Monday, November 22, 2010

Bachmann flamethrows more Falsehoods

Bachmann will never admit shes wrong. Ever.

[video here]

She does not back down on calling President Obama "anti-American", even on foreign television.
Imagine if this were a Republican president and a Democratic representative... we'd have invocations about "treason" and "time of war" bullshit.

Bachmann blames stupidity about Obama's trip on "media". She has no responsibility to correct the issue, even now. Yeah, Obama's trip cost as much as the Afghan war. Right.

Who votes for morons like this?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Does torture work? [UPDATED]

The supervisory interrogator Ali Soufan has said on the record that enhanced techniques of neither KSM nor Abu Zubaydah had garnered any actionable intelligence. Anything useful had been collected from standard techniques before tortured was applied. Abu Zubaydah was captured in early 2002 and had been interrogated from March to June 2002. Enhanced techniques were not approved until August 2002.

According to the released torture memos, KSM gave up specific operatives before torture or waterboarding were applied. He gave up Majid Khan because he believed other operatives were "talking" (p 64-67 of this PDF), and not due to enhanced techniques. He gave information regarding Hambali and the planned bombing of Library Tower in LA, but nowhere in the memo does it say that enhanced techniques were required to obtain that information. KSM had been interrogated multiple times before enhanced techniques were used.

So while I may want to believe Hayden, I have no evidence to corroborate his opinion, and he was not director at the time. Meanwhile, the FBI interrogator, Ali Soufan, disagrees.

I'll conclude with John McCain:

“It’s unacceptable,” McCain said, adding:

"One is too much. Waterboarding is torture, period. I can ensure you that once enough physical pain is inflicted on someone, they will tell that interrogator whatever they think they want to hear. And most importantly, it serves as a great propaganda tool for those who recruit people to fight against us....McCain later reiterated his point, “The image of the United States of America throughout the world is a recruiting tool for Islamic extremists.”


UPDATE 11-18-2010

The only outside assessment of the enhanced interrogation techniques (EIT) has come from ex-CIA Inspector General, John Helgerson, who recommended to the Obama administration that a bipartisan blue ribbon commission to look into the use of EIT to determine what is legal or useful. So far, this recommendation has been unheeded. To wit:

Although Helgerson said he accepted the conclusions of CIA managers that the brutal torture of detainees resulted in “valuable” intelligence, he believed the CIA has yet to provide definitive answers as to whether specific torture techniques were “effective” and “necessary” in obtaining intelligence or whether the same information could have been obtained through “traditional methods.”

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Links to Drink By-- fetus-in-a-jar Edition

Brits deny Bush's claims that torture helped foil terror plots.

Ron Paul is crazy, but he's intellectually honest.

Chris Hedges: Cynicism laid bare, the corporate elite vs the fearful screamers, and the rest of us stuck in the crossfire.

A climate science heretic speaks out: the inherent uncertainly of science and groupthink. Judith Curry blogs about the article.

Scientists saw global warming as far back as the 1970's.

George Bush says that a fetus-in-a-jar led to his pro-life views. I don't know about that, but it certainly explains the alcoholism and drug abuse. What a whack family.

Speaking of which, here's another clear case of child abuse. How can this be accepted in civilized society?

Surgeon Atul Gawande presents the compelling reason to pursue the profession I have, and it's not the glamor of long sleepless nights:

Doctors in other fields have always looked down their masked noses on their obstetrical colleagues. Obstetricians used to have trouble attracting the top medical students to their specialty, and there seemed little science or sophistication to what they did. Yet almost nothing else in medicine has saved lives on the scale that obstetrics has. Yes, there have been dazzling changes in what we can do to treat disease and improve people’s lives. We now have drugs to stop strokes and to treat cancers; we have coronary-artery stents, artificial joints, and mechanical respirators. But those of us in other fields of medicine don’t use these measures anywhere near as reliably and as safely as obstetricians use theirs.

(Excellent piece; if you read one thing today, read this entire article)

Scrubbing the stink off Bush's Legacy

Former Bush administration official, Nicole Wallace, discusses the lack of WMD in Iraq. She thinks the whole world is as clueless as Lawrence O'Donnell who allows her to spew a boatlaod of lies. Entire video is here. The pertinent 30 second clip:

But EVERYone wanted to go to oust Saddam Hussein, so how can we blame our President for making a greivous error?

