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Monday, May 31, 2010

Plaza news

Heads up, campers.

Word is slowly getting out, in spite of Highwoods desire to keep it quiet, that one more Plaza store is shutting down, after trying to negotiate a lease that would work for the store.

Naturally, for Highwoods, no such "leniency" that would have otherwise kept the store there, the space filled and money coming in so the company has to close.

Word is that it is a photography/nature store of some kind.

(If you get my meaning).

Think happy thoughts, campers!

10 Things We Must Remember on Memorial Day (guest post)

Posted on May 31, 2010
By Nora Eisenberg/AlterNet

According to Yale historian David Blight, Memorial Day (first called Decoration Day), the U.S. holiday commemorating fallen soldiers, got its start at the end of the Civil War. In 1865 in Charleston, South Carolina former African-American slaves exhumed Union soldiers from a mass grave on the site of Charleston’s exclusive racetrack and buried them in individual graves, a ten-day project that ended in a day of celebration of the nation, peace, and freedom in which thousands of Charleston’s black families gathered to decorate graves, pray, play games, and picnic. 145 years after the end of our Civil War, our nation is engaged in near civil wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, which we had a part in starting and no plans for ending.

“We don’t do body counts,“General Tommy Franks, commander of the U.S. invasions of both Afghanistan and Iraq, famously remarked, when asked about Iraqi civilian casualties. We do do body counts of our own—though we don’t talk about them much. Thanks to groups like Veterans for Common Sense, Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs data have been publicized, and thanks to projects like Iraq Body Count, we do count them.

As we picnic and play this Memorial Day, let’s try to remember that:

1. To date, there have been 90,955 documented U.S. troop casualties in the current wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Of these, 4,378 troops have died; 37,280 have been wounded in action; and 48,272 have been medically evacuated due to injury or disease.

2. The Department of Defense last year warned that as many as 20 percent of veterans (360,000) may have suffered traumatic brain injury from IED blasts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Blast injuries generally do not result in skull fractures or loss of consciousness yet the Institute of Medicine has reported that these traumatic brain injuries may cause diffuse brain bleeding and result in PTSD and problems with mood, attention, concentration, memory, pain, balance, hearing and vision.

3. 508,152 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are patients in the VA system. Thousands more are waiting as much as a year for VA treatment for serious ailments including traumatic brain injury. 243,685 (48 percent) are mental health patients and 143,530 (28 percent) are being treated for PTSD. A recent University of Michigan study demonstrated that PTSD sufferers have more physical illness in later life as their immune systems take back seats to systems needed for crises.

4. Every day, five U.S. soldiers attempt suicide, a 500 percent increase since 2001.

5. Every day 18 U.S. veterans attempt suicide, more than four times the national average. Of the 30,000 suicides each year in the U.S., 20 percent are committed by veterans, though veterans make up only 7.6 percent of the population.

6. Female veteran suicide is rising at a rate higher than male veteran suicides.

7. In 2009, there were 3,230 reports of sexual assault including rape, according to the DoD, with many more that number thought to be unreported. In a 2003 survey of female veterans 30 percent reported being raped in the military. A 2004 study of veterans with PTSD reported that 71 percent of women seeking treatment said they were sexually assaulted or raped while serving in the military.

8. The number of U.S. service men and women killed in Afghanistan has doubled in the first quarter of 2010. compared to the same quarter last year. In the first two months of 2010, injuries tripled, with U.S. casualties expected to rise still more with the troop surge in Afghanistan.

9. 2,052,405 service men and women have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001. Over 40 percent of them have been deployed two or more times. Some will have been deployed as many as five years Currently 94,000 U.S. troops are serving in Afghanistan and 92,000 in Iraq.

And last but not least:

10. Estimates of civilian deaths from violence in Iraq alone range from a conservative 105,000 (Iraq Body Count project) to over 1.2 million (UK pollster Opinion Research Business), with estimates by Johns Hopkins at 655,000. More than 125,000 civilians have been injured in Iraq and 4 million displaced, with civilian death and injury in 2010 rising each month. By most estimates, tens of thousands of Afghan civilians have been killed or injured since the 2001 invasion, over 200,00 have been internally displaced, and over 2 million have become refugees, with civilian deaths and injuries rising dramatically in 2010.

The war in Iraq is in its seventh year. The war in Afghanistan, in its ninth year, is the longest war in our history. On Memorial Day, as we remember the dead and wounded, ours and theirs, the latest installment of 30,000 new troops is readying for new battles with Taliban fighters in Kandahar.

When will they ever learn, oh, when will they ever learn?

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Missouri no. 15 of "Most Corrupt States"

The Daily Beast blog came out with their list of the "Most Corrupt States" and thankfully Missouri and Kansas are not in the top ten--like neighbor Oklahoma is at 10--but Missouri is at the 15 spot.

We need to do better, people. We need to demand much better of our legislators.

And if you don't think we need to do better, on this list, we beat out New Jersey and New York state, for pity's sake, in corruption.


Rep. Jason Kander's attempt at ethics reform in Jefferson City would be a great start.

The information:

#15, Missouri

Public Corruption: 24
Racketeering & Extortion: 25
Fraud Rank: 24
Forgery & Counterfeiting: 6
Embezzlement: 34

Recent Scandal: For such a simple scheme, it's amazing that Denny Ray Hardin of Kansas City got as far as he did. Hardin allegedly used his home computer to concoct bonded promissory notes he said were authorized by the US Department of Treasury. The notes were, Hardin claimed, as good as money. Problem is, there's no such thing as a bonded promissory note, and, as such, they were not authorized by the US Department of Treasury. Hardin doled out $100 million worth of the notes to friends, family, and customers who paid $100 per note. He faces 11 counts of fictitious obligations and 10 counts of mail fraud.

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If you go to the link above, note that, unfortunately, they use a picture of Kansas City's downtown as their picture for the state.


On a far more positive note, Kansas was ranked very near the bottom of this list, at 44.

Good on ya', Kansans and Topeka (the capital). Clearly we Missourians need to emulate more of what you do and how you live.

Enjoy this beautiful day, folks.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Think you can criticize this President?

Before you criticize this President, consider this list of the current priorities and then YOU come up with solutions of things to oversee:

•The Koreas could be edging to war. The South accuses the North of sinking one of its warships.

•Israel’s prime minister visits the White House on Tuesday as Obama presses peace talks with the Palestinians.

•The terror threat isn’t going away, as seen by the recent failed car bombing in New York City.

•A international standoff with Iran over its nuclear program is hardening.

•The economic recovery doesn’t feel like much of one to the millions who are jobless.

•A sweeping overhaul of financial regulation hangs in the balance. The White House hopes Congress can finish it by July.

•The president needs Republican support of two big initiatives, energy and immigration, but has little to show so far.

•Senators begin hearings in late June on his nominee for the Supreme Court, Elena Kagan.

•Fall elections are nearing, with Democrats facing losses and in need of campaign help from Obama.

And this is just the biggest of his priorities. There are far more, to be sure.

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Sobering war milestones

Keeping in mind we just passed the 1,000 American soldier casualties in Afghanistan:

May 29, 2010

Rep. John Conyers.Chairman, House Judiciary Committee
Posted: May 29, 2010 01:24 PM

A Trillion Dollar Turning Point?

As of 10:06 a.m., Sunday, May 30th, the United States will have spent $1 trillion on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

As we approach this milestone, Americans of all political stripes should take a moment to consider what war spending on this scale means, not just in dollars spent, but in terms of opportunities lost to strengthen, invest in, and improve our country. While each of us intrinsically knows that wars have consequences, we are rarely presented with such a stark example of how the choice to pursue war at the expense of priorities at home impacts each of us.

What could we have purchased with this $1 trillion? Today, we might be enjoying the fruits of a green economy, spurred by New Deal-like investments in wind and solar. Perhaps we would have created a single-payer health care system and used this $1 trillion to provide health security to every man, woman, and child in the United States for an entire year. Or, we might have made the smart investments in our domestic law enforcement capabilities and homeland security apparatus to provide true protection from Al Qaeda and others who would wish us harm. Sadly, we'll never know, because our political leadership never explored alternative means of achieving peace, such as emphasizing rigorous regional diplomacy, and instead overextended our military forces abroad.

If sacrificing progress at home wasn't bad enough, it is now clear that the injection of our troops into a 35 year civil war is actually fueling the insurgency in Afghanistan and further destabilizing the region. A GAO report released last month spoke to the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan, noting:

"total attacks against coalition forces between September 2009 and March 2010 increased by about 83 percent in comparison to the same period last year, while attacks against civilians rose by about 72 percent."
As we gather to honor our brave men and women in uniform at at parades, picnics, and other events this weekend, Americans have much to consider. We can ignore the facts on the ground, hope for the best, and resign ourselves to the fact that our country is embroiled in two unaffordable wars that aren't making us safer.

