31 July 2011

WWII vet's neck broken in confrontation with Orlando cop, son says; 84-year-old 'might die'

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An Orlando senior is in the hospital with life-threatening injuries after a confrontation with an Orlando police officer Saturday night on North Orange Avenue.

Police say Daniel J. Daley, 84, of Orlando was transported to Florida Hospital Orlando after he "struck" an officer and the officer subdued him outside the Ivanhoe Grocery at 1820 North Orange Avenue about 11 p.m.

Daley's son, Greg Daley, said the World War II veteran was in critical condition with a broken neck. Two witnesses said the officer threw the man to the ground after he touched the officer during the dispute.

The conflict began when Daley confronted a tow truck driver trying to haul his car away from a parking lot across the street from the bar where he had been drinking.

The owners of Ivanhoe Grocery and The Caboose bar have clashed for months over use of parking spaces at the store. Signs recently were placed to discourage bar customers from occupying them.

Daley, a frequent patron of The Caboose, was arguing with the tow truck driver when the police were called.

Bar owner Tim Scott said the veteran "had a few drinks but he wasn't out of control."

Details were scarce on what happened next, but Scott said Daley touched the unidentified police officer one to three times in a non-threatening fashion. The officer responded by throwing the senior to the pavement, the bar owner said.

"I've never seen anything like it," Scott said. "He hip-checked the guy and slammed his head into the pavement. He [Daley] is too old for that."

Nicole Butler, a bartender at The Caboose, said the officer "body-slammed" Daley to the ground after the veteran put his hands on the officer's shoulders.

Police left Daley on the ground once they realized he was injured and an ambulance arrived soon after.

"The officers looked at me with this look like they knew something had gone wrong," Scott said.

Orlando Police Lt. C. Laboo, a watch commander on duty Sunday, said the information he had indicated that the person who was injured was drunk and belligerent when he "struck" the officer. He said a report stated the man was arrested and listed in stable condition but did not indicate any serious injury. A full incident report is expected today.

Laboo said his information indicated that the man's injury was "some sort of laceration to the face," that sent Daley to the hospital.

Daley said his father's condition was much worse. A photo taken at the hospital showed the veteran in a neck brace with a red welt on the left side of his forehead. His son said his father might not survive surgery to repair the severed vertebrae.

Hospital officials confirmed that the elder Daley was in critical condition and was being closely monitored.

"He's barely breathing and he might die. It's hard to understand how something like this happened," said Greg Daley, who was supposed to have breakfast with his father Sunday morning. "It wasn't like he was going to fight the officer. He's 84!"

Daley said Scott told him what happened to his father and that he had not talked to police.

The retired military veteran has been living in Orlando since 1969, after he served in both World War II and the Vietnam War. Daley has a birthday in November.

"He's never been arrested in all his life," his son said, fighting back emotion.

Three or four witnesses saw the episode, according to Scott, who also was arguing that night with Ivanhoe's owner Faith Palermo. The store owner said she called the tow company to take Daley's car because bar patrons have been hurting her business.

Palermo said she left during the confrontation with the veteran and did not see him injured.

"This is not our nature, we are embarrassed about what happened," she said.

Sorry this is dated a bit but I print them when I first hear of them or come across them. Remember that ANY run in with police is a potentially dangerous, life threatening situation ready to break out regardless of the fact that you may be an innocent bystander. Extreme caution around these deputized assholes are a must; they are as violent and deadly as any gang bangers are and they act under the authority of the state (unlike say, the Mafia or Bloods or Crips).

The myth of too much taxes

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The corporations behind ALEC « progressivetoo

“Founded in 1973 by Paul Weyrich and other conservative activists frustrated by recent electoral setbacks, ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) is a critical arm of the right-wing network of policy shops that, with infusions of corporate cash, has evolved to shape American politics. Inspired by Milton Friedman’s call for conservatives to “develop alternatives to existing policies [and] keep them alive and available,” ALEC’s model legislation reflects long-term goals: downsizing government, removing regulations on corporations and making it harder to hold the economically and politically powerful to account.

Corporate donors retain veto power over the language, which is developed by the secretive task forces. The task forces cover issues from education to health policy. ALEC’s priorities for the 2011 session included bills to privatize education, break unions, deregulate major industries, pass voter ID laws and more. In states across the country they succeeded, with stacks of new laws signed by GOP governors like Ohio’s John Kasich and Wisconsin’s Scott Walker, both ALEC alums.

The details of ALEC’s model bills have been available only to the group’s 2,000 legislative and 300 corporate members. But thanks to a leak to Aliya Rahman, an Ohio-based activist who helped organize protests at ALEC’s Spring Task Force meeting in Cincinnati, The Nation has obtained more than 800 documents representing decades of model legislation.” – The Nation

As of 2011, the following companies are listed as the corporate board for ALEC:

CenterPoint 360

Altria Group

American Bail Coalition

AT&T

Bayer Corp.

Coca-Cola Company

Diageo

Energy Future Holdings

ExxonMobile

Gaxo SmithKline

Intuit, Inc.

Johnson & Johnson

Koch Companies Public Sector

Kraft Food, Inc.

Peabody Energy

Pfizer, Inc.

PhRMA

Reed Elsevier, Inc.

Reynolds American

Salt River Project

State Farm Insurance Co.

United Parcel Service

Wal-Mart Stores

ALEC is also backed by these companies:

American Express Company

Bank of America

BP America, Inc.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association

Cargill, Inc.

Chevron Corp.

Chrysler Corp.

Comcast

Corrections Corporation of America

DuPont

Enron

FedEx

Fidelity Investments

Fruit of the Loom

GEICO

General Electric Medical Systems

General Motors Corporation

Humana Corporation

International Paper

Koch Industries

Long Term Care, Inc.

McDonald’s Corporation

Merck, Sharp and Dohme

Microsoft Corporation

Miller Brewing Company

Motorola, Inc.

Mylan Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

Nationwide Insurance

Novartis

Navistar

Phillips Petroleum Company

Pinnacle West Capital

Sarah Lee Corporation

Shell Oil Company

Sprint

State Farm Insurance Co.

Texaco, Inc.

The Boeing Corporation

Union Pacific Corporation

Verizon Communications, Inc.

Wackenhut Corrections

Washington Times

Zurich Insurance

Click here for a complete list of ALEC’s companies, trade organizations and non-profits

The 14th Amendment

30 July 2011

Uhh...

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http://27.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lp5uo1MRXz1qz82gvo1_500.jpg The GOP raised the debt limit under Bush 19 times without spending cuts and many of those same lawmakers are now putting politics before country simply so they can make Obama a 1 term president no matter what damage they might inflict on our nation or the economy. Shame on them.

29 July 2011

Homeless Man Dies After Being Brutally Beaten by Five Fullerton Cops - Hit & Run : Reason Magazine

Kelly Thomas' father, a retired Orange County police officer, did not recognize his own son when he went watch him die at the UC Irvine Medical Center after police beat him into a coma on July 5. The officers were responding to a call about vandalized cars when they found Thomas, a homeless schizophrenic, and attempted to search him. Thomas' father says his son may have been off his meds, which would explain why he resisted arrest. Nothing explains the gang-style murder committed by Fullerton cops.

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The top photo was taken at the hospital before Thomas died. The bottom photo is what Kelly Thomas looked like before he was brutalized.

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Here's Carlos Miller (to whom I owe a furious and heartbroken hat tip) on the incident:

Kelly Thomas, a 37-year-old homeless man with schizophrenia, kept calling for his father as police beat and tased him repeatedly.

But his father, a retired Orange County sheriff’s deputy, was not around.

It wasn't until after Thomas slipped into a coma and was hospitalized with multiple injures that his father saw him.

And by then, it was too late. Thomas never recovered. The 135-pound man died five days after his run-in with Fullerton police.

Here's the L.A. Times:

Thomas’ father, a retired Orange County sheriff’s deputy, has asserted that officers used excessive force to subdue his son, who was unarmed, slight and of medium height.

After seeing his son's injuries and talking with witnesses, Thomas told the Register his son "was brutally beaten to death."

"When I first walked into the hospital, I looked at what his mother described as my son ... I didn't recognize him," Thomas said. "This is cold-blooded, aggravated murder."

Thomas, citing witnesses, said officers hit his son with the butts of flashlights even after he stopped moving.

He said his son was probably off his medication and didn't understand officers' commands.

A spokesman for the Orange County Coroner's office declined to discuss the case but said an autopsy of Thomas had been completed and the results forwarded to investigators.

Witnesses are asked to call Stan Berry, an investigator with the Orange County district attorney’s office, at (714) 347-8813.

