Monday, August 17, 2009

The Full of Shit Girl

There's Just No Way Sarah Palin's Writing Her Facebook Notes

Just before midnight, a "note" was posted on Sarah Palin's Facebook page titled, "Concerning the 'Death Panels.'" Predictably, the media latched onto it and reported her thoughts. However, there's a problem: there's no way in hell Sarah Palin wrote it.

How do I know this, you ask? Well, the answer to that question is perhaps best explained by a comment someone named Marvin Settle posted under Palin's note. He wrote:

Wow, and the public thought she wasn't educated enough to be President? That is some of the most well researched and thought out material I have ever read. Thanks Sarah.

Exactly! Thank you Marvin Settle. Thank you very much.

The note in question is supposed to be Palin's response to Obama's response to Palin's infamous "death panel" Facebook note. Here's a sampling of it:

Yesterday President Obama responded to my statement that Democratic health care proposals would lead to rationed care; that the sick, the elderly, and the disabled would suffer the most under such rationing; and that under such a system these "unproductive" members of society could face the prospect of government bureaucrats determining whether they deserve health care.

The President made light of these concerns. He said:

"Let me just be specific about some things that I've been hearing lately that we just need to dispose of here. The rumor that's been circulating a lot lately is this idea that somehow the House of Representatives voted for death panels that will basically pull the plug on grandma because we've decided that we don't, it's too expensive to let her live anymore....It turns out that I guess this arose out of a provision in one of the House bills that allowed Medicare to reimburse people for consultations about end-of-life care, setting up living wills, the availability of hospice, etc. So the intention of the members of Congress was to give people more information so that they could handle issues of end-of-life care when they're ready on their own terms. It wasn't forcing anybody to do anything." [1]

The provision that President Obama refers to is Section 1233 of HR 3200, entitled "Advance Care Planning Consultation." [2] With all due respect, it's misleading for the President to describe this section as an entirely voluntary provision that simply increases the information offered to Medicare recipients. The issue is the context in which that information is provided and the coercive effect these consultations will have in that context.

Section 1233 authorizes advanced care planning consultations for senior citizens on Medicare every five years, and more often "if there is a significant change in the health condition of the individual ... or upon admission to a skilled nursing facility, a long-term care facility... or a hospice program." [3] During those consultations, practitioners must explain "the continuum of end-of-life services and supports available, including palliative care and hospice," and the government benefits available to pay for such services. [4]

Now, let's just stop there because it doesn't even really take a careful examination of the entire note to deduce that it simply could not have been written by Sarah Palin, which leads one to pretty much dismiss all of the points it attempts to make. In fact, a cursory glance is more than sufficient to come to that realization as the note is obviously meticulously researched and footnoted, appears to be entirely grammatically correct (It even contains semicolons!), presents rather cogent arguments in a reasoned attempt to persuade, and on the whole is written articulately. In short, whoever composed this particular note is everything that Sarah Palin is not: thoughtful, patient, dedicated, thorough, and rational, traits that any casual, non-delusional observer of Sarah Palin would never, ever associate with her.

Obama on Drugs: 98% Cheney?

by Greg Palast

Eighty billion dollars of WHAT?

Obama pig copyI searched all over the newspapers and TV transcripts and no one asked the President what is probably the most important question of what passes for debate on the issue of health care reform: $80 billion of WHAT?

On June 22, President Obama said he'd reached agreement with big drug companies to cut the price of medicine by $80 billion. He extended his gratitude to Big Pharma for the deal that would, "reduce the punishing inflation in health care costs."

Hey, in my neighborhood, people think $80 billion is a lot of money. But is it?

I checked out the government's health stats (at, put fresh batteries in my calculator and totted up US spending on prescription drugs projected by the government for the next ten years. It added up to $3.6 trillion.

In other words, Obama's big deal with Big Pharma saves $80 billion out of a total $3.6 trillion. That's 2%.

Hey thanks, Barack! You really stuck it to the big boys. You saved America from these drug lords robbing us blind. Two percent. Cool!

Who is funding the Afghan Taliban? You don’t want to know

The article by Jean MacKenzie originally appeared in GlobalPost. This is part of a special series by GlobalPost called Life, Death and The Taliban. Click here for a related article Funding the Pakistani Taliban.

