Saturday Cartoon Fun: Bob Is A Jerk Edition

A Comparison: FDR : BHO

FDR in 1936:
Powerful influences strive today to restore that kind of government with its doctrine that that Government is best which is most indifferent.

For nearly four years you have had an Administration which instead of twirling its thumbs has rolled up its sleeves. We will keep our sleeves rolled up.

We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace - business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering.

They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob.

Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me - and I welcome their hatred.
Obama announcing new financial regulations today:
My message to members of Congress of both parties is that we have to get this done. And my message to leaders of the financial industry is to work with us, and not against us, on needed reforms. I welcome constructive input from folks in the financial sector.
h/t Josh Orton

Obama Pushes Back


Retroactive Immunity, Again

Spencer Ackerman on Obama's endorsement of retroactive immunity:
In a move straight out of the Bush administration’s Office of Legal Counsel, a secret decision made by the Obama administration’s OLC provided retroactive legal justification for the FBI and telecommunications companies to improperly collect the phone records of American citizens. We would have no idea that the OLC issued any such retroactive blessing had not the Justice Department’s inspector general released a report this week blowing the whistle on it.

Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) wrote a letter today — which you can read in full after the jump — calling on Attorney General Eric Holder to “immediately” give Congress a copy of OLC’s retroactive immunization.
The Honorable Eric H. Holder, Jr.
Attorney General
United States Department of Justice
Washington, DC 20530

Dear Mr. Attorney General:

We are greatly concerned by the Department of Justice Office of Inspector General (OIG) report entitled “A Review of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Use of Exigent Letters and Other Informal Requests for Telephone Records,” which was issued yesterday. The report documents what appears to be several years of rampant illegality in the FBI’s methods of obtaining telephone records. As you know, we have been urging changes to the Patriot Act that would protect national security as well as the rights of Americans, and we believe this report further highlights the need for legislative changes.

We write specifically because we believe the Department should immediately provide to Congress a copy of the January 8, 2010, Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) opinion that is referenced in the OIG report and that apparently interprets the FBI’s authority to obtain phone records. Although much of the information about the OLC opinion is redacted in the public version of the OIG report, the opinion appears to have important implications for the rights of Americans. The report states that “the OLC agreed with the FBI that under certain circumstances [REDACTED] allows the FBI to ask for and obtain these [phone] records on a voluntary basis from the providers, without legal process or a qualifying emergency.” (p. 264) It further states that “we believe the FBI’s potential use of [REDACTED] to obtain records has significant policy implications that need to be considered by the FBI, the Department, and the Congress.” (p. 265) And finally, it states that the OIG recommends “that the Department notify Congress of this issue and of the OLC opinion interpreting the scope of the FBI’s authority under it, so that Congress can consider [REDACTED] and the implications of its potential use.” (p. 268)

In light of the OIG’s recommendation, please provide Congress with the January 8 OLC opinion immediately. We appreciate your attention to this important issue.


Russell D. Feingold
United States Senator

Richard J. Durbin
United States Senator

Ron Wyden
United States Senator

Balls Beer

This has been making the rounds...

Friday Cartoon Fun: D'oh Edition

What Hath The SCOTUS Wrought?

Dear Readers,

With today's ruling by the Supreme Court, it has now become financially feasible for me to seriously run for public office.

As you are probably well aware, my aspirations to become a powerful, feared member of the oligarchic elite have been stymied, partially because of those pictures of me and John Edwards' mistress, but mostly because the salary for an unsuccessful candidate is so poor. Indeed, as I have a wife and three kids to feed, I felt that I could not take the risk of running for higher office and lose, leaving my family destitute. We do have need for bare necessities (food, water, cable modem), and while the children would probably be tasty if they were slow cooked, I felt that the tradeoff was one I could not make.

Today's Supreme Court ruling, however, changes the game... and it's now an opportunity for you, the freedom of speech enabled citizenry, unions, or corporations to take advantage of me.

First, let me say that I have principles: valuable, deeply held principles that I will gladly abandon for cold, hard cash. You want an amendment to stop flag burning: for $5,000, I can be your candidate. You want to put electronic monitoring devices on liberals: for $5,000,000 I can be your candidate. You want to invade countries populated by brown people and forcibly convert them to Pepsi-Colaism... brother, for a mere $50,000,000 I can make that happen.

