Thursday, December 23, 2010

Sarah Palin Commits Act Of Treason!

Last month, Sarah Palin blasted the Wikileaks release of countless once-secret cables, calling the acts "treasonous," but in a recent op-ed piece for USA Today, the Alaskan Claptrap, Sarah Palin, referenced the contents of the leaked documents to make yet another attack against the Obama administration.

Palin wrote the following for USA Today:
Iran continues to defy the international community in its drive to acquire nuclear weapons. Arab leaders in the region rightly fear a nuclear-armed Iran. We suspected this before, but now we know for sure because of leaked diplomatic cables. King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia "frequently exhorted the U.S. to attack Iran to put an end to its nuclear weapons program," according to these communications. Officials from Jordan said the Iranian nuclear program should be stopped by any means necessary. Officials from the United Arab Emirates and Egypt saw Iran as evil, an "existential threat" and a sponsor of terrorism. If Iran isn't stopped from obtaining nuclear weapons, it could trigger a regional nuclear arms race in which these countries would seek their own nuclear weapons to protect themselves.
Does Palin not see the hypocrisy?

She utilized leaked, treasonous documents - even quoting them - for political gain.  Palin's hypocrisy still doesn't mask her stupidity - all Palin is good for is a bunch of questions or vague hypothetical solutions.
Much more can be done, such as banning insurance for shipments to Iran, banning all military sales to Iran, ending all trade credits, banning all financial dealings with Iranian banks, limiting Iran's access to international capital markets and banking services, closing air space and waters to Iran's national air and shipping lines, and, especially, ending Iran's ability to import refined petroleum.
How does Palin suggest we put a stop to all these actions?  I can give you one guess where this was heading...

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Why Microsoft's Kinect and Sony's Move Won't Usurp Nintendo's Wii

Over the years, I had studied numerous topics, ranging from architecture to foreign policy.  Although I majored in International Affairs, I minored in Business Administration because I had an interest in both government and private business.  Recently, I have been somewhat bored with the political headlines, and so I have decided to take a break from political analysis and commentary to review something else that is of great interest to me - video games.

This holiday season, in video games, the big thing seems to be motion capture technology.  Microsoft had released their much anticipated Kinect peripheral (formely known by its code name Project Natal) and Sony released their PlayStation Move - both designed to compete with seventh generation gaming console heavyweight, the Nintendo Wii. 

To combat these new motion "competitors," Nintendo released the Wii MotionPlus almost a full year before Sony or Microsoft.

Despite positive reviews for both the Kinect and Move, I highly doubt these add-ons will usurp the Wii from being the leader of the pack and I base this opinion on a couple common sense reasons.


The Microsoft Kinect costs $149.99 in addition to the cost of an X-Box 360 - an entry level variation of the X-Box 360 costs $199.00, but you can purchase bundles for as low as $299.00, assuming that you don't already own a system.  The PlayStation Move involves the purchse of the PlayStation Eye camera for $39.99 and the PlayStation Move controller (which looks like a Wii Remote with a light bulb at the end) for $49.99, bringing the total cost to around $100, although Sony also offers Move bundles for around $400.  The Wii, with MotionPlus technology, runs around $200, although it is possible to find deals bringing the total cost of the system (with two games) to around $150 - I purchased my Wii for $149.99 new and it came with one remote, one Nunchuk controller, and two video games.

So far, the Wii wins on price, being almost half the cost of what you need to compete, and was a major reason why I purchased the system.  The other reason why I purchased the Wii was for popular exclusive titles, such as any Mario game.


While this may seem like a petty deciding factor as to which may end up being the superior game system, it is, in my opinion, a factor.  This is another category in which the Wii has its competitors beat - while the Wii only requires its tiny system and skinny sensor bar to take up space on your entertainment set, the Kinect and Move require much more space.  The X-Box 360 and PlayStation 3 are roughly three times the size of the Wii, and if you own more then one system, you are going to have to maneuver the peripherals whenever you want to play (for some this may be an issue).  I like the compact design of the Wii, and while I own an X-Box 360, I have no plans on purchasing the Kinect - clutter does play an very minor role in my decision making process.


This is a big reason why I believe the Wii will continue to dominate.  While Sony and Microsoft focused on graphics, Nintendo took a different approach to video games, which seems to be one of the lessons learned from their less-than-stellar system, the Gamecube, and that lesson appears to be playability.

Nintendo focused less on graphics and more on playability and entertainment value.  This gives the Wii a competitve advantage - why would a PlayStation 3 owner purchase an X-Box 360, when both offer almost identical specifications?

This is one of the reasons why I purchased a Wii.

I could have spent the same amount of money purchasing a Kinect, but what would I have gotten for my money?  Nintendo already had four years of programming on Sony and Microsoft, and hundreds of titles proven to be successes, so why would I want to put down my money on an unproven add-on?  This also leads me to another point - experience.

The Nintendo designed the Wii to be a motion-supported video game system while the X-Box 360 and PlayStation 3 are both traditional gaming systems.  While they may have an advantage over the Wii in the graphics department, they still need to prove playability - so far, the Kinect has been criticized for having a more dificult learning curve then the Move or Wii. 


The four year head start the Wii has on its competitors not only plays an important role in playability, but also marketability.  When plans for the Wii were first released, I was extremely skeptical - I praised the original thinking but feared the system could be a dog like the VirtualBoy of gaming-past.  Since its release, and subsequent praise, my fears revolving around the Wii had quickly faded and I counted down the time until I too would be a proud Wii owner.

My other video game system purchases had been quite different - after the N64, I had awaited the next generation of video game systems and awaited the proposed release for the next Perfect Dark video game.  I was originally going to buy a Gamecube, but when Perfect Dark was not going to be released on that system, I looked at my other choices - the giant X-Box system or the PlayStation 2.  I evenutally gone with the latter because of the release of Grand Theft Auto III and the fact that the system was backwards compatable, meaning I would be purchasing a system with an already massive videogame library (a reason why I also purchased my Atari 7800).

Fast forward several years, and now it was time to make another system purchase.  I was originally leaning towards the PlayStation 3, again because of the backwards compatability, but instead opted for the X-Box 360 when Sony eliminated their PS2 compatability in their slimmed down version.  I also bought the X-Box because a friend was upgrading to a newer version of the X-Box 360, which leads me to another negative aspect of both the PlayStation 3 and the X-Box 360 - their constant upgrades.

Every few months, it seems that Sony and Microsoft have the newest must-have version of their console that everyone needs to own, and it seems that it is this soap-opera marketing that seems to drive their sales.  Nintendo, on the other hand, has been out for nearly the same amount of time, and have focused less time on marketing their system and more time promoting their proven playability - when was the last time you saw a Sony advertisement displaying how much fun the PlayStation 3 was?

While Sony had been experimenting with video technology since 2001 (remember their EyeToy release from 2003), Nintendo already had a commercial motion-supported system four years ahead of their competition.  Microsoft had already indicated that they plan to have their system last until 2015, with their Kinect released halfway during its lifespan, meaining there are only five years left to enjoy this product - it is only safe to assume Sony has the same time line for their system.  While they are going to be forced to support this new peripheral in addition to their original hardware, Nintendo is already looking to the next generation of gaming systems, possibly moving to 3D, or even better motion-capture gaming, and considering they are already years ahead of their competition, it isn't had to believe Nintendo will fall so easily.

Basically, Nintendo already has a head start on Microsoft and Sony, but they cannot rely soley on playability to carry them on to through the next generation of gaming consoles - they need to focus on graphics, but they don't need to make that the determining factor - this is why I, as well as so many others, still find so many classic video games on the Atari 2600, ColecoVision, and original NES so enjoyable.

