboards. The children grabbed the boards and raced off to skate in the cracked bowl of the dried-up fountain.

Skateboarding was unknown to Afghans until Percovich, who followed his social scientist girlfriend to Kabul, starting teaching local children to skate in early 2007. Two years later, their relationship is over and his girlfriend is back in Australia. But Percovich's "Skateistan" nonprofit club has become a magnet for children in Kabul, the capital.

In a country where girls are rigidly segregated from boys and rarely participate in sports, Skateistan has managed to bring boys and girls together. Dozens of children swarm across the fountain every day, sharing boards and showing off improvised skating moves.

Neighborhood kids rush the Skateistan van to grab a skateboard
for an afternoon session.

Skateboarders take over the streets of Kabul under
vigilant security.

again, i say, bless 'em... if i get the chance to get some of my own photos when i get back in september, i'll be sure to post them...

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

"Morality aside," fifty-five years of trying (and only occasionally succeeding) to assassinate our enemies

and, oh, btw, that would also be fifty-five years of presidential complicity...
The CIA's involvement in planning assassinations goes back at least to 1954, when it prepared a manual for killings as part of a U.S.-run coup against the leftist government of Guatemala. The 19-page manual, which was declassified in 1997, makes chilling reading. "The essential point of assassination is the death of the subject," it declares, noting that while it "is possible to kill a man with the bare hands ... the simplest local tools are often much the most efficient means of assassination. A hammer, ax, wrench, screwdriver, fire poker, kitchen knife, lamp stand or anything hard, heavy and handy will suffice."

The agency's manual recommends "the contrived accident" as the best way to dispose of someone. "The most efficient accident ... is a fall of 75 feet or more onto a hard surface. Elevator shafts, stairwells, unscreened windows and bridges will serve." The manual suggests grabbing the victim by the ankles and "tipping the subject over the edge. ... Falls before trains or subway cars are usually effective, but require exact timing."

The manual goes on to discuss "blunt weapons," noting that "a hammer can be picked up almost anywhere in the world" and that baseball bats are also excellent. The manual explains the best place in the body to stab people or how to bash their skulls in and the pros and cons of rifles, pistols, submachine guns and other weapons.

During the Cold War years, the CIA plotted against eight foreign leaders, five of whom died violently. The agency's role varied in each case.


The problem with assassination, morality aside, is that the U.S. is not very good at it, as the CIA's farcical efforts to murder Castro demonstrate. It seems unlikely that the CIA will kill Bin Laden with a baseball bat. And there is the real possibility of retaliation for a state-sponsored assassination. President Kennedy was quoted as saying, "We can't get into that kind of thing or we would all be targets." Perhaps CIA Director Leon Panetta had that in mind when he canceled the assassination program.

democrats...? republicans...? doesn't make a whole lot of difference, now does it... and, of course, let's be sure to leave "morality aside"...

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Professor Cole reads my mind

and does an infinitely better job of articulating the matter than i would have done...

apologies to the fair use standard...

The US military has, understandably, condemned the coerced video of a US soldier taken hostage by Taliban in Afghanistan.

But I fear that the argument that the public humiliation of prisoners is against international law won't take the US very far after 8 years of Bush-Cheney.

After the evidence surfaced that the US military took all those humiliating pictures of prisoners at Abu Ghraib to blackmail them by threatening to make them public, the US assertion of support for this principle of the Geneva Conventions will be met with, well, let us say substantial skepticism.

In fact, as I was reminded by a former ambassador, the Bush-Cheney- Yoo-Armitage gutting of US conformance with the Geneva Conventions really makes it difficult for Washington credibly to complain about the treatment of any of our captured soldiers. The Taliban could hold the soldier hostage forever if they follow the principle put forward by Sen. Lindsey Graham. They could (God forbid) put him in stress positions naked and threaten to release the pictures to his family, and they would have done nothing that Rumsfeld's Pentagon had not done routinely and on a vast scale.

The US refusal to so much as investigate American officials implicated in torture and breaking international law also does not help us gain credibility on seeing to it that those who mistreat our troops are tried on those charges. We even have Dick Cheney defending waterboarding, for which Japanese generals were tried and executed after WW II. It is disgusting.

And huffing and puffing that the Taliban are not a government won't get us very far either. They control 10 percent of the country.

You obey the Geneva Convention and the rest of international law on the treatment of captives because it gives you the moral high ground with regard to the treatment of our troops. Not doing so endangers every single one of our men and women in uniform.

