Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Last Call

I have plenty of friends who home school their children.  It takes a lot of effort, dedication, and time to do that.  But the one thing my friends who home school have in common is that they're all smarter than Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain and Ron Paul, and they don't spout silly nonsense about schools in general.

"My husband and I also home schooled our children for a number of years," Bachmann said, mentioning her five biological children and 23 others she parented through Foster care.

Home schooling is "about freedom," Bachmann added.  "It's about liberty.  It's about knowing our children better than the state knows our children."

Cain echoed a similar theme.

"Get this government out of the way," he told the crowd. "Government is trying to strangle education in America by strangling what you have the right to do."

Cain was the first Republican to establish a presidential exploratory committee and is also considering a White House bid.

It was perhaps Ron Paul, who is also weighing another presidential run, who made the strongest claim about the nation's education system.

"The public school now is a propaganda machine," Paul said.  "They start with our kids even in kindergarten, teaching them about family values, sexual education, gun rights, environmentalism, and they condition them to believe in so much that is totally un-American."

You know, I remember a time, let's call it, oh, before 2008, when anyone who spouted nonsense like this would have been laughed off the national stage.

Now these sad folks are the national stage.  Not only are they trying to hornswoggle the folks who are dedicated to helping their kids, but they are doing so by running as the leader of a government they say is inherently evil and destructive by design.  They rail against the state telling parents what to do, and they do so by telling parents what they should do.


Another Milepost On The Road To Oblivion

Don Surber cracks me up with his observations on the no-fly zone coalition:

We formed NATO. We have the nukes. Unfortunately, we now have someone who was not even a Cub Scout as our commander-in-chief — a numbskull who does not realize that when you go to war, you get your silly little ass out of Rio, get your behind behind that desk in the Oval Office and DO YOUR JOB.

When do we elect Sarah Palin already and end this long national nightmare?

That's the funniest damn thing I've read all day.  Because I'm wondering what President Sarah Palin would be doing right now, and I'm convinced we'd not be worried about Libya at all right now, because we'd be too busy sending ground troops into Iran.

A Basket Case of A Bastard Kasich

Ohio Republican Gov. John Kasich is not a very popular man in the Buckeye State, and he's only been on the job for two months.

The first poll taken after Ohio Gov. John Kasich released his budget plan a week ago shows the governor with an approval rating of 30 percent and considerable dissatisfaction over his budget.

Quinnipiac University, which does polling in key states, released a poll this morning which showed that 46 percent disapprove of the way Kasich, who took office in January, is handling his job, while 30 percent approve.

Senate Bill 5, the Kasich-backed measure which would do away with collective bargaining for public employees, is not particularly popular, according to the poll. Half of the 1,384 registered Ohio voters who were surveyed March 15-21 were asked about a bill limiting “collective bargaining.” 48 percent said they opposed the bill; 41 percent said they approved.

But the other half was asked about a bill that limits “collective bargaining rights.” That changed the outcome – 54 percent said they opposed the bill, while 35 percent said they supported it.

When asked if they believe the governor’s budget proposals were fair to them, 56 percent said “unfair” and 36 percent said “fair.”

People here are pissed off at Kasich, especially here in reliably Red State Cincy.  Perhaps this has something to do with it.

In an unprecedented action, Ohio Senate Transportation Committee Chair Tom Patton allowed a provision to be introduced to the latest amendment of the state’s biennial transportation budget that would “prohibit state or federal funds appropriated by the state from being used for the Cincinnati streetcar project.”

The action comes on the heels of recent news that newly elected Governor John Kasich (R) plans to strip the project of approximately $52 million in state appropriated funds. Such an action would go directly against the state’s laws and proceedings for appropriating state and federal transportation dollars, and could be subject to legal action from the City of Cincinnati.

“So if you suddenly don’t like the process established by law that has worked well for 14 years under Democrats and Republicans, you change the process,” said Ken Prendergast, executive director of All Aboard Ohio. “This is like saying we didn’t like who won the Super Bowl, so we’re going to re-write the record books.”

In other words, Kasich and his cabinet are doing everything they can to eliminate public transportation projects in Ohio.  They've already killed high-speed rail, and now they are trying to strangle the Cincy streetcar project in the crib, even after voters here approved the measure.

But Kasich has a plan for Ohio jobs:  Get drunk, Ohioans!

The success of Gov. John Kasich's plan to recruit new business to Ohio will hinge heavily on just how much Ohioans drink alcohol.

