Friday, May 20, 2011

Last Call

Last call indeed for Randy Poffo, better known as wrestling icon Macho Man Randy Savage.

Bon adds:

Macho Man Randy Savage died in a car accident today in Florida. While driving through Tampa, he crossed lanes and hit a tree.  His wife suffered moderate injuries. It is suspected that he had a heart attack while driving.

I haven't watched wrestling in a decade or more, but he was like a favorite uncle and I'm sad to hear it. 

One more time: Ohhhhhh yeah.

We'll miss you, Randy.  Lord know he was one of my favorites growing up, his career spanning the WWF golden days of Hulk Hogan, Andre The Giant, Rowdy Roddy Piper and a hell of a lot more that always had me glued to the TV on Saturday afternoons.

Run wild over the afterlife, brother.

Zandar's Thought Of The Day

In all seriousness folks, why is the ultimate litmus test for American patriotism the absolute and unwavering support for a foreign country, in this case Israel?  For the unforgivable crime of even suggesting that Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu might have been disrespectful to President Obama, The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg is being summarily executed by the right:

For whatever reason, I tend to react strongly when a foreign leader disrespects the United States, and its President. I didn't like it when Hugo Chavez of Venezuela insulted President Bush; I don't like listening to Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan lecture the U.S. on its sins, and I'm not happy when certain Pakistani leaders gin-up righteous indignation about American behavior when it was their country that served as a refuge for the greatest mass murderer in American history.

And so I was similarly taken aback when I read a statement from Prime Minister Netanyahu yesterday that he "expects to hear a reaffirmation from President Obama of U.S. commitments made to Israel in 2004, which were overwhelmingly supported by both House of Congress."

So Netanyahu "expects" to hear this from the President of the United States? And if President Obama doesn't walk back the speech, what will Netanyahu do? Will he cut off Israeli military aid to the U.S.? Will he cease to fight for the U.S. in the United Nations, and in the many  international forums that treat Israel as a pariah?

Honest questions.  Surely any other foreign leader from any other country who came to Washington to discuss foreign aid and security matters who said that they "expected" the American President and Congress to do would at least be considered undiplomatically rude at best, and depending on the country or leader would get an earful from the press.

But this is Israel we're talking about.  And this is the response.  Col. Mustard:

Goldberg implies that it is not patriotic -- against "my president" -- for supporters of Israel to abide by Netanyahu's expectations.  To the contrary, it is very patriotic for Americans to "expect" that "their president" will honor commitments made by prior presidents to allies.

Obedience to what Israel wants is American patriotism?  Since when are we more worried about what Israel thinks and does as a measure of that?  Questioning Israel is not patriotic.  Red State:

Mr. Obama justified his pre-1967 proposal yesterday by declaring “[t]he dream of a Jewish and democratic state cannot be fulfilled with permanent occupation.” While rhetorically it sounded nice and cleverly recalled Martin Luther King’s iconic speech, the choice of the word “dream” to describe a sovereign state was a curious one. Perhaps for our President Israel is still an abstract phantasm that might or might not exist, but for others it has been a reality for the last 63 years. Israel has the right to all of its history, and all of its territory.

Suggesting that Israel may be occupying Palestinian territory, that Israel has anything less than all rights to all lands, is to suggest that Israel shouldn't be allowed to exist at all.  Questioning Israel is not patriotic.  The "ever-reasonable" Jim Hoft:

Today, Israel-hater Jeffrey Goldberg lashed out at Netanyahu for defending the Jewish homeland. Goldberg compared Netanyahu to anti-American Marxist Hugo Chavez.

To question Israel as an American Jew is to hate Israel and the Jewish homeland.  Questioning Israel is not patriotic.  Can you think of any other country...including America itself, mind you...that if you question anything about it, you are considered unpatriotic here?  What happened to the patriotism of dissent, as the right so fearfully complains that Obama crushes any disagreement with an iron fist?  What happened to "America First!"  Why does this all go out the window when it comes to Israel and the right?

Nobody seems to know.  But you're un-American for even thinking about it.

I leave you with Steve M.'s thoughts on this:

I suppose it's not surprising, but I'm struck by just how delighted right-wingers are these days when the president of the United States is insulted and embarrassed by a foreign leader. A few years go, wasn't it treasonous to root for the president to fail, especially on foreign policy, and to have schadenfreude when another foreign leader rebuffed him?

