Thursday, February 07, 2008

MEMO TO HUNTER S. THOMPSON * GUEST BLOG by GARY MARKOWITZ



(WARNING from Gary: THIS IS SATIRE. In case some of you are offended by this piece, please understand it is comedy aimed at white racists and it plays on certain fears. It embraces the delicious idea that Barry (Barack) might actually be a Democrat warrior who might strike fear into our enemies. He’s tall, you know. If you know Hunter, this is totally in line and actually a loving portrait of Obama in the context of the kind of shrewd exaggeration that is his stock in trade.

Memo To Hunter S. Thompson
Guest Blog by Gary Markowitz

Hunter, oh Hunter, how dare you not be here for this one?

We need you, man. We need you bad. HUGE wheels are turning but our eyes are too weak to see what sort of Rube Goldberg device they are hooked up to. If this election season had come sooner or if you could’ve held out longer – I know it was almost three years ago but it seems like yesterday to me – you never would have grabbed that gun off the kitchen counter. You’d’ve roared back from the brink, Hunter and soared to new heights… fulminating in robes and a staff and a long white, beard. Yes – a good look for you. Maybe not.

This is going to be the grand-pappy of all elections, Hunter. All elections. First, the Super Bowl last Sunday where a quarterback – a former high-school catcher and sixth-round draft pick named Brady was supposed to go 19–0. And then Super Tuesday will be upon us and the nation will be gripped with a fear similar to that accompanying a Martian landing. News anchors will hemorrhage under the strain and be gurneyed out on-air – never to be seen again. Strong men will run through the streets screaming like girls. And I’m not just talking about West Hollywood.

We are addled. After seven, mind-numbing years of The Boy Emperor we are like Zombies. We’ve been gaslighted, Hunter – gaslighted Zombies. Yes that’s it exactly. I seem to remember something about a war in Iraq and maybe getting our troops out someday but … maybe it was all a dream. I remember lots of khaki but the rest is a blur. It disappeared so slowly that I didn’t notice. It’s like the movie, Hunter, where Charles Boyer slowly drove Ingrid Bergman mad by turning down the gas a little every day and making her think she was going blind.

And if there happens to be, perchance, the occasional Iraq war article in the paper and if we can force ourselves to look at it, the words just bounce harmlessly off the retina or run down the page like mascara in the rain.

Speaking of Rube Goldberg, Hunter, the 24 hr. media have taken your long, plastic hallway - the place where thieves and pimps run free? That cruel and shallow money trench through the heart of journalism, as you called it? Well, it’s undergone a major remodel and they’ve poured a lot of money into it. There’s no way to get your head around it, Hunter and even if you could, it morphs and grows and mutates so quickly that it would only be for a brief moment in time.

I have watched it closely, Hunter, but it beggars human comprehension. I do know this: It seems to involve a series of large tunnels – the insides of which are similar to a funhouse or perhaps those old, indoor rides at Disneyland where you fly around in cars and there is no horizon. Anything that is written or said or done is vacuumed into one end of this contraption which is driven by powerful, diesel engines salvaged from old aircraft carriers. Then it ricochets around, growing in intensity in a series of chambers where the most outrageous or cheesy or humiliating or irritating things select themselves out in the way that sperm cells do. Then it goes into another tunnel where a miracle occurs: every story that comes out of it is equally true! Don’t even try to imagine the technology behind that, Hunter. And even if what comes out is patently false, it doesn’t matter because more bullshit is streaming from it every second so if you’re trying to figure out who said what or what really happened you’ve already missed the next news cycle.

Indeed. It is an alternate, anarchic environment, Hunter, this New World Order of media, and as you say, good men are dying there for no good reason. We are rudderless. The people cry out for a hero but there is none to answer the call. All we have is poor Howie Kurtzman who dutifully picks at and cauterizes a few of the lesser scabs on the cancerous body but is happy as long as he gets to have a Starbucks on his way home.

So it really hurts that you couldn’t've held out, my friend. I know your leg and hip were a mess and what with crutches and the ice building up on the steps of the cabin it must’ve really sucked. But I can’t help but wonder if your ego didn’t get in the way. You were a serious athlete in the day and I realize that mobility – sudden jukes and dangerous shifts in direction – were your bread and butter but couldn’t you have just cut off the damn leg and hired some crazed, Samoan journalism major to push your wheelchair around?

‘Cause get this, Hunter. Despite the Chicken Ranch-ization of the news, something amazing is happening. Reactionary forces are in disarray and fighting each other on the beaches even as they retreat. They are poised to fall like bark off a rotten tree. A wild-eyed senator named McCain who seems to have more than a little Captain Ahab in him is going to be the Republican nominee. Buy heavenly stock in shredders, Hunter because they can’t control him! And if, perchance, he is lucky enough to be elected, there goes their key to the executive washroom of power and the Georgetown pied-a-terre complete with leather boy and I do not mean a recliner.

And if that happens, Hunter, you won’t even need to make an appointment to see Vin Webber or Grover Norquist or Rove or Cheney. And when you do see them, they turn their pockets out and say – “Look, I got nothing… zilch. We’re gonna have to let the big boys handle this but you didn’t hear it from me.’”

And on the other side, Hunter, it’s going to be either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. Or the both of them. And if it’s a Hillary/Obama ticket – and I think it will be – we could be looking at sixteen years of peace, love and understanding. Yes. Hillary (ladies first!) then President Obama. A well-tailored but hulking brute of a man destined to be the black Thomas Jefferson who will brook no tomfoolery from the likes of Turd Blossom and his pasty little friends. He will chase them down like animals and make them pick up roadside trash in florescent jumpsuits while Valerie Wilson rides shotgun and children throw slurpies from passing cars.

Of course that could never happen. But it’s sure fun to think about – at least until the hammer drops and thousands of Blackwater commandos are sent out with warrants signed by Chief Justice Roberts to restore order and roam the streets like cockroaches.

*Sigh* Bad craziness.

Remember that steep hill in Vegas you talked about Hunter? The one where if you looked with the right kind of eyes you could almost see the high-water mark – the place where the wave finally broke and rolled back?

Maybe maybe Hunter, just maybe… maybe that wave is coming back the other way.

Gary Markowitz
Malibu Canyon
February 2, 2008

91 comments:

  1. I don't know you....but I did used to like Hunter Thompson, I actually think even though he was cynical , he would have understood the People in this Country that have suffered under 7 years of the Hellish Bush Regime.....and that Change is Needed....badly.

    He would have undstood watching People Break the Chains of Apathy, Fear and Loathing...he would have understood that Change Makers are People that are Different- because of ALL of us....He understood about Being Different....And that the Changes Will not come with Ease of Even pleasure.

    Sadly I am most offended that you felt the need to refer to Barrack Obama as you did, it was disrespectful....He is a Man of greatness on a Courageous Path trying to Bring OUR Country on a Different Path.....he is already being Disrespected by Some of the GOP ( not many though) and HIllary's People and President Clinton.....You don't really respect Hillary Much either- so I guess your dissatisfaction is with both of them ?

    And then you make fun of Valerie Wilson , which I
    don't understand at all...She is a Brave Woman- she was Patriot and Served this Country for over 20 years...and then was Hung Out to Dry by her OWN Govt, Her OWN Whitehouse , putting her in Danger as well as ALL of her CIA Contacts.....Her life has been shattered as well as that of her family and Husband, all because they did their Jobs and told the Truth....yet you clearly hold THAT in some kind of disregard....They were the First to Say the Iraq War is based on Lies....They should be Decorated as Heros.....and not attacked any further for their Patriotism....

    Lastly I think Hunter, even in the Depthes of Depression, or Angst....He would see this Time for what it is...A Time of Change...Revolution...a Soul Check for an entire Country....

    Thanks for letting me voice my concerns....

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  2. ( I need to say I did not ever KNOW Hunter Thompson, I just read his works ...sorry for the confusion

    ....but I do believe Great Writers effect OUR times...and if you read Barrack Obama's Books "The Audacity of Hope" and "Dreams of My Father" you will find that he is in no way just another "black dude"....He is a man of Greatness....for many of us that lived through the 1960s we have been waiting for another man of Greatness.....)

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  3. Anonymous8:00 PM

    I think he was being sarcastic. In other words, how can we, as a country, be so backwards as to think "a black man" or African American can't be president? Or a woman for that matter? The author was speaking in the voice of someone who is making fun of the people who are not enlightened.

    In other words, it was tongue-in-cheek -- to show how primitive America has become.

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  4. Okay,....I have now read this three times ( I am trying here...)...so Gary are you trying to say that you are embracing change that is a'coming? a "Wave" ?

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  5. Enigma -- That's how I read the article. Gary is a liberal and would never say things to disparage Barack or Hillary -- or Valerie Plame, believe me!

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  6. I guess I am so used to hearing Fox and REpug talking points that I can not always recognize "Saracasm"....sorry...I am trying ...believe me....

    ( mostly because I have a battered Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas book in the bathroom...and I know that yes, Hunter would have Something to say about this Era of Time....)

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  7. ( Sorry - I am not trying to be difficult Gary...or Lydia...it's just if one has not noticed but even in Blogland there are alot of People not thrilled with the Changes Coming.....or on our Horizon...so I was immediately thinking ...oh no....not again...not another nay- sayer....)

    Okay...I guess that makes sense...after naysayers and Neoconla Trolls- Sarcasm is not always recognized by me....so sorry...

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  8. Anonymous8:10 PM

    Hey, it's gonna be Obama - HIlary.

    Not the other way around.

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  9. Sorry, but the ONLY combination ticket i could ever see is Hillary picking Obama.............Obama would add something to the ticket if Hillary wins the non and that combination would be essentially undefeatable...........while if Obama wins the nom i cant see him picking Hillary who would bring very little to the table.

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  10. So .....
    you know what is interesting...WHO he really is - he really is a African American.....to the core...a White Mother from Kansas and Kenyan Father....he talks about his mother...and what a Dreamer she was...that she dreamed of a Better Country...for all....and he talks about Visiting his Grandmother in Kenya...he truly is a Man of the World and of OUR Country....born in Hawaii and lived in Indonesia as a child so his mother Could work with Women for a better life....and then he lived in Kansas with his Grandparents...

    He really has crossed so many Barriers and Boundaries...If now only he could cross them in People's minds...

    Obama /Clinton 08...that would be an interesting idea.....But he is Of Greatness, he is meant to Lead....have you ever seen the George Clooney Inter view on YouTube ( with Charlie Rose)....he says" how he is a man of incredible energy and Vision...when he leaves the room , you just want to Follow.....Follow him anywhere."

    Sorry Gary...Maybe I was too hard on the piece....but if you want to talk more about it- please come over to Watergate Summer, I don't want to hog the dialogue here......

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  11. Mike - I think he personally should pick Edwards ( as I have said toooo many times) and Hill for Sec of Health and Human Services...and I think he would have to offer it to her- but I also think she won't take it....she would be offended by it....

    I actually heard Pat Buchanon today talk about how Obama would do better against McCain....I heard this like three times today...amazing....

    So atleast MSM is starting to Look at him in a Leadership light...

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  12. It's like Gonzo talking inside a stoner vision.

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  13. Kirkwood Missouri has made the news again.

    Tonight, a guy walked into a city council meeting and opened fire -- shooting 7 people, killing at least 5 of them including 2 Kirkwood police officers, and critically injuring the mayor. If the name of the town sounds familiar, that's because it's the same town where a little more than a year ago, two kidnapped boys (Shawn Hornbeck and Ben Owensby) were discovered in an apartment rented by their abductor, Michael Devlin. It's also the town that I lived in until about 6 years ago and a town that has been like a hometown to me for my entire life.

    Several years ago, the issue of concealed carry was brought up on a statewide ballot and defeated. The Republican controlled legislature decided polls indicated the morjority of Missourians were actually in favor of concealed carry (despite the results of the only poll that truly matters - an election) and decided to pass it anyway.

    At some point in the next few days, the gun fanatics are going to start coming out of the woodwork. They will say laws forbidding concealed carry in specific buildings (like schools and City Hall and so on) are what caused this to happen and if some people at that meeting had been packing a gun, the tragedy would not have happened.

    They're almost right. That tragedy wouldn't have happened; an even bigger one certainly would have as even more people would have undoubtedly been hit by some macho vigilante-wannabe. As it was, the gunman was shot and killed by the only people in the building who should have had guns ... the Kirkwood Police Department.

    They made that argument after the Omaha mall shooting, the VA tech shooting, and so forth. It's impossible to get across to these idiots that the problem wasn't that there weren't enough guns in that building .. the problem was there were TOO MANY GUNS IN THAT BUILDING!!!!

    I know my belief is too radical even for the Democratic party but in my personal opinion, the only people who should be allowed to carry guns are the police and the military. Period.

    I also dont buy the line that a law like that will only stop the law-abiding citizens and not the criminals. Bullcrap -- first we start collecting guns, destroy them, and stop making new ones. In a few years the problem would be solved.

    Thank you for allowing me the forum to get all of this off my chest.

    A very sad MCH

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  14. MCH:
    I am so sorry that this happened...and in a place that is part of WHO you are....it is a horrific event...it was barely mentioned on the local news....I am so sorry...

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  15. MCH - that is such a tragedy!

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  16. MCH, that sounds like a terrible tragedy that happened in your hometown, Timothy McVeigh was from my hiometown so i sorta know what thats like..........your entitled to your opinion and i agree with it in part but i dont think limiting law abiding citizens from getting guns is the answer.

