February 21st, 2009


It's only fitting...

George Mason picks drag queen as homecoming queen

FAIRFAX, Va. (AP) — George Mason University senior Ryan Allen dresses in drag and doesn't mind being called a queen — homecoming queen, to be exact. Allen, who is gay and performs in drag at nightclubs in the region, said he entered the homecoming contest as a joke, competing as Reann Ballslee, his drag queen persona.

But he considers the victory one of his happiest moments and proof that the suburban Washington, D.C., school famous for its run to the Final Four a few years back celebrates its diverse student body.

"I was very touched by how Mason was so supportive through the whole process of allowing a boy in a dress to run for homecoming queen," Allen said in a phone interview. "It says a lot about the campus that not only do we have diversity but we celebrate it."

The senior from Virginia's Goochland County won the pageant Saturday at a sold-out Homecoming basketball game against Northeastern University.

Large portions of the crowd cheered as Allen, wearing a gold-sequined top, accepted the tiara and the Ms. Mason 2009 sash.

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I figure I'd throw good news on the burner after what's been going on lately.

Why Republicans Don't Get the Internet

Why Republicans Don't Get the Internet

The Daily Beast’s Meghan McCain talks to Republicans about the party’s crippling technology disconnect—and the new conservative Web zealots who can save the GOP.

When I first suggested launching a blog chronicling my experience on my father's campaign for president, I was met with confusion and resistance. A few people even asked me what's a blog. Throughout the campaign, I did everything possible to showcase the fun and interesting parts of the campaign. I posted pictures. I wrote posts. I even included a playlist of my favorite songs. But often, I got the sense that people on the campaign thought I was wasting my time.

The Republican party isn't exactly Internet savvy. That's no secret. This has been a source of personal frustration for me for a very long time. Unless the GOP evolves as the party that can successfully utilize the Web, we'll continue to lose influence. I think nothing confirms this fact to be more true than this recent election. I don’t claim to be an expert on mobilizing voters, but a significant number of the readers on mccainblogette.com, my blog, were between the ages of 18 and 30, a key demographic that either party would want. Many of the established Republican strategists told me that young people would not visit my web site. I used to categorize many of the advisors in my father's campaign into one of two groups: those that "respected" the Internet and those who didn't. It was a running line between me and my friends who worked on my site.
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Wisconsin Passes Digital Download Tax -- Slashdot

McGruber writes with news that the State of Wisconsin has passed legislation to extend sales tax to digital downloads. The new law will go into effect on October 1st. Estimates suggest that the 5% tax on "downloads of music, games, books, ring tones and other video entertainment" will bring in $6.7 million annually. "[Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle] has been fighting for the change for years. He and other state officials say it is a matter of fairness: Internet vendors shouldn't have a tax-exempt advantage over Wisconsin's brick-and-mortar retail stores." Similar legislation has been proposed in North Carolina, and we've previously discussed New York's foray into taxing sales made online in addition to downloaded purchases.

' jules
  • schmiss

Strategic mistake or realpolitik? ~you be the judge~

Clinton: China Human Rights Abuses Not Worth Discussing

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was pressing senior Chinese officials Saturday to cooperate on climate change, the world financial crisis and security threats like North Korea — ahead of long-standing concerns about human rights.

Clinton began wide-ranging talks with China's foreign minister, emphasizing the need to collaborate on global issues. She was to see its prime minister and president and tour an innovative geothermal energy plant in Beijing on the last stop of her inaugural overseas trip as America's top diplomat.

"We believe we have established a solid foundation, but there is much work to be done and it is in our view imperative that the United States and China cooperate on a range of issues from the economy to global climate change to development and so much else," Clinton told Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi.

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Activists 'shocked' at Clinton stance on China rights

Amnesty International and a pro-Tibet group voiced shock Friday after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton vowed not to let human rights concerns hinder cooperation with China.

Paying her first visit to Asia as the top US diplomat, Clinton said the United States would continue to press China on long-standing US concerns over human rights such as its rule over Tibet.

