Saturday, February 28, 2009

Japanese Police Uncover Panty Motherload

Over in the land of the rising sun, a thief has been caught with more than 1,600 items of women’s lingerie hidden in the home he shared with his parents.

Cops said 43-year-old Takao Sudo was arrested after he allegedly stole four pairs of underwear drying outside an apartment in Utsunomiya City, Japan.

Officers then searched his home and found around 1,600 bras and knickers in his room along with shoes and maid outfits stashed in bags and a suitcase. Sudo told police that surrounding himself with the stolen underwear helped him to feel relaxed.

Bush Finally Lands A Job

Worst President Ever (WPE) Bush apparently has to go all the way to Canada to find someone who's interested in what he has to say. And in true chicken hawk fashion, he'll do it on friendly turf and with no press allowed.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Backing Bush Is A Losing Proposition

The Obama administration has lost its argument that a potential threat to national security should stop a lawsuit challenging the government's warrantless wiretapping program. A federal appeals court in San Francisco has rejected the Justice Department's request for an emergency stay in a case involving a defunct Islamic charity.

Obama, like Bush before him, claimed national security would be compromised if a lawsuit brought by the Oregon chapter of the charity, Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation, was allowed to proceed.

Now, civil libertarians hope the case will become the first chance for a court to rule on whether the warrantless wiretapping program was legal or not. It cited the so-called state secrets privilege as a defense against the lawsuit.

"All we wanted was our day in court and it looks like we're finally going to get our day in court," said Al-Haramain's lawyer, Steven Goldberg. "This case is all about challenging an assertion of power by the executive branch which is extraordinary."

Undoing More Bush Damage: Part 2

The Interior Department on Wednesday blocked a Bush administration plan to open parts of the Mountain West for oil shale development, canceling shale development leases on federal land in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming.

"Those who have fantasized that oil shale is a panacea for America's energy needs have been living in a fantasy land," Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said.

The move marked the third time in a month that the Obama administration has frozen late-term Bush decisions that sought to spur domestic energy development over objections from environmentalists.

Undoing More Bush Damage

The Obama administration moved on Friday to undo a last-minute Bush administration rule granting broad protections to health workers who refuse to take part in abortions or provide other health care that goes against their consciences.

The rule prohibits recipients of federal money from discriminating against doctors, nurses and other health care workers who refuse to perform or assist in abortions or sterilization procedures because of their “religious beliefs or moral convictions.”

The rule overruled state laws requiring insurance plans to cover contraceptives and requiring hospitals to offer emergency contraception to rape victims. It could also be used to allow drugstore employees to refuse to fill prescriptions for contraceptives

“Today’s action by the Obama administration demonstrates that this president is not going to stand by and let women’s health be placed in jeopardy,” Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood, said.

Storm Brewing Over Katrina Recovery Effort

Over three years after Katrina, the FEMA rebuilding effort still remains a disaster, with nearly $4 billion intended to rebuild the Gulf Coast remaining unspent. That's 68 percent of the $6 billion promised by FEMA.

This is leaving hundreds of projects, like a police station in New Orleans, and the Charity Hospital, waiting. Anonymous whistleblowers in the downtown New Orleans FEMA office say that how the distribution office is being run is a disaster unto itself.

According to a CBS report, three current employees in that office are making allegations of cronyism, sexual harassment, racial discrimination, intimidation and retaliation against the managers in the FEMA New Orleans office. In the last two months alone, nearly 80 employment-related complaints have been filed by staff at the office.

And in the last year, more than 30 complaints have been filed against one man - chief of staff Doug Whitmer - including charges of sexual harassment.

According to the whistleblowers, slowing down the recovery itself is exactly what senior managers at the New Orleans FEMA office want. What's in it for them? Apparently, an annual salary in excess of $100,000 and a fat pension-- for as long as they can keep the recovery project and the FEMA office open.

Gulf Coast resident shouldn't expect FEMA's recovery work to end here anytime soon. Employees say they've been told to expect it to go on for as long as 15 years.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Liar Liar Pants On Fire

John Boehner says that the Obama budget plan will raise taxes on all Americans, but the truth is that only taxpayers earning more than $250,000 will pay higher taxes — and everybody else will receive a tax cut.

OctoMom To Appear In An Eight-Way?

"OctoMom is used to having multiple people inside of her at once -- and now one porn company is willing to shell out big bucks to harness that skill on film."

This is TMZ's take on the latest twist in the case of Nadya Suleman-- a porn studio's offer to provide full medical and dental insurance to the new family of 15. In return, the Angelina Jolie-lookalike would agree to become a contract girl-- meaning she'll have to appear in multiple videos (eight perhaps?).

Maybe they could get Alfred Molina to reprise his "Spider Man" character as Doctor Octopus; or maybe stage a seduction of a Michael Phelps-lookalike, involving eight gold medals . . . the possibilities are endless!

Ongoing Damage Is The Bush Legacy

The morally bankrupt Bush legacy continues to inflict its damage on the country. By way of yet another secret, last-minute rule change, the Bush administration has shut off an important source of information about abuse and neglect in long- term care facilities that people suing nursing homes consider crucial to their cases.

Bloomberg news has reported that this latest Bush rule (affecting 16,000 nursing facilities and over 3 million residents) designates state inspectors and Medicare and Medicaid contractors as "federal employees", a group which is shielded from providing evidence in private litigation.

The practical effect is to force victims and families who are suing retirement homes to go to greater lengths (and cost) to get inspection reports or depositions for cases they are pursuing or defending. The rule change hurts nursing-home residents and their families by allowing bad practices to be kept in secret by nursing homes and inspectors. More than 90 percent of U.S. nursing homes in each of the previous three years were cited for violating federal standards, according to a report in September by the inspector general of the U.S. Health and Human Services Department.

Requests for [inspectors and federal contractors] to participate in private cases “divert [them] from their federal survey, certification and enforcement responsibilities,” the Bush administration said in defense of the rule change. “The cumulative effect of these requests can impede these activities.” In other words-- elderly retirement home victims and their families can go f*** themselves.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The State Of Our Union

Although I didn't watch it on TV, it looks like last night's speech from O was a big success for the Dems. By all reports, the President gave a great performance-- subtly putting the blame on the Republicans without surrendering an overall tone of optimism which had been lacking in his recent rhetoric. In a CNN poll, 85% of those watching were more optimistic afterward, and 82% supported the President's economic plan after watching the speech as well.

In an unflattering contrast to the Big O, it appears that Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal laid a massive goose egg. Here's a sampling of the lambasting he received:

National Public Radio's Juan Williams: “I think he had a really poor performance.” Williams went on to call the governor’s remarks “sing-songy” and said Jindal looked “childish” compared to Obama.

Fox's Brit Hume: “The speech read a lot better than it sounded. This was not Bobby Jindal’s greatest oratorical moment.”

New York Times columnist David Brooks: “In a moment when only the federal government is actually big enough to do stuff, to just ignore all that and just say ‘government is the problem, corruption, earmarks, wasteful spending,’ it’s just a form of nihilism. It’s just not where the country is, it’s not where the future of the country is.”

John J. Pitney Jr., a political science professor at California’s Claremont McKenna College: "Jindal’s act needs a lot of work. His basic message was sound but his language was hackneyed and his performance was wooden."

Fortune Magazine’s Nina Easton: “The delivery was not exactly terrific.”

