AlterNet.org: Digby http://www.alternet.org/authors/digby en Louisiana Tortured Albert Woodfox for 40 Years http://www.alternet.org/louisiana-tortured-albert-woodfox-40-years <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">A judge has ordered the release of the only remaining imprisoned member of the Angola 3. We tortured him for four decades. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2015-06-09_at_8.25.58_am.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>"We tortured some folks"</p><p>... <a href="http://www.nola.com/news/baton-rouge/index.ssf/2015/06/albert_woodfox_angola_release.html">and not just suspected terrorists:</a><br /> </p><blockquote>A federal judge in Baton Rouge has called for the unconditional release of Albert Woodfox, the only remaining imprisoned member of the Angola 3.<br /><br />Woodfox, 68, was placed solitary confinement at Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola and other state facilities for more than 40 years for reasons related to the 1972 murder of prison guard Brent Miller. <br /><br />U.S. District Judge James Brady issued an order Monday (June 8) afternoon ordering the unconditional release of Woodfox from state custody and barring a third trial in the murder charges.<br /><br />Woodfox has always maintained his innocence, claiming he was implicated in the murder of the 23-year-old guard to silence his activism as an organizing member of the prison's Black Panther Party chapter.<br /><br />Tory Pegram, the manager of the International Coalition to Free the Angola 3, said it's unclear if Woodfox will actually be released from custody Monday. His lawyers were en route to Louisiana on a civil case, in which Woodfox is the plaintiff, on Monday when the order was issued. <br /><br />Aaron Sadler, the communications director for the Louisiana Department of Justice, said Brady's order "arbitrarily sets aside jury decisions" based on "faulty procedural issues."<br /><br />"With today's order, the Court would see fit to set free a twice-convicted murderer who is awaiting trial again for the brutal slaying of Corrections Officer Brent Miller," Sadler said in an emailed statement. <br /><br />Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell's office is seeking an emergency stay from the 5th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, he said, "to make sure this murderer stays in prison and remains fully accountable for his actions." <br /><br />In the 27-page order, Brady said it is more customary to issue "conditional" release based on the outcome of a retrial. He gave five reasons that qualify as "exceptional circumstances," however, for barring a third trial.<br /><br />"Mr. Woodfox's age and poor health, his limited ability to present a defense at a third trial in light of the unavailability of witnesses, this Court's lack of confidence in the State to provide a fair third trial, the prejudice done onto Mr. Woodfox by spending over forty-years in solitary confinement, and finally the very fact that Mr. Woodfox has already been tried twice and would otherwise face his third trial for a crime that occurred over forty years ago."</blockquote><p><br />Solitary confinement is torture. And if torturing someone for 40 years isn't cruel and unusual punishment I don't know what it could possibly be.<br /><br />I love Louisiana but its criminal justice system is something out of the third world. I'm just surprised we haven't been rendering terrorists there for "interrogation."</p> Tue, 09 Jun 2015 04:55:00 -0700 Digby, Hullaballoo 1037565 at http://www.alternet.org angola 3 Conservative Says Something Sane, Fox Freaks Out http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/conservative-fox <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Let&#039;s just say they treated him like a dotty old auntie.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2014-07-29_at_11.16.25_am.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p><a href="http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/jul/27/george-will-america-should-welcome-unaccompanied-m/#ixzz38nszLlkM">You don't even want to know what the Fox News gasbags thought of this:</a></p><blockquote>In a comments that seemed to surprise some of his fellow panelists, Fox News contributor and conservative columnist George Will said Sunday that the U.S. should welcome the unaccompanied minors surging across the southern border, fleeing violence in their home countries, reported Raw Story.<br /><br />“We ought to say to these children, ‘Welcome to America, you’re going to go to school, and get a job, and become American,’” Mr. Will said on Fox News, according to Raw Story. <br /><br />He added, “The idea that we can’t assimilate these 8-year-old criminals with their teddy bears is preposterous.” <br />Fox News host Chris Wallace challenged Mr. Will, Raw Story reported, saying, “Why should we be dealing with Central America’s problem? We can’t import the problem. They’ve got to deal with it there, and our border has to mean something.”<br />Mr. Will countered that the U.S. should handle the problem because it is capable of doing so.<br /><br />“We’ve handled what [American poet] Emma Lazarus called the ‘wretched refuse of your teeming shore’ a long time ago, and a lot more people than this,” Mr. Will said, according to Raw Story.</blockquote><p><br />Let's just say they treated Will like a dotty old auntie who simply didn't know what he was saying. Dana Perino said she admired him for "speaking his mind" but added that it's easy for someone standing on the sidelines to have such opinions. It's different when you have to be elected. (She neglected to add "by selfish assholes ...") The rest of the panel just yelled "get in line!!!" you're "illegal" as if sending refugee kids back to their violent cities to be tortured and/or killed to "wait their turn" makes any sense. <br /><br />Both Will and Brit Hume have made this argument now and the rest of the younger Fox crew looks at them like they've sprouted a second head. They honestly have no experience with people being decent toward anyone who isn't part of their little club. It's literally unimaginable to them.</p> Tue, 29 Jul 2014 08:12:00 -0700 Digby, Hullaballoo 1013301 at http://www.alternet.org News & Politics News & Politics fox NSA Document Says NSA Needs More Power http://www.alternet.org/nsa-document-says-nsa-needs-more-power <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The NSA is even more ambitious than you realize. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/photo_1378941673013-1-0.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>This latest NSA revelation from James Risen and Laura Poitras in<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/23/us/politics/nsa-report-outlined-goals-for-more-power.html?_r=0&amp;pagewanted=all&amp;pagewanted=print">the </a><a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/23/us/politics/nsa-report-outlined-goals-for-more-power.html?_r=0&amp;pagewanted=all&amp;pagewanted=print">New York Times</a> is one of the creepiest yet. It's a mission statement that forthrightly asserts that if the laws might interfere with the NSA's ability to function to its full, Orwellian, Big Brother capabilities those laws need to be eliminated. (I guess the Constitution would need an overhaul as well.  Talk about out of date ...)</p><br /><blockquote>Officials at the National Security Agency, intent on maintaining its dominance in intelligence collection, pledged last year to push to expand its surveillance powers, according to a top-secret strategy document.<br /><br />In a February 2012 paper laying out the four-year strategy for the N.S.A.’s signals intelligence operations, which include the agency’s eavesdropping and communications data collection around the world, agency officials set an objective to “aggressively pursue legal authorities and a policy framework mapped more fully to the information age.”<br /><br />Written as an agency mission statement with broad goals, the five-page document said that existing American laws were not adequate to meet the needs of the N.S.A. to conduct broad surveillance in what it cited as “the golden age of Sigint,” or signals intelligence. “The interpretation and guidelines for applying our authorities, and in some cases the authorities themselves, have not kept pace with the complexity of the technology and target environments, or the operational expectations levied on N.S.A.’s mission,” the document concluded.<br /><br />Using sweeping language, the paper also outlined some of the agency’s other ambitions. They included defeating the cybersecurity practices of adversaries in order to acquire the data the agency needs from “anyone, anytime, anywhere.” The agency also said it would try to decrypt or bypass codes that keep communications secret by influencing “the global commercial encryption market through commercial relationships,” human spies and intelligence partners in other countries. It also talked of the need to “revolutionize” analysis of its vast collections of data to “radically increase operational impact.”</blockquote><p>It's gets more Strangelovian by the day. I guess the old fashioned dictum that just because you can do something doesn't mean youshould wasn't taught in NSA school.</p><blockquote>Senior intelligence officials, responding to questions about the document, said that the N.S.A. believed that legal impediments limited its ability to conduct surveillance of terrorism suspects inside the United States. Despite an overhaul of national security law in 2008, the officials said, if a terrorism suspect who is under surveillance overseas enters the United States, the agency has to stop monitoring him until it obtains a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.<br /><br />“N.S.A.’s Sigint strategy is designed to guide investments in future capabilities and close gaps in current capabilities,” the agency said in a statement. “In an ever-changing technology and telecommunications environment, N.S.A. tries to get in front of issues to better fulfill the foreign-intelligence requirements of the U.S. government.”<br /> </blockquote><p>We must stop at nothing that might prevent our government from "keep us safe" from any threats, large or small, that may or may not materialize. <br /><br />Well, except the threat that stems from 30,000 deaths per yearfrom gun violence. Regulating that in even the smallest way would be an unconscionable infringement of our freedom and frankly, un-American. (Also too: people dying from lack of health care.) But the tiny possibility that some religious yahoo might blow something up with a pressure cooker some day? Let's tear up the Bill of Rights and pay billions for a bunch of voyeurs to collect every word we utter and keep it on file. Because freedom.<br /><br />Update: To paraphrase a famous quote by a man who who was driven from office because he couldn't keep from recording secret information --- on himself --- I guess <a href="http://news.cnet.com/8301-13578_3-57613550-38/nsa-slapped-malware-on-50000-networks-says-report/">this </a>means it's legal if the Five Eyes do it?</p> Mon, 25 Nov 2013 06:48:00 -0800 Digby, Hullabaloo 928710 at http://www.alternet.org News & Politics nsa One of America's Worst Columnists Writes Another Racist Column http://www.alternet.org/one-americas-worst-columnists-writes-another-racist-column <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Where would we be without Richard Cohen?</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2013-11-12_at_11.59.08_am.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>From the original wanker himself, <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/richard-cohen-christies-tea-party-problem/2013/11/11/a1ffaa9c-4b05-11e3-ac54-aa84301ced81_story.html?hpid=z2">Richard Cohen:</a></p><blockquote>Today's GOP is not racist, as Harry Belafonte alleged about the tea party, but it is deeply troubled — about the expansion of government, about immigration, about secularism, about the mainstreaming of what used to be the avant-garde. <br /><br />People with conventional views must repress a gag reflex when considering the mayor-elect of New York — a white man married to a black woman and with two biracial children. (Should I mention that Bill de Blasio's wife, Chirlane McCray, used to be a lesbian?) This family represents the cultural changes that have enveloped parts — but not all — of America. To cultural conservatives, this doesn't look like their country at all.</blockquote><br /><p>Right. Nothing racist or bigoted about that. It's just that they want to throw up at the sight of interracial marriage and biracial kids, especially when one of the negroes in question is a deviant. And can you blame them? Their world is changing and it's upsetting to them. Look at their president. He's one of them. It's enough to make them projectile vomit just thinking about it. What could be more conventional than that? <br /><br />We should feel sorry for them. Back in the good old days we had Operation Wetback and Jim Crow and we made little children to participate in religious ceremonies for their own good. This was before Big Government decided that the "avant-garde" had all kinds of special rights. They're understandably upset because there are only so many rights to go around and every "right" assumed by these other people is a right that's taken away from conventional people who deserve them. Why they hardly have any rights left at all. <br /><br />Thank goodness we have compassionate, understanding liberals like Richard Cohen out there explaining their needs and wants to the avant-garde (even though they hate him too.) Where would they be without friends like him?</p> Tue, 12 Nov 2013 08:56:00 -0800 Digby, Hullaballoo 922841 at http://www.alternet.org News & Politics richard cohen Why Dianne Feinstein Is Suddenly Upset About the NSA http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/why-dianne-feinstein-suddenly-upset-about-nsa <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">One of the National Security Agency&#039;s biggest defenders in Congress is suddenly at odds with the agency.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/1452940cf11ef72892f5f4a08c0254b593b8abf5_0.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>There are lots of people <a href="http://thecable.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2013/10/28/were_really_screwed_now_nsas_best_friend_just_shivved_the_spies">wondering</a> just what got into Dianne Feinstein that has her suddenly all hot and bothered over the NSA revelations (which, up until now, she's defended to the hilt.) </p><br /><blockquote>One of the National Security Agency's biggest defenders in Congress is suddenly at odds with the agency and calling for a top-to-bottom review of U.S. spy programs. And her long-time friends and allies are completely mystified by the switch.<br /><br />"We're really screwed now," one NSA official told The Cable. "You know things are bad when the few friends you've got disappear without a trace in the dead of night and leave no forwarding address."<br /><br />In a pointed statement issued today, Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Dianne Feinstein said she was "totally opposed" to gathering intelligence on foreign leaders and said it was "a big problem" if President Obama didn't know the NSA was monitoring the phone calls of German Chancellor Angela Merkel. She said the United States should only be spying on foreign leaders with hostile countries, or in an emergency, and even then the president should personally approve the surveillance.</blockquote><br /><p>It's interesting she's putting it in those terms when just about everyone else is rolling their eyes at the idea the US is any different than all the other countries who spy on their allies. (Well, no different except the trillion dollar surveillance program that dwarfs anything anyone in the rest of the world could possibly have.) <br /><br />I think the problem here is that the political defenders, perhaps including the president as well, are finally recognizing that they are dealing with a rogue agency. A rogue agency that is spying on heads of state apparently without permission. Which means it might be spying on anybody without permission. Like Senators maybe. Or Presidents.<br /><br />I always thought it odd that the first statement the president made after the initial Snowden leaks were made public included this odd little aside:<br /> </p><blockquote>But my observation is, is that the people who are involved in America’s national security, they take this work very seriously. They cherish our Constitution. The last thing they’d be doing is taking programs like this to listen to somebody’s phone calls.<br /><br />And by the way, with respect to my concerns about privacy issues, I will leave this office at some point, sometime in the last — next 3 1/2 years, and after that, I will be a private citizen. And I suspect that, you know, on — on a list of people who might be targeted, you know, so that somebody could read their emails or — or listen to their phone calls, I’d probably be pretty high on that list. So it’s not as if I don’t have a personal interest in making sure my privacy is protected.<br /><br />But I know that the people who are involved in these programs — they operate like professionals. And these things are very narrowly circumscribed. They’re very focused. And in the abstract, you can complain about Big Brother and how this is a potential, you know — you know, program run amok. But when you actually look at the details, then I think we’ve struck the right balance.</blockquote><p>I had guessed he was talking about that story that an NSA operative have read Bill Clinton's emails and he felt that issue had been properly dealt with. But it was still a little bit bizarre that he'd use the word "targeted" or even bring it up at all.<br /><br />Now, you have to wonder --- if he really didn't know about Merkel, what else doesn't he know about?</p> Tue, 29 Oct 2013 12:39:00 -0700 Digby, Hullabaloo 916682 at http://www.alternet.org News & Politics News & Politics nsa Williamsburg Accord: The GOP Pledge to Generate Crises to Get Their Way http://www.alternet.org/williamsburg-accord-gop-pledge-generate-crises-get-their-way <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Why are Republicans careening toward a potential federal government shutdown? This is the inevitable product of a conscious party strategy.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/31a87dfefedb7320404f8abba90d74d118685e9a_1.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>I think one of the major misunderstandings (willful, in many cases) of this budget mess is that it's about Republicans just running around willy-nilly screaming "nonononono" like toddlers having a temper tantrum. I know it looks that way, but that's not what's happening. This is a strategy. And it's one they've even written down.