Saturday, November 14, 2009

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Been A Long Time

So caught up in campaign managing, running that blog, tweeting and facebooking, that I've had no time to post here. Soon a lengthy post on health care-Obama, torture and rendition-Obama, state secrets-Obama, and my rather deep disapointment that is NOT, sadly enough, disillusionment.

Oh well.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The most expensive fence in the U.S.

A Very Good Short Read:

The most expensive fence in the U.S.

"In a nutshell, it will cost $6.5 billion over the next 20 years to maintain the fence along the U.S.-Mexico border. However, despite the fact that $2.4 billion has already been spent to build 633 miles of fence along the southwest border, there's no way to evaluate cost-wise whether the fence has helped to control the flow of illegal immigrants.

The GAO noted two big problems with the fence. One is that people are still getting over, under and through it. As of May 14, there have been 3,363 breaches in the fence, and each one costs around $1,300 to repair. That's $4.3 million in repairs. Another is that the new technology being installed to work on the border (sensors, radars and cameras) has either been delayed or doesn't work. (Aircraft maker Boeing has the contract for that and will be paid $1.1 billion for it). That means border agents still uses old equipment that breaks down. Until all that new technology is up and running, there's no way to know whether it works or whether it's cost effective."

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Set My Soul Free

Can you even remember what we looked like?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

RIP Les Paul...Another Giant and Genuis Gone

First Merce, now Les.

I saw him in the late 80's (when he was in his late 70's) before his weekly gig moved to the Iridium. I was thinking then that I had better go see him while it was still possible. The man kept gigging regularly for 15 more years! The inventor of the electric guitar, a studio genius way ahead of his time, and by all accounts the nicest guy in the world.

Here he is at the age of 91, unbelievable.

And two more from the 50's, stuff I used to listen to with my parents.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Trouble With Tea Baggers

OK this has been floating round the net for awhile, don't know who wrote it.

This morning I was awoken by my alarm clock powered by electricity generated by the public power monopoly regulated by the U.S. Department of Energy.

I then took a shower in the clean water provided by a municipal water utility.

After that, I turned on the TV to one of the FCC-regulated channels to see what the National Weather Service of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration determined the weather was going to be like, using satellites designed, built, and launched by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

I watched this while eating my breakfast of U.S. Department of Agriculture-inspected food and taking the drugs which have been determined as safe by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

At the appropriate time, as regulated by the U.S. Congress and kept accurate by the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the U.S. Naval Observatory, I get into my National Highway Traffic Safety Administration-approved automobile and set out to work on the roads build by the local, state, and federal Departments of Transportation, possibly stopping to purchase additional fuel of a quality level determined by the Environmental Protection Agency, using legal tender issued by the Federal Reserve Bank.

On the way out the door I deposit any mail I have to be sent out via the U.S. Postal Service and drop the kids off at the public school.

After spending another day not being maimed or killed at work thanks to the workplace regulations imposed by the Department of Labor and the Occupational Safety and Health administration, enjoying another two meals which again do not kill me because of the USDA, I drive my NHTSA car back home on the DOT roads, to my house which has not burned down in my absence because of the state and local building codes and Fire Marshal's inspection, and which has not been plundered of all its valuables thanks to the local police department.

And then I log on to the internet -- which was developed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Administration -- and post on and Fox News forums about how SOCIALISM in medicine is BAD because the government can't do anything right.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Monday, July 27, 2009

Merce Cunningham Died

This short video from ...I don't know what to say.

Mr. Cunningham often spoke and wrote movingly about the nature of dance and would laugh about its maddening impermanence. “You have to love dancing to stick to it,” he once wrote. “It gives you nothing back, no manuscripts to store away, no paintings to show on walls and maybe hang in museums, no poems to be printed and sold, nothing but that single fleeting moment when you feel alive.”

I find myself more devastated then I would have expected; incredibly so. So Long.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Photo Caption Contest

Berlusconi shows height of twins he is currently dating?

Morgan Stanley: Scamming Again

Morgan Stanley Plans to Turn Downgraded Loan CDO Into AAA Bonds -

"July 8 (Bloomberg) -- Morgan Stanley plans to repackage a downgraded collateralized debt obligation backed by leveraged loans into new securities with AAA ratings in the first transaction of its kind, said two people familiar with the sale.

Morgan Stanley is selling $87.1 million of securities that it expects to receive top AAA ratings and $42.9 million of notes graded Baa2, the second-lowest investment grade by Moody’s Investors Service, according to marketing documents obtained by Bloomberg News. The bonds were created from Greywolf CLO I Ltd., a CDO arranged in January 2007 by Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and managed by Greywolf Capital Management LP, an investment firm based in Purchase, New York."

Monday, July 6, 2009

Make That Two Steps Closer (see post below)

Dolphin Rescues Stranded Whales:

"It was at that point, Moko, who was described by an official on the scene as “altruistic” appeared, and let the pygmy sperm whales 200 yards down the beach to an open channel. There have been many instances of dolphins assisting weak swimmers, which may be instinctual, but this appears to be the first instance of interspecies help."

World Peace One Step Closer?

Men No Longer Needed to Create Sperm:

"Scientists at the University of Newcastle have managed to create human sperm cells using a female embryonic stem cell.

The researchers, led by Prof Karim Nayernia, had previously created primitive sperm cells from male bone marrow. They’re currently working on making the cells from female bone marrow, which would be much easier and more practical than creating them from embryos."

Fighting Health Care Reform at $1.4 Million/Day

The WaPo (which has been busy trying to score some of that Dirty Money for itself) has an article up on the current state of play for health care lobbying.

The nation's largest insurers, hospitals and medical groups have hired more than 350 former government staff members and retired members of Congress in hopes of influencing their old bosses and colleagues, according to an analysis of lobbying disclosures and other records.

The hirings are part of a record-breaking influence campaign by the health-care industry, which is spending more than $1.4 million a day on lobbying in the current fight, according to disclosure records.

If you think they are spending this kind of money in order to improve health care delivery you need to check your current policy, if you are lucky enough to have one, to see what kind of mental health care you are eligible for and then go and use it!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Dodd Gets On The Buss (Finally!)

Old Dog Learns New Tricks

Dodd's Op-Ed in the Meriden Record-Journal (via his campaign site)

While I’ve long been for extending every benefit of marriage to same-sex couples, I have in the past drawn a distinction between a marriage-like status (“civil unions”) and full marriage rights.

The reason was simple: I was raised to believe that marriage is between a man and a woman. And as many other Americans have realized as they’ve struggled to reconcile the principle of fairness with the lessons they learned early in life, that’s not an easy thing to overcome.

But the fact that I was raised a certain way just isn’t a good enough reason to stand in the way of fairness anymore.

My young daughters are growing up in a different reality than I did. Our family knows many same-sex couples – our neighbors in Connecticut, members of my staff, parents of their schoolmates. Some are now married because the Connecticut Supreme Court and our state legislature have made same-sex marriage legal in our state.

But to my daughters, these couples are married simply because they love each other and want to build a life together. That’s what we’ve taught them. The things that make those families different from their own pale in comparison to the commitments that bind those couples together.

And, really, that’s what marriage should be. It’s about rights and responsibilities and, most of all, love.

I believe that, when my daughters grow up, barriers to marriage equality for same-sex couples will seem as archaic, and as unfair, as the laws we once had against inter-racial marriage.

