March 28th, 2010

Mr. T the Patriot

Identities of 3.3 Million Student Loan recipients stolen

MINNEAPOLIS - A company that guarantees federal student loans said Friday that personal data on about 3.3 million people nationwide has been stolen from its headquarters in Minnesota.

Educational Credit Management Corp. said the data included names, addresses, Social Security numbers and dates of birth of borrowers, but no financial or bank account information.Collapse )

Barbara Bush hospitalized

Former first lady Barbara Bush was hospitalized Saturday in Houston to undergo routine tests but doctors don't suspect anything serious, a family spokeswoman said.

Bush, 84, was being treated at Methodist Hospital and should be released in a day or two, spokeswoman Jean Becker said late Saturday.

"She hasn't been feeling well for about a week, and the doctors thought she should come in and undergo a battery of tests," Becker said. "It's not serious. She just hasn't been feeling herself and they're just trying to figure out why."

Becker declined to provide details, but said former President George H.W. Bush drove his wife to the hospital Saturday morning after consulting with her doctors. A hospital spokeswoman declined comment, saying information was only being released through the family.

NBC News reported that the former president was with her at the hospital.

Sources told NBC that the problem was not believed to be related to her heart or the aortic valve operation that she underwent in March 2009.

Mrs. Bush underwent surgery then to have her aortic valve replaced by a valve from a pig. That surgery was performed because she was suffering from a severe narrowing of the main valve.

Mrs. Bush underwent surgery in November 2008 for a perforated ulcer. When she lived at the White House, she disclosed she was suffering from an overactive thyroid ailment known as Graves' disease. The disease causes teary eyes and double vision, according to her doctors.

panda bear

(no subject)

How The Obama Seder Became A White House Tradition

One evening in April 2008, three low-level staff members from the Obama presidential campaign — a baggage handler, a videographer and an advance man — gathered in the windowless basement of a Pennsylvania hotel for an improvised Passover Seder.

The day had been long, the hour was late, and the young men had not been home in months. So they had cadged some matzo and Manischewitz wine, hoping to create some semblance of the holiday.

Suddenly they heard a familiar voice. “Hey, is this the Seder?” Barack Obama asked, entering the room.

So begins the story of the Obama Seder, now one of the newest, most intimate and least likely of White House traditions. When Passover begins at sunset on Monday evening, Mr. Obama and about 20 others will gather for a ritual that neither the rabbinic sages nor the founding fathers would recognize.

In the Old Family Dining Room, under sparkling chandeliers and portraits of former first ladies, the mostly Jewish and African-American guests will recite prayers and retell the biblical story of slavery and liberation, ending with the traditional declaration “Next year in Jerusalem.” (Never mind the current chill in the administration’s relationship with Israel.)

Top aides like David Axelrod and Valerie Jarrett will attend, but so will assistants like 24-year-old Herbie Ziskend. White House chefs will prepare Jewish participants’ family recipes, even rendering chicken fat — better known as schmaltz — for just the right matzo ball flavor.

If last year is any guide, Malia and Sasha Obama will take on the duties of Jewish children, asking four questions about the night’s purpose — along with a few of their own — and scrambling to find matzo hidden in the gleaming antique furniture.

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Mr. T the Patriot

Gov. Jan Brewer continues screwing AZ; attempts to screw nation

Gov. Jan Brewer wants a special session this coming Monday to get clear authority to sue the federal government over the new health care bill.

Brewer also wants lawmakers to approve a resolution asking Congress to come up with the cash Arizona needs to keep its health care program running between now and when new federal aid becomes available in 2014. If Arizona cuts back its programs — as lawmakers already have voted to do and Brewer has approved — it would lose billions of extra dollars in the new health plan.

Even with that risk, though, Brewer is not asking the Legislature to restore health funding if Congress doesn’t cough up the extra cash, at least not yet.

But one solution may be coming from an outside source.