    I think we need to be smart and prevent criminals and the mentally unstable from obtaining guns LEGALLY not prevent decent people for getting them for home proterction..................i hate to say this but there will always be tragedies and criminals and deviants will always be able to obtain guns illegally but making it so ONLY the criminals and the government and police have guns is not the answer that sure wouldnt make me feel any safer.........i know i may take some flak for this opinion from some people and that its not the typical liberal stance but i know a good portion of people like Clif, Bart and some of the repugs might agree with what i'm saying.

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  17. OKAY, that's it. The spammers are back.

    Right wing Trolls are not allowed.

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  18. (WARNING from Gary: In case some of you are offended by this piece, please understand it is comedy aimed at white racists and it plays on certain fears. It embraces the delicious idea that Barry (Barack) might actually be a Democrat warrior who might strike fear into our enemies. He’s tall, you know. If you know Hunter, this is totally in line and actually a loving portrait of Obama in the context of the kind of shrewd exaggeration that is his stock in trade.

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  19. I'm not foolish enough to think, of course, that my thoughts of "no more guns" will ever happen ... but a guy can still hope, cant he?

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  20. Lydia:

    Very rarely am I ever personally offended by what I've read on your blog.

    Gary's post was great. Thanks for that!

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  21. mch - I totally agree with you. No more guns is what we need. But we can't put the toothpaste back in the tube, especially with a Bible-belt guy like Huckabee saying "I'm sure there's duck hunting in heaven!"

    Jacq - thank you. By the way, the Valerie Wilson line is a compliment! Envisioning Valerie Wilson helping Obama in his presidency "riding shotgun"

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  22. Strong men will run through the streets screaming like girls. And I’m not just talking about West Hollywood.

    Hey asshole, this 6'2", 230lbs. gay man doesn't scream like a girl.

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  23. Christopher,

    When I read the post I realized, it is not the author speaking; it is written in the voice of a stupid idiot redneck racist! That is parody.

    Remember "Borat" ?

    My friend Gary is a civil rights activist going way back, one of the biggest liberals in Hollywood with the biggest heart. He was a friend of Hunter S. Thompson. I am so sad that this one parody of Gonzo has taken up an entire night of tears, 12 hours of trying to explain it to people -- while trying to keep everyone happy.

    The author Gary says: "WARNING: In case some of you are offended by this piece, please understand it is comedy aimed at white racists and it plays on certain fears. If you know Hunter, this is the kind of shrewd exaggeration that is his stock in trade.

    It is a parody of white racists.

    But we are all sensitive and we have a right to be.

    This is exhausting.

    I will post Gary's response shortly.

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  24. FROM GARY IN RESPONSE to all the criticism of this post:

    Dear Lydia. Thank you for giving me space to post my article on your blog. To your readers I offer a little history lesson:

    In reply to some of the replies: I almost got my head bashed in during an SNCC demonstration in 1969 when I told some police to cool it. They had surrounded Michael – my African-American friend. So I feel no need to sit in the back of the bus when it comes to civil rights credentials. The SNCC was a rival group to MLK’s; younger, more radical and more confrontational. They saw King as too safe – trying to work within the system with his non-violent tactics. Eventually a truce was made between the two groups.

    I bought a sheet of A. Phillip Randolph stamps when the Post Office came out with them. I showed them to some African American customers standing in line and they didn’t know who he was. There would have been no Rosa Parks and there would have been no March on Washington in 1963 at which MLK delivered the “I have a dream” speech without Mr. Randolph.

    I believe that tearing down the walls of political or racial correctness is vital to all of us living together and laughing at ourselves and each other. I thought we learned that from Richard Pryor thirty years ago and Dick Gregory forty years ago – the father of the comedy/civil rights movement. He published his autobiography in 1964. The title was the "N" word for real — and it sold seven million copies. If you don’t know who I’m talking about their stories are a few clicks away on Wikipedia.

    I love Barack Obama but I see many of his supporters – black and white – saying in editorials that they want to distance themselves from, and “move beyond” the civil rights “establishment” of the past. I think it’s time for Barack to stand up for those who have bled and died for the anti-discrimination laws that stand today. If MLK were alive today would he just be a tired figure representing the discredited past?

    Gary Markowitz

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  25. Lydia, I'm sorry you and Gary have run into so much misunderstanding. From where I sit, this was clearly satire in which the writer held up the attitudes of the rabid right for ridicule.

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  26. It's time to lighten up and move on from parody and it's meaning to what is going on in the world.

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  27. Barack Obama packed in a Nebraska crowd of over 10,000,

    This is huge for a Repug state like Nebraska.

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  28. Fox News identified John McCain as a Democrat in the chyron yesterday, forcing us to question just whether this was an "error." McCain is anything but a Reagan figure among the right wing — booed at CPAC, hated by conservative pundits, seen as more liberal than Hillary Clinton (according to Ann Coulter) — and, given Roger Ailes' propensity for propaganda, we honestly have to wonder whether any Fox News mistake is a "mistake."

    Fox News made a mistake: McCain is a bloody neocon loving deranged old man.

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  29. Would embattled former UN ambassador John Bolton have a place in John McCain's presidential cabinet?

    The idea was brewing beneath the veneer of Bolton's address to the Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday.

    Revealing information that he said had never before been made public, Bolton discussed how McCain secretly tried to shepherd his nomination to the United Nations -- a nomination that was held up in Congress over Bolton's controversial anti-UN statements and policies.

    "He was very active behind the scenes," said Bolton, who was ultimately sent to the UN via a presidential recess appointment. "He thought I was the type of ambassador that ought to represent the United States at the United Nations."

    Addressing an audience already skeptical of McCain's presidential nomination, Bolton offered a defense of the senator. Mostly, however, his argument amounted to criticisms of the Democratic contenders, Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

    "The person who takes office on January 20, 2009 has to be prepared to be commander-in-chief immediately," said Bolton. "We cannot have a president who needs on-the-job training, nor a president who has problems dealing with a little bit of stress."

    That will really help: A neocon who wants war more than McCain.

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  30. Rush Limbaugh is ready to do his part for the GOP by putting on his own fundraiser. Even if that fundraiser is for the only politician that he believes can unite the party -- Hillary Clinton.

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  31. ABC News' Jake Tapper Reports: Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire will endorse Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, today, the day before the Washington Caucuses.

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  32. Bill Clinton yesterday suggested that his controversial comments preceding the South Carolina primary were a mistake. Said Bill:

    "The mistake that I made is to think that I was a spouse like any other spouse, who could defend his candidate," he said. "I think I can promote Hillary but not defend her, because I was president. I have to let her defend herself or have someone else defend her."

    He followed up with, "I don't want to be the story."

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  33. While dozens of Republican leaders and thousands of activists are attending the three-day Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington this week, an odd couple of Republicans are focused on one who’s not: Condoleezza Rice.

    Crystal Dueker, a retired 52-year-old from Fargo, N.D., and Rich Holt, a 27-year-old political consultant from Proctorville, Ohio, are the unpaid heads of the 527 group Think Condi, a grassroots movement to get the secretary of state on the presidential ticket as vice president.

    Dueker and Holt are hopeful that Mitt Romney’s Thursday exit from the presidential race elevating Sen. John McCain to near-certain status as the Republican nominee, will turn the spotlight on potential vice-presidential contenders. “There’s going to be a lot more steam,” predicts Holt, who is attending the CPAC conference with Dueker to get the word out.

    The Think Condi movement began in 2005 originally as a presidential draft movement after Holt and Dueker met at a political conference, but when they failed to garner much support, they pivoted to vice president.

    They’ve had modest successes. Since taking over as national director, Holt said their membership, organized mainly online, has grown from 2,000 to 11,000 members. They’ve also received a number of small donations but have raised less than $50,000. The money does not go to the Dueker or Holt, who pay their way out of pocket.

    The duo volunteers their time, running a largely media-based campaign and traveling to Republican confabs across the country to generate conversation on the grassroots level. The presidential candidate is of less concern. “I was going to support whoever the nominee is,” said Dueker. “McCain’s fine, and he’s qualified,” said Holt.

    They said Thursday that they believe Rice is the best running mate for McCain in part because she can bring Bush supporters into the fold who may be wary of his one-time electoral foe. They also think she’s the perfect antidote to either a Sen. Hillary Clinton or Sen. Barack Obama candidacy. “She’s black and she’s female and that’s a huge change,” said Holt. “With Condi we have a real unity ticket,” adds Dueker.

    Wow a deranged old man and a worthless shopoholic.

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  34. James Dobson, one of the nation's most prominent evangelical Christian leaders, is about to endorse former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, The Associated Press has learned.

    Those "religious right" neocons can't stand it out of the spotlight.

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  35. Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), who endorsed Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) for president, will be disqualified as a superdelegate at the Democratic convention "under what is informally known as the Zell Miller rule." In 2004, Miller -- then a Democratic senator from Georgia -- attacked Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) in a speech at the Republican National Convention. The DNC "responded with a rule disqualifying any Democrat who crosses the aisle from being a super delegate."

    He can always be a delegate at the Repug convention.

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  36. Don't you Fox on me," anchor Shepard Smith snapped at a guest after what seemed a fairly innocuous barb about Fox News fired him up.

    Afternoon anchor Smith briefly lost his cool Wednesday during an interview with Naomi Wolf, author of The End of America. A Republican talking head also appeared on Smith's show.

    Wolf observed that Democrats didn't have to "hold our nose and walk into the [voting] booth," and as she tried to finish her answer Smith jumped in.

    "So you were holding your nose walking into the booth with John Kerry, the last time? You were holding your nose walking into the booth with Bill Clinton?" he asked, as GOP strategist Kellyanne Conway laughed in the background. "When was the nose-holding exactly, if you could pin it down for me?"

    Wolf began to explain, without explicitly bad-mouthing Clinton or Kerry, and Smith returned to the subject at hand. "You said, the nose-holding; I just want to know when the nose-holding was."

    "This is why I love Fox News," Wolf said sarcastically.

    That, apparently was too much for Smith.

    "No, no, no. That is unfair. You said it, I didn’t say it! You said you were holding your nose when you went in the booth, and I asked you when," Smith said, wagging his finger at the camera. "That’s fair. And anybody who doesn’t ask you that is not being fair. I’d like an answer please. You did it. Don’t you ‘Fox’ on me. Ever."

    Wolf explained that she was glad about the historic prospects in this election, where for the first time the Democratic nominee will be a woman or a black man.

    Later in the program, Smith apologized for his outburst.

    "I want to apologize to you for pointing my finger at you. I just get tired of people like you saying every time you're challenged on something that you say that it's something about Fox," he said. "It's not something about Fox. I don't have a horse in this race and for you to suggest such a thing is both inaccurate and insulting."

    Those poor lapdogs can't take the truth.

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  37. A new article by veteran investigative journalist Seymour Hersh offers a detailed examination of the claims that Israel bombed a nuclear facility under construction in Syria last September and finds that none of the evidence stands up to scrutiny.

    According to Hersh, "A former senior U.S. intelligence official, who has access to current intelligence, said, 'We don't have any proof of a reactor — no signals intelligence, no human intelligence, no satellite intelligence.'" However, Hersh found that the Israelis were continuing to stand adamantly by their claims:

    "When I went to Israel in late December, the government was still maintaining secrecy about the raid, but some current and former officials and military officers were willing to speak without attribution. Most were adamant that Israel’s intelligence had been accurate. 'Don’t you write that there was nothing there!' a senior Israeli official, who is in a position to know the details of the raid on Syria, said, shaking a finger at me. 'The thing in Syria was real.'"

    Just one Israeli official expressed doubts, but also brushed them away:

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  38. Floridians were shocked last week when police announced that the spokesman for the state's Department of Children and Families had been arrested and charged with peddling child pornography. But buried in news accounts of the case was a curious detail: the official in question had listed the state's current Republican Governor, Charlie Crist, as a reference when he applied for his post in 2005.

    Gov. Crist returned to the news as the nation awaited the outcome of the Republican presidential primary in Florida. The Sunshine State's governor's endorsement of Sen. John McCain late in the campaign may have helped push McCain across the finish line to take the state's 57 delegates. Crist's endorsement also contributed to ending the campaign of Rudy Giuliani, who had heavily courted the governor's thumbs up.

    Just after the Florida electoral contest, Tampa Bay police announced the arrest of Al Zimmerman, the spokesman for the state's Department of Children and Families. Zimmerman, a former TV reporter, was charged with 8 child pornography counts after taking photos of two underage boys performing sexual acts. Some evidence indicates that he may have met one of the boys on the job, and that he may have had additional victims. He could face up to 120 years in jail.

    While the news prompted state officials to say they were reviewing the personnel files of state employees for red flags, Zimmerman appeared to have come highly recommended when he was appointed to his post in 2005. Among the five references he listed, one of them was Crist, then the state Attorney General under Gov. Jeb Bush.

    Another Repug enabling predators.

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  39. With John McCain poised to win the Republican nomination, Democrats are already gathering ammunition to use against him in the general election.

    In more than a few instances, the best fodder has been provided by the candidate himself.

    A case in point: As the economy was rising late last year as a major issue for voters, McCain in New Hampshire delivered this grenade, with its pin still in it: "The issue of economics is not something I've understood as well as I should," he said. "I've got Greenspan's book."