Or, we can stand up and speak out. We can let our family members, friends, and neighbors know about the human and fiscal costs of these wars. We can demand that the United States honor its commitment to leave Iraq by December 31, 2011, encourage Members of Congress to join the Out of Afghanistan Caucus, and organize against the $33 billion pending in Congress to fund the escalation, because $1 trillion is more than enough to spend on war.

During my 44 years in Congress, I have personally witnessed the transformational change that is possible when the American people resolve to take back their democracy. As my friend and mentor, the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., stated, "Those of us who love peace must organize as effectively as war hawks. As they spread the propaganda of war, we must spread the propaganda of peace." This Sunday, I hope that my fellow citizens will heed Dr. King's advice and ensure that this May 30th isn't remembered only as the day America crossed the $1 trillion threshold, but also as the day Americans took a united stand against more war.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

From a State Senator

Hey, we can dream, can't we?

Have a great weekend, everyone.

Let's hope he's wrong about war with Iran (guest post)

May 29, 2010

The Coming Iran War

It's happening again.

The same forces -- with a few new additions and minus a few smart defectors -- who pushed the United States into a needless and deadly war with Iraq are now organizing for the next war.

This time the target is Iran, which, just like Iraq, is said to be on the verge of creating weapons of mass destruction.

Also, just like Iraq, its president is a supposed madman determined to destroy Israel.

In fact, in the case of Iraq, that president, Saddam Hussein, not only threatened to "incinerate half of Israel," he actually launched 39 SCUD missiles against Israel during the 1991 Gulf war.

That war finished off Saddam as a power.

But that was not good enough for Vice President Dick Cheney and his war profiteering buddies. Ten years later, with Cheney in the vice presidency and 9/11 as the pretense, the Cheney crowd led America into a war to depose Saddam. The goal: to turn Iraq into an American protectorate in order to make tens of billions of dollars for themselves and their corporate allies. So far, 4,400 Americans, 318 allied forces, and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have died to advance that agenda.

But Cheney also enlisted a gang of war cheerleaders who had no interest in making money off the conflict. Those were the neocons who pushed for war out of the belief that eliminating Saddam Hussein would be good for Israel.

The Cheney gang consisted of people like Doug Feith, Joe Lieberman, John Bolton, Frank Gaffney, Richard Perle, Charles Krauthammer, Scooter Libby, Bill Kristol, Elliot Abrams and their various allies in government and media. The Israel lobby is also a member of that gang -- although it operated with nothing like the vigor that it now dedicates to the anti-Iran effort. (The pressure exerted by the lobby is a big part of the reason so many Democrats supported a war they knew was wrong.)

Of course, Iraq did not have WMDs and the Bush administration almost surely knew it. (If Iraq had them, we would no more have attacked Iraq than we now attack North Korea. In fact, the evidence that a country does not have WMDs is our willingness to consider bombing it.)

But, no matter, the gang of war profiteers and neocon ideologues were hell bent on war anyway. The supposed WMDs were just a pretense.

This would all be for the history books (and the grieving widows, parents, grandparents, children, partners, sisters and brothers of the fallen Americans) if the same scenario was not being played out today.

Earlier in May, Turkey and Brazil -- after months of intense negotiations -- persuaded the Iranian regime to accept a deal that would have vastly reduced its ability to produce a nuclear weapon. The Turkish-Brazilian deal was almost identical to the one President Obama and our allies pushed the Iranians to accept back in October.

Only this time, it wasn't good enough. The Obama administration ignored the Turkish-Brazilian breakthrough, saying its goal was crippling sanctions and that it was close to achieving them. Of course, few believe sanctions will have any significant effect other than to punish ordinary Iranians, people who are suffering quite enough under a monstrous regime.

But the administration seems to have been sold a bill of goods that leaves the U.S. with only two choices: sanctions or war. The diplomatic option seems to be off the table, pushed off by pressure from various warhawks, neocons, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and his allies in Congress. (Obama originally favored open-ended diplomacy with no deadline; Netanyahu somehow convinced him that a deadline on diplomacy made sense. It doesn't.)

Even some of the more progressive voices are falling for this false choice largely because the lobby -- although clearly struggling as J Street moves into clear ascendancy among young and middle-aged Jews -- still manages to intimidate.

The other day, an Op-Ed appeared in the Jewish newspaper, Forward, by Rabbi Eric Yoffie, head of the Reform Jewish movement in America and a progressive, that read like something out of 2002.

Yoffie's piece is a cris de couer, urging all Jews to support a hard line on Iran. "Now is the time," he writes, "to pressure our government to move more emphatically to counter the Iranian threat.

Yoffie's piece is significant on two counts. The first is that he does not push the ridiculous line that a nuclear Iran would happily commit suicide in order to destroy Israel. The rabbi clearly knows enough about international relations and human behavior to understand that there are limits to what nations will do to make a political point and that national suicide is not one of them.

No, his description of the threat to Israel is both more subtle and more honest.

He writes, "Even if Iran were to develop nuclear weapons and never use them, the danger to Israel would still be intolerable. Israel cannot live in the shadow of a nuclear Iran. In the minds of its own citizens and of the world community, Israel would cease to be a safe place to live."

There is truth in that. The thought of a nuclear Iran so close to Israel is upsetting. But then so was the Cold War. And so is the fact that North Korea, Pakistan, India, and Russia all have nuclear weapons -- not to mention all those missing nukes which could end up, God forbid, in the hands of terrorists. And such is life these days in New York City, Washington, London and -- especially -- Seoul, where, just under the surface, is the fear that a catastrophe could happen at any time.

It also should be noted that for most of the world, the idea that Israel has 200-plus nuclear weapons and, unlike Iran, has not signed the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty is itself deeply troubling. In fact, much of the world believes that Israel is so vehement about Iranian nukes because it wants to remain the only nuclear power in the Middle East, leaving it free to do what it wants, whenever it wants to. It enjoys its hegemony. That is what Yoffie is hinting at.

Nonetheless, I agree with him that the world, and not just Israel, would be better off if Iran never develops nuclear weapons.

But my idea of how to prevent a nuclear Iran is rather different than the rabbi's.

Here is Yoffie: "There is no conceivable solution to the threat of a nuclear Iran that will not require American leadership. All of the options -- whether economic sanctions or military action -- are impossible without American support."

Funny, Yoffie refers to "all" of the options when he only names two -- sanctions or war. It is as if he intended to include the one option that makes sense, diplomacy, and changed his mind at the last minute. The "all" is a remnant of a thought he would not permit himself, either because he honestly opposes diplomacy or because he doesn't want to cross AIPAC.

Yoffie's alternatives are no alternatives at all. Sanctions won't work (except to punish ordinary Iranians and enrich those who defy the sanctions) and "military action" will produce nothing except more dead -- including Americans -- and, quite possibly, a regional war. War would also eliminate any chance that Israel will ever have peace with the Muslim world and would destroy America's standing in a critical region.

What is Yoffie thinking when he rules out diplomacy but rules in a third Middle East war? Is the preemptive slaughter of innocents really a legitimate option for civilized people in 2010? Well, it isn't for me or for the Reform Jews who look to Yoffie for leadership. (Jews are mostly doves and Reform Jews, to their credit, are the most dovish of all.)

It is war, not diplomacy, that belongs off the table. I'm sure Rabbi Yoffie knows that. That is what he should have written.

MJ Rosenberg.Senior Foreign Policy Fellow, Media Matters Action Network

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An alternate reality: ending these wars (guest post)

May 29, 2010

We've Always Been at War with Eastasia

On May 30, 2010, at 10:06 a.m, the direct cost of occupying Iraq and Afghanistan will hit $1 trillion. And in a few weeks, the House of Representatives will be asked to vote for $33 billion of additional "emergency" supplemental spending to continue the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. There will be the pretense of debate -- speeches on the floor of both chambers, stern requests for timetables or metrics or benchmarks -- but this war money will get tossed in the wood chipper without difficulty, requested by a president who ran on an anti-war platform. Passing this legislation will mark the breaking of another promise to America, the promise that all war spending would be done through the regular budget process. Not through an off-budget swipe of our Chinese credit card.

The war money could be used for schools, bridges, or paying everyone's mortgage payments for a whole year. It could be used to end federal income taxes on every American's first $35,000 of income, as my bill, the War Is Making You Poor Act, does. It could be used to close the yawning deficit, supply health care to the unemployed, or for any other human and humane purpose.

Instead, it will be used for war. Because, as Orwell predicted in 1984, we've reached the point where everyone thinks that we've always been at war with Eastasia. Why?

Not because Al Qaeda was sheltered in Iraq. It wasn't. And not because Al Qaeda is in Afghanistan. It isn't. Bush could never explain why we went to war in Iraq, and Obama can't explain why we are 'escalating' in Afghanistan.

So, why? Why spend $1 trillion on a long, bloody nine-year campaign with no justifiable purpose?

