October 18th, 2009

  • dwer

Spectre moving to the left

Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA), who until late April of this year was a lifelong Republican, castigated his former party this morning on Fox News. Specter ripped the GOP for refusing to be a good-faith negotiator in the health care debate:

On the Republican side, it’s no, no, no. A party of obstructionism.… You have responsible Republicans who had been in the Senate — like Howard Baker, Bob Dole, or Bill Frist — who say Republicans ought to cooperate. Well, they’re not cooperating.

Specter also indicated he would fight hard for the public option. “I’m not prepared to recede at all. I think the public option is gaining momentum,” he said. “I am not going to step back a bit. I am going to fight for the best public option.”

Source has a video.

Kim Jong-il continues building his evil lair.

Will 'Hotel of Doom' ever be finished?

Infamously ugly and unfinished, the shell of the Ryugyong Hotel dominates North Korea's capital, Pyongyang. But work on the skyscraper began again last summer after a 16-year hiatus and, as the company behind it tells the BBC's Matthew Davis, an end may finally be in sight.

A three-sided pyramid with walls that jag upwards at 75 degrees, capped by a series of concentric rings, the Ryugyong Hotel was described by one magazine simply as "the worst building in the history of mankind".

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It even looks like an evil lair!

Learn Chinese for Free in Liberia.

By Jonathan Paye-Layleh
BBC News, Monrovia

China is often criticised for taking from Africa but giving little back. Not so in Liberia, where Chinese officials are moving into quite new territory - language lessons.

At the front of a makeshift classroom in Monrovia's main sports stadium, Chinese teacher Li Peng runs through the pleasantries all language students are compelled to master.

Good morning, good evening, please, thank you.

Seated on plastic chairs in front of him are about a dozen Liberians - most of them young and keen to visit China, perhaps even study there.

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Source is learning chinese

Cool for them. I hear that Chinese is tough to learn. I tried Japanese, but even after four semesters, I still can't speak it.

Rightwingnut Satire or Extreme Right Radicalism?...

Cancel Your Weekend ‘Leaving The House’ Plans!

Just filled with buckets and buckets of satire! “2011 Obama’s Coup Fails is an action packed, satire-filled war game that takes place in the not-so-distant future. Right after the November 2010 election, to be precise. It has been said that America would never be destroyed by a foreign power. It does seem our biggest enemies are not from outside our borders. Could the scenario described above ever really happen? If current events keep transpiring as they are, then 2011 Obama’s Coup may in fact become a dark chapter in American History.”

Hmm, it must be “wingnut satire,” meaning, “this is the exact thing that we believe to be true” — what the liberal MSM and O-bots call “earnestness.”

Best prepare with this simulation now! We were waiting to play this satire-filled war game for a few minutes before posting, but the Internet keeps crowding us out: “SERVERS OVERLOADED We are adding servers right now. Site is going viral. Strength and Freedom!”

[United States of Earth]

(no subject)

Are women paying for sexism laws?

Old style sexism has "died a death" in the city, so says the deputy chairman of fund management firm JO Hambro.

Nichola Pease
Equality laws are holding women back, says Nichola Pease

In fact, controversially, Nicola Pease, 48, suggests that red tape is now holding women back rather than helping them to get ahead.

The mother-of-three, who's been working in the City of London since the 1980s, made the comments to MPs investigating the issue of Women in the City.

But has sexism really left the financial sector?

"Prejudicial attitudes in flexible working structures and discriminatory pay practises means that today women suffer an 80% pay gap with regards to bonuses," says Kat Banyard, campaign director at the Fawcett Society.

Pay battle

Ms Banyard says that despite having equal pay rights enshrined in law since the 1970s, a pay gap still exists and the law is not strong enough.

"As a result companies are not required to check that they are paying equally, so it's absolutely crucial we have mandatory pay audits," she adds.

"The Equality Bill currently going through Parliament is a once in a generation opportunity to reform equal pay law we cannot afford to miss."

Yet Ms Pease has urged MPs not to wade in further into the issue, as legislation now meant some employers believe hiring a woman is a "nightmare".


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Toby for Obama

Meghan McCain's 15 Minutes

She’s not a shrewd operator, she’s a lost little girl.

Meghan McCain, I was so wrong about you. Just a little more than a year ago, during her father’s failed campaign for president, I wrote a piece for Slate about how McCain had learned to cannily manipulate her very blond public image to its full advantage while still maintaining a modicum of privacy. I even called her shrewd.

