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Showing posts from 2010

When Congress Is Away

Democrats who complained so loudly about recess appointments seem to be oddly silent (or supportive) now:President Barack Obama, sidestepping Congress, named the first U.S. ambassador to Syria in nearly six years and a deputy attorney general in recess appointments after the nominations ran into trouble among Republicans.

Robert Ford will be sent to Damascus, restoring a top-level presence cut off in 2005 when then-President George W. Bush pulled the ambassador over the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Many Lebanese blamed Syria for ordering the murder, a charge Syria has denied.

Mr. Ford, a career foreign-service officer and Arabic speaker, has held diplomatic posts in Iraq and was ambassador to Algeria.

Congress is now in recess, allowing the president to make the appointments. They are effective through the end of 2011.

Mr. Obama's office made the announcement in Hawaii, where the president is vacationing with his family. The president will extend …

GOP Generation Gap

It appears to be real:In the Republican Party, the fracture over issues concerning homosexual individuals revealed itself more clearly in the vote for repeal of the 17-year-old "don't ask, don't tell" policy that prevented gays from serving openly in the military.

Of the eight Republican senators who voted for repeal, five are among the youngest in the upper chamber - and they're not all moderates.

Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, John Ensign of Nevada and Richard Burr of North Carolina maintain relatively conservative voting records, despite some of Murkowski's recent votes. They are 53, 52 and 55, respectively.

Their colleagues Mark Kirk and Scott Brown have been lumped into the more moderate wing of the party, but they, too, are some of the youngest GOP senators. Both are 51.

Melissa Kennedy, press secretary for Log Cabin Republicans, said that gay issues generally are generational.

"Nearly all young service members supported the repeal of DADT because…

A Progressive Plea

Nancy Pelosi is asking for help:Speaker Nancy Pelosi has an outgoing New Year’s Eve wish, asking House campaign supporters to give money to fight back against “shameful attack ads” that use her to target vulnerable Democrats.

In a new fundraising letter for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the Californian thanks donors for their “dedication to making change a reality for millions of our fellow Americans,” without mentioning that Democrats lost control of the House in November and that in less than two weeks, Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) will become Speaker.

Instead, Pelosi asks donors to “chip in $10” to combat “shadowy special interest front groups [that] are already up on radio and television with shameful attack ads aimed at reversing the progress we’ve made.”As opposed to the sinister, shadowy groups that work for the Democrats, I suppose...

CPAC Stupidity

It's reared its ugly head once again:Two of the nation's premier moral issues organizations, the Family Research Council and Concerned Women for America, are refusing to attend the Conservative Political Action Conference in February because a homosexual activist group, GOProud, has been invited.

"We've been very involved in CPAC for over a decade and have managed a couple of popular sessions. However, we will no longer be involved with CPAC because of the organization's financial mismanagement and movement away from conservative principles," said Tom McClusky, senior vice president for FRC Action.

"CWA has decided not to participate in part because of GOProud," CWA President Penny Nance told WND.

FRC and CWA join the American Principles Project, American Values, Capital Research Center, the Center for Military Readiness, Liberty Counsel, and the National Organization for Marriage in withdrawing from CPAC. In November, APP organized a boycott of …

Snowed Under

Has the Big Blizzard of 2010 turned into Bloomberg's Katrina? It's starting to look that way:Facing whithering criticism for the slow pace of blizzard cleanup, a defensive Mayor Bloomberg asked New Yorkers to be patient and warned that plows still might not reach every street within the next 24 hours.

"We cannot do everything all the time and we are doing the best we can," said Bloomberg at a briefing in Brooklyn, which he called one of the hardest hit boroughs. "We are trying to get to every street as fast as we can and as safely as we can."

"I'm angry too," he said in response to the growing frustration of New Yorkers whose streets remain buried.

The mayor ticked off a variety of reason for the slow response: the heavy winds, a shortage of tow trucks and private plows, motorists abandoning their cars and blocking streets, ambulances mired in the snow by trying to drive down blocked streets, and people jamming 911 with non emergency calls.

Under FIRE

Universities are being put on notice:There are 296 American public officials at grave risk of being personally sued for civil rights violations. The names of those who may soon be paying out of pocket for civil damages include some of America’s most respected citizens, who every day manage multi-million dollar budgets and massive numbers of government employees with little oversight and even less accountability. Can you guess who they are?

They are the presidents of many of America’s largest and most prestigious public colleges and universities.
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In a letter to 296 public college and university presidents and general counsel, FIRE warned that the law is increasingly clear that speech codes at public universities are unconstitutional and that they risk being held personally liable for violating the free speech rights of their students if they continue to maintain policies censoring speech. That goes for all of their administrative employees as well, from deans and provosts to lower…

Can't We All Just Get Along?

Coming from RedState, of all places, this is pretty big:How do we move forward and build a strong conservative coalition? I have a few general suggestions that will begin to move us in the right direction. First, we need to acknowledge that we will not always agree on things. We need to respect each other regardless of our differences. Agreeing to disagree is a hallmark of maturity. We need to cease the name-calling and disparaging remarks and realize that our goals are not mutually exclusive. In-fighting will only continue to drive a wedge between us and does not promote the conservative agenda. If you study the lives of the brave men who banded together to form this great nation, you would find them to be very different in their beliefs and personal values. But they united around one thing, freedom from tyranny. We would do well to follow their example.I think that most social conservatives actually do feel this way-it's just the rabid "My way or the highway" types who…

The Un-Clinton

Michael Walsh discusses why comparing Obama and Bill Clinton doesn't work:For starters, this ignores several major distinctions between Clinton and Obama. Slick Willie learned his skills growing up in the crime-syndicate town of Hot Springs, Ark. Say what you will about those old gangsters, they knew how to run an effective political operation, by turns tough and solicitous, happy to raise money for the widows and orphans their trigger men had just created.