Obviously, of course, they don't consider Obama the president of the real America, and, in fact, they probably think of Netanyahu as a more patriotic American. Truthfully, if he could enter the GOP primaries, he'd have a serious chance at winning.

Now that's something to think about.  As far as some on the right go, Netanyahu is the rightful leader of the free world...

Hacked Off

At this point Sony is just embarrassing.

Sony Corp has been hacked again.

So-Net, the Internet service provider unit of Japan's Sony, alerted customers an intruder broke into its system and stole virtual points worth $1,225 from account holders.

This latest setback comes after personal information of some 100 million Sony user accounts was stolen last month when its online gaming systems, the PlayStation Network and Sony Online Entertainment, were hacked.

Security experts said there were not surprised the electronics company has yet to clean up weaknesses in its massive global network. Earlier this week, Sony shut down one of its websites set up to help millions of users change their passwords after finding a security flaw.

"Sony is going through a pretty rigorous process and finding the holes to fill," said Josh Shaul, chief technology officer for computer security firm Application Security Inc.

"The hackers are going through the same process and they're putting their fingers in the holes faster than Sony can fill them."

Personally I'm glad I never got involved in the PlayStation Network or any SOE online games, and judging from Sony's ridiculous response to their own massive security problems, I never will.  If you can't maintain security on your network like this, then customers will walk and rightfully so.  I have no sympathy for Sony, either.

Now Sony's customers, I feel for.  But I'll never be one of them, not for any online services.

The FDL 10: Oh For Frak's Sake, Guys

People have asked me not to use the term "Firebaggers" to describe the contingent of the anti-Obama progressive left that believes we have to get rid of the current administration and primary the President in 2012.  But crap like this makes it really, really hard not to do this.

The New Progressive Alliance has begun contacting prospective challengers to Barack Obama for the 2012 Democratic Party presidential nomination.

A new and growing organization, the NPA is dedicated to shifting the electoral paradigm in America from one that is largely closed, and in which voters are given only two choices – bad and worse, and both beholden to for-profit conglomerates – to a truly open system which enables genuine social democracy.

As the first of its two-stage strategy for achieving this goal, the NPA is actively seeking a 2012 primary challenger who will commit to turning the electoral process, as we know it, on its head.

Readers of the progressive blog “MyFDL” chose ten current and former Democrats as prospective primary challengers to Mr. Obama last fall. Elizabeth Warren placed first, followed by Russ Feingold, Howard Dean, Richard Trumka, Alan Grayson, Cynthia McKinney, Al Franken, Paul Krugman, Dennis Kucinich, and Jane Hamsher.

Yes.  This is the list of people that they think can A) beat Obama in a primary and B) win a national Presidential election.   Don't get me wrong, I have great respect for some of the people on that list.  Krugman is a hell of an economist and columnist.  Alan Grayson was certainly a needed voice in Congress and I'll miss him, and Al Franken certainly is a powerful force for change in the Senate, badly needed at that.  We need Russ Feingold back in the Senate replacing Herb Kohl for precisely that reason, too.

But I am under no illusions that any of these folks -- especially Jane Hamsher -- could ever keep the White House out of GOP hands right now.  And that's the most important part.  This is nothing more than the political equivalent of fantasy football or "Who would play you in the movie version of your life?"  It's not going to happen, people.

And the more energy we devote to unrealistic distractions like this, the less energy we have to help Obama defend this country against people like Gingrich, Romney, Huckabee, Ron Paul, and God help us, Sarah Palin or Michele Bachmann in 2012.

Wake up, people.  Get a clue.  We don't have time for this bullshit.

No Dealing On The Debt Ceiling, Part 9

Ezra Klein reviews what will happen in case Republicans make good on their threat to default the country for a "few days".

It almost goes without saying, but Brian Beutler of Talking Points Memo got Standard & Poor's to say it anyway. "A sovereign's failure to service its debt as payments come due is a default according to S&P's sovereign rating criteria," according John Piecuch, spokesman for Standard & Poors. "In that case, the rating would be lowered to 'SD' (Selective Default)."

A few months ago, S&P revised our credit outlook to negative: that meant they thought there was a slightly higher chance we'd lose our credit rating in the future. That was a bit of a shock to the political system, but this would be the real thing. So it's worth being clear: when you hear Paul Ryan say the market would accept a default “for a day or two or three or four," or Devin Nunes say that “by defaulting on the debt, in the short and long term, it could benefit us to go through a period of crisis that forces politicians to make decisions,” you're not hearing about some alternative to default. To S&P, that'd be a default. They'd lower our credit rating. The market would see our political system diving into an abyss that every other congress and presidential administration in history had considered unthinkable, and they'd see the rating agencies downgrading our debt, and that's plenty of fuel for an epic freak out.

