Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Oil Contracts Lubricate Iraqi Pullout, We Cry For You, Argentina...

David Brooks
Dana Milbank
Jesse Jackson
Fareed Zakaria

American troops are pulling out of Iraqi cities, the Iraqi's are celebrating this as a victory against an occupying aggressor, and as icing on the celebration cake they are bombing and blowing up more of their fellow countrymen. I hope this tradition doesn't follow our soldiers home, I'd hate to have to blow up my neighbors next Fourth of July, those thieving bastards... 

As American influence begins to diminish, the Iraqi's are also trying to manage handling the  contracts of their oil fields, with varying degrees of success,as reported in the NY Times: "Iraq's long-awaited licensing round to develop some of its massive oil reserves has run into trouble as international oil and gas companies rejected all but one deal, demanding more money for their efforts than the government was willing to pay.

Following Tuesday's initial bids, of the six oil and two gas fields on offer, Iraq had only struck a deal with a BP-led consortium for Rumaila, the largest oil field available. Bids on the others came in far above the maximum fee the government was willing to pay for every extra barrel of oil produced. But as the auction closed, Iraq's oil ministry said it had received seven revised bids from oil companies, not made public, which have been sent to the cabinet for consideration."
Every major player in the world is trying to rip off those naive Iraqis, and the choosing of the contracts were televised and treated like we do the NBA draft...

A little over a year ago Russia had a short-lived war with Georgia over the Georgian states of South Ossetia and Abkazia. Russia had been helping their economy by building storage facilities, an air force base, and in return the two states declared their independence from Georgia. Russia took their side in the debate and pretty much stomped on Georgia, prompting John McCain to announce during his presidential campaign that "We are all Georgians now," and his opponents to say "WTF?"

NATO recently had military exercises in this region, and in response, Russia has announced that it, too, will have military exercises here. In preparation, Russia has gotten the UN to remove the unarmed observers that have been stationed in the area since 1992, as al Jazeera reports: "The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe's (OSCE) mission to Georgia has shut down after 17 years, prompting Tbilisi to warn that the absence of the group's observers would increase security risks in the region.

Before last year's war between Russia and Georgia over the breakaway region of South Ossetia, OSCE monitors patrolled in the disputed area and the organisation helped co-ordinate efforts which brought an end to the fighting."
This has led one Russian source to admit: "Observers!? We don't need no stinking observers!..."

Imagine that Hillary Clinton won the election. What role would Bill have had in the administration? Yeah, she probably would have sent him to Haiti, too...Now imagine a more authortarian couple has worked their way into politics in South America, oh, let's say Argentina, where they like their heads of state like they love their dictators, bold and sassy. The NY Times reports on those lovable, wacky Argentines with the Germanic last names: "Néstor Kirchner, the former president of Argentina, resigned his post as leader of the Peronist Party on Monday, a day after he and his supporters suffered a crushing defeat in national congressional elections.

The resignation was a stunning admission of defeat for a combative and often stubborn politician who is widely viewed to be deeply involved in running the government led by his wife, President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. Combined with their loss of both houses of Congress, Mr. Kirchner’s defeat appears to have dashed any dreams the couple had of extending their political dynasty, and put Argentina’s presidency up for grabs in the 2011 elections." Of course, this could have all been carefully arranged to take the pressure off of Governor Mark Sanford's ex-lover, a Karl Rovian response if ever I've seen one...

Finally, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled unanimously that comedian Al Franken has won the Senate seat over Norm Coleman, and that his certificate should be given. Will Norm Coleman admit that he is a sore loser, or will he take it to Federal courts? From TPM: "The big question now is what comes next. Will Coleman concede, or will he take another path -- as national GOP leaders like Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) have urged -- and take this to federal courts, where he might try to get an injunction against Franken receiving a certificate of election? And if Franken does get his certificate, will the Senate GOP attempt to filibuster its acceptance?

Coleman's core issue during the litigation has been that more rejected absentee ballot envelopes that his campaign has identified should have been counted, and that the 14th Amendment requires the state to adopt a less strict standard for admitting these votes in. The rationale here is that various counties were lax in enforcing certain legal requirement, and therefore deficiencies in other ballots must be excused.

His campaign picked out about 4,400 out of 11,000 total outstanding ballots -- and has made the interesting claim that they don't know what's in these envelopes. It's very clear to any rational observer that both sides engaged in cherry-picking in selecting rejected ballots. And their claim was always a tough legal road to take.

The other possibility that they've floated throughout this process at various times is that it's impossible to truly know who won this election, and therefore the result should be thrown out ("set aside," in their words). CSPAN is delighted with the Franken win, it is planning on televising all committee meetings that he will participate in, hoping his humor will raise their ratings...

late night jokes:

It's been reported that Governor Sanford's mistress was a reporter for an Argentinean news channel. Did you know that? That's true. Yeah, this makes Sanford just the latest Republican to claim he got screwed by the media." --Conan O'Brien

"Earlier today, Sanford apologized to his Cabinet for having the affair with an Argentinean woman. And in response, his cabinet member said, 'An apology is not good enough. We want photos. That sounds hot.'" --Conan O'Brien

"Here's the latest in Iran: Opposition groups have announced that, from now on, they're going to hold their protest rallies online. All their protests will be online, yeah. Protestors say they're going to overthrow the Iranian regime, then they're going after that YouTube cat that plays the piano." --Conan O'Brien

"Yesterday, South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford -- you know this guy? It's the guy that went to, like, on the Appalachian Trail and then he ended up cheating on his wife in Argentina. Anyway, he met with his wife, Jenny, for the first time since admitting his affair with the woman in Argentina yesterday. It did not go very well. The first thing he asked was, 'Did I get any emails while I was away?' ... Then he said, 'Hey, if it's any consolation, I got you a shot glass at the airport.'" --Jimmy Fallon

"Celebrity birthday, Ross Perot, do you remember Ross Perot, ran for president a couple of times? 79 years old today, and still vital, vibrant and going strong. As a matter of fact, he received 9% of the vote in Iran." --David Letterman

Monday, June 29, 2009

Coming Home to Gaza, Ahmadinejad Hearts Neda, Ron Paul Rides Again

Paul Krugman
Gen Wesley Clark

“It’s time to yank the shroud off the Fed and shine some light on these events,” - Edolphus Towns

Well, Bernie Madoff got 150 years, which means very little compared to the many lives he destroyed, the big fish investors are still thrashing around in the small pond looking for chum... Too bad when they sell off the assets from the Madoff estate the ones at the bottom of the list can't get payed back first. you know, the elderly grandparents who have had to move back in with their children, how about letting them get their life's savings back before the large institutional investor. Now, that would be justice... Even better, if ol' Bernie was sentenced to live in Gaza, because it's still a prison for many.

From the BBC the real news is that Egypt opened up the checkpoint at Rafah: "About 400 people were able to cross into Egypt, with priority given to students, patients and officials.
On the Egyptian side, 700 people and 10 trucks with medical aid from Arab countries waited to enter.
Gaza has been blockaded by Israel, and much of the time by Egypt, for two years since Hamas took control there."
It will be open three days per week and you need a special pass to get through. So far only people have been allowed to pass, perhaps commercial goods will happen soon. This is really a token because in order to rebuild, the blockade of the Mediterranean has to stop so ships can unload cargo at Gaza City. There is more movement from the West Bank into Israel, and checkpoints are at an all time low, causing delays of only 45 minutes to 2 hours...
So the rubble from Israeli bombs remain, 47,000 houses were destroyed and cannot be rebuilt, 75 tons of depleted uranium remain in the soil, and living in Gaza often looks like a scene in Escape From New York. Meanwhile, Palestinian leaders are learning how to get along with each other on their weekend jaunts into Egypt.

Iran's Guardian Council announced that the presidential election was run honestly and Ahmadinejad was the winner. No surprises here, the Guardian Council, appointed by Ahmadinejad for their loyalty to the Supreme Leader, also ran the election as well as run the investigation into the election which recounts a selected 10% of the vote. 3000 people gathered toprotest yesterday, but were clubbed and gassed until they dispersed. In a bizarre statement, Ahmadinejad said that an official investigation into the death of Neda will begin, after they can remember where they put her family...