♥♥♥Rep. Kyrsten Sinema♥♥♥, D-Phoenix, said Friday the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association is preparing an initiative for the November ballot which would hike taxes on corporations and the wealthy to pay to keep health coverage for the poor at current levels.

The plan is modeled after a pair of ballot measures approved in January in Oregon. One raises taxes on households with taxable income above $250,000; the other sets higher minimum taxes on corporations and increases the tax rate on certain profits.Collapse )

UK Government finally, finally decides to stop making puppy-dog eyes at the US Government

The UK government needs to be "less deferential" towards the US and more willing to say no to Washington, a group of MPs have said.

The Commons Foreign Affairs committee also said it was wrong to speak of "the special relationship" with the US, as it was fostering other alliances.

However, the MPs did agree that the link between the countries was "profound and valuable".

The Foreign Office said the two nations share a "unique" bond.

The committee said the phrase "the special relationship" did not reflect the "modern" Anglo-American relationship.

It was originally coined more than 60 years ago by Winston Churchill.


Proposals from the Foreign Affairs Committee include "not gazing lovingly like a battered housewife all the damn time" and "finally, finally, for God's sake will you accept the two of you are just friends and not in a relationship any more. Stop sending texts at ridiculous hours of the night after you've had a bottle of wine, or turning up crying on their doorstep. It's undignified, so get a life and just move on!"

Before you start mouthing off about Hitler, you'd better know your Nazis

Staff photograph of Mike Godwin; re-cropped to...

Image via Wikipedia

Godwin's law states that "as an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1". This is both funny and true, like John Prescott having bulimia. Although, to be pedantic for a second, it applies to literally any comparison or topic of conversation: the probability approaching 1 just means it becomes more likely, so, as an online discussion grows longer, the probability of someone suggesting that I'm having an affair with Angelina Jolie approaches 1. Perhaps not very quickly, but it approaches it. In an infinite discussion, the notion is bound to come up. (I deny the rumours.) (How do these things get started!?)

Anyway, that's what my half-remembered A-level maths suggests to me. But they've probably changed the way they do maths since I was at school. Bloody national curriculum, it's like something the Nazis would have come up with.

But apart from being a statistical truism, Godwin's law is often used to trump irresponsible playing of the Nazi card. When person A compares something or someone they dislike to Hitler or the Nazis, person B cites Godwin's law to shut them up.

I can see why this is handy. A lot of amateur rhetoricians seem to confuse the terms "Nazi" and "nasty", or to have noticed that, in between bouts of warmongering and mass murder, Hitler also ate, drank, slept, laughed and oxygenated his blood. This exposes a vast number of people to being likened to him.

Gandhi was like Hitler because he too was hated by Churchill. Lord Adonis is like Hitler because he's also commissioned road-building. Harold Shipman is like Hitler because he's also a murderer. Co-presenter of Homes Under the Hammer, Lucy Alexander, is like Hitler because she also has opposable thumbs and is therefore much more like Hitler than, say, a toaster or Droitwich. And lacrosse is like Hitler in that I think they both only have one ball.

Nazi, Hitlerian, fascist and totalitarian references abound. I stumbled across three last Tuesday: the first was a photograph of a protester waving a Hitlerised caricature of BA chief executive Willie Walsh – by which I mean she'd taken a photo of him and drawn on a Charlie Chaplin moustache and hair a bit like mine. The amount of pen she'd used only served to demonstrate how unlike Hitler Walsh looked to start with. She'd also coloured his eyes in red for some reason. Maybe to suggest the sleepless nights that Walsh will currently be enduring, much like Hitler in the bunker days? I struggle to find anything else meaningful that the two men have in common, other than the professed enmity of the protester.

The second was Queen guitarist Brian May saying a proposed cull of badgers in west Wales, aimed at controlling bovine TB, "would be genocide". He didn't even say "like genocide". I disagree with, but concede the coherence of, the argument that animals, including badgers, should be accorded similar rights to humans. May goes further and suggests that they actually are humans. He said the cull would be like killing all ginger-haired people if it were found that that would eradicate smallpox. The flaws in this comparison centre around the words "all" and "people" being substituted for "some" and "badgers".

