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Weekly Address: Efficiency and Innovation

Saturday, April 18, 2009


THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the Press Secretary
__________________________________________________________________________________
EMBARGOED UNTIL 6:00 AM ET,                                    SATURDAY, April 18, 2009

WEEKLY ADDRESS: President Obama Discusses Efforts to Reform Spending, Government Waste; Names Chief Performance Officer and Chief Technology Officer


WASHINGTON – In his weekly address, President Barack Obama announced that Jeffrey Zients, a CEO, management consultant and entrepreneur, will join the administration as the Chief Performance Officer, and that Aneesh Chopra, Virginia’s Secretary of Technology, will serve as the Chief Technology Officer.  Zients will also serve as Deputy Director for Management of the Office of Management and Budget.  He will work to streamline processes, cut costs, and find the best practices throughout the government.  As Chief Technology Officer, Chopra will promote technological innovation to help the country meet its goals from job creation, to reducing health care costs, to protecting the homeland.  Together with Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra, they will help give all Americans a government that is effective, efficient, and transparent.

President Obama announced his appointments of the following individuals today:

Jeffrey D. Zients
Zients has twenty years of business experience as a CEO, management consultant and entrepreneur with a deep understanding of business strategy, process reengineering and financial management. He served as CEO and Chairman of the Advisory Board Company and Chairman of the Corporate Executive Board. These firms are leading providers of performance benchmarks and best practices across a wide range of industries.  Currently, he is the Founder and Managing Partner of Portfolio Logic, an investment firm focused primarily on business and healthcare service companies.

Aneesh Paul Chopra
Chopra serves as Virginia’s Secretary of Technology. He leads the Commonwealth’s strategy to effectively leverage technology in government reform, to promote Virginia’s innovation agenda, and to foster technology-related economic development. Previously, he worked as Managing Director with the Advisory Board Company, leading the firm’s Financial Leadership Council and the Working Council for Health Plan Executives.

The full audio of the address is HERE. The video can be viewed online at www.whitehouse.gov.
 

Remarks of President Barack Obama
Weekly Address
Saturday, April 18, 2009

 

It’s not news to say that we are living through challenging times: The worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.  A credit crisis that has made that downturn worse.  And a fiscal disaster that has accumulated over a period of years.

In the year 2000, we had projected budget surpluses in the trillions, and Washington appeared to be on the road to fiscal stability.  Eight years later, when I walked in the door, the projected budget deficit for this year alone was $1.3 trillion.  And in order to jumpstart our struggling economy, we were forced to make investments that added to that deficit through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

But as surely as our future depends on building a new energy economy, controlling health care costs and ensuring that our kids are once again the best educated in the world, it also depends on restoring a sense of responsibility and accountability to our federal budget.  Without significant change to steer away from ever-expanding deficits and debt, we are on an unsustainable course.

So today, we simply cannot afford to perpetuate a system in Washington where politicians and bureaucrats make decisions behind closed doors, with little accountability for the consequences; where billions are squandered on programs that have outlived their usefulness, or exist solely because of the power of a lobbyist or interest group; and where outdated technology and information systems undermine efficiency, threaten our security, and fail to serve an engaged citizenry.

If we’re to going to rebuild our economy on a solid foundation, we need to change the way we do business in Washington.  We need to restore the American people’s confidence in their government – that it is on their side, spending their money wisely, to meet their families’ needs.

That starts with the painstaking work of examining every program, every entitlement, every dollar of government spending and asking ourselves: Is this program really essential?  Are taxpayers getting their money’s worth?  Can we accomplish our goals more efficiently or effectively some other way?

It’s a process we have already begun, scouring our budget line by line for programs that don’t work so we can cut them to make room for ones that do.  That means ending tax breaks for companies shipping jobs overseas; stopping the fraud and abuse in our Medicare program; and reforming our health care system to cut costs for families and businesses.  It means strengthening whisteblower protections for government employees who step forward to report wasteful spending.  And it means reinstating the pay-as-you-go rule that we followed during the 1990s – so if we want to spend, we’ll need to find somewhere else to cut.

And this Monday, at my first, full Cabinet meeting, I will ask all of my department and agency heads for specific proposals for cutting their budgets.  Already, members of my Cabinet have begun to trim back unnecessary expenditures.  Secretary Napolitano, for example, is ending consulting contracts to create new seals and logos that have cost the Department of Homeland Security $3 million since 2003.  In the largest Department, Secretary Gates has launched an historic project to reform defense contracting procedures and eliminate hundreds of billions of dollars in wasteful spending and cost overruns.  And I commend Senators McCain and Levin – a Republican and a Democrat – who have teamed up to lead this effort in Congress.

Finally, in the coming weeks, I will be announcing the elimination of dozens of government programs shown to be wasteful or ineffective.  In this effort, there will be no sacred cows, and no pet projects.  All across America, families are making hard choices, and it’s time their government did the same.

That is why I have assembled a team of management, technology, and budget experts to guide us in this work – leaders who will help us revamp government operations from top to bottom and ensure that the federal government is truly working for the American people.

I have named Jeffrey Zients, a leading CEO, management consultant and entrepreneur, to serve as Deputy Director for Management of the Office of Management and Budget and as the first ever Chief Performance Officer.  Jeffrey will work to streamline processes, cut costs, and find best practices throughout our government.

Aneesh Chopra, who is currently the Secretary of Technology for Governor Kaine of Virginia, has agreed to serve as America’s Chief Technology Officer.  In this role, Aneesh will promote technological innovation to help achieve our most urgent priorities – from creating jobs and reducing health care costs to keeping our nation secure.  

Aneesh and Jeffrey will work closely with our Chief Information Officer, Vivek Kundra, who is responsible for setting technology policy across the government, and using technology to improve security, ensure transparency, and lower costs.  The goal is to give all Americans a voice in their government and ensure that they know exactly how we’re spending their money – and can hold us accountable for the results.

None of this will be easy.  Big change never is.  But with the leadership of these individuals, I am confident that we can break our bad habits, put an end to the mismanagement that has plagued our government, and start living within our means again.   That is how we will get our deficits under control and move from recovery to prosperity.  And that is how we will give the American people the kind of government they expect and deserve – one that is efficient, accountable and fully worthy of their trust.

Thank you.