A lot of Republicans get this. Doug Holtz-Eakin, president of the American Action Forum, released a YouTube video detailing the disastrous consequences of default and flatly concluding that "we’re going to raise the debt ceiling.” But the danger is that the Republican Party will want other things -- say, a bill with extremely deep spending cuts but absolutely no tax increases -- more than it will want to raise the debt ceiling. And with enough voices saying that the debt ceiling doesn't need to be raised, and enough other voices saying it can't be raised outside of one-sided concessions the Democrats will not make, it won't get raised

I still say it gets raised because the economic Powers That Be will make it clear to the Republicans that if this doesn't happen, economic hell will follow (not to mention corporations will no longer be able to mooch off the Fed discount window gravy train.)   But we're already into relatively uncharted territory here, and very soon you're going to see the government have to make some ugly decisions unless this gets done and fast.

We'll see.  As I said before, Republicans are give ultimatums and threatening to destroy the economy for 90% of America...or else they'll destroy the economy for 90% of America.  And they'll just blame Obama anyway.

Life Imitating Art

While filming a series about post-Katrina floods, the cast of Treme is may see a flood firsthand.

I'm a huge fan of Treme, and I was amused to see the season has advanced to the very time I was in New Orleans. I recall the weekend they describe in the last couple of episodes, and they capture it perfectly. The culture and times are captured, a real challenge while the memories are still fresh. The music is awesome, and Lucia Micarelli is getting more exposure and variety.  There's nothing wrong with this show, except the demise of John Goodman's character.  I'm still sad about that one.

Hunting The Vampire Squid

Tyler Durden at Zero Hedge flags down the news that finally, prosecutors may be going after Goldman Sachs.

In yet another confirmation that Goldman's multi-million dollar push to advertise its humanitarian image on various websites has been a colossal failure, the WSJ has just broken news that the firm will shortly be the proud recipient of yet another barrage of legal inquiry in the form of subpoenas relating to its mortgage-related business, only this time not from the SEC but from criminal prosecutors.

This stems from Carl Levin's massive 639 page report which referred the firm to the justice department  (and whose findings were summarized best by Matt Taibbi), an escalation which could rekindle not only a civil case against the squid, but also potentially force the new District Attorney to finally lob a couple of criminal indictments here and there, thus guaranteeing that GS stock is about to be pulverized (and cementing those plans to finally MBO the company, as the Fed's balance sheet has largely served its purpose).

The WSJ clarifies: "Subpoenas don't necessarily mean criminal charges against Goldman or individuals at the firm are inevitable or even likely. The company turned over hundreds of millions of pages of documents to the Federal Crisis Inquiry Commission, a 10-member panel that examined the causes of the financial crisis. Goldman also gave tens of millions of documents to the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations." Yeah, but...

"Any step in the direction of criminal charges would be bad news for Goldman's stock price," said Jeff Harte, an analyst at Sandler O'Neill + Partners LP." And now that Rolling Stone has peeled off the scab once more and made it all too clear that the villain is and has always been GS, Lloyd may find himself on the wrong side of the Q&A session all over again.

So, it looks like that despite my fears that the Justice Department would quietly forget to follow up on the recommendations of the Levin report as it was referred to them (and they are under no requirement to do so) that the first steps are being taken to put together a criminal case.  I'm more than pleased by this.

On the other hand, this is the perfect opportunity to let Goldman Sachs walk with a slap on the wrist and billions of our tax dollars, so until there's guilty verdicts rendered on a bunch of people with "Former Goldman Sachs Chief-Level Officer" on their resumes, I'm not holding my breath.

We'll see.  My gut tells me it's going through the motions, and nothing will come of this.

New Direction, Old Results

President Obama gave his Mideast speech at the State Department yesterday, and tried to take America's foreign policy in a new direction with some bold words.  Unfortunately, nobody is interested in words anymore as far as America's foreign policy is concerned, and I can't blame them.  The big takeaway at least as far as the Village is concerned was Obama calling on Israel to return to its 1967 borders and stop occupying Palestinian territory:

In a major speech Thursday, Obama became the first president to formally endorse the policy, but he also acknowledged the need for modifications through the negotiating process due to conditions on the ground.

