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U.S. Immigration Crackdown Tearing Families Apart

Sunday, July 12, 2009

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Conservative Blog Commenters Target Malia Obama With Racial Slurs

Photo by Remo Casilli, Reuters (via Vancouver Sun)
By Tommy Christopher
Mediaite


Two high-profile stories about the intersection of racism and the Republican Party are exploding all over the internet. The flap over comments at Free Republic and the Young Republicans’ election of a new president make for a sour cocktail this weekend.

Most of the heat is being generated by this Vancouver Sun story about the comments on a Free Republic article featuring 11 year-old Malia Obama:
“A typical street whore.” “A bunch of ghetto thugs.” “Ghetto street trash.” “Wonder when she will get her first abortion.”
These are a small selection of some of the racially-charged comments posted to the conservative ‘Free Republic’ blog Thursday, aimed at U.S. President Barack Obama’s 11-year-old daughter Malia after she was photographed wearing a t-shirt with a peace sign on the front.
You might think that this is the same as the lame attacks that Bill O’Reilly levels at commenters on DailyKos and/or Hot Air. There are key differences. The Sun report says that the offensive comments overwhelmingly outnumbered those critical of the vitriol, but the real problem is this:
After attention from other blogs, the thread was suppressed and placed under review, but before long it was returned to the site intact, and attracted a new series of racial slurs when the original complaint email was posted publicly to the site, with the sender’s email address intact.
So, they knew about the comments, put them back up, and apparently made the complainer a target for harassment. Very ugly. Eventually, they took it down again.

As disgusting as this story is, it didn’t stand to hurt Republicans that much on its own. Freepers are not exactly considered the bellwether of mainstream conservative thought....(Remainder.)

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Tweety Bird, aka Chris Matthews Asks if Obama is "a True Conservative" or "a Radical"

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Howard Kurtz Use Video to Debunk Moronic Blatherskite, Matt Drudge, and the Photo of Obama at G8

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Williams Locates His Balls & Journalistic Integrity to Call Out Kristol's Healthcare Scare Tactics

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Kansas City Withdraws Funding for Anti-Gay Christian Conference

By Michael Mansur
The Kansas City Star


Kansas City officials said Thursday that they would pull city support from a large spiritual conference planned at Bartle Hall this month.

The action came after Kansas City Council members expressed concern about a scheduled preacher who has condemned homosexuals.

David Park, acting director of neighborhoods and community services, said he would not recommend the council approve a $5,000 grant to organizers of the Life Changers Conference, set for July 15-19. Park said he was concerned that the event violated city requirements that it not be religious in nature.

At the council’s business session, council member Deb Hermann said the conference would feature a speaker who has used hateful speech against the gay and lesbian community. The council later passed a resolution that condemned hateful, hurtful and harmful speech. It also recognized the gay and lesbian community.

Park said the event schedule showed worship services listed, which would appear to violate city requirements that the event organizers “provide no religious instruction or counseling, conduct no religious worship or services, engage in no religious proselytizing and exert no religious influence.”...(Remainder.)

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El Paso Police Chief Disavows Prior Statements, Pledges To Enforce Anti-Discrimination Ordinance

By Jim Burroway
Box Turtle Bulletin


El Paso Police Chief Greg Allen has issued a statement “to correct and clarify prior statements” concerning the eviction of five men from an El Paso restaurant after two of them kissed. The new statement calls prior statements an “incorrect recitation of the law” and recognizes the police department’s responsibility to enforce the city’s anti-discrimination ordinance. That 2003 ordinance bans discrimination in public accommodations based on sexual orientation.

This statement is in response to public outcry over actions by police officers who were called to Chico’s Tacos restaurant after a security guard threatened to remove five male customers because two of them kissed. The guard told the group to leave, saying that “faggot stuff” wasn’t allowed. The men called police over their pending removal, but instead of enforcing the city’s anti-discrimination law, a responding officer threatened the cite the kissing couple for violating a nonexistent law against “homosexual conduct” — one that presumably would go so far as to ban something as radically “faggotty” as a kiss. Later, an EPPD spokesperson compounded the problem over the non-existent law by saying that the five men at Chico’s Tacos could have been charged with criminal trespass instead.

Chief Allen’s statement now recognizes the police department’s responsibility to ensure “the opportunity of each person to obtain goods and services in all process of public accommodation without fear of discrimination.” The new statement “recognizes the negative impact that discrimination can have on a community”and requires that all police personnel “be courteous and respectful in their official dealings with the public.” Chief Allen requires EPPD personnel to “maintain a level of competence” in enforcing the city’s anti-discrimination ordinance, and warns that failure to do so “will result in appropriate discipline.”...(Remainder.)

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Larry Summers: The Worst Yet To Come

By Agence France-Presse

When it comes to the economic crisis, the worst is yet to come, top White House economic advisor Lawrence Summers said Saturday.

"I don't think the worst is over," Summers told the Financial Times. "It's very likely that more jobs will be lost. It would not be surprising if GDP has not yet reached its low."

Despite his worried outlook, Summers, director of President Barack Obama's National Economic Council, acknowledged a change in the economic environment.

"What does appear to be true is that the sense of panic in the markets and freefall in the economy has subsided and one does not have the sense of a situation as out of control as a few months ago," he said.

The US Commerce Department is scheduled to publish on July 31 its first gross domestic product (GDP) estimates for the second quarter, and economists are expecting a continuation of the decline that began last winter.

Indicators published last month suggested that the US economy had overcome the worst of the crisis, with a 5.5 percent GDP annual rate in the first quarter, after the previous quarter's 6.3 percent decline.

A survey of economists conducted by The Wall Street Journal this week found that 54 percent said the US recession that began in December 2007 will be over by summer's end.

But the poll also found that economists expect the US unemployment rate, currently at 9.5 percent, will rise to 10 percent by the end of the year and remain at that level until around June 2010....(Remainder.)

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Bullying Behind GOP "Racist" Win

Audra Shay, accused of endorsing racial slurs and hate, was elected to lead the Young Republicans yesterday. More shocking, reveals John Avlon, were the tactics: sexual innuendos, voter intimidation, near-fisticuffs.

By John Avlon
The Daily Beast


The Young Republicans faced a stark choice at their convention in Indianapolis yesterday as they chose their next leader: a center-right twentysomething interested in greater outreach, or a self-described “true conservative” who is almost 40 and spent last week dealing with Daily Beast reports about her beliefs, which are, at best, often hateful, and at worst, downright racist. The delegates, in a vote of 470 – 415, chose the latter.

Perhaps less remarkable than the outcome – new Young Republicans Chairman Audra Shay bragged on her Facebook page that she had pledges from the majority of delegate going in – was how the vote played out. Yesterday’s election was closed to all members of the press, but The Daily Beast has pulled together an account of the vote, and the run-up to it, and the details are shocking. Some highlights:
  • Shay’s opponent, Rachel Hoff, was the subject of an ugly sexual innuendo whisper campaign that questioned her reasons for supporting civil unions.