Thomas Schaller, a political scientist at University of Maryland: “Someday, when scholars are trying to fingerpoint the nadir of the post-Bush Republican Party, they may arrive at Jindal's speech tonight. Though it was a tough moment for any Republican to give the opposition response, his speech came across as unserious in content and condescending in its tone.”

To cut Bobby some slack, we need to point out that he has nothing to work with. The GOP has provided no real alternatives, lacks any vision for the future, and continues to be the party of "No".

Gitmo Torture Victim Returns To Britain And Faces Further Injustice

A British resident detained at Guantanamo Bay for more than four years has said he is "extraordinarily happy to be home" in the UK. The U.S. had accused Mohamed of involvement in a plot to detonate a "dirty bomb" in America, but the charges were dropped in October last year.

Although 30-year-old Mohamed had been questioned previously by the British government while in captivity, he was still detained upon arrival for over five hours by the British authorities before being released.

Mohamed was tortured by the U.S. while in custody on suspicion of terrorism. He said his worst moment was when he realized his own government was cooperating with his torturers.

Clive Stafford Smith, director of legal charity Reprieve which represented Mohamed, said his client was now looking forward to recovering in peace and to spending time with his sister, who he had not seen for seven years. He added: "He's not angry, he's sad, he's lost seven years of his life... I think he's just very grateful to Britain for having him back.

Smith also said Britain was in part culpable for abuse suffered by Mohamed-- "Britain knew he was being abused and left him there and he ended up going to Morocco for two years of the most horrific nightmare imaginable, " he said. "The least we owe to him is to give him his home back because he lost his home due to that process."

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Hugh Jacked Oscars?

Ratings for the Oscars broadcast went up 13% vs. last year, and it seems that the Defamer has the real reason: The Gays, The Brits, Dead People and The Banks. But of course-- why didn't I think of that?

Package Envy?

Monday, February 23, 2009

Hillary Pulling Punches or Hiding Something Up Her Sleeve?

Hillary's first foreign trip is stirring quite a bit of discussion on her diplomatic strategy. Before her meetings in Beijing, Clinton said she would raise human rights issues with Chinese officials, "but we pretty much know what they're going to say."

Clinton's comments have stirred outrage in the human rights community, where she was viewed as a hero for having confronted the Chinese government during the Clinton presidency. Activists say that without public, sustained international pressure on human rights issues, nothing will change in China.

"I think that to worry about something which is so self-evident is an impediment to clear thinking," Clinton said in defense of herself. "And I don't think it should be viewed as particularly extraordinary that someone in my position would say what's obvious."

In the Wapo article, people such as Johns Hopkins scholar and former Los Angeles Times reporter James Mann have characterized these remarks as an indicator that the importance of human rights will be downgraded as part of American policy toward China during the Obama years. "Is Hillary Clinton going to not mention women's rights to the Saudis because they already know what we think?" he said.

"Bill Clinton told the leader of China he was on 'the wrong side of history,' " Mann noted. "Now, Hillary seems to be giving them the reverse message: that China is on the right side of history."

Bruns of Steel

Earlier this month, you undoubtedly heard about the arrest of Fox News producer Aaron Bruns on kiddie porn charges. Bruns, who dropped out of college after being arrested for distributing child porn, was caught this time with movie files depicting adults committing sex acts on children under the age of ten.

Now comes news that the intrepid news hound last year showed off his "Bruns of steel" in "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Supercharged Kama Sutra."

Based on his seeming predilection for child porn, it's no surprise that someone had to pay him money to get naked with an adult. Check out the quasi-NSFW photos here.

Gone To Pot

Chris Bowers points out that legalizing marijuana is now more popular than Republicans.

Check out his post if you want to get more into the weeds on this issue.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Big-O A Little Slow On Gitmo

Blogger hilzoy is spot-on regarding the fate of 17 Uyghurs who were counting on Obama to do the right thing, just to have their hopes for freedom put on hold:
And federal appeals court [has] ruled that it cannot order the release of the seventeen Uighurs who remain at Guantanamo, and that no court has the power to do so . . . But there is absolutely no reason for President Obama to wait on the courts' rulings.

The Uighurs have been cleared of all charges. Uighur communities in this country are prepared to help them out if they are released. The Uighurs are not, and never were, enemy combatants. Some of them are starting their eighth year of captivity. During much of that time, their families did not know whether they were alive or dead. Some of them have children they have never met.

President Obama does not need the court's permission to order their release. He could do it today, and he should.

The Army of "Get None"

As soldiers stream home from Iraq and Afghanistan, the biggest charity inside the U.S. military has been stockpiling tens of millions of dollars meant to help put returning fighters back on their feet, according to the Associated Press.

Between 2003 and 2007 — as many military families dealt with long war deployments and increased numbers of home foreclosures — Army Emergency Relief (AER) grew into a $345 million behemoth. During those years, the charity packed away $117 million into its own reserves while spending just $64 million on direct aid.

During that same five-year period, the smaller Navy and Air Force charities both put far more of their own resources into aid than reserves. The Air Force charity kept $24 million in reserves while dispensing $56 million in total aid, which includes grants, scholarships and loans not repaid. The Navy charity put $32 million into reserves and gave out $49 million in total aid.

AER executives defend their operation, insisting they need to keep sizable reserves to be ready for future catastrophes. But smaller civilian charities for service members and veterans say they are swamped by the desperate needs of recent years, with requests far outstripping ability to respond.

While independent on paper, Army Emergency Relief is housed, staffed and controlled by the U.S. Army. The investigation also found that the Army engages in some very questionable activity in the running of the charity:

• Superior officers are used to coerce repayments on loans taken out by needy troops. Soldiers can also be fined or demoted for missing loan payments.

• Promotions can be delayed or canceled if loans are not repaid.

• Despite strict rules against coercion, the Army uses pushy tactics to extract supposedly voluntary contributions.

• The Army sometimes offers rewards for contributions, though incentives are banned by program rules. It sometimes excuses contributors from physical training — another clear violation.

• AER screens every request for aid, conducting unwelcome intrusions into the personal finances of its troops.

Poetic Justice

From, a post on how former Bushies are faring in the new economy:

After ruining the economy, the country and the world, no one wants to hire former Bush officials. Reports the Wall Street Journal, "only 25% to 30% of ex-Bush officials seeking full-time jobs have succeeded."

One of these most unsympathetic victims of the economy he ruined is ex-Commerce Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez, who's making ends meet these days by hustling for $25,000 speaking gigs and collecting pay as a director of the United Technologies Corp. But oh, the pain of unemployment:
"This is not a great time for anyone to be job hunting, including numerous former political appointees," said Carlos M. Gutierrez, Mr. Bush's commerce secretary. Previously chief executive of cereal maker Kellogg Co., he hopes to run a company again because "I have a lot of energy."

This is the same guy who was in charge of commerce while the economy died. Oh and by the way-- W is still trying to shop around his memoirs-- to no success as of yet (as if anybody really cares).


Saturday, February 21, 2009

Daily Dude To Obama: Those Who Don't Reject Immoral Deeds Become Complicit In Them

At the height of its operation, the terror detention camp at Guantánamo was viewed as a legal black hole, a place where Al Qaeda suspects could be held and questioned beyond the glare of judicial scrutiny. President Obama has made the closing of the detention facility a priority. But as Guantánamo is being drawn down, large-scale construction is under way at a US military prison in Bagram, Afghanistan.