Remember 9/11, the day that changed everything? That was almost a decade ago. Bush's response was to mire us in two bloody wars, wars in which we are still stuck today. Why?

I can't answer that question. But I do have an alternative vision of how the last 10 years could have played out.

Imagine if we had decided after 9/11 to wean ourselves off oil and other carbon-based fuels. We'd be almost ten years into that project by now.

Imagine if George W. Bush had somehow been able to summon the moral strength of Mahatma Gandhi, Helen Keller, or Martin Luther King Jr, and committed the American people to the pursuit of a common goal of a transformed society, a society which meets our own human needs rather than declaring "war" on an emotion, or, as John Quincy Adams put it, going "abroad, in search of monsters to destroy".


Imagine that we chose not to enslave ourselves to a massive military state whose stated goal is "stability" in countries that never have been "stable", and never will be.


"Imagine all the people, living life in peace."

Sign up to end these wars.

Rep. Alan Grayson.Congressman Alan Grayson represents Central Florida (FL-8)

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Hey, it's the holiday weekend: time to lighten up

Enjoy your long holiday weekend, y'all.

Friday, May 28, 2010

New Orleans vs Martha's Vineyard: think about it

Seriously, let's think about this.

Everyone is comparing this President to the previous one and asking, again and again, "Is this Obama's Katrina?"

Let's make a better comparison.

It could have been made a few years ago, when Hurricane Katrina crashed into the Gulf and New Orleans but now that the BP oil well has been spewing its crude into the waters for a month, on top of the damage never repaired from said hurricane, let's ask some questions and compare what realistic differences there might have been, had either event happened to Martha's Vineyard instead of Louisiana and the Gulf.

Does anyone think, for a moment, that the Federal Government in general, and the White House in particular, would have sat by for 4 entire days, doing nothing if a category 5 hurricane like Katrina were barreling down on Martha's Vineyard, as the George W. Bush administration did?

Sure, they don't allow oil wells off the Vineyard because, hey, we definitely don't want to run the risk of having oil ruin all those rich, white people's estates but if they did allow them, how long do you think it would be until everything possible would be done and tried, to make sure this area weren't ecologically and environmentally ruined?

It's difficult to believe the response wouldn't be radically different, especially in the case of Hurricane Katrina but, really, in both cases.

And I'll tell you what initiated this whole thought process.

A fellow Facebook friend wrote the following on his page today:

"F*ck you, BP. F*ck you, Obama, and your passive BP five-week jack off. F*ck you, Landrieu. F*ck you, Jindal (especially you, you f*cking asshole prick). F*ck you, Army Corps of Engineering. F*ck you all for not having strict regulations to protect us from this sh*t since Valdez at the very least. F*ck you ALL.

Second entry:

"Quit killing my home. Quit killing the most important and unique culture in America. Quit killing my home, and the people who make a living there (and in other Gulf states). Quit killing my soul, you assholes."

"Quoting my favorite TV show right now, F*CK YOU, YOU F*CKING F*CKS!."

And his final entry:

"Sorry, I don't do political, but I am heart-broken and so frustratingly angry right now."

I reprint this not to be cute or crude or funny, by any means, but instead to show the anguish and pain and anger these people feel down there right now.

And who could blame them?

First Geo. W. Bush and the debacle that was Hurricane Katrina.

Now this.

Wouldn't you feel as though they were "doing this to you"? I know I would.

Horrible, neglected debacle, one after the next.

It's not right, by a long shot.

We owe these people a lot better than this.

And to all the Republicans and Libertarians out there who think we either need smaller government or virtually no government at all, when it comes to regulations and corporate oversight, I say nonsense, first, and this further proves you horribly, tragically wrong.

We need to make this the last tragic event we ignore or overlook because it's a less-affluent area of this country.

But especially New Orleans and the Gulf.

Great news, Kansas City sports fans!!

I'm stunned.

News out this morning on "Pro sports' most losing teams" DOESN'T HAVE ONE KANSAS CITY TEAM ON IT!



Check it out:

12. Texas Rangers
11. San Diego Padres
10. Columbus Blue Jackets
9. Atlanta Thrashers
8. Tampa Bay Lightning
7. Tampa Bay Rays
6. Atlanta Falcons
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
4. Houston Texans
3. Charlotte Bobcats
2. Los Angeles Clippers
1. Memphis Grizzlies

And check out Tampa--they hold 3 of the worst teams.

I had no idea the Texas Rangers were that much worse than our own Royals. Go figure. (I just don't follow sports stats that much, clearly).

So see, Kansas City? Cheer up--things could always be a LOT worse!

Have a great weekend, y'all.

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Memorial Day weekend: Bring on the Summer

Bring on the stupid:


Sex and the City 2

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

At least it's equal opportunity stupid--one for the guys, one for the gals and a serving of explosions on the side.

Have a great weekend, everyone.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Good on ya', Mr. President

News out today:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Obama administration on Thursday unveiled a new national security doctrine that would join diplomatic engagement and economic discipline with military power to bolster America's standing in the world.

In a formal break with the go-it-alone Bush era, President Barack Obama's strategy called for expanding partnerships beyond traditional U.S. allies to encompass rising powers like China and India in order to share the international burden, according to portions of the document obtained by Reuters.

Faced with a struggling economy and record deficits, the administration also acknowledged that boosting economic growth and getting the U.S. fiscal house in order must be top national security priorities.

"At the center of our efforts is a commitment to renew our economy, which serves as the wellspring of American power," the wide-ranging policy statement said.

As I said, good on ya', Mr. President. It's just what we need.


Obama's first official declaration of national security goals, due to be released in full later on Thursday, pointedly omitted predecessor George W. Bush's policy of pre-emptive war that alienated some U.S. allies.

Good for him.

Laying out a vision for keeping America safe as it fights wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the document formalized Obama's intent to emphasize multilateral diplomacy over military might as he tries to reshape the world order.

Good for him--and us.

Obama, who took office faced with the worst financial crisis since the 1930s, took a clearer stand than any of his predecessors in drawing the link between America's economic health at home and its stature overseas.

For all the poo-pooing Republicans and Libertarians who think this guy is just a--to use a horrible and horribly overused cliche'--"tax and spend Liberal", you'll prove them wrong on this path.

The trouble is, the Republicans are apparently willing to do all they can to, as I wrote earlier, make certain this President is not successful--country be damned, almost literally--because they're scared as can be that, if Mr. Obama is successful, it could usher in another 40 years of Democratic Party power and control as was brought in when FDR maneuvered us through The Great Depression.

Keep in mind, he's also created a bipartisan committee to create proposals for cutting our spending and deficits, along with gunning for the equivalent of a watered-down "line-item veto", so he can do away with "earmarks" created in Congress that we may not truly need.

All in all, another good and important move by this President for the benefit of the country.

He's not perfect and let me be clear I no way think as much.

But he surely is on the right track.

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US Number 1?

Once again, not so much.

For the second year it has been named the world's best place to live, according to a report released Wednesday.

A company named Mercer, a global outsourcing and investment consultancy produces the annual "Worldwide Quality of Living Survey" and just released their latest edition.

European cities take seven of the top 10 spots for quality of life, thanks to their relative safety, political stability and cultural offerings. As for the U.S., Honolulu, at No. 31, has the best quality-of-life record and the continental U.S. makes its first appearance on the list at 32, with San Francisco tying Adelaide, Australia. Boston came in at No. 37, Chicago and Washington, D.C. tied for 45th place, and New York ranked 49. Philadelphia and Dallas were ranked for the first time this year, landing spots 55 and 61 on the list, respectively.

European cities take seven of the top 10 spots for quality of life, thanks to their relative safety, political stability and cultural offerings. As for the U.S., Honolulu, at No. 31, has the best quality-of-life record and the continental U.S. makes its first appearance on the list at 32, with San Francisco tying Adelaide, Australia. Boston came in at No. 37, Chicago and Washington, D.C. tied for 45th place, and New York ranked 49. Philadelphia and Dallas were ranked for the first time this year, landing spots 55 and 61 on the list, respectively.

Here's a silver lining for us, anyway:

Although the U.S. didn't do poorly by Mercer's standards--most American cities on the list had index scores above 100--weaker safety records kept them from competing with lower-crime Western European capitals.

But guns come 'round to bite us in the butt again:

"In the U.S., crime is typically more prevalent, and the availability of handguns is an issue," says Powers. "Many of the locations in Canada and Switzerland have a little more of social net that diminishes that kind of crime."

So we suck at health care--ranked 37th, internationally, behind Rush "Porkulus" Limbaugh's revered Costa Rica, for pity's sake and now we no way have any of the best places to live on the planet, according to this ranking.

We suck at mass transit--it's nearly non-existent here. We suck at crime, violence and the prevalence of guns.

But hey, we're number one at war, eh? And national defense spending. We blow everyone out of the water with that.

No pun intended.

