30 April 2011

Alcoholic Vervet Monkeys! - Weird Nature - BBC animals

Seems our cousins like to get their drink on too and now I'm craving a Cosmopolitan!

Sad but true

http://29.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lkhi7ygum01qaqkolo1_500.png Thanks Trump for adding a whole new level of ridiculousness for the world to laugh at us about. Asshole!

A scene from modern America

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The Doors - Shaman's blues

War Street

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Faith or Fear-Lack of Motivation

A great metal band from the mid 80's

Cactus - Rockout, whatever you feel like

Cactus - One Way Or Another

One of the best American rock bands from the early 70's that you probably never heard of.

29 April 2011

Chevron profits jump 36% as oil prices surge | The Raw Story

Chevron's first-quarter profit rose to $6.2 billion, or $3.09 per share, from $4.6 billion, or $2.27 per share, a year earlier.

That topped analysts' average estimate of $3.00 per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Revenue rose 23 percent to $58 billion.

Oil and gas output slipped nearly 1 percent to 2.76 million barrels of oil equivalent per day.

Still, earnings from the upstream, or production arm, jumped to $5.98 billion in the quarter on strong energy prices.

Chevron also benefited from strong demand for products such as gasoline, diesel fuel and jet fuel, which helped lift profits at its refineries more than threefold from a year ago to $622 million.

Massachusetts Dems vote to strip public unions of bargaining rights | The Raw Story

Weren't Democrats supposed to be in favor of collective bargaining rights? Well, maybe not.

Welcome to bizarro world.

The Democratic-controlled Statehouse in Massachusetts voted earlier this week to strip public employee unions of their collective bargaining rights, as part of the state's budget measure. It passed by a vote of 157 to 1.

That's precisely the same action taken by Republicans in Wisconsin, where it sparked a massive democratic outcry and weeks of rowdy protests.

The Massachusetts legislation would allow local municipalities to make unilateral changes to agreed-upon benefits, like health care, bypassing the need for union approval. It would, however, leave open a 30-day window where unions may be consulted on changes to benefits.

According to The Associated Press, the budget also cuts $800 million from the state's Medicare-like program MassHealth, and strips more than $65 million in aid to state agencies and municipalities. Another $200 million would be withdrawn from the state's "rainy-day fund" to help close their spending gap for this fiscal year.

"These are the same Democrats that all these labor unions elected," Massachusetts AFL-CIO president Robert J. Haynes said in a media advisory. "The same Democrats who we contributed to in their campaigns. The same Democrats who tell us over and over again that they’re with us, that they believe in collective bargaining, that they believe in unions."

He also pledged that the unions would fight this arrangement "to the bitter end."

"We deserve better in Massachusetts. Working families lost collective bargaining rights in Game 1 of this budget process. It's on to the Senate, then conference, then the Governor. Working people need to know who is for our right to collectively bargain and who is not."

It was unclear if state Senate President Therese Murray would allow the budget to proceed.

I give Republicans a lot of shit and they deserve it but as I've been saying for some time now, both parties are 2 sides of the same 2 headed coin. Let's face it folks: the Democrats aren't any better and like Republicans don't give 2 squirts of piss about any of us peasants.

Truth

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Macon, Georgia, man sentenced to life for $1 armed robbery | McClatchy

A 23-year-old Macon man was sentenced Thursday to life in prison for his part in robbing a man of $1 at gunpoint in 2010, according to the Bibb County District Attorney’s Office.

Dexter Hogan, of Hall Street, was convicted of armed robbery and possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime following a trial in Bibb County Superior Court, said District Attorney Greg Winters.

Hogan and 28-year-old Charles Ottman robbed a customer of the KwikTrip convenience store at 1924 Forsyth St. on Aug. 26, 2010. A gun was pulled and $1 was taken, Winters said.

Ottman pleaded guilty to armed robbery in March and was sentenced to serve 10 years in prison and 10 years on probation, he said.

Read more: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2011/04/29/113401/macon-georgia-man-sentenced-to.html#ixzz1Kw8m8oY0 So much for the 8th amendment protection against cruel or unusual punishment eh? You don't use your rights anyway America.

Resist!

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Critics-Are-Silent

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Back-to-the-Issues

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As I was saying

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Not good enough!

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The long and short form of it

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What breeze?

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Monty Python and the Holy Grail

True to their nature

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GOP creates their own version of the death panels

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28 April 2011

The African 'Star Wars'

From energy wars to water wars, the 21st century will be determined by a fierce battle for the world's remaining natural resources. The chessboard is global. The stakes are tremendous. Most battles will be invisible. All will be crucial.

In resource-rich Africa, a complex subplot of the New Great Game in Eurasia is already in effect. It's all about three major intertwined developments:

1) The coming of age of the African Union (AU) in the early 2000s.

2) China's investment offencive in Africa throughout the 2000s.

3) The onset of the Pentagon's African Command (Africom) in 2007.

Beijing clearly sees that the Anglo-French-American bombing of Libya – apart from its myriad geopolitical implications – has risked billions of dollars in Chinese investments, not to mention forcing the (smooth) evacuation of more than 35,000 Chinese working across the country.

And crucially, depending on the outcome – as in renegotiated energy contracts by a pliable, pro-Western government – it may also seriously jeopardise Chinese oil imports (3 per cent of total Chinese imports in 2010).

No wonder the China Military, a People's Liberation Army (PLA) newspaper, as well as sectors in academia, are now openly arguing that China needs to drop Deng Xiaoping's "low-profile" policy and bet on a sprawling armed forces to defend its strategic interests worldwide (these assets already total over $1.2 trillion).

Now compare it with a close examination of Africom's strategy, which reveals as the proverbial hidden agenda the energy angle and a determined push to isolate China from northern Africa.

One report titled "China's New Security Strategy in Africa" actually betrays the Pentagon's fear of the PLA eventually sending troops to Africa to protect Chinese interests.

It won't happen in Libya. It's not about to happen in Sudan. But further on down the road, all bets are off.

Meddle is our middle name

The Pentagon has in fact been meddling in Africa's affairs for more than half a century. According to a 2010 US Congressional Research Service study, this happened no less than 46 times before the current Libya civil war.

Among other exploits, the Pentagon invested in a botched large-scale invasion of Somalia and backed the infamous, genocide-related Rwanda regime.

The Bill Clinton administration raised hell in Liberia, Gabon, Congo and Sierra Leone, bombed Sudan, and sent "advisers" to Ethiopia to back dodgy clients grabbing a piece of Somalia (by the way, Somalia has been at war for 20 years).

The September 2002 National Security Strategy (NSS), conceived by the Bush administration, is explicit; Africa is a "strategic priority in fighting terrorism".

Yet, the never-say-die "war on terror" is a sideshow in the Pentagon's vast militarisation agenda, which favours client regimes, setting up military bases, and training of mercenaries – "cooperative partnerships" in Pentagon newspeak.

Africom has some sort of military "partnership" – bilateral agreements – with most of Africa's 53 countries, not to mention fuzzy multilateral schemes such as West African Standby Force and Africa Partnership Station.

American warships have dropped by virtually every African nation except for those bordering the Mediterranean.

The exceptions: Ivory Coast, Sudan, Eritrea and Libya. Ivory Coast is now in the bag. So is South Sudan. Libya may be next. The only ones left to be incorporated to Africom will be Eritrea and Zimbabwe.

Africom's reputation has not been exactly sterling – as the Tunisian and Egyptian chapters of the great 2011 Arab Revolt caught it totally by surprise. These "partners", after all, were essential for surveillance of the southern Mediterranean and the Red Sea.

Libya for its part presented juicy possibilities: an easily demonised dictator; a pliable post-Gaddafi puppet regime; a crucial military base for Africom; loads of excellent cheap oil; and the possibility of throwing China out of Libya.