<br /><br />Jonathan Chait <a href="http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2013/09/house-gops-legislative-strike.html">wrote </a>about this in a widely read piece yesterday in which he explains what  they've been up to:</p><br /><blockquote>In January, demoralized House Republicans retreated to Williamsburg, Virginia, to plot out their legislative strategy for President Obama’s second term. Conservatives were angry that their leaders had been unable to stop the expiration of the Bush tax cuts on high incomes, and sought assurances from their leaders that no further compromises would be forthcoming. The agreement that followed, which Republicans called “The Williamsburg Accord,” received obsessive coverage in the conservative media but scant attention in the mainstream press. (The phrase “Williamsburg Accord” has appeared once in the Washington Post and not at all in the New York Times.) But the decision House Republicans made in January has set the party on the course it has followed since. <br /><br />If you want to grasp why Republicans are careening toward a potential federal government shutdown, and possibly toward provoking a sovereign debt crisis after that, you need to understand that this is the inevitable product of a conscious party strategy. Just as Republicans responded to their 2008 defeat by moving farther right, they responded to the 2012 defeat by moving right yet again. Since they had begun from a position of total opposition to the entire Obama agenda, the newer rightward lurch took the form of trying to wrest concessions from Obama by provoking a series of crises.</blockquote><p>And certain institutional players got in on the act and put the heat on MOC's big time. <a href="http://heritageaction.com/2013/05/open-letter-to-congress-the-promise-of-the-williamsburg-accord/">Here's </a>a letter from Heritage action to the GOP caucus from last May:</p><blockquote>Dear Congressman,<br /><br />In the coming months, you will face tremendous pressure to accept a deal to raise our nation’s debt ceiling. Conservatives around the country will insist the debt ceiling not be raised unless our nation gets on a path to a balanced budget within 10 years and stays balanced. This is not an arbitrary marker; rather, it is the marker laid out by the entire House Republican Conference in what has become known as the Williamsburg Accord.<br /><br />Conservatives cannot enter into the debt ceiling debate without understanding the promise of the Williamsburg Accord.<br /><br />On January 18, four current and former chairmen of the Republican Study Committee announced an agreement to re-sequence the 2013 fiscal fights. In exchange for holding the line on the sequester and producing a budget that balanced in ten years, conservatives agreed to postpone the debt ceiling debate for several months. In turn, the debate on the debt ceiling would revolve around enacting the policies that put the federal budget on the path to 10-year balance.<br /><br />A few days later, Speaker Boehner declared, “It’s time for us to come to a plan that will in fact balance the budget over the next 10 years.” He said it was the GOP’s “commitment to the American people.”<br /><br />As the proverbial ink dried on the Williamsburg Accord, the House Republican Conference marched in unison. Lawmakers focused on laying the groundwork to enact the policies necessary to achieve a 10-year balance, as scored by the Congressional Budget Office, and attach them to any future increases in the debt ceiling.<br /><br />At the same time, the National Republican Congressional Committee quietly poll-tested the message in key districts. Balancing the budget was a winning political argument in swing districts. The NRCC poll found that 45 percent of Democrats, 61 percent of Independents and 76 percent of Republicans thought balancing the federal budget would “significantly increase economic growth and create millions of American jobs.”<br /><br />Good policy is good politics, and we know from recent history a coherent, principled message on the debt ceiling can shift public opinion. Before landing on the Budget Control Act in August 2011, Republicans consistently said America had a spending problem and spending reductions must accompany any increase in the debt ceiling.<br /><br />Not surprisingly, the accepted narrative of that showdown is wrong. Many forget Republicans were winning the generic congressional vote the entire month of July. President Obama’s disapproval rating stood at 52% by the end of August. In September, Mitt Romney was leading in head-to-head polling.<br /><br />The path to balance is the path to victory.<br /><br />Conservatives should not raise our nation’s statutory debt limit unless Congress passes and the President signs into law real reforms and immediate spending reductions that place America on a path to balance within 10 years without raising taxes and keeping the budget in balance.</blockquote><p>What they were talking about was Paul Ryan's budget. And guess what? They got it:</p><blockquote>The Democrat-controlled Senate passed a continuing resolution, or CR—a temporary funding measure meant to keep the government operating—that would set the relevant funding levels at an annualized total of $986 billion. That’s about $70 billion less than what the Senate endorsed as part of its comprehensive budget plan back in April. But that actually understates the extent of the compromise.<br /><br />When President Barack Obama first took office in 2009, his budget proposed $1.203 trillion in discretionary spending for FY 2014. The Senate CR is about $216 billion, or nearly 18 percent, lower than that. Actual enacted funding levels for FY 2010, when the Democrats controlled both chambers of Congress, totaled $1.185 trillion in 2014 dollars. The Senate CR is about $200 billion below that, a cut of nearly 17 percent.<br /><br />After the 2010 midterm elections, the Republican Party took control of the House of Representatives and offered a budget plan that proposed dramatic spending reductions. That plan, authored by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI), envisioned FY 2014 funding levels at $1.095 trillion. Note that the funding in the current Senate-passed CR is about 10 percent less than the levels in the original Ryan budget.<br /><br />Finally, in August 2011, after a prolonged standoff over the debt limit, President Obama and Congress agreed to cut even more spending than the original Ryan budget demanded. The original spending caps in the 2011 debt limit deal limited funding to $1.066 trillion in FY 2014. The Senate CR accepts a cut of an additional $80 billion, or nearly 8 percent, from that compromise level.<br /><br />Progressives have repeatedly made significant concessions in order to protect the economy from a series of manufactured crises. Today’s manufactured crisis is no different. The Senate-passed legislation to keep the government open sets funding levels that are even lower than previous compromises. If the Tea Party shuts the government down anyway, it will not be because progressives were inflexible. Just ask House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH)—the compromise incorporated in the Senate CR was originally his idea.</blockquote><p>Last night <a href="http://www.newson6.com/story/23576148/federal-government-shutdown-begins">Steny Hoyer shouted this</a> on floor during one of the debates:</p><blockquote>"This is not a negotiation -- we're taking their number, and we would hope that they could also take their number so we can keep the government open."</blockquote><p>You see? The Democrats already folded. Sequestration is now the ongoing law of the land and Paul Ryan's budget wet dream is considered the "clean" continuing resolution. Huzzah.<br /><br />And yet, they were not satisfied. (You've heard the old saw "give 'em and inch and they'll take a mile," right?) Here's <a href="http://www.redstate.com/2013/03/14/the-williamsburg-accord-a-conservative-folly/">one view </a>of the "Willimsburg Accord" from the more radical (yes, more radical even than Heritage Action) Madison Society from a few months back:</p><blockquote>Back in January, a number of conservatives rendered themselves irrelevant in the fight for liberty by signing onto an incomprehensible agreement with leadership, known on Capitol Hill as the ‘Williamsburg Accord’ (yes, everything in Washington has to have a silly name). That agreement was aptly hatched at the GOP Retreat in Williamsburg. They agreed to suspend the debt ceiling law for 4 months and vote for a CR that funds Obamacare on condition that leadership keep the sequester and pass a 10-year balanced budget. The idea was to pass an amazing budget blueprint for everyone to support, and fight for it in return for lifting the new debt ceiling in May or June.<br /><br />Let’s ignore the fact that the sequester was already a fait accompli, as Republicans would have been forced to succumb to tax increases in order to overturn it. Let’s ignore the fact that leadership forced the Democrat Violence Against Women Act down their throats with Democrat support. Let’s ignore the fact that there was nothing new in this year’s Ryan budget to improve upon last year’s budget other than $3.3 trillion in new tax revenue.<br /><br />Let’s look ahead to the future. We’ve been playing this game for two years. If Boehner is going to buy into the notion that the debt ceiling is off limits, why in the world would the Democrats feel the need to agree to any aspect of the Ryan budget, much less defunding Obamacare? How could Boehner make this comment while he is concurrently telling his conference that he will demand dollar-for-dollar cuts in return for raising the debt ceiling – whatever that means?<br /><br />Hence, the conservatives who signed onto this deal were punked – unless they also buy into leadership’s claim about default. If Republicans were really serious about dealing with this issue, they would pass Tom McClintock’s Full Faith and Credit Act (H.R. 807), which prioritizes payments for interest on debt. All of those conservatives who agreed to the Williamsburg Accord are co-sponsors of this bill? Why don’t they force leadership to vote on their bill ahead of the May 18 debt ceiling deadline?<br /><br />It’s clear now that the vote to suspend the debt ceiling for 4 months had nothing to do with their desire to push for a balanced budget, rather it was an expression of fear – the same expression they are evincing to Obama ahead of the new debt ceiling deadline.<br /><br />We are looking for new candidates who will not be possessed by this incorrigible fear during a time that calls for intrepid courage on the part of conservatives. I’ve already found several promising candidates, and will not rest until we find an army of new savvy contenders who plan to play by a different set of rules. The way we approach elections is not working. The movement is not doing enough to change the face of the Republican Party. And by voting to suspend the debt limit and funding for Obamacare in the CR, conservatives are making it harder for us to run against the moderates, obviating our ability to send them reinforcements. As we’ve explained this week with regards to taking down the rule on bad bills, we have failed to even match the passion and commitment of the ’94-era Republicans.<br /><br />This must change.<br /><br />Over the next few weeks, at the Madison Project, we will be updating our index scores for the 112th Congress and our hall of shame, which is comprised of liberal members in conservative districts. Sadly, it’s a long list. You can email me with suggestions of new candidates at <a href="mailto:Daniel@madisonproject.com">Daniel@madisonproject.com</a>. We can either complain or we can take action.</blockquote><p>That is the alternate universe in which these grassroots/teaparty/lunatics dwell.<br /><br />And yet this fact is all too real: <em>they've got the Ryan budget already.</em>And they've already moved on to the debt ceiling, which all the Fox freaks were going on about last night.  Krauthammer suggested they could get Obamacare defunded if they are willing to hold out. They all believe the consequences of a default are phony concerns made up to force them to back down and they are having none of it. That threat to back primary challenges in those gerrymandered districts against those who deviate from this dangerous delusion is quite real (or these members of congress believe it is, anyway.) So, they are going to play this all the way out. <br /><br />But why wouldn't they? With the exception of some chump change from millionaires in the last round, the Democrats have been losing on policy every step of the way since these budget battles began, even as they seem to be winning the politics. What could be more telling than the fact that the numbers in Paul Ryan's budget are now considered the starting point in any new negotiations to end the shutdown. <br /><br />Who's being played here?</p> Tue, 01 Oct 2013 12:22:00 -0700 Digby, Hullabaloo 904007 at http://www.alternet.org williamsburg gop government shutdown NSA Launches Charm Offensive http://www.alternet.org/nsa-launches-charm-offensive <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">That&#039;s why they call it Big Brother -- so people will feel comfortable.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/fec4839771284aca26f1df8bb927742f1c7013de_0.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>For the first time since 1975, <a href="http://cisac.stanford.edu/news/zegart_joins_scholars_at_nsa_for_rare_briefing_on_spy_agencys_woes_20130926/">the NSA invited in a bunch of academics</a> to <del style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Times; font-size: medium; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 204); ">flatter them</del> brief them about the secret programs and this interview with one of the participants gives us some idea of what their charm offensive is supposed to accomplish. I'll let you read the whole thing but these answers from the NSA struck me as being so vacuous as to demand some kind of response:</p><br /><br /><blockquote>Q: Have Snowden’s actions endangered national security or international relations?<br /><br />A: The standard lines about “irreparable harm” are not convincing to many people because they are so vague, we’ve heard them so often, and the government classifies boatloads of information that shouldn’t be secret. <br /><br />But NSA officials got a little more specific. They said Snowden has hurt national security in three ways: The first is that he revealed government surveillance capabilities. Second, he’s revealed politically embarrassing things that are harming relations with our allies – and they believe there is more to come. (Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff postponed a state visit to Washington, for example, following the release of evidence that the U.S. spied on Brazilian politicians and business leaders.) They said Snowden has a pattern of releasing embarrassing information around big international meetings, such as the G20 summit. The third damaging impact is that Snowden has hurt the NSA’s ability to produce intelligence.</blockquote><br /><p>If he revealed embarrassing information about the US Government spying on its allies and it harmed relations with them, isn't theproblem that the government is doing this, not that it's been revealed? I guess they honestly believe that America should be spying on her allies and that Americans think that's a good thing. I don't think that's been determined. If the government is doing things that will break trust with their friends maybe it should think twice about doing it rather than getting bent out of shape when its been discovered. I'm sorry they're embarrassed. Perhaps they should consider not doing embarrassing things. <br /><br />(Oh, and saying that Snowden has "hurt NSA's ability to produce intelligence" doesn't qualify as "more specific.")<br /><br />I don't mean to be critical. It's an interesting interview:</p><blockquote>Q: What were your biggest takeaways from this meeting?<br /><br />A: I would say one of the things that I did walk away from the meeting hearing – and I think that perhaps this is the big policy question – is that the NSA orientation is to collect now, ask questions later. So the question is: Is that the right operating philosophy; are we comfortable as a democratic society with that collect-now-ask-later approach?</blockquote><br /><p>I would hope not. But the implication is that we are all totally on board with the NSA's (secret) spying mission and are simply arguing over the methods. That's not true. There is a ton of dissent out there over the idea that the NSA should have these capabilities at all and certainly whether it should be spying on our allies, particularly when it comes to doing it for commercial purposes (as it seems to have been done in Brazil and China at least.) After all, in today's global economy that is not something that necessarily benefits average Americans or any other average person on this planet. <br /><br />Moreover, allowing any secret government agency this kind of power and virtually unlimited resources, regardless of the alleged oversight (which in practice operates 99% of the time as a rubber stamp)is begging for trouble. There may be trade-offs involved in checking this power, but it's far more likely that the greater threat to our freedom will come from within rather than without, particularly when you have a gargantuan bureaucracy which always seeks to maintain itself. It's just the way these things work. This thing clearly needs to be reined in generally, not just have its methods re-evaluated. <br /><br />This is just more of the "we need to be more open about how awesome we are so that people will be "comfortable" with our massive secret spying operation." But that's why they call it Big Brother --- so people will feel comfortable.</p> Mon, 30 Sep 2013 11:22:00 -0700 Digby, Hullaballoo 903360 at http://www.alternet.org nsa big brother Republican Pushes Food Stamp Cuts, Has 0 Problem With Massive Giveaways to Big Food Industry http://www.alternet.org/republican-pushes-food-stamp-cuts-has-0-problem-massive-giveaways-big-food-industry <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Republicans are calling cuts to food stamps &quot;welfare reform 2.0&quot;.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2013-09-17_at_10.26.10_am.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>You've got to hand it to <a href="http://www.politico.com/story/2013/09/the-farm-bill-is-back-96831.html#ixzz2f5xxWSyO">these misanthropic wingnuts</a>.  They don't suffer from a surfeit of self-awareness, that's for sure:</p><br /><blockquote>At a sugar lobby symposium at a Napa resort, of all places, Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas) chose to champion the cuts last month, preaching of “certain moral hazards we’ve built into most social safety net programs” — like food stamps. This from a commodity chairman who had just voted to make the sugar program permanent law and begin a new 80 percent taxpayer-financed insurance premium subsidy for cotton. Who writes this stuff: Jonathan Swift?</blockquote><br /><p>The editorializing is from a Politico writer. <em>Politico</em>. That's how outrageous these comments really are. <br /><br />These Republicans are calling this "welfare reform 2.0". Because when people become dependent on government assistance for food they lose the ability to work. Or something. <br /><br />Meanwhile a new report on poverty in the US is expected Tuesday. Here's what the watchers are anticipating:<br /> </p><blockquote>We predict that it will tick down just a bit. Based on recent and forecast poverty rates and unemployment rates, our projections suggest an overall 2012 poverty rate of 14.8% and 21.4% for children, very similar to the 2011 rates of 15.0 and 21.9, respectively. This translates to roughly 46.5 million people in the US in poverty in 2012, of whom 16 million are children. For a single mother with two children, this means living with an annual cash income under $18,500.