The Daily Beast
Did a steady diet of right-wing radio and Glenn Beck influence Richard Poplawski, the man who allegedly murdered three Pittsburgh cops? Max Blumenthal reports.
On April 6, two days after the 22-year-old Richard Poplawski allegedly murdered three police officers in Pittsburgh, a radio host named Alex Jones settled in before a microphone in his studio in Austin, Texas, to do some damage control. “The mainstream media has certainly enjoyed tying me into this story,” Jones complained. “They’re attacking me and saying I’m delusional and there’s no New World Order… The Second Amendment, what the country’s founded on—it’s all my fault!”
Poplawski was a neo-Nazi wannabe who railed against blacks, Jews, “Zionists,” and gun control. And like many members of the far-right fringe, he allegedly visited Jones’ Web sites and posted alarming reports by Jones’ writers on Stormfront, a white-supremacist message board. (Poplawski’s posts are here, authored under the handle, “Braced For Fate.”) While Alex Jones generally avoids overt racism, he has found an eager audience on Stormfront by conjuring dark visions of an impending New World Order, claiming FEMA is secretly building a national concentration-camp network, and announcing that President Barack Obama has planned mass gun seizures on his way to establishing a leftist dictatorship. “Remember, the first step in establishing a dictatorship is to disarm the citizens,” warned a March 13 commentary on Jones’ Web site, Prison Planet....(Click for remainder).
The Wall Street Journal
Mark Sanford, the Republican governor of South Carolina, is the conservative of the moment. For months he has been the object of national attention thanks to his refusal to accept a portion of funds set aside for his state in the $787 billion stimulus package. Conservatives love him: Here is another brave South Carolina nullifier, putting high principle before low, craven politics.
Mr. Sanford sees nothing unusual about his stand. "I've got a 15-year pattern of doing exactly this kind of thing," he said last month.
I would go even farther: The man has probably been waiting his entire career for the chance to conspicuously turn down federal money.
Mr. Sanford got his political start with the famous Republican "freshmen" of 1994, who came to Congress in a blaze of idealism determined to hack down the big-government leviathan. Virtuous self-denial was the flavor of the moment, in contrast to the supposedly indulgent Democratic Congress the young zealots had toppled, and Mr. Sanford was perhaps the most austere of them all.
In his account of those years, "The Trust Committed to Me," Mr. Sanford details the perks he gave up. We learn how the congressman slept on a futon in his office rather than take an apartment in Washington. How he gave his pay raise to charity. How he managed to halt ice delivery to congressional offices....(Click for remainder).
Right Wing Hysterical Over Obama’s ‘Not At War With Islam’ Remarks: ‘We Have Nothing To Apologize For’
By Satyam Khanna
President Obama's outreach to the Muslim world has been a welcome development after eight years of President Bush's "us vs. them" approach. "Let me say this as clearly as I can," he told the Turkish parliament yesterday. "The United States is not and will never be at war with Islam." He told Turkish students today, "You will find a partner and a supporter and a friend in the United States of America." Middle Eastern leaders are embracing Obama's outreach already.
But apparently, the conservative establishment finds such outreach objectionable. On Fox News yesterday, John Bolton, Bill Kristol, and Sean Hannity all derided Obama's comments to the Turkish parliament. They argued that in fact, the Iraq war served as evidence of America's concern for Muslims. CNN's Lou Dobbs also decried Obama's praise for the "great civilization of Iran":
BOLTON:There are an enormous amount of things we've done to benefit Muslims in countries all over the world. We have nothing to apologize for.(Click for remainder).
KRISTOL: But could Barack Obama say something that would be mildly unpopular to an audience which he was speaking? No. Could he say that the war in Afghanistan or the war in Iraq are just and that we have fought for Muslims, incidentally under President Clinton we fought for Muslims in Bosnia and Kosovo?
HANNITY: It seemed to me…that this was an attempt to apologize for toppling Saddam Hussein and the war on terror.
DOBBS: In his efforts to charm our allies, President Obama noted that Islam helped shape the world for the better, including the United States. He even declared Iran to be a great civilization.
It's hardly surprising that members of Congress would be reluctant to accept Defense Secretary Robert Gates' efforts to restructure military spending. Gates' proposal is a rather dramatic effort at reform, and for lawmakers who've grown attached to Pentagon-related pork, the administration's proposal shakes up the status quo.
