Thursday, October 21, 2010

Tom Coburn - Fighting Earmarks One Democrat at a Time

An amendment sponsored by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Ok.) cleared the Senate in late June and would block $19 million in pending earmarks if it fully applied today. The measure, which still needs a House endorsement, appeared to send the message that Congress was finally following through on pledges to reign in the use of earmarks.

But the sheer volume of earmark requests by individual lawmakers for the 2011 fiscal year underscores questions about whether Congress intends to fulfill past vows to curb such spending. Draft appropriations legislation for homeland security contains tens of millions of dollars in other earmarks not addressed by Coburn’s proposal. Just seven of the total 100 homeland security earmarks disclosed by Congress carry the names of Republicans. The rest are being sponsored entirely by Democrats.

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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Haitian Blogger: Will Jean-Bertrand Aristide Apologize for Coup-napping?

The Haitian Blogger: Will Jean-Bertrand Aristide Apologize for Coup-napping?

The brief statement from Bush will say:

"Greetings, Jean-Bertrand, it's George Bush here... Jr. I just wanted to reach across the airwaves and the years and ask you to consider something. I would love you to consider an apology some time and some full explanation of why you did what you did with my Embassy goo-oo-n… personnel. Why didn't you have the sense to leave immediately? Why did you have to be "persuaded" to sign that resignation letter and get on that plane? So what, you weren't told where we were taking you and your family? Why didn't you just trust that the U.S. had your best interest at heart when we took you "back to Africa" as it were? After all, they do speak French in the Central Republic of Africa.

So give it some thought and certainly pray about this... ah I know you were ex-communicated by the Catholic Church for your political activism on behalf of the poor, but still do pray on it, won't ya? Do come to understand why you did what you did. OK, have a good day there in South Africa. Say hi to that guy who was on the terrorist watch list for most of my presidency… ah what's his name, Mande... ah something."

Senator Tom Coburn Responds to AP's Charges He's Holding Up Haiti Aid

Almost a month ago the Associated Press published the results of their investigation into the US Congress' failure to approve the release of aid to Haiti. Jonathan Katz and Martha Mendoza reported the $1.1 billion pledged by Secretary of State Clinton was being held up in the Senate by the junior senator from Oklahoma, Republican Tom Coburn (aka Dr. No). Katz and Mendoza seem to have got it wrong.

Twenty-two days later Coburn has written a response in the Washington Examiner to deny he is responsible and explain how if he were responsible he would be right. The column is a curious blend of pious concern for the federal deficit and a sort of pretend reasonableness designed to mislead the casual reader. Coburn’s reason for blocking the passage of the authorization bill? He’s not blocking the bill! It’s the State Department’s fault, and anyway, the US has already spent over 2 billion on relief for Haitians.

The crux of Coburn’s argument is NO NEW SPENDING. That’s right. The US government should authorize no new spending until…well, he doesn’t really make it clear. Coburn writes “…It is grossly irresponsible to for Congress to authorize or appropriate any new spending when we have a $13.6 trillion national debt that is strangling our economy.” Any new spending?

Coburn has a long list of wasteful projects Congress should cut before it authorizes any more expenditures - including fulfilling Clinton's promise. He offers two: cutting the funding of a Hawaiian think tank and eliminating the Overseas Private Investment Corp. funding. If this funding was cut Coburn would be perfectly happy to authorize the aid going to Haiti.

The bill Coburn is holding up is the $500 million dollar “Haiti Empowerment, Assistance, and Rebuilding Act” sponsored by Senator John Kerry. Coburn considers this bill, since it is not funded by cutting existing programs, to be “at the expense of the next generation”. This is the bill that will establish funding priorities for the next fiscal year.

“I do not object to fulfilling our pledge to assist Haiti recover. However, I believe our charity today should not come at the expense of the next generation. Therefore, any additional aid we provide must be paid for with cuts to lower priority programs elsewhere within the federal government’s bloated $3.7 trillion annual budget.”

Perhaps Senator Coburn would withdraw his objection if he was aware that the US occupation of Haiti and support for 35 years of brutal dictatorship had more to do with the state of Haiti than the earthquake.

Tom Coburn is playing politics with the people of Haiti in a shameless attempt to negate the entire concept of foreign aid and emergency assistance.
Today 19 human beings died from what is probably cholera in the Artibonite Valley in Haiti from tainted water, hundreds are sick, and 1.3 million Haitians are sleeping and going hungry in tents. I don’t care which bill you’re blocking, Mr. Coburn – you should be ashamed of yourself.

Bill Clinton Makes it Clear

Former US President Bill Clinton, one of the architects of the subsidies to US farmers - and who is now, paradoxically, the co-chair of Haiti's earthquake recovery Commission - is quoted by Oxfam as saying that the policy was "a mistake".
Continue reading the main story
Related stories

* Haiti: Aid effort six months on
* Quake-hit Haiti slowly rises from the rubble
* Worst of places for a big tremor

"It may have been good for some of my farmers in Arkansas, but it has not worked," said Mr Clinton, a frequent visitor to Haiti.

