Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Profiles in Crime: Congressional Republicans and Unemployment

It is a funny thing how Congressional Republicans suddenly care about our budget deficit. Indeed, House Minority Leader John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have grown very concerned about the deficit, at least when it comes to helping the unemployed.

You see, $30 billion for the unemployed is just too much. Then again, Mitch McConnell and John Boehner had no problem with voting for the Wall Street bailout of 2008, which added over $700 billion to our deficit (deficit spending with no offsetting cuts in other programs or tax increases to pay for it).

If only our unemployed were banks and insurance companies, maybe House Minority Leader Boehner and Senate Minority Leader McConnell would pretend to care about them. Obviously, they are not. They are real, live human beings with needs, the kind the average Republican member of Congress does not want to hear about, unless you are pre-born or have the word incorporated at the end of your name.

Time runs out for 1.2 million on unemployment
By Christina Zdanowicz, CNN

(CNN) -- With her unemployment benefits coming to a halt, Miriam Cintron is forced to make a difficult choice between health insurance and daily expenses.

Signing into her unemployment benefits account last week, the New Yorker was horrified to see she hadn't received any money for three weeks, she says.

What would the four-year cancer survivor do if she couldn't afford to pay her $650 monthly COBRA payment? Her health insurance helped pay for life-saving treatment before, so giving it up is not an option, she says.

When Cintron was laid off from her job as a case worker at a homeless shelter in late 2008, she never imagined she'd go on unemployment. But even with 17 years experience, she's been unable to land a new job.

Cintron isn't alone. Unemployment benefits are set to run dry for 1.2 million people nationwide Friday after the U.S. Senate decided not to extend a deadline for these benefits last week, according to the National Employment Law Project.

Come Saturday, the number of people cut from unemployment benefits will surge to 1.63 million, according to U.S. Department of Labor estimates. By mid-July, about 2 million unemployed Americans could lose their benefits.

Before last month, out-of-work Americans were eligible for extensions once they maxed out at 26 weeks of state benefits and 73 weeks of federal benefits -- a total of 99 weeks. But, Senate Republicans blocked the extension with a 57-14 vote last week.

The House failed Tuesday to pass the bill and it's unclear whether House Democratic leaders will take another crack at passing the legislation before they break for the July Fourth weekend.

"The reality is that we have the worst job market on record going back to the Great Recession," says Maurice Emsellem, policy co-director at National Employment Law Project.

"There's only one job available for every five unemployed workers."

For people who are apt to say, "Go find a job," Emsellem says the predicament of the unemployed isn't easy to escape.

"For anybody that has a thought in their head that unemployed workers are to blame for their situation, the reality is that workers are struggling hard to find work, but the jobs are just not there."

National Employment Law Project resources for the unemployed

While Cintron has been struggling to make ends meet for the last year-and-a-half, she worries about other people in the same predicament.

"My story is one story and it's unique," she says. "But, there are so many people with children, other issues, that are in dire situations."

Are you one of the 1.2 million? Share your unemployment story

"I'm just shocked that more attention isn't being paid to this story."

She's thankful she doesn't have any children relying on her for support right now. But, she does care for her mother. Part of Cintron's unemployment checks have been going toward her mother's expenses since she moved in with her a few months before Cintron lost her job.

Cintron's $425 unemployment check each week -- or $1,700 each month -- has to stretch a long way. She pitches in for appliances, groceries and whatever else her mother needs. Health insurance payments burn a hole in her wallet at a whopping $650 per month. And then there's the storage fee of $300 she pays for all her excess furniture from her old apartment.

If Congress fails to pass the bill granting the unemployment benefit extensions this week, Cintron says she will only be able to stay afloat for a month. She will have to dip into her 401(k) retirement plan to continue to pay for health care, she says.

As to what happens after that, Cintron says she just doesn't know.

"I will try to survive and see what I can do for paying the health insurance for at least another few months with my 401(k)."

"I don't qualify for Medicaid, I make too much money. I have to pay the $650 to a private health insurer."

Finding the income to support her expensive health insurance hasn't been an easy task. For the last year-and-a-half, Cintron has been applying to jobs at homeless shelters in New York. Even though she has landed several interviews, they haven't amounted to anything.

"The agencies where I'm applying to, they're all cutting back too," she says, citing city funding cutbacks.

Cintron is considering part-time or customer service work as a last resort, but she's worried she may be worse off.

"I certainly don't want to live on unemployment," she says. "The customer service jobs don't pay well, don't have health insurance. I really need insurance because I'm a cancer survivor."

For now, Cintron keeps logging into the unemployment benefits website, typing in her account number and trying to claim benefits.

Cintron says the New York State Department of Labor has instructed her to keep logging in as normal, even though she's not getting a dime. Cintron says the website is confusing and she's unsure of how many extensions she's had.

With all the stress and lack of income, Cintron's been relying on hobbies to try to keep her spirits up.

Ever since she lost her job, she's been an active iReporter, scouting events and stories in her native New York. Videography and photography have become her focus. In this digital age, it's free for her to upload her images, so it's a cheap hobby.

See Cintron's iReports over the years

Her other passion is music. She's sad she's had to nix going to concerts, but says she's lucky to live in a city where so many free shows are going on at any time.

Even though she's found ways to lead a semi-normal life, her time being unemployed is starting to wear her down.

"I'm a glass half-full kind of person. I'm a very positive person. It's very hard for me to get into this feeling sorry for myself, what-am-I-going-to-do mode," she says.

"But I am getting there."

And the solution to our GOP friends? Why, just beg your neighbor or paint your doctor's barn. Surely, that should pay off your medical bills by, say, 2085.

Meanwhile, these same people allow AIG, Bank of America, and Bear Sterns to run off with over $700 billion of our money. The same Congressmen Boehner and McConnell who decry poor people getting $30 billion out of a $3.6-plus trillion federal budget (0.83% of our federal budget and less than 0.25% of our national debt) see nothing wrong with voting for the $400 billion of pure deficit spending in the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003, or the $50-plus billion of deficit spending allocated to the Department of Education, our states, and public schools through the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001--legislation that was passed under a Republican Administration and supported by the current Republican Congressional leadership. Throw in the trillion-plus dollars added to our national debt by the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, that both Boehner and McConnell supported (to say nothing of the rest of the Republican Party), but unemployment benefits would be too much. After all, there is a foreign country to spend hundreds of billions on.

Here is Rep. Mike Pence sounding comparatively socialist when it comes to spending our money on killing (i.e., "liberating") Muslims.

Yes, Rep. Pence, you can never put a price on freedom--that is, unless it is for your own citizens. And apparently, our citizens are going pretty cheap these days because those members of Congress think it is too burdensome to spend $30 billion to keep them from being kicked to the streets. If only we could get the Republicans to be so dedicated to wanting to help their own people, for a change. Of course, that would mean getting Reps. Pence and Boehner and Senator McConnell to see unemployed folks as fellow citizens and full people. I think we all know the likelihood of that happening.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Go, Russ, Go....