    Those are not the only words that will come back to haunt him in November.

    From the economy to Iraq to immigration to abortion, the Arizona senator's lengthy voting record and his primary season offerings to the Republican Party's conservative wing provide a deep vein for opposition researchers to mine for shifting positions and policy inconsistencies.

    Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean is already moving to redefine the presumed Republican nominee. In a fundraising appeal sent out Wednesday, Dean called McCain "a media darling" and warned that "from Iraq to health care, Social Security to special interest tax cuts to ethics, he's promising nothing more than a third Bush term."

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  40. Russia's President Vladimir Putin says the world is engaged in a new arms race and Nato is failing to accommodate Russia's concerns.
    In a nationally-televised speech, he condemned Nato's expansion and the US plan to include Poland and the Czech Republic in a missile defence shield.

    "It is already clear that a new phase in the arms race is unfolding in the world," Mr Putin said.

    "It is not our fault, because we did not start it," he said.

    I thought Bush looked into his eyes and seen his wonderful soul.

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  41. NBC NEWS STATEMENT REGARDING CHELSEA CLINTON COMMENT:

    On Thursday's "Tucker" on MSNBC, David Shuster, who was serving as guest-host of the program, made a comment about Chelsea Clinton and the Clinton campaign that was irresponsible and inappropriate. Shuster, who apologized this morning on MSNBC and will again this evening, has been suspended from appearing on all NBC News broadcasts, other than to make his apology. He has also extended an apology to the Clinton family. NBC News takes these matters seriously, and offers our sincere regrets to the Clintons for the remarks.

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  42. Subprime Woes Cause Credit Card Mail Decline:

    Credit card direct mail volume declined during the fourth quarter, as issuers were strained from the fallout of the subprime mortgage crisis and unsure about the economy, according to Synovate.

    Specifically, mailers sent out nearly 1.29 million offers, down 14% from more than 1.5 million offers in the prior year. Response rates were flat at 0.5%.

    Overall credit card mail volume for the year was 5.2 billion, down almost 10% from 5.8 billion in he previous year.

    "Driving the decline are issuers that target subprime customers and those exposed by the mortgage meltdown," said Andrew Davidson, vice president of competitive tracking services, in a statement.

    Card issuers that cut back solicitations the most were Washington Mutual (-73%), HSBC (-34%), Citibank (-52%) and Discover (-50%), according to Synovate, which noted that Washington Mutual and HSBC, in particular, targeted subprime customers. While not necessarily targeting this group, Citibank and Discover both experienced financial difficulties as a result of the crisis.

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  43. ExxonMobil has won a court order freezing 12 billion dollars in worldwide assets of Venezuela's state oil firm as part of its battle for compensation over Caracas's nationalization of key oil fields.

    The US energy giant said Thursday that the High Court in London had granted its request to freeze the assets of Petroleos de Venezuela (PVDSA).

    "The freezing order prohibits PDVSA from disposing of its assets worldwide up to a value of 12 billion dollars," said Margaret Ross, an ExxonMobil spokeswoman.

    The company said it has also secured separate orders from courts in the Netherlands and Netherlands Antilles to freeze assets in those jurisdictions of up to 12 billion dollars. A New York court also froze 300 million dollars.

    That sure will help gas prices.

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  44. U.S. stocks futures fell Thursday, pointing to a lower start on Wall Street, with technology shares particularly bruised by Cisco Systems' cautious outlook and with retailers including Wal-Mart Stores posting sluggish sales.

    It's the Bush recession.

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  45. Wow, great articles Larry! You are a wealth of information.

    Thank you.

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  46. What was the comment David Shuster made about Chelsea Clinton?

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  47. Dear Mr. Romney.... Bite Me.

    By Jim Dent

    "If I fight on in my campaign, all the way to the convention, I would forestall the launch of a national campaign and make it more likely that Senator Clinton or Obama would win. And in this time of war, I simply cannot let my campaign, be a part of aiding a surrender to terror."
    Mitt Romney concession speech.

    Let's get a few things straight here Mitt... I'm a Democrat and I support Mr. Obama. I'm also an American who wore a uniform (proudly) for twenty two years and served in the first war against Iraq. You sir, just said that I'm a party to surrendering my country to the terrorists. You have no idea how much that pissed me off. Right now our country is divided, and blanket statements that denigrate and belittle a large part of our citizenry as cowards who would "surrender" our country to the terrorists, does nothing to further our common goal of protecting America from those who would attack us.

    Thanks to the missteps and failings of those who've held the reigns these past seven years, we have much to do in the fight against terrorism. Afghanistan is far from being secured from terrorist threats, Pakistan is a gathering threat, and Iraq is a quagmire that has no end in sight. I would add that Iraq has cost us dearly in treasure and lives, has bogged our military down in a role (an occupation force) they were never intended to assume, and has caused great harm to our status as leaders of the free world. It has divided our country much as the Vietnam war did a generation ago. What we need right now are suggestions, solutions, and an honest dialog on the most prudent course of action in this fight against those who would harm us. What we don't need is more of the same asinine vitriolic rhetoric that got us where we are today.
    You sir, are worse than the coward you make us out to be... You use the fight against terrorism as a club to beat those who disagree with your party... as a spiteful campaign slogan to rally your conservative base.... you sir, would use the lives of 4000 brave Americans as a political football for the good of your party.
    Mr. Romney, as an American, you disgust me beyond words. For nothing more than political gain, you've accused me of cowardice and surrender. After much thought and careful deliberation, my response to you sir is f*ck you and the horse that rode you off into the sunset!

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  48. A distasteful comment about Chelsea Clinton by an MSNBC anchor Thursday could imperil Hillary Rodham Clinton's participation in future presidential debates on the network, a Clinton spokesman said.

    In a conference call with reporters, Clinton communications director Howard Wolfson Friday excoriated MSNBC's David Shuster for suggesting the Clinton campaign had "pimped out" 27-year old Chelsea by having her place phone calls to Democratic Party superdelegates on her mother's behalf. Wolfson called the comment "beneath contempt" and disgusting.

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  49. A public-private partnership program on infrastructure preparedness and protection run by the Federal Bureau of Investigation allegedly has briefed its corporate members on the possibility of martial law and the use of lethal force, according to an exclusive report in the magazine The Progressive.

    "One business owner in the United States tells me that InfraGard members are being advised on how to prepare for a martial law situation—and what their role might be," writes Matthew Rothschild in the Feb. 7 report, quoting an anonymous whistleblower on the program. "'Then they said when—not if—martial law is declared, it was our responsibility to protect our portion of the infrastructure, and if we had to use deadly force to protect it, we couldn’t be prosecuted,' he says."

    Martial Law is Planned by Bush and is On Its Way.

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  50. Proving beyond any reasonable doubt that our newly confirmed Attorney General Michael Mukasey is as corrupt and politicized as his predecessor, the scandal engulfed former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, he is literally defying his legal obligation to enforce federal laws prohibiting the governments use of cruel and unusual punishment.

    Attorney General Michael Mukasey has outright refused to investigate any of the alleged criminal activity concerning the administration’s contractor and CIA interrogators who willfully violated existing law banning torture for any purposes including interrogation and intelligence gathering.

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  51. U.S. retailers delivered more evidence of a stumbling economy today as merchants reported their weakest January performance in nearly four decades, extending a malaise that has deepened since the holiday shopping season.

    The sales figures made it clear that consumers wrestling with high gas and food prices, a slumping housing market, an escalating credit crisis and a weakening job market retrenched further, buying mostly necessities even when redeeming their holiday gift cards.

    The disappointments cut across all sectors including discounters like Wal-Mart Stores Inc., teen retailers including Pacific Sunwear of California Inc. and mall-based apparel chain Limited Brands Inc. Even affluent shoppers are pulling back, hurting stores like Nordstrom Inc.

    “Clearly, this is a reflection of a very difficult environment for the consumer,” said Ken Perkins, president of RetailMetrics LLC, a research company in Swampscott, Mass. “It looks like consumer spending is stalling.”

    The Bush Recession is Headed For The Bush Depression.

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  52. The heck with Congress' big stimulus bill. The way to get the country out of recession — and most people think we're in one — is to get the country out of Iraq, according to an Associated Press-Ipsos poll.

    Pulling out of the war ranked first among proposed remedies in the survey, followed by spending more on domestic programs, cutting taxes and, at the bottom end, giving rebates to poor people in hopes they'll spend the economy into recovery.

    The $168 billion economic rescue package Congress rushed to approval this week includes rebates of $600 to $1,200 for most taxpayers, the hope being that they will spend the money and help revive ailing businesses. President Bush is expected to sign the measure next week. Poor wage-earners, as well as seniors and veterans who live almost entirely off Social Security and disability benefits, would get $300 checks.

    However, just 19 percent of the people surveyed said they planned to go out and spend the money; 45 percent said they'd use it to pay bills. And nearly half said what the government really should do is get out of Iraq.

    Forty-eight percent said a pullout would help fix the country's economic problems "a great deal," and an additional 20 percent said it would help at least somewhat. Some 43 percent said increasing government spending on health care, education and housing programs would help a great deal; 36 percent said cutting taxes.

    "Let's stop paying for this war," said Hilda Sanchez, 44, of Waterford, Calif. "There are a lot of people who are struggling. We can use the money to pay for medical care and help people who were put out of their homes."

    The subject of leaving Iraq shows a sharp partisan divide — 65 percent of Democrats think it would help the economy a lot, but only 18 percent of Republicans think so.

    Just 29 percent of people think putting more money in the hands of the poor would help a great deal in fixing the country's economic problems.

    According to many economists, the lower people are on the income ladder, the more probable it is that they will spend a rebate and do it quickly — a shot in the arm for the ailing economy.

    In the poll, 61 percent said they think the economy is already in a recession.

    "Things are bad, but it will get a lot worse," said Jim Sims, 60, of Greer, S.C.

    And Nanette Dahlin, 52, of St. Louis Park, Minn., said the economic stimulus package "would only make a recession less damaging."

    The economy nearly stalled in the final three months of last year. Some economists, like the majority of poll respondents, say it may actually be shrinking now, given the strains from a persistent housing slump and a painful credit crunch. The worry is that people and businesses will hunker down further and pull back their spending, sending the economy into a tailspin.

    Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has gotten more forceful in cutting interest rates to spur people to buy more and to energize businesses. And now Republicans, Democrats and the White House have shown rare cooperation in approving relief.

    Rebate checks could start showing up in mailboxes in May. However, Sanchez is typical is saying the money will "go automatically to bills." Thirty-two percent said they would save or invest the rebate. Said Sims: "I'm hoping to hold onto it."

    Just 19 percent — like Dahlin — said they would spend it, while 4 percent said they would donate it to charity.

    Paying off bills or saving the money won't give the economy a quick boost, though it may well be a wise financial decision for many people who are up to their eyeballs in bills.

    "What is good for the economy as a whole — spending a rebate — is not the best idea at an individual household level if you are buried in debt," said Greg McBride, senior financial analyst at Bankrate.com. "Issuing rebate checks to give a boost to consumer spending amounts to a Band-Aid over the much bigger problem of consumer debt burdens," he said.

    With Wall Street in turmoil, the top economic worry for poll respondents was seeing their nest eggs shrink. Fifty-nine percent said they were worried "a lot" or "some" about seeing the value of stocks and retirement investments drop. Those approaching retirement fretted the most.

    Nearly half — 46 percent — said they were worried about being able to pay their bills. This is especially a concern for people whose household incomes are under $50,000, and for minorities. Twenty-eight percent most feared losing their jobs; minorities and those with a high school education or less were especially concerned.

    Also, 48 percent of homeowners polled worried that the value of their homes would drop. The housing bust has led to record-high foreclosures, and weaker home values have made people feel less wealthy.

    Who deserves most of the blame for the economy's troubles?

    More than half — 56 percent — pointed the finger at mortgage lenders. Forty-four percent said Bush deserves a lot of the blame. After that come Congress, Wall Street, consumers themselves and in last place the Federal Reserve.

    The Fed has the public's confidence that it will be able to right the economy.

    More than half — 55 percent — said they have a great deal or some confidence in Fed to turn things around. Forty-one percent said that about Congress, only 28 percent about Bush.

    In fact, economic problems have contributed to pulling the president's approval ratings to all-time lows. Only 29 percent approve of his handling of the economy, the lowest mark yet in this polling. Bush's overall job-approval rating slid to 30 percent, also a record low.

    End the Bush Recession By Ending the Bush War.

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  53. Why Republicans like Obama and what it means
    A startling contrast with animosity toward Clinton

    A number of prominent Republicans I know, who would wage a pitched battle against Hillary Clinton, like Obama and would find it hard to generate much enthusiasm in opposing him.

    What is at the core of Obama's appeal?

    Part of it is the eloquence and uplift of his speeches, combined with his personal grace and dignity. He seems to be a well-grounded, decent, thoughtful man. He comes across, in his person and manner, as nonpartisan. He has an unsurpassed ability to (seemingly) transcend politics. Even when he disagrees with people, he doesn't seem disagreeable.

    "You know what charm is," Albert Camus wrote in The Fall, "a way of getting the answer yes without having asked any clear question." Obama has such charm, and its appeal is not restricted to Democrats.

