February 12th, 2010

David Thewlis - Animatedly talking

Dennis Miller talks about why are liberals so condescending on the Factor 2/10/10

According to Dennis, libs think people like him and O'Reilly and the folks in the audience are stupid.

They also talk about why the Tea Party only get a few favorable mentions in the mainstream media and how GW Bush did more for feminism than "any of these people".


Senate Confirms 27 Obama Nominees

Updated Before leaving for the President’s Day break, the Senate tonight confirmed — by unanimous consent — 27 of President Obama’s nominees to federal positions, under a threat made earlier this week by the president that he might make recess appointments not requiring Senate votes. None of these seemed controversial; the senators approved these amid a backlog of presidential nominations and holds on some.

The action was taken after President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid warned earlier this week that the weeklong holiday recess might provide an opportunity for the president to make recess appointments, a threat underscoring an intent to break the logjam on some key people who have waited months to be confirmed. (A key Democratic chairman, Senator Patrick Leahy of the Judiciary committee, was quoted today as saying that perhaps Mr. Obama should consider doing so for Dawn Johnsen, who has been nominated to head the Office of Legal Counsel at the Justice Department. She’s been among those most opposed by Republicans — and one of the nominees stalled the longest — because of her work years ago with abortion rights groups and her views on Bush administration interrogation policies, among other reasons.)
Fingerpointing for the stalling has been rampant. Earlier this week, Republicans blocked the confirmation of Craig Becker, a labor lawyer, to a seat on the National Labor Relations Board, which has been operating (some would say not) with only two of its five members for a few years. At an impromptu news conference the other day, just before a procedural vote on Mr. Becker, Mr. Obama complained that he wanted Republicans to stop holding up his nominees.

Update: After the Senate’s moves, the White House tonight issued a statement by Mr. Obama, in which he welcomed the votes, and seemed to signal he would not be making recess appointments anytime soon.

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About damn time...
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Jack Layton is GQ, continues to thrust himself into my...heart.

Layton challenges other leaders to put Canadian women and children first

OTTAWA – New Democrat leader Jack Layton is urging his three federal counterparts to find enough common ground to make women and children a priority in the next session of Parliament.

Mr. Layton’s invitation follows Prime Minister Harper’s pledge to make maternal and child health a priority at the G8 summit in Canada this June.

“I’ll take Mr. Harper’s interest in impoverished mothers at face value, but leadership always starts at home. If Canada wants to lead or lecture the world on anything, we’d better start by filling the gaping holes in our own backyard. Let’s make this the Women and Children First session of Parliament,” Mr. Layton said at a press conference on Monday.

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See also the NDP's action plan: Fairness For Women.

Ilhim so much, I'm putting on my fangirl hat.
Dr. Who: ooh a plot device

Germany's Kidnapping Trial: Revenge of the Pensioners

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Accountant James A, the alleged victim of a kidnap by four pensioners

The story is like Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels meets The Golden Girls, with a slightly odd, Germanic twist. Angry about losing $3.5 million in investments last year in the recession, a wily gang of German pensioners were bent on revenge, prosecutors say. So they allegedly did what some who've lost fortunes in the downturn have probably thought about at one point or another: they allegedly abducted their financial adviser and locked him in a cellar for days, demanding he help them get their money back. Now the retirees — all over the age of 60 — are on trial for kidnapping, and they seem as feisty and unrepentant as ever.

The alleged ringleader of the group, who has been identified as Roland K, a 74-year-old former developer, testified in a Bavarian court this week that they didn't intend to kidnap the victim, identified as James A. He said he and his friend and fellow investor, 60-year-old Wilhelm D, met with the investment specialist in the town of Speyer in June 2009 for a "final chat" about getting their money back. But when they realized that their savings were gone for good, he said they became enraged.

The dispute at the heart of the case is about what happened next. According to prosecutors, Roland and Wilhelm tied James up with Scotch tape, locked him in a box and bundled him into the trunk of their car, before driving 300 miles (about 485 km) to Roland's house near the lakeside resort of Chiemsee in southern Germany. At one point during the trip, James tried to escape at a rest stop, but Roland and Wilhelm forced him back into the car, breaking two of his ribs. When they arrived at the house, the defendants' wives, Sieglinde K, 79, and Iris F, 64, and another man, Gerhard F, 67, were waiting for them. James was thrown into a cramped room in the cellar and kept prisoner for days.

