September 13th, 2010


US No. 1(1)!

 I want to share a couple of articles I recently came across that, I believe, speak to the core of what ails America today but is too little discussed. The first was in Newsweek under the ironic headline “We’re No. 11!” The piece, by Michael Hirsh, went on to say: “Has the United States lost its oomph as a superpower? Even President Obama isn’t immune from the gloom. ‘Americans won’t settle for No. 2!’ Obama shouted at one political rally in early August. How about No. 11? That’s where the U.S.A. ranks in Newsweek’s list of the 100 best countries in the world, not even in the top 10.”

The second piece, which could have been called “Why We’re No. 11,” was by the Washington Post economics columnist Robert Samuelson. Why, he asked, have we spent so much money on school reform in America and have so little to show for it in terms of scalable solutions that produce better student test scores? Maybe, he answered, it is not just because of bad teachers, weak principals or selfish unions.

“The larger cause of failure is almost unmentionable: shrunken student motivation,” wrote Samuelson. “Students, after all, have to do the work. If they aren’t motivated, even capable teachers may fail. Motivation comes from many sources: curiosity and ambition; parental expectations; the desire to get into a ‘good’ college; inspiring or intimidating teachers; peer pressure. The unstated assumption of much school ‘reform’ is that if students aren’t motivated, it’s mainly the fault of schools and teachers.” Wrong, he said. “Motivation is weak because more students (of all races and economic classes, let it be added) don’t like school, don’t work hard and don’t do well. In a 2008 survey of public high school teachers, 21 percent judged student absenteeism a serious problem; 29 percent cited ‘student apathy.’ ”Collapse )

lol internet
  • homasse

Parents, beware!

Stupid California Police Warn Parents of Pedobear, the 'Pedophile Mascot'

(A link in case the embed doesn't work)

Pedobear is a meme featuring a cute cartoon bear who pops up wherever people are being creepy about kids on the Internet. Cops in California don't understand this, and have issued a hilarious warning about Pedobear.

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I'm over my photobucket limit, so I can't upload the public safety bulletin. Definitely go to the source and check it out (and the pic of someone cosplaying Pedobear).
  • luomo

Skateboarder swoops in to yoink Quran, save the day

A planned Quran burning Saturday in Amarillo was thwarted by a 23-year-old carrying a skateboard and wearing a T-shirt with "I'm in Repent Amarillo No Joke" scrawled by hand on the back.

Jacob Isom, 23, grabbed David Grisham's Quran when he became distracted while arguing with several residents at Sam Houston Park about the merits of burning the Islamic holy book.

"You're just trying to start Holy Wars," Isom said of Grisham after he gave the book to a religious leader from the Islamic Center of Amarillo.

Said Isom in an interview with News 10: "Snuck up behind him and took his Qur'an. He said something about burning the Qur’an. And I was like, 'Dude, you have no Qur’an,' and ran off.” 

Grisham, director of Repent Amarillo, which aims to deter promiscuity, homosexuality and non-Christian worship practices through confrontation and prayer, said he was just trying to exercise his right to free speech.

He announced Friday evening the plan to burn copies of the Quran to show support for the Rev. Terry Jones, pastor of a small church in Gainesville, Fla., who planned, publicized, then canceled his own Quran burning event after a national uproar.

Jones told NBC Saturday "we feel that God is telling us to stop" the Quran burning, which had stirred outrage among millions of Muslims and others worldwide.

More than 200 people, many packing signs, crowded into Sam Houston Park Saturday to either support or protest Grisham's plan to burn the Quran.

Amarillo police circled the block in cruisers and several officers in street clothes stood among attendees in case the crowd turned violent.

Jeremy Danielson of Amarillo, who attended with other members of the Unitarian Universalist Church, carried a "Love Thy Enemy" sign.

"Any time you burn books, that's ignorant," Danielson said. "For us to burn their religion is showing hate."

Protesters threw their hands on the grill Grisham planned to use to burn the Quran, someone took his lighter and Isom stole the Quran, leaving him with just lighter fluid.

"I kind of expected the reaction," Grisham said of the turnout.

