Friday, October 21, 2011

Last Call

President Obama announced today that he's bringing the troops home from Iraq by the end of this year.

President Barack Obama on Friday announced that virtually all U.S. troops will come home from Iraq by the end of the year -- at which point he can declare an end to America's long and costly war in that Middle Eastern nation.

"After nearly nine years, America's war in Iraq will be over, Obama said. "The coming months will be a season of homecomings. Our troops in Iraq will definitely be home for the holidays."

Of the 39,000 troops in Iraq, about 150, a negligible force, will remain to assist in arms sales, a U.S. official told CNN. The rest will be out of Iraq by December 31.

The president said he was making good on his 2008 campaign pledge to end a war that has divided the nation since it began in 2003 and claimed more than 4,400 American lives. It also came after talks that might have allowed a continued major military presence broke down amid disputes as to whether U.S. troops would be immune to prosecution by Iraqi authorities.

Beyond the human cost, the price tag for U.S. military activity in Iraq has been steep as well. The Defense Department estimated that its operations there over the past decade have cost more than $700 billion.

The good news is that's a big ol' check mark in the Promise Kept column.  The bad news is Republicans are either complaining that the President just handed the country over to AQ terrorists, or that he owes Dubya and Cheney a public ceremony in the Rose Garden for really winning the war they handed him.   Mittens for example immediately opposed the announcement.

“President Obama’s astonishing failure to secure an orderly transition in Iraq has unnecessarily put at risk the victories that were won through the blood and sacrifice of thousands of American men and women. The unavoidable question is whether this decision is the result of a naked political calculation or simply sheer ineptitude in negotiations with the Iraqi government. The American people deserve to hear the recommendations that were made by our military commanders in Iraq.”

He actually said this, calling Iraq "President Obama's astonishing failure."   That's the most asinine thing I've ever heard, as if the war in Iraq started on January 21, 2009 or something.  And yes, Mittens thinks you are that stupid.

He's counting on it at the polls, in fact.

Hacked Off In The UK, Part 10

Looks like the other wingtip in the News Corp hacking scandal is finally starting its long-prophesied descent here in the States.

A growing number of News Corp shareholders with voting rights are considering sending a strong message of discontent to Chief Executive Rupert Murdoch by voting against several long-standing board members including his sons James and Lachlan.

In the run up to Friday’s annual general meeting, holders of News Corp B stock, including normally compliant supporters of Murdoch and his family, are closely examining recommendations by proxy advisory groups ISS and Glass Lewis to vote out as many as 13 of the media conglomerate’s current 15 directors.

“Ninety-nine percent of the time we vote with Glass Lewis on these kind of matters,” said Donald Yacktman, president and co-chief investment officer of Yacktman Asset Management Co in Austin, Texas.

Glass Lewis specifically recommended their fund clients withhold their votes for six directors including James and Lachlan Murdoch along with other News Corp insiders David Devoe, chief financial officer, and Arthur Siskind, a senior adviser to Murdoch.

While most major shareholders declined to comment publicly on their specific voting strategy, several said privately that the proxy advisory groups’ comments would be an important factor in their decision. It follows the high profile and damaging fallout from the phone hacking scandal at News Corp’s now defunct British paper News of the World.

Get your tea and scones, because this one's going to be awesome.  I'd love to see Rupert's ass tossed out of his own corporation.  We'll see what happens.

A Special Place In Hell

(CNN) -- The director of a battered women's shelter in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, was being held Wednesday on charges that she forced the women she cared for to commit sex acts with strangers, local authorities told CNN.

Authorities were also investigating if children who lived at the shelter -- some as young as 5 years old -- were forced into prostitution as well, Arturo Sandoval, spokesman for the state attorney general's office, told CNN.

Soledad Griensen Porras, 50, of Juarez was arrested Tuesday afternoon after one of the women in the shelter stopped police in the street asking for help, according to Adrian Sanchez, spokesman for the Juarez municipal police department.

"Our officers responded immediately and that's when they found the shelter, which had pretty much become a brothel," Sanchez said.

Officers found "several irregularities" at the shelter "as well as five other women...and eight children," Sanchez said.

The children had been beaten and had "chile put on their private parts" according to a press release from the Juarez municipal police department.

I am sickened to think of the number of women and children who found this instead of safety. This is like an infection, a disease that affects others and surely causes them to affect even more. If the kids weren't actually sold for sex they were at best tortured in a way that would forever affect their sexuality.

There's just not enough punishment for someone like this.

Gmail Facelift Promising

An "oops" from Google released a video showing a planned facelift for Gmail.  I'll embed the video, and will remove it if they ban the viewing.

It appears Google has hit pay dirt with their clean but customized interface.  Instead of catering to every request, they simply opened up every conceivable option so you have a nice, intuitive default that allows for full tweaks for those who need something special.  Monitor space is something I struggle with, so the auto-resize that you can turn off and on will be helpful.  Much like the new Google Docs look, this visually pleasant and color-coded organization really allows your eye to follow easily.  Google has mastered anti-clutter, and they really strut their stuff.  Email organization is something virtually everyone struggles with, and their solutions are open-ended.  Love it.  It looks like walking in you have a nice set of options, if you care enough to dig in and color code, label and compartmentalize you can knock yourself out and your changes can carry over to all your other Google services.

Google has redesigned one service at a time, leaving Gmail for the final update.  They are fast on the way to becoming more than just an email provider, but our portal to everything we do.  As long as privacy advocates help us watch for potential abuses, I'm all for it.  This is a new turn in a relatively new advancement for the Internet.  It's easy to forget that only 20 years ago everything we take for granted was unheard of.  Updates, improved organization, logical structure and familiarity are all important to users.  So far, Google is taking the lead.

