June 15th, 2009

Noam Chomsky: Why public health insurance is popular but never gets enacted

Unelected adulterer Newt Gingrich has declared this Summer the Summer of "Health Care Wars."

Even the mainstream media is shooting down Obama's proposed public health plan option in all sorts of disingenuous ways.

My .02: Don't let anyone fool you with talk of a "compromise" between Obama's plan and the ludicrous GOP plan, which would create "health care tribunals." (Not even kidding.)

Obama's plan is already a compromise, right out of the gate; it gives up on the idea of universal health care simply to introduce a public plan to compete with private plans. But that isn't good enough for the GOP and the corporate health insurance lobby. Incredibly, even that is tarred as "socialized medicine." Obama's watered down plan must be compromised even more, and more, and more - 'til we are right back to zilch, and the status quo is preserved.

Preach it

CIA Renewed Contract With Waterboarding 'Architects' Weeks After Obama Took Office... Before Firing

CIA Renewed Contract With Psychologists Who Endorsed Waterboarding Weeks After Obama Took Office Before Firing Them

Amid the headlines about CIA director Leon Panetta's comments on Dick Cheney's motivations for his criticism of Obama, a much-bigger revelation was tucked into Jane Mayer's new story in the New Yorker.

Weeks after Obama took office, the CIA extended its contract with the former military psychologists who have been called the architects of waterboarding before eventually firing them:

In April, Panetta fired all the C.I.A.'s contract interrogators, including the former military psychologists who appear to have designed the most brutal interrogation techniques: James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen. The two men, who ran a consulting company, Mitchell, Jessen & Associates, had recommended that interrogators apply to detainees theories of "learned helplessness" that were based on experiments with abused dogs. The firm's principals reportedly billed the agency a thousand dollars a day for their services. "We saved some money in the deal, too!" Panetta said. (Remarkably, a month after Obama took office the C.I.A. had signed a fresh contract with the firm.)

James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen were paid $1,000 a day by the agency to oversee harsh interrogation techniques used on terror suspects, reported ABC News.

"The whole intense interrogation concept that we hear about, is essentially their concepts," according to Col. Steven Kleinman, an Air Force interrogator.

Mitchell and Jessen appear to have closed down their business, which was located in Spokane, Washington.

Mayer also reports that "most of the individuals who managed the secret interrogation program have since left the agency" except for CIA Deputy Director Stephen R. Kappes.

Kappes was previously the deputy director for operations from 2002 to 2004, where he was responsible for the counterterrorism division that directed the interrogation program.


Biden Has Laughing Fit When Asked To Assess GOP

Biden Has Laughing Fit When Asked To Assess GOP (VIDEO)

Two interesting moments came towards the end of Joe Biden's big interview on Sunday, in which the vice president first declined to deny his ambitions to be president, and later fell into a brief laughing fit when asked to assess the state of the Republican Party.

Sitting down with "Meet the Press," Biden was pressed by host David Gregory to play political prognosticator with the GOP. After a hearty chuckle and a Cheshire cat grin, the vice president noted that history has a way of bringing even the most fractious minority party back into relevancy.
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is true the GOP could recuperate from this... then again...

Grassley Stands By His Tweet: Obama Took Cheap Shot

The Senate's most notorious tweeter, Chuck Grassley, stood by a recent post he made in which he harshly rebuked Barack Obama. The Iowa Republican argued on Sunday that it was the president who had taken the "cheap shot" at him and his congressional colleagues.
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serenaded by the terror bird
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DOMA Follow-Up (From the Daily Kos)

Obama's "Justice" department crossed a line today by filing a hideously hateful brief in support of the Defense of Marriage Act. The brief contained legal arguments comparing gay marriage to incest and parroting far right homophobic viewpoints that would make Pat Robertson giddy. Worse, it said that DOMA is constitutional, and that denying gay people marriage equality is not the same thing as denying interracial couples the same equality that led to the Loving v. Virginia decision. Interestingly, today is the 42nd anniversary of that decision, which decriminalized interracial marriage nationwide. Obama sure has an odd way of celebrating that anniversary.

Update. I'm slightly calmer now, so if those of you who I've pissed off would like to come back and have a civilized and intelligent discussion, I'm willing to do that.

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US Army Ignoring Own Restrictions, Allowing White Supremacists To Join

On a muggy Florida evening in 2008, I meet Iraq War veteran Forrest Fogarty in the Winghouse, a little bar-restaurant on the outskirts of Tampa, his favorite hangout. He told me on the phone I would recognize him by his skinhead. Sure enough, when I spot a white guy at a table by the door with a shaved head, white tank top and bulging muscles, I know it can only be him.