KABUL — It is the open secret no one wants to talk about, the unwelcome truth that most prefer to hide. In Afghanistan, one of the richest sources of Taliban funding is the foreign assistance coming into the country.

Virtually every major project includes a healthy cut for the insurgents. Call it protection money, call it extortion, or, as the Taliban themselves prefer to term it, "spoils of war," the fact remains that international donors, primarily the United States, are to a large extent financing their own enemy.

"Everyone knows this is going on," said one U.S. Embassy official, speaking privately.

It is almost impossible to determine how much the insurgents are spending, making it difficult to pinpoint the sources of the funds.

Mullah Abdul Salaam Zaeef, former Taliban minister to Pakistan, was perhaps more than a bit disingenuous when he told GlobalPost that the militants were operating mostly on air.

"The Taliban does not have many expenses," he said, smiling slightly. "They are barefoot and hungry, with no roof over their heads and a stone for their pillow." As for weapons, he just shrugged. "Afghanistan is full of guns," he said. "We have enough guns for years."

The reality is quite different, of course. The militants recruit local fighters by paying for their services. They move about in their traditional 4×4s, they have to feed their troops, pay for transportation and medical treatment for the wounded, and, of course, they have to buy rockets, grenades and their beloved Kalashnikovs.

Up until quite recently, most experts thought that drug money accounted for the bulk of Taliban funding. But even here opinion was divided on actual amounts. Some reports gauged the total annual income at about $100 million, while others placed the figure as high as $300 million — still a small fraction of the $4 billion poppy industry.

Now administration officials have launched a search for Taliban sponsors. Richard Holbrooke, U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, told a press conference in Islamabad last month that drugs accounted for less of a share of Taliban coffers than was previously thought.

"In the past there was a kind of feeling that the money all came from drugs in Afghanistan," said Holbrooke, according to media reports. "That is simply not true."

The new feeling is that less than half of the Taliban's war chest comes from poppy, with a variety of sources, including private contributions from Persian Gulf states, accounting for much of the rest. Holbrooke told reporters that he would add a member of the Treasury Department to his staff to pursue the question of Taliban funding.

But perhaps U.S. officials need look no further than their own backyard.

Anecdotal evidence is mounting that the Taliban are taking a hefty portion of assistance money coming into Afghanistan from the outside.

This goes beyond mere protection money or extortion of "taxes" at the local level — very high-level negotiations take place between the Taliban and major contractors, according to sources close to the process.

A shadowy office in Kabul houses the Taliban contracts officer, who examines proposals and negotiates with organizational hierarchies for a percentage. He will not speak to, or even meet with, a journalist, but sources who have spoken with him and who have seen documents say that the process is quite professional.

The manager of an Afghan firm with lucrative construction contracts with the U.S. government builds in a minimum of 20 percent for the Taliban in his cost estimates. The manager, who will not speak openly, has told friends privately that he makes in the neighborhood of $1 million per month. Out of this, $200,000 is siphoned off for the insurgents.

The brutal truth about America’s healthcare

An extraordinary report from Guy Adams in Los Angeles at the music arena that has been turned into a makeshift medical centre

They came in their thousands, queuing through the night to secure one of the coveted wristbands offering entry into a strange parallel universe where medical care is a free and basic right and not an expensive luxury. Some of these Americans had walked miles simply to have their blood pressure checked, some had slept in their cars in the hope of getting an eye-test or a mammogram, others had brought their children for immunisations that could end up saving their life.
In the week that Britain's National Health Service was held aloft by Republicans as an "evil and Orwellian" example of everything that is wrong with free healthcare, these extraordinary scenes in Inglewood, California yesterday provided a sobering reminder of exactly why President Barack Obama is trying to reform the US system.
The LA Forum, the arena that once hosted sell-out Madonna concerts, has been transformed – for eight days only – into a vast field hospital. In America, the offer of free healthcare is so rare, that news of the magical medical kingdom spread rapidly and long lines of prospective patients snaked around the venue for the chance of getting everyday treatments that many British people take for granted.
In the first two days, more than 1,500 men, women and children received free treatments worth $503,000 (£304,000). Thirty dentists pulled 471 teeth; 320 people were given standard issue spectacles; 80 had mammograms; dozens more had acupuncture, or saw kidney specialists. By the time the makeshift medical centre leaves town on Tuesday, staff expect to have dispensed $2m worth of treatments to 10,000 patients.