Unfortunately, Gerhard Schroeder, former German chancellor, says "Bush is not telling the truth."

Germany did not support the invasion of Iraq and did not furnish military personnel or materiel. Furthermore, "the invasion was strongly opposed by US allies including Canada, Germany, France and New Zealand...", and according to an Australian Senator who served in the Prime Minister's cabinet in 2002: "The debacle that ensued in Iraq has made the vital campaign in Afghanistan more protracted and more difficult." Australia entered the Iraq war only reluctantly.

And Russia!!??? Who ever knows what Russia actually supports, but I would doubt they are looking after the best interests of the USA, a notion that is absurd for Nicole Wallace to imply. In fact, reports came out after the Iraq invasion that Russia had divulged our war plans to Saddam Hussein: "Word of Russian-Iraqi collaboration came as part of an analysis by U.S. Joint Forces Command..."

As former Bush staffers hit the airwaves to rehabilitate the legacy of their administration, the stories will be nuts. Unfortunately, the sleepy pundit class fail to keep them honest.

Meghan McCain (still) doesn't get it

Meghan McCain has a brain storm: Keith Olbermann has an opinion show. D'uh.

Olbermann needs to determine if he is a commentator or a journalist. It never really crossed my mind that he was considered a journalist by anyone, just like I never assumed that anyone considers Glenn Beck a journalist. And, for the record, neither does he. Both Beck and Bill O’Reilly (as recently as his appearance on Real Time With Bill Maher) said they fall on the commentary side of the network. This is the state of the media. No one should really be surprised by Olbermann’s donations. What should surprise people is that entertainment, commentary, and journalism have fused into such a state that it is difficult to differentiate among the three.

The problem I have with this false equivalence between Fox and MSNBC has been stated elsewhere. To review:

1. No where in their name or on the screen does MSNBC refer to "News" during opinion shows. Fox calls it self "Fox News" with the logo chyron on the screen at all times. This is intentional.

2. NBC has an entire other division that provides unbiased news; Fox does not. They portray Beck, O'Reilly and Hannity as "news."

3. Fox continually floats from news to comment without proper differentiation. That's unethical.

4. I can't believe I just spent 5 minutes engaging Meghan McCain's sophomoric false equivalence.

Fun with Google

Try this:

1.Go to Google Maps
2. Click Get Directions
3. Type Japan as starting point
4. Type China as ending point
5. Go to # 43 on the directions


Do the "Why" drill. Type in "Why do [Blank]" and google will complete the entry with the most common searches by users. this gives some insight into the general prejudices of searchers.

Or do the drill with religions:

So according to Google, searchers think that Irish drink too much and Buddhists are happy.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Bill Moyers: Passionate but delusional

BIll Moyers presents the narrative:

Early this year the five reactionary members of the Supreme Court ruled that corporations are "persons" with the right to speak during elections by funding ads like those now flooding the airwaves [re: Citizen's United]. It was the work of legal fabulists. Corporations are not people; they are legal fictions, creatures of the state, born not of the womb, not of flesh and blood. They're not permitted to vote. They don't bear arms (except for the nuclear bombs they can now drop on a congressional race without anyone knowing where it came from.) Yet thanks to five activist conservative judges they have the privilege of "personhood" to "speak" - and not in their own voice, mind you, but as ventriloquists, through hired puppets.

Does anyone really think that's what the authors of the First Amendment had in mind? Horrified by such a profound perversion, the editor of the spunky Texas Observer, Bob Moser, got it right with his headline: "So long, Democracy, it's been good to know you."

You'll recall that soon after the Court's decision President Obama raised the matter during his State of the Union speech in January. He said the decision would unleash a torrent of corrupting corporate money into our political system. Sitting a few feet in front of the president, Associate Justice Samuel Alito defiantly mouthed the words: "Not true."

Not true? Terry Forcht knew otherwise. He's the wealthy nursing home executive in Kentucky one of whose establishments is being prosecuted by Attorney General Jack Conway for allegedly covering up sexual abuse. Conway is running for the Senate. Forcht has spent more than $1 million to defeat him. Would you believe that Forcht is the banker for one of Karl Rove's two slush funds, American Crossroads, which has spent nearly $30 million to defeat Democrats.

What's that, Justice Alito? Not true?

Alan Grayson, for one, got it. He's a member of Congress and knows how the world is made to work. He recently said: "We're now in a situation where a lobbyist can walk into my office...and say, "I've got five million dollars to spend and I can spend it for you or against you. Which do you prefer?"