</blockquote><br /><p>By the way, those rich single mothers with children are among those lazy bums those Republicans believe have developed a culture of dependency on food and must be taught a lesson.</p> Tue, 17 Sep 2013 07:20:00 -0700 Digby, Hullabaloo 897592 at http://www.alternet.org News & Politics gop food stamp Food Stamp Recipients Forced to Work 20 Hours a Week in Exchange for $132 a Month in Food Stamps http://www.alternet.org/food-stamp-recipients-forced-work-20-hours-week-exchange-132-month-food-stamps <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Not a great deal. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2013-09-10_at_10.03.13_am.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Ohio is apparently overrun with lazy bums needing food and whatnot. <a href="http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2013/09/07/fit-no-kids-youll-have-to-work-for-food-stamps.html">This'll teach them:</a></p><br /><blockquote>Gov. John Kasich’s administration will limit food stamps for more than 130,000 adults in all but a few economically depressed areas starting Jan. 1.<br /><br />To qualify for benefits, able-bodied adults without children will be required to spend at least 20 hours a week working, training for a job, volunteering or performing a similar type of activity unless they live in one of 16 counties exempt because of high unemployment. The requirements begin next month; however, those failing to meet them would not lose benefits until Jan. 1.<br /><br />“It’s important that we provide more than just a monetary benefit, that we provide job training, an additional level of support that helps put (food-stamp recipients) on a path toward a career and out of poverty,” said Ben Johnson, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.</blockquote><p>Right. It's for their own good to have to work 20 hours a week for an average of $132 a month in food stamps. But hey, slave labor is a great way to replace all those union jobs that Kasich eliminated, isn't it?<br /><br />These right wing white guys have always been big fans of slavery. And hunger:</p><blockquote>The announcement comes the same week as a federal report showing hunger persists in Ohio despite signs of economic improvement. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1 in 6 Ohio families faced hunger last year, the 10th highest rate in the nation. And over the past decade, the percentage of families forced to skip meals or cut back on what they eat has grown 6.3 percentage points, higher than in all but two other states.</blockquote> Tue, 10 Sep 2013 06:58:00 -0700 Digby, Hullabaloo 894312 at http://www.alternet.org News & Politics food stamps Why Climate Change May Be Responsible for the Horrors in Syria http://www.alternet.org/syria <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Perhaps we should stop blowing things up for a little while and concentrate on being a global leader on the real existential crisis of our time: climate change.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/photo_1378185600798-3-0.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>If you want to understand what's happening in Syria ... </p><p>Please read this important post by<a href="http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2013/09/your-labor-day-syria-reader-part-2-william-polk/279255/">James Fallows:</a></p><p> </p><blockquote>Many times I've mentioned the foreign-policy assessments of William R. Polk, at right, who first wrote for the Atlantic (about Iraq) during Dwight Eisenhower's administration, back in 1958, and served on the State Department's Policy Planning staff during the Kennedy years. He now has sent in a detailed analysis about Syria.<br /><br />Polk wrote this just before President Obama switched from his go-it-alone policy and decided to seek Congressional approval for a Syrian strike. It remains relevant for the choices Congress, the public, and the president have to make. It is very long, but it is systematically laid out as a series of 13 questions, with answers. If you're in a rush, you could skip ahead to question #7, on the history and use of chemical weapons. But please consider the whole thing when you have the time to sit down for a real immersion in the implications of Congress's upcoming decision. It wouldn't hurt if Senators and Representatives read it too.</blockquote><br /><p><a href="http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2013/09/your-labor-day-syria-reader-part-2-william-polk/279255/">Read the whole thing here.</a> It is the most cogent recitation and analysis of the Syrian crisis that I've seen. While my opposition to this intervention is rooted in global concerns which are unrelated to this set of circumstances, these particulars bolster my instincts and my fundamental skepticism about the wisdom of this action. <br /><br />Here's just one interesting insight that should make us all step back and ask ourselves whether our long term interest might be better served by concentrating on a different issue that really does require American "intervention":</p><br /><blockquote>Syria has been convulsed by civil war since climate change came to Syria with a vengeance. Drought devastated the country from 2006 to 2011. Rainfall in most of the country fell below eight inches (20 cm) a year, the absolute minimum needed to sustain un-irrigated farming. Desperate for water, farmers began to tap aquifers with tens of thousands of new well. But, as they did, the water table quickly dropped to a level below which their pumps could lift it. <br /><br />In some areas, all agriculture ceased. In others crop failures reached 75%. And generally as much as 85% of livestock died of thirst or hunger. Hundreds of thousands of Syria’s farmers gave up, abandoned their farms and fled to the cities and towns in search of almost non-existent jobs and severely short food supplies. Outside observers including UN experts estimated that between 2 and 3 million of Syria’s 10 million rural inhabitants were reduced to “extreme poverty.”</blockquote><blockquote>The domestic Syrian refugees immediately found that they had to compete not only with one another for scarce food, water and jobs, but also with the already existing foreign refugee population. Syria already was a refuge for quarter of a million Palestinians and about a hundred thousand people who had fled the war and occupation of Iraq. Formerly prosperous farmers were lucky to get jobs as hawkers or street sweepers. And in the desperation of the times, hostilities erupted among groups that were competing just to survive.<br /><br />Survival was the key issue. The senior UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) representative in Syria turned to the USAID program for help. Terming the situation “a perfect storm,” in November 2008, he warned that Syria faced “social destruction.” He noted that the Syrian Minister of Agriculture had “stated publicly that [the] economic and social fallout from the drought was ‘beyond our capacity as a country to deal with.’” But, his appeal fell on deaf ears: the USAID director commented that “we question whether limited USG resources should be directed toward this appeal at this time.” (reported on November 26, 2008 in cable 08DAMASCUS847_a to Washington and “leaked” to Wikileaks )<br /><br />Whether or not this was a wise decision, we now know that the Syrian government made the situation much worse by its next action. Lured by the high price of wheat on the world market, it sold its reserves. In 2006, according to the US Department of Agriculture, it sold 1,500,000 metric tons or twice as much as in the previous year. The next year it had little left to export; in 2008 and for the rest of the drought years it had to import enough wheat to keep its citizens alive.<br /><br />So tens of thousands of frightened, angry, hungry and impoverished former farmers flooded constituted a “tinder” that was ready to catch fire. The spark was struck on March 15, 2011 when a relatively small group gathered in the town of Daraa to protest against government failure to help them. Instead of meeting with the protestors and at least hearing their complaints, the government cracked down on them as subversives. The Assads, who had ruled the country since 1971, were not known for political openness or popular sensitivity. And their action backfired. Riots broke out all over the country, and as they did, the Assads attempted to quell them with military force. They failed to do so and, as outside help – money from the Gulf states and Muslim “freedom fighters” from the rest of the world – poured into the country, the government lost control of over 30% of the country’s rural areas and perhaps half of its population. By the spring of 2013, according to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), upwards of 100,000 people had been killed in the fighting, perhaps 2 million have lost their homes and upwards of 2 million have fled abroad. Additionally, vast amounts of infrastructure, virtually whole cities like Aleppo, have been destroyed.</blockquote><p>If that doesn't sound like a premonition of many more crises to come, I don't know what does. Perhaps we should stop blowing things up for a little while and concentrate on being a global leader on the real existential crisis of our time: climate change. Tomahawk missiles aren't going to solve it, that's for sure.<br /><br />I know it's long but please read this entire article. If you are persuaded, send it to your Representative, particularly if he or she is a progressive Democrat who is likely to be arm twisted by the Syria hawks in the Democratic leadership. It's vitally important that we break this cycle of military intervention to solve problems that can't be solved by military intervention. There are much bigger, long term challenges underlying all of this this that are papered over by America's status as the world's policeman and it's not serving any of us well.<br /><br />It's not that the US has no leading role to play in the world. It's just that we are playing the wrong one.</p> Tue, 03 Sep 2013 08:06:00 -0700 Digby, Hullabaloo 890947 at http://www.alternet.org News & Politics syria climate change Are Hackers the Next Bogeyman Used to Scare Americans Into Giving Up More Rights? http://www.alternet.org/are-hackers-next-bogeyman-used-scare-americans-giving-more-rights <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Has &quot;terrorism&quot; grown a little stale as an all purpose boogeyman?</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/photo_1369702659701-4-0.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p><a href="http://www.emptywheel.net/2013/06/24/keith-alexander-will-stop-packets-in-flight-to-save-america/">Marcy Wheeler has been speculating for a very long time</a> that the real purpose of all this NSA collection isn't terrorism, it's hacking.<a href="http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2013/aug/06/nsa-director-cyber-terrorism-snowden">These comments</a> last week from Michael Hayden lend a lot of credence to that theory in my eyes:</p><br /><blockquote>"If and when our government grabs Edward Snowden, and brings him back here to the United States for trial, what does this group do?" said retired air force general Michael Hayden, who from 1999 to 2009 ran the NSA and then the CIA, referring to "nihilists, anarchists, activists, Lulzsec, Anonymous, twentysomethings who haven't talked to the opposite sex in five or six years".<br /><br />"They may want to come after the US government, but frankly, you know, the dot-mil stuff is about the hardest target in the United States," Hayden said, using a shorthand for US military networks. "So if they can't create great harm to dot-mil, who are they going after? Who for them are the World Trade Centers? The World Trade Centers, as they were for al-Qaida."</blockquote><p>That's just a tiny bit overwrought for an allegedly serious expert, don't you think? In fact, it sounds like the kind of thing we heard from various members of the Bush administration during the early days after 9/11. And it certainly indicates, as Wheeler has been speculating, that the government is stretching the terrorism laws to include hacking. They certainly are using the same histrionic language to describe it.</p><blockquote>Under Hayden, the NSA began to collect, among other things, the phone records and internet data of Americans without warrants after 9/11, a drastic departure from its traditional mission of collecting foreign intelligence. A variety of technically sophisticated collection and analysis programs, codenamed Stellar Wind, were the genesis of several of the NSA efforts that Snowden disclosed to the Guardian and the Washington Post.<br /><br />Hayden said that the loose coalition of hacker groups and activists were "less capable" of inflicting actual harm on either US networks or physical infrastructure, but they grow technologically more sophisticated. Echoing years of rhetoric that has described terrorists, Hayden added that their "demands may be unsatisfiable".</blockquote><p>I had a feeling that "terrorism" was growing a little stale as an all purpose boogeyman. It's important to keep the paranoia fresh and exciting in this fast paced modern world.<br /><br />Nonetheless it's always rather startling to hear an esteemed national security expert talking like a member of the Soprano family in public. Perhaps the president should have a chat with some of these people since he's so concerned about the fact that the public doesn't have "confidence" in the efficacy and necessity of being spied upon. When the people who designed the programs sound like cheap thugs it tends to undermine their credibility just a little bit.</p> Mon, 12 Aug 2013 11:14:00 -0700 Digby, Hullabaloo 881550 at http://www.alternet.org terror hackers Will George Zimmerman Become a Right-Wing Hero? http://www.alternet.org/george-zimmerman <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Things may be a little rough back home, but there will be the victory tour on Fox. And the inevitable book deal. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/photo_1373834428270-13-0.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p><a href="http://www.esquire.com/blogs/politics/The_End_Of_The_Daily_Trayvon">Charles Pierce thinks so:</a></p><br /><blockquote>There will be much for George Zimmerman to do. Things may be a little rough back home, but there will be the victory tour on Fox. And the inevitable book deal. There will be the long career as a hero to the people in the communities that feel themselves besieged by assholes and fucking punks in their hoodies. There will be a long, lovely ride surfing the strange and wonderful celebrity that will befall him now because he stood up to the people who defend the rights of assholes and fucking punks to walk in their hoodies through neighborhoods where they don't belong, according to him, George Zimmerman, American hero.</blockquote><p>I think it could happen. Watch his brother with Pierce Morgan last night:<br /> </p><blockquote><object classid="clsid:D27CDB6E-AE6D-11cf-96B8-444553540000" height="234" id="ep_1041" width="416"><embed allowfullscreen="true" allowscriptaccess="always" bgcolor="#000000" height="234" src="http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/.element/apps/cvp/3.0/swf/cnn_embed_2x_container.swf?site=cnn&amp;profile=desktop&amp;context=embed&amp;videoId=bestoftv/2013/07/14/pmt-robert-zimmerman-jr-piers-morgan.cnn&amp;contentId=bestoftv/2013/07/14/pmt-robert-zimmerman-jr-piers-morgan.cnn" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="416" wmode="transparent"></embed></object></blockquote><blockquote>"There are factions, there are groups, there are people that would want to take the law into their own hands as they perceive it, or be vigilante's in some sense. They think that justice was not served, they won't respect the verdict no matter how it was reached and they will always present a threat to George and his family"</blockquote><br /><p>Yes, he really said that, without irony. <br /><br />Imagine how thrilled CPAC will be to see George The Victim next year.</p> Mon, 15 Jul 2013 12:31:00 -0700 Digby, Hullabaloo 869100 at http://www.alternet.org zimmerman Weaponized Drones Coming to America? http://www.alternet.org/immigration/weaponized-drones-coming-america <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Local law enforcement agencies have been considering arming drones with the same weapons used in riot control—rubber bullets, tear gas, bean bag rounds.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/photo_1372837138206-1-0.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>I'm afraid only traitors wouldn't want armed unmanned drones<a href="http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2013/07/dhs-border-patrol-drones-rand-paul">flying around over their heads</a>? </p><blockquote>According to a 2010 Department of Homeland Security report obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) suggested arming its fleet of drones with "non-lethal weapons designed to immobilize TOIs," or targets of interest, along the nation's borders. Currently, none of the agency's 10 domestic drones is weaponized; the recently passed Senate immigration bill, which would require a minimum of four additional drones, stipulates that those be unarmed as well.<br /><br />The report doesn't exactly rise to the level of proposing drone strikes against Arab Americans "sitting in a cafeteria in Dearborn, Michigan," as Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) postulated during his 13-hour drone filibuster in March. But it's sure to fuel the concerns not only of border residents and immigration reform groups but of privacy watchdogs and anti-government protesters paranoid about domestic surveillance.<br /><br />Jennifer Lynch, an EFF attorney, told the Atlantic Wire, "This is the first I've seen any mention of any plans [from a federal agency] to weaponize any drones that fly domestically." However, local law enforcement agencies have been considering arming drones with the same weapons used in riot control—rubber bullets, tear gas, bean bag rounds. The CBP report didn't specify the weapons it has in mind.</blockquote><p><br />Ok, I know everyone's going to roll their eyes and tell me that this is no big deal because we already arm police and the border patrol and this is just another weapon not something intrinsically bad. <br /><br />Fine, fine. But I just have one question: why do we need this then? If this is just another weapon in the arsenal, I'd really like to know why these people want to use them. Is there a reason why the usual rubber bullets, electric shock, bean bag rounds etc aren't efficient enough? Will we really be better off if they can deploy them from unmanned drones flying overhead? <br /><br />I'd like to know. Because the way it looks to me, they just want some new expensive toys and they want to try them out on people. And I don't see why they should be allowed to do that without a very, very good reason. After all, we're denying people food stamps and meals on wheels right now. (Also too: police state.Not that anyone cares about that.)</p> Mon, 08 Jul 2013 08:49:00 -0700 Digby, Hullabaloo 865713 at http://www.alternet.org Immigration Immigration News & Politics drones weapon Did You Know that NSA Spymasters Are Involved in the War on Drugs? http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/nsa-drug-war <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">A lot of people don&#039;t realize that the NSA has a mandate to &quot;stem the flow of narcotics into the country.