I would gladly play N64's Perfect Dark over Microsoft's Halo series anyday - look forward to a Wii Goldeneye 007 versus N64 Goldeneye 007 review soon.  Can you guess what my conclusion would be?

Media Matters Versus Big Government

I recently noticed a piece on Media Matters for America, where Fox and Friends co-host Steve Doocy made comments on his Fox News program that Media Matters is "a blog nobody reads."  This comment had led me to do another of my MMfA site traffic comparisons.

Typically, I compare MMfA with Big Government, being that Big Government attempts to be somewhat of a right-wing fact checker, despite lacking facts.  I also compare MMfA with Big Government because the visitor traffic information is very enlightening.

So, to get started, I would like to point out unique visitors to the sites - MMfA beats Big Government by almost 40,000 unique visitors in the last six months.

The sites seem to be running pretty close, but when you look at overall visitors, Big Goverment has almost one million more hits.  While fans of the Big site may jump up in their chairs at this information, it shows one thing - Big Government has small audience.  They receive less unique visitors to their site and cater mostly to their repeat customers who seek information from a select number of right-wing approved websites, while those who visit MMfA are more informed, visiting search engines and other news sites.

If MMfA is "a blog nobody reads," why is Doocy spending his time talking about it?  Why does Beck feel the constant need to attack the organization?

Post Office Vehicles To Collect Data?

From an article by Clay Dillow on Popsci:
[Chairman of the Postal Regulatory Commission Michael] Ravnitsky’s idea (which he’s careful to point out is his and not that of his employer) is to take the USPS’s biggest asset – it’s massive fleet of vehicles – and turn them into the most robust data collecting operation in the land. Right now each truck has a single purpose: to deliver mail. But fitted with an array of cheap sensors, mail trucks could wireless deliver real time information on weather, pollutants, traffic, road conditions, and even locate gaps in cell phone coverage and television signals.

Their regular routes cover most American roadways each and every day in predictable patterns, making it easy to establish a baseline map of normal conditions that would very clearly express anomalies. Accelerometers could log pothole locations and patches of rough road that require maintenance. Sensor arrays could even contribute to homeland security, acting as a first line in the detection of chemical, radiological, or biological threats. And of course, the USPS could make this data available to businesses and researchers – at a reasonable fee.

As ideas go, it’s not a bad one. Sensors tech gets cheaper all the time, and it derives added value from an existing system rather than requiring a new one. New York City did something similar when it required all cabs to begin carrying GPS locators, and that initiative has provided the city with reams of real time traffic data that has in turn led to changes in the way traffic is managed. A nationwide network could do the same thing, but it could reach far beyond traffic patterns to the sciences, national security, and a host of other fields.
I find this idea to be very promising.  Some may argue that the government has no need for such information and that private businesses, like Google, are doing a good enough job mapping traffic patterns and roads, or that this move would be an invasion of privacy - another step of Big Government - but I disagree.

I hope that this idea moves forward...

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Senate Repeals Don't Ask Don't Tell - Pick Of The Week

If you couldn't tell, December has been a pretty slow month at The Midnight Review, partially because of some slow news cycles and because it has been a very busy couple weeks.  For that reason, this weeks Pick Of The Week is one single headline - the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell.

The Senate passed a bill repealing the military's 17-year-old discriminatory policy against gays with a 65-31 vote. A handful of Republicans - the ones typically called RINOs - voted in favor of the legislation. The House passed a version of the bill three days ago.

What is interesting is that despite having a clear majority, Republicans are throwing a temper tantrum by claiming they won't vote on a new START treaty. It is nice to see them try to increase their obstructionist behavior in the face of a Democratic success.

I wonder if they will add repeal of this repeal to their overall legislative agenda next year, along with repeal and replace of health care reform.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Study Finds Fox News Viewers Most Misinformed

In a recent study conducted by World Public Opinion, viewers of Fox News were the most misinformed on the facts and that increased viewership of Fox led to even more misinformed individuals.
Those who watched Fox News almost daily were significantly more likely than those who never watched it to believe that most economists estimate the stimulus caused job losses (12 points more likely), most economists have estimated the health care law will worsen the deficit (31 points), the economy is getting worse (26 points), most scientists do not agree that climate change is occurring (30 points), the stimulus legislation did not include any tax cuts (14 points), their own income taxes have gone up (14 points), the auto bailout only occurred under Obama (13 points), when TARP came up for a vote most Republicans opposed it (12 points) and that it is not clear that Obama was born in the United States (31 points). The effect was also not simply a function of partisan bias, as people who voted Democratic and watched Fox News were also more likely to have such misinformation than those who did not watch it--though by a lesser margin than those who voted Republican.
Did you expect anything different?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Republicans Plan To Block Bill For Earmarks They Made

Elise Foley wrote an interesting article for The Huffington Post - Republican Senators John Cornyn of Texas and John Thune of South Dakota have announced that they plan to vote against moving on the spending bill until all earmarks have been stripped from the legislation, which is peculiar considering Republicans are mainly the ones who added the earmarks in the first place.  In an attempt to stop the bill, Republicans plan on using the time to introduce new ammendments designed to strip funding from the health care reform bill passed earlier this year, as well as just run down the clock performing actions like reading the near-2000-page bill or the New START bill on the floor of the senate.
The senators criticized the broader spending bill for its $8 billion in earmarks, though many of the earmarks were introduced to the bill by Republicans. Cornyn himself proposed some $16 million in earmarks for his home state.

Democrats called the statements hypocritical. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) said Republicans who request earmarks and vote against the bill are "half pregnant."

"Republicans, as usual, are talking out both sides of their mouths," said a Democratic leadership aide. "Months ago, Senator Cornyn requested $16 million in earmarks for his state, then suddenly he woke up this morning and decided he was against the very thing he fought for. So which one is it?"

Asked several times if he believed his former requests for earmarks were wrong, Cornyn said reporters were "missing the story."

"This is not just about earmarks -- earmarks are a symptom of wasteful Washington spending that the American people say they want reformed," Cornyn said. "We agree with them, and that's why we will vote against this bill."

Republicans have argued spending should not be decided in the lame-duck session
So by Cornyn's own admission, Republicans are a symptom of Washington excess and that Americans want the GOP reformed.

Undoubtedly, the Republicans are trying to use this moment to blame the Democrats for wasteful spending - they seem to be counting on Americans associating their opposition to this bill (they built upon) with the anti-government tea party message they encouraged for the past year, hoping a vast majority of Americans won't realize their hypocrisy, and knowing Americans, they won't notice.

I also thought it was interesting that the GOP argue against deciding spending during a lame-duck session but they have no problem determining tax legislation during the same period of time, considering the Senate's passage of the Bush tax cut extensions.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Republicans Threaten NPR, Ignore Their Own Funding Hypocrisies

In an article by Keach Hagey for Politico regarding NPR, Hagey explored the threat Republicans pose to public broadcasting.
National Public Radio is facing the most serious threat to the "public" part of its identity since Newt Gingrich’s days as speaker, thanks to a resurgent, tea-party-inspired Republican House with budget cuts on its mind and recent stumbles that have left the broadcaster vulnerable to its ideological critics on the right.

By far the greatest and most galvanizing of these issues was the firing of Juan Williams. But some Republicans also are seething over NPR’s announcement of a $1.8 million grant from the Open Society Foundations, founded by financier George Soros, just a few days before Williams was fired.
Republicans, such as Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina and Reps. Darrell Issa of California, Eric Cantor of Virginia, and Trent Franks of Arizona have all come out against the organization, with Franks going one step further.
“Open Society Foundations is essentially another name for George Soros, who is a committed leftist, one-world-government ideologue,” Franks told Politico, adding that NPR’s acceptance of the grant is “evidence of an underlying, hardcore left-wing bias that begs my ability to articulate.”

