Thursday, February 26, 2015

John Kerry's Breakfast Of Champions

Righteous indignation is a good look on you, Secretary Kerry, especially when dealing with Benjamin Netanyahu.

Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday slammed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's opposition to a potential nuclear deal with Iran, calling it as wrongheaded as the prime minister's backing of the Iraq War.

"Israel is safer today with the added time we have given and the stoppage of the advances in the nuclear program than they were before we got that agreement, which by the way the prime minister opposed," Kerry said during a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing. "He was wrong." 
Kerry was later asked to address Netanyahu's criticism of a hypothetical deal with Iran as a threat to Israel. 
"The prime minister was profoundly forward-leaning and outspoken about the importance of invading Iraq under George W. Bush," Kerry replied. "We all know what happened with that decision."

I'm betting it's right about now Netanyahu is wishing he never talked to John Boehner about trying to put President Obama "in his place".  Bibi's looking like a lonely man without a friend in the world at this point.

And yes, a not-so-gentle reminder that Bibi was part of the relentless drumbeat to invade Iraq and should be punished for it.  Hopefully Israeli elections will take care of that very, very soon.  About time Kerry told Bibi to go suck it.

Trump, Card


Real estate mogul Donald J. Trump, who has long toyed with presidential ambitions, said Wednesday he is serious about pursuing a run for the White House — moving ahead with a spate of political hires and delaying his television commitments for 2016. 
In recent days, Trump has enlisted several strategists to advise him in three key states, retained an attorney to help him navigate federal election law and alerted GOP officials about his desire to seek the Republican nomination. 
Trump said he has also declined to sign on for another season with the entertainment division of NBC, where he hosts “Celebrity Apprentice,” because of his political projects.

Oh this should be amusing.  Please, let The Donald stay in this mess as long as possible.


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Last Call For The Religion Test

Here's what Americans think about President Obama's religion, "deep down":

Only 9% of Republicans believe Obama is a Christian, in their heart of hearts.  The vast majority think he's Muslim.

Independent voters mostly have no clue and don't know (47%), abut again only 16% believe it when the President says he's a Christian, a quarter think he's Muslim.

Hell, even 10% of Dems believe Obama is a Muslim.  But 45% believe he is a Christian.

Now given what most Republican believe about Muslims: that they are the Enemy and want to kill them, what does that tell you about Republicans and President Obama?

Both Sides Do It, Forever

The useless Ron Fournier literally blames both sides within the first 20 words of his piece on the Republicans shutting down Homeland Security in order to kill Obama's immigration orders.

Who's at fault for the looming Homeland Security Department shutdown? Everyone in power. Let me count the ways.

And who's at the top of his list?  President Obama, of course.

1. President Obama and Democratic congressional leaders punted on immigration reform while controlling the White House and Congress in 2009 and 2010. Choosing politics over the policy, they wanted immigration as a point of attack against the GOP in the 2010 midterm elections.

Never mind that Republicans trashed their own immigration plan under Bush in 2007, it's Obama's fault for not passing immigration reform in 2009, despite the fact that when Obama wanted to work on immigration, the GOP blocked the bill.

2. Just weeks after voters repudiated his administration in the 2014 midterms, Obama granted temporary relief from deportation to more than 4 million illegal immigrants. He did so without congressional approval, despitewarnings that such action might be illegal and would almost certainly worsen polarization and dysfunction in Washington. (The fundamental promise of his 2008 election was to break gridlock.)

So at this point it's literally all Obama's fault. Somehow, he made the GOP tie DHS funding to immigration executive orders.

3. Incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell promised the new GOP Senate would not allow a government shutdown. "So I think we have an obligation to change the behavior on the Senate and to begin to function again," he said.

This is somehow third in a two-party blame game.  That tells you all you need to know about Fournier.

5. Congress approved the annual federal budget in December, but Republicans held back funding for the terrorist-fighting agency known as DHS. They wanted leverage against Obama's immigration action. The DHS budget was extended only to February 27.

Now, this is the actual cause of the impending shutdown, but it's not listed until fifth.  Again, classic Fournier.