That feisty Texas Libertarian Ron Paul, dearly beloved by John Birchers, has introduced a bill to audit the Fed, as reported in CQ Politics: "He may have faded from the national political scene a year ago, after his dark-horse presidential run came to naught, but Rep. Ron Paul ’s influence is still being felt in campaigns and policy debates across the country. Indeed, the latest legislative priority of the libertarian Texas Republican — auditing the Federal Reserve — has gained support in unlikely quarters...
Paul’s legislation, popularly known as the “Audit the Fed” bill, has drawn 244 cosponsors, ranging from Ohio’s John A. Boehner , the conservative Republican floor leader, to Michigan’s John Conyers Jr. , the liberal Democratic chairman of the Judiciary Committee.
We still don't know what the Fed did with all of the stimulus money, they keep stonewalling Elisabeth Warren's oversight committee; and the Obama administration is going to give it more regulatory powers. Having more transparency is a good idea. The banking industry is still spending the most amount of money on lobbying your Congressman, and we could then compare which legislator received the most funds from the banks, along with legislation they then passed, with whom the Fed then bailed out or cracked down on - an instructive, fun filled flow chart that voters can easliy grasp come election time...

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Elect Laura Bush, Coup de Honduran Style...

Laura Bush
David Sanger
Jared Polis

"Rape is routinely used as a "weapon of war." - Laura Bush

Read Laura Bush's article, linked above. She is proving to be such a classy woman, keeping up with her charitable work after the White House, and her article on Aung San Suu Kyi is very important. Forget Sarah Palin, if the GOP is smart in wanting a woman candidate next time around, they should elect Laura Bush. She is very different from her husband and a lot more responsible... The UN should get rid of the ineffective Ban Ki-moon and replace him with Aung San Suu Kyi, which would force Burma's hand to hopefully give her up, and she would make a more inspiring leader... 

Colorado's own Jared Polis is featured in a weekly CNN documentary on freshmen leaders in Congress. Here is the link to this week's episode of Diary of a Freshman.

CNN's Barbara Starr reports that General Petraeus is trying to keep politically neutral these days: "General David Petraeus, head of the U.S. Central Command, has asked a pro-military group with extensive public ties to conservative leaders to remove references to him from its Web site because they incorrectly appear to show Petraeus endorsing the group’s political stances, his aides told CNN Friday.

The organization — MoveAmericaForward.org (MAF) — sponsors events supporting military troops in the field, but has also taken public positions on military issues in opposition to those advanced by President Barack Obama. Petraeus’ aides insisted to CNN that the general was not endorsing the group and was upset the Web site appeared to show that he was." 

Evidently while we were sitting around watching television, a coup happened in the Central American country of Honduras, as reported in the Christian Science Monitor: "In a move to thwart an attempt to rewrite the Honduran constitution, soldiers have arrested President Manuel Zelaya in what one leader has called a coup and which the European Union has condemned as unconstitutional.

Just before polls were to open on a controversial referendum to allow the president more than a single four-year term, which had led to escalating political tensions in this Central American nation in recent days, soldiers surrounded the president's home and took him into military custody.

Zelaya fired the armed forces Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Romeo Vasquez after his refusal to support an unofficial referendum to modify the nation's constitution, and then refused to back down even after the Supreme Court deemed the referendum illegal and Congress failed to support it. Soldiers, in dozens of white pickup trucks, reportedly put Zelaya in military custody in his home before taking him to an air force base outside the capital city. Neither the military nor presidential advisers have said who is in charge of the government right now.

"We're talking about a coup d'etat," said union leader and Zelaya ally Rafael Alegria. "This is regrettable."
I can just see that a bunch of soldiers got drunk last night, decided to go out and take the president into their custody, and were surprised when it worked. So they took him to the airport and put him on a plane in his pajamas, heading to that city of eternal love, Buenos Aires... Now the rest of the country has to decide if they will take him back or just buy him some clean underwear. This is the development to watch today...

President Obama just issued this statement, drafted by the State Department: "I am deeply concerned by reports coming out of Honduras regarding the detention and expulsion of President Mel Zelaya. As the Organization of American States did on Friday, I call on all political and social actors in Honduras to respect democratic norms, the rule of law and the tenets of the Inter-American Democratic Charter. Any existing tensions and disputes must be resolved peacefully through dialogue free from any outside interference." In other words, Good Luck, Jack, we're not buying you a ticket back home...

Saturday, June 27, 2009

HS vs Pentagon Hissy Fit, Afghan Drug Policy MMMmm Good

Brian Nelson
Eugene Robinson
Dana Milbank

The links above are diverse today, Brian Nelson gives an analysis on Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, Eugene Robinson writes about Michael Jackson, and Dana Milbank gives a behind the scenes glimpse of the Rahm Emanuel interview at the Christian science Monitor the other day... I decided to go with a fun photo of the First Dog taking his masters for a run, whether they wanted to or not...

The top headline in today's Washington Post is about sending troops to our borders with Mexico, something that I predicted several months ago and again yesterday. It seems the major setback is the fight over jurisdiction between Homeland Security and the Pentagon, Border Patrol versus military troops: "A proposal to send National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border to counter drug trafficking has triggered a bureaucratic standoff between the Pentagon and Department of Homeland Security over the military's role in domestic affairs, according to officials in both departments.

The debate has engaged a pair of powerful personalities, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, in what their subordinates describe as a turf fight over who should direct the use of troops to assist in the fight against Mexican cartels and who should pay for them.

At issue is a proposal to send 1,500 additional troops to the border to analyze intelligence and to provide air support and technical assistance to border agencies. The governors of Texas, Arizona, California and New Mexico made the request in January, drawing support from Napolitano but prompting objections from the Pentagon, where officials argue that it could lead to a permanent, expanded mission for the military." Once the hissy fits get resolved, we'll see how well we can work across the border. This will be a violent exercise, with a lot of casualties because we don't want drug cartel people in our jails. It would make housing terrorists look like a joke in comparison. Expect this to begin shortly after the Mexican elections on July 5th...

The weirdest news comes from Iraq, where the Sunnis are still targeting their Shia brothers for public bombings, adding their two cents and dynamite over the Iranian election. Perhaps someone could persuade Ahmadinejad to make a victory tour of Shia communities in Iraq... And the government of al Maliki is claiming that the Americans pulling out military troops from the cities is a victory for Iraq. In the words of MSNBC's Countdown host, WTF..?

Meanwhile, the US envoy to Afghanistan announced a shift in America's drug policy towards those poor, subsistence opium farmers in the region, from the NY Times: "The United States has announced a new drug policy for opium-rich Afghanistan, saying it was phasing out funding for eradication programs while significantly increasing its funding for alternate crop and drug interdiction efforts.

The U.S. envoy for Afghanistan, Richard Holbrooke, told The Associated Press on Saturday that eradication programs weren't working and were only driving farmers into the hands of the Taliban. ''Eradication is a waste of money,'' Holbrooke said on the sidelines of a Group of Eight foreign ministers' meeting on Afghanistan, during which he briefed regional representatives on the new policy.

The G-8 ministers ''strongly appreciated'' the shift, which also includes an increase in annual U.S. funding for agricultural development from a few million dollars to a few hundred million dollars, said Foreign Minister Franco Frattini of Italy, the current G-8 president.

Officials at Afghanistan's Interior Ministry and Counternarcotics Ministry could not immediately be reached for comment."
Yes, the officials were too busy making more room for the anticipated skimming of US funds, a time honored tradition. How many Iraqi and Afghani officials own houses in the South of France? And who said war is hell?

The clear winner in South Carolina's flaky Mark Sanford's extra-marital affair, is his media savvy wife. MSNBC relates her story: "South Carolina first lady Jenny Sanford sat in her oceanfront living room Friday, recalling how her husband repeatedly asked permission to visit his lover in the months after she discovered his affair.

"I said: 'Absolutely not.' It's one thing to forgive adultery; it's another thing to condone it," Mrs. Sanford said in a 20-minute interview with the Associated Press at the coastal home where she sought refuge with the couple's four sons - the first extended comments on the affair.

She said that when her husband, Gov. Mark Sanford, inexplicably disappeared last week, she hoped he was hiking on the Appalachian Trail, as his staff told those who inquired about his absence. That he had dared to go to Argentina to see the other woman left her stunned.