This is interesting when you consider the money that flowed into the campaign coffers of people like DeMint and Franks.  Franks had trips funded by The Heritage Foundation and Club for Growth, both conservative think tanks.  Other critics of NPR which were not mentioned in the article by name, like Michele Bachmann, have received campaign contributions from commercial broadcasters, which would definitely see a benefit from elliminating public competition.

It is insteresting to hear these individuals claim NPR is a partisan entity undeserving of public financial support when they themselves are being funded by what some may consider right-wing sources, making their argument inherently biased.

Kate Gosselin Gives Sarah Palin's Show A Rating Boost

Andrea Morabito wrote the following for Broadcasting & Cable:
Sunday night's (Dec. 12) episode of Sarah Palin's Alaska featuring fellow TLC reality family the Gosselins topped last week's viewership low, but fell short of the first and third week-numbers, continuing the series roller coaster ride through the ratings.

Alaska earned a 2.1 household rating and 3.1 million total viewers, according to Nielsen fast nationals, up from 2.8 million viewers the prior week.

The reality series has had an uneven performance in the ratings through its first several episodes. After its record-setting 5 million-viewer debut, Alaska fell to 3 million in its second week before it bounced up to 3.5 million in its third.
You would think that with two of TLC's biggest "stars," ratings would have been much higher.  While Palin's show saw a slight increase from the week before, it shows that the only staying power Palin commands is derived from gimmicks.

Ratings getting a bit low?  Nobody's talking about you in the news?

Do something stupid, say something polarizing, or have a reality star appear on your cable program...

Conservative (And Biased) Judge Deems Individual Mandate Unconstitutional

Yesterday brought headlines that a conservative judge (and part-owner of a Republican campaign-consulting firm that fought the health-care legislation) in Virginia, U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson, had determined the individual mandate of the health care reform bill was unconstitutional.  This of course was a good thing for opponents of the law, who want the entire thing gone.  In their eyes, the other rulings on the law were done by liberal activist judges.  After reviewing some of the ruling, it is my understanding that the ruling was not as big as proponents of repeal make it sound.

The Washington Post had a story pointing out that the judge only struck down the individual mandate and reference to that particular section, but when searching the health care law, one can only find reference to the section twice in the bill - in the table of contents and the section itself.
The danger was that, in striking down the individual mandate, the court would also strike down the rest of the bill. That's exactly what the plaintiff had asked Hudson to do. But the judge pointedly refused, noting: "The Court will sever only Section 1501 [the individual mandate] and directly-dependent provisions which make specific reference to 1501."

That last clause has made a lot of pro-reform legal analysts very happy. Go to the text of the health-care law and run a search for "1501." It appears exactly twice in the bill: In the table of contents and in the title of the section. There do not appear to be other sections that make "specific reference" to the provision, even if you could argue that they are "directly dependent" on the provision. The attachment of the "specific reference" language appears to sharply limit the scope of the court's action.

Another interpretation says that Section 1501 relies on Section 5000A of the Internal Revenue Code, which contains the mandate's enforcement mechanism, and so that was the part Judge Hudson meant to identify. But 5000A isn't mentioned in the insurance regulations, which are the only pieces of the bill that plausibly rely on the mandate for their effectiveness. So pretty much any other part of the bill you can think of fails either the "directly dependent" or the "specific reference" test.
The Washington Post article also went into a brief history of the individual mandate, which I thought was interesting:
Hudson will not have the last word on this. Anthony Kennedy will. The disagreements between the various courts virtually ensure that the Supreme Court will eventually take up the case. But right now, the range of opinions stretch from "the law is fine" to "the individual mandate is not fine, but the rest of the law is." That could create problems for the legislation if the mandate is repealed and Republicans block any attempts at a fix, but it's a far cry from a world in which the Supreme Court strikes down the whole of the health-care law.

It might, however, be a worse world for Republicans. The individual mandate began life as a Republican idea. Its earliest appearances in legislation were in the Republican alternatives to the Clinton health-care bill, where it was co-sponsored by such GOP stalwarts as Bob Dole, Orrin G. Hatch and Charles E. Grassley. Later on, it was the centerpiece of then-Gov. Mitt Romney's health-reform plan in Massachusetts, and then it was included in the Wyden-Bennett bill, which many Republicans signed on to.

It was only when the individual mandate appeared in President Obama's legislation that it became so polarizing on the right. The political logic was clear enough: The individual mandate was the most unpopular piece of the bill (you might remember that Obama's 2008 campaign plan omitted it, and he frequently attacked Hillary Clinton for endorsing it in her proposal). But as a policy choice, it might prove disastrous.

The individual mandate was created by conservatives who realized that it was the only way to get universal coverage into the private market. Otherwise, insurers turn away the sick, public anger rises, and, eventually, you get some kind of government-run, single-payer system, much as they did in Europe, and much as we have with Medicare.

If Republicans succeed in taking it off the table, they may sign the death warrant for private insurers in America: Eventually, rising cost pressures will force more aggressive reforms than even Obama has proposed, and if conservative judges have made the private market unfixable by removing the most effective way to deal with adverse selection problems, the only alternative will be the very constitutional, but decidedly non-conservative, single-payer path.
It seems that Republicans may get an unexpected result from their political games.  I don't think the law would be struck down but I do see this as being used as a political toy for the next few years.  I agree with the judge from the recent ruling over the Liberty University case, in which the religious school from Lynchburg, Virginia, lost its constitutional case by claiming the law violated the school's First Amendment right by forcing the school to fund abortions - a claim the plaintiffs failed to prove.

Emily Williams wrote the following for The Lynchburg Times:
Another big topic in the case is abortion. In the suit, Liberty argued that the bill is a violation of its First Amendment right as it requires the school to fund abortion. In his ruling, Judge Moon wrote that the bill has special provisions to ensure that every state has a health exchange option that does not cover abortion services, and that no plan is required to provide abortion coverage.

[Dean Mathew] Staver argued that this guarantee is not sufficient as the senate’s version of the bill did not include a clause prohibiting federal funds to go towards abortion. As for being able to choose a state plan that does not cover abortion, Staver voiced his skepticism.

“While there may be one of the exchanges has an option that does not fund abortion the others will fund abortion. At the end of the day those [healthcare exchanges that fund abortion] will probably be the only ones you have an option to choose,” said Staver.

Some of the money Staver worried would go to fund abortion, are the fees, fines and taxes imposed by the mandate. Staver said employees of the university have “good” health care coverage. Under the bill, explained
Staver, if one employee were to find that a service was not covered and seek outside insurance, Liberty would face fines that could reach over a million dollars.

Judge Moon ruled that the University was unable to prove that this money would be used to fund abortions, and thus was not unconstitutional.
That particular portion of the case highlighted the irrational thinking of the right - as long as the government has money and as long as the health care bill is on the books, abortions, in their mind, are being funded by the bill.  They don't need evidence, because being a religious school, they have faith.

I also thought Judge Moon's comments regarding the impact the law has on the marketplace was interesting, being that it seemed to be the opposite of what Hudson argued.
In the ruling, Judge Moon points out that nearly every person will make use of some sort of health service in his or her lifetime. He then argued if a person opts out of purchasing health insurance, they are simply choosing a different payment method for health services, be it out of pocket or by use of free or low-cost emergency room services.

These payment choices then affect the healthcare market and drive price of insurance.

“Because of the nature of supply and demand, Plaintiffs’ choices directly affect the price of insurance in the market, which Congress set out in the Act to control,” wrote Moon.