"I have to live every day with the consequences of the lost capacity to produce a rice crop in Haiti to feed those people, because of what I did."

The aid agency says the $434m (£274m) paid annually in domestic US rice subsidies is more than the total US aid to Haiti of $353m.

The Oxfam report said subsidies paid to American farmers meant the rice they export to Haiti - known locally as Riz Miami or "Miami Rice" - is cheaper than locally produced rice.

The foreign rice that is "dumped" in Haiti therefore exacerbates the rural-urban drift that has seen the population of the capital Port-au-Prince balloon out of control as farmers who cannot feed themselves move to the city in search of employment.

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The Infamous Koch Borthers continue their attack on democracy

"There is nothing to prevent Supreme Court justices from hanging out with people who have political philosophies," said Steven Lubet, a professor of law at Northwestern University who teaches courses on Legal Ethics.

But the Koch event appears more political than, say, the Aspen Ideas festival. In its own invitation, it was described as a "twice a year" gathering "to review strategies for combating the multitude of public policies that threaten to destroy America as we know it." In addition, it's not entirely clear what the two Justices did at the Koch event. A copy of the invitation that served as the basis for the Times's report was posted by the liberal blog Think Progress. It provided no additional clues. A call to the Supreme Court and an email to a Koch Industries spokesperson meanwhile were not immediately returned.

Faced with a lack of concrete information, and cognizant of Koch's fairly intense history of political involvement, legal ethicists are urging for more disclosure.

"This is certainly worth more reporting," said Stephen Gillers, a professor of law at New York University. "It is intriguing because the Koch brothers are so politically active and identify with a point of view. I know I would be curious to know exactly what forums the Justices went to. Obviously they could not go to a strategy session about how to elect more Republicans. On the other hand if it was a forum on the meaning of the First Amendment and it didn't involve strategy or fundraising a Justice could appear... It's fascinating and it merits more reporting."

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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Philosophical Underpinnings of O'Donnell's Viscious Anti-Gay Ideas

...In a series of similar essays stretching over decades, Jaffa's chief mode is using Lincoln or other founding fathers to further antigay arguments, charging in "the premier publication" of the institute's Center for the Study of Natural Law, that the same natural understanding of morality that declares slavery wrong, because of the natural understanding of shared humanity, also must declare homosexuality wrong, because of the natural understanding of differences between the sexes. If sodomy is not condemned as unnatural, Jaffa wrote in a 1993 debate over a book review, then nothing is unnatural, and nothing is wrong. The resulting slippery slope from accepting gay rights, he has argued in numerous articles and letters, would justify slavery, genocide, cannibalism and, predictably, the atrocities of Hitler and Stalin. Not one to shrink from bombastic analogies, in 1989 Jaffa contributed an article for the Claremont Colleges' weekly magazine, Collage, composed of an imagined conversation (modeled, he explained, on Thucydides) between Ted Bundy and a victim, wherein Bundy justifies murder and rape because other biblical sins, namely sodomy, were no longer condemned by society.

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Monday, October 4, 2010

Socialism or your house burns down!

Firefighters watch as home burns to the ground
Reporter - Jason Hibbs
Photojournalist - Mark Owen

OBION COUNTY, Tenn. - Imagine your home catches fire but the local fire department won't respond, then watches it burn. That's exactly what happened to a local family tonight.

A local neighborhood is furious after firefighters watched as an Obion County, Tennessee, home burned to the ground.

The homeowner, Gene Cranick, said he offered to pay whatever it would take for firefighters to put out the flames, but was told it was too late. They wouldn't do anything to stop his house from burning.

Each year, Obion County residents must pay $75 if they want fire protection from the city of South Fulton. But the Cranicks did not pay.

The mayor said if homeowners don't pay, they're out of luck.

This fire went on for hours because garden hoses just wouldn't put it out. It wasn't until that fire spread to a neighbor's property, that anyone would respond.

Turns out, the neighbor had paid the fee.

"I thought they'd come out and put it out, even if you hadn't paid your $75, but I was wrong," said Gene Cranick.

Because of that, not much is left of Cranick's house.

They called 911 several times, and initially the South Fulton Fire Department would not come.

The Cranicks told 9-1-1 they would pay firefighters, whatever the cost, to stop the fire before it spread to their house.

"When I called I told them that. My grandson had already called there and he thought that when I got here I could get something done, I couldn't," Paulette Cranick.

It was only when a neighbor's field caught fire, a neighbor who had paid the county fire service fee, that the department responded. Gene Cranick asked the fire chief to make an exception and save his home, the chief wouldn't.

We asked him why.

He wouldn't talk to us and called police to have us escorted off the property. Police never came but firefighters quickly left the scene. Meanwhile, the Cranick home continued to burn.

We asked the mayor of South Fulton if the chief could have made an exception.