Over a plate of chicken wings, he tells me about his path into the white-power movement. "I was 14 when I decided I wanted to be a Nazi," he says. At his first high school, near Los Angeles, he was bullied by black and Latino kids. That's when he first heard Skrewdriver, a band he calls "the godfather of the white power movement." "I became obsessed," he says. He had an image from one of Skrewdriver's album covers — a Viking carrying a staff, an icon among white nationalists — tattooed on his left forearm. Soon after he had another white power symbol, a Celtic cross, emblazoned on his stomach.

At 15, Fogarty moved with his dad to Tampa, where he started picking fights with groups of black kids at his new high school. "On the first day, this bunch of niggers, they thought I was a racist, so they asked, 'Are you in the KKK?'" he tells me. "I said, 'Yeah,' and it was on." Soon enough, he was expelled.

For the next six years, Fogarty flitted from landscaping job to construction job, neither of which he'd ever wanted to do. "I was just drinking and fighting," he says. He started his own Nazi rock group, Attack, and made friends in the National Alliance, at the time the biggest neo-Nazi group in the country. It has called for a "a long-term eugenics program involving at least the entire populations of Europe and America."

But the military ran in Fogarty's family. His grandfather had served during World War II, Korea and Vietnam, and his dad had been a Marine in Vietnam. At 22, Fogarty resolved to follow in their footsteps. "I wanted to serve my country," he says.

Army regulations prohibit soldiers from participating in racist groups, and recruiters are instructed to keep an eye out for suspicious tattoos. Before signing on the dotted line, enlistees are required to explain any tattoos. At a Tampa recruitment office, though, Fogarty sailed right through the signup process. "They just told me to write an explanation of each tattoo, and I made up some stuff, and that was that," he says. Soon he was posted to Fort Stewart in Georgia, where he became part of the 3rd Infantry Division.

Fogarty's ex-girlfriend, intent on destroying his new military career, sent a dossier of photographs to Fort Stewart. The photos showed Fogarty attending white supremacist rallies and performing with his band, Attack. "They hauled me before some sort of committee and showed me the pictures," Fogarty says. "I just denied them and said my girlfriend was a spiteful bitch." He adds: "They knew what I was about. But they let it go because I'm a great soldier."

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Jobless Lose Food Stamps Because Of $25 Stimulus Check

Jobless Lose Food Stamps Because Of $25 Stimulus Check

When President Barack Obama increased unemployment benefits as part of his economic stimulus, he also made some Americans ineligible for hundreds of dollars a month in food stamps.

Under the economic recovery plan, laid-off workers have seen a $25 weekly bump in their unemployment checks as part of a broad expansion of benefits for the poor. But the law did not raise the income cap for food stamp eligibility, so the extra money has pushed some people over the limit.

Laid-off workers and state officials are only now realizing the quirk, a consequence of pushing a $787 billion, 400-page bill through Congress and into law in three weeks.

And for people hurt by the change, there's no way around it.

"Everybody tells you, 'Yeah, I can understand why you're frustrated. It doesn't sound right.' But nobody knows where to go," said Mark Milota, 47, of Marietta, Ga., who was laid off in November from his job at a medical billing company.

The Georgia Department of Human Resources explained in a letter to him last month that, because of the stimulus, he was ineligible for food stamps. He now makes $1,538 a month $21 too much for a family of two to qualify.

"We have to pay him that $25 a week," said Brenda Brown, assistant commissioner at the Georgia Department of Labor. "And he doesn't have the option not to accept it."

Milota said he was told that, without the stimulus money, he would have received about $300 a month in food stamps.

"I'm doing things I've never done before: I'm going to food pantries. I've gone to places for assistance on bills," Milota said. "Some bills are just not being paid. I'm three months behind on my mortgage."
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Israel advocates play gay card

Tel Aviv's burgeoning gay scene may be the single most effective Israel-advocacy instrument in the Zionist toolbox, according to participants of a new program which uses Israel's vibrant gay culture to improve the country's image abroad. The five-day program, entitled iPride, opened on Wednesday by highlighting the fact that Israel is the only country in the Middle East where homosexuality is legal. It coincides with Tel Aviv's gay pride parade scheduled to take place today.

StandWithUs, the U.S.-based Israel-advocacy group, brought together a group of about 30 gay opinion-shapers and activists from Western countries for meetings with Israeli counterparts in show business as well as representatives from the army and the legal system. "When I was first invited to Israel, I thought there was no way I'm coming: Too many conflicts, too many issues," said one of the guests, Irish-born actor Brian Kelly. "But when I eventually did come, I found a place unlike any other."

Organizers meant to bring gay activists from Jordan and the Palestinian Authority as well. They say security issues have held up the participants' entry into the country, but that they expect one activist from Jordan to be let in today.

Kelly, a presenter for the television show Room 208 on Channel V in Germany, came to Israel from Munich with his partner, Mattias Zitel. "The only problem with the gay scene in Tel Aviv is that it's everywhere. It seems impossible to find a straight bar in this town," Kelly said.