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Lance Bass PSA for Day of Silence

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Let's Have a Real Tea Party

By Brent Budowsky
The Hill's Pundits Blog


Progressives, workers, consumers, students and Middle Americans of all kinds should begin a real tea party to organize around this: Why are banks that were given trillions of dollars to increase lending raising credit card interest rates, cutting credit limits, increasing mortgage foreclosures and refusing to lend to tens of millions of credit-worthy consumers and businesses?

Progressives and bloggers, instead of merely criticizing those on the right who hijacked the tea parties, and criticizing Fox News and the conservative media for the hijackings, should take ownership of the tea party idea and ownership against the many ripoff actions that are imposing punishment on American taxpayers by those who were given trillions of dollars to increase lending, not decrease lending.

On Thursday the president meets with CEOs of credit card companies. Let's see how hard a stand he takes on behalf of American consumers.

Some of these banking abuses are the piracy of our times: borrowers who offer fair payment schedules but are told to pay 100 percent within 10 days or be foreclosed. Credit card customers who are charged a 30 percent interest rate, which used to be the style of organized crime. And the immense wrong of banks that received trillions of dollars of aid with the purpose of increasing lending but which, according to the Treasury Department, actually reduced net lending in February.

Let's have a tea party that brings together principled liberals and conservatives and the huge majority of Americans who agree with what is stated here. Let's take back the tea party concept from those on the far right who seek to hijack it, whose platform is tax cuts for the wealthy and the kind of phony party suggested by CNBC greed guru Rick Santelli, who waved at the traders on the floor of the Chicago Exchange and said, hilariously: "This is America."...(Click for remainder.)

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Charles Barkley Tears Into "Unpatriotic" Limbaugh And "Idiot" Hannity

By The Huffington Post

NBA great Charles Barkley dipped into some political punditry during a Tonight Show appearance on Friday, tearing into conservative talking heads who have rooted for President Obama to fail.

"I mean, you look at this country now, we've got all these foreclosures, we've got all these people laid off. We should be behind him 110 percent, hoping he's successful," Barkley said. "And I just thought it was unpatriotic and basically B.S. for Rush Limbaugh and that idiot Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck and all those idiots to not root for this guy."

Barkley is no stranger to the national political debate, and he said last year that he's planning a run for Alabama governor in 2014. But it's pretty clear at this point that he won't be on the GOP ticket.

"Neither party is anything to write home about," Barkley told Jay Leno. "But the Republican Party just went right-wing whack nut job on America and screwed up the country."...(Click for remainder.)

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It's a bit pre-Civil War Up in Here

By Charles D. Ellison
The Huffington Post


This tea party stuff is spooky.

It's not just the tea parties, it's the symbolism behind them and the parallel track with history. The inability of organizers to explain why they've done this now as opposed to the past several years of ballooning deficit spending under the previous Administration. That clearly exposes the partisan nature of it - therefore it's hard to fake the funk of this as "non-partisan" when it's driven by clear irritation over the election of a Democratic president (or that other reason over the shade of his skin). And, oh, has anyone asked another key question: do you see any people of color at these events? Not really - which presents a persistent problem: calling events that only represent one particular segment of the population "movements." Or saying "Americans" feel a certain way when it's really just a slice of demographic. That talk always makes the rest of us nervous.

Not certain if it's set in, yet. The reasons for that bit of nervousness aren't the more obvious. The anxiousness some are feeling is slightly obfuscated by the partisan lining in the conversation. The Republicans organizing, showing up and dumping tea bags all claim it isn't a Republican thing. Democrats may pick at it, but can't claim much and may be afraid that if they get too opposed to the concept, it'll backfire. So, it's a bit disingenuous and historically inaccurate to say these are "non-partisan" events grounded in a non-partisan tradition. All of this is political, making a political point and by virtue of that ... it's partisan. The original Boston Tea Party was, by all accounts, a partisan event organized by organized folks who had a desire to get heard. Do something dramatic; get King George's attention; piss him off and holla: pollute the Boston Harbor at a time when environmentalism wasn't exactly vogue. 235 years later, judging by the murky dark of Beantown's water, some probably wish their scrappy, headstrong Founders hadn't did that. But, good thing is we got a country out of it. And what a powerful, don't-frack-with-us farm this is....(Click for remainder.)

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Steve Schmidt, McCain Campaign Manager: Religion Could Kill The GOP

By Sam Stein
The Huffington Post


Speaking publicly for one of the first times since the end of the presidential campaign, John McCain's campaign manager Steve Schmidt painted a dire portrait of the state of the Republican Party, arguing that the GOP has largely been co-opted by its religious elements.

"If you put public policy issues to a religious test, you risk becoming a religious party," Schmidt declared. "And in a free country, a political party cannot be viable in the long term if it is seen as a sectarian party."

The remarks came in a passionate, roughly 20-minute speech before the Log Cabin Republican's national convention, in which Schmidt laid out the case for a far more open party -- one which did not consider gay marriage to be a "litmus test" issue. And while he made it a purpose not to offend social conservatives -- they "remain an indispensable part of the Republican coalition," he said -- Schmidt did not hide his concerns that religion had become the predominant thread of the GOP.

"If you reject [gay marriage] on religious grounds, I respect that," he said. "I respect anyone's religious views. However, religious views should not inform the public policy positions of a political party because... when it is a religious party, many people who would otherwise be members of that party are excluded from it because of a religious belief system that may be different. And the Republican Party ought not to be that. It ought to be a coalition of people under a big tent."...(Click for remainder.)

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Is David Paterson the New Harvey Milk?

By Mike Alvear
The Huffington Post


Harvey Milk could charm a banana out of a gorilla's hands. God Himself cocked his ear whenever he made a speech. And clearly, few politicians sacrificed more for their cause.

A lot of gay folks have been waiting for Harvey to come back in another form. But really, who'd have thought that the next Harvey Milk would be straight?

Or black?

Or blind?

Just like a lot of African-Americans think of Barack Obama as the Next Great Leader after Martin Luther King, my guess is that if New York governor David Paterson keeps up the fight for New York gay marriage, a lot of gay folks are going to see him as Harvey Milk 2.0.

Sure, there have been others that have come close, notably Gavin Newsom, the mayor of San Francisco, and Bill Clinton. Yes, BILL CLINTON (click here to see why he'll be remembered as a gay civil rights pioneer).

Which reminds me -- why is it that the most iconic gay civil rights figures since Milk are straight? Can you imagine feminists trumpeting some male politician as the next Susan B. Anthony?...(Click for remainder.)