That was before she joined Twitter. When I wrote about her in 2008, I was impressed with the amount of agency she appeared to exert over her own image, but that’s where I was most wrong. She’s not a woman coolly dealing with the hand of celebrity she was dealt; she’s a lost little girl grasping at fame, working out her insecurities on an unnecessarily large stage.

Nothing illustrates this better than this week's McCain controversy, when she set the Internet a-twitter by posting a self-snapped picture of herself holding an Andy Warhol biography with the two most prominent parts of her below-the-neck anatomy very much in evidence. Reaction was swift and harsh, with Twitter users seizing the occasion to tell the 24-year-old to cover up and to acquire some class, doled out with all the politeness one has come to expect from the Internet. By Thursday, McCain began posting frantic messages about quitting Twitter and apologizing for the picture (which she took down, put back up, took back down …).

The problem isn’t that McCain posted a provocative picture of herself online—silly and tacky as it might be, lots of young women do it. It’s not that she has large breasts and is proud of her body. And it’s not that she’s using her looks and her “brand” to further her “career”—if she decides she wants to be Julia Allison, fine, let her be. The problem is that she’s trying to have it both ways. She wants to be taken seriously on matters of policy and to have a voice in the Republican Party—at least so she tells us—and people seem more than willing to give her one, but she also wants to go on the Tyra Banks show and talk about her hair extensions.

The controversy happened to make the rounds on the same day that Kathleen Parker of the Washington Post devoted a column to the newly influential ladies of the GOP, naming McCain alongside Meg Whitman, Carly Fiorina, and Liz Cheney. Like most commenters who’ve written about McCain, Parker said that she’s fresh and hip and heterodox and so can help revamp the GOP brand for young voters, although there’s no evidence that she’s done anything of the kind.

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EDIT: The photo in question.

Basically this writer manages both to make a couple points I agree with (people use her for the publicity boost; she's still working out her public persona, hello, she's *24*) AND to make others that I find fairly offensive (softcore? hysteria? seriously?), within the same article. It's also a tad hypocritical to call the media out for "seizing on the bits of [Meghan's public face] they know will be useful to them" in an article that uses Twitter to psychoanalyze her in order to make a point.


Swedes divided over bunny biofuel

Bodies of thousands of rabbits are reportedly fuelling a heating plant

(Ok, I put the picture with all the dead bunnies under the cut...)

Residents in Stockholm are divided over reports that rabbits are being used to make biofuel.

The bodies of thousands of rabbits are fuelling a heating plant in central Sweden, local newspapers say.

The city of Stockholm has an annual cull of thousands of rabbits to protect the capital's parks and green spaces.

The rabbits, not native to Sweden, are mainly the offspring of pets released by owners, and are said to be destroying parks in the capital.

Since they have no natural predators, the city administration of Stockholm employs hunters to kill the rabbits.


Harsh reality image under the cut...

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cookie monster
  • capthek

Ya got to love Dean, did the stimulus work? Well this isn't the predicted great depression 2

George Will Flunks Economics and Fiscal Years 101

George Will claims that the stimulus packages passed in 2008 and in February of this year did not work. How does he know this? Well, because the unemployment rate is still very high.
That is an interesting logical leap. Suppose a person has been diagnosed with cancer and is treated with chemotherapy. Three years later the person is still alive and reasonably healthy, but the tumor has not gone away. By Dr. Will's logic, the chemotherapy did not work.
The reality is that we are facing an enormous economic downturn because Will and the other people who occupy center ground in the nation's policy debates were unable to see an $8 trillion housing bubble. The inevitable collapse of this bubble virtually guaranteed a steep recession.
The stimulus passed in 2008 helped to keep consumption higher than it would have been in the absence of the collapse. The same is true of the stimulus passed this year. Both kept employment higher than it would have been in the absence of the stimulus.
Economists can test for the effect of the stimulus by using models that project what would happen in the absence of stimulus and compare this scenario with what actually happened. These models generally show that both the 2008 and 2009 stimulus strengthened the economy.
Will is either profoundly ignorant of economics, or being disingenuous, when he implies that the Obama administration is somehow making things up when it claims that is has "saved" [italics in original] jobs. Any effort to boost the economy will create some number of new jobs, but it will also prevent many existing jobs from being lost. This is a very basic concept, and contrary to Will's assertion, we can measure the extent to which this is true.
Will thinks it is "awkward " that the unemployment rate continued to rise after the stimulus was passed. Actually, this is exactly what the Obama administration, as well as independent forecasters, had projected. No one thought that the stimulus could immediately halt the economy's downward slide. The slide was faster than the administration had projected, and for this they deserve blame, although most independent forecasters made the same mistake. (This is not an excuse -- they get paid for getting the numbers right, not making the same mistakes as everyone else.)