&quot;</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/photo_1368482012998-1-0_4.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Yesterday <a href="http://digbysblog.blogspot.com/2013/06/rethinking-4th-amendment.html">I posted a little tid-bit</a> about the NSA proposing some years back to "re-think the 4th Amendment" in a once secret (now de-classified) document.  I was reading it over again this morning and happened upon this little tid-bit:</p><br /><br /><div><a href="http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-WYPo3GcoyCc/UbXxosGqkUI/AAAAAAAAMpw/WsFn2b6SYNM/s1600/nsa.png" imageanchor="1"><img border="0" src="http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-WYPo3GcoyCc/UbXxosGqkUI/AAAAAAAAMpw/WsFn2b6SYNM/s640/nsa.png" /></a></div><br /><p>So, for all those who worry about ham-stringing the government in its noble quest to protect us from the boogeyman, where exactly does this fit into the matrix of concerns? Are we all ok with the NSA doing secret surveillance of Americans' activities with a mandate to "stem the flow of narcotics into our country"? <br /><br />Remember, this document was written long before any <a href="http://www.emptywheel.net/2012/03/12/eric-holder-suggests-scary-iran-plot-was-legal/#more-25599">alleged terrorist plots</a> featuring Mexican drug lords existed. This was about drug interdiction, period. That's not to say that in recent years the DEA and the National Security apparatus haven't pretty much merged under the umbrella of<a href="http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/Narco-terrorism"> "narco-terrorism"</a>. But the NSA has been involved in the drug war for a very long time.<br /><br />Is everyone comfortable with that, knowing what we know about how much information they're collecting?</p> Mon, 10 Jun 2013 12:03:00 -0700 Digby, Hullabaloo 853041 at http://www.alternet.org News & Politics News & Politics nsa drug war Police Tase Foreclosed Upon Homeowners Protesting Criminal Bankers, Criminal Bankers Continue Facing No Repercussions http://www.alternet.org/police-tase-foreclosed-upon-homeowners-protesting-criminal-bankers-criminal-bankers-continue-facing <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Why shoot peaceful protesters full of electricity in order to get them to fall to the ground in excruciating pain, dazed and compliant?</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/photo_1338313856296-1-0_2.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>You may have heard about the protests at the DOJ by foreclosed upon homeowners demanding that Eric Holder prosecute some bankers for their criminal activity. If you haven't, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/20/occupy-justice-department_n_3309305.html?utm_hp_ref=politics">you can read all about it here.</a> <br /><br />Unfortunately, I received reports last night that citizens exercising their right to peacefully protest were being casually tasered by the authorities. <br /><br />This came from my friend Jason Rosenbaum, who was there:</p><br /><br /><blockquote>At the start of the action, when the protesters and homeowners arrived at the south entrance of the DOJ, we were greeted by half a dozen police in tactical gear or uniforms and a metal barrier cutting off access to a small courtyard in front of the large DOJ doors. The group of protesters rallied at the barrier and the planters next to it that made up the square and homeowners slowly climbed over the barriers in an attempt to gain an audience at the DOJ and register their complaints. At that point, the police were keeping people from climbing over, but eventually the police retreated and a few homeowners and protesters made it over and sat down to occupy that space. More joined them. After about 10 minutes, as more climbed over the barrier and the crowd occupied more space, the police retreated up the few steps leading to the door, and eventually ceded the square entirely by going inside the DOJ, leaving the protesters and homeowners alone in the square. The protesters took down the barriers at that point and everyone occupied the square, complete with signs, chants, couches, tents, and the like. (There's video/photos of this on my Twitter feed, @j_ro.)<br /><br />That was phase one -- for the next phase, the protest split into three groups, with one staying at the south entrance and the two others to take entrances on the north and west sides of the building. I went with the group going to the west, and we were met again by police presence at the west entrance. We pushed on through to the north entrance around the block, and again were met by police. After sitting down there for a bit and taking the intersection down the block, we were notified that our brethren needed our help back at the south entrance and we marched over.<br /><br />When I got there with the crowd in my group, the police had about a dozen homeowners in plastic cuffs on the south steps and had set up a police line around the original square in front of the door. The people in my group rushed through the line to sit down with their fellow protesters and homeowners being arrested, and it was at this point that at least one officer took out his taser gun, pulled the trigger, and started using it to push back those in the crowd coming to the support of those being arrested. That's what you see in my video. As Matt noted, it was over very quickly, with protesters looking to peacefully support those who were being arrested being tased and pushed back, and those being arrested led into a police van and driven away for processing.<br /><br />At this point, as the arrests were being loaded into the van, another group of about a dozen sat down inside the police barrier and as far as I know they're still there (I had to leave about an hour after the initial arrests). So there may be more arrests to come shortly.</blockquote><br /><p>There is nothing new about protesters gathering at government buildings. And it has never been a problem for the police to arrest protesters in an orderly fashion, even when the protesters are not cooperating by sitting down and refusing to move. This is the way civil disobedience has worked for many a moon. <br /><br />Shooting protesters full of electricity in order to get them to fall to the ground in excruciating pain, dazed and compliant, however, is new. And it's completely unnecessary, not to mention contrary to our long tradition of peaceful protest. I thought this sort of thing went out with the use of firehoses and police dogs.<br /><br />It happened again today, this time well captured on video:<br style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Times; font-size: medium; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 204); " /> </p><blockquote style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Times; font-size: medium; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 204); "><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/b1XA33qI4XI" width="560"></iframe></blockquote><br style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Times; font-size: medium; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 204); " /><p>Note the casual sadism. The young woman is surrounded by three men as she links arms with another protester. She does not appear to be in any way violent or threatening. The big man behind her holds her around the neck and whispers in her ear (who knows what he told her, but if it's the usual, he says "cooperate right now or you're going to be tased.") As a peaceful protester engaged in civil disobedience she naturally refuses. At this point, they would normally pick her up bodily and carry her to the paddy wagon. Instead, they hit her with 50,000 volts of electricity, she crumbles to the ground as her whole body is overwhelmed by pain. <br /><br />And then they blithely walk away, leaving her writhing on the ground. Let's just say they were lucky she wasn't one of the thousands of people who've died from tasers. I guess they would have noticed at some point when she stopped screaming. <br /><br />This makes me sick to my stomach. And that it happened on the steps of the United States Department of Justice makes me ashamed to be an American. <br /><br />The woman who was tasered is named Carmen Pittman. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/06/occupy-protests-foreclosure_n_1132900.html">Here's her story.</a> I guess she just hasn't been punished enough.</p> Tue, 21 May 2013 09:53:00 -0700 Digby, Hullabaloo 843530 at http://www.alternet.org News & Politics banks tase protest 3 Pictures That Tell You Everything You Need to Know About Guantanamo http://www.alternet.org/3-pictures-tell-you-everything-you-need-know-about-guantanamo <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The military has released pictures trying to show how &quot;good&quot; the prisoners have it. The pictures tell a different story. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2013-05-09_at_1.52.08_pm.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Mother Jones featured a series of pictures released by the military of the equipment used in the Guanatanamo hunger strike the other day. I've shown similar ones before here --- the tubes, the shackles and the torture chairs. <br /><br />But the military was clearly trying to show how good the prisoners have it down there so they also showed a picture of the "luxuries" they're allowed, like "fresh olives."   Here a picture of all the belongings these lucky duckies have:</p><br style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Times; font-size: medium; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 204); " /><br style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Times; font-size: medium; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 204); " /><div class="separator" style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Times; font-size: medium; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 204); clear: both; text-align: center; "><a href="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-pXsA-oAdCf0/UYvFJoU_e_I/AAAAAAAAMcI/0oFL7aR1s_U/s1600/gitmo-cell630.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="color: rgb(51, 102, 0); margin-left: 1em; margin-right: 1em; "><img border="0" height="265" src="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-pXsA-oAdCf0/UYvFJoU_e_I/AAAAAAAAMcI/0oFL7aR1s_U/s400/gitmo-cell630.jpg" width="400" /></a></div><br style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Times; font-size: medium; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 204); " /><br style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Times; font-size: medium; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 204); " /><p>As Barbara Bush might say, "So many of the people here, you know, were underprivileged anyway so this is working very well for them." I mean, check this out:<br style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Times; font-size: medium; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 204); " /> </p><table align="center" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" class="tr-caption-container" style="font-family: Times; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 204); margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto; text-align: center; "><tbody><tr><td><a href="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-4V9anww5iCc/UYvF12UTU8I/AAAAAAAAMcQ/Ym2kZ6n4gsc/s1600/cropped.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="color: rgb(51, 102, 0); margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto; "><img border="0" height="216" src="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-4V9anww5iCc/UYvF12UTU8I/AAAAAAAAMcQ/Ym2kZ6n4gsc/s400/cropped.jpg" width="400" /></a></td></tr><tr><td class="tr-caption"><span style="font-size: small; text-align: start; ">"Media room inside Camp V Detention Facility which provides detainees access to television and movies."</span></td></tr></tbody></table><br /><p>Just look at that comfy old La-z-boy.  They can curl up and watch TV for hours.<br /><br /> Ooops. I accidentally cropped that...<br style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Times; font-size: medium; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 204); " /> </p><div class="separator" style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Times; font-size: medium; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 204); clear: both; text-align: center; "><a href="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-FwuyZWyMs1o/UYvDii3TL5I/AAAAAAAAMb8/JkGWCQwPUQs/s1600/gitmo-lazyboy630.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="color: rgb(51, 102, 0); margin-left: 1em; margin-right: 1em; "><img border="0" height="265" src="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-FwuyZWyMs1o/UYvDii3TL5I/AAAAAAAAMb8/JkGWCQwPUQs/s400/gitmo-lazyboy630.jpg" width="400" /></a></div><br style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Times; font-size: medium; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 204); " /><br style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Times; font-size: medium; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 204); " /><p>What fun to sit in a comfortable chair and watch TV and movies --- shackled to the floor.<br /><br />I'm sure I don't have to remind anyone that most of these prisoners have been cleared for release, many of them having been brutally tortured in the past and found innocent of being involved in terrorism.<br /><br />Michael Shaw has a typically insightful analysis of the pictures<a href="http://www.bagnewsnotes.com/2013/05/more-gitmo-pictures-finally-internal-nourishment-preparation/"> at BagNews Notes</a>:</p><blockquote>Although photos from Gitmo have typically excluded the prisoners themselves, not seeing them and knowing they are wasting away makes their absence here that much more palpable. (I think the CYA-minded Pentagon really believes these pictures are informational when they’re not, they’re documentary.) Scenes of olives being delivered that will never be eaten, or full Styrofoam containers getting chucked in the trash, or bottles of Ensure on patient trays next to surgical tubes (to make sure you don’t die on us while the world is watching) can’t help but prompt us to see the prisoners in our own minds (or even imagine we’re getting the treatment).<br /><br />While the government and the military pretend these photos maintain an adequate level of abstraction, however, to me they do the opposite. In waging a war of wills at the most primitive level, these photos, if highly institutional, somehow take me back to Abu Ghraib. Torturing a man for information, or out of sadism or to keep him alive, is still torture.</blockquote><br /><p>Yes it is.</p> Thu, 09 May 2013 10:45:00 -0700 Digby, Hullabaloo 837704 at http://www.alternet.org News & Politics guantanámo military Liberty Loving Rand Paul Wets Pants Over Boston, Demands More Surveillance, Tougher Immigration Laws http://www.alternet.org/liberty-loving-rand-paul-wets-pants-over-boston-demands-more-surveillance-tougher-immigration-laws <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">What &quot;liberty&quot; looks like to the poster boy for libertarian freedom.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/photo_1366575429722-1-0_7.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>For anyone who ever expects the allegedly principled libertarian Rand Paul to be anything more than an ephemeral civil liberties ally to be used for your own purposes and nothing else, here he is in all his glory, <a href="http://www.paul.senate.gov/?p=press_release&amp;id=776">letting his little white slip show once again</a>:</p><br /><br /><blockquote>Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid<br /><br />United States Senate<br /><br />Washington, DC 20510<br /><br /><br />Dear Majority Leader Reid,<br /><br />As our thoughts and prayers continue to go out to those affected by the tragedy in Boston, I urge you to incorporate the following national security concerns into the comprehensive immigration reform debate. Before Congress moves forward, some important national security questions must be addressed.<br /><br />I believe that any real comprehensive immigration reform must implement strong national security protections. The facts emerging in the Boston Marathon bombing have exposed a weakness in our current system. If we don't use this debate as an opportunity to fix flaws in our current system, flaws made even more evident last week, then we will not be doing our jobs.<br /><br />We should not proceed until we understand the specific failures of our immigration system. Why did the current system allow two individuals to immigrate to the United States from the Chechen Republic in Russia, an area known as a hotbed of Islamic extremism, who then committed acts of terrorism? Were there any safeguards? Could this have been prevented? Does the immigration reform before us address this?<br /><br />There should be hearings in the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee that study the national security aspects of this situation, making sure that our current immigration system gives individuals from high-risk areas of the world heightened scrutiny.<br /><br />In the wake of 9/11, there was a comprehensive reform of our intelligence gathering system, yet our improved intelligence gathering system did not adequately detect these extremists. We need to understand possible intelligence failures and craft solutions.<br /><br />Media reports indicate that the deceased bombing suspect was interviewed by the FBI two years ago at the request of a foreign government. We need to know the details of this interview. We need to know if this interview might have given investigators any reason to conclude that this individual might be dangerous or at least worthy of further inquiry. If so, was there an intelligence failure? At the very least, it should be examined.<br /><br />Media reports indicate that both the bombing suspects were legal permanent residents and one is reported to be a naturalized citizen. We need to make sure that we have safeguards against this type of situation happening again.<br /><br />In 2002, Congress set up the National Security Registration System (NSEERS), yet it was suspended in 2011 by Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano. That system had problems, yet was still based on the practical idea that extra screening is necessary from nations that have a higher population of extremists. Congress might need a similar system updated for current circumstances to be rolled into comprehensive immigration reform.<br /><br />I would like the US-VISIT/OBIM program studied to see if it actually works, or at least study the process by which we collect and analyze biometric data on immigrants. [freedom!...]<br /><br />Our refugee programs have proven to be a problem. On, January 29, 2013, two Iraqi citizens living in Bowling Green, in my home state of Kentucky, were sentenced to long prison terms for participating in terrorism and providing material support to terrorists while living in the United States. How did this happen? Does the current immigration reform address how this might have happened? We may need more scrutiny when accepting refugees from high-risk nations. <br /><br />I want to make sure that any new bill addresses the visa entry and exit programs, in addition to refugee programs that have proven problematic in Bowling Green and possibly, if media reports are correct, in Boston.