Monday, May 31, 2010

Israel Attacks Aid Ship To Gaza

From an article by Amy Teibel and Tia Goldenberg:
Israeli commandos on Monday stormed six ships carrying hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists on an aid mission to the blockaded Gaza Strip, killing at least 10 people and wounding dozens after encountering unexpected resistance as the forces boarded the vessels.

The operation in international waters off the Gaza coast was a nightmare scenario for Israel that looked certain to further damage its international standing, strain already tense relations with Turkey — the unofficial sponsor of the mission — and draw unwanted attention to Gaza's plight.
This is definitely not good.  I am sure Israel believes they are justfied in their actions, but in my opinion, their entire blockade should be lifted.  While this aid vessel probably knew their was a blockade by the Israeli government, and even though they attacked the boarding soldiers, I think the fact that this was an aid ship will be damaging and counterproductive to international efforts involving Israel and Palestine, as well as their surrounding neighbors. 

I'm sure people like Michele Bachmann think this is a blessing from God...

Sunday, May 30, 2010

James O'Keefe Cries That His Videos (Obtained While Fraudulently Representing Himself) Were Deleted

Reported by Andrew Breitbart's website, the conservative activist who plead guilty to entering a federal building under false pretenses, cried that when his possessions were returned to him, the video taken on his cellular phone had been deleted.
A spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office said Saturday that U.S. Magistrate Daniel Knowles III ordered the footage removed. O’Keefe made the claim Friday in a posting on his Twitter social networking site.
Why would O'Keefe even bother to make a seemingly innocuous comment on his Twitter account unless it was to feed into the paranoia that surrounds his every move. Taking a page from Glenn Beck's play book, O'Keefe makes it sound as if the government was doing something wrong in deleting the video he obtained while illegally entering the office of a U.S. Senator to do god knows what.

The O'Keefe fan club is buying into this propaganda too!

Commenters at Big Government and have already come out against the government, calling the orders of Knowles to be criminal, destroying evidence that can prove their pimp was innocent.  Apparently they believe O'Keefe should have never been arrested in the first place because he was a journalist doing a story and that his actions were protected by the 1st Amendment.  I just wanted to point out that on O'Keefe's Twitter, he fails to mention that he is a conservative activist, giving the appearance that everything he does is not biased.  Why is this important?

Last year I reported on an article James O'Keefe wrote for New Guard Magazine, in which he proclaimed "conservative activists need to be their own media, and use their independent media to obtain their goals," which is exactly what he has been doing all along.  He uses his conservative channels to publish his work and then he and his cohorts go around pushing their stories as legitimate.  When the real journalists would then do their work, investigating O'Keefe, he would turn into the victim and his attack dogs like Breitbart and Beck will go out for the kill.  In O'Keefe's mind, he has never done anything wrong. 

"To my knowledge there was nothing in our videos that constituted a violation," wrote O'Keefe.  "We were more likely targeted due to our message, considering that there are millions of other videos that break copyright laws or contain sexual or violent material that are ignored."

He plays ignorance, claims to be the victim, and then points to others around him as proof that he is the one being attacked.  O'Keefe likes to argue that liberals are constantly waging an ideological war using Saul Alinsky's tactics, but it seems that he is the one using such tactics, and his followers either don't realize that they are being fooled, or they choose to ignore O'Keefe's propaganda because they see it as a "means to an end." 

I for one am glad that the videos were deleted, because O'Keefe would have surely edited them to advance his agenda, and considering his track record, they definitely would not have represented what actually had gone on in those offices.  I am also curious as to whether they had additional information on those phones that while damning were not enough to charge O'Keefe with any other crimes.

Think of how it sounds when you put things into perspective - James O'Keefe is upset that videos he created while committing a crime were deleted.

Michele Bachmann Believes Helping Israel Brings Blessings From God, Quotes John Adams.

Andy Birkey wrote this article for The Minnesota Independent back in February, but I thought there was something of interest that I would like to share.  Michele Bachmann delivered a speech at a Republican Jewish Coalition event in Los Angeles, in which she stated that she believed any nation that helps Israel would avoid being cursed from God.
I am convinced in my heart and in my mind that if the United States fails to stand with Israel, that is the end of the United States . . . [W]e have to show that we are inextricably entwined, that as a nation we have been blessed because of our relationship with Israel, and if we reject Israel, then there is a curse that comes into play. And my husband and I are both Christians, and we believe very strongly the verse from Genesis [Genesis 12:3], we believe very strongly that nations also receive blessings as they bless Israel. It is a strong and beautiful principle.
While I thought this statement was troubling, it was Bachmann said next which I found most interesting - she quoted a founding father, John Adams, from a not he had written to François Adriaan van der Kemp in 1809.

Bachmann read the note to her audience:
I will insist that the Hebrews have done more to civilize men than any other nation. If I were an atheist, and believed in blind eternal fate, I should still believe that fate had ordained the Jews to be the most essential instrument for civilizing the nations. If I were an atheist of the other sect, who believe or pretend to believe that all is ordered by chance, I should believe that chance had ordered the Jews to preserve and propagate to all mankind the doctrine of a supreme, intelligent, wise, almighty sovereign of the universe, which I believe to be the great essential principle of all morality, and consequently of all civilization.
Bachmann points to a founding father and his faith, as mentioned in a letter, to support her argument that America should stand by Israel no matter what.  First I would like to mention that at that point in time, Israel was not even in existence, and the land was part of the Ottoman Empire until the early 20th century, so one could argue that Adams support would have only been for the people, not the country. 

The second point I wanted to make was the fact that Bachmann points to a letter from John Adams to support her claim that America should stand by Israel at all costs, but I am reminded of another letter from a founding father that the teabag right refuses to accept as proof of the founding father's intentions - a letter sent by Thomas Jeffferson in a letter to the Danbury Baptists in 1802.

In the Danbury Baptist letter, Thomas Jefferson penned the now famous "wall of separation" line that conservatives acknowledge as not being part of the constitution, and therefore inadmissible.  According to the likes of Glenn Beck, progressives are the ones who have tried to build such wall.

"Progressives have built up this wall of separation between church and state and it's nonsense. It is not what we were founded on. We were found on ten little safety tips that nobody can even put in any public building anymore or dare we utter them. Let's take down that fictional wall. It never existed. It was to protect the churches. Save the republic..." Beck had told his audience last year - those "ten little safety tips" Beck refers to are the Ten Commandments, not the Bill of Rights.  Sounds like Beck wants America to return to it's alleged religious roots.

Let's take a look at that letter Jefferson wrote:
To messers. Nehemiah Dodge, Ephraim Robbins, & Stephen S. Nelson, a committee of the Danbury Baptist association in the state of Connecticut.


The affectionate sentiments of esteem and approbation which you are so good as to express towards me, on behalf of the Danbury Baptist association, give me the highest satisfaction. my duties dictate a faithful and zealous pursuit of the interests of my constituents, & in proportion as they are persuaded of my fidelity to those duties, the discharge of them becomes more and more pleasing.

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between Church & State. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.

I reciprocate your kind prayers for the protection & blessing of the common father and creator of man, and tender you for yourselves & your religious association, assurances of my high respect & esteem.

Th Jefferson
Jan. 1. 1802.
Why is it that these teabaggers like to cherry pick their history to advance their agenda, especially when such facts can be easily obtained?  The hypocrisy amazes me...