Under the Obama administration, Africom thus started its first African war. In the words of its commander, General Carter Ham, "we completed a complex, short-notice, operational mission in Libya and… transferred that mission to NATO."

And that leads us to the next step. Africom will share all its African "assets" with NATO. Africom and NATO are in fact one – the Pentagon is a many-headed hydra after all.

Beijing for its part sees right through it; the Mediterranean as a NATO lake (neocolonialism is back especially, via France and Britain); Africa militarised by Africom; and Chinese interests at high risk.

The lure of ChinAfrica

One of the last crucial stages of globalisation - what we may call "ChinAfrica" – established itself almost in silence and invisibility, at least for Western eyes.

In the past decade, Africa became China's new Far West. The epic tale of masses of Chinese workers and entrepreneurs discovering big empty virgin spaces, and wild mixed emotions from exoticism to rejection, racism to outright adventure, grips anyone's imagination.

Individual Chinese have pierced the collective unconscious of Africa, they have made Africans dream – while China the great power proved it could conjure miracles far away from its shores.

For Africa, this "opposites attract" syndrome was a great boost after the 1960s decolonisation – and the horrid mess that followed it.

China repaved roads and railroads, built dams in Congo, Sudan and Ethiopia, equipped the whole of Africa with fibre optics, opened hospitals and orphanages, and – just before Tahrir Square – was about to aid Egypt to relaunch its civilian nuclear programme.

The white man in Africa has been, most of the time, arrogant and condescending. The Chinese, humble, courageous, efficient and discreet.

China will soon become Africa's largest trading partner – ahead of France and the UK – and its top source of foreign investment. It's telling that the best the West could come up with to counteract this geopolitical earthquake was to go the militarised way.

The external Chinese model of trade, aid and investment – not to mention the internal Chinese model of large-scale, state-led investments in infrastructure – made Africa forget about the West while boosting the strategic importance of Africa in the global economy.

Why would an African government rely on the ideology-based "adjustments" of IMF and the World Bank when China attaches no political conditions and respects sovereignty – for Beijing, the most important principle of international law? On top of it, China carries no colonial historical baggage in Africa.

Essentially, large swathes of Africa have rejected the West's trademark shock therapy, and embraced China.

Western elites, predictably, were not amused. Beijing now clearly sees that in the wider context of the New Great Game in Eurasia, the Pentagon has now positioned itself to conduct a remixed Cold War with China all across Africa – using every trick in the book from obscure "partnerships" to engineered chaos.

The leadership in Beijing is silently observing the waters. For the moment, the Little Helmsman Deng's "crossing the river while feeling the stones" holds.

The Pentagon better wise up. The best Beijing may offer is to help Africa to fulfil its destiny. In the eyes of Africans themselves, that certainly beats any Tomahawk.

Wisconsin Republican voting bill ‘morally repugnant,’ say Democrats | The Raw Story

Voting legislation proposed by Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin would disenfranchise the state's most vulnerable citizens and its young people, according to the Wisconsin Democratic Party.

Assembly Bill 7, drafted by Rep. Jeff Stone, would require voters to show a Wisconsin driver's license, a state-issued ID card, a military ID, a passport or a naturalization certificate. They would also have to provide both their current address and their previous address, and sign a poll book when they voted.

"The Republican voter suppression bill is an affront to democracy in Wisconsin," said Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chair Mike Tate. "It is morally repugnant."

In addition, the bill would restrict many voters from using absentee ballots and end straight-ticket voting for anyone not in the military or overseas. Republicans claimed the bill is needed to help prevent voter fraud.

"This is going to go a long way to restoring confidence in elections," Stone told the Wisconsin Journal Sentinel.

"It is another way station in a Republican philosophy that favors power concentrated in the hands of the very few," Tate said. "Their view of the state is to increasingly deny people rights, including the most important right, the franchise, that was purchased in blood. Even the most partisan attorney general in recent history cannot find evidence of the fraud that Republicans claim is at the heart of this legislation."

Supreme Court rules that companies can block class-action lawsuits | The Raw Story

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday handed businesses such as AT&T Inc a major victory by upholding the use of arbitration for customer disputes rather than allowing claims to be brought together as a group.

By a 5-4 vote, the high court ruled that an AT&T unit could enforce a provision in its customer contracts requiring individual arbitration and preventing the pooling together of claims into a class-action lawsuit or class-wide arbitration.

The plaintiffs, Vincent and Liza Concepcion, filed their class-action lawsuit in 2006, claiming they were improperly charged about $30 in sales taxes on cellphones that the AT&T Mobility wireless unit had advertised as free.

AT&T, the No. 2 U.S. mobile service, was backed in the case by a number of other companies and by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce business group, while consumer and civil rights groups supported the California couple.

Companies generally prefer arbitration as a less expensive way of settling consumer disputes, as opposed to costly class actions, which allow customers to band together and can result in large monetary awards.

Customer arbitration agreements are widely used by cellphone carriers, cable providers, credit card companies, stock brokerage firms and other businesses.

Vanderbilt University law professor Brian Fitzpatrick said it may be the most important class action case ever decided by the Supreme Court.

"Because companies can ask all of their consumers, employees, and perhaps even shareholders to sign arbitration agreements, this decision has the potential to permit companies to escape class action liability in almost all of their activities," he said.

Shares of AT&T closed up 1.55 percent at $31.42 on the New York Stock Exchange.

AT&T DEFENDS ARBITRATION AS FAIR

AT&T praised the ruling, saying the Supreme Court recognized that arbitration often benefits consumers. "We value our customers, and AT&T's arbitration program is free, fair, fast, easy to use, and consumer-friendly," the company said.

AT&T said its arbitration agreements required it to pay at least $7,500 if the arbitrator awarded more than the company's final settlement offer and to pay all arbitration costs for nonfrivolous claims.

Deepak Gupta, an attorney at the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen who represented the couple, denounced the decision and said class actions had been an essential tool to achieve justice in U.S. society.

"The U.S. Supreme Court dealt a crushing blow to American consumers and employees, ruling that companies can ban class actions in the fine print of contracts," he said.

AT&T had argued that a federal law that encourages the use of arbitration, the Federal Arbitration Act, trumped a California consumer protection law at issue in the case.

In its ruling, the Supreme Court's conservative majority agreed.

"The California law in question stands as an obstacle to the accomplishment of the purposes and the objectives of the FAA. It is accordingly preempted," Justice Antonin Scalia said for the majority in reading his opinion from the bench.

Scalia cited a federal judge's conclusion in the case that the couple was better off under the AT&T arbitration agreement than under a class action, which could take months or years and could result in their winning just a small amount of money.

The ruling, which reversed a decision by a U.S. appeals court in California, was the latest in a series by the Supreme Court in recent years that generally favored arbitration.

The court's four liberal justices dissented. "The Court is wrong to hold that the federal act preempts the rule of state law," Justice Stephen Breyer wrote in dissent.

The Supreme Court case is AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion, No. 09-893.

(Reporting by James Vicini, Editing by Lisa Von Ahn, Gary Hill)

Evil weed?

http://30.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lis7krR9cd1qchnreo1_500.jpg

Ignorance is bliss?

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And now a word from a teabagger

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Superman to fly the coop?

http://www.blogcdn.com/www.comicsalliance.com/media/2011/04/superman-citizenship-1303916053.jpg So yeah, maybe he'll become a hoser and drink lots of beer eh?