    A second reason Republicans appreciate Obama is that he is pitted against a couple, the Clintons, whom many Republicans hold in contempt. Among the effects of the Obama-Clinton race is that it is forcing Democrats to come to grips with the mendacity and ruthlessness of the Clinton machine. Conservatives have long believed that the Clintons are an unprincipled pair who will destroy those who stand between them and power — whether they are political opponents, women from Bill Clinton's past or independent counsels.

    When the Clintons were doing this in the 1990s, it was viewed by many Democrats as perfectly acceptable. Some even applauded them for their brass-knuckle tactics. But now that the Clintons are roughing up an inspiring young man who appears to represent the hope and future of the Democratic Party, the liberal establishment is reacting with outrage. "I think we've reached an irrevocable turning point in liberal opinion of the Clintons," writes Jonathan Chait of the New Republic. Many conservatives respond: It's about time.

    A third reason for Obama's GOP appeal is that unlike Clinton and especially John Edwards, Obama has a message that, at its core, is about unity and hope rather than division and resentment. He stresses that "out of many we are one." And to his credit, Barack Obama is running a color-blind campaign. "I did not travel around this state over the last year and see a white South Carolina or a black South Carolina," Obama said in his victory speech last weekend. "I saw South Carolina." That evening, his crowd of supporters chanted as one, "Race doesn't matter." This was an electric moment. Obama's words are in the great tradition of Martin Luther King Jr. Obama, more than any figure in America, can help bind up the racial wounds of America. In addition, for the past eight years, one of the most prominent qualities of the American left has been anger, which has served it and the country very poorly. An Obama primary win would be a move away from the politics of rage.

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  54. Conservatives can thank Bush for apostate McCain

    In the beginning, there were two. There was America's mayor, Rudy Giuliani, determined to "go on offense." And there was America's maverick, John McCain, scourge of Iraq wobblies.

    Both aroused deep suspicions among conservatives. Giuliani's major apostasy is being pro-choice on abortion. McCain's apostasies are too numerous to count. He's held the line on abortion, but on just about everything else he could find — tax cuts, immigration, campaign finance reform, Guantanamo — he not only opposed the conservative consensus but insisted on doing so with ostentatious self-righteousness.

    The story of this campaign is how many Republicans didn't care, and felt that national security trumps social heresy. The problem for Giuliani and McCain, however, was that they were splitting that constituency. Then came Giuliani's humiliation in Florida. After he withdrew from the race, he threw his support to McCain — and took his followers with him.

    Look at the numbers. Before Florida, the national polls had McCain hovering around 30, and Giuliani in the mid-teens. After Florida, McCain's numbers jumped to the mid-40s, swallowing the Giuliani constituency whole.

    On Super Tuesday, the Giuliani effect showed up in the big Northeastern states — New York, New Jersey, Connecticut — and California. McCain won the first three with absolute majorities of 51 percent or more. And in California, McCain-Giuliani (plus Schwarzenegger, for good measure) moderate Republicanism captured 42 percent of the vote.

    Elsewhere, where Giuliani was not a factor, McCain got no comparable boost. In Oklahoma, Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia, he could never break through even 37 percent. The vote was divided roughly evenly among McCain, Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney (trailing). But these splits were not enough to make up for the winner-take-all big ones, all of which McCain won.

    The other half of the story behind McCain's victory is this: There would have been a far smaller Republican constituency for the apostate sheriff had there been a compelling conservative to challenge him. But there never was.

    The first messianic sighting was Fred Thompson, who soared in the early polls, then faded because he was too diffident and/or normal to embrace with any enthusiasm the indignities of the modern campaign.

    Then, for that brief and shining Iowa moment, there was Huckabee — until conservatives actually looked at his record (on taxes, for example) as governor of Arkansas, and listened to the music of his often unconservative populism.

    That left Romney, the final stop in the search for the compelling conservative. I found him to be a fine candidate who would have made a fine president. But until very recently, he was shunned by most conservatives for ideological inauthenticity. Then, as the post-Florida McCain panic grew, conservatives tried to embrace Romney, but the gesture was both too late and as improvised and convenient-looking as Romney's own many conversions. (So late and so improvised that it could not succeed. On Thursday, Romney withdrew from the race.)

    Conservatives are on the eternal search for a new Reagan. They refuse to accept the fact that a movement leader who is also a gifted politician is a once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon. But there's an even more profound reason why no Reagan showed up this election cycle and why the apostate sheriff is going to win the nomination. The reason is George W. Bush. He redefined conservatism with a "compassionate" variant that is a distinct departure from classic Reaganism.

    Bush muddied the ideological waters of conservatism. It was Bush who teamed with Teddy Kennedy to pass No Child Left Behind, a federal venture into education that would have been anathema to (the early) Reagan. It was Bush who signed the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform. It was Bush who strongly supported the McCain-Kennedy immigration bill. It was Bush who on his own created a vast new entitlement program, the Medicare drug benefit. And it was Bush who conducted a foreign policy so expansive and, at times, redemptive as to send paleoconservatives like Pat Buchanan and traditional conservatives like George Will into apoplexy and despair (respectively).

    Who in the end prepared the ground for the McCain ascendancy? Not Feingold. Not Kennedy. Not even Giuliani. It was George W. Bush. Bush begat McCain.

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  55. McCain: Straight Talker or Serial Liar?

    By Eric Schulzke

    John McCain, who was skewered by nearly all commentators for his dogged twisting of what Romney really said about the surge, the same weekend flatly denied a report by John Fund at WSJ that he had criticized Alito while praising Roberts in a discussion with Republican lawyers nine months ago. He lied about it initially on the eve of the Florida primary, so emphatically that many of his critics took the denial at face value.

    Did he think that no one else in the room would report the conversation? Apparently, it was such a stunning moment that one witness described "jaws dropping" around the room. Robert Novak now has two sources who did not know the other was talking to him that were at the same meeting and return the same report. Neither was John Fund's source. John McCain did make the comment, and now is lying about it. Thus, in last night's debate, he went out of his way to point to Roberts and Alito as the type of judges he would appoint.

    Does anyone wonder why the GOP base remains distant and skeptical? And does anyone think such a gulf of distrust can be bridged in time to avert a massive turnout failure in November?

    Aside from the obvious character problem of lying to you about something you are sure to be caught on, I'm more troubled by the probability that this means he would gladly appoint another David Souter to the court. At this point, I see only two reasons to support McCain in November -- the court and the war. He just took the first off the table. The second is looking pretty lonely about now.

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  56. New details emerge in NRCC scandal

    By: Patrick O'Connor and John Bresnahan

    Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas), a certified public accountant, had pushed for months for an internal audit of the National Republican Congressional Committee, according to GOP members, but the committee’s treasurer at the time was reluctant.

    Finally, at a recent meeting, the now former NRCC treasurer, Christopher J. Ward, relented, giving Conaway what was supposed to be an official internal audit from 2006. That document was a fake, the GOP members said. Even the letterhead on which it was sent was a forgery.

    Revelations about the falsified document touched off an unfolding scandal that has rocked the NRCC and spurred a criminal investigation by the FBI into the committee’s accounting procedures.

    Fearing the fallout from the discovery, the NRCC informed its principal lender, Wachovia, of potential accounting problems. Wachovia, which declined comment Thursday, had lent the committee $9 million in 2006, according to Federal Election Commission records.

    Knowing the bank was required by law to notify federal investigators of any “suspicious activity,” the NRCC also alerted the FBI, Republican insiders confirmed.

    At the same time, NRCC officials notified the FEC that the committee may have filed inaccurate disclosure statements.

    Since the accounting irregularities were first uncovered in late January, NRCC Chairman Tom Cole (R-Okla.) has retained an outside law firm, Covington & Burling, to advise the committee and hired the accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers to review the committee’s finances, the chairman told members during a closed-door briefing in the Cannon Caucus Room on Thursday.

    But it may take four to six weeks for a forensic audit of the NRCC to be completed, one senior Republican lawmaker said, and until then, it is unclear what, if any, wrongdoing occurred or the scope of potential losses to the committee.

    Republicans stealing from Republicans: What's New?

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  57. By Jack Cafferty:

    This week, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) caved to the right wing and skipped a key vote on the economic stimulus plan, despite voicing prior support for the package. CNN’s Jack Cafferty excoriated McCain for placing his personal ambitions over the public’s well-being:

    It was one of those moments that said quite a bit about somebody’s character. What did McCain do? Nothing. He ducked. Instead of representing the people in Arizona who elected him, he simply choice not to vote at all. John McCain, pilot of the Straight Talk Express, wimped out.

    This makes it looks a lot like John McCain wants to be president but he can’t bring himself to do the job of senator. Just another politician choosing to do what’s best for him.

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  58. The now 3-month-old Hollywood writers strike could enter its final chapter Saturday when guild members gather in Los Angeles and New York to consider a proposed contract.

    If writers respond favorably, the walkout that has devastated the entertainment industry could end as soon as Monday. Writers were wavering between hope and skepticism as they prepared to learn details of the deal for the first time.

    "The feeling is relief and optimism and excitement," said Hilary Winston, a writer for the NBC sitcom "My Name Is Earl."

    Still, she couldn't shake her lingering anxiety.

    "I hope this deal made this three months worth it," she said.

    Writer Erik Oleson, who watched a deal for a TV pilot fall apart during the strike, was reserving judgment.

    "I'm not going to drink the Kool-Aid and accept a bad deal. I'd rather continue the strike," Oleson said. "We saw a press release but what matters is the fine print."

    If members show strong support for the deal, the union could quickly lift its strike order, allowing dozens of TV shows to return to production and putting thousands of actors, crew members and others back to work.

    An end to the strike might also salvage the Feb. 24 Academy Awards show, which is now facing a possible boycott by writers and sympathetic actors. The writers union has given a picket-free pass to Sunday's Grammy Awards.

    The Writers Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents studios, have not publicly commented on the proposed contract because of a joint media blackout.

    Michael Eisner, a former Walt Disney Co. chief executive, told CNBC the proposed deal was good enough to end the strike.

    "It's impossible the writers will turn it down," said Eisner, whose successor at Disney, Robert Iger, was among the studio chiefs who helped shape the proposal with leaders of the writers guild.

    The most contentious issue in the talks was residual payments for TV programs and movies distributed on the Internet.

    "Within the next five years, most American televisions will be connected to the Internet. The shows and movies you watch on your TV will be downloaded or streamed," the union said in its strike fact sheet.

    Some accounts suggest the proposed deal involving the 12,000-member union and the world's largest media companies improves on a contract agreement reached last month by studios and the Directors Guild of America.

    Directors won several key concessions on new media, including payments for downloaded TV programs and movies based on a percentage of the distributor's gross.

    The writers guild, however, has been seeking 2.5 percent of distributor grosses from Internet-delivered projects — about three times what the directors guild got in its deal.

    Writers also balked at the maximum $1,200 flat fee that studios agreed to pay directors for streamed, ad-supported programs.

    Writers won't vote Saturday on the proposed contract but will have a chance to voice their support or opposition at the closed meetings.

    An e-mail circulated by a strike captain urged pro-deal members to attend so union leaders wouldn't hear only from opponents.

    Other e-mails to guild members said a favorable response by writers would be followed by a Sunday meeting of the guild negotiating committee to consider lifting the strike order and scheduling a formal membership vote by mail.

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  59. When thousands of U.S. auto dealers gather in San Francisco this weekend, much of the talk will be about just getting through 2008.

    The obstacles include a shaky economy, volatile stock market and tightening credit, setting up what economists are predicting could be the worst sales year in more than a decade.

    With word Friday that Chrysler may have plans to thin its dealership ranks and the other two U.S.-based automakers looking to do the same, those left to sell another day may end up stronger — and car buyers may benefit as well.

    "Fewer dealers means better prices for the customers," said Gerald Meyers, a former chairman of American Motors Corp. who now teaches leadership at the University of Michigan.

    That's because dealers not making money aren't quick to offer discounts.

    "If they're profitable, they won't lose the sale," Meyers said. "If they're not profitable, they might lose the sale on the margin."

    It's because of the Bush Recession.

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  60. Cheney lives, and he wants more war.
    By Karen Kwiatkowski

    Cheney lives, and he wants more war.

    According to former CIA officer Phil Giraldi, Cheney remains hard at work fomenting some kind of attack or even war with Iran – and beyond that, he and George W. Bush don’t believe their own CIA’s latest intelligence assessment on Iran, indicating, in short that when it comes to Iran, we have little to fear but fear itself.

    It may not matter what George W. Bush believes, or thinks. He defers to Dick on national security matters. But Dick Cheney is apparently determined to make his mark before the election of the next American president, who, if Ron Paul, will immediately work to end our foreign policy fiascos, and if it is one of the remaining Democratic contenders, will slowly and more slowly, hesitantly and more hesitantly, try to begin to withdraw from the Bush wars.

    Any new president is bad news for Cheney, who operates without legal, political or moral constraints, and wishes to continue to fight everyone he can in the Middle East and beyond. But the world community and hometown America won’t stomach the selling of yet another unnecessary war in the Middle East so soon. War by accident, to quote a phrase used by Phil Giraldi in his Antiwar.com interview on January 24th, seems to be Cheney’s preferred pathway towards destruction in Iran.

    Our government in Washington, D.C. has a serious appetite, and a million dead Iraqis and thousands more dead Afghanis cannot quench it.