What Goes Around Comes Around - Republican Mark Kirk Misstates Military Record

From an article by R. Jeffrey Smith at The Washington Post:
The Republican candidate for President Obama's old Senate seat inaccurately claimed to have received the U.S. Navy's Intelligence Officer of the Year award for service during NATO's conflict with Serbia in the late 1990s.

Rep. Mark Kirk, a Navy reservist elected to Congress in 2001, acknowledged the error in his official biography after The Washington Post began looking into whether he had received the prestigious award, which is given by top Navy officials to a single individual annually. The Post's inquiries were sparked by complaints from a representative of state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, Kirk's Democratic opponent in the Illinois Senate race.

Kirk, an Appropriations Committee member, changed his Web site last week to incorporate a different account of the award. Kirk wrote on his blog that "upon a recent review of my records, I found that an award listed in my official biography was misidentified" and that the award he had intended to list was given to his entire unit.

A professional group, the National Military Intelligence Association, gave Kirk's unit -- based in Aviano, Italy -- an award for outstanding service in 2000. The association's Vice Admiral Rufus L. Taylor Award celebrates "the exceptional achievements of an outstanding Naval Intelligence career professional," but the citation does not mention Kirk and instead designates the entire Intelligence Division Electronic Attack Wing at Aviano.
"Upon a recent review of my records, I found that an award listed in my official biography was misidentified as 'Intelligence Officer of the Year.' In fact ... I was the recipient of the Rufus Taylor Intelligence Unit of the Year award for outstanding support provided during Operation Allied Force," Kirk clarified.

This story was very interesting to me because conservatives made such a big deal about Attorney General Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut misstating his service in Vietnam, giving the impression that he served overseas during his time in the military. The folks at Big Government immediately went on the attack, seeing his error as a boon for Republican candidate and wrestling impresario Linda McMahon, but it so happens Blumenthal is still leading in the polls 56%-31%.

Now that the shoe is on the other foot, I wonder what the right-wing media would have to say about this?

It seems that the media is much more forgiving with Kirk then they were with Blumenthal, with most calling it a misunderstanding, pointing out that the error was brought to attention by representatives of his Democratic candidate Alexi Giannoulias. Kirk even made similar misstatements like Blumenthal, stating at a Congressional budget hearing on March 13, 2002 that he "was the Navy’s intelligence officer of the year in 1998."

Two weeks ago, according to pollsters at Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, the Kirk-Giannouulias race was a tie, and from what I've read, it is still a tight race, but this revelation regarding Kirk's military award could level the playing field, especially since there are some doubts lingering regarding the Blumenthal thing...

Saturday, May 29, 2010

House Repeals DADT! Will Senate Follow?

From an article by Huma Khan and Z. Byron Wolf at ABC News:
The House of Representatives voted by a 234-194 margin late Thursday to repeal the controversial "don't ask, don't tell" policy toward gays in the military.
A vote to repeal the ban on gays serving in the military is on the horizon.

President Obama said in a statement that he was "pleased" by the House vote.

"This legislation will help make our Armed Forces even stronger and more inclusive by allowing gay and lesbian soldiers to serve honestly and with integrity," the president said.
The vote was rather close, in my opinion, and I think the Senate's vote may be even closer, but I think this result may do some good, applying pressure to those sitting on the fence. While some may hide behind claims that they are waiting on the top brass to approve, this recent vote shows a shift in public opinion - the people want this gone, and now it is time for the elected representatives to act.

Big Government Proud Their Prodigal Son O'Keefe Plead Guilty, FL Attorney Fired For Tea Party Involvmenet

This article is a double header, beginning with Big Government's take on the "innocence" of James O'Keefe and then closing with a bit about a Florida state prosecutor fired for speaking at Tea Party events.

Conservative activist James O'Keefe had plead guilty to charges that they entered a government office under false pretenses but his employer, Andrew Breitbart and his site Big Government, are already putting a spin on this activists case, celebrating the fact that he did not commit a felony, only a misdemeanor.  Patrick Frey posted an article vindicating the guilty O'Keefe by citing a document showing that the government admitted that O'Keefe did not tamper with Senator Landrieu's telecommunications systems.

I didn't realize that committing a crime was worthy of hero worship, but apparently the folks at Big Government are short of reputable idols.  Some of the responses to Frey's article are appalling, with commenters advocating the violation of the law if it is for a greater good - a greater good that is self-defined, of course.  The lone critic to Frey's article was faced with some of that famed Big Government flaming I reported on:

Gotta love those intellectual debates over at the propaganda headquarters.  Scrolling down the comments section, I found some more idiotic complaints from the teabag right, like this one I felt worth mentioning because it involved Florida politics and the tea party:

The particular instance Individualist is referring to the firing of Prosecutor KrisAnne Hall by State Attorney Skip Jarvis over voicing opinions at Tea Party events while assistant counsel for the state.

“You can’t take a job advocating for the state and go out and take a position against the state,” Jarvis said. “I advised her from my first learning of her activity that she was free to say and do whatever she desired within the law, but she could not do so while assistant counsel for the state.”

Individualist immediately tried to politicize this firing, but as Jarvis points out, and as this reader agrees, the firing was that of an employer firing an employee over a conflict of interest.  How can citizens be confident they would be represented by Hall equally if she takes positions held by a fringe conservative group?  While Hall's speeches are heavy on referencing the founding fathers and the Constitution, there is some troublesome citations, like her use of Sun Tzu to defend the Tea Parties, simultaneously attacking those who oppose the group, i.e. the Democrats.
Sun Tzu says in his Art of War, “Know thine enemy as thyself.” We must always remember that our enemies are not people or parties, but the freedom-destroying principles that they espouse.  We must inform ourselves on the principles of progressivism, socialism, communism; and the mechanisms these philosophies use such as redistribution of wealth, centralization of power, progressive taxation, and restrictions on free speech.    Once we are informed on these principles we will then recognize them.  And we must oppose them regardless of the party or personality attempting to employ them.
Notice the hot words Hall uses in her speech?  She uses pretty much every right-wing talking point in the book - talking points used to describe Democrats.  No wonder she got fired!  She is out there referring to citizens of the State of Florida as the enemy.  Conservatives seemingly ignore these details, seeing choice phrases about the Constitution as proof that Hall was wrongfully fired.

What made Individualist's comment stand out was not really what he/she said, but what Sirpigsalot1 said regarding the Attorney General of Florida, believing that this firing was politically motivated, so therefore the Attorney General must be a Democrat, but as it so happens, the AG, Bill McCollum, is a card-carrying Republican.  In fact, he was the same state AG that filed a lawsuit against the federal government over health care.

What gets me is that the comment left by this person is similar to the schlock that passes as news on the site itself, not just the un-moderated comments prone to flaming.  It is is very disheartening...

Update - May 29th, 2010, 6:58 am - It looks like some more of that conservative brand of flaming.  I got two comments attacking myself, as well as this site.

On the plus side, it looks like Big government is making good on their word - the comment by Sirpigsalot1 against Huskerslovebo was "deleted by the administrator," and in only five hours, too! 

Unfortunately they still don't moderate the comments.  It seems they permit it until someone complains...

Also, check out the comment by Sirpigsalot1, pondering "whose words [I] plagiarized" to write this blog - sounds like a comment John Smithson would make.  I guess the initial response from these Big Government sheep is to try to discredit their critic with insults and baseless comments...