As the crowd jeered, Grisham got into a car and left peacefully without burning any copies of the holy book.

Dennis Cobbins, an imam at the Islamic Center of Amarillo, said he came as an American Muslim "very concerned about what was taking place here."

He said he didn't know quite what to expect when he arrived at the planned burning he described as "distasteful." He found the amount of crowd support "a little bit overwhelming."

"The city we live in has zero tolerance for bigotry," he said.

Cobbins invited any Amarillo residents who want to learn more about Islam to attend worship at the mosque, 601 Quail Creek Drive.

Amarillo resident Nancy O'Gorman said she was shocked by the size of the turnout and initially thought she might be alone in her opposition.

"Just to be on the side of freedom," she said. "I couldn't see it (the burning) being done. It's mean."



gen || friends

Sibelius tells insurers to STFU and stop with the propaganda already.

Sebelius Warns Insurers Not To Blame Rate Hikes On Health Overhaul

Sep 10, 2010

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Thursday said insurers who blame their rate increases on the new health overhaul could be excluded from health insurance exchanges and the 30 million new customers they promise, The Associated Press reports. "'There will be zero tolerance for this type of misinformation and unjustified rate increases,' … Sebelius said in a letter to the insurance lobby. 'Simply stated, we will not stand idly by as insurers blame their premium hikes and increased profits on the requirement that they provide consumers with basic protections,' Sebelius said. She warned that bad actors may be excluded from new health insurance markets that will open in 2014 under the law." Sebelius sent the letter to insurer trade group America's Health Insurance Plans. "The industry's top lobbyist responded that the health care law is a factor behind higher rates, but not the only one" (Alonso-Zaldivar, 9/9).


The Wall Street Journal: "The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that some carriers are asking for total premium hikes topping 20% starting this month, and the carriers are attributing one to nine percentage points of the increases to new benefit mandates in the law. … [AHIP's top lobbyist Karen] Ignagni, president of America's Health Insurance Plans, said: 'It's a basic law of economics that additional benefits incur additional costs, and the impact on premiums depends on the type and amount of coverage policyholders had before.'" Sebelius said that later this fall, HHS will issue a regulation requiring state or federal review of all "potentially unreasonable" rate increases. "It's unclear how much power that will give state insurance commissioners, who say there's little they can do to stop insurers' rate hikes if the companies can justify charging more for greater benefits" (Adamy, 9/10).

Sebelius aimed her letter both at the larger insurance industry as well as smaller insurers, who had been the first ones to suggest large rate increases. Bloomberg: "The insurers that sent the letters to enrollees include Portland, Oregon-based Regence Group, Obama administration spokesman Nick Papas said in a telephone interview. Regence is a not-for-profit Blue Shield health plan that offers insurance in several states in the northwestern U.S. Samantha Reese, spokeswoman for Regence, confirmed that the insurer had sent letters about premium increases to beneficiaries" (Armstrong, 9/9).

Time: "But it's worth noting that every plan and policy is unique. A small group plan that happens to insure only people without children shouldn't have to charge more to pay to treat children with pre-existing conditions. Likewise, a plan that caters to young adults shouldn't have new expenses from young adults staying on their parents' insurance policies. Individual plans, on the other hand, will still be allowed to charge enough to cover their costs" (Pickert, 9/9).

The Hill reports more on AHIP's reaction to Sebelius' letter, which said the new law should only account for 1 to 2 percent increases in premiums. Ignagni: "Health insurance premiums are increasing because of soaring prices for medical services, the impact of younger and healthier people dropping their insurance during the weak economy, and additional benefits required under the new law" (Pecquet, 9/9).

Source: Kaiser Health News Daily Report

Didn't think I'd seen this posted here yet. Forgive the news-aggregator format, but multiple sources should allow you to get a diverse view on the subject.
I felt it might come in handy for all of you with friends and family saying OBAMACARE IS DRIVING MY HEALTHCARE COSTS UP! like my father was last night, driving me that much closer to announcing I've become a socialist.


