Democrat and Independent Thinker..."The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself." -Nietzsche
Commenting on many things, including..."A government more dangerous to our liberty, than is the enemy it claims to protect us from." - Keith Olbermann
Commenting on many things, including..."A government more dangerous to our liberty, than is the enemy it claims to protect us from." - Keith Olbermann
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
Monday, August 20, 2007
Notices of unpaid taxes, unanticipated and little understood, will probably multiply as more people fall behind on their mortgages, said Ellen Harnick, senior policy counsel at the Center for Responsible Lending, a nonpartisan research and policy center in Durham, N.C.
Foreclosure is one way that beleaguered homeowners can fall into this tax trap. The other is when homeowners are forced to sell their homes for less than the value of the mortgage. If the lender forgives that difference, they are liable for income taxes on that amount.
The 1099 shortfall, as it is called, stems from an Internal Revenue Service policy that treats forgiven debt of all types as income even if the taxpayer has nothing tangible to show for it, unless the debt is canceled through bankruptcy.
Sunday, August 19, 2007
Political reconciliation in Iraq will occur, but not at our insistence or in ways that meet our benchmarks. It will happen on Iraqi terms when the reality on the battlefield is congruent with that in the political sphere. There will be no magnanimous solutions that please every party the way we expect, and there will be winners and losers. The choice we have left is to decide which side we will take. Trying to please every party in the conflict — as we do now — will only ensure we are hated by all in the long run.
At the same time, the most important front in the counterinsurgency, improving basic social and economic conditions, is the one on which we have failed most miserably. Two million Iraqis are in refugee camps in bordering countries. Close to two million more are internally displaced and now fill many urban slums. Cities lack regular electricity, telephone services and sanitation. “Lucky” Iraqis live in gated communities barricaded with concrete blast walls that provide them with a sense of communal claustrophobia rather than any sense of security we would consider normal.
In a lawless environment where men with guns rule the streets, engaging in the banalities of life has become a death-defying act. Four years into our occupation, we have failed on every promise, while we have substituted Baath Party tyranny with a tyranny of Islamist, militia and criminal violence. When the primary preoccupation of average Iraqis is when and how they are likely to be killed, we can hardly feel smug as we hand out care packages. As an Iraqi man told us a few days ago with deep resignation, “We need security, not free food.”
In the end, we need to recognize that our presence may have released Iraqis from the grip of a tyrant, but that it has also robbed them of their self-respect. They will soon realize that the best way to regain dignity is to call us what we are — an army of occupation — and force our withdrawal.
h/t Think Progress
Billydoom's sister has been living in Shanghai for the past few years. Shanghai boasts being a fabulous international city but it is also polluted to the point where it's unbearable in the summertime for those unaccustomed to breathing air that you can see and eat. Her husband comes back to the states in the summer just so he can stay alive. The Chinese citizens don't have the luxury of heat in winter or air conditioning in the summer. It's not like manufacturing plants provide heat and a/c to the workers or they have such luxuries at home either.
The clothes you buy from China are made under extreme conditions by people who wear gloves and coats all day while they sew your garments in winter and sweat all over the garments in the summer and god knows what sort of particulates they cough on said garments.
Why anyone thought Beijing would be a good place for the summer Olympics next year, beats me. Anyone who's been there will tell you that just standing there fills your lungs with un-coughable phlegm. How athletes will compete makes you wonder.
Saturday, August 18, 2007
What are the complaints? Let's see...bat assault, HGH violations, treason, major fraud, skimming the books, illegal moonshine, terrorism, social security fraud, treason, stalking, identity theft, copyright infringement, false information, illegal electronic wiretapping, and bad debt.
Meet Jonathan Lee Riches. The federal prisoner/habitual litigant recently scored headlines with his insane $63 billion lawsuit against Michael Vick (who allegedly stole Riches's dogs, sold them on eBay, and used the proceeds to buy weapons from the Iranian government). Riches, who is doing a decade in prison for fraud, is at it again, this time filing a loony--though quite funny--complaint again Barry Bonds, baseball commissioner Bud Selig, and Hank Aaron's bat. In his lawsuit, Riches, pictured in the below mug shot, weaves an intricate conspiracy theory involving television ratings, steroids, the cracking of the Liberty Bell, Colombian narco-terrorists, and secretly recorded conversations for which journalists Robert Novak and Judith Miller have transcripts.