There are many things to like about Senator Feingold. He has been right on most every big issue in his Senatorial career. He voted against the war in Iraq and the Patriot Act (the only member of the Senate who opposed both), opposed NAFTA, GATT, supports a single payer health care system, and is a hero on banking reform (on the current watered-down bill and the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act).  He would make a wonderful antidote to the Obama Presidency in the 2012 Democratic primaries.

The saddest part is, and the aspect of this bill that worries me the most, if there is no stopping derivatives trading, and it is $600 trillion worth of assets and trades in a world economy of $60 trillion, it is going to fail and fail miserably--and when it fails we will have only ourselves to blame because we allowed these same banks who have gutted and destroyed our economy to get away with lobbying the White House and a Democratic Congress with removing the more useful aspects of this bill.*

Now, compare someone like Russ Feingold to those Senators who "play ball," like Joe Lieberman, Mary Landrieu, and Ben Nelson (all repositories of countless donations from the banking and insurance lobbies). I know of no one else in the Senate who has been right more often on principle alone. Indeed, he is the only one, which is remarkable and illustrative of the corrupting role of money on the political process.

And just think, this year will be the first elections in which corporate money is completely legal tender in political campaigns (at least for the first time since the Tillman Act was passed). Juno help us.

*=To Rep. Collin Peterson, may the bankers' money you are scraping your knees for to kill Senator Lincoln's derivatives amendment of the currently floundering banking bill come back and swallow your bank account with a horde of locusts.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Petraeus For A McChrystal: Further Failure In An Already Lost War

I have been on this earth for a few decades, plus a few years or so--give or take a couple. I have seen many dives in my time. Buster Douglas when he fought Evander Holyfield (back when Holyfield was still young enough to fight legitimate, live boxers). Scooter Libby diving on the sword to protect his master and overlord Dick Cheney. Even ex-National Security Advisor John Poindexter going down (before winning on appeal) to protect the Great Communicator from prosecution for the Iran Contra Affair. But nothing compares to the phoniness and willful ignorance of General McChrystal subjecting himself to an interview for, of all magazines, Rolling Stone.

Here is a man who has made his living since the rank of captain inserting his puckered lips on the posterior of politicians and officers above him. A man who realizes that there is no room for error, meaning no room to offend your boss or employer. A man who knows better than the ex-mascot for the Pittsburgh Pirates not to express your real opinion or views, or if you do so then only under the most guarded language. No general in the US armed forces can be deluded or stupid enough to think that doing an interview for a music entertainment magazine and using an aide to call your Veep "bite me" (the funniest of all the interview's refrains) is going to end well.*

There is no way General McChrystal delivered that interview with the hopes of keeping his job. Why would he want to surrender it? Because his surge plan for Afghanistan has failed. We have not even captured half of Kandahar or Marja. There is no way we can secure the borders of Afghanistan in time to demobilize in two years. There is no way we are going to bolster a central government made up by the duplicitous likes of Hamid Karzai, who responded to our criticism of his most recent electoral heist by threatening to join the Taliban. I am a civilian a half-world away and I can see this. There is no way McChrystal has failed to see it. He does not want to be associated with a failed policy he initiated.

Of course, like MacArthur before him (terrible comparison, to be sure), General McChrystal will claim he was wronged, that they never followed his real plan (which was an even greater surge with no time table to pull out of the country after it failed), and will probably end up getting a talk show on Fox "news," which is where most of this country's political losers go to cash in. But--paraphrasing everyone's favorite empty vessel masquerading as our current president--make no mistake about it, this was a dive. And for Obama, he gets what he wanted all along, General Petraeus.

Petraeus Is Now Taking Control of a ‘Tougher Fight’

KABUL, Afghanistan — In late 2008, shortly after he had helped pull Iraq back from the brink of catastrophe, Gen. David H. Petraeus prepared to turn to that other American war.

“I’ve always said that Afghanistan would be the tougher fight,” General Petraeus said at the time.

Now the burden falls to him, at perhaps the decisive moment in President Obama’s campaign to reverse the deteriorating situation on the ground here and regain the momentum in this nine-year-old war. In many ways, General Petraeus is being summoned to Afghanistan at a moment similar to the one he faced three years ago in Iraq, when the situation seemed hopeless to a growing number of Americans and their elected representatives as well.

But there is a crucial difference: In Iraq, General Petraeus was called in to reverse a failed strategy put in place by previous commanders. In Afghanistan, General Petraeus was instrumental in developing and executing the strategy in partnership with Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, who carried it out on the ground. Now General Petraeus will be directly responsible for its success or failure, risking the reputation he built in Iraq.

General Petraeus, 57, brings an extraordinary set of skills to his new job: a Boy Scout’s charm, penetrating intelligence and a ferocious will to succeed. At ease with the press and the public, and an adept negotiator, General Petraeus will probably distinguish himself from his predecessor with the political skills that carried him through the most difficult months of the counteroffensive in Iraq known as the surge.

In those months of 2007, when American casualties were the heaviest of the war, General Petraeus not only prosecuted the strategy but also reassured his superiors, including President George W. Bush, in regular videoconferences from Baghdad.

In Iraq, General Petraeus helped turn the tide not just by sending 30,000 more American troops into Baghdad, but also by fostering deals with insurgent leaders who had spent the previous four years killing Americans. As much as the surge, the movement in Iraq known as the Sunni Awakening helped set in motion the remarkable decline in violence there that has largely held to this day.

By helping to pull Iraq back from the edge, General Petraeus won a reputation as a resourceful, unorthodox commander and has since been mentioned as a candidate for president.

But Afghanistan is a very different war in a very different country. Where Iraq is an urban, oil-rich country with an educated middle class, Afghanistan is a shattered state whose social fabric and physical infrastructure has been ruined by three decades of war. In Iraq, the insurgency was in the cities; here, it is spread across the mountains and deserts of the country’s forbidding countryside.

Indeed, to prevail in Afghanistan, General Petraeus will need all of his skills — and a dose of good fortune at least as big as the one he received in Iraq. At the moment, every aspect of the war in Afghanistan is going badly: the military’s campaign in the strategic city of Kandahar has met with widespread resistance from the Afghan public; President Hamid Karzai is proving erratic and unpredictable; and the Taliban are resisting more tenaciously than ever.

To turn the tide, General Petraeus will almost certainly continue the counterinsurgency strategy he devised with General McChrystal: protecting Afghan civilians, separating them from insurgents and winning public support. But he will also have to convince his own troops, who are increasingly angry about the restrictions on using firepower imposed to protect civilians.

And General Petraeus will probably also try to employ some of the same novel tactics that worked so well in Iraq. Most notably, he will continue to coax Taliban fighters away from the insurgency with promises of jobs and security. And he may even try to strike deals with senior leaders of the Taliban as well as with the military and intelligence services in Pakistan.