<br /><br />Finally, do we need to take a hard look at student visas? Should we suspend student visas, or at least those from high-risk areas, pending an investigation into the national security implications of this program?<br /><br />I respectfully request that the Senate consider the following two conditions as part of the comprehensive immigration reform debate:One, the Senate needs a thorough examination of the facts in Massachusetts to see if legislation is necessary to prevent a similar situation in the future. Two,national security protections must be rolled into comprehensive immigration reform to make sure the federal government does everything it can to prevent immigrants with malicious intent from using our immigration system to gain entry into the United States in order to commit future acts of terror.<br /><br />Thank you for your consideration of this request.<br /><br />Sincerely,<br /><br />Rand Paul, M.D.</blockquote><br /><p>This is what "liberty" looks like to the poster boy for libertarian freedom. Funny, it looks very much like a standard issue, right wing, pants-wetting, panic artist to me. They all seem to believe that we will be so much freer if only we allow the authorities more "freedom" to decide who does and doesn't hate us for our "freedom" and make sure they don't get into our "free" country. Because that's totally doable. <br /><br />Meanwhile, freedom loving Americans must be "free" to buy as many guns as they want, no matter the carnage gun violence causes. That's the American way. Because they're fighting tyranny. You know, like when the government uses "biometrics" to track people. <br /><br />We have lost our bearings again (if we ever had them.) And sadly, I'm going to guess we've lost our chance at an immigration reform for the time being. <a href="http://www.nationalreview.com/node/346258">Clearly, the Republican party has lost its nerve</a>. And the Democrats never had much to begin with. I'm sure everyone's relieved. <br /><br />By the way: Ted Cruz at today's immigration hearing said that a pathway to citizenship is "divisive" and "jeopardizes the likelihood of passing any immigration reform"</p> Mon, 22 Apr 2013 09:16:00 -0700 Digby, Hullaballoo 828647 at http://www.alternet.org News & Politics rand paul boston It's Official: A Democratic President Proposes to Cut Social Security http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/its-official-democratic-president-proposes-cut-social-security <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">What can we do to stop this?</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/photo_1365072133037-5-0_11.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Mark this day. <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/05/us/social-programs-face-cutback-in-obama-budget.html">For the first time in history</a>, a Democratic president has officially proposed to cut the Democratic Party's signature New Deal program, Social Security:</p><blockquote><p>President Obama next week will take the political risk of formally proposing cuts to Social Security and Medicare in his annual budget in an effort to demonstrate his willingness to compromise with Republicans and revive prospects for a long-term deficit-reduction deal, administration officials say.</p><p>In a significant shift in fiscal strategy, Mr. Obama on Wednesday will send a budget plan to Capitol Hill that departs from the usual presidential wish list that Republicans typically declare dead on arrival. Instead it will embody the final compromise offer that he made to Speaker John A. Boehner late last year, before Mr. Boehner abandoned negotiations in opposition to the president’s demand for higher taxes from wealthy individuals and some corporations.</p></blockquote><p>The way this was explained to me is that the liberal Democrats in the House put out a leftward proposal and the Democrats in the Senate put out a moderate proposal, which the president tacitly endorsed. The Crazy Republicans then came back with a rightward proposal so now the president has simply set forth a compromise between the Senate Dems and the Crazy Republicans. And it's his final, final offer this time. <br /><br />God help us if the Republicans wise up and take this deal. After all, it's a more conservative budget than even their hero Ronald Reagan ever submitted. <br /><br />This is what he proposes:<br /> </p><blockquote><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/fvXuANd2l80" width="560"></iframe></blockquote><br /><p><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mike-lux/your-budget-represents-yo_b_3006222.html">I'm going to quote Mike Lux here:</a></p><br /><br /><blockquote>If Obama includes it in his budget, he is claiming this as a policy idea he supports before he even starts negotiations with the Republicans. This is terrible policy and terrible politics at the same time. In a budget document that has no actual policy impact but that symbolically represents what he stands for and who he wants to fight for, he will alienate senior citizens and the families who worried about taking care of them, he will split his political party down the middle, and-- by being the first one to formally propose cuts to Social Security-- he will hand Republicans a big political weapon to hurt Democrats in 2014.<br /><br />I understand the president has political reasons he wants to do this. He wants to look like the most reasonable guy in the room, and he wants the Republicans to look like they are the extremists who won't compromise. He doesn't want the attacks that will come from the deficit hawk crowd if offers nothing on "entitlement reform," and he feels like this is a modest cut compared with the budget ax the Republicans are threatening. He feels like he can lessen the impact of the Social Security cuts by adjusting the formula to protect the oldest and poorest recipients.<br /><br />But, folks, this is rotten public policy, and all those political reasons pale in comparison to the damage he is doing here. With the demise or curtailment of most pensions, the drop in family wealth due to the collapse of the housing sector in 2008, the big unemployment numbers cutting into many families' life savings, the flattening or decrease of wages for most workers, and the inflation in many essentials among those who are working driving down the ability to save for retirement, this is the absolute last time we should be looking at cutting incomes for retirees.<br /><br />As to the idea that Obama will keep the most vulnerable low-income seniors from harm, I am very appreciative of that fact that he cares about them and is trying to preserve them from cuts. Obama's compassion for the poorest of the poor is something to be lauded, one of his best values. But I used to do a lot of organizing with moderate income senior citizens, and I know a lot of middle-income seniors. I can tell you that even for those a little above the cut-off line but still living mostly on Social Security, they are not living in luxury, they are in fact just making it. When groceries or utilities or out-of-pocket health care expenses spike, it hurts and hurts bad. I have been in the apartments of seniors when utility prices were going on one of their periodic jumps, have seen what they can afford to eat, have felt the cold in their apartments in the winter because they can't heat their place. I know in my heart, because I have seen the evidence up close and personal, that for a lot of seniors the $500 a year they will have lost from chained CPI a few years from now if this cut goes into effect will result in more seniors dying of hypothermia or malnutrition.<br /><br />Most Americans, over 80 percent in polls I have seen, understand that cutting Social Security benefits is a terrible idea, and I believe that if that is what happens people will be angry. But even if the politics were not on our side, this is a moral issue pure and simple. The president should not propose cutting Social Security, and Democrats in Congress should raise hell and oppose him if he does. As Democrats, according to all that rhetoric I kept hearing during the campaign last year, we believe in fighting for the middle class, and this proposal punches the middle class-- both older Americans and the families who care for them-- in the gut.</blockquote><br /><p>Ok, so what do we do now? <br /><br />First, we cannot simply sit back and expect the GOP to do our dirty work for us. After all, the way things are going, the President or could start offering up new tax cuts for all we know. He's either a terrible negotiator or he really, really wants these cuts. Either way, counting on him holding the line is probably not a good idea.<br /><br />So, we have to buck up the Democrats. I know, I know. But they still have to face voters while the president has run his last election. They should be made very, very aware of what they are contemplating: attacks from both the left and the right in the next election. Any incumbent Democrat who could face a primary challenge will be facing withering criticism for voting to cut SS, veterans benefits and medicare. And if they are lucky to fight them off and win they will be attacked by the Republicans challenger on exactly the same issues. These are very, very popular programs which, by the way, don't actually need to be cut. Anyone who votes for this will hear about it. If you have a Democratic congressional rep, give them a call and let them know that you willhold it against them. (Also too, if you have a Republican representative. They have to face voters too and it can't hurt to remind them of that. And after all, they are just looking for reasons to oppose this ...)<br /><br />And call your Senators starting today. The pattern so far has been that Speaker Boehner will only suspend the Hastert Rule (allowing legislation to the floor without a Republican majority) if it is already passed with a bipartisan Senate vote. Best to try to stop it here first. <br /><br />Meanwhile prepare for a barrage of savvy, world weary commentary from your fellow liberals telling you that this is no big thing and that Democrats will not suffer even a tiny bit if they vote for a common sense proposal like this one. You will be shushed and told to calm down and take a chill pill. In other words, <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaslighting">you will be gaslighted</a> by fellow liberals who are embarrassed that you aren't being coolly accepting of something that is completely unacceptable. This is how this works. Tell them to STFU and move out of the way. <br /><br />And recall <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/29/us/politics/common-ground-in-washington-for-medicare-changes.html?pagewanted=all">this:</a><br /> </p><blockquote>Responding to a flood of angry phone calls and letters from their elderly constituents, a growing number of Congressmen and Senators are seeking to repeal or revise the "Medicare Catastrophic Coverage Act of 1988" enacted in June of that year. The amount and the tenacity of elderly opposition to the law, particularly to the new taxes that will fund it, took many Congressmen by surprise. It also has provoked an open and widespread grass-roots rebellion within the nation's largest senior citizen lobby, the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), whose national office pushed hard for the original legislation. Already, some 30 bills have been introduced to repeal the catastrophic act in whole or in part or to change the way it is financed. More bills are expected.</blockquote><br /><p>The cool kids should think twice before predicting a complacent acceptance of this proposal because sometimes the people do stand up and object. Especially when it comes to these programs. They don't call it the third rail for nothing.<br /><br />Update: <a href="http://editors.talkingpointsmemo.com/archives/2013/04/boehner_not_good_enough.php?ref=fpblg">Right on schedule:</a><br /> </p><blockquote>As if on cue, from the Speaker: “If the president believes these modest entitlement savings are needed to help shore up these programs, there’s no reason they should be held hostage for more tax hikes.”<br /><br />Textbook. It’s what you invite when you<a href="http://talkingpointsmemo.com/archives/2013/04/bad_news_friday.php"> pre-emptively move to the middle.</a></blockquote><p>Hey, there are plenty of things the president propose to meet them in the "new middle."  He could agree to raise the medicare and SS age, for instance, in exchange for tax cuts. No worries. There's lot's of room for further negotiation.</p> Fri, 05 Apr 2013 11:04:00 -0700 Digby, Hullabaloo 820456 at http://www.alternet.org News & Politics News & Politics obama social security 6 Charts That Show How Conservative Politics Are Destroying America http://www.alternet.org/economy/6-charts-show-how-conservative-politics-are-destroying-america <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">We&#039;ve been in the clutches of conservative economic orthodoxy since 1980, and this is the result.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/graph1.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><div style="text-align: center;"><p style="text-align: left;">These were compiled<a href="http://blog.ourfuture.org/20120318/Reagan_Revolution_Home_To_Roost_--_In_Charts"> by Dave Johnson at Campaign for America's Future:</a></p><p style="text-align: left;">In each of the charts below look for the year 1981, when Reagan took office.</p><p style="text-align: left;">Conservative policies <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Balance_of_trade">transformed</a> the United States from the largest creditor nation to the largest debtor nation in just a few years, and it has only gotten worse since then:</p><div style="text-align: left;"> </div><div alt="" class="media-image" height="299" width="480"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="299" width="480" typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/large/public/graph1.jpg" /></div></div><div><p>Working people’s <a href="http://www.angrybearblog.com/2009/10/labors-share.html">share</a> of the benefits from increased productivity took a sudden turn down:</p><div> </div><div style="text-align: center;"><div alt="" class="media-image" height="328" width="480"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="328" width="480" typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/large/public/graph2.jpg" /></div></div><div>This resulted in intense <a href="http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/blog/09/04/27/CongratulationstoEmmanuelSaez/">concentration</a> of wealth at the top:<br /><div> </div><p style="text-align: center;"></p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="238" width="480"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="238" width="480" typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/large/public/graph3.jpg" /></div><p> </p><div>And forced working people to spend down savings to get by:<br /><div> </div><div style="text-align: center;"><div alt="" class="media-image" height="290" width="450"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="290" width="450" typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/large/public/graph5.jpg" /></div></div><div>Which forced working people to <a href="http://bonddad.blogspot.com/2009/05/bernankes-happy-talk.html">go into</a> debt: (total household debt as percentage of <abbr title="Gross Domestic Product">GDP</abbr> )<br /><div> </div><p style="text-align: center;"></p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="345" width="480"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="345" width="480" typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/large/public/graph6.jpg" /></div><p> </p>None of which has <a href="http://www.frontlinethoughts.com/article.asp?id=mwo061110">helped</a> economic growth much: (12-quarter rolling average nominal <abbr title="Gross Domestic Product">GDP</abbr> growth.)<br /><div> </div><p style="text-align: center;"></p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="260" width="431"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="260" width="431" typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/large/public/graph7.jpg" /></div><p>There are, of course, many reasons for all this. But there is no doubt that we've been in the clutches of conservative economic orthodoxy since 1980 and this is the result. Whether it's the cause or whether it's because it has no capacity to react to external events properly doesn't matter. It has failed. And is still failing. #Austerity</p></div></div></div></div><p> </p> Mon, 01 Apr 2013 06:28:00 -0700 Digby, Hullaballoo 817777 at http://www.alternet.org Economy Economy News & Politics Tea Party and the Right ronald reagan conservatives reaganomics income inequality wealth gap Fun Facts About Rich People: Walmart Heirs Own More Wealth Than Bottom 40% of Americans; the Wealthy Give Less to Charity Than the Poor http://www.alternet.org/fun-facts-about-rich-people-walmart-heirs-own-more-wealth-bottom-40-americans-wealthy-give-less <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">In 2010, the Waltons’ share equaled the entire bottom 41.5 percent of families.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2013-03-25_at_10.08.21_am.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>I was watching Bill Maher and his guests last Friday calling the American people morons because they don't want the government to cut programs they value. All the wealthy people on the panel went on and on and on about how those idiotic Americans refuse to make sacrifices for the greater good because they're just sooooo stupid. <br /><br />Ok, I'll agree to live in penury in my old age but I think <a href="http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2012/jul/31/bernie-s/sanders-says-walmart-heirs-own-more-wealth-bottom-/">these people</a> should be forced to join me:</p><br /><br /><blockquote>Bernie Sanders says Walmart heirs own more wealth than bottom 40 percent of Americans<br /><br />Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, tweeted a startling statistic to his followers on July 22, 2012: "Today the Walton family of Walmart own more wealth than the bottom 40 percent of America."<br /><br />Sanders speaks and writes frequently about wealth distribution in the U.S., a hot-button issue among liberals and a rallying cry of the Occupy Wall Street Movement.<br /><br />The Waltons, of course, are members of the proverbial 1 percent. But are they really sitting on that much wealth? We decided to check it out.<br /><br />First, what is wealth?<br /><br />In economics, wealth is commonly measured in terms of net worth, and it’s defined as the value of assets minus liabilities. For someone in the middle class, that could encompass the value of their 401(k) or other retirement accounts, bank savings and personal assets such as jewelry or cars, minus what they owe on a home mortgage, credit cards and a car note.<br /><br />It does not include income -- what people earn in wages. For that reason, someone who earns a good salary but has little savings and owes a lot of money on their house would have a negative net worth.