And where is Mr. Riches? Wait for it... South Carolina, of course!
Good luck with that, Mr Riches. Especially the illegal wiretapping bit. We're in need of a good precedent.
UPDATE: Riches has been up to this thing for awhile. Check out more of his kooky lawsuits at Dreadnaught.
Friday, August 17, 2007
But, I will bet you dimes to dollars that it will not be Rudy Giuliani. One of the reasons will be articles like this in the New Yorker:
The South Carolina State House, a grand, copper-domed structure in downtown Columbia, is a showplace for the state’s long history of hellbent defiance. The most prominent feature on the grounds is a monument to fallen Confederate soldiers, whose virtues “plead for just judgment of the cause in which they perished.” Beside it, atop a thirty-foot pole, waves the Rebel flag, the object of fierce national debate a decade ago, when it flew above the capitol dome, and no less conspicuous now, in its new location. Among the nearby statuary stands a life-size likeness of Benjamin R. (Pitchfork Ben) Tillman, the four-term United States senator who led the movement that disenfranchised black voters in 1895 and instituted Jim Crow. Inside the building, cast-iron staircases rise to an elegant lobby, and portraits honor the men who shaped the state’s querulous history, including John C. Calhoun, who contrived the rationale—nullification—for Southern secession, and Strom Thurmond, who led the South out of the Democratic Party. The lobby opens at either end to the state’s two legislative chambers, which, in March, ratified an amendment to the state constitution that bans not only gay marriage but gay civil unions. That month, the state house of representatives also passed a bill requiring any woman considering abortion to reflect upon an ultrasound image of the fetus.Lordy, where do I begin? Let me just go paragraph by paragraph.
It was here that Rudolph Giuliani, New York’s thrice-married, anti-gun, pro-gay, pro-choice former mayor, found himself one morning in April, in what appeared to be a critical moment in his young campaign for the Republican Presidential nomination. The previous day, during a campaign stop in Florida, he was asked by CNN’s Dana Bash if he supported the public funding of abortions. Giuliani seemed flustered by the question and finally answered, “If that’s the status of the law, I would, yes.”
Even before Giuliani began his run for the Presidency, the consensus, sounded in news columns, blogs, and political journals, was that he could not survive scrutiny of his political heterodoxy and his personal imperfections by the Republican Party’s conservative base.
Now, as Giuliani made his way into the capitol, his candidate smile firmly fixed, he was met by reporters. “Mayor, you talk about being a straight shooter,” one said. “Is this position you have on abortion something that’s going to shoot a hole in a key Republican plank?” [...]
At Magnolia’s, Giuliani’s advance people tried to fill time. Barry Wynn, his South Carolina campaign chairman, talked up his candidate’s chances, solicited donations, and took questions from the waiting group seated before him. Someone asked what effect the Christian right would have on Giuliani’s prospects. “Good question,” Wynn replied. He lives in the Greenville-Spartanburg area, the home of Bob Jones University. In South Carolina, another way of saying Christian right is “Greenville Republicans,” the group credited with John McCain’s undoing in his 2000 run against George W. Bush. Wynn’s uncle was Lester Maddox, the axe-handle-wielding Atlanta segregationist who became governor of Georgia. Wynn himself is a former state Party chairman. “I’ve already talked to a lot of people I consider very hard-core social conservatives, part of the religious right, who are supporting Rudy Giuliani,” Wynn said.
First of all, let me just say that I was at the state house about a year ago. The dome cannot be missed. It can be seen many city blocks away. If the damned old Rebel flag was still flying there, you could see it quite far away. I looked for the Confederate soldier statue, which just about every southern city of middling size has on main street, and I couldn't find it. So, no, it is not "no less conspicuous now". It is considerably less conspicuous unless you just go traipsing around the grounds hunting for it.