A video of the incident, mostly sound, is available at the link site.

My world defined...

http://25.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lnbbtig3tv1qdurqdo1_500.jpg ...but oh! those little wondrous things!

We are the United States of America, the greatest country on earth. We d...

Jason Wong, BART Rider, Beaten By Police For Loud Cell Phone Ringtone

Nobody likes being forced to listen to someone else's annoying ringtone, but resorting to violence may be a little extreme.

According to a lawsuit filed by attorney John Burris, this is precisely what happened to BART rider Jason Wong when his phone went off at the wrong time.

Wong alleges that on the evening of June 9, he was sitting at the West Oakland BART station listening to a "musical ringtone" on his phone. Officer W. Sanchez came over to Wong and asked him to turn down the volume, and Wong complied. Sanchez then asked Wong to turn off the music completely, and Wong also complied.

Wong then exited the station with Sanchez following close behind. Outside, Sanchez took out her baton and started beating Wong with it. Wong attempted to flee but was detained and arrested.

Wong was taken to jail where he was held for two days. The Oakland District Attorney declined to file any charges against Wong; however, while at the station, Wong received a ticket for playing his music too loud.

"By no means is playing music from your cell phone is a reason for violence against anybody," said Adante Pointer, an attorney at Burris's firm who is working on the case.

"You have to wonder," asked SF Weekly in their coverage of the suit, "how annoying was that ringtone?"

Burriss also represented the family of Oscar Grant, who was killed by BART Officer Johannes Mehserle at the Fruitvale BART station on New Year's Day, 2009. Mehserle was convicted on one count of involuntary manslaughter and has since been released.

On July 3, BART police officers shot and killed 45-year old homeless man Charles Hill at the Civic Center BART station. Hill allegedly charged at officers with a knife.

"I think officers are more willing to resort to force as opposed to attempting to defuse the situation," noted Pointer. "I think that's a reflection of the training they're receiving."

BART officials didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.

In Cantor, hedge funds and private equity firms have voice at debt ceiling negotiations - The Washington Post

By , Published: July 25

As the debt-ceiling talks tick down to the Aug. 2 deadline, leading the opposition to any deal that includes higher taxes is the new tribune of rank-and-file House Republicans: Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia.

Cantor’s pivotal role marks a rapid rise for the 48-year-old from the Richmond suburbs. It also represents a major coup for sectors of the investment community that Cantor has been striving to assist for years — on the same tax issues that have been at stake this month. And so far, he has prevailed on those issues.

Among the White House’s top demands for new revenue are changes in the tax code affecting hedge funds, private equity firms and real estate partnerships, which would raise an estimated $20 billion over 10 years.

For the past four years, Cantor has taken the lead in the House on fighting the same changes. He also has been one of the top recipients of contributions from those industries — last year, his two fundraising committees took in nearly $2 million from securities and investment firms and real estate companies, more than double the figure for Boehner (R-Ohio).

The hedge fund and private equity proposals were at the center of Cantor’s decision to exit talks with Vice President Biden this month. Since then, the prospect for any immediate tax increases has declined, with the focus turning to spending cuts and broader tax reform postponed.

This dismays Democrats, in part because Cantor has cast his defense of the investment tax treatment as part of the broader tea party-fueled anti-tax orthodoxy. To Democrats, Cantor embodies the convergence of tea party and business interests, which is often obscured by the movement’s anti-Wall Street rhetoric.

“This [anti-tax stance] isn’t all coming up from the grass roots,” said Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.). “This goes to some longtime cozy relationships between House Republicans and hedge fund managers in the financial sector.”

A spokesman for Cantor noted that he always has opposed raising the investment taxes in question but declined to comment further.

Jennifer Thompson, a political science professor at Virginia Commonwealth University and former Republican campaign operative, said Cantor’s longtime opposition to the investment tax provisions is a sincere reflection of his conservatively inclined district.

“Eric Cantor is a Virginian and you can’t separate too much from that fact,” she said. “His constituents are very much aligned with the no taxes and being back in the black and that’s what Eric Cantor represents.”

Lawmakers from both parties have cultivated the investment community, but Cantor, whose wife is a former Goldman Sachs vice president, has had particularly strong connections. In 2006, his campaign committee and his leadership PAC, established to support other Republicans, collected $682,500 from securities and investment and real estate firms, far more than any other Republican on the Ways and Means Committee and nearly double the take of then-Chairman Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.).

Cantor sprang into action in 2007, when Democrats proposed the two major tax code changes that have been at the center of the debt talks. He formed the Coalition for the Freedom of American Investors and Retirees and invited several dozen industry groups to the opening meeting.

One of the changes revolves around “carried interest” — the pay managers receive for gains they produce for investors — which is taxed at the long-term capital gains rate of 15 percent. Many tax experts argue that it should be taxed at the 35 percent rate for ordinary income because it is the managers’ compensation for services performed, not the result of their own capital investment.

Another proposal would tax profits from the sale of hedge funds as ordinary income.

Since 2007, Cantor has railed against the proposals.

The proposals passed the House, which was then under Democratic control, but fell short of a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate last year.

Cantor’s support from the industries soared. Contributions to his two campaign committees from the real estate and securities and investment sectors jumped to $916,307 in 2008 and doubled to $1.85 million in 2010, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

The top 10 contributors to Cantor’s two committees in 2010 included three investment firms: employees at SAC Capitol Advisers, the hedge fund founded by Steven Cohen, gave $64,964; those at the private equity firm KKR gave $52,600; and those at Elliott Management, the hedge fund founded by Paul Singer, gave $44,198. The Blackstone Group, the hedge fund run by Steve Schwarzman, and its employees gave $26,100.

The main private equity and hedge fund trade groups have ramped up their lobbying amid the debt talks, spending $4.2 million this year.

28 July 2011

19 Different Polls Show That Americans Support Tax Increases To Cut Deficit

Despite what the GOP keeps telling us, Bruce Bartlett has compiled a list of 19 different polls taken since January that demonstrate that Americans support increasing taxes in order to reduce the deficit and inequality. Americans may not love tax increases, but they understand their necessity for deficit reduction.

In the June 9 ABC News poll 61% of Americans believe higher taxes will be necessary to reduce the deficit, and 57% of those polled said that deficit reduction should include both tax increases and spending cuts.

A Pew poll found that more people blame the nation’s involvement in wars than tax cuts or spending for the deficit. The poll also found wide support for increasing taxes, as 67% said the more high earners income should be subject to being taxed for Social Security, and 66% support raising taxes on incomes over $250,000, and 62% support closing corporate tax loopholes.

A Bloomberg poll taken in May found that only 33% of those surveyed thought that it would be possible to lower the deficit without raising taxes, 64% expressed the belief that it isn’t possible to lower the deficit without raising taxes.

An April CBS News/NY Times poll showed that 72% of people favored raising taxes on the wealthy in order to reduce the deficit. A March NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found that 81% of those surveyed would support a tax on millionaires that would be used for deficit reduction, and 68% supported eliminating the Bush tax cuts on those who make over $250,000.

Check out Bruce Bartlett’s blog to see all the polls.

There are a few qualifiers that come in to play on this issue. Americans will always support tax increases as long as they are on someone else. Since the vast majority of Americans aren’t millionaires, it isn’t a big surprise that so many citizens favor additional taxes on them. Secondly, the American people are realistic. They tend to support a mixture of spending cuts and tax increases. This is a matter of common sense to most people. If you are in debt, you aren’t going to get out of debt by only spending less. At some point, you have to earn more money in order to pay your bills.

Those who advocate for program cuts have a valid point when they suggest that the nation can never get out of debt if it keeps on spending, but they negate their own point with the ridiculous belief that tax cuts pay for themselves and don’t hurt our national bottom line. It is a matter of common sense. If a person is in debt and their income gets cut in half, they will never have the resources to pay off what they owe.

Where Republicans find themselves on the wrong side of the fence is when they attack popular social programs like Medicare and Social Security. Hard line conservative ideology teaches a hatred of the social safety net, but to an overwhelming majority of Americans these programs are a deeply valued component of our modern social contract.

When Republicans propose a cuts (tax and programs) only agenda, they are not being realistic. Every time John Boehner or any other Republican claims that the American people don’t support any increase in taxes, he and they are not telling the complete truth. The American people may not love the idea of a tax increase, but they understand that it has to be part of the deficit reduction solution.

The Republican Party may be playing to their base with their hard line cuts ideology, but most Americans disagree. For all the talk among the pundit class, and the hope among Republicans that Obama will be blamed if there is no deal on the debt ceiling, the polling tells a different story.