"He was told in no uncertain terms not to see her," she said in a strong, steady voice. "I was hoping he was on the Appalachian Trail. But I was not worried about his safety. I was hoping he was doing some real soul searching somewhere and devastated to find out it was Argentina. It's tragic."
It looks like the people of south Carolina elected the wrong Sanford, mark my words.

late night jokes:

"Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to 'The Late Show.' My name is Dave, or as the governor of South Carolina would say, gracias!" --David Letterman

"Hey, you know what is going on over in Iran with the election? Have you been following that? Oh, it's crazy. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has declared himself a winner. Had a victory party. And he came out at the victory party and he thanked the 148% of the people who voted for him." --David Letterman

"This Ahmadinejad guy, during all those protests, keeping a very low profile in Iran. His staff said he was hiking." --David Letterman

"President Obama was so upset about the Iranian crackdown that he told the Iranian diplomats that they would not be invited to the Fourth of July party. And I said, well, by God, that will teach them right there." --David Letterman

"And it's a darn shame because Ahmadinejad makes wonderful potato salad." --David Letterman

"Anybody here from South Carolina? You're here but you don't want to admit it." --David Letterman

"Well, it's the latest political scandal. Mr. And Mrs. Sanford, you know, the Jon and Kate of politics." --David Letterman

"Turned out the governor disappears, for like, the weekend. Finally, his staff said, 'Don't worry about the Governor, he is on the Appalachian Trail hiking.' But it turns out he was in South America. And it turned out he was down there because he was with a woman from Argentina. Seeing a woman from Argentina named Maria. And I was thinking Judge Sotomayor was apparently wrong because Latina woman don't necessarily have better judgment than white men." --David Letterman

"What if there is trouble and you can't find the governor. Well, how does that make you feel? Horrible, doesn't it? And I'm thinking, South Carolina, what if they get the call that North Carolina is invading." --David Letterman

"It's a disaster for everybody down there in South Carolina. Although I have to say, yesterday, it was nice to see somebody else apologize on TV." --David Letterman

"But in this sense, Gov. Sanford is a little like President Obama. He has Friday night date night, it's just not with his wife." --David Letterman

"Let's run this down, it was last week, Senator Ensign, Republican, he comes on the television and admits he has an affair. And this week, Governor Sanford of South Carolina, Republican, gets on the television and admits he had an affair. And I was thinking, why do the Republicans have this problem? And it finally came to me. The trouble started with Bob Dole when he was doing those commercials for Viagra." --David Letterman

"At a press conference yesterday, in case you don't know, South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford admitted to having a mistress from Argentina. That's right. Yeah, then there was an awkward moment as he waited for someone to give him a high five." --Conan O'Brien

"Governor Sanford may have broken the law, that's the latest. Yeah, they say he may have broken the law because he left the country without transferring power to his lieutenant governor. Yeah, he didn't transfer power. Yeah, apparently Sanford violated South Carolina's sacred bros before hoes law." --Conan O'Brien

"A British furniture company was caught trying to slip advertisements into Twitter by linking them to the Iranian election crisis. Isn't that the lowest? Yeah, probably the most shameless had to be, 'Tired of all the unrest? Try our Serta Perfect Sleeper.'" --Conan O'Brien

"There's another new development in the Mark Sanford story. His wife, Jenny, kicked him out of their home when she heard about the affair. In response, Hillary Clinton said, 'Wait. You can do that? No one told me that.'" --Jimmy Kimmel

"People are calling him a hypocrite, because he's another family values politician having an affair, but I don't see it in political terms. I'm just embarrassed for my gender. Ladies, if you want to know what it's like being a guy, think about the fact that there's a man, the governor of a good-sized state, who asked himself, 'Hmm, can I sneak off to Argentina for a week with my lover without anybody finding out?' And somehow came up with the answer 'yes.' I hope that gives you a sense of what we're up against." --Jimmy Kimmel

David Letterman's Top Ten Surprising Facts About Governor Mark Sanford

10. Began last "State of the State" address, "Yo, what's happenin', mama?"
9. Promised his wife he'd be faithful within the 48 contiguous states
8. On Facebook, lists his relationship status as "It's complicated.
7. Becoming disgraced governor ruined his dream of becoming disgraced President.
6. Hoping scandal will get him out of attending in-laws' Fourth of July cookout.
5. Was sick and tired of Eliot Spitzer holding title "Love Gov."
4. Often gets fan mail intended for Redd Foxx.
3. His goal in life is to commit adultery on all seven continents.
2. Made it safe for me to joke about Republican governors again.
1. Entered politics because he enjoyed polling

Friday, June 26, 2009

So You Want a Revolution...

Paul Krugman
David Brooks
Alan Greenspan
Peggy Noonan

"The big question here is whether health care is about to go the way of the stimulus bill." - Paul Krugman

"If members of Congress are not going to join the plan they're devising for you, you don't want the plan." - Rush Limbaugh

Well, the Iranian Revolution is over, until the military relaxes its vigil. Actually, it was the brutal intensity of the volunteer Basij that has everyone except the fake president worried. He's back to embarrassing his country with his childish taunts and tirades, which only men of limited education or intelligence find amusing. Think if Rush or Newt or Boehner were Iranian... And the US State Department has retaliated by rescinding the invitations to all Iranian diplomats to the 4th of July festivities at American Embassies throughout the world. Extra hot dogs and watermelon for the rest of us... This is what happens when nations act like children... very dangerous children.

As to what will happen next, your guess is as good as mine or anyone else's. How long will people go back to their lives and pretend that nothing happened? Iran cannot pretend to be a theocracy when the leaders have proven to be false; instead of being a player of influence in the region, the Sunni states have been delighting in the sham and mockery. We'll see if Ahmadinejad's street credibility goes up or down... The creepiest story is what happened to the family of Neda Agha Soltan, the poor woman who was shot by a Basij sniper and bled to death on the street. They were taken during the night by security forces and have disappeared. Martyr, what martyr? She never existed, it was all something faked by the West...

There was a much more successful revolution that occurred in Peru during the last couple of weeks, involving protests, demonstrations, killing of innocents causing the government to almost collapse. As Foreign Policy reports: "Over the past two weeks, indigenous protesters have successfully forced the Peruvian government to reverse planned land reforms that would have opened their traditional land to investment and exploration by international energy companies.

The demonstrations against the reform turned violent earlier this month in a confrontation that left 50 dead, including 23 police officers. Peru's prime minister offered to resign over the controversy after the government caved to the Indians demands. The leader of the protest movement has fled into exile in Nicaragua after being charged with inciting the violence.

President Alan Garcia has come under fire for his insensitivity to the violence and for comparing the protesters to "garden watchdogs" protecting their food. Garcia had framed the new development as both an economic opportunity for the region, a way of clamping down on illegal logging, and a way to combat drug trafficking by increasing government presence."

On July 5th, Mexico is going to have an election. the President says that unless he's re-elected, the Mexican state will be taken over by the drug cartels, and he could be right.

From the NY Times: "President Felipe Calderón said Wednesday that the future of democracy in Mexico was at stake in the government’s fight against official corruption and organized crime. He also criticized politicians whom he accused of wanting to return to the era when drug gangs were tolerated... Speaking at a conference on security, the president gave a scathing appraisal about how far corruption had reached into the Mexican government.

For many years, Mr. Calderón said, “crime was allowed to grow, expand and penetrate. Perhaps people thought it was a manageable thing,” 

Mr. Calderón said that Mexico, where more than 10,800 people have died in violence connected with the illicit drug trade and other forms of organized crime since he took office in December 2006, “is at a historical crossroads.”
Mr. Calderón painted a grim picture of the security situation in some of the most violent parts of the country, noting that crime gangs and drug cartels were carrying out “an interminable recruitment of young people without hope, family, opportunities, future, beliefs or convictions.” We easily could end up having to send troops into Mexico to help stabilize the government, or to annex it as a territory if the government falls. This would end the border, the cement fence would be used for skateboarders, Tom Tancredo and Pat Buchanon would have no careers left, and the price of prescription drugs might come falling down along with the price of marijuana and cocaine...

late night jokes:

"Did you hear about Mark Sanford, the governor of South Carolina? He mysteriously disappeared last week and nobody knew where he was. Today, Sanford admitted to having an affair in Argentina. I'm like, great, now we're outsourcing mistresses." --Craig Ferguson

"This whole affair is really a sad story. That has to be the worst thing ever done by a guy named Sanford, except for that episode of 'Sanford & Son' where Fred broke Lamont's glass figurine collection." --Craig Ferguson

"Good for her I say! Good for you! Finally! I never understood why these women had to stand by their douchebag at the press conference. He's like, 'Oh I did this I did that then I took off her dress and then we went to Hooters'...I think what the wives should do is just wear a t-shirt that says 'I'm with stupid.'" --Craig Ferguson, on Mark Sanford's wife not appearing at his press conference

"The past couple of years there have been a whole bunch of scandals involving governors. You know things are bad when the most normal governor of the last decade was Jesse 'The Body' Ventura." --Craig Ferguson 