9. McConnell proposed to "get the Senate unstuck" by decoupling the president's immigration action from the DHS funding bill. Likely outcome: The agency would be funded; Republicans would register a symbolic vote against the president; and Obama would protect his immigration action with a veto.

This is somehow the last "cause" of the problem, the fact that this was all for show and always was. It rather neatly erases the other 8 "causes" but again, this is last.  Fournier ends with this:

The fact that both sides are wrong doesn't mean they are equally wrong. Most voters are likely to conclude that Republicans are a bit more culpable than Democrats. "As we learned during the last government shutdown," according to NBC's First Read political analysis, "the side that's using government spending to demand changes to existing law or directives is going to be the side that gets blamed if the government (or just part of it) shuts down." 
After the 2013 government shutdown, Republican approval ratings plummeted, and yet that searing example of government dysfunction was all but forgotten by the time Republicans stumped Democrats in the 2014 midterms. 
In 2013, voters viewed the GOP as the worst of two bad choices. In 2014, the coin flipped and Democrats were the most-worse option. If DHS shuts down this weekend, it almost doesn't matter who get blamed in the short, medium, and long terms. Both parties will be failures. Again.

So literally two paragraphs after noting that most Americans will blame the GOP because both parties are not "equally wrong", he then ends with "it doesn't matter" and "both parties are equally wrong."

Fournier, folks.

The Black Hole Of Chicago

Spencer Ackerman's series in The Guardian on Chicago's crooked cops continues with this horrifying piece on what can only be described as a "domestic black site" for off-the-record arrests, interrogations, and unconstitutional detainment.

The Chicago police department operates an off-the-books interrogation compound, rendering Americans unable to be found by family or attorneys while locked inside what lawyers say is the domestic equivalent of a CIA black site.

The facility, a nondescript warehouse on Chicago’s west side known as Homan Square, has long been the scene of secretive work by special police units. Interviews with local attorneys and one protester who spent the better part of a day shackled in Homan Square describe operations that deny access to basic constitutional rights. 
Alleged police practices at Homan Square, according to those familiar with the facility who spoke out to the Guardian after its investigation into Chicago police abuse, include:
  • Keeping arrestees out of official booking databases. 
  • Beating by police, resulting in head wounds.
  • Shackling for prolonged periods.
  • Denying attorneys access to the “secure” facility.
  • Holding people without legal counsel for between 12 and 24 hours, including people as young as 15.
At least one man was found unresponsive in a Homan Square “interview room” and later pronounced dead. 
Brian Jacob Church, a protester known as one of the “Nato Three”, was held and questioned at Homan Square in 2012 following a police raid. Officers restrained Church for the better part of a day, denying him access to an attorney, before sending him to a nearby police station to be booked and charged. 
“Homan Square is definitely an unusual place,” Church told the Guardian on Friday. “It brings to mind the interrogation facilities they use in the Middle East. The CIA calls them black sites. It’s a domestic black site. When you go in, no one knows what’s happened to you.”

And Chicago cops are using this on protesters and minorities, people that nobody will miss.  No attorney, no cameras, no oversight, just treating people the way we treat Gitmo detainees.  In America.  On American soil.  By American cops.

Jesus hell.

The secretive warehouse is the latest example of Chicago police practices that echo the much-criticized detention abuses of the US war on terrorism. While those abuses impacted people overseas, Homan Square – said to house military-style vehicles, interrogation cells and even a cage – trains its focus on Americans, most often poor, black and brown. 
Unlike a precinct, no one taken to Homan Square is said to be booked. Witnesses, suspects or other Chicagoans who end up inside do not appear to have a public, searchable record entered into a database indicating where they are, as happens when someone is booked at a precinct. Lawyers and relatives insist there is no way of finding their whereabouts. Those lawyers who have attempted to gain access to Homan Square are most often turned away, even as their clients remain in custody inside. 
“It’s sort of an open secret among attorneys that regularly make police station visits, this place – if you can’t find a client in the system, odds are they’re there,” said Chicago lawyer Julia Bartmes.

And this is an open secret in Chicago among law enforcement and attorneys.  My god.

