December 27th, 2009

nobody / travis

Tehran police 'in fatal clashes with protesters'

Opposition sources in Iran say that at least four protesters have been shot dead in violent clashes between anti-government crowds and police.

They said security forces opened fire on protesters as some of the fiercest clashes in months erupted in the capital, Tehran. The police have denied there had been any fatalities. Opposition parties had urged people to take to the streets as the Shia Muslim festival of Ashura reached a climax.

People were chanting "Khamenei will be toppled", opposition sources said, a reference to Iran's Supreme Leader. Thousands of demonstrators are reported to have taken part in the protests, in defiance of official warnings.

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GOP's Awesome Plan for 2010: Repeal Health Care Reform! We Are Saved!

McConnell Hints That GOP Will Campaign On Repealing Health Care Reform

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell hinted on Sunday that Republicans would campaign for office in the months ahead on a pledge to undo health care legislation, should it become law. But the Kentucky Republican refused to commit to pursuing a repeal, saying merely that the health care reform of 2009 would be a major issue come 2010.

"Certainly politically, it is a big problem for [Democrats]. They all kind of joined hands and went off a cliff together," McConnell told ABC's "This Week," when asked whether the GOP would push for a health care reform repeal. "There is great unrest in the Democratic Party. And the reason for that it is, the surveys indicate the American people are overwhelming opposed to this effort to have the government take over their health care. It will be a huge issue next year. And that's why you hear the Democrats saying, 'Let's not tackle any big issues'."

Pressed by host Jake Tapper to say more definitively whether a repeal of health care was going to be a tenet of the Republican agenda, McConnell said he thought he had answered the question. He then proceeded to provide another vague response.

"There's no question that this bill, if it were to become law and frankly even if it doesn't become law, it will be a big, if not central, issue not only in the 2010 election but in the 2012 election," he said.

Tapper took the second of McConnell's remarks as a yes to the question of pursuing a repeal. But reading the language closely, it seems clear that the minority leader tried his best not to engage on the question. Many of the benefits of health care reform aren't going to come into place until 2013 or 2014. But it still seems politically untenable for a party to push for overturning of a law that not only grants billions of dollars in subsidies to help the uninsured purchase insurance, but also achieves commonsense reforms like eliminating the use of pre-existing conditions as a means to deny coverage.

Lieberman: "F@CK Iran. Lets Just Pre-Emptive Strike Yemen. We Will Be Greeted As Liberators!"

Lieberman: The United States Must Pre-Emptively Act In Yemen

Sen. Joseph Lieberman, (I-Conn) a renowned hawk and one of the foremost champions of the invasion of Iraq, warned on Sunday that the United States faced "danger" unless it pre-emptively acts to curb the rise of terrorism in Yemen.

"Somebody in our government said to me in Sana'a, the capital of Yemen, Iraq was yesterday's war. Afghanistan is today's war. If we don't act preemptively, Yemen will be tomorrow's war,"
Lieberman said, during an appearance on "Fox News Sunday". "That's the danger we face."

The Connecticut Independent, who heads the Senate Committee on Homeland Security, made his remarks just days after a Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab -- a Nigerian with apparent ties to terrorist networks in Yemen -- failed in his attempt to blow up a plane above Detroit, Michigan.

In his appearance on "Fox News Sunday", Lieberman also argued that the botched attack should compel the Obama administration to abandon efforts to transfer suspected-terrorists out of the holding facility at Guantanamo Bay, saying that the complex is now well above international standards.

"I know the president made a promise he'd close Guantanamo because of what it represented in world opinion," Lieberman said. "But today it's a first-class facility. It's way above what's required by the Geneva Convention or our constitution. It would be a mistake to send these 90 people back to Yemen because, based on the past of what's happened when we've released people from Guantanamo, a certain number have gone back into the fight against us. Yemen now becomes one of the centers of that fight."

The frame adopted by the Lieberman in discussing Gitmo will undoubtedly produce shudders among the civil libertarian crowd and even the Obama administration, which insists it has taken every precaution before transferring suspected terrorist to their home country. The senator's calls for pre-emptive action in Yemen (however vague), meanwhile, seem likely to be echoed in the days ahead as a growing number of neoconservative and conservative foreign policy voices have used the attempted airline attack to call into question the tactics Obama has applied to curb terrorism.