What is really scary is that the shadowy set of secret military and intelligence teams charged by Cheney to break international law continuing to do so despite President Obama's orders to cease torture. Obama had better get a handle on this issue, because it could well blow up in his face, in fact, Cheney may intend it to do so. I think there are still people in the US government who take their cues from the latter rather than the former.

the other day when i saw the news item about the u.s. protest, it crossed my mind to put up a post about it with essentially the same views expressed... then i thought, well, there's certainly nothing new about the u.s. having lost the moral high ground and neither is there anything new about bald-faced u.s. hypocrisy, so why bother...

while i totally agree that the u.s. protest was warranted, unless and until we, as a country, can face up to our own shortcomings (shortcomings...! HA...! how's THAT for a euphemism?), any such protest is only going to generate the kind of derision it so richly deserves...

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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A statistic that would gag a maggot

the triumph of capitalism...
Executives and other highly compensated employees now receive more than one-third of all pay in the U.S., according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of Social Security Administration data -- without counting billions of dollars more in pay that remains off federal radar screens that measure wages and salaries.

Highly paid employees received nearly $2.1 trillion of the $6.4 trillion in total U.S. pay in 2007, the latest figures available.

i want to know the exact number of the "highly compensated employees" that are raking in the $2.1 trillion and how many of the rest of us poor slobs are splitting the remaining $4.3 trillion...

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Monday, July 20, 2009

Jimmy Carter is truly a world treasure


a stunning statement delivered from the heart of a great man...
[M]y decision to sever my ties with the Southern Baptist Convention, after six decades, was painful and difficult. It was, however, an unavoidable decision when the convention's leaders, quoting a few carefully selected Bible verses and claiming that Eve was created second to Adam and was responsible for original sin, ordained that women must be "subservient" to their husbands and prohibited from serving as deacons, pastors or chaplains in the military service. This was in conflict with my belief - confirmed in the holy scriptures - that we are all equal in the eyes of God.

This view that women are somehow inferior to men is not restricted to one religion or belief. It is widespread. Women are prevented from playing a full and equal role in many faiths.

Nor, tragically, does its influence stop at the walls of the church, mosque, synagogue or temple. This discrimination, unjustifiably attributed to a Higher Authority, has provided a reason or excuse for the deprivation of women's equal rights across the world for centuries. The male interpretations of religious texts and the way they interact with, and reinforce, traditional practices justify some of the most pervasive, persistent, flagrant and damaging examples of human rights abuses.


The truth is that male religious leaders have had - and still have - an option to interpret holy teachings either to exalt or subjugate women. They have, for their own selfish ends, overwhelmingly chosen the latter.

Their continuing choice provides the foundation or justification for much of the pervasive persecution and abuse of women throughout the world. This is in clear violation not just of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights but also the teachings of Jesus Christ, the Apostle Paul, Moses and the prophets, Muhammad, and founders of other great religions - all of whom have called for proper and equitable treatment of all the children of God. It is time we had the courage to challenge these views.

• Jimmy Carter was US president from 1977-81. The Elders are an independent group of eminent global leaders, brought together by Nelson Mandela, who offer their influence and experience to support peace building, help address major causes of human suffering and promote the shared interests of humanity.

jimmy carter has more integrity in his pinkie finger than most of those who would consider themselves as his equals have in their entire bodies...

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How about "wonderful and encouraging" rather than "baffling and unexpected"...?

from the wapo...
Violent crime has plummeted in the Washington area and in major cities across the country, a trend criminologists describe as baffling and unexpected.

The District, New York and Los Angeles are on track for fewer killings this year than in any other year in at least four decades. Boston, San Francisco, Minneapolis and other cities are also seeing notable reductions in homicides.

"Experts did not see this coming at all," said Andrew Karmen, a criminologist and professor of sociology at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York.

and, natch, cops are taking the credit...
Whatever the cause, police across the region are taking credit for the drop.

maybe, just maybe, people are beginning to reject violence and crime as behavioral options... maybe, just maybe, people are beginning to tune in to the fact that making things better can't be done by fighting and stealing... can i justify such a view...? no, of course not, but maybe, just maybe, there might be some truth in it and, if so, wouldn't that be loverly...?

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Sunday, July 19, 2009

Am I cynical...? Am I a contrarian...? Am I a Republican...?

yes, occasionally and hell no... however, at this stage of the game, i have to confess that anyone endorsed by the wapo is deserving of my opposition...
Confirm Sonia Sotomayor

After four days of often intense confirmation hearings, Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor proved herself well-qualified and worthy of confirmation.

the co-host of my blogtalkradio program, brother tim, expressed puzzlement the other day over why the repubs were so opposed to sotomayor when it's obvious that she's a perfect choice for them, a law and order freak and a supporter of the corporate model who will probably align quite nicely with the neo-bush obama administration...

i make the above points with great pain since i think a latina supreme court justice would be a great thing just as i thought a black president would be a great thing... hell, i think a black, female president would be a great thing and if it wasn't for the fact that the only product on offer that met that description was she-who-must-not-be-named, i would have gone out and pushed for her...

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