"Anybody that's not in the city of South Fulton, it's a service we offer, either they accept it or they don't," Mayor David Crocker said.

Friends and neighbors said it's a cruel and dangerous city policy but the Cranicks don't blame the firefighters themselves. They blame the people in charge.

"They're doing their job," Paulette Cranick said of the firefighters. "They're doing what they are told to do. It's not their fault."

To give you an idea of just how intense the feelings got in this situation, soon after the fire department returned to the station, the Obion County Sheriff's Department said someone went there and assaulted one of the firefighters.

Watch the video

That *is* a beautiful dream!


The Very Useful Idiocy of Christine O’Donnell


While O’Donnell’s résumé has proved largely fictional, one crucial biographical plotline is true: She has had trouble finding a job, holding on to a home and paying her taxes. In this, at least, she is like many Americans in the Great Recession, including the angry claque that found its voice in the Tea Party. For a G.O.P. that is even more in thrall to big money than the Democrats, she couldn’t be a more perfect decoy.

By latching on to O’Donnell’s growing presence, the Rove-Boehner-McConnell establishment can claim it represents struggling middle-class Tea Partiers rather than Wall Street potentates and corporate titans. O’Donnell’s value is the same as that other useful idiot, Michael Steele, who remains at the Republican National Committee only because he can wave the banner of “diversity” over a virtually all-white party that alternately demonizes African-Americans, Latinos, gays and Muslims.

O’Donnell is particularly needed now because most of the other Republican Tea Party standard-bearers lack genuine antigovernment or proletarian cred. Joe Miller and Ken Buck, the Senate candidates in Alaska and Colorado, actually are graduates of elite universities like those O’Donnell lied about attending. Rick Scott, the populist running for governor in Florida, was chief executive of a health care corporation that scooped up so many Medicare and Medicaid payments it had to settle charges for defrauding taxpayers. Rand Paul, the scion of a congressman, is an ophthalmologist whose calls for spending restraint don’t extend to his own Medicare income. Carl Paladino, the truculent man of the people in New York, grew his fortune as a developer with government handouts and favors. His California bookend, Carly Fiorina, received a golden parachute worth as much as $42 million from Hewlett-Packard, where she liquidated some 20,000 jobs.

The O’Donnell template, by sharp contrast, is Palin. It was Palin’s endorsement that put O’Donnell on the map, and it’s Palin’s script that O’Donnell is assiduously following. The once obscure governor of Alaska was also tripped up by lies and gaffes when she emerged on the national stage, starting with her misrepresentation of her supposed opposition to “the bridge to nowhere.” But she quickly wove the attacks into a brilliant cloak of martyrdom that positioned her as a fierce small-town opponent of the coasts’ pointy-head elites. O’Donnell, like Palin, knows that attacks by those elites, including conservative grandees, only backfire and enhance her image as a feisty defender of the aggrieved and resentful Joe Plumbers in “real America.”

The more O’Donnell is vilified, the bigger the star she becomes, and the more she can reinforce the Tea Party’s preferred narrative as “a spontaneous and quite anarchic movement” (in the recent words of the pundit Charles Krauthammer) populated only by everyday folk upset by big government and the deficit. This airbrushed take has had a surprisingly long life even in some of the nonpartisan press. In a typical example just three weeks ago, the influential publication National Journal delivered a breathless report on how the Tea Party functions as a “headless” movement where “no one gives orders.” To prove the point, a head of the headless Tea Party Patriots vouched that “75 percent of the group’s funding comes from small donations, $20 or less.”

In fact, local chapters of Tea Party Patriots routinely received early training and support from FreedomWorks, the moneyed libertarian outfit run by the former Republican House majority leader and corporate lobbyist Dick Armey. FreedomWorks is itself a spinoff from Citizens for a Sound Economy, a pseudo-grassroots group whose links to the billionaire Koch brothers were traced by Jane Mayer in her blockbuster August exposé in The New Yorker. Last week the same Tea Party Patriots leader who bragged to the National Journal about all those small donations announced a $1 million gift from a man she would identify only as an entrepreneur. The donor’s hidden identity speaks even louder than the size of the check. As long as we don’t know who he is, we won’t know what orders he’s giving either.

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Sunday, October 3, 2010

Sound familiar, Vancouver?

It has been more than 1 1/2 years since the skeletal remains of 11 women were discovered buried in shallow graves on a mesa in Albuquerque, N.M. Some of the victims' families say police and the media haven't paid enough attention to the killings.

A local protest band called the Raging Grannies headlined a demonstration on a recent Saturday morning in front of police headquarters in downtown Albuquerque.

Brightly colored women's dresses tied to pink crosses fluttered above the 80 or so people who showed up. Demonstrators called for police to step up their investigation into who killed nearly a dozen women in the city.

"What p - - - - - me off the most is apathy," said Donna Roe, director of a local youth advocacy organization. "It's killing the people we love, the people I've worked with."

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