"Israel advocacy needs to come from the gay community and it needs to come from the most liberal, leftist parts of society," said Yoav Sivan, a veteran gay rights campaigner who helped StandWithUs activist Ohad Salmon from Tel Aviv University put together the event. "It receives much more credibility that way," said Sivan, a former Meretz activist. One of the guests, an Australian man who has been living in Dubai for over five years, said that his gay Arab friends "hate Israel." The fact that Israel is gay-friendlier than Arab countries, Jin Peh said, does not change this as far as they are concerned.

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About Those Iranian Polls...

Public opinion surveys are central to the Iranian opposition's argument that the elections there were rigged for incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: they cite unspecified polls showing the main challenger, Mir Hossein Mousavi with a "strong lead in the final days of the campaign," according to the New York Times.

Now, a competing poll conducted by two American groups is being used as part of the pushback. In an op-ed in today's Washington Post, Ken Ballen and Patrick Doherty write-up the results of their telephone poll carried out in mid-May, showing Ahmadinejad ahead "by a more than 2 to 1 margin - greater than his actual apparent margin of victory in Friday's election."

The validity of the unreleased Iranian surveys cannot be assessed in detail, but a closer look at the one sponsored by Terror Free Tomorrow and the New America Foundation reveals ample reason to be skeptical of the conclusions drawn from it.

Methodologically, this survey passes muster as it's relatively straightforward to pull a good sample of the Iranian population, using the country's publicly available population counts and listed telephone exchanges. But the poll was conducted from May 11 to 20, well before the spike in support for Mousavi his supporters claim.

(See here for a summary of available Iran polls that finds some evidence for Mousavi momentum late in the campaign.)

More to the point, however, the poll that appears in today's op-ed shows a 2 to 1 lead in the thinnest sense: 34 percent of those polled said they'd vote for Ahmadinejad, 14 percent for Mousavi. That leaves 52 percent unaccounted for. In all, 27 percent expressed no opinion in the election, and another 15 percent refused to answer the question at all. Six Eight percent said they'd vote for none of the listed candidates; the rest for minor candidates.

One should be enormously wary of the current value of a poll taken so far before such a heated contest, particularly one where more than half of voters did not express an opinion.

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State GOP staffer sends racist image of Obama.

Over the weekend, a GOP official in South Carolina posted a comment to Facebook comparing Michelle Obama to an escaped gorilla. Now, in a second instance of Republicans playing the race card against the Obamas, Wonkette notes that a racist e-mail was sent out by a legislative staffer for Tennessee GOP state senator Diane Black. The staffer, Sherri Goforth, e-mailed this composite picture of the country’s 44 presidents, which represents President Obama with only a set of eyes:


Nashville Is Talking asked Goforth about the e-mail:

When I asked her if she understood the controversial nature of the photo, Goforth would only say she felt very bad about accidentally sending it to the wrong list. When I gave her a second chance to address the controversial nature of the email, she again repeated that she only felt bad about sending it to the wrong list of people.

“I went on the wrong email and I inadvertently hit the wrong button,” Goforth told NIT. “I’m very sick about it, and it’s one of those things I can’t change or take back.”

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Gay Rights Group Tells President Obama That His Pro-DOMA Legal Brief Caused LGBT Community Pain

The Obama Justice Department last week wrote a brief in support of the Defense of Marriage Act, which as a candidate then-Sen. Obama called “abhorrent.”

The brief, which compared in legal terms same-sex marriages to incestuous ones, has met with some anger in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community, among others.

Today Joe Solmonese, the president of the LGBT rights organization the Human Rights Campaign, wrote to the Presidentexpressing the feeling that “when your administration filed a brief defending the constitutionality of the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act, I realized that although I and other LGBT leaders have introduced ourselves to you as policy makers, we clearly have not been heard, and seen, as what we also are: human beings whose lives, loves, and families are equal to yours.  I know this because this brief would not have seen the light of day if someone in your administration who truly recognized our humanity and equality had weighed in with you.”

Solmonese took issue with the Obama Justice Department’s use of “the well-worn argument that excluding same-sex couples from basic protections is somehow good for other married people.” (The brief said that “Because all 50 States recognize hetero-sexual marriage, it was reasonable and rational for Congress to maintain its longstanding policy of fostering this traditional and universally-recognized form of marriage.”)

Solmonese goes on to take issue with a number of arguments in the brief, concluding by writing, “I cannot overstate the pain that we feel as human beings and as families when we read an argument, presented in federal court, implying that our own marriages have no more constitutional standing than incestuous ones.”

He says to the president that the “brief should not be good enough for you.  The question is, Mr. President—do you believe that it’s good enough for us?”

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How many more are innocent?

Last weekend, we looked at the case of Bill Dillon, the Brevard County resident imprisoned for 27 years before DNA tests set him free.

That, however, is only part of a bigger story of twisted justice in Central Florida — an unsolved mystery that begs for an ending.

