January 2nd, 2009

  • bispo

Another brutal year for liberty

civil liberties - not using them
Jan. 1, 2009 | Befitting an administration that has spent eight years obliterating America's core political values, its final year in power -- 2008 -- was yet another grim one for civil liberties and constitutional protections. Unlike the early years of the administration, when liberty-abridging policies were conceived of in secret and unilaterally implemented by the executive branch, many of the erosions of 2008 were the dirty work of the U.S. Congress, fueled by the passive fear or active complicity of the Democratic Party that controlled it. The one silver lining is that the last 12 months have been brightly clarifying: It is clearer than ever what the Obama administration can and must do in order to arrest and reverse the decade-long war on the Constitution waged by our own government.

The most intensely fought civil liberties battle of 2008 -- the one waged over FISA and telecom immunity -- ended the way most similar battles of the last eight years have: with total defeat for civil libertarians. Even before Democrats were handed control of Congress at the beginning of 2007, the Bush administration had been demanding legislation to legalize its illegal warrantless NSA eavesdropping program and to retroactively immunize the telecom industry for its participation in those programs. Yet even with Bill Frist and Denny Hastert in control of the Congress, the administration couldn't get its way.

Not even the most cynical political observer would have believed that it was the ascension of Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi that would be the necessary catalyst for satisfying Bush's most audacious demands, concerning his most brazenly illegal actions. If anything, hopes were high that Democratic control of Congress would entail a legislative halt to warrantless eavesdropping or, at the very least, some meaningful investigation and disclosure -- what we once charmingly called "oversight" -- regarding what Bush's domestic spying had really entailed. After all, the NSA program was the purified embodiment of the most radical attributes of a radical regime -- pure lawlessness, absolute secrecy, a Stasi-like fixation on domestic surveillance. It was widely assumed, even among embittered cynics, that the new Democratic leadership in Congress would not use their newfound control to protect and endorse these abuses.

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' glee!
  • schmiss

Our long national nightmare is over!

Poll: Obama leadership rates high as Bush's after 9/11

A national poll suggests that three-quarters of the public thinks President-elect Barack Obama is a strong and decisive leader, the highest marks for a president-elect on that characteristic in nearly three decades.

Seventy-six percent of Americans questioned in a CNN/Opinion Research Corp. survey released Wednesday said Obama is a strong and decisive leader.

"That's the best number an incoming president has gotten on that dimension since Ronald Reagan took office in 1981," CNN Polling Director Keating Holland said. "The public's rating of his leadership skills is already as high as George W. Bush's was after 9/11 and easily beats the numbers that both Bush and Bill Clinton got at the start of their first terms in office."

Just six in 10 felt that Bush was a strong leader when he took office in 2001. After the attacks of September 11, that number rose to three in four. Sixty-seven percent thought Bill Clinton was a strong leader when he took office in January 1993.

Eight in ten Americans said Obama inspires confidence, can get things done and is tough enough to be president, three characteristics Americans look for in a leader and the three qualities on which Obama got his highest scores.

He also gets higher marks than Bush did in 2001 on honesty, values, issues, management abilities and compassion.

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I guess they were really moved by those shirtless pictures

They'd Take a Bullet For The President

Special Agent Malcolm D. Wiley Sr., a former college-football player, has a winning smile and a handshake that could bend steel. He's been in the U.S. Secret Service for 17 years, part of that time directly guarding the President. How does it feel to go to work knowing that he may have to take a bullet? "It comes with the job," he says crisply. "It's an honor to protect the President. End of discussion."

Secret Service agents have a job that they must literally be willing to die for. "Cops are trained to retreat when gunfire starts, but the Secret Service has to stand tall and go into the gunfire," says James Previtera, a Secret Service agent from 1998 to 2005 who now runs Florida's Hillsborough County jail system. Adds Special Agent in Charge Eric Zahren, an 18-year veteran, " From day one, you're part of a larger mission and operate as part of a team. It's not about you as an individual."