Scenes from a bad day 2

http://cdn.theatlantic.com/static/infocus/storms042811/s_s25_27158883.jpg Faye Hyde, right, sits on a mattress in what was her yard as she comforts her granddaughter Sierra Goldsmith, 2, in Concord, Alabama, on Wednesday, April 27, 2011. Their home was completely destroyed. (AP Photo/The Birmingham News, Jeff Roberts)

Scenes from a bad day

http://cdn.theatlantic.com/static/infocus/storms042811/s_s07_27153405.jpg A first responder holds onto a child that was found in the rubble of a destroyed home after a tornado struck Phil Campbell, Alabama, on Wednesday afternoon, April 27, 2011. (AP Photo/The TimesDaily, Daniel Giles)

ThinkProgress » Oklahoma GOP Lawmaker Sally Kern: ‘Blacks’ Don’t Work As Hard As White People

The Republican-controlled Oklahoma House of Representatives passed a proposed constitutional amendment yesterday that would eliminate Affirmative Action in state government. The offical GOP reasoning for the change is that while “discrimination exists,” “I don’t think Affirmative Action has been as successful as we like to believe,” the bill’s sponsor, state Rep. T.W. Shannon (R), explained. But perpetual extremist state Rep. Sally Kern (R) offered her argument for ending the system that helps minorities advance: “blacks” simply don’t work as hard as whites:

Rep. Sally Kern, R-Oklahoma City, said minorities earn less than white people because they don’t work as hard and have less initiative.

“We have a high percentage of blacks in prison, and that’s tragic, but are they in prison just because they are black or because they don’t want to study as hard in school? I’ve taught school, and I saw a lot of people of color who didn’t study hard because they said the government would take care of them.

Kern said women earn less than men because “they tend to spend more time at home with their families.”

While Kern has long history of taking outlandish positions — from saying homosexuality is more dangerous than terrorism to introducing legislation to force teachers to question evolution — her bigoted comments reflect a disturbing trend among even mainstream conservatives to blame valuable social safety net programs for creating a culture of dependency or even “slavery.” (h/t: reader Dustin)

It all makes sense now!

http://thinkprogress.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/trumpandkoch.png The Donald and David Koch share a table at a party in the Hamptons, which finally explains everything. Birds of a feather and all that.

The sacred thread ceremony

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“Upanayana (“near-sight”) or Munji, also called “sacred thread ceremony”, is commonly known for being a Hindu and a Jain Sanskar, rite-of-passage ritual, where the concept of Brahman or Jain is introduced to a young boy. Traditionally, the ceremony was performed to mark the point at which boys began their formal education.

In Jainism and Hinduism, the ceremony is performed on boys of at least 8 years of age. During the ceremony the youngster is taught the secret of life. The child then becomes qualified for life as a student or Brahmacharya, as prescribed in the Manusmriti.

The hallmark of having gone through the Upanayana or Munji ceremony is the wearing of the Yajñopavītam (Sacred Thread) on the body. It denotes that one who wear the sacred thread should be pure in his thought, word and deed. The sacred thread reminds a Brahmachari to lead a regulated life with purity in his thought, word and deed. These threads also represent the debt that is owed to the guru, parents and society.”

Fingers in the dyke

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Study: Republicans' Hidden $34 Trillion Tax On Seniors | TPMDC

A new report by economists at the liberal Center for Economic and Policy Research looks at House Republicans' plan for privatizing Medicare from a new angle, and finds that it could increase health care costs for beneficiaries by a staggering $34 trillion over 75 years.

You won't find these expenditures on the government ledger. They represent the amount of money Medicare beneficiaries would have to pay out of pocket if they wanted to buy insurance policies that provide Medicare-equivalent benefits.

The reasoning is fairly straightforward, according to CEPR's Dean Baker and David Rosnick.

The money the government currently spends every year on Medicare doesn't cover every penny of health care its beneficiaries consume. The government agrees to pay a fixed percent, and the rest falls to the beneficiaries who share in the cost of the services they and their doctors order. The sum of those two numbers -- both of which are expected to rise steeply over time -- is the total cost incurred by Medicare. Under the House Republican plan, the government holds fixed the amount of money it's willing to pay per patient per year, and leaves the residual costs for seniors to sort out with private insurers. Because private insurers are smaller, profit-driven, and less efficient than Medicare, those out-of-pocket costs will be significantly higher than they are now. And they'd grow much, much faster. Over the course of the program's 75 year planning period, the difference would amount to $34 trillion.

Quoth Baker and Rosnick:

CBO projects that private-sector inefficiency will grow over time. By 2030, the government would spend $7,200 on a 65-year-old in traditional Medicare. Since the cost of Ryan's plan remains fixed at $6,600, it would save the government $600.... But the total cost of insuring the beneficiary through the private sector would be $20,600, compared to $12,400 under traditional Medicare. For every dollar that the government would save on this beneficiary, it would generate more than $13 of waste.

The authors describe the $8,200 difference as a "gift to the private sector," that would function like a tax.

Conservatives would argue that seniors will shop around for plans that provide fewer benefits than traditional Medicare, but that cover the services they expect they'll need. If that doesn't hold down the growth in health care costs, though, that would mean shedding more, and more benefits or paying more and more out of pocket.

And that's all assuming seniors will be able to find private insurers willing to sell them coverage.

Read the report here:

Representative Ryan's $30 Trillion Medicare Waste Tax

27 April 2011

Never satisfied

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A bad day in Tuscaloosa

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Dave Johnson: Corporate Propaganda Response To Town Hall Medicare Anger

The Republican plan for Medicare "cuts government spending" by shifting the cost of old-age health care directly to the middle class and poor. (I'll explain below.) Here's the thing: someone is going to get that $34 trillion. (I'll explain below.) And that someone (the Supreme Court thinks corporations are "someone") is fighting hard for it. They'll say whatever it takes. It is up to you and me to get the word out about this. (I'll explain below.)

Say Whatever It Takes

Here is an example of what I mean by "say whatever it takes." Click through and listen to this commercial. Cheerful, uplifting music. Positive voice tones. Flat-out lies.

- TRANSCRIPT -

ANNOUNCER:

Something unusual happened last week...in Washington, DC of all places.

Elected officials actually did what they said they would.

The House passed a budget that protects and preserves Medicare for years to come.

And our Congressman, Allen West, voted to protect Medicare and keep it secure for future retirees.

Our national debt is $14 trillion...America is literally spending money we don't have and future generations won't be able to afford.

With 10,000 Baby Boomers reaching retirement age every day, important programs like Medicare are being crushed - and could collapse if we don't act to strengthen and improve them.

No changes for seniors on Medicare now or those who will soon go on it.

Control costs by targeting waste, fraud and abuse - so current and future seniors receive the quality care they have earned.

Call Allen West at (954) 202-6211. Thank him for voting to protect Medicare and tell him to continue keeping his promise to seniors.

Paid for by the 60 Plus Association.

What's This About?

Last week all of the Republicans in the House except a few voted to approve a plan to phase out Medicare and replace it with "premium support" - vouchers - for private insurance, that only cover part of the cost of the private insurance. (As if any company would insure a 75-year-old with health problems. And as if an 80-year-old with cognitive disabilities can pick and choose which insurance scam policy is best.)

Yes, that's right, it phases out Medicare and replaces it with private insurance, as in, "What do you mean you won't cover that procedure, test, drug, operation? My doctor says I need it!" Right, that private insurance.

Medicare Costs Shifted To Middle Class

This plan shifts costs away from the government and on to We, the People. But it ends up adding trillions in total costs because private insurance costs so much more, and because of co-pays, and because of so many other reasons that are the cause of our country paying so much more per capita than other for health care. It actually makes the cost problem much worse. But it cuts "government spending" by shifting those costs to us individually.

Economist Dean Baker writes that the Republican Medicare phase-out costs us more than $30 trillion (over 75 years) above what we would pay without this phase-out,

[The Republican plan] to replace the current Medicare system with a system of vouchers or premium supports has been widely described as shifting costs from the government to beneficiaries. However, the size of this shift is actually small relative to the projected increase in costs that would result from having Medicare provided by private insurers instead of the government-run Medicare system.

The Congressional Budget Office's (CBO) projections imply that the Ryan plan would add more than $30 trillion to the cost of providing Medicare equivalent policies over the program's 75-year planning period. This increase in costs - from waste associated with using a less efficient health care delivery system - has not received the attention that it deserves in the public debate.