"The United States believes that negotiations should result in two states, with permanent Palestinian borders with Israel, Jordan, and Egypt, and permanent Israeli borders with Palestine," Obama said in the concluding section of his 45-minute address that looked at political and social change sweeping across the Middle East and North Africa.

"We believe the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states," Obama continued.

But as always with any speech involving Israel, everyone hears exactly what they want to hear and no more.  The right is stopping just a micron short of accusing Obama of being an enemy to Israel (and the United States) and GOP presidential hopefuls like Mitt Romney wasted no time in assaulting the President.

Romney, who is seeking the Republican presidential nomination, said Obama had breached a "first principal of American foreign policy" by suggesting the shift.

"President Obama has thrown Israel under the bus," Romney said. "He has disrespected Israel and undermined its ability to negotiate peace. He has also violated a first principle of American foreign policy, which is to stand firm by our friends."

Look folks, the 1967 borders has always been our unofficial policy, he's just the first to say it.  Netanyahu immediately responded with "Die in a fire, Arab stooge."

President Obama's remarks, during a major address on the Middle East, drew an immediate response from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who issued a statement as he prepared to leave for Washington, where he is to meet Friday with the U.S. leader.

Mr. Obama appeared to upset Israeli leaders by saying the borders of Israel and a future Palestinian state should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed land swaps. 

The "1967 lines" reference is to pre-war boundaries before Israel captured the West Bank, East Jerusalem, Gaza Strip and Golan Heights in fighting with Jordan, Egypt and Syria.

Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor says Mr. Netanyahu will ask President Obama for clarification of the remarks.

"The 1967 line was never an international border. It was never recognized as such. It was a cease-fire line with many unclear areas that were considered no-man's land and therefore because of their nature, they are considered an indefensible border," he said. 

Reaction from the wingers ranged from "He sounds like Bush, thus vindicating Bush's foreign policy!" to "Obama is leaving Israel vulnerable" to "SCREEEEEEEEEEEECH!"

Even more interesting, the reaction from the emo left:  "No Substance" to "missed opportunity to apologize for supporting dictators" to "His words ring hollow".

But the winner had to be Andrew Malcolm of the LA Times, who went straight for "President Darkie Shabazz X is always on Black People Time and it's pissing me off."

And people wonder why Obama even tries to deal with Israel.

Pak-ed With Questions, Part 4

Needless to say with the death of OBL, Pakistan Islamists are not happy.

Two American officials were saved by their armored vehicle Friday when it was hit by a bomb in the northwestern city of Peshawar, in an apparent revenge attack for the killing of Osama bin Laden.

It was the first assault on American interests in Pakistan since the May 2nd U.S. special forces operation that found and killed bin Laden in a town in the north of the country.

The two U.S. government employees were on their way from home to work at the U.S. Consulate in Peshawar, at about 8:30 a.m., when the bomb exploded. There were different accounts on whether the bomb was carried on a motorbike, in a parked car or planted on the road, said U.S. embassy spokesman Alberto Rodriguez.

“The folks in the car saw a motorcycle drive up and then boom. But maybe this guy (on the bike) was in the wrong place at the wrong time,” said Rodriguez. “Right now, it’s not clear if the bomb was in a vehicle, on a body, or planted.”

I'm honestly surprised it took them this long to start going after American civilian personnel in Pakistan, but there's going to be a lot more of this, I should think.  I wouldn't exactly count on the Pakistan government to be very forthcoming in additional information on militants, either.  We're effectively on our own there for now.  Officials in Punjab, Pakistan's largest province, have already canceled US foreign aid contracts in protest of the operation to get OBL in Abbotabad and are calling on the entire country to follow suit.

"We have canceled six MOUs (memorandums of understanding) with the United States in the fields of health, education and solid waste management," said Rana Sanaullah, Law Minister of Punjab, the country's most populated province and its political nerve center.

"We have conveyed their concerned departments about our decision. This is our protest against the Abbottabad incident."

The Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) opposition party, which rules Punjab, has called for a review of the country's ties with Washington, urging the central government to reduce reliance on foreign aid.

Considering there are plenty of folks in Congress who agree that Pakistan should be getting less or no foreign aid, I'm thinking that a lot of contracts could get "reviewed" to death in short order here.  Keep an eye on this.


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