    This appetite cannot be for democracy, as neither Afghanistan nor Iraq exist in any condition resembling democracy, and Iran already has a working democracy, with multiple constraints on executive power through a complex balance of political and religious governmental systems. It can’t be an appetite for revenge – because as George W. Bush famously said years ago, he isn’t that worried about Bin Laden, and we long ago set up our own Unocal-friendly puppet in Kabul, presumably eliminating any need for revenge against the Taliban for 9/11. As we all know, Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11; even the President has admitted this. And we’ve already hanged our errant former ally Saddam Hussein, ostensibly closing that case.

    Surely, it is not an appetite for either justice or national security. The reasons given for the ongoing wars – namely that Afghanistan’s government and later Iraq posed a threat to us directly – was always laughable. That superficial reason upon which "everyone could agree" today seems ancient history. Yet still we find echoes of this lifeless rationale in the administration’s public and private statements on Iran, most recently in the latest "state of the union" address, and in recent Bush and Rice harangues to our remaining Middle Eastern allies.

    So what is it all about? What other appetites consume our nation? What other hunger seizes our Congress? What does Cheney and the American Enterprise Institute crave? Why does Washington threaten countries like Iraq, Iran, and behave despicably towards non-threatening small countries like Russia and Venezuela? Why do we obsess about Turkey and worry about Saudi Arabia? Why do we subsidize both rich and poor nuclear-capable states in the Middle East, while occupying and harassing poor non-nuclear states?

    I certainly don’t know the answers. But the New Testament offers an explanation worth considering, with "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

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  61. WaPo: Mukasey Rejects Criminal Probe Into Waterboarding.


    Iraqi Deaths Due to Invasion: 1,173,743
    The number is shocking and sobering. It is at least 10 times greater than most estimates cited in the US media, yet it is based on a scientific study of violent Iraqi deaths caused by the U.S.-led invasion of March 2003. That study, published in prestigious medical journal The Lancet, estimated that over 600,000 Iraqis had been killed as a result of the invasion as of July 2006. Iraqis have continued to be killed since then.

    Are you Happy Bush?

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  62. Big Media and The New World Order
    The Murdoch Empire


    by Stephen Lendman

    For Big Media, truth is a scarce commodity and in times of war it's the first casualty, or as esteemed journalist John Pilger noted: "Journalism (not truth) is the first casualty (of war). Not only that: it('s)....a weapon of war (by its) virulent censorship....by omission (and its) power....can mean....life and death for people in faraway countries, such as Iraq."

    Famed journalist George Seldes put it another way by condemning the "prostitution of the press" in an earlier era when he covered WW I, the rise of fascism, and most major world and national events until his death in 1995 at age 104. He also confronted the media in books like "Lords of the Press." In it and others, he condemned their corruption, suppression of the truth, and news censorship before the television age, and said "The most sacred cow of the press is the press itself, (and the press is) the most powerful force against the general welfare of the majority of the people."

    Orwell also knew a thing or two about truth and said telling it is a "revolutionary act in times of universal deceit. " Much else he said applies to the man this article addresses and the state of today's media. He was at his allegorical best in "Animal Farm" where power overwhelms freedom, and "All animals are equal but some....are more equal than others." And he observed in "Nineteen Eighty-Four" that "Those who control the present control the future (and) Those who control the future control the past."

    Today's media barons control the world as opinion makers. Like in Orwell's world, they're our national thought control police gatekeepers sanitizing news so only the cleansed residue portion gets through with everything people want most left out - the full truth all the time. They manipulate our minds and beliefs, program our thoughts, divert our attention, and effectively destroy the free marketplace of ideas essential to a healthy democracy they won't tolerate.

    None more ruthlessly than Murdoch and the info-entertainment empire he controls. Its flagship US operation is Fox News that Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) calls "the most biased name in news....with its extraordinary right-wing tilt." In response, Murdock defiantly "challenge(s) anybody to show me an example of bias in Fox News Channel" because in his world the entire political spectrum begins and ends with his views. For him and his staff, "fair and balanced," we report, you decide" means supporting the boss. Alternative views are biased, verboten and rarely aired. But they're hammered when they are as the "liberal" mainstream that's code language for CNN and other rivals at a time all media giants match the worst of Fox and are often as crude, confrontational and unprofessional.

    Distinguished Australian-raised journalist Bruce Page wrote the book on Murdock called "The Murdoch Archigelago." It's about a man he calls "one of the world's leading villains (and) global pirate(s)" who rampages the mediasphere putting world leaders on notice what he expects from them and what he'll offer in return. It's "let's make a deal," Murdock-style that's uncompromisingly hardball. Acquiesce or get hammered in print and on-air with scathing innuendo, misinformation and outright lies. Few politicians risk it. Others with alternative views have no choice, and world leaders like Hugo Chavez are used to this type character assassination.

    He mostly worries about the other kind and with good reason as long-time Latin American expert James Petras reported November 28. Four days before a crucially important constitutional reform referendum, he published an article headlined: "Venezuela's D-Day - The December 2, 2007 Constituent Referendum: Democratic Socialism or Imperial Counter-Revolution."

    In it, he reported that the Venezuelan government "broadcast and circulated a confidential (US embassy) memo to the CIA" revealing "clandestine operations....to destabilize (the referendum) and coordinate the civil military overthrow of the elected Chavez government." It's because independent polls predicted the referendum would pass even though they proved wrong. The dominant media readied to pounce on the results but instead went into gloat mode on a win Chavez called a "phyrric victory" but Murdock headlines trumpeted "Chavez's president-for-life-bid defeated." This is the type vintage copy Page covers with reams of examples in his book.

    Its central theme is that the media baron wants to privatize "a state propaganda service (and manipulate it) without scruple (or) regard for the truth." In return he wants "vast government favors such as tax breaks, regulatory relief, and monopoly" market control free from competitors having too much of what he wants solely for himself and apparently feels it's owed to him.

    Because of his size and media clout, he usually gets his way and mostly in places mattering most - in the biggest markets with greatest profit potential in a business where truth is off the table and partnering with government for a growing revenue stream and greater influence is all that counts.

    The Murdoch Empire from its Inception

    Murdoch's empire is vast and is part of his News Corporation that was incorporated in Australia in 1979 (Murdoch's home). It was then reincorporated in 2004 in the US in the corporate-friendly state of Delaware with its headquarters in New York. The company was huge when media experts Robert McChesney and Edward Herman wrote about it in their 1997 book, "The Global Media Giants." Back then, it ranked fifth in size among the giants (it's now third after Time Warner and Disney) with $10 billion in 1996 sales when the authors called the company "the archetype for the twenty-first century media firm....and the best case study (example) for understanding global media firm behavior."

    Gross revenue today tops $28 billion, operating income is nearly $4.5 billion, the company has over 47,000 employees, it operates on six continents, 75% of its business is in the US, and one industry analyst told McChesney and Herman 10 years ago "Murdock seems to have Washington in his back pocket" as he keeps getting favorable rulings to do what he wants. And that was under Bill Clinton who signed the outrageous 1996 Telecommunications (giveaway) Act for Big Media and Big Telecom that let them consolidate further through mergers and acquisitions and be able to squash competition and diversity.

    In those days and earlier, Murdoch aimed high to control "multiple forms of programming - news, sports, films and children's shows--and beam them via satellite or TV stations to homes (around the world with) Viacom CEO Sumner Redstone (once saying) Murdock 'want(ed) to conquer the world.' " Other media chiefs said he was doing it, and he's "the one media executive they most respect and fear, and the one whose moves they study."

    Murdoch inherited his father's Australian News Limited newspapers in 1952. He had no journalistic background but compensated by cultivating political influence through favorable electoral coverage. He became managing director of News Limited in 1953 and then took over running Adelaide News in 1954. He founded News Corporation in 1979 but years earlier concentrated on acquisitions and expansion to build his business. In 1964, he launched Australia's first national daily, The Australian, later acquired The Daily Telegraph in Sydney, and in the late 1960s entered the UK market by snaring The News of the World. In 1950, it was the world's most popular English language newspaper with a peak circulation of around 8.4 million. It was about six million when Murdock got it in 1968.

    More acquisitions followed. They included The (London) Times and The Sunday Times in 1981, and by the 1980s he was a dominant force in the US. He bought the film studio, Twentieth Century Fox, that launched Fox Television and now notorious Fox News.

    Today, the company is in everything media-related (except music) and describes itself on its web site as "Creating and distributing top-quality news, sports and entertainment around the world." That's in the eye of the beholder where there's considerable disagreement with the official company position. Nonetheless, the site lists a vast array of News Corporation operations:

    -- Filmed entertainment: 20th Century Fox, 20th Century Fox Espanol, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, 20th Century Fox International, 20th Century Fox Television, Fox Searchlight Pictures, Fox Studios Australia, Fox Studios Baja, Fox Studios LA, Fox Television Studios, and Blue Sky Studios;

    -- Television: Fox Broadcasting, Fox Sports Australia, Fox Television Stations, FOXTEL, MyNeworkTV, STAR; and the newest entry, Fox Business, to compete with CNBC and Bloomberg;

    -- Cable: Fox Business Network (just launched), Fox Movie Channel, Fox News Channel, Fox Sports Channel, Fox College Sports, Fox Sports Enterprises, Fox Sports En Espanol, Fox Sports Net, Fox Soccer Channel, Fox Reality, Fuel TV, FX, National Geographic, Channel United States, Channel Worldwide, Speed, and Stats, Inc.;

    -- Direct broadcast satellite television: BSkyB, DirectTV, and Sky Italia;

    -- Magazines and Inserts: Big League, Inside Out, donna hay, ALPHA, News America Marketing, Smart Source, The Weekly Standard, and Gemstar - TV Guide International Inc.;

    -- Newspapers: 21 in "Australasia" including the Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph, Herald Sun and Sunday Herald Sun, Post-Currier, Sunday Mail, Sunday Times, The Australian, The Mercury, and the Weekly Times; 6 in the UK including The Times, The Sunday Times, The Sun, and News International; and two in the US - the New York Post (the Columbia Journalism review calls "a force for evil") and Wall Street Journal as of December 13 when News Corporation announced the completion of its acquisition of Dow Jones & Company;

    -- Books: HarperCollins Publishers, Australia, Canada, Children's Books, United States, United Kingdom, Zondervan;

    -- Other assets: 25 are listed including Broadsystem, Fox Interactive Media, IGN Entertainment, FoxSports.com, Fox.com, News Outdoor and others.

    News Corp. even claims to be addressing climate change, says it's "committed" to "lowering the energy use of its businesses" across the globe, will "switch to renewable sources of power when economically feasible," and will "become carbon neutral by 2010." True or false, it's likely the company does address its energy consumption to cut costs as most other businesses also do, climate change or not.

    Bruce Page picks up the story in "The Murdoch Archipelago" published in 2003. Even while attacking the media baron, he says he and others do some good. Murdoch, for instance, "exposes numberless sexual peccadilloes, and much lesser crime - but not dud military campaigns or Enronesque frauds." He specializes in sensationalist pseudo-journalism that distorts the truth on the news and loads it with juiced-up reports on murder, mayhem, mishaps, celebrity gossip and soft porn. Page goes on to say "the world would be better off without News Corp." and before he ever bought it "There's certainly a good case that he should not own The Wall Street Journal."

    Too late, now that the Bancroft family sold it to him for the billions he offered and muscle he applied to get it like he always does. They might have considered former Chicago columnist Mike Royko's comment when he left the Sun-Times after Murdoch bought it (and later sold it Hollinger, Inc.'s fraud convicted Conrad Black). Moving to the Tribune, he remarked "no self-respecting fish would (want to be) wrapped in a Murdock paper....His goal is not quality journalism (it's) vast power, political power." Murdock's own private joke also should have scared them off that "God doesn't trust (him) in the dark." Nor should anyone anywhere, anytime.

    Page's polemic traces Murdoch's history in his lengthy book covering his rise from early beginnings to his unrivaled status in today's media world. It's the story of power and a man who wields it ruthlessly as a world class predator - with deception and chicanery, arrogance and artfulness, charm and cunning and sheer muscle, will, intimidation, poisonous influence and toadying to get his way as he generally does. Whatever Rupert wants, Rupert gets, and nothing stands in his way. That goes for governments and his editors as well as reporters in print and on-air. No one crosses Murdoch. Anyone practicing real journalism gets dispatched elsewhere to pursue it.

    Page explained from firsthand accounts that Murdoch newsrooms aren't fun places to work. He upbraids editors and interferes with their work. Also, as explained above, he uses his operations for power play politics to bend governments to his will. As his influence grows, so does the bending, and along with it, fake journalism bearing no resemblance to the real kind. It's a Murdoch specialty by a world class pariah in a media world beset with them, but Murdoch's the worst. He's bereft of ethics, an authoritarian boss, and the book is full of examples of how he throws his weight around, bullies people and prevails. It also expresses particular displeasure about the way he cozied up to the Chinese in 1994 by removing BBC World News (no media paragon, just classier than Murdoch) from Satellite TV Asia Region in return for special favors he got.

    Page also exposes Murdoch's absurd claim to be an enemy of the establishment, a populist, and battler for the common man. This from someone raised in privilege, courts the powerful, represents entrenched wealth, is now a billionaire, benefitted from nepotism, is passing his empire to his children, smashes print unions, runs a "bordello of papers" as the Sunday Times called it before he bought it, and has easy access to Number 10, the White House and other seats of power.