According to prosecutors, the retirees — dubbed the Pensioner Gang by the German media — interrogated James and even threatened at one point to kill him if he didn't find a way to return their money. (There was allegedly a gun in the house.) After four days, the pensioners forced James to send a fax to his bank in Switzerland to transfer funds to their accounts. And that was their undoing. The frightened consultant wrote, "Sell 100 Call.pol.ICE" on the fax, and a bank employee alerted authorities in Germany. An armed police squad stormed the house and freed James, and the defendants gave themselves up peacefully.

Roland and the rest of the Pensioner Gang tell a slightly different story. In court on Feb. 8, Roland said he simply wanted to "invite" the financial adviser for "a few days' holiday in Upper Bavaria." He said he told his wife Sieglinde that "we're going to invite him round for several days — he's our guest." He added that James went into the house of his own accord and stayed in an "emergency guest room" (which presumably means it was hastily made up). [poster's note: The German "Not-Gästezimmer" word means something like using a room that normally isn't a guest room as such, resulting in not entirely optimal accomodation. Our compound words tend to puzzle people, but they usually don't show that puzzlement in TIME articles.]

Roland didn't deny being angry at James, calling him a "liar and a crook" in court. He said that the retirees met James while on vacation years ago in Florida and that he persuaded them to invest their money in the U.S. housing market, promising the group a profit margin of 18%. Following the subprime-market collapse in the U.S., Roland now claims that James "tricked us and took us for a ride."

James told reporters on Feb. 8 that he's still traumatized by the alleged abduction, seeing a psychologist twice a week. He also has other worries: he's being investigated by German officials for suspected fraud in a separate case. As for the pensioners, if they're convicted when the trial concludes in late March, they face jail sentences of at least five years apiece. There's a chance that they could be spending their golden retirement days not on a Florida beach but behind bars.

  • I'm not sure what the writer means by "odd, Germanic twist", and I probably don't want to know.

  • As this will likely turn into a thing on vigilante justice, let me say for the record that I think what they did was wrong, partly because it should have been clear to them that it would never work, but mostly because you just don't do this kind of thing. Still, it's just such an odd, movie-like story (I'm sure I've seen something like this once) that I thought I should post this.

  • Reading about pensioners being targeted by people who fraud them out of their savings always makes me sad.


Bill Clinton released from hospital

Former President Bill Clinton was smiling and waving as he, accompanied by daughter Chelsea, left New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia Friday morning.

Clinton was released "in excellent health," according to spokesperson Doug Band, after undergoing an emergency procedure to open up a blocked artery. He is said to be resting at home in Chappaqua, N.Y.

"He warmly thanks the doctors, nurses, and staff of the Hospital for the care he received ... [and] the many people who extended their best wishes to him for a quick recovery," added the statement from Band, which also noted the former Commander in Chief was already ready to work. "He looks forward in the days ahead to getting back to the work of his Foundation, and to Haiti relief and recovery efforts."

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton rushed from Washington D.C., to be by her husband's side Thursday night as did daughter Chelsea.


Single mom discharged, Army says

A single mother who chose taking care of her infant over deploying to Afghanistan has been discharged, the Army said in a statement.


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Hmmm, I find CNN's subheader a little slanted personally.

I'm glad they didn't throw the book at her, for her child's sake. But after my initial "AHHHH! NO NO!" response to this story, which was entirely sympathetic to her, I became a bit leery. Anyway, glad she's just discharged and not in Leavenworth.

I had my recurrent Army nightmare last night. I'm averaging about 3x a month lately. :P
Murasaki Shikibu
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It's the ciiiiiiiiiiiiircle of liiiiiiiiiiife

Kenya rounds up zebras for starving lions

Nairobi, Kenya (CNN) -- Kenyan wildlife officials are ferrying thousands of zebras and wildebeest to a park in the country's south to feed starving lions and hyenas, and prevent a conflict with humans.

The animals will be hauled from four locations to restock Amboseli National Park's population, which lost 80 percent of its herbivores in a recent drought, said Kentice Tikolo, spokeswoman for the Kenya Wildlife Service.

"It was the worst drought in 26 years," Tikolo said. "The Amboseli ecosystem was severely affected. ... Lots of herbivores died, carnivores don't have anything to feed on, and have been attacking neighboring livestock."

The imbalance has sparked a row with villagers who lost animals in the drought and have threatened to kill lions and hyenas preying on remaining livestock.

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Murasaki Shikibu
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We made a $2.7 billion profit, so we HAVE to raise premiums, doncha know!