By contrast, Obama is a displaced person adopted by the far cruder Chicago machine, which turned his superficial charm and his palpable animus against the American ideal into a winning combination in the perfect storm 2008 election.

More important, it's unclear that Obama has it in him to compromise and pretend to like it. No one could fake sincerity like Clinton, but Obama is a far different sort of political animal. His tax-deal press conference was a remarkable glimpse behind the Wizard of Oz curtain at a scowling man …

Abercrombie And Fools

Who's the latest person to keep the Obama birther nonsense going? None other than the...governor of Hawaii?The governor, a Democrat and former congressman, said he has initiated conversations with the state’s attorney general and the chief of its Health Department about how he can release more explicit documentation of Mr. Obama’s birth on Aug. 4, 1961, at Kapiolani Maternity and Gynecological Hospital. He said he has done so of his own accord, without consulting the White House, which declined to comment…

Mr. Abercrombie, 72, said that although he did not see the elder Obamas at the hospital with their newborn son, he did remember the couple bringing the baby to social events. He says the critics who suggest that Mr. Obama’s mother slipped off to Kenya to give birth are engaging in a “demonological fantasy.” And he is angry about legislation in several states that would require presidential candidates to document that they were born in this country. A similar bill died in Congres…

Dying For Fun And Profit

Remember, it's not about death panels:The Obama administration is trying to quiet talk about so-called “death panels” after The New York Times reported Sunday that a new Medicare regulation includes incentives for end-of-life-care planning.

The Medicare policy will pay doctors for holding end-of-life-care discussions with patients, according to the Times. A similar provision was dropped from the new healthcare reform law after Republicans accused the administration of withholding care from the sick, elderly and disabled.

However, an administration spokesman said the regulation, which is less specific than the reform law's draft language, is actually a continuation of a policy enacted under former President George W. Bush.

"The only thing new here is a regulation allowing the discussions … to happen in the context of the new annual wellness visit created by [healthcare reform]," Obama spokesman Reid Cherlin told The Wall Street Journal.And if they try to talk you i…

Leaking Towards Tomorrow

What hath Julian Assange wrought?Most organizations a generation from now will be pretty small by contemporary standards, with highly convoluted cell-like structures. Large numbers of people within the organization may not even know one another’s name, much less what colleagues spend their days doing, or the information they see on a regular basis. There will be redundant layers of security and activity, so that the loss of any one node can’t disable the whole network. Which is to say, thanks to Wikileaks, the organizations of the future will look a lot like … Wikileaks.If this can be applied to government, then that's a good thing, isn't it?

Breaking The Banks

The banks continue to be in bad shape:98 American banks that received $4.2 billion in bailout money are teetering on the edge of collapse, according to the Wall Street Journal.

In Q2 the number of unsound banks numbered 86; the increase to almost 100 institutions - most of which are smallish banks with about $439 million in assets - comes as a result of decreasing capital and more bad loans.

Also, unlike the big banks, which basically had access to liquidity from the federal government whenever they wanted during the crisis via various emergency lending facilities, these smaller banks received only TARP funds.Some banks were more equal than others...

Chinese Takeout

I guess because blaming Bush wouldn't work:Outgoing Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter implied the Chinese cost her re-election in November and secretly funneled money to help her Republican opponent Frank Guinta during a post-election interview with ABC News.

“They’re in the halls of Congress everywhere,” Shea-Porter said in the interview with ABC’s Jonathan Karl. “[A]nd it means, for example, that you sit on a committee and you say something about concern about Chinese influence or something, you don’t even know if in the next election, somehow or another, they manage to send some money to some group that now doesn’t even have to say where they got it.”

There is no evidence that the Chinese funneled money into the First Congressional District race. Such a contribution would be illegal.Well, it's not like Democrats would know about such things, of course...

When The Spam Hits The Fan

How a former marketer declared a one-man war on spam:Eight years ago, Balsam was working as a marketer when he received one too many e-mail pitches to enlarge his breasts.

Enraged, he launched a Web site called Danhatesspam.com, quit a career in marketing to go to law school and is making a decent living suing companies who flood his e-mail inboxes with offers of cheap drugs, free sex and unbelievable vacations.

"I feel like I'm doing a little bit of good cleaning up the Internet," Balsam said.

From San Francisco Superior Court small claims court to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Balsam, based in San Francisco, has filed many lawsuits, including dozens before he graduated law school in 2008, against e-mail marketers he says violate anti-spamming laws.

His many victories are mere rain drops in the ocean considering that Cisco Systems Inc. estimates that there are 200 billion spam messages circulating a day, accounting for 90 percent of all e-mail.

Still, Balsam se…

The Bloomberg Gang

Keep your friends close, and your fellow crooks closer:Trouble just seems to follow these gun-grabbing mayors. There are the felonies, and more felonies, and more felonies, and more felonies.

And then there's the scandals, more scandals, more scandals, and more scandals, and even an ongoing scandal that Bloomberg himself inherited when he took office.

With friends like these, at least Mayor Bloomberg has plenty of crime experts that he can consult for his "crime fighting" group.I guess it depends on what the meaning of "Crime" is...

Bloggin' In The Years: 1968

Have yourself a far-out Christmas-and I do mean far out:



And from the Fab Four:

Patted Down For The Holidays

'Tis the season:

Cry The Beloved Filibuster

Democrats faced with being in the minority again have found a new cause:Democrats and their partisans in the press complained about Washington being broken only at those times when their agenda was imperiled. Vice President Biden's statement, for example, came after the election of Massachusetts Republican Sen. Scott Brown took away the Democrats' filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. Just a few weeks later, when Barack Obama signed the national health care bill into law, Biden was all smiles.

Now, after the lame-duck session, Democratic leaders are happy again. But it's only temporary. As the new year approaches, get ready for a new round of Democratic Washington-is-broken grumbling.