Yeah, there probably is some statue of "Pitchfork" Ben Tillman who was a racist, a former governor, and a four term U.S. Senator but the truth is that no matter how he is demonized, and perhaps rightly so, he was a man of his time. That time being the freakin' 1890's. You know, a hundred years ago!
Don't talk about John C. Calhoun. Just. Don't. He was the Vice President of the United States, after all, and he wasn't voted in by just South Carolina.
Yeahyeahyeah, Strom Thurmond, blahblahblah. For the first 50 years of his life, he pandered to the racists even though most everyone knew he wasn't that much of one himself. For the last 50+ years, he was a burden to good, real Democrats in the state but all in all, was a pretty good Senator to the people of South Carolina.
Yep, they did do that banning gay marriage thing which totally sucked. I haven't been able to find the voting records for the legislature on anything, much less this, as the Republican's have been doing a bang up job of keeping their doings under wraps as much as possible. But, just off the top of my head, I'm betting that the opposition didn't get much traction because a whole lot, if not the majority, of Democratic legislators in the state are black and anti-gayness is preached in black congregations quite virulently here as it is in much of the country.
The House did vote on that ridiculous bill about abortion, was roundly and passionately lambasted for it all across the state, and the Senate had enough sense to effectively gut it.
That's right. Anti-abortion forces are not all that powerful here except in the most wingnuttery factions.
So... you might be saying about now, well then, if so, then Giuliani must have a good chance in SC.
of New York-fucking City!
"Rudolph Giuliani, New York’s thrice-married, anti-gun, pro-gay, pro-choice former mayor"
(Hey! Don't pounce on me! I love New York City. Minus the Yankees and the Mets.)I'm just sayin'.
I'm saying that I don't care how many people fawn over him while he's down here, say nice things about how they're going to vote for him, blahblah, it ain't gonna happen when they enter that voting booth!
In most cases, they are just being polite. Yep. Polite. They don't want him to get his feelings hurt and they want him to feel welcome.
They are not going to elect a philanderer who's on this third marriage to clearly a money grubbing social climber divorcee (there is almost nothing worse to be in this state), who is going to try to take away their GUNS!
And they are damned sure not going to vote for a New Yawk City Mayor!
Articles like the one in The New Yorker are just going to bring that reality home to them.
Now, let me add a caveat here. I'm talking about South Carolinians. Not transplants. Not second generation or probably even third generation transplants. Basically, if your granddaddy wasn't born and raised here, you aren't considered a "real" South Carolinian. You're just a guest. To be treated politely, even indulged, definitely excused, but never to be taken seriously in polite company. In my experience, by far the largest segment of the "religious right" are not native South Carolinians. They are transplants brought in by Bob Jones University or the spawn of those transplants. The natives that are the "religious right" are the holy rollers, pentecostals, Church of Christ country folks who don't know any better and aren't all that active politically or socially, and even those who are comprise only a very small eeny-meeny micro-segment. The vast, vast majority of native Southern Baptist South Carolinians are not that "right", not even that "religious" but only devoted church goers, and don't even know what evangelical means.
Seriously. I'm not kidding!
I just had to explain what evangelical means to my sister who is a lifelong devoted Southern Baptist two or three time a week church-goer and she's not a dummy either! She's very intelligent and would no sooner go to one of those mega-churches (we have one or two that do their business in big auditoriums) than she would go to the moon. A really big traditional church, sure, like Taylors First Baptist where the minister is the current president of the Southern Baptist Convention. But, they are moderate traditionalists. They don't run around on a stage with a microphone headset screaming at people that they've gotta preach the gospel or go to hell. That is Bob Jones territory and natives avoid it like the plague unless they are just ignorant and misguided (as some probably are).
Unfortunately, there's no getting around the fact that these transplanted BJU'er's are allowed to vote but I don't think the natives are outnumbered yet. So, no, it just ain't gonna happen for Rudy in SC, I don't think.
Now, I could just stop here, but since I'm at it, let's talk Mitt!