WellPoint insurance hike becomes target for Obama

INDIANAPOLIS – Health insurer WellPoint blames the Great Recession and rising medical costs for its planned 39 percent rate increase for some California customers. To President Barack Obama, however, it's Exhibit A in his campaign to revive the health care overhaul.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who received the company's explanation in a letter Thursday, said "it remains difficult to understand" how premium increases of that size by can be justified when WellPoint Inc. reported a $2.7 billion profit in the last quarter of 2009.

"This is a stark illustration of what the status quo means for American families," said White House spokesman Reid Cherlin. "You'd be hard-pressed to find a better example of why reform is so urgent, and it's going to continue to be part of the case the president makes."

Majority leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., went further. In a speech on the Senate floor, he attacked WellPoint and other "greedy insurance companies that care more about profits than people."

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The letter from Wellpoint (pdf)


...FU, Wellpoint. "Only" 24% for most premiums, when y'all made a $2.7b profit.

The US needs real health care reform. Unfortunately, I doubt very highly it's going to happen.

Former Uruguayan Dictator Sentenced To 30 Years

Former dictator Juan Maria Bordaberry was sentenced this week to 30 years in prison for violating the constitution when he led a 1973 coup that ushered in 12 years of dictatorship.

The 81-year-old Bordaberry is the second former Uruguayan dictator sentenced to a long prison term in the past four months. In late October, ex-strongman Gregorio Alvarez was sentenced to 25 years.

The Latin American dictatorships that emerged in the 1970s were largely supported by the U.S. government, locked at that time in an ideological cold war – capitalism versus communism -- with the Soviet Union. The military regimes remained in power and - with the help of U.S. intelligence – killed and tortured thousands of “leftist” sympathizers throughout the region.  

Late last year Chilean President Michelle Bachelet inaugurated Chile’s Memory Museum to memorialize human right violations that occurred during the 17-year dictatorship led by Gen. Augusto Pinochet.

Elected democratically in 1971, Bordaberry dissolved congress and banned political parties the following year at the behest of military leaders who seized power outright in 1973. The military ousted Bordaberry in 1976, and Uruguay remained under the control of a right-wing dictatorship until 1985.

The former president-turned-dictator has been hospitalized for breathing troubles, leading a judge to let him remain under house arrest rather than be jailed during his trial. He has been in preventative detention since 2006.

Bordaberry and his foreign minister, Juan Blanco, are the only civilians convicted or facing charges for alleged crimes committed during the dictatorship.

Ten members of the armed forces, including ex-dictator Alvarez, are in prison for human rights violations. Alvarez, Uruguay's last dictator, was convicted in connection with 37 homicides.

Prosecution of alleged human rights abuses during Uruguay's dictatorship accelerated when the small nation's first leftist president, Tabare Vazquez, took office in 2005. Bordaberry's son, Pedro, placed third in last November's presidential election that saw the candidate of the leftist governing party win.


One word for this: YAY!

'Countdown' Viewers Raise $185,000 For South Dakota Ice Storm Victims

"Countdown" viewers raised $185,000 in 24 hours after host Keith Olbermann urged them to donate on behalf of the victims of the South Dakota ice storms. (OP Note:    As of noon on Friday, 2/12 the total amount raised is now $255,806)

Tuesday night, Olbermann appealed on behalf of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Storm Relief Emergency Assistance, an organization meant to help what Olbermann described as a "humanitarian crisis at home."

"Two weeks ago, the reservations of the Dakotas were hit by blizzards and ice storms. Twenty five hundred utility polls fell. Electricity and water, and, thus, heat and light, were cut off. And dozens are still cut off," he said. "And the government has done next to nothing for the Native Americans, who, on a nice sunny spring day there, still face unemployment of 85 percent. Doing nothing for these people, an American tradition since at least 1776. I mentioned this in worsts last night, and many viewers advised us they were horrified. It's not Haiti. It's not three million people affected. It's more like 50,000. And it's 450 miles away from St. Paul, Minnesota."

Wednesday, Olbermann reported on the generosity of his viewers.

"You overwhelm me, as usual," he said to his viewers. "Last night, continuing our coverage of the humanitarian crisis on the ice storm and blizzard-ravaged reservations of South Dakota, I mentioned the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Storm Relief Emergency Assistance Fund and we linked to it. They were hoping by the end of the month to have raised $35,000. In 24 hours, you donated approximately $185,000. They thank you and I thank you."

Olbermann also asked his viewers to contact their congressmen and senators to urge FEMA to help the victims.