"But our pressing on those issues can't interfere on the global economic crisis, the global climate change crisis and the security crisis," Clinton told reporters in Seoul just before leaving for Beijing.

T. Kumar of Amnesty International USA said the global rights lobby was "shocked and extremely disappointed" by Clinton's remarks.

"The United States is one of the only countries that can meaningfully stand up to China on human rights issues," he said.

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  • bispo

U.S. News’ absurd poll: Which female politician would run the best daycare center?

Media Matters’ County Fair points out a poll on U.S. News and World Report’s website asking readers who would run the best daycare center: First Lady Michelle Obama, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, or Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. (Apparently, in the fantasy world of political daycare centers, only women are equipped to run them.) The poll is illustrated with action-figure-like images of the four women:


As of 3:20 p.m., Sarah Palin had 47.5 percent of the vote; Michelle Obama followed with 46 percent.


Palin's Evangelical Base Slaps Down Bristol

Palin's Evangelical Base Slaps Down Bristol

There are ironies, and then there are real ironies. In the aftermath of Bristol Palin's candid interview with Greta Van Susteren this week about teen abstinence, one of mom Sarah Palin's chief support groups--right-wing evangelicals who promote abstinence--tore into Bristol over her comments on Fox News that "abstinence is unrealistic."
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  • bispo

I ♥ Brian Schweitzer: Palin Ribbed by Montana Guv for Being No Show

ABC News' Teddy Davis reports:

Montana Democratic Gov. Brian Schweitzer ribbed Alaska Republican Gov. Sarah Palin Friday for announcing at the last minute that she will not be attending a Sunday discussion of energy policy that the two governors were scheduled to lead at this weekend's meeting of the National Governors Association (NGA) in Washington.

"I don't know where she's going to be. You'll be stuck with me," Schweitzer told ABC News. "There will be no glamour, certainly no snappy dressing. I brought my best two pairs of jeans. There's a little bit of a horse s**t stain by the knee. But I've been washing that stuff out."

Palin and Schweitzer, a rancher-turned-politician, are the chairwoman and vice chairman, respectively, of the NGA's Natural Resources Committee.

The panel is holding a 2 p.m. ET discussion Sunday on "Energy Infrastructure: Vital for a 21st Century Economy." The panel will hear from two energy experts: Pat Wood III, a principal with Wood3 Resources, and Jesse Berst, the managing director of GlobalSmartEnergy.com.

For weeks, the NGA's published agenda has touted the Palin-Schweitzer panel as hosting the 90-minute discussion with Wood and Berst.

Palin, however, did not publicly commit about attending the NGA conference.

Her office announced Thursday that her travel to western Alaska coupled with her work on budget amendments and "economic stimulus certification requirements" would prevent her from attending this weekend's NGA meeting, which includes not only the energy policy discussion but also a Sunday black tie dinner at the White House and a Monday governors-only meeting with President Barack Obama.

"I don’t have any party buying me clothes," said Schweitzer, referring to the more than $150,000 that the Republican Party shelled out for the Palin family's wardrobe last year. "My wife buys my clothes at Costco."

Gov. Sebelius, Kansas GOP fight over health care

Gov. Sebelius, Kansas GOP fight over health care

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius once called on lawmakers to bring health coverage to all Kansas residents. Legislators largely ignored her. The Democrat has supported proposals to increase tobacco taxes to pay for health care initiatives. Lawmakers never seriously considered them.

Her record on health care is getting renewed attention because she's viewed in Washington as a leading candidate for health and human services secretary.

She cultivates an image as a bipartisan problem-solver, but her ambitions on health care have often been frustrated by the Republican-controlled Kansas Legislature.
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RNC chair gives tough love to DuPage GOP

RNC chair gives tough love to DuPage GOP

The GOP needs to stop lapping from the Potomac River and start building a grassroots farm team, said newly elected RNC Chairman Michael Steele, speaking of diversifying his party's reach at the DuPage Republican Party's annual fundraising dinner.