"This is an international movement of radicalization," Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.), the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, said on "Fox News Sunday." "The Obama administration came in and said we're not going to use the word terrorism anymore. We're going to call it man-made disasters, trying to, I think, downplay the threat from terrorism. In reality, it's getting much more complex. Radicalization is alive. It is well. They want to attack the United States. That threat is here in the United States. It is lone-wolf individuals, it is people that have become radicalized, that have had some contact with al Qaeda, and then it is the threat that comes from al Qaeda central. Homegrown terrorism, the threat to the United States, is real. I think this administration has downplayed it. They need to recognize it, identify it. It is the only way we are going to defeat it."

The Fourth Estate in 2009

A [graphical representation of] (OP: Link has flash/zoomable version) this year’s biggest news stories, from the serious (financial collapse) to the bizarre (balloon boy), paints an interesting picture of what events held our attention in this last year of the decade. The website monitors the news from 55 outlets every week, calculating what percent of the week’s print, television, radio, and internet reporting is devoted to each story. Our latest Transparency is a look at the totals for all the news this year, divided into categories of politics, culture, business, and plain old bad news.


OP: I can't attest to the accuracy of this, I just happened to catch it in my reader, but it does seem to be well sourced. Either way, I thought it would make for interesting discussion on the effects of the media on politics and vice versa.
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Endrance | My Desktop Forever

What will health care reform do right away?

One of the biggest problems for Democrats going forward is that they have failed to properly inform the American people that most of the planned health care reforms will not kick in until 2013. This is huge potential political ticking time bomb of disappointment, confusion, and anger going into the 2010 mid-term election. Very few if any uninsured Americans will gain coverage until after the 2012 elections. To deal with the problem, House Democrats tried to front load some of the least costly reforms right away. Below is a list of the 14 reforms that, under the House plan, will kick in 2010. You can judge for yourself if the voting public will think it is sufficient.

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For those, like me, who weren't entirely sure of what would kick in immediately.

The Obama Administration awards nearly $1.4 billion in homless grant

WASHINGTON – The Obama Administration today announced that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is renewing grant funding needed to keep thousands of local homeless assistance programs operating. HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan said a total of nearly $1.4 billion will help an unprecedented 6,445 programs to continue offering critically needed housing and services to homeless persons and families.

The grants announced today are being awarded through HUD’s Continuum of Care programs. For the first time ever, HUD is quickly providing renewal grants to local programs to prevent any interruption in federal assistance and will announce funding to new projects in early 2010. For a local summary of the grants announced today, visit HUD’s website.

“As we move into the coldest time of the year, it’s critical that no program risk running out of money to keep their doors open,” said Donovan. “These grants will make certain that those programs on the front lines of helping the homeless have the resources they need to house and serve persons who might otherwise be forced to turn to the streets.”...

Marc Ambinder: Why The President Went Golfing

In his Farenheit 9/11, filmmaker Michael Moore juxtaposes images and words of a terrorist attack in Israel with President Bush's first words about the incident, spoken to a press pool on a golf course, with him leaning casually against a tree. Today, as the nation's law enforcement agencies respond to an attempted terrorist attack on U.S. soil, as the cable news channels and news websites pull in reinforcements to cover the incident from all angles, President Obama has been silent.
In fact, he's been golfing. He received a counterterrorism briefing early this morning, Hawaii time, and moments later, left for the gym. The president's vacation activities might have become the subject of a fierce partisan fight -- but really, the only carping is coming from the usual suspects on the right.

There is a reason why Obama hasn't given a public statement. It's strategy.

Here's the theory: a two-bit mook is sent by Al Qaeda to do a dastardly deed. He winds up neutering himself. Literally.

Authorities respond appropriately; the President (as this president is want to to) presides over the federal response. His senior aides speak for him, letting reporters know that he's videoconferencing regularly, that he's ordering a review of terrorist watch lists, that he's discoursing with his Secretary of Homeland Security.

But an in-person Obama statement isn't needed; Indeed, a message expressing command, control, outrage and anger might elevate the importance of the deed, would generate panic (because Obama usually DOESN'T talk about the specifics of cases like this, and so him deciding to do so would cue the American people to respond in a way that exacerbates the situation...