"Last night, we talked about the strange disappearance of South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford. The media reported he was hiking the Appalachian Trail and forgot to tell anyone, including his wife and sons, over Father's Day weekend. We here reported that he had actually gone into the woods to chase a coyote and f*** it. It turns out, we were both wrong [on screen: a report saying Sanford had been in Argentina]. I apologize to you, sir, for implying that you were a coyote f***er. Clearly, you went to Argentina to have dirty, dirty sex with a capybara, a giant rodent indigenous to the Argentine region." --Jon Stewart

"Oh. Marital infidelity. You are just another run-of-the-mill human being whose simple moralizing about the sanctity of marriage is only marred by the complexities of their own life. Well, just another politician with a conservative mind and a liberal penis." --Jon Stewart

"Well, you know what they say, in the way that no man can resist the wiles of an exotic Argentine woman, those same women are equally tantalized by middle-aged, fiscally conservative Episcopalians."--Stephen Colbert 

"Anybody here from South Carolina? Their governor down there, Mark Sanford disappears. He's gone for four days. The first time he said he was hiking the Appalachian Trail. Okay, I'm just dumb enough to believe that. Then he says, 'No, no, no, forget the Appalachian Trail. I was in South America.' Now, I'm not sure I'm with him. Today he said he woke up in Las Vegas, hung over with a tiger and a baby." --David Letterman

"I have to be careful here. I haven't had much luck with jokes about governors, so I have to be careful." --David Letterman

"But now it turns out that he was in Argentina with another woman. A married guy, got a family, he's in Argentina with another woman. And here's what I want to know -- why can't he be like our former governor and use a local escort service?" --David Letterman

"You know about this Bernie Madoff, the weasel? The guy - I mean, up to a couple of weeks ago, he was the most hated man in America. And then I had my trouble with the governor of Alaska." --David Letterman

"Well, they're getting ready to sentence the guy and they're talking about he could go away for quite a long time, and he's now asking the judge for a reduced sentence. Did you know you could do that? I had no idea you could say, 'Well, you know what? I was thinking more in terms of, you know, maybe a weekend now, and a weekend after the holidays.'" --David Letterman

"Yeah, Bernie is asking for a sentence of 12 years. Nice to see the guy hasn't lost his sense of humor." --David Letterman

"But in addition to the sentence, he is also banned from trading securities. And I thought, well, they nipped that in the bud. Way to go." --David Letterman

"You folks been following what's going on in Iran? Listen to this. They've been going over the voting results, the presidential election, and the president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, received more than 100% of the vote." --David Letterman

"And now, you know, you're not supposed to have any kind of a protest and the government is saying, 'There's no protesting going on. People are not booing. The crowds that you see are not booing. They're just chanting, 'Mahmoud! Mahmoud! Mahmoud!''' --David Letterman

"But the Iranian supreme leader says the election results are official. He said, 'It's over, the election results are official. And besides that, it costs too much to rig another election.'" --David Letterman

"And President Obama, this guy takes everything seriously. He's very upset about what's going on in Iran. As a matter of fact, today he announced that he's going to stop smoking Camels." --David Letterman

"Today the governor of South Carolina, Mark Sanford, who's the head of the Republican Governors Association, held a press conference to reveal he had an affair with a woman from Argentina. People were shocked because Republicans traditionally don't do well with Hispanic women." --Conan O'Brien

"Former Vice President Dick Cheney is in the news. Cheney has signed a publishing deal to write his memoirs. I don't want to spoil anything, but it ends with him killing Obi-Wan Kenobi.'" --Conan O'Brien

"Mark Sanford, the governor of South Carolina -- this just keeps getting weirder. He was missing for five days. He finally showed up. He claimed that he was just hiking in the Appalachian Mountains. Then just today, he revealed that he was not hiking in the Appalachian Mountains, he was in Argentina the entire time -- in Argentina, where he was having an extramarital affair. Wow! It all seems insane until you realize who his mistress is -- Carmen Sandiego." --Jimmy Fallon

"On July 14th, everybody, President Obama will throw out the first pitch at the All-Star game in St. Louis. That's pretty cool. Yeah. But Joe Biden will be on hand to commit the first error." --Jimmy Fallon

David Letterman's Top Ten Governor Mark Sanford Excuses

10. Did I say hiking? I meant cheating.
9. Had to so something after devastating news about Jon and Kate.
8. I learned everything I know from Governor Spitzer.
7. Let's talk about more important issues like the Nestle Toll House cookie recall.
6. I learned everything I know from Governor McGreevey.
5. It's Ahmadinejad's fault.
4. If you met my wife you'd be fleeing the country too, am I right fellas?
3. Putting together my audition tape for "The Amazing Race."
2. If you run a state and decide to leave the country for a week, since when do you have to tell someone?
1. It wasn't me, it was my hilarious alter ego, Bruno

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Sanford Saga, Iran Update, BiPartisanship the Rahm Emanuel Way

Transcript of Mark Sanford
Kathleen Parker
Eugene Robinson
Dana Milbank

"Oddly enough, I spent the last five days of my life crying in Argentina so I could repeat it when I got here," -Mark Sanford

"Republicans touting family values can't seem to stay zipped. Democrats raising taxes can't seem to spare the change come April." -Kathleen Parker

"Sounds like a good time on the Appalachian Trail." - Dana Milbank

The links above should take care of the Mark Sanford saga, at least until reporters find out who his mistress is, and if he will resign as governor.. Haley Barbour will take over as head of the Republican Governor's Association, and should boost his chances for making it to the top of the list for 2012, along with Tim Pawlenty.

In this time of pain and confusion, whom can we turn to for words of wisdom? Could it be John McCain, who has had good words for Obama over Iran today? Oh, no, he had a sordid affair with a younger woman, while his wife was in a wheelchair, scratch him. How about Newt Gingrich, who's trying for a comeback after being tossed out as House Speaker by his own party? Nope, he also had an affair, while his wife was suffering from cancer, scratch him off the list, too. And asking Rush, who's been married multiple times and can't get it for free these days, would be the worst person in the world to ask. Guess that leaves Bristol Palin or Glenn Beck... Maybe what the Republicans mean by needing a bigger tent is because of all the testosterone in there...

The fake president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is acting like a punk again, dissing Obama for his recent public statement on the unrest in Iran, trying to equate him with Bush's former attitude: "Our question is why he fell into this trap and said things that previously [former US President George W] Bush used to say,"  Government honchos gave a victory party for Ahmadinejad, inviting 290 MP's. 105 showed up, leaving over 2/3 no-shows making a statement of dissatisfaction...

From the BBC "Mr Mousavi, a former prime minister, spoke of the "recent pressures on me" that are "aimed at making me change my position regarding the annulment of the election".
He described the clampdowns he and his staff were facing.
"My access to people is completely restricted. Our two websites have many problems and Kalameh Sabz newspaper has been closed down and its editorial members have been arrested," said Mr Mousavi, who has not been seen in public for days.
"These by no means contribute to improving the national atmosphere and will lead us towards a more violent atmosphere," he added.

Opposition leaders had called for a day of mourning on Thursday, but some reports say it has been cancelled.
The Guardian Council, which supervises elections, has already said it will not re-run the election.
Ayatollah Khamenei reiterated on Wednesday that he would "not yield" over the election result.
Hundreds of opposition protesters and activists are believed to have been taken into custody and at least 17 protesters have died in the unrest since the election.
The Iranian government has set up special courts to deal with those arrested and has threatened harsh sentences.
So, the country appears at stalemate, in a game where the big guns will win. There are some ways that neighborhoods have been able to retaliate, one that the government will not report. They are noticing who among them are members of the Basij, and under the cloak of night, over 17 Basij have been ambushed and killed...

From the Christian Science Monitor comes an interview with Rahm Emanuel, where he gave, what he considers to be signs that a bill has had bipartisan input, especially for the upcoming health care reform: “The test of bipartisanship is not just how many Republican votes you have,” Mr. Emanuel told reporters at a Monitor breakfast. He laid out three tests of bipartisanship:

• The bill contains bipartisan ideas.

“That is a test the president laid out, and he has said it repeatedly: This will be bipartisan. There will be ideas from both parties and individuals from both parties in the final product,” Emanuel said. “Whether Republicans decide to vote for things that they’ve promoted will be up to them.”

• The president has reached out to Republicans.

“For [a bill] to be bipartisan, or appreciated for its bipartisanship, the president has to try,” Emanuel said. “As I said after the Recovery Act [economic stimulus bill], everybody said, ‘Oh you didn’t get Republican votes.’ But the American people saw the president trying. They saw the Republicans, implicit, instinctually and reflexively just rejecting any effort in the height of an economic recession as severe as the Depression.”