This isn't merely to complain or just to put down the US. This is to say there are things we could, can and should improve on, that's all.

And we should get to work, all of us, together on them, as one, instead of splintered into our own little groups, fighting against one another.

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Quote of the day--on the Gulf oil spill

You really can't truly grasp the magnitude of it until you're out here. This thing has been gushing oil for over a month now. And it's been nonstop. I think that it's just beginning. This oil is starting to come ashore. And what you're seeing now, it is going to keep impacting for some time.

And it's got everyone on this coast frightened -- frightened and angry. One oyster fisherman I was out with, he said, you know, this is not just the fish and the fishermen. It's our whole culture. All of Southern Louisiana is affected by this. --Gerald Herbert, AP Photographer

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A column someone from the "left" could have written

A column from The New York Times, written by Consevative David Brooks, also posted in The Kansas City Star, yesterday, that could have been written by someone from the Liberal "left":

The Story of an Angry Voter


Let’s imagine a character named Ben. A couple of decades ago, Ben went to high school.

It wasn’t easy. His parents were splitting up. His friends would cut class to smoke weed. His sister got pregnant. But Ben worked hard and graduated with decent grades and then studied at East Stroudsburg University and the University of Phoenix.

That wasn’t easy either. Ben would like to have majored in history, but he needed a skill so he studied hotel management. Others spent their college years partying, but Ben worked hard. After graduation, he got a job with a hotel chain. A few years later, he got a different job and then a different one.

He didn’t have lifetime security or a fabulous salary, but Ben worked. He filled in for the night manager, hired staff and cleaned up the breakfast area when that needed doing.

In other words, in school, he labored when others didn’t. At work, he sacrificed when others didn’t. He bought a house he could afford when others didn’t.

This wasn’t a robotic suburban life. It was a satisfying, moral way of living. Ben lived according to an ethos of what you might call “earned success.” Arthur Brooks has a good description of this ethos in his new book “The Battle.” As Brooks (no relation) observes, the key to happiness is not being rich; it’s doing something arduous and creating something of value and then being able to reflect on the fruits of your labor.

For Ben, right and wrong is contained in the relationship between effort and reward. If people do not work but get rewarded, that’s wrong. If people work and do not get rewarded, that’s wrong. But Ben believed that America is fundamentally a just society. He loved his country because people who work hard can usually overcome whatever unfairness is thrust in their way.

But when Ben looked at Washington, he saw a political system that undermined the relationship between effort and reward. People in Washington spent money they didn’t have. They just borrowed it from the Chinese. People in Washington taxed those with responsible homes to bail out people who’d bought homes they couldn’t afford.

People in Congress were caught up in a spoils system in which money was taken from those who worked and given to those with connections. Money was taken from those who produced and used to bail out the reckless, who were supposedly too big to fail.

This was an affront to the core values of Ben’s life.

Once there was a group in the political center that would have understood Ben’s outrage. Moderates like Abraham Lincoln believed in the free labor ideology. Their entire governing system was built around encouraging labor and rewarding labor.

But these days, the political center is a feckless shell. It has no governing philosophy. Its paragons seem from the outside opportunistic, like Arlen Specter, or caught in some wishy-washy middle, like Blanche Lincoln. The right and left have organized, but the center hasn’t bothered to. The right and left have media outlets and think tanks, but the centrists are content to complain about polarization and go home. By their genteel passivity, moderates have ceded power to the extremes.

So when Ben looked around for leaders who might understand his outrage, he only found them among the ideological hard-liners. In Arkansas, he saw a MoveOn candidate, Bill Halter, crusading against the bailouts and the spoils culture. On the right, he saw the Tea Party candidate Rand Paul crusading against runaway spending and debt.

Ben wasn’t naturally an extremist sort of guy. He didn’t live his life for politics or go in for the over-the-top stuff he heard on talk radio. But he did have some sense that the American work ethic was being threatened by debt and decadence.

It was going to take spit and vinegar to turn things around. So he voted for one of the outsiders. This is not time for a tinkerer, he figured. It’s time for a demolition man.

In a few years’ time, Ben is going to be disappointed again. He’s going to find that the outsiders he sent to Washington just screamed at each other at ever higher decibels. He’s going to find that he and voters like him unwittingly created a political culture in which compromise is impermissible, in which institutions are decimated by lone-wolf narcissists who have no interest in or talent for crafting legislation. Nothing will get done.

In a few years’ time, Ben is going to look for something else. It will be interesting to see if, by that time, any moderates have had the foresight and energy to revive and define the free labor tradition — a tradition that uses government to encourage work, to reward work, and to uphold the values at the core of Ben’s life.

Food for thought.

As Mr. King asked, "Can't we all just get along?"

Where--and how--Steve Jobs' (rich white guy) and Apple get their iPads made

Foxconn worker dies in China, the 10th in a year


Associated Press Writer

A Chinese employee of Foxconn Technology Group fell from a building and died Tuesday, May 25, 2010, state-run media said, in the 10th such death this year at the world's largest contract maker of electronics, such as the iPod, Dell computers and Nokia phones

Hey, it's just some poor schlubs, right? Who cares?

At least, thank God, they don't have Union labor.

Link to original story:

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Topeka, Kansas? One of the "10 Best Cities for the Next Decade"?

Yep. You read correctly.

Yahoo is showing Kiplinger's rankings of the "10 Best Cities for the Next Decade" and put Topeka-freaking, Kansas at number 10.

That is stunning.

I can understand Austin, Texas at number one, sure. I love Austin. The music, the food, the energy (the fact that it's a pretty good bastion of the "left" in an otherwise wacko, right-wing state), everything.

But Topeka, Kansas?

I used to work there for about a year and a half so I'm certainly familiar with it.

I once phoned over to Kansas City and told a young lady I was officed out of there and she asked me the following:

"Do you know what we call that place?"

No, I said.


Lucky for her I wasn't vested in defending the place. I don't repeat the joke, I'll tell you that.

So here's what Kiplinger's has to say about them:

10. Topeka, Kan.

In its reserved, midwestern way, Topeka has engineered a prosperity that most cities of similar size would envy. As the capital city of Kansas, nearly 25% of Topeka's workforce is employed by the government, providing a stable job market where unemployment has stayed around 7%. The city boasts quality schools, friendly people, good hospitals, a university and -- one of its biggest selling points -- low housing costs.

Des Moines, Iowa is on there, too, so you know, at number 7.

But guess what mid-sized, midwestern city that has both a Major League Baseball and National Football League team with the name "Kansas City" in it ISN'T on the list?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A roundup of articles on the Republicans this afternoon

Each day, I look at the links I've attached here, to this blog, to see what stories I should possibly be aware of. This afternoon, it seems there is a pretty good thread, telling of what the Rethugs, I mean Republicans, are up to of late.

To wit:

From Americablog:

--Inhofe and GOP again rally to protect BP from liability

Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), the top Republican on the Environmental and Public Works committee, blocked a request offered by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) to pass the bill, which would raise corporations' liability caps from $75 million to $10 billion.

Republicans, protecting British Petroleum. Nice.

From Daily Kos:

Great patriotic Republicans reject taking care of 9/11 responders
by Joan McCarter

I guess they're already over 9/11.

Ailing Sept. 11 responders don’t deserve a permanent, guaranteed program to ensure they get health care, and giving it to them could wreck the country, Republicans in Congress argued today.

Calling the Sept. 11 Health and Compensation Act a new “entitlement program” like Medicare, members of the GOP on the House Energy and Commerce Committee argued the nation already has too much that it must pay for, and making the care of tens of thousands of 9/11 responders mandatory was too much of a burden.

Republicans, not protecting the American people who were working for us, right after 9/11 and putting their lives and health on the line for us.

From Alternet:

Peak Hypocrisy: Republican Party Vies for Tax-Payer Bailout

Posted by Joshua Holland at 1:40 pm

Four years ago, I asked Dean Baker why he didn’t like the term “free-market fundamentalism” to describe conservative economic thinking.

Joshua Holland: You say that conservatives are not, in fact, self-reliant fans of free-markets. Lay out your thesis in a nutshell.

Dean Baker: Well that’s the stereotype — that conservatives are willing to take the hard knocks when they come — but in my book I argue that what the conservatives have done is they’ve rigged the deck. They’ve made sure that certain people come out ahead, that income flows upward, and that other people are put at a disadvantage — and these things are built into the rules of the system. And then what they want to do — in talking about “free markets” — is they want to kick back and say, “No, no, no; those are the rules, and we can’t talk about them.” They don’t want to talk about how the deck is rigged; they want us to fight over the small scraps.

Republicans, taking care of themselves and their rich friends, first, last and foremost.

Conclusion: The Republicans are deeply, deeply fragmented--we know that--and self-destructing, popularity-wise, with the American people. They know very well how to take care of themselves and their rich friends, the wealthy and big business, the corporations. What they don't know is that they need to take care of the country and the American people. Or how to do it.