With a significantly smaller, 53-seat majority in the Senate, Democrats will no longer be able to pass contentious legislation all by themselves or with just one or two Republican votes. On the other side, Republicans, with 47 votes, will no longer have to achieve perfect unity to sustain …

Bank Of Europa

China is moving in:China has said it is willing to bail out debt-ridden countries in the euro zone using its $2.7trillion overseas investment fund.

In a fresh humiliation for Europe, Foreign Ministry spokesman Jiang Yu said it was one of the most important areas for China's foreign exchange investments.

The country has already approached struggling European countries with financial aid, including offering to buy Greece's debt in October and promising to buy $4billion of Portuguese government debt.
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China's astonishing economic growth has put it on track to overtake America as the world's economic powerhouse within two years, a recent report claimed.

But experts believed still be some years before America's leadership role is really challenged - largely because Beijing has given no indication it is ready to take on the responsibility of shepherding the world' economy.

This foray into the future of the euro could be a signal from Beijing that it is ready to c…

With God On Their Side?

Well, it is the holy season:North Korea's minister of armed forces said Thursday that its military was prepared to wage a "holy war" against the South using its nuclear deterrent after what he called Seoul's attempt to initiate conflict.

Minister Kim Yong Chun repeated Pyongyang's charge that the South had been preparing to start a war by conducting live-fire drills off the west coast, speaking at a rally to mark leader Kim Jong Il's rise to the country's top military post 19 years ago.

He was quoted by North Korea's KCNA news agency which regularly threatens the South, but which had up to now been relatively restrained in its criticism of the military drills.

"To counter the enemy's intentional drive to push the situation to the brink of war, our revolutionary forces are making preparations to begin a holy war at any moment necessary based on nuclear deterrent," KCNA quoted Kim as telling the rally in Pyongyang.Communists declaring h…

It Was A Very Bad Year

He might be on a winning streak now, but it came with a price:From the start, 2010 delivered a string of setbacks that built up to an electoral shellacking come November, to use the president's own word.

No matter that the recession was officially over. That sweeping health care changes at last had been enacted. That combat operations in Iraq ended. That General Motors was making money and hiring again. That banks paid back most of the billions they'd borrowed from the government.

"This is what change looks like," Obama said proudly, after the health care law passed.

But. The economic recovery was too slow. The oil gushed for too long. The health care law was too complicated. The unemployment rate too high. The political discourse too raw. The tea party too loud.

Americans were in a foul mood, and Democrats got the blame.Yes, because they were the ones in charge. Strange how that works...

The Selling Of The Former Speaker

Nancy Pelosi is repotedly looking for help from...Steven Spielberg?Behind closed doors, she is laboring to refashion the image of House Democrats - as well as herself.

Lawmakers say she is consulting marketing experts about building a stronger brand. The most prominent of her new whisperers is Steven Spielberg, the Hollywood director whose films have been works of branding genius. Lawmakers said Spielberg has not reported to Pelosi with a recommendation.

Pelosi met Friday with the members who will serve as ranking Democrats on committees, and she appointed a trio of rank-and-file legislators to take on new roles in helping shape and deliver the party's message.Nancy phoned home, and they didn't want her...

O Christmas Tree

It really is a war on Christmas:South Korea has lit a massive steel Christmas tree that overlooks the world's most heavily armed border and is within sight of North Korea, prompting threats of attack from the communist state.

The lighting of the tree after a seven-year hiatus marked a pointed return to a tradition that is condemned in Pyongyang as propaganda. The provocative ceremony - which needed government permission to take place - was also a sign that President Lee Myung-bak's administration is serious about countering the North's aggression with measures of its own in the wake of an artillery attack that killed four South Koreans last month.

North Korea, officially atheist and with only a handful of sanctioned churches in Pyongyang with services for foreigners, warned that lighting the tree would constitute a "dangerous, rash act" with the potential to trigger a war.

As a precaution, dozens of armed troops took up position around the site during the light…

For Want Of A Water Pistol

Gun control-it's for the children:For seven years, Providence municipal and law enforcement officials have organized the event around Christmastime as a way to raise awareness of the dangers of playing with guns, real or fake. The event is a mix of the macabre and the playful, a children’s version of the gun buyback program in which adults trade firearms for gift certificates.

Yesterday, younger children ran through a rubber obstacle course while officials told the older children the story of a 14-year-old boy who police nearly shot after they confused his air pistol with a real gun.

In exchange for their toy guns, all the children received wrapped presents that were indisputably not violent — dolls, stuffed animals, and board games like checkers.

Some children were not thrilled with the trade.

Malik Hall, a round-eyed second-grader, looked apprehensive as he stood in line with his favorite toy, a thick, blue gun with plastic sword underneath the muzzle. The 8-year-old was furious…

Give Them Some Credit...

...Because I have to agree with this:There are a lot of questions and concerns about repealing DADT, and no easy answers. The beauty of the system was that it allowed the military to remain neutral on each and every one of these issues. The military didn’t approve or disapprove. Now, the military is forced to take a stance, and in many instances, I fear it will be in favor of gay rights, giving special treatment to gays. I also am not a big fan of politicians using the military to basically conduct a social experiment, especially when we are fighting two wars.

Obviously, I am not a fan of repealing DADT. My feelings on the matter were very close to those of General Amos, the Commandant of the Marine Corps. However, now that the repeal is passed, there is only one thing to do, and that is accept it and move on. Adapt and overcome. While there will be many tough decisions to make, and the adjustment period will undoubtedly be difficult, I have no doubt that our servicemembers can and wi…

Farmer In The Dole

Sadly, this isn't limited to fake famrers:One common misconception is that Pigford is about people who defrauded the government by pretending to be farmers. From the research I’ve done, there’s almost nobody who pretended to be a farmer. The shocking truth is that you didn’t have to fake a farming resume to collect $50,000 — all you had to do was to make a credible enough claim that you “attempted to farm.”