If the president offers a mix of tax increases and spending cuts and Republicans walk away from it, they will be blamed for trying to impose their radical and unrealistic agenda on the American people.

Once again, the collective Republican ideological blind spot on taxation is pushing them out of the American mainstream.

Undocumented immigrants leaving California for Mexico's improving economy | McClatchy

There are fewer undocumented immigrants in California – and the Sacramento region – because many are now finding the American dream south of the border.

"It's now easier to buy homes on credit, find a job and access higher education in Mexico," Sacramento's Mexican consul general, Carlos González Gutiérrez, said Wednesday. "We have become a middle-class country."

Mexico's unemployment rate is now 4.9 percent, compared with 9.4 percent joblessness in the United States.

An estimated 300,000 undocumented immigrants have left California since 2008, though the remaining 2.6 million still make up 7 percent of the population and 9 percent of the labor force, according to the Public Policy Institute of California.

The costs of a downgrade in US credit rating

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GOP "job creation": Without debt deal, 7,300 S.C. workers could face furloughs | McClatchy

State government will consider furloughing more than 7,000 state workers whose salaries are paid by the federal government if a deal to increase the federal debt ceiling is not reached by next week.

Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom, the state’s chief accountant, said Wednesday that he expects Washington lawmakers will work out an 11th hour, temporary solution on raising the debt ceiling by the Aug. 2 deadline.

“I’m hoping someone will blink,” Eckstrom said, adding the impasse is like a threatened federal shutdown in March that never materialized. “I think we’ll see a temporary solution.”

But if Congress does not reach a deal and the flow of federal dollars to South Carolina is disrupted temporarily, state agencies have identified roughly 7,300 state employees – 12.5 percent of state government’s 58,000 workers – whose positions are paid for by the federal government.

One possibility, if a debt deal is not reached by Aug. 2, Eckstrom said, is those workers could be put on unpaid leave temporarily. “We need to be prepared to furlough employees,” he said.

Another possibility is the state temporarily could pick up the tab for any federally paid workers whose jobs are essential to state government.

Because the state’s financial status is improving, it could tap several pots of money short term to keep essential workers on the job, Eckstrom said, including the state’s reserve accounts. State revenues are up almost 7 percent from last fiscal year, thanks to a nearly 9 percent increase in income tax collections, he said.

Those pots of money could tide South Carolina over for a bit.

But the state anticipates getting $8.4 billion in federal money this fiscal year to pay for a variety of programs – ranging from salaries at state agencies to K-12 education programs to Medicaid programs for the poor and disabled.

To read the complete story, visit www.thestate.com.

We're counting on you!

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Almost all of us

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Starve the beast

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Full bellies and empty stomachs

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Call in the SEALs

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Wall Street and justice

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The new pledge

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Stephen Fry on American Prisons Facts

The GOP debt plan explained by Uncle Sam

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What are you going to do to fix that??

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27 July 2011

Distraught Pa. women sets home on fire with foreclosure notices, tries to kill son, self

CORRY, Pa. (AP) — A northwestern Pennsylvania woman tried to smother her sleeping adult son before she set her house on fire with foreclosure documents and sliced her wrist with a razor, police said.

Eve Shreve was arraigned Tuesday on charges including attempted homicide and arson in the March 18 fire in Corry, about 25 miles southeast of Erie. She covered her face and didn't comment as she was led to and from her arraignment, where she was released on bail.

Shreve's husband told officers his wife had admitted setting the fire using a foreclosure notice received the day before and then tried to kill herself by cutting her wrist and taking some sleeping medicine to "overdose," according to an affidavit police filed with the charges.

Before that happened, police contend the 47-year-old Shreve tried to smother her son by holding his face down into a pillow while he was sleeping and after she had given him Benadryl, an allergy medication that can cause drowsiness. Shreve stopped when her son woke up and told her "she was scaring him," police said.

A short time later, emergency crews responded to the fire, which Shreve's son escaped because he heard a smoke detector.

Shreve, however, was unconscious and had to be rescued by fire crews. She was taken to Corry Hospital and later transferred to UPMC Mercy Hospital in Pittsburgh, but has since been released.

Corry police Chief Fred Corbett said authorities determined the two small fires had been intentionally set, one in a closet and the other in the basement. The basement fire was kept largely in check by a plastic water line that melted.

A search of the residence turned up two bottles of Unisom sleeping medication and a razor blade with dried blood on it in a wastebasket in Shreve's bedroom, police said.

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Asshole Republicans are hypocrites!

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26 July 2011

Republican Leaders Voted for Debt They Blame on Obama- Bloomberg

House Speaker John Boehner often attacks the spendthrift ways of Washington.

“In Washington, more spending and more debt is business as usual,” the Republican leader from Ohio said in a televised address yesterday amid debate over the U.S. debt. “I’ve got news for Washington - those days are over.”

Yet the speaker, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell all voted for major drivers of the nation’s debt during the past decade: Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts and Medicare prescription drug benefits. They also voted for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, that rescued financial institutions and the auto industry.

Together, a Bloomberg News analysis shows, these initiatives added $3.4 trillion to the nation’s accumulated debt and to its current annual budget deficit of $1.5 trillion.

As Congress nears votes to raise the $14.3-trillion debt ceiling to avert a default on U.S. obligations when borrowing authority expires on Aug. 2, both parties are attempting to claim a mantle of fiscal responsibility. They both bear some of the blame: Many Democrats contributed to the expenses that are forcing lawmakers to boost the nation’s debt limit, as have Republican leaders at odds over how much borrowing authority to hand President Barack Obama and when.

“There’s plenty of blame to go around,” for the debt, said Robert Bixby, executive director of the Concord Coalition, an Arlington, Virginia-based group that advocates for balanced budgets. “If there had been no Barack Obama, we would still be bumping up against the debt limit.’”

Debt Has Doubled

Since 2001, the debt has grown from $5.8 trillion.

Republicans say the long-term growth of entitlement programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, along with depressed tax revenues due to the worst recession since the Great Depression, drive the current debt level.

“Blaming Bush for the structural deficits we’ve known would come since the early 1990s is beyond irresponsible.” said Brad Dayspring, a spokesman for Cantor.

In his address yesterday, Boehner accused Obama of going on the “largest spending binge in American history.”

Obama’s 2011 annual budget, Republicans note, drove federal spending to a record $3.8 trillion. Non-defense discretionary spending also grew by 24 percent during the first two years of the Obama administration, they say, adding $734 billion in spending over the next 10 years.

Recession Worsened Deficit

The recession, Obama said in a televised address from the White House yesterday, lowered revenue and required his administration to “spend even more” on tax cuts, unemployment insurance and state and local aide. “These emergency steps also added to the deficit,” he said.

Some Democrats also supported the Bush administration programs. In the Senate, Obama voted to finance the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and TARP. He signed legislation extending the Bush-era tax cuts for two years in December.

“Both sides are claiming they’re fiscally responsible,” said Rudolph Penner, director of the Congressional Budget Office under President Ronald Reagan. “But I don’t see much difference in that regard.”

Bush Tax Cuts

The 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, which lowered tax rates on income, dividends and capital gains, increased the federal budget deficit by $1.7 trillion over a decade, according to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, a non-partisan left-of- center group in Washington that studies fiscal policy.

The two-year extension of those tax cuts that Obama signed will cost $857.8 billion, according to the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation.

Boehner has defended the tax cuts, arguing that they didn’t lead to the deficit.

“The revenue problem we have today is a result of what happened in the economic collapse some 18 months ago,” he told reporters on June 10, according to The Hill newspaper.

The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have cost almost $1.3 trillion since the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, according to a March 29 analysis by the Congressional Research Service. Operations in Iraq have cost $806 billion, and in Afghanistan $444 billion. The analysis shows the government has spent an additional $29 billion for enhanced security on militia bases and $6 billion remains unallocated.

Medicare Drug Benefit

The 2003 Medicare prescription program approved by President George W. Bush and a Republican-dominated Congress has cost $369 billion over a 10-year time frame, less than initially projected by Medicare actuaries.

Nine Senate Republicans, including Nebraska’s Chuck Hagel, along with 25 Republicans in the House, voted against the bill. Hagel argued that it failed to control costs and would add trillions in debt for future generations.

“Republicans used to believe in fiscal responsibility,” Hagel wrote in a 2003 editorial in the Omaha World Herald. “We have lost our way.”

TARP, the $700-billion bailout of banks, insurance and auto companies, has cost less than expected. McConnell, Boehner, Cantor and Ryan all voted in October 2008 for the program, which stoked the rise of the Tea Party movement.

Many institutions have repaid the government. The latest estimated lifetime cost of the program is $49.33 billion, according to a June 2011 report by the Treasury Department. That figure includes the $45.61 billion cost of a housing program which the administration never expected to recoup.