Counter the Forces of Ignorance or, You Know the Drill, Don't Read the Comments

A bit late, but still worth mentioning and the organizer has posted some updates...

Capitol Quran reading Saturday to ‘counter the forces of ignorance’
By Ben Geman - 09/11/10 12:04 PM ET

A Virginia man has organized a Quran reading on the Capitol’s west lawn Saturday afternoon, an event planned to counter Florida pastor Terry Jones’ threat to burn the Muslim holy text.

The reading will proceed even though Jones has backed off. A Facebook page about the planned 4 p.m. quiet reading says it is designed to “counter the forces of ignorance and intolerance.”

“This event is not about religious proselytizing, but about furthering understanding and tolerance (in fact, the people organizing it are all either Christians or Agnostics). Please join us for a few hours of quiet reading in the name of brotherhood and peace,” the website states.

Tony Tribby, 43, noted that even though Jones has canceled his plan, there have been threats by others – including the extreme Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas – to undertake Quran burnings.

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Chibis- Good Omens MSNBC style

You got ONTD in my Politics! You got Politics in my ONTD!

Who were the soldiers with Lady Gaga at the VMAs?

Lady Gaga had not one, but four dates on her arm as she strode into last night's MTV Video Music Awards at L.A.'s Nokia Theatre: gay and lesbian soldiers who were discharged or opted to leave over the military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy.

"I'm here for a very, very important cause tonight," the eight-time Moonman winner, 24, told MTV. "These are all my friends and they are with, which is an organization that was founded in 1993 under the reaction to the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policies. Their stories are very inspiring and there's so much we can do right now."

According to the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, the soldiers are former West Point cadet Katie Miller, who resigned in August to protest the policy; and former U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. David Hall, former U.S. Air Force Major Mike Almy and former U.S. Army Sgt. First Class Stacy Vasquez, who were all discharged.

SLDN adds that Gaga met with Hall, Vasquez and Miller prior to her Sept. 7 show at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C.

"Lady Gaga’s recognition of these fine patriots casts a spotlight on the unjust burden that Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell imposes upon the brave men and women who defend our country every day," SLDN executive director Aubrey Sarvis said in a statement, "and further underscores why the Senate must swiftly act to get rid of this despicable law for good."

A federal judge in California ruled Sept. 9 that the military's ban on openly gay soldiers is unconstitutional, and the Senate is expected to debate its repeal this month.

Gaga added last night, "No one person is more valuable than another person."
Katherine + Bree

(no subject)

'Delusions of Gender' argues that faulty science is furthering sexism
By Wray Herbert

About halfway through this irreverent and important book, cognitive psychologist Cordelia Fine offers a fairly technical explanation of the fMRI, a common kind of brain scan. By now, everyone is familiar with these head-shaped images, with their splashes of red and orange and green and blue. But far fewer know what those colors really mean or where they come from.

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Wherein the Wingnut Army from the Right continues ravening the Republican Party

Tom Ross, Delaware GOP Chair, Threatened With 'Bullet In The Head'

The chairman of the Delaware Republican Party received a death threat last week over his support for Rep. Mike Castle (R-Del) over Tea Party challenger Christine O'Donnell in the state's upcoming Senate primary, a party official confirmed to the Huffington Post.

The threat, issued in the form of an email, told chairman Tom Ross that he deserves "a bullet in the head" for backing "political ass-kissing RINO's" [Republicans in name only].

"It is one thing to have your country screwed over by socialists, it is far worse to be backstabbed by people pretending to be your friends," the email read. "We will either rid the GOP of pieces of shit like you, or we will start a new 'Common Sense Conservative' party and render you all useless."

The threat was serious enough to compel Ross to leave his home, temporarily, and to spur an investigation from the Department of Justice said the official with the Delaware GOP (a DoJ official did not immediately return a request for comment). It also was sinister enough to alarm state party officials who are unaccustomed to not just threats of violence but even to heated political contests like the one unfolding in the state's Republican primary.

"It is just scary what is going on right now," the official said. "Tom is a loyal and dedicated Republican officer in Delaware... the position is unpaid and his job as party chairman is to defend and promote the candidates... It is disgusting, it is amazing and it has no place in our democracy."