This category of “attempted to farm” was a huge slap in the face to the bona fide black farmers that the Pigford case was supposed to help. Many of these farmers faced real discrimination at the hands of the USDA and it’s clear they had legitimate claims.
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The political insiders and trial lawyers who set up Pigford set the bar for proving that you “attempted to farm” was much lower than it was for proving you actually were a farmer. This meant that if you wanted a check, the smart route to go was to claim you attempted to farm.So, another government program was taken advan…

100 Debt Bullets

The fiscal apocalypse may be coming to a town near you:More than 100 American cities could go bust next year as the debt crisis that has taken down banks and countries threatens next to spark a municipal meltdown, a leading analyst has warned.

Meredith Whitney, the US research analyst who correctly predicted the global credit crunch, described local and state debt as the biggest problem facing the US economy, and one that could derail its recovery.

"Next to housing this is the single most important issue in the US and certainly the biggest threat to the US economy," Whitney told the CBS 60 Minutes programme on Sunday night.

"There's not a doubt on my mind that you will see a spate of municipal bond defaults. You can see fifty to a hundred sizeable defaults – more. This will amount to hundreds of billions of dollars' worth of defaults."

New Jersey governor Chris Christie summarised the problem succinctly: "We spent too much on everything. We spent money…

Jump START

So much for the Party of No:Republican senators say privately they expect the Senate to ratify the New START treaty this week, which would hand President Obama his third major victory of the lame-duck session.

GOP senators — including those who plan to vote for the treaty and those who say they’ll oppose it — have told The Hill they expect it to pass easily.

At least eight Republican senators have announced they either will vote to ratify the treaty or are leaning strongly toward doing so.

Two-thirds of the senators present in the chamber, assuming there is a quorum, must vote “aye” to ratify.

Three more GOP senators said Monday they are likely to support the treaty.So, cooler heads seem to be prevailing despite earlier claims to the contrary. The grownups support it, which helps. It's good to know that there are a few of them left out there.

Information Age

Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean the government isn't watching you:The government is creating a vast domestic spying network to collect information about Americans in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks and subsequent terror plots, The Washington Post reported Monday.
The government is using for this purpose the FBI, local police, state homeland security offices and military criminal investigators, the daily added.

The system collects, stores and analyzes information about thousands of US citizens and residents, many of whom have not been accused of any wrongdoing, the report noted.

The government's goal is to have every state and local law enforcement agency in the country feed information to Washington to buttress the work of the FBI, noted the paper, which has conducted its own investigation of the matter.Since we already seem to be turning into a nation of informers, I guess it's no surprise that the government wants to pick up the slack. Rem…

Center Field

Whether he likes it or not, Obama may now have no choice but to go there now:If Obama does manage to somehow eke out a second term, it will be as president of a country that he may understand a bit better than he did two years ago. His true value and concerns in 2008, it turns out, were not those of most of his countrymen. Most Americans were not itching for government-run healthcare, a vast energy bureaucracy, an expansion of union power or new penalties on success and wealth creation. To a great extent, the term Tea Party America is redundant. The U.S. remains a center-right nation, and prosperity usually ensues when its leaders understand this.Well, it worked for Clinton. Of course, in some ways he was more in tune with political reality than Obama has been during his first two years...

Some Steps Forward, Another One Back

For every right decision that's come out of Congress lately (repeal of DADT, defeating DREAM) there's something like this:The Senate unexpectedly approved food safety legislation by unanimous consent Sunday evening, rescuing a bill that floated in limbo for weeks because of a clerical error.

The Senate passed the Food Safety and Modernization Act on Nov. 30 by a vote of 73-25. But the bill was later invalidated by a technical objection because it was a revenue-raising measure that did not originate in the House — Senate staff had failed to substitute the food safety language into a House-originated bill.

A coalition of groups supporting the bill sent a letter Sunday to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) calling for action on food safety.
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Democrats first attempted to attach the food safety bill to the two-and-a-half-month spending measure but Republicans balked because they wanted to keep that measure clean, according to …

A Day In The Life

Bradley Manning, welcome to the big house:PFC Manning is currently being held in maximum custody. Since arriving at the Quantico Confinement Facility in July of 2010, he has been held under Prevention of Injury (POI) watch.

His cell is approximately six feet wide and twelve feet in length.

The cell has a bed, a drinking fountain, and a toilet.

The guards at the confinement facility are professional. At no time have they tried to bully, harass, or embarrass PFC Manning. Given the nature of their job, however, they do not engage in conversation with PFC Manning.

At 5:00 a.m. he is woken up (on weekends, he is allowed to sleep until 7:00 a.m.). Under the rules for the confinement facility, he is not allowed to sleep at anytime between 5:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. If he attempts to sleep during those hours, he will be made to sit up or stand by the guards.

He is allowed to watch television during the day. The television stations are limited to the basic local stations. His access to the tele…

Music Machines

The war is over, and the pirates won:The age of stealing music via the Internet is officially over. It’s time for everybody to go legit. The reason: We won. And all you audiophiles and copyfighters, you know who fixed our problems? The record labels and online stores we loved to hate.

Granted, when Apple launched the iTunes Music Store in 2003 there was a lot to complain about. Tracks you bought on computer A often refused to play on gadget B, thanks to that old netizen bogeyman, digital rights management. (It’s crippleware!) My local Apple store was actually picketed by nerds in hazmat suits attempting to educate passersby on the evils of DRM.

Well played, protesters: In January 2009, Apple announced that it would remove the copyright protection wrapper from every song in its store. Today, Amazon and Walmart both sell music encoded as MP3s, which don’t even have hooks for copyright-protection locks. The battle is over, comrades.
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That leaves one last war cry: Music should be fre…

Bloggin' In The Years: 1998

Bill Clinton gets his legacy:Enough Republicans broke ranks to defeat the two other articles of impeachment recommended one week ago by the House Judiciary Committee. Those accused Clinton of committing perjury in his deposition in the Paula Jones case and abusing his power in his efforts to cover up his sexual relationship with Lewinsky, a former White House intern.