A former aide to General Petraeus in Iraq who is now in Afghanistan put it this way: “The policy is to make everyone feel safer, reconcile with those who are willing and kill the people you need to.”

Perhaps General Petraeus’s toughest challenge will be to unify a fractious team of senior officials in the Obama administration who hold sharply differing views of how the war in Afghanistan should be fought. As the head of the United States Central Command, which oversees all military forces in the Middle East, General Petraeus has built a close relationship with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, as well with Richard C. Holbrooke, the special representative for the region.

While his predecessor, General McChrystal, was on icy terms with the American ambassador here, Karl W. Eikenberry, General Petraeus forged a tight bond with his civilian counterpart during the Iraqi surge, Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker. General Petraeus and Ambassador Eikenberry, a former general himself, are old Army comrades.

The one uncertain point in General Petraeus’s political constellation is the most important one, President Obama. General Petraeus had bypassed his own senior leadership to become Mr. Bush’s favorite general. Mr. Obama made it clear that General Petraeus would no longer have a direct line to the Oval Office. The general accordingly assumed a lower profile.

For all of his political shrewdness, however, General Petraeus dislikes the rough-and-tumble of Washington. His displeasure reached its peak in September 2007, when, during the Iraqi surge, he and Ambassador Crocker were called to testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The violence had not yet dropped significantly, and both men were questioned mercilessly. General Petraeus, who suffers from a bad back, gulped Advil during the hearing.

“The most miserable experience of my life,” he told a reporter afterward.

General Petraeus prides himself on his athletic prowess. While in Iraq, he usually ran five miles six days a week, often besting the younger captains he took along with him. After the runs usually come a grueling regime of calisthenics; well into his 50s, General Petraeus could do 17 pull-ups. Recently, though, questions have arisen about his health. Last year, he underwent treatment for prostate cancer; he said he was now cured. Only last week, while testifying before a Senate panel, General Petraeus fainted in his chair. He said he was dehydrated.

General Petraeus will take command of the Afghanistan campaign six months into an 18-month-long strategy that will almost certainly have to show significant progress for Mr. Obama to continue. Even before then, in December, Mr. Obama and his advisers will conduct a “strategic assessment” that will serve as a major progress report.

After that, it is anyone’s guess what Mr. Obama will do.

Some members of General McChrystal’s staff were not so optimistic. When a reporter recently suggested to a senior American officer here that he might, in the end, run out of time, he did not hesitate to answer.

“I think you may be right,” the officer said.

Notice there will be no policy change on Afghanistan, which means we are going to continue to be in Afghanistan for the foreseeable future (I mean, until 2011, at which point our reassessment will tell us that we need to stay). Then what is the point of having Patraeus? First, he is the author of the media-claimed success of the surge in Iraq (the sustained victory of which you can see by the fact the Iraqi government still does not control its own borders or can prevent its population from blowing itself up in the daily news stories of suicide attacks). Two, Patraeus is a possible contender for the 2012 presidential elections in the Republican Party, and the general is by far the best candidate in the field of that wretched and increasingly lunatic-filled party. By tying Patraeus to Afghanistan under Obama, the president takes away the ability of the Republicans of criticizing him for not winning the war. Three, in spite of Patraeus's shortcomings, he is likely the best general we have, or at least the best general that we know of at the current time. There is an old saying, by a field marshal after WWII, that generals are a lot like race horses: we judge them on their last race--and Patraeus's last race in Iraq is typically judged as a greater success than McChrystal's in Afghanistan (although Patraeus was working under much more favorable conditions in Iraq).

Unfortunately, none of this means we are going to finally recognize the continued occupation of Afghanistan for the debacle it is and leave.

*=Enraged at this play on his most cherished name, and plagiarizing JFK, our vice president responds by telling the general where to stick it for his country.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Get WikiLeaks Bill: The Protecting Cyberspace Act

One of the ironies of this republic that never ceases to amaze me is the misnaming of bills in Congress. The Patriot Act, Protect our Children Act, the Secure Our Borders Act, etc. The newest incarnation of the coming Orwellian hell that should have every citizen of this country, and that include the teabaggers, up in arms is this parting gift from everyone's favorite philistine-sellout, Senator Joe Lieberman. Yes, the emperor has no clothes, and neither does the Senate.

Can Obama Shut Down the Internet?
Philip Shenon

A new bill rocketing through Congress would give the president sweeping powers to police the Web for national-security reasons. Could this be a way to block WikiLeaks?

Is cyberspace about to get censored?

Confronting threats ranging from Chinese superhackers to the release of secret documents on WikiLeaks and other whistleblowing websites, the Obama administration may be on the verge of assuming broad new powers to regulate the Internet on national-security grounds.

The powers are granted to the White House under a bipartisan bill that was introduced in the Senate only last week but is already moving quickly through Congress toward passage. The legislation has generated considerable buzz on tech blogs—but drawn little notice so far by major news organizations.

The bill would grant President Obama the power to declare a “national cyber-emergency” at his discretion and force private companies tied to the Web, including Internet service providers and search engines, to take action in response—moves that could include limiting or even cutting off their connections to the World Wide Web for up to 30 days.

While the bill’s sponsors say it is intended to create a shield to defend the United States and its largest companies from the growing threat of cyberattacks, civil-liberties activists tell The Daily Beast they fear the bill could give the White House the ability to effectively shut down portions of the Internet for reasons that could prove to be politically inspired.

“We have seen through recent history that in an emergency, the Executive Branch will interpret grants of power very broadly,” said Gregory Nojeim of the Center for Democracy and Technology, a group that promotes Internet freedom. He said the bill, which he described as moving “at lightning speed in congressional terms,” was too loosely worded in its definition of which companies would be regulated and what they would be required to do in an emergency.

Wayne Crews, vice president of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a free-enterprise think tank, said he believed the bill was so broadly worded that it might even allow the White House to take aim at whistleblowing websites that were believed to pose a national-security threat, such as WikiLeaks, in the guise of a “cyber-emergency.”

“That would be a concern of mine,” Crews tells The Daily Beast. “The way it seems to be worded, the bill could easily represent a threat to free speech.”

WikiLeaks, which is nominally based in Sweden and promotes itself as a global resource for whistleblowers, announced this week that it is preparing to post a classified Pentagon video depicting an American airstrike in Afghanistan last year that left as many as 140 people dead, most of them children and teenagers.

The Protecting Cyberspace Act was introduced last week by Senator Joseph Lieberman, the Connecticut independent who is chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, and Senator Susan Collins of Maine, the panel’s ranking Republican. Counterparts in the House Homeland Security Committee have endorsed identical legislation, meaning that a final bill could be adopted by the full Congress within weeks. The White House has not taken a stand on the legislation so far.