After the Supreme Court's 2004 decision, the Bush administration stopped sending detainees to Guantánamo and instead routed them to Bagram, where they were held and interrogated without judicial scrutiny. But thanks to new litigation, the same fundamental question is being asked about Bagram: Are detainees in a U.S. military prison overseas entitled to any legal rights?

The current case being argued in the U.S. District Court involves four prisoners captured outside of Afghanistan, taken to Bagram and held there without due process for over six years. The Obama administration faced a February 20 deadline to alter the Bush administration's position on the case. But in a stunning move, Obama's Justice Department said that it would stick with Bush's point of view-- that the men had no right to challenge their detention in a U.S. court.

Who Said Gadgets Were Bad For Kids?

Banks Who Refuse To Lend Money or Cut Bonuses Still Want to Suck the Public and the Government Dry

When Arthur Santa-Maria called Bank of America to ask how to check the balance of his new unemployment benefits debit card, the bank charged him 50 cents. He chose not to complain, because doing so would have cost another 50 cents.

So he took out some of the money and then decided to pull out the rest. But that made two withdrawals on the same day-- so Bank of America charged him another $1.50.

For hundreds of thousands of workers losing their jobs during the recession, banking institutions (in addition to sitting on loan money) have added a new draconian twist to the public's financial pain. Even as unfortunate Americans have no choice but to collect unemployment benefits, they're being squeezed by the banks for additional fees.

It's outrageous that in these tough economic times, banks who are receiving taxpayer bailout money are adding insult to injury by extorting extra fees from those who are the least able to afford it-- even going so far as to demand a fee to complain about the practice.

Thirty states have struck deals with banks which allow them to take advantage of the disadvantaged-- including Citigroup, Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase and US Bancorp. All the debit card programs carry fees, and in several states the unemployed have no choice but to use the cards if they want to receive public assistance. Some banks even charge overdraft fees of up to $20 — even though it would be simple to decline withdrawal transactions for more than what's on the card.

Absolutely shameful.

In Need Of A New Game Plan

Friday, February 20, 2009

Obama Moving To Reverse Even More Bush Crap

The Obama administration is calling for stricter labels on fresh meat and other foods that would benefits consumers by showing more clearly where an animal or food came from. The move was made in the face of opposition from Canada and Mexico, who have protested such labeling in a complaint to the World Trade Organization.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told consumer groups, farm groups and meat industry leaders Tuesday that he will ask the meat industry to voluntarily follow stricter guidelines for new package labels designed to specify a food's country of origin.

In calling for the stricter guidelines, the Obama administration would be breaking from rules announced by the Agriculture Department shortly before President George W. Bush left office. The Bush administration's version of the rules were criticized for allowing meat companies to be vague about where an animal was born, raised and slaughtered.

A-Rod's Story Getting Dopier By The Minute

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Goofball Gonzales Gone Gonzo

So now Speedy Gonzales is worried about things getting all politicized. Does he realize the incredible irony of that statement? Then again, what else would you expect from a weasley little real estate lawyer who still doesn't recognize what a mess he made of his brief tenure at the nation's lead law enforcement agency?

Take for example the interview he gave to the Wall Street Journal last December-- where he discussed the effect that controversies over his role in his Bush Administration had on his career and public perception of his public service. He stated:
"For some reason, I am portrayed as the one who is evil in formulating policies that people disagree with. I consider myself a casualty, one of the many casualties of the war on terror."

The New York Daily News published an editorial in response to this quote, calling him "Gonzo the Clown" and "delusional . . . in explaining why he believes he is held in such low regard these days."

Contemptible Cartooning

The New York Post published a cartoon this week that is beginning to generate anger and controversy over the depiction of Barack Obama as a monkey:

Al Shapton released the following statement:
The cartoon in today's New York Post is troubling at best given the historic racist attacks of African-Americans as being synonymous with monkeys. One has to question whether the cartoonist is making a less than casual reference to this when in the cartoon they have police saying after shooting a chimpanzee that "Now they will have to find someone else to write the stimulus bill."

Being that the stimulus bill has been the first legislative victory of President Barack Obama (the first African American president) and has become synonymous with him it is not a reach to wonder are they inferring that a monkey wrote the last bill?
Check out this blog for more examples of Sean Delonas' hate-filled cartoons. Apparently, he thinks that women are whores; that gays are sheep-fucking cross-dressing freaks; and that democrats are terrorist-lovers. And in case you didn't know, Heather Mills has one leg-- apparently, Sean Delonas thinks that's funny too.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Passenger Power Wins The Day At "Aeroflop"

When passengers on Aeroflot Flight 315 heard the pilot make his preflight announcement, they knew something was amiss. The pilot's voice was garbled, barely intelligible — and that was in his native Russian. When he switched to English, it was impossible to understand him at all.

"The first thought that occurred to me was, 'This guy is drunk,'" said Khatuna Kobiashvili, a passenger on the Moscow-New York flight. "His speech was so slurred it was hard to tell what language he was speaking."

As passengers, including a Moscow Times reporter, related their concerns to the flight crew, they were told to "stop making trouble" or get off the Boeing 767 jet. A passenger who called Aeroflot's head office received a similar rebuff. "They told me that it was impossible for a pilot to be drunk and hung up the phone," said the passenger, Tatyana Vorontsova.

After a chaotic hour during which passengers pleaded with flight attendants, crew and several Aeroflot representatives who boarded the plane, unexpected help came from socialite and TV host Ksenia Sobchak, who was also on the plane, and all four pilots were replaced.

Aeroflot spokeswoman Irina Dannenberg refused to comment for this article, telling a reporter to "read about it on the Internet." Immediately after the incident, Dannenberg told Komsomolskaya Pravda that the pilots were removed from the plane because of "mass psychosis" among the passengers. In the same interview, Dannenberg said Aeroflot would sue Sobchak if the costs of delaying the flight were "very large."

Check out the article at the Moscow Times for more details.

Nearly three weeks later, Aeroflot issued a statement saying the pilot, Alexander Cheplevsky, might have suffered a stroke immediately before the flight. Tests administered after the incident found no signs of intoxication, it said.

Drama Playing Out Everyday On The Hill

Dubai Down The Dumpster?

Smashing Telly has an interesting perspective on Dubai:

Short of opening a Radio Shack in an Amish town, Dubai is the world’s worst business idea, and there isn’t even any oil. Imagine proposing to build Vegas in a place where sex and drugs and rock and roll are an anathema. This is effectively the proposition that created Dubai - it was a stupid idea before the crash, and now it is dangerous.

Dubai threatens to become an instant ruin, an emblematic hybrid of the worst of both the West and the Middle-East and a dangerous totem for those who would mistakenly interpret this as the de facto product of a secular driven culture.

Dubai is a place for the shallow and fickle. Tabloid celebrities and worn out sports stars are sponsored by swollen faced, botox injected, perma-tanned European property developers to encourage the type of people who are impressed by fame itself, rather than what originated it, to inhabit pastiche Mediterranean villas on fake islands. Its a grotesquely leveraged version of time-share where people are sold a life in the same way as being peddled a set of steak knives.

But if there is one problem with the shallow and the fickle, its that they are shallow and fickle, they won’t put down deep roots and they won’t remain loyal to Dubai. The people who appear in People magazine need to be told what is cool by Wallpaper magazine who in turn will discover something after the hipsters have moved on. The problem is that Dubai was never hipster-cool and is no longer Wallpaper-cool. This realization will have the same impact as suburbanite bachelorette party in a Wallpaper-cool nightclub. It will spread like the sighting of a floating turd in a public pool, flushing people to the exits with silent panic, unacknowledged for fear of embarrassment.