And I want them to know that, even if he was a little late, their dad came down on the right side of history.

There really is a generational difference and I think perhaps older folks are learning from it. My work brings me side by side with many 20-somethings, and while the theatrical world has long been more accepting of gays then the larger outside world, the attitude really does seem to have changed.To many young folks being gay is no longer even thought of as being different, and if so that's a great thing!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

CT's Broken Tax System: Republicans Are NOT Inclined To Fix This, Are Democrats?

My Left Nutmeg:: A more progressive income tax is the answer:

"The solution, as advocated by Connecticut Voices for Chidren, is a more progressive income tax. Adopting higher income tax rates for married couples who earn more than $250,000 (and individuals who earn more than $132,500), as proposed by the legislature's Finance Committee, would raise an estimated $1.226 billion in additional revenue to close the budget deficit, while affecting less than 7 percent of Connecticut taxpayers.

Even under this proposal, income tax rates on Connecticut's wealthiest residents would still be lower than the rates in most neighboring states. Of the 41 states with income taxes, only seven have a lower marginal rate for the wealthy than Connecticut.

And even with this rate increase, the share of income paid in state and local taxes by Connecticut's wealthiest 5 percent would still remain smaller than what is paid by the 'bottom' 95 percent of families. That is, this change would only begin to make the state and local tax system less regressive.

In the long term, a progressive income tax could help to reduce the state's over-reliance on regressive property taxes, creating additional revenues in more prosperous years that could be used to more fully fund education at the state level."

A Serious Look At Socialism And America

Connor Clarke has a nice short dicussion on the Atlantic blogs with links to longer discussions worhty of reading.

What Socialism Looks Like - Conor Clarke

How close? This is what socialism looks like:

socialism chart.png

And Then There Were 6: Lets make Iowa An Honorary New England State - Same-sex marriage becomes law in NH -

"Concord – Gay marriage legislation became law in New Hampshire this afternoon.

Gov. John Lynch signed the bills just after 5:20 p.m. before dozens of enthusiastic supporters of same-sex marriage.

New Hampshire's law takes effect Jan. 1."

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Will We Finally Prosecute Those Who Enabled This Systemic Torture and Rape?

Abu Ghraib abuse photos 'show rape' - Telegraph

"At least one picture shows an American soldier apparently raping a female prisoner while another is said to show a male translator raping a male detainee.

Further photographs are said to depict sexual assaults on prisoners with objects including a truncheon, wire and a phosphorescent tube.

Another apparently shows a female prisoner having her clothing forcibly removed to expose her breasts.

Detail of the content emerged from Major General Antonio Taguba, the former army officer who conducted an inquiry into the Abu Ghraib jail in Iraq.

Allegations of rape and abuse were included in his 2004 report but the fact there were photographs was never revealed. He has now confirmed their existence in an interview with the Daily Telegraph"

Monday, May 25, 2009

Friday, May 22, 2009

Rell To Death Row and the Connecticut Congress


" Connecticut Gov. Jodi Rell vowed Friday to veto a newly approved bill banning the death penalty as soon as she receives it, saying capital punishment is appropriate for certain heinous crimes.

The measure, approved early Friday by the state Senate and last week by the House of Representatives, would replace capital punishment with life in prison without the possibility of parole."

Lets Waterboard Cheney: If He Can Take 15 Seconds I Will Withdraw My Objection

Hat Tip to TPM:

"MSNBC's Keith Olbermann on tonight's 'Countdown' pledged to donate $10,000 to charity after disc jockey Erich 'Mancow' Muller was waterboarded today on live radio, in an attempt to prove the technique was 'not torture.' After six seconds Muller said it was 'absolutely torture' and that were he to be interrogated by the use of waterboarding he would 'confess to anything.' Olbermann promised to donate $10,000 to the charity Veterans of Valor, founded by Sgt. Klay South, who administered the waterboarding to Muller today, and withdrew his offer to Sean Hannity to make a donation to the charity of his choice if he followed through on his offer to undergo waterboarding."

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Revolution continues: God Bless The Northeast

New Hampshire Governor to sign Same Sex marriage into law with slight modifications.

"The Legislature took an important step by clearly differentiating between civil and religious marriage, and protecting religious groups from having to participate in marriage ceremonies that violate their fundamental religious beliefs.

"But the role of marriage in many faiths extends beyond the actual marriage ceremony.

"I have examined the laws of other states, including Vermont and Connecticut, which have recently passed same-sex marriage laws. Both go further in protecting religious institutions than the current New Hampshire legislation.

"This morning, I met with House and Senate leaders, and the sponsors of this legislation, and gave them language that will provide additional protections to religious institutions.

"This new language will provide the strongest and clearest protections for religious institutions and associations, and for the individuals working with such institutions.

It will make clear that they cannot be forced to act in ways that violate their deeply held religious principles.

"If the legislature passes this language, I will sign the same-sex marriage bill into law. If the legislature doesn't pass these provisions, I will veto it."

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Socialism Gaining Popularity: Gee, Who Da Thunk It? (oh yeah, Karl Marx)

New poll data from Rasmussen.

Only 53% of American adults believe capitalism is better than socialism.

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that 20% disagree and say socialism is better. Twenty-seven percent (27%) are not sure which is better.

Adults under 30 are essentially evenly divided: 37% prefer capitalism, 33% socialism, and 30% are undecided. Thirty-somethings are a bit more supportive of the free-enterprise approach with 49% for capitalism and 26% for socialism. Adults over 40 strongly favor capitalism, and just 13% of those older Americans believe socialism is better.

Investors by a 5-to-1 margin choose capitalism. As for those who do not invest, 40% say capitalism is better while 25% prefer socialism.

There is a partisan gap as well. Republicans - by an 11-to-1 margin - favor capitalism. Democrats are much more closely divided: Just 39% say capitalism is better while 30% prefer socialism. As for those not affiliated with either major political party, 48% say capitalism is best, and 21% opt for socialism.

The question posed by Rasmussen Reports did not define either capitalism or socialism.

Meanwhile Republicans have a new idea.

A member of the Republican National Committee told me Tuesday that when the RNC meets in an extraordinary special session next week, it will approve a resolution rebranding Democrats as the “Democrat Socialist Party.”

Seriously? I mean ...... Seriously?

Monday, May 11, 2009

Very Good News: Roxana Saberi Freed

One suspects much quiet diplomacy was involved in this. You remember quiet diplomacy; a tool that was out of favor from 2000-2008?

The Associated Press: Lawyer: US reporter leaves jail in Iran: "A lawyer for a U.S. journalist jailed in Iran says she has been freed from prison after an appeals court suspended her eight-year jail sentence. Abdolsamad Khorramshahi says Roxana Saberi is 'now out of jail.'"

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Health Care:US Still Well Behind

Jonathan Cohn has a good post up on the TNR blogs.

Particularly interesting are the graphs he posted from the Commonwealth Fund Policy Survey (2008).

The US does not do well in access to care except in the case of specialists....gee what do you suppose is helping drive costs?

A NC Republican Makes Intelligent Statement: Patrick McHenry

From this article in TIME:

"Representative Patrick McHenry of North Carolina, a conservative who keeps a bust of Reagan on his desk, surprised me by declaring that the Reagan era is over. 'Marginal tax rates are the lowest they've been in generations, and all we can talk about is tax cuts,' he said. 'The people's desires have changed, but we're still stuck in our old issue set.' Snowe recalls that when she proposed fiscally conservative 'triggers' to limit Bush's tax cuts in case of deficits, she was attacked by fellow Republicans. 'I don't know when willy-nilly tax cuts became the essence of who we are,' she says. 'To the average American who's struggling, we're in some other stratosphere. We're the party of Big Business and Big Oil and the rich.'"