The identity of the emailer was not immediately known, though the official said that the person "wrote his name and address" on the note -- providing obvious information for authorities to use.

Coming at the end of an emotional and hard-fought campaign, it's difficult to gauge both the purpose and the fallout of the death threat. If confirmed as both serious and sincere, it provides yet another piece of evidence that recently politics has veered into something more troubling than previously seen. O'Donnell supporters, undoubtedly, will be skeptical of the story's emergence at this late stage of the primary fight, noting that Castle is the primary beneficiary if her candidacy is seen as inspiring political intolerance, if not downright violence.


Much as I do feel for the guy who got threatened, the indignation coming from the quoted "GOP Official" seems a bit absurd considering that you never near a peep out of them when it's someone on the left getting these type of threats.

Oh, and LOL at the said threatener actually putting their name and contact data in the email, virtually ensuring they'll get a visit from the FBI.  Nice one, brainiac!

Killjoy Spin
  • arisma

Why The Worst of Times for Politics & Media Has Been the Best of Times for Jon Stewart & TDS

America Is a Joke

The worst of times for politics and media has been the best of times for The Daily Show’s host—and unfortunately things are getting even funnier.
By Chris Smith
Published Sep 12, 2010


It’s hard to top a kick in the nuts.

Especially when the kicker is Linda McMahon, the Connecticut Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate. Pure comedy gold.

Jon Stewart watches the tape and doubles over with laughter. He and fifteen of The Daily Show’s writers, producers, and performers are gathered around a 40-inch flat-screen TV inside the show’s Eleventh Avenue offices early on a Thursday morning in August. Creating a segment for tonight’s Daily Show around this footage, from one of World Wrestling Entertainment’s harmless little skits, would seem to be easy. Maybe they can just run the nut shot repeatedly. Along with another clip of McMahon, the co-founder and former CEO of WWE, chugging a beer and drooling foam down her cheek.

Except that the goal here isn’t simply topping the kick in the nuts—it’s using the scrotum slam in the service of a larger point. Oh, Stewart & Co. enjoy a lowbrow laugh as much as the folks over at South Park; heck, next week they’re publishing a book that includes some excellent masturbation jokes. But Stewart and The Daily Show became America’s sharpest political satirists by aiming at least a little bit higher.

“Slut! Slut! Slut!” The next clip shows McMahon’s daughter entering the wrestling ring to a booming chant from the crowd. Followed by McMahon’s deadly serious face, in a Nightline interview. “Oh my God,” Stewart interjects. “How do you answer that as a politician? ‘Well, you don’t know my daughter’? Or, ‘You know, the use of the term slut was obviously inadvertent’?”

This sets off a spasm of free-associative jokes from the other writers. “Or, ‘You don’t understand—Americans love this shit.’ ”

“What if we ran the clip like Super Mario Brothers, and every time she kicks that guy in the nuts, a gold coin comes out?”

“Was McMahon endorsed by Triple H? Or was it Triple X?”

“That’s funny stuff,” Stewart says. “But let’s get a sense of where the media is trying to build the narrative and where the story lines are going to go.”


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Here's hoping the cut works...
Bree Gun

You're big, black, and trouble.

Basketball star John Amaechi claims discrimination by Manchester gay bar

Acclaimed basketball star John Amaechi is claiming he was refused entry to a gay bar on Manchester's Canal Street, last weekend because he's black.

According to reports, the 40-year-old sportsman – who is a Manchester Pride patron and currently lives in the city – had attempted to enter a bar in the gay village when he was denied entry by door staff. He claims he was told he was "too big, too black and trouble" – something the bar denies.

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mus | like a bird in a cage

A fifteen-year-old's perspective on Omar Khadr

It's easy to forget that the faces we see on TV, in magazines and in newspapers are real people, just like us.

It's easy to think of the man in the green uniform, leaving on a plane, as a soldier fighting a war, and not a much-loved son going to risk his life. And it's easy to look at the misfortunes of someone you hear about in the newspaper, then reassure yourself it will never happen to you or your family. So why should you care?