Playing down its tie-dye image

Organizers of this year's Hemp fest at Myrtle Edwards Park had to answer criticism that their event is too hippie to be taken seriously as a political rally.

McPeak and his hairstyle are responding to a culture shift at Hempfest, in its 18th year in Seattle.

At the first Hempfest in 1991, 500 protesters gathered at Volunteer Park to push a fringe political agenda.

But this year, scheduled speakers include Seattle City Councilmember Nick Licata and state Rep. Roger Goodman, D-Kirkland.

As the event — which is expected draw some 100,000 people to Myrtle Edwards Park, Elliott Bay Park and the Olympic Sculpture Park this weekend — enters the mainstream, there is controversy: Is it time for the pro-pot movement to shed its countercultural, hippie image?

Among the tie-dyed drifters stereotypically associated with marijuana rallies are tourists, older couples, students, families and mainstream folks who share the belief that marijuana should be legal.

McPeak considers the event's diversity one of its strengths.

But Dominic Holden, Hempfest's former director, thinks tie-dye and prayer flags on the stages undermine the event's credibility.

Two months ago, the Hempfest board voted to ban Holden from speaking at Hempfest. Holden, who writes for The Stranger newspaper, wrote in March that the event is a "patchouli-stained ghetto."

"It plays into a stigma that hippies want to legalize marijuana primarily so they can have more access to their own vice," he said in an interview.

McPeak disagrees.

"We do more and more every year to make our event more professional ... but toning down the event and the countercultural vibe here is not something I feel pressured to do."

Besides, McPeak says, his event is successful, and so are his political causes.

Britain Mulls Turning 7 Million Into Download Criminals


A politician being touted as Britain's next Prime Minister has been persuaded to take action to criminalize 7 million citizens following intensive industry lobbying over file-sharing. Business Secretary Lord Mandelson is in favor of introducing tough laws including Internet restrictions and fines of up to £50,000 ($83,000).

The debate on how Britain should tackle illicit file-sharing is heating up. The government has already set an utterly unrealistic target of reducing online piracy by 70% within a year. If that isn't achieved, under the Digital Britain proposals communications regulator Ofcom would be given extra powers to take degenerative action against the functionality of a user's Internet connection.

Now, thanks to intense lobbying from the music and movie industries, the government is considering giving Ofcom these powers more quickly.

Business Secretary Lord Mandelson, the man being touted among his Labour party voters as the successor to Prime Minister Brown, is said this morning to have been "persuaded by the argument for tough laws to curb illegal file-sharing."

But what could've prompted this renewed aggressive anti-piracy stance from Mandelson? According to a report today, the Business Secretary's intervention comes after he and David Geffen – the billionaire producer who co-founded the DreamWorks studio with Steven Spielberg – had dinner with members of the Rothschild banking dynasty at the family's holiday villa on the Greek island of Corfu.

The consultation document on Government's latest plans – which could be included in the Queen's Speech later this year – could mean the criminalizing up to 7 million British citizens including Internet restrictions and fines of up to £50,000.

UK Pirate Party leader Andrew Robinson is naturally against these draconian fines. "You're branding a huge percentage of this population criminals for doing something that doesn't have any proven implications," he said this week. "It's a ridiculous state of affairs. People who copy a movie are lumped in with people who steal cars."

If Woodstock happened today

Remembering Woodstock

by Michelle Mitchell

"I was in the spirit of Woodstock in '69, but I had to look like this in '69," the bearded, long-haired Cathedral City resident said as he pointed to a clean-cut picture of himself 40 years ago, when he was a civilian worker with the U.S. Army.

"I was a part of that era and wanted to be a part of this evening," he said Saturday.

McAllister was one of about two dozen people who showed up to the HAALOS Healing Arts Center & Empori-om in Desert Hot Springs Saturday evening to celebrate the 40-year anniversary of the Woodstock Music & Art Fair.