Also in this story

Committee Chairman Henry Hyde, who will prosecute the case in the Senate, delivered the impeachment articles to the Secretary of the Senate at 3 p.m. ET. The trial is expected to get underway in midJanuary after the 106th Congress takes office.

Clinton will be only the second U.S. president in history to face a Senate trial. The last time the House voted impeachment articles was 130 years ago when President Andrew Johnson was impeached following the Civil War.

The president, who vowed to serve out his remaining two year in office, told top aides he was disappointed but not surprised by the House impeach…

Radio Free America

Broadcasting just got easier for the little guy:Yesterday, on the same day that Don't Ask Don't Tell was repealed, another significant bill was passed by both the House and Senate: the Local Community Radio Act. As the Huffington Post reports, this legislation allows for the creation of new non-commercial stations on American airwaves-- a number that could reach to the hundreds or even thousands. In a press release, the Future of Music Coalition said, "The addition of more Low Power FM (LPFM) stations will increase local civic engagement, diversify the airwaves, support local music and culture, assist during emergencies, expand religious expression, and provide a platform for the voices of underrepresented communities to be heard."

These stations must still be FCC-approved "based on the needs of the local community," and restrictions are in place not only to protect existing commercial stations but also, nastily, to prevent any applicant with existing stati…

Right Lean

We are the change we believed in:In the past two years, Americans have become increasingly likely to describe the Democratic Party's views as "too liberal" (49%), and less likely to say its views are "about right" (38%). Americans' views of the Republican Party, on the other hand, have moderated slightly, with a dip in the percentage saying the GOP is too conservative from 43% last year to 40% today, and an increase in the percentage saying it is about right, from 34% to 41%.

The recent increase in perceptions of the Democratic Party as too liberal could be a response to the expansion in government spending since President Barack Obama took office, most notably regarding the economic stimulus and healthcare legislation.

The 49% of Americans who now believe the Democratic Party's views are too liberal is one percentage point below the 50% Gallup measured after the 1994 elections, the all-time high in the trend question first asked in 1992.Seeing what the…

Life After DADT

It may just go on:Aside from those deeply invested in the fight, most of America seemed likely to react with an approving shrug. With recent polls showing as many as 80 percent of the public in favor of repeal, the struggles repeal legislation faced over the past year suggested Washington’s consternation over the issue far exceeded worry about it across the country.

In a sign of the cultural shift, even some steadfast conservatives climbed aboard the repeal effort at the last moment. Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) cast an unexpected vote in favor, citing a “generational transition that has taken place in our nation.” Sen.-elect Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) also said he supported ending “don’t ask.”

“It’s like this great wave. It’s molecular change — more and more of the public either understands that discrimination isn’t right, or they don’t get the issue being an issue at all,” said Dudley Clendinen, an author and historian of the gay-rights movement.

“It’s ludicrous that this is even a battle,…

Life Is But A DREAM

Hell hath no fury like a liberal scorned:On Capitol Hill, Democrats have been using the lame-duck session to try to ram through some key unfinished parts of their agenda. Among them is the DREAM Act immigration bill, a favorite of Moulitsas'. On Friday, Jon Tester, once the darling of DailyKos, announced that he would vote against it.

Moulitsas' reaction was swift and furious. "Jon Tester to vote against DREAM," Moulitsas tweeted Friday night. "Good luck getting re-elected, a--hole." Moulitsas began re-tweeting negative comments about Tester -- one said, "Sen. Tester's active misrepresentation of DREAM act isn't just burning his bridges, it's going at them with a blowtorch." And then Moulitsas added his own final remark: "Anyone who votes to punish innocent kids is a de facto a--hole."

On Saturday morning, Tester did indeed oppose the DREAM Act, and it went down in a procedural vote in the Senate. Of course, a single v…

Reds

I know, I know-the Tea Party got there first:You might be a redneck if…you create a dues-paying society and a scholarship fund?

And that's what a Virginia man did last week, launching the “American Redneck Society.”

“I really felt that American Rednecks are an under-served, but large population that could benefit from a formal membership organization structure,” said American Redneck Society Executive Director Rob Clayton.

A $20 membership fee will get you access to retail discounts across the country, and a portion of the funds are set aside for an educational fund for “rural youth.”For the uninitiated, some Redneck etiquette can be found here. Some useful terminology can be found here. Meanwhile, here's Jeff Foxworthy explaining things:

Sick O' Sicko

Oh, this is too rich:Cuba banned Michael Moore's 2007 documentary, Sicko, because it painted such a "mythically" favourable picture of Cuba's healthcare system that the authorities feared it could lead to a "popular backlash", according to US diplomats in Havana.

The revelation, contained in a confidential US embassy cable released by WikiLeaks , is surprising, given that the film attempted to discredit the US healthcare system by highlighting what it claimed was the excellence of the Cuban system.

But the memo reveals that when the film was shown to a group of Cuban doctors, some became so "disturbed at the blatant misrepresentation of healthcare in Cuba that they left the room".

Castro's government apparently went on to ban the film because, the leaked cable claims, it "knows the film is a myth and does not want to risk a popular backlash by showing to Cubans facilities that are clearly not available to the vast majority of them."H…

Con Ed 101

A reminder to Ivy League institutions: If someone sounds too good to be true, they probably are:Adam Wheeler, a 24-year-old who conned his way into Harvard and benefited from more than $40,000 (£26,000) in grants and prizes, flew too close to the sun. Not content with having bragged his way into one of the world's most prestigious universities, he felt driven to apply – equally fraudulently – for Rhodes and Fulbright scholarships.