"Every time I feel the futility of not knowing what to do about one of these crises, I forget to ask the most reliable people I know: you guys," he said.

In October, Olbermann helped raise over $1.2 million for free health care clinics.
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KO, my dear TV News Boyfriend, I just love you SFM.  <3

I believe a KO/Rachel picspam and Gif party is in order......shall we?

ETA:  Here's the link, to the fundraising site.....just to make it easier to find:


Majority of Minnesotans Suffering from Facepalm Symptoms. Super Minority suffering from Lunacy.

Poll: Majority of Minnesotans ‘embarrassed’ by Bachmann

A new survey of Minnesotans shows that a majority of residents — 56 percent — are embarrassed by Rep. Michele Bachmann. The release of the survey, commissioned by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, Democracy for America and Credo Action, follows recent high-profile statements by Bachmann that she believes President Barack Obama wants to “annihilate” conservatives, that the U.S. faces a “curse” – and extinction — if it fails to support Israel, and that government must “wean” Americans off of social safety net programs like Medicare and Social Security.
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TSA New Porno Machine Not Welcomed.

Airport body scanners violate Islamic law, Muslims say

Saying that body scanners violate Islamic law, Muslim-American groups are supporting a “fatwa” – a religious ruling – that forbids Muslims from going through the scanners at airports.

The Fiqh Council of North America – a body of Islamic scholars that includes some from Michigan – issued a fatwa this week that says going through the airport scanners would violate Islamic rules on modesty.

“It is a violation of clear Islamic teachings that men or women be seen naked by other men and women,” reads the fatwa issued Tuesday. “Islam highly emphasizes haya (modesty) and considers it part of faith. The Quran has commanded the believers, both men and women, to cover their private parts.”

The decision could complicate efforts to intensify screening of potential terrorists who are Muslim.
After the Christmas Day bombing attempt in Detroit by a Muslim suspect from Nigeria, some have called for the use of body scanners at airports to find explosives and other dangerous materials carried by terrorists. Some airports are now in the process of buying and using the body scanners, which show in graphic detail the outlines of a person’s body.

But Muslim groups say the scanners go against their religion. One option offered to passengers who don’t want to use the scanners would be a pat down by a security guard. The Muslim groups are urging members to undergo those instead.

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Iowa represent!

update on Ed Thomas shooting

I posted about this story way back last summer--some people expressed an interest in a follow up story. The trial started today. I'd post this in the crime community, but A) I don't know what it is and B) it might not be seen by those who were interested.

Prosecutors: Mark Becker plotted, practiced before shooting

By GRANT SCHULTE and REID FORGRAVE • gschulte@dmreg.com • February 12, 2010

Allison, Ia. – Accused murderer Mark Becker plotted to kill Ed Thomas and had practiced shooting the morning that he emptied a .22-caliber revolver into the Aplington-Parkersburg football coach, prosecutors said this morning.

Becker asked four different people about Thomas’ whereabouts before finding the coach and shooting five times – four in the head, once in the knee, Iowa assistant attorney general Scott Brown told the jury this morning during opening statements.

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Two 15 year olds who were in the weight room at the time of the shooting testified this morning. My God, I can't even imagine what this whole thing has been like for them, to see someone you admire so much just gunned down while you are working out. I hope they are getting some good therapy. :-(
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Shenanigans Friday: February 12, 2010.

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Utah's New Law Defeats Conspiracy To Destroy America. Courage Requires Ignorance.

Utah delivers vote of no confidence for 'climate alarmists'
The US's most Republican state passes bill disputing science of climate change, claiming emissions are 'essentially harmless'

Carbon dioxide is "essentially harmless" to human beings and good for plants. So now will you stop worrying about global warming?

Utah's House of Representatives apparently has at least. Officially the most Republican state in America, its political masters have adopted a resolution condemning "climate alarmists", and disputing any scientific basis for global warming.

The measure, which passed by 56-17, has no legal force, though it was predictably claimed by climate change sceptics as a great victory in the wake of the controversy caused by a mistake over Himalayan glaciers in the UN's landmark report on global warming.

But it does offer a view of state politicians' concerns in Utah which is a major oil and coal producing state.

The original version of the bill dismissed climate science as a "well organised and ongoing effort to manipulate and incorporate "tricks" related to global temperature data in order to produce a global warming outcome". It accused those seeking action on climate change of riding a "gravy train" and their efforts would "ultimately lock billions of human beings into long-term poverty".