Get the DoJ in here yesterday.  People have to go to prison for a very long time for this one.


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Last Call For Anything You Want

The Internet Service Economy(tm) reaches its nadir. TechCrunch's Sarah Burh introduces us to Magic.

Get sushi on a boat, a tiger at your door, or make your parking ticket vanish into thin air. An ambitious new startup says it will let you text for anything you want (and they do mean anything) as long as it’s legal, and it will magically come to you. 
Just text 408-596-5017 and Magic, a texting service that seems to have blown up over the weekend, promises to deliver. 
Magic is only 48 hours old, but we’re told it has already had over 17,000 text messages as of this morning. Someone added Magic to Product Hunt over the weekend and it was No. 1 on Hacker News within 20 minutes. 
Requests have ranged from help getting out of court to a tiger delivered to a customer’s door, according to co-founder Mike Chen. 
Magic seems to have blown up because of what I call “Product Hunt Effect” (similar to the “TechCrunch Effect“). A small startup with a simple idea gets posted on Product Hunt and it’s flooded with more traffic than it knows what to do with. 
Chen seemed overwhelmed when I spoke to him. “I had zero idea it would get like this. You know people say things happen overnight and I didn’t believe them before and now it’s happening to me,” he told me over the phone. 
The original idea was to create a service using text messaging instead of going through several steps on an app to order food, a driver or other things people might want. “Something like DoorDash or Postmates you have to manage it a bit,” Chen said. 
So this last Saturday his team put together a simple site with a number to text that would try to give you anything you want, as long as it’s legal and you are willing to pay the price.

And off to the races Magic goes.

Magic charges a fee on top of the cost of the products or services you're requesting, essentially acting as a middleman for services like Instacart or Seamless that are already acting as a middleman. That means you're paying two premiums: one for the convenience of simplifying the process to just a text message and one premium if Magic ends up using an existing delivery service. To be clear, you can definitely save some money if you go directly through those delivery apps or just order those plane tickets online yourself.

The ultimate concierge service for people with too much money and not enough common sense? These guys are going to make billions.

Shutdown Countdown: DHS Edition

With days left before 85% of Department of Homeland Security employees will have to start reporting to work without pay (because that will make them really want to protect America) Republicans finally have a plan for moving forward by caving on immigration, but a GOP partial shutdown is looking all but assured as there's no way the House will play ball.

Congress approved a full year’s funding for the rest of the federal government in December, but Republicans held back funding for DHS in reaction to Obama’s immigration actions, giving the agency budget authority only through midnight Feb. 27. 
Now, with four days before the security agency’s budget lapses, senior Republicans are pushing for a new strategy that does not directly link Obama’s actions on immigration to funding for DHS. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who had previously acknowledged that the chamber was in stalemate over the issue, set up votes later this week on separate legislation that would repeal one of Obama’s immigration actions.

Those actions, announced in December, would grant temporary relief from deportation to more than 4 million illegal immigrants. McConnell’s hope is that moving the immigration issue onto a separate bill may create a path for the DHS funding bill to go through. 
“It’s another way to get the Senate unstuck,” McConnell said.

But getting a clean bill past the House once again comes down to Boehner selling it to a base that wants to obliterate Democrats from the country.

Outside conservative groups, including Heritage Action, have been pushing Republicans not to not approve a “clean” funding plan, demanding that any DHS budget include the immigration provisions that would reverse Obama’s actions. 
House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) has sided with Heritage Action and other conservatives, even after the judge’s ruling last week that could tie up the issue for many months in the courts. 
“The House has passed a bill to fund the Homeland Security Department, but Senate Democrats are blocking debate on it — and, with just days left before the deadline, President Obama is doing nothing to help,” Michael Steel, Boehner’s spokesman, said Monday in a statement.

So even if a clean bill passes the Senate, it's not passing the House.  And time is running out.

A Question Of Faith

When Byron York of the DC Examiner asks why Americans seems to be so confused and mentions the fact that less than half of Americans believe President Obama is a Christian, you'd better start looking for the catch.  (Hint: it's at the end.)