Of course, my real platform if totally up to you.
For a nice chunk of change I can be against gay marriage, but for a little bit more, I can be for it.
Don't like stop signs? For a generous contribution, neither do I?
Think that we need to drill baby seals in ANWR for their oil? A cool million from Exxon-Mobil would make me agree.
Want to waterboard people in contravention of the Geneva Convention? For a campaign plane, I'll hold the bucket for you.
I can be a Democrat, a Republican, a Libertarian, a Tea-Bagger, a Trash Bagger, A Stinking Badger, or anything else your greedy little hands want me to be.

This is a great opportunity for democracy. Think of me as your, squishy, pliable, political Gumby whore, willing to do anything and contort anyway that you want me too.

But wait, there's MORE!

If you are one of the first 300 contributors, I will give you the opportunity to actually vote FOR ME. I mean, literally, if you decide that I'm going to be a congressman, I will let you push the little red button on the floor of the House for me. You want to have my vote on Global Warming? Bam! You literally have my vote on global warming.

Hurry though, as there are only so many positions for sale. Contribute now before someone else buys up your democracy!

The Angry Drunk Bureaucrat


The Dissent, By Justice Stevens

Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens

Justice Stevens writes, in footnote 74 of today's SCOTUS ruling allowing corporations unfettered access to politicians by buying them:
In a democratic society, the longstanding consensus on the need to limit corporate campaign spending should outweigh the wooden application of judge-made rules. The majority’s rejection of this principle "elevate[s] corporations to a level of deference which has not been seen at least since the days when substantive due process was regularly used to invalidate regulatory legislation thought to unfairly impinge upon established economic interests." At bottom, the Court’s opinion is thus a rejection of the common sense of the American people, who have recognized a need to prevent corporations from undermining self government since the founding, and who have fought against the distinctive corrupting potential of corporate electioneering since the days of Theodore Roosevelt. It is a strange time to repudiate that common sense. While American democracy is imperfect, few outside the majority of this Court would have thought its flaws included a dearth of corporate money in politics.
h/t DWT

Philanderer John Edwards Arrives In Haiti

Yes, John Edwards, father of Frances Quinn Hunter, has arrived in Haiti to rehabilitate his image help the ravaged country.

Reich On Obama's New-Found Toughness

From Bob Reich:
“There are two ideas of government,” said William Jennings Bryan at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in 1896. “There are those who believe that you just legislate to make the well-to-do prosperous, that their prosperity will leak through on those below. The Democratic idea has been that if you legislate to make the masses prosperous their prosperity will find its way up and through every class that rests upon it.” He couldn’t have said it better.


Wendell Potter On The Health Care Bill (It's Bad)

From The Raw Story:
Potter pointed out, for example, that many plans -- even after consumers received proposed government subsidies to help pay for them -- would come with high deductibles that prohibit people from using their insurance or cause them the kind of financial hardships that healthcare reform was purported to prevent.

“What worries me,” he said, “is people who are forced to buy coverage and all they can afford to buy is a high deductible. And if they get really sick then they have to pay so much out of their own pockets that they’re going to be filing for bankruptcy and losing their homes.”

In the Senate bill, in particular, Potter noted, some people will be buying insurance that will only cover roughly 60 percent of their medical costs if they get sick.

“There are a lot of people who don’t have insurance now because they can’t afford premiums,” he said. “They certainly couldn’t afford premiums plus the out-of-pocket expenses in today’s market.”

Potter asserted that the current legislation will, in large part, simply move millions of people from being uninsured to underinsured, or from insured to underinsured. Citing a 2007 study by the Commonwealth Fund, he said there are already over 25 million Americans who fall into the category of the underinsured.

Potter also noted the deleterious effect of cost shifting on small businesses. Many small business owners will earn just enough to be denied subsidies.

“After a certain income level, there are no subsidies,” Potter explained. “But you still have to buy coverage. And I’m concerned that after you get above the median level of income, you’ll find that a lot of people who don’t get subsidies will probably be forced to buy coverage. But the only coverage they’ll be able to buy will make them underinsured.”