"We will definitely revive the spirit of 40 years ago," said Steven Kenneth Downer, owner of HAALOS (Healing Arts Aromatherapy Loving-kindness Organic Solutions for sustainability).

"It's a baby-boomer celebration of our lives and our freedoms."

A mix of baby boomers and those too young to remember the era sat on a variety of chairs brought from home, lounged on cushions or just sat on the floor to hear a panel discussion followed by live music amid scented candles, tapestries and Eastern religious symbols.

Downer, who also goes by the name "Sunny Sun-downer," donned a rainbow-colored, tie-dyed shirt and started the evening with a short meditation before '60s icons and free-press advocates spoke about their work and the ideals of Woodstock — a three-day music event held on a farm in rural New York, which deeply affected American history, culture and music.

Local musicians performed live, playing Woodstock favorites from such artists as Crosby, Stills and Nash, Country Joe and the Fish, and Creedence Clearwater Revival.

Paul Krassner, a Desert Hot Springs resident who started the Youth International Party (the Yippies) and has been called the founder of the Underground Press, spoke about how people with similar ideas came together during the era.

"I felt like I was the only Martian on the block, and it turned out there were a lot of Martians on their own blocks," he said Saturday.

Woodstock has come to symbolize the social movements and changes of the 1960s, even though the event came at the end of the decade.

"That's what Woodstock and the '60s really established; it was social changes," said Art Kunkin, of Joshua Tree, who founded the underground paper, The Los Angeles Free Press. "People became more conscious."

And even though Woodstock has become mostly relegated to the history books, the ideals still live on — in underground publications and in festivals such as Burning Man — and should be continued, he said.

"My project is to live a very long time so I can continue to be active and help my friends be active," the 81-year-old said to applause from the group.

A third panelist, Dean Gray, of the Coachella Valley, is editor of the Desert Valley Star, a local community publication.

In 1969, he said he started an underground newspaper at his high school.

"It gave us the opportunity to get involved. Woodstock was a key that opened that door," he said, adding that the writers in those underground newspapers "gave us vision."

as come to symbolize the social movements and changes of the 1960s, even though the event came at the end of the decade.

"That's what Woodstock and the '60s really established; it was social changes," said Art Kunkin, of Joshua Tree, who founded the underground paper, The Los Angeles Free Press. "People became more conscious."

And even though Woodstock has become mostly relegated to the history books, the ideals still live on — in underground publications and in festivals such as Burning Man — and should be continued, he said.

"My project is to live a very long time so I can continue to be active and help my friends be active," the 81-year-old said to applause from the group.


After a two year visit to the United States,
Michelangelo's David is returning to Italy...

His Proud Sponsors in the U.S.A. Were:


Obama Still Trying to Define Victory in Afghanistan

by Ted Rall

NEW YORK--What if they gave a war and nobody knew why?

When the U.S. began bombing Afghanistan in October 2001, America's war aims were clear: capture or kill Osama bin Laden, overthrow the Taliban government, deny Al Qaeda training camps and a safe haven.

Of course, two out of three of these goals were based on lies; both bin Laden and most of Al Qaeda's camps and personnel were in Pakistan, not Afghanistan. There was also a fourth unmentioned war aim, a lie of omission: lay an oil and gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to Pakistan via Afghanistan. Still, the Bush Administration deserves credit for articulating clear goals--metrics, in bureaucratese--against which success or failure could be measured.

President Obama has rebranded Bush's Afghan War as his own. Afghanistan, Obama said during the campaign, was the war America should be fighting. And so we are. Obama has dispatched tens of thousands of additional troops to the "graveyard of empires," many redeployed from Iraq.

But, unlike Bush, he still hasn't told us why we're in Afghanistan.

When he took office, Obama's stated war aims were muddled: propping up U.S. puppet Hamid Karzai, training local Afghan police, and reducing opium cultivation. The first two led to no clearly-enunciated end; how long would they take? If we really cared about number three, we might as well have put the Taliban--who'd had some success in getting rid of opium--back in charge.

Obama reads the polls, which reflect increased skepticism about his Afghan war. So, in May, Obama attempted a reset. "We have a clear and focused goal," he assured a White House audience: "to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat Al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and to prevent their return to either country in the future."

In other words, back to Bush.