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An Open Letter to Glenn Beck

By Jesse Berney
The Huffington Post


Dear Glenn,

You seem upset. Not the fake crying -- that was just bizarre. I mean all your talk of secession and suicide.

I understand your pain. I just ended an eight-year relationship with an abusive president. I thought virtually everything he did -- from tax cuts for the rich to a war based on lies -- diminished the country I love.

It was tough, but I worked through it. I did everything I could to push back against his policies and did my best to beat him and his party at the polls.

But you don't seem interested in working within the democratic system created by our founding fathers. You seem to think the only options for people upset with President Obama's economic policies are secession from the union or suicide.

I think that's a little melodramatic, Glenn. Besides, there's another option. You can renounce your citizenship.

It's not even hard. All you have to do is travel to a foreign country, visit a U.S. embassy or consulate, and sign a paper declaring that you're no longer a citizen.

Secession is illegal, and suicide is drastic. So if you're too lazy to work for what you believe in, if you really believe that a modest tax hike on the wealthiest Americans is tantamount to destroying our nation, please feel free to get out while the getting is good.

I promise, we won't even miss you.

Love,
Jesse

To join the call for Glenn Beck to renounce his citizenship, visit www.renounceglennbeck.com.

(Click for original.)

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They've Already Gone Galt

By Steve Benen
Washington Monthly


The argument has always been a little tough to follow, but the "going Galt" crowd has argued that raising taxes on the elite wealth-producers may compel them to give up their industries trades to spite society for "punishing" them.

Except, according to a report from Pajamas Media, the elite have already "gone Galt."

It's quite a creative piece, which argues that the global recession began in 2008 as a result of the "Pelosi-Obama-Reid economy," which began failing about seven months before Obama took office. The Democratic economic agenda hadn't been presented yet -- Obama hadn't even accepted the nomination yet -- but the leadership's "intent" sent "businesses, investors, and entrepreneurs" fleeing.

Then there's this evidence:
March is supposed to be a big month for tax receipts from regular corporations whose years end in December. In March 2008 (go to Table 3 on page 2 at the link), $32.6 billion poured in. This year? I'm not kidding: $3.4 billion. For the fiscal year thus far, corporate income tax collections are down almost 57%. [...]

It's clear that quite a few ordinarily industrious people "went Galt" months before the tea party movement even came into existence.... Pelosi, Obama, Reid, and their party created the conditions that led to this and are primarily responsible for how bad things are.
I see. Tax receipts aren't down because of the deep global recession; they're down because "quite a few ordinarily industrious people 'went Galt.'" These Galt folks didn't even wait for tax increases -- they went on strike to spite society based on proposals that haven't even passed. They went Galt, in other words, out of a sense that they'll eventually feel persecuted....(Click for remainder.)

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Tax Day Reminds Same-Sex Couples of Inequality

By Naomi G. Goldberg and Gary J. Gates
The Huffington Post


With Tax Day upon us, Americans across the country are signing checks made out to the IRS. For the married lesbian and gay couples in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and California (and soon for those in Iowa and Vermont), that check might bring a little sharper pain than they expected. They will learn that the federal government does not recognize them as married, no matter where they live. As a result, they will pay more in taxes and receive fewer benefits than do married different-sex couples.

Let's start with tax preparation. Differences in state and federal filing rules mean that married same-sex couples must calculate two sets of state tax returns. They can file their real state returns as a married couple. But since federal law prohibits them from filing their federal tax return as married, the forms require tax calculations from state returns completed as if they were single. That's more time spent on those returns and, for those using an accountant, more expense.

Another tax hit comes through employer-based health insurance benefits. Unlike coverage for different-sex spouses, benefits for same-sex partners, even legally married ones, are taxed as income to the employee. Let's consider Tricia and Megan, married last September in Connecticut. Tricia covers Megan on her employer's health plan. Tricia's sister works for the same company and covers her husband on the same plan. Because the federal government taxes the cost of Megan's coverage, the same health insurance plan costs Tricia $1,000 in additional taxes that her sister does not pay. A study at UCLA's Williams Institute found that this unequal treatment costs American families and their employers $235 million in additional income and payroll taxes....(Click for remainder.)

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Looking at the Secession Glass as Half-Full

By Steve Benen
Washington Monthly


This week's secession talk from, among others, Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), has been a little jarring. Even Fox News' Geraldo Rivera said "you have to be a lunatic" to advocate secession.

True, but while the governor of Texas appears to have suffered some kind of head trauma, what about the people of Texas? Rasmussen put a poll in the Lone Star State field.
Thirty-one percent (31%) of Texas voters say that their state has the right to secede from the United States and form an independent country.

However, the latest Rasmussen Reports poll in the state finds that if the matter was put to a vote, it wouldn't even be close. Three-fourths (75%) of Lone Star State voters would opt to remain in the United States. Only 18% would vote to secede, and seven percent (7%) are not sure what they'd choose.
Let's put aside the strange believe that Texas can simply walk away from the United States if it wants to, and focus on that second part. Three-fourths of Texans want to remain Americans; nearly one in five don't.

I'm not quite sure whether this is encouraging or not. Sure, I'm delighted that a clear majority of Americans in Texas aren't prepared to give up on the United States. But then there's that nagging realization that nearly one in five Texans supports secession....(Click for remainder.)

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Tea Party Tyranny

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart M - Th 11p / 10c
Tea Party Tyranny
thedailyshow.com
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Full Episodes
Economic Crisis Political Humor

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The Five Strands of Conservatism: Why the GOP is Unraveling

By Drew Westen
The Huffington Post


In one sense, it isn't hard to see why the Republican Party seems to be coming apart at the seams. When you get caught gutting the regulations that had kept us for 70 years from another stock market crash like the crash of 1929 and another collapse of the banking system like the one that occurred during the Great Depression, and when your policies throw millions of people out of their homes, jobs, retirement, and doctors' offices, the next bottle of elixir you sell is not likely to fly off the shelf, especially if it's the same whine in a new deCantor.

But at a deeper level, the modern conservative movement, which eventually came to define the GOP (to its benefit for many years), was built on an ideological foundation--and a coalition--that was fundamentally incoherent. It took a charismatic leader to bring it together (Ronald Reagan), a tacit agreement among its coalition partners to give each other what they wanted, and a message machine to start selling the idea that that there was coherence to a conservative "philosophy" that was anything but coherent.