Alito was either disingenuous, naïve, or deluded. He can't be in this world without knowing he and his four fellow corporatists were giving big donors the one thing they most want in their campaign against working people: an unfair advantage.

My friend and colleague, the writer Michael Winship, told a story this week that illuminates the Court's coup de grace against democracy. It seems the incorrigible George Bernard Shaw once propositioned a fellow dinner guest, asking if she would go to bed with him for a million pounds (today around $1,580,178 US dollars). She agreed. Shaw then asked if she would do the same for ten shillings. "What do you take me for?" she asked angrily. "A prostitute?" Shaw responded: "We've established the principle, Madam. Now we're just haggling over the price."

I love Moyers' passion; he goes on to imply that the wealthy corporations in the US should voluntarily rescind their political hegemony that has been granted to them by our legislators and our Supreme Court.

Moyers: "You would think the rich might care, if not from empathy, then from reading history."

This is where he lost me. Firstly, "the rich" are not homogeneous. Some agree with more progressive tax structure, some don't. Are we really to depend on the rich to vote against their own interests? That's the failsafe in the system?

Secondly, and more importantly, it is not up to rich to vote against their interests, it's up to the poor and middle class to vote for their own interests. I guess my problem with Moyers is that he always blames "the rich" but never holds the middle class accountable for not participating in the democracy and falling for the bullshit. Voter turnout among working folks was lower than ever this time around. The teapartiers are by and large working class people who want individuals making $500K to get a tax cut. WTF? Is it really the fault of the guy making $500K? Of course he/she feels they are worth $500K-- that's human nature, everybody thinks they deserve their salary and want to pay the lowest taxes possible.

If the meek are going to inherit the earth, they are going to have to kick ass for it.

Maybe the average Joe can't connect the dots from GWB to the SCOTUS decision in Citizen's United to elections that are bought ala Karl Rove/ Dick Armey politics. But we can't expect the rich corporations to voluntarily give up control. They won't. Maybe this is what is meant by the electorate being not intelligent enough to figure it out? It's not intelligence, it's hardship. We aren't suffering enough to look into the prima fascia reasons for our suffering. We obviously need more pain. The teaparty movement is a sign of unrest-- it's misguided and ass-backward, but it's a sign of unrest. The losers so far have been establishment Republicans, the next set of losers will be establishment Democrats. We'll see how far the establishment will drop. This can be have beneficial outcome, and maybe something workable will rise out of the ashes.

I like Moyers, I just think he's delusional that the rich will voluntarily change the rules. He needs to be lecturing the average Joes who are voting for Bush, McConnell, Joe Barton, and the others who repeatedly take the side of their corporate overlords in deference to the middle and working classes. At some point the left wing in this country will choose to be a little more a little more Che Guevara and a little less like Bill Moyers.

We just need more pain to get there.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Fox is not News

The recent suspension of Keith Olbermann by MSNBC has had some unintended consequences, namely calling to light donations from other quasi-news networks. NBC actually has three major outlets: the standard NBC channel; MSNBC, which has mostly commentary; and CNBC, the most watched financial network . NBC News has strict standards regarding political support and contributions, thus their reporters and anchors cannot donate to campaigns without prior approval. CNBC and MSNBC apparently allow their employees to make donations as long as they get pre-approval as well, and this has been done by commentators Scarborough, Buchanan. Kaminsky, Ormon and Faber. Here's a complete list of journalists who have donated to political candidates.

Olbermann was wrong in the strict sense of the rule and it also violated the spirit of the rule as well. But who doesn't know that when they leave NBC and go to MSNBC that they are going to be exposed to left-leaning commentary. No where on Olbermann's show is the word "News" printed on the screen. Bill Kristol, the conservative editor of the Weekly Standard is having a little fun with the story, and forgetting that disclosure is still important for anyone in journalism.

Recently, Howard Dean said he has stopped calling Fox by the name "Fox News" because it's not news. Sure, guys like Shep Smith are pretty straight shooters, and I usually give van Susteren a break. But when I watch Doocey, Kilmeade, Beck, O'Reilly or Hannity and see the spinning logo on the bottom left that says "Fox News", I cringe. This is not news, folks.

Is it important to know that people who are delivering news have certain financial relationships with office-seekers? I would think so. Now that the Supreme Court has bestowed onto corporations the freedom of speech, previously reserved for persons, we should also pay attention to where parent corporations are sending donations as well.