• The final vote count.

“Then you’ll get into the measurements that we have – ‘Oh, you didn’t get this many,’ ” Emanuel said."

Politico's Ben Smith reports on the latest riff from Sarah Palin: "Sarah Palin is again responding forcefully to a perceived attack on one of her children, this time attacking an Alaska blogger who edited a picture of her and her baby son, Trig, to replace Trig's face with the image of a conservative Alaska talk show host, Eddie Burke.

Emails Palin's spokesman Meghan Stapleton:
Recently we learned of a malicious desecration of a photo of the Governor and baby Trig that has become an iconic representation of a mother's love for a special needs child.
The mere idea of someone doctoring the photo of a special needs baby is appalling. To learn that two Alaskans did it is absolutely sickening. Linda Kellen Biegel, the official Democrat Party blogger for Alaska, should be ashamed of herself and the Democratic National Committee should be ashamed for promoting this website and encouraging this atrocious behavior.
Babies and children are off limits. It is past time to restore decency in politics and real tolerance for all Americans. The Obama Administration sets the moral compass for its party. We ask that special needs children be loved, respected and accepted and that this type of degeneracy be condemned.

The blogger, Linda Kellen Biegel, responded that she was makeing fun of Burke, a talker on KBYR who is a fervent Palin backer, not of Trig. "It's called 'Baby Burke' because it's Eddie Burke...basically his probable second-biggest fantasy about the Governor," Biegel wrote. "So, connecting the dots for you...WE'RE MAKING FUN OF EDDIE BURKE!!!!!!"

Senator John Kerry joked while talking about Mark Sanford: “Too bad,’’ Kerry said, “if a governor had to go missing it couldn’t have been the governor of Alaska. You know, Sarah Palin.’’

late night jokes:

"The Navy has dispatched a destroyer named the U.S.S. John McCain to deal with the North Korean ship that may have illegal weapons. Well, actually, the Navy didn't dispatch the John McCain, it just kind of wandered off on its own." --Conan O'Brien

"The mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa, announced he is not going to run for governor of California. Villaraigosa realized he had no chance of becoming governor of California because he was born in this country and you can understand every word he says." --Conan O'Brien

"Do you know anything about this swindling weasel Bernie Madoff? He's in jail now and they haven't even sentenced the guy yet. But he's in the cooler right now. And he is barred -- I heard this today -- barred from working in the securities industry. I'm thinking, well, great. How is the guy supposed to earn a living when he gets out of jail in 150 years?" --David Letterman

"And his attorney is looking for a shorter sentence. He wants 12 years. Bernie wants 12 years. Well, you know, if anybody deserves a break, it's this guy, really." --David Letterman

"Bernie could be going away for 150 years. Whoa, man, that's a long time. I mean, when he gets out, the Republicans could be back in." --David Letterman

"Have you been following what's going on in Iran? Oh, it's crazy. They had the election. Now it looks like there was some monkey business going on. And now people are demonstrating in the streets. And the government has imposed a curfew, in Iran. I was thinking, whoa, I just hope this doesn't ruin the swinging Iranian night life." --David Letterman

"Ahmadinejad has declared himself the winner of the election and is planning his inauguration. And I said, 'Well, why not? The country is really in a party mood. Let's go. Let's get those plans in order. Let's have some fun.'" --David Letterman

"And the leader of Iran's opposition party, Mousavi, the guy who apparently lost in the election, says he's ready to become a martyr. Don't kid yourselves. It's tough being a martyr nowadays, really. I mean, with the economy and all the budget cuts. When you die now, because of the economy, you're only going to be greeted by 35, maybe 40 virgins, tops." --David Letterman

"Anybody here from South Carolina? Well, their governor, their Governor Mark Sanford just disappears for four days. Literally, takes a hike. He's out. And now, he's back. And he says, 'Well what's the big deal? I was just on a vacation to clear my head.' You see, we never had that head-clearing problem with Bush. You know what I mean?" --David Letterman

"This is a big story because his wife, the governor's wife, had no idea where the guy was for four days. And today he gets a call from Bill Clinton saying, 'Hey, who's your travel agent? Who, where, how do I -- how do I get in on this?'" --David Letterman

"Here's a big story, ladies and gentlemen. Yesterday, there was an earthquake in Alaska. I'm kind of afraid to say anything." --David Letterman

"The Department of Homeland Security says that they will no longer use any U.S. spy satellites for domestic surveillance. In other words [on screen: Fallon whispers] yes, they will. An earthquake struck Alaska on Monday that registered a magnitude 5.4. But as Sarah Palin said, 'It felt like a 6 point oh, my gosh!'' --Jimmy Fallon

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Gypsies, Tramps, and Mark Sanford

Dana Milbank
Op-ed on Mark Sanford

"I never understood where the satisfaction is when you're missing the pleasure of conquest." - Silvio Berlusconi

Weird stories coming out of Europe, about the clashes between the Irish and about 100 Gypsies, with the Irish violently kicking them out of Belfast, making the Iranian crackdowns looking like a tea social... It gets a bit confusing, calling the Romanian immigrants either Romanians or Roma, which is an ethnic group, and if they are Romanian Roma, which this group happens to be, and now they are trying to migrate back to Romania. It seems that each European country they go to is treating them worse because the only job skills they have are as thieves and working the black market. Their fates, as reported by the BBC: "So what is in store for the 100 Romanian Roma, as they make their way home? There is not much to cheer about, says Mr Ionescu, who believes their European citizenship is mostly on paper.
"They are going back to a hole. Local authorities have no power to integrate them and central government has run out of money for this," he said.
"I'm afraid without European pressure nothing will be done. We need a European Roma Agency. We are chasing the Roma from one country to another and in Romania their situation has worsened after 20 years of democracy." 

The UN report on the global illegal drug trade has just come out, and the good news is that demand for opiates, cocaine, and marijuana has declined or stabilized. Which may mean that the market for cocaine has been saturated, and the violent fighting between drug cartels in Mexico may be fighting over smaller sales and turf, though cocaine is still a $50 billion market. OK, I might fight over a piece of that, too.. The bad news is that places like the Golden Triangle have converted to making amphetamine, and amphetamine sales is up, especially in the Middle East: "Huge laboratories in South East Asia, especially in the Greater Mekong sub-region (Cambodia, Laos, Burma, Thailand, Vietnam, and parts of southern China), are producing massive quantities of methamphetamine tablets, crystal meth and other substances including ketamine, it said.
It said EU countries were the main suppliers of ecstasy, while Canada had become a major hub for the trafficking of both ecstasy and meth.
But 30% of global ATS seizures in 2007 were made in the Near and Middle East, where use was reported to have risen sharply.
The UNODC said shifts in the production of ATS showed how criminal groups could exploit the situation in more vulnerable, developing states."

Sex scandals are becoming common among our politicians, witness the standing ovation John Ensign got when he addressed the House Republicans at lunch the other day. In fact, pundits are predicting that he might easily become re-elected because he admitted to his affair before it officially broke elsewhere in the news.

 Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi may be going over the good old boy limit, now that more allegations are coming out about his life. His wife is seeking divorce after pictures surfaced of him at an 18 year old girl's birthday party, and everyone winked and nudged each other. But, by God, the last straw has been reached when three prostitutes have claimed that he paid for their company, and he did the boogie at the Prime Minister's residence, eeewww! Be careful where you sit, you might get the wet spot...

So, the GOP had made a list of promising politicians that might be considered to run for President in 2012. We can scratch Bobby Jindal and John Ensign off that list. And now, it looks like it's time to scratch out South Carolina's Mark Sanford, who disappeared for 5 days without telling his wife or his staff, leaving the state and the press to play Where's Waldo?

Jokes were made after his staff suggested that he might be hiking the Appalachian Trail, and last Sunday was declared Hike Naked Day. His wife suggested he wanted to get away from the kids, or that he was writing, or that he had projects to do. It turns out that he had a project to do in Argentina and, as Politico reports from his press conference: "South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, his eyes red, admitted to having an extramarital affair Wednesday with an Argentine woman.

"I've been unfaithful to be my wife," Sanford said at a state capitol news conference.

It began very innocently," he explained, saying that developed into an adulterous relationship in the past year.