Kasich last week unveiled his state budget proposal, which includes a plan to lease the state's liquor distribution operation -- which of late has drawn record profits -- and use the cash to fund his private economic development machine.

Since floating the idea earlier this year, the Republican governor says there have been plenty of potential takers. In fact, Ohioans' propensity to consume more than ever, according to recent figures, has influenced the governor's idea most.

"Over the years people drink more. It's just a natural revenue stream," Kasich said last Tuesday while outlining his proposal, drawing a smattering of laughter from reporters. "So, everybody wanted to buy it. Everybody was interested in it." 

Public development bad (and must be stopped by any means necessary, including apparently illegal ones), private job development companies that Kasich's the head of taking public money, good (Hey, he's a former financial lobbyist here).

You miss Ted Strickland yet, Ohio?

This Week's WTH

Former Churchland high school coach and teacher Cedric Cradle faces felony charges, after a school resource officer saw him take a 16-year-old girl off campus on Valentine's Day.

"Honestly, I really believe if they weren't caught, it would have never came out," says the teen's mom.

If you read the article, it appears her mother was likely right.  It's an unfortunate part of school administration that this happens far too often.  It's inevitable that this can take place, and is deplorable. What escalates it to freaking unbelievable is the way the school blew this off and made no attempt to alert the police in a situation like this.  

How Much Is Too Much? Try 75 TRILLION DOLLARS.

Does $75 trillion even exist? The thirteen record companies that are suing file-sharing company Lime Wire for copyright infringement certainly thought so. When they won a summary judgment ruling last May they demanded damages that could reach this mind-boggling amount, which is more than five times the national debt.

Manhattan federal district court judge Kimba Wood, however, saw things differently. She labeled the record companies' damages request "absurd" and contrary to copyright laws in a 14-page opinion.

Thank God someone feels like making sense.   Judge Wood may not be able to change the course of stupidity, but she has made a legendary leap in the right direction.  Her opinion refers to their "strained, albeit creative interpretation" and does not mince words.  However, I applaud her restraint in not throwing a "bwahahahahahahaha" at the end. 


Breaking News: Elizabeth Taylor Dies At 79

Elizabeth Taylor has died after extended treatment for congestive heart failure.  The actress, one of the last surviving from the Hollywood glam days, was well known for many scandals and her legendary wit, but will perhaps be best remembered for her AIDS contributions and campaign for safe sex at a time when it was not trendy to do so.  Taylor was never afraid to be controversial, whether it was one of her many marriages or her stance for gay rights, again when it was not trendy to be supportive.  She had been suffering for the last few years, and had been in pain for a long time.  When those violet eyes closed forever an era passed with her, but she has earned her rest and her place in history.

Tortured Logic, Revisited

Truthout's Jason Leopold and Jeffrey Kaye have a very sobering piece on Bush-era torture programs, and the apparent fact they were implemented as the eventual goal for detainees, not as "the last resort".  The man behind the psychological aspect of the "enhanced interrogation techniques" is Dr. Bruce Jessen, a CIA psychologist.  Jessen's notes, provided to Truthout, are shocking.  Dr. Jessen's job was to help defend US troops against interrogation techniques...but his insights were applied in the opposite direction.

What stands out in Jessen's notes is that he believed torture was often used to produce false confessions. That was the end result after one high-value detainee who was tortured in early 2002 confessed to having information proving a link between the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda, according to one former Bush administration official.

It was later revealed, however, that the prisoner, Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, had simply provided his captors a false confession so they would stop torturing him. Jessen appeared to be concerned with protecting the US military against falling victim to this exact kind of physical and psychological pressure in a hostile detention environment, recognizing that it would lead to, among other things, false confessions.

In a paper Jessen wrote accompanying his notes, "Psychological Advances in Training to Survive Captivity, Interrogation and Torture," which was prepared for the symposium: "Advances in Clinical Psychological Support of National Security Affairs, Operational Problems in the Behavioral Sciences Course," he suggested that additional "research" should be undertaken to determine "the measurability of optimum stress levels in training students to resist captivity." 

"The avenues appear inexhaustible" for further research in human exploitation, Jessen wrote.

Such "research" appears to have been the main underpinning of the Bush administration's torture program. The experimental nature of these interrogation methods used on detainees held at Guantanamo and at CIA black site prisons have been noted by military and intelligence officials. The Armed Services Committee report cited a statement from Col. Britt Mallow, the commander of the Criminal Investigative Task Force (CITF), who noted that Guantanamo officials Maj. Gen. Mike Dunleavy and Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller used the term "battle lab" to describe the facility, meaning "that interrogations and other procedures there were to some degree experimental, and their lessons would benefit [the Department of Defense] in other places."