As people scramble for the exits in Dubai, there is no ‘key mail’, like in America, where people can often mail back their house keys and walk away from a mortgage without the immediate threat of jail. People are literally fleeing this place, to date leaving 3000 cars stranded at the airport with keys still in the ignition. And the reason for this is that if you default on your Dubai mortgage, you can end up in a debtors prison.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Casa D'Ice: The Bush Years

Before George Bush fades into memory, we should review Bill Balsamico's history of contempt for our previous President:

Raccoon: "No Means No"

A raccoon has bitten off a man’s penis as he was trying to rape the animal.

Alexander Kirilov, 44, was on a drunken binge with pals late last month when he leapt on the terrified – but toothy – fur ball. “When I saw the raccoon I thought I’d have some fun,” he told stunned surgeons in Moscow.

Now Russian plastic surgeons are trying to restore his mangled manhood. “He’s been told they can get things working again but they can’t sew back on what the raccoon bit off," said a pal. “That’s gone forever so there isn’t going to be much for them to work with."

Monday, February 16, 2009

Valentines Day "Massacres" In India

Valentine's Day in India has been marred by a spate of attacks on young couples as Hindu radicals battle what they claim are foreign influences corrupting Indian culture. Valentine's Day has recently become hugely popular in India but public shows of affection are still considered taboo by many.

Six men from the Hindu group, Shiv Sena, were arrested in Agra, the home to the Taj Mahal, after they cut the hair of overtly romantic couples in a park on Valentine's Day. In Pune, western India, two couples were stopped by activists from the same group and forced to "marry" on the spot by exchanging flower garlands. Five more members of Shiv Sena were arrested in Delhi for threatening couples.

In the central Indian city of Ujjain, a mob of Hindu fanatics beat a brother and sister they mistook for a couple displaying affection. Meanwhile activists blackened the faces of many couples they said were behaving inappropriately in the cities of Aurangabad and Bijnaur.

Last month a Hindu nationalist group, called the Sri Ram Sena (Lord Ram's Army), brutally attacked a group of young women drinking and dancing with men in a pub in the south Indian city of Mangalore. The Minister for Women and Children, Renuka Chowdhury, accused the Mangalore attackers of wanting the "Talibanization" of India.

Since the recent attacks several senior politicians have lamented the rise of "mall and pub culture", which has recently blossomed among India's affluent middle classes. Nevertheless, Hindu fanatics show no sign of dropping their opposition to Valentine's Day.

Traditional Healing, Traditional Killing

Traditional healers in Tanzania are defying a government ban intended to stop the killings of people with albinism for ritual medicine.

It comes days after the latest murder of an albino man in Tanzania brought the national death toll to at least 40 since mid-2007. The killers reportedly sell albino body parts - including limbs, hair, skin and genitals - to witchdoctors. In November, a six-year-old Burundi girl was found dead, in connection with trafficking of body parts by traditional healers.

Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda announced the government was revoking the licenses of all traditional healers effective immediately. In the most recent case late last month, an albino man - named as Jonas Maduka - was killed in Sogoso village in the north-western Mwanza region.

He was reportedly eating dinner at home when some people called and asked for his help. When he went outside he was strangled, before his assailants chopped off his leg and made away with the limb.

The Tanzanian authorities have arrested more than 90 people in recent months - including four police officers - on suspicion of killing albinos or of trading in their body parts.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Latest Camille

Camille waxes poetic on Nigella Lawson and Kate Winslet in her latest column, while heaping scorn on Congress:

Money by the barrelful, by the truckload. Mountains of money, heaped like gassy pyramids in the national dump. Scrounging packs of politicos, snapping, snarling and sending green bills flying sky-high as they root through the tangled mass with ragged claws. The stale hot air filled with cries of rage, the gnashing of teeth and dark prophecies of doom. Yes, this grotesque scene, like a claustrophobic circle in Dante's "Inferno," was what the U.S. government has looked like for the past two weeks as it fights on over Barack Obama's stimulus package.

English poetry is thriving in the subtle, mellifluous, adjective-laden culinary odes of Nigella Lawson (who has an Oxford degree in medieval and modern languages). After listening to her on my car radio on the way to work, I often arrive for my morning classes in an ecstatic haze. But hey, let's not dis that bust, which has gotten lusciously ample. Check out these recent London pix of Lawson as a merry dumpling barely contained by her midnight-blue velvet evening gown.

Another knockout in the fashion department was Kate Winslet at last month's Golden Globes banquet. When Winslet finally won a major award and went deliriously bossy at the mike, I was in seventh heaven. I knew exactly what Nancy Pelosi meant when she said that when ex-President Bush's helicopter took off from the Capitol three weeks ago, "It felt like a ten-pound anvil was lifted off my head." For 11 years, ever since Winslet was robbed of her Oscar for "Titanic," I've been grimly pursuing my vendetta against the provincial Hollywood establishment.

Stimulus Wreckage

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Microsoft Goes Retail

After the spectacular failure of last year's Jerry Seinfeld ad campaign, Microsoft is trying yet again to "get hip". This time, they are trying to get in on some of the Apple cache by opening up a chain of retail stores. For me, Jon Methven of the New York Daily Intel hit the nail square on the head:
Microsoft gets more like grandpa every day. We love grandpa, although we’re not sure why he wears both suspenders and a belt, or why he occasionally shouts at the dog to stop stealing his caramels. But while senility is somewhat charming in grandpa, the same cannot be said about software providers. We shook our heads when we read this morning that Microsoft, eight years after the first Apple store opened in Virginia, was opening retail outlets, and that they'd hired execs from Wal-Mart to help them plan it. Wal-Mart! Oh, boy. As we all know, Apple stores are cool. The winding staircase. The open floor plan. The Genius Bar. Even the clerks with their hipster grins who seem to know a little too much about iPods. It all comes together in a way that makes a trip to get a computer part fun. We doubt such an improbable feat could be imitated by anyone, much less Microsoft.
I'm just waiting for the slew of bug jokes to hit the net after someone finds cockroaches in one of the stores. Coincidentally, it's been a year since I went Mac and I have never looked back.

Looks LIke the Politics Of Fear Won't Work

Bill O’Reilly has been complaining loudly about Senator Patrick Leahy's call for an investigation into Bush crimes, as well as Bush's former speechwriter Marc Thiessen. From Think Progress:
Thiessen believes that such investigations would be "hypocritcal" and "terribly dangerous" because they would expose the “facts” of the U.S.’s interrogation techniques to Osama bin Laden . . . So it’s very deadly — this is very deadly serious stuff. … And it’s terribly dangerous." He also emphasized that the people Leahy might investigate “aren’t torturers, they’re heroes.” “They should be getting a parade on Pennsylvania Avenue,” he added.
Pushing for greater secrecy in the name of terrorism is the reflexive reaction for right-wing torture-lovers. Last year, former Cheney chief of staff David Addington refused to speak about waterboarding to Congress, saying that terrorists might be paying attention: “I can’t talk to you, al Qaeda may watch C-SPAN.”
In 2007, National Intelligence Director Michael McConnell said “Americans are going to die” if surveillance is discussed openly; Undersecretary of Defense Eric Edelman told Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) that “public discussion” of an Iraq withdrawal “reinforces enemy propaganda.”

Yet despite their fearmongering on the consequences of investigations, the American public firmly supports such inquiries: Nearly two-thirds of Americans support examining potential crimes committed by the Bush administration, with 40 percent supporting criminal investigations.