Modern conservatism wove together five discrete strands and interest groups that couldn't coexist. What is remarkable is how well it held together despite the fact that those strands were actually difficult to interweave....(Click for remainder.)

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See Grandeur, Delusions of

By Steve Benen
Washington Monthly


On the front page of the Fox Nation, readers are greeted with a headline that reads, "Spain Caves After O'Reilly Boycott Threat." Seriously.

Spanish prosecutors were considering charges against six Bush administration officials -- Alberto Gonzales, Jay Bybee, John Yoo, William J. Haynes II, David Addington, and Doug Feith -- for their role in the torture of five Spanish citizens held at Guantanamo Bay. This week, Spain's attorney general backed away from this, arguing that such charges would be more appropriate in the United States.

Fox News believes Spain "caved" because of Bill O'Reilly. Indeed, last night, O'Reilly made a similar boast on the air.
"Now, I don't know whether 'The Factor' was a factor in this decision, but I am taking full credit for it.... Because Spain, according to The Economist magazine, is pushing 19 percent unemployment. We were going to boycott Spain. That means millions of Americans would have at least been exposed to the idea.

And they folded pretty darn fast. We started this last week. Today, 'No mas.' ... We're taking full credit for that, ladies and gentlemen, whether deserved or not."
Perhaps no phrase better captures O'Reilly's worldview than those four words: "whether deserved or not."...(Click for remainder.)

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Impeach Jay Bybee: Why Should a Suspected War Criminal Serve as a Federal Judge?

By Bruce Ackerman
Yale Law School


Jay Bybee is currently sitting on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. As assistant attorney general in President George W. Bush's Justice Department, he was responsible for the notorious torture memos that enabled the excesses at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, and other places. While John Yoo did most of the staff work for Bybee, Yoo was barely 35 years old—and his memos showed it. They not only took extreme positions; they were legally incompetent, failing to consider many of the most obvious counterarguments.

Bybee was 49. He was the grown-up, the seasoned jurist. He had been a law professor and had served as associate counsel to President Bush. When he was promoted to head the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, he became the final judge of legal matters within the executive branch. Yet his opinion on torture was so poorly reasoned that it was repudiated by his very conservative successor, Jack Goldsmith.

Bybee has never been held accountable for his distortions of the law. At the time of his confirmation hearing, news of the torture memos had not yet leaked to the public. When asked about his role in national security matters at his Senate hearing, Bybee stonewalled: "As an attorney at the Department of Justice, I am obliged to keep confidential the legal advice that I provide to others in the executive branch. I cannot comment on whether or not I have provided any such advice and, if so, the substance of that advice."...(Click for remainder.)

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Hey Rick, Can We Talk?

By Nate Silver
FiveThirtyEight.com


Maybe Democrats should take Rick Perry up  on his idea that Texas should secede from the Union.

Consider:



-- If Texas were not in the Union, the Democrats would currently have a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate -- or at least they would once Al Franken gets seated. This is because, in a 98-seat Senate, only 59 votes would be required to break a filibuster.

-- If Texas were not in the Union, the Republicans would operate from a significantly weakened position in the House, since the net 8-vote advantage their congressional delegation gives them in the state (they have 20 seats to the Democrats' 12) is by far their largest.

-- If Texas were not in the Union, George W. Bush would never have become President in 2000 -- not because he'd be constitutionally ineligible (Bush, despite his Texas twang, was born in posh New Haven, Connecticut). Rather, he wouldn't have had enough Electoral Votes to defeat Al Gore....(Click for remainder.)

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Texans for Sanity: State Legislators Slam Perry for Neo-Confederate Racist Codespeak

Rodney Ellis and Jim Dunnam
By Phoenix Woman
Firedoglake


During the ramp-up of the lavishly-promoted corporate astroturf teabagging stunt put on by Fox News and its friends, Texas governor Rick Perry dusted off a few of George Wallace's more infamous bits of segregationist phrasings and unleashed them as part of his effort to keep the crazy-base part of the Texas Republican Party from deserting him for Kay Bailey Hutchison. And yesterday, he upped the ante, openly praising the idea of Texas' seceding from the rest of America.

Now, things can be a mite crazy in Texas -- the motto of its capital city, after all, is "Keep Austin Weird" -- but there's crazy and then there's downright stupidly dangerous. And when somebody like Governor Goodhair veers off into catering to the worst instincts and fantasies of the worst persons in possession of voter registration, even tolerant Texans will step forward to call him on it. Ladies and gentlemen, meet Texas state senator Rodney Ellis:
“It was only 12 years ago that Texas had a deadly stand-off with those urging secession. Governor Bush stood up to those fringe elements. I urge Governor Perry to ramp down the rhetoric and state unequivocally — as Governor Bush did in the 1990s — that secession is not only not an option, it isn’t going to be part of the political discussion.

“In the last week, we’ve seen an extremely troubling escalation of rhetoric. Talking about state’s rights, the oppressive hand of the federal government and secession brings up some pretty bad memories in this state. It was not all that long ago that those were the exact words used by those who opposed desegregation and the civil rights movement. The top elected official in the second largest state with our history simply cannot be so loose with his comments. He’s not a radio or cable TV talk show host."
(Click for remainder.)

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Hey, Tea-Baggers — You’re Not the Majority; Hell, You’re Not Even Normal

By Thers
Firedoglake


The sign over there is from a picture I took at our local exhibition of public tea-bagging. I'm in upstate New York, in a county that's been blue for a while now, but still has a pretty solid conservative core, though that's by and large aging, like it is everywhere else. Anyhow this sign expresses a sentiment that seems fairly common among our tea-bagging friends. They genuinely seem to believe, deep down, that they speak for the "majority." They believe, deep down, that they are the Real America. They believe, deep down, that they are Normal.

This may not be precisely true, in the strictest sense.

As for the majority thing, well, we did have an election back in November, which was not all that long ago, and their guy lost. By a lot more than their guy won in 2000, and under far less shady circumstances. There are no poll data whatsoever to support the idea that Americans are Fed Up when it comes to taxes -- this is, indeed, rather spectacularly not the case. And why should it? Could it even be the case that Americans' tax burden is at historic lows? Why, yes!
The middle fifth of taxpayers, who earned an average of $60,700 per household in 2006, paid just 3 percent in federal income tax that year, down from a high of 8.3 percent in 1981.