As long as they continue to allow their users to act in this imature way, The Midnight Review will keep the fire to Big Government's feet, reporting every comment that violates their terms of use.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Gary Coleman Is Dead

Dennis McLellan wrote for The Los Angeles Times:
Gary Coleman, who soared to fame in the late 1970s as the child star of the hit sitcom "Diff'rent Strokes" and whose post-TV-series life included a stint as a shopping mall security guard and an unlikely run for California governor, died Friday. He was 42.

The diminutive Coleman, whose adult height was 4 feet 8 inches, died at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center in Provo after suffering a brain hemorrhage earlier this week, according to a statement from hospital spokeswoman Janet Frank.
I figured as tribute I would illustrate an obligatory "St. Peter's Gate" cartoon for the actor, whom I had fond memories of watching on television as I grew up.

Rest in peace, Gary...

"Mosque" In Manhattan

There has been a lot of uproar from conservatives over a proposed Muslim community center in Manhattan to be built two blocks away from Ground Zero.  Many conservatives have found the proposal of this mosque to be insensitive to those who died in the September 11th attacks nine years ago, but in my opinion, I do not see anything wrong with the building.

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf spoke out about his building in the New York Daily News, stating that the mosque was not intended to be a divisive structure.
The project has been mischaracterized, so I want to explain clearly what it would be. Our planned 13-story community center is intended for Park Place between Church St. and West Broadway. It is not a mosque, although it will include a space for Muslim prayer services. It will have a swimming pool, basketball court, meeting rooms, a 500-seat auditorium, banquet facilities and many other things a community needs to be healthy. The center will offer theatrical programming, art exhibitions and cooking classes. These are amenities missing now from this part of the city.

And, yes, the center will have a public memorial to the victims of 9/11 as well as a meditation room where all will be welcome for quiet reflection. The center will support soul and body.

The center will be open to all regardless of religion. Like a YMCA, the 92nd St. Y or the Jewish Community Center uptown, it will admit everyone. It will be a center for all New Yorkers.

What grieves me most is the false reporting that leads some families of 9/11 victims to think this project somehow is designed by Muslims to gloat over the attack.

That could not be further from the truth.
Critics can't seem to differentiate between those who perpetrated the acts of terrorism against this nation and the faith that those people shared with many Americans, including some that were killed nine years ago.  Muslims have worked hard, fought, and died for this country, and to attack their faith on the actions of a few is wrong.  Where is the protection afforded to the minority of the population?  Wasn't this country founded on majority rule with respect for the minority?

I also wanted to point out that while Rauf stated the building was not a mosque, according to Google Maps, there is a mosque four blocks away from Ground Zero - two blocks farther then the proposed Muslim center.  If the opinions of some are against the construction of this YMCA-type building, I wonder what their opinions are towards other Muslim structures in the city.  Using the same logic as the critics of the building, I suppose there should be a moratorium put into place on Christian buildings proposed in the vicinity of abortion clinics, or any building that embodies a cause Christians have murdered over for that matter...

Glenn Beck Attacks Obama's Daughter On Air

From an article by Jason Linkins at The Huffington Post:
So, call me crazy, but I'm beginning to think that Fox News infotainer Glenn Beck's principles lack some internal moral consistency.

See, a couple of days ago, Beck interviewed sometime-Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, and he took what appeared to be a principled stand on the matter of how people should treat the families of public figures. Speaking with Palin, Beck decried the tactic: "Leave my family, leave people's families alone...When it was Bill Clinton, you don't go after Chelsea Clinton. You don't talk about the Bush kids. Now, the minute they get into politics, that's a different story. You leave the families alone."

Now, Beck's stand here was rooted in the belief that Sarah Palin's new neighbor, journalist Joe McGinnis, moved in next door to her with the intention of being a danger to Palin's children. That is, as they say, some horsedung. Nevertheless, I can definitely get on board with the whole "leave the families alone" idea. Glenn Beck has had a long time to reflect upon that time he mocked a woman's miscarriage because her husband committed the terrible crime of being the host of a rival morning show in the same market as Beck. Maybe he felt bad about that! But whatever the reason, decrying the practice of criticizing the families of public figures is, at the root, very laudable.

Here's the thing, though: Beck was only able to abide by those principles for a few hours. On this morning's broadcast of his radio show, he chucked all of that out the window and went on an extended jag of mocking Malia Obama, who had the temerity to get herself caught up in the news cycle...

So, to revise the central tenets of Beck's "leave the families alone" credo, people should only criticize the children of public figures of people whom Glenn Beck doesn't like, including the ones who are stillborn.
This is a perfect example illustrating the lack of Glenn Beck's principles and his full-blown hypocrisy.  I hope the president calls him out and tells this scum to leave his kids alone.  What would Beck do then, cower into his paranoid delusional state and claim the administration is out to get him?

America's Entry Into World War I The Original "Bush Doctrine?"

Master historian Glenn Beck is at it again, this time rewriting the historical events that led up to America's entry into World War I.  According to Glenn Beck, President Woodrow Wilson's initial opposition to war was some sort of progressive ploy to get him reelected because shortly after his inauguration, America declared war Germany, which Beck also asserts was more our ally then Britain and France.
I hate this S.O.B., and the more you learn about this guy, the more you will too. This is the most evil guy I think we've had in office. 1916, Woodrow Wilson won re-election in part -- large part due to a commitment to keep America from entering World War I. One of the campaign slogans boasted, "He kept us out of war." There was a very strong anti-war sentiment in America at the time. Americans -- if Americans favored a side, they would have gone with the Germans, because Germans were the largest ethnic group in America at the time. Most people weren't paying attention; the Germans were. OK. So on the eve of asking Congress to declare war on Germany -- yeah, remember, he ran I'm not going to get us into war -- it was a month later -- I've got to give you the exact date, because this is amazing: 1916, he was running for election. 1917, his inaugural address, March 4, 1917, he said we're going to pursue peace and even though we have been injured by the effects of war, we're not going into war. That was March 4, 1917. April 13, 1917, America goes to war.
By Beck's logic, because there Germans consisted of the largest ethnic group in America, we didn't want to go to war.  I think that same logic put Japanese-Americans into internment camps during World War II.

Matt Gertz at Media Matters for America did an excellent job pointing out one gigantic flaw in Beck's revisionist statement - his omission of the the Zimmermann telegram.

While Beck stated Wilson had ignored American's desire to remain neutral during the war, he purposefully leaves out an important historical fact that would have swayed public opinion against the Germans.  The Zimmermann telegram offered Mexico American territory, and indicate that war with America was imminent.

When the vote on war came to Congress, it passed 82-6 in the Senate and 373-50 in the House.  Clearly a majority of American elected officials believed it was in the best interest of the nation to go to war.

If you think about it, America's entry into World War I could be considered the original "Bush Doctrine," preemptively striking an enemy before they have the chance to do us harm.

I also wanted to point out that in the years leading up to the war, the Democrats were opposed to conflict and were even threatened by things like the Preparedness movement, which made apparent the challenges America would face preventing an invasion, pointing out that the War Department had "no plans, no equipment, little training, no reserves, a laughable National Guard, and a wholly inadequate organization for war"

Glenn Beck's convenient rewrite of history may sound like a nice story to tell his fans but his lies are flat out dangerous and are potentially damaging to this nation.  I find it problematic that many people find Beck's programs to be informative and factual.  These people are obviously being duped...