Rank-and-file Republicans are eager to pin the blame on Democrats, frequently pointing to the economic stimulus signed by Obama in 2009. The total cost of the stimulus will be $830 billion by 2019, according to a May 2011 Congressional Budget Office report.

That’s half the cost of the Bush tax cuts and less than two-thirds of what has been spent on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It's all Obama's fault...not!

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25 July 2011

The GOP plan in brief

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‘Chain of solidarity’ draws 600,000+ sign-ups in wake of Norway attacks - thestar.com

More than 663,000 people from around the world have joined an online “chain of solidarity” launched by Norway’s Verdens Gang (VG) tabloid newspaper in the wake of Anders Behring Breivik’s Friday rampage that killed at least 93 people.

The chain, hosted on VG’s website, allows readers to input their name, age and location, which then generates an image of a person holding hands with everyone else who has signed up.

So far, more than 400,000 Norwegians have signed up, followed by 119,000 Swedes, 40,000 Finns, 22,000 Dutch, 11,000 Danes, 7,900 Germans, and 4,500 Brits.

Canadians have also signed the chain, but not in high enough numbers to register a highlight on the website. The chain has been dubbed by the tabloid as “Hold together – hold hands.”

On Friday, Behring carried out a bombing and shooting rampage in Norway that left 76 people dead and several more injured. The 32-year-old has confessed to the attacks. He made his first court appearance Monday and pleaded not guilty.

Verdens Gang, which translates as the “way of the world,” is Norway’s second-largest newspaper. It was founded in 1945 by members of the Nazi resistance movement.

Pentagon admits U.S. money ended up with Taliban - thestar.com

WASHINGTON—Money from a multibillion-dollar U.S. transportation contract in Afghanistan has made its way into the hands of the Taliban, the Pentagon said Monday, promising to tighten rules for future spending.

The finding was made by a U.S. task force set up in Kabul a year ago to improve contracting, Defence Department spokesman Col. David Lapan said. It is consistent with a congressional report last summer that said trucking contractors pay tens of millions of dollars annually to local warlords across Afghanistan in exchange for guarding their supply convoys.

At issue is the $2.1 billion so-called Host Nation Trucking contract under which eight companies, through numerous subcontractors, transport food, water, fuel and ammunition to American troops stationed at bases across Afghanistan.

Lapan said Monday that a new contract will be awarded for the work and that a new system will be put in place to vet contractors better.

The year-long review did not give a dollar amount but found "involvement in a criminal enterprise or support of the enemy" by four of the eight companies that have the current contract, said a story in The Washington Post, which first reported on the review late Sunday. It also said contractors were involved in money laundering, profiteering, kickbacks and fraudulent paperwork.

No one could have foreseen this!

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Then we get to run the ship!

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We're not a news organization!

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German tourist rescued teens during island massacre - World news - Europe - msnbc.com

A German tourist is being hailed as a hero for rescuing at least 20 people from a gunman's rampage on Utoeya island in Norway on Friday, according to media reports.

Marcel Gleffe, 32, was with his family at a campground across the water from the island when he heard gunshots, Der Spiegel reported. He and his family looked out from the shore, thinking it might be fireworks, but instead they saw a plume of smoke and a girl swimming frantically in the water and screaming.

Gleffe got into the boat he had rented and set off, Der Spiegel said. He was the first person to reach the island where Anders Behring Breivik gunned down dozens of youngsters at a summer camp.

"I just did it on instinct," Gleffe told The Telegraph newspaper.

"You don't get scared in a situation like that, you just do what it takes. I know the difference between fireworks and gunfire. I knew what it was about, and that it wasn't just nonsense."

He described how many of the youths were suspicious and shouted, "Are you police, are you police?" Some of them reportedly shouted, "terrorist, terrorist, terrorist," as others tried to explain that the shooter was dressed in a police uniform.

"They were happy to get help, but they were unsure whom they could trust," he told the local Dagbladet newspaper, according to The Telegraph.

"There were people swimming everywhere in the water. I threw them lifejackets and pulled those into the boat who were having the most trouble. Everyone was screaming, but they were also helping each other," he told Der Spiegel.

Gleffe made several trips to the island to rescue around six people each time for about an hour, when police finally arrived, a German English-language news website The Local reported. Other people from Gleffe's campsite also joined him and ferried people back to the mainland with their boats.

"Cooperation with the police and rescue crews afterwards was very good, but it all came too late," he said.

When police arrived, Gleffe stopped to think about himself for the first time, he told The Local.

"I was myself so frozen that I had to first warm myself up. I was turning blue," he said.

24 July 2011

Policy changes under one Texas governor and one president

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What real heroes do

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Children of deployed soldiers struggle, UW researchers find | 81st Brigade - The News Tribune

An adolescent whose parent is sent on military deployments is more likely to have suicidal thoughts and feel depressed than the child of civilians, according to a new study from researchers at the University of Washington School of Public Health.

The report drew on a 2008 mental health survey distributed in Washington schools. It's believed to be one of the broadest studies yet directly comparing military teens with the children of civilians since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan began a decade ago.

Its lead author hopes it will lead to increased awareness about stresses on military children and motivate new efforts to help teens.

"It's really time to focus on the children that are left behind," said Sarah Reed, the lead author of the report, which was published Thursday in the American Journal of Public Health.

More than 10,600 eighth-, 10th- and 12th-grade students filled out the 2008 Washington State Healthy Youth Survey. The state distributes the survey every two years.

The one in 2008 was the first to ask questions about whether a child's parent had deployed in the previous six years. At the time, Washington's population included more than 60,000 active-duty service members, the sixth most in the country.

Researchers found that boys are most sensitive to the stress of a parent's deployment. For example:

  • Forty-four percent of 10th- and 12th-grade boys who reported having a parent serving in uniform overseas felt they had a low quality of life. Among civilian families, 20 percent of boys in those age groups reported a low quality of life.
  • Thirty percent of 10th- and 12th-grade boys whose parent had deployed felt depressed compared with 20 percent of boys in civilian families.
  • Twenty-six percent of 10th- and 12th-grade boys with a deployed parent reported suicidal thoughts, whereas 14 percent of boys in civilian families reported having those notions.

High school girls whose parent had deployed overseas also were more likely to report depression, but the differences were not as pronounced.

Reed's report did not try to answer why boys would show more signs of distress, but it cited other studies that suggested boys might struggle to connect emotionally with an absent parent and that they might engage in more high-risk behaviors that could exacerbate their depression.

The report also notes higher percentages of military adolescents reporting binge drinking and drug use than civilian teens.

Reed, who's now employed as a social worker at a Boston cancer clinic, would like to see her report contribute to discussions between the military, schools and community groups about how to provide better programs for children of service members.

"I don't think one arm, whether it's a federal program or a local program or a school district program, is going to capture all the need," she said.

Several efforts are under way in and around Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

The U.S. Army Medical Command has placed counselors in six on-base schools and is looking for ways to provide a similar service outside the gates of the installation, Medical Command spokesman Eric Olson said.

Madigan Army Medical Center's Child and Family Assistance Center is another resource for military families seeking behavioral health assistance. It offers a drop-in mental health clinic for active-duty families.

In addition, off base, nonprofit groups offer special services for military kids. The Boys and Girls Club of the South Sound, for example, has after-school programs.

A statewide military kids summit has also been held in Tacoma the last four years. Panel discussions allow family members a chance to tell their stories.

"I was in eighth grade when my dad deployed to Iraq," Aaron Davis, 18, of Vancouver, recalled at this year's summit in March. "A kid walked up to me and said 'You're dad's a baby killer.' I didn't handle that well. We both wound up suspended for that one."

Terrorism directed at 'liberal' and 'government' targets since July 2008: An interactive map UPDATED | Crooks and Liars

Click on the link to see the interactive map

Since all those isolated incidents involving terroristic violence directed at "liberals" and the "government" keep adding up into a serious trend, we've decided it's time to start keeping systematic track of the problem -- especially because mainstream media seem intent on refusing to recognize the trend.

Here's the text for the 20 23 24 events we've enumerated so far:

-- July 2008: A gunman named Jim David Adkisson, agitated at how "liberals" are "destroying America," walks into a Unitarian Church and opens fire, killing two churchgoers and wounding four others.

-- October 2008: Two neo-Nazis are arrested in Tennessee in a plot to murder dozens of African-Americans, culminating in the assassination of President Obama.