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Torture in a Nutshell

Balkinization: "Maybe Logic Can Help

Brian Tamanaha

1. 'Waterboarding is torture' (President Obama statement a week ago, world opinion)

2. 'We waterboarded three prisoners' (statements by CIA, Cheney, Yoo, etc.)

3. 'We did not torture prisoners.' (statements by Bush, Rice, etc.)

No one disputes number 2, so number 1 is wrong or number 3 is wrong. You decide."

Maine Makes Five... Same Sex Marriage

Maine governor signs same-sex marriage bill - Bangor Daily News: "'In the past, I opposed gay marriage while supporting the idea of civil unions,' Baldacci said in a written statement. 'I have come to believe that this is a question of fairness and of equal protection under the law, and that a civil union is not equal to civil marriage.'"

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Did Rice Finger Bush For Torture Authorization..... Pretty Damn Close! (you decide)

The following transcript starts around 5:40 in to the video embedded below. (Roble Hall, Stanford University, April 27th, 2009.) Big thanks to Renya Garcia !

Questioner: "Is water boarding torture?"

Rice: "The President instructed us that nothing we would do would be outside of our obligations, legal obligations, under the Convention Against Torture. So that's, and by the way I didn't authorize anything, I conveyed the authorization of the administration to the agency that they had policy authorization subject to the Justice Department's clearance, that's what I did."

Questioner: "Is water boarding torture, in your opinion."

Rice: "And I just said the United States was told, we were told, nothing that violates are obligation under the Convention Against Torture, and so by definition if it was authorized by the President it did not violate our obligations under the convention against torture."

The big point here is that, so far, I believe no one else has ever put GWB "in the room" when redefining torture was discussed. Rice seems to be making it clear that GWB was indeed the Decider, she just "conveyed the authorization".

There are many smaller things of interest here, not the least of which is the almost direct parallel of Nixon in the Nixon/Frost interviews finally stating that, "if the President does it it's not illegal."

Also of interest is "outside of our obligations, legal obligations..." This implies that Condi thought then or thinks now that there may have been some obligations other than the legal ones (moral and ethical perhaps) to which her statement does not pertain. Is she, by tightening her statement, showing that moral and ethical obligations were deliberately ignored, that the only concern was of legality? (Lets just make sure our asses are covered.) This question is of particular interest in light of the torture memo time lines and the origins of the SERE techniques which make it appear that the imperative for torture was not to protect the United States but to drum up false statements that would link Iraq to Al Queda which could be used to justify the administration's desire for war.

Then there is the usage "the United States was told, we were told ..." which is also interesting. It leads to several psychological questions: Why does Condi need to retrace, does she suddenly realize that the 5 or 6 people who the President "told" do not actually make up the entire United States. And if the President told the United States, what (in Condi's mind) does that make the President? The answer to that, I think, is something supra to the United States. Was this actually how Condi thought of things when she was helping decide the fate of our nation; that GWB was essentially God and that a few select administrators were the United States? I think so!

One other oddity: "the Convention Against Torture". Why choose the U.N. Convention Against Torture when most people are more familiar with the Geneva Convention? Anyone familiar with the difference between the two documents? Is there more jeopardy for the past administration in relationship to the U.N . Convention than there is with the Geneva Convention?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Working Thread: Moderate Republicans The Party Has Lost

All these names should have room in the Republican tent. Hagel and Warner are, in particular, stunning loses. If there is no room in the party for men of calm sober reflection, high intellectual capacity, and an understanding of compromise what is left? A party of Limbaughs and Becks, a splinter group groveling to an ever smaller, ever more radical, anti-intellectual "base" that requires no credentials other a frat-boy-like insistance on quasi-philosophical "purity".

The engine left the rails eight years ago and now we slowly witness all the following cars breaking apart and spiraling slowly down into the abyss.

Consider this a working thread. Please feel free to suggest additional names and I will update.

Lincoln Chaffee

Jim Jeffords

Chuck Hagel

John Warner

Arlen Specter

Paul brings up:

Colin Powell and Christie Todd Whitman

Friday, April 24, 2009

Rell Makes History! : Gay Marriage Legislation Signed

From the ConnPo

On Thursday, Gov. M. Jodi Rell became the first governor in the United States to sign gay-marriage legislation, less than 24 hours after the House and Senate aligned state statutes to last year's historic state Supreme Court decision.

Rell signed the bill without comment.

The two chief proponents of the legislation, Sen. Andrew J. McDonald and Rep. Michael P. Lawlor, said they were appreciative of the governor's swift approval of the legislation, which was voted in the House and Senate on Wednesday night.

"Four years ago this week, Gov. Rell signed our ground-breaking, civil-union law, which had broad bipartisan support," McDonald, D-Stamford, recalled. "Today she signed another landmark piece of bipartisan legislation affirming the rights and dignity of all Connecticut's citizens. Today, all three branches of Connecticut's government speak with one voice: Discrimination has no place in our state and will be eradicated wherever it appears."

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Chrysler bigs; The Hell with cheap loans if it effects our pay!

I guess when you know your company is going down the smart thing to do is suck the bones dry!

From the WaPo

"Top officials at Chrysler Financial turned away a government loan because executives didn't want to abide by new federal limits on pay, according to new findings by a federal watchdog agency.

The government had offered a $750 million loan earlier this month as part of its efforts to prop up the ailing auto industry, including Chrysler, which is racing to avoid bankruptcy. Chrysler Financial is a major lender to Chrysler dealerships and customers.

In forgoing the loan, Chrysler Financial opted to use more expensive financing from private banks, adding to the burden on the already fragile automaker and its financing company."

............ Snip ................

The Treasury Department previously lent Chrysler Financial $1.5 billion, when less stringent requirements on executive compensation were in place for recipients of federal bailout money. But since that first loan was announced on Jan. 16, the Obama administration and Congress have toughened the rules.

During March, when it seemed that the first loan would run out, the Obama administration began working on a deal to lend the company an additional $750 million.

It did not take long for most of the agreement to fall in place. But on April 7, the Treasury asked Chrysler Financial to have its top 25 executives sign waivers regarding their compensation, according to the special inspector general's report.

Those waivers would have barred the executives from suing the Treasury or Chrysler Financial over new pay restrictions. As part of the economic stimulus package, Congress approved compensation limits, and the Treasury is working on clarifying what the firms must do to comply with the rules.

In other words, the executives were asked to sign the waivers without knowing what specific limits the Treasury might set.

Within a week, Chrysler Financial responded that "it was unable to obtain waivers from all 25 executives," the report said. By last week, the report added, "the request for additional funding was denied."

Instead Chrysler is taking loans from JP Morgan and Citi, at considerably more expense to the company.

Outsourcing Local Police (but not for the white folk)

After all, Blackwater worked out so well in Iraq!

Via the WSJ

"Hiring private guards is less expensive than hiring new officers. Oakland -- facing a record $80 million budget shortfall -- spends about 65% of its budget for police and fire services, including about $250,000 annually, including benefits and salary, on each police officer.