He said he seen his unidentified mistress three times since they began the affair or, as he put it, "since the whole sparking thing." Sanford said he was resigning his post as Chairman of the Republican Governor's Association. I can hardly wait for the late night jokes to come out... How many more family values politicians will come out and admit to their illicit affairs? We know there are a few more...

late night jokes:

"Nice vote of confidence for President Obama this weekend. John McCain, of all people, said that President Obama has 'done well' during his first few months in office. In fact, McCain's so proud of Obama, he sent him a card with a five dollar bill inside." --Conan O'Brien

"More unrest in Iran as the government continues to crack down on protesters. And to disperse crowds, Iranian police used tear gas, water cannons and the NBC primetime lineup." --Conan O'Brien

"Some experts are saying the Iranian election was rigged because in some towns, voter turnout was more than 100%. What's even stranger, all those extra votes were from elderly Jewish people in Palm Beach, Florida." --Conan O'Brien

"According to a new report, Ford, General Motors and Chrysler have greatly reduced their number of customer complaints. The automakers did this by greatly reducing their number of customers." --Conan O'Brien

"Today, President Obama signed a bill that prevents tobacco companies from using misleading labels like 'low tar' and 'light.' The tobacco companies said from now on they'll label their low tar cigarettes as 'less cancerific.'" --Conan O'Brien

"President Barack Obama's approval rating of 61%, which I thought was staggeringly high, has now dropped to 56%. So don't kid yourselves. Hillary could still win this thing." --David Letterman

"Did you hear this? Hillary Clinton busted her elbow. Apparently, she slipped and hit the floor when she went home to her husband early, unannounced." --David Letterman

"And she hasn't recovered yet. As a matter of fact, she's still wearing her orthopedic pantsuit." --David Letterman

"John McCain is being more outspoken about President Obama's foreign policy and his Iranian strategy. And today, McCain got so loud and so angry, and he was screaming, that they asked him to leave Denny's." --David Letterman

"You folks following the Iranian elections? Well, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is the winner. And lots of protests. And it got to be so crazy that Iran's supreme leader actually spoke live on television last night. And it preempted Al Jazeera's most popular show, their number one show over there, which is 'How I Met Your Camel.'" --David Letterman

"But the supreme leader said that the Iranian elections were not rigged. Well, that's good enough for me." --David Letterman

"He did say that there was some trouble early on and they did make some errors. As a matter of fact, he's now saying that they forgot to count votes for Susan Boyle." --David Letterman

"But the Iranian government is planning a curfew because things are getting so crazy in Iran. And I thought if there is one thing an angry mob respects, by God, it's a curfew, isn't it?" --David Letterman

"Hillary Clinton is expected to make a full recovery after having surgery to repair her broken right elbow. Yeah, doctors say she'll be able to point and crazy smile at people in no time." --Jimmy Fallon

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Supremes, Sarah Smiles, Nixon on Abortion

David Brooks
Dana Milbank
Keri Huus
Jonathon Chait

"No, it's sad about Iran, but what do you expect about a country with a government that's propped up by oil, that's led by a religious wacko? Kind of like Alaska." --Bill Maher

In a weirdly nostalgic scene, we have Dana Milbank covering a press conference by Reza Pahlavi, the son of the late Shah of Iran, and an interview from Paris with his mother by Keri Huus. David Brooks gives insight on how Congress sucks at working together, and Mr Chait explains the Obama mind, separated from the rest of the man, ouch.

The US Supreme Court left intact one of the signature legacies from the civil rights movements, from an op ed in the NY Times:  "The Supreme Court decided on Monday not to strike down Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, a protection for the right of minorities to vote. That was very good news. The less good news is that the court, which has repeatedly upheld the constitutionality of Section 5, said it raises serious constitutional concerns. The ruling may signal that the court will be tempted in a future case to strike down this important safeguard.
Congress enacted Section 5 to clamp down on election officials who use tactics like gerrymandering and closing polling places to suppress and dilute minority votes. It requires states and local governments to “preclear” changes in voting rules with the Justice Department or a federal court to determine whether they would harm minority voting rights."  Hard to believe that we still produce election fraud in our country, but it happens too often. I wonder what would happen if we, too, engaged in protests over election fraud. Oh, yeah, there were protests after Bush defeated Gore and nothing happened...

The Supreme Court then is actually going to look at a tough case after all. Perhaps all of the recent media focus has finally fortified their Metamucil. The Christian science Monitor reports: "The US Supreme Court has agreed to decide the constitutionality of a law that allows the federal government to indefinitely detain a person deemed "sexually dangerous," even after that person has finished serving a full prison sentence. The issue arises in the case of a man who has been confined to a North Carolina federal prison for more than two years after completing his three-year sentence for receiving child pornography. The man, Graydon Earl Comstock, has no firm release date.

In January, a federal appeals court panel declared the law unconstitutional. "The Constitution does not empower the federal government to confine a person solely because of asserted 'sexual dangerousness' when the government need not allege (let alone prove) that this 'dangerousness' violates any federal law," wrote Judge Diana Gribbon Motz of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals based in Richmond.

The provision in question was passed as part of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006. It authorizes the attorney general to seek the court-ordered, open-ended civil commitment of any "sexually dangerous person" already in US custody. The measure is controversial in part because it relies on anticipation of future dangerousness to society, rather than actual or planned violations of law."

Nobody really knows what to do with child molesters. They are predators who can't stop even when they try to, it's a sickness that confounds medical science, and so the best way that we can come up with is to keep them in jail. On the other hand, we have gone overboard in accusing folks of being molesters, the definition has broadened, and once accused, you rarely get the chance of mending your reputation. If you go to the web site of your local law enforcement, you would be surprised to find how many people considered sexual predators are living in your neighborhoods, and those are just the ones that follow the law and register when they move...

Poor Sarah Palin, she is becoming poorer. As reported by MSNBC: "Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin says her political enemies are abusing state law with a flurry of frivolous ethics complaints against her, putting her more than $500,000 in legal debt.

Those filing the grievances — there have been at least 18 cases so far — say it's their legal right to hold the Republican governor accountable for what they see as abuses of power."

Sarah herself asks: "Are Alaskans outraged, or at least tired of this yet — another frivolous ethics charge by a political blogger?"

But the number of filings may also reflect a broader awareness of ethics law in Alaska, where any citizen can send in any number of complaints. Some say they're taking Palin up on her own challenge to Alaska voters.

"She said she was going to be open, transparent and wanted people to hold her accountable," said Kim Chatman, an Eagle River resident whose complaint against Palin is among the few still pending. "I took her for her word."

Finally, recent tapes released by the Nixon library reveal his stance on abortion, as reported by the NY Times: "Nixon worried that greater access to abortions would foster “permissiveness,” and said that “it breaks the family.” But he also saw a need for abortion in some cases, such as interracial pregnancies.

“There are times when an abortion is necessary. I know that. When you have a black and a white,” he told an aide, before adding: “Or a rape.”  
I've spent many years asking why my father's generation was so inherently racist. Never have been able to figure it out...

late night jokes:

"The Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khomeini, said this election was not rigged, the results are final, and you can protest all you want, but if you keep doing it, we're going to start cracking heads. Now if we could only get this guy to call Norm Coleman." --Bill Maher

"The silver lining in this dark cloud is that Twitter found a reason to exist." --Bill Maher

"Don't you know that this could be the first revolution brought to you by Twitter? Because that's how people are communicating to go of the rallies and so forth, and show the pictures of what's going on. Authorities, of course, in Iran shut down cell phone networks. They shut down the internet. Calls are absolutely not getting through or they're dropped immediately. Or as T-Mobile calls it, normal service." --Bill Maher

"And I think what's interesting, is with all this going on in the world, the top news on the Fox News website was a recall of Tollhouse cookie dough. I'm not kidding. Forget Iran, forget healthcare, for the average Fox viewer, the most important question for them was, is my lard safe?" --Bill Maher

"Have you been following the John Ensign scandal? He's the senator from Nevada who got his penis caught in the cookie jar. It turns out he was screwing the wife of his chief of staff, they say. And I love this guy. He's a piece of work. Because John Ensign was a promise keeper. He was a big proponent of the Defense of Marriage Act. And a loud voice calling for Clinton to resign during the Lewinsky scandal. So he has hit the hypocrisy trifecta." --Bill Maher

"He told the Washington Post some years ago, that as a Christian politician, listen to this, he refused to be alone with a strange woman inside of a car. But apparently, being inside of a strange woman without a car that's okay, that's all good." --Bill Maher

"They said his chief of staff, the guy who's wife he was screwing, he threatened to go public unless Ensign, the senator, paid his mortgage. Apparently this guy had a big-ass house in Las Vegas. I know the economy is tough, but using your wife as collateral on your mortgage? That's a new one, even for the Republicans. And how do you broach that? 'Look, senator, I'm upside-down on my mortgage, you've been upside down on my wife...'" --Bill Maher