With federal income taxes so low for so many families, a majority of those surveyed by Gallup last week said the amount of federal income taxes they pay is either "too low" or "about right," compared with 46 percent who said their tax bills are "too high" -- one of the most positive assessments of the federal tax burden since Gallup began asking the question in 1956.
This is a point that is not made nearly enough: Americans are facing some pretty rough times economically, and they know that, but they know that this is not because of taxes. And how do they know this? They're not stupid, that's how. Look, Bush could have abolished income taxes altogether, repealed the 17th Amendment, pissed on it even, and would that have kept our Financial Wizards from going crazy with their derivatives and crap mortgages and deregulated mayhem? Probably not....(Click for remainder.)

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Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) to Rick Perry: Texas Can’t Secede from the United States, Idjut

By Blue Texan
Firedoglake


Nothing pleases me more than to see two of the most powerful Republicans in the country's second largest state having a debate about the legality of treason.
Cornyn, the state's former attorney general and a past member of the Texas Supreme Court, said in response to a question during a stop at the Texas Capitol that secession isn't legally possible. "I understand the sort of frustration people feel about what's happening in Washington. I share that frustration," the second-term senator said. But as to secession being legally possible, he said, "the answer is no. Texas cannot, as a constitutional law matter, secede."
Chances are, Boxturtle saw the new Rasmussen poll, which showed that "only" 18% of Texans are traitors to the flag. Pandering to your nutty base is one thing. Pandering to the nutty fringe of your nutty base is just mighty powerful stupid....(Click for remainder.)

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Playing For Change: Song Around the World "Stand By Me"

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Israel to Go to War With Iran Hours After Order

By Press TV


Israel is reportedly preparing for a massive attack on Iran's nuclear sites "within days of being given the go-ahead by its new government."

According to a report by The Times, the Israel Defense Force (IDF) is taking every step to ready itself for "what would be a risky raid" on Iranian nuclear facilities.

"Israel wants to know that if its forces were given the green light they could strike at Iran in a matter of days, even hours," one senior Israeli defense official told The Times.

"They are making preparations on every level for this eventuality. The message to Iran is that the threat is not just words," the source added.

To ready itself for the "massive aerial assault" on Iran Israel has moved to equip itself with three Airborne Warning and Control (AWAC) aircraft and regional missions to simulate the attack.

Israel's Home Front Command also announced plans earlier to mobilize the Israeli army for the largest military exercise in its history on June 2.

The nationwide drill is aimed at preparing the public for the retaliation that Israel could face.

The report cites Iran's enrichment facility in Natanz, its heavy water reactor in Arak, and the country's Fuel Manufacturing Plant (FMP) in the central province of Isfahan as prime Israeli targets.

The distance from Israel to at least one of the cited locations is more than 870 miles, for which Israel prepared for by conducting a training exercise last year....(Click for remainder.)

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Ed Schultz Rips Bachmann's Psycho Talk on 'Flying Imams'

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Teabagging Michelle Malkin

By Matt Taibbi
True Slant

Many protesters expressed a sense that basic American freedoms of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are threatened by new Washington policies seen by many as more socialistic than capitalistic. The proposed taxpayer bailout of homeowners who may have inflated their earnings in order to secure mortgages is one example, says Jeff Crawford, a protester from Dacula, Ga.

“The first year after the Mayflower arrived, the colonists tried a communal method of storing and sharing food and it failed miserably,” says Mr. Crawford. “Why are things any different now?”

Eighteenth-century symbolism was rife at the Atlanta event as speakers drew comparisons with the Boston patriots who dumped the King’s tea in Boston Harbor to protest taxation without representation, an act that began the American Revolution and the founding of the United States.

via Michelle Malkin » A Tax Day Tea Party cheat sheet: How it all started.
I have to say, I’m really enjoying this whole teabag thing. It’s really inspiring some excellent daydreaming. For one thing, it’s brought together the words teabag and Michelle Malkin for me in a very powerful, thrilling sort of way. Not that I haven’t ever put those two concepts together before, but this is the first time it’s happened while in the process of reading her actual columns.

Previously Michelle Malkin’s writing was on the edge of unreadable; she’s sort of like Ann Coulter, only without that tiny fraction of P.T. Barnum/Mick Jagger-esque self-promotional flair that makes Coulter at least vaguely interesting. When you read Ann Coulter, you know you’re reading someone who would fuck a hippopotamus if  she thought it would boost her Q rating. That’s a rare quality and it commands one’s attention.

Michelle Malkin doesn’t have that. She’s just a mean little dunce who’s wedged herself into a nicely paying career as a GOP spokesclown, and she’s going to ride that gig for as long as it keeps gas in her minivan....(Click for remainder.)

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What If Fox News Covered Other Protests the Way They Covered the Tea Parties?

Just think what we wouldn't have had to endure if we had this kind of coverage of the 2000 election, Iraq, spying and the list goes on.

By David DeGraw
Amped Status via AlterNet


For weeks Fox “News” has promoted the recent Tea Party protests with wall-to-wall coverage, not acting as a news source, but as an all-out activism network. Literally every hour of every day they reminded us and urged us to join the “Tea Party Revolution.” Whether it was on their TV network, radio programs, or their new website, it was an all-pervasive media blitz.

With persuasive graphics and dramatic music pumping in the background, the commentators declared: “Tea party protests are erupting across the country!”

When they couldn’t get in enough promotion on their TV outlet, they drove people to their website, “If you want to know more about the tea-party movement, if there is one happening near you, head to our website FoxNews.com/americasnewsroom. We have an entire section devoted to the growing tea-party movement. That’s our America’s Newsroom website online. All the information you need to know. Check it out right now.”

The extent of the propaganda was intense, with unquestioned statements boasting: “In the case of the current crisis the blame appears to have been assigned almost totally to Obama, at least by the thousands of U.S. taxpayers attending near-spontaneous ‘tea parties’ in protest of the Democrats agenda of more taxes, increased spending, higher deficits and a surge of borrowing to pay for it all.”...(Click for remainder.)

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If the Good Guys Torture Children With Insects Who the Hell Are the Bad Guys?

By John Byrne
Via After Downing Street


Bush Administration memos released by the White House on Thursday provide new insight into claims that American agents used insects to torture the young children of alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

In the memos, released Thursday, the Bush Administration White House Office of Legal Counsel offered its endorsement of CIA torture methods that involved placing an insect in a cramped, confined box with detainees. Jay S. Bybee, then-director of the OLC, wrote that insects could be used to capitalize on detainees’ fears.