In contrast, for about $200,000 a year the city can contract to hire four private guards to patrol the troubled East Oakland district"

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Teabagging in New Milford CT, Smell The Fear: A Brief Photo Journal

Went to the local Teabag event today, 10 AM to Noon. The gathering maxed out around 90 folks and what struck me, what seemed to be the commonality; they were all afraid of something.

They were a mix of fairly normal looking folk; a few freeperish looking, a few older Connecticut blue-bloods, some ex-marines, a few white supremicist-looking people, a ballet teacher, some yuppies with babes in arm, even a few emo types wandered by.

But the range of their fears knew no bounds.

Some obviously feared losing their rifles, this woman latter also spoke of the terrible things being taught and not taught in schools; specifically the Constitution is not being taught and history class consists of everything America has done wrong.

And of course there is the fear of majority rule.

This sign is a bit harder to puzzle out, I guess investing in clean energy and physical infrastructure is destroying her children's future.

One man spoke specifically about the children's future and was sorely afraid. A bit later a group of young children dressed in their Sunday best lined up in front of the speakers to demonstrate that concern.

I did find myself wondering where all these supporters of the Constitution were during the last eight years while it was being trashed.

More crowd shots; an interesting confab.

Somehow "Government Waste" doesn't quite seem to fit with the other eight issues listed here, kind of a filler I guess. He does sum up the majority of the speaker's fears though; lots of talk about immigrants, card check, cap and trade, terrorists, etc.

This gentleman seemed to be the organizer and I was under the impression that the organizing was done through the New Milford RTC, at least the email contact on this tea party website used an email address that was and the FaceBook link on the same page went to the New Milford Town Republicans FaceBook page which features the New Milford Republican Town Committee seal upon it.

Perhaps this uniquely worn bumper sticker encapsulates many of the fears of the more radical elements that were present.

All in all it was an interesting hour and a half. Other interesting speeches referred to Monsanto attempting to take over world agriculture which was somehow attributed to Democrats, Obama doing way too much negotiating with "pirates", Obama trying to cancel health coverage for Vets, Obama planning a census that will count every two "minorities" as three, and well you get the drift, a lot of real tinfoil-hatted kookery.

The fear though .......... its scaring me.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

DHS, Right Wing Extremists, It's TeaBag Day!

At the White House presser today Gibbs was asked about the Teabaggers, "Is the President aware that these are going on and do you have any reaction to this?

Gibbs replied, "I don't know if the President is aware of the events. I think the President will use tomorrow as a day to have an event here at the White House to signal the important steps in the economic recovery and reinvestment plan that cut taxes for 95 percent of working families in America, just as the President proposed doing; cuts in taxes and tax credits for the creation of clean energy jobs." But maybe, just maybe, DHS was really answering the question.

Well, I may try to get out and take a few snaps of the local Teabagggers tomorrow but in the meantime there is this from, of all places, Faux News.

"The Department of Homeland Security is warning law enforcement agencies that recent news is helping 'right-wing extremist groups' recruit new members and could lead to violence, and warns about the possible recruitment and radicalization of returning veterans.

The report, issued last week, is part of an ongoing review of extremists on both ends of the political spectrum.

The latest assessment by DHS' Office of Intelligence and Analysis found no specific information that domestic right-wing terrorists are currently planning acts of violence, but right-wing extremists may be gaining new recruits by playing on fears about the recession and the election of the first African American president. The office called them 'unique drivers for right-wing radicalization and recruitment.'"

Monday, April 6, 2009

Chemically Eliminating Specific Memories: This Can Not Be Good News

Brain Researchers Open Door to Editing Memory

Suppose scientists could erase certain memories by tinkering with a single substance in the brain. Could make you forget a chronic fear, a traumatic loss, even a bad habit.

Researchers in Brooklyn have recently accomplished comparable feats, with a single dose of an experimental drug delivered to areas of the brain critical for holding specific types of memory, like emotional associations, spatial knowledge or motor skills.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Human Rights move forward in Iowa

Peterr, at FDL, applauds Justice Mark Cady on the Iowa gay marriage decision.

Peterr posts Justice Cady's decision, the comments between sections are Peterr's:

As Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes poignantly said, “It is revolting to have no better reason for a rule of law than that so it was laid down in the time of Henry IV. It is still more revolting if the grounds upon which it was laid down have vanished long since, and the rule simply persists from blind imitation of the past.” This concept is evident in our past cases.

In the first reported case of the Supreme Court of the Territory of Iowa, In re Ralph, we refused to treat a human being as property to enforce a contract for slavery and held our laws must extend equal protection to persons of all races and conditions. This decision was seventeen years before the United States Supreme Court infamously decided Dred Scott v. Sandford, which upheld the rights of a slave owner to treat a person as property. Similarly, in Clark v. Board of Directors, and Coger v. North West. Union Packet Co., we struck blows to the concept of segregation long before the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education. Iowa was also the first state in the nation to admit a woman to the practice of law, doing so in 1869. Her admission occurred three years before the United States Supreme Court affirmed the State of Illinois decision to deny women admission to the practice of law, see Bradwell v. Illinois, and twenty five years before the United States Supreme Court affirmed the refusal of the Commonwealth of Virginia to admit women into the practice of law, see Ex parte Lockwood. In each of those instances, our state approached a fork in the road toward fulfillment of our constitution’s ideals and reaffirmed the absolute equality of all” persons before the law as “the very foundation principle of our government.” See Coger.

So, today, this court again faces an important issue that hinges on our definition of equal protection. This issue comes to us with the same importance as our landmark cases of the past. The same-sex-marriage debate waged in this case is part of a strong national dialogue centered on a fundamental, deep-seated, traditional institution that has excluded, by state action, a particular class of Iowans. This class of people asks a simple and direct question: How can a state premised on the constitutional principle of equal protection justify exclusion of a class of Iowans from civil marriage?

Some judicial opinions are impenetrable, even to other judges. This is not one of those opinions. By the end of it, the answer to that question above is inescapable: it can't:

Iowa Code section 595.2 is unconstitutional because the County has been unable to identify a constitutionally adequate justification for excluding plaintiffs from the institution of civil marriage. A new distinction based on sexual orientation would be equally suspect and difficult to square with the fundamental principles of equal protection embodied in our constitution. This record, our independent research, and the appropriate equal protection analysis do not suggest the existence of a justification for such a legislative classification that substantially furthers any governmental objective. Consequently, the language in Iowa Code section 595.2 limiting civil marriage to a man and a woman must be stricken from the statute, and the remaining statutory language must be interpreted and applied in a manner allowing gay and lesbian people full access to the institution of civil marriage.

Point by point, Cady takes apart the justifications offered by the defense, like maintaining traditional marriage . . .

If a simple showing that discrimination is traditional satisfies equal protection, previous successful equal protection challenges of invidious racial and gender classifications would have failed.

. . . or the promotion of optimal environment for raising children . . .

Plaintiffs presented an abundance of evidence and research, confirmed by our independent research, supporting the proposition that the interests of children are served equally by same-sex parents and opposite-sex parents. On the other hand, we acknowledge the existence of reasoned opinions that dual-gender parenting is the optimal environment for children.These opinions, while thoughtful and sincere, were largely unsupported by reliable scientific studies.

. . . or promotion of procreation . . .