With the inauguration of Barack Obama, the nation's first African-American President, just over two weeks away, more scrutiny than ever is on the members of the Secret Service--the anonymous, dark-suited men and women who guard his every move. Obama's Secret Service protection began earlier than that for any previous Presidential candidate--in May 2007, 18 months before Election Day--after top government officials expressed fears for his safety. Since his election, there's been speculation that the Secret Service has found a record number of individuals and groups to be plotting to harm him. Says Wiley, "We never comment on how many threats are made against the President."
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Biden LMAO!

Biden cufflinks bought at store

By Chad Pradelli
COLLNIGDALE, Pa. - January 2, 2009 (WPVI) -- John Pickens walked into one of his neighborhood thrift shops like he does almost every other week. He was looking for a white collared shirt. He found not one but three. When he got home he found even more: It still had what area apparently cufflinks belonging to Vice President-elect Joseph Biden.

"I looked at the shirt. It say Brooks Brothers," John Pickens told Action News, "I say, 'Oh man. This really looks good too.' I said, 'French cuffs, this really looks good too.'"

The shirts were clean and crisp on the rack, except for one.

"The third shirt when I looked at it, it had the sleeves rolled up."

The shirts were only $1 a piece. So John Pickens decided to buy all three. When he got home, the one with the rolled up sleeves felt different. "It felt heavy. I said, 'Why is this so heavy?'"

He unrolled the sleeves and found two cuff links with the words United States Senator Joseph H. Biden Jr.

Initially, the 60-year-old retired casino worker didn't make much of the finding.

"It took me about 2 days to say, 'Those are probably his shirts and he probably wants his cuff links back. He probably doesn't want his shirt back but wants his cuff links.'"

But he couldn't be sure they belonged to the Vice President-elect.

"I went to a jeweler in Center City with just one of the links, to see if it was a fake. He said, 'No. This is solid gold."

Pickens believes if the cuff links belong to Vice President-elect Joe Biden, he'd surely want them back. Pickens called Action News to see if we'd be able to reach out to Biden's people. He's not looking for any reward or publicity he just want to return these very nice cuff links.

"I know if was me, I'd want my cuff links back." Action News has made repeated calls to Biden's office but they haven't been returned. So we don't yet know for certain if the cuff links belong to the Vice President-elect.


cookie monster
  • capthek

I am a little unsure what I think about this new plan for NASA

I like our space program and I am in general in favor of anything that can turbocharge it. Now if other nations such as China are already doing missile tests in space, is this merely escalation or a necessary evil? Would the smart thing be more cooperation to cut costs in space exploration rather than conflict?

Obama Moves to Counter China in Space With Pentagon-NASA Link

Jan. 2 (Bloomberg) -- President-elect Barack Obama will probably tear down long-standing barriers between the U.S.’s civilian and military space programs to speed up a mission to the moon amid the prospect of a new space race with China.

Obama’s transition team is considering a collaboration between the Defense Department and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration because military rockets may be cheaper and ready sooner than the space agency’s planned launch vehicle, which isn’t slated to fly until 2015, according to people who’ve discussed the idea with the Obama team.

The potential change comes as Pentagon concerns are rising over China’s space ambitions because of what is perceived as an eventual threat to U.S. defense satellites, the lofty battlefield eyes of the military.
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Pink toys create generation of 'princesses'

Shops and toy makers have been accused of creating a generation of "pushy princesses" by offering products for girls almost exclusively in pink.

Experts have claimed that the so-called "pink plague" on the High Street is brainwashing girls and reinforcing gender stereotypes.

They claim that girls are already becoming "hooked" on the colour before the age of three and soon reject toys and clothes if they are not pink.

Some claim that the "insidious" spread of pink in toy shops and children's clothing outlets is making girls easier prey to marketing stunts.

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Oh how I love News Busters.