White House Councel Memorandum Regarding The Review Of Discussions Relating To Congressman Sestak

Posted on the White House's website was a memorandum from White House Counsel Robert F. Bauer regarding the allegations of bribery coming from conservatives against the administration and their possible involvement in Congressman Sestak's campaign.  Bauer had found that there were no improper communications between the candidate and the administration and that all discussions that were held were "fully consistent with the relevant law and ethical requirements."

The Tea Parties Are No Ross Perot...

There was an interesting article written by Mark Sumner at the Daily Kos last year shortly after the debut of the Tea Parties.  In his article, Sumner referenced the third-party run of Ross Perot in the nineties, where Perot captured the lead in the national polls before dropping out, but eventually reentering the race taking home an impressive 18%. 

Sumner's comparisons at the time are interesting because as the year moved on, the Tea Party evolved into more then just some third-party happening, developing into a supplementary Republican party.  The two parties developed a symbiotic relationship - the Tea Party consists of the GOP base but lacks no national organization and the Republicans, fearing the loss of a major voting bloc, cater to the Tea Party for votes and money.  The problem is that the Tea Party is constantly being redefined by it's ringleaders such as Glenn Beck, with each conservative adding to the party platform, but it seems the Tea Party has no desire to become a third party, instead, they seem to want to rewrite the GOP platform into what they believe it once was and should be.

Sumner quoted a statement Ross Perot made about the constitution, and I can't help but imagine what would happen if these words were uttered today, particularly at a Tea Party rally:
Keep in mind our Constitution predates the Industrial Revolution. Our founders did not know about electricity, the train, telephones, radio, television, automobiles, airplanes, rockets, nuclear weapons, satellites, or space exploration. There's a lot they didn't know about. It would be interesting to see what kind of document they'd draft today. Just keeping it frozen in time won't hack it.  
I am certain people like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh will cry that this is nothing more then progressive revisionism, and then go on to how they can utilize their special decoder rings to decipher the true meanings of the founding fathers and how it applies to today, but Perot was correct - the founding fathers had no clue as to what the future would bring, and to ignore the thought that the constitution is a living and breathing document would be irresponsible.

The Tea Parties are definitely not like Ross Perot's campaign.  For instance, the percentage of adherents to the far-right philosophy of the Tea Party has not gatheredhas not topped those of the establishment, and for good reason too - it does not represent the majority.  The Tea Party is only getting the amount of coverage from the media because of the "Spiral of Silence" that surrounds their existence.  The majority, either out of fear of upsetting the small group or out of respect for minority rights, has decided to hold back criticisms of the fringe - this may also be due to the fact that conservative media organizations like Fox News and Andrew Breitbart's bevy of Big sites devote entirely way too much time to the groups and attack all those who don't.  The Tea Parties in turn have exploited this vacuum of criticism by claiming to represent the majority.

Lather... rinse... repeat...

Does The Palin's Fence Violate Wasilla Municipal Code?

I'm sure everybody is familiar with Sarah Palin's new neighbor by now, after all, Sarah had publicly attacked the tenant, author Joe McGinnis, as being some sort of pervert who will peer into her daughter's bedroom and watch her children swim in Lake Lucille. McGinnis, an investigative reporter, is writing a book about the former half-term governor and celebrity entertainer Sarah Palin, and was approached by Palin's own neighbor to rent the house, according to McGinnis' son.
[I]f you were writing a biography of Tiger Woods and had the chance to move in with him, or his pool house, or rent next door or down the street from him -- it would be journalistic malpractice not to. As a writer, you go where the story is, get as close as you can to it. People who write about politics, campaigns, they travel with the candidates, stay in the same motels, ride the bus, eat breakfast, hang out any and everywhere they can to get access. It's pretty basic. We want to read the work of someone who is as close to their subject as possible. That's called reporting. And when it's for a book about someone, all the more important to be close....

He's not stalking or peeping or peering or meddling. He's simply fulfilling his obligations to his publisher and his readers and himself -- to get as close to the subject of his book as possible. You'll never see tabloid photos or depictions of backyard activities. He's a professional writer with great integrity and an amazing sense of fairness.
Palin, being a journalism major, should understand this, but she doesn't, resorting to juvenile attacks. Why would she insinuate that the author would peer into his little girl's bedroom? As Palingates had detailed, Sarah Palin has shown a history of sexualizing her daughters for publicity.

Remember what happened when David Letterman made a joke?
Letterman referred to Palin, Alaska's governor, as having the style of a "slutty flight attendant." The "Late Show" host also took a shot Palin's daughter, while poking fun at the Yankees' third baseman.

“One awkward moment for Sarah Palin at the Yankee game," Letterman said, "during the seventh inning, her daughter was knocked up by Alex Rodriguez.”

But an even more disturbing fact, which Letterman may not have known, was that the daughter who accompanied Palin on her trip to New York was 14-year-old Willow—not 18-year-old Bristol, the unwed mother of Palin's first grandchild. Now, many critics—including the Palins themselves—are slamming Letterman for jokes that they say make light of sexual abuse of an underage girl.
The Palin's came out swinging, attacking Letterman for making a joke about their daughter getting raped by a Yankee.

In regards to their new neighbor, Palin had also gone on the attack against the owner of the property, telling Fox pal Glenn Beck that she tried to contact the owner "all winter long" to try and either buy or rent the home "for fear of something like this happening." Now the owner of the property is a villain?

Palin's next step was to build a fence... a really tall fence to keep the peering eyes of McGinnis off her property. I was wondering how the Palins were able to quickly build?

According to the City of Wasilla, there is no requirement to obtain a building permit but the city does have landscaping standards, which details the use of fences.


Essentially, the law permits the construction of a fence, a berm, or a fence on a berm.  Wasilla's municipal codes specifically state that "to ensure privacy between buildings of different heights, tree plantings may be required to make their fence more effective."  The Palin's did not do that.  They simply built an extra large fence.  Pictures of the structure appear that the Palin's just built a taller fence on their existing one.  The code doesn't state anything about building a fence on a fence.

Their fence also seems to violate the purpose of the code.  While the purpose explains that the code was designed "provide attractive and functional... screening between uses," and the Palin's fence is between two residential properties, it is an eyesore and is definitely not inviting to visitors or tourists, like McGinnis.

I am also curious if Sarah Palin's newest addition to her property will affect her property taxes, but don't expect the Palin's to go running to the accessor, after all, they didn't when they built a house-sized cabin on their property.  Records show that the former half-term governor hasn't paid any taxes on those dwellings, and her excuse - her lawyer Thomas Van Flein said it is not Palin's responsibility to report what is built on her property.

Dave Dunivan, the assessor for the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, begs to differ, stating that it is the required by state law for the owner to report any errors in their tax assessment, which Palin had not done.  Dunivan stated that homeowners are quick to point out errors that increase their taxes but frequently omit information if it benefits them.  The fact that Palin's tax assessment omitted the cabins was an error that required her to correct it.

While Palin's fence isn't anything like a cabin in the woods, it will surely impact the value of both her home as well as her neighbor's.  I wonder if she thought about that before she decided to start her feud with McGinnis.

The big question here is whether or not the Palin's fence is a violation of Wasilla code.  What do you think?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Conservative Activist James O'Keefe Pleads Guilty

From a Campbell Robertson article for The New York Times:
The conservative provocateur James O’Keefe and three other men pleaded guilty in federal court on Wednesday to a misdemeanor in a scheme in which they posed as telephone repairmen in Senator Mary L. Landrieu’s New Orleans office.