The fact that opting out of insurance has so much power over the market, argued Moon, means the federal government has a right to regulate how people pay for healthcare.
Liberty University didn't like this, of course, and argued that by the judge's logic, the government could force individuals to purchase a General Motors car to improve the General Motors market, but as we saw with the abortion logic  Staver used, Staver is mistaken.  The automotive industry is very different from the health care industry - an individual's decision to purchase a car would not impact the cost of a car for someone else because there are other manufacturers out there offering similar products.  The GM analogy would only work if GM was the only one out there.

While this recent ruling is a bit of a disappointment, I am not to concerned with it because it seems every conservative argument is based on flawed and highly partisan logic.

Student Riots In London - Big Government Blames Progressives

I thought this was interesting - Andrew Marcus wrote a piece for Big Government claiming there have been progressive riots taking place in London and that liberal Americans are trying to bring that kind of rioting to America.  In reality, the rioting involved students upset in a recent rate hike, increasing tuition caps from aproximately $5,000 USD to roughly $14,000 USD.

It is possible that some of the rioting individuals were progressives of some sort, and I do not condone their actions, but I found Marcus' post to be extremely ignorant.

"To Progressive revolutionaries, this social breakdown is not a bug, it’s a feature of their long-term vision for overthrowing the entire system," wrote Marcus.  "What you are seeing on the streets of London is exactly what America’s most radical Progressive leaders want to see here in the United States."

Could it be that students are upset that they are seeing their tuition costs almost triple?

Of course for Marcus that can't be it - these people are rioting because they are anarchists wanting to overthrow the kingdom...

Corporations Pass Benefit Costs Onto Employees While Boosting CEO Benefits

I recently saw two headlines, one in The Orlando Sentinel and one in USA Today, discussing rising health care costs.  The article from the Orlando newspaper discussed how companies planned on passing on rising health care costs to the employees while the USA Today article talked about CEOs retaining benefits while many "rank-and-file employees'" benefits are being cut.

I thought this was interesting because of the insistence of conservative pundits that without health care reform corporations would pass on their gains to their employees, but here we have the opposite happening and it is before health care reform has even taken effect - it appears CEOs are trying to get their share of the pie first and then some.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Pick Of The Week

It's that time again for our weekly review, but being that we were absent for last weekend, I will include the last two weeks.  My particular favorite was this Friday's revelation that Palin really doesn't read, which was evident in her inability to name the title of the current book she was supposedly reading, or even get the author's name right!

Monday, November 29th

Sarah Palin Blames Obama For Wikileaks, Can't Get Her Facts Straight In Doing So

Jumping on board the anti-WikiLeaks bandwagon, Sarah Palin tweeted and Facebooked about how Julian Assange was such a bad man, so much so that she wanted Assange, an Australian, charged with treason.  She also wondered why American military defensive allies were not involving themselves in the WikiLeaks matter.

In addition to misunderstanding the act of treason and the purpose of America's military alliances, Palin also wanted to freeze the funds of WikiLeaks.  Considering the combination of all her comments, it would appear that Palin would want to deprive Assange of due process - presumably after she charges the Australian with treason against America, she would claim he does not get any constitutional protections because he is not American.  I found Palin's comments regarding funds very interesting considering the opinion held by right-wing types that the government had no right siezing piracy and counterfeiting websites because doing so violated those webmaster's due process.

Tuesday, December 1st

Republicans Have No Plan To Aid Unemployed, Work With Democrats

Republicans hold up unemployed benefits demanding Democrats work with them on other issues first before they consider Democratic proposals, like the extension of unemployment benefits. Earlier in the week, Republicans made a pledge to block all legislation until Congress resolved how to fund the government and how to extend all the Bush tax cuts. Democrats would be fools to believe they could work with Republicans on this matter being that Republicans are the reason why unemployment benefits have lapsed - what makes Democrats believe they could trust Republicans to compromise on unemployment benefits now when they haven't on any legislation for the past two years?

Sarah Palin Forced Daughter To Dance

According to a blog post by fellow Dancing With The Stars Contestant Margaret Cho, Bristol Palin was forced to dance by her former half-term governor mother because her momma blamed Bristol for losing the election for her in 2008 - the one where Bristol played the pregnant single teen mom. Bristol of course responded by claiming Cho was wrong and that she did the show on her own and with her mother's support, as if mama Palin didn't tell her to say that - Palin's own handlers probably penned the response being that it appeared on Facebook (just like big Palin).

Monday, December 6th

Newt Gingrich Wants Millionaires To Determine Tax Code... For Millionaires! Proposes Modern Day Serfdom...

Just as you thought Republicans couldn't get even more special interest, Newt Gingrich pushed the envelope further by insisting millionaires should determine their tax rate and for how long, while millions of Americans are unemployed.

"What Republicans ought to do is say to people who create jobs, how many years does the tax code need to be extended for you to make an investment decision?" said Gingrich. "I mean, the goal’s not to have an annual extension of the current tax code, and then have every business in the country trapped saying, 'I don’t know. I want to make a 20 year investment in a factory.' … There is a number, but I would have the business leadership of the country describe the number."

Obama Reaches Deal With GOP Over Tax Cuts

Sadly, Obama caved to stubborn Republicans yet again. He had the opportunity to paint the GOP in a negative light by blocking tax cuts for the middle class giving him some political leverage going into the second half of his term but he decided to opt for compromise. I understand that is what he campaigned with but when the GOP decided to oppose all things Democratic, I think Obama and his party should have abandoned compromise and gone it alone.

While I like aspects of this tax deal, I would have rather the tax cuts expire so that America could get its finances in order.

Tuesday, December 7th

John McCain's DADT Argument Hypocritical When Considering His Primary and General Election Results

The old cook from Arizona, John McCain, made an interesting statement. In one of his many hypocritical statements regarding the military's "Don't Ask Don't Tell Policy," McCain decided to attack the report he once called for by claiming the Pentagon's survey was not representative of the entire military force and should be therefore disregarded. I thought this was interesting when taking into consideration John McCain's electoral numbers in this past election.

McCain claimed that the report only represented 28 percent of the military and that "troubled" him, but take a gander at voter turnout numbers in Arizona - McCain won the GOP primary with around 57 percent of the vote, with turnout at 28.2 percent. That means McCain won the primary with 16 percent of the Republican vote. In the general election, McCain won with 59.3 percent of the vote. With 68.9 percent voter registration and voter turnout at 59.8 percent, McCain won the general election with less then 25 percent of the vote of the entire electorate.

McCain is old enough to use an abacus and notice the math he uses to try and derail DADT also proves he is not representative of his state or their opinions - only a minority of people who voted.

Friday, December 10th

Ron Paul Defends WikiLeaks, Promotes Government Transparency On House Floor [Transcript]

While I disagree with Ron Paul on many issues, I found the Texas representative to make numerous excellent points in this speech he made on the House floor. MY only complaint is that he should have steered clear of any reference to American empire building - typically that kind of rhetoric is dismissed as crazy, with the entire speech running the risk of being discounted.

Fox News Boss Caught Manipulating News

Media Matters for America revealed a pretty damning email from Fox News Washington managing editor Bill Summers, encouraging journalists on the cable channel to rephrase things like the "public option" using more conservative-friendly terminology. Keep in mind that Summers instructed the journalists to do so, not just the "opinion" staff like Bill O'Reilly, Glenn Beck, and Sean Hannity, meaning Summers and Fox News sought to manipulate the news and sway public opinion - all this from a channel that claims to be "fair and balanced."

It makes you wonder just how many times they have sent out emails like this in the past.