In the more than four years since that column was published, it's likely at least some confusion about Obama's religion has persisted. For one thing, few people see Obama openly practicing any religious faith. After the president did not attend church on Christmas 2013, the New York Times, citing unofficial White House historian Mark Knoller, noted that Obama had attended church 18 times in nearly five years in the White House, while George W. Bush attended 120 times in eight years. Yes, there are a variety of reasons some presidents don't go to church very often, but in Obama's case, absence does nothing to change existing public perceptions of him
And there are other factors. For example, it would not be a stretch to guess that those Americans who told Gallup and Pew that they did not know the president's faith would remain unsure after hearing reports that at the recent National Prayer Breakfast, Obama explained Islamic State violence by urging listeners to "remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ." Again, many people don't pay close attention to the news, and snippets of reports on Obama's faith, like his remarks at the Prayer Breakfast, could yield a confused picture. 
Some would argue that, while yes, many in the public don't know the president's religion, certainly Scott Walker, the governor of a state, should know. But Walker's answer to the reporters' question just reflects a broader public puzzlement over Barack Obama's faith — a phenomenon that he helped perpetuate and, at this late date in his presidency, seems unlikely to go away.

"Gosh, of course less than half of America thinks Obama is Christian.  He's terrible at it."  And so the racist, bigoted assholes like York keep concern trolling the President that he's not Christian enough, and absolve the "He's a seekrit Mooslem" nonsense all in the same breath.

And of course, York's bigotry is all Obama's fault.  It always is.


Monday, February 23, 2015

Last Call For Another Secession Session

Angry rural counties are at it again, this time in upstate New York, where towns in at least 4 counties want to leave the Empire State and become part of Pennsylvania over Gov. Cuomo's statewide fracking ban.

Fifteen towns in upstate New York have expressed interest in secession after the state banned fracking, according to an interest group researching the economic benefits of such a move.

The Upstate New York Towns Association said 15 towns expressed interest breaking away to join Pennsylvania, which allows fracking, according to television station WBNG. Although the group declined to name specific towns involved in the effort, WBNG reported the towns are located in Broome, Delaware, Tioga and Sullivan counties. 
Those counties are located in or near New York's natural gas-rich Southern Tier, which borders Pennsylvania. 
The secession seed apparently was planted by Conklin, N.Y. town supervisor Jim Finch (R) back in December when New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced a ban on the gas extraction technique. Conklin is part of the towns association. 
"The Southern Tier is desolate," Finch told WBNG. "We have no jobs and no income. The richest resource we have is in the ground." 
New York state Sen. Majority Deputy Leader Tom Libous (R) also included a question on secession in a recent survey of his constituents. 
"After the one-two punch to our community from the recent casino and gas drilling decisions, my office received many emails, phone calls and messages from constituents calling for a Southern Tier secession from New York State," Libous said in a statement to WBNG. "While getting my constituents' opinion on spending the $5 billion surplus was our top priority, I thought a question on secession should also be included in the survey."

Boy if people figure out they can just up and secede over every little state law, there's not going to be very many states left in this whole United States of America thing.  Note too that this didn't become a problem until president 44 came along.

Just because you lost the vote in a Democracy doesn't mean you can just up and leave, guys.  No, I take that back, you can leave, and you can move.

So, whatever.

Patriot Games

Glenn Reynolds may be pulling one of the better Poe’s Law fast ones here, but it sure looks like the guy is saying (in his always baffling weekly USA Today column, how he keeps that I’ll never know) that, rather than questioning President Obama’s patriotism, it may be time to do something about those unpatriotic liberal voters who put him into power twice.

Perhaps we need to pay closer attention to these questions where presidents are concerned, but perhaps we should go a step farther: In a country like ours, where voters reign supreme, it seems as if concern about the patriotism of rulers ought to also apply to voters.
Science fiction writer Robert Heinlein, in his famous novel Starship Troopers, envisioned a society where voters, too, had to demonstrate their patriotism before being allowed to vote. In his fictional society, the right to vote came only after some kind of dangerous public service — in the military, as a volunteer in dangerous medical experiments, or in other ways that demonstrated a willingness to sacrifice personally for the common good. The thought was that such voters would be more careful, and less selfish, in their voting. 
So when the five-day wonder of questioning Barack Obama’s patriotism is over, perhaps we should address another question: How patriotic is the electorate? And how long can we survive as a nation if the answer is “not very”? And we should proceed from there.