-- December 2008: A pair of "Patriot" movement radicals -- the father-son team of Bruce and Joshua Turnidge, who wanted "to attack the political infrastructure" -- threaten a bank in Woodburn, Oregon, with a bomb in the hopes of extorting money that would end their financial difficulties, for which they blamed the government. Instead, the bomb goes off and kills two police officers. The men eventually are convicted and sentenced to death for the crime.

-- December 2008: In Belfast, Maine, police discover the makings of a nuclear "dirty bomb" in the basement of a white supremacist shot dead by his wife. The man, who was independently wealthy, reportedly was agitated about the election of President Obama and was crafting a plan to set off the bomb.

-- January 2009: A white supremacist named Keith Luke embarks on a killing rampage in Brockton, Mass., raping and wounding a black woman and killing her sister, then killing a homeless man before being captured by police as he is en route to a Jewish community center.

-- February 2009: A Marine named Kody Brittingham is arrested and charged with plotting to assassinate President Obama. Brittingham also collected white-supremacist material.

-- February 2009: A 60-year-old former Republican Party campaign volunteer opens fire on a gathering of Chilena exchange students in an apartment complex in Miramar Beach, Fla., after telling a neighbor he wanted to start a "revolution" against Latino immigrants.

-- April 2009: A white supremacist named Richard Poplawski opens fire on three Pittsburgh police officers who come to his house on a domestic-violence call and kills all three, because he believed President Obama intended to take away the guns of white citizens like himself. Poplawski is currently awaiting trial.

-- April 2009: Another gunman in Okaloosa County, Florida, similarly fearful of Obama's purported gun-grabbing plans, kills two deputies when they come to arrest him in a domestic-violence matter, then is killed himself in a shootout with police.

-- May 2009: A "sovereign citizen" named Scott Roeder walks into a church in Wichita, Kansas, and assassinates abortion provider Dr. George Tiller.

-- June 2009: A Holocaust denier and right-wing tax protester named James Von Brunn opens fire at the Holocaust Museum, killing a security guard.

-- February 2010: An angry tax protester named Joseph Ray Stack flies an airplane into the building housing IRS offices in Austin, Texas. (Media are reluctant to label this one "domestic terrorism" too.)

-- March 2010: Seven militiamen from the Hutaree Militia in Michigan and Ohio are arrested and charged with plotting to assassinate local police officers with the intent of sparking a new civil war.

-- March 2010: An anti-government extremist named John Patrick Bedell walks into the Pentagon and opens fire, wounding two officers before he is himself shot dead.

-- May 2010: A "sovereign citizen" from Georgia is arrested in Tennessee and charged with plotting the violent takeover of a local county courthouse.

-- May 2010: A still-unidentified white man walks into a Jacksonville, Fla., mosque and sets it afire, simultaneously setting off a pipe bomb.

-- May 2010: Two "sovereign citizens" named Jerry and Joe Kane gun down two police officers who pull them over for a traffic violation, and then wound two more officers in a shootout in which both of them are eventually killed.

-- July 2010: An agitated right-winger and convict named Byron Williams loads up on weapons and drives to the Bay Area intent on attacking the offices of the Tides Foundation and the ACLU, but is intercepted by state patrolmen and engages them in a shootout and armed standoff in which two officers and Williams are wounded.

-- September 2010: A Concord, N.C., man is arrested and charged with plotting to blow up a North Carolina abortion clinic. The man, 26-year--old Justin Carl Moose, referred to himself as the "Christian counterpart to (Osama) bin Laden” in a taped undercover meeting with a federal informant.

-- January 2011: A 22-year-old gunman named Jared Lee Loughner with a long grudge against Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and a paranoid hatred of the government walks into a public Giffords event and shoots her in the head, then keeps firing, killing six people and wounding 14 more. Gifford miraculously survives.

-- January 2011: A backpack bomb with the potential of killing or injuring dozens of people is found along the route of a Martin Luther King Day “unity march” in downtown Spokane.

-- January 31, 2011: An Army veteran from California with a previous arrest record for making threats against President Bush is arrested for making terrorist outside a mosque in Michigan inside a car whose trunk was filled with Class C explosives.

-- March 2011: Five people in the Fairbanks area are arrested on charges of plotting to kidnap or kill state troopers and a Fairbanks judge. All five are self-proclaimed "sovereign citizens," including local militia leader Schaeffer Cox.

-- March 2011: A man from Madera, CA, named Donny Eugene Mower is arrested for the firebombing of a Planned Parenthood clinic and the vandalization of a local Islamic religious center. The crimes were committed in the name of Mower's one-man hate group, the American Nationalist Brotherhood. His 'manifesto' asked: 'Isn't it time that someone hit back?'

We'll update as the incidents occur. Also, readers should feel free to contribute potential additions. Remember, these incidents involve more than simple threats or assaults but rather constitute incidents of actual domestic terrorism.

22 July 2011

Today in our nation's capital

JB: I want to play Russian roulette because this is boring.


BO: But J.B., we're already playing Monopoly.

JB: I don't care what we're already playing, I want to play Russian roulette!

BO: But J.B., we're only playing Monopoly now because you didn't want to play the game of Life, remember?

JB: I don't care, I want to play Russian roulette!  This is boring!

BO: But J.B. we're almost done with this game.  And I am the President.

JB: No, you're a communist Kenyan socialist Nazi who won't play Russian roulette with me!!! 
Fine!  I'm going home!

BO: But JB--

JB leaves.

BO: All that over what he owes on Mediterranean Avenue!  He just got $200 for passing Go!

Plan B?

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21 July 2011

1937! 1937! 1937! - NYTimes.com

The Telegraph has a leaked draft of the eurozone rescue plan for Greece. The financial engineering is Rube Goldbergish and unconvincing. But here’s what leaped out at me:

9. All euro area Member States will adhere strictly to the agreed fiscal targets, improve competitiveness and address macro-economic imbalances. Deficits in all countries except those under a programme will be brought below 3% by 2013 at the latest.

OK, so we’re going to demand harsh austerity in the debt-crisis countries; and meanwhile, we’re also going to have austerity in the non-debt-crisis countries.

Plus, the ECB is raising rates.

So demand will be depressed in both crisis and non-crisis economies; this will lead to a vigorous recovery through … what?

The Serious People are determined to destroy all the advanced economies in the name of prudence.

Political showdown creates conflict in Roseburg park | The News-Review - NRtoday.com

A small political gathering of about 18 liberal thinkers at River Forks Park Sunday afternoon erupted in conflict when about 35 members of the conservative tea party intruded upon the meeting, waving flags and holding signs accusing the rival group of being communists, Marxists and socialists. The liberal group — organized by MoveOn.org — decided to leave the park and move its potluck to a nearby home. Members of the conservative group followed, parking at the entrance of a private lane leading to the home to continue their protest. Roseburg Democrats Dean and Sara Byers said Monday they told tea party members who followed that they were not welcome to drive down the lane to their home. The Byerses said they got out of their car to stop vehicles from entering the driveway and one tea party member almost ran them over. Sara Byers said she was so shaken she called 911. She said a Douglas County deputy called about an hour and a half later and said he had been unable to respond because of other incidents. Byers said she was still considering filing a criminal complaint against members of the tea party for harassment. A leader of the tea party group, Rich Raynor of Roseburg, disputed the liberal group's version of events. “They are liars,” said Raynor, director of Douglas County Americans for Prosperity. “That is what communists do.” Members of the smaller group said Monday they were intimidated by the tea partiers, whom they accused of violating their constitutional right to peacefully assembly. Roseburg resident Lillen Fifield, 70, called the group's actions an “act of domestic terrorism” and said she was appalled that a peaceful gathering — mostly of women older than 65 — was interrupted. “It is not OK to go around and intimidate and threaten people. That is not acceptable in a polite society,” Fifield said. Conservative organizers defended their actions and said they will continue to protest similar gatherings. “We were there to find out what they had to say and to bring a notice to the public that this kind of thing was going on. Quite honestly, if they have it again, then we are really going to make it well known,” Raynor said. Raynor said the group believes MoveOn.org is a communist front and said he would not stand for America becoming a fascist nation. Sara Byers said she could not believe the meeting was targeted for protest. She said the group supports the middle class and wants to take back the government from the stranglehold of corporations. She laughed at the accusations of communism and said the two groups actually have more in common than people think. “I just said, ‘Are you kidding me?' ” Byers said. Tea party members posted a 2:46-minute video of the confrontation in the park and added captions. On the video, heckling members of the larger group celebrate breaking up the meeting. “That sure did it in a hurry, huh?” a man says. A woman references next year's election year and shouts, “Sure shows who is going to win! We are!” As one woman packs up to leave, a man in a leather jacket tauntingly offers to carry her things. “Do you want me to help? I mean if you are leaving, I'll help,” the man says in the video. A caption added to the video reads, “I'll help, just leave! And take your Marxist agenda with you.” Raynor maintained the tea party's goal was to attend the meeting and hear what the rival group had to say. He said the fact that they stopped the meeting and left proves they have something to hide. Sutherlin conservative Karen Meier said she posed as a MoveOn.org member and infiltrated the group's meeting prior to the confrontation. She said she found many of the liberals to be pleasant. “Obviously, they don't really know what MoveOn is and who it entails,” Meier said. A MoveOn.org meeting attendee Lorna Hayden of Roseburg said the tea party mischaracterized the nature of the meeting. Still, any group, no matter what its agenda, has a right to be in the park Sunday without being harassed, she said. Raynor said the tea party never threatened anyone with violence and said no one brought guns to the confrontation. He said he urged his group to be civil but also to stand up against a group they believe is harming America. “It is not our fault that we outnumber them,” Raynor said. “The philosophy they espouse is not a live-and-let-live philosophy. ... I am fearful for my children and my grandchildren.”