<br /><br />In fact, because so many Americans invest in real estate to buy a home, middle-class wealth has been one of the biggest casualties of the housing-driven recession.<br /><br />From 2007 to 2010, typical families lost 39 percent of their wealth, according to the Federal Reserve’s Survey of Consumer Finances, done every three years. In 2007, the median family net worth was $126,400. In 2010, it was $77,300, according to the survey.<br /><br />Six members of the Walton family appear on the Forbes 400 list of the wealthiest Americans. Christy Walton, widow of the late John Walton, leads the clan at No. 6 with a net worth of $25.3 billion as of March 2012. She is also the richest woman in the world for the seventh year in a row, according to Forbes. Here are the other five:<br /><br />No. 9: Jim Walton, $23.7 billion<br />No. 10: Alice Walton, $23.3 billion<br />No. 11: S. Robson Walton, oldest son of Sam Walton, $23.1 billion<br />No. 103: Ann Walton Kroenke, $3.9 billion<br />No. 139: Nancy Walton Laurie, $3.4 billion<br /><br />That’s a grand total of $102.7 billion for the whole family.<br /><br />Sylvia Allegretto, a labor economist at the Center on Wage and Employment Dynamics at the University of California-Berkeley, compared the Waltons’ cumulative net worth with that of the overall population, as cited in the Survey of Consumer Finances. (She used the Waltons’ wealth from 2010, which was valued at $89.5 billion.)<br /><br />Allegretto found that in 2007, the wealth held by the six Waltons was equal to that of the bottom 30.5 percent of families in the U.S. In 2010, the Waltons’ share equaled the entire bottom 41.5 percent of families.<br /><br />That 41.5 percent represents nearly 49 million families, notes Josh Bivens at the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute. While median family wealth fell by 38.8 percent, Bivens wrote, the wealth of the Walton family members rose from $73.3 billion in 2007 to $89.5 billion in 2010, or about 22 percent growth.</blockquote><br /><br /><p>If we all have to have "skin in the game", ok. All I ask is that they wind up exactly the way the rest of us will end up --- old, poor, sick and desperate. After all they aren't "makers" any more than the rest of us are. They made their money the old fashioned way: they inherited it. <br /><br />And let's not forget that their fortune was originally made by accelerating the American worker's race to the bottom. If you haven't watched it in a while, Robert Greenwald's "The High Cost of Low Prices" will remind you of just what a crock the entire political deabte in Washington DC really is:<br /> </p><blockquote><object height="315" width="420"><embed allowfullscreen="true" allowscriptaccess="always" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/v/Jazb24Q2s94?hl=en_US&amp;version=3&amp;rel=0" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="420"></embed></object></blockquote><br /><p>Update: Also too,<a href="http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2013/04/why-the-rich-dont-give/309254/"> this:</a><br /> </p><blockquote>One of the most surprising, and perhaps confounding, facts of charity in America is that the people who can least afford to give are the ones who donate the greatest percentage of their income. In 2011, the wealthiest Americans—those with earnings in the top 20 percent—contributed on average 1.3 percent of their income to charity. By comparison, Americans at the base of the income pyramid—those in the bottom 20 percent—donated 3.2 percent of their income. The relative generosity of lower-income Americans is accentuated by the fact that, unlike middle-class and wealthy donors, most of them cannot take advantage of the charitable tax deduction, because they do not itemize deductions on their income-tax returns.<br /><br />But why? Lower-income Americans are presumably no more intrinsically generous (or “prosocial,” as the sociologists say) than anyone else. However, some experts have speculated that the wealthy may be less generous—that the personal drive to accumulate wealth may be inconsistent with the idea of communal support. Last year, Paul Piff, a psychologist at UC Berkeley, published research that correlated wealth with an increase in unethical behavior: “While having money doesn’t necessarily make anybody anything,” Piff later told New York magazine, “the rich are way more likely to prioritize their own self-interests above the interests of other people.”</blockquote><br /><p>Maybe the American people really are morons. For putting up with this. <br /> </p> Mon, 25 Mar 2013 07:04:00 -0700 Digby, Hullabaloo 814452 at http://www.alternet.org News & Politics wealth inequality equality House Dems Attack President Obama's Extrajudicial Assassination Powers http://www.alternet.org/house-dems-attack-president-obamas-extrajudicial-assassination-powers <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Finally, a coalition of Democrats are asking about the authorities under which the president has granted himself the power to secretly target Americans for assassination. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/photo_1360308156540-1-0_5.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Since the participation of Rand Paul in the civil liberties debate seems to make it doubly controversial and more difficult than it already is, perhaps the liberal base, at least, will be persuaded by the stalwart progressive House Democrats who sent <a href="http://lee.house.gov/sites/lee.house.gov/files/President%20Obama%20Drones%20Letter%203.11.2013.pdf">this letter to President Obama today</a>. <br /><br />Here's the crux of their issue:<br /><br /><a href="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-Pu7CLd3Q4WM/UT5S3yPguxI/AAAAAAAAMCQ/CPkbotc9t0o/s1600/lee+drone+letter.png" imageanchor="1"><img border="0" src="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-Pu7CLd3Q4WM/UT5S3yPguxI/AAAAAAAAMCQ/CPkbotc9t0o/s320/lee+drone+letter.png" /></a><br /><br />Unlike everyone else they seem to have managed to see the forest for the trees on this and aren't obsessing of the use of drones, as if that's the real problem* with all this. They are asking about the authorities under which the president has granted himself the power to secretly target Americans for assassination. <br /><br />It's signed by Lee, Ellison, Conyers, Grijalva, Edwards and Honda. Not a libertarian or right winger anywhere to be found. And <a href="http://www.emptywheel.net/2013/03/11/that-makes-over-22-requests-by-30-members-of-congress-mr-president/">as Emptywheel points out</a> there are others as well, like Dianne Feinstein and Susan Collins, Jerry Nadler and Pat Leahy among others. This is beyond ideology or partisanship. Or at least it should be.<br /><br />*Yes, drones present problems for modern warfare for a number of reasons, which we've discussed before. But this is about something more than the technological capability. It's about whether the president has the constitutional or statutory authority to carry out a covert assassination program against American citizens on the new "global battlefield." (And again, that's not to say that carrying out such a program against non-citizens is moral or legal either, but it's a different set of rules and norms.)</p> Tue, 12 Mar 2013 07:04:00 -0700 Digby, Hullaballoo 807890 at http://www.alternet.org News & Politics democrats obama drones Erick Erickson's Hilariously Stupid Attack on Elizabeth Warren http://www.alternet.org/erick-ericksons-hilariously-stupid-attack-elizabeth-warren <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">He&#039;s writing from his new home at Fox News, by the way.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2013-02-18_at_1.07.32_pm.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p><br /><a href="http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2013/02/18/if-elizabeth-warren-wants-to-lay-blame-for-financial-mess-can-look-in-mirror/#ixzz2LGpIa7pZ">Erick Erickson responding to Elizabeth Warren's now famous question to the bank regulators </a></p><br /><br /><blockquote>The rich irony of Elizabeth Warren asking her question to these regulators, whose ranks she would have joined but for a Republican effort to block her nomination prior to her Senate run, is that she is an advocate of increasing the very regulations that contributed to the financial meltdown and that prevent suits against Wall Street banks. After all, Wall Street was just complying with Washington’s orders.<br /><br />In a final irony, the legislation designed to prevent this all from happening again, commonly called Dodd-Frank, has institutionalized the idea that certain banks are “too big to fail” and put smaller banks at a competitive disadvantage. More and more American assets are held by fewer and fewer banks thanks to ideas advocated by people like Sen. Elizabeth Warren. <br /><br />If she wants a scalp, she should look in the mirror.</blockquote><br /><p>Ok. First, if she looks in the mirror she will indeed see her own scalp. When he's right, he's right.<br /><br />But on the "substance" Erickson says that Elizabeth Warren is responsible for the housing crisis and the recession because she helped set up a new regulatory agency for consumers after it happened. Also too Dodd-Frank, which also came about after it happened. <br /><br />Why? The government allegedly forced the banks to become gambling addicts because it insisted that they steal money from poor people and then Republican Hank Paulson forced them to take huge sums of money from the taxpayers. Because regulation. And socialism. <br /><br />He's writing from his new home at Fox News, by the way.</p> Mon, 18 Feb 2013 10:04:00 -0800 Digby, Hullaballoo 796575 at http://www.alternet.org News & Politics elizabeth warren eric erickson The Right-Wingers Who Said Hillary Clinton Was Faking Her Concussion http://www.alternet.org/right-wingers-who-said-hillary-clinton-was-faking-her-concussion <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Clinton has been hospitalized with a blood clot due to her concussion. Will these right-wing jerks apologize?</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/photo_1356918865836-5-0_11.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>You've undoubtedly heard that Hillary Clinton has been hospitalized due to complications from her concussion. </p><p><a href="http://mediamatters.org/mobile/blog/2012/12/20/foxs-evening-shows-mock-hillary-clintons-concus/191920">Haven't heard anything from these shameless jerks though:</a></p><blockquote>Fox's Evening Shows Mock Hillary Clinton's Concussion<p>December 20, 2012 12:26 AM EST</p><p>Nearly all of Fox News' evening news shows ridiculed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for having to postpone her testimony on the Benghazi attack because of a concussion she suffered after fainting due to dehydration. Their mockery was an attempt to downplay the concussion and suggest Clinton was faking injury to avoid giving testimony, a notion the State Department has called "wild speculation based on no information."</p><p>The Washington Post reported on December 15 that Clinton sustained a concussion after she fainted due to dehydration while at home a week prior. After the incident, the State Department explained that Clinton would have to postpone her testimony about the attack on Benghazi due to the concussion.</p><p>Following the State Department's announcement, Fox News contributor John Bolton, appearing on On The Record, suggested Clinton was faking "diplomatic illness" to avoid testifying about Benghazi. The State Department's Victoria Nuland lashed out at Bolton for his remarks, labeling them "wild speculation based on no information."</p><p>Now Fox News' evening shows have decided to join Bolton in accusing Clinton of faking her condition and make it seem she is trying to avoid giving her testimony. Co-host of Fox News' The Five, Kimberly Guilfoyle, accused Clinton of running "a duck and cover" after suffering the concussion. Co-host Greg Gutfeld went on to ask, "How can she get a concussion when she has been ducking everything [related to Benghazi]?"</p></blockquote><blockquote><iframe allowfullscreen="" class="video-embed" frameborder="0" height="360" scrolling="no" src="http://mediamatters.org/embed/191912" width="480"></iframe><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" class="video-embed" frameborder="0" height="360" scrolling="no" src="http://mediamatters.org/embed/static/clips/2012/12/19/28244/fnc-specialreport-20121219-krauthammer" width="480"></iframe></p><p> </p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" class="video-embed" frameborder="0" height="360" scrolling="no" src="http://mediamatters.org/embed/191917" width="480"></iframe></p><p> </p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" class="video-embed" frameborder="0" height="360" scrolling="no" src="http://mediamatters.org/embed/static/clips/2012/12/19/28245/fnc-hannity-20121219-benghazi" width="480"></iframe></p></blockquote><p> </p><p>The lowest of the low. And their many minions are still saying she's faking it. If she were to die(God forbid) I have no doubt they'd say she did it to avoid testifying about their absurd Benghazi pseudo-scandal.</p><p> </p><p>Horrible, horrible people.</p> Mon, 31 Dec 2012 08:40:00 -0800 Digby, Hullabaloo 769064 at http://www.alternet.org News & Politics clinton concussion Rush Limbaugh's Vile Rants Are So Bad They're Screwing Other Radio Programs http://www.alternet.org/rush-limbaughs-vile-rants-are-so-bad-theyre-screwing-other-radio-programs <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Radio host Doug Stephen says Limbaugh has cost him tens of millions of dollars in advertisements. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_106250828.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>It would appear that Rush Limbaugh's vile form of commentary is starting to have <a href="http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/11/20/1163345/-The-radio-industry-is-FINALLY-talking-about-the-devastating-impact-of-Rush-Limbaugh-s-Fluke-attack">a negative impact on radio profits as a whole:</a></p><blockquote>Doug Stephan, president of Stephan MultiMedia and host of the nationally syndicated “Good Day” program, had this to offer:<br /><blockquote>Let’s face it, the agencies and advertisers are how we survive. So to tell them that their clients are stupid for not staying in an atmosphere in which they don’t want to be is akin to the Republicans not reading the tea leaves about changing demographics.<br /><br />I’m not here to argue the point, but rather to tell you what this ONE incident has cost me as an independent in a sea of big corporate operators, who are obviously losing tens of millions of dollars due to this one event.<br /><br />So far this year, my losses are in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Cancellations, avoidance and decisions to just not buy across the whole format, no matter what the content...<br /><br />I’m not looking for Limbaugh to send me a check (although that would be nice), but I do think we have to let it be known that his actions have been devastating to our survival.</blockquote>—Doug Stephan: Talk Must Expand Beyond Politics to Survive, November 19, 2012</blockquote><p>This is very interesting. Limbaugh has always been a big driver of radio profits. If that is changing because people are so disgusted they've truly begun to boycott his advertisers to protest, it's significant. Right wing hate radio is a truly ugly contributor to the public discourse and Limbaugh is its King. He has a right to say whatever he wants, but no advertiser has the obligation to pay him to say it. <br /><br />I'm sure Rush will always be supported by his powerful friends.<a href="http://digbysblog.blogspot.com/2004/05/nothing-we-do-can-ever-be-bad-via.html">Here's</a> Mary Matalin calling in during the worst of the fighting in the Iraq war, just to tell him she loves him:</p><blockquote>[Y]ou inspired me this morning. There's no reason that I have to do that. I'm -- and at least I think I do, but when I listen to you, I get all the information I need, and I -- and I -- it is -- I have a confidence in the President, in the policies, in the goals. I have -- I know his conviction. I know he's right and I know he has the leadership to do it. What I don't have, and what I can only get from you, is the cheerfulness of your confidence --</blockquote><p>That was probably the high point. <br /> </p> Fri, 23 Nov 2012 07:43:00 -0800 Digby, Hullabaloo 749169 at http://www.alternet.org Media rush limbaugh radio advertisement sponsors 6 Restaurants You Should Avoid If You Don't Want Your Food Cooked By Sick People http://www.alternet.org/6-restaurants-you-should-avoid-if-you-dont-want-your-food-cooked-sick-people <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">A handy list of restaurants whose owners are dead set against their employees having health care. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2012-11-19_at_11.34.56_am.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Here's a handy list, <a href="http://wonkette.com/489997/a-childrens-treasury-of-ceos-throwing-very-grown-up-tantrums-over-obamacare#more-489997">courtesy of Wonkette</a>, of the restaurants you need to avoid if you want to avoid having your food handled by sick people:</p><br /><br /><blockquote>Papa John’s Pizza<br /><br />John Schnatter, founder of Papa John’s pizza, is LIVID and he is NOT GOING TO TAKE IT ANYMORE. You want his employees to have health care coverage? Well FINE, he’ll GIVE them health care coverage but it will cost you do-gooder liberals ten cents more per pizza, does that make you HAPPY? Actually, it might make you happy. We at Wonkette have concluded that we will pay ten cents more per pizza if it will ensure that the person making it is able to see a doctor when he gets sick. And we wonder why this didn’t happen sooner, if all it took was ten cents more per pizza to get employee health care coverage. Is that really all it costs? Ten cents per pizza? If so, then maybe the CEO of Papa John’s should have done this a long time ago. But again, this attitude is why we are not the CEO of a multi-billion dollar pizza company.<br /><br />Olive Garden / Red Lobster<br /><br />The CEO of this company is a real ball buster, and he is NOT going to make YOU pay ten cents more for a plate of noodles, no way Jose. That is a solution for pussies. This CEO is just going to cut back on employees’ hours so that they work 29 hours per week instead of 30, exempting them from health care coverage mandate. So the next time you go to Olive Garden or the Red Lobster, rest assured that your server is not going to have health care coverage. There, does that make you feel better?<br /><br />Hurricane Grill and Wings, and also some Denny’s and Dairy Queen Franchises<br /><br />John Metz is nobody’s fool, so John Metz, CEO and owner of Hurricane Grill and Wings as well as some Denny’s and Dairy Queen franchises, is going to pass the cost of Obamacare onto the employees AND the customer. “If I leave the prices the same, but, say on the menu that there is a five-percent surcharge for Obamacare, customers have two choices. They can either pay it, and tip 15 or 20 percent, or if they really feel so inclined, they can reduce the amount of tip they give to the server, who is the primary beneficiary of Obamacare,” Metz told The Huffington Post. Metz is a WINNER, you guys, and WINNERS do not pay for the health care coverage costs of others. They make you, the customer pay for it (SUCKER) and if you don’t want to, then YOU get to be a winner and make the waitress pay for it.