ABC News Shocker: The 'All Time Dumb Quotes' Are All From Republicans

By Warner Todd Huston (Bio | Archive)
January 1, 2009 - 16:43 ET

Looks like ABC News is starting out 2009 with a partisan bang. On its main page, ABC News is hosting a slide show featuring what it is calling the "All Time Dumb Quotes." Now, these are not all strictly political dumb quotes, to be sure. They also have the empty headed Christina Aguilera, that sharp as a tack Jessica Simpson and other denizens of the Hollywood Mensa club among the 16 featured quotes -- and some of them are doozies, too. But, there are six political quotes five by Republicans and one by Tina Fey making fun of a Republican (Palin, naturally), yet there are no "All Time Dumb Quotes" from any Democrats. Not a one. Apparently ABC doesn't think there's ever been a dumb Democrat?

Even more absurdly, all these "dumb quotes" are from the last year or so. Apparently, ABC also is not aware of anything "dumb" that was ever said before contemporary history. Yet, even as all these supposedly "All Time Dumb Quotes" are recent, they have one quote.... just one... from farther back in time than just recently. And guess who it’s from? Amazingly, the ONLY "All Time Dumb Quote" ABC can find from before the year 2008 is a 1988 quote by... drum roll please... Dan Quayle!

Here are the political "All Time Dumb Quotes" that ABC gave us, each with the heading of Did They Really Say That?
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Growing majority worried over eligibility

An unscientific poll by America Online suggests more and more people are having second thoughts about Barack Obama's eligibility to occupy the Oval Office.

Those who raised questions about his vague history before the election largely drew scorn from the mainstream media, which cited an online image from Obama's campaign that purportedly proved his U.S. citizenship with a Hawaiian "Certification of Live Birth."

But the latest results from the America Online poll say only 41 percent of the participants now believe there is no issue to be investigated.

Fifty-three percent nationwide, and majorities in 45 states individually, say "yes" when asked if there is "any merit" to the controversy surrounding his citizenship. Even in Obama's own state, Illinois, the opinion is split 47-47 percent on the issue.

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* nom nom nom :9
  • schmiss

Cry moar.

Bigger Than Bush

As the new Democratic majority prepares to take power, Republicans have become, as Phil Gramm might put it, a party of whiners.

Some of the whining almost defies belief. Did Alberto Gonzales, the former attorney general, really say, “I consider myself a casualty, one of the many casualties of the war on terror”? Did Rush Limbaugh really suggest that the financial crisis was the result of a conspiracy, masterminded by that evil genius Chuck Schumer?

But most of the whining takes the form of claims that the Bush administration’s failure was simply a matter of bad luck — either the bad luck of President Bush himself, who just happened to have disasters happen on his watch, or the bad luck of the G.O.P., which just happened to send the wrong man to the White House.

The fault, however, lies not in Republicans’ stars but in themselves. Forty years ago the G.O.P. decided, in effect, to make itself the party of racial backlash. And everything that has happened in recent years, from the choice of Mr. Bush as the party’s champion, to the Bush administration’s pervasive incompetence, to the party’s shrinking base, is a consequence of that decision.

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Prince Couldn't Vote This Election Because of His Religion

With plans like these, who has time to party like it's 1999?

Prince says he is releasing three albums—likely through an exclusive deal with a major retailer—in 2009, including an electro-pop effort tentatively titled MPLSOUND and Lotus Flower, tracks from which were featured on L.A. indie station 103.1 FM this year.

He has been experimenting with "new ways of recording," the quirky Purple One told the Los Angeles Times in a recent interview at his Hollywood Hills home, during which he also talked up new tunes by his protégé Bria Valente and mentioned that he didn't vote in November because of his religion.

Meaning, Prince said, he didn't cast a ballot for Barack Obama, nor officially come out on either side of Proposition 8, the gay marriage ban that controversially passed last month.