  • Shay’s electoral slate, dubbed Team Renewal, battled desperately – some likened it to intimidation – and, ultimately, successfully to block a motion that would have allowed delegates to cast their votes by secret ballot, for fear they’d lose.

  • Near-fist-fights on the floor, and finally something of a boycott, as some of Hoff’s slate of candidates lower on the ticket chose to remove their names from the ballot after her defeat.
“They just took a vote that may have set the party back 30 years,” said the co-founder of HipHopRepublican.com, Lenny McAllister, speaking from the floor of the Hyatt convention hall. “They just voted for a candidate who has a demonstrated tolerance for racial intolerance. She has joked about lynching and then claimed to be a victim. As a black man, I still don’t see what’s funny about that.”...(Remainder.)

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The Conservative Culture of Complaint

By Paul Rosenberg
Open Left


Yesterday in my Morning Maybe diary, I quoted from Talking Points Memo on Frank Ricci, about his history of filing lawsuit--"Ricci was for 'special rights' before he was against them," I wrote, referring to the fact that he was hired in the first place only after he sued to take the place of someone who scored better than him. Why? Because he was dyslexic.

And this poor sideswitching professional "victim" is the GOP's silver buller witness against Sonia Sotomayor?

But that was only part of the story, as Dahlia Lithwick points out at Slate. Ricci's sued his employers on other occassions as well. Heck, one might even say he had a penchant for frivilous lawsuits, that is, if he was a woman, or a Puerto Rican....

Lithwick notes:
Ricci is invariably painted as a reluctant standard-bearer; a hardworking man driven to litigation only when his dreams of promotion were shattered by a system that persecutes white men. This is the narrative we will hear next week, but it somewhat oversimplifies Ricci's actual employment story. For instance, it's not precisely true, as this one account would have it, that Frank Ricci "never once [sought] special treatment for his dyslexia challenge." In point of fact, Ricci sued over it.

According to local newspapers, Ricci filed his first lawsuit against the city of New Haven in 1995, at the ripe old age of 20, for failing to hire him as a firefighter. That January, the Hartford Chronicle reported that Ricci sued, saying "he was not hired because he is dyslexic." The complaint in that suit, filed in federal court, alleged that the city's failure to hire Ricci because of his dyslexia violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. Frank Ricci was one of 795 candidates interviewed for 40 jobs. According to his complaint, the reason he was not hired was that he disclosed his dyslexia in an interview. That case was settled in 1997 with a confidential settlement in which Ricci withdrew his lawsuit in exchange for a job with the fire department and $11,143 in attorney's fees.
But, as indicated above, that was only the beginning....(Remainder.)

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Report: Bush Admin. Skirted Probe of Mass Afghan Slayings

By Stephen C. Webster
The Raw Story


When CIA-backed Afghan warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum had up to ’several thousand’ Taliban prisoners sealed and suffocated to death in metal shipping containers just days after the United States invaded the country, it did not go unnoticed by the White House.

They simply chose not to do anything about it and quietly worked to discourage efforts to uncover the truth, according to a late Friday report by The New York Times.

“ ‘At the White House, nobody said ‘no’ to an investigation, but nobody ever said ‘yes,’ either,’ said Pierre Prosper, the former war crimes ambassador for the United States,” reported the Times. “ ‘The first reaction of everybody there was ‘Oh, this is a sensitive issue. This is a touchy issue politically.’’ ”

“During Afghanistan’s tortured 30 years of war, Dostum served in the Soviet occupation forces and backed the pro-Moscow Najibullah government before switching sides,” noted Global Research. He joined with the US-backed Islamist militias that overthrew Najibullah, then was part of the fierce factional rivalry for power in Kabul before the Taliban finally took control.”

Dostum, a key ally of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, is expected to be reappointed as Karzai’s military chief of staff, the paper noted. Dostum ran for President of Afghanistan in 2004.

Update: Obama administration sees no legal basis for investigation

In spite of Friday’s revelation that the Bush administration suppressed an investigation into what is potentially the worst war crime of the Afghanistan occupation, the Obama administration will not seek an inquiry....(Remainder.)

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Cheney 'Ordered CIA to Hide Plan'

Former US Vice-President Dick Cheney gave direct orders to the CIA to conceal an intelligence programme from Congress, US media reports say.

By BBC News


The existence of the programme, set up after 9/11, was hidden for eight years and even now its nature is not known.

CIA director Leon Panetta is said to have abandoned the project when he learnt of it last month.

He has now told a House committee that Mr Cheney was behind the secrecy, the unnamed US sources say.

There has been no comment from Mr Cheney.

War of words

The claims come amid an increasingly bitter row between the CIA and Congress over whether key information was withheld about other aspects of the agency's operations.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has claimed that the CIA misled her about interrogation methods including waterboarding, while other senior Democrats have quoted Mr Panetta as admitting that his agency regularly misled Congress before he took office.

Details of the newly-revealed secret programme have still not been divulged, but sources say it did not relate to the CIA's rendition programme, interrogation methods or a controversial domestic surveillance project.

Officials quoted by the New York Times say the programme was launched by anti-terror operatives at the CIA soon after the 2001 attacks, and involved planning and training but never became fully operational.

Another unnamed official told AP it was an embryonic intelligence-gathering effort, aimed at yielding intelligence that would be used to conduct covert operations abroad.

Sources have told a number of US media outlets Mr Cheney personally instructed the CIA to withhold information about the programme from Congress....(Remainder.)

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Right-Wing Gasbag, Stuart Varney, Lies About EFCA

By Brian
News Hounds


On yesterday’s (7/10/09) Your World, Stuart Varney claimed that unions were using President Obama’s meeting with the Pope to push their agenda, the Employee Free Choice Act a/k/a Card Check legislation. Varney used that accusation as a launch pad for distortions about the Act. The guest, Stewart Acuff of the AFL-CIO, did not let Varney get away with it. With video.

After being accused by Varney of “using the Pope’s words and his message for your own political agenda,” Acuff said, “Stuart, the Catholic Church has a long tradition of supporting workers’ rights and supporting labor unions and supporting the freedom to form unions and bargain collectively. It didn’t just begin with this Pope.”

Apparently unable to rebut that, Varney interrupted to say, “Let’s get to Card Check… This is what we’re really talking about here.” After another swipe at Acuff for “using the Pope,” Varney added, “Now Card Check would do away with the free vote."

"No it would not,” Acuff said. “You are wrong Stuart, you are wrong. The Wall Street Journal has said that that is a lie. The Chamber of Commerce has said that that is a lie. And it's just not true."

Varney said hostilely. "It's not. It is true. It would do away with a secret ballot… If you get a certain number of workers to sign a card,… you get a certain proportion, the union is in.” His voice raised now, Varney alleged that that was somehow coercion. He shouted, “The Pope is not in favor of coercion… There is coercion implied in card check, and I don't think that the Pope wants to be associated with coercion."