Magistrate Daniel Knowles III, who cited the defendants’ potential as investigative journalists though he was critical of this incident, sentenced Mr. O’Keefe, 25, to three years of probation, 100 hours of community service and a $1,500 fine. As Mr. O’Keefe was considered the ringleader, his fellow defendants, Joseph Basel, Stan Dai and Robert Flanagan, were given lesser sentences of two years of probation, 75 hours of community service and $1,500 fines.

On Jan. 25, two of the men entered the office of Ms. Landrieu, a Democrat, pretending to be telephone repairmen, one of them wearing a hidden video camera on his hard hat. Mr. O’Keefe was also in the office pretending to wait for a friend, but secretly recording the interaction, and another man was waiting outside. All four were arrested and eventually charged with entering federal property under false pretenses, a misdemeanor. The charge carries a maximum term of six months in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Mr. O’Keefe has said they were in the office because of reports that Ms. Landrieu’s constituents had trouble reaching her office during the health care debate, though a spokesman for the senator said that her voice mail and that of several other senators were jammed at the time by an unusually high volume of calls.

Mr. O’Keefe, whom the judge described as “extremely talented,” gained fame for secretly recording conversations with workers for Acorn, the community organizing group. In at least one video, Acorn workers advised a conservative activist who was posing as a prostitute how to conceal her criminal activities in the course of trying to buy a house. The heavily edited videos severely damaged Acorn’s reputation.
I am glad to see this piece of scum plead guilty to his crimes, but will he ever admit to his wrongdoings to his conservative backers? I'm sure that O'Keefe will take an Orwellian approach to his plea and subsequently claim vindication, much like his fellow conservative celebrity know-nothing, Sarah Palin.

The only thing that bothers me is that O'Keefe did not get a harsher sentence, and I am interested in why the judge referred to the amateur political activist and filmmaker as "extremely talented." For a judge to make such a statement would give the appearance that the ruling was biased - I will surely be looking into O'Keefe's case for further details, but for now I will settle for his guilty plea. Let us just hope that the media continues to run with this story, putting O'Keefe and his cohorts on the defensive...

Big Government made little mention of the plea, keeping their report short and to the point, but indicated that O'Keefe planned on conducting more undercover operations.
Conservative activist James O’Keefe has told a judge he regretted his attempt to surreptitiously film Sen. Mary Landrieu’s office, but said after the hearing he planned more undercover investigations…
Looks like the court's slap on the wrist didn't really do much to curb this activist's penchant for potentially illegal activities - maybe O'Keefe will pick up a law book before he picks up a video camera again, but I highly doubt it. O'Keefe's brand of investigative journalism involves playing ignorant to the law while simultaneously pretending to be the victim of some vast liberal conspiracy.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Spiral Of Silence And The Tea Party Minority

I was recently reading about the political science and mass communication theory propounded by the German political scientist Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann called "The Spiral Of Silence."

According to Wikipedia, here are the crucial points to the theory:
  1. People have a fear of being rejected by those in their social environment, which is called “fear of isolation.”
  2. People are constantly observing the behaviors of those around them, and seeing which gain approval and disapproval from society.
  3. People unconsciously issue their own threats of isolation by showing signals of approval or disapproval.
  4. Threats of isolation are avoided by a person’s tendency to refrain from making a statement about something they think might attract objections.
  5. People are more willing to publicly state things that they believe will be accepted positively.
  6. The spiral effect begins because when people speak out confidently, the opposition feels a greater sense of fear of isolation and is further convinced to stay silent, since they are in the minority. The feelings continue to grow in either direction exponentially.
  7. A strong moral component is necessary for the issue to activate the spiral.
  8. If there is a social consensus, the spiral will not be activated. There must be two opposing forces.
  9. The mass media has a strong influence on this process.
  10. Fear and threat of isolation are subconscious processes.
  11. The spiral of silence only “holds a sway” over the public for a limited time.
  12. If a topic activates the spiral of silence, this means that the issue is a great threat to social cohesion.
According to the theory, members of a society can sense when certain minority views gain in popularity.  The majority in turn becomes reluctant to express opinions critical of the minority-held view while the minority become emboldened and more vocal about their positions.  This cycle creates the illusion that the view of the minority is held by the majority of the populace, pushing the majority view further into the background of the imaginary popular position, creating an artificial majority.

The cycle breaks when general consensus is met, and a perfect example in politics that illustrates this fact would be the presidential campaigns of Ross Perot in the nineties, bringing the national debt to the political forefront.  The majority parties were quick to integrate this issue into their political platforms, ending the cycle.

This theory, when discussing the complete spiral, reminds me of the Tea Party movement and the constant promotion by conservatives claiming their views represent a majority of the nation, despite figures that reveal a minority of the population adhere to or support the Tea Party platform.

Looking back at the beginning of the Tea Parties, they were nothing more then disorganized protests located randomly across America, but with increased pressure from politically connected media outlets like Fox News, more positive coverage began to emerge, presenting the Tea Parties as a populist movement representing the will of the nation, not a political fringe dissatisfied with the establishment and then re-branded to appeal to more mainstream conservatives.

The "movement" was born last February during a rant by CNBC's Rick Santelli, attacking the administration's home loan modification programs, claiming that it was "time for another tea party."  Shortly after, anti-tax events were established by conservative organizations nationwide, going by a collective identifier - Tea Parties.  This is where we can start to see the spiral take shape.  Conservatives argued that their events lacked coverage, but that was proven false by Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR):
A nice round-up from TVNewser of the evening newscasts. Will conservatives ever catch a break from the left-wing media?
How The Evening Newscasts Covered the Tea Parties
NBC Nightly News led with two stories on tax day. Lee Cowan reported on the tea parties while Savannah Guthrie reported on the White House message of middle-class tax cuts. In his open, Brian Williams said the tea parties were "organized on the Internet and by some cable TV personalities."
ABC's World News made it the third story. First a soundbite from President Obama and a Dan Harris story on the tea parties which were "cheered on by Fox News and talk radio," Harris explained. The Charles Gibson broadcast led with two stories on the pirate attacks--Jim Sciutto in Kenya with the crew of the Maersk Alabama and David Muir with a story on the attack of another U.S. ship.
CBS Evening News led with tax day--a soundbite from President Obama, a live picture of a rally in Arlington, Texas and a tea party story from Dean Reynolds. Reynolds referenced "a fistful of rightward leaning websites and commentators...embraced the cause," while showing Neil Cavuto and Glenn Beck at two different rallies.
While there was coverage of the events by news organizations other then right-leaning corporations, conservatives continued to vocalize their opinions, claiming the liberal-biased news outlets were enforcing a blackout of the conservative protests.  The mainstream media fell into silence, accepting the right-wing narrative, and then increasing their coverage, avoiding criticism of the minority-led protests.

The perceived popularity of the Tea Parties pushed the majority into silence while emboldening the right, which helps explain the anger that erupted at last summer's town hall meetings.

Were the angry citizens at the town hall meetings representative of only a small minority of the population?