"I have friends that are gay and we study the Bible together," Prince, who's been a Jehovah's Witness for most of the last decade, said in reference to some remarks he made about gay marriage in a November New Yorker interview.

Remarks that made some people wonder whether the dapper rock star wasn't quite so liberal as his eyeliner and frock coats would have us believe.

Puppy chillin
  • 0405

Civil War historians battle Wal-Mart.

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LOCUST GROVE, Va. - Wal-Mart wants to build a Supercenter within a cannonshot of where Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant first fought, a proposal that has preservationists rallying to protect the key Civil War site.

A who's who of historians including filmmaker Ken Burns and Pulitzer Prize winner David McCullough sent a letter last month to H. Lee Scott, president and CEO of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., urging the company to build somewhere farther from the Wilderness Battlefield.

"The Wilderness is an indelible part of our history, its very ground hallowed by the American blood spilled there, and it cannot be moved," said the letter from 253 scholars and others.

Wal-Mart and its supporters point out that the 138,000-square-foot store would be right behind a bank and a small strip mall, a full mile from entrance to the site of the 1864 clash that left thousands dead and hastened the war's end.

Local leaders also want the $500,000 in tax revenue they estimate the big box store will generate for rural Orange County, a gradually growing area about 60 miles southwest of Washington.

"In these economic times, the fact that Wal-Mart wants to come into the county is an economic plus," said R. Mark Johnson, a tire shop owner and chairman of the county's board of supervisors. "This is hardly pristine wilderness we're talking about."

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&#39; jules
  • schmiss


After 2 Years, Nancy Pelosi Realizes Democrats Have a Majority in the House

Alan K. Ota reports for Congressional Quarterly today:
An early partisan skirmish is likely in the House next week, when Speaker Nancy Pelosi is expected to move a rules package that would curb the GOP’s ability to derail legislation through a parliamentary maneuver it used on occasion over the past two years.

. . . A senior House Democratic aide said Pelosi, D-Calif., had not made a final decision on whether to move the two proposed rules changes when the 111th Congress convenes Tuesday, Jan. 6.

But Democratic leaders are definitely taking a hard look at preventing the minority party from scoring easy political points with motions to recommit a bill to committee with instructions to make contentious language changes and then report it back to the House “promptly.” In the outgoing Congress, “promptly’’ has meant an indefinite hold, because committees were not willing to adopt poison-pill amendments sponsored by the minority.

. . . “Republicans will still get a chance to make motions to recommit. But they would not be allowed to just kill bills in a way that was never intended,” said one Democratic aide.

This development was hailed as a breakthrough by behavioral psychologists studying learned helplessness, who look forward to analyzing Pelosi's recent diet and other environmental influences to see if a similar shift in thinking can be provoked in Senate majority leader Harry Reid.

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Puppy chillin
  • 0405

Texas jail closes after recliners found in cells.

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A jail in northern Texas has been closed and its nearly 60 inmates transferred as authorities investigate what they call dangerous conditions for jailers and those behind bars — including cells that locked from the inside or contained recliners. Five inmates had already been moved from the Montague County jail to one in a nearby county this month after an FBI raid, said Jack McGaughey, district attorney for Montague, Clay and Archer counties.

McGaughey declined to say what prompted the investigation, also being conducted by the Texas Rangers. But he said authorities found contraband in the jail. New Sheriff Paul Cunningham moved the inmates to the Wise County jail on Thursday a few hours after he was sworn in.

McGaughey said some surveillance cameras' cords had been disconnected; recliners were in cells; some bathrooms and cells could be locked from the inside; and inmates had made partitions out of paper towels to block jailers' views inside their cells. One alarming discovery was a type of rack made of nails, he said.

"This action was taken because there was a concern for the safety of the prisoners and the jail personnel," McGaughey said Friday.

Some inmates had apparently used extension cords to lock deputies out, and unidentified pills were strewn about other jail cells, Dallas-Fort Worth television station WFAA reported.

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