Acuff shouted back, "Twenty nine thousand workers last year in this country were retaliated against by their employers for exercising legally protected workers rights… Stop lying!"

Varney laughed scornfully as Acuff spoke. He then responded, "A guy goes to a… non-union shop. A guy goes to a union meeting, he comes to work next day, and he says to the boss, ‘I went to a union meeting last night.’ The boss says, ‘Did you go? What do you think of it?’ That, in your book, is coercion. That is intimidation from management. That's how your lawyers see it. And I know this for a fact. I know this for a fact."...(Remainder.)

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The Militia Extremists of the '90s Are Back, & Organizing Quietly in the Woods


By David Neiwert
Crooks and Liars


A couple of months ago, a newly formed militia reared its head in a familiar place -- the Panhandle of Northern Idaho. Sisyphus at 43rd State Blues had a full description:
Sporting a photoshopped image of the Statue of Liberty with the torch replaced by an assault rifle, as well as displaying the flag from the "Republic of Idaho", another newly formed Idaho militia crawls out from the wilderness to register their displeasure with the status quo yet offering no solutions other than vague grade school platitudes and a thinly veiled threat of revolution. As is their wont they invoke the civil war cry of state sovereignty. ...
The General applied to be a sniper with them, and got a positive response. Kewl!

But it's not just northern Idaho. It's occurring across a broad swath of the Northwest, mostly in rural precincts, as a Missoulian story recently explored:
“It's the old Freemen days,” Anderson said. “That's what we're seeing here again. And it's not just Lincoln County.”

Lincoln County Detective Capt. Jim Sweet agrees that “there's an uprising of anti-government groups that's definitely connected to the election of the Obama administration.

Law enforcement agencies throughout the multi-state region, Sweet said, are “talking about the patterns. It's obviously bigger than Lincoln County.”

People are afraid of losing gun rights, he said, and they're stockpiling weapons and ammunition, and they want a sheriff who will stand up to federal agents.

“It's a power thing,” Anderson said. “They want the power to buck the fed and federal gun laws.”

Anderson said he traveled recently to Kalispell for an “intelligence meeting” with several federal, state and local jurisdictions - including the FBI, county sheriffs and city police - to discuss “this radical response to Obama's election, and to make sure we all know what's going on.”

And Sweet said he likewise met with authorities in northern Idaho to discuss the same “resurgence of the radical right. It's not something you can ignore at this point.”

Certainly, Anderson said, people have the right to gather and debate and prepare, but authorities similarly have an “obligation to try to stay ahead of the game, so things don't get blown out of proportion like they did before.”

Sweet believes the Eureka petitioners are likely “harmless in and of themselves,” but he worries that opportunists - more dangerous elements with increasingly radical anti-government sentiments - might be attracted to the activity in Lincoln County.

“Our fear is that, once it fails, their recall petition won't be good enough for them,” Sweet said. “We have people tied to the Freemen trying to take over the sheriff's office. We'd be foolish not to pay attention.”
At its most extreme, this same tide of paranoia and fearfulness is also washing up more bona-fide hate groups on our shores -- particularly our old friends the neo-Nazis from Aryan Nations:




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Serial Adulturer, and Major Dumbass, Gets Bitch Slapped by New Hampshire Fisherman

By John Amato
Crooks and Liars


Newt Gingrich tried to take a page out of Sarah Palin's playbook and took to the waters for a photo-op. However, a fisherman ripped him:
The House speaker went down to a New Hampshire river yesterday with a horde of reporters in tow some say to test the waters for a possible presidential bid to chat up some anglers.

But Gingrich had hardly waved hello when a feisty fisherman named Tim Kipp ruined the Republican's photo opportunity.

"Your politics are some of the meanest politics I have ever heard," Kipp shouted as he stood waist-deep in the Androscoggin River. "You make Calvin Coolidge look like a liberal."

Gingrich appeared stunned, but recovered slightly and told Kipp: "Despite our political differences, good luck today."

But Kipp was just warming up.

"This guy is the most meanspirited, vicious politician we have seen in a long, long time," Kipp told the reporters.

"The water we are fishing in right now will be destroyed by his policies."

Gingrich later tried to shrug off the encounter with Kipp, a high school teacher from Brattleboro, Vt.

Yet the outing wasn't a total bust. Gingrich realized his dream of seeing a few moose.
Wow, Kipp understands the policies that Newt holds near and dear to his heart. I wonder if Newt was walking around with a fishing rod in his hand?...(Remainder.)

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Suicides in Army Rise in First Half of 2009

By Agence France-Presse
Via Google News

WASHINGTON (AFP) — Suicides in the US Army are on the rise with 88 suspected cases in the first six months of the year, compared to 67 in the same period in 2008, according to Pentagon figures issued.

The latest figures confirmed warnings from top US military officers that the number of suicides among active-duty soldiers this year was on track to surpass a record level set in 2008.

Last year 128 soldiers took their lives, up from 115 in 2007, amid increasing strain on Army troops serving repeated combat tours.

The 2008 suicide rate among active duty soldiers rose to 20.2 per 100,000, surpassing a demographically adjusted national suicide rate of 19.5 per 100,000 in 2005, the latest year on record.

Of the 88 reported suicides this year, 54 have been confirmed and 34 are pending investigation, the Defense Department said in a statement.

In about 90 percent of previous cases, suspected suicides have been confirmed, officials say.

"Every soldier suicide is different and tragic in its own way," said Brigadier General Colleen McGuire, director of the Army's suicide prevention task force.

"Although suicide can impact anyone, we're finding that male soldiers, in combat-arms occupational specialties, between ages 18 and 27 are more vulnerable," McGuire said....(Remainder.)

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Conservatwits Push for 'Human-Animal Hybrid' Ban

By Steve Benen
Washington Monthly


In his 2006 State of the Union address, then-President George W. Bush urged Congress to pass legislation curbing what he considered "egregious abuses of medical research." Among the threats in need of a legislative remedy? A ban on "creating human-animal hybrids." It wasn't long before it was widely mocked.

But some conservatives on the Hill continue to take the matter very seriously.
Senate Republicans have introduced legislation to ban the creation of human-animal hybrids. [...]

[Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.)] introduced a bill [Thursday] that would prevent U.S. researchers from developing embryos that use both human and animal material, a controversial practice underway in the UK.

Brownback has long been an opponent of stem cell research and human cloning, yet the idea of human-animal hybrids has gotten little media attention.

"What was once only science fiction is now becoming a reality, and we need to ensure that experimentation and subsequent ramifications do not outpace ethical discussion and societal decisions," Brown said last year when he introduced similar legislation. "History does not look kindly on those who violate the dignity of the human person."
There are currently 20 co-sponsors for Brownback's bill -- 19 conservative Republicans and Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), who warned this week against the "blending" of species.