The application was a deception too far, and led to the discovery of a string of lies that this week earned Wheeler 10 years on probation and the order to repay Harvard $45,806. He pleaded guilty to all 20 counts against him, including larceny, identity fraud and pretending to hold a degree.

"I'm ashamed and embarrassed by what I've done," he told a Massachusetts court in a voice so quiet it was barely above a whisper. "As much as possible, I want to put this behind me and move forward."

Wheeler's impressive record of dece…

King Hugo

Well, at least he's not making his people call him "Your Majesty"-yet:Venezuela's parliament gave President Hugo Chavez decree powers for 18 months on Friday, outraging opposition parties that accused him of turning South America's biggest oil producer into a dictatorship.

The move consolidated the firebrand socialist leader's hold on power after nearly 12 years in office, and raised the prospect of a fresh wave of nationalizations as the former paratrooper seeks to entrench his self-styled "revolution."

Chavez had asked for the fast-track powers for one year, saying he needed them to deal with a national emergency caused by floods that drove nearly 140,000 people from their homes.

But the Assembly, which is dominated by loyalists from his Socialist Party, decided to extend them for a year and a half.

That means the president can rule by decree until mid-2012, and can keep opposition parties out of the legislative process until his re-election campa…

New World Network

What could go wrong?The United Nations is considering whether to set up an inter-governmental working group to harmonise global efforts by policy makers to regulate the internet.

Establishment of such a group has the backing of several countries, spearheaded by Brazil.

At a meeting in New York on Wednesday, representatives from Brazil called for an international body made up of Government representatives that would attempt to create global standards for policing the internet - specifically in reaction to challenges such as WikiLeaks.

The Brazilian delegate stressed, however, that this should not be seen as a call for a "takeover" of the internet.

India, South Africa, China and Saudi Arabia appeared to favour a new possible over-arching inter-government body.

However, Australia, US, UK, Belgium and Canada and attending business and community representatives argued there were risks in forming yet another working group that might isolate itself from the industry, community user…

Internal Revenue Stealer

Well, they're already stealing from us anyway:Fern Stephens, a revenue officer at the Internal Revenue Service, is being charged by the U.S. Attorney's office for stealing more than $160,000 in unclaimed tax funds from 12 taxpayers, according to federal court documents.

If convicted of all counts of mail fraud, theft of gonvernment funds, and unlawful access of a government computer, Stephens faces a maximum sentence of 35 years in prison.

In one instance the U.S. Attorney's office accuses Stephen of duping $3,340 from a Manhattan-based bankrupt company by claiming that the principal of the business asked for the money by the IRS and then pocketing it herself.

Stephens also allegedly took advantage of her position in the IRS to put in fake tax refund requests and transfers in an IRS computer system so the money would go right back to her or relatives and friends.Politics is the next obvious step for her...

The Right Not To Buy

When it comes to Obamacare, a judge says the people still have it:In a three-hour hearing, the judge, Roger Vinson of Federal District Court, said the law’s requirement that most Americans obtain insurance, a provision that takes effect in 2014, would constitute “a giant expansion” of the court’s traditional application of the Commerce Clause of the Constitution.

“People have always exercised the freedom to choose whether to buy or not buy a commercial product,” the judge said, noting that he had been uninsured and paid out of pocket when his first son was born.

The hearing came on dueling requests for summary judgment in a lawsuit brought by governors and attorneys general from 20 states, all but one of whom are Republicans. Because of the plaintiffs’ prominence, the cases carry the most political weight of the roughly two dozen court challenges to the sweeping law.

The Supreme Court has held previously that Congress can use its Commerce Clause authority, which is among the powers…

Night Of The Meeks

Foot, meet mouth:Mayoral challenger James Meeks scrambled Thursday to put out a political fire touched off by his suggestion that only African Americans should be eligible for city contracts set aside for minorities and women.

Meeks made the statement on Wednesday during an interview on WVON-AM (1690). It happened during a discussion of why African-American businesses got a 7 percent sliver of Chicago’s $1 billion spending pie through Aug. 31, down from 8 percent a year ago.

“The word ‘minority’ from our standpoint should mean African American. I don’t think women, Asians and Hispanics should be able to use that title,” he said. “That’s why our numbers cannot improve — because we use women, Asians and Hispanics who are not people of color, who are not people who have been discriminated against.”

Hours after making those remarks, Meeks back-tracked by saying he would only exclude white women if elected mayor. The set-aside program currently earmarks 25 percent of all city contracts fo…

Tying Their Own Hands?

When it comes to this, I have to agree with this:This is an open invitation for libertarians to confront the Republican leadership on traditional constitutional objections like the lack of any formal declaration of war for Afghanistan or Iraq or the absence of any textual authority for the Department of Education. If Boehner et al. are going to be constitutional sticklers with Democratic bills, what happens the next time the GOP passes funding for education or there’s a new high-profile terror arrest and we get back into the Miranda question again? Seems like they’re setting themselves up either to spend a lot more of their time as a congressional majority defending the constitutional merits of their own bills (Democrats will attack them on it at every opportunity, partly to make hay and partly to slow down the GOP’s agenda) or to ignore the constitutional debate and risk being attacked as hypocrites by the media.That victory dance may have been a bit premature...

White Flag

The good news: After ranting about being lorded over by the White House (see below), Harry Reid has caved:The Senate majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, said Thursday night that he was abandoning efforts to pass a $1.2 trillion spending measure to finance the government through Sept. 30 because Republicans would not support it.

Mr. Reid said he would work with the Republican leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, on a stop-gap spending bill instead. Senate Republicans also said they would not support a House-passed temporary spending measure running through the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30. Instead, they want to develop a separate measure running only through the early part of next year.

At that point, Republicans will control a majority in the House and six additional seats in the Senate, giving them greater leverage over any spending decisions.