Sarah Palin Interviews With Barbara Walters, Gets Facts Wrongs and Claims Victimhood Again

In perhaps my favorite post of the past couple weeks, Barbara Walters released the rest of her Sarah Palin interview, in which a visibly irate Palin rambled on about how she was a victim of mischaracterization by the mainstream media, using various sexist terms to describe her "anonymous" critics. It is interesting that she used masculine pejoratives to describe her critics yet she claimed they were anonymous - perhaps she does know their identity.

A commenter left an interesting remark on the post recalling the hot water Barack Obama had gotten in with conservative pundits when he used the phrase "lipstick on a pig" - Palin and the right-wing claimed sexism, yet what would she call her use of the words "impotent" and "limp," and claiming her critics are "hiding behind somebody's skirts?" It would be the same as someone attacking a female critic by insisting their comments are overcompensation for them being "barren" and that they are just trying to "wear the pants."

Probably the most interesting part of the interview came when Palin decided to open up about her preferred reading material. While Palin rattled off some typical conservative-slanted publications like Newsmax, newspapers like her employer-owned The Wall Street Journal, or such divine readings as C.S. Lewis novels like "The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe," Palin's most favoritest book in the whole wide world at this point in time is a book by an ultra-marathon runner. Palin stated in the interview that she is reading a book by Dean Karzo about running but the problem is that there is no book by a Dean Karzo.

Palin screws up the author's name, which is Dean Karnazes. Maybe she was thinking of his nickname, "Karno," and combined it with his real name, but considering his name lacks a hard "z" sound, I think Palin never read the book. Basically, everything she told Barbara Walters about her really good read is in the title of the book: "Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner."

Palin probably saw this book cover on the shelves when she was on her book signing tour:

Too bad the title is bigger then the author's name, otherwise Palin may have actually gotten a question right in an interview for once.

Sunday, December 12th

Sarah Palin Makes Photo-Op Trip To Haiti, Avoids Crowds and Media But Not Fox News

Although technically part of next week's Pick Of The Week, I penned this post prior to writing this one - Sunday is sort of a gray area.

In order to make her self look more important, Sarah Palin jetted over to impoverished Haiti to survey the cholera outbreak with intolerant preacher Franklin Graham. Surprisingly, Graham expelled all Haitian and American press except Fox News, who dutifully followed Palin around for some photo ops with some foreign workers and maybe a sick child or two. Palin didn't really get down and dirty like former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush - I give Bush credit even though he did wipe his hand on Clinton after shaking the hands of some Haitians because at least he got into the crowds. For the most part, Palin avoided crowds, or really anyone, and retained control over the media surrounding her.

Compare the pictures of her in Haiti and the former presidents:


Sarah Palin Makes Photo-Op Trip To Haiti, Avoids Crowds and Media But Not Fox News

Johnathan M. Katz wrote the following for The Huffington Post:
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin began a tightly stage-managed visit to Haiti on Saturday in which she visited cholera clinics while avoiding crowds and the press.

The 2008 vice presidential candidate was a guest of Rev. Franklin Graham, whose aid group works in the impoverished country. Haiti is facing a brutal cholera epidemic while struggling with an electoral crisis and reconstruction from the January earthquake.

Palin, who traveled in part by helicopter, provided access on her tour solely to the U.S. cable network Fox News.

Graham's organization, Samaritan's Purse, refused to discuss Palin's itinerary with other media and asked Haitian and American reporters to leave its compounds, citing a "security lockdown."

"I've really enjoyed meeting this community. They are so full of joy," Palin was quoted as saying on the organization's website. "We are so fortunate in America, and we are responsible for helping those less fortunate."

Associated Press television journalists saw Palin talking with foreign aid workers. She wore cargo pants, a T-shirt and designer sunglasses on her first trip outside the United States since speaking to investors in Hong Kong last year. That speech was also closed to the media.
It is interesting that Graham's compound was under "security lockdown" and all Haitian and American reporters were asked to leave except Fox News, which covered Palin exclusively.  Palin's quote is also interesting being that she seemed to avoid any real crowds opting for the photo-ops with children and relief workers. 

Here is a comparison:

Bill Clinton and George W. Bush in Haiti:

Sarah Palin in Haiti:

At least she didn't wipe her hand on Bill Clinton after shaking hands with some Haitians, but then in order to do so Palin would have had to actually meet some Haitians.  I wonder if Fox news posted a casting call for sick Haitians for Palin to visit.

Is it any surprise Haitians weren't familiar with the former half-term governor of Alaska?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Sarah Palin Interviews With Barbara Walters, Gets Facts Wrongs and Claims Victimhood Again

Barbara Walters revealed the rest of her interview with Sarah Palin for her "most fascinating people of the year"

When asked if she would run for president, she replied that she would, given that she was sure she would win. She also stated that she believed she could beat Barack Obama. Being that Obama is the current Democratic president and there does not seem to be any competition coming from his own party, and she believes she can beat him, Palin's comments seem to imply that she will decide to run. She also skirts around the issue of primaries which may indicate a third-party candidacy.

When asked about her thoughts on the opinion that she is uninformed, Palin swallows hard and does what comes naturally to her - blame the media. She claims that the media created her "polarizing" image. It couldn't possibly be her fault, right? How about her most recent jabs at liberals and conservative rhetoric on her so-called "non-political" TLC nature show?

In response to being uninformed, Palin again claims the media for misleading the public. Palin then lists what she was currently reading - a great book by Dean Karnazes (she completely mispronounces his name and fails to mention the title of one of his two books), C.S. Lewis for "divine inspiration" (I don't think Aslan can save her from this interview), Newsmax, the Wall Street Journal, and local Alaskan newspapers. I also thought it was interesting that her other two named readings included WSJ, which is owned by the parent company of her employer Fox News, News Corp., and Newsmax, which admittedly publishes a "conservative perspective" on the news, meaning it is a biased source for information.

By this point in the interview, Palin is visibly agitated, and when Walters mentions criticism that Palin's endorsements cost Republicans the Senate, Palin plays the victim card, attacking anonymous "boys" attacking the "hockey mom from Wasilla" - a brand Palin has painstakingly tried to cultivate over the past couple years. She called her critics "impotent," "limp," and "weak" for attacking her anonymously, "hiding behind somebody's skirts."

Palin claimed the Republicans were never close to winning the upper chamber. In regards to the GOP's chances in the Senate, Palin cost them Delaware, Nevada, Colorado, Alaska (although Murkowski stated she would caucus with the Republicans), and California, and if you consider the impact her primary endorsements made on the general election, Palin cost the GOP more then enough to win the Senate - Republicans gained six seats and needed another four to gain a majority.

Palin then goes on to talk about Todd and the rumors surrounding her family, including the one that Track went to Iraq to avoid jail and Trig is not her baby, but of course Palin just brushes these rumors off.

Basically, Palin gives an incoherent ramble to every Walters' question, attacking those who disagree with her and claiming to be the victim of some cruel game controlled by the media.

Watch the interview here:

Fox News Boss Caught Manipulating News

You know how Fox News claims to be the "fair and balanced" source for your news? It looks like Fox News' Washington managing editor, Bill Sammon, was caught red-handed telling Fox News' journalists to avoid using generally accepted terms for more conservative framing to manipulate public opinion.