    Page worries that media barons cause serious harm by undermining democracy, and Murdoch's the worst of the bunch. He targets the vulnerable, attacks disenfranchised minorities and bashes gays, Muslims, innocent victims of war and oppression, and anyone getting in his way. Page warns that unless we see his threat and confront it, all free societies are at risk.

    Page also exposes the Murdoch myth of an archetypical entrepreneur whose "journalistic (and business) genius" got him where he is. Nonsense about a man, like his father, who uses press power for business favors to gain more power. Yet he audaciously told his biographer, William Shawcross, to "Give me an example. When have we ever asked for anything?" Page has reams of it exposing Murdoch's guile and mendacity about wanting a "level (media) playing-field." Just the opposite. He's obsessed with monopoly control and smashes competition for it.

    He also smashes editors who disobey him. One observer called him unhinged, out of control and completely amoral while a former Sunday Times editor, Andrew Neil, describes the "terrorism" Murdoch spreads throughout his empire to get his way. Neil also wrote: "Rupert expects his papers to stand broadly for what he believes - a combination of right-wing Republicanism from America mixed with undiluted Thatcherism from Britain."

    Murdoch's US Fox News Flagship

    Fox News smoothes the way for him as a round-the-clock Bush administration commercial imitating real news. It debuted in 1996 and one of its on-air hosts explained the "Channel was launched (because) something was wrong with news media....somewhere bias found its way into reporting....Fox....is committed to being fair and balanced (covering) stories everybody is reporting--and....stories....you will see only on Fox."

    Later, the Columbia Journalism Review had a different view. It reported "several" former Fox employees "complained of 'management sticking their fingers' in the writing and editing of stories to cook the facts to make a story more palatable to right-of-center tastes." One of them complained about never running into that before before while FAIR reported "Fox's signature political news show, Special Report with Brit Hume, was originally created as a daily one-hour update devoted to the 1998 Clinton sex scandal." So much for "fair and balanced" real news.

    This type attack never happens to a Republican and hasn't for Fox's presidential favorite, Rudy Giuliani, who was sinking fast, fared poorly in early primaries and now has withdrawn from the race. Nonetheless, his leadership failures and marital transgressions were ignored, and so were his ties to friend, business partner and former New York City Police Commissioner, Bernard Kerik. He was indicted on 16 counts of federal corruption, including bribery, conspiracy, tax fraud, and lying on his federal disclosure forms for not reporting a $250,000 "loan" (a likely payoff) from an Israeli billionaire that may have been sent to him for Giuliani for favors rendered.

    An added twist is that a former Kerik lover, Judith Regan, sued Murdock's News Corp. and accused the company of pressuring her to commit perjury to protect Giuliani's presidential hopes. Fox News won't explain or cover it, but it daily airs preferential bias for Giuliani in its slanted reporting. It's a blatant example of unethical coverage to manipulate news for its own purpose.

    FAIR also blasted one of Hume"s regular features - "The Political Grapevine" that's billed as "the most scintillating two minutes in television" as a sort of right-wing "hot-sheet." It features anchor Hume "reading off a series of gossipy items culled from other (generally) right-wing" sources. It's not subtle and is blatantly partisan calling Democrats, environmentalists, the liberal media, civil rights groups, anti-war activists and Hollywood and other liberals "villians" while Republicans are good guys or "heros who can do no wrong." When critics jump on Fox, it hits back claiming a responsibility to correct the "liberal media's bias" with Bill O'Reilly saying Fox "gives voice to people who can't get on other networks." What it does, of course, is slant the news its way to please the boss, and that means a distorted hard-right point of view only.

    It also means the more people watch it, the less informed they are as News Dissector Danny Schechter explained about all TV news in his candid insider's book "The More You Watch, The Less You Know." That doesn't bother Murdoch who spends millions for lobbying and hundreds of thousands more for political contributions - mostly to Republicans but also to friendly Democrats to buy and keep his growing influence. It pays off with senators like Trent Lott once telling the Washington Post: "If it hadn't been for Fox, I don't know what I'd have done for the news." He means a right-wing echo chamber pretending to be unbiased.

    Long-time Republican operative Roger Ailes runs it for Murdock with FAIR once quoting former senior Bush aide Lee Atwater saying he operates on "two speeds - attack and destroy." He also called Clinton a "hippie president," refers to liberals as "bigots," and assures all on-air programming conforms to his views. Only Republicans get hired to air them and those screened for jobs are asked to be sure.

    As for punditry and political debate, here's how FAIR characterizes it: on shows like Hannity & Colmes, The O'Reilly Factor and The Beltway Boys it's like watching "a Harlem Globetrotters game (knowing) which side is supposed to win." Or maybe pro wrestling. The discussion is so lopsided, it's impossible hiding Fox's partisanship, and it shows with on-air hosts like Tony Snow endorsing Republican Bob Dole for President in 1996 and then seamlessly becoming White House press secretary from May, 2006 to September, 2007. Other Fox "journalists" are as bad and collect handsome fees addressing Republican gatherings and corporate interest groups with big name ones like O'Reilly reportedly charging $50,000 per engagement on the lecture circuit delivering red meat to audiences that love it.

    So do hard core Fox viewers who swallow the channel's pro-Bush, pro-war, pro-occupation America uber alles type journalism combined with juiced-up infotainment reports imitating real news. It makes it hard knowing where one ends and the other begins. In the mainstream, much of it is the same, and all of it defiles what journalism should do -

    -- be the principle source of political information to create an informed citizenry Jefferson said was "the bulwark of a democracy;"

    -- provide a wide range of opinion and analysis of all key issues affecting everyone;

    -- hold governments accountable to the public interest and not just the privileged elite part of it; and generally

    -- "comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable."

    Murdoch and the rest of the dominant media fail the test. Their concentrated power blunt democracy by destroying its essential free marketplace of ideas. Today, social control substitutes for diversity, free expression, and an informed electorate; pro-business ideology trumps the greater good; and the single-minded pursuit of profit triumphs over beneficial social change. Combating it means confronting the media barons who are as determined as Murdoch to squash us.

    Organizations like Free Press are doing it. It's a "national nonpartisan organization working to increase informed public participation in crucial media policy debates." It aims to "generate policies that will produce a more competitive and public interest-oriented media system with a strong nonprofit and noncommercial sector" promoting greater diversity. The more democratic our media, the more accountable government will be to public concerns. Free Press focuses on four broad areas to help: "media ownership" for greater competition and diversity; "independent and public media" free from the single-minded pursuit of profit; "internet freedom" from corporate control; and "media reform" of a corrupted system aided by government that must end.

    To happen, public participation is essential, and for that organizations like Free Press are crucial. Corporate media control is the core issue of our time along with overall corporate dominance with governments as their handmaiden. Democracy and a free society are impossible unless that changes. It's we the people vs. the Murdochs of the world, and we've only just begun fighting back.

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  63. The Demise of the American Middle Class

    By Richard Backus

    American as well as all western white and blue collar workers will soon realize that they will either have to decrease their wage demands to conform with "global standards" or chose jobs in the service sector. These global standard wages are now being set by worker in India and China, where average hourly wages are about 65 cents and one dollar respectively. The high paying jobs created in Mexico under NAFTA, the whopping $3.50 per hour ones, are moving to China because even this princely wage level is much too generous according to U.S. businessmen. So currently unemployed workers and anyone laid off in the future better get their applications into McD and Wal-Mart in a hurry because these will be the premier jobs of the future. But, if American workers are willing to accept these "global standard wages" (adjusted for product transportation costs), no more than $3.00 per hour, perhaps they can get work here in the U.S., but only if their employers believe these wages will be maintained in the future. Unfortunately no one an live on $3.00 per hour in the U.S. unless he doesn't mind living on a subsistence level, without car or medical coverage (even if minimum wage laws were waived to allow them to do so).

    So the middle class worker unwilling or unable to accept this wage level has been disappearing into the limbo of the " having chosen leisure over work" class. The (establishment) economists have so labeled those 35 percent of the labor force (about 70 million people) who are of working age but not working. Forty(40) million of these 70 million "loafers" are between age 50 and 62(surprise!), still too young to be receiving social security.

    So what are these "leisure choosers "doing? Some have legitimately retired, being beneficiaries of retirement plans (civil servant ones being the most generous.) But the great bulk of them are simply limping along on their accumulated savings, or, if they are not so well off, have applied and been accepted as "disabled' under SSI or SSD programs. The children of all these American workers ( those displaced by foreign workers) will not see a dime of whatever savings they had made prior to this time.

    Who can we thank for this disaster? The pols have paid their (personal) economists to say that it is the wage earner's own preference for leisure. Other current myths, created in the same way and by the same people, claim that American workers are uneducated or too lazy to retrain themselves, or simply too lazy. In other words, the workers have only themselves to blame.

    The truth is that establishment politicians have engineered this demise of the middle class via globalization, NAFTA, CAFTA, and legal immigration laws befitting their clients, big business and the rich. All of these programs have proven to be against the interests of the American working classes but none have been revoked or revised. NAFTA alone is currently costing the U.S. treasury $40 billion dollars yearly but the pols still insist on CAFTA. The immigration laws affecting high-tech jobs have not only ruined the prospects for many American hi-tech workers, but have precipitated the loss of an entire industry. And the pols continue doing absolutely nothing, even after recognizing daily the adverse consequences of their policies.

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  64. George W. Bush's Resumé

    Kelley Kramer


    This individual seeks an executive position. He will be available in January 2009...

    This individual seeks an executive position. He will be available in January 2009, and is willing (and hopeful) to relocate.

    RESUME

    GEORGE W. BUSH
    1600 Pennsylvania Avenue,
    Washington , DC 20520

    EDUCATION AND EXPERIENCE:

    Law Enforcement:

    ► I was arrested in Kennebunkport, Maine, in 1976 for driving under the influence of alcohol. I pleaded guilty, paid a fine, and had my driver's license suspended for 30 days. My Texas driving record has been 'lost' and is not available.

    Military:

    ► I joined the Texas Air National Guard and went AWOL. I refused to take a drug test or answer any questions about my drug use. By joining the Texas Air National Guard, I was able to avoid combat duty in Vietnam .

    College:

    ► I graduated from Yale University with a low C average. I was a cheerleader.

    Past Work Experience:

    ► I ran for U.S. Congress and lost.

    ► I began my career in the oil business in Midland, Texas in 1975. I bought an oil company, but couldn't find any oil in Texas. The company went bankrupt shortly after I sold all my stock.

    ► I bought the Texas Rangers baseball team in a sweetheart deal that took land using taxpayer money.

    ► With the help of my father and our friends in the oil industry (including Enron CEO Ken Lay), I was elected governor of Texas.

    Accomplishments As Governor Of Texas:

    ► I changed Texas pollution laws to favor power and oil companies, making Texas the most polluted state in the Union. During my tenure, Houston replaced Los Angeles as the most smog-ridden city in America.

    ► I cut taxes and bankrupted the Texas treasury to the tune of billions in borrowed money.

    ► I set the record for the most executions by any governor in American history.

    ► With the help of my brother, the governor of Florida, and my father's appointments to the Supreme Court, I became President of the United States, after losing by over 500,000 votes.

    Accomplishments As President (with 4 3 5 Notable Firsts):

    ► I am the first President in U.S. history to enter office with a criminal record.

    ► I invaded and occupied two countries at a continuing cost of over one billion dollars per week.

    ► I spent the U.S. surplus and effectively bankrupted the U.S. Treasury.

    ► I shattered the record for the largest annual deficit in U.S. history.

    ► I set an economic record for most private bankruptcies filed in any 12-month period.

    ► I set the all-time record for most foreclosures in a 12-month period.

    ► I set the all-time record for the biggest drop in the history of the U.S. stock market. In my first year in office, over 2 million Americans lost their jobs and that trend continues.

    ► I'm proud that the members of my cabinet are the richest of any administration in U.S. history. My 'poorest millionaire, ' Condoleezza Rice, has a Chevron oil tanker named after her.

    ► I set the record for most campaign fund-raising trips by a U.S. President.

    ► I am the all-time U.S. and world record-holder for receiving the most corporate campaign donations.

    ► My largest lifetime campaign contributor, and one of my best friends, Kenneth Lay, presided over the largest corporate bankruptcy fraud in U.S. history,

    ► My political party used Enron private jets and corporate attorneys to assure my success with the U.S. Supreme Court during my election decision.

    ► I have protected my friends at Enron and Halliburton against investigation or prosecution. More time and money was spent investigating the Monica Lewinsky affair than has been spent investigating one of the biggest corporate rip-offs in history.

    ► I presided over the biggest energy crisis in U.S. history and refused to intervene when corruption involving the oil industry was revealed.

    ► I presided over the highest gasoline prices in U.S. history.

    ► I changed the U.S. policy to allow convicted criminals to be awarded government contracts

    ► I appointed more convicted criminals to my administration than any President in U.S. history.

    ► I created the Ministry of Homeland Security, the largest bureaucracy in the history of the United States Government.

    ► I've broken more international treaties than any President in U.S history.

    ► I am the first President in U.S. history to have the United Nations to remove the U.S. from the Human Rights Commission.

    ► I withdrew the U.S. from the World Court of Law.

    ► I refused to allow inspector's access to U.S. 'prisoners of war' detainees and thereby have refused to abide by the Geneva Convention.

    ► I am the first President in history to refuse United Nations election inspectors (during the 2002 US election).

    ► I set the record for fewest numbers of press conferences of any President since the advent of television.