Republicans deserved the whipping they got in the 2006 and 2008 elections, but now it's time return to conservative values
, Steele said to an audience of some-700 donors at the Marriott Resort in Oakbrook.
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Making the rest of us Mad have become an art form for these guys, I doubt that they can easily give it up...

Gibbs vs Santelli stimulus feud continues..

The White House hit back at a CNBC reporter whose rant against its housing plan is making waves on the Internet, saying Rick Santelli “doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”

“I think we left a few months ago the adage that if it was good for a derivatives trader that it was good for Main Street. I think the verdict is in on that,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Friday.

A nearly five-minute clip of Santelli lambasting President Barack Obama’s housing proposal from the floor of the Chicago Board of Trade has made the reporter an Internet sensation and hero to conservatives, who complain that the plan rewards bad behavior at the expense of people who play by the rules. Santelli’s call for a “Chicago Tea Party” was greeted by cheers from the trading floor.

Gibbs, however, said the reporter has it all wrong because the plan is designed to help responsible homeowners.

“I would encourage him to read the president’s plan and understand that it will help millions of people, many of whom he knows,” Gibbs said. “I’d be more than happy to have him come here and read it. I’d be happy to buy him a cup of coffee - decaf.”

Later, Gibbs went further: “I also think it’s tremendously important…for people who rant on cable television to be responsible and understand what it is they’re talking about. I’m…feel assured that Mr. Santelli doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”

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(no subject)


Obama wants to cut U.S. deficit in half by 2013


WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama will use his first budget, due to be unveiled next week, to put the United States on track toward cutting its ballooning deficit in half by 2013, an administration official said on Saturday.

"The deficit this administration inherited was $1.3 trillion or 9.2 percent of GDP. By 2013, the end of the president's first term, the budget cuts the deficit to $533 billion or 3.0 percent of GDP," said the official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

"Most of the savings will come from winding down the war in Iraq, increased revenue from those making more than $250,000 a year, and savings from making government work more efficiently and eliminating programs that do not work," the official added.


(no subject)

Planned anti-gay demo falls flat

Fred Phelps
Fred Phelps and his daughter have been banned from entering the UK

A threatened mass protest by an anti-gay US church failed to materialise when only one demonstrator turned up.

Fred Phelps and his daughter Shirley Phelps-Roper from the Westboro Baptist Church were banned from entering the UK to protest against a play in Hampshire.

They had urged a picket of Queen Mary's College in Basingstoke over the staging of The Laramie Project, a play about a man killed for being gay.

But only one protester arrived and was heckled away by counter-demonstrators.

Play supporter Blake West was among about 50 students who protested against Westboro church outside the college on Friday.

'Great wrath'

He said: "They are doing something completely ridiculous which has very flawed and inaccurate foundations.

"I am just standing up for my own sexual orientation.

"Their views will not be tolerated and all of us have proved that here tonight."

Westboro preacher Mrs Phelps-Roper had said the decision to ban her and her father from entering the UK would "bring great wrath upon your heads".

She had warned that other members of the church, who are not as well known to the authorities, would be trying to get into the UK to protest but that failed to happen.

The church's website advertised the picket, proclaiming: "In merry old England they plan to further enrage the living God by putting on the farce known commonly as The Laramie Project.

"We will picket them, and see if they actually believe those lies they tell about how tolerant and accepting Brits are."

Members of the group - based in Topeka, Kansas - have denounced homosexuality for years and have in the past targeted the funerals of Aids victims.

In 2007, the church was told to pay $10.9m (£5.2m) after its members cheered a soldier's death as "punishment" for US tolerance of homosexuality.

  • bispo

Paterson Acknowledges He Told Staff to Deny Kennedy Peeps Statements

ALBANY — For the first time, Gov. David A. Paterson acknowledged Friday that he personally ordered his staff to contest Caroline Kennedy’s version of events in the hours after she withdrew from consideration to be United States senator.