Here is the email from Sammon instructing his news staff to use conservative-friendly phrasing: 
From: Sammon, Bill
Sent: Tuesday, October 27, 2009 8:23 AM
To: 054 -FNSunday; 169 -SPECIAL REPORT; 069 -Politics; 030 -Root (FoxNews.Com); 036 -FOX.WHU; 050 -Senior Producers; 051 -Producers
Subject: friendly reminder: let's not slip back into calling it the "public option"
1)      Please use the term "government-run health insurance" or, when brevity is a concern, "government option," whenever possible.
2)      When it is necessary to use the term "public option" (which is, after all, firmly ensconced in the nation's lexicon), use the qualifier "so-called," as in "the so-called public option."
3)      Here's another way to phrase it: "The public option, which is the government-run plan."
4)      When newsmakers and sources use the term "public option" in our stories, there's not a lot we can do about it, since quotes are of course sacrosanct.
Makes you think of other conservative terms promoted by the right-wing media - Media Matters had a great post last year detailing some of the right wing terms like "death tax," "death care," "death book," "death card," "deathpanel," and "party of death."

Ron Paul Defends WikiLeaks, Promotes Government Transparency On House Floor [Transcript]

In a lengthy speech on the House floor, Texas representative Ron Paul defended the transparency groups like WikiLeaks have provided.

Here is a transcript of his speech:
WikiLeaks release of classified information has generated a lot of attention in the past few weeks. The hysterical reaction makes one wonder if this is not an example of killing the messenger for the bad news. Despite what is claimed, the information that has been so far released, though classified, has caused no known harm to any individual, but it has caused plenty of embarrassment to our government. Losing our grip on our empire is not welcomed by the neoconservatives in charge.

There is now more information confirming that Saudi Arabia is a principal supporter and financier of al Qaeda, and that this should set off alarm bells since we guarantee its Sharia-run government. This emphasizes even more the fact that no al Qaeda existed in Iraq before 9/11, and yet we went to war against Iraq based on the lie that it did. It has been charged by experts that Julian Assange, the internet publisher of this information, has committed a heinous crime, deserving prosecution for treason and execution, or even assassination.

But should we not at least ask how the U.S. government should prosecute an Australian citizen for treason for publishing U.S. secret information that he did not steal? And if WikiLeaks is to be prosecuted for publishing classified documents, why shouldn't the Washington Post, the New York Times, and others also published these documents be prosecuted? Actually, some in Congress are threatening this as well.

The New York Times, as a results of a Supreme Court ruling, was not found guilty in 1971 for the publication of the Pentagon Papers. Daniel Ellsberg never served a day in prison for his role in obtaining these secret documents. The Pentagon Papers were also inserted into the Congressional record by Senator Mike Gravel, with no charges of any kind being made of breaking any national security laws. Yet the release of this classified information was considered illegal by many, and those who lied us into the Vietnam war, and argued for its prolongation were outraged. But the truth gained from the Pentagon Papers revealed that lies were told about the Gulf of Tonkin attack. which perpetuated a sad and tragic episode in our history.

Just as with the Vietnam War, the Iraq War was based on lies. We were never threatened by weapons of mass destruction or al Qaeda in Iraq, though the attack on Iraq was based on this false information. Any information which challenges the official propaganda for the war in the Middle East is unwelcome by the administration and the supporters of these unnecessary wars. Few are interested in understanding the relationship of our foreign policy and our presence in the Middle East to the threat of terrorism. Revealing the real nature and goal of our presence in so many Muslim countries is a threat to our empire, and any revelation of this truth is highly resented by those in charge.

Questions to consider:

Number 1: Do the America People deserve know the truth regarding the ongoing wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen?

Number 2: Could a larger question be how can an army private access so much secret information?

Number 3: Why is the hostility mostly directed at Assange, the publisher, and not at our governments failure to protect classified information?

Number 4: Are we getting our moneys worth of the 80 Billion dollars per year spent on intelligence gathering?

Number 5: Which has resulted in the greatest number of deaths: lying us into war or Wikileaks revelations or the release of the Pentagon Papers?

Number 6: If Assange can be convicted of a crime for publishing information that he did not steal, what does this say about the future of the first amendment and the independence of the internet?

Number 7: Could it be that the real reason for the near universal attacks on Wikileaks is more about secretly maintaining a seriously flawed foreign policy of empire than it is about national security?

Number 8: Is there not a huge difference between releasing secret information to help the enemy in a time of declared war, which is treason, and the releasing of information to expose our government lies that promote secret wars, death and corruption?

Number 9: Was it not once considered patriotic to stand up to our government when it is wrong?

Thomas Jefferson had it right when he advised 'Let the eyes of vigilance never be closed.' I yield back the balance of my time.
I think all those freedom loving teabaggers, "principled" conseratives, and "elitist" liberals need to ask Paul's questions before they proceed with any action.  While I do not agree with Ron Paul on everything, I do agree with the comments he made on the House floor.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Big Government Approves Of Obama Compromise, Hopes For More

With news of the Obama-McConnell compromise on the Bush tax cuts and unemployment making its way around the media, Big Government had finally taken a stab at the story, praising the "small victory" and wishing for many more.  Vince Haley wrote the following:
The deal is an acknowledgment by the White House that in troubled economic times it is good for working people to keep more of their money to spur job creation. Mr. Obama recognized this connection when he announced the deal. “Make no mistake,” the President said yesterday, “allowing taxes to go up on all Americans would have raised taxes by $3,000 for a typical American family and that could cost our economy well over a million jobs.”

Let’s hope the President heeds this lesson about the link between lower taxes and job creation if and when the economy starts to improve and job creation recovers. If not increasing taxes is good in a bad economy, not raising taxes is also good in an improving economy. And if the President is really in the lesson learning frame of mind, he’ll soon come to understand that lowering taxes is even better for job creation.
I thought this was interesting.  Haley believes the deal was the White House admitting that lower taxes on everyone spurs economic growth.  While I don't think Big Government will cease to call Obama a socialist, I thought their view was a bit off.

As Haley notes in his post, the average American family would have seen their taxes increase by $3,000 had all the taxes expired and that raising taxes on the middle class (the average person) would subsequently cost the economy over a million jobs.  This has nothing to do with the wealthy getting tax breaks too - the middle class drives the economy.  They buy clothes, cars, homes, gadgets, and more.  With $3,000 extra in their pocket, these individuals could spend more.  Companies would have to adjust accordingly to meet the increased supply, meaning the hiring of new employees to manufacture the goods that the average American desires (job growth).  The owners of the companies don't lose out because they didn't get a tax break too - more customers purchasing their products equals more profits.

Of course Haley believes jobs are created by giving the rich more money and to make sure they keep that money to give to their born-rich children, they want to cap the estate tax so that the un-average American can accumulate even more wealth...

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

John McCain's DADT Argument Hypocritical When Considering His Primary and General Election Results

As you may know by now, the government has been grappling with the repeal of the military's "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy for some time now, with one particular politician receiving more press for his comments then others - John McCain.

McCain has made numerous public statements about the policy over the years, with each statement differing from the last, but his most recent comment is one that I thought to be very interesting, not because of the complete reversal from his comments a few months ago, but because his comments can relate to another contentious topic - the general election.

McCain had argued that he would change his opinions if the military leadership spoke up about the policy. When the military leadership did that, McCain then asked for a study. When the Pentagon conducted a study, McCain found something wrong with that as well.

“What I can say now, however, is that in addition to my concerns about what questions were not asked by this survey and considered in this report, I am troubled by the fact that this report only represents the input of 28 percent of the force who received the questionnaire.  That is only six percent of the force at large.  I find it hard to view that as a fully-representative sample set, but I am nonetheless weighing the contents of this report on their merits.  What appears clear at this time is that the survey and anecdotal data underlying this report do not lead to one unequivocal conclusion, which is no surprise considering the complex and difficult nature of this issue."
Now consider the election that we recently experienced that saw John McCain reelected - McCain won the GOP primary with around 57 percent of the vote, with turnout at 28.2 percent.  That means McCain won the primary with 16 percent of the Republican vote.  In the general election, McCain won with 59.3 percent of the vote.  With 68.9 percent voter registration and voter turnout at 59.8 percent, McCain won the general election with less then 25 percent of the vote of the entire electorate.