The Libertarians aren't even really a political party (no real national committee, no organization) and the "Tea Party" is a rather small collection of people with a wide variety of opinions but no real core values they share other than "smaller government" but that's what the Republicans and Libertarians have been hawking for years now.

If the Democrats and President Obama can pass the trimmed-down "line item veto" this President is pushing for, cut earmarks, shrink spending that way and then act, as soon as possible, on the eventual conclusions of the bipartisan panel to cut government spending, we will stay much more cohesive and strong and be able to weather the political storms now and into the future.

That's a lot of "ifs".

But I believe we can do it.

To all Republicans and Libertarians out there...

...who want to say or think this President only wants to grow government and "tax and spend", blah, blah, blah.

From The Federal government website and news:

Obama to shed federal office space

By TIM KAUFFMAN | Last Updated: May 20, 2010

President Obama soon will order agencies to get rid of office buildings and other properties they no longer need, Federal Times has learned.

Federal agencies are holding on to more than 20,000 excess assets — from office buildings and labs to warehouses and runways — that could be sold to generate additional revenue. In addition, agencies have identified more than 65,000 properties that are partially or completely vacant but haven't been deemed excess, which would allow them to be sold. The properties are valued at more than $1.2 billion.

"Currently, federal agencies have little or no incentive to dispose of excess real property, and the time it takes to get an asset off the federal inventory is considerable," Office of Management and Budget spokeswoman Jean Weinberg said in a statement to Federal Times.

Obama will issue a memorandum as early as next month requiring agencies to re-examine their real estate footprints and identify opportunities to dispose of properties that are unneeded or not being used to their full capacity, Weinberg said.

The new policy will require agencies to make a "significant reduction" by 2012 in how much they're paying to rent, maintain and otherwise occupy space, said Dennis Goldstein, director of asset management at the General Services Administration, which has been working closely with OMB to develop the initiative.

And agencies will have to make difficult decisions about how much space employees need to do their work, Goldstein said at last week's Federal Real Property Association's annual conference in Washington. For instance, agencies could require more employees to telework or could establish shift schedules that would allow two or more employees to share desks, cubicles or offices.

Oh, and he's set up a bipartisan commission, too, to see how we can possibly cut spending.

He's also trying to get a pared-down version of the "line item veto", too, so he can cut "earmarks" and some pork-barrel spending out of future budgets.

Just sayin'.

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Quote of the day--separation of church and state

As Article 11 of the 1797 treaty first-President George Washington and Founding Father negotiated (and John Adams signed) with the Barbary pirates put it:

"The government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion."

Just to be clear.

Link to original post here:

Monday, May 24, 2010

Are you as happy with your life as Jessica?

If not, why not??

Ain't dat just a danged shame?

Posted by stevebenen at 12:44 pm on "Crooks and Liars"

May 24, 2010

Republican National Committee Very, Very Low on Cash

This post originally appeared on Washington Monthly.

Since Michael Steele took over as chairman of the Republican National Committee, the party’s budgetary decisions have been the subject of widespread consternation, intensified by the fact that RNC fundraising has fallen far short of expectations.

These concerns have escalated in recent months, in light of expense reports pointing to unnecessary spending on private planes, limousines, catering, flowers, softball equipment, and an outing at lesbian-themed bondage nightclub.

A CNN report this afternoon will likely raise the anxiety levels among Republicans to new heights.

An internal Republican National Committee document obtained by CNN paints a damning picture of the committee’s financial standing compared to the past five election cycles.

The document, pulled together during a recent review sparked by concerns over RNC spending practices, said the committee had $12.5 million in cash on hand at the end of April.

By comparison, the average cash on hand at the end of April from 2002-2009 was $40.4 million. And that average includes the odd numbered years when there are fewer election contests.

Read these and tell me Glenn Beck isn't either insane or stupid

All quotes from and by Glenn "I'm a rocket scientist" Beck:

''The most used phrase in my administration if I were to be President would be 'What the hell you mean we're out of missiles?''' —Jan. 2009

''I could give a flying crap about the political process ... We're an entertainment company.'' —Forbes interview; April, 2010

''I am not saying that Barack Obama is a fascist. If I'm not mistaken, in the early days of Adolf Hitler, they were very happy to line up for help there as well. I mean, the companies were like, 'Hey, wait a minute. We can get, you know, we can get out of trouble here. They can help, et cetera, et cetera.''' —comparing government bailouts of auto companies to actions of German companies during the rise of Hitler, Fox News' Glenn Beck show, April 1, 2009

''You have three people in the White House that are in love with eugenics or whatever it is you would call it today. ... Please dear God, read history. Please dear God read the truth of what these people have said in their own words, and ask yourself this one question: Do you trust these people enough to give them control over who lives and who dies? Because that's what health care is when you have no other choice but to go to the state.''—comparing health care reform to Nazi eugenics

''Finally -- well, he wasn't the president. He was the chancellor, Hitler, decided that it was the only empathetic thing to do, is to put this child down and put him out of his suffering. It was the beginning of the T4, which led to genocide everywhere. It was the beginning of it. Empathy leads you to very bad decisions many times.'' —on President Obama's statement that he would consider ''empathy'' in choosing a Supreme Court nominee, Fox News' Glenn Beck show, May 26, 2009

Glenn, go look up "empathy" in a dictionary, will you?

''Advocating through art is known as propaganda. You should look up the name Goebbels.'' —on the National Endowment for the Arts, Fox News's Glenn Beck show, Nov. 3, 2009

"This is not comparing these people to the people in Germany, but this is exactly what happened to the lead-up with Hitler. Hitler opened up the door and said, 'Hey, companies, I can help you.' They all ran through the door. And then in the end, they all saw, 'Uh-oh. I'm in bed with the devil.' They started to take their foot out, and Hitler said, 'Absolutely not. Sorry, gang. This is good for the country. We've got to do these things.' And it was too late." —on the government's Troubled Asset Relief Program, which Republican Geo. W. Bush & Co. created, FOX Business interview, April 21, 2009

"So here you have Barack Obama going in and spending the money on embryonic stem cell research. ... Eugenics. In case you don't know what Eugenics led us to: the Final Solution. A master race! A perfect person. ... The stuff that we are facing is absolutely frightening." -on his radio show, March 9, 2009

"Al Gore's not going to be rounding up Jews and exterminating them. It is the same tactic, however. The goal is different. The goal is globalization...And you must silence all dissenting voices. That's what Hitler did. That's what Al Gore, the U.N., and everybody on the global warming bandwagon [are doing]." —on his radio show, May 1, 2007

"I have been nervous about this interview with you because what I feel like saying is, 'Sir, prove to me that you are not working with our enemies. ... And I know you're not. I'm not accusing you of being an enemy, but that's the way I feel, and I think a lot of Americans will feel that way." —interviewing Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), the first Muslim U.S. congressman, Glen Beck's show on CNN's Headline News, Nov. 14, 2006

"I want a chastity belt on this man. I want his every move watched in Washington. I don't trust this guy...This one could end with a dead intern. I'm just saying, it could end with a dead intern!" —on Sen. Scott Brown saying his daughters are "available" during his election victory speech

"The only [Katrina victims] we're seeing on television are the scumbags." —on his radio show, Sept. 9, 2005

See, Glenn? That was sarcasm and cynicism, both. You'll still have to work on that empathy thing.

"When I see a 9/11 victim family on television, or whatever, I'm just like, 'Oh shut up' I'm so sick of them because they're always complaining." —on his radio show, Sept. 9, 2005

Still not empathetic.

"Roosevelt...Am I wrong by saying there was a good portion of people that thought, 'Holy cow, I'm glad he's dead. He was turning into a dictator.'"
—on FDR, who was wildly popular after being elected four times, bringing America back from economic collapse, and leading the Allied powers to victory in World War II (May 21, 2010)

Yes, Glenn, you're wrong.

"Because if you are a white human that loves America and happens to be a Christian, forget about it, Jack." —whining about how everyone hates him, April 2, 2007

"I went to the movie this weekend with a gun. And surprise, surprise, I didn't kill anybody!" —Glenn Beck

"You can get rich making fun of me. I know. I've made lots of money making fun of me." -GB

You must mean by quoting things like this:

"You know, we all have our inner demons. I, for one — I can't speak for you, but I'm on the verge of moral collapse at any time. It can happen by the end of the show." —on his radio show, Nov. 6, 2006

Saving the best--and the only thing I can agree with out of his mouth--for last:

"I say on the air all time, 'if you take what I say as gospel, you're an idiot." —New York Times, March 29, 2009

For yet more from G. Beck, either for an education on his ignorance or for a laugh (or cry), go here:

One success, one fail for the Mayor

Last week, I didn't get a chance to pat the mayor on the back, for once, so to speak, for helping slow down Wells Fargo on the sale of some foreclosed-on houses in town.