Olbermann has been punished, and he'll return at some point. In the future he'll be more careful about sending all that huge payola to the Democratic candidates-- we all know how it turned the most recent elections in their favor. Ha. But now the light is shining on Fox. Murdoch has given $1.1 million to the Republican Governors Association. Even Chris Wallace has said, "the Republican primaries [in 2012] will be a production of Fox News" since all the nominees are already on the Fox payroll anyway. As Politico says, "With the exception of Mitt Romney, Fox now has deals with every major potential Republican presidential candidate not currently in elected office." My guess is they "have deals with" some of those in office as well. Extra slutty.

Roll the video:

Fox should just change its name to "GOP TV" and save us all the pretense. I dare anyone to find me such a display of unethical behavior by another "news" channel anywhere.

"Typical skeptic, never knows when to keep his mouth shut"


Friday, November 05, 2010

Huckabee Knows Healthcare... Not!

I was just watching Huckabee on van Susteren's FOX show and he was criticizing the Obama health care reform. I don't know if he was calling for complete repeal or not, I couldn't figure that out, but I did pick up one argument. (Video is here and argument starts at about 4:30).

He asked, "How can we afford to provide care for all these people who are currently uninsured. Surely, it will cost money, more money that what we are spending now." Really? Based on what evidence? If Joe Blow, who currently doesn't have insurance, delays going to the doctor and later his sore throat turns into pneumonia, a quick visit to his family doc and a Z-pack might have avoided the emergency room visit, hospitalization for and subsequent empyema drainage. We won't let him die, so we are paying for it anyway! The difference is that with Obamacare, Joe Blow has to pay something into the insurance system.

Huckabee inexplicably uses the specific example of "a woman going to her ob/gyn" which will "surely cost money." Surely. Of all the examples to use, the Huckster picks the one field of medicine that has been shown unequivocally to be cost effective. In fact, it is so cost effective that prenatal care services are the broadest covered medical service across the USA. Even with our collective reluctance to provide socialized medicine-- to those according their need--- to a person, every pregnant woman gets prenatal care. Why? Because even the most capitalist knows that the cost of NO prenatal care is far higher than just giving the woman Medicaid. Neonatal intensive care, birth defects, maternal morbidity.. it's costly. The threshold for Medicaid is set very low so that all women-- with or without a job or resources- get the care they need, increasingly through the Medicaid system. The fact is that the new health care reforms will require more employers and women to pay for their own care, thus reducing the burden on taxpayers and Medicaid systems. Obamacare will save tax revenue, at least in this one area.

Another irony of Huckabee using ob/gyn care is that numerous studies as well as experience in socialized systems show that provision of universal access to birth control services is associated with lower rates of unwanted pregnancies, teen pregnancies and abortions. This would reduce the financial burden on society. Today there are numerous hurdles for young women to obtain counseling for birth control and STD prevention.

The third irony is that non-reproductive health care for women is also extremely cost effective. Since the Pap smear became available, cervical cancer death has all but become preventable. The Pap smear: the mother of all cost-effective screening tests! By increasing access to this one service, not to mention STD screening, mammography and the recently available HPV vaccine, we could dramatically reduce the cost of treatment of diseases with prevention and early detection.

Overall, ob/gyn services are far and away the most cost-effective services in the entire medical field. This is the reason most opponents of health reform never mention obstetric and gynecologic care as reasons for denying care to people. The women who benefit most from these services are young and often single. and usually do not enjoy financial status, thus their ability to pay for services out-of-pocket is limited. Mandates for employer coverage, federal subsidies and payroll deductions would have beneficial impact in paying for these cost-effective preventive and screening services.

The only reason I can figure that Huckabee would use ob/gyn services as a problem with health care reform is that he just doesn't understand medical economics. Even the most battle-hardened anti-government Tea Partier knows better than to deny ob/gyn care... because it's the best bargain in all of medicine.

Apparently, Huckabee has had a long-standing problem understanding medical economics, and the collective benefit of mandatory health insurance.

Time for a Benatar break


Links to Drink By-- We're broke and the inmates took control of the asylum

30% of Republican voters want more government spending in order to create jobs... why the hell did they vote Republican? WTF?

Orrin Hatch, on whether he sees wiggle room on Bush tax cuts: "No, I don't." Nice.