Lieberman said the bill was intended to prevent a “cyber 9/11” in which “cyberwarriors, cyberspies, cyberterrorists and cybercriminals” take aim at the United States and try to shut down infrastructure that is dependent on the Internet—a list of targets that include everything from nuclear power plants to banks to Pentagon computer networks.

“The Internet may have started out as a communications oddity some 40 years ago, but it is now a necessity of modern life and, sadly, one that is under constant attack,” he said. Lieberman and the bill’s other sponsors cited the massive cyberattack several months ago on the search-engine company Google—an attack believed to have been organized by the Chinese government—as an example of the sorts of attacks that could be routine in the future.

Lieberman’s committee spokeswoman, Leslie Phillips, said the bill was an effort to defend the nation’s most important electronic networks, “the networks that are most central to our daily lives,” not at attacking anything. She was particularly agitated at any suggestion that the bill might give the White House the opportunity to try to shut down individual websites on national-security grounds.

“In no way is the senator’s cybersecurity legislation directed at websites—WikiLeaks or anyone else’s,” she said. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange did not reply to a request for comment via email.

The bill would create a new federal agency, the National Center for Cybersecurity and Communications, within the Department of Homeland Security, with a director who would require Senate confirmation.

The center would work with private companies involved in what is described in the bill as “critical infrastructure”—a list including companies involved with electric grids, telecommunications networks and the Internet—to come up with emergency measures in the event of a crisis. Under the bill, the White House could demand that the emergency measures be put into place, including restrictions on their access to the Internet, if the president declared a national cyber-emergency.

Philip Shenon, a former investigative reporter at The New York Times, is the author of The Commission: The Uncensored History of the 9/11 Investigation.

Imagine the response if President Nixon prevented Daniel Ellsberg from leaking national security information to the New York Times by personally seizing (by his own individual and legally allowable decree) the Times' print press building. This is the equivalent of that crime and that it is being done for "national security" reasons is the cover to go after WikiLeaks for embarrassing the US government when revealing a video showing US army soldiers murdering Iraqis and celebrating their kills. Now that it has our State Department files, given to WikiLeaks by a whistle blower (whistle blowers that President Obama wanted to once protect when he was a candidate and pretending to care), well, enter the man who thinks playing video games and watching R-rated movies will turn you into a serial killer.

Even if national security is the basis of the argument for the bill, it is wholly unnecessary to shut down the internet to protect it. The NSA has its own hackers, who can and already do go into sites and create mayhem, never mind spy on us. How is it that we know the Chinese hacked into our military sites? We easily have the capability to shut down those sites of origin of any illegal activity, by law. The problem for the government is you have to go through a legal process, and that is what we want to avoid in chasing down WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who is a) not a traditional reporter and b) not an American. Trying to explain why a an internet site operator from Australia should be hunted down by the US Army to a federal judge is going to be difficult and time consuming, always the greatest enemy to the national security fetishists in DC--spoon-fed on the fictional hypotheticals of Jack Bauer. Not so with this new legislation because it allows the government to target web sites it does not like, at any time, under any circumstances, so long as it is claimed to be done for national security. This obviously cuts off a valve of revelation for Mr. Assange, who our government rightly fears will soon
be exposing even more of our crimes, in Afghanistan as well as Iraq, to the general public. Without sites like WikiLeaks, it seems highly unlikely that this class A assault on our First Amendment rights would have ever been submitted.

This is the kind of legislation that needs to be killed before passage. That none of the major news organizations are giving this coverage is a crime in itself (CNN today thought it more important to inform us of who to call after a Big Foot sighting). This bill is to the First Amendment what the Patriot Act was the Fourth Amendment, the legalized taking of our Constitutional rights by a government that does not believe in the values it hypocritically uses to bomb the non-Western peoples of this world that Mr. Lieberman would personally like to see the subjugation of.

Where are the Fox "News" folk? I conducted an exact word search on Fox News for the bill and found absolutely nothing (but plenty of space worried about how gay marriage is going to be taking away your religious liberty). Where are the tea partiers? You complain about big government and Communism, dear right-wingers, which you never did under Republicans. Well, here is a clear case of an abuse of power and centralization of government authority, which violates our Constitution in the worst possible way. This is the kind of stuff you need to be spitting on Congressmen over. This is the type of bill that you should be using to show up at Senator Lieberman's office in droves to let this wretch of a soul know what you think of him and his bill. This is the kind of legislation that progressives need to finally be made aware of that this administration not only could care less about us, but really wants to control us with the same governmental mechanisms as the preceding president.

By the way, here is the contact info. for Senator Lieberman and President Obama. Not that they will care to listen, but they (or should I say, their staffers) need to know what we think. Seriously, call, email, scream, within reason and the limits of the law, and let our representatives and senators know that this is not acceptable.

Senator Joe Lieberman
U.S. Senate
706 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510-0703
Office Phone: 202-224-4041
Fax: 202-224-9750

President Barack Obama
White House Phone: 202-456-1111

Contacts for other members of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Virgin's Delight: Beauty of Hypocrisy

I do not care who Bristol Palin chooses to sleep with. I do not care if she has ten kids out of wedlock. I do not care if she drinks her own blood. But I find it a little ironic that Bristol Palin is getting paid $30,000 a speech (a year's salary for most workers and for many much more) to tell other people not to have sex before marriage, while she is re-sleeping and residing with the nude model/ex-boyfriend who previously impregnated her (and of course never bothered marrying).

Here is some more of that gotcha and self-victimizing journalism showing its objective bias.

Bristol Palin, Levi Johnston Back Together?

Us Magazine: Source Says They Appear to Be, And He Even Stays Overnight In Her Anchorage Townhouse

Bristol Palin and Levi Johnston appear to be an item again, Us Magazine says.

This, despite their harsh words for each other in public since they broke off their engagement in March 2009, and a custody fight over their son, Tripp, now almost 18 months old.

The source says things have re-heated between Bristol, 19, and Levi, 20, now that Bristol's mother, former GOP vice presidential candidate and ex-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is on the road a lot, and Bristol has her own place. "They spend more time together than most people think."

The course adds, "Levi even stays overnight. I even think they are back together."

When Levi spoke to Maggie Rodriguez on "The Early Show" Oct. 28, it sounded as though his relationship with Bristol was badly strained.

"We've talked," he told Rodriguez. "We don't talk like, you know, it's just like, 'Hey, how's the baby doing? Can I come pick him up?" '

In their custody battle, Bristol claims Levi "exercised sporadic visitation rights" and "wants the rights for his own self-promotion."

Some of that self-promotion included a nude photo shoot for Playgirl magazine.

There were also harsh words for the Palin family in that interview with Rodriguez, with Johnston saying, "They threw me out there (on the presidential campaign trail), and then that came out that Sarah didn't really like me. Todd (Sarah's husband and Bristol's father), I knew Todd didn't like me, so they were kind of like backstabbing me."

The ensuing war of words got nasty.