But while some resistance was inevitable, Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), a constant embarrassment to himself and the Senate, is once again breaking new grounds of indecency.
In a YouTube video that is getting linked around the conservative blogosphere, Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) attacked Defense Secretary Robert Gates' 2010 defense budget recommendations, though he aimed his criticism at President Obama instead of Gates. Speaking from Afghanistan, Inhofe declared that "President Obama is disarming America. Never before has a president so ravaged the military at a time of war."In the video, Inhofe adds, "Here in Afghanistan, while the war is intensifying and the number of U.S. forces increases at the direction of President Obama, he undercuts those he sends into harm's way. It is not just unbelievable ... it is unconscionable."
Specifically, Inhofe charges Obama with cutting funding for "our troops in the field during an ongoing war."
Of course, Inhofe is either lying or he's a fool. (It's so hard to tell.) Following the recommendations of its Republican defense secretary, the Obama administration is increasing military spending from $513 billion under Bush to $534 billion in 2010. Inhofe, who's never been accused of being the sharpest crayon in the box, is making a series of ridiculous war-related accusations that don't make any sense at all. "Disarming America"? "Ravaging the military at a time of war"? "Undercutting" the troops? Even by Inhofe standards, this is blisteringly stupid....(Click for remainder).
The Washington Independent
As congressional Democrats work to solidify finance industry reforms, a growing push to rein in payday lenders is running smack into a formidable barrier: the rising influence of the lenders themselves.
Not only has the industry stepped up its lobbying and political contributions in recent years, but it’s convinced at least one powerful Democrat — who just two years ago supported an outright ban on payday loans — that eliminating the practice is politically impossible.
As a result, Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), who heads the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit, is pushing a loophole-riddled bill that would allow payday lenders to charge annual interest rates of nearly 400 percent — a proposal widely condemned by consumer advocates and some liberal Democrats, who want to put payday lenders out of business altogether.
Gutierrez wasn’t always so kind to the industry. In 2006, he supported the successful effort that effectively banned payday loans to members of the military by capping interest rates for those borrowers at 36 percent. (The cap was requested by the Defense Department, which called the loans predatory.) A year later, Gutierrez was a lead sponsor of the Payday Loan Reform Act, which would have prohibited the loans outright.
Gutierrez’s office did not respond to requests for comment. But in an interview with The Associated Press last week, the Illinois Democrat conceded that the growing influence of the payday lending industry contributed to his change of heart....(Click for remainder).
The Smirking Chimp
Add to the list of President George W. Bush’s failures his inability to straighten out what he regarded as one of the top national security needs, a more effective U.S. intelligence community.
Despite upping the U.S. intelligence budget to $45 billion from about $30 billion – and signing legislation in 2005 meant to end “turf” battles – Bush left behind an intelligence community suffering from poor communications among agencies and a flawed management structure, according to an inspector general’s report finished in November and released last week.
Instead of creating a streamlined and efficient intelligence community, the changes that Bush oversaw appear simply to have added a new layer of bureaucracy – the Director of National Intelligence – on top of the earlier system whose shortcomings contributed to intelligence failures around the 9/11 attacks and the bogus assessments on Iraq’s WMD stockpiles.
The findings of the DNI’s inspector general also undercut former Vice President Dick Cheney’s assertions that the Bush administration made great strides in keeping the country safe from terrorist attacks and that President Barack Obama’s reversal of some key policies has put the nation at risk.
In a March 15 interview with CNN’s John King, Cheney said Obama had made the country less safe by moving to close the Guantanamo prison, shuttering CIA “black sites” where detainees were interrogated, limiting CIA interrogators to tactics from the Army Field Manual, defining waterboarding as torture, suspending the military commissions, and junking the “war on terror” concept....(Click for remainder).
CQ Poltics via Yahoo! News
Democrat Al Franken's lead in Minnesota's long-disputed Senate race increased to 312 votes Tuesday, making it mathematically impossible for Norm Coleman to win his state trial challenging the election outcome.
A three-judge panel appointed by the state Supreme Court is expected to rule this week that Franken won the race.