The third was a former member of the BNP saying that senior members of that party "have Nazi, Naziesque sympathies". This is where using Godwin's law as a corrective falls down – sometimes Nazi comparisons are well used. While the crimes of the BNP are incomparably smaller than those of the Nazi party, as thankfully is its degree of electoral success, its views are comparable and history suggests that it would be naive to assume that, were the BNP given the opportunity of power, its actions wouldn't also be.

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Source: David Mitchell @ The Guardian

Tea Party Demands The Internetz to Delete Incriminating Evidence

Fox News Declares Spit Could Have Been Digitally Made: "That Spit is Made With CGI Technology From Liberal Hollywood!!"

Congressman Spit On By Tea Party Protester (VIDEO)

Last weekend, as the House of Representatives gathered to debate health care reform while Tea Partiers protested outside the Capitol, word emerged that Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) had been spit on by one of the demonstrators.

Cleaver released a statement confirming the incident, but some questioned his claims. Fox News personality Sean Hannity asked if there was any evidence proving that it had actually happened, and Tea Party groups offered a cash reward for proof.

Now video has emerged. Take a look and judge for yourself:

What Fox News Thinks Believes:

Independence day comes late for millennials

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Bekah Steadwell graduated last year from an elite college, but the portal to adulthood still seems far away. The 22-year-old, a cook at a bar, lives with her parents in their Chevy Chase D.C. home. Her father and mother prepare Bekah's taxes -- and, many nights, her dinners.

Soon, thanks to the health-care reform act President Obama signed into law Tuesday, Steadwell can piggyback on her parents in one more way: as a dependent on her mother's health plan. The new law requires insurers to allow young people to remain on their parents' policies until their 26th birthday, regardless of their work or marital status.

"I won't have a problem asking my parents for it," Steadwell said while eating lunch with another uninsured friend at Dupont Circle. "They would want me to be safe and covered."

In its bureaucratic way, the government's restructuring of health care sets a new starting point for independent adulthood: no longer at age 18 or 21, but deep into the 20s. The new health-care benefit, to take effect in six months, acknowledges the economic and social forces -- the grim job market and delays in marriage and childbearing -- that have kept the millennial generation, those generally in their 20s, more dependent on their elders than their parents had been.

"The continuing relationship between parents and young adult children is a really momentous change in the operational meaning of being a parent in the early 21st century," said William Galston, a Brookings Institution senior fellow who has studied millennials. Parents are shelling out unprecedented amounts to support their adult children, he said. "No one resists or resents it. Young people expect it."

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So when are we going to get all the articles about how the greed of the previous generation ratfucked the economy so much so that even though Millennials are the most educated generation ever, we have to fight tooth and nail for fucking temp jobs that don't offer benefits, or even unpaid internships? Also, how about we stop blaming the sins of crazy helicopter-parents on the children, mmmkay? I love how they leave out the points that education prices are skyrocketing, entry-level salaries are staying low in proportion, and cost-of-living is increasing. So basically, go screw yourself, stupid article. Multi-generational homes are common in the rest of the world, and the whole American individualism trope "I got kicked out at 18 and did fine!" needs to die. [/rant]


DeMint Just Wanted to PUNK Obama's Nominees.

DeMint: "A Little Bit Of Hazing Haz Never Hurt Anyone... I am Looking At You, Erroll Southers, You Crybaby..."

DeMint Claims That Republican Senators Just Wanted ‘Some Debate And A Vote’ On Obama’s Nominees

Yesterday, President Obama announced his intention to recess appoint 15 qualified nominees who have faced an “unprecedented level” of GOP obstruction to fill “critical” administration positions. From a statement by White House Communications Director Jen Psaki:
Many of these fifteen individuals have enjoyed broad bipartisan support, but have found their confirmation votes delayed for reasons that have nothing to do with their qualifications. … Because of political posturing, these fifteen appointees have waited an average of 214 days for Senate confirmation. [...]