While heterosexual marriage does lead to procreation, the argument by the County fails to address the real issue in our required analysis of the objective: whether exclusion of gay and lesbian individuals from the institution of civil marriage will result in more procreation? If procreation is the true objective, then the proffered classification must work to achieve that objective. . . . The briefs, the record, our research, and common sense do not suggest such an outcome.

. . . or promoting stability in opposite-sex relationships . . .

While the institution of civil marriage likely encourages stability in opposite-sex relationships, we must evaluate whether excluding gay and lesbian people from civil marriage encourages stability in opposite-sex relationships. The County offers no reasons that it does, and we can find none. The stability of opposite-sex relationships is an important governmental interest, but the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage is not substantially related to that objective.

. . . or the conservation of state resources . . .

[T]he County hypothesizes that, due to our laws granting tax benefits to married couples, the State of Iowa would reap less tax revenue if individual taxpaying gay and lesbian people were allowed to obtain a civil marriage. Certainly, Iowa’s marriage statute causes numerous government benefits, including tax benefits, to be withheld from plaintiffs. Thus, the ban on same-sex marriages may conserve some state resources. Excluding any group from civil marriage—African-Americans, illegitimates, aliens, even red-haired individuals—would conserve state resources in an equally “rational” way. Yet, such classifications so obviously offend our society’s collective sense of equality that courts have not hesitated to provide added protections against such inequalities.

This case, as Cady points out at the very beginning, is about nothing less than the protection and preservation of the rights of ordinary people:

This lawsuit is a civil rights action by twelve individuals who reside in six communities across Iowa. Like most Iowans, they are responsible, caring, and productive individuals. They maintain important jobs, or are retired, and are contributing, benevolent members of their communities. They include a nurse, business manager, insurance analyst, bank agent, stay-at-home parent, church organist and piano teacher, museum director, federal employee, social worker, teacher, and two retired teachers. Like many Iowans, some have children and others hope to have children. Some are foster parents. Like all Iowans, they prize their liberties and live within the borders of this state with the expectation that their rights will be maintained and protected—a belief embraced by our state motto [“Our liberties we prize and our rights we will maintain.”].

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Outsourcing Broadway (and English)

For a Revival of ‘Dreamgirls,’ Pacific Overtures -

Several months ago, when John F. Breglio told fellow New York producers that he was not only remaking “Dreamgirls,” the 1981 Broadway hit musical based loosely on the career of the Supremes, but that he was also going to South Korea to do it, they were puzzled, to say the least.

“Then they really laugh,” he said, when he told them “that it’s in Korean with Korean actors.”

The financial incentives for Mr. Breglio to go to South Korea were significant, coming as many Broadway producers are struggling to cover production costs. The fact that the set was made and financed here, and will be transferred to the United States for the run there, is a big savings for the American producers.

Hillary's First Success?

Just asking....

Dissident Reflects After 8 Years in Chinese Prison -

Obama, Justice Deptarment: Still Denying Geneva Conventions...More Orwellian Than Bush?

A long one-pager in the Times today on Obama's elimination of the term "Enemy Combatant" while continuing to support the practice the term describes.

Note the following:

But in a much anticipated court filing, the Justice Department argued that the president has the authority to detain terrorism suspects there without criminal charges, much as the Bush administration had asserted. It provided a broad definition of those who can be held, which was not significantly different from the one used by the Bush administration.


"But the Department of Justice filing portrayed the adjustment of the government’s position in expansive terms. In a public statement accompanying its filing, the department said the government’s position had been devised to adhere closely to the requirements of the international law of war, longstanding principles that permit enemy fighters to be held until the completion of hostilities."

The administration continues to claim the President has the right to hold people without any criminal charges (although it no longer has a pet term for those people) and it continues to deny the rights accorded under the Geneva Convention to those people.

There is however a possibly significant change here. Justice now attempts to ground this Bush/Obama policy not in the claim of Presidential power to name a person as an enemy combatant, but instead on upon language in the 2001 AUMF. This leaves challengers open to question the Constitutionality of recent Congressional language (the AUMF). Previous challenges had to be founded on the Constitutional question of the President's ability to name a person an "enemy combatant", an act that has much longer historical prescident. Its possible that this change has accidentally increased the chances for those we once called detainees to sucessfully challenge thier detention.

For a lot more on this manuever check out Marcy at Emptywheel.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Citibank: Just a Quick Post for Historical Recall a Few Months From Now

Anybody think this bank will exist a year from now?

(Reuters) - Citigroup Inc Chairman Richard Parsons said Thursday that the bank does not need any more capital injections from the government and expressed confidence that Citi would remain in private hands.

Asked in an interview with Reuters whether Citigroup needed additional government capital injections, Parsons said: 'No, I think actually, particularly with the latest conversion ... Citi is actually one of the better capitalized banks in the world.'"

China Pressures US: Take Your Pick --- Depression or Hyperinflation

China’s Wen ‘Worried’ on Safety of Treasuries, Seeks Assurances -

Click through and read the short article, but be sure you're sitting down first.

“China is worried that the U.S. may solve its problems by printing money, which will stoke inflation,” said Zhao Qingming, a Beijing-based analyst at China Construction Bank Corp., the country’s second-biggest lender. “If the U.S. can make sure this won’t happen, then China will continue to invest.”

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Papal Infallibility Bites the Dust?

Pope 'admits Holocaust row error':

"Pope Benedict XVI has admitted to mistakes in lifting the excommunication of a Holocaust-denying bishop, according to reports."

AIPAC Notches Gun Belt: Freeman out at NIC, shot down by Alledged Spy Steven Rosen, past director of American Israel Political Affairs Committee

Foreign Policy has posted Charles Freeman's withdrawal statement quoted in full at the end of this post.

Freeman, Obama's pick to chair the National Security Council, would have brought an independent perspective on foreign policy in general and the Mid East especially. As such his views could not be tolerated by the powerful Israeli right-wing lobbying group AIPAC.

For a brief rundown on the dust-up see this fine post from Freeman's son (and oft time political opponent.)

For a great deal more detail via Max Bleumenthal go here.

Wikipedia offers the following brief about Rosen, AIPAC, and espionage.

In April 2005, AIPAC policy director Steven Rosen and AIPAC senior Iran analyst Keith Weissman were fired by AIPAC amid an FBI investigation into whether they passed classified U.S. information received from Franklin on to the government of Israel. They were later indicted for illegally conspiring to gather and disclose classified national security information to Israel. [21][22]

In May 2005, the Justice Department announced that Lawrence Anthony Franklin, a U.S. Air Force Reserves colonel working as a Department of Defense analyst at the Pentagon in the office of Douglas Feith, had been arrested and charged by the FBI with providing classified national defense information to Israel. The six-count criminal complaint did not identify AIPAC by name, but described a luncheon meeting in which, allegedly, Franklin disclosed top-secret information to two AIPAC officials.

Here's Freeman's statement on withdrawing.

You will by now have seen the statement by Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair reporting that I have withdrawn my previous acceptance of his invitation to chair the National Intelligence Council.

I have concluded that the barrage of libelous distortions of my record would not cease upon my entry into office. The effort to smear me and to destroy my credibility would instead continue. I do not believe the National Intelligence Council could function effectively while its chair was under constant attack by unscrupulous people with a passionate attachment to the views of a political faction in a foreign country. I agreed to chair the NIC to strengthen it and protect it against politicization, not to introduce it to efforts by a special interest group to assert control over it through a protracted political campaign.