It's unclear whether the legislation stands a chance of passing -- my sense is, it's unlikely -- but this kind of ban may have serious consequences for medical researchers. Indeed, when far-right activists talk about banning "human-animal hybrids," they're often trying to make a sweeping ban on stem-cell research, which can involve mouse cells....(Remainder.)

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Gretchen Carlson And Anti Abortion Zealot Whine About Persecuted Christians

By Priscilla
News Hounds


Cue the violins or whatever instrument is used for more whining about those poor American Christians who are just so persecuted at the hands of the liberal Satanist/Commie/Marxist/Secular-Progressive/Islamic hordes. In addition to that “war on Christmas,” and other disrespect towards God’s chosen ones we now have the Air Force having been denied the opportunity to fly over the God and Country Festival. Somebody’s going to swim in the “lake of fire” and it won’t be Gretchen Carlson who is doing her sacred duty as a good Christian soldier by bringing this outrage to the public. Praise the Lord!!! Of course, her “coverage” of the story wasn’t exactly “fair and balanced” and it’s being used to disparage the Obama administration so we could have some commandment breaking; but it is in the service of spreading conservative Christianity (the kind that supports creationism and prayer in public schools, and seeks the criminalization of abortion) so it’s all good.

HT to Crooks and Liars and Daily Kos

Carlson is quite incensed that the taxpayer supported US Air Force was prohibited, by the Air Force, from doing a fly-over of the God and Country Festival in Nampa, Idaho. Tuesday morning she presented a segment that proselytized the conservative Christian position on the issue. She read a statement from an Air Force spokesperson who stated that Air Force and DOD policy prohibit support for events which appear to endorse…religious or ideological movement. She then brought on her guest, Rev. Patrick Mahoney (Christian Defense Coalition) to refute this evil secularism. Poor Gretchen “found it hard to believe” that after 42 years this practice would be stopped now that we have a new president. In case you aren’t familiar with Mahoney, he is an ordained minister in the Reformed Presbyterian Church who has been arrested a number of times in connection with his past involvement with Operation Rescue. His 1993 statement, regarding how abortion should be stopped by any means necessary, would seem to put in the category of “domestic terrorist: "There's going to be people wounded. It's about whose will shall rule on this planet, God's or man's.” So back to Mahoney who does that tired rightwing Christian canard about how the Constitution permits freedom of religion – not freedom from religion and that the fly over was honoring the military and not religion. Mahoney might have committed a sin of omission (actually, he was lying) because the Director of the Festival said this was event was “as Christian as you get.” Mahoney then asked if there was a “culture of hostility” towards Christians. He cited how President Obama didn’t participate in the National Day of prayer and covered a religious symbol at Georgetown when he spoke there. (Another sin of omission because the request to cover the symbol was to make the background consistent with other appearances – something that Catholic Georgetown had no problem with.. There were numerous other religious images in the hall.) He then played to the homophobes by referencing how Obama hosted a reception for the gay community during Pride Month. Mahoney said that the “left leaning” Daily Kos praised the decision.” What he didn’t explain was that the comment was on a diary that objectively reported (unliked this Fox segment) that this policy was a result of complaints filed by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation – a group that has been fighting against Christian proslytization in the military which is a problem not covered on Fox News. The MRFF praised the DOD for taking this action. Mahoney claimed that the group was denied because of the “Christian nature of the event.” (A policy which would be enforced for an endorsement of any religion - which Mahoney and Carlson don't seem to get) Another Air Force spokesperson said "In the case of the God and Country Festival, the determination was made that flyover support would not be in accordance with Air Force and DoD policy which prohibits support for events which appear to endorse, selectively benefit, or favor any special interest or religious organization, regardless of the event date," Mahoney's group is filing a Freedom of Information Act to “get to the bottom of this to ensure that no American citizen or no group is no group is denied access to the public square because of their faith tradition.” To his question of “what changed,” Carlson replied that it was a “great question’ and the last time she checked “God was still on our money.” Wow. (Hey Gretchen, he didn’t get there until 1957. Were we godless before then?)...(Remainder.)



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Taxing the Rich: The (Politically) Smart Way to Pay for Health Care

By Nate Silver
FiveThirtyEight


The big news on the health care front this weekend is that House Democrats are prepared to call for a tax increase on the highest-earning Americans in order to pay for expanded health insurance. Although accounts of the exact details differ slightly, it appears that the tax hike would take the form of a "surcharge" of 1 percent on incomes from $280,000 to $400,000, 1.5 percent on incomes of $400,000 to $800,000 and 3 percent on incomes of $800,000 and above. This means that someone making $500,000 would pay about an extra $2,700 in taxes each year, and someone making $1,000,000 would pay an extra $13,200. The burden, in other words, would fall disproportionately on those who earn not just in the six figures, but rather in the seven figures, for whom much more of their income would become subject to the 3 percent rate.

I applaud the House for recognizing that the world doesn't end at $250,000 or $357,700 (the beginning of the top marginal income tax bracket as of last year). Throughout most of American history before Reagan, the top tax bracket kicked in at figures much higher than $357,700 in today's income: the equivalent of about $75 million in today's dollars, for example, during portions of FDR's presidency.

I also think the House has probably found the path of least resistance in terms of marshaling public support for financing health care. In June, the Kaiser Health Tracking Poll asked Americans about seven different mechanisms to pay for health care. The one solution that Kaiser missed was that of a national sales tax, so for that I use data from Rasmussen Reports instead, who ran a May poll indicating that 40 percent of Americans would support a national sales tax if it paid for health insurance. Increasing taxes on incomes of $250,000+ was supported by 68 percent of Americans in the Kaiser poll, tying it with increased cigarette and booze taxes for the most popular option:



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When Will The Recovery Begin? Never.

By Robert Reich
Talking Points Memo


The so-called "green shoots" of recovery are turning brown in the scorching summer sun. In fact, the whole debate about when and how a recovery will begin is wrongly framed. On one side are the V-shapers who look back at prior recessions and conclude that the faster an economy drops, the faster it gets back on track. And because this economy fell off a cliff late last fall, they expect it to roar to life early next year. Hence the V shape.

Unfortunately, V-shapers are looking back at the wrong recessions. Focus on those that started with the bursting of a giant speculative bubble and you see slow recoveries. The reason is asset values at bottom are so low that investor confidence returns only gradually.

That's where the more sober U-shapers come in. They predict a more gradual recovery, as investors slowly tiptoe back into the market.

Personally, I don't buy into either camp. In a recession this deep, recovery doesn't depend on investors. It depends on consumers who, after all, are 70 percent of the U.S. economy. And this time consumers got really whacked. Until consumers start spending again, you can forget any recovery, V or U shaped.

Problem is, consumers won't start spending until they have money in their pockets and feel reasonably secure. But they don't have the money, and it's hard to see where it will come from. They can't borrow. Their homes are worth a fraction of what they were before, so say goodbye to home equity loans and refinancings. One out of ten home owners is under water -- owing more on their homes than their homes are worth. Unemployment continues to rise, and number of hours at work continues to drop. Those who can are saving. Those who can't are hunkering down, as they must....(Remainder.)