    ► I set the all-time record for most days on vacation in any one-year period. After taking off the entire month of August, I presided over the worst security failure in U.S. history.

    ► I garnered the most sympathy ever for the U.S. after the World Trade Center attacks and less than a year later made the U.S. the most hated country in the world, the largest failure of diplomacy in world history.

    ► I have set the all-time record for most people worldwide to simultaneously protest me in public venues (15 million people), shattering the record for protests against any person in the history of mankind.

    ► I am the first President in U.S. history to order an unprovoked, pre-emptive attack and the military occupation of a sovereign nation. I did so against the will of the United Nations, the majority of U.S. Citizens and the world community.

    ► I have cut health care benefits for war veterans and support a cut in duty benefits for active duty troops and their families in wartime.

    ► In my State of the Union Address, I lied about our reasons for attacking Iraq and then blamed the lies on our British friends.

    ► I am the first President in history to have a majority of Europeans (71%) view my presidency as the biggest threat to world peace and security.

    ► I am supporting development of a nuclear 'Tactical Bunker Buster,' a WMD.

    ► I have so far failed to fulfil my pledge to bring Osama Bin Laden to justice.

    Records And References:

    ► All records of my tenure as governor of Texas are now in my father's library, sealed and unavailable for public view.

    ► All records of SEC investigations into my insider trading and my bankrupt companies are sealed in secrecy and unavailable for public view.

    ► All records or minutes from meetings that I, or my Vice-President, attended regarding public energy policy are sealed in secrecy and unavailable for public review. I specified that my sealed documents will not be available for 50 years.

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  65. Now I feel better: From Parody to Pounding Repugs: Nice Touch For A Friday!

    ReplyDelete
  66. Hey guys i haven't been around for awhile because of a computer problem but i saw on the news that Rush Limbaugh said he was going to have a fund raiser for Hilary

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  67. Wow, Larry, that was pretty impressive!

    ReplyDelete
  68. Thanks Jacq,

    This was a day of news so I went wild.

    I was just heading to your place.

    ReplyDelete
  69. Ann Coulter wasn't officially invited to speak at this year's Conservative Political Action Conference -- many on the right were still upset at the bad publicity she brought last year after calling John Edwards a "faggot." But to no one's surprise, she showed up anyway, commandeering the spotlight.

    Speaking before the Young America's Foundation, who invited her over CPAC's objections, the conservative author spent most of her time viciously attacking her party's new presumptive presidential nominee, Sen. John McCain.

    No topic was out of bounds, including the five years McCain spent as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.

    "I know that [he was a POW]," Coulter declared, "because he mentions it more often than Kerry mentions he was in Vietnam. There were hundreds of POWs and we are not going to make all of them president. Can't we find a POW who doesn't want to shut down Guantanamo."

    That was mild. Take Coulter's rationale for supporting Sen. Hillary Clinton's candidacy over McCain's:

    "A serious case could be made to support Hillary Clinton," she declared, offering the analogy of Winston Churchill backing Stalin in the fight against Hitler in WWII. "I'm not equating Hillary Clinton to Stalin, and if I did I apologize to Stalin's decedents... I'm not comparing McCain to Hitler. Hitler had a coherent tax policy." Later, she added, "The only way I can promise that I won't vote for Hillary Clinton is if John McCain appoints her as his vice president."

    Remarkably, Coulter's comments reflected what conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh predicted would be the reception McCain would receive from the antagonistic mainstream media.

    "Once [McCain]'s got this sewn up you're going to see the Drive-By Media start doing stories on his age, and they're not going to be mean, they are not going to be vicious, they're going to be almost sorrowful," said Limbaugh. "I am telling you, if that doesn't work, they're going to go after this age business, and they'll do it almost regretfully."

    And indeed, Coulter speech contained repeated subtle and not so subtle digs at McCain's age.

    "He has been in the Senate for about 100 years," she said (he's actually 71), long enough "to vote on the Spanish-American War." She even declared, playing off the mutual admiration between McCain and the media, that "[he] is working for the New York Times obituary."

    Coulter ripped him over policy issues as well, taking on his signature legislation McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform, as well as his vote against President Bush's tax cuts, and his stance on climate change. In the process, she contrasted the Arizona Republican with the GOP candidates that he bested for the presidential nomination.

    "McCain and [Mitt] Romney are mirror opposites of one another," said Coulter. "Romney is a conservative who had to win votes from liberals in Massachusetts. McCain is a liberal who had to win votes from conservatives in Arizona."

    As for former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani: He "enthusiastically supported torturing terrorists," she said to great applause. "McCain hysterically opposes dripping water down the terrorist's noses."

    And what if the unthinkable happens, and President McCain is inaugurated? I've led an impeachment movement before, Coulter said, and "I can lead another one."

    How poetic of Coulter to recognize what we all knew long ago.

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  70. TomCat said...
    Lydia, I'm sorry you and Gary have run into so much misunderstanding. From where I sit, this was clearly satire in which the writer held up the attitudes of the rabid right for ridicule."

    Tomcat...........as usual, its like you read my mind........i cant agree more with what you just said.

    ReplyDelete
  71. A classified Pentagon assessment concludes that long battlefield tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, along with persistent terrorist activity and other threats, have prevented the U.S. military from improving its ability to respond to any new crisis, The Associated Press has learned.

    Despite security gains in Iraq, there is still a "significant" risk that the strained U.S. military cannot quickly and fully respond to another outbreak elsewhere in the world, according to the report.

    Last year the Pentagon raised that threat risk from "moderate" to "significant." This year, the report will maintain that "significant" risk level _ pointing to the U.S. military's ongoing struggle against a stubborn insurgency in Iraq and its lead role in the NATO-led war in Afghanistan.

    All this because of the terror enabler Bush.

    ReplyDelete
  72. by Jonathan Tasini


    Before yours truly goes out to the picket lines for the Writers Guild of America (Time Warner Center Noon-2 p.m. for those of you in NYC...and, who knows, maybe this will be one of the last picket lines of the strike if the deal being discussed among the members this weekend passes muster), I decided to take a look back at where the union vote went on Super Tuesday.

    According to the exit polls that were conducted by Edison Media Research, union voters made up 30 percent of the vote on ST. Overall, Sen. Clinton won 51 percent of the union vote, Sen. Obama 44 percent. I'm going to guess that the other five percent went to John Edwards who had--and continues to have--a passionate following within organized labor.

    What's most interesting about that number is this: Sen. Obama has no national union endorsements [Correction: I goofed--forgot that UNITEHERE endorsed Obama prior to the Nevada caucuses, Transport Workers Union moved from Edwards to Obama and he also has the support of the United Association of Plumbers & Pipefitters], though he has received local affiliate support; for example, he nabbed the SEIU State Council in California, which switched to Obama when Edwards dropped out. You can look at this in two related ways. First, the official endorsements of unions don't carry as much weight as one would assume among rank-and-file members. Second, that Sen. Obama is viewed pretty favorably among union members; I'm going to guess that particularly among unions with large African-American memberships (unions such as AFSCME and SEIU) Sen. Obama did very well, simply reflecting his huge support among African American men and women (85 percent and 80 percent, respectively) across the overall primary electorate.

    ReplyDelete
  73. Passing the Torch: Kennedy's Touch on Obama's Words
    Ted Sorensen, Legendary Speechwriter, Lends Support, Eloquence to Democratic Contender

    By SUSAN DONALDSON JAMES

    It's no accident the Kennedy magic has infused itself into the campaign of Barack Obama.

    Theodore "Ted" Sorensen, the adviser whom John F. Kennedy once called his "intellectual blood bank," is lending his unabashed support -- and eloquence -- to the Obama campaign.

    The Kennedy Connection
    Oprah, another gushing Obama supporter, may have star power, but Sorensen has brain power.

    At the age of 24, he joined the staff of the newly elected Sen. John F. Kennedy and later helped him win the presidency, calling on Americans to pass the torch to a new generation.

    The legendary speechwriter helped Kennedy craft the now-famous 1961 Inaugural address in which the new president proclaimed, "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country."

    At the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis -- when Sorensen was 34 -- he penned the letter to Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev that historians say saved the world from nuclear destruction.

    Today, at 79 years old and blind, Sorensen has a new mission: to resurrect Camelot. And it seems the Obama campaign is listening.

    "I've given them a phrase or suggestion or two," Sorensen admits.

    As for all the comparisons that have been drawn between Obama and Kennedy, "I probably started it," he told ABCNEWS.com


    Torch Passed to Obama's Speechwriters
    Sorensen has not only given his support and advice to the Obama camp, he's grown close to the senator's young speechwriters as well.

    The candidate's deputy writer -- Adam Frankel -- assisted Sorensen with his memoirs, which Harper Collins will publish in time for his 80th birthday in May.

    "We've become close friends," Sorensen said of Frankel, 26, one of Obama's wordsmiths.

    "He knows me and my style and JFK's style and his speeches. It's surprising the little touches that creep in to whatever he writes for Obama."

    Even Obama's Democratic rival, Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., has acknowledged Obama's rhetorical skills.

    "You campaign in poetry, but you govern in prose," Clinton said in a bit of a backhanded compliment delivered before Super Tuesday.

    Youth vs. Experience
    Sorensen said he was impressed with Obama when he met the senator in 2006. But all he heard was Obama was too young and inexperienced.

    "That's what they said about Kennedy," he said. "Everyone said Kennedy had no chance because he was baptized a Roman Catholic. They say it about Obama because he's black."

    Clinton captured the endorsements of several of Robert F. Kennedy's kin, including Kennedy's son Robert F. Kennedy Jr., an environmental lawyer, and daughter Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, the former lieutenant governor of Maryland.

    But Obama is largely ahead in the Kennedy endorsement race, earning a seal of approval from Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., Ethel Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy's widow, and Caroline Kennedy,

    SLIDESHOW: KENNEDY VS. KENNEDY IN THE OBAMA-CLINTON RACE

    "Kennedy, like Obama, was one of those extraordinary individuals who was completely authentic, at home with himself and in his skin," said Sorensen. "He knew who he was, unlike so many in politics who are putting on an act all the time."

    Looking Back, Looking Forward
    Seemingly frail, Sorensen suffered a stroke seven years ago that took his sight, but he still remains active and agreed to talk about the Cuban Missile Crisis -- a topic he re-examines in his new book -- to students at the Peddie School in New Jersey this week.

    Sorensen confides he's never heard of IM or Facebook, and as he shuffled to the podium on a student's arm, it seemed unlikely he would connect with the teenagers, whose parents were being born as Kennedy arrived at the White House.

    But that impression soon dissipated.

    "I don't see much, but I have more vision than the president of the United States," Sorensen joked to loud applause.

    He had plenty more to say about President Bush, including his "lack of judgment" and diplomacy in handling the threats after 9/11.

    Speech writers wield untold power among voters, and Sorensen is considered one of the modern day best.

    George Washington got help from Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Alexander Hamilton. Franklin Roosevelt often turned to playwright Robert Sherwood, and Dwight Eisenhower used journalist Emmet Hughes.

    But Sorensen was more than a speechwriter, and his closeness and access to Kennedy was "unique" in U.S. history, say presidential scholars.

    ReplyDelete
  74. Four U.S soldiers were killed today in Iraq.

    Are you throwing a party Bush?

    ReplyDelete
  75. I've wanted to comment on this all day but had a real busy day at work and was tied up in meetings most of the day.

    Guys, Gary is a friend of Lydia's, Lydia has posted comments and things he has said for quite a while, he is not a repug troll or a rascist or sexist and doesnt discriminate against people by race, sexuality, religion or anything else.

    What he wrote is clearly satire, i wouldnt expect everyone to like it or agree with EVERYTHING he said.......but i have to say i do think he deserves respect and the benefit of the doubt to at least read his article with an open mind.............I mean do you guys honestly think Lydia would let a repug troll or a rascist post on her blog that is predominantly liberal.

    We are supposed to be the open minded, tolerant ones with a sense of humor that dont get offended at everything and try to "CLAIM" the moral highground while not practicing what we preach.

    Its the repugs that in most cases are guilty of rascism or asigning someone a position so as to attack them rather than actually listening to what the other person is REALLY saying or really means.......we CANT JUSR CLAIM to be better than them we actually have to BE BETTER than that.

    Christopher, JR, Carl, Bart etc..........i havent agreed withn Everything you have said and vice versa and thats fine we dont have to goosestep in and march in lockstep and to the same tune and adhere to the same talkingpoints like brainwahed repugs, we do agree on most things though, particularly the important things and we essentially have similar values.

    We do however have to respect each other...........i respect all you guys, i value your perspectives and opinions and look forward to hearing them regardless of whether they agree with mine completely or not.................what i'm saying here is we are all one the same side, Gary is one of us, and we need to respect each other, the repug trolls will be back trying to battle and derail from the truth soon enough, a snotnosed little punk showed up to derail and insult last night we need to stick together to insure the truth gets out rather than fight amongst ourselves.

    This is the most crucial election in 70 years and who wins will be crucial to what direction our country goes in.

    ReplyDelete
  76. Gary, I just want to say, i really liked the article, particularly the part about Rove and his cronnies picking up garbage.............and yes i KNEW it was satire.

    ReplyDelete
  77. Larry, i want you and Clif to check out the next article i post...........it speaks VOLUMES about the state of the economy and how the corporate fascists and their empires are trying to destroy the middle class.