<br /><br />Applebee’s<br /><br />Obamacare is going to cost Applebee’s “some millions of dollars” according to CEO Zane Tankel. Will these “some millions of dollars” be an increase in costs per year? Per month? Per restaurant? We don’t know, and it’s not important. What IS important is that Applebee’s will not be able to build more restaurants, or create more low-wage go-nowhere jobs, THANKS OBAMA. The solution to these costs is for the CEO to take a hit on his $9.6 million dollar per year salary or lay off employees.</blockquote><br /><p>There are a lot of chain restaurants in this country. If I'm going to eat in one I'd like for the employees to have access to health care. I'd prefer not to have germ-laden, typhoid Mary's handling my food, thank you very much. And it is common sense to ask, if they are cutting corners on this, what other health regulations are they skirting? I think I'll be eating elsewhere. <br /><br />Oh, and as for Hostess? If you really will be jonesing for a twinkie when they go out of business, <a href="http://en.petitchef.com/recipes/homemade-twinkies-fid-299584">might I recommend a recipe made with something other than chemicals?</a> No, they aren't what you'd call healthy but at least they're made from actual food. <br /><br /><br />.</p> Mon, 19 Nov 2012 08:29:00 -0800 Digby, Hullabaloo 747105 at http://www.alternet.org News & Politics restaurant food 5 Out of 5 Gasbag News Commentators Agree: Obama's a Failure, Not Republican Enough http://www.alternet.org/story/145385/5_out_of_5_gasbag_news_commentators_agree%3A_obama%27s_a_failure%2C_not_republican_enough <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">In case you were wondering, the consensus on all the Sunday gasbag shows is that Obama is an abject failure because of his radical leftist ideology.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg" alt="" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>In case you were wondering, the consensus on all the Sunday gasbag shows is that Obama is an abject failure because of his radical leftist ideology and that his only hope of even maintaining the presidency, much less winning a second term is to take a sharp turn to the right and enact the Republican agenda. Several commentators, including such luminaries as political cross dresser Matthew Dowd on ABC, insisted that the first thing the president has to do is pick a huge fight with the Democrats to show the country that he isn't one of them. Cokie said he should have asked John McCain from the beginning what he was allowed to do.<br /><br /> The historians and expert political observers on Fareed Zakaria's CNN show all agreed that Obama is no Reagan, a president who never governed ideologically and always worked across party lines. Oh, and he needs to be a president or a prime minister, but nobody could agree on exactly what that means except that he should try to be more like Scott Brown, the white Barack Obama, except without all the liberalism.</p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Digby is the proprietor of <a href="http://digbysblog.blogspot.com/">Hullabaloo</a>. </div></div></div> Mon, 25 Jan 2010 06:45:01 -0800 Digby, Hullabaloo 660651 at http://www.alternet.org PEEK News & Politics PEEK Media Old_Blog Type Content cnn barack obama matthew dowd abc cokie roberts peggy noonan fareed zakaria robert caro Haiti: UN First Responders HQ Destroyed http://www.alternet.org/story/145128/haiti%3A_un_first_responders_hq_destroyed <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Haiti&#039;s 7,000 U.N. peacekeepers should have been among the first responders to earthquake victims. Turns out they&#039;re victims themselves.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg" alt="" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p><a href="http://www.undispatch.com/node/9406">UN Dispatch has twitter feeds and other social networking links</a> following the story. Hotels are reportedly collapsed, hospitals are destroyed and god only knows what has happened to the make-shift dwellings that house so many residents. It just couldn't happen to a poorer, less fortunate place. <br /><br /> And there's this: </p> <blockquote>UPDATE VI: A very disturbing and curt report from AFP: "The headquarters of the U.N. Stabilization Mission in Haiti has been destroyed in large part. There are numerous people underneath the rubble, both dead and injured," a local employee of the force said. Keep in mind, these are the very people who would be first responders themselves.</blockquote> <p>Reports on CNN say that people are hearing screaming, crying --- and cheering as survivors are pulled from the rubble in the dark. </p> <p> </p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Digby is the proprietor of <a href="http://digbysblog.blogspot.com/">Hullabaloo</a>. </div></div></div> Wed, 13 Jan 2010 05:46:01 -0800 Digby, Hullabaloo 660416 at http://www.alternet.org PEEK World PEEK Old_Blog Type Content haiti earthquake first responders un peacekeepers Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Trouble http://www.alternet.org/story/145023/sheriff_joe_arpaio_in_trouble <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The man is a crook and a psychopath and should have been thrown out of office long before now. He&#039;s gotten away with murder for years.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg" alt="" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p> <a href="http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/2010/01/07/20100107joe-arpaio-grand-jury.html">Good news:</a></p> <blockquote>Two high-ranking Maricopa County officials confirmed late Thursday that they will testify next week before a federal grand jury exploring allegations that the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office has abused power. <p>County Manager David Smith and Assistant County Manager Sandi Wilson said they were preparing to testify before the grand jury on Wednesday.</p> <p>Sheriff Joe Arpaio denied any knowledge of the grand jury, but news of sheriff's officials being called to testify before a federal panel has been circulating in county circles for months.</p> <p>"I'm not going to comment on that situation," Arpaio said Thursday. "We're just going to continue doing our job and our investigations that we have in progress."</p> <p>Sheriff's detectives have undertaken a series of controversial investigations into county officials in the last year which heated up in recent months with indictments of two members of the Board of Supervisors, and a wide-ranging racketeering complaint filed in federal court that alleges a vast conspiracy against county supervisors, judges, private attorney and administrators including Smith and Wilson.</p> <p>But the allegations of abuse of power have dogged Arpaio since long before that claim was filed.</p></blockquote> <p> </p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Digby is the proprietor of <a href="http://digbysblog.blogspot.com/">Hullabaloo</a>. </div></div></div> Fri, 08 Jan 2010 02:10:01 -0800 Digby, Hullabaloo 660334 at http://www.alternet.org PEEK PEEK Old_Blog Type Content arpaio Plans to Close Gitmo Haven't Changed http://www.alternet.org/story/144871/plans_to_close_gitmo_haven%27t_changed <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">When was the last time that Congressional Dems did anything but hide under the bed every time someone tries to light his pants on fire?</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg" alt="" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Here's some good news. <a style="color: rgb(0, 0, 204); " href="http://theplumline.whorunsgov.com/terrorism/white-house-to-lieberman-and-repubicans-sorry-were-still-closing-gitmo/">The Plumline:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Lieberman and multiple Republicans have pointed to the would-be bomber’s training in Yemen to argue that closing Gitmo would be disastrous to our security because repatriating Yemenis housed there could let them re-join the terrorists’ war on the U.S.</p> <p>But a senior administration official emails that plans to close the facility haven’t changed — and that the administration is sticking to its scheme of releasing some detainees and trying or indefinitely holding others. The official says:</p> <blockquote> <p>The detention facility at Guantanamo has been used by Al Qaeda as a rallying cry and recruiting tool — including its affiliate Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. As our military leaders have recognized, closing the detention facility at Guantanamo is a national security imperative.</p> <p>The President created the Guantanamo Review Task Force to conduct the thorough work that the previous administration did not: to review the relevant information about each detainee, including the threat they pose, to determine whether they should be prosecuted, detained, or transferred. As he has said before, the President will not release any detainee who would endanger the American people. We have worked cooperatively with the government of Yemen to ensure that all appropriate security measures are taken when detainees are transferred.</p></blockquote></blockquote><blockquote> <p>Again, what’s striking here is how alone the White House is in making this argument. Congressional Dems have balked at providing key funding necessary to facilitate the tranfser of some detainees to rural Illinois.</p></blockquote><blockquote></blockquote> <p>It isn't striking to me. When was the last time that Congressional Dems did anything but hide under the bed every time someone tries to light his pants on fire?</p> <p> </p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Digby is the proprietor of <a href="http://digbysblog.blogspot.com/">Hullabaloo</a>. </div></div></div> Wed, 30 Dec 2009 10:15:01 -0800 Digby, AlterNet 660204 at http://www.alternet.org PEEK PEEK Old_Blog Type Content guantanamo yemen Ninth Circuit Court Delivers Landmark Taser Ruling http://www.alternet.org/story/144861/ninth_circuit_court_delivers_landmark_taser_ruling <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The next stop could be the Supreme Court.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg" alt="" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p><a href="http://www.sacbee.com/topstories/story/2425481.html">The 9th Circuit issued</a> what may be a landmark ruling on tasers, and not a moment too soon:</p> <blockquote>A federal appeals court on Monday issued one of the most comprehensive rulings yet limiting police use of Tasers against low-level offenders who seem to pose little threat and may be mentally ill.  <p>In a case out of San Diego County, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals criticized an officer who, without warning, shot an emotionally troubled man with a Taser when he was unarmed, yards away, and neither fleeing nor advancing on the officer. </p> <p>[...]</p> <p>As lawsuits have proliferated against police and Taser International, which manufactures the weapons, the nation's appellate courts have been trying to define what constitutes appropriate Taser use.</p> <p>The San Diego County case is the latest ruling to address the issue.</p> <p>A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit affirmed the trial judge's ruling on Monday, concluding that the level of force used by the officer was excessive.</p> <p>McPherson could have waited for backup or tried to talk the man down, the judges said. If Bryan was mentally ill, as the officer contended, then there was even more reason to use "less intrusive means," the judges said.</p> <p>"Officer McPherson's desire to quickly and decisively end an unusual and tense situation is understandable," Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw wrote for the court. "His chosen method for doing so violated Bryan's constitutional right to be free from excessive force."</p> <p>Some lawyers called it a landmark decision.</p> <p>Eugene Iredale, a San Diego lawyer who argued the case, said it was one of the clearest and most complete statements yet from an appellate court about the limits of Taser use.</p> <p>He said after Monday's decision that courts will consider all circumstances, including whether someone poses a threat, has committed a serious crime or is mentally troubled.</p> <p>"In an era where everybody understands 'don't tase me, bro,' courts are going to look more closely at the use of Tasers, and they're going to try to deter the promiscuous oversue of that tool," he said.</p> <p>[...]</p> <p>"Certainly the officer should be able to articulate the reason the force (was used), and <span style="font-weight: bold;">a mere resistance to comply may not be enough</span>," said Sheriff John McGinness.</p></blockquote> <p>It's not. The idea that police can use it to subdue people at their discretion in order to make their difficult jobs easier is just wrong. The police can't hit people over the head with a baton if they smart mouth them or refuse to immediately comply and they shouldn't be able to shoot them full of electricity either. Just because it doesn't leave marks doesn't mean it isn't cruel and brutal.</p> <p>This issue will wend itself through the courts for some time. I would imagine we'll see a Supreme Court ruling. Considering the current court, I'm sure Taser International hopes so.</p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Digby is the proprietor of <a href="http://digbysblog.blogspot.com/">Hullabaloo</a>. </div></div></div> Wed, 30 Dec 2009 03:30:01 -0800 Digby, Hullabaloo 660192 at http://www.alternet.org PEEK Civil Liberties News & Politics PEEK Old_Blog Type Content taser tasers cicuit court don't tase me bro Wingnuts Gin Up "Max Baucus Is Drunk" Rumors, Politico Parrots Them Mindlessly http://www.alternet.org/story/144851/wingnuts_gin_up_%22max_baucus_is_drunk%22_rumors%2C_politico_parrots_them_mindlessly <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Ever eager to give platform to baseless right-wing rumors, Politico is again...well, you know.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg" alt="" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>The wingnuts are ginning up a story about Max Baucus being drunk on the senate floor. And like the good little GOP boosting schlock meisters they are, the Politico is breathlessly reporting on "the controversy."</p> <p><a href="http://mediamatters.org/blog/200912280006">Boehlert writes</a></p> <blockquote> Yes, you read that correctly. Not only did Politico quote guiding lights such as Newsbusters and The Drudge Report, but Politico actually quoted a Facebook page comment posted by disgraced, page-chasing GOP Congressman Mark Foley, in which he attacked the ethics of another. <p>What more do you need to know about Politico these days? UPDATED: Of course Politico makes zero effort to relay to readers if the right-wing attack on Baucus carries any weight. If it's, y'know, true. That's not Politico's job. Politico's job is simply to alert the rest of the world to whatever, or whoever, is "under fire" from conservatives.</p></blockquote> <p>Yes, Mark Foley's Facebook scribblings are used in the article as an illustration of prim outrage at Baucus' personal life. I know.</p> <p>And I have no idea if he was drunk, but the fact is that Baucus always slurs his words and speaks in a meandering fashion. It's just how he talks. As anyone who has ever heard Susan Collins knows, there's no requirement that Senators be good speakers.</p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Digby is the proprietor of <a href="http://digbysblog.blogspot.com/">Hullabaloo</a>. </div></div></div> Tue, 29 Dec 2009 08:00:01 -0800 Digby, Hullabaloo 660184 at http://www.alternet.org PEEK News & Politics PEEK Old_Blog Type Content republicans senate health care baucus Who Should Take Credit For Thwarting the Christmas Terror Attempt? http://www.alternet.org/story/144845/who_should_take_credit_for_thwarting_the_christmas_terror_attempt <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">There&#039;s a bit of a hissy fit building about how the Obama administration is inappropriately taking credit. It&#039;s nothing the Bush administration didn&#039;t do.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg" alt="" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>There's a bit of a hissy fit building about how the Obama administration is inappropriately taking credit for the citizen thwarted terrorist attempt. Oy vey.<br /> Jake Tapper <a href="http://blogs.abcnews.com/politicalpunch/2009/12/bush-administration-claimed-success-when-public-stopped-shoebomber.html">points out</a> that such citizen initiative was once considered the result of a brilliant Bush administration anti-terrorist strategy:</p> <blockquote>In a press conference on January 17, 2002, then-Attorney General John Ashcroft made a similar claim about shoe-bomber Richard Reid.‬‪<br /> "Throughout the war on terrorism, our military and intelligence officials have made a concerted effort to share appropriate information with the public in order to enlist their assistance,” Ashcroft said. “We've asked citizens to be vigilant, to be alert to any possible threat. The success of this strategy was made clear by yesterday's indictment of Richard Reid, who may very well have succeeded in destroying American Airlines Flight Number 63, as the indictment charges, had it not been for the courage and attentiveness of the citizen passengers and crew."</blockquote> <p>In fact, there was a time when Bush was saying "Let's Roll" in his speeches as if he were the one to have inspired the phrase.</p> <p>Frankly, no administration can take credit for this. Citizens act in these situations because they value their lives and the lives of others. I suppose you can call that an "anti-terrorism strategy," but most people would simply call it survival.</p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Digby is the proprietor of <a href="http://digbysblog.blogspot.com/">Hullabaloo</a>. </div></div></div> Mon, 28 Dec 2009 13:00:01 -0800 Digby, Hullabaloo 660172 at http://www.alternet.org PEEK PEEK Old_Blog Type Content obama richard reid shoe bomber The Demise of the Medicare Buy-In http://www.alternet.org/story/144630/the_demise_of_the_medicare_buy-in <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Here&#039;s a sad story about the demise of the Medicare buy-in, even before Leiberman pulled the plug.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg" alt="" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Here's a sad story about the demise of the Medicare buy-in. Reid insisted that the negotiators keep quiet about the details until the CBO score came out but the doctors and hospitals panicked and sicced their lobbyists on the usual suspects, along with a few liberals. Turned out that all of their concerns had been anticipated in the compromise but nobody could say anything --- and then Lieberman pulled the plug. Too bad.</p> <p>Apparently, these good samaritans were afraid that they'd get a whole bunch of new previously uninsured patients who wouldn't be paying top dollar. That would be opposed to currently uninsured patients who are paying nothing until they have their heart attack and wind up in the emergency room --- which is apparently a better financial deal for the doctors and hospitals. That explains a lot.