President Bush, did you order the CIA to torture KSM? "Damn right." War crime or felony? It's one or the other.

"Democracy requires me to respect the results of the elections. It doesn’t require me to agree with them or to admire the process by which voters made up their minds." Michael Kinsley has an excellent piece on American exceptionalism.

Islamic apologetics in the International Journal of Cardiology

World Rally Day!! Hooray! Too bad the entire rise in equities was due to the fall in the US dollar, thank you Mr. Bernanke.. Still no jobs, folks.

Bush's final budget gave us a heart-stopping deficit of $1.41 trillion in 2009, thanks to Wall Street and Detroit bailouts. To paraphrase Richard Feynman, I would call that astronomical but it wouldn't be fair to astronomy. Obama's first budget has a deficit of $1.29 trillion, lower than expected and 9% less than Bush's, but still quite remarkable. Obama promises to cut that deficit in half by 2013.

It's worth noting that on the graph the largest deficit was written by the outgoing President Bush and came in at $1.41 trillion, slightly better than the expected $1.75 trillion.


And finally, a couple jokes from Harry Newton:

A 54-year-old woman had a heart attack and was taken to the hospital. While on the operating table she had a near death experience. Seeing God, she asked “Is my time up?”

God said, “No, you have another 15 years, 2 months and 8 days to live.”

Upon recovery, the woman decided to stay in the hospital and have a face-lift, liposuction, breast implants and a tummy tuck. She even had someone come in and change her hair color and brighten her teeth! Since she had so much more time to live, she figured she might as well make the most of it.

After her last operation, she was released from the hospital. While crossing the street on her way home, she was killed by a bus.

Arriving in front of God, she demanded, “I thought you said I had another 15 years? Why didn’t you pull me from out of the bus’s path?”

God replied: “I’s sorry. I didn’t recognize you.”


A man goes to see a psychiatrist.

“It’s terrible, I think I'm a dog,” says the man. “I walk around on all fours, I keep barking in the middle of the night, and I can’t go past a lamppost anymore.”

“Okay,” says the psychiatrist. “I can help. Get on the couch.”

The man replies, “I’m not allowed on the couch.”

"I read it somewhere...."

The fact that the Pentagon spokesman has to have a press conference to deny that President Obama will use 10% of the Navy and spend $2 billion on his trip to Asia, well, the debate is over. The morons have won.

Howard Dean said recently that he will refer to Fox News only as "Fox" from now on, because it has no resemblance to "news".

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Jesus kicked your butt

Never a better time than now to hear Billy Bob Neck gloat.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Let's Tea Party!!!

I admit it's exciting! The House of Representatives, the legislative body from which all spending bills come, has been overtaken by fiscal conservatives. Never one to discount the collective wisdom of large crowds, I'll take the bait and accept that this might be beneficial. Let's light this candle.

1. Defense spending. The largest single chunk of spending goes to fighting two wars, maintaining our arsenal and paying for benefits to soldiers and veterans. Without addressing these expenditures, the House will fail in it's self-appointed edict to balance the budget.

2. Health care. To a person, the Republicans running for office this cycle have decried the cost of health care reform. If this is true, then what parts of the reform bill will they repeal first? the provision of insurance for kids up to age 26? the prohibition against dropping folks who get sick? the prohibition against denying insurance for pre-existing illness? the expansion of insurance to the working poor? the mandate that all Americans get health insurance? Which one goes first? If everyone is not required to have health coverage, then the House should also repeal EMTALA laws that require hospitals and doctors to treat people for free. That worked when there were 5 million uninsured, but not when that number is 42 million, 1 out 4 adults. Just think how much money we'll save.

3. Tax cuts. Republicans buy into the Laffer curve school of economics that says that lower taxes will increase tax revenues. So lower my f*&king taxes!! Did lowering taxes in 2001 increase tax revenues? It must have because Art Laffer is always on CNBC talking his book, and we all know that he would have been laughed out of the economics community if he had been wrong (snark).

4. Entitlements. How many times have we heard that Social Security is bankrupt? Okay, well now those same screamers are in control of the House of Representatives. Let's repeal Social Security altogether and just sign grandma's monthly check right over to Goldman Sachs-- they own the place anyway.

5. The best part: rumor has it that Michele Bachmann is going to run against John Boehner for Speaker.

What could possibly go wrong? [Last week I wrote about "sentinel events", I would suggest searching that term and taking appropriate safeguards.]