Franken's slim advantage expanded after election officials, acting under court order, opened and counted 351 previously rejected absentee ballots.
At the end of a six-week hand recount, Franken had led Coleman by 225 votes out of 2.9 million cast. The additional ballots were ordered evaluated for validity as part of Coleman's challenge in state court to the outcome of the recount.
The court still has to resolve whether some ballots were double-counted, as alleged by Coleman, and the handling of ballots that went missing.
But those questions affect fewer than 300 ballots -- too few to wipe out Franken's lead, even if the judges rule in Coleman's favor.
Franken attorney Marc Elias declared Tuesday's count showed "Al Franken got the most votes" in the election....(Click for remainder).
The Huffington Post
Vice President Joseph Biden on Tuesday forcefully rejected the argument, made most notably by his predecessor Dick Cheney, that the United States is less safe under President Obama's leadership.
Asked by CNN's Gloria Borger whether Cheney's comments were "out of line," Biden said no, "but he is dead wrong."
"[T]he last administration left us in a weaker posture than we've been any time since World War II," Biden argued. "Less regarded in the world, stretched more thinly than we ever have been in the past, two wars under way, virtually no respect in entire parts of the world."
The Vice President then went a step further, stating that the country is actually safer now than it was during the Bush presidency. "I guarantee you we are safer today, our interests are more secure today than they were any time during the eight years... We are more safe. We are more secure. Our interests are more secure, not just at home, but around the world. We are rebuilding America's ability to lead."...(Click for remainder).
Associated Press via The Huffington Post
Democrat Mike Quigley, a reform-minded Cook County commissioner, on Tuesday claimed the high-profile Illinois congressional seat that Rahm Emanuel gave up to be President Barack Obama's chief of staff.
Quigley, 50, trounced GOP nominee Rosanna Pulido and Green Party candidate Matt Reichel for the 5th Congressional District seat that Emanuel first won in 2002.
He knows comparisons to Emanuel are inevitable.
"I recognize in many respects I will be compared to him and that's a tough, tough task. It's extraordinary. For a while I will be the guy in D.C. that's recognized as that's the guy taking Rahm Emanuel's seat. We will fight very hard to set our own ground, to establish our own credentials," Quigley told supporters at an election night party at a North Side Chicago bar.
With 98 percent of precincts reporting, Quigley had 29,634, or nearly 70 percent of the vote. Pulido had 10,360 or 24 percent, and Reichel had 2,839 or nearly 7 percent....(Click for remainder).
The Washington Post had a good item today on the increasingly dire outlook on Arctic sea ice. Near the end of the piece, the Post's Juliet Eilperin and Mary Beth Sheridan added:
The new evidence -- including satellite data showing that the average multiyear wintertime sea ice cover in the Arctic in 2005 and 2006 was nine feet thick, a significant decline from the 1980s -- contradicts data cited in widely circulated reports by Washington Post columnist George F. Will that sea ice in the Arctic has not significantly declined since 1979.That's a pretty sharp rebuke for a news story about a claim made by one of the paper's own high-profile columnists. Indeed, David Roberts added, "I can't think of another instance when a news story at a newspaper explicitly called out an op-ed writer in the same paper for lying, by name. It's pretty extraordinary."
But it gets better. Let's not forget that the Washington Post's Andrew Freeman also fact-checked Will's work on climate change and found the columnist to be wrong, and the Washington Post also recently published a piece from Chris Mooney scrutinizing Will's analysis and Mooney, too, concluded that Will was wrong....(Click for remainder).
By Susie Madrak
Crooks and Liars
At least three men suspected of being gay were gunned down March 20 in the Iraqi city of Ramadi. U.S. forces say they are concerned about the rising number of anti-gay killings in Iraq. (Photo by Bilal Hussein/AP)
Yet another group who has found life even worse than it was under Saddam Hussein. Nice going, BushCo! Installing a theocracy usually does lead to the suppression of human rights - just in case you never noticed:
BAGHDAD - The bodies of two gay men have been found in Baghdad's Shiite slum of Sadr City after a leading cleric repeatedly condemned homosexuality, an Iraqi police official said Saturday.Amnesty International recently condemned the Iraq government's plan to execute 128 prisoners, many of whom were imprisoned for being gay....(Click for original).