As the illusion that public support increased for the Tea Parties, the minority position grew beyond what initially stemmed from a dissatisfaction with taxes, adopting various other issues that conservatives backed, such as an opposition to health care reform.  The Tea Parties framed their cause as a moral one, claiming to be the defenders of American morality and spirituality - consider Glenn Beck's assertion that America is a Christian nation and that "social justice" is not indicative of the religious tenants this nation was supposedly founded upon.  The mass media involved themselves in the process every step of the way, pushing conservative propaganda for fear of upsetting the balance, further continuing the spiral of silence.

The last two crucial points are perhaps the most important.  While we could only hope that the effect of the Tea Parties are temporary, the fact of the matter is that they had already activated the spiral of silence, and it looks as if their assault on America's social cohesion is not going to end anytime soon.  Just consider the references to civil war made by popular Tea Party-revered pundits like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck.

Hopefully the majority will break their silence and end this vicious cycle before it is too late...

George Harris On "Gotcha" Journalism And If It Is Fair

If you pay any attention to conservatives, a growing trend is to avoid what they call the "mainstream media," because of a belief that their questions are biased, intended to elicit a specific response to make the answerer look unfavorable. This is what people like Sarah Palin call "gotcha" journalism.

I came across this article on Midwest Voices by George Harris that made an interesting point. Harris points to various journalistic events and asks if the questions asked would be considered "gotcha" questions. "What is an unfair question," asks Harris.
Was it a gotcha question when presidential candidate Michael Dukakis was asked how he’d react if his wife Kitty were raped, and he sounded like a robot. Was it a gotcha question when vice-presidential candidate Dan Quayle was asked what he would do first in the event he became president, and he looked like a deer in the headlights praying the truck wouldn't run him over?

Would it be a gotcha question if Maddow had asked Dr. Rand Paul, an opthamologist, if he thought the government was meddling by requiring medical doctors to be licensed? I mean, shouldn’t everybody with means to buy laser be entitled to perform eye surgeries without some government busybody interfering?

Many so-called “gotcha” questions have an agenda, an underlying belief. They are not neutral, information seeking questions. Maddow clearly believes that civil rights protections are a good thing and that Rand Paul’s libertarian philosophy would harm minorities. Maddow sought to expose Paul's belief, and what's wrong with that?

Katy Couric apparently believed that Sarah Palin wasn’t very well read and that presidents should be well informed, so she asked Palin about her reading habits.

So we know that Sarah Palin doesn't read much. She'd better read the next book she's writing; it'll be embarrassing when she can't answer a question about what she wrote. And The Dan Quayle and Michael Dukakis gotcha questions, I think, revealed important information about the candidates.

For my money, in these days when candidates hide as much as possible from tough interviews, every opportunity to ask tough questions is good. The interviews I dislike are the ones that don’t allow the subject time to answer. The Chris Matthews show Hardball often has this problem. Bill O'Reilly's interviews are often Bill lecturing on his positions. He's such a bully that nobody brings up his sordid sexual harassment history anymore, which amazes me.

But generally I think politicians shouldn’t whine about journalists who ask probing, even biased questions.
Harris' statements are well put. While the person answering these questions may feel they are getting put on the spot and are at an unfair advantage, their responses, or avoidance of the media, can tell a lot. We found out that Palin doesn't read and Dan Quayle never thought more about his role as vice-president. I only wish Harris would have mentioned Palin's interview with Charlie Gibson, where Gibson asked probing but important questions of the candidate, which Palin later labeled as "gotcha" questions - I never realized the question "What do you think of the Bush Doctrine?" was nothing more then a trick...

The McCain campaign tucked Palin away from all the tough network questioning, believing interviews to be unimportant, despite the fact that the two of them were running for the top elected position in the nation.  Americans had a right to know where the candidate stood on her positions.

“She's a smart, tough politician,” Biden told Tom Brokaw in a “Meet the Press” interview live from Wilmington, Del. “So I think she's going to be formidable. Eventually, she's going to have to sit in front of you like I'm doing and have done. Eventually, she's going to have to answer questions and not be sequestered. Eventually, she's going to have to answer on the record.”

Now that Palin went on the record, and made it known that she has no clue as to what she is talking about, she has shied away from interviews unless they are with her corporate masters, Fox News, or at speaking engagements where she bans the media from attending...

I think it is best for candidates to answer these questions honestly. Rand Paul made a statement, and then backed off, making him look duplicitous and unprincipled - like Palin. Candidates need to answer questions and explain their positions instead of trying to play it safe all the time, or in Palin's case, refusing to even come out to play...

John Smithson States Obama Being Used By The "White Man"

John Smithson had denied being a racist when asked by myself if he viewed African-Americans to be his equals, but then there are articles like the one he wrote today, where Smithson states that the president, whom he called a "dummy wannabe intellectual," is being used by the "Marxist White Man," later writing that Obama is doing the bidding of his white "masters."

According to Smithson, the welfare system has destroyed the "Black family," doing nothing more then subsidize their drug addictions.  Smithson argues that the health care reform bill, and this new financial reform bill, are a return to the supposed welfare state of 30 years ago.

Seeing that Smithson places the blame on Obama, I thought it would be interesting to look at the figures during other presidencies.  Here are a couple graphs, depicting the percentage of Americans on welfare since 1960:

While welfare recipients rose slightly during the Democratic administrations of the sixties, as soon as a Republican took office, the numbers jumped.  They fell slightly under President Carter, and remained rather steady during the Reagan administration, but check out the steep drop under President Clinton!

How about Smithson's assertion that black people used welfare to fund their drug habits?  According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy's 2006 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, illicit drug use by African-Americans was 9.8% while whites were at 8.5% - not too much of a difference there.

I guess white people's drug use isn't related to welfare, or maybe African-Americans get that 1.4% boost from their benefits checks.  It is interesting that conservative activists like to paint Obama as some sort of dunce, despite the fact that he graduated Magna Cum Laude from the Harvard Law School.  These same people were adamnt in defending President Bush, who was mostly a "C" student at Yale.  Go figure...

Update - May27th, 2010 - In response to this article, John Smithson mentioned he did not recall telling this website he was not a racist.  Smithson responded on an April 20th article stating so:

MMfA Traffic Versus Big Government Traffic: Who Keeps An Open Mind?

I had discovered an interesting statistic for this site, which most likely would hold true for pretty much any other site out there.  The Midnight Review gets a lot of traffic from a lot of different sources, but I wanted to compare two particular sources of visitors - Media Matters for America (MMfA) and Andrew Breitbart's Big Government.

I wanted to focus on these two sites for one reason - they seem to be internet rivals (Big Government more so then MMfA).  While MMfA fact checks conservative media, Big Government just smears, making unlimited biased and wrong comments.  I spend some time commenting on both sites and I get plenty of referrals from both.  I also write many articles that reference the two sites.  I would have to say that the similarities stop there.

After conducting some research into my own site, I had discovered that visitors from Media Matters, on average, spend almost twelve times as long on this site then visitors from Big Government and visit almost twice as many pages.

In the past month, visitors from MMfA spend an average of 4:37 on this site, viewing 1.97 pages, while visitors from Big Government spend an average of 0:35 on this site, viewing 1.32 pages.  

What does that mean exactly?

Essentially, MMfA traffic seem more willingly to accept new information.  Big Government traffic on the other hand prefers to stay within their own social network.