In an appearance on the "Oprah Winfrey Show," Sarah Palin criticized the photo shoot. "I call it porn," she said. "It's kind of heartbreaking, the road he's on right now."

In an "Oprah" appearance of her own, Bristol said she wouldn't have sex again until she gets married, and urged other women avoid sex out of wedlock. She also advocated for teen abstinence in a public service announcement for the Candie's Foundation.

In February, a judge ordered Levi to pay his ex-girlfriend $18,500 in child support.

But now, says Us, the country's most famous unwed parents appear to be getting back together.

And in the interview with Rodriguez, Johnston hinted at his feelings toward Bristol, saying, "I do wish me and Bristol could hold a relationship and be - you know - raise the baby."

Look out, Bristol and Levi, beware of the anger and wrath of Thor, who does not take kindly to signs of religious hypocrisy, and who recently let his presence be known.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Moron Report #41: Glenn Beck & Somali Islamists on anti-World Cup Jihad

I have always contested that there is no substantive difference between the right-wing in this country and the religious right-wing in the Muslim world. They are obsessed usually with the same phenomena (women's bodies, sex, controlling everyone else's sexual proclivities, and in the case of conservatives in the West the extra folly of dodging taxes). Low and behold, they apparently have a new object of their hatred, soccer (or football, depending on your country of origin and point of view).

Yes, that evil and nefarious sport that will be turning us all into Communists and infidels.

Congratulations, Glenn Beck and Al Shabab and Hisbul Islam. Welcome to my hall of shame. You truly deserve it.

And by the way, here is my special gift to to all violent sociopaths who think watching the World Cup should be a death penalty offense. I hope you enjoy it.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Imperialism Reified: Afghanistan's Natural Resources

Just in time to remind us of why we are really in Afghanistan.

Vast mineral deposits found in Afghanistan: Nearly $1 trillion in untapped resources could fundamentally alter economy

By James Risen

WASHINGTON - The United States has discovered nearly $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan, far beyond any previously known reserves and enough to fundamentally alter the Afghan economy and perhaps the Afghan war itself, according to senior American government officials.

The previously unknown deposits — including huge veins of iron, copper, cobalt, gold and critical industrial metals like lithium — are so big and include so many minerals that are essential to modern industry that Afghanistan could eventually be transformed into one of the most important mining centers in the world, the United States officials believe.

An internal Pentagon memo, for example, states that Afghanistan could become the “Saudi Arabia of lithium,” a key raw material in the manufacture of batteries for laptops and Blackberries.

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The vast scale of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth was discovered by a small team of Pentagon officials and American geologists. The Afghan government and President Hamid Karzai were recently briefed, American officials said.

While it could take many years to develop a mining industry, the potential is so great that officials and executives in the industry believe it could attract heavy investment even before mines are profitable, providing the possibility of jobs that could distract from generations of war.

“There is stunning potential here,” Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of the United States Central Command, said in an interview on Saturday. “There are a lot of ifs, of course, but I think potentially it is hugely significant.”

The value of the newly discovered mineral deposits dwarfs the size of Afghanistan’s existing war-bedraggled economy, which is based largely on opium production and narcotics trafficking as well as aid from the United States and other industrialized countries. Afghanistan’s gross domestic product is only about $12 billion.

“This will become the backbone of the Afghan economy,” said Jalil Jumriany, an adviser to the Afghan minister of mines.

American and Afghan officials agreed to discuss the mineral discoveries at a difficult moment in the war in Afghanistan. The American-led offensive in Marja in southern Afghanistan has achieved only limited gains. Meanwhile, charges of corruption and favoritism continue to plague the Karzai government, and Mr. Karzai seems increasingly embittered toward the White House.

So the Obama administration is hungry for some positive news to come out of Afghanistan. Yet the American officials also recognize that the mineral discoveries will almost certainly have a double-edged impact.

Instead of bringing peace, the newfound mineral wealth could lead the Taliban to battle even more fiercely to regain control of the country.

The corruption that is already rampant in the Karzai government could also be amplified by the new wealth, particularly if a handful of well-connected oligarchs, some with personal ties to the president, gain control of the resources. Just last year, Afghanistan’s minister of mines was accused by American officials of accepting a $30 million bribe to award China the rights to develop its copper mine. The minister has since been replaced.

Endless fights could erupt between the central government in Kabul and provincial and tribal leaders in mineral-rich districts. Afghanistan has a national mining law, written with the help of advisers from the World Bank, but it has never faced a serious challenge.

“No one has tested that law; no one knows how it will stand up in a fight between the central government and the provinces,” observed Paul A. Brinkley, undersecretary of defense and leader of the Pentagon team that discovered the deposits.

At the same time, American officials fear resource-hungry China will try to dominate the development of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth, which could upset the United States, given its heavy investment in the region. After winning the bid for its Aynak copper mine in Logar Province, China clearly wants more, American officials said.

Another complication is that because Afghanistan has never had much heavy industry before, it has little or no history of environmental protection either. “The big question is, can this be developed in a responsible way, in a way that is environmentally and socially responsible?” Mr. Brinkley said. “No one knows how this will work.”

With virtually no mining industry or infrastructure in place today, it will take decades for Afghanistan to exploit its mineral wealth fully. “This is a country that has no mining culture,” said Jack Medlin, a geologist in the United States Geological Survey’s international affairs program. “They’ve had some small artisanal mines, but now there could be some very, very large mines that will require more than just a gold pan.”

The mineral deposits are scattered throughout the country, including in the southern and eastern regions along the border with Pakistan that have had some of the most intense combat in the American-led war against the Taliban insurgency.

The Pentagon task force has already started trying to help the Afghans set up a system to deal with mineral development. International accounting firms that have expertise in mining contracts have been hired to consult with the Afghan Ministry of Mines, and technical data is being prepared to turn over to multinational mining companies and other potential foreign investors. The Pentagon is helping Afghan officials arrange to start seeking bids on mineral rights by next fall, officials said.

“The Ministry of Mines is not ready to handle this,” Mr. Brinkley said. “We are trying to help them get ready.”

Like much of the recent history of the country, the story of the discovery of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth is one of missed opportunities and the distractions of war.

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In 2004, American geologists, sent to Afghanistan as part of a broader reconstruction effort, stumbled across an intriguing series of old charts and data at the library of the Afghan Geological Survey in Kabul that hinted at major mineral deposits in the country. They soon learned that the data had been collected by Soviet mining experts during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s, but cast aside when the Soviets withdrew in 1989.

During the chaos of the 1990s, when Afghanistan was mired in civil war and later ruled by the Taliban, a small group of Afghan geologists protected the charts by taking them home, and returned them to the Geological Survey’s library only after the American invasion and the ouster of the Taliban in 2001.

“There were maps, but the development did not take place, because you had 30 to 35 years of war,” said Ahmad Hujabre, an Afghan engineer who worked for the Ministry of Mines in the 1970s.