Dillon, after all, was not alone in his wrongful imprisonment. At least two other men suffered the same fate — and another shared link: a dog.

Not just any dog. A wonder dog helped convict all three men: a German shepherd named Harass II, who wowed juries with his amazing ability to place suspects at the scenes of crimes.

Harass could supposedly do things no other dog could: tracking scents months later and even across water, according to his handler, John Preston.

If it sounds hard to believe, there's a good reason.

After providing prosecutors with testimony for years, Preston was finally discredited by a judge who had the sense to do what others had not: test the dog for himself.

But not until after Preston and his dog had appeared in dozens of cases.

We know that at least three of those cases were overturned — after the defendants collectively spent more than a half-century in prison.

The question now is: How many others suffered the same injustice?

An even better question is: Do prosecutors, the attorney general or even the governor care enough to find out?
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MPAA Admits to Losing PR War to the ‘Enemies of Copyright’

The MPAA apparently said that the “enemies of copyright have really done a good job at creating the false premise that the interest of copyright holders and the interest of society as a whole are antagonistic” during the World Copyright Summit. The worry is that their pro-copyright advocacy perspective is fading away in the public conscious.

In an interesting report from IP-Watch where there were a few choice words levelled against those that disagreed with the view-points of the copyright industry. Apparently, Fritz Attaway suggested that it’s false to assume that the rights of the industry and the interest of the public good are at odds. Maybe even giving the suggestion that 10 years of copyright debates is all just a big misunderstandings perpetuated by, using the black and white term, “enemies”.

So, where do these misunderstandings possibly come from anyway? We figured a short list might be in order: destroying Napster and Audio Galaxy and not creating an alternative for the get-go, raiding people’s homes because they uploaded Star Wars (not necessarily leaking it in the first place), hacking the URN hash and polluting FastTrack, hacking The Pirate Bay, having Viacom serve DMCA notices to people posting video’s of people eating in a restaurant on YouTube, suing tens of thousands of average American’s including fining one individual $222,000 for sharing a couple songs, saying that files in a shared directory is copyright infringement in court, saying that evidence is too hard to get and that the industry shouldn’t be burdened to prove their cases in court, suggesting that iPods are little more than little pirate ships, saying in court that even making one back-up copy of a DVD is illegal, lobbying to put in the DMCA, demanding that laws should be in place to prevent any tinkering with DRM including for research purposes, installing rootkits on people’s computers, installing spyware on people’s computers via the MediaMax technology, being outed for being hypocrites for pirating a documentary movie and claiming that it’ll only be in a safe place, tried to bring people a broadcast flag and telling people you can’t record TV shows if the broadcaster doesn’t like it, trying to bi-pass the backfiring of WIPO and the FCC to bring in the broadcast flag anyway, tried to get ISPs to do all the copyright industry’s dirty work, pressured and bullied other countries to implement laws the industry saw fit and using shady lobbying tactics to accomplish this, tried to sell us music that cannot be copied through the internet and on discs, tried to bi-pass the will of the European Union and get countries to pass “three strikes” laws even if artists disagree with it, attempted to price fix music albums, secretly hold negotiations to pass draconian copyright laws that would see people’s physical property effectively stolen on the mere suspicion of copyright infringement through ACTA, demanding that laws be passed that mandates the promotion of legal alternatives, then not providing the kind of deals that would allow legitimate services to flourish with internet groups and businesses like ISPs, alienate an entire generation by labelling their own customers as pirates, likened downloading music on the internet to terrorism, likened internet users who download music online to “bikey gangs”, spread blatantly false information about file-sharing, forcing people to watch anti-piracy ads on movies, suing people who had a recently deceased family member, argue that the industry is for artists, then going to court and demanding that royalty rates should be lower for artists - thus having to pay them less and keeping more money from album revenues, forcing radio broadcasters to pay royalties even if they don’t play music from the copyright industry, suing a lawyer for blogging about court cases related to copyright, and possibly the whole issue of listing countries that hold 70% of the world’s population and labelling some as rogue nations that need to update their copyright laws via the USTR Special 301 report - thus alienating many countries in the first place. Again, a short list of probably simple misunderstandings in the world of PR that have been taken out of context by the “enemies of copyright”.


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Letterman's Palin Joke Costs CBS an Advertiser, Spawns Campaign for His Firing

David Letterman's comments about Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and one of her daughters has prompted a hotel chain to pull its advertising on CBS' website — and spawned a campaign to fire the Late Show host that includes a planned protest outside his studio.

Embassy Suites, part of the Hilton Hotels Corp., pulled advertising on CBS' site because of complaints, company spokeswoman Kendra Walker told TVGuide.com. The company was not an advertiser on Late Night with David Letterman.

"We received lots of e-mails from concerned guests and we assessed that the statement that he made was offensive enough to our guests and prospective guests that we elected to take the ads down," Walker said. She declined to release the cost of the ads.