By McCain's own logic, we should not listen to him because the results of the election are not conclusive enough because every voter did not head to the polls.  I find it hard to view McCain's views as a fully representative sample set.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Obama Reaches Deal With GOP Over Tax Cuts

From a USA Today article:
President Obama just announced a tentative deal with Republicans on extending the sweeping tax cuts signed by President George W. Bush nearly a decade ago.

The deal extends all the tax cuts for two years, including those on upper-income Americans that Obama wanted to end. As a result, the debate over the tax cuts will have to be joined again during the 2012 presidential campaign.

Obama won a 13-month extension of unemployment insurance, a reduction in employee payroll taxes next year, and the continuation of a variety of tax credits aimed at lower- and middle-income Americans.

The payroll tax cut would save a worker with $40,000 in income $800 next year. For someone making $100,000, the tax break would be $2,000.

The payroll tax cut and unemployment insurance extension should provide at least $176 billion in economic stimulus next year, the White House said.

Republicans won a cut in the estate tax to 35% and a higher $5 million exemption on assets.
Here are the details of the deal:
  • Extends unemployment insurance for 13 months. Two million workers in December, and 7 million over the next year, would have lost benefits otherwise.
  • Provides a one-year, 2 percentage point reduction in employees' Social Security payroll taxes, lowering the rate from 6.2% to 4.2%, at a cost of $120 billion.
  • Keeps the Earned Income Tax Credit and American Opportunity Tax Credit increases from last year's economic stimulus law, for another $40 billion in tax cuts for families and students.
  • Allows businesses to write off 100% of their capital purchases next year.
  • Sets the estate tax at 35% for two years, with a $5 million exemption on assets that's higher than last year's $3.5 million. The rate came down under Bush's policy from 55% before 2001 to 45% in 2009 before expiring this year. It was set to return at 55% next year.
  • Protects millions of taxpayers from seeing their taxes raised in 2010 and 2011 under the Alternative Minimum Tax.
I think this is a bad idea.  While I find the aspects of the deal good, I believe it was bad politics - particularly for the Democrats.  Should the economy improve over the next two years, the Republicans can claim it was the extension of the tax cuts that helped.  If the economy doesn't do well, the Republicans could claim that the Democrats didn't go far enough - like their arguments in the past, by extending the tax cuts and not making them permanent, they could assert that the economy lagged because of uncertainty after the proposed expiration date.

The Democrats should have pushed for the middle class tax cuts and only the middle class tax cuts.  If the Republicans weren't willing to compromise, then the tax cuts in their entirity should have been allowed to expire and Democrats sould have attacked Republicans for their obstruction.  Democrats could have then taken full credit for the windfalls from the increased tax revenue over the next two years.

Newt Gingrich Wants Millionaires To Determine Tax Code... For Millionaires! Proposes Modern Day Serfdom...

The new GOP economic proposal...

On Fox News Sunday, Newt Gingrich proposed a new way to determine taxes in America - let the rich decide.  Ian Millhiser wrote the following for Think Progress:
Appearing on Fox News Sunday, disgraced former House Speaker Newt Gingrich proposed an odd method for determining how long to extend the Bush tax cuts for the very wealthy — ask the very wealthy how long they want them:
What Republicans ought to do is say to people who create jobs, how many years does the tax code need to be extended for you to make an investment decision? I mean, the goal’s not to have an annual extension of the current tax code, and then have every business in the country trapped saying, “I don’t know. I want to make a 20 year investment in a factory.” … There is a number, but I would have the business leadership of the country describe the number.
Yet, while Gingrich is perfectly happy to let the nation’s foxes decide what to do with the henhouse, he takes a very different view of how Congress should treat the most vulnerable Americans. In practically the same breath that he proposes giving a massive tax cut to Paris Hilton, he also suggests that “we change the entire [unemployment benefits] program into a worker training program and not give anybody money for doing nothing.”
Basically, Gingrich believes the wealthy should decide what their taxes should be while the poor and unemployed get zero say, all because Gingrich believes these people run America and have more worth then the average American.

Gingrich seems to forget that this is a representatative form of government and that elected officials represent people other then the nation's wealthiest.  Also, last time I checked, there are more unemployed Americans then millionaires.

Can you also believe Gingrich is considering a presidential run in 2012?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Republicans Have No Plan To Aid Unemployed, Work With Democrats

Gail Russell Chaddock wrote the following for The Christian Science Monitor:
Efforts in the Senate to extend the unemployment benefits were trapped in a procedural wrangle and never allowed on the floor for consideration. It fell to Sen. Scott Brown (R) of Massachusetts to object on behalf of the Republican Party to one proposed measure that required unanimous consent to move to the floor.

“We are in the midst of a historic economic crisis. I realize that,” he said. But to avoid ”burdening future generations,” the $56.4 billion measure must be offset with cuts elsewhere, he said. Senator Brown proposed tapping unspent federal dollars in other programs, such as the 2009 Obama stimulus plan.

Senator Reed objected, noting that the Republican plan to permanently extend the Bush tax cuts gives the wealthiest Americans a $700 billion tax cut that is also not offset – and, unlike the employment benefit, would not expire.

Senate Republicans stepped up the pressure on tax cuts this week by signing a letter pledging to block all legislation on the floor until Congress resolves how to fund government for the current fiscal year and extend the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts, now set to expire on Dec. 31. Senate Democrats want leverage to move legislation critical to their base on issues ranging from immigration and unionizing police and firefighters to compensation for people wounded in the 9/11 attacks.
Democrats should realize this is a trick - Republicans are the reason why these unemployment benefits have lapsed in the first place so why would they be willing to consider it once they get what they want, while simultaneously refusing to compromise on anything?

It is also interesting that the Republican's number one complaint about the unemployment extension is how to fund the benefits, yet when asked about how they plan on paying for the renewal of the Bush tax cuts, they feel their own rules don't apply to them.

I thought Annie Lowrey made an excellent point in her Slate article:
Actually, most economists—make that all economists—disagree with [Rep. John Shadegg]. Give an unemployed person a dollar, and she tends to spend it, because she needs to. (By definition, she has no other source of income.) Give a rich person a dollar via a tax break, she tends to save it. (By definition, she has a lot of other assets.) Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's, has found that $1 in unemployment benefits generates $1.61 in economic activity. (That's the second most-stimulative form of government spending, behind food stamps.) A dollar in tax cuts—not just to the rich, but to everyone—generates about 32 cents.

Sarah Palin Forced Daughter To Dance

If you thought the appearance of Bristol Palin on ABC's Dancing With The Stars seemed forced, then you would be correct - fellow contestant Margaret Cho stated on her blog that Bristol's mother, Sarah Palin, forced her daughter to dance on the television contest because she blamed her for her losses in the 2008 general election.
I heard from someone who really should know (really should seriously know the dirt really really) that the only reason Bristol was on the show was because Sarah Palin forced her to do it. Sarah supposedly blames Bristol harshly and openly (in the circles that I heard it from) for not winning the election, and so she told Bristol she "owed" it to her to do DWTS so that "America would fall in love with her again" and make it possible for Sarah Palin to run in 2012 with America behind her all the way. Instead of being supposedly "handicapped" by the presence of her teen mom daughter, now Bristol is going to be an "asset" - a celebrity beloved for her dancing. I am sure the show wasn't in on this (but who knows anything really).
If the booing of Palin when she appeared on the program was any indicator, America has not fallen in love with her again...