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Shirley Animated


Image and video hosting by TinyPic

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration will not seek to arrest medical marijuana users and suppliers as long as they conform to state laws, under new policy guidelines to be sent to federal prosecutors Monday.

Two Justice Department officials described the new policy to The Associated Press, saying prosecutors will be told it is not a good use of their time to arrest people who use or provide medical marijuana in strict compliance with state laws.

The new policy is a significant departure from the Bush administration, which insisted it would continue to enforce federal anti-pot laws regardless of state codes.

Fourteen states allow some use of marijuana for medical purposes: Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.

California is unique among those for the widespread presence of dispensaries — businesses that sell marijuana and even advertise their services. Colorado also has several dispensaries, and Rhode Island and New Mexico are in the process of licensing providers, according to the Marijuana Policy Project, a group that promotes the decriminalization of marijuana use.

Attorney General Eric Holder said in March that he wanted federal law enforcement officials to pursue those who violate both federal and state law, but it has not been clear how that goal would be put into practice.

A three-page memo spelling out the policy is expected to be sent Monday to federal prosecutors in the 14 states, and also to top officials at the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Administration.

The memo, the officials said, emphasizes that prosecutors have wide discretion in choosing which cases to pursue, and says it is not a good use of federal manpower to prosecute those who are without a doubt in compliance with state law.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the legal guidance before it is issued.

"This is a major step forward," said Bruce Mirken, communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project. "This change in policy moves the federal government dramatically toward respecting scientific and practical reality."

At the same time, the officials said, the government will still prosecute those who use medical marijuana as a cover for other illegal activity. The memo particularly warns that some suspects may hide old-fashioned drug dealing or other crimes behind a medical marijuana business.

In particular, the memo urges prosecutors to pursue marijuana cases which involve violence, the illegal use of firearms, selling pot to minors, money laundering or other crimes.

And while the policy memo describes a change in priorities away from prosecuting medical marijuana cases, it does not rule out the possibility that the federal government could still prosecute someone whose activities are allowed under state law.

The memo, officials said, is designed to give a sense of prosecutorial priorities to U.S. Attorneys in the states that allow medical marijuana. It notes that pot sales in the United States are the largest source of money for violent Mexican drug cartels, but adds that federal law enforcement agencies have limited resources.

Medical marijuana advocates have been anxious to see exactly how the administration would implement candidate Barack Obama's repeated promises to change the policy in situations in which state laws allow the use of medical marijuana.

Shortly after Obama took office, DEA agents raided four dispensaries in Los Angeles, prompting confusion about the government's plans.

Sauce is fucking baked

Fuck yeah, Colorado. And I know this seems small, but I see this as an awesome step in ending the bullshit that is the ~War on Drugs~ I mean more than a quarter of the states have legalized it for medicinal purposes)
  • Current Mood

Health Care: Will Catholic Bishops Try to Block Reform?

For decades, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has been one of the most steadfast advocates for health reform, arguing that "access to basic, quality health care is a universal human right, not a privilege." And yet on Oct. 8, a trio of leaders representing the USCCB wrote a letter to the U.S. Senate warning that they would have to "vigorously" oppose health reform legislation unless certain changes were made. The issue most likely to stand in the way of the bishops' support is one that could have been predicted months before debate even began: abortion.

The fact that disputes over abortion coverage remain an obstacle at this point in the process — more than two dozen pro-life House Democrats have also vowed to vote against reform legislation because of it — might suggest that the White House dropped the ball. But while Obama's outreach to the USCCB has left much to be desired, the bishops deserve a fair share of the blame for the continuing stalemate. If anything, their inconsistent approach to the issue created confusion that has hampered Democratic attempts to accommodate their concerns.

As late as mid-summer, it appeared that Democrats and the bishops were on track to work out an understanding. In late July, Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia, who at the time was heading the USCCB's pro-life committee, sent a letter to members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee that appeared to signal that there was room to accommodate Catholic concerns. The USCCB, Rigali wrote, wanted health reform to continue the policy of preventing "direct federal funding of abortion." The language was important because it seemed to match an amendment drafted by Representative Lois Capps, a Democrat in California, to address pro-life concerns. Under the Capps amendment, which the Committee approved, no federal dollars could directly fund abortion procedures. An individual could obtain an abortion if her insurance plan covered it, but the procedure would be paid with segregated dollars from a pool funded by privately-paid premiums.

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