20 July 2011

Where the government is spending it's money

http://29.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lon53wnGEd1qzwd5oo1_500.jpg Funny how no serious talks of cutting military spending has come out of Washington, eh? All the cuts are to social programs that combined aren't even half of the military spending! Yet our government continues to put it to the lower classes while giving rich folk and the Pentagon a free ride.

My take on the so-called debt "crisis"

GOP: Rich people, yay!!

Dems: Rich people are swell alright.  But can’t they pay a little more please?

GOP:  NO!!!!

Dems: But…

GOP: Are you a fucking communist fascist socialist?!?

Dems: No, of course not.  Love rich people—

GOP:  Rich people, yay!

Dems:  —and we wouldn’t want to inconvenience them in any way, but after the lower classes bailed them out, couldn’t they pay a little more?

GOP:  Poor people are poor because God is punishing them for their sins and drugs!

Dems: Sure, but they helped—

GOP:  Fuck poor people!

Dems:  You know, you’re right!  Your arguments have persuaded me!  Fuck poor people!

GOP and Dems in unison:  Rich people, yay!!!! Now we can raise the debt ceiling!

11 July 2011

Obama Doesn't Want a Progressive Deficit Deal | Rolling Stone Politics | Taibblog | Matt Taibbi on Politics and the Economy

One expects the debt-ceiling mess to involve a lot of ostentatious chest-pounding on both sides, for despite the fact that this is a deadly serious issue – the fact that we're even considering incurring an intentional catastrophe via a default is incredible, a testament to the bottomless stupidity inherent in our political climate – this whole debate is primarily an exercise in political posturing.

That Republicans are holding up what should be a routine, if unpleasant, decision to raise the debt ceiling in order to portray themselves as the uncompromising defenders of the budget-balancing faith (a howling idiocy in itself, given what went on during the Bush years) is obvious to most rational observers. It's the obvious play for the lame-duck party entering an election year, and they're playing it, with the requisite hysteria.

But what is becoming equally obvious, to both sides, is that the Obama White House is using this same artificial calamity to pitch its own increasingly rightward tilt to voters in advance of the 2012 elections.

It has been extremely interesting in the last weeks to see observers on both sides of the aisle make this point. Just yesterday, the inimitable New York Times conservative Ross Douthat listed Obama's not-so-secret rightward push as a the first in a list of reasons why the Republicans should dig in even more, instead of making a sensible deal:

Barack Obama wants a right-leaning deficit deal. For months, liberals have expressed frustration with the president’s deficit strategy. The White House made no effort to tie a debt ceiling vote to the extension of the Bush tax cuts last December. It pre-emptively conceded that any increase in the ceiling should be accompanied by spending cuts. And every time Republicans dug in their heels, the administration gave ground.

The not-so-secret secret is that the White House has given ground on purpose. Just as Republicans want to use the debt ceiling to make the president live with bigger spending cuts than he would otherwise support, Obama’s political team wants to use the leverage provided by those cra-a-a-zy Tea Partiers to make Democrats live with bigger spending cuts than they normally would support.

Douthat makes this observation, then argues that the Republicans should recognize Obama's hidden motive and hold out for an even better deal. It will then be a race to see which party can abandon employment in favor of deficit reduction faster. He writes:

Why? Because the more conservative-seeming the final deal, the better for the president’s re-election effort. In that environment, Republicans have every incentive to push and keep pushing. Since any deal they cut will be used as an election-year prop in 2012, they need to make sure the president actually earns his budget-cutting bona fides.

This is interesting because just last week, the liberal opposite of Douthat at the Times, Paul Krugman, came to the same conclusion:

It’s getting harder and harder to trust Mr. Obama’s motives in the budget fight, given the way his economic rhetoric has veered to the right. In fact, if all you did was listen to his speeches, you might conclude that he basically shares the G.O.P.’s diagnosis of what ails our economy and what should be done to fix it. And maybe that’s not a false impression; maybe it’s the simple truth.

One striking example of this rightward shift came in last weekend’s presidential address, in which Mr. Obama had this to say about the economics of the budget: “Government has to start living within its means, just like families do. We have to cut the spending we can’t afford so we can put the economy on sounder footing, and give our businesses the confidence they need to grow and create jobs.”

Krugman seems to believe that Obama has basically purged all of his real economic advisors and is doing what Bush did on foreign policy -- engaging in complex and portentous policy initiatives at the behest not of experts, but political advisors. Just as Bush had Karl Rove telling him when and how to launch military invasions and drop bombs on unsuspecting foreign human beings in order to establish electoral credentials, Obama might be playing chicken with the budget for the benefit of undecideds in Florida and Ohio:

Some of what we’re hearing is presumably coming from the political team, whose members seem to believe that a move toward Republican positions, reminiscent of former President Bill Clinton’s “triangulation” in the 1990s, is the key to Mr. Obama’s re-election. And Mr. Clinton did, indeed, rebound from a big defeat in the 1994 midterms to win big two years later. But some of us think that the rebound had less to do with his rhetorical move to the center than with the five million jobs the economy added over those two years — an achievement not likely to be repeated this time, especially not in the face of harsh spending cuts.

The blindness of the DLC-era "Third Way" Democratic Party continues to be an astounding thing. For more than a decade now they have been clinging to the idea that the path to electoral success is social liberalism plus laissez-faire economics – in other words, get Wall Street and corporate America to fund your campaigns, and get minorities, pro-choice and gay marriage activists (who will always frightened into loyalty by the Tea Party/Christian loonies on the other side) to march at your rallies and vote every November. They've abandoned the unions-and-jobs platform that was the party's anchor since Roosevelt, and the latest innovations all involve peeling back their own policy legacies from the 20th century. Obama's new plan, for instance, might involve slashing Medicare and Social Security under "pressure" from the Republicans.

I simply don't believe the Democrats would really be worse off with voters if they committed themselves to putting people back to work, policing Wall Street, throwing their weight behind a real public option in health care, making hedge fund managers pay the same tax rates as ordinary people, ending the pointless wars abroad, etc. That they won't do these things because they're afraid of public criticism, and "responding to pressure," is an increasingly transparent lie. This "Please, Br'er Fox, don't throw me into dat dere briar patch" deal isn't going to work for much longer. Just about everybody knows now that they want to go into that briar patch.

The Republican brain

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Shut up OJ!

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Builder Blames Navy as Brand-New Warship Disintegrates | Danger Room | Wired.com

The Navy’s newest warship is slowly disappearing, one molecule at a time.

This isn’t a sequel to the 1984 sci-fi flick The Philadelphia Experiment, in which a Navy destroyer-escort vanishes through a time portal in Pennsylvania only to reappear in Nevada, 40 years later.

No, this time the disintegration is real. And so is the resulting tension between the Navy and the disappearing warship’s upstart builder.

The afflicted vessel is USS Independence, the second in the sailing branch’s fleet of fast, reconfigurable Littoral Combat Ships. Eventually, these ships are supposed to be the workhorses” of tomorrow’s Navy.

As Bloomberg reported, the Navy has discovered “aggressive” corrosion around Independence’s engines. The problem is so bad that the barely year-old ship will have to be laid up in a San Diego drydock so workers can replace whole chunks of her hull.

In contrast to the first LCS, the steel-hulled USS Freedom, Independence is made mostly of aluminum. And that’s one root of the ship’s ailment.

Corrosion is a $23-billion-a-year problem in the equipment-heavy U.S. military. But Independence’s decay isn’t a case of mere oxidation, which can usually be prevented by careful maintenance and cleaning. No, the 418-foot-long warship is dissolving due to one whopper of a design flaw.