According to William H. Flanigan and Nancy H. Zingale in their book "Political Behavior of the American Electorate," in a simplified view of the transmission of political information, information is transmitted from the "opinion elites," or the leaders in society such as politicians, organizational leaders, or news commentators, to "opinion leaders," which would be the minority of the public.  The "opinion leaders" then spread the word to the remainder of the public - like one big game of telephone.  Flanigan and Zingale's book was written before the prevalence of the internet, and they briefly touch up on the internet as a player in the delivery of information.
The Internet as a news source is a recent development with interesting characteristics.  Providing almost unlimited access to information, it requires the consumer actively to seek it out, more than newspapers and magazines that arrive on the doorstep or in the mail.  It also offers opportunities to "talk back" or comment on the news and to be put in touch with other like-minded people.  There are few obvious "gatekeepers" on the Internet and the issues of the reliability and credibility of information are largely left to the user to determine.  The opportunities for "whispering campaigns" of rumor and misinformation are awesome.
The right-wing has conditioned their followers to avoid all media outside their control, and this is evident in Breitbart's sites.  Anything beyond the right-wing network of media is considered liberal and biased, and therefore should be avoided, leaving the conservative "opinion elites" in charge of the transmission of information.
Most members of the public probably do receive information from the mass media in the context of their social groups.  Thus, they filter the information and interpretations of the media through not only their own perceptions, experiences, and existing attitudes but also those of people around them.  Only when the media have the attention of most members of the audience and a virtual monopoly over the kinds of information received by a public that few existing attitudes about the subject can the media produce anything like a uniform change in public attitudes.
This is exactly what Big Government's readers are doing.  They come to this site, look at the content without reading, forming a snap judgement, and then leave, while MMfA readers read the content of the Midnight Review articles before continuing.

This is very interesting, and I suggest any blog left of the fringe check their stats.  More likely then not, their findings will mirror my own...

Classified Military Information Leaked Grants Conservative's Their Wish, Right-Wing Still Upset

Mark Mazetti wrote an article for The New York Times revealing classified information detailing the increase in clandestine activities in the Middle East, approved by General David H. Petreaus.
The top American commander in the Middle East has ordered a broad expansion of clandestine military activity in an effort to disrupt militant groups or counter threats in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and other countries in the region, according to defense officials and military documents.

The secret directive, signed in September by Gen. David H. Petraeus, authorizes the sending of American Special Operations troops to both friendly and hostile nations in the Middle East, Central Asia and the Horn of Africa to gather intelligence and build ties with local forces. Officials said the order also permits reconnaissance that could pave the way for possible military strikes in Iran if tensions over its nuclear ambitions escalate.
You would think that conservatives would be happy to learn that the administration is actually taking action in the region, especially in countries like Iran or Yemen, which have played a prominent role in conservative foreign policy talks regarding things such as nuclear proliferation and the radicalization of Islam.  Iran has been playing this twisted game of cat-and-mouse with their supposed peaceful nuclear ambitions and Yemen popped up on the map again after the botched Christmas Day attack planned by Al Qaeda leaders in Yemen and carried out by Abdul Farouk Umar Abdulmutallab in Detroit.

What was the general response from the right?


Cassy Fiano from Hot Air's The Greenroom had a lot to say, calling for the author of the article to be investigated and prosecuted alongside the person who leaked the information.
Makes you think of this: if the NY Times was around in 1776. Pretty accurate.

Here’s a question: why does the NY Times get away with this time and time again? It happens over and over again and they’re never held accountable. Will the Obama White House investigate and punish those responsible for this story? Fat chance. Now that this has been leaked, liberals are wailing and gnashing their teeth at the horror of it all. What an outrage! We’ll know who our enemies are, what they’re doing, and we’ll be better prepared to deal with them.

Gee, you’d think they didn’t want us to win this war or something.

The worst part of this is that now, Iran will be emboldened to further avoid sanctions and go further towards becoming the most dangerous regime on the planet. Plans like this only weaken our efforts in the Middle East while strengthening the intelligence of our enemies. This is treasonous behavior. That’s why this information needed to remain secret. This being published could very easily lead to deaths of our soldiers.

But of course, the NY Times doesn’t care about that, do they?

Whoever leaked this knew it was classified, as did the New York Times. Both should be prosecuted.
Media Matters for America detailed an op-ed rant written by Ralph Peters from The New York Post, blasting The New York Times and questioning if the entire leak was orchestrated by the administration.  Peters' sentiments are shared throughout the right-wing community, but isn't it exactly what they have been wishing for - military action against countries like Iran, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, or really any other predominantly Muslim nation out there that they believe poses a risk to America?

I will have to say that I agree with the right on one matter - the classified information should not have been leaked, because now that it is out there, it may undermine American activities in the region.

I wanted to point out one more thing.  Fiano wrote that with this leaked information, "Iran will be emboldened to further avoid sanctions and go further towards becoming the most dangerous regime on the planet."  I think that Iran may be emboldened more with the recent revelation that Israel is a nuclear power, as this article by Chris McGreal points out for The Guardian that documents have been uncovered revealing how Isreal offered to sell nuclear arms to the apartheid regime in South Africa, but I am sure conservatives will place all the blame on The New York Times piece. Did I forget to mention that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is crazy?

I suspect that since this leaked information proves that the administration is not solely depending on diplomacy to get the job done, right-wing chicken-hawks will turn down the criticisms of the president, or am I mistaken?

A Look Into Arizona's Future - U.S. Citizen Detained By Immigration Authorities

From an article by Alex Perez and B.J. Lutz from a NBC Chicago report:
A Chicago man who spent the weekend in jail and faced deportation on suspicion he is in the country illegally said what happened to him illustrates the need for America to change the way it deals with immigration.

Eduardo Caraballo said his self-described nightmare began last week when he was arrested in connection with a stolen car case. He maintains his innocence and says the car case is still being investigated, but says the real problems began when his mother posted his bail Friday.

Instead of being released, he was told by authorities that Immigration and Customs Enforcement was detaining him because he was an illegal immigrant.

"That's crazy. Because I was born in Puerto Rico. I never knew that Puerto Rico wasn't part of the United States," the 32-year-old said Monday.

Caraballo said he repeatedly told officers that he was born in Puerto Rico and therefore an American citizen. His mother also presented his birth certificate, but despite that and his state-issued ID, officials told him he was facing deportation.

"I'm pretty sure they know that Puerto Ricans are citizens, but just because of the way I look -- I have Mexican features -- they pretty much assumed that my papers were fake," he said. "They were making me feel like I can't voice my opinion or I can't even speak for myself to let them know that I am a citizen."

He says officers asked him specific questions about the Caribbean island that he could not answer, mostly because he moved to the mainland when he was 8 months old and has only been back to Puerto Rico once since birth.

Almost three days later, and after his mother contacted Rep. Luis Gutierrez's office, immigration officials released Caraballo at about 2 p.m. Monday.
"You know what this proves to you? That in Arizona, they want everybody to be able to prove they're legally in the country. They want everybody to prove that they're an American citizen. Here we had an American citizen, that the federal government, not state authorities, but the federal government, with all their technology and all their information capacity that they have, could not determine, for more than three days, his status as an American citizen. It's very, very, very dangerous ground to tread," said Rep. Gutierrez.

This story is a perfect example why the Arizona law is flawed.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

MySpace And Toyota Music Contest May Steal Your Songs... Forever!