Republicans Potentially Aid Russia In Stockpiling Nukes, Destabilize Middle East With START Obstruction

Here is an excerpt from an article from The Telegraph:
The White House's Republican opponents threatened to block any effort to ratify the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) in the year-end "lame duck" session, drawing a warning from US Vice President Joe Biden.

"Failure to pass the New START Treaty this year would endanger our national security," said Mr Biden, who stressed "the time to act is now and we will continue to seek its approval by the Senate before the end of the year."

The agreement "is a fundamental part of our relationship with Russia, which has been critical to our ability to supply our troops in Afghanistan and to impose and enforce strong sanctions on the Iranian government," he said.
Here is an excerpt from a Politico article by Meredith Shiner:
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Russia will build up its nuclear arsenal if the United States reflects a "very dumb nature" and fails to ratify the START treaty signed by the two nations this year.

In an interview with CNN's Larry King airing Wednesday evening, Putin warned that without ratification of the bilateral pact that President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed last spring, Russia would have to arm itself against new threats.

The treaty to cut each country's deployed nuclear warheads to approximately 1,500 is currently stalled in the Senate, where Democratic leaders are trying to get the 67 votes required to approve it before the end of the month.

"That's not our choice. We don't want that to happen. But this is not a threat on our part," Putin said of building up Russia's nuclear forces. "We've been simply saying that this is what all of us expects to happen if we don't agree on a joint effort there.

"We have been told that you'll do it in order to secure you against the, let's say, Iranian nuclear threat," Putin added about "new threats" posed by American plans for a European-based weapons program to defend against the Middle Eastern nation. "But such a threat, as of now, doesn't exist."
Now put both of these excerpts together and you can see where this article is heading - with Republican opposition to the new START treaty, they are pretty much creating a new arms race, and Russia won't be the only nation increasing ballistic stockpiles.

Putin touched upon an interesting dilemma - with a new arms race, nations like Iran would feel threatened positioned in between two super powers with increasing amounts of weapons, and in response, they would undoubtedly attmept to increase their stockpiles.  This would of course places unnecessary stress on the entire region, and as we know from the newest Wikileaks release, many Middle Eastern countries are wary of a nuclear Iran. 

In essence, Republican obstruction is setting up a powder keg in the Middle East...

Monday, November 29, 2010

Sarah Palin Blames Obama For Wikileaks, Can't Get Her Facts Straight In Doing So

It seems that the Alaskan Claptrap, Sarah Palin, has decided to chime in on the newest release of classified documents by a Swedish-based website run by Australian Julian Assange - the website goes by the name "Wikileaks."

Using the worlds most sophisticated communication service, Twitter, Palin decided to send out the following message of disapproval to her fans: "Inexplicable: I recently won in court to stop my book 'America by Heart' from being leaked, but US Govt can't stop Wikileaks' treasonous act?"

Sarah Palin's dual claims are interesting. First, she claimed that she won a court battle involving the leak of her book, and second, she claimed that what Wikileaks did was "treasonous."

In regards to Palin's leaked book, HarperCollins, the publisher of Sarah Palin's book "America By Heart: Reflections on Family, Faith, and Flag," had reportedly settled with - the website that leaked several pages of Palin's book. While the terms of the settlement have not been disclosed at this time, Gawker editor Remy Stern commented on the settlement stating the leak probably bolstered Palin's book sales.

"[It] generated a good deal of press for Ms. Palin's book in advance of its publication . . . Now that the book is out and destined to appear on the best-seller list, we're pleased that HarperCollins proposed settling this case as is, thus avoiding lengthy litigation for both sides," Stern noted.

So, given the fact that HarperCollins, not Palin, settled with, it would appear Palin's claim that she single-handedly stopped her book from reaching the internet seems to be false.

Now onto Palin's second claim that Wikileaks committed a "treasonous act" by releasing the numerous documents.

In case you missed the first paragraph of this article, let me reiterate an important fact - Wikileaks is not American. The website is hosted in Sweden and it is run by an Australian. Unless Sweden and Australia are one of the 57 states Palin thanked in her retaliation against her North Korean gaffe, then it looks like Palin followed up her last gaffe with yet another bigger gaffe.

In addition to her twitter comments, Palin also took to her other preferred method of communication - Facebook. Palin released yet another note blasting the administration for failing to act after the first Wikileaks release and urging the government to pursue Wikileaks founder as a terrorist - a position top Republicans wish to do. Palin claims Assange is an "anti-American operative with blood on his hands," but she, nor any other critic of Wikileaks, have been able to prove any recent event stemmed from the first leak of information.

While designating Wikileaks a terrorist organization is an interesting way to deal with the embarrassment of diplomatic cables being released to the public, it is a far more dangerous action, then say, anything Glenn Beck claimed "communist" Obama has done or plans to do. The GOP could potentially label any group they disagree with as a "terrorist organization" and act with virtual immunity.

Palin pondered just what exactly America did to prevent these leaks from happening, raising a couple questions of her own.
What if any diplomatic pressure was brought to bear on NATO, EU, and other allies to disrupt Wikileaks’ technical infrastructure? Did we use all the cyber tools at our disposal to permanently dismantle Wikileaks? Were individuals working for Wikileaks on these document leaks investigated? Shouldn’t they at least have had their financial assets frozen just as we do to individuals who provide material support for terrorist organizations?
Does Palin even understand what she suggests?

NATO, or The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, is an intergovernmental military alliance (thank you Wikipedia) where member states agree to a mutual defense in respond to an attack from an outside party.  Did Wikileaks launch a military attack against America, and would Palin suggest NATO allies march troops into Sweden to take down Assange's servers?

Does Palin not realize that Sweden is militarily neutral?  Would she suggest action similar to that taken by Adolf Hitler during World War II?

"Let's invade Sweden!"
Let's go back to Palin's "treasonous acts" comment for a second. 

Wouldn't a person have to be a citizen of a nation first in order to commit a treasonous act against that nation, and if it was a treasonous act, then why would Palin want to involve foreign nations in the dealing of a domestic problem?  Why would NATO respond to an act of treason?  If that was the case, would Palin support foreign troops on American soil?

Palin also asks if individuals working for Wikileaks were investigated?  Investigated by who?  I think Sweden may be outside United States jurisdiction, or maybe Palin is trying to prolong the spirit of the Bush Doctrine - you know, that thing that was the subject of that "gotcha" question asked by Charlie Gibson, which involves such concepts as preventative war and the right for America to secure itself against countries that harbor or give aid to terrorist groups.  Being that Palin claims Julian Assange is an anti-American operative, would Palin argue America has the right to enter European countries that are complicit with Assange's actions, like say, hosting his websites or allowing Assange to take up residence?

Palin also wants the assets of anyone involved in this most recent leak frozen.  Being that she believes Assange committed a treasonous act, would she then afford these individuals the right to due process - the same due process the right wingers felt the federal government deprived computer pirates and counterfeiters of when they seized thousands of piracy websites?

Palin also seems to ignore legal precedent - Meena Hartenstein wrote the following for The New York Daily News:
Though it remains to be seen whether the government will pursue legal action against WikiLeaks, precedent indicates it's unlikely.

In September, the Congressional Research Service released a report concluding that, "leaks of classified information to the press have only rarely been punished as crimes, and we are aware of no case in which a publisher of information obtained through unauthorized disclosure by a government employee has been prosecuted for publishing it."
Maybe Palin's handlers should have spent a little more time teaching Palin some foreign policy because it appears she still doesn't have the capability of understand the intracacies of, well, anything...