"If They Vote Against You, Remember It!"

"They Didn't Bring A Bottle Of Rubbing Alcohol With Them"

Quote Of The Day: Dan Savage

“The people of Haiti could really use your help. I made a donation at redcross.org . You should, too. And fuck Pat Robertson and his vile, hateful, santorum-spewing mouth.” -Dan Savage

Schoolhouse To Jailhouse Pipeline

A new study from the Advancement Project showing effects of current education policy.
“The educational opportunities of millions of children across this country are continuously put at risk by zero-tolerance school discipline and high-stakes testing,” said Jim Freeman, director of Advancement Project’s Ending the Schoolhouse to Jailhouse Track project. “The devastating end result of these intertwined punitive policies is a ‘school-to-prison pipeline,’ in which huge numbers of students throughout the country are treated as if they are disposable, and are being routinely pushed out of school and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems.”

“Test, Punish, and Push Out” provides an overview of zero-tolerance school discipline and high-stakes testing, how they relate to each other, how laws and policies such as the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) have made school discipline even more punitive, and the risk faced if these devastating policies are not reformed. The report explores:
  • The common origins and ideological roots of zero tolerance and high-stakes testing;
  • The current state of zero-tolerance school discipline across the country, including local, state, and national data;
  • How high-stakes testing affects students, educators, and schools;
  • How zero tolerance and high-stakes testing have become mutually reinforcing, combining to push huge numbers of students out of school; and
  • Successful grassroots efforts to eliminate harmful discipline and testing practices.
h/t Jim Horn

Wednesday Cartoon Bonus Fun: Disaster Edition

Wednesday Cartoon Bonus Fun: Kill For Jesus Edition


Wednesday Cartoon Fun: Wet Noodle Edition

Klonsky: For The Sake Of Clarity...

Mike Klonsky clears thing up:
For the sake of clarity, I don't think the current regime is worse than the neo-cons or that Sec. Duncan is worse than Paige or Spellings. The fact that teachers and their union leadership is even at the table, represents a step up from the previous 8 years.

My point was that there are some things, some policies, which are even more destructive and more of a threat to the public aspect of public schooling. What is worse about current policies is the cynical way Duncan has used his power and the threat of withholding desperately-needed federal dollars in the midst of the current economic crisis, to coerce states and school districts into accepting his failed approach to reform (there's now important and overwhelming evidence of this failure coming out in the Chicago media). [emphasis mine]


Tuesday Cartoon Fun: Talk Me Down* Edition

Today's cartoon comes with a concern:

I am very moved by the Haiti disaster. New reports say as many as 200,000 have died.  Many survivors still need medical attention, like amputation of their crushed, gangrened limbs.  Not to mention food, water and shelter.  And toothpaste for the stench.

I am unable to do anything except donate very little money and encourage you to do the same. Of course, if you are an orthopedic surgeon or an OR nurse, you should drop everything and get yourself to Haiti.  Bring scalpels and saws and alcohol.

There is something bothering me about the aid effort, and I think most of us are bothered by it--the slow movement of actual stuff getting to those who need it.

I have read reports of Israel's medical team arriving, with mobile hospital, staff and equipment in tow and getting down to medical business almost immediately.

I have read about the smaller NGOs getting moving much faster than the big ones. And the reports of stalls due to leadership arguments are simply amazing and disheartening.

I have seen WWII coverage. We had amphibious landers. Right now we have giant hovercrafts that can transport frickin' tanks.  I think we have the ability to drive over rubble, or move it.  And I think we don't need a working port.  But what the hell do I know.

The giant hospital ship (USNS Comfort) will arrive tomorrow. Tomorrow! 1 week and 1 day after the quake.

Am I being unrealistic, or has our response, even given the horrible infrastructure issues, been too slow and too careful? 

I think maybe, just maybe, we should hand off coordination of the effort to a nation with some fucking balls, like Israel. Can you imagine an Israeli leader on the ground recalling doctors because there might be unrest, like the Belgian (?) leadership did when they left Sanjay Gupta to staff the facility alone? No. Israel would not do that. They would send in more doctors if they could.  They are tough sons-o-bitches, as Patton might say.