"This is all very ironic, because this is the week that the gay people in America finally really had it up to here with Barack Obama, because he won't come out for gay marriage. He threw them a ball with federal benefits. They didn't like that. They said, we are not satisfied and we are feeling neglected. He said, well that's almost like being married." --Bill Maher

"In other news, the world's oldest man died, he was 113, and a leading voice of the young Republicans." --Bill Maher

"And finally, I'm saving the big story for last. Have you heard this? We are preparing for a big high seas showdown with North Korea. You heard that? They may be transporting nukes. We're going to intercept their ships. It's going to be fun stuff! That's right, we're going to be intercepting their ships. The winner of the round meets the Somali pirates. And the loser has to fight the Carnival cruise line." --Bill Maher

"The big news, the Iranian government is trying very hard now to legitimize their election. That's the big story in the world right now. Today, Iran's supreme leader declared last week's presidential election 'an absolute victory.' That's what he said. Yep. Yeah, then he went on to congratulate the Clippers on winning the NBA championship." --Conan O'Brien

"President Barack Obama spoke on the phone with Lakers coach Phil Jackson and with Dan Bylsma, coach of the Stanley Cup-winning Pittsburgh Penguins. That's cool. Yeah. And in a related story, Joe Biden had a conference call with Tito Jackson and an actual penguin." --Conan O'Brien

"On Wednesday night, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton broke her elbow, so yesterday, she worked from home. Mm-hmm. Yeah, which explains why Bill Clinton spent the day in the backyard forming the words 'Help Me' with garden gnomes." --Conan O'Brien

"This is weird. The state of New Hampshire is projecting an additional $55 million in revenue, now that they've legalized gay marriage. Yeah, as a result, the state motto has been changed from 'Live Free or Die' to 'These Blueberry Scones are to Die For.'" --Conan O'Brien

"Today, Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khomeini, said there's no fraud in the election, and the results will stand. That was the word from the supreme leader. I don't know, I wouldn't mind a second opinion from the other supreme leaders: Burrito Supreme, Taco Supreme, and of course, Diana Ross." --Jimmy Fallon

Monday, June 22, 2009

Has Iran Stopped Beating Its Women Yet?

Paul Krugman
Asif Ali Zardari
Fareed Zakaria

"The West, most notably the United States, has been all too willing to dance with dictators in pursuit of perceived short-term goals." - Asif Ali Zardari

"We are watching the failure of the ideology that lay at the basis of the Iranian government." - Fareed Zakaria

People have resumed going out onto the streets in protest, they are being met with watercannons, tear gas, and baton wielding Revolutionary Guards, who have vowed to crush all terrorist activities. Today is being called a day of mourning for Neda, a young woman who was shot to death, which was captured on a cell phone video and sent to CNN. The whole world watched her die over and over again; now she is called a martyr.

Some election fraud has been admitted to by the government, but they are sticking to the limited sample and will not look to see if there was fraud throughout the whole country. Duh. al Jazeera reports: "Iran's Guardian Council, the country's highest legislative body, meanwhile, has admitted some irregularities occurred during the election.

Abbas-Ali Kadkhodaei, a spokesman for the council, told state-funded broadcaster IRIB on Monday that up to three million votes were under scrutiny, after it was found that the number of votes exceeded the number of eligible voters in 50 cities.
User-supplied images are the chief source of information from Iran for the world's media However, he said it was a normal discrepancy because people are allowed to travel to other areas to vote, and that it was "yet to be determined whether the amount is decisive in the election results".
A normal discrepancy also means that it has been done before...

Fareed Zakaria has this to say on what the future of Iran will look like after the citizens have been beaten down enough to make the protests stop: "The Islamic Republic might endure but would be devoid of legitimacy. The regime could certainly prevail in this struggle; in fact, that would have to be the most likely outcome. But it will do so by using drastic means—banning all protests, arresting students, punishing senior leaders and shutting down civil society. No matter how things turn out—crackdown, co-optation—it is clear that millions in Iran no longer believe in the regime's governing ideology. If it holds on to power, it will do so like the Soviet Union in the late Brezhnev era, surviving only through military intimidation. "Iran will turn into Egypt," says the Iranian-born intellectual Reza Aslan, meaning a regime in which guns, rather than ideas, hold things together behind a façade of politics."

The huge amount of media coverage of Iran is spurring another wave of gun sales here in the US, as people realize what can happen to an unarmed populace. Unfortunately, our violent crime rate will soar, also. It's also illegal to drink alcohol, sing, and dance in Iran, which has one of the most vibrant musical traditions and wonderful musicians in all of the Middle East. Sufism has always been at odds against too serious clerics, recognizing that music, song, and dance can be inspired through religion, often incorporating them into their rituals.

There has been a lot of debate in the media over the tactic that Obama is taking, not giving the government any ammunition in saying that the protests are supported by the West. It's bad enough that we sold them their police riot gear... Headlines are saying that his ratings in the recent polls have gone down to 63%. If our economy doesn't turn around and people are still losing jobs, his popularity will go down further, though I doubt that it will reach the 18% that the Republican Party got...

The big debates raging now is over health care reform, should a public option run by the government be part of the package. Everyone agrees that some kind of reform is needed. Conservatives say that the insurance industry should lead the way, while everyone else says dear God, please no... We have this tendency to let the ones who got us into the mess try and lead us out because of the amounts of money they spend lobbying Congress, like the banking industry...

One argument going around is saying, do you want a politician between you and seeing a doctor, as opposed to the HMO administrators. They are saying that a government-run program would be wasteful and inefficient, you would have to wait longer to see a specialist, like what happens in Canada and Britain. Which may or may not happen here. We have Medicare and the Veteran's Administration hospitals, both have good and bad stories over how they are administered. But it's all smoke and mirrors because Congress is ignoring the best run government health plan - the one that Congress has for themselves. I see no problem growing their existing plan for the rest of the population, unless you want to admit to a ruling elite that lives and eats better than you do, and has better health and retirement benefits than the rest of us.

The real losers in the outcome of this debate will be the small business owners. Already the burden of having to provide health insurance is a major factor between solvency and going bankrupt, or out of business. They don't have the economic clout that large pension funds have, and end up getting ripped off by limited coverage offered by the insurance industry. Which creates bad feelings all around. Thank you, Blue Cross...

Just like the real winners among the recipients of TARP money are the Wall Street firms that sell financial products and are not banks, like Goldman Sachs, which just paid back the money it took last week. Reuters is reporting: "Goldman staff in London were briefed on the outlook and told they could look forward to the bonus hikes if the company registers its most profitable year ever, the report said.

The surge in projected profit can be attributed to a lack of competition and increased revenue from trading foreign currency, bonds and fixed-income products, the newspaper said, citing insiders at the firm.

Bonuses have been a point of contention between the Obama administration and Wall Street, which last fall endured a credit crisis that paralyzed the financial markets. The U.S. Treasury responded with the Troubled Asset Relief Program, which made $700 billion in loans available to banks."
So only if you pay the government back can you then thumb your noses at them, remember this simple formula...

Sunday, June 21, 2009

A Tale of Revolutionary Brothers, Russia Talks Nukes to US

Roxana Saberi

" My main regret is that Keith Richards is going to outlive me." - John Nelson Palmer

After yesterday's violence that left 13 dead and over 100 wounded, the unarmed were labeled terrorists by the fake president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. At night, while more unarmed terrorists took to their rooftops to shout that "God is great" as a form of protest, the Revolutionary Guard set about ambushing and arresting those they felt were influential during the past week. The Washington Post reports that: "Also Sunday, state-run news media reported the arrest of the eldest daughter and four other relatives of former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a Shiite Muslim cleric who heads two powerful groups in Iran's theocratic governing system. Rafsanjani has emerged as a strong critic of Ahmadinejad. The whereabouts of Rafsanjani himself were unknown. Members of the pro-government Basij militia is asking for her and other members of the family to be put on trial for corruption.

Mousavi made no public appearances Sunday and there were growing fears among his supporters that he could be arrested."

An analysis piece published by al Jazeera describes that the internal conflict is more than the fake election, and gives dire warning in the arrests of Rafsanjani's family: "Some influential moderate clerics privately admit that Khamenei has not done "justice" to the presidential candidates and has not treated them with impartiality. This behaviour, they believe, could jeopardise his position as leader since one of the main qualities required of the supreme leader is "justice".