Excuse Me, Is That A Cloud Crossing The Highway?

This is the stuff that makes my skin crawl.  I've had to go through some mighty stupid stuff in Baton Rouge right after Katrina left schools devastated.  There is no excuse for this.  The first hour of a child abduction is the most important, after that survival rates drop dramatically.  This school wasted that hour trying to cover their ass at the expense of a child's safety.

School officials tell us that the teacher sent Cloud to the front office for dismissal, but he never showed up.
“When they sent the third person looking for him, that’s when my heart sank. I knew something wasn't right,” says Koria.
Koria said 45 minutes passed until school officials finally admitted they could not find the kindergartner.
“That's when I freaked out. Took my two girls, looked down sidewalks,” says Koria
School officials say teachers started searching for Cloud then called police.
But the first time Elizabeth City dispatch got a call from the school about the missing child was at 1:44--almost an hour after he was let out of classroom.
By then, a good Samaritan already found the wandering child.
Nathan Birdsall lives four blocks from the school. He is amazed the kindergartner was able to cross the busy highway before getting into the neighborhood.

So we have school stupidity, a mother's nightmare, and a busy highway with dozens of witnesses and not  a single phone call.  The article covers the other call, I can only assume a flood of concerned callers would have warranted a mention.  So how the hell does an elementary school student cross a highway in broad daylight after walking out of a school, and get zero response?

Every single person who did nothing should be ashamed, from school employees all the way through until we get to the person who took in a crying child.  Thank God it wasn't someone of lesser ethics, because nobody gave a damn about this kid for at least an hour and in the wrong hands that could have been a lifetime.  And kudos to the good Samaritan, because I have to say I'm really leery about even looking at other people's kids for fear of setting off Angry Mommy Radar.  Considering the circumstances, that took bravery and conviction.  I'm glad to hear someone had it together.

Whether Men, Underground

A funny thing happened on the way to the Koch Brothers' latest "scientific triumph" over the nefarious forces of global warming mind control.  First, the story as K-Drum rolls this out:

Physicists are notorious for believing that other scientists are mathematically incompetent. And University of California-Berkeley physicist Richard Muller is notorious for believing that conventional wisdom is often wrong. For example, the conventional wisdom about climate change. Muller has criticized Al Gore in the past as an "exaggerator," has spoken warmly of climate skeptic Anthony Watts, and has said that Steve McIntyre's famous takedown of the "hockey stick" climate graph made him "uncomfortable" with the paper the hockey stick was originally based on.

So in 2010 he started up the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project (BEST) to show the world how to do climate analysis right. Who better, after all? "Muller's views on climate have made him a darling of skeptics," said Scientific American, "and newly elected Republicans in the House of Representatives, who invited him to testify to the Committee on Science, Space and Technology about his preliminary results." The Koch Foundation, founded by the billionaire oil brothers who have been major funders of the climate-denial machine, gave BEST a $150,000 grant.

House Republicans and energy companies pinned a lot of money and time on BEST as the ultimate weapon to permanently cloud the "debate" on climate change.  But the problem is the skeptical physicist who said "yes, I'd like to take a look at those numbers!" has run them and discovered that hey, they're right:

But Muller's congressional testimony last March didn't go according to plan. He told them a preliminary analysis suggested that the three main climate models in use today—each of which uses a different estimating technique, and each of which has potential flaws—are all pretty accurate: Global temperatures have gone up considerably over the past century, and the increase has accelerated over the past few decades. Yesterday, BEST confirmed these results and others in its first set of published papers about land temperatures. [3] (Ocean studies will come later.)

Oops.  Hey, Muller centered his entire debate on running the numbers correctly and with complete integrity and guess what?  The vast group of scientists working on it were pretty much right all along.

In the press release announcing the results, Muller said, "Our biggest surprise was that the new results agreed so closely with the warming values published previously by other teams in the US and the UK." In other words, climate scientists know what they're doing after all.

I'd be laughing if the deniers in Washington and K Street hadn't killed any efforts for the US and the world to do anything substantial to save the planet.

Taking Your Right To Vote: The Return Of Jim Crow, Part 2

Yesterday I talked about how the Associated Press analyzed South Carolina's new voter ID laws and discovered the law does exactly what Republicans designed it to do: disenfranchise poor, minority voters.  Turns out at least one SC GOP strategist thought the law's "unintended consequences" were a great idea with this awesome tweet.

One person who really loved the story was Wesley Donehue, the CEO of Donehue Direct and a political strategist for the South Carolina Senate Republican Caucus, who took to Twitter to write that the story “proves EXACTLY why we need Voter ID in SC.”

It wasn’t long until Donehue’s tweet was bouncing all around the progressive twittersphere. In subsequent tweets, Donehue clarified that he wasn’t talking about the fact that the story showed, for example, that “among the state’s 2,134 precincts there are 10 precincts where nearly all of the law’s affect falls on nonwhite voters who don’t have a state-issued driver’s license or ID card, a total of 1,977 voters.”

Rather Donehue said the story “has proven that a bunch of non-South Carolinians are voting in SC elections. Did they vote in other states too?? FRAUD!” 

Mmmhmm.  Either this guy is the worst political strategist ever, or he's a racist moron (same thing.)   Once again, I cannot stress enough how the Republican effort to limit the electorate is the most singularly foul, anti-American thing they've just about ever done.  It must be resisted by everyone, and the only way to do that is to educate yourself on your state's voter ID laws and then elect people who will change them.


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