    ReplyDelete
  78. Bank of America blindsiding cardholders?
    The nation's biggest bank is doubling interest rates for some of its most responsible credit card customers.
    By BusinessWeek
    Credit card issuers have drawn fire for jacking up interest rates on cardholders who aren't behind on payments but whose credit scores have fallen for other reasons. Now, some consumers complain, Bank of America is increasing rates based on no apparent deterioration in their credit scores at all.
    The major credit card lender in mid-January sent letters notifying some responsible cardholders that it would more than double their rates to as high as 28%, without giving explanations for the increases, according to copies of five letters obtained by BusinessWeek.
    Fine print at the end of the letter -- headed "Important Amendment to Your Credit Card Agreement" –- advised calling an 800-number for the reason, but consumers who called say they were unable to get a clear answer.
    "No one could give me an explanation," says Eric Fresch, a Huron, Ohio, engineer who is on time with his Bank of America card payments and knows of no decline in the status of his overall credit.

    Bank of America spokeswoman Betty Riess confirms some bank cardholders could be receiving rate increases for reasons other than declines in credit scores, such as running higher balances with their Bank of America cards or with other creditors. She says the increases are part of a "periodic review" that assesses customers' credit risk.
    Reiss declined to say if the Charlotte, N.C., bank had changed its credit standards, thereby bumping some consumers' rates, or how many cardholders were being affected by the review. Bank of America has 40 million U.S. credit card accounts.

    Arbitrary and aggressive
    Buzz about the letters is building on the Internet. Since mid-January, Credit.com, a credit card information site, has received 40 complaints from consumers whom Bank of America notified of sharp rate increases, even though they were current on their bills, says Emily Davidson, a Credit.com researcher. Complaint sites My3cents and Bank of America: Bad for America say they have received similar complaints.
    The so-called opt-out letters give borrowers the option of no longer using their cards and paying off their balances at the old rates. But they must write Bank of America by later this month if they plan to do so. If they don't, their rates on existing and new balances automatically will rise.
    What's striking is how arbitrary the Bank of America rate increases appear, credit industry experts say.
    In recent years, many card companies have turned to a practice called "risk-based pricing," in which they will raise a regular paying consumer's rate because of a decline in the person's FICO score. FICO is a credit-risk score developed by Fair Isaac that includes a number of risk metrics the Minneapolis company doesn't disclose.
    Credit reporting bureaus supply creditors with FICO scores along with other data, such as late payments and debts owed.
    In a December hearing spearheaded by Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., senators slammed big card companies for using such pricing with customers who pay on time. By law, credit card lenders can change terms as long as they notify borrowers. Even so, JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup announced ahead of Levin's hearing that they would stop the practice of raising card rates based solely on FICO scores.
    But Bank of America appears to be taking an even more aggressive stance because, beyond credit scores, it is using internal criteria that aren't available to consumers. That makes the reasons for the rate increases even more opaque.
    "Congress has faulted credit card companies for lack of transparency in raising rates," says William Ryan, a financial industry analyst at Portales Partners, a New York research firm. "Bank of America is bringing it to a new level."
    Analysts also say they are surprised by the magnitude of the rate increases Bank of America is imposing on affected cardholders.

    Michael Jordan, 25, a software developer who lives in Higganum, Conn., says he received a letter from Bank of America in late January advising him that his card rate would rise from 9.99% to 24.99%. The software developer, who earns $80,000 a year, says he was "shocked" because his payments had been on time and his credit scores hadn't changed in the past year.
    In fact, Jordan says, he has only $4,500 in overall outstanding credit card debt on two cards and that, on the Bank of America card in question, he had paid down his balance to $3,000 from $3,700 in August.
    "His rate increase seems unjustified based on his credit profile," says David Robertson, the publisher of The Nilson Report, a credit industry trade publication.

    When Jordan called Bank of America about the higher rate, he says, the bank representative couldn't explain why his rate was going up. On a second call, he adds, the individual told him the reason for the increase was that he hadn't been paying down his balance fast enough, though he had lowered it by 19% in the past six months and was now utilizing only 54% of his $5,500 credit limit.
    Riess, the Bank of America spokeswoman, declined to discuss individual rate increases or to list all the criteria the bank was using as reasons to raise rates on existing cardholders.
    Analysts say the bank's move is obviously aimed at shoring up profits. On Jan. 22, Bank of America reported a 95% decrease in fourth-quarter earnings due mostly to increases in loan-loss reserves for consumer credit, including rising card charge-offs and write-downs in mortgage-related securities.

    Rejecting the new rates isn't easy
    Bank of America faces another profit sinkhole with its pending acquisition of troubled Countrywide Financial. Portales' Ryan notes that boosting rates on existing credit card holders is one of the quickest levers a bank can pull to try to boost earnings.
    Bank of America hasn't made it easy for consumers to reject the new rates. The letters require that consumers write Bank of America to agree to no longer use their cards and pay off existing balances at the old rates -- they can't telephone to do so, nor does Bank of America provide a form or a return envelope.
    Moreover, consumers don't have much time to respond. Cardholders say they got the letters in the latter half of January: Four of the letters obtained by BusinessWeek require a written response by Feb. 19, while the fifth requires a response by Feb. 29.
    A response, of course, assumes consumers read the letter from Bank of America as they sort junk mail. "It's a reasonable assumption that most don't," says Karen Gross, a legal scholar on consumer credit and the president of Southern Vermont College.
    Bank of America also benefits from consumers who do agree to pay off balances at the old rates and not use their cards again, says Nathan Powell, a credit analyst research firm RiskMetrics Group.
    Talk back: Has your card company jacked up your interest rate?
    The bank, he says, is clearly trying to protect itself from worsening credit card charge-offs ahead, something analysts widely expect in the card industry as the economy deteriorates.
    Powell says the bank must have identified a list of other credit criteria besides FICO that it is using to screen cardholders and determined it's no longer worth new business if they don't accept the higher rates.
    So far, Bank of America's charge-off rates have risen in line with the credit card industry, up to 5.08% of receivables at the end of the fourth quarter from 4.57% a year ago. "The bank doesn't want to get behind the curve," Powell says.
    Bank of America is trying to get ahead of Amanda Pennington, 29, of Euless, Texas. She says the bank raised her credit limit three months ago from $5,000 to $8,000 because of her strong payment history. Then she got the letter from the bank in mid-January notifying that her rate would rise from 15.74% to 25.99%. When she called, she says, the bank told her it was raising her rate because her balance was now too high, though it was still under the higher new limit the bank had previously granted.
    After paying tuition for a community college course, transferring another balance and paying for daily expenses, Pennington's Bank of America debt now stands at $7,500. Bank of America declined to comment on individual customers.
    Adam Levin, the CEO of Credit.com and former head of New Jersey's Division of Consumer Affairs, says he is surprised Bank of America would risk bad public relations with its rate increases, given the congressional hearings in December.
    The bank risks alienating new customers and existing ones by being so brazen, he says, adding, "Either Bank of America has more financial troubles than it is willing to admit or it has a level of institutional arrogance that is unacceptable."
    This article was reported and written by Robert Berner for BusinessWeek.

    ReplyDelete
  79. Mike:

    This is horrible and should be against the law.No wonder I keep getting offers for a credit card from them.

    How the government can allow them to punish people with excellent credit to fill their pockets is beyond trying to understand.

    This is Bush's America.

    ReplyDelete
  80. The economic recovery underway since late 2001 is probably over. Too bad many Americans never got Proposed Stimulus Package Not Enough
    Mark Weisbrot

    It's not only radical economists and cyberspace Cassandras uttering the "r"-word nowadays. Just what are we to make of it when Harvard economists, The Economist magazine, and Morgan Stanley followed by Goldman Sachs and Merrill Lynch say the economy is headed toward, or already in, a recession?

    You can bet the house, whatever its current value, that hard times are on the way -- more layoffs, fewer new jobs, lower wages, tighter family budgets, more debt, and higher poverty levels. This year will see rising economic hardship even if the U.S. economy scrapes by without sinking into an official recession, usually defined as two straight quarters of declining output.

    How do I know this? Hard times have been the hallmark of the U.S. economy during this decade, even as the economy expanded. We will be in for more of the same, but worse, as the economy slows and the inevitable downturn in the business cycle exacerbates the economic injuries many people have already sustained thanks to long-term shifts in the U.S. economic system.

    And Those Were the Good Times

    For a while now, there have been plenty of signs that the overall U.S. economy is headed south. Economic growth stalled in the last three months of 2007, adding only 0.6 percent to output after correcting for inflation. In December, job growth ground to a near halt, and the economy lost 17,000 jobs in January, as construction suffered large job losses. The unemployment rate jumped to 5.0 percent for the first time in three years, and would be much higher if the labor force participation rate -- the fraction of the population either working or actively looking for work -- were at the same level as when George Bush took office. On top of that, retail sales tanked in December as worried consumers cut back on holiday spending. Finally, the terminally volatile stock market registered one of its worst Januaries on record, enough to induce a panicked Fed to make an emergency interest-rate cut.

    But even leaving these and other recent numbers aside, U.S. economic performance this decade has been nothing to write home about. The economy has now expanded for 74 straight months, from November 2001 to December 2007, far longer than the usual 51-month postwar expansion. But economic growth has been the slowest of any postwar expansion, averaging just 2.8 percent a year, far below the 4.3 percent average posted by earlier postwar business cycles of similar length. Worse yet, the economic growth that has occurred has done so little for so many -- and so much for so few.

    Employment expanded by just 0.9 percent a year since the recovery began, compared with an average of 2.5 percent for all recoveries that have lasted at least this long.
    After correcting for inflation, weekly wages were just 1.9 percent higher in October 2007 than at the onset of the last recession in March 2001. The average postwar expansion drove wages up by twice that amount, 3.8 percent.
    Seven million more people were without health insurance in 2006 than when the expansion began in 2001.
    Median household income actually fell during this recovery. After correcting for inflation, median household income in 2006 (the latest year for which data are available) was down 2.0 percent from its 2000 level, and down 8.0 percent for black families.
    The poverty rate was 12.3 percent in 2006 (again the latest year available), down from 12.6 percent in 2005, but still a full percentage point above the 11.3 percent rate at the onset of the last recession.
    U.S. inequality reached levels not seen since the 1920s as the average real (inflation-adjusted) income of the richest 1 percent of households rose 34.8 percent from 2001 to 2005, while rising just 0.8 percent for the middle fifth of the population and falling by 3.0 percent for the poorest fifth.
    And corporate profits skyrocketed. Inflation-adjusted corporate profits rose 12.8 percent a year during the first five years of this recovery, compared to an 8.3 percent average growth rate in the other postwar recoveries lasting at least as long.
    No wonder 7 out of 10 people think the U.S. economy is heading into a recession, according to a recent poll conducted by the Economic Cycle Research Institute, a New York-based independent think tank. For many, the recession that began in March 2001 and ended, officially, that October has in reality continued straight through the decade.

    Pop Goes the Housing Bubble

    Besides punishing people who work for a living and those who can't even find a job, the 2008 economy will face a financial crisis brought on by the bursting of the housing bubble. How bad will it get? Pretty bad. A decade long stagnation, as Harvard economist Larry Summers suggests, or "the worst housing bust ever," as NYU professor Noureil Roubini suggests, are not out of the question.

    ReplyDelete
  81. Clif, Larry, Lydia, Enigma, Bart, Tomcat, Christopher, Pastriot etc.............I urge you all to PLEASE READ THIS ENTIRE ARTICLE.

    CLIF will KNOW how important it is, its a smoking gun that growth is over, the banking elite have clearly given up on growth and are now just trying to price gouge middle class consumers with the threat of ruining their credit while they can before the Depression sets in and they can no longer make a profit.

    The fact that they are charging arbitrary and insane interest rates from people with stellar credit in an election year when the economy, corruption, and the ultra wealthy stealing from the poor and middle class are hot button front and center issues shoes how desperate they are and signifies that the credit and debt fueled expansion and predatory capitalism started by Reagan and the repugs is OVER forever and they weant to steal as much as possible before the economy implodes and mass bankruptcies and possibly an FDR like New New Deal comes down the road.

    I'm serious people a bank doubling interest rates for GOOD customers with stellar credit during an election year when the country is teetering into a Recession is unprescedented............this is a huge story bigger than most people realize.

    ReplyDelete
  82. Larry, do you realize how BIG that article is..........it basically CONFIRMS that credit and debt fueled growth are OVER and a SEVERE recession/Depression is a CERTAINTY!!!!!!!

    ReplyDelete
  83. MIKE -- This credit article is astounding. Mike will you please post these comments about it and continue the discussion on the new thread?

    I posted a thread about the 5 tragic shootings of this week.

    Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  84. I seen that Mike and it is all spelled out plainly, as the government lets it happen.

    ReplyDelete
  85. Mike said
    Tomcat...........as usual, its like you read my mind........i cant agree more with what you just said.


    Mike, great minds fall in the same ditch. ;-) I have seen so much antipathy, all over the blogosphere, between supporters of opposing candidates that I have opted, barring unforeseen circumstances, not to endorse either candidate until after my primary at the end of May. In that way I hope to be a voice for reason and unity.

    The credit card interest theft is indeed predatory.

    ReplyDelete
  86. I know how to stop smoking!
    I've done it already!!!
    I'm not a smoker now!!!
    You can do it too!!!

    ReplyDelete
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