In the heat of the debate, the representative Mike Noel said environmentalists were part of a vast conspiracy to destroy the American way of life and control world population through forced sterilisation and abortion.

By the time the final version of the bill came to a vote, cooler heats apparently prevailed. The bill dropped the word "conspiracy", and described climate science as "questionable" rather than "flawed".

However, it insisted – against all evidence – that the hockey stick graph of changing temperatures was discredited. It also called on the federal government's Environmental Protection Agency to order an immediate halt in its moves to regulate greenhouse gas emissions "until a full and independent investigation of climate data and global warming science can be substantiated".

As Noel explained: "Sometimes ... we need to have the courage to do nothing."

America Needs a Robin Hood Tax. Let's Rename It "Tax on Corporate Welfare Overlords"

'Robin Hood Tax' Campaign's Hilarious Radical New Ad With Bill Nighy (VIDEO)

A coalition of British organizations calling itself the Robin Hood Tax campaign is proposing a new tax on banks to fund global anti-poverty and anti-climate change initiatives. The idea is to skim about 0.05% off of all speculative banking transactions, which proponents say would raise hundreds of billions of dollars each year and forge "a new deal between banks and society":

"It sounds complicated, but actually it isn't. A tiny tax on bankers has the power to raise hundreds of billions every year - giving a vital boost to the NHS, our schools, and the fight against child poverty - as well as tackling poverty and climate change around the world."

In an ad for the campaign, British actor Bill Nighy, who will star in the next installment of the Harry Potter films, plays a haughty banker who's forced to admit the tax would barely phase the finance industry.

WATCH the video below:

Marvel backs down to Tea Party activists over Captain America comic depicting a right-wing protest.

In Captain America issue 602, the patriotic hero is investigating a right-wing anti-government militia group called “the Watchdogs.” Hoping to infiltrate the group, Captain America and his African-American sidekick, The Falcon, observe an all-white anti-tax protest from a rooftop. The Falcon tells Captain America, “I don’t exactly see a black man from Harlem fitting in with a bunch of angry white folks.” Captain America explains “that his plan entails sending The Falcon in among the group posing as an IRS agent under the thinking that a black government official will most certainly spark their anger.” The signs the protesters are carrying are “almost identical to those seen today in Tea Party rallies”:

After a “minor uproar ensued,” Marvel Comics editor-in-chief Joe Quesada apologized for what he called a “series of stupid mistakes.” He explained that under time pressure, they “looked on the net and started pulling slogans” from Tea Party signs that led to “accidentally identifying” one of the members of the protest group “as being a part of the Tea Party instead of a generic protest group.” But Tea Party Nation profiteer Judson Phillips was not satisfied, saying that “sounds less like a genuine ‘we’re sorry’ than it does a ‘we’re sorry we got caught‘ statement.” Crooks and Liars’ Logan Muphy comments, “I’m not sure why they apologized, as Captain America has always fought against the enemies of the United States.”


“sounds less like a genuine ‘we’re sorry’ than it does a ‘we’re sorry we got caught‘ statement.”
Rich coming from them.

Luger dies in Olympics practice crash

CNN) -- A luge slider from Georgia was killed Friday when he crashed during an Olympic training session hours before the opening ceremony of the Winter Games in Vancouver, British Columbia, the Georgian Embassy said.

Nodar Kumaritashvili, 21, was in the final run of official training when he had a "serious crash" and was propelled off the track, according to the International Olympic Committee. Doctors were unable to revive him, the IOC said.

"Our first thoughts are with the family, friends and colleagues of the athlete," IOC President Jacques Rogge said in a written statement. "The whole Olympic family is struck by this tragedy, which clearly casts a shadow over these Games."

Kumaritashvili was scheduled to compete in the men's singles luge event, which begins Saturday.


This is so sad. His poor family and teammates! Has anything like this ever happen in past Olympic events?

EDIT: Apparently the luge track was the fastest one.

Death raises questions about luge track, Canadian competitiveness


Historic lolz in Brazil

Governor of Brazil's capital city surrenders to police

The governor of Brazil's capital, Brasilia, has turned himself in to police after judges approved a warrant for his arrest for alleged corruption

Jose Roberto Arruda is accused of involvement in a ring that took bribes from contractors and trying to bribe a witness in a corruption inquiry.

Video footage emerged last year apparently showing Mr Arruda accepting cash during his 2006 election campaign.

He denied any wrongdoing and said it was for sweet bread for poor families (ahahahaha).

Collapse )Mr Arruda, who resigned from the centre-right Democratas party in December, may undermine those plans, our correspondent says.