One "attaboy" from me--along with others--for doing something well and right in town, instead of complaining--more--about him.

From the Mayor's letter to the city::

On May 12, the Mayor held a press conference asking Kansas Citians to get involved in a planned huge auction of houses owned by Wells Fargo as the result of foreclosures.

The Mayor was concerned that the houses would be purchased by out-of-town investors who would do little with them until the housing market rebounds. The problem with this scenario is that the houses typically end up being an eyesore in the neighborhoods - with weed filled yards that the city is then burdened to clean-up until they can track down the investors to pony up and pay for the maintenance.

After his press conference, Wells Fargo canceled the auction.

Excellent. Instead of absentee landlords, from out of town, buying up and owning these properties, maybe more local investors can snap them up at bargain prices, fix them up a bit and take care of them, instead of letting them become, as said above, eyesores.

So good on ya', Mayor. If you'd do more good and positive things like this, maybe you won't be thought of so poorly when you're thrown out of office this Fall.

Here's the fail:

One man was dead and another had serious injuries after a shooting at 63rd Street and Swope Parkway in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday night.

Another shooting in town.

Another senseless killing.

At what point--I ask again--is this mayor going to stand up in front of local TV cameras with other civic, community, church and other leaders and say we are not/cannot any longer take these pointless, tragic shootings and killings and we are going to come together to fight them?

I know I've been asking this for the last year here.

It's nearly one more Summer upon us and the temperatures are rising, along with the humidity and we all know the likelihood these will increase is extremely strong.

I would contend--and I think a lot of other people would, too--that this issue of drive-by and other senseless homicides in town is the number one concern in the city at present and has been during this mayor's entire term in office, yet he hasn't addressed it, full-on, once.

It's way overdue.

I'm calling on this mayor once again, to address the issue of homicides, not because I'm a blogger, certainly, but because I'm a resident of the city and because this situation is ugly, stupid and desperately in need of attention and solutions.

Mayor? Your response?

Sunday, May 23, 2010

You can bet the Republican shills will fight this for their wealthy buddies

The Challenge of Closing Tax Loopholes For Billionaires

by Robert Reich, from his blog

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Who could be opposed to closing a tax loophole that allows hedge-fund and private equity managers to treat their earnings as capital gains – and pay a rate of only 15 percent rather than the 35 percent applied to ordinary income?

Answer: Some of the nation’s most prominent and wealthiest private asset managers, such as Paul Allen and Henry Kravis, who, along with hordes of lobbyists, are determined to keep the loophole wide open.

The House has already tried three times to close it only to have the Senate cave in because of campaign donations from these and other financiers who benefit from it.

But the measure will be brought up again in the next few weeks, and this time the result could be different. Few senators want to be overtly seen as favoring Wall Street. And tax revenues are needed to help pay for extensions of popular tax cuts, such as the college tax credit that reduces college costs for tens of thousands of poor and middle class families. Closing this particular loophole would net some $20 billion.

It’s not as if these investment fund managers are worth a $20 billion subsidy. Nonetheless they argue that if they have to pay at the normal rate they’ll be discouraged from investing in innovative companies and startups. But if such investments are worthwhile they shouldn’t need to be subsidized. Besides, in the years leading up to the crash of 2008, hedge-fund and private equity fund managers weren’t exactly models of public service. Many speculated in ways that destabilized the whole financial system.

Nor are these fund managers especially deserving, as compared to poor and middle-class families that need a tax break to send their kids to college. Nor are they particularly needy. Last year, the 25 most successful hedge-fund managers earned a billion dollars each. One of them earned 4 billion dollars. (Paul Allen’s personal yacht holds two luxury submarines and a helicopter. Henry Kravis is one of the wealthiest people in the world.)

Several of these private investment fund managers, by the way, have taken a lead in the national drive to cut the federal budget deficit. The senior chairman and co-founder of the Blackstone Group, one of the largest private equity funds, is Peter G. Peterson, who never tires of telling the nation it faces economic ruin if deficits aren’t brought under control. Curiously, I have not heard Peterson advocate closing this tax loophole as one way to further the cause of fiscal responsibility.

Closing tax loopholes for billionaires may seem like a no-brainer, especially at a time when the nation is cutting back spending on the middle class — slashing budgets that fund child care, public schools, and public universities. Tens of thousands of teachers are getting pink slips.

But you can expect a huge fight.

There is also a moral issue here. Call me old fashioned but I just think it’s wrong that a single hedge fund manager earns a billion dollars, when a billion dollars would pay the salaries of about 20,000 teachers.

Link to original post:

America's biggest problem?

Quote of the day

From Michael Gerson, Republican, Conservative and former speech writer for George W. Bush:

Immigration issues are emotional and complex. But this (the new Arizona law and controversey) must be recognized for what it is: political suicide. Hispanics now make up 40 percent of the K-12 students in Arizona, 44 percent in Texas, 47 percent in California, 54 percent in New Mexico. Whatever temporary gains Republicans might make feeding resentment of this demographic shift, the party identified with that resentment will eventually be voted into singularity. In a matter of decades, the Republican Party could cease to be a national party.

Be still, my heart.

Enjoy your Sunday, folks.

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Saturday, May 22, 2010

The difference?

What's the difference between a Republican and a Libertarian?


It's not cool to be a Republican.

Think about it.

And have a great weekend, y'all.

Sure, nothing in life is fair but...

Two stories today from The Kansas City Star in the same column, the "In Brief" group on page A10.

First this:

A Lawrence man has been sentenced to six months in jail for driving drunk and killing a woman riding her bicycle last year.


Then, this:

A Kansas City man who sucker-punched a grandmother must spend at least 21 years in prison.

True. Both true. You can see for yourself. Go get the paper.

Is that not bizarre?

If you're drunk, driving and kill someone, you get six months in prison.

Hit a grandmother and break her jaw (I didn't show that but hey, it's not manslaughter) and you go away for 21 years.

Don't even try to explain that to me.

Try to have a great weekend, folks.

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Update/addendum: The driver, above, also did a "hit and run" so besides killing the lady, he also drove away.

And he got 6 months.


That's fair.


Prediction: President Obama is getting his voice

You watch, after the "beating" the President took from political consultant James Carville about the British Petroleum, in which Mr. Carville said the President either needs to somewhat "get tough" or the situation would hand him his ass, so to speak, in a sling, I believe the President is getting his voice. He's getting his strength.


From The Huffington Post, late Saturday night/Sunday morning:

Obama Repudiates Bush Doctrine In West Point Graduation Speech

WEST POINT, N.Y. (AP) --The U.S. must shape a world order as reliant on the force of diplomacy as on the might of its military to lead, President Barack Obama said Saturday as he outlined a foreign policy vision that repudiated the go-it-alone approach forged by his predecessor, George W. Bush.

Addressing nearly 1,000 graduating cadets at the U.S. Military Academy, many of whom will likely head to war in Iraq and Afghanistan under his command, Obama said all hands are required to solve the world's newest threats: terrorism, the spread of nuclear weapons, climate change and feeding and caring for a growing population.

The U.S. military is the "cornerstone of our national defense," but Obama said the men and women who wear America's uniform cannot bear that responsibility by themselves. "The rest of us must do our part," he said.

"The burdens of this century cannot fall on our soldiers alone. It also cannot fall on American shoulders alone," the commander in chief told graduates in gray and white uniforms seated on the field at Michie Stadium.

Diplomacy and muscle must work together, he said in calling for "renewed engagement" from diplomats, along with development experts, intelligence and law enforcement agencies, and first responders.

So, yeah, you watch, I predict that, from here out, Mr. Obama s going to, to an extent, take off the "kid gloves" and get tougher. Don't you know Rahm Emanuel is/would push him in that direction?

The times and the situations call for it--the economy, Israel/Palestinian relations, our work with the banks and the oil companies, virtually every corner of his work.

You watch.

Heaven knows I could be proven wrong.

I don't think I will be.

This President is a good student and a learner.

Let's see what happens.

Here's hoping.

Link to original post:

More, ladies and gentlemen, on Rand Paul

It's going to be a long, fun way to November.

Enjoy your Sunday, folks.

Guess who's not in the top ten of countries to do business

Yeah, it's us.

The US.

According to The World Economic Forum and their recent study, the US is no way in the top ten countries in which to do business, released yesterday.

Published for the third year in a row and covering 125 economies worldwide, the report presents a resource for dialogue and provides a yardstick of the extent to which economies have in place the necessary attributes for enabling trade and where improvements are most needed.

Check out the top ten:

1. Singapore
2. Hong Kong
3. Denmark
4. Sweden
5. Switzerland
6. New Zealand
7. Norway
8. Canada
9. Luxembourg
10. Netherlands

Beat out by Luxembourg.

Who'd have guessed?

The US? 19th.

We're not number one in this category, either.