The killings come after Shiite cleric Sattar al-Battat repeatedly condemned homosexuality during recent Friday prayers, saying Islam prohibits homosexuality. Homosexual acts are punishable by up to seven years in prison in Iraq.
The two men were believed killed Thursday by relatives who were shamed by their behavior, said the official. Police said they suspected the killings were at the hands of family members because no one has claimed the bodies or called for an investigation.
The killings come weeks after Iraqi police found four bodies in late March buried near Sadr City with the words "pervert" and "puppies" written on their chests, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information.
Puppy is a derogatory word used by residents in Sadr City to refer to homosexuals, the official said.
Sadr City, a slum of about two million people, is home to a large majority of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia. Al-Sadr's forces launched several uprisings against American forces since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, but fighting ended in Sadr City in May 2008.
"When the Mahdi army was in control, such practices were banned, and homosexuals were afraid of declaring their tendencies," the official said. But that's changed since the Mahdi Army militia cease fire took hold, the official said. The official said some people claim a coffee shop in Sadr City has become a hangout for gay men.
Sheik Ammar al-Saadi, a cleric at al-Sadr's office, denied any involvement by the Mahdi army in the killings. He said the Mahdi Army was only urging people to stop practicing homosexuality.
"Such people have brought shame on Sadr city people," he told The Associated Press. "The blame falls on the security forces who do little to combat this phenomenon or to stop the flow of pornography materials into Iraq."
By Media Matters
LIMBAUGH: We're going to go to Chicago. This is Charles. Charles, thank you for waiting and for calling. Great to have you here. Hello.
CALLER: Thanks, Rush. Rush, listen, I voted Republican, and I didn't -- really didn't want to see Obama get in office. But, you know, Rush, you're one reason to blame for this election, for the Republicans losing.
First of all, you kept harping about voting for Hillary. The second big issue is the -- was the torture issue. I'm a veteran. We're not supposed to be torturing these people. This is not Nazi Germany, Red China, or North Korea. There's other ways of interrogating people, and you kept harping about it -- "It's OK," or "It's not really torture." And it was just more than waterboarding. Some of these prisoners were killed under torture.
And it just -- it was crazy for you to keep going on and on like Levin and Hannity and Hewitt. It's like you're all brainwashed.
And my last comment is, no matter what Obama does, you will still criticize him because I believe you're brainwashed. You're just -- and I hate to say it -- but I think you're a brainwashed Nazi. Anyone who could believe in torture just has got to be - there's got to be something wrong with them.
LIMBAUGH: You know --
CALLER: And I know Bush wanted to keep us safe and all of that, but we're not supposed to be torturing these people....(Click for remainder).
By John Aravosis
Aha, and my friends thought I was nuts when I said I saw him walking into my new condo building a few weeks ago.
Penn told EW: "I'm going to be the associate director in the White House office of public liaison. They do outreach with the American public and with different organizations. They're basically the front door of the White House. They take out all of the red tape that falls between the general public and the White House. It's similar to what I was doing on the campaign."Penn, who starred in "Harold and Kumar," and is a regular on "House," is unique among celebrities interested in politics - he is actually giving up his career (or at least is putting it on hold) in order to support the political cause he believes in. He quit House in order to work for Obama. That's pretty wild, and damn laudable. I have no problem with celebrities getting involved in politics - on the contrary, Hollywood has been a great help on so many progressive issues, and with so many progressive candidates. But I can't recall anyone going this far in their commitment to a political cause, or a politician - as to actually quit a hit TV show. Remember, he's also taking a huge pay cut. I'm seriously impressed....(Click for remainder).
The Washington Post
The D.C. Council unanimously voted yesterday to recognize gay marriages performed elsewhere, joining a growing number of states to loosen restrictions on the unions.
The District's actions came the same day as Vermont became the fourth state to recognize same-sex marriages and a week after the Iowa Supreme Court legalized such unions. The moves generated a sense of momentum and hope among gay activists and anger among some religious and conservative groups.
The vote in the District was preliminary. Lawmakers expect a final one May 5. The District already allows domestic partnerships, and its decision was the first step in a looming battle for the city's gay marriage bill. That measure is expected to be introduced in the council soon and undoubtedly will pit the city against opponents in Congress, which has the final say in the District's legislative matters....(Click for remainder).