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Fire Proof: The New Haven Firefighter is No Stranger to Employment Disputes

Ah, I have this Ricci character's number. He's one of those people who wants something for nothing. He's one of those people who's incredibly unqualified for anything. Rather than try to do things on his own merits, he's going to sue to get what he wants. I sincerely hope that there's at least one senator on the Judiciary Committee that takes this moron to task...Hello, Al Franken!

By Dahlia Lithwick
Slate


Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee have announced that Frank Ricci, the firefighter who recently prevailed in his "reverse discrimination" lawsuit against the city of New Haven, Conn., will testify at Sonia Sotomayor's confirmation hearings. Ricci has become a sort of folk hero for white men everywhere, having dared to stand up against the evils of affirmative action and race-based employment preferences. Next week, he will be called on to make the point, as David Paul Kuhn put it, that Sotomayor, for all her talk of empathy and the real-world impact of judicial decisions, "demonstrated no empathy for the 'real-world consequences' of affirmative action on Ricci."

Ricci is invariably painted as a reluctant standard-bearer; a hardworking man driven to litigation only when his dreams of promotion were shattered by a system that persecutes white men. This is the narrative we will hear next week, but it somewhat oversimplifies Ricci's actual employment story. For instance, it's not precisely true, as this one account would have it, that Frank Ricci "never once [sought] special treatment for his dyslexia challenge." In point of fact, Ricci sued over it.

According to local newspapers, Ricci filed his first lawsuit against the city of New Haven in 1995, at the ripe old age of 20, for failing to hire him as a firefighter. That January, the Hartford Chronicle reported that Ricci sued, saying "he was not hired because he is dyslexic." The complaint in that suit, filed in federal court, alleged that the city's failure to hire Ricci because of his dyslexia violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. Frank Ricci was one of 795 candidates interviewed for 40 jobs. According to his complaint, the reason he was not hired was that he disclosed his dyslexia in an interview. That case was settled in 1997 with a confidential settlement in which Ricci withdrew his lawsuit in exchange for a job with the fire department and $11,143 in attorney's fees....(Remainder.)

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ACLU of Texas Demands Inquiry on Anti-Gay Discrimination in El Paso Restaurant

By ACLU

AUSTIN – The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas Thursday called for an official investigation of the El Paso Police Department response to a June 29 incident when a group of men were reportedly ejected from Chico’s Tacos, an El Paso restaurant, apparently because two of the men kissed each other.

The ACLU of Texas, the state affiliate of the national non-profit civil rights organization, and Equality Texas, a statewide LGBT advocacy group, urged city officials push for an investigation of this reported incident as advocacy groups mobilized to protest both Chico’s and the City’s actions relating to the matter.

"We’re extremely concerned that the actions of the restaurant employees and the El Paso police may have violated the law," said ACLU of Texas legal director Lisa Graybill. "The City of El Paso prohibits restaurants from refusing service to anyone based on their sexual orientation, and the police should have enforced that ordinance.”

The group of men was reportedly at Chico’s on June 29, when they were asked to leave by private security guards who saw two of the men kissing. According to news reports, the guards told the men that “faggot stuff” wasn’t allowed in the restaurant. Police were called to the scene by both parties, but instead of assisting the men, the responding officer reportedly threatened to cite them for “homosexual activity.” Police reportedly told the men that same-sex kissing was forbidden in public.

"It is absolutely shocking that an El Paso police officer would be so poorly trained on the law," said ACLU of Texas staff attorney Fleming Terrell. "No such prohibition exists under city, state or federal law, nor would the Constitution permit it."

The Supreme Court has long held that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation violates the Constitution's guarantee of Equal Protection when it bears no rational relationship to any legitimate state interest. Although a statute prohibiting homosexual sodomy remains on the books in Texas, it is no longer enforceable. The Supreme Court found the statute unconstitutional in a landmark 2003 decision, Lawrence v. Texas, a case in which the ACLU and ACLU of Texas submitted a friend-of-the-court brief....(Remainder.)

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The New Face of Townhall: Fired From UNC Newspaper for Anti-Arab Screed

By Logan Murphy
Crooks and Liars


The conservative blog Townhall has a new spokesperson making the rounds these days and well, let's just say she is the perfect example of today's GOP -- and all that is wrong with it.

Jillian Bandes has been quite busy lately, appearing on CSPAN Friday morning, then showing up on MSNBC where she got very nasty with our dear friend Jane Hamsher of Firedoglake, who laid waste to her right wing talking points.

Bandes is no stranger to controversy. As Tintin at one of my favorite blogs, Sadly No! reminds us, she made her bones by publishing an anti-Arab screed in her college newspaper:
Hey, whatever happend to Jillian Bandes? You remember her. She was the redneck wingnut who was fired from the UNC student newspaper after writing a column advocating that all Arab guys should be strip-searched at airports and that this wasn’t really a problem because Arab guys would enjoy getting all “sexed up” at the airport. Well, guess what? Jillian is now a contributor to the Clown Hall blog — “Where racism isn’t just a philosophy, it’s a job qualification!”

The other great thing about blogging for Clown Hall is you can recycle some stale wingnut blogger talking points from weeks ago, lard it up with ridiculously hyperbolic language à la Atlas’s Jugs, make up some shit to throw in for good measure to get the half-witted Town Hall commentariat all torn up, offer it up as your own blog posting, and then call it a day, collect your wingnut welfare check, and get to happy hour at Smith Point by mid-afternoon. Which is pretty much what Jillian did with her latest offering: “Michelle Obama’s Veggie Garden Is Poisoned!” Read on...
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Big Bankers Mounting Sneak Attack on Consumers

(Photo: Reuters)
The largest banking chains are going out of their way to stiff us.

By Jim Hightower
t r u t h o u t


Have you received your thank-you note? I'm still waiting for mine.

More than a year into the Wall Street bailout, I've yet to get any sort of "thank you" from even a single one of the big banks that you and I propped up with $12 trillion in direct giveaways, indirect giveaways, government guarantees and sweetheart loans. You'd think their mommas would've taught them better. But I've begun to think that waiting on a simple gesture of banker gratitude is like waiting on Donald Trump to have a good hair day -- ain't gonna happen.

Far from showing appreciation, the largest banking chains are now going out of their way to stiff us. Instead of nice notes, they are quietly slipping new gotchas into our monthly credit card bills and bank statements. In June, for example, Bank of America abruptly raised its fee for a basic checking account by 50 percent. Citibank jacked up the interest rate on some of its cards to 29.99 percent. And JPMorgan Chase more than doubled the required minimum payment on its cards.

Across the board, fees have skyrocketed to their highest levels on record, including assessments for such common occurrences as overdrafts (as high as $39), stop-payment actions ($39 -- double what it was 10 years ago), balance transfers (up more than 50 percent in the past year) and ATM use (nearly doubled in 10 years)....(Remainder.)