Armed with the old Russian charts, the United States Geological Survey began a series of aerial surveys of Afghanistan’s mineral resources in 2006, using advanced gravity and magnetic measuring equipment attached to an old Navy Orion P-3 aircraft that flew over about 70 percent of the country.

The data from those flights was so promising that in 2007, the geologists returned for an even more sophisticated study, using an old British bomber equipped with instruments that offered a three-dimensional profile of mineral deposits below the earth’s surface. It was the most comprehensive geologic survey of Afghanistan ever conducted.

The handful of American geologists who pored over the new data said the results were astonishing.

But the results gathered dust for two more years, ignored by officials in both the American and Afghan governments. In 2009, a Pentagon task force that had created business development programs in Iraq was transferred to Afghanistan, and came upon the geological data. Until then, no one besides the geologists had bothered to look at the information — and no one had sought to translate the technical data to measure the potential economic value of the mineral deposits.

Soon, the Pentagon business development task force brought in teams of American mining experts to validate the survey’s findings, and then briefed Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Mr. Karzai.

So far, the biggest mineral deposits discovered are of iron and copper, and the quantities are large enough to make Afghanistan a major world producer of both, United States officials said. Other finds include large deposits of niobium, a soft metal used in producing superconducting steel, rare earth elements and large gold deposits in Pashtun areas of southern Afghanistan.

Just this month, American geologists working with the Pentagon team have been conducting ground surveys on dry salt lakes in western Afghanistan where they believe there are large deposits of lithium. Pentagon officials said that their initial analysis at one location in Ghazni Province showed the potential for lithium deposits as large of those of Bolivia, which now has the world’s largest known lithium reserves.

For the geologists who are now scouring some of the most remote stretches of Afghanistan to complete the technical studies necessary before the international bidding process is begun, there is a growing sense that they are in the midst of one of the great discoveries of their careers.

“On the ground, it’s very, very, promising,” Mr. Medlin said. “Actually, it’s pretty amazing.”

I am sure all of this is a coincidence with our increased military presence in the country. After all, $1 trillion worth of a natural resource is hardly something to go to war over. It is all about democracy, to be sure, what with the sterling credentials of the Karzai government.

The intention behind this discovery by our government should be clarified from this paragraph in the story.

Instead of bringing peace, the newfound mineral wealth could lead the Taliban to battle even more fiercely to regain control of the country. The corruption that is already rampant in the Karzai government could also be amplified by the new wealth, particularly if a handful of well-connected oligarchs, some with personal ties to the president, gain control of the resources. Just last year, Afghanistan’s minister of mines was accused by American officials of accepting a $30 million bribe to award China the rights to develop its copper mine. The minister has since been replaced.

I am certain if that contract went to an American or Western company, we would not have seen that paragraph in the story (regardless of whether or not the minister took a bribe). And note the largest deposits were found in ethnic Pashtun areas--i.e., those places most resistant to American occupation. Consider also that our military is supposedly chasing bin Laden and the leadership of the Taliban in Afghanistan, when it is almost certain these men are in Pakistan (the place where these minerals are not).

Welcome to the sequel of Avatar. The Afghans are the Na'vi and we are, well, the Americans.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

White House to Labor Unions: *&ck You

If only we were Republicans, the White House might pay more attention to us and like us. Maybe those of us on the left should start accusing the president of being a fascist baby-eater. I am sure we will get a conference call for that one. No, instead, we get told to jump in a lake, as we always do, and have in the Democratic Party for the past 30 years. You see, labor unions, this is your reward for supporting the administration. Your UAW workers, those who were not thrown out of their jobs already, get their health care plans taxed to subsidize private insurance for everyone else. The Employee Free Choice Act, well, I think we all know how that one turned out (like the striker replacement bill under Clinton).

And if that was not enough, here is the incumbent 'Democratic' Senator from Arkansas, whose idea of being a Democrat is reducing herself to a tool for corporations (the same corporations opposed to trade protectionism, striker replacement, and the Employee Free Choice Act). I am sure when she loses in November her campaign sponsors will reward Blanche kindly for her services with a cushy lobbying job in DC. Strike one for the establishment. We lost. And make no bones about it, the White House could not be happier.

Blanche Lincoln Win Sparks Furious Sniping Between White House, Labor

by Sam Stein

The loss of Lt. Gov. Bill Halter in the Arkansas Senate Democratic primary runoff election resulted in a rare outburst of intense, sometimes nasty, griping between the White House and the organized labor community on Tuesday night.

Shortly after Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) emerged victorious, an anonymous White House aide began spreading word that the President Obama's political team thought that the money unions had spent on Halter's candidacy was a massive waste and damaging to the party.

"Organized labor just flushed $10 million of their members' money down the toilet on a pointless exercise," the unnamed official said to Politico's Ben Smith. "If even half that total had been well-targeted and applied in key House races across this country, that could have made a real difference in November."

Another senior Democrat (who also would not be quoted by name) echoed the point in an exchange with the Huffington Post. "Labor is humiliated," the source said. "$10 million flushed down the toilet at a time when Democrats across the country are fighting for their lives, they look like absolute idiots."

It was a remarkably blunt dumping on the unions. And, in the process, it provided one of the most telling revelations as to how frayed the relationship between Obama and the modern labor movement truly is. Up until now the two parties have generally aired their disagreements over policy and politics in private, with scant public acknowledgment that friction was building below the surface.

But it clearly is there, in part because of legislative disappointments, but mainly because of labor's decision to go after moderate and conservative Democrats. Asked to explain why the White House would so quickly disparage the labor unions (namely the SEIU and AFL-CIO) after an embarrassing primary outcome, another White House aide said that "folks are just tired," noting that the administration has also taken a heaping of criticism from speakers at the progressive Campaign for America's Future conference taking place this week in Washington D.C.

Labor, of course, found the verbal lashing genuinely appalling, and a confirmation of their larger philosophy to act in their own political self-interest.

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"We are not an arm of the White House or the DNC or a political party," said AFL-CIO spokesman Eddie Vale. "We work on issues. And if we feel like someone is standing up for working families, we support them, and if they don't, we won't support it. In the past, people would have assumed that was talk, but now we have backed that up with action."

"Is the lesson they are taking out of tonight that they can go after labor and anonymously trash us and we will put our tail in between our legs and slink home? That ain't happening," Vale added.

Driving home the point that the White House was cravenly hiding behind the cloak of anonymity in their attacks, the AFL-CIO spokesman signed off the conversation with the following: "My name is Eddie Vale of the AFL-CIO and I'm proud to fight for working families and I don't hide behind anonymous quotes."

These are the most acrimonious exchanges between the unions and the White House in recent memory, and it stands to reason that things will get worse before they get better. Labor, after all, seems even more inclined now to support what one official described as "accountability candidates" -- even if those candidates aren't the administration's preferred choices.