Actually bringing up Starship Troopers as an example of a voting society and implying in the next paragraph that maybe having voting and citizenship be earned somehow by “patriots” is so ridiculously and completely peg-the-needle fascist that I honestly believe Reynolds is pulling our leg here, but there’s not anything in the rest of the column that makes me think this is satire or parody.

I think he might actually be serious.

I mean isn’t this the next logical step for the party that’s trying to limit the number of people who are allowed to vote, those trying to depress the electorate to the point of apathy leaving only the true believers to cast ballots, who believes the Voting Rights Act is an outdated relic, and is actively blocking any attempt to try to update it for the 21st century? Why not open fascism where only the right people are allowed to vote? That would certainly prevent that whole “demography as destiny” problem the GOP is facing, yes?

I dunno, nothing really surprises me anymore about these guys.

Another Nail In First Look's Coffin

First Look Media, the increasingly silly broken toy of tech billionaire Pierre Omidyar, helmed by Glenn Greenwald, continues to fall apart.  This time it's the loss of reporter Ken Silverstein, who left because of "management's incompetence and bad faith."  Here are some of Ken's Facebook posts on the issue from this weekend, from Jim Romanesko:

February 20 at 10:26pm
You know what’s cool about being a former employee of First Look/The Intercept? That Glenn Greenwald, Jeremy Scahill, Betsy Reed and Pierre Omidyar all believe in Free Speech and the First Amendment so they won’t mind my writing about my time working for and with them. Tentative title: “Welcome to the Slaughterhouse.”

February 20 at 11:39pm
I have to go to sleep soon but before I forget, you know what my favorite part of working for First Look was? Last year’s holiday party when two of our fiercely independent staffers “interviewed” Pierre Omidyar and asked him what he did in the morning. Since you are all hanging on the edge of your seats, he drinks tea and reads stuff, the NYT and other things and then The Intercept was about #5 (he claims). And for the record, I boycotted this embarrassing affair and sat in a conference room with two other people, one who no longer works there and one who may or may not. It’s hard to keep track. What a joke.

February 21 at 11:34am
Wow, it is amazing how good it feels not to work for The Intercept. And what feels even better is the incredible support I have received from friends and editors (some editors who are friends). I have lots of work lined up and the day could not be better. Also, just one last comment on First Look Media: The fact that that it hired so many talented people to create Racket and spent millions of dollars on it and in the end fired everyone and Racket never published a single story is probably the greatest squandering of money and example of criminal ineptitude in the history of modern journalism. Again, what a pathetic joke. Oh yeah, I was not originally hired to work at Racket and didn’t get fired, so I am not including myself in the group of “talented” people I mentioned above. Thanks again everyone.

February 22 at 10:24am
So this will be my last post about First Look. First, let me say I’ve had a great weekend enjoying by status as a former FL employee and hanging out with my son and talking to friends and otherwise having a fine time. Though it may appear otherwise, I am not blindly lashing out at FL. My prior posts reflect the anger and disillusionment I feel towards the company, and my anger and disillusionment is shared by many former employees. I am one of a many employees who was hired under what were essentially false pretenses; we were told we would be given all the financial and other support we needed to do independent, important journalism, but instead found ourselves blocked at every step of the way by management’s incompetence and bad faith….


Can't say you weren't warned.  Those of us who saw through Double G years ago knew what he was about: monetizing attacking the Obama administration from the left.  Snowden was his chance of a lifetime, and since then he's been coasting on fumes, realizing that he's being used by any number of people (and maybe the Russians) to make Obama and America look bad.

It's got to suck, but what has The Intercept done except fail?  Look at the people who left without writing a single decent article, who were driven out and lied to.  They all have the same story, like Silverstein does, time and time again.

That's a serious problem for First Look and at this point they have no credibility left.


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