To put this in perspective, at this time in 2002, President Bush had only 5 nominees pending on the floor. By contrast, President Obama has 77 nominees currently pending on the floor, 58 of whom have been waiting for over two weeks and 44 of those have been waiting more than a month.
One of the people receiving a recess appointment is Craig Becker to serve on the National Labor Relations Board, which protects workers from unfair labor practices. As Psaki explained, although the “five member board has been trying to operate with only two members,” Becker has “been waiting for 261 days or over 8 months” to be confirmed.

Becker, who has spent much of his distinguished career as a lawyer for the AFL-CIO and SEIU, has been one of the GOP’s top targets.
Republicans have been using his nomination as a proxy battle for the Employee Free Choice Act. As The Wonk Room’s Pat Garofalo has explained, they seem to believe that “Becker will somehow institute EFCA all by himself, which is, of course, nonsense.”

Today on CBS’s Face the Nation, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) tried to make the GOP obstruction sound reasonable, claiming that all they wanted was “some debate and a vote”:
DEMINT: Craig Becker, who was in the group that he appointed by executive fiat yesterday, is someone who has worked for unions his entire career. He put him on a board that is supposed to be unbiased arbitrators between businesses and unions. Democrats opposed this nomination. So, there’s bipartisan opposition. All we had asked for is some debate and a vote on this nominee. He decided to circumvent Congress again — which has become his style on so many issues — and just appoint him while we were out of town.
Watch it:
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creepy but cute

Google, China and the new internet politics

It is a cliche that things happen faster on the internet, but even that fails to explain the rapid collapse of relations between Google and the Chinese government.

The entire affair seems to have unfolded in just a few weeks, beginning in January and ending on Monday with the California internet giant's decision to redirect its Chinese web visitors to its Hong Kong site instead.

The conflict began when an unidentified computer hacker tried to break into Google's servers before Christmas. At that point, few could have predicted that events would quickly evolve into an open battle between one of the world's most powerful companies and a political superpower. After all, the internet attacks – known to security experts as Operation Aurora – targeted dozens of American companies, not just Google, and for large hi-tech businesses, the threat of cyber-espionage has become part of everyday life.

But when Google went public about the attacks in January – and hinted that they could have been prevented by the Chinese government – it was not only a swipe at Beijing, but also the culmination of several years of behind-the-scenes infighting at Google. After years of tension, a situation that had been heating up suddenly hit boiling point.

Google's forays into China began in 2006, when it surprised the world by announcing that it would launch a censored version of its popular search engine, specifically aimed at Chinese users.

While the business decisions behind the move were obvious – western companies had been eyeing the rapidly growing Chinese market for some time – the decision seemed at odds with Google's dedication to free information and its "don't be evil" mantra.

Indeed, an agonised internal debate at the company's Silicon Valley headquarters had preceded the move. Collapse )
Is Gates joking? In other news... I think the US news outlets are giving a bit too much credit to Google with things like "for Google, the sinister side of China’s cyberpolicy eventually came to outweigh the economic attraction of China’s market and the putative benefit of opening the Internet to a vast audience." Google is ultimately a corporation, and a successful one, which means they are driven by cost/benefit rationale.. but maybe I'm just cynical. But it will be interesting and potentially scary to what will happen when China decides to reach out of global economics into global politics and begins to export its brand of authoritarian capitalism...
gw || relena
  • brecho

women's history month with brecho: day twenty-eight

Two, because these are short and they both cover things I want to show. One month is just not enough. :(.

Women Twice as Likely to Die from Heart Disease than Men

Results of a new study suggest that women are more likely to die from heart disease than men.

According to French researchers, this is the case because women are not normally given the same standard of care that men are afforded.
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French woman MP campaigning to legalise brothels

London, March 19 (ANI): A French lawmaker from President Nicolas Sarkozy’s UMP party is raising demands to legalise brothels, more than 60 years after Paris banned them.