I say bring it on-- if Obama doesn't support investigations into domestic spying and torture, then he'll become complicit as well.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Update On The "House Of Horrors"

An Indian businessman and his servant have been sentenced to death in a case dubbed "the house of horrors". Although suspected in the disappearance of 40 children and the killing of up to 19 victims, they were eventually convicted for the murder of 14-year-old Rimpa Haldar. The crime resulted in widespread indignation, with many accusing the police of negligence. See my original blog post for more details on the crime that shocked the country.

Frustrated Couples Seeing Red In Saudi Arabia

Just days before Valentine's Day, a young Saudi woman desperately searched for a red teddy bear to buy for her boyfriend-- but none were to be found. It's not because the store couldn't keep up with demand. It is because fear of the religious police forced the store's owner to strip the shelves of all red items.

As February 14 approaches, Saudi Arabian police begin inspecting gift shops for items that are red or are intended as gifts to mark the holiday—a celebration of St. Valentine, a 3rd century Christian martyr—which is banned in Saudi Arabia. Such items are legal at other times of the year, but as Valentine's Day nears they become contraband.

At best, shops caught selling Valentine's gifts are ordered to get rid of them. Some salesmen have been detained for days.

Marking Christian holidays is banned in Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam and a country where non-Muslims are banned from openly practicing their religion. Celebrating any holidays but the two most important for Muslims—Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr_ is taboo because they are considered "religious innovations" that Islam does not sanction. Even birthdays and Mother's Day are frowned on by the religious community.

Fish(y) Story

Last weekend, in between depressing news about the economy and the continued sagas of Michael Phelps and Alex Rodriguez, an inspirational story appeared on the AP news wire. It detailed American Jennifer Figge's accomplishment in becoming the first woman to swim across the Atlantic Ocean. Many media outlets jumped on the story that seemed almost too good to be true. That's because it was.

The AP originally reported that Figge swam from the Cape Verde Islands off the coast of Africa to Trinidad (2,100 miles) in 25 days while escorted by a boat. She was said to have rested every night and hopped back in the water in the morning.

What escaped most news outlets (who repeated the story without doing the most basic fact checking) is that swimming 2,100 miles in 25 days is physically impossible. Michael Phelps swimming at sprint speed would take about 20 days to cover that distance. And that's his fastest pace, sustained for three weeks, without ever stopping.

As it turns out, Figge swam only a fraction of the 2,100-mile journey. The rest of the time, she rested on her crew's westward-sailing catamaran. Her spokesman [said] that her total swimming distance has not been calculated yet, but that due to ocean hazards including inclement weather, he estimates she swam about 250 miles.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Art Of The Deal

According to a summary released by the appropriations staff, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provides $311 billion in appropriations, including the following critical investments:

Investments in Infrastructure and Science - $120 billion
Investments in Health - $14.2 billion
Investments in Education and Training - $105.9 billion
Investments in Energy, including over $30 billion in infrastructure - $37.5 billion
Helping Americans Hit Hardest by the Economic Crisis - $24.3 billion
Law Enforcement, Oversight, Other Programs - $7.8 billion

The Act provides unprecedented oversight, accountability, and transparency to ensure that taxpayer dollars are invested effectively, efficiently, and as quickly as possible.

- Funds are distributed whenever possible through existing formulas and programs that have proven track records and accountability measures already in place.
- Numerous provisions in the bill provide for expedited but effective obligation of funds so that dollars are invested in the economy as quickly as possible.
- The Government Accountability Office and the Inspectors General are provided additional funding for auditing and investigating recovery spending.
- A new Recovery Act Accountability and Transparency Board will coordinate and conduct oversight of recovery spending and provide early warning of problems.
- A special website will provide transparency by posting information about recovery spending, including grants, contracts, and all oversight activities.
- State and local whistleblowers who report fraud and abuse are protected.
- There are no earmarks in this bill.

Blue Cross Admits It Cheated People Out Of Coverage

Anthem Blue Cross, California's largest for-profit health insurer, has agreed to pay a $1-million fine and offer new coverage -- no questions asked -- to 2,330 people it dropped after they submitted bills for expensive medical care.

As part of the settlement, Anthem also will offer to reimburse those people for medical expenses that they paid out of pocket after they were dropped. The company, a subsidiary of Indianapolis-based WellPoint Inc., estimated that those reimbursements could reach $14 million.

In exchange, the state agreed to drop its prosecution of the company. The settlement follows Anthem's agreement last year to pay a $10-million fine to settle similar charges involving another 1,770 customers. In both cases, Anthem agreed to make substantial changes in the way it sells and manages individual insurance coverage in California. Those changes are expected to reduce the number of people who lose coverage through rescission.

The Anthem deal is the latest in a two-year effort by regulators to crack down on health insurers for dropping sick members on dubious grounds. But insurers Anthem, Blue Shield of California and Health Net Inc. all remain targets of individual and class-action lawsuits alleging that they gamed insurance laws to dump sick people and avoid the costs of their care.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

South Carolina Sheriff Blowing Smoke

Now comes news that Columbia, SC Sheriff Leon Lott is going after the friends of Michael Phelps, making eight arrests in connection with the (now) famous picture of the gold medalist taking a bong hit at an off-campus party three months after competition ended. The party took place in November at a house on Blossom Street near Five Points. It was at that house where someone snapped the photo of Phelps taking a hit on a marijuana pipe called a bong.

But many are saying the sheriff should concentrate on more serious crimes-- including the Daily Dude.

Richland County (where Columbia, SC is located) has some of the most dismal police statistics in the state. Even though the county ranks in the top echelon of counties in terms of crime being committed, they are below the state average in actually making arrests-- ranking #22 out of 46 counties (in calendar year 2006, the latest year such statistics are available). More damningly, Richland makes an arrest in only 15% of the cases where a crime is reported. Of the 46 counties in South Carolina, Richland ranks ninth from the bottom in terms of making arrests.

And while Sheriff Lott tries to grab headlines over such minor college stuff, more serious criminal activity goes unchecked. During the five-year period of 2002 to 2006-- when overall crime activity in Richland County was in decline-- the rates for more serious offenses such as murder and robbery actually increased. So a message to Mr. Sheriff-- quit hassling college students and focus on real crimes for a change!

Paulie Walnuts Now In The Voice-over Business

For those of you who wanted to hear the un-bleeped version of the AFSCME ad that made a stir on the Hill today:

Like Children, Delusion and Selfishness Are Priceless

If you don't live in California, count yourself lucky-- because taxpayers there will likely have to cover the costs for Nadya Suleman's arrogance and selfishness.

The cost of a premature baby's hospital stay in California is estimated to amount to $165,000-- for a total of $1.3M in the case of Megamom. The average cost for just one cesarean birth is $23K-- for a total of $182,000 in the case of Megamom. If any of the octuplets ends up with a disability (very likely for a premie), then Megamom will be eligible for up to $793 per month. And according to the USDA, the cost (to a single mom) of raising fourteen children to the age of 17 will range from $1.3 million to $2.7 million.

On the internet, bloggers rained insults on Suleman, calling her an "idiot," criticizing her decision to have more children when she couldn't afford the ones she had, and suggesting she be sterilized.

"It's my opinion that a woman's right to reproduce should be limited to a number which the parents can pay for," Charles Murray wrote in a letter to the Los Angeles Daily News. "Why should my wife and I, as taxpayers, pay child support for 14 Suleman kids?"