The memo was dated Aug. 1, 2002. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s children were captured and held in Pakistan the following month, according to a report by Human Rights Watch.

While an additional memo released Thursday claims that the torture with insects technique was never utilized by the CIA, the allegations regarding the children would have transpired when the method was authorized by the Bush Administration.

At a military tribunal in 2007, the father of a Guantanamo detainee alleged that Pakistani guards had confessed that American interrogators used ants to coerce the children of alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed into revealing their father’s whereabouts.

The statement was made by Ali Khan, the father of detainee Majid Khan, who gave a detailed account of his son’s interrogation at the hands of American guards in Pakistan. In his statement, Khan asserted that one of his sons was held at the same place as the young children of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

“The Pakistani guards told my son that the boys were kept in a separate area upstairs and were denied food and water by other guards,” the statement read. “They were also mentally tortured by having ants or other creatures put on their legs to scare them and get them to say where their father was hiding.” (A pdf transcript is available here)...(Click for remainder.)

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Gen. Taguba: Accountability for Torture Does Not Stop at White House Door

By Andrew Kalloch
Harvard Law Record


Major General Antonio Taguba called for an independent commission to investigate war crimes committed by senior members of the Bush Administration in remarks in Ames Courtroom on Tuesday, April 14. The event was sponsored by Physicians for Human Rights and the Human Rights Program at Harvard Law School.

Taguba, who was pressured to resign by the Bush Administration in 2007 following the 2004 leak of his report detailing abuses by U.S. armed forces in Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, declared in the preface of the 2008 Physicians for Human Rights publication "Broken Laws, Broken Lives," that, "there is no longer any doubt as to whether the [Bush] administration has committed war crimes. The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account."

While the Obama Administration has "reaffirmed its commitment to valuing human rights and international law" by officially closing CIA black sites and the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Taguba insisted that "there are a lot of stories that have yet to be told."

In an effort to make those stories known, Taguba has been travelling the country seeking to foster dialogue between human rights advocates and the nation's armed forces. According to Taguba, the two groups "share a common denominator based on ethical considerations of democratic principles." Human rights advocates seek to ensure the preservation of democratic ideals and U.S. armed forces are trained to "provide services in a manner that exemplifies America's ideals" and to protect America's value system and its' way of life, not simply to secure its borders at all costs.

Taguba explained that the Army's core values-honor, integrity, courage, and selfless service-are but one part of a broader set of moral foundations upon which the Army operates. For example, Taguba declared that the Army is required to adhere to international laws, including all four Geneva conventions, as well as the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and to demonstrate "responsibility, accountability, and discipline."...(Click for remainder.)

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Bush's Willing Tortures

The newly-published Bush administration memos show a chilling, Orwellian abuse of language to justify torture.

By David Cole
The Guardian


"Those methods, read on a bright, sunny, safe day in April 2009, appear graphic and disturbing." So Dennis Blair, President Obama's director of national intelligence, stated as he sought to minimize the significance of four previously secret Justice Department memos that employed tortured legal reasoning to authorise CIA agents to use cruel and abusive tactics to interrogate suspects inside secret prisons.

"It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen." So begins George Orwell's classic novel of the security state, 1984. It seems unlikely that Blair intended the allusion. Maybe every incoming US director of national intelligence is required to read 1984, and the opening line just stuck with him. But the reference could not have been more appropriate. The four Justice Department memos, spanning 124 pages of dense legal analysis and cold clinical descriptions of sustained, systematic abuse of human beings, do precisely what Orwell foretold: twist the English language in order to approve the unthinkable.

How else could one conclude that slamming a suspect's head against the wall, depriving him of sleep for more than a week, forcing him into stress positions and dark, confined boxes for hours at a time, and waterboarding him repeatedly – 183 times in the case of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and 83 times in the case of Abu Zubaydah - was not "torture," and not even "cruel, inhuman, or degrading?"...(Click for remainder.)

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Nightmares Made Law

Obama is right not to target CIA interrogators. The torture memos show where blame truly lies.

By Philippe Sands
The Guardian


The four secret US department of justice opinions released this week are jaw-dropping in their detail. They reveal how far the Bush administration was prepared to go in sanctioning interrogation techniques that plainly amount to torture.

The long-awaited publication of the August 2002 memo, signed by Jay Bybee but largely written by John Yoo, authorises 10 previously unlawful interrogation techniques. These include slapping, stress position and sleep deprivation, right up to waterboarding. It is doubtful a more shocking legal opinion has ever been written. It even purports to analyse if incarcerating a detainee in a small box with an insect for company would amount to mental torture (it depends what you tell him about its sting).

This is the stuff of dark nightmares, the rubber-stamping of policy rather than legal advice in the sense usually understood. It indicates how far the Bush administration fell, the kind of reasoning that infected a raft of policies and to which the British government often turned a blind eye. It has caused untold damage to US national security, and to its reputation.

When the memo was written, the administration had already fixed a policy of abuse, and the torture had already started. Lawyers were needed to provide the "golden shield" against prosecution. The memo did not benefit from the usual consultations; the many lawyers who would have objected were simply cut out of the process. A small group of lawyer-ideologues became participants in international crime, acts for which any state may, under the 1984 torture convention, exercise criminal jurisdiction. The evidence suggests complicity with the consequences that flowed from these flawed opinions - which went on to underpin CIA and military interrogations in Guantánamo, Iraq and beyond in the rendition programme....(Click for remainder.)

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Pentagon Chief's Subtle Warning on China

By Noah Shachtman
Danger Room @ Wired.com


NEWPORT, Rhode Island – For a year and a half, Defense Secretary Robert Gates has been trying to get the military establishment to focus on the guerrilla wars we're in today – instead of hypothetical showdowns with another big power tomorrow. But this morning, at the Naval War College, Gates had a subtle message for the gathered sailors, marines, and soldiers: Don’t forget about China, either.

In recent years, Beijing's buildup of quiet, diesel electric submarines and advanced, super-sonic cruise missiles has been met with increasing worry in some corners of the Pentagon and Congress. Gates, for the most part, has been seen as outside that camp. Today, however, the Defense Secretary warned that "we know other nations are working on ways to thwart the reach and striking power of the U.S. battle fleet – whether by producing stealthy submarines in quantity or developing anti-ship missiles with increasing range and accuracy. We ignore these developments at our peril."