This gentleman was supposed to be the candidate for VP for the right wing ahaha. It's the first time a governor is arrested here.
Hamilton the Honorable

Conservative Manifesto

With conservatives grappling among themselves for control of their movement — and the Republican Party — a group of more than 80 prominent conservative thinkers are set to unveil their version of a mission statement for the right.

What they are calling “the Mount Vernon Statement” in homage to George Washington will be unveiled and signed Wednesday — on the eve of the annual gathering in Washington of the establishment right, the Conservative Political Action Conference.

The big names attached to it include former Attorney General Ed Meese, Heritage Foundation President Edwin Feulner, Family Research Council head Tony Perkins, Media Research Center leader Brent Bozell, Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist and David Keene, head of the American Conservative Union, which is putting on CPAC, among others.

Organizers would not immediately make the text of the statement available, but they billed it as the next generation of the 1960 “Sharon Statement.” That document, produced by a group of young conservative intellectuals including William F. Buckley Jr. and taking its name from Buckley’s Connecticut hometown, helped define the conservative movement for years.

It comes as the conservative establishment is feeling heat from independents who have soured on Democrats but aren’t ready to warm up to Republicans and from the tea party movement, an explosion of largely new conservative and libertarian activism that has directed its frustration at both parties and at the political system as a whole.

A number of competing initiatives are jockeying with the Mount Vernon Statement to define the conservative movement and the Republican Party as it heads into the crucial 2010 midterm elections

A coalition of tea party groups and activists will use CPAC to gather support for a guiding document of their own — coined “the Contract From America” — intended to bring together the fractious movement. Plus, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, one of the authors of the 1994 Contract With America — to which the name of the tea party document pays homage — has unveiled his plan for a “new Contract With America" on the pages of the February edition of the conservative Newsmax magazine.

And last month, House Minority Leader John Boehner announced he was drafting a Republican campaign platform that he predicted would draw comparisons with the 1994 contract and tapped the staff director of the 1994 effort, Barry Jackson, as his new chief of staff.


I find the idea that modern-day conservatives using Washington (Federalist, in support of central government) in their homage to be absolutely hilarious. And, of course, no one can agree on what is conservative enough.
garf tired

'A Breathtaking Act Of Staggering Hypocrisy'

Republicans and Medicare

“Don’t cut Medicare. The reform bills passed by the House and Senate cut Medicare by approximately $500 billion. This is wrong.” So declared Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the House, in a recent op-ed article written with John Goodman, the president of the National Center for Policy Analysis.

And irony died.

Now, Mr. Gingrich was just repeating the current party line. Furious denunciations of any effort to seek cost savings in Medicare — death panels! — have been central to Republican efforts to demonize health reform. What’s amazing, however, is that they’re getting away with it.

Why is this amazing? It’s not just the fact that Republicans are now posing as staunch defenders of a program they have hated ever since the days when Ronald Reagan warned that Medicare would destroy America’s freedom. Nor is it even the fact that, as House speaker, Mr. Gingrich personally tried to ram through deep cuts in Medicare — and, in 1995, went so far as to shut down the federal government in an attempt to bully Bill Clinton into accepting those cuts.

After all, you could explain this about-face by supposing that Republicans have had a change of heart, that they have finally realized just how much good Medicare does. And if you believe that, I’ve got some mortgage-backed securities you might want to buy.

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Shock, horror, majority parties gain far more seats than their share of the vote warrants

For UK Conservatives, It's The MP Ratio That Matters

In the UK electoral context a major concern is the relationship between the national popular vote share and the share of MPs that each party wins as a result. In particular, the former is what is polled regularly, while the second is what actually determines which party controls the House of Commons and therefore the government.

Because the UK has a first past the post system, as we discussed previously, large national parties have an inherant advantage, often out-performing their national vote share numbers by a significant margin. In recent years, this has been to Labour's advantage.

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Child Porn: Yes. It's still illegal, even in animated form.

A U.S. comic book collector is being sentenced to six months in prison after pleading guilty to importing and possessing Japanese manga books depicting illustrations of child sex and bestiality.

Christopher Handley was sentenced in Iowa on Thursday, almost a year after pleading guilty to charges of possessing “obscene visual representations of the sexual abuse of children.”

The 40-year-old was charged under the 2003 Protect Act, which outlaws cartoons, drawings, sculptures or paintings depicting minors engaging in sexually explicit conduct, and which lack “serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.” Handley was the nation’s first to be convicted under that law for possessing cartoon art, without any evidence that he also collected or viewed genuine child pornography.