CBS did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

More at sauce.
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Judge: Holocaust Museum suspect can't appear


WASHINGTON – The white supremacist accused of killing a guard at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum is in no condition to appear in court, a federal judge found Monday. After a brief private conversation with attorneys from both sides, U.S. Magistrate Judge John Facciola said at a hearing that he had determined that it would not be possible for James von Brunn to have an initial appearance in the next week, either at the courthouse or in his hospital room.

James von Brunn, 88, has been charged with first-degree murder in the death of 39-year-old Stephen T. Johns, a museum security guard who was black. Authorities say von Brunn shot the guard in the chest with a vintage rifle after Johns opened the door for him.

Authorities say von Brunn was shot in the face when other museum guards returned fire. FBI officials have said that von Brunn is likely to survive.

Little else was revealed about his condition at the hearing. Prosecutor Nicole Waid said von Brunn is in critical but stable condition. She asked to approach the bench for any further discussion, and Facciola called all the attorneys up for a confidential talk.

"Obviously, he's not able to get to court," Facciola said after their discussion. He scheduled another hearing for next Monday to get an update.

Von Brunn's court-appointed attorney A.J. Kramer would not comment further about his client's condition, citing health privacy laws, but said he was able to meet with him at the hospital on Sunday.

Von Brunn's son has come out publicly against him, saying the shooting was unforgivable and he wished his father had died instead.

Erik von Brunn told ABC's "Good Morning America" that he and his father didn't like each other. The interview followed ABC's release Sunday of comments by the son that his father had long burdened their family with his white supremacist views and should have died in the attack.

"I loved my father. But what he did was unforgivable," Erik von Brunn, 32, said.

ABC played a short video of Johns' mother Jacqueline Carter reacting to Erik's statements about his father.

"I hope that in time his son will be able to forgive his dad and find some peace within his heart also," Carter said.

In response, Erik von Brunn told ABC, "Forgiveness is very difficult right now."

"You know, the only bond we had was father and son. We didn't like each other very much."



Palin Stans To Protest Letterman Taping

(I stole this from ONTD because it's more relevant to us.)

Fire David Letterman campaign takes root; protest planned over comment on Sarah Palin's daughter

David Letterman admitted pangs of regret over jokes he made last week about Sarah Palin's daughter.

He may be regretting them a little more now.

A Web site called FireDavidLetterman.com is organizing a rally outside Letterman's show at the Ed Sullivan theater on Tuesday June 16 at 4:30 p.m.

And while Letterman has repeatedly reminded viewers his comments were jokes, the campaign's organizers seem dead serious about getting the late-night stalwart canned.

Sponsored by New York State Assemblyman Brian Kolb, along with an attorney and radio host John Ziegler, the site also provides contacts - including major advertisers and CBS bigwigs - to whom people can complain about what many felt was a tasteless and potentially harmful quip by the late night talk leader.

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I'm definitely a Palin stan, but this is getting ridiculous. Sure he's an unfunny Liberal douche, but he shouldn't be fired. People have said much worse things. I just want him to go to some Conservative Sensitivity and Sexual Harassment/Gender Sensitivity classes.
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NPR: Is Sonia Sotomayor Mean?

The White House is fond of pointing out that U.S. Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor has more years on the bench, as a trial court and appellate judge, than any previous Supreme Court nominee.

With that record comes not just hundreds of written opinions, but thousands of oral arguments. And some lawyers have characterized Judge Sotomayor's style as blunt, even bullying.

The Almanac of the Federal Judiciary publishes lawyers' evaluations of each federal judge, and updates those evaluations every few years. In Sotomayor's years on the bench, lawyers have often raved about her, calling her brilliant, tireless — just the absolute best. They have also called her tough and unwilling to put up with guff.

But in the most recent evaluation, interviews with eight to 10 unnamed lawyers also produced some less flattering comments: "a terror on the bench," "nasty," "overly aggressive," "a bit of a bully."

The subject of the Supreme Court nominee's judicial temperament has so far been raised by just one senator, Lindsay Graham (R-SC).

"There's a character problem; there's a temperament problem," says Graham.

Referring to the comments in the Almanac, Graham went on:

"I just don't like bully judges," Graham says. "There are some judges that have an edge, that do not wear the robe well. I don't like that. From what I can tell of her temperament and demeanor, she seems to be a very nice person. [Supreme Court Justice Antonin] Scalia is no shrinking violet. He's tough, but there's a difference between being tough and a bully."

Sotomayor's fellow judges view her as always prepared — and tough. Republican and Democratic appointees interviewed for this story rejected outright the notion that she is a bully, though some think she talks too much and too often dominates an oral argument.

Judge Guido Calabresi, former Yale Law School dean and Sotomayor's mentor, now says that when Sotomayor first joined the Court of Appeals, he began hearing rumors that she was overly aggressive, and he started keeping track, comparing the substance and tone of her questions with those of his male colleagues and his own questions.