As proof Vale pointed to comments offered early in the day by the AFL-CIO's president Richard Trumka, who stressed that it was entirely unlikely that the labor organization would support Blanche Lincoln in the general election (the decision will ultimately be made by union members in Arkansas). Another labor source said that the SEIU would likely be sitting out the general as well. "How in the world can labor turn around and support her?"

Notice who the White House reserves its wrath for. Not the murderers of the human rights folk on the flotilla, the banks that wrecked our economy, the insurance companies that kill tens of thousands of people every year by omission. No, it is reserved for us, the very people these ingrates depend on come November. They play us for fools because they know that we have nowhere else to go, except stay at home, and use the Republicans as our bogeyman to scare us to the ballot box. Meanwhile, we get stabbed in the back every time by the Democratic Party and its leadership (NAFTA, GATT, the non-passage of the striker replacement bill and EFCA).

The question I have is why should anyone in Arkansas who is in any way progressive vote for Blanche Lincoln? For that matter, why should I vote for or support Barack Obama? If this is what the Democratic Party thinks of me and my people, coming from a union family, what is the point of supporting candidates whose view on unions and workers is basically the same as the Republicans? I ask it as an open question.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

She's Gone

By now, most everyone has heard about what happened to Washington DC reporter Helen Thomas. Yes, she was forced to 'retire' on the threat of being fired, not for angering the president or asking uncomfortable questions, which she has done for over five decades, but for saying things like this.

On the one hand, it seems obscene to me to obsess over an otherwise powerless reporter's hateful words, while Israel continues to blockade Gaza, and after its actions led to the deaths of nine people, including an American citizen (granted, a Muslim, so of no value to the average Republican). How many thousands of people have died because of the blockade of the Gaza, as punishment for electing people the Israelis and Americans do not like, in elections that the Israelis and Americans engineered and insisted on? Compare that to the number of people killed by Helen Thomas, who as far as I can tell has never harmed anyone, except their feelings.

The same Obama administration that refuses to denounce Israel's deadly flotilla assault, in which Israeli commandos answered the fists of the flotilla's defenders with guns and lied about it (first claiming they had firearms and then that they were all al-Qaeda and/or Hamas members). That murderous assault is just Israel protecting itself, according to our esteemed vice president. But if Helen Thomas says something awful, well, naturally, that is something we must all come together and denounce.

Why is there not any room for the view that slaughtering and cordoning people off like trapped slaves is wrong, alongside someone who says something hateful about the oppressors' background in that situation? Better yet, why can we not prioritize as to which is more wrong than the other? We all know the answer, of course. Israel is our ally, more important than even our own national self-interests or even an ally like Turkey, and plus the Israelis are murdering people sympathetic to Palestinians and Arabs, which if you bother to listen to the average radio talk show in this country deductively falls somewhere between misguidedness and being in league with Satan. These are the same people who would prefer to give Orly Taitz the nod to be a representative of one of our major parties for Secretary of State of our largest state (a woman whose idea of good old fashioned values is to question the citizenship legitimacy of anyone with a skin tone darker than hers).

The same racialist mentality that has turned whites since 2008 into ethnically conscious bigots trying to preserve the racial order (the real driver of our domestic politics this past year), and numerical majority through immigration law, is the type of mindset that calls candidates 'ragheads' and Palestinians 'pond scum,' and no doubt informs their religious millennialism on Israel. This is the real evil of our body politic, a hundred times worse than Helen Thomas. Ironically, it is the same politics that turned Germany into what it became in the 1930s, but of course no one ever thinks to comment on that. But Helen Thomas is apparently anti-Semitic, so that's worse than calling entire peoples (granted, non-white) ragheads, pond scum, wetbacks, and terrorists.

It goes without saying what the chances are of anyone in the offices of the American Enterprise Institute of denouncing that.

And today is the 43rd anniversary of the Israeli massacre of our sailors on the USS Liberty. Not that the folks at Fox News will care to take note. They seem to be more worried about a mosque being built near ground zero in NYC. Here is our oversized flag from the USS Liberty that was filled with hundreds of bullets holes (in some cases from ranges as close as a hundred yards [meaning our flag was fully visible to the attackers]).

Friday, June 4, 2010

Republican Party: Where White is Right

For those who think the conservative racialist backlash in this country is only an issue of illegal immigration.

Prescott school mural's racial themes spark debate
PRESCOTT, Ariz. (AP) — A new mural at Miller Valley Elementary School that depicts children of several races using "green" transportation methods appears to have struck a nerve among some Prescott residents.

Since the late-May unveiling of the "Go on Green" mural, dozens of local residents have expressed their views — both pro and con — about the painting that covers two exterior walls at the school at Prescott's Four-Points intersection.

An article about the unveiling on The Daily Courier's website generated about 60 online reader comments, while Prescott Unified School District and Prescott City Hall reported getting calls.

Although many of the comments on the Courier's website offer unqualified admiration for the mural, others are harshly critical, using words such as "tacky," ''ugly" and "ghetto."

The subtext in some of the comments: race.

R.E. Wall, director of the Prescott Downtown Mural Project, described weeks of tense working conditions for the "Mural Mice," the group of artists responsible for the Miller Valley mural and several others around town.

As the Miller Valley mural took shape, Wall said, he and the other artists working at the site heard regular racial slurs from the passengers of cars driving by.

"The pressure stayed up consistently," Wall said. "We had two months of cars shouting at us."

He attributes the start of the racial controversy to recent comments that Prescott City Councilman Steve Blair made on his KYCA radio talk show about the mural.

On his May 21 show, for instance, Blair said, "I am not a racist individual, but I will tell you depicting a black guy in the middle of that mural, based upon who's president of the United States today and based upon the history of this community when I grew up, we had four black families — who I have been very good friends with for years — to depict the biggest picture on that building as a black person, I would have to ask the question, 'Why?'"

On Wednesday, Blair again emphasized that "I'm not a racist by any stretch of the imagination, but whenever people start talking about diversity, it's a word I can't stand."

Blair questions whether the mural is representative of Prescott, noting, "The focus doesn't need to be on what's different; the focus doesn't need to be on the minority all the time."

Blair said he has received a number of calls from long-time Prescott residents who ask, "Who authorized that graffiti on the wall?" He added: "What these people don't like is somebody forcing diversity down their throats."

Wall said that the "pressure" reached such a level this past week that his group has been asked to lighten the faces of the mural's main subject, as well as the other children in the mural.

"They want us to lighten up the forehead and the cheeks (of the boy in the center), and make him look like he is coming into the light," Wall said, adding that school officials asked to have all of the children's faces appear more "radiant and happy."

That work began this past Sunday, when Wall and co-artist Pamela Smith began lightening up a portion of the boy's forehead. The work will continue during the next several days.

Blair said that even though he believes the Mural Mice are "truly artists," and that their other murals have been successful, "Art is in the eye of the beholder, but I say (the Miller Valley mural) looks like graffiti in L.A."