Why we need the media to focus on the facts

by Jamison Foser
In a conversation earlier this week about polls showing that large numbers of Republicans don't believe Barack Obama was born in the United States, I wondered how many of those respondents might not know that Hawaii is a state. That wasn't a shot at Republicans; I just think people in general know less about their country than we tend to assume.

The next day, The Washington Independent's David Weigel -- whose birther coverage has been indispensable -- pointed out a new poll showing that 8 percent of North Carolinians (and 11 percent of McCain voters in North Carolina) either think Hawaii is not part of the U.S. or are not sure.

Think about that for a minute. One in 10 McCain voters in North Carolina doesn't know that Hawaii is part of the U.S.

Does that surprise you? It shouldn't.

The simple fact is that a heck of a lot of Americans don't know much about their country or the basics of how government works.

In 2007, the Pew Research Center found that 31 percent of Americans could not name the current vice president. Fifty-one percent could not identify Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Twenty-four percent did not know which political party controlled the House of Representatives -- just months after Democrats took control, when the information should have been fresh in people's minds.

My favorite example of the fact that a great many people don't know the basics is the poll that showed that during then-Speaker of the House Tom Foley's unsuccessful 1994 re-election campaign, 30 percent of his constituents thought that if Republican George Nethercutt defeated Foley, Nethercutt would become speaker. Given that Nethercutt eked out a win with 51 percent of the vote, it isn't at all hard to imagine that Foley might have been re-elected had voters understood the clout their district stood to lose by replacing him. (Of course, Foley wouldn't have remained speaker anyway, as Republicans won control of Congress.)

If so many voters are wrong about basics like whether Hawaii is part of the U.S. and whether the representative from Washington's 5th Congressional District is automatically the speaker of the House, imagine how little they must know about complex public policy questions.

Never underestimate the power of stupid people

The Power Behind the Throne: The Legalization of Corporate Personhood

By Mark Karlin

Of course, there is no simple analysis to understanding the forces lurking beneath the surface of political conflict in America today.

But a good place to start would be with the legal enshrinement in the late 1800s of a concept called "corporate personhood." In essence, this means a business institution has the same -- indeed, currently enhanced -- legal rights as individual American citizens.

Thom Hartmann outlined this brilliantly in his under-appreciated book of a few years back, "Unequal Protection."

As noted in a description of "Unequal Protection":

Hartmann then describes the history of the Fourteenth Amendment--created at the end of the Civil War to grant basic rights to freed slaves--and how it has been used by lawyers representing corporate interests to extend additional rights to businesses far more frequently than to freed slaves. Prior to 1886, corporations were referred to in U.S. law as "artificial persons." but in 1886, after a series of cases brought by lawyers representing the expanding railroad interests, the Supreme Court ruled that corporations were "persons" and entitled to the same rights granted to people under the Bill of Rights. Since this ruling, America has lost the legal structures that allowed for people to control corporate behavior.

As a result, the largest transnational corporations fill a role today that has historically been filled by kings. They control most of the world's wealth and exert power over the lives of most of the world's citizens. Their CEOs are unapproachable and live lives of nearly unimaginable wealth and luxury. They've become the rudder that steers the ship of much human experience, and they're steering it by their prime value--growth and profit and any expense--a value that has become destructive for life on Earth. This new feudalism was not what our Founders--Federalists and Democratic Republicans alike--envisioned for America.

Yes, the pockets of Republican and Democratic elected officials on Capitol Hill get stuffed with campaign contributions from corporate backers, but what is equally alarming is that corporations are equal to us in terms of their legal role in the legislative and legal process.  Backed with huge war chests and legal funds, corporations are actually able to fix the system to where they have greater legal rights and legislative impact than people.

A new book expands upon Hartmann's incisive legal and historical analysis about how corporations used the legal system to leverage their power by gaining "personal rights" for businesses.  In the just released "Life Inc.: How the World Became a Corporation and How to Take It Back," we learn how we have come to accept the worldview of corporations, even progressives.  They have become the power behind the throne that controls D.C. and that even the President of the United States cannot force to heel.

It's very abstract for most people to get their arms around this concept, but we are going to have to choose between the interests of corporations and the interests of the American people.

Barack's Cube