Let the authorities do their work. Don't presume; don't panic the country; don't chest-thump, prejudge, interfere, politicize (in an international sense), don't give Al Qaeda (or whomever) a symbolic victory; resist the urge to open the old playbook and run a familiar play.

In a sense, he is projecting his calm on the American people, just as his advisers are convinced that the Bush Administration projected their panic and anger on the self-same public eight years ago. It's a tough and novel approach -- and not at all (as they say in Britain) party political -- because the standard political script would have the President and his Attorney General appearing everywhere as soon as possible.
Mr. T Santa

Republican Politicians Make A Social Media Push

After the Senate health care bill passed this week, Rep. Duncan Hunter of California made it clear in the weekly GOP radio address that Republicans aren't happy about the direction Congress is taking.

"Let's resolve in the new year to end misguided efforts to create new laws that will cost even more jobs," he said.

But that weekly GOP message is no longer just on the radio. Now you can watch it on YouTube, which is becoming a popular tool for Republicans — as are Facebook and Twitter, where Republicans are taking their message directly to the American people.

Republican strategist Mindy Finn, who helped Virginia Gov.-elect Bob McDonnell find his voice online, tells NPR's Liane Hansen that GOP politicians are now turning to social media even faster than Democrats.

"Members who don't have a lot of say or don't have much of a voice in Congress can use social media to talk directly to their constituents, to voters and to activists," says Finn, a partner and blogger at the political consulting firm Engage.

It's a way for politicians to get out information without waiting for coverage from the traditional press, Finn adds.

"For a member of the House of Representatives particularly, it's very difficult for them to get a lot of press beyond very local district press. They don't get a lot of national attention necessarily," she says. "In the past, they might put out a press release and nobody picks it up. But now if they build up a network of blogger support, if they have a presence on Facebook or on Twitter, and they put out that same information, it can go virally across the Internet."Collapse )

Obama scores well for first year on ethics, say watchdog groups

President Barack Obama scores well among ethics watchdog groups in his first year in office, though they’d still like to see more from the president.

Obama has wielded the power of the White House to craft an executive order that limited lobbyist hires in his administration, push federal agencies to share more of their data with the public and begin releasing visitor records for the executive complex on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

....“After the last eight years, it is refreshing to see a president, through his rhetoric and action, who understands the way that the system works is a problem. That just a great place to start with,” said Meredith McGehee, policy director for the Campaign Legal Center.

...Obama wins the most applause for putting senior aides in place whose primary job is better ethics and transparency in the federal government. The appointees include Norm Eisen, Obama’s Harvard Law School classmate and the administration’s ethics czar who is stationed in the White House Counsel’s office; Beth Noveck, the deputy chief technology officer who is leading the Open Government Initiative; and Vivek Kundra, the chief information officer.

“What I find most encouraging is that there is a core group of people at the White House who genuinely care about these issues,” said Steven Aftergood, director of the Project on Government Secrecy at Federation of American Scientists. “There is now ‘someone to talk to’ at the White House in a way that there wasn’t before. And we are already starting to see some results from those conversations, such as the Open Government Directive, and other emerging policies.”

Eisen was the author of the tough executive order, signed by Obama on his first full day in office, designed to slow the revolving door between government and K Street. That order also bans ex-Obama administration officials from lobbying their former colleagues.

“The greatest surprise is just how extensively these revolving door restrictions apply,” said Craig Holman, government affairs lobbyist for Public Citizen. “Obama has ushered in the first-ever policy addressing ‘reverse’ revolving door abuses: screening potential nominees to the federal government and managing conflicts of interest among appointees so as to prevent special interests from ‘capturing’ the agencies that regulate them.”...

The entire story:
Akuma River

Top GOP Rep. To Jailed Financier Allen Stanford: 'I Love You'

I totally stole that title from HuffPo.

Feds probing many ties of banker Allen Stanford and U.S. Congress

The ties between indicted banker Allen Stanford and members of Congress -- including millions in contributions and weekends in five-star Caribbean resorts -- are now the subject of a sweeping federal investigation.