She was also berated on talk radio, where listeners accused her of manipulating the system and being an irresponsible mother.

"From the outside you can tell that this woman was playing the system," host Bryan Suits said on the "Kennedy and Suits" show on KFI-AM. "You're damn right the state should step in and seize the kids and adopt them out."

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Fence Sense

The planned 670-mile fence along the U.S. border with Mexico has proven remarkably ineffective at deterring or stopping illegal crossers to the United States, advocates and critics of the fence admit.

Moreover, the fence's construction remains in limbo in numerous areas, where legal, political and engineering obstacles have brought its implementation to a halt.

And, where the 600 miles of fencing are already up, along the borders of California, Arizona and New Mexico, "smugglers and illegal immigrants continue to breach the fencing that is up, forcing Border Patrol agents and contractors to return again and again for repairs," the Wall Street Journal reported. "The smugglers build ramps to drive over fencing, dig tunnels under it, or use blow torches to slice through. They cut down metal posts used as vehicle barriers and replace them with dummy posts, made from cardboard."

Let's Put Some Faith In Reality

Blogger Heather McDonald hits the nail on the head with these comments on Mega-mom :
[T]he backlash against Nadya Suleman, the mother of six artificially-conceived children who gave birth to another eight two weeks ago continues. The nine-week premature octoplet’s delivery required 46 doctors, nurses, and assistants; in twelve days, their care has likely cost at least $300,000 and counting. Here’s a possible rule of thumb: If you are a radical pro-lifer and believe that every artificially-conceived embryo must be brought to term, no fertility treatments for you unless you are prepared to bankroll all the resulting medical costs yourself. Either accept your God-given condition of infertility or accept a human condition on the man-made science for overcoming that infertility: use within reason.

And was it just me, or did Mega-mom look like she had her lips pumped up with gallons of collagen?

Monday, February 9, 2009

Press On, Barack

Just finished watching Obama's first press conference. How refreshing it is to have a President who has the intelligence and demeanor to provide 5-10 minute well-though-out answers to some fairly complex questions. I found it curious how negative the press corps seemed to be about the so-called "failure" of bipartisanship (Obama's response seemed to be "patience, grasshopper-- patience").

In short, I thought he came off eloquent, forward-thinking, and very persuasive.

Baseball: Major League Has-Been

Is it any wonder that football has long surpassed baseball as America's pastime? In the last twenty years, ratings for Major League Baseball on TV have plummeted 66%. MLB's "Game of the Week" gets a wimpy 2.5 rating/6 share vs. what an NFL games gets (10.5/22)-- and even then, the broadcast is suspended in the face of competition from college football. Furthermore, the largest event of the baseball season-- the World Series-- grabbed only a 8.4 rating/14 share last season. Compare that with the whopping 41.6/62 pulled down by the Steelers/Cardinals face off.

And it should be obvious why Americans have shown such disdain for baseball-- steroids. The MLB players' union fought tooth and nail against true, random, verifiable drug testing over the years-- and now scandal and fan indifference is what they have gotten in return.

The sports' biggest names have been implicated in taking steroids and other performance-enhancing substances-- Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, Jason Grimsley, Jose Guillen, Barry Bonds, Ken Caminiti, Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, and now Alex Rodriguez.

On top of all that, the players' union (and to some extent, the owners) refuse to adopt a meaningful revenue sharing and salary cap system-- so if steroid use doesn't kill baseball off, ticket prices surely will.

Master Your Disaster

For those who like to obsess about the end of the world: a charming little mapplet that lets you choose your location, select the type of catastrophic event, and then see the effects.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Daily Dude's 2009 Grammy Picks

Album of the Year: Raising Sand (Robert Plant & Alison Krauss)
Record of the Year: Please Read The Letter (Robert Plant & Alison Krauss)
Song of the Year: Viva La Vida (Coldplay)
Best New artist: Jonas Brothers
Best Pop Vocal Album: Long Road Out Of Eden (The Eagles)
Best Rock album: Consolers of the Lonely (Raconteurs)
Best R&B album: Jennifer Hudson (Jennifer Hudson)
Best Rap album: Tha Carter III (Lil Wayne)
Best Country album: Troubadour (George Strait)

Blair The Poodle Was Nothing Compared To Sumo The Maltese

Former French president Jacques Chirac was rushed to hospital recently after being mauled by his own clinically depressed pet dog. As reported by the Daily Mail, the 76-year-old statesman was savaged by his white Maltese-- which suffers from frenzied fits and is being treated with anti-depressants. A full recovery is expected, with the possible exception of the former president's dignity.

The Latest From A Country That Goes Through Presidents Like Candy Bars

In a move obviously designed to boost his popularity ahead of April elections, Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa ordered the expulsion of U.S. diplomat Armando Astorga, accusing him of trying to dictate the appointment of Ecuadorian anti-narcotics personnel. Correa said the U.S. customs attache was "insolent and foolish" and had treated Ecuador like a colony.

The problem is, Astorga's appointment had expired with the Bush administration and he had already left the country three weeks earlier. By the way-- the headline up top is no joke. Ecuador had over fifty different heads of state in the last century, and has had a half-dozen different presidents in the last ten years alone.

British Military Training Goes Fowl

Britain's News of the World has some video on the British army's Ozzy-Osbourne-inspired training techniques in Iraq. Cheered on by baying soldiers, a British Army officer bites the head off a live chicken in a training exercise filmed by his own men. The senior lieutenant then kicks its wildly-flailing body, spits out the head, and shouts “fucker” at the dying bird. Sickening chickening, for sure.

Recession Economics

Check out this site to see other choices or buy your own.

Hardball Math

The Brad Blog has got a great idea. As long as the GOP prolongs the Minnesota senatorial recount (and denying Obama a much-needed Senate vote), the Dems should refuse to seat Gregg's Republican replacement from New Hampshire.

And here's the kicker-- with only 98 senators, the number of votes required to end a filibuster is only 59 (instead of the usual 60). That might come in handy if the stimulus drama goes into a third act . . .

Excellin' Watermelon

Saturday, February 7, 2009

We Have Seen The Real McCain

Last year, many folks were reluctant to blame John McCain personally for his overwhelmingly negative and cynical presidential campaign, preferring to believe that he was forced to cede control of his campaign strategy over to the GOP and the lobbyists that dominated his staff. But it's clear to me that the despicable John showed his true colors back then and isn't reluctant to continue his hypocritical ways.

Brother John recently appeared on Fox Noise saying that he would not support the stimulus plan, criticizing its wasteful and unnecessary spending on infrastructure. He specifically singled out the effort to expand broadband access in rural communities, conveniently forgetting that he has supported such initiatives in the past.

In 2005, as the lead sponsor of The Community Broadband Act, McCain lauded other countries that provide internet access to their communities saying, “As a country, we cannot afford to cut off any successful strategy if we want to remain internationally competitive.”

Expanding broadband was also the centerpiece of his economic plan during the presidential campaign. McCain emphasized that “government has a role to play” to make sure “every community” has access to high-speed internet — and that it was key to driving innovation.

If it was such a good idea then, why not now? Same old McCain.

Pathetic Puzzler: Persistence Pays

A Rubik's Cube enthusiast in Britain said he has finally solved his puzzle after struggling with it for 26 years. Graham Parker of Portchester, England, said he first bought his Rubik's Cube in 1983 and has since spent more than 27,400 hours struggling with the colored cube puzzle.