However, Mr. Paterson said that he was bewildered when his staffers subsequently unleashed harsh personal attacks against Ms. Kennedy, saying he merely wanted them to challenge the assertion from Ms. Kennedy’s camp that she had been his first choice to replace Hillary Rodham Clinton.

“The things said about Caroline I found despicable and shocking and very painful,” the governor said in a telephone interview, adding, “I never would have imagined removing the idea that this is my first choice meant a character assassination.”

The governor’s handling of the Senate selection process and his administration’s treatment of Ms. Kennedy drew intense criticism. Ms. Kennedy withdrew her name just after midnight Jan. 22, a development that embarrassed Mr. Paterson and set off fears in his inner circle that anyone he then selected would look like a second choice.

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  • war4l

The Most Dangerous Country in the World

When you land at Mogadishu’s international airport, the first form you fill out asks for name, address, and caliber of weapon. Believe it or not, this disaster of a city, the capital of Somalia, still gets a few commercial flights. Some haven’t fared so well. The wreckage of a Russian cargo plane shot down in 2007 still lies crumpled at the end of the runway.
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Cartoonists treading lightly when drawing Obama

Cartoonists treading lightly when drawing Obama

Cartoonist Lalo Alcaraz was in front of a classroom full of black and Latino kids, drawing presidents. He sketched Bush, then Clinton. Next came his favorite, the man he voted for: Obama.

"Hey, those lips are big," Alcaraz heard a black girl say from the back of the room.

Alcaraz was disturbed. "I try to bend over backwards not to make him look like a cartoon stereotype," and certainly not a racial stereotype, he said.

Editorial cartoonists are bending over backwards a lot these days, as they try to satirize the nation's first black president. And when they don't, the result is the kind of outcry that erupted this week after a New York Post cartoon featured a bloody chimpanzee — intentionally or unintentionally evoking racist images of the past.

The problem is, cartoonists make their living by making fun of people — especially presidents — and exaggerating their features and foibles.
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Oh, snap...

Obama invites Michaëlle Jean to Washington

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Governor General Michaëlle Jean discussed the plight of her native Haiti with U.S. President Barack Obama, who invited her to come to Washington – an invitation that was not extended to Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

American aides to the president who briefed the travelling White House reporters en route back to Washington Thursday said Obama and the Governor General exchanged "views about how we could be helpful to the government there in dealing with economic and social issues."

"The president made clear that this is something that he did care about and wanted to confer and get the views of others about how we could do a better job in supporting economic and social development in Haiti," said James Steinberg, deputy secretary of state.

"President Obama told (Jean) that he'd like to talk further with her on this issue," said Marthe Blouin, an aide to the Governor General.

Obama told Jean he wants to return to Canada with his family. "He told her he would like to see her again," Blouin said.

"And he said to her that he would love to see her in Washington as well."

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I like Michaëlle Jean. I enjoy knowing that we're represented by someone fierce abroad.
  • bispo

The Gatekeeper: Rahm Emanuel on the job.

ahm Emanuel’s office, which is no more than a three-second walk from the Oval Office, is as neat as a Marine barracks. On his desk, the files and documents, including leatherbound folders from the National Security Council, are precisely arranged, each one parallel with the desk’s edge. During a visit hours before Congress passed President Barack Obama’s stimulus package, on Friday, February 13th, I absently jostled one of Emanuel’s heavy wooden letter trays a few degrees off kilter. He glared at me disapprovingly. Next to his computer monitor is a smaller screen that looks like a handheld G.P.S. device and tells Emanuel where the President and senior White House officials are at all times. Over all, the office suggests the workspace of someone who, in a more psychologized realm than the West Wing of the White House and with a less exacting job than that of the President’s chief of staff, might be cited for “control issues.”

Because the atmosphere of crisis is now so thick at the White House, any moment of triumph has a fleeting half-life, but the impending passage of the seven-hundred-and-eighty-seven-billion-dollar stimulus bill provided, at least for an afternoon, a sense of satisfaction. As Emanuel spoke about the complications of the legislation, he was quick to credit colleagues for shepherding the bill to victory—Peter Orszag, the budget director; Phil Schiliro, the legislative-affairs director; Jason Furman, the deputy director of the National Economic Council––but, in fact, nearly everyone in official Washington acknowledges that, besides Obama himself, Emanuel had done the most to coax and bully the bill out of Congress and onto the President’s desk for signing.