Chantal Brunel, MP for the western Paris suburbs and the head of the national watchdog on sexual equality, believes crime rates would dip and sex workers would benefit from “sexual services centres”.
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(no subject)

African myths about homosexuality

Zimbabwe’s Sunday Mail newspaper, which is controlled by Robert Mugabe and his Zanu PF party, ran an article last week headlined “Gay rights furore”. It claimed that “Zimbabwe’s major political parties are on a collision course over the inclusion of gay rights in the new constitution” because Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC is campaigning for the recognition of gay rights, while Zanu PF is against the idea for cultural reasons.

In turn Tsvangirai’s MDC has denounced what it regards as “attempts by Zanu PF to distort the MDC constitution principles through media reports that the party is lobbying for gay rights in the new constitution:

“Nowhere in our principles document is there any reference to gays and lesbians. For the record, it is well-known that homosexuality is practised in Zanu PF where senior officials from that party have been jailed while others are under police probe on allegations of sodomy. It is in Zanu PF where homosexuality is a religion.”

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New Statesman's Top 20 Political Songs

(Yes, this is an article about music. But seeing as we're all politics fans here, and a lot of us are also huge music fans, I figure this could lead to some really fascinating conversation and debate.)


The 20 songs below were voted for by New Statesman readers and members of the Politcal Studies Association.

The list, published in this week's magazine, features spoken word, punk nihilism and folk protest. To listen to the songs, together with a commentary by Jonathan Derbyshire and Professor John Street, go to

Meanwhile, we take you through the top 20 political songs, looking at the ideas that gave rise to them and the reasons for their success. Please feel free to comment on our inclusions, and to point to anything or any songs that we might have missed.

1. Woody Guthrie - This Land Is Your Land
2. The Special AKA - Free Nelson Mandela
3. Bob Dylan - The Times They are a-Changin'
4. Billie Holiday - Strange Fruit
5. Claude de Lisle - La Marseillaise
6. U2 - Sunday Bloody Sunday
7. Eugene Pottier - The Internationale
8. Robert Wyatt/Elvis Costello - Shipbuilding
9. Sex Pistols - God Save the Queen
10. William Blake - Jerusalem
11. The Who - Won't Get Fooled Again
12. Rage Against the Machine - Killing in the Name
13. Tracy Chapman - Talkin' 'bout a Revolution
14. Nina Simone - Mississippi Goddam
15. Marvin Gaye - What's Going On?
16. Gil Scott-Heron - The Revolution Will Not Be Televised
17. Bob Marley - Redemption Song
18. John Lennon - Imagine
19. Pete Seeger - Where Have All the Flowers Gone?
20. Tom Robinson - Glad to Be Gay

My personal top five political songs:

1. "I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-to-Die Rag" by Country Joe and the Fish
2. "Rockin' in the Free World" by Neil Young (But pretty much the majority of Neil Young's catalog, honestly).
3. "Eve of Destruction" by Barry McGuire
4. "White Riot" by The Clash
5. "American Jesus" by Bad Religion

What does your personal list look like, ontd_p?

Paul Krugman on right-wing health care extremism

Paul Krugman: Extremists’ growing influence isn’t good for U.S.

By Paul Krugman
4:44 PM Friday, March 26, 2010

I admit it: I had fun watching right-wingers go wild as health reform finally became law. But a few days later, it doesn’t seem quite as entertaining — and not just because of the wave of vandalism and threats aimed at Democratic lawmakers. For if you care about America’s future, you can’t be happy as extremists take full control of one of our two great political parties.

To be sure, it was enjoyable watching Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., warn that by passing health reform, Democrats “will finally lay the cornerstone of their socialist utopia on the backs of the American people.” Gosh, that sounds uncomfortable. And it’s been a hoot watching Mitt Romney squirm as he tries to distance himself from a plan that, as he knows full well, is nearly identical to the reform he himself pushed through as governor of Massachusetts.

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