"I cannot tell you what a relief it was to finally solve it. It has driven me mad over the years -- it felt like it had taken over my life," Parker said. "I have missed important events to stay in and solve it and I would lay awake at night thinking about it. When I clicked that last bit into place and each face was a solid color I wept," he said.

Ray Hodgkin, a representative of the World Cube Association, the governing body for Rubik's cube competitions, said Parker's struggle with the puzzle may be the longest on record. "I am impressed by Graham's dedication -- the Rubik's Cube can be a very frustrating thing. The WCA would like to congratulate him on his achievement," he said. The world record for solving a Rubik's Cube is held by Erik Akkersdijk of the Netherlands, who finished the puzzle in 7.08 seconds.

Improvements For Border Security Finally On The Way

The House overwhelmingly approved legislation this week mandating the creation of a database of people who aren't terrorists, but are routinely flagged at airports anyway.

The U.S. government maintains a list of about a million names of suspected terrorists that is crosschecked with passenger names as they check in for air flights. The flawed list has been criticized for years, due to sloppy name matches that have ensnared innocent travelers, children, prominent politicians and government officials, and (at one time) all men named David Nelson.

Under the new plan, innocent victims of the terrorist watchlist will be allowed to establish that they are not terrorists. They would then get their names put on what the legislation calls the "Comprehensive Cleared List."

The legislation is the latest step in the Obama administration's efforts to reverse or correct a long list of Bush-era fuck-ups. The legislation is intended to assist wrongly flagged passengers and would supersede the troubled DHS Traveler Redress Inquiry Program, which has been criticized for being slow or unresponsive to flier complaints. The FAST Redress Act, if approved by the Senate, requires the government to report within 240 days on its progress in implementing the new list.

Got The Munchies?

Terri Schiavo Italian-Style

Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi has issued an emergency decree to prevent a woman who has been in a coma for 17 years from having her feeding tubes disconnected, stepping in the middle of a controversial case that has divided the public and calling attention to the Vatican's influence in Italian public policy.

38-year-old Eluana Englaro has been in a persistent vegetative state since a car crash in 1992. Her father has been battling with the courts in Italy to let her die since 1999, insisting it was her wish. In November, Italy's highest court ruled that she had expressed a preference for dying over being kept alive artificially, and that doctors could stop feeding her. She was then transferred to a private geriatric clinic in the northern city of Udine, where doctors had agreed to disconnect her feeding tubes.

The Prime Minister's decree (which must be signed by the President) says that feeding "can in no circumstances be refused". PM Berlusconi said: "Urgent government intervention is needed because this morning they began the non-provision of food and water to the person." The prime minister said if the president persisted in refusing to sign the decree, an emergency session of parliament would enact a new law.

Although opinion polls in Italy show the public is split over this case, the government now appears to have decided to adopt the position taken by the Catholic Church. Senior Vatican officials have, in recent months, described attempts to stop feeding Englaro as euthanasia. One cardinal said it amounted to murder. Pope Benedict issued a public statement calling it a "false solution" to the tragedy of suffering.

Obsessed With Aretha's Hat: Part 13

Friday, February 6, 2009

Land Of The Ageing Sun

After getting struck by a motorcycle, an elderly Japanese man with head injuries waited in an ambulance as paramedics phoned 14 Tokyo hospitals, each refusing to treat him. He died 90 minutes later at one facility that finally relented—one of thousands of victims repeatedly turned away in recent years by understaffed and overcrowded hospitals.

Paramedics arrived at the accident scene within minutes after the man on a bicycle collided with a motorcycle in the western city of Itami. But 14 hospitals contacted to provide medical care for the injured 69-year-old all refused to admit him citing a lack of specialists, equipment, beds and staff. The motorcyclist, also hurt in the accident, was denied admission by two hospitals before a third accepted him, Ikemoto said. He was recovering from his injuries.

The incident was the latest in a string of recent cases in Japan in which patients were denied treatment, underscoring health care woes in a rapidly aging society that faces an acute shortage of doctors and a growing number of elderly patients.

More than 14,000 emergency patients were rejected at least three times by Japanese hospitals before getting treatment in 2007, the latest government survey showed. In the worst case, a woman in her 70s with a breathing problem was rejected 49 times in Tokyo. There was also the high-profile death of a pregnant woman in western Nara city in 2006 that prompted the government to establish a panel to look into hospitals turning patients away.

Health Minister Yoichi Masuzoe told a parliamentary committee late last year that the rising number of elderly patients hospitalized for months was in part clogging up space for those needing emergency treatment.

Invasion Of The Naked Ramblers

A local Swiss town is taking action against a sudden and unwelcome phenomenon - naked hikers.

Authorities in the canton of Appenzell Innerrhoden plan to introduce fines for anyone found walking in the picturesque mountain region without clothes. They decided to act before this year's hiking season began, after noticing a sudden influx of nudists last year - many of them from Germany.

"FKK", or "free body culture", is a popular pastime in Germany. But Appenzell Innerrhoden is not keen to encourage its spread. "We were forced to introduce the legislation against this indecent practice before the warm weather starts," said justice minister Melchior Looser. "[Our concern is that] many children visit our mountains in the summer."

A naked hiker was detained last autumn, but could not be fined as naked rambling was not outlawed-- hence the need for a new law.

Obsessed With Aretha's Hat: Part 12

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Darth Cheney: Danger Ahead For Barack Skywalker And The Republic

Former Vice President Darth Cheney warned in an interview this week that there is a "high probability" that terrorists will attempt a catastrophic nuclear or biological attack in coming years, and said he fears the Obama administration’s policies will make it more likely the attempt will succeed.

Does anybody really care anymore what this hack has to say? Why anybody would give him a platform to further his discredited agenda is beyond me. I rather liked the write-up the Daily Kos gave the story:

There is no fact-checking, no challenges to the champion of WMD in Iraq and mushroom clouds, just some stream of consciousness from Cheney "in a self-vindicating mood." Rehashing Cheney's defense of torture, the shredding of the Constitution and the like is pointless, but his comment on the Bush administration's role in the current economic crisis is worth noting:

"We did worry about it, to some extent. ... I don’t think anybody actually
foresaw something of this size and dimension occurring."

Let's add this to the list of things that no one could have foreseen, like airplanes flying into building, and levees failing in New Orleans ... and then give Cheney a platform to tell what he foresees from the Obama administration. Because he has such an outstanding track record.

Beware Of RFID Chips In Passports And Drivers Licenses

Check out the video below showing how easy it is to scan the airwaves and steal identify information from the new RFID-chip passports:

Many consumer and privacy groups have sounded the alarm about this new technology since it was proposed by Bush's Homeland Security (as part of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative) over a year ago. Among the concerns are the potential for the card to be used for location tracking by government and private entities and the relative ease with which it can be manipulated for identity theft purposes. The approach is substantially different from the proximity-read technology being used in U.S. electronic passports, and it offers fewer protections.

Electronic passports contain all of the same identification data that appears on the first page of a passport, and includes a digital photograph and a digital signature. But the information on those chips is encrypted at all times and can only be accessed by physically swiping the card through a reader at the border crossing.

In contrast, the proposed RFID-enabled passport cards can be read from a distance, and without user notice, consent or control over when the information is collected. Additionally, information from the card is transmitted in the clear -- that is, without encryption. The RFID technology itself is also more susceptible to electronic eavesdropping and hacking, which makes the cards less tamper resistant compared to electronic passports.

See this article from NetworkWorld and this one from the ACLU for more details.