And economist Mark Thoma writes that the phase-out leaves many seniors without the means to get health care at all,

The [Republican] plan would reduce Medicare payments far below what is currently available, and this would leave many without the means to obtain the care they need. But even if the vouchers were adequate, I would still not be in favor of a voucher system for health insurance.

The public will have to shell out trillions of dollars more because of the phase-out shifts seniors to private insurance. It saves the government money by shifting the cost to you and me, but adds $34 trillion more in total costs this way. So high-end taxpayers and corporations will pay lower taxes, the rest of us make it up.

Town Hall Anger

People are starting to hear about what the Republicans did and have been turning out at local "town hall" meetings where members of Congress talk to constituents. And, not surprisingly, they are angry.

Dave Johnson

Dave Johnson

GET UPDATES FROM Dave Johnson

Corporate Propaganda Response To Town Hall Medicare Anger

Posted: 04/27/11 07:17 PM ET

The Republican plan for Medicare "cuts government spending" by shifting the cost of old-age health care directly to the middle class and poor. (I'll explain below.) Here's the thing: someone is going to get that $34 trillion. (I'll explain below.) And that someone (the Supreme Court thinks corporations are "someone") is fighting hard for it. They'll say whatever it takes. It is up to you and me to get the word out about this. (I'll explain below.)

Say Whatever It Takes

Here is an example of what I mean by "say whatever it takes." Click through and listen to this commercial. Cheerful, uplifting music. Positive voice tones. Flat-out lies.

- TRANSCRIPT -

ANNOUNCER:

Something unusual happened last week...in Washington, DC of all places.

Elected officials actually did what they said they would.

The House passed a budget that protects and preserves Medicare for years to come.

And our Congressman, Allen West, voted to protect Medicare and keep it secure for future retirees.

Our national debt is $14 trillion...America is literally spending money we don't have and future generations won't be able to afford.

With 10,000 Baby Boomers reaching retirement age every day, important programs like Medicare are being crushed - and could collapse if we don't act to strengthen and improve them.

No changes for seniors on Medicare now or those who will soon go on it.

Control costs by targeting waste, fraud and abuse - so current and future seniors receive the quality care they have earned.

Call Allen West at (954) 202-6211. Thank him for voting to protect Medicare and tell him to continue keeping his promise to seniors.

Paid for by the 60 Plus Association.

What's This About?

Last week all of the Republicans in the House except a few voted to approve a plan to phase out Medicare and replace it with "premium support" - vouchers - for private insurance, that only cover part of the cost of the private insurance. (As if any company would insure a 75-year-old with health problems. And as if an 80-year-old with cognitive disabilities can pick and choose which insurance scam policy is best.)

Yes, that's right, it phases out Medicare and replaces it with private insurance, as in, "What do you mean you won't cover that procedure, test, drug, operation? My doctor says I need it!" Right, that private insurance.

Medicare Costs Shifted To Middle Class

This plan shifts costs away from the government and on to We, the People. But it ends up adding trillions in total costs because private insurance costs so much more, and because of co-pays, and because of so many other reasons that are the cause of our country paying so much more per capita than other for health care. It actually makes the cost problem much worse. But it cuts "government spending" by shifting those costs to us individually.

Economist Dean Baker writes that the Republican Medicare phase-out costs us more than $30 trillion (over 75 years) above what we would pay without this phase-out,

[The Republican plan] to replace the current Medicare system with a system of vouchers or premium supports has been widely described as shifting costs from the government to beneficiaries. However, the size of this shift is actually small relative to the projected increase in costs that would result from having Medicare provided by private insurers instead of the government-run Medicare system.

The Congressional Budget Office's (CBO) projections imply that the Ryan plan would add more than $30 trillion to the cost of providing Medicare equivalent policies over the program's 75-year planning period. This increase in costs - from waste associated with using a less efficient health care delivery system - has not received the attention that it deserves in the public debate.

And economist Mark Thoma writes that the phase-out leaves many seniors without the means to get health care at all,

The [Republican] plan would reduce Medicare payments far below what is currently available, and this would leave many without the means to obtain the care they need. But even if the vouchers were adequate, I would still not be in favor of a voucher system for health insurance.

The public will have to shell out trillions of dollars more because of the phase-out shifts seniors to private insurance. It saves the government money by shifting the cost to you and me, but adds $34 trillion more in total costs this way. So high-end taxpayers and corporations will pay lower taxes, the rest of us make it up.

Town Hall Anger

People are starting to hear about what the Republicans did and have been turning out at local "town hall" meetings where members of Congress talk to constituents. And, not surprisingly, they are angry.

Here is Republican Congressman Ryan being boo'ed by constituents:

Who Gets That Money?

They always say, when you are trying to figure out who is behind some scheme or scam, to "follow the money." Sure, in this case wealthy and corporate interests are pushing for even more huge tax cuts by "cutting government spending" with this scheme to phase out Medicare. But wait, there's more. The scheme goes beyond that because when you privatize government functions someone gets the money. That is the point of privatization -- to shift public wealth to private profit. They always claim privatization cuts costs, but in reality it actually costs more with what was formerly something We, the People held in common now going to a few for their own gain. So this costs us more because government doesn't pay CEOs huge salaries, and doesn't give million-dollar bonuses to the rest of the executives. Government doesn't pay out a profit. And government's job is to work in the interest of the public. Not so with private companies. Not so at all.

Privatizing means taking something away from us, so a few can benefit from it instead. And that is what is happening to Medicare under the Republican plan.

Enter The Corporate Front Group

In response to the town hall anger, a corporate front-group named 60 Plus is blanketing the radiowaves in Republican districts with these soothing ads thanking them for "preserving and protecting" Medicare. This is part of a campaign they named Seniors Thank Congress for Protecting Medicare.

60 Plus is one of the groups that spent millions and millions of dollars running campaign ads for Republicans last year, telling people Democrats "cut $500 billion from Medicare."

Thanks to the wisdom of our elected officials and Supreme Court, we don't get to find out just who is behind 60 Plus. Is it corporations? Billionaires? Foreign Governments? SourceWatch has some clues.

Muddy The Waters

This ad is part of a strategy to "muddy the waters,"

The GOP official added that the party "can fight the Medicare issue to a tie" by "muddying the waters" and painting Democrats as choosing status-quo options that would have Medicare "die a slow death."

Go back and read the transcript of the 60 Plus ad again, see how closely it follows this strategy.

Regular people have jobs, drive to work (and listen to the radio where these ads are playing), work hard, come home, maybe take care of kids... They are busy. They are not experts on the issues. If they tune into the news they are told that "both sides" are "squabbling" and maybe that there is a plan to "reform" Medicare. So as much as Republicans can "muddy the waters" and keep the reporting on a "both sides" and horse race focus, this plan can succeed.

This organization is not put together by people who care if you and me get Medicare. This is put together as a front for the corporations that will get the money from privatizing Medicare, and the wealthy few who get the money from tax cuts. They count on regular people being busy and not well-informed.

The GOP official added that the party "can fight the Medicare issue to a tie" by "muddying the waters" and painting Democrats as choosing status-quo options that would have Medicare "die a slow death."

It's up to you and me to get the word out about this.

We Can Fight This

So, will we be able to get the word out, or will the corporate money allow this and other front groups to saturate the airwaves?

I think we can fight this. We have the facts on our side, and the numbers, but not the money. They always have the advantage when it comes to money. So it is up to us to turn out the facts and the numbers.

Will YOU help? Will YOU get involved?

Will YOU tell people, talk to friends, neighbors and relatives? Will YOU show up at town hall meetings and demand answers? Will you call your member of Congress and your Senators? Will YOU join with "Don't Make Us Work Till We Die?" for their actions tomorrow, and join up with US Uncut or On May 12?

If you do, we can win.