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Sam Seder's Interview of Über Journalist Matt Taibbi

Part 1


Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

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She Broke the G.O.P. and Now She Owns It

Barry Blitt

By Frank Rich
The New York Times


SARAH PALIN and Al Sharpton don’t ordinarily have much in common, but they achieved a rare harmonic convergence at Michael Jackson’s memorial service. When Sharpton told the singer’s children it was their daddy’s adversaries, not their daddy, who were “strange,” he was channeling the pugnacious argument the Alaska governor had made the week before. There was nothing strange about her decision to quit in midterm, Palin told America. What’s strange — or “insane,” in her lingo — are the critics who dare question her erratic behavior on the national stage.

Sharpton’s bashing of Jackson’s naysayers received the biggest ovation of the entire show. Palin’s combative resignation soliloquy, though much mocked by prognosticators of all political persuasions, has an equally vociferous and more powerful constituency. In the aftermath of her decision to drop out and cash in, Palin’s standing in the G.O.P. actually rose in the USA Today/Gallup poll. No less than 71 percent of Republicans said they would vote for her for president. That overwhelming majority isn’t just the “base” of the Republican Party that liberals and conservatives alike tend to ghettoize as a rump backwater minority. It is the party, or pretty much what remains of it in the Barack Obama era.

That’s why Palin won’t go gently into the good night, much as some Republicans in Washington might wish. She is not just the party’s biggest star and most charismatic television performer; she is its only star and charismatic performer. Most important, she stands for a genuine movement: a dwindling white nonurban America that is aflame with grievances and awash in self-pity as the country hurtles into the 21st century and leaves it behind. Palin gives this movement a major party brand and political plausibility that its open-throated media auxiliary, exemplified by Glenn Beck, cannot. She loves the spotlight, can raise millions of dollars and has no discernible reason to go fishing now except for self-promotional photo ops....(Remainder.)

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Bennet Cracks Down on Homeland Security

By Gary Harmon
The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel


The Department of Homeland Security could lose $5 million if it fails to submit plans to control waste by Jan. 4, 2010, under a bill proposed by Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo.

Bennet’s measure amending the Homeland Security Department appropriations bill would withhold the funding from the office of the chief financial officer if the goal isn’t met.

The amount represents the bulk of the office’s funding increase for the next year, Bennet’s office said in a statement.

Bennet sought the amendment in response to an audit that identified weaknesses in how Homeland Security accounts for taxpayer funds.

“For far too long DHS has been riddled with management, accounting and oversight problems that do nothing but subject our taxpayer dollars to waste, fraud and abuse. This must end,” Bennet said in a statement.

“This amendment will make sure that taxpayer dollars are put to good use by holding DHS accountable for how it manages its finances.”

The audit found “pervasive weaknesses” in the financial controls at the Coast Guard, as well as weaknesses in Federal Emergency Management Agency reporting.

Certain financial information from the Transportation Security Administration “might be misstated due to internal control deficiencies related to improper contract management and inconsistent application of established procedures,” Bennet’s statement noted....(Remainder.)

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Fox Nation Obama/Pope Thread Provides Forum for More Hate

By Priscilla
News Hounds


The lede article on Fox Nation, “Obama Meets The Pope, Makes It Out Alive,” takes its title from the linked Newsweek article which was basically a description of the logistics of the meeting. But it is interesting that Fox Nation would feature this lede while having quickly buried the thread (which didn’t make the lede) about the Pope’s latest encyclical in which he was critical of the excesses of capitalism and spoke about preserving the environment. Interestingly, that thread was a link to a Newsbusters article in which Matthew Balan (who defended the Pope's condom remarks in Africa) tried to point out, in a tortured screed, that the Pope really wasn’t saying what he appeared to be saying. The thread generated incisive and respectful responses (just kidding) which included attacks on the Pope, in a Reformation redux, as a false leader and the usual palaver about Obama as the anti-Christ. But rather than reasoned discourse about the differences and similarities in world views between two world leaders or even some humor about the gift exchange, the discussion, on today’s thread, was more of the same old, same old hatred that Fox Nation specializes in - lots of perfunctory and less than lucid Obama hatred (and some anti Pope comments) including some perfunctory racism and yet another personal insult about Michelle Obama’s appearance after an off topic comment about the bogus lede photo of Obama looking at a woman’s derriere (no longer on the Nation front page) which was titled “busted.” (But you can catch the over 500 droolings in the archived article!) Must be a slow Saturday night. Can’t you just feel the “mutual respect.” Stay classy, Fox Nation!




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Sheriff Joe's Rapid Supporters Spew Hate: 'Kill Any Man, Woman or Child Who Comes Across the Border Illegally'


By David Neiwert
Crooks and Liars


Well, we've seen plenty of recent evidence that Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the nativist law-enforcement chief of Maricopa County, Arizona, attracts genuine extremists in support of his cause.

This recently released YouTube by Humanleague makes the case even more starkly. Its centerpiece is the opening comments by an avid supporter of the Minutemen and Sheriff Arpaio named Brandi Baron, who opines thus:
Baron: I say, give orders to shoot to kill, and kill any man, woman or child who comes across the border illegally. I'll bet you, you kill enough of them, right off the bat, people will stop coming over that way.

[Questioner]

That's what I just said. Personally, I think a minefield would be good. Why build a fence when you can plant some mines?

Q: You just said that you would kill kids.

Baron: If they're being drug across the border, hell yes. The difference between those people and us -- Our country is No. 1. Theirs? Pffft!
This sort of inhuman callousness and disregard for human life is part and parcel of why nativist movements like the Minutemen -- and the mainstream embrace of such factions by public figures like Arpaio -- inevitably spawn violent offspring like Shawna Forde and her gang of killer Minutemen, who gunned down a family in cold blood because they mistakenly believed the father was a big-time drug dealer with cash on the premises. There's a powerful continuum between gangs like Forde's and "mainstream" nativists like Arpaio and his supporters.




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America's Aryan Nation is Not Just a Bunch of Skinheads; It's Self-Appointed "Chosen by God" Senators, Members of "The Family"

By Mark Karlin
Buzz Flash


Since Senator Ensign's unrelenting affair with a woman on one of his staff married to a man on another of his staff became public, much attention has been drawn to the Skull and Bones like secret society of self-appointed "Christian Super Men" who are part of the Ubermensch "Family."

Ensign may eventually face legal charges for financial transactions related to his affair -- as well as sexual harassment charges -- but in his "C Street Family" sanctuary, he is a welcome man. Even Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, who believes that doctors who perform abortions should be executed and lesbianism is rampantly "afflicting" grammar school girls, "allegedly" counseled Ensign on how to cover up his prolonged and unrepentant sexual dalliance that was virtually incestuous. Coburn too, is a member and resident of "The Family" home, which is religiously incorporated, near Capitol Hill.

Of course, Mark Sanford is a regular guest at "The Family" residence and "worship" center when in D.C., seeking guidance on how to be a "King David" (as he recently called himself) who was allowed his sins because he, "The Family" members believe, has been chosen by God, in the name of Christ, to lead the ignorant masses.