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Lugar gives Obama an ‘A’ for foreign policy

WASHINGTON - President Obama merits an "A" so far in his approach to American foreign policy, Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., said Monday. But he cautioned that tone alone doesn't solve deep and complex world problems.

Lugar, the senior Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, met with a group of journalists for an hour. In response to a question about how he'd rate Obama's performance in the international arena, Lugar said he'd give the new president a top grade.

He said the Obama administration's policies are not much different from the Bush administration's, but his approach is different.

"The idea of being more inclusive and reaching out, alliances, working with the international comities, his own vigor in going all over the world giving these speeches in the first few weeks or months of the administration are really remarkable.

"However, the same galaxy of problems that faced President Bush in his last year still face President Obama. They're the kind of disputes that are not likely to go away just by having a simple conference or another treaty."

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Polling in Iran Shows Real Support for Ahmadinejad

The Iranian People Speak

By Ken Ballen and Patrick Doherty
Monday, June 15, 2009

The election results in Iran may reflect the will of the Iranian people. Many experts are claiming that the margin of victory of incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was the result of fraud or manipulation, but our nationwide public opinion survey of Iranians three weeks before the vote showed Ahmadinejad leading by a more than 2 to 1 margin -- greater than his actual apparent margin of victory in Friday's election.

While Western news reports from Tehran in the days leading up to the voting portrayed an Iranian public enthusiastic about Ahmadinejad's principal opponent, Mir Hossein Mousavi, our scientific sampling from across all 30 of Iran's provinces showed Ahmadinejad well ahead.

Independent and uncensored nationwide surveys of Iran are rare. Typically, preelection polls there are either conducted or monitored by the government and are notoriously untrustworthy. By contrast, the poll undertaken by our nonprofit organizations from May 11 to May 20 was the third in a series over the past two years. Conducted by telephone from a neighboring country, field work was carried out in Farsi by a polling company whose work in the region for ABC News and the BBC has received an Emmy award. Our polling was funded by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.

The breadth of Ahmadinejad's support was apparent in our preelection survey. During the campaign, for instance, Mousavi emphasized his identity as an Azeri, the second-largest ethnic group in Iran after Persians, to woo Azeri voters. Our survey indicated, though, that Azeris favored Ahmadinejad by 2 to 1 over Mousavi.

Much commentary has portrayed Iranian youth and the Internet as harbingers of change in this election. But our poll found that only a third of Iranians even have access to the Internet, while 18-to-24-year-olds comprised the strongest voting bloc for Ahmadinejad of all age groups.

The only demographic groups in which our survey found Mousavi leading or competitive with Ahmadinejad were university students and graduates, and the highest-income Iranians. When our poll was taken, almost a third of Iranians were also still undecided. Yet the baseline distributions we found then mirror the results reported by the Iranian authorities, indicating the possibility that the vote is not the product of widespread fraud.

Some might argue that the professed support for Ahmadinejad we found simply reflected fearful respondents' reluctance to provide honest answers to pollsters. Yet the integrity of our results is confirmed by the politically risky responses Iranians were willing to give to a host of questions. For instance, nearly four in five Iranians -- including most Ahmadinejad supporters -- said they wanted to change the political system to give them the right to elect Iran's supreme leader, who is not currently subject to popular vote. Similarly, Iranians chose free elections and a free press as their most important priorities for their government, virtually tied with improving the national economy. These were hardly "politically correct" responses to voice publicly in a largely authoritarian society.

Indeed, and consistently among all three of our surveys over the past two years, more than 70 percent of Iranians also expressed support for providing full access to weapons inspectors and a guarantee that Iran will not develop or possess nuclear weapons, in return for outside aid and investment. And 77 percent of Iranians favored normal relations and trade with the United States, another result consistent with our previous findings.

Iranians view their support for a more democratic system, with normal relations with the United States, as consonant with their support for Ahmadinejad. They do not want him to continue his hard-line policies. Rather, Iranians apparently see Ahmadinejad as their toughest negotiator, the person best positioned to bring home a favorable deal -- rather like a Persian Nixon going to China.

Allegations of fraud and electoral manipulation will serve to further isolate Iran and are likely to increase its belligerence and intransigence against the outside world. Before other countries, including the United States, jump to the conclusion that the Iranian presidential elections were fraudulent, with the grave consequences such charges could bring, they should consider all independent information. The fact may simply be that the reelection of President Ahmadinejad is what the Iranian people wanted.

Ken Ballen is president of Terror Free Tomorrow: The Center for Public Opinion, a nonprofit institute that researches attitudes toward extremism. Patrick Doherty is deputy director of the American Strategy Program at the New America Foundation. The groups' May 11-20 polling consisted of 1,001 interviews across Iran and had a 3.1 percentage point margin of error.