Consumer lawsuits: Supreme Court ruling may limit class-action consumer lawsuits - latimes.com

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court gave corporations a major win Wednesday, ruling in a 5-4 decision that companies can block their disgruntled customers from joining together in a class-action lawsuit. The ruling arose from a California lawsuit involving cellphones, but it will have a nationwide impact. In the past, consumers who bought a product or a service had been free to join a class-action lawsuit if they were dissatisfied or felt they had been cheated. By combining these small claims, they could bring a major lawsuit against a corporation. But in Wednesday's decision, the high court said that under the Federal Arbitration Act companies can force these disgruntled customers to arbitrate their complaints individually, not as part of a group. Consumer-rights advocates said this rule would spell the end for small claims involving products or services. In the case before the court, a Southern California couple complained about a $30 charge involving their purchase of cellphone service from AT&T Mobility. The California courts said they were entitled to join with others in bringing a class-action claim against the cellphone company. But the Supreme Court reversed that decision Wednesday in AT&T Mobility vs. Concepcion. Justice Antonin Scalia said companies may require buyers to sign arbitration agreements, and those agreements may preclude class-action claims. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. formed the majority. Scalia said companies like arbitration because it is efficient and less costly. "Arbitration is poorly suited to the higher stakes of class litigation," he said. But the dissenters said a practical ban on class action would be unfair to cheated consumers. Justice Stephen G. Breyer said the California courts had insisted on permitting class-action claims, despite arbitration clauses that forbade them. Otherwise, he said, it would allow a company to "insulate" itself "from liability for its own frauds by deliberately cheating large numbers of consumers out of individually small sums of money." Breyer added that a ban on class actions would prevent lawyers from representing clients for small claims. "What rational lawyer would have signed on to represent the Concepcions in litigation for the possibility of fees stemming from a $30.22 claim?" he wrote. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan joined his dissent. The court itself divided along partisan lines. All five Republican appointes formed the majority, and four Democratic appointees dissented. Still pending before the court is a major dispute over class-action suits involving job discrimination. Lawyers for Wal-Mart have asked the justices to throw out a sex-discrimination claim brought on behalf of 1.5 million current and past female employees. I wonder why SCOTUS just doesn't come out with a ruling that American corporations are the real masters of all and Americans should all just shut up and be grateful for such benevolent masters. Talk about activist judges!

PolitiFact | Links to documents involving President Obama

Here are some of the publicly available documents related to President Barack Obama: The "Certificate of Live Birth" from the Hawaii Department of Health, released by the White House on April 27, 2011. The "Certification of Live Birth" from the Hawaii Department of Health (released by the Obama campaign in June 2008). Birth announcement in the Honululu Advertiser, Aug. 13, 1961. "Mr. and Mrs. Barack H. Obama, 6085 Kalanianaole Highway, son, Aug. 4." Birth announcement in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Aug. 14, 1961. "Mr. and Mrs. Barack H. Obama, 6085 Kalanianaole Highway, son, Aug. 4." Obama's 1992 marriage certificate from the Cook County (Ill.) Bureau of Vital Statistics. Obama's driver's license record from the Illinois Secretary of State's office. Obama's registration and disciplinary record with the Attorney Registration & Disciplinary Commission of the Supreme Court of Illinois. Photo of a State of Hawaii government binder holding the 1960-1964 birth listing at the State Department of Health in Honolulu. Photo of a registration document from the Fransiskus Assisi school in Jakarta, Indonesia, which shows Barack Obama registered under the name Barry Soetoro by his step-father, Lolo Soetoro. It lists Barry Soetoro as an Indonesian citizen, born on Aug. 4, 1961, in Honolulu; also that his step-father listed Barry Soetoro's religion as Islam.

PolitiFact | Birthers not persuaded by Certificate of Live Birth

Orly Taitz is a leader among those who question President Barack Obama’s eligibility to serve as president. For three years, the California dentist/lawyer and others have filled the Internet and courts with demands that the president produce his original, long-form birth certificate to prove he was born in Hawaii, not Kenya.

With that document’s release Wednesday, the issue is finally settled, right?

"When I look at it, a few things jump out at me from the page as suspect," Taitz said in a phone interview.

For one, she said, Obama’s father’s race is listed as "African." At the time, she said, the choices for race would have been "White, Asian or Negro." Identifying him as "African" is adopting the more politically correct terminology of today, she said. It’s also fishy, she said, that he was called Barack Hussein Obama II, instead of "Jr." People just didn’t do that back then, she said. Taitz also wonders why the certificate lists Obama’s grandparents’ address instead of his parents’ university housing.

Even if he was born in Hawaii, Taitz isn’t convinced Obama meets the constitutional requirement of "natural born citizen" because his father was Kenyan. And why hasn’t Obama released his college transcripts from Occidental College or Columbia? What is he hiding?

In a brief press conference, Obama acknowledged the release likely won’t convince everyone.

"I know that there’s going to be a segment of people for which, no matter what we put out, this issue will not be put to rest," Obama said. "But I’m speaking to the vast majority of the American people, as well as to the press. We do not have time for this kind of silliness."

Once a fringe element, the birth certificate doubters got a toe-hold on a broad group of citizens through an endless stream of chain e-mails and Internet stories (and lately, the musings of Donald Trump). Recent polls have shown that about a quarter of Americans doubt Obama was born in the United States (including more than four in 10 Republicans).

PolitiFact, the St. Petersburg Times’ fact-checking website, has examined the issue of Obama’s citizenship from many angles in the past three years, viewing the Certification of Live Birth, talking to Health Department officials in Hawaii, examining newspaper birth announcements, even investigating a purported Kenyan birth certificate (a hoax). All evidence pointed to one conclusion: Obama was born in Honolulu.

Every story was met with a wave of angry e-mails and new sets of theories about why the president was perpetrating one of the biggest hoaxes in American history. Were they convinced by the long-form document?

"I prefer to wait a little while to see whether or not what was presented as Obama’s real birth certificate proves to be authentic. Why? Because what comes out of this man’s mouth, and his deeds, are suspicious and questionable," said Jo Maniaci, 77, a retiree from Mayfield Heights, Ohio, who said she recently dropped her longtime Republican affiliation and is an independent who thinks the "tea party folks are on the right track."

"Just because he presented ‘something,’ is no indication of its authenticity," Maniaci said. "His very presidency, in my mind and heart, is not authentic. He is a Trojan horse."

Carol Tabor, president of Family Security Matters, said that whatever has been released must be "forensically tested."

James Diffley, 75, of Glendale, Calif., said he was "pretty much" satisfied with the document — but not completely. "All I know is what people have sent to me (via e-mail), and someone sent this Kenyan birth certificate to me, and I felt like, ‘Hmm, something’s not right here,’ " he said. "I’d like to see the other documentation discredited."

Diffley, a registered Republican who considers himself more of an independent, said the birth certificate has been a constant source of debate within his family, most of whom are Democrats. "My sister-in-law will not speak to me over this," he said.

Brendan Nyhan, a political scientist at the University of Michigan, studies political beliefs and factual evidence. He’s found that when people are fiercely partisan, they are less likely to change their minds when presented with factual evidence that contradicts their views.

Nyhan said he was surprised and discouraged that Obama took the extra step of releasing the long-form. "The fact that the president has to go to these lengths to prove that he’s qualified to hold office is an amazing and disturbing thing," he said. "This is a defeat, it is not a victory. It’s going to encourage people who want to promote these sorts of things."

That certainly seems to be the case for Jerome Corsi, whose book, Where’s the Birth Certificate: The Case that Barack Obama is Not Eligible to be President, is set to be released in mid May. Based on pre-sales, it’s set to be a best-seller.

"Now the game begins," Corsi said via WorldNetDaily, a conservative news website that has served as a venue for news and commentary about the birth certificate controversy. "Nixon thought he could stop the Watergate scandal from unfolding by releasing a few tapes. All that did was fuel the fire."