Republicans had pledged to stop the spending measure, even though it included millions of dollars for projects that they had reques…

This Army For Hire

It's the ongoing era of the merc army:Without much notice or debate, the Obama administration has greatly expanded the outsourcing of key parts of the U.S.-led counterinsurgency wars in the Middle East and Africa, and as a result, for its secretive air war and special operations missions around the world, the U.S. has become increasingly reliant on a new breed of specialized companies that are virtually unknown to the American public, yet carry out vital U.S. missions abroad.

Companies such as Blackbird Technologies, Glevum Associates, K2 Solutions, and others have won hundreds of millions of dollars worth of military and intelligence contracts in recent years to provide technology, information on insurgents, Special Forces training, and personnel rescue. They win their work through the large, established prime contractors, but are tasked with missions only companies with specific skills and background in covert and counterinsurgency can accomplish.

Some observers fear that the wi…

Power To The People?

Believe it or not, this is Harry Reid, in his defense of Congress's right to keep and bear earmarks:



We live in strange times...

Duck And Cover, The 21st Century Version

The government has some new advice on how to survive the nuclear apocalypse:Do not flee. Get inside any stable building and don’t come out till officials say it’s safe.

The advice is based on recent scientific analyses showing that a nuclear attack is much more survivable if you immediately shield yourself from the lethal radiation that follows a blast, a simple tactic seen as saving hundreds of thousands of lives. Even staying in a car, the studies show, would reduce casualties by more than 50 percent; hunkering down in a basement would be better by far.

But a problem for the Obama administration is how to spread the word without seeming alarmist about a subject that few politicians care to consider, let alone discuss. So officials are proceeding gingerly in a campaign to educate the public.

“We have to get past the mental block that says it’s too terrible to think about,” W. Craig Fugate, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said in an interview. “We have to b…

R.I.P. Euro?

Is the Euro dead?Only 12 years after it was launched to great fanfare and after early success, the euro is fighting for its short life. Two of the 16 countries using the currency have had to be bailed out, despite the ban on such rescues in 1992's Maastricht treaty that created Europe's monetary union.

Following the traumas of Greece and Ireland, Portugal may be next in line. There are worries about Spain.

In Brussels tomorrow the leaders of 27 countries, as well as the heads of the European commission and the European Central Bank, gather for their seventh EU summit this year, all consumed by the crisis surrounding the single currency.

The air of rancour and pessimism is pervasive. Bitterness is widespread, particularly among the smaller EU countries and those who feel they are being bullied by the most powerful.

"There is no appetite anywhere for another Franco-German plan to save the euro," said an east European government minister.A history of the Euro can be fou…

Some Pork Is More Equal Than Others

Republicans try to spin their way out of what are, IMO, legitimate questions over why their pork is OK:Thune and Cornyn faced a barrage of hostile questions about their earmarks by reporters from NPR, ABC News and NBC News.

“Going through this bill, there is earmark after earmark from the both of you, millions of dollars in earmarks from the two of you and from other senators,” ABC’s Jonathan Karl told Cornyn and Thune. “How do you have any credibility on this? Why do you have earmarks?”

Cornyn said he had credibility on the issue because he plans to vote against the omnibus spending bill.

“If people have concerns about what’s in the bill, we ought to be given an opportunity to offer amendments to strip those out and I’m happy to have that process done,” Cornyn said.

Taxpayers for Common Sense, a non-partisan group that tracks federal spending, said that Cornyn secured $750,000 for a drinking water project in Midland, Texas; $800,000 for a stormwater mitigation project in Nacogdoche…

Festivus, The Jailhouse Edition

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George would be proud:Festivus may only come around only come around once a year – more often if you watch "Seinfeld" reruns – but longtime county inmate Malcolm Alarmo King was able to celebrate it three times a day while locked up at the Theo Lacy jail in Orange.

King’s quest for a healthier eating option while behind bars ended with a county lawyer forced to research the origin of Festivus and its traditions and a Superior Court judge recognizing the holiday – which lodged its place in pop culture on an episode of "Seinfeld" – as a legitimate religion.
....

When sentencing day came, King pleaded guilty to the sale or transport of a controlled substance – a felony. Two other felonies were thrown out.
But King still wanted his non-salami meals.

Judge Johnson pulled King's lawyer and the prosecutor aside and said he needed a religion to put down on the order to make it stick, explained Thiagarajah.

“I said Festivus,” said Thiagarajah. The order was granted – th…

Final Destination

For the tourist with a death wish:Want a better understanding of the world's worst nuclear disaster? Come tour the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.

Beginning next year, Ukraine plans to open up the sealed zone around the Chernobyl reactor to visitors who wish to learn more about the tragedy that occurred nearly a quarter of a century ago, the Emergency Situations Ministry said Monday.

Chernobyl's reactor No. 4 exploded on April 26, 1986, spewing radiation over a large swath of northern Europe. Hundreds of thousands of people were resettled from areas contaminated with radiation fallout in Ukraine, Belarus and Russia. Related health problems still persist.

The so-called exclusion zone, a highly contaminated area within a 30-mile radius of the exploded reactor, was evacuated and sealed off in the aftermath of the explosion. All visits were prohibited.

Today, about 2,500 employees maintain the remains of the now-closed nuclear plant, working in shifts to minimize their exposure to…

Soda Taxation With False Representation

Guess what? Taxing sugary drinks doesn't encourage weight loss after all:Taxing sodas and other sweetened drinks would result in only minimal weight loss, although the revenues generated could be used to promote obesity control programs, new research suggests.

Adding to a spate of recent studies examining the impact of soda taxes on obesity, researchers from Duke-National University of Singapore (NUS) Graduate Medical School looked at the impact of 20 percent and 40 percent taxes on sales of carbonated and non-carbonated beverages, which also included sports and fruit drinks, among different income groups.

Because these taxes would simply cause many consumers to switch to other calorie-laden drinks, however, even a 40 percent tax would cut only 12.5 daily calories out of the average diet and result in a 1.3 pound weight loss per person per year, researchers said.