Rafsanjani is also the chairman of the Expediency Council which is a body charged with the power to resolve differences or conflicts between parliament and the Guardians of the Constitution, but its true power lies more in its power to oversee the supreme leader.

It is a well-known fact that there is a lot of bad blood between Ahmadinejad and Rafsanjani whom the president accuses of corruption and aristocratic behaviour. Ahmadinejad angered Rafsanjani when in his presidential television debate with Mousavi, he alleged that all the three opposition candidates had been put forward by Rafsanjani to defeat him.

He further accused Rafsanjani of unlawfully accumulating massive wealth over many years and putting his cronies in the way of the president. The allegations prompted Rafsanjani to write a highly critical open letter to Khamenei, which the supreme leader ignored." 

So Iran is turning out to be just like every other petty military dictatorship, showing contempt for its citizens, killing them when it thinks the world isn't looking, making a mockery of Islam, and blaming it all on old ghosts, Britain and the US. Sad, really...

Our world is becoming smaller and smaller. We now think that even dinosaurs were much smaller in size, not the ponderous thunder lizards of movies past. It's becoming increasingly clear what might happen if nuclear weapons were unleashed, and Russia is signalling its high time for serious negotiations, Reuters reports: "Russia is ready to dramatically cut its nuclear stockpiles in a new arms pact with the United States if Washington meets Russia’s concerns over missile defence, President Dmitry Medvedev said on Saturday.

”We are ready to reduce by several times the number of nuclear delivery vehicles compared with the START-1 pact,” he told a news conference in Amsterdam.

”As far as warheads are concerned, their numbers should be lower than envisaged by the Moscow 2002 pact,” he added.

He was referring to an interim pact called the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT) which commits the sides to further cuts in their arsenals to between 1,700 and 2,200 warheads by 2012."
The ball is in the US's court, are we going to play?

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Going Waco in Iran, Losing the Mandate of Heaven

Robert Scheer
Hamilton & Puzzanghera

“Until Friday we had 80 percent dictatorship and 20 percent democracy, and since Friday we have 100 percent dictatorship.” - Samira

Thirty years ago the iranian Reveloution happened, overthrowing the Shah and establishing what has been called an Islamic Republic. The clergy ended up on top, making laws and treating its citizens like children. Now, those children of the Revolution have grown up and are standing up and walking in protest, telling the government they no longer want to be treated this way. Talking back to the mullahs and officials the same way they now talk back to their parents, disillusioned by 30 years of dictatorial rule.

 After being told sternly by Big Daddy Khamenei not to protest further, a few thousand took to the streets this morning, fully prepared to be martyred. Troops were waiting, thankfully, not using guns... from al Jazeera: "Iranian police have reportedly used tear gas, water cannon and batons against thousands of people gathering to protest against the disputed re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran's president.

Protesters tried to reach Revolution Square in the centre of the capital Tehran for a planned protest on Saturday, despite warnings from police that they would be arrested. Police had blocked access to the square and Ahmadreza Radan, the deputy national police commander, had said they would "strongly confront any illegal gatherings and those without permission".
Shouts of Death to the Dictator! have been heard...

This has grown beyond any fake election, and none of the opposition candidates were brave enough to step outside and show their support. Just like the youth marches in the 60's and 70's that evolved into culture wars over the next 40 years, many we are still fighting, the spirit awakened by these Iranian citizens will end up changing the face of the Iranian government in years to come and may well spread across the rest of the Middle East.

Whatever role technology and the Internet has played, it has proven that we live together on a small planet and our actions can no longer be hidden from the rest of the world. And just like groups of young people everywhere, they know what they don't want, the status quo must change, but they are not quite sure what they want it to change into...

Myanmar hasn't had an election in 19 years, since the military dictator imprisoned the legitimate winner and claimed the election was annulled. Aung San Suu Kyi is spending her 64th birthday in prison, the BBC reports: "Aung San Suu Kyi has spent much of the past two decades under house arrest, the last six years in such severe isolation that she has had almost no opportunity to communicate with the outside world.

Her party, which resoundingly won the last election 19 years ago, has been weakened and divided by almost constant military harassment. Meanwhile the army, her nemesis, has more than doubled in size, has extended its control into all areas of life and now consumes around 40% of the national budget."
This trumped up trial, which has been suspended for as long as they can get away with, is planned to keep Aung in jail past the next election, and branding her a criminal so that she couldn't take part in the election if she happened to be released before then.

All is not going well for the dictator, General Than Shwe, who is 72 and in ill health. All he wants to do is set up his successor and secure his retirement, no surprises like being arrested or assassinated... A couple of years ago he was responsible for the shooting and killing of Buddhist monks who were protesting the treatment of Aung. Then, a devastating cyclone hit last year, and finally, as reported by the NY Times: "The Danok pagoda, on the outskirts of Myanmar’s main city, Yangon, was newly blessed May 7 in the presence of Daw Kyaing Kyaing, the wife of the country’s supreme leader, Senior Gen. Than Shwe, along with an A-list of junta society. The rite received major coverage in government-controlled media.

In a solemn ceremony, the worshipers fixed a diamond orb to the top of the pagoda along with a pennant-shaped vane and sprinkled scented water onto the tiers of a holy, golden umbrella, according to the government mouthpiece, The New Light of Myanmar.

Like the rest of the heavily censored press, the newspaper was silent when it all came crashing down.

But word of mouth — and foreign radio broadcasts — spreads fast in Myanmar.

“People were laughing at her,” said a longtime astrologer, reached by telephone in Myanmar, speaking of Mrs. Kyaing Kyaing.

“O.K., she thinks she is so great, but even the gods don’t like her — people believe like that.”
 So. world opinion has caught up to his bad karma, and even the spirits are jeering him, which may indicate why the government is uncertain on how to continue the mock trial. Maybe they will send her to Paulau...

late night jokes:

"But my son, God bless him. In school, he made me a very special Father's Day gift. It's a huge in-box for all my hate mail." --David Letterman

"And by the way, if you haven't bought dad a gift for Father's Day, you can't go wrong with the new book by Rush Limbaugh. You know the one I'm talking about? 'Too Fat to Fish.'" --David Letterman

"They're having a lot of trouble over there in Iran. They had the presidential election. And Mahmoud Ahmadinejad -- it was controversial, they were tied, and now he's claiming that he won by a landslide. So his opposition, they're out on the streets. And you know, when you're out in Iran, you're not supposed to be -- public displays, no, you can't do that. And it's like hundreds of thousands of people in the streets now protesting this election. And the government is going crazy. And they're saying, 'No, no, no, no. It's not a -- no, that, that's not a protest. Those are folks just lining up to get their new iPhones.'" --David Letterman

"But this guy, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, I mean, he claims victory and he is very unpopular. And the danger politically of this, he could ruin the political career of his brother, Jeb Ahmadinejad." --David Letterman

"Here's fascinating news. Dick Cheney, do you remember Dick Cheney? Dick 'Boom Boom' Cheney. His approval rating is up to 26%, up to 26%. Yeah, crazy, isn't it? He's been upgraded from hated to unpopular." --David Letterman

"I'm not surprised that Dick Cheney's approval rating has really soared, really skyrocketed, up to 26%. Because you know, he gave people what they wanted. He left office." --David Letterman

"The animal rights group PETA is criticizing President Obama after seeing footage of Obama killing a fly. Meanwhile, today, a fly buzzing around Joe Biden took its own life." --Conan O'Brien

"Not such a great day for Hillary Clinton. She fell down, broke her elbow. You know, Fox News is going to be all over this story. This proves the Democrats are weak. Reagan fell over 10 times, didn't even break his hair." --Craig Ferguson

"Now the official report said that Hillary fell while she was walking to her car in the parking lot of the State Department. But Hillary likes to exaggerate, so she's telling everybody it was sniper fire." --Craig Ferguson

"The Secret Service performed beautifully but they had to use the Jaws of Life to cut Hillary out of her pantsuit." --Craig Ferguson

"In his speech yesterday, former President George W. Bush attacked President Obama's policies on anti-terrorism, healthcare, and the economy. Then Bush spent the next 20 minutes trying to kill a fly." --Jimmy Fallon

"Big election news from Iran. A British newspaper reported that Mir Hossein Mousavi actually won the election and Ahmadinejad came in third. And coming in second, Al Gore. The guy can't win anything." --Jimmy Fallon

"Here's some good news. President Obama just appointed Tom Brokaw to his Commission on White House Fellowships, mostly because he loves to hear Brokaw try to pronounce fellowship." --Jimmy Fallon