Today, Minnesota counted the absentee ballots the Minnesota Election Contest Court ordered counted, and not surprisingly, Al Franken's lead has swelled to 312 votes over Norm Coleman.
There are two remaining decisions for the ECC -- whether to count the 133 missing ballots and what to do about the 100 double-counted votes the Coleman campaign claimed (with zero evidence) were cast. More likely than not, those final two issues will be dispatched in Franken's favor, but worst case scenario, losing those two claims would net Coleman just 146 votes, clearly not enough to overcome Franken's lead. The "counting the votes" phase of this election is finally over, six months after the election. All that's left now is the appeals.
The only way for Coleman to overcome this lead would be to win an appeal against the election court's prior rulings in favor of strict standards to let in new ballots, or to somehow win his much more far-fetched proposal to retroactively declare a number of absentee votes illegal and deduct them from the totals based on countywide averages. The first one is more likely in terms of feasibility, and even that's a long shot, leaving the Coleman camp at their other proposal to "set aside" the election result entirely.(Click for remainder).
So at this point Coleman is left to appeal to get more votes put in from his campaign's list, under more lenient standards and a lower burden of proof -- the court rejected many of his submissions on the grounds that his legal team had failed to provide sufficient evidence -- and to prevent Franken from succeeding at this same game.
Scahill: Obama Went to Iraq and Visited. . . the Airport. Was it the Sandstorms or the Rising Shitstorm?
Maybe it’s because of the sandstorms in Baghdad like they say, or maybe it is the rising shitstorm there, but here is the fact: President Obama went to Iraq and stayed at the airport, which is located on the same grounds as Camp Victory. Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said it was because of the weather, which would have made helicopter travel into central Baghdad dangerous. Having been in Baghdad at this time of year in the past, I can say that the sandstorms are pretty surreal so that may well be the actual reason. However, it is hard not to wonder about the “coincidence” of Obama’s visit being confined to the airport and coming in the midst of a rising tide in violence in Iraq over the past several days.
Yesterday, more than 30 Iraqis were killed in a series of car bombs. “The wave of attacks [were] the largest number of bombs in one day in almost two years,” according to The Guardian. In all, 37 people died and some 120 were wounded in seven bombings. There were more attacks today that took another 9 lives, according to NBC News. The recent violence in Iraq has been portrayed by some seasoned observers as the “unraveling,” with the Sunni “Awakening” forces, which are paid by the US not to kill US soldiers, increasing their attacks on government forces backing Nouri al Maliki. This has been largely a response to the US-backed Baghdad regime using the cover of US protection to arrest Sunni political opponents and the refusal of the regime to integrate Sunnis into the government. It isn’t just the Shiite government being targeted. A recent Washington Post piece documented a battle wherein “former Sunni insurgents fought from rooftops and street corners against American and Iraqi forces.” Was this violence a factor in the decision to keep Obama in the fortified safety of the airport/Camp Victory area?
Addressing troops upon his arrival in the country, Obama once again portrayed the Iraq war as a victory. “You have given Iraq the opportunity to stand on its own as a democratic country,” Obama said. “That is an extraordinary achievement.”...(Click for remainder).
When Congress immunized telecoms last August for their illegal participation in Bush's warrantless eavesdropping program, Senate Democratic apologists for telecom immunity repeatedly justified that action by pointing out that Bush officials who broke the law were not immunized -- only the telecoms. Here, for instance, is how Sen. Jay Rockefeller justified telecom immunity in a Washington Post Op-Ed:
Second, lawsuits against the government can go forward. There is little doubt that the government was operating in, at best, a legal gray area. If administration officials abused their power or improperly violated the privacy of innocent people, they must be held accountable. That is exactly why we rejected the White House's year-long push for blanket immunity covering government officials.Taking them at their word, EFF -- which was the lead counsel in the lawsuits against the telecoms -- thereafter filed suit, in October, 2008, against the Bush administration and various Bush officials for illegally spying on the communications of Americans. They were seeking to make good on the promise made by Congressional Democrats: namely, that even though lawsuits against telecoms for illegal spying will not be allowed any longer, government officials who broke the law can still be held accountable....(Click for remainder).