Corsi renewed his call for the release of other Obama documents, including his school, medical and passport records.

"Is it going to end the controversy? I don’t think it will," said Andy Martin, the self-proclaimed "King of the Birthers" and a Republican 2012 presidential candidate.

Martin said the document released by the White House "is probably good enough for me. I don’t see any evidence of forgery ... yet."

He blames Obama for "creating his own monster," by not releasing the document sooner. The release, he said, validates the accusations made by him, Trump and others, and will only encourage them to demand more documents.

Said Martin: "I don’t know many monsters that once they’ve tasted blood just go away."

PolitiFact | Birthers not persuaded by Certificate of Live Birth

Orly Taitz is a leader among those who question President Barack Obama’s eligibility to serve as president. For three years, the California dentist/lawyer and others have filled the Internet and courts with demands that the president produce his original, long-form birth certificate to prove he was born in Hawaii, not Kenya.

With that document’s release Wednesday, the issue is finally settled, right?

"When I look at it, a few things jump out at me from the page as suspect," Taitz said in a phone interview.

For one, she said, Obama’s father’s race is listed as "African." At the time, she said, the choices for race would have been "White, Asian or Negro." Identifying him as "African" is adopting the more politically correct terminology of today, she said. It’s also fishy, she said, that he was called Barack Hussein Obama II, instead of "Jr." People just didn’t do that back then, she said. Taitz also wonders why the certificate lists Obama’s grandparents’ address instead of his parents’ university housing.

Even if he was born in Hawaii, Taitz isn’t convinced Obama meets the constitutional requirement of "natural born citizen" because his father was Kenyan. And why hasn’t Obama released his college transcripts from Occidental College or Columbia? What is he hiding?

In a brief press conference, Obama acknowledged the release likely won’t convince everyone.

"I know that there’s going to be a segment of people for which, no matter what we put out, this issue will not be put to rest," Obama said. "But I’m speaking to the vast majority of the American people, as well as to the press. We do not have time for this kind of silliness."

Once a fringe element, the birth certificate doubters got a toe-hold on a broad group of citizens through an endless stream of chain e-mails and Internet stories (and lately, the musings of Donald Trump). Recent polls have shown that about a quarter of Americans doubt Obama was born in the United States (including more than four in 10 Republicans).

PolitiFact, the St. Petersburg Times’ fact-checking website, has examined the issue of Obama’s citizenship from many angles in the past three years, viewing the Certification of Live Birth, talking to Health Department officials in Hawaii, examining newspaper birth announcements, even investigating a purported Kenyan birth certificate (a hoax). All evidence pointed to one conclusion: Obama was born in Honolulu.

Every story was met with a wave of angry e-mails and new sets of theories about why the president was perpetrating one of the biggest hoaxes in American history. Were they convinced by the long-form document?

"I prefer to wait a little while to see whether or not what was presented as Obama’s real birth certificate proves to be authentic. Why? Because what comes out of this man’s mouth, and his deeds, are suspicious and questionable," said Jo Maniaci, 77, a retiree from Mayfield Heights, Ohio, who said she recently dropped her longtime Republican affiliation and is an independent who thinks the "tea party folks are on the right track."

"Just because he presented ‘something,’ is no indication of its authenticity," Maniaci said. "His very presidency, in my mind and heart, is not authentic. He is a Trojan horse."

Carol Tabor, president of Family Security Matters, said that whatever has been released must be "forensically tested."

James Diffley, 75, of Glendale, Calif., said he was "pretty much" satisfied with the document — but not completely. "All I know is what people have sent to me (via e-mail), and someone sent this Kenyan birth certificate to me, and I felt like, ‘Hmm, something’s not right here,’ " he said. "I’d like to see the other documentation discredited."

Diffley, a registered Republican who considers himself more of an independent, said the birth certificate has been a constant source of debate within his family, most of whom are Democrats. "My sister-in-law will not speak to me over this," he said.

Brendan Nyhan, a political scientist at the University of Michigan, studies political beliefs and factual evidence. He’s found that when people are fiercely partisan, they are less likely to change their minds when presented with factual evidence that contradicts their views.

Nyhan said he was surprised and discouraged that Obama took the extra step of releasing the long-form. "The fact that the president has to go to these lengths to prove that he’s qualified to hold office is an amazing and disturbing thing," he said. "This is a defeat, it is not a victory. It’s going to encourage people who want to promote these sorts of things."

That certainly seems to be the case for Jerome Corsi, whose book, Where’s the Birth Certificate: The Case that Barack Obama is Not Eligible to be President, is set to be released in mid May. Based on pre-sales, it’s set to be a best-seller.

"Now the game begins," Corsi said via WorldNetDaily, a conservative news website that has served as a venue for news and commentary about the birth certificate controversy. "Nixon thought he could stop the Watergate scandal from unfolding by releasing a few tapes. All that did was fuel the fire."

Corsi renewed his call for the release of other Obama documents, including his school, medical and passport records.

"Is it going to end the controversy? I don’t think it will," said Andy Martin, the self-proclaimed "King of the Birthers" and a Republican 2012 presidential candidate.

Martin said the document released by the White House "is probably good enough for me. I don’t see any evidence of forgery ... yet."

He blames Obama for "creating his own monster," by not releasing the document sooner. The release, he said, validates the accusations made by him, Trump and others, and will only encourage them to demand more documents.

Said Martin: "I don’t know many monsters that once they’ve tasted blood just go away."

With President Obama's Birth Certificate, Klansman Trump Reminds Blacks ...

Talk show host Nicole Sandler arrested at tea party Rep’s town hall | The Raw Story

At a town hall meeting last night in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., staged by Rep. Allen West (R-FL), liberal talk show host Nicole Sandler was taken out of the event hall and arrested on camera.

She was initially just being removed from the hall, but Sandler shouted at the officer to take his hands off of her as they were escorting her out, likely providing a trigger for the arrest. Confronted by Sandler's boyfriend, the officer did not say why he was arresting her.

One man who repeatedly disrupted the event kept asking why West had nearly appointed as his chief of staff a fringe conservative who once advocated "bullets" as a political solution if votes didn't accomplish their goals.

Unfortunately for the dissenters, West refused to answer questions from the audience. He instead chose only to address pre-screened and approved queries, essentially ignoring constituents who pelted him with criticism.

Sandler has reportedly been released from police custody on a $25 bond, but individuals answering phones at the Broward County Sheriff's Department and the Ft. Lauderdale Police Department refused to confirm this to Raw Story.

Sandler was reportedly charged with trespassing on private property after a warning.

Speaking to a blogger at The Political Carnival shortly after her release, Sandler reportedly said that officers sprayed her with mace earlier this morning after she refused to return to a holding cell. This claim could not be independently verified.

A Ft. Lauderdale Police Dept. document detailing the arresting officer's take on Sandler's arrest has been acquired by Raw Story.

In it, officer William Rousseau claims that Sandler was told to leave the event because "her behavior caused many of the audience members to enter into a verbal altercation that threatened to become physical."

The officer also claims that he instructed Sandler to leave the premises "at least a dozen times," but that she would not. He further claimed that Sandler became "physically aggressive with this ofc., pushing me several times."

Video footage does not seem to bear that out, and Sandler clearly agreed to leave the event. She did however shout at the officer that he should not touch her, but did not appear to resist when he decided to make an arrest.

When the police arrest peaceful citizens at a public event because a cowardly GOP representative is afraid to to face the music over his bad votes in the House, we are not in a free society. Allen West is a bigot, an egomaniac and in the pocket of the big businesses looking to steal that Medicare money. There's audio at the link as well.

ThinkProgress » The ‘U.S.’ Chamber Of Commerce Likens Obama To Qaddafi, Threatens White House

Earlier this month, the White House floated the possibility of an executive order to require “companies seeking government contracts” to disclose contributions to groups that air political ads. And a few days ago, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) filed a lawsuit against the Federal Election Commission to demand rules mandating donor disclosure.