I think our soldiers, if left to their own devices, would find ways to get the relief out but are hindered by leadership.  We often have our soldiers led by foreign officers when working in alliances.  This time, when there is no war involved, we should maybe look to others for leadership.

I am not saying we are not doing our best. I am saying our best is clearly not good enough. Thoughts?

*A Maddowism

Data-Driven Accountability: Oxymoron?

John Thompson on data-driven accountability:
Data-DRIVEN accountability makes sense for enforcing the Voting Rights Act, fighting Medicaid fraud, or a war on other criminal conspiracies. It also makes sense when numbers have been proven to reflect physical reality or numbers are used to make sure that other numbers are accurate. Data-DRIVEN accountability is appropriate for deterring threats to society, but to improve teaching and learning we need data-INFORMED accountability and evidenced-based decision-making. We need accountability devised "with teachers" not done "to teachers."
Read it at the link [emphasis mine].


Diane Ravitch On MLK's Legacy And Eduformers

Today's education "reformers" think they are advancing a civil rights agenda by creating charter schols, advocating merit pay, enshrining standardized tests of basic skills as the highest measure of acheivement, closing neighborhood schools, and getting rid of unions.

Was that Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream? King fought for equality of educational opportunity, not for a "Race to the Top" for the lucky few. He fought for fundamental fairness and justice for all, not for special treatment for the few. He never promoted private management of public education. When he was assassinated, he was defending the right of workers to join a union. It is impossible to imagine him standing alongside the business executives and politically powerful who demand more standardized testing, more privatization of public schools, and more schools in which teachers have no organized voice.

Diane Ravitch

Why I Chose The American Red Cross

I live in the Bay Area. I lived through the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989 as well as the big fire in Oakland and the surrounding area in 1991 (not to mention the 1971 Sylmar earthquake in SoCal, but that's neither here nor there).

The Oakland fire burned the private school where I was working at the time. Being a very prestigious and wealthy school with good local connections, we were able to secure a building to use during the amazingly fast reconstruction of the school. But there was a week or so right after the fire when we were all unemployed and school-less--all of us, students, teachers, day care dudes (me).

During that week I decided I would volunteer with the Red Cross, as many many people had been displaced due to the fire--something like 3000 homes were destroyed--and the agency needed people. Given, these were upper-crust homes that burned, with well-off owners, but when everything you have goes up in smoke, whatever you might have in the bank is no match for getting what you need presently. I remember seeing people I knew and even gave vouchers to some. It was sobering.

I can't remember the details of the designation I was given, but it was something like Family Management/Services or something. (I got a laminated badge, but I've since lost it. I was proud of it!) I sat in the social hall of a local women's club (after a 1-day training) the RC was using. Families, waiting in queues and chairs like at the DMV, would come up, sit across from me at the table and tell me they had nothing. They had lost everything--the car, the house, clothes, pictures, old photos, the dog and the fish (so tragic for so many kids), grandma's silver and china, the kids' ceramic hand prints from pre-school and kindergarten. Some of the folks were dirty, tired, smelly and clearly in desperate need. Others less so. They didn't have their wallets, or any way to get money. All their phone numbers were burned back in the house so they had to rely on memory. Nobody was a freeloader as far as I could tell. It was a disaster and all were thankful, especially we volunteers. It feels good to help. And it's helpful.

My job was to assess the veracity of their claim, figure out what their immediate needs were and then give them a voucher for a good or service to meet those needs. I gave out vouchers for coats, food, hotel rooms--lots of hotel rooms. Sometimes I would have to call a merchant to convince them to take a voucher, pleading with them that the Red Cross is good for the money. They all took them, eventually. At one point I made a house call to an elderly gentleman who had been taken to a convalescent home and left there! I was able to get him found, fed, and confident he would be fine. All good.

I have placed a link in the sidebar to the American Red Cross for you to donate money for the Haiti relief effort. The Red Cross was fantastic in the aftermath of the fire in Oakland in 1991. I saw this first hand as a volunteer with responsibilities and some limited authority (to dole out vouchers). The system was incredible.