Well now I'm not sure what to think.

Obama Talks the Iranian Election

It is up to Iranians to make decisions about who Iran's leaders will be. We respect Iranian sovereignty and want to avoid the United States being the issue inside of iran, which sometimes -- the United States can be a handy political football, or discussions with the United States [can be]. Having said all that, I am deeply troubled by the violence i have seen on television. I think that the democratic process, free speech, the ability of people to peacefully dissent, all of those are universal values, and need to be respected. And whenever I see violence perpetrated on people who are peacefully dissenting, and whenever the American people see that, they are rightfully troubled.

Source (With tons of info.)

California Teacher Sues District After Being Fired For Being Gay

Rowland Unified investigates alleged misconduct at secondary schools
By Amanda Baumfeld, Staff Writer
Posted: 06/02/2009 09:51:11 AM PDT

ROWLAND HEIGHTS, CALIFORNIA - During a closed session, school officials today plan to discuss findings of their probe into anonymous complaints about the actions of secondary school administrators.

The investigation was prompted after several anonymous letters to the board alleged discrimination and misconduct by managers at Giano Intermediate School and Nogales High School, officials said.

Rowland Unified School District board member Judy Nieh requested the investigation at an April 7 board meeting but declined to comment further.

"The information I can tell you is that it's all related to a group of people, not just one person or two people," Nieh said.


District administrators have been tight-lipped over which schools were investigated, but complaints have surrounded Nogales High and Giano Intermediate schools, according to parents.

A lawsuit filed Dec. 12 in Los Angeles Superior Court accuses Giano Intermediate Principal Patricia Cuesta of discrimination, retaliation and intentional emotional distress.

Former Giano Vice Principal Gary Daniels and teacher Michael Ocampo claim they were harassed, intimidated and forced out of the school by Cuesta, according to the complaint.

Ocampo, an openly gay man, believes he was terminated in July 2008 because Cuesta did not approve of his sexual orientation.

"She made comments to Daniels implying she did not believe he (Ocampo) should be allowed to teach given his sexual orientation," said Pamela McKibbin Teren, an attorney representing the two men. "(Cuesta said) he should be working at Chippendales."

Shortly after, Daniels objected to Cuesta's comments and filed written complaints with her and the district, according to the suit.

The complaint also alleges Cuesta "had a preference for Hispanic employees." Daniels is white, while Ocampo is Asian, according to documents.

A trial date is set for Jan. 20, according to Teren. Daniels and Ocampo are asking for more than $25,000, according to the suit.

Cuesta was hired as Giano's principal in July 2007. She came from Edgewood Middle School in West Covina, where she was the assistant principal.

Under her leadership, Giano was one of 10 schools in the nation recognized by the National Association of Secondary School Principals in March.

It is unclear how many letters the district received.

"All of them (the letters) are anonymous," spokeswoman Gina Ward said. "It's frustrating."

Download a copy of the lawsuit.


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Those of you who feel like giving the district a piece of your mind over this issue can do so at http://www.rowlandschools.org/apps/contact/?rn=2438909

And those of you who feel like telling Dr. Patricia Cuesta how you feel over her alleged conduct can reach her at pcuesta@mail.rowland.k12.ca.us
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But, but, but...MILITARY COHESION!!!11ONE11!!

"… A recent Cornell University study confirms what many people had assumed: "DADT" isn't just bad for gay people, it's bad for the military too. Gay and lesbian study participants who were asked to conceal their sexual orientation performed 20% worse on spatial reasoning tests and 50% worse on physical endurance tests as compared to those who were not given this instruction. The findings have clear implications for the battlefield. Gays and lesbians — even those who follow the policy — are prevented from performing optimally, which may affect the readiness of military units."

Okay, but here's the methodology: "Researchers instructed gay and lesbian participants not to reveal their sexual orientation while engaging in an eight to ten minute conversation, then asked them to take a spatial reasoning test — adopted from an Army intelligence test — and hold an exercise grip for as long as possible. Those asked to keep quiet about being gay in the preceding conversation were able to hold an exercise grip for 11 seconds, compared to an average of 23 for the control group; they also got 20 percent more questions wrong on the spatial reasoning test. "


hp; bb harry; quidditch

Bride ban: Gay bar says 'I don't' to bachelorettes

Bar owner Geno Zaharakis sat one busy evening at the window of his gay nightclub, watching as groups of straight women celebrating bachelorette parties made their way along a strip of bars in Chicago's gay-friendly "Boystown" neighborhood.

That's when he made a decision now posted for all to see: "No Bachelorette Parties."

Though the small sign has been there for years, it's suddenly making a big statement amid the national debate over gay marriage. While most gay bars continue to welcome the raucous brides to be, Zaharakis's bar Cocktail is fighting for what he sees as a fundamental right, and his patrons -- along with some peeved bachelorettes -- are taking notice.