That afternoon, Emanuel and his team were already concentrating on the next major project: the President’s budget, which will be released on February 26th. Emanuel had just come from a budget meeting in the Roosevelt Room with the President’s senior staff. (The President was downstairs in the Situation Room; coincidentally or not, hours later U.S. Predators attacked a Pakistani Taliban compound in South Waziristan.) After the budget meeting broke up, staffers hurried through the West Wing reception area: Carol Browner, who is in charge of energy policy; Larry Summers, Obama’s top economic adviser; Gene Sperling, an adviser to the Treasury Secretary; Orszag; Furman. Like Emanuel, all had worked in the Clinton Administration, all are strong-willed, and all know how to navigate the White House bureaucracy to advance their views. Emanuel personally recruited several of them, and it is now his job to manage their competing egos.

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Continued... and long...
☎ ming xi
  • tehlime

Boy, 11, accused of killing father's pregnant girlfriend

(CNN) -- An 11-year-old boy is facing adult charges in the shooting death of his father's pregnant girlfriend, authorities said Saturday.

Police say the boy shot Kenzie Marie Houk, who was eight months pregnant, once at pointblank range in her farmhouse in western Pennsylvania.

The boy, whose name was withheld by CNN because he is a juvenile, was charged with one count each of criminal homicide and homicide of an unborn child in the death of Houk, 26, Lawrence County District Attorney John Bongivengo told CNN.

Houk's 4-year-old daughter found her in her bed Friday, according to police. The child alerted landscapers working near the home, who then called police.

"This is someting that you wouldn't even think of in your worst nightmare, that you'd have to charge an 11-year-old with homicide," Bongivengo said, according to CNN affiliate WTAE. "It's heinous, the whole situation."

Under Pennsylvania law, anyone over the age of 10 accused of murder or homicide is charged as an adult. If convicted, the boy faces a maximum sentence of life in prison, Bongivengo said.

Authorities said the boy is the son of the victim's live-in boyfriend at the home in Wampum, about 35 miles northwest of Pittsburgh.

"At this point, we don't believe it's accidental," Bongivengo said.

The weapon was a youth model 20-gauge shotgun, designed for use by children, that belonged to the boy, according to investigators.

Bongivengo told reporters the household has no history of child abuse, but that an investigation is ongoing.

Calls to the boy's public defender, Dennis Elisco, went unanswered Saturday.


...I don't know what to say about this.

Soros, ex-Fed Chair Paul Volcker hint this could be worse than Great Depression

[A reminder, also, that the current PBS Frontline series "Inside the Meltdown" is endeavoring to explain, episode by episode, how this mess occurred.]

Soros sees no bottom for world financial "collapse"
Sat Feb 21, 4:19 pm ET

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Renowned investor George Soros said on Friday the world financial system has effectively disintegrated, adding that there is yet no prospect of a near-term resolution to the crisis.

Soros said the turbulence is actually more severe than during the Great Depression, comparing the current situation to the demise of the Soviet Union.

He said the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers in September marked a turning point in the functioning of the market system.

"We witnessed the collapse of the financial system," Soros said at a Columbia University dinner. "It was placed on life support, and it's still on life support. There's no sign that we are anywhere near a bottom."

His comments echoed those made earlier at the same conference by Paul Volcker, a former Federal Reserve chairman who is now a top adviser to President Barack Obama.

Volcker said industrial production around the world was declining even more rapidly than in the United States, which is itself under severe strain.

"I don't remember any time, maybe even in the Great Depression, when things went down quite so fast, quite so uniformly around the world," Volcker said.

(Reporting by Pedro Nicolaci da Costa and Juan Lagorio; Editing by Gary Hill)