The Red Cross attends every disaster in the world. They are indispensable. They need cash in the coffers BEFORE a disaster. That is why I think you should donate to the Red Cross. And you should donate monthly, if you can. Haiti is going to be expensive and take some time.

Donate. It's there on the upper left of this page. (Of course I don't really mind if you give in some other way or to some other NGO. Just do your part.)

Monday Cartoon: Please Give Edition

Arne Duncan's Ren10 Is A Confirmed Failure

Mike Klonsky has been exposing Arne Duncan's failure as Chicago schools CEO regularly. Now with the exposure of the truth about Duncan's Ren10 failure, Klonsky takes his well-deserved shot (sans links):
Duncan should apologize

I can't help but look back to 2006, when in response to our early critical assessment of Ren10, Arne Duncan wrote:
Academics are supposed to stick to the facts and remain impartial, but Ayers and Klonsky have clearly failed the test...Closing and reopening a failing school is an absolute last resort, intended only for the small handful of schools that have consistently underperformed while the rest of the system has made steady and dramatic gains...All of us in Chicago are grateful to Ayers and Klonsky for their work with small schools in our city and their continuing commitment to education, but they need to get their facts straight.
Duncan's response was at best misleading. He is calling for the closing of thousands of schools, not as a "last resort" but as the mainstay of his mandated Race-To-The-Top strategy and threatening the losses of badly needed school funding if states and districts fail to comply.

He owes us and more importantly, the children and parents of Chicago Public Schools an apology for what they've been put through. He also needs to get HIS OWN facts straight. Reading the recent studies from the Civic Committee, the Consortium on Chicago School Research, the Washington Post, or even the Sunday Trib would be a good start. The verdict is in on Renaissance 2010 and on the myth of the Chicago Miracle.

Finally, he needs to stop reproducing, on a national level, his now obviously failed Ren10 strategy.

Torture Killed Them

An amazing article by Scott Horton in Harper's about Bush's torture regime:
4. “He Could Not Cry out”

The fate of a fourth prisoner, a forty-two-year-old Saudi Arabian named Shaker Aamer, may be related to that of the three prisoners who died on June 9. Aamer is married to a British woman and was in the process of becoming a British subject when he was captured in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, in 2001. United States authorities insist that he carried a gun and served Osama bin Laden as an interpreter. Aamer denies this. At Guantánamo, Aamer’s fluency in English soon allowed him to play an important role in camp politics. According to both Aamer’s attorney and press accounts furnished by Army Colonel Michael Bumgarner, the Camp America commander, Aamer cooperated closely with Bumgarner in efforts to bring a 2005 hunger strike to an end. He persuaded several prisoners to break their strike for a while, but the settlement collapsed and soon afterward Aamer was sent to solitary confinement. Then, on the night of June 9, 2006, Aamer says he was the victim of an act of striking brutality.

He described the events in detail to his lawyer, Zachary Katznelson, who was permitted to speak to him several weeks later. Katznelson recorded every detail of Aamer’s account and filed an affidavit with the federal district court in Washington, setting it out:
On June 9th, 2006, [Aamer] was beaten for two and a half hours straight. Seven naval military police participated in his beating. Mr. Aamer stated he had refused to provide a retina scan and fingerprints. He reported to me that he was strapped to a chair, fully restrained at the head, arms and legs. The MPs inflicted so much pain, Mr. Aamer said he thought he was going to die. The MPs pressed on pressure points all over his body: his temples, just under his jawline, in the hollow beneath his ears. They choked him. They bent his nose repeatedly so hard to the side he thought it would break. They pinched his thighs and feet constantly. They gouged his eyes. They held his eyes open and shined a mag-lite in them for minutes on end, generating intense heat. They bent his fingers until he screamed. When he screamed, they cut off his airway, then put a mask on him so he could not cry out.
The treatment Aamer describes is noteworthy because it produces excruciating pain without leaving lasting marks. Still, the fact that Aamer had his airway cut off and a mask put over his face “so he could not cry out” is alarming. This is the same technique that appears to have been used on the three deceased prisoners.

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