"I'm totally losing money because of it, but I don't want the money," Zaharakis said. "I would rather not have the money than host an event I didn't believe in."

Gay bars are popular with bachelorettes, both for the over-the-top drag shows that some offer and for the ability to let loose in a place where women are unlikely to be groped or ogled. Some bars welcome the women and their free spending, even advertising weekend shows.

Zaharakis, though, instructs his bouncers to turn away groups of women sporting beads, boas, tiaras and phallic plastic necklaces. His customers say they like knowing they're not going to encounter such displays.

"It is throwing it in our face that they can get married and we can't," said Dion Contreras, a 29-year-old Chicago litigation manager, while having a drink at Cocktail with friends. "I just think they're ignorant to our situation. I want women to think twice about this issue."

When Zaharakis posted the sign in 2004, it got a little local attention, but it was mostly the surprised bachelorettes turned away at the door who took note. The November passage of California's gay marriage ban Proposition 8, though, helped sparked chatter about the ban on Internet blogs, which in turn attracted more media attention and debate.

The California Supreme Court upheld the state ban last month. Six states have legalized gay marriage.

Some of the biggest proponents of gay marriage aren't on board with Zaharakis' approach.

Evan Wolfson, executive director of Freedom to Marry, said while he agrees with Zaharakis' stand on marriage equality, he would express it differently.

"I'd rather invite people in," Wolfson said. "Celebrate their happiness and ask them to take a stand for us by helping change the law."

And Ed Yohnka of the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois -- well-known for fighting for the legalization of gay marriage -- says the ban may violate state anti-discrimination laws.

"The way is not to bar or discriminate against or harass other people," Yohnka said.

In Washington D.C., when bachelorette partygoers enter the gay bar Town Danceboutique they're asked to sign a petition in support of gay marriage. Owner Ed Bailey sends the petitions to the customer's representative in Congress. Bailey says in the year he's had his petition policy, no one has refused to sign.

"That's the way to handle it instead of alienating all these people," Bailey said. "You have to get the consensus built out there. Why not try to convince people, 'Hey, why wouldn't you support this?"'

Down the street from Chicago's Cocktail, another gay nightclub, Circuit, welcomes bachelorettes. Owner Jeff Binninger doesn't think the women's antics are meant to hurt anyone.

"The girls want to come and see the dancers," Binninger said. "I don't think it's on their mind at all, 'We can get married and, oh, you can't.' I don't think the girls are malicious in their intent."

Where Zaharakis took offense, Binninger saw a market niche and started producing the male revue "Sinzation" on Saturday nights, advertised specifically to bachelorette parties.

One recent Saturday night, 25-year-old Tiffany Casto of Canton, Mich., and eight girlfriends waited for the male dancers to start the show. Casto wore a hot pink feather boa, while her friends had matching white sunglasses, reflecting the dozen disco balls spinning from the ceiling as Beyonce's "Single Ladies" played.

"I wouldn't think I'm flaunting it at all," Casto said.

But Zaharakis is standing firm. At Cocktail, where about once a month staff turn away bachelorettes, the sign will stay. And for those who ask about it, he's ready with a written statement: "Until same-sex marriage is legal everywhere and same-sex couples are allowed the rights as every heterosexual couple worldwide, we simply do not think it's fair or just for a female bride-to-be to celebrate her upcoming nuptials here at Cocktail."

"I'm not going to tell anybody about how to run their business," Zaharakis said. "This is just how I run mine. The political climate has made it more charged. We're standing up in our factions and groups and making statements about how this should stop."


On the Net:

Cocktail Bar Chicago: http://www.cocktailbarchicago.com/

Circuit Night Club: http://www.circuitclub.com/

Town Danceboutique: http://www.towndc.com/

K-Box caricature


Glenn Beck Loves Rape: An Impartial Look At His Comedy Show | Cracked.com

By: Daniel O'Brien

Date: Thursday. June 12th, 2009.
Time: 8:00pm.
Place: The Bridge IMAX Theater, Los Angeles, California.
Movie: A special, one night only, encore presentation of the Glenn Beck Common Sense Comedy Tour.
(Yes, I paid 20 dollars to see a special broadcast of Glenn Beck’s comedy show so I could write this article. The amount of personal sacrifices I’m willing to make for this website is staggering.)

Some of my notes from my night watching Glenn Beck’s comedy show were easy to decipher (”Glenn Beck just said ‘The National Endowment for the Arts pisses me off’ and everyone clapped”) but I also jotted down some slightly more passionate, yet less discernible remarks:

I’m not sure exactly what prompted that. Maybe it’s me having sex with Glenn Beck’s mother. Maybe it’s Glenn Beck having sex with Glenn Beck’s mother. Anyway, there were a lot of these quick, barely legible notes. This is my attempt to construct a rational narrative out of 11 of them.

( Read the rest of the article here: )