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Thank goodness it hasn't come down to this--yet--in Missouri or Kansas

John Wayne for office anyone?

Sheesh. (Slapping forehead).

Have a great weekend, y'all.

Friday, May 21, 2010

The more I see of Alan Grayson...

...the more I like.

From Think Progress, today:

Grayson introduces ‘War Is Making You Poor Act’ to highlight cost of ongoing wars.

Today, Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) introduced bipartisan legislation called the “War Is Making You Poor Act,” which aims to call attention to a) how much money is being spent to fight the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and b) how budget gimmicks are used to pay for them. Grayson’s legislation would slash the $159 billion request for supplemental war funding and use that money to deliver a tax break for all Americans. Grayson demands the Pentagon use its currently existing $549 billion defense budget to fight the wars. Speaking on the House floor today, Grayson underscored that the point of his legislation is to highlight the costs of the wars:

GRAYSON: So I believe that the thing we need to do is to take that $159 billion that the President has set aside – we’re not saying he has to stop the war, we’re not giving a cut-off date for the war – we’re simply saying you need to fund that out of the base budget of $549 billion. And we take 90 percent of that and give it back to the American people.

And I think most people would be surprised to learn that that is so much money that we’ve been spending on the war in Afghanistan and the war in Iraq that every single taxpayer in America will be get his first or her first $35,000 of income completely tax free.

Grayson’s bill, which is currently being co-sponsored by Reps. Ron Paul (R-TX), Walter Jones (R-NC), Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) Barbara Lee (D-CA), John Conyers (D-MI), and Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), would also cut the federal deficit by $15.9 billion. “There is no longer any need to go beyond the exorbitant base defense budget,” Grayson said. “It is not necessary. Enough is enough.”

You go, Rep. Grayson. We're with you. Let's tilt at the really big windmills.

"Man's reach must exceed his grasp, or what's a heaven for?"

Have a great weekend, y'all.

Kansas City on Yahoo's "10 Most Underrated Cities"


Check out what they had to say:

You may not know that Kansas City is teeming with fountains and fresh off a downtown renovation.

With downtown's multi-billion dollar face-lift, pedestrian-friendly boulevards, and claim to having the most fountains of any city outside of Rome, Kansas City is definitely deserving of buzz. Plus, history buffs can learn about the underrated city's pioneer roots at the Arabia Steamboat Museum, while sports fans can visit the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, a tribute to the excellent athletes forced to play in segregated leagues. Blues and jazz clubs also abound in this city where musicians like Count Basie and Charlie Parker got their start, particularly in the historic 18th and Vine District, where the American Jazz Museum is located. For some summertime family fun, head to mega-water park Schlitterbahn Vacation Village, which debuted in July 2009 as the brand’s first venture outside of Texas. Once you've worked up an appetite, you're also in for a treat, as this Midwestern city also boasts some of the country's best barbecue.

And they didn't even say anything about the world class Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.

So anyone bitching about how it sucks to live here, check it out. (Tony?)

And this is before we add the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.

I guess I have to change my response to "Yahoo!"

Have a great weekend, y'all.

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Disgusting, shallow and transparent election year politics

Two stories in the Star today stuck out, too, about, as I said above, disgusting election year politics.

Ugh. Too bad we have to go through this.

First up is Mayor Funkhouser's little exercise in futility this week at the Sprint Center I wrote about earlier.

Man am I naive.

I thought that was just about pushing his "School's First" initiative.

What a dolt I am.

Naturally, what that was actually about was him pushing HIMSELF as a positive leader for the mayoral election this Fall.

I should have seen that a mile away.

I need to remember to be more cynical when it comes to these people and their election runs.

Next up is Roy Blunt's election run.

This one I can see completely through.

Since it's an election year for Roy and he's running for state senator, he's put forward a bill "that would raise the liability cap for an offshore, deep-water oil rig spill to $150 million or an amount equal to the last four quarters of the company's profits, whichever is greater. The bill also raises liability caps for other types of oil spills."

What's that you say? Isn't this usually "Mr. Corporate Supporter" Roy Blunt, the guy who ALWAYS does what the big money wants him to, while letting the "little guy"--you and I, the voters--go to heck in a handbasket?

Why, yes, that is exactly who we're talking about.

But it's an election year.

Besides, this is safe territory for good ol' boy Roy, for two reasons.

First, there are no big oil companies located with headquarters in Missouri, of course, and second, who's the biggest "bad guy" in the country right now?

I mean, besides Jay Leno.

Why, "Big Oil", of course.

We can kick them right now because of the whole Gulf oil spill down there that BP kicked up.

So the bad thing is, it's an election year and we have to put up with it, the advertising--which will soon be driving us crazy--and moves like these, from people like the Funk and good ol' boy Roy "where's the cash?" Blunt.

The good thing is that, in the case of Roy Blunt, he's sponsoring legislation that is more for us, the people, and for protecting us, which is foreign to him.

At least we have that.

That and the fact that time flies so it will soon be Christmas and the election will be over.

Tea Party Leadership--is this really the way we ought to go?

Rand Paul, the ultra-conservative candidate in Kentucky who openly embraces and courts the "Tea Party" and gets their votes, came out, earlier this week against the Civil Right Act of 1964--though he says, of course, that he abhors discrimination--and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The boy's an idiot, folks, pure and simple.

And a demagogue, don't forget that. Mr. "I'll say anything to these Right Wing wackos, to get elected".

And there are tons of blogs out there ranting about this and it's certainly in the news so I'll make this brief.

We have to keep in mind that doing away with both or either of these things, the Civil Rights Act and/or the ADA, would be taking us backward, not forward, in any progress the country has made for the less-advantaged.

What really gets me is that the Right Wing nutcase reporter, John Stossel, agreed, on television that "Private businesses ought to get to discriminate..."

From The Osterley Times:

STOSSEL: Totally. I'm in total agreement with Rand Paul. You can call it public accommodation, and it is, but it's a private business. And if a private business wants to say, "We don't want any blond anchorwomen or mustached guys," it ought to be their right. Are we going to say to the black students' association they have to take white people, or the gay softball association they have to take straight people? We should have freedom of association in America.

STOSSEL: And I would go further than he was willing to go, as he just issued the statement, and say it's time now to repeal that part of the law.

KELLY: What?

STOSSEL: Because private businesses ought to get to discriminate. And I won't won't ever go to a place that's racist and I will tell everybody else not to and I'll speak against them. But it should be their right to be racist.

What's scary, shocking and disturbing here, about this, is that Stossel's report, when seen on television, gives more than a little bit of weight to it, when seen by other Right Wing conservatives and/or business owners or, actually, any other racist jerkwad out there watching the crap Fox puts on the screen.

Remember that old idea as a kid that "if it's in a book, it must be true"?

As we mature, we realize that's patently untrue.


People really would feel justified and supported in believing this nonsense if some idiot reporter from New York City or Washington, DC says it's so, right on his own television set.

This starts to get scary.

Naturally, it was on Fox "News" but holy cow, how completely, totally and utterly irresponsible. They've outdone even themselves.

So to all Americans out there, even and including the Fox channel and the Tea Party leaders and followers, I ask you (beg?), please don't take us backwards. Let's continue to progress, as a country, and improve things for the people and not just the corporations and wealthy.

Here's hoping.

With that, let's try to have a great weekend, y'all.

Friday morning chutzpah

Two things stick out, to me, in the news this morning of such chutzpah and nerve, I had to mention them.

The first is the CEO of Massey Energy, Don Blankenship's, testimony in Washington yesterday on the Upper Big Branch mine disaster earlier this year.

Instead of coming off contrite, as many would expect, since last month's explosion was the worst in 40 years in the US, Mr. Blankenship actually came out blazing and blamed the government for the disaster.

It's Massey's mine, Don Blankenship's responsibility, as CEO, but, lo and behold, it's the government's fault for the disaster, not his.

That's a beauty, Don, we have to hand it to you. Chutzpah of the first order.

He says the government made them change the ventilation in the mines, even shutting them down for two days to do it, and that's why the miners were killed.

I suppose it could be true but I'm fairly certain that if and when this is examined, we'll all find out it's nothing of the sort.

Good try, though, Don. That's a first-rate snow job.

The 2nd Friday morning chutzpah goes either to the burglar/thief who snapped a lock, broke a window and stole five paintings in France at the Paris Museum of Modern Art worth far over $100 million OR it goes to the museum management who knew their alarm was broken back in March but didn't fix it.

Sure, you have nearly priceless Matisee, Picasso and who knows what all paintings in your building but you don't have the alarm fixed.

Wait. I have this figured out--the chutzpah goes to the burglar.

Not fixing the alarm system was just stupid.

Have a great weekend, everyone.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Whither the economy?

This just out from NPR and the Associated Press:

Leading Indicators: Recovery Could 'Lose Steam'
by The Associated Press

A private research group's index of leading economic indicators unexpectedly slipped in April, its first drop in more than a year and a sign that growth could slow this summer.