The move by the White House has been met with a fierce denunciation by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which ran one of the largest ad campaigns using secret corporate money in the midterm election last year. In an interview with the New York Times, Chamber executive Bruce Josten compared President Obama to Muammar Qaddafi, claiming that the Chamber will fight the order with the same resolve as military leaders currently bombing Libya:

The lobbyist, R. Bruce Josten, said in an interview that the powerful business bloc “is not going to tolerate” what it saw as a “backdoor attempt” by the White House to silence private-sector opponents by disclosing their political spending.

“We will fight it through all available means,” Mr. Josten said. In a reference to the White House’s battle to depose Libya’s leader, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, he said, “To quote what they say every day on Libya, all options are on the table.”

The Chamber’s threat is not idle talk. As ThinkProgress exclusively reported, the Chamber’s lawyers recently met with a group of military contractors to devise a potentially illegal plot to sabotage liberal critics, including Change to Win, Chamber Watch, MoveOn.org, and even ThinkProgress. The plan included an effort to use fake online identities to hack computers and submit false documents to progressive groups in a bid to discredit the Chamber’s perceived political opponents.

Moreover, the White House’s disclosure rule threatens the entire existence of the Chamber. This is because the Chamber only exists to hide the identity of corporations seeking to fight nasty political battles without having their name or brand exposed. As the Wall Street Journal noted, the Chamber’s “most striking innovation has been to offer individual companies and industries the chance to use the chamber as a means of anonymously pursuing their own political ends.” The Chamber’s members include defense contractors, bailed out banks, and other donors likely to be affected by the government contractor campaign disclosure rule.

Questions about the legality of the Chamber’s own campaign contributors linger. Last year, we broke the story that the Chamber actively solicited dozens of donations from foreign corporations from India, Bahrain, and other countries. The money, according to documents we unearthed, were deposited in the same legal entity the Chamber later used to pay for political attack ads, mostly against Democrats. The Chamber admitted to the direct foreign donations, but never proved that the money was properly segregated from domestic money. The Federal Election Commission did nothing to look into the matter.

You know you are dealing with un-American traitors when they threaten the POTUS. Rich folk believe themselves to be gods walking among us and I think it's time to take them down a few pegs for the sake of our nation's future.

ThinkProgress » In Wake Of Widespread Town Hall Backlash, Rep. Allen West Only Answers Pre-Screened Questions

As voters around the country continue to voice their anger at town halls over the Republican plan to end Medicare, Republican congressmen are using a range of tactics to try to avoid constituent wrath. In a heated Orlando town hall yesterday, Rep. Daniel Webster (R-FL) largely ignored contentious questions, leading many in the crowd to demand the congressman “answer the question!” Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), the architect of the GOP budget, even ducked out a back entrance during his town hall last night and left in a police car rather than his own vehicle.

Last night, ThinkProgress was in attendance for a Fort Lauderdale town hall where Rep. Allen West (R-FL) took a different approach: pre-screening all questions. Not only were all questions pre-approved by the congressman’s staff, but the attendees were not even permitted to ask the screened questions themselves; staff members read the questions instead, lest a constituent ask an unscripted question. The Sun Sentinel noted that West’s move to pre-screen questions was a far cry from “his usual practice at previous town hall meetings, where West took questions from people who lined up at microphones.”

Still, a few upset voters attempted to circumvent West’s screening process and make their voices heard. These town hall attendees were thrown out by security and at least one woman, a former Air America radio host, was arrested.

It’s understandable why West would want to screen all the questions he would be asked. Voter anger over the Republican budget – West gave the plan a full-throated endorsement – has popped up in town halls across the country. Constituents have been giving an earful to many GOPers who support the Republican budget, including Reps. Paul Ryan (R-WI), Daniel Webster (R-FL), Charlie Bass (R-NH), Chris Gibson (R-NY), Sean Duffy (R-WI), Patrick Meehan (R-WI), and Robert Dold (R-IL). West’s move to pre-screen all questions was an unfortunate attempt to head off the voter backlash that’s plaguing other supporters of the Republican budget.

It will be interesting to see how this all plays out. We live in a democratic republic supposedly and the will of the people has been made clear: don't touch Medicare or Social Security but tax rich folks and corporations. Will the Republicans listen or continue sucking the dicks of their rich contributors? While I personally see a jizz fest in the GOP future, they still need votes so, as I mentioned, it will be interesting to see how this all plays out.

26 April 2011

IMF bombshell: The America age to end by 2016 marketwatch: Personal Finance News from Yahoo! Finance

The International Monetary Fund has just dropped a bombshell, and nobody noticed.

For the first time, the international organization has set a date for the moment when the "Age of America" will end and the U.S. economy will be overtaken by that of China.

According to the latest IMF official forecasts, China's economy will surpass that of America in real terms in 2016 — just five years from now.

It provides a painful context for the budget wrangling taking place in Washington right now. It raises enormous questions about what the international security system is going to look like in just a handful of years. And it casts a deepening cloud over both the U.S. dollar and the giant Treasury market, which have been propped up for decades by their privileged status as the liabilities of the world's hegemonic power.

Just 10 years ago, the U.S. economy was three times the size of China's.

Victor Cha, senior adviser on Asian affairs at Washington's Center for Strategic and International Studies, told me China's neighbors in Asia are already waking up to the dangers. "The region is overwhelmingly looking to the U.S. in a way that it hasn't done in the past," he said. "They see the U.S. as a counterweight to China. They also see American hegemony over the last half-century as fairly benign. In China they see the rise of an economic power that is not benevolent, that can be predatory. They don't see it as a benign hegemony."

The rise of China, and the relative decline of America, is the biggest story of our time. You can see its implications everywhere, from shuttered factories in the Midwest to soaring costs of oil and other commodities. Last fall, when I attended a conference in London about agricultural investment, I was struck by the number of people there who told stories about Chinese interests snapping up farmland and foodstuff supplies — from South America to China and elsewhere.

This is the result of decades during which China has successfully pursued economic policies aimed at national expansion and power, while the U.S. has embraced either free trade or, for want of a better term, economic appeasement.

"There are two systems in collision," said Ralph Gomory, research professor at NYU's Stern business school. "They have a state-guided form of capitalism, and we have a much freer former of capitalism." What we have seen, he said, is "a massive shift in capability from the U.S. to China. What we have done is traded jobs for profit. The jobs have moved to China. The capability erodes in the U.S. and grows in China. That's very destructive. That is a big reason why the U.S. is becoming more and more polarized between a small, very rich class and an eroding middle class. The people who get the profits are very different from the people who lost the wages."

Modern-day ninja in epic battle with riot police, robot • The Register

A man who was plainly an invincible ninja warrior or similar tangled with police in Maryland recently. The sword-wielding scofflaw successfully resisted ordinary meatbag cops, a police robot, gassing with a "chemical agent" and a volley of low-velocity cosh projectiles from a SWAT team before finally succumbing to the crippling electric current of a Taser stun weapon.

The Washington Post reports on the remarkable eight-hour standoff between local lawmen and Michael R Beach, 44, of Edgewater in Maryland. Apparently a sheriff's deputy attempting to serve a court order on Beach was "lunged at" with a sword on arrival, after which Beach retreated into his home.

The traditional gathering of specialist units and SWAT teams ensued, and in due course the plods tried the standard next move – send in the robots. However the tin cop deployed on this occasion "didn't work".

The lawmen then gassed the troubled swordsman with an unspecified "chemical agent" before forcibly entering his stronghold. Here the SWAT team encountered the testy resident, apparently unaffected by the gas, still "clutching his sword". The assault cops then fired "beanbag" non/less-lethal impact rounds at him from riot guns "but he was unaffected" and managed to beat a fighting retreat into his bathroom.