As those who know me are well aware, I have greatly enjoyed life since retiring from government. Nothing was further from my mind than a return to public service. When Admiral Blair asked me to chair the NIC I responded that I understood he was “asking me to give my freedom of speech, my leisure, the greater part of my income, subject myself to the mental colonoscopy of a polygraph, and resume a daily commute to a job with long working hours and a daily ration of political abuse.” I added that I wondered “whether there wasn’t some sort of downside to this offer.” I was mindful that no one is indispensable; I am not an exception. It took weeks of reflection for me to conclude that, given the unprecedentedly challenging circumstances in which our country now finds itself abroad and at home, I had no choice but accept the call to return to public service. I thereupon resigned from all positions that I had held and all activities in which I was engaged. I now look forward to returning to private life, freed of all previous obligations.

I am not so immodest as to believe that this controversy was about me rather than issues of public policy. These issues had little to do with the NIC and were not at the heart of what I hoped to contribute to the quality of analysis available to President Obama and his administration. Still, I am saddened by what the controversy and the manner in which the public vitriol of those who devoted themselves to sustaining it have revealed about the state of our civil society. It is apparent that we Americans cannot any longer conduct a serious public discussion or exercise independent judgment about matters of great importance to our country as well as to our allies and friends.

The libels on me and their easily traceable email trails show conclusively that there is a powerful lobby determined to prevent any view other than its own from being aired, still less to factor in American understanding of trends and events in the Middle East. The tactics of the Israel Lobby plumb the depths of dishonor and indecency and include character assassination, selective misquotation, the willful distortion of the record, the fabrication of falsehoods, and an utter disregard for the truth. The aim of this Lobby is control of the policy process through the exercise of a veto over the appointment of people who dispute the wisdom of its views, the substitution of political correctness for analysis, and the exclusion of any and all options for decision by Americans and our government other than those that it favors.

There is a special irony in having been accused of improper regard for the opinions of foreign governments and societies by a group so clearly intent on enforcing adherence to the policies of a foreign government – in this case, the government of Israel. I believe that the inability of the American public to discuss, or the government to consider, any option for US policies in the Middle East opposed by the ruling faction in Israeli politics has allowed that faction to adopt and sustain policies that ultimately threaten the existence of the state of Israel. It is not permitted for anyone in the United States to say so. This is not just a tragedy for Israelis and their neighbors in the Middle East; it is doing widening damage to the national security of the United States.

The outrageous agitation that followed the leak of my pending appointment will be seen by many to raise serious questions about whether the Obama administration will be able to make its own decisions about the Middle East and related issues. I regret that my willingness to serve the new administration has ended by casting doubt on its ability to consider, let alone decide what policies might best serve the interests of the United States rather than those of a Lobby intent on enforcing the will and interests of a foreign government.

In the court of public opinion, unlike a court of law, one is guilty until proven innocent. The speeches from which quotations have been lifted from their context are available for anyone interested in the truth to read. The injustice of the accusations made against me has been obvious to those with open minds. Those who have sought to impugn my character are uninterested in any rebuttal that I or anyone else might make.

Still, for the record: I have never sought to be paid or accepted payment from any foreign government, including Saudi Arabia or China, for any service, nor have I ever spoken on behalf of a foreign government, its interests, or its policies. I have never lobbied any branch of our government for any cause, foreign or domestic. I am my own man, no one else’s, and with my return to private life, I will once again – to my pleasure – serve no master other than myself. I will continue to speak out as I choose on issues of concern to me and other Americans.

I retain my respect and confidence in President Obama and DNI Blair. Our country now faces terrible challenges abroad as well as at home. Like all patriotic Americans, I continue to pray that our president can successfully lead us in surmounting them.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Welcome to the Death Spiral

Steve Benen at The Washington Monthly: posts the following graph (Via Jaun Cole)

Says Benen, "See that column on the far-right edge? That's where Obama proposes the marginal top-rate should be. It's also the rate conservatives believe is so outrageous, that they're accusing the president of 'socialism' and talking openly about the 'Going Galt' scenario in which wealthy and industrious Americans would deliberately make less money to spite their country. It's all quite silly, but the graph adds some helpful context to drive the point home. Obama is proposing a top rate lower than Reagan's first term, lower than Nixon's, lower than Eisenhower's, and lower than FDR's when he pulled us out of the Great Depression."

Couldn't Agree More!

Meanwhile in my little town some Board of Finance members are trying to force the Board of Eduation to reduce their proposed budget by an estimated amount of Federal Stimulus. Such an action would, of course, reduce the current balance of the Federal Stimulus package (60% stimulus and 40% tax cuts) as it plays out in our education budget to 100% tax cuts and 0% stimulus.

One resident, an annual opponent of any spending, accidentally realized the problem when he said that "We will be in a recession as long as GDP continues to shrink and it won't end until people start spending again." Then, in his very next sentence, he advocated shrinking our local spending! This is the common wisdom and I am sure our town is not the only one that faces this shortsightedness. Welcome to the Death Spiral!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Good Cop, Bad Cop? ....Obama and Pelosi

Bloomberg quotes an interesting comment from Phil Gingrey (R-GA) who thinks that Obama

“is trying to open up to Republicans. Quite honestly he needs to have a sit-down, heart-to-heart, come-to- Jesus talk with” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, on promoting bipartisanship. “Republicans respect this president, we like him, we want him to succeed, but we can’t be completely shut out of everything,”

Is Pelosi knowingly playing bad cop to Obama's good cop? If so she deserves a lot of credit...a whole lot!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

World Press Photo: Winner 2008 - US Foreclosures

Via The Independent:

"This picture by US photographer Anthony Suau, for Time won the World Press Photo of the Year 2008 award, it was announced by the organisers on 13 February 2009 in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. US Economy in Crisis: Following eviction, Detective Robert Kole must ensure residents have moved out of their home in Cleveland, Ohio, 26 March 2008.

This picture by US photographer Anthony Suau, for Time won the World Press Photo of the Year 2008 award, it was announced by the organisers on 13 February 2009 in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. US Economy in Crisis: Following eviction, Detective Robert Kole must ensure residents have moved out of their home in Cleveland, Ohio, 26 March 2008.

A picture of an armed sheriff moving through an American home after an eviction due to a mortgage foreclosure was named World Press Photo of 2008 on Friday."

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Thanks TCM; Ponderings on The Gay Parisian, George Balanchine, and the Development of Neo-Classicism in Dance

Wow, I caught the last half of The Gay Parisian on Turner Classic Movies tonight and was fascinated and somewhat aghast at what I was seeing!

Right away I knew it was no movie musical I had ever seen and shortly I recognized LĂ©onide Massine, being familiar with him from The Red Shoes. I kept thinking the musical number would end but it just continued from one dance to another and clicking the info button on the cable revealed that there was no listing for it (Turner Classics had sandwiched it between Flower Drum Song and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers) indicating that is was another interesting short that Turner had turned up.

The piece was costumed to within an inch of its life in a style that, today, could only be considered high kitsch and was full of rapid and sometimes choppy edits. The director was in love with obscuring the frame with just about anything he could place in the foreground; wrought iron metal work, columns, people walking/dancing within a foot or so of the lens. The dancers however, were first rate...Massine doing his typical quirky athletic thing, a woman in a can-can section (yes this dance truly has it all!) doing a few dozen fouettes in the most rapid and violent manner ever seen, yet very well centered.