He also questions the choice of location for the mural. "From my standpoint, it's the most visible intersection in the City of Prescott, and one of the most historic buildings, and they're painting a mural on it?"

In addition, Blair suggested that the mural creators might not have made a good enough case in their storytelling for the mural. "I don't see anything that ties the community into that mural," he said.

Wall and representatives of the Prescott Alternative Transportation organization, which paid for the mural with money it receives through the Arizona Department of Transportation's Safe Routes to School program, emphasize the mural design was the result of extensive participation by Miller Valley Elementary School faculty and students.

And Paul Katan, the Safe Routes to School program coordinator, pointed out that the artists based the mural's subjects on several Miller Valley School students, who posed for a photo. The boy in the center is of Mexican descent, Katan added.

"I was very surprised to hear Councilman Blair on his radio show target the ethnic differences of the students who modeled for this mural as a problem," Katan said. "I see the students in the murals as a cross-section of the school's population."

Katan added, "The theme of the mural comes down to keeping kids healthy and safe in what can sometimes be a dangerous world."

Miller Valley Principal Jeff Lane explained that the mural artists showed six designs to the school's students. The students voted on their favorite and sent the top three designs to the teachers. The teachers selected the final design for the new mural.

"The teachers selected this design because it focused on children and their role in the environment," Lane said.

The Miller Valley Mural Committee met with the mural officials May 28 to talk about some changes before the mural was completed. Lane said the school committee, which included him and two teachers, asked the artists to work on the children's faces.

According to Lane, the committee wanted the artists to "make them look happier and more excited, fix the scale of the faces and remove some shadowing that made the faces darker than they are. We also wanted some changes to the banner."

The goal, the principal said, is to have the changes completed in two weeks.

Lane and Prescott Unified School District Superintendent Kevin Kapp confirmed that they have received calls about the new mural. While some of the calls were negative, the school officials said most of the comments were positive.

Kapp said some people were bothered that the artists painted the mural over "old red brick."

Other people, he said, did not understand the mural.

The mural celebrates the environment and Miller Valley as a green school. "It celebrates the diversity at Miller Valley," Kapp said.

Lane has also received "a few negative comments, but quite a few were positive. But the comments have slowed down. I think I only received one this past week."

Wall allows that some of the suggestions have been "constructive criticism," which he said the artists would use to make the mural more accurately depict the photos of the Miller Valley School models.

That is the mentality of what passes for conservatism in this country. Doth sound unfair? Well, this is how they treat one of their own ideologues who runs for office while being non-white.

S.C. GOP state senator calls gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley 'a raghead'

Washington Post Staff Writer

The drag-down brawl for South Carolina's Republican gubernatorial nomination just got nastier.

A GOP state senator called front-runner Nikki Haley, the only woman in the race and a daughter of Indian immigrants, "a raghead" on a political talk show Thursday night.

"We already got one raghead in the White House," John M. "Jake" Knotts Jr. said on the Internet talk show "Pub Politics," according to The State newspaper. "We don't need another in the governor's mansion."

Knotts, a supporter of one of Haley's opponents, later apologized and said his comment was made in jest.

After former Alaska governor Sarah Palin (R) swept into the Palmetto State to endorse Haley a few weeks ago, the state lawmaker has rocketed in the polls to a sizable lead in the four-candidate race. Since then, her opponents and their allies have attacked her personal character relentlessly in the closing days of the campaign. Voters will go the polls Tuesday.

Two Republican operatives have claimed they had sexual encounters with Haley. She has denied both accusations and said she has been faithful to her husband through their 13 years of marriage.

On the talk show Thursday, Knotts discussed Haley's religious upbringing. She was raised as a Sikh, but married a Methodist man and is raising her children as Christians. She has said she attends services of both faiths.

Haley, responding to Knotts's comments after a Thursday campaign stop, told The State: "What the race in 2010 will prove is the goodness of the people of South Carolina, that there [are] fewer people of the Jake Knotts [ilk] and that there are a lot more good, educated people [who] want their voice heard in government."

Knotts is a longtime ally of Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer, one of Haley's opponents, and has been an antagonist of Gov. Mark Sanford (R) in the legislature. Haley has been one of Sanford's closest allies in Columbia.

South Carolina Republican Party Chairwoman Karen Floyd called on Knotts to apologize Thursday night. "The South Carolina Republican Party strongly condemns any use of racial or religious slurs," Floyd said. "Senator Knotts should apologize for his inappropriate comments, so that we can put this unfortunate incident behind us and focus on issues important to moving our state forward."

In a statement to local reporters, Knotts said: "Bear in mind that this is a freewheeling, anything-goes Internet radio show that is broadcast from a pub. It's like a local political version of 'Saturday Night Live.' Since my intended humorous context was lost in translation, I apologize. I still believe Ms. Haley is pretending to be someone she is not, much as Obama did, but I apologize to both for an unintended slur."

Attorney General Henry McMaster (R), another gubernatorial candidate, issued a statement Friday calling on the other Republicans to "cut this nonsense out right now."

"The behavior of my opponents, their campaigns and their supporters over the last few weeks has not served our state well," McMaster said. "In fact, it's been embarrassing."

Earlier this week, Bauer fired one of his campaign consultants, Larry Marchant, after Marchant told Bauer he had a one-time sexual encounter with Haley in 2008. On Thursday, Bauer challenged Haley to a "lie-detector test" to determine whether she had cheated on her husband. Haley denied Marchant's claim and accused Bauer of "fishing" the story to the media to gin up attention.

Last week, a blogger and former Republican operative, Will Folks, claimed he had a sexual relationship with Haley, which Haley also denied.

The GOP campaign has become the nastiest South Carolina political race in years -- at least since the 2000 presidential primary between George W. Bush and John McCain, who fell victim to a whisper campaign alleging falsely that he had fathered an illegitimate multiracial child.

All of this has Democrats watching from the sidelines, almost giddy.

"If these guys keep behaving like juvenile delinquents, then we'll elect a Democrat in November here," said Dick Harpootlian, a former chairman of the state's Democratic Party. "It's a no-holds-barred, eye-gouging free-for-all. We've never seen it like this before. This is the worse it's ever been. Ain't it grand?"

As ugly as those comments are, they are no worse than the sentiments of those right-wingers who accentuate President Obama's middle name, while accusing him of being a Kenyan-born Islamist. And if that is acceptable, what legitimacy does have in defending Nikki Haley from her verbal abuser? I am sure it has nothing to do with politics [removing sarcasm hat]. This is your animal that you released, dear conservatives, to go after Mexicans and blacks. When your apologists begin pointing the guns back at one of your own who so happens to hold your views (but does so without your group's predominant hue), you have no moral authority to complain. If anything Sen. Knotts is just being more consistent in his racism than you are, dear Freepers and RedState.comers.