What remains a mystery is why Jessen took a defensive survival training course and assisted in turning it into an offensive torture program.

That mystery of course was solved when the US was attacked on September 11, 2001.   Jessen's theories on the psychology of torture were used in an Air Force SERE program (Survival Evasion Resistance Escape) called SV-91, taught to military intelligence operatives. And SV-91 was reverse-engineered to form the basis of our own program to break detainees.

"From the moment you are detained (if some kind of exploitation is your Detainer's goal) everything your Detainer does will be contrived to bring about these factors: CONTROL, DEPENDENCY, COMPLIANCE AND COOPERATION," Jessen wrote. "Your detainer will work to take away your sense of control. This will be done mostly by removing external control (i.e., sleep, food, communication, personal routines etc. )…Your detainer wants you to feel 'EVERYTHING' is dependent on him, from the smallest detail, (food, sleep, human interaction), to your release or your very life … Your detainer wants you to comply with everything he wishes. He will attempt to make everything from personal comfort to your release unavoidably connected to compliance in your mind."

And what we used to defend our troops became the weapon to use against those we had captured, in true military fashion.  Do read the article, it's chilling as hell and very important stuff.

To Air Claire Is Human, To Forget, Divine

Bon might have some additional insight on her Senator, Dem Claire McCaskill, but it seems Claire has booked a one-way ticket to trouble in 2012.

A quick backgrounder of the scandal so far:

On March 9, Politico reported McCaskill had charged taxpayers for 89 flights she took on the plane she owns. Though it's not rare for senators to charter flights for official business, and it's a common and accepted practice for senators to charge the government for those flights, McCaskill sent the Treasury $88,000 to cover the cost of the flights after Politico asked about them.

Then it was discovered that at least one of the flights was a political trip and definitely should not have been paid for with taxpayer money. McCaskill said she was "embarrassed." Which is also what she said yesterday when she revealed that she failed to pay close to $287,000 in personal property taxes on the plane.

McCaskill also said she has attorneys looking for more political travel on the official flight list. So far, they've found some.

Adding to the political peril for McCaskill: Her very public record of taking others to task for transgressions with strikingly similar overtones.

The question then becomes "who ratted her out to Politico", and of course "what else is she hiding?"  At best, McCaskill is a fairly reliable vote for the Democrats, but she's shown a few Blue Dog tendencies from time to time (It's Missouri, after all.)  The problem is that Republicans now see that they have their way to get her seat by flogging this story for the next 18 months, and the more McCaskill splits hairs, the easier it becomes for the GOP to simply fail to tell the truth about the issue.

In other words, it's a perfect situation for this to become something much worse than it is for her, and unless McCaskill gets a lid on this thing soon, she's going to lose in 2012.

A. Weiner Is You, Libya Edition

Democrat Anthony Weiner of New York continues to defend his crown as the most outspoken member of the Democratic Caucus in Congress, this week taking on Libya, the War Powers Act, and President Obama.

"My view is that there are times in American history — Rwanda was one, bombing the tracks during the onset to the Holocaust, that we could have sent a bomber wing in to take out the tracks, we didn't do it — we look back and we see we should use military force to try and defend people who can’t defend themselves," Weiner said Monday on the Don Imus show in New York.

“If we are a powerful country one of the ways we use our power is for good," Weiner said. “What’s the purpose of being a powerful country if we are not using it to defend people?”

The U.S. launched more than 110 cruise missiles over the weekend and has sustained an attack through the beginning of the week against military installations and forces controlled by Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.

Although Weiner defended Obama's decision to lead a coalition on the initial attack, he said the president had erred by initiating the conflict without first seeking the permission of Congress, which according to the Constitution holds the sole power to declare war.

“I do believe the president made a mistake by not going to Congress and asking for permission,” Weiner said.

It's no secret that Weiner wants Mayor Bloomberg's job in NYC, and it seems to me that he's running for hizzoner's position just a tad early here.  But I actually have a problem with Weiner's logic.  There's plenty of countries out there where the oppressive regimes in charge are hurting and even killing their own citizens:  Bahrain, Syria, Yemen, Zimbabwe, and Ivory Coast just off the top of my head.

But we'd never consider a no-fly zone over any of those countries to take "all necessary measures" to defend those civilians.  Hmm, I wonder why...guess oil is more important that cocoa.

As I was taught growing up, just because you're the big guy in the neighborhood doesn't mean you get to go pick fights, even if the smaller guys have it coming.


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