When it finished and no credits were run I quickly IMDB'd Massine and soon found that it was a 20 minute Warner Brothers release in 1941 featuring The Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo with Andre Eglevski, Fredrick Franklin, Nathalie Krassovsk, Igor Youskevitch and more.

Turns out, oddly enough, that Warner Brothers had made two 20 minute films with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo that year the other being Spanish Fiesta with similar cast and crew but also featuring Tamara Toumanova and Alexandra Danivola; both were choreographed by Massine.

While the film, technically and choreographically, is difficult to watch today (at least it may be difficult keeping a straight face) its a wonderful and rare opportunity to watch some very famous dancers and to ponder the history of dance as popular entertainment and the counter action to that popular entertainment that led Balanchine (no slouch to pop, he choreographed for the Ziegfeld Follies of 1936 and created Slaughter on 10th Avenue in 1940) to revolutionize the world of dance in the mid 20th century.

Concerto Barocco an early costumed version.

The year when these two pictures were released, 1941, was also the year that Balanchine created Concerto Barocco a seminal ballet, perhaps the seminal ballet of the 20th century. Balanchine created the piece from an exercise for the School of American Ballet which he founded in 1935 with Lincoln Kirstein and set it on the American Ballet Caravan for its 1941 tour of South America. In it he finally abandons any pretense of story-telling and simply allows the music and movement to amplify one another, a concept now often referred to as neo-classicism.

Ted Shawn and Ruth St. Denis had explored the same basic concpet in Modern Dance starting around 1916 which they called Music Visualization and described (via Wikipedia) as "a concept that called for movement equivalents to the timbres, dynamics, and structural shapes of music in addition to its rhythmic base." Balanchine's revolution was to apply a similar idea to the technique of ballet, breaking it forever from the story-telling tradition in which it was becoming moribund.

This also led Ballet away from the world of popular entertainment (for contrast see the videos of Massine's Gay Parisian below) and into a much more "highbrow" cultural plain. He had begun to make the break from popular entertainment as early as 1928's Apollo, done in collaboration with with Stravinski, denfinatley cracking the mold. With Borocco and the jettisoning of story the mold was shattered. Ten years later he quite literally stripped dance to its essence when he removed the costumes and first presented Barocco in rehearsal clothes.

Today both Ballet and Modern are free to tell stories or not, to amplify the music or use no music at all, to be of utmost seriousness or to appeal directly as popular entertainment (although to me, they seem, like most of the arts, to be awaiting the next great revolution.)

Thanks Mr. B.

The Gay Parisian
part 1

The Gay Parisian
part 2

Obama Gets It...The Long View has Been Missing

The long view, the one that requires some sacrifice or at least some lessening of immediate gratification has been missing, not only from the government and corporations, but from the average American as well. I may not agree with all of Obama's tactics but he grasps the single most important aspect currently dooming our society.

Bob herbert in the NYT writes on a recent conversation with Obama:

"When asked about the sharp drop in the stock markets after Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner announced an expanded bank bailout plan last week, Mr. Obama replied:

“My job is to help the country take the long view — to make sure that not only are we getting out of this immediate fix, but we’re not repeating the same cycle of bubble and bust over and over again; that we’re not having the same energy conversation 30 years from now that we had 30 years ago; that we’re not talking about the state of our schools in the exact same ways we were talking about them in the 1980s; and that at some point we say, ‘You know what? If we’re spending more money per-capita on health care than any nation on earth, then you’d think everybody would have coverage and we would see lower costs for average consumers, and we’d have better outcomes.’ "

Sign of the Times ...Gold Teeth For Sale

No comment needed

Gold teeth among items bought at 'Gold for Cash' in Danbury - "DANBURY -- If you have any doubts that we're in a recession, just ask the guy who sold his gold teeth Saturday.

Yes, old gold teeth were among the items people sold at the Courtyard by Marriott on Eagle Road, where 'Gold 4 Cash' representatives were doing appraisals and making payments.

The company, affiliated with Midas Touch Jewelry in Fairfield, will be at the hotel Sunday and Monday.

Newtown's Drew Talbot, the 'Gold 4 Cash' marketing director, sat down for a Valentine's Day cash for gold question and answer."

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Beauty and Aesthetics: If Joshua Bell Performs in a Subway Station Does Anone Listen?

A very interesting (long and worth it) read over at the WaPo posits this question:
Can one of the nation's great musicians cut through the fog of a D.C. rush hour? Let's find out.": An interesting discussion of beauty and aesthetics ensues.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Marcy Wheeler talks to Sheldon Whitehouse re: FISA, Holder, Wiretaps, and Statute of Limitations

Emptywheel (Marcy) once again taking Democracy into her own, very capable, hands.

For info on the statute of limitations and the apparent GOP tactic of running out the clock on possible prosecutions of various Bush era DOJ officials see her post at Emptywheel. Marcy contends that the GOP hold on the Holder nomination is intended to help run out that clock.

In this brief video she makes Senator Whitehouse aware of the situation and he promises to look into it. Let's Hope!

For a bit more background on Marcy see my previous post.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Thanks Howard Dean! The 50 State Strategy Proved Rahm and the DCCC Wrong.

Marcy (otherwise known as Emptywheel) over at FireDogLake finally got her picture taken with Howard Dean. Her post is, as always, a good read.

Howard Dean invented the 50 state strategy, much to the Rahm and the DCCC's dismay, and as Chair of the Democratic Party implemented it vigorously which led eventually to Barack's victory. During the 2006 primaries Rahm burned a lot of bridges with the NetRoots Nation by supporting conservative Democrats against progressive NetRoots candidates.

Marcy, supported by Jane Hamsher at FireDogLake, became the go to person even for the MSM on the Scooter Libby Trial and in so doing took the final step of putting Bloggers on par with the MSM.

Check out Marcy's post!

Pick Yourself Up: Obama Inauguration Speech's Best Line Riffs on Dorothy Fields via Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers

Is Barack Obama now a not so secret Fred and Ginger fan?

Is it coincidence that Obama seems to have turned to a popular song written at the height of the Great Depression to find perhaps his most memorable line in today's inaugural speech?

"we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again"

Pick Yourself Up
(1936) lyrics Dorothy Fields, music Jerome Kern,
And pick yourself up, Dust yourself off, Start all over again.

The movie Swing Time was released in 1936; the Depression was raging and Fred and Ginger were cranking out light entertainment for RKO featuring opulent settings, popular music, lots of dancing and oft times offering a few chuckles at the foibles of the upper crust. In the process they also created a body or work that is unsurpassed in the field of American Musical Movies and indeed Dance on Film.

Pick Yourself Up is introduced first in song as Fred hits on Ginger, a ballroom dance instructor, by pretending he can't dance, a bit later its used in a classic dance sequence as Fred tries to save Ginger's job by showing her boss that she has indeed taught him to dance (much to Ginger's surprise.)

Will Barack and Michele have a number up their sleeves ala Fred and Ginger for the Inauguration Ball this eve? We will have to wait and see, but in the meantime enjoy this clip; it just doesn't get any better than this!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Obama to Militarize NASA

NASA chief Griffin says goodbye to employees-

NASA Administrator Michael Griffin said goodbye Friday to the space agency's employees, thanking them for their hard work during his four years on the job and urging them to support his successor.

Griffin spoke to employees around the country in a live televised address from NASA headquarters in Washington. He became NASA's 11th administrator in 2005, two years after the Columbia disaster and right as space shuttles were gearing up to return to flight.