</p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Digby is the proprietor of <a href="http://digbysblog.blogspot.com/">Hullabaloo</a>. </div></div></div> Thu, 17 Dec 2009 06:13:01 -0800 Digby, Hullabaloo 659972 at http://www.alternet.org PEEK PEEK Old_Blog Type Content lieberman lobbyists medicare doctors Why Do Conservatives Doubt Global Warming? Because They Like to Piss Off Liberals http://www.alternet.org/story/144438/why_do_conservatives_doubt_global_warming_because_they_like_to_piss_off_liberals <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Obstructionism is an art form. A really annoying art form.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg" alt="" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Yesterday, I asked why conservatives are so crazed about global warming and was pleased to see so many fine explanations. Amanda Marcotte <a href="http://pandagon.net/index.php/site/comments/global_warming_and_the_centrality_of_irritating_liberals/">delved into the subject</a> in depth and I think she nailed it. The reason was obvious, and right under my nose: it pisses off the liberals.</p> <blockquote> <p>And boy, is it effective! Those liberals sure get steamed when they think about how reckless behavior will result in millions of unnecessary deaths. They blow smoke out their ears when you drive around in an SUV precisely to show how little you give a shit if worldwide drought creates worldwide war. They may be smarter and cooler than you, but by being a mega-watt asshole of sociopathic proportions, you gain the upper hand because you piss them off. There are a lot of ways to piss liberals off. You can be pointlessly racist or sexist. You can sniff around in people’s private lives and carry on about how vegetarians are stupid. But few things really can top the global warming denialism. The sheer magnitude of the damage that it does is so severe that it’s impossible for liberals not to get upset. And so you win!</p></blockquote> <p>The whole post is well worth a read if you wonder what makes the global warming deniers tick. What makes it an unusual issue is that pissing off the liberals really is pretty much the<span style="font-style: italic;"></span>only<span style="font-style: italic;">motivation, unlike others which have stronger cultural ties to traditional shibboleths.</span></p> <p>It's a temperament thing. There are people we run across in life who just hate earnestness and loathe anyone who gives a damn about anything.(They also like to hurt small animals and make fun of those less fortunate than themselves.) Most of those people join the conservative tribe. It's where they find their soul mates.</p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Digby is the proprietor of <a href="http://digbysblog.blogspot.com/">Hullabaloo</a>. </div></div></div> Tue, 08 Dec 2009 07:58:01 -0800 Digby, Hullabaloo 659788 at http://www.alternet.org PEEK News & Politics PEEK Old_Blog Type Content liberals conservatives global warming Mitt Romney's Bizarro-World Economic Plan http://www.alternet.org/story/144365/mitt_romney%27s_bizarro-world_economic_plan <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Translation: more money for me and my friends!</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg" alt="" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Here's Mitt Romney's <a style="color: rgb(0, 0, 204); " href="http://www.usatoday.com/NEWS/usaedition/2009-12-03-column03_ST2_U.htm?csp=34">"economic plan"</a> (also known as John Galt's wet dream):</p> <blockquote> <p>•Repair the stimulus. Freeze the funds that haven't yet been spent and redirect them to immediate, private sector job-creation priorities.[More money for me and my friends!]</p> <p>•Create tax incentives that promote business expansion and hiring. For example, install a robust investment tax credit, permit businesses to expense capital purchases made in 2010, and reduce payroll taxes. These will reignite construction, technology and a wide array of capital goods industries, and lead to expanded employment.[More money for me and my friends!]</p> <p>•Prove to the global investors that finance America's debt that we are serious about reining in spending and becoming fiscally prudent by adopting limits on non-military discretionary spending and reforming our unsustainable, unfunded entitlements. These are key to strengthening the dollar, reducing the threat of rampant inflation and holding down interest rates.[Less money for sick and old people. And that means more money for me and my friends!]</p></blockquote> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Digby is the proprietor of <a href="http://digbysblog.blogspot.com/">Hullabaloo</a>. </div></div></div> Fri, 04 Dec 2009 01:16:01 -0800 Digby, Hullabaloo 659714 at http://www.alternet.org PEEK PEEK Old_Blog Type Content mitt romney bizarro world Memo to Tom Hayden: Obama Said He'd Escalate in Afghanistan During the Election http://www.alternet.org/story/144338/memo_to_tom_hayden%3A_obama_said_he%27d_escalate_in_afghanistan_during_the_election <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">I wish Obama had changed his mind on Afghanistan, and argued for him to do it. I will continue to do so. But I never had any illusions.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg" alt="" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>I can excuse some college kid <a style="color: rgb(0, 0, 204); " href="http://www.salon.com/news/politics/war_room/2009/12/02/hayden/index.html">for this</a> but it is completely absurd coming from a man of Tom Hayden's age and experience:</p> <blockquote>Tom Hayden, the liberal activist best known for his work in the 60's, when he helped found Students for a Democratic Society, was once pretty enthusiastic about Barack Obama. Back in March of 2008 he had the first byline on <a target="_blank" style="color: rgb(0, 0, 204); " href="http://www.thenation.com/doc/20080407/hayden_et_al">an article</a> in the Nation -- also attributed to Bill Fletcher Jr., Danny Glover and Barbara Ehrenreich -- that began, "All American progressives should unite for Barack Obama." <p> </p></blockquote> <p> </p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Digby is the proprietor of <a href="http://digbysblog.blogspot.com/">Hullabaloo</a>. </div></div></div> Thu, 03 Dec 2009 05:40:01 -0800 Digby, Hullabaloo 659695 at http://www.alternet.org PEEK PEEK Old_Blog Type Content obama afghanistan Poll: Americans Consider Rush Limbaugh Nation's Most Influential Conservative http://www.alternet.org/story/144280/poll%3A_americans_consider_rush_limbaugh_nation%27s_most_influential_conservative <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Limbaugh was chosen by 26 percent of those who responded, followed by Glenn Beck at 11 percent. Dick Cheney and Sarah Palin got 10 percent each.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg" alt="" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p><a href="http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20091130/ap_en_tv/us_poll_influential_voices">They must be so proud:</a></p> <blockquote>By a wide margin, Americans consider <span id="lw_1259540330_0" class="yshortcuts">Rush Limbaugh</span> the nation's most influential conservative voice. <p>Those are the results of a poll conducted by "<span id="lw_1259540330_1" class="yshortcuts" style="border-bottom: 1px dashed rgb(0, 102, 204); cursor: pointer;">60 Minutes</span>" and <em><span id="lw_1259540330_2" class="yshortcuts">Vanity Fair</span></em><span id="lw_1259540330_2" class="yshortcuts">magazine</span> and issued Sunday. The radio host was picked by 26 percent of those who responded, followed by Fox News Channel's Glenn Beck at 11 percent. Actual politicians -- former Vice President Dick Cheney and former <span id="lw_1259540330_3" class="yshortcuts" style="background: transparent none repeat scroll 0% 0%; cursor: pointer; -moz-background-clip: -moz-initial; -moz-background-origin: -moz-initial; -moz-background-inline-policy: -moz-initial;">vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin</span> -- were the choice of 10 percent each.</p></blockquote> <p>It's true, they are the most influential conservative voices. But if anyone still thinks the Republicans are the party of ideas they probably need to think again.</p> <p>The fight for dominance in this influential sphere is on, with all the above battling for supremacy. Here's the latest from Beck, via <a href="http://thinkprogress.org/2009/11/26/beck-palin-kitchen/">Think Progress:</a></p> <blockquote>In recent days, former Alaska governor Sarah Palin has indicated that she may be open to a conservative presidential dream ticket in 2012: Palin-Beck (or Beck-Palin). "I can envision a couple of different combinations, if ever I were to be in a position to really even seriously consider running for anything in the future, and I'm not there yet," Palin told Newsmax. <span style="text-decoration: underline;">"</span><a href="http://thinkprogress.org/2009/11/18/palin-beck-2012/">But Glenn Beck I have great respect for.</a> He's a hoot." Fox and Friends <a href="http://mediamatters.org/mmtv/200911250002">plugged the idea yesterday</a> morning and asked Palin whether she would run with Beck. She kept the door open, saying, "<a href="http://mediamatters.org/mmtv/200911250004">I don't know. We'll see, we'll see</a>." <p>But just a few hours later on his radio show, Beck shot down the idea, saying he was "absolutely" ruling out a Palin-Beck ticket. He explained that if he had the number two job, Palin would always be "yapping" like they were in "the kitchen":</p> <blockquote> <p>BECK: I don't think things are hoots. I don't. I don't think it's a hoot. I would never use the word hoot, and <strong>I respectfully ask that every time my name is brought up she would stop using the word "hoot."</strong> [...]</p> <p>No, no I'm just saying -- Beck-Palin, I’ll consider. <strong>But Palin-Beck -- can you imagine, can you imagine what an administration with the two of us would be like? What? Come on! She'd be yapping or something, and I'd say, "I'm sorry, why am I hearing your voice? I'm not in the kitchen."</strong></p></blockquote></blockquote> <p>These people are so confused.</p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Digby is the proprietor of <a href="http://digbysblog.blogspot.com/">Hullabaloo</a>. </div></div></div> Tue, 01 Dec 2009 01:45:01 -0800 Digby, Hullabaloo 659633 at http://www.alternet.org PEEK PEEK Old_Blog Type Content republicans rush limbaugh glenn beck sarah palin Meet the RNC's New, Racist Adviser http://www.alternet.org/story/144184/meet_the_rnc%27s_new%2C_racist_adviser <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Alex Castellanos, the &quot;father of the attack ad,&quot; has a history of race-baiting.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg" alt="" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Evidently Michael Steele has been miffed that he didn't get enough credit for the GOPs sweeping takeover of American politics in the November elections (well, except for the congressional seats which all went to Democrats)so he forced out the RNC spokesman for some reason. But the spokesman has been <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/11/24/alex-castellanos-hired-by_n_369003.html">replaced by a heavyweight:</a></p> <blockquote>The Republican National Committee has hired Alex Castellanos, a long-time political strategist and GOP consultant, as an adviser.<br /><br /> Castellanos has been described (according to his National Media biography) as the "father of the attack ad." He's best known for a racially-charged ad he made in 1990 for racist former Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.). The ad, called "Hands," featured a pair of white hands crumbling a job-rejection while the narrator said, "You needed that job. You were the best qualified. But they had to give it to a minority, because of a racial quota. Is that really fair?" More recently, Castellanos has taken the lead in crafting an anti-health care reform message for congressional Republicans.</blockquote> <p>But that doesn't really do him justice. He's had so more "successes." I'm sure you'll recall this one:</p> <br /><blockquote>During the heated 2000 U.S. presidential campaign season, Castellanos produced an ad for the Republican National Committee attempting to discredit the prescription drug plan policy offered by U.S. Democratic Party presidential nominee and then-Vice President Al Gore.[4] Alongside images of Gore, the ad showed the word "RATS" for a split second, before the complete word "bureaucrats" appeared on-screen.<br /></blockquote> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Digby is the proprietor of <a href="http://digbysblog.blogspot.com/">Hullabaloo</a>. </div></div></div> Wed, 25 Nov 2009 03:02:01 -0800 Digby, Hullabaloo 659543 at http://www.alternet.org PEEK PEEK Old_Blog Type Content rnc steele castellanos Credit Card Companies Are Using Dirty Tricks to Force Us to Pay Late Fees: Why Won't Congress Do Something? http://www.alternet.org/story/144127/credit_card_companies_are_using_dirty_tricks_to_force_us_to_pay_late_fees%3A_why_won%27t_congress_do_something <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The Democrats should be the consumer&#039;s best friends right now, fighting these huge enterprises and demanding that they answer for their previous bad behavior.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg" alt="" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>I honestly believe that <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/22/your-money/22haggler.html?sq=haggler&amp;st=cse&amp;scp=1&amp;pagewanted=print">this is the kind of thing</a> that affects people every day and is leading to a populist backlash. People not only blame those who do these things, they blame those who have the authority and power for failing to step in and stop it:</p> <blockquote>Three years ago, the Haggler's credit card bill seemed to stop showing up in the mail. Another month went by -- no bill. The month after that, still nothing. Each month, the Haggler would call the issuer, Bank of America, and pay over the phone, then ask the same question: "Why did you stop sending me a bill?"<br /><br /> We're still sending you a bill, came the company's reply each time.<br /><br /> Guess what? The company was right. It just was sending the bill in a restyled envelope, with no trace of "Bank of America." In other words, it looked like junk mail, and the Haggler kept throwing it away.<br /><br /> Now, the Hagglers can't prove it, but this seemed like a brilliant, low-cost way to pocket a fortune in late fees.<br /><br /> "We are not trying to fool people, and we don't change our envelopes on a regular basis," said Anne Pace, a company spokeswoman. She explained that the change in envelope design was prompted by the 2006 acquisition of several credit card companies, after which the envelopes of all customers were left blank "for the sake of consistency."<br /><br /> Consistency? It would be consistent, as far as B. of A. customers are concerned, to leave the envelope unchanged, no?<br /><br /> Seriously, the person who dreamed up the envelope switcheroo must wake up laughing. Ever since, the Haggler has held a grudging, vaguely appalled respect for credit card companies.</blockquote> <p>The same thing happened to me. The plain brown envelope looked like it was one of those car dealership "checks" that were all the rage before the credit crisis hit. And because I didn't realize the first month that I hadn't gotten my bill, it created a black mark on my credit for a late payment which resulted in a cascade of raised rates on several cards.</p> <p>It was clearly a sneaky trick. Yes, it's my responsibility to know when my bills are due, but I had been in the habit of putting the bill into the "to pay" file and paying it on the following Monday. It didn't occur to me that the bill would suddenly come in an envelope with no return address or label on it that didn't look like a bill and so I tossed it into a junk pile and didn't look at it right away.</p> <p>And that's what people are dealing with all the time as consumers, with their health insurance, their credit cards, their mortgages, their pensions -- overwhelming complexity <span style="font-style: italic;">designed</span> to trip them up and cost them money or deny them benefits to which they believed in good faith they were entitled. And its all perfectly legal -- or at least there's no visible accountability for it.</p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Digby is the proprietor of <a href="http://digbysblog.blogspot.com/">Hullabaloo</a>. </div></div></div> Mon, 23 Nov 2009 05:30:01 -0800 Digby, Hullabaloo 659507 at http://www.alternet.org PEEK PEEK Corporate Accountability and WorkPlace Old_Blog Type Content congress democrats populism credit cards bank of america consumer rights credit card companies populist anger consumer protection How to Achieve Real, Populist Reform http://www.alternet.org/story/144079/how_to_achieve_real%2C_populist_reform <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Lock our lawmakers in a room with the brilliant Dr. Elizabeth Warren until they start enacting policy that helps working people.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg" alt="" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p><a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601109&amp;sid=a.DEiDrOr.ms&amp;pos=10">This is a must read profile</a> of Dr Elizabeth Warren, a genuine great American populist reformer (who happens to teach at Harvard -- I know, shocking.)</p> <blockquote>In Elizabeth Warren’s world, credit card contracts would be so simple a teenager could read and understand them in four minutes. Loans would be as easy to compare as toasters, and online credit scores would be free. <p>“We need a new model: If you can’t explain it, you can’t sell it,” said Warren, 60, a Harvard University law professor who is head of the Congressional Oversight Panel for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, in an interview.</p> <p>The 1966 high school debate champion of Oklahoma may get what she wants. The House of Representatives will vote in December on her idea. She suggested a Financial Product Safety Commission in a 2007 article in the magazine Democracy. President Barack Obama proposed it to Congress in June as the Consumer Financial Protection Agency.</p></blockquote> <p>I urge you to read the whole thing. Her mind is so lively and so finely tuned to the real economic environment that I wish I could lock every Democrat in Washington in a room with her for as long as it takes to get them to hear what she is saying and learn how to think along these lines. She's one of the very few who articulates the kind of reform populism that makes sense to average citizens and which might keep the know-nothing Palinite freakshow from looking good to increasingly desperate, working people in this country.</p> <p><span style="font-weight: bold; ">Update:</span> Here's some neat post partisan populism: The <a style="color: rgb(0, 0, 204); " href="http://www.marketwatch.com/story/panel-votes-to-audit-feds-balance-sheet-2009-11-19">Ron Paul, Alan Grayson bill</a> to audit the fed just passed through the committee. Baby steps, folks.</p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Digby is the proprietor of <a href="http://digbysblog.blogspot.com/">Hullabaloo</a>. </div></div></div> Thu, 19 Nov 2009 14:00:01 -0800 Digby, Hullabaloo 659450 at http://www.alternet.org PEEK PEEK Old_Blog Type Content work populist reform dr elizabeth warren