Without a plea deal with federal authorities, he faced a maximum 15-year sentence.

Comic fans were outraged, saying jailing someone over manga does not protect children from sexual abuse. “I’d say the anime community’s reaction to this, since day one, has been almost exclusively one of support for Handley and disgust with the U.S. courts and legal system,” Christopher MacDonald, editor of Anime News Network, said in an e-mail.

Congress passed the Protect Act after the Supreme Court struck down a broader law prohibiting any visual depictions of minors engaged in sexual activity, including computer-generated imagery and other fakes. The high court ruled that the ban was too broad, and could cover legitimate speech, including Hollywood productions.

In response, the Protect Act narrows the prohibition to cover only depictions that the defendant’s community would consider “obscene.”

The case began in 2006, when customs officials intercepted and opened a package from Japan addressed to Handley. Seven books of manga inside contained cartoon drawings of minors engaged in sexually explicit acts and bestiality.

(Via Wired. More info available from Anime News Network.)

Hentai. It's all fun and games until someone finds out you're really, really into lolicon and then you go to jail for it.
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Christian Bale

Titty Bombs

WTF: Terrorists To Place Bombs In Breast Implants?

A British intelligence service says it's discovered that gel and saline implants may be used by al-Qaida to terrorize innocent people.

British spy satellites have reportedly intercepted terrorist communications from Pakistan and Yemen, talking about female suicide bombers getting explosives put inside breast implants.

Former Houston FBI Director Don Clark said he believes U.S. Homeland Security is taking this threat very seriously.

"I'm sure we are gathering all the information, intelligence that the government can" he said. "They are also securing all the ports, airports and main attractions as much as possible. The government takes these types of threats seriously and not relaxed."

The British Intel Service reports that several plastic surgeons, who were trained in some of London's best hospitals, have returned to their countries to perform the surgeries.

Houston plastic surgeon Dr. Franklin Rose says that the industry's technology makes the bombs possible and easy.

It's unknown how well full-body scanners would detect explosives inside implants.

The Transportation Security Administration said its scanners do detect explosive materials and residue.


"El Niño Plus" Suspected of Stealing Vancouver's Snow. Police Already on The Case.

After warmest January in history, Vancouver airlifts in snow for Winter Olympics.
"Hopefully, winter will come back," says Tim Gayda, a leader of the Olympic organizing committee.

WARNING: This post contains the following brain-busting quote from a Vancouver Olympic official – “We really shattered the all-time [temperature] record,” he said. “It’s El Niño, and there’s something else that nobody understands at this point. It’s El Niño Plus.”

In one of the greatest coincidences in human history, Vancouver just blew out its monthly temperature records a mere three years after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said warming in the climate system is unequivocal:

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Christian Bale

Lawrence O'Donnel goes nuts interviewing Marc Thiessen

Lawrence O'Donnell Rages On Bush Speechwriter Marc Thiessen: 'Your Administration Invited The First Attack'


Fireworks erupted on the set of "Morning Joe" Friday, after MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell took umbrage with former Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen's claim that President Obama is inviting a domestic terrorist attack.

Things started off rocky after Thiessen -- in the process of justifying the coercive counter-terrorism techniques used under the Bush administration and condemning Obama for "eliminating the CIA's interrogation program" -- insisted that his former boss was required to essentially start from scratch.

"You gotta think back to the period after 9/11," he said. "We didn't even know who hit us. We didn't know that Khalid Sheik Mohammad was the mastermind of 9/11 or the operational commander of al Qaeda. And then we started rounding up these terrorists..."

O'Donnell responded quickly, barking out his bewilderment with Thiessen's assertion that there was no pre-9/11 warning that an attack was coming.

"Isn't it true that the president you worked for invited the first attack by having no idea what was going on with al Qaeda? You just admitted that when you were hit on 9/11, you just said, 'We didn't know who hit us'. You were told who was going to hit you before 9/11. And your administration invited the first attack, for which you should live in shame."

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Tea Party Civil War Turns Into Total War: "Give No Quarter!"

Tea Party Leader: Sarah Palin Is A 'Wolf In Sheep's Clothing'

Sound the alarm!

"A Political firestorm is inevitable as the Tea Party is quietly targeted for capture!" Tea Party leader
Dale Robertson warned in a statement on his site TeaParty.org on Thursday.