I frequently take casual polls of all my family, friends, and acquaintances on Rudy! and Mitt! Some are Dems, some are Repubs, but all are born and bred South Carolinians.
(Not my choice... I've lived all over the country and I like people from all over, it's just that here at home it's what I fall into, if you know what I mean.)
Here is how that conversation goes, invariably:
Me: "So, y'all think Rudy is going to win in South Carolina?"
Me: "Uh, I guess not. Why do you think?"
Them: "He's a low-down cheater! His kids won't even talk to him! He's an ass! He's a New York Yankee! He'll try to abolish guns!"
Me: "So, how about Mitt Romney? You think he'll win SC?"
Me: "Uh, I guess not. Why do you think?"
Them: "He's Mormon!"
Me: "Is that enough to keep him from winning SC?"
Them: "Bwaaaahahahhahahhaaahahahahahahahahahhaahhahhaaha! He's crazy! He's in a cult! He wears special underwear, for God's sake!"
OK. So that is how it is. Now you can say how awful, how prejudiced, how backward, how whatever-you-want-to-say, and I really wouldn't argue with you. But, that is how it is.
We are an idiosyncratic people here in South Carolina. Just like Vermonters, Mainers, Texans, Bostoners, Philadelphians, or wherever else in this country that is a little eccentric, peculiar, and out of the mainstream.
But that is just how it is.
What Republican has a chance in SC? Hmmm. Many men will like Fred Thompson, I'm betting. But his wife is a fatal flaw when it comes to South Carolinian women. Women here look on her and then look on both of them with disgust. And they will likely deride their menfolk who favor him. They may vote for him, but it will be sheepishly.
A lot of the women may actually like Tancredo. Huckabee* may charm them but he's too extreme on the abortion issue.
The secret truth about abortion here is that those who actually get abortions are more likely to be from "good Republican" households, or the daughters of those households who have been so kept in the dark about sex that they end up getting pregnant. The poor just end up having the children. And, heck, alot of the dumb redneck poor vote Republican anyway. Most middle-class Democrat families have well informed daughters unlikely to get pregnant.
If McCain re-positions himself on Iraq, he can and will win them all back if he gives it half a shot. The immigration issue hurt him badly, but the war is a lot more unpopular here than most would think, especially considering the response of the wingnut crowd in the SC Republican debate. If he can overcome his immigration fiasco, and take a more reasoned approach to Iraq, he will take SC Republicans hands down.
UPDATE: Changed from Brownback to Huckabee. What was I thinking? As if there's a dime's worth of difference.
The cards would be mandatory for all “federal purposes,” which include boarding an airplane or walking into a federal building, nuclear facility or national park, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff told the National Conference of State Legislatures last week. Citizens in states that don’t comply with the new rules will have to use passports for federal purposes.Admittedly, I don't cover enough of South Carolina politics on this blog so I thought I'd take a moment to weigh in on this issue.
South Carolinians will be getting their passports in droves. Why? Because it will be a cold day in hell before South Carolinians will be dictated to by the federal government on an issue such as this, in case we hadn't made that clear by now. Uh, duh.
Basically, the SC State Senate said, uh, no. No unless the feds pay for it.
The SC House? They didn't just say no, they said "HELL, NO!" Period.
Here is how the SC bill reads:
SECTION 1. Chapter 1, Title 56 of the 1976 Code is amended by adding:
The State shall not participate in the implementation of the federal REAL ID Act."
No if's, and's, or but's. No clauses. No question.
Actually, an earlier resolution, (H 3989) , passed by the legislature, made it's standing quite clear:
Whereas, the State of South Carolina recognizes the Constitution of the United States as our most fundamental charter of liberty and the Bill of Rights as affirming the fundamental and inalienable rights of Americans, including freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures and freedom of privacy; andAnd where did I get much of this info? Here! Yeah, no kidding... I can't help it but I'm LMAO. They actually WROTE it!
Whereas, the Constitution of the United States grants to the federal government the ability to make only seven mandates on the states, and that these mandates are...