I was on MySpace earlier when I noticed there was a contest requiring entrants to submit original music for the chance to win a record deal. I was intrigued so I started entering the contest, choosing one of my most recent songs to be my entry when I got to the final submission page, where there were a couple buttons that required checking before continuing. Those buttons stated that I, the entrant, understood the official rules and that I was aware that my personal information would be shared with the contest's sponsors. This prompted me to actually read the official rules.

According to the rules, by submitting a song to the contest, I would grant pretty much everybody involved with the contest rights over my song, as well as anything I do in relation to the song.
In consideration of a Submission being reviewed and evaluated for this Contest, each Entrant hereby grants to the Sponsors, Presenting Sponsor, Administrator, Chipin Inc., dba Sprout (“Sponsors and their Designees”) the non-exclusive irrevocable, fully paid, universal license to use, copy, sublicense, transmit, distribute, publicly perform, publish, delete or display such Submission, or any portion thereof, including to the extent applicable (a) any information, biographical data, and material (e.g., the “Creative File”) submitted by Entrant in connection with the Contest; and (b) all video, audio, photographs, text, graphics, statements, any other creative materials, and quotations of or by Entrant and furnished by Entrant as part of this Contest (the “Material”) included in and/or submitted by Entrant in connection with the Contest), in any media now known or hereafter devised including, but not limited to all forms of electronic media, print media and all forms of internet and wireless protocol.
This alarmed me and after reading this, I had changed my mind about submitting my song, for I felt that my property rights were more important then the promise of some recording contract.  I had decided to read on and became even more disgusted with the official rules.
Each Entrant authorizes the Sponsors and their Designees to utilize, for eternity and in any manner they see fit, the Submission provided for the Contest, and to make derivative works from such materials solely in connection with the Contest (i.e., without limitation, to create promotional materials).
Not only does the contest grants the Sponsors and their Designees the authority of the Entrant's property, it grants them this power "for eternity."  The contest also releases the "Contest Entities," as well as their assigns and licensees, "from any and all claims or liability (now known or hereafter arising)."

If you ask me, the "Contest Entities" got a great scam - they get thousands of artists and musicians to submit their work, doling out only a couple top prizes, while retaining the rights to the remainder of the submissions, giving them a catalog of numerous original independent songs at their disposal.

This artist will have to pass...

Fox News Edits Obama's West Point Speech, Eliminates Applause

Here is a video of Fox News airing the speech given by President Obama, editing out the applause he received from the graduating cadets:

Compare this video to the official video:

I am certain that some conservatives will deny Fox's wrongdoing, and I am sure that there will be others who make the argument that the White House edited in applause, but I highly doubt that a bunch of cadets are going to not applaud their commander in chief...

Sarah Palin Defends Republican Candidate Accused Of Cheating, Commits Act Of Hypocrisy

South Carolina gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley has made some headlines the past several days, first with a Sarah Palin endorsement and then allegations of having an affair with a former employee and conservative blogger, Will Folks.  Folks' statements have gotten conservatives all wound up, attacking his credibility by referencing a five year old criminal charge of domestic violence, pointing to past blog posts he wrote about women to make Folks out to be a misogynist, and even speculating why Folks had quit Haley's campaign in the first place.  Conservatives have also decided to play semantics, pointing out that Folks had stated he had an "inappropriate physical relationship," not a sexual one.

Here is what Folks had written:
Within the last forty-eight hours several pieces of information which purportedly document a prior physical relationship between myself and Rep. Haley have begun to be leaked slowly, piece by piece, to members of the mainstream media. I am told that at least one story based upon this information will be published this week.

I refuse to play that game. I refuse to have someone hold the political equivalent of a switch-blade in front of my face and just sit there and watch as they cut me to pieces.
The truth in this case is what it is.  Several years ago, prior to my marriage, I had an inappropriate physical relationship with Nikki.
John Hudson of the Atlantic Wire asks the question if this is a "smear" or a "scandal," giving brief looks into the options.  While Hudson references Palin's unwavering defense, he also cites David Kurtz at Talking Points Memo, who states Haley's defense isn't that strong, Michael Brendan Dougherty at The American Conservative, who believes the allegations are probably true, Cheves Lignon at Frum Forum, who ponders who exactly Folks is, and Jon Bershad at Mediaite, who believes it is time to wait for the story to unfold before making judgments.

Sarah Palin attacked the conservative blogger for mentioning the affair but refusing to discuss it any further.

"Well, whaddya know? South Carolina's conservative candidate, Nikki Haley, recently zipped to the front of the line in her state's race for governor; and lo and behold, now accusations of an affair surface," Palin wrote. "Nikki categorically denies the accusation that was spewed out there by a political blogger who has the gall to throw the stone, but then quickly duck and hide and proclaim he would not comment further on the issue. Quite convenient."

Funny that this statement would come from Sarah Palin, who routinely ducks the press, avoiding unscripted moments. How hypocritical of Simple Sarah.

People like Palin seem to be doubling down on Haley, attacking the credibility of Folks, bringing up his domestic violence charge or referencing the non-political content of his website, but why should anybody trust a woman who was found to have abused her power as governor, and then subsequently denied any wrongdoing?

Dougherty had some interesting commentary on the matter. Dougherty confirms Folks' claims that other media outlets were working on this story before he came out with his own statement, but doesn't address whether or not the claim is true or not, he points out that the rumor has been floating out there for a year now, and makes an interesting observation:
If this turns out to be true, and I think it will, the affair will be a black mark not only on Haley’s promising campaign, but on Jenny Sanford who is about to launch a book-tour, and Sarah Palin who seems determined to go to the mat for Haley. Unless I’m mistaken it would also be one of the first great adultery scandals for a female politician in the United States.
It seems that some of Haley's biggest supporters have something to gain from defending her.

If that wasn't enough, Erick Erickson decided to weigh in on the matter, claiming that "hot women do not have affairs with ugly guys unless those guys are rich."  He also goes on to claim that Folks is an adulterer, despite the affair supposedly occurring before Folks was married, and that the rumor only begun after Palin's endorsement, despite being out there for a year, with others working on the story before Palin's support.  Another big clue as to why Erickson thinks the accusation is false - Haley "categorically" denies it.

Of course Haley would deny having an affair with Folks - she is running for election!

I am in the camp of people who would prefer to wait before making an opinion, but I wouldn't put it past a Republican to have an affair.  I must also ask the question as to why a conservative blogger and supporter of Haley make such an accusation? 

Here is one last quote from Sarah Palin's facebook:
South Carolina: don’t let some blogger make any accusation against your Nikki if the guy doesn’t even have the guts or the integrity to speak further on such a significant claim. And don’t believe anything a liberal rag claims or suggests unless the reporter involved has the integrity and the facts to report to you so you can make up your own mind. For traditional media to rely on an accusation via some blog entry is almost laughable, but I know the seriousness of it because that’s exactly what my family and colleagues have had to put up with, every single day, for the past couple of years.
Comparatively, is this like taking Sarah Palin seriously for things she knows nothing about, like the oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, where Palin made accusations that political contributions from British Petroleum were the cause for a slow response to the disaster.  It turns out Palin's statements were false.  British Petroleum didn't donate to Obama's presidential campaign, and as the White House had pointed out on their blog, the administration was there immediately after the explosion on April 20th

Maybe Palin would like to answer for the $125,000 cash her family had collected from the oil industry.

As a side note, I think that maybe it is time for coastal states that have offshore drilling to establish some sort of Permanent Fund Dividend like Alaska.