Robertson cautioned Tea Partiers to be wary, because Sarah Palin, headliner of the recent National Tea Party Convention, represents a threat "to the heart of the Tea Party:"

"I am sending an alarm to the Tea Party membership! Be alert to turncoats and deceivers being herded into the Tea Party by usurpers from the weakened Republican Party for the sole purpose of capturing our populist movement," Robertson said.

More from Robertson's letter, which is posted on his Tea Party site:
"Sarah Palin's well delivered speech and her attractive demeanor is little more than a veneer for her less attractive political philosophy. She seems more like a duck out of water among true Conservative Constitutionalists. Palin demonstrates her NeoCon flippant viewpoint and her naivete as she seems envious of the swelled numbers of Patriots pledging their allegiance, to of all things, AMERICA and not to a kool-aid ridden political dinosaur. [...]

Sarah Palin is not dense or erroneous in her view of the Tea Party, just the opposite. She represents a growing insider's attack to the heart of the Tea Party. Very much like a wolf in sheep's clothing entering in at the gate as an ally, but for all intents and purposes there to seize and capture, not only one or two stray sheep, but the whole flock!"

As Talking Points Memo notes, Robertson's disenchantment with the GOP seems to be a rather recent development. Only last month, he complained to a reporter that his attempts to contact the RNC to discuss cooperative action were ignored.

Robertson also isn't the first person to point out the Tea Party's vulnerability to hijacking. Many expressed outrage at the concept of this month's for-profit, corporate-sponsored National Tea Party Convention in Nashville where Sarah Palin delivered a keynote speech.
Christian Bale

NASA orbiter photographs phenomenon that looks like trees... on the surface of Mars

TREES growing on the Red Planet? What at first looks remarkably like groves of pine trees sprouting from rolling Martian hills covered in pink grass is actually an optical illusion.

The "trees" are trails of debris caused by landslides as Mars' spring season warms the planet's surface and generates ice melts.

The hills are sand dunes coated with a thin layer of frozen carbon dioxide.

One of the avalanches that cause the tree illusion has been caught in action in the image, just visible to the left of centre.

The bucolic but alien scene was captured by the most powerful camera sent to another planet.

The 65kg, $50 million camera is aboard NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and is designed to view the planet's surface features in far greater detail - down to 30cm - than has previously been possible.

Scientists hope that the detail it captures will help studies of Martian channels and valleys and the planet's volcanic landforms.

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Strange White Powder Invades Southern States: Officials Claim The End of The World

Shouldn't it be sunny here? South gets snowed in

Snowstruck Southerners tossed snowballs not far from the Gulf of Mexico as winter took its biggest whack at the region in decades Friday, coating areas from Texas to the Carolinas and grounding many flights at the world's busiest airport.

The storm also put a treacherous glaze on highways ahead of the holiday weekend. A car plunged off an icy road into a pond outside Montgomery, Ala., killing two brothers ages 4 and 2, State Trooper Kevin Cook said. The boys' mother, who was driving, survived.

It was the South's turn to cope with winter after back-to-back blizzards in the past week dumped 3 feet of snow on the Mid-Atlantic and parts of the Northeast, where pockets of residents remained without power. Federal forecasters said every state but Hawaii had snow on the ground somewhere Friday, a freakishly rare occurrence.

Airlines scrapped more than 1,800 flights, many of them at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, which sees 2,700 arrivals and departures on an average day. Of that total, hundreds were halted at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, which got more than a foot of snow from Thursday into Friday.

The cancelations quickly jammed up air traffic around the country.

"It's frustrating," said Russ Cereola, a New York salesman trying to fly home from Atlanta. "There's no snow on the ground yet, and they're canceling flights. Now I understand inbound stuff is probably canceled, but this is a little nuts."

Many places were seeing snow for the first time in a generation or longer, and some people weren't quite sure what to do.
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This should be more of a scandal than John Terry not keeping his dick in his pants.

Football accused in homophobia row

Players refuse to appear in video designed to combat prejudice

Professional footballers [in the UK] have refused to appear in a campaign video against homophobia because they fear being ridiculed for taking a stand against one of the sport's most stubborn taboos, The Independent has learnt. Both players and agents declined a request by the Professional Footballers' Association (PFA) to take part in a video which was to use high- profile players as figureheads in the association's drive against anti-gay prejudice.

The advertising agency Ogilvy, which was hired to produce the film, had advised that such involvement by well-known faces would be important if the campaign was to deliver the required impact. But instead, the FA was obliged to produce a generic "viral" anti- homophobic video – which was itself pulled earlier this week.

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