Only two hours later did the cops manage to finally bust into the bathroom and subdue the obstreperous Beach, whose evident proficiency with a sword and ability to shrug off the effects of robots, gas and riot-gun projectiles could easily be ascribed to mastery of one or more exotic Oriental combat philosophy disciplines. The dauntless swordsman was felled by a Taser electrical stun weapon, which uses twin darts to pass a crippling 20,000-volt pulsed electrical current through a victim's body.

The Post reports that after finally being braceleted, Beach was charged with intent to murder in the second degree, assault, reckless endangerment "and related counts". Apparently the only person hurt during the takedown was Beach, who at one point inflicted a slight wound on himself with his sword. ®

Bootnote

We know this story actually happened a couple of weeks ago. But it involves robots, tasers, chemical weapons and a probable ninja, so we couldn't resist it.

GOP spits in the face of 9/11 First Responders again; To Be Run Through FBI Terrorism Watch List Before Getting Health Benefits

Medical providers will soon inform 9/11 first responders about a provision in the James Zadroga 9/11 Health And Compensation law that requires them to be run through the FBI's terrorism watch list before they can receive health care benefits.

According to a letter obtained by Michael McAuliff of the Huffington Post, Dr. John Howard, director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, is instructing health care providers to tell their patients about the provision before they can begin to receive benefits in July.

The provision was tacked on by Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL) during the contentious fight over the bill in December, which was blocked by Republicans at the time. Stearns' amendment adds a paragraph stipulating the "disqualification of individuals on the terrorist watch list," and requiring each potential beneficiary to be run through the list.

McAuliff reports participants "will soon be told that their names, places of birth, addresses, government ID numbers and other personal data will be provided to the FBI to ensure they are not terrorists."

Kenai man defiant after being fined for feeding young moose: Alaska Newsreader | Alaska news at adn.com

Frank Roach, a resident of Kenai's Old Town, says he won't pay a $310 ticket issued by Kenai police, and upheld last week by a judge, for routinely feeding a young moose through a window in his house. Roach claims he can't be charged with "feeding game" because the moose -- he named it Mongo -- is too young to be hunted. But police say Roach's neighbors are fed up: The moose has become aggressive in approaching them. Officer Todd Hamilton told the judge he has had to pepper-spray the moose, reported the Peninsula Clarion.

Up until a month ago, the 1-year-old male moose could wander over to Frank Roach's yard, tap on the window with his fuzzy brown snout, and receive a wealth of tasty goodies: corn dogs, trail mix, beef jerky, tortillas, cookies, Ramen noodles. Basically the staple cuisine of any broke college kid.

Roach, a 51-year-old man who lives alone in a tiny apartment on Broad Street, said Mongo's favorite food is Ritz crackers, sometimes with peanut butter on top.

"He likes that buttery flavor," agreed Randy Gale, Roach's 46-year-old neighbor who has also become quite fond of Mongo.

Roach witnessed Mongo's birth in some nearby woods about a year ago, and the baby moose and his mother soon became permanent fixtures in the neighborhood. Roach said he never fed the cow or her calf until a couple months ago, when Mongo's mother disappeared.

"I felt sorry for Mongo because he was so hungry," Roach explained, speculating that his mother either cut him loose or died.

Roach hasn't made any attempt to hide his alleged transgressions. He's posted several videos of the moose at his window on YouTube.

Larry Lewis of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game says Roach may well believe he did the right thing by feeding the moose but has in reality endangered it for the long term. Roach claims he has stopped feeding the moose -- but admits it still comes up to the window to lick crumbs from the sill.

The moose in question.

From the files of Work Your Own Side of the Street...

...or "Not funny ha-ha; funny queer."

So all the high profile, office holding Republicans have been bending over backwards these last few weeks to renounce the birthers and their nonsensical claims that President Obama is an alien even after they aped birther language all the way through the election process last November and even after that.

So why all the haste to distance themselves from their thinly veiled racist rhetoric?

Why Donald Trump of course.  If most Americans think similarly to me, then we all know Trump is a joke, a laughingstock billionaire (thanks to his dad dropping dead!) who is stupid and more than a little retarded.  He wants to lead the Republican party as their president.  Well, shit!  I guess I'd be going out of my way to put as much distance between myself and that asshole too!  I mean, if you can cause the queen bee Jan Brewer to renounce birtherism, you know it's a serious problem because Jan Brewer is a racist who still kills white people in her state by denying them medicare coverage who proudly wore her birther credentials on her sagging chest like it was the freaking Medal of Honor!

I think the GOP establishment is realizing what a circus they made of things and a man fit to be ringleader of a circus is now challenging them for nutcase supremacy to attract the rabid, far right extremists otherwise known as "the Base".  I think they also realize that, given Trump's celebrity status, he is a viable threat to win a presidential race.  Now, before you say, "That's dumb, Mike!" I give you governor Ahh-nold Schwarzenegger.  Man, the Terminator can dupe humans into voting for it than Donald Trump can certainly get hired as Commander in Chief!

So now the GOP will paint their own rhetoric in truer colors.  Birtherism is now "destructive, unproductive, a distraction from civil discourse" and so on and so forth now that it is no longer safe to keep whipping the rubes and yokels up into a racist tinged frothing frenzy over our Black Panther, Socialist, Communist, Kenyan, secret Muslim terrorist, but otherwise nice guy
President, Barack Obama.

For some reason people are still wondering if Trump is really running for president or not, and, as I posted about a month ago, he already announced he was.  At the end of the Comedy Central roast of him.  Watch it and see it for yourself.  Naturally the clown Trump needed a circus setting to announce his plans.  Otherwise, it just wouldn't be the Donald. 

23 April 2011

22 April 2011

World view

http://27.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lk26m5QdMk1qanb21o1_500.jpg

Get drunk

http://28.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lk1to0sPn51qaqsoco1_500.jpg

Killer Combo of High Gas, Food Prices at Key Tipping Point - CNBC

The combination of rising gasoline prices and the steepest increase in the cost of food in a generation is threatening to push the US economy into a recession, according to Craig Johnson, president of Customer Growth Partners. Johnson looks at the percentage of income consumers are spending on gasoline and food as a way of gauging how consumers will fare when energy prices spike.

With gas prices now standing at about $3.90 a gallon, energy costs have now passed 6 percent of spending—a level that Johnson says is a "tipping point" for consumers.

"Energy is not quite as essential as food and water, but is a necessity in today's economy, and when gasoline costs more than bottled water—like now—then it takes a huge bite out of disposable spending," he said, in a research note.

Of the six US recessions since 1970, all but the "9-11 year 2001 recession" have been linked to—of not triggered by—energy prices that crossed the 6 percent of personal consumption expenditures, he said. (During the shallow 2001 recession, energy prices had risen to about 5 percent of spending, which is higher than the long-term 4 percent share.)

What may make matters worse this time around, is there has been a steep increase in food prices that occurred as well. In other recent recessions food costs were benign, at between 7.5 percent and 7.8 percent of spending.

This year food prices have climbed 6.5 percent since the beginning of early January, according to Consumer Growth Partners.

"The combined increase in the necessities of food and energy creates a harsh double whammy for already stressed consumers," Johnson said. The last time this happened was in the recession that lasted from 1973 to 1975.

Johnson estimates that food and energy eat up about 15 percent of consumer spending at today's prices, compared with about 12.7 percent two years ago.

Of course, at lower income levels, these percentages are much higher. One sign of the stress some consumers are already feeling is that some AAA offices have already seen an increase in out-of-gas service calls, as motorists try to put off filling their tanks or drive around trying to seek out the gas station with the least expensive price.

Also some regions are being hit harder than others. Gas prices in Hawaii continue to set new highs, according to AAA data. The average price on Wednesday was $4.51, topping the prior record of $4.50 for a gallon of regular unleaded set in July 2008.