The Conference Board said its gauge of future economic activity edged down 0.1 percent last month, the first decline since March 2009. Economists polled by Thomson Reuters had expected a gain of 0.2 percent.

The index is designed to forecast economic activity in the next three to six months.

The decline "suggests a recovery that will continue through summer, although it could lose a little steam," said Ken Goldstein, an economist at the Conference Board.

What does this mean for the short-term?

More government spending, folks. Count on it. Get used to the idea.

Or would you rather have the economy drop further and have more unemployment?

Those are our choices. Take your pick.

Jason Whitlock out of his element--and league

Jason Whitlock should stick with sports.

Clearly he doesn't understand Bill Maher.

Or atheists or atheism.

Or, for that matter, religion and/or the history of religion.

In his column yesterday, he declared that Bill insults common sense, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Whitlock's mom.


He also picked the easiest of targets because Bill Maher gets dismissed for two reasons: he's atheist and uses profanity, simultaneously, so people don't take him seriously, usually, especially if all they do is watch his show.

To compare Bill Maher to Glenn Beck is to compare someone who knows and understands history and cultures, to someone who is unaware of and unfamiliar with both but who still manages to be outspoken and opinionated.

Let's be clear here--Bill Maher isn't a "bigot" against religion. Bill Maher knows religion, what it is, what it's based on and what it's done in the past and what it's capable of and then comes to the conclusion that it's a crutch, at minimum, and a weapon, too frequently, at worst.

Whitlock asks "Will Maher use his enhanced platform"--tv--"to tell me (Whitlock) my mother is "delusional?"

Well, if Mr. Whitlock pressed, I'm sure he would. Is Bill going to rush up and tell her that? No. No, Jason, he's not, don't worry.

It may have been "faith" that gave your "mother the stength to work a full shift at a factory and a second job at night so that" his "brother and" he " could live in a safe neighborhood with a good school system."

Yes, or maybe she could have just felt that obligation and dedication for and to you, if she were more enlightened.

And maybe it was Mr. Whitlock's grandmother's "belief in Christ that allowed her to move emotionally and mentally beyond the racist atrocities her family endured living in the South."

Yes, or maybe she could have just been a tough, smart woman who knew what she had to do and did it.

The thing is, what too many people simply can't accept is that we're here without any magical, mystical, anthropomorphized "creator" figure and that we should treat each other well and right because it's the right thing to do, period, without that same magical, mystical judge and "great leveler."

As a nonbeliever, Mr. Maher doesn't just "focus solely on the negative aspects of organized faith," as was in the column, not at all.

He mentions those, time and again, because people have done horrific things to other human beings in the name of religion but he also points out how simply unnecessary and superstitious--and based on superstition--religion is.

Mr. Whitlock concludes by saying religion should be viewed as a tool we can use to get through life. A lot of us agree. Only we think more along the lines of a crutch than a fork, for that tool.

And faith is, actually, too frequently "the enemy of thought," in fact. It is the enemy of evaluative, critical thought. Instead of analyzing things, faith usually asks believers to memorize pre-concluded ideas and concepts and then regurgitate them to the end of our days.

Bill Maher is smart enough and honorable enough to make distinctions. He's made the distinction between analytical thought and superstitious, comfortable, comforting, tradional memorization and repetition.

The fact is, Jason Whitlock being insulted because of Bill Maher's strong opinions on religion, based on history, education and familiarity is only a problem for him, Jason, and others like him who still cling to religion.

If he, Mr. Whitlock, chooses to be insulted, that's not Mr. Maher's fault.

And that's another of Jason's mistakes.

If you choose to be insulted, Mr. Whitlock, that's your choice and problem, no one else's.

Least of all, Bill Maher's.

Big day on Facebook

In case you're unaware, today is "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day" on Facebook. You can go to that page and join in.

The point is a good and imprortant one, I think, so it shows the cohesion and unity of everyone who is against the suppression of free speech, of course.

But it's much more than that, too.

It shows that same unity and cohesion of people around the world who are against the threat of violence, at minimum, and actual violence against others, all because someone may have drawn a cartoon or picture of the leader of a religion. In this case, a picture of Mohammed.

What it is not is racism.

What it is not is hate.

What it is not is disrespect.

Those points need to be made and made clear.

So anyway, it's a big, weird day on Facebook, just so you know. Watch for it in the news. It is to be an annual event, too, according to the posted page. The zaniness is on the "Just Others" page, so you know.

When people are no longer threatened or, worse, beaten up for drawing pictures of religious leaders, it will go away.

It's all about tolerance and acceptance.

As Elvis Costello said, "What's so funny about peace, love and understanding?"

Have a great day, everyone.

Unfortunately, Missouri and Kansas are on this national ranking list

With the Gulf oil spill at the forefront of our minds, The Daily Beast came out with a list yesterday of the top 28 (why not 25?, I know) most polluted places in the US.

I was hoping maybe we weren't on the list but, lo and behold, there we are, Missouri and Kansas.

I think it's important to be aware of these, generally, so we know what we're dealing with locally.

I think, too, that it's important we're aware of this kind of thing so a) we learn from the past and past mistakes and so b) we hold corporations and our government accountable for this kind of thing, so they don't pollute and foul the earth, water and/or air, make huge profits and then walk away.

I know, America, it's tough but we have to start learning lessons eventually.

Our two state sites:

#24, Joplin, Missouri: Oronogo-Duenweg Mining Belt

Acres: 6,400; Population: 10,000; Toxic chemicals: 4

History: One of a few Superfund sites located in the tri-state mining district which encompassed parts of Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma, the Oronogo-Duenweg area is spotted with mine shafts, waste piles and abandoned underground mines. Water in the area was found laced with lead.

#26, Galena, Kansas: Cherokee County

Acres: 73,600; Population: 50,000; Toxic chemicals: 13

History: As part of the Tri-State Mining District, along with parts of Missouri and Oklahoma, Cherokee County, Kansas was the site of extensive lead and zinc mining in the late 19th century. Hundreds of mines were thriving in the early 1900s, but activity slowed by the 1930s. Though much of the toxic byproduct from decades of mining and smelting in the area has been removed, and water treatment and soil removal has been completed, the ground and surface water still contain traces of cadmium, lead and zinc.

At least it's good to see that we're further down this list and not too close to the top where the even uglier polluting went on. We have that in our favor.

If you can take a moment, you might go to this link and read about some of the other sites, nationally. What these corporations did and left behind for the country is truly disgusting.

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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Don't let the door hit you, on the way out...

From the Associated Press and NPR, earlier:

Pakistan Blocks Facebook For 'Everybody Draw Muhammad Day'

Pakistan's government ordered Internet service providers to block Facebook on Wednesday amid anger over a page that encourages users to post images of Islam's Prophet Muhammad.

Fine. Go sit in yer dark corner, all by yourself, hating the rest of the world.

We like it that way.

This is the really funny part, though, the part that cracked me up is this:

Pakistan's minister of religious affairs, Hamid Saeed Kazmi, said the ban was only a temporary solution and suggested the government organize a conference of Muslim countries to figure out ways to prevent the publication of images of the prophet.


God, that's good.

I'll probably quietly smile about that to myself all evening.

The problems with extremists and extremism

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With the two "untouchable" subjects--religion and politics--it's especially true that, if the extremists (read: fundamentalists, etc.) dominate your group, no matter how extreme you were (conservative, right-wing, whatever), it's never good enough. You can never be "pure" enough. You can never say anything, nearly, that isn't far enough over in that corner.

That's what formerly conservative-enough Senator John McCain has been finding out--repeatedly--ever since he started fighting George W. (I'm a dumbshit) Bush for the presidency in 2000.

Sure, he was conservative. But he just wasn't "conservative enough."

So he lost in 2000.

And ever since, he's been trying to run farther and farther to the right, ever more conservative, until there's almost nothing he could not or would not say, in an effort to stay in office.

Formerly, he was a moderate on issues and it was good. It was good for the people of Arizona and good for the country.

But when the ultra-rightwing conservatives took ever more control of the party, he had to keep swinging farther and farther "out there", to make and keep them happy.

It's gotten pitiful. Really pathetic. John McCain has thrown whatever decency and self-respect he used to have out the window, in an effort to keep his Senate seat.

It's true for religions, too. Look at fundamentalists in any religion--here in the states with Christianity and across the world, with Islam and Muslim people.

The extreme right-wing Christians won't like and will likely deny--of course--any comparison to fundamentalist Islamists but it's accurate.

As with the political groups, you can never be "pure" enough. You can never be "good enough" when things bend to the extremes.

But people just don't learn or heed the warnings from history so we get what we've got nd it isn't pretty. It leads to purges within political parties--political death--but it leads to judgements and, frequently, physical death, when it comes to religion, particularly in the Middle East.

Maybe one day humankind will learn.

Here's hoping.