Gates never mentioned China by name. Instead, he referred only to the "risks posed by the military forces of other state actors" looking to "deny the U.S. military freedom of movement and action." He also warned of "potential adversaries" building weapons that and "threaten" America's "bases, sea and air assets, and the networks that support them." In military circles, such talk usually implies the Chinese....(Click for remainder.)

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What Did Democrats Really Know About Bush's Torture Program?

By Jason Leopold
The Public Record


One day after the Obama administration released four gruesome Bush-era legal opinions that described in shocking detail the torturous methods CIA interrogators were permitted to use to extract information from alleged “high-value” detainees, a majority of Democrats have remained collectively silent on whether the disclosures warrant a full-scale criminal investigation.

By comparison, revelations by the New York Times earlier this week that the National Security Agency, during George W. Bush’s last days in office, went above and beyond the legal limits imposed by Congress on its domestic surveillance activities was met with widespread condemnation by powerful Democratic leaders, who demanded investigations and said those who broke the law must be held accountable.

For example, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said in a statement Thursday the allegations about the NSA’s surveillance activities “deserve and are receiving the fullest attention of the appropriate committees of Congress.”

“Congress expects to receive reports from the Inspectors General of key agencies regarding warrantless wiretapping activities, including those conducted under President Bush’s Terrorist Surveillance Program,” Pelosi said. “Should these reports or any further investigations by Congress prove these allegations true, those who directed these activities in the Bush Administration must be held accountable.”

At least a dozen other Democrats issued statements similar to Pelosi’s, demanding investigations and calling for those who skirted the law to be held accountable.

Yet Pelosi did not issue a statement on the contents of the torture memos nor did she comment on whether the revelations warranted a similar investigation or accountability....(Click for remainder.)

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Is This America?

Here are some of the disturbing "protest" signs from the teabagging parties.  This is just a very small sample of what can be found on The Huffington Post website.  I'm almost positive that one would be hard pressed to find a single person here who actually knows what the Boston Tea Party was actually about.  These "people" at these hatefests are nothing more than a conglomeration of racist bigots, whose hatred has been fulminated by the mouth piece of the right-wing hate machine, Fox News.

Maybe all of these people should go to Texas before it secedes and the US builds an immigration fence around Texas and starts finding and deporting all of those illegal Texas immigrants.  Are you right-wingers really this stupid and ignorant?  This is a serious question.  How can you people run around claiming that Obama is raising taxes, when he's actually cutting taxes for people making less that $250k?  How about the fact that the largest increase in government spending occurred under that paragon of conservative thought, George W. Bush?  How about the fact that the only gun grab was instituted by George W. Bush and Blackwater after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans?  Seriously, you people cannot be this stupid.  No one can be this stupid.  But here are the pictures and the evidence.























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Reflections on Teabaggers

By Matthew Rothschild
The Progressive


Well, someone tossed a teabag on the front stoop of The Progressive Wednesday.

I’d seen two busloads of the baggers drive up across the street near the Capitol here in Madison, Wisconsin, but I didn’t know they were going to leave their calling card.

I don’t dismiss this phenomenon as a mere stunt by Fox News or some fake grassroots effort by the Republican Party and their corporate bosses.

No, there’s something real going on out there.

And it’s not pretty.

One person at the Madison rally held a sign that said, “Obama is the anti-Christ.”

Another sign read: “Obama’s Plan: White Slavery.”

At other protests around the country, teabaggers held up signs accusing him of treason.

Some compared him to Hitler (HuffingtonPost has a collection of the worst photos)....(Click for remainder.)

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Obama Names USDA Chiefs for Research, Nutrition

By Charles Abbott
Reuters


WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama has selected Kevin Concannon to run the government's public nutrition programs and Rajiv Shah to oversee agricultural research and education, the White House said on Friday.

Both posts, as undersecretary at the Agriculture Department, require Senate confirmation. USDA is expected to spend more than $65 billion this fiscal year on nutrition programs such as school lunch and food stamps.

Concannon is director of the Iowa Department of Human Services, which is responsible for Medicaid, food assistance and low-income programs. He held similar positions in Maine and Oregon before appointment to the Iowa post in 2003.

Shah is director of agricultural development for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which awards grants to improve food quality and output in developing nations. In a previous post at the foundation, he helped develop and launch a project that raised $5 billion for child immunization. A medical doctor, Shah was medical advisor in Al Gore's presidential campaign in 2000....(Click for original.)

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Blogger Dogpile on Politico for Bush-Era Spin

By Stephen C. Webster
The Raw Story


It's a mad-mad-mad-mad Web, and right now Politico reporter Mike Allen is feeling it's wrath.

That's because he was first to report criticism on yesterday's release of the Bush Administration's torture techniques. The comments, which went unattributed by Mr. Allen, were straight from a former Bush Administration official who kicked off the spin with the horrifying assertion that torture actually works.

“It's damaging because these are techniques that work, and by Obama's action today, we are telling the terrorists what they are,” the official said. “We have laid it all out for our enemies. This is totally unnecessary. … Publicizing the techniques does grave damage to our national security by ensuring they can never be used again — even in a ticking-time- bomb scenario where thousands or even millions of American lives are at stake."

“I don't believe Obama would intentionally endanger the nation, so it must be that he thinks either 1. the previous administration, including the CIA professionals who have defended this program, is lying about its importance and effectiveness, or 2. he believes we are no longer really at war and no longer face the kind of grave threat to our national security this program has protected against.”
"Under what reasoning does Politico's Mike Allen give [that] piece of spin anonymity?" asked an incredulous Andrew Sullivan at the Atlantic....(Click for remainder.)

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Garofalo: Tea Parties Are 'Racism Straight Up'

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Nearly Half of N.C. Senator's Campaign Funding From PACs

By Barbara Barrett
McClatchy Newspapers


WASHINGTON — Political action committees representing a variety of business interests contributed nearly half of North Carolina U.S. Sen. Richard Burr's $700,000 campaign take in the first three months of this year.

Burr's Senate campaign received money from drug companies, health care companies, tobacco companies and energy companies. Telecommunications firms, financial services groups and defense manufacturers also sent money his way.