He was appointed by President George W. Bush, and like other agency heads, offered his letter of resignation as the federal government changes hands. Griffin said in recent months that he would be willing to stay on, but, in the end, was not asked.
Story continues below ↓advertisement | your ad here

The incoming Obama administration has not yet named a replacement, but is floating the name of retired Air Force Gen. J. Scott Gration, who has almost no space experience but was a military adviser to the president-elect during the campaign.

His lack of space experience has raised some concerns with Senate Space Subcommittee Chairman Bill Nelson, D-Fla.

Griffin, by contrast, holds a doctorate in aerospace engineer with multiple other degrees. He worked earlier in his career at NASA and was serving as space department head at Johns Hopkins University's applied physics lab in Laurel, Md., when asked to take over NASA.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Hero! Chesley Sullenburger

'Miracle on the Hudson': All safe in jet crash:

'He is the consummate pilot,' his wife, Lorrie Sullenberger, told the New York Post.
Sullenberger is an U.S. Air Force Academy grad who flew F-4 fighter planes while in the Air Force, she said. 'He is about performing that airplane to the exact precision to which it is made.'

Sullenberger is an airline safety expert who has consulted with NASA and others, according to his resume posted on the Internet. He has 40 years of experience, 29 with US Airways, and hold masters' degrees in public administration and industrial psychology."

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Great Writing- Bono on Life via Sinatra

Op-Ed Guest Columnist - Notes From the Chairman -

Why Did The US Leak Israeli War Plans?

In a three-pager today the New York Times has co-operated in the leaking of a shocking amount of information about the alleged Iranian nuclear weapons program and Israeli/US reactions to it.

Why do I say "co-operated"? The Times goes out of its way to make that co-operation clear when they state, "Several details of the covert effort have been omitted from this account, at the request of senior United States intelligence and administration officials, to avoid harming continuing operations." Clearly that implies that any information leaked in the article was approved by the administration.

This raises several interesting questions;

(ONE) Why was the information leaked NOW?
(TWO) Was the leak approved by the Obama team?

In an attempt to consider these questions lets look at the major points of the leak.

(Leak 1) Last year Israel requested bunker busting bombs and permission (from the United States) to fly over Iraq. Bush hemmed and hawed on the bombs (but allegedly hasn't delivered) and allegedly gave an emphatic NO to the flyover. Instead he supposedly told the Israelis of new covert actions the US was undertaking against Iranian nuclear enrichment specifically and against Iranian infrastructure generically.

What are the possible reasons for leaking this information?

(A) It may make GWB appear to be more level-headed then most would believe as he prepares to leave his reign to the judgments of history.

(B) In light of recent action in Gaza what does releasing supposed plans by Israel to attack Iranian nuclear sites say to AIPAC, Israel and its Arab foes? There are multiple possibilities here.

(b1) Making public an American slap-down of these Israeli requests may be an attempt to show an administration slightly more neutral in the ongoing conflict than is generally assumed. If so this would upset AIPAC and current Israeli leadership and might also be an attempt to influence the upcoming Israeli elections. A side benefit would be the making public of American "respect" for the sovereignty of Iraq; the US had only very questionable authority (if any) to allow a flyover.

(b2) If one assumes reasonable persons control Iran (and that assumption is, in my opinion a valid one), then the exposure of serious Israeli intentions to attack Iran's nuclear facilities could be expected to have a cautionary effect on Iranian leadership.

Note some delicacy here in that (b1) and (b2) are not all mutually exclusive; these possible goals could be targeted with the same leaked information; making the US appear more even-handed regarding Gaza, showing respect for Iraqi sovereignty, and providing a cautionary tale to Iranian leadership.

The wild card here is the potential effect upon domestic Israeli politics. The actions taken in Gaza are being given less support by the Israeli population than similar previous actions. What effect does the image of an Israeli government stopped from bombing Iran only by US actions have on the internal Israeli political situation? One could make equally solid arguments that it benefits either hawks or doves, certainly it complicates those upcoming elections. Perhaps this will be clarified by future Israeli reactions to these leaks, but the leak was given without any certainty as to their effects in this regard. In that sense the leak was a bold action. In its lack of concern for Israeli political players it may also signal a move away from past knee-jerk support for AIPAC and Likudniks towards a more neutral stance. Dick Cheney this was not!

It appears to me that (Leak 1) smacks of both subtlety and boldness in the use of intelligence that has NOT been a trait of the administration over the last 8 years. On (Leak 1) it appears to me that it likely was approved by, and probably conceived by, the Obama team and indicates a far more delicate use of intel, media, and popular opinion than we have seen in the past. If it was conceived by the Obama team the obvious benefit to GWB's reputation can only be considered a brilliant stroke.

(Leak 2) The leak indicates that Bush was briefed on contingency plans to bomb Iranian facilities but he never instructed the military to move beyond the contingency stage. It gives credit to SecDef Gates for convincing Bush that an overt attack on Iranian nuclear facilities would be "ineffective, lead to the expulsion of international inspectors and drive Iran’s nuclear effort further out of view."

What are the possible reasons for (Leak 2)?

(2a) It counters the wide spread rumors that Bush had ordered the military beyond contingency planning for overt attacks on Iranian soil, and thus it again makes GWB appear a bit more reasonable than commonly seen.

(2b) It makes Gates, who Obama has picked to remain as SecDef, look particularly reasonable and intelligent.

Perhaps there is a pattern here. If Obama wants to lend support for his choice at SecDef its not unwise to do so in such a way as to make GWB look a bit better as well. Additionally Obama can be seen here to have made a wise decision regarding Gates; that he was not simply chosen for bipartisanship but for a calm steady hand at SecDef.

(Leak 3) "Several years ago, foreign intelligence services tinkered with individual power units that Iran bought in Turkey to drive its centrifuges" ... "An engineer in Switzerland, who worked with the Pakistani nuclear black-marketeer Abdul Qadeer Khan, had been “turned” by American intelligence officials and helped them slip faulty technology into parts bought by the Iranians." .... "A number of centrifuges blew up, prompting public declarations of sabotage by Iranian officials." There is also much non-specific talk about high tech experimental covert methodology to attack Iranian infrastructure.

(3a) One can only assume that the "engineer in Switzerland" was already burned before this was leaked and that Iran already knew exactly how and by whom those centrifuges were sabotaged. This seems to be a leak of no real significance, probably used to pad the release, and, via the use of unimportant detail, to hide the real intended uses of the article; Leaks ONE and TWO.

(3b) Talk of super secret high tech abilities perhaps increases paranoia in the Iranian command and control structures and, perhaps, provides some domestic strokes to the US intel community.

(Leak 4) "The United States did give Israel one item on its shopping list: high-powered radar, called the X-Band, to detect any Iranian missile launchings."

(4a) Again one must assume that this information is already well known to Israels foes. After all this entire article was reviewed by "senior United States intelligence and administration officials", and information was omitted "to avoid harming continuing operations. " This also appears to be essentially useless detail lending a sense of authenticity to the entire leak.

I think the article is the work of Obama's team, perhaps driven by Gates, and it indicates that Gates (a former head of the CIA) has found a leader who is interested in using intelligence as a force in and of itself instead of simply using it to build a domestic drum beat for military action. That conclusion, which might be altered by future events, is the most optimistic I have been in ages.