Many people agree that the best indicator of the future is the past. So when someone's rights are violated intentionally, it is ignorant of us to believe it will never happen to us.

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MISC - moustache

Election Road Trip, Day 8: The Feingold Race

Middleton, Wisconsin
Traveling Companion: Jim Pinkerton
Event: Russ Feingold interview

Here's something I've been noticing: more than a few Republicans don't want to come out and play this year. Couldn't find hide nor hair of Pat Toomey, the Senate candidate in Pennsylvania (and I offered to visit him during the week before the road trip began). Here in Wisconsin, where incumbent Sen. Russ Feingold is facing Republican Ron Johnson, the indefatigable Katy Steinmetz--round of applause here--worked the phones relentlessly over the weekend, but couldn't prise a schedule, much less an interview, out of his campaign staff for today. (We checked with a local political reporter who said this was not an uncommon experience). "He's the country club version of Rand Paul and Sharron Angle," said Feingold, whose seat Johnson is trying to win. "He says three things about me: I'm a career politician. I have no plan to replace the jobs that have been lost. And I'm helping the President run up the deficit. Doesn't say a word about what he would do, of course."

Feingold is in a tough race, pretty much a dead heat right now, because of the general dyspeptic spirit in the electorate. But he's confident he'll win, in large part because his maverick, populist record has keep him outside both Democratic and Republican orthodoxy on some of the most important issues this year: He's opposed free trade deals, which he says is the primary cause of lost jobs in Wisconsin.

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All my Cheesehead brethren and sistren better be out voting for Russ tomorrow.
electile dysfunction

Florida Governor Charlie Crist Prepared to Endorse Broad Swath of Gay Rights

Exclusive: Florida Governor Charlie Crist prepared to endorse broad swath of gay rights

By John Byrne
Sunday, September 12th, 2010 -- 7:50 pm

MIAMI -- Charlie Crist, the current governor of Florida and Independent candidate for US Senate, is prepared to issue a ringing endorsement of gay rights in a document slated to be released as early as this week, according to a copy of a position paper provided in advance Sunday to

Crist, who was elected governor as a Republican, left the GOP after it became clear he could not win his party’s nomination for Senate.

The document provided to includes Crist's vocal support for gay couples, including hospital visitation, inheritance and adoption rights; opposition to the ban on gays serving in the military; support for anti-discrimination laws and appropriations for HIV and AIDS programs.

"It's great to hear a sitting governor take such a strong stand on equality issues," Nadine Smith, Director of Equality Florida, told by telephone Sunday night. "This is the first time in Florida's history that a sitting governor has taken these public positions on a wide range of LGBT equality issues. It marks a shift in the debate in our state."

"For us, having the governor of Florida articulate so clearly stands that are in support of equality on a wide range of issues is a new day," Smith added.

A representative of Crist's campaign could not immediately be reached for comment.

Crist has faced the wrath of gay rights activists in the past. He’s previously voiced opposition to same sex marriage; the draft doesn’t revise his position. It does, however, include language endorsing civil unions.

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I've never read this source before but it was also posted on The Advocate. Honestly, whoever has the higher polling number between Crist and Meek on election day is getting my vote, I just couldn't stand it if Rubio won.
franklin sherman

Obama to Pitch $60B Saudi Arms Deal to Congress

The Wall Street Journal reports the White House will officially notify Congress in the next two weeks of a $60 billion deal to sell Saudi Arabia dozens of U.S.-made fighter jets and military helicopters.

If it goes ahead, the sale of some 84 new F-15 jets and dozens of helicopter will be the largest U.S. arms deal ever.

The Obama administration is pitching the sale as a major opportunity to create new jobs for the beleaguered American economy. Companies including Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin and General Electric say more than 75,000 jobs could be created to build the new aircraft.

According to The Journal's sources, who remained anonymous, negotiations are also continuing on a side-deal which could see the Saudis pay an additional $30 billion for a U.S.-made upgrade to their naval forces.

Congress is expected to okay the sale of the aircraft ---- made tough to reject in America's current economic state by the prospect of new jobs.