Just hours after federal agents charged banker Allen Stanford with fleecing investors of $7 billion, the disgraced financier received a message from one of Congress' most powerful members, Pete Sessions.

``I love you and believe in you,'' said the e-mail sent on Feb. 17. ``If you want my ear/voice -- e-mail,'' it said, signed ``Pete.''
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HuffPo: Comments

So, think he's bigger than Bernie?
Akuma River

First hand account of what happened on the Christmas flight

I've learned more of what went down in reading this than I have in reading the newspapers.

Over Detroit Skies

Roey Rosenblith is the Founder and Director of Village Energy (Uganda) Limited, a startup solar company that he runs out of Kampala, Uganda with his business partner Abu Musuuza. Village Energy is dedicated to providing renewable energy solutions and services to the 80% of Africans that currently lack electricity. On December 25, 2009 he was flying home on NW Flight 253, en-route from Kampala to visit his family in St. Louis. The following is his account of events that transpired on that day.

I was on my third in-flight movie when the screaming started, shattering my tired half-awake travel state. I had gone from watching Up to Inglorious Basterds and had decided to try rounding things off with Land of the Lost. That was when my fellow passenger Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab decided to ignite his explosives 19 rows ahead of me.

I had been traveling for more than a day, starting in Kampala, Uganda, where I've been creating a solar lighting company called Village Energy, and living what I thought, up until that point, was a fairly adventurous life. I had woken up 12 hours prior at 4 a.m. in my apartment on the outskirts of Kampala to fly to Nairobi for a 10 hour layover, and then finally on to Amsterdam to catch my flight to Detroit, where I would make my final connection to visit my family in St. Louis. But that didn't happen, at least not that day.

At 6 a.m. CET, I had arrived in Amsterdam. It's a beautiful airport, just as you would imagine the Dutch would design it, boxy and metallic architecture, silver roofs and granite floors with bright yellow signs marking the terminals extending from central hubs in every direction. Orderly and calm, the opposite of my chaotic life in Uganda. At Amsterdam we went through security, and what seemed like the time was good security. At the gate everyone was interviewed by a team of around 10 personal screeners, who asked us a battery of questions in quick succession. This was something I had only experienced at Tel-Aviv airports and it came as quite a surprise, but one that I welcomed. After personal screening we passed through metal detectors and a baggage X-ray. Even though I had all the change out of my pockets, cell phones, and belt removed I still set off the detector (perhaps the rivets in my jeans). As soon as that happened I was frisked so thoroughly by the young Dutch security guard that I began to wonder if he was enjoying himself. Later on when I read the news reports I realized that if Abdul Farouk Abdulmutallab had the explosives stashed in his underwear, even if he had been thoroughly frisked the only way the guard would have noticed anything is if he literally put his hands down the guys pants, and searched his groin.
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LOLitics | Trent Lott

ontd_political Photo of the Day: Dec 27, 2009.

Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi, his face bandaged, leaves a Milan hospital four days after being attacked by a mentally ill man at a political rally, Thursday, Dec. 17, 2009. The 73-year-old Berlusconi smiled weakly as he was slowly driven away in a motorcade from San Raffaele Hospital late Thursday morning. News reports said the motorcade was headed to Arcore, the media mogul's villa on the outskirts of Milan.
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Giuseppe Aresu (AP Photo)

CN4Iran – The Chinese Inspired by the People of Iran

CN4Iran - The Chinese Inspired by the People of Iran

"During today’s protests in Iran, as always, Twitter saw a surge of tweets from protests in Iran giving updates on the latest developments and using Twitter for coordination purposes.

However, this time around, people in China quickly joined Iranians in spreading the word and we witnessed an outpouring of tweets in Chinese reporting on the situation. ‘CN4Iran’ quickly became one of the top ten trending topics on twitter.

The people of China, who like Iranians, live under an oppressive regime are standing in solidarity with freedom fighters of Iran and drawing inspiration from them; one tweet read “Today we free Tehran, tomorrow we take on Beijing."


just thought this is nice to share because it's great that Iran is inspiring people and all these people are coming together for their quest for freedom. I'm sure Iran is having a huge impact on the peoples of the Middle East too, the Arabs primarily.