The members and residents at the "C Street Family" home and spiritual warrior center forgive each other all sins, because they believe themselves supermen. They are the Leopold and Loebs of modern evangelical fanaticism, which absolves individuals who believe that they have been absolved by God from responsibility for their behavior.

In fact, they even consider that they suffer for their sins because they are attacked for simply living the life without limits that God allows them in turn for their "enlightened-divine" leadership of "strength and conviction."

On her MSNBC program, the brilliant and endlessly insightful Rachel Maddow this week featured skilled journalist Jeff Sharlet, author of "The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power," and his revelations were about as frightening as reading "Mein Kampf."

The jig is up for democracy if any of these men who use religion to allow for being above the moral and actual law becomes president. Bush, after all, thought he was chosen by God, when it was just the ethically defective and arrogant Antonin Scalia who put him in the White House....(Remainder.)

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Newt Gingrich STILL Thinks Palin Might be on the GOP Ticket in 2012


By bluegal
Crooks and Liars


Mike Murphy is right: "Gov. Sarah Palin is the political train wreck that keeps on giving."

How great is it that a week after she aborts her career in politics, Republicans are still debating whether she has a future on the national ticket?

And Newt Gingich votes yes. [This audio, Newt Gingrich interviewed by his former mistress/now wife Calista, was posted to his website on Friday, July 10.]

One has to wonder with guys like Newt Gingrich still not giving up hope for Palin's future, whether NPR analyst Jennifer Pozner is right, that the public treatment, and Newt's tacit endorsement, of Sarah Palin is much more about her looks and sex-appeal than about her painfully obvious lack of qualifications:
Ironically, though Palin has railed against unfair treatment by the mainstream media, she has mostly been referring not to blatant sexism but to reporters who wouldn't show her "respect and deference." The last thing journalists owe any politician is deference.
In other Palin discussion among the GOP, Peggy Noonan created a major stir with this oped, opining that Palin wasn't qualified to run for high office and never will be. One good article out of a hundred, Peggy, but I still haven't forgiven you for your "GOP sex scandals can be traced back to Bill Clinton" wack-a-news bite. I for one am ready to stop talking about the Clenis and let GOP-nees take responsibility for their own wanderings and motivations. [h/t Nicole for the new lingo.]...(Original.)

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Gov. Rick "Good Hair" Perry Appoints a Rabid Creationist to Head TX School Board

By Gary Scharrer
Houston Chronicle


AUSTIN — Gail Lowe still sees herself as a follower, but starting next week she'll be sitting in the leadership chair as Gov. Rick Perry on Friday named her to head the 15-member State Board of Education.

(Harry Cabluck Associated Press Gail) Lowe, right, whose shown with school board member Patricia Hardy, is one of seven social conservatives on the board.
“I am more comfortable as a member. I am not an aggressive, upfront, outspoken person,” Lowe said after Perry's announcement. “I hope I will still be measured and fair and open and will work with everyone to promote the best academic interests of the Texas public school children.”

Lowe will replace Bryan dentist Don McLeroy, whose appointment was rejected by the Texas Senate. McLeroy failed to win the needed two-thirds majority approval of the Senate because his leadership rankled some. Others believed McLeroy's strong religious beliefs affected his outlook on public education for the state's 4.7 million students.

Lowe, a Republican, is co-publisher of the Lampasas Dispatch Record. Like McLeroy, she is one of the seven social conservatives on the board.

“She's articulate. She makes sense. She's not a goofball by any stretch of the imagination,” said Mary Helen Berlanga, D-Corpus Christi, one of the board's longest serving members.

“I'm just hopeful that she will bring integrity and that she will be a gracious chair — and that she will treat everyone with respect. I want to give her the benefit of the doubt.”

Lowe's term will expire on Feb. 1, 2011.

Perry said she “has shown exemplary leadership and commitment to the education of young Texans through her work on the State Board of Education for the past seven years, as a classroom volunteer assisting elementary school students with math and reading, and as a member of the Lampasas School District.”...(Remainder.)

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Once Again, the Retarded Baby Jesus Edits Obama Video to Smear Obama Over G8 Photo

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Science Denier & Christian Taliban Member, Roy Blunt, Supports Teaching "Intelligent Design"

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Obama's Pragmatism Remains Popular, Leaving Some in the Ideological Dust

By P.M. Carpenter
The Fifth Columnist at Buzz Flash


Despite inherited wars, a debilitating economic hangover, a disagreeable Congress and the increasingly unpleasant media, President Obama, reports Gallup, has slipped only slightly in his job approval rating: 58 percent for the first week of July, compared to a 61 percent average for June.

What identifiably shifting trouble he does have comes almost entirely from independents; their thumbs-up is now at 53 percent, while last month it hovered near 60. This comes as little surprise, however, given that independents' overall lack of an orienting political philosophy tends to manifest in greater volatility of opinion. If you don't know where you've been, and why, it's much more difficult to know where you wish to go.

Nevertheless, the above was a veritable plunge compared to Republicans. Within the last month their approval of the job Obama is doing has merely inched downward from 25 percent to 23 percent (a gap, by the way, that also represents the margin of sampling error), having already accomplished most of their amplifying disapproval from January through June. So that seems to have leveled out, for the time being, anyway; and any way you cut it, support for Obama from one out of every four Republicans is still counterintuitively sizable.

The mother lode of consistent opinion comes from self-identifying Democrats, who, reports Gallup, "have remained stalwart in their support for Obama all year, with this month's average rating of 90% roughly in line with where it has been all year." In fact, it's ticked up a point in the last few weeks.

And that's rather remarkable when you stop to consider that just a year or two ago many of those self-identifying Democrats weren't Democrats. Their ranks have since been swelled by youthful newcomers to the electoral process, profoundly disaffected Republicans, and, even if temporarily, party-committing independents.

Hence, while Obama's 90 percent approval rating from Democrats is a partisan rating, it also isn't -- not in the sense of hidebound, lifelong partisans who literally can be counted on, no matter what.

Even more remarkable, however, is, after six months, the generally favorable hue of the statistically aforementioned when juxtaposed with this piece's lede: that is, Obama's headaches of inherited wars, a debilitating economy, a disagreeable Congress and the increasingly unpleasant media....(Remainder.)

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WTF? Fox News Actually Debates Whether Obama and the Pope Are "Teaming Up Against Capitalism"

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Fox News Calls Out Matt Drudge on Handling of Obama Photo, but Ignores Fox's Role ... Surprised?

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Former Insider Shatters Credibility of Military Commissions

By Andy Worthington
The Public Record


On Wednesday, I reported how Retired Rear Admiral John D. Hutson, the former Judge Advocate General of the US Navy from 1997 to 2000, had delivered compelling testimony to a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on “legal issues regarding military commissions and the trial of detainees for violations of the law of war,” explaining why the only valid forum for trials of suspected terrorists at Guantánamo Bay is the US federal court system.