Obsessed With Aretha's Hat: Part 11

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Message To Obama: GOP Economics Failed; Do It Your Way!

Noble-prize winning economist Paul Krugman has it right. Barack should take off his rose-colored glasses and realize that achieving bi-partisanship on the stimulus package is hopeless:
You see, this isn’t a brainstorming session — it’s a collision of fundamentally incompatible world views. If one thing is clear from the stimulus debate, it’s that the two parties have utterly different economic doctrines. Democrats believe in something more or less like standard textbook macroeconomics; Republicans believe in a doctrine under which tax cuts are the universal elixir, and government spending is almost always bad.

Obama may be able to get a few Republican Senators to go along with his plan; or he can get a lot of Republican votes by, in effect, becoming a Republican. There is no middle ground.

Another Journalist Murdered In Russia

In a country considered one of the most dangerous for journalists, no Russian newspaper has suffered like Novaya Gazeta. In a country where most media have been cowed into submission, no other newspaper publishes such probing investigative articles and acid commentary about government corruption, police-state politics and Chechnya war abuses.

In a corner hang photos of four reporters the paper has lost in the past eight years - one beaten to death, one allegedly poisoned, two shot - the most recent on January 19. That journalist was Anastasia Baburova, a 25-year-old cub reporter. She and a human rights lawyer were shot execution-style by a masked man with a silenced pistol as they walked together a few blocks from the Kremlin.

Some 16 journalists have died in contract-style slayings or under suspicious circumstances in Russia since 2000. Many more have been assaulted or threatened. Under Vladimir Putin, who became president in 2000 and now is prime minister, the TV networks watched by most Russians were taken over by the state, their news operations highly sanitized. Big-selling newspapers are either sympathetic to the Kremlin or owned by Kremlin-allied business groups.

Of the many free-spirited papers that sprang up when the Soviet Union collapsed, Novaya Gazeta - meaning New Newspaper - is a rare survivor. Check out this story for more details.

Obsessed With Aretha's Hat: Part 10

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Decade of Detention for Drunk Dude's Dumb Deed

20-year-old Timothy Ryan is staring down a maximum of 10 years in the slammer for e-mails he sent to the FBI threatening to "assassinate" President Barack Obama. Another message said he had "rigged 40 pounds of C4" to blow up vehicles in the Mall of America.

"I'm not mad about him becoming president, but he's not doing what he said he was going to do," he said. "He's not doing anything for the lower class — just the middle and upper class. Medications are going up, not lowering, and jobs are being lost. His actions are going to get him in trouble." He told reporters before he surrendered that he was unemployed, but "played with computers."

According to reports, Gutierrez sent the messages eight days before Obama was inaugurated. "I’m going to assassinate the new president of the United States of America. PS you have 48 hours to stop it from happening," one of them said.

Another e-mail sent that same day added:
what are you waiting for you have 48 hours remember and one more thing that I have forgotten to mention I have rigged 40 pounds of C4, he and my favorite TNT to 7 cars outside the Mall of America good luck thank you and God bless he you know the rest time is wasting.

He told the Cortez Journal: "I'm in serious shit."

Obsessed With Aretha's Hat: Part 9

Monday, February 2, 2009

Pollution Retribution

A senior family planning official in China has noted an alarming rise in the number of babies with birth defects, according to reports.

Jiang Fan, from China's National Population and Family Planning Commission, said environmental pollution was the cause of the problem. He said a child was born with physical defects every 30 seconds because of the degrading environment.

The report said China's coal-rich Shanxi province had the highest rate. The commission blamed emissions from the region's large chemical industry for the problems there.

Obsessed With Aretha's Hat: Part 8

Sunday, February 1, 2009

One Of The Most Memorable National Anthems Ever

Repel The Intel Swell

Maybe it's a good thing that Obama has appointed Leon Panetta as director of the CIA. Looks like we need some experienced administrators to streamline the intelligence bureaucracy. From Eric Anderson at the Huffington Post:
Bloat and redundancy have turned the intelligence community into a full-time "make-work" program for approximately 70,000 federal employees and over 30,000 contractors. Why do we employ so many people to cull through so few secrets?

Consider the following. A recent RAND survey of intelligence analysts found many analysts were uncertain about their mission and how to deal with a National Intelligence Priorities Framework that identifies 150 key targets, countries or issues. How does one identify a top priority when confronted with a list of 150? Further, RAND discovered the analysts felt caught in a maelstrom of demand for current reporting (analysis of events in the last 24 hours), buffeted by continuing investigations and reforms, and perhaps most troubling, largely ignorant of their counterparts at other agencies.

The establishment of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) with a staff of over 1,700, has done little to remedy these problems. In fact, it is sorely tempting to conclude the DNI is little more than another layer of bureaucracy in a veritable sea of managers. The number of intelligence analysts--including contractors--with the highest level of security clearances can be estimated at approximately 30,000 and for each productive intelligence professional, there are at least three support or managerial staffers.

That's a significant support ratio, particularly when you figure most intelligence analysts are college graduates or highly-evaluated military personnel. Do we really need all that supervision? What are we getting from all this overhead? Certainly not efficiency.

Chavez Escalates Jewish Tensions In Venezuela

An armed gang has ransacked a Jewish synagogue in the Venezuelan capital Caracas after occupying the building for several hours.

About 15 unidentified men broke into the building before painting graffiti on the walls and desecrating scriptures. They also called for Jewish people to be expelled from the country.

Jewish leaders say tensions have risen since Venezuela broke diplomatic relations with Israel this month over its recent military offensive in Gaza. Chavez had ordered Israel's Venezuelan ambassador to leave the country and urged Israelis to stand up against their government.

Elias Farache, president of Venezuela's Jewish Association, said the gang had tied and gagged security guards before destroying offices and the place where holy books were kept. Anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli slogans were painted on the walls.

"Never in the history of Venezuela's Jewish community have we been the target of such an aggression," said Farache. "The climate is very tense. We feel threatened, intimidated, attacked."

The Headline Possibilities For This One Are Endless

Dana Milbank: The Anti-Gore

From his most recent Wapo column:

The lawmakers gazed in awe at the figure before them. The Goracle had seen the future, and he had come to tell them about it.

What the Goracle saw in the future was not good: temperature changes that "would bring a screeching halt to human civilization and threaten the fabric of life everywhere on the Earth -- and this is within this century, if we don't change.

. . . .

The Goracle's powers seem to come from his ability to scare the bejesus out of people. "We must face up to this urgent and unprecedented threat to the existence of our civilization," he said. And: "This is the most serious challenge the world has ever faced." And: It "could completely end human civilization, and it is rushing at us with such speed and force.

I Can See Clearly Now The (Bush) Reign Is Gone

A blur that enveloped satellite images of Darth Cheney's VP residence for almost eight years was mysteriously lifted just days before movers carted off his belongings.

The images of 1 Observatory Circle in Washington, DC had appeared digitally blurred on imaging services since satellite pictures became widely available Bush's second term in office.

The new (and incredibly sharper) images of the Vice-Presidential mansion debuted on Google's mapping services on January 18, just days before Bush and Cheney officially left office. It confirmed to many the theory that Cheney had ordered the digital obfuscation because of his unnatural penchant for secrecy.

The theory gained even more credence when it was noted that no such blur existed on similar aerial or satellite images of the White House, the Capitol or the Pentagon. Google has always maintained that the pixellation was not its doing and that the images - provided by the US Geological Survey - were delivered partially obscured.

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