There are technical terms for this kind of disintegration. Austal USA, Independence’s Alabama-based builder, calls it “galvanic corrosion.” Civilian scientists know it as “electrolysis.” It’s what occurs when “two dissimilar metals, after being in electrical contact with one another, corrode at different rates,” Austal explained in a statement.

“That suggests to me the metal is completely gone, not rusted,” naval analyst Raymond Pritchett wrote of Independence’s problem.

Independence’s corrosion is concentrated in her water jets — shipboard versions of airplane engines — where steel “impeller housings” come in contact with the surrounding aluminum structure. Electrical charges possibly originating in the ship’s combat systems apparently sparked the electrolysis.

It’s not clear why Austal and the Navy didn’t see this coming. Austal has built hundreds of aluminum ferries for civilian customers. The Navy, for its part, has operated mixed aluminum-and-steel warships in the past.

But Independence — the Navy’s first triple-hull combatant — could be a special case for both the builder and the operator. For all Austal’s chops building civilian ferries, the Australian company is new to the warship business. Austal set up shop near Mobile in 1999. Today, the shipyard has contracts to build 10 LCS, plus several catamaran transports for the Navy.

From the Navy’s point of view, Independence and the other Littoral Combat Ships are unique. As in, uniquely cheap. Each vessel is supposed to cost just $400 million, compared to more than a billion bucks for a larger, all-steel Arleigh Burke-class destroyer.

Lots of things — major weapons, for one — have been left off the LCS in order to keep the price down. The list of deleted items includes something called a “Cathodic Protection System,” which is designed to prevent electrolysis.

Independence will get the protection system installed at the first opportunity, and future LCSs will include it from the beginning, according to Pritchett.

But instead of simply filing the corrosion issue under “lessons learned,” Austal seems determined to blame its customer. “Galvanic corrosion has not been a factor on any Austal-built and fully maintained vessel,” Austal stressed, implying that Independence hasn’t been “fully maintained” by a negligent Navy.

That’s an, ahem, interesting approach to customer relations for America’s newest warship-builder.

And things could get worse, as more LCSs enter the fleet. “I suspect there will be other public problems revealed over time that will require relatively simple, albeit costly, solutions,” Pritchett wrote. Will Austal also blame the Navy the next time a glitch appears in the ships it builds?

Boing boing boing!

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Going to do what's right?

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Who's watching your kids?

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A big step backwards

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Wealth distribution in the US

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The whining of the bulls

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Tales from the American police state: Carlos Montes and the Security State: A Cautionary Tale - Chris Hedges' Columns - Truthdig

by Chris Hedges

On May 17 at 5 in the morning the Chicano activist Carlos Montes got a wake-up call at his home in California from Barack Obama’s security state. The Los Angeles County sheriff’s SWAT team, armed with assault rifles and wearing bulletproof vests, as well as being accompanied by FBI agents, kicked down his door, burst into his house with their weapons drawn, handcuffed him in his pajamas and hauled him off to jail. Montes, one of tens of thousands of Americans who have experienced this terrifying form of military-style assault and arrest, was one of the organizers of the demonstrations outside the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn., and he faces trial along with 23 other anti-war activists from Minnesota, as well as possible charges by a federal grand jury.

The widening use of militarized police units effectively nullifies the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, which prohibits the use of the armed forces for civilian policing. City police forces have in the last few decades amassed small strike forces that employ high-powered assault rifles, armored personnel carriers, tanks, elaborate command and control centers and attack helicopters. Poor urban neighborhoods, which bear the brunt of the estimated 40,000 SWAT team assaults that take place every year, have already learned what is only dimly being understood by the rest of us—in the eyes of the state we are increasingly no longer citizens with constitutional rights but enemy combatants. And that is exactly how Montes was treated. There is little daylight now between raiding a home in the middle of the night in Iraq and raiding one in Alhambra, Calif.

Montes is a longtime activist. He helped lead the student high school walkouts in East Los Angeles and anti-war protests in the 1960s and later demonstrations against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was one of the founding members of the Brown Berets, a Chicano group that in the 1960s styled itself after the Black Panthers. In the 1970s he evaded authorities while he lived in Mexico and he went on to organize garment workers in El Paso, Texas. He and the subpoenaed activists are reminders that in Barack Obama’s America, being a dissident is a crime.

“It was an FBI action, as I recall,” Sgt. Jim Scully told reporters of the Pasadena Star-News. “We assisted them.”

Montes was arrested ostensibly because he bought a firearm although a felony conviction 42 years ago prohibited him from doing so. The 1969 felony conviction was for throwing a can of Coke at a police officer during a demonstration. The registered shotgun in his closet, bought last year at a sporting goods shop, became the excuse to ransack his home, charge him and schedule him for trial in August. It became the excuse to seize his computer, two cellphones and files and records of his activism on behalf of workers, immigrants, the Chicano community and opposition to wars. Prosecutors said Montes should have disclosed his four-decade-old felony charge when he bought the shotgun at Big 5 Sporting Goods. Because he neglected to do this he will face six felony charges. The case is to be tried in Los Angeles.

“The gun issue was clearly a pretext to investigate my political activities,” he said when I reached him at his Alhambra home. “It is about my anti-war activities and my links to the RNC demonstrations. It is also about my activism denouncing the U.S. policy of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, their support for Israel and the Colombian government. I have been to Colombia twice.”

“I thought someone is breaking in, somebody is trying to jack me up,” he said. “I was a victim of an armed robbery in December of 2009 in my home. I do have a gun in my bedroom for self-defense. I was startled. I jumped out of bed. I saw lights coming from the front-door area. They looked like flashlights. I saw men with helmets and rifles. I gravitated towards the front door. I didn’t take my gun. I could have done that. I have it there. It is a good thing I didn’t pick anything up and put it in my hand.”

“I yelled, ‘Who is it?’ ” he said. “They said, ‘The police. Carlos Montes, come out’ or ‘come forward,’ something like that. I approached the entryway. They rushed in. They grabbed my hands. They turned me around. There were two police officers on each arm. They brought me out holding my arms. I have a little patio. They handcuffed me and patted me down. I am on a little hill. I looked down the street and [it was] full of sheriff’s vehicles, patrol cars and two large green vans. They were bigger than vans. People could stand in there. They didn’t have any logos on them.… I thought it was an Army truck at first. Later on I found it was from the sheriff.”

“It was kind of misty,” he said. “The ground was wet. They put me in the back seat of the car. I was handcuffed. They closed the doors and the windows. I was sitting there looking around, in a state of shock, thinking is this a dream or the real thing? I tried to close my eyes for a little while to see if I could wake up from this nightmare. I always had it in the back of my mind, one day they will come and raid me. My name was on the anti-war committee FBI search warrant raid in Minnesota. People were saying ‘we all got raided and your name is there.’ The lawyers said, ‘Beware—it could happen to you sooner or later.’ They were raided on Sept. 24 last year.”

Those who were raided were all issued subpoenas to appear before a federal grand jury in Chicago. They have refused to testify. The March on the RNC organizing committee was infiltrated by an agent although the protest groups had obtained licenses to demonstrate at the Republican National Convention. The Justice Department’s inspector general later released a report that criticized the FBI for invoking anti-terrorist laws to justify its investigations and harassment of peace and solidarity groups, including Greenpeace, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, and the Catholic Worker.

While Montes was in the back of the police car a man in a windbreaker and a baseball cap approached the vehicle. The sheriff’s deputies rolled down the right rear window. The man in the baseball cap told Montes he was from the FBI and wanted to speak with him.

“I blurted out, ‘Do you have a card?’ ” Montes said. “He laughed and said, ‘I don’t have a card.’ He said, ‘I want to talk to you about Freedom Road Socialist Organization.’ I didn’t say anything. I kept quiet. And then he walked away.”

Montes has written articles for the newspaper Fight Back News about Chicano immigrants’ rights struggles in Los Angeles, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the fight against the rise of charter schools. He said he was not a member of Freedom Road Socialist Organization. The organization, a Marxist group, is reportedly being investigated by the FBI because of connections with the Colombian rebel group the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the Palestinian group the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, both of which have been labeled as terrorist organizations. The Sept. 24, 2010, search warrant for the anti-war committee offices in Minneapolis lists Montes’ name among the group’s affiliates.

Montes was taken to the Los Angeles County Jail, known as the Twin Towers, and held for 24 hours until he was able to post a $35,000 bail.