A 20 percent tax would equate to a daily 6.9 calorie intake reduction, adding up to no more than 0.7 pounds lost per pe…

Second Thoughts

Now that it's facing serious legal challenges, many Dems are wondering if supporting a health car mandate was really such a great idea after all:The mandate was viewed at the time of legislation as the most effective route to universal coverage, allowing the federal government to finally ban insurance companies from discriminating against patients with pre-existing medical conditions by broadening the pool to include a wider pool of healthy insurance holders. But Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE), one of the last Democrats to get on board with the law before it passed the Senate, sensed discontent in his home state over the law and asked the Government Accountability Office to investigate whether there were possible alternatives to the individual mandate last month.

Nelson told The Daily Beast that Democrats should have looked closer at ways to bypass the mandate while crafting the legislation.

"What's being looked at and decided today by different courts differently was known at…

Christmas Pork

The Republicans are up in arms over a year-end spending bill:Republicans poring over a 1,924-page overarching spending bill proposed by Democrats to cover the rest of the fiscal year are threatening to grind the legislation to a halt, citing massive earmark spending, which, if passed, would be enacted into law without debate in the full Senate.

Two sources who spoke to Fox News are describing the legislation as "a total mess."

But the head of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, said he believes the legislation must pass.

"The twelve bills included in this package fulfill the Congress' most basic responsibility, to exercise the power of the purse," he said in a statement. "This measure reflects a year's worth of work by members of both parties. Together, we have closely scrutinized the president's budget request, held hundreds of hearings, thousands of meetings, and asked literally tens of thousands of questions to e…

Mad Medical Money

How to stay healthy in your old age? Start hoarding cash:You need to start saving for your medical care in your old age. Sure, if you are in an industrialized country government will pay a substantial chunk of your old age medical costs. But you are far more likely to get better care and the most cutting edge care if you have the ability to spend substantial amounts of money out of your own pocket for your diagnoses and treatments.

Being unable to pony up some bucks for your medical treatment might not affect your longevity or how much you suffer. Could be you'll get lucky and get a killer disease that is cheap to treat and cure. Could be then you'll go some additional years and then get "lucky" in another way: You could get a killer diseases that is incurable and has no treatment. So being poor and unable to fund any of your own medical care in your old age might not matter.

But suppose you get a disease which has a cure that is in clinical trial where you have to t…

The Parents' Parent

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I do understand the point Michelle Obama is making here-schools should have basically healthy (not to mention edible) menus. But what about the rest?



When does parental responsibility begin these days? Or does it still exist at all in the minds of the food cops?

The First Challenge

Obama gets a smackdown:A federal court ruled Monday that a central plank of the health law violates the Constitution, dealing the biggest setback yet to the Obama administration's signature legislative accomplishment.

In a 42-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson said the law's requirement that most Americans carry insurance or pay a penalty "exceeds the constitutional boundaries of congressional power."

The individual mandate "would invite unbridled exercise of federal police powers," wrote Judge Hudson, of the Eastern District of Virginia. "At its core, this dispute is not simply about regulating the business of insurance—or crafting a scheme of universal health insurance coverage—it's about an individual's right to choose to participate."

The lawsuit, brought by Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, is the first court ruling against the law since President Barack Obama signed it in March. More than 20 federal lawsuits hav…

A Woman's Place

Is it finally time for an about face?The Defense Department should eliminate restrictions on women serving in combat units and end all “gender restrictive policies,” according to a blue-ribbon panel created by Congress.

The move would end the military’s long tradition of all-male combat units and open up career fields like infantry and armor to “qualified women.”

The recommendation by the Military Leadership Diversity Commission will be included in a formal report to Congress and the White House in March.

The commission met and discussed the combat exclusion policy for females at a meeting Dec. 3, said Erica Lewis, a commission spokeswoman.

Many of the longstanding reasons for keeping women out of combat units do not hold up under scrutiny, the commission’s research found.

A five-page analysis prepared for the commission concluded that women do not lack the physical ability to perform combat roles; gender integration will not negatively affect unit cohesion; and women are not more lik…

To Dream The Impossible DREAM

How to counteract a bad immigration bill? Come up with one of your own:Outgoing Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah) said Friday he's privately discussed the prospect that Republicans would pursue their own version of the DREAM Act next year.

Bennett said he would vote for the immigration legislation, which gives immigrants who were illegally brought to the U.S. as children a conditional pathway to citizenship, if Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) brought it to the floor under the right conditions.

If that fails, the outgoing senator said, Republicans have privately discussed the prospects of writing and passing a version of the DREAM Act that could make its way through Congress.

"Now, I know a lot of my colleagues are not happy to vote for it, and I don't think the votes ... are there to pass it in this Congress," Bennett said in his final conference call with Utah reporters. "And as I've talked, particularly to my Republican friends, I've said we reall…

Bloggin' In The Years: 2000

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We have a winnah! And Al Gore finally concedes:



It's nice to see that he cares so much about bringing the country together. It's just too bad that this Gore didn't show up during the recounts. Still, better late than never.

Some Banks Are More Equal Than Others

Bernie Sanders, Vermont's resident Socialist-At-Large, wants to know why the Fed seems to be more interested in protecting banks with assets in the Cayman Islands than American institutions:In the letter, Senator Sanders points out how "hedge funds and investment firms located in the Cayman Islands and other tax haven countries [have received] assistance from the Fed."
The letter continues:
"In the [Fed’s gigantic Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility, or TALF for short] program alone, it appears that the Fed provided loans to over 100 separate hedge funds, offshore funds, and other investment funds that are located in the Cayman Islands and other notorious tax haven countries…It has been estimated that each year corporations and wealthy individuals avoid approximately $100 billion in U.S. taxes through the use of abusive and illegal tax shelters."

(One minor quibble with the above paragraph – the Cayman Islands and other tax havens are not strictly speaki…