That leaves Burr, a Winston-Salem, N.C., Republican, with about $1.6 million in the bank toward his re-election bid next year, according to the federal campaign finance report he filed this week. Jennifer Duffy, senior editor of the Cook Political Report in Washington, said Burr's fund-raising was "perfectly acceptable." They might not fend off Democratic opposition, though.

"Were the numbers enough to scare the likes of a Roy Cooper out of the race? No," Duffy said.

Cooper, the North Carolina attorney general, is thought to be considering a run for Burr's seat, though he has not announced a candidacy....(Click for remainder.)

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Green Shoots and Glimmers

By Paul Krugman
The New York Times


Ben Bernanke, the Federal Reserve chairman, sees “green shoots.” President Obama sees “glimmers of hope.” And the stock market has been on a tear.

So is it time to sound the all clear? Here are four reasons to be cautious about the economic outlook.

1. Things are still getting worse. Industrial production just hit a 10-year low. Housing starts remain incredibly weak. Foreclosures, which dipped as mortgage companies waited for details of the Obama administration’s housing plans, are surging again.

The most you can say is that there are scattered signs that things are getting worse more slowly — that the economy isn’t plunging quite as fast as it was. And I do mean scattered: the latest edition of the Beige Book, the Fed’s periodic survey of business conditions, reports that “five of the twelve Districts noted a moderation in the pace of decline.” Whoopee....(Click for remainder.)

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U.S. Clears Way for Carbon Emissions Regulations

By Andrew Ward and Sarah O'Connor
The Financial Times


Barack Obama’s administration on Friday took its first concrete step towards regulating greenhouse gas emissions by declaring carbon dioxide a danger to human health and welfare.

It clears the way for the US Environmental Protection Agency to regulate CO2 emissions under existing air pollution laws, without the need for fresh legislation.

It also appeared designed to increase pressure on Congress to pass new laws to tackle global warming, amid resistance on Capitol Hill to measures that would increase energy costs for businesses and consumers.

The US president wants progress before United Nations climate change talks in Copenhagen in December, to signal US commitment and encourage other countries, – particularly China and India – to make concessions....(Click for remainder.)

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A Blood-Red Visual Record of the Unemployment Crisis

By John Tomasic
The Colorado Independent


This week, as Colorado officials reported record state unemployment percentages, Slate posted a remarkable interactive map of jobs lost around the country over the last two years.

The map animates the shift as the financial system cracked and the Bush Administration floundered, each of the states bleeding from “jobs-gained” blue to “jobs-lost” red, presenting a slow-motion slasher-movie kind of horror, only worse for it all being real and with no end in sight.


Click on the image to go to the interactive map. (Illustration/Slate.com)

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The Colbert Nation's Anti-Gay Marriage Ad

The Colbert Report Mon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
The Colbert Coalition's Anti-Gay Marriage Ad
colbertnation.com
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor NASA Name Contest

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The Mormons Are Coming! The Mormons Are Coming!



The website, Californians Against Hate, have set up a new website called Mormongate to sound the clarion and warn of Mormon intervention in the same-sex marriage debate in New England.


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Obama to Name Out Lesbian Asst. Secretary of HUD

By GayPolitics.com

The Victory Fund has learned Mercedes Marquez, the current head of the Los Angeles Housing Department and an out lesbian, will be appointed Assistant Secretary for Community Planning and Development at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Prior to joining LAHD, Marquez was a vice president at McCormack Baron Salazar, Inc., a national development company specializing in urban communities. She also served in the Clinton administration as senior counsel to Secretary Andrew Cuomo and deputy general counsel for civil rights and fair housing at HUD.

The appointment brings to 31 the number of openly LGBT people appointed to senior positions in the Obama administration.  Marquez was recommended for the post by the Presidential Appointments Project, a joint effort of more than a dozen national LGBT groups.  To see a list of LGBT presidential appointees to date, go to glli.org/presidential....(Click for original.)

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Obama's War

You might agree with the president that Afghanistan is the war we should have been fighting all along. You might agree with the prevailing military wisdom, that what we need to do there is what we (finally) did in Iraq: a massive infusion of troops and a clear commitment to “counterinsurgency.”

By Michael Hastings
GQ Magazine


On a sunday afternoon the past fall, 22-year-old Private First Class Brian Thomas pulled guard duty, which sucks, as he’ll have you know. Two- or three- or four-hour shifts, staring at the same mountains and the same piles of rock. Maybe you sneak a cigarette, maybe take your helmet off, maybe lean forward and close your eyes for a few minutes, trying to remain conscious enough to wonder if that white Toyota Corolla snaking its way along the road in the distance is just another beat-up Corolla or if it’s on the BOLO (be on the lookout) list, and if that dirty-bearded goat-herding motherfreaker sitting like a gargoyle up there on the ridge is working with the driver and scoping you out and getting ready to run a car bomb up your ass. Probably not today, but who knows? You have to try and stay alert, have to pick up the binoculars every fifteen minutes or so, because one day they just might.

 It’s Private Thomas’s turn on ECP, or entry-control point, which is military-speak for the entrance to the outpost, known as District Center Terezayi. Located in Khost Province in eastern Afghanistan, Terezayi is eight miles from the Pakistan border, which is an absolute nowhere land—beautiful, in its way, but nowhere, with muddy wadis and rubble-strewn valleys and distant mountain peaks and strange mud huts that bring to mind terms like prebiblical and Stone Age. It’s also the new front in America’s continuing “war on terror,” and the soldiers who are currently stationed here—and at outposts like this all along the border—are the beta-testers for how that war will be fought.

Not that Thomas is concerned with any of that right now. At the moment, in addition to thinking about the goat herder and the Corolla, he’s watching three of his fellow American soldiers hunt a pack of dogs in the valley in front of him. “The great dog massacre of 2008,” he says. A few months earlier, the twenty-five soldiers stationed here (they are responsible for patrolling 350 square miles, including a stretch of fifty miles along the border where Taliban and other militants pass freely) received orders from their battalion headquarters to kill the dogs around the base. They could be rabid, they posed a threat to the locals and the troops, and also they kept attacking cows and were just constantly barking their asses off. The catch was, the unit had adopted some of the wild dogs as pets, and they had to go, too. “We loved those fucking dogs,” Thomas says. After the purge, a new brood eventually appeared, and a new puppy was adopted, nicknamed Convoy Dog, and he was out there running around right now....(Click for remainder.)

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