“They called my sister to secure [my] house,” he said. “She called the handyman and he put a piece of plywood over my door. I did not have my wallet with me. When I got out of the county jail I did not have any phone numbers or money or an ID. I was walking around in slippers—at least they gave me slippers—and my pajamas. I got back about 5:30 the next morning. I got the door off. There were files and papers on the floor along with photograph albums of the anti-war movement, Latinos Against the War, the ’92 Rebellion, my son’s wedding, my daughter’s birthday, scattered on my kitchen table and floor. It looked like they lined up a bunch of stuff on tables and went through it. It was the same thing with my living room table. They had a file out from 1994 when we did a campaign against police brutality when the sheriffs were going crazy killing people. In my closet I had Chicano archives going back to the 1960s and 1970s. Those were pulled out and on the floor. They went through all my political documents, including my work with the Southern California Immigration Coalition and the campaign to elect a school board member, which we won, to stop the privatization of the local high school and the charters coming in. They went through all those files. It took me a couple of weeks to clean things up. They took a bunch of stuff.”

“The government sees the Chicano people as a threat,” he said. “We were able to turn out millions of people in 2006. In 1994 we had hundreds of thousands. We are growing. There are millions in the Southwest. We are all over the country, but especially in Arizona, Texas, New Mexico and California. We are still unorganized, but if we get organized we could really demand changes. We had millions of people out in 2006 and then they came after us hard in 2007. There was a lot of police repression, especially in Los Angeles. They fear the Chicano people challenging the status quo.”

“Many of the activists that were raided by the police are anti-war and solidarity activists,” he went on. “And even though the anti-war movement is not massive right now, the potential is there because there is an economic crisis. There is mass disgust with this economic system. People are out of work. It is not yet like COINTELPRO [Counter Intelligence Program] started under Hoover and the FBI to carry out surveillance, infiltrate and disrupt domestic political organizations, but the situation is getting worse. That is why we have to have demonstrations to put a stop to it now.”

If you think you are still free, you're wrong.

No, We Can’t? Or Won’t? - NYTimes.com

If you were shocked by Friday’s job report, if you thought we were doing well and were taken aback by the bad news, you haven’t been paying attention. The fact is, the United States economy has been stuck in a rut for a year and a half.

Yet a destructive passivity has overtaken our discourse. Turn on your TV and you’ll see some self-satisfied pundit declaring that nothing much can be done about the economy’s short-run problems (reminder: this “short run” is now in its fourth year), that we should focus on the long run instead.

This gets things exactly wrong. The truth is that creating jobs in a depressed economy is something government could and should be doing. Yes, there are huge political obstacles to action — notably, the fact that the House is controlled by a party that benefits from the economy’s weakness. But political gridlock should not be conflated with economic reality.

Our failure to create jobs is a choice, not a necessity — a choice rationalized by an ever-shifting set of excuses.

Excuse No. 1: Just around the corner, there’s a rainbow in the sky.

Remember “green shoots”? Remember the “summer of recovery”? Policy makers keep declaring that the economy is on the mend — and Lucy keeps snatching the football away. Yet these delusions of recovery have been an excuse for doing nothing as the jobs crisis festers.

Excuse No. 2: Fear the bond market.

Two years ago The Wall Street Journal declared that interest rates on United States debt would soon soar unless Washington stopped trying to fight the economic slump. Ever since, warnings about the imminent attack of the “bond vigilantes” have been used to attack any spending on job creation.

But basic economics said that rates would stay low as long as the economy was depressed — and basic economics was right. The interest rate on 10-year bonds was 3.7 percent when The Wall Street Journal issued that warning; at the end of last week it was 3.03 percent.

How have the usual suspects responded? By inventing their own reality. Last week, Representative Paul Ryan, the man behind the G.O.P. plan to dismantle Medicare, declared that we must slash government spending to “take pressure off the interest rates” — the same pressure, I suppose, that has pushed those rates to near-record lows.

Excuse No. 3: It’s the workers’ fault.

Unemployment soared during the financial crisis and its aftermath. So it seems bizarre to argue that the real problem lies with the workers — that the millions of Americans who were working four years ago but aren’t working now somehow lack the skills the economy needs.

Yet that’s what you hear from many pundits these days: high unemployment is “structural,” they say, and requires long-term solutions (which means, in practice, doing nothing).

Well, if there really was a mismatch between the workers we have and the workers we need, workers who do have the right skills, and are therefore able to find jobs, should be getting big wage increases. They aren’t. In fact, average wages actually fell last month.

Excuse No. 4: We tried to stimulate the economy, and it didn’t work.

Everybody knows that President Obama tried to stimulate the economy with a huge increase in government spending, and that it didn’t work. But what everyone knows is wrong.

Think about it: Where are the big public works projects? Where are the armies of government workers? There are actually half a million fewer government employees now than there were when Mr. Obama took office.

So what happened to the stimulus? Much of it consisted of tax cuts, not spending. Most of the rest consisted either of aid to distressed families or aid to hard-pressed state and local governments. This aid may have mitigated the slump, but it wasn’t the kind of job-creation program we could and should have had. This isn’t 20-20 hindsight: some of us warned from the beginning that tax cuts would be ineffective and that the proposed spending was woefully inadequate. And so it proved.

It’s also worth noting that in another area where government could make a big difference — help for troubled homeowners — almost nothing has been done. The Obama administration’s program of mortgage relief has gone nowhere: of $46 billion allotted to help families stay in their homes, less than $2 billion has actually been spent.

So let’s summarize: The economy isn’t fixing itself. Nor are there real obstacles to government action: both the bond vigilantes and structural unemployment exist only in the imaginations of pundits. And if stimulus seems to have failed, it’s because it was never actually tried.

Listening to what supposedly serious people say about the economy, you’d think the problem was “no, we can’t.” But the reality is “no, we won’t.” And every pundit who reinforces that destructive passivity is part of the problem.

America's 'detainee 001' – the persecution of John Walker Lindh | World news | The Observer

Good read but way too long to post here.

A New Cold War: U.S.-China Battle for Hegemony « Antiwar.com Blog

John Glaser, July 11, 2011

In response to the Obama administration’s “pause” in U.S. military aid to Pakistan, China has slipped in to fill the gap. This is just the latest development in passive aggressive power war between the U.S. and China; any new regional allies for China represents a threat to U.S. leverage in the region. Also in the news today was the visit to China by Adm. Mike Mullen, Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff. He was sent to China “with a vow to maintain the U.S. military presence in Asia and a warning that recent incidents in the disputed waters of the South China Sea could escalate into conflict.” This was a response to China’s recent calls to the U.S. to stop holding military drills with our vassal states like “Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei,” as they are seen as a provocation. Mullen reportedly acknowledged China’s regional power, “but urged its military to ease regional concerns about its rapid modernization by playing a more cooperative, responsible and transparent role in the world.” Translation: stop threatening our military and technological hegemony; We Own the World, not you.

“The U.S. is not going away,” [Mullen] said. “Our enduring presence in this region has been important to our allies for decades and it will continue to be so.”

I wrote about this clash between the reigning U.S. empire and China’s rising ambitions to be the successor last month:

In Singapore last week, Defense Secretary Gates spoke at an International Institute for Strategic Studies meeting and argued for “sustaining a robust [U.S.] military presence in Asia.” He spoke of overcoming “anti-access and area denial scenarios” that the U.S. military faces in Asia, which threatens America’s access to strategic markets and resources. Predominantly, Gates explained, U.S. military presence in Asia-Pacific is important in “deterring, and if necessary defeating, potential adversaries.”

While perhaps more straightforward than reigning politicians and diplomats, Gates’ explanation of U.S. military strategy was nothing new. As was reiterated in the 2002 National Security Strategy, it was of foremost importance that “our forces will be strong enough to dissuade potential adversaries from pursuing a military build-up in hopes of surpassing, or equaling, the power of the United States.”

[...Asia is] a region of emerging markets that the U.S. national security state wants command over. It’s also one where attempts to terrorize the world into deference to U.S. hegemony has failed to prevent a rising military rival like China.

America’s debt crisis has yet to incentivize Washington to cut the defense budget, and while a great deal of that is because the Afghan and Iraq wars are not drawing down, another primary reason is that maintaining U.S. military hegemony throughout the world is a major aim of the ruling elite. China’s audacious requests for less U.S. imperialism in the region, along with their increasing military budgets and capabilities, is likely to push America’s military budget still further. Any global competition is the Pentagon’s foremost concern. The potential for an arms race between the two is seen as likely by many experts, portending eventual insolvency for the U.S.

But the real concern is what may happen in the meantime. The U.S.-Soviet arms race not only empowered state war machines manifold, but it also became the pretext for numerous proxy wars (Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and Nicaragua among the most egregiously treacherous). This sort of military one-upsmanship is good for the state and for the glorification of war, bad for peace and liberty.