The lucidity and directness of Hutson’s testimony was in marked contrast to the amendments to the existing Military Commission system — and terrifying asides about the use of “preventive detention” — that were proposed by Jeh Johnson, the Defense Department’s General Counsel, and David Kris, the Assistant Attorney General in the Justice Department’s National Security Division, in response to legislation already prepared by the Committee, which, it seems, will be presented to the Senate in the imminent future, even though it still allows (subject to certain restrictions) the use of information — I hesitate to use the word “evidence” — obtained through coercion, and other information that is nothing more than hearsay.

The day after Hutson delivered his testimony, the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties Subcommittee of the House Committee on the Judiciary held a hearing on “Legal Issues Surrounding the Military Commissions System,” in which Lt. Col. Darrel Vandeveld of the US Reserves, a former prosecutor in the Military Commissions, delivered what should, I believe, be the final word on the unsuitability of Military Commissions as a valid trial system (PDF).

Vandeveld, who served in Bosnia, Africa, Iraq and Afghanistan before volunteering for Guantánamo, and who has been decorated on several occasions, sent shockwaves through the Commission system under the Bush administration, when he spectacularly resigned last September, declaring, “I am highly concerned, to the point that I believe I can no longer serve as a prosecutor at the Commissions, about the slipshod, uncertain ‘procedure’ for affording defense counsel discovery.” He added that the “incomplete or unreliable” discovery process “deprive[s] the accused of basic due process and subject[s] the well-intentioned prosecutor to claims of ethical misconduct.”

The particular trigger for the dissatisfaction that led him to tell the Committee about “the mistaken proposals to revise and revive the irretrievably flawed military commissions at Guantánamo Bay,” and that turned him from, as he described it, a “true believer to someone who felt truly deceived,” was the incompetence and obstruction he encountered as he tried to build a case against Mohamed Jawad, an Afghan prisoner accused of throwing a grenade that injured two US soldiers and an Afghan translator in December 2002, and it was this journey to the “dark side” that he reprised for the Committee on Wednesday to such devastating effect....(Remainder.)

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Yoo Gave Bush White House Retroactive Legal Cover to Spy on Americans

By Jason Leopold
The Public Record


A sweeping investigation into the Bush administration’s domestic surveillance program has concluded that former Justice Department attorney John Yoo provided the White with retroactive legal cover for covert intelligence activities and that the legal opinion he drafted authorizing the program failed to cite an historic Supreme Court case on the “distribution of government powers.”

A 38-page declassified report prepared by inspectors general of the CIA, National Security Agency, Department of Justice, the Department of Defense, and the Office of National Intelligence released Friday said that the first legal opinion “explicitly addressing the legality of the [President’s Surveillance Program] was not drafted [by Yoo] until [Nov. 2, 2001] after the program had been formally authorized by President Bush in October 2001” by executive order.

The President’s Surveillance Program (PSP) was far more expansive than the Terrorist Surveillance Program (TSP), the report said, while the TSP allowed the NSA to spy on Americans’ telephone calls without a warrant. The PSP went much further and remains classified and Yoo worked directly with White House officials on the PSP as he was the only official in the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel who was aware of the program.

But Yoo's Nov. 2, 2001 memo “focused almost exclusively on the activity that [Bush] later publicly confirmed as the Terrorist Surveillance Program,” the report said. But it also supported the legality of intelligence collection activities covered under the PSP.

In September and October of 2001 Yoo, now a UC Berkeley law professor, “prepared several preliminary opinions relating to hypothetical random domestic electronic surveillance activities...”

Although the report does not go into details about the “hypothetical” scenarios, an investigation based on previously released government documents showed that 11 days after 9/11 Yoo drafted a 20-page memorandum that offered up theories on how the Bush administration could sidestep Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures in the event the U.S. military used "deadly force in a manner that endangered the lives of United States citizens."...(Remainder.)

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The Words of God Do Not Justify Cruelty to Women

Discrimination and abuse wrongly backed by doctrine are damaging society, argues the former US president.

By President Jimmy Carter
The Observer


"Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status ..." (Article 2, Universal Declaration of Human Rights)

"There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus." (Galatians 3:28)

I have been a practising Christian all my life and a deacon and Bible teacher for many years. My faith is a source of strength and comfort to me, as religious beliefs are to hundreds of millions of people around the world.

So my decision to sever my ties with the Southern Baptist Convention, after six decades, was painful and difficult. It was, however, an unavoidable decision when th e convention's leaders, quoting a few carefully selected Bible verses and claiming that Eve was created second to Adam and was responsible for original sin, ordained that women must be "subservient" to their husbands and prohibited from serving as deacons, pastors or chaplains in the military service. This was in conflict with my belief - confirmed in the holy scriptures - that we are all equal in the eyes of God.

This view that women are somehow inferior to men is not restricted to one religion or belief. It is widespread. Women are prevented from playing a full and equal role in many faiths.

Nor, tragically, does its influence stop at the walls of the church, mosque, synagogue or temple. This discrimination, unjustifiably attributed to a Higher Authority, has provided a reason or excuse for the deprivation of women's equal rights across the world for centuries. The male interpretations of religious texts and the way they interact with, and reinforce, traditional practices justify some of the most pervasive, persistent, flagrant and damaging examples of human rights abuses....(Remainder.)

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7-Eleven Asks Consumers to Help Fight Credit Card Companies

By Carey
The Consumerist

7-Eleven plans to serve up your next Slurpee with a petition to Congress protesting unfair credit card fees. No, the fees aren't unfair to you, they're unfair to 7-Eleven. The vendor of last resort is mad about interchange fees, the fees banks charge merchants for accepting a credit card payment. The recent credit card legislation signed into law protected consumers from rate increases, but stayed silent with regards to interchange fees.
7-Eleven says the fees are becoming more burdensome to small businesses as people increasingly use plastic to pay for even minor purchases. These days, Jones noted that it's not unusual for people to buy a pack of gum or cup of coffee with a credit card. He noted that the average purchase at 7-Eleven totals just $6.

"If you're a very low margin business, that kills you," Jones said.

Last year, Jones said 7-Eleven paid $160 million in bank card fees, up from $40 million five years ago — a 300 percent increase.

Interchange fees generated by bank cards totaled $23.99 billion in revenue last year, according to Card & Payment. That accounted for about 19 percent of revenue from bank cards.

While card companies such as Visa and MasterCard set the fees, the revenue is distributed to multiple entities, including the merchant's bank and the issuing bank — with the latter getting the bulk of the fees, said Kate Fitzgerald, associate editor at Cards & Payments.
Creditors sputter out all the usual talking points to defend their interchange fees, saying that lower fees for businesses would raise rates and undermine benefits for consumers, yadda yadda yadda. This is a business-to-business problem, not one that consumers need to add to their already lengthy list of credit card concerns.

Would you consider signing 7-Eleven's petition?...(Original.)

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