Deliciously, they began their entry with these words: "Building on its tradition of being at the forefront in the resistance against tyranny, the state of South Carolina..." Because, really, there's just no getting around that bit of truth, at least as far as the tyranny of an overreaching federal government is concerned.
You know, like the imperial presidency which we now have, and a gutless Congress made up of those who face their constituents a few times a year (maybe more in election years) instead of facing them every morning when they go out to get their paper off the lawn.
Just ask Tarleton and Cornwallis about Cowpens for, uh, one thing.
And no, let's not make this about the civil war where the issue was the unconscionable scourge of slavery but the reason or the "cause" was dyed-in-the-wool anti-federalism.
Thursday, August 16, 2007
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
Sunday, August 12, 2007
Fatigue cripples US army in Iraq
Exhaustion and combat stress are besieging US troops in Iraq as they battle with a new type of warfare. Some even rely on Red Bull to get through the day. As desertions and absences increase, the military is struggling to cope with the crisis
Peter Beaumont in Baghdad
Sunday August 12, 2007
Lieutenant Clay Hanna looks sick and white. Like his colleagues he does not seem to sleep. Hanna says he catches up by napping on a cot between operations in the command centre, amid the noise of radio. He is up at 6am and tries to go to sleep by 2am or 3am. But there are operations to go on, planning to be done and after-action reports that need to be written. And war interposes its own deadly agenda that requires his attention and wakes him up. [...]
When he emerges from his naps there is something old and paper-thin about his skin, something sketchy about his movements as the days go by. The Americans he commands, like the other men at Sullivan - a combat outpost in Zafraniya, south east Baghdad - hit their cots when they get in from operations. But even when they wake up there is something tired and groggy about them. They are on duty for five days at a time and off for two days. When they get back to the forward operating base, they do their laundry and sleep and count the days until they will get home. It is an exhaustion that accumulates over the patrols and the rotations, over the multiple deployments, until it all joins up, wiping out any memory of leave or time at home. Until life is nothing but Iraq. Hanna and his men are not alone in being tired most of the time. A whole army is exhausted and worn out. You see the young soldiers washed up like driftwood at Baghdad's international airport, waiting to go on leave or returning to their units, sleeping on their body armour on floors and in the dust. [...]
... It is a theme that is endlessly reiterated as you travel around Iraq. 'The army is worn out. We are just keeping people in theatre who are exhausted,' says a soldier working for the US army public affairs office who is supposed to be telling me how well things have been going since the 'surge' in Baghdad began.
They are not supposed to talk like this. We are driving and another of the public affairs team adds bitterly: 'We should just be allowed to tell the media what is happening here. Let them know that people are worn out. So that their families know back home. But it's like we've become no more than numbers now.'
The first soldier starts in again. 'My husband was injured here. He hit an improvised explosive device. He already had a spinal injury. The blast shook out the plates. He's home now and has serious issues adapting. But I'm not allowed to go back home to see him. If I wanted to see him I'd have to take leave time (two weeks). And the army counts it.' [...]
When the soldiers talk like this there is resignation. There is a corrosive anger, too, that bubbles out, like the words pouring unbidden from a chaplain's assistant who has come to bless a patrol. 'Why don't you tell the truth? Why don't you journalists write that this army is exhausted?'
Much more at the above link. Many thanks to Booman Tribune's Stephen D.
Grassley 'Sure' Hillary Will Be Democratic Nominee
by: Douglas Burns
Saturday (08/11) at 21:54 PM
Veteran U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley acknowledges that his Republican Party faces some significant challenges but he predicts the GOP will avoid a political drowning thanks to a life preserver coming its way from the Good Ship Hillary Rodham Clinton.
"The Administration is very unpopular but don't forget all the negatives that Hillary Clinton's got," Grassley said. "And some Republicans say the only way we can win is if Hillary Clinton's our opponent. Well, she's going to be our opponent."
Is the Iowa pol sure of that?
"Yeah, I'm sure of that," Grassley told a gaggle of reporters in the press area off stage in Hilton Coliseum several hours before the Iowa Straw Poll speeches started.
Saturday, August 11, 2007
Colonel Blashford-Snell first encountered a Double-Nosed Andean tiger hound called Bella in 2005 when he was carrying out reconnaissance for this year's expedition in the area near Ojaki.
He said: "While we were there, sitting by the fire one night, I saw an extraordinary-looking dog that appeared to have two noses.
"I was sober at the time, and then I remembered the story that the legendary explorer Colonel Percy Fawcett came back with in 1913 of seeing such strange dogs in the Amazon jungle.
"Nobody believed him, they laughed him out of court."
If you last tuned in to Edwards during the son-of-a-mill-worker days of 2004, the difference in his vision will surprise you. Gone is the cautious centrist groomed by uberconsultant Bob Shrum as a sort of Bill Clinton Lite. For 2008, he has been replaced by what the campaign hopes will play as the Real John Edwards, a shoot-from-the-hip progressive who won't scare away moderates. "Incremental steps don't work," Edwards says today. "We are not in that place in America anymore. We need huge changes. And it's going to require a president and a people who are willing to do some things that may feel dangerous in the short term."
Take global warming: While Clinton spouts happy talk about ethanol and "clean coal," and Obama focuses on a technocratic proposal to lower the "carbon intensity" of auto fuel, Edwards has a plan that would make the Union of Concerned Scientists proud. "We need an eighty percent reduction in greenhouse emissions by 2050," the candidate told Rolling Stone in a wide-ranging interview. "You start by capping carbon emissions in America. Beneath the cap, you auction off the right to emit any greenhouse gases. And you use that money --$30 to $40 billion -- to transform the way we use energy."
Or poverty. Ending deprivation at home -- by making it easier for workers to unionize, raising the minimum wage to $9.50, cracking down on predatory lending, and providing matching funds to help low-income Americans save -- remains the hallmark of his candidacy. But informed by his travels in Africa, Edwards now proposes spending $5 billion a year to educate 100 million children worldwide, improve drinking water and sanitation in developing countries, and slow the ravages of HIV and AIDS.
Sunday, August 05, 2007
Aug 5, 1:00 AM (ET)
By CHARLES BABINGTON
WASHINGTON (AP) - The House handed President Bush a victory Saturday, voting to expand the government's abilities to eavesdrop without warrants on foreign suspects whose communications pass through the United States.
The 227-183 vote, which followed the Senate's approval Friday, sends the bill to Bush for his signature.
Late Saturday, Bush said, "The Director of National Intelligence, Mike McConnell, has assured me that this bill gives him what he needs to continue to protect the country, and therefore I will sign this legislation as soon as it gets to my desk."
The administration said the measure is needed to speed the National Security Agency's ability to intercept phone calls, e-mails and other communications involving foreign nationals "reasonably believed to be outside the United States." Civil liberties groups and many Democrats said it goes too far, possibly enabling the government to wiretap U.S. residents communicating with overseas parties without adequate oversight from courts or Congress.
The bill updates the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, known as FISA. It gives the government leeway to intercept, without warrants, communications between foreigners that are routed through equipment in United States, provided that "foreign intelligence information" is at stake. Bush describes the effort as an anti-terrorist program, but the bill is not limited to terror suspects and could have wider applications, some lawmakers said.
The government long has had substantial powers to intercept purely foreign communications that don't touch U.S. soil.
If a U.S. resident becomes the chief target of surveillance, the government would have to obtain a warrant from the special FISA court.
Congressional Democrats won a few concessions in negotiations earlier in the week. New wiretaps must be approved by the director of national intelligence and the attorney general, not just the attorney general. Congress has battled with Attorney General Alberto Gonzales on several issues, and some Democrats have accused him of perjury.
The new law also will expire in six months unless Congress renews it. The administration wanted the changes to be permanent.
Many congressional Democrats wanted tighter restrictions on government surveillance, but yielded in the face of Bush's veto threats and the impending August recess.
"This bill would grant the attorney general the ability to wiretap anybody, any place, any time without court review, without any checks and balances," said Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., during the debate preceding the vote. "I